It’s the Most Wine-derful time of the year

The festive season is the time in every wine calendar when the so-called ‘good stuff’ is brought out, dusted off, sold to guests or purchased in the shop.

So what have the experts been recommending for this year’s festive tables?

David Williams, writing in The Observer

Lismore, Syrah 2016 

“Samantha O’Keefe makes some of South Africa’s most exciting wines from her lonely spot in a converted dairy farm in Greyton. This is the best of the beautiful bunch, a satin-textured, black-pepper-scented, raspberry-fruited pure Syrah.”

Jane Macquitty’s Top 100 Wines for Winter, in The Times
Gerard Bertrand, Merlot, Pays d’Oc 2016

“The former rugby player Gérard Bertrand produces some of the Languedoc’s finest wines from all sorts of terroirs, so grab this black cherry, cedar and red plum-packed Merlot.”

Domaine Andre Brunel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014

“If you want a robust but velvety, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove-scented red to serve with spiced beef and casseroled game, this one has your name on it.”

 

Will Lyons, writing in The Sunday Times Food Magazine
Lismore, The Age of Grace Viognier 2016

“Down in Greyton on the Western Cape, the Californian winemaker Samantha O’Keefe has built up a strong reputation. Notes of apricot, honeysuckle and kiwi fruit make this gently aromatic Viognier a cracker.”

Olly Smith, writing in Event Magazine
Zorzal, Eggo Tinto de Tiza Malbec 2014

“Game changing Malbec blend with lively freshness and sleek polished richness.”

Victoria Moore, writing in The Telegraph
Lismore, Syrah 2015

“Californian Samantha O’Keefe set up a winery in the remote ward of Greyton, an area not known for winemaking. Her pioneering spirit paid off; her Syrah is magnificent, pure and lucid, with intense flavours and fine tannins.”

Michele Chiarlo, Nivole, Moscato d’Asti 2016

“A deliciously light, airy and effervescent sweet wine that tastes of ripe peaches and sweet fresh grapes. Just gorgeous. Low in alcohol and a wonderful pick me up too. Try it with Christmas pudding – it’s refreshing.”

Jancis Robinson, writing in the FT
Lismore, Chardonnay 2014

“Californian Samantha O’Keefe has somehow ended up making wine way up in the cool hinterland of Hermanus on the south coast of South Africa, and very fine wine it is too. Another one to compare and contrast with fine white burgundy.”

 

Adrian Smith, Sypped, writing his Christmas Wine Guide in the Independent
Berton Vineyard, Botrytis Semillon 2016

“Rich, silky, smooth, honey blossom, apricots and orange rind with a sweet glazing.”

Image result for aldi berton vineyard botrytis

Joanna Simon, writing her Festive Red Wine Guide on her blog
clos Clare, Cemetery Block Shiraz 2014

“From a two-hectare plot of 20-year-old vines in the Watervale sub-region. Benchmark Clare clarity and definition, with cool mint, ripe blueberry and chocolate, touches of toast and liquorice and super-sleek tannins. Drink over the next seven years.”

Lismore, Syrah 2016

“Supremely graceful Syrah from mountain foothills in the hidden-away Greyton region. Fragrant, pure raspberry and cherry fruit edged with smoke and white pepper and the silkiest of tannins. The Pinot Noir is also excellent.”

Henry Jeffreys, writing on why you should head down under for Christmas wine in The Spectator
clos Clare, Cemetery Block Shiraz 2014

“The Clare Valley is better known for Riesling than Syrah. You think this wine is going to be a bit of a bruiser from the spicy and smoky aromas but on the palate it’s more about cool climate grace with floral notes, crunchy fruit and light tannins.”

WOTM: Barros 20 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro

The quintessential Christmas drink and the perfect way to end a festive meal… Port. Although there are many styles to choose from, we have chosen the Barros 20 Year Old Tawny Port as our Wine of the Month for December and one we would recommend being served with the Figgy Pudding.

In a nutshell:

A rich and complex combination of dried fruit aromas,
with spice and subtle hints of wood. Elegant and full bodied, with a long, engaging finish.

