(2019) 100% Viognier from three blocks with different aspects, giving quite different characters, one shaded and the others facing the sun. 50/50 maturation in new French and second fill oak. Very good Viognier character, lots of ripe peach and nectarine fruit, a clean pear acidity and finishes full but not overwhelming. Price and stockist at time of review is for an earlier vintage.
(2019) Right Bank style blend, with a nice 60% merlot but nice Cab Franc herbal and olive character, set against massive amounts of cassis and minty/chocolate ripeness. There’s load of coffee and plum, but the sweetness never varies, a fairly massive wine, sumptuous in style, creamy tannins and soft acidity making it easy to drink despite the high alcohol.
(2019) Mostly Chenin Blanc, with Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Viognier and a touch of Sémillon, made in Foudre. Delightful smokiness and tobacco spice, the ripeness and freshness of the fruit, big sour lemon palate, lots of bright and salty orange acidity, long, spicy and powerful finish.
(2019) One year in 500-litre barrels and foudre for this wine, made from several vineyards in the Swartland. Fine, bloody and delicately meaty nose, exotic fine spices, a touch of rose and bracken character. The palate ripe and sweet fruited. Such lovely tannin structure, a firm and steely backbone and long, pure fruit, tannin and acid balance.
(2019) From bush vines in Wellington, small unirrigated vineyard on the top of the hill. Small part whole-bunch fermented for aromatic lift, naturally yeasts, and aged in second and third fill French barriques. Lots of smoky and tobacco-laced cherry, a gorgeous pure fruitiness to this, not losing the savoury characters, that cherry freshness, but graphite and cedar, tobacco sophistication rounding out that purity. Lovely.
(2019) Old vine Pinot Noir from 1er Cru vineyards in Vertus, this is made by bleeding some colour from the Pinot grapes at the start of fermentation. It's Extra Brut, so dry with only around 3g/l of sugar, but ageing for two years on the lees and six more months on the bottle adds richness. Filled with small, taut red fruit aromas - redcurrant and raspberry - it is vinous for sure, the PInot heritage clear as it strikes the palate with real authority: tight, crisp tannins and acids, the little bullets of hard red fruits giving crunch and presence, and the mousse and touch of leesy creaminess softening the picture into a long, crisply-defined finish. Terrific, thought-provoking pink Champagne.
(2018) Pierre and Sophie Larmandier are among the leading growers in Champagne, farming biodynamically (though un-certified) and with parcels of old vines, in this case Chardonnay from Cramant that is up to 90 years old. It is Extra Brut with a lowly 2g/l of sugar. It's a singularly powerful Champagne, pouring with a golden hint of richness and tiny bubbles, the aromas are firm and gently earthy, with touchs of herbs, lemon and a brioche and biscuit background. In the mouth that intensity is striking: there's a powerful impression of salty minerality, fat lemony fruit that fills the mid-palate, and real length and layered complexity. It's a terrific Champagne and would be wonderful with roast chicken or other poultry. One of my two sparkling wine picks for Christmas 2018, watch the video for more information.
(2018) This wine was the ultimate winner of the Global Pinot Grigio Masters Awards 2018. No, I never knew such awards existed either. It comes from family-owned Slovenian winery, Puklavec, and was vinified in Slavonian oak barrels. It is, I have to say, an excellent Pinot Grigio, brimming with lightly nutty and smoky, but burstingly ripe fruit, before a palate where beautiful nectarine sweet juiciness meets a cool, icy river water clarity. There is texture and slippery weight in the mouth, but dazzling freshness too in this flavour- and personality-packed example. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.
(2017) CAVIT is a super-cooperative (a co-op made up of other co-ops with over 1000 members) that totally dominates the Trentino region as I discovered on a visit way back in 2004. Bottega Vinai is a selection of the very best plots, in this case of Pinot Grigio from 30- to 60-year-old vines. There is a lovely delicacy to this wine, white flowers and the most gentle blossom and apple perfume. In the mouth it is dry, with pear and apple core acidity, and very good concentration. There's a saltiness too, in a crisp, decisive and characterful white wine.
(2017) Only 56 barrels are produced of this all-encompassing blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Shiraz, 11% Merlot, 6% Mourvèdre, 14% Cabernet franc, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Barbera, and 2% Sangiovese. It spends 21 Months in 225L French oak barrels, 25% new.  Initially the idea had been to make only one estate wine: this one. Mark says "It's a real South African blend," showcasing their best varieties and a unique blend. Reserved compared to the Cabernet, dense and plush with tight spices and a smooth but leathery firmness.  The palate has a delicious hint of umami flavour, a touch of Parma ham,  lots of black berries,  spices and then good acidity to give a firm,  lightly cedary,  age-worthy wine.