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    Insight

    One Step Beyond: Download the full landmark conference report

    When The Buyer came together with Sophie Jump to organise and hold the inaugural One Step Beyond Conference in early March the focus was 100% on analysing the most disruptive changes in consumer behaviour and technology. Little did we know that just over two months on so many of those changes have now been put on fast forward because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Here is the full report from what was a breakthrough conference for the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors. A day that brought experts from outside the industry’s comfort zone and gave them the platform to set out what we can all expect from consumers and technology in the future. Predictions that are already being seen in how fast businesses and consumers alike are responding to the challenges of Covid-19.

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    Insight

    The Buyer’s Case: Top buyers put Boisset FGV wines to the test

    The hardest job for any wine producer, no matter how prestigious or respected, is getting their wines in front of the right buyers who can ultimately make the difference in getting their wines on to the lists of the restaurants and bars that really matter. That’s what The Buyer’s Case project does. Link producers looking to build distribution in the premium on-trade and specialist retail sector with key buyers in those channels. Here’s how major French producer, Boisset FGV worked with The Buyer on its own Buyer’s Case initiative.

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    Opinion

    South Africa Restaurant Safari – 9 buyers, 18 wineries, 2 Land Rovers

    Here’s a conundrum for you. How do you get nine of the UK’s leading wine buyers to meet 18 winemakers in four restaurants in different parts of London in under five hours? Well, throw two Land Rovers into the mix and you are half way home. It’s certainly how The Buyer teamed up with Wines of South Africa to take a group of top buyers on a tour of London restaurants, and the chance to meet some of South Africa’s best winemakers at the same time. Eating, tasting, chatting along the way. Buckle up and join us on the ride…

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    Insight

    Buyer French Debate: Rise of Crémant & other sparkling wines

    In part one of The Buyer’s debate, alongside Business France, between leading importers, merchants, restaurants and wine producers from most regions of France, we focused on the rise in and importance of organic wines. The tasting and discussion also looked at how different styles of sparkling wine are now really coming to the fore, and how Crémant, in particular, is presenting a real premium alternative, ideal for promoting and driving in the premium on-trade.

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    Insight

    Buyer Debate: the opportunity for French organic wine

    For the latest The Buyer Debate we teamed up with Business France to bring producers from different regions of France together with key buyers from across the premium on-trade to look at two key growth areas not only for French wine, but the premium wine category as a whole: organics and sparkling wine. It was an opportunity to meet, taste the wines and then explore why French winemakers are increasingly turning to organics and sparkling wine production. Whilst assessing just what it is leading UK wine distributors, merchants and restaurant and bar owners are looking for when taking on a new French wine supplier. There was a lot to cover. So much so that we have broken down the report into two parts. First up we look at the rise in organics and both the opportunities and the challenges there are in making and selling organic wine.

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    Insight

    Behind the scenes on The Buyer’s Vouvray Restaurant Tour

    It’s one thing tasting wine professionally it is quite another to go on an eating and tasting tour of top London restaurants to experience food and wine in the same way your customers do. Which is what The Buyer’s most recent restaurant tour was all about as we were able to introduce different styles of Vouvray wine to a tour of buyers covering wine merchants, sommeliers, importers, consultants and journalists. As we publish our full report from the event, Richard Siddle picks out the highlights.

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    Insight

    Buyer debate: Indies put Ribera del Duero through its paces

    Even for a wine region that is as relatively small as Spain’s Ribera del Duero it’s important to taste as many wines as possible if you are going to truly understand, experience and enjoy its enormous diversity, says wine writer and critic, Tim Atkin MW. To help do just that, but also debate and share what leading UK buyers think of Ribera del Duero, The Buyer teamed up with the region’s generic body, a panel of top wine merchants and Atkin himself to see what opportunities there are in the burgeoning independent retail and wholesale sector.

