The new classic wines
Exciting New World wines with the character and complexity of the best of the Old World

This was one of the most exciting tastings I have been to in a while. It included some of the New World’s most interesting wines; wines with just as much interest and complexity as the very best from the classic Old World regions.

The tasting was organized by Les Caves de Pyrene, a UK-based importer who began by bringing into the UK the unfashionable but delicious wines of the Southwest of France.

In more recent years they have gained fame for being the leading proponent of natural wines in the UK. For this reason, their list has had a predominantly Old World feel to it, but this is now beginning to change.

‘We have been pigeonholed,’ says Doug Wregg of Les Caves. ‘We want to show that wherever we buy we look for an expression of terroir, throughout the world.’ He emphasizes that terroir exists throughout the world. There’s no reason why the Old World should have a monopoly on interesting wines.

This tasting was a chance to show off the new world side of Les Caves’ portfolio, which has been growing of late. The new additions still adhere to the principles that Les Caves hold dear, such as no acidification or cultured yeasts. But they explore new territory.

The wines were tasted over lunch at Hibiscus restaurant in London. In the first instance, all wines were tasted separately. Then lunch was served with flights of wine accompanying each course, to see how well they worked with food.


Sorrenberg Chardonnay2009 Beechworth
Tight, spicy, mineral edge to the nose with some pear and fig notes. Soft-textured, nutty palate is broad and complex with a keen acidic, mineral edge to the ripe fruit. Textural and complex with lovely depth. Profound with a long finish. 95/100

Sorrenberg Gamay 2009 Beechworth
This has 10% Pinot Noir, and 20% of the Gamay is whole bunch fermented. Sweet, pure nose is very refined with elegant cherry fruit. The palate has lovely purity of berry and cherry fruit with some richness and a hint of sappiness. Beautifully elegant with fine acidity as well as lovely precision, and almost a hint of chalkiness. 93/100

Castagna Adam’s Rib 2008 Beechworth
70% Nebbiolo, 30% Syrah. Gentle crushing with some destemming, followed by 18 months in fine-grained French oak, with a small proportion new. Deliciously meaty, spicy and just ever so slightly funky, with ripe dark fruits. Lovely meaty elegance, showing some herbs and a bit of spiciness, as well as interesting structural elements. Fine yet firm. 92/100

Castagna Una Segreto 2008 Beechworth
60% Syrah, 40% Sangiovese. Lovely fresh, sappy green edge to the meaty, spicy berry fruits. Nice savoury structure here under the elegantly ripe berry and cherry fruits. Dense yet harmonious with smooth fruit and notes of herbs, spice and tar. Nicely fresh with good definition, as well as a subtle meatiness. There is soul to this wine. 94/100

Ngeringa JE Syrah 2008 Mount Barker, Adelaide Hills
Wonderfully pure and aromatic with sweet black cherry fruits. Fresh, pure palate with a spicy, slightly peppery edge to the pure berry and cherry fruit. So elegant and pure with grippy, spicy tannic structure underneath. Great definition here: real potential for development. 94/100

Ngeringa Rosé 2008 Mount Barker
Textured and nicely sweet with some cherry and herb notes, as well as some strawberry. Smooth, ripe and quite fine. An interesting rosé. 90/100

Bindi Composition Pinot Noir 2009 Macedon Ranges
A 6 hectare vineyard on a 170 hectare family farm, at high altitude and with a cool climate. Composition is a blend of different blocks. Supple, sweet cherry and berry fruits nose with a hint of green herbal character. Nicely fresh and berryish with a spicy finish. Lively, showing pure cherry fruit and a slight cola tang on the finish. Some interest here. 91/100

Timo Meyer Close Planted Pinot Noir 2008 Yarra Valley
40% whole bunch ferment. Pale in colour. A beautifully elegant, textured wine with a nice supple, savoury character: hints of earth, spice and herbs. Sweet cherry fruit to the fore, here, with a spicy finish and smooth elegance. A lovely, expressive style. 94/100

New Zealand

Pyramid Valley Vineyards Riverbrook Riesling 2008 Marlborough
From close-planted vines in the Brancott valley, with 25% botrytised grapes in the mix. Distinctive, nutty, honeyed, spicy citrussy nose, with some ripe apple notes. The palate is rounded and textured with a hint of sweetness, some waxiness and apricot and melon fruit. Real depth and concentration. Harmonious and mellow. Opulent. 93/100

Pyramid Valley Vineyards Lion’s Tooth Chardonnay 2009 Cantebrury
Just 50 cases made. Concentrated, dense and bold with rich nuttiness and some spicy notes. Very lively acidity and a real mineralic character. Broad textured, with savoury depth, yet still fresh. A profound, intense experience with a lively, long mineral finish. 96/100

Pyramid Valley Vineyards Angel Flower Pinot Noir 2008 Cantebury
10% whole clusters, warm ferment, 12 000 vines/hectare. Pale in colour and slightly cloudy, with wonderfully pure, sweet aromatics of sweet cherry fruit with hints of fudge sweetness and warm herbal notes. The palate is super-smooth and textured, showing sweet fruit and real elegance. Incredible texture here, with very fine structure. It’s a wine that is alive and quite thrilling. 97/100

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2009 Central Otago
Planted in 2002, this vineyard has been biodynamic since its inception. 2009 was the first vintage, and the team involved has been described as a wine ‘supergroup’, including Ted Lemon, Peter Proctor and Claire Mulholland. The label is an illustration from a short story by Goethe. 15% whole clusters used. Pure and intense with lovely fresh, intense, pure black cherry and plum fruit. Really superb fruit definition with lovely purity and good structure. There’s also a really nice savoury dimension. Easy to like, but there’s substance behind the bright fruit. 95/100

Framingham Select Riesling 2009 Marlborough
69 g/l sugar, but it tastes drier because of the high acidity. Very fresh, pure and textured with lovely citrus fruit character. Lively and bright in an off-dry style with high acidity. Purity and intensity here; some lime cordial character. Should evolve nicely. 92/100

Cambridge Road Syrah 2008 Martinborough
From a 3 hectare vineyard. Wonderful white pepper edge to the bright, fresh, intense berry fruits. Fresh, elegant peppery palate with bright berry and cherry fruit and great definition. Lively, expressive and pure with some herb and peppery character. Lovely wine. 95/100

Testalonga ‘El Bandito’ Chenin Blanc 2009 Swartland
Naturally made with no additions (including SO2) or filtration. Complex nose: oxidative, nutty, appley. The palate is complex and lively with amazing acidity and structure, and a mineral, spicy finish. Really complex in the mouth: textural and alive. Notes of pear, apple, spice, herbs. Real precision here: a profound wine. 95/100

The Observatory Red 2004 Swartland
The Carignan (67%) portion of this wine has now been grubbed up; the remainder is Syrah. Fresh and vivid with nice acidity and lovely vibrant berry fruits, as well as some subtle meatiness. There’s nice structure here, with real savoury depth. 93/100

Wines tasted 06/11  
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