Flora Spring of Napa Valley: Current Releases

Flora Springs is one of the Napa Valley’s storied wineries.  Located at the base of the Mayacamas mountain range in Napa Valley, it became famous in the 1990s, especially for its Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, its best known for its flagship wine, the Bordeaux blend Trilogy and the white blend Soliloquy. We review the current releases of these and other wines below. St. Helena native Paul Steinauer made the wines.

The 280 acre Flora Springs estate, formerly home to Louis Martini, was purchased by Jerry and Flora Komes in 1977. They established the winery at the urging of their children, John Komes and Julie Garvey, who have continued to run the winery with their spouses and children. Earlier this year, the families sold the Flora Springs estate to Daniel and Florence Cathard, who also own Château Smith-Haut Lafitte and other wineries in France.  However, the Komes and Garvey families retain ownership of the Flora Springs name as well as 200 acres of Napa Valley vineyards.

The Flora Springs wines are notable for their depth of flavor and the earthy, dark fruited character of the red wines. The Flora Springs Soliloquy is an original and very successful white blend.  In addition to the wines reviewed here, Flora Springs makes several high end, single varietal Cabernet Sauvignons, which we plan to review in the future.

The Wines

Flora Springs 2019 Soliloquy Napa Valley ($50) 92 The Soliloquy is a Sauvignon Blanc-based blend which includes Chardonnay and Malvasia. It is a lovely multi-layered wine showing orchard fruit, melon and citrus. On the palate it is mouth filling and elegant. Sourced from the estate’s proprietary Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc clone grown at the Crossroads Ranch vineyard and aged in cement eggs and other vessels for 7 months. 14.2% alc.  

Flora Springs 2019 Rose Napa Valley ($26) 89 Deep pink. Showing a light strawberry/pomegranate nose, this is an easy drinking rosé. It’s very soft on the attack with good acidity and pomegranate fruit on the palate. A blend of Syrah and Sangiovese made the saignée method. 14.2% alc 

Springs 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($50) 91 Dark ruby red. Showing notes of cedar, plum and herbs on the nose, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon reveals an earthy palate with dark fruit flavors integrated with subtle oak notes. The tannins are fine grained, and the finish is long and flavorful. Sourced from Oakville and Rutherford and matured 18 months in 70% French and 30% American oak. 14% alc. 

Flora Springs 2017 Merlot Napa Valley ($35) 91 Dark ruby. The 2017 Merlot offers plum, lead pencil, and chocolate aromas on the nose that carry over on to the palate. Aged 20 months in French oak barrels, with ripe concentrated fruit and earthy herbal flavors with firm, round tannins on the palate. Sourced from estate vineyards in St. Helena, Rutherford and Oakville and aged 20 months in French oak barriques. 
 

Flora Springs 2017 Trilogy Napa Valley ($85) 92  Semi opaque ruby red. The 2017 Trilogy has a rich, dark nose of dark cherry, licorice and Mexican chocolate. It’s densely flavored of rich dark fruit, Port like in its richness, and shows firm tannins and prominent earthy notes. A youthful wine that needs a few years in the cellar to show its best.  A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec matured 22 months in 92% French and 8% American oak. 
 

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Countries and Regions, Red Wine, Rosé, Uncategorized, White Wine, Wine Type | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Azores Wine Company: Volcanic Wines from the Azores

Wine enthusiasts who are searching for unique and authentic wines, should try these magnificent wines of the Azores. The Azores are an archipelago located 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal.  Pico, the principal island, has windswept vineyards of extremely poor volcanic black soils. [see map below] These vineyards, protected by basaltic walls, are the source of an important indigenous grape known as Arinto dos Açores. Verdelho is another important local variety.  We review several Azores wines produced by the Azores Wine Company (Vinhos dos Açores). 

The vineyards of the Azores are in extreme conditions, very close to the sea and planted on volcanic fissures. The sea sprays the vineyards with salt, and creates the brackish water below the vines. Stone walls constructed 500 years ago help protect the vines from the elements; they are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site created in 2004. 

The Winemaking Team–António Maçanita Second from Left

The renowned enologist António Maçanita is the winemaker at the Azores Wine Company, a joint venture created in 2014 to produce authentic wines from the indigenous grapes of the Azores. He previously made wine at Merryvale in Napa, D’Arenberg in Australia, and Château Lynch Bages in Bordeaux. The other partners include economist and hospitality industry expert Filipe Rocha and Paulo Machado, a viticulturist responsible for growing vines in this most challenging environment.  Reviewed here are two styles of Arinto, as well as blends of Arinto and Verdelho and a 100% Verdelho. The wines are imported by Ole & Obrigado.    

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Wine Reviews

Azores Wine Company 2018 Arinto dos Açores Non Sur Lies Pico Azores Islands ($57) 92  An exceptionally fresh and bright wine. Unctuous and dense, evoking liquid minerals, with notes of herbal tea and citrus and vibrant acidity. Crisp finish with excellent persistence. Made from the Arinto, which is indigenous to the Azores and a descendant from Verdelho. Unrelated to the Arinto grown on the mainland, this grape produces wines of searing citrus and vibrant minerality not unlike the Assyrtiko grape one finds on the Greek island of Santorini.
 

Azores Wine Company 2018 Arinto dos Açores Sur Lies Pico Azores Islands ($63) 93 The Arinto dos Açores Sur Lies displays a nose of lemon citrus and grapefruit. Soft and round on the palate, it reveals light leesy notes of melon with rich extract and good citric acidity, It has a highly satisfying lingering finish. A magnificent food wine.
 

Azores Wine Company 2018 Branco Vulcánico Pico Azores Islands ($35) 91+ The Branco Vulcánico is a blend of 50% Arinto and 50% Verdelho. It displays floral notes on the nose with hints of herbal tea and minerals. Full and round on the palate, it offers flavors of citrus and dried herbs with hints honey. It is crisp with good acidity and has a pleasant finish.
 

Azores Wine Company 2018 Verdelho O Original Pico Azores Islands ($52) 92 The Verdlho O Original is a lovely wine. 100% Verdelho do Pico, it offers a fruity nose and a flavorful palate of lemon citrus with mineral notes. It is a nicely focused wine bright, pure and mouth filling with a soft elegant texture and a long finish.  Cuttings of Verdelho do Pico were carried to Australia in 1824. 

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Ron Rubin’s Very Good Value Wines from the Russian River Valley

Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley is home to some of California’s best vineyards and winemakers, and many of the wines are priced accordingly.  It’s not easy to find inexpensive, good quality wines from this part of the wine world.  Ron Rubin is a successful entrepreneur who could have chosen to go the boutique wine route and establish an upscale winery, but his motivation was different—to provide good quality Russian River Valley wine at a price that most people can afford. We review a selection of his wines below.

