Two affordable Grüner Veltliners

gruner veltliner

I’m a big fan of Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s specialist grape variety. Here are two easily available, affordable examples that deliver some of the personality of this grape.

Domaine Wachau Weissenkirchen Grüner Veltliner Federspiel 2015 Wachau, Austria
£10.99 Majestic, £9.89 mix six price
12.5% alcohol
This is nicely aromatic with floral citrus fruits, coupled with some trademark white pepper that’s typical of this grape variety. It has nice, smooth, dry, textured fruit. A really tasty wine with lovely purity and focus. 90/100

Markus Huber Grüner Veltliner Single Estate 2015 Traisental, Austria
£10.79 Waitrose
12.5% alcohol
There’s a lovely fruity quality to this wine, which shows citrus and white pepper characters. There’s also a bit of white peach and yellow plum richness, and it finishes dry and crisp. 90/100

Wines of the year (9) the rest

continogranreserva

So, my final round-up of wines of the year, 2016. So many good bottles, of which this long series has highlighted just a few.

Contino Gran Reserva 2009 Rioja, Spain
We tried this from bottle and magnum. I preferred the bottle (the magnum will probably be better in time), and this is the one I took the note from. Concentrated, sweetly fruited and bold with smooth autumnal fruits. Spice, black cherries, warm herbs, tobacco. Lovely fine-grained tannic structure with superb balance and potential for further development. 95/100

meinklangkonkret

Meinklang Konkret Rot 2012 Burgenland, Austria
13% alcohol. This is a varietal Saint Laurent, fermented and aged in 900 litre concrete eggs for 12 months. It’s aromatic and floral with lifted raspberry and cranberry fruit. So floral and focused, with a little bit of sweetness from the subtly elevated volatile acidity. The palate has amazing texture and concentration of smooth, sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit. Concentrated and quite profound, with purity and texture, and a grainy, mineral, slightly chalky edge. 95/100

BK Wines Gower Pinot Noir 2014 Adelaide Hills, Australia
Beautifully aromatic and textural with fine sappy notes and sweet cherries and plums. This wine has lovely density with a core of rich but balanced fruit and a lively, juicy finish. Tight and delicious. 95/100

tolpuddle pinot noir

Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Tasmania, Australia
This is youthful, unusual and quite beautiful. Lively peppery, spicy nose has a hint of ginger and some wildly aromatic herbal notes. Distinctive. The palate is juicy and vivid with really fresh, focused cherry and raspberry fruit and very fine spicy notes. Lovely sappy elegance here: youthful and quite beautiful. 95/100

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Yarra Yering Dry Red No 1 2014 Yarra Valley, Australia
From a vineyard planted in 1969, this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. 13.5% alcohol. Brooding blackberry and black cherry nose with a tiny hint of mint. Lovely presence on the palate with fresh, concentrated black fruits and a touch of nice green. Lovely elegance coupled with firm structure. Pure and serious. 95/100

Chateau Ste Michelle and Dr Loosen Eroica Single Berry Select Riesling 2007 Washington State
7.5% alcohol. Incredibly concentrated and intense. Viscous and raisiny with lovely citrus drive and intense apricot and peach notes. Stunning stuff: really concentrated but with balancing freshness and nice spiciness. Sensational. 96/100

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Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough

dogpointsauvignonblanc

Off to New Zealand on Wednesday, so in preparation I thought it would be good to drink some Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. 2016 was a good vintage in the region, with both quality and quantity, and the Sauvignons I’ve tasted so far from this harvest have been very correct and delicious, with ripe, appealing flavours and more of an emphasis on fruit aromatics than greenness. Dog Point is one of my favourites, and this 2016 is singing. It’s a little riper and fuller than in some years, but it has a lovely nervousness and delicacy, too.

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Intense aromatics here with floral, passionfruit notes hemmed in with smoky, matchstick, mineral characters. This is good reduction in action, and it frames the fresh, direct citrus, grapefruit and passionfruit characters on the palate really well. Nice acidity and focus, with a long, bright finish. A lovely wine with more than a hint of seriousness about it. 92/100

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Interesting wines from Argentina: Malbec

argentinamalbec

This is the third post from a tasting of interesting Argentine wines in Mendoza last month. It’s Argentina’s most famous variety, Malbec. ‘Everyone is talking more and more about regions,’ says Sebastian Zuccardi. ‘They’re talking about altitude, but also soils. Even within the same vineyard we have diversity in soils.’ There were a mix of wines here, some of which I loved a great deal.

