Fans of the mass-produced, bungee jump into a gooseberry style of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc might not appreciate the ambition or the layered complexity of this wooded, wild yeast-fermented style from the Dog Point team. But tough on them. It’s one of the most complex whites in New Zealand, with notes of gunflint, blackcurrant leaf and vanilla spice, lots of racy, mouth-watering acidity and a savoury finish. Deliberately released late by Jamey Healy and Ivan Sutherland’s in oder to challenge received notions about Sauvignon Blanc.
Ricardo Baettig produces this stunning Chardonnay with grapes from two sources in Malleco – Baettig (owned by his brother, Pancho) and Kofkeche – both of whom grow the 95 clone. It’s a brilliant first release from Morandé, making the most of one of the most exciting cool climate regions in Chile right now. Chiselled, scented and refined, with effortless balance, concentration and focus, flinty minerality and a pure, tapering citrus and aromatic spice finish. Amazing value.
Tasting Hill of Grace is often a moving experience, especially so in an excellent vintage like 2018. Using vines planted between 1860 and 1965, it’s one of the great wines of Australia as well as the world. Inky, layered and profound, with maturation in an 83/17 combination of French and American barrels, this is a wine that carries its power and concentration comparatively lightly. Five spice, fennel and vanilla pod aromas lead you into a palate that has intensity, focus and, yes, grace, blackberry and blueberry fruit, fleshy, sculpted tannins, deftly handled oak and a lift of freshness and acidity. A world-class wine from a unique site.
Hill of Roses is made with a Shiraz from the 0.94-hectare Post Office Block 3, located within the Hill of Grace vineyard in the Eden Valley. Replanted by Prue Henschke in 1989 with a much older massal selection from the Grandfathers’ parcel, this is a dense, compact, self-assured Shiraz that’s more Hermitage than Côte Rôtie perhaps. Mint, sage and rose petal aromas segue into a palate of blackberry, damson and dark plums framed by mocha-scented, 25% new French oak. Weighty and intense with the concentration to age convincingly in bottle.
It might not have the power and density of Hill of Grace, but Mount Edelstone is one hell of a wine in its own right. Vibrant, fresh and energetic, it’s the most northern Rhône like of the Henschke releases. Sourced from vines planted on red clay loam soils, the 2018 is a dry-grown, ungrafted delight. Matured in a 77/23 split of French and American oak, this is effortlessly complex and nuanced, with plum, black fig and blueberry fruit, lots of zip and acidity, a sheen of vanilla and potpourri spice, lots of understated concentration and a lingering kiss of a finish.
First produced in 2015, The Wheelwright is a tribute to Johann Christian Henschke, who founded the winery in the mid-19th century and is entirely produced with old-vine Shiraz planted in 1968 in the Eden Valley. Very floral, alluring and seductive, it’s the most perfumed of the winery’s Shiraz releases, with raspberry, strawberry and summer pudding flavours, nicely integrated vanilla and nutmeg spices, smooth tannins, subtle French and American oak and more structure and backbone than you think at first, building layers of flavour on the palate.
Cyril Henschke has been a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon in the past – the last time was in 2016 – but benefited from the addition of 2% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc in 2018. Named after Stephen Henschke’s father, it hails from a single north-facing parcel that was planted in the 1960s. Gracefully aged in 10% new French oak, it’s a deceptively forward wine that will reward cellaring. Svelte, elegant and focused, with layered tannins, mint, bramble and blackcurrant leaf flavours, a whiff of violet and the granular tannins that are a Henschke hallmark.
Way less funky or evolved than some of the Georgian reds that are fermented and aged in traditional clay pots (qvevri), this delicious red confirms Saperavi’s reputation as a world-class grape. Dark and brooding, with bramble, liquorice, damson and five spice flavours, plenty of refreshing acidity and well-managed, layered tannins. A delightful modern twist on an historic unwooded style.
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.
A stunning white from the tip of Africa. Marrying Sauvignon Blanc with 31% Semillon to brilliant effect, this has a combination (grape) skin contact, lees contact, barrel fermentation and stainless steel ageing, all designed to add more layers of flavour to a remarkable white. Saline, herbal and understated, with vanilla and pink grapefruit flavours and a stony bite.
Chilean Chardonay is on a roll right now, especially when it’s from vineyards in the cooler areas of the country close to the Pacific or way down south, which is the case here. The brilliant Marcelo Retamal buys the grapes for this world-class white from Francisco Baettig’s increasingly famous vineyard in Malleco. There was a little rain during the growing season, so the wine has a little bit of “noble rot” (botrytis) character, which adds a drizzle of honeyed complexity to its chiselled, racy, well-balanced palate, exhibiting flavours of cashew nut, citrus and wet stones. The oak is very understated, which is the case with all the De Martino wines.
Mas Deu comes from a single vineyard at 800 metres planted on clay and limestone soils and is a stunning expression of Mediterranean Garnacha. Floral and alluring, with notes of thyme, rosemary and white pepper, chalky minerality, redcurrant and raspberry flavours and a long, tapering finish. One of the best wines in Catalunya.