Words, wise or otherwise, about wine

Posts tagged “wine

Lacrima Di Morro d’Alba Rubbjano 2009, Pierluigi Giusti


One of the benefits of being connected to the wine trade in the UK is access to a wealth of trade tastings in London. These range from small and intimate, single merchant / importer tastings to the more generic large tastings organised by trade bodies. The Definitive Italian Wine Tasting held yesterday at Lord’s is the largest Italian wine tasting in the UK and is an opportunity to discover or re-acquaint yourself with some of Italy’s diverse indigenous grape varieties.

There are the usual suspects of Sangiovese, Verdicchio, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Pinot Grigio and Dolcetto but then we get down to  Cataratto, Greco, Frappato, Vespolina, Nerello Mascalese and the truly obsure Ortrugo. You could spend the day never tasting the same grape variety twice!  But the star of yesterday’s tasting was from a grape variety that I had heard of but given scant attention to previously – Lacrima Di Morro d’Alba, which was rescued from virtual extinction in 1985 according to Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes. 

Made from 100% Lacrima di Morro d’Alba grapes the wine is delicious right from the beginning with crunchy fruit, herb and spice pouring out of the glass and demanding an immediate respect. The palate is pure cherry with layers of spice, cinnamon, strawberry and wild thyme supported by light, velvety tannins and racy acidity. Each sip brings a different character to the fore, one sip is more herbal, the next floral followed by a kick of strawberry and finally a trace of incense on the long finish. This is a fabulous wine and if you want something just a little unusual from Italy this is well worth seeking out. 93/100

Imported by Amici-di-Bacco whose website I would recommend if you want to discover more of Italy’s lesser known wines.


Man O’ War Chardonnay 2011

Man O War Chardonnay 2011

I’m shocked to see that I haven’t posted a blog article or tasting note for months. I can blame all manner of things, work pressures, multiple tax returns, busy family life etc etc but the truth is probably procrastination and laziness. Time to get a grip!

Let’s start with one of the best wines I had on a holiday to New Zealand earlier this year (I told you I’d been busy!) It was a family holiday so there wasn’t a lot of time for serious wine visits but I did squeeze a couple of serious wines in. This was one of them.

Situated on the beautiful island of Waiheke just off Auckland, Man O’ War is located on the Eastern side of the island on exposed volcanic hilltops. This is their regular Chardonnay which receives a light oak touch with 2/3 of the wine fermented in stainless steel but this is enough to give it a tight flinty structure. Generously proportioned melon and grapefruit is threaded with a subtle floral note and leads to a stony mineral finish.  90/100

Bought for NZ$25 or about £13 this was the bargain of the holiday and the photo above was taken on Palm Beach in Waiheke were we spent a fabulous few days with friends with a fair quantity of this wine contributing to the experience!

I haven’t seen this vintage in the UK yet but Wine-Searcher shows 2009 at about £18.


Everywhere I turn at the moment I seem to bump into Ralph Hochar of Chateau Musar, not that I’m complaining of course because wherever Ralph goes there’s always a few bottles of Chateau Musar close by.

First up was London International Wine Fair where I attended a tasting with the legendary Serge Hochar who took over the winemaking in 1959. Serge has spent over half a century in charge of Lebanon’s most iconic wine, turning it into an internationally recognised and globally appreciated wine. He became Decanter magazine’s first ever Man of the Year in 1984 and when you hear him talk it’s easy to see why.  Full of enthusiasm and passion for his wines, his calm and affable manner draws you in to the Chateau Musar story which is about history, tradition and an expression of Lebanon’s high altitude Bekaa Valley.

Serge Hochar

Serge Hochar

All of us at the tasting were happy to listen to Serge talk and answer numerous questions but time was pressing and we had to move on to the tasting which began with Musar 2005 and Musar 1999.

Chateau Musar 2005

Structured, firm tannin with smoky fruit. Obvious Musar nose but this is hard and disjointed at the moment. Hide away in a dark cellar for at least 5 years!

Chateau Musar 1999

Richer, fuller and more developed. Sweet, ripe plum, red berries with supple ripe and integrated tannins. Creamy, enveloping body that is very balanced. Tobacco and leather on the very long finish. Delicious.

Chateau Musar White 2005

Not as oxidative as I expected. Creamy mouthfeel, spicy, lanolin, peach and honey with some smoky oak notes.

