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Decanter May

It's a more muted tone we take this month to tell you that the May 2020 edition of Decanter is out.

 

The wines are no less superb, of course.

 

I don't know about you, but I find it quite irking to have marketing pushed in my face at the moment as though the world were just the same as ever. We know that it isn't.

 

But many of you have asked us to continue as normally as we can, supplying wines and featuring the great ones. So we are and we will. Carefully.

We offer far fewer Decanter wines this month, and that's very deliberate. As you may have spotted elsewhere, since Lockdown, we're generally only selling wines that we hold in immediate, ready-to-go stock, as a) this is what we see customers seeking to buy and b) since some supply lines to us to have have started to creak.

Holding adequate stock is a little difficult to do with the Decanter wines, as demand with these is very difficult to predict. So, we're offering just the very top-scoring wines which are are (as) certain (as we can be) that we can source without holding stock. As this article goes to press, all the Decanter wines that are available to buy below (the Bibbiano Chianti(s) is/are not among these, see that page) will be with us - at worst - by Friday 10th April if ordered by 9am on Monday 6th April. Thereafter, these two dates both move back one full week.

The wines featured this month in Decanter - and that we list - appear at the foot of this page. The reviews for each wine  (where we've been able to show them) appear on each product page.

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To the new edition, then. Each May's edition is invariably an Italian special, and the new cover leaves us in no doubt of that. Get ready, people, for many wines that taste of cherries: as I was told on my WSET Diploma, "all Italian red wines taste of cherries ... and even quite a few white ones. All that varies is the type of cherry."

There's a bundle of Italy-focused panel reviews, expert reviews and articles, and a real swathe of 95+ pointers. We'll get to those.

In all of this, it's very hard not to think of the travails of Italy at the moment.

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We invaribly find it's the panel tests that reveal the most sought-after wines. The more prominent of these - and the one with by far the higher scorers - is of Chianti Classico, and specifically the Riserva and Gran Selezione categories from the 2015 and 2016 vintages. Which is good news as these have emerged as two of the truly great years across Tuscany, both for Sangiovese and most other grapes.

Decanter Premium subscribers can find the whole article here.

I make no secret that good Chianti is - my parents, girlfriend, cat and best bicycle excepted - my favourite thing in the world. I am a signed-up fan. It does - by Brunello and Barolo fans, in particular - get a little looked down upon. But top Chianti is - make no mistake - every bit the equal of these, and this review focuses on the top echelons of this superb DOCG.

In the view of others, top Chianti (rather like good Cava and top wines from Languedoc) often gets all too dragged down in esteem by its more everyday/cheap namesakes. A good few folk don't really 'get' Chianti and its denominations/classifications; for them, and as a reminder for others, there's a piece at the foot here that I/we wrote on Chianti some time ago.

Setting all that context aside, then, this was a sizeable test. Over 200 wines were tested. Four of them were rated Outstanding and awarded 95 points (another 61 were rated Highly Recommended/90+).

We offer two of those four Outstandings, being, as far as we can see, the most sensibly-priced pair. Of one of them, we have the only appreciable stocks in the UK (and they are going fast). Of the other, we are the exclusive UK outlet, with the wines - world situations allowing - arriving here in mid-late April.

Let us tell you more. In fact, for the first time - what with us being locked inside and all - we've created a video tasting of these two wines (click link or image below). The Decanter reviews pay glowing tribute to both but, in our view, miss the key differences between them, so we've covered that off.

The first comes from the Frescobaldi stable, from their Tenuta Perano winery in Gaiole-in-Chianti, and is the 2016 Riserva. It's technically 'only' a Riserva, not because of its ageing (which qualifies it as a Gran Selezione) but because of the origin of the grapes used (not all from the producer's own estate, we believe). Decanter did not hold back in their adulation:

It's a superb and brilliant Chianti. After tasting it, I'd draw on one phrase (from Andrew Jefford) more than any other: "More dominated by its acidity than many, but that acidity is singingly bright and packed with fruit flavour". It really is. This is a classic Chianti, which I always think of as having an certain (attractive) 'angularity' to it, given the sour cherry thing along with high acidity and tannin levels. The Perano has a real zing/vivacity to it, and with it a certain lightness and agility. It is not a 'big' wine, nor is it effortlessly smooth (but then, it really shouldn't be: it's Chianti and not Napa Merlot). In a very elegant way, it has serious 'crunch', which is exactly what good Chianti should have. If that's your style, wade in. If you're more about a bit more density and softness, read on...

 ... as what you probably want is the Tenuta Bibbiano Vigna del Capannino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2016. This is some wine: my wine of (a weird) 2020 so far. I've been drinking Chianti for a long while, and this is among the best I've been lucky enough to taste. As the tasting video sets out, it's more supple, softer, fuller-bodied, riper and all-roundly 'bigger' than the Perano. The French and Slavonian oak has been brought more to bear here, but softly/lightly and not heavily or at all clumsily. It's an 'easier' glass of wine, an not entirely dependent on being drunk with food. By comparison, the acidity is more tamed, less electric; this immediately tastes like an older wine. It is much akin to a younger Brunello (not surprisingly; the Sangiovese used by Bibbiano here is a Montalcino clone) yet has a vivacity beyond its hilltop neighbour.

Again, the panel left us in no doubt of their view.  

As a pair, these make a fascinating taste comparison. Both are wonderful Chiantis in their own right. They will drink now or become more interesting for at least another ten years. They can be for the current, alas-darker days or the happier days ahead. In any event, they will not disappoint.

 

There now follows an important note on the availability and delivery of both wines.

The Tenuta Perano is limited to just over 100 bottles in the UK. We have the lot. We are limiting these to 6 btls per customer. These will be into stock by Monday 6th April. Once they are gone, they are gone. The UK importer hope/plan to take more in the future, and we will take them in turn, but neither they nor we know when that will be (and it will not be soon). We are happy to keep a waiting list without payment being required (more than 6 btls can be requested), and as soon as we have news, we will contact you. At present, that is all we can offer if you miss those first bottles.

