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.”
Portuguese wine has a strange capacity to surprise and delight you – just when you think you can pigeonhole it or you feel that there is nothing left to discover. Portugal is a multi-trick pony, argues Justin Keay, who found at the 2019 Wines of Portugal tasting that there are still many producers new to him, producing world class wines. Here he reviews this year’s event plus picks out seven producers he was unfamiliar with and who he thinks are good tips for wine buyers everywhere.
At the recent Maison Marques et Domaines portfolio tasting in London, senior winemaker at Delas Frères, Claire Darnaud unveiled a new Hermitage cuvée not yet commercially released. As a matter of urgency, The Buyer sent its intrepid Rhône specialist Bart Feys to sample this latest expression from the fabled Hermitage hill and to ponder the virtues of single site versus blended Hermitage.
The spit and sawdust may have gone but Davy’s is still running its ‘old world’ wine bars with a fine mix of modern and traditional ethics. Fine wine sales are up over 40% in its on-trade division and chairman James Davy tells Justin Keay why he thinks this is the case and where the company’s attentions are focussed in the coming year. Keay also picks out his favourite wines from Davy’s portfolio tasting last week.
The number one Champagne brand in France, number three in the world, it has been all change at Nicolas Feuillatte in recent times, as it evolves its style and focuses its UK effort on targeting buyers. Already a huge presence in off sales, the giant growers co-operative now wants a slice of the on trade pie. Champagne lover David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, was at Somerset House for the UK launch for The Buyer.
Despite getting some bad press for the wines being ‘samey’ Peter Dean attended a Ribera del Duero tasting and discovered a refreshingly varied set of wines. Most of the wines on show were 100% Tempranillo, had robust acidity, concentrated fruit and freshness – but the variety in different styles is huge as a result of altitude, soil (of which there are 30 types) and winemaking style.
When you’ve been in business for almost two hundred years, it’s safe so say you have had to move with the times. Richmond-based Ellis Wines chose London’s Vintners’ Hall for its 2019 annual portfolio tasting, with a focus on the ‘experiential’, including ‘wine trails’ and a fusion of old world classics and newer innovations. There were more than 300 wines to try, as David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, reports for The Buyer.
With a gin garden, a beer gallery and a fine wine zone, Enotria&Coe certainly knows how to get noticed. Its 2019 portfolio tasting involved a take-over of London’s Saatchi Gallery. The Buyer’s own culture vulture Chris Wilson was there, to select his own ‘works of art’ from the wine selection, including a potential by-the-glass classic as well as assessing the overall range of one of the UK’s most important national distributors at what has become one of the benchmark trade tastings of the year.
Since it was purchased in 2014 by Domaine Faiveley, Chablis estate Billaud-Simon has not had a full crop to play with; a variety of hail and frost at the worst times imaginable had severely limited production. Thankfully 2017 was a different story and, although yields were down, it was the first decent harvest the new owners had had, the quality also exceptionally good. Erwan Faiveley was in London with winemaker Olivier Bailly to show off the wines and talk about where else he has his sights set on for extending the Faiveley empire.
Where does Chile stand on the premium end of the market? Is there much call for these wines on top restaurant lists? Roger Jones attends the Sommelier Chile Challenge, organised by Wines of Chile, which sought to answer these questions – serving 51 wines from Chile blind alongside five ringers from other countries just to give the wines from Chile a benchmark in quality.
Large generic tastings like Wine Australia’s annual trade tasting for 2019, have the challenge every year of taking new angles and showing something new. At this year’s event Chris Wilson found a fascinating masterclass focused on the recent studies in the variability of key grape and wine flavour compounds, and how these can impact on Australian wine styles and rationality. Could one actually sniff one’s way round a tasting? He certainly gave it his best shot…
A few years ago, the esteemed Leclerc Briant looked destined to disappear. An organic trailblazer in the Champagne region, its best days were behind it. That was until passionate new owners hired one of the region’s biodynamic veterans, Hervé Jestin. Now, the house is bang on trend with its range of low to zero dosage Champagnes, which are being launched into the UK market by Berry Brothers and Rudd and its on-trade division Fields, Morris and Verdin, as David Kermode reports for The Buyer.
Furmint, the grape most widely known for producing the prized sweet wine Tokaji Aszu, has got a healthy and prosperous future ahead of it as a dry wine if the wines that were on show at Wines of Hungary’s Furmint February tasting were anything to go by. In the same space as Chablis, Albarino, Grüner and some dry Rieslings, Furmint has an ability to transmit terroir well, leading to racy acidity and minerality in some of the wines. Furmint has been increasing in popularity in London over the past two decades, is currently on trend, but is currently inconsistent in style. A bad thing? Not a word, argues Justin Keay who raves about one of his favourite tastings in a long while.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s co-owner and co-director Aubert de Villaine has said of the 2016 vintage that it was a case of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. But, although it was a difficult vintage to work, the estate is hailing it as ‘perfect’. Chris Wilson held his golden ticket to this most exclusive of wine tastings to go and try the Romanée-Conti wines for the very first time.
Whether Adrianna Vineyard, and other neighbouring sites under ownership of Catena Zapata, are labelled ‘grand cru’ or ‘gran parcela’ the end result is pretty much the same – they produce world class wines that can rub shoulders with the very best that Burgundy and Bordeaux can offer. Geoffrey Dean has an audience with the Argentine estate, tastes all the new releases, and thinks that Laura Catena could be right – these are very much grand cru wines.