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    Tasting: Wine
    Vin

    Santé! Business France’s VIN-tastic snapshot of French wine today

    VIN – the biggest French wine trade tasting in the UK this year – which took place last week featured 52 exhibitors, including five importers, 46 French wine producers and even a sparkling roulette. The aim was to give wine buyers, consultants and the media a snapshot of where French wine is in 2023, including the opportunity to taste many wines that are currently unavailable in the UK market. Sarah McCleary attended for The Buyer to find out what all the fuss was about.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Villa Maria

    Anne Krebiehl MW: Four new standout wines from Villa Maria

    Four wines, made from four grape varieties, show Villa Maria Wines at the top of its game. Usually, Villa Maria releases its Single Vineyard and Icon Wines in November but Anne Krebiehl MW was given a special taste of four wines in early 2023. Here she discovers the background to Villa Maria’s top wines and gives an in-depth tasting of Seaspray Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Keltern Chardonnay 2021, Taylors Pass Pinot Noir 2019 and Ngakirikiri 2019.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Romanée-Conti 2020

    How Romanée-Conti 2020 captures the ‘soul’ of the vintage

    The first unveiling of the finished Romanée-Conti 2020 wines took place in London last Thursday – an event that rivals Christmas for importance to most wine critics, and an event that engenders such FOMO that lucky invitees to Corney & Barrow HQ are forbidden to post images or mention the event before it happens. 2020 was the hottest vintage in Burgundy and the reds, in particular, can be hit and miss – so how did team Fenal and de Villaine do? Peter Dean went along to find out.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Colombo Cornas 2021

    How Domaine Colombo won in challenging Cornas 2021 vintage

    2021 may have been a challenging vintage for winemakers in Cornas but, on first tasting, the Domaine Colombo Cornas 2021 wines themselves have a fresh approachability that will be a hit with Rhône fans. Colombo’s Fanny Fouché showed Peter Dean the 2021 wines, explained the vintage and showed some older vintages over a classic French bistro lunch at legendary Soho drinking hole The French House.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Te Mata

    Getting to grips with wines of Hawke’s Bay’s Te Mata Estate

    Set up 130 years ago by North England Quakers, Te Mata in Hawke’s Bay became New Zealand’s largest winery by the turn of the Twentieth Century. Its flagship red, Coleraine, a blend of Merlot and Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc has also become New Zealand’s most famous red wine. In a landmark tasting, Roger Jones met up with Te Mata’s Toby Buck to taste through a range of Coleraine and the new vintages of Awatea, Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc, Elston Chardonnay, and Bullnose Syrah. That was after Roger discovered some fascinating facts about Toby…

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    Tasting: Wine
    Bibendum’s Art of Wine

    Bibendum’s Art of Wine and 10 ‘masters’ to install in your list

    Bibendum’s annual portfolio tasting is always a must-attend event. This year was no different with it staged in Battersea Arts Centre under the imaginative and effective theme of ‘The Art of Wine’. Justin Keay attended this preview, congratulated agencies for emphasising breadth and value-for-money and picks out 10 stand-out wines that should be displayed on many a shelf or list.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Slovak wine

    How UK’s first Slovak wine event was received by wine buyers

    One small step for the world of wine, one giant leap for Slovakia. This was the message that came out of The World of Slovak Wine tasting earlier this month in London. The first ever UK wine tasting devoted to Slovak wine was a small, focused affair that has helped put the wines on the map, with sommeliers, indies and niche wine consultants all raving about what they found and eager to discover more. Elizabeth Gabay MW who was showing a Rosé she has co-produced with Vladimir Magula reports from the event.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Louis Latour Agencies