Bianchi Particular Malbec 2014 San Rafael,
15.3% alcohol. 80% French, 20% American oak. Ripe, rich, salty and intense with liqueur-like black cherry and blackberry fruit. Quite ripe and alcoholic with sweet, lush fruit and some stony, savoury, cedary complexity. A big wine. 89/100

Riccitelli República del Malbec 2014 Las Compuertas, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza
Planted in 1908. 14.5% alcohol. Half aged in barrel, half in oak vats (1000 litres). Lovely fresh, vivid, intense black cherry and blackberry fruit. Lovely balance with ripe fruit but also freshness, and lovely floral notes. Nicely structured, with the elegant, mineral, taut fruit the driving force behind this wine. Just beautiful. 95/100

Solocontigo Affaire Reserve Malbec 2014 Valle de Uco, Mendoza
14 months new and second use French oak, 14% alcohol. Los Chacayes (Altamira) and La Consulta. Lovely pretty, rounded fresh fruit here. Black cherries and blackberries with a nice juicy freshness. Fresh, salty and mineral with lovely fine-grained structure. Impressive stuff. 93/100

Michelini Bros Calcáreo de Granito Malbec 2013 Tupungato, Valle de Uco
From Gualtallary at 1400 m. 14% alcohol. Wild yeast ferments in concrete amphoras. Then 14 months in used French oak. Very fresh and stony with a vivid cherry and plum fruit personality. Lovely intensity here with amazing freshness and focus. Very fruit driven and stony with nice acidity. Lovely stuff, so distinctive. 94/100

Zuccardi Aluvional Paraje Altamira 2014 Valle de Uco, Mendoza
14% alcohol. 1100 metres. Fermented in concrete vats with wild yeasts, then aged in barrels and concrete vats. Lovely fruit intensity here: rounded and generous but some freshness and good acidity with nice bright texture from the soils, with high calcium carbonate content. There’s some ripeness here, but also lovely freshness. And there’s a floral, perfumed quality to the fruit. 93/100

Per Se Iubileus 2013 Gualtallary, Valle de Uco, Mendoza
14.5% alcohol. 1300 m altitude. Alluvial stones coated with calcium carbonate. Sensationally good, with lovely complex herb and spice notes on the nose. Some olive and roast meat, with focused black fruits. The palate has amazing savoury complexity with a lovely peppery grip to the black cherry and blackberry fruit. Complex with a dry, savoury, grippy edge. So beautiful and expressive with real tension here (there’s a small amount of Cabernet Franc here). Just 800 bottles made. 96/100

Wines of the year (8) German stars

ernst loosen

Carrying on with the wines of the year theme, this time it’s the turn of Germany. I know it may seem like I’m stringing this one out a but, but I tried a lot of brilliant wines in 2016 and I want to share them all. I visited Germany three times in 2016, and I really love what’s happening here. As usual, lots of very very good wines didn’t make this high cut.

loosen urziger wurzgarten reserve

Dr Loosen Urziger Würzgarten Riesling Trocken Reserve Alte Reben GG 2012 Mosel, Germany
This spends 24 months in large oak on the lees without racking. So pure and elegant with linear citrus and pear fruit. Such precision, with a hint of tangerine and amazing focus and potential for future development. 96/100

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Jean Stodden Spätburgunder Alte Reben 2014 Ahr, Germany
These are very old vines of uncertain age, but probably planted 1920-25, on the Herrenberg. Yields of 18 hl/ha, with small berries. Superbly elegant, showing red cherries and plums. Great texture: almost creamy with a silky quality, and red cherries and plums. Such purity and finesse; harmonious and elegant. Some fine spicy notes and good structure under the fruit. Thrilling. 97/100

Philipp Kettern and Dirk Niepoort Fio Riesling 2012 Mosel, Germany
This is made from one fuder (a large barrel) and spent two years here without any sulphur dioxide additions. It was bottled October 2014. This dry Riesling shows amazing finesse and texture, with wax, herbs, honey, melons and pears. There are fresh lemony notes but also richer textural elements. It’s mineral and dry with great concentration and depth, showing amazing purity and finesse. Stunning. 95/100

