It's a Decanter double-header this month. Or, if you will, a Decanter of two halves. And it's a busy month, at that.
First, there's this:
This month, it's all very American, as you can see. For us, that's mainly South America. That's partly because the magazine itself, honestly, is more South than North. It's also a price thing - the Californians here are pricey and we tend not to do too much that's pricey. And it's also because we seem - perhaps by design, perhaps unwittingly - to be strong on South America these days.
The two main panel reviews are both from South America: Chilean Pinot Noir and Argentinian 'premium' (£20+) Malbec.
We have top wines from both reviews as you will find below. And there's plenty more features beyond, including a 96-point Chilean Chardonnay. And that's before the DWWA21 double-header part....
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.
Let's have a look at those panel reviews, albeit more briefly than we normally do.
Decanter last took a look at Chilean Pinot Noir two years ago; you may recall the panel-topping (and thoroughly excellent) Talinay Pinot Noir from Vina Tabali from a great vintage (which, in our view, they have yet to replicate). At the time, the judges were upbeat about the overall quality and standard of the wines tasted. This time, at an average/aggregate level (this part, I stress), they are far less upbeat "Too many wines lacked the freshness, charm, harmony and elegance that are the essential hallmarksof quality Pinot". On that basis, the often-hoped-for, cheaper-alternative-to-Burgundy seems a long way off.
But there are some star wines they uncover, and here, you can be much more optimistic. As they pointed out, "this means that choosing with care is more important than ever" (ie use this review!) and "there were some exceptional wines".
Those wines were headed by two 95-point Outstandings. Neither are in the UK at the moment. One of them (and we have/had an option to offer it in small quantities) is around £32-£35 to the customer. We have swerved this; honestly, we recognise that there are few among you happy to pay £35 for Chilean Pinot.
The other Outstanding is exciting. It is £14.75 and lands considerable praise. It is Terranoble's Las Dichas Gran Reserva 2019, from the super-cool Las Dichas area of the already-cool (I use the term 'cool' in temperature terms) Casablanca Valley. ** NOW ALL FULL PRE-BOOKED/RESERVED ** (27th September)
This is the word on it:
We figure - especially based on the Talinay experience from two years ago - that Exel's Pinot fans will be after this one. So we offer it. However, it is only now being released from the winery in Chile and will not be here until some time - probably quite late - in November.
We know that these delayed-arrival wines are something of a disappointment, but they are hard to avoid. Frankly, we'd rather have a topper like this, from the very beginning/release of a vintage rather than the situation we often face: a wine that scores highly but is depleted at almost all sources. We could wait until the wine arrives to mention our interest in it, but we know that Decanter readers tend to want to source and secure such wines sooner rather than later!
We have 100+ cases heading to us, and we invite interested customers to join our waiting list by emailing us on email@example.com with your requirements. As/when the wine docks, we will be in touch to invite waiting customers to confirm/pay for their order. We're doing this because the potential for delay - in the current world - on this routing is not trivial, and we would rather not sit on your money if/while such delays occur. The wine is definitely coming: if you're on the waiting list, you'll get some!
** NOW ALL FULL PRE-BOOKED/RESERVED ** (27th September) **
What do we make of it? Here's our tasting note:
Exel note after tasting a rare-and-advance sample bottle, 7th Sep 2021: this is a fine Chilean Pinot Noir, and it is hard to disagree with the tasting notes of the Decanter panellists. The heady nose/bouquet is intriguing and well described - there is indeed a herbiness and star anise kick to/in its very aromatic nose full of red fruits. On the palate, structurally: tannins are soft, acidity is middling and oak is subtle (cellaring folk note - these broadly say that this is not a Pinot for long ageing). It's certainly excellent with food (tested with mushroom & chorizo risotto).
A key point of note is its density, especially for those expecting something quite 'New World', brooding, full and dark: this is definitely a lighter/softer/elegant/restrained Pinot - think ripe Mercurey or Cote de Beaune more than Central Otago. It is not a "wallop" of a Pinot (Oz Clarke talks of 'Cabernised', heavily-extracted Pinots - it is not one of those). We make this point as the Terranoble is quite different from the last 95-point Chilean Pinot we offered, being this one, which was an altogether denser and more profound specimen (and had a definite South Island, NZ feel to it).
