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Finest & rarest - CHARDONNAY, Kevin John, Cullen. Margaret River, W. Australia

2018 CHARDONNAY, Kevin John, Cullen. Margaret River, W. Australia

Organic

Bin: 705
Alcohol Percentage: 13.5%
Area: Margaret River is Western Australia's best know region, for good reason - the mild maritime climate produces elegant wines with natural freshness. Cullen are based in the sub-region of Wilyabrup.
Grape Variety: 100% Chardonnay, hand-picked and whole-bunch pressed, before fermentation and maturation in French oak (mainly 500 litre puncheons but some 225 litre barriques) - for a total of 6 months. Half the oak is new. One small parcel was fermented in concrete egg
Producer: Vanya Cullen has been the area's standard bearer for quality winemaking and biodynamic viticulture for some time now. Some consider biodynamics more witchcraft than science. What is very clear when visiting Cullen is that the vineyards are in extraordinarily good health - and the results in the bottle always seem to justify the means.
'Kevin John' is named after Vanya's father, who established the winery. It is made from 3 different blocks on the estate.
Old Bridge Rating: Frighteningly expensive but this is 'Grand Cru' quality without any exaggeration.
Press Reviews: "
View online
Sarah Ahmed reports on premium Australian Chardonnay featuring Cullen Wines, Giant Steps, Tolpuddle Vineyard and Shaw + Smith.

Antonio Galloni reviews the 2017 vintage wines from Barolo on Vinous.

98 points for the Trinity Hill 'Homage' Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2018 on JamesSuckling. com.



Shaw + Smith's Lenswood Vineyard in Adelaide Hills
This week, Sarah Ahmed reports on an in-depth Zoom discussion between "top Australian Chardonnay winemakers" Vanya Cullen of Cullen Wines, Steve Flamsteed of Giant Steps, and Michael Hill Smith MW of Shaw + Smith and Tolpuddle Vineyard, all of whom "produce fascinating compare-and-contrast ranges of single site/single parcel wines. They really highlight the winemaking renaissance." The trio consider Australian Chardonnay's "route to refinement", providing "fascinating and frank insights into their own wines, as well as the broader context." Head to TheWineDetective.co.uk for Sarah's excellent summary of the conversation and please see below for her comprehensive reviews of Giant Steps' 2018 'Sexton Vineyard' and 'Wombat Creek Vineyard' Yarra Valley Chardonnays, Shaw + Smith's 'M3' Chardonnay 2019 and 'Lenswood Vineyard' Chardonnay 2018 from Adelaide Hills, Tolpuddle Vineyard's Coal River Valley Chardonnay 2019 from Tasmania, and Cullen's 'Kevin John' Wilyabrup Chardonnay 2018 from Margaret River.

Antonio Galloni reviews the 2017 vintage Barolos on Vinous.com, concluding that "the best 2017s are exceptionally polished, vivid and flat-out delicious. If tasted blind, my guess is that few people would identify the wines as coming from a hot and very dry year." The 2017s from G.D. Vajra are "deep, fleshy and impeccably balanced", with the 'Bricco delle Viole' judged to be "one of the clear stand outs of the year" and the 'Ravera' as "gorgeous right out of the gate...just breathtaking." Both wines score 95 points and will be available from June 2021. The Vajra family's Luigi Baudana Barolo 'Baudana' 2017 (95+ points) has an "effusive, inviting personality. This is such a tremendous showing" and is also available from June. "Massolino's 2017s are impressive. The 'Parafada' is a bit closed at this stage, but the other 2017s are terrific...the bigger picture is that these wines have never been more finessed," says Antonio. He awards 95 points each to the "compelling, multi-faceted" 'Margheria' and the "stellar...unbelievably classy" 'Parussi' 2017s, also recommending their "magnificent" 96-point Barolo Riserva 'Vigna Rionda' 2015. These new Massolino releases will be available from September 2021.

Other highlights are 98 points for the "complex and very intense" Trinity Hill 'Homage' Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2018 on JamesSuckling.com, plus 95 points for the "concentrated, layered" Pieropan 'La Rocca' Soave Classico 2018 and 94 points for their "focused and refined" 'Calvarino' Soave Classico 2018. On Decanter Premium, Emily O'Hare's 12 must-try wines from Chianti Classico include Isole e Olena's Chianti Classico 2017 and Fontodi's 'Dino' 2018, "to be bottled as a Chianti Classico from the 2018 vintage" (current vintage 2016). Both producers are "now restoring or building dry-stone wall terraces on which to plant vines" and Emily notes that current changes in Chianti Classico are "a fantastic mix of traditional and modern. There is an earnest, open willingness to experiment that I have not yet felt in any other region of Tuscany."

Tim Atkin MW has published his Rioja 2021 Special Report, which includes Bodegas LAN, El Coto, Izadi and Orben, commenting that, despite the current challenges, "the excellence of the 2019 vintage...the rich diversity of what is being produced in Rioja at the moment...[and the youth] of many of the winemakers who are now making a mark" are all reasons to be cheerful. Finally, Pedro Parra reflects on 'the wine revolution taking place in the South of Chile' on The-Buyer.net: "For me there are great soils all over Chile, but I wanted a place that had a cooler climate and cloud cover to mitigate the temperatures, which is more difficult to find. I found that in the South of Chile it starts from the southern part of Maule and gets more evident in Itata and as you move south."

Also reviewed below are wines from Antonella Corda, Axel Pauly, Azevedo, Charles Heidsieck, Château Arnauld, Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Château Larose Perganson, Château Larose Trintaudon, Château Le Crock, Corino Giovanni di Corino Giuliano, Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix, Donnafugata, Fèlsina Berardenga, Finca Museum, Finca Villacreces, Fleur de Miraval, Gallina de Piel, Greywacke, Henschke, Livio Felluga, Mas La Chevalière, Nyetimber, Petra, Piper-Heidsieck, Poderi Aldo Conterno, Rare Champagne, Rathfinny Wine Estate, Selvapiana, Tablas Creek and Vie di Romans.

