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    Buying decisions from trend setting trade and The Buyer tastings

    Tasting: Wine
    Las Fincas Rosado

    Julián Chivite on lockdown & new wood-aged Las Fincas Rosado

    As life slowly returns to normal in Spain, Julián Chivite speaks about how Lockdown affected his wine empire in Navarra, how the local workforce got them through and export markets are just beginning to come back to life. He also gives the back story to his innovative two new wines – the wood-fermented Las Fincas Rosado and Las Fincas Blanco, 2 Garnachas, that are the latest wines to come out of his collaboration with chef Juan Mari Arzak. Made with premium on-trade in mind, the wines are distinctive and trend-setting and undeniably Spanish.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Bellevue Domaine de Valmoissine

    Latour’s Pinot-in-Provence hits new heights with Bellevue

    A communal shrugging of shoulders and scratching of heads must have been the order of the day when 30 year ago Maison Latour bought delapidated vineyards half an hour’s drive from St Tropez to plant… Pinot Noir of all things. Surely this most fickle of grapes would never be able to stand the baking Provencal sun? But yesterday saw the apotheosis of Latour’s vision with the launch of Bellevue Domaine de Valmoissine 2017, the first vintage of a ‘Grand Vin’ after three decades of investment, trial and error. This new top cuvée was tasted alongside the fourth vintage of Les Pierres Dorées, Latour’s ‘entry level’ Pinot from Beaujolais that has also been undergoing some fine tuning.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Cepparello

    Unpicking the closure dilemma of Isole e Olena’s Cepparello

    Tuscany’s iconic producer Paolo De Marchi has famously had to classify his top end Isole e Olena Chianti as an IGT wine because he uses 100% Sangiovese. But the other reason he has fallen foul of the Consorzio is that, since 2005, he has been putting an increasing amount of this super premium wine under screw cap. So why has he done this and what difference does it make to the finished wine? Justin Keay talks to De Marchi about his controversial decision and tastes both versions of the Cepparello 2016 to see if a professional palate can tell which is which?

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    Tasting: Wine
    Rathfinny Long Read

    Rathfinny pushes restraint in its new English sparkling wines

    Despite a mere decade in the business and young vines, Rathfinny is already making restraint its house style. Tempted to release some as zero dosage, the estate has instead been conducting dosage trials with the wines to ensure that they have commercial appeal. That said the new Classic Cuvée 2016, which is the ‘house style’ sparkling clocks in with just 5 grams per litre residual sugar. Sarah and Mark Driver launched their new Rathfinny Sussex Sparkling Wines from their kitchen this year via Zoom, Anne Krebiehl MW had the wines at home, tasted and listened intently. As she always does.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Chêne Bleu

    Why for Chêne Bleu it’s the best of times and worst of times

    Getting the UK’s first taste of the new wines from Chêne Bleu would normally be an occasion for unbridled joy, especially with the Southern Rhône estate having just won the 2020 Terre de Vins trophy for best wine tourism in  France. But Geoffrey Dean hears first hand from owner Nicole Rolet of the stark reality that small wineries face during Lockdown and coming into the recession that awaits – and all that she and her winery are doing to help those most in need in the hospitality sector.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Bordeaux 2016 Long Read

    Joss Fowler: Is 2016 Bordeaux’s greatest vintage of the century?

    Because the First Growths didn’t knock his socks off in 2016, Bordeaux expert Joss Fowler didn’t initially think that 2016 was as great a vintage as, say, 2005, 2009 and 2010. But what is interesting in returning to the vintage some years on, and re-tasting 267 wines, is how close are the ‘chasing pack’ of Second Growths; St Julien and Pauillac in particular were standout in 2016 with many estates producing their most memorable wine ever, which is surely a mark of a great vintage. Of all of these it was the Grand-Puy-Lacoste which was the wine that continued to haunt Fowler, weeks after the tasting in February. So how does it rate alongside the other 20 or so vintages?

