The en rama category was created by Tio Pepe just ten years ago with the launch of a raw sherry that was marketed by the company like a yoghurt – with a Best Before date and everything. At a special anniversary dinner, in which the company flew over its big guns and celebrity chef Nacho Manzano, David Kermode managed to taste all but one of the last 10 vintages, see how the Tio Pepe En Rama 2019 stands up to its predecessors, as well as get a revealing insight into the trepidation the company felt before launch and what has happened since.
With a further 90,000 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines planted last week to take the total acreage to 200, Rathfinny Estate in Sussex is on course to have 350 acres under vine by 2021. At today’s London launch of its third Sussex Sparkling, a Blanc de Noirs, Anne Krebiehl MW believes that it is the dry, restrained style of the estate that has already become Rathfinny’s signature style. That, and the very ripe hedgerow fruit and spice, that marks it out as being unmistakably English.
For the first time two classic Italian wine regions, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino, joined forces to present a unified front to UK trade and consumers allowing us to really get under the skin of the two most revered Italian red wines, and understand the varying components of their single grape varieties, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. Titled Barolo and Brunello: The Two Italian Kings, the event had focussed tastings run by Sarah Abbott MW in which she extolled the benefits of tasting the two wines side-by-side and drew out what makes them so distinct and enthralling.
To show off its first five vintages of Quintus, Domaine Clarence Dillon (which owns Château Haut-Brion) asked Clove Club chef Isaac McHale and head sommelier Oliver Christie to devise a special French-influenced tasting menu that would complement the Saint-Émilion wines. McHale’s food has a reputation of being ‘food you want to eat’ and the Quintus wines, likewise, are customer-friendly, approachable Bordeaux that are clearly in their ascendancy. Peter Dean tasted the Quintus grand cru wines, the second and third wines, and then sat back in awe at one of the great wine-pairing lunches.
When Roberto Conterno parted with many millions to buy Nervi in Alto Piemonte a year ago, it confirmed what many in the trade had known for some time – that this ‘lesser’ Italian region was producing outstanding wines and a great region to explore ‘off the radar’ wines and winemakers. Its days as a forgotten gem are indeed over, as more and more people wise up to the region, says Geoffrey Dean, who travels to Alto Piemonte and picks out the best regions and winemakers that should indeed be on your radar, if they are not already.
Ernst Storm and Gavin Chanin don’t actually make wine together – but you wouldn’t know it – at a recent London masterclass this hot duo from California’s Santa Barbara county seemed joined at the hip rather than come from rival wineries. What these friends share is a passion for old school Californian winemaking with minimal use of oak and sourcing prime fruit from some fantastic blocks in the Santa Maria and Santa Rita Hills. David Kermode tasted through their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah and was knocked ‘sideways’ by the wines as well as learning a thing or two about their shared winemaking philosophy.
As Familia Torres approaches its 150th anniversary next year it remains one of the world’s most enduring and admired wine dynasties – noted as much for the work it does in furthering responsible viticulture and protecting grape species as it is for the quality of its wine portfolio. Peter Dean met with CEO Miguel Torres Maczassek who was in London to show off the new vintages of its Antología and Iconic wines, to taste through the wines and get the back story on what makes each wine so unique.
The Wines from Spain annual tasting seems to have found its natural home at Sky Garden, where it returned to offer buyers a broad look at the quality and innovation that is rife in the country, and happening in the most unexpected of places. Rueda, for so long a bulk producer of average wines, had a singular focus where it was clear just how far the region has moved on particularly with producers doing interesting things with key grape Verdejo. Justin Keay picks out the wines to get on your radar as well as picks his Magnificent Seven – wines that stood head and shoulders over the other wines present.
Visiting a country for a large number of winery visits and tastings often leads to a series of exciting discoveries, and so it was when Geoffrey Dean visited Chile last month. Aside from the iconic wines that he expected to find, he wasn’t prepared for the huge diversity of wines that are now being made in the country at the very highest level. Here he picks out his Top 10 wines that totally captivated him as well as wines that show of Chile’s diversity.
It has been a few years coming but the Pol Roger Portfolio tasting last week certainly made up for the wait – Drouhin, Josmeyer, Staglin, Gallica, Sinskey, Artadi, and not forgetting the Pol Roger Champagnes of course. Some big name winemakers were there pouring the wines and our Chef Editor, Roger Jones, was there taking copious tasting notes and getting a heads-up on which of the new vintages are really singing – and what to serve them with. If you didn’t manage to get there, fear not, let Mr Jones give you a few pointers.