As ever, if you would like more information about any of these wines, please follow the link here to the Liberty Wines website, or get in touch with your usual Liberty Wines contact.

Jancis Robinson MW, A Burgundy ragbag, JancisRobinson.com, 16th February 2021

Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix, Chablis 1er Cru `Côte de Léchet` 2006, France
17 points
The nerviest of these three 2006 Chablis premiers crus from Defaix (tasted alongside Vaillons and Les Lys). High toned and with a lightly reductive note, a little smoky, this would make a very luxurious aperitif. I could so easily imagine it on Christmas morning with smoked salmon for those who eschew bubbles. Notes of lime and honey act as counterpoints in this 'vibrating' wine with an impressively long finish. In view of its great age it's GV.

Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix, Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015, France
17 points
Really rather glorious without being at all expensive for a five-year-old white burgundy. This is pure Chablis with green fruits and a subtext of water flowing over stones. So rare to come across a commercially available wine with this much evolution that's still fresh and lively! Really appetising.
Current vintage: 2014/2016

Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix, Chablis 1er Cru `Les Lys` 2006, France
16.5 points
Green liquid jelly (of the edible kind) somehow on the nose, with a hint of the wet-wool aroma that characterises decent Chablis with some age. Precise acidity complements quite a charge of fruit. But it's all quite tightly wound. This is a fairly robust, emphatic Chablis with considerable extract that I'd be tempted to decant. It's impressively persistent, which bodes well. (My guess at when this started to drink well is just that: a wild guess.) For a 14-year-old wine, this is GV.

Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix, Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2017, France
16.5 points
Bright, very clear gold. Lightly reductive on the nose – to the extent I personally like. This seems a tad older than three years, but there's nothing wrong with accelerated ageing if the result is pleasing! Not intense but very Chablis and appetising. I wouldn't hang on to it but it should please true Chablis lovers already. There is no wet wool and only a hint of water flowing over wet stones, but it certainly has more character than supermarket Chablis. Not as thrilling as the 2015 but certainly creditable. Lots of flavour and not much alcohol. Double tick!
Current vintage: 2014/2016

Emily O`Hare, Chianti Classico: a glowing future plus 12 must-try wines, Decanter.com/Premium, 12th February 2021

Isole e Olena, Chianti Classico 2017, Italy
93 points
It is strange to see a bright red wine, and to smell ripe pinky-yellow peach. But I am told that peach is not such an unusual note for the Sangiovese from this hillcrest, along which the great estates Isole e Olena, Paneretta and Monsanto sit, looking out towards the Tyrrhenian sea. Winemaker Paolo de Marchi is a great fan of the native Canaiolo Nero and blends in 15%, contributing a black/violet colour, breadth, softness and spice to balance the austerity of Sangiovese. A consistently excellent wine.

Fontodi, `Dino` 2018, Italy
90 points
My first thought on tasting this wine, ‘impish’, seemed incongruous with my surroundings. But in Old English, the word ‘imp’ referred to a young shoot or scion of a plant or tree, and later came to mean the scion of a noble house – appropriate for this wine. Made with Sangiovese fruit fermented and aged in amphora with a tiny amount of SO2 added before bottling, it smells of blue flowers and tastes of red fruit. Acidity darts about the palate like disco lights. Great refreshment and fun.
Current vintage: 2016

Best English rosés for Valentine’s Day, Decanter.com, 12th February 2021

Nyetimber, Rosé NV, England
92 points
Made with 10% to 20% reserve wine, this is one of the driest wines from Nyetimber, with residual sugar at 9g/l. Summer berry fruits, toasted biscuits on the nose, it has fresh raspberry, crunchy green apple acidity on the palate, rounded by brioche notes. The refreshing lime peel and mineral bitterness follow to the long finish, perfect for lightly seasoned shellfish. Sylvia Wu

Rathfinny Wine Estate, Rosé Brut 2016, England
91 points
This is a year younger than the other three cuvées – while the winemaking team want autolytic notes, the philosophy is that rosé should equally sing of summer. This really does. Very moreish indeed – a brilliant rose hue, with an almost exotic weight of red berry fruits. A blend of 63% Pinot Noir, 19% Chardonnay and 18% Pinot Meunier, this includes 7% Pinot Noir still red wine blended in; unlike the other wines, this is aged for a year less (24 months) and given 4g/L dosage. It's darker and more structured than the previous release, and there is a juicy, lively fruit character to it. The perfect choice for afternoon tea. Amy Wislocki
(Available from 1 March 2021)

Simon Field MW, Top rosé Champagne to try for Valentine’s Day, Decanter.com, 9th February 2021

Fleur de Miraval, Rosé NV, France
94 points
An extraordinary achievement this, made by the famously difficult saignée method, yet with a wonderful onion skin colour and poised aromas of lemongrass, small red berried fruit and pink grapefruit. Rodolphe Péters from the eponymous Champagne house in Le Mesnil sur Oger demonstrates why he is seen as one of the very finest winemakers in Champagne, coaxing wonderful complexity from his reserve wines (aged in a solera) and ensuring definition and purity from the base wines, the purity and elegance of the 25% Pinot Noir component quite breathtaking. Despite the relatively modest time on lees (three years), there is definite pedigree here, and, given the aspiration to forge a new style of rosé, a triumphant aura of complexity and latent potential. Rodolphe already has a reputation for making some of the finest Chardonnay-based Champagnes; now the inspired partnership with the Perrins of Beaucastel, who, it has to be admitted, know a thing or two about red wine, has yielded a hugely impressive debut for the Fleur de Miraval. Behind these two winemaking giants there is the owner, a certain Brad Pitt, who has achieved a degree of success elsewhere (!) but who has been surprisingly hands-on with this project, as of course he is at sister company Miraval in Provence. Not a bad team, all in all. What’s more, this wine is appreciably different to the other prestige rosé Champagnes on the market, without in any way losing out in terms of profundity, or, at a more basic level, the power to give pleasure. The very high expectations have been matched... and then some!

