Winter 2017 roundup of wines tasted

Lots of interesting and very good wines pass my lips that don’t have a natural home within a feature article or as my Wine of the Week for example. As I take notes on all of these wines, now and again I will publish a round-up of wines tasted recently, with no particular theme, but hopefully of interest to wine-pages’ visitors. Below are notes on 30 wines, tasted over the past couple of months, almost all available from UK merchants.

Sparkling

(2017) From the DOCG area of Valdobbiade,, this has only 6g/l of dosage. The bubbles are medium-sized, and the opening aroma is of fresh sliced pear, though some little icing sugar and white flower notes add interest. In the mouth there's a deal of fruit concentration here, the clean pear and lemon flavours of the grape, that lower sugar and plenty of acidity giving it a touch of seriousness, savouriness, into the finish.
(2017) As it says on the label, a wine made by the 'methode traditionelle', from the three Champagne grapes. It has a lively, foamy mousse and aromas that show plenty of citrus and a touch of yeasty autolysis, quite Champagne like indeed. On the palate it seems rather sweet. I am not sure whether it's maximum dosage for Brut that's doing it, or just the fruit quality, but it does tend to make the wine feel slightly simple, which with its very good acidity and touch of biscuity character it is not.
(2017) Moët et Chandon created their Argentine operation in 1959, so have a 60-year record of making sparkling wines here in Mendoza, this a traditional method blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It's a delicious and elegant wine, reminding me of some Franciacorta 'Saten' wines, dominated by creamy, fuller-bodied Chardonnay fruit and with a silkiness to the mousse and texture. Add a soft but persistent acidity and it's a classy Champagne lookalike at a very decent price on Majestic's promotional offer of £13.49 when you buy six (at time of review).
(2017) Taittinger's 2008 is a great wine, there's no doubt about that. With its pale yellow colour and streaming, minuscule bubbles, the initial aromas are of citrus and salts, with a touch of pasty in the background, and an elegant hint of white flowers. In the mouth it is full of verve and vitality, loads of crisp lemony fruit, but that subtle biscuit and brioche is there, a lovely saline lick of acidity, tightening and extending the finish into an ultra-fine point. Drinking very well, it has finesse and concentrated power, and undoubtedly some serious cellaring potential for those who prefer their Champagnes to show more development.

