Personal spittoons and personal sommeliers… it’s the return of physical wine tastings. Fifteen months on from attending a physical wine tasting, journalist and winemaker Chris Wilson headed to London for not one but two physical tastings – the Georgian wine trade tasting and the Wines From Spain annual tasting. Both events were run on entirely different models –a walkaround style close to ‘old school’ wine tastings and a sit-down style where personal sommeliers serve you. So what were the key benefits and disadvantages of both models?
Managing to evade the rigours of Lockdown, quarantine and self-isolation, Geoffrey Dean travelled to the Wines of Portugal Challenge in Santarem. His job was to take part as a judge but he also managed to get out and about and get a snapshot of contemporary Portuguese winemaking through the eyes of six very different winemakers – from the small and unrepresented in the UK, right through to the second largest producer in Portugal. On top of getting an idea of what the challenges are facing the winemakers here, Dean also got a chance to try many wines and recommends the ones that stood out on the day.
After 18 months of Zoom tastings and mini samples, this July’s generic Wines of Spain tasting was an opportunity to experience the real live thing, albeit through Covid-safe protocol. Here Justin Keay found further proof that with closer attention to soil, climate, altitude and the nuances of individual grape varieties Spain is truly becoming one of the world’s most interesting producer nations. The tasting covered all of the country’s regions providing an exciting opportunity to taste lesser-known wines from increasingly-improving regions of Ribeiro and Txakoli. Afterwards Keay had an audience with Paula Fandino from Mar de Frades.
Wine expert LM Archer discovers Lugana Riserva white wines and Bardolino reds from Northern Italy from producers Le Morette, Le Fraghe, Rizzardi, Zenato, and Ca’ Lojera and argues that they are a match for red and white Burgundy at a fraction of the price. The Consorzio di Tutela Chiaretto e Bardolino has been busy of late, putting its weight behind a charm offensive to promote this ancient wine region at the southern tip of Lake Garda, showcasing its two-year aged white Riservas and reintroducing three historic sub-zones developed during the 19th century. These include the northern foothills of Montebaldo, the morainic, more Mediterranean, lakeside hills of La Rocca, and – warmer still – the, southern, gravelly hills of Sommacampagna.
Every wine producer has a vineyard or site that gives that little bit more and works that little bit harder – with the wines produced from it being synonymous with the name of the estate. For the great Burgundy producer Joseph Drouhin that place is the Clos des Mouches, a 14 hectare vineyard acquired 100 years ago by Maurice Drouhin, that sits between Corton Charlemagne, Pommard and Puligny Montrachet. The red and white Premier Cru wines that come from this rare monopole are legendary in Burgundy, but that wasn’t always the case. In the 1980s the family realised the soil was dying and something had to be done quick to bring it back to life.
The fine wine world is increasingly taking stock of the great Italian white wines that are on offer, as their quality improves. One case in point is Verdicchio which often used to be just about the Anfora bottle and nothing else – this was a white wine that punters used to chill with ice cubes. One of Italy’s leading Verdicchio producers, Sartarelli, showed its latest vintages to wine consultant Douglas Blyde, who explains the background to the wines and why this Marches-based producer is consistently picking up the major gongs at the wine competitions.
There is a real underdog quality to the Champagne growers of Les Riceys. Once the preferred tipple of Louis XIV, the wines in this Eastern French commune are now overshadowed by the great Champagne Houses of the North – which only serves to make them more diverse, idiosyncratic and with a point to prove. David Kermode introduces us to five producers of these Grower Champagnes: Champagne Batisse-Lancelot, Pascal Manchin, Péhu-Guiardel, Arnaud Tabourin and Vincent Philpaux, who have collectively formed an Alliance to better promote their wines to the outside world.
Wine Australia has used its Connect website to focus on Riesling throughout the month of July. Our contributing editor, chef and New World wine specialist, Roger Jones, tastes his way through six top Clare Valley Rieslings, with food-pairing suggestions for each. He also explains the thinking behind a new series of videos made for Wine Australia that showcases the versatility of Australian Riesling, especially when it comes to matching them with food.
The Roussillon region of South West France, is a vinous treasure trove with many exciting wines to discover, argues Justin Keay. As a region it was only officially uncoupled from the Languedoc five years ago, and its identity as a producer of quality table wine has only really taken place in the past 20 years. But its roots as North Catalonia, with its rich historical and cultural past run much deeper. So too do the wide variety of winemaking styles, benefitting as they do from a patchwork of micro-terroirs and a multitude of different soil types. At a press and trade tasting, Keay explores the wines of 12 different producers and recommends which wines need to be on your radar.
With the Tour de France riders passing over the Hors Catégorie climb of Mount Ventoux this week, our drinks editor and cycling nut Peter Dean looks at the psychology of why you would willingly cycle up a mountain that is ‘beyond category’ and why Castelnau has chosen this as the concept for its top Champagne. C.M. 1993 – as it is called – is the third in an adventurous series of prestige cuvées that is inspired by cycling to the highest level, and allowing the winemaker to break all the rules.
