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Ken Forrester Sparklehorse Cap Classique 2017 (1x75cl)

Click here for a short video on - and tasting note for - the Sparklehorse from Ken Forrester himself (in classic Ken fashion).

Without the efforts of men like Ken Forrester, South African Chenin Blanc might be scarcely more than a footnote to the country’s recent winemaking history – a workhorse (see below) grape responsible for vast amounts of forgettably bland white wine. But this Zambia-born former restaurateur saw the potential of this grape, placing it firmly at the centre of his resurrection of the historic Scholtzenhof farm on the slopes of Stellenbosch’s Helderberg mountain in the early 1990s. More than twenty years on, Ken is known as ‘Mr Chenin’. 

Sparklehorse is made using the Cap Classique method (MCC appears on labels, Méthode Cap Classique), which is the South African term for the traditional method/méthode traditionelle of in-bottle second fermentation used to create many of the world's classic sparkling wines (including Champagne).

The grapes for Sparklehorse - 100% Chenin Blanc - come from a carefully selected cool vineyard site which was first planted in 1975. The vineyard faces south-south-west and has sandy soil. These factors all allow the grapes to mature whilst continuing to maintain a high level of refreshing acidity which gives the wine its character.

This wine is aged for 14 months on its yeast lees to allow it to develop a creaminess and delicate mousse while still maintaining bright, fresh apple, pear and quince aromas. Intense green apples dominate the nose and first sip is like biting into a crisp, bright, green cooking apple. Fresh mousse and soft finish make it a delicious wine. Served as an aperitif or with food or simply with friends. As they say at the Forrester vineyards, "ideal with seafood, salmon, sushi, salads and sunsets.”

"And why Sparklehorse?", we asked.

Ken replied, “I was always captivated by the intricacies of sparkling wine. One specific vineyard on the property offered the right conditions for full-flavoured, early harvest wines and so with this fruit I decided to embark on a special project. Since deriving from the workhorse variety, I wanted to have some fun and cheer the whole package up and the name "sparklehorse" had instant appeal, with the idea of a colourful fairground pony, a sparkling carousel horse - every child’s first pony! And so the concept was presented- a dreamy, colourful, sparkling horse, straight off a carousel. The label captures the spirit and fun of the fair, the horse is truly the embodiment of fun and all that sparkling wine represents!"

ABV = 11.5%.

£18.70

Caballo Loco 17 NV (1x75cl)

** VERY LIMITED UK STOCK. ABOUT TO BE USED IN OUR FORTHCOMING VALDIVIESO/CABALLO LOCO TASTING, SO LIMITED TO TWO BOTTLES PER CUSTOMER UNTIL AFTER THE TASTING! **

Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter in their June 2019 panel tasting of South American Icon Wines (see blue link below).

Caballo Loco 17 NV - June 2019 Decanter review

The winemaker's own technical sheets appear below (click blue links) - the Spanish inclusion may seem a little leftfield, but includes regional and other info that have yet to be put onto the English version

Caballo Loco 17 - fiche technique - English

Caballo Loco 17 - fiche technique - Spanish

For our article on 'the' (this) Caballo Loco, the appellation/Grand Cru Caballo Locos and the better wines of the Valdivieso fleet, click this link.

Valdivieso's top wine and stable star, the Caballo Loco is known around the world and each year changes merely its edition and, technically, not its vintage. It brings together every Cabollo Loco made since 1992 (the year of version 1), in what is, effectively, a solera system (as used for sherry and brandy de Jerez).

The idea for Caballo Loco was inspired by the legendary Ribera de Duero, Vega Sicilia Único Gran Reserva, which is produced using the solera method. This is the winemaking technique used for sherry and brandy de Jerez production, in which barrel-aged wines from different years are progressively and fractionally blended for reasons of both complexity and consistency.

The first Caballo Loco was produced in 1994 (Caballo Loco 1) and made from a blend of 50% of that year’s vintage with an aged blend from 1992. 

