Brandy finished in casks that have contained Sauternes and also dark Barbados rum, are the two latest additions to St-Rémy’s Cask Finish Collection which is an attempt to court the younger spirits drinker, but also to allow master blender Cécile Roudaut the opportunity to be creative and just a little daring, writes Victor Smart. So how do they taste and what do you pair them with?
For a variety of reasons Grenache has had a reputation of being a grape that’s only good as a blending partner – on its own it has traditionally been seen as a grape that makes high alcohol, structureless, fruit-forward wines, prone to oxidation. But how times have changed. Single-varietal Grenache could not be more on-trend as winemakers across the world use modern, more sympathetic winemaking styles that best suit the grape. A masterclass from the Spanish Wine Academy earlier this year, that focused on Spanish Garnacha, predicted even greater popularity for this category and to prove the point sampled seven very different styles of how winemakers in Spain are approaching the grape. Peter Dean reports.
Hatch Mansfield chairman Patrick McGrath MW describes the present challenges facing the drinks industry as a ‘shit show’. With stock stuck in ports all around the world, the climate affecting yields and more, it was impressive that the importer’s autumn showcase was a well-tempered affair full of blisteringly good wines. Held at the Tower of London, David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus also managed to keep his cool at the tasting and picks a Top 10 of wines that really turned his head.
Another year another new vintage – Cloudy Bay 2021 was launched in the UK yesterday, sadly by Zoom again, with technical director Jim White stepping in for winemaker Daniel Sorrell who has handled the previous run of releases. With newly-appointed senior winemaker Nikolai St George joining last September from 2021’s New Zealand winery of the year, Giesen Wines, there are clearly changes underway. How much of that is down to the new hierarchy is too soon to tell but White does reveal that Te Koko is undergoing an overhaul and the style of Cloudy Bay 2021 is different to the 2020. There is also the considerable issues of a 30% drop in yield and getting the wine onto a ship – anytime, anywhere would be nice. Peter Dean reports.
Found in Cocchi’s archives, the recipe for Cocchi Barolo Chinato tipo Esportazione was brought back to life in a limited edition to celebrate the great Italian company’s 130th anniversary. Such a special Barolo Chinato deserved a special send-off which it got at Hide in London’s Mayfair – mixologist Oskar Kinberg had devised a series of bespoke cocktails to celebrate Cocchi’s vermouths and Americano while chef Ollie Dabbous was at the controls in the kitchen – devising the menu and in particular a warm ‘acorn’ cake with smoked caramel and liqueur to pair with the Chinato. Victor Smart reports.
In just over 40 years Joseph Helfrich has turned Les Grands Chais de France from a 5,000 franc loan into one of the world’s most important wine producing groups – currently worth €1.14bn and accounting for over a fifth of all France’s wine exports. Famille Helfrich is the group’s exclusive on-trade and independent retail arm that is showing over 200 of its wines at two UK tastings. The London event is next Tuesday while the Manchester one just happened with Mike Turner suitably impressed with what was on offer – especially a wine from Gascogne that is £3.68 DPD.
Compared to the finest crus of Burgundy by some of the world’s leading wine critics, Querciabella’s Batàr is no ordinary white wine from Tuscany. Celebrating its 30th year with the 2018 vintage, this is a Pinot Bianco/ Chardonnay blend that has an almost uncanny ability to age. To prove the point and to launch the new vintage, winemaker Manfred Ing lined up a once-in-a-lifetime vertical for David Kermode, including the very first vintage – 1998 – that Kermode describes as a ‘miracle’.
As most UK-based importers expand their portfolios this year, one company is defiantly swimming against the tide by only offering on and off-trade customers one estate per country or region represented. The approach by Cardiff-based Fine Wines Direct UK means that it can import in bulk, offering customers competitive prices and good stock availability. For the wine producers it also means that their wines do not have to compete against other wines from the same region. But what of the selection and the wines themselves? Justin Keay tasted through part of the range which includes Pesquera, Marqués des Cáceres, Carrau, Allan Scott, Thorn-Clarke and Escorihuela Gascon.
Enotria & Coe’s Decameron tasting was the first of the major importer tastings this autumn and it was packed to the rafters with exciting new wines and spirits, producers eager to get back into the fold, and 1200 buyers keen to do business and hear about E&C’s spectacular Christmas peak sales levels. David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, sampled the new lines and picks out a Top 10 that caught his eye, as well as talks to managing director Sam Thackeray about the company’s current triumphs and challenges.
José Moro, at Ribera del Duero’s Bodegas Emilio Moro, is the first winemaker to have been picked as one of the top 100 global business leaders in the field of innovation and creativity by Forbes Spain. His latest project, Sensing4Farming, developed hand-in-hand with Vodafone, is aimed at creating a high quality sustainable vineyard that can be managed completely digitally. And yet his wines also have tradition at their core – fine Tempranillo that speaks of the land from which it comes. Geoffrey Dean reports.
