Philglas & Swiggot Silver 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.
Kaiken Metodo Tradicional Brut NV - £17.95
Its’ not widely know that Argentina makes some very high-quality sparkling wines, most notably the Domaine Chandon property (owned by Moët & Chandon), thanks to its high elevation and low latitude sites. The vines here are at very high altitude (1,400m asl) in the Uco Valley of southern Mendoza, and just below the mighty Andes. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are planted making this perfect for sparkling wine. Kaiken is the Argentine project of Chile’s famous Aurelio Montes, and the estate is run by his son, also Aurelio, with whom I was lucky to work a harvest in Australia in 2000. Aurelio Jr is one of the loveliest guys you can hope to meet, a true gentleman and honest soul who has experience highs and lows in life. He tragically lost his young wife on honeymoon in the Indonesian Tsunami in 2004 (Aurelio had gone for run up into the hills that morning), and so devasted was he by the loss he left the world of wine and spent more than a year working with street kids in Santiago. Leaving Chile and building a new life at Kaiken in Argentina has perhaps been the best way for Aurelio to reconnect with life and with making wine. The sparkling wine he has crafted here is absolutely fantastic, a beautifully balanced wine given the Champagne treatment but maintaining a much more refreshing citrus and wildflower softness. We were all blown away by the quality and harmony of this wine when tasted in January this year, and I’m glad to list it here and think that it seems Aurelio has restored some balance into his own life as a result.
I Clivi Malvasia 2017- £26.50
If you like tense and fresh wines with lots of energy, then Friuli is a great place to look. Here we have father and son team Ferdinando and Mario Zanusso, who purchased a dozen hectares of old vines in the Colli Oriental in the early 1990s, when the area was not as highly regarded as it is now. They are certified organic and grow native varieties Ribolla, Malvasia, Verduzzo, and Friulano and most of the vineyards are between 60-80 years of age, the oldest being the Malvasia Istriana vines used in this wine. The winemaking is very simple, clean and pure and mirrors the techniques one might find used on fine Riesling, Chablis or Sancerre the only influence some 12 months ageing on the lees for texture and natural stabilisation. There is a wonderful camomile aromatic intensity to this wine which leads into a similarly delicate palate with surprising freshness and of course total dryness. Just like the label, this is a wine of classic elegance, an old soul and hidden complexities. Best sipped and savoured on a warmer spring evening thinking about tomorrow’s sunrise.
Ciro Picariello Falanghina 2017 - £18.95
Falanghina can be the lost child of Campania’s trilogy of fine white grapes (Fiano and Greco being more highly regarded) and as such its often produced with a supporting role that seeks to reduce rather than enhance its character. Typically, it’s the easy-drinking house white in a flotilla of restaurants dangling all along he Amalfi coast. Ciro Picariello and his wife Rita have vineyards very close to Avellino (where the best Fiano is grown), an area defined by high altitudes (around 400m asl) and volcanic, sandy soils. The area is windy which both discourage vigour and large yields, and cool the vines from hut summer temperatures, so there is plenty of freshness and character in Falanghina grown here. The wine is made classically in stainless steel tanks and the essence is captured with notes of lily, jasmine and white peach. This is perfect with a light vegetable pasta – a zucchini and olive oil linguine would be great.
Kumeu River Village Chardonnay 2016 - £19.95
Kumeu River is a star outlier in the world of wine, founded by Croatian immigrants in the 1960s on flat, muddy dairy farming country an hour north of Auckland. Son Michael Brajkovich has taken the wine quality to incredible heights (becoming New Zealand’s first Master of Wine en route in 1989) such that when the wines are tasted in blind company they are almost universally mistaken for top white Burgundy. Yet nothing else about them is even reminiscent of wines from France. The soil is heavy clay over sandstone which prevent hydric stress year-round, while the vineyards are trained in the rare and very laborious Lyre system. But in the winery the techniques for making Chardonnay are indeed Burgundian and the winery has built an illustrious reputation for its Chardonnays over the past thirty years. The Village Chardonnay is the entry-level wine for Kumeu River and comes from their own and neighbouring vineyards. While the single vineyard wines demand cellaring, this is always delicious in its youth and receives the same careful handling in the winery. Hand-harvested and fermented with wild yeasts in mostly old French oak barriques and some stainless-steel tanks, this is gloriously oak-free and has that hallmark pristine fruit profile of lemon curd, lime and flint. Drinking now with grilled chicken salad.
The next two wines have been chosen as a pair as they come from the same winery and have similar origin stories, but don’t feel obliged to drink them together.
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 grounded-ness and love for their home and the people who have committed their loves to working with them. So here we have two wines for you to enjoy, each dedicated to Valter’s children
Lara ‘Sunset Scent’ Chardonnay 2016 - £18.95
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.