    Louis-Fabrice celebrated at classy Louis Latour Agencies tasting

    The annual portfolio tasting for Louis Latour Agencies last week was an impressive affair, particularly given that it was the first since the tragic passing of Louis-Fabrice Latour last September. With his brother Florent Latour attending as well as MD Will Oatley, Geoffrey Dean got the lowdown on the company’s succession plans and the priorities for the coming year. New agencies Château Sainte Roseline from Côtes de Provence and Champagne’s Cobalte Vodka were unveiled along with all the new vintages and cuvées from the company’s tidy stable of international, family-owned estates. Dean also highlights nine wines (and a brandy) that caught his eye.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Boavista

    Quinta da Boavista: a rare visit to this most iconic of Douro estates

    With its natural ampitheatre and 8-metre high walled terraces, Quinta da Boavista is one of the most instantly recognisable and iconic estates in the Douro Valley – worthy of UNESCO World Heritage status on its own. And yet very few people are allowed here. Granted rare access to the estate, Peter Dean explores the historical, 80-hectare site, meets winemaker Carla Tiago for the first ever tasting of all the estate’s wines from the past five harvests and discovers how, under its new owners Sogevinus, and with the help of Pétrus’s Jean-Claude Berrouet, Boavista is set to cement its reputation as one of the best producers of still red wine in Portugal. 

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    Tasting: Wine
    Creation

    Anne Krebiehl MW on the special lure of Hemel en Aarde’s Creation Wines

    For the past three years, Creation Wines has been voted into the top 50 of the World’s Best Vineyards and has now grabbed the top spot in Africa. While Creation’s restaurant and tasting room are a destination in their own right, the wines are pretty special too, as Anne Krebiehl MW discovered when she tasted through the range of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and got under the skin of Creation’s philosophy with owners Carolyn and Jean-Claude Martin.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Heytesbury

    How quality is key to Vasse Felix’s Tom Cullity and Heytesbury

    The flagship wines of Western Australia’s Vasse Felix – Tom Cullity and Heytesbury – offer exceptional value for money and quality when set alongside comparable wines from the Old World, argues Roger Jones. Our Australian wine expert and retired Michelin star chef met up with Vasse Felix’s chief winemaker, Virginia Willcock to put the wines to the test, tasting the first ever vintage of Tom Cullity, sampling Heytesbury back to 2013 and comparing both wines with verticals of the Vasse Felix Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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    Tasting: Wine
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    Geoffrey Dean: discovering the full diversity of Victoria Pinot Noir

    Victoria Pinot Noir is arguably Australia’s finest, but there is more to the State than Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley as Geoffrey Dean discovered when he spent a three-week driving tour there – teasing out some of the lesser-known gems in Victoria’s vinelands. There are eight regions (aside from Mornington and Yarra) which are all producing outstanding Pinot Noir which Dean explores, highlighting the producers that may well be under most people’s radar.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Grenache

    Getting under the skin of the Grenache revival in IGP Pays d’Oc

    In France’s Pays d’Oc, the long-underrated Grenache variety is finally enjoying its time in the sun. Dominic Rippon discovers how much this grape has to offer, in all three colours, and selects his top dozen bottles from a recent tasting at IGP Pays d’Oc’s space age HQ in Montpellier.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Chateau Ksara

    Ksara’s balance and consistency amidst Lebanon’s chaos

    Winemakers are used to dealing with major climate issues and, more recently, problems with supply chains. For Lebanese producers such as Chateau Ksara, life is a whole different ball game. Making wine in the Bekaa Valley, a stronghold of the pro-Iranian Hizbollah, coping with frequent power cuts from a bankrupt utility group and inflation that is tracking at 180% – it is a wonder that any are still in business. But the Lebanese people, like the wines of Chateau Ksara, have an agelessness and indestructibility about them as Justin Keay discovered when he met up with Ksara’s George Sara and Lebanese wine expert Michael Karam for a rare vertical tasting of Sara’s flagship Bordeaux blend Chateau and its 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Marqués de Murrieta Long Read

    Marqués de Murrieta turns on the style for its 170th anniversary

    As the oldest family-owned estate in Rioja, Marqués de Murrieta, has an air of Spanish royalty. At the bodega’s 170th anniversary, however, chief Vicente Dalmau explains to Roger Jones that there’s no intention to sit on its laurels but rather for his team to push the envelope further both in terms of wine styles and how Rioja is presented to the outside world. At a spellbinding dinner atop London’s Shangri La, Jones reports back on an event where some of the rarest bottles from Rioja were opened and consumed.

