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Editors’ picks – June 2023

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

Farmer’s market fizz

Clive Pursehouse

On a cool, misty Saturday, I found myself in Paris’ 7th Arrondissement and Marché Saxe-Breteuil. The city’s huge open-air food market offers fresh produce, Moroccan street food and, as it turns out, some fine grower Champagne. Strolling towards the Eiffel Tower, passing stalls of fresh vegetables and cured meats, I happened upon a tasting of Champagne Collard-Duval hosted by sales manager and winemaker Benjamin Adnet. This family-owned vineyard in Passy-sur-Marne dates back to 1794, but began producing wine under the Collard-Duval label with the 1991 vintage. Farming practices have been sustainable since 1992, receiving both HVE and VDC (sustainable and environmental) certifications in 2022.

The traditional wines (brut, extra brut, rosé) are made predominantly from Pinot Meunier. The Blanc de Blancs Millésime 2018 is revelatory and is sold at a fraction (€25) of what you’d expect for a vintage wine from a well-known grower house. The honeyed aromatics mix with dandelion pollen, cut Braeburn apple, almond crème and fresh biscuit. The wine balances richness with a great freshness, delicate mousse with a lively palate and great depth. Sumptuous accents of honey and baked apple are lifted by brilliant lemon crème and a hint of candied ginger zest.

Klein Constantia flagships

Tina Gellie

Hans Astrom, vice-chairman of South Africa’s Klein Constantia estate, was in London recently to launch the 2019 vintage of Anwilka, its Stellenbosch property’s top red blend. This coincided with a new publication through the Académie du Vin Library, Klein Constantia: the home of Vin de Constance (£35, First Press Editions), focusing on the history of its Muscat de Frontignan sweet wine. Written by Malu Lambert and Joanne Gibson, respectively current and previous Decanter contributors, they chart the estate’s founding in 1685, its fame and fall over 300 years, a rebirth through the 30-year stewardship by the Jooste family, and finally its ‘new history’ since 2011 under shareholders including Bordeaux consultants Hubert de Boüard (Château Angélus) and Bruno Prats (ex-Cos d’Estournel).

Crafted by head winemaker Matt Day since 2012, Vin de Constance 2019 (£57-£69.95 Averys, Berry Bros & Rudd, Handford, SA Wines), released last year, shows unctuous apricots, bergamot, spiced caramel and focused acidity to balance the 166g/L residual sugar. A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah, Anwilka 2019 (£32 Majestic, Petersham Cellars, The Champagne Co) is a forthright, opulent mouthful of blue and purple berries, heady parma violet, chalky textured tannins and nutmeg-spiced oak.

Brunello built with finesse

Amy Wislocki

The Rosewood hotel group’s Tuscan outpost is spread over the historic Castiglion del Bosco estate, the Brunello di Montalcino winery on site a draw for visitors to the region. During a brief visit to meet Xavier Thuizat, head sommelier at Rosewood’s Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, who has been appointed to oversee the wine programs for the group’s European portfolio, we tasted the range with winemaker Cecilia Leoneschi. The Millecento Riserva 2015 (£150 Vinvm) impressed with its restraint, offering complexity, grippy tannins, a hint of liquorice and savoury meatiness. But it was the regular Brunello di Montalcino 2018 (£60-£68 Bon Coeur, Penistone Wine Cellars, The Salusbury Winestore) that was the easiest to drink – the freshness of the vintage singing from the glass, with finesse, aromatic intensity, and classic Sangiovese aromas.

The 2018s also captivated at nearby family-owned Casanova di Neri. The estate’s Tenuta Nuova 2018 (£87-£105 Crop & Vine, Cru, Crump Richmond Shaw, Handford, Ideal Wine Co) stood out and was drinking beautifully; sourced from a site with rockier soils and a more Mediterranean climate, it’s bursting with red cherry fruit, herby freshness and a hint of balsamic. It’s not a vintage of power, but 2018 will delight wine lovers who seek freshness even in their full-bodied reds.

Domaine Comte Abbatucci: A Corsican triumph

Natalie Earl

General Jean-Charles Abbatucci was a Corsican military general during the French Revolution. Having risen quickly through the ranks, he died, aged 26, attempting to defend Huningue in southern Alsace from attacking Austrians in 1796. Numerous Corsican street names and squares bear his name, which is also inscribed on Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. His direct descendants now make extraordinary wines in Corsica, earning much respect by defending ancient indigenous grape varieties, succeeding in bringing many of them back from the brink.

The wines are certified biodynamic and produced in small quantities, with aromas and flavours almost as unusual as the names of the grapes (have you heard of Carcajolu, Paga Debbiti, Montanaccia or Brustiano?). But they are electrifying in their bold, sometimes savoury characters and sweeping acidity, and thus impressively ageworthy. The Collection Diplomate d’Empire 2014 white (£79) ensnares with scents of fresh hay, curry leaves, sap and candied lemon rind, while the Collection Général de la Révolution 2013 white (£79) hides intense minty freshness under its nutty, rich veneer. The more affordable Faustine 2020 red (£38) shows flinty reduction and spicy berry characters, while the Monte Bianco 2019 red (£79) has big juicy fruit, intricate tannins and refreshing acidity. Although fairly pricey, these wines really are worth exploring. All available from dynamicvines.com.

Bordeaux: Riches and good buys

Ines Salpico

On a recent trip to Bordeaux I delved into prime Sauternes and Médoc in an itinerary focused on 1855 grands crus classés. It was a privileged opportunity to capture the essence of some of the world’s most sought-after wines (Cos d’Estournel, Château Margaux…) through vertical and horizontal tastings and even library vintages (not least a 1934 Château d’Yquem). Access to such jewels did come tinged with a sad lining: once they’ve entered the investment sphere, some of these wines will probably never be drunk. It was, therefore, a different but reassuring pleasure to taste some of the producers’ sister estates and ‘second wines’, which offer accessible quality and unpretentious drinking pleasure – isn’t that what wine is primarily about?!

Without getting a second mortgage, one can enjoy Château Prieuré-Lichine’s Confidences Margaux (2016, £29-£36 Amps, The Sipster, The Suffolk Cellar), Léoville Poyferré’s Pavillon St-Julien (2015, £55-£57.50 Lockett Bros, Philglas & Swiggot) or Château Beaumont, Haut-Médoc CBS (2019, £18.95-£24 Caviste, Connolly’s, Davy’s, Mumbles; or 2017, £16 as The Wine Society’s Exhibition Haut-Médoc), sister estate of St-Julien fourth growth Château Beychevelle. With Burgundy becoming ever more inaccessible, it’s good to know that there’s still claret within reach of the non-investing wine lover.

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