It was just under two years ago that Tamra Kelly-Washington, former winemaker at Yealands, took over the reins at Seresin Estate – the Marlborough-based winery run by famed cinematographer Michael Seresin. With the wines now being distributed in the UK by Enotria&Coe, David Kermode aka Mr Vinosaurus, thought it was time to give the new vintages the once-over to see how they have progressed, looking at Leah Pinot Noir 2017, 2014, 2007 and 2004 as well as the 2018 whites.
It is a year since Champagne Bollinger launched the monumental La Grande Année 2008 and between that vintage and La Grande Année 2012 it has bottled no other La Grande Année wines. The 2012 more than lives up to expectations, Anne Krebiehl MW writes, with the 2012s being hedonistic from the get-go in contrast to the 2008’s understated appeal. Iconic English St JOHN Restaurant was chosen for the UK launch because of its focus on craft, simplicity and the essence of ingredients – key tenets shared with Bollinger and the construction of these stunning wines.
To celebrate 150 years of business in the wine trade James Davy uncorked an 1870 Madeira and an 1870 Port at its Old World Portfolio Tasting. Treating on-trade, consumers and the wine bars as one integrated business unit is one of the secrets of its success, says Davy. But so is its portfolio that covers all bases, argues Justin Keay. Davy’s focuses on small, almost boutique producers and has an impressive 90% exclusivity on its wines. Keay focuses on three producers in particular that highlight the direction Davy’s is headed in.
The volcanic heartland of Central France was the setting for Vinora, a 3-day wine fair and conference focused on celebrating the volcanic wines of the world – with particular emphasis on the wines of the Côtes d’Auvergne AOC and Puy-de-Dôme IGP. David Kermode travelled to Vulcania, a theme park near Clermont-Ferrand that hosted the event; hears from geologist Patrick Marcel and author John Szabo MS, attempting to shed some light on the link between volcanic terroir and what we experience in the wines; Kermode also picks 10 volcanic wines that ‘blew him away’.
Solid bankers for every wine list, some personal favourites and a couple of oddball wines for the wine geeks amongst us – Mike Turner picks his Top 10 wines from the Bancroft Wines 30th anniversary tasting. What was most surprising, though, was the amount of organic, biodynamic and vegan wines that Turner discovered on the list – 40% of all the wines were certified organic – and a long list of other sustainability initiatives.
The Tuscan estate of Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona is producing some of the most renowned Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino wines, along with a number of other wines using international varieties. Its top Brunello from the 2015 vintage has just been awarded 100 points by James Suckling and well it might – it’s a beauty. At its UK launch winemaker Paolo Bianchini showed off all of his new wines to a select group of wine buyers, alongside those of another classic Brunello vintage, 2010, as well as divulge the incredible-but-true story of how his family came to own this historic estate.
As recently as the year 2000, a seminal wine was produced that marked a dramatic shift in one of the most famous wine regions of the world. Istvan Szepsy’s now legendary Úrágya dry furmint is widely regarded as the first time a winemaker from Tokaj took the idea of producing a dry white wine seriously, and came up with a special result. 20 years on, Mike Turner attended the launch of Furmint February, a trade initiative to promote these dry Furmints from across Hungary, to hear all about the rapid shift in thinking and production.
Never one to sit on its laurels, Louis Latour Agencies has been busy adding new wineries to its 15-agency strong portfolio that includes many new vintages, cuvées and, in one case, winemaker. Particularly interesting was how Maison Louis Latour under the direction of Louis-Fabrice Latour is increasing its spread of Pinot Noir outside of core Burgundy territory – in Beaujolais, Coteaux de l’Auxois and Provence – and how these wines are getting better vintage by vintage. There were on-trade exclusives here as well as a brand new ‘natural’ Beaujolais from Henry Fessy.
By any stretch of the imagination Sassicaia 2017 is a remarkable achievement – born out of some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Tuscany and yet being a wine of great freshness, elegance and precision. They say that you should always follow a winemaker not a vintage and in the case of Tenuta San Guido, never was a truer word spoken as Peter Dean assesses the Sassicaia 2017 alongside the estate’s other two wines Guidalberto, 2018 and Le Difese 2018 in the company of Priscilla Incisa della Rochetta, the granddaughter of the estate’s visionary founder.
