Brandon’s Corner – Oregon’s Best Pinot

Cristom Vineyards is the benchmark producer in Oregon and deserve their well-earned reputation of producing exceptional Pinot Noir. Their rich track record of excellence is poised to take on the world of Pinot Noir with their captivating 2014 releases. Dhall & Nash have just been lucky enough to land some of this coveted allocation.

Winemakers at Cristom taste their creations as they go

Cristom Vineyards were the first American producer Dhall & Nash imported into NZ, I recall the first time Puneet and I tasted the Eileen Vineyard Pinot Noir, jumping up and down in my kitchen in Hawkes Bay at the time, just blown away by the aromatic complexity, almost too stimulating to taste, we needed to sit down and really get to know the wine, it was a profound Pinot Noir experience for us early on in our wine careers.  This enthusiasm and excitement remains strong for Cristom and the amazing wines they produce.  Steve Doerner continues to run the wine program, he has been involved in making the wines here since the early 90’s.  We love his approach with Pinot Noir, which favours whole bunch inclusion, natural handling with ambient yeast fermentation, avoiding fining or filtration and how he puts his vineyard blends together, having that deeply experienced touch from his time at the Cristom Estate for over 25 years.

Best New World Red; One of Oregon’s Willamette Valley Pinot growers – sustainably farmed and with minimum cellar intervention to produce vigorous wines with great purity and vineyard expression that develop superbly.”
Decanter Magazine – Steven Spurrier

We have 3 unique and outstanding wines from this producer. Two single vineyard offerings from the Eileen and Jessie Vineyards, plus the Mt Jefferson Cuvée sourced from the top sites throughout the Cristom Estate and select parcels of neighbouring vineyards who share the same philosophy! The 2014 ‘Mt. Jefferson Cuvée’ Pinot Noir, The 2014 ‘Eileen Vineyard’ Pinot Noir, and the 2014 ‘Jessie Vineyard’ Pinot Noir.


2014 Cristom ‘Mt. Jefferson’ Cuvée Pinot Noir

2014 Cristom ‘Eileen Vineyard’ Pinot Noir

2014 Cristom ‘Jessie Vineyard’ Pinot Noir

Domaine Bertagna – The Bare Facts

Domaine Bertagna;

Owns 28 ha of land.

One of the key Growers in Vougeot, with impressive holdings allied to Grand Cru’s, including two monopoles.

Owned by Eva Reh & Mark Siddle.

Total Land Holdings in Burgundy; Chambertin 0.2ha, Clos Saint-Denis 0.5ha, Clos de Vougeot 0.3ha, Vougeot Clos de la Perriere (Monopole) 2ha, Les Petits Vougeots 2.5ha, Les Cras 1.2ha, Clos Bertagna (monopole) 0.3ha, Chambolle-Musigny Les Plantes 0.2ha, Vosne-Romanee Les Beaux Monts Bas 1ha, Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Murgers 1ha, Hautes Cotes de Nuits 16ha, Bourgogne (rouge) 2ha.

Domaine Bertagna in Vougeot

Villages wines receive 25% new oak.
1er Cru wines receive 50% new oak.

Grand Cru wines receive 100% new oak.

Typically the winery avoids racking, opting for a more reductive style of wine making, looking for strength and aging potential and showcasing their terroirs in each cuvee.

The Reh family has owned this estate since 1982 with considerable renovations taking place since this time, including the launch of a country house hotel with twelve guest rooms.

This Domaine’s label is often considered to be understated, but these wines are mouth filling, strong on spice and character.

The winery famously produces Chardonnay from their Les Cras plot within Vougeot, a rare white wine in this Grand Cru vineyard.

Chateau de Clos du Vougeot overlooks the Grand Cru vineyards of the Clos du Vougeot

Wine Diamonds – Tartrates explained

Wine crystals, wine diamonds… why are they in my wine?

While they may look like a fault, these crystals are completely natural, harmless and generally tasteless. They are technically potassium bitartrate – a crystalline composition of tartaric acid and potassium hydroxide. Potassium bitartrate is more commonly known as Cream of Tartar, and is frequently used in baking.