The producer:

Having celebrated their 100th year of trading in 2013, Barros Port is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious companies producing and trading in Port. Much of their success comes from Colheita Ports – old Tawnies from a single year matured in cask for a minimum period of seven years.

Their expertise in Colheita Ports has established them as the stand out producer of this style. Barros leaves their Colheita Ports to mature in cask until being hand bottled to order. The loss of wine from evaporation (known as the ‘Angel’s Share’) is much higher in comparison to bottle ageing. It is a sacrifice they are willing to make and one that helps them achieve unsurpassed quality in their Colheita wines.

In June 2006, Barros Ports was integrated into the Sogevinus Group who are now responsible for growing the brand in the international markets.

The wine:

Produced by the traditional Port method. The grapes were destemmed, crushed and underwent a careful skin maceration to extract colour, aromatics and fine tannins. Fermentation took place in vats known as ‘lagares’, with constant pumpovers during fermentation.

Temperatures were controlled and maintained at between 28 to 30°C, until the desired Baumé was reached. At this moment, grape brandy was added, which is known as the ‘benefit’, resulting in a fortified wine with perfect balance. This is a blend of different harvests to achieve the array of characteristics that are typical of these aged tawny Port wines.

The wines have each matured in oak casks for varying periods of time; it is the average age of all the wines in the blend which defines the age on the label.

Serving suggestion:

Starters such as strong cheeses and pâté; or desserts such as toffee brownies, chocolate and pistachio pavé or goat’s cheese.

 

Brilliantly Bordeaux

No matter how often you visit this place, it still beguiles you. The transition from the dreary detritus and strip malls of the Bordeaux conurbation to the wealth and imperious Proustian splendour of the Medoc is almost seamless.

From each side of the D2 the vines stand tall, straight and proud, in immaculate rows, lining the gravelly earth like bearskin-clad grenadiers parading for some local dignitary, or, more elegiacally, like the massed white headstones of a battlefield cemetery.

For the anoraks, it is one legendary châteaux after another.. “Oh, look, there’s Latour, don’t see that every day, do you… oh, hang on, there’s Pichon Longueville on the right… and there on the left is Lafite Rothschild…” It’s as if a sports fan was able to travel down one road with all the world’s famous stadia on either side. Oh, look, there’s San Siro, oh, and over there is Yankee Stadium, oh wait, there’s the MCG…

Chateau Preuillac, Medoc

Our first destination is Château Preuillac, a Cru Bourgeois estate in the Médoc, near the village of Lesparre. Our host is Ken Lee, a Bordeaux-based Singaporean consultant whose schoolboy looks mask a hard business edge, and who spends the entire journey on his mobile phone, chatting away in a mixture of Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay, but who – touchingly – ends every conversation with a “bye bye, bye bye!”

Preuillac is an imposing château. Built in 1869, and formerly in the hands of the Mau family, it has been refurbished and renovated by Ken’s new owners and is ripe for re-assessment. Standing in the 30-hectare vineyard (split roughly between cabernet sauvignon and merlot with a smattering of cabernet franc), winemaker Nathalie Billard explains that the estate lost 10% to April’s devastating frost, but considers they were lucky.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau Preuillac

Then we move on to Nathalie’s pride and joy: three new 160 hectolitre foudres, newly commissioned by her, which have joined the existing decades-old foudres and which will act alongside the oak barrels to fashion the wine. Here, they are looking for classic claret, and a brief tasting of the 2015s and 2016s shows they are on the right path; the ’16 in particular is a really, really elegant wine: dark berries, beautiful young fruit, broad, rich, complex, obviously young, oaky. With a bit of luck, it will be spectacular.

Foudres, Chateau Preuillac

But, sadly, this is a whistle-stop tour, and we have to jump in the car, where Ken’s colleague, Dimitri, drives us through the Bordeaux rush hour to our base, Château Senailhac, a drop dead gorgeous, all-singing, all-dancing, bells and whistles, full monty of a château, complete with personal assistant, and ours – and ours only – for the

Beverly Tabbron MW & the author, Jim Wilson, adjoining Cheval Blanc

full week. Sinking into a 19th century chaise-longue, I tell Bev that I feel like James Bond. “So that means you must be Pussy Galore.” The website promises an “Unforgettable Stay.” Blimey!