The flagship wines from House of Arras, Houghton, Grant Burge, St Hallett and Hardys made up the tantalising selection of prestige wines from Accolade Fine Wines, that were showcased at its second Pre-Release Introduction tasting. Part of Accolade’s Global Vintage Release Programme for 2021, the tasting allows key buyers and selected press to assess and confirm their allocation ahead of the release of the wines later in the year. Roger Jones, our retired Michelin Star Chef and Aussie wine lover tastes through the full portfolio.
It’s not just the excuse to transport yourself to the iconic world of Californian wine that has made the California Wine Institute Somm Sessions such a success over the long months of lockdowns, it has been the consistent high quality of the wines, winemakers, producers and sommeliers involved in the events. The recent Trinchero Family Estates tasting, in association with Lanchester Wines, was a case in point. The chance, as David Kermode explains, to see just how far Californian wines have come in recent years and why sommeliers are increasingly turning to them as ideal gastronomic wines.
Picking top 10 wine lists is never an easy task, especially when there are 146 wines to taste from 25 producers at an event covering Provence, Champagne, Beaujolais, Languedoc, Rhône and the South West. But that was the brief for Justin Keay who went to discover new Organic wines from France and new Rosés at ‘Tastin’ France French Rosé & French Organic’ – the latest tasting organised by Business France, an organisation that showcases solid, often family-based wine producers with a good following at home but lacking name recognition abroad and wanting to grow their market. There were many new grape varieties that even Keay hadn’t tried before, unexpected blends and cuvées that were delightful ‘curve balls’.
125 years after it was made, Taylor’s has released a 1896 Single Harvest Port, the third in a thrilling series of very old tawny ports from the Nineteenth century. 1896 was one of the greatest-ever vintages, and has historical significance for Taylor’s on a number of fronts. But how does the company prepare such an old port and, most importantly, what does it taste like? Peter Dean was one of the lucky few to receive a vial of this priceless liquid and has an audience with Taylor’s managing director Adrian Bridge and its head winemaker David Guimaraens to explain the thinking behind its release. Caution! this feature may contain a few superlatives…
Italian fine wine may be at the top of the investment pyramid right now, but have consumers and critics started to tire of the Super Tuscans? Justin Keay seems to think so, arguing that wine drinkers are moving away from varieties and styles that are concentrated and oaky. Just as he was putting that theory to bed along comes the wines of Tenuta Sette Cieli, made by the talented winemaker Elena Pozzolini, that illustrates how the Super Tuscans can bring a new freshness to their wines – and a sense of cool – even when climate change is making this increasingly difficult.
With a life story that runs like a Netflix box set, Daniel Daou has finally found his true vocation – making the Bordeaux-style wines that his Lebanese father treasured so much… in the Californian region of Paso Robles. Just don’t ask him whether the area is too hot or not – he prides himself on having found ‘European’ soil with altitude, where the nearby Pacific breezes help to make the DAOU wines some of the most sought-after in the Golden State. To celebrate the release of the new crown jewel of the estate, Soul of a Lion 2018, Daniel Daou hosted a real life mini-vertical tasting of the wine as well as a horizontal tasting of portfolio highlights. David Kermode was one of the lucky ones at the event.
Only one of Tim Atkin MW’s top 16 wines from Chile was a Cabernet Sauvignon this year – and even then only 6% of the wine was made up of the variety. Given that a third of the country’s vineyards are planted with Cab Sauv this was some going, even by adventurous Atkin’s standards. Instead, for the top 16 wines that he had chosen for his annual showcase, there were three single varietals you wouldn’t normally associate with Chile – Cinsault, Petit Verdot and Grenache – plus plenty that you would. For Geoffrey Dean it was the three red single varietals that really stood out, especially the Cinsault made by half-British winemaker Emily Faulconer in the Itata Valley.
Gérard Bertand’s Clos du Temple has asked questions of the fine wine world ever since it was launched two years ago. The wine is a barrel-aged rosé (from a blend of grapes) from the South of France that costs over £190 a bottle. Quite apart from whether this specific wine is worth the price, Clos du Temple has put the spotlight on rosé as a wine category in its entirety, and asked whether rosé can ever be considered as a serious, fine wine in the same category, say, as the fine white wines of Burgundy? To launch the new 2020 vintage, only the third, Gérard Bertrand invited a select few to taste all three vintages of the wine in the newly-built Clos du Temple winery. It seemed only fitting that Elizabeth Gabay MW, one of the world’s leading experts on rosé should cover the event for The Buyer.
Provence fared better than any other French wine region in 2020, exports-wise. In the UK, especially, we can’t get enough of the pink stuff with exports of Provence rosé shooting up 50% last year. As summer begins and lockdown begins to end, so the new 2020 vintage of Provence rosé is landing on these shores. A tricky year for growers, the wines are pretty and elegant without the robustness of the 2019s. But the consistency and the quality are both there. With wines from all three of the region’s key appellations featured, Peter Dean picks his ‘flirty dozen’ with full tasting notes and details.
It used to be that red Bandol wines were like Bordeaux and Barolo – magnificent as they get older but big and tannic in youth. The tannin management with these wine has changed, however, with more exact harvesting dates, better understanding of extraction and working with wood for the obligatory 18 months in barrel. To see how the style has changed and to also explore how and when secondary flavours develop, Elizabeth Gabay MW tastes a range of red Bandol from the current vintage on the market, 2018, back to 2011 – recommending which wines should be on our buying radar.