Page 1

David Williams Our competition chairman assesses the quality of this year’s entries – and what it takes to win

5

Trophy winners The wines that were just that little bit extra special

6

Meet the judges There were 21 indies on our panel. So who were they and where do they come from?

14

United nations A countryby-country breakdown of the winning wines

53

Super suppliers A run-down of the importers and agents that came out on top in this year’s Top 100

54

TOP 1OO T H E

W I N E

M E R C H A N T

2018 RESULTS


A FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT AGENCY BUSINESS · Gain equity in the business as you buy wines · Owned by and run for the UK’s top independent wine merchants · Guaranteed channel management · Razor-thin 5% agency margin gives you freedom to make 45% margin while still offering great value · Exclusive wines sourced by independents for independents

If you would like to be part of Vindependents, or would just like to find out a bit more and receive an invitation to our Portfolio Tasting in London on October 2 then please contact us: jessica@vindependents.co.uk www.vindependents.co.uk

10 Top 100 Winners and 13 Highly Commended wines


Winners’ supplement 2018

Published with the June 2018 edition of The Wine Merchant magazine www.winemerchantmag.com Š Graham Holter Ltd 2018 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT: 943 8771 82 Bottle photography by Simon Booth


4

The Wine Merchant Top 100


CHAIRMAN’S REPORT

Open season THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100 IS AS DIVERSE AS THE PEOPLE WHO JUDGE IT

W

hat does it take to win a place in the Wine Merchant Top 100? After overseeing the judging and sifting through the results of six editions of the competition, you’d think I’d be in a pretty good position to know. And it’s true that the body of evidence we’ve amassed since our inaugural competition in 2013 – including this year’s fine selection of winners drawn from an entry of 700 wines and featured over the next few pages – does suggest a few general rules of thumb.

The judges have a very low tolerance for wines that trade on the reputation of their appellation The first rule of the Wine Merchant Top 100 is that the quality and character of the wine are by far the most important criteria. For all that we ask the judges to make sure they’re buying with their commercial hats on – always choosing, in other words, wines they feel they can sell – the beauty of the independent wine merchant scene is that there’s always room for what the French call a coup de coeur. Indeed, as any indie will tell you, the act of falling in love with a wine is closely entwined

with the desire to sell it – to reach out and find the audience it deserves, no matter how obscure or expensive it may be. The challenge is part of the fun. That said – and this brings me to the second rule of the Wine Merchant Top 100 – our judges are pretty unforgiving of what they regard as poor value. That isn’t the same as “expensive”, of course. A good-value wine can be £6 or £100 – and there are wines from both those price points and pretty much every one in between in this year’s list. But – and this has been true every year, despite our ever-changing panel – those judges have a very low tolerance for wines that trade on the reputation of their appellation, or those that simply don’t offer anything extra. The phrase “over-deliver” is the highest praise of all. The great thing is, the ability to over-deliver is not confined to winemakers in any one appellation, region or country. Whether it’s one of the titans of fine wine from Rioja, Champagne, Bolgheri or the Barossa (all of which have entries in this year’s list) or an emerging name from an unheralded region such as the Republic of Macedonia or an unusual style such as German Sauvignon Blanc: provided the quality is there, anything goes. But then, that’s only to be expected from a competition whose one unbreakable rule is the same as that of all the best indies: keep an open mind. David Williams

The Wine Merchant Top 100

5


Trophy winners

Best Red Wine

Best White Wine

Uvas Felices El Hombre Bala Old Vine Garnacha

Druida Reserva DÃO PORTUGAL 2016

MADRID SPAIN 2015

P

lenty of wines entered into competitions please the judges. Some are loved, some merely praised. But how often are the judges moved to say “thank you” for having the opportunity to taste it? But that – or, more precisely, “gracias” – was the response to The Wine Merchant Top 100 Best Red Wine Trophy-winner from the panel of judges. They simply loved this Garnacha from 50 to 90-yearold vines planted at more than 400m above sea level in the Gredos mountains to the west of Madrid. “Elegant nose of wild strawberries; the purity of fruits just shines through,” the judges began. “The palate is velvety with great fruit, lovely tannic structure, and amazing balance. A pleasure to taste. Gracias!” The wine, sourced from vineyards in three villages, is the work of Vila Viniteca, a business that began life as a wine merchant, but has since branched out into wine with production with the Uvas Felices (Happy Grapes) project, and here joining forces here with the team behind old-vine Garnacha specialists Commando G. Boutinot RRP £21.99

6

ABV 14.5%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

F

ans of Portuguese wines will know all about the ability of the Dão’s great white grape variety, Encruzado, to make wines with the sophistication of great white Burgundy but with their own distinctive Portuguese character. But even those who have already been turned onto Encruzado will be impressed by the scintillating winner of The Wine Merchant Top 100 Best White Wine Trophy 2018. Our judges can explain why. “The nose is lovely, with oak spice and perfumed fruit, honeysuckle and white flowers,” they said. “On the palate, there’s more of that spice and fruit, an elegant texture and then some herbal notes and almonds. It’s complex, awesome wine! We love it, it’s such a great expression of where it’s from.” Made by two talented Nunos – winemaker Nuno Mira da O who used grapes grown (at 500m altitude) by Nuno Matos – it is, as the judges said, “a beautiful, unusual wine that can only work in independents”.

The Knotted Vine RRP £24 ABV 13%


This year’s Top 100 winners. Five more reasons to get in touch with Daniel Lambert Wines.

£15.99

rrp Best priced Burgundy in Top 100

£18.99 rrp

£11.99 rrp

£13.99

rrp Best priced Spanish white in Top 100

0

SMALL AGENT OF THE YEAR

IN

AL

15

LEN G E 2

Contact: Daniel Lambert Wines Ltd Tel: +44 (0) 1656 661010 Email: info@daniellambertwines.co.uk

RNATION TE

AL

16

rrp Best priced Sparkling in Top 100

CH

CH

AL

£18.99

LEN G E 2

SPECIALIST MERCHANT OF THE YEAR LOIRE

0


Trophy winners

Best Sparkling Wine

Best Fortified Wine

Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut

Barros Colheita Port DOURO PORTUGAL 2005

CHAMPAGNE FRANCE NV

T

here’s a lot of winemaking experience at Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot. This boutique organic grower, which is based in the premier cru village of Vrigny in the north east of the Montagne de Reims, began making wine in 1789, and Champagne in 1930. But with wines of the quality of this all-Chardonnay winner of the The Wine Merchant Top 100 Best Sparkling Wine Trophy 2018 – one of two entrants from the house in this year’s final selection – this fine producer is making better wines than ever. “There is a lovely biscuit nose, with ripe fruit (peach and stone fruit),” the judges said. “Good acidity, vibrant mousse, and also some lovely mushroom character. “This is really complex for a non-vintage Champagne, there’s lots going on, with the balance of fruit and ageing all there. It’s also very good value. Impressive, and very much worth adding to any good independent’s Champagne selection.”

Hallgarten RRP £36.49

8

ABV 12.5%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

M

uch loved by the judges, The Wine Merchant Top 100 Best Fortified Trophy-winner rendered one of the more voluble members of the panel “speechless for the first time in 15 years”. Once he’d got his voice back, the judge was able to describe quite what it was that impressed him – and his fellow judges – so much. “It is seriously magnificent,” he said. “Toffee apple leads to caramel and nuts and all combine to create a party in the mouth. What’s more, the amazing aftertaste is the gift that keeps on giving.” It’s the work of Colheita (wood-aged Port from a single vintage) specialist Barros, which has been in the business for more than a century, but has been part of the premium Sogevinus group since 2006. The house philosophy is to leave the Port in barrel and bottle to order, leading to consistently mellow, complex, mature wines. From the 2005 vintage, this Colheita is a four-way blend of Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesa. Hallgarten RRP £29

ABV 20%


Trophy winners

Best Rosé Wine

Best Value Red Wine

Bird in Hand Pinot Rosé

Cantina di Montalcino Brunito

ADELAIDE HILLS AUSTRALIA 2017

T

here was gold in them thar (Adelaide) hills in the 19th century, and one of the mines went by the name of Bird in Hand. There’s gold of a different, metaphorical kind today, however, namely the wines issuing from the winery named in recognition of the history of the area by founder David Nugent when he set up shop in 1997. The modern Bird in Hand is very much a specialist in the cool-climate winemaking that is now associated with Adelaide Hills, with talented and experienced winemaker Kym Milne calling the shots in the cellar, where Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot Noir are the key varieties. Milne’s experience shines through along with the Adelaide Hills terroir in The Wine Merchant Top 100 Best Rosé Trophy winner. “A pretty nose, elegant and subtle, and then an expressive palate with lots of juicy fruit,” the judges said. “Perfectly balanced, it’s great to drink on its own, being softer than the Provence style.”

Seckford Agencies RRP £14.99

10

ABV 12%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

TUSCANY ITALY 2015

A

s the price of Brunello – and even Rosso di Montalcino – continues to soar, a space has opened up in retailers’ ranges for good-quality Sangiovese that can offer customers some of the tangy, savoury joys and food-friendly capabilites of that world-renowned style at a reasonable price. Enter local co-operative Cantine Leonardo da Vinci, which has access to vines just outside the Montalcino zone on the high hills of the Poggio del Sasso (or “pebbles peak”). This is a great spot for Sangiovese, which in the case of Brunito, is blended with a dollop (10%) of Merlot for extra complexity leading to a wine that the Wine Merchant Top 100 judges felt overdelivered on the bang-for-buck scale. As the judges said, “It’s filled with raspberry and dark cherry – some commercial juicy fruits with a little Merlot, but there’s a bit of structure too. “All that fruit makes it really easy to drink and very moreish, and it’s excellent value for money at just shy of the crucial £10 mark.”

Enotria&Coe RRP £9.95

ABV 13%


Trophy winners

Best Value White Wine

Best Value Sparkling Wine

Cavit Bottega Vinai Nosiola

Adria Vini Durello Palladiano Spumante Brut

TRENTINO ITALY 2017

VENETO ITALY NV

I

ndependents are always on the lookout for unusual, indigenous grape varieties – provided they come up with the goods in the glass. Trentino’s Nosiolo certainly satisfies both requirements, or at least it does in the hands of Cavit. The local co-operative’s version of the grape has been a consistent performer in The Wine Merchant Top 100 over the years, and in the 2018 competition took home a deserved Trophy as the Best Value White Wine. Typically used to make the sweet wine,Vino Santo Trentino, in this case the grapes, from the Calavino hills in the Valle dei Laghi, are cold-fermented and made into a breezy, unoaked dry white. “It’s typical of this highly interesting but overlooked grape variety,” the judges said. “A spot of hazlenut on the nose which puts it as ‘correct’, and on the palate a fruit array: sometimes cirtus, sometimes tropical. “It all comes together to give huge appeal to a wide audience – thanks to both price and style.”

Boutinot RRP £9.99

12

ABV 12.5%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

F

eeling a little tired of Prosecco but don’t want to leave your customers short of a high-quality, good-value, bright and zesty north east Italian sparkling wine? If the answer’s yes, you certainly wouldn’t be alone among independent wine merchants looking for an alternative to the big P. And the 2018 Wine Merchant Top 100 Best Value Sparkling Wine Trophy winner is likely to be of particular interest. It’s made by Adria Vini – a collaboration between Boutinot and quality-conscious Piedmont co-operative Araldica Castelvero – from a grape variety, Durello, native to the Veneto where it is grown on the volcanic hillsides of Monti Lessini, between Verona and Vicenza. Tank-fermented, the fizz impressed the judges with its “fruity aromatics”. “It’s refreshing and there’s lots of fizz,” they added, “plus there’s some genuine nuggets of peachy fruit. Good fun and it hits an important price point right on the nose.”

Boutinot RRP £9.99

ABV 11.5%


Best Value Fortified Wine

Best Value Rosé Wine

Valdespino Inocente Single-Vineyard Fino Sherry

Domaines Paul Mas Claude Val Rosé IGP PAYS D’OC FRANCE 2017

JEREZ SPAIN NV

T

he idea of the vineyard as a key determinant of quality is sometimes overlooked in Jerez – understandably so given the complexities of the rest of the production process. Valdespino, however, has always set a high store by the quality of its raw ingredients, owning an unusually high 750 hectares of vineyard. Even more unusually, they produce a number of single-vineyard wines, with this much-admired Fino, sourced entirely from the Pago Marcharnudo vineyard, among them. Inocente is, therefore, very much a terroir wine, although our judges – who wouldn’t have known that fact – were most concerned with its sheer quality and value for money. “This is an outstanding Fino that offers all the dry refreshment you could ask for from the style but with extra complexity and great texture,” the judges said. “Lovely nutty, yeasty flavours, fresh, crisp lemon and apple and a long, clean finish.”

Liberty Wines RRP £18.49

ABV 15%

P

rovençal rosé has increasing competition in the south of France these days, with more and more producers in the Languedoc-Roussillon making pinks of pale interest at very competitive prices. Few have quite mastered the art of making refreshing, gently fruity rosé for drinkers on a budget like the driving force behind the always impressive Domaines Paul Mas, the redoubtable, remarkably prolific JeanClaude Mas. As with the other wines in the Claude Val range – which include a white and a red blend – the rosé is way better than its price point suggests it should be. A classic blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, it impressed the judges for its freshness of strawberry fruit and easy drinkability. “This is simply excellent for the price,” the judges said. “Really well made, clean, fresh, fruity and pretty in colour and fragrance. “It ticks all the right boxes and would really fly off the shelves in any retailer.” Domaines Paul Mas RRP £7.99 ABV 13%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

13


MEET THE

JUDGES ALL OF THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100 JUDGES ARE INDEPENDENTS. WE ASK THEM TO JUDGE WINES IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY AS THEY WOULD IF THEY WERE CONSIDERING A NEW WINE FOR LISTING IN THEIR BUSINESS

Philip Amps

Amps Fine Wines

Hal Wilson

Cambridge Wine Merchants

Sam Howard

Amps Fine Wines in Oundle dates back to 1901. Philip is the fourth generation of the family to run the business, which opened a second branch in the town in 2016. He has been part of our senior judging panel since the Top 100 began.

