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    Insight

    UK Buyers/French Producers on: Champagne, Crémant & sparkling

    Sparkling wine has enjoyed unprecedented success in the UK over the last 10 years, but where does French sparkling sit alongside the two powerhouses of everyday sparkling wine – Prosecco and Cava? To find out, The Buyer teamed up with Business France, to host an online Zoom panel debate with leading UK wine buyers of independent importers and merchants, who had the chance to chat live with three very different representatives of the French wine market covering sparkling, Champagne and Crémant.

        

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    Insight

    One Step Beyond: Download the full landmark conference report

    When The Buyer came together with Sophie Jump to organise and hold the inaugural One Step Beyond Conference in early March the focus was 100% on analysing the most disruptive changes in consumer behaviour and technology. Little did we know that just over two months on so many of those changes have now been put on fast forward because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Here is the full report from what was a breakthrough conference for the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors. A day that brought experts from outside the industry’s comfort zone and gave them the platform to set out what we can all expect from consumers and technology in the future. Predictions that are already being seen in how fast businesses and consumers alike are responding to the challenges of Covid-19.

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    Insight

    The Buyer’s Case: Top buyers put Boisset FGV wines to the test

    The hardest job for any wine producer, no matter how prestigious or respected, is getting their wines in front of the right buyers who can ultimately make the difference in getting their wines on to the lists of the restaurants and bars that really matter. That’s what The Buyer’s Case project does. Link producers looking to build distribution in the premium on-trade and specialist retail sector with key buyers in those channels. Here’s how major French producer, Boisset FGV worked with The Buyer on its own Buyer’s Case initiative.

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    Insight

    California Buyers Trip Part 2: the wines and styles ready to export

    Having the opportunity to go to California and meet over 100 producers in an intense five days of tasting doesn’t come around too often. But it proved to be an invaluable exercise for the group of leading wine buyers from both the UK and Irish on and off-trade markets. In Part One of our report we looked at their general feedback on why they wanted to go on such a trip. Here in Part Two we drill down into what they really thought of the wines and the opportunities of giving them a chance in the markets over here.

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    Insight

    California looks to bring right producers & buyers together

    If you are a wine buyer for a leading importer, restaurant group, or independent merchant then there are times of the year when you are no doubt spoilt for choice with invitations to go and visit different regions and countries. But which are ones are going to be the most useful, effective and important to your buying needs? It’s what made the recent California Wine Institute event for leading UK and Irish buyers so different. And relevant. Rather than take a group of buyers on a bus around a select group of producers, the Institute brought the producers to the buyers for a series of back to back tastings hosted in the same venue. It meant the busy buyers were able to see over 100 wineries across five days of intensive tasting and take a deep dive into the kind of wines being made across the state. What’s more the producers did not currently have distribution in the UK or Ireland, or both, and had to have wines, with volume, that could the hit the main commercial to mid premium price points. The Buyer’s Richard Siddle, who helped to identify and recruit some of the buyers invited, was also there to get an insider’s take on how it all came together.

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    Opinion

    South Africa Restaurant Safari – 9 buyers, 18 wineries, 2 Land Rovers

    Here’s a conundrum for you. How do you get nine of the UK’s leading wine buyers to meet 18 winemakers in four restaurants in different parts of London in under five hours? Well, throw two Land Rovers into the mix and you are half way home. It’s certainly how The Buyer teamed up with Wines of South Africa to take a group of top buyers on a tour of London restaurants, and the chance to meet some of South Africa’s best winemakers at the same time. Eating, tasting, chatting along the way. Buckle up and join us on the ride…

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    Insight

    Buyer French Debate: Rise of Crémant & other sparkling wines

    In part one of The Buyer’s debate, alongside Business France, between leading importers, merchants, restaurants and wine producers from most regions of France, we focused on the rise in and importance of organic wines. The tasting and discussion also looked at how different styles of sparkling wine are now really coming to the fore, and how Crémant, in particular, is presenting a real premium alternative, ideal for promoting and driving in the premium on-trade.