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Peter Jacob Kuhn Saint Nikolaus Riesling GG 2014 Rheingau, Germany
This biodynamic estate is turning out some lovely wines. This one comes from sandy quartz soils, from a warm site close to the river. Incredible aromatics of spice, marmalade, lemons and minerals. Lovely concentration and texture on the palate with orange peel, lemons, pear and white peach fruit. Very refined, dry and elegant with some generosity, too. Has astonishing depth and texture. Amazing wine. 96/100

Am Nil Saumagen Riesling 2014 Pfalz, Germany
From vines over 30 years in age, this is a superb expression of Riesling. Taut and linear with nice purity. Has amazing freshness and a lovely linear acidity. So pure and fresh with brightness and clarity. Just so fine. 95/100

Gut Hermannsberg Steinterrassen Riesling 2014 Nahe, Germany
This is a selection from three vineyards – Rothenberg, Steinberg and Kertz – on biolyte soil (a kind of volcanic soil), from vines 35-70 years in age. Smoky, mineral nose with taut citrus fruit, almost saline. Lively, pure, mineral palate has a hint of melon and lemon, with fine spices and nice acidity. Really fine. 95/100

JJ Prüm Welhener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 2001 Mosel, German
Powerful, spicy and linear with lovely grapefruit and lemon notes. Concentrated and spicy with an arresting mineral core. Shows great purity and complexity. Delicious and pristine. 96/100

Paul Fürst Centgrafenberg Pinot Noir GG 2014 Franconia, Germany
Lovely sweet, perfumed nose of fine cherries and spices. Fresh, vivid, concentrated palate with good acidity and structure. Lovely fresh red cherries showing purity and finesse. 95/100

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Rainer Schnaittmann Fellbacher Lammler Spatburgunder GG 2014 Wurttemberg, Germany
Lovely complex dark cherry aromatics: spicy and a bit meaty. Juicy, spicy, perfumed, mineral palate with high acidity and some peppery notes. Dense, structured, and showing lovely precision. 95/100

Leitz Hermannshöhle Riesling GG 2013 Rheingau, Germany
So complex and detailed. Tight, expressive with fine, focused grapefruit and lemon notes, as well as some tangerine. Very dry and textured with nice precision. Shows great potential. 95/100

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Dönnhoff Oberhauser Brücke Riesling GG 2015 Nahe, Germany
So taut and linear with powerful, focused lime and grapefruit pith notes. Lovely intensity and good acidity, and amazing purity. Pithy and precise with superb concentration and balance. Long and intense. 97/100

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Wines of the year (7) top wines from California and Oregon

california

Arnot Roberts Peter Martin Ray Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
This vineyard was planted in the 1940s by Rusty Ray, and the vines that make this wine were planted in 1979. It’s a three-acre block and they get three tons from it, and it’s described as organic by neglect (it’s disced, dry farmed, and dusted with sulfur twice a year). Floral and aromatic raspberry and cherry fruit nose. Very fine and fresh on the palate with sweet cherries and raspberries and a lovely silky texture. So supple, complex and elegant. 96/100

Sandhi Sandford & Benedict Chardonnay 2014 Santa Rita Hilla, California
From an ungrafted block planted in 1971, this is sensational. Meal, nuts, minerals and spice on the nose. So pure and refined. The palate is taut, lemony and mineral with amazing finesse. Such purity here, with keen lemony fruit. 96/100

Failla Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Sonoma Coast, California
Fresh, sappy and bright. Floral red cherry fruit nose. Very supple and expressive with elegant red cherries and plum fruit. Lovely focus to this wine: fine and pure with real finesse. 95/100

seven springs chardonnay evening land

Evening Land Seven Springs Vineyard Summum Chardonnay 2014 Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
Made in two 500 litre Stockinger barrels. From the top part of the slope where the soils are shallower. Detailed, spicy and mineral on the nose with citrus and pear fruit. Astonishing aromatics here. The palate is fine, fresh and mineral with a lovely precise citrus character. Lovely precision and focus with thrilling detail. 96/100