Cambridge Wine Merchants was established in 1993 by Hal and friend Brett Turner. It now has seven branches (four in Cambridge, plus three franchises elsewhere) as well as a large wholesale operation. Hal is another senior judge.

Sam joined Norwich merchant HarperWells in February 2014, his 15th year in the wine industry. He is a private client sales specialist who in previous roles has worked in the fine wine market, selling to international clients.

14

The Wine Merchant Top 100

HarperWells


Alexandre Bal

Richard Ballantyne MW Noble Grape

The Wine Shop Winscombe

Alexandre is part of a collective of Frenchmen who set up the Tufnell Park business in 2018. He also works as a senior sales executive for Yapp Bros, the independent wine merchant based in Mere, Wiltshire.

Richard established the Noble Grape shop in 2017 in the small town of Cowbridge, south Wales. He previously worked for the family business, Ballantynes in Cardiff, and has a particular specialism in Italian wines.

Kelli’s passion for wine was ignited on a trip to New Zealand in 2006. Three years later she started The Wine Tasting Company, followed by the shop itself in a Somerset village near Bristol in 2012. Kelli is an accredited WSET tutor.

Chix Chandaria

Mike Boniface No2 Pound Street

Janine Pert

Discover Wine

Chix started her wine business in 2009 and now runs a thriving shop and a popular wine bar in south London. She is proud to import the vast majority of her wines, including a range of exclusive labels. Chix also offers wine courses.

Mike is the manager and wine buyer for this independent wine shop and deli based in Wendover, Buckinghamshire. He has over 20 years’ experience in the wine trade.

Australian-born Janine Pert developed her interest in wine in the Barossa Valley and arrived in the UK in 1987. Her shop, in the Hampshire village of Denmead, opened as an extension of her wine events business.

Authentique Epicerie & Bar

The Wine Parlour/Vintage 1824

Kelli Coxhead

The Wine Merchant Top 100

15


Penny Champion

Duncan Mclean Kirkness & Gorie

The Shenfield Wine Company

Penny is another Aussie, specialising in “tasty, small-production wines that don’t cost the earth”. She also offers artisan cheese and runs a wine bar from her base in Chislehurst. Penny once led the UK division of a large wine supplier.

Kirkness & Gorie was founded in 1859 in Kirkwall, Orkney, and remains a family-run business. In addition to selling wine on a retail and wholesale basis, K&G is the leading cheese shop in the north of Scotland.

With no formal training or great knowledge of wine, Nish gave up a career as an ITV cameraman back in 2006 to set up the Shenfield Wine Company on the site of a former Unwins store.

Jess Scarratt

Borough Wines, Beers & Books

Marc Hough

Cork of the North

Nichola Roe

Jess established her business with partner Michael Smith in Hastings in 2015. She describes it as “an unofficial franchise” of Borough Wines in London – there’s a family resemblance, but the premises has its own arty vibe that locals love.

Marc is a former DJ at Manchester’s legendary Hacienda club and now tours with New Order. But he’s loved wine from an early age and now runs his own shop and bar in Sale, with a second branch on the way soon.

In 2011 Nichola and Terence Roe relocated their family to Cowes, where they opened a boutique wine shop with four Enomatic machines to encourage their potential customers to come with them on the wine discovery journey.

Champion Wines

16

The Wine Merchant Top 100

Nish Patel

Wine Therapy


Paul Auty

Gregory Pearce Cloud Wine

Hennings Wine Merchants

Like many independents, Paul learned his craft during the glory years of Oddbins and now manages this thriving Harrogate independent. He’s part of the buying team for both shops operated by the company.

Gregory has been the owner of Cloud Wine in Southampton since 2001. He was previously with brewer Hall & Woodhouse and is another of the independent trade’s Oddbins veterans, working there for 15 years.

Established in 1960, Hennings is one of the largest independent wine merchants in the south. In 1994 third-generation Matthew joined the company, which has a significant wholesale business, four shops and a thriving online presence.

Daniel Illsley Theatre of Wine

Callum White

Vagabond Wines

Clive Stanton

Daniel worked in theatre, film and TV for 10 years. In July 2002 he created Theatre of Wine with Jonathan Warren, David Simmonds and a lot of helpers. The business has shops in Greenwich, Tufnell Park and Leytonstone.

Callum is part of the management team at Vagabond’s Victoria branch. After dreaming of owning a vineyard, he has bought his own demijohn with airlock and some grape juice online. “Best not to count the hours spent on this,” he says.

Clive is owner-proprietaire of Eton Vintners, which has been providing the world’s wines to Windsor and beyond for the past 30 years. It offers a “uniquely extensive range of wines” and prides itself on high-quality customer service.

Ake & Humphris

Matthew Hennings

Eton Vintners

The Wine Merchant Top 100

17


Sparkling wines/Argentinian and Australian white

HIGHLY COMMENDED Australian sparkling Innocent Bystander Moscato 2016 Yarra Valley, Victoria (£9.99, Liberty Wines): A fun, frothy, fragrant light sweet fizz for desserts and summer sips.

English sparkling Bluebell Vineyard Hindleap Classic Cuvée 2014, Sussex (£30.95, Richmond Wine Agencies): Classy, well-made English sparkler of real depth.

French sparkling Champagne Bernard Remy Blanc de Blancs Brut NV, Champagne (£31.49, Hallgarten): Refreshingly graceful all-Chardonnay Champagne. Champagne Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus Brut NV, Champagne (£54.35, Hatch Mansfield): Rich but balanced and easy-drinking; long finish. Champagne Taittinger Folies de la Marquetterie Brut NV, Champagne (£65.65, Hatch Mansfield): Racy and elegant; fresh and refined; complex. Champagne Taittinger Nocturne Rosé Sec, Champagne (£54.50, Hatch Mansfield): Subtle red fruits with developed savoury yeasty character. Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Brut Rosé 2006, Champagne (£235.40, Hatch Mansfield): Weighty, textured, rich and deep. Champagne Janisson Tradition Brut NV, Champagne (£37.99, New Generation): Expressive, open, rich in fruit and toasty notes. Domaine du Landreau Raymond Morin Esprit Millésimé Brut 2010, Crémant de Loire (£17.99, Vindependents): Creamy apple freshness. Domaine du Landreau Raymond Morin Rosé Brut NV, Crémant de Loire (£15.99, Vindependents): Simple raspberry and strawberry; easy drinking. Domaines Paul Mas Château Martinolles Blanc de Blancs NV, Blanquette de Limoux, Languedoc (£11.95, Domaines Paul Mas): Brightness and value.

18

The Wine Merchant Top 100

GORING ESTATE ROSÉ South Downs, Sussex, England NV

HATTINGLEY VALLEY CLASSIC RESERVE Hampshire, England NV

Thanks to the work of the Goring family and their internationally respected winemaker, Dermot Sugrue, Wiston Estate has become one of the grandes marques of English fizz

Established by Simon Robinson in Wield, Hampshire, in 2008, Hattingley Valley’s team, led by rising star Emma Rice, makes some of England’s most exciting sparkling wines

For this fine pink cuvée, made exclusively for agents Hallgarten, Sugrue works with a blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 10% Chardonnay from two vineyards in West Sussex.

The Classic Reserve is a blend of several vintages (18% reserve wines), with 15% of the final blend fermented in French oak barrels, and the final wine ageing for a minimum of 18 months on the lees, and five months on cork.

“Lovely salmon colour, and a refreshingly English style, with classic notes of rhubarb, a touch of strawberry and stored apple,” said the judges.

CHAMPAGNE LELARGE-PUGEOT LES MEUNIERS DE CLÉMENCE EXTRA BRUT PREMIER CRU Champagne, France NV The second wine from this superb boutique Champagne grower from Vrigny in the Montagne de Reims to appear in this year’s Top 100 is a real curiosity. Unusually for the region – or indeed for any fizz – it’s made entirely from the least regarded of the traditional Champagne triumvirate, Pinot Meunier. Has the variety been unjustly overlooked? The reaction of our judges suggests so. “Lovely nose of red berries, smoke, peach, oozing fruit character,” they said. “This is a nice, textured wine – would be lovely with food – with a lovely mouthfeel and good length”

“You’re paying a premium for rosé, but this really delivers in immediate, classic drinking style.”

All of which creates, in the words of the Top 100 judges, a “well-rounded fizz with an appealing element of yeastiness. Lovely savoury notes, plus a note of sherbert on the finish would make it a cracking partner for fish and chips.”

Hallgarten

Enotria&Coe

Hallgarten

RRP £35.99 ABV 12%

RRP £30 ABV 12%

RRP £49 ABV 12%


CHARLES HEIDSIECK RÉSERVE BRUT

OEDORIA CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE

Champagne, France NV

Burgundy France NV

One of the great names of Champagne – and a serial award-winner – once again takes its rightful place on the Top 100 list with its impeccable non-vintage Champagne. Of the many factors that go into making the distinctive Charles Heidseick house style, two stand out here: the company’s extensive vineyard holdings, and its use of a high proportion (40%) of reserve wines which have an average age of 10 years. “Great nose, typical Champagne biscuit, brioche, lemon fruits with richer stone fruit – that burst of lemon fruit coming through on the palate of great length, elegance, and freshness and soft, silky, creamy mousse.”

A significant player in Beaujolais and the increasingly successful Crémant de Bourgogne sector, Oedoria is the result of a marriage between two of the region’s best cooperatives in 2009. After the addition of another site in 2011, the business now has some 376 members, with 1,156ha of vines between them. That wealth of vineyards comes in handy for sourcing the top-quality Chardonnay grapes in this cuvée, which the judges described as “fresh and vibrant with an eager mousse that immediately slaps you around the chops. “Welcome salinity makes it the perfect partner for seafood.”

BORTOLIN ANGELO EXTRA DRY PROSECCO SUPERIORE Valdobbiadene, Treviso, Italy 2017 There is a tendency to reduce Prosecco to a single style, and to tar all producers with the same industrial brush. But the category is full of quality-conscious, small producers with a very different agenda to their mass-market peers. Bortolin Angelo is one such, a family-run producer devoted to wines that are 100% produced in their Valdobbiadene home. According to the judges, the family’s small-scale approach produced “by far the best Prosecco in the competition. “Loads of peach and apricot fruit, a fresh fruity finish, a wine to remind customers to trade up!”

SUSANA BALBO CRIOS TORRONTÉS

DEVIL’S CORNER SAUVIGNON BLANC

Argentina 2017

Tasmania, Australia 2017

Susana Balbo is one of the biggest names in Argentinian wine, with a career spanning four decades. She makes some of the country’s very finest Malbecs, but she’s also had a talent for Torrontés ever since helping to shape the variety’s modern style while working in Cafayate, Salta, at the beginning of her career. Her experience shines through in what the Top 100 judges called a “lovely aromatic” example, which is made from a blend of fruit sourced in Cafayate and Mendoza. “With its delightful stone fruit, this is very well made,” the judges added. “Elegant and minerally, it’s a different, stylish take on a divisive grape variety.”

In the past 30 years, Tasmania has established itself as a special place to make wine, its cool climate and famously clean air producing some of Australia’s best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wine. Tamar Ridge, part of the Brown Brothers group, and named after the northern region of the island around the eponymous river, has had success with all of those varieties, but the Top 100 judges also identified another talent. “In a sea of Sauvignons this stands out as being seriously different and distinctive,” they said. “This fruity little minx boasts big, bold flavours of lime zest and would be a knockout with seafood. A real Tasmanian original.”

Liberty Wines

Daniel Lambert Wines

Laytons

Las Bodegas

Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies

RRP £48.99 ABV 12%

RRP £18.99 ABV 13%

RRP £19.95 ABV 11.5%

RRP £14.50 ABV 13.5%

RRP £16.75 ABV 13.8%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

19


Australian, Austrian, Chilean and French white

STONIER CHARDONNAY Mornington Peninsula, Australia 2016 Stonier has been at the forefront of Burgundianstyle, cool-climate winemaking for decades. With the first (Chardonnay) vines planted in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula almost as a hobby by founder Brian Stonier in the late 1970s, things soon got serious as the wines emerged in the 1980s, attracting plaudits from all over the world. The elegant house style remains in intact today. “A white Burgundy from Oz!” said the Top 100 judges.

THORN-CLARKE MILTON PARK CHARDONNAY

INNOCENT BYSTANDER PINOT GRIS

South Australia, Australia 2017

Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia 2017

A variety of factors have come together to make it much harder to find topnotch Australian wines under £10 these days.

The much-loved Innocent Bystander brand has continued to enchant wine-drinkers all over the world since family firm Brown Brothers bought the estate from founder Phil Sexton in 2016 .

But that hasn’t stopped independent customers lapping them up when they find them – and that makes Barossa producer ThornClark’s Chardonnay all the more appealing. Praised by the judges for its “crystalline fruit”, the wine is unoaked, “pure and very typical – just what customers want for £10”.

Much of that continuity is down to the decision to use the same excellent fruit sources which, in the case of this “delicious” Pinot Gris, means two vineyards in the Upper King Valley, one at 350m and the other at 800m altitude.

“A nose of buttery notes and white flowers that is very attractive and leads into a palate that is just so balanced and elegant, with nice weight and a creamy edge and hazlenut and stone fruit flavours.”

It’s the work of a family with a long track record of producing quality wines and growing quality fruit in the Barossa, with the sixth generation now involved in working the company’s more than 270ha of vineyard.

With 30% of the blend fermented in oak, the quality of the hand-picked fruit shines through, the Top 100 judges said. “With its pretty nose and good complexity and richness, this is quite full on the palate. It’s delicious and just right for the price.”

