Steve Bennett has been importing wines from around the world, and particularly Europe for a number of years. Many of the wines have become established names (think El Burro, Rojo, Arriba..) However, utilising his Master of Wine contacts he continues to add many new, different and exciting wines to his portfolio. Tonight afforded Steve the opportunity to show some of his favourites. An eclectic mix but all very good, presented in Steve’s humorous inimitable manner. This was an excellent tasting with all the wines tasting very well. Of note was Steve’s own Kairos Sauvignon Blanc 2009 which he served blind. Amazingly fresh but with some aged textural nuances that led most tasters to think it must be European.

Champagne Paul Louis Martin ‘Bouzy Grand Cru’ NV – Reims, France $67.99

The Paul Louis Martin Champagne House has been family owned and run since 1864. A single vineyard Estate of just 10ha  in the Grand Cru Village of Bouzy, Montagne de Reims, home to great  Pinot Noir. Paul Louis Martin’s daughter Francine Martin-Rapeneau, aided by her son Vincent, as taken over and they remain fervent about the quality of their champagne. The wines from the Montage de Reims have much more weight, and power than those from La Côte des Blancs. While they are still excellent as an aperitif being more rich and robust in style they are able to stand up to a much wider variety of food accompaniments. 60% Pinot Noir – 40% Chardonnay “Bouzy” is one of the top quality villages in Champagne’s Montagne de Reims and is well known for rich, full bodied, intensely toasty wines like this one – a star.”

18.5/20, 94/100 Dan Murphys

The Cup & Rings Godello 2015 by Norrel Robertson MW – D.O. Monterrei, Spain $23.99

The Cup and Rings Godello is a joint project between Norrel Robertson MW and Terras do Cigarrón in Monterrei, Galicia, and is named after the prehistoric, carved stone design commonly found in Galicia and in Norrel’s original home of Scotland. Hand-harvested from separate pickings of a large, single vineyard called Villar de Vos which has great difference in soil types from laderas de pizarra to soils composed of silt, sand, clay and alluvial wash from the River Támega which runs through the heart of the DO. The climate is a unique mix of continental and Atlantic influences which create the perfect environment for the production of high quality Godello grapes which are pre-chilled to 10ºC then gently crushed using only the lightest free run juice. The juice is then gently settled before fermentation in stainless steel with Burgundian yeast strains which tends to favour lees ageing and mouthfeel. A 20% portion is also fermented in old large French oak barrels at ambient temperatures of 18 to 19ºC. The two portions of wine are then brought together and the wine receives lees stirring for a further 6 months before filtration and bottling.

‘Charming, inviting wine” Tom Cannavan, 90/100 Decanter Magazine

Kairos Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Served Blind) $23.99

Steve’s own label. He sourced the fruit from a vineyard on the stoney soils of the Wairau Valley. Naturally fermented in 6-8 yo oak – the ferment took nearly 2 years to complete! This has developed into a really intriguing, interesting wine with wild herb, vanilla custard tones. It is a wine that sits on the palate for you to contemplate its flavours and textures. Steve described it as “NZ Sauvignon Blanc on a ‘Survivor show'” – a sinuey, wild and a bit wooly. I loved it and it is a pity we only have about a dozen bottles left.

Gold Medal & Trophy Winner, 5 Stars Bob Campbell MW

Montsable Chardonnay 2015 – Pays d’Oc, France $19.99

The wines of Montsablé are inspired by the desire to craft elegant Burgundian varietals in the sunny climate of Languedoc in the south of France. Working with growers in the cooler Puisserguier vineyards of the Saint Chinian area of Languedoc – a landscape of high hills, shallow chalky soils and controlled yields to seek out fruit that delivers pure flavours and great balance. In the winery, the must is lightly clarified before fermentation in order to express the varietal aromas of the Chardonnay and the fruit is handled carefully with maturation on fine lees in stainless steel vats for a part of the cuvee to build texture and mouthfeel. Only 20% of the wine is aged in French oak to add just the most subtle of seasoning. The result is a Chardonnay with great palate weight, bright fruit and texture.

Metro Top 50 Wines of Summer 2016, 4 Stars Raymond Chan

The Cup & Rings’ Mencia  2014 by Norrel Robertson MW – D.O. Bierzo, Spain $23.99

Vineyards are located in the valleys between the villages of Corullon, Villafranca del Bierzo and Cacabelos. Very complex soils ranging from alluvial clays and stones at the valley floor to granite and schist higher up on the slopes. Bush vine Mencia , hand harvested , crushed and destemmed. Temp controlled alcoholic fermentation to 28 degrees celcius for 7 days with plunging and delistage for colour and tannin extraction followed by a short maceration. Pressed off skins using only free run wine followed by full malolactic fermentation.

