When Giorgio Lungarotti passed away in 1999 he left his Umbrian winery in the capable hands of his wife Maria Grazia and their two daughters Chiara and Teresa. Together they have helped put Umbrian wine on the international wine map – but it has not been easy. Teresa was one of the first female oenologists in Italy while company CEO Chiara found that she was the only woman in the associations of which she was a member. Their style is individual and uncompromising and their wines, including the famous Rubesco, reflect the unique terroir of Umbria in all its power and elegance.
While recent fashion dictates that rosé is a wine that is only salmon pink and to be enjoyed al fresco, served from an ice bucket, the Tavel rosé wines are an altogether different beast. These are not for those looking for delicate aperitif rosés, but are more serious wines, preserving their heritage and just as happily paired with winter food as a summer salad. With skin contact ranging from 12 to a more traditional 72 hours, Tavel rosés have more colour, weight, structure, firm minerality and hint of tannin, compared to their Provencal counterparts. World rosé expert, Elizabeth Gabay MW, tastes a range of 30 Tavel rosé to highlight their different styles.
Bling gift boxes for luxury cuvées will be a thing of the past and Dom Ruinart is happy to be the first major Champagne house to ditch them in order to reduce carbon footprint, says chef de cave, Frédéric Panaïotis; “The time for action is now.” Speaking at the 50th anniversary launch of Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2009, the morning after the devastating April frost, Panaïotis wants consumers to understand the effect climate change is having on the future of the region as well as how it affects the style of the Champagne they are drinking. A deep dive into the 2009 vintage, and the decisions he and his team have to make during increasingly early harvests made for enlightening and sobering listening. Peter Dean had an audience and tastes and rates the new cuvée in full.
To many, Donnafugata is a byword for Sicilian wine, such is the company’s reach and influence. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year the company has 410 hectares of vines spread across five estates on Sicily, all with their own vinification and ageing facilities, and all producing wines with a mix of international and indigenous varieties. To highlight the wines from their most recently established winery on Etna, brother and sister owners, Antonio and José Rallo held a tasting to show the 2018 vintage, along with the spectacular work they are doing in their single vineyard sites.
To achieve a House style and avoid the vagaries of the sometimes inclement Hampshire weather, Exton Park’s new range of English Sparkling Wines owes more than a passing nod to Champagne. Exton Park RB, or Reserve Blend, is a range of three wines that are all non-vintage and made from up-to 32 different base wines. David Kermode had an audience with winemaker Corinne Seely to find out how she is aiming to make Exton Park “an English Bollinger” and to taste and rate the new wines.
La Jefa is a new 100% wood-fermented Malvasia from pre-phyloxerra vines in Toro. It is the latest wine in the Bodega Matsu portfolio (the wines that have close-up photos of farmers), a project that has been trying to prove that the Toro region can make wines of real finesse – and save 100+ year old vines in the process. Peter Dean attended the all-whistles-and-bells global launch of the wine, hears from CEO Richi Arambarri and chief winemaker Raul Ache, and tastes and rates La Jefa alongside the new vintages of the other three Matsu wines.
Justin Keay has seen the future of real-life wine tastings and they should be hosted outside – weather and venue-permitting, of course. But they also need to be run as professionally as ‘French Spark’ was. This was a physical wine tasting held last week, hosted by Business France, which highlighted a range of French sparkling wines that have yet to find distribution in the UK. Keay discovered a 100% Petit Meslier (a rare white-skinned variety), an Aligoté/ Muscat blend from the Rhône plus plenty of Crémant de Bourgognes that were impressive as well as great value for money.
The last time Roger Jones had a Mornington Peninsula tasting, he was the host and the local recycling centre had to work overtime. No rave this year but the Pinot Noirs were tasting just as exceptional, making the case once again, Jones believes, that these wines are arguably the best New World Pinots there are. Matthew Jukes was the compere to this insight into ‘Australia’s Pinot Coast’, Jones had an ‘access all areas’ ticket, and here tastes and rates eight of the best.
Portobello Road Gin has only been around for ten years but in that time it has established itself as both a bartender and consumer’s favourite. Part of the secret of their success has been that the distillery was set up by bartenders. One of those, co-founder Jake F Burger, took Fiona Holland through the thinking behind four of their classic expressions and why the company has one foot in the past in order to take two steps into the future.
