(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.
(2016) Carmenere is regarded by many as Chile's 'signature grape', but there are moves afoot to rehabilitate one of the most common grapes of the country, País, which has traditionally been used only for cheap wines for local consumption. Torres have vinified this using the carbonic maceration technique common in Beaujolais, to give a wine that bursts with sweet black cherries on the nose, before a fresh and medium weight palate with a soft tannin structure, plenty of black fruit and a well-balanced finish. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas. Stocks are moving from the 2013 to 2014 vintage at time of writing.
(2016) Solid and sweet cassis and black plum, licked with chocolate and smoky spice, but seriously sweet and ripe fruit, with a richness and gloss, though the chocolate smoothness of the tannins makes it very svelte and creamy. Good structure in a classic style, and very well done. 2013 not in UK at time of writing, so price quoted is for 2012.
(2016) There’s leafiness here too, a touch of something pungent to the fruit, maybe of passion fruit. Balanced and dry on the palate, with citrus and more of that pungent, lightly cabbage quality of good white Burgundy but not fantastically 'Chablis' in style.
(2015) Gorgeous nose, from the same terroir as the Grand Vin, this shows lovely Botrytis notes with barley sugar richness. The palate has roundness and richness too, but it is the orangey, vibrant finish that sets this apart, a touch of bitterness, of kumquat, to throw that sweetness into wonderful relief. Delicious, long and tangy. Price is for a half bottle.
(2015) The striking feature of Ferghettina's Milledi cuvée (there's a cheaper straight 'Brut' too) is its bottle. Researched and designed by winemaker Matteo Gatti, its beauty is more than skin deep: Gatti claims the square sides allow two and a half times greater lees contact as the wine lays in the cellars compared to traditional bottles. It is a Blanc de Blancs made from 100% Chardonnay, aged 36 months on the lees with a dosage of 7g/l and 12.5% alcohol. Fresh, herby and lightly toasty, it is open and lightly oxidative in style, lovely fruit sweetness coming through with some honey on the palate, a gentle mousse and very good length and clarity.