(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.
(2017) Stellenbosch vineyards, but not the home estate. Each vintage of this wine is dedicated to one of the family's children, in this case, Ashleigh Anne. A blend of 88% Shiraz, 8% Grenache, 4% Mourvèdre aged 20 months in 225L and 500L French oak barrels. Recipe has changed from new American oak in the early days, to now only old French barrels. The Mourvèdre replaces some of the spice and tannin that would have come from the newer oak. Dry and quite earthy and severe in style, with some creaminess of berries and juiciness. Nice bit of peppery grip months finish.
(2017) Cabernet Sauvignon, with 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot aged 18 months in 225L French oak barrels, 34% of which were new. A lot of the Cabernet is on rocky sandstone and gravel with good root systems that end in clay to retain some water. Delightful nose, cherry and violet, real perfume, a touch of cedar and clove into deeper black fruit. The palate has lots of fruit but textured, layered, with so much spice and savoury character, finishing tight and grippy, just the right sense of plushness from ripe fruit and creaminess to give lovely harmony.
(2017) This wine spends eight months in barrel, but only one quarter new and a mix of 228L, 300L, and 500L French oak. Planted in 1988, one of the oldest Chardonnay blocks in the Cape and unirrigated, on red clay and granite. Very old Burgundy clone. Lovely nose, creamy and oatmeally, a touch of buttery Brazil nut, then very elegant fruit. The palate has delicious slippery texture, nice orange and nutty Cox's fruit, good acidity, again a hint of chalky dryness.
(2017) A strict selection of Elgin’s best quality vineyards. From fertile chalky soils. A nice medium style, aromatic with some exotic fruit, a little squeeze of lemon and a lovely crisp palate, lots of juicy, quite exotic lychee and mango, but the dry pear fruit and touches of chalky mineral acidity add another dimension. Also bottled extensively in 50cl.
(2017) Also with 4% Chardonnay and 2% Viognier in the blend, the fruit sourced from Stellenbosch and Swartland. A fairly deep colour, delicious oatmeal touches, buttery notes, but the freshness and zest comes through. Juicy, textured with a hint of oiliness, but a nice savoury character and finish.
(2016) From volcanic soils, there's a touch of honey to apple fruit, and it's a very nutty opening too, the wine fermented and aged in French oak barrels from Seguin Moreau. There's a lot of pear and apple fruit on the palate too, plenty of texture and richness, and it has a long and saline finish. Whether it distinguishes itself enough to be worth twice the price of other wines here is a moot point.