Ron Rubin grew up in the wine and liquor business in Illinois and liked it so much that he ended up studying viticulture and enology at UC Davis.  He later took over his father’s liquor business in Illinois and expanded it with a focus on California wine. After several highly successful investments, he returned to his first love, wine, with the purchase of the River Road Family Vineyards and Winery in the Green Valley AVA in 2011.  Today, along with winemaker Joe Freeman and vineyard manager Alvaro Zamora, he makes wines under the Ron Rubin and River Road labels.  Ron is also the current President of the Board of Directors for Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute. 

The Wines

Ron Rubin 2018 Pam’s Unoaked Chardonnay California ($14) 88  This unoaked Chardonnay offers plenty of ripe orchard fruit with notes of sweet honeydew melon. It’s fruit forward with a lingering, sweet finish. Cleanly made and flavorful, but it will appeal most to those who like their wines off dry.  12.5% alc   

Ron Rubin 2018 Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($20) 90  Showing honeysuckle, apple and hints of dulce de leche on the nose, this is a traditionally styled California Chardonnay that provides excellent drinking pleasure for the price. The palate is soft with firm acidity and light flavors that mimic the nose. No one is going to compare this to a Grand Cru Meursault, but it’s very good for the price.  Hand picked, whole cluster pressed, and matured in 20% new French and American oak barrels. 13.7% alc. 
 

Ron Rubin 2017 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($25) 90+  Medium red. This inexpensive (for Russian River Valley) Pinot Noir reveals an appealing dark cherry, tobacco leaf, and smoky oak nose that run throughout the wine. It’s soft on the attack and shows well on a medium dense palate with lingering flavors. Outstanding value in Pinot Noir.  Sourced from the estate vineyard and other local vineyards.  Aged in 15% new French oak for 8 months. 13.7% alc 

Posted in California, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Uncategorized, White Wine, Wine Type | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Authentic Spanish Wines of Alberto Orte

Tintilla Growing in the Albariza Soils of Jerez

Alberto Orte Espejo is a talented Spanish winemaker who handcrafts unique wines from Spain’s indigenous grape varieties.  The grapes are primarily sourced from low yielding old vines grown in exceptional sites often at high altitudes in different regions of Spain.  Orte’s wines include rare grape varieties like Tintilla, Merenzao, and Brancellao as well as better known ones like Mencia and Palomino.  Born in Madrid, Orte now lives in El Puerto de Santa Maria (Cadiz) with his family.  

Since 1999 Alberto has partnered with his friend Patrick Mata, a native of Malaga, to create and manage Ole Imports.  Alberto handles the selection of wines and winemaking in Spain, while Patrick manages the commercial and marketing side of the business in the USA. Readers who have yet to try the unique wines of Alberto Orte will find them in retail stores and restaurants throughout the US.  

Alberto Orte

The Wines

Alberto Orte 2015 A Portela Valdeorras ($28) 92 The A Portela is 100% Mencia. Medium dark red in color, it offers aromas of wild cherry with hints of earth and tobacco. Cultivated at high elevation, it displays a silky mouth feel, vibrant acidity, good depth of flavor and a long finish.
 

Alberto Orte 2016 Escalada Do Bibei Valdeorras ($71) 94  The Escalada Do Bibei is a superb blend of Mencia, Merenzao and Brancellao. Medium ruby in color, it displays a lovely nose of red raspberry. plum and cranberry. It is bright on the attack with a silky mouth feel and complex flavors of red berry, pungent herbs and underbrush. It has excellent concentration of flavor on the palate, firm tannins, excellent persistence and freshness with vibrant acidity on the finish. Still a young wine with a great future.
 

Alberto Orte 2016 Escalada Do Sil Valdeorras ($49) 93  The Escala Do Bibei displays a medium ruby purple robe and offers a bouquet of red fruit complemented by earth and herbs. It is light and silky on the palate showing lovely purity and depth and intensity of flavor. It displays vibrant acidty, freshness and good length. A winner made of Merenzao, Mencia and Garnacha.

Alberto Orte 2015 Vara y Pulgar Vino de la Tierra de Cadiz ($25) 92 Vara y Pulgar is crafted from 100% Tintilla, a rare grape variety of southwestern Spain. It has a savory nose of ripe dark red fruit complemented by meaty, earthy notes. Somewhat rustic in character, it offers full-bodied flavors, firm round tannins and a pleasant finish.

Alberto Orte 2015 Atlantida Tinto Vino de la Tierra de Cadiz ($40) 91  This wine of 100% Tintilla is sourced from a single parcel of an organic coastal vineyard. It is light-bodied with a silky mouth feel and offers aromas and flavors of blackberry and boysenberry with hints of dried fig. It is nicely balanced with good acidity and has a persistent finish.
 

Alberto Orte Bodegas Poniente NV Fino Jerez ($58) 93  The Fino Bodegas Poniente is a blended sherry sourced from organic vineyards in El Aljibe. It has a median solera age of 8 years and is sourced from different Palomino clones. More complex than most finos we have tasted, the Bodegas Poniente Fino reveals a variety of solera flavors combining dried fruits, hints of aged barrels, and flor. Sherry enthusiasts who have not tried this Fino should definitely do so.

Alberto Orte Bodegas Poniente NV Oloroso Jerez ($152) 94  The Bodegas Poniente Oloroso is a very fine sherry. Like the Fino reviewed above, it is blended with rare wines from 18th and 19th century soleras and criaderas in the historical estate in El Alijibe. The median age for these wines is 30 years. This oloroso is a rich dark tawny color and displays intense yet subtle flavors of nuts and oxidative dry secondary notes from casks. Once opened, this sherry will offer drinking pleasure for a year as an aperitif or desert wine. Try it with a wide variety of dishes like figs, nuts, olives, foie gras, cheese and game.
 

Photos courtesy of Friederike Paetzold. 

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Bibbiano Chianti Classico: New Releases

Located in the commune of Castellina in Chianti, the 220 hectare Tenuta di Bibbiano is one of Chianti Classico’s historical wine properties. We’ve visited the estate and tasted several vintages of Bibbiano’s wines over the years. And we recorded an extensive interview with the estate’s manager, Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi, about the legacy of famed Tuscan winemaker Giulo Gambelli, who used to make the wines at Bibbiano.  Tommaso recently sent his latest releases to us, and we review them below. For much more on the Bibbiano estate and its history, see our earlier article here.

The current releases of Bibbiano come from the 2016 and 2018 vintages.  The 2016 vintage was a very good one. Yields were a bit below normal with a hot summer followed by a cooler autumn resulting in beautiful, phenolically ripe fruit.  Following the “short” 2016 vintage and the disastrous 2017 vintage, the 2018 vintage was “normal” in both weather and yields. 

