WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations

Leave a comment

Discovering Bolgheri and the Super Tuscans October 2017- Day 1

When Marquis Mario Incisa Della Rocchetta acquired Tenuta San Guido in the 1930’s,  few thought it would inspire a cult of wines which were to follow some decades later. The  coastal plain forming the western border of Tuscany was essentially marsh and swamps. It was know for its malarial Mosquitos. However after the draining of the Maremma it made it possible to grow crops.

The early wine product at Tenuta San Guido was for family consumption. After a visit from a member of the Antinori family, the quality of wine produced was realised and they were persuaded to attempt commercial production. The First vintage of Sassicaia in  1968 was sold as a Vino da Tavola. The 1985 vintage was a revelation and sparked the whole Super Tuscan phenomenon. Marquis Lodovico Antinori was not to be outdone by his cousin and created Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia in 1981. A special DOC Bolgheri was  created in 1994. There were only seven producers ‘ the magnificent seven ” up until 1990 there are now forty five.

There area is now renowned for some of the best wines in Italy. The famous Massetto from Ornellaia can fetch £ 1000 per bottle. . IGT Toscana was created in 1992 following inflexibility of the DOC system allowing a higher range of varieties. It was devoted to Bordeaux varieties  with a small amount Syrah and Sangiovese. Alex Heinz Winemaker at Ornellai describes Bolgheri as a Mediterranean version of the Bordeaux climate, a wine of the South. It has a special combination of ripeness opulence and freshness.


We arrived at the modest gated B+B Relais Felciaini0. It is perfectly located for visiting the local wineries on the Strada Provinciale Bolgerhese about 6km  South of Bolgheri and north of Castagnetto Carduccio. Bikes were delivered for us from Ciclosport.

First visit

Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia

Established in 1981 with its first Vintage 1985. It became one of great names purchased by the  younger brother of Marchese Piero Antinori family with an interest from Mondavi. It is   now entirely owned by the Frescobaldi family. They own two separate vineyards- home vineyard,  surrounding the winery and Bellaria to the south. Four wines are made-Ornellaia 8,000 cases, Masseto 100% Merlot from Masseto Hill, clay based soils. A separate building is under construction for Masseto alone. Le Serre Nuove 2nd wine, Le Volte Sangiovese Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Arturo met us on the landscaped courtyard explained the etymology of the word Ornellaia. Aia meaning place of and Orniello, a type of local flowering ash tree.


Tasting notes

Le volte 2015 67% Merlot 20% Cabernet Sauvignon Sangiovese 7%. Alcohol 14% nice balance, soft tannins, but good level of cherry red fruits strawberry. herbal lovely balance app 15 € drink 1 to 2 yrs

Varia Zioni Rosso 2013 House wine little made, Cabernet Franc based 13 months in second  barrique. tannin ++ chalky sl grippy, sl pine resin nose more black fruits cedar. Tannins a bit too dominant drink 3 to 4 yrs

Le serre Nuove 2014 13.5% Alcohol,50% merlot 34% Cabernet Sauvignon. Smokey toasty, Others- red plums basalmic notes deep floral orange blossom finer tannins savoury finer silkier tannins

Ornellaia 2014 difficult year blend is Cabernet Sauvignon based almost 32% Merlot 34% Cabernet Sauvignon also Petit Verdot 20%Vanilla, creamy perfume 75% new oak. 13.5% alcohol later cocoa powder coffee slight toast  baking spices nutmeg clove mouth coating gripping tannins ++pronounced barrel struggling to find fruit maybe stewed plums,something graphitic.

Ornellaia olive oil tasting Blend of 15 oils from the estate harvest going on as we visited. Spicy, smooth, kick at back of throat peppery.