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    Tasting: Wine
    Krug Grande Cuvée 168th Edition

    Anne Krebiehl MW on Krug’s Grande Cuvée 168th Edition

    The cellars at Krug are a stark reminder of how this ancient house has weathered many a previous storm – villagers from Rheims sheltering in the cellars while the city was pounded by the German guns in 1918. At the launch of the Krug Grande Cuvée 168th Edition, Olivier Krug referred to previous storms saying that Champagne was readying itself to start shipping again, that the Champenois work together and that “Champagne shows how strong we are” – even though this is the first time in his career he doesn’t have a plane ticket on his desk. It was also a tasting with some other firsts – the first one presided over by new chef de cave Julie Cavil and the first one conducted online. Anne Krebiehl MW stayed home, saved lives and sipped Krug.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Alsace

    Roger Jones continues his quest to find the best wines of Alsace

    Once Roger Jones, Steven Spurrier, Rebecca Palmer and Kelly Stevenson had finished their judging to find the 12 best wines of Alsace, the quartet visited Josmeyer, Zind-Humbrecht and Dirler-Cadé as well as put the wines into a gastronomic context with Sipp Mack and Cave de Turckheim. In this second part of this special insight into why the wines of Alsace are so special, celebrated chef and Buyer contributing editor, Jones, tries a number of food pairings (some, like foie gras more than once just to be sure ;)), experiences a once-in-a-lifetime ‘speed tasting’ as well as many of the winemakers’ very special aged bottles.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Arnoux-Lachaux

    2018 vintage reveals a new era of innovation at Arnoux-Lachaux

    Since taking on the winemaking at Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux in 2015, Charles Lachaux has been quietly going about his business, each new vintage taking him closer to his vision of what the estate is capable of. Showing off the 2018 vintage for the first time in London, he confesses to being smitten with the new wines, 15 different cuvées that span 14.5 hectares of vines across six villages and 14 appellations – a vintage that is clearly a grape-grower’s vintage, and whose success very much depends upon when the fruit was picked. With innovations in the vineyard that allows earlier phenolic ripeness and lower alcohol levels, and with almost all the wines now vinified 100% whole-bunch, Charles is clearly carving out a name for himself in Burgundy – even if he is doing it with admirable stealth.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Austrian wine

    Sommeliers shine in Austrian wine tasting with a difference

    Six new Austrian wines were put to the taste-test in an online tasting chaired by Anne Krebiehl MW with a panel including leading sommeliers Ronan Sayburn and Wieteke Teppema. The wines included a sparkler, Grüner, Riesling, and a Rosé that divided the experts – wines all chosen to show off the new wave of Austrian winemakers and to judge their freshness, ageability, value for money and ability to pair with food… or in Ronan Sayburn’s case their ability to pair with schnitzel. David Kermode reports.

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    Tasting: Wine
    McHenry Hohnen Long Read

    How Hazel’s Vineyard shone at key McHenry Hohnen tasting

    Given the impact David Hohnen and his brother-in-law Murray McHenry have had on the Australian wine scene – helping to put Margaret River on the map – the wines of McHenry Hohnen are relatively under the radar in the UK premium on-trade. To be more specific, it is the single vineyard wines, the ones from Hazel’s Vineyard that have not had the attention they deserve. To put the record straight a landmark tasting was held in London, just days before Lockdown, in which owner Murray McHenry and his importer Louis Latour Agencies turned the spotlight on Hazel’s Vineyard Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and its premium Bordeaux blend Rolling Stone, the latter once catching the eye of a half-cut Bono.

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    Tasting: Wine
    img_7583

    Rewind: Keeping Malbec World Day fresh with a virtual tasting

    Three years ago conducting a web-based wine tasting was ground-breaking. These days there aren’t enough hours in the day to take part in them all; and with this one in 2017 you actually got to taste the wines with the person on screen. During Lockdown a chance to enjoy a feature from the vault…..

    Three bottles of Malbec were shipped from Argentina to the middle of rural France where I tasted the wines simultaneously with Graffigna winemaker Nacho Lopez 11,000km away. A fun stunt for Malbec World Day, perhaps, but a giant leap forwards for us digital wine journalists the world over. I have seen the future of modern wine journalism and it is virtual wine tasting.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Pedro Parra

    Why Chile’s Pedro Parra is the wine version of Indiana Jones

    When you visit Pedro Parra at his disheveled winery in the South Chilean region of Itata, do not be surprised to see him emerge from out of the ground with a pickaxe in his hand. And don’t be alarmed if you hear the Indiana Jones theme tune in your head. The oenologist dubbed ‘Dr Terroir’ has also been compared to Indy – for his helter skelter career, and his penchant for digging large grave-like holes to inspect the granitic soils his 100 year old-plus bush vines excel in. David Kermode takes up the story.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Alsace