The resulting wine is bottle-aged for at least 18 months before release onto the market, and being a blend of wines from different years, there is, of course, no vintage on the label.

The grapes for the premium Caballo Loco come from four different vineyards in central Chile. The blend of the new wine varies each time it is made. Number 1 for example was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir, whilst later editions have contained varieties as diverse as Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carménère. Only Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are ever-present, these being blended with the best grapes from the other varieties that were most successful in the particular year (and best suited to create the intended balance of the Caballo Loco).

Each bottle of this version 17 therefore comprises:

- 50% version 16 and

- 50% of grapes from harvests from 2012 and 2013. New for version 17 was Carignan from Melozal (a sub-region of Maule) and Syrah from Limarí. This variety brings to the Caballo Loco another dimension of complexity, with balanced freshness and acidity.

The result is a wine of great concentration, quite unlike any other on the market. There is intense mature berry fruit on the nose and richness on the palate with velvety tannins, and so many layers of flavours that the wine is almost impossible to describe in detail. The secret blend of grapes from different vintages create intense aromas of dark cherry, coffee, and rich fruitcake. Full bodied on the palate with a beautiful lingering structure. 

It is a unique - some say crazy - wine, which is quite incomparable. It has great aromatic complexity and in the mouth, and an ageing potential of at least 10 years.

ABV = 14.5%.

£34.60

Mt Difficulty Roaring Meg Pinot Noir 2018 (1x75cl)

"Medium-deep red-purple colour, youthful and fresh, as it is also on the nose. Bright Campari, bitter-herb aromas, with dominant red and black-cherry aromas. The wine is medium bodied and bright on the tongue, with remarkable depth of flavour for the money and plenty of soft, fine tannin. There is a lovely core of sweet fruit, too." 91 Points, Huon Hooke, 26 September 2018

Established in 1992, the Dicey family owns some of the oldest vineyards in the Bannockburn region of Central Otago on the famous Felton Road and have acquired land over the last ten years to build up to over 40 hectares, including six single vineyard sites. Their portfolio vineyards spans Central Otago from Gibbston to Lowburn Valley and on to Bendigo home still under Mount Difficulty at Bannockburn.

Central Otago provides New Zealand’s only continental climate, combined with unique soils ideally suited for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. The Bannockburn area, in particular, is one of the few sites outside of Burgundy that lends itself to the growing of the pernickety Pinot Noir grape; Mt Difficulty craft wines in the Burgundian style whilst stamping the uniqueness of the terroir to produce structured and serious wines. Not content with growing superb Pinot Noir, they are also known for their aromatic whites and grape varieties such as their grower series Lowburn Chardonnay and Estate Chenin Blanc.

Winemaker-in-chief Matt Dicey has a lifelong association with the wine industry and is a fourth-generation vigneron. After achieving a Masters Degree in Oenology and Viticulture, Matt spent four years gaining experience overseas.

As with all New Zealand wines, Mt Difficulty adhere to strict sustainability practices and constantly strive towards organic production.

Mount Difficulty is the name on the leading wines. The ‘second label’ is named Roaring Meg; these wines are produced in a more fruit-driven, early-drinking style and have become a mainstay of the Mt Difficulty stable since their introduction in 2003.

See the blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the team at Mt Difficulty (this is the 2017 sheet; 2018's is impending!).

Mt Difficulty Roaring Meg Pinot Noir 2017 - fiche technique

This wine is 100% Pinot Noir.

The Roaring Meg is a classic example of Central Otago Pinot Noir. It exhibits a lovely mix of red and black berry fruits with further complexity gained from oak spice. The wine has a sweet berry palate which displays these same characters in abundance. Tannins rise gracefully out of the mid-palate to finish the wine; these are balanced by the wine’s natural acidity and fruit, to produce a long and fruit-driven finish.

ABV = 14.0%.

