Just as the last drops of bubbles were drained from a zillion bottles of Champagne on New Years Eve, our roving reporter and sparkling wine expert Roger Jones unsheathed his laptop and sent in this report on the global rise and changing face of the sparkling wine industry and which are the names we should all be keeping an eye on as we head into 2020 proper. As ambassador to the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships (CSWWC), and founder of Sparkling Sundays (held in Cape Town and Little Bedwyn) he gets his fair share of bubbles.
As a restaurateur Roger Jones has found that his customers are more at ease when ordering wines and grape varieties that they can pronounce. So how were they going to fare with Vachnadziani, Rkatsitelli and Karmrahyut – three varietals from Georgia and Armenia, that are part of Hallgarten’s 80 new-wine refresh of its portfolio, embracing Ancient Wines? Jones tasted through the range, recommends his stand-out wines, which are best value, and which ones stood up to the Old and New World wines which, for Jones stole the show.
Send top chef and wine expert Roger Jones to pick a handful of his favourite Alsatian wines from the Alsace Rocks! tasting and what do you get? 1600 words on 27 wines, tasting notes, food-matching suggestions, two special producer profiles and more enthusiasm than is all together comfortable in a diminutive Welshman. Jones is a massive fan of Alsace and one of the world’s experts on its wines – both as a wine lover and, most importantly, understanding how they work in the context of his top restaurant.
Roger Jones’ relationship with Krug stretches back over the decades not just years – his restaurant was the first in Britain to serve Krug Grand Cuvée and Krug Vintage by the glass, and he is also known to open a bottle when the Welsh narrowly scrape through a rugby match. Jones was a natural, then, to meet up with Krug chef de cave Eric Lebel who was in London last week to launch new vintage Krug 2006 and the 162nd edition of Krug Grand Cuvée. Krug’s nickname for the 2006 – ‘Capricious Indulgence’ – Jones was not sure about, but he did like the wine and found the idea of matching it with a private gig from a South African loop artist interesting, giving as it did a new meaning to the term ‘House music’.
Roger Jones used to think that Champagne Pommery was something of a one-trick pony. That is, until he was invited to a special cuvee tasting at Sketch in London, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Pommery’s prestige Cuvee Louise. Duly inspired by Cuvee Louise and Cuvee Louis and the way they paired with the complexity of Pierre Gagnaire’s cooking, Jones then decided to test the more modestly-priced Champagnes from the portfolio back at his top restaurant The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. He experimented with a variety of dishes before arriving at some stunning pairings to go with the Pommery Blanc de Blancs and the latest arrival the Louis Pommery English Sparkling NV.
In this report top chef and Buyer contributing editor Roger Jones explores the white wines of the Alto Adige region with a special focus on Gewürztraminer – so often tasting of ‘granny’s face powder’ but here in the most Northern part of Italy produced in a dry style wine with a delicate fragrance of lychees, crisp Turkish Delight, pink grapefruit, very fine perfume with a lovely fresh acidity. Jones also highlights wineries that had exceptional white wine and those making wines made from unusual varieties such as Solaris.
The boring old journalists who trot out the line “Only the trade likes Riesling” really have met their match with Liberty Wines, argues top chef and wine expert Roger Jones. A Liberty customer for over 20 years, Jones has its annual Portfolio Tasting inked into his diary before many importers’ events. And it is their championing of Riesling that Jones believes is the company’s greatest achievement – something that has played all the way to consumers who have grown to better understand and love the grape. Jones picks out 10 of the 30 on show and gives full tasting notes as well as being wowed by the wines of Steven Spurrier’s estate, Bride Valley.
A pattern is clearly developing. In our many recent reports on the current state of British wineries and British wine events, our writers are finding that English and Welsh sparkling wine is now showing exceptionally well (and proving how much has been learned in the past decade) but it is the quality of the still wines that are showing the greatest improvement. Wanting to check this out for himself our very own Phileas Fogg (aka top chef and wine expert Roger Jones) decided to pop into Chapel Down incognito as a wine tourist on a busy and sweltering Bank Holiday Monday. Our ‘mystery quaffer’ was hugely impressed and reports back on which of the latest vintages you should buy.
With the first Ashes test defeat still such a fresh wound, our contributing editor and chef extraordinaire Roger Jones kept conversation away from the Welsh and English team’s performance when sat next to Australian cricket legend Mark Taylor. Very much on the menu, however, was the full range of the wines of Jim Barry that were paired with premium Japanese food, including the best crab dish that Jones reckons he has ever tried.
Buying smartly in Burgundy isn’t the easiest task these days but our contributing editor and chef at large, Roger Jones, thinks he’s found a real winner from Méo-Camuzet. And who would have thought that a winery based in Norfolk would be the latest addition to the Field Morris & Verdin portfolio – rubbing shoulders with the likes of Vega Sicilia, Au Bon Climat and R. Lopez de Heredia? – and not only that but really standing up to the task. For Jones’ FMV tips read on…