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Our September headliners...


  • The new vintage has arrived of the icon that is the Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc - the 2019 - but there's only 60 bottles here, being 50% of all that's available in the UK for a month or two. 

We're delighted to be the UK's best price on the two wines above.


And then there's ... (don't miss these, they'll not be around for long!)

  • Ken Forrester Barrel Selection Roussanne 2019 - £23.95 - a cellar exclusive and very seldom (if ever) in the UK. Just 180 bottles are incoming (due late October, waiting list running for this one) ... already half-gone! ALAS, NOW ALL RESERVED.
  • Kumeu River Ray's Road Chardonnay 2018 - £22.95 - this NZ Hawke's Bay, single-vintage, cooler-climate Chardonnay is Jancis's Wine of the Week, coming in for very high praise and is "drinking beautifully". JUST A FEW BOTTLES LEFT

More details of each wine on the linked product pages (or click the icons below). 

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La Rioja Alta, Vina Arana Gran Reserva 2014 (1x75cl)


Of the new 2014:

"14.5% alcohol. Three years in barrel and three in bottle [Exel note: this isn't quite right: see the data sheet below]. This has amazing aromatics: sweet blackberry and black cherry fruit with dried herbs, tar and spice, as well as some hints of vanilla and coconut, and sweet tobacco, too. The palate is juicy and supple, but also quite profound, showing cherries, berries, spice, sweet herbs, some cedar and coconut from the oak, and a lovely sense of harmony and precision. It’s a ripe wine, but shows such complexity and focus, with everything pulling in the right direction. I’m just so impressed with this wine: in its style – classical Rioja – it is just about perfect, and is beginning to enter a very long drinking window. So complex and layered and refined. 96/100", (Jamie Goode), see here for more.

Old-fashioned Rioja at its glorious best”. Tim Atkin MW.

“One of the most outrageously enjoyable wines I’ve had in months […] Make no mistake, a claret or burgundy [sic] of this quality and this maturity would be at least twice the price.” Johnny Ray, The Spectator

“This wine is one of the most rewarding and classically-shaped wines I have tasted from this property in a long while and the fact that bottles only cost £35 makes this release an even more compelling proposition. […  ]It is the epitome of historic Rioja.” Matthew Jukes. 

This Vina Arana Gran Reserva 2014 from La Rioja Alta is dynamite […] Hard to think of a wine that offers so much complexity for the money" Henry Jeffreys (wine writer for BBC Good Food and The Spectator).


The 2012 vintage was awarded a Platinum medal and 97 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details)

For other 2019 DWWA winners, click here.

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter ( in their August 2019 edition's Spurrier's Fine Wine World (see blue link below).

La Rioja Alta Vina Arana Gran Reserva 2012 - August 2019 Decanter review


Quality, elegance, innovation, evolution... They are the pillars on which the five founding families erected La Rioja Alta winery in 1890 and built a way of living, feeling and producing wines of the highest quality that continue to evolve subtly, perfectly adapting to new tastes. This is how the permanent pursuit of excellence started; a pursuit that continues into the 21st century with identical enthusiasm. They draw the best from their winemaking tradition and wisdom — their own cooperage, manual racking, long ageing periods, etc — and combine it with the most modern winemaking technology. Today, La Rioja Alta wines are an international exemplar of the great wines of Rioja.

The Arana is a new Gran Reserva (if such a thing can exist; the first vintage was 2012) from La Rioja Alta to complement its fabled 890 and 904 labels. It is not a rebadge of the Arana Reserva (although LRA have made that trickier to explain by plumping for a name already in use!), using, as it does, a different blend of grape varieties and drawn from different vineyards. The wine was named after one of the families that have long been at the helm of La Rioja Alta, a company founded in 1895.

Regarding the 2014: This was the only Gran Reserva produced in 2014 so it contains all the fruit that would have gone into 904 and even 890. Often - we see the same with Port and Bordeaux - poorer overall vintages give rise to some much better-than-usual reserve/second wines - and some are quite remarkable. This is in that category.

For more winemaking/vintage detail, see blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at La Rioja Alta.