Fine Wine Partners

Seckford Agencies

RRP £19.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £9.99 ABV 12.5%

20

The Wine Merchant Top 100

WEINGUT ECKERECKHOF RIESLING RESERVE RIED STEINBERG

WEINGUT TÜRK, GRÜNER VELTLINER KREMSER WEINBERGE

Wagram, Upper Austria 2016

Kremstal, Austria 2016

Bernhard Ecker’s family has been in the winemaking game in Wagram for 400 years, but his fine estate makes wines in a very modern style. Ecker has 20ha of vineyard to play with, divided into 30 plots around the village of Kirchberg am Wagram. He is known for his fine reds and wines from Grüner Veltliner, but it was his Riesling that really caught the imagination of the judges this year.

Weingut Türk is a producer with a specific focus: making the very best Grüner Veltliner possible from Austria’s Kremstal region. More than three-quarters of the estate’s vineyards – all sited in some of the valley’s very best spots – are planted to Austria’s great white grape variety. And with 300 years of experience, the family knows exactly what to do with the quality fruit.

“Really pure fruit, apricot and peach,” the judges said. “On the palate there’s some rather complex minerality and just loads of fruit. This is a very well made Riesling and great for the price.”

“Distinctly Grüner”, the Top 100 judges said. “Mineral, lees, salt, green tones and pineapple. Has some weight and good purity. This is a food wine, but if you only have one Grüner on the shelf, go for this one: a grower.”

Liberty Wines

Vindependents

New Generation

RRP £16.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £14.99 ABV 13%

RRP £16.75 ABV 12.5%


HIGHLY COMMENDED French sparkling Champagne Collet Brut Rosé NV, Champagne (£38.49, Hallgarten): Nicely made blend with refreshing red fruits and fine mousse.

Italian sparkling

ERRAZURIZ CHARDONNAY Aconcagua Costa, Chile 2017 One of the most significant developments of the past couple of decades in Chile is the move to new coastal vineyards for producing cool-climate varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Always near the front of the Chilean avant garde, Errazuriz’s explorations took the company to a very special site on the coast of home valley, Aconcagua. The results have been impressive from the very first harvest, not least in the chiselled shape of this superb Chardonnay.

MONTES OUTER LIMITS SAUVIGNON BLANC Zapallar, Aconcagua Costa, Chile 2016 One of the key figures in the emergence of Chilean wine on the international market, Aurelio Montes has continued to experiment throughout his career, with the Outer Limits label pushing the boundaries to new and exciting terroirs. In the case of this Sauvignon Blanc, the “outer limit” is a 45ha vineyard in Zapallar on the Aconcagua coast, the perfect coolclimate spot for this variety to shine.

SATELLITE Entre Deux Mers, Bordeaux, France 2016 A region that was once a fixture of classic French restaurant and independent wine merchant lists has been somewhat eclipsed in recent years by rivals both within France and beyond. But its white wines based on the classic Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon Bordeaux blend have been enjoying a modest revival thanks to the work of talented vignerons such as the biodynamic-minded Olivier Techer, maker of this highquality cuvée. “Warm pale gold colour, it features delicious subtly honeyed and inviting soft stone fruits,” the WM Top 100 judges said. “A well balanced mouthful that is genuinely complex yet still light on its feet and lingering – this is very nicely made wine.”

“With an elegant nose of citrus and stone fruit, the palate is full of tension, with great refreshing and lingering acidity and excellent length,” the WM Top 100 judges said.

And, according to the Top 100 judges, shine is exactly what it does. “Intense and full on nose in full Sauvignon force, with greenness and guava mingled, on the palate it’s mouthfilling and juicy but racy and very clean and fresh on the finish.”

Hatch Mansfield

Liberty Wines

Department 33

RRP £17.10 ABV 13%

RRP £16.99 ABV 13%

RRP £17 ABV 12.5%

Ferrari Maximum Brut NV, Trento, Trentino (£24, Enotria&Coe): High-quality, bottle-fermented Champagne-alike from far northern Italy. Sacchetto Extra Dry Prosecco 2017, Veneto (£10.99, Hallgarten): Highly drinkable Prosecco with more fruit and complexity than the usual. Carpenè Malvolti Brut Rosé NV (£15.99, Hallgarten): Novel pink Italian sparkling blend of Pinot Nero and Raboso with easy mousse and fruit.

Spanish sparkling Dominio de la Vega Reserva Especial Brut 2013 Cava (£19.95, Laytons): Expansively fruity rich modern blend of Macabeu and Chardonnay. Roger Goulart Gran Reserva Cava 2011 Cava (£20.15, Hatch Mansfield): Vigorous bubbles, fruit and savoury baked bread aromas.

Argentinian white Cadus Chardonnay 2016, Vista Flores, Uco Valley, Mendoza (£15.99, Boutinot): Tense, mineral palate, vanilla and floral nose: high-class Chardonnay. Trapiche Costa & Pampa Chardonnay 2016 Chapadmalal, Buenos Aires (£14.95, Enotria&Coe): Exciting Chardonnay from eastern Argentina.

Australian white Pewsey Vale Riesling 2016, Eden Valley, South Australia (£15.99, Fells): Textbook Australian dry Riesling with lovely dry apricot and lime fruit. Flametree Wines SRS Wallcliffe Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River, Western Australia (£34.99, Vindependents): Full of limes and a salty finish.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

21


French white

HIGHLY COMMENDED Australian white Flametree Wines Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River, Western Australia (£19.99, Vindependents): Clean, fruit-driven modern Aussie Chardonnay. Petaluma White Label Chardonnay 2016, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (£17.99, Fine Wine Partners): Soft-fruited, easy-drinking crowd-pleaser.

DOMAINE DU CLÉRAY CHARDONNAY IGP Val de Loire, France 2017 Even though the Loire is best known, when it comes to fine white wine, for Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, many of its varied terroirs can actually do a fine job with Chardonnay. Indeed, Loire Chardonnays are capable of providing indie customers with a good-value alternative to two classic styles: Sancerre lovers may be tempted to see what the Loire does with a different variety, while white Burgundy fans can get a bargain version of their favourite white variety. Such is the case with Domaine du Cléray’s example. “Light, fresh, unoaked with lots of fruit on the palate balanced with great acidity. Great picnic wine at a great price.” Les Grands Chais de France RRP £8.39 ABV 12%

22

JEAN-CLAUDE BOISSET CHÂTEAU LONDON MÂCON-IGÉ

DOMAINES SCHLUMBERGER RIESLING SAERING GRAND CRU

Burgundy, France 2016

Alsace, France 2014

Jean-Claude Boisset’s extravagantly talented head winemaker Grégory Patriarche is the man behind this top-flight Mâcon white, which, intriguingly, is made from the Chardonnay-Muscaté clone – a Chardonnay with some of the fragrance of Muscat.

The sixth and seventh generation of the family are now in charge of a domaine founded by Nicolas Schlumberger in 1810 – and there’s no sign of quality letting up at this fine old house in southern Alsace.

Sourced from one of Mâcon’s best villages, Igé, and from vines with an average age of 20 years, it’s fermented with natural yeasts and aged in French oak, 30% new, for eight months. All of which adds up to what the the Top 100 judges called “lovely, classical white Burgundy that punches well above its Mâcon status with delightful balance making it well worth the price.” Liberty Wines RRP £21.99 ABV 13.5%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

Noted for their remarkable vineyards – one of the largest blocks of continuous vineyards in France – the Schlumbergers’ quality mindset is exemplified in their low yields, typically 50% smaller than the Alsace average. It makes for thrilling wines, not least this Riesling from the renowned Saering Grand Cru with, according to the Top 100 judges, its “lovely Riesling nose, full dry, minerally palate, and remarkable long finish. Very proper!” Maisons Marques & Domaines RRP £24.49 ABV 12.5%

Petaluma Yellow Label Chardonnay 2016, Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (£27.50, Fine Wine Partners): Flamboyant, classily oaked. Bird in Hand Nest Egg Chardonnay 2015, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (£39.99, Seckford Agencies): Honeysuckle-scented, soft Chardonnay. Tahbilk Marsanne 2016, Victoria (£12.50, Armit Wines): Fragrant, stone-fruited, intensely flavoured but balanced Rhône-style white. Berton Vineyards Winemakers Reserve Fiano 2016, South East Australia (£11.49, Hallgarten): Peachy Australian take on southern Italy.

Austrian white Weingut Ecker-Eckhof Grüner Veltliner Ried Mordthal 2016, Wagram, Upper Austria (£22.99, Vindependents): Juicy, fresh and tangy Grüner.

Chilean white Emiliana Signos de Origen La Vinilla ChardonnayViognier-Marsanne-Roussanne 2016, Casablanca Valley (£14.99, Boutinot): Classy stone fruit. Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Riesling 2016, Bío Bío Valley (£10.49, Boutinot): Full-bodied, tangy, good-value dry Riesling.

English white Aldwick Court Farm Bacchus 2016, North Somerset (£12.95, Aldwick Court Farm): Gooseberries and fresh hedgerow fruit; great tangy acidity.


Mike Symons and Will Byron, winemakers

Stonier Chardonnay Stonier Wines was established at Merricks, on the cool southern edge of Victoria’s picturesque Mornington Peninsula, in 1978. The grapes for Stonier Chardonnay were selected from several long term vineyards for Stonier, centred near Merricks, Balnarring and Merricks North. The long and persistent finish is something we always look for in our Chardonnay.


French white

HIGHLY COMMENDED French white Domaine Ferret Pouilly-Fuissé 2016, Burgundy (£33.40, Hatch Mansfield): Keenly balanced, wellmade, complex white Burgundy. Domaine Gouffier Rabourcé Rully 1er Cru 2016, Burgundy (£33.99, Hallgarten): Impressive, finely balanced Burgundian Chardonnay.

PASCAL JOLIVET SANCERRE Sancerre, Loire, France 2016 It may sometimes be somewhat over-priced and ordinary, but when it works, few wines can match the sheer springlike joy of Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre. One winemaker who almost always seems to come up with the goods in the Central Loire region is Pascal Jolivet. A Sauvignon specialist who founded his domaine in 1987, Jolivet has a natural approach to making wines in both Pouilly-Fumé and, in this case, Sancerre, with natural yeasts and rigorous temperature control in fermentation. “Fresh and lively acidity, great structure and balance,” the Top 100 judges said. “Racy, fresh, well-made Sancerre with very pleasant tropical, refined fruit content.” Maisons Marques & Domaines RRP £21.49 ABV 12.5%

DOMAINE DE ROCHEBIN CLOS SAINT-GERMAIN CHARDONNAY

DOMAINES PAUL MAS LES TANNES EN OCCITANIE MARSANNE

Burgundy, France 2016

IGP Pays d’Oc, France 2017

Is there a merchant in the UK who isn’t on the look out for a good-value white Burgundy? Answers on a postcard, please. In the meantime, this superb Chardonnay from Mâconnais producer Domaine de Rochebin most certainly fitted the bill for the Top 100 judges. Aged for 12 months in oak, it’s principally the work of three men – Mickaël Marillier, his father JeanPierre and their business partner, Laurent Chardigny – who between them work a 50ha estate in Aze in the heart of the Mâcon. “Really good value white Burgundy,” said the judges. “Great balance of fruit and acidity – it really overdelivers for the price, just the ticket.”

The wines of Domaines Paul Mas have been consistently strong performers in the Wine Merchant Top 100 competition over the six years of its existence, and 2018 was no exception. The prolific winemakercum-entrepreneur JeanClaude Mas’ contribution to the white section of this year’s final selection is a typically good-value, superbly made example of one of Mas’s specialities: varietal Marsanne. “We were beguiled by the subtle, unforced nose and the textured balanced palate,” the Top 100 judges said. “It’s an unshowy (thank god!) and interesting alternative to unoaked Chardonnay.”

Daniel Lambert Wines

Domaines Paul Mas

RRP £15.99 ABV 12.5%

RRP £7.49 ABV 13.3%

Sylvain Loichet Bois de Gréchons Monopole Ladoix 2015, Burgundy (£48, Hallgarten): Upmarket, classy oaked Chardonnay; long. Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur Clos des Perrières Blanc 2015, Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru, Burgundy (£70, Hallgarten):Top-flight, expressive Burgundy. Domaines Paul Mas Racines de Lauriga Blanc 2017, IGP Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (£11, Domaines Paul Mas): Rich southern white blend. Domaines Paul Mas Château Lauriga Soleil Blanc 2017, Côtes de Roussillon (£13, Domaines Paul Mas): Grenache Blanc with minerals and stone fruit. Domaines Paul Mas Claude Val Blanc 2017, IGP Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (£6.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Bargain southern white blend. Domaines Paul Mas Coté Mas Méditerranée Blanc 2017, IGP Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (£7.49, Domaines Paul Mas): Crisp, fragrant, juicy. Domaines Paul Mas Mas des Tannes Réserve Blanc 2016, IGP Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (£12.50, Domaines Paul Mas): Fluent meeting of Grenache Blanc and Chardonnay. Domaines Paul Mas Arrogant Frog Sauvignon Blanc 2017, IGP Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (£7.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Unusually bright, perky southern Sauvignon Blanc. Domaine Mas Belles Eaux Grenache Blanc 2016, IGP Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (£9.99, Les Grands Chais de France): Impressive depth of fruit.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

25


French, German and Greek white

DOMAINE BELLEVILLE RULLY LA PERCHE

DOMAINE DE LA CREUZE NOIRE SAINT-VÉRAN

OLIVER ZETER SAUVIGNON BLANC FUMÉ

DOMAINE PAPAGIANNAKOS ASSYRTIKO

GAIA WILD FERMENT ASSYRTIKO

Rully, Burgundy, France 2016

Saint-Véran, Burgundy, France 2017

Pfalz, Germany 2017

Attica, Greece 2015

Santorini, Greece 2017

If you think great Assyrtiko is only possible on the volcanic island of Santorini, then Domaine Pagagiannakos invites you to kindly think again.