The Tenuta di Bibbiano wine is not held in stock, but we expect its arrival (and that of its stablemates, see below) in late April. There are no limits here. Given the potental for logistical delay and disappointment with shipments leaving Italy at the moment, we will also run a waiting list here. NB: we are definitely taking this wine - it is in bottle and waiting to ship from Tuscany - but delays are quite probable. Please contact us on communications@exelwines.co.uk to reserve the bottles you would like. No payment is required at this stage. When the shipment arrives, we will contact you to arrange payment and delivery.

 

A word while we're here on Tenuta di Bibbiano (photos of which, above). In taking samples of the Capannino, I was also given access to their other Chianti Classicos, and was much impressed. For those seeking other price points, or those looking to try the range, step right up.

  • The 'standard' Chianti Classico (2018) is classic, classy CC - crunchy and lively (and excellent with sausages).
  • The Riserva (2016) is a definite step up - more complexity and depth - and came in for 92 points from Decanter. As Riservas at £20 go, this is outstanding.

Recommended, all. Very much.

The Bibbiano range with Desmond the Dragon

To return to the magazine, we'd also mention one more Chianti from the review. The Poggio al Sole Gran Selezione, the Casasilia 2016 attracts a score of 92 points. We are the sole UK importer. We don't have the 2016 yet, but we do still have the superb, DWWA19 Platinum-winning 2015 vintage. If you like/adore Chianti but have not tried this, you really should.  If you have tried it, and liked it, move fast: these are the last bottles now of that vintage.

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The edition's other panel test is of Valpolicella Ripasso from Veneto. It (surprisingly) does not reveal a large bundle of high-scorers, and the panel were not complimentary of the category in general. However, some wines emerge very well, and we are delighted to offer just a few cases of of one of the top (91-point) scorers, being Bertani's Catullo Ripasso Classico Superiore 2016. This is a classic, old-school Ripasso - none of that easy, lazily-left residual sugar left here to cover for a lack of ripeness. "Mouthwateringly pure cherry fruit, complex, peppery mint and tobacco, with fine-milled tannins and a delicious, rich bitterness on the finish", said the panel. If Ripasso is your thing, this is to be reckoned with. We have created a 3-minute video tasting of this Ripasso.

_

Elsewhere in the magazine:

  • An expert review of Aglianico - the 'Barolo of the South' - unsurprisingly highlights the wines of Feudi di San Gregorio and their flagship Taurasi, the Serpico (2012). This is a wine for the ages: were it Barolo, it'd clear £150 a bottle. Being a Taurasi, it's 'only' ~£40. One to lift your spirits!
  • That great producer of the north - Pieropan - see two of their wines highlighted in two different articles - the oaked Soave Classico La Rocca 2017 in a feature on Italian whites that age and their luscious Amarone - the Vigna Garzon - in a feature on the new generation of Italian winemakers.
  • Sardinia comes under the spotlight, and Cantina Mesa's 100% Carignan(o) - the "wonderfully expressive", "dark and intense", "velvety", "concentrated and lively" Buio Buio Riserva - lands itself a 95-point review. 

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That piece regarding Chianti, Chianti Classico and the designations therein... 

 

Chianti? Really? As in bottles in baskets, fava beans, that sort of thing?

Not really, no. You see - and this is important - there’s Chianti and there’s Chianti, and they are very definitely not the same thing.

<blank look, silence, etc>

Should we explain?

If you would, please.

OK. We’ll start simply. ‘Simple’ Chianti comes from Tuscany, from a zone of around 15,000 hectares, very broadly enclosed by the cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa. From this zone, wines made with at least 70% Sangiovese, made to a few stipulations, can be termed Chianti. At the geographical heart of that region lies an additional 7,000 (not 70,000 as Decanter have published!) hectares of prime vineyard land – superior soils, aspects, microclimates etc – which is termed Chianti Classico (and symbolized by the famous black rooster symbol). Chianti Classico is made to much tighter restrictions on quality (lower yields, higher alcohol, 80% proportion of Sangiovese etc).

And therein lies the confusion. As the (ever-useful) Oxford Companion to Wine puts it, “the very irregular quality of wine labelled simply Chianti has always had a very detrimental effect on Chianti Classico’s reputation”. As so often happens, Chianti producers made to the lowest allowable standards, just about qualifying for the name, leading to huge volumes of questionable wine being sold at low prices and bringing the whole Chianti name into some disrepute. See also: Cava...

Chianti Classico, for that reason, has done all it can to put distance between itself and the lesser, broader zone ... to such an extent, in fact, that wine cannot be declassified from Chianti Classico to basic Chianti (should it ever fail to meet Classico standards).

You’re real Chianti Classico fans, it seems.

Too right we are. What’s not to like? Good Classico is the real deal: a wine of big tannins and acidity, of stunning intensity, complexity, food-pairing-ability and ageworthiness. Barolo, granted, is perhaps Italy’s most famous red export (although not everyone’s cup of tea) and Brunello has its legions of oak-loving fans, but Chianti Classico is unquestionably one of the world’s Top Ten Wines.

I’m guessing your new Chianti isn’t "just a Chianti", then?

You guess correctly. It’s the apotheosis and very pinnacle of Chianti Classico: a Gran Selezione.

<faint groan> And I was just starting to get the hang of this: what’s a Gran Selezione?

We sympathise. As with many of the world’s great wine regions – Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace – there’s a designated hierarchy of quality. For those three regions, it’s based on the quality of production land within their regions. For Chianti Classico, once you’re inside that zone, it’s then largely about the winemaking.

Standard Chianti Classico (if you can call it that) must be aged for a full year before release; although it need not be in oak, it almost invariably is.