La Rioja Alta Vina Arana Gran Reserva 2014 - fiche technique

For a tabulated explanation of how the three LRA Gran Reservas differ, click this link.

For a press story (Drinks Business) of the April 2019 of the release of the new (2012) Arana Gran Reserva, click this link.

For LRA's marketing presentatation of this new wine, click this link - (** LARGE FILE - may take a while to download **).

94% Tempranillo, 6% Graciano.

Lively, clean, medium depth, garnet–red with an incipient pink rim. Intense aromas with outstanding notes of redcurrants, raspberries, wild blackberries and ripe red plums creating a complex bouquet together with the balsamic notes from the barrel: vanilla, cloves, coffee, caramel and brioche. Very tasty in the mouth, evincing the brand’s distinctive classic texture. Fresh, vibrant and well-balanced, with amiable sweet tannins. Its long stay in the bottle rewards us with that great complexity and elegance typical of this style of Rioja wines. To enjoy now, but with a long life ahead.

ABV = 14.5%.


Caruso & Minini, Terre di Giumara, Frappato / Nerello Mascalese 2018 (1x75cl)


This wine, despite its low price, comes in for a glowing review from the team at Jancis Robinson's Purple Pages ( - reviewer Tamlyn Currie - in September 2020.

The overall article appears here (unusually free to all readers) and the short-form review of the wine (it scores 16.5/20, a good score indeed for wines three of four times the price) can be found by clicking the blue link immediately below.

Caruso & Minini, Terre di Giumara, Frappato/Nerello Mascalese 2018 - review Sept 20 


Caruso & Minini are a part of the wave of revival in Sicilian wine. Smaller wineries have sprung up in the past decade with private investment and a strong interest in the potential of the native grapes from Sicily. One example is Caruso & Minini. When Mario Manini met Stefano Caruso it sparked a long-held dream to produce a wine in the historical winemaking region of Marsala in Western Sicily. The Terre di Giumara range focuses on these unique and delicious Sicilian grapes. 

This wine is a blend of Frappato and Nerello Mascalese (the makers do not specify the relative proportions, but it would surprise us if this were not ~50/50).

To see an information and tasting sheet for this wine that has been prepared by the team at Caruso & Minini, please click on the blue link below.

Caruso & Minini Terre di Giumara Frappato Nerello Mascalese - fiche technique

The wine has a aromas and flavours of jammy red fruits, summer herbs and a touch of violet. On the palate it is rich, yet refreshing. For a more colourful and dynamic tasting note, do see the Jancis article/review above! Of previous vintages, Decanter have said, "Fermented in stainless steel, with a third then racked into oak tonneaux for eight months. A light, fresh cherry character fills the glass, with darker fruit following on behind. In the mouth, there's a wonderfully sweet, fresh strawberry and baked red fruit flavour profile, framed by a touch of wood and peppery spice. Great with duck".

ABV = 13.5%.


Matetic Corralillo Carmenere 2018 (1x75cl)


The 2016 vintage was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their April 2019 panel tasting of Chilean Carmenère (see blue link below).

Matetic Corralillo Carmènere 2016 - April 2019 Decanter review

That 2016 vintage was also awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 tasting/article of/on Top 30 Chilean Wines Under £25 (see blue link below).

Matetic Corralillo Carmenere 2016 - June 2019 Decanter review

See also our blog (= click this link) on that April review in detail and for more information on this wine and Carmenère in general.

"Ah", you may well say, "but is this 2018 as good as the 2016?"


To that end, see our video tasting here.

The Matetic family has a history of settling in new territory and making a success of agriculture. In 1892, the current members’ ancestors made the long journey by sea from the Croatian coast to Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chile. They soon acquired large haciendas for sheep and dairy farming. It was only in 1999 that the fourth generation of Chilean Matetic made the move into winemaking.

After a detailed study of the terroir, Jorge Matetic Hartard and his relatives decided to plant vineyards in a previously overlooked side valley of the San Antonio appellation - Rosario. Just 15km from the Pacific Ocean, the rolling hills of Rosario Valley benefits from cooling sea breezes and huge swings in temperature - from as much as 27 deg C in the afternoon to 7 deg C at night. Well drained, quartz-sandy soil requires vines to dig their roots deep into the ground (up to four metres) to find water and nutrients, making for low yields and high-quality fruit.