Kutch Chardonnay 2014 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
12.75% alcohol. This is the debut Chardonnay from Jamie Kutch and it is fabulous. Complex, rich, but still very fresh nose of hazelnut and lemons with plenty of matchstick minerality, as well as spice and fennel. Complex pear and lemon fruit on the palate with a taut, intense, spicy character. Balances some ripe fruity notes with a bright lemony core and keen acidity. So mineral. 95/100

au bon climat pinot

Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir La Bauge Au-Dessus 2012 Santa Maria Valley, California
Vines planted in 1994. Very stylish and focused with fresh cherries and plums, with a nice savoury edge. Lovely finesse here with some subtle herb notes alongside the red cherries, with a bright personality. 95/100

wind gap

Wind Gap Nelleses Syrah 2013 Sonoma Coast, California
Finely spiced with nice pepper alongside sweet raspberry and blackberry fruit. Pure and fine grained with lovely tannins and purity. Has real finesse. 95/100

Duncan Arnot and Nathan Roberts

Duncan Arnot and Nathan Roberts

Arnot Roberts Clary Ranch Syrah 2014 Sonoma Coast, California
This is the coldest Syrah vineyard in California, and in the past it has been picked as late as November 20 at 11% alcohol (this is 12%). Lovely aromatics: subtly peppery with fine sweet raspberry and black cherry fruit. Vivid, and very much in a northern Rhône style. Very fine and pure with lovely precision. 96/100

corison

Corison Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Napa, California
Lovely perfume: very aromatic and pure with ripe but extremely fresh blackcurrant and plum fruit, showing nice grip and acidity, with some raspberry freshness. Such precision here with bright red and blue components to the fruit. 95/100

chimney rock

Chimney Rock Omega Point Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Napa Valley, California
Just 98 cases made of this, all fermented in concrete eggs. Textured, ripe and smooth. Rich and pure. Linear with real concentration. The firm tannins are masked by the lovely sweet, smooth fruit. This wine has lushness but also structure. 95/100

heitz

Heitz Marthas Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Oakville, Napa Valley, California
Fresh, bright and primary with lovely acidity. Pure and expressive with focused berry and cherry fruits backed up by firm structure, and minty notes in the background. Pure and direct with massive potential for development. 95/100

spring mountain

Spring Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Napa Valley, California
Very aromatic with nice pure blackcurrant and blackberry fruit nose with some restraint, and a fine pot pourri spiciness. Warm on the palate with a hint of cinnamon. Lovely balance: sweet but restrained with concentrated black fruits and lovely spicy, stony notes. Complex with massive potential for development. 95/100

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Wines of the year (6) some top New Zealand wines

millton riverpoint viognier

Another post rounding up some of the star wines that I tasted and drank in 2016. And I drank and tasted a lot last year. Many of these bottles were consumed in New Zealand in January and February. I’m excited to be heading out again in 10 days. Can’t wait. As with the other round-ups, there are many excellent wines that just missed out on this list.

Millton Riverpoint Vineyard Viognier 2014 Gisborne, New Zealand
This is all about the phenolics, says James Millton. It’s made in 300 litre barrels and the high-ish pH gives a sort of salty character, with phenolics giving freshness. ‘The word umami creeps into it,’ he says. ‘One thing I like is the saliva reaction.’ Most of the wine is made by taking bunches, crushing them and letting them sit for 6 h before pressing, but 8% gets 86 days’ skin contact. Powerful, salty and savoury with some spiciness and rich pear fruit. There’s some spicy, peppery character under the rich fruit and lovely orange peel notes leading to a juicy finish. Amazing texture and depth here: this is a beautiful, energetic wine. 95/100

Rippon Emma’s Block Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is an east facing block closer to the lake. It’s the softest environment at Rippon, with some clays in the soil. ‘Because of the clays you get a sleekness in the phenolics at the back of the palate,’ says Nick Mills. Fine, fresh red cherry fruit nose is very lively with a sappy, green edge and nice floral notes. The palate is fresh and elegant with nice acidity and a hint of green. It’s lovely. 96/100

Prophet's Rock: Paul Pujol (right) with his collaborator Francois Millet (De Vogue)

Prophet’s Rock: Paul Pujol (right) with his collaborator Francois Millet (De Vogue)