Moving on…

Next morning we head out east to the right bank. You are struck (as ever) by the difference between this hillier landscape and the flatter Medoc we visited yesterday. Here, it looks as if everything has been thrown together in an artisanal, higgledy-piggledy way, a bit louche and in need of a haircut, more rambling than the formal stand-to-attention correctness of the Medoc. It wears its wealth lightly. Mind you, it also has more surprises: Cheval Blanc looks like a spaceship which has landed in a fold in the hills and is now floating on a sea of vines.

Our first appointment is at Château Mayne Blanc in Lussac Saint-Emilion. Chatting with chief winemaker Jean de Cournuaud, we hear more about the frost – but this time the news is much more devastating. They lost 90% of the crop. “All of our vineyards north of Libourne were lost.” He pauses. “But, life goes on.” In the winery he proudly shows us his fermenting eggs – the first in Bordeaux. “The main advantage is that they allow for a very soft pigeage.”

Chateau Mayne Blanc, Lussac St Emilion

We taste a selection of 2015 and 2016s (these to be mostly blended out of tank in January) We purr with contentment, and the Cuvée St Vincent in particular has a fabulously rich nose, with serious dark and broody tannins. Firm, not harsh. Long, long finish.

We approach Libourne from the “wrong side” – the east – rather than the more usual approach across the bridge, and this throws me completely, until the Dordogne and the familiar quaint quayside come into view. Thirty minutes away in Fronsac, Château Puy Guilhem is a 14-hectare vineyard with a spectacular view of the spire of the Saint-Emilion Monolithic Church.

Merlot vines, Chateau Puy Guilhem

Winemaker Pierre Sallaud discourses on the difference between Fronsac and Canon Fronsac, both of which are made at the property. “Well, actually, there actually isn’t a great deal of difference. The Canon Fronsacs should have dense tannins and be slightly bigger, whereas the Fronsacs might be slightly softer and lighter.”

We taste the ’09 Fronsac – there is really generous fruit, still young, tannins beautifully integrated. Superb claret. This, and the ’10, is ready to drink now, but the later vintages we taste – the ’14s, ’15s and ’16s – are even better. I compare the ’14s: the Fronsac has very sweet fruit, rich and already drinkable, medium weight, very good balance. Good gutsy wine. The Canon seems younger in its development, more spritzy, with tannins that are still harsh. Apparently, I’m not the only one who prefers the Fronsac to Canon Fronsac: Pierre tells me that James Suckling does, too.

Stems & pips, Chateau Puy Guilhem

The following day we taste at Château Plain Point, undergoing renovation and set to be spectacular. The more recent wines are much better than the older

Bev and Ludovic Laberrere, winemaker at Chateau Plaisance

vintages. Back in the Entre-deux-Mers, then, and to Château Plaisance, where we are entertained by an affable winemaker, Ludovic Labarrere, who shows us some wonderfully forward 2016 Bordeaux and Cotes de Bordeaux wines.

The 2015 Bordeaux is beautifully ripe, kicking way above its weight. I prefer this to the Cotes du Bordeaux, which seems a little tougher, less obvious and less chatty. Meanwhile, the 2016 Bordeaux is a bit of a wild teenager, vivacious young fruit not yet set. I get raspberry syrup, vermilion. And, from somewhere in the near distance, quince.

We’re on a mission to source good value wine from lesser-known appellations, so next morning we drive up to Blaye and I get lost.

The last time I was here was about 15 years ago. Château Solidaires used to be famous for white wines, and the tank sample of Montfollet le Valentin (60% Sauvignon/40% Semillon) has a gorgeous melon and spice nose and lovely minerality. We’re after more of this, so we amble over to winemaker Jacques Chardat’s chic and modish house on the edge of his vineyard, where he and his wife Sabrina put on a marathon tasting and then roll out a stupendous four-course lunch.

Bev and Dominique Raymond, wine maker Chateau Solidaire, Cotes de Blaye

This epic repas floors me, but just as I’m wussily starting to flag, I spot Jacques’ collection of vinyl stacked next to what looks like some very expensive hi-fi kit. Jacques, who is obviously a bit of an ex-hippie, spots my interest – “Formidable!” – jumps up and puts on Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy at full blast. This is the first time I’ve been accompanied by Robert Plant at a tasting – and, God, it’s loud.

