Wednesday Wines – Episode 53

Episode 53 – 31st March 2021

BRUNELLO SUPERSTARS, SMITH HAUT LAFITTE & ANGÉLUS

This week I have a cornucopia of delights for you from Italy, France and Australia.  All fascinating wines and all worthy of serious consideration.

Rosso & Brunello di Montalcino from Decorum Vintners

Contact Rupert Monier Williams, Managing Director, Decorum Vintners (e) rmw@decvin.com (w) www.decvin.com directly if you would like to place an order.

Pietroso

2019 Rosso di Montalcino, Pietroso £95ib for 6 bottles

With a perfectly weighted palate, haunting perfume and suave mulberry tones this is a fabulous wine and it is already looking approachable in the glass.  Perfectly balanced between the ebullient fruit and the prickly acidity, this is an absolute steal and it really does bear the stamp of a great Brunello estate from start to finish. 17.5/20

2016 Brunello di Montalcino, Pietroso £220ib for 6 bottles

Lush and juicy with deep, dark fruit and prodigious length, this is a plush, showy style with forward and attractive plum and black cherry fruit and nicely balanced oak, too.  Firm on the finish but not too tannic this is a super-impressive wine, particularly bearing in mind the value for money. 18+/20

Salicutti

2018 Rosso di Montalcino, Salicutti £125ib for 6 bottles

There are only 30 cases of this wine available and it is a MUST-BUY!  This is the very last vintage of Rosso before they make everything on the estate into Brunello, so it goes without saying that the value here is simply staggering!  This is a very classy and super-silky wine with a restrained feel and a lovely, open and calm red fruit core.  The balance is near perfect and the detailed nose, supple fruit and charming finish make it one of the standout Tuscan wines of the year. 18/20

2016 Brunello di Montalcino, Sorgente, Podere Salicutti £285ib for 6 bottles

Big, rich and more black-fruited than expected this is a ripe, powerful and swarthy wine with intense fruit and a long, minty, oaky finish.  An exotic number, with a dark chocolate glossiness this is a fabulous and showy wine with real style and impact!  18.5+/20

2016 Brunello di Montalcino, Piaggione, Podere Salicutti £375ib for 6 bottles

Super-classy, long and smooth, this is a rich wine and yet the delivery is controlled and measured such that it never feels rushed on the palate.  This exquisite tempo allows the fruit to permeate the senses prolonging the finish and the resonance of the majestic fruit flavours just keep rolling on and on.  The tannins are fit and dry and there is a welcome earthiness on the finish tempers the fruit exuberance making the whole experience impossibly grand.  I cannot recommend this portfolio enough and this Piaggione Cru is a superstar.  19+/20

Castello di Argiano

2016 Brunello di Montalcino, Castello di Argiano Sesti £270ib for 6 bottles; £285ib for 3 magnums

If you favour a calmer and more red-fruited style of Brunello than the Pietroso and Salicutti wines above then look no further than Sesti’s harmonious offering.  This is a refined, claret-shaped wine with an even palate and a long, tempered finish.  It is gentle and layered and while it is forward and juicy there is enough tension here for it to live well into a second decade.  17.5+/20

The Château Smith Haut-Lafitte 2018 Portfolio

It has been two years since I tasted this portfolio of wines during the 2019 Bordeaux En Primeur week.  Now that all of the wines are bottled, and making their way onto the market, I am grateful to have been given another opportunity to assess how they are faring.  It is perhaps not surprising to report that each and every wine looks as accurate and worthwhile as it did two years ago.

2018 Château Cantelys Blanc, Pessac-Léognan – 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Semillon; 50% new oak

This wine always makes more of a mark on the palate than one expects and it is thanks to the calibre of Sauvignon Blanc found on this property.  Zesty, firm and controlled, Cantelys looks like it is starting to drink nicely already, but there is plenty of energy here under the bonnet and this means that it will mellow nicely over the next 24 months or so.  17/20

2018 Le Petit Haut Lafitte Blanc, Pessac-Léognan – 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon; 50% new oak

With a more backward stance than Cantelys and more Sauvignon Blanc in the blend, this is still a tense wine with a pin-sharp finish and it shows no sign of softening.  There is no doubt that 2018 is a masterful vintage for dry whites and I have a feeling that this wine has a very long way to go.  17+/20

2018 Les Hauts de Smith Blanc, Pessac-Léognan – 100% Sauvignon Blanc; 50% oak

This is every inch a Grand Vin if you take into account the pristine fruit, impeccable chassis and length and the oak seem to be buried deep into this wines core because it is not in any way intrusive.  Still needing a few years to let its shoulders drop, and the fruit relax, I think that this is one of the finest value white wines of the vintage.  17.5/20