Buying Guide, Wine Spectator, 31st March 2021

Donnafugata, `Ben Ryé` Passito di Pantelleria 2017, Italy
94 points
Flavours of ripe nectarine and wild strawberry, candied almond and orange marmalade burst on the palate in this gorgeous sweetie. It's mouthcoating with its plush creaminess, but it shows a lovely backbone of mouthwatering acidity for balance, carrying the long finish of ripe fruit, cardamom and ginger spice. Alison Napjus
Current vintage: 2018

Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Moulin-à-Vent `Champ de Cour` 2017, France
93 points
Elegantly textured, with glossy tannins encasing raspberry coulis and ripe cherry notes infused with black tea, orange zest, liquorice and sleek mineral details. A serious wine that should age well. Gillian Sciaretta

Pieropan, `La Rocca` Soave Classico 2017, Italy
93 points
A finely knit, light- to medium-bodied white, with rich flavours of glazed apple, baked pineapple and chopped hazelnut enlivened by bright, lemony acidity and a racy streak of salinity. Hints of lime blossom and smoke play on the lasting finish. Bruce Sanderson
Current vintage: 2018

Selvapiana, `Vigneto Bucerchiale` Chianti Rufina Riserva 2016, Italy
93 points
Dark and brooding, this red features ripe black cherry, blackberry, wild herb, earth and iron flavours. Gains in richness, density and ripeness what it loses in freshness, though shows fine balance and length. Bruce Sanderson

Donnafugata, `Mille e Una Notte` 2016, Italy
92 points
An elegant red, aromatic and enticing on the nose, with bay leaf and cured tobacco notes accenting the rich range of baked plum and black cherry fruit on the palate. It's medium- to full-bodied and well-knit, with creamy tannins on the supple, mineral-laced finish. Lovely. Alison Napjus
Current vintage: 2017

Petra, `Petra` 2016, Italy
92 points
This is sleek, with a lot of flavours packed into its slim frame. Black currant, plum, earth and wild rosemary flavours are buoyed by dense, dusty tannins. It finishes long, with a pleasant dryness. Bruce Sanderson

Pieropan, Soave Classico 2018, Italy
91 points
A zesty, enticing white, with tropical pineapple and guava notes layered with a subtle skein of ground cardamom and ginger spice. Light-bodied and lithe, with mouthwatering acidity and a minerally underpinning throughout. Alison Napjus
Current vintage: 2019

Pieropan, `Calvarino` Soave Classico 2017, Italy
91 points
A harmonious white, with mineral, chalk and saline notes underscoring the finely woven mix of Asian pear, slivered almond and pink grapefruit pith flavours. Long, creamy finish. Alison Napjus
Current vintage: 2018

G.D. Vajra, Barbera d'Alba 2018, Italy
90 points
Packed with black cherry, blackberry and toasty spice flavours, this red is rich and dense. Lively acidity keeps it focused and drives the lingering finish. Bruce Sanderson

Henschke, `Henry’s Seven` Barossa Shiraz/Grenache/Mataro/Viognier 2018, Australia
90 points
Detailed, with fresh black currant and blackberry flavours that are accented with sage, matcha, orange zest and a touch of apricot, all on a supple frame showing plenty of elegance and freshness. MaryAnn Worobiec

MaryAnn Worobiec, 10 Exciting California Wines Up to 91 Points, Wine Spectator, 8th February 2021

Tablas Creek, Esprit de Tablas Blanc 2018, USA
90 points
Rich and elegant, with quiet notes of pear, clementine and yellow apple that gain complexity on the finish. A touch of minerality, dried chamomile and accents of butterscotch remain on the finish. Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc, Clairette Blanche and Picardan.
Current vintage: 2017

Monica Larner, Italy, Friuli Venezia Giulia: The Mediterraneanisation of the Italian Northeast, The Wine Advocate, 11th February 2021

Livio Felluga, `Terre Alte` Friulano/Pinot Bianco/Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Italy
95 points
A landmark wine for the region, the Livio Felluga 2017 Rosazzo Terre Alte is a careful blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon packaged in a heavy bottle with the estate's distinctive geographic map depicted on the front label. The 2017 vintage threw some big challenges at vintners with hot summer temperatures and excessive rains in September. However, white varieties such as the ones used in this blend managed a good window for optimal ripening. The wine is deceptive, and I mean that in a good way. On first examination, the bouquet feels fruity and lean. But as the fibre of the wine settles on the palate, you are made aware of the unexpected complexity and depth delivered in a second wave. The wine rushes with intensity. Fruit, peach and honey segue to crushed sandstone and dried basil. This is a keeper.
Current vintage: 2018

Vie di Romans, `Vie di Romans` Chardonnay 2018, Italy
95 points
Polished, clear and silky, the Vie di Romans 2018 Friuli Isonzo Chardonnay Vie di Romans is a beautifully balanced wine that gives equal weight to the intensity and quality of the fruit and the abundantly enriched texture of the mouthfeel. This is Chardonnay presented in 360-degree splendour with peach, melon, honey, pastry crust and cream custard. Ten months of ageing on the yeasts gives the wine added dimension and opulent richness. Saffron, spice, cumin and fragrant sandstone are intermingled on the long and silky finish.