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    Tasting: Wine
    IMG_9246 Long Read

    Best of 2022: Peter Dean picks his top 10 wines of last year

    Our final look back at the wines of 2022 finishes with a selection of 10 from our Drinks Editor, Peter Dean. Four major events stood out for him in the year – a legendary Hermitage tasting, a wine fair in Vienna, a cycle through the vineyards of Burgundy and a tasting in the underground cellars of Octavian which has already gone into wine scribe folklore as possibly the best-ever wine tasting.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Spatburgunder

    Why it is time for German Pinot to fill the red Burgundy void

    There are some excellent wines in the new Burgundy 2021 vintage, that is if you can lay your hands on any. With volumes so low now is the perfect time to look at German Pinot Noir to fill the gap, argues Harry Crowther. Attending a Howard Ripley deep dive into three Spätburgunder producers, called ‘Understanding German Pinot Noir’, Crowther highlights three wines from Weingut Peter Wagner, Weingut Holger Koch and Weingut Rings that he believes the trade can use in lieu of red Burgundy.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Lisse Garnett

    Best of 2022: Lisse Garnett picks her top 10 wines of the year

    2022 was an eventful year for Lisse Garnett with her Top 10 wines of the year largely picked from her travels to Argentina, Hungary, South Africa, Greece, Portugal, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Colombia and Chile. Garnett writes here about events of the year which included the Real Wine Fair and Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction, as well as the mourning of a lost friend in the influential English restaurateur Andrew Edmunds.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Chris Wilson

    Best of 2022: Chris Wilson picks his top wines of the year

    Now that wine scribe Chris Wilson is a winemaker – with a growing output and reputation – wine tastings he attends is a time to learn a trick or two from others winemakers. Visits to Switzerland, South Africa and France, plus a range of tastings in the UK, form the basis of Wilson’s top wines of the year which include a Rotgipfler, a left field Shiraz from Western Australia and a red field blend from Craig Wessels.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Justin Keay

    Best of 2022: Justin Keay picks his top 10 wines of the year

    Picking the best wines of the year is a fascinating exercise because it reflects the passions and field of expertise of the wine writer. In the case of Justin Keay, the ‘wines that make him go Hmmm’ are ones largely made from lesser-known grapes, wines made in regions that are just coming onto the wine world map and those that have been around for millennia but are just being re-discovered. So in Keay’s top 10 are fascinating, rare wines such as one made from Lorkosh and Samarghandi grapes exported from Iran and vinified in Sweden by a natural winemaker, and another, a Tuscan white made from Vermintino and Ansonica grapes picked by prisoners on the island of Gorgona.

