Philglas & Swiggot Platinum 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. Please note that some of the wines in the Platinum case are in rare supply and one or two may change over the course of the spring.
First up we have a pair of wines from Tasmania, Australia’s most exciting source of cool-climate wine styles.
Arras Grand Vintage 2008 - £44.95
This is a sensational Methode Champenoise wine from Tasmania, made by Australia’s most successful sparkling winemaker Ed Carr. Ed has been the driving force behind the emergence of Tasmania as the dominant source of Australia’s best sparkling grapes, and through his company’s extensive resources they very cannily snapped up much of the state’s very limited supply for their wide range of top-quality sparkling wines. Arras represents the pinnacle of all of Ed’s wines and here we have a wine that we tasted in January and impressed us enormously. Just as it is in Champagne, 2008 is a fabulous vintage in Tasmania and this wine has everything. The glowing green/gold colour promises much while the volume of aromas is impressive, with fantastic lift and texture supporting flavours of honeysuckle, green apple, creamed honey and brioche. There is tremendous complexity here and more fruit power than you would find in Champagne, but the balance is superb. A blend of 66% Chardonnay and 34% Pinot Noir this has been aged on lees for 7 years before release and has a modest dosage of just 6g/l. Putting that maturation profile in context you would pay twice the price for Champagne of similar quality. I’m really pleased to be sharing this wine with you this month, it will delight all and surprise champagne fans out there.
Tolpuddle Chardonnay 2014 - £46.95
Tolpuddle vineyard was purchased by Martin Shaw and Michael Hill-Smith MW (of Shaw + Smith in the Adelaide Hills) at the start of this decade when it was already en established site with more than 20 harvests under its belt, yet the grapes were sold to other producers. They immediately set about producing their own wines and they have continued to improve and refine them so that the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are now recognised as being amongst the best in Australia. This has a tight, creamy quality with ripe notes of lemon curd and white peaches, and the most beautiful seamless palate that a little bottle age has filled in and rounded out. This is a wonderful wine that is becoming more sought after, and subsequent vintages are now extremely favourably regarded while prices are starting to rise. This is delicious now but would benefit from further bottle age, I can imagine this pairing well with crab linguine.
Francois Cotat Mont Damnes Sancerre 2017 - £39.95
Arguably one of Sancerre’s most famous producers, we are lucky to have a small allocation of this wine for the first time. The wines of François Cotat are highly collectible and have a fabulous record for ageing – if you would like some more of this for your cellar please just let me know as we are holding a few bottles in bond for this very reason. Based in Chavignol in the west of Sancerre, the ‘Mont Damnes’ is a steep site that yields incredibly precise and granular wines that are illuminated by tight citrus flavours, mineral salts, and a heady smoky perfume. Francois likes to harvest relatively late, so these are powerfully ripe but never overblown, and have a laser-like precision. Winemaking is traditional, using old wooden presses and slow natural fermentation in large demi-muids and then ageing in old tonneaux. Fabulous with goat’s cheese ravioli and lemon zest. Definitely try one young and consider buying more for the cellar.
Jermann Vintage Tunina 2016 - £46.95
A wonderful field blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana and Picolit, the Vintage Tunina is the flagship wine from Jermann, based in Friuli and home of some of Italy’s finest dry white wines. Harvesting for this wine is a little later than the other cuvees, yielding riper grapes and more power but is never overdone. The name ‘Tunina’ is derived from the former owner of the land, a governess Venice and former lover of Casanova, the Mistress Tunina (Antonia). The array of grapes gives this wine a sparkling floral perfume, notes of honeysuckle and wild flowers, while the palate is deceptively full-bodied and a slight hint of tannin (from Ribolla) gives this wine some remarkable capacity to age. This makes a fascinating ongoing study on the extraordinary quality and individuality of the dry white wines of north-eastern Italy.
Richard Kershaw Vermaaklikheid Chardonnay 2016 - £38.50
This brilliant Chardonnay is part of Richard’s GPS series where he explores exceptional sites outside his home region of Elgin in South Africa. This small parcel of Chardonnay is planted on a limestone outcrop on the southern coast of South Africa, the site being extremely cool and at full ripeness has produced a wine of just 12.7% alcohol. The flavour profile is a lovely array of Valencia orange, dried pineapple, lemon curd and nectarine with a pithy texture and saline freshness. Loosely settled and allowed to ferment spontaneously with around 1/3 new French oak used, giving this wine a bit more weight and richness and otherwise this is made in the same way as Richard makes his other Chardonnay wines. We have long believed that Richard is making the best Chardonnays in South Africa and this wine continues our exploration of his range and growing prowess and experience. Try drinking this with a seared fillet of tuna over Vietnamese noodles and green mango salad.
Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2016 - £49.95
Doug Shafer has one of the best-known brands in Napa and is rightly famous for the prodigious quality of his powerful Cabernets. Based in the cooler but protected Stag’s Leap District of southern NapaDoug sources Chardonnay grapes from this area for its proximity to eh cooling influence of San Pablo Bay. This is 100% Chardonnay from the Red Shoulder Ranch vineyard in Carneros. The grapes are whole-cluster pressed and fermented with wild yeast in barrels for 14 months; 75% new Allier and Vosges and 25% stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation is arrested. 2016 saw plenty of rain in winter and spring which ended a series of drought years and kicked off a long, warm growing season that produced clusters of fruit with pure flavours and enticing aromas. The 2016 offers alluring, energetic aromas and flavours of honeysuckle, kiwi, apricot, citrus zest, pineapple and toasted almond. This is a great example of modern Napa Chardonnay that has freshness and precise balance with sacrificing the out-and-out flavour intensity that made Carneros and Napa famous for Chardonnay in the first place. Will benefit with some time in the cellar, even just a year or two.
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!
Occidental Freestone Pinot Noir 2016 - £67.50
Since the mid 1970’s, Steve Kistler has been passionate about cool – climate Pinot Noir above all else. Occidental was a coastal area the produced wines with bright acidity and vivid aromatics, but until that point zinfandel was the main grape variety grown there, and Pinot’s home was the Russian River Valley. Fast forward to the early 1990’s, and Steve was fascinated by comparing his Kistler Pinots (from some of the best vineyards in the Russian River Valley) to the coastal alternatives. Occidental was founded in 2011 and is run by Steve and his two daughters Lizzie and Catherine. The team working alongside the family followed them from Kistler and have known him for decades. They are dedicated to a vision of producing world class Pinot Noir driven by the terroir of the Sonoma Coast. The 2016 vintage is a vibrant and lively Pinot, with lovely perfume and a chiselled structure. Precise and well balanced with a red fruit lift, and a long finish with discreet tannins. Drink now or keep a little longer for a really great drinking experience.
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.
Rocca di Montegrossi Geremia 2014 - £44.95
Owner and winemaker Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi comes from a family immersed in the winemaking culture and history of the region, and he set up the estate in 1990. Although there are 100 hectares of land on the estate only about 20 are given over to vines, with about the same again planted with olive trees that produce a very serious olive oil in sadly tiny volumes. The estate has been organic since 2006 and certified so since 2010. The Geremia expresses the terroir of Monti in Chianti with the Bordeaux varietals, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (70% and 30%, respectively). It ages exclusively in medium-toast barriques from Allier for about 24 months, after which it is bottled without filtration and bottle aged for another 18 months. It is a powerful, intense wine that also displays elegance and balance, bringing out the character of the terroir. Intense ruby, with violet reflexes, and with complex aromas that bring to mind sour cherries, currants and other wild berry fruit, mingled with licorice and vanilla. A wine of great structure and complexity, which is soft and velvety, thanks to its richness and the perfect ripeness of the tannins. Available only in top vintages.
`The 2014 Geremia, Rocca di Montegrossi`s Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend, is another compelling wine in this range. Today, the Geremia is perhaps a bit austere, but at least some of that is attributable to the personality of the vintage. Time in the glass brings out an attractive range of sage, menthol, licorice and dark red/purplish fruit. I very much like the energy and drive here.` 95 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, Feb 2019
Stephane Magnien Morey-St-Denis 1er Cru Les Faconnieres 2015 - £64.95
Stéphane Magnien really has hit his stride over the past few years (he only took over from his father in 2008) and seems to be on something of a roll. Stylistically the wines are very much in the classic style with an emphasis on red rather than black fruits and limited extraction. There are quite a lot of old vines in the domaine which allows Stéphane to be gentle in his vinification as there is no need to force things and he prefers to express the appellations and their terroirs rather than the hand of the winemaker. This is one of Morey’s finest 1ers Crus with its unique stony soils, the vineyard is known to deliver smaller, darker and thicker-skinned berries, which in turn delivers wine with beautiful structure and ageing potential. The 2015 shows a lovely balance and drive, with the classic ’15 framework leading one to believe that this wine has so much left in the tank. Alluring red and blue fruits interlaced with spice. Controlled, nicely textured and a cool, bright youthful dynamic. Now slowly starting to move into its drinking window and losing some of the innocence of youth, being replaced by the irresistible charm that is Burgundy, some of the earthy spice, undergrowth and meatiness that will show itself over the next 5 years or so will turn this wine into a really seductive little number.