Riserva Chianti Classico (which also gets reviewed in the Decanter test) – about 30% of all Classico production – must be aged for two years (and carry a touch more alcohol).

Gran Seleziones (GSs) are the tip of the quality pyramid and account for just 4% of production; all grapes used must be grown on the estate on which they are vinified and the finished wine aged for a minimum of 2½ years (many are aged further). A high proportion of GSs are single-vineyard wines, although, technically, they need not be. There are only some 100 GS labels currently under production: these are rare beasts indeed. The whole idea of a Gran Selezione is that it represents a producer's best wine. There was plenty of controversy when the GS category was created: did Chianti need a new classification, after all? Those that chose not to recognise the GS category typically make a Riserva their best offering.

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Frescobaldi Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 (1x75cl)

** STOCK ARRIVING MONDAY 1st JUNE! WE HAVE AVAILABILITY FOR BOTH THOSE WHO HAVE RESERVED IT AND ALSO FREE STOCK FOR OTHERS. **

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition panel tasting of top-end Chianti Classico (see blue link below).

 

Frescobaldi Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 - May 2020 Decanter review

Don't miss our other Outstanding from this panel review, for which we were not listed in Decanter at the time of its going to press. 

For a short (if rather amateurishly-filmed) tasting note of both wines from that review, click here.

Tenuta Perano is an immaculate estate located in Gaiole, in the heart of the Chianti Classico region and is the latest addition to the collection of estates owned by the Frescobaldi family. It covers 250 hectares, of which 52 are planted with vines. The vineyard is planted on steep slopes and is situated on a natural amphitheatre profile, which captures and amplifies the sunlight onto the vines. This unique setting combines elevation, exposure and a natural topography to produce wines with intensely fruit driven aromas and a great tannic structure, which are enveloped in elegance. Gambero Rosso awarded Frescobaldi with the prestigious ‘Tre Bicchieri Winery of the Year Award 2020’, in recognition of its uncompromising commitment to quality and innovation.

The grapes are grown on the steep hillsides of Gaiole with a gradient of 15 to 20 degrees, up to 500 metres above sea level. The vines are planted with a southern exposure, in an amphitheatre shaped vineyard which helps to maximise the exposure to the sun and concentrates the heat onto the vines. The topography and altitude help to keep the vines ventilated with the Tramontana wind which blows from the north during the night, and daytime breezes approaching from the south. The climate provides warm, dry summers with marked temperature differences in September, which helps to extend the ripening period and concentrate the fruit flavours, while retaining balancing acidity. The soil is notable for its rich stone content and is free draining.

The 2016 winter was characterised by high rainfall combined with intense frosts and snow. Budding took place in the second half of April. Mild spring temperatures favoured the vine’s development and flowering took place during the first week of June. The hot, sunny, breezy summer days created the best possible opportunity for photosynthesis. Véraison took place in August, a period during which two beneficial rains occurred, allowing the grapes to achieve perfect ripeness and succulence. 2016 produced wines with intense aromas and good structure.

The grapes were harvested at optimum maturity and were vinified maintaining the maximum The hand-harvested grapes were picked at optimum maturity and carefully selected. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats with frequent pigeage (or cap punch-downs, much favoured in Burgundy) allow for the desired levels of polyphenolic extraction, determining typicity in the colour and structure of this Chianti Classico Riserva. Prolonged maturation for 24 months in 20 to 80 hectolitre casks contributed to the structural intensity of this wine. Further bottle ageing took place, prior to release.

Sangiovese 95%, Merlot 5%.

A complex expression of the Sangiovese grape, delivering floral aromatics dominated by violet and rosehip underpinned by blackcurrant and blueberry fruit. Spicy highlights of black pepper, nutmeg and cocoa powder give way to an elegant balsamic sensation. Fresh and rich on the palate, with dense tannins and hints of fine tobacco and leather, this is long and harmonious.

ABV = 14.5%.

£29.80

Tenuta di Bibbiano Vigna del Capannino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2016 (1x75cl)

** THIS PRODUCT IS ONLY NOW ON SALE TO THE FEW CUSTOMERS WHO HAVE RESERVED IT IN ADVANCE, TO BE TAKEN WITH THEIR BOTTLES OF THE TENUTA PERANO RISERVA. PLEASE DO NOT BUY IT UNLESS YOU ARE ONE OF THOSE CUSTOMERS: WE WILL INEVITABLY HAVE TO DECLINE THE SALE AND REFUND! **

** HOWEVER, IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO JOIN A WAITING LIST FOR THIS WINE, PLEASE EMAIL US ON communications@exelwines.co.uk. **

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition panel tasting of top-end Chianti Classico (see blue link below).

Tenuta Di Bibbiano Vigna Del Capannino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2016 - May 2020 Decanter review

For a short Exel tasting video of both this wine and another Outstanding (the Perano Riserva) from that review, click here.

Also awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) at their Feb 2020 tasting of new Chianti Classico releases (see blue link below).

Tenuta Di Bibbiano Vigna Del Capannino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2016 - Feb 2020 Decanter review

PLEASE SEE ALSO THE FULL CHIANTI CLASSICO RANGE WE TAKE FROM BIBBIANO (all with Decanter scores).

Founded in 1865, Bibbiano is located in the historiic Chianti region, in the municipality of Castellina-in-Chianti, overlooking the Elsa Valley towards the castle of Monteriggioni. Today’s owners, Tommaso and Federico Marrocchesi Marzi, are the fifth generation. Surrounded by vast olive groves consisting of over three thousand trees, Bibbiano’s vineyards cover an area of about 25 hectares, at an altitude ranging from 270 to 300 meters, with enviable exposure and excellent microclimate. The vineyards consist of plants of Sangiovese and Sangiovese Grosso grapes as well as a smaller quantity of Colorino.

