Swig has been a key importer at the forefront of the New South Africa movement but there is so much more to its portfolio, argues Roger Jones who highlights wines from R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia, Flint, Domaine Castera, Chateau de Messey, Henri et Gilles Buisson and Stephane Ogier as examples of fine wine at sensible prices as well, of course as his old chums from Hemel-En-Aarde in SA, Restless River.
“Great to see Swig helping to share these iconic wines across the masses and not merely to a select few on allocation,” writes Jones about the Vina Tondonia wines.
Swig Wines seems to be growing and growing, this was particular evident by the amount the sales team had expanded and the packed tasting room at the excellent China Exchange venue based in the centre of Soho.
Whilst Swig has clearly championed South Africa in the past, there is so much more to its portfolio, and both founder Robin Davis and director of trade sales, Damon Quinlan, are superb wine explorers that still manage to find undiscovered wines. Through their private sales team they are also spreading the great gospel to a wider audience and, with more consumers enjoying wine at home, this is an essential way forward for independent companies like Swig – for example consumers living in London can have same day delivery.
Here is a snapshot of my favourite wines from the tasting with a DPD price per bottle.
Flint Vineyard, Norfolk
I have been a fan of winemaker Ben Witchell and Flint Vineyard for many years, and these wines continue to excel; he learnt his skill in Beaujolais, prior to establishing his vineyard in the beautiful Earsham area of Norfolk.
Flint Bacchus 2021 & 2022 £14.95
Always shines as one of the best Bacchus in the UK, the 2022 is another step up with fresh clean fruit and a cleansing finish.
Flint Silex 2021 £18.90
Blend of Chardonnay (from the famous Crouch Valley) and Pinot Blanc, lush apples and pears with a creamy feel, plenty of uplift and hints of wild flowers and buttercups, zippy acidity at the end to keep it fresh.
Flint Bacchus Fumé 2021 £18.90
The star of the show for me, this seductive oak-aged Bacchus delivers excellence, creamy texture, nutty and lime curd on nose, reminds me of Pouilly Fumé; with age this will evolve with a toasty lime marmalade-on-brioche feel; drink it now to enjoy its fresh clean flavours or keep it to see how this will evolve majestically.
Flint Charmat Rosé £19.94
Pink (and it is bright lipstick style colour) full of glorious red berries and whipped cream, fruity but not sweet, there is some complexity to this wine too, ‘Prosecco’ at its best.
Two excellent value wines showcasing Jurancon, the winemaker Franck Lihour has travelled the world, even making wine in South Africa at Beaumont. Grape varieties include Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng & Petit Courbu.
Jurancon Sec Domaine Castera 2021 £13.90
Fresh citrus hit, lemon curd, lemon fizz, fresh-picked green herbs, good texture with a juicy fruity finish, citrus peel, tangerine, vibrant and refreshing.
Jurancon Sec Tauzy Domaine Castera 2021 £18.80
Mellow with an oily (olive oil) texture, lime curd, layered with orchard fruit, pineapple, and apricots, fresh and zippy. Serious Jurancon that needs food to showcase its quality. This wine will age beautifully for up to six years.
Château de Messey
Based in Southern Burgundy, about an hour’s drive north of Mâcon, in a village called Tournus. Purchased in the early 1990s by Marc Dumont, and the estate has been run in recent years by winemaker Frederic Servais who has transformed it into a star.
Mâcon-Villages ‘Les Chouettes’ Château de Messey 2021 £18.00
Fresh and clean, gentle stone fruit, then evolves with hints of tropical stone fruits, easy drinking with a creamy fresh finish with hints of kaffir lime.
Mâcon-Chardonnay ‘Roche’ Château de Messey 2021 £23.00
Wow what a wine, and a controlled 12% alcohol, textured and creamy, elegant and fresh, white nuts, peeled stone fruit, hint of pineapple, a Puligny in the making.
Mâcon-Cruzille ‘Pierres Rouges’ Château de Messey 2021 £26.50
Racy bright nose, nutty, pineapple essence, clean cut, impressive, cool fresh mid palate, think St Aubin. As more fêted appellations in Burgundy shoot up in price, here we have a fabulous wine that has a luxurious feel to it.
Henri et Gilles Buisson
Not only has the quality of these wines improved year on year, but also the new (hugely improved) labels elevate them even further, rightly reflecting the quality of these superb white wines.
Saint Romain ‘La Perriere’ Domaine Henri et Gilles Buisson 2020 £40.20
Purity is supreme, with an expensive, luxurious feel, fresh and focused but then on the mid-palate you find layers and layers of fine textures, on the finish again purity and freshness excel, peeled stone fruit, elegant white cobnuts.
