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Decanter May 2018

This month's Decanter (www.decanter.com) features major reviews of:

- Chianti Classico 2013 and 2014 - specifically Riservas and Gran Seleziones (the very top of the quality pyramid in Chianti Classico);

"World's best Pinot Gris buys"; and

Valpolicella Superiore and Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

You know us: we like to make sure we have the biggest of the big hitters. And that's exactly what we have - the top-scoring 96-pointer from Chianti Classico and the top-scoring (95-point) Pinot Gris.

As an added bonus, this means we now supply two, quite superb, new wine ranges - one from Chianti Classico and the other from Alsace.  You will find details of each of these ranges by clicking the links below. They are both exclusive to us in the UK and as always are available at the best price possible.

  • The selection of wines that we have available from this month's Decanter is listed at the foot of this page

 

Il Palagio di Panzano

Monia and Franco Piccini of Il Palagio di Panzano recently hosted one of the Exel Wines team while he was travelling and visiting producers in Italy. On his return, so impressed were (and are) we by their wines that we have start importing them directly to allow our customers to enjoy these fabulous wines in the UK for the first time. Their Chianti Classico Gran Selezione "Le Bambole" is the 96-pointer above.

 

Domaine Rieflé

If Chianti is all about reds, then Alsace is all about its whites. Here, the Rieflé family have been making wine near Pfaffenheim since 1850. We tried their range at the beginning of 2018 and found all the wines to be sublime. We know of old that these are just the sort of wines our customers enjoy, so when their Grand Cru Steinert Pinot Gris received 95 points in May's Decanter article, "World's Best Pinot Gris and Grigio", we took the plunge and are importing four of their wines (including a Pinot Noir) to let you find your favourite.

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Carpineto, Chianti Classico Riserva 2015 (1x75cl)

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.

In the beautiful olive and cypress-studded countryside between Florence and Siena lie the quaint hilltop villages of the Chianti Classico region. The wine of the same name is produced exclusively in this charming and beautiful area in stony soils.

The winter was cool and rainy, with temperatures warming up in spring. The 2015 summer experienced exceptionally hot temperatures, which produced small, concentrated bunches of Sangiovese grapes with excellent phenolic structure and balancing alcohol content. The crop was heathy at harvest time and the resulting wines show wonderful Sangiovese typicity.

Fermentation took place in temperature controlled vats, followed by a skin contact maceration to extract colour, flavour and fine tannins. The wine was transferred to a combination of oak barrels and casks of Slavonian and French origin for a minimum of 12 months. It was then transferred back into stainless tanks briefly prior to bottling. The wine was bottle aged in temperature controlled cellars for a minimum of 10 months prior to release.

Sangiovese 80%, Canaiolo 20%.

A traditionally styled Chianti Classico, smooth and robust with earthy notes and a savoury finish. An inviting rich ruby red colour, with garnet reflections. Rich, velvety, full-flavoured and warming with hints of vanilla and raspberries, this is a very fine wine with silky tannins and a long, lingering finish.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

ABV = 13.5%.

£19.20

Castello Vicchiomaggio, Agostino Petri Chianti Classico Riserva 2015 (1x75cl)

A perfumed and savoury wine, well textured with ripe cherry hints and enhanced by a lovely depth and smooth but firm finish

The historical origins of Castello Vicchiomaggio can be traced back to the 5th century. The present owners, the Matta family, acquired the property in 1964 and restored it back to its former splendour. The estate, with 150 hectares, is one of the largest in the area, and of these, 32 hectares are dedicated to the vine. Castello Vicchiomaggio produces several styles of wine, from the traditional to the innovative. In order to achieve this, the estate has been carefully classified according to its soil type and exposure. All production and winemaking is supervised by John Matta. The hallmark of John's wines is elegance, perfumed, stylish and all have beautiful balance. These wines truly show off the Sangiovese grape at its best. Vicchiomaggio is consistently classified amongst Italy's top estates and John Matta has been named IWSC Italian Winemaker of the Year four times in the last 14 years.

The Chianti Classico region experienced a balanced climate during the 2015 vintage. Warm weather in spring allowed the buds to flower evenly. This was followed by fantastic weather conditions during the growing season, warm, sunny days with low rainfall were balanced by cooler nights, enabling the grapes to reach excellent maturity levels in a healthy condition and with concentrated flavours. 2015 is considered an excellent vintage.