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    Insight

    Douro’s Soul Wines Debate: why the wines are ideal for the UK

    “There is a deliciousness to these red wines. I am hugely impressed by them. The quality has blown me away.” Just the kind of review any wine producer would want for their wines, particularly if it comes from such as senior a figure as John Graves, on-trade channel director at Bibendum Wine. But Graves was not the only UK panelist in our debate with the Douro Valley’s Soul Wine producers to be impressed with what they saw and tasted. In part two of our report on the wide ranging debate we assess the opportunity for Douro’s wines in the premium on-trade and what steps producers need to take to make the most of them.

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    People People: On-Trade

    Sommeliers on Chile: The Buyer & Chono Wines debate

    To try to unravel and understand Chile’s position in the premium on-trade, The Buyer teamed up with Ellis Wines and its Chilean producer partner, Chono Wines, to bring
    together a group of senior wine trade professionals, buyers and sommeliers to debate what are the opportunities and challenges for Chile as a whole. It was the chance for these leading figures to share their experiences with Chilean wines in their restaurants and businesses and look at the kinds of wines from Chile that they are looking to source and select for their wine lists.

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    Insight

    Mionetto and The Buyer Prosecco study tour and report

    Is there a more misunderstood wine category than Prosecco? It might top all the best selling charts, but it is too often dismissed or taken seriously by some professional wine buyers. To help get to know not only the beautiful region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, but to explore the different quality tiers of Prosecco and the potential they have in the premium on-trade, The Buyer teamed up with leading Prosecco brand, Mionetto, and its UK partner Copestick Murray, to host a study tour with key buyers and influencers of the area and the city where Prosecco truly comes to life – Venice.

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    Insight

    Jackson Family debate on Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

    It’s nice talking about and throwing the spotlight on new wine regions and emerging styles of wine and little known grape varieties, but at these times of the year restaurant and bar customers are looking for the classics and the tried and tested. Which is why for our latest major debate we teamed up with Jackson Family Wines to look at what leading wine buyers, sommeliers, distributors and merchants think about Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

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    Insight

    Special Report: Sonoma County Vintners London Wine Bar Tour

    Organising a wine tasting where all your guests are sitting in one place can prove to be a challenge at times, so you can imagine the potential for things to wrong if you then invited those guests to go on a tour of restaurants and bars around London, tasting different wines, matched to each outlet’s food along the way. It certainly made for a very different, fun, highly informative and memorable day for wineries from Sonoma County Vintners and our panel of “tour-ists” willing to go on the adventure with us.

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    Insight

    Closures Debate: what do you want to put in a bottle of wine?

    Outside of the natural wine debate is there a more contentious issue than the one that surrounds the type of closure you have in your bottle of wine? To assess what leading on-trade buyers and sommeliers now think about closures we teamed up with Vinventions, one of the biggest suppliers of all types of closure from cork to screwcap, to make the issue of closures the latest topic in our Buyer Debate series.

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    Insight

    The Buyer’s Case with Castelnau Wine Agencies

    Every wine as soon as it is made puts its self up for judgement. Be it the end consumer who wants to drink it with their dinner, or the trade buyers and wine critics looking to score, assess and adjudicate on whether it is suitable for listing in the first place. But nothing ventured, nothing gained and Castelnau Wine Agencies was happy to put its range of wines from producers all over the world up to the test in our latest Buyer’s Case project with leading on-trade buyers and influencers in the trade.

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    Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting

    The Buyer’s Case with Cave de Vignerons de Saint-Chinian wines

    The Buyer has been set up to help drinks producers and leading on-trade buyers better understand their needs and where possible work closer together. This is best demonstrated by The Buyer’s Case initiative where we link up with a wine producer or importer and ask leading buyers to taste, assess and offer professional feedback on their wines. Here we turn to the Languedoc-Roussillon and present wines from leading producer, Cave de Vignerons de Saint-Chinian to leading on-trade decision makers.

