Forget John Lewis, there was one wine at Hallgarten’s autumn Cambridge tasting that will get sommeliers as excited as a dog on a trampoline, according to Chris Wilson, who was intrigued by the new wines in the Hallgarten portfolio and what they say about the direction that the importer thinks the on-trade is heading in during 2016/17.
Six of the best new autumn portfolio Hallgarten wines picked out for sheer quality and value for money.
One of the joys of attending wine tastings in Cambridge is more often than not they take place in magnificent old rooms owned by one of the many colleges (dining halls, ballrooms, debating chambers). It’s a rare opportunity to glimpse behind the velvet rope and walk confidently past the signs that read ‘Private Keep Out, No Riff-Raff’.
The venue for Hallgarten’s autumn tasting didn’t disappoint. It was held in the Gallery at Cripps Court, part of Magdalene College.
This historic part of the college was built in the 16th century and although The Gallery is more modern the architecture is still glorious; oak beams juxtaposed with brutalist concrete pillars and floor to ceiling windows.
All this natural light was perfect for wine tasting, and with many new wines on show it was a great opportunity to see the direction Hallgarten thinks the on-trade is heading through their new additions.
Here’s half a dozen newcomers to keep an eye on this autumn and beyond…
Gérard Bertrand, Prima Nature, Chardonnay, 2015
Given that dapper ex-rugby player turned winemaker Gérard Bertrand is a champion of biodynamic and organic wine it’s a logical step to see him turn his hand to natural wine.
The Prima Nature range sees no added sulphur dioxide in the winery, relying on elemental sulphites to keep in it decent shape in the bottle. And this Chardonnay is shaping up well – it’s incredibly aromatic with a distinct cider apple edge and more familiar Chardonnay notes of white flowers and citrus. It’s so very fresh and a superb introduction to natural wines.
Colomba Bianca, ‘Gazzera’ Cataratto-Inzolia, 2015
Made from grapes grown on the volcanic soils of Etna, this was one of six new wines on show from the Colomba Bianca stable. Etna is a buzz destination right now with importers scrambling over one another to offer up volcanic wines from this unique part of Sicily, and on this evidence Hallgarten has brought some really good wines to the marketplace. There’s an orange peel and white pepper spice to this which offsets the upfront green apple acid and salinity. It’s an intriguing wine and one that ought to pique the interests of sommeliers – and given its trade price of £6.21 – accountants too.
Arcilla Lugana, ‘Ella’, 2015
The first line of my scribbled tasting note reads ‘This is the one’, and I wasn’t referring to The Stone Roses. Simply put, it’s a sensational wine, so fresh and balanced with a rush of fruit (pear, white peach, lime), struck flint, wet stone and more. It’s this mineral profile that’s so attractive, lifting the wine above just fruit characters and making it the perfect candidate for food pairing… think oysters, artichokes, white truffle, parmesan. This is wine that promises to get sommeliers as excited as a dog on a trampoline.
San Marzano, Tramari, Primitivo, Rosé
What’s the difference between Primitivo Rosé and Zinfandel Blush? On paper not much, but on evidence of this new Puglian offering, quite a lot. This is a dry, zippy rosé that’s the colour of cotton candy but its fruit is far from confected. There’s raspberry and cherry and a delicious backbone of acid which gives it a refreshing, moreish edge. Very classy packaging too. Watch out for this next summer.
Colomba Bianca, ‘Vitese’, Syrah-Frappato, 2015
This blend has only 16% Frappato but it certainly makes itself known. It’s this native Sicilian grape (more commonly blended with Nero d’Avola) which gives the wine its freshness and strawberry edge… there’s even a hint of bubblegum here. The Syrah adds plenty too, balancing the fresh-and-fruity notes with more brooding dark red fruits and lovely smooth tannins. Again, very keenly priced.
Piattelli Vineyards, Alto Molino, Malbec, 2015
Made in Cafayate, where Piattelli established a winery in 2012, this very autumnal Malbec is made from grapes grown at 6,000 feet above sea level. In the winery it sees no oak and spends time in an egg-shaped concrete tank. As a result it’s a real fruit-bomb, with dark plumb and blackberry characters dominating. There’s a savoury edge too, and this went down a treat with the lunch of beef stroganoff served at the tasting.
There were also a number of wines for the recently acquired Hallowed Ground portfolio on show, but the full range is being shown at a tasting later this month so will receive the full Buyer treatment then.