Prophet’s Rock Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
Savoury and textural with spice and minerals, as well as nice red cherry fruit. Good acidity with some raspberry freshness. Nice concentration and grip: this is superb. 95/100

Ostler

Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir 2011 Waitaki, New Zealand
Linear, with very fresh, vivid red cherry fruit plus notes of iron, iodine and herbs. Linear palate shows lovely freshness. Very fine and expressive with lovely non-fruit complexity. Good acidity. 95/100

Black Estate Damsteep Pinot Noir 2014 North Canterbury, New Zealand
All destemmed. Fresh and linear with red cherries, ripe raspberries and a lovely texture. Fine grained with some spice and nice silkiness. Really fresh with but this lovely silky texture and good acidity bringing finesse. 95/100

pyramid valley

Pyramid Valley Vineyards Earth Smoke Pinot Noir 2013 North Canterbury, New Zealand
From a limestone-rich plot, this is warm, smooth and yet fresh with stony red fruits. Lively, bright and pure with fresh raspberry and red cherry fruit on the palate. Detailed with good structure and acidity. I love the freshness and purity of this wine, which has massive potential for development. 97/100

neudorf moutere chardonnay

Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2010 Nelson, New Zealand
12 months French oak, wild ferment, 550 cases. Very tight and bright with a slightly creamy edge to the grapefruit, lemon and pineapple fruit. Subtle toast and some crystalline fruits with amazing acidity. Very lively and focused with great potential. 96/100

Dog Point Chardonnay 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
18 months in barrel with no sulfur dioxide and full solids. Warm, toasty, spicy nose of fig, vanilla, matchstick and peach, with some melon too. The palate is bready and spicy with nuts and lemons sitting on a broad-textured warmly fruity base. Complex with nice reduction. 95/100

Pyramid Valley Vineyards Lion’s Tooth Chardonnay 2013 North Canterbury, New Zealand
Very bright and lively with lovely lemon, tangerine and citrus pith notes. There’s a tangerine and marmalade edge to the bright palate. This has up-front richness but also a lovely treble finish, with some nuttiness. Very interesting. 95/100

bell hill chardonnay

Bell Hill Chardonnay 2012 North Canterbury, New Zealand
Intense, youthful, vivid nose of citrus, pear, smoke and toast. The palate is concentrated with a touch of fig, some pear, quince and a lovely core of citrus fruit. Very high acidity, with amazing focus on the finish. Needs time. 96/100

Framingham Noble Riesling 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Super complex nose of apricot and marmalade. Really intense, viscous, creamy palate showing ripe apples, spice and real detail and focus. Quite brilliant. 95/100

Bell Hill Pinot Noir 2008 North Canterbury, New Zealand
Supple and nicely savoury with some minerals and expressive red cherries, as well as a bit of meatiness. The palate has lively, bright structure and also good depth. Nice freshness to the structure of this wine, with a silky elegance. 96/100

Sato Pinot Noir ‘L’insolite’ 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
From the Pisa Terrace vineyard, this is 100% whole bunch, picked on 25 March at yields of 29 hl/ha. This spends 17 months in seasoned French oak. 13% alcohol. Lovely sweet, elegant ripe red and black cherry fruit nose with some subtle green sappy notes. Lovely precision on the palate: ripe black cherry fruit with plums and spice. Real complexity and focus. 95/100

Sacred Hill Riflemans Chardonnay 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
90% new oak. Old vines, own rooted. This is a tight, focused style of Chardonnay with ageing in mind. Refined, fresh and taut with pure, ripe pear and citrus fruit. Some toastiness here with lovely precision and a linear personality. 95/100

seresin chardonnay reserve

Seresin Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Taut and complex with pear and citrus fruit. Nicely pithy with bright, tight lemon and white peach fruit. Amazing acid core with apples, pears and lemons to the fore. So lovely, vital and precise with nice depth. Wonderful. 95/100

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Ego is the death to good wine writing

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Good writing is all about narrative, we are told. When you go to a wine region, find the stories, and tell them. It’s good advice.

But there’s a danger facing wine writers looking too intently for a story.

If they are not careful, their pieces become more about them than they do the region they are visiting. Ego is the ravine that many writers risk plunging into. Some have already fallen in and there’s not much chance of saving them. They aren’t the story, yet so often they place themselves at the centre of it.

