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Decanter Sept 2018


 

The September 2018 edition of Decanter (www.decanter.com) - released 27th July - is a big one for us: 30 featured wines, almost all over 90 points, plenty above the Outstanding 95-point threshold and across a number of styles, geographies and articles.

Read on for the full details.

In a hurry just to buy? The full clickable/buyable catalogue of wines from this edition appears at the foot of this page.

For our full compendium of over 300 Decanter-rated wines fom the last two years, please click here.

For September's edition, we're mainly about the white wine blind tasting/panel review... and we know this one will be popular with our Decanter-hound customers. And that's because it's a New Zealand feature: these are always exciting and a severe test of whether our website can cope with the weight of demand.

The review in question is (what Decanter snappily entitle) "NZ's Alternative Whites". Fear not, this is not an excursion into the outer reaches of white wine esoteria and unknown grape varieties (they did Greece last month, after all). Put simply, Decanter mean "NZ whites that aren't Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay" (both of which they have reviewed recently). In case it’s not obvious, that's a lot of very fine grape varieties and wine styles indeed: warm-climate varieties from North Island (Viognier, Marsanne, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer) and cool-climate specials from South Island (Pinot Gris, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner .... there's even the odd Albariño).

(map from Decanter)

Of course, these are all grapes more closely and originally associated with places a long way from NZ. However, those of you that have tried NZ versions of the above will know just how excellent they typically are. If there's one thing that characterises NZ wines, their rise to fame/ success and (it logically follows) their popularity with our discerning customer base, it's just how very well they're made. Put another way: while there may be very few bargain offerings (although there's one wee cracker below), one very seldom finds Kiwi Tat. (WSET Diploma candidates will recognise this as the grist of question 2 from June's evil Unit 3 theory paper).

That quality is fully reflected in the panel results. It's rare to see a review that throws forth eight Outstanding/95-point(+) wines (although this one, quite rightly, broke all the records). But that's what we have here. Of those Outstandings, we're delighted to be able to offer five of them, plus another four on 94, 93 or 92 points (and here, in our view, are some really super wines that might get overlooked by the zealous Top Score Hunter) ... making some 18 high-scorers overall. What's more, a good number of these will leave you with change from £15. We're also particularly pleased to see wines and producers that we've long championed (read as: "see, we told you so").

Enough scene-setting: what exactly is all the buzz about? 

In the order they appear in the review:

  • Ata Rangi Lismore Pinot Gris 2017, Martinborough (95 points) - a rich Pinot Gris from one of the Martinborough greats (perhaps most famed for their red Pinots, eg their Crimson, which are ever-popular here). However, stocks in the UK are woefully tight and the vintage is already expired at the winery, so we've had to limit to two bottles per customer, and even these won't last long, alas. However, Pinot Gris is perhaps the best represented variety in the review, and there are plenty of excellent, high-scoring alternatives below, such as...
  • Prophet's Rock Pinot Gris 2015, Central Otago (95 points) - another Pinot Gris gem - and an unusually aromatic one for a grape more famed for its intensity of flavour rather than of aroma - from one of South Island's most exalted boutique/artisan producers (click here for their excellent website and see also their Pinots(s) Noirs). Looking for something to cellar and develop into something really special? This is perhaps the finest contender here (which is not to say you shouldn't drink it when it arrives). If you've any questions over its pedigree, bear in mind that this is one of the matched wines on the degustation menu at Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin three-starred restaurant, The Fat Duck... although the price here is definitely 'a bit less Heston'.

  • Te Kairanga Riesling 2016, Martinborough (95 points) - in a world of very few certainties, this will undoubtedly be the big-seller of this review... not because it's any 'better' than its 95-point peers, but because it's quite incredible value at just £12.50. If there's a wine here on which to Max Out (especially given how very well it will age), it's this one. It's the sister of the Te Kairanga Runholder Pinot Noir which was a Best in Show at last year's DWWAs, and TK's superb Riesling is the stand-out buy of this tasting.

