The Buyer was one year old in May and now, while we’re on holiday, it is time to reflect on what an awesome first year it was. We tasted many thousands of wines and met many talented, generous and frankly delightful winemakers. So if you are by the pool or wish you were, settle back and look at this pictorial trip down memory lane as we bring you our favourite winemaker pictures of the year.
Press trips, wine tastings, winemaker lunches and dinners – there is nowhere safe for a winemaker to hide these days.
What a difference the mobile phone makes. All of these favourite winemaker pictures of the year were taken on my iPhone. There were many more winemakers of course but this is just a small selection.
And, by the way, I am convinced there is no such thing as a nasty winemaker, every one I have ever met has been a genuinely nice person. Working with the land and creating something creative and magical means, I believe, that winemakers are an unique breed of people.
Oh, and the pics are not in any particular order either.
Miguel Torres, St James’s Club, London April 2016
A formal pose, sure, but then Miguel Torres is a proper gent of the old order. A memorable lunch was preceded by him showing me a photograph of him in the 1970s having his cigar lit by Fidel Castro. Now that’s classy. It’s not for nothing that Torres recently topped a survey of most respected winemakers in the world.
Dermot Sugrue, Jenkyn Place, Hampshire, March 2016
Although Dermot is only a consultant winemaker to Jenkyn Place – during a vertical flight tasting of back vintages (some of which he didn’t make) he gave his customary 110%. His influence in the English wine industry cannot be under-estimated. A report from that day with full tasting notes can be found here
Vicky Mareque, Rias Baixas, September 2016
On a press trip to Rias Baixas, I was completely blown away by the Albariño shown by Vicky, who has recently taken over the helm at Pazo de Señoras and who represents the new future of winemaking in the area. She essentially makes one wine and then holds some of it back as a late release. Try some of these wines with 10 years or more on it and you’ll soon realise why all the molecular-cuisine joints in Madrid are using it as a wine to go throughout the meal – multi-faceted, it changes profile as the temperature lifts. If you’re interested there’s more about the new generation of winemakers in Rias Baixas here
Juan Pablo Michelini, Lindley Hall, London, February 2017
Very Shoreditch. It was Juan Pablo’s first show with Hallgarten and he was having a good time – the Eggo wines were tasting great (all egg-fermented high altitude) and there was a buzz about them in the room. He had the air of someone who knew he had arrived and I think you can tell that in his face.
Antonia Lauer, Neckar, May 2016
Only 28 years old and already overseeing production of six million bottles a year at the impressive cooperative in Württemberg, Lauffener Weingärtner. This was an impromptu wine-tasting in the Trollinger vineyards. The press trip was to look at German’s ‘other’ grapes, although every winemaker did eventually get out their Rieslings without the PR noticing! I wrote a piece about it called Don’t Mention the Riesling which you can find here
Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis, November 2016
No longer the winemaker (he has passed over the reins to his talented son Julien) but one of the pioneers of Chablis. This was after lunch at their domaine that included magnums of 2008 premier cru. Such a kind man with a wonderfully expressive face. I recommended six Chablis from that trip that you can read about here.
Eric Henaux, Les Vignerons de Tutiac, April 2017
Eric is the general manager of this enormous cooperative, making over 30 million bottlers a year which puts it amongst the largest producers in France. A fascinating man. I loved the light coming through the bottles in this, one of their strategy rooms. The trip was to discover another side of Bordeaux – one we don’t get to see that often – click here if you fancy reading about it.
Laure Colombo, Cornas, November 2015
Laure Colombo who, at the time was just taking over the reins of her father’s winery in the Northern Rhone, cooked me a lovely lunch – bits of pork cooked in pomace that she had just cleared out from the tanks, and wild mushrooms her boyfriend had picked. The house was high on the hills overlooking Cornas, wood fire, cool music. Great memory.
