It is one of the highlights of the year, of course, when Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago launches the new Penfolds Collection, and takes the floor in front of hundreds of journalists, showing that, if he hadn’t become one of the world’s top winemakers he could easily have cut it on the standup comedy circuit. Yesterday’s launch of Penfolds Grange 2016 was a little different – six wine writers in London’s 67 Pall Mall club with Gago beamed in live on Zoom. The wines were all present and correct and were showing well. Our man at the tasting was Australian wine expert and chef Roger Jones who assesses each wine in full.
With his wine explorer wings clipped by Covid, Justin Keay set about trying to discover in England the four best wines from four wineries he picked from four counties. In this piece he visits Greyfriars in Surrey and Tinwood Estate in West Sussex, a winery that is probably the largest English producer you’ve never heard of. After picking his four wines, Keay then went on to explore five more wineries including Litmus Wines, Cottonworth, Danebury and Kingscote Estate and recommends which wines are the ones you should be buying.
Hugh Johnson OBE is the world’s best-selling wine writer with the publication of new editions of his Pocket Wine Book more consistent than a Port declaration. As the 2021 edition is released we caught up with him for a virtual coffee and chat to find out how he has been during the pandemic, what unexpected benefits there have been and which new winemaking countries have been impressing him… including Belgium. He also goes into some detail about which are the top 10 wines we should be trying in 2021
So impressed was Roger Jones with the sparkling wines of Tasmania’s House of Arras that, when he ran a Michelin-starred restaurant, he had the Arras Grand Vintage as his house pour. Ed Carr, winemaker at Arras, was awarded a lifetime achievement award at last year’s CSWWC awards, for which Jones is a judge, and for the new releases it was only natural that Carr took Jones through the new wines including a 13 year-old Rosé and the Arras Late Disgorged.
Unable this year to visit the far-flung wine-producing countries that tickle his palate, Justin Keay decided to set himself a challenge. Pick four different English wineries, that each have to be in different counties, and then pick one wine from each. And, rather than the larger estates and household names, he decided to visit the smaller wineries that may well be flying under your radar. Four Counties, Four Wineries, Four Wines Part 1 – Langham Wine Estate and Black Chalk Wine.
Limited edition cuvées are all the rage these days in Champagne, the latest in the fold being Billecart-Salmon which has just launched a new series of ‘pop-up’ cuvées called Les Rendez-Vous de Billecart-Salmon; wines where ‘when they’re gone they’re gone’. First in this series is No.1 Meunier Extra Brut which is a 3-crus 100% Meunier that is largely from the 2014 vintage and has spent 52 months on its lees – a wine that has come straight out of the House’s penchant for experimentation.
Following last month’s successful insight into the Czech wine revolution, Justin Keay here looks at how the Czech wine industry is at a fascinating crossroads – between catering largely for the home market and following Hungary and Austria’s example of successfully exporting to international markets. There is also a huge range of different styles of wine made from a very large number of grape varieties – both international and indigenous – that collectively reflect one of Czech wine’s main strengths, namely, producing highly drinkable wines with a high degree of freshness. Keay is a fan and picks out the wineries that you should be keeping an eye on.
Vinitaly is the key date in the diary for all those in the trade responsible for buying and selling Italian wine. But with the Verona-based fair cancelled this year, Enotria&Coe decided to celebrate La Dolce Vite in the only way it could – sending a case of their best Italian wines to key personnel with a mini film of each producer introducing their wines.
Zweigelt is Austria’s most widely planted red grape: famously fruity, seductively spicy, with a name that many find unsavoury because of who created it. Until now, the variety has been celebrated as a relatively simple, crowd-pleasing bistro wine, but if the producers from the Lower Austrian region of Carnuntum get their way, that perception is about to change, as we get to know the variety’s serious side.
As Grant Burge releases its new 2018 vintage wines, chief winemaker Craig Stansborough explains how the style of winemaking is evolving through the years, what recent vintages have been like, which are the ones to put on your buying radar and how Barossa Valley, in general, is moving with the times – in the use of oak, whole bunch, yeasts and vineyard management. Full tasting notes including a ‘ripper’ 2016 Meshach and a museum 2012 release.
Anne Krebiehl MW knows a thing or two about Spätburgunder. The Wines of Germany author simply adores Pinot Noir and when she met Sebastian Fürst and his father Paul from Weingut Rudolf Fürst for a tasting of their new 2018 vintage, she simply declared that she may have tried Germany’s finest. Well known in Germany, but under the radar in the UK, these wines are the purest elegance in a glass.