Winemakers Leon Karatsalos and Yiannis Paraskevopoulos have been making some of the best wines in Greece in two locations – Nemea and Santorini – for a quarter of a cenutry now.

The first of two wines to make the final cut in this year’s Top 100 from this impressive Côte Chalonaise domaine is a finely judged Chardonnay from the Rully appellation. Founded in the early 20th century, the domaine now has 20ha of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines, and practices culture raisonnée in the vineyards. For this cuvée, the fruit is taken from a plot on a gentle south-east-facing slope, and is fermented and aged in barriques. “Very well made wine,” the judges said, “with perfect balance of oak and fruit and lively, fresh acidity that really makes this stand out. It out-punches wines from more famous appellations.”

Importer Daniel Lambert describes this small Burgundian producer as “one of the showpieces of our range”. As well as the “modest and very likeable” personality of owner Dominique Martin, Lambert cites the impressive value and quality of a range of wines that is big on white Burgundy, but also impressive Beaujolais from Saint-Amour and Juliénas. It’s the former that concerns us here, however, in the shape of a Chardonnay that very much pleased the Top 100 judges, too. “This is an extremely attractive and graceful white Burgundy,” the judges said. “Light, fresh, fruit-forward Chardonnay; fleshy and easy-drinking.”

Look up Oliver Zeter’s website and you’ll find an intriguing claim from the man himself on the homepage. Unlike many of his peers in Germany, Zeter says he considers himself “lucky to have started from scratch. It lets me do what I want, pursuing perfection with no worries about stepping on anyone’s toes but my own.” That means making convention-busting wines such as this superb, barrelfermented Sauvignon Blanc, described by the judges as “a really interesting Sauvignon! Fabulously generous nose – warm, complex, inviting, with well-balanced, integrated lees contact. Bright acidic fruit wrapped with warm nuttiness. Very satisfying and elegant.”

Based in the heart of the plain of Mesogaia, Attica, where the family domaine was founded in 1919, Vassilis Papagiannakos makes acclaimed wines from Savatiano, Malagouzia and others. His Assyrtiko is from coastal vineyards on the Attican peninsula, and it wowed the judges with its clarity and precision.

Santorini is the pair’s favoured site for making dry whites from the Assyrtiko variety, and this cuvée, made using wild yeasts and fermented in a mix of stainless steel and oak and acacia wood casks, is a particularly successful expression of the island’s volcanic soils.

“We loved the nutty developed complexity,” the judges said. “It’s remarkably posh and great value for money. Fab alternative to many classic wines, and the Assyrtiko lemon character is great!”

Described by the Top 100 judges as “posh Greek for neophytes”, it has an “almost Burgundian style, with a flinty, reductive edge joining the Assyrtiko flavours of lemon skin, bright acidity and stony minerals.”

Vindependents

Daniel Lambert Wines

Delibo Wine Agencies

Boutinot

Hallgarten

RRP £24.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £18.99 ABV 13%

RRP £22.50 ABV 13%

RRP £14.99 ABV 12.5%

RRP £25.99 ABV 13.5%

26

The Wine Merchant Top 100


Petaluma White Label Cabernet Sauvignon Petaluma is committed to producing the very best wines from South Australia’s most distinguished viticultural areas. Coonawarra in the South East of South Australia is the premier region for Cabernet Sauvignon. The five separate blocks in our vineyards in Coonawarra were picked separately, and then fermented and aged in barrel as individual components. A rich, elegant mouth-filling classic Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon from the terra rossa soils.


30

The Wine Merchant Top 100


Italian white

HIGHLY COMMENDED French white Domaine des Mazelles Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Touraine, Loire (£11, Barton, Brownsdon & Sadler): Bright elderflower, blackcurrant leaf; good value. Joseph Mellot Les Thureaux Menetou-Salon 2017, Loire (£19.40, Hatch Mansfield): High-quality, grassy, racy Loire alternative to Sancerre.

GIANNI TESSARI SOAVE Soave, Veneto, Italy 2016 Soave is one of those classic European appellations that has had its good reputation sorely tested by the industrial fare served up by the supermarkets. In the hands of a conscientious winemaker such as Gianni Tessari, however, it’s a completely different story. A 14-time winner of the Tre Biccheri top award from Gambero Rosso magazine, Tessari’s Soaves remind us all of what great wines can emerge from this north eastern Italian terroir. “With wonderfully ripe orchard fruit to the fore, this could easily become a customer favourite for its quality-to-value ratio,” the Top 100 judges said. “Enticing enough to drink on its own, thanks to a lovely softness of acidity.”

LAMELIA SAN VITO VERDICCHIO DI MATELICA

A MANO BIANCO

Verdicchio di Matelica, Marche, Italy 2016

“Intensely fruity. Insanely drinkable, but with a great tangy zesty finish that will have you clambering for another glass. A wine for teaming up with rich shellfish dishes perhaps?”

The work of Provima, a forward-thinking cooperative in the Matelica district of central Italy’s Marche region, Lamelia is all about presenting the best of Verdicchio. The variety, which has a recorded history in Matelica dating back to the 16th century, and which in 1967 lent its name to the first white DOC in the Marche, Verdicchio di Matelica, is here used to conjure a typically fresh but savoury dry white that is designed to match with food. “With hints of candied almond and hot stone, there’s so much to like here,” the Top 100 judges said. “Crisp and interesting Italian dry white wine with a decent sense of value for money.”

Puglia, Italy 2017

So said the judges about the latest vintage of Mark Shannon and Elena Sbalchiero’s white Puglian blend. Shannon (the winemaker) uses local Fiano clone Fiano Minutolo, rather than the Fiano di Avellino of Campania, as the heart of a blend which also includes 30% Greco and 10% Falanghina. A portion of the Fiano is dried for two weeks, and then added to Fiano from a second, laterpicked vineyard, and the early-picked Falanghina and Greco – a recipe for complexity and balance.

Laytons

Laytons

Liberty Wines

RRP £11.95 ABV 12%

RRP £10.95 ABV 12.5%

RRP £11.99 ABV 12.5%

Joseph Mellot La Chatellenie, Sancerre 2017, Loire (£25.85, Hatch Mansfield): Incisive spring-fresh Sauvignon Blanc with verve and tension. Domaine de Maubet IGP Pays de Gascogne 2017, South West France (£8.50, Barton, Brownsdon & Sadler): Plenty of pungent fruit and Gascon freshness. Château Capion Le Chemin des Garennes Blanc 2016, Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc (£16.95, Capion Trading): Highly superior Languedoc white. La Cave des Producteurs de Jurançon Le Véritable 2016, Jurançon Sec, South West France (£11.99, Vindependents): Tangy fruit and incisive acidity.

German white Bibo Runge Hargardun Riesling 2015, Rheingau (£24, Delibo Wine Agencies): Excellent balance of fruit and acid structure; textbook Rheingau Riesling.

Greek white Ktima Biblia Chora Ovilos 2017, Pangeon, Macedonia (£27.99, Hallgarten): Assyrtiko meets Semillon in a sophisticated Greek white blend. Ktima Gerovassiliou Single-Vineyard Malagousia 2017, Epanomi, Macedonia (£18.49, Hallgarten): Characterful peachy-and-herby exotica.

Italian white Tramin Nussbaumer Gewürztraminer 2016, Alto-Adige (£26.99, Hallgarten): Beautifully poised, balanced Alpine Gewurztraminer.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

31


32

The Wine Merchant Top 100


Italian and New Zealand white

HIGHLY COMMENDED Italian white Andrea Felici Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2016, Le Marche (£14.95, Lea & Sandeman): Brisk and interesting, food-friendly, subtly nutty. Gianni Tessari Pigno Soave 2016, Veneto (£18.95, Laytons): Handsome, softly enticing, white-fruited 100% Garganega. San Silvestro Nas-Cëtta del Commune di Novello 2016, Langhe, Piedmont (£13.49, Hallgarten): A rare 100% Nas-Cëtta; full of interest. San Marzano Talò Verdeca 2017, Puglia (£10.49, Hallgarten): Dangerously drinkable, fresh and balanced 100% Verdeca. Feudo Disisa Terra delle Fate Fiano 2016, Monreale, Sicily (£17.95, Laytons): Impressive levels of peach and citrus flavour and minerals.

New Zealand white Astrolabe Province Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough (£16.05, Armit Wines): Textbook Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in racy pure mode. Vidal Reserve Chardonnay 2016, Hawke’s Bay (£16.20, Hatch Mansfield): A wine that illustrates the great potential of New Zealand Chardonnay. Two Rivers of Marlborough Convergence Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough (£14, The Antipodean Sommelier): Star bright, zingy, full of fresh fruit. Gravel & Loam Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough (£10, Barton, Brownsdon & Sadler): High-quality classic Kiwi Sauvignon at a very good price. Wine Portfolio V Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough (£9.99, Vindependents): Lots of fruit, lots of freshness, and lots of good value fun. The Shy Albatross Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough (£8, Barton, Brownsdon & Sadler): Well-made Sauvignon at a supermarket-beating price.

VIGNETI DEL VULTURE PIPOLI GRECO-FIANO

ASTROLABE DURVILLEA SAUVIGNON BLANC

Basilicata, Italy 2017

Marlborough, New Zealand 2017

The fortunes of Vigneti del Vulture, a diminutive cooperative in Basilicata, were transformed by the arrival of Valentino Sciotti of Vesevo and Gran Sasso a decade ago. With Manuel Barbone, working with star consultant Alberto Antonini, at the winemaking helm, the firm is making exciting modern wines full of local character. Based in the heart of the Aglianico del Vulture zone, it makes a fine red, but the Top 100 judges were equally impressed by this unoaked 50/50 blend of Fiano and Greco. “Evocative floral nose: you could argue all day about which flowers it resembles. A broad and juicy palate with Fiano just trumped by the hugely appealing Greco. A must for fans of white wine with flavour!”

Winemaker Simon Waghorn and his wife, Jane Forrest-Waghorn, started their Marlborough estate Astrolabe in 1996 as what they call “a winemaker label”. Which is really just another way of saying that, for all that their products may be elegantly packaged, it’s the quality of wine inside that comes first. For the Durvillea Sauvignon Blanc, Waghorn says the timing of the harvest is key to preserving the “purity and intensity” he looks for in all his wines. The Top 100 judges certainly noticed. “Aromatic with excellent acidity and a lovely delicate finish,” they said. “It represents cracking value and is a must-have for Marlborough lovers.”

Liberty Wines

Armit Wines

RRP £11.99 ABV 12.5%

RRP £12.05 ABV 13%

TWO RIVERS OF MARLBOROUGH BROOKBY HILL PINOT GRIS Wairau, Marlborough, New Zealand 2016 Winemaker David Clouston grew up in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley; today his base is in the Wairau Valley. Two valleys, and two rivers, hence the name of Clouston’s impressive operation, founded in 2004. Clouston has some fine Sauvignon Blanc on his books. But he’s always been interested in varietal diversity, making Riesling, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and, for this singlevineyard wine, Pinot Gris. “Intense notes of pear and dried citrus/orange peel on the nose; the palate is tense, full of citrus fruit, medium bodied, with great acidity,a long finish – a really complex wine.” The Antipodean Sommelier RRP £15 ABV 13%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

33


Craig Stansborough, winemaker

Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz The Filsell vineyard with near century-old vines is considered one of the best vineyards in the Barossa Valley and consistently produces fruit of great intensity and concentration. Filsell Shiraz is a rich, luscious and thoroughly decadent Old Vine Shiraz that perfectly embodies this classically powerful Barossa style. Whilst approachable now this powerful wine can be confidently cellared for 20 years after release.

34

The Wine Merchant Top 100


New Zealand and Portuguese white

HIGHLY COMMENDED Portuguese white Vila Nova Vinho Verde 2017, Vinho Verde (£8.99, Boutinot): Brisk, light, tropical fruit and lemon: boxfresh summer white. Quinta de Azevedo Loureiro-Alvarinho 2017, Vinho Verde (£9.99, Liberty Wines): Graceful Vinho Verde with real zip and freshness.

HAWKSDRIFT BARRELFERMENTED SAUVIGNON BLANC Marlborough, New Zealand 2015 In a region where unoaked varietal Sauvignon Blanc is very much king, Murray and Robyn Butt’s boutique venture, Hawksdrift, stands out for its commitment to barrelfermented styles. Based in the Dillons Point region near the coast in the east of Marlborough, the couple make fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but, inspired by PessacLéognan, they also apply their careful methods to Sauvignon Blanc. “One of the most unMarlborough-tasting Sauvignons that we’ve tried,” the judges said. “A real point of difference, with caramel notes on the finish. Unusual, delicious, intriguing.”

AI GALERA MISTICO

QUINTA DE AZEVEDO RESERVA

Tejo, Portugal 2017

Vinho Verde, Portugal 2017

Very few places are capable of matching the bang-for-buck ratio coming out of Portugal’s Tejo region. Take Alliance Wine’s Ai Galera brand, for example. Arrestingly packaged with imagery inspired by the history of the region south of Lisbon, it’s the wine that inspired the judges (who were, of course, tasting blind). An unoaked blend of Fernão Pires and a dollop of Verdelho, from vineyards around Lezíria and Charneca planted on sandy-loam and sandy-clay soils, it has “an expressive nose, good acidity and texture and good fruit quality of lemon, pear and melon,” the judges said. “Good price point, a point of interest and a great introduction to Tejo wines.”

In the quarter-century or so since its debut vintage in 1990, Quinta de Azevedo has become arguably the best-known producer in Vinho Verde – so it’s lucky for the region that its wines are so consistently good. For those looking for an alternative from the quinta’s ever-popular straight Vinho Verde, the Reserva offers the additional concentration and intensity that all reservas should – but don’t always – deliver. A blend of 70% Loureiro with 30% Alvarinho, it has, according to the judges, “a lovely, easy nose of fresh lemon and citrus fruit. “Real elegance makes this a step up from standard Vinho Verde. Vibrant fruit with nice length and a textured palate.”

