The music you play, the ambient temperature, the crockery, cutlery and stemware you choose… they all influence how and what we taste. These were just some of the learnings from Spanish Wine Academy, the thinktank set up by Ramón Bilbao, to improve everyone’s knowledge about Spanish wine and wine tasting in general. Sarah McCleery discovers some truly enlightening facts about the Neuroscience of Wine Service and also realises there is a lot more to Garnacha than at first appears.
Premium, pre-prohibition, artisanal whiskey and bourbon from Leiper’s Fork are the latest grain-to-glass spirits to hit these shores since the Tennessee distillers’ renaissance began. For Pol Roger Portfolio it is the first American whiskey producer to be taken on. Robert Mason met Leiper’s Fork distiller Lee Kennedy, tasted the Bottled In Bond spirits range and discovered the properties of sweet-mashing that make these exciting new spirits unique.
The Dirty Dozen tastings have always been a must-attend affair. So it proved again this year, although not being in the basement of a Soho vinyl store meant that the wines had to do all the heavy lifting on their own. Winemaker Chris Wilson reports that the wines were more than up to the task, and picks a dozen eclectic ones that were shown by some of the UK’s most dynamic wine importers.
Enotria&Coe’s 50th anniversary tasting at the Royal Albert Hall was always going to be a splendid affair and it didn’t disappoint. There was Mouton, Unico, Opus One and Teso on show, six new agencies to get familiar with plus many, many more superb wines. Justin Keay was on hand to discover the lesser-known beauties that will work well in the on-trade and focuses on the USPs of the six new agencies.
The rebranding of Lanson Noble Brut Vintage 2004 is the Champagne house filling the void of a prestige cuvée that sits above the other wines in its range and helps galvanise its reputation. Speaking with Lanson chef des caves, Hervé Dantan on the wine’s launch alongside the 2004 Blanc de Blancs, Simon Field MW also discovers how Lanson will continue to eschew malolactic fermentation for both its deluxe cuvées, always ages the wines for 15+ years and is ‘playing the long game’ by releasing late-disgorged versions of the Noble Brut and making more old Lanson vintages available.
We’re used to hearing about how great Napa is for growing Cabernet Sauvignon but only, until recently, have we heard the same about the much hotter Californian county of Paso Robles. One wine producer DAOU is largely responsible for this, with its flagship wine Soul of a Lion, which has turned many preconceptions on its head. Justin Keay tastes the new 2019 vintage alongside a vertical of vintages dating back to 2013 and confesses to being very impressed indeed, especially as he knew these wines by reputation only. Leading the tasting was wine producer Daniel Daou, beamed in from California.
Exclusive, hard to find and using little-known indigenous grapes – Swiss wine is fast becoming a sommelier’s treat. Already there are 11 restaurants in London with Swiss wines on their list, with two of them having over 20 wines apiece. Private members club, 67 Pall Mall, has over 100 listings and was the setting for the first Swiss Wine tasting since Covid where Geoffrey Dean met up with the category’s ambassadors, Francois Genoud and Simon Hardy to taste through what’s new and find out how to navigate through the country’s 62 Swiss AOCs and 252 different grape varieties.
Michel Chapoutier was in town last week with his range of 2021 en primeur wines. The consummate showman, Chapoutier loves to hold court, drink a bottle of Tatty Comtes and shoot from the hip with his sometimes outlandish observations. Roger Jones had a prime seat at the comprehensive tasting, masterclass and then lunch with the man himself and a nice selection of library wines.
Making a great wine is not that difficult according to Wakefield Wines’ chief winemaker, Adam Eggins, the challenge is to “make affordable wine great.” The Clare Valley wine producer has done this in spades, according to Robert Mason who discovers how Eggins achieved this with the 2022 release of Wakefield’s four-wine St Andrews range, as well as the three premium wines ‘The Pioneer’, ‘The Visionary’ and ‘The Legacy’ all from the 2015 vintage.
Last week was the first ever opportunity for trade and consumer wine press to taste first-hand the Signature wine range from Les Grands Chais de France at its Private Wine Days tasting in London. Launched last year in October, these wines demonstrate the breadth and depth of GCF’s portfolio, and the investment the company has made both in quality and also wine estates outside of France, for which the company is the country’s largest wine exporter. We sent along Sarah McCleery to run the rule over the wines, a wine expert who was previously unfamiliar with the wines.
