Sicily’s renaissance as a wine region has its roots in the mid-1970s when Diego Planeta’s influence started to be felt. In the past 20 years the seeds he sowed have borne fruit, with a massive increase of outside investment in new estates, improved facilities and a passion for maintaining and re-discovering Sicily’s viticultural heritage – just last month 6 new grape varieties being re-discovered. Stefano Girelli is a part of this new wave with his two organic estates Santa Tresa and Cortese producing wines of outstanding quality and value, using local varieties – Catarratto, Grillo, Fiano, Frapatto, Nero Mascalese and Nero d’Avola – and a mix of modern viticulture and ‘old style’ winemaking.
Restless River is one of a growing number of producers in South Africa which has sprung up in the past 20 years – challenging the old order and helping to define the country as a genuine fine wine region and not just a ‘value option’. Six years since discovering the wines at a craft fair in Constantia, and helping set up its import into the UK, our roving editor Roger Jones was re-united with Restless River’s owner and winemaker Craig Wessels. They taste through a number of vintages of Wessels’ wines as well as catch up on some of his winemaking techniques and separate the fact from the fiction – like ‘the one’ about him learning winemaking from a 2-day weekend course.
Since leaving Plumpton College in 2014 with a degree in oenology, Sergio Verrillo and his wife Lynsey have taken a different path to most winemakers in England and Wales. At their winery Blackbook they make very little sparkling wine and, instead, focus on making still Burgundian wines, along with some ‘weird beardy’ blends. And they do this all in the heart of London. Fresh into urban winemaking himself, wine scribe and fellow Plumpton graduate Chris Wilson put Blackbook’s wines through their paces.
Hot on the heels of her Bordeaux red blend, The Mentors Orchestra 2018, winning the Veritas Vertex award for best South African wine, winemaker Izele van Blerk takes Victor Smart through the entire The Mentors range, with a selection of cheeses to match. The KWV winemaker is allowed a free rein on how she makes the company’s prestige wines and which she picks as the varietal that takes the top premium spot – with this vintage the accolade going to a Petite Sirah of which only 1000 bottles have been made.
As climate change takes its toll on many traditional winemaking areas, so the fresh, natural acidity to be found in the wines of cool climate regions such as Tasmania will become greater prized. Speaking direct from Australia’s island state, Rebecca Duffy from Holm Oak, Jeremy Dineen from Josef Chromy and Peter Caldwell from Dalrymple attempt to define what makes Tasmanian Pinot Noir so unique and demonstrate it through six wines from the 2017 and 2018 harvests.
Bodegas Barbadillo is one of the founders of the modern sherry business, with important historical claims throughout history. It was the first producer to name a Manzanilla, the first to bottle it, and the first to pioneer ‘en rama’ as a modern sherry category. Jessica Broadbent heard from Barbadillo’s Tim Holt about the real importance of the bodega design, the stories behind five of its sherries plus a remarkable discovery that has led to a new sherry-based vermouth being released that is like a ready-made negroni.
Greece, Spain, New Zealand and England are just some of the countries that are producing sparkling wines that match, if not beat, the wines from Champagne on quality and undercut them on price every time. That’s the view of wine consultant Robert Mason who highlights seven wines that he believes will work well in the on-trade (when it gets back up to speed). He also investigates the use of bentonite, the artificially reduced yields during 2020, vintage wine release patterns and price and wonders whether status is over-playing its part in the Valée de la Marne.
The Champagnes of Billecart-Salmon have always been a connoisseur’s favourite, but the reputation of one of its top two wines Cuvée Nicolas François was sealed in 1999 when the 1959 vintage was declared to be ‘Champagne of the Millennium’. As if that wasn’t enough the same wine in the 1961 vintage was declared the runner-up! Anne Krebiehl MW talks to CEO Mathieu Roland-Billecart and cellar master Florent Nys about this extraordinary cuvée, why 2007 is such an energetic vintage and, of course, tastes Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François 2007 with full tasting notes.
English and Welsh sparkling wines that are fermented in bottle now have a new official hallmark, Classic Method. But what does this new initiative from Wine GB mean for the future of our sparkling wines? Will it increase exports, be understood by customers abroad and even be understood by customers on home soils? Justin Keay ponders all of the above while tasting eight top examples of Classic Method – some well known and some new to him – and providing an update on how the 2020 harvest has gone in relation to the previous two vintages.
Despite all the problems that Covid-19 has created for the usual smooth running of the wine supply chain, there are huge efforts being made by generic and trade bodies to give producers and buyers as much of a chance as possible to still show, taste and select wines. This was typified last week with Business France’s Val de Loire Unlocked session that gave buyers and the press the chance to taste in person a selection of 70 AOC wines from producers looking for distribution in the UK. Geoffrey Dean was there for The Buyer to pick out his highlights.
