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?
The cellars at Krug are a stark reminder of how this ancient house has weathered many a previous storm – villagers from Rheims sheltering in the cellars while the city was pounded by the German guns in 1918. At the launch of the Krug Grande Cuvée 168th Edition, Olivier Krug referred to previous storms saying that Champagne was readying itself to start shipping again, that the Champenois work together and that “Champagne shows how strong we are” – even though this is the first time in his career he doesn’t have a plane ticket on his desk. It was also a tasting with some other firsts – the first one presided over by new chef de cave Julie Cavil and the first one conducted online. Anne Krebiehl MW stayed home, saved lives and sipped Krug.
Once Roger Jones, Steven Spurrier, Rebecca Palmer and Kelly Stevenson had finished their judging to find the 12 best wines of Alsace, the quartet visited Josmeyer, Zind-Humbrecht and Dirler-Cadé as well as put the wines into a gastronomic context with Sipp Mack and Cave de Turckheim. In this second part of this special insight into why the wines of Alsace are so special, celebrated chef and Buyer contributing editor, Jones, tries a number of food pairings (some, like foie gras more than once just to be sure ;)), experiences a once-in-a-lifetime ‘speed tasting’ as well as many of the winemakers’ very special aged bottles.
Since taking on the winemaking at Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux in 2015, Charles Lachaux has been quietly going about his business, each new vintage taking him closer to his vision of what the estate is capable of. Showing off the 2018 vintage for the first time in London, he confesses to being smitten with the new wines, 15 different cuvées that span 14.5 hectares of vines across six villages and 14 appellations – a vintage that is clearly a grape-grower’s vintage, and whose success very much depends upon when the fruit was picked. With innovations in the vineyard that allows earlier phenolic ripeness and lower alcohol levels, and with almost all the wines now vinified 100% whole-bunch, Charles is clearly carving out a name for himself in Burgundy – even if he is doing it with admirable stealth.
Six new Austrian wines were put to the taste-test in an online tasting chaired by Anne Krebiehl MW with a panel including leading sommeliers Ronan Sayburn and Wieteke Teppema. The wines included a sparkler, Grüner, Riesling, and a Rosé that divided the experts – wines all chosen to show off the new wave of Austrian winemakers and to judge their freshness, ageability, value for money and ability to pair with food… or in Ronan Sayburn’s case their ability to pair with schnitzel. David Kermode reports.
Given the impact David Hohnen and his brother-in-law Murray McHenry have had on the Australian wine scene – helping to put Margaret River on the map – the wines of McHenry Hohnen are relatively under the radar in the UK premium on-trade. To be more specific, it is the single vineyard wines, the ones from Hazel’s Vineyard that have not had the attention they deserve. To put the record straight a landmark tasting was held in London, just days before Lockdown, in which owner Murray McHenry and his importer Louis Latour Agencies turned the spotlight on Hazel’s Vineyard Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and its premium Bordeaux blend Rolling Stone, the latter once catching the eye of a half-cut Bono.
Three years ago conducting a web-based wine tasting was ground-breaking. These days there aren’t enough hours in the day to take part in them all; and with this one in 2017 you actually got to taste the wines with the person on screen. During Lockdown a chance to enjoy a feature from the vault…..
Three bottles of Malbec were shipped from Argentina to the middle of rural France where I tasted the wines simultaneously with Graffigna winemaker Nacho Lopez 11,000km away. A fun stunt for Malbec World Day, perhaps, but a giant leap forwards for us digital wine journalists the world over. I have seen the future of modern wine journalism and it is virtual wine tasting.
When you visit Pedro Parra at his disheveled winery in the South Chilean region of Itata, do not be surprised to see him emerge from out of the ground with a pickaxe in his hand. And don’t be alarmed if you hear the Indiana Jones theme tune in your head. The oenologist dubbed ‘Dr Terroir’ has also been compared to Indy – for his helter skelter career, and his penchant for digging large grave-like holes to inspect the granitic soils his 100 year old-plus bush vines excel in. David Kermode takes up the story.
If ProWein had gone ahead this year one of the many highlights would have been the presentation of the 12 most exceptional wines from Alsace as judged by an august group of experts, Steven Spurrier, Rebecca Palmer, Kelly Stevenson and our own roving editor in chief Roger Jones. 120 wines were tasted over the course of two days in Alsace, the focus being on Crémant, Gewurtztraminer and Riesling – the style and varieties which are currently the focus of the Alsace wine body’s marketing campaign for 2020. In this, the first of two parts, Jones sets up the tasting and reveals which 12 wines were unanimously judged to be Alsace’s finest.
Held in London just as the travel ban started to take effect in Northern Italy, but just prior to full lockdown, Armit’s Italian tasting displayed many of the crown jewels of the Italian wine scene, even though many winemakers could not make the trip. Armit’s new managing director Brett Fleming is bullish about the company’s future, aiming to take it from £20m to £30m turnover over the next few years, and he sees the Italian wines as key to this growth along with boosting the importer’s profitability. As well as the on-trade, Fleming will be looking to prioritise the private client and off-trade side of the business, seeing opportunities for some of Armit’s premium producers. Justin Keay was there for The Buyer who tasted his way round the room and picked eight producers that shone on the day.
Most readers of The Buyer will have a pretty good idea of the basics of wine-pairing. It’s a skill isn’t it, picking the right colour, variety, style, producer (even vintage) to go with a variety of dishes… in the hands of the right sommelier it is almost an art form. But put aside for a minute the fresh goat’s cheese salad, rib-eye and poached rhubarb crumble, how good are you at picking the right wine to go with what you only just managed to find at the back of the decimated supermarket shelves during lockdown? So what wine do you think sir or madam would like to complement the delicious umami succulence of their Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodles?
A who’s who of the UK sommelier scene showed up for the Flint portfolio tasting, one of the last to be held before lockdown. The reason? The day had been specially curated with the sommelier in mind – wines that are just right for the on-trade, and a set of masterclasses that offered genuine practical help. The one compered by Ronan Rayburn MS and Stefan Neumann MS on blind tasting was the best masterclass that Mike Turner has ever attended, and he has attended a few let us tell you. Other subjects covered included the cutting edge of sustainable practices in Europe and America, and an in-depth look at the white wines of Italy. In addition to reporting on the day Turner also picks 6 of the Best – the pick of the wines which he thinks will work best for sommeliers.