Vindependents

Alliance Wine

Liberty Wines

RRP £17.50 ABV 13%

RRP £7.49 ABV 12.5%

RRP £10.99 ABV 12%

Quinta dos Carvalhais Branco Reserva 2013, Dão (£24.99, Liberty Wines): Complex, intense, rich Encruzado/Verdelho blend.

South African white Kleine Zalze Cleefs Reserve Collection Chardonnay, Western Cape (£12.85, Hatch Mansfield): Carefully made Cape white Burgundyalike. Lismore Reserve Chardonnay 2016, Greyton, Western Cape (£26.99, Hallgarten): Refined coolclimate South African Chardonnay. Waterkloof Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Stellenbosch (£11.99, Boutinot): Clarity and impressive tension with clean-cut Sauvignon fruit. Wildehurst Wines Chenin Blanc 2016, Swartland (£21.99, Vindependents): Rich, full-flavoured, rewarding Swartland Chenin Blanc. Swartland Winery Bush Vines Chenin Blanc 2016, Clairette de Die, Rhône (£14.49, Hallgarten): Concentrated, tropical fruit, vanilla and toast. Perdeberg Winery Dry Land Collection Courageous Barrel-Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016, Paarl (£12.99, Boutinot): Apricot, white flowers and honey.

Spanish white Encantador Airén-Chardonnay 2017, Central Castile (£7.49, Hallgarten): Dry, fruity, elegant easydrinking. Great value.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

35


South African and Spanish white/French rosé/Argentinian red

TOKARA RESERVE COLLECTION SAUVIGNON BLANC Elgin, South Africa 2017 Tokara’s home estate in Stellenbosch is one of the most beautiful in a region not exactly short of stunning wineries. Here the team, led by winemaker Stuart Botha, specialises in Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, among other grape varieties, plus some fine olive oils and a wellregarded brandy. For the fruit that goes into the estate’s nervy, fine Reserve Collection Sauvignon Blanc, however, Tokara casts its net to the cool-climate haven of Elgin – with impressive results. “Racy, mouthwatering acidity, and an appealing and surprising hint of mandarin with gooseberry and nettle. For those who dare to be different.” Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies RRP £20.50 ABV 13.5%

36

ADEGAS TERRA DE ASOREI PAZO TORRADO ALBARIÑO

VALENCISO RIOJA BLANCO

MARCO ABELLA ÒLBIA PRIORAT

Rioja, Spain 2016

Priorat, Spain 2016

Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain 2017

Two decades ago, two experienced Rioja winemakers, Luis Valentin and Carmen Enciso, left their careers at Bodega Palacios to start out on their own project.

The logo for Adegas Terra de Asorei features six letter As, each representing an element of the winery’s identity: Albariño, Auténtico (authenticity), Adega (Galician for Bodega), Arte Atlántica and Amor. It’s probably a little fanciful to argue you can taste all six elements here, but this blistering Albariño from the Val do Salnés subzone of Rías Baixas is certainly the kind of wine that can only be made by a passionate winemaking team looking to reflect their terroir.

At Valenciso (do you see what they did there?) the duo set out to produce a single red and a white at their winery in Ollauri and from vineyards in Ollauri, Briones, Haro, Rodezno and Villalba at altitudes of 400m-600m.

David Marco and his wife Olivia have been rewarded in the Top 100 before for the wines produced on their 30ha estate in Porrera, Priorat. As in past years, they’ve picked up a Top 100 spot for a red wine in 2018. But this year they’ve also earned recognition for a superb white blend. A blend of Garnatxa Blanca, Viognier and Pedro Ximenez from vines grown on the region’s famed Licorella soils at an altitude of 600m above sea level, the wine is aged in French oak for six months.

DOMAINE GAVOTY CUVÉE CLARENDON ROSÉ Côtes de Provence, France 2016 Wines, like restaurants, come and go from fashion, but it feels reasonably safe to say that a producer that has been on the list at Michel Roux Jnr’s Le Gavroche for the best part of 20 years is likely to have something going for it. But then, Domaine Gavoty has been at the forefront of fine wine production in Provence for two centuries Run by eighth-generation family member Rosalyne Gavoty with her husband, Hervé, the domaine is a master of the regional art of rosé.

“Full, mellow, elegant Albariño,” the Top 100 judges said. “Delightful classic fruit character and great minerality. Simply delicious!”

Using concrete tanks rather than stainless steel for fermentation, and sustainable viticulture, their methods have won plaudits from all over the world, among them those of the judges who praised this Viura/Garnacha Blanca blend for its “beautifully integrated oak. Restrained, elegant, balanced – so nicely made.”

Daniel Lambert Wines

Boutinot

Vindependents

Laytons

RRP £13.99 ABV 12.5%

RRP £18.99 ABV 14%

RRP £39.99 ABV 12%

RRP £19.95 ABV 14%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

“Good balance of acidity and fruit, with subtle applealmond notes,” the judges said. “On the palate it’s elegant but mouth-filling, with a palate-coating creamy texture and nice salinity on the finish.”

“Pretty nose with some nice complexity and quite full on the palate,” the judges said. “It’s beautifully done, delicious, and just right for the price.”


HIGHLY COMMENDED Spanish white Xosé Lois Sebio Mais Ala 2015, Galicia (£26.49, Hallgarten): Spicy, dry and minerally, seafoodfriendly Godello.

Uruguayan white

DOMAINE DE GRANDPRÉ MINOTAURE ROSÉ

BODEGA SOTTANO SELECCIÓN MALBEC

Côtes de Provence, France 2017

Mendoza, Argentina 2016

As more and more producers climb aboard the rosé bandwagon, the market is filled with pink contenders. But this is a deceptively difficult art, and the best of the pink bunch tend to be produced by specialists rather than dillettantes. Domaine de Grandpré is very much a rosé specialist, with some 80% of its production devoted to the style. The 30ha estate at the base of the Massif des Maures is right in the heart of Provence’s socalled “Golden Triangle”. There, the grape variety mix is Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Rolle. “Classic Provence, with a delightful fleshy red fruit character,” the Top 100 judges said. “Excellent value.”

A serial winner at the Top 100, Bodega Sottano had another good year in 2018, with this the first of two Malbecs to make it into the final selection. The Sottano brothers – Diego, Pablo and Mauricio – run the show at the family’s bodega, which can be found at 1,000m above sea level in the Perdriel district of Mendoza. For the Selección Malbec, the final blend is aged for 12 months in a mixture of French and American oak barrels. “More floral than extracted fruit on the nose, the palate is big on spice, clove and tannins,” the judges said. “It’s grippy with a good finish, black cherries and damsons; lovely acidity and complexity.”

BODEGA SOTTANO MALBEC, MENDOZA Mendoza, Argentina 2017 The second of the Sottano bros’ Wine Merchant Top 100 Malbec winners this year is a “brilliant bargain” that, according to the judges, “delivers everything you would want from this style for the price.” Everything? Well that would be “an inviting nose of cherry and plum and a plush fruity palate, good fresh acidity and some integrated tannins, all with excellent intensity and all at under £10.” The recipe: a blend of Malbec fruit from two sites, Perdriel in Luján de Cuyo and Vista Flores in the Uco Valley, which is aged in a mix of French and American oak for eight months after fermentation in stainless steel at low temperatures and 15 days’ maceration.

Vindependents

Vindependents

Vindependents

RRP £14.99 ABV 13%

RRP £18.90 ABV 14%

RRP £9.90 ABV 13%

Bouza Riesling 2015, Pan de Azucar, Maldonado (£19.95, Laytons): How far Uruguayan wine has come: focused and juicy.

USA white David Bruce Chardonnay 2015, Russian River Valley, California (£35.95, Richmond Wine Agencies): Sculpted, rich but balanced modern California. Cannonball Chardonnay 2014, Sonoma County, California (£16.95, Enotria&Coe): Vanilla, ripe melon and crème-fraîche; good value for money. Trefethen Chardonnay 2016, Oak Knoll District, California (£35, Daniel Lambert Wines): White flowers and fruit; fresh and aromatic Chardonnay.

French rosé Domaine Boutinot Les Cerisiers Rosé 2017, Côtes du Rhône (£9.99, Boutinot): Excellent fresh red berry fruit and juicy refreshment. L’Hostellerie Pierre de Taille 2017, Côtes d’Aix en Provence (£10, Barton, Brownsdon & Sadler): Textbook pale, cool, subtle Provence rosé.

Argentinian red Bodega Del Rio Elorza Verum Pinot Noir 2016, Alto Valle de Río Negro, Patagonia (£13.99, Condor Wines): Attractive, authentic Pinot flavour and texture. Finca Quara Estate Malbec 2017, Cafayate Valley, Salta (£9.99, Condor Wines): Bright, fragrant and fruit-filled youthful Malbec.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

37


Argentinian and Australian red

HIGHLY COMMENDED Argentinian red Familia Falasco Hermandad Malbec 2016, La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza (£21.99, Condor Wines): High-quality, beautifully made, serious Malbec. Vicentin Blend de Malbecs 2015, Mendoza (£18.90, Vindependents): Lush and fragrant, lots of flavour and interest, power and freshness. Algodon Estate Malbec 2012, Mendoza (£18.99, Condor Wines): Excellent value for money for a quality ripe-fruited Malbec. Benegas Estate Cabernet Franc 2015, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza (£19, Las Bodegas): Further proof of Argentina’s ability with Cabernet Franc. Bodega Melipal Cabernet Franc 2014, Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza (£15.95, Laytons): Pretty and fragrant Cab Franc nose; structured palate. Bodega Sottano de Familia Selección Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Mendoza (£21.90, Vindependents): Chunky, ripe but elegant too, with perfectly ripe fruit.

Australian red Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir 2017, Yarra Valley, Victoria (£17.99, Liberty Wines): Juicy, accessible red fruit and soft, succulent tannins. Stonier Pinot Noir 2016, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria (£19.99, Fine Wine Partners): Effortless fruit and fresh palate; ripe but balanced. Pike & Joyce Rapide Pinot Noir 2016, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (£14.99, Seckford Agencies): Bright and energetic red fruit and freshness. Flametree Wines SRS Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Margaret River, Western Australia (£34.99, Vindependents): Serious blackcurrant Cab tinged with freshness. Yalumba The Scribbler Cabernet SauvignonShiraz 2014, Barossa Valley, South Australia (£15.99, Fells): Luxurious black fruit and plump palate.

38

The Wine Merchant Top 100

LOS POETAS LIBERTAD BLEND La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina 2015 Argentine Malbec is without question the red wine success story of the past decade. But many producers would argue that the country is at least as good with other varieties, and that blending frequently produces the best red wines of all. Judges were impressed with Altocedro’s mix of 60% Malbec with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, admiring its “freshness and intensity”. “Delightful fresh black fruits and menthol on the nose; the palate is filled with lovely fresh acidity and red and black fruit,” the judges said. “It’s all beautifully balanced and put together with good, smooth tannins and great length, and a great price too.”

ANGULO INNOCENTI UNISONO

ATAMISQUE CATALPA ASSEMBLAGE

La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina 2013

Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina 2016

Now run by two great grandchildren of the Basque and Tuscan emigrés who founded – and gave their names to – this small Mendoza producer, Angulo Innocenti makes handcrafted wines from the family vineyards in La Consulta, 1,050m above sea level in the Uco Valley. The Unisono is a blend of 66% Malbec/22% Cabernet Sauvignon/12% Merlot that is fermented in a mix of stainless steel and concrete and spends 18 months in oak. It “oozes vibrant fruit and spice”, the Top 100 judges said. “Great length goes on and on, and, if you give it time, this will open up so much more.”

The first of two Top 100 entries from this relatively young bodega, based in San José in Tupungato in the Uco Valley, provides yet more proof of the quality of the Argentine red blend. In the case of the Catalpa Assemblage, Malbec is but one, relatively small ingredient in a blend with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, 60% of which is aged for 12 months in new French oak barrels, with the rest in stainless steel. The extremely classy result was, the judges said, “complex and lovely, with a delightful aromatic, fragrant nose. The palate is is rich and full but with brightness and freshness. This is, among other things, very good steak wine.”

Condor Wines

Las Bodegas

Las Bodegas

RRP £11.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £33.25 ABV 14.5%

RRP £22.25 ABV 14%


HIGHLY COMMENDED Australian red Five Geese Indian File Grenache 2014, McLaren Vale, South Australia (£18.95, Tilley’s Wines): Sumptuous modern Australian varietal Grenache. Petaluma White Label Shiraz 2015, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (£18.99, Fine Wine Partners): A fresher, but still concentrated, style of Aussie Shiraz.

ATAMISQUE SERBAL CABERNET FRANC

GRANT BURGE FILSELL SHIRAZ

Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina 2017

Barossa Valley, Australia 2015

PETALUMA WHITE LABEL CABERNET SAUVIGNON Coonawarra, Australia 2015

While Atamisque has many varieties planted in its Tupungato estate vineyards – and while it does a very fine job with all of them, both in blends and as single varietals – Cabernet Franc has become a particular calling card.

Although the man whose name graces the label sold up to Accolade Wines in 2015, Grant Burge Wines is going from strength to strength under a winemaking team of chief winemaker Craig Stansborough and viticulturist Rodney Birchmore.

Importer Las Bodegas even claims that this take on Cabernet Franc is the “is the most exciting and best value example we have tasted from anywhere”.

Certainly the quality of this single-vineyard Shiraz, one of the estate’s top wines from one of the Barossa’s best vineyards, is as high as ever.

The Top 100 judges were also very much taken with it. “Very interesting nose: detailed and enticing with classic Cab Franc qualities,” they said. “On the palate it mixes bright fruit and richness with a savoury and fresh edge. Delightful.”

With different batches of fruit fermented separately and aged for 20 months in a mixture of French and American oak, it’s a wine that “screams old vines”, the Top 100 judges said. “A proper Barossa nose, focused and delicious, with a real gush of rich and spicy flavour.”