    Spurrier, Palmer, Stevenson, Jones: the 12 best wines of Alsace

    If ProWein had gone ahead this year one of the many highlights would have been the presentation of the 12 most exceptional wines from Alsace as judged by an august group of experts, Steven Spurrier, Rebecca Palmer, Kelly Stevenson and our own roving editor in chief Roger Jones. 120 wines were tasted over the course of two days in Alsace, the focus being on Crémant, Gewurtztraminer and Riesling – the style and varieties which are currently the focus of the Alsace wine body’s marketing campaign for 2020. In this, the first of two parts, Jones sets up the tasting and reveals which 12 wines were unanimously judged to be Alsace’s finest.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Armit

    How Armit’s Italian portfolio is going from strength to strength

    Held in London just as the travel ban started to take effect in Northern Italy, but just prior to full lockdown, Armit’s Italian tasting displayed many of the crown jewels of the Italian wine scene, even though many winemakers could not make the trip. Armit’s new managing director Brett Fleming is bullish about the company’s future, aiming to take it from £20m to £30m turnover over the next few years, and he sees the Italian wines as key to this growth along with boosting the importer’s profitability. As well as the on-trade, Fleming will be looking to prioritise the private client and off-trade side of the business, seeing opportunities for some of Armit’s premium producers. Justin Keay was there for The Buyer who tasted his way round the room and picked eight producers that shone on the day.

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    Tasting: Wine
    larder

    Time to take on the ‘Lockdown larder’ wine-pairing challenge

    Most readers of The Buyer will have a pretty good idea of the basics of wine-pairing. It’s a skill isn’t it, picking the right colour, variety, style, producer (even vintage) to go with a variety of dishes… in the hands of the right sommelier it is almost an art form. But put aside for a minute the fresh goat’s cheese salad, rib-eye and poached rhubarb crumble, how good are you at picking the right wine to go with what you only just managed to find at the back of the decimated supermarket shelves during lockdown? So what wine do you think sir or madam would like to complement the delicious umami succulence of their Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodles?

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    Tasting: Wine
    Flint

    Flint draws what’s left of the crowds with epic masterclasses

    A who’s who of the UK sommelier scene showed up for the Flint portfolio tasting, one of the last to be held before lockdown. The reason? The day had been specially curated with the sommelier in mind – wines that are just right for the on-trade, and a set of masterclasses that offered genuine practical help. The one compered by Ronan Rayburn MS and Stefan Neumann MS on blind tasting was the best masterclass that Mike Turner has ever attended, and he has attended a few let us tell you. Other subjects covered included the cutting edge of sustainable practices in Europe and America, and an in-depth look at the white wines of Italy. In addition to reporting on the day Turner also picks 6 of the Best – the pick of the wines which he thinks will work best for sommeliers.

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    Tasting: Wine
    California

    Classic California Cabernet and Chardonnay can be keenly priced

    Peter Ranscombe goes back to school during four masterclasses in London to learn why California’s wide variety of terroirs and blending options allows it to produce competitively priced wines below the £50 mark without compromising on quality. From larger American Viticulture Areas like the Central Coast and Sonoma County through to pockets including the Alexander Valley, Carneros and Mendocino, the sheer scale of The Golden State allows suppliers to find wine-by-the-glass candidates that won’t break the bank.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Cava Spiliadis

    Justin Keay on how Cava Spiliadis is filling the Greek wine void

    Greek wine is on a surge of popularity in the UK right now – sommeliers can’t get enough, it seems, of Assyrtiko, Xinomavro, Mavrodaphne, Malagousia, Moschofiliero and Agiorgitiko – in many cases quite literally. There is a shortage in supply of quality Greek wine in the UK, writes Justin Keay, with most large importers not yet on the bandwagon. There are a couple of exceptions with Cava Spiliadis being the most notable. At its second UK tasting, this New York-based importer showed over 100 quality wines with the least well known being the most popular.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Chateau de Pommard x 67 Pall Mall-35

    Why Château de Pommard is Michael Baum’s obsession

    Silicon Valley entrepreneur Michael Baum is a self-avowed disruptor, and a biodynamic evangelist, who sees sommeliers as key to the success of Château Pommard, the prestigious Burgundy estate he acquired six years ago. At an exclusive lunch he tells Victor Smart how he intends to get from a direct-sales model to 25% of production channelled through restaurants and bars. As well as opens the latest releases including the sought-after ‘Simone’ which has a trade price of a cool £300 a bottle.

