Summer tasting of Decanter Award winners

The summer season has finally arrived in England, and so here are a few reflections on recently tasted  Decanter award winners. Christelle Guibert from Decanter gave  the Oxford Wine Club an overview of a selection of this year’s award winners as well as insight into her own entry into  the world of wine making.

vin santo

My current favourite chilled drink has to be  the Greek, Argyros Vin Santo 20 year barrel aged wine from  Santorini.  The  grapes which grow in rounded bushy  baskets on the ground owing to the high winds are hand  picked early in the morning and have  no irrigation to help them develop. They are then dried in the  sun for a couple of weeks. After 17 years in  French oak casks and 3 in bottle, it is nectar in a bottle. Some spice, delicious figginess and a touch of coffee on the nose. At  approx £54 a bottle it is not a cheap Vin Santo, but it is utterly delicious.

At the opposite end of the scale as an interesting but not successful experiment  is the Gusbourne 2014 Pinot Noir, from Boot Hill Vineyard here in England. Gusbourne is quite well known for its Blanc de Blanc  but this foray into Pinot needs some further work I think.  Despite the  South facing slope, the stainless steel and  then 10 months in old oak, this was rather insipid and lacked sufficient interest on the palate. Even by Pinot standards it was very pale in colour, barely darker than the label shown below.

guisbourne pinot

The club was also delighted to try  the  2014 Muscadet Guibert made by  Christelle, from a tiny 1 hectare parcel of land with 65yr old vines from which she has produced 2000 bottles of old style excellent muscadet. This new venture is hand produced, biodynamic, using natural yeast and a large concrete egg. The wine has a floral character, is at the fuller end of muscadet  and has a lovely clean finish.  I do hope that at some point it will become commercially available. Although this was not entered into the Decanter awards, for obvious reasons, in yearsr to come it should be!


New Wave South African wine making?

Oxford Wine Club played host last week to Richard Kelley MW putting the case for innovation in  new wave South African wine making. This was an unusual tasting, featuring some wines available through The Wine Society (requiring membership but well worth it) and  some via Richard’s own company

s africa wine map

Of the 9 wines we tasted my own favourites were:

1. Botanica Pinot Noir 2013.   Made by a female wine maker, Ginny Povall, who is self taught. Light in colour, even for a Pinot Noir, well rounded and really enjoyable. Would suit game, chicken dishes also. Approx £20 a bottle  from Liberator.

2. The Liberator- Episode Five- Old Breton 2013, Cabernet Franc. Produced in Franschhoek (dark purple area on map above) Bright appearance, slightly composty on the nose, lots of layers on the palate. Actually quite reminiscent of a Loire wine, not surprising as ‘Breton’ is  vernacular for Cabernet Franc in the Loire.  Would go well with light goulash, lamb casserole etc. Approx £17 from Liberator.

3. Nuy – Red  Muscadel. This was a delicious sweet wine, made from red muscat grapes in the Worcester region, along the Breede River Valley (sage green large area on map) which if chilled right down could be a summer aperitif. My notes state ‘liquid marmalade’ but has a clean, not sticky finish in the mouth. Approx £13 for a full bottle size (not sold in halves) from The Wine Society.

Based on the tasting last week, South African wines are becoming more delicate, more sophisticated  and less rough and raw – and I think this is a promising direction.