A sparkling wine from Brazil, a late harvest Albariño, eight Argentinian Malbecs, old vine Barossa Shiraz and a wide selection of wines from one of the oldest winemaking dynasties in the world – these are just some of the new additions to the Enotria&Coe portfolio. In two exclusive tastings, which kicked off the company’s 50th anniversary, E&C showed the wines of new agencies Teusner, Frescobaldi, Bodega Martín Códax and Susana Balbo Wines, alongside those of Brazil’s Casa Valduga which had a soft second launch. Two exclusive events were held for private and trade customers at Theo Randall at the Intercontinental and Sucre Restaurant; Peter Dean tasted through the wines, with and without food, and talked to winemakers Susana Balbo and Katia Alvarez who had flown in for the event.
“When your family has built bridges in Florence and been around since the 11th Century it’s safe to say they ‘have arrived’,” writes Dean about Frescobaldi, one of E&C’s new agencies.
As the wine trade starts to find its feet again after the double whammy of COVID and Brexit, so events like Enotria&Coe’s New Producer Launch held last week start to take on greater importance. For the agencies the months of disruption afforded a timely opportunity to change representation in the UK, for the importer it has been a chance to beef up sections of its portfolio, for the consultants and writers it is an opportunity to taste a range of wines that are showing well, with and without food, and also to do this in the presence of real-life winemakers. Oh, and not having to wash up Zaltos afterwards which was a huge plus.
A new perspective on Albariño
Great to see winemaker Katia Alvarez from Bodega Martín Códax at the tasting after this agency has moved from Liberty. Alvarez, who also heads up production at this influential cooperative, is widely regarded as one of the most important women winemakers in Spain at the moment and the envelope-pushing expressions of Albariño she brought along showed why.
The flagship, ubiquitous Albariño 2020 was one of the nine wines she showed and, of course, it has widespread and mainstream applications but it was the more individual expressions which were quite frankly eye-openers and will work very well in the on-trade. I picked out four of these: Orange Wine Albariño 2020 which is the first of its type I have tasted. The wine has had 6-8 months on skins and, as such, is structured and tannic but it has a pretty, approachable feel – think orange jam and roses with a lick of cream – the label’s pretty cool too.
Lias Albariño 2019 has had two months batonage and then a further ten months in steel. Although there is a good deal of complexity with this wine and volume in the mouth, it still delivers as an Albariño – salty, crisp green apples, with a leesy mouthfeel.
If Lias was impressive then Vindel Albariño 2018 was even more so with Alvarez using fruit from low yielding vines from a single plot, freezing it, then giving the grapes a soft press to bring out the exotic fruit profile without the tannins. The mouthfeel is almost like a red wine here, intense, concentrated but with a silkiness and mineral-driven core that ends on a dry-stone finish. There was an attractive apricot note too and little hits of spice.
Another first for me on the Albariño front was Gallaecia Late Harvest Albariño 2017 which was a stunner. This was one of those wines that disorientates you – on the eye it is golden yellow, on the nose you find marmalade, dried fruits, honey and yet, on the palate, with only 6 grams residual sugar (6.3% acidity) you get a dry textured finish. There’s a touch of sweetness from the botrytis but the overall flavour that comes through is an intense lemon citrus note and saline. Chefs and somms could play around with this all day.
A whole lotta’ Malbec
The move to E&C from Las Bodegas/ Ucopia is obviously a big deal for Susana Balbo who flew into London for the launch. Balbo is one of the most powerful women in the wine world, let alone Argentina where she has held the prestigious position of president of Wines of Argentina for three years amongst many others. Balbo was showing 12 of the 14-wine Susana Balbo Wines range E&C is listing, half of which are different expressions of Malbec, eight if you also count the Signature Rosé which is a Malbec/ Pinot Noir blend.
There are four principal brands on offer, Crios being the more ‘entry level’. Crios Torrontes 2021 was classic, true, aromatic and fruity held together by lively acidity, Crios Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 was also true to its varietal, intense cherry and plum notes with nice register on the palate and ripe tannins – a good balance between concentration without being too ripe.
The Signature Rosé 2021 Susanna confessed to not making – her son does and she just puts her name to it. This impressive 60/40 blend of Malbec and Pinot Noir comes from low yielding vines on poor calcareous soils 1100m high which was evidenced by the tension and juicy acidity in the wine. The fruit is picked at 20 brics and 22 brics respectively which lends the wine a green quality with a grapefruit pith note and decent grip which worked splendidly well with a lobster starter.
Signature Malbec 2019 hails from Altamira in the Valle de Uco where the high diurnal range of these 1200m high vineyards lends the wine good structure and violet notes. The wine spends 12 months in oak (30% new) which brings roasted coffee notes and deep, dark chocolate on the palate, alongside the black fruit and spicy liquorice.
BenMarco is the sub-brand in the portfolio with the greatest imprint of Edy del Pópolo and it is terroir-focused, in this case BenMarco Sin Limites Malbec 2019 hails from the calcareous soils of Gualtallary in the Pedernal Valley. There is a sumptuous balance in the wine between the austerity and power of the region and also a more herbal and delicate side.
