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Decanter Sept

In a month of unpredictable politics and weather, there are, at least, a few broad certainties, namely:

  • the release of a new Decanter (www.decanter.com);
  • that we at Exel will have some of the panel-topping wines;
  • that we will most certainly be telling you about both of those just as soon as we can.

Here we are, then.

Those who have already removed the wrapper of their September edition may be a little surprised not to find us alongside any top-scorers this month. Quite frankly, so were we. We learn of a clerical error at Decanter Towers but, crucially, can assure that there need be no panic, and that, this month, we can offer:

- the sole, 95-point/Outstanding top of the Rosso di Montalcino panel review at a UK-beating £17.95; and

- one of the five, 95-point/Outstandings from the (global) Blanc de Blancs sparkling wines panel (+ one other but from two vintages that were not tasted by the panel).

As you'd expect, there's more detail below on the panel reviews and those wines.

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.

To those panel reviews.

Lets start with the Rosso(s) di Montalcino (henceforth "Rosso(s)"). For many, it's an odd or unknown category. Our view is that it shouldn't be. Rosso's bigger, famed, revered, highly-collected and pricier brother, Brunello di Montalcino, tends to set Tuscan customers' hearts racing rather more. And we understand that: top Brunello is indeed truly wonderful ... but very seldom less than £40 a bottle (and often much, much more). Its little sister, Rosso - on test here - is typically a £15-25 buy.

There are good reasons for that: principally ones of ageing. By law, Brunello must see two years of oak cask ageing, and cannot be released until at least 4 years old. Rosso, however, needs legally only to be aged for 10 months, need not see any oak at all and can be released barely a year from vintage.

But those bare facts hide much:

  • Many Rossos are made far, far more exactingly than those minimum standards dictate (the poll-topper here being one such). Vintages (see below) and producers are crucial here; as Decanter say, "more than anything, the most important thing is the producer... it comes down to how attentive they are, both in the vineyard and the winery".
  • Rosso stands, oddly we feel, in the shadow of Brunello, in a way that 'standard' Chianti Classico CC does not (that is, compared with its older Riserva and Gran Selezione brothers). Few doubt the quality of CC, although one could argue it a lesser (and less natively Tuscan?) wine than Rosso: the former need only be 80% Sangiovese whereas Rosso must be 100%. Since most of the better CCs tend to be 90%+ Sangiovese, you can see our point. Indeed, it's worth contrasting a good CC (we recommend this one as your test/control) and a good Rosso; typically. the extra Tuscan "bite" is to be found in the Rosso.

Rolling together the above, Decanter summarise it well: Rossos are "a more accessible, earlier-drinking version of Sangiovese, less expensive and potentially very good value". And, as one judge tellingly writes, "Some of them are as good as many Brunellos, yet offer wine lovers access to some of the best winemakers and estates without paying the high premiums of Brunello".

To the review: almost 100 Rossos went on test, and only one emerged as 95 points+/Outstanding: it was clear that the judges needed some impressing to clear this barrier (there were 21 Highly Recommendeds).

We mentioned vintage above: two vintages were principally on show - 2016 and 2017. Although the 2017s fared well, the top wines were 2016s. That make good sense, what with Decanter summarising that 2016 Rosso vintage thus:


All of which takes us to that top wine - Podere Brizio's Dievole 2016. It hails from the centre of the Montalcino zone, high up and  arguably on the most propitious soils. It exceeds minimum standards by some considerable margin - 12 months in large, used, untoasted French oak vessels - thereby striking a careful balance of fruit purity (heavy toasting or new oak would mask this in a wine meant for earlier drinkling) but with some oak input and development for complexity. The three panel judges were most complimentary, noting (respectively):

  • "precise nose, superb and floral ... elegant and delicate ... balanced, harmonious and long ... a class act";
  • "extremely well-balanced wine... very classic"; and
  • "sweet black cherry aromas, almost toffee-like sweetness... rich, ripe and complete ... juicy, mouthwatering acidity...  really appealing, yet serious too". 

... or more fully...

We (very) seldom miss a chance to taste these toppers ourselves, and enjoyed just that this week.

Overall, we wouldn't diverge much from Decanter's words. Compared with some Rossos we sell, eg the Talenti, this is certainly a Rosso of elegance, class and balance rather than one of unmitigated power, fullness and richness. It measures very well against a good Chianti Classico, smacks of cherries (of all sorts and shades), has acidity and tannins towards the upper end of what you may expect (both done very well) and is definitely a food wine (at present, it probably has a touch too much 'rasp' for most as a glass-on-its-own ... but then (as with CC), it is is hardly intended as such. It is not, let's be clear, as 'big' as a typical Brunello. It's also noticable that Decanter (who tend to be very conservative on such matters) see it ageing well to at least 2025 ... and that's almost a Brunello horizon for a supposedly-earlier-drinking Tuscan.

It's yours - as much as you can carry and/or store - for £17.95. We have 120 bottles to supply within 10 days; beyond that, there'll be a wait until the first week in September.

