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Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot 2016 (1x75cl)

See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at Charles Smith.

Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot 2016 - fiche technique

The maker says: "When Hollywood’s surprise hit Sideways suddenly spawned anti-Merlot sentiments everywhere, Charles set out to rebuff the movie’s unflattering depiction of this great varietal. One sip of this bold, sultry creation and you’ll know he succeeded at making Merlot sexy again".

More traditionally put: This wine is made by Charles Smith, a self–taught winemaker who brings his rock and roll spirit to the vineyards of Walla Walla, Washington. As a romantic young man, Charles Smith moved across the world to Denmark to follow his love for his girlfriend at the time. In Scandinavia, he became a recognized manager for rock bands such as The Raveonettes. While travelling on the road with these bands, he developed his passion for wine. In 1999, he moved back to Washington, opened a wine store and became friendly with a French winemaker, later convincing him to move to Walla Walla to make wine together.

The aromas are that of cherry, cedar and black cherry, with an intense cherry, blackberry and some tobacco on the finish which is clean and lingers for a full mouth feel.

Letting this wine sit in the glass for 10 to 15 minutes will help to enhance the flavors and bring out the aromas while burning off any surface alcohol. The best foods to pair with this wine are lamb chops, steaks, pork chops, beef stew and hearty soups. This wine can also be enjoyed by itself due to its rich velvety texture on the palate.

ABV = 13.5%.


Chateau La Tuilerie des Combes, Lussac Saint-Emilion 2015 (1x 75cl)

The vineyards of the Chateau de la Tuilerie des Combes stand on the communes of Lussac and Montagne, just 8 kilometres from the medieval town of Saint-Emilion, which lies at the heart of one of the most famous wine regions in the world.

Under the guidance of the new owners, Count Henri le Grelle and his son Vincent, the vineyard’s surface area totals 17.3 acres. Grape variety planting stringently obeys Saint-Emilion norms: 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Francs for a fine balance in ageing wines.

The winemaking is traditional, nurturing the wine with the greatest of care until its development. The wine is aged in oak barriques for 18 months in one of most modern cellars if the area with its new system of thermoregulation which supports optimal maturation.

2015 has been hailed as an excellent vintage in Bordeaux. Generous flowering took place followed by a hot, dry early summer. August was slightly cooler and damper, followed by good weather in September enabling the grapes to reach full maturity. The wines have power and precision, particularly from the Right Bank appellations and many outstanding wines have been made from lesser appellations.

80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc.

Beautifully developed garnet-red in colour. Shows a very ripe nose of concentrated fruits of the forest and a dense palate reminiscent of black cherries and chocolate with pretty notes of liquorice and eucalyptus. The typically bordelaise structure is flexible, with soft, rounded tannins that bring balance and add length to the palate which finishes dry and clean.


Chateau Los Boldos Vieilles Vignes Merlot 2015 (1x75cl)

Chateau Los Boldos was founded in 1991 and is situated 100km south of Santiago in the foothills of the Cachapoal Andes. Working with a portion of old vines originally planted in 1948, their focus from an early stage has been on the production of premium wines. The estate has been transformed since being purchased by Sogrape in 2008. Renowned soil scientist and viticultural consultant Pedro Parra (of Clos des Fous) was brought in to assess the plots and match the right variety to the different soils around the estate. The type of rootstock, planting density, orientation and the frequency of irrigation were all within Pedro’s remit, and the results – significantly improved grapes – are now being seen in the wines, especially since Victor Arce, previously of Perez Cruz, joined as winemaker in 2015.

Los Boldos has 170 hectares of vineyards which benefit from a Mediterranean climate with clear, bright skies during the summer and a high diurnal temperature range, ideal for growing fruit that maintains fresh acidity while becoming perfectly ripe. The nearby Cachapoal river also moderates temperatures, while stony alluvial soils in the vineyard ensure low yields.  Los Boldos makes wine exclusively from their own vineyards, therefore controlling everything from grape to bottle. The Vieilles Vignes range is produced with the best hand-picked grapes sourced from vineyards that are more than 60 years old.

A rainy winter at the start of the 2014/2015 season helped to accumulate enough water for the entire growing season. January was very cloudy, but February was partially clear and a bit warmer than usual, which allowed harvest to begin at the end of the month with concentrated and aromatic grapes with balanced sugar and acidity levels.

The must had seven days of pre-fermentation maceration in stainless steel tanks to aid colour and flavour extraction from the grapes. It then underwent 30 days of fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks at 26-28°C. The wine then spent 20 months in French oak barrels before release.

100% Merlot.