Rodrigo Zamorano, London, September 2016
Rodrigo, chief winemaker at Caliterra was explaining his Road to Damascus conversion to Malbec. This picture captures what, for him, was a quasi-mystical moment. I have never been a big fan of Malbec myself but a 2002 Cahors that he kindly showed alongside his wines has changed that for me. Liked his wines too I might add. A full review of the evening with tasting notes of the Caliterra wines can be found here
Pierre Henry Gagey, Beaune, November 2016
Head of Louis Jadot, Pierre Henry turned out to be a natural in front of the camera (phone!). He took me to the Hospices des Beaunes and, although he had many other guests, he’s the sort of host that makes you feel that you are the most important person in the room. The Hospices was an extraordinary event especially for a newcomer like myself.
I tried to capture what it was like here. Luckily Pierre Henry has a good sense of humour and liked the feature, although at the time of writing I was unsure whether he would or not.
Ana, Duoro, October 2016
Such a memorable trip to Quinta do Noval, enlivened by a memorable grape-crushing night with the wonderful Mike Turner that ended up with glasses of 1937 Colheita (as you do). I knew as soon as we got on the plane that Mike was going to be the star of the trip although our host Ana came a close second. The trip was summed up here.
Andrea Franchetti, Hedonism, London, December 2016
Andrea, the idiosyncratic owner and winemaker of Vini Franchetti, was in town to present verticals of all his wines including Tenuta di Tronoro, the 2000 vintage of which was one of the best red wines I have ever tasted. Not a man to suffer fools gladly, this was at the point where he asked me what I thought about the wines. Read more about this magical tasting here .
Richard Geoffroy, London, April 2016
If Richard wasn’t a Chef de cave at Dom Pérignon he would be a poet. This was the first of two times I have tasted with him in the past 12 months, when he was showing his P2 1993, and each time was an honest, frank discussion where he really does wax lyrical.
Fabien and Christian Moreau, Chablis, November 2016
Old and new generation of the Moreau family with new winemaker Fabien on the right. The painting at the back was done by another of Christian’s children who is not in the wine business.
Henry Fessy, Beaujolais, October 2016
Although I was here as a guest of Louis Latour Agencies who acquired Fessy in 2008, look who I found popping in. Excellent lip foliage monsieur. All of the latest Fessy wines were tasted and you can find out how they rated by clicking here
Dave Powell, 67 Pall Mall, London, June 2016
Dave Powell, ex-winemaker and owner of Torbreck, now producing on his own after a messy fallout, has a number of axes to grind. If the amount of expletives and frankly hilarious stories were anything to go by over the aperitif, much more dangerous was to come. I loved his new wines and bought some after lunch – an occasion where it could have got very messy indeed. Actually it was a tad messy now I think about it, but you can tell that from the picture right?
Read the full account here
Gabriel Ruetsch, St Chinian, June 2016
Gabriel, who is chief agronomist of Occitanie cooperative Foncalieu (on the left) and one of their 100 growers. The weather was scorching and the sun blinding which you can clearly see in Gabriel’s face “Hurry up and take the picture goddamit!” The company’s strategy for taking on the UK premium on-trade scene is here.
Stefan Winter, Rheinhessen, May 2016
One of the new stars of the younger generation of winemakers coming out of Germany, Stefan was rightly proud of his newly-built house in amongst the vines. His range was superb and I also liked the fact that he held back some wines for 10 years for the on-trade with no extra mark-up so that consumers can try his wines as he intends them to be drunk.
Food-pairing tips with various German grape varieties is here
Boris Champy, Aloxe-Corton, Burgundy, October 2016
Boris, the winemaker at Louis Latour, explaining the art of pruning on a bitterly cold morning. Took some hours before extremities came back to life.
Pieter Walser, London Wine Fair, 2016
Intense, enigmatic, unique. I love pulling one of Pieter’s BLANKBottle wines out of the cave not knowing what to expect. This was him with the bottle that gave him so many column inches – Lambic, the wine blended by his subconscious. If you haven’t heard the story click here
The Laithwaites, London, 2016
I know it’s a ‘grip and grin’ picture but the reason I like this is that, in presenting their first ever vintage of Harrow & Hope sparkling wine at the English Wine Producers tasting, there is something so beamingly British and proud about their faces. It was almost as if they suddenly realised how good their sparkling wine actually is. And it is! For my tastings review of the wines click here