**New World Newbies**
Have you ever wondered why European wines never seem to change? You check out the shelves in most wine shops, or trawl through all the internet listings and all you see are the same names on the bottles, just the vintages alter every year and, if they have a marketing team, there might be a redesigned bottle/label. Yes, you can find new growers, but they're often restricted by regional regulations, defining which grape varieties can be used and even how the wine is made, in order to use a particular nomenclature on the label. For example: a grower in Sancerre can only use Sauvignon Blanc in their (white) wine that's labelled as "Sancerre". If the winemaker wanted to make a white wine using a non-authorised grape variety they would have to call their wine "Vin de France". Even if the wine was excellent, they'd struggle to sell it at the same price as the customer would have no idea of its provenance.
However, head off to the "New World" countries, outside of Europe, and you can do what you like. No rules, no regulations, just exciting wines! You can plant want you like, where you like and make the wine in any way you like. No problem at all.
If you enjoy a certain style and you're happy to be "safe" in your wine drinking then keep buying the "classics", but if you enjoy trying something new, then head for the New World "Newbies". Sometimes the grapes will be familiar, but often the producer, or region, will be doing something different and pushing the boundaries of what's considered acceptable and normal. Why not be adventurous and a little bit reckless? In my opinion, life's too short to drink the same wine twice!
One minute they're the new kids on the block, the next, they're established and much loved wine classics! The "New World" is always evolving, constantly reinventing itself and Frazier's like to bring you some of the latest and greatest. This time, Australia, California and South Africa come under the spotlight with some familiar names alongside future "classics" in the making. It's not all about the traditional reds and we've included a pair of delicious Chardonnay white wines from producers who are probably better known for their reds, but please don't ignore them just because of the grape variety used. The quality shines through! There are thousands of obscure grapes that'll always be next year's "big thing" (according to the wine writers and online influencers), but remember, everyone tried copying Burgundy for a very good reason and Chardonnay can still be a vinous experience that's not to be missed. A Chardonnay, tasted blind, will often be judged as a drinker's favourite, that is, until the label is finally revealed! As for the reds, the "New World" favourites Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz are joined by a fantastic new find; "old vine" Cinsaut from South Africa. Once considered almost worthless, it's now sought after, particularly the forgotten, dry-farmed, old vines that are often at least 100 years old and produce tiny quantities of outstanding fruit that, in the right hands, conjure up wines that uniquely express the terroir of South Africa. It can be made as a single varietal, but often it's blended with other Rhone style grapes. Well worth a try this weekend for something a bit out of the ordinary.
Probably the country with the greatest number of wineries that you'll never see in the UK, due to a combination of small quantities and high prices, is the USA. These days, every state in the US either grows grapes (to eat fresh, or for raisins), or makes wine from home-grown varieties. French vitis vinifera vines are grown in the established, quality west-coast regions such as California, Washington and Oregon; all your favourites are here (Cabernet/Merlot/Pinot Noir/Syrah/Chardonnay), but in states that have more difficult climates, you'll sometimes find hybrid and crossings used. Some of these are successful locally, but won't usually be found on export markets. Many producers are finding that their vineyards are suitable to lesser known European varieties and it's worth trying wines such as New York Riesling, Virginia Viognier and even Arizona's "Chupacabra" Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre! You'll also find the likes of California Chenin Blanc, Gruner Veltliner and Pinot Gris for whites and Trousseau & Valdiguie for reds. Many producers are also experimenting with Mediterranean, Italian/Portuguese/Spanish styles due to climate warming in their existing vineyards.
Duckhorn Vineyards, California
A brief history: Founded over 40 years' ago by Dan & Margaret Duckhorn, the vineyards, located in St. Helena in southern California's Napa Valley, first produced just 800 cases each of a Cabernet Sauvignon (Stag's Leap & Howell's Mountain) and, unusually for the time, a single vineyard (Three Palms) Merlot.