Tenuta di Bibbiano was the longest standing consultancy of famed winemaker Giulio Gambelli, also famous for his long relationships with Montevertine and Case Basse di Soldera. Their decades-long association with Gambelli, under whom Bibbiano’s current winemaker trained, still lives on in their traditional approach to winemaking and their commitment to 100%-pure Sangiovese wines. Their harvest is still conducted manually and grapes carefully selected, with different vinification procedures according to the position of the slopes on which the grapes were grown. They are committed to replanting vineyards using wood poles and columns and by planting only autochthonous grapes. Bibbiano is committed to promoting conservative renovation of the farms, in order to not lose their architectural and human heritage and its very ancient history. The estate was certified organic in 2011.

Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi is a leading voice in the push to establish formal village appellations in Chianti Classico and is a great supporter of the new Gran Selezione category, which requires wines labeled as such to be made exclusively from estate fruit and bottled at the origin. With the 2014 vintage, Bibbiano raised their Montornello Riserva to a Gran Selezione, lowering production significantly. The Montornello, now a limited production single-vineyard Riserva, comes from the northern face of the estate where calcareous clay and stony alberese soils give the wine its distinctive acidity and red-fruited profile. This wine, the Capannino, continues as a Gran Selezione Riserva, featuring the dense structure and rich, black fruits that result from these reddish-brown, clay-rich soils planted exclusively to Sangiovese Grosso. There is also a Chianti Classico Riserva, made from exclusively from the Sangiovese da Chianti clone grown on the Montornello side of the property, selected after the very best bunches are picked for the Montornello single-vineyard bottling.

Sloping to the south-west, the Vigna del Capannino vineyard - which overlooks Monteriggioni - sits on calcareous clay soil stratified with alberese. It totals 7ha and is planted with a massal selection of Sangiovese clones (Sangiovese Grosso) from Montalcino.

Vigna del Capannino is made only in the finest years. Some 30,000 bottles of the 2016 vintage was produced.

The harvest started on October 10th.

Fermentation was for 33 days in cement vats, with cap management/maceratin/extraction managed by rack-and-return (delestage). 

Ageing was for 24 months, part in cement, part in French oak tonneaux (large barrels) and part in botti (even larger barrels) of Slavonian oak, followed by 6 months in bottle before release. 

100% Sangiovese (Grosso). 

Intense ruby red, with purple hues. The nose is classic Chianti Classico: sour black cherry, prune, balsamic with sweet spices, cinnamon and cloves. On the palate, the wine has outstanding flavor wrapped in an elegant softness.

Or as Anthony Jefford put it in Decanter "A gorgeously teased, poised aromatic ripeness here: subtle incense spice just hidden behind the refined, perfumed plums; a hint of orange peel. Shapely, fresh, vivid and vigorous: super purity, admirable finesse".

ABV = 15.0%.

£29.30

Poggio al Sole 'Casasilia' Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015 (1x75cl)

** NOW THE VERY LAST OF THIS AWARD-WINNING VINTAGE! **

Awarded a Platinum medal and 97 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

We also highly recommend the 'everyday' Chianti Classico and Super-Tuscan from Poggio al Sole.

The 2014 vintage was also awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2018 edition review of the top tiers of Chianti Classico (see blue link below).

Poggio Al Sole 'Casasilia' Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2014 - May 2018 Decanter review

The forthcoming 2016 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition panel tasting of top-end Chianti Classico (see blue link below).

Poggio Al Sole 'Casasilia' Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2016 - April 2020 Decanter review

Documents in the archives of the abbey of Badia a Passignano, which owned Poggio al Sole until the 1960s, show that olives and wine were grown there as early as the 12th century. The Davaz family, which acquired Poggio al Sole in 1990, has grown wine in the Bündner Herrschaft in Switzerland since the 1970s. The eighteen contigous hectares of sloping schistose-clay vineyards are among the very highest in Chianti,  and are perfectly sheltered from the Tramontane wind by the surrounding oak forest. Alessandro Masnaghetti, the brilliant taster, journalist, and publisher of Enogea, believes that Poggio al Sole is one of the top three vineyard sites in all Chianti Classico.

The Casasilia - Poggio al Sole's premium Chianti Classico from the top-tier Gran Selezione classification - is ample testament to that.

Here's Poggio al Sole's own data sheet/fiche technique on the Casasilia.

Poggio Al Sole 'Casasilia' Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015 - fiche technique

Additionally, the wine is matured in French oak barrels/barriques of 225 litres, 30% of which are made of new oak, the remainder being one-year old barrels. Ageing period is 18 months in barrel + 12 month bottle rest.

100% Sangiovese.

"This wine gushes with aromas of black and red fruits, mint, chalk, dried herbs and the vanilla and spice of high quality oak, which lead on to a full-bodied, yet velvety, palate with finely detailed tannins. It really pulsates with its energy, mesmerising your palate as it swoops by, culminating in a long and elegant finish" (DWWA19 tasting note).

This wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

ABV = 14.5%.

£30.95

Bertani Catullo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition's panel tasting of Valpolicella Ripassos (see blue link below).

Bertani Catullo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2016 - May 2020 Decanter review

We have created a 3-minute video tasting of this Ripasso.

In 1957, the Bertani family bought the Tenuta Novare, a unique place in the heart of the Valpolicella Classica area. The estate is situated in a green hollow, in a sort of natural amphitheatre, where the vineyards alternate with woods and lush nature. It is an extraordinary land where constant water is guaranteed by 7 natural springs. Amarone Bertani wouldn’t be the authentic and distinctive wine we know today, if this unique place didn’t exist.

Tenuta Novare has a continuous and unusual alternation of soils: clay at the bottom of the valley, calcareous soils rich in iron and manganese and soils rich in basalt, ideal for producing grapes destined to making great red wines.

