Wines of Chile was back with a bang last week with its first in-person tasting in two years. In that time the innovation that was already underway before COVID hit has truly flourished, argues David Kermode. Innovative on-trend styles, lots of Pais and Cinsault, wines from the South, including cool climate Sauvignon, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, are sitting confidently alongside more traditional styles of Cabernet, Carménère and some traditional blends.
There are a number of wine producers who age their wines under the sea – the pressure, lack of light and gentle swell of the tide, all result in a different style of wine. But, to date, no British sparkling wine producers have done this, and not at this sort of depth. For its 2014 vintage Blanc de Blancs, however, Exton Park is producing two versions – 60 Above and 60 Below – the latter wine aged at 60 metres depth off the coast of Brittany. Victor Smart went along to see what all the fuss was about.
In the past 20 years the Canadian wine industry has truly blossomed with the number of wineries almost quadrupling. The quality has been on the rise too as has the number of different grape varieties. An expert in the field who has been closely following this explosion is Dr Jamie Goode who, after explaining about the regions and the geology, picks a list of 15 of the best Canadian wines available in the UK.
GLUP is a new range of Chilean minimal intervention wines coming from Longaví, the set-up formed by Julio Bouchon and David Nieuwoudt who is known for making expressive, ‘simple’ wines in South Africa’s high, rugged Cederberg mountains. It’s a terrific meeting of minds and talents as Peter Dean describes, the wines being gluggable, expressive, fun and amazing value.
To celebrate 40 years of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell brought some very special bottles with them from their Hemel-en-Aarde Valley estate. The occasion was the Mentzendorff annual portfolio tasting, which was the last time they were here in the UK since March 2020 just before Covid struck. Anthony conducted a special masterclass examining the style of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir which involved him opening two of the only five bottles he has left of the estate’s first ever vintage, the 1981 “Grand Vin Noir” made by Anthony’s father. Roger Jones had a ringside seat.
Having helped Domaine Bousquet into the UK market for the first time, when she was working with UK importer Vintage Roots, wine writer Sarah McCleery is re-united with Anne Bousquet and husband Labid Al Ameri over dinner at London’s Soho House. The domaine’s 1600 metre high location at the foothills of the Andes is the perfect place to practise organic viticulture which shows in the freshness of the fruit-forward wine range, the new additions to which McCleery reviews including the flagship Gran Malbec 2018 and Ameri Malbec 2019.
Wine writer and winemaker, Chris Wilson, has not visited a Mentzendorff portfolio tasting for some time. What most impressed him at the most recent event was the quiet confidence of the selection with everything in its right place and nothing superfluous. You expect to find a wide range of fortified wines and top-end Champagnes with Mentzendorff but what may take you by surprise – and it did with Wilson – is the collection of classic and out-there wines that collectively feel like a treasure trove. He recommends his top 13 wines and uses his customary wit to really nail each and every one.
Earlier this month, Bancroft Wines held its Spring Snapshot Tasting where clients and press came to try selected lines from the full portfolio. Who better to send than someone who is both a client and part of the wine press? Our very own Mike Turner tasted his way through nearly 100 wines and picked out his top picks for your lists this Spring and Summer including a Verdejo from Telmo Rodriguez, an unfiltered frizzante bianco from Veneto, and a ‘wild card’ acacia-aged red from Thessaly in Greece.
Blanc des Millénaires 2007 was just one of a string of major new Champagne releases to be unveiled last week as the Champenois hit London for the Taste Champagne event. The 2007 is only the seventh vintage of Charles Heidsieck’s top cuvée to be released since the inaugural 1983 and Cyril Brun, chef de cave, steadfastly refuses to change the make-up of its five-cru blend in order to truly reflect the vintage. It is, after all, like a hairstyle he says – it changes over the decades but do you notice? and does it get any better?
Ever since Romain Ott has been the winemaker at Château Léoube, a property that is adjacent to his family’s estate, he has been pushing the envelope of the premium rosé category. At an exclusive lunch in the just-reopened Langan’s Brasserie Ott talks to Victor Smart about the new wines and pairs them with a variety of interesting dishes, including veal chop with the super-premium, late-bottled Léoube Rosé Singulier that is £199 a magnum, is far darker, and should be served fresh but not cold.
