The new Bollinger PN VZ 15 was born from a challenge to his fellow three winemakers, when chef de cave Gilles Descôtes asked them to make a Blanc de Noirs across vintages and villages. The wine had to have affordability and as much volume as Grande Année so that keen consumers can actually get some. The result is “exquisitely beautiful” writes Anne Krebiehl MW, a real deep-dive into Champagne’s terroirs with Pinot Noir coming (interestingly) from Verzanay rather than Aÿ and 20% of the reserve wines coming from Bollinger’s réserves de magnum from 2009 and 2010.
In France 2010 is a vintage that produced so many sensational wines – Bordeaux, Burgundy, even North and South Rhône were on the same page, but in Champagne very few houses declared a vintage. The reason was that on August 15 and 16 the region had the equivalent of two months of rain. In a fascinating masterclass to mark the launch of Dom Pérignon 2010 chef de cave Vincent Chaperon explains how they took a massive gamble with the Pinot Noir – leaving 20% of their plots to ripen knowing they would lose most of it to botrytis.
You might not know at the time that you are drinking a wine from Romania’s Cramele Recas, but chances are that at some time or other you will be. The country’s largest winery is responsible for many of the UK’s best-selling wines with a unique and effective consumer-centric approach – they make wine with the right quality level, attention to detail and price then ensure it reaches its target market with packaging that is bespoke for every on and off trade customer. Peter Dean travelled to Romania to see the set-up first hand, and also picks some standout wines and how they work with a range of dishes.
While the global wine industry agonizes about how to conduct safe wine tasting, a small car park in the London Borough of Fulham gave us all a glimpse into how the ‘new normal’ might work. Wine tasting, whether that be generic or by importer portfolio, is the lifeblood of the industry, of course, and Peter Dean went along to the event to see how public relations company R&R Teamwork had tackled the UK’s first post-Covid real life wine tasting. It’s one small step for wine…
With lockdown measures easing, and secondary vine growth making up for some of the frost damage that hit just four weeks ago, it finally looks like there are some things to raise a glass of bubbly to. But it is not just English Sparkling wine that is being celebrated and consumed in this week’s re-scheduled English Wine Week, writes Sophie McLean, but a whole host of wines that include red, white and rosé still wines with an increasing array of styles.
When Adam Tolmach left Au Bon Climat, just nine years after having founded it with Jim Clendenen, to the Californian wine community it seemed a curious decision. But, with Ojai Vineyard now over 30 years old, Tolmach has totally vindicated that decision. He is still the consummate craftsman, keeps a hands-on vigneron approach, and continues to craft world class wines that speak of his passion for the wines of Burgundy and the Rhône. David Kermode attends this first in a weekly Sommelier Sessions series run by the California Wine Institute, and tastes three of Tolmach’s wines.
Lockdown has been a busy time for wine consultant and writer Harry Crowther: first he ran a series of Instagram Live sessions on ‘Tasting Skills’ then came his ‘Supermarket Series’ picking out the best value wines from the top supermarket chains. Crowther also managed to hook up with Tom Hanson-Smith from Stellenbosch’s Journey’s End to hear how Rollo Gabb’s winery has fun, sustainability and local community as key drivers; and also to work his way through three of their wine ranges ‘Tails’, ‘V’ and ‘Precision’ to pick out the wines that you should have on your buying radar.
As the price of Provence rosé wines increases and as demand outstrips supply, so canny buyers should be looking to the Southern French wine region of IGP Pays d’Oc, for value, variety and quality, writes Elizabeth Gabay MW. Here she picks out her Top 20 rosés starting with the most popular variety – Grenache-based wines – then Cinsault, unusual varieties, and more gastronomic wines featuring darker grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon.
In what was surely one of the final portfolio tastings in Beaune before the virus closed everything down, Burgundy expert LM Archer visited Maison Joseph Drouhin for a full portfolio tasting of the impressive 2018 vintage. In the company of Frédéric Drouin 10 whites and 11 reds were tasted showing an impressive array of terroir, deft winemaking skills, consistency of quality and surprising affordability.
For the first time this year the Sonoma County Barrel Auction is going to be held online (June 16-18) giving wine buyers the opportunity to buy totally unique lots of wine from some of the county’s foremost winemakers. These wines are made specially for the auction, have never been seen before and will never be seen again. Three years ago The Buyer sent Christina Rasmussen to the auction where she previewed the lots, fell in love with a Syrah/ Grenache blend from Westwood, and sat enthralled as auctioneer John Curley showed off the skills that have seen him raise $85m for charity. We’re re-posting this excellent piece that captures the excitement of the live event which will hopefully be played out in the flesh in 2021. Full details of how to take part this year, and what wines are up for grabs, can be found at the end of this piece.
2012 was an unlikely and surprising success in Champagne, of course, with a chaotic year looking like it was heading for disastrous proportions like 1984. Then came August and the rest is history. Anne Krebiehl MW talks with Heidsieck’s cellar master Cyril Brun about why the house decided to disgorge its new vintage Charles Heidsieck 2012 Brut Millésimé in April 2019, and why they have introduced two new processes with this bottling – the use of Diam’s Mytik cork closures and the practice of jetting. Full tasting notes included.
Until Covid-19 hit Lombardy, with its 16,000 victims, things had been going pretty well in the region. For Franciacorta, its key premium wine, exports had been doubling year by year to the point that 20% was being exported to key markets such as the US and UK. It had also slowly built up a reputation for quality and consistency, governed as it is by some of the strictest winemaking rules in Italy. As the region starts to recover from the devastating effects of the virus Justin Keay talks to key players Bellavista, Ca del Bosco and Ferghettina, along with Consorzio President Silvano Brescianini about where the region goes from here.
The release this week of new vintages of Kali Hart and Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot, marks five years since E&J Gallo bought Talbott Vineyards with the aim of broadening the regional diversity of its burgeoning premium portfolio. Instead of parachuting in a Napa hotshot, Gallo made the wise move of giving David Coventry the chief winemaker job – a man who had made wine in Monterey County for over 20 years and has his very own way of doing things. David Kermode met up with him and Gallo’s Edouard Baijot MW to hear how Talbott’s cool climate style wines offer on-trade and off-trade a real point of difference.
With Barolo 2016 it is a question of DO believe the hype. Almost as soon as the berries were picked, winemakers in Piedmont knew that 2016 was going to be ‘bellissimo’ with the region enjoying absolutely perfect weather conditions – benefitting from a rare confluence of the perfect amount of rainfall and the perfect temperatures. For a producer such as Ceretto, which has been championing single vineyard expressions of Nebiolo for three generations, this vintage is ideal for showing off the differences in its terroir. Peter Dean talks with Federico Ceretto, hears how 2016 matches up to other great vintages of the past 20 years and tastes the wines.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?