In September's Decanter magazine, some more of the excellent wines that we stock here at Exel Wines have been featured. Some 23 of our wines are featured this month and all of these - including their Decanter reviews - can be accessed at the foot of this page. Immediately below are four of those to which we are particularly partial and which may even be involved in our weekend plans.
Indeed, you can now search through all of our Decanter-rated wines from the last year (or select -> Wines -> Decanter Recommended on our Home page) - complete with their Decanter reviews - filtering by country, style, price etc. The great majority are available from us at the very best prices anywhere in the UK.
You are always welcome to email us or, if you would prefer to call us to discuss your requirements or seek advice, our telephone number is 01738 493535.
Modesto Ramognino bought the land at Chateau de Pibarnon in the 1950s to cultivate 3.5 hectares of the 16 hectare estate with Mourvèdre vines. Although the site was arid and primitive with no electricity or running water, it had much potential. This was realised by Henri and Catherine de Saint Victor. In 1978 Henri swapped his career in Pharmaceutical research for winemaking and bought Chateau de Pibarnon after enjoying a bottle of the 1975 with Catherine. They set about upgrading and overhauling the property with great success. The family, alongside their talented team of winemakers and vineyard workers, have gone on to produce some of the most sought-after wines from Bandol and, indeed, in all of France. It is no overstatement to say that Chateau de Pibarnon has become one of the institutions of French wine.
Mourvèdre is a grape often used by Chateauneuf du Pape makers in the Southern Rhone as it brings structure and intensity to the wine. It is also increasing in popularity in Australia and California where it appears in blends with Grenache and Shiraz (often referred to as 'GSMs'). It is a grape that has always flourished in Bandol, producing wines that are 80-100% Mourvèdre - unusual in itself - and noted for their great structure and intense fruit. Chateau Pibarnon is almost invariably 90% Mourvèdre/10% Grenache, as is the case with this 2012 vintage. In a good year, Mourvèdre wines, and Bandol in particular, have a powerful perfume which is redolent of blackberries. Although ready to drink now, we and Decanter both see this Pibarnon as having the potential to age markedly from vintage, so it is ideal for your cellar. It is a good alternative of comparable quality to lay down instead of more expensive Bordeaux wines. (NB: the Pibarnon white is also outstanding, unusual and a recent 96-point Decanter pick).
Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their October 2017 edition article on Malbec in South America (see blue link below).
Clos des Fous is an exciting project between four Chilean friends: Pedro Parra (the viticulturalist), François Massoc and Paco Leyton (the winemakers), and Albert Cussen, who looks after the business. 'Fous' is the French word for 'crazy men', a reference to what their peers described as their 'craziness' in crossing the traditional vineyard boundaries of Chile to source grapes from vineyards in the extreme conditions further south and east. Pedro is credited with discovering many of the top vineyard sites across Chile, as well as revolutionising the way in which iconic wineries, such as Montes plant and manage their vineyards. The winery is based in Maule, to the south of the main vineyard area, where the 'Fous' make an enviable range of top quality varietal wines.
The Clos des Fous Tocao is a mesmerizing Malbec from a vineyard planted in 1914 in the southern Bío-Bío Valley, producing fruit with marvelously fresh acidity and fine tannins. Today there are only 27 hectares of Malbec in San Rosendo and Clos des Fous farm four of them. Funnily enough, the word 'Tocao' means 'a bit touched in the head', as nobody else would be crazy enough to work with Malbec in this area!
2013 will be remembered as one of the coolest vintages for Chile in the past decade. A slow, cool growing season made for elegant, aromatic wines with lower alcohol levels and fresh acidity. With cooler temperatures from start to finish, early-ripening varieties struggled to reach full maturity. Expert growers were more aggressive with their leafing after fruit set, when the berries were about pea-sized, to get light to the clusters early, both to encourage flavour development and to get the fruit acclimatised to more light. A delayed harvest lasted from mid-March to late May.
