While the younger generation of sommeliers are understandably getting excited about the Californian New Wave, it is easy to overlook one of the stalwarts of the West Coast wine scene – Zinfandel. This is a grape with a much-debated and controversial past and a bad reputation as either an over-extracted fruit bomb or a sweet blush. But the good red Zinfandel continues to be made by ‘old timers’ such as Ravenswood and Ridge and more recent converts like Broc Cellars whose take on Zin weighs in at a ‘lightweight’ 12.5% ABV. Peter Dean picks out 10 California Zinfandel you should be considering for your list.
Once a staple of the tasting calendar, the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne annual London tasting has been something of a moveable feast in recent years, as the CIVC has experimented with new locations and formats. After last year’s event at the London Wine Fair fell a bit flat, it was time to think again. Stepping into the gap, a communications guru and a new, more commercial, approach for Taste Champagne London 2019. So did it fizz? Chris Wilson went along for The Buyer to deliver his report card.
June 15 marks the annual #DrinkChenin day where producers, retailers, restaurants and wine drinkers alike unite to celebrate all things Chenin. None more so than in South Africa where the white grape variety has had such success and is now recognised as producing some of the finest Chenin Blancs in the world. Wine merchants, restaurants and bars are being encouraged to back #DrinkChenin day by hosting their own tastings or simply opening up a few bottles of Chenin to share with their customers. To help kick things off this weekend we revisit Roger Jones’ trip to Cape Wine 2018 where he was able to pick out his own Chenin Blanc favourites from South Africa.
Having your own bespoke cuvée of champagne elevates your ‘House’ fizz to something altogether more special. Louis Latour Agencies has been offering this service to the premium on-trade as witnessed when it launched Marcus Wareing’s own cuvée of Gosset last October to much fanfare. Champagne Duval-Leroy has also been producing bespoke labels or ‘sur measure’ and it was Mere Restaurant’s bespoke cuvée that Victor Smart sampled at a tasting lunch along with the house’s other top wines, including a rare outing for its top of the range Femme de Champagne – Brut 1996.
Premium Greek wine is in a good place right now – championed for some time by the likes of critic Julia Harding MW and Steve Daniel at Hallgarten, the trade has taken note and is now responding. Berkmann, for one, has just taken on its first Greek estate, the prestigious T-Oinos, whose chief oenologist is none other than Bordeaux-based flying winemaker Stephane Derenoncourt. He tells Justin Keay that, apart from enjoying working with the estate’s four varieties – Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Mavrotragano and Avgoustiatis – he just loves the beauty of the place, even though the continual wind and granitic soil have their unique challenges. Keay tastes through all the wines, is impressed by the whites, but singles out the reds as his favourites.
It’s official! Beaujolais is cool, in fact it is almost becoming too cool. With the official release of Beaujolais 2018 on Monday at Inter Beaujolais’ annual tasting jamboree, all of the promise that was there in barrel and with what the Nouveau was telling us has been delivered. The vintage is ripe, fruity and yet the wines have terrific balance. “There has never been a better time to get people to drink Beaujolais,” said Joe Wadsack at the bash, alluding to the fact that with 2018 there is quantity as well as quality. Peter Dean agrees and picks out 10 hits from the tasting.
Created in 1987 IGP Pays d’Oc has become regarded as the New World winemaking region of France, with single varietal wines its calling card. But the denomination is not always associated with rosé, especially when its near neighbours are the three appellations of Provence, which is odd given that it produces almost half a million hectolitres every year. In a ‘tasting special’ The Buyer asked leading rosé expert Elizabeth Gabay MW to taste-test 97 Pays d’Oc rosé, to pick out the best according to varietal and style and advise us on which ones we should put our money behind.
The fight for freshness is a key challenge for winemakers in Champagne with different houses using different techniques to cope with increased ripeness and higher alcohol levels. In a fascinating master class, that kicked off the fourth New Wave Champagne event in London, Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, chef de cave of Champagne Louis Roederer, put this challenge into an historical context, talking at length about how freshness can be achieved in the face of what he called a “climate crisis”. To flesh out his points, Lécaillon used five of his wines made from fruit that had been picked at fuller ripeness and yet were all completely fresh as a daisy. Anne Krebiehl MW reports.
There has been a wine revolution taking place in California in recent years making New Wave California as exciting a proposition for wine buyers as New Wave South Africa. A new generation of winemakers has torn up the template for big, powerful, alcoholic, point-chasing Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and instead are making more classically-restrained, balanced wines that look to the Old World for their inspiration. Fruit quality, re-discovered regions, freedom of expression and a new generation of consumers looking for something new has seen an explosion of exciting new wineries and wines that will challenge all preconceptions about what Californian wine is all about. Peter Dean also picks out 10 New Wave California wines you need to have on your radar.
The short answer is Yes it is! Climatic conditions were just right to bring all the elements together to make 2017 Vintage Port the first consecutive general declaration since the Nineteenth Century. 2017 is different in profile to the 2016s, but the hallmarks are richness and ripeness supporting the purity of the fruit, with structure and concentration, helping to layer the fruit on the palate. Volumes are down so initial demand will be high. David Kermode was there on the day to pick out the Ports to buy as well as marvel at a joint press conference held by the powerful triumvirate that is Adrian Bridge, Christian Seely and Charles Symington.
