Corney & Barrow recently held a tasting in central London aimed at restaurants who are looking to refresh their wine list for the autumn and in the run-up to Christmas. Chris Wilson was there and takes a trip round the world’s wine regions in 14 wines – ones which he thinks warrant special attention. He also found the tasting itself quite refreshing. First one in the door, Chris had the whole of 67 Pall Mall to himself which meant a focussed tasting and no splash back on the spittoons!
Two sparkling, six whites and six reds make up Chris’s 14-strong wine selection
It’s somewhat unnerving being the only person in the room tasting wine, but that was the situation I found myself in at Corney & Barrow’s Autumn Tasting at 67 Pall Mall last month. With two other tastings to attend that day I arrived bang on time to get stuck into their selection of 80 wines chosen for their suitability on autumn and winter wine lists, only to discover that I had the place to myself.
It made for a speedy and hassle-free tasting – I had a spittoon to myself, which is all you can really ask for at any tasting – and meant I could talk to the C&B team about their selections. “This is a tasting with an on-trade focus to target people refreshing their lists at this time of year,” marketing and comms manager Anna Bell told me.
There were also a handful of new wines and old favourites on show, and while the Old World did most of the heavy lifting, there were a smattering of standout New World wines too, a few of which made it into my A/W 2018/19 hit list below.
These are all wines that possess the superstar qualities that make them ‘first-picks’ when refreshing any restaurant list, especially at this time of year; they are versatile, food-friendly, classic or different (sometimes both) and true examples of their style, variety or provenance.
Ambriel English Reserve Single Vineyard Demi-Sec, 2010
More English fizzes should be made like this; the sweetness is utterly seductive and brings out the brightness of the fruit. Crunchy red apples, Red Grapetiser and a tropical tang take centre stage, the mousse is delicate and the lingering sweetness wraps itself around your teeth like a sticky blanket.
Champagne JM Labruyère Prologue Brut, NV
A classic Pinot Noir-led Champagne with a slightly pink hue and an enticing 4.8 g/l residual sugar. It’s developed and toasty with crunchy tree fruit and a bold prickle. Stylishly packaged.
Maison Auvigue Corney & Barrow White Burgundy, 2017
Smoky, flinty and fresh with floral undertones (Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in the sunshine), Williams pear and peach. Acidity is lean and welcome, adding a delicious zip on the finish.
Olivier Leflaive Chassange-Montrachet 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot, 2013
A wonderfully textured and generous Chardonnay with characters of tinned pear, burnt pineapple and butterscotch sweets and a lovely lees-y finish. Like a much-loved but old family pet this is endearing and difficult to put down.
Barta Pince Egy Kis Dry Furmint, 2017
Apples! Freshly scratted and pressed apples at that. The freshness of the fruit sits nicely alongside an oxidative nuttiness and supple tannins. Super mouthfeel and clean, saline finish.
Weingut Dr H Thanisch Estate Riesling Kabinett, 2016
A versatile food-friendly Riesling with a lovely mouthfeel and silky body that’s lifted by the residual sugar. The fruit is red and studded with rose petal notes, while the acidity is pure lime juice.
Enrico Santini Campo alla Casa, 2017
This white Bolgheri has a great nose, it’s all lilies and elderberries. On the palate it’s smooth with some spice, a lanolin waxiness and a lingering toasty end. Tree fruit and minerals complete the picture.
Hyde de Villaine ‘HdV’ Chardonnay, 2012
A generous and oaky Chardonnay that’s not overblown and has characters that are woody rather than creamy. The wood is nicely integrated and flows into the ripe nectarine and apricot fruit. Bright as you like.
Domaine des Varoilles Gevrey-Chambertin Clos des Varoilles 1er Cru Monopole, 2012
A velvet-like wine which is deft in its ambitions; the perfect match for game but could just as easily close the night out on its own. It’s dusty and savoury with black pepper, sour cherry fruit and a comforting confidence.
Domaine Gourt de Mautens Rouge, 2013
A chunky, slightly clunky wine with bold confected fruit and just a hint of spice. It’s bright and sure-footed with an abundance of red and black fruit and a powerful finish.
Château Rocheyron Grand Cru, 2011
Ripe summer fruit and soft tannins are at the fore of this beautifully built Saint-Émilion GC. There’s impressive depth of character which reveals layer by layer stewed plums, twigs, mushrooms and tar.
Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014
Classic Napa Cab; sweet, big, long and precise with blackberry compote, rosemary leaf and dark earth characters. A sumptuous, weighty wine.
Muddy Water Pinot Noir, 2015
Superb depth of flavour in this old vine Pinot Noir from Waipara – ungrafted vines were planted in 1993 using five different clones. It’s light-footed and lush with raspberry and cranberry fruit, a savoury spiciness and mouth-tingling acidity. Modern, but somehow very classic too.
Achaval-Ferrer Quimera, 2014
Blockbusting Malbec-based blend, with Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot playing the supporting roles. This is rich and creamy, bold and delicious with plum jam, red liquorice and lovely long tannins. A truly super wine.