The grapes are hand harvested and transported to the winery. Traditional fermentation took place in concrete vats. The wine is aged in French oak from the Allier forest, 30% of which is new. It spends almost two years ageing in oak and is not racked.
This wine is made using 80% Malbec, 20% Carignan.
An incredible wine with ripe and rich fruit, boasting aromas of dark berries and mahogany. It is fulled bodied on the palate with ripe, well-structured tannins and long, intense finish.
ABV = 14.0%.
The 2016 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their December 2017 edition review of cool-climate Australian Chardonnay (Victoria and Tasmania) (see blue link below).
The 2015 vintage was awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2017 edition review of Australian Chardonnay (see blue link below).
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 off 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.
Located on the steep north facing slopes of the Warramate Ranges, alongside the vineyards of Yarra Yering and Coldstream Hills, the Sexton vineyard is exposed and demanding. Being well up the slopes between 130 and 210 metres, topsoil is thin and root systems have established themselves in shallow gravelly loams above a tough rocky clay base. Vigour and bunch yields are naturally low in this environment, facilitating a low intervention approach to what is otherwise hand tended viticulture. Organic vineyard management principles are being introduced with the purpose of further distinguishing the site and improving grape and wine quality.
2017 was a very good vintage for the Yarra Valley. A cool, early summer meant harvest dates were three weeks later than the previous vintage but a perfect autumn meant that crops were evenly balanced with excellent acidity and ripe flavours.
The fruit was hand picked. Upon arrival at the winery, it was lightly pressed to tank and the juice transferred to puncheons with no settling. Fermentation took place with 100% indigenous yeast in 500 litre French puncheons at 18 - 24°C. The lees were stirred twice only between May and June. The wine spent ten months in French puncheons, 20% of which were new. No malolactic fermentation took place. The wine was bottled, unfiltered, by gravity.
Flinty, wet slate aromas combine with notes of melon and honeysuckle on the nose. Lengthy and elegant at the same time, the palate is fuller bodied than the 2015 vinatge, with preserved lemons complementing subtle melon, and a steely character on the long finish.
ABV = 13.5%.
The 2015 vintage was awarded 87 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2017 edition review of Beaujolais Crus (see blue link below).
Jean Foillard and is universally recognised as one of the very best Beaujolais producers and is one of the band of 4 of Morgon with Guy Breton, Jean-Paul Thevenet and Marcel Lapierre, who are all adepts of the works of Jules Chauvet on non sulphured vinification. Jean met Jules Chauvet early in his career and became an un-official member of “La Bande a Marcel”. Chauvet’s mantra was that winemaking should be a natural process. He felt that great winemaking started in the vineyard with vigorous canopy management, absolutely no use of chemicals on the vines, low or no use of sulphur etc. To Jean, this all made sense and he’s remained true to these philosophies ever since.
Foillard now uses minimal interventionist viticulture, but his wines are neither officially organic nor biodynamic even though he actually applies many of the rules. What’s in a name? What is more important for him, he says, is the result in the bottle, and the certifications on the labels are not his first concern.
This Morgon is fabulously pure, an unfiltered, unfined, unsulphured Gamay. Its colour is on the dark side of cloudy ruby red, whilst aromas boom happily out of the glass, notably kirsch, rhubarb and sweet blackberries; there’s a more fugitive bouquet of warm earth, stones and dried spice evolving into dark chocolate and cinnamon. It is extremely refreshing, bright sweet fruit is complemented by a smooth, silky tannic structure, somehow immediate and pleasing yet subtle and complex.
The 2015 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2017 edition review of Beaujolais Crus (see blue link below).
With over 42 years experience, Olivier Ravier is one of the most iconic and respected winemakers in Beaujolais. He is a former President of the Beaujolais growers association and has been appointed as an expert at the National Institute of the French wines appellation by the French government. His in-depth knowledge of the region, its climate, and the Gamay variety, is second-to-none. Living in the heart of the Fleurie appellation, he produces wines which overflow with typicity from the Beaujolais terroir.