Eligo grappa Arturo suggested we rub it on our hands allowing the alcohol to evaporate then smell it- nuts  figs pistachios ground baclava hazelnuts. This was a first for all of us and a very entertaining way to finish our visit to this iconic property




This is very much a boutique artisan operation.It was Started by Franco Batzella and Khanh Nguyen who previously worked for the world bank initially buying land in Montalcino. They have a small but very well maintained and low yielding vineyards ( 1 kg =1 bottle per vine)-1ha Cabernet Franc, 1ha Syrah, 5 ha Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 ha white varieties. We were greeted at the gate by Khanh and their rather excitable dog.Franco Batzella soon arrived. He explained how he yearned to return to his native Italy after retiring from the World Bank to embark on a dream.

The passion from Franco and Khanh became clear. The winery was in full action. They were transferring the wine from stainless steel  into oak barrels. The Harvest was 2 weeks ago 1kg per vine = 1 bottle per vine!He gave us a detailed explanation regarding transfer to barrels and fine lees and different levels of pressing with all parcels vinified separately.He has stared using slavonian oak 20,000l with good results as consumer taste goes away from excess oak.Oak forest in France were used by the French navy for building ships, later for oak barrels. when transferred from France to Britain on ships it was found  it tasted better on arrival.The area is a  mixture of sand clay and  alluvial soils, so good drainage despite the flat plain like Bordeaux gravels. Mostly spurred cordon 80 cm up then bent 80 cm 5 spurs allowed on that.

Franco hosted our tasting on his lovely  terrace overlooking Castagnetto Carduccio as the sun set.

Batzella White Mezzodi 2016 DOC Bolgheri, Viognier and Vermentino. Slight saltiness, minerality, very cold, lime citrus. Crisp moderate length slight oiliness on the  finish but well textured.

Batzella Péan Bolgheri Rosso DOC 2013Cabernet sauvignon and Cabernet Franc 11 moths barriques. Cassis herabaceous green pepper 2013 was a warm summer.Rained at right time 14.8% alcohol but good balance, hot, tannic structure

Tam Bolgheri superiore 2010 ++cab sav 65% cab franc 35% 24 months French oak barriques. Soft silky tannins slight tertiary earthy hint sulphur initially only, acacias floral.Black cherries star anise woody, Menthol eucalyptus.

Syrah vox Loci 2010 Voice of the land, Oxidised port like cooked fruits,Grippy tannins acid unbalance basaltic savoury possibly corked.


In the Evening we walked to the local restaurant- Osteria Magona all the meat is supplied by celebrity butcher Dario Ceccini based in Panzano in Chianti. We shared a 1.4 kg aged Fiorentina T bone and a large cut of Panzanese steak.. Oh to be back in the gastronomical heaven of Italy!

Wines with dinner at Osteria Magona Poggio al Tesoro Sondraia,Le Macchiole Rosso,Castello Giaconda  Montalcino2012. We highly recommend this restaurant if you are in the region. It was the perfect end to our first day in Bolgheri.

Leave a comment

Sensational Stellenbosch Day 3

Leave a comment

Sensational Stellenbosch May 2017 , Day 2


This historic winery is situated on the slopes of the Simonsberg mountains.Its name is derived from ‘Koppie’ from which a canon was fired in the 17th century to alert farmers of ships entering table Bay .They have 100 hectares of vineyards mainly pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon . Focus is on top quality red wines especially Pinotage. Kanonkop is run by 2 brothers Johann and Paul Krige. The family run ethos have resulted in only three winemakers in the last 48 years. Arbrie Beeslaar is the current winemaker whose mother in law I coincidentally sat next to on the flight from London !


Wines tasted

Pinotage Rose 2015

Fresh citrus and raspberries

Kadette Cape Blend Pinotage 2015,Big production 65000 cases smoke toast blackberry

Kadette Pinotage 2015

19000 cases spicy rubber entry level

Kanonkop Pinotage 2014

30 to 60 year old bush wines vines 6000 cases

Complex nose concentrated medicinal herbaceous spicy coffee black fruit soft tannins chocolate

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

3500 cases cassis black currant leaf

Kanonkop Pinotage 2001

Coffee chocolate medicinal savoury soy sauce soft tannins truffles + lovely a good indicator of what aged South African Pinotage can deliver