Suddenly its Knebworth 1975 all over again, as Jacques launches into some kind of jerky, staccato dark Parisian blues jive and belts out “Let me take you to the movies, Can I take you to the show….”, while I do my frenzied air guitar bit à la Jimmy Page. Meanwhile, MW Bev is trying to ask extremely serious and relevant questions above the racket: volatile acidity, yields? while rolling her eyes at our antics. What on earth possessed her to invite me along?

Bev tasting at house of Jacques Chardat, winemaker, Cotes de Blaye

“Every time I went into the vineyards I felt physically sick. I just kept staring at row after row of ruined vines. I felt like weeping.”

The next day we are with Estelle Roumage of Château Lestrille, standing in one of her vineyards in the Entre-deux-Mers, while she recalls the night of 26-27 April when the frost took away virtually her entire crop. In our job you sometimes forget just how fine a line winemakers have to tread, even in traditionally rich areas such as Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Vineyard, Chateau Lestrille

Estelle provides the backbone of our Bordeaux range and is exactly the type of producer we love to work with in other parts of the wine world but which are hard to find in Bordeaux. She has the quaintest of operations. She shows us round her vineyards in her battered and much loved 2CV, then drives the short

Estelle Roumage’s Citroen 2CV

distance back to her house and winery, which stands to one side of the D20 route de Creon, with her boutique wine shop on the opposite side of the road. This is where we taste.

The Lestrille 2010 has a lovely spicy nose, excellent dark fruit flavours and chunky weight. The Capmartin 2010 is lovely and soft, fleshy, plump, almost sybaritic; a Botticelli of a wine.

Chateau Lestrille, Capmartin 2010

The next day we drive around the rocade to Pessac Leognan and our final call at Château de Rouillac. As we get out of the car we stare in wonderment. It is not quite Versailles, but it’s not far off.

One of the first owners was Baron Haussmann, who acquired it in 1864; the luminous facades, the square courtyard with its appointments, the stables, are all his. In 2009  businessman Laurent Cisneros fell under Rouillac’s spell and set about bringing the estate back to life, showing the same determination as he did when playing professional football for Cannes alongside Zinedine Zidane, before turning his father’s small heating company into a thriving multi-million euro business.

Laurent has spared no expense in lavishing attention on the property and delights in showing you round the distinguished house, the state-of-the-art winery and the stables. And it is here that we meet the real star of the show: Titan, the mighty dray horse who ploughs the land (Laurent believes in sustainable farming.) Bev, taking one look at him, looks like a schoolgirl at her first pony show. And now it is my turn to adopt a dignified mien. Yup.

Titan at Chateau de Rouillac

Back at the winery, the wines are looking beautiful and I predict greatness in the near future. A 2015 white shows soft nuances of toast, butter, lemon, and on the palate its class is obvious. The 15 red shows a classic nose, with a touch of vanilla, plum and cigar. Very stylish. The whole place is.

Castello Pomino Winemaker’s Dinner

On Halloween we went to the Ristorante Frescobaldi, London, for a dinner hosted by Castello Pomino winemaker, Livia Le Divelec, who guided us through the unusual and exciting wines of Pomino’s mountain environment and the unique history of the estate where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were planted for the first time in Italy in 1855.

Pomino boasts an environment unique inTuscany: a perfectly-balanced ecosystem of vineyards, fir forest, chestnut trees, and olive groves. The estate covers 1,458 hectares lying along the wooded slopes of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, with 108 hectares in vineyards, at elevations ranging from 300 to 750 metres.

Ristorante Frescobaldi London is the first standalone restaurant and bar in the UK from the famed Frescobaldi family of Tuscany.

Canapés

A selection of canapes, paired with  Leonia Brut 2012, Metodo Tradizionale Millesimato

The wine had an initial aroma of intense bread crust and patisserie, which gave way to a fresh bouquet of spring flowers with citrusy hints, before ending with spiced nutmeg and thyme leaves.

The sparkly starter was a perfect tipple to pair with the canapés of traditional Tuscan meats, fish and cheese.