This wine is intense ruby red colour with violet tones. On the nose, it has aromas of plums, raspberries and cherries, with toasted, spicy and herbal notes.This wine is well-balanced with soft, velvety tannins and a smooth and elegant finish.

ABV = 14.0%.


Château Mayne Blanc, Lussac Saint-Emilion 2015 (1x 75cl)

The immaculate Château Mayne Blanc covers 21 hectares of vines, including four hectares of Bordeaux rouge and 17 hectares in the appellation of Lussac Saint-Émilion.The château has received significant investment and renovation in the vineyard and cellars by the current owner who purchased the property from the family who had previously owned the Château for three generations. They cultivate the vines sustainably and work closely alongside innovative winemaker Ludovic Labarrere, who vinifies using egg-shaped fermenters and produces wines which are the quintessential expression of the Lussac St-Emilion terroir

2015 has been widely hailed as an excellent vintage in Bordeaux. Generous flowering took place followed by a hot, dry early summer. August was slightly cooler and damper, followed by good weather in September enabling the grapes to reach full maturity. The wines have power and precision, particularly from the right bank appellations and many outstanding wines have been made from lesser appellations.

Lussac-Saint-Emilion is the most northerly of the satellites of the larger Saint-Emilion appellation, which is located in the right bank Libournais district of Bordeaux. The Château Mayne Blanc’s vineyard is situated at the highest elevation of Lussac Saint-Emilion, atop clay and silty soils which impart softness to the wines. The vines are sustainably cultivated, with grass sown between the vine rows in order to stabilise the soil and decompress it, sending the vine’s roots deep into the soils. The yields are carefully controlled in order to concentrate the flavours in the berries.

The grapes were meticulously sorted and carefully destemmed; ensuring the grapes were not damaged and the berries remained whole. They were slowly fermented in concrete tanks so all components from the skins were extracted to the desired level. Fermentation lasted for between three to four weeks. 50% of the wine was matured for 12 to 16 months in French oak barrels of which approximately 10% was new oak.

Merlot 80%, Cabernet Franc 15%, Cabernet Sauvignon 5%.

Generous berried fruits are accompanied by a blueberry character and rich, dark chocolate notes. Stylish and deliciously approachable with a soft finish. Plump berried fruits are accompanied by a blueberry character and rich, dark chocolate notes.


Chateau Puy Guilhem, Fronsac 2009 (1x75cl)

The stunning 18th century Château Puy Guilhem is located on the hills of Saillans, overlooking the appellations of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. The vineyard covers 14.5 hectares and is situated at the highest elevation of the Fronsac appellation, where the quality soils produce rich, concentrated grapes. The vineyard is manually cultivated following a sustainable philosophy and renowned consultant oenologist Stéphane Derenoncourt vinifies by parcel, creating hand-crafted, fruit focused and beautifully balanced wines.

2009 is widely cited as an outstanding vintage. The growing season was almost perfect, with a long, fine, warm summer and crucially, cooler nights which helped to retain balancing acidity. The wines are intensely ripe and rich.

The appellation of Fronsac is on the right bank close to Saint Emilion. The wines are dominated by Merlot. Château Puy Guilhem’s vineyard is situated in an elevated position of the appellation, atop high quality soil composed of a mix of clay and silt, which imparts structure to the wine. The vineyard is managed sustainably without the use of herbicides. Cover crops of grass are grown between the vines and manged with light tilling.

Fermentation took place in temperature controlled vats and lasted for 24 to 48 hours. The fermenting must was manually pumped over, with daily observations to check the evolution of the skins. Maceration lasted between three to four weeks to extract the desired levels of colour, flavour and tannins. The wine was aged for 12 to 16 months in French oak barrels, of which 50% were new and 50% was of one year.

100% Merlot.

A mature and traditionally styled Bordeaux showing ripe and fleshy black berried fruits with a lovely savoury and earthy finish. A powerful yet elegant red with ripe berried fruits enhanced by a subtle note of oak spice. Full bodied, with juicy fruit and an attractive savoury note on the finish.

ABV = 14.0%.


Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Te Kahu 2016 (1x 75cl)



** 12 BOTTLES PER CUSTOMER ONLY (NB: the 2015 is also available without limits) **

Awarded a Platinum & Best in Show medal and 97 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

Craggy Range produces a collection of iconic wines from multiple regions in New Zealand. Owner Terry Peabody and his family pursued the single vineyard approach to winemaking, planting on green fields and bare land ensuring a focus on quality from the very beginning. New Zealand, with its diversity of soils types offered the perfect location to plant the vines. From the stony, warm soils of the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke's Bay to the volcanic, clay soils of Te Muna Road in Martinborough these exceptional vineyards produce wines with amazing aromatics, purity and complexity.