The grapes are sourced from the Agostino Petri vineyard, located in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. It sits at an altitude of 255 to 265 metres above sea level. Planted at a density of 5,600 vines per hectare, the vines are pruned according to the Single Guyot method which ensures low yields of approximately 40 hectolitres per hectare. The soils are made up of a high proportion of heavy clay- approximately 30%, which is renowned for its cooling properties and water retention for the vine, as well as for producing bold wines from the Sangiovese grape. The vineyard is managed sustainably.

The grapes were harvested by hand at optimal maturity and carefully sorted. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks of 50 hectolitres, with 15 days’ maceration on skins to extract colour, flavour and fine tannins. The wine was matured initially in French oak second use barriques (previously used for La Prima Gran Selezione); and then in large oak barrels of 25 to 50 hectolitres lasting 18 months in total. The wine was then cellared in bottle for a further four to six months prior to release.

Sangiovese 90%, Cabernet Sauvignon 10%.

A perfumed and elegant wine, with a developed nose of ripe fruit and sweet spices; reminiscent of chocolate, strawberry praline and candied cherry. Opulent and rounded with soft tannins on the palate, harmoniously balanced and extremely long, silky finish.

ABV = 14.0%.

£19.20

Castello Vicchiomaggio, La Prima, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015 (1x75cl)

The 2013 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2018 edition review of the top tiers of Chianti Classico (see blue link below).

Castello Vicchiomaggio La Prima Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013 - May 2018 Decanter review

The historical origins of Castello Vicchiomaggio can be traced back to the 5th century. The present owners, the Matta family, acquired the property in 1964 and restored it back to its former splendour. The estate, with 150 hectares, is one of the largest in the area, and of these, 32 hectares are dedicated to the vine. Castello Vicchiomaggio produces several styles of wine, from the traditional to the innovative. In order to achieve this, the estate has been carefully classified according to its soil type and exposure. All production and winemaking is supervised by John Matta. The hallmark of John's wines is elegance, perfumed, stylish and all have beautiful balance. These wines truly show off the Sangiovese grape at its best. Vicchiomaggio is consistently classified amongst Italy's top estates and John Matta has been named IWSC Italian Winemaker of the Year four times in the last 14 years.

The sustainably cultivated vines are grown in La Prima vineyard where the soils are marl and clay. Gran Selezione is a DOCG Chianti category and is produced exclusively with grapes from single vineyards or selected from the estate's best-suited vineyards. In addition to having stricter technical and organoleptic characteristics, Gran Selezione wines can only be released to the market 30 months after the grape harvest, having spent at least three months in bottle. These features place this at the summit of the Chianti Classico quality pyramid.

The Chianti Classico region experienced a balanced climate during the 2015 vintage. Warm weather in spring allowed the buds to flower evenly. This was followed by fantastic weather conditions during the growing season, warm, sunny days with low rainfall were balanced by cooler nights, enabling the grapes to reach excellent maturity levels in a healthy condition and with concentrated flavours. 2015 is considered an excellent vintage.

Fermentation took place in temperature controlled tanks, with regular pump-overs of the cap to ensure the desired levels of aeration. The wine was matured in French oak barriques for a period of 20 months, followed by one year maturation in the bottle.

This wine is made using Sangiovese 90%, Merlot 10%.

A complex bouquet showing aromas of red and black berried fruit, with hints of lemon, tobacco leaves and a touch of toasted oak. Full, velvety and complex flavours shine through on the sublimely smooth palate leading to a fresh and elegant finish. A superb pairing with roast beef, a rack of lamb, steak or mushroom ravioli.

ABV = 14.0%.

£36.05

Ca' Rugate Campo Lavei Valpolicella Superiore 2017 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2018 edition review Valpolicella Superiore (see blue link below). (NB: label has changed since).