Our reviews of the current releases follow.  We find these wines to range from very good to outstanding in quality.  Fortunately, they are also very reasonably priced.  These wines are among the best values we’ve tasted this year. 

The Wines

Bibbiano 2018 Chianti Classico ($20) 91 The 2018 Chianti Classico reveals the promise of the excellent 2018 vintage in Tuscany. It shows good concentration with appealing complexity of dark red plum, dried cherry, underbrush, and a hint of dried Tuscan herbs. It’s bright on the attach and very fresh on the palate. A 100% Sangiovese fermented stainless steel with malolactic occurring in cement. This wine is a blend of grapes from both sides of the estate, mostly Sangiovese but with a bit of Colorino, too. 13.5% alc. 
 

Bibbiano 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva ($28) 93  2016 was another excellent vintage for Tuscany, especially for the late ripening Sangiovese, albeit at below normal yields. This Riserva is outstanding from its vibrant and highly complex nose to the lovely, long finish. The palate is full and layered with bright fruit, firm acidity, and round, fine-grained tannins. Outstanding freshness and balance with dark berry/plum, cedar, and fresh herbal aromas and flavors. Matured in oak vats and cement for 18 months. 14.5% alc. 
 

Bibbiano 2016 Vigna del Capannino Gran Selezione Chianti Classico ($40) 94 This 100% Sangiovese Grosso, single vineyard Gran Selezione is a wonderfully expressive and balanced wine. It has a multifaceted bouquet and a deeply flavored, admirably concentrated, harmonious palate. There’s terrific fruit and graphite minerals at its core, and fine-grained tannins lend just enough spine. Finishes with an exceptionally long and pure aftertaste. 15% alc. Great value! 
 

Bibbiano 2016 Bibbianaccio Toscana IGT (NA) 91  The Sangiovese-Colorino blend Bibbianaccio is New World like in its richness and depth of flavor. The nose shows intricate aromas of toasty oak and dark red fruit followed by a soft, plush attack and a fruit forward, deeply flavored palate. Finishes dry with firm tannins that should soften with more time in bottle. Made of 50% Sangiovese, 45% Colorino, 5% Malvasia and Trebbiano fermented in small French barriques followed by 12 months in French tonneau and 12 months in traditional Slavonian botti. 14.5% alc 
 

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Proposed US Wine Tariffs Would Radically Change the Wine Market

The US is the world’s most important importer of wine, purchasing about $18 billion in wine in 2019.  So changes in the US market have outsize effects on countries that are the major exporters of wine. The US wine market has been hit by the double whammy of COVID-19 and wine tariffs imposed on French, Italian, and Spanish still wines under 14% alcohol. Now, in response to European Digital Services Taxesthe US is again considering raising tariffs from the current 25% (imposed in October 2019) to over 100% and expanding coverage to include bulk wine, fortified wine, and sparkling wine from the EU. If enacted, this will seriously raise prices to US consumers, force many small US importers and distributors out of business, and greatly reduce the variety of imported wines available to purchase by those who love good wine.  

As noted in the 2020 Silicon Valley Bank’s annual report, the US wine industry was already in a state of transition prior to COVID-19 and the imposition of tariffs.  Among the trends noticed in that report:

  • Young consumers are buying less wine.
  • Restaurants are selling less wine.
  • Sales of inexpensive wines under $9/bottle are especially weak.
  • The industry suffers from oversupply, mostly due to low demand.
  • Direct to consumer (DTC) sales continue to grow.
  • Well established brands are doing well. 

These trends were reinforced by recent events.  According to Wine Analytics, over the past year, US total wine sales are down; off premise sales are up; and direct to consumer shipments are up even more.  The development of a COVID 19 vaccine will help raise restaurant wine sales. But a 100% tariff imposed on all EU wine would result in radical changes in the wine market.  Prices of imported EU wine would almost double, leading to decreased imports and increased demand for US produced wine. Consumers would end up paying more for both imported and domestic wine, and total wine consumption could be expected to decline further.  [Other wine importing countries (e.g. China) would benefit from lower prices of European wine exports as a result of reduced US demand.]

In addition, the composition of wine imports will shift dramatically with decreased imports from the EU and increased imports from the Antipodes, South America, South Africa and Eastern Europe.  Small US importers could be expected to shift their attention away from France and Italy to countries not subject to the tariff.  

History tells us that tariffs once imposed are difficult to remove.  US producers, who would be harmed by increased imports, would lobby to retain the tariffs.  Importers would shift their attention away from Europe and “discover” ultra-premium wines produced elsewhere and market those wines to their US clients.  US demand is likely to permanently shift from European imports to those of other countries.  And US producers are likely to respond by producing grape varieties and new wines that more resemble their European competitors. The long-term changes can’t all be anticipated, but they will be significant. 

Hopefully, the US and the EU will come to some agreement on the Digital Services Tax, and the risk of additional tariffs will be avoided. But the imposition of tariffs last October suggests there is a real risk here.

What can you do?  Written comments can be submitted to the Federal eRulewinemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments in section IV. The docket number is USTR-2020-0022. For issues with on-line submissions, please contact the USTR Section 301 line at 202-395-5725.”

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2019 Vintage Rosés from Around the World

Today, good quality rosé wines are made all over the world. In this article we focus on some of the most popular 2019 rosés on the market in the US.  The wines reviewed here are from Provence and other areas of France, Spain, Italy, South America, and South Africa. These rosés are made from numerous grape varieties and are offered in a wide range of styles, from bone dry to sweet, almost colorless to solid ruby, and still to effervescent. Their aromas and flavors vary from fresh-picked to ripe and jammy.  Most of them are fresh and aperitif in style and also low in alcohol. Our reviews are organized by country of origin.  A listing of the top rated rosés appears first.

Two companion pieces to this article posted on our home page are our just published report on American Rosé: The 2019 Vintage and our article on the 2019 Tavel rosés titled Tavel: France’s Other Rosé. Readers interested in knowing more about rosé should consult our in-depth, 2018 report titled The World of Rosé.

