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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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    • If there is a better Bacchus made in the UK we have yet to try it. Adorable and different style of a much-maligned variety, and an inaugural vintage for Cambridge’s first urban winery,  @gutterstarswine . It captures the ripe fruit-forward qualities of the grape but also manages to frame it around a sturdy structure, an acidity we don’t commonly associate with Bacchus. This is a wine with attitude and a point to prove. To look at the wine is medium straw with green highlights; on the nose we have ripe, intense, basket-of-fresh-fruit aromas (pear), elderflower, fresh violets, a fresh herb element, a little spicy, think galangal; the palate is fresh and fruity as you like, orchard fruit but also tropical, mango, green pineapple, a hint of Fruit Salad chews; you then get a wash of fresh lemon juice, with a citrus peel, textural feel, ending on an attractively dry and sour,
    • This is an easy-going, quaffable but stylish white Rhône made from 75% Viognier, 15% Grenache Blanc and 10% other varietals. Pale gold; aromas of ripe apricot and yellow melon, blossom, spice, a hint of almonds; on the palate the wine is rich but fresh at the same time, textured, creamy peaches, balanced acidity, mineral edge and wild herb element. Fresh and easy going, and with a lot more characteristic white Rhône wine flavours than a number of more expensive white Rhônes I’ve tried in recent weeks. (RRP £13.50)
    • The 2020 vintage of this always impressive Fourth Growth estate marks the first time that the top two Bordeaux consultants have worked together – Jean-Claude Berrouet, known for his mastery of Merlot at Petrus and Eric Boissenot who guides top Medoc chateaux. They’ve come together for this, the 60th vintage at the estate. Berrouet has a reputation for making wines with balanced structure and elegance and this he has helped achieve in this impressive wine. Lafon-Rochet has also been steadily increasing the percentage of Merlot in its blend, another reason for his presence perhaps. This year’s assemblage is Cabernet Sauvignon (61%), Merlot (33%), Cabernet Franc (3%), Petit Verdot (3%). Unlike some 2020s I have tried this vibrant dark purple Saint-Estephe does not feel like it’s trying to curry favour by being an early drinker – this is clearly being made for the medium-to-long haul. The nose is pure, complex, offering
    • All the minerality of Jacquère is laid bare in this delightfully pure, crisp, single plot vinification of fruit grown 580m up in the alpine pastures of Savoie. From Domaine des Côtes Rousses, the wine is named after Armanaz, the mountain where Nicolas Ferrand's grandfather, the winegrower here, grazed his herd of Tarine cows in the summer. The vines are grown on red clay with limestone bedrock, and you really get a sense of the terroir – white fruit and wild meadow flowers. Quite a subtle wine, elegant and energetic with a streak of salinity that makes it a good match for fish, seafood, and Savoie cheeses. Took on a bruised apple Aligote-style after an hour or two in the glass. This is Nicolas’s 11th vintage of this wine, a 2017, still drinking well although five years is probably the maximum you want to keep it after bottling.
    • Who’s the daddy. Happy Sauvignon Blanc day.
    • The Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2009 is a ripe Blanc de Blancs that is finely balanced between showing off the generosity of the summer months but still retaining a steely freshness and elegance. It is at an exciting point between the vivacity of youth and a more mature stage of evolution – quite frankly delicious and approachable now but auguring well for the next two decades of ageing. To look at the wine is a medium shiny gold, the bead steady and fine. The nose has bright floral notes, ripe stone fruit, honeyed with an attractive nuttiness – fresh almond, marzipan, a lift of Cream Soda also. The attack is bright, fresh, crisp, the mousse then more voluminous on the palate, finishing on a lean mineral note. The flavour profile is complex and detailed, all the time finely balanced between ripe orchard and stone fruit, lemon sorbet, and more
    • 2020 is the first vintage that this third growth estate has made its Grand Vin out of five grape varieties – Cabernet Franc (3%), Petit Verdot (2%) and Malbec (1%) joining the customary Merlot (39%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (55%). The wine was matured in barrel for 16-18 months using 50% new barrels. The overriding impression is how approachable the wine is already, clearly well constructed with firm structure but also with a good degree of polish and finesse. Vintage or assemblage, there is considerable depth and complexity here. To look at the wine is deep ruby, with a purple rim; wonderful aromatics lure you into the glass – ripe, welcoming and complex: cherry, cassis, violets, light tar, cloves, earth, polished wood, liquorice, and a lift of Thai basil on the tail end. The palate is medium to heavy weight, ripe chalky tannins nicely integrated and so approachable now, fresh mid-palate,
