SITT 2008
The Specialist Importers Trade Tastings
25th February 2008
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

After missing SITT in 2007 because I was visiting Californian winemakers, it was good to be back at this, one of the most interesting and civilised of the wine trade's busy tastings diary.

Laytons Wine Merchants

2006 Mount Edward Riesling, Central Otago, New Zealand
Very minerally, fragrant riesling nose.  Very good palate.  This has a lovely balance and represents a very pure expression of riesling.  90/100

2005 Pinot Gris Réserve, Domaine Jean Sipp, Ribeauville, Alsace
Very nice nose – hugely attractive.  Rich, full palate.  Very nicely done.  Very attractive.  89/100

2005 Riesling Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Jean Sipp, Ribeauville, Alsace
Good nose with some minerals.  Fair palate.  This has balance and a decent weight in the mouth, with some concentration, but it’s not the greatest and overall feels a bit simple.  86/100


The Wine Treasury

2005 Dolcetto Costa Fiore, Claudio Alario, Piedmont, Italy, 13.5%
A light, delicate, cherry and raspberry fruit nose.  Good, fresh attack, followed by some grippy tannins on the palate.  At the moment, it’s feeling a bit hot and needs time.  Though is there enough there to help it last?  85/100

2004 Chianti Classico, Castello di Ama, Tuscany, Italy
The nose has some nicely integrated cherry fruit and tar.  Good palate.  Good, but not at the price (RRP £23).  88/100

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Arlewood Estate, Margaret River, Australia
A very attractive, clean cabernet nose with good fruit, subduing the prominent oak.  Attractive palate. This is a good, pretty classic Margaret River cabernet.  90/100

2005 Pinot Noir Las Alturas Vineyard, Belle Glos, Santa Lucia Highlands, Central Coast, California
This has a super nose – a very precise young pinot noir – soft and open.  Glorious palate: soft and very open.  This is a top quality Californian pinot.  93/100

2004 Syrah, Bilancia, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
The nose has some very attractive, gentle black fruits.  Very attractive palate, with a nice and easy black fruit character and decent grip on the finish.  89/100

2005 Pinot Noir, Migration, Anderson Valley, California
A lovely nose: very, very poised and elegant.  Super palate, again with huge elegance.  The zinginess of young pinot appears on the finish.  89/100

2006 California Zinfandel, Cline Cellars, California
The nose has very soft, really quite minerally black fruit along with some chocolate.  Rich in the mouth, with velvety black fruits and a touch cocoa.  90/100

2006 Ancient Vine Zinfandel, Cline Cellars, California, 14.5%
More precise and more elegant than the straight zinfandel.  Lovely rich palate.  Very nice concentration, but without being overblown.  91/100

2006 California Viognier, Cline Cellars, California
A nice clean rich palate and nose.  Fairly straightforward as California viognier goes, but it works well.  88/100

2005 Conundrum Wines White Table Wine
An interesting nose; rich, creamy and full with lots of layers of interest.  Super palate.  Very complex and full.  91/100

2007 Deviation Road Pinot Gris, Adelaide Hills, Australia
A rich, pear-y pinot gris nose.  Lighter on the palate than on the nose.  Very delicate attack which really fills out in the mouth.  87/100

2006 Chardonnay, Duck Pond Cellars, Washington State, USA
A fresh, clean chardonnay nose that feels quite delicate. Very rich in the mouth, tasting a bit spirity.  Not at all living up the nose.  Not my style at all.  77/100

2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley, California
This has a touch of semillon in the blend.  A clean nose, not especially redolent of sauvignon blanc.  Lovely rich, ripe palate.  Very much a Napa sauvignon blanc.  87/100

2004 Château de Fesles, Anjou blanc La Chapelle, Loire
Lemon and IPA nose.  Decent palate.  Nothing special.  82/100

2006 Domaine des Gerbeaux, Mâcon Chaintré, Burgundy
A lovely nose – spot on with great balance and interest.  Lovely palate: very refined and elegant.  A bargain at the RRP of £9.50.  89/100

