8 has always been Sassicaia’s lucky number and so it has proved once again with the spectacular 2018 vintage, writes Peter Dean. To make it even better Sassicaia 2018 is the 50th anniversary release. But although 2018 was a cool ‘classic’ vintage in Bolgheri it was by no means easy, as Tenuta San Guido’s Priscilla Incisa della Rochetta explains live and direct from Tuscany. Full tasting notes plus Guidalberto 2019 and Le Difese 2019.
Taylor Fladgate delayed the release of its new vintage ports including the Taylor’s Vintage Port 2018 until now to respect hospitality. It has maintained pricing on the Taylor’s, and the Croft and Fonseca are both ‘early-drinking’ which suits the UK market where we are drinking more port than ever. But what is also out of the ordinary is to get a third-in-a-row Taylor’s classic vintage – in a year when the drought was so bad that the source of the Douro actually dried up. Peter Dean got the story and gives full tasting notes.
The release of Saffredi 2018, the 31st vintage of the flagship wine of Fattoria Le Pupille, is further testament to the brilliance of Elisabetta Geppetti and her team who had the foresight and instinct to envision a Super Tuscan coming from the then unfashionable slopes of Maremma. Following on the back of the 2017 – the estate’s 30th anniversary vintage – Saffredi 2018 is also another example of how individual each of the flagship wine’s vintage are. In addition to full tasting notes on the 2018, Peter Dean looks back over 31 years of Saffredi and tastes 21 vintages to assess its evolution.
Hailing from the Loire and with skills honed under Marc Kent at Boekenhoustkloof, winemaker Vincent Chansault has been getting all the right notices since he started making wines at Domaine Gayda in the Languedoc. Chansault is a bold winemaker and is constantly pushing the envelope with exciting blends, techniques and a variety of ageing vessels. David Kermode talks to him about the estate’s various ranges, tastes through a wide selection of the new wines, and finds out why at Gayda he has the freedom to truly express himself as a winemaker.
The Chocolate Block is one of South Africa’s greatest winemaking stories and, with 740,000 bottles now produced annually, it has become one of the country’s most robust premium brands. Marc Kent, the colourful MD and technical director of Boekenhoutskloof, has a particular knack of blending this wine along every one of his estate wines whose 2018 vintage has just been released to widespread acclaim. Platter’s has made the estate its winery of the year and Tim Atkin MW has given one of his rare 100 point scores to Porseleinberg 2018 and made Boekenhoutskloof winemaker Gottfried Mocke his South African winemaker of the year. Peter Dean picks up the story.
So rare are the Barbadillo Reliquia sherries that only 81 half bottles are going to be released worldwide, with just 17 of the PX, which comes from Pope John Paul II’s personal barrel. Some of the most intense expressions, these four wines are almost essences or perfumes, writes Peter Dean. In an exclusive tasting he samples the Reliquia quartet with Barbadillo oenologist Montse Molina and confesses that they are some of the most extraordinary liquids he’s ever put in his mouth
In the five years since taking over the role of winemaker full-time at Catena Zapata, Fernando Buscema has been justifying the notices he was getting as one of Argentina’s most promising stars. He has a number of fingers in a number of pies – oenological, academic and entrepreneurial – and his LinkedIn page already boasts the likes of Lafite, CARO and now Catena Zapata. His sole responsibility there is to make luxury blend Nicolás Catena Zapata, a wine that he is taking in a bold new direction. He explains how to Peter Dean, as well as tastes the new Nicolás Catena Zapata 2017 alongside the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
The portfolio tasting of Domaine Chanson is always a hot ticket in the wine writer’s calendar. For the pandemic-hit 2019 vintage tasting, however, Chanson came to us – a 10-wine sample that showed off the négociant’s strong suit, namely wines from the 45 hectares it owns in and around Beaune. It was also an opportunity to assess the quality of the 2019 vintage in Burgundy – a much-lauded collection of wines where the reds, in particular, have pretty fruit and outstanding balance.
Every five years from 2000 to 2020 Chateau d’Issan has an outstanding vintage. At a Rule of Five tasting, which launched Wine Lister into chateau-specific marketing events, vintages 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015 were tasted, while co-owner of this old Margaux estate, Emmanuel Cruse, predicted even greater things for the 2020 vintage. After acquiring seven hectares of vines last summer the Grand Vin of Chateau d’Issan will have Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in for the very first time.
Vite Colte, the upmarket Piedmontese co-operative winery, is hoping to make major inroads into the British on-trade, when it bounces back into action, with its competitively-priced Barbera d’Asti and impressive range of Nebbiolos. Ahead of the latest release of the new Barbera d’Asti in the New Year, The Buyer was given a sneak tasting along with some of Vite Colte’s Barolo and Barbaresco labels. They made a good impression not just on Geoffrey Dean but also on noted Italian wine experts, Stephen Brook and Andrew Jefford.