While quite rare in nature, tartaric acid is the primary organic acid that occurs in grapes (malic being the other). Grapes are also naturally high in potassium. When these occur together in a solution, they quickly form a bond and create the tartrate. This can either remain dissolved in the solution, or crystallise (the cooler the solution, the more crystals will form).

We rarely consider the chemical constituents of the wine we drink – although it is technically a food product, there are never ‘ingredients’ listed, nor a chemical breakdown shown on the label. But wine is generally a combination of water, alcohol, acids (around 0.5%), glycerols (a form of alcohol) carbohydrates and phenolics.

While it is possible (and indeed is standard practise) to remove potassium bitartrate crystals (using  process called cold stabilisation, where the wine is chilled to just above freezing point and all tartrates racked off) this is usually avoided with red or rosé wines, as some of the essential components (chiefly pigments and tannins) are lost along with the offending tartrates.

In summary, these crystals are natural, completely harmless and generally tasteless. If found only on the cork, these will not affect your drinking experience. If they are at the bottom of the bottle and you would prefer to drink your wine sans crystals, they are easily removed by decanting the wine carefully and discarding the crystals.


De La Terre Harvest Report – 2016


Overall, 2016 vintage was a season of two halves – a markedly cool Spring, right up to about Xmas time, followed by a very warm and reasonably dry summer and Autumn.


Of particular note, once the warmer temperatures hit about mid to late January, we experienced particularly warm nights and finished up with Growing Degree Days(GDD) close to the exceptional 2103 and 2014 vintages. February 2016 seemed to be especially warm.




What all this meant for the grapes and vineyard management


Despite winemakers getting excited before Spring 2015 about talk of another warm El Nino pattern, the pre-Xmas pattern left many of us concerned.

You can never be sure how the season is going to progress and there is no guarantee that you will ‘catch up’ on a cool start to a season.
In response to the cool start, we started talking early on about extra shoot-thinning, possible crop-thinning and certainly opening up the canopies with significant leaf-plucking prior to net application.



Flowering and fruit-set for us was rather variable with some blocks well down in yield and some slightly up on 2015.

Chardonnay, Viognier and Barbera were well down on last vintage. The Barbera and (some of the) Viognier yield was hideously low.

Montepulciano was about on par and Tannat slightly down.

The only variety with higher yield was our Syrah.


The ripening pattern for some varieties this year was rather odd – take Chardonnay for example. The fruit looked and tasted ripe at lower Brix than other vintages. This year we harvested the Reserve Chardonnay grapes at just on 23 Brix rather than the normal 24 – 24.5.
I put this down to cooler early-season temperatures reducing the sugar accumulation but the warm summer nights dropping more acid to provide riper flavours at lower Brix.

Whilst we don’t have Merlot on our vineyard, I understand a similar trend occurred for this variety also. The trend was also apparent, but to a lesser extent, in most of our other varieties.


The rain over late-March to early-April (when most fruit is harvested) was such that it caused no major issues for us. The significant contour on our vineyard blocks coupled with extensive leaf-plucking meant that we suffer less than most from rain events.

In addition, the small flat and shaded areas of our main Chardonnay block is now taken early in the season for our Methode Traditionnelle.

On the whole however, 2016 can be regarded as an average to better-than-average vintage for rainfall during the critical harvest period.


As is quite common for Hawkes Bay, the weather tends to settle down again in late April.

This is ideal for our late-season varieties (and styles) Tannat, Noble Viognier and Montepulciano. The latter was picked on May 10th in 2015 and again this year.



The 2016 Wines


With everything now in, we are sitting back reflecting on another excellent de la terre vintage.

We’re still pinching ourselves that, having taken on our new vineyard in 2013, we have had 4 excellent seasons.


The only down side for us is that our barrels and tanks are somewhat less full than we expected/hoped. The upside of this equation however is that the wines have more concentration – and I’d take this any day over yield.


The whites are rich in flavour with great acid balance – “clean, ripe grapes” – that’s all you ever ask for as a winemaker.  The intensity of flavour in this year’s Reserve Viognier and Chardonnay is the strongest yet.

We did some fine-tuning to the winemaking this year in order to adjust to the slight vintage variations in the fruit – as well as an ongoing desire to evolve our wine styles.


The reds also have great flavour concentration and colour.

Acid levels appear to be lower but we have to wait for malos to complete to assess the final balance.