Duckhorn's claim to fame was established!
The original vineyard, comprised of a stony/gravelly, clay/loam soil remarkably similar to Bordeaux, has made some of the world's best Merlot and, in 2014, the "Three Palms" was voted #1 in Wine Spectator's "Top 100 Wines" of the year. Having joined Duckhorn in 2003, in 2014, Renée Ary became the fourth, head-winemaker, overseeing the production of some of the winery's greatest releases. A barrel fermented, Napa Valley Chardonnay was introduced to the portfolio as recently as 2012.
Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot, California, USA, 2017
Grapes: 80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, 0.5% Malbec with 15 months in French oak (40% new).
First introduced back in 1979, the Napa Valley Merlot is now in its 40th vintage, with a specially commissioned label to mark the release. The 2017 growing season yielded a beautifully complex expression of Napa Valley Merlot, with inviting aromas of fresh black raspberry, vanilla, tea leaves, pie crust and liquorice. On the palate, luxurious red-fruit flavours of strawberry, plum, Bing cherry and loganberry are supported by silky tannins and a bright, mouth-watering acidity that carries the wine to a lingering finish, with hints of maple, cedar and sweet spice. An elegant finish.
Rating: 90 Points Wine Enthusiast
"With dark fruit at its core, this wine offers thick, concentrated power alongside accents of sage and clove. The fruit is black cherry and plum, rich enough to be jammy, with plenty of support from toasted oak and baking spice nuances."
Buy Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot here £57/bottle
Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Chardonnay, California, USA, 2018
Grapes: 100% Chardonnay with 10 months in oak (40% new)
Barrel fermented and with lees stirring, the Duckhorn Napa Chardonnay is both complex and alluring. This radiant Chardonnay opens up with aromas of pineapple, stone fruit and lime, as well as hints of white flowers and sweet French oak. On the palate, it is round and silky, with lively acidity and abundant minerality balancing the underlying richness and adding poise to the lush flavours of apple, peach and creamy lemon curd.
Rating: 89 Points Wine Advocate
"The 2018 Chardonnay rolls out of the glass with notions of baked apples, pear tart and almond croissant with hints of cedar and allspice. The medium to full-bodied palate has a seductively oily texture and tons of freshness offsetting the spicy apple and pear flavors, finishing with an oaky kick."
Buy Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Chardonnay here £41/bottle
Australia - Rolf Binder & Penfolds
Another country whose exchange rate with the "Pound" is not in our favour. Nevermind, all the world's best wines have a habit of being expensive. First world problems!
Back when Oddbins were king of the high-street in the UK, everyone was in love with everything from "Oz". Jilly Goolden & Oz Clarke were giving hyped-up and overly enthusiastic reviews on the BBC's great "Food & Drink" TV show and sales of Australian wines were #1 by the proverbial, country mile. Wine drinking has matured (as have the drinkers) and changed a great deal since then, but the wines of Penfolds still enjoy considerable appeal, although much of the "top-end" wine, until very recently, was snapped up by the Chinese market. Many billionaires spending multi-millions on wine!
Supermarkets still sell brands such as Hardy's, Jacob's Creek and Wolf Blass, but you won't find much else that resembles the hey-day of Australian sales. There are many small producers who gave up on the UK, but those who stayed, have found a home with the independent, online trade such as ourselves, here at Frazier's.
Penfolds one of the earliest pioneers of the Barossa wine region, is one of the most famous names in Australian winemaking due to the original Max Schubert produced "Grange" Shiraz. Regularly achieving perfect "100 point" critics' scores, Penfolds is synonymous with the Shiraz grape variety and makes many regional and single vineyard expressions of the style. The Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz is probably one of the earliest wines to hit the UK market and first achieved the accolade of International Wine Challenge "Red Wine of the Year" in 1991 when it sold for £5.99 a bottle (Grange, at the time was £25.99!!!). With a growing reputation and limited availability of grapes, the wine evolved from being 100% Barossa to a multi-regional blend, increasing steadily in price over the years. The new 2018 vintage is still a great example of the Penfolds Kalimna and it's well worth putting some away for a few years to drink at its optimum condition.