Vie di Romans, `Flors di Uis` 2017, Italy
95 points
A blend of 57% Malvasia Istriana, 35% Riesling Renano and 8% Friulano, the Vie di Romans 2017 Cuvée Friuli Isonzo Flors di Uis shows a little hint of varietal purity that you can trace back to each of the three grapes used. There are the white flowers of the Malvasia, the lifted citrus or Pomelo notes of the Riesling and the softer peach and stone fruit aromas of the Friulano. These three branches work together in harmony to build the impactful aromatic profile that distinguishes this wine. The Flors di Uis is not as broad or creamy as some of the other monovarietal wines tasted from this producer, however the results are exceptionally clear and balanced.
Current vintage: 2018

Vie di Romans, `Dessimis` Pinot Grigio 2018, Italy
94+ points
The Vie di Romans 2018 Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio Dessimis boasts a pale copper colour with amber and peachy pink highlights. This vintage is not as wide or as texturally generous as the 2017 vintage also tasted in this report. However, the 2018 offers lifted, sharp fruit that is delineated and pure. Those subtle mineral nuances also appear with more clarity. There is tart berry, white cherry, wild mint and bitter almond. I also taste a mild tannic crunch. That structure comes from extended maceration on Pinot Grigio skins, as does the wine's pretty colour. It would be interesting to check in on its evolution in five year's time. The wine ages on the lees for two months in French barrique.

Livio Felluga, `Illivio` Pinot Bianco/Chardonnay/Picolit 2017, Italy
94 points
A blend of Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Picolit, the Livio Felluga 2017 Friuli Colli Orientali Illivio is a true beauty. This is a mildly creamy and textured wine that hits all the right palate pressure points. It offers density and warm-vintage intensity but is never heavy or flat. Indeed, the wine is teeming with energy, depth and a unique personality that pegs it to the verdant hills and colourful rose gardens of Friuli. This corner of northeast Italy comes alive in the spring, and this wine blossoms in the mouth.
Current vintage: 2018

Vie di Romans, `Flors di Uis` 2018, Italy
94 points
The Vie di Romans 2018 Cuvée Friuli Isonzo Flors di Uis is an assembly of Malvasia, Riesling and Friulano that builds beautiful intensity on both the nose and the palate. Attempting to dissect the bouquet is not easy because there are so many elements to take under consideration, from orchard fruit and ripe apple to custard cream. The protagonist of the blend is Malvasia, and the wine's floral notes of honeysuckle and yellow rose are quite amplified as a result. Thanks to nine months of ageing on the lees, the wine is broad, rich and generous to the end.

Vie di Romans, `Vie di Romans` Chardonnay 2017, Italy
94 points
The Vie di Romans 2017 Friuli Isonzo Chardonnay Vie di Romans opens to a saturated off-gold colour with abundant layers of apricot, pear and cantaloupe melon. This hot-vintage Chardonnay, aged on the lees for 10 months in French oak, is rich and opulent sporting a full frame and enriched texture. You could pair this beauty with buttered lobster or most dishes involving veal or pork given the power and the intensity of the mouthfeel. Subtle mineral notes frame the rich fruit.
Current vintage: 2018

Vie di Romans, `Dessimis` Pinot Grigio 2017, Italy
94 points
Although it is not indicated as such, this is a Ramato-styled Pinot Grigio that sports a pink-copper colour thanks to some extended skin maceration (a process whereby the skin's colour pigment is reflected in the wine's appearance). I've gone ahead and changed the colour class of this wine to rosé in our database to be consistent. The Vie di Romans 2017 Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio Dessimis is a beautifully fragrant wine with a wide and long aromatic delivery. Wild berry, peach and grapefruit spread richly over the palate, leaving no part of the mouth untouched. The effect is quite spectacular, and vintage heat has played a big role in building the wide aromatic presence of the wine and its creamy, mid-weight mouthfeel. This is a stunner.
Current vintage: 2018

Vie di Romans, `Piere` Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Italy
92 points
From a hot growing season with moments of challenging humidity at the end of summer, the Vie di Romans 2017 Friuli Isonzo Sauvignon Blanc Piere is snappy and crisp with white flower, exotic fruit and a green note of peppercorn or garden tomato leaf. I am reminded of green olive in the 2018 vintage, and I find that same aroma here but perhaps more faded. The wine is just a tad richer and more fleshed out in terms of mouthfeel, but the aromas are pronounced and generous.
Current vintage: 2018

Livio Felluga, Friulano 2018, Italy
91 points
The Livio Felluga 2018 Friuli Colli Orientali Friulano (closed with a screwcap) is a charming white wine with an accessible and easy style but with much of the creamy richness and texture that is characteristic of this excellent grape variety. The bouquet produces pear, apple and ripe peach. There are subtle aromas of toasted almond, saffron and a touch of crushed rock or oyster shell. This lovely white would pair with a Sicilian pasta made with cubed swordfish, fried eggplant and fresh mint.
Current vintage: 2019

Vie di Romans, `Piere` Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Italy
91 points
The Vie di Romans 2018 Friuli Isonzo Sauvignon Blanc Piere reveals a zesty and pure expression of the grape that does not hold back aromatically in this vintage. The bouquet is redolent of citrus, exotic fruit, green papaya and a pronounced touch of green olive. Indeed, those greenish aromas gain strength as the wine warms in the glass. Subtle mineral notes settle on the close and reinforce this wine's lean, crisp personality. This wine ages on the lees in stainless steel vats for nine months.

Josh Raynolds, The Vast Bounty of Central Spain, vinous.com, 9th February 2021

Finca Villacreces, Ribera del Duero 2015, Spain
93 points
Deep, glistening ruby. A highly perfumed bouquet evokes ripe red and blue fruits, vanilla, allspice and smoky minerals, and a suave floral topnote emerges with air. Gently chewy and sweet on the palate, offering vibrant black raspberry, cherry-vanilla and candied lavender flavours plus a deeper suggestion of bitter chocolate. Polished, well-knit tannins give shape to a very long, sweet finish that features hints of smokiness and baking spices.
Current vintage: 2016

Finca Museum, `Museum` Cigales Reserva 2015, Spain
91 points
Deep, shimmering garnet. An expressive bouquet evokes ripe red and dark berries, vanilla and toasty oak. Appealingly sweet cassis and cherry cola flavours show very good depth and building vanilla and floral pastille nuances. Finishes smoky and long, with gently firming tannins, repeating florality and a lingering oak spice flourish. Sourced from 50-year-old vines and aged for two years in 70% French and 30% American oak barrels, all of them new.