Ca'Rugate Campo Lavei Valpolicella Superiore - May 2018 Decanter review

The family business has been handed down through the generations of the Tessari family since the early 1900s. The estate was renamed Ca'Rugate in 1986, taking its name from the volcanic hills where the vineyards are located. Now run by the fourth generation, Michele has brought with him a lively, passionate and entrepreneurial spirit. Considerable expansion has taken place in recent years with investment in a new technologically advanced cellar and expansion into the Valpolicella area with the purchase of vineyards in the hilly zone of Montecchia di Crosara. Ca'Rugate has been awarded the prestigious 'Tre Bicchieri' award rating from Gambero Rosso multiple times, making it one of the most awarded producers in the competition and has been hailed by the New York Times as one of the "Top Five producers of high end Soave".

A cool winter with high rainfall set the scene for 2016. Dry and rainy periods took place during the spring enabling the vegetative cycle to develop without any stress. The summer saw high temperatures with dry conditions, resulting in high yields of high quality grapes. Vineyard The six hectare Campo Lavei vineyard is situated on the hillsides of Montecchia di Crosara. The vines yield 90 quintals per hectare and are grown in limestone and pebble soils.

At the beginning of October, some of the harvested grapes are set aside to dry in wooden trays until the end of December. The undried grapes were destemmed and fermented immediately after the harvest. The dried grapes were added at a later stage and were allowed to ferment in stainless steel for approximately one week, prior to pressing, which took place at the end of December. The wine was then transferred into small barrels to finish fermentation and mature in oak, for a period of eight to 10 months.

Corvina 45%, Corvinone 40%, Rondinella 15%.

Intense aromas of black fruit and cherries, combined with a twist of spice from the wood. The palate is mellow, balanced and rounded, complete with elegant tannins and a smooth finish. Pair with pasta dishes and meat sauce, grilled or roasted red meat, game or medium aged cheeses.

ABV = 14.5%.

£20.05

La Giuva (Il Rientro) Valpolicella Superiore 2017 (1x75cl)

The estate was founded by Alberto Malesani, famous in Italy as a former football manager of both Fiorentina and Parma. While at Parma, he won the UEFA cup in 1999. His passion and intelligence is now channelled into this estate, where he is helped by consultant winemaker Lorenzo Caramazza, formerly of Cantina Valpantena. The name La Giuva is an acronym of his daughters’ initials, Giulia and Valentina, who are heavily involved in the business. The balance, concentration and aromatic intensity marks the wines out from the crowd in Valpolicella, and makes La Giuva one of the region’s rising stars. Production is tiny, and won’t get that much higher than its current level of 18,000 bottles until the new vineyards come into production.

La Giuva wines are the expression of the territory of Trezzolano, a small village in the upper Squaranto valley, characterised by a hilly, calcareous terrain at an altitude of roughly 350 meters above sea level. The area is cooled by rolling winds and the viticulture is characterised by medium-dense Espalier rows trained using the Guyot method.

Half of the grapes for the Valpolicella Superiore were dried for about a fortnight after picking, and then crushed and fermented at controlled temperatures in stainless steel tanks. The resulting wine was blended with 50% fresh Valpolicella wine from the same vintage. Malolactic fermentation then took place in stainless steel before the majority of the wine was aged for 12 months in oak barrels, 50% of which were new. Some of the wine was aged in a 19 hectolitre barrels, and then the final small percentage (5%) was aged in earthenware jars.

70% Corvina/Corvinone, 25% Rondinella, 5% Oseleta.

The Valpolicella Superiore has a unique freshness combined with the typical characteristics of the drying of grapes. Aromatic, it has hints of spice and a subtle sweet scent on the nose, with great balance and concentration and a distinct liquorice impression on the long finish.

£22.65

Monte Dall`Ora Camporenzo Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2014 vintage was Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2018 edition review of Valpolicella Superiore (see blue link below).

Monte Dall'Ora Camporenzo Valpolicella Superiore 2014 - May 2018 Decanter review

Monte Dall’Ora, in the heart of Valpolicella, was born from a dream: to interpret nature without forcing it. They started from an idea of ​​enhancing and nurturing their environment before using the land for a vineyard. A meeting between two people with a shared instinct have given rise to an exciting and new journey. Their great love for the land, the desire to express their emotions and the willingness to be amazed by nature guide the choices made at Monte Dall'Ora every day. 

