A Laithwaites Premiere tasting now and the two choices for October 2016, both of which are completely new to me.
Journey’s End Pathfinder 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 13.5%, £12.99
This is apparently a ‘top tip’ from Laithwaites, handcrafted and offering a Bordeaux blend with a New World ripeness. It’s a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. Founded in 1995 by an Englishman, his ethos is all about creating an amazing wine from a small scale quantity.
I like the label of this wine as it evokes the simple detail displayed by the classics, and with Stellenbosch being the absolute epicentre for fine wine making in South Africa, the £12.99 price-point (which is slightly above average for the Premiere scheme) created high expectations. The wine is sealed under screwcap.
In colour this is a dark (but not opaque) youthful purple with a nice clear water white rim. The nose is full of clean and pure fruit but again speaks of its relative youth (although we are talking 2+ years at this point). There’s a clear hit of blackberry and crunchy cherry (from the Cabernet), cake and spice (from the Merlot) and light vanilla florals (from the Cabernet Franc), and so this is a wine that absolutely shows its constituent parts.
When I first had a taste shortly after opening the bottle there was a distinct spritz on the palate, again highlighting the vibrancy and youth of the wine. After a while this disappeared, but it is still an important indicator of where this wine is on a trajectory of its ageing cycle.
The palate continues the dark cherry notes and blackcurrant, as well as showing touches of both dark chocolate and coffee, but we’re still very much in pure fruit territory. There’s a light chalky tannin as well as a vibrant acidity that works through the palate, but the overall tone is one of youth.
If I’m honest the wine feels pretty one-dimensional and I could maybe, if I tried really hard, imagine other core fruits such as damson in the mix. It’s certainly a powerful palate giving the best of what it has got, but the price-point and the youth it shows work at odds for me.
The end palate, long as it is, shows some smoke, but was still a bit too ‘tomato’ tangy for my liking. It would be tempting to say ‘try with food’ as that is sometimes a way to mask an imbalance within a wine, but my over-riding thought here is that this needs more time. Whilst there’s a certain silk to the palate there is still a rustic nature.
The provided tasting notes state that this wine is best consumed by 2021 which isn’t that far away really. This leaves me a bit confused as to how far this one can go, and I’m not sure that £12.99 is a fair price for something that needs a bit of love and warmth to make it come alive.
Pico Attila Chardonnay/Ribolla Gialla 2015, Venezie, Italy, 13%, £8.99
Next up is the white wine offering, and what a very good looking bottle this is.
The simple, factual front label makes it almost look like the faceless bottle you can sometimes find as the house wine in restaurant, but don’t be deceived. There are plus points, from the fact that the wine is sealed under cork, but even to the fact that they’ve gone for a slightly arched bottle shape giving a subtle notion of premium.
The wine hails from the mountainous northeast of Italy and, coming from the strategic frontier of the Roman Empire, is named after the hill that (as legend states) Attila the Hun’s soldiers built out of their helmets in AD 452. It comprises the native grape variety Ribolla Gialla alongside Chardonnay, 20% of which was aged in oak.
In colour, even for a wine as young as 2015 there is a nice deep lemon yellow colour with gold hints. The nose is clean and full of fresh lemon and lime, a touch of dried pineapple, pear drops and a hint of honeysuckle and golden syrup.
The palate is full of bruised green apple, pear drops, honey, and there’s also the cream and butter from a good Chardonnay. Medium and gloopy in weight, there’s an almost bronze quality to the palate adding a stability and a depth to the core fruit. Whilst the last wine showed its youth, this wine hides it, despite it being the younger of the two bottles.
Layers of flavour envelop each other and I continually jostle between the core fruit and the deeper flavour profiles. This is great on its own, and would be even better with food.
A clear winner this month, and it is the cheaper of the two bottles, I recommend the Pico Attila Chardonnay/Ribolla Gialla 2015.