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.
When it comes to really understanding and being able to explain the differences and nuances in an emerging country’s wine styles, then it helps if you happen to have been born and bred there. Which is why Zsofi Kiss is so enjoying being able to share her experience and love of Hungarian wines, the country where she grew up, to the adventurous and inquisitive customers at 67 Pall Mall. Here she looks back on her career to date and her first year at London’s most prestigious private club for wine.
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.
It’s one thing tasting wine professionally it is quite another to go on an eating and tasting tour of top London restaurants to experience food and wine in the same way your customers do. Which is what The Buyer’s most recent restaurant tour was all about as we were able to introduce different styles of Vouvray wine to a tour of buyers covering wine merchants, sommeliers, importers, consultants and journalists. As we publish our full report from the event, Richard Siddle picks out the highlights.
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.
Whisper it gently but Lodi, so long the distant cousin to the more illustrious members of the Californian wine producing family in Sonoma and Napa, is no longer just the home for mass market fruit to go into California’s major supermarket wine brands, but it is also increasingly being seen as the test bed for Californian winemakers to go and trial different, often Mediterranean, grape varieties, in a region where land is so much cheaper and the climate and soils are ideal for also making premium and super premium wines.
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.
We’ve all watched Dragon’s Den and wondered quite what the businesses that win the backing do with their money. For Liam Manton and Mark Smallwood, founders of local craft gin producers, Didsbury Gin, it has helped them push a brand that was only launched in January 2017 onto the next level with listings first in Harvey Nichols and then a partnership with the UK’s biggest pub chain Wetherspoons. Helen Arnold talks to the duo about how they have managed to make such a success of their gin brand in less than two and a half years.
The trickle of wineries that are converting to organics has become a steady stream in the last few years as both producers and consumers change their view on the quality and trading potential of this segment of industry. One subset of these conversions is those wineries pushing into the world of biodynamics. Despite being often misunderstood, and occasionally treated with flippant disdain, Mike Turner argues that says more about the commentator than the practices themselves, and hopes more wineries follow the lead of the brilliant Millton Vineyard and take the plunge in the coming years.
No matter how confident we are of the kinds of wines our customers like to buy, it’s always reassuring to see what your peers in the trade also think. Particularly for a country like Germany where are there are so many different styles and regions where we can all still learn so much about what is really happening in this exciting wine country. Which is what Wines of Germany’s Top of the Crops competition is all about. Asking experts buyers to taste, assess and pick out the wines they think will shine in different sectors of the trade.
Ever stopped and wondered what makes you buy one shampoo or conditioner brand over another? Or what toothpaste you trust for your teeth? A large part of that decision making will come down to the power that brand has over you in terms of the messages and values it stands for. Yet in wine the vast majority of products all look and feel the same. It does not have to be that way, says advertising consultant Alex Ririe, who has helped a raft of major drinks brands stand out from the competition.
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.
Whilst mainstream Prosecco sales in the UK appear to have reached their maximum growth levels, the good news for the overall category is that the focus is finally turning towards the more premium and foodie styles of Prosecco – from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG – that are so common in the restaurants of Venice and increasingly finer restaurants and bars in the UK. It might only still be a tiny segment of the total Prosecco market, but it’s the one that deserves most of our attention.
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.
We hear and read a lot about the power of peer to peer recommendations, so it follows that we are far more likely to respect the opinion of someone doing the same job as ourselves when it comes to exploring and understanding different wine countries and styles. Which is very much the approach Wines of Germany is taking with its new series of training and education events, the Somm Sessions, which bring together sommeliers across the country to look at different styles and aspects of German wine, all of which are hosted by the award-winning sommelier, Jan Konetzki. Helen Arnold went along to the first Somm Sessions held recently at Hide in London where Konetski and his panel of sommeliers delved into the myriad world of German Riesling.
With an absence of a generic Champagne tasting event in the UK this year, the gap is being filled by a variety of privately-run events. Cue The Wine Gang’s Champagne and Sparkling Wine Festival which takes place on April 25 in Central London in which, for the first time, the four wine experts will be pitting Champagne against all manner of other sparklers – including fizz from Croatia and Japan. Anthony Rose, one of the original members of The Wine Gang, explains the thinking behind the event and what makes these four ‘Mousse-keteers’ such a special group of wine experts.
What happens when you take heat-loving grapes and plant them somewhere cool? Or when cool-climate regions start to get warmer? Christina Rasmussen takes us on a tour of rotundone in cool-climate pockets around the world, and delves into the wine growing and winemaking techniques that could help us combat the effects of global warming.
If you take a walk down the average supermarket aisle then you will easily recognise all the household brands we have grown up with from Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Heinz Tomato Ketchup to Persil washing up powder, but what you probably won’t realise is the vast majority of those brands are all owned by an increasingly smaller group of giant, all encompassing brand owners. It is also slowly happening, but to much less of a degree, in wine. Like the recent takeover of Spain’s Freixenet by Germany’s Henkell & Co to create at a stroke the world’s biggest producer of sparkling wine. Richard Siddle looks at why the deal came together and what it means in the UK for Henkell’s UK business, Copestick Murray and the newly formed Freixenet Copestick.
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.
Getting to know and understand any style of wine or spirits takes dedication and commitment. But if Katie Canfield was to really get to grips with mezcal and find out what makes it tick she was going to have to find out the hard way – and that meant long, hard, off road drives into the heart of Mexico. But it was clearly well worth it as she reports directly back from visiting some of the most influential mezcaleros at their palenques (distilleries) who are producing some the mezcals we can find on the back bars of the most stylish cocktails bars in the world.