Alcohols may be slightly down across the red range this year but ripe/soft tannins, rich flavours and good colour are what count most in reds.


Tony Pritchard – Owner/Winemaker

FAWC event – California Cruisin’ at Opera Kitchen

California Cruising’ at Napier’s Opera Kitchen – A Fine Wine masterclass and Dinner event hosted by Brandon Nash at the Opera Kitchen Restaurant & Cafe – Owned by Jennifer Le Comte and Managed by Dan Norman.

The evening began with a well orchestrated fine wine masterclass of the following:

2012 Schramsberg Brut Rose

2013 Collaboration Wines Aurulent Chardonnay

2012 Hyde de Villaine De La Guerra Chardonnay

2012 Prisoner Wine Co – Blindfold White Wine Blend

2013 Flowers Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

 2013 Collaboration Wines Argent Cabernet Sauvignon

2012 Inglenook Cask Cabernet Sauvignon

2013 Francis Ford Coppola Winery Directors Cut Zinfandel


left to right – Schramsberg Rosé, The Blindfold, Aurulent Chardonnay, De La Guerra Chardonnay, Flowers Pinot Noir, Argent Cabernet Sauvignon, InglenookCask, Director’s Cut Zinfandel

Julz from Collaboration Wines, explaining what makes Californian wine so unique

Julz from Collaboration Wines, explaining what makes Californian wine so unique

Julz Brogden from Collaboration wines who worked 8 years in California making wine was on hand to share her experiences and compare her wines against some thoroughbred Chardonnay and Cabernet’s and her wines looked great.  One of the highlights had to be the majestic Inglenook 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, such a storied vineyard, considered one of the best Cabernet sites in the world, this wine did not disappoint and clearly demonstrated why 2012 is considered a vintage of a lifetime in California.

Brandon talks Californian Wine

Brandon talks Californian Wine

Following this excellent lineup of wines, the 45 attendees were seated in the art gallery, turned ball room for the evening.  Treated to a bountiful three course menu (attached), inspired by Jennifer and Dan’s visit through the San Francisco food markets last year.  Brandon put together the wine list for the evening, a dozen selected Californian wines from within the D+N portfolio with suggested food pairings. Highlights included the pork crackling with Bogle Chenin Blanc & the Duck Confit Leg with Coppola Director’s Cut Zinfandel in particular.

Hats off to the team at Opera Kitchen for the seamless running of these events, we have received lots of great feedback and look forward to the next Food and Wine Classic opportunity in the lovely Hawkes Bay.



15 vintages of Schubert Syrah – Vertical Tasting

Much-celebrated Wairarapa winery Schubert was recently named one of the top 3 New Zealand wineries by Lisa Perotti-Brown of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, and with wines like these, it is easy to see why. Although best known for their outstanding Pinot Noir, Schubert also produce other incredible wines, including Syrah.

Kai Schubert, Marion Diemling

Kai Schubert, Marion Diemling

The Dhall & Nash sales team were invited along to Schubert’s recent vertical tasting, involving 15 vintages of this elegant and perfumed wine. From the first vintage in 1999, to the most recent release, this tasting was truly one of a kind.

The table is set for 20 guests, each tasting 15 wines. That's a lot of glassware!

The table is set for 20 guests, each tasting 15 wines. That’s a lot of glassware!


Left – Kai Schubert, right – Brandon Nash

Silence descended as we plunged into the tasting, pens poised, noses in glasses… then smiles and appreciative glances towards Kai and Marion as we discovered each vintage – a perfect snapshot of each individual growing season. At one point, the resident cat came out to investigate – she felt a little distrusting of why so many people were being so silent!


Brandon deep in thought

Brandon was contemplatively taking notes – falling naturally into his role as a wine judge. Below are notes on his ‘picks of the bunch’.

