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Editors’ picks – December 2023

Each month our editorial team tastes a lot of wine, but not all of it makes it onto the page. So here’s our in-house pick of other great wines we’ve tried.

Wine tasting and a worthy cause

Georgie Hindle

I was lucky enough to experience my first Goedhuis & Co Fine Wine Merchants charity wine dinner – its 16th – raising funds for The Goed Life which started in 2017 to support young adults with learning disabilities and help them lead full and meaningful lives. Established in 1990, this has now raised well over £4m for charities. The evening started with a rare tasting of more than 30 Bordeaux 2009 wines including all the first growths, super seconds and top estates from St-Emilion and Pomerol before a record-breaking auction of wine lots raising £400,000.

Château Figeac reigned supreme with its delicate, svelte and easy-drinking style (£237.50 Lay & Wheeler – representative per-bottle prices via Wine-searcher.com); Montrose (£375 Hedonism) shone with persistence and grip, a round and full palate and glossy, captivating fruit. Léoville Las Cases (£230 Bordeaux Index, Corney & Barrow) was delicious, racy, elegant and vibrant, while Rauzan-Ségla (£143-£157 Bordeaux Index, Crop & Vine, DBM Wines, Farr Vintners, Lay & Wheeler) was juicy, succulent, chewy but graceful, charming and open.

Châteaux Mouton Rothschild (widely available, from about £500 in bond), Lafite Rothschild (from £600ib) and Latour (from £750ib) were also marvellously impressive. However, for relative value, Château Duhart-Milon stole the show – one of the least expensive 2009 crus classés (£95-£110 Abingdon Fine Wine, Bordeaux Index, Crop & Vine, Nemo Wine Cellars, Richard Kihl, Seckford, VinQuinn) – with its enveloping tannins, muscular structure and enjoyable succulence. An absolute charmer and great Christmas tipple.

A portrait of the winemaker as a young artist

Tina Gellie

Banele Vakele

Being part of an exhibition at London’s Tate Modern gallery was probably not part of South African winemaker Banele Vakele’s career plan. But the fact that he was chosen to create two wines for the A World in Common exhibition of contemporary African photography (which runs until 14 January) shows how much of a mark he’s already made in the world of wine.

Vakele has been assistant winemaker at Savage Wines since 2019 and the inaugural vintage for his own label, Tembela Wines, was in 2020. His excellent current releases, from vineyards on the Helderberg in Stellenbosch, are a Verdelho 2022 white (£29.61) and Syrah 2022 (£33.21), available via Lay & Wheeler.

But if you are visiting the Tate Modern, you can buy Vakele’s two exclusive exhibition cuvées for £25 each (£22.50 for Tate members). A World in Common Chenin Blanc 2022 (13.5%), from Swartland and Stellenbosch fruit, is crisp and exuberantly appley – one to enjoy now. A World in Common Syrah 2022 (13.5%), which includes fruit from the heralded Karibib Vineyard in the Polkadraai Hills, is one you could cellar. Sappy yet firm with lifted iris, red berry and tarry liquorice notes and fine tannins.

Château Maris – it’s sustainability, stupid

Ines Salpico

Robert Eden’s approach to wine (and life as well, I suspect) is one of passionate commitment married with pragmatism – a rare combination that surely helps to explain the success of Château Maris. During a lively, productive chat – I doubt it would ever have been otherwise with Eden as interlocutor – we discussed all things sustainability, in a frank, matter-of-fact, no-nonsense way. It was refreshing to sit down with a producer who is unafraid to address the bureaucratic challenges, operational burden and negotiation skills needed to truly commit to the different aspects of sustainability.

Château Maris has long been organic, biodynamic (Demeter) and B Corp certified, a result of Eden’s pioneering sense of responsibility towards both the environment and local communities. And yet, the ultimate truth must be in the bottle. No disappointments there either as we tasted through Rosé de Nymphe Emue 2022 (£12.72), a poised, food-friendly blend of Grenache and Syrah; Brama 2018 (£38.21), a rich yet filigree Grenache Gris aged in oak barrels and concrete eggs; and the alluring, complex yet unpretentious La Touge 2019 (£20). Further up the price spectrum, Les Amandiers 2018 (£104) summed up the tasting and discussion perfectly: power and intensity can be delivered elegantly if balanced by structure and poise. All available via Armit Wines

A Piacenza surprise

Clive Pursehouse

Selection of Il Poggiarello wine bottles

Decanter partnered with the International Wine Expo and Vinitaly wine fair for the inaugural IWE event in Chicago. There were myriad wonderful wines from all over Italy, but one producer really stood out. From northern Emilia Romagna, the wines of Il Poggiarello reflect the unique culture and grapes of Piacenza. From the Colli Piacentini, its sparkling wines are made from Ortrugo, an indigenous white grape once nearly extinct. In Piacenza the wines are known as Gli Spaghi (‘strings’) as the bottles are closed with hand-tied twine securing the corks. These simple, honest frizzantes are a historic expression of the region’s hills.

Il Poggiarello’s top red, Cecco – a blend of Barbera, Bonarda and Cabernet Sauvignon – blends crunchy red fruits with fresh savoury herbs and earthen minerality. My favourite of the entire event was Mami, an Emilia IGT made from Malvasia di Candia Aromatica: floral notes of camomile and hawthorn, bee pollen, crushed chalk and dried apricot – brilliant balance.

Celebrating independents

Amy Wislocki

Interesting research commissioned by wine importer Hallgarten Wines into, among other things, why UK wine shoppers use independent wine specialists, revealed that 45% are driven by a desire to support small businesses. Other motivations include treating oneself (31%), better quality (30%), good advice (28%), and the need to shop for a gift (26%) or special occasion (24%). These motivations will no doubt resonate with most Decanter readers, even if many do also buy wine with their weekly supermarket shop.

A recent press tasting hosted by The Bunch, in its 30th anniversary year, was a reminder of the passion, expertise and eclectic, well- chosen wines that the independent sector can offer. Featuring seven leading wine merchants from across the UK, the tasting showcased a string of gems.

Standouts included Tbilvino’s fragrant Georgian Saperavi 2020 (£13.49 Adnams); the Château La Canorgue, Luberon Blanc from Yapp Bros – juicy stone fruit with a sprinkling of herbs (2022, £19.45); and Crissante’s 2018 Barolo del Comune di La Morra, a perfect marriage of elegance and power (2019, £42 Tanners). If that whets the appetite, discover all seven merchants and their ranges at The Bunch. Hours of browsing pleasure.

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