Photojournalist Neil Hennessy-Vass travels to Gascony, home of Armagnac, to discover why it is that this amber spirit has particular properties and comes from such distinct and enduring traditions. We love Neil’s photos so much we have tried to incorporate as many of them as we can in this impressionistic feature.
The Riverland has been renown for being the centre of Australia’s mass volume wine production, but Giles Cooke MW, owner and winemaker of the Thistledown Wine Company, a side business to Alliance Wine, explains how it is working with growers and their old vines to create hand crafted, premium wine that can be either bottled at source or shipped and bottled at its own facility in Spain.
Non-interventionist winemaking is the Holy Grail for many winemakers but cultured yeasts are still a commercial reality for many winemaking operations. Anne Krebiehl MW meets Natalie Christensen senior winemaker at Marlborough’s Yealands who discusses experimenting with concrete eggs, dry farming and commercial yeasts in producing its award-winning Pinot Noir.
Ever up for a challenge, particularly a brewing one, Rupert Ponsonby was happy to head out to the north Norfolk coast of Holkham and discover the steps being taken to try and grow barley that is as true to the soils, the land and, yes, the terroir of any vine and wine in France. The result is a potentially ground breaking collaboration between the Holkham Estate and Marston’s Brewery and some terroir-driven beers.
If you turned round the bottles in the Spanish fixture of an average supermarket wine aisle then chances are more than a fair few would have been made by Felix Solis. It would be a similar story in some mainstream pubs and restaurant chains. But, as its UK managing director, Richard Cochrane, explains you might also soon be able to do the same in the Chilean and sparkling wine categories too.
Now if you are of a certain age, or musical disposition, then the opportunity to hang out and listen to 80s pop music can be hard to ignore. Throw in the chance to taste some cutting edge Alsace wine at the same time, then what’s not to like. But that was what was on offer to the lucky guests to the recent 80s Brit Pop Alsace tasting with a personal selection of wines and songs chosen by Foulques Aulagnon, export manager at Alsace Wines
Anne Krebiehl MW puts down her pen and her tasting glass and picks up a pair of secateurs to help the Pinot Noir harvest at Rathfinny Estate in Sussex, where she gets a glimpse at the full-scale ambition of Mark and Sarah Driver, the latest entrepreneurs to set up a winery in the South of England. Forget the five year strategy that Rupert Lovie mapped out yesterday that English wineries need to have to succeed, the Drivers have a ‘seven year itch’ – they just cannot wait to get to launch day next year.
The story of a modern English winery is a familiar one. Often started up by an ex-financier that goes on to specialise and make its name in producing quality sparkling wine. Not this one. Ben Walgate might be familiar to you as the former chief executive of Gusbourne that, yes, has become renown for its sparkling wines. But he has now set up his own biodynamic English winery, making natural and pet nat wines using Georgian qvevris. Now that’s a story worth reading.
With so many premium South African winemakers already trying to find their way in the UK it can be a challenge for another name to make their mark. But having recently been taken over by the major German wine company, Reh Kendermann, and its strong ties in the UK, Napier Vineyards in Wellington and its chief winemaker, Leon Bester, are hopeful their time is yet to come.
Even by today’s standards the story behind Margaret River’s Cloudburst is an exceptional one. How an American biologist looking for a new lease of life plants vines against advice and, from a half hectare plot and with five year-old vines, wins the top Cabernet Sauvignon gongs with his very first vintage in Margaret River of all places. Peter Dean tastes the wines with Will Berliner, owner and winemaker.