Caballo Loco No 1 - a piece of modern Chilean history

If you buy lots of wine, then it’s common to overlook bottles, only to encounter them in some nook or cranny of the cellar and think, ‘I should have drunk this sooner.’ Then you go into denial, and because you don’t expect the bottle to be any good, you leave it there neglected. Then you think: I’d better try it before dumping it. I did this with a bottle of Chilean wine that I bought for less than £7 a bottle 21 years ago. It’s the Caballo Loco from Valdivieso. In the early days of internet forums on wine, we discussed this quite a bit. It was a very ambitious Chilean wine, imported by Bibendum (in their glory years), and interestingly the wine was made as a blend across vintages. I think it’s now in its 17th incarnation (released), and is a proper solera system. Here’s my note, and I’ve also found a not on wine anorak from 1997!

Valdivieso Caballo Loco Number One NV Lontue, Chile
This is now mature, but still has lovely fruit. It has aromas of undergrowth, dried herbs, red cherries, damsons and some iodine, with a lovely spiciness. The palate is elegant and supple, with a herby edge to the fresh, generous red berry fruit, good acidity and hints of blood and iron. There’s some nice decay here. The acidity is very lively and perhaps sticking out a bit, as with some older Aussie wines, but this has developed beautifully and shows incredible elegance. Such a surprise that it’s drinking so well now – this hadn’t been particularly well stored over the years, but it hasn’t suffered. 94/100

Here’s my note from August 1997 (which reminds me that wineanorak has been going longer than I thought! This is 21 years ago, and this bottle was purchased at the same time).

Caballo Loco No 1, Valdivieso (Safeway, £10.39 down to £6.85!) Drunk August 1997. Blend of Deep Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec from 2 vintages. Chile’s attempt to produce a world-class ageworthy red. red/purple. Full nose of cassis and French oak. Concentrated and complex palate of blackcurrants, red fruits and spicy oak. Powerful tannins and structure indicate that it could go the long haul. It will definitely improve in the next few years. Excellent: the best Chilean red yet? 90/100

In Niagara: 13th Street Draft

JP Colas, winemaker, 13th Street

13th Street winery celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2018. It was started in 1998 by four friends who were amateur winemakers, two of whom were grape growers. After a decade, they sold to the current owners: John and June Mann, and Doug and Karen Whitty. Both of these couples are Niagara locals, farming and growing grapes, as well as having other business interests. In 2009 current winemaker Jean Pierre (JP) Colas joined and grew the production from 2500 cases to its current level of 25 000 cases.

The original winery focused on traditional method sparkling, Riesling and Gamay. Indeed, they were one of the early advocates of Gamay, a variety that’s gone on to do well here. 13th Street is almost an estate-based project and around 85% of the grape needs come in from the five estate vineyards, totalling 46 acres. But they also buy in some Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay and Pinot Noir).

Winemaker JP Colas comes originally from Chablis, and was for a while head winemaker at Michel Laroche. He left Laroche in 1999 and has worked a number of other places, including some harvests in Beaujolais, before moving to Niagara to work for Peninsula Ridge, before moving here.

‘Gamay is big here,’ says JP. ‘But there is an even bigger story about sparkling.’ His winemaking style is to work reductively and uses a lot of lees, so these wines often need time to show their best. These are consistently good wines, and the best are really impressive indeed.

13th Street Blanc de Blancs 2016 (not disgorged yet)
100% Chardonnay. 25 year old vines in Creek Shores, from the L. Viscek vineyard. Lively, fresh, complex and intense with lovely fruit. Complex and balanced with dense citrus fruit and a mineral edge. Very exciting.

