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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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    Insight

    California Buyers Trip Part 2: the wines and styles ready to export

    Having the opportunity to go to California and meet over 100 producers in an intense five days of tasting doesn’t come around too often. But it proved to be an invaluable exercise for the group of leading wine buyers from both the UK and Irish on and off-trade markets. In Part One of our report we looked at their general feedback on why they wanted to go on such a trip. Here in Part Two we drill down into what they really thought of the wines and the opportunities of giving them a chance in the markets over here.

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    Insight

    California looks to bring right producers & buyers together

    If you are a wine buyer for a leading importer, restaurant group, or independent merchant then there are times of the year when you are no doubt spoilt for choice with invitations to go and visit different regions and countries. But which are ones are going to be the most useful, effective and important to your buying needs? It’s what made the recent California Wine Institute event for leading UK and Irish buyers so different. And relevant. Rather than take a group of buyers on a bus around a select group of producers, the Institute brought the producers to the buyers for a series of back to back tastings hosted in the same venue. It meant the busy buyers were able to see over 100 wineries across five days of intensive tasting and take a deep dive into the kind of wines being made across the state. What’s more the producers did not currently have distribution in the UK or Ireland, or both, and had to have wines, with volume, that could the hit the main commercial to mid premium price points. The Buyer’s Richard Siddle, who helped to identify and recruit some of the buyers invited, was also there to get an insider’s take on how it all came together.