Nosotros 2018 is from the three-wine range that is composed of Susana’s best barrel selection. One of Argentina’s few ultra-premium Malbecs this is an intense wine with great natural acidity and balance, bags of blue and black fruit and an excellent dry extract on the finish.
30 generations of winemaking excellence
Having spent 20 years at Hallgarten the acquisition of Frescobaldi is quite a coup for Enotria&Coe. One of the few wine estates that can realistically claim the title of ‘dynasty’, Frescobaldi is part of the fabric of Tuscany in which it farms 1200 hectares of vines from eight different wineries – covering all bases. When your family has built bridges in Florence and been around since the 11th Century it’s safe to say they ‘have arrived’(!) and are a household name in Italy. Export director, Stefano Benini, was showing 11 of the 21-wine range of wines E&C are taking (from a 60-wine strong range).
Benini, part of the 30th generation of this family, brought along a classy Vermentino and Rosé but it was this 90%/10% blend Chardonnay/Pinot Bianco Pomino 2020 that really stood out for me. From the 100-hectare Castello Pomino estate 700m up, the wine treads that tricky line between concentrated and elegant, offering a complex palate that is also thirst-quenching with alcohol at a modest 12.5% abv. Floral, honeysuckle notes predominate, on the palate there is a hint of tropical fruit, a leesy mouthfeel and a lick of cream from the malo. Hard to think of another country this could be from.
Rèmole Rosso 2020, also punched well above its weight being made from declassified Chianti Ruffina fruit “in order to better represent Tuscan as a whole,” according to Benini. Crunchy red and black fruit, some spicy notes, this is a textured entry level 70/30 Sangiovese/ Cabernet Sauvignon blend that sits very nicely at £9.70 duty paid list price and was drinking remarkably well given it was from the 2020 vintage.
Also showing well on the day was the Nipozzano Chianti Ruffina Riserva 2018 which will be familiar to many. A blend of 90% Sangiovese with equal parts Merlot and Canaiolo it is the texture and bright acidity to this wine that balances its constituent parts and brings a surprising amount of elegance into the mix.
Montalcino used to comprise a dozen producers in the early 1970s, this was when the 80-90 hectares of vines were planted for the CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2016. A 100% Sangiovese, of course, from a stunning vintage, this has a light touch, surprising given that the vineyards point South and South-West. Complex with notes of forest fruits and balsamic, and dense, tannic and mineral-charged on the palate this is a classy Brunello that begs for a tomato or wild boar ragu.
2021 shining as a great vintage in Barossa
Like Dave Powell, a fellow former winemaker at Torbreck, Kym Teusner is driven by the need to capture the freshness of old-vine Barossa Shiraz. A venture that, in true Australian fashion, started over a beer, Teusner saved a plot of 85 year-old vines from uprooting and ever since has been expanding his estate most significantly when, in 2020, he merged with Spanish-owned Terramoll which has allowed Teusner to increase both range and output. The Riebke and The Joshua used to be handled by Hallgarten and have now moved over with 12 other wines, six of which were being shown by Teusner representative Amelia Jukes.
The star of the show for me was the original ‘star’ of the estate, Joshua 2021, which is an unoaked GSM blend led by fruit from 100-year-old Grenache vines grown on the sandy soils of North Barossa. This makes up 55% while Mataro and Shiraz complete the blend at 35% and 10% respectively. It’s a forward wine with red and black fruit of lovely purity, some secondary jamon and spicy notes and, although it’s 14.5% abv and has intensity there’s a terrific acidity keeping it all in check – still a bit young although 2021 is being talked up as a terrific vintage.
The Gentleman Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 is clearly a New World Cab with plush, rich cassis and dark chocolate flavours – it spends 12 months in old oak and is forward, juicy and commercial. The Riebke Shiraz 2019 is 95% Shiraz with a 5% ‘condiment’ of Mataro and Cab Sauv, the latter really making its presence felt on the aromatics. Sweet, open, expressive, this benefits from a lean ‘green leaf’ edge that frames the quality fruit. The Dog Strangler Mataro 2019 is a rare single varietal expression of a grape known colloquially in French as ‘Estrangle-Chien’ – blue and black fruit combine, great texture and, again, a wine with heft (14.5% abv) but balance and precision.
Brazil – a real point of difference
Although not a new agency, Casa Valduga, a Brazilian winery founded in 1875, was added to E&C’s portfolio last summer from Berkmann but its stocks were held up and have only just landed. Primarily known as a producer of sparkling wine it has been taken on by E&C to give a point of difference. For me, personally, it was a first to taste a Brazilian TERROIR Pinot Noir 2020 that was transparent russet with smoky, green notes. They were showing a TERROIR Exclusivo Tannat 2017 which makes an interesting counterpoint to Uruguayan Tannat and had a lot more power than its 13.5% abv suggested. Best of all was the SUR LIE Nature Branco NV which is a 80/20 Chardonnay/ Pinot Noir un-disgorged traditional method sparkler which has had 30 months on lees with 7gms residual sugar.
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