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2013

CF CS Merlot liquorice black currant







Rustenberg was founded in 1682 and is situated at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountains . It’s a Cape gem with beautiful Cape Dutch thatched roofed buildings, a historic gabled manor house , extensive landscaped gardens and vineyards. John X Merriman, a former Cape Prime minister bought the property in 1892. In 1941 Peter and Pamela Barlow bought Rustenberg their sons now run the business

Wines tasted with Willem, marketing manager ( Importer in the  UK is seckfords, available waitrose majestic)

Rustenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Grown at altitude 550m + Can smell from end of table, Pineapple tropical fruit lemons,Crisp fresh ++ aged in lees 3 months

Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015,Butter toast creamy citrus fermented in oak

Five soldiers Chardonnay 2014,Creamy textured long marzipan citrus nutty crisp +

Rustenberg Grenache 2015,Blueberries red currant cut bunches in half before harvest to concentrated

Rustenberg Merlot 2015,Plummy fruity soft tannins

RM Nicholson 2015 Shiraz blend slight perfume black cherries

John x Merriman 2014,Bordeaux blend,very good structure needs age a little tight Black fruits

Bouzard clouf Syrah,rubber spice pepper mixed herbs liquorice

Peter Barlow 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon,mint menthol cassis firm tannins Still a baby



This fabulous mornings tasting was followed by a delicious lunch at Jordans Estate

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Leave a comment

Sensational Stellenbosch. May 2017 – day 1

Our first tasting in Stellenbosch was at the magnificent  Tokara Estate  owned by GT Ferreira , situated  at the crest of the Helshoogte Pass. The exceptional location allows panoramic views over Olive Groves, valleys and Mountains from Simonsberg to Table Mountain. The  tasting room has a huge stone fireplace and contemporary architecture, there’s also a sculpture garden delicatessen and restaurant.





We were greeted by Karl the GM and Suzanne .This stunning property has 60 hectares of vineyards and was built in 1999 with first vintage in 2001. Grapes are sourced from a variety of sites including the lovely Elgin Sauvignon blanc on a site which was a fruit farm. 2007 to 2016 ten year tasting shows exceptional development of these wines Back vintages are stored in a monumental four storey cylindrical cellar hidden behind a vast cast iron door off the tasting room .

Luckily I was inquisitive enough to encourage Carl to not only give us a peek inside but also to sneak out the delightful 2006 Directors reserve Semillon.

Tokara is named after the owners 2 children Distribution is mainly in Holland U.K. Germany. ABS wines distribute in the U.K The German market is very big partly due to historical factors , the Germans colonized SW Africa.25% of  Somerset West has German owned homes


Wines tasted.

Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

Elderflower floral citrus peach , crisp good length persistence balance


Tokara Reserve Collection Chardonnay 2015

Naturally fermented .15% Pineapple tropical fruit .Butter vanilla toast oak 95 points best in SA 27 % new oak .

Tokara Directors Reserve 2014

70 Sauvignon Blanc 30 Sémillon High altitude 500 m Rich barrel fermented textured .wet hay lemons musty earthy

Tokara 2006 Directors Reserve Semillon

Carl plucked from secret cellar Rich pétrolic flinty gunsmoke texture full lovely pickled lemon

Tokara Reserve  Syrah 2013

Crushed spice Violets soft tannins savoury

2013 directors reserve red

Merlot Petit Verdot others Cedar cigar box tobacco . Long lovely soft tannins Long finish

Tokara Directors reserve Potstill Brandy Another special treat from Karl

floral dry fig and raisins





Delaire Graff Estate


The high altitude vineyard on the slopes of Botmaskop was originally a lookout for boats entering Table Bay Harbour .

No expense was spared on their multifaceted property, with   a winery, two restaurants, a lifestyle boutique,a diamond store, a five star lodge and spa transformed by Laurence Graff founder and chairman of Graff Diamonds International Ltd.

The cellar is one of the most advanced and well equipped in the Southern Hemisphere the first wines made in 2008.