Las Bodegas

Fine Wine Partners

Fine Wine Partners

RRP £16.75 ABV 14%

RRP £24.99 ABV 14%

RRP £19.99 ABV 14.5%

One of the great pioneering names of modern Australian wine, Petaluma has played a significant role in bringing some of the country’s finest regions – from the Piccadilly Valley and Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills to Hanlin Hill in Clare and, for this Top 100 winner, Evans Vineyard in Coonawarra. With winemaking now overseen by Andrew Hardy and his team as part of the Accolade Wines stable, this Cabernet is a blend of five different blocks, all vinified separately, giving, the judges said, “a pure Coonawarra Cab. Lovely rich tobacco and cedar nose, and deep purple fruit on the palate. Very elegant and fresh finish. Still young; great value.”

Petaluma Yellow Label B&V Vineyard Shiraz 2015, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (£29.99, Fine Wine Partners): A classy, rich, spicy, fresh mouthful. St Hallett Gamekeepers Grenache-Shiraz-Touriga 2015, Barossa Valley, South Australia (£12.99 Fine Wine Partners): Great value; interesting, tasty blend. Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz 2015, Barossa Valley, South Australia (£25, Enotria&Coe): Classic Barossa Valley Shiraz: rich, spicy, savoury. Claymore Dark Side of the Moon Shiraz 2015, Clare Valley, South Australia (£16.95, Tilley’s Wines): Sumptuous and savoury dark-fruited fun. Rusty Mutt Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia (£18.95, Tilley’s Wines): Nice to see a bit of age: a touch of leather and savoury flavour. Trentham The Family Nebbiolo 2015, MurrayDarling (£12.99, Seckford Agencies): A point of difference that works in juicy, fragrant style.

Chilean red Caliterra Edición Limitada ‘A’ 2015, Colchagua Valley (£17.55, Hatch Mansfield): Dense and full of classic sweet Chilean black fruit. Oveja Negra Winemakers Selection Cabernet Franc-Carmenère 2017, Maule Valley (£9.99, Hallgarten): Leafy-herbal-infused blackcurrant. Tabalí Talud Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Maipo Valley 2014 (£16.99, Boutinot): Quality classic Maipo Cab with mint and cassis and smooth tannins.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

39


Australian, Austrian and Chilean red

TAMAR RIDGE PINOT NOIR

HENSCHKE JOHANN’S GARDEN

Tasmania, Australia 2015

Barossa Valley, Australia 2015

The second wine from the Brown Brothers-owned Tasmanian cool-climate specialists Tamar Ridge to make the final selection in this year’s Top 100 is a delectable example of the island’s best red grape variety, Pinot Noir.

The makers of one of Australia’s true icon wines in Hill of Grace, Henschke remains at the very pinnacle of the country’s fine wine fraternity under the stewardship of winemaker Stephen Henschke and his viticulturist wife, Prue.

The fruit, sourced from various terroirs, is crushed into open-top stainless steel fermenters before being pressed into barriques, 25% new and the rest between two and three years old. “Stylish and elegant in true Burgundian style,” the judges said. “There’s some woodsy complexity, and lots of fine red berry fruit. “Hard not to admire its subtlety and quiet confidence. Would suit Burgundy lovers looking for better value.” Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies RRP £22.75 ABV 13.9%

40

As with Hill of Grace, the Henschke style is all about the combination of elegance with pristine fruit concentration, and that’s very much the case with this Grenache-led blend with Mataro (Mourvedre) and Shiraz aged in French oak hogsheads for nine months.

MOSS WOOD RIBBON VALE VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON Margaret River, Australia 2013 If you still think of Margaret River as a new, young thing, you may be taken aback to learn that Moss Wood, one of the earliest pioneers of the region, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year.

YALUMBA OLD BUSH VINE GRENACHE

JIM BARRY THE BARRY BROTHERS SHIRAZ-CABERNET

Barossa Valley, Australia 2015

Clare Valley, Australia 2015

Australian Grenache is having a bit of a fashion moment right now, with winemakers increasingly looking to make the most of an international re-evaluation of a grape variety that has in the past been overshadowed by its some-time partner Shiraz.

The Barry family is all-but synonymous with South Australia’s Clare Valley, with the late eponymous founder of Jim Barry Wines having played an enormous part in the development of the region as a premium wine producer.

Yalumba, one of the great family-owned names of Australian wine, has long seen the potential for the variety, however, making full use of its access to very old (up to 120 years old) vines in the Barossa.

With the second and third generations now overseeing affairs, the company is still pumping out high-quality wines such as this prime example of that great Aussie gift to the wine world, the ShirazCabernet blend.

“A touch of reduction and delicious red berries,” the judges said. “Very ripe fruits but served with very fresh acidity, great structure, balance and brightness.”

“A bold and arresting blend but with a key point of difference to the competition thanks to its freshness, perfectly ripe fruit and balanced alcohol. Very nice” the judges said.

“Jammy but succulent fruit – red and black berries, with a hint of eucalypt: very classic,” the judges said. “The palate is super-juicy and keen with that berry character and clean finish.”

Mature vines and the combined knowledge and experience of winemaker-proprietors Clare and Keith Mugford (who joined in 1984 and 1979 respectively) means the winery is performing better than ever, making, in the words of the judges, “just lovely” wines such as this Cabernet. “Rich and pure; it really benefits from the time in bottle. Such delicious deep plummy/ chocolatey fruit flavours!”

Enotria&Coe

Laytons

Fells

Fells

RRP £28.50 ABV 14.5%

RRP £29.95 ABV 14%

RRP £15.99 ABV 12%

RRP £16.99 ABV 14.2%

The Wine Merchant Top 100


HIGHLY COMMENDED French red Domaine Edmond Cornu et Fils Les Bons Ores 2014, Chorey-lès-Beaune (£29.99, New Generation): Classically delicate red Burgundy. Château Pineraie l’Authentique Cahors 2011, Cahors (£21.99, Boutinot): Fragrant violets on the nose, with bright fruit and good complexity.

HEINRICH BLAUFRÄNKISCH Burgenland, Austria 2015 In eastern Austria’s Burgenland region near the border with Hungary, Gernot Heinrich has made a name for his high-quality, ripe red wines made from local grape varieties. His Blaufränkisch grapes hail from south-facing vineyards in the relatively warm Wagram region of Burgenland, which, in this case, he ferments in stainless steel before finishing off in oak vats and used barriques. “With a bright, fresh, leafy nose, this is very attractive,” according to our panel of judges.

VIÑA REQUINGUA TORO DE PIEDRA GRAN RESERVA CARMENÈRECABERNET SAUVIGNON

VIÑA REQUINGUA TORO DE PIEDRA GRAN RESERVA PETIT VERDOTCABERNET SAUVIGNON,

Maule Valley, Chile 2016

Curico Valley, Chile 2015

A family winery dating back to the early 1960s, Viña Requingua has grown with the Chilean wine business to become an important player with more than 1,055ha of vineyard in the Curico, Colchagua and Maule Valleys.

A different valley means a different blend for the second entry in this year’s final selection from Viña Requingua – and unusually it’s a blend that gives the often overlooked Petit Verdot a leading role.

The growth in scale has in no way affected their commitment to quality, however, as the judges recognised in this impressive blend.

The Bordeaux bit-player accounts for 88% of the blend here, with the Curico-sourced fruit aged for 12 months in a combination of French and American oak barrels, 30% of which are new.

“There are notes of purple flowers, violets, and nice grippy tannins that are good for food-matching. Good for those looking for a Cab Franc alternative.”

“Dark, bible-black, and velvet smooth,” they said. “A twang of blackcurrant balances the sweet fruitiness. This is highquality winemaking at a very good price.”

Liberty Wines

Condor Wines

Condor Wines

RRP £18.99 ABV 12.5%

RRP £13.99 ABV 14%

RRP £13.99 ABV 14%

“A warm and subtly spicy red with a touch of sweetness that will work as a popular favourite in a retailer’s range,” the judges said.

Château Coudray-Montpensier Chinon 2016, Chinon, Loire (£13.99, Liberty Wines): Textbook Loire Cab Franc with elegant freshness and currants. Domaines Paul Mas Arrogant Frog Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 2017, IGP Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (£7.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Over-delivers with vibrant black fruit. Château La Petite Roque 2016, Blaye, Côtes de Bordeaux (£12.50, Daniel Lambert Wines): Fresh, well-made, drinkable, food-friendly claret. Château La Brande Castillon 2014, Castillon, Bordeaux (£14.50, Department 33): Fragrant, fleshy, Merlot-driven, refreshing everyday Bordeaux. Château Mayne Blanc Cuvée Spéciale 2015, Lussac St-Emilion, Bordeaux (£19.49, Hallgarten): Accessible, affordable, stylish Right Bank Bordeaux. Les Terrasses de Saint Christophe St-Emilion Grand Cru 2014, St-Emilion, Bordeaux (£16.99, Les Grands Chais de France): Remarkably affordable grand cru St-Emilion. Château La Gorce Médoc 2011, Bordeaux (£17, Department 33): Attractive cedary and savoury maturity and developed tannins; good fruit. Château Beau-Site Haut-Vignobles St-Estèphe, 2010 St-Estèphe, Bordeaux (£26, Department 33): Great vintage, good price, ready to drink. Couleurs d’Aquitaine L’Oie du Périgord Merlot 2016, Périgord, Bergerac (£10, Department 33): Great-value, appetising alternative to Bordeaux.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

41


Chilean and French red

HIGHLY COMMENDED French red Domaine Mas Belles Eaux Petit Verdot 2016, IGP Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (£9.99, Les Grands Chais de France): Good juicy black fruit and a real point of difference. Domaines Paul Mas Côtes Mas Rouge Intense, IGP Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (£7.49, Domaines Paul Mas): Crowd-pleasing Languedoc blend. Domaines Paul Mas Clos Savignac 2016, Grès de Montpellier, Languedoc (£17.50, Domaines Paul Mas): Richly evocative with spice, herb, and black fruit. Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles Rouge 2016, Côtes du Rhône (£12.50, Hatch Mansfield): Effortlessly succulent and spicy Grenache-led Rhône blend. Domaine de la Baume La Jeunesse Syrah 2016, IGP Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (£8.99, Les Grands Chais de France): Spicy, budget Rhône-alike. Calmel & Joseph Les Crus 2014, Caramany, Roussillon (£14.99, Daniel Lambert Wines): Impressive depth of dark flavour in this smooth three-way blend. Château Capion Les Chemin des Garennes 2016, Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc (£16.95, Capion Trading): Expressive, characterful Languedoc cru. Domaine des 3 Lys Les Garrigues 2016, Côtes du Rhône Villages Rochegude (£14, Department 33): Sinew and spice and lots of bang for buck. Hospices de Beaujeu Cuvée Messire De Tremont Bourgogne Gamay 2015, Burgundy (£10.39, Les Grands Chais de France): Delightful Burgundymeets-Beaujolais summer red. Louis Jadot Château des Jacques 2015, Fleurie, Beaujolais (£21.10, Hatch Mansfield): Top-flight Beaujolais with grace and depth. Domaine Pierre Vessigaud Grain de Folie SaintAmour 2016, Saint-Amour, Beaujolais (£17.95, Daniel Lambert Wines): Silky and pleasurable; a step up from usual Bo-jo.

42

The Wine Merchant Top 100

MONTGRAS DE GRAS CARMENÈRE RESERVA

VIÑA ECHEVERRIA GRAN RESERVA CARMENÈRE

Colchagua Valley, Chile 2016

Curico Valley, Chile 2014

Chile has made giant steps forward with the wines it makes for higher price points over the past decade. But it still has a ready market for the sort of high-quality, consumer-friendly, valuefor-money wines with which it made its name. And for the Top 100 judges, this Carmenère from established Colchagua Valley-based producer Viña Montgras is just such a wine. “There’s an initial ‘greenhouse’ nose of tomato skins followed by a rich but balanced palate of berry compote and cream,” the judges said.

Viña Echeverria’s Top 100 winner provides yet more evidence that, more than 20 years since it was first discovered masquerading as Merlot in Chile’s vineyards, winemakers in the country are really getting to grips with the viti- and vinicultural idiosyncracies of Carmenère. The variety is in fact one of 20 grown by Viña Echeverria, a venerable, quality-focused producer that was founded in 1930 by a family with an agricultural heritage dating back to the 18th century.

PHILIPPE BOUZEREAU CHÂTEAU DE CÎTEAUX LES DURESSES Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru, Burgundy, France 2015 Sometimes experience does matter, and nowhere more so, perhaps, than in the complex terroirs of Burgundy. And experience is certainly something the Bouzereau family has in abundance, having been involved in making wine in Meursault for nine generations.

“A twinge of acidity to finish, balancing out what is a very good wine at an excellent price. Some advice to merchants: Buy! And then, sell!”

“Dark but lively fruit,” said the judges. “Imagine stamping forest fruits at midnight in an unlit wine cellar. Good balance of sweet fruit and acidity – a hugely enjoyable wine.”

The current owner Philippe Bouzereau brings his own kind of experience from winemaking around the world. And it shows in what the Top 100 judges called “a very stylish Pinot, with fragrant forest fruit and notes of cherry and spices and a balanced, gentle palate that will develop over time.”

Enotria&Coe

Hallgarten

Hallgarten

RRP £9.25 ABV 13.5%

RRP £11.49 ABV 12%

RRP £39 ABV 13.5%


HIGHLY COMMENDED German red Villa Wolf Pinot Noir 2016, Pfalz (£13, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Red and black berries and cherries combine with fine tannins and freshness.