Penfolds Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz, South Australia, 2018
Grapes: 100% Shiraz with 12 months in seasoned American oak hogsheads.
This has moved to position itself firmly as a wine that trades on the strengths of Barossa Shiraz, in an all-round way, while also incorporating McLaren Vale and Padthaway sourcing. Deep blackberries and redder fruit with a creamy, vanillin-laced nose and some cedar and tarry notes. The palate has a smooth build of fleshy fruit and silky, refined and polished tannin.
Rating: 93 Points Wine Advocate
"It's full-bodied, concentrated and plush without going over the top, finishing long and velvety. While it may not have single-vineyard snob appeal, it's a delicious wine for drinking over the next decade and a relative value."
Buy Penfolds, 2018, Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz here £32/bottle
Rolf Binder founded in 1955, is currently run by brother and sister team, Rolf (making the red wines) and Christa (making the whites). Located in the heart of classic Barossa wine country (between the towns of Seppeltsfield, Nuriootpa, Angaston & Tanunda) the Rolf Binder wines offer great value. The earliest purchased vineyard block contained Mataro vines planted in the 1880s and are still in use today! The latest varieties now include Carignan, Saperavi, Cinsault and Tannat alongside the expected Cabernet, Shiraz & Grenache normally grown in the Barossa/Eden valleys. A true cornucopia of grape varieties.
Rolf Binder Wines "Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley, South Australia, 2017
Grapes: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with 18 months in oak
A rich deep purple colour. Enticing aromas of sweet blackcurrants, blackberry, and a hint of chocolate. As the wine opens, aromas of black berry fruits and cassis, with a background hint of sweet oak, fill the nose. The palate is ripe and concentrated with a wall of very fine, drying tannins. The hallmark varietal black berry fruits fill the mouth evenly, with hints of subtle herb notes of clove and tomato leaf, adding interest and complexity. Shows long persistence of flavour.
Rating: 93 points – SILVER (Drink now - 2027 ) James Halliday Wine Companion 2020
“A cool rendition with its leafy freshness, blackberries and juniper berries. Cedary oak sweetening the palate, lots of spice there. This has come together neatly with good structure, ripe tannins and a bright acid lift to the finish. A terrific drink now.”
Buy Rolf Binder "Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon here £14.50/bottle
Rolf Binder Wines "Selection" Chardonnay, Barossa Valley, Australia, 2018
Grapes: 100% Chardonnay part fermented and aged in oak for 6 months
Thankfully, there aren't many "oak monsters" still being made in Australia and Christa Deans, winemaker, isn't one of those who stick to the old way of doing things. She says, "Around 80% of the fruit for this wine is aged on lees and not oaked, while the remaining 20% is fermented in new and older French oak barrels for 6 months to add a lovely buttery quality to the final blend".
The wine has aromas of soft white peaches with hints of tropical fruits. The oak maturation has added a lovely soft edge and depth of palate while remaining balanced with the fruit details - peaches and cream characteristics.
It's all about subtlety with good Chardonnay.
Buy Rolf Binder "Selection" Chardonnay here £15/bottle
South Africa - Meerlust, Darling Cellars & Withington
Stellenbosch, along with most of the spectacular Cape winelands, produces some of the most sought-after wines in South Africa... but there are many challengers to their reputation. The "young guns" of SA winemaking are springing up in places such as the cool-climate, Elgin and Hermanus areas to the south-east of Cape Town, or they take the wild, 4x4 drive, out west, to the coastal regions of the Swartland and Darling. Wines from South Africa's top producers offer incredible value for money and a quality-driven approach that wasn't dreamt of as little as 20 years' ago. You can spend £20-£30 here and get wine that tastes as good, or often, better than, famous European wines selling for £50, £100, or sky's the limit prices! Check out what South Africa is now offering.
