A day or two behind our usual bulletin schedule (a result of moving into a shiny new warehouse/HQ), here's our update on the new November Decanter. You know, the one that looks very like this:
The wines featured this month in Decanter - and that we list - appear at the foot of this page. The reviews for each wine from this current Decanter appear on each product page.
The Bells (The Bells)
The month’s big Decanter news, of course, was the 98-point, Exceptional that topped the month’s panel review of Australian Pinot Noir(s), the Lethbridge Between Five Bells 2018 (henceforth, ‘B5B’), from Victoria. Of the 91 wines tasted, it was one of only four to achieve 95+ points, the other three all doing so at an average cost of almost £50 a bottle (cf the £18.90 of the B5B). As far as we can see, it’s the only wine to be rated Exceptional in a Decanter panel tasting in 2019 and the review is pretty unstinting in its praise.
It’s worth saying, however, – we go to great pains to do so on the product page – that this is an unusual Pinot. It is in no way ‘normal’. As we experienced at our own tasting here, this is quite different to most conventionally-fermented Pinot Noir. This is produced using carbonic maceration - some way beyond the realms and degree of traditional, Burgundian whole-bunch fermentation - giving a markedly more forward, penetrating edge and a fruitier, crunchier style. It is a tremendous wine, and categorically a Pinot, but the difference from 'orthodox' Pinot Noir is worth noting, especially for traditionalists! We make this point because these off-piste styles can very occasionally meet with disapproval from the unwitting or unapprised customer (see also: Te Pa Oke).
You’d like some? Read on.
As you’d expect at/with that price, score and review, the B5B met with huge demand when news of its achievement was released (which, this month, occurred when a fellow merchant went ‘live’ with the review’s reaching Decanter’s Premium on-line service; this looks set to be a common occurrence going forwards and we will also now be bringing such news to you earlier, having OK-ed such with Decanter). We sold through our generous allocation in just a few hours. We are told by the sole UK importer for Lethbridge, through whom we take the B5B, that there are now only a few sparse bottles remaining unsold in the UK (mainly at restaurants!) Further stock, alas, is on the far side of the planet.
We are happy to bring some more in, but there is precious little left, even at the winery and it has been many times oversubscribed. It’ll be deep into December – and possibly later - before it arrives. We have now contacted all wait-listed customers who will received an aloocation from that December arrival; alas, we cannot obtain any more. That alas, as they say, is it.
Exceptional as it was/is, that’s enough now on that one wine. Elsewhere in that review, we offer excellent Pinots from Giant Steps of the Yarra Valley, Kooyong (Mornington Peninsula, MP), Larry Cherubino (Pemberton, Western Australia – just £14.20!) and Ocean Eight (MP again). They may not be the B5B, but for some – and I’d put myself among them – these are perhaps more appealing and classic New World twists on traditional Pinot Noir.
Elsewhere in the main magazine
The Spanish supplement
Yup, there's this, just in case a Priorat review is not enough for Spanish aficionado/as. We still go with Spain representing wonderful value for money and there's heaps here to get your teeth into.
** BACK IN STOCK!! **
** ALSO SEE PACKAGING NOTE BELOW AND PLEASE INDICATE PREFERRED PACKAGING IN YOUR REQUEST. **
** WE HOLD GOOD STOCKS OF THE EXCELLENT MONTE ALTO ALBARINO FROM FILLABOA. **
Awarded a Platinum & Best in Show medal and 97 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).
Also reminisced about in the September 2020 edition...
Also awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their November 2019 edition's Spanish supplement article, Spanish Wines You Should Have In Your Cellar: The Top 24 (see blue link below). This was the highest-scoring of those 24!
Fillaboa, meaning “the good daughter” in the Gallego dialect of northwestern Spain, produces some of the rarest and highest quality wine from the ever-more-esteemed DO of Rías Baixas. Bodegas Fillaboa’s estate is focused exclusively on the cultivation of Albariño, the star white wine of the region, famed for its freshness, complexity and compatibility with local seafood. Bodegas Fillaboa is owned by the Masaveu family, which traces its winemaking history back to the 14th century. The family re-invested itself in Galician wine production, culminating with the purchase of Bodegas Fillaboa in Salvaterra de Miño in 1988.
Today Fillaboa is home to a tasting facility and formidable art collection housed in a 15th century Romanesque castle near the River Miño that forms the border between Spain and northern Portugal. In a region where most wineries make wines from purchased grapes, Fillaboa stands apart for its exclusive use of estate-grown fruit, ensuring quality control and consistency from vine to bottle. The estate’s deep devotion to quality is perfectly reflected in the Selección Finca Monte Alto, one of the very few single-vineyard estate wines produced in Rías Baixas, a racy white wine that sings with granite minerality and showcases Albariño’s quintessential freshness.