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    Insight

    Buyer Debate: the opportunity for French organic wine

    For the latest The Buyer Debate we teamed up with Business France to bring producers from different regions of France together with key buyers from across the premium on-trade to look at two key growth areas not only for French wine, but the premium wine category as a whole: organics and sparkling wine. It was an opportunity to meet, taste the wines and then explore why French winemakers are increasingly turning to organics and sparkling wine production. Whilst assessing just what it is leading UK wine distributors, merchants and restaurant and bar owners are looking for when taking on a new French wine supplier. There was a lot to cover. So much so that we have broken down the report into two parts. First up we look at the rise in organics and both the opportunities and the challenges there are in making and selling organic wine.

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    Insight

    Behind the scenes on The Buyer’s Vouvray Restaurant Tour

    It’s one thing tasting wine professionally it is quite another to go on an eating and tasting tour of top London restaurants to experience food and wine in the same way your customers do. Which is what The Buyer’s most recent restaurant tour was all about as we were able to introduce different styles of Vouvray wine to a tour of buyers covering wine merchants, sommeliers, importers, consultants and journalists. As we publish our full report from the event, Richard Siddle picks out the highlights.

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    Insight

    Buyer debate: Indies put Ribera del Duero through its paces

    Even for a wine region that is as relatively small as Spain’s Ribera del Duero it’s important to taste as many wines as possible if you are going to truly understand, experience and enjoy its enormous diversity, says wine writer and critic, Tim Atkin MW. To help do just that, but also debate and share what leading UK buyers think of Ribera del Duero, The Buyer teamed up with the region’s generic body, a panel of top wine merchants and Atkin himself to see what opportunities there are in the burgeoning independent retail and wholesale sector.

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    Insight

    Douro’s Soul Wines Debate: why the wines are ideal for the UK

    “There is a deliciousness to these red wines. I am hugely impressed by them. The quality has blown me away.” Just the kind of review any wine producer would want for their wines, particularly if it comes from such as senior a figure as John Graves, on-trade channel director at Bibendum Wine. But Graves was not the only UK panelist in our debate with the Douro Valley’s Soul Wine producers to be impressed with what they saw and tasted. In part two of our report on the wide ranging debate we assess the opportunity for Douro’s wines in the premium on-trade and what steps producers need to take to make the most of them.

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    People People: On-Trade

    Sommeliers on Chile: The Buyer & Chono Wines debate

    To try to unravel and understand Chile’s position in the premium on-trade, The Buyer teamed up with Ellis Wines and its Chilean producer partner, Chono Wines, to bring
    together a group of senior wine trade professionals, buyers and sommeliers to debate what are the opportunities and challenges for Chile as a whole. It was the chance for these leading figures to share their experiences with Chilean wines in their restaurants and businesses and look at the kinds of wines from Chile that they are looking to source and select for their wine lists.

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    Insight

    Mionetto and The Buyer Prosecco study tour and report

    Is there a more misunderstood wine category than Prosecco? It might top all the best selling charts, but it is too often dismissed or taken seriously by some professional wine buyers. To help get to know not only the beautiful region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, but to explore the different quality tiers of Prosecco and the potential they have in the premium on-trade, The Buyer teamed up with leading Prosecco brand, Mionetto, and its UK partner Copestick Murray, to host a study tour with key buyers and influencers of the area and the city where Prosecco truly comes to life – Venice.

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    Insight

    Jackson Family debate on Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

    It’s nice talking about and throwing the spotlight on new wine regions and emerging styles of wine and little known grape varieties, but at these times of the year restaurant and bar customers are looking for the classics and the tried and tested. Which is why for our latest major debate we teamed up with Jackson Family Wines to look at what leading wine buyers, sommeliers, distributors and merchants think about Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

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    Insight

    Special Report: Sonoma County Vintners London Wine Bar Tour

    Organising a wine tasting where all your guests are sitting in one place can prove to be a challenge at times, so you can imagine the potential for things to wrong if you then invited those guests to go on a tour of restaurants and bars around London, tasting different wines, matched to each outlet’s food along the way. It certainly made for a very different, fun, highly informative and memorable day for wineries from Sonoma County Vintners and our panel of “tour-ists” willing to go on the adventure with us.

