When Brut Elite Cuvee 1501 was adjudged to be Australia’s finest sparkling wine at this year’s Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships, it was yet another gong in a long list of awards that Tasmania-based winery House of Arras has racked up in the past 25 years. Arras winemaker Ed Carr could be forgiven for resting on his laurels, but far from it, as Geoffrey Dean found out when he met up with him for a one-on-one tasting in London. Since Carlyle Group’s purchase of Accolade Wines last year, the moves are being made for Arras to become a truly global brand, with production to increase by as much as 50% in the mid-term future.
As well as celebrating some of the world’s current leading players in wine and spirits at last night’s International Wine & Spirit Competition awards night it was also an opportunity to look to the next generation of business talent with the announcement of the IWSC’s first Future 50 Awards list, in partnership with the WSET, to recognise those individuals around the world that they believe will be helping to shape the drinks industry in the years to come. Here are the highlights from both the IWSC awards and the Future 50 list.
Italy is so blessed with different styles of fine wine it can be hard to stand out even if you make as prestigious and world famous wines as Amarone. It’s part of the reason why the Famiglie Storiche group of premium producers was set up. To both promote, but also to protect the reputation and prestige of these unique wines from Valpolicella in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy. This week, to mark the groups’s 10th anniversary, it is hosting a special walk around tasting in London featuring wines from all its crus and styles. Here Alberto Zenato, president of the group, explains what Famiglie Storiche is all about and what we can expect at the tasting.
The first barrel sample that Peter Sisseck ever tasted was a 1982 Mouton Rothschild. It became a benchmark of quality for the impressionable young Danish winemaker who left Bordeaux for Ribera del Duero and Pingus where he makes some of Spain’s greatest wines. Sisseck returned to Saint-Émilion a decade ago with the intention of making old school terroir-driven claret that relies on its limestone soils rather than over-extraction or over-barrelling for its power and individuality. In the intervening years, however, he believes Bordeaux has suffered from a standardisation that is making many of the wines taste the same. So how has he set out his stall differently? And, most importantly, are the wines of Château Rocheyron displaying those changes?
“It’s not a world we know – it’s unchartered territory”. But that does not mean the team at Origin Wine is not determined to make a success of their new venture into the premium on-trade with Origin Vineyards. An opportunity for Origin’s founder, Bernard Fontannaz, to take his considerable commercial experience working with the world’s biggest supermarkets and bring a more market, consumer-focused approach to his range of initially South African and Argentine wines for premium quality restaurants.
The English wine industry continues to surprise and surpass all expectations as production, quality and respect all around the world increases with every vintage. One of the leading players responsible for those changes is Ridgeview in East Sussex. It therefore feels very timely that a key member of its team, Tom Surgey, who heads up its sales and business development, should be shortlisted for this year’s IWSC Julian Brand Memorial Trophy to recognise one of the rising new talents of the wine industry.
Simon Robinson has an unique perspective on the British wine industry. He has fingers in a lot of pies – as chairman of both Hampshire-based winery Hattingley Valley and industry association WineGB. And he is bullish about the future of both. He has grown his estate from empty chalk hills to being one of the UK’s biggest wine exporters, his award-winning winemaker Emma Rice is set to make their first still Chardonnay and he believes that Brexit and a weaker pound will help the maturing industry secure distribution abroad. Justin Keay talks to the Hattingley team as well as tastes through their new releases.
Simpsons Wine Estate was set up in Barham, Kent six years ago with the intention of making English sparkling wine. The news that its Chalklands Classic Cuvee has just won a major gong at the CSWW awards with its first ever release is an indication that their young operation is producing sparkling wine at the right level of quality. But a third of its output is English still wine, a category that they believe holds the secret to their long term success. Peter Dean met them on the eve of their 2019 harvest to find out how they intend to take English still wine into quality levels it has so far failed to reach.
The UK wine trade is used to having the opportunity to take part in special wine tasting events. The world of wine is always keen to show what it can do to some of the planet’s most influential buyers. On November 1 the opportunity falls on Napa Valley to demonstrate how the style and diversity of Cabernet Sauvignon has evolved over the last 30 years with a special Perspective tasting that will allow producers to show how one wine has changed and adapted over three vintages. Here’s what you can look forward to.
Thankfully Liam Hirt and Danny Walker are not only close friends, but have become successful business partners in not one but two craft spirits businesses based in Bristol. First the Psychopomp Distillery, which is the result of what happens when you take a hobby that started out in a basement and open it up to the public. Its limited edition craft gins now sell out on demand. It is now looking to do the same with its grain and whisky concept, the Circumstance Distillery which is as much about combining flavours and ferments as it is about craft distilling. Richard Siddle caught up with this fascinating duo who have also created their own craft spirit cryptocurrency…as you do.