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    Opinion

    The French debate: putting France under the spotlight with Foncalieu

    France might be the best selling country in the UK on-trade, but that does not mean it could not sell. To help better understand the opportunities and challenges facing French wine in the premium on-trade, The Buyer linked up with Les Vignobles Foncalieu and leading buyers from the different types of operator, including high end restaurants, independent wine merchants and national wholesalers all working the French category in the north west of the country.

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    Insight Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting

    New Zealand Debate: the opportunities and challenges

    New Zealand’s enormous success in the UK off-trade, where its Sauvignon Blanc has created a category of its own, has not always been reflected in how many of its wines are on premium on-trade wine lists. The Buyer teamed up with Villa Maria, and its UK partners, Hatch Mansfield, to ask a panel of leading UK buyers to set out the challenges and opportunities for New Zealand in the premium on-trade

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    Insight Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting

    The Buyer’s Case with Les Vignerons Foncalieu

    The Buyer’s Case is a new initiative that gives producers the chance to show specific drinks to key buyers in target channels of the on-trade. For our first Buyer’s Case we teamed up with Les Vignerons Foncalieu and selected key buyers in its main distribution areas in the UK on-trade to show their wines. Here are the results.

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    Insight Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting

    Virginia Wine Project: bringing producers and buyers together

    The Buyer teamed up with Virginia Wine and some of its key producers to help them better understand the needs of the UK premium on-trade and how buyers might relate to their wines with both a business roundtable debate with key players and a study tour of leading London restaurants, wine bars and merchants to see the kind of offers they have and where their wines might fit in.