    • One of those wines that just makes you go ‘Wow!’ – this is a spectacular Merlot/ Sangiovese blend from Chianti Classico that really makes the most of each grape variety and delivers a final wine that is firing on all cylinders in 2018. Whether it was the very good harvest or the change to the winemaking in 2017 – to assemble the blend and then let it spend a further 5-6 months in cement – this has a purity of fruit that I cannot remember from previous vintages sampled. On the nose you find a mix of red and black fruit, mulberry, dried rosemary, milk chocolate – quite broody; on the palate the mouthfeel is beautifully rich and creamy with gorgeous, silky smooth tannins. Rich and sumptuous but never too much on account of the wine’s superb balance – the acidity and grip of the Sangiovese framing the seductive red
    • Hard to think today (which is Viognier Day FYI) that 40 years ago there were just 70 acres of Viognier left in the world, mainly in the Rhône, now there’s well over 12,000 hectares. Influential Australian winery Yalumba has spearheaded its revival, using its expertise for making white wines in the Eden Valley to the fore. This wine being part of its Samuel’s Collection, which honours the estate’s founder Samuel Smith who established the winery in 1849. They’ve opted to make a ‘serious’ dry style with 60% of the fruit fermented and aged in French oak for 10 months with regular bâtonnage to increase the complexity, weight and creaminess of the wine. It can age well too as this 2017 testifies. To look at the wine is medium gold; The aromatics are complex, fruity and spicy with apricots, ginger, saffron and a touch of oak; On the palate it is
    • This is the third vintage of Ceretto’s Barolo Bussia made as a single vineyard wine, the fruit comng from the Bussia Soprana, the historical heart of the vineyard which, with its amphitheatre-like shape, creates a unique microclimate. 2017 was a tough, hot and dry vintage here but with biodynamic farming, smart picking and winemaking, the team has turned in a beauty. Pale garnet-ruby; Seductive aromatics of red fruit, dried herbs, petals, five spice and mocha lead you into an elegant wine with bright acidity, tasty clean red fruit on the mid-palate and finishing with soft, silky tannins. There’s structure as you’d expect with a young Barolo, keeping the wine focused and terrifically well balanced, but you could easily drink it now. My favourite of a portfolio tasting of the new 2017 vintage.
    • Modern, clean Rioja from Alavesa’s Torre de Oña, showing a rounded, concentrated style that is remarkably approachable in youth and could almost be classified as easy drinking. Medium ruby red, almost opaque at the core; the aromatics are unmistakably Rioja with smoky wood, toasty coconut, dark chocolate but there is a rich, intense fruity core that feels altogether more modern. On the medium weight palate, the fruit is concentrated and dark, ripe and intense, with oak and a dusting of cocoa powder. The tannins are chalky from the limestone soil that, combined with the power of the fruit, gives it a rounded mouth-feel, and allows the 14.5% abv to make its presence felt. The finish has an attractive blueberry/ blood orange twist. The combined effect is one of power with a good degree of elegance. Good choice if you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing Reserva to drink now. 94% Tempranillo with
    • Always a good introduction to the Ornellaia range, this third wine, Merlot-dominant, is fruit-forward, elegant, ready to drink now or keep for 2-3 years. 2019 was a tricky vintage here on the coast with a rainy spring delaying flowering, although a hot summer compensated, and has helped create a wine with a good deal of opulence. Medium ruby almost opaque; on the nose I get an immediate sense of Mediterranean herbs in the sun, ripe red fruit, roses, slightly earthy. Light on its feet on the palate, medium bodied, very elegant, almost sensual with ripe, silky tannins, fruity, beautifully balanced, the wine finishing on a just-ripe red plum note. 50% Merlot, 30% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, bottled a year earlier than the other reds in the portfolio with blending occurring after ageing in a mix of barrels and cement tank.
    • Cristal 2013 is a wine that is already multi-faceted, surprisingly so given its relative youth in the grand pantheon of prestige cuvées; the aromatics and flavours are complex, concentrated and pixilated, with floral and fruity notes interwoven with savoury. Pale to medium shiny gold, the bead is inviting with fine, steady bubbles; powerful, intense aromas of ripe fruit (yellow plum), citrus peel, lightly roasted hazelnuts and honey – there’s so much going on here. The colour and the depth of the aromatics suggests more evolution than there is. From the first taste it is clear that this is a young Champagne. The immediate attack has a pronounced salty note, then there’s an explosion of ripe fruits, soft, ripe, juicy and rounded, the mousse building with tactile energy and chalky freshness; the wine is highly textured, gently rasping your tongue with mineral, lime sorbet, and little spikes of detail – lemon
    • Defy Organic White Wine Tart, Abruzzo, Limpid/ pale straw; the nose is intensely floral and pretty, candied fruit, slight confected/ sherbet edge – like Raspberry Pez. On the palate the wine is fresh, immensely drinkable, especially from the shiny cold polished tin, the shape works well. The nose gives the notion of sweetness, that is not carried across on the palate – the wine is dry with a hint of fresh citrus/ sourness. It is designed to be drunk from the can and that works very well, less so from a glass.