Mattia ‘Beyond Pinot’ Pinot Grigio 2016 - £18.95
This is a selection of Pinot Grigio from the oldest vineyard on the estate planted 30 years ago. Named after Valter’s son this was planted in the same way as the Lara vineyard, to high density and Burgundian methods. The grapes are handled identically to Lara, but the wine is fermented in both stainless steel and large 2,000L oak barrels. This is more powerful than the Lara Chardonnay with a fantastic range of stone fruit, tangerine and honeysuckle aromas and a refreshing stony finish. Try this with richer seafood dishes, a powerful risotto or crustaceans.
Casa Ferreirinha ‘Vinha Grande’ Douro Tinto 2016 - £14.50
Founded in 1952, this is the most historic producer of table wine in the Douro where a revolution in red, dry table wines is currently taking place. legendary Porto matriarch Dona Antónia Ferreira. Affectionately nicknamed 'Ferreirinha' by her countrymen, the house pays homage to her memory and was the first house in the region dedicated to making light wines. It has 520 hectares of vineyard in the Douro in all of its three sub-regions, but for this wine the sourcing is all from the high altitude Cima Corgo region. The mountain terraces are all schist and planted to a range of grapes – Touriga Franca (40%), Touriga Nacional (25%), Tinta Roriz (25%) and Tinta Barroca (10%). We loved this wines' fabulous depth and complexity, with both masses of crushed raspberry fruit, boysenberries and tones of fresh cracked black pepper, lavender and other wild herbs. The palate is plush and rich, but the high-altitude freshness confers great acidity to the wine. This is utterly delicious and would cut through any kind of richly favoured meat dish, or indeed a vegetarian dhal. Most famously this estate is known for the production of Barca Velha - widely considered to be the best of what the Douro has to offer, and often compared to Australia’s Penfolds Grange in terms of its stature and importance to its home country.
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.
Vaglio Chacra Malbec 2015 - £15.95
Another new wine for Philglas & Swiggot, this is a welcome addition to our Malbec range and a great contrast to the Cahors with its ripeness, plush styling and deep soft tannins. Vaglio is made by José Lovaglio Balbo, the son of top Argentine winemaker Susanna Balbo. In 2013 he started to rent an old, small gravity fed concrete winery in Tupungato and refurbished it to meet his needs. He produces single vineyard wines, from different sub regions and soil types, that are all vinified in the same way with minimal intervention and oak contact. This particular wine is sourced from a single vineyard in Agrelo, which is in the district of Lujan de Cuyo, just south of the city of Mendoza. The vines are only 15 years old and planted at nearly 1,000m asl in deep red clay. Hand-harvesting the wine is handled carefully in the winery with native yeast fermentation, a very long maceration of around 40 days, and then ageing in French oak (40% of it new). The long maceration allows tannins to first extract and then polymerise which makes them softer, while new oak continues to allow oxygen to develop the tannin profile. The outcome is a dark fruited wine with masses of texture and flavour and is a real knockout with plenty of easy drinkability. Food match - steak!
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.
Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 - £20.50
Paso Robles Cabernet can be big and sweet fruited and often lavishly oaked but instead we have here something perfumed, supple and gorgeously fruited – it should be an example to winemakers everywhere how to take excellent quality grapes and handled them sensitively. A reason could be that the wine is made by the Varner family, who are better known for making elegant Pinot Noir in the cool, Santa Cruz Mountains. That supple hand is definitely in play here, the wine is layered with lots of red berry fruit, cherry, plum and a hint of violet, while just 6% new French oak is used in maturation helping the wine flow and feel silky rather than firm and chewy. Utterly delicious and marvellous value Cabernet from the southern half of California.
La Croix Dillanges Saint-Julien 2016 - £28.50
This has been one of our most popular Bordeaux’s this Winter as it showcases the typical gravely tannin structure of the Medoc, whilst has that gloriously integrated graphite texture from the very best quality French oak (that seems to always find its way to Bordeaux – quelle surprise!). This is a cuvee made by Chateau du Glana, a young cru Bourgeois property founded in 1999 near the famed 2ndgrowth Ducru-Beaucaillou, although vines have been planted here since the 19thcentury. Its youth doesn’t detract from its providential site that has the same gravelly soils as its neighbours and with the construction of a new winery and with expert guidance from Denis Dubourdieu (who sadly passed away two years ago), wine quality has come on in leaps and bounds. This is a top value estate in one of Bordeaux’s most famous communes that is worth keeping an eye on. The 2016 is a terrific vintage with beautiful ripeness but aligned to marvellous fresh acidity, the wines are balanced and rich and while delicious now they could easily improve over another 5-10 years in the cellar.