The mild climate, as shown by the presence of cypresses and olive trees, defines this welcoming and noble profile of Valpolicella.

From this same site, the Catullo Ripasso is produced, an elegant, balanced and harmonious wine with a classic style made with the second fermentation ripasso technique.

70% Corvina Veronese, 20% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella.

For this wine, see the blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Bertani Catullo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2016 - fiche technique

This is a wine of medium body, with gentle spicy notes of vanilla and chocolate and the typical notes of cherry, black cherry and white pepper. On the palate, freshness and drinkability (typical of Valpolicella) combine with a silky tannic structure and an intense aromatic persistence, more typical of Amarone. Fresh, soft and sapid finish.

Exel note: it has a markedly lower residual sugar level than many ripassos.

ABV = 13.5%.

£34.40

Bucci Verdicchio (di Castelli di Jesi) Classico Riserva 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition expert tasting of Verdicchio (see blue link below).

Bucci Verdicchio Classico Riserva 2016 - May 2020 Decanter review

The Bucci family has been growing grapes in the Marche since the 1700s. Current custodian, Ampelio Bucci has 26 hectares of vineyard on this 400 hectare estate, which is cultivated organically. Of these, 21 hectares are Verdicchio, spread over six separate vineyards. The old vines and low yields give wines of great intensity. Consultant winemaker at Villa Bucci is the legendary enologist Giorgio Grai, who has been there for nearly 30 years. He makes wines for ageing and complexity rather than freshness and simplicity.

The Riserva is only produced in the best vintages, with fruit from the oldest vines (between 40 and 50 years old on average) and the best sites. There are six vineyards with different exposures and elevations to obtain more complexity in the final blend of each wine. Yields are kept low and vineyard management is certified organic with no herbicides or pesticides used. Soils are mainly calcareous (limestone), giving minerality to the wine, with around 30% clay, which retains moisture during the hot summers.

Vinification took place in the underground winery, which is naturally cool so refrigeration is generally not necessary. Vinification took place in stainless steel and Slovenian oak barrels of between 50 and 75 hectolitres, that are approximately 70 years old. Different vineyard parcels were vinified separately, aged for two years and then carefully blended before bottling.

100% Verdicchio.

An intense, complex and persistent bouquet of apricot compôte and spice with aromas of honey, beeswax, minerals and flint stone. Full bodied and with great depth, the wine finishes with hints of honey and nuts.

ABV = 13.5%.

£28.85

Colle Stefano (Collestefano) Verdicchio di Matelica 2018 (1x75cl)

Awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition expert tasting of Verdicchio (see blue link below).

Colle Stefano (Collestefano) Verdicchio Di Matelica 2018 - May 2020 Decanter review

Valle Camertina, in the middle of the Marche, is the only valley in the region that is protected from sea winds, and so it enjoys a temperate climate. Collestefano is nestled among private vineyards above Castelraimondo at 450 m above sea level. Its surroundings are nothing but fields. 

The story of the Marchionni family, the owners of Collestefano, is a path of redemption. As a family of farmers, the Marchionnis arrived in the 1960s at Rustano di Castelraimondo, in the valley of Verdicchio di Matelica. This hard-working family managed to acquire, in 1978, the small hillside village that has always been called Collestefano”. In 1998 Fabio Marchionni, son of the owners and a new graduate of oenology, bottled his first vintage of Verdicchio di Matelica. For Matelica that was the beginning of a new era.

Collestefano have always followed organic practices and we also gained the certification in 1995. Their vineyards are part of a broader, self-sustainable, eco-friendly and balanced system.

For this wine:

Vineyard: 18 hectares (37 acres) 10-40 years old, at our farm which is at 420 meters (about 1,400 feeet) above sea level. Organic production since 1995.

Variety: 100% Verdicchio, from Matelica clones chosen by massal selections.

Soil: a mixture of sand, loam, and clay, rich in limestone.

Vine training: mono-bilateral guyot and double-arched cordon.

Harvest: by hand, into small boxes to keep the fruit intact, in October.

Vinification: soft pressing, slow fermentation at low temperature, no malolactic fermentation is performed/allowed. Then left on the lees for 4 month in stainless steel. 

Residual sugar: 1 g/l (ie very dry!)

Production: 110,000 bottles per annum of 75 cl.

It has a bright straw yellow colour with greenish shades, a pure fragrance of vegetal notes of ginger and cardamom and a fruity bouquet with unripe nectarine. The palate combines the typical sparkling crispness of Collestefano and a rich fruity allure. Long-lasting and nuanced finish with a touch of ginger and sweet almond. During its refinement in bottles, it will gain a metallic, honeyed character with an exquisite aftertaste of candy citrus fruit, without giving up its proverbial verve which made it the cult wine par excellence of all its class.

ABV = 12.0%.

£13.25

Bucci Verdicchio (di Castelli di Jesi) Classico Superiore 2018 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition expert tasting of Verdicchio (see blue link below).

Bucci Verdicchio Classico Superiore 2018 - May 2020 Decanter review

The Bucci family has been growing grapes in the Marche since the 1700s. Current custodian, Ampelio Bucci has 26 hectares of vineyard on this 400 hectare estate, which is cultivated organically. Of these, 21 hectares are Verdicchio, spread over six separate vineyards. The old vines and low yields give wines of great intensity. Consultant winemaker at Villa Bucci is the legendary enologist Giorgio Grai, who has been there for nearly 30 years. He makes wines for ageing and complexity rather than freshness and simplicity.

The fruit for this wine comes from six vineyards, each with a different exposure and elevation, which contribute to greater complexity in the final blend. Yields are kept low and vineyard management is certified organic, with no herbicides or pesticides used. Soils are mainly calcareous (limestone), lending minerality to the wine, with around 30% clay which retains moisture during the hot summers. The average age of the vines is 35 years.

