Editors’ picks – October 2023

Tracey and John Skupny, Lang & Reed
Tracey and John Skupny, Lang & Reed

Napa’s Cabernet Franc devotees

Clive Pursehouse

It’s not terribly difficult to open a winery in Napa Valley, crank out some Cabernet Sauvignon, sit back and print money. The prices fetched by California’s iconic variety are eye-popping and seem to be more so every year. It’s for this reason that the small family producer of Lang & Reed really stands out (the wines are superb, too). Proprietors Tracey and John Skupny have been flying in the face of convention in Napa since they began in 1993, producing world-class Cabernet Franc and laser-focused Chenin Blanc of real finesse. The Cabernet Franc leans towards the Loire, as do many of Lang & Reed’s clonal selections.

Its California Cabernet Franc 2021 is surely one of the best Napa reds under $30; its level of sophistication and complexity doesn’t seem fair for how little it costs. Forest floor, savoury herbs and purple florals exude a real elegance that the wine’s mineral-driven palate only emphasises. The Two-Fourteen Cabernet Franc 2018 is the winery’s revelatory flagship. Bramble fruits, turned earth and crushed stone burst from the glass, the mineral and herbaceous elements demonstrate the commitment to acidity, balance and freshness. A different, refreshing take on Napa Valley.

Cape catch-ups

Tina Gellie

Over the past few months South African winemakers have descended on London for their own vertical, horizontal and even blind tastings, as well as those organised by individual importers and then the big one, from industry body Wines of South Africa, featuring more than 80 producers. While I’ll endeavour to elaborate on these in more detail online, on Decanter Premium, I thought I’d pick out a few wines (from the many) that stood out – and as it happens, they’re all Chardonnays. Ahead of winning DWWA Best in Show this year for his 2021 Highlands Chardonnay, Andrew Gunn of Iona in Elgin showcased several others, including the Single Vineyard Fynbos Chardonnay 2020: opulent orchard fruit, brisk lemony acidity and deft oak spice (£35.65-£40 Handford, The Fine Wine Co, Thorne Wines, Villeneuve, Winoship).

Catching up with Carolyn Martin of Creation Wines on Hemel-en Aarde Ridge is always a treat – as are the wines. The superb Glenn’s Chardonnay 2020 has sold out, but splash out on the Art of Creation Chardonnay 2021: flamboyant butterscotch apple richness with wonderful drive and tension (£65 creationwines. co.uk). Finally, Christopher Jackson, youngest scion of the Jackson Family Wines dynasty, showcased the Capensis Chardonnays now imported into the UK via Fells. The 2019 Fijnbosch single-vineyard bottling from Stellenbosch is impressive but will be out of most people’s pockets at £173, so I would recommend the Silene 2020 (2019, £46.95 Fareham Wine Cellar): apricot richness, buttery popcorn oak and a racy acid structure for ageing.

Roussillon snapshot

Natalie Earl

Recently, at a zoo down in Roussillon, I discovered some of the best wines I’ve tasted in months. Not where you might expect to be tasting wine, admittedly, but bear with me. Under the dappled shade of a cluster of pine trees, with the soft warm breeze (one of Roussillon’s eight different winds) rustling through the scrubby dried-out grass, a group of stoic winemakers poured their wines for a group of melting journalists.

We were at EcoZonia, an animal conservation park. The reason for this choice of tasting location became clear when the sweeping and spectacular views opened up over the vineyards of the Agly Valley, in the north of the region. Here Grenache is king. Carignan, Syrah, Lledoner Pelut and Mourve?dre play their part, too. Among the numerous excellent wines being shown, Domaine Depeyre’s stood out. The white Symphonie 2022, a blend of Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris, was pretty and floral with a salted apple zing and a chalky, cotton-like texture, while the red Tradition 2020, a blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache, was…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine/editors-picks-october-2023-511864/

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