The November edition of Decanter is out. And we've 20 or so of the featured, rated wines, so we have. And there's a few well-priced autumnal nuggets to be had.
The full selection available from this month's edition appears at the foot of this page.
The two main, blind-tasted panel reviews are
Like last month's South America special, this is alas an edition thin on Exceptionals and Outstandings, and there are none in these two panel tastings. This might not be an entire surprise: there's a good reason why most South African Cab Sauv is married with other grape varieties (normally as a Bordeaux blend) and we know of old that 95-point scores in Burgundy can - but, honestly, seldom are - achieved by wines at lower price points (indeed, Pinot Noir, as an overall class, never fares that well - a combination of finicky grapes and fickle judges, we might respectfully submit).
That said, there are some very fine Highly Recommendeds in both reviews: the 2016 Burgundy harvest was much hit by frost, but this primarily reduced quantity rather than quality and, whilst arguably not of the very highest order, South African Cab Sauv is highly consistent (there are 30+ scoring 90 points or more across no fewer than five vintages).
What do we have?
Well, for starters, the top-scoring Burgundy (one of only two to land 94 points) from Chateau de Santenay, which we have at a UK-best £22.50. This, a 2016 commune/village-level Mercurey from the Cote Chalonaise, is no great surprise either - the Chateau's Premier Cru Mercurey was a Best in Category at the 2017 DWWAs. We have only 120 bottles available (we may be able to secure more soon, but cannot be certain) so it's worth moving quickly, although there is plenty of the 2015 vintage (which, as we know, was a fine year - but the 2015 was not submitted to the panel).
Further down the listing, and providing the best value in it, is the 90-point £12.55 Domaine de Monterrain Macon-Serrigny 2015, which exposes an oddity in the review ... which is that not all of the red Burgundies are Pinot Noir. This, being a red 'Macon-something', is a Gamay. It's not everyone's tasse de thé, Gamay, but if it's yours, this is a very fine, tradtionally-fermented version from a great vintage at a great, great price. Among more typical Bourgogne AC fare, we also have the 90-point Boisset Les Ursulines 2016 at £18.
Pick of the South Africans - 95% of which hail from Stellenbosch - is the 93-point Strydom Rex, a big, bold, beautiful and unmistakably New World Cabernet. At £19 a bottle, we'd also point out the two entries from Thelema, those ultra-consistent producers of high-scoring, Decanter favourites: the 2015 lands 92 points and the 2014, 90.
There's also some super wines hidden away in the main features of the magazine:
Over to you...
The 2016 vintage was awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their November 2018 edition tasting of Best Buy Red Burgundy (see blue link below).
This magnificent property, which dates back to the 9th century, is also known as Château Philippe le Hardi, as it was once owned by the first Duc of Burgundy. Philippe le Hardi is famous as the person who banned the cultivation of Gamay in the Côte d'Or, saying in his edict of 1395 that only Pinot Noir could be used in the production of red wines from the already fabled slopes. Despite its long history, the property had fallen on hard times until it was taken over by the French bank Crédit Agricole in recent years. They have invested heavily, bringing in a new team to support the general manager, Gérard Fagnoni, and putting the emphasis on quality. The property has 98 hectares of vineyard, 72 of which are in Mercurey. These are remarkably well made and good value wines from the Côte d'Or and Côte Chalonnaise.
The fruit for the Mercurey Rouge comes from Chateau de Santenay's 72 hectares of vines planted across the Mercurey appellation. The soils are rich in clay, but the limestone is still very present as well as some areas of marl. These characteristics give the red wines of Mercurey finesse and structure.
Upon arrival at the winery, the grapes were cold soaked for seven days at 8°C to extract colour and flavour from the skins. Temperature-controlled fermentation lasted 12 to 14 days with daily pumping over, finishing with a rack and return, or 'délestage', to impart the grainy tannins that give the wines a lovely structure and length. The wine was then aged in oak barrels for 13 months, of which 20% were new.
100% Pinot Noir.