Chateau Musar

We were then treated to a magical array of mature vintages, 1974 and 1980 reds alongside 1986 and 1991 whites. Chateau Musar wines are some of the most age-worthy you are likely to find anywhere and they reward patience with complexity, subtlety and enormous pleasure.

Chateau Musar 1974

This is a beautiful brick colour with a truly evolved nose. Remarkably rich, silky and round palate. The tannins have long since melted to leave a wine that feels like crushed velvet. You could almost mistake it for a mature top flight Burgundy with its elegance and complexity of flavour that seems to float around the senses. Heavenly.

Chateau Musar 1980

A much deeper colour than the 1974, this wine is incredibly fresh still. Classic Musar flavours but this is soft, round and very well integrated. Vibrant with a fresh acidity. This wine constantly changes in the glass but retaining a rich elegance through to the cedar, tobacco and leather finish.

Chateau Musar White 1991

Dark amber colour with a toasty, smoky nose. The palate is very rich and creamy, nutty and balanced. Lightly oxidative intertwined with layers of herbs, marzipan and apricots all held together by tight acidity. Delicious.

Chateau Musar White 1986

A completely different wine to the 1991, this vintage was unwooded hence the much lighter, clear and bright lemon gold colour. the nose is lighter too, almost reticent. In comparison to the 1991 the palate is much more straightforward with a creamy lemon and lightly oxidative touch.

Ralph Hochar

Through the magic of Twitter, Ralph and I discovered that we were both going to be in Hong Kong at the same time. Ralph and the Chateau Musar team were in town as part of Vinexpo, the trade show that alternates between Bordeaux and Hong Kong. I was there as part of the day job and had flown in from Amsterdam via Mumbai, a quick shower and straight in to Stanley for a Chateau Musar dinner with a few Hong Kong enthusiasts.

Serge was also attending and it was a real pleasure to spend an evening in his company discussing the wines and his philosophy on Chateau Musar. Serge is such easy company and it was obvious that all around were not only comfortable in his presence but were positively engaged by his conversation and interest in life in Hong Kong.

This tasting brought another Musar first for me – Rosé. Not just any old Rosé but a 1994 vintage Rosé. We all know that Rosés are supposed to be drunk young so why bother with one that is 18 years old? Well the Musar Rosé is based on the white grape Obaideh, which is reputed to be descended from Chardonnay, and is blended with about 5% Cinsault. The wine is fermented and aged in French oak barrels and ages superbly, like the Musar White. I was astounded at how fresh and alive this wine was. Clear fruit profile, strawberry, citrus and apricot but also herbal and floral. I can’t say that I’m usually a fan of Rosé but this wine intrigued me and I couldn’t resist going back for a second glass.

Finally, I bumped in to Chateau Musar again yesterday. Not at a wine event but at an Indian food tasting of all places. Again Twitter played its part, having met the very talented Asma Said Khan at the London Wine Fair, I offered to try and pair some wine with her cooking. Asma very kindly invited me and a few Twitterati including my winemaking guru Nayan Gowda @vinosity and food bloggers Susan Wilk @ssusu_you and Florian Siepert @siepert, and amongst the wines brought to taste was a Chateau Musar 1998.

I’ll leave the food blogging to the experts but suffice to say that if you ever need somebody to come and cook the most amazing Indian food for a dinner party then you need Asma. Every single dish, of which there were many, was a delight of complimentary flavours and balanced spices. I have eaten widely in Mumbai and Delhi and Asma brought these flavours to the table but took them on to a whole new experience for me. This was fabulous home cooking that fully deserved the fulsome praise that was heaped upon Asma.

I was delighted that my Mullineux Kloof St Chenin Blanc paired extremely well with many of Asma’s dishes but was surprised to see how well Chateau Musar 1998 went with a fish curry. Never would I have dreamed of this combination but the emerging bright fruit of this wine complimented the meaty fish and the softening tannin didn’t react to the gentle spice combination leaving the butteriness of the dish to merge with the wine’s acidity.

I feel very privileged to have shared these recent experiences with Ralph and Chateau Musar. Once you have tried these wines it is difficult not to fall in love with them, their history, their nuances, their age-ability and of course the wonderful characters that are a part of the Chateau Musar family.