Te Kahu means 'the cloak' in Maori and refers to the mist that envelops Giants Winery in the Tukituki Valley. Legend has it that this mist was used to protect a mythical Maori maiden from the sun as she visited her lover Te Mata.

The grapes are completely destemmed before fermentation begins in closed top stainless steel tanks with the yeast being innoculated into the must. The wine then spends 10 months maturing in oak barriques (28% are new) before being fined, filtered and released for sale.  

63% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec.

The Te Kahu is a deep crimson red. It has complex aromatics of ripe plum, a touch of cassis, fresh rosemary and roasted meats. The palate is generous and approachable but also has a high level of sophistication with fine grained tannins enveloping a dense body of succulent black fruits. This wine has the ability to age for around 12 years from vintage.

To see Craggy Range's information sheet for this wine please click on the blue link below.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Te Kahu 2016 - fiche technique

ABV = 13.4%.


Kaiken Ultra Merlot 2016 (1x75cl)

Kaikenes are wild geese, native to Patagonia, that fly across the Andes between Chile and Argentina. In the same way, Montes, the Chilean winery, crossed the Andes to set up in Mendoza. Their vineyards are situated in the heart of Mendoza and further to the south in Valle de Uco, where many of the premium producers are now sourcing their fruit. The focus is primarily on Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, a variety that has been somewhat forgotten as Malbec has surfed one wave of success after another in the past decade. As a result, there are many old vineyards in Mendoza that produce excellent fruit. Kaiken's own vineyards supply 70% of their production requirements and 30% is from vineyards that they control.

Fruit for the Kaiken Ultra Merlot was sourced from a single vineyard in Vistalba, Luján de Cuyo, which is over 75 years old. The vines are trained along a pergola system, which helps protect the grapes from the sun and high temperatures. The soil is alluvial, with layers of sand, silt and rocks, allowing for excellent drainage and creating the ideal conditions for concentrated grapes.

This vintage saw a very cold spring, with average temperatures well below previous years. The cold temperatures delayed bud break and flowering by 20-25 days. 2016 will be remembered as a challenging vintage due to cold weather, 700 millimetres of rain during the growing season, and a 20-day delay in reaching maturation. The vines, therefore, required a lot of attention from the viticultural team. Despite low yields (down by 40%), the grapes harvested were healthy and of very good quality.

The grapes were hand harvested at the end of March and transported in 15 kilogram trays to prevent the grapes from being damaged in transit. The grapes were then hand sorted in the winery. After pressing, the juice was fermented in small tanks. Fermentation and maceration lasted one month.The wine was transferred into barrels. One third of the wine was aged in new barrels, while the rest was aged in second- and third-use barrels for 12 months.

93% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc.

Intense and brilliant ruby red in colour, this Merlot delights with pronounced aromas of cassis and red berry jam, accompanied by some spicy notes. Well-structured with silky tannins, the finish is long and invites a second glass.

ABV = 14.5%.


Planeta Sito dell Ulmo Merlot 2014 (1x 75cl)

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.

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

Planeta Sito dell Ulmo Merlot 2014 - fiche technique

100% Merlot.

A bewitching wine which gently overcomes you. Its uniqueness emerges in a particular way with a diverse but lively structure of tannins and with its strong and intensely savoury taste. This version of a densely ruby coloured Merlot, so rich with the sweet juice of black currant and candied violet which alternates with thyme and lavender, cannot pass unnoticed either by the palate of a refined taste or by that of an enthusiastic novice. It is a multi-faceted and intriguing red wine which combines the pleasure of tannin with an extraordinary persistence of taste.

ABV = 14.5%.


Saint Clair Pioneer Block 17 Plateau Block Merlot 2016 (1x75cl)

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”.

Good settled weather at flowering was followed by a cooler growing period on average, but dry. Some rain just after véraison and a short period of cooler weather looked likely to delay harvest, but settled warm dry weather through the remaining ripening period sped up the flavour development and ripening and contributed to harvest date comparable to most years.

This outstanding fruit was sourced from a single vineyard within the Gimblett Gravels winegrowing area of Hawkes bay. The vigour moderating, free draining gravel provides a superb base for this low cropping Merlot. The flat vineyard, sits atop a plateau with a gradual slope and is situated in a warm and sheltered site, which has ideal ripening conditions for achieving the full aromatic profile and tannin structure that Merlot can give. The fruit was carefully monitored during ripening and harvested in the cool evening at maximum flavour maturity and physiological ripeness.