13th Street Cuvée Rosé NV
2014 vintage Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gamay (as a red wine, which helps with the colour and fruit flavour). 7 g/l dosage. Good solid pink/red colour. Fresh and expressive with red cherries and nice texture. Lovely fruit expression. Supple, fruity style with a bit of sappiness. 90/100

13th Street Premier Cuvée NV
2012 base vintage, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a bit of 2011 and 2010 reserves. 60 months on lees. No malolactic or oak, no dosage. Fresh, linear and a bit pithy with dense citrus fruit. Compact with good acidity and nice freshness. Very appealing. 89/100

13th Street Riesling 2015
He original vines from 13th Street, almost 30 years old. Picked late. Small crop and quite ripe this year. Stainless steel fermentation, kept on fine lees. Nice citrus drive with a hint of honey and toast in the background. Crisp and linear with a slightly sour edge from the acidity, finishing with lemon and wax notes. Intense stuff: a really good dry Riesling. 90/100

13th Street Riesling 2009
Very cold vintage. Really vivid and intense with some citrus fruit, a bit of apricot, a hint of marmalade and some subtle creamy, toasty richness. Dry with high acidity and a nice fruit sweetness. Shows nice complexity. 91/100

13th Street Essence Riesling 2016
Trial in old 500 litre barrels: started with four casks and eliminated two, so just two bottled. Apple, pear and spice with nice citrus fruit. Has lovely acidity with a subtle nuttiness. Quite mineral with nice mouthfeel and acidity. Lovely focus to this. 93/100

13th Street June’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2017
Alcoholic fermentation and malolactic in tank, no barrels. Fruity and a bit nutty with smooth pear and white peach fruit. Lovely subtle fruit with nice texture. Has a purity to it with nice underlying acidity. Harmonious. 90/100

13th Street June’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2012
Complex and a bit nervy with some tangerine and spice notes, with a nice citrus core, some pear richness and a bit of a pithy, herby edge. Slightly bitter on the finish. Still quite youthful. 89/100

13th Street June’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2011
Nice weight and density here with pear, baked apple and some mandarin orange notes. Has a smoothness to the palate: fruit driven with some generosity, and a sense of harmony. 91/100

13th Street L. Viscek Vineyard Chardonnay 2016
Starts fermentation in tank, cool, and then goes to barrel. 228, 400 and 500 litre barrels, small proportion of new oak. Complex with nice density. Has nuts, spice and pear with a bit of fennel. Good concentration here with well integrated oak. Beguiling with some real complexity and a bit of tension: it has richness, but also some restraint. 92/100

13th Street Gamay 2016
2000 cases made. Mostly Creek Shore with some purchased fruit and some other bits included. Destemmed. Juicy and lively with lovely sweet raspberry and cherry fruit, with a bit of crunchy structure. Pure and fruity with nice brightness. Has good acidity with vivid fruit. Floral and delightful with freshness and acidity. 91/100

13th Street Whitty Vineyard Gamay 2017 Creek Shores,
Fresh and reductive with a slightly weedy, plastic edge to the nose. But tasting through this, you find lovely elegant cherry and raspberry fruit. Hard to taste now, but this has lots of potential. 92/100

13th Street Sandstone Vineyard Gamay Noir 2015
Gravel/sandy soils from Four Mile Creek, old vines, picked late, destemmed, punched down. Then goes to French oak, none new. Concentrated, intense and structured with a spicy, grippy core, and sweet cherry and plum fruit. Has some savoury, cedary detail, a bit of oak sweetness and lots of structure. Give this time to integrate: there’s a lot of substance here. 92/100

13th Street Sandstone Vineyard Old Vines Gamay Noir 2009
A very cool vintage. Smoky, spicy and savoury with some cooked meat character. Juicy, lively and intense with high acidity and some subtle earth and leather character under the bright berry fruits. Has real intensity. Plum and damson characters. Distinctive. 91/100

13th Street Essence Syrah 2013
13.5% alcohol. Tight and reductive with nice black cherry and plum fruit. Supple and elegant with nice focus and weight, together with some floral elegance. Lovely wine. 93/100

Separating out the wine and the experience of the wine

There is the wine, and there is the experience of the wine.

As writers and critics, when we assess wine, we try to do something unusual. We separate the two, and we try to assess the wine independently of all the things that go on around the wine, and for most people help create the experience of drinking. We try to get to the essence of the wine, and this usually involves stepping back, retracing our steps, and trying to strip away the extraneous factors, and even our own internal state, or knowledge, or expectations, or even preferences. The closer we get to the wine – even to the point of trying it blind – then the more generalizable our note will be. Of course, we fail: we are not measuring devices. But we hope to fail as little as possible, to get as close to the wine we can. Experience helps here.