2018 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc, Pessac-Léognan – 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sauvignon Gris, 5% Semillon; 50% new oak; guide price £1100ib for 12 bottles

After tasting the trio of whites above it is hard to imagine how the genuine Grand Vin can perform at a higher level and yet it is obvious on the very first sniff that this is a vastly different wine.  Using older vines and more concentrated fruit, the intensity and depth of fruit is staggering.  This is a slightly weightier wine, too, and the oak seems more sumptuous and exotic.  More flamboyant and detailed, this is a tremendous release and one which has the most crystalline acidity I can remember.  This marks it out as a wine that will make the very long haul and I cannot wait to see what will happen in years to come.  18.5++/20

2018 Château Cantelys Rouge, Pessac-Léognan 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot; 20% new oak

The fruit is still quite closed and firm and while this is the sort of wine which you might think will start to drink young, I feel that in 2018 you will have to be more patient than usual.  Upright, cassis-soaked and quite slender, this is a medium-weight fellow with a classical stance.  16.5+/20

2018 Le Petit Haut Lafitte Rouge, Pessac-Léognan – 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot; 20% new oak

Once again, the Cabernet is in charge and there is a considerable depth of fruit here in spite of this wine’s sleek lines.  Suave, controlled and cool, you ought to wait three or four more years before opening a bottle as it is still tense on the finish.  17+/20

2018 Les Hauts de Smith Rouge, Pessac-Léognan – 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon; 20% new oak

Seemingly more forward than the other reds in the bunch, there is more red fruit than black fruit here and it is a little more pliable and sensual.  This is the wine which will start drinking before the others and it already shows enviable juiciness around the edges! 16.5+/20

2018 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge, Pessac-Léognan – 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot; 60% new oak; guide price £900ib for 12 bottles

This is a magnificent vintage for Smith Haut Lafitte and I think it will be one of the most long-lived vintages, too.  The fruit is dark, intense, precise and strict and it barely moves even after decanting.  This is a great sign because the flavours are sensational and yet they are ultra-focussed and linear.  The oak is perfectly judged and complementary and this makes it a quintessential Pessac-Léognan hero.  18++/20

A trio of 2018 wines from Château Angélus

2018 Château Angélus, 1er Grand Cru Classé A, Saint-Emilion – 65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc; guide price £3200ib for 12 bottles

Here is an extract from my 2018 En Primeur Report – ‘This is a wonderful Angélus with masses of oak and fruit and it can handle this intensity with ease. The power is magnificent and the richness and weight is amazing, too.  Considering how tannic and oaky a lot of the other wines are on this side of the river, they could all take a leaf out of this wine’s book because it shows you just how carefully balanced a big wine can be.  There is some exoticism here as well as awesome length and this is certainly one of the finest Saint-Emilions of the vintage.’

It was fascinating to taste this wine two years on, out of bottle.  Obviously, expectation was high and often in these circumstances there is a slight let down when one revisits a great wine.  I am delighted to report that 2018 Angelus is every bit as exciting as it was when I first tasted it on that rainy day in Saint-Emilion.  This is one of the great vintages for Angélus and this is because the balance and freshness perfectly counterbalances the decadence of the amazing fruit!  19+/20

2018 Carillon d’Angélus (2nd wine of Angélus), Grand Cru, Saint-Emilion – 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc; £950ib for 12 bottles

Here is another extract from my 2018 En Primeur Report – ‘Very silky and open, this is a superb Carillon with cool, fresh berry fruit and a sleek, polished palate. The oak is completely under control and the finish is clean and refreshing.  This is a very classy second wine indeed.’  True to form, this wine also impressed me greatly out of the bottle and it is a little more forward than I expected, too.  The tannins are terrific, but the fruit is certainly lustrous and in value terms, this is a perfect way of understanding the Angélus mantra before taking the plunge on the Grand Vin.  17.5+/20

2018 No3 d’Angélus (3rd wine of Angélus), Saint-Emilion – 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. £350ib for 12 bottles

I gave this wine a rather timid 16/20 when I tasted it En Primeur and two years later, out of bottle, it certainly looked ripe and bold, but I still noticed the coarse finish and a slightly sooty oaky feel throughout.  The finish is a touch too grumpy for me and bearing in mind it is a third wine I would like it to be a little easier to drink.  16/20

My Scores – The absence of a ‘+’ indicates a wine which is in balance and can be drunk relatively young thanks to its precocity and charm.  One ‘+’ indicates a wine that will benefit from medium-term ageing (in accordance to the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes.

FIN