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    Insight

    Closures Debate: what do you want to put in a bottle of wine?

    Outside of the natural wine debate is there a more contentious issue than the one that surrounds the type of closure you have in your bottle of wine? To assess what leading on-trade buyers and sommeliers now think about closures we teamed up with Vinventions, one of the biggest suppliers of all types of closure from cork to screwcap, to make the issue of closures the latest topic in our Buyer Debate series.

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    Insight

    The Buyer’s Case with Castelnau Wine Agencies

    Every wine as soon as it is made puts its self up for judgement. Be it the end consumer who wants to drink it with their dinner, or the trade buyers and wine critics looking to score, assess and adjudicate on whether it is suitable for listing in the first place. But nothing ventured, nothing gained and Castelnau Wine Agencies was happy to put its range of wines from producers all over the world up to the test in our latest Buyer’s Case project with leading on-trade buyers and influencers in the trade.

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    Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting

    The Buyer’s Case with Cave de Vignerons de Saint-Chinian wines

    The Buyer has been set up to help drinks producers and leading on-trade buyers better understand their needs and where possible work closer together. This is best demonstrated by The Buyer’s Case initiative where we link up with a wine producer or importer and ask leading buyers to taste, assess and offer professional feedback on their wines. Here we turn to the Languedoc-Roussillon and present wines from leading producer, Cave de Vignerons de Saint-Chinian to leading on-trade decision makers.

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    Opinion

    The French debate: putting France under the spotlight with Foncalieu

    France might be the best selling country in the UK on-trade, but that does not mean it could not sell. To help better understand the opportunities and challenges facing French wine in the premium on-trade, The Buyer linked up with Les Vignobles Foncalieu and leading buyers from the different types of operator, including high end restaurants, independent wine merchants and national wholesalers all working the French category in the north west of the country.

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    Insight Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting

    New Zealand Debate: the opportunities and challenges

    New Zealand’s enormous success in the UK off-trade, where its Sauvignon Blanc has created a category of its own, has not always been reflected in how many of its wines are on premium on-trade wine lists. The Buyer teamed up with Villa Maria, and its UK partners, Hatch Mansfield, to ask a panel of leading UK buyers to set out the challenges and opportunities for New Zealand in the premium on-trade

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    Insight Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting

    The Buyer’s Case with Les Vignerons Foncalieu

    The Buyer’s Case is a new initiative that gives producers the chance to show specific drinks to key buyers in target channels of the on-trade. For our first Buyer’s Case we teamed up with Les Vignerons Foncalieu and selected key buyers in its main distribution areas in the UK on-trade to show their wines. Here are the results.

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    Insight Tasting Tasting: Panel Tasting

    Virginia Wine Project: bringing producers and buyers together

    The Buyer teamed up with Virginia Wine and some of its key producers to help them better understand the needs of the UK premium on-trade and how buyers might relate to their wines with both a business roundtable debate with key players and a study tour of leading London restaurants, wine bars and merchants to see the kind of offers they have and where their wines might fit in.

