Earlier this month Bancroft Wines welcomed its ever-expanding network of clients and press for a full 2022 portfolio tasting. Taking place at the impressive Royal Institute of British Architects, this was the first chance in a long time for guests, including The Buyer’s Mike Turner, to taste through the nearly 500 wines on show. With so many fabulous and diverse wines on show, it was still (arguably) the European classics that really shone through.
“I headed over to the Spanish producers to finish the day. And I’m so glad I did, with some exceptional and unexpected wines from across the country,” writes Turner about the Bancroft tasting.
The 2022 Bancroft portfolio tasting was my first full portfolio tasting since the pandemic. Walking into the impressive upper rooms at London’s Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and seeing them all crammed with bottles, producers, and members of the trade was another sign that we’re all getting back to normal. So normal, in fact, that it took me nearly five minutes to stop panicking at the size of the bloody thing and actually grab a glass, walk in, and get tasting! Some things never change…
With around 500 wines on show and just shy of 100 producers represented in person, I was going to need the full five hours I’d parked in the diary to get round. And even then, I have to admit, I didn’t quite manage it. Without question the one thing I’ve missed the most about the lack of in-person tastings, dinners, press tours, and everything betwixt and between, is talking to producers. Trying to get a handle on everything from the history of their estate to how this year’s vintage is going is just such good fun. It was too easy to forget over the last two years that this is a ‘people industry’, so these chats are almost as important to me as being able to try the stunning wines on show. I did say “almost”.
What follows are some of my favourites from the producers I visited and the wines I tried. This is by no means a complete list of the best of Bancroft, but it is a good run through of memorable wines from memorable producers that I had the pleasure of annoying with my silly questions for 15 minutes or so each time.
Gorgeous German wines
It feels almost weird to talk of Germany as an under-rated wine country. It’s definitely under-represented in the UK. That could be because many wine drinkers have long memories of bad wines from the end of the last century. It could be that not many buggers can read the labels. Or it could be that the Germans drink most of it before it leaves the country! It could be one, it could be more, who knows?! But German wines have a special place in my mind, and Pfalz in particular, following a majestic holiday down the Deutsche Weinstraße about a decade ago and tucking into inadvisably large quantities of Saumagen and Riesling.
Bancroft has two Pfalz producers, both of whose wines I’ve proudly used at my own events. Weingut Schwarztrauber were early adopters of organic viticulture back in 1986, and choose minimal intervention techniques including natural yeasts, low levels of fining and filtering, and only a touch of sulphur around bottling. I’ve used both their Riesling and Weissburgunder before, but this time it was the Spätburgunder (DPD £11.75) on show that really impressed with fresh and fruity notes of cherries, raspberries and blood oranges, with a youthful, peppery, tannic grip. One very much for drinking and enjoying early.
Next up was Weingut Eymann, another early adopter of organics in the 1980s and now fully-fledged biodynamically certified since 2006. Winemaker Vincent Eymann took over the estate from his father in 2015, keeping the biodynamic ethos, but moving the wines back towards more traditional winemaking with a renewed focus on Riesling and Spätburgunder. The standout Fuchsmantel Riesling Trocken 2019 (DPD £25.45) is from 90-year-old ungrafted vines from the terraced premier cru of Fuchsmantel. The aromas were super intense, ripe stone fruits, lemon and lime citrus flowing throughout, and lifting petrol notes. The mouthfeel was beautifully balanced with the naturally high acidity matched with creamy lees ageing. Drinking great now, but could easily age for a decade or more.
Awesome Austrian wines
I always think one of the saddest moments in recent wine industry was when Willy Klinger stepped down as the chief of Wines of Austria. Not only does he have the finest name of anyone I’ve ever met, but also he was exceptional at his job by all accounts. During his tenure from 2007 to 2019, Austrian wine become a force on the international wine markets again, and Austrian producers had the confidence to trust their terroir and make wines their way.
Weingut Hajszan Neumann took this to heart straight away. From its vineyards in the Nussberg region overlooking Vienna, the team produces produce a range of biodynamic Grüner Veltliner, Traminer, and Zweigelt with both natural and slightly more conventional expressions. The wine that shone out for me was the Nussberg Zweigelt (DPD £13.45), using vines from the cooler upper part of the vineyard, and giving a fresh wine with brooding black fruit flavours and spice, and super smooth tannic structure from two years in old oak barrels.
Michael Opitz took over his grandparents’ vineyards on the flatlands of Burgenland. The lack of altitude and slopes meant that he concentrates on aromatic varieties to give his range of organic, spontaneous fermented, unfiltered and unfined wines plenty of generous fragrance to match the fabulous labels. My personal favourite is his Buddy Talk White (DPD £10.25), a blend of Muscat Ottonel, Moscatel, and Sauvignon Blanc with intense grape, apricot, peach, and orange blossom notes. There’s enough acidity to give it balance, and the fruit flavours complement a textured mineral bite. Really fun wine.
Fabulous French wines
Bancroft’s range from France covers all the favourite bases. Highlights include a pair of well-made Bordeaux satellite wines from Lussac-St-Émilon (Château Lucas) and Lalande De Pomerol (Château Chatain), as well as the ever lovely wines of Domaine Alex Foillard in Beaujolais. But my standouts were from another two of the lesser appreciated areas, namely Loire and Alsace.