2006 Semillon, L’Ecole No. 41, Columbia Valley, Washington State, USA
A very attractive, subtle lemony-creamy nose.  Quite forward on the palate.  More of an interesting wine than an unreservedly enjoyable one.  85/100

2006 Rosacroce Ronco dell’Angelica, Azienda Agricola Midolini, DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli, Italy, 13.5%
This is a 100% tocai friulano (but they’re not allowed to put that on the label now).  It has a lovely floral nose with hints of hay.  Rich and full on the palate, unfortunately tending to over-extraction, though there is decent acidity still.  Not the best tocai friulano.  82/100

2005 Nero d’Avola, Morgante, IGT Sicilia, 13.5%
A rich, chocolatey, dark plum nose.  Good open palate.  A bit simple maybe.  86/100

2004 Armador Syrah, Odfjell Vineyards, Colchagua Valley, Chile
This has 5% Malbec in the blend.  It has a very bright, attractive nose.  There’s ripe, sweet blackberry fruit on the palate, and a hint of chocolate.  On the finish, there’s a bit of grip that rescues it from simplicity.  82/100

2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Napa Valley, California
A stunningly fragrant ripe blackcurrant nose is followed up by sweet black fruit on the palate, and then a bit of a spicy, oaky bit.  Rather hot on the finish.  87/100

2006 Pinot Blanc, Domaine Rieflé, Alsace
This was served way too cold, but it seemed to have subtle, pleasant peach flavours.  Seems a very pleasant wine, but on this tasting it was dulled by the cold.  84?/100

2005 Artemis Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Napa Valley, California
A big cedary nose, feeling nicely balanced and integrated.  This is very nicely put together and an impressive wine.  Very definitely a Napa Cabernet, but avoiding the excesses of the poorer examples.  93/100

2006 Pinot Blanc, WillaKenzie Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
An attractive, rich nose with concentrated stone fruit.  Very attractive on the palate: very poised and elegant, but with a nice weight.  Works very well.  91/100

2006 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
A very attractive nose.  Lovely light, fresh palate.  Fresh and zingy.  Rather nice.  89/100


Richards Walford

2005 Sylvaner Weingarten de Rohrschwihr, Domaine Rolly Gassmann, Alsace
An attractive soft nose with white fruit flowers.  Nice weight on the palate, with a hint of residual sugar.  A very fine wine.  90/100

2004 Gewurztraminer, Domaine Rolly Gassmann, Alsace
An elegant rose petal and lychee nose.  Good balance and restraint on the palate: not too in your face.  A nice entry level gewürztraminer.  89/100



For the Love of Wine
For the Love of Wine is a small enthusiastic family company, specialising in Italy and Switzerland.

NV Tradition Rosé Brut Méthode Traditionelle, Mauler, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
This is a blend of 50% pinot noir, 40% cabernet sauvignon and 10% chardonnay.  It has a very subtle nose.  Decent, clean palate.  This is a simple, basic pink fizz.  Nothing wrong with it, but nothing to particularly recommend it, though the price (RRP £9.95) isn’t bad for a traditional method pink fizz.  82/100

2006 Petite Arvine du Chamoson, René Favre et Fils, Valais, Switzerland
A very fresh nose: quite lemony with a nice, gentle minerality.  Rather nice on the palate, with some ripe, very tropical fruit flavours.  But there’s also an underlying acidity that keeps it fresh and almost racy.  92/100

2006 Arcangelo Rosso, Tamborini Carlo Eredi, Ticino DOC
This is a Merlot from southern Switzerland.  It has a very soft red fruits nose.  Soft and clean on the palate, this has a nice fruit character.  Very young and zingy feeling and as yet a bit un-integrated, especially on the finish.  82/100


Laymont & Shaw
Based in Cornwall, this retail, mail order and internet wine merchant has long specialised in Spanish and, to a lesser extent, Portuguese wines.