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    Instataste

    Tasting with pictures View All
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    • Fabulous limited edition MV (multi-vintage) cuvée to celebrate this Champagne House’s centenary that goes toe to toe with any number of ultra-premium cuvées out there. Collet is owned by the region’s first-ever cooperative that was formed after the Champagne riots of 1911. Cuvée n°21 is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier, from 21 vintages over the last 30 years with fruit sourced from over 30 crus, including eight Grands Crus and 3 Premier Crus, wood-vinified with 8 gms dosage and disgorged in July 2020 Tasting the wine, it has a medium shiny golden yellow; lazy fine bead, a complex and sumptuous nose mixing freshness and rich, evolved aromas of poached ripe orchard fruits, quince, toasty just-baked apple tartlets with fresh cream, noble wood, a lifted spice note; the palate is fresh, vivacious, perfectly poised and ready to be enjoyed, there’s some tension but the blend has a weight
    • Excellent discovery: a mid-ruby, medium bodied 50/50 blend of Nero d’Avola and Frapatto that are the required varieties for this unique blend in the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG of South East Sicily. From the rainy 2017 vintage, this wine is made entirely in steel to preserve the aromatics of the Frapato and the fruit of the Nero. It ages for 18 months in steel and then a further 18 months in bottle. The nose is spicy and fresh, dried dark fruit, flowers, laurel, carob and a hint of wild licorice on the finish. So soft are the tannins and so floral and fruity the wine that this is best served slightly chilled as an aperitif or with fish. Slight crunch to the fruit on the finish with texture and nicely balanced acidity. Well worth seeking out.
    • The seven Beaune 1er Crus were all showing well at yesterday’s  @chanson1750  tasting –2020 is a ripe vintage with deep-coloured wines, concentrated black fruits, rounded mouthfeel and powerful tannic structure – the whole bunch used here also giving the wine real heft under the lush veneer. Bressandes is a 2 hectare, East-facing plot on the top of the hill, and it has produced a wine of wonderful complexity. The enticing nose has wild blackberry with a slightly smoky note. On the palate the wine is ripe, juicy with a lush entry, there’s a very fine texture, micro-tannins, more blueberry on finish with raspberry coulis.
    • 2008 such a dependable vintage in Chablis. This had stone fruit notes and hint of tropicality. Lush and ripe, but well balanced with a keen structure and firm acidity that would take this into at least another decade of drinking. A welcome bottle at the end of a day trip to Sancerre  @williswinebarparis  with  @pol_roger  team. Many thanks  @granvillem1  for your generosity
    • Wow, this is extraordinary. Never tasted an ancient Carcavelos-style fortified Portuguese wine before and this won’t be the last! Aged for 15 years in French and Portuguese barrels, it is a blend of Arinto, Galego Dourado and Ratinho grapes by celebrated fortified winemaker Pedro Sá. Deep amber gold; the nose is familiar and yet quite distinct. Blind, you would imagine it is a sherry with age, an Oloroso perhaps or a very old white Port, you pick up walnut, dried orange peel, polished furniture, caramel, saline; the palate is like liquid gold, velvety, sweet, sun-kissed plump sultanas, complex, the heat of the 18.5% alcohol coming through from brandy added after seven and a half years to stop the fermentation. So pure, clean and VERY moreish. There is a regular Carcavelos from the same producer that has been aged for seven years which is slightly more primary and tastes sweeter in
    • Hard not to use superlatives when tasting a new Unico. A wine of extraordinary power and finesse that seems to dance out of the glass. Opaque claret, the bouquet is complex offering black berries, violets, mocha, strawberry jam, jamon, spice, smoke; the palate delivers wave upon wave of flavour, structured with firm acidity, this is a punchy Unico, rounded on the palate, polished tannins, offering less depth of fruit than the 2010 but still with fresh black berries, currants, cranberry coulis, liquorice root, touch of vanilla custard. Pretty mind-blowing really.
    • Having established itself 20 years ago in the Spanish region of Montsant, Terroir Al Limit’s head oenologist Tatjana Peceric has moved away from wood to vinification in cement and using 100% whole bunch. Top of the range is the 2017 Guix Vermell, a 100% Grenache from 60 year old vines grown 800m up which is off-the-scale delicious in a Grand Cru Burgundy sort-of way and would make a fascinating tasting partner with Torres’ top end high altitude Priorat Mas de la Rosa (£185 rrp).