Vinification took place in the underground winery which is naturally cool so refrigeration is generally not necessary. The must was fermented in both stainless steel and Slavonian oak barrels of between 50 and 75 hectolitres in size and approximately 70 years old. Different vineyard parcels were vinified separately then carefully blended before bottling.

100% Verdicchio.

Golden yellow in colour, this wine has a layered bouquet with notes of vanilla, butterscotch and almonds. Aromas of mimosa and ripe Golden Delicious apples carry through onto the complex palate, which has a fresh finish. A refreshing mineral edge contrasts with ripe, round flavours of wildflower honey.

ABV = 13.5%.

£15.45

Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico Irpinia DOC Aglianico 2012 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition article on Aglianico (see blue link below).

Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico Taurasi 2012 - May 2020 Decanter review

One of the main protagonists in the renaissance of Southern Italian wines, Feudi di San Gregorio has carved out a reputation for making truly world-class wines in less than 30 years. The company began in the mid 1980s with the aim of safeguarding local traditions, unlocking the potential of key indigenous grapes such as Fiano, Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico.

The Aglianico grapes are produced in a historic vineyard named "Dal Re". This historic region of the Appennine countryside is known as Irpinia and it has a unique terroir and climate in which vineyards coexist with fruit trees, olives and aromatic herbs. The winds here divert a beneficial rainfall which creates a microclimate in Irpinia that differs from Campania, the winters though brief are snowy and cold and the summers can be wet and prolonged. The soils are uniquely volcanic, sandstone and marl. Each vineyard is closely monitored with a meteorological station, and the technologies of the new state-of-the-art wine cellar ensures that each vintage comes as close to perfection as possible.

Fermentation and maceration took place in stainless steel tanksand lasted for approximately three to four weeks. The wine was matured for a minimum of 12 months in medium-toasted French barriques and barrels of 50hl. The wine was then aged for a minimum of 12 months in bottle, prior to release.

Aglianico 100%.

A complex wine bursting with cherry jam, sweet spices, liquorice, coffee and cocoa notes balanced with a beautiful spicy, minerality. A well structured wine with great length.

Excellent with roasted red meats, the finest poultry, game and aged cheese.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

ABV = 14.0%.

£40.10

Pieropan Amarone Vigna Garzon 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition article on the next generation of Italian wine producers (see blue link below).

Pieropan Amarone Vigna Garzon 2015 - May 2020 Decanter review

Pieropan's estate covers 58 hectares of vineyard which are situated on the stony hills of Soave Classico. The Pieropan family has been producing wines in Soave since the 1890s. Indeed, they were the first producer to bottle a wine with the name Soave on the label in the early 1930s. Nino Pieropan took over from his father in 1970 and was the first producer in Soave to make a single vineyard wine, 'Calvarino', in 1971. Nino's two sons, Andrea and Dario, took over the running of the estate in 2017 when Nino fell ill and before he passed away in April 2018. From the 2015 vintage onwards, all Pieropan wines are organically certified.

In 1999, The Pieropan family bought uncultivated land on the hill of Garzon, which is 400 metres above sea level in Cellore Illasi. The Illasi valley is to the west of Soave and has long been known for the quality of its Valpolicella. Pieropan planted vines here in 2000. The vineyard is south-facing with good exposure that ensures excellent ripening of the Valpolicella varieties (Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Croatina). The limestone and clay soil and the windy and dry micro-climate are all ideal conditions for the production of rich yet elegant wines. The vines are trained using the Guyot system, with 5,800 vines per hectare. The vineyard is certified organic.

Mild temperatures and moderate rains accompanied the winter season. The beginning of the vines’ growth cycle saw abundant rain, but was thankfully followed by a hot and dry period. This allowed for perfect health and organoleptic qualities in the grapes, making this 2015 vintage one of the best, if not the best, of the last 20 years.

The grapes were hand-picked and dried naturally, then pressed and de-stemmed. The must was fermented at 23-24ºC for approximately 30 days during which time pumping over and punching down the cap took place every day. The wine was aged in 500 litre barrels for 36 months followed by a year in bottle before release.

This wine is made using 60% Corvina, 15% Croatina, 15% Rondinella, 10% Other Native Red Varietals.

To see an excellent technical sheet for this wine with a tasting note from the winemakers, please click on the blue link below.

Pieropan Amarone Vigna Garzon - fiche technique

Brilliant and intense ruby red in colour, this is a wine with a heady perfume of black cherries and red summer fruits with notes of pepper and sweet spice. On the palate it is complex and rounded, with a powerful structure supporting the fruit and a lovely freshness on the finish. A wine with plenty of character with the potential to age well.

ABV = 16.5%.

£47.05

Pieropan La Rocca Soave Classico 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition article on Ageing Italian Whites (see blue link below).

Pieropan La Rocca Soave Classico 2017 - May 2020 Decanter review

Pieropan's estate covers 58 hectares of vineyard which are situated on the stony hills of Soave Classico. The Pieropan family has been producing wines in Soave since the 1890s. Indeed, they were the first producer to bottle a wine with the name Soave on the label in the early 1930s. Nino Pieropan took over from his father in 1970 and was the first producer in Soave to make a single vineyard wine, 'Calvarino', in 1971. Nino's two sons, Andrea and Dario, took over the running of the estate in 2017 when Nino fell ill and before he passed away in April 2018. From the 2015 vintage onwards, all Pieropan wines are organically certified.

The grapes were grown in the vineyard of 'La Rocca', which takes its name from the adjacent medieval castle and fortress ("La Rocca") that dominate the town of Soave, just east of Verona. The soil in La Rocca is unique in Soave in that it is a limestone outcrop (the same soil as in Valpolicella Classico) in a sea of basalt. Because of this soil, the family feels they get sufficient ripeness in the Garganega to make a wine solely from this variety.

