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Vin Cognito Hand on Heart

When you sandwich a tasting between Piglets and royalty in the morning, and a pre-launch dinner at a not-yet-opened London restaurant in the evening, you might be guilty of rushing it at the very least, and blistered-feet distraction at the very worst. But with the first mouthful of wine, Vin Cognito got me straight back into gear, and for the next three hours they held me captive. Lucia and James have managed, once again, to spin their eclectic tastes into a helter-skelter of sheer delight, from the most bewitching orange wine I have ever tasted, to a wine made by a Scotsman in Spain which reminded me of jacarandas in September on hot Zimbabwean roads. Lots of merchants use the words 'hand selected'. With these wines, I would go so far as to say there's as much heart selection behind them as hand selection. Forgive me for all the exclamation marks.

The 53 wines below are grouped by colour and presented in the order they were tasted.


Reboreda Morgadío, Puerta Santa Albariño 2016 Rías Baixas
Smells crisp, of green peaches and a clean, green herbal tingle that pulls through the palate with salty tension. Delivers a lot of length for the price. GV (TC). 12.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2020. 16 points

De Kleine Wijn Koöp, Eekhoring Chenin Blanc 2017 Swartland
De Kleine Wijn Koop means 'the small wine co-op' – a project started by some visionaries to give young talent a place to flourish. 78% Chenin Blanc, 10% Grenache Blanc, 9% Marsanne and 3% Viura. Fermented in a mixture of stainless-steel tanks and old neutral French oak barrels, then aged on the lees for three months. Hazelnut aroma and then avocado creaminess spreads across the palate, spiked with sharp, sherbetty lime fruit and a mouth-watering jalapeño bite. Just a little prickly with potential to get more waxy and mellow in a couple of years. For now, the perfect fajita wine! GV (TC) 12.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2022. 16.5 points

Dom FL, La Croix Picot trocken 2015 Savennières
Chenin Blanc. Certified organic. Does anything in the world smell quite like Savennières?! As if someone ground up steel wool, tarragon, chalk, lemon peel, petrichor, beeswax and honeysuckle into a powder, freeze-dried it and then flung it on ice-cold mountain-stream water and held it to your nose. Then you taste it and it’s all rigid and arms-tightly-crossed-across-the-body and bony shoulders, and you think: #issues. Then you feel annoyed because you paid good money for this and really, there must be more. So you go back. Sniff hard. More of the above bewildering stuff. Taste again. Hint,tiny hint, of honey. There’s a reverberation in those skinny bones. As if someone plucked the string of a harp and you heard it in your own bones. You go back. This angry rigid little wine is starting to get under your skin. Dust. Rain-wet dust. It tastes of dust. Really? Is that good? It is. It tastes of dust and the outline of honey and that cold, ancient, cold, smooth of stones that have been washed by centuries of river. It’s not a wine for contented sipping. It’s a wine for hard, pissed-off, no-excuses soul-searching. And hard goat’s cheese. Or, if you’re a beautiful at-peace soul, chuck it in the cellar for a few years and when it’s got over all its teenage issues, bring it out and have it with fish pie. (TC). 13.3% alc. Drink 2018 – 2028. 17 points

Lunae, Etichetta Grigia Vermentino 2017 Colli di Luni
Delicious salty peaches on a palate where grip and structure play upfront. Rigorous intensity on the mid palate with a long limey pull to the end. (TC). 12.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2021. 16.5 points

Montonale, Orestilla 2016 Lugana
Smells nutty and fresh green, of pine nuts and basil leaf, deep and intoxicating. Gorgeous sweetness and nuttiness and mouth-drawing zest on the palate – walnuts in lime syrup and melons and crystallised ginger. Wickedly pointed on the long finish. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2018 – 2023. 17 points

Dom de Chevilly 2017 Quincy
Gunflint and apples. So crisp and dry and flinty and focused that it's practically a razor carved from stone. Yet it fills the mouth (perhaps more with the rattle of sabres than seduction), and it lifts the palate like a shot of wasabi. Precise and long range. Quincy with a call to arms. GV (TC) 13.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2022. 17 points