White

(2017) This is a dry, straight down the middle style of citrussy Riesling, but very nice done. Crisp and only lightly aromatic, its the concentrated, pithy lemon of the fruit and direct, apple core dryness that drives through the finish, not carrying any excess weight, clean as a whistle.
(2017) From Nelson on the northern coast of the South Island, this is a particularly punchy and vibrant Grüner Veltliner, with lots of pronounced lychee, mango and a touch of Turkish delight, an almost Gewürztraminer perfume with a ripe peach underlay. In the mouth it is weighty and viscose despite only 12% abv, with loads of that peach and nectarine succulence and ripeness, but a dry, pithy lemon finish. A singular style, and a good one.
(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) There's a whisp of ginger and cinnamon on the nose, then spangle-bright tropical fruit, just an edge of something green and capsicum-like. In the mouth the fruit is sweet, and for me just doesn't quite integrate as it should with the rush of a slightly green acidity. It's very drinkable, but just missing its mark for me.
(2017) A lovely organic (and biodynamic) Chardonnay from film-maker Michael Seresin's Marlborough estate, the high quality French oak perhaps a trifle obvious on the nose for some, but I enjoyed its nutty, buttery sense of opulence because the tangy lime and crunchy, vivid red apple fruit more than matches on the palate, with that salty mineral edge adding another layer of complexity, the broad texture sliced through by the tensioning acidity. A long, poised Chardonnay in a classic, quite Burgundian mould.
(2017) From Lazio, and the DOC of Roma which was created only in 2011, this is an unoaked white from the Malvasia variety and the Frascati-based house of Principe Pallavicini. Immediately juicy and fresh, lots of orchard fruits and a nice little suggestion of waxy citrus rind and melon skin. In the mouth it is really quite sweet. I am not sure if there is residual sugar or just the sweetness of ripe grapes, but it is soon joined by a salty lick of acidity to leave this tangy and positively seaside-fresh in the finish.
(2017) It's nice to see Walker Bay on a label, as this important area southwest of Cape Town was once the hottest name in the country for cool-climate varieties. But a few years ago a new appellation called Hemel-en-Aarde was created within the Walker Bay area, and most producers switched to using that. There's something retro about the label of this wine, which is fitting. It's a crisp, easy-drinking 'somewhere in the middle' style of Sauvignon Blanc that would please those looking for a bit of Kiwi-like vibrancy and punch, but with a sweet tropical fruit core that is tempered slightly with a more European feel.
(2017) This is a very grown-up, serious style of Sauvignon Blanc as befits its winemaker, Andre Van Resnsburg, who once told me his ambition was to make a great white and a great red from Bordeaux varieties. It is concentrated and intense, some fresh pea-shoot and elderflower, but a sense of steeliness too, the thrust of the acidity and weight on the mid-palate giving lots of savoury appeal. Long and juicy despite its obvious power, it is very impressive.
(2017) The epitome of refined Sauvignon Blanc, this does not miss out on fruit or a hint of nicely controlled exuberance, but is so classic in its style. The nose has gentle stone fruit aromas, just a background suggestion of grassiness and flint, all very elegant with a shade of white flowers somewhere in the mix. On the palate the sweet ripeness of the fruit is there, but this is dry and has some hedgerow, gooseberry tartness, a squeeze of grapefruit and lime citrus, into a long, elegantly tapering finish. Very classy Sauvignon Blanc indeed.
(2017) A most enjoyable, high-end white from the Languedoc, it is made from low-yielding Roussanne, with dashes of Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul, fermented and aged in French oak barrels from the Vosges forests. A powerful wine, it opens with plenty of oak on display, toasty and creamy, but also with nice hay and light chalky earth, and a substantial apricot and yellow plum fruit. Intense and powerful on the palate too, there's abundant fruit sweetness, but a driving core of acidity and that alcohol too, to give it a bit of extra definition. Not overblown in any way, but a touch less alcohol would have raised its score a point or two for me.
(2017) The grape here is Bianchello (stockist The Daily Drinker never ceases to surprise me with new varieties). Though some authorities say it is a local Marche synonym for Trebbiano, others disagree confident that it is a variety all of its own. It has quite a deep greeny-gold colour, and quite a waxy, attractive nose suggesting waxy lime skins and apple peel, and a tiny floral note. On the palate it is full-textured and full flavoured, a really nice bitter almond bite to the finish, and a white wine with a bit of substance.
(2017) A case of this was purchased by me maybe a decade ago, and after three of four enjoyable bottles from it, I rather forgot all about the remainder in the cellar, so it was time to try this 27-year-old sweet Chenin Blanc again. The colour is a lovely buttercup/light gold, with immediately attractive notes of honey and wild flowers, beeswax and pollen, quite complex and so inviting. On the palate it is medium-bodied but has some slippery texture and weight, and the sweetness is lovely: just as sweet as I remember it, a light honey and caramel, but dazzling freshness too. Long, with some barley sugar and excellent acidity, it's not full-on sweet, but just lovely. Drink with fruity desserts, foie-gras, or on its own.  There are actually two or three stockists of this 1990 at time of review - use wine-searcher.