Antipasti

Sea bass tartar with artichoke and fresh salad leaves, paired with Castello Pomino 2016, Pomino Bianco d.o.c.

2016 Bianco had an intensely flowery, frangipant and jasmine nose, mixed with fruitier notes of apricot and quince. In the glass it releases exotic scents of tropical fruit and fresh cardamom.

Primi piatti 

Rabbit tortelli with winter tomatoes and olive taggiasche, paired with Pomino Pinot Nero 2015, Pomino d.o.c.

An explosion of fruity aromas with a prevelance of cherries and blackberries mixed with cinnamon, cloves and notes of tobacco an coffee.

Secondi 

Turbot with topinambur pumpkin and crispy artickhokes, paired with Pomino Benefizio Riserva 2015 & 1997 vintages, Pomino Bianco d.o.c.    

(On the left) The 2017 Benefizio is a barrique aged white, elegant and distinctive with a rich array of aromas and flavours such as apple, pineapple, citrus and honey.

(On the right) The 1997 Benefizio was a unique experience, a deeper amber colour yet retaining its acidity and freshness superbly. The bottle ageing had developed the honey notes, baked apple and hazelnut.

Dolce 

Pear strudel and hot custard cream, paired with Vinsanto di Pomino 2008, Castello Pomino, Pomino Vinsanto d.o.c.

To finish a sweet delight, on the nose; spicy notes of vanilla and nutmeg. The palate was enveloped by elegant softness, while the finish brings back memories of toasted hazelnuts and walnuts.

WOTM: Lake Breeze, Bullant, Langhorne Creek, Cabernet Merlot 2014

To help celebrate International Merlot Day 2017 on 07th November, our Wine of the Month is an Australian blend of 80% Cabernet and 20% Merlot, the two main varieties grown in Bordeaux.

Did you know, Merlot  is the offspring of Cabernet Franc (the father) and Magdeleine Noire des Charentes (the mother)?

In a nutshell:

Lake Breeze Bullant 2014 has an amazing lifted bouquet of blackberries with a touch of mocha. Rich and smooth on the palate, it offers a lovely soft finish with polished tannins.

The producerLake Breeze, Bullant, Langhorne Creek, Cabernet Merlot 2014

Lake Breeze winemaker Greg Follett is the fourth generation of the Follett’s to work on the family property, which has been in the grape growing business in Langhorne Creek for over 120 years. Only in the past 30 years have they been making wine; and have rapidly built an enviable reputation for consistently producing outstanding wines, becoming one of the most awarded boutique wineries in Australia. Greg uses exclusively old vine fruit -and the best 30 per cent of that- resulting in wines that are rich and concentrated.

The wine

Fruit selection was paramount for this wine. The grapes were fermented on their skins in small, open, static tanks; which lasted between seven to 12 days. The young wine was then pressed straight to oak barriques to complete the fermentation. The wine was then matured for 10 to 12 months in seasoned French and American oak, with five to 10% new oak used in the blending.

The vintage:

2014 was a season of contrasts and culminated in the latest vintage since 2004. The wet winter ensured the vineyard received a good flooding, resulting in healthy canopies and good subsoil moisture, essential in sustaining the vines through the very hot summer. The summer temperatures saw a record 13 days above 40°C (the average is just two). Many parts of the state received 100mm of rainfall just before the harvest, but the Lake Breeze vineyards just received 30mm. The cooler weather and rain revived the vines after the heat, resulting in average yields and impressive quality. The Cabernet Sauvignon is the standout.

Serving suggestion:

Great served with a gourmet cheeseburger, with all the toppings, or with a roast lamb dish.

Wines to pair with pumpkin

Summer has well and truly left us and winter is on it’s way, but first the leaves are turning orange and guests are looking for a different type of wine. With Halloween decorations adorning restaurants and bars across the country today, we look at the best wines to pair with pumpkin.Carpenè Malvolti, 1868 Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore, Prosecco Brut NV

For a pumpkin risotto, try offering a dry Prosecco. The clean, light flavours of the sparkling white wine help lift the almost floral aspects of the pumpkin without accentuating any sweetness. The Carpenè Malvolti, 1868 Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore, Prosecco Brut NV is ideal with its floral and fruity bouquet, elegant aromas of ripe pear, crisp apple and citrus, layered with subtle herbaceous notes. It’s smooth on the palate with crisp, refreshing aromatics and an elegant finish, and a perfect pairing for pumpkin risotto.