The average age of the vines is over 40 years and these old, gnarled gobelet styled vines sit in granitic and sandy soils. This Fleurie (100% Gamay) was vinified in the traditional way, with a semi-carbonic maceration lasting for eight to twelve days. The fermentation was temperature- controlled throughout. Following the fermentation, it underwent a malolactic fermentation, resulting in a softer style of wine.
2016 saw unpredictable weather in the spring, followed by excellent weather during the summer months. An Indian summer during the weeks preceding the harvest, resulted in ideal ripening conditions. The vineyard benefited from warm, sunny days combined with cool nights, allowing the grapes to reach good maturity while maintaining a pleasant freshness.
The grapes were vinified in the traditional way, with a semi-carbonic maceration lasting for 10 to 12 days. Fermentation was temperature controlled throughout and was followed by malolactic fermentation, resulting in a softer style of wine.
This is an elegant, quintessential Fleurie with subtle floral aromas with subtle floral aromas, well flavoured and with a meaty character.. The palate is full of finesse, with a rich and silky texture and an attractive hint of bitter cocoa on the finish.
This wine is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
ABV = 12.5%.
The 2016 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2018 edition expert review of white Rioja (see blue link below)...
Founded in 1957 by Guillermo Eguren, Sierra Cantabria is nestled in the heart of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, a town of great winemaking tradition, situated in a unique location between the River Ebro and the Sierra Cantabria mountain range. The Sierra Cantabria mountain range (1,200 m. of altitude) and the river Ebro (350 m.), create a special microclimate with Mediterranean and Continental characteristics - providing mild winters and gentle summers- unique for vine cultivation. Everything in the vineyard is done with respect for the environment as well as following the biorhythms of the plant.
The grapes are harvested by hand with only the best quality grapes making it into the winery. Further selection then happens in the winery using a sorting table. The must is cold soaked for 14 hours prior to fermentation. It is fermented in new French oak barrels from the Vosgues area. The temperature is controlled between 14 and 16º C. This wine is fermented only using indigenous yeast selected from their vineyards. The wine is aged for 11 months on its fine lees, with batonnage taking place twice a week during the first six months.
The Organza Blanco 2016 is bright gold in colour. It offers a nose of tropical fruit, minerality and sweet spices. Wild herbs, beeswax, grapefruit and nutmeg spice combine appealingly on the palate here.
The 2016 vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2017 edition review of Top 40 Californian Wines Under £40 (see blue link below).
The Morning Fog Chardonnay is named for the morning coastal fog pushed by Pacific wind streams into the bowl of the San Francisco Bay and lured inland by Livermore Valley’s unique EastWest orientation. This daily phenomenon moderates the climate to produce excellent, beautifully balanced Chardonnay.
Planted on various Wente clones, each vineyard block is farmed and harvested separately which maximizes quality and adds an elegant complexity to the wine. Nearly 80% of the Chardonnay vineyards in California are planted with the Wente clone. An almost microscopic proportion - less then 2% - of Gewurztraminer is also used.
This wine is fermented in 50% neutral American oak barrels and 50% in stainless steel tanks. The oak provides hints of vanilla and enhances the mouthfeel; the steel preserves the naturally vibrant fruit flavors inherent in this Chardonnay. The barrel fermented portion was aged sur lie (on its lees/fermenting yeast) for 5 months; batonnage, the art of stirring the barrels, was performed monthly. This adds a creamy note to the wine and greatly enhances the texture. From the remaining 50% stainless steel portion, half was aged on its lees for 5 months, while the other half was racked clean to preserve the fresh fruit character.
Bright, crisp flavors of pear, melon, citrus and green apple are balanced by subtle hints of toasty oak and vanilla from the barrel aging. With mouth-filling body, lingering minerality and balanced acidity, this wine delivers a long, refreshing finish.