This wine comes from the vineyard Camporenzo in San Pietro hill, which is rich in limestone. The ground is terraced and cultivated with traditional Pergola Veronese, using both organic and biodynamic methods. Harvest takes place at end of September /beginning of October. This wine is made using spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts for 7/8 days, with manual movement. Maturation in oak barrels lasts for 9 months and the wine is subsequently allowed to rest in bottle.

This wine is made using a blend of Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella.

This wine has a ruby red colour. On the nose, it displays perfumes of red fruits, such as cherries, as well as hints of hay and spices, and closes on mint and herbal notes. The flavour echoes the sensations on the nose, whilst maintaining a somewhat traditional, well-defined style. The wine as a whole reveals notable freshness. Able for long ageing. This is a wine for drinking throughout the meal. It goes particularly well with traditional Veronese dishes such as local soups (eg pasta e fasoi), poultry and white meat.

£21.15

Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personnelle 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2012 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status in the May 2018 edition of Decanter article: World's Best Pinot Gris Buys. This is now (very) unavailable from the UK importer: we offer the 2014.

Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personnelle 2012 - May 2018 Decanter review

Earning a listing for one of your wines at a Michelin-starred restaurant is a proud moment – so what must it be like to be featured by every single three Michelin-starred restaurant in France (that’s 27 in total)? It’s an accolade that reflects the historic excellence and purist vision of F. E. Trimbach, unquestionably one of the great names of Alsace and a family business that can trace its origins all the way back to 1626. Thirteen generations later, brothers Bernard and Hubert, plus Bernard’s sons, Pierre and Jean, and granddaughter Anne – remain true to the philosophy handed down to them by their 19th century ancestor, Frédéric Emile (the man who put the “F.E.” into F. E. Trimbach).

Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personnelle is only made from grapes harvested in the best vintages from the choicest vineyard plots. This results in rich, weighty, opulent wines which can take many years to develop their full potential. The grapes for the Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personnelle come from the Grand Cru Osterberg vineyard. The grapes are picked by hand and pressed very gently in a pneumatic press. The juice runs into the cellar by gravity and clarifies naturally prior to fermentation. The juice ferments in stainless steel at controlled temperature for 2-3 weeks. In this case the fermentation stopped naturally and some (but very little) residual sugar is now balanced by good ripe acidity to give this wine a beautiful balance. These grapes were picked at excellent richness level, around 14° potential alcohol. The wine is not oak aged, as the Trimbachs believe that wood gives nothing to their wines, the salient characteristics of which are extreme purity and concentrated fruit. Bottling is early to preserve freshness and wines then bottle-aged before leaving the winery.

100% Pinot Gris.

Toasted nuts, marzipan and salinity underscore the peach and apple fruit here. A hint of honey adds nobility and relatively high acidity adds primary juiciness in the long, fascinatingly smoky, nutty, and mineral finish.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

ABV = 13.5%.

£27.95

Cos Pithos Rosso 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2018 edition review of Italian wines made without the use of oak (see blue link below).

COS Pithos Rosso 2015 - May 2018 Decanter review

Three friends founded Azienda Agricola COS, in 1980: Giambattista Cilia, Cirino Strano and Giusto Occhipinti. The acronym of their last names is where the name for the winery – COS – comes from.  In 1980, they were the youngest wine producers in Italy. They received an old family winery from Giambattista Cilia’s father Giuseppe Cilia and the nearby vineyard of bush-trained vines in the famed town of Bastonaca. On October 5, 1980 they harvested their first vintage and made 1,470 bottles. COS began its adventure that would one day lead to the transformation of Cerasuolo di Vittoria.

The winery follows the principles of biodynamic faming in order to help the vines find and maintain a balance with nature in order to be able to express their true character and that of their terroir. For vinification, they decided to use terracotta vases that left no traces or aromas on the wine but were completely neutral vessels. In 2000, Pithos was born, a Cerasuolo di Vittoria that ferments and ages in amphora. They finished working on a building in Fontane, which in 2003 became the headquarters of the winery. In 2005, they made the first wine that bore the Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation, the only one in Sicily. The harvest of 2007 saw the winery in a new location and was the beginning of use of only amphora. The winery got rid of the barrels that they had and use only 150 amphorae.