Set up by former Chivas Brothers’ Laurent Lacassagne and Patrick Venning the Brixton Distillery Company is setting out to capture some of the boutique end of the premium spirits market. Its inaugural release is Market Row Rum which adds botanicals and spices to a Caribbean rum blend – all of which come from nearby Brixton Market. Victor Smart put on his most colourful shirt, adjusted his extensions and turned the Eddy Grant to 11.
Petaluma showcased its new Yellow Label releases and a couple of older wines on a recent Zoom tasting and our Australian wine lover and editor at large Roger Jones takes time out of his culinary escapades to rule over these wines. Accolade eschewed the customary miniature sample bottles and instead sent Roger, and other wine experts, full bottles plus one magnum of an aged museum release. Petaluma chief winemaker Mike Mudge led proceedings with his usual banter and the wines themselves were on very fine form.
Not one to shirk a challenge, Suntory decided to launch its new world travel retail brand Ao during a global pandemic, when international travel is at an all-time low. The spirit itself was also quite a feat, being a blend of whiskies from the five countries where Suntory owns distilleries – Scotland, Ireland, United States, Canada and Japan – with the concept behind it being a whisky that is all things to all whisky lovers the world over. How could it possibly succeed? Suntory’s Mike Miyamoto, whose brainchild Ao is, explained to Geoffrey Dean the thinking behind the brand which involved an ingenious tasting of different components to illustrate what each country’s whisky brings to the party.
Three new gins from Norwich-based boutique distiller Gyre & Gimble are genuinely rather strange. But then seeing as they were inspired by the imagination and works of Lewis Carroll, use the look and feel of a craft beer and were conceived and made during the first national Lockdown, that is hardly surprising – one uses sea water as a dilutant while another is infused twice with fresh cherries. But these gins are also rather good as Peter Dean discovered when he tasted a Coastal Gin, Cherry Gin and excellent London Dry with the distillery’s co-creator Craig Allison.
Wines from Central & Eastern European countries are starting to get the international recognition they deserve, which is surprising given that some of these regions are the cradle of viticulture. Although countries like Romania, Greece and Moldova produce many excellent wines from international grape varieties it is with indigenous grapes that winemakers in those countries really come into their own – an exciting mix of tradition and innovation. At a recent IWSC tasting these are the 13 Central & Eastern European white wines that really stood out.
No elbows were needed at this year’s annual Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) tasting in London, and the Leoville Barton didn’t run out – the new tasting environment for the assessment of the Bordeaux 2018 vintage was seated, took five hours with 130 wines tasted. Our man at the tasting, Geoffrey Dean, selects the best wines, appellation by appellation as well as gets the views from 13 of the top châteaux owners on where lies the strengths and weaknesses of Bordeaux 2018.
Six Chardonnays from Western Australia’s Margaret River were presented to the UK press last week in a webinar entitled Margaret River World Class Chardonnay. For Roger Jones, retired Michelin star chef and editor at large for The Buyer, there was only one truly world class Chardonnay on show and that was the 2018 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Margaret River Chardonnay which Jones recently awarded a gold star Decanter award to. Jones reviews all six wines as well as details the mystery of the Gingin Chardonnay clone that was solved recently this year.
At the launch of the new Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs 2012, Alice Paillard likened 2012 to the classic 2002 vintage, stressing that in 2012 the base wines (strangely) had both higher acidity and maturity. This Champagne is a ‘survivor’ of the weather that spring – the resulting wine ‘compact’ and with long-ageing potential. Anne Krebiehl MW talks to Paillard and is smitten with the wine.
The wines of ‘new Chile’ demand a fresh look by wine buyers if the 16 best new Chile wines selected by Tim Atkin MW are anything to go by. In a two-part 3-hour tasting review, with 16 winemakers beamed in from around Chile, this superb session showed off the freshness and diversity of the wine styles that have undergone a sea-change here. Gone were the heavy, oaky, rich, sweet wines of yore and in their place were 16 wines with less extraction and reduction, and more of a sense of place. The sessions also showed how far Zoom tastings have come in six months – punctual, technically faultless with the wines showing well. Peter Dean reports.
With a father from Burgundy new Veuve Clicquot chef de cave Didier Mariotti was clearly at ease talking about the new Pinot Noir-led prestige cuvée La Grande Dame 2012 at its launch yesterday. Even though the wine ‘is not his’ and neither was the decision to increase the amount of Pinot Noir in the mix to 90%, he clearly values the decision, going into some detail with Anne Krebiehl MW about where the fruit is sourced from and why, the use of bitterness on the finish and also how important the shape of the glass is. To emphasise this point LVMH sent out two different glasses with the tasting pack so that Anne could taste the difference.