Top Rated Imported Rosés

Producer and WineRegionCountry
Alain Jaume 2019 Le CrétacéTavelFrance
Cave de Tain 2019 Première Note Roséde SyrahCollines RhodaniennesFrance
Château des Ségriès 2019 RoséTavelFrance
Château Lancyre 2019 YPic Saint LoupFrance
Château d’Aqueria 2019 RoséTavelFrance
Colmant NV Brut RoséWestern CapeSouth Africa
Commanderie de la Bargemone 2019 Cuvée MarinaCoteaux d’Aix en Provence
France


Domaine Corne-Loup 2019 RoséTavelFrance
Domaine de la Mordorée 2019 La Reine des BoisTavelFrance
Graham Beck 2014 Vintage RoséWestern CapeSouth Africa
Jean Reverdy 2019 Les VillotsSancerreFrance
Louis Jadot 2019 Domaine Clair-DaüRosé de MarsannayFrance
Medici Ermete 2019 PhermentoLambrusco di ModenaItaly
Van Loggerenberg 2019 Break a Leg Cinsault Blanc de NoirStellenboschSouth Africa

Tasting Notes

FRANCE

Aix 2019 Rosé Coteaux d’Aix en Provence 90  Pale platinum pink. With aromas that evoke a summer strawberry patch, the Aix offers a classic Provence style rosé. It have a pretty, perfumed palate of ripe red berries with hints of tangerine and minerals. The mouth feel is squeaky clean and fresh, and the finish lingers. A blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, and 20% Syrah sourced from dry farmed, estate vineyards at 1400′ elevation. Eric Kurver is owner and winemaker of Maison Saint Aix. 13% alc. 
 

Alain Jaume 2019 Bellissime Rosé Côtes du Rhone ($20) 89  The Bellisime Rosé is a pretty wine with a sweet floral/berry nose and a softly textured palate of strawberry, watermelon and pomegranate. It finishes with good length. An excellent wine to sip on the patio, but it has enough bright acidity and depth of flavor to hold up to fish and simply prepared white meats. 50% Grenache, 25% Cinsault, 20% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre made part saignée and part direct press. 

Alain Jaume 2019 Le Crétacé Tavel ($29) 91  Lean and focused, the Le Crétacé rosé from Tavel reveals pomegranate and red cherry skin on the nose. Distinctly dry on the palate with a firm acidic backbone, pure flavors, and a lingering finish. A superb pairing with roast salmon. A blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre made saignée method with no malo. 14.5% alc  

Bouvet NV Rosé Excellence Brut Loire Valley ($20) 89  Light copper salmon hue. A bouquet of strawberry cream with hints of mandarin and fresh thyme gives way to a brisk attack and flavors of berry jam and cassis, finishing with good length. The Cabernet Franc fruit is sourced from over one hundred vineyard parcels in the Loire Valley. RS 13 g/L 12% alc. Made using the méthode champenoise. 
 

Castelmaure 2019 Vin-Gris Corbières ($17) 89  Pink blush. Perfume of orange blossoms, rose petals and raspberries. An easy drinking, nicely balanced wine. Softly textured, it’s a great sipping wine. Add some seltzer water and a twist of lemon to make a pleasing spritzer. 80% Grenache, 10% Carignan, and 10% Cinsault; 14.5% alc.  
 

Cave de Tain 2019 Première Note Rosé de Syrah Collines Rhodaniennes ($18) 91  Starbright light pink. Pure fruit aromas of red berries show on the nose. The palate mimics the nose with nice pure flavors. There’s good concentration, excellent acid balance and a tangy, lingering finish. All this and low alcohol, too. 12.5% alc. 
 

Chateau des Arnauds 2019 Les Caprices d’Anais Bordeaux ($18) 89  Oeil de la perdrix color. This is one of the more perfumed rosés tasted this year. It reveals fine floral fragrances accented by red berry and fennel and is softly textured with medium acidity and clean flavors of strawberry, rosewater and a hint of citrus, Lovely, easy drinking. A 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from 30 year old vines, direct press,  
 

Château des Ségriès 2019 Rosé Tavel ($26) 91  Medium garnet. Effusive aromas of strawberry and red plum. Full in the mouth with rich ripe red fruit flavors, good balance and a sense of refreshment. Finishes with an almost unctuous syrup of red berries. 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 10% Clairette and 10% Syrah from 60 year old vines made saignée method; 13.5% alc  
 

Château du Donjon 2019 Rosé Minervois ($17)  89  Light pink. Showing hints of strawberry and pomegranate on the nose, this is nicely balance rosé with flavors that mirror the nose and a persistent, flavorful finish accompanied by refreshing acidity. Sustainably grown (lutte raisonnée) 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 30% Cinsault. 12.5% alc. 
 

Château de Lancyre 2019 Le Rosé Languedoc ($19)  87  Copper salmon. This blend of Rhone varieties offers a sweet bouquet of strawberry preserves with hints of other red fruits. The sweetness continues in the mouth with ripe red berries, plum and notes of white pepper and cooking spices. There’s a touch of alcohol on the finish. 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Cinsault 14.5% alc. 
 

Château Lancyre 2019 D’içi On Voit Le Mer Pic Saint Loup ($30)  91  Pink blush. Very perfumed with appealing rose petal and raspberry notes. Good volume in the mouth with a delicate inner mouth perfume. Excellent acid balance and a lingering finish. 13.5% alc. 
 

Chateau Suau 2019 Rosé Bordeaux ($21) 89  Beginning with attractive red summer berry aromas, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon rosé is crisp on the attack with notes of sweet strawberry and a hint of not quite ripe red cherry. There’s good depth of flavor, bright acidity, and lingering rich berry and pomegranate on the finish. 100% organically cultivated Cabernet Sauvignon made saignée method from the first press; 13% alc. 
 

Château d’Aqueria 2019 Rosé Tavel  92  Light red. Very fragrant with scents of red cherry, raspberry, and a hint of citrus. Exuberant on the attack and fresh and superbly balanced on the palate. Rich, lingering finish. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Clairette. 14.5% alc. 
 

Commanderie de la Bargemone 2019 Rosé Coteaux d’Aix en Provence  ($22) 91  Very pale pink. Showing an effusive bouquet of rose petals, gardenia, and red berries, this is a good example of Provence rosé. The wine is light and lively with brisk acidity and good depth of flavor on a perfumed palate. It has a crisp, lingering finish. Direct pressing, no maceration. 3 weeks fermentation at 55°F. No malolactic fermentation. 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Rolle, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Counoise, 5% Carignan. 13% alc 

Commanderie de la Bargemone 2019 Cuvée Marina Coteaux d’Aix en Provence ($40) 92 Light pink hue. Showing floral notes, red berries and a hint of clementine on the nose, the Cuvée Marina is refined on the palate with more red berries complemented by hints of citrus and minerals. There’s excellent depth of flavor and balancing acidity and a long, dry finish. A blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Cabernet, and 20% Grenache. 12.5% alc. 


Domaine Corne-Loup 2019 Rosé Tavel ($22) 91  With an effusive bouquet of fresh strawberry syrup, the 2019 Corne-Loup Rosé shows excellent freshness and refinement on the palate. Red cherry and berry flavors are enhanced by a notable mineral note. A superb Tavel! A blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 10% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre, Clairette and Carignan from 20 year old vines grown on pebbly, sandy soil in the Plateau de Vallongue sub-region. 14.1% alc, but it doesn’t taste like it. 
 