Saint Romain ‘Sous la Velle’ Domaine Henri et Gilles Buisson 2020 £40.20
Nutty, with a zippy citrus freshness, lots of texture, long and lingering, slightly fuller than the last wine, but equally good. Although if ‘forced’ I would go with ‘La Perriere’.
Stephane Ogier 2021
Viognier/Condrieu is the ‘new Burgundy’, offering a classic wine matching, especially with seafood or spicy food, the gentle aromatic/stone fruit/citrus/spice sits comfortably on the finest of dining tables. Stephane Ogier is, without a doubt, one of the most well-respected names in the Northern Rhône valley. Prior to producing Côte-Rôtie under its own name, the Ogier family used to sell its fruit to Guigal. Since bottling under its own label in 1987, the family has managed to get recognition, with even Robert Parker marking some of the wines with 100 point scores.
Le Temps est Venu, Côtes du Rhône Blanc, Stephane Ogier 2022 £14.20
Fresh bright flavours with almonds and pineapple, delicate sponge cake, refined heather honey, clean light and focused.
Viognier de Rosine, Stephane Ogier 2021 £25.50
Bright clean and fresh, white peach melba, pineapple essence, focused with a lingering finish, uplifted by fresh citrus nuances. Quite outstanding, the perfect balance of fruit, citrus and minerality with a creamy texture.
Condrieu ‘La Combe de Malleval’ Stephane Ogier 2021 £45.00
I wrote “textured, refined, lingering, just fabulous”, this is textbook Condrieu delivering everything you want – refined, pure peeled stone fruit, perfect citrus lift, delicate spice, and that creamy texture that is heavenly and, in comparison to other top estates, great value.
Condrieu ‘Les Vielles Vignes de Jacques’ Stephane Ogier 2019 £66.00
Some wines stop you in your tracks, and this certainly did, this is Condrieu at its best, quite outstanding; bright clementine notes on first nose, then a delicate creamy texture but, as the wine opens up, you find tiny clusters of pure stone fruit which dance on the palate with such elegance and texture. Tuna Tartare with a dollop of Oscietra Caviar would go well with this.
Restless River, South Africa
Yes, I have to admit that I have been in love with these guys over the past decade, and the wines continue to enthral and excite, especially with age, I do urge you to hold onto these wines even the Chardonnay for a year or two, and the Cabernet for at least a decade.
Restless River Ava Maria Chardonnay 2020 £29.50
Could this be the best to date, it certainly blew me away, I just love the perfect marriage between Old and New World, oak and freshness, tropical and stone fruit, nutty and minerality, a classic world class Chardonnay.
Restless River Main Road and Dignity Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 £37.50
The Lone Ranger in the Hemel-En-Aarde, the only vineyard to produce Cabernet Sauvignon in the Pinot Noir capital of South Africa, and my word Craig has stolen all the goodies for this variety. When I first tried these Cabernets about 10 years ago I mentioned that they reminded me of the very best Cabernets from Margaret River in Western Australia, such as Moss Wood, I still sit with this opinion, and only see more improvement, greatness and exceptional value as the vines age.
Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Haro, Rioja
Great to see Swig helping to share these iconic wines across the masses and not merely to a select few on allocation.
Vina Cubillo Crianza, Lopez de Heredia 2015 £15.70
Yes 2015 Rioja at this price – a bargain! cocoa, bacon, dark raspberries, dried herbs, gutsy and pure, and low in alcohol for prime red wine.
Vina Bosconia Reserva, Lopez de Heredia 2011 £22.40
Bottled in a Burgundy bottle to reflect its origins (a reflection of Burgundy in the 1900s), dark red-fruited, silky smooth, cocoa, lamb roast juices, clean and focused on finish; I never understand why this is cheaper than the Tondonia below, always an equal in my mind, if not in some years better.
Vina Tondonia Reserva, Lopez de Heredia 2011 £29.90
The classic Rioja, released with over 10 years of ageing, racked twice a year, to ensure freshness, these will age for 20 years, but are ready to thrill you now.
Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva, Lopez de Heredia 2001 £99.00
The gift that keeps on giving, with over 20 years of age on release, a wine to savour, a rare opportunity to drink majestic iconic wines at sensible prices.
Other wines that I enjoyed at the Swig tasting included Au Bon Climate Wild Boy Chardonnay(£23.80), a bargain compared to the rest of their excellent stable, a few sweet wines including Jurancon Caubeigt Domaine Castera 2021(£88.00), and Keermont Fleurfontein NV (£33.00).