Finca Villacreces, `Pruno` Ribera del Duero 2016, Spain
90 points
Shimmering violet. Vibrant red and dark berry aromas are complemented by hints of liquorice and cracked pepper. Spicy and tightly focused, showing good energy and gentle sweetness to the black raspberry and cherry flavours. Finishes on a smoky note, with subtle tannins, repeating red fruit character and lingering spiciness.
Current vintage: 2018

Antonio Galloni, 2017 Barolo: Here We Go Again?, vinous.com, 11th February 2021

Massolino, Barolo Riserva `Vigna Rionda` 2015, Italy
96 points
The 2015 Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda is a magnificent wine that shows all the magic this site is so famous for. All the Rionda signatures open in the glass. Sweet dark cherry/plum, lavender, spice, mint and pine meld together in a sensual, beautifully layered Barolo that pushes all the right buttons. The 2015 is going to need a few years to soften, but it is undeniably vivid and arresting in its sheer allure.
(Available from September 2021)

Luigi Baudana, Barolo `Baudana` 2017, Italy
95+ points
The 2017 Barolo Baudana is such a gorgeous wine. It, too conveys the power of Serralunga, but with a bit less heft than is typically the case. Sweet dark cherry, iron, cedar, rose petal, mint and white pepper give the 2017 its effusive, inviting personality. This is such a tremendous showing.
(Available from June 2021)

G.D. Vajra, Barolo `Bricco delle Viole` 2017, Italy
95 points
The 2017 Barolo Bricco delle Viole is classy and elegant to the core. Medium in body and wonderfully translucent, the 2017 captures all of the finesse of this site. Naturally, the 2017 also shows the ripeness of the year, but it retains its sublime sense of poise. The 2017 Bricco delle Viole is one of the clear stand outs of the year.
(Available from June 2021)

G.D. Vajra, Barolo `Ravera` 2017, Italy
95 points
The 2017 Barolo Ravera is gorgeous right out of the gate. I am so impressed with its depth and pedigree. Rose petal, sweet red berry fruit, lavender, spice and dried herbs are all finely delineated in a Barolo of tremendous presence. Orange peel, cinnamon and cedar develop later, adding shades of dimension. Time in the glass brings out the wine's stature and power. The 2017 is going to be fascinating to follow. Today, it is just breathtaking. That's all there is to it.
(Available from June 2021)

Massolino, Barolo `Parussi` 2017, Italy
95 points
The 2017 Barolo Parussi is a classic Castiglione Falletto Barolo. Sweet floral notes and bright, red berry fruit open first as the 2017 shows off its considerable charms. Medium in body and silky (for the year), with exceptional balance, the 2017 Parussi is stellar. This is an unbelievably classy Barolo.
(Available from September 2021)

Massolino, Barolo `Margheria` 2017, Italy
95 points
The 2017 Barolo Margheria is a compelling, multi-faceted Barolo loaded with personality. Sage, mint, lavender, spice, iron and red/purplish berry fruit grace this firm, classically built Barolo. This translucent, taut Barolo has so much to offer, but it also needs time to soften. Readers will find a terrific example of Margheria.
(Available from September 2021)

Poderi Aldo Conterno, Barolo `Colonnello` 2016, Italy
94 points
The 2016 Barolo Colonnello is a dark, bold, lush wine full of character. A blast of macerated black cherry, spice, leather, tobacco and menthol infuses the 2016 with striking depth. Resonant and ample, with notable character, the Colonnello is gorgeous in this tasting. In fact, it's one of the finest Barolos I have tasted from the Conterno brothers in a number of years. The substantial finish is a thing of beauty.
(We have restricted availability of this wine, please speak with your sales representative)

Poderi Aldo Conterno, Barolo `Romirasco` 2016, Italy
93+ points
Conterno's 2016 Barolo Romirasco marries elegance with power. Sweet and perfumed, the Romirasco is at times quite silky, while in other moments much more marked by the power and natural intensity of this site. Here, readers will have to be patient. There is certainly a lot to look forward to.
(We have restricted availability of this wine, please speak with your sales representative)

G.D. Vajra, Barolo `Coste di Rose` 2017, Italy
93 points
The 2017 Barolo Coste di Rose is pretty, supple and inviting. Some of the tannins need to resolve, but this is a young Barolo after all. The Coste di Rose doesn't have the sensuality of the Albe or the pedigree of the Viole, but it nevertheless has so much to give. Crushed flowers, sweet red berry fruit, mint, crushed rocks and sage are some of the many notes that linger. I won't be surprised if the 2017 is even better than this note suggests once it softens a bit.
(Available from June 2021)

Corino Giovanni di Corino Giuliano, Barolo `Arborina` 2017, Italy
93 points
The 2017 Barolo Arborina is another very pretty and expressive wine in the lineup. Deep and layered, yet also light on its feet, the 2017 possesses terrific energy and plenty of cut. Orange peel, spice, tobacco, mint and dried flowers lend striking nuance to the aromatics. There is plenty of nervy Arborina tannin, but all the elements are nicely balanced.
(Available from September 2021)

Massolino, Barolo `Parafada` 2017, Italy
93 points
The 2017 Barolo Parafada comes across as compact and closed in on itself. There is plenty of depth and density, but the Parafada is very tightly wound at this stage. It will be interesting to see what time in bottle brings. Today, the 2017 feels squashed and compact.
(Available from September 2021)