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Louis Roederer’s chef de cave, confesses to being more laid back these days – less obsessed with House style and letting the vintage and the grapes dictate the course of the winemaking more. Only the second vintage of Cristal to be made since transitioning fully to biodynamic farming, the Louis Roederer Cristal 2013 displays a number of changes in direction for the House – and there are more major changes in the pipeline. Peter Dean had an audience with Lécaillon at the UK launch of Cristal 2013, with Cristal 2008 constantly used as a reference point – the vintage he had previously declared was the best ever…
The Pays d’Oc IGP vineyard of South France is a cornucopia of vinous delights for wine lovers of all persuasions. It is a vineyard area that each year produces an astounding array of diverse rosé wines using the full palate of permitted grape varieties and styles. World rosé wine expert Elizabeth Gabay MW tastes through a range of the new 2020 vintage of Pays d’Oc IGP Rosé and highlights ones which use single varieties as diverse as Marselan and Petit Verdot, as well as blends.
The Armit Italian portfolio tasting has always been a key date in the diary of serious wine buyers. Ever since John Armit set up in the company in the late 1980s, Italy has been Armit’s strongest suit. This year the company engineered an unprecedented access to the portfolio with buyers tasting up to 80 wines at home, including wines from its marquee producers such as Tenuta San Guido and Bruno Giacosa. In the first part of a tasting special Peter Dean picks 10 white wines that hit that sweet spot between accessibility and class, and focuses on wines that deliver outstanding value, at a time when the on-trade in particular needs to be buying more scrupulously than ever.
Lanzarote wines have a great future ahead of them, argues Justin Keay, who says that the vogue for wines from volcanic soils, plus the improving quality of the wines from the island is spelling good news for the growing number of wineries. In the past eight years the number of DO wineries on Lanzarote has almost doubled, with most of the winemakers at the top producers only in their 20s and 30s. Keay hones in on indigenous varieties Listan Negro and Malvasia Volcanica, and picks out four wines which are worth putting on your buying radar.
Following last year’s triumphant annual tasting in London, Austrian Wine knew it had a job on its hands to replicate the success of its ‘real life’ event under Lockdown conditions. Austrian Tasting UK: The Stay-at-home Edition, as it was billed, was also hugely impressive as David Kermode discovered. Over 6,000 samples were sent globally, every winemaker had a chat room, there were seminars from key industry figures and more.
There is quite a competitive set of wine regions that could compete to be both the most idyllic, but also the best at producing wine in the world. But with its combination of castles, towers and pretty villages, plus its spectacular range of white wines, serious Pinot Noirs and characterful Crémants, then Alsace would have to be one of the favourites. As we are currently not allowed to travel to see Alsace for ourselves, Les Vins d’Alsace has come up with its first DigiTasting® event that offers buyers the chance to meet producers online for one-to-one personal tastings, as well as pre-order samples to taste and take part in masterclasses and debates. Richard Siddle explains how it is going to work.
Bodegas Roda is a relatively new estate in Rioja but one which has made waves ever since it came onto the scene in the 1990s. Like many of the top bodegas it has an individual approach to how it makes its wine and is not afraid to break the rules. Its super-premium Rioja, Cirsion, for example is aged in French wood for just eight months and made from a selection of very old vines from over 30 vineyards. On the launch of Cirsion 2018, Peter Dean had an audience with the team and tasted the new wine alongside vintages from 2010, 2009 and 2004 to assess its unique properties.
Was it the endless confusion between Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé that led Loire producer Pascal Jolivet to change the name of his Sauvignon Blanc to Blanc Fumé for the UK market? Or was it because Blanc Fumé is the more common term by which Sauvignon Blanc used to be known? Victor Smart hears first hand from Jolivet as well as tastes the new 2020 vintage of the wine alongside three older vintages (2013, 2018, 2019) of Jolivet’s premium Sancerre Blanc “Sauvage”.
The Austrian winegrowing region of Carnuntum hosted Explore Carnuntum, an online wine fair for importers and retailers from around Europe, in late March. Each estate in this small, quality-focused Austrian wine region, hosted its own one-hour online tasting, to present itself, its production, its focuses in export and distribution and its approach in the vineyards and cellar. A guided flight of six wines was shipped out in advance to each interested party with potential business ‘break-outs’ originating from those tastings. Lilla O’Connor, lately the UK head of Wines of Hungary, took part and tells us what it was like and what she discovered.
Normally the first quarter of the year sees Louis Latour Agencies show off its portfolio in the flesh, something that obviously could not happen this year because of Covid. So, instead, the importer enlisted the services of wine expert Oz Clarke to pick six innovative wines that he thinks are ‘unexpected’ and break away from the norm. The six innovative wines show off the pioneering side of Louis Latour – both as an eleventh generation wine producer in Burgundy – and the agencies for which it sells and distributes wines in the UK.
Cap Classique, South Africa’s traditional method, premium sparkling wine, is neatly positioned between Prosecco and more expensive English Sparkling Wine or Champagne. As the category celebrates 50 years of production this year, South African wine expert Roger Jones looks back at the wine, the value it affords and picks a ‘magnificent 7’ that you should put at the top of your shopping list.