The Dirty Dozen tastings have always been a must-attend affair. So it proved again this year, although not being in the basement of a Soho vinyl store meant that the wines had to do all the heavy lifting on their own. Winemaker Chris Wilson reports that the wines were more than up to the task, and picks a dozen eclectic ones that were shown by some of the UK’s most dynamic wine importers.
“From the Sierra de Gredos mountains comes this easy-going Garnacha that’s more smashable than a stack of plates at a Greek wedding,” writes Wilson about one of his Dirty Dozen highlights.
When it comes to recurring tastings The Dirty Dozen is a stone cold favourite. It always impresses and is a joy to attend.
Historically The Dirty Dozen has been one of the more edgy tastings on the circuit, and all the better for it, a shard of rock & roll among wall-to-wall jazz. Just what the wine trade needs in fact, a sort of real-life ‘jukebox in the corner to liven you stiffs up a bit’, if you get the reference.
This incarnation was no different, but in 2022 rather than leaning on the venue to bring the edge (over the years the tasting has taken place in off-the-beaten track spaces like the basement of Soho’s Phonica Records), the wines had to do all the heavy lifting on their own, and they didn’t disappoint.
Between the 12 importers showing their wines there was a smattering of new, old, funky and familiar with each table offering something different. With more than 250 wines on show it was hard deciding what to focus on, but that’s a good problem to have.
Below I’ve selected my pick from the tasting, 12 stunners from the Dirty Dozen, one from each importer.
Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Reisling Kabinett, 2020 (Howard Ripley)
This is a style of Reisling which should be enjoyed more; it soars with powerful citrus and melon fruit, there’s lime zest and a classy bite of chalk. With an acidity which pings off the tongue like a Graeme Hick cover drive it’s utterly refreshing too, keen in the mouth and brisk off the palate but leaving you wanting more. Classy stuff.
Quinta do Soalheiro, Bruto Espumante, NV (Raymond Reynolds)
Just because Portugal isn’t known for its sparkling wines, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any and that they aren’t worth seeking out. This trad-method Alvarinho from Soalheiro in the Minho IGP is excellent; bracing and racy with lemon peel acidity, delicate toasty bubbles and a fine, laser-focussed finish. Elegant.
Portugal Boutique Winery, Gorro Loureiro Vinho Verde, 2021 (Swig)
Punchy and fresh with green apple acid and tree fruit. This is more developed than many Vinho Verde and big on the acid. After a smack in the face up front, it finishes on a sultry note with a salty tang and irrepressible zip.
Domaine Py Corbières ‘3eme Cuvee’ Blanc, 2021 (Yapp Brothers)
Apparently just 3% of Corbières is white, so this is a rare treat indeed. A magical and oak-tinged blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Roussanne it’s lush with ripe pear and apple purée fruit, white pepper spice and a long and floaty finish.
Orlando Abrigo, Très Plus Lamnghe Blanco DOC, 2019 (FortyFive10°)
This blend of Chardonnay and Nascetta (a grape variety local to Alba) is nutty and full-bodied. Ripe peachy fruit, almonds and a floral lift all come together nicely. It’s smooth and slick with great intensity and an irresistible lick of oak.
Mac Forbes, Ferguson Woori Yallock Chardonnay, 2019 (Clark Foyster Wines)
From a single site in the Yarra Valley and picked early for a lower ABV (quite the fashion in Australia with Chardonnay at the moment). This is a ‘classic’ Aussie Chardonnay in the modern sense; it has bite and acid, there’s ripe fruit (pineapple, pear) but no dramatic oak influence, this is linear and dry with a flinty edge. Bristles with life.
Domaine Bonnigal-Bodet, Touraine Amboise Sec ‘Le Clocher’, 2019 (H2Vin)
Bold with lovely grip and texture, almost a bite of sandpaper on the palate (600 grit). This lush Chenin is farmed biodynamically and grown on flint and clay soils. What impresses most is the sunshine fruit (melon, pear) fronting up against that grippy bite and unobtrusive but necessary acidity.
Domaine de Kalathas, ‘10+12’ Aspro Potamisi, 2019 (Maltby & Greek)
An orange wine with a distinctive orange peel note, that and guava. This sings with ripe fruit, and has a wonderful fleshy sweetness about it too. The balance is just right; the lively acidity is tempered by a rounded, soft mouthfeel, verging on the mineral.
El Barraco Gaznata, Gaznata Garnacha, 2020 (Carte Blanche)
From the Sierra de Gredos mountains comes this easy-going Garnacha that’s more smashable than a stack of plates at a Greek wedding. It’s juicy, herby and pops with redcurrant and strawberry fruit. So laid back it’s almost horizontal. Great price too.
Plan B! Frespañol Shiraz, 2020 (The Wine Treasury)
A smoky, savoury Shiraz from Frankland River, which has seen 14 months aging in small oak barrels lending a meaty weight and brooding demeanour. There’s 5% Tempranillo in here, but you wouldn’t know, it’s all bright Shiraz fruit; blackberries and mulberries. There’s a Marmite tang on the confident finish.
Mauricio Lorca, Ancestral Red Blend, 2019 (Ucopia World Wines)
This is a hefty blend from Vista Flores in Argentina’s Uco Valley and comprises Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Petit Verdot. The wines were vinified separately then blended with some micro-oxidation in clay. A very interesting blend; concentrated and rich, there’s black pepper spice, brooding black fruit and an underlying savoury meatiness. Think Vegemite on Ryvita.
Elena Fucci, Aglianico del Vulture ‘Titolo’, 2015 (Astrum Wine Cellars)
Grown on soils which are a mix of volcanic lava and ash, known locally as ‘pozzolana’, this is an intense and moody Aglianico. There’s dark fruit here, and a concentrated aniseed edge, like Black Jack sweets. Savoury cherry tobacco and leather notes bring another dimension to this full and suave wine.