-

To panel 2: global Blanc de Blancs (BdB) sparklings. It's an odd category, this, but reveals some excellent wines. To remind, (a) BdB:

  • is a sparkling made from white grapes only;
  • typically only applies to traditional/Champagne/champenoise method sparklings; and
  • primarily applies to Champagne itself (where Chardonnay alone is used, the reds of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir being excluded); but, over time... 
  • has come to apply to other white-only, 'trad method' fizzes from, say, Southern England, Tasmania and New Zealand [weirdly, when you think about it, many other well-known sparklings wines are BdBs in any case, but don't use the term - eg nearly all Cava is a BdB (the three classic Cava grapes all being white), as is nearly all Cremant d'Alsace].

This emerged as a good tasting. 90 wines went on test and five emerged as 95 pts+/Outstanding. In the multnational mix were Champagne, Cava (and its many new breakaway factions), Franciacorta, Cremants de Bourgogne, Limoux and Alsace, Blanquette de Limoux ... plus trad-method fizz from all of (wait for it) England, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, South Africa, Oregon, NZ, California, Galicia, Australia, Uruguay and Bulgaria (yup, Bulgaria). [I'm not listing all the grapes ... we'd be here until October].

We've a good smattering of the 90+pointers, but top of the tree is Lelarge Pugeot's Premier Cru Extra Brut BdB Champagne (NV), one of three Champagnes in that top 5. At £33.95, it's also the most affordable of the five and one of only two available at below £40. It's organic, biodynamic and sees a full four years of lees ageing (which is well beyond standard for a NV Champagne). It's also delicious, as the judges found:

  • "Dry, stylish and accomplished, and certainly with character";
  • "Impressive weight"; and
  • "Powerful, complex and interesting, this has power and a real sense of place... impressive stuff".

Recaredo's Reserva Particular Brut Nature 2007 - now badged a Corpinnat, but long badged a Cava - also scored 95 points. We can't get hold of the 2007, but the 2003 and 2005 are available and glorious.

See below for all the other well-scoring BdBs.

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Beyond these two panels, there's an excellent feature by Simon Woolf - The Joys of Clay - on wines made and aged in clay vessels (tinajas/amphorae/kvevri etc). This is trendy stuff, and stuff for which we see rapidly growing demand. Foradori's Granato and Zorah's Karasi score 96 and 95 points repectively and are/have long been hugely impessive wines.  The Aphros Phaunus Loureiro from Portugal's Alentejo affords an excellent 93-point gateway into white wines from amphorae at £20.

Elsewhere, two longstanding Exel favourites in new vintages - the Planeta Eruzione Bianco 1614 Carricante (from Sicily's Etna Bianco quarter) and Thelema's Sutherland Chardonnay (from SA's Elgin region) score well (92 and 91 respectively) at great prices in reviews on those two regions.

Plus a pair of excellent Rieslings - from Red Newt of NYS, USA and from Jim Barry of Clare Valley - plus a very affordable Rioja rosado - pop up in Weekday Wines.

-

Finally, the September edition is accompanied by the yearly supplement on the wines that triumphed at the Decanter World Wines Awards 2019 (DWWA19). Regular readers of these pages will need no introduction to what we offer in that area. We continue to add to our listing, but it's also worth saying that, this time last year, everything went a bit bananas and many wines ran out in the days that followed. If you're after anything particular, we do recommend adding them to your rack or cellar sooner rather than later. Click here or the banner below to take you to our detailed page on what we offer from DWWA19. 

 

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Lelarge-Pugeot Extra Brut 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition panel tasting of global Blanc de Blancs sparklings (see blue link below).

Lelarge-Pugeot Extra Brut 1er Cru Blanc De Blancs Champagne NV - September 2019 Decanter review

Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot is a boutique, organic grower based in Vrigny, a Premier Cru village situated in the north east of Montagne de Reims. The Lelarge family has been making wine since 1789 and Champagne since 1930. Today the estate is headed up by seventh generation Dominique Lelarge, along with his wife Dominique Pugeot and their children. The wines are dominated by Pinot Meunier due to the north eastern orientation of the vineyard. They believe in letting the grapes thrive as naturally as possible in order to express the pure essence of terroir. Biodynamic principles are practised in the vineyard and they were certified organic in 2013. Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot follows a philosophy of minimal intervention in the winery and their handcrafted wines are poised, elegant and a true reflection of the Vrigny terroir.

The vineyard is spread over 42 distinct parcels in and around the Premier Cru village of Vrigny and is farmed according to organic and biodynamic methods. The vineyard comprises eight hectares and the vines grow over gently rolling hills at altitudes of 150 metres above sea level. The grapes for this cuvée come from a blend of five parcels from Vrigny Premier Cru, where the soils are sandy loam and calcareous marls. The Chardonnay vines are pruned according to the Chablis method. The vineyard is ploughed by horse during the year, to prevent soil compaction, allowing the top layers of soil access to oxygen and boosting the overall health of the soil, vines and grapes. Grasses and plants are used between the vine rows to impart valuable nutrients to the soil. Harvested by hand.

The grapes were pressed using a pneumatic press, followed by a long débourbage or settling period. A small amount of sulphur was added prior to fermentation. Alcoholic fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks using their pied de cuve, which is a technique used in natural winemaking to employ natural yeasts. A small batch of must is used to start a spontaneous fermentation using indigenous yeasts, once this has been deemed successful, this pied de cuve is then added to the remaining must to start the fermentation process. Following fermentation, this cuvée underwent natural malolactic fermentation and was bottled the following April. The wine spent four years ageing on its lees in bottle.