Best of English – Bolney Estate

Bolney Estate

Last week I was delighted to drive down to Sussex on a beautifully sunny English summer’s day to taste through Bolney Estate’s range of English wine. First planted in 1972 with Chardonnay, Dornfelder and Rondo, the estate has now expanded to cover 39 acres and includes further varieties such as Pinot Noir, Bacchus and Pinot Gris. Lying on a south facing slope close to the Sussex downs the bedrock is sandstone and is covered with Sussex loam. Fairly typical of many English vineyards the grapes are trained using a High Sylvoz system that keeps the deer away from the fruit and also allows a free flow of air around the base of the vines, helping to reduce the disease pressure from the moist English climate.

Plenty of investment in the winery and an attention to detail and quality have built this estate into a winery that England can be proud of on this Jubilee weekend. These wines are worth seeking out or better yet, take yourself off to Sussex and see the vineyard yourself on one of the estate’s tours

Bolney Vineyard

Sirrius RoséSirrius Sparkling Rosé

This is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Seyval Blanc that gives a raspberry and strawberry cream nose. Technically dry but there is a hint of residual sugar, which together with some lees character is balanced nicely by a refreshing acidity. Elderflower and green apple coming to the fore on the finish. A gentle mousse makes this a delicious aperitif.

Bolney Rosé 2011

Bolney Rosé 2011

60% Pinot Noir and 60% Pinot Meunier. These grapes normally go into the sparkling wine but a particularly ripe batch begged to be made into a still rosé. Light, refreshing, juicy berries, this wine isn’t pretending to be something serious, it’s fun, meant to be enjoyed casually and is perfect for those lazy warm summer days that hopefully will be returning to the UK soon!

Bolney Foxhole BacchusFoxhole Vineyard Bacchus

Fragrant, aromatic nose of white flowers, elderflower and English meadows. This is quintessential Bacchus with a precise palate of delicate roses. There’s no hint of the bitterness from too long a skin contact that detracts from so many other Bacchus wines. This is refreshing, balanced, elegant and finishes very long indeed. Pour me a second glass please!

Blanc de Blancs 2007

Spending 2½ years on the lees this English sparkling wine is as close to a good NV Champagne as you’re likely to find. Freshly baked bread and toasty with a light apple and quince fruit profile. This is a well made sparkling wine that displays balance and is fully deserving of its recent victory and Gold medal at the IWSC competition.

Bolney Foxhole Pinot NoirFoxhole Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011

Spending 6 weeks in 2nd and 3rd fill oak barrels, ¾ of which are French and the rest American, helps to give a softly tannic wine that is dominated by cherry, raspberry and plum gently caressed by a whiff of smoke. Good quality English Pinot Noir is very hard to come by, often being overly acidic or displaying harsh green characters, but this wine fits the bill with its ripe fruit finish. This is supple, fun and thoroughly decent Pinot Noir, an English charmer.

Bolney Lychgate Red

Lychgate Red 2009

We’re getting a bit more serious with this wine and its concentrated cherry, plum and blackcurrant nose. Juicy ripe fruit is supported by rounded tannins and an acidic bite that gives some definition.  The finish is seasoned with a touch of spice and pepper. This blend of Rondo and Dornfelder shows that the UK can also make stylish red wines.

Cuvée Rosé awaiting disgorgementCuvée Rosé Sparkling 2009

Made with 100% Pinot Noir and spending 18 months on the lees, this sparkler is all about refreshing berry fruit flavours. It’s straightforward, refreshing and charming, drink it with friends in the garden and enjoy it for what it is, fun in a glass.

Bolney Views

Beaumont Wines – A couple of tasting notes

I’m always on the look-out for new wines to add to the Vincisive portfolio and have been searching for a Pinotage that offers a pure expression of the fruit rather than the bombastic, aggressive, smoky monsters that batter you in to submission with 15.5% alcohol. You just don’t ever want a second glass of those fearsomely potent brews. This search led me to Sebastian Beaumont who is making Pinotage in South Africa’s Bot River, just a little way inland from Walker Bay. That Pinotage will be the subject of a different blog post all of its own but Sebastian also sent some samples of his other wines and I had the opportunity to try a couple of them yesterday.

Beaumont Shiraz Mouvedre 2009

A blend of 61% Shiraz and 39% Mouvedre leads to a beguiling nose that continues to change and evolve. Initially meaty but quickly supported by a delicious chorus of blackberries, dark cherry, chocolate, coffee and sweet spices. There’s a thread of vanilla with a dash of pepper and ripe figs.

Generous on the palate with an excellent structure. Firm, ripe and juicy tannin enlivened by complimentary acidity gives a keenly balanced feel to the wine. Not quite as overtly complex as the nose but I suspect given an hour in a decanter and served with grilled meats this wine will open up beautifully.