Then there’s the experience of the wine, which is what it is all about. If you have a bottle of wine to share with a friend, then there’s a lot you can do to enhance the experience of the wine. First, you can drink it in a nice setting. A favourite place; somewhere pretty; a fancy restaurant perhaps. [Of course, it helps to choose a good friend who is nice and in a good mood – but I thought this was obvious.] You will try to serve the wine at the right temperature, and you will want to use nice glasses (Zalto or Gabrielglass, please!) – you might decant the wine. You will know a bit about what you are drinking – knowledge helps enjoyment much of the time. You may choose to serve the wine with nice food. These things all elevate the experience of wine, and when I drink, I’m interested in the experience, which is different to the wine.

We tend to forget this. Critics don’t rate experiences, but people are enjoying experiences. So a highly rated wine is not necessarily a guarantee of a good experience. If you’ve just found out your significant other is cheating on you, then even the finest wine will taste somewhat sour. And one thing that I see seldom mentioned is that when people talk about tasting wine in aeroplanes, the experience is diminished because of the low pressure, the dry air and the ambient noise. But sometimes I think wine tastes better in the air: if you rarely fly business class but by chance find yourself in the front of the plane, the taste of the relatively modest Champagne you get as you take your seat is amplified by the occasion. You are going somewhere in a plane, and you are in business class, not at the back.

It’s important for me to be able to try to get as close to the wine is possible. But that’s not what we do when we drink. There is the experience of the wine, and this is what counts.

New releases from Frank Cornelissen: single-vineyard Etna wines

Frank Cornelissen

Frank Cornelissen was in town showing off his new wines. It’s a series of single-vineyard wines from his 25 hectares and 19 plots on Mount Etna. ‘It’s the focus of my work,’ he says, ‘but less than 10% of my production.’ He’s held off making these wines before, because his winemaking wasn’t good enough to show all the nuances. ‘It took me 10 years to vinify in a better way to make this quality,’ says Frank. ‘I still have some fine tuning to do, but this will take time and money. The last 5-10% of quality costs as much as the previous 90%.’

Frank uses epoxy-lined amphorae to make these wines, and his goal is to produce wines that allow us to taste the vineyard. He’s convinced that the future of Etna is parcellation. ‘It is a booming area to the professionals,’ he says, ‘but for the consumer it is not yet known. This will come.’

He points out that very few wine regions have the potential to show the single vineyard diversity that he’s hoping to show, and he’s thinking in terms of Barolo, Barbaresco and Burgundy, where the single vineyard approach makes sense. ‘Etna still isn’t known for this, but the potential is there.’

Above all, Frank is a wine geek. ‘I started making wine because of a passion for wine. I like drinking wine and it is fascinating making these single vineyard wines, even though commercially it is a headache.’

In terms of winemaking, he rarely uses stems. ‘I’m not a fan of stems: the tannins of the stems and the skins rarely fuse.’ He’s been doing some experiments with carbonic maceration. But most of the wines are made in the normal red wine way. ‘I like ripe fruit and I take a classical approach,’ he explains. ‘I destem and do long extractions, protecting the wine from oxygen.’

All of the wines are made without any sulphite additions, but over time he has softened his approach. ‘I drink wine with sulfites,’ says Frank. ‘I’m not religious about it. This year, if I’d faced the same difficulties as 2003, 2010 or 2015, I’d use sulfites.’ He says he is looking for wines that are microbiologically stable, so he will filter with wines he thinks might give him problems later.

‘When I started I made wine in an unorthodox way, but if the wild side of the wine overwhelms the territory, it’s sad,’ he explains.

