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SA & Australia dominate Geoffrey Dean’s Top 10 wines of 2020

7 January 2021  -  The Buyer, Geoffrey Dean

Before the pandemic prevented international travel, Dean visited South Africa and Australia where he made a number of key vinuous discoveries which he shares with us in his Top 10 wines of 2020.

Having been restricted by the pandemic to visiting just two countries outside the UK in 2020 – South Africa and Australia – I make no apologies for picking eight labels from there. Two wonderful French wines are also included, having been drunk at home. In alphabetical order, here they are.

Abingdon, Chardonnay 2018, 13.5% abv (Lions River, KZN, South Africa)

A South African winery with a difference – not from the western Cape but Kwazulu Natal and the hilly Midlands region. Situated at 1140m in the Lions River district north-west of Pietermaritzburg, the wines are jointly made by British expat, Ian Smorthwaite, and his daughter Laurie Cooper. Wife Jane is in charge of cuisine at the cellar door, which won South Africa’s ‘Best Kept Secret’ American Express award in 2019. Appealing citrus and white peach fruit stand out in this barrel-fermented Chardonnay that underwent 100% malolactic fermentation, giving buttered toast notes. The wine saw no new oak, and zings with refreshing acidity. From low-yielding vines (three and a half tons per hectare), it has a long finish and underlines how good KZN wine can be.

Château de Pommard, Simone 2018, 14% abv (Burgundy)

Already a great wine. From a tiny 0.53 hectare plot in the walled Clos Marey-Monge single vineyard, this truly remarkable Pommard sings like a canary and will give untold pleasure to those fortunate enough to drink it over the next couple of decades. Winemaker Emmanuel Sala is the first to admit he is lucky to have a terroir with the highest internal surface density of clay in the Côte d’Or (736m2/g) but he has crafted a masterpiece, employing whole cluster (75%) for the first time and 38% new oak with very, very light toasting. The result is a beautifully balanced Pinot Noir with freshness, grace, complexity, concentration and length but velvet-like tannins.

Chêne Bleu, Abelard 2012,  14% abv (Vaucluse, France).

A very classy wine made up of 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah, this gorgeous blend from the southern Rhône has alluring clove, licorice and pepper notes on the nose with very appetising red plum and black cherry fruit on the palate. Blessed with very silky tannins, it has tremendous intensity of flavour with hints of spice and a long finish. All the wine’s elements are impeccably balanced. The Rolet family’s hard work and passion in reviving this estate near the old Roman town of Vaison-la-Romaine has been rewarded with what is now a formidable stable of wines.

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