Before the summer break, Hallgarten, Druitt and Novum’s chief wine buyer Steve Daniel held an intimate, selective wine tasting for six journalists. Rather than show the entire range of wines Daniel cherry-picked 41 wines that he felt showed the diversity and depth of the HDN range.
The mini portfolio tasting was an interesting injection of lifeblood into a format that can sometimes become a bit predictable. Has Steve Daniel set a new trend?
It is always a bit of a challenge. You go to a tasting at Lindley Hall and there before you is a range of thousands of the world’s best wines in alphabetical order – or in some other way that does little to help you taste through the wines in any logical fashion.
Sure, you can make some marvelous discoveries along the way but there is no denying the fact that it is often daunting and your palate can become jaded after just a few dozen wines, especially if they are young reds.
There is one well-known journalist in the wine business you reckons that you miss most of the subtleties of a Champagne if you have already tasted just six before it.
Hallgarten, Druitt and Novum have a broad range and strength in depth. This year they added an extra day to their annual portfolio tasting which helped in some respects. Like many other importers their portfolio tasting features ‘trails’ through the wines – Young Winemakers, Women Winemakers and so on.
So it was with some intrigue that I attended Hallgarten Highlights Tasting – a mini portfolio tasting hosted by Steve Daniel, HDN’s chief buyer.
“What will Steve be showing?” I enquired of the PR person “Just a small personal selection, wines that he thinks you will find interesting.”
“What is the rationale of this tasting Steve?” I asked on arriving “None really, it’s an irrational tasting,” he replied in almost Lewis Carroll fashion.
Daniel is a man whose track record, palate and enthusiasm count for a great deal. As one of the key figures behind Oddbins he is well known for being a champion of once frowned upon wine regions – Greece and Chile to name but two – and for believing in his instinct, following people who make great wine rather than people with great business plans.
But then another twist – as the tasting concluded we were urged to take six bottles home as they would only go to waste.
My tasting strategy normally is to go through an entire range of wines once and then go back over the ones that were showing particularly well from which I will do tasting notes and recommendations. To take the bottles home meant that I could keep going back to the wines and discovering more. That evening my wife was also hosting a book club so it was interesting to canvas second opinions – what a luxury.
So, this was a fascinating new twist on the portfolio tasting and one to be recommended. Going by the high calibre of the other writers who attended who, like me presumably, could not turn down the invite of an eclectic but winning approach to a format that is in need of the occasional injection of lifeblood, it is an idea well worth repeating.
So here are the six wines that I selected from Steve’s selection
Daniel chose many wines from the ex-Hallowed Ground portfolio that has increased HDN’s Antipodean offering. This is a good value and interesting field blend of Pinot Gris (45%), Gewürtztraminer (25%), Pinot Blanc (17%) and Sauvignon Gris (13%) – floral quality and fruitiness gives it a sweet edge but with only 2gs of r/s it is dry as you like. A wine that takes you on a real journey and is one of those rare beasts – outstanding quality meeting great value for money.
Unlikely to be asked for by grape varietal in the UK, this is one of the showpieces of Turkey’s premier winemaker, and one of two wines shown by Daniel from this producer – a good batting average in this context.
The wine is a low intervention 100% Oküzgözü aged for 19 months in a mix of oaks. Nose and palate are complex – black fruit, rhubarb, red berries, nuts. Massive acidity stops this 14.5% powerhouse from becoming a super-concentrated beast. Worked well with slow cooked spicy lamb.
I am a big fan of this producer and particularly what they are doing with Mediterranean varietals. Fresh, crunchy fruit, attractive texture, bags of flavour, good structure but bright and precise. A nice combination of a grape that likes tough soil conditions, a week-long cold soak and 12 months in old French oak. Redcurrant, plums and garrigue herbs on the nose, pure blackberry on the palate. Great acidity on the finish.
A Barossa valley blend of Grenache (60%) Mataro (35%) and Shiraz (5%), the Grenache coming from vines 65-130 years old. This is so approachable even when it is so young, Rich red fruits on a light silky cushion with well integrated tannins. There is structure there but it plays a supporting role.
I am not a huge fan of Malbec but it is wines like this that is turning me around. Made from 100% Malbec from vines grown 1,795 metres up. So, we get ripe berries bursting with flavour but tempered and balanced by a backbone of fresh acidity. Black fruit, spice, smoke. What immediately strikes you is the youthful nose, grainy texture and overall freshness. Terrific value for money.
2015 for South African whites is proving to be exceptional. Olifantsberg are also going from strength to strength – a truly exceptional producer. This is a white Rhône blend of Grenache Blanc (40%) Chardonnay (33%) and Roussanne (27%) that has customary white stone fruit, floral and spice but a delightful light touch without the oiliness and weight you’d get in a hot vintage in the Rhône.
I often struggle to understand why anyone would opt for a Rhône or South West France white blend from the New World, when they can buy one so cheaply from the Old World. This example confounds that theory!