Marc Kent was in ebullient mood yesterday as he launched his Boekenhoutskloof 2019 wines at private members club 67 Pall Mall. Sat next to Tim Atkin MW he took trade and press through five of the new wines, explaining in detail how each managed to see the light of day. 2019 was the vintage with rain, after three years of drought, and many winemakers in South Africa had forgotten how to deal with rain, said Kent. Atkin added that “2019 was the only vintage in 20 years that made him cry,” speaking about a winemaker who remains nameless.
While half of all ‘tastings in the flesh’ are being postponed at the moment, Liberty Wines has held two large-scale events within a week. Following its Burgundy tasting, last Tuesday was the turn of its complete portfolio tasting which was dominated by new agencies which it had picked up from FM&V plus a whole raft of new French wines which our man at the tasting, Roger Jones, was quite taken with. Highlighted wines include the second vintage of Crystallum ‘Ferrum’ Chardonnay, the Mullineaux’s excellent introductory label, Kloof Street, and many more from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
After sampling the 2019 vintage this time last year with a tasting kit at home, it was good to try the new Chanson 2020 vintage in the flesh with the estate choosing Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge as this year’s venue. As always the tasting was dominated by wines made from the 45 hectares Chanson owns in and around Beaune, and it was a good opportunity to take a deep dive into the quality of the 16 1er cru sites (and two Grand Cru sites) it both owns and makes négoces wines from.
It could have been called Judgement at Pall Mall, a blind tasting of the best of Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignons against some of the most prestigious Cabernets from the rest of the world, including Inglenook and some of the top Bordeaux estates. But it was the name Wendouree in the small print of the invite that got the pulse racing of our man at the tasting, Roger Jones, who dusted off his senior railcard, and hopped on the early train into town to bag himself front row at this historic event. It’s rare to get a chance to try Wendouree, this legendary Clare Valley Cab Sauv, and it was fascinating to try it against other Clare Valley Cabs as well as the best of the Old World.
With fingers in so many pies – wine consultant, importer, online retailer, writer and restaurateur – Mike Turner can always be relied on to come up with some fascinating choices of wine to put on your radar. Looking back at the wines that moved him over the past 12 months, he is recommending you catch up with them over the next 12 months – not so much a Best Of 2021 as a What’s Hot In 2022. Take it away Mike.
The 2020 vintage was the hottest year ever in Burgundy – beating even 2003 and previous hottest vintage 2018 – and there were also drought issues. Miraculously, however, there are no signs in the wines of over-ripeness or cooked characters and, writes Geoffrey Dean, there is the right amount of structure and substance to allow these wines to age for a considerable length of time. Dean hears from Albert Bichot’s team of the technical adjustments they made to cope with the challenges and recommends six of the wines from its extensive range that you need to have on your buying radar.
Most of us in the wine trade can safely say that we have a reasonable stash of bottles. For Roger Jones, however, when he nips down to his cellar he’s going into an Aladdin’s cave of vinous delights that, when it was part of his now-closed Michelin-starred restaurant, won him the AA’s best wine list in the UK for a number of years. So, in Roger’s best wines of 2021 review, expect some rare treats alongside more recent wine releases that he has tasted wearing his various hats for Decanter, The Buyer, IWSC and the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships.
It comes as little surprise that five of Geoffrey Dean’s Top wines of 2021 are from South African estates. Dean is a massive fan of South African wine and, in a window of opportunity, he managed to get to SA in 2021 for a blissful five weeks of catching up with old friends and discovering new wines. These are the wines that stood out and which he would recommend, plus five more from across the globe.
Making the shortlist for the IWSC’s Wine Communicator of the Year was just one of the many highlights of 2021 for David Kermode. His podcast The Drinking Hour has been drawing in listeners far and wide and, given that travel was still exceedingly restricted throughout most of the year, he did manage to make it to a large number of events many of them detailed here in his review of the top drinks of 2021 seen through the lens of 10 very different glasses.
With a nose to sniff out some of the most interesting wines on the planet, and with an eye for a bargain, wine expert Justin Keay’s review of the top wines of the year is always a must-read. Of the 10 wines that floated his boat this year Keay includes a red from Crete, a super-premium Carmenere from Chile and a single vineyard Assyrtiko that retails for £6.99. There’s space for a West Coast Chardonnay (remember those?), an English fizz featuring a blend of 28 back vintages and, like our drinks editor Peter Dean yesterday, reserves special mention for the wines of Spain that are really going places.