Greek red

JEAN-LUC COLOMBO LES COLLINES DE LAURE SYRAH Mediterranée, Rhône, France 2016 Given that he only arrived in Cornas in the Rhône from Marseille in the early 1980s, Jean-Luc Colombo has become a big name in the Rhône in very quick time. And his family business, which he shares with his wife Anne, looks likely to have a bright future, thanks to the efforts of daughter Laure, who joined in 2010. The key, of course, is quality, which the Colombos have maintained even as they their business has expanded, in wines such as this Top 100 winner. “A fine example of Rhône Syrah: fruit forward but with hints of spice and soft tannins, and that would be enjoyable with or without food,” the judges said. Hatch Mansfield RRP £14.20 ABV 13%

CHÂTEAU SERGANT LALANDE DE POMEROL Lalande de Pomerol, Bordeaux, France 2015 For all that the big names of Bordeaux may have disappeared into the rarefied world of collectors, it’s still possible to find the sort of drinkable, good quality claret that so many independent customers demand. From the excellent 2015 vintage, this well-made (Hubert de Boüard of Château Angélus is a consultant), 82% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon blend from a 21ha estate in Lalande de Pomerol is a prime example. “A great introduction to Pomerol,” the judges said. “Warm, spicy, earthy notes on the nose, and great balance and structure with delicious bright fruits and a very fair price.” Les Grands Chais de France RRP £16.99 ABV 14%

CHÂTEAU DU MOULIN-À-VENT Moulin-à-Vent, Beaujolais, France 2015

Alpha Estate Reserve Barba Yannis Vieilles Vignes Xinomavro 2014, Amyndeo, Macedonia (£21.99, Hallgarten): Intensely characterful take on Greece’s star red grape.

Italian red Il Faggio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2016, Abruzzo (£9.99, Liberty Wines): Juicy cherry and supple succulence: just what you want from Montepulciano.

What can Gamay do in Beaujolais when it is given, in the words of Liberty Wines, the importer of Château du Moulin-à-Vent, “the royal treatment”?

Franco Mondo DI.VINO Monferrato 2014, Monferrato, Piedmont (£20, Red Squirrel): Lovely cherry fruit, violets, floral – something different.

Something very special indeed is the answer. By royal treatment, Liberty is referring to the low yields, attentive vineyard management and careful vinification that this 37ha domaine employs – a Burgundian level of care that leads, in the view of the Top 100 judges, to a wine of Burgundian quality.

Poderi Parpinello Monica di Sardegna Superiore 2015, Sardinia (£16.49, Hallgarten): Gutsy, flavourpacked herb and dark fruit wildness.

“Caramel toffee nose – crushed black cherries, and amazing, concentrated body,” the judges said. “Superbly made. The king of Beaujolais! A great springtime wine.”

La Bioca Ronchi Barbaresco 2015, Barbaresco, Piedmont (£25.95, Laytons): Classically styled Nebbiolo with perfume, tannin, freshness and power.

San Marzano Collezione Cinquanta NV, Puglia (£21.49, Hallgarten): Sweet Puglian fruit and a dark, mineral edge with great acidity, and silky tannins. Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva 2014, Chianti Rufina, Tuscany (£21.49, Hallgarten): Traditional leathery Chianti: good value. Querciabella Chianti Classico 2014, Chianti Classico, Tuscany (£23, Armit Wines): Luxurious silky Sangiovese with bright cherry acidity.

New Zealand red Saint Clair Pioneer Block 22 Barn Block Pinot Noir 2016, Riverlands, Marlborough (£19.99, Hallgarten): Bright floral fruit and forest-floor notes.

Liberty Wines RRP £25.99 ABV 13.5%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

43


French and Italian red

CALMEL & JOSEPH VILLA BLANCHE SYRAH

DOMAINES PAUL MAS CLAUDE VAL ROUGE

DOMAINE BELLEVILLE RULLY CHAPONNIÈRE

IGP Pays d’Oc, France 2016

IGP Pays d’Oc, France 2017

Rully, Burgundy, France 2016

Laurent Calmel and Jérôme Joseph have been bringing a touch of flair to the Languedoc since the pair joined forces to found their modern negoçiant firm in the mid1990s.

Another good year in the Top 100 for Domaines Paul Mas, and for the Claude Val brand in particular, with this popular red joining the Value Trophy-winning rosé in the final selection.

A second entry in the Top 100 this year for an estate with a mere 22ha of vines based in the Côte Chalonnaise is quite an achievement.

Their business model has depended on their ability to build contacts with private wineries and growers across the region, to which they bring their marketing and winemaking savoir-faire in brands such as the IGP Pays d’Oc varietal range, Villa Blanche, of which this Syrah is a highlight.

The result of head honcho Jean-Claude Mas’s ability to hunt out well-priced, high-quality grapes for his mission of providing “everyday luxury”, the Claude Val Rouge is a fruit-forward blend of Grenache, with Carignan, Syrah and Merlot.

But, like the Chardonnay featured earlier in this supplement, this is a fine expression of Pinot Noir and proof that Burgundy can still provide value for money if you (or your supplier) know where to look. With a cold maceration of five days, and an alcoholic fermentation of 15 days, and ageing for 12 months in oak barrels, this is a wine of “bitter black cherries, and a weighty, plump midpalate”, the judges said.

LE SERRE NUOVE DELL’ORNELLAIA Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy 2015 One of the original Super Tuscans, Ornellaia has become synonymous with Italian fine wine, with its “grand vin” undoubtedly a match for Bordeaux blends produced anywhere, including Bordeaux itself. Made primarily from the estate’s younger vineyards, the second wine, Le Serre Nuove – am exquisite blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot – has all the class of its big Bolgheri brother.

FEUDO DISISA VUARIA NERO D’AVOLA Monreale, Sicily, Italy 2013 The Disisa estate in Monreale in the Palermo province in north west Sicily has been run by the Di Lorenzo family for more than a century now – time enough to hone their expertise in both wine and olive oil. When it comes to the former, they have a number of crus which show particular talents, with Vuaria,a 2ha plot, having an affinity with the great local Sicilian red grape, Nero d’Avola.

“It’s almost a shame to try this magnificent wine so young,” the Top 100 judges said. “There is great potential here: a massive mouthfeel, with loads of fruit and ripeness, polished tannins, but excellent balancing acidity, too.”

Aged for 14 months in oak, the 2012 vintage is “rich, dark, sexy, polished Nero d’Avola”, the judges said. “Everything you want from a Sicilian red: plump, intense, concentrated fruit, juicy acidity in balance, and soft tannins. Moreish!”

“This silky-smooth French red seriously punches above its weight,” the Top 100 judges said. “Rich and velvety, with great fruit and touches of spice, this is insane value for money.”

“With its red cherries and perfumed nose, and fresh fruity, juicy palate, this is a simple but immensely pleasurable wine that is perfectly balanced,” the judges said. “It’s everything you’d want from a simple southern French red.”

Daniel Lambert Wines

Domaines Paul Mas

Vindependents

Armit Wines

Laytons

RRP £11.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £7.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £24.99 ABV 13%

RRP £42 ABV 14%

RRP £23.95 ABV 14%

44

The Wine Merchant Top 100

“A little tightly knit now, but will reward patience in a year or two.”


The Wine Merchant Top 100

45


46

The Wine Merchant Top 100


Italian red

HIGHLY COMMENDED New Zealand red Saint Clair Pioneer Block 17 Plateau Block Merlot 2015, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay (£19.49, Hallgarten): Creamy, cassis-scented Kiwi Merlot.

Portuguese red

MORISFARMS MORELLINO DI SCANSANO Morellino di Scansano, Tuscany, Italy 2015 The family behind Morisfarms arrived in Maremma on the Tuscan coast from Spain 200 years ago. Despite farming the land ever since, it’s only in the past few decades that they decided to specialise in wine (and olive oil) – and with great success.

VIGNETI DEL VULTURE PIPOLI AGLIANICO DEL VULTURE Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata, Italy 2016 With a place in the Top 100 already in the bag for its fine Fiano/Greco blend, the excellent Vigneti del Vulture also impressed the judges with a wine style for which its region is perhaps best known – the deep red wines of the Aglianico del Vulture DOCG.

The first vintage of the Morellino di Scansano appeared in 1981, three years after the zone was granted DOC status. A 90% Sangiovese made from fruit grown on sandy soils, it is, the Top 100 judges said, “very concentrated and attractive. With a deep opaque colour, exotic and plush fruit and plenty of structure, it will develop over the next two years. Good value.”

Made by the winemaking team of Manuel Barbone and consultant Alberto Antonini, from Aglianico grapes grown on volcanic soils on the slopes of Mount Vulture, at up to 800m above sea level, it’s “a great wine at a great price point”, the judges said.

Laytons

Liberty Wines

RRP £14.95 ABV 13.5%

RRP £12.99 ABV 13%

“Black fruit, almonds, cherries, liquorice, great tannins and acidity, and a great food wine.”

MAZZEI SER LAPO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy 2013 “Historic” barely covers the story of the Mazzei family, who can trace their roots in Tuscany back to the 11th century. A couple of centuries later, the family began its association with the region’s wine (as well as politics and other enterprises). And so perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that the judges described their competition winner as “classically styled”. A 90% Sangiovese, aged for 12 months in French oak, it has a “nice evolved look and aroma, sweetysavoury and damson fruit”, the judges said. “The palate is juicy with good length and classic structure, with appetising dry tannins.” Maisons Marques & Domaines RRP £21.49 ABV 13.5%

Quinta do Crasto 2015, Douro Superior (£14.95, Enotria&Coe): Deep fruits of the forest and good mid-palate juiciness; impressive.

South African red The Goose Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, UpperLangkloof, Western Cape (£14.99, Daniel Lambert Wines): Balanced, fruit-filled Cape Cab. Tokara Reserve Collection Reserve Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Stellenbosch (£26.75, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Impressive concentration and good structure. Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Stellenbosch (£34.85, Hatch Mansfield): Remarkable power and richness of fruit; complex. Zorgvliet Silver Myn Argentum 2016, Banghoek (£7.99, Boutinot): Great body, bright ripe fruit and structure; very good value for money. Jordan Wine Estate Cobblers Hill 2015, Stellenbosch (£32.25, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Classy, structured, ageworthy Bordeaux blend. Jordan Wine Estate The Prospector Syrah 2016, Stellenbosch (£17.25, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Spicy, deep and sumptuous Cape Syrah. Wildehurst Red 2014, Swartland (£19.99, Vindependents): Very fruit-forward and great with char-grilled steak; powerful and intense. Boutinot Mantlepiece Cinsault 2017, Coastal Region (£9.99, Boutinot): Good quality representation of red fruits and earthiness of Cape Cinsault. Swartland Winery Limited Release Carignan 2015, Swartland (£11.49, Hallgarten): Dark and dusky, chewy and rich.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

47


New Zealand, Portuguese, Macedonian and South African red

SAINT CLAIR OMAKA RESERVE PINOT NOIR Marlborough, New Zealand 2015 “Complex, mature, serious and classy,” is how the judges start off their description of this fine single-vineyard Pinot Noir from the Delta Region in the Southern Valleys sub-region of Marlborough. “With notes of mint, violets and forest fruits, it’s quite dense,” the judges continued. “But that’s no bad thing: this is quintessential Marlborough Pinot Noir.” The wine is part of the extensive, remarkably consistent portfolio of one of New Zealand’s pioneering estates, founded by Neal and Judy Ibbotson in 1994 after the couple had planted their first vineyards in the valley way back in 1978. Hallgarten RRP £26.49 ABV 13%

48

COAL PIT WINES TIWHA PINOT NOIR

AI GALERA POETICO

CASA FERREIRINHA CALLABRIGA

Gibbston Valley, Central Otago, New Zealand 2015

Tejo, Portugal 2016

Douro, Portugal 2015

Like a Burgundian domaine in the Southern Hemisphere, Coal Pit Wines is a small, family estate working 12ha on north-facing slopes in the Gibbston Valley in Central Otago. The vines here – Sauvignon Blanc as well as Pinot Noir – were first planted in 1994. And the owner Rosy Dunphy took a big step forward in 2007 when she invested in an on-site winery to give her team complete control over the whole process in wines such as this “Pinot for the Kiwi aficionados,” as the judges described it. “Crushed strawberry nose, cool, elegant, concentrated palate of liquorice, violets and forest floor. Great complexity!” The Antipodean Sommelier RRP £30 ABV 13%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

QUINTA DOS CARVALHAIS ALFROCHEIRO Dão, Portgual 2015

As we said about this southern Portuguese red’s white partner in both the Ai Galera range and the Top 100 earlier in the supplement, Tejo is one of the world’s best places for wine buyers in search of a bargain. But it takes skill to make good on the potential, and turn, in this case, the Castelão, Trincadeira and Tinta Muída fruit into something with real consumer appeal. Sourced from various sites in the Charneca region with its sandy-clay soils, the varieties are vinified separately and aged without oak. “While mute on the nose, the palate is where it’s all happening,” the judges said. “Bursting with berry fruit and a welcomingly big finish. Big on value, big on appeal, big but no brute.”

As the first house in the region to be dedicated to light wines from its foundation in 1952, Casa Ferreirinha anticipated the trend for unfortified Douro wine by the better part of a half a century. Acquired by Sogrape in 1987, the house, which is named after the famous Douro matriarch, Doña Ferreira (or Ferreirinha), has 520ha of vineyard in the three Douro sub-regions: Lower Corgo, Upper Corgo and Douro Superior.

The Guedes family is behind so much that is good in Portuguese wine, with this famous 105ha property in the Dão one of many estates to benefit from the family’s investment since they acquired it in 1988. Winemaker Beatriz Cabral de Almeida has an extensive menu of local Dão varieties to use in red and white wines, with this fine red based on Alfrocheiro from three plots.

Winemaker Luis Sottomayor uses that highquality fruit to conjure a wine with “dried fruit and spice-box nose, and a juiciness and freshness that will command you to pour again,” the judges said. “Its rounded harmony pulls on your tongue in all the right places.”

Aged in French oak for nine months, it’s a “grown-up wine”, the judges said. “All the right boxes are ticked: Good aroma and fruit, great texture and harmony from the acidity. Not for swilling in front of the TV: this deserves a Sunday best roast. Lots to discover here.”