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    Instataste

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    • There’s not many times in your life when you utter the words “The Romanée-Conti please” as the sommelier pours you a sample. The 2020 is an extraordinary wine that expresses itself as the most perfect manifestation of a Pinot Noir that is possible to make - impressive given how hot the vintage was (Burgundy’s hottest ever). Massive, beautiful power with an effortless confidence – fresh, vinous, pure, complex, rounded, delicate, layered, savoury – a mass of beautiful contradictions that meet with utter harmony and balance in your mouth. “Everything is perfect” my notes say – both as a descriptor of the wine and a state of mind. The Nadia Comāneci of Pinot.
    • Intense, inky dark (largely) Bordeaux blend from Bolgheri DOC that delivers good power and VFM. With 50% Merlot you expect fruit and the wine delivers ripe, black damsons and blackcurrant by the spade but with 30% Cab Sav and equal measures Petit Verdot and Syrah you also get a wonderful complexity and layers. The nose has tobacco, balsamic, bitter chocolate, while the initially warm, open palate has a tension and texture and a young (slightly green) tannic grip which manages to balance the wine well – there is a freshness which belies its 14.5% ABV. Intense yes, concentrated yes but also well put together – with or without food.
    • Under-the-radar, natural and biodynamic Bordeaux blanc made in Barsac from a blend of 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes vinified in cement. The nose is complex and offers honeysuckle, wild meadow flowers, sweet Comice pear; the palate is at first quite lively, mineral-charged then has a waxy ripe citrus mouthfeel with hints of papaya. Delicious, fresh, gastronomic and worth seeking out.
    • Hundred Hills, Blanc de Noirs 2019, With this extraordinarily good 100% Pinot Noir from a boutique winery in Oxfordshire there’s no denying that English sparkling really has come of age – the quality of the fruit and winemaking is right up there. The wine is sourced from a single South-facing plot, the grapes having 100 days hang time in what was a long dry vintage. Everything is in its right place. Vigorous bead, tiny bubbles, the aromatics are heaven-sent, complex with red berries and ripe orchard fruit, meadow flowers, raspberry Mivi, shortbread; the attaque is sharp and incisive, broadening with a youthful and ample creamy mousse on the palate – delicious layers of flavour that reflects the nose but also has a distinctive red apple note and ripe nectarine. The acidity is firm, structured, cleansing with a lovely balance between crisp, clean and dry on the tongue and deliciously ripe
    • A truly great wine that’s in the sweet spot of its drinking window. Complex, fresh aromatics has candied lemon, peppermint and a hint of white truffle; the palate is taut, fresh and brilliantly balanced with tart au citron, yellow grapefruit, saline, white flowers and an incredible length. A great Sancerre.
    • Good start to the year and one to bookmark for Chinese New Year. Wonderfully bright, fresh, Chardonnay from  @xige_estate  high up in the Helan mountain terroir of the exciting  #ningxia  Chinese wine region. Close your eyes and this could be straight out of Burgundy. So clean on the palate. Crisp acidity. Fresh as a mountain stream. Exciting premium Chinese wine. As China opens its doors again this could be the year for China to catch up some lost ground for exports too. You can explore the full range with  @propeller .wine that has exclusive UK distribution. Ideal for indy wine merchants and premium restaurants. Very impressed. RS  @westburycomms   @christellechene   #chinesewine   #sommeliers   #wine   #winetasting   #winemerchants 
    • Stellar vintage of Comtes from the sunny 2012 growing season. On the eye the wine is light yellow with green highlights, tight fine bead; gorgeous aromatics – surprisingly complex and evolved for a new release – with a touch of reduction, a light brioche, toasty note and white field mushroom combining well with a chalky freshness and lemon zest. In the mouth the Comtes has a crisp attack, ample mousse, bright acidity that soon fleshes out to lemon curd, orange oil, creamy orchard fruit and butteriness. The finish is beautifully balanced, refreshing and rounded. Will develop into a gem but drinking superbly well right now.