With the additional purchase in 2005 of vineyards in Casablanca Valley, the Matetic vineyard has a phenomenal range of grape varieties planted - Matetic Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carménère, Malbec - but they made their mark early on with the first cold-climate Syrah in 2001.

The Corralillo label is a nod to an old winery on a corral which had once produced wines from the native País grape. These wines - Gewurztraminer, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and the Winemakers Blend (Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc) express this frontier-pushing terroir with great individuality and draw from plots in Maipo, near Santiago, and Colchagua further south, as well as San Antonio.

Biodynamic viticulture one of the key eco-friendly practices the Matetic Vineyard follows in its winemaking - it is certified organic and sustainable as well as biodynamic. Regarding the Rosario Valley as a single organism, the team works hard to maintain the health of the ground (using Rudolf Steiner’s preparations of quartz, manure, herbs etc in cow horns but only using indigenous materials), the crops and the varied animal life in the ecosystem. Grape pomace is added to compost from the restaurant to be reused in the Matetic vineyards, as is water which has been used to clean barrels. And in human terms, local people make up the majority of staff, and the winery sells woollen and other craft goods made by artisans nearby. It’s all part of a philosophy that aims to make winemaking a venture which will benefit the family and its neighbours for generations to come.

The 2018 Corralillo Carmenere is sourced from the sub-valley of Colchagua Valley, Apalta. The vineyards are located on slopes that receive great sun exposure. The soil's parent material is highly mixed - dominantly colluvial and of granitic origin - but very complex due to the presence of clays, lime and organic matter. These solils have have low fertility - perfect for viticulture - and excellent drainage.

For more detail, especially on winemaking, see the blue link below for the technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Matetic Corralillo Carmenere 2018 - fiche technique

95%+ Carmenere, <5% Syrah.

Deep dark violet color with red hues. Very intense on the nose, with a blend of black fruits, cocoa, spices and a piquant hint that characterize this grape variety. On the palate the wine shows great balance between weight and freshness, with a long, lingering finish developing to great volume and structure. An ideal companion for mature cheeses, red meat, charcuterie etc. 

ABV = 13.5%.


Ken Forrester (Barrel Selection) Roussanne 2019 (1x75cl)

** SERIOUSLY RARE AND EXCLUSIVE - this wine is normally only a cellar-door exclusive at the Forrester winery and has never made it to to the UK (beyond grey imports). **



Situated on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain, in the heart of South Africa's most famous wine region Stellenbosch, Ken Forrester's vineyards are commonly referred to as the home of Chenin Blanc and other premium award-winning wines. Over the years, this range of top quality wines has received massive national and international acclaim with literally hundreds of awards and accolades. The wines are broadly available in reputable restaurants and exported around the globe. Ken Forrester’s philosophy has always been to create a range of handcrafted, individually made wines that suitably complement a wide variety of food styles and provide excellent value.

Ken's Rousanne is another serious statement - like the Gypsy and the Three Halves - to his commitment to a Stellenbosch-isation of the great grapes of the Rhone Valley. It is one of his few and rare Cellar Exclusives. It sits in Ken's Barrel Selection wines just below the Icons (FMC, Gypsy, T Noble) and above his Reserve Range. It's nominally on the same level as the Three Halves, but we'd argue it's a notch above (and the Three Halves is itself quite some wine).

There is only a limited quantity of this gorgeous and most sensuous white wine. The older large barrels have added richness and texture without any hint of flab.

For full details, see blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from Ken.

Ken Forrester Roussanne 2019 - fiche technique

100% Roussanne.

Elegant, rich restrained, hints of lime blossom, soft on the palate with a gentle structure, this classic Rhone grape thrives in the Mediterranean climate here at The Cape of Good Hope. As the IWSC said of the 2015 vintage, "Sundried orchard fruit, creamy lees with terrific oak and acid balance. Full-bodied, mouthfilling and rounded with great restraint and elegance. Long gentle spice farewell."