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    Instataste

    Tasting with pictures View All
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    • Penfolds Grange 2016. Shiraz with 3% Cabernet. Roger Jones writes: “Is it as good as the 2015? well it is certainly more forward. Gage’s tasting notes are always worth a read and his tasting notes for the Penfolds Grange 2016 include this epic paragraph: “A fusion of preserved figs, black plum, blackberry and black liquorice flirts with an aromatic elation of fish oil, anchovy, soy and sesame.” I would add a darkness, tobacco, soy, and the whiff of a barrel of salted anchovies, rich wagyu beef. To begin with it is lively exciting, alluring, then as the complexity grows on the palate it is saying “give me some time”, but certainly does not need 40 years and would be a fabulous wine within five years, even sooner if it was decanted and served in a suitable glass. Many people like their Grange with 40-50 years on the clock but it
    • Côtes Catalanes Blanc from Marjorie and Stéphane Gallet, winemakers at Domaine Le Roc Des Anges, a 100% single parcel Grenache Gris from North-facing vines planted on schist soil in 1954. This is a dry white that is as intriguing as it sounds – complex too – and easily wears the mantle of ‘fine wine’. Straw coloured, light gold; clean and pure on the nose, limestone mineral, nashi pear, lemon blossom, almond oil, touch of lychee; the acidity is quite austere even after six years, the palate is fresh, lean, pure with lemon flesh, saline and a length that goes on for minutes, more to do with the acidity than the alcohol which is a mere 12.5% abv, given that many whites in the region touch 15% no problem. Tasted blind you might put this in Saumur or say it was a young Kumeu River.
    • Chardonnay 2018, Kelly Washington Wines. This is a wine with real presence that wants you to sit up and notice it right from the get-go, from the intensity of the aromas through to the palate weight and balance to the delicious refined flavours and long length. This is only the second of Kelly Washington’s wines I have tried (apart from Seresin for which she is the winemaker) and it is clear she is a genuine talent – walking that often uneasy tightrope between New and Old World styles with such aplomb. Hard to believe that this is only the second vintage of working with this fruit. Bright gold/ green hue on the eye; fruit and toasty oak which (with time in the glass) opens out into ripe orchard fruit, pineapple, toasted nuts, barley sugar, butter; mid-weight palate, fresh, bright acidity, lovely ripeness to the fruit, really juicy mouth-feel, hit of
    • Medium dry Chenin Blanc from one of the best in Saumur in the Loire, and just entering its drinking window – the austere acidity meeting the fleshy orchard fruits halfway now and presenting itself spectacularly well. Mid gold; complex nose of grapefruit peel, ripe pear, windfall apples, hits of honey, adhesive, slightly oxidative; the mouthfeel is concentrated, acidity is pretty brisk still and tart but integrated, just ripe orange flesh, lime zest, kafir lime leaf, yuzu. Great with or without food. We paired it with a spicy stir fry Thai prawn dish which worked well. But a quiet glass on your own contemplating this winemaker’s phenomenal style is just as good!
    • In his review of this wine in release Robert Parker said “There is just one chance to get the Kabinett style back here: store it for 6-10 years.” How right he was! The rich, almost Spätlese sweetness has integrated more and the wine is more balanced. That acidity is right there, laser-like from the first sip, on the front palate, tingling with minerality. The nose and the palate are all rich orchard, stone and exotic fruit - Williams pear tatin, mango, tinned peach, pineapple - and there is still honeysuckle on the nose. No oily rag/ petrol in sight. Golden, 8.5% abv. Joyous.
    •  @rogerjoneslittlebedwyn  writes “I have been aware of Arras for many years and the Arras Grand Vintage (current vintage is the 07, the 08 was released first) was sold as our house pour at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn for many years. Retailing at just shy of £40 with seven years on lees before further ageing before release this has a distinct oyster/brioche nose, winemaker Ed Carr attributes this to the cool breezes, with the Antarctic a nearby land mass, giving a cool maritime climate. The wine is complex and layered, honeyed, delicate tiny bubbles rock up from the base, hints of grapefruit pith, touch of Greek yoghurt and dried tea spices. 78% Chardonnay and 22% Pinot Noir.” For a run-down of all the new  @houseofarras  vintages check out www.the-Buyer.net
    • First in a new series of limited edition cuvées from Billecart-Salmon comes this 100% Meunier from 3 different crus. The series is called Les Rendez-Vous de Billecart-Salmon No.1 and more ‘pop-up’ cuvées are promised soon. Vinified in steel tank with 52 months on the lees. Tasting-wise: The wine opens with a slightly floral aspect and a hint of pear tart with lemon overtones. There is a sense of levity, but more air introduces a more brooding, darker notion of candlewax. That lovely but full-flavoured lightness also characterises the palate with wonderfully bright tension. Again that darker, somehow earthy Meunier note adds a hint of waxiness that almost verges onto smokiness – especially on the finish – while the surface remains bright, light and lemony. The mousse is fine and the wine has a pleasant suppleness and this sense of lightness just begs for another sip. (AK)