The premium on-trade will have a field day with the latest wines from Oregon and Washington states be they a pet-nat sparkler, an orange Gewurzt or a ‘cab-mac’ Pinot. Pinot Noir dominated the reds as you might have expected, but there were some interesting Cab Francs and Bordeaux varietal/ blends from Washington as well as some top Pinot Gris and Blancs, made in a fascinating variety of styles. The eleventh hour addition of wines from New York State only added to the eclectic nature of the tasting with the whites particularly strong. Chris Wilson picks the wines that should be on your buying radar.
Echoing the two main on-trade trends highlighted in its Trends Report, Bibendum’s new series of tastings called ‘Made in…’ focused on “diversity” and “indigenous”. It is the people, the place and the craft that went into creating this broad selection of wines that Bibendum really wanted to emphasise and Justin Keay found plenty to get excited about with the 17 new producers on show amongst a total of 194 wines.
Nicolás Catena Zapata has done more than most for the reputation of Argentinian wine. Inspired by the achievements of the Napa Valley pioneers, he went on to prove that anything they could do, he could do too, with the wines judged favourably alongside their Californian rivals and the finest First Growths. Having experimented successfully with altitude winemaking, he is now handing over the reigns to daughter Laura, who shares his obsession with Grand Cru standards. David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, attended a masterclass to meet the woman stepping into those big shoes (and a beret) with aplomb.
Tastings of Californian wine have changed out of sight in the past three years. Egged on by the likes of New Wave South Africa, the venues are imaginative and sometimes edgy, the organisation is top tier, there is food, music, some life and – dare we say it – a bit of fun. None of this would mean a thing, of course, if the wines were still just those ripe old powerhouses. Peter Dean went along to Essential California to test out the new ‘low price’ format and came back literally raving about what he tasted.
March has seen some incredible Italian wine tastings in London, both large generic and merchant-led. Suddenly it seems us Brits can’t drink enough of the stuff, with Italian wine knocking French off the top on-trade spot. Il Collettivo, now into its third year, was a bit of both – a focussed event that showcased the best and most interesting Italian wines from five of Britain’s most innovative wine importers – Astrum Wine Cellars, Flint, FortyFive10°, Sommelier’s Choice and Swig. Chris Wilson tasted his way through the wines and turns the spotlight on six of the most exciting producers he feels belongs on your list.
Before the en primeur tastings have begun in Bordeaux, the first taste of the new vintage takes place in London every year through the 134-member Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux. Geoffrey Dean tastes a wide variety of Bordeaux 2018 and gets a vintage overview from the president of Grand Cercle. 2018 was a challenging year, with powdery mildew and a blistering hot summer being two key factors, but there are some good wines and some very good wines produced, particularly from the Right Bank.
Brilliant organisation and wines that were firing on all cylinders made this year’s Nebbiolo Day the best and most educational one yet, argues Justin Keay. Fearing the worst from over 500 young, highly tannic wines, Keay came away enthusing about the potential of Nebbiolo’s lesser known regions of Valtellina, Alto Piemonte and Carema where higher altitudes mean crisper, lower alcoholic reds. Keay picks his favourites as well as shares his tips on what to buy from Barolo and Barbaresco.
The wines of Pauillac’s fifth growth estate, Lynch-Bages, have long been a favourite with British claret drinkers, so it didn’t need Geoffrey Dean to think twice when he was invited to the deepest Tyrol where a remarkable tasting was to take place. In a cellar stuffed full of blue chip wines Geoffrey was treated to a vertical tasting of Lynch-Bages 1945-90, not every vintage of course but near as dammit. With stained teeth and a beatific smile here he picks out the wines that really did stand the test of time.
Last Spring Fells took over the distribution of Yalumba and a few key wineries from the Negociants portfolio. What are the key changes and how are the new vintages tasting? On one of those beautiful summery days in February we sent Roger Jones along to the Fells annual tasting at the Riverside Rooms, Savoy Place to find out and, not only did he catch up with Yalumba’s Robert Hill-Smith but also many other top winemakers, keen no doubt to see how the Fells portfolio was changing with the new additions.
With a new Dom Pérignon vintage technical perfection is a given, what matters most to chef de cave Vincent Chaperon is projecting the lifestyle values of Dom Pérignon – achieving harmony in the wine that plays on the emotions of the consumer. In order to achieve that his job is to “organise diversity” namely, dealing with every element of variation that will end in the vision he has of the finished Champagne. Anne Krebiehl MW attended yesterday’s launch in London and explains how Dom Pérignon Rosé 2006 drives you into a “dark and profound direction.”