Bancroft Wines may have added 60 new producers and increased by a third the amount of wines it represents, but it was the trimmed-down approach of its Snapshot tastings that appealed to Mike Turner. By pre-selecting wines that suit the region Turner, a Bancroft customer, felt that everything on show was suitable and the amount of wines to taste on the day of manageable proportions. He travelled to Edinburgh, one of three tastings Bancroft held, and picks for us nine wines that are either great value, worth a punt or an absolute stand-out.
“Anyone after something funky for their sparkling wine list should check out the Californian Pétulant Naturel Malvasia Bianca from Birichino,” writes Turner.
Last week I headed to Edinburgh for the northern leg of Bancroft’s winter 2021 portfolio tasting. Bancroft is an importer I’ve used for my wine events and online sales since having to rein in the personal importing following Brexit. I’ve always found their team great to work with (big thanks to Anne for putting up with me and Toby!) so now I am living in the East Midlands I’m much more “choose-y” about which tastings I go to, this one was definitely up the list.
One of the factors anyone going to these…well…I was going to say “regional” but let’s go with “non-London” tastings, is that it’s never the full portfolio on offer. But I’m genuinely fine with that. This is where the regional sales teams earn their money by knowing their accounts and selecting a suitable range of wines to show. By showing me the 15-20 whites or 15-20 reds (and so on) that they really think I’ll like really helps me out. So much so that it was very easy to pick some stone cold favourites from the line-up on show.
I’ve picked three whites, three reds, and three sparklings that I felt were well worth a mention. Each of those three are divided into “Great Value” (which I hope is self-explanatory), “Loved It” (for the real stand-outs), and “Worth a Punt” (for those adventurous souls that are after something a tad different). If you didn’t make it down to either Bancroft’s Snapshot tastings at London, Bristol or Edinburgh then I hope this helps. If you did then, by all means, let me know if you agree or disagree. Here we go…
Great Value – Chapeau Melon Blanc, Jérémie Huchet 2020, Loire Valley, France
This Melon-dominant blend (with Sauvignon Blanc) ticks boxes for modern wine lists. It’s vegan, in organic conversion, and smelled and tasted as you’d expect from a lovely fresh Loire white wine from the Muscadet region. Green and red apples, lemon citrus, saline and pear drop notes. There was a hint of something riper, but it was pretty cold in that ice bucket! Big kick for me was it is so light and fresh on the aroma profile, whilst having enough lees/waxy/weight on the palate to make this a ‘proper’ drink. At that DPD I think it’s a steal! DPD £6.25 RRP £12.00
Loved It – Gönnheimer Riesling Trocken, Weingut Eymann 2019, Pfalz, Germany
Coming hot off the back of German Riesling month, I was genuinely wondering why I’d somehow not tasting this wine before. This would have come in very handy. Again, ticks some boxes for punters being vegan and biodynamic, but the wine itself is a real star. Hugely aromatic, smoky, lots of green and stone fruit and all kinds of lemon and lime going on there. I put 7UP in my notes. I mean that in a good way obviously! They’ve not shied away from showcasing the acidity, but there’s loads of fruit and weight on the palate; it’s perfectly balanced. And again, for that DPD? What a wine! DPD £9.25 RRP £17.50
Worth a Punt – Meth ‘Imon Acacia, Dougos Winery 2019, Thessaly, Greece
We’ve all got blind spots in the world of wine, but I’m going to guess the wines of Greece are fairly high in most people’s list. It is in mine, much to my embarrassment, but I hope it’s an understandable one. Greek wine has been a tough sell in the UK at times in the past, maybe a lot to do with unique grapes and styles. Arguably though, that’s what makes them so fun and interesting, and if you know your clients are into searching for something a bit different then stocking them is pushing on an open door, surely. Anyway, the Dougos Winery is based in Thessaly, in the foothills around Mount Olympus. This organic Assyrtiko has massive flavour concentration of stewed lemons, warm spices, and stone and tropical notes. Lovely full mouthfeel from a touch of skin contact and time spent in acacia barrels. I know it sounds silly, but I also think the golden hue is beautiful. Definitely a wine that will get the wine geeks purring. DPD £11.45 RRP £21.50
