The stakes were raised at the OenoTrade at Home portfolio tasting with the most elaborate tasting kit of the past 12 months, bar none. A chauffeur-delivered box that almost required two people to carry, arrived with 13 of the choicest wines from the OenoTrade’s portfolio including a new Liber Pater cuvée, a first vintage of an excellent new Spätburgunder from the Mosel and the 2018 Dominio De Es. Peter Dean picks out his top 8.
While Liber Pater is trying to recreate the taste of pre-phylloxera Bordeaux, the vines of Dominio De Es are genuinely pre-phylloxera, ungrafted.
The fine wine investment company Oeno has, in a short space of time, managed to build a reputation of not doing things by halves. At its launch a year ago, the tasting involved opening Latour 1982, Screaming Eagle 2016 and some of the Liber Pater wines, one of which retails at €30,000 a bottle, making it the world’s most expensive wine.
This year it conducted OenoTrade at Home which involved delivery of the ‘nobbiest’ sample kit imagineable, with a black-suited chauffeur driver arriving on my doorstep like some character out of the Addams Family. “Mr Dean?” he said slowly in an East European accent. I swear the lid of the box creaked like a door in a Hammer Horror as I opened it to reveal 13 samples set in velvet cushion.
And my word, there was Liber Pater, Silver Heights, Domino De Es.
The OenoTrade philosophy, in terms of the wines it imports into the UK, is finding small-scale, unique cuvées, that are of high quality and no one else seems to be handling here. They were not all at the super premium end with some wines selling at £20 and less trade price.
The OenoTrade tasting kit linked up with an impressive if uneven set of videos from each of the estates that worked best when the winemakers were involved and, given the restrictions of the past 12 months, were pretty commendable just to have them at all. At 35 minutes and 21 minutes apiece some of these tasting videos needed some judicious editing, but you couldn’t fault the passion and the connection their tasting on camera made.
Eight of the OenoTrade wines are well worth investigating further and are listed below.
8 OenoTrade wines to check out
Liber Pater, Denarius, 2018
A new ‘affordable’ cuvée from controversial winemaker Loic Pasquet whose mission since 2007 has been to “recreate the taste of pre-phyloxerra Bordeaux” by using traditional, un-grafted, virtually extinct varieties like Tarnay, Petit Vidure, Castets and St-Macaire using ancient techniques such as only using a mule with a 150 year-old plough in the vineyards.
To date Pasquet’s wines come from a one hectare plot, but this new wine comes from a four hectare vineyard that is also planted with 20,000 low-yielding vines per hectare, to recreate Bordeaux at the time of the 1855 classification. Because he is using these varieties, ironically the wine has to be called Vin de France, rather than Bordeaux, even though his wine is arguably more traditionally Bordeaux.
The Liber Pater wines are in such short supply (1000 bottles in some vintages) and the prices match. The 2015 traded at €30,000 a bottle, making it the world’s most expensive bottle of wine.
Tasting the Denarius 2018 (the Latin name for a Roman silver coin), was like tasting a familiar wine that was also unfamiliar which is the point I suppose. It is textured, expressive, with a lot of depth and purity. The wine is deep ruby with purple edging; the first thing that hits you is its floral character (violets, rose) with a little hit of reduction; Over time you pick up camphor, mint, and then more earthy and ferrous notes, carbon and some smokiness (which come from the Petite Verdure). Unlike the flagship wine, Denarius is matured in barrel and not amphora. Outstanding. (£350 for a 750cl bottle ex VAT)
Silver Heights, Emma’s Reserve, 2017
Emma Gao is the winemaker and Bordeaux the influence in this top Chinese wine, Gao’s stay at Calon-Segur culminating in her returning home with its winemaker Thierry Courtade as her husband. Only made in the best vintages, this is considered by many to be one of the best wines from China if not the best, it is the unique location of Silver Heights – in its high (1200m), very dry, 70 acre location on the Eastern slope of Helan Mountain which allows the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (50/50%) to ripen and retain a high level of acidity, with the soil’s minerality also providing freshness. The vines were planted in 2012 but there is good deal of complexity from the fruit, the wine having been aged for 24 months in 100% new oak.