In an interesting twist, Frank has taken on a sparring partner: an enologist who is now working with him. ‘After 17 years I have come to 90% of my vision and capacity as a winemaker. I need a technical sparring partner.’ So decided to seek help ‘where the serious stuff is done: Bordeaux.’ He’s now working with Guillaume Thienpoint, son of Alexandre of Vieux Châteaux Certan in Pomerol. ‘He’s an incredibly good taster, and he’s good at microbiology.’ To take on a Bordeaux consultant at this stage shows the humility of Frank, and how open he is to learn, improve and change. ‘If you want to improve you have to question what you are doing.’

It’s interesting, because Cornelissen has always been considered to be a natural winemaker, yet he doesn’t like the term. ‘I love the idea and the concept, but if you analyse it there is no natural wine,’ he says. ‘It is entirely related to culture. You won’t find enough grapes in a forest even to fill a demijohn!’

He thinks that to make wine, you need an aesthetic model. ‘What does my wine mean?’ he asks. ‘I like wines that are full bodied, rich and profound, not just a fragrant wine. I also like single vineyard wines.’ In warm vintages, he can struggle with high level of ripeness, whereas those known for their earlier picking can do better in those years.

It’s always enlightening talking with Frank, and it was lovely to taste through these wines, each with their individual personalities. Nerello Mascalese on volcanic grit, with no chemicals, additives of flavour-active vessels. An expression of place, but a personal interpretation of place, too.

Frank Cornelissen Munjebel Blanco 2016 Etna, Sicily, Italy
Very detailed. Has a complex mineral streak with lemons, lemon peel and some canteloup melon. Rich but tangy with lovely acid structure. Harmonious and pretty with edges. Lovely. 94/100

Frank Cornelissen Munjebel CS Chiusa Spagnolo 2016 Etna, Sicily, Italy
1.1 hectares planted ungrafted in 1925 at 620m. Supple and sweetly fruited, this is warm and ripe, with fine herbs and some spicy warmth. Lovely sweet spiciness here with some volume in the mouth. Grainy structure, with herbs, cherries and a bit of lift. 93/100

Frank Cornelissen Munjebel FM Feudo di Mezzo Sottana 2016 Etna, Sicily, Italy
0.6hectares planted in 1965 on large terraces at 610 m. This is a pure, intense with with lots of tannin. Vivid, bold and sweetly fruited with lovely raspberry and cherry fruit, with a hint of blackcurrant. Very lively, and tannic and crunchy, too, showing herbs, spices, tea and drying, grippy tannin. 93/100

Frank Cornelissen Munjebel PA Pocaria 2016 Etna, Sicily, Italy
2.1 hectares planted in 1952 at 680 m. Grainy and textured with lovely sweet, pure cherry and raspberry fruit. Very pretty, but has good structure with an expressive, elegant personality. Lovely brightness, too – a stunning wine. 95/100

Frank Cornelissen Munjebel CR Campo Re 2016 Sicily, Italy
0.7 hectares planted in 1910 and then grafted in 1950, at 750 m. Beautifully perfumed with tea, herbs and sweet, slightly stewed cherry and plum fruit. Nice fine-grained tannins. Ripe and sweet but elegant still with nice definition. 94/100

Frank Cornelissen Munjebel MC Monte Colla 2016 Sicily, Italy
1.3 hectares plnated in 1946 and 1948 at 740 m. Warm and spicy with some lift. Grainy and grippy with firm tannins and some volatility. Warm, grainy and spicy. 92/100

Frank Cornelissen Munjebel VA La Vigne Alte 2016 Sicily, Italy
1.3 hectares planted in 1925, ungrafted, at 840-1000 m. Floral and expressive with lovely supple, elegant cherry and plum fruit. Fine grained and a bit spicy with juicy brightness and grip. Lively acidity and good precision with a bit of wildness, too. Really expressive. 94/100

Frank Cornelissen Magma Barbabecchi 2016 Sicily, Italy
2.2 hectares, ungrafted, planted in 1910 at 900m. Complex, spicy and vibrant with sweet cherry and raspberry fruit. Warm, spicy and quite tannic, with good structure under the berry fruits. Structured and fine. 95/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

Some nice high-end rosés

Had these nice high-end rosés yesterday afternoon, with friends.