Poderi Aldo Conterno, Barolo `Cicala` 2016, Italy
92+ points
The 2016 Barolo Cicala opens with effusive aromatics laced with all sorts of exotic spice and floral notes. On the palate, the 2016 is much less forthcoming, though. Then again, this is Cicala, a wine that is often unyielding in its youth. It will be interesting to see where the 2016 goes in the coming years. It certainly has potential. Time in the glass brings out hints of iron, chalk, white pepper and dried herbs that are so typical of this Bussia site.
(We have restricted availability of this wine, please speak with your sales representative)

Massolino, Barolo 2017, Italy
92 points
The 2017 Barolo is a gorgeous, harmonious wine. In this vintage, the straight Barolo is a bit lighter than normal, as most wines are, but it is so impeccably balanced. Pliant and inviting, the 2017 will be pleasurable to drink in another year or two. The purity of the flavours is just striking. Red berry fruit, rose petal, mint, cinnamon and crushed rose petal are some of the many aromas and flavours that grace this exquisite Barolo from the Massolino family. So many 2017s are marked by sinewy tannins, here, they are especially fine.
(Available from March 2021)

G.D. Vajra, Barolo `Albe` 2017, Italy
91 points
The 2017 Barolo Albe is exquisite. Bright and beautifully lifted, the 2017 Albe is a wine of pure and total pleasure. All the elements come together so gracefully. Crushed flowers, red berries, mint, cinnamon and lavender are some of the many notes that open in the glass. The 2017 is so nicely done in the way it captures the radiance of the year and the classicism that runs through all these wines. Vineyard sites are Fossati, Costa di Vergne and Le Volte.
(Available from March 2021)

Corino Giovanni di Corino Giuliano, Barolo `Giachini` 2017, Italy
91 points
The 2017 Barolo Giachini shows its typical pliant personality, but in a more restrained style than is typical. Ripe red berry fruit, cedar, dried flowers, mint and spice fill out its mid-weight frame nicely. There is lovely depth here, if a bit less mid-palate creaminess than in most years. That, in turn, makes the tannins stick out a bit.
(Available from September 2021)

Corino Giovanni di Corino Giuliano, Barolo La Morra 2017, Italy
89 points
The 2017 Barolo del Comune di La Morra is a gorgeous wine to drink now and over the next handful of years. Gracious and beautifully perfumed, the Comune bottling shows the more delicate side of La Morra off to great effect. Sweet dark cherry, tobacco, mint, cedar and pipe tobacco are all laced together in this very pretty, understated Barolo from the Corino family.
(Available from June 2021)

Weekly Tasting Report (Feb 1-7), jamessuckling.com, 10th February 2021

Trinity Hill, `Homage` Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2018, New Zealand
98 points
This is a complex and very intense syrah that offers a deeply ripe yet fresh and clear-cut impression of blackberry and pepper, with other layers of spice, graphite and gently meaty notes. The palate is silky yet powerful with really finely layered tannins that cast a long, evenly built finish. Nick Stock

Trinity Hill, Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2019, New Zealand
96 points
Wow. The white-pepper and black-fruit combination here is impressively fresh and vibrant. Really bursting from the glass. The palate has such fine-cut tannins that form a crisp outer shell around very juicy red and dark berries. Cascading, grainy finish. Superb. Nick Stock
Current vintage: 2018

Pieropan, `La Rocca` Soave Classico 2018, Italy
95 points
Aromas of chamomile, dried pineapple, preserved lemon, toasted almond and beeswax. It’s medium-to full-bodied with tangy acidity. So concentrated, layered and phenolic. Keeps going. Yet, it remains agile and vivid. From organically grown grapes. James Suckling

Pieropan, `Calvarino` Soave Classico 2018, Italy
94 points
Beautiful aromas of jasmine, dried apple, lemon zest, acacia honey, flint and sea salt. It’s medium-bodied with bright acidity. Focused and refined with a long, mineral finish. Excellent expression. From organically grown grapes. James Suckling

Trinity Hill, Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2019, New Zealand
93 points
This offers such attractive, fresh peach and citrus aromas with a gently toasty thread of pastry and grilled hazelnut. The palate holds long, fresh and nicely composed, delivering a long, gently creamy, peach-infused finish. Nick Stock
Current vintage: 2018

Pieropan, Soave Classico 2019, Italy
92 points
Aromas of fresh pear, lemon curd, white pepper and wet stones. Hints of wild herbs. It’s medium-bodied with bright acidity. Wonderfully focused with a light spritz to the zesty, mineral notes on the finish. James Suckling

Antonella Corda, Vermentino di Sardegna 2019, Italy
90 points
Green-apple, lime-curd, fresh-herb and peach-blossom aromas. It’s medium-to full-bodied with bright acidity and a creamy, dense texture. Fruity finish. James Suckling

Buying Guide, Wine Enthusiast, 1st April 2021

Château Le Crock, Saint-Estèphe 2018, France
94 points
The Cuvelier family of Léoville-Poyferré in Saint-Julien have given us a strongly textured and rich wine from this property in Saint-Estèphe. Its power and density will allow it to age well. Roger Voss
Current vintage: 2016

Fèlsina Berardenga, `Fontalloro` 2017, Italy
92 points
Aromas of leather, camphor, underbrush and violet form the nose. The linear, medium-bodied palate shows tart cherry, orange zest and tobacco alongside grainy tannins that leave a rather drying finish. Kerin O`Keefe

Château Larose Perganson, Haut-Médoc 2018, France
92 points
Associated with Larose-Trintaudon, this estate has produced a dense wine. Rich tannins, spice, blackberry fruits and smoky acidity are all set for good aging. The wine's concentration is impressive and it should not be drunk before 2024. Roger Voss
Current vintage: 2015

Château Arnauld, Haut-Médoc 2018, France
92 points
This ripe, juicy wine comes from a vineyard planted around a medieval priory. The wine has spice, ripe tannins and attractive black-currant and red-berry fruits. The winning combination should age well, so drink from 2023. Roger Voss
Current vintage: 2014

Château Larose Trintaudon, Haut-Médoc 2018, France
91 points
From one of the largest estates in the Médoc, this wine is packed with black-currant fruits and elegant tannins. Initially it seems light, but a core of structure and classic poise between fruit and tannin make the wine a candidate for ageing. Roger Voss
Current vintage: 2016

Patrick Schmitt MW, A Taste of the Pays d'Oc: 8 Exciting Wine Finds, thedrinksbusiness.com, 9th February 2021

Mas La Chevalière, Rosé IGP Pays d'Oc 2019, France
If you are looking for something with the style and quality of Provençal rosé, but not the high price, then this pink wine from Michel Laroche’s estate, Mas la Chevalière, in the Languedoc is an excellent option. It’s pale salmon pink and bone dry, with notes of peach and pomegranate, and a refreshing redcurrant character on the finish.