Chardonnay 100% (being a Blanc de Blancs Champagne).

An elegant Champagne featuring an initial crisp acidity which gives way to generous floral, ripe pear, peach and citrus notes, complemented by a subtle twist of orange peel and dried fruit complexity. A beautifully balanced Champagne, full of finesse with a long, lingering finish. Beautiful biscuity and citrus aromas herald a flavour of wet stones and lemon, long with a gentle mousse.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

£33.95

San Polo Rosso Di Montalcino 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 88 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition panel tasting of Rosso di Montalcino (see blue link below).

San Polo Rosso Di Montalcino 2016 - September 2019 Decanter review

This property was purchased by Valpolicella producer, Marilisa Allegrini, in 2006. Marilisa has continued to invest heavily in the estate and has brought in winemaker Nicola Biasi to build on Poggio San Polo's already considerable reputation and impressive levels of quality. Situated in the eastern part of Montalcino, this estate covers 22 hectares of which 16 are under vine and produces wines that are classic in style but with a bit more weight than would be found to the north of the zone.

The grapes for this Rosso came from three hectares of vineyards planted between 1990 and 2000. They are situated at an altitude of 450m above sea level, facing south-southeast on chalky clay soils. The vines are spur-cordon trained and planted at a density of 7,000 vines per hectare. Yields were 49 hectolitres per hectare.

An unusually warm winter encouraged early budding with a consequent high risk of frost damage. During spring, rain and relatively high temperatures seemed to provide ideal conditions for the proliferation of the spores that cause downy mildew. Rainfall continued until the beginning of September. The lack of light slowed the ripening process, cancelling out, day on day, the phenological properties accumulated during the month of May. Excellent exposure and constant breezes enabled the grapes to reach harvest time in good health and with ideal ripeness, giving rise to wines with distinct personality and elegance.

The grapes were hand picked. After gentle pressing, fermentation took place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, with maceration on the skins lasting around 14-16 days at 28-30°C. The wine was then aged for 12 months in medium-toasted, second-use French oak barriques (Allier) followed by a month of bottle ageing.

100% Sangiovese.

Bright and glossy ruby red in colour. On the nose, aromas of fresh berries, morello cherry and blackberries are complemented by a hint of vanilla spice. A fragrant, intense wine with smooth, finely-balanced tannins and a persistent, aromatic finish.

£19.75

Tenuta CastelGiocondo (Frescobaldi), Campo ai Sassi, Rosso di Montalcino 2017 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 88 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition panel tasting of Rosso di Montalcino (see blue link below).

Tenuta CastelGiocondo (Frescobaldi), Campo ai Sassi - September 2019 Decanter review

CastelGiocondo epitomises the spirit of Montalcino. It is considered to be one of the most historical estates of Montalcino, as it was one of the first producers of Brunello di Montalcino during the 1800s. The vines are overlooked by the castle and the small medieval town of Montalcino. The combination of the unique location of the vineyard, which is situated at 300 to 400 metres altitude; the south-western orientation, which benefits from the hot afternoon sun; and the free draining marl soils; contributes three significant attributes in producing this top quality Sangiovese. The CastelGiocondo wines are distinguished by their opulence, power and extraordinary longevity.

The vineyards are located on the CastelGiocondo Estate in Montalcino. Campo ai Sassi Rosso di Montalcino displays the same characteristics as Brunello, but in a more youthful, less complicated manner. It is produced from the same grape, Sangiovese, but from vineyards with vines that have very deep roots and yield wines which are aromatic and elegant, and less tannic than the Brunello. These vineyards were first planted in 1990 and then recently replanted, according to the terroir.

The grapes were fermented in stainless steel tanks, followed by maceration on the skins for 16 days extracting colour, flavour and structure. Malolactic fermentation took place immediately after alcoholic fermentation. A proportion of the wine was matured in 80 hectolitre and 100-hectolitre Slavonian oak casks, while the remaining proportion was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. The wine then received four months bottle-ageing in the cellar.

See the blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Tenuta CastelGiocondo, Campo ai Sassi, Rosso Di Montalcino 2017 - fiche technique

100% Sangiovese.

Lifted aromas of red pear and herbal notes complemented by typical Sangiovese flavours of liquorice, cloves and dry bitter cherry on the finish. Intense aromas of blackcurrant and herbal notes on the nose, lead to the complex palate of mint, liquorice, cardamom with a hint of violet. Smooth, but well structured on the palate, this intense wine has a wonderful persistency on the finish. An intense wine which accompanies full-flavoured stews, steak or wild boar; or pasta dishes such as pappardelle in a black truffle sauce.

£19.65

Recaredo Reserva Particular Cava, Brut Nature, Gran Reserva 2005 (1x75cl)

The 2007 vintage was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition panel tasting of global Blanc de Blancs sparklings (see blue link below).

Recaredo Reserva Particular Cava, Brut Nature, Gran Reserva 2007 - September 2019 Decanter review

For almost a century, Recaredo has maintained a firm commitment to produce terroir wines that reflect the landscapes of the Alt Penedès (Barcelona) as honestly and transparently as possible. They make only vintage Brut Nature Cavas with a distinctive character marked by long ageing. Recaredo's wines are both organic and biodynamic; they let plant cover grow spontaneously between the vines. This cover crop plays a crucial role, fostering biodiversity, loosening the soil, and regulating water retention and drainage (essential in the dry farming system practised).