Wines Tasted on the terrace


Cabernet franc rose 2016

strawberry crisp fresh finish

Delaire Graff Sauvignon Blanc 2015

beautifully fresh hint gooseberry and lemon

Delaire Graff  Sauvignon Blanc coastal cuvée Olifants river 2015

3 km from sea has 4% sémillon Franschoek Textured structured great mouthfeel length gooseberry tropical fruit

Delaire Graff Banghoek reserve Chardonnay 2015

vanilla peaches toast long 10 months French oak barriques seductive nose long lingering finish

Delaire Graff Swartland Chenin Blanc 2015

Honey citrus

Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2015

Alcohol stands out Tomato leaf nose cassis soft tannins Needs another year or more




Kleine Zalze Estate


Winemaking dates back to 1695 . Now run by ex lawyer Kobus Basson with extensive renovation and modernization.The property includes an 18 hole golf course a luxury residential developments a boutique hotel and a top Provençal inspired restaurant

Terroir Dinner with Anthony van schalkwyk atTerroir restaurant

Four clearly defined ranges exist . the foot of Africa range , The cellar selection range , the vineyard range and their flagship family reserve range.

Wines tasted with dinner

Vintage 2009 Blanc De Blanc Methode cap classique.

Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2015

Family Reserve, Cabernet 2012

Family Reserve Shiraz 2012

For full tasting notes see details from our wine dinner in London with Kleine Zalze .

I highly recommend this as a destination to base yourselves in Stellenbosch, complete with infinity pool , majestic views , mountain bike trail , excellent restaurant and easy access to wineries .

Leave a comment

Singing in the rain at Groot Constantia

My long awaited trip to South African began at this historic  Cape wine estate dating back to 1685 .
The first rains for three months were greeted with great glee at Groot Constantia Estate.
After a long dry summer drought the parched earth lapped up the rainstorm.
Their passionate winemaker Boela lined up a
delightful run of wines.
CEO Jean Claude joined us with a history lesson
followed by a tour of the  finest surviving Cape Dutch Architecture
and the oldest Manor House in the country.
Wines tasted
Blanc de Noirs 2016 a wonderfully fresh rose
with 3 or 4 hours of skin contact
with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Sauvignon Blanc /Semillon 2016 herbaceous with added texture
Sauvignon Blanc 2016 melon passion fruit crisp and dry finish
Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 cassis tomato leaf and ripe tannin
Pinotage 2015 savoury Umami soy sauce and smoky . Good finish
Shiraz 2015 pepper spice good core of black fruit long finish , lovely
Gouverneurs Reserve 2014 ripe plums vanilla cedar firm tannins ,
a little closed needs a few more years and a good long decant , great potential.
Grand Constance 2014. Aromatic ripe apricot lavender,
fresh black tea leaves rich lush with very long length , delicious, a marvel
We had Lunch at Jonkerhuis with Cape Malay influenced dining.
 After overeating we took a  stroll up into the autumnal vineyards
which gave us wonderful views over False Bay making it clear why
Simon Van Der Stel chose this beautiful  valley over three centuries ago.

Leave a comment

Wine Australia Tour , November 2016, Yarra Valley

Inland Australia is  massive, equivalent to  the size of the United States. This leads to a continental effect. Warm North Westerly winds come  from inland. However a cooling effect comes from the  Southwesterlies from the southern ocean giving  Yarra Valley a cool climate. The geology is ancient, 550 million to 800 million years old, much older than most regions . There’s not many mountain ranges .The impact of  climate change  over the last 20 years has led to a harvest one to two days earlier each year .The length of the  growing season is the  same. This spring has been much wetter than usual. Higher red loam volcanic soils gives low tannin ideal for sparkling wines.

Oakridge Winery David Bicknell – Chief Winemaker and CEO gave us an insightful introduction to the region.

Eight chardonnays from 2015 similarly made, approximately 20% to 30% new oak for 10 months, whole bunch press, wild ferment, low or no Malo, low sulphur, leave on lees most years, bigger barrels. Chardonnay is very successful in the cool climate of this region. Typical flavours of white peach and melon.

De Bortoli AA5  Creamy, vanilla ,smokey, toasty, touch pineapple, less texture on the palate lacking length.