Tim Atkin MW, Rioja 2021 Special Report, timatkin.com, 15th February 2021

Bodegas LAN, `A Mano Edición Limitada` Rioja 2017, Spain
94 points
Another LAN wine that has reduced the influence of new wood in recent years, A Mano comes from the south side of the bodega's Viña Lanciano at an altitude of 490 metres. Serious and compact, it has fig and black olive flavours, lots of colour, graphite-scented tannins and a refreshing finish. Very well balanced for a 2017.

Bodegas LAN, Rioja Reserva 2015, Spain
93 points
Made in commendably large quantities of 600,000 bottles, this is a cuvée of Tempranillo and 6% Mazuelo from vineyards in the Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta sub-regions that are older than 25 years of age. Spicy and perfumed, with notes of Mediterranean herbs, deep colour, serious oak and a chalky finish. Impressive stuff.

Bodegas LAN, Rioja Gran Reserva 2012, Spain
93 points
Vines that are older than 40 years' old in Foncea, Haro and Villalba supply the Tempranillo and 6% Mazuelo grapes for this impressive, well-structured Gran Reserva from María Barúa. Modern, scented and refreshing, it has sinewy tannins, well-integrated mocha oak, mulberry and bramble fruit and lively acidity.
Current vintage: 2011

Bodegas LAN, `D-12` Rioja Crianza 2017, Spain
92 points
"The essence of Tempranillo" is what María Barúa is trying to capture in this new French and American oak-aged red from the cool climate areas of Viñaspre and Fonzaleche. Inky and concentrated, with sinewy tannins, lots of bramble and blueberry fruit and spicy wood.

Orben, Rioja 2018, Spain
92 points
A series of small parcels on the slopes of the Sierra de Cantabria, most of them planted with old vines, provide the fruit for this pure Tempranillo. Deeply coloured, focused and tight, with classic chalky freshness, stylish coffee bean oak and layers of blackberry, aniseed and blueberry fruit.

Bodegas LAN, `Xtrème Ecológico` Organic Rioja Crianza 2017, Spain
91 points
LAN's organic plantings cover five hectares in the northern part of its Viña Lanciano estate. The resulting varietal Tempranillo is all aged in new French wood, but is not overly marked by it. Sweet and spicy, with red berry and cinnamon flavours, silky tannins and lively acidity.

Izadi Larrosa, `Larrosa` Rioja Rosado 2019, Spain
91 points
Izadi source the fruit for this tasty, good-value, direct-pressed Garnacha from Samaniego and Torremontalbo. Elegant, floral and bright, it has appealing watermelon and rose petal aromas and crunchy, tangy redcurrant fruit. Thirst-quenching stuff.

El Coto, `875m Finca Carbonera` Rioja Tempranillo 2018, Spain
91 points
The Tempranillo vineyard is a little lower than the white grape plantings at El Coto's Rioja Oriental estate, but they are still located at a pretty remote 760 metres. Aged in new French oak, this is a smooth, textured, concentrated red with lots of colour and dark berry intensity freshened by acidity.

El Coto, `875m Finca Carbonera` Rioja Chardonnay 2019, Spain
91 points
Traditionalists might raise their eyebrows at the idea of a Chardonnay from Rioja, but this is a pretty good expression of the grape. Sourced from vineyards above 875 metres, which are some of the highest in the region, it's a new French barrel-fermented style with creamy lees and flavours of lemon, lime and vanilla spice.

Bodegas LAN, Rioja Crianza 2017, Spain
90 points
The frost-affected low yields of 2017 have given a lot of commercial Crianzas extra concentration, which is no bad thing. This cuvée of Tempranillo with 4% Mazuelo and 2% Garnacha is a case in point: sweet, focused and bright, with spicy French and American oak, layers of summer berry fruit and a balsamic lift.

Izadi Larrosa, `Larrosa` Rioja Negra 2019, Spain
90 points
Made from a certified organic vineyard located at 740 metres in Tudelilla and planted in 1972 on classic stony soils, this is a very well priced Garnacha with notes of rosemary and thyme, appealing texture and weight, juicy red berry fruit and a sappy finish.
(Available from March/April 2021)

El Coto, `Coto de Imaz` Rioja Gran Reserva 2013, Spain
90 points
Controlling your own vineyards was crucial in a very difficult year, so El Coto was in a good position. This is a spicy, mature blend of Tempranillo from the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa sub-regions and 10% Graciano from the Rioja Oriental. Serious and well-structured, it's much better than a lot of 2013 Gran Reservas.
Current vintage: 2012

El Coto, `Coto de Imaz` Rioja Reserva 2016, Spain
90 points
This is a classic, spicy, well-balanced Tempranillo, aged in American and 20% French oak and showing lots of perfume, vanilla and coconut top notes and a core of bramble and blueberry fruit.