AOP Languedoc is 15 years old this year and busy with a series of initiatives to highlight its strengths as a wine region, a tasting in front of a Banksy exhibition in London was just one of many events to turn the spotlight on the wines of the region and highlight the attitude of upcoming winemakers there. Peter Dean gets the lowdown and picks 10 wines that typify the variety, quality and value you can find here.
Small harvests in a number of regions, plus cost-of-living pressures are driving consumers to ‘drink less but better’. And never has finding out about good value wines with a fascinating story and provenance been more key. These were some of the themes of Justin Keay’s visit to Jeroboams’ Autumn Portfolio tasting where he got the lie of the land from the company’s key players plus tasted through the range, highlighting 12 producers that caught his eye in the all-important £10-£30 bracket.
Wine communicator, educator and consultant John Downes MW found himself in lockdown with some time on his hands. So he decided to take on a new skill – animation. Within a few weeks it opened up a whole new world for him and a great, innovative and engaging way to tell wine stories and bring wine education to live. He is now producing a regular series of what he is calling Downes in Two – short animated, education videos on different countries, regions and wine issues.
Despite an erratic supply side, horrific shipping costs, exchange rates and glass shortages, there is plenty to be optimistic about in today’s market argues Hatch Mansfield CEO, Patrick McGrath. At 19 agencies, his portfolio is covering all bases and in manageable proprtions. Kate Hawkings talks to McGrath and MD Ben Knollys about the ‘state of the union’ and picks out 10 new wines that she thinks you should consider for your list.
A photo of a French Antarctic expedition from 1904 in which the team is seen drinking Mumm Cordon Rouge was the inspiration for an extraordinary new champagne cuvée, Mumm Cordon Rouge Stellar, which has been made to be drunk in space. Crazy publicity stunt or a genuine attempt to put some fizz back into space travel? Quentin Sadler met the team in Paris, got the lowdown on this five year quest and even got to taste the new champagne.
What do you get when you give a Master of Wine free rein to hold a tasting in a ‘wine cellar’ containing over 10 million bottles of fine wine worth over two billion pounds? The Octavian wine cellar tour tasting, of course. This was a tasting where the wine list was sent ahead on the invite and caused palpitations and no lack of envy amongst those unlucky enough to immediately receive a WhatsApp snap of the list accompanied by the caption ‘Tomorrow’s Lunch Wines’. Peter Dean got a Golden Ticket….
Armit Wine has one of the most enviable portfolio lists in the business. MD Brett Fleming celebrates three years in charge this November, and its Autumn Portfolio Tasting gave the team (and those producers that could get away from harvest duties) the chance to showcase their wares to an expectant client base of private clients, restaurants, and well-heeled independents. We sent Mike Turner along to get a taste of what Armit has to offer.
Aiming to be fully-sustainable as a business is all well and good but how do you do it in the wine business exactly? Alliance Wine drew its line in the sand in September 2021 and since then has aligned its business practices with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals from work in the vineyard through to how finished wines are delivered – even picking a ‘no waste’ restaurant in which to hold its ‘In Our Nature’ tasting. Robert Mason was suitably impressed with what he saw at the tasting and picks 10 wines that all have their art in the right place.
Spirits and fortified specialist Kate Hawkings found plenty to be impressed by at last week’s Specialist Brands portfolio tasting – liquids that were on-trend towards lighter long-drink styles and ones that play to the post-Covid stay-at-home-mixologist. She talks to all the key players, picks a Top 10 that definitely need your attention, plus highlights market innovations such as Boatyard’s 2.8 litre refill pouches of vodka and gin that help the on-trade save 25% over the same drink in bottle.
Although wine lovers the world over will be familiar with Wynns Coonawarra Estate and its iconic Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, this is still a misunderstood region, with the estate’s Michael Shiraz somewhat neglected. In a rare back vintage tasting which showed the three new flagship wines: Wynns John Riddoch 2019, Michael Shiraz 2018 and Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 against much older library wines, Justin Keay discovers, with the help of Wynns winemaker Sarah Pidgeon, what makes Wynns tick and how the wine styles are changing.