Spirits and fortified specialist Kate Hawkings found plenty to be impressed by at last week’s Specialist Brands portfolio tasting – liquids that were on-trend towards lighter long-drink styles and ones that play to the post-Covid stay-at-home-mixologist. She talks to all the key players, picks a Top 10 that definitely need your attention, plus highlights market innovations such as Boatyard’s 2.8 litre refill pouches of vodka and gin that help the on-trade save 25% over the same drink in bottle.
Although wine lovers the world over will be familiar with Wynns Coonawarra Estate and its iconic Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, this is still a misunderstood region, with the estate’s Michael Shiraz somewhat neglected. In a rare back vintage tasting which showed the three new flagship wines: Wynns John Riddoch 2019, Michael Shiraz 2018 and Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 against much older library wines, Justin Keay discovers, with the help of Wynns winemaker Sarah Pidgeon, what makes Wynns tick and how the wine styles are changing.
With over 1,000 years of winemaking the Luberon isn’t a new wine region by any stretch of the imagination. But its wines have been over-shadowed by its two closest neighbours Provence and the Rhône. Wine communicator of the year, Sophia Longhi, visits the Luberon for The Buyer and reports that, with its core values of sustainability and biodiversity, teamed with approachable, versatile and accomplished wines, it’s now Luberon’s time to shine.
Mathieu Bordes, winemaker and general manager of the 3rd growth, Saint-Julien estate Lagrange, was in town to show a remarkable 11-wine vertical of the grand vin dating as far back as 1982 and including such legendary wines as the 1990 and 2000. Bordes explains in detail how they made the 2016 which he considers one of the best-ever produced, why they were never bothered about Robert Parker’s disdain for the estate, and why two thirds of production at the estate is dedicated to making Les Fiefs, one of Bordeaux’s truly great second wines. Geoffrey Dean reports
Craggy Range made history this month by being the first New Zealand winery ever to be sold on the historic La Place de Bordeaux. This honour should come as no surprise, argues Robert Mason who shows how, in the 25 years since land was bought for the estate in Hawke’s Bay, Craggy Range has become an iconic New Zealand winery which has never lost sight of its sense of place or its family ties. Meeting up with head winemaker Julian Grounds, Mason gets an invaluable insight into the workings of the winery as well as gets to taste the new vintages of ‘Le Beaux Cailloux’ Chardonnay, ‘Aroha’ Pinot Noir, Le Sol Syrah and the Bordeaux blend Sophia.
Mags Janjo is no stranger to readers of The Buyer – from winning a place to study for his MW through the Golden Vines Scholarship to supporting female winemakers across the globe with the diverse portfolio at MJ Wine Cellars, the wine distribution business he set up in 2019. Following initial success at wine trade shows, Janjo and the team put on their inaugural portfolio tasting at the WSET School in Bermondsey earlier this month. We sent our very own Mike Turner to taste his way through the wines on offer.
For number one whiskey and bourbon fanboy extraordinaire, Neil Hennessy-Vass, the chance to try new spirit, Drew Mayville’s Signature Blend, alongside the man himself was an opportunity too good to miss. Mayville is a Goliath of blending, sitting as he does at the helm of Sazerac the company that owns The Last Drop Distillers, that is managing this exclusive release and whose 28th rare liquid this is. With only 1500 bottles produced you’ll have to be quick to grab a bottle, and you’ll have to have a cool £3,100 in your wallet…
British wines are in rude health: sales are up; the quality is getting better; 2022 promises to be a magnificent vintage; the choice is greater with 195 wineries now spread across England and Wales; and there are many exciting newcomers such as Carr-Taylor, Stopham, Velfrey, Hebron, White Castle and The Wharie Experience just to name a small selection of the many discoveries made by Justin Keay at the WineGB tasting on Tuesday. In addition to sharing his exciting finds, Keay lists his Top 10 wines of the tasting, including some names that maybe more familiar and some cuvées that are out of this world.
Michael Brajkovich has been making some of the best value Chardonnay in the world at Kumeu River from his estate close to Auckland in New Zealand. The winery has been expanding recently with vineyards sourced from Trinity Hill in Hawkes Bay – but the trademark quality is still there, writes Antipodean wine expert Roger Jones. To launch the new Kumeu River 2021 vintage, marketing manager Paul Brajkovich was in London on Monday to show all the wines and lunch with Jones at Mayfair’s exclusive 67 Pall Mall wine club.
While the 2022 Douro harvest gets underway with quality not quantity being the watchword in this drought-stricken year, time to reflect on the newly-released Quinta do Noval 2020 and Nacional 2020, both of which have immense richness, power and concentration, according to Peter Dean. Reflecting on time spent at this extraordinary quinta, he pinpoints why these ports are so special and gets some insight from managing director Christian Seely about the release strategy of the new ports and some of the thinking that has gone on behind the 2020s.