"As grape growers and winemakers, we’ve specialised in long-aged Brut Nature sparkling wines, entering into a tacit agreement with the land and tradition, a pact under which we seek to articulate truly honest stories, to express the distinctive features of the landscape through wines, vintage after vintage."

This wine is made using 36% Xarel·lo, 64% Macabeo.

To see an excellent and informative technical sheet and tasting note for this wine (here the 2003 vintage), produced by the team at Recaredo, please click on the blue link below.

Recaredo Reserva Particular, Brut Nature, 2003 - fiche technique

£64.30

Recaredo Reserva Particular Cava, Brut Nature, Gran Reserva 2003 (1x 75cl)

The 2007 vintage was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition panel tasting of global Blanc de Blancs sparklings (see blue link below).

Recaredo Reserva Particular Cava, Brut Nature, Gran Reserva 2007 - September 2019 Decanter review

For almost a century, Recaredo has maintained a firm commitment to produce terroir wines that reflect the landscapes of the Alt Penedès (Barcelona) as honestly and transparently as possible. They make only vintage Brut Nature Cavas with a distinctive character marked by long ageing. Recaredo's wines are both organic and biodynamic; they let plant cover grow spontaneously between the vines. This cover crop plays a crucial role, fostering biodiversity, loosening the soil, and regulating water retention and drainage (essential in the dry farming system practised).

"As grape growers and winemakers, we’ve specialised in long-aged Brut Nature sparkling wines, entering into a tacit agreement with the land and tradition, a pact under which we seek to articulate truly honest stories, to express the distinctive features of the landscape through wines, vintage after vintage."

This wine is made using 36% Xarel·lo, 64% Macabeo.

To see an excellent and informative technical sheet and tasting note for this wine, produced by the team at Recaredo, please click on the blue link below.

Recaredo Reserva Particular, Brut Nature 2003 - fiche technique

£59.05

Ferrari Perle Bianco Riserva 2009 (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition panel tasting of global Blanc de Blancs sparklings (see blue link below).

Ferrari Perle Bianco Riserva 2009 - September 2019 Decanter review

The legend of Ferrari began with a man, Giulio Ferrari, and his dream of creating a wine in Trentino capable of competing with the best French Champagnes. He was a pioneer; it was he who was the first to realize the extraordinary vocation of his area, and it was he who first made substantial plantings of Chardonnay in Italy. The third generation of Marcello, Matteo, Camilla and Alessandro now lead the company with the aim of combining innovation and tradition, taking Ferrari around the world. Ferrari’s quality is the result of lots of small, daily procedures. Their wines are created in mountainside vineyards, in the finest areas of Trentino and perfected in the winery using the mandatory techniques for making Trentodoc wines.

With its mountain viticulture, Trentino is an area that is extraordinarily suited to the production of sparkling wines of great elegance and complexity: the alternation of warm days and cool nights gives added quality to the grapes, giving them a rainbow of different flavours and fragrances. It is thanks to the intuition of Giulio Ferrari that this area represents today the largest vineyard zone planted with Chardonnay in Italy; a lovely garden of vines, guarded like a treasure by the mountains that surround it.

To see an excellent information sheet and tasting note for this wine which has been written by the team at Ferrari, please click on the blue link below.

Ferrari Perle Bianco Riserva 2009 - fiche technique

100% Chardonnay.

The fine, persistent perlage swirls amidst it golden highlights. The highly complex bouquet reveals notes of candied citron, quince jam and floral sensations, giving way to intriguing nuances of iodine and spicy bread. Freshness and tanginess meld in perfect harmony with the refined mellowness deriving from its long maturation on the lees. A magnificently long finish, offering hints of white pepper and dried apricots.

£30.95

Wiston Estate Goring Blanc de Blancs Family Release NV (1x75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition panel tasting of global Blanc de Blancs sparklings (see blue link below).

Wiston Estate Goring Blanc De Blancs Family Release NV - September 2019 Decanter review

Dermot Sugrue is not exactly a new name in the English wine industry, but he is certainly a winemaker at the top of his game. Born in Ireland in 1974, he studied Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton Agricultural College before completing two seasons working at Château l'Eglise-Clinet and Château Leoville-Barton. In 2003, he joined Nyetimber and was appointed winemaker in 2004. From Nyetimber he moved to the beautiful, family-run Wiston Estate in 2006, nestled in the heart of England’s rolling South Downs in West Sussex, to work with the Goring Family who has owned the estate since 1743. The Goring Brut, Rosé and Blanc de Blancs are made exclusively for us by Dermot Sugrue and take their name from the Goring family.

The fruit comes from two vineyards situated on the South Downs in West Sussex, which are above the 50th parallel and are influenced by a cool, coastal climate. The cool winters, moderate rainfall and temperate summers, combined with cooling sea breezes encourage the grapes to ripen slowly, retaining the natural acidity crucial for producing freshness in high quality sparkling wine. The vines are grown on a chalk escarpment, which is not dissimilar to the soils found in the vineyards of the Côtes de Blancs in Champagne. These chalky soils provide excellent drainage for the vines, as well as imparting great elegance and finesse to the wines. The vines are planted at a density of 4,000 vines per hectare and are trained according to the Vertical Shoot Positioning method, with Guyot pruning. The vines are tended by hand, with careful canopy management ensuring maximum sunlight exposure in this capricious climate. The Wiston vineyard is run according to a strict philosophy of sustainability. Manually harvested at optimum maturity.