Robert Mondavi is one of the new marquee signings by Bibendum, amongst a whole raft of producers from the Lebanon, Austria, Italy, Patagonia and France. What wines were they showing at Bibendum’s For The Love Of…. tasting? and which are the ones that deliver best value for the on-trade? Peter Dean braved the packs of sommeliers, was wowed by a number of wines on show and found that leaving the venue was a darned sight harder than arriving…
Choosing the upper floors of the Science Museum as the venue for the annual generic tasting of Austrian wine in London said it all about the wines on show – bright, smart, modern, slick and inspiring. The Austrian wine body has also appointed a new chief to lead it into a new era, the audacity being that they’ve entrusted the role to a foreigner – a Brit, no less, in Chris Yorke. David Kermode caught up with him to find out how the post has been going and to highlight 10 wines that he thought best showed off where Austrian wine has been, where it is now and the exciting direction it is headed in.
The ghost of gonzo journalist Dr. Hunter S Thompson is never far away from the life of a spirits journalist. And this was certainly the case when Neil Hennessy-Vass traveled to Barbados to visit Foursquare Distillery with a copy of of the good doctor’s The Rum Diary under his arm. Producers of the Doorly’s range of aged rums, Foursquare is often referred to as the best rum producer in the world – well that’s what our hack thought when he was handed a glass and told to drink whatever he wanted to… What could possibly go wrong?
The rise in biodynamics and the ‘slow wine’ movement in Austria is making it one of the world’s most exciting wine regions. As Wines of Austria holds its much-anticipated annual tasting in London on February 3, critics and sommeliers are expected in their droves to discover for themselves this new-found creativity and diverse range of styles. ‘But don’t overlook Austrian rosé’ is the message from world expert Elizabeth Gabay MW who gives The Buyer an exclusive insight into the varying styles of Austrian rosé as well as the best of 80 wines she tried and tasted.
Rather than get stuck into Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines, this year The Buyer’s drinks editor, Peter Dean, focussed on entry level wines and shares his top 10 value-for-money red and whites from Bourgogne Week 2020. After a dozen or more tastings it was clear that 2018 is a vintage where you do not have to buy from the upper tiers. The quality, quantity and new quality control for wines from ‘lesser known’ appellations means there are great bargains to be had from the lowest tier wines.
Armed with a map of Occitanie, a tasting booklet and glass, David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus ventured into the unknown with last week’s French Wine Discoveries tasting. Luckily TV’s Joe Wadsack was on hand to guide Kermode and any other unsuspecting wine buyer through the mass of interesting wines from the South of France. As if to emphasise how Wadsack is one to snuffle out a gem of a wine and indeed a bargain, he was operating a novel ‘lucky dip’ the prizes being foie gras and fresh truffle (well it is Wadsack we’re talking about).
Ever since his first bottle of Grange in 1985, Roger Jones has been a huge advocate of Australian wine. A third of the wines on Joness 1000-strong bin wine list at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn are Australian wines, some dating back to the 1990s and beyond. But it is with Chardonnay that Jones believes that Australia competes on the world stage best – so with tasting glass in hand he dived into the whites at the Australia Trade Tasting with his customary gusto and has come up with a selection that he thought shone the brightest on the day.
Even with a multitude of Burgundy en primeur tastings across the capital, last week’s annual New Zealand trade tasting was a pretty busy rave – set overlooking the Thames at the OXO 2 in South London. Roger Jones, our soon-to-be-retired former Michelin star chef but even-more-roving reporter for The Buyer, has a look at the New Zealand in a Glass tasting and picks out the wines he thinks will do best in the premium on-trade.
Ask Ronan Sayburn MS where the most interesting country for making wine is right now and his answer will be Australia. Sayburn is one of the most influential wine buyers in the world and, after a military-style two week tour of Australia’s wine-making regions, he came back with a long list of wines which will challenge most people’s preconceptions about what the country is capable of making. At a special tasting event he talked through the eight wines that inspired him the most. Spoiler alert: the list may include some very unexpected bottles…
Emerging Wine Writer of the year Malu Lambert hooks up with fellow South African Craig Hawkins, who has been dubbed the Natural Wine King of South Africa, although you won’t catch him saying that. Hawkins was showing the new 2019 vintage of his Testalonga range – wines that have become famed for their uber-cool labels and sense of fun as much as their quality, and ability to transfer Swartland’s unique terroir into bottle. Although there are a lot of wines on the El Bandito and Baby Bandito labels, there is one clear philosophy – single grape, single soil. Oh! and all the varietals just happen to be Mediterranean.
Even with a venue greatly reduced in size, the annual generic New Zealand tasting which took place in London last week had bags of new ideas, new wines and new angles served up with its customary chutzpah. David Kermode heard how exports to the UK, New Zealand’s top overseas market, were in rude health thanks largely to its premium offerings; saw how well its wines can age; and also how great strides are being made to broaden the grape varieties from largely Sauvignon Blanc into other exciting territory.