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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.