Of that same vintage, Richard Hemming, for wrote, "White fruit, fennel and aniseed giving complexity, a nicely integrated acidic lift and lots of cereal, oaty flavour on the finish".

This wine whilst perfectly accessible in youth will reward good cellaring and keeping for up to 10 years.

A classic wine; perfect with smoked fish or chicken, anchovies on the grill or even a tangy Caesar salad.

ABV = 13.5%.



Chiara Condello Romagna Sangiovese Predappio (normale) 2017 (1x75cl)


For the curious, interested and time-rich, see this excellent webinar/tasting with Chiara Condello from May 2020.

Here's our video tasting here of the 2016, which was combined with one for a rare Roero DOCG Nebbiolo.

"Notes of spicy cherry, wild berries and purple flowers lift from Chiara Condello’s 2017 Romagna Sangiovese Predappio, followed by hints of white pepper and animal musk. On the palate, silky textures soothe the senses, ushering in ripe red and hints of blue fruit laced with saline-minerals, which create a tactile expression. The finish is long and fresh, revealing a hint of sour melon that mixes with the residual acids to create a sweet and sour effect. While the 2016 might color a little more within the classic lines and last a bit longer in the cellar, this 2017 is perfectly balanced, fruit-forward and ready to give a lot of pleasure". Eric Guido, Vinous.

Chiara Condello is a young winemaker located in the town of Predappio in Emilia-Romagna, specifically Romagna. Chiara owns 7 hectares of land, 4.8 of which are planted to Sangiovese; the rest are split between woods and olive trees.  Her family also makes wine in Predappio under their own label called Condè, but Chiara works in her own way, with her own vineyards and own cellar.  Her first vintage was 2015, and in short time she’s combined her bright-eyed enthusiasm with a clear vision of what her Sangiovese should be.

Romagna is no stranger to Sangiovese; many ampelographers believe it originates here and not in Tuscany. Predappio is one of twelve villages that give their names to Sangiovese subzones authorized as of the 2011 vintage. It is located in the foothills of the Apennines, and is characterized by a sedimentary soil called spungone, which is relatively young (three million years old, from the Pliocene epoch).  It contains abundant, intact shells of marine life, often quite large, and is chunky and porous, held together by a calcareous sandstone 'cement'.

A Romagna Sangiovese with an authorized subzone on the label must be 95% Sangiovese, with lower yields and more stringent ageing requirements compared to a regular Romagna Sangiovese.  Chiara’s two wines—a normale (this wine) and a Riserva called Le Lucciole (an emerging superstar wine retailing at ~£60 and on strict allocation) - are both 100% Sangiovese and go above and beyond what is required by the appellation.  Farming is organic, making use of cover crops and the occasional application of horse manure. In the cellar, Chiara draws inspiration from the late Giulio Gambelli, often using open-top fermenters with extended maceration (sometimes with whole clusters), and a preference for ageing in large neutral vessels.

This wine: Harvested late September/early October 2017 (earlier than in 2016; crop riper earlier). 100% Sangiovese from three vineyards parcels between 150m and 350m above sea level, with a north/northeast exposure.  One is clay-limestone, one is red clay with high spungone content, and the last is clay-limestone with veins of spungone. The vines are approximately 40 years old. The grapes were partially destemmed but not crushed, leaving whole berries intact. Fermentation was spontaneous in small stainless steel tanks (with temperature control), and open-top tronconic wood vats and tonneaux. Macerations lasted 15-25 days. Ageing was for one year in used 3500-litre Slavonian oak botti plus 6 months in bottle. Unfined and unfiltered.

Annual production is just 12,000 bottles.

Organically produced.

Exel tasting note: Clear (in that way Sangiovese is), with a bright ruby colour. The Predappio has an intense, seriously fruity nose: classic (and very ripe) red cherries, married with blacker-than-usual fruits for Sangiovese – most notably, blackberries and black cherries. There’s florality and complexity here: hints of violets and rose allied with soft, sweet vanilla tones from the oak. Very balanced in the mouth with silky tannins and beautiful acidity; long and elegant. This is ripe, rich and sumptuous for a Sangiovese, reflecting the warmth of the vineyards. This is thus a more easy-drinking (and ready-to-drink) style of Sangiovese, with acidity and tannins tamed (a little) more than usual, yet lacking neither in complexity or the ability to age (easily five years, and probably ten).

