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    A.R. Lenoble Chouilly Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2008

    £55.99

    “The A R Lenoble 2008 Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Chouilly Brut Millésime displays a beautifully intense and golden shining citrus color. This has amazing richness and gentleness on the nose but, at the same time, delicacy, precision and finesse! This bouquet is perfectly ripe and generous but also fine and fresh, representing the chalky soils and warm microclimate of Chouilly as well as perfectly ripe and healthy fruit. Any 2008 austerity here? Negative! The attack on the palate is as fine and fresh as it is pure, piquant and aromatic. Ripe and juicy fruit flavors such as pineapples, lemons and limoncello intermix with a round and creamy but by no means bold or heavy texture that is actually marked by chalk powder and iodine flavors on the finish. In fact, this 2008 Chouilly is delicate and filigreed as well as firmly structured. To me, it is an icon wine for Chouilly, and I highly recommend it, even if only to understand the highly diverse terroirs of Champagne, even in the Côte des Blancs where Chouilly is the most northern village next to Cuis. A small part (10%) of the wine was aged in oak. The finish of the 2008 is fresh and light but also intense and persistent. This is a great vin de terroir, and to be honest, I couldn’t stop drinking it! Tasted April 2018. Drink: 2018-2030. 94 points

    There are some gorgeous cuvées to discover this year from the brother-sister team of Antoine and Anne Malssagne at Domaine AR Lenoble in Damery, Marne Valley. Especially exciting are the grand cru wines from Chouilly (Côte des Blancs), namely the 2008 Blanc de Blancs (which combines richness with finesse) and the non-vintaged single vineyard Blanc de Blancs Les Aventures that pairs its creamy richness and intensity with iodine purity and terroir-driven freshness. The recent release blends 2002 and 2006 and is simply terrific!

    However, export director Christian Holthausen is very excited about two new cuvées from the new “mag” edition—the Brut Intense “mag 14” and the Chouilly Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut “mag 14.” Both of the “mag 14” wines are based on the 2014 harvest, complemented by reserve wines from a réservé perpétuelle.

    The réservés perpétuelles ‎were started in 2001 (100% Chardonnay from Chouilly) and 2002 (Chardonnay from Chouilly and Pinot Noir from Bisseuil). Initially, they were kept in stainless steel tanks, then in small 250-liter barrels and finally in 5,000-liter wooden vats, reports Holthausen. In 2010, Antoine Malssagne removed a portion from both réserves perpétuelles, which then filled into magnums and kept them with 1.5 bar of pressure under natural corks for four years. Each bottle was subsequently uncorked by hand and the wines blended with the two “mag 14” bottlings, both of which are based 60% on the 2014 harvest and 40% on reserve wines. The final cuvées were stored in the cellar in early 2015 and disgorged after three years.

    “Climate change is a reality,” Antoine Malassagne is quoted in the corresponding press release. “The challenge for the future is to be able to bring as much freshness as possible to our reserve wines. At the end of each harvest, we observe that acidity levels are much lower than they used to be. Reserve wines now need to add complexity and richness but also freshness.”

    In a separate email to me, Holthausen said, “Keeping the reserve wines in magnums under natural cork under 1.5 bar of pressure is like a ‘mini’ secondary fermentation, so the reserve wines gain some autolytic character, but that’s not the point.” He went on to explain, “The jumping point is to keep the reserve wines fresh as long as possible. We used to need rich, heavy reserve wines in Champagne 20 years ago. However, today we need reserve wines with freshness since our base wines keep having lower acidity levels and higher pH levels year after year.”

    In fact, 2018 will be their sixth-earliest harvest on record, according to Holthausen. “Climate change is shockingly real, and the ‘mag’ concept is our way of making even better wines in the face of climate change.”

    The “mag” edition will be continued next year with the Brut Intense “mag15,” the NV Chouilly Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs “mag 15” and the NV Brut Nature Dosage Zéro “mag14.” The NV Terroirs Chouilly-Bisseuil Rosé “mag14″ will be released in 2020.”

    Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate (238)

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    Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet 2018

    £51.99

    “The 2018 Chassagne-Montrachet Village had been blended in July and fined three weeks prior to my visit. It has a delightful bouquet of orange blossom, tinned peach and touches of wild mint, quite intense for a Village Cru. The palate is taut, fresh and spicy on the entry, with touches of white pepper and fennel infusing the citrus fruit. An almost clinical saline finish lingers in the mouth. Superb. Drink: 2021-2036. 90-92 points

    Readers will know the high esteem in which I hold Domaine Bernard Moreau and winemaker Alexandre Moreau. You want the best Chassagne-Montrachet? This is where you call first. I have absolutely no reason to alter that view with respect to the 2018s. “We started picking on 30 August, the same date as 2017 but the profile of the vintage is different,” Moreau told me surrounded by stainless steel vats. “This was because of the size of the crop and the heat. I like to have freshness and not too much alcohol, so I was anxious about the picking date. So I controlled the maturity, constantly tasting in the vineyard and soon realised that the sugar level can rise quicker than the phenolic maturity. I have now started the harvest in August in 2015, 2017 and 2018. I couldn’t understand why if August was so warm, the increase in sugar level was actually quite slow. I knew it was generous, but I did not know it would be so generous in older vineyards – something that I have never seen. For example, I haven’t made nine barrels of Chassagne Chenevottes since I began, then again, yields are only just above 50hl/ha for the Premier Crus. Maybe people are expecting something like 2003, but the 2018s are not heavy at all. For the Village and Premier Crus the alcohol is between 13.0° and 13.5°. As usual we practice natural fermentations, no racking and so forth – the only difference in 2018 is that it was a super-long alcoholic fermentation. Many barrels were fermenting until July – and I don’t mind that – I like to play this game as you have activity in the barrel with the fine lees in suspension and natural CO2 that protects your wine. The pH is around 3.19, which gives them a lot of freshness. It is not a vintage for early bottling and so most of the Premier Crus will be bottled next Spring.””

    Neal Martin, Vinous (01/20)

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    Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay 2019

    £29.49

    Review to follow

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    Cantalupo Collis Breclemae 2013

    £34.75

    “The 2013 Ghemme Collis Breclamae is fabulous. Deep, dark and also translucent, the 2013 possesses magnificent clarity as well as structure. Black cherry, lavender, truffle, mint, spice and new leather all develop in an ample, resonant Ghemme that hits all the right notes. A rich, substantial finish rounds things out in style. The 2013 can be enjoyed with minimal cellaring, but it also has the pedigree to develop in the cellar for many years to come. Each time I come back to the 2013 it is more impressive. Drinking window: 2023-2038. 96 points

    Readers who want to explore the best Alto Piemonte has to offer will find so much to admire in these new releases from Cantalupo. The Nebbiolo Colline Novaresi is done in a style that emphasizes freshness and near-term appeal. The dual flagships Collis Breclamae and Collis Carellae show two sides of Ghemme and the estate’s vineyards. The Breclamae is dark and brooding, while the Carellae is much brighter and more floral. Aging in cask really allows the personality of both sites to come through.”

    Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate (09/20)

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    Castro Ventosa Valtuille Cepas Centenarias 2018

    £55.99

    “The floral 2018 Valtuille Cepas Centenarias is the next vintage after the 2015, as no 2016 or 2017 could be produced. This has a Northern Rhône nose that mixes violets and smoked meat, very showy. The palate is seamless and refined, with very fine, silky tannins. Like many of their wines, 2018 could very well be the finest vintage of this wine to date. This has much lower alcohol (13.2%) and more acidity. In 2018, they used all the white grapes from one of the plots, which could be a significant 6% of white grapes, and also some 5% Merenzao, so the wine is somewhat more fluid and nuanced. The two plots used for this wine are in the paraje of Matalospardos in Valtuille. This is the most complete and complex of the 2018s. 3,500 bottles and 36 magnums were filled in early May 2020. Drink: 2020-2028. 97+ points

    Castro Ventosa is the winery of Raúl Pérez’s family. They are adapting to the new categories from the Bierzo appellation. They are focusing on their vineyards and regrafting some Merenzao now that is accepted by the DO. They are also turning their style toward more freshness in the wines, going for larger barrels; they have always had a very traditional profile. In the near future, there will be a new bottling from La Vitoriana, one of the most prestigious lieux-dits, from 2018. All of the 2018s have a lower alcoholic degree (all around 13.5%, when it was previously 14.5%) and feel very pure and clean, with better-integrated oak. Production varies widely depending on the vintage, between 150,000 and 250,000 bottles.”