Sarah Ahmed, Australian Chardonnay: Exploring the journey with Liberty Wines, TheWineDetective.co.uk, 15th February 2021

Giant Steps, `Sexton Vineyard` Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2018, Australia
Phil Sexton planted his eponymous 30ha vineyard in 1997 with cuttings from Leeuwin Estate (where Flamsteed used to work). It is located between 130 – 210 metres on a steep, exposed north-east-facing slope of the Warramate Ranges. The soil is grey clay loam over shallow granite/ironstone. Flamsteed described this chunky, compressed 450 million years old eroded clay with its thin topsoil as ‘hungry.’ It has water-holding capacity, he added, but also good drainage. Bunch yields set naturally low in this environment, resulting in intensely flavoured fruit with a high skin to juice ratio. With ‘hen and chicken,’ the Leeuwin Gin Gin clone cuttings play into that too. With not a lot of juice and phenolic input on pressing, Flamsteed finds lemon curd notes are quite typical for this wine. I certainly found it citrus-driven – zesty, relatively punchy, with mouth-watering lime, together with lime blossom and green almond to nose and palate. The citrus flavours have lovely drive, clarity and (fresh grated zest) perfume. Subtle hints of savoury lees bring mouthfeel, balancing the acidity. Persistent finish, with slate undertones. Very good.

Giant Steps, `Wombat Creek Vineyard` Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2018, Australia
Planted in 1988 (originally for sparkling production), the Wombat Creek vineyard is located on north-east-facing slopes. Rising to 410m elevation, the 16ha vineyard lays claim to being the Yarra Valley’s highest. This Chardonnay (clone I10V1) is planted in classic Upper Yarra red/ferrous volcanic loam. The vines behave very differently in this soil, said Flamsteed, producing much larger canopies than the Sexton vineyard; the roots drop deeper (you could dig 2 to 3 metres with a shovel, said the winemaker). According to the fiche, the soils produce “distinctively soft yet long wines.” Being deep and moisture retentive, I suspect they contribute to the long hang times. But I imagine that elevation is a major factor too? Whilst the Sexton vineyard (perhaps 50 minutes away) is typically picked in mid-February, Flamsteed said Wombat Creek is picked 4-5 weeks later, because it is so much higher. I think of long hang times as producing softer wines with finer, seamless acidity (so less overt/punchy drive). With longer hang times, the fruit profile is different too – stone fruits, not the citrus of the Sexton site (although Flamsteed sees more citrus in this wine, with poached pear with bottle age). Thanks to the different (finer) acid structure, Wombat Creek delivers its softer stone fruit in ‘slo mo,’ elegant fashion. No hurry here. And plenty of layers to unfurl, with nectarine, honeysuckle, apple pie, acacia and almond paste. The finish is long, textural, ever so subtly nutty and floral, with a hum of acidity.

Shaw + Smith, `M3` Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2019, Australia
The grapes were chilled overnight, whole-bunch pressed, and then fermented in French oak barriques and puncheons, a third of which were new. The wine was matured for nine months in oak with some lees stirring, followed by two months in tank on lees prior to bottling. A toasty nose reveals more oak artefact than the Giant Steps wines, albeit M3 is a year younger. And it is attractively toasty, with nothing over-played or, to use Hill-Smith’s phrase, “too loud.” In the mouth, it is more textural too, with hints of struck match and lanolin and phenolic/savoury leesy chew (which I like) to its lemon and lime accented firm white peach. A hint of acacia too. Ripe, lemony acidity makes for a balanced finish.

Shaw + Smith, `Lenswood Vineyard` Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2018, Australia
The Lenswood vineyard was first planted in 1999 and sits at 455 to 500 metres above sea level. The east and south-facing blocks are located on soils of brown loam over clay with some broken shale. I find this intricate Chardonnay is always finer tuned, with a finer acid structure – that seamlessness of the higher, later-ripening site. Glancing freshness on the nose and palate, with mountain pond/petrichor minerality (a coolness), white blossom, almond and acacia notes to its juicy, lingering, fresh grapefruit palate. The fruit and oak is fully subjugated to terroir – there, but somehow barely there. Those details less important. Which I think is part of the singularity of a site, moreover one which has terrific inherent balance – a walk to ripeness. Great finesse. Whole bunches were chilled overnight, then pressed, before fermentation took place in a mix of new and used 500 litre French oak puncheons. The wine then spent a further 10 months in barrel with gentle stirring.

Tolpuddle Vineyard, Coal River Valley Chardonnay 2019, Australia
From the maiden release, this taut, mineral wine asserted its compelling presence. It reveals savoury whetstone minerality to the nose, with lime peel and struck match nuances, which follow through on the palate, together with a lick of bay leaf. As always, the acidity – long leash – defines this wine. Spooling out energetically and incisively, this is a lively Chardonnay, a touch sour (attractively so) with those lime pith and peel notes. Saturating, the acidity is mouth-filling and mouth-watering at the same time. Singular. A great site. The grapes were all hand picked, whole-bunch pressed, and fermented in French oak barriques (Hill-Smith pointed out that Tasmania’s/Tolpuddle vineyard’s intense flavoured fruit copes with barriques (225l) better than the Adelaide Hills’ Chardonnays). The wine spent nine months in oak, one third new, with different toast levels. There was gentle lees stirring as required, then a further two months in tank on lees prior to bottling.
(Available in limited quantities, please contact your sales representative for details)

Cullen, `Kevin John` Wilyabrup Chardonnay 2018, Australia
The fruit concentration and intensity, especially its aromatic intensity, remains striking. Very Margaret River, with its evocative rock melon, grainy pear and lime speaking of the relatively warm climate (compared with Tasmania, Adelaide Hills and the Yarra Valley). The palate is broader shouldered too, with a fleshier sensuality, which is enhanced by the heady aromatics – the perfumed rock melon and, going through, white blossom, acacia and incipient honey. A backbone of acidity – insinuating – underpins and sustains the flavours on a lingering finish. Doubtless another marathon runner, but bountiful already." Sarah Ahmed, 'The Wine Detective', February 2021.

£79.00 per bottle
This wine does not qualify for a further case discount

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5% discount on mixed cases of 6.
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