The grapes were pressed in whole bunches using a traditional, gentle Coquard basket press in order to preserve the delicate fruit flavours and aromas in the juice. Vinified using the traditional method, the juice was fermented entirely in stainless steel tanks with selected yeasts. Each component of the final assemblage wine went through malolactic fermentation and was allowed to rest on its lees for nine months imparting structure and complexity. After blending, cold stabilisation and bottling, the wine underwent a slow secondary fermentation. It was then kept on its side, under crown cap at cool temperatures of 9 to 11°C for almost three years on its fine lees, while it matured and took on flavour and structure through the process of autolysis. To preserve the natural poise and balance a dosage of 9g/l was added.

Chardonnay 100%.

An elegant and complex expression of the exceptional chalky terroir from which it hails, it has delicious notes of grapefruit, lemon zest, orange blossom and crushed oyster shells complemented by a racy acidity. 

£30.75

Hattingley Valley Blanc de Blancs 2013 (1x75cl)

Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition panel tasting of global Blanc de Blancs sparklings (see blue link below).

Hattingley Valley Blanc De Blancs 2013 - September 2019 Decanter review

Hattingley Valley is a family owned business located in Hampshire specialising in premium English sparkling wines. Simon Robinson established Hattingley Valley in 2008. Following in-depth feasibility studies, the first 28-acre, south-facing site was planted in May of that year with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Alongside Emma Rice, he planned the modern, eco-friendly winery in Wield that was completed in 2010. It uses the latest technology and equipment from continental Europe, has sophisticated waste disposal facilities and was the first UK winery to adopt solar power.

The estate currently manages over 24 hectares (60 acres) of vines across two, well-situated sites under the watchful eyes of its vineyard managers. The vines are nurtured throughout the growing year with an environmentally-sensitive approach to viticulture ensuring optimum ripeness, yield and quality of fruit.

At Hattingley Valley, the traditional method (method champenoise) is used for winemaking. A key element of the house style is the subtle use of oak barrels to ferment a small proportion of the wines each year, as well as ageing on lees in stainless steel tanks. This helps to soften the wines before they go into bottles for the second fermentation. 

The butterfly you see across Hattingley’s branding is the Silver-washed Fritillary, a rare butterfly often found in the chalk-based vineyard. The presence of this special butterfly shows that the vineyard is a thriving environment with a rich biodiversity.

Since launching its first release in August 2013, Hattingley Valley has been recognised in competitions across the globe and developed into one of the most respected producers of English sparkling wines in the country. Hattingley was awarded the ‘World Champion’ trophy for its 2011 Blanc de Blancs in the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships 2017.

Here's Hattingley Valley's own data sheet/fiche technique on this, the BdB 2013.

Hattingley Valley Blanc De Blancs 2013 - fiche technique

This wine has a lovely deep gold colour with a green hue and a fine mousse. The nose has delicate white fruit that gives way to a rich toasty and honeyed charm. The palate is beautifully balanced and complex – ripe apples with a crisp yet soft acidity that is balanced by a hint of oak influence. A rich and rounded mouth-feel and long finish. It has great ageing potential.

£35.20

Recaredo Cava Serral del Vell Brut Nature 2011 (1x75cl)

The 2011 vintage (not yet available in the UK) was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition panel tasting of global Blanc de Blancs sparklings (see blue link below).

Recaredo Cava Serral del Vell Brut Nature 2011 - September 2019 Decanter review

For almost a century, Recaredo has maintained a firm commitment to produce terroir wines that reflect the landscapes of the Alt Penedès (Barcelona) as honestly and transparently as possible. They make only vintage Brut Nature Cavas with a distinctive character marked by long ageing.

Recaredo's wines are both organic and biodynamic; they let plant cover grow spontaneously between the vines. This cover crop plays a crucial role, fostering biodiversity, loosening the soil, and regulating water retention and drainage (essential in the dry farming system practised).

Grapes were harvested from Recaredo’s Serral del Vell estate in the Bitlles Valley Highlands. Serral del Vell hillock is a mainly calcareous terrain characterised by disjointed landscapes in the county of the Alt Penedès, Barcelona.

Key winemaking features: 53% Xarel-lo, 47% Macabeo. Manually harvested; the Xarel-lo component is entirely aged in oak casks; secondary fermentation is in bottle (as with all Cava and Champagne); aged in bottle for a minimum of 8 years; riddled and disgorged by hand.

Recaredo describe this as a "well-upholstered wine with green plum and apple aromas". The palate is deep, pure, structured, vinous, long and rich with resonant acidity.  Matches best with charcuterie, oysters or white meats.

£38.00

Aphros Phaunus Loureiro 2018 (1x75cl)

The 2017 vintage (alas, no longer available) was awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition article The Joy of Clay on amphora-produced wines (see blue link below).