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    Instataste

    Tasting with pictures View All
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    • There is something wonderfully Spanish about having this blanc de
      There is something wonderfully Spanish about having this ‘blanc de noirs’ in a black bottle – think Dali or Almodovar – it is pure theatre, which speaks of the wine’s black grape origins, but also its intended destination - a top end restaurant setting which is what it was primarily made for. A collaboration between Chivite and Juan Mari Arzak, whose 3 star Michelin restaurant is hugely theatrical, it’s a complex, fascinating wine that almost has to be deduced at first and then starts revealing itself. On the nose you have savoury, herbal notes (wild fennel) with orchard fruit and pomegranates; on the palate it’s light to mid-weight, a slight fattiness on the front palate with ripe fruit nice and rounded (that has been accentuated through time in the bottle). Beautifully balanced, complex, great length with a nice hit of heat and alcohol on the finish. I would decant this and serve it as an aperitif, although like an aged Albariño it could work at all stages of a meal.
    • Top dry German Riesling from the Nahe and in a
      Top dry German Riesling from the Nahe and in a great year. The nose is displaying a little secondary development but the palate is as fresh as you like, with a mineral quality that is almost spritzy. Notes of oily rag, papaya, acacia honey, blossom; the palate is lively, with lime zest. After time in the glass the wine feels a little more rounded with well- integrated acidity, but in such a good place with plenty more years to go. Very yummy. Drank this with a spread of vegetarian Indian dishes which worked well.
    • Wonderful surprise and hugely enjoyable  an earlypicked Pinot Gris
      Wonderful surprise and hugely enjoyable - an early-picked Pinot Gris with 3 days skin contact that looks for all the world like a Rosé (on 2nd thoughts it is a Rosé! Just undeclared on the label). Would make an excellent blind tasting wine. And yes... it is New Wave California. Jolie-Laide Sonoma County Pinot Gris 2018. The colour is light russet with saffron highlights, the nose has potpourri, baked apple, strawberry and an aged quality; the palate is light but there is a plumpness from the skin contact, flavours include grapes, orange, lime leaf, there is also a textural element from the neutral wood vinification that is interesting and makes this one of the most fascinating Pinot Gris you are liable to find. A real sommelier’s wine.
    • If the closeness of a sparkling wine to resembling Champagne
      If the closeness of a sparkling wine to resembling Champagne is a mark of top quality then Ruca Malen’s Traditional Method Sparkling Brut NV is right up there in the category. In a blind tasting you could easily imagine yourself in Epernay or Rheims rather than in Mendoza. Like the quality sekt coming out of Germany in the shape of Von Buhl, say, this blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Uco Valley in Argentina has Champagne people and knowhow behind it which gives it its undoubted quality. Made by the team that used to run Chandon in Argentina it ticks all the right boxes in terms of provenance and production: fruit grown at altitude (1200m); wine left on the lees for 36 months (reducing the acidity and building up the creaminess and complexity); the wine in the bottle coming from mainly one vintage (2016) but then beefed up with 10% older reserve wines; the wine released six months after the hugely disruptive disgorgement. With 6gms dosage it is dry but retaining ripeness and roundness, very pale in colour, a fine bead, quite savoury on the nose, but then really interesting on the palate: very fruity, raspberry to the fore, some complexity beginning to develop in terms of patisserie and nutty notes, lovely crisp, dry finish. For £16.95 you can’t go wrong.
    • This is bonkers good  very complex very complete I
      This is bonkers good – very complex, very complete (I wouldn’t pair this with food it’s a meal in itself). It’s 1 of 5 varieties (Rkatsiteli) Mildiani vinifies in a Qvevri, from the Kakheti region in the eastern part of Georgia. Deep gold, almost caramel. The nose is fascinating: a mix of old orchard fruit, orange rind, spice tin (mace) and a slight medicinal/ antiseptic note/ floor polish? That dies down after 10 minutes in the glass; you can also sense fresh, wet clay. The palate is mid-weight, ripe, rounded, fatty/ oleaginous mouthfeel on the front palate, but also fresh at the same time. Gorgeous flavours of wild flower honey (that has a bit of bite) then you get the dryness of the wine and the wet stone texture on the tongue. Massive length – there is still clearly a good deal of acidity (like an aged Riesling, or cool climate Chenin). Incredible wine – you go on a journey with it – changed a lot in the glass after opening.
    • Romanian Rose made from Pinot Grigio and made by cramelerecaseu
      Romanian Rosé made from Pinot Grigio and made by  @cramelerecaseu  Very light pink, red berries and meadow flowers on the nose, the palate has ripe, red fruit but there is an interesting balance here between the full flavours and a dry, sandpaper texture that lends it a bit more seriousness. Surprisingly long finish for a Rosé with a little sherbet lift on the tail. The company does a number of Pinot Grigio- this one is exclusive from  @corneyandbarrow