NV Manzanilla ‘La Rubia’, Bodegas Valdivia, Jerez, Spain
Quite a full, rich, almondy nose.  Quite full on the palate, with a yeasty, salty, complex overtone.  A nice, full-flavoured manzanilla.  90/100

2007 Erumir Blanco, Bodega Can Bonastre, Penedès, Spain, 12%
This is a blend of 60% sauvignon blanc, 20% macabeo and 20% riesling.  The sauvignon blanc is dominant on the nose, but with the others showing through, and maybe a touch of oak?: quite an odd nose.  This is really quite unusual on the palate, but very far from unpleasant.  Interesting stuff.  88/100

2006 Montenovo Godello, Bodegas Valdesil, Valdeorras, Spain
The nose has fresh melon and green grapes.  A nice round palate, but with good freshness.  Light and clean.  Very pleasant.  87/100

2006 Calderona Rosado, Bodegas Frutos Villar, Cigales, Spain
An attractive strawberry/raspberry fruit nose.  Good palate.  It’s a basic rosé, but good enough.  Falls off a bit towards the finish.  84/100

2005 Valderroa Mencia, Bodegas Valdesil, Valdeorras, Spain, 13%
A light, fresh nose with soft plums and raspberry.  Very impressive, characterful, easy drinking.  Very attractive.  Nice balance and very good length.  93/100

1999 Finca Los Altos Gran Reserva, Bodegas Fernando Castro, Valdepeñas, Spain, 12.5%
A lovely mature nose, very much with a gran reserva feel.  On the palate this has a really good, old Spanish feel.  At just £7.45 a bottle, this is an absolute bargain.  90/100

2006 Miralmonte Tinto Joven, Tinto de Toro, Bodegas Santa Eulalia, DO Toro, Spain
A bright, young blackberry nose.  Fresh, lively and zingy on the palate.  86/100

2004 Calderona Roble, Bodegas Frutos Villar, Cigales, Spain
A good clean nose.  Nice palate.  A bit non-descript.  But attractive and easy.  84/100

2004 Riberal Crianza, Bodegas Santa Eulalia, Ribera del Duero, Spain
The nose has slightly tarry black fruits with some nice integrated oak.  This has a lovely classic Ribera del Duero feel.  Lovely palate.  Quite serious stuff.  I’d put it more at reserve level if forced to guess.  Excellent length.  91/100

2005 Marin Old Vine Garnacha, Bodegas Ignacio Marin, Cariñena, Spain
There is restrained black fruit on the nose, along with some dusty oak.  Very good on the palate, with a nice, impressive, generic Spanish feel.  An unchallenging wine, but it works very well.  88/100

2004 Mainetes, Bodegas San Dionisio, Jumilla, Spain
This is a blend of merlot, monastrell and syrah.  It has a fairly straightforward nose with red fruits and some woody spice.  Clean and unchallenging on the palate.  Nice stuff.  87/100

2000 Viña Alberdi Reserva, La Rioja Alta, Rioja, Spain
A gorgeous minerally Rioja nose.  Lovely, spot-on palate with red fruits and great balance.  Very good value at around £11.  90/100

2006 Onda Nova Syrah, Adega do Cantor, Algarve, Portugal
A dumb, sweet black fruit nose.  A good, simple, basic syrah.  84/100

2004 Cortes de Cima, Alentejo, Portugal
A very attractive nose with restrained, balanced hedgerow fruits.  Very nice on the palate.  There’s good development on the palate and a nice character and depth.  89/100

2004 Aragonês, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal, 14%
A bright, floral, fragrant, very deep red fruits nose; almost raisiny-curranty.  Lovely palate.  Rich and very concentrated, tending to sweetness.  88/100



Yeo & Co
Yeo and Co, run by James Yeo, are specialists in South African wines from boutique wineries.