Domaine de la Mordorée 2019 La Dame Rousse Rosé Côtes du Rhone ($24) 91 A very appealing, fruit forward rosé showing an exuberant, perfumed bouquet. It’s softly textured and easy drinking and, while dry, offers sweet, ripe red berry aromas and flavors that linger and linger. A perfect pairing for grilled chicken. 40% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 15% Cinsault, 5% Carignan, and 5% Mourvedre from a 14 ha parcel of 25 year old vines grown on diverse soils.  
 

Domaine de la Mordorée 2019 La Reine des Bois Tavel ($45) 92  A substantial rosé with a red cherry-berry and rose petal perfume and excellent depth of flavor. Offers a weighty palate infused with fresh fruit and superbly balanced despite the 14.5% alc. Pairs superbly with spicy Mexican food. 60% Grenache, 15% Clairette, 10% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, and 5% Bourboulenc from organically cultivated 3 ha vineyard of 40 year old vines grown in a sandy-limestone mix of gales roulés (cobblestones).  
 

Domaine de la Mordorée 2019 La Remise de la Mordorée Vin de France ($19) 90 This direct pressed rosé is crisp and fresh with hints of cranberry and pomegranate on the nose. More mineral like in character, if offers a brisk attack and a focused palate that finishes chalky dry with good persistence. 40% Grenache, 30% Marselan and 30% Merlot, hand harvested and direct pressed.  
 

Jean Loron 2019 The Seeker Rosé Côtes de Provence ($14) 89  The Seeker Rosé offers immediate appeal with its alluring starbright pink hue and sweet crushed red berry and pomegranate aromas. The mouth feel is creamy but light with good freshness and more lush berry flavors. A blend of 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 5% Cinsault from vineyards in the Côtes de Provence. 13% alc. 
 

Jean Reverdy 2019 Les Villots Sancerre ($32) 91 Hued like light pink salmon. Showing aromas of dried cherry and nectarine, this Pinot Noir rosé is clean, zesty and focused with good depth of flavor and refreshing, tangy acidity. This is a rosé that can be used as either an aperitif or paired with white meat and fish dishes. 13.5% alc. 
 

Laurence Féraud 2019 Pink Pegau France ($21) 89  Medium salmon color. Reticent bouquet of red berries and savory herbs. Dry on the attack with pomegranate and dried red cherry flavors. Overall, quite delicate and very dry a notable savory accent. Good extract on a longish finish. An excellent food rosé. 14.1% alc. 
 

Les Rocailles 2019 Rosé Savoie ($20) 89  Light pink blush. Fresh, mineral like nose with hints of red berries. Crisp on the attack and light and bright on the palate with notes of citrus, watermelon and raspberry, finishing bone dry with lingering light red fruit notes. 12% alc. 
 

Les Vignerons de Cases de Pene 2019 Penya Rosé Côtes Catalanes  89  Platinum blush. Fresh floral and watermelon scents show on the nose. The palate is delicate and lightly flavored with hints of watermelon and dried berries. Finishes clean with good persistence. 96% Grenache Noir, 4% Syrah from the tine village of Cases de Pene in France’s Roussillon region. 14.1% alc. 
 

Louis Jadot 2019 Domaine Clair-Daü Rosé de Marsannay ($40) 92  Medium salmon color. Scents of dried cherry, pomegranate and orange zest show on the nose and are repeated on the palate of this dry but softly textured rosé of Pinot Noir. There’s good volume in the mouth with moderate acidity and lingering hints of cherry and nectarine on a dry finish. One of the more interesting wines in this year’s tasting. 13% alc. 
 

Louis Jadot 2019 Rosé Coteaux Bourguignons  88  This Burgundy rosé shows aromas and flavors of raspberry and pomegranate. It’s an easy drinking rosé that’s iight on the palate with moderate acidity. Serve well chilled. 
 

Maison Saleya 2019 Rosé Coteaux-d’Aix en Provence  88  Pale pink. Perfumed of sweet red berries and citrus, this is a class Provence style rosé that’s brisk on the attack, lightly flavored, and dry and crisp on a medium long finish.  
 

Rubus 2019 Vin Gris Corbières ($17) 89  This 2019 Vin Gris made predominantly of Grenache begins with a fragrance of summer berries. There’s good intensity of cherry and red plum on the palate with a nice balance between sweet fruit and brisk acidity. It can handle food but also a flavorful sipping wine. Handpicked 80% Grenache, 10% Carignan, and 10% Cinsault; 14.5% alc.  
 

Villa des Anges 2019 Old Vines Rosé Pays d’Herault Cinsault  88  Blush pink. Fresh scents of rose petals and berries. Crisp on the attack with light pomegranate and berry flavors on the palate with a mineral backbone. A bit austere as an aperitif, but an excellent companion to uncomplicated fish dishes. Sourced from old vine Cinsault in the Languedoc region and crafted by winemaker Jeff Carrel. 12% alc. 
 

IBERIAN PENINSULA

Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima 2019 Encostas do Lima Rosé Vinho Verde  88 Very pale oeil-de-perdrix. With a nose of rosewater and red cherry skin, this rosé from the Minho region of Portugal is on the lighter end of the rosé spectrum. With a slightly spritzy mouth feel, it offers faint watermelon and cherry flavors on a light weight palate. The perfect sipping rosé to have by the pool on a hot summer day; serve with ice and a sprig of mint for a refreshing wine cooler. 75% Souzão, 15% Borracal and 10% Espadeiro aged on the lees for 4 months. The Adega de Lima is a cooperative of about two thousand growers located in Portugal’s oldest town, the charming Ponte de Lima. Fernando Lemos Gonçalves de Lima and Rita da Silva Araujo are the winemakers. 11.5% alc. 
 

Bodegas Milenium 2019 Arrumaco Garnacha Rosé Spain (Valencia) ($10)  90  Pure light pink. Showing an effusive fruity nose that evokes watermelon and summer berries, this rosé of Garnacha is soft on the attack and offers pomegranate and sweet red berry fruit flavors with vivid but not aggressive acidity. An especially good quaffing wine. 11.5% alc.   

Poema NV Brut Rosé Metodo Tradicional Conca de Barberá Catalonia ($15) 89 Copper tinged pink. With aromas of red currants and plum, the Poema Brut offers a lively palate of spice tinged raspberry complemented by savory notes. It’s fresh, vibrant and finishes clean and dry. 100% Trepat aged 12 months on the lees. 11.5% alc. Great price on a Champagne method wine. 
 