The higher and wetter you go in the Adelaide Hills the better wine you are going to produce, according to Michael Hill Smith MW, one half of the dynamic duo Shaw + Smith who has been making exquisite wines with his cousin Martin Shaw for the past 30 years. Earlier this month our resident chef and wine explorer, Roger Jones, was invited along to the Shaw + Smith 30th Anniversary lunch at Roka Aldwych in London to taste through the new vintages of Riesling, Chardonnay and Shiraz from their Adelaide Hills Vineyards, plus Pinot Noir from their most recently-established vineyards in Tasmania. So what is it about these wines that has caused Roger to list them on his wine list for the past 18 years?
2015 is already being hailed as a classic vintage in Piemonte and there to prove it is Pio Boffa from Pio Cesare who showed off five of his 2015 Barolo and Barbaresco to an enthralled Chris Wilson. A warm vintage with some characteristics of a cool vintage, 2015 in Piemonte has plenty of red fruit but the acidity to keep it fresh, pure and give it plenty of age-worthy potential. Apart from the Classics, Wilson tasted the single vineyard wines, the latest being a first bottling of Mosconi, from land purchased in 2014.
Whisked off to Madrid for an experiental launch of the new Ramón Bilbao Mirto 2014, David Kermode started getting horrid flashbacks of a BBC managers role-playing awayday… from which he was asked to leave for taking the piss. The launch, more like a spirits roll-out than a new wine, was in keeping with Ramón Bilbao’s sense of imagination, and also its focus on its founder Don Ramón and his vision to make wines that have a sense of place, and then take you on a journey. Thankfully, the wine was not obscured by the theatrics and Kermode assesses it alongside a vertical of past Mirto vintages.
It has been said that Hungarians are so canny they can enter a revolving door behind you and somehow emerge in front. True to form, in next to no time the Hungarian wine industry has managed to throw off the shackles of Communism and a decade of uncertainty, and show the world just how good their wines can be. Working with single native varieties like white Furmint, Harslevelu and Juhfark as well as the increasingly popular Kekfrankos, they have also proven adept with blends, most notably putting Egri Bikaver’s image-battered past behind it, and working with international blends. Oz Clarke picked his top 50 wines from Hungary, so we sent Justin Keay along to taste them and further whittle them down into the seven essential wines for your list.
While Aussie winemaker Larry McKenna waits for the New Zealand government to rubber-stamp the sale of his Escarpment winery to Torbreck owner Pete Kight, he is still passionately showing off the quality of his Pinot Noir to wine buyers and critics worldwide. Larry McPinot, as he is affectionately known, was in London last week to hold a masterclass on the single vineyard Pinots – Kiwa, Kupe and Te Rehua – and to let Anne Krebiehl MW taste both new and back vintages, as well as give her an insight into their unique profiles. As the vines get older so the wines seem to express their specific Martinborough terroir more acutely, a wine region that Krebiehl has some powerful memories of.
The great and the good assembled in London last Wednesday for the 25th anniversary of UK wine importer Hatch Mansfield. Winery chiefs and winemakers flew in from far and wide to raise a glass to Patrick McGrath MW and his team. Our roving reporter and chef-at-large Roger Jones joined a select crew that included Sir George Fistonich, Pierre Henry Gagey, Eduardo Chadwick, Catherine Corbeau-Mellot, Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger and Giovanni Gaja amongst others. Jones tasted many of the special bottles brought in for the night including many rare cuvées and gives full tasting notes.
After a further decade and eight years more pre-disgorgement ageing, Dom Pérignon 2002 P2 was launched in London last Friday, and tasted alongside its non-identical twin Dom Pérignon 2002. Anne Krebiehl MW talks to Vincent Chaperon, chef de cave at Dom Pérignon, about the wine and what Dom Pérignon P2 teaches us about the effect of oxidation and the use of time as a creative tool – all said at a table covered in black sand and volcanic basalt against the backdrop of a running video loop of flowing lava, crashing waves, rising bubbles and clouds moving to cover a full moon.
Forget the Summer of Love, as far as the Soave Consorzio is concerned they want UK importers and restaurants to be celebrating a Summer of Soave. In a bid to do for the Garganega wines what 31 Days of Riesling has done to the awareness of Riesling, the organisation has launched this year’s three-month campaign that sees extensive promotion in the on-trade. To see what all the fuss is about Peter Dean headed to the press launch in central London, tasted through the new 2018 vintage plus a selection of back vintages from the 20 Soave producers who are taking part, and came up with a shortlist that shows the range of styles that continues to make this a region to get excited about.
Argentinian Malbec is the type of wine that if you pick it from a wine list the sommelier may well suggest you try something else. A victim of its own success? Perhaps. Suffering from an outdated perception? Very possibly. It is with these thoughts in mind that Justin Keay attended the Malbec Day tasting at the Argentinian Embassy in London and discovered first hand just how innovative the wines have become in a remarkably short space of time. No real fan of Malbec before the event, Keay comes away suitably impressed and picks out seven that you should try before you buy.
Breathing new life into annual generic tastings is not an easy game, as anyone who organises these events knows all too well. With last Thursday’s The Big G tasting, Wines of Germany made it all look so simple, with an event that showed an entirely new perspective on German wine – and so very different from the oh-so-cool Vinyl Factory-staged G-String event last year. There were some great flashes of innovation and inspiration as well as a lot of talk about… Sekt. Peter Dean reports entirely without the use of double entendres.