Great Value – Monte Del Frà, Bardolino 2020, Veneto, Italy
Veneto has skirted with reputational issues for a few years now. From the outside looking in the general trend has been towards volume producers following the Pinot Grigio and Prosecco crazes. But it’s a big place and further inland lie the famous Soave and Valpolicella regions, but also the lesser known but great value regions such as Bardolino DOC, right on the banks of Lake Garda. Using the same red varieties as Valpolicella (i.e. Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara) the reds from this region, and this one from Monte del Frà in particular, are soft, red fruit driven, little bit of black pepper and floral notes, and wonderfully easy drinking. A really gluggable wine that can pair with lots of different dishes on the menu. DPD £6.95 RRP £13.00
Loved It – Grenache, Seppeltsfield 2018, Barossa, Australia
A good mate of mine, Peter Ranscombe, is a very big fan of Seppeltsfield and on the back of this Grenache I can well see why. This is so packed with expressive red fruit and floral spice, it was an utter joy to smell and taste. It’s from a warm region with a high alcohol grape variety, so the alcohol could get away from them. As much as there is definitely a warmth to it, however, it’s perfectly in balance. The finish is super long with those gorgeous strawberries and red plums and rose petal notes. I’m going to have to try more of their range if this was anything to go by. DPD £10.95 RRP £20.50
Worth a Punt – Rapsani, Dougos Winery 2018, Thessaly, Greece
Given what I said about the Assyrtiko earlier, it was fairly predictable that the PDO Rapsani on show would be my pick for the “worth a punt” red. Made from organic vineyards of Xinomavro, Krassato, and Stavroto grapes, I really loved the rose petal and Turkish delight aromas with savoury, herbal and earthy notes coming along later in the piece, and a lovely finish of expressive red fruit. The tannic structure is interesting. My first thought was that it was a bit on the drying side, but the second time I went back it felt more integrated, so that may just have been a breathing issue. I’d also like to try this one slightly chilled too. Good fun, and another pearler for the wine geeks. DPD £10.45 RRP £19.50
The Sparkling Wines
Great Value – Brut Nature La Bretesche 1387, Jérémie Huchet 2019, Loire, France
Not going to shock too many out there that the best value sparkling wine, in my view, was a Loire sparkling. This isn’t a Crémant, it’s a 100% Melon de Bourgogne, but it’s got all the great acidity, fresh green fruit, and citrus notes you’d expect, with some smoked toast autolytic notes and a long persistent flavour on the finish. Vegan friendly and made from vineyards in organic conversion for those that are looking at that angle too. DPD £10.95 RRP £20.50
Loved It – Assemblée Brut, Champagne Bruno Michel NV, Champagne, France
I’ve used this Champagne a bit in the past already, so it was nice to try it again on the day and have my feelings on the wine confirmed. This organic Champagne producer makes wines that really do warrant the extra few quid over the big names. The Assemblée Brut is their “entry level” but has a very full and pronounced autolytic smoke and brioche nose, with plenty of bruised apples and stewed lemons. It’s a really good Champagne and something a bit different than just selling the (ex) Grandes Marques all the time. DPD £22.45 RRP £41.50
Worth a Punt – Pétulant Naturel Malvasia Bianca, Birichino 2019, Monterey, USA
Anyone after something funky for their sparkling wine list should check out this Californian pet nat. Santa Cruz-based Birichino (Italian for “mischievous”) are fans of whole bunch pressing, native yeasts, and spontaneous ferments. Their Malvasia Bianca comes from old vines on the coastal Monterey region. It’s a wonderfully pronounced nose of cider apples, lemons, and yeasty notes, so one that the natural wine fans will love. If I’m being really harsh I thought the flavour was a bit more subdued on the palate, but then given the nose on this, that’s probably a good thing. Quite literally “worth a punt”. DPD £17.25 RRP £32.00
Mike Turner runs Feel Good Grapes, an e-commerce and online tastings company showcasing the increasingly sustainable practices in the wine industry. To contact him use this address: firstname.lastname@example.org