Beaumont Vitruvian 2008

Sebastian’s flagship blend of 38% Mourvèdre, 27% Pinotage, 12% Petit Verdot, 12% Cab Franc and 11% Shiraz matured in oak barrels for 2 years, 1/3 of which was new. Much more restrained than the Shiraz Mouvedre but there is the same recognisable initial meaty core with a rich sweet fruit profile. The Pinotage element marks this out as a South African blend but unlike many examples of these super-blends, it sits harmoniously with the other components and is complimentary rather than standing out as a distinct entity.

This wine is smooth, polished and statesmanlike with brooding power and structure. Quite closed at the moment but given 5-10 years the dark berry fruit and oak should come together beautifully creating a harmonious wine of beauty that will continue to evolve for a decade or 2.

Beaumont Wines Website

Rheingau Part 1 – Weingut Robert Weil

The Rheingau sits on the north bank of the mighty Rhein river where it turns directly west just above the enchanting university town of Mainz. It’s steep south facing slopes produce some of the finest Rieslings to be found anywhere. Characteristically mineral driven these wines have a core of steely acidity that ensures they are long lived and the best will only begin to reveal their complexities after more than a decade in bottle.

My first foray into the Rheingau took me to one of the regions younger, but well respected producers, Weingut Robert Weil.  Established in 1879 this estate now has 75 hectares of vines surrounding the village of Keidrich, 99% of which are Riesling.  3 vineyard sites occupy prime position above the town at elevations up to 240m and benefit from perfect exposure to the sun and correspondingly high temperatures as well as good circulation from the winds drawn into the Rhine Valley from the Taunus mountains above the vineyards. These are the Klosterberg, Turmberg and Gräfenberg vineyards with each producing distinctive and wonderful expressions of Riesling.


2010 Kiedrich Klosterberg Riesling Spätlese 8.5% (€34.63)

A fabulous nose of ripe apricots and peach with figs and baked apple. Light, elegant and refined. Apparently there’s 100g/l of residual sugar but it doesn’t feel sweet or heavy and is very well balanced by the acidity. A clean and pure fruit profile, apricot, nectarine, juicy ripe apple and a touch of grilled pineapple.


2010 Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling Trocken 13.0% (€21.42)

Delicious nose of ripe peach and apple, juicy nectarine and flint. The palate is rich and a touch of sugar balances the bracing acidity. Minerality defines this wine, it is linear and pure with lime, peach and smoky flint. Lovely length, remaining balanced throughout.

2010 Kiedrich Turmberg Auslese 2010 8.0% (€34.51)

Opulent nose of peach, apricots and figs with a hint of botrytis coming through in honey notes. This is rich and weighty and the remarkable acidity stands up to the 130g/l residual sugar very well. Whilst refreshing, the acidity is not even remotely angular or dominant, even at this early stage. There’s plenty of complexity with ripe stone fruits, acacia honey, and even a touch of mango. This is very approachable but will only get better over the next decade or 2.


2010 Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Trocken 13.0% (€21.42)

Not quite as opulent as the Turmberg on the nose but it has depth and I suspect there’s a great deal of restraint in this wine at the moment. There’s a touch of sugar so not completely trocken but there is more masculine acidity and minerality dominates. The fruit profile seems less generous and perhaps a tad closed but there is apple and grapefruit evident on the flinty finish. Hide away for 5-10 years.

2010 Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Trocken Erstes Gewächs 13.5% (€34.63)

This comes from the same vineyard but the grapes are left  to ripen further to about Auslese quality.

Outstanding nose, refined and elegant, complex, generous and enticing. Green fruit, stone fruit and citrus. The palate is just off dry with razor sharp acidity. It’s far too young of course but shows all the hallmarks of developing into something special with layer after layer of complexity all defined by that characteristically focussed minerality. Flint, slate, granite, choose your stone as it’s all there! Put this away for 10 years and watch this grow into a wine of great stature, poise and elegance.

2010 Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Auslese 2010 8.0% (€34.50 375ml)

The nose is quite closed and less overtly fruity than the Turmberg Auslese, however there is a mineral and slate core to this wine wrapped in honey. It is more concentrated on the palate, higher acidity and 135g/l of sugar. Still integrating but this will no doubt come together beautifully. Plenty of juicy fruits, baked apple and a thread of acacia honey. Searing minerality and an endless finish. This is outstanding wine that needs a decade or 2 to shine.

