Robert Mondavi is one of the new marquee signings by Bibendum, amongst a whole raft of producers from the Lebanon, Austria, Italy, Patagonia and France. What wines were they showing at Bibendum’s For The Love Of…. tasting? and which are the ones that deliver best value for the on-trade? Peter Dean braved the packs of sommeliers, was wowed by a number of wines on show and found that leaving the venue was a darned sight harder than arriving…
Choosing the upper floors of the Science Museum as the venue for the annual generic tasting of Austrian wine in London said it all about the wines on show – bright, smart, modern, slick and inspiring. The Austrian wine body has also appointed a new chief to lead it into a new era, the audacity being that they’ve entrusted the role to a foreigner – a Brit, no less, in Chris Yorke. David Kermode caught up with him to find out how the post has been going and to highlight 10 wines that he thought best showed off where Austrian wine has been, where it is now and the exciting direction it is headed in.
The rise in biodynamics and the ‘slow wine’ movement in Austria is making it one of the world’s most exciting wine regions. As Wines of Austria holds its much-anticipated annual tasting in London on February 3, critics and sommeliers are expected in their droves to discover for themselves this new-found creativity and diverse range of styles. ‘But don’t overlook Austrian rosé’ is the message from world expert Elizabeth Gabay MW who gives The Buyer an exclusive insight into the varying styles of Austrian rosé as well as the best of 80 wines she tried and tasted.
Rather than get stuck into Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines, this year The Buyer’s drinks editor, Peter Dean, focussed on entry level wines and shares his top 10 value-for-money red and whites from Bourgogne Week 2020. After a dozen or more tastings it was clear that 2018 is a vintage where you do not have to buy from the upper tiers. The quality, quantity and new quality control for wines from ‘lesser known’ appellations means there are great bargains to be had from the lowest tier wines.
Armed with a map of Occitanie, a tasting booklet and glass, David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus ventured into the unknown with last week’s French Wine Discoveries tasting. Luckily TV’s Joe Wadsack was on hand to guide Kermode and any other unsuspecting wine buyer through the mass of interesting wines from the South of France. As if to emphasise how Wadsack is one to snuffle out a gem of a wine and indeed a bargain, he was operating a novel ‘lucky dip’ the prizes being foie gras and fresh truffle (well it is Wadsack we’re talking about).
Ever since his first bottle of Grange in 1985, Roger Jones has been a huge advocate of Australian wine. A third of the wines on Joness 1000-strong bin wine list at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn are Australian wines, some dating back to the 1990s and beyond. But it is with Chardonnay that Jones believes that Australia competes on the world stage best – so with tasting glass in hand he dived into the whites at the Australia Trade Tasting with his customary gusto and has come up with a selection that he thought shone the brightest on the day.
Even with a multitude of Burgundy en primeur tastings across the capital, last week’s annual New Zealand trade tasting was a pretty busy rave – set overlooking the Thames at the OXO 2 in South London. Roger Jones, our soon-to-be-retired former Michelin star chef but even-more-roving reporter for The Buyer, has a look at the New Zealand in a Glass tasting and picks out the wines he thinks will do best in the premium on-trade.
Ask Ronan Sayburn MS where the most interesting country for making wine is right now and his answer will be Australia. Sayburn is one of the most influential wine buyers in the world and, after a military-style two week tour of Australia’s wine-making regions, he came back with a long list of wines which will challenge most people’s preconceptions about what the country is capable of making. At a special tasting event he talked through the eight wines that inspired him the most. Spoiler alert: the list may include some very unexpected bottles…
Emerging Wine Writer of the year Malu Lambert hooks up with fellow South African Craig Hawkins, who has been dubbed the Natural Wine King of South Africa, although you won’t catch him saying that. Hawkins was showing the new 2019 vintage of his Testalonga range – wines that have become famed for their uber-cool labels and sense of fun as much as their quality, and ability to transfer Swartland’s unique terroir into bottle. Although there are a lot of wines on the El Bandito and Baby Bandito labels, there is one clear philosophy – single grape, single soil. Oh! and all the varietals just happen to be Mediterranean.
Even with a venue greatly reduced in size, the annual generic New Zealand tasting which took place in London last week had bags of new ideas, new wines and new angles served up with its customary chutzpah. David Kermode heard how exports to the UK, New Zealand’s top overseas market, were in rude health thanks largely to its premium offerings; saw how well its wines can age; and also how great strides are being made to broaden the grape varieties from largely Sauvignon Blanc into other exciting territory.