60% Nero d’Avola, 40% Frappato.

Today COS is associated not only with the success of Cerasuolo di Vittoria but also with rigor and quality. It’s thanks to these three friends that the region of Cerasuolo di Vittoria was reborn and the area around Vittoria is thriving with its extraordinary wines.

“Our goal isn’t to make wines that impress wine critics, but to make wine that expresses our great terroir. Here, Nero d’Avola is more elegant than in other regions, and has these great mineral notes from the soil. This is what gives the Cerasuolo di Vittoria its rich fruit, while the Frappato gives the wine its floral components and freshness,” Occhipinti says.

The Pithos Rosso is fermented in giare which are terracotta amphorae (250l and 400l). The identity of the Frappato is marked on the nose with exuberant expression of violets and raspberry blossom. The mouth is floral, warm and supple, the berry fruit flavours complemented by soft tannins.

ABV = 13.5%.

£24.85

G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2018 (1x75cl)

The 2016 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2019 review of affordable Barolo alternatives (see blue link below).

GD Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2016 - May 2019 Decanter review

Aldo Vajra's wines are characterised by pristine flavours and clearly defined perfumes. These characters are attributable to the position of his vineyards at about 400 metres above sea level in the village of Vergne in the commune of Barolo. G.D. Vajra was established in 1972 and named after Aldo's father, Giuseppe Domenico Vajra. Aldo has been gradually increasing the area under vine to 60 hectares, of which 10 are Nebbiolo for Barolo, located in such strategic spots as Bricco delle Viole, Fossati, La Volta and Coste di Vergne. A traditionalist, Aldo adheres to old-style winemaking methods, though blends these with new techniques, such as temperature-controlled fermentation, to produce such superbly elegant wines.

These grapes come from young Nebbiolo vines in Vajra's own vineyards in the communes of Barolo and Novello. The vines are four to seven years old and will produce Barolo DOCG in several vintages time. This Nebbiolo is also enriched by grapes from the wonderful Roccabella vineyard in the commune of Sinio, planted on steep south-facing terraces.

Fermentation lasted 15-20 days, at temperatures no higher than 29-30ºC with indigenous yeast strains and traditional daily punch downs. Malolactic fermentation followed and the wine was then aged for six months largely in stainless steel tanks, with a small portion in neutral wood, before bottling.

100% Nebbiolo.

The wine is bright ruby red in colour with intense notes of violet and rose, accompanied by the freshness of ripe red berry fruits on the nose. This is an elegant Nebbiolo with herbaceous notes and perfumes of roses and red berries complemented by silky tannins and delicate acidity.

ABV = 14.5%.

£25.15

Paolo Vodopivec Carso Vitovska amphora 2015 (1x75cl)

The 2011 vintage was Awarded 97 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2018 edition review of Italian wines made without the use of oak (see blue link below).

Paolo Vodopivec Carso Vitovska Amphora 2011 - May 2018 Decanter review

Fasten your tastebuds – it’s going to be a scintillating ride! This is a wine that is thrilling in its richness and striking in its textural complexity. The winery is located in the small commune of Carso, where two enigmatic brothers, Paolo and Valter Vodopivec have earned an enviable international reputation for their distinctive wines.

Any discussion regarding the terroir of Carso is always more about rock than soil. Carso, in fact, is believed to mean “land of rock” in Celtic tradition.  Walter and Paolo Vodopivec had to physically break up the limestone bedrock in order to be able to plant their vines. The rocky terrain leaves a firm imprint on the wine with an undeniable acidity and mineral influence.

Made from the Vitovska grape, which is a crossing between Prosecco and Malvasia Bianco, the wine is first fermented in clay amphorae that are buried underground. These amphorae come from Georgia.

We feel we should also mention the ransom story. Brothers Walter and Paolo Vodopivec had experimented with aging their wines in wooden cask and Spanish amphorae (inspired by Gravner), but they weren’t enamoured with the results. Paolo felt sure that Georgian amphorae would be superior, so off they went to Georgia to source some. However, the local mafia held the clay pots to ransom, but even though it was unclear what their demands were, the vessels were eventually freed and are now used in Friuli as fermenters.