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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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    • This Gran Reserva is in such a good place right now – 90% Tempranillo, and 5% apiece of Graciano and Carignan (Mazuelo) it’s russet with browny-red edges; the nose is smoky, musky, Chesterfield sofa, sweet tobacco, plain chocolate Bounty bar; medium weight, fresh, open palate, real elegance, a mineral core, tannins integrated with the black cherry fruit, touch of kirsch, figgy with a sweet-wood, rounded finish. 2005 was a great vintage in Rioja, with a good distribution of hot and cool days, dry and rainy that helps give the wine good balance.
    • De Martino Old Vine Series VIGNO, 2018, from the Maule Valley is a blend of 85% Carignan, 15% Malbec & Cinsault. Part of the VIGNO old vines project in Chile, this Carignan-led wine has been aged for two years in 5,000l oak foudres. Deep purple/ black with bright purple edging; attractive bloodiness and savoury meat juices, along with the black fruit and herbal notes; the palate is fresh, bright and precise, with juicy black berries; there is considerable depth to the mid-palate, an intensity but fresh, fine-grained texture; quite a structured wine with ripe, firm tannins. This just got better and better in the glass. Great value. (Excuse the label shot - the downside of modern Zoom tastings where you don’t get to see the bottle - 1st world problems!)
    • Autrement is a blend of two vintages of young Cabernet Franc vines growing on limestone soils in Samur-Champigny. Domaine La Folie LuCé matures the wines for 12 months in vats and barrels with the aim of bringing out the finesse and freshness of the grape. That they have alright – I cannot remember a wine (especially with six years on the clock) that has such freshness on the palate. It’s generous for a 2014 where wines from this neck of the Loire in this vintage tend to be very lean. Very dark purple almost black and opaque; intense and broody – aromas of macerated red and black fruit (strawberry, blackberry), liquorice; medium bodied, fresh acidity, ripe integrated tannins; simply delicious. This small 4ha domaine says that it does not use any chemical products and harvests by hand. Definitely worth checking out – I bought it in a good independent wine
    • Limpid with the palest yellow hue; the nose is intense, ripe and fruity as you’d expect with gooseberry ahead of lime, and fresh herbs, less tropical fruit than previously. The initial attack is fresh, fruity with focussed acidity with quite a lot of weight and texture in the mouth, flavours less tutti-frutti with a savoury green pepper note, and that burst of concentrated limey-green apple acidity, that holds it all together and makes you salivate – for another sip? Long finish, twist of saline. Fine quality, elegant and always so distinctive.
    • Viña Ventisquero Tara White Wine 1 Chardonnay, 2018 Exciting new wave Chilean Chardonnay with a good story to tell. The grapes are grown on salt flats in the Atacama Desert – a heavy irrigation once a fortnight drives the salt lower down in the ground, making growth possible. The wine rests on its lees for at least two years in a mixture of 2500 l foudres and 1000 l eggs made out of limestone retrieved from the desert. There’s a lifted tropical boiled sweet edge to the aromatics, quite honeyed. The palate is tremendous, real tension and saltiness, citrus flesh and a fantastic length. “A bonkers wine – only crazy people would make wine there,” says Tim Atkin about this project.
    • A slight, initial smokiness on the nose stays beautifully present, clothing the initial red apple notes. Increasing temperature and air add a lovely mint tisane liftedness on the nose. Smooth, fine foam is right away striking on the palate, immediately giving a feeling of smoothness, of flow, of a fresh, yet rounded sweep of bright, ripe, fresh fruit. There is a lovely firmness on the midpalate while subtle freshness only seems to enhance the fruit that almost verges onto yellow plum. This is generous but defined and so, so ready to be enjoyed. An ideal, rounded Champagne for the winter months. (AK)
    • Another wonderfully made, pure, minerally Fleurie from two of Hoppenot’s prime vineyards – one young and one old, that are in the process of organic conversion. This is a bright, young Beaujolais that shows off the quality of the new 2019 vintage so well and is simply a delight to drink. Light mauve/ purple on the eye; tempting, intensely pretty, fruity, ripe fragrance; medium weight, textured, fine-grained silky tannins, juicy red fruit, red plum; quite some length Hoppenot describes his wines as being ‘without makeup’ or ‘sans fard’ and the honest, pure approach (natural yeast, hand-picked) is evident in how expressive the wine is – classic, well-made, serious Fleurie.
    • Such a great producer and the wine is still full of life and fruit - the ripeness of the Grenache, now well into its secondary development, comes across with such a lovely elegant, earthy minerality. Light red-brown, almost see-through; refined, complex nose of ripe black fruits, red liqorice, pepper, grilled meat juices; the palate is light (remarkably so for a 15% abv wine!) but with an intense silky, texture and dense well-integrated tannins. Such a powerful wine but one which carries its weight with ease.
    • Wonderfully esoteric and simply wonderful – my favourite orange wine of the moment. It’s a blend of 76% Vermentino and 24% Macabeu from five different vintages – 2014,15, 17, 18, 19 – coming from vines up to 52 years old grown in vineyards 350-520m high on decomposed granite soils, biodynamically farmed. Sound interesting?! It should! The colour is burnished copper; the aromas fresh and intoxicating – marmalade, orange peel, nuts and peach blossom – complex and stunning. The palate is smooth, dry and full of fresh, lively fruit flavours – unlike a lot of orange wine the fruit is ripe, fresh and full of life with real elegance and precision too. The finish is dry and textural but doesn’t stop dead in its tracks with that blotting-paper feel you sometimes associate with orange wine – it’s almost subtle and could rightfully call itself a fine wine. In fact it’s a
    • Gonzalo, Eisenberg DAC Reserve Blaufränkisch 2009, Weingut Stephano, Burgenland Eisenberg is one of the five specific wine-growing areas in the Austrian province of Burgenland which until 2016 was called Südburgenland. This wine comes from 15-30 year old vineyards that have been aged for 16-18 months in wood. To taste: Light-medium cherry red with a violet hue; wild blackberry, dark chocolate, earthy, nut shell, black pepper, smoky wood Dry, medium-bodied, integrated tannins, high acidity, quite salty and mineral-driven, elegant with good degree of intensity; dried red fruits, red liquorice and mocha flavours on the palate with a powerful elderberry and sour red cherry finish. For an 11 year-old wine it tastes surprisingly young.
    • This is a new cuvée from Casa Brancaia, which encompasses the two estates of Brancaia and Poppi. Owned by a Swiss couple, Brigitte and Brundo Widmer since 1981, Brancaia announced itself two years later when it won first place in a Chianti Classico tasting. This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that has been fermented on the skins at 28°C for 25 days, the wine goes through malo before maturing in 50% new 50% used oak for 18 months. The wine is then aged for a year in bottle after light filtration. Light to medium ruby; fascinating aromas of blackberry, prune, cocoa powder with wisps of smoke; the palate is light-medium, open, accessible with ripe, silky tannins; the black fruit is concentrated – cassis, black cherry – there is a smokiness that carries over to the palate, and the finish is dry, clipped and slightly tart. Really liked this a lot –
