Chef and roving contributing editor for The Buyer, Roger Jones, is currently in South Africa hosting a series of events that highlight the quality of the wines and winemaking that you can find in the New World. In his latest event, the most recent instalment of his ever-popular knockout competition the Tri Nations, South Africa takes on Chile – a battle across 6 different wine categories with Jones providing a wine-matching menu.
Last week, London has been awash with Burgundy, as the trade had its first comprehensive sampling of the new 2017 vintage. Berry Brothers and Rudd, and its on trade division Fields Morris and Verdin, chose One Great George Street for its tasting, attracting an impressive number of its vignerons to talk about their latest releases. David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, was there to find out how the wines were showing.
2017 is not the vintage to be buying top-rung reds argues Peter Dean, who points out the lower-tier wines where the real value for money is to be found. This is the year to be checking out lesser known appellations, going for the entry level wines and picking up some Volnay and Pommard which have both been in short supply of late and never tasted so good so young. Oh, and the whites are spectacular.
The Chardonnay produced in South Africa’s Hemel en Aarde has long been considered world class – but just good is it really? Wanting to put this to the test our roving contributing editor and world class chef, Roger Jones, decided to blind-taste the best Hemel en Aarde can offer, alongside the rest of the New World – wines from California, New Zealand, Australia and Chile, amongst others.
In picking his Top 10 wines of 2018, Geoffrey Dean concluded that the New World was where his favourite wines came from – mainly South Africa and Australia, two countries he visited during the year; Geoffrey has also slipped in a crafty Bordeaux sticky as well as a cracking old vine Malbec from Chile.
Pet Nat Retsina, a must-try Armenian wine made from Areni Noir and Yaras grapes, a 50-year-old aged white port and a Romanian blend that depends upon Muscat Ottonel for its distinctive taste are just some of the ‘wild and wonderful’ highlights of 2018 for Justin Keay as he picks his top 10 wines of the year. A big fan of Grape Unknown-style wines, unique cuvées and emerging regions, Keay is expert at picking out lesser known grape varieties and interesting producers that demand greater recognition.
Anne Krebiehl MW’s belief that wine connects and transcends was strengthened this year by a number of experiences including drinking ‘her vintage’ at Felton Road under the Southern stars while Nigel Greening cooked her goat; getting slowly sloshed on the Danube drinking 2001 Domäne Wachau and many more key events in this classic vintage of a year.
As a PR executive, writer, WSET student and contributor to The Buyer, Christina Rasmussen is exposed to a staggering array of wines in a diverse range of wine regions – from interesting cuvées made in barrels deep within the most cutting edge wineries to those more readily available from more established names. Her Top 10 Wines of the Year piece is always no such thing – an enthusiastic journey through a year in wine where she and we stop counting, but rather buckle in and enjoy the ride, full as it is with invaluable tips on which winemakers and wines to keep your buying eyes out for.
The ‘power of the press trip’ is an overriding theme of this list of Top 10 Wines of 2018 from David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus. Almost all of the wines were tasted and enjoyed in situ whether that was in the sunny foothills of Soave or further afield in New Zealand and Canada’s British Columbia. Oh, and David also found it very hard whittling his list down to 10 wines – which seems to be an overriding theme of this year’s Best Ofs…
Having travelled to South Africa twice in the year there was no surprise that Chris Wilson’s Top 10 wines of 2018 would include a fair number from SA; half, in fact. Chris highlights a Pinotage that was served in magnum and double magnum – a decade apart in vintage – a Colheita from his birth year and a ‘low alcohol’ Riesling from New Zealand.
If you suffer from FOMO then you might want to look away from Peter Dean’s Top 10 wines of 2018, one of which hails back to the Nineteenth Century. Whether they were drunk in the hallowed spaces of hard-to-reach wine estates, in tastings back in the UK or, indeed, at home – these wines represent the very pinnacle of wine experiences for Dean. The fact that this list could easily have run to 100 wines is testament to the richness of the wine world we all live in.
Roger Jones is a man of many hats and a man used to spinning a large number of plates at any one time. A world class chef, a restaurateur with the AA’s Best English Wine List for 2018, an ambassador to the CSWWC, a Decanter panel judge, host to the Tri Nations Wine Championships and a contributing editor to The Buyer. No he’s not been knighted yet but in our books he will always be Sir Roger Jones, at least that’s the name he always gives when checking into First Class lounges.
Boasting 74 wines from 11 producers the Fields, Morris & Verdin South African tasting was an opportunity for those lucky enough to have gone to Cape Wine 2018, to re-taste the wines and see if they matched up to first impressions. Dubbed the ‘Back to the Future’ tasting, this was also an opportunity for those who did not attend Cape Wine to see what all the fuss was about. Chris Wilson put his tasting glass to good effect and comes up with 12 wines you simply have to try.
The Armagh is described by Peter Barry as an “elephant in ballerina shoes” and there’s no denying that this Clare Valley Shiraz is big, but it is the freshness and ‘laid back’ style that brings it balance, argues Justin Keay. Meeting Barry in London for a tasting of the new 2013 Armagh vintage, Keay hears how Jim Barry Wines is still very much a family affair and how a well-timed holiday to Santorini paid enormous dividends.
Given that Hugel was founded in 1639, its Schoelhammer Riesling is a very new addition to the story. It was first launched just three years ago in 2015 when the 2007 vintage came out and has already become a classic Alsatian Grand Cru Riesling. Chris Wilson attended the launch of the new 2009 vintage where Marc Hugel and his nephew Jean-Frédéric brought along the first two vintages for comparison, plus some extraordinary wines from their personal library.
The Buyer hits the road again and this time it’s destination Cyprus as Geoffrey Dean returns to the island three years on to discover how Cypriot wine is becoming premiumised. The bad old days of bulk wine exports to the Soviet Bloc have long since gone and now a new breed of internationally-sussed winemakers are using a mix of international and indigenous grape varieties to make fabulous wines with great sommelier appeal.
When you’ve been making wine for eight centuries you can get away with speaking confidently. For Lamberto Frescobaldi, head of the winemaking dynasty, 2018 is set to be a cracking vintage in Tuscany, and the 2015 vintage of wines from his new estate Tenuta Perano also delivers. Victor Smart was there at the launch of Frescobaldi’s seventh estate, tasted the two new wines and heard how Tenuta Perano is one of their most significant acquisitions to date.
Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley used to be mentioned more in the International news pages than in wine columns but that is all changing thanks to the likes of Domaine des Tourelles and Château Ksara. In continuing to search for the ‘grape unknown’, our intrepid explorer and consultant editor, Roger Jones, catches up with George K Sara, co-owner of Lebanese wine producer Ksara, firstly at a private lunch at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn and then at a press tasting and lunch hosted at the splendid Hovarda restaurant in London to hear his remarkable story and taste through the range of wines.
You might remember him as the poster boy of Accolade Wines or you might simply have heard about Bruce Jack Wines and wonder whether they are any good or not. Whatever’s the case, there is no denying that when Bruce Jack makes a splash, people sit up and notice. After last week’s launch of Jack’s new wine venture, Roger Jones assesses the strategy behind the three-tier portfolio, tastes through the range and comes up with his recommendations.
If you are making Chablis you will probably have several generations of the family to consult and 1000s of different expressions to try, across different terroirs, altitudes and in different vintages. For Felton Road’s Blair Walter, making Chardonnay in Central Otago has no such history. Unfairly overlooked, because of Otago’s excellence in making Pinot Noir, the region is slowly developing its own distinctive style, argues Anne Krebiehl MW.