ITALY

Bollini 2019 Rosato Pinot Grigio Vigneti Delle Dolomiti IGT  89  Redolent of red berries and apples on the nose, the Bollini Rosato is a traditional ramato made from Pinot Grigio. The lightly colored Pinot Grigio berries macerate on the skins for several hours, giving the ramato its color. This wine offers a juicy palate of strawberry tinged nectarine with a firm mineral edge. 12.5% alc. 
 

Caposaldo 2019 Rosé Veneto IGT 90  This Barbie Doll light pink wine from the Veneto offers an enticingly fresh bouquet of raspberry, watermelon and citrus that’s mirrored on the palate. Intensely flavored and very fruity with a long finish, it’s a lovely, low alcohol sipper. There’s enough flavor that you don’t need to be afraid to add a few ice cubes on hot summer days. 12% alc. 
 

Caposaldo NV Sparkling Rosé Brut Italy ($16) 89  Blush pink. Showing a zesty, candied rose and berry bouquet, the Caposaldo Brut offers a vibrant attack and intensely fruity palate of sweet red berries complemented by a hint of blood orange. Finishes with a hint of sweetness making it the perfect wedding cake wine. A blend of 80% Corvina, 10% Rondinella, and 10% Molinara from the Veneto region, tank fermented. RS 7 g/L, 12% alc. 
 

Feudo Maccari 2019 Rosé di Neré Terre Siciliane 90  Made from the Nero d’Avola grape grown near the Sicilian town of Noto, this light salmon colored rosé offers an intriguing nose of spice and fruit. it’s round in the mouth with rich flavors of stone fruit, cherry and spice. Refreshing and vibrant, it would be a good pairing with pasta dishes like tagliolini al salmone. 12.5% alc. 
 

Medici Ermete 2019 Phermento Lambrusco di Modena 91  Bright pale red. With a nose that evokes ripe red berries, the frizz ante Phermento offers more of the same along with red plum and cherry notes on the palate. It offers an abundance of fruit and medium effervescence but finishes bone dry. Sold with a crown cap. Fermented in bottle (metodo ancestrale) with zero dosage. Try with spicy grilled sausage. 12% alc. 
 

Tenuta di Salviano 2019 Salviano Pinot Nero Rosato Umbria IGT ($25) 90  Very pale pink. This rosé of Pinot Noir offers a vibrant pure red cherry and berry nose with a pretty, perfumed palate. Finishes with lingering sweet, light cherry notes. The perfumed, floral character of this wine makes it the perfect aperitif. Sourced from a single, high altitude vineyard located on the right bank of Lake Corbara. The Tenuta di Salviano is owned by the Incisa Della Rocchetta family, owners of Sassicaia. 12.5% alc 
 

SOUTH AMERICA

Apaltagua 2019 Rosé Carmenere Reserva Maule Valley ($13) 88  Pale blush pink wiith a perfumed nose reminiscent of a Provence rosé. This Carmenere based rosé offers a clean, crisp palate with hints of red cherry and firm acidity, finishing with red berry/cherry notes. A bit tart for quaffing but would pair well with fish and vegetable dishes. A blend of 85% Carmenere and 15% Syrah from estate vineyards. 13% alc. 
  

Calcu 2019 Rosé Reserva Especial Colchagua Valley  88  Medium copper pink. This rosé from Chile’s Colchagua Valley begins with an herbal edged Cointreau scent. It’s bright on the attack with firm acidity and flavors that evoke fresh garden herbs and underripe strawberries. A blend of 90% Malbec and 10% Petit Verdot with 12% alc. A rosé made to offer freshness and low alcohol at the expense of ripeness. Perfect for light dishes with cilantro or chimichurri sauces. 
 

Funckhausen 2019 Rosé San Rafael (Mendoza) ($15) 89  Light peachy pink in color, the Malbec based Funckhausen Rosé is lightly fragrant, redolent of red summer berries. Flavorwise, it tends more to pomegranate and watermelon. The wine is softly textured and very easy to drink, making it the perfect rosé to consume with conversation. Sold in one liter bottles, the Funckhausen Rosé is made up of 80% Malbec, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc. 12.9% alc. 
 

Maipe 2019 Malbec Rosé Lujan de Cuyo ($16) 89  Light copper salmon. The Maipe Rosé is fruity but dry and easy drinking with lingering hints of mandarin, golden raspberry, and tart red plum. Overall, very pleasant with enough acidity to pair with barbecued shrimp but not to much that it can’t be sipped on its own. Low alcohol and great price, too! 100% handpicked Malbec, macerated 1 day with 30 days of battonage; alc 12.3% 
 

Montes 2019 Cherub El Arcángel Single Vineyard Valle de Colchagua ($16) 88  Light salmon color. Showing scents of dried cherries and red apple with an earth note, this single vineyard rosé reveals good depth of flavor and excellent balance. Very dry with plum and nectarine notes. 13.5% alc 
 

SOUTH AFRICA

Colmant NV Brut Rosé Western Cape ($44) 91  Showing fresh red berry/cherry aromas with a light citrus accent, this is a most appealing sparkling rosé. It offers a lively palate with crisp acidity and a suave, creamy texture with flavors that mirror the nose. The finish is firm with lingering red berry notes. A blend of 75% Pinot Noir (10% macerated on the skins) and 25% Chardonnay with 24 months on the lees; includes 15% reserve wine and 15% barrel fermented base wine. 12% alc. 
 

Graham Beck NV Brut Rosé Western Cape 90  The nonvintage Brut Rosé is Graham Beck’s top selling wine in the US market and for good reason. It combines exuberant fresh, juicy strawberry, raspberry, and cherry fruit with a creamy mouth feel and consumer-friendly pricing. The palate is fruit rich without being sweet as natural acidity is balanced by about 9 g/L residual sugar. It’s a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 
 

Graham Beck 2014 Vintage Rosé Western Cape  92  The Vintage Rosé has always been one of our favorite rosé MCCs, and the 2014 vintage is excellent. With its onion skin hue, it offers a refined bouquet of minerals and cherry skin. On the palate, it’s broad and full with a delightful creamy texture and Pinot dominated flavors complemented by leesy notes. A blend of 86% Pinot Noir from Stellenbosch and 14% Chardonnay from Robertson with 5 years on the lees. 
 

 Riebeek Cellars 2019 Cape Rosé Swartland ($13) 89  Probably the only rosé sold in America made from the Pinotage grape, the direct press Cape Rosé is pale salmon in color with aromas and flavors of tart red cherries complemented by a hint of Cointreau. Clean, refreshing and thirst quenching–a perfect summer party wine. 4.6 g/L RS, Alc 13% Eric Saayman is the winemaker. Outstanding value! 
 