    • Museum release of a great Barossa vintage. The winemaking has changed a little these days in that where the 2016 has 35% new oak the 2012 had 65% new oak, detectable with a bit more toastiness on the nose. Less whole bunch was used – 8% in this case. To taste: Deep blood red with ruby edging; on the nose black fruits dominate (plum, mulberry) – with dark chocolate, liquorice, tar, olive, a touch of graphite; the palate is similarly complex but the overriding impression is of how the sweetness of the fruit knits in with the structure of the wine, with still-firm acidity and velvety tannins. Black cherry, cooked blackberries, plums, dark chocolate. The wine is in a really great place now and can cellar for a further decade at least.
    • One of the iconic single vineyard Barbarescos that is made to be versatile, either for early drinking or many years hence. 100% Nebbiolo from the Bordini site, 270m high in the village of Neive in the Barbaresco production zone. It’s a four hectare south-facing site on calcareous soils, and the vines have an average age of between 26 and 29 years. The site is sustainably farmed with no use of chemical herbicides or pesticides. The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, and is then aged between 20 and 22 months, 50% in new and 50% in one-year-old medium-toasted French oak. It then spends three months in steel before being bottled for a further 12 months, no filtration or clarifying. To taste: Light, almost see-through cherry red/ russet; the nose is a fascinating mix of red berry fruit (raspberry, wild strawberry), red rose petals, marzipan, and a savoury quality (leather) and toasty; the
    • Wow. This really is something. We might know the more standard style better but here is the Double Oaked @Woodfordreserve which means double helpings of silky  #bourbon   #whiskey  sweetness. As  @vinesack  says like a “big sticky toffee pudding in a glass”. It’s also the wonderful vanilla notes on the nose and palate that really make this a sipping bourbon extraordinnaire. Available in  @masterofmalt  for around £48. Part of the selection being promoted in UK and Europe through  @spiritsfromtheus   #bartender   #cocktails  By  @richardsiddle 
    • Saperavi, Qvevri Bouquet 2016, Mildiani Family Winery Great when a wine is way better than you expected it to be. This is 100% Saperavi, Georgia’s most prolific red grape variety that, in the wrong hands, can be too acidic and quite challenging. This example was quite sublime and outstanding. Vinified and aged in a qvevri (old-fashioned underground clay tank) this had a voluptuous mouthfeel, was complex, spicy and yet remarkably rounded for a Saperavi. On the eye it is intensely blood red; the aromas are black fruit, spice tin (black cardamom, cloves), bay leaf, jamon; the wine is medium to full bodied, with a complex array of flavours: wild black berries, liquorice, grilled meat, tobacco. There is richness, depth of flavour, ripe tannins and the acidity, well integrated and holding it all together. We paired this with spicy chicken and vegetable couscous which worked well, we also enjoyed it after
    • Alta Langa Millesimato Pas Dose, 2014, Contratto Founded in 1867, Contratto is Italy’s oldest Metodo Classico producer, boasting massive underground cellars and 45 hectares of vines, some of which are 850m above sea level. In 2011 Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta acquired Contratto, adding sparkling wines, bitters and vermouths to his range of Barbaresco and Barolo. The Millesimato Pas Dose is a blend of 80% Pinot Nero and Chardonnay; only the free-run juice is used, once fermented the wine is then aged until May, before being blended and bottled for the second fermentation. The wine is then aged on lees for another four years before release. To taste, the Pas Dose has as much elegance and finesse as the bottle’s distinctive Art Deco label. It is straw yellow in colour with a fine persistent bead; on the nose there are notes of white flowers, green apple; on the palate the
    • ‘Grossi Läue’ Gewurtztraminer, 2011, Famille Hugel This is just superb – a great vintage, almost as big as 2009 and with acidity up there with 1996. Mid gold; a nose that you could spend an eternity immersed in without even having to drink the wine (!)– so pure, complex and voluptuous as it is; fresh rose petals, jasmine blossom, barley sugar, frangiapani, lily, tangerine, pineapple flesh, mango, they all ebb and flow and make a magnificent whole. The palate is an exercise in perfect balance – the fruit is pure and velvety, the mouthfeel is generous and full-bodied and yet has a sappy quality and finishes fresh and tense with the acidity cleansing the palate, ready for the next mouthful. Wow!