How does the 2017 differ from the 2016? As per Vinous's note at the top of this page, it's softereasier and more voluptuous (the 2017, that is). 2017 was a very hot vintage throughout Italy. It imposed a challenge on all top-end wine producers in crafting elegant, balanced wines. What the 2017 normale/Predappio lacks in elegance and multi-layered structure, it more than makes up for immediacy and approachability ... and this was already an approachable Sangiovese. It is very more-ish and a highly enjoyable glass of red wine (and that is to undersing its praises). Note that these are not shorthand terms for a wine that is 'too hot' - Chiara has managed to tame the heat and make a very well-balanced and excellent Sangiovese, espeially at this rice-point, but it inherently darker, blacker, riper and softer in nature than the 2016.

ABV = 14.0%.


Kumeu River, Rays Road Chardonnay 2018 (1x75cl)


In September 2020, in making this her Wine of the Week, Jancis Robinson ( writes of this:

- in summing up: "a fine, burgundian Chardonnay that's already drinking well';

- and more fully: "the 2018 is already drinking beautifully and will probably continue to do so for the next five years. My tasting note: Quite a ‘stony’ nose and already lots of fun. Seems more than a year more evolved than the 2019. At a very nice stage now. Fresh and minerally and super-crisp but quite satisfying and not meagre at all. Super-clean. Just right for current drinking. If only all white burgundy offered this accessibility (I'm talking both price and taste). Really quite long. A neat, complete wine. At the moment I prefer this to the more intense but unformed Rays Road 2019. VGV" (= Very Good Value). 

"First release of Chardonnay from a newly acquired Hawke's Bay vineyard on a north-facing site with limestone soils. Pure, taut wine with chalk, mineral, grapefruit, citrus, bran biscuit and nutty oak flavours. An impressive debut. 95/100", 5th Sep 2019, Bob Campbell MW.

From the pioneering days to the establishment of the New Zealand wine industry to today, the Brajkovich family have been internationally recognised as producing world class wine. The Brajkovich family continue to harvest their grapes at Kumeu and refine their wine making skills. The Brajkovichs are nationally recognised as a founding family of the New Zealand wine industry, and the current generation are internationally recognised as producing world class Chardonnay.

Just as the Brajkovich family has grown, so too has the winery itself. Extensions and additions mark the milestones that have seen business adapt and expand over the years. Today, the winery produces around 250,000 bottles annually from 30 hectares of its own vineyards in Kumeu, and another 10 hectares from local growers.

Ray's Road is Kumeu River (KR)’s new vineyard site in Hawkes Bay. This limestone hillside is at 180 m altitude, with a northerly aspect. It is dry-farmed to yield high quality grapes for wine under the Ray's Road name for the Kumeu River label.  

- Hand harvested;

- Whole-bunch pressed;

- Indigenous/wild yeast fermentation;

- 100% barrel fermentation;

- 100% malolactic fermentation;

- 11 months' maturation in (older French oak) barrel(s).

Chardonnay 100%.

This Chardonnay is a wine that is zesty and fragrant, with mineral complexity that is very true to its site. From the recently acquired vineyard in Hawke's Bay and vinified in older French oak, a lovely quality of almond and oatmeal, soft, a light butteriness and the juicy character, some flint. On the palate green apple and a touch of ripe pear and melon, a squirt of lemon juice freshness is very focused.

Additionally, KR themselves say, "All of our Chardonnay from 2018 is supple and approachable but the limestone soils of this vineyard give us quite a different expression to the vineyards we have in Kumeu. The wine is fragrant and flinty with a hint of pink grapefruit. The palate is supple but with a limestone edge that is piercing and lingering. It will be interesting to see how this wine develops but we fully expect to see it improve with bottle age along the same lines as the other Kumeu River wines". 

ABV = 13.0%.

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