The Vignerons’ Lunch at St. JOHN Restaurant is an annual tasting of the group’s wine range – available to trade and consumer – including its own label wines blended by the wine team, its own Languedoc winery Boulevard Napoléon, and a group of vignerons that St. JOHN works with, either on its own label wines or with specific and bespoke cuvées. It is also an excuse to praise at the high altar of British cooking, with St. JOHN co-founders Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver. In a somewhat messy fashion.
No surprise to find that eight of Geoffrey Dean’s Top 10 Wines from his travels last year come from the New World. As both a cricket correspondent for The Times and a wine expert Geoffrey spends a lot of his time in South Africa and Australia, enjoying the two main passions of his life. 2019 has been a year with many exciting discoveries including a Cabernet Franc from Uruguay and a Rosé from Paarl in South Africa plus he did make room for a deliciously old Lynch-Bages and a top Burgundy.
There are a number of ways to assess your Top Wines of 2019 and, for The Buyer’s drinks editor Peter Dean, one of the key criteria is availability – the wines need to be best in class obviously but they also need to be newly released onto the market this year. After all, The Buyer is trying to encourage sommeliers and wine buyers everywhere to discover new wines and broaden their palates so that if you’re excited by the sound of a wine we write about and then you find it is home brew from Chave’s second cousin, four bottles made, then quite frankly what’s the point? Some familiar names, then, and some surprises in Peter’s Best Wines of 2019.
One of the highlights of the year at The Buyer was posting several pieces by Justin Keay that always managed to ‘feel the temper of our times’ – forever weaving his disgust at Britain’s political malaise into features about British Wine, which he had just started taking seriously and, well almost every other wine he was tasting! No surprise, then, to see one English wine here in his top 10 wines of the year plus, as you would expect of Justin, a fascinating mix of wines from Greece, Portugal, Austria and Virginia. And no, that wouldn’t be a wine from Mr Trump.
If you had told David Kermode at the beginning of the year that his top 10 wines of 2019 would have included a Cava, a Prosecco and a Pinot Grigio you might have seen him take a large sleeping pill and put the alarm on to wake him at the end of December. But such is the constant, often disarming, unexpectedness of being a professional wine expert that finding magnificence in the most obvious of mainstream places is one of the joys of the job. OK so there was a 1914 Pol Roger and a 2005 Harlan thrown in there as well but nobody can be perfect 😉
Anne Krebiehl MW finished the decade in style – releasing her first book, the excellent Wines of Germany, and travelling to all parts of the globe to judge Riesling competitions, visit wineries, discover little gems and have a quasi-supernatural experience on the Sonoma Coast. Here she reviews her year in wine, a year in which she uncovered some true, upcoming ‘artists’ in Germany as well as being treated to a Bollinger from 1918 and a Beaune from 1947.
It starts with a Pet Nat and it ends with an ultra-premium Champagne, drunk from a plastic cup with scampi and chips on Brighton beach. Welcome to the Top 10 wines of 2019 as discovered by Harry Crowther, wine consultant, wine expert, journalist, publisher and contributor to The Buyer. Every day over the holidays we will be posting Top 10 wines from our panel of wine tasters – to pick up on some gems you may have missed in the hurly burly of the tasting calendar.
His year started in Marlborough and it ended in Morgon, en route he visited Spain, Italy, the Rhône and Bordeaux… on more than one occasion. Welcome to the Top 12 wines of 2019 as discovered by Mike Turner, restaurateur, wine consultant, journalist, web geek and contributor to The Buyer. Every day over the holidays there will be more Top wines from 2019 as chosen by our panel of wine tasters – to pick up on some gems you may have missed in the year but also so you can pretend you’ve got some work on when the in-laws pop round.
The Dão in Portugal is undergoing something of a vinous revolution of late. And, although their indigenous red varieties are leading the charge, it is the white wine Encruzado which knocked David Kermode off his feet when he visited Quinta dos Roques and Quinta dos Carvalhais amongst others. The grape has got some similarities to Chardonnay in that it loves wood and can be crafted by the winemaker, but it has a profile all its own and some intriguing anomalies – a two year dumb phase and an unwillingness to travel; or is that simply because the Portuguese don’t want to share their best kept secret?!
Ask a Spaniard where the best quality Spanish wines come from and the answer will be twofold – Rioja and Ribera del Duero. In the UK, however, Ribera wines are much less well known than Rioja even though their best wines are on an equal footing. Fresh from a recent tour of the region Peter Dean shares with us the wines he discovered on his trip – some very well known and others that are hidden gems ripe for being discovered by wine buyers everywhere. They are a ‘Duero Dozen’ that reflects, in a good way, how the wine styles here are changing for the better.