(2023) This is a selection of the best barrels, for a wine produced only in the best vintages, of Chardonnay that is wild fermented and aged in French oak. The oak sits fairly prominently, nutty, toasty and with a figgy richness. The earthy wild yeast character is a part the picture too. The palate has power, concentrated and rich with its 14% alcohol, again there is fig and smokiness, the fruit dry and incisive, apple and a pithy lemon intensity.
(2022) Only 20 barrels of this ultra-premium Chardonnay from Journey's End were produced, from a single vineyard block. Free-run juice was fermented with natural yeast in a combination of 300L and 228L French oak barrels, only 10% going through malolactic fermentation. Lees were stirred in barrel during 10 months for a rich and creamy, golden Chardonnay. There's no shortage of Brazil nut and toasty aroma, the fruit beneath quite cool with a stone fruit and pear character. In the mouth the oak and alcohol give a big, no-hold-barred flavour, but the key here is the excellent lemony acidity that slices through the nutty richness into a long finish.
(2022) From soils of red volcanic clay and 50-year-old vines, fermentation was with 'neutral' cultured yeasts, and the wine bottled early to preserve freshness. There is lemony freshness here, but even a hint of succulent pear and peach. Already there are nuances of flowers and Acacia honey in the mix. The palate has lovely fruit, a burst of tangerine juiciness that is a little different from the usual lemony character one might expect. Lovely, ripe style.
(2022) Surprisingly, this 'alternative' variety is from a vineyard planted 24 years ago - the first in the Hunter. It was fermented in steel, then matured in in a mix of barriques and larger puncheon barrels, all French oak, and no new barrels for 12 months. Creamy oak and a bright raspberry fruit on the nose, the fruit red in character. The palate has a lovely succulence and sweetness; there's intense cherry and ripe plum, some intense spiciness, and lip-smacking acidity. Tannins are chocolaty and rich in a deliciously full and satisfying wine.
(2022) Bollinger is renowned as a house that celebrates Pinot Noir - witness their über-expensive Vieilles Vignes Françaises, just like this wine, a Blanc de Noirs. PN TX17 is part of the PN project, celebrating vineyards in areas Bollinger consider as prime Pinot Noir terroirs. From a base of 2017 (though with 48% reserve wines dating back to 2006 in the blend), this comes from the unheralded 1er Cru of Tauxières (with just a smidgeon of fruit from Verzenay and Avenay). Tauxières is known for its limestone and clay soils, and for this wine around 50% was barrel-fermented. The dosage is a lowly 4g/l. I find the nose here particularly attractive. There's rich biscuit and brioche, but a cedary, almost meaty umami character, ripe stone fruits layered beneath. In the mouth it tensions dramatically: zesty lemon and lime is the spine here, but building around it are toast and mouthfilling peach and ogen melon, but that cedary, wood tannin grip, along with minerals and salts adds significant structure. It's an extremely intense wine, lingering on fruit, acid and a sense of  graphite precision.
(2022) A biodynamic wine from a family estate of 50 hectares, this is 50% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 15% Clairette and 15% Syrah. Vines are over 50 years old, and a macertation of 36 hours has produced a typically dark, Negroni-coloured wine with cherry and vine fruit aromas, a little bit of creaminess and a touch of earthy character. In the mouth it is weighty and dry, much more savoury, lemony and with a little tannin structure than a Provence rosé for example. Don't chill this too much, and treat it as a food-, rather than a sipping-wine.
(2022) From relatively cool sites in Stellenbosch, South Africa, there's a delightful aroma that blends chocolate and floral and herb notes, with a deep red berry fruitiness. The palate has a fine oak background, coffeeish again and creamy, but the powerful fruit has intensity, without too much extraction, melting into very fresh fruit skin acidity and silky, fine tannins. A plush and forward wine, but my word it drinks beautifully.
(2021) A blend of the local Kangun (65%) and Rkatsiteli from vineyards at over 1000 metres altitude, this is unoaked and comes from an area close to the biblical Moutn Arrarat. Fresh pear and a zipping lemon and lemon rind are the main aromatic notes, a little fresh green grape too. The palate has plenty of peachy fruit, lime and a really lovely, clear acid line to the finish. A stylish and modern interpretation from one of the most ancient of all winemaking countries. Watch the video for more information.
(2021) Massaya is a partnership between the Ghosn family of Lebanon and the Hebrard and Prunier families of Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley respectively. An unusual blend of more or less equal parts Grenache, Cinsault and Tempranillo. Bright creamy crimson, it is moderate in density and offers aromas of pomegranate, spice and pepper. This does not appear to have seen oak. In the mouth there's a savoury, endive and liquorice twist to this. On the mid-palate more sweetness comes through, the wine is medium-bodied despite the 14.5% alcohol, the finish rather dry with a dustiness to the tannins.
(2021) From Kakheti in eastern Georgia, this is 100% Saperavi and I believe it spends a short time in oak. It's a powerful wine, with some Italian tinned tomato character on the nose, spices and plum. In the mouth there's a twist of liquorice, but fleshy black plum fruit too that is sweet and mouth-filling, maybe event a touch of cocoa in there. The axis of tannin and keen acidity certainly gives it a bit of bite too, long and fresh in the finish.