Every year our drinks editor and the tasting team choose the wines that stood out above the many others. 2021 was no exception although it was another ‘year of tasting differently’ with Covid-19 affecting opportunities to taste wines physically alongside winemakers and importers. There were, however, more real life tastings to enjoy in the UK than in 2020 and the online experience was improving all the time, witness Wine Australia’s superb Connect website. For Peter Dean it was also the first year for covering premium Champagne and sparkling wine on The Buyer with two making it to his final list and an impressive five still wines coming from Spain and Portugal. All the wines listed are new releases and not taken from library stock, including the one wine that was made in the Nineteenth Century.
100,000 meals delivered to children in need was the serious purpose of a once-in-a-lifetime charity dinner at The Birley Wine Club last week. The frivolous side was drinking Krug, Cheval Blanc 2005 and 2009 as well as rounding the evening off with Yquem 2011. For Geoffrey Dean it was a rare opportunity to see how the vintages are evolving, with the ‘vintage of the millennium’, the 2005, possessing the structure and freshness to take it easily into the 2030s and beyond.
Bairrada is one of those Portuguese wine regions that could well be unfamiliar to you but, once sampled, will not easily be forgotten. It’s what keeps ‘discovering wine’ such a fascinating subject – just when you think you’ve got a complete handle on a country’s wine output along comes a selection of wines from a ‘new’ region that offers an entirely new perspective. Peter Dean tastes seven wines from a region, previously unfamiliar to him.
Over three days in September British wine writer Dr Jamie Goode was one of 10 journalists invited to be part of the inaugural session of the Languedoc Wine Camp. The idea was to give leading opinion formers an immersion into where this important wine region stands today. What is the spirit of the Languedoc? How does it make us feel? How do the wines reflect this? Goode reflects on what he learned at Camp, discusses the novel format, and picks out 14 of the many wines he tasted along the way.
Cava has started to make some encouraging noises of late, ever since Prosecco stole its crown of ‘alternative fizz to Champagne’. But Codorníu has never dipped out of the spotlight. This winery is Spain’s oldest family-owned business and has been producing a range of cuvées such as the Ana Blanc de Blancs and the Codorníu Ars Collecta Blanc de Noirs which can stand toe-to-toe with the world’s best sparklers. Ex-Michelin star chef and fizz expert Roger Jones went to Hispanic to taste through the Codorníu range and came back positively beaming.
The Côtes de Bordeaux may be the youngest AOC in Bordeaux but, with over 950 producers, it is one of the largest and most diverse in the region – offering great value on a wide range of enjoyable, unfussy wines. The Buyer’s drinks editor, Peter Dean, tastes a selection of wines from this union of appellations, that includes Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon, Francs and Sainte-Foy and rates their potential in the UK on-trade.
When Loire winemaker Sylvain Pabion decided to join Château de Marsannay in 2015 as chief winemaker he could already see the potential of this 34 hectare estate. The appellation of Marsannay has for long been a constant source of great quality, reasonably priced Burgundy, and here was an estate with a large chunk of that appellation which was largely being run as a tourist attraction. Since then Pabion has been leading a quality revolution at the estate, breaking up the single Marsannay cuvée into single climat wines and converting the operation into organic viticulture. Peter Dean reports and tastes five of the wines from the classic 2017 vintage, to see the progress to date.
Already making a name for itself on the Irish and UK bar scene, Joe McGirr’s Boatyard Distillery has got expansion plans, new product lines and a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2023 which includes its own chocolate bars made with spent botanicals. Douglas Blyde met up with McGirr and the Boatyard team to hear the plans at a boozy brunch held at Homeboy Bar’s newest venue at London’s Embassy Gardens.
The wines of Cerasuolo di Vittoria are a delightful blend of Nero d’Avola and the lighter, more floral, Frappato and come from a DOCG that was only created 20 years ago. Just 25 producers make these wines in a contemporary style, writes Justin Keay, easy on the tannins, with moderate acidity, little or no oak and not too hefty in alcohol. The quality is high as is the quality to price ratio, making them excellent choices for today’s on-trade.
The Lisboa wine region has been compared to that of Chile and California in that it is a long, thin coastal zone with fresh wines made close to the cool Atlantic while more heavily-textured, deeper wines are made in the drier more protected inland areas. Picking a dozen of the top, most representative Lisboa wines our drinks editor Peter Dean tastes and rates them according to quality and value and assesses their potential for the on-trade.