The Buyer
12 on-trend producers shining at Enotria&Coe’s Annual Tasting

12 on-trend producers shining at Enotria&Coe’s Annual Tasting

Ugandan rum, AI-generated wine, Coppola’s debut, ‘SuperRomans’ and terroir-obsessed wines from Spain, Lebanon, Greece and New Zealand, Enotria&Coe’s Annual Tasting 2024 seemed to have it all – alongside all its major brands, of course. Peter Dean tasted round the 146 producers, focussing on 12 producers that are new, had exciting new products or were so on-trend they had to have a mention.

Peter Dean
14th March 2024by Peter Dean
posted in Tasting: Wine ,

“In this season of tastings there are some that are unmissable and the Enotria&Coe Annual Tasting 2024 was one,” writes Dean.

The last time I was at The Brewery for a major wine tasting a large red-cheeked gentleman collapsed in a main aisle. A medical privacy screen was hastily erected around him and what looked like CPR administered. The Antipodean wine producer whose stand I was at just on the other side of said screen looked at me and, without missing a beat, carried on with “So this Sauvignon Blanc has spent four months on its lees…” Surreal.

For Enotria&Coe’s Annual Tasting 2024 the entire facility of the Brewery had sensibly been occupied so that even with 146 suppliers, 976 SKUs and delegates in the four figures, there was never the feeling that you weren’t going to make it out alive – which can be the sensation at some events.

In this season of tastings – I have been invited to 92 in February and March, 19 next week alone – there are some that are unmissable and Enotria&Coe is one. My strategy as with most gargantuan tastings is to concentrate on new producers, new cuvées and varieties or styles which are achingly on-trend. OK so I did try the new LP Grand Siècle but you can only stick to your guns for so long.

Mario Volpi

Hottest white variety in Italy right now is Timorasso with vineyard managers unable to get vines in the ground fast enough. Piemonte-based Cantine Volpi, currently being run by the family’s fifth generation was one of the first 10 producers in the region to start making Timorasso 22 years ago.

Mario Volpi showed two styles at the tasting – Timorasso Derthona 2022 (£14.09) and La Zerba Timorasso Organic 2022 (£16.47), both Colli Tortonesi DOC – the first from a blend of three vineyards in the Tortona Hills, the latter a single vineyard wine. Vinified in steel and concrete then aged for 10 months, both wines were fresh, textured, pure with firm acidity. Volpi’s been with E&C for 18 years and in that time they should clearly be applauded for helping to rescue this capricious grape from the brink of extinction.

Katharina Borner

Where Volpi has been around for 110 years, Omina Romana, set 40km south of Rome was established by the Borner family just in 2007. There was a real buzz around this E&C newcomer’s table and for good reason – all five of their wines were reinventing Lazio with skilled winemaking and strong, contemporary branding. Although they were coining the term ‘SuperRoman’ (with tongue only slightly in cheek) their mono-varietal cuvées and blends gave these international grape varieties a distinctly new slant – medium bodied reds, clocking in at 13.5% abv with emphasis placed on ageing after bottling.

Diana Nemorensis I, 2020 (£13.69) is a structured-but-elegant Bordeaux blend that’s pitched just right, with very little wood used, fruit-forward and not too concentrated, Cesanese 2019 (£23.25) was a rare, spicy, peppery gem, the Chardonnay 2020 (£18.49) had seen a bit of new wood and had a toastiness but lots of white peach, minerals and a saline finish while Hermes Diactoros II (£13.69) is a keenly-priced sommeliers’ dream – 58% Viognier, 18% Bellone, 12% Chardonnay, 6% Petit Manseng and 6% Incrocio Manzoni – with the estate’s volcanic soils giving the wine a buzz of energy.

Anthony Aubert

The Languedoc-based winery Aubert & Mathieu has been on a roll since it set up shop five years ago, increasing production from 8000 bottles per annum to its current output of 500,000 bottles distributed in 35 countries. Anthony Aubert put the success down to its business model – buying in primarily organic grapes, making wines that are fresh and fruity, true to their specific appellations, having distinct, contemporary labels and using social media to good effect. They also come up with neat ideas that have gained considerable profile for the winery.

Although Le Fin only had 600 bottles produced, the wine was made according to an AI-generated program – “It’s all the journalists want to talk about!” – laughed Aubert, although the serious exposure the wine produced has done wonders for the brand. I tried the Hautes Pistes Pinot Noir (£tbc), Hautes Pistes Syrah (£12.45) and a terrific alcohol-free sparkling rosé called Kisumé (tbc) made from Cinsault and grape must with just 27gms r/s – and all punched well above their weight. They really look the business too.