Back to the wine. It undergoes six months of maceration in the amphora to allow the full potential of the grapes to shine through. They collect grapes from several different vineyards to give the wine all the characteristics of the area. The wine then spends 24 months aging in wood before being bottled.

Upon opening, it is intensely tannic with gripping minerality. Decant once or even twice. The result, if you’re patient, is a wine that has a purity and fascination that makes you want to roll it appreciatively around your mouth. 

It is deep, rich (but not heavy) and aromatic with layers of dried peach, warm apricot and apple notes on both the nose and mid-palate. A splendid Vitovska that is as bone dry as the rocks from which the vines eke out their precarious existence, yet somehow refreshing and curiously saline with a very long finish that imparts further flavours of hazelnuts and dried fig.

£41.35

Planeta Mamertino DOC 2015 (1x75cl)

As sampled at Exel Wines' November 2018 tasting. See here for the report of that evening.

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2018 edition article on Sicily (see blue link below).

Planeta Mamertino 2015 - May 2018 Decanter review

In Planeta’s early years, expertise came from a surprising source: Australia. The winemaker brought in by Diego Planeta was an Italian – Carlo Corino – but one who had soaked in the latest warm-climate winemaking secrets during a stint in New South Wales. Ever since, Planeta has managed to captured the intrinsic perfume and fresh flavours of Sicily’s grapes in their wines.  The island estate pursued an unconventional approach to winemaking, with Planeta establishing a cult following for its barrel-aged Chardonnay, at a time when most other Italian whites were typically consumed straight out of the fermenter. This early success gave Planeta the credibility it needed to open the world’s eyes to the charms of Sicily’s indigenous grape varieties, ushering in a broad range of wines that today owes as much to Grecanico and Nero d’Avola as it does to the winery’s signature Chardonnay.

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

Planeta Mamertino 2015 - fiche technique

60% Nero d’Avola, 40% Nocera.

Brilliant, intense ruby colour with dark violet reflexes. Explosive nose with notes of Mediterranian maquis, blue fruits and jammy berries. On the palate thick but refined tannins, well integrated with the oak.

ABV = 13.0%.

£20.40

Planeta Mamertino DOC 2016 (1x75cl)

As sampled at Exel Wines' November 2018 tasting. See here for the report of that evening.

The 2015 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2018 edition article on Sicily (see blue link below).

Planeta Mamertino 2015 - May 2018 Decanter review

In Planeta’s early years, expertise came from a surprising source: Australia. The winemaker brought in by Diego Planeta was an Italian – Carlo Corino – but one who had soaked in the latest warm-climate winemaking secrets during a stint in New South Wales. Ever since, Planeta has managed to captured the intrinsic perfume and fresh flavours of Sicily’s grapes in their wines.  The island estate pursued an unconventional approach to winemaking, with Planeta establishing a cult following for its barrel-aged Chardonnay, at a time when most other Italian whites were typically consumed straight out of the fermenter. This early success gave Planeta the credibility it needed to open the world’s eyes to the charms of Sicily’s indigenous grape varieties, ushering in a broad range of wines that today owes as much to Grecanico and Nero d’Avola as it does to the winery’s signature Chardonnay.

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

Planeta Mamertino 2016 - fiche technique

60% Nero d’Avola, 40% Nocera.

Brilliant, intense ruby colour with dark violet reflexes. Explosive nose with notes of Mediterranian maquis, blue fruits and jammy berries. On the palate thick but refined tannins, well integrated with the oak.

ABV = 13.5%.

£20.40

Ca Rugate Monte Fiorentine Soave Classico 2018 (1x75cl)

Awarded Tre Bicchieri -2020 by Gambero Rosso.

The 2016 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2018 article on Soave (see blue link below).

Ca'Rugate Monte Fiorentine Soave Classico 2016 - May 2018 Decanter review

The family business has been handed down through the generations of the Tessari family since the early 1900s. The estate was renamed Ca'Rugate in 1986, taking its name from the volcanic hills where the vineyards are located. Now run by the fourth generation, Michele has brought with him a lively, passionate and entrepreneurial spirit. Considerable expansion has taken place in recent years with investment in a new technologically advanced cellar and expansion into the Valpolicella area with the purchase of vineyards in the hilly zone of Montecchia di Crosara. Ca'Rugate has been awarded the prestigious 'Tre Bicchieri' award rating from Gambero Rosso multiple times, making it one of the most awarded producers in the competition and has been hailed by the New York Times as one of the "Top Five producers of high end Soave".

