Corney & Barrow’s new wines in its Autumn-Winter portfolio are an Aladdin’s cave of delights. Corney & Barrow showed 78 wines at the first portfolio tasting held since the pandemic, and 72 of those wines were new. Half came from France as you might expect but then there was a range of new wines from Lebanon, Oregon, Chile, Romania, New Zealand and Australia – evidence that the company’s buying team has been busier than ever unearthing exciting new wines that will work just as well at home or in the on-trade.
“VGW stands for Very Good White and it really does just ‘what it says on the tin’,” writes Dean about a new Chardonnay from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Corney & Barrow’s buying team has been busy over the past two years scoping out new producers and wines from across the world. Its Autumn-Winter Wine Tasting was a first opportunity to taste wines from these new agencies and to see some of the new directions the team has been taking. It was also Corney & Barrow’s first portfolio tasting since before the pandemic
Returning to the Maxwell Library at IET London for the first time since the Burgundy 2016 campaign, Corney & Barrow showed 78 wines, 72 of them new to the portfolio. Exactly half of the wines were from France, as you might expect, there was also a good showing from Italy but what was more of a surprise was four wines from Lebanon, four from Chile, three from Romania, three from the States and one apiece from New Zealand and Australia. Many interesting styles of winemaking were on show, some wines just perfect for selling-by-hand and at a range of price points.
Also worth a mention are the many excellent label re-designs by the company’s wine buying assistant, Fernanda Koprowski, that has cleaned up the likes of Les Lys de Léon, a Loire Pinot Noir and Fetele, the Romanian white.
New Corney & Barrow wines that ‘ticked all my boxes’
Jura, France 12% abv £13.29 (ex-VAT)
A really vinous 100% Pinot Noir Jura crémant – traditional method – aged for 46 months in the bottle after whole-bunch pressing and MLF (9 months ageing is the minimum). The wine has the Jura’s characteristic mix of structure and freshness. On the nose you’ll find wild strawberries and prune; in the mouth the wine is off-dry (10 gms r/s) and has crunchy redcurrant and spiced fig, it’s crisp, precise, autolytic, with a nice textural edge that gives it many gastronomic uses. A giveaway price.
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Champonnet, Domaine du Couvent 2014
Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France 13% abv £54.79 (ex-VAT)
A different price point but this well-aged Pinot from the tiny climat, Clos du Couvent, fires on all cyclinders. The fruit is from 26-year-old vines grown on limestone with gravel and clay, is de-stemmed and vinified/ aged in 25% new oak. It has that 2014 lean grip but the fruit is pretty, finely detailed and nicely balanced.
Château Canon 2019
Canon-Fronsac, Bordeaux, France 14.5% abv £17.29 (ex-VAT)
From an old Moueix property, one of the oldest in Fronsac, this is a splendid 100% Merlot from 60 year old vines, produced in a great, sunny vintage. It has plenty of ripe, creamy fruit and decent structure and balance, the integrated tannins making the wine approachable at such a young age.
Pinots Macérés Ambre, Domaine Trapet 2020
Riquewihr, Alsace, France 14% abv £23.29 (ex-VAT)
A singular blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Auxerois, made by the Trapets who acquired their family estate in Alsace and apply the same biodynamic principles that they do in Burgundy. Transparent ruby, this is all about sweet, crushed berries on the nose and palate. A touch frizzante, edgy, mineral with a crisp tannic bite. Best served chilled.
Pays Natais, Loire, France 12% abv £10.21 (ex-VAT)
Lest we forget the quality and value of top Muscadet, especially the more leesy style – this aged for six months on the lees with no MLF. The result is a crisp, tense, mineral-driven white (all orchard fruit and citrus) with the lees adding depth and a silky texture. Contemporary style and gorgeously elegant.
Sancerre, Domaine Bernard Fleuriet et Fils, 2021
Sancerre, Loire, France 13% abv £19.58 (ex-VAT)
An elegant, mouth-watering Old World Sauvignon Blanc with fruit from 25 year-old south-east facing vines, vinified in cement tanks and then rested on its lees for 10 months. The aromatics are pretty and delicate with white flowers and nectarine skin, the mouthfeel is lean, crisp, vinous with citrus fruit and a hint of yellow stone fruit, a chalky, mineral texture on the finish. The domaine is organic and currently converting to biodynamic.
Grolleau, VdP du Val de Loire, Clau de Nell 2019
Anjou, Loire, France 12% abv £25.21 (ex-VAT)
Unique and quite wonderful wine from a winery bought by Anne-Claude Leflaive in 2006 and which has clear Burgundian influence. The wine is 100% Cabernet Franc from 100 year-old, low-yielding vines, that spend 14 months on fine lees in a mix of used and new Burgundy barrels, and then a further six months in vats. No filtration or fining. Ripe raspberry nose with hints of leaf and meat; the mouthfeel is edgy with grippy tannins, red berry fruit, white cracked pepper, plenty of juice and acidity and nicely balanced. Interesting in the good sense of the word.
Valle d’Aosta, Italy 12% abv £14.58 (ex-VAT)
The mountainous valley of d’Aosta in North West Italy is famed for its Pinot Noir and indigenous grapes like this 100% Petite Arvine which is farmed ‘heroically’ – the harvest carried out by hand on very steep hillsides. This is a fresh white wine with mouth-wateringly high acidity, its texture created by 10% being vinified in old oak tonneaux and having a few months lees-ageing. Straw yellow in colour the nose is citrussy, complex, vinous, the palate intense and mineral-charged (partly due to the moraine soil). Will work well with hard cheeses and starters but very much a food wine.