1999 – Purple, red medium+ depth.  Game, lavender, walnut, leather, Turkish delight, liquorice, mint.  Silky entry, raspy acidity, firm, dry, fine tannins, salty, long, spicy, minty, green peppercorns, floral, lifted and sweet fruit finish, looking pretty good.  16+ points

2001 – Purple, red medium depth.  Gamey, smoky, eucalyptus, capsicum, fennel, celery salt, sweet fruit, cassis, plums, violets, lavender, floral, dry, layered, rich, spicy, fleshy, long, sweet fruit on the palate, floral, fleshy, long, good tension, elegant, fine and spicy.  16.5+ points

2005 – Purple, red moderate depth.  Game, rose petal, green peppercorns, subtle, nutmeg, jubby fruit, creamy, rich, round, fleshy, firm and dry, spicy, good acidity, sweet fruit, youthful presence, savoury complexity, salty, long, good balance and tension, umami flavour, long, spicy, savoury and salty to finish.  17.5+ points

2008 – Dark purple, red, medium depth.  Violets, caramel, smoky, cassis, oak, leather, chocolate, rich, luscious, black forest chocolate cake, good acidity, plush, warm, silky, rose petals, salted caramel, pine needles, glycerol feel, with balancing tart acidity and dried herb finish.  Very generous, delicious glass of wine here.  17.5 points

2010 – Purple, red medium depth.  Aromatic, green peppercorns, violets, peaty, lifted, cassis, silky, full flavoured, dry, firm, fleshy, fresh berry coulis, good balance, fresh, long, elegant, jubby sweet fruit nuance, well made, delicious, fine, floral, mineral with lovely extract.  18 points

2013 – Dark purple, medium + depth.  Fruity, floral, lifted, incense, chunky, youthful, sweet fruit, high oak notes, slightly reductive characters, more noticeable tannins, need time, carries balancing acidity, jubby fruit and good extract.  Promising Wine.   16.5 points


Left to right – Curtis Marsh, Michael Hanna, Brandon Nash, Martina Speafico, Marion Diemling, Kai Schubert, Hannah Priestley

As if this once-in-a-lifetime tasting wasn’t enough – we were treated to a veritable feast by local caterer Ant North. As the Schubert team cleared the table of the hundreds of glasses, canapés were served accompanied by Billecart-Salmon NV Blanc de Blancs, as we mingled and shared notes on the wine we had just tasted. Once we were re-seated, Ant brought out dish after dish of delicious food – including barbecued beef and venison fillet, gratin, heirloom carrots and other delights.

Feast by Ant North

Feast by Ant North

Thanks are due to the wonderful team at Schubert – Kai, Marion, Vanessa, Robert and Martina, for your generous hospitality and delicious wines. We can’t wait for the next vertical!

Brandon’s Corner – Grand Cru Focus Part 1

Appellation Clos De La Roche Grand Cru – Morey Saint Denis Village.

Located in the Côte de Nuits subregion of Burgundy, in the commune of Morey St Denis.


Morey St Denis was a place of asylum for Cistercian monks who appeared to have possessed numerous vineyards and even a winery by 1306.  The appellation extends from Chambolle-Musigny to Gevrey-Chambertin and covers around 148 hectares, 80% of which are planted with grapes for red wines.  In the 19th century, Clos De La Roche vineyard only covered 4 hectares.  When the AOC was created in 1936, it grew to around 15 hectares as it included the local areas known as Les Mochamps, Les Froichots, Les Fremieres, Les habiots and the lower part of Monts Luisants.  In 1971 the area increased to nearly 17 hectares when Les Genevrieres was added.

One of the key growers within this famous Grand Cru is Domaine Michel & Frederic Magnien.  Their plot is located next to Clos Saint Denis in the upper part of the village.  The vine is planted on brown limestone soils, on the bedrock.

Dhall & Nash hold a small allocation of their 2011 cuvee, which was hand harvested, hand sorted, 100% destalked.  No crushing, vatting by gravity.  Cold pre-fermentation maceration, indigenous yeast ferments.  Punching of the cap by hand.  Barrel ageing.  All vines are managed organically and biodynamically, which follows into the winemaking as well.

