Ribera del Duero has long been a Spanish wine region known for producing some of the world’s finest red wines – powerful wines that are big in flavour, yet fresh and balanced in the glass. The magic ingredient is the altitude of the region with vineyards here some of the highest in Europe outside Switzerland. As white wines and rosados are on the increase so are the number of wineries themselves – growing from eight to 318 over the past 40 years. As a preview to a major Ribera del Duero tasting event in London on November 14, Peter Dean takes an in-depth look at 26 new wines from top-scoring wineries – all unrepresented in the UK – showing a range of styles and the high level of quality that can be found in the region.
When Bordeaux’s François Lurton planted vines in the semi-desert foothills of the Andes Cordillera, at an altitude of 1100m there were many people questioning his wisdom. But when people tried his red blend Chacayes, a wine that came from five year-old vines there, many followed his example, even establishing a new Geographical Indication of Los Chacayes – named after the wine. Over a lengthy dinner in London Lurton regales tale after tale about being born into Bordeaux ‘royalty’ and, through his Bodega Piedra Negra, putting ‘inhospitable’ areas of Argentina onto the map.
Bibendum’s run of imaginatively curated trade tastings continued earlier in the month with Cape and Boot, an opportunity to sample a wide selection of its South African and Italian wines in a reasonably relaxed, albeit crowded, manner. Lisse Garnett threw herself headfirst into the scrum and sampled all she could, focusing particularly on South African white wines from the likes of Graham Beck, Creation, Ghost Corner, Stellenrust, Journey’s End, Shannon Vineyards and Springfield Estate. Here are the highlights.
The legacy of Hatch Mansfield co-founder Philip Tuck MW was everywhere to be seen at this autumn’s portfolio tasting, not only in the diversity and quality of the portfolio but also in its focus on the winemakers’ ‘green approach’ to their craft. The Buyer’s Geoffrey Dean gets a feel of the key issues in the room and picks 10 wines that he would recommend for on-trade from the likes of Esporão, Cherubino, Kleine Zalze and Esk Valley.
Vouvray is one of the most historic and highly prized wine regions in France, producing some of the highest quality Chenin Blancs money can buy. With a mixture of unique microclimates and soil structures, the appellation produces both famous sparkling wines as well as a range of still dry, semi-dry and sweet wines, full of character and flavour. We sent the Buyer’s Mike Turner to a recent Vouvray Supper Club in Hackney Wick’s uber cool, zero-waste Silo Restaurant to find out more about the region itself and test the wines’ renowned food pairing prowess.
For Voyager Estate converting fully to organic viticulture has been a long time coming. 2023 is the first year of full conversion after almost 20 years since their first experiments began. Owner Alexandra Burt and new head winemaker Tim Shand have also been swimming against the tide – Margaret River in Western Australia, where they are based, has a small minority practising organic and biodynamic viticulture. So why the change? Are the wines better for it? And how do they taste? Heather Dougherty met up with Burt and Shand on a recent trip to London.
Champagne Salon has recently unveiled its 44th vintage, the 2013, in the UK market through its long-standing agent, Corney & Barrow. This renowned Champagne house, which crafted only 37 vintages during the 20th century, with an average production of 60,000 bottles per release, enjoys a devoted following owing to its limited production. Despite this exclusivity, global demand continues to surge. Earlier this month, Leona De Pasquale met with Didier Depond, president of Champagne Salon and Champagne Delamotte, at Corney & Barrow’s London office to sample the latest releases and gather insights from Depond regarding the new vintage.
The Piedmont-based winery of Gaja has forged its worldwide reputation on its red wines but the white wines are not to be overlooked, argues Roger Jones who, in the company of Giovanni Gaja gets under the skin of Gaja white wines such as Gaia & Rey, Alteni di Brassica, Rossj-Bass and IDDA. We also hear about the work in the vineyard and the Alta Langa project which sees already-high vineyards being planted at even higher altitudes.
Back in the spring our Champagne specialist and ex-Michelin Star chef, Roger Jones, was invited for a weekend to Chateau de Saran, Moët’s unique chateau, to get the inside track on the launch of Collection Impérial Creation No 1, the Grand Marque’s major new launch into the ultra-premium Champagne market. Moët rarely invites people to Saran and, once inside, Jones could see why – this is a house which holds so many dreams and hidden stories, which Jones was keen to add to.
Twenty years before Moët & Chandon’s 300th anniversary, the House is re-entering the ultra-premium game with Collection Impériale Création 1, a multi-vintage Brut Nature – the first in its history. In 2003 Moët did launch the £400 MC3, a failed attempt to trade toe-to-toe with other super cuvées, so what has it learned since then and what makes Collection Impériale different? Sommelier Mattia Scarpazza had an audience with cellar master Benoît Gouez at which he explains the thinking behind Collection Impériale and has an opportunity to taste the new wine.