This wine is dark ruby in colour, it is bright and lifted with excellent concentration. the nose is elegant with aromas of ripe red fruit including cherries, and a touch of oak. The palate is full with great structure and an attractive chewy and grainy character. The finish is long and fresh.
ABV = 13.0%.
** See also Chateau de Santenay's excellent Premier Cru Mercurey - the 2014 vintage was rated as a DWWA 2017 Best in Category Wine **
Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their November 2018 edition tasting of Best Buy Red Burgundy (see blue link below).
Domaine de Monterrain is a small domaine owned by the Ferret family. This domaine has been passed down from father to son for over 5 generations. Patrick and Martine Ferret are the current owners and take great pride in tending their 10 hectares of hillside vineyards situated around the village of Serrières in the Saône et Loire. 9 hectares of vines are planted with Gamay and, as a new venture, 1 hectare was planted in 2003 with Chardonnay grapes. Harvesting is carried out manually. The Ferret family takes great pride in its Mâcon Serrières which is produced in an easy drinking style typical of the area.
The vines are grown in granitic soil, which warms up quickly and retains the heat well. The soil's high levels of acidity works to minimise the acid levels in the grapes, which works well with acidic varieties like Gamay.
The grapes were harvested at optimum maturity levels. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled vats, preserving the integrity of the primary aromas and the nuances of the terroir from which it hails. Following the fermentation, the wine was then left to mature in tank for a minimum of six months prior to being bottled.
100 % Gamay.
An easy drinking style of wine made from the Gamay grape. Light bodied and fresh, with notes of spice and minerality leading to a dry finish. A great match with cold meats, garlicky stuffed mushrooms, roasts and mild cheeses such as Brie and Pont l'Evêque.
ABV = 13.0%.
The 2017 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their November 2018 edition tasting of Best Buy Red Burgundy (see blue link below).
Jean-Claude Boisset was radically transformed with the arrival in 2002 of viniculteur Grégory Patriat, one of the best viticulturalists/winemakers of his generation in Burgundy. Grégory had spent the previous three years working in the vineyards at Domaine Leroy and still spends a great deal of his time in the vineyards, paying his growers by the hectare in order to ensure low yields. He also prefers to work with organic growers, as he finds they produce better fruit. Unlike other Burgundian négociants, Grégory specialises in making wines from 'lieu-dits' or tiny plots of vines, something which accounts for the limited production of most of his wines.
The fruit for this wine comes from old vines, mostly from the Côte de Nuits, which ensures that the quality of the blend is far higher than that of a standard Bourgogne. The vineyard management here is stringent and uses specific techniques to control yields, guaranteeing good concentration of flavours in the grapes. These techniques include debudding, cluster thinning, little or no use of fertiliser and environmentally-friendly vine protection.
2017 began with a warm spring and early budburst in April.The entire vintage continued ahead of schedule, with flowering in mid-June followed by a rapid fruit set. August saw alternating heatwaves and rain, but the dry start to the year ensured excellent fruit health, with almost no sorting necessary. The harvest began at the end of August, around two weeks earlier than average. This was a ripe vintage, which produced open, youthful wines.
The grapes were hand harvested using small 20kg crates. Sorting took place in the vineyards and then again at the winery. Grapes were 100% destalked but not crushed and gravity-fed into vats. Maceration lasted a total of 24 days including one week cold maceration at 12°C to develop aroma and good colour. Fermentation took place with indigenous yeasts with infrequent pigeage (punching down of the cap). Post ferment, the wine was aged on lees for 8 months in lightly toasted French oak barrels (15% new) before being lightly filtered and bottled using gravity.
100% Pinot Noir.
A fresh, great value Burgundy with lovely roundness. Bright ruby-red in colour with intense red fruit aromas of wild strawberry and raspberry with hints of black pepper. The freshness continues through to the palate with juicy red fruits and lovely silky tannins.
ABV = 12.5%.
The 2014 vintage was awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their November 2018 edition panel tasting of South African Cabernet Sauvignon (see blue link below).