2011 Domaine Michel Magnien Clos de La Roche

Clos de la RocheMedium depth, mostly red pigments.  Bright, fresh, floral, warm berry coulis chocolate impression.  Vanilla essence, aniseed, opening into more complex tree bark, earthier characters.  Sandalwood, incense, violets, cassis, moving into the stony minerality, dried herb, fresh minty aspects, resting into red fruit aromas such as strawberry, raspberry, attractive, warming and fresh, akin to some of the natural wine expressions, resulting perhaps from no fining or filtering and moderate to low sulfur additions.  Next we see leesy, savoury, nutty complexity, ocean breeze, saline notes also.  Plenty of fine detailed floral notes in a pot pourri arrangement, not on the fore, but certainly present.  Meaty tamarillo like flavours develop.  On the palate, mineral stony entry, firm, dry and expansive, quite tight and elegant, red and dark berry flavours, chalky, salty mid palate, long and spicy, truffle, size and weight is notable, as expected from the plot.  Very long, salty flavoured length, spicy and earthy.  Styled in an elegant, medium+ bodied frame, racy and fresh with great complexity, fragrance and minerality.

17.5+/20 – Brandon Nash


Tasting note: Not surprisingly this really hasn’t changed much since my review that appeared in January 2013. It still possesses an arresting nose of highly complex and intensely earthy nose that features notes of smoke, game, spice on the exceptionally fresh yet ripe red and dark pinot fruit aromas. There is excellent richness, size, weight and power to the large-scaled but well-detailed flavors that display an interesting saline component on the refreshing and finish that delivers very fine length. If this can add a bit more complexity than I presently envision my score may be a bit too conservative. In any event this is really quite good and note that it’s not so structured and backward that it couldn’t be enjoyed now with 30 minutes or so of air.

92 Points – Burghound.


Brandon’s Corner – Aging fine and rare wines

Once a winegrower has deemed the right moment to begin harvesting grapes off the vine, the aging process has already begun.  For the sake of this article, we will be focusing on areas for consideration on wine aging from the point of bottling forward, with specific reference to fine and rare wines, both new world and old world.

The plethora of environmental, viticultural and winemaking influences in the fine wine world are well established and consistently adapted to enhance the perceived quality and performance on a wine’s life cycle.  Based on substantial research and experience we know that wine develops and changes occur that lead to the aging processes of wine once it has been bottled.   Furthermore we have certain expectations of how a wine tastes over time as it ages in bottle, the challenge of a wine drinker who appreciates these changes is to determine the right moment to pull the cork, screw the cap or pop the bottle, when the specific wine in question will offer the most pleasure.

With aged wine we need to determine how much age we actually like or how much the wine can handle.  If one does not normally consume wine with long term aging, they may not actually enjoy the flavours and tertiary characters that develop over time.  For example, the aging process may eventually go too far due to oxidation, where the fruit is no longer present, in a say a bottle of pinot noir for example and characters of meat, mushroom and cooked carrot notes take over, the wine is depreciating at this stage.

Depending on the variety, varieties and said influences on these wine styles, the aging potential varies widely.  It is a commonly held notion that red wines have a stronger potential to age long term over whites and in many cases this is true, however ask any die hard Riesling or Chenin blanc collector about that and you might be lucky enough to taste the greatness of these varietals capacity in the cellar.  The environment of a cellar is hugely important, light, humidity, temperature, space, arrangement, all of these factors must be considered on how a wine appreciates.   At Dhall & Nash we have considered all of these factors and initiated an appropriate cellaring regime in our warehouse to ensure that we offer the ideal environment for our fine wines to appreciate and develop for the drinking pleasure for our customers.






A bottle of the iconic Inglenook Rubicon, in our temperature-controlled warehouse.

A few wines from our cellar selection:


2010 Inglenook Rubicon – California

93 points – Wine Spectator

“A classy, well-structured effort, with flavors that build and gain depth around a core of loamy earth, espresso, dark berry, cedary oak and tobacco. Most impressive on the graceful, long and persistent finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. Drink now through 2026.”

2005 Brane Cantenac – Bordeaux 

95 points – Robert Parker

“A sexy, style of wine from the Lurtons at Brane-Cantenac, this wine (a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc) has a stunning nose of forest floor, licorice, blackcurrants, plums and spring flowers. Soft tannin, full-bodied opulence and beautifully textured, lush richness, make for a brilliant wine from this large, 180-acre vineyard. In spite of the wine’s stunning forward fragrance and lushness, the color still looks as if it is 3-4 years old, rather than a decade. This is a big-time winner in 2005 and should drink well for at least another 25+ years.”