    • New vintage of this Sangiovese/Merlot Tuscan IGT blend from Mazzei, an estate that is on an upward trajectory. For a new vintage the 2019 is so approachable, the nose slightly closed but with ripe, sandpaper-fine tannins and so much pure fruit to give and with such energy. Where the 2018 has red and black fruit, the 2019 feels darker with cassis, currants, black cherry, coal and dark chocolate, there’s a floral lift too, some liquorice and dark plums. Medium to full bodied, beautifully smooth, luxurious mouthfeel, layered, detailed and with an intense, dense structure and depth of flavour. The finish is dry and taut but it is still two or three years short of the start of its drinking window.
    • Castello di Vicarello 2013, IGT Toscana Light red cherry-ruby; Wow! Really attractive nose, feels most in synch with itself, vivacious and elegant, lovely mix of red and black fruit – blackberries, strawberries – hint of bay leaf, charcoal; medium weight, ripe and full of red fruit, red plum, redcurrant edge, impressive structure with the concentration of the fruit beautifully framed by the acidity and fine, velvet tannins. Massive length. A stunner. 14% abv
    • New Zealand’s Astrolabe Wines makes top Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - true to the region but at the highest rung of the ladder. The 2019 Taihoa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc(£19) is a wood-aged SB from the Kekerengu coast which is the furthest south Marlborough stretches into North Canterbury. Although it spends nine months in oak, this only makes itself felt through palate weight and texture, the wood seamlessly integrated elsewhere. Textured, layered with bags of flavour – a real winner.
    • A good example of the 2020 vintage - a classic one in the Northern Rhône. Translated as ‘The Roasted Earth’ this pretty example of Cornas is a blend of young and old vines (20-60 year old) from a variety of plots. Although this sample is halfway through its two year sojourn in oak, the first sniff is intoxicating, hedonistic and exciting. Very deep purple, the bouquet is concentrated and pure, with notes of fresh violets, juniper, liquorice. Fresh, mouth-filling with brambles and raspberries, a streak of blood orange acidity. The power and the purity is immense and you need to wait - but you could drink this here and now if desired.
    • It’s getting harder and harder to find a quaffable red Burgundy that has a crunch to it, has juicy red fruit and doesn’t cost the Earth, but this is one such wine. It’s from a small urban vineyard within Dijon city limits that is on steep limestone-gravel soil with a South-East aspect – in other words the fruit gets ripe in a warm spot but by being so far North in Marsannay and with the right soils, and 30% whole bunch, the fruit is red and crunchy. Pale ruby red to look at; it has a slightly closed nose at this stage but opens out after time into a pretty bouquet of red cherries, vegetal notes; juicy, fresh, vibrant acidity with ultra-fine texture and dense ripe tannins. This is a crisp, easy drinking Bourgogne rouge from a classic year that, on account of its unique position offers a lot of
    • A red Rioja that’s a return to old-style winemaking in the region and has been re-designed and joined by a white and 2 single vineyard wines. The wine is mostly Tempranillo (90%) from four South-facing vineyards planted in the 1950s and 1960s in Baos de Ebro, Villabuena de Álava, Navaridas, and San Vicente de la Sonsierra. The remaining 10% of the blend is made up of small amounts of Graciano, Mazuelo, and white varieties from 27 different high altitude plots. Soils here are calcareous clay with a rocky component. The must macerates for 10 days before fermenting in 20,000 kg tanks with the help of native yeasts. It is a crianza by any other name having been aged for 14 months in French, European and American 225-litre oak barrels, of which 60% are second use. To taste: the wine is bright, medium ruby-violet; bouquet offers intense notes of fresh fruits