Aphros Phaunus Loureiro 2017 - September 2019 Decanter review

Founded in 2002, Aphros is a project designed to combine ecological and economical aspects to create true sustainability. Their belief is that nature and labor should combine in a meaningful way and they seek to capture this through biodynamic viticulture, letting the uniqueness of the land shine through the fruit for inimitable wines. Loureiro and Vinhão have grown in these vineyards for centuries and serve as the reference point for the region.

The grapes are sourced from the Lima sub-region and the vines of Casal do Paço are situated in a south facing amphitheater north of the Lima River on gentle slopes with cool Atlantic breezes.

The winemaking is traditional, taking place in the basement beneath the main house. The cave is buried and naturally cool and damp. They once again straddle the line between modern and traditional character with the addition of modern stainless steel equipment and traditional open top lagars, granite stone tanks, for red wine production.

To see an information sheet and tasting note for this wine from Aphros, please click on the blue link below.

Aphros Phaunus Loureiro 2018 - fiche technique

This unique reading of the lively Loureiro grape replaces its usual perfume with earthy, baked apple aromas and adds a fine but grippy seam of tannins into what is a savoury yet quite electrifying wine.

£20.75

Zorjan Dolium Muscat Ottonel 2014 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage (not yet UK-available) was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition article The Joy of Clay on amphora-produced wines (see blue link below).

Zorjan Dolium Muscat Ottonel 2015 - September 2019 Decanter review

The Zorjan family continues the tradition of farming in this area. Their ancestors farmed without the use of modern methods and thus preserved the long-term vitality of the soil. They inherited 7 hectares from their parents in 1980. Initially, they continued the traditional farming methods, but weren’t convinced. To move forward, they started farming organically, and in 1995, decided to start making wine in amphorae. In 2014, they decided to adhere to biodynamic principles - "years of trial and error brought us to biodynamic farming, which is now our way of life.”

The Dolium is 100% (whole-cluster) Muscat Ottonel with the whole fruit going into the amphora (juice, skins and stems) for six months. The wine is then decanted off the grape marc/pomace and then remains in amphorae for another six months, until the next harvest, when it is transferred into wooden barrels for yet another 12 months. This is a sensational amber/orange wine, at once hedonistic yet with a powerful deep-rooted sense of place: a living wine that changes by the minute.

The aromatics of this quirky bottle are subtle and elderflower-like. Muscat’s thick skins provide substantial structure with an impression of ripeness and nuttiness. Lovely freshness and a bone-dry finish.

£29.75

Foradori Granato Vigneti Delle Dolomiti Rosso IGT 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition article The Joy of Clay on amphora-produced wines (see blue link below).

Foradori Granato Vigneti Delle Dolomiti Rosso IGT 2016 - September 2019 Decanter review

It could be said that Elisabetta Foradori has single handedly brought the intriguing Teroldego grape back from the brink of extinction. She is also one of the key figureheads of Biodynamic production in the Trentino. She is someone deeply attached to her native land and vineyards. 'My memories are here. I’ve known in my mind ever since I was a small girl that the only place I felt well was in nature, maybe because I was born and raised among vineyards.' Today she resides over a beautiful estate of some 26 hectares and produces 160 000 bottles of superb biodynamic wine from various local varieties but her signature wine is Teroldego. The Foradori wines are certified as both organic and biodynamic.

The name "Granato" means "garnet" in Italian but is especially a reference to the pomegranate or in Italian melograno, a fruit of Mediterranean origin, like the first grape vines brought to Italy millenia ago. Elisabetta has always felt stirred by the vitality within this bright, juicy, tannic, many-seeded orb; the name honors that connection she always made between the self-contained beauty and energy of this old-vine wine and this ancient fruit. 

Granato is an historic and special wine for Foradori. It comes from their original Campo Rotaliano estate vineyard on this flat, sunny, well-drained plateau with sandy, stony, Dolomitic limestone soils. And as is true of all Foradori reds, the farming is certified-biodynamic and the winemaking very light-handed. That said, several things make Granato stand out. It is Foradori's only riserva, first bottled by Elisabetta in 1986, and the wine that put Foradori on the international wine map; it comes from 3 parcels of the oldest, pergola-trained vines, planted from 1938 to 1956 on the most gravellly parts of the vineyard; and it is the longest-aged and -lived of their wines. The old and genetically diverse material in the Granato vineyard is the source of all cuttings needed for re-planting vines at Foradori.

In its early years, Granato was a more internationally-styled wine, aged in new French barriques and garnering high scores from critics and collectors, and that is how it often still viewed out in the wider wine world. But notably, the last vintage with any new barrique was 2000 and the last vintage with even used barrique was 2008. The vinification and aging of Granato gradually shifted into something more gentle and traditional, with a true terroir focus, as the farming evolved from conventional to organic to biodynamic. The hand-harvested fruit is partly destemmed and gently pressed, with up to 40-50% whole clusters. Fermentation is spontaneous in huge, open wooden vats or tini, with little to no sulfur generally. Maceration is two to three weeks and is built not around punch-downs or pump-overs but rather around the infusion effect of a cappello sommerso or submerged cap of skins in the wine. The wine is aged in old oak botti up to 22 hectoliters in size for around 15 months, before being bottled unfiltered and aged another year before release.

100% Teroldego.