Gunderloch, Als wär’s ein Stück von mir Riesling 2015 Rheinhessen
So smoky. Struck match and a whiff of biscuity spice. Fiercely direct, steely lime, long and determined and proudly dry. There's a spine-tingling ascetic purity to this wine that is almost piercing. I've said drink from this year, but personally I'd hold it back another year or even two. (TC) 12.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2024. 17 points

Dom des Deux Clés 2016 Corbières
80% Macabeu, 15% Grenache Blanc, 5% Vermentino. A fascinating, puzzling, palate-wrestling wine that didn't let me walk away with a couple of ready-to-wear phrases. It smelt like dried, powdered clementine peel. And decayed orange. It was broad and textured and rumpled – like vintage linen – with an almost melted-cheese richness and savouriness. It was bitter Seville marmalade and chamomile flowers so dry they'd turned to dust. It argued with your mouth. Obstinate and opinionated and without tact. And yet it was wonderful. Wild, soul of Corbières, with its toes curled in dusty soil and a finger to the sky. This will divide the room. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2019 – 2026. 17 points

Les Eminades, Silice 2014 IGP Pays d'Hérault Coteaux de Fontcaude
Organic. Fragrant lemon verbena nose that in no way prepares you for the magnificent, towering, soaring structure of this wine. Architectural beauty! Between the struts and pinions: wild honey and lemon and beeswax. Graphite and hot stone. Smoky smoky crystal-cut citrus on the finish. VGV (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2017 – 2023. 17.5 points

Jean-François Jacouton, Granit Viognier 2016 IGP Collines Rhodaniennes
Gauzy nectarine and floral perfume. Fine and light, especially for a Rhône Viognier, with a slim seam of green acidity and some lightly toasted almonds. Not much on the mid palate but it pulls through on the finish. (TC) 12.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2019. 16 points

J H Meyer, Palmiet Chardonnay 2016 Elgin
Pretty closed on the nose. Starts quietly, without fuss, a little ordinary. And then, it starts to build. Tarragon. Then apricot. Then cardamom. Spices. Deep intense citrus. And suddenly you've got a wine that's full of power and a complexity that both drills down and is layered across and drives through and long and on and on. Not ordinary at all. GV (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2018 – 2024. 17 points

Les Héritiers St-Genys 2015 Santenay
Oatmeal and apples and then a glorious, unexpected breadth of ripe late-harvest apples and wholegrain – Bircher muesli. Long, bright, vibrant, vibrating. Santenay at it's best and such GV for white burgundy. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2018 – 2025. 17 points

Sandhi Chardonnay 2015 Sta Rita Hills
Cool, restrained; sea-salt and samphire and oyster shells before glistening mandarin and lemon fruit breaks through. Long and drawing on tremendous tension. Restrained, stony rather than ripe, and yet there's a wildness coiled in the core. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2018 – 2024. 17.5 points

Boulevard Napoléon Grenache Gris 2015 IGP Pays d'Hérault
Rich and voluminous. Oaky vanilla sweetness at the moment still layered over the fabulous acidity and length, but the framework is beautifully there and a long slipstone of grapefruit-pith bitterness running through the palate. I'd give it another year to let it mesh. (TC) 14.5% alc. Drink 2019 – 2025. 16.5++ points

Rotem & Mounir Saouma , Inopia 2015 Côtes du Rhône
Roussanne, Grenache, Marsanne, Clairette and Viognier. Savoury, smoky, seriously funky nose. A strong, confident wine that strides out the glass, dazzlingly unusual. Steel, miso, baked pears and brioche. I would have loved to have had time to go back to this wine and grapple with it for a bit longer. I suspect this will captivate its unwitting drinker like the storyteller Shahrazad and her Thousand and One Nights. (TC) 14% alc. Drink 2018 – 2025. 17 points

Muxagat, Os Xistos Altos Rabigato 2014 Douro
Crisp as cold aluminium on the nose. Citrus, broom flower and chamomile tea, elegant and genteel despite a waxy texture. Refined cut of acidity. Spicy finish. Glitters with minerality. Begging for a Moroccan salted-lemon tagine. (TC) 12% alc. Drink 2016 – 2022. 17 points

César Márquez Pérez, La Salvación Godello 2016 Bierzo
Blazing purity on the nose and palate. Apples and pears and rosemary in crystal-cut definition, slightly salty, luminous and full of life. Liquid pearl... (TC) 12.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2024. 17 points