    • San Sisto Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi Classico Riserva DOCG, 2017, Fazi Battaglia... And who thought that Burgudy’s wine labels and appelations were complicated?! This is a top tier Verdicchio, and a Tre Bicchieri winner from Gambero Rosso that is only made in outstanding vintages. It comes from the masters of the Marche, Fazi Battaglia who, since 1949 have been investing time in the 30 hectares of North-East facing vineyards 350m up on pure clay soils. Fermented in small format oak and then aged for a further 10-12 months and released after a year in bottle. Mid-gold, shiny and inviting; the nose has citrus and a distinctive wild fennel note, veering towards liquorice; the palate is mid-weight, perfectly balanced with a richness of fruit built around a tight, spine of acidity and zesty citrus, there is a nice creaminess there, complexity (salted pistachios); the length goes on pretty much forever,
    • A new wine that made its UK debut yesterday. 90% of the fruit comes from South Barossa with a blend of fruit coming from old vines. Some of these vines were planted in 1901, 1920 and one vineyard in 1935. The wine was matured in a combination of French and American oak, 35% new. Tasting-wise the wine is dark crimson; aromas of red and blue plum, lifted spice, milk chocolate; the palate is medium to full, powerful structure, with silky, ripe, even tannins and a bedrock of acidity that balances the fruit well. There’s some roast meat notes too and a summer pudding melange of berry fruit on the intense, long finish, a little hint of citrus and nut shell. Best laid down for another five years I would say or paired with a big fat steak. 14.5% abv.
    • A Lebanese wine blended from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo and Caladoc, grown on limestone and clay and part-aged for six months in French oak barrels. On the eye the wine is light to medium red with purple edges; there are aromas of red and black fruit (strawberry and blackberry) and oak; on the palate the wine has silky tannins and is open and easily accessible; flavours include blackberry, raspberry, white cherry which gives it a sour note mixed with seemingly high acidity, and a touch of green pepper on the long finish. The wine is named after the wide range of altitudes of the 110 hectares of prime calcareous marl terroir which IXSIR uses across the Lebanon between 800 and 1700 metres above sea level.
    • Enjoying this tonight. Spot of Hungarian Tokaji...rich and textured, great deep colour and part of the impressive new range of wines from  @jascots_wine  (RS)  @milo_macinnes   #wine   #sommeliers   #hungarianwine 
    • The Lalomba Finca Valhonta 2017 is one of two new super-premium reds from Ramon Bilbao and their most expensive wine to date. It is 100% Tempranillo from bush vines planted in 2000 at a 2.8ha site on the 650m high terraces of Villalba de Rioja at the limit of the growing zone in Rioja Alta. The wine is fermented in concrete and then spends 14 months in 500l 100% French oak before it comes back to concrete for eight months of 2nd ageing – to work the elegance, character, texture and purity of the tannins. The finished wine is a complex, fantastically fresh medium-bodied red which really captures the essence of fresh Tempranillo; deep purple; aromas of black bramble fruit, violets, licorice, fresh tobacco; the palate is bright, with firm acidity making itself felt on the front palate; there are notes of red plum flesh, blue plum skin, strawberry; it
    • This is an enjoyable style of Austrian Blaufränkish from Franz Weninger – bright, structured, pure and mineral with nicely integrated, fine tannins. The fruit comes from 40 year old vines in one of the oldest vineyards in Horitschon, Central Burgenland with the soil rich in iron which comes across in the wine, giving it an iron filing, almost blood-like character. Biodynamically farmed, hand-picked fruit, aged in large, old oak barrels. Light cherry colour; interesting, complex nose, that senses a power within the wine; aromas include raspberry, cough candy, eucalyptus with a grassy note; on the palate the wine is lightweight, with a brightly acidic attack, sour cherry, redcurrant, raspberry flavours. Tightly strung, focused, precise with a crisp dry finish. Best with food.
    • Cantina Santadi ‘Terre Brune’ Carignano del Sulcis Superiorie 2016, Sardinia I don’t try a lot of wines from Sardinia but after this excellent Carignan-dominant wine (there is 5% Bovaleddu in the blend) I’ll make a point of looking them out. To look at it’s light ruby; the nose is light, refined, a little bit smoky, cocoa; on the palate it is light-medium weight, intense, spicy, black fruit (blackberry crumble), tar, with tightly focused acidity, ripe, rounded tannins. The wine has a punch, a lot of flavour (although nowhere near as much as you might expect from a 15% abv wine) but it is elegant too and there is a lovely balance. The fruit was fermented on the skins, then had 15-16 days of maceration, after malo the wine is transferred into new French barriques and aged for 16-18 months – the wood adding texture mainly. An interesting alternative to a