The red berry fruit is multilayered and fleshy with a cranberry-like perfume and firm, ageworthy structure. Plush dark fruits, plenty of acidity, this is a wine that will evolve marvelously for decades. 

£49.30

Zorah Karasì Areni Noir 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition article The Joy of Clay on amphora-produced wines (see blue link below).

Zorah Karasì Areni Noir 2016 - September 2019 Decanter review

Zorik Gharibian, an Armenian based in Italy, worked with Attilio Scienza to find precisely the right location for this exciting project. After three years of research and detailed analysis of every aspect of the region, he finally bought the land in Vayotz Dzor. This is historically known as the most prestigious wine region in Armenia. The intention was to create a wine of the highest international quality. Winemaker Alberto Antonini and viticulturalist Stefano Bartolomei brought a great deal of passion and planning to the project, as well as a profound understanding of how to make it a success.

Zorah has 15 hectares of vineyards, surrounded by mountains at 1,400 metres above sea level and only steps away from a 6,100 year old winery. The vineyards are situated in the small rural village of Rind in the heart of Vayotz Dzor, Armenia's quintessential grape growing region for quality wines. Long dry summers, with good sunlight and high daytime temperatures contrast with cool nights, encouraging a lengthy growing season. The soils are rocky and rich in limestone, helping maintain moisture for the vines during the intense summer heat. The indigenous vines are grown on ungrafted rootstock as the area is unaffected by Phylloxera.

2016: a year characterised with initial frost and a rainy spring followed by a hot summer with high day-time temperatures and strong sunlight balanced with fresh cool nights. The day/night temperature differences averaging 20°C during the ripening season. The weather remained dry until the end of September with harvest commencing mid/end of October.

The grapes were harvested by hand into small 15 kilo crates. After destemming, the grapes were gently crushed. Fermentation and maceration on the skins took place in concrete tanks with no epoxy lining. Malolactic fermentation occurred naturally. The wine was aged partially in concrete tanks, partially in large untoasted wooden casks in order to soften tannins, but mainly in traditional Armenian amphorae (karas) of varying sizes which were sealed with wax and buried partially below ground to maintain a constant temperature. The wine was very lightly filtered before bottling, and spent a further six months ageing in bottle before release.

100% Areni Noir.

Bright ruby red in colour, this wine has complex aromas of red fruits, lightly spiced with an elegant toasted note. The palate reflects the exotic nose with hints of soft red fruits, dried mountain herbs and wild earth. Generous and soft with balanced, full-bodied structure and mature tannins before a long, evolved mineral finish.

£25.25

Zorah Karasì Areni Noir 2017 (1x75cl)

The 2016 vintage was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition article The Joy of Clay on amphora-produced wines (see blue link below).

Zorah Karasì Areni Noir 2016 - September 2019 Decanter review

Zorik Gharibian, an Armenian based in Italy, worked with Attilio Scienza to find precisely the right location for this exciting project. After three years of research and detailed analysis of every aspect of the region, he finally bought the land in Vayotz Dzor. This is historically known as the most prestigious wine region in Armenia. The intention was to create a wine of the highest international quality. Winemaker Alberto Antonini and viticulturalist Stefano Bartolomei brought a great deal of passion and planning to the project, as well as a profound understanding of how to make it a success.

Zorah has 15 hectares of vineyards, surrounded by mountains at 1,400 metres above sea level and only steps away from a 6,100 year old winery. The vineyards are situated in the small rural village of Rind in the heart of Vayotz Dzor, Armenia's quintessential grape growing region for quality wines. Long dry summers, with good sunlight and high daytime temperatures contrast with cool nights, encouraging a lengthy growing season. The soils are rocky and rich in limestone, helping maintain moisture for the vines during the intense summer heat. The indigenous vines are grown on ungrafted rootstock as the area is unaffected by Phylloxera.

2016: a year characterised with initial frost and a rainy spring followed by a hot summer with high day-time temperatures and strong sunlight balanced with fresh cool nights. The day/night temperature differences averaging 20°C during the ripening season. The weather remained dry until the end of September with harvest commencing mid/end of October.

The grapes were harvested by hand into small 15 kilo crates. After destemming, the grapes were gently crushed. Fermentation and maceration on the skins took place in concrete tanks with no epoxy lining. Malolactic fermentation occurred naturally. The wine was aged partially in concrete tanks, partially in large untoasted wooden casks in order to soften tannins, but mainly in traditional Armenian amphorae (karas) of varying sizes which were sealed with wax and buried partially below ground to maintain a constant temperature. The wine was very lightly filtered before bottling, and spent a further six months ageing in bottle before release.

100% Areni Noir.

Bright ruby red in colour, this wine has complex aromas of red fruits, lightly spiced with an elegant toasted note. The palate reflects the exotic nose with hints of soft red fruits, dried mountain herbs and wild earth. Generous and soft with balanced, full-bodied structure and mature tannins before a long, evolved mineral finish.

£25.55

Thelema Sutherland Chardonnay 2018 (1x75cl)

** ARRIVING INTO THE UK IMMINENTLY, AND WITH CUSTOMERS BY 15TH AUGUST! **

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition regional feature on Elgin, South Africa (see blue link below).