Suertes del Marqués, Vidonia 2016 Valle de la Orotava
Peppery, herbal, intricate nose. Green and long and so, so structured it seems to fill the mouth with arching steel girders. Outrageously fresh, explosive! A crescendo of wine, more felt than tasted. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2018 – 2024. 17.5 points


Vine Revival, Tierra del Itata 2016 Itata
150-year-old Muscat ungrafted bushvines on steep granite hillsides, dry farmed. 42 days on skins in concrete, spherical tanks. Natural yeasts, bone dry, unfiltered. 'Handcrafted by Leonardo Erazo and Christelle Guibert'. Hands down the best orange wine I have ever tasted. EXTRAORDINARY! Bone dry, and yet tasting of the sweetest cantaloupe melon and persimmon, rose petals and pecans in orange syrup. Nutty and wonderfully yeasty – like warm sourdough bread. Vibrating through the finish like a cello. Stunning. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2018 – 2024. 18 points


Dom de Médeilhan, Cuvée Tradition Rosé 2017 IGP Pays d'Oc
Smells of strawberries. Dry, sea shells and tart strawberries. Creamy tang, like Greek yogurt. Fresh, good acidity, although just a little thin. (TC) 12.5% alc. Drink 2018. 15.5 points

Kayra, Beyaz Rosé 2017 Denizli
Pale onion-skin pink. Very sweet, something a little like decaying rose petals. Too sweet. No. (TC) 11% alc. Drink 2018. 14.5 points


Guillaume Pinot Noir 2015 IGP Franche-Comté
Graphite and chiselled cherry with a delicate damp-woodland note. Pencil-thin tannins. Sharp and pointed and cool red fruit lightly sketched across the tongue. Tap dances! Serve a little chilled. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2017 – 2021. 16.5 points

J H Meyer, Signature Carbonic Pinot Noir 2017 Elgin
Clear glass bottle! Charming nose of woodland strawberries and damp hedgerow – such an early-summer smell! Tangy and orange-zesty berries, smacking with juiciness. Sassy, a bite of spice, and really surprisingly elegant for carbonic maceration. (Is that just me being snobby?) This is thirst-quenching Pinot. (TC) 12.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2021. 16.5 points

Dom du Pélican, Trois Cépages 2015 Arbois
Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Poulsard. Smoky and almost bloody, an intense yet ethereal fragrance of red cherry. Spicy and chewy, tightly wired and intensely raw in a wild, racy way. Fruit so pure it's shining. Tannins gossamer and yet not fragile. Stunningly lovely. (TC) 12.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2027. 17.5 points

Schubert, Selection Pinot Noir 2016 Wairarapa
Sweet, eager fruit on the nose, and sweet spice. A little bit like plums in sugar with toasted coconut on top. A Jim-Beam whisky note – is that from the barrels? I suspect that this may be suffering following straight on from the high-tensile Pélican but it seems all too sweet and oaky in comparison. (TC) 14% alc. Drink 2018 – 2020. 15.5 points

Gladstone, 12,000 Miles Pinot Noir 2016 Wairarapa
Meaty, earthy and solid. Warm and generous baked-plum breadth with lots of muscle. Plump fruit, but fresh and tingling cinnamon to the finish. SO much better value than the Schubert Pinot tasted alongside.GV (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2018 – 2023. 16.5 points

Meyer Family Pinot Noir 2015 Okanagan Valley
The farmyardy nose of the 2014 is not at all apparent in the 2015. Bugle-call clarity of fruit on nose and palate, with lovely balance between sweet strawberry and tobacco-leaf herbaceousness. Roasted spices. Full of pleasure. (TC) 13.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2021. 16.5 points

Roger Peguet, Chardignon 2011 Côte de Brouilly
Such a treat to get hold of an aged Beaujolais at just the peak of its life! I'd pounce on this. Deep, dusty-plum perfume. And then a mouthful of toasted plums, white pepper, cello-sweet depth, the haunting other-path to the melody. Silky… and then it pounces with a little bit of claw. Walnut-skin texture and savouriness on the finish. Wonderful. Just wonderful. Extraordinarily fresh and ready. Still so much life. So much length. (TC) 14% alc. Drink 2015 – 2020. 17 points