English saignée rosé is tipped to be a major new category for the English and Welsh wine industry – a more gastronomic pour than traditionally-assembled pink fizz. To put six of our finest to the test (with two ringers from Champagne) wine expert Douglas Blyde chaired a fascinating blind-tasting session last Friday to which our own Stephen Vey was one of the judges. Much was learned by everyone present although the jury is still out from the winemakers themselves – some think it the purest terroir-driven expression of Pinot Noir we can achieve in England while one is unsure they will be repeating the ‘experiment’.
If you thought that Australia’s greatest ever show wine was Grange, think again. It is, in fact another Penfolds wine, the 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A, which is a Shiraz Cabernet blend and a style of wine that Australia does better than anyone else… even though it has been slowly going out of fashion. Showcasing this unique Australian icon is the key driver behind The Great Australian Red 2022 competition which was hosted yesterday in London for the first time in its 16 year history. Our editor-at-large and Australian specialist, Roger Jones was asked to join Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer to judge this year’s awards at 67 Pall Mall, from where he gives all the results as well as explains in depth the thinking behind this flagship Australian wine event.
Five new Italian wine estates and three Spanish have been added by Carson & Carnevale to its portfolio in a September refresh. The multi-channel importer and distributor is now working with Kellerei St Paul’s, Marchesi di Barolo, Tenuta Scuotto, Assuli and San Giusto a Rentennano from Italy and Bodegas y Viñedos Monteabellón, Navascués Enología and Viñedos de Sonsierra from Spain. Peter Dean tasted through the range, introduces each estate and picks out his key highlights.
The Saint Mont wine region in SW France was ‘lost’ 40 years ago – turning out cheap Tannat-based wine and spirits with many winemakers giving up and moving on to other businesses. André Dubosc changed all that by setting up the Plaimont cooperative that now accounts for 98% of Saint Mont AOC, half of Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic Bilh with well over 600 growers. It is now one of the most transformative and genuinely exciting wine regions in France, reviving forgotten pre-phylloxera grape varieties that can help counter global warming and a renewed focus on old vines, premium sites and ancient varieties. Geoffrey Dean travelled to the region, attended the third Saint Mont Amelographic Days Conference and heard first-hand from Plaimont’s chief winemaker and managing director Olivier Bourdet-Pees about the exciting changes taking place.
Legendary (H)ermitage lived up to its billing. A tasting to see how Hermitage AOC winemakers had handled the heat of the 2019 vintage and the hurdles of 2020, followed by a dinner of truly epic proportions. This was the first Syrah celebration that the AOC had conducted in 31 years and the first-ever in London, and it soon became one of those pinch-yourself moments where legendary bottle after legendary bottle were poured and drank.
In June this year the Venetian wine estate, Villa Bogdano 1880, hit the wine headlines by becoming a major sponsor of the Old Vine Conference, a UK non-profit company for the support of historic vineyards. The inclusion of their Lison Classico 2019 in the Old Vine Masterclass line-up at the London Wine Fair, also held this summer, sealed their place amongst global producers that endeavour to enhance and give recognition to heritage vineyards as a new commercial category, sharing vineyard best practices, management and marketing strategies. Earlier this year, at VinItaly, The Buyer’s Mike Turner sat down with Villa Bogdano 1880 owner Domenico Veronese to try the wines for himself and discover more about the ethos behind the estate.
Sake is not just a drink, it’s a world all of its own. For wine and spirits lovers, especially in recent years as exports have increased, it is providing another frontier of production techniques, styles, history, and culture for us to all to “geek out on” whilst enjoying a truly iconic set of products. We sent sake newbie, Mike Turner, to a recent Gunma Sake event in London to find out for himself.
Industry icon Tor Kenward has been making wine in Napa since the early days when the valley was filled with just cowboys, dreamers and a handful of vines. After 27 years working for Beringer, learning from some of the biggest names in wine and setting up TOR Wines, Kenward has opened up in his memoir Reflections of a Vintner. Victor Smart met him in Quo Vadis where he tasted the latest vintages of Tor’s boutique brand of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends and gassed about the effects of Parker, Bottle Shock and much more.
Sophia Longhi travels to Sopron, Hungary’s oldest wine region, a place that shares a border, language, culture and key grape variety with Austria – Blaufränkisch or Kékfrankos, which accounts for two thirds of Sopron’s plantings. The region used to be used exclusively for making white wines but now there is a growing tradition of sparkling, rosé and reds of which Kékfrankos is one of many. Longhi discovers how it is the sub-Alpine climate and unique schist-based soils that make the wines worth seeking out and gives pointers as which wineries you should start with.
To what extent is the Loire a cohesive wine region? This was one of the key questions Justin Keay kept asking himself on his very first visit to the region. A blindspot in terms of actually visiting the area, Keay was armed with some knowledge and preconceptions when he travelled through the region earlier this year, but found plenty new to discover in terms of appellations, grapes and wine styles. Click here for his first impressions.