  • The luxury (= pricier) choice is - and the honourable mention for the wackiest label goes to - the Burn Cottage Riesling-Grüner Veltliner 2015 from Central Otago (95 points). At £40+, it won't be for everybody ... but it is £40+ for a very good reason: Burn Cottage's adherence to the very highest vinegrowing and winemaking standards. The result: a wine that very few other producers would dare to grow. Of all the wines in the tasting, this one draws the most respect from the panel, and those seeking a wine that breaks the mould will find what they want with this.
  • Trinity Hill Marsanne-Viognier 2016, Hawke's Bay (95 points) - completing the Outstanding quintet is this fascinating, opulent, Rhône-a-like blend from the reknowned Gimblett Gravels and one of North Island's greats (known best for their Bordeaux blends and Syrahs).  This is a wonderfully rich and full-bodied wine, given the full winemaking treatment (barrel fermentation, lees ageing), yielding a complexity that will only improve with time in the bottle. It's a fairly leftfield inclusion in this line-up (reflecting the very low proliferation into the New World of Marsanne), but is super-worthy or your time.

We'll say it again: we really recommend not focussingly solely on the above five, as to do would be to miss some incredible wines at great prices. The top end of the Highly Recommendeds includes:

  • Millton Te Arai Chenin Blanc 2016 (94 points) and Riverpoint Viognier 2015, both from Gisborne (93 points). We adore Millton's wines: made biodynamically, with great care and in small quantities. They are the very essence of intensity and concentration of flavour. <Indeed, while it doesn't qualify for this review, you really should try their superb Opou Chardonnay>. The Viognier is described by Denise at our shop as "very thought-provoking" ... which is a pretty fair way to assess its impressive body, length and intensity. The Chenin is every bit as exciting. NB, though, that the reviewed 2016 vintage of the Chenin doesn't arrive at the UK importer until early September - we can, for now, only offer joining a waiting list for a few weeks: we'd been expecting it to be in the UK by the time Decanter came to press.

Beyond these, all of the

are 91-pointers and far better than the case-filling status that they may assume in this company.

To wrap up on matters on matters New Zealand, we'd remind that that is a review that excludes Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Of course, you, dear Customerneed not exclude them from your buying. Forced to choose just one NZ SB or Chardonnay, we'd go for/advise the DWWA 2018 Best in Show (97 points) Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc 2017 and the Trinity Hills Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2016 (92 points in Feb 2018 Decanter, 91 points/Silver at DWWA18).

Elsewhere in the edition, you'll find:

Finally, the Decanter World Wine Award 2018 (DWWA18) winners were announced quite some weeks ago, but it's in this September edition that Decanter bring them to press in a chunky supplement. You'll find our ever-expanding offering (25 wines and growing) of the big award winners here and do note that this selection is subject to constant change as new wines arrive into the UK and others sell through!

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Millton Riverpoint Viognier 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage was awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2018 edition panel tasting of "Alternative" New Zealand Whites (not Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay) (see blue link below)...

Millton Riverpoint Viognier 2015 - Sept 2018 Decanter review

James Millton is a living legend in the New Zealand wine scene. A pioneer of organic and biodynamic winemaking, he has ploughed his own furrow for three decades, quietly convinced that his sustainable approach to viticulture and winemaking was the only way to progress.  

The Millton winery's own tasting notes for this wine are excellent, so please click the blue link below to see all this wine's details.

100% Viognier.

Millton Riverpoint Viognier 2016 – fiche technique

ABV = 12.5%.

£18.05

Saint Clair (Origin) Viognier 2019 (1x75cl)

The 2017 Vintage was awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2018 edition panel tasting of "Alternative" New Zealand Whites (not Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay) (see blue link below)...

Saint Clair (Origin) Viognier 2017 - Sept 2018 Decanter review

Neal and Judy Ibbotson were pioneers in the Marlborough wine industry, first planting vineyards in the valley in 1978 and then establishing Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994. They own 160 hectares of vineyard in 10 different Marlborough locations chosen specifically for the attributes of their individual "terroir" and ability to produce top quality grapes. Neal Ibbotson combines his extensive expertise in viticulture with the talent of one of New Zealand's leading winemaking teams led by Hamish Clark. Since 1994, when wines from the first vintage all won medals including gold, the name Saint Clair has been synonymous with quality and its award-winning record continues today. This is a sentiment shared by Bob Campbell MW, who says “Saint Clair now makes the country’s and perhaps the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc”.