Triennes Rosé 2017 Provence, France
Pure delicate and aromatic – very bright with tangerine and lemon and red currant. So fresh. 90/100

Francois Cotat Sancerre Rosé Chavignol 2014 Loire, France
Edgy and reductive. Spicy and detailed with a sappy edge. Cherries and minerals. So good. 92/100

Pierre-Yves Colin Morey Rosé de Pinot Noir 2017 Burgundy, France
Linear and detailed with nice fresh pure citrus pear and cherry fruit. Lovely 91/100

Chateau d’Esclans Garrus Rosé 2010 Provence, France
Nutty, spicy and minty. Pear, wax and herbs. Complex and exotic. Some cedar hints. 91/100

Pierre Boisson Bourgogne Rosé 2016 Burgundy, France
Deep pink with bright raspberry and cherry fruit. Lovely fruit 89/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

Gusbourne Brut 2014, one of England's finest

This is the latest release of the Brut Reserve from Gusbourne, one of the UK’s top sparkling wine producers. 2014 saw an early budburst with good weather through to the end of June. This is always the critical bit of the vintage in the UK because good flowering means good yields, and in this year there was enough warmth to ripen the crop.

Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2014 England
12% alcohol. 60% Pinot Noir, 22% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Meunier. Clay and sandy loam soils on a south-facing escarpment in Appledore, Kent. Harvested in September and October, this was whole bunch pressed an settled naturally, before fermentation with selected yeasts in stainless steel, with a bit in barrel for complexity. The bottling was in April 2015, with three years on lees. pH 3.12, dosage 8 g/litre, acid 8 g/litre. This is rich and very refined with citrus, pear and peach fruit, as well as a touch of toastiness. There’s a hint of sweetness from the dosage, which rounds out the palate, which finishes with lemony brightness. There’s a hint of cherry from the Pinot, and also some bakery notes of brioche and apple pie, but the wine is honest and focused. It would be lovely to see this with a little less make-up (lower dosage), but it’s really good just as it is. 91/100 (£35 Oddbins, Berry Bros & Rudd, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason)

We like the smell of geosmin in the air, but not in our wine

There’s a really interesting article on the BBC News site discussing why rain smells so good.

The smell of rain hitting the ground releases a smell that has been dubbed ‘petrichor’. It was named by Australian researchers in the 1960s, and the smell is produced by bacteria in the earth.

But here’s the twist that will interest wine lovers: Petrichor is the same as Geosmin, which is a wine fault. The same bacteria that produce it in the soil also invade grape clusters during wet weather and can produce this off-flavour. While we like it when the rain falls on dry ground, but it’s a problem when it’s in our wine.

Geosmin smells a bit musty and earthy, like beetroot and freshly turned earth.

It was first identified geosmin as a wine fault back in 2000. Darriet and colleagues studied a set of wines with doors they described as smelling of freshly tilled earth and damp cellars in red and white wines of different origins. They used gas chromatography−mass spectrometry to identify the chemical culprit as geosmin (trans-1,10-dimethyl-trans-9-decalol), which is a sesquiterpene. Penicillium expansum was the main microbial culprit in geosmin production, but on its own it can’t produce geosmin in grapes: it needs to have the complementary action of Botrytis in order to do this.

(For more, see Darriet P, Pons M, Lamy S, Dubourdieu D 2000 Identification and Quantification of Geosmin, an Earthy Odorant Contaminating Wines. J Agric Food Chem 48:4835–4838 and La Guerche S, Chamont S, Blancard D, Dubourdieu D, Darriet P 2005 Origin of (-)-geosmin on grapes: on the complementary action of two fungi, botrytis cinerea and penicillium expansum. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek 88:131–139)

But things are never simple. What can smell nice in one context, smells bad in another. And geosmin is being used now as a component in some fragrances.