As wine regions go The Loire is still one of the most neglected and under-valued in the world. It is also one of the most diverse regions, with arguably the world’s most diverse grape, Chenin Blanc, in its arsenal of varietals. In order to shine a light on Chenin Blanc’s diversity and value, Loire wine expert Jim Budd picked six of his favourite wines and explained how Chenin Blanc has had a renaissance over the past 30 years, particularly in the Anjou region.
LM Archer travels to Beaune to meet François Labet, one of the pioneers of organic viticulture in Burgundy, and the largest producer of Clos Vougeot Grand Cru. His two estates, Domaine Pierre Labet and Château De La Tour, are not just about making premium, iconic wines, however, his outstanding value Vielles Vignes Pinot Noir outsells the nearest other red Burgundy that Bidendum sells, by three to one. Archer hears first-hand about Labet’s minimalist approach to both viticulture and winemaking and samples a range of his wines, including the Corsican Pinot that he makes under his own name.
Will Coulanges-la-Vineuse, one of Burgundy’s lesser-known appellations, be getting a designation upgrade in the same way that Pouilly-Fuissé has in the south? LM Archer thinks so, especially given the quality exhibited by the wines of Domaine du Clos du Roi that sometimes blend Pinot Noir with ancient grape variety César. There is even one Pinot Noir that is non-vintage and is made by blending at least three different vintages together in one cuvée.
With the barbers shops shut in his region, wine expert Justin Keay has stuck to what is truly essential – discovering exciting new wines and wine regions without leaving the comfort of his own home. He has travelled to Georgia, the Lebanon, Lombardy, Chianti, Greece (all through Zoom), and discovered a range of fascinating and somm-friendly wines along the way. As is Keay’s love of the ‘grape unknown’ he raves about wines using Negroamaro, Susumaniello, Nero di Troia, Timorasso, Marawi and Begleri amongst others.
While most wine experts have been content with mini-samples sent to them for the virtual tastings that have become de rigeur in 2020, Roger Jones has simply gone downstairs into his award-winning wine cellar and dusted off a few real, life-sized bottles. The semi-retired chef also has a food-pairing lens to look through – hence this year’s challenge to find out which wines (if any) work with char-grilled octopus, a dish he is rather partial to cooking at all hours of the day and night. And talking of barbecues – he is the only member of The Buyer’s tasting team that has picked a Bordeaux First Growth to go with a South African Brai.
2020 for the wine writer was a real game of two halves – tasting in the flesh whilst mingling round the spittoon, then tasting alone on Zoom, trying not to talk about Covid. But the drinks trade’s speed and ingenuity in facilitating online tastings meant that it was easy to appreciate how exceptional 2020 was for new wines, irrespective of how difficult life in hospitality had become. For The Buyer’s drinks editor, Peter Dean, 2020 was ‘the year of drinking differently’ – it was a year of discovery (virtual or not) with some interesting finds unearthed in his Top 10 wines of 2020.
As a former professional cricketer, wine expert Geoffrey Dean has been used to ‘rain stopping play’ on many an occasion. But, like the rest of us, he has never had to contend with Covid-19 sending everyone back into the pavilion. Before the pandemic prevented international travel, however, Dean visited South Africa and Australia where he made a number of key vinuous discoveries which he shares with us in his Top 10 wines of 2020.
International travel – the lifeblood for wine experts – was restricted this year, making it nigh-on impossible to visit wine regions and meet winemakers face-to-face. David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, was one of the lucky ones, managing to visit New Zealand, France, Greece and Italy which has greatly influenced the wines he has picked as his top 10 wines of the year. Kermode also attended a spectacular last hurrah at wine industry favourite haunt The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, with top marks to James Smith at Vranken Pommery for having the foresight to have booked what turned out to be the last big wine launch at Roger Jones’ restaurant. So what’s going to happen in 2021 James?!
Themed webinars, ‘guessing games’ on Zoom, receiving full bottle samples of unaffordable super-premium cuvées – 2020 had some unexpected pleasures but, on the whole, it was a challenging year for Anne Krebiehl MW as much as it was for most in the wine trade. Here she reflects on a year that was full of exceptional bottles, including many outstanding Pinot Noir, Sekt, English fizz, Cabernet Franc and even Grüner Veltliner – but virtually all of them sipped in solitude.
2020 was a monumental year for wine writer Chris Wilson. This was the year that he opened his first winery Gutter & Stars – in fact Cambridge’s first urban winery – and started to practice what he preaches. While the inaugural vintage at Gutter & Stars is maturing nicely, Wilson reflects on what wines really caught his attention this year, from ones at physical tastings in the first few months of the year, through to others which came through the post for Zoom tastings. His Top 10 Wines of 2020 list also includes two that came from his cellar including the bottle of fizz that christened the new winery.
Radford Dale Thirst, Ministry of Clouds Grenache, Sean Thackrey Pleiades XXVII Old Vines, Offbeat Wines Skinny Dip, David Franz Long Gully Road Semillon