For more grape-growing and winemaking detail on this spectacular and award-winning wine, see the blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the makers themselves. On one specific point we have been asked by a few customers, the wine now being taken/supplied to customers is from the third batch of the 2010, this having been on the lees for 8 years and bottled in August 2019. It relates to the longer-aged wine discussed in the second Decanter review above. A fourth batch is impending, bottled in December 2019 (if you would like to/rather try this, please contact email@example.com).
As the DWWA panel said of it and as our tasting note: "Eight years ageing for this Albariño from the granite-soiled region of Rias Baixas has left the wine a glowing gold in colour with beguilingly developed aromas of nuts, sweet balsam and wet moss on old stones. The wine is unoaked, so all of that aromatic richness is coming from the fruit itself and time's work on it. In the mouth, it is rich too, but dryly so, gracious and expansive, and beginning to hint more clearly at ground stone than to the summer fruits and flowers of youth, with that incipient nutty richness providing further complexities. A blind-tasting puzzle - and a very delicious dinner-party white. Drink 2019-2021"
ABV = 13.0%.
Note below the packaging options for the product: bottles can be despatched in either format (please state preference in comments box in order). We will seek to despatch at no additional carriage charge, but if the packaging necessitates additional carriage, we will be in contact to cover that. We have priced the wine as competitively as we can, and cannot easily do so and cover unlimited additional carriage!
** STOCK WITH US ON OCTOBER 1st! **
Awarded a Gold medal and 96 points at the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details and review).
Giant Steps is a privately owned, estate based, Yarra Valley grower and winemaker that has forged a reputation for delivering some of Australia’s most consistent, over-performing, varietal wines. The Giant Steps Single Vineyard range is produced from the most site-expressive fruit from the best vineyards, in great years. Their aim is to express in each wine the character of the site, grape and vintage, and this they achieve by meticulous work in the vineyard and minimum intervention in the winery. Head winemaker Steve Flamsteed and his team are making some of the best wines in Australia from these sites.
Applejack Vineyard was planted in 1997 by highly respected viticulturist Ray Guerin. Today it is meticulously managed by his son Mark. The vineyard is situated in the Upper Yarra Valley at higher altitudes of 300 metres above sea level, resulting in cooler growing conditions - ideal for Pinot Noir. The 12-hectare vineyard sits on a dramatic, east-facing slope of grey-brown clay loams, close-planted with MV6, 114 and 115 clones.
The 2018 season started off relatively dry with below average rainfall coming into budburst. October was quite cool, and the vines grew quite slowly. From November, there was a distinct change in the weather with an increase in heat and subsequent rapid growth. Yet again, great weather with warm and sunny days led to a fast and uniform flowering from mid-November. High fruit set and larger berries led to very high bunch weights. December was exciting with a series of tropical storms sucked down from northern Australia, topping up soil moisture and filling up the dams for later in the season. Nice full canopies protected fruit from the heat spikes in January.
The Pinot Noir grapes were 100% hand picked and hand sorted. Indigenous yeast fermentation took place with 40% whole bunches and the remainder whole berry. The wine was then aged for 10 months in tight grain French barriques (18% new) before bottling by gravity without fining or filtration.
100% Pinot Noir.
Very herbaceous on the nose with smoky cherry fruit and pronounced green bell pepper aromas. The youthful palate has a refined feel with tight tannins and great length.
ABV = 13.5%.
** NOTE THE BOTTLE CHANGE!! This is a recent (June 2020) alteration to that beloved of many customers, ie that with the farmyard ducks... this one...
The 2018 vintage was awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their November 2019 edition article, Celebrating Sauvignon, picking out a Top Twelve of Sauvignon(s) Blancs.
If wine is in the blood, it seems you just can’t fight it. Lionel Gosseaume resisted until the age of 37, before giving in to the inevitable and taking on this small estate on the Touraine/Sologne border, between the Loire and its tributary, the Cher. Named after Lionel’s father, Domaine de Pierre vineyards date back to the late 19th century, the wines they produce having risen far above and beyond the Touraine norm.
This is a wine that has been fermented in stainless steel tanks as this helps preserve this wine's fresh character. No oak has been used.
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc.
Beautifully fresh wine with floral and mint aromas, a hint of green peeper and a herbaceous note. It is a fresh and lively wine with zesty acidity. There are flavours of cherry tomatoes still on the vine alongside citrus and some minty characteristics. It is certainly more complex than you would often expect for a wine from Touraine at such a reasonable price. This wine has a Sauvignon character with just a touch of herbaceous exuberance. There is also some minerality with crushed-stones, which mingle seamlessly with the wine's medium body and fresh acidity.
ABV = 13.0%.
Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their November 2019 edition expert tasting (by Matthew Jukes) of Australian Premium Shiraz (see blue link below).