Thelema Sutherland Chardonnay 2018 - September 2019 Decanter review

While Thelema in Stellenbosch kept flourishing, its owner, Gyles Webb felt it was time for a new challenge. He embarked on a search for the right property and terroir for a second vineyard. In 2002, the Webb family purchased an idyllic apple farm in the cool coastal region of Elgin. Shortly after, the 100ha property was converted into vines, beginning with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay with more varietals being planted over time. And so, Sutherland Vineyards was born.  All Sutherland wines are bottled and produced at the Thelema estate in Stellenbosch. 

For the full data sheet and technical information from the winemakers themselves, click the blue link below.

Thelema Sutherland Chardonnay 2018 - fiche technique

£14.35

Planeta Eruzione Bianco 1614 Carricante 2017 (1x75cl)

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition regional feature on Etna (see blue link below).

Planeta Eruzione Bianco 1614 Carricante 2017 - September 2019 Decanter review

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2019 review - Italy's best whites for food (see blue link below).

Planeta Eruzione Bianco 1614 Carricante 2017 - May 2019 Decanter review

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

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.

This wine is made using 90% Carricante, 10% Riesling.

See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2017 - fiche technique

In this case, the pale golden colour gives little warning of the explosion of aromas of ripe fruit and the aromatic content of white flowers which magically transport the taster to the slopes of Etna. On the palate as well the wine manages to combine softness and strength with a drinkable richness, with fruit flavours of lemon peel and green apple linked to an endearing mineral power which prolongs the finish.

£22.75

Red Newt Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition feature, Weekday Wines (see blue link below).

Red Newt Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes 2015 - September 2019 Decanter review

Red Newt Cellars, founded by David and Debra Whiting in 1998, is located on the east side of Seneca Lake in the hamlet of Hector in the Finger Lakes region of New York. David and Debra have been described as “untrammeled lovers of the Finger Lakes scene” by Wine Spectator, which couldn’t be more true. The two met in the late 1980s, and at the time David was working as cellar master at a Finger Lakes winery while Debra was supervising microbiology labs at Cornell University. Following a passion for food and wine, David continued his oenological career as winemaker at three different wineries in the Finger Lakes. This career expanded through three of the most exciting and progressive decades of the Finger Lake wine industry, which is how he made a name for himself as one of the top winemakers in the region. 

Red Newt Cellars represents the achievement of David and Debra’s longtime goal to combine their efforts and expertise in the explorationf regional wine and cuisine. Their focus was on not only producing exceptional wines and food, but also creating a synergy between them.

For this wine, see blue link below for the excellent fiches technique/technical notes from the winemakers themselves.

Red Newt Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes 2015 - fiche technique

£22.30

Jim Barry Wines The Lodge Hill Riesling 2018 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition feature, Weekday Wines (see blue link below).

Jim Barry Wines The Lodge Hill Riesling 2018 - September 2019 Decanter review

Certain names resonate strongly within Australian wine history and Jim Barry is one of them. It was Jim Barry’s drive that helped shape South Australia’s Clare Valley as a benchmark producer of world class Riesling and cemented it as one of Australia’s premier wine regions. Jim was the first qualified winemaker in the Clare Valley, graduating with a degree in oenology from the prestigious Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1947. Founded in 1959, Jim Barry Wines is still family owned, with three generations of Roseworthy graduates. Jim’s son Peter became managing director in 1985 and today Peter’s children Tom, Sam and Olivia are the winemaker, commercial manager and brand ambassador respectively. Voted ‘Winery of the Year’ by Matthew Jukes they produce highly acclaimed and award-winning wines.

Situated on the eastern ranges of the township of Clare, Lodge Hill is one of the highest vineyards in the Valley - at an altitude of 480 metres - and is ideal for producing steely, minerally Rieslings, distinctive to the area. Wine has been flowing in the Clare Valley since 1851 and is an integral part of the culture. It is one of Australia’s most prestigious premium wine regions, most famous for its Riesling and Shiraz. A small area, accounting for less than 1.5% of Australia’s total wine production. With its beautiful, rolling hills, ideal winter rainfall and Mediterranean climate, the Clare Valley carries a unique history and winemaking heritage.

The wine displays a brilliant pale straw in the glass. Lifted white floral aromas with lemon, limes and hint of spice on the nose. The pallet leads with citrus and a silky line, wet slate and fresh ginger with juicy melon through the mid palate. Finishing with a talk like minerality and juicy acidity.

£12.40

Rioja Rosado, Ramon Bilbao 2018 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2019 edition feature, Weekday Wines (see blue link below).

Rioja Rosado, Ramon Bilbao 2018- September 2019 Decanter review

Established in 1924 and based in Haro, Ramón Bilbao has 180 vineyards spread across Rioja. Today, it is the fastest growing winery in the region and has firmly established itself as one of Spain’s most exciting and innovative producers. Born and bred in the region, chief winemaker Rodolfo Bastida is a man who likes to push the boundaries and believes the future lies in trial and exploration, including here to Rueda.

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical and tasting note from the winemakers at Ramon Bilbao.

Rioja Rosado, Ramon Bilbao 2018  - fiche technique

85% Garnacha, 15% Viura.

Pale salmon in colour, showing citrus fruits, orange peel and white flowers. Fresh and light in mouth. Modern and casual, pairing well with appetisers and cold dishes like white asparagus, seafood salad and beef carpaccio.

£9.60
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