The 2017 vintage was characterised by a cold winter with abundant rainfall. At the end of April, there was a period of frost. For this reason, blossom only began to appear towards the end of May, with an earlier start on the lower slopes. Sunny weather followed, but frost and drought meant this was a relatively challenging vintage in terms of quantity. Nevertheless, the grapes were healthy and of good quality.

After gentle, whole-bunch pressing, there was a short period of maceration on the skins followed by fermentation at 20ºC in stainless steel tanks and 500 litre oak casks because the family feels that Garganega is too delicate for fermentation in barrique. 60% of the wine then remained in 500 litre oak casks and 40% aged in 2,000 litre 'botti' or large barrels for one year. The wine was then aged for four months in bottle before release.

100% Garganega.

'La Rocca' is golden yellow in the glass, with intense, concentrated perfumes that follow through to the palate. Classic La Rocca aromas of almond essence and honey lead to an elegant and beautifully balanced palate, with notes of vanilla and almond kernel, ripe apricots and exotic fruit. The long finish has a light mineral edge.

ABV = 13.0%.

£26.35

Cantina Mesa Buio Buio Riserva (Isola dei Nuraghi), Carignano del Sulcis 2016 (1x75cl)

** WE HAVE JUST SECURED A BLOCK DIRECTLY FROM CANTINA MESA - NOW IN STOCK! **

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition article on Sulcis and Sardinia (see blue link below).

Cantina Mesa Buio Buio Riserva (Isola Dei Nuraghi), Carignano Del Sulcis 2016 - May 2020 Decanter review

This is one of the most exciting wineries to come out of Sardinia in two decades. It is the brainchild of Gavino Sanna, a Sardinian who has lived in Milan for the past 50 years, where he built up one of Italy's most successful advertising agencies. On a whim, he decided to sell the agency and seek new challenges. One of these challenges was the creation of a winery in Sulcis in southwestern Sardinia. As might be expected from someone with Sanna's background, the labels are striking. He has also ensured that the contents are equally striking. Stefano Cova, a young winemaker from Trentino, took over with the 2008 vintage, improving on an already high level of quality.

The grapes are grown in the Sulcis area on the south-western tip of Sardinia. The climate here is Mediterranean with low rainfall that usually falls almost entirely in autumn and winter. It is characterised by frequent north-westerly winds, high temperatures in spring and summer, a mild autumn and winters which vary from dry and cold through to relatively mild. Soils are naturally sandy and chalky-clay, sub-alkaline, medium textured with a rocky, schistous character. Moderate nutrient levels and good levels of minerals add a distinctive character to the resulting wines. The vines are espalier trained and spur-cordon pruned.

The grapes were hand-picked then vinified with maceration on the skins at 26-28°C for 10-12 days. Upon completion of malolactic fermentation, the wine spent a minimum of 10 months in second- and third-use barriques, followed by at least four months in bottle.

100% Carignan(o).

Deep ruby red in colour. The nose offers a complex mix of balsamic notes of red berry fruit and blossoms, together with hints of spices and oak. The palate is rich and full, revealing excellent balance with an appealingly silky texture and long, lingering finish.

ABV = 14.5%. 

£28.15

Carpineto Dogajolo Toscana Rosso 2017

Awarded 89 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2020 edition review of Best High Street Italian Reds (see blue link below).

Carpineto Dogajolo Toscana Rosso 2017 - May 2020 Decanter review

Founded in 1967 by Antonio Zaccheo and Giovanni Sacchet, Carpineto farms 500 hectares of land spread over four estates among Tuscany's most prestigious appellations. The original aim of the producers – to make modern, world-class red wine from the Chianti Classico appellation, has been admirably fulfilled. The Farnito and Dogajolo wines demonstrate the winery’s pioneering approach to making wines from international varieties in Tuscany. Formerly IWSC Italian Wine Producer of the Year, Carpineto was the also the first ever Italian winery to be awarded the IWSC International Winemaker of the Year. Antonio Zaccheo is now assisted by his son Antonio and daughter Francesca, who have both previously worked in the wine trade in the USA. Giovanni Sacchet's daughter, Caterina, joined the Carpineto winemaking team after finishing her viticulture and oenology degree.

This was a unique vintage due to the severe drought that affected the vineyards, which resulted significantly reduced yields and a limited production. The wines show excellent concentration of ripe fruit flavours.

The vines are grown in the heart of Tuscany in sand, clay and limestone soils.

Whole bunches were carefully selected at harvest. The grape varieties were vinified separately, as they reached maturity at different times. Fermentation took place in stainless steel vats at 25°C, followed by 15 to 20 days maceration with frequent aerations, pump overs and punch-downs of the cap for optimal polyphenol extraction. Towards the end of fermentation they were blended and placed in small wooden casks where they slowly completed alcoholic and malolactic fermentation.

Sangiovese 70%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20% and other varieties 10%.

Modern Tuscan style displaying red cherry flavours with a rich mouthfeel, smooth and juicy. An innovative baby Super-Tuscan, Dogajolo combines the power and deep flavours of a young wine, with the elegance and balance from the oak ageing. Full bodied, yet soft on the palate with fruity cherry notes interlaced with coffee, vanilla and spice, this is complex and well-developed. 

ABV = 13.0%.

£11.50

Tenuta di Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2018 (1x75cl)

** NOW IN STOCK! **

PLEASE SEE ALSO THE FULL CHIANTI CLASSICO RANGE WE TAKE FROM BIBBIANO (all with Decanter scores).

Awarded 88 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) at their Chianti Classico & Brunello Value Picks Tasting in Feb 2020 (see blue link below).