Nebbiolo Day 2022 helped to cement Nebbiolo’s reputation and success in the UK market with some truly great wines from all the producing regions. This third edition was well represented by most of the top names making wine with Nebbiolo – represented and unrepresented estates – and featured a masterful masterclass on Valtellina and Alto Piemonte by co-organiser Walter Speller.
For nearly three years Chile has had to rely on the quality of its wines, and the knowledge and passion of its importers to tell its story in the UK as Covid has prevented it from hosting its usually packed out portfolio tasting. Now it’s back with its first major tasting event since September 2019, featuring over 40 producers, in London on March 31. Anita Jackson, head of Wines of Chile in the UK who has been doing her bit to champion Chile’s cause, sets out what buyers can expect from a tasting that looks specifically to showcase the diversity and quality of wines to be found the length and breadth of this unique wine country.
2014 was not a great growing season in Champagne in fact, according to Bollinger’s managing director, it was one of the most difficult years on record. But the mixed fortunes handed out by climate change – especially the cold late summer – has helped the House deliver two exceptional premium Champagnes with remarkable freshness. In order to underline the gastronomic qualities of La Grande Année 2014 and La Grande Année Rosé 2014, Champagne Bollinger chose to launch the wines over lunch at The Woodspeen in Newbury with a Peter Eaton-directed pairing menu. Peter Dean ‘took one for the team’ and headed down to Berkshire.
One of Armit’s key strengths has been the Italian wines in its portfolio, and its annual Italian tasting gives buyers a perfect snapshot of everything that is good in Italian winemaking right now. Back in the flesh in 2022, the tasting was also an opportunity for buyers to sample a range of library stock including Sassicaia 2010. David Kermode talked to managing director Brett Fleming about how things have been going at Armit and picks his top 10 wines, three of which are from two new agencies acquired only recently.
The on-trade was out in force at Bibendum’s portfolio tasting last week which was celebrating 40 years in the business. Many familiar producers were in attendance along with many new faces – boutique producers like Casa de Mouraz, GLUP, Lenzmark, and Kumusha along with two high profile acquisitions Juve Y Camps and Gérard Bertrand. Peter Dean talked to the new kids on the block and chooses six of the best.
“I was not only impressed, but inspired. I left the tasting with an optimistic skip in my step.” This is Robert Mason’s reaction to seeing what Sustainable Wine Solutions, that has emerged from Borough Wines and led by the pioneering Muriel Chatel, is doing to shake up the traditional way that wine is made, bought, distributed and sold. He reports back from its recent tasting were it was able to show the steps it is taking to introduce re-usable kegs, wines on tap and bottle refill schemes to the trade.
‘Tight and tidy’, ‘all bases covered’, ‘classic and leftfield’, these are the things that a wine buyer looks for in a portfolio. When the wines also all speak of where they come from then that is massive plus, as winemaker and writer Chris Wilson discovered at Alliance Wine’s annual portfolio tasting. Among the ten wines that Chris highlights are two English sparkling wines, a Mâconnais style Chardonnay from the Languedoc, a Spanish Muscat a Petit Grains and the only Spanish 100% Malbec, South African Pinot Noir and a Grenache from Alliance Wine’s own label.
As Churchill’s undergoes a brand refresh and launches Grafite, a new range of still table wines from the Douro, so founder Johnny Graham tells Victor Smart about the need for change in the business he set up 41 years ago. Appealing to a new generation of drinkers, competing with the raft of other winemakers in the Douro and slowly handing over control to his daughter Zoe are all part of Graham’s masterplan.
It’s one thing to list a fine wine in the UK, quite another for it to deliver quality, value and diversity. As the tasting season gets into full swing – even overdrive – Roger Jones tastes his way through the new WoodWinters portfolio, which has expanded from its specialised Italian base into carrying wines from Greece, France and South Africa amongst others.
More than any other grape variety, Furmint is on a journey, argues Justin Keay. With an amazing ability to reflect terroir, Furmint is breaking out of its Tokaj home in Hungary and spreading to other regions with single vineyard wines and dry varieties, in particular, reflecting these regional differences. And, despite its phenolics not making it an obvious choice for sparkling cuvées, Furmint fizz is very much a new thing, with winemakers learning as they go. Keay attends the fourth Furmint February tasting in London, talks to the 38 producers in attendance, and lists his Top 10 wines from the event – five sparkling and five still single vineyard wines.