Yering station 2015 Lovely nose, complex, sl butter, toast smoky  nice toasty length.

Layla 2015 Helen and Joey Estate Less on nose, pineapple, hint toast,closed.

Giant steps 2015 Chardonnay melon,passionfruit, pineapple, background toast lovely texture mouthfeel balance length complexity ++ core citric backbone.

Seville Estate 2015 Flint smoke toast oak lovely texture crisp acid backbone length.

Oakridge 2015 Willow Lake Vineyard Ripe honey dew melon, finish crisp and citric slightly bitter.

Elmswood estate 2015 Some Oak smoke toast nice acid prominent.

Coldsteam Hills 2015 Toasty clean crisp vanilla integrated.

Winemaker thoughts -earlier picking keep sun off vines, good acid,low oak, fresher style, lovely integrated wines, cool climate grapefruit pith, keep compact fruit. This has changed over the years. The feeling is that previously the wines were overmade,  making big flashy wines. The changes have been spurred by multiple issues including market forces such as the proximity to the well informed Melbourne clientele and the need to counter the surge of New Zealand sauvignon. The confidence and increased expertise of local winemakers have helped enable this.


Eight Pinot Noirs 2015 Vintage

What is Yarra Pinot about? Red fruit and elegance, prettiness and food friendly. Soft tannin due to continentality. No fining, some unfiltered with a gentle approach. Whole bunch wild berry ferment helps promote perfume and elegance. Low percentage 10% to 15% new oak.  300L to 500L barrels, levels of toasting more subtle with careful selection of  oak. Low intervention, ‘my children could make this’ Hoddles Creek winemaker. Pinot Noir ranges from light to medium bodied with flavours of plum strawberry and raspberry.


Punt Road 2015 Red fruits long finish perfume and floral wild strawberry warmer part of valley more Malo

Giant steps Sexton Vineyard 2015 Red fruits  perfume spice length good acid core

Elmswood Estate Pinot Noir 2015 Herbal greener note candied cherry finish

De bortoli Riorret Lustatia Park vineyard 2015 More colour richer nose spicy notes strawberry ripe cherry summer pudding.Floral ripe fruit nice sl bitter finish,Cedar pencil shavings more tannin graphitic note

Journey Wines 2015 Sl more toasty smoky savoury earth forest floor good long finish +

Hoddles Creek Estate Pinot 2015 Medicinal mint herbal eucalyptus finish surrounded by forest

Oak ridge Willow Lake 2015 Spicy oak rich nose textured mouth feel long finish

Coldstream Hills Deer Farm 2015 Savoury long richer creamy mouthfeel uses 50% new oak sl smoky toast to finish

The wines showed lovely  freshness and purity with complexity and length and demonstrated what the Yarra Valley  can deliver. The wines were greatly appreciated over an exquisite lunch at Oakridge .


Four Pillars Gin with Cameron Mackenzie Juniper from Macedonia makes up 80% of the botanicals it gives a pine forest character. Coriander is the second most used botanical then  Cardamon from Guatemala, Star Anise  from Vietnam, Cassia a close cousin to cinnamon. Native Australian botanicals include, Lemon myrtle, cinnamon, leaf of Tasmanian pepper berry, green tea, white pepper 170 g in 600 litre, Lavender, Angelica root gives a  dusty old soily note and  acts as a  fixative. The base used is  wheat spirit. Fresh oranges are used  in the head of still,  leading  to infusion and  delicate extraction of citrus oils.



Rare Dry Gin  Mediterranean character

Navy Strength  Gin58.8% more Asia native Australian finger lime dried almost like Thai  basil leaf / Vietnamese mint, lime caviar ginger and turmeric .

Four Pillars Barerender Series Spiced negroni gin more orange and Indonesian pepper to combat Campari bitters . Cubeb Grains of paradise  from Africa

Four pillars Rockpool Pomelos schezuan peppers other,dry elegant

Coloured gins

Bloody Shiraz Gin Version of sloe gin acid ++  from sloes  add sugar,Trials of Yarra Shiraz worked best (Cabernet too herbaceous)  destem soak for 8 weeks 37.8 c No colour no sugar added 95 gl sugar colour stable,Nice sweet touch long delicious.