Tanzanite NV Brut Rosé Breede River Valley ($39) 90  The Brut Rosé opens with vibrant scents of red berries. It’s very nicely balanced with brisk acidity, tangy red berry/pomegranate fruit, and a softly textured palate. Finishes on a crisp, refreshing note. A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay from Robertson, handpicked and whole bunch pressed in small lots with yields of 450-480L/ton, then cool fermented using Prise de Mousse yeast followed by full malo; minimum of 24 months on the lees in bottle with hand riddling. 
 

Van Loggerenberg 2019 Break a Leg Cinsault Blanc de Noir Stellenbosch 92  This is an absolutely outstanding, terroir-inflected rosé showing complex aromas and flavors with excellent depth and bracing but integrated acidity. In a world of insipid rosé wines, this wine is truly exceptional, a serious rosé. Made by Lukas Van Loggerenberg from bush vine cinsault fermented naturally in old oak barrels.  Note: This wine is the only one in this article not currently imported to the US, but we include it here to draw the attention of potential importers.

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The Craig Stoller Collection: Sextant and Paris Valley Road

These wines form part of the Craig Stoller Collection created by owner and director of winemaking, Craig Stoller, and his wife Nancy. Craig is from a family of California vine growers and is a graduate in horticulture from Cal Poly.  He is clearly passionate about wine as he notes “Wine is a part of my life.  I absolutely love this living, breathing, evolving thing called wine.”

The Stoller Collection is composed of wines sourced from the family’s estate vineyard RBZ in Paso Robles and from other Central Coast vineyards.  The wines reviewed here are from the Sextant Wines and Paris Valley Road Estate labels. Both labels are well made, enjoyable to drink, and of good value. 

The Wines

SEXTANT

Sextant 2017 Chardonnay Central Coast ($16) 90  Light yellow. Fresh and fruit forward with hints of tropical and orchard fruit and toasted oak. A flavorful wine, beautifully balanced and easy to drink. Great value. 

Sextant 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles ($25) 90 The 2018 Sextant Cabernet Sauvignon offers black currant and cassis on the nose with hints of cedar and herbs. It is soft on the attack, light-bodied with good acidity and balance and firm round tannins. It is a highly drinkable wine.
 

Sextant 2017 Zinfandel “Wheelhouse” Paso Robles ($24) 91  Attractive, fruity nose, dark plum. Lovely upfront fruit on the attack and rich with good depth. Spicy on the palate with dark red concentrated flavors and a hint of vanilla. Good length, firm round tannins and overall richness.

PARIS VALLEY ROAD

Paris Valley Road 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles ($15) 90 The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon displays an earthy, plum-like nose and has a medium weight palate. It is fruit forward, soft on entry with round tannins and good density of flavor, albeit a little high in alcohol; 14.8% alc.
 

Paris Valley Road 2017 Chardonnay Paso Robles ($15) 89 The 2017 Chardonnay is yellow gold in color and has a flinty, toasty nose. It is light bodied with ripe orchard fruit and has a lovely mouth feel. It is firm on the palate with crisp acidty, toasty nuances and a good finish.
  

Paris Valley Road 2017 Zinfandel Paso Robles ($15) 91 The 2017 Zinfandel is soft on the attack and offers a suave silky palate. It is broad and full in the mouth with flavors of black cherry, plum and hints of raspberry, spice and mesquite. A delicious wine which shows its 15% alc.  Terrific value.

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Tavel: France’s Other Rosé

Tavel makes the “no wimpy wines” of the rosé world.  In sharp contrast with the popular, pale colored rosés of Provence, those of Tavel are gutsy, dark colored and deeply flavored rosés made from vines that struggle to grow in the cobblestones of the Rhône, like those of Alain Jaume’s vineyard shown here. The Tavel rosé isn’t your “sipping by the swimming pool” wine; it’s a substantive light red meant for pairing with grilled chicken, pork and other meats. The saignée method typically followed in the region also means that alcohol levels can be high.   For more on Tavel, see our report on The World of Rosé

The Wines

Alain Jaume 2019 Le Crétacé Tavel ($29) 91 Lean and focused, the Le Crétacé rosé from Tavel reveals pomegranate and red cherry skin on the nose. Distinctly dry on the palate with a firm acidic backbone, pure flavors, and a lingering finish. A superb pairing with roast salmon. A blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre made saignée method with no malo. 14.5% alc  

Château d’Aqueria 2019 Rosé Tavel 92   Light red. Very fragrant with scents of red cherry, raspberry, and a hint of citrus. Exuberant on the attack and fresh and superbly balanced on the palate. Rich, lingering finish. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Clairette. 14.5% alc.

Domaine Corne-Loup 2019 Rosé Tavel ($22) 91 With an effusive bouquet of fresh strawberry syrup, the 2019 Corne-Loup Rosé shows excellent freshness and refinement on the palate. Red cherry and berry flavors are enhanced by a notable mineral note. A superb Tavel! A blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 10% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre, Clairette and Carignan from 20 year old vines grown on pebbly, sandy soil in the Plateau de Vallongue sub-region. 14.1% alc. 

Domaine de la Mordorée 2019 La Reine des Bois Tavel ($45) 92 A substantial rosé with a red cherry-berry and rose petal perfume and excellent depth of flavor. Offers a weighty palate infused with fresh fruit and superbly balanced.  Pairs superbly with spicy Mexican food. 60% Grenache, 15% Clairette, 10% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, and 5% Bourboulenc from organically cultivated 3 ha vineyard of 40 year old vines grown in a sandy-limestone mix of gales roulés (cobblestones).   14.5% alc.

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South Africa’s Top Ten Sparkling Cuvées in 2020

Our just published report on South Africa’s Outstanding Sparkling Wines noted the high quality of the champenoise méthode (Méthode Cap Classique–MCC) bubblies made in the country. We also provided reviews of the many MCCs we tasted earlier this year. In this article, we focus on the best of the best—the top South African sparkling wines we tasted in 2020.  Our reviews are given below.

The Crème de la Crème

This list is our favorite sparkling wines from among those we tasted.  Three wines bubbled to the very top of our list:

  • Graham Beck 2014 Cuvée Clive
  • Colmant NV Absolu
  • Pieter Ferreira 2013 Blanc de Blancs

These three wines are notable for their elegance and complexity.  They’re Extra Brut in style with low residual sugar and have had extended time on the lees in bottle.  Like many luxury cuvées in Champagne (e.g., Dom Perigon), these are wines that will become still more expressive with some additional time in cellar.

The Crème 

Another seven MCCs rank just below the crème de la crème selections.  These are delicious, refined blends of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (and 10% Meunier in the case of the Charles Fox Cipher) except for the all Pinot Noir Pieter Ferriera Rosé and the all Chardonnay Krone Kaaimansgat Blanc de Blancs.  The Krone Kaaimansgat is also notable for being a single vineyard MCC sourced from one of the few South African vineyards that can see snow.  