Eduardo Eguren

From old vineyards passed down to him from his maternal grandmother in two regions – Ribera del Duero and Rioja Alta – Eduardo Eguren at Cuentaviñas is making outstanding, expressive wines of startling purity and class, that are quite rightly making wine critics stand up and toss bouquets. The labels are made to look like old book jackets, the name of the winery merging the Spanish words for ‘storytelling’ and ‘vines’ into one.

Tinto Fino 2021, Ribera del Duero DO (£46.56) is from 80-year-old vines on sandy/ limestone soils, the wine spending 12 months in 225-l French oak (20% new) and six months in concrete. Fresh, ripe, fine-grained tannins. Pure, expressive, joyous. Garnacha 2021, Rioja DOCa (£44.98) comes from 100-year-old vines on ferrous-clay soils in Rioja Alta. Fresh, crisp, textural, the wine has beautiful, pure fruit with a nice edge of acidity and tannin. Alomado 2021(£44.98) is a fascinating field blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Viura and Malvasia. Unlike the previous two wines this felt young with mouth-puckering tannins.

The jewel in the crown is the single vineyard Los Yelsones 2021 (£119.22) which is 100% Tempranillo from a South-East facing vineyard on moraines-rich soil. The wine has spent 16 months in 500-l new French oak and is one of great power, balance and awesome aromatics and mouthfeel. One of the truly great new Spanish winemakers.

The wines of Gramona are always a delight. This premium Cava producer was showing five wines, my favourite being the NV Gramona Innoble Corpinnat, Cuvee 318 (£29.71) which is a mix of the 2015, 2016 and 2017 vintages aged for five years. Fresh, bright nose, textural, zippy and with a deliciously dry finish.

From France Champagne Gobillard was showing very well on the day also.

Lambros Papadimitriou was showing four wines from Domaine Sigalas, his 50ha winery on the North of Santorini – three Assyrtiko and one red. Santorini Assyrtiko 2022 (£31.20) spends four months on the lees and as such has picked up a broad ripeness, there was a lovely salty finish to the Santorini Barrel Assyrtiko 2021 (£53.30) which spends six months in second hand French oak the acidity of the grape managing to balance matters but the star for me was Kavalieros Single Vineyard 2021 (£53.30) which spends 12 months on its lees and had such terrific energy you could jump-start a car with it. Stunning wine.

Also impressive was the Mavrotragano 2021 (£54.27) which is Santorini’s signature indigenous red grape variety that was brought back from extinction by Hatzidakis and also Paris Sigalas who started experimenting with a densely packed vineyard in 2002. Vinified in steel, open vats and cement then a year ageing in first and second fill French oak this had a great mix of rusticity and elegance – like an Aegaen version of Nebbiolo and quite delicious. Domaine Sigalas was previously with Maltby&Greek.

Astir Watchi

Not many wineries can claim to have a co-founder who is still on Interpol’s most wanted list but then Carlos Ghosn is really one of a kind. He hasn’t had anything to do with IXSIR, this fine Lebanese winery, even since he famously fled Japan back to Lebanon in a double bass case… but I digress. IXSIR can shun this past and look forwards – it has some of the highest vineyards in Europe and mixes international and indigenous varieties with much skill – helped by winemaking consultant Hubert de Boüard of Château Angelus fame.

Altitudes White 2023 (£16.88), a blend of Obeideh, Muscat and Viognier and Altitudes Red 2020 (£16.88) an original blend of Cab Sauv, Syrah, Caladoc and Tempranillo both come from the Bekaa Valley and have a lovely, fresh, slightly rustic, unoaked purity. The Grande Réserve wines are barrel-aged and more rich and powerful. This year I found theGrande Reserve White 2023 (£25.30) particularly striking – its blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is a winning one, helped by the winery’s increasing knowledge of the specific characteristics of each of its parcels.

Sean O’Carroll

Operating in Napa since 1900, Beaulieu Vineyard has an almost equally colourful history, having survived through Prohibition by selling wine through the church as communion wine! Treasury’s Sean O’Carroll was showing three wines the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (£40.22) which is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petite Syrah and 2% Cabernet Franc, having spent 18 months in French oak (30% new). A lot of heft here but good balance and fine-boned, ripe tannins, it was voted Wine Spectator’s $40 value wine of the year.

Tapestry Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (£56.13) is a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc having spent 22 months in French oak (60% new); decent structure, nice ripe tannins, chocolatey warmth. The Rutherford Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (£66.04) is described as a ‘baby Georges de Latour made up of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec – incredible power and doesn’t feel for a bit like its 14.9% abv.