    • Wood-fermented Malvasia from pre-phylloxera vines, some up to 150 years old, mixed with 5 other unnamed white varieties. This is a new ‘statement’ Spanish white from Vintae’s Toro project, that aims to show the world the real potential of these forgotten old-vine whites in Toro, which only make up 5% of the region, white grapes having been stopped planting in the mid-20th century. The grapes are spontaneously fermented in new 600-litre French oak casks with light toasting. To look at the wine is deep straw gold; the aromatics are complex with ripe stone fruits, wild honey, pollen, seasoned wood, a touch of tropical fruit (banana) and vanilla pod. The palate is medium bodied, oleaginous and creamy, rich and ripe but with a decent structure, the acidity balancing well. The wine is called La Jefa (meaning “The Boss”) and is the fourth wine in an old vine series, making wine in
    • Plavac Mali is a Croatian grape related to Tribidrag (recently discovered to be the ‘origial’ Zinfandel), which grows on the southern slopes of the stony Dingač appellation. When young the grape’s tannins can be bitter and the alcohol levels out of balance. With age, however, the wine is a real discovery. The wine has been aged in small oak barrels then stored in bottle ever since. On the eye the wine was clearly evolved, medium tawny, the aromas an intriguing mix of fig jam, smoke, liquorice, spice market. The palate was initially rounded with some totally-integrated tannins still framing the aged fruit – figs, currants, red liquorice, sweet tobacco. Although the alcohol was 15% ABV it was by no means ‘punchy’ or cloying – the med-high acidity of the grape keeping things in check. A real eye-opener. Skaramuča is the winery.
    • Pale to medium gold in colour, the aromatics speak very much of the proximity to the sea and the % of wine that is fermented whole bunch in barrel. There’s attractive ripe orchard fruit, grilled hazelnuts and a wisp of smoke; the palate is textured, bright, firm acidity, reasonably high alcohol at 14%, with a slightly burnt pineapple note that Oz Clarke rightly likened to the burnt jammy edge of the rice pudding, or burnt jam on his mum’s jam tarts – in a good way! The finish is intense and prolonged. RRP £14-15
    • Getting ahead ourselves but tomorrow is  #MalbecWorldDay   #worldmalbecday  and what better way than to mark by it than with these two luscious beauties from one of Argentina’s best and most consistent winemakers Luigi Bosca  @vinosluigibosca . These are from 2018 and are packed with the bright red fruits you expect from a quality Malbec but as they come from 990m above sea level in  #Vistalba  in Lujan de Cuyo they have that all important freshness and conformiting mouth feel that makes it easy to have another glass. Must save a bottle for tomorrow night though. Imported by  @bancroftwines   @culturalcomms   @winesofarg   @philcroz   #argentina   #malbec   #wine   #fridaywines  RS
    • Complex, dry Weiser Burgunder from the Pfälz which has good balance between lusciousness, ample mouthfeel and a core of crushed-rock acidity. The wine is made from fruit grown on the highest West and South-facing vineyards in the region; after fermentation it has long contact with the barrels and goes through full malolactic fermentation. The wine is racked before bottling but not filtered “to hold all the aromatics.” To look at the wine is limpid with a green-yellow hue and slight lack of clarity; the nose is complex, ripe and fruity, with notes of pear cake, honeysuckle, a twist of citrus, an intensity and tannic structure coming from a long time on the yeast; medium weight on the palate with an interesting balance between warm and creamy mouthfeel with a fine spine of acidity, minerality and tingly citrus.
    • 100% Syrah from Fattoria Le Pupille, (Toscana IGT) from two contrasting single vineyards in the Maremma, and with two different vinification approaches. The fruit from the larger, East-facing vineyard was fermented in open tonneaux with 5% whole-bunch, then matured for 15 months in the same vessels; the fruit from the smaller plot was vinified in terracotta jars, left on the skins for five months – the blend of the two wines is followed by maturation in a mix of new and aged 300l French barriques for 12 months and then bottled for three years. On the eye the wine is medium purple with light edging; the nose has wonderful freshness and depth, it is clearly Syrah - all black fruit, red plum, blue plum skin and pepper but has Mediterranean influences too – liquorice, cloves, spice, some savoury and earthy elements too, bit of beef stock. The palate is dry-stone