Puglia, Italy 13% abv £9.13 (ex-VAT)
A straight-hitting, value-driven Fiano from a family estate renowned for its wines in the Veneto region, but which also has vines in Puglia. The wine has had a cold maceration which helps amplify the aromatics (think nectarines, honeysuckle, a touch of tropical fruit) and is left on its lees which gives the wine extra texture and a fresh almond note. A refreshing, fruity, no-nonsense thirst-quencher.
Colle Murello Trebbiano, Biano Umbria IGT 2021, Leonardo Bussoletti
Umbria, Italy 13.5% abv £16.04 (ex-VAT)
The Trebbiano grape that makes this dry, serious white is indigenous Umbrian grape Trebbiano Spoletino and bears no relation to other Trebbianos. This is a rare wine, made in limited numbers with a gorgeous nose of stone fruit, a touch tropical, the palate is firm, creamy, intense and mineral-charged. Great texture and balance.
Montelcino, Tuscany, Italy 14% abv £42.46 (ex-VAT)
Fabulous Brunello from a great vintage – a wine that is exclusive to Corney & Barrow hailing from an estate that last year Italian ‘bible’ Gambero Rosso described as one of the ‘up-coming estates to keep an eye on’. Winemaker Gianni Maccari spent 14 years working at Poggio di Sotto and now works here with his son, Filippo. Almost see-through, this is red fruit-forward with Christmas spice notes, tar and sweet fruit on the palate, held in check by grippy tannins and a lovely long, textured finish.
Jerez, Andalusia, Spain 15% abv £28.29 (ex-VAT)
Pingus’ Peter Sisseck set out to create Spain’s best white wine when he purchased Bodega San Francisco with the help of Hacienda Monasterio’s owners. This is the result, a stunningly original 100% Palomino Fino that comes from the best soils in Jerez and is made in a highly drinkable en rama style – getting the right balance between long solera ageing and the freshness of youth – emphasised by the wine coming in a Burgundy bottle and diam cork. Yellow gold in appearance, the aromatics are complex with salt air, candied orange, lime and fresh herbs mingling with that unmistakable sherry flor nose. The palate is fresh, very dry and lively with saline, marzipan and straw. A glugable sherry that is just so original and comes exclusively through Corney & Barrow.
Banat, South-West Romania 13% abv £8.71 (ex-VAT)
Pound for pound, Romanian wines offer unbeatable value for money and this easy drinking white is no exception. Feteascā Regalā is the country’s flagship white grape and this interpretation, has been made by Romania’s largest wine exporter exclusively for Corney & Barrow. The wine’s aromatics are complex with yellow stone fruit, white flowers, spiced pears and yellow plums dominating; the mouthfeel has good balance between ripe fruit, acidity and texture – the latter coming from 30 days ageing in new French oak with plenty of lees stirring.
Beqaa Valley, Lebanon 14.25% abv £16.25 (ex-VAT)
Bearing the ancient name for the Beqaa Valley, and made by the team which lost its HQ in the Beirut Harbour blast, this aged blend of Chardonnay (70%) and Sauvignon Blanc is extraordinary in so many respects. The main reason is that it’s rare to find a white wine with such unbridled power that still manages to be balanced and offer excellent drinking pleasure. There’s a mix of citrus fruits on the nose and palate (satsumas) with notes of orange blossom. The wine’s having been aged for three months on its lees, and six years in bottle, plus its high alcohol, gives the wine huge length. Well worth seeking out.
VGW Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, 00 Wines 2017
Willamette Valley, Oregon, 13% abv £59.83 (ex-VAT)
A wine that attracted a lot of buzz in the tasting room, this is a delicious and original style of Chardonnay by winemaker Kathryn Hermann. The fruit comes from young vines grown on volcanic soil, it has a pre-press crush with 12 hours skin contact, wild ferment, then transfer into French oak barrels (20% new) where it spends 12 months, followed by another six months in steel, all the while on its lees and with no sulfites added. The result is an expressive white with considerable depth and weight, but still manages to remain fresh and light in the mouth. On the complex nose you can find candied pineapple, Meyer lemon, pear and honeydew melon, the palate is rich with toasted cashew nuts, spice and a whiff of smoke. VGW stands for Very Good White and it really does just ‘what it says on the tin’.
‘Parellon’ Sémillon, Paredones, Maturana Wines 2021
Paredones, Colchagua Costa, Chile 13.5% abv £13.96 (ex-VAT)
Made with fruit from some of Chile’s oldest Sémillon vines, this is a beautifully-crafted, low intervention wine that shows the power and potential of this grape in the right hands. Dry farmed with wild yeast, 25% of the wine having skin contact for 4-5 months and 75% aged in third-use French oak for the same timeframe, this is a wine with real attitude and concentration. To look at the wine is yellow with orange-hints. The nose is intense with acacia, orange zest and baking spices. The mouthfeel is fresh but structured with a tannic bite balancing well with the spiced flavours. Quite an unexpected wine in the Corney & Barrow portfolio.
Eden Valley, Australia 13.5% abv £17.46 (ex-VAT)
An Aussie take on a classic Italian wine. 12 years ago Montepulciano was grafted onto old Riesling vines 450m up in South Australia’s Eden Valley. The cool nights, low rainfall and sandy soils featuring a high proportion of quartz and granite-gravel, leads to a wine with delicate flavours, fine natural acidities and elegance, helped by winemaker Michael Schreurs’ minimal intervention in the winemaking. On the nose you find wild, black cherries, eucalyptus and dried herbs; the mouthfeel is fresh and juicy with polished tannins and bright acidity, flavours including Morello cherries, dark plums and liquorice. Very moreish and gastronomic.
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