It’s good to find a narrative thread to hang a piece on, but only if it’s actually true. I love it when I find one.

Some acclaimed writers centre their pieces on constructs of their own making: they create a big theme (‘the heart of XXXX’; ‘the future of XXXX’, ‘the soul of XXXX,’ or some similar idea), and then base their piece around this construct which doesn’t actually exist. It often sounds plausible, but that’s because no one questions the legitimacy of the construct.

Often, the big story in the wine region seems to be that they have visited.

Sometimes, there’s no narrative. People are making wine. Some people have successful businesses, some have less successful ones. Some make cheaper wines; some make more expensive wines. Most people are trying to make better wines, and generally quality is a bit better than it used to be. Sometimes, that’s all. If this is the case, then just tell me a bit about who’s doing the best work, making the most interesting wines. Tell me a bit about the place and the soils. That’s all I want to know. Give me some colour, and write bravely and clearly, but I don’t want to read about your imaginary construct. You are not the story.

 

 

 

 

 

Wines of the year (5) South African stars

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I’m continuing the theme of wines of the year. This year I tasted a lot of very good South African wines, both on my three visits, and also in London. These are the ones I liked the most, out of a very strong selection. These are seriously good wines.

Kershaw Deconstructed Chardonnay CY95 Lake District Bokkeveld Shale 2015 Elgin, South Africa
Generous pear and citrus fruit. Rounded and textured with a fine mineral edge, and some mandarin notes. Very fine and delicate but also has power, walking a tightrope between richness and finesse. Green tea and herbs, too. 96/100

Mother Rock Grenache 2015 Swartland, South Africa
11.8% alcohol. Decomposed granite with some Malmesbury shale. 100% whole bunch, 8 weeks on skins. Very fine, perfumed and expressive with a slightly herby nose or red cherries with tea leaf detail. Vibrant, juicy, pure red cherry fruit palate is so expressive. Complex, pure and beautiful. Haunting. 96/100

Badenhorst

Savage ‘The Girl Next Door’ Syrah 2014 Cape Peninsular, South Africa
This is from 0.4 hectares of Syrah in dandy gravel, from 8 year old vines. There’s a taut, reductive edge to the nose. Fresh, supple and juicy this has bright raspberry and cherry fruit, with lovely savoury, grippy structure. Wild, with a bit of reduction, but really serious with amazing potential for development. 96/100

Badenhorst Dassiekop Steen 2015 Swartland, South Africa
A single-vineyard Chenin Blanc. Old vines. Floral, exotic and spicy with fresh apple and citrus on the nose with hints of tangerine. Powerful and textured on the palate with herbs, cheese and straw complexity as well as some anise notes. Powerful and complex, this should age beautifully. 96/100

bosman optenhorst chenin

Bosman Optenhorst Chenin Blanc 2014 Wellington, South Africa
This is a single vineyard, planted in 1952, with bush vines. This year it has been repackaged, and also a portion is fermented in concrete tanks (previously, it had all been oak aged). ‘We’ve always wanted to say more about the vineyard than about the oak,’ says Corlea Fourie. This has lovely textured pear and lemon fruit with real elegance and a subtle creamy hint. It’s mineral with freshness and purity. So textural. 94/100

Ken Forrester Dirty Little Secret Chenin Blanc ‘One’ 2015 Piekeneerskloof, South Africa
Lovely ripe, supple, aromatic Chenin showing tangerines, herbs, lemons and fine spices, as well as some intriguing white flower notes. There are flavours of white peaches and ripe apples, and this wine, with just 12.5% alcohol, shows lovely detail and finesse. There is concentration here, but also detail. There are also floral aromatics that you wouldn’t normally associate with Chenin, which may come from the brief skin and stem contact before pressing. It’s a really lovely wine. 94/100 

Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc 2015 Swartland, South Africa
Generous but fresh with minerals, spices, citrus and ripe apple. Fresh and detailed with lovely concentration and intensity, yet it retains its freshness and purity. Very fine. 96/100 

Sadie Family Soldaat 2014 Swartland, South Africa
Pale red. Lovely fresh cherries and plums with nice sappy notes. Fine and expressive with cherry and raspberry fruit. This is a brilliant lighter-styled red. 95/100 

