Philglas & Swiggot Gold Wine Club Notes – Spring 2019
As a guide to make this easier to choose what wines to drink we have written the notes in increasing order of lightest/freshest through to the most full-bodied.
First up we have a pair of wines from the great Austrian winemaker Willi Bründlmayer, based in the Kamptal wine region about one hour north-west of Vienna. Vineyard terraces are carved into the hillsides by the river, where they are drenched in sun by day, while the wooded hilltops of the Waldviertel protect the vines from the cold winds that blow in from the north while being able to benefit from the warming Pannonian winds from the south. Kamptal feeds into the much larger Danube river to the south very close to the city of Krems, and of the three famous Austrian wine regions for white wines (Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal) it tends to make the most elegant wines. Willi was a founder of the movement to classify wines from Kamptal so that they can only carry the regional name if they are made from Grüner Veltliner or Riesling in a dry style.
Grüner Veltliner Kamptaler Terrassen 2017 - £19.95
A benchmark wine that typifies the region and the variety. Sourced from a number of terraced vineyards planted on clay and schist at higher elevations. This combines the elegance of spice and pepper of Gruner, moving into green walnut, elderflower and lemon, and showing riper, warmer tones of cereals, nuts and stone fruit. The wine is always backed by steely acidity and the overall alcohol is a moderate 12.5%. An excellent wine for Dim Sum.
Riesling ‘Zöbinger Heiligenstein’ 2015 - £27.50
The Heiligenstein vineyard is arguably the finest in Kamptal and classified as an Erste Lage or Frist Growth. Its terraced and faces south-west, so enjoys a lot of warming influences, but it is also on an outcrop in the river and is exposed more directly by winds to the north, so its typically later to ripen than other sites. Soils here are more than 250 million years old, the oldest in the region, and are a very rocky and exposed reddish-brown sandstone that includes volcanic elements. Bründlmayer owns 12 hectares of the vineyard and make a fabulous wine that is shy to open but reveals cumquat, brioche and dried peel notes, and with time in the glass subtle notes of thyme, sage and mineral salts emerge. This has great presence and brilliant acidity, but in 2015 the warm vintage has delivered a spectacularly flavoured wine. This makes a good alternative to a meal where a light red is called for – so roast pork and dumplings for example.
Fratelli Berlucchi Franciacorta Brut 25 - £22.50
This has been a house favourite since we listed it around 18 months ago and so it’s great to get it into this month’s case. The feature of this wine is its adorable, creamy texture that makes it so silky and charming to drink. Fratelli Berlucchi have 70 hectares of vineyards and are the largest privately-owned estate of the Franciacorta appellation (right up in the foothills of the Alps in north-western Italy). Franciacorta is known to have the greatest concentration of high-quality sparkling wineries making wine in the Champagne/Traditional method. Unlike some of the better-known labels, Fratelli Berlucchi use only their own grapes. The vines, aged between 10 and 50 years, are 220m above sea level, and are planted on calcareous morainic soils but for the Brut 25 the youngest vines are used. This is a non-vintage blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco and is named 25 as it’s made to be ready to drink 25 months after harvest. Dosage is around the same as most NV Champagnes, but the silkiness comes from clever usage of slightly lower pressure during secondary fermentation, giving the wines a real lustre. A great aperitif for any occasion.
Grosset Springvale Riesling 2018 - £29.95
Jeffrey Grosset cut his teeth making wine in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the large Lindemans Karadoc winery in Australia, but swiftly moved to the Clare Valley and bought some Riesling vines and set about redefining the quality potential for this grape in this region. There is no doubt that for the past three decades he has been considered the star producer of this well-loved Australian region. Clare Valley Riesling is typically laser-beam direct, with thirsty acidity and masses of lemon-lime juice flavour. The Valley itself is about an hour north of the Barossa and 2 hours north of Adelaide, and sits at 400-550m altitude, and is one of the last patches of genuine farmland before heading out into the hostility of the South Australian desert. The strong continental climate is ideal for Riesling, allowing the thick skins to ripen with flavour, while the cold nights preserve acidity. Grosset’s wines used to be more perverse and stricter, but these days a little softness has crept into the wines and I think for the better. The palate is still water tight and fresh, with lovely directness s and capacity to age. My tradition in Australia was to buy a bottle of something like this and drink it with a kilo of freshly shelled prawns, sitting in the fish market on Sydney Harbour.