    • Classic Chateau d’Issan with greater complexity and layers on account of it adding Cabernet Franc (3%), Petit Verdot (2%) and Malbec (1%) into the blend for the first time in its history (all three grapes from plots acquired two years ago from Pontac-Lynch). There is also less Cab Sauv in the blend (55%) than there was in 2019 on account of the reduced yield. (Merlot makes up the rest) Although it has another six years to really get in its stride there’s a lovely balance between intense richness and freshness – the tannins are oh so elegant and smooth, with just that little bit of sinew on the long finish. At this stage the nose is all about black and blue fruits, violets, just a hint of cigar box; the palate is layered and lively, concentrated and fresh, notes of blackcurrant berries, currants and damsons dominate. Really quite wonderful.
    • Stunning Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs – sleek and fresh – from a less fruity and ‘obvious’ vintage than the 2012 and sourced from two Grand Cru villages only. Medium yellow gold with green highlights; vigorous fine bead; the nose is far more complex than at first appears and evolves in the glass: at first you find bright ripe apple, citrus and a chalky freshness; then other hints start to appear - candied lemon, apple blossom, butter pastry, nut shells, smoke; the attack is crisp, tense, evolving in the mouth, layered, taut with a citron pressé note. Despite its tautness there is good balance here, with a fine, elegant ripeness to the fruit. Really clean, lean, focused and precise – and a wine that will last decades.
    • 1982 was a classic vintage, of course, but also the start of the renaissance of Bordeaux wines. This fully mature 2nd growth, opened as part of a Léoville Poyferré 100th anniversary tasting was in a sweet spot, holding up so well and still with years ahead of it – so fresh and nicely poised is the acidity/ balance with the fruit hanging in there. Brickish red; the aromas are tertiary with cassis, tobacco, mushroom, soy, wet earth; the mouthfeel is fresh, silky smooth with sweet cassis to the fore and a eucalyptus twist on the finish. There is structure still with good balance, a sturdy core of acidity holding the wine together and maintaining delightful freshness. A stunning example of elegant, well-aged claret. Interesting was how much it changed in the glass. It was opened an hour before tasting (and not decanted) it was so full of life, then died
    • Louis Roederer Collection 243, the second release of Roederer’s re-incarnation of Brut Premier – a numbered, multi-vintage release based on the 218 vintage (60%) complemented by reserve wines from a ‘solera’ established in 2012, 10% aged in oak. It’s a smart idea and, like the inaugural 242 last year, has its own identity - more voluptuous compared to the more high-toned 242. Pale gold, energetic, fine bead; Inviting aromas of lemon tart, orange peel, all-butter pastry, stone fruit, white flowers and cream soda; there is a leesy breadth to the nose which, like the palate, is surprisingly complex; After a crisp attack the mid-palate has a luxurious mouthfeel – pillowy with considerable breadth and roundness with a textured, saline finish. On the way there are bright fruits and acids, a nuttiness, with a cleansing crispness on the upper palate. Excellent.
    • Here’s a lovely, easy drinking but also pretty grown up wine from the @YarraValley’s  @yeringstation  Victoria’s oldest producer with vines dating back to 1838. Not sure how many of those are in this The Elms Pinot Noir but at around £10 in @Waitrose it has got lots of savoury red notes and lovely freshness topped with a bit of spice on the tongue and a long elegant finish that would do very nicely against a Friday night pizza. This is the sort of Burgundian style Pinot Noir that the Yarra does so well and is made by up and upcoming winemaker Brendan Hawker who missed out on a career in medicine to turn to looking after vines instead. He says Yering is investing in “precision viticulture mapping” so it can “hunt out” the right areas to pinpoint parcels of fruit for key wines such as this luscious Pinot Noir. There
    • 2020 was a warm vintage in Bolgheri and there’s a plumpness to the fruit alright but it never overpowers in this classy red primed for earlier drinking. To look at the wine is deep ruby red with purple-red edging; the blend is Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot – generous and ripe – but with a youthful grip to the tannins. On the nose you find ripe red fruit, cherries, redcurrant, a hint of cream and milk chocolate, a lift of violets. In the mouth the wine is approachable, ripe, structured, with a sinewy streak at the core which is crying out for a ragu sauce, at this early stage of its life, for balance. In terms of winemaking the wine is vinified in steel and concrete then aged in wood barriques – 25% new – for 12 months, then blended and finished with another three months barrique-ageing.
