The start of September releases: contributions from all continents

The Place de Bordeaux September releases commenced this week (Tuesday 1st September), launching the distribution of several New World (and a few Old World) icons through its impressive network. The releases have so far exhibited high praise from critics. This affirms the increasing appeal of New World wines, despite the current economic crisis making for an unlucky welcome.

Choices from Chile

Clos Apalta opened the stage on Tuesday, with a vintage that marks its 20th anniversary, as honoured by the 2017’s commemorative bottle. Receiving 100 points from James Suckling, and 95 points from Luis Gutiérrez for Wine Advocate, its average critics’ score of 97.5 matches both the 2016 and 2015 vintages. We sampled it at this week’s Bordeaux and Beyond tasting, organised by négociant CVBG, and found notes of bright red fruit, spice, and orange peel. Despite being one of the most expensive recent vintages (joint with 2016) at £74.50 per bottle (in-bond), Clos Apalta has no doubt achieved a high quality for this anniversary bottle.

Another Chilean entry, Almaviva 2018 was released at £101.00 per bottle (in-bond) on Wednesday (2nd September) – c.4% down on last year. Its average critics’ score of 97 points places it in line with 2017 as the joint-best average score to date, which, alongside its slight reduction in volume from last year, may stimulate demand. Indeed, we found the 2018 to be bright and energetic, with notes of ripe currants, green tomato, and spice.

The Wine Lister team sample 2018s from Seña and Chadwick with Owner, Eduardo Chadwick, and his team

Released on Thursday (3rd September) at £82.50 per bottle (in-bond), Seña 2018 is “the best vintage of this decade”, according to Owner, Eduardo Chadwick. He explained to us that growing conditions in 2018 were balanced between the two previous vintages (2016 was very cool, while 2017 was hot and dry), creating “almost a perfect season”. The vintage receives 100 points from James Suckling, and 98 points from Luis Gutiérrez for Wine Advocate, making it Seña’s highest-ever average score from those two critics – 99. Our team was equally impressed in our virtual tasting, noting its velvet mouthfeel, silky tannins, and juicy freshness. Chadwick 2018 was also released this week (just 6000 bottles), acquiring an average critics’ score of 97.5 at £226.33 per bottle (in-bond).

Introducing Italy

Bibi Graetz Testamatta 2018 and Bibi Graetz Colore 2018 entered the market on Tuesday (1st September), at £70 and £180 per bottle (in-bond), respectively. Both wines offer significant discounts from their previous releases, and have achieved praise from critics. James Suckling gives 97 points to Testamatta 2018, describing a “cherry and lemon rind character”, and “fine tannins”, and 100 points to Colore 2018, calling it “one of the best vintages ever produced. The high quality and suitable pricing of both wines will likely be embraced in the present economic climate.

An Australian addition

Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz 2016 entered the market on Wednesday, at c.£151 per bottle (in-bond), marking the producer’s inaugural release through La Place de Bordeaux. The vintage received 97 points from Wine Advocate’s Joe Czerwinski – the highest WA score received by The Armagh Shiraz since its 2012 vintage. He states that the 2016 is “full-bodied and supple” and “finishes cedary, intense and long, adding in complex, lingering spice notes”.

The Wine Lister team sample the 2017 Vin de Constance with Winemaker, Matt Day

A sweeter offering from South Africa

As told to us by Winemaker, Matt Day, in a recent Zoom tasting, the 2017 Vin de Constance (released on Wednesday 2nd September) is the closest vintage yet to their philosophy of creating a “dry sweet wine”. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, notes hints of “apricots, rosewater, lemon balm, Marcona almonds, and acacia honey” among other aromas, and on the palate “dried apricots and a gorgeous savoury finish”. At £39 per bottle (in-bond), the 2017 receives 97 points from James Suckling, compared to an average of 95 (from James Suckling and Wine Advocate) for each of the past three years. While it does not offer a discount, Klein Constantia does a spectacular job of achieving high quality in its developing style of Vin de Constance.

Kick-starting California

L’Aventure Estate Cuvée 2018 was released yesterday (Thursday 3rd September) at c.£68 per bottle (in-bond) – flat on the 2017 release price, and earning 95 points from Wine Advocate’s Erin Brooks (one down from the 2017). She noted that “the full-bodied palate is incredibly pixelated and silky with very bold freshness and a long, layered finish” and that she “can’t wait to taste this beauty from bottle”. We enjoyed detecting violet, toast, and vanilla on the nose, and were similarly impressed by its velvet mouthfeel.