The grapes for this wine are grown in Saint Clair's vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels region of Hawkes Bay. The 10 year old vines are planted on the stoniest part of the vineyard. These stony soils are vigour moderating free-draining soils, ideal for growing Viognier. The vines are trained using the VSP Guyot system there is reasonably high exposure as a result, reflected in the ripeness of the wine. The grapes are harvested in the cool of the night, preserving the varietal characteristics.

Flowering conditions in December were perfect, followed by the hottest temperatures Marlborough has experienced in January. February produced a month of rainfall. Despite these challenging weather conditions, the fruit ripened well - 10 days earlier than usual. Effective methods of canopy management and cropping levels; and extended dry periods in March kept the vines healthy. Lower yields produced ripe and intensely flavoured fruit in 2018.

The grapes were harvested at optimal ripeness, pressed and the must settled. Fermentation took place in stainless tanks with carefully selected yeast to enhance the varietal characters. The wine was left on the yeast lees imparting texture and complexity to the resulting wine.

This wine is 100% Viognier.

An elegant wine displaying prominent notes of peach, apricot kernel and fragrant orange blossom laced with impressions of spice. Rich and textured on the palate this complex Viognier delivers flavours of apricot, burnt orange, savoury pastry and French fruit tart. A weighty mid palate leads to a subtle spicy note on the finish. The perfect accompaniment to chargrilled chicken and pumpkin risotto.

ABV = 13.0%.

£13.30

Tinpot Hut McKee Vineyard Gruner Veltliner 2017 (1x75cl)

The 2016 vintage was awarded 91 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their September 2018 edition panel tasting of "Alternative" New Zealand Whites (not Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay) (see blue link below).

Tinpot Hut McKee Vineyard Gruner Veltliner 2016 - Sept 2018 Decanter review

Tinpot Hut wines are made primarily from fruit grown on winemaker Fiona Turner's vineyard in Blind River. Fiona, who has worked with Matt Thomson for a number of years, supplements her own grapes with fruit from other growers in Marlborough and Hawkes Bay. The tinpot hut that gave its name to Fiona's wines is an old mustering hut in the remote hills between the Wairau and Awatere Valleys. The huts were used as a base for musterers as they rounded up the sheep that had been in the hills from spring to autumn. The name links Marlborough's past as a sheep farming centre with its current state as one of the world's most dynamic wine regions.

Winemakers Matt Thomson and Fiona Turner were looking for a cool climate variety with striking aromatic qualities supported by firm acid structure to add to the Tinpot Hut range. They soon became convinced of the potential for Grüner Veltliner in Marlborough and convinced two local growers to plant a few rows. The grapes for this single vineyard wine were grown by the McKee family in the Blind River sub-region of the Awatere Valley.

2017 was a challenging vintage for wine growers as conditions were wetter and cooler than usual. This reduced yields by approximately 9% compared to 2016. It also pushed harvest dates back for all varieties. The final wines are more restrained on the nose and the palate but still display distinctive varietal characteristics.

Careful vineyard management during the growing season ensured the grapes were kept in balance to allow even and optimal ripening. Once the flavours of the grapes reached their peak, whole bunches were hand picked to minimise phenolics from the skins. Precise press-cuts ensured that only the less phenolic free run juice was used in the finished wine. After settling, the juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures to retain fruit character and freshness.

100% Grüner Veltliner.

This Grüner Veltliner has delicate aromas of orange blossom and citrus blended with hints of sweet floral honeysuckle. It has great texture with a full mouth feel. Flavours of white peach mingle well with the subtle peppery spice notes. Mineral complexity gives this wine a clean and crisp appeal. The balance of the fruit, acidity and phenolics work very well together and lead to a long dry finish.

ABV = 13.0%.

£15.95

Rioja Organza Blanco Reserva Sierra Cantabria 2017 (1x75cl)

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)

Rioja Organza Blanco Reserva, Sierra Cantabria 2016 - Sept 2018 Decanter review

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. 

See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at Sierra Cantabria and which also contains the key reviews of this wine in recent vintages.

Rioja Organza Blanco Reserva, Sierra Cantabria 2017 - fiche technique

50% Viura, 30% Malvasía and 20% Garnacha Blanca.

The Organza Blanco 2017 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.

ABV = 12.5%.

£20.35
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