    • Is white port Portugal’s ‘best kept secret’? More gastronomic than ruby or tawny and best served like a white wine. Kopke produces 1.5m litres a year across all categories and is arguably the leading brand. They still have this beautiful 1935 in barrel – made when Elvis Presley was born – and is bottled according to demand. Deep brown, drier style (81g r/s) with obvious complexity – dried figs, molasses and spice tin. The acidity is still a bright 5.2 and the alcohol (because of the evaporation over the years) is now 21.5% A true vin de meditation.
    • Rosé 2021, Château Galoupet, Cru Classe de Provence Worldwide rosé expert Elizabeth Gabay MW says that she’s always attracted to a rosé in a non-clear bottle as it has a story to tell and is not playing the ‘pretty in pink’ game. This is certainly the case with this debut release from Möet Hennessy’s latest project in Provence, a premium barrel-aged rosé from a rediscovered house which has a long history, but which has undergone some radical rethinking. First, the glass is amber so that 70% of it can be made from recycled glass, there is also a second wine which comes in a flat recycled plastic bottle. In organic conversion, and under the helm of ex-Krug’s Jessica Julmy, the château is aiming to be a standard bearer of sustainability in the region. As for the wine it is very classy indeed and sits quite comfortably alongside the other premium
    • Le Cupole, Trinoro, Rosso Toscana, 2020 Andrea Franchetti, who sadly passed away last December, was a master blender in this small estate in South East Tuscany and this baby sibling of the grand vin which will be out next year shows why as it is a stupendous blend of Cabernet Franc (58%), Merlot (32%), Cabernet Sauvignon (6%) and Petit Verdot (4%). It’s a bold, structured wine that manages that difficult task of packing a punch with intensity and concentration yet being cellar-fresh at the same time. Vivid purple, the aromatics combine oak and vanilla with oodles of ripe plums and elderberries; the mouthfeel is warm, open, generous with black berries, plums and wild cherries held in check by a touch of blue-plum-skin sharpness on the finish. 14.5% abv but you wouldn’t know it. A masterclass in winemaking.
    • What a great idea. A vodka that is made from sheep’s whey – a waste product from cheese production that would normally be poured down the drain – that comes from a rare crossbreed of sheep farmed in the Cotswolds. Personally I am not normally a vodka drinker but Blacklion’s signature serve – neat from the freezer over ice – is very good indeed. There’s not much in the way of aromatics, but the creamy flavour on the palate is a winner, followed by the heat of the 40% abv. It feels very pure, there is a natural sweetness to the milk base. Really quite delicious
    • Debut into the apéritifs category and UK market for Chandon Argentina. This is a ready-to-serve spritz using Chandon brut sparkling wine as a base with a ‘garden liqueur’ made from an orange liqueur infused with herbs and spices. Influenced by the Argentine love of bitterness it has the sugar balance just about right – sweet enough to give it mass appeal as a light summer serve as well as having a bitter twang – the result of excellent provenance with its sourcing of the citrus fruit. I shared a bottle, poured over ice, with friends not in the wine trade and we all gave it the thumbs up. Very approachable, moreish and easy to drink – it is a wine that will get its staunch advocates and will make an interesting by-the-glass food pairing option for sommeliers – think red mullet salad with an orange vinaigrette.
    • Pecorino, Terre di Chieti, Cantina Tollo, 2021. Nicely made, refreshing, dry Pecorino from Abruzzo. Pale straw in colour, plenty of citrus, yellow stone fruit with herbal and floral notes. Perhaps a touch of tropical fruit too – but not too over-ripe or rich. Medium bodied with some structure and well-balanced acidity. We liked it as an aperitif and paired with fish. 13% abv
    • The second white wine from the ‘super tuscan’ Ornellaia estate is a blend of primarily Sauvignon Blanc with Viognier, Verdicchio and Vermentino. It is a highly individual and savoury wine that speaks of the Mediterranean coast where it comes from with herbs in the hot sun, scrubland and saline notes. The 2020 vintage was very hot in June with the first three grape varieties picked early (compared to the late 2019). There is a terrific balance between freshness and density of flavour, achieved primarily through winemaking choices – a gentle pressing, followed by 50% fermented in steel, the other half in barriques. It’s to the team’s credit that the details and brightness is still there with additional texture and interest. To look at the wine is deep straw/gold; aromas spill out of the glass evoking hot days in the Tuscan sun – you pick up sage, white flowers, pine needles,