2004 Chardonnay Cape Point Vineyards, Wine of Origin Cape Point
This has a slightly sawdusty and slightly spirity chardonnay nose with some pears and peaches.  Rather in your face and obvious, oaky chardonnay on the palate.  84/100

2001 Chardonnay, Cape Point Vineyards, Wine of Origin Cape Point
very integrated, creamy, buttery nose – very attractive.  Restrained and very elegant on the palate.  90/100

2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Cape Point Vineyards, Wine of Origin Cape Point
gorgeous fresh raw peas and asparagus nose.  Very precise, focussed palate with very green vegetable flavours.  Finishes with a nice, almost spicy feel.  91/100

2005 Semillon, Cape Point Vineyards, Wine of Origin Cape Point
rather dull nose.  Good, even palate.  This has some nice nutty, citrussy flavours, but overall, it’s a bit dull, especially after the brilliant sauvignon blanc.  86/100

2002 Noble Late Harvest Semillon, Cape Point Vineyards, Wine of Origin Cape Point
fresh, subtle nose – nicely honeyed.  Lovely, fresh, clean palate.  A big acidity keeps it very balanced.  89/100

2006 Chardonnay, Ataraxia Mountain Vineyards, Wine of Origin Western Cape
Much more restrained and elegant than the Cape Point, this has a round and fragrant nose.  Very attractive and very good on the palate.  Working well for me.  92/100

2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Ataraxia Mountain Vineyards, Wine of Origin Western Cape
big stale peas nose, but in a very attractive way.  This is a textbook, clean sauvignon.  There’s very green fruit on the palate, which has nice balance and some depth.  Not quite as good on the palate as on the nose.  89/100

2006 Serenity, Ataraxia Mountain Vineyards, Wine of Origin Western Cape, 14.5%
This is a blend of shiraz, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.  It has an interesting nose with nice character from gently floral black berry fruit and a hint of tobacco.  Quite bright and fresh on the palate – I’d never guess it was 14.5% alcohol by volume.  This is very impressive, and really quite the opposite of what I would have expected from the origin and the alcohol level.  92/100

2007 Chenin Blanc, Bosman Family Vineyards, Wine of Origin Wellington
This has a nice fresh citrussy nose with some oiliness.  Very good palate.  Clean, fresh, and nicely balanced.  Very persistent length.  91/100

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bosman Family Vineyards, Wine of Origin Wellington
A nice, spicy cabernet nose with a gentle floral note.  Nice, focussed palate.  Though it turns a bit green on the finish, which just lets down the overall impression a bit.  87/100

2005 Jean Daneel Signature Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region
This has a really gorgeous nose; very inviting with lemon, lanolin and a touch of honey.  Very good palate: precise and focussed.  Very impressive, with huge character and depth.  Stunning stuff.  94/100

2002 Jean Daneel Signature red, Wine of Origin Franschhoek
This is an equal blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot.  It has an impressively balanced nose.  Superb palate.  This is beautifully made and drinking beautifully.  94/100

2003 Morgenster, Morgenster Estate, Wine of Origin Stellenbosch
This is a merlot-cabernet blend.  It has a lovely, precise nose – very focussed, with rather minerally black fruits.  Very nice on the palate: very focussed and very elegant.  Very much in a French style, which makes me wonder just how south African it is.  90/100

2001 Lourens River Valley, Morgenster Estate, Wine of Origin Stellenbosch, 14.5%
Again, a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.  Not a terribly impressive nose, which feels very French, like a youngish claret.  This really feels French on the palate.  There’s lots of minerality, and it’s much better in the mouth than it is on the nose.  Nice poise.  89/100

2003 Veenwouden Private Cellar Classic, Wine of Origin Paarl
A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and malbec.  A nice interesting nose with black bruits, some redcurrants with a nice woody background.  Very good on the palate – very expressive and balanced – with a nice exotic, spicy character.  90/100

2003 Merlot, Veenwouden Private Cellar, Wine of Origin Paarl
A ripe, focussed merlot nose, though a bit lacking in character.  Lovely soft palate, though it’s rather international.  Nice grip on the finish.  86/100


Top Selection
Top Selection is a small, privately owned importer that deals in wines from family-owned domains.

