The Outsider Releases 2021

by Jack Chapman

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The Outsiders 2021

We enjoyed a slightly belated tasting of the wines which variously seem to have become known as ‘The September Series’ ‘La Place Late Releases’ or to us ‘The Outsiders’. Something which more or less began with a few Californian producers looking for global reach for their wine, it now represents wine from Italy, Oregon, Argentina, Australia, The Rhone and Bordeaux itself. 

These producers have signed up to have their wine distributed by La Place de Bordeaux, in the same way as Bordeaux En Primeur wine to allow them access to all the markets that Bordeaux is distributed to – a large reach. We like to view them with objectivity. Some of these are fascinating and fantastic, wine which bats well above its level but still exists in relative obscure, some is more profiteering – using this wide audience to publicise high prices and big brands.

We are here to hopefully guide you to the right decisions. Having tasted some 60 odd wines today, we got a fairly clear view of what had excelled and perhaps what had not. Below is the highlight reel.

It’s worth mentioning that, sadly, there was no Opus One on display. We’re sure it’s very good but didn’t have the chance to confirm this.

Solaia 2018 – this managed to combine a rather remarkable structure with a fairly open-knit palate. I’m not saying you’d want to open a bottle right now, but it was getting on for this. Very nuanced and fresh, but also some savoury character. It’s slightly ridiculous to compare it to Masseto as they’re so different, but they were on the table next to one another, and this just had infinitely more to it at this stage.

Beaucastel’s ‘Hommage á Jacques Perrin 2019’ – like drinking brambles, which sounds awful, but the palate here was as if you’d taken a British hedgerow and distilled it into a wine. Blackberries, sloes, a touch of green pepperiness, a bramble spice. Still fresh and perfumed, but such a warming palate, without any excesses.

Cheval des Andes 2018 – it’s really interesting to hear how Cheval des Andes, which has always been good, is now committing to more terroir focused, lower oak wine. Whilst they’ve been toeing this line for a few vintages now, it felt like 2018 was the first time they’d really nailed it. It still had the signature concentration, but this was less extracted, lifted along by a zippy acidity. A very impressive change of pace.

Cantena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae 2018 – good luck pronouncing this after a few glasses. Whilst the Cabernet blend was as good as ever, this stood out. Really pretty, perfumed, floral fruit which leapt out the glass and was concentrated on the palate was accompanied by a lemon juice acidity. Something a bit different which deserves more attention.

Sena 2019 – I’m going to stick my neck out and say this was better than the 2018. You may have noticed a running theme with this vintage in south America, this had a cooler streak. The fruit was just slightly more lifted and inviting. This is reflected in a modest 13.5% alcohol, words like elegant, subtle, harmonious… They all come to mind. Very impressive stuff.

Quintessa 2018 – Quintessa, for me, can sometimes be a bit overblown and ripe. Something I said as I tipped the bottle and smelling this, I thought it’d be the same as usual. Big notes of ultra-concentrated dark fruit… But the palate. It was as if the whole wine were being swept along in a light breeze. Those fruits on the nose were cool, enticing shadows of their aromatic selves. Supposedly the estate hasn’t seen a vintage this ‘gracious’ in the last 15 years and I’m not surprised. This was really good.

Maya 2018 – Saying that I’ve left the best to last is bold, but I’m going to let you infer from context that it’s what I intended. It’s always a slightly nerve-wracking experience tasting a 100-point scoring wine. It feels like it should answer every question you’ve ever had about how pleasurable wine can be – a sort of euphoric, transcendent experience. This is never the case, you’re still searching for potential, and lord did Maya have it, in spades. You’d probably like to hear that it had a hundred nuanced layers of fruit which erupted from the glass (it’d certainly help justify the price tag!) but what was really there was totally pitch-perfect Cabernet. It’s buttoned up right now, but when this does decide to undress, it’ll be a show you’ll want a ticket to.

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