In Niagara, Canada: Leaning Post

Ilya Senchuk, Leaning Post

Ilya Senchuk has been making wines in Niagara for a while now. He started off with Daniel Lencko, then went to Foreign Affairs, and then started his own virtual winery, Leaning Post, specializing in making wines from interesting vineyards across the region. Seven years ago he and his wife Nadia purchased a property in Winona, which is the first town in Niagara, near Hamilton, which is now the physical home of Leaning Post. It’s an interesting site, 800 metres from the Lake and 800 metres from the escarpment, and is cool and windswept. They planted a vineyard here of 2 hectares (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), and the now 6 year old vines are producing wine, which is a very exciting development. There’s another couple of hectares that are plantable.

I visited here back in 2015, so it was nice to be back to see the progress. The production has more than doubled from 1400 cases to 4000, and in 2018 it should hit 5000. And as well as the first wines from the home vineyard, there is also a range called ‘Freaks and Geeks’, with more off the wall and experimental wines.

Pinot Noir in the home vineyard

I think that Ilya is a smart, thoughtful winemaker and that Leaning Post is one of Niagara’s most exciting wineries.

Leaning Post Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard Riesling 2016 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
12% alcohol, 10 g/l sugar, then aged on lees for 9 months, all in tank. Inoculated. Very fine and fresh with lovely purity to the intense limey, lemony fruit. Pure and fine. 92/100

Leaning Post The Geek Riesling 2015 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
The inspiration for this came at 2 am in the morning. Ilya created a tank in the winery to capture all the white wine lees. He used Riesling to keep the lees, and these lees are kept two years. Then the Riesling is bottled adding back in the lees from previous vintage of this wine. Bone dry and linear with fresh citrus fruit. Subtle waxy and nutty notes here alongside the fine-grained, textured citrus fruit. Long finish. 92/100

Leaning Post Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Half in barrel for 3 months. Two vineyards. Exotic tropical fruit nose with some fine herb and grapefruit notes. Fresh with lively citrus fruit on the palate and nice grassy edges, some herbs, and good texture. Deliciously expressive, in between old and new world in style. 91/100

Leaning Post The Fifty Chardonnay 2016 Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Barrel fermented then stainless steel aged on lees, made in a fresher style. Fruit forward with pear and apple notes, and a subtle nuttiness. Quite rounded and grainy with nice richness, but stays fresh and detailed. Great value at $22. 89/100

Leaning Post Wismer Foxcroft Chardonnay 2015 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
Nutty and complex with a nice rounded character. Ripe peach fruit with some straw/hay character. Has depth but also good focus with fine spiciness. Big but balanced. 92/100

Leaning Post Senchuk Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
The plan was to make 180 cases from 9 barrels, but when they came to blend the wine, they looked at the barrels together and didn’t like it. So they ended up making two bottlings, largely along clonal differences. They have 548 clone and 96 clone, and Ilya bottled them separately, and the two wines were different but excellent on their own. The 96 is from the siltier, gravelly soils. This is 75% 548 and 25% 96. Complex and nutty with lovely citrus fruit and a fennel-like savouriness. Waxy and mineral with a slight saline twist. Lovely complexity here. 94/100

Leaning Post Clone 96 Chardonnay 2016 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
Fresh, open, expressive and quite detailed with some sweetness to the tangerine and apple fruit. Has a hint of marmalade even. Lively and bright with a very open character. Tangy finish. 92/100

Unnamed Sauvignon skin contact wine
Whole cluster ferment on skins for 33 days. Tangy, juicy and intense with a bit of lift. Has some green herby notes. Really tight with refined structure and good acidity. Has some weedy notes. Very interesting. 90-92/100

Leaning Post Wismer Armbrust Vineyard Gamay 2016 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
Destemmed. Pale in colour. 1.3 acre block looking over Balls Falls. Has a slight lift on the nose, as well as floral, spicy red fruits. Rounded, smooth and fresh with lovely texture and elegance. Has a fine, savoury spiciness. Such lovely weight. Has a warmth on the mid palate. Delicate. 93/100

Leaning Post The Natural Gamay 2016 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
No sulfites, no filtration, whole cluster. From Wismer Armbrust vineyard. Cloudy. Savoury, spicy and tangy with a sour cherry edge. Earthy and murky with nice savoury detail and keen acidity. Distinctive and natural. 90/100