Four pillars barrel aged Gin  French oak barrels

Four pillars Christmas Gin in old rutherglen barrels distilled Christmas puddings,Aromatics flavor balance weight texture


Dinner at Gembrook Hill

This is the last winery in Yarra, 3 km from border with Gippsland owned by the  Marks family. Andrew Marks makes Gembrook Hill with  Timo Mayer. He also has his  own label The Wanderer, and started The  Melbourne Gin Company.

We were surrounded by some of Australia’s most talented winemakers – Luke Lambert, Gary Mills from Jamsheed and  Timo Mayer and were lucky enough to try a wide range of their excellent wines accompanied by slow cooked lamb falling off the bone.


Shiraz and Cabernet focus at Yering station

Cool climate, selection of wines to show diversity, some cofermented with viognier others with Marsanne.Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Yarra Cabernet ranges from full to medium-bodied with silky tannins and aromatic,floral and herbal characters.

Seven Shiraz’s from Yarra Valley

Innocent Bystander 2015 Savoury pepper spice black fruits,low crop not much length, drying finish grippy tannins.

Punt Road 2015 Tim Shand , Lighter esters fruity red, and black fruits pepper lighter tannins chalky nice length good acidic core tension freshness tension Pinot technique whole bunch

Giant Steps 2015 Richer riper complex nose dense core ripe blackberries dark plums spice pepper savoury lovely ripe grippy tannins savoury finish sl salty +

Paynes Rise 2014 Smoke rubber pepper savoury meaty chalky tannins good acid balance

Yering station Old Beenak road 2014 Sl smoke toast spicy peppery core good long length black fruits length +

Yering station Shiraz viognier Reserve 2014 Alcohol spice closed chalky sl green tannins

Yarra yering 2014 more old school, complex nose of turmeric  spice vanilla pepper black fruits touch oak savoury meaty salty long finish + + violets

Seven Cabernet Sauvignons from  Yarra Valley

Looking for ripeness picking has to be late to avoid greeness and tomato leaf. The feeling is  that an edge of leafiness is best , site sensitive, different from Margaret River and Coonawarra dry red if picked too late.

Punt Road 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Chalky drying tannins, closed hint cassis

Tokara Estate 2015 Oak spice delicate tobacco cedar full richer coffee tannins chalky ++

Warramunda 2014 Cassis mint menthol  tannins, blackcurrant finish

Yeringberg 2014 Cedar mint drying chalky tannins

Yarra yering 2014 60 % cabernet Complex liquorice spice oak cassis tobacco ++ softer but still lots tannins sillier long length

De Bortoli Estate 2014 Cassis spice mint herbaceous not vegetal

Yering station 2014 18 months barrel mint menthol cedar cassis Length ++ Power elegance Length lovely +


img_1675-copyWe finished the day with fine dining in Fitzroy, Melbourne with a selection of wines from the tour.

Best Western  Pinot Meunier 1999 was  remarkable, so much fruit for a wine of this age and great balance and length.

Huge thanks to Wine Australia and our tour leader Mark Davidson  for their generosity and organisation of this memorable journey through some of Australia’s fines wine regions.

Leave a comment

Wine Australia Tour November 2016 – Adelaide Hills

The Adelaide Hills is one of the largest geographical wine regions in Australia, and amongst the most diverse in terms of climate, soil and topography. Overall the climate is cool best suited to early ripening varieties. Sauvignon Blanc is the most planted white variety and tends towards ripe tropical flavours with hints of herbaceousness with crisp acidity. chardonnay produces complex medium bodied wines of which a significant amount is used in sparkling wine production. Adelaide Hills id the leading region in South Australia for high quality Pinot Noir typically medium bodies with ripe cherry and strawberry fruit with soft tannins .
 Regional Classics Tasting at Pike and Joyce                                                               Sparkling wine