£17.30

Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage Domaine De Thalabert Rouge 2017 (1x75cl)

Since the early 19th Century, Paul Jaboulet Ainé has been synonymous with quality wine in the Rhône Valley. Jaboulet’s Hermitages - white and red - and most of their upper wines - are the stuff of legend. The famous Rhone winery was bought by the Frey family in 2006. The Freys, owners of Chateau la Lagune in Bordeaux, saw the potential of the vineyards. They brought renewed energy to this corner of France and to one of its greatest names.

The Domaine de Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage, as the Oxford Companion to Wine describes it, remains the "appellation's principal standard bearer". It has long been seen as having the quality of nearby Hermitage, particularly in good vintages, at only a small fraction of the price.

See this link for an excellent guided tasting of the 2012 vintage by one of the world's leading sommeliers.

The Crozes-Hermitage vineyard is the largest of all the northern Rhône Valley appellations. It extends over 11 communes situated in the Drôme, on the left bank of the Rhône. Domaine de Thalabert has belonged to the Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné since 1834. It is situated on the plain, and is the oldest in the appellation.

This estate of around 40 ha lies on a pebbly plain that is glacial in origin. The small, round pebbles store heat during the day and release it at night, providing optimum ripening of the Syrah grapes  Average vine age is an impressive 40 to 60 years.

100% Syrah. The grapes from the Thalabert estate are carefully sorted then meticulously vinified using traditional methods. Traditionally aged in wood for 12 months in Jaboulet's ancient VINEUM cellar.

Deep ruby and bright. Intense, complex and aromatic with a blend of red berries and animal notes. Powerful and fine; noble tannins; full, well-balanced finish.

ABV = 13.5%.

£25.25

Caballo Loco Grand Cru Apalta 2017 (1x75cl)

** BOUGHT IN TO ORDER - ORDERS PLACED BY 9am MONDAY WILL BE IN STOCK FOR DELIVERY THREE DAYS LATER.**

The Caballo Loco Grands Crus were created by Valdivieso to show the different wines that are fundamental components of the icon Caballo Loco wine. For this reason, specific wines from specific valleys wine were born, where each strain/blend reflects the maximum expression of that valley.

One can arguably see these wines as understudies for the "true" Caballo Loco, but they are more than that, being quite superb - and full-throttle - wines in their own right, made with all the care, attention and know-how of the NV/"solera" version.

This Grand Cru Apalta represents all the fruit power and smoothness of the Colchagua Valley, with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere.

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

Caballo Loco Grand Cru Apalta 2017 - fiche technique

70% Carmenere, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Great intensity of ripe plum, blackberry and damson with a hint of pepper spice. The fruit flavours and oak are beautifully integrated with smooth tannins and a firm structure.  

ABV = 14.5%.

£24.60

Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limari 2015 (1x75cl)

Awarded a high 17 points (of 20) on Jancis Robinson's Purple Pages (www.JancisRobinson.comreviewer Alistair Cooper MW - in Feb 2020 (see blue link below).

Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limari 2015 - jancisrobinson.com May 2020 review

Awarded 86 points and Recommended status by Decanter in their October 2020 panel tasting of South American Syrah (see blue link below).

Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limari 2015 - October 2020 Decanter review

The Caballo Loco Grands Crus were created by Valdivieso to show the different wines that are fundamental components of the icon Caballo Loco wine. For this reason, specific wines from specific valleys wine were born, where each strain/blend reflects the maximum expression of that valley.

One can arguably see these wines as understudies for the "true" Caballo Loco, but they are more than that, being quite superb - and full-throttle - wines in their own right, made with all the care, attention and know-how of the NV/"solera" version.

This Grand Cru Apalta represents all the fruit power and smoothness of the Limari Valley, showcasing the excellent Syrah (100% here) of this region.

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

Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limari 2015 - fiche technique

A big, full-bodied wine with delicious aromas and flavours of ripe red cherries, coffee and dark chocolate. It has a luxurious texture and a lingering finish.

ABV = 15.0%.

£24.15
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