91/100 Falstaff Magazine. “The Pinot Noir of Spain” – Drinks Business

Mont Rocher Carignan ‘Vielles Vignes’ 2014 – Pays d’Herault, France $14.99

Carignan was the single most common vine variety planted in France until it was overtaken by Merlot at the end of the 20th century, yet many wine drinkers have never heard of it. Carignan’s origins are presumed Spanish and as a late-ripening variety is only suited to warm climates. This wine is a project of 2 UK Masters of Wine, Giles Cooke and Feargal Tynon whose aim is to produce modern drinkable wines from indigenous varieties. Sourced from small parcels of old vines the grapes are destemmed and crushed. The fermentation is carried out at controlled temperature, around 23°C. The ageing is carried out in tanks with a small amount of French oak staves to add more complexity and roundness to the blend with a third of the wine aged in barrels for 3 months to add softness. The resulting wine is extremely tasty, eminently drinkable and extremely affordable.

Metro Top 50 Wines of Winter 2017

Gran Familia Rioja Reserva 2011 – D.O.C. Rioja Alta Spain $19.99

Gran Familia Rioja Reserva comes from Bodegas Castillo de Fuenmayor, located near Briones at the heart of Rioja Alta. This winery belongs to a family with one of the longest traditions in Rioja winemaking and our winemaker has access to some of the finest wines in Rioja.  The 2008 vintage is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 10% Garnacha and is made from vines with an average age of 25 years which are grown in premium Rioja Alta vineyards with soils composed of clay and limestone. The wine is aged for a total of three years, with at least 12 months in oak barrels. Selection of barrels is of particular importance in Rioja where oak is such a critical element in winemaking. For Gran Familia we chose to put 50% of the wine into American oak barrels and 50% into French oak barrels. This results in the perfect balance of fruit and oak flavours.

Metro Top 50 Wines of Winter 2017, 4 Stars Joelle Thomson, 4 Stars Bob Campbell MW

Thorny Devil Single Vineyard, Old Vine, Dry Grown Grenache 2014 – Barossa, Australia $27.99

“Two UK-based Masters of Wine – Giles Cooke and Fergal Tynan have joined forces with winemaker Peter Leske in this international venture based out of the former Nepenthe winery in the Adelaide Hills. Named after aa little lizardy fellow called a Thorny Devil which is found in the vineyard. With Grenache, they were looking to use Pinot Noir winemaking techniques to maximise fruit purity, texture and finesse rather than making just another rich red wine. The fruit was gently crushed to retain as many whole berries as possible before a cold soak prior to fermentation. Fermentation began naturally and hand plunging twice a day was carried out through to dryness. Gently pressed off skins before 10 months lees age in old French oak hogsheads. The resulting wine has the characteristic Barossa punch but there is a beguiling texture and perfume that keeps you interested.

“Really quite perfumed and also very delicate on the palate. This certainly doesn’t taste anything like a 15 percenter. Very beautiful texture and freshness. Entertaining fruit and very succulent. No jamminess. Bravo! Really super charming. Maybe Barossa has something to teach Châteauneuf?” Jancis Robinson MW Favourite New Wave Grenache

92/100 Jamie Goode, 92/100 The Wine Front, Gary Walsh, 91/100 James Suckling, Metro Top 50 Wines for Winter 2017

No Stone Unturned ‘Old Vines’ 2012 by Ed Adams Master of Wine – D.O. Terra Alta, Spain $28.99  

Garnacha 62% Cariñena 23% Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah 15%. The wine comes from the very best plots of Pepe Fuster’s stone covered 26 hectare vineyard in Terra Alta in Catalonia, north-eastern Spain. The Garnacha vines are nearly 50 years old and this age gives the wine great concentration and complexity of dark, spicy, blackberry fruit which has been seasoned and enhanced by 10 months in the finest new Dargaud & Jaegle oak barrels from France. No Stone Unturned is a big, serious wine which is ripe and juicy enough to be enjoyed now but will also last a good 8-10 years in bottle.

Gold Medal Wine & Spirit Asia Wine Challenge 2014. Decanter World Wine Awards 2014 – Commended