Philglas & Swiggot Bronze 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.
Reserve de Gassac Rose 2017 - £9.95
This was a massive hit last summer when we listed it in the stores so we’ve brought it back in earlier this year to make the most of any moments of Spring that might suddenly strike. A blend of Grenache (perfume and light red fruits), Syrah (for body and a little colour), and Carignan (for acidity and structure), you should open your case and put this straight into the fridge, ready to go. Made by one of the Languedoc’s most famous estates (Mas de Daumas Gassac) which has been a quality outlier since its founding in 1971.
Cantina Terlan Pinot Bianco Clasico 2017 - £18.50
It was only last week that we held a broad tasting of the wines from Cantina Terlan, which has a great history both in Italy and in the Philglas & Swiggot range. The Cantina is a co-operative owned by grape growers who sell all of their grapes to the winery, while it is managed by professionals who making the harvest, winemaking and sales and marketing decisions. It’s a system that has worked extremely well over the past 120 years, with the grape growers paid handsomely for the crop while having the guarantee of pricing and a market for them. This allows them to focus on growing quality, and the Cantina Terlan is justifiably considered one of the greatest makers of white wines in Italy. Terlan is based in the Alto Adige west of Bolzano and is owned by around 100 growers with about 100 hectares of grapes and unlike most other wine regions here the family owned vineyards are never bought and never sold. The cultural heritage is mixed Italian and German, but within the village of Terlan the Germanic influences dominate and all the key players in the co-operative are of German-speaking descent. It is within this pristine, Alpine corner of northern Italy that Pinot Bianco (known as Pinot Blanc or Weissburgunder elsewhere) reaches its quality peak. Planted at some altitude but really not all that far from the Adriatic Sea, the vines manage to grow in both alpine and Mediterranean climates, and the soils are largely decomposed volcanic with lots of sand, porphyry and quartz. Pinot Bianco is planted at around 600m asl and produces wines that are not flamboyant but lightly scented with white flowers and delicate orchard fruits that transparently overlay and stony and mineral structure. Despite not being a rich and powerful wine, it does not lack intensity and pairs perfectly with the local speck and hand-made sausages and sauerkraut.
Alain Jaume Reserve Grand Veneur Cotes du Rhône Blanc 2016 - £14.95
Cotes du Rhône Blanc can be weighty and rich and might typically be placed at the end of this flight, but here the dominant grape variety is Roussanne which is famously late to ripen and is noted for its great retention of acidity. Thus, this wine is a lot fresher than many other comparable blends, although the addition of some Viognier definitely lifts the perfume and adds some weight to the palate while the rounding out with a little Clairette helps moderate the alcohol and brings a lightness of touch to the wine. Winemaking is extremely simple, with the grapes sourced from a flat limestone-clay plateau and harvested by machine (which helps accentuate a fruit-driven style) before being whisked to the winery for rapid pressing, settling and clean fermentation in stainless steel tanks. This is a lovely fresh little number with aromas of elderflower and just ripe peaches and apricots and is a soft but refreshing style of wine that would suit an antipasto platter and/or gravlax.
Bosman Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Chardonnay 2016 - £14.50
In your Winter case you received a bottle of the Pinot from Bosman so their story will be familiar. The Bosman family have been farming in South Africa since 1707 and produced wine for more than two centuries, until concentrating on the vineyard and a small nursery from the 1950s until the last decade. They revitalised their 250-year-old cellars in 2007, and now 8thgeneration family are again making wines. In 2009 they became one of the largest Fairtrade certified producers in South Africa after forming a joint-venture with the Adama Workers Trust giving workers co-ownership of 430 acres of farming land. The Hemel-en-Aarde valley extends north from the South African coast near the town of Hermanus (one of the world’s great whale-watching places) and is become the most prestigious area for growing Pinot Noir. But even small areas are not free of political disputes and the valley is divided into three wards (Hemel-en -Aarde, the Upper and the Ridge) with local vignerons in each arguing for the uniqueness and greatness of their own meso-climates. Competitively and sometimes spitefully toned there is no doubt it has brought a lot of attention to the area and spurred efforts to make South Africa’s best cool-climate wines. The Chardonnays from here are among the most elegant in South Africa, layered with flavours of pear, apple and some winemaking influence that bring brioche and butterscotch. Around 20% of the wine is fermented in oak casks for just 6 months, while the balance is aged in stainless steel tanks, so the oak influence is non-intrusive and gentle. This would be great with white asparagus risotto.