Droin ‘Vaillons’ 1er Cru Chablis 2017 - £34.95
The wines from Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin are now firmly established at Philglas & Swiggot and increasingly recognised as amongst the top echelon of producers in Chablis. The 2017 vintage has delivered outstanding wines, a match for the exceptional 2014s with similar clarity and brilliance and just a little more ripeness of fruit. The Premier Cru Vaillons Chablis was tasted recently at our Burgundy tasting and shone for its gorgeous class and benchmark typicity. It’s very fine structure and tightness suggests this will only blossom over the next few years. Vaillons is a large Premier Cru facing southeast towards the morning sun and tend to make wines noted for their white fruit and floral characters, and overall delicacy compared to the Grand Crus. Around 20% of Vaillons is fermented in small oak, but just a whisper of that is new and it makes no appearance in the flavour of the wine. 2017 is stylistically between 2012 and 2014, two of the best vintages in the past decade and according to Jean-Pau the 2nd best vintage since 2010 overall. Has a fleshy fruit profile but trademark texture and structure.
'People often cite Domaines Raveneau and Vincent Dauvissat as the two greatest exponents of Chablis, however, I would like to add a third - Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin. Over the last five or six years, Benoît Droin has really ratcheted up the quality. I cannot exaggerate how often Droin's wines end up the best of flight in the annual 'Burgfest' blind tastings.......it is time to accept that Droin is now one of the leading producers in Chablis’ Neal Martin, VINOUS
Lara ‘Sunset Scent’ Chardonnay 2016 - £18.95
Valter Scarbolo is most definitely a man of the world and his wines reflect a rich understanding of the world around him, which underpins a deep confidence in his vines and the philosophy of growing grapes and making wine. Based in Friuli, Valter has planted all the local varieties (Ribolla Gialla, Friulano, Pinto Grigio) and also some of the ‘international’ varieties like Chardonnay and Merlot, even though the former has been panted in north-eastern Italy for a long, long time. We have imported the wines from Valter Scarbolo for many years and they have been enjoyed enduringly excellent quality and value, but here we have two wines we’ve never listed until now. It was Valter’s father, Gino, who bought land and planted his own vines after spending many years working another estate as a tenant-family. Gino made wine and sold it in bulk, but when Valter took over in 1987 he modified the viticulture towards higher quality and began bottling his wines under the Scarbolo name. Now his two children, Lara and Mattia, are taking over the running over the business under his careful guidance. In fact, while the estate has been dizzyingly successful there is a strong feeling of groundedness and love for their home and the people who have committed their loves to working with them.
Sourced from a vineyard that Valter planted dedicated to quality, this is planted at high density to the Burgundian ‘Guyot’ vine training method which allows even spacing of bunches for consistent ripening. The grapes are hand harvested and pressed gently and quickly with a little skin contact and is then completely fermented in small French oak barrels. At the moment the oak shows most clearly on the back palate, rounding out the wine with toasty notes and grilled nuts but the lead in is lovely with grapefruit and tropical fruits evident, and a long penetrating richness. Try this with some grilled salmon steaks topped with a crushed macadamia nut pesto and see the marriage of flavours come together.
Turley ‘Bechthold Vineyard’ Cinsault 2017 - £27.50
Turley are famed for their bold and honestly powerful Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs, and so when I discovered this wine in a Seattle wine shop two years ago I was stunned for two reasons – the first, that it comes from one of my favourite sites, with the Bechthold vineyard being the oldest Cinsault site in the world (planted in 1886), and the second is that this wine is so un-Turley like weighing in at just 12.5% alcohol. This is utterly delicious summer joy, you should drink this lightly chilled and wait for the first gloriously sunny day of spring, then take this to the park and enjoy it quickly with a group of friends. It’s so soft, perfumed and red-scented charming that it will wash down your throat in a matter of minutes. Smashable was coined for wines like this. No food required!
Rodolphe Demougeot Les Clous Auxey-Duresses 2016 - £32.50
Domaine Rodolphe Demougeot was created in 1992 in the Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune (the southern half of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or), and since 1998 he has been based in Meursault. Starting out with just 3 hectares, often farmed with his grandparents, in the Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune, Pommard and Beaune, the estate now comprises 8 hectares with plots acquired in Savigny-lès-Beaune, Monthélie and Meursault. He farms his vineyards sustainably with no herbicides or pesticides, tills his soils with horse and plough and follows the lunar calendar (biodynamic principles), creating wines that are energetic and vibrant but never forced in style. The Auxey-Duresses originates from a plot of vines growing on chalky/clay soils with excellent drainage, and while wines from this village can be broad and muscular Rodolphe has managed to craft something perfumed and charming. The wines are given 15 months maturation in French oak barrels (15% new) to aid that tannin taming process, yielding an exuberant, expressive bouquet redolent of a fresh red fruit medley woven by fine tannins and a vibrant sapidity. Good weight, structure and intensity too. Great to drink during this year with duck breast.