The grapes come from the Monte Fiorentine vineyard in Brognoligo di Monteforte d'Alpone and are harvested at optimum maturity in the middle of October. The yields are 90-100 quintals per hectare. The vineyard soils are volcanic and rich in minerals, imparting a certain minerality to the final wine.

The 2018 winter was cool with frequent rainfall. The start of the growing season was also marked by rain, but a hot, dry period followed during the summer. Attention in the vineyard with crop thinning in July maintained the yields of the Garganega vines. The harvest delivered good yields of high quality grapes.

Fermented in stainless steel tanks at a temperature of 16 to 18°C for approximately 10 to 15 days, maintaining the freshness and aromatic qualities of the Garganega grapes.

100% Garganega.

Rich and golden in colour, a wonderful example of a Soave Classico, with beautiful layering of exotic, tropical fruits and a touch of minerality. Full and rich in flavour, this is a structured wine with a fresh, mineral finish. This wine is best enjoyed chilled, to accompany full flavoured dishes in creamy sauces, fish, soups and young cheeses.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

ABV = 12.5%.

£15.20

Pieropan Calvarino Soave Classico 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded Tre Bicchieri -2020 by Gambero Rosso.

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their November 2019 Weekday Wines feature (see blue link below). (NB: it most definitely isn't available from the mentioned outlet (or anywhere else we can find) at the stated price there!)

Pieropan Calvarino Soave Classico 2017 - Nov 2019 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.

Calvarino takes its name, 'little Calvary', from the steepness of the slope and the difficulty this presents in working the vineyard. It has basalt soil that is classic in this part of Soave and is planted with Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave. The Garganega gives structure and acidity to the wines; the Trebbiano di Soave gives perfume and richness of flavour. There are usually at least two passes through the vineyard to ensure the grapes are picked at the best possible stage of ripeness. The vineyards are farmed organically. The vines are between 30 and 60 years old and are planted 200 to 300 metres above sea level, at a density of 3,000 vines per hectare.

The 2017 vintage began with a mild and dry autumn and winter. This dry weather meant that, by March, there were some drought worries. Spring continued to be relatively warm, until a sudden frost at the end of April struck and caused a lot of damage to the first buds in many areas of northern Italy. Fortunately, the hillside location of the Calvarino vineyard meant that it was not so badly affected by the frost. High temperatures and dry weather continued through the summer and meant that some irrigation was necessary. The Trebbiano grapes were harvested in at the end of August, two weeks earlier than usual. Pieropan decided to delay the Garganega harvest so that the grapes could reach full maturity, aided by some September rains. Despite the hot temperatures, the grapes have retained freshness and flavour.

The grapes were destemmed and crushed, the free-run juice was fermented at controlled temperatures between 16 and 18°C. The Calvarino was not aged in oak but remained on its lees in glass-lined cement tanks for a year, adding complexity and depth to the final wine. It remained in bottle for a few months before release.

70% Garganega, 30% Trebbiano di Soave.

The ‘Calvarino’ is pale straw yellow in colour, with youthful hues turning golden with age. Fresh, floral aromas with elderflower, lemon and cherry. The palate is dry, well balanced and elegant, with tremendous length and finesse.

ABV = 12.5%.

£19.90

Domaine Georges Vernay Condrieu 'Terrasses de L'Empire' 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2018 review of the 2016 vintage in the Northern Rhone (see blue link below).

Vernay Terrasses de l'Empire Condrieu 2016 - May 2018 Decanter review

The 2015 vintage was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their January 2018 edition panel article, "Steven Spurrier's Fine Wine World(see blue link below).

Vernay Terrasses de l'Empire Condrieu 2015 - January 2018 Decanter review

Georges Vernay is known as the "King of Condrieu" and was responsible for the growth and worldwide recognition of this small appellation during the 1950s. His estate covers 22 hectares of vineyards, six of which are in the Côte Rôtie appellation. The steep and uneven vineyards make mechanical labour impossible. The vines are manually cultivated without the use of residual herbicide or insecticide. Georges' daughter, Christine, returned to her roots with Paul Anselem, her Parisian husband, and has looked after the winemaking since 1997, gaining worldwide recognition for her Côte Rôtie wines.