2006 Château Les Bertrands, Cuvée Tradition, AC Premières Côtes de Blaye, France, 12.5%
This is a blend of 85% sauvignon blanc and 15% muscadelle.  The attractive nose is very fragrant and floral.  Attractive palate, feeling just off dry, but with nice minerality too.  Easy and attractive.  Actually, I’m quite impressed by this.  89/100

2003 Tokaji Cuvée, Istvan Szepsy, Tokaji, Hungary
A lovely floral, fragrant nose.  Elegant, but remarkably rich for just the cuvee.  91/100

2002 Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos, Istvan Szepsy, Tokaji, Hungary
A big nose, full of apricot tart scents.  Superb balance on the palate.  Very fine acidity.  Top stuff.  94/100

2004 Melis Chardonnay, Parés Baltà, Penedès, Spain
A very slight, uninteresting nose.  Very powerful on the palate: they seem to have really extracted chardonnay’s spirity side.  Very unimpressive.  78/100

2003 Grüner Veltliner Eiswein, Anton Bauer, Wagram, Donauland, Austria
A very precise, focussed GV nose.  Very elegant and clean on the palate.  A very fine sweet wine.  92/100

2006 Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett, Egon Müller, Saar, Germany, AP No. 3 567 142 02 07
This isn’t give much away on the nose.  On the palate, it’s definitely on the medium-sweet side.  This isn’t really the most impressive of Kabinetts that I’ve had, and it seems a bit dilute.  A disappointing wine from Egon Müller.  83/100

1997 Riesling Wiebelsberg Grand Cru Vendanges Tardives, Domaine Gresser, Alsace, France
A very oily, petrolly nose.  Very nicely balanced palate, and very precise.  Possibly, it’s a bit lacking in character and is almost tending towards a more Germanic style.  87/100

2005 Cuvée Celine, Clos Le Comte, AC Sauternes, France
A slight, forward, Sauternes nose.  This is a decent, fairly basic Sauternes, though it has a bit of a raw edge on the finish.  83/100

1998 Henri Giraud Fûts de Chêne, Champagne, France
A deep, slightly oxidative nose with floral stone fruit.  Much more elegant on the palate than the Esprit de Giraud.  Works well.  87/100

NV Esprit de Giraud, Henri Giraud, Champagne, France
A full, spirituous nose.  Very full, rich palate.  A bit coarse.  83/100

2005 Château de Fosse Sèche, Saumur Blanc, France, 13.5%
This has a somewhat unfocussed, peachy chenin nose.  But it redeems itself on the palate: really lovely, with nice concentration, but remaining very clean throughout.  91/100

2006 Verdelho, David Traeger, Victoria, Australia
A bright, fresh nose but without much character.  Light, crisp and fresh in the mouth.  There’s some structure, but overall it’s a bit uninteresting – though it is served very cold.  86/100

2005 Grüner Veltliner Grande Reserve, Anton Bauer, Donauland, Austria
A restrained nose, giving little away.  Fairly rich and full on the palate with some apparent sweetness.  Just feels a bit average.  84/100

2006 Châtea Haut Musiel, Grenache Blanc, AC Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
A fairly restrained nose.  It has nice balance on the palate.  This has good character for a 100% Grenache blanc.  Very persistent in the mouth, developing that real white Rhône nuttiness.  91/100

2006 Muscat, Domaine Gresser, Alsace, France, 12%
A very restrained, delicate muscat nose.  Light, delicate attack, and then the muscat character builds in the mouth.  This has impressive restraint, particularly for a muscat, and even an elegance.  92/100


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Last updated: 25 April 2009