2010 Domaine Michel Magnien Morey St. Denis “Les Chaffots” 1er Cru

93 points – Allen Meadow’s Burghound

“This is not quite as ripe though the nose is otherwise quite similar. There is a fine minerality to the medium weight, intense and admirably pure flavors that culminate in a wonderfully complex, balanced, linear and overtly austere finish. This is a very serious effort that again will need plenty of cellar time to reveal its full potential but that patience should be well rewarded.”

2012 Rene Muré Clos St Landelin Riesling

92 points – Robert Parker (Stephan Reinhardt)

“From 46 years old vines, picked with 45 hectoliters per hectare on October 18th and kept on the lees for 9 months the pale yellow colored and bone dry Riesling Clos St Landelin offers a very clear and gentle bouquet of ripe white-fleshed nectarines and pineapples which are transferred onto the buoyant palate which is round, fresh and clear, very well balanced and really fine and elegant. Provided with tension, a long and frisky finish and a lovely mineral expression this Grand Cru should go for up to 15+ years.” 

1999 Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François Brut

93 points – Wine Spectator

“Very elegant, ethereal in texture and well-knit, offering flavors of poached pear, black licorice, lemon pâte de fruit, pastry and ground ginger. Shows fine balance and integration, with a fresh, lasting finish of ripe fruit and saline minerality. Drink now through 2027.”

2008 Mountford Estate ‘The Gradient’ Pinot Noir

89 points – Wine Spectator

“Aromatic, with intense spice, forest floor and scorched earth notes, showing a firmness and density to the black cherry and blackberry notes that lead to a spicy, firm finish. Drink now through 2021.”

2005 Bordeaux Selection – Robert Parker Reviews

All reviews from, #219, June 2015.


2005 Chateau Calon Segur, Saint-Estephe


The 2005 is a beautiful Calon Ségur, with sweet mocha, black cherry, leathery fruit, medium to full body, attractive purity, a gorgeous texture, and serious nobility, gravitas and density. Drink it over the next 20-30 years, yet it is surprisingly accessible. 93 points.


2005 Chateau Giscours, Margaux


The 2005 Giscours is a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and the rest tiny dollops of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from this huge estate. It has loads of blue, red and black fruits, licorice, spice, a touch of background oak and earth. It is medium to full-bodied, offering up sweet, velvety tannins and impressive purity and length. This wine is already showing quite well and should continue to evolve gracefully for another 12-15+ years. 91 points.


2005 Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse, Pauillac


Pure crème de cassis, licorice and spice are all present in this wine from Xavier Borie. Medium to full-bodied and ripe, with sweet tannin and a nicely textured mouthfeel, this is a beauty that should continue to drink well for another 15 or so years. 92 points.


2005 Chateau Pontet Canet, Pauillac


Possibly the youngest wine of all the 2005 Médocs in terms of its evolution, at age 10 the inky purple 2005 Pontet-Canet tastes more like a two-year-old wine. Loads of pure blueberry, blackberry and cassis fruit are present along with a hint of licorice and background oak. It is full-bodied, ripe, and excruciatingly fresh, vigorous and exuberant. This is a tour de force, and a sensational effort that rivals the first growths. Give it another 5-10 years of cellaring, and drink it over the following 30-40 years. 97+ points.


2005 Alter Ego de Chateau Palmer, Margaux


The medium to dark ruby 2005 Alter Ego is a sexy, lush, up-front style of 2005, with loads of cedar wood, a fragrant and perfumed personality, and silky tannin. It is moderately endowed, but lusciously suave and seductive. Close to being an outstanding second wine, it will drink well for another 7-10 years. 89 points.


2005 Chateau Branaire Ducru, Saint-Julien


Floral nuances combined with lots of mulberry, raspberry and sweet blackcurrant fruit are followed by a medium to full-bodied, beautifully pure, textured, complex wine with soft tannin. It should drink well relatively early on (2-3 years) and last 15 or more. 93 points.


2005 Chateau Brane Cantenac, Margaux


A sexy, style of wine from the Lurtons at Brane-Cantenac, this wine (a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc) has a stunning nose of forest floor, licorice, blackcurrants, plums and spring flowers. Soft tannin, full-bodied opulence and beautifully textured, lush richness, make for a brilliant wine from this large, 180-acre vineyard. In spite of the wine’s stunning forward fragrance and lushness, the color still looks as if it is 3-4 years old, rather than a decade. This is a big-time winner in 2005 and should drink well for at least another 25+ years. 95 points.