Vincisive Christmas Wines

Christmas! Just the mention of the word starts to bring a shiver of excitement. Sadly, I’m a long way past the days of waking up ridiculously early with a feverish anticipation of what amazing goodies Santa may have left below the tree for me. More importantly though, this is the time of year when we celebrate with friends and family. When loved ones come together to share happiness, joy, good food and of course wine.

This excitement at the imminent arrival of guests can be edged with a certain amount of trepidation about getting the food just right and having the perfect wine to serve with it. While I can’t help with the cooking as well as Nigella or Delia, I can offer you some handy hints and suggestions for wines that will match, and compliment, your efforts in the kitchen.


The obvious choice here is Champagne and why not? Champagne can be delicious, it’s the perfect celebratory drink and a wonderful way to relax your guests and get the party started. Champagne is refreshing and is also a wonderful foil to anything with a pastry base, seafood or charcuterie.

Tarlant Brut Reserve Champagne NV  £25.95

A beautiful Champagne that is seductive and generous with powerful aromas of crunchy apple, mirabelle and grilled almonds. Remarkable liveliness with hints of honey cake and caramel, this champagne will delight your guests 


Oysters straight from the shell, tiger prawns, even lobster are all beautifully complimented by a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Sancerre is the old fashioned choice, but South Africa offers a style of Sauvignon Blanc that is perfectly poised between the overtly fruity New Zealand style and the sometimes austere (and overpriced) minerality from Sancerre.

Uva Mira Sauvignon BlancUva Mira Sauvignon Blanc  £12.50

Tremendous value for money this is more old world and mineral driven than tropical fruit forward. For those seeking a good value alternative to Sancerre, the refined balance of this refreshing wine, combining ripe flavours of gooseberry, lime and fig with bracing acidity, gunflint and minerality, this Sauvignon Blanc gives the perfect match to a wide range of seafood.

Awarded a Gold Medal at the 2009 Michelangelo International Wine Awards and listed in First Class with South African Airways.


The traditional meal at this time of year is of course turkey which is a wonderfully versatile meat that offers a range of flavours and textures that are delicious with a variety of wines. As this will normally be the main event, it makes sense to pair with a high quality wine that will neither dominate the meal nor be overpowered by it. We’re looking for balance, elegance, depth and complexity and two grape varieties fit the bill perfectly, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Newton Johnson Domaine Pinot NoirNewton Johnson Domaine Pinot Noir 2010  £17.99

The recipient of a coveted 5 stars from Platter, this is the only South African Pinot Noir to receive this honour in consecutive vintages.

It has superb intensity on the nose with wild strawberry, Morello, crushed flowers and a touch of citrus lemon, a real doppelganger for Burgundy. The palate is well balanced with crisp, fleshy red berry fruit with crisp, taut acidity and a feminine silky smooth finish. This is how Pinot Noir should be: vibrant and life affirming!  93 points – Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate

Uva Mira ChardonnayUva Mira Vineyard Selection Chardonnay 2010  £27.50

Consistently rated 4½ – 5 stars from Platter, previous vintages of this wine have won many awards, including IWSC Best Chardonnay in the World. This is a stunning Chardonnay with Burgundian minerality and beautifully finessed oak integration. The perfect wine for special occasions that is the equal of Burgundy’s finest Premier Cru wines.

Sourced from 14-year old vines, winemaker Matthew Van Heerden has produced one of South Africas outstanding Chardonnays that stood out like a sore thumb in a blind tasting. – 94 points, – Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate


A succulent fillet or an extravagant rib of beef deserves an equally bold wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannin in the wine melts in to the beef protein allowing the bright fruit flavours of the wine to come to the fore.

Amares Cabernet SauvignonAmares Cabernet Sauvignon 2007  £17.99

A total of eight barrels of hand-made wine, originating from the 2 Ha of environmentally friendly vineyards surrounding the Amares winery. The nose hints at dark-skinned berries, a promise of mint and other herbal aromas. The wine has a broad palate with an attractive mouth feel from ripe grapes backed by mature tannins and a dry cedar finish.

Awarded best Cabernet Sauvignon in Stellenbosch and Simonsberg by the South Africa Terroir Wine Awards. A deserving title for this elegant wine that is gaining in complexity with time in the bottle.

