American viticulture has the ability to deliver fantastic mineral-driven, complex, refined, long-ageing, and refreshing white wines that remind one of great Old World regions such as Burgundy, Mosel and the Loire. But in the past two decades a new breed of winemaker is ensuring that American AVAs are developing their own, unique characteristics. Nowhere is this more true than Finger Lakes in New York State, whose cool climate Rieslings have been going through a Renaissance in the past eight years – switching from a semi-dry style to dry and starting to reap the benefits.
When the invite came through to help take part in the judging and blending of the new La Única project from Felix Solis I took a double take. The time and date was for an actual venue alongside other people, rather than sit in on a Zoom tasting. But when I nervously arrived at Camino in Kings Cross to take part there, as well as my fellow real life tasters, was a large screen with not just one Zoom tasting taking place, but five others simultaneously happening in China, Germany and Spain. Welcome to the new normal of virtual, and actual wine tastings. Here Richard Cochrane, head of Félix Solís in the UK, explains how La Única concept works and why it wanted to make it a global online event.
Too many people pigeonhole Argentinian wines as being just about Malbec and Torontes, says Matias Riccitelli, who tells Justin Keay that his winemaking philosophy is driven by the need to show off a different face of his country’s viticulture. Through the 25 wines he makes in Mendoza and the few in Patagonia, including a superb old vine Semillon, Riccitelli is being recognised as a great alchemist, working with a wide range of varietals, vessels and techniques to make some of Argentina’s most exciting new wines.
Innovation in Spanish winemaking is not just reserved for the new wave of artisan winemakers. Ramón Bilbao proves once again with its new Rueda Sauvignon Blanc that a big player can just as easily throw away the rulebook. Hailing from its shiny new winery La Finca Las Medias, winemaker Sara Bañuelos, has been given licence to thrill with an SB/ Verdejo blend but even more interestingly a 100% single varietal Sauvignon Blanc. David Kermode picks up the story.
Bernhard Bredell was named Young Winemaker of the Year in Tim Atkin’s South Africa 2019 Special Report, a reflection of the amount of heads he’s turned since 2016 when he set up the Scions of Sinai label, and also down to the quality of the wines, in particular the single vineyard Swanesang which is made from the last standing bushvines of Syrah in the Helderberg district of Stellenbosch. Emerging Wine Writer of the Year, Malu Lambert, visited him after Lockdown and tasted through the range.
The Mamba Riedel Decanter Awards took its final bow after 15 years yesterday with Liberty Wines winning Best All-Time Importer and Leeuwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Best Australian wine in a Grand Awards event at the Harrow at Little Bedwyn. The event was a ‘Champion of Champions’ affair with all of the day’s finalists previously being award winners, since the event started in 2006.
Fresh from its success at this year’s Mundus Vini Biofach international organic wine fair, where it picked up the Best Organic Red Wine of France gong for its flagship wine Chemin de Moscou, Domaine Gayda is launching its Figure Libre range of wines in the UK with fresh distribution deals in place. Peter Dean picks up the story and tastes through the new wines.
It’s been 10 months since 18 year-old Yasmin Dean has had an alcoholic drink, before then she was rarely seen without one. Too many parties later she decided to quit, has never looked back and was a natural to taste through the range of Lyre’s non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ when they got sent to The Buyer. But drunk neat and in mocktails do they match up to the real thing? How do they compare to Seedlip? And which would she pick and feel happy drinking when she was out partying?
The new Bollinger PN VZ 15 was born from a challenge to his fellow three winemakers, when chef de cave Gilles Descôtes asked them to make a Blanc de Noirs across vintages and villages. The wine had to have affordability and as much volume as Grande Année so that keen consumers can actually get some. The result is “exquisitely beautiful” writes Anne Krebiehl MW, a real deep-dive into Champagne’s terroirs with Pinot Noir coming (interestingly) from Verzanay rather than Aÿ and 20% of the reserve wines coming from Bollinger’s réserves de magnum from 2009 and 2010.
In France 2010 is a vintage that produced so many sensational wines – Bordeaux, Burgundy, even North and South Rhône were on the same page, but in Champagne very few houses declared a vintage. The reason was that on August 15 and 16 the region had the equivalent of two months of rain. In a fascinating masterclass to mark the launch of Dom Pérignon 2010 chef de cave Vincent Chaperon explains how they took a massive gamble with the Pinot Noir – leaving 20% of their plots to ripen knowing they would lose most of it to botrytis.