    • Neal Martin was right when he said that this would need a couple of years in bottle when it was released and I’d say it was in its optimum drinking window after five. 2015 was a perfect vintage for this Graves estate, with the ripeness of the fruit now giving a mature, rich complex character without losing the acidity. Although this is an AOC Graves white, Cerons itself is an enclave within Graves that is renowned for sweet wines which this property also makes. This white blend is a mix of 55% Sémillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Sauvignon Gris from 25 year old vines grown on mixed gravel soil with sand and small stones on limestone subsoil. All fruit is handpicked, light whole bunch-pressed and lees-stirred in steel for 4-6 weeks. When first released the wine has a citrus, lemon/ lime character that is now more honeyed and tropical
    • From the superb, innovative, tactile packaging through to the final sip, this 100% single estate oak-aged Chardonnay is an homage to oak and what it can bring to a wine in terms of textural weight, richness and complexity – when lovingly handled. It is released to celebrate 25 years of  @ridgeviewwineuk  this English sparkling wine pioneer and is a fitting tribute. Light white gold on the eye; the mousse is vigorous on opening, but soon settles down into a lazy and very fine bead; the nose is exquisite, complex and inviting, the richness what is most evident – buttery, fresh-baked lemon shortbread, yellow grapefruit, rye crumb, oyster shell, and just a hint of red berries. Light to medium bodied, lovely balance from the first sip – a ripe roundness but with a really crisp, central vein of lemony brightness, precise acidity and a depth to the mid-palate, that displays a
    • Biiri, Mittelburgenland DAC Reserve Blaufränkisch 2011, Weingut Hans Igler I have been tasting a lot of Blaufränkisch with age on and was really impressed with this from 25-40 year old south-west facing vines. The orientation and soil make-up - upper layer medium heavy loam and clay soils, moderate limestone content, sandy slopes – are ideal for good ripeness, which comes across in the wine. The wine has had 18 months in barriques. To taste: Medium-dark cherry red with a violet hue; on the nose you pick up really elegant aromas of blackberry, cassis, smoky wood, a touch of tobacco, earth, a little orange zest. On the palate the wine is velvety, fleshy and dense, dark cherry, sour cherry, spice, forest floor and leaves. The tannins are there but well integrated, medium to high acidity, juicy at the same time and enough lush, ripe fruit to balance the wine well. Perfectly
    • Blend of Garnacha, Cariñena, Querol, Monastrell and Garro. A wine that has one foot in the past in more ways than one – particularly with its use of two ancestral varieties Querol and Garro that were recovered by Torres a century after phylloxera, and which were supposed to have become extinct. In this region 2016 was wetter than normal, it was a mild to slightly warm year, with above average temperatures in the ripening period. The vines did very well in the conditions with no major problems reported, Torres describing it as classic and one of best vintages ever – particularly working on slower extraction. Tasting: Deep cherry red; on the nose an enticing mix of garrigue herbs, black forest fruit (blackberry), fresh flowers, dried fruit; the mouthfeel is juicy, mouth-filling, a lot of finesse, elegance, tension, and almost hedonistic expression. For me personally this was the wine of the
    • I liked this individual, generous blend of Garganega, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from high elevated, volcanic/ calcareous soils of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone, but I suspect it could be a bit of a Marmite wine – as it was in my house. What I liked was that, in terms of varietals, it does exactly ‘what is says on the tin’ and you can smell and taste each component, as well as enjoy the pretty unique blend, producing more than the sum of its parts. The wine clearly has mineral soil behind it, it has also rested on its lees for six months with natural yeasts giving it good weight mid-palate. Mid-straw gold; the predominant fruit is white peaches on the nose but there is a strong savoury (slightly oxidised?) note that is like hazelnut shells, cashews and pot pouri; the palate is mid-weight, textural, round, soft with plenty of stone
    • California Petite Sirah 2018, Mountain Tides Wine Co. Normally Petite Sirah is a grape that ends up in blends or is made in a concentrated gung-ho style to see how much colour, tannin and alcohol you can get. This is a fantastic surprise – made by an ex sommelier from Kentucky – in only its 3rd vintage and shows what we’ve been missing from the grape. Picked early and using a blend of different barrels from 11 different vineyards (30-50% whole bunch, some carbonic in there too), this brings out the delightful floral aromatics – think deep red roses, matched with blueberry, ground almond, lifted spice, cold wet clay. The wine is opaque, purple, the palate fresh and open with firm but likeable ripe tannins, profound structure and acidity as you’d expect with Petite Sirah, but never before have I had this as a single variety with such charm and
    • Diego Planeta who died a week ago helped turn the fortunes around of the Sicilian wine industry. He would probably want to be remembered through his wines, which tick so many boxes. Planeta has been a hugely influential agricultural family for five centuries and, when they branched out into winemaking as recently as the 1980s, the group has been instrumental in maintaining traditions and introducing wine lovers the world over as much to local grape varieties such as Nero d’Avola and Carricante as it has to international varieties, particularly their own special brand of Chardonnay. This Etna Bianco is 100% Carricante grown on volcanic soil in the heart of the Etna wine region. After a light pressing and cold ferment, the wine stays on its lees for six months, 10% of the wine is fermented in barriques with a mix of steel and barriques used for maturing. To taste: Light,
    • The first notion is of citric, bright freshness and almost of green apple. The second and third sniff then bring a richer notion, very subtle but still, of salted buttery shortbread. The palate is wonderfully taut, vivid with tiny, energetic, fine bubbles that speak of drive and tension. There is something bracing, bright and driven here. With more air and more temperature this mellows into the creamy, tart but smooth flesh of Golden Pearmain apples at the heart while that beautifully statuesque tautness and elegance remains. Where 2012 was generous and obvious, 2013 is reticent and calm. Where 2012 was opulent, 2013 is brisk. Where 2012 was the life and soul of the party, 2013 is contemplative, giving us clean-cut, grown-up charm and a whole world of refreshment. ( @anneinvino  ) The 2013 vintage was disgorged in December 2019 with a dosage of 8g/l and has an abv of 12.5%
    • One of three new red wines Roussillon-based biodynamic producer Le Soula is releasing this year, the 2009 alongside the 2014 and 2018, which gives a fascinating glimpse of vintages, styles and what the Roussillon is capable of. 2009 was a cracking vintage in the region and the nose offers the drinker so much promise that the wine delivers on the palate. It is a blend of 67% Carignan, 30% Syrah, and 3% Grenache Noir, most vines pretty old (some up to 70 years) and grown on largely granite at high altitude, the fruit is whole bunch pressed up to three weeks and then spending 21 months in a variety of wood formats and ages, but all large format and very little new wood. The wine is in secondary stage, although the acidity and freshness makes it feel so youthful. On the eye it is dark ruby with a redish hue,