The fruit was held cold for four days prior to the fermentation to help extract the maximum flavour and to enhance the colour stability. It was then inoculated to carry out the primary alcoholic fermentation, during which the fermenting must was hand plunged up to four times daily and pumped over the skins to help with extraction. When dry, the young wine was pressed and then racked off the gross lees to 50% new French oak and 50% seasoned French oak. The wine underwent a clean malolactic fermentation while ageing in oak for 11 months. It was then gently extracted from the oak, blended and carefully prepared for bottling.

A rich, full bodied and concentrated Merlot, which is loaded with layers of ripe dark berries, damson plums and dark chocolate. The texture is silky smooth with subtle flavours of new leather, cigar box and heated spices, leading to a long savoury finish.

Delicious with lightly spiced exotic dishes.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians.


Steenberg Merlot 2016 (1x 75cl)

Steenberg was the Cape’s first farm, which was established in 1682 and has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings. In addition to the vineyard there is now a restaurant, hotel and golf course for visitors to enjoy. The vineyard team at Steenberg always strive to give their best to the wines by cultivating the vineyards to produce the healthiest grapes of the best quality. Their philosophy is that the "wines are grown in the vineyard and then cared for in the winery". Special attention was therefore placed in obtaining the very best and latest known clones and matched to the correct soils and slopes. Environmentally considerate farming practices are employed as far as possible, with the help of non-toxic, natural formulas of pest control, and the employment of natural predators for help in keeping the grapes as healthy as possible.

This wine is 100% Merlot.

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

Steenberg Merlot 2016 - fiche technique


Thelema Merlot 2016 (1x 75cl)

Cabernet may be its trump card, but the origins of Thelema owe more to the wines of Burgundy than Bordeaux: it was a bottle of Puligny-Montrachet that lured Gyles Webb away from accountancy in Durban to winemaking in Stellenbosch. Armed with a winemaking degree and influenced by travels in Tuscany, Bordeaux and California, Gyles and his wife Barbara – a noted triathlete – bought Thelema, an old fruit farm high on the slopes of the Simonsberg mountain, in 1983.

This is the wilder side of Stellenbosch, where spotted leopards roam the vines and a combination of elevation and eucalyptus trees creates a much-prized style of Cabernet with a distinctively minty freshness. These days Gyles is Cellar Master, with the talented Schultz brothers (Rudi and Werner) responsible for the winemaking and vineyards respectively. But the philosophy remains true to Gyles’ original vision, centred on the principle of what he calls ‘benign neglect’ – minimal fining and filtration, and no use of commercial yeasts in the red wines. True too to the Thelema name, taken from the idealised concept of a new world order imagined by 16th century French monk, physician and writer Rabelais.

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

Thelema Merlot 2016 - fiche technique


Truchard Merlot 2013 (1x75cl)

The Truchard family's wine tradition began in the U.S. over a century ago in 1887 when the Truchard winery was founded just outside Houston. Since 1973, when Tony and Jo Ann bought the present Truchard estate, it has grown to 400 acres, of which 280 acres are planted. After selling their grapes to premier wineries for 15 years, the Truchards began producing their own wines in 1989 to great acclaim. To accommodate the winery’s increased production, in 1998, they added an 11,000-square-foot wine cave to the premises.

We can do no better here than to direct you to the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Truchard Merlot 2013 - fiche technique


Vinnaioli Jermann Red Angel IGT, Pinot Nero 2016 (1x75cl)

Friuli, alongside Burgundy and New Zealand, is widely recognised as having one of the best suited climates for the production of high quality Pinot Noir. The grapes for Red Angel are all picked by hand and vinified in the traditional manner in small stainless steel tanks. Skin contact is key to producing top quality Pinot and Jermann has achieved an excellent balance between power and elegance. The wine is then aged in oak barriques before bottling and release.

This wine is made using Pinot Nero 95%, Merlot 5%.

Fragrant, with rich blueberries and fruits of the forest on the nose, this is an elegant, round and velvety Pinot Noir with loganberry-fruit character and cherryish undertones filling out the medium bodied, succulent palate.

It is the ideal summer red which will partner charcuterie and cheeses, as well as grilled salmon and any pasta dish; potatoes filled with ricotta cheese and butter; sausages with radicchio and charcuterie or smoked ham with grilled porcini mushrooms.

To see an information sheet that has been written by the team at Vinnaioli Jermann, please click on the blue link below.

Vinnaioli Jermann Red Angel - fiche technique

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