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New World wines with old histories

With September approaching, Wine Lister has begun to anticipate the collection of top fine wine producers from around the world that release their latest vintages through the Place de Bordeaux. Although a region steeped in tradition, the trend for Bordeaux négociants to offer these wines in the first weeks of September suggests a loosening in the division between Old World and New World fine wine production.

To celebrate the impending campaign, this week’s blog examines a small selection of New World wines with longstanding histories:

A map of the selected New World wineries: Klein Constantia, Penfolds, Inglenook, and Bodega Catena Zapata

South Africa – Klein Constantia Vin de Constance

Established in 1685 by the first Governor of the Dutch Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, Klein Constantia was the first commercial wine producer in South Africa. A keen viticulturist, Van der Stel executed extensive research to find the best quality soil in the region, finally deciding on the decomposed granite terroir of the valley he named “Constantia”. Here he planted the first Muscat de Frontignan vines, and commenced the production of Vin de Constance.

In more recent history, Klein Constantia has been elevated over the past decade under Managing Director, Hans Astrom, and Winemaker, Matt Day. Its cellar has been entirely rebuilt, and viticultural practices are now widely organic and biodynamic. The 2017 Vin de Constance is the third vintage produced in the new cellar and will be released through the Place de Bordeaux next month; however, until then, Vin de Constance 2013 achieves a WL score of 94 at c.£71 per bottle (in-bond). It can be purchased by the case of six half-litre bottles from Albany Vintners.

Australia – Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz

Penfolds was founded by an English doctor, Christopher Penfold, and his wife, Mary, who had transported French vine cuttings on their journey from West Sussex to Australia. After acquiring 500 acres of land in the Adelaide foothills, they commenced production of medicinal tonics, brandies, and fortified wines in the style of sherry and port, to ameliorate the symptoms of Christopher’s patients. As demand for the wines proliferated, production was expanded, and Penfolds was officially established in 1844. The single-vineyard Magill Estate Shiraz is intrinsically linked to the winery’s beginnings, being the only wine grown and made on the original Penfolds property.

With a WL score of 95 at £88 per bottle (in-bond), the 2014 Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz is a MUST BUY, and was described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, as “racy and lively”, illustrating “a winemaking tour de force”. It is available to purchase by the case of six from IG Wines.

California – Inglenook Rubicon

Although vines had been planted on the property by its previous owner eight years prior, Napa Valley’s Inglenook estate was officially founded in 1879 by Gustave Niebaum, a Finnish sea captain, fur-trader, and oenophile. With the intention to build a winery to rival Europe’s finest, Niebaum swiftly invested in the development and expansion of Inglenook, purchasing additional land from six neighbours, and commencing construction on the present-day château. Rubicon, the estate’s flagship wine since 1978, is produced from the estate’s best fruit, including Gustave Niebaum’s original Cabernet Sauvignon plantings.

Rubicon typically contains small percentages of other Left Bank Bordeaux varietals, however, the quality of Cabernet Sauvignon in 2013 called for its pure varietal composition. According to Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, the 2013 Inglenook Rubicon features “Layers of dark fruit built into a crescendo of aromas, flavors and textures laced with mocha, espresso, gravel and dark spice overtones”. Achieving a WL score of 96, and MUST BUY status, it can be bought by the bottle from Lay & Wheeler for £145.75 (in-bond).

Argentina – Bodega Catena Zapata Nicolás Catena Zapata

Bodega Catena Zapata was founded in 1902 by Italian immigrant Nicola Catena, who planted the initial Malbec vines to produce wine to satisfy the large European immigrant population in Mendoza. As examined in a recent blog post on New World MUST BUYs with rising popularity, Nicola’s grandson, Nicolás Catena Zapata, continued his grandfather’s legacy of establishing of European winemaking techniques in Argentina, through his dedication to high altitude farming, soil studies, and preserving pre-phylloxera Malbec strains.

Its 2017 vintage is due to release through the Place de Bordeaux next month; until then, the 2016 Nicolás Catena Zapata can be acquired by the case of six from Cru World Wine for £278 (in-bond). Comprising 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Malbec, and 8% Cabernet Franc, the 2016 achieves a WL score of 93, and was described by Jancis Robinson as “very broad, well integrated and welcoming”.

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