Castello Nipozzano, Vecchie Viti, Chianti Rúfina Riserva 2014If you’re incorporating cream into a pumpkin dish, the food gets more wintry weight, so a wine with more body works well. Sangiovese strikes the balance of standing up to something like a pumpkin inspired cream sauce without overpowering the main ingredient. The Castello Nipozzano, Vecchie Viti, Chianti Rúfina Riserva 2014 boasts a lovely ruby red colour and has notes of raspberry, currant, and gooseberry leading to a finish of cocoa and white pepper. The 90% Sangiovese wine strikes the balance  perfectly between standing up to, and complementing, a creamy pumpkin dish with its medium body and silky tannins.

Grüner Veltliner offers the zingy characteristics Johann Donabaum, Johann Federspiel, Wachau, Grüner Veltliner 2015that go well with pumpkin in any of its guises, but shows especially well next to a savoury option like a pumpkin gnocchi. The home of Grüner Veltliner is Austria, so look no further than Johann Donabaum’s Johann Federspiel, Grüner Veltliner 2015 a fabulous, restrained wine with bright apple and lime characters, combined with white pepper, cardamom and spicy minerality. The wine is balanced and refreshing and makes it the go-to partner for any pumpkin dish!

 

Happy Halloween!

A Doña Paula Dinner

During our October of Mendoza madness and amazing Argentinians, Marcos Fernandez, head winemaker at Doña  Paula Wines, hosted an Argentine inspired wine dinner at the prestigious Lansdowne Club – below is how the evening looked.

Doña Paula is a leading, modern winery at the forefront of exploring and investing in new, high quality wine regions in Argentina. Established in 1997, they own all of their vineyards covering 700 hectares. These vineyard sites are located in the best subregions within Mendoza including Ugarteche, Altamira, Gualtallary and Tupungato. They practice sustainable methods in the vineyards, maximising the true expression of terroir. Their continuous innovation in vineyard management ensures top quality wines from one year to the next.

Empanadas
Beans, squash, corn, Queso Fresco
Shrimp, crab
Arepa Bites
Mango & chilli salsa, avocado cream
Chorizo & corn foam
Wine pairing: Sauvage Blanc, NV

What the guests thought: “Crispness and freshness of the wine, along with some good acidity worked a treat with the shrimp and crab Empanadas, and the mango and chilli salsa on the Arepa Bites.”

Seafood platter
Smoked salmon, prawns, crab croquette, chicory, tuna ceviche
Wine pairing: Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016

What the guests thought: “The tropical fruit flavours, passionfruit and acidity were a hit with the tuna ceviche and the bitterness of the chicory.”

Beef fillet, grilled gambas, chargrilled seasonal vegetables, basil pomme purée, sweetcorn, chimichurri salsa
Wine pairings: Paula Malbec 2016
Estate Malbec 2015
Selección de Bodega Malbec 2013

What the guests thought: “The beef fillet with the chimichurri salsa was the perfect match to the weight and power of the 24 month aged Seleccion de Bodega. The guests loved being able to taste the 3 styles side by side. The Paula – fresh and with no oak, Estate Malbec with 12 months oak, and the Seleccion de Bodega with 24 months and it’s incredible intensity.”

The overall consensus from the guests was that this was the best Gourmet evening to date at the Lansdowne Club under Karim Yousfi’s direction and Marcos, as ever, was a hit with all!

WOTM: Piattelli Vineyards, Reserve, Cafayate, Malbec 2016

In a nutshell:

A smooth and refined Malbec with a fruity bouquet of ripe plum, violet and dried berries.

The producer

The Piattelli Vineyards lie in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, where the century old vines are irrigated by the pure waters melting from the snow crested peaks; a significant aspect in making their wines exquisite. At Piattelli Vineyards great pride is taken in crafting wines with a sense of place, as each region has distinct terroirs and microclimates. Mendoza and Cafayate are two of the best grape growing regions in Argentina and they wanted to showcase both. Led by head winemaker Valeria Antolin, the wines are produced through her passionate pursuit of perfection. Their gravity fed winery in Cafayate honours their commitment to sustainable practices. Piattelli Vineyards practises sustainable farming and their Mendoza vineyards are USDA certified organic. The grapes are cultivated with arid clean air, crystal clear water and nutrient rich soil and their award winning wines are produced with wisdom, precision and love.