Tenuta Di Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2018 - Feb 2020 Decanter review

Founded in 1865, Bibbiano is located in the historiic Chianti region, in the municipality of Castellina-in-Chianti, overlooking the Elsa Valley towards the castle of Monteriggioni. Today’s owners, Tommaso and Federico Marrocchesi Marzi, are the fifth generation. Surrounded by vast olive groves consisting of over three thousand trees, Bibbiano’s vineyards cover an area of about 25 hectares, at an altitude ranging from 270 to 300 meters, with enviable exposure and excellent microclimate. The vineyards consist of plants of Sangiovese and Sangiovese Grosso grapes as well as a smaller quantity of Colorino.

Tenuta di Bibbiano was the longest standing consultancy of famed winemaker Giulio Gambelli, also famous for his long relationships with Montevertine and Case Basse di Soldera. Their decades-long association with Gambelli, under whom Bibbiano’s current winemaker trained, still lives on in their traditional approach to winemaking and their commitment to 100%-pure Sangiovese wines. Their harvest is still conducted manually and grapes carefully selected, with different vinification procedures according to the position of the slopes on which the grapes were grown. They are committed to replanting vineyards using wood poles and columns and by planting only autochthonous grapes. Bibbiano is committed to promoting conservative renovation of the farms, in order to not lose their architectural and human heritage and its very ancient history. The estate was certified organic in 2011.

Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi is a leading voice in the push to establish formal village appellations in Chianti Classico and is a great supporter of the new Gran Selezione category, which requires wines labeled as such to be made exclusively from estate fruit and bottled at the origin. With the 2014 vintage, Bibbiano raised their Montornello Riserva to a Gran Selezione, lowering production significantly. The Montornello, now a limited production single-vineyard Riserva, comes from the northern face of the estate where calcareous clay and stony alberese soils give the wine its distinctive acidity and red-fruited profile. This wine, the Capannino, continues as a Gran Selezione Riserva, featuring the dense structure and rich, black fruits that result from these reddish-brown, clay-rich soils planted exclusively to Sangiovese Grosso. There is also - and this - a Chianti Classico Riserva, made from exclusively from the Sangiovese da Chianti clone grown on the Montornello side of the property, selected after the very best bunches are picked for the Montornello single-vineyard bottling.

The Annata (or 'standard' Chianti Classico) is produced using grapes cultivated on both exposures of the property, across a vineyard area of 30 hectares including all the estates's vineyards in Bibbiano and Castellina-in-Chianti.

The 2018 harvest started on September 13th.

Fermentation was for 16 days in stainless steel. Ageing was for 12 month in concrete vats.

100% Sangiovese. 

Brilliant ruby red. A very floral, aromatic nose, especialy of red cherry and wild berries. Fresh and persistent flavours, with lively acidity.

ABV = 13.5%.

£16.95

Tenuta di Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 (1x75cl)

** NOW IN STOCK! **

PLEASE SEE ALSO THE FULL CHIANTI CLASSICO RANGE WE TAKE FROM BIBBIANO (all with Decanter scores).

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) at their Chianti Classico New Releases Tasting in Feb 2019 (see blue link below).

Tenuta Di Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 - Feb 2019 Decanter review

Founded in 1865, Bibbiano is located in the historiic Chianti region, in the municipality of Castellina-in-Chianti, overlooking the Elsa Valley towards the castle of Monteriggioni. Today’s owners, Tommaso and Federico Marrocchesi Marzi, are the fifth generation. Surrounded by vast olive groves consisting of over three thousand trees, Bibbiano’s vineyards cover an area of about 25 hectares, at an altitude ranging from 270 to 300 meters, with enviable exposure and excellent microclimate. The vineyards consist of plants of Sangiovese and Sangiovese Grosso grapes as well as a smaller quantity of Colorino.

Tenuta di Bibbiano was the longest standing consultancy of famed winemaker Giulio Gambelli, also famous for his long relationships with Montevertine and Case Basse di Soldera. Their decades-long association with Gambelli, under whom Bibbiano’s current winemaker trained, still lives on in their traditional approach to winemaking and their commitment to 100%-pure Sangiovese wines. Their harvest is still conducted manually and grapes carefully selected, with different vinification procedures according to the position of the slopes on which the grapes were grown. They are committed to replanting vineyards using wood poles and columns and by planting only autochthonous grapes. Bibbiano is committed to promoting conservative renovation of the farms, in order to not lose their architectural and human heritage and its very ancient history. The estate was certified organic in 2011.

Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi is a leading voice in the push to establish formal village appellations in Chianti Classico and is a great supporter of the new Gran Selezione category, which requires wines labeled as such to be made exclusively from estate fruit and bottled at the origin. With the 2014 vintage, Bibbiano raised their Montornello Riserva to a Gran Selezione, lowering production significantly. The Montornello, now a limited production single-vineyard Riserva, comes from the northern face of the estate where calcareous clay and stony alberese soils give the wine its distinctive acidity and red-fruited profile. This wine, the Capannino, continues as a Gran Selezione Riserva, featuring the dense structure and rich, black fruits that result from these reddish-brown, clay-rich soils planted exclusively to Sangiovese Grosso. There is also - and this - a Chianti Classico Riserva, made from exclusively from the Sangiovese da Chianti clone grown on the Montornello side of the property, selected after the very best bunches are picked for the Montornello single-vineyard bottling.

The Riserva is produced using grapes cultivated on both exposures of the property, across a vineyard area of 30 hectares. It represents a real tribute to the tradition of Bibbiano's terroir.

Some 35,000 bottles of the 2016 Riserva were produced.

The harvest started on September 26th.

Fermentation was for 23 days in stainless steel and cement vats.

Ageing was for 18 months, part in cement vats, part in French oak tonneaux (large barrels). 

100% Sangiovese. 

Deep ruby red. Prune and cherry. Juicy and fruity with soft tannins. As Decanter said in the review above, "youthful and giving, this offers up aromas of celery, anise, pepper and oregano, giving nuance to the ripe red berries. Ample fruit on the palate fits nicely with firm tannins, while assertive acid gives lift and energy".

ABV = 14.5%.

£20.50
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