2015 is already being hailed as a classic vintage in Piemonte and there to prove it is Pio Boffa from Pio Cesare who showed off five of his 2015 Barolo and Barbaresco to an enthralled Chris Wilson. A warm vintage with some characteristics of a cool vintage, 2015 in Piemonte has plenty of red fruit but the acidity to keep it fresh, pure and give it plenty of age-worthy potential. Apart from the Classics, Wilson tasted the single vineyard wines, the latest being a first bottling of Mosconi, from land purchased in 2014.
Whisked off to Madrid for an experiental launch of the new Ramón Bilbao Mirto 2014, David Kermode started getting horrid flashbacks of a BBC managers role-playing awayday… from which he was asked to leave for taking the piss. The launch, more like a spirits roll-out than a new wine, was in keeping with Ramón Bilbao’s sense of imagination, and also its focus on its founder Don Ramón and his vision to make wines that have a sense of place, and then take you on a journey. Thankfully, the wine was not obscured by the theatrics and Kermode assesses it alongside a vertical of past Mirto vintages.
It has been said that Hungarians are so canny they can enter a revolving door behind you and somehow emerge in front. True to form, in next to no time the Hungarian wine industry has managed to throw off the shackles of Communism and a decade of uncertainty, and show the world just how good their wines can be. Working with single native varieties like white Furmint, Harslevelu and Juhfark as well as the increasingly popular Kekfrankos, they have also proven adept with blends, most notably putting Egri Bikaver’s image-battered past behind it, and working with international blends. Oz Clarke picked his top 50 wines from Hungary, so we sent Justin Keay along to taste them and further whittle them down into the seven essential wines for your list.
While Aussie winemaker Larry McKenna waits for the New Zealand government to rubber-stamp the sale of his Escarpment winery to Torbreck owner Pete Kight, he is still passionately showing off the quality of his Pinot Noir to wine buyers and critics worldwide. Larry McPinot, as he is affectionately known, was in London last week to hold a masterclass on the single vineyard Pinots – Kiwa, Kupe and Te Rehua – and to let Anne Krebiehl MW taste both new and back vintages, as well as give her an insight into their unique profiles. As the vines get older so the wines seem to express their specific Martinborough terroir more acutely, a wine region that Krebiehl has some powerful memories of.
The great and the good assembled in London last Wednesday for the 25th anniversary of UK wine importer Hatch Mansfield. Winery chiefs and winemakers flew in from far and wide to raise a glass to Patrick McGrath MW and his team. Our roving reporter and chef-at-large Roger Jones joined a select crew that included Sir George Fistonich, Pierre Henry Gagey, Eduardo Chadwick, Catherine Corbeau-Mellot, Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger and Giovanni Gaja amongst others. Jones tasted many of the special bottles brought in for the night including many rare cuvées and gives full tasting notes.
After a further decade and eight years more pre-disgorgement ageing, Dom Pérignon 2002 P2 was launched in London last Friday, and tasted alongside its non-identical twin Dom Pérignon 2002. Anne Krebiehl MW talks to Vincent Chaperon, chef de cave at Dom Pérignon, about the wine and what Dom Pérignon P2 teaches us about the effect of oxidation and the use of time as a creative tool – all said at a table covered in black sand and volcanic basalt against the backdrop of a running video loop of flowing lava, crashing waves, rising bubbles and clouds moving to cover a full moon.
Forget the Summer of Love, as far as the Soave Consorzio is concerned they want UK importers and restaurants to be celebrating a Summer of Soave. In a bid to do for the Garganega wines what 31 Days of Riesling has done to the awareness of Riesling, the organisation has launched this year’s three-month campaign that sees extensive promotion in the on-trade. To see what all the fuss is about Peter Dean headed to the press launch in central London, tasted through the new 2018 vintage plus a selection of back vintages from the 20 Soave producers who are taking part, and came up with a shortlist that shows the range of styles that continues to make this a region to get excited about.
Argentinian Malbec is the type of wine that if you pick it from a wine list the sommelier may well suggest you try something else. A victim of its own success? Perhaps. Suffering from an outdated perception? Very possibly. It is with these thoughts in mind that Justin Keay attended the Malbec Day tasting at the Argentinian Embassy in London and discovered first hand just how innovative the wines have become in a remarkably short space of time. No real fan of Malbec before the event, Keay comes away suitably impressed and picks out seven that you should try before you buy.
Breathing new life into annual generic tastings is not an easy game, as anyone who organises these events knows all too well. With last Thursday’s The Big G tasting, Wines of Germany made it all look so simple, with an event that showed an entirely new perspective on German wine – and so very different from the oh-so-cool Vinyl Factory-staged G-String event last year. There were some great flashes of innovation and inspiration as well as a lot of talk about… Sekt. Peter Dean reports entirely without the use of double entendres.
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.