Family-owned d’Arenberg is located in the breathtaking McLaren Vale in South Australia, and produces an enviable range of wines. From humble beginnings, these wines quickly gained cult status amongst imbibers and judges alike – it’s a deft combination of winemaking tradition and vinous innovation. A tall order for some, but one that d’Arenberg takes in their stride as they continue to push the boundaries and get under the skin of each individual vineyard in order to get the best from the vines. This is backed up by an engaging consumer-friendly approach to the ‘deadly serious fun’ of wine.
Dead Arm is a vine disease caused by the fungus Eutypa Lata that randomly affects vineyards all over the world. Often affected vines are severely pruned or replanted. One half, or an 'arm' of the vine slowly becomes reduced to dead wood. That side may be lifeless and brittle, but the grapes on the other side, while low yielding, display amazing intensity.
d'Arenberg's own tasting notes for this wine are excellent, so please click the blue link below to see all this wine's details.
This iconic wine always displays the power and intensity of McLaren Vale Shiraz, yet has an elegance and refinement that few other wines from the region possess. It’s vibrant and lifted on the nose with bustling red fruits and savoury spice. The palate is long, linear and pure with tightly wound tannin and mouth-watering acidity. Beneath the layers of blueberry, pomegranate and satsuma plum is an intriguing core of earth and crushed rocks. If stored correctly, this wine should age for 15+ years.
ABV = 15.0%.
The 2016 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their November 2019 edition panel tasting of Priorat (see blue link below).
This seven-hectare property has been in the Ferrando family for 150 years. Today viticulture, winemaking and blending are overseen by Jordi Masdeu Català, a young Spaniard who spent time selling wine in London and Alessandro Marchesan. Their shared passion for old Garnacha and Cariñena vines led them to the famous slate, or llicorella soils of Priorat. The weathered old vines yield tiny quantities of fruit for both Mas La Mola wines.
Mas La Mola Priorat is a wine blended from grapes grown in a number of different vineyards on the estate which are situated between 350-800 metres above sea level. The vines are planted in different parcels in the Poboleda district, on llicorella slate slopes. Each parcel is different in terms of solar orientation, the unique microclimate that exists there, the varietals which grow and the different rootstocks used. The low-yielding Garnacha vines are aged between 35-70 years old.
Harvest was carried out by hand with rigorous selection both in the vineyard and at the winery. The grapes underwent a long, cold maceration to ensure a progressive extraction of colour and flavour. Malolactic fermentation took place in oak and the wine was then aged for 12 months in four-year-old French Allier oak barrels. Only the best barrels from each year are used for the final blend of Mas la Mola.
85% Garnatxa Negra and 15% Garnatxa Peluda.
Deep ruby in colour with a youthful purple hue, this wine has intense and layered aromas of black cherries, blueberries and a hint of spicy oak notes and a smoky minerality. This Priorat is full bodied and powerful, with ripe tannins, mouth-watering acidity and a long, fruit-driven finish.
ABV = 15.5%.
The 2016 (no longer available) was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their November 2019 edition panel tasting of Priorat (see blue link below).
This wine proved remarkably popular at a recent Spanish tasting here in Perth: it was found to be very easy-drinking, yet with enough substance and complexity to stand it well out from the crowd. At this price - for a Priorat - it's almost too good to be true.
They do things a little differently in Catalonia. This independent-minded part of Spain has long been slightly removed, linguistically and culturally, from the rest of the country. One of the more bizarre but breathtaking Catalan customs is that of the castellers. These brave or foolhardy (take your pick) locals love nothing better than to clamber over each other and form intricate human pyramids – or rather castles (castells). It’s a feat referenced in the wines of Vinis Catalonia, both in the name – Cop de Ma or ‘lend a hand’ – and in the eyecatching label. This marks the moment when the person atop the castell, known as the enxaneta, climbs into place and raises a hand, four fingers extended to resemble the stripes of the Catalan flag. The comparison goes deeper: the growers whose grapes find expression in the Cop de Ma range are proud to support one another in their endeavours. Together, they produce wines which are a byword for value for money – from the Garnacha Blanca, tipped as the Spanish Pinot Grigio, to the deep and harmonious oak-aged reds, including astonishingly well-priced Priorat.
Drawn from 10-30 year old vines on the slate/shale-rich, famous licorella soils. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks for 15 days, 12 of which are conducted in contact with the skins. Ageing takes place separately in two- to three-year-old French 225-litre barriques for eight months before a further three months in bottle before release.
40% Carignan/Carinena, 40% Garnacha/Grenache, 20% Syrah.
Red cherry and warm, earthy aromas precede a twist of spice. The palate is velvety and smooth with exceptional length. Pair with poultry and meat stews, red and white meats and cured cheeses.
ABV = 14.0%.