2005 Domaine de l’A, Cotes de Castillon


The home estate of Stéphane Derenoncourt has produced a major sleeper of the vintage in 2005. This dense plum/ruby/purple wine displays beautiful cassis, black cherry liqueur and earth in a full-bodied, opulent, multi-dimensional style. Deep, pure, rich and impressive, this is a beauty that can be drunk now or cellared for another 10-15 years. 91 points.


2005 Chateau du Tertre, Margaux


This attractive deep ruby/plum/purple wine is supple, with notes of loamy soil, earth, underbrush and black and red currants. Very fragrant and medium-bodied, with relatively sweet tannin, this wine should continue to drink well for another 10-15+ years. 90 points.


2005 Chateau Haut Bages Liberal, Pauillac


The 2005 Haut-Bages Libéral offers loads of blackcurrant fruit, licorice, spice and forest floor. It is medium to full-bodied, with supple tannin and an expansive, textured mouthfeel and finish. Drink it over the next 15-20 years. 90 points.


2005 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe


The 2005 Montrose has a saturated purple color. As backward as one would expect of a St.-Estèphe, it offers notes of sweet blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, earth, graphite and spice. It is medium to full-bodied, moderately tannic, and still a decade away from prime-time drinkability. This 30+ year wine is clearly outstanding. 94+ points.


2005 Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien


Léoville Barton’s 2005 has an inky ruby/purple color and shows fairly high tannin levels, but the balance is slightly better that the Langoa Barton, which is very hard. This is probably a 30-year wine and needs at least another 20 years of cellaring, and while the tannins are high, they are balanced more thoroughly and competently. With deep cassis and red currant fruit, the wine is earthy, spicy, medium to full-bodied, and needs at least another decade. Drink it between 2025 and 2050. 92 points.


2005 Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Leognan


A glorious wine from Domaine de Chevalier, this 2005 reveals notes of graphite, subtle charcoal, blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, a medium to full-bodied mouthfeel, silky tannins, and a long, multi-dimensional finish. This is a killer effort from the Bernard family, who own this famous terroir in Pessac-Léognan. Drink it over the next 20-30 years. 95 points.

Brandon’s Corner – Judging at the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards

A couple of weekends ago, I participated in the Royal Easter Wine Show judging event, where myself and a further 20 or so judges assessed the nearly 1,200 different wines entered.  This annual event is organized brilliantly by the Wine Show Queen Shona White and headed by Kate Radburnd and Mike de Garis.


The judging begins on a Friday afternoon and ends late Sunday afternoon with the final trophy assessments, typically these wine shows are divided into 4-5 panels, with 5 judges per panel.  By the end of the 3 days, each judge would have tasted at least 300 wines or around 100 wines per day, split into individual classes based on variety, or class description such as Rosé or Other Red Varieties for example.


I am often approached with the same question by friends and peers during these wine shows – “how are your teeth”?  Usually this question comes after a picture has been posted on the Sauvignon blanc or Riesling flights with reference to the acidic nature of these varieties.  I must admit I don’t really find any palate fatigue sets in for me until the tannic reds section kicks into gear, particularly big flights of young Syrah or Cabernet sauvignon.  I keep a steward close on hand, the one with the key to the fresh green olives jar and ensure the sparkling water glasses are topped up during these classes.  This keeps the palate rolling for me and combats the dryness and inevitably has a way of protecting the gums and teeth at the same time.  Another tool of the trade is Tooth Mousse, yes you read that correctly, its a créme for the teeth and gums made up of Calcium and Phosphate that we judges apply in between wine flights and it works wonders.  Recaldent is a good brand.  I keep a little tube handy in my office as I taste wine most days.  Which reminds me of a time a few months ago, following a tasting in the office, I reached for the Recaldent while reading an email and not paying enough attention, I squeezed into my mouth the sunscreen tube kept in the same place, which the palate did not appreciate!  Immediate palate fatigue!  Spit out of mouth now!  The Recaldent and Sunscreeen are kept in separate locations these days.  Bring on the next tasting.

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