The 2020 release of Concha y Toro’s top Bordeaux red is something of a triumph over the demanding vintage conditions, which were the hottest and driest in Don Melchor’s thirty-four year history. Featuring a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with 6% Cabernet Franc and 1% each of Merlot and Petit Verdot, it managed to sidestep the torrid conditions, thanks to a combination of early picking – three weeks to a month, depending on the parcel – and the talent and experience of long-term winemaker, Enrique Tirado. Deftly oaked in 71% new oak, it has alluring graphite and dried herb aromas, cassis, fig and red berry fruit, serious but not overwhelming tannins and more finesse and freshness in its youth than the 2017 with which Tirado rightly compares it.
You can only applaud a winery – especially one as famous as Kanonkop – that makes 1.7 million bottles of a wine of this quality. Dominated by Pinotage, with the remaining 63% made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it’s a floral, textured, well-structured cuvée with notes of mint and dried herbs and a core of cassis and raspberry fruit.
2018 is rightly regarded as one of the best Chilean red wine vintages of the last 30 years, so it’s no surprise that the latest release of Don Melchor is so special. Made from 181 lots covering 151 different vineyard parcels, it’s a pure, refined expression of the Andes-cooled Puente Alto terroir. This is only the second time that the blend has included all four Bordeaux varieties on the estate – it’s 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, with 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot – and the wine is suitably nuanced and well balanced. Scented and floral, with some wild herb top notes, it’s an icon that marries energy with power and grip. The tannins are polished, the fruit intense, with cassis and red berry flavours complemented by fresh acidity and scented coffee bean oak.
Stellenbosch struck gold in 2017, with one of the best ever red wine vintages in the Cape. This refined, well-structured Bordeaux blend, made at one of the most historic properties on the Simonsberg, is unbelievably good value and would wipe the winery floor with similarly priced wines from south-west France. Cassis, black cherry, graphite and cigar box notes are framed by fine, age worthy tannins and bright, refreshing acidity. Some retailers may be on the very good 2018, but the 2017 is the one to go for.
It’s a real pleasure to see such impressive wines emerging from Bulgaria, a country that has lost its way over the last 20 years, but is now back on the right path. This wine is the flag bearer of the new wave. It’s a blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, made by a group of owners that includes Stephan von Neipperg of Château Canon La Gaffelière, and it has a smooth, international feel to it. Minty, fruit sweet and stylishly oaked, it combines flavours of cassis, fruitcake and red berries with a sheen of vanilla oak. Good now, but will age for another five years with ease.
Made by the same team that produces the world famous St Julien second growth, Château Léoville-Las-Cases, this is a Médoc that really punches above its supposedly lightweight status. It’s a Merlot-dominated blend with 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot for company. Elegant and well balanced, it shows the poise that is typical of the best 2010s, with subtle oak, sweet raspberry and cassis fruit and well-defined tannins.