A patchwork of small plots covering four hectares in the lieu-dits of Sainte Agathe and La Caille located in the heart of Condrieu. The vines are planted on steep South facing granite, biotite terraces where the use of machines is impossible; therefore the vineyard is maintained manually and without the use of weed killers or insecticides. The average age of vines is 35 years and they are planted on Richter 100 rootstocks and trained to the simple Guyot method. Planted at a density of between 8,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare, they yield 35 hectolitres per hectare.

2017 initially saw challenging climatic conditions; nevertheless this vintage has resulted in very promising quality. Low temperatures in the early part of the summer and ill-timed rain at flowering, required vigilance in the vineyard. However, excellent conditions during the summer created ideal growing conditions for the vines. 2017 was another good vintage for the Northern Rhône.

The grapes were manually harvested at full maturity of 13 to14 degrees, they were then meticulously sorted and pressed. After a static temperature controlled must settling, the clear juice was fermented in 20 hectolitre oak vats, lasting approximately four to five weeks. The wine was matured on its fine lees in both oak barrels and vats.

Viognier 100%.

Pure peach and apricot aromas are lifted with hints of acacia flowers. Full and creamy with a distinctive mineral expression and a subtle Condrieu saline complexity supporting the ripe stone fruit flavours. This is a pure expression of a very fine Viognier.

Delicious served at room temperature with seared scallops in a rich, creamy sauce; lobster; game and mature cheese.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

ABV = 13.5%.

£60.55

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (1x75cl)

Greywacke was created in 2009 by Kevin Judd, chief winemaker at Cloudy Bay from its inception for 25 years and instrumental in the international recognition which Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc enjoys now. The name 'Greywacke' was adopted by Kevin for his first Marlborough vineyard located in Rapaura in recognition of the high prevalence of rounded greywacke river stones in the soils of the vineyard, a sedimentary rock which is widely found in Marlborough. Kevin Judd is also New Zealand's finest wine photographer and has recently published a book 'The Landscape of New Zealand Wine'.

Fruit was sourced from various prime vineyard sites in Marlborough’s Southern Valleys, the central Wairau Plains (specifically in Woodbourne, Renwick and Rapaura) and a spectacular river terrace site in the upper Awatere Valley. Soil types vary from the young alluvial soils of Rapaura, Renwick and the upper Awatere, which contain high proportions of greywacke river stones, to the older and denser clay-loams of the Southern Valleys.

A wet, mild spring ensured soil moisture levels were topped up and the growing season raced off to a frost-free start. Intermittent rain in late spring brought ideal growing conditions, but cool periods during December resulted in variable fruit set. Sauvignon Blanc set with small, open bunches, leading to modest yields. The new year brought sunny, settled weather with no significant rain for the first two months. In typical Marlborough fashion the hills to the south became parched and the dry conditions necessitated careful management of water resources. The drought was partially quenched by a brief period of rain in early March just after harvest had commenced, evoking considerable anxiety, but thankfully was followed by more settled weather. All varieties were harvested at optimum ripeness, albeit lower yields than expected. In all an excellent, dry season that provided superb quality grapes, with great concentration.

Harvested largely by machine during cool (often cold) night-time conditions, the Sauvignon Blanc grapes were picked into half-tonne bins, tipped directly into the tank press and lightly pressed. The resulting juice was cold-settled prior to fermentation in stainless steel, primarily using cultured yeast for cool, slow fermentation. A portion was allowed to undergo spontaneous indigenous yeast fermentation. All individual vineyard batches were left on lees and kept separate until late July, when the blend was assembled.

100% Sauvignon Blanc.

Yellow- fleshed peaches, rock melon and blackcurrant alongside lemon icing, chamomile and hints of rose petal – this is a delicately perfumed and deliciously ripe-fruited interpretation of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The palate is both subtle and textural, showing considerable ripeness and concentration, with a crisp and long, juicy finish.

ABV = 13.5%.

£16.60
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