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What our expert thought of Swartland, Limited Release, Mourvèdre




the tasting

The Tasting


Although this 2015 is still young, especially for Mourvèdre, it doesn’t look it.  It’s a fairly deep garnet, with none of the purple tinges of youth.  This hints at the oxidative style of winemaking employed to soften the tough Mourvèdre and counteract its tendency to reduction.  Swirling the glass reveals perhaps the most prominent legs I’ve ever seen on an unfortified wine; there’s lots of alcohol and extract in here.
 
The oxidative winemaking has worked: there’s no hint of reduction on this sweet-smelling nose, not even when the screwtop bottle was first opened.  Instead there’s very ripe blackberry fruit, overlaid by distinct notes of coffee and, behind that, chocolate.  I can detect the spirity aroma of alcohol too, making this a wine that smells rather like an espresso martini cocktail.  Spicy hints of clove complete the picture.
 
In the mouth this is full-bodied and spicy, with plenty of juicy, sweet-tasting blackberry and plum fruit, though the wine is dry.  There are highly-polished tannins too – lots of them – but they’re super-smooth, boosting the wine’s structure without being at all harsh or drying.
 
They do lend a touch of bitterness to the juicy, warming finish, which also reveals just a hint of the leatheriness that is such a feature of Bandol.


Assessment


I would never have guessed this to be a 2015, especially given the grape variety.  This is absolutely ready to drink, though I expect it will gain some complexity over the next couple of years.  That unusual-for-Mourvèdre combination of intensity and approachability is due to careful work in both the vineyard and the winery.
 
In the vineyard, these 30-year-old bush vines have been able to concentrate their energies on ripening just a few bunches of grapes each.  Picking has been delayed until those grapes reached full phenolic (tannin) ripeness, which occurs rather later than sugar ripeness.  The upside of that is those superbly smooth and velvety tannins; the potential downside is very high alcohol.  I suspect this wine is rather nearer to 15% than the 14.5% on the label, but it carries it well and remains balanced – it’s only just full-bodied.
 
In the winery, controlled amounts of oxygen have been allowed to dissolve into the wine during fermentation pump-overs, reproducing some of the softening effects of long barrel- and bottle-aging.  In particular, the funky reductive aromas associated with young Bandol have been banished by this micro-oxygenation.  The ripeness of the tannins has enabled the winemakers to use pre- and post-fermentation skin contact, extracting lots of dark berry aromas and flavours.
 
All that effort has, rather paradoxically, produced a wine in which I can taste the grapes rather than the winemaking.  There’s a lovely clarity to the fruit, aided by the lack of any overt oak flavours.  Even those delightful coffee and chocolate aromas seem derived from grapes rather than barrels.



Tasting notes

Appearance
clear medium+ garnet, very prominent legs
Nose

Intensity medium

Aromas spice (coffee, chocolate, clove), ripe black fruit (blackberry, blackberry jam), alcohol

Development developing
Palate

Sweetness dry, but sweet-fruited

Acidity medium(+, just)

Body medium++, despite 14.5%+

Tannins medium++, but superbly smooth

Intensity medium+

Flavours black fruit (blackberry), red fruit (ripe plum), sweet spices. Ripe and juicy.
Finish

Length medium

Flavours spicy, warming, juicy despite some bitterness from tannins, hints of leather
Other notes
Seems unoaked despite coffee scent. No hint of reduction. Very clear-fruited.


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