Jonas Hilderbran

I was impressed also by this first UK outing for Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s higher-volume, value-priced brands Diamond Collection and Director’s Cut (see what he did there?), wines that pull off that unbelievable trick of getting Californian quality at prices that we can all afford. Jonas Hilderbran showed nine wines, all stemming from former Sonoma winery Chateau Souverain which Francis Ford and Eleanor Coppola bought it 2006. There were four Diamond wines – Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon (2021 and 2022/ £15.15) which were true to their varietal and would work really well in gastropubs – the Zin, in particular, was lovely and smoky.

Two Diamond Appellation wines a Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles and a Chardonnay from Sonoma (£19.11) offered more quality while the Director’s Cut Sonoma Chardonnay 2021 (£24.64) and Pinot Noir (£28.58) were a cut above – I particularly like the latter which had a deliciously ripe, dry stone-finish fruit with good grip. Archimedes Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (£65.09) which is 100% Alexander Valley fruit, grown 400m up, above the fog-line with the wine matured for 18 months in all French oak (50% new) was also worth checking out.

Jose Lavaglio

Susana Balbo’s right hand man Jose Lavaglio was showing 10 of their wines on the stand – the latest vintage of Susana’s pet project Signature Barrel Fermented Torrontes 2022 (£17.82) which you can read about in more depth here. There was an impressive range of reds (particularly the high- altitude vineyard wines) from Signature Reserve Cabernet 2021 (£20.50) and BenMarco Sin Limites Malbec 2020 (£23.20) to BenMarco Expresivo 2021 (£28.53). I particularly liked, however, the textural Signature Rosé 2022 (£17.82) which is made from an unusual but winning blend of 60% Malbec and 40% Pinot Noir, whole-bunch pressed. It looks the part, has floral and nutty notes then a lovely balanced, serious palate whose tension gives it plenty of gastronomic uses.

Brendan Naylon

The Neylon family which co-owns the Marlborough-based winery Rapaura Springs made its money in the past from green-lipped mussels which were all the rage in the early 1980s. They then bought orchards with the Wiffin family, then vineyards. Brendan Naylon presented seven wines at the E&C tasting – four Savvy Blancs, two Pinots and a Chardonnay – having just moved the business over from MMD. Rapaura’s whole range was impressive, being made up of wines that express their terroir and offer bang for your buck.

The entry point Summerhouse Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2023, made from a blend of 30 sites, is a classic ripe Marlborough style with palate weight and clocks in at £12.38, while its most expensive wine on show was the Bouldevines Chardonnay 2020 which is £18.96. This is from a single vineyard, hand-picked fruit whose struck match notes come from 40% new oak. The wine wasn’t made in 2021 so, for the price, and with its age, it represents a good buy. The other three Sauvignon Blancs – Classic, Reserve and Dillons Point – cost about £1 more as each gets greater specificity, provenance-wise. I particularly liked the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2023 (£13.38) which is the fourth best-selling premium SB in New Zealand. Made up of 90% Dillons Point fruit it has a vibrant acidity, a ripe, fleshy mid-palate and a nice saline finish. The Pinots were worth checking out too, particularly in the light of 2022 Burgundy prices.

And now onto the spirits…

A newly defined spirits division offering over 2500 different liquids warrants a separate article by itself, which we will cover in due course, but suffice to say that E&C has all the major spirits brands with a key point of difference being in the smaller, boutique producers it represents of which there were many in the 38 at the annual tasting.

In the little time I had left in the day, however, I had to drop in on a couple of these innovative, new brands.

First stop was NEFT which was showing the single product NEFT Vodka 40% abv and which launches in the UK this September in 50gm and 90gm formats. Madelon Sweers explained how this Austrian brand benefits from the crystal pure water and access to quality rye grain in the country – the liquid was pure and rich and very smooth. Another USP is the drum container which by being non-PPA-lined aluminium is 90% lighter than glass and is so efficient space-wise that you can carry two cans in the same space that a bottle takes up.

Brent Stephens

True sustainability lies at the heart of a fascinating producer of Ugandan vodka, rum, and gin. Kakira is the brand name and its origins is in sugar production which it has been in for almost 100 years, moving into molasses and rum almost as an afterthought. The whole field-to-bottle process is run by Kakira which also has its own power plant that supplies all the energy needed for its entire operation. The water comes from Lake Victoria, source of the Nile. It had seven products on show – a terrifically pure Kakira Silver Rum 40% which has spent five years in single use bourbon barrels (the industry Brent Stephens left in the US to join Kakira), and then increasingly rich Golden Rum and Dark Rums. Check out too its Kakira Coffee Vodka and the gins which had searing notes of lemon grass and tasted genuinely African. A real find.

Enotria&Coe is a commercial partner of The Buyer. Discover more about them by clicking here.