Pietro Caciorgna, Ciauria 2015 Etna
Nerello Mascalese. Clear and lifted and scrumptious from the first sniff to the last, lingering taste of grilled plums and rock dust. Red-berried, concentrated sweetness but so much tang and minerality that it negates any chance of jamminess. Well-laced, well-braced tannins. Just great gritty stuff. (TC) 13.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2023. 16.5 points

Vallana 2007 Gattinara
Rosehip tea and chipotle and hibiscus – exceptional, spellbinding on the bouquet alone. Thrumming with spice in a silken web of tannins, rose petals and fading cherries. A wine that finds half-forgotten stories, drifting memories, and weaves poetry from the fragments. Hauntingly beautiful. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2013 – 2025. 17.5 points

Envínate, Lousas Viña de Aldea 2016 Ribeira Sacra
Ripe plums and orange wrapped in cigar spice. Clear as a bell on the palate, with a cheeky streak of red bell pepper and chilli. Intense, dry tannins pushing against sculpted acidity. Vigorous energy. (TC) 12.5% alc. Drink 2013 – 2025. 16.5 points

Dom de Bosc-Long Braucol 2010 Gaillac
Smells pretty vegetal – green pepper, tomato leaf, blackcurrant nibs aromas and flavours. Tastes like a fairly green Cabernet, a bit pinched. Dry, slim tannins clenching long nervous fingers. Old-fashioned, a little skinny and anxious, but will probably behave with total decorum if paired with a rare lamb roast and salsa verde. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2017 – 2020. 16 points

Son Puig, Barrica 2014 Vino de la Tierra Mallorca
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo. Just 4,568 bottles. Pure, very slightly smoky, red plums. On the nose a tiny, mouth-watering suggestion of melted gruyère, and on the palate just a big, belting, chest-heaving, arms-wide soprano of glorious red fruit. Then smoke. And graphite. And just a tremolo of spice. Parenthetical tannins, which you barely notice because you’re just closing your eyes in the resonance. Long and satisfying and without realising, you've wrapped yourself around it. (TC) 14% alc. Drink 2018 – 2024. 17 points

Maison Blanche, Les Piliers de Maison Blanche 2014 Montagne-St-Émilion
Organic and biodynamic. A fresh peppery citrus smell that reminds me of crushed coriander seed. Elegant, tailored tannins that barely contain the fruit dancing across the mid palate. A streak of green herbs and so alive! GV for fabulously approachable bordeaux at such a decent price. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2018 – 2022. 16.5 points

Ch de Chambrun 2011 Lalande-de-Pomerol
Rich and almost chocolatey plush fruit. There is fullness on the palate and elegant weight, perfectly correct posture, everything you would expect from Pomerol but with a Lalande price tag. And all the necessary ageing has been done on your behalf. You can have your cake and eat it. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2018 – 2024. 16.5 points

Tinta Tinto Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Maipo
Ripe and dark and plummy with a goodly green streak. Malleable tannins. Not enormous length but it's delivering pleasure without pain. (TC) 13.7% alc. Drink 2018 – 2020. 15.5 points

Buitenverwachting Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2014 Constantia
Cape bordeaux all present and correct! Ripe, dark cassis sweetness, a layer of blackcurrant leaf lifting it to freshness, super-supple tannins. Not one of the most exciting red wines ever, but if you're looking for bordeaux style with a bit of sun-ripened warmth this isVGV. (TC) 14.5% alc. Drin k2017 – 2020. 16 points

Dom des Deux Clés, Réserve 2016 IGP Vallée du Paradis
Dark, roasted fruits; mulberries and molten chocolate. Incredible mid-palate dance of cassis and intensity and velvety coffee. Dramatic and flaring, dark and opulent. Very seductive. (TC) 14.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2022. 16.5 points

Vocarraje, Abdon Segovia Crianza 2013 Toro
An intense, salty, hot-granite kind of wine, which reminds me of a cup of Bovril tea. With pot-pourri. No shades of grey, no compromises, no compensation for tannins and alcohol and the huge mouthful of flavours. This will polarise the room, but it’s full-on Toro, and it massively over-delivers for the price. VGV (TC) 14.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2027. 16.5 points