    • Plush, seductive top end 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile that follows the 100-point 2018 vintage. Deep almost opaque ruby with purple edging; Complex, evolving bouquet of ripe black fruit, mulberry, a pronounced cedarwood/ hessian note, earthy, tobacco; On the palate the wine is full bodied, ripe, rounded, with almost fully integrated tannins, rich, blackcurrant, milk chocolate. Beautifully smooth texture on the finish. There really is no need to wait with this wine as it’s ready to drink, luscious, seductive, silky mouth-coating tannins. Obviously 2018 is a difficult act to follow and the 2019 does not have some of the floral characteristics or quite the energy of the previous vintage, but this is still a remarkable wine, beautifully constructed and warrants buying as a vin de meditation rather than a food pairer.
    • Few commercial varieties manage to hit that right balance between tart, dry and ripe – although this wild-harvested liquid from Northern Ireland’s Boatyard distillery does. This excellent example is on the slightly sweet side but not excessively so, it has an attractive floral nose of sweet plums, almonds with a bit of spirit-oomph from the gin that the fruit has been seeped in for six months. The mouthfeel is rich and oleagineous with ripe berries, cassis, juniper and a warming slug of 29.8% alcohol. Warmed, chilled, au natural or with tonic and a slice, or in a variety of cocktails, there is a lot of use for this at home or in the back bar.
    • Unmistakably Pinot nose, but where from? Feels so Burgundian, a delicate balance between ripe raspberry and strawberry fruit, red fruit conserve, black cherries but also a seductive floral perfume – deep red rose petals, rosehip – and a hint of the forest/ rusticity, dark chocolate, spicy too (black pepper?). The palate is medium-to-full bodied, smooth, ripe tannins, a decent concentration of fruits of the forest, cherry tart, some cranberry tartness and bitter orange too, and fine-grained texture, decent grip and acidity lending structure, but so easygoing and drinkable now. On the nose it could be mistaken for New World but in the mouth with the acidity and structure it feels very much Old World. Drink with or without food or age for 5 years or more. Hard to get this quality in Burgundy at this price.
    • 1981 Gran Reserva 890. Hugely evolved and in its tertiary stage, but still drinking with fresh acidity, tension, length and lovely balance. Bright mahogany red, dried cherries, caramel, coconut husk, a touch of cheese on the nose; the tannins are fully resolved and integrated, the finish dry, but still in remarkable shape. Not enough fruit to keep it going much longer. I’d drink up if I had any.
    • Quinta da Boavista “Rufia”. Skin contact, five-variety Portuguese blend that will be polarising but we loved it! Joao Tavares from Dão Portugal is behind this 2019 vintage, blending Encruzado, Cerceal, Malvasia Fina, Arinto, and Bical grown on granite and shale clay soils. After a three week skin-maceration, it undergoes malolactic fermentation in tank, followed by nine months ageing on its lees. Bottled unfiltered with a touch of sulfite.The nose is floral and pretty with mandarin, apricot, wet earth; the palate is structured but rounded and flavoursome with prominent apple and pear and a touch of saline.
    • Already drinking superbly well, this second wine of the great Super Tuscan estate from the variable climate of the 2019 growing season is a blend of 54% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot – a combination of fruit-focused power and elegance, and richness with energy. Medium ruby-purple to look at; the nose is an enticing mix of currants, herbs (sage and bay), graphite and oranges, eucalyptus, strawberry chews; the palate is medium weight, balancing ripe red and black fruits with blueberry, sour cherry, balsamic, a lick of cream, framed by firm, ripe tannins, finely textured with a mineral edge and a long, sapid, dry, blue plum skin finish. Firmly Cab-structured but with a voluptuous, abundance of ripe fruit. Each variety is vinified separately, in steel, then in barriques (25% new/ 75% one-fill) for 15 months, assembled after 12 months and returned to barriques, then after
    • Excellent Cab Sauv/ Petit Verdot blend (92%/ 8%)) from Chile that is a very pure expression – the vines are low-yielding and grown on clay-loam slopes not far from the cooling Pacific – with the wine aged in 4th/5th use neutral barrels after fermenting in steel. The wine is structured and has intensity but there’s a green edge both on the nose and palate, with fresh, pure blackcurrant fruit, bramble, a little mint lift; the tannins are there, textured and ripe. It’s an outstanding wine this, lovely depth and expression- even after a few days this was still opening out. There’s a sense that this is how Cabernet Sauvignon ought to taste and feels very true to its terroir.