Our view: yes, it probably (just about) makes its 95 points, but you need to be into lighter styles of Pinot to feel that.
We do offer more immediate options on slightly lower scores. One of major note - and outstanding value at £11.40 - is Echeverria's Gran Reserva 2018 - also from Casablanca - which landed 91 points. It's an official Exel Customer Favourite and always scores well in Decanter panels. You can't go far wrong with this one (unless, perhaps, you dislike Pinot Noir).
There is also Errazuriz's Aconcagua Costa 2020 at £15.70 and 90 points; personally, I've always been a fan (and am, as some will know, not the biggest fan of Pinot generally; this wine always has good density). "Restrained nose of raspberry, clove and cedary oak. Dense fruit on the palate with layered herbal and cherry notes and a racy freshness" said the panel.
Then there's the Premium Argentinian Malbecs. A good, high overall standard is not a problem here. Of 87 wines on test, 57 scored 90 points or more. What you might expect - I certainly did - was a heap of Outstandings. This is not so. There are just four. We offer precisely none of them. There are reasons for this:
If a high-scoring Malbec at markedly less than £50 is what you're after, you're coming down to 94 point. We have two such, albeit the latter off-vintage (from that reviewed).
Our preferred is the excellent and very-good-value Finca Suarez 2017 from Paraje Altamira in the Uco Valley; we offer a particularly good price of £21.95 on this, only just above the entry criterion into this premium category. This is it here: ** ALAS NOW OUT OF STOCK WITH NO MORE COMING **
We've been trying it. We rate it.
I'm not always the biggest fan of Argentinian Malbec - its often-unhinged power is certainly not for my every red wine drinking whim. This is unmistakeably Argentine Malbec - that's to say: big nose, mulberry and plum, full-bodied and mouth-filling, ultra-soft tannins and silky smoothness - but there is also more brightness, freshness and lift here. I use these terms not as euphemisms for a thin-ness, youth or lack of depth; this is very fine and proper Malbec. It's just that it's not cloaked in heaps of new oak and has excellent acidity; I feel this adds an extra dimension to the wine. With Malbec, it's really good to see just what all that superb ripe fruit is capable of.
Made in the same fruit-rich/driven style, with even lower use of oak (as the name implies) is Zuccard's Concreto. The 2020 is reviewed but nowhere near the UK for some months; we offer the 2019.
Elsewhere in this edition, you will find:
- A look at trendsetting and groundbreaking producers in the Americas. This exposes one of South America's truly great whites, from Chile's Errazuriz: their flagship Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2018. It scores a big 96 points (the same vintage having scored 97 this time last year). At £55, it's a wine that doesn't come at a mere snip, but we offer a super-competitive price here.
- South American Cabernet Sauvignon - an article thereon reveals two 94-pointers - rather luxury ones - from Chile we can offer: Errazuriz (for it is they again) with their Don Maximiliano and Undurraga's Altazor.
- Away from the Americas, there's a feature on the Top 20 Primitivos from Puglia. These are no ordinary supermarket shelf-fillers. The Fatalone Riserva 2018 scores a fine 94 points while the Varvaglione Papale Linea Oro (that's the not-in-the-UK 2019; we offer the 2017) returns 90 points.
- The Fossacolle Rosso di Montalcino (92 points) sees a mention in Wine Wisdom.
- The DWWA21-winning Albarinos (see also below) see a special feature: that's all of Rias Baixas's Mar de Ons (Best In Show, wacky blue bottle, exclusive to us) and Martin Codax Lias, the Garzon Reserva 2020 from Uruguay and the Left Field (different vintage, but great value) from New Zealand.
As to the second half of Decanter, that something we've been all over since July 7th. The glossy supplement of the 2021 Decanter World Wines Awards (DWWA21) appears today, showing the top wines in all their splendour. That's this one:
It's at this point in time that these wines tend to vanish very quickly.
You'll find our entire compendium of 40+ top wines (Bests in Show, Platinums and Golds) here - or click the banner below.