Solid bankers for every wine list, some personal favourites and a couple of oddball wines for the wine geeks amongst us – Mike Turner picks his Top 10 wines from the Bancroft Wines 30th anniversary tasting. What was most surprising, though, was the amount of organic, biodynamic and vegan wines that Turner discovered on the list – 40% of all the wines were certified organic – and a long list of other sustainability initiatives.
A Montepulciano Bazán from Torri Cantine in Abruzzo is one of the ‘oddities’ that is recommended you try on a list for curious punters.
Bancroft Wines is celebrating its 30thanniversary this year. For most of us that’s a big worry. Not the Bancroft celebration bit mind you, more that 1990 was 30 years ago!! Yikes!
Founded in 1990 by the late Adam Bancroft MW, the company is now owned by Peter De Haan whose own sustainability initiatives are carried over from his own charitable trust to the ethos of Bancroft. Over 40% of its portfolio is certified organic, with many more sustainability initiatives and more biodynamics than I’m used to seeing at these kinds of tastings. I had a funny feeling I was going to enjoy this one.
The following is ten of my top picks from the tasting. There are some bankers for everyone, some personal favourites, and one or two slightly strange efforts for the wine geeks amongst you all. See what you think…
10 Top Picks from the Bancroft tasting
Châteaux de Lascaux, Les Garrigues Blanc, 2019, Pic St-Loup
Anyone who likes their floral, fruity, and waxy Southern French white blends will be knocked out by this stunner from 16thgeneration winemakers. Really pronounced nose of ripe stone fruits, orange blossom, lavender, full body, intense flavour on the mouth, and that telltale long finish of a well made biodynamic wine. I had to double-check the price, because you could go a long way to find something better for twice that! (£10.45, biodynamic, vegan)
Jérémie Mourat, Le Moulin Blanc, Blanc de Noirs, 2018, Loire
A couple of wines made this list because they were odd. But obviously, I hope, odd in a good way. If your punters like odd, then they’ll love this Blanc de Noirs from Pinot Noir grapes in the Loire Valley. Fresh, ripe fruits of raspberry and red apples, mixing with a lovely, lifting cherry blossom floral character, its waxy mouthfeel is cut by a sharp acidic crunch. Perfect with Spring around the corner. (£12.95, organic, vegan)
Vignoble Dauny, Sancerre Blanc Les Caillottes, 2019, Loire
I get increasingly frustrated when tasting good Sancerre, because for most of my drinking life I was drinking the £10 retail stuff that never really turned me on. It’s in wines like this one where it all makes sense. When you write a note saying “green apple and lemon juice, flinty minerality, and saline waxiness,” you’re not really telling half the story. The fruit concentration is right up there, the waxy mouthfeel gives you all kinds of food pairing options, and the citric and stony finish cleanses your palate out ready for the next bite or sip. Vignoble Dauny is also famous in the region for being one of the first organic wineries in the world, since 1964 when they were effectively laughed at. Who’s laughing now? (£13.20, organic, vegan)
La Jasse Castel, El Abanico Blanc, 2018, IGP L’Hérault
Winemaker Pascale Riviere is the proud recipient of the Legion d’Honneur, for services to the vine, and this high-end white blend is testament to her skills. From a fairly even blend of Carignan Blanc, Chardonnay, Grenache, Roussanne, Chenin Blanc, and Petit Manseng, come pronounced aromas of stone fruit, grapefruit citrus, beeswax and honey. Very decent acidic structure to carry the full body, and a nice warming alcohol kick in the aftertaste. (£25.95, organic, vegan)
Domaine Pinchinat, Côtes de Provence Rosé, 2019, Côtes de Provence
Yes indeed folks, Spring is around the corner and thoughts start turning to those charcuterie boards on the terrace with cool, refreshing glasses of rosé. The Côtes de Provence arguably do it better, if not that then definitely more seriously than most round the world. This organic rosé does what it says on the tin. Pale salmon pink, strawberries, cranberries, thyme, and white pepper and a splash of stony minerality that is unlikely to, but could romantically, come from the Gallo-Roman well that sits in the Domaine’s gardens. It definitely paints a picture! (£9.95, organic, vegan)
Dominio de Punctum, Syrah ‘Punctum’, 2018, La Mancha
A broody, black-hearted Syrah from La Mancha, packed full of blackcurrant, blackberries, dark cherries and kirsch-like perfume. Not only is the flavour well concentrated, with a sumptuous smooth tannic finish, it’s also a biodynamic wine that’s not going to break anyone’s bank. We’re looking at what? £13 or £14 retail? There’s a lot of bang for your buck there. (£8.20, biodynamic, vegan)
Domaine Grand Veneur, Vacqueyras Grand Garrigue, 2016, Southern Rhône
Can’t remember the lad’s name, but there was a sommelier that worked at the Waterside Inn about seven years ago that noticed that I wasn’t exactly a high baller and recommended a bottle of Vacqueyras to me and my wife for our dinner. Ever since that evening I’ve loved nearly every Vacqueyras I’ve tasted, and this is no exception. Ripe black fruits of plums and blackurrants, the garrigue of thyme and rosemary, and some barrel-aged mocha and liquorice. Full bodied, long finish, what more do you want? For me, Vacqueyras is the best value in the Southern Rhône, and this wine fits the bill perfectly. (£13.45, organic)
Torri Cantine, Montepulciano Bakán, 2015, Abruzzo
OK, remember me saying there were a couple of odd ones in the list? Well this is my second (and last!) really odd one. There’s this really potent brew of black treacle, stout, chocolate, and coffee to go with the primary fruit of blackcurrant and blackberry. Look, I love stout, it’s my go-to pour of choice at the bar, so I love this wine. If you’re the same, or you know you’ve got some curious punters, I think this is well worth the gamble. (£11.90, organic, vegan)
Domaine Jean Foillard, Morgon Cuvée Classique, 2017, Beaujolais
Visiting Beaujolais (properly) for the first time at the end of last year really turned me onto the ‘natural wine scene’ that’s been bubbling away there for a while now. I was lucky to visit the Domaine of Lapierre, arguably the father of natural wines in Beaujolais, and was blown away by the standard of those Morgons. I tried this wine at the tasting and was transported right back there, only to find out the Foillard family joined Marcel Lapierre in the same natural wine movement.
You’ve got to give it a bit of a swirl in the glass, but once there then the concentrated red fruits of ripe raspberries and red plums and confected watermelon really shine through and just leave a lip-smackingly delicious aftertaste of fresh fruit. I could drink glass after glass of this! (£15.45, natural)
Champagne Bruno Michel, Assemblée Brut, NV, Champagne
Bancroft’s very own Nick Mason, who I was lucky enough to meet on the day, pointed this Champagne producer out to me as one to check out. On heading over there I did things a bit arse-about-tit and started with the higher end Premier Cru, and then the Extra Brut. They were nice, but not exactly knocking my socks off. Then I tried their entry level house non-vintage. Probably one of the best non-vintage Champagnes I’ve ever tried. The fruit concentration and length of finish was fantastic. Yeah sure, there’s the creamy mousse, and the brioche, and all that jazz from a good Champagne, but it’s the green apple and lemon curd that just persists all the way through to the next sip. Really impressive this one. (£26.25, biodynamic, vegan)