Deep ruby red; ripe red and black fruit, spicy, tomato leaf, with a minty lift; medium weight, nice balance – structured, elegant, ripe tannins well integrated and little trace of the wood except in the wine’s structure. (£80 for a 750cl bottle ex VAT)
Graceland, Three Graces, 2013
Not the best wine in the portfolio but arguably the best ‘bargain’ – this is a South African Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant, Merlot and Shiraz blend, that delivers like a Bordeaux blend, the cool climate Shiraz not too assertive in the mix. Given that it has eight years on the clock the £25 trade price is excellent, seeing as it is drinking well and is a great option as a by-the-glass as the on-trade opens up. Fermented in concrete, with full malo, and then matured for 14 months in French oak, this is visibly an older wine but with lovely blackcurrant aromas, berry, pecan, ripe, black cherry, fynbos and mulberries all in the mix. Pretty seamless, high-toned, ripe, aged tannins but still with a bit of grip and gastronomic potential. (£25 for a 750cl bottle ex VAT)
Chateau de la Roulerie, Anjou Blanc, Les Terrasses 2018
Also on the lower price end of the portfolio is this interesting 100% Chenin Blanc that looks and feels like it has some age on it but is really down to the winemaking and the orientation of the plot. The fruit comes from low-yielding 25 year old vines on a five-hectare, South-West-facing single terraced plot on schist soils in the Cotes du Layon, biodynamically executed by winemaker Philippe Germain, who then vinifies in large barrels and ages for nine months without malo.
Light gold, the wine looks quite evolved, has a rich nose from a sunny vintage, golden orchard fruit, honey cake, white flowers; on the palate you get apple, pear, dried apricot, honey, almonds and a touch of pineapple. Full bodied, good balance, not massive acidity for Loire Chenin (4.7) but it has good register on the palate, good depth and good length. (£17 for a 750cl bottle ex VAT)
Daniel Twardowski, Pinot Noix, Spätburgunder GG, Hofberg 2018 Pinot Noix
Although the video about this outstanding wine includes a justifiable explanation for calling this Spätburgunder ‘Pinot Noix’ I am no fan of name-play, especially at super-premium prices – and at £130 a bottle this is simply over-priced, especially when so much quality German Pinot can be sourced at a quarter of this price.
This is a shame because everything else about this wine is top rate – the eighth vintage of a wine made from Burgundy clones grafted onto 40-70 year old Riesling rootstock on a vertiginous slate slope. Light ruby; the aromatics include a lightly fruity, floral nose, plenty of minerality; On the palate you find dark fruit, cherries, orange and apple. It is fresh, light, intense with decent concentration, a long finish, good acidity and ripe tannins. An elegant, classy, well defined wine with a refreshing 12.5% abv. (£130 for a 750cl bottle ex VAT)
Dominio De Es, Vinas Viejas de Soria, 2018
This magnificent wine is the personal project of renowned Loire-born winemaker Bertrand Sourdais (Domaine de Pallus) who put Dominio de Atauta on the map with the legendary 2002 Llanos del Almendro. This is 92% Tinto Fino with 8% of the white grape Albillo added into the mix. The wine comes from old, ungrafted, pre-phylloxera vines sited on 25 plots in the Eastern part of the Ribera del Duero, in the village of Atauta. 30% of the fruit is foot-trodden whole bunch, fermented in open top large format wood 1500l – 3000l and then matured for 9 months in 600l Burgundy barrels (55% new).
Medium purple; alluring and complex nose – strawberry, plum, earthier, leather undercurrent, cloves, pepper, eucalyptus; medium-heavy weight on the palate, this is concentrated and intense yet with fresh acidity, framed by ripe, micro-fine, firm tannins; there is a chalky texture, long length and persistence, a very mineral wine (described well as having a mineral water quality to it). Very young and needs time but it has lots of potential. (£78 for a 750cl bottle ex VAT)
Lamy-Pillot, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, Morgeot 2017
Sebastien Caillat is the winemaker at this 17 hectare 48-year-old estate in Burgundy. The 100% Chardonnay is hand-picked, is shown 15-20% new wood, where it’s aged for 12-15 months. It’s had two years in the bottle now and is drinking well, still citrusy but developing some secondary characteristics – nuttiness and so on.
On the eye the wine is medium shiny-gold; the aromatics are elegant, gorgeous mouthfeel, quite a ripe style, nice presence, and good balance between ripe fruit and acidity, with freshness and minerality winning through. Long length. (£44.50 for a 750cl bottle ex VAT)
Domaine des Beaumont, Chambolle-Musigny, Les Chardannes, 2018
Five and a half hectare, 7thgeneration estate located in Morey Saint Denis. The fruit for this winsome Chambolle comes from a half hectare plot on clay and chalk soils which have been sustainably and respectfully farmed with no fertilisers or treatments used in the past 20 years. The fruit is de-stemmed, then fermented in 50-year-old concrete. After a press the wine goes direct into barrels (30% new) for 12 months.
To drink, the wine is medium ruby-crimson on the eye; the nose takes some opening up and shows raspberry, violet with a touch of graphite; there’s a lovely textured register on the palate, giving plenty of plum, blackberry and cherry. Lot of power, length, hit of alcohol (14.5%) but good balance all the same.