Jérémie Huchet’s family started winemaking after World War 2, with Jérémie taking over in 2001. He is slowly conversting his full 64 hectares of vines into organic viticulture, no mean feat in a climate like he farms on the Atlantic Coast of the Loire Valley. I really enjoy his Châpeau Melon (Bowler Hat) white and reds, the white in particular a glaringly obvious choice for a by-the-glass pour this summer. My favourite, however, was the salty and mineral-rich L’Inattendu Muscadet Sèvre et Maine (DPD £8.95), from vines planted in deep gneiss soils, adding a savoury herbal note to the lush green fruit and lemon citrus.
Hailing from the North-Eastern region of Alsace, Domaine Ostertag produces wines that really are worth making a beeline for next time you get a chance! Now run by Arthur Ostertag, the domaine continues to favour showcasing terroir over aiming to hit specific varietal typicity, something that they feel their conversion to biodynamics in 1998 has helped with greatly. I’ve previously waxed lyrical about its Pinot Blanc Les Jardins, but this time around I was lucky enough to try the Pinot Gris Muenchberg A360P Grand Cru (DPD £45.95). Pinot Gris made to this quality is a fabulous thing to behold, with plenty of ripe stone and tropical fruits and sweet spice on the nose that simply explode on the palate from first sip to last, leaving a long, lingering ginger and lychee skin finish. It’s at the higher end of the price range of course, but very much worth it.
Super Spanish wines
Towards the end of my stint across the tasting room, with my mouth shot to hell and my feet screaming at me to go sit down in a quiet room and take the weight off, I headed over to the Spanish producers to finish the day. And I’m so glad I did, with some exceptional and unexpected wines from across the country.
Each of the three producers from Rioja had something that made me sit up and take notice. Bodegas Navarrsotillo’s Qvinto Arrio Tempranillo Blanco (DPD £8.25) was a joy to taste, with plenty of nutty, herbal, stone and tropical fruit notes on both nose and palate. The label needs a rethink, it’s hardly the most inspiring, but the wine is impressive enough to mask over that comfortably.
Next we move onto the rosado of Finca Allende (DPD £16.95). A blend of 60% Tempranillo and 40% Garnacha from the Rioja Alta region, this wine has been aged for 30 months in old oak barrels to give it a mellowness that you rarely find in a world where every rosé feels it needs to be an identikit Provence style. A glorious deep pink colour, with strawberries and cream, raspberry and perfumed blood orange. The extra mouthfeel makes this a brilliant food pairing rosado for those plates of meat and cheese on the terraces this summer.
Also in Spain is the brilliant Telmo Rodríguez. The team here scours the length and breadth of Spain, finding unloved and often abandoned vineyards in supposedly unsexy regions, and restoring them to their former glory. The stand out of the range here was the Mountain Blanco (DPD £12.95) from Malaga, made from a long pressing of Muscat of Alexandria. These dry-farmed vines are around 80 years old and the deep root systems add a mineral structure to the pretty Muscat grape and blossom aromas.
And finally for Spain comes Cillar de Silos from Ribera Del Duero. Ribero Del Duero makes some of the finest wines in Spain and is becoming increasingly supported and appreciated by the fine wine market, and a plethora of wine consultants and sommeliers in the UK. The vineyards at Cillar de Silos are at around 900m altitude, with a diurnal range of nearly 25 degrees swing in the summer months, leading to long ripening periods and a stellar combination of concentration and freshness. Standout here was the Torresilo (the “pigeon tower”, DPD £30.45) which was a serious wine with concentrated wild red fruits, nutmeg, and ‘cedar wood’ from French oak. Drinking well now but would undoubtedly age for over a decade.
A special mention
I couldn’t complete any round-up of the event without a couple of special mentions. Firstly, it was an absolute pleasure to finally meet Thanos Dougos from Dougos Winery in Thessaly. I bang on about his acacia barrel-aged Assyritiko, the Meth’Imon (DPD £13.95) and the perfumed, Xinomavro-heavy Rapsani (DPD £12.45), but I’ve also now experienced the old vine Rapsani which, for just a few quid more (DPD £16.45) is a stunner… especially if you like Dandelion and Burdock!
Last, but certainly not least, were the wines of Edi Simčič from Goriška Brda in Slovenia. A fabulous line-up of skin contact whites and barrel-fermented reds, showcasing some beautiful aromatic varieties including Pinot Gris, Rebula, and Malvasia. Strangely enough, however, it was his Chardonnay (DPD £17.75) that I found most fun. Only two hours of skin contact, then the juice is run off and fermented at ambient temperatures, there were floral notes, stone and citrus fruit, and an almost Bakewell tart-like sweet spiciness to it all.
So there you go, a few of my favourites from the Bancroft portfolio tasting. By all means let me know what you think yourselves if you were there. Any stunners that I’ve missed? Any of the above you loved too? But otherwise I think that’ll be plenty for you to keep an eye on next time the trade list email does its rounds.
If you want to find out more about these wines or about the wider Bancroft portfolio, then please contact Hannah Van Susteren on firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Turner is a freelance writer, educator, and presenter. He also runs Feel Good Grapes, a wine events and e-commerce business focusing on the environment, societal, and economic future of the wine trade, from his base in the East Midlands.