(2019) Chardonnay from the south Burgundy, this has very little oak that I can detect, though there is perhaps a smidgeon giving a creamy almond and pastry touch to the ripe orchard fruits, maybe just a fleeting glimpse of something floral too. In the mouth it has medium body and a typically versatile combination of sweet fruit - but not too much of it - creamy texture and refined balancing acidity. Long with just a whisper of toast, it is fresh and appetising.
(2019) A Manzanilla, made from the Palomino grape grown in Jerez, and aged in a solera system in the humid conditions around Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Tasted from a white wine glass, this pale yellow, 15% alcohol Sherry does have the distinctive iodine tang of briny sea air, as well as dry nut husk and apple notes. On the palate it is intense and oh so dry, but it is rich, again it is nuttiness that floods the palate here, with that fresh and vital salty acidity giving great length. Pound for pound in terms of world wine quality, these Sherries remain such a bargain. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas. Price and stockists below for half bottles. Full bottles in Waitrose and others, at around £11.00.
(2018) A small proportion of the Chardonnay for this cuvée from Nyetimber was barrel-fermented, and the wine was released only after a full five years on the lees. Pale straw/gold, with very small bubbles, the yeasty development is inviting, a touch of biscuit against the crisp summer orchard fruit. In the mouth it seems to have quite a sweet edge to the fruit, perhaps towards the top of the 'Brut' range I'd guess, and that, plus the creamy lees character, gives a slightly softer finish despite the wine retaining good zippy acid. It also makes it a very pleasing wine to sip, or match with white fish and sushi.
(2018) A deeply coloured wine with an attractive blackcurrant pastille ripeness and peppery lift on the nose, certainly fruit-driven. On the palate there's a light meat-stock character to the supple black fruit, quite soft tannins and a juiciness to the acidity, thought the 14.5% alcohol does show through a little in the finish.
(2018) Very deep, crimson/black stuff, this comes from a single vineyard on the slopes of the Hawekwa Mountains in Wellington. It is meaty, dense and quite closed on first pouring, but opens up to blackcurrant and spices, a touch of graphite and cedar, but stays meaty and dark. In the mouth the ripe sweetness of the fruit powers through, a fleshy richness, with the tannins and spiciness from the barrels filling in beneath, the 14.5% alcohol this time being soaked up rather better by the fruit and structure, to finish on spice and sweet fruit.
(2017) It is still relatively rare to see a single varietal Petit Verdot: one of Bordeaux's minor varieties rarely gets star billing. In Bordeaux small amounts are used to add spice to the blend, but here under the South African sun it gains extra fruit concentration, ripeness and smoothness. The colour is deep and saturated, and the nose shows plenty of spice and pepper, a clove and nutmeg character and glossy black cherry and plum. In the mouth that spiciness continues, and despite its 14.5% alcohol, it is braced by tight, fine tannins and a pert cherry pit acidity, that works against a creaminess and depth to very nice effect.
(2017) What an absolute treat to open this 11-year-old Cabernet from Margaret River, and the family estate of Leeuwin. Under screwcap it is in perfect condition, showing a plum and sweet gamey character, notes of tobacco and herbal, gentle leafiness along with graphite adding complexity and precision. Clearly the product of a cool year, that leafy character is overpowered on the palate by the concentration of blackcurrant fruit, very pure and again precise, with really firm, tart, plum and cherry skin biting tannin and acid to tension the whole picture. Drinking beautifully. Note the price and stockist given is for the current vintage at time of writing.
(2017) Monterey, just south of San Francisco and on the Pacific Coast, is perhaps best known for its world famous aquarium rather than wine, but this is a terrific Pinot showing a fine understanding of the variety. Aged in French oak, only part new barrels, for around six months, it has a pale/medium cherry colour and alluring nose, crammed with cherry, vanilla and hints of Sandalwood and cocoa. In the mouth the spice and the briary character is wonderfully rich, but there's a flood of creamy fruit too. Five spice and cocoa emerge again on the finish, enlivened by a touch of ripe peach, then good acidity and fine tannins to round out a sumptuous picture. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2016) Lebanon once again finds itself next door to terrible conflict in Syria, but the winemakers of this beautiful country are pretty unshakable now, and business carries on in face of adversity. I've recently reviewed 30 rosé wines in my annual round-up, but there are so many around that I will be adding a supplement with another dozen soon. One of them will be this unusual blend of Tempranillo and Rhône varieties from Lebanon's Domaine des Tourelles, a fruity but savoury interpretation, deeper in colour than the ubiquitous Provence examples, but with a good food-friendly depth. Watch the video for more detail and food-matching ideas.