Oenops Limniona 2017 - £25.95
The philosophy of Oenops is simple. As winemakerNikos Karatzas says ’I want to be liberated from PDO and PGI regulations that to a certain extent dictate style, so I am looking for different terroirs that will bring out the character of the varieties with minimal intervention in the winery. The only thing which counts, to me, is how a wine tastes, and I am trying to express varietal character with as much validity as I possibly can.’ Karatzas is a pioneer in winemaking. He has paved the way for the new generation of Greek wines which are relieved from new oak; a course which is completely on the other side of what we are used to up to now. For example, while he does not exclude barrels for fermentation, maturation occurs only in inox and amphoras so as to attain ultimate fruit purity. We met Nikos while on holidays in Greece several years ago and we tried his white wines (it was summer) and then just before Christmas he got in touch to send samples of this, his Limniona – a variety I had not heard of before then. I opened it and tasted it over two days and became more and more impressed. At first the wine is a little stinky and closed, so I would definitely decant this for an hour if you can, but it simply got better and better over time. In fact, it was probably the single most enjoyable wine I had over Christmas, and I opened some exceptional wines! I recall having the last sip and utterly savouring the freshness and the finish so I knew it would be in this month’s cases. The grapes sourced from 25-year-old vineyards in Thessaly (so we are talking Macedonian Thrace in the north of Greece. Fermentation here is 60% in amphora with the rest in 500L oak casks. Alcohol is at 13% and the release is again just 1,300 bottles. Laden with dark fruits, a smoky-meaty background reminiscent of Syrah and lots of spice this is my discovery wine of the past 6 months.
M.O.B. Dao, 2015 - £15.95
The M.O.B. collective have a 10-year lease on the estate formerly known as Quinta de Corujão and all being well, they hope to buy the vineyard and its winery in due course. They have two vineyards on rolling hills, both situated between the towns of Seia and Gouveia, one totalling 8 hectares and the other that is slightly steeper of just 2 hectares. The vineyards are protected by the Serra D’Estrela mountains nearby, which along with other mountain ranges throughout the Dão Valley shield the vineyards from the heat of the North, as well contributing to the wind and rain that their vines are exposed to. The landscape is defined by rugged shrub land, trees and large granite rocks, with vineyards are few and far between. Working with indigenous grape varieties is the priority for the three winemakers at M.O.B. The perfectly balanced blend - 50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Alfrocheiro, 15% Jaen and 5% Baga - is something special. An exceptionally elegant wine, with potential to age wonderfully. If you cannot wait, this wine will drink beautifully, but lay it down for a few years and you will be rewarded!! Otherwise enjoy with some grilled lamb cutlets and rosemary.
Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2016 - £23.50
Chianti Classico is the flagship wine from most Tuscan estates, and here we have a spectacular beauty. Many a Chianti tasted this year has been underwhelming with either tired fruit, or lots of extract or a simple lack of balance and freshness – 2016 and 2015 were warm vintage after all. But this is a genuinely beautiful wine, with perfectly ripe dark fruits of Morello cherry, black plum and hints of sage and leather. It’s a truly classic blend as well with the majority of Sangiovese rounded out with a little Canaiolo and Colorino, while the wine is sensitively aged in very large oak casks for around 12 months. The state is certified Organic and is located near Monti, in the heart of the hills that define the Chianti Classico region. All of the vineyards and olive groves have been farmed organically since 2006, while they have also been adapting more sustainable water usage techniques (underground water storage) and farming by hand.
Petaluma ‘Evan’s Vineyard’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
If Andrew, the chief winemaker at Petaluma, was restricted to one word to describe his winemaking philosophy, it would be minimalist; his aim is for the fruit to do the talking. The style changes he has implemented over the past six years have been subtle, more ‘evolution, than revolution’. The Coonawarra is very much focused on fruit from the Evan’s vineyard old vines and Hardy is intent on the wine displaying the true ‘terroir’ of Coonawarra’s famed red dirt. The 2015 vintage will give you a deep intense colour, and an expressive nose of blackcurrants and plum alongside cedar, spice, classic leaf characters and graphite. An impressive wine to decant, this is a big brooding dry red which will sit happily alongside the best Coonawarra vintages.