The news that Frog by Adam Handling has partnered up with Toku Sake this week, joining a growing list of premium on-trade accounts that are taking this new premium sake from Hokkaido, could not have been better timed. World Sake Day, which is being celebrated this weekend, is also the launch date for KANPAI, the UK’s first sake brewery which opens after its soft launch in London Bridge five days ago. Peter Dean talked with Toku’s newly-promoted COO Grace Hunt, tasted the liquid and wonders whether now is the time that the UK finally gets the premium sake bug.
Following the Australian rugby team’s humbling at the hands of the Welsh, it was a brave host at London’s Australia House last night that opened the door to Welsh ‘boi’ Roger Jones, still wearing his colours and a Cheshire cat-like grin from ear to ear – having hot-footed it from Lyon straight to the launch of Matthew Jukes 100 Best Australian Wines. This is one of Jones’ favourite nights of the year (when the Welsh aren’t playing) and here he explains why – picking out Jukes’ ability to award bouquets to entry level wines as much as ultra-premium.
With little in-depth knowledge of the wines of Chile, Justin Keay went along to the country’s annual generic tasting with an open mind and a set of pre-conceptions. Were the wines going to be power houses made with international grape varieties and produced in staggeringly high volumes? Not a bit. What Keay discovered was a wine scene that is clearly evolving, focusing more on regionality, freshness and tilting away from the old dependence on Bordeaux varieties; although it can still produce these very well indeed, especially at the premium end.
The first taste of a new vintage of Celebris is always a big occasion and the launch of Gosset Celebris 2012 did not disappoint. Gosset chose Ekstedt at the Yard in London for imaginative food-pairing, contrasting the wine served straight from the bottle and also from carafe. Who better to taste and rate for The Buyer than Roger Jones, an expert in Champagne and sparkling wine and also a one-time Michelin Star chef himself who, bowled over so much by one sauce served with the fizz, declared it the best fish sauce he had ever tasted.
The UK’s fascination with wines from Portugal continues to rise. With exports to the UK already growing in the first half of 2023 by a confident 18% in volume and an impressive 44% in value, Portuguese wines are clearly showing their qualities and no longer stuck with the historic reputation of cheap and cheerful and made to a price point. We sent The Buyer’s Mike Turner to the Wines of Portugal tasting earlier this month in London to find out why so many are keen to add Portuguese wines to their shelves and wine lists.
The 2023 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction that takes place on October 6, will be the 39th since the cream of the South African wine industry decided to club together and make special, one-off wines that showcase the depth and breadth of Cape wines to an international audience. To date the auctioned wines have become collectors treasures and have also showed up on the secondary auction scene. To give potential bidders the inside track on this year’s event, South African wine expert Roger Jones flew back from his Rugby World Cup antics to London to join CWG chair Gordon Newton Johnson and others for an exclusive tasting of 40 of this year’s top wines.
UK wine drinkers have a distinct thirst for the sparkling wines of Italy. Whether from the juggernaut of Prosecco, the luxury of Franciacorta, or even the critically acclaimed Trento DOC, Italian bubbles are a seemingly permanent fixture on the wine lists or shelves up and down the country. The Buyer’s Mike Turner argues that Alta Langa DOCG, producing high quality sparkling wine from the famed hills of Piemonte, deserves to join in the fun. He visited Carlo Galliano at Borgo Maragliano to find out more about some of Italy’s oldest sparkling wines.
A Col Fondo served straight from a 20-litre keg, in which the secondary fermentation took place, was one of the many highlights of the annual WineGB tasting that gave Justin Keay an opportunity to feel the pulse of the British wine industry. Producers are bullish, with more of them smiling now about the 2023 growing season after a warm September… and there are plenty of newcomers showing impressive wines, 10 of which Keay picks out to put on your buying radar.
Think of quality Pinot Noir wine regions and you could be forgiven for thinking of Burgundy, California, Germany and New Zealand before you think of the South of France. So the chances are you might not think immediately of the Languedoc-Roussillon where IGP Pays d’Oc Pinot Noir comes from because of the heat. And yet the variety of soils, micro-climates and lay of the land in the region and the freedom of expression that is allowed with IGP Pays d’Oc has resulted in a vast choice of high-quality Pinot Noir at barely credible prices. Which is why Peter McCombie MW called his recent masterclass on the subject – ‘IGP Pays d’Oc Pinot Noir – the great alternative’. Peter Dean reports.
For a Champagne house so in love with Pinot it is curious that it has taken 42 years for Champagne Bruno Paillard to release a new Blanc de Noirs since its first one way back in 1981. “You have to start somewhere'” Alice Paillard tells Peter Dean, as she explains why she eschewed opulence and sweetness in the Bruno Paillard Blanc de Noirs MV and opted instead for refinement with a very low dosage – a true sommelier’s cuvée if ever there was one.