Raats Eden High Density Cabernet Franc 2014 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Destined to become a unicorn wine, just 300 bottles of this amazing Cabernet Franc are produced, from 300 vines at the back of one of their Chenin vineyards. Very elegant and supple with ripe, sweet black fruits and lovely savoury detail: graphite, soft chalk and slate. Amazing finesse and tannic structure, this is pure and detailed, and it’s quite remarkable. 95/100

Crystallum Malabel Pinot Noir 2015 Overberg, South Africa
Supple, juicy and fine with lovely cherry fruit. Fine grained with freshness and detail to the elegant cherry fruit. 95/100

david grenache

David & Nadia Grenache 2015 Swartland, South Africa
From three vineyards, one organic and two sustainably farmed. Lovely freshness and purity here: very fine, expressive and focused, showing lovely purity. Perfumed red cherries with hints of ginger and spice. Nice weight: elegant, fresh and sappy. 95/100 

Thorne & Daughters Paper Kite Old Vine Semillon 2015 Franschhoek, South Africa
From Basil Landau’s famous old vineyard planted in 1915, this is a complex, textured, fine expression of Semillon with pear and citrus fruits, plus complex wax and nut characters. Lovely textural complexity here, and great acidity. 95/100 

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 Hemel en Aarde, South Africa
Pear, white peach, nut and anise notes here. Lovely, fresh and focused palate with lemons and herbs. Complex and linear, with real finesse. Beautiful. 95/100

Paul Cluver Seven Flags Pinot Noir 2014 Elgin, South Africa
Since 2012 Martin Prieur of Domaine Jacques Prieur has consulted here. The focus has been on purity of fruit and acidity, and in 2014 I think they’ve cracked it. So fine and fresh with lovely silky tannins. Fine, textural cherry fruit with plums and nice spiciness. Linear and expressive. 95/100

testalonga cortez

Testalonga Cortez El Bandito 2009 Swartland, South Africa
This Chenin Blanc was made with no added sulphites, so how does it look at age 7? Tight, reductive and pure with pristine lemony fruit and some matchtick minerality. Intense lemony fruit here belies the age of this wine, which is linear and pure. It’s picked up some complexity on the way, too. Stunning. 96/100

olerasay

Mullineux Olerasay No 1 NV Swartland, South Africa
Golden colour. Juicy and raisiny with marmalade and citrus notes. Very lively and spicy with great complexity, and a grainy sort of texture with real precision. Very pure and intense with crystalline fruit character. 96/100

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Wines of the year (4) some brilliant French wines

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Continuing the theme of wines of the year, I’ve picked some of the very best French wines that I tasted in 2016, excluding Champagnes and older wines, which I wrote about separately. So many good bottles here, including a strong showing from Beaujolais, which may surprise some people.

Richard Leroy Les Rouliers Chenin 2012 Vin de France
Amazingly intense matchstick nose is mineral and taut with citrus, flint and spice. The palate has ripe apple, spice and pear with lovely bright citrus notes. Complex and detailed with amazing integrated reductive mineral notes. So expressive. 95/100

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves Clos Romans Saumur 2012 Loire, France
13% alcohol. Chenin Blanc from tufa soils. Very spicy, smoky and linear with sweet apple, a hint of hay and bright lemony acidity. Such precision here with an amazing linear focus, and a touch of anise and apple on the finish. Long and profound. 95/100

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Lapierre Morgon Côte du Py Cuvée Marcel Lapierre 2014 Beaujolais, France
Beautifully aromatic: pure, floral and sappy with nice ripeness. Silky with a generous, almost liqueur-like cherry note as well as supple raspberry notes. Crisp but with generosity, this is quite beautiful. 96/100

Jean Marc Burgaud Morgon Côte du Py Javernières 2014 Beaujolais, France
This is from a more alluvial part of Côte du Py. Brooding and smooth with pure black cherry, raspberry and red cherry fruit. Amazing finesse on the palate with focused blackcurrant fruit. Amazing finesse. 95/100

Frédéric Berne Morgon Corcelette 2014 Beaujolais, France
From deep pink granite soils, this is elegant yet fresh with liqueur-like richness to the fruit. Complex, with fine, fresh fruit and grippy tannins, as well as a slightly sappy edge. Really pure and elegant with amazing finesse. Finely grained. 95/100