You might not know at the time that you are drinking a wine from Romania’s Cramele Recas, but chances are that at some time or other you will be. The country’s largest winery is responsible for many of the UK’s best-selling wines with a unique and effective consumer-centric approach – they make wine with the right quality level, attention to detail and price then ensure it reaches its target market with packaging that is bespoke for every on and off trade customer. Peter Dean travelled to Romania to see the set-up first hand, and also picks some standout wines and how they work with a range of dishes.
While the global wine industry agonizes about how to conduct safe wine tasting, a small car park in the London Borough of Fulham gave us all a glimpse into how the ‘new normal’ might work. Wine tasting, whether that be generic or by importer portfolio, is the lifeblood of the industry, of course, and Peter Dean went along to the event to see how public relations company R&R Teamwork had tackled the UK’s first post-Covid real life wine tasting. It’s one small step for wine…
With lockdown measures easing, and secondary vine growth making up for some of the frost damage that hit just four weeks ago, it finally looks like there are some things to raise a glass of bubbly to. But it is not just English Sparkling wine that is being celebrated and consumed in this week’s re-scheduled English Wine Week, writes Sophie McLean, but a whole host of wines that include red, white and rosé still wines with an increasing array of styles.
When Adam Tolmach left Au Bon Climat, just nine years after having founded it with Jim Clendenen, to the Californian wine community it seemed a curious decision. But, with Ojai Vineyard now over 30 years old, Tolmach has totally vindicated that decision. He is still the consummate craftsman, keeps a hands-on vigneron approach, and continues to craft world class wines that speak of his passion for the wines of Burgundy and the Rhône. David Kermode attends this first in a weekly Sommelier Sessions series run by the California Wine Institute, and tastes three of Tolmach’s wines.
Lockdown has been a busy time for wine consultant and writer Harry Crowther: first he ran a series of Instagram Live sessions on ‘Tasting Skills’ then came his ‘Supermarket Series’ picking out the best value wines from the top supermarket chains. Crowther also managed to hook up with Tom Hanson-Smith from Stellenbosch’s Journey’s End to hear how Rollo Gabb’s winery has fun, sustainability and local community as key drivers; and also to work his way through three of their wine ranges ‘Tails’, ‘V’ and ‘Precision’ to pick out the wines that you should have on your buying radar.
As the price of Provence rosé wines increases and as demand outstrips supply, so canny buyers should be looking to the Southern French wine region of IGP Pays d’Oc, for value, variety and quality, writes Elizabeth Gabay MW. Here she picks out her Top 20 rosés starting with the most popular variety – Grenache-based wines – then Cinsault, unusual varieties, and more gastronomic wines featuring darker grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon.
In what was surely one of the final portfolio tastings in Beaune before the virus closed everything down, Burgundy expert LM Archer visited Maison Joseph Drouhin for a full portfolio tasting of the impressive 2018 vintage. In the company of Frédéric Drouin 10 whites and 11 reds were tasted showing an impressive array of terroir, deft winemaking skills, consistency of quality and surprising affordability.
For the first time this year the Sonoma County Barrel Auction is going to be held online (June 16-18) giving wine buyers the opportunity to buy totally unique lots of wine from some of the county’s foremost winemakers. These wines are made specially for the auction, have never been seen before and will never be seen again. Three years ago The Buyer sent Christina Rasmussen to the auction where she previewed the lots, fell in love with a Syrah/ Grenache blend from Westwood, and sat enthralled as auctioneer John Curley showed off the skills that have seen him raise $85m for charity. We’re re-posting this excellent piece that captures the excitement of the live event which will hopefully be played out in the flesh in 2021. Full details of how to take part this year, and what wines are up for grabs, can be found at the end of this piece.
2012 was an unlikely and surprising success in Champagne, of course, with a chaotic year looking like it was heading for disastrous proportions like 1984. Then came August and the rest is history. Anne Krebiehl MW talks with Heidsieck’s cellar master Cyril Brun about why the house decided to disgorge its new vintage Charles Heidsieck 2012 Brut Millésimé in April 2019, and why they have introduced two new processes with this bottling – the use of Diam’s Mytik cork closures and the practice of jetting. Full tasting notes included.
Until Covid-19 hit Lombardy, with its 16,000 victims, things had been going pretty well in the region. For Franciacorta, its key premium wine, exports had been doubling year by year to the point that 20% was being exported to key markets such as the US and UK. It had also slowly built up a reputation for quality and consistency, governed as it is by some of the strictest winemaking rules in Italy. As the region starts to recover from the devastating effects of the virus Justin Keay talks to key players Bellavista, Ca del Bosco and Ferghettina, along with Consorzio President Silvano Brescianini about where the region goes from here.