Meerlust Eight generations of the Myburgh family have owned the Meerlust Estate since 1756. Situated 15km south of Stellenbosch and only 5km from the ocean at False Bay, their vineyards have been contributing top quality wines to the world for many decades. Only "Estate" grown fruit is used in Meerlust wines and the recently modernised winery within the 18th Century "Cape Dutch" building now handles grapes in small batches for better quality. First produced in 1984, the Merlot is planted on granite based gravels with deep, clay sub-soils which, with the cooling sea breezes, are perfect for this variety.
Meerlust Merlot, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2016
Grapes: 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot matured in 50% new Nevers French oak, 50% second fill Nevers for 17 months before bottling.
The 2016 Meerlust Merlot is already showing great approachability and charm.
The dark fruit and opulence of the wine is immediately apparent. Intense dark brambly fruit on the nose, mulberry, liquorice and damson plum with hints of dark chocolate and spice, tempered by a stony minerality. The medium-full bodied palate offers generous, ripe, pure Merlot fruit with refreshing acidity, structured yet silky tannins and pronounced length and minerality. There is a core of juiciness, opulence and richness typical of the variety, while the Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot lend greater complexity to the wine.
Great with red meats, game and strong cheeses.
Buy Meerlust Stellenbosch Merlot here £23.50/bottle
Darling Cellars With some vineyards located only 3 miles from the windswept ocean on the far west coast area of the Darling Hills and others, in much warmer, inland locations, the opportunity to draw on un-irrigated, low-yielding, high quality "old bush vine" fruit offers an array of winemaking possibilities at Darling Cellars. Fifteen red grape varieties, along with 9 white ones, allow for a great deal of experimentation at the winery. Look out for something different, here! Pieter-Niel Rossouw has been Head Winemaker at Darling Cellars since 2014, specialising in their red wines. He's a fan of the wines of the Costières de Nîmes, South of France and also the powerful reds of the Douro Valley, Portugal.
Darling Cellars Old Bush Vine Cinsaut, Darling, South Africa, 2018
Grapes: 100% Cinsaut (or "Cinsault") with 22 months in oak.
A well-balanced red wine, with a bright ruby red colour and sour cherries, red cherries and candy floss on the nose. The fruity palate displays earthiness and flavours of white pepper followed by a fresh acidity and good length.
Coming from 38-year-old vineyards, the wine carries South Africa`s "certified heritage vineyards" seal. A regular high achiever in various worldwide competitions!
Rating: 90 Points Tim Atkin MW
"Darling is a happy hunting ground for lovers of old-vine Cinsault."
Buy Darling Cellars Old Bush Vine Cinsaut here £17/bottle
Withington Another source of fine wines from the Darling region on the west coast of South Africa. Charles Withington, a "local" from the town of Darling itself, acts as a negociant, buying carefully selected parcels of fruit from long-established growers in the area to use in his wines. Unusually, Charles also produces a rare Malbec, along with his Rhône styled "Roan Ranger".
Roan Ranger, Charles Withington, Darling, South Africa, 2018
Grapes: A blend of Grenache, Cinsaut and Mourvèdre with 12 months in oak.
With a play on the word 'Rhône', the name of this blend points towards the style of wine.
The nose is very perfumed with notes of rose, pomegranate and dried herbs as well as red fruit while the palate is light-bodied with lemon-like acidity and a salty finish. Pure and poised with ultra-fine tannins.
In 2018, it is Grenache-dominant, supported by Cinsaut and Mourvèdre. Recommended to be served lightly chilled... when the weather warms up again!
Buy Withington "Roan Ranger" G.C.M. here £12.50/bottle
South Africa - Just an average, everyday drive from the winery to the vineyard in the staff 4x4.