    Luis Gutierrez, Wine Advocate (249)

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    Charvin Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015

    £39.95

    “Lurid ruby-red. Sexy, highly perfumed raspberry, boysenberry and floral pastille scents are complemented by hints of musky rhubarb and Asian spices. Palate-staining sweet red and blue fruit and spicecake flavors show power as well as superb vivacity thanks to a spine of juicy acidity. The floral quality comes back emphatically on a strikingly long, sappy finish shaped by smooth, slow-mounting tannins. This might be the finest wine to emerge from this estate that l have ever tasted, and I’ve had some pretty amazing ones over the years. 94-96 points

    Made with whole clusters, fermented and raised entirely in large concrete tanks, the ebullient and ever-curious Laurent Charvin’s wines are always some of the most elegant, highly perfumed and pure wines of the appellation. At the same time they are reliably deep in flavor and balanced to age, despite their suave, upfront appeal. In 2015 Charvin made what might be, for me, perhaps the best wine ever from his family’s nine hectares of vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which he took over in 1990. As an example of his wines’ ageworthiness, the 1998 rendition of Charvin’s Châteauneuf, from a highly-regarded vintage whose wines are often and unfortunately over the hill and drying out now, is absolutely lovely today, with deep color and intense, still-fresh red fruit and floral character. Well-stored bottles should have no trouble hitting their 25th birthday in fine form, which I don’t expect to be the case with most wines from this hot vintage.”

    Josh Raynolds, Vinous (03/17)

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    Domaine Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc 2018

    £87.95

    “Notes of Anjou pear, white flowers and blanched almonds introduce Leflaive’s 2018 Bourgogne Blanc, a medium-bodied, supple and fleshy wine that’s open-knit and lively, revealing a demonstrative, giving profile that will make friends in its youth. Drink: 2021-2035. 88 points

    This year, I met with Brice de La Morandière and Pierre Vincent to taste not unfinished 2019s but rather the Domaine’s 2018s from bottle—a change in the estate’s policy that I warmly encourage and support—and I found the wines showing very well indeed. As I wrote last year, while many producers along the Côte de Beaune were inclined to accept the generous yields of the 2018 as nature’s gift, arguing that Chardonnay can sustain an elevated crop without suffering dilution, de La Morandière and Vincent opted to perform an aggressive green harvest, jettisoning around 40% of the potential crop. “I’m glad we have something to show for it,” remarked de La Morandière when I complimented the concentration of the domaine’s Combettes. As usual, the wines fermented and matured in barrel before finishing their élevage in stainless steel tanks on the lees, and they were bottled under Diam with some 25 parts per million free sulfur dioxide. As is the case in Chardonnay along the Côte de Beaune in the 2018 vintage, the appellation hierarchy does make itself felt—I tend to think that low yields efface some of the disadvantages of humbler sites, whereas large crops exaggerate them—but the highest appellation bottlings here are really quite serious; and, having evoked the comparison with Leflaive’s superb 1982 vintage when I tasted them from barrel last year, I continue to think that they will blossom beautifully with bottle age.”