Famous for its historic Port production, it’s hard to believe that the Douro didn’t really make still wine until the end of the last century. Five producers changed all that – Quinta Vale D. Maria, Quinta do Vallado, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Vale Meão and Niepoort – and together they make up The Douro Boys. David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, flew to Porto to meet each of them as they get together to celebrate their 15th anniversary with a fund-raising auction which, this year, broke all records. He meets the characters, all of them very different, who have done so much to raise the profile of their region and highlights a few of his favourite wines.
If generic bodies like Wines of Argentina are going to get the message across to buyers and sommeliers across the country about how far their wines and styles are changing then it means putting the hard yards in. Which is what the autumn series of Barullo Sessions from Wines of Argentina is all about. The chance to take Argentine producers on the road and introduce them to key players both in and around London, but also in Scotland with a special event next week in Edinburgh. UK ambassador for Wines of Argentina, Phil Crozier, explains what they have in store.
Since acclaimed Austrian winemaker Lenz Moser accepted the role of chief winemaker at Château Changyu Moser XV in 2014, he has developed a range of wines that is sold in 40 markets around the world, including his barrel-fermented white Cabernet Sauvignon that has become the most successful Chinese wine ever, winning three major gold medals in Europe. His latest project is a super-premium Chinese wine to be launched in Marrakech, Morocco next spring, a Cabernet Sauvignon that will cost a hefty €150 a bottle. Louise Hurren caught up with him in Yinchuan and discusses his successes, mistakes and ambitions with bringing Chinese wine to the West.
They’re like buses and policemen… you wait an eternity to hear about a wine from Luberon, as we did with Les Quelles de la Coste, and then a week later everyone’s talking about them. Geoffrey Dean travels to this sunny corner of France made famous by Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and discovers why the wines of AOC Luberon have got everything going for them. Dean visits Château La Canorgue, which inspired the film A Good Year and also the domains of two individuals responsible for raising the profile of the area – Fabrice Monod at Château Fontvert and Paul Dubrule at La Cavale.
Ahead of this month’s Wines of Georgia trade tastings in London (October 2) and Manchester (October 8), Peter Ranscombe highlights six wineries that stood out for him on a visit last week to the former Soviet state. With a two-year waiting list for winemakers wanting to buy the nation’s iconic qvevri clay vessels for fermentation and ageing, production of higher-quality wines is poised to expand, creating more opportunities for UK merchants and restaurants looking to tap into the growing consumer curiosity surrounding amber wines.
Go on a wine tour of Australia and meet dozens of winemakers and you can be guaranteed that you will remember Brad Hickey over the majority of them. He has a personality, and warmth to match the quality of his wines. A fascinating character who clearly loves making the wines he does and pushing the envelope a little in terms of using amphora pots and and edgier varieties like Zibbibo to made skin contact wines that are fruity, refreshing and as bright as their labels all under his wine alter ego, Brash Higgins. You can come and meet him for yourself at Wine Australia’s Redefined tasting on September 17.
Now many people with a bit of character are often described as being ‘larger than life’. Well they have not met Australian winemaker Chester Osborn. He truly is a one off. A brilliant winemaker in his own right, but also a truly inspirational figure who has intertwined the worlds of conceptual and modern art with wine at his incredible Cube tasting facility – which is as much an art gallery as it is a place to discover d”Arenberg’s wines. Here we find out what we can expect when he takes part in the upcoming Wine Australia’s Redefined tasting in London on September 17.
For Gérard Bertrand, winning this year’s IWC ‘world’s best red wine’ award with his Château l’Hospitalet’s grand vin was further validation – if needed – of his entire winemaking philosophy. The largest and most influential independent winemaker in the Languedoc-Roussillon, Bertrand has always nailed his colours to the mast of biodynamics – convinced that this approach makes better wine, is better for the soil, the planet, and can help him when times are tough – like the massive heat wave the region experienced this summer. Peter Dean caught up with him to talk biodynamics, business strategy and whether the world is ready for a €190 Rosé from the Languedoc.
It’s a long way to come to London just to taste and share wines with your friends. But that is very much the spirit amongst South African winemakers, many of whom are close friends who love nothing more than just sitting back and enjoying each other’s wines. They also like showing them to buyers and sommeliers in the UK trade which is what Lukas Van Loggerenberg will be doing this week with a host of other winemakers at the third New Wave South Africa wine tasting.
When the first crew of Cotswolds Distillery showed up for work five years ago there were a few key things missing. Number one, apart from a couple, no-one had made whisky before. Number two, no distillery. And yet here we are five years down the line and this dynamic homegrown company has just picked up two IWSC gold medals for its Flagship and Founders Choice whiskies. Not only that but its gin has been building up a loyal following – on account of it going cloudy when you add tonic. For native New Yorker Daniel Szor, CEO of the company, it is the fulfilment of a dream – a dream that saw an ex-hedge fund manager who liked touring distilleries in Scotland set up his own in the Cotswolds. Geoffrey Dean visited Cotswolds Distillery and hears first hand how Szor and his team have managed such ‘overnight’ success.