Abadía de Acón, Crianza 2013 Ribera del Duero
Smells of hot earth, roasted cumin. A big, mineral-crusted, liqueur-like liquid meshed in close-knit tannins. Coconut notes. Bit of a hedonist. (TC) 14.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2024. 16 points

El Escocés Volante, Dos Dedos de Frente 2014 Calatayud
Smells of ground granite. And petrichor. Jacaranda flowers on hot tar and thunderstorms on a hot afternoon. An astounding, monumental wine, wild and rocky and reverberating. Black spice and black fruit. Terrifying and beautiful, in the way that the Grand Canyon brings you to wordlessness. (TC) 15% alc. Drink 2018 – 2025. 17.5 points

Le Ripi, Amore & Follia 2011 IGT Toscana
Smoked cherry nose. The fruit on the palate tastes a little deeper than it smells, spiked with dark spice, but terribly composed. Refined, classy and cultured, beautifully mature and ready. (TC) 14.5% alc. Drink 2017 – 2025. 17 points

Boncore, Riserva 2014 Salice Salentino
Warm, just-off-the-hob mulberry jam – all it needs is cream! Such a plump, bosomy, comforting wine that it feels like a big, old sofa with cushions that you sink into and can't get back up out of. Have with a bowl of macaroni cheese and the TV program you'd never admit to anyone that you watch. VGV (TC) 14% alc. Drink 2017 – 2022. 16.5 points

Dorigo, Da Uve Passite NV Vino d'Italia
Amarone style, made from sun-dried grapes, but not allowed to be Friuli DOC because of the higher-than-regulation residual sugar. Refosco. Quite a tapestry of orange zest and Christmas cake, cardamom and chilli pepper and mint. Wonderfully rich yet shot through with candied orange-peel brightness. Dense structure. Long and mouth-filling and broad and glorious. I'd take this over Amarone any day because at 14.5% it's not going to knock me sideways with one glass. Perfect aged-cheddar wine. GV (TC) 14.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2026. 17 points

Alpha Box & Dice, Siren Nero d'Avola 2016 McLaren Vale
Lavender scented, parma violets, chalky. Victoria plums framed in lovely dry, spicy tannins. Strong caraway notes. It's a framework that owns the wine, spice over fruit, giving wiry strength and savour through the length of the palate. Bit of a rebel, heel-kicking spirit here, but basically, it's delicious. (TC) 13% alc. Drink 2018 – 2022. 17 points

Alpha Box & Dice, Kit & Kaboodle NV Australia
Aglianico, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mataro, Nebbiolo. Crazy blend from crazy people? Smells way too perfumed to taste good. As in, dab this on the back of the neck of a cute guy… Actually, it tastes way too good to dab on the neck of anyone, even a cute guy. No idea where or how you would place this. It drop-kicks terroir. But the fruit is bright, edgy, a little wild, impertinently confident. This is university students taking placards against the establishment. It's naïve and unacceptable. Half of you wants to smartly rap its upstart heritage-less knuckles. And the other half wants to applaud its brazenness for arriving in torn jeans and a t-shirt saying ‘I Love Nebbiolo’ and the audacity to believe the world can change. (TC) 14.4% alc. Drink 2018 – 2020. 16.5 points

Patritti Saperavi 2014 Barossa Valley
Big, compelling aromas of damson jam and charred eucalyptus. Meaty and in the grip of massively chewy tannins. Charcoal-dusted, slow-roasted green tomatoes. Full of craggy, burly character. A bit of a bulldozer, but some people like construction projects. (TC) 14.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2023. 16 points

Charles Melton, Grains of Paradise Shiraz 2014 Barossa Valley
Judderingly rich and intense and dense. The very essence of Shiraz. Glowing dark fruit, velvet blueberries, black-pepper oil, concentrated ripeness with such a polish to the tannins that they're lustrous. As if he's distilled the soul of Barossa Shiraz and bottled it. (TC) 14.5% alc. Drink 2018 – 2027. 17.5 points

Ch de Chambert, Grand Vin 2012 Cahors
Raw power. Edgy and massive and masses and masses of Szechuan pepper. A dominating, roaring wine of black fruits and black brow. Lots of potential but I would leave it in its den for a bit longer. And then bring out the rump steak. (TC) 14% alc. Drink 2022 – 2032. 16.5+++ points