Panizzi Ageworthy elegance
Even within the context of Italian wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is often overlooked. Nestled in red wine-dominated Tuscany and battling commercially fierce white counterparts, the grape and eponymous appellation have been flying under the radar – much to the loss of wine professionals and consumers worldwide. Having long been a fan of the saline freshness and zesty depth which Vernaccia di San Gimignano can deliver, I was given a full immersion by Panizzi’s winemaker Walter Sovran during this year’s Vinitaly wine trade fair in Verona. From its inception, the estate has had Vernaccia as its main focus and specialism, and along the way Sovran has developed an incredible knowledge of the variety and local terroirs. Not surprising, then, that Panizzi counts among the appellation’s best producers, as proven by the many wines I tasted – a fascinating overview, contextualised by Sovran’s experience, spanning 10 vintages and three different labels. While the latest vintage of the entry-level DOCG Vernaccia di San Gimignano (2021, £15.95-£17.95 The Dorset Wine Co, The Solent Cellar, Vin Neuf) offers transparent freshness and very good value, it’s also worth seeking out the Vigna Santa Margherita 2020 (£22-£24 Focus Wines, The Solent Cellar), a more complex single-vineyard expression, or the DWWA 2022 Gold winner Riserva 2017 (£31-£35 Focus Wines, Shelved Wine, Sociovino). Elegant, ageworthy wines from an appellation well worth discovering.
‘Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is not one-size- fits-all,’ says winemaker Matt Thomson of Blank Canvas. ‘But how do we explain our distinct sub-regional identities without a tool to do so?’ And so the Marlborough Wine Map was born. Thomson, at New Zealand’s High Commission in London for the map’s UK launch in May, championed its development, concerned that without one a long-held myth would be perpetuated. ‘It doesn’t all taste the same,’ he says, ‘and it’s dangerous to let people continue to think that.’ Blank Canvas is one of 54 members of Appellation Marlborough Wine (AMW), created in 2018 to protect the integrity, authenticity and brand value of the region’s wines. Within Marlborough’s 30,000ha of vineyards, unique terroirs such as Awatere and Wairau have long been known but never defined. Blank Canvas and four other AMW members spent two years on the map project and hope that, with this first edition, it will encourage more Marlborough producers to indicate sub-regions on bottle labels. Which in turn, says Thomson, will help steer consumers towards their favourite Sauvignon Blanc styles – ‘whether that be the lemongrass of Blind River, the saline herbal note of Coastal Awatere or the blackcurrant and passion fruit of Dillons Point’. Buy a printed copy or hi-res download of the map at: appellationmarlboroughwine.co.nz
Seneca Lake’s gentleman farmer
Ryan William Bossert is a grape grower first and foremost. The soft-spoken vigneron with a quiet Philadelphia accent planted a vineyard with his wife, on the eastern side of Seneca Lake in 1999. He would spend a decade learning about wine from a farmer’s point of view, growing grapes for others in the Finger Lakes before releasing his first wines in 2010. During a recent tour of the Finger Lakes, it was clear to me that Bossert is making some of the most compelling wines in the region. His winemaking is buoyed by his keen knowledge of the estate vineyard. While the Finger Lakes are gifted with wines of great freshness across the board, the aromatic complexity of the wine that Bossert poured for me stood out. His Dry Gewürztraminer 2018, the current release, is captivating, with a complexity I’ve only ever experienced from Alsace. The wine is a melange of smoke, cardamom spice, edgy savoury herbs, and penetrating white and pink florals. The palate is generous; candied ginger, rounded and ripe stone fruits, finished with well-placed spices and great acidity. His Pinot Noir Rosé 2022 is among the best US-made rosé I’ve tasted, marked by lush, fleshy red berries, rhubarb, cut watermelon and fresh spearmint.
Twice a year the UK supermarkets hold their wine tastings for members of the press. They’re all concertinaed into the same period of a few weeks, one tasting showcasing the spring/ summer range, and the other the autumn/winter line-up. (Lidl operates slightly differently, hosting more regular, smaller tastings to showcase its revolving Wine Tour selection.) Many wines in a supermarket’s core range remain the same, so the tastings are an opportunity to taste new vintages, and brand new listings. There will usually be between 100 and 150 wines on show, a mammoth task for whichever member of the team is attending; we share them between us, so I feel for the newspaper wine critics, who have to cover everything, single-handed. These are among the most important tastings in our diaries. Yes, many Decanter readers have a deep knowledge of wine and impressive collections, but everyone likes a bargain, and these pages generate some of the highest traffic online as well as popular inclusions in ‘Wines for the week’. Our supermarket wine reviews are available to view here. Anything scored at 90 points or above you should definitely seek out. The individual supermarket posts have all recently been updated with the picks for summer 2023.
Taking time over Austrian Zweigelt
Zweigelt, a cross between Blaufränkisch and St Laurent, is Austria’s signature red grape, best known for its approachable, elegant cherry fruits, fine-boned tannins, and versatility in styles. The best examples can also age gracefully – as I came to realise after a rare tasting of aged Neusiedlersee Zweigelt going back three decades. The Artisan Wines, DAC Reserve 2017 impressed with its incredible drinkability, gentle grip and spiced red fruits, not to mention its vibrant acidity (the 2018 is available through Stone Vine & Sun, £19.50). From Podersdorf, next to Neusiedl lake, the Lentsch, Selection 2016 demonstrates how a ripe vintage develops a velvety texture with time, while maintaining magnificent purity and concentration. From a relatively cool year, Georg Preisinger’s Ried Hintenäussere Weingärten 2001, with its complexity, elegance and drive, was my favourite. The biggest surprise was Pöckl’s Admiral 1993, a Zweigelt-driven (more than 60%) blend with Bordeaux grapes and oak for a tannin boost. Its 2020 vintage was shockingly unyielding (2019, £39.95 Soma Wines), but tasting the nearly 30-year-old vintage made it clear that the wine can blossom into a true beauty: coffee beans, forest floor, ripe dark cherry, a touch of cedar. The tightly wound tannins melted for a caressing texture to support the still-lively fruits. Indeed one of a kind.