Alliance Wines

Liberty Wines

Liberty Wines

RRP £7.49 ABV 13%

RRP £17.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £21.99 ABV 12%


HIGHLY COMMENDED Spanish red Cien y Pico Doble Pasta 2015, Manchuela, CastillaLa Mancha (£13.99, Liberty Wines): Bramble jammyjuicy, well balanced Garnacha. Bodegas Borsao Selección Garnacha 2016, Campo de Borja (£9.24, Boutinot): Big, lifted, fruitforward Garnacha with good acidity.

AZAMOR PETIT VERDOT

TIKVES WINERY KRATOSIJA

Alentejo, Portugal 2013

Tikves, Republic of Macedonia 2017

Why isn’t more singlevarietal wine made from Petit Verdot? Such is the question invariably raised by wine lovers once they’ve tasted this rare solo outing for the variety. Certainly it was on the lips of the judges.“Vibrant blackberry and bramble fruit … this is rich but with really good acidity and a hint of Parma Violets on the finish,” the judges said. “It would be a hand-sell, but it’s so full of character and flavour.”

One of the purposes of both this competition and independent wine retailing in general is to uncover those surprising wines that challenge expectations. For the Top 100 judges, this wine was very much in that category. Few, in fact, had heard of the grape variety, Kratosija, or the region, Tikves, but they were mighty impressed all the same by its quality and – no less important – value.

The wine is the work of winemaker Alison LuizGomes, who purchased this Alentejo estate with her husband Joaquim in 1998, and where she makes wines from local varieties as well as international varieties both common and unexpected.

“Lovely vibrant colour in the glass, this is such a fresh wine, full of fruit,” the judges said.

Liberty Wines

Hallgarten

RRP £19.99 ABV 12%

RRP £8.49 ABV 13.5%

“On the palate, it’s juicy, concentrated, with black fruits and spice. This is a frankly amazing amount of wine for the money.”

BON COURAGE ESTATE INKARÁ SHIRAZ Robertson, South Africa 2015 A multi-award-winning Robertson estate, Bon Courage has been known by its French name since 1983, when owner Andre Bruwer registered the farm as an estate and a step-change in quality began. Today the Bruwer family – owners since 1927 – have a full range of varieties, each matched to the diverse terroirs that can be found on the property, with Shiraz among the most successful. “A fantastically fruity wine – everything you want in a bottle of South African red,” the judges said. “Blackcurrant and redcurrant aromas simply leap out of the glass and follow through on the palate with rich berry brilliance.” Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies RRP £21.75 ABV 14.5%

Marco Abella Loidana 2016, Priorat 2016 (£24.99, Vindependents): Dusky dark fruit and liquorice, spice and earth and crushed rocks. Marco Abella Clos Abella Priorat 2013, Priorat (£49.99, Vindependents): Big, brawny intense warmclimate wine; a winter warmer. Bodegas Tamaral Tempranillo Crianza 2014, Ribera del Duero (£18, Barton, Brownsdon & Sadler): Vivid mulberry juiciness and smooth spicy oak. Bodegas Tamaral Reserva 2013, Ribera del Duero (£23, Barton, Brownsdon & Sadler): Classic Ribera fruit wrapped in spicy oak and tobacco leaf. Orben Rioja 2015, Rioja (£27.99, Liberty Wines): Lovely rich dense Tempranillo fruit; intense but fresh; long finish. Top class. Sierra Cantabria Rioja Reserva 2013, Rioja (£24, Enotria&Coe): Still young but with lovely pure fruit and richness of texture. Guigo Priorat 2016, Priorat (£26, Red Squirrel): Refined Carignan-Garnacha blend with some classic Priorat mineral character.

How the Wine Merchant Top 100 breaks down by style

48 red wines 36 white wines 8 sparkling wines 4 rosé wines 4 fortified wines

The Wine Merchant Top 100

49


South African, Spanish and USA red

BOUCHARD FINLAYSON GALPIN PEAK PINOT NOIR

LA RIOJA ALTA 904 RIOJA GRAN RESERVA

ABADIA RETUERTA SELECCIÓN ESPECIAL

BODEGAS EPIFANIO RIVERA ERIAL TINTO FINO

Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa 2015

Rioja, Spain 2009

Castilla y Leon, Spain 2014

Ribera del Duero, Spain 2015

Heaven on earth is the translation of Hemel-enAarde, the ocean-facing valley that Bouchard Finlayson calls home and where winemaker Peter Finlayson crafts his worldrenowned cool-climate wines from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and, in this case, Pinot Noir. For the 2015 vintage of his Galpin Peak Pinot, Finlayson uses a small proportion (15%) of whole bunch, and ages the wine in French oak barriques.

The long-running argument between modernists and traditionalists has long since died down in Rioja, and many producers are now happy taking ideas from both camps. But for lovers of Rioja in its most classical form, La Rioja Alta has few peers. The company still ages its top, Gran Reserva wines for four years in fouryear-old (and homemade) American oak barrels, and it still holds it back in bottle until the team is sure it’s mellowed sufficiently for release.

One of Spain’s very best small producers is based in the Sardon de Duero area of Ribera del Duero – although its use of international grape varieties means it labels its wines as Castilla y Leon. There’s no doubting the commitment to quality here: the vineyards are divided into 54 plots, each with a different terroir and a different altitude of up to 800m – and each planted with a different grape variety.

The Castano family is a specialist in a grape variety that has become increasingly respected in Spain and around the world: Monastrell, aka Mourvèdre.

Literally in the case of its 80-year-old vines, metaphorically in the case of the family’s 16th-century wine cellar and its 19thcentury press, still in use today. Based in Pesquera del Duero, the RiveraAparicio family has built up a contemporary reputation for making stylish Tinto Fino wines, from its 20ha of vines, spread across some of the region’s best sites.

More than 80% of the family’s 405ha vineyard given over to the variety, but the grapes for this Top 100 winner are sourced from two vineyards planted at altitudes of up to 750m above sea level – which they say gives a very different character to fruit grown elsewhere in the Yecla region.

Enotria&Coe

Laytons

Liberty Wines

RRP £25 ABV 14%

RRP £12.95 ABV 14.5%

RRP £9.99 ABV 14%

“A strong and flavoursome Pinot that is powerful and recognisably South African in style,” they said. Seckford Wine Agencies

Armit Wines

RRP £29.25 ABV 14.5%

RRP £50 ABV 13.5%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

In a region full of sometimes brash newcomers, Bodegas Epifanio Rivera is a producer with deep roots.

It’s a character that certainly pleased the judges. “Detailed nose, and very well made,” they said. “It retains its freshness despite being a very big, ripe wine. Great value for money: it’s savoury, sweet, rustic and authentic.”

For this Top 100 winner, the blend is Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, which yields “a big, full, bold but somehow elegant wine with a floral fragrance and beautiful fruit,” the judges said. “Lovely wine.”

50

Yecla, Murcia, Spain 2016

“With its deep dense colour, this is a wonderfully pure and intense wine, with lovely fruit and young but appetising tannins,” the judges said. “It needs food, but that’s no bad thing: great value.”

And the results, as the judges said, are still “deliciously mature. Complex, elegant, so many wonderful savoury flavours, and seamless texture. A delight to drink, even if it is a bit pricey!”

The result is a wine that pleased the judges with its “intriguing chilli pepper notes”.

CASTANO HÉCULA MONASTRELL


HIGHLY COMMENDED USA red Tenet The Pundit Syrah 2015, Columbia Valley, Washington (£29, Entoria&Coe): Not for the faint hearted, but very rich and rewarding.

Australia fortified

MARCO ABELLA MAS MALLOLA Priorat, Spain 2015 A well-deserved second place in the Top 100 for this excellent Priorat producer, which has been a strong performer in the competition over the past couple of years. The secret of its success isn’t complicated on paper: the wines, made in small quantities, are both delicious and reflective of the terroir, those famous Licorella soils in the Priorat village of Porrera.

ST-SUPÉRY ÉLU Napa Valley, California, USA 2013 As the name of both the estate and the wine suggests, St-Supéry is a Napa winery with a decidedly French influence. Based in Rutherford, the estate is based on the “French château” model of producing exclusively from its two vineyards, Rutherford Estate and Dollarhide Estate.

VINA ROBLES ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON Paso Robles, California, USA 2015 A true meeting of the Old and New World, Vina Robles was founded by two Swiss, Hans Nef and his business partner Hans R Michel, in the 1990s. Unlike some of their peers in California, the two partners first purchased their vineyards (they have six) in Paso Robles before building a cellar. Today (American) winemaker Kevin Willenborg makes wines that balance full ripe fruit flavours with freshness.

In this case, it’s a blend of Garnacha and Carignan from the Mallola plot at 650m above sea level which is aged in French oak for 15 months.

The varieties, too, are French: in the case of Élu, a very Bordelais mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, made with the help of star French consultant Michel Rolland.

“An intense dark-fruit nose; intense spicy rich fruits on the palate,” the judges said.“The tannins are firm but balanced with freshness and great length.”

“Big, beautifully balanced, fruit-filled, smooth and complex wine,” the Top 100 judges said. “Liquorice, damson, rich, powerful and resonant.”

Vindependents

Laytons

Vindependents

RRP £29.99 ABV 14.3%

RRP £65 ABV 14.5%

RRP £24.99 ABV 13.7%

That’s certainly the case with this Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with a drop of Petit Verdot and aged in French, American and Hungarian oak. “Very deep colour; lovely ripe, rich cherry fruit, superb balance and concentration: Lovely wine!” the judges said.

Stanton & Kileen Classic Topaque NV, Rutherglen, Victoria (£21.75, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Spicy, super-sweet delicious raisiny flavours. Stanton & Kileen Classic Muscat NV, Rutherglen, Victoria (£21.95, Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies): Chocolate and treacle and dark dried fruit. Delicious.

Portuguese fortified Fonseca Crusted Port NV, Douro (£18, Mentzendorff): Rich fruit and some treacle notes, balanced by good acidity. For cheese matching. Sandeman 10 Year Old Tawny Port NV, Douro (£22.99, Liberty Wines): Complex and lively with dried and fresh fruit. Sivipa Moscatel de Setúbel 2015, Setúbel (£15, Raymond Reynolds): Fresh and dried apricots and delicious sweetness and acidity.

Spanish fortified Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana En Rama Manzanilla Sherry NV, Jerez (£16.50, Mentzendorff): Great dry nutty intensity and salty savouriness. Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana Anniversario Manzanilla Sherry NV, Jerez (£35, Mentzendorff): Gorgeous, detailed, rich and complex dry Sherry.

How the Wine Merchant Top 100 breaks down by price

£20.38 average retail price of winning wines

13 wines are below £10

The Wine Merchant Top 100

51


© Vlada Z / stockadobe.com

Fortified

HENRIQUES & HENRIQUES 20 YEAR OLD VERDELHO MADEIRA

HENRIQUES & HENRIQUES 10 YEAR OLD BUAL MADEIRA

Madeira, Portugal NV

Madeira, Portugal NV

One of the great, grand names of Madeira, Henriques & Henriques has more than 160 years of experience making some of the island’s finest wines since its establishment in 1850. Today, master blender Humbert Jardím is at the helm in the cellar, blending in this case a mix of old Verdelho wines with an average age of 20 years, aged in the traditional canteiro method – where the wine is heated naturally over a period of months.

The second Madeira wine from the esteemed Henriques & Henriques to capture the attention and affection of the judges this year is a more youthful, but still mature and intense, blend of Bual. Once again the traditional canteiro method is employed by master blender Humbert Jardím, with the heat and evaporation leading to greater consistency, intensity and longevity.

“A very rich, complex, delicious wine” the judges said. “So much flavour, such incredible length: savoury, sweet, balanced.”

“A truly delicious Madeira that combines notes of caramel and toffee with fresh fruit and spice,” the judges said. “The length is superb, and the acidity lively and refreshing.”

Mentzendorff

Mentzendorff

RRP £26 ABV 19%

RRP £20.75 ABV 19%

52

The Wine Merchant Top 100


Top 11 Countries FRANCE HOLDS ON TO TOP SPOT WHILE AUSSIES MOVE UP ONE PLACE

Top 100 placings

Highly Commended

Points

1 France

24

52

124

2 Australia

12

25

61

3 Italy

13

16

55

4 Spain

10

16

46

5 Portugal

10

7

37

6 Argentina

7

10

31

7 South Africa

3

17

26

8 Chile

6

5

23

9 New Zealand

5

8

23

10 Austria

3

1

10

11 USA

2

4

10

Supplier

Methodology Three points were awarded for a Top 100 place, and one point for each Highly Commended placing.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

53


Top 10 Suppliers LIBERTY LEAPS FROM FOURTH PLACE IN 2017 TO TAKE TOP SPOT THIS YEAR

Top 100 placings

Highly Commended

Points

1 Liberty Wines

15

9

54

2 Hallgarten

9

26

53

3 Vindependents

10

14

44

4 Laytons

9

6

33

5 Boutinot

5

12

27

6 Enotria&Coe

5

7

22

7 Daniel Lambert Wines

5

5

20

8 Hatch Mansfield

2

14

20

9 Awin Barratt Siegel

4

7

19

10 Domaines Paul Mas

3

10

19

Supplier

Methodology Three points were awarded for a Top 100 place, and one point for each Highly Commended placing.

54

The Wine Merchant Top 100


Highly Commended wines that showcase regional Australia Adelaide Hills: Petaluma White Label Chardonnay 2016; Petaluma Yellow Label Chardonnay 2016; Petaluma White Label Shiraz 2015; Petaluma Yellow Label B&V Vineyard Shiraz 2015 Mornington Peninsula: Stonier Pinot Noir 2016 Barossa Valley: St Hallett Gamekeepers Grenache-Shiraz-Touriga 2015; St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2015


The Wine Merchant Top 100 2018  

The Wine Merchant Top 100 2018

The Wine Merchant Top 100 2018  

The Wine Merchant Top 100 2018

Advertisement