Christmas Cake, Christmas Pudding and Stilton Cheese

There can only be one choice at Christmas time and that is mature vintage Port. South Africa has been producing fortified wines for over 300 years and this example from JP Bredell’s shows the benefit of all that experience.

Bredell's Cape Vintage ReserveJP Bredells Cape Vintage Reserve 2001 £16.99

Grown in the well drained soils of the Helderberg basin, the traditional Portuguese Port grape varieties combine to give a powerful fortified wine that is capable of rivalling the best of the Douro. 5 stars from Platter, a Gold Medal at the 2006 Michelangelo awards and an Old Mutual Trophy in 2008 are testament to the quality and purity of this wine.

Mature and ready to drink now, this Vintage Port style wine is powerful with aromas of dried fruit, plums, raisins, ripe blackberries, blackcurrants, Christmas pudding, liquorice and spice. The palate is muscular with strong tannins and alcoholic grip but is voluptuously rich and packed with dark fruit flavours, mocha and mint. This is a decadent wine to finish a perfect meal matched with the finest Stilton cheese.


These wines are all available at www.vincisive.co.uk and a mixed case of these 6 wines is on offer for £105 giving a saving of over 10%. Delivery in the South Cotswolds area is free. Please email info@vincisive.co.uk to order, quoting xmas

Uva Mira Chardonnay

This post first appeared as a guest article on one of the wine world’s most entertaining and thoughtful blogs – Quaffable

Given the fine literary talents usually displayed by Mr Quaffable, it is quite a daunting prospect to rise to the challenge of writing a guest blog. Stick to what you know would probably be good advice, but this is a wine blog and not an aviation blog. OK, perhaps I know a little bit about wine but is any of it interesting or vaguely entertaining? After all, I don’t want Quaffable’s blog ratings to plummet – it’s a competitive world in the wine blog arena and it might be nice to be invited back some day.

Tell a story perhaps? Hmmm, well they all start with a bottle of wine and usually end up with me not remembering what happened between the second bottle being opened and waking up in another familiar hotel room on the network. Although I’m pretty sure I would have managed to solve many of Cathay Pacific’s rostering, pilot pay and recruitment issues during the course of the evening. There would undoubtedly also have been perfect solutions to the problems of bankers’ bonuses, the Euro and world peace.  Throw a bunch of pilots together, add wine, all your problems solved!

Right, back to wine it is then, why on earth does somebody with a reasonably well paid job decide to start up a business importing South African wines? We all know that the wine business is sewn up by the big boys, there’s cut-throat competition, miniscule margins, import duty, VAT, large upfront costs, and of course there’s only a small niche market that is interested in anything other than Jacob’s Creek or First Cape.

The answer is passion. A passion that develops from the instant that you taste a wine that utterly blows you away.  A wine that unexpectedly takes you by surprise with its elegance, mineral purity and complex depth of flavour. That wine is Uva Mira Chardonnay.

Stellenbosch may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of elegant Chardonnays, but Stellenbosch includes the picturesque Helderberg mountain which rises majestically above the plain with panoramic views to Cape Town. Uva Mira is located at the top of this mountain, above Hidden Valley and Ernie Els and stares down to Ken Forrester’s Chenin Blanc FMC vineyard. The Chardonnay vineyards are at an average elevation of about 1700 feet and this provides a cooler climate enabling chardonnay grapes to retain their freshness, elegance and mineral focus. Restricted yields of 32hl/ha, careful handling and hand sorting are all part of winemaker Matthew van Heerden’s fanatical approach to quality.

Fermentation is in new, lightly toasted, French oak with the occasional batonnage and a small amount of the wine is allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation for some added complexity.

Meeting the winemaker Matthew van Heerden earlier this year

Returning back to the UK after tasting this stunning wine I was amazed to see that it wasn’t available anywhere. Why hadn’t this wine been discovered? I still don’t know the answer to that question but a few phone calls and emails later and I had started a new business, invested a sum of money that caused some ‘discussion’ with my wife and Vincisive was born, importing the wines of Uva Mira as their UK agent. The worst thing that could happen would be being left with a pallet of fantastic wine that I would have to drink by myself, now wouldn’t that be a shame!