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 groundedness 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.
Protocolo Vina de la Tierra 2016 - £9.95
This is a great little wine designed to be opened and enjoyed with a moment’s notice and will be the perfect salve for a wet night and a late dinner of pasta or pizza or both! This is made by reputed Spanish winemaker Marcus Eguren Protocolo, whose family estate has been making wine in Rioja since 1870 (he is the 5thgeneration involved in the business). Marcus established his own property, the Dominio de Eguren, in Manchuela (which is southeast of Madrid) and now makes a range of table wines (Vino de la Tierra) that are made for more-or-less immediate enjoyment. Based on old vine Tempranillo from 35-year-old vines that is planted on a calcareous limestone base at high altitude, the grapes are cold-macerated to pull out colour, aromas and then given a short 6-day fermentation to keep the tannins soft. Blending with younger parcels from Toro and Rioja render the classification as humble but the result is a fabulously rich and layered wine that punches well above its weight.
Gérard Bertrand La Vieille Capitelle 2016 - £9.95
The winemaking business of Gérard Bertrand has become a tour-de-force in the relatively short time since taking over the family winery in 1987 following his father’s death. Gérard has played International rugby for France and captained Stade Français, and has translated his successful and long rugby career into an extraordinarily successful business empire. It has grown rapidly to acquire a number of beautiful estates across the Languedoc, and over the past 15 years he has successfully converted all of them to 100% biodynamic viticulture. His estates make some of the best wines in the region but here we have one of his most generously humble, a brilliant cuvee of local varieties Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. This is richer and riper than the Protocolo above, with masses of dark berry fruits, rich, sweet spices and lush velvety tannins. A terrific accompaniment on its own or for a mixed grill.
Bourgueil Cuvee Prestige 2014 - £15.95
Created by Pierre Guyot in 1869, this historic wine domaine was passed to his son-in-law Jules Lamé, who took advantage of the phylloxera crisis and one of the first in the region to plant grafted vines. Little by little he increased the vineyard holdings. Returning from a prisoner of war camp in 1945, Jules’ son Lucien took the decision with his wife Yvonne to bottle their entire 1947 crop to sell under their own label instead of selling it to the négociants as they had previously done. Whilst the domaine does produce a brasserie-style wine, Les Chesnaies, it is in the Cuvée Prestige that most interest lies. This is made from the oldest vines on the mid-slope parcels, where the clay-chalk soil is the most interesting. The wines are vinified in large tronconic barrels and raised in large old oak foudres for varying lengths of time depending on the vintage. Philippe Boucard, who currently runs the estate with his wife, sister and brother-in-law, is a jovial and friendly chap who loves nothing more than talking politics and sport over a few old bottles deep in the domaine’s well-stocked tuffeau cellars underneath the cuverie. It is often tricky to extricate oneself once he has the corkscrew to hand. A refined and elegant wine, this will offer a charming nose of black fruits and perfume, and a rich smooth palate. Pair with red meat like beef veal or lamb, and always with cheese!
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.
Clos La Coutale Cahors 2016 - £13.25
Cahors is the French home of Malbec (known locally as Cot) where the wines tend to be more elegant and tannic than their counterparts from Argentina. The Clos La Coutale is a 100-hectare domain situated on the alluvial terraces in the heart of the Lot department of Occitan, about 3 hours’ drive east of Bordeaux. This is rugged country, backed by jaw-dropping mountains covered in woods and with verdant fields and vibrant rivers carving a swathe through the landscape. Cahors is based on a U-shaped bend of the Lot river, where there wide gravelly loams extend up into some arable valleys. Famed for its tannic grip and deep colour (Cahors has been known simply as Black Wine historically) this particular cuvee is blended with Merlot to add softness and youthful drinkability. The 6thgeneration of the Valmy family make the wines in the same way they routinely do with mature vines, low yields and long cuvaison of around 3 weeks to extract then moderate the tannins. The wine is aged in oak for several months. Classically this would pair magnificently with a Cassoulet, but any rich stew would be ideal.
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!