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Journey’s End benchmark tasting: Chardonnay

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Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne 2001 – as good as it gets.

Journey’s End in Somerset West is owned by the Gabb family, Roger Gabb having founded Western Wines in 1980, this company going on to be the UK’s largest branded supplier of South African wine. The hugely successful Kumala brand was Gabb’s brainchild and Journey’s End wines at one point sat at the pinnacle of the Kumala range. However, it is now stand-alone and Rollo Gabb, Roger’s son, is bullish that he can position it as one of South Africa’s ultra-premium wineries.

Yesterday Gabb Jnr put on a (tasting of Journey’s End wines alongside some of the “strongest and most prestigious brands” locally and from the rest of the world. As ever, it was encouraging to see South Africa more than hold its own. As for Journey’s End wines specifically, I don’t think they are frontrunners just yet but equally aren’t far off the pace. 2010 saw the completion of an on-site cellar and Gabb says this has definitely facilitated an improvement in quality.

Scores and brief tasting notes for the Journey’s End wines below:

Score: 19/20
Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne 2001

Score: 17/20
Hamilton Russell Vineyards 2010
Leflaive Macon Verze Mâcon Villages 2007

Score: 16.5/20
Journey’s End 2011 – R120/bottle
Citrus and attractive oak on the nose. Clean and pure with good acidity. Well balanced and long.

Score:  16/20
Mulderbosch 2008
Stag’s Leap Karla 2009 (Napa Valley, California)

Score: 15.5/20
Journey’s End 2010 – R120/bottle.
Ripe peach and tropical fruit on the nose. Juicy and fresh but lacks real complexity.
Isabel 2007 (Marlborough, New Zealand)

Score: 15/20
Louis Latour Chablis 2009
Journey’s End Destination 2010 – R180/bottle
Very ripe fruit on nose and palate. Soft acidity. Appealing but simple.

General comment: In the case of the 2010 wines from Journey’s End, both bottlings give the impression of the winemaking team trying too hard to impress (Gabb admits it was a “difficult” year). The standard label 2011 is much better resolved and the as yet unreleased reserve should be something to look out for.

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