Fortunately, I’m not alone in thinking it’s a great wine. Take Neal Martin for example,

The palate is very well balanced with a delicate entry that expands beautifully across the palate with notes of orange peel and subtle apricot. It is both long and vibrant in the mouth with a palpable sense of tension. This Chardonnay exudes thoughtful winemaking and is highly recommended. 94 points

With reviews like this, my stash of fine Chardonnay that I can keep to myself is getting smaller. Production is limited to 800 cases a year so it’s not easy to secure a bigger allocation. However, I’m prepared to make the sacrifice as wine this good should be shared and enjoyed by a wider audience! Passion for wine is something that cannot be indulged in alone, it needs to be articulated, debated, discovered and above all enjoyed. I look forward to having that conversation with you over a glass of South Africa’s finest Chardonnay!

You can find Uva Mira Chardonnay at Vincisive

Amares – Organically Grown Wines

Surrounded by the Rustenberg estate and overlooking the Simonsberg mountain, Amares is a small farm of only 5 hectares.  The name was the inspiration of the original owner in 1920, Hugh Cooper, who was an expert honey maker and named the farm after the mountain range near Athens where the honey produced is of legendary quality.

View across the vineyard to the Simonsberg Mountain

The current owners are a partnership of Sally Ann Noel, Renier Pienaar and the winemaker, Neville Koudstaal. They are united in their belief that wine should be as natural as possible and to that end farm their vineyard organically.  A covercrop of Korog (a wheat and rye hybrid) is sown between the rows mostly as food for the Guinea Fowl it would seem, but some of it does grow!  An organic fertiliser is used for both the vines and the cover crop.

Korog Cover Crop

650 Bales of straw are put on the vineyard beds to help with weed-control and moisture retention. This straw gently breaks down during the season and helps improve the soil structure.

The Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard is situated on Hymettus farm and was planted in 2001 to a variety of Cabernet clones on rootstock 101-14 Millardet et de Grasset.

The Syrah grapes are sourced from two select vineyards. Amares is able to obtain premium quality grapes from their neighbours, Rustenberg Wines.  The second batch of Syrah grapes are sourced from a farm in the Banhoek valley which the winemaker, Neville Koudstaal established himself.  Both of the sites are well suited to world-class Syrah and impart bold fruitiness, spiciness and subtlety.

Vinfication is very similar for both wines

  • Harvesting: Grapes are harvested into small containers, early in the morning, at optimum phenolic ripeness and brought immediately to the cellar to remain cool. No more than two tonnes of grapes are processed per day.
  • Hand Sorting: The grapes are hand sorted by a team of fanatics to ensure that only quality bunches are crushed. All matter other than grapes (mogs) are removed and spiders are rescued and returned to the vineyard.
  • Crushing: The grape bunches are agonizingly slowly put through a crusher-destemmer perched on top of a fermentation bin. Stalks are removed to the compost and the berries lightly crushed by rubber rollers to break their skins.
  • Fermentation: The must (crushed grape berries and juice) is allowed to settle for a day before yeast is added to start fermentation in the one ton stainless steel fermenters. Punch down is manually performed three times a day with daily checks on temperature.
  • Pressing: When fermentation is complete, the must is left for a few days on the skins to impart further flavour. The must is then gravity fed into the press. The press is a hand operated wooden press which allows a fine degree of control over the pressing operation. Free-run juice is collected separately from pressed juice and pressing stops well before undesirable tannin flavours can be imparted to the wine. The pressed must cake is removed to the compost.

    Hand operated press

  • Barrel Fermentation: After pressing the wine is decanted into French oak barrels. The wine is encouraged to undergo a second (malolactic) fermentation in the barrels to impart further smoothness and flavours to the wine.
  • Barrel Ageing: After malolactic fermentation is completed the wine stays in the barrels for approximately 18 months to age. During this time the oak contact imparts desirable tannin and vanilla flavours to the wine.

    Maturing in French oak

  • Bottling: When the wine is ready, bottling is performed at the winery. The bottled wine will rest in the cellar for a few months, labelled, packaged and finally shipped for consumption.

Tasting notes

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007- The nose hints at dark-skinned berries, a promise of mint and other herbal aromas. The wine has a broad palate with an attractive mouth feel from ripe grapes backed by mature tannins and a dry cedar finish.

Awarded best Cabernet Sauvignon in Stellenbosch and Simonsberg by the South Africa Terroir Wine Awards. A deserving title for this elegant wine that is gaining in complexity with time in the bottle.

Syrah 2007 – Turkish Delight, clove and juniper on the nose followed by fresh red stone fruits with strong white pepper and light spice to finish. The careful use of French oak creates gamey, smoked meat hints. A bold but elegant slow-food wine.