Since ‘retiring’ from running his Michelin Star restaurant, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, Roger and Sue Jones have been running a gastronomic ‘takeaway’ from their premises where customers can buy some of Jones’s signature dishes along with paired premium wines. Jones has also been a judge on three global wine competitions – judging wines from Alsace and three New World regions for the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC), Australian wines for the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) and next month working with the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships (CSWWC). So what approach does a wine expert/ chef take to the judging process and how has the dreaded C-word affected things?
Akitu has always had a very pure proposition – only producing two Pinot Noirs, Akitu A1 and Akitu A2, that show two sides of the same coin, namely the special terroir of the Wanaka end of Central Otago. So, when Andrew Donaldson and winemaker PJ Charteris decided to make a white wine it naturally enough had be a ‘Blanc de Noirs’, a wine that is as unusual as it is seductive, writes Anne Krebiehl MW. Here she reveals the full story behind Akitu Pinot Noir Blanc 2019 plus the new A1 and A2 from 2018, a vintage that created some serious challenges all of its own.
Post-Communism the Czech wine industry focussed on getting the basics right but since 2007 winemakers have started taking concepts like terroir, low intervention and organic more seriously. The landscape is varied, there’s an exciting diversity of styles and grape varieties, lower alcohol wine is a thing and there is a strong, concerted move to be producing Czech wines with a strong sense of place.
The 5th annual Willamette Pinot Noir auction 2020 goes live from today (August 11-13) focussing on the ‘Goldilocks’ 2018 vintage. Like most world events it is being held online, although the other major change this year has come about because of the social unrest in Oregon following the death of George Floyd. For this reason the Willamette Valley Wineries Association is working with the James Beard Foundation to benefit Black and Indigenous Peoples of North America. L.M. Archer reports on the changes this year, a virtual seminar moderated by David Adelsheim on August 6 and previews some of the exciting lots that are up for grabs in the trade auction.
Although Heidi von der Mehden has been at California estate Merry Edwards for the past five years, 2018 was her first vintage fully in charge. Anne Krebiehl MW tastes the new 2018 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc and AVA Pinots and hears first hand from Heidi where she is intending to take the wines. We learn too why the SB came out of Meredith Edwards’ distaste of the varietal, plus how pivotal the key UCD 37 clone of Pinot is, and how it came into being.
Always one to have an opinion about a Bordeaux vintage, Joss Fowler thinks that Bordeaux 2010 is the Lewis Hamilton vintage – all the bling, all the gear but a tad aggressive and overworked. But the best wines of 2010, fifteen or twenty or so of them, are breathtaking – wines that will knock the socks off anyone lucky enough to taste them, especially when they are mature. It is these wines that the reputation of 2010 will live off for years, he believes. Here he blind-tastes the very best of them, at speed and with the clock ticking.
Three years since Rioja introduced its Single Vineyard category, Ramon Bilbao unveils its long-anticipated Lalomba project – a series of Vinedos Singulares wines that set out to capture the individual character of each very special vineyard. The entirely new Finca Valhonta andLadero reds are the producer’s most expensive ever wines and the Finca Lalinde 2019 Rosado is a re-launched premium rosado, which all share an unprecedented degree of background research and development. Quite apart from the individual merits of each wine, collectively Lalomba shows how producers in Rioja are starting to believe that terroir character can be a better predictor of quality than the length of time that a wine spends maturing in a barrel.
American viticulture has the ability to deliver fantastic mineral-driven, complex, refined, long-ageing, and refreshing white wines that remind one of great Old World regions such as Burgundy, Mosel and the Loire. But in the past two decades a new breed of winemaker is ensuring that American AVAs are developing their own, unique characteristics. Nowhere is this more true than Finger Lakes in New York State, whose cool climate Rieslings have been going through a Renaissance in the past eight years – switching from a semi-dry style to dry and starting to reap the benefits.
When the invite came through to help take part in the judging and blending of the new La Única project from Felix Solis I took a double take. The time and date was for an actual venue alongside other people, rather than sit in on a Zoom tasting. But when I nervously arrived at Camino in Kings Cross to take part there, as well as my fellow real life tasters, was a large screen with not just one Zoom tasting taking place, but five others simultaneously happening in China, Germany and Spain. Welcome to the new normal of virtual, and actual wine tastings. Here Richard Cochrane, head of Félix Solís in the UK, explains how La Única concept works and why it wanted to make it a global online event.