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Château Moulin à Vent Croix des Vérillats 2014 Beaujolais, France
Beautifully perfumed with sweet, floral, aromatic sweet black cherry fruit and some raspberries, showing some subtle herbal notes. Beguiling and complex. Lovely concentration here with expressive finely spiced black fruits. Polished but not overly so: thrilling, in a modern style. 95/100

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Domaine Piron Lameloise Chenas ‘Quartz’ 2014 Beaujolais, France
From Dominique Piron. Very fresh red fruits nose with some peppery spiciness. Detailed and fresh with some raspberry too. Lovely elegance on the palate, which shows focused red cherry and raspberry fruit with some peppery detail. Floral, fresh and delicious. 95/10

Thillardon Chenas ‘Chassignol’ 2014 Beaujolais, France
Granite and quartz soils make their mark here. Fine, fresh and expressive peppery nose with some sappy red fruits. So pretty. Lively, bright and sappy on the palate with a hint of green and a vivid, peppery, mineral edge to the red fruits. Good acidity and focus to this pure wine. 95/100

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2010 Burgundy, France
Wonderfully mineral, spicy nose with a bit of nice reduction. Deliciously minerally on the palate with citrus and pear fruit. Subtle creamy notes in the background, but overall this is a powerful, fresh, driven Chablis with a complex, expressive personality. It’s just beautiful. 95/100

Raveneau Montée de Tonnerre Chablis 1er Cru 2006 Burgundy, France
Very taut and crystalline with lovely finesse to the mineral-driven lemon and pear fruit. Just a hint of creaminess in the background. So pure and fine with some oyster shell character. 95/100

Roulot Meursault Clos des Bouchères 1er Cru Monopole 2012 Burgundy, France
Beautifully taut and mineral with a subtle salty mineral streak and beautiful focus and finesse. Great precision here: a lovely wine. 96

Château Pichon Baron, Pauillac 2012 Bordeaux, France
This is sensational. It’s concentrated and intense with ripe blackcurrant and black cherry fruit supported by beautifully refined chalky tannins. Structured and bold with restraint: while this has enough ripeness, it is also really direct and savoury with lovely precision to the black fruits. There’s amazing balance and concentration here. Still very youthful with taut structure, and real potential for development. Such purity to the fruit, and no rough edges; structured and fine. An astonishingly good expression of this vintage, which I’ve grown to like quite a bit. 96/100

Zind Humbecht Riesling Clos St Urbain Grand Cru Rangen de Thann 2014 Alsace, France
Really focused lemony nose. Bright and mineral with real precision and focus, showing pure citrus fruits with well integrated acidity. Quite thrilling. 95/100

albert boxler

Albert Boxler Riesling Sommerberg Grand Cru ‘E’ 2014 Alsace
From a special parcel in the Sommerberg, which is cooler and more stony. Very lively, pure and mineralwith focused citrus and pear fruit, and a bit of white peach richness. Lively and pure with many dimensions. 95/100

Weinbach Riesling Schlossberg Grand Cru 2015 Alsace
This is amazing. From granitic soils. Bright, taut and linear with a stony, mineral edge to the palate, which is tight and lean with lovely acidity and an almost saline character. Such precision and linearity, and real length. 95/100

Domaine Labet Fleur de Savagnin ‘en Chalasse’ 2013 Côtes de Jura, France
From massale selection vines planted in 2003, this is truly remarkable. Fermented and aged in older oak. Complex, lively and citrussy with lovely lemony notes and real concentration and intensity. So fine and distinctive with fine spicy notes and lovely acidity. This is just incredibly beautiful and complex. 95/100

Domaine Labet Chardonnay ‘La Bardette’ 2014 Côtes de Jura, France
13% alcohol, pH 3.01, 10 mg/l total SO2. This is from a small 0.55 ares parcel that spends 18 months in oak, and it’s massale selection Chardonnay. Complex, intense and mineral with lovely crystalline citrus and grapefruit character. Smoky, mineral and bright with a pithy edge and some apple and pear notes. This has a bit of grip, with some fine spiciness and a reductive twist. 95/100

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