Leaning Post Senchuk Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
First wine from the vineyard. Two barrels. Pale in colour. Fine, delicate and textured with lovely elegance but also a broad, quite rich midpalate. Supple red cherries with slight sappy greenness hiding under the fruit. Nice acidity and mouthfeel. 93/100

Leaning Post Senchuk Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada (tank sample of final blend)
85% new oak, which integrates really well. 10% whole cluster. Pale in colour but rich, sweetly fruited and quite dense with nice grainy, mineral structure. Sweet red cherries, strawberries and plums, with nice sweet, mouthfilling flavours on the midpalate. Very appealing. 92-94/100

Leaning Post The Freak Pinot Noir 2016 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
Naturally made with 50% whole cluster. Lifted nose. Juicy, grainy and cloudy with some spiciness and hints of earth, as well as sour cherries and plums. Grippy and grainy, and quite distinctive with a very savoury twist. Some green tea character with freshness and structure. 90/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

Four affordable, lighter reds for summer smashing

Back to the UK and I’m working through some samples on a balmy summer evening. I’m really into lighter red wines at the moment and these four fit the bill for some summer smashing. And they are affordable, too.

Villa Blanche Piquepoul Noir 2016 IGP Pays l’Herault, France
13% alcohol
£8.49 Waitrose
Part of Calmel and Joseph’s Cepages Anciens range. Piquepoul Noir is an ancient Languedoc grape variety, and here it has created a supremely fresh, bright juicy red wine with citrus fruit penning in the red berries. It has a bit of crunch, but the dominant theme is bright fruit, and this is perfect summer drinking, lightly chilled. 88/100

De Martino Tinto Chileno Old Vine Cinsault Pais 2015 Itata, Chile
13% alcohol
£12.99 Virgin Wines
70% Cinsault and 30% Pais, from old unirrigated vines on rolling granitic hills. It’s a tribute to the old-style wines of Chile. Pale red in colour, this is quite sappy and green, but in a nice way, with lovely redcurrant and cherry fruit, with nice acidity. Supple and fresh, this is a lighter red wine with a juicy appeal, but also something a bit more serious if you look for it. A wine of fine-grained ease and elegance. 89/100

Pfaffl St Laurent Granat 2017 Niederosterreich, Austria
£7.99 Lidl
13% alcohol
This is crunchy and dense with a slightly reduced, angular, grippy palate showing focused raspberry and black cherry fruit with some hints of tar and spice. Grainy and intense, this has lovely summer fruits freshness, and enough grunt to take on rich dishes like roast duck or pork ribs. Great value at this price. 88/100

Morrisons Beaujolais Villages 2017 France
13% alcohol
£7 Morrisons
Deeply coloured, but really fresh and vivid, with pure flavours of raspberries, cherries and blackberries. Fresh, pure, vivid and crunchy with real focus and nice acidity. This is Gamay in a fresh, direct, fruity guise, but it has a hint of grippy seriousness, too. very impressive for supermarket own-label. 88/100

Gamay 40, Leaning Post Wismer-Armbrust and Natural Gamays, Niagara, Canada

Two very interesting Gamays from boutique Niagara producer Leaning Post. They come from the same vineyard, but are made differently: one is whole bunch, no added sulphites, no filtering, and it is quite natural tasting. I liked it but preferred the elegance of the regular Gamay.

Leaning Post Wismer-Armbrust Vineyard Gamay 2016 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
Destemmed. Pale in colour. 1.3 acre block looking over Balls Falls. Has a slight lift on the nose, as well as floral, spicy red fruits. Rounded, smooth and fresh with lovely texture and elegance. Has a fine, savoury spiciness. Such lovely weight. Has a warmth on the mid palate. Delicate. 93/100

Leaning Post The Natural Gamay 2016 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
No sulfites, no filtration, whole cluster. From Wismer Armbrust vineyard. Cloudy. Savoury, spicy and tangy with a sour cherry edge. Earthy and murky with nice savoury detail and keen acidity. Distinctive and natural. 90/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com