    William Kelley, Wine Advocate (01/21)

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    F.X. Pichler Riesling Durnsteiner Kellerberg Smaragd 2012

    £50.95

    “The Pichlers’ 2012 Riesling Smaragd Kellerberg delivers an enormous concentration of lusciously rich, sweetly ripe white peach, Persian melon, grapefruit and pineapple, mingled with almond cream, blond tobacco and Szechuan pepper. Bittersweet iris perfume wafts throughout this magnificent performance, while the superbly sustained finish introduces a cyanic intensity of fruit pit whose bitterness is tamed and stimulatingly integrated thanks to sheer generosity of fruit and inner-mouth perfume. There were some shriveled berries here, notes Lucas Pichler, which no doubt contribute to the sense of opulence not to mention of sheer ripeness; yet there is only 13.5% alcohol. Plan to follow this beauty through at least 2025. Drink: 2014-2025. 95 points

    “In recent years,” notes Lucas Pichler, “we’ve been harvesting a little earlier in order to depress the alcohol levels a bit,” which in 2012 meant among other things beginning with Gruner Veltliner Federspiel already in the third week of September. After what I had tasted thus far of the vintage, I was amazed to find the Rieslings here in aggregate even finer than the Gruner Veltliners, a pattern that was to be dramatically accentuated at nearby Alzinger. (I did not get chance on my most recent visit to catch-up with Pichlers’ Sauvignon Blanc from this vintage.)”

    David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate (212)

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    Fontodi Vin Santo 2009 (375ml)

    £41.95

    “The 2009 Vin Santo del Chianti Classico (packaged in a 375-milliliter bottle) is an object of profound beauty. This extremely precious dessert wine pours from the bottle with thick and slow-moving waves of glycerin and sweetened richness. In fact, my fingers are sticking to my keyboard as I write this review. Aged in small caratelli barrels for 84 months, this Vin Santo shows a dark amber color with polished copper highlights. The bouquet is profoundly complex with dried fruit aromas of apricot and pineapple followed by brown sugar, maple syrup, toasted chestnut and savory tobacco. This is a full-bodied dessert wine that spreads over the palate with lasting intensity. In fact, you taste the wine in the mouth for many long minutes after you drink it. A mere 2,500 bottles exist. Drinking window: 2018-2060. 98 points

    The big news in Chianti Classico these past few months is that Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti has been elected as the new president of the Consorzio Chianti Classico. He takes the reins from Sergio Zingarelli who was president for two very successful mandates that included the introduction of the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione category. I am very happy to hear of this change, mostly because I firmly believe that Giovanni’s genteel and non-confrontational personality will allow for a moment of reflection and unity in a growers’ association that has seen its share of controversy and infighting over the years. A mandate of tranquility would be the least we should expect of this new presidency. The most we can expect, however, is a stronger voice from growers over mapping and the delineation of subzones within the greater appellation, something I have been advocating. Giovanni Manetti and Fontodi represent the pinnacle of quality that can be achieved in this part of Tuscany. That he has become a symbolic head of the region only brings more prestige and pedigree to an appellation that demands our highest respect and admiration.”

    Monica Larner, Wine Advocate (239)

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    Francois Legros Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Noirots 2018

    £59.49

    “Another name that’s new to my report is Domaine François Legros, in Nuits Saint-Georges. Legros, who took over the domaine in 1988, is one of those “dirt under the fingernails” winemakers, a man who is happiest out working in the vines. “My ancestors worked at Château de la Tour and my parents still live in Vougeot,” he told me. “They lived in the chateau.” He has expanded the holdings to around eight hectares that, unusually, span both white and red in the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, this diaspora due partly to working parcels previously owned by his father-in-law. He is now assisted by his daughter Charlotte, who trained at the University of Beaune. Legros has converted all his vineyards to lutte raisonée, works some parcels by horse, and hand-picks and sorts his fruit in the vineyard and then on a vibrating table. For the reds, around 90% is de-stemmed, with manual pigeage. He keeps the wines on the lees with no racking, employing around 30% new oak for his Premier Crus. He told me that the whites were bottled the previous week and came in with 13.6–13.8% alcohol. Tasting through his 2020s, I preferred his reds to his whites, which displayed traits of sur-maturité. By contrast, the reds were fresher and more terroir-driven and therefore come recommended. I look forward to returning to this address in the future.”

    Neal Martin, Vinous (12/21)

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    Gerard Boulay Sancerre Monts Damnes 2020

    £32.75

    Review to follow

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    Gramenon La Meme Ceps Centenaires Cotes-du-Rhone 2020

    £66.25

    Review to follow

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