To celebrate 40 years of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell brought some very special bottles with them from their Hemel-en-Aarde Valley estate. The occasion was the Mentzendorff annual portfolio tasting, which was the last time they were here in the UK since March 2020 just before Covid struck. Anthony conducted a special masterclass examining the style of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir which involved him opening two of the only five bottles he has left of the estate’s first ever vintage, the 1981 “Grand Vin Noir” made by Anthony’s father. Roger Jones had a ringside seat.
Wine consultant, chef and international judge, Roger Jones is well placed to give his verdict on the Fells annual portfolio tasting. The very full house was testament to the re-awakening on-trade, but also the generosity of the importer which always shows older vintages and larger formats to help sommeliers see where upselling opportunities may lie. Amongst the wines that Jones picks out are The Laird 2010, Tom Cullity 2014, and Vilafonté Seriously Old Dirt 2019.
Most of us in the wine trade can safely say that we have a reasonable stash of bottles. For Roger Jones, however, when he nips down to his cellar he’s going into an Aladdin’s cave of vinous delights that, when it was part of his now-closed Michelin-starred restaurant, won him the AA’s best wine list in the UK for a number of years. So, in Roger’s best wines of 2021 review, expect some rare treats alongside more recent wine releases that he has tasted wearing his various hats for Decanter, The Buyer, IWSC and the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships.
Cava has started to make some encouraging noises of late, ever since Prosecco stole its crown of ‘alternative fizz to Champagne’. But Codorníu has never dipped out of the spotlight. This winery is Spain’s oldest family-owned business and has been producing a range of cuvées such as the Ana Blanc de Blancs and the Codorníu Ars Collecta Blanc de Noirs which can stand toe-to-toe with the world’s best sparklers. Ex-Michelin star chef and fizz expert Roger Jones went to Hispanic to taste through the Codorníu range and came back positively beaming.
Judging for the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships is a little bit more committed than turning up for a day shift of tasting. It involves taking four lead judges, a reserve judge and a full administration, logistics and PR support team to Champneys in Kent and going into a strict isolation for two full weeks. There are concessions, however, with full access to the health and spa treatments and heated outside pool. Here Roger Jones, ambassador for CSWWC and reserve judge for 2021 awards, takes us behind the scenes to share what it is like being in a 14-day bubble for judges.
When a former Michelin Star chef weeps with joy over a sparkling wine lunch he is served, and when he is also a Champagne and sparkling wine judge, then you know you have to sit up and take notice. Such was the case with Roger Jones and Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Edizione 44, which was launched over a 3 Michelin Star lunch from Helene Darroze at The Connaught. Not only was this new release of the legendary Franciacorta on song, but so were two older vintages, a late disgorged version plus the unexpected delights of a premium, still 2016 Ca’ del Bosco Chardonnay and a Bordeaux blend red called Maurizio Zanella 2018, after the estate’s charismatic owner, who hosted this extraordinary event.
It has been an extraordinary coup for Veuve Clicquot to get endorsement from world-leading artist Yayoi Kusama for the new vintage of La Grande Dame 2012. But the relationship is a natural one, says Roger Jones, in that there are many parallels between the lives of Kusama and Nicole Barbe Ponsardin – both women setting out on individual paths that defied the cultural and sexual mores of their times. In an extraordinary tasting Didier Mariotti, Clicquot’s chef de cave, highlights the importance of Pinot Noir to the house and in particular La Grande Dame, tastes the new cuvée and then lets Jones loose in Mirror Infinity Rooms – the new, sold-out installation at London’s Tate Modern.
It was one of the hottest days of the year and it was hotly anticipated – the day WineGB held its first showcase trade and press tasting since you-know-what. Chef and sparkling wine expert Roger Jones went to catch up with some old faces and to see how the British wine industry is continuing to evolve and excel, but it was also an opportunity to discover some new wineries and plenty of new cuvées. Whitehall Vineyard was a new producer, specialising in still wines, sparkling champ Dermot Sugrue had some impressive new cuvées, and Hattingley’s still wines were just some of Roger’s many highlights. And how about Multi-Vintage as a more positive way of describing Non Vintage?
Ex Michelin-starred chef and Australian wine expert Roger Jones tastes and rates Tom Cullity 2017 – the new premium Cabernet Sauvignon from Vasse Felix that critics are saying is the best vintage yet – alongside the four previous vintages, including the inaugural 2013 vintage that was released on the winery’s 50th anniversary. Jones also gets up close and personal with Vasse Felix owner Paul Holmes à Court and chief winemaker Virginia Willcock to discover the history of this wine and why it works so well with black truffles.
The flagship wines from House of Arras, Houghton, Grant Burge, St Hallett and Hardys made up the tantalising selection of prestige wines from Accolade Fine Wines, that were showcased at its second Pre-Release Introduction tasting. Part of Accolade’s Global Vintage Release Programme for 2021, the tasting allows key buyers and selected press to assess and confirm their allocation ahead of the release of the wines later in the year. Roger Jones, our retired Michelin Star Chef and Aussie wine lover tastes through the full portfolio.