  • Bon Courage 2011 Jacques Bruére Cuvée Brut Rosé
  • Charles Fox 2013 Cipher
  • Krone 2016 Kaaimansgat Blanc de Blancs
  • Le Lude 2013 Vintage Cuvée Brut
  • Pieter Ferreira 2013 Rosé
  • Saltaré NV Brut Nature
  • Silverthorn 2015 The Jewel Box

The tasting of wines is, of course, subjective, and one could argue that many other wines belong in the list of top South African sparklers.  Other very impressive MCCs we tasted include:  Avondale 2011 Armilla Blanc de Blancs, Graham Beck 2015 Blanc de Blancs and 2014 Vintage Rosé, Colmant NV Blanc de Blancs, L’Ormarins 2013 Blanc de Blancs, Simonsig 2014 Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs, Tanzanite NV Brut, and Villiera 2013 Monro Brut.  

The Wines

Graham Beck 2014 Cuvée Clive Western Cape 94 Cuvée Clive is Graham Beck’s prestige cuvée and one of the best MCCs made, in our opinion. It’s 100% Chardonnay sourced from two blocks on the Madeba farm, and it’s 100% barrel fermented.  It’s an elegant wine that combines finesse with outstanding freshness. The bouquet is graceful with a fine perfume of minerals, almonds, and flowers. The sense of refinement and freshness continues on the palate. The Cuvée Clive spends a minimum of 5 years on the lees and has less than 5 g/L residual sugar.  Delicious now, it should age and evolve beautifully. 

Bon Courage 2011 Jacques Bruére Cuvée Brut Rosé Robertson 93 Light bronze apricot color. Scents of tangerine and strawberry cream.  Bright on the attack with pure flavors of citrus, berry, cherry skin accented by a light toasty note on a well-balanced, voluminous palate, finishing dry with a lingering hint of sweet fruit.  An excellent, fruit driven sparkling rosé. A blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay aged in bottle sur lie for 5 years with 6.6 g/L RS and 11.7% alc. 

Colmant NV Absolu Western Cape 94 All Chardonnay from Franschhoek and Robertson, Absolu sees extended time on the lees and less than 3 g/L dosage. It reveals a stony, mineral like nose with touches of citrus and toast and a super fine mousse. The bone-dry palate continues the theme with a dry, chalky texture, lemon and brioche notes.  Intense and focused, it’s surprisingly light on its feet. 15% of the base wine is fermented in neutral French oak barrels, and the final blend includes 15% of reserve wines. Spends 85 months on the lees. Not yet imported to the US.     

Pieter Ferreira 2013 Blanc de Blancs Western Cape 94 The 2013 Blanc de Blancs is the most elegant sparkling wine we’ve yet tasted from South Africa. This Extra Brut (RS 3.9 g/L) offers an abundant mousse of pinpoint bubbles with a lively bouquet of precise lemon citrus accented by a note of freshly baked bread. The palate is a marvel, creamy in texture with striking depth and purity and lovely fresh citrus, apple and pastry cream flavors complemented by a rich shortbread note. Finishes long, rich and pure with lemon notes kicking in again. As good as it is now, this is a youthful wine that should acquire additional levels of complexity with more time in bottle. All Chardonnay sourced from vineyards in Robertson and Darling with 72 months sur latte and an additional 12 months on the cork after disgorgement. 12.2% alc  Pieter Ferreira 2013 Rosé Western Cape 93 The rosé is especially lively and refreshing. Pink grapefruit and a hint of Turkish delight appear on the nose, while the palate is brisk and dry with light red cherry/berry and a touch of mandarin.  The finish is particularly clean with a laser-like focus. All Pinot Noir sourced from vineyards in Elgin and Slanghoek with 72 months on the lees in bottle.

Charles Fox 2013 Cipher Elgin 93 Cipher is the flagship cuvée at Charles Fox, first made in the 2011 vintage.  It reveals a fine perfume of roasted nuts, shortbread and citrus.  There’s striking depth and brightness on a full, broad palate with rich flavors of brioche and lemony citrus and a hint of tart tatin. Priced like French Champagne and a very worthy competitor. A vineyard and barrel selection blend of 60% Chardonnay (30% barrel fermented), 30% Pinot Noir, and 10% Meunier with 5+ years on the lees. RS 6.3 g/L, 12.5% alc.

Krone 2016 Kaaimansgat Blanc de Blancs Elandskloof 93 The Kaaimansgat is the first single vineyard MCC to be produced in South Africa, and 2016 is its debut vintage; it’s a 4 ha, cool climate (above the snow line) parcel of 31 year old vines located at 700 m in Elandskloof.  Fermented in 25 hl foudre, it’s made in a more oxidative style than most South African sparklers. It reveals a complex, terroir driven nose of citrus and herbs, while the palate shows notes of roasted grain complementing orchard fruit flavors with a steely mineral accent.  An original sparkling wine with 36 months sur latte.  Whole bunch pressed with only the free run juice, the first 500L per ton, used for the MCC; fermented with ambient yeasts in upright wooden vats with no malo. RS 3.3 g/L,  11% alc.

Le Lude 2013 Vintage Cuvée Brut Franschhoek 93 The 2013 Vintage Cuvée is a refined and balanced sparkler that shows exceptional freshness. It’s a youthful wine with a muted bouquet of lemon flowers, but it shows a nice mélange of citrus and orchard fruit on a dry and focused palate. A blend of 64% barrel fermented Chardonnay and 36% Pinot Noir sourced from several areas and matured 72 months sur latte.  RS 6.0 g/L, 12% alc. Disgorged March 28, 2019.

Saltaré NV Brut Nature Western Cape 93 Our favorite zero dosage MCC, the Brut Nature reveals a very appealing and open nose of nougat, citrus and fresh baked baguette.  Chalky dry in the mouth, the palate has notes of toasted almonds, dried stone fruit, and honeycomb.  Finishes very long with excellent finesse. Quite Champagne-like in character. A blend of 59% Pinot Noir from the Helderberg and 41% Chardonnay from Robertson, about 20% reserve wine. Spends 18+ months on the lees with no added SO2. RS 1.7 g/L, 12% alc. Disgorged January 2019.   

Silverthorn 2015 The Jewel Box Western Cape 93 This is one of South Africa’s most refined sparkling wines offering a lively, precise bouquet of almonds and citrus, a finely textured mousse, and a fresh, creamy palate with good mid-palate depth and overall finesse. There’s bright acidity, good structure, and a beautiful, lingering finish. A blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir (from Darling). The Chardonnay was fermented in a mix of stainless and old barrels, and the final blend included a portion of reserve Chardonnay matured 12 months in old French oak. Spends a minimum of 38 months on the lees.  RS 4.5 g/L, 11.8% alc  Just 250 cases made.

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