Rosé and Red

(2017) From the Loire Valley, this is a Vin 'Gris', a local description for the wine style you and I know as rosé. It's made from the indigenous Pineau d'Aunis variety, and comes from a small vineyard specifically managed to make this rosé wine. The colour is fashionably pale, and it has mouth-watering aromas that immediately suggest it will be dry and savoury, with small red fruits and a crack of pepper, and a fine raspberry-like suggestion of tartness. In the mouth there's a certain creaminess, but its that crisp red fruit and crunchy red apple freshness that pushes forward, some real presence here, even a nip of spicy tannin, and a good long finish.
(2017) Super deep and glossy in colour, this unusual Spanish Malbec has a soaring aromatic, really expressive of the variety's floral-touched, kirsch like character, a touch of blackberry and light smokiness too. In the mouth the approachable delights continue to unfold, with sweet and ripe black fruit, gentle tannins and a pinch of tart acidity to keep it fresh. It's a charmer rather than a bruiser, and all the better for that.
(2017) The Cabernet component comes from vines planted in 1958 according to the back label, in a powerful red with lots of spice, pepper and bold black fruit, a hint of menthol and balsam too. In the mouth the fruit is sweet and rich, quite bright and not overripe or Porty, the tannins slightly rustic slightly and, like the Chardonnay, fairly abrupt acidity that for me is just not quite smoothly integrated.
(2017) Rather a nice and unusual Pinot, the fruit being sourced from three different California appellations, mostly from Monterey, just south of San Francisco, and also from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara tracking south towards Los Angeles. Lots of aromatics here, Chinese dried plums, clove and tobacco, touches of floral character and quite bright cherry too. In the mouth the tobacco warmth of oak adds depth but the silky, supple palate continues to please and impress, smooth, spicy tannins and plum-skin acidity giving a rounded, mellow and most enjoyable finish.
(2017) Pinot Noir remains something of a holy grail for both wine lovers, and winemakers, the grape requiring specific growing conditions and a delicate hand from the winemaker to give of its best. While the top red wines of Burgundy represent the pinnacle of Pinot perfection, it's always nice to find a good example at a modest price that is widely available. From Marlborough, this wears cooler climate credentials with a birary, truffle and twig character on the nose, small, dry red berries like redcurrant and cherry, and a wisp of smoke. In the mouth it is delicate and light, those truffly characters matched by more of that pert cherry fruit, a line of tannin and more of that smokiness to balance nicely.  Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.
(2017) This is a négociant wine from Louis Latour, where growers on long-term contracts supply the Pinot Noir grapes and Latour makes the wine. From 30-year-old vines and unoaked, it has a haunting, expressive fragrance, briar and stalkiness, mushroom and then also clear cherry and red berry fruit. A touch of pepper and herbs adds more interest. Very fresh on the palate, there's a lovely juiciness to this wine, more of that pert red fruit and nicely precise tannins and acids to finish. It's a lovely village Burgundy in a restrained but fruit-forward style. Watch the video for more information.
(2017) From the volcanic soils of Basilicata in the south of Italy, this Primitivo has a bold crimson colour and an equally bold nose, almost Beaujolais like with its cherry and kirsch and lift of briar and flowers. I suspect at least some carbonic maceration here, the whole berry fermentation technique of much Beaujolais. Very punchy, very vibrant on the palate, its that cherry pit and rose-hip openness and summery appeal that is just lovely. There is tannin, and certainly some very good acidity to balance and freshen too, but that breezy, confident and honest fruitiness powers through. Delicious.
(2017) A fragrant, light ruby-coloured and light-bodied red with a distinctly truffle and briar nose, this is one for the Pinot lover, its crisp and crunchy framework of acidity and neat tannins wrapping round bright cherry fruit, a bit of sour plum bite that's typically Italian, in a most refreshing style.
(2017) Made on the island of Sardinia from Bovale (aka the Spanish variety Graciano) this packs 14% alcohol and has a dark colour, and a nose reminding me of roasted chestnuts, plum and soy, before a palate where ripe, sweet cherry fruit leads the way, before spices, a herby-woody note and the heft of the alcohol and grippy, fairly dry rustic tannin kicks in. Most certainly a food wine, it has a delicious authenticity,
(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) The recently launched 'Max's' range from Penfolds is of course an homage to Max Schubert, the first Chief Winemaker for Penfolds, and the man who created Grange. As is usual with so many of Penfold's premium wines, fruit is sourced widely across South Australia, and the wine is aged 24 months in older American and French oak barrels, with about 10% in new French oak. It's made to be accessible early, but it is still a wine with a bit of grip and structure, the plush blackcurrant and blueberry aromas framed by sandalwood and vanilla, before a mouth-filling palate of sweet fruit but with a bittersweet twist of liquorice acidity and tight, grippy tannins as well as a touch of alcoholic heat. A few years in the cellar will do this no harm.
(2017) Produced at the Quinta do Baixo estate in Bairrada, Syrah from this region is highly unusual and shows Dirk Niepoort's penchant for pushing the boundaries. And he's done that very well with this crisp and agile Syrah, fermented in traditional lagares and aged in large 2500-litre barrels. It is dry with a sense of tobacco-touched red and black berry fruits, a touch herbal and wild, before a palate where the cool finesse of the acidity and lighter tannins give it a refreshing appeal. Really a lovely rendition of Syrah.
(2017) A typical blend of Syrah and Grenache with Carignan and Mourvèdre, this comes from a stony plateau and has a deep, rich colour. Warming, spicy and flowing with black fruit on the nose, there's a wisp of smoke and herbs which adds extra interest. It's a ripe, plummy and big-hearted wine, some cranberry red fruits joining the depth of black, firm and spicy tannins and a juicy cherry skin acidity add real structure and power. I have a hunch this would cellar rather well for five to eight years too.
(2017) A blend of Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Castelâo, Syrah and Alicant Bouschet, this is dark in colour and aroma with damson plum and blueberry, a touch of chocolate, and a touch of Indian ink. In the mouth it is smooth, silky and offers a deep pool of glossy black fruit. There's a nice inky dryness from the Alicante Bouschet, and good levels of acidity and creamy tannin. It's just grippy and rustic enough in the finish to nicely offset that suave character.

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