The Nahe is one of Germany’s smallest wine regions featuring just nine producers but, with Donnhoff and Emrich-Schönleber amongst them, it includes some of the country’s best sites for making Riesling. Peter Dean tastes and rates a range of wines from Emrich-Schönleber including four dry style wines, a Kabinett and an Auslese, and talks to owner/ winemaker Frank Schönleber about achieving a delicate sense of balance in his wines.
Bancroft Wines may have added 60 new producers and increased by a third the amount of wines it represents, but it was the trimmed-down approach of its Snapshot tastings that appealed to Mike Turner. By pre-selecting wines that suit the region Turner, a Bancroft customer, felt that everything on show was suitable and the amount of wines to taste on the day of manageable proportions. He travelled to Edinburgh, one of three tastings Bancroft held, and picks for us nine wines that are either great value, worth a punt or an absolute stand-out.
2016 was generally regarded as one of the greatest modern vintages of Barolo and was always going to be a hard act to follow. But the 2017 Barolos from Mauro Veglio are still delivering an immense amount of pleasure, argues Geoffrey Dean, who hears first hand from the estate’s Alessandro Veglio how the winery is using them to spearhead a greater presence in the UK on-trade.
Aussie Grenache is on the rebound, as it is across much of the rest of the globe. Exploited for so long as a workhorse grape for fortified wines and as a blending partner, it is now beginning to be better understood as a variety. In Australia, particularly in Barossa and McLaren Vale, it is being re-planted in profusion with crush prices reaching an all-time high. Grenache is simply on-trend and to prove it Wine Australia asked Sarah Ahmed and Mark Pygott MW to each pick three wines from Barossa and McLaren Vale to better understand how Grenache is experiencing premiumisation. Justin Keay brings his own views to the table and confesses to being very impressed by the wines and also the standard of the presentation.
October’s launch of Exton Park RB45 is the completion of the new quartet of wines from this influential English estate – joining a trio of reserve-based wines that were launched this April. To achieve a House style and avoid the vagaries of the sometimes inclement Hampshire weather, Exton Park’s new range of English Sparkling Wines owes more than a passing nod to Champagne. Exton Park RB, or Reserve Blend, is a range of four wines that are all multi-vintage and made from up-to 45 different base wines. David Kermode had an audience with winemaker Corinne Seely to find out how she is aiming to make Exton Park “an English Bollinger” and to taste and rate the new wines. Peter Dean visits the virtual launch of the RB45 and provides full tasting notes.
It was one of the hottest days of the year and it was hotly anticipated – the day WineGB held its first showcase trade and press tasting since you-know-what. Chef and sparkling wine expert Roger Jones went to catch up with some old faces and to see how the British wine industry is continuing to evolve and excel, but it was also an opportunity to discover some new wineries and plenty of new cuvées. Whitehall Vineyard was a new producer, specialising in still wines, sparkling champ Dermot Sugrue had some impressive new cuvées, and Hattingley’s still wines were just some of Roger’s many highlights. And how about Multi-Vintage as a more positive way of describing Non Vintage?
Setting up a winery in Romania after the fall of the Ceausescu regime was a masterstroke for Cramele Recas co-founder Philip Cox and his fellow directors. It has allowed him to build a winery of scale with state-of-the-art equipment, using a mix of bought-in and estate fruit, with more and more hectares of vine planted with indigenous and international grape varieties. The wines are quality and value-driven and with the eight that Cox has selected to represent the 2020 vintage, there is a wide mix of fascinating blends and winemaking techniques that play to a mainstream audience, at the same time as pushing the envelope in key areas.
London’s annual Washington State Wine tasting was one of the last ‘live’ events to be held in March 2020, before the pandemic struck. 16 months later and Geoffrey Dean attended this year’s event which showcased 91 wines from 13 producers. The well known names of Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Reynvaan, Gramercy Cellars, Betz and L’Ecole No 41 were all there but what made this event even more fascinating was the sheer amount of wines coming from lesser known estates and ones which are seeking representation in the UK.
In a brave about-face, Louis Roederer has ditched its best-selling Brut Premier NV cuvée and replaced it with the new Louis Roederer Collection 242, a multi-vintage blend that uses both a string of reserve wines and a high proportion of a solera-style Perpetual Reserve – created in 2012 and topped up after subsequent harvests. Underlying the move is cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon’s vision to cope with warming temperatures in the region and to create an unique NV that gets increasingly complex with each subsequent harvest.
The impact that British wine has made both domestically and in international markets has been spearheaded by its sparkling wines. But what of English still wine? For too long it has played second fiddle – obtaining the right fruit ripeness from the unpredictable British climate, and also making wine at a competitive price point have not helped. But there are now so many examples of top quality still wine made on these shores that wine scribe Justin Keay decided to take a closer look, visiting a number of estates over the summer and focusing on two in particular – Balfour and Tillingham – that have approached still production from opposite ends of the wine spectrum.