The Berkmann 2018 London Portfolio Tasting was an impressive event. Slick, well-designed, housed in a beautiful, easy-to-get-to venue and, above all, really well organised. Chris Wilson went along, tasting glass in hand, to pick out 20 wines that you really should be thinking of putting on your wine list.
There were some old style Californian and Australian Chardonnays that were fascinating to taste at Berkmann, a Masi wine that hasn’t been around for a decade, some 100% varietals that were new grapes on Chris, and a wine that tasted like an alcoholic Um Bongo.
My mission to criss-cross the room (where more than 450 wines were on show) and taste every new wine in the Berkmann portfolio was made easy, not only by the layout of the room but also by the clear and clean tasting book and table signage.
It total there were some 59 new wines to taste on the day from right across the geographical, style and price spectrums. Established, world-renowned producers like Masi from the Veneto had new products to show, as did producers who were working with Berkmann for the first time, such as Harvest from Australia’s Adelaide Hills.
It was a tidy collection of newbies – not unlike a capsule collection of the full Berkmann range – and ticked a lot of boxes; quality, originality, innovation and excitement value.
Of the 59 tasted, here’s my top 20 Berkmann wines from the day:
Canevel Valdobbiadene Extra Dry DOCG, 2016
A complex prosecco that should delight customers looking for something more than tropical fruit and cream in their Italian fizz. This is lush and long with a lean and lively green apple acidity as well as ripe stone fruit. There’s a hint of candy (boiled lollies) here too and delicious, smooth texture.
Masi, Colbaraca Soave Classico, 2016
This wine from the famous Masi stable hasn’t been made for 10 years but returns after the vineyard was replanted four years ago. It’s smoky, earthy and textured with a Semillon-like waxiness. There’s stone fruit, grapefruit and lemon pith too and a richness that’s as seductive as hell.
Masseria Pioppeto, Falanghina, 2017
A floral and salty Falanghina from Campania that delivers a clementine and peachy hit up front before the mineral notes kick in. Glossy, long and very stylish.
Weingut Dr Fischer, Riesling Trocken, 2016
This has 8.3 g/L residual sugar but you wouldn’t know it; it’s tight and mineral with grapefruit and lime acidity and lovely balance. There’s a waxy edge on the finish and a smooth lick of sweetness before the acidity takes over.
Rudi Pichler, Riesling Federspeil, 2016
Supple and aromatic Riesling from Austria’s Wachau region with gooseberry and red apple fruit and punchy acidity. Bold and clean… textbook stuff.
Quinta da Cassa, Douro Branco Reserva, 2016
A single-estate indigenous blend of Codega de Larinho, Rabigato and Viosinho which is aged for six months in old French oak. It’s full and floral with crispy minerality; honeysuckle and buttered honey on toast characters.
Raventós d’ Alella, Pansa Blanca, 2016
A new grape on me, this is 100% Pansa Blanca and hails from Catalonia. It’s super stuff; a muscular, fruit-driven wine with a lick of spice and lashings of attitude. Tropical and tight… like an alcoholic Um Bongo.
Harvest, Chardonnay, 2017
This Adelaide Hills winery is new to Berkmann’s books and this is the pick of the selection on show. It’s complex and almost ‘orange’ in character with dried herbs, fennel and cider apple notes to the fore. There’s fruit and vanilla too, but these play second fiddle.
Unico Zelo, Jade & Jasper Fiano, 2017
Another new Aussie producer, Unico Zelo make wine in the Riverland and Clare Valley. This Fiano comes from Riverland and is full and rich with lime and pear fruit and a dash of dried herbs. It’s weighty and punchy but classy with it. So fresh.
Quails’ Gate, Chardonnay, 2015
The style here feels very mid-1990s Aussie – it’s all vanilla, milk tart and toffee with full-on oak influence. This richness is very seductive and it’s interesting to taste a wine like this nowadays when many producers are going the other way with Chardonnay. A lemon-peel acidity ties it all together.
Buena Vista, Carneros Chardonnay, 2015
Classic Cali Chardonnay; bright, woody and chewy. Fruit comes from four vineyard sites in Carneros and is fermented in barrel where it goes through MLF. Matured for nine months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, it is bottled unfiltered. Again, this is a style that’s less familiar at the moment but is delicious and easy drinking nonetheless.
Zero-GMT Orange Wine, 2016
This pure Muller-Thurgau spends three weeks on its skins before six months in stainless steel, and is bottled unfiltered with minimal sulphur dioxide added (20 g/L). It’s so lively and fresh with a mineral backbone and tropical fruit notes. Beautifully textured.
Luis Seabra, INDIE Xisto, 2014
The grapes for this Portuguese blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela and Rufete come from vineyards with an average age of 70 years, all planted on blue schist. They are briefly foot-trodden before a whole-bunch ferment. All very rustic, and that comes across in the wine. It’s earthy with forest fruit and some complex liquorice and tar characters.
Domaine Rolet-Arbois, Pinot Noir, 2011
A rustic and balanced Pinot from the Jura which has an abundance of fresh fruit as well as a hazelnut chewiness and a schisty-stoney finish. More like an Oregon or NZ Pinot in style than one from Burgundy, and superb with it.
Unica Zelo, Cherry Fields Dolcetto, 2017
Beaujolais in style and very, very cherry indeed. Very berry too; blackberry, blueberry. It’s fun, fresh and fruity with a cherryade character to the fruit and a lip-licking swirl of red liquorice. Could drink this all day.
Elgin Vintners, Pinot Noir, 2016
Cool climate SA Pinot at its most impressive. Earthy and brooding with a sea salt minerality and flavourful cherry and plum fruit. There’s a dash of spice too and clever use of oak which imparts just enough toasty notes not to overpower the fruit or freshness.
Quails’ Gate, Reserve Pinot Noir, 2015
Grown on schist and granite soils with the best grapes from four different vineyards going into the wine, this is a ripe and rich Pinot with great depth of character. Raspberry and red berry fruit dominate, but there’s hint of leather too and a mineral texture.
Finca Decero, Mini Ediciones Cabernet Franc, 2016
Just 100 cases of this 100% Cab Franc (Bordeaux clones) is produced which makes it even more special. The wine itself is hefty and layered with plum fruit, pencil shavings, vanilla ice cream and green pepper spice. A big, bold beast of a wine.
Silverado Vineyards, Solo Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012
There’s more than a hint of blackcurrant Chewits to this macho Napa Valley Cabernet. The fruit is confected, concentrated and beautifully integrated with the oak, producing a long and rich wine with fine tannins. Has benefitted greatly from time in barrel and bottle, but will live on in bottle quite happily.
Chateau Monteils, Sauternes, 2007
Classy and honeyed, with peanut brittle and dried fig, this is a blend of 75% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle. There’s a whack of lemon and lime acidity here to pin it all together and a finish that just doesn’t want to, erm, finish.