Since 2006 Rianie Strydom and her husband Louis Strydom have proved themselves to be highly acclaimed winemakers at the Haskell and Ernie Els estates. In 2006 they acquired their own vineyards. They wanted to experiment and they had a dream to one day produce their own wine. They have now succeeded – and what a success and celebration of great wine it is. Rianie Strydom says “Our logo explains what we stand for. Family, strength, tenacity and reaching for the stars; relentlessly pursuing excellence in winemaking and life."
This wine is made using 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is matured for 18 months in French oak, 40% of which is new.
The Rex is a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with flavours of red cherries, cassis and hints of tobacco. There is great balance between the wood and fruit. This wine is a masterpiece in expressing the royal nature of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.
ABV = 14.5%.
The 2015 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their November 2018 edition panel tasting of South African Cabernet Sauvignon (see blue link below)...
... with additional comments from one of the most impressed judges (see blue link below).
Gyles Webb bought Thelema, a charming dilapidated fruit farm, in 1983 with the help of his wife’s family. Fruit orchards were pulled out and vines were planted. The manor house was restored and the first wines under the Thelema label were released in 1988. The terroir of the area in combination with Gyles Webb’s wine making style result in flavourful, flamboyant, complex and long-lasting wines with a distinctive South African character. In 2000, Gyles moved into the role of cellar master and handed over the winemaking duties to the talented Rudi Schultz.
100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
For the full data sheet and technical information from the winemakers themselves, including a tasting note, click the blue link below.
Complex and stylish, with aromas of ripe blackcurrant, dark chocolate and pencil shavings. This wine is bone dry, yet exhibits a lovely sweet fruit character on the palate, with a lovely long finish.
ABV = 14.5%.
The 2014 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their April 2018 edition review of 2014 Californian Cabernet Sauvignon (see blue link below).
The yet-to-be-released-in-the-UK 2015 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their November 2018 edition review of 2015 Californian Cabernet Sauvignon (see blue link below).
Raymond Vineyards, founded in 1970, is one of the Napa Valley’s pioneering estates. The Raymond family arrived in Napa in 1933 and have become deeply connected to the valley’s winemaking origins. In 1970, they established a 36 hectare estate in Rutherford, which now comprises 121 hectares in Rutherford, St. Helena and Jameson Canyon. Raymond’s Rutherford and St. Helena estate vineyards are certified organic and biodynamic; and 100% of the winery’s power comes from renewable solar energy. Five generations of the Raymond family have created a Napa icon, with an enduring reputation for elegant wines with a beautiful balance of finesse, opulence and complexity.
In honour of the Raymond family’s first harvest in 1974, 40 years of exceptional wines are celebrated with the 2014 Napa Valley Reserve Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2014 vintage in Napa Valley was one of the earliest harvested vintages in years. A warm spring led to early bud break and created the perfect environment for flowering and fruit set. With warm days and cool nights, the ideal balance of acidity with optimum, bright fruit flavours was achieved.
The grapes for the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon were sourced from the vineyards in Rutherford and St. Helena, as well as select nearby growers. The estate vineyards are located on gravelly alluvial fan soils with good drainage, necessary for growing excellent quality Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are diligently monitored throughout the growing season to balance the crop size and quality. Shoot thinning and leaf removal early in the growing season, followed by cluster thinning at véraison, help to achieve evenly ripened grapes with concentrated flavours.
This wine spent between 21 and 63 days on the skins, then was aged for 19 months in 100% French oak, of which 30% was new. The balance was aged in twice and thrice used French oak. The final blend includes a small proportion of additional varieties for added depth and complexity. The wine was bottled unfiltered, contributing greater texture and presence to the mid palate.
The 40th Anniversary 2014 Reserve Selection Cabernet Sauvignon opens with fresh aromas of cherry, candied violet and red fruits with a touch of sandalwood and maple. Enveloping on the palate with flavours of blackcurrant and cocoa nibs this wine is juicy with melting tannins and a kiss of minerality on the finish. Serving Suggestion A great match with roast pork tenderloin or hearty pasta dishes.
ABV = 14.5%.