The wine

The grapes were hand-picked and manually sorted to ensure no green material or imperfect fruit entered the must. The must underwent a three day cold maceration to extract the desired levels of flavour and aromatics. Alcoholic fermentation took place in 5,000 to 10,000 litre stainless steel tanks under controlled temperatures. The wine was aged for nine months in American oak barrels. The wine received a further six months bottle ageing

The tasting note:

A striking wine with a deep purple hue, the fruity aromatics of ripe plum and violet delight the senses. Full bodied, with bright fruit flavours of dried berries and pomegranate, the palate is marked by its structure. Intense and spicy on the finish.

Marvellous Macedonia

In September, South Sales Director, Daniel O’Keefe, took a trip to Macedonia and Northern Greece to visit a selection of our exciting esoteric producers from the heart of the Mediterranean.

Joining Daniel on the trip was Roger and Sue Jones, owners of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, a 1 Michelin  Star Restaurant in the Wiltshire countryside. Roger and Sue have been loyal partners of Hallgarten’s for about 16 years and we have become a central part of their restaurant . Over the years Roger has been highly influential, not only as a chef but also as a prominent wine writer and judge for Decanter, The Buyer and The Caterer.

Roger and Sue Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn

Ktima Gerovassiliou

On the first day of our trip we met Thras at the Gerovassiliou restaurant which was house in the stunning winery.  We  started our tasting of the range mid-afternoon while as we had lunch due to Vangelis and Thras being tied up in the winery during the busy harvest period.

The Sauvignon Blanc was quite a hit and the new vintage of the Chardonnay showed amazing levels of complexity, especially when it opened up. The big hit here though was the freshness and viniousness of the Avaton and the Estate Red.

After the tasting we were taken to a fabulous and lively fish restaurant in a suburb of Thessaloniki, where the local seafood cuisine was almost as good as the wines we had previously tasted and later met with Vangelis’ wife, and the team from the restaurant.

Tasting at Ktima Gerovassiliou

Ktima Biblia Chora

The second day took us to Ktima Biblia Chora, established in 1998, the privately owned vineyard lies on the cool climate slopes of Mount Pangeon, at Kokkinochori near Kavala, Here we were  guided around the estate by the excellent Annagret Stamos who works as a chemist in the area. She provided us with a fascinating tour and insight in to the unique climate that dominates the area.

The Estate White 2016 was, as expected, showing very well and the Ovilos White was my favourite wine to date – fresher and with less pronounced wood.

Following this tasting, we went to a lovely, quintessentially Greek taverna near the beach with Annagret and tasted some older vintages.

Experimental vines at Ktima Biblia Chora

Alpha Estate

Visiting the Alpha Estate was truly an eye-opener! Located in Amyndeon, North West Greece. It is the brainchild of two visionaries, second generation vine grower Makis Mavridis and Bordeaux trained wine maker Angelos Iatrides. An immaculate Estate that almost feels as if it is high up  in the Andes.

To kick off the day, Kostas gave us a really comprehensive tour of the vineyards and an insight into the incredible investment they have made into infrastructure – underground irrigation in the vineyard and horizontal rotating vinifiers in the winery. Kostas gave a very clear explanation of the processes that were specific to Alpha and an exemplary rationale as to why Alpha are promoting Xinomavro as a key variety to watch.

The amount of energy put in to trials of different varieties and processes is very impressive. They have, in fact, donated a parcel of their land to the Thessaloniki Viticultural College. You get the feeling that the philosophy behind Alpha Estate is both long-sighted and very progressive.

The stand-out tasting of the trip (all of which were excellent) . We tasted the full range of wines and were even treated to to some of the older vintages. It was again the reds that really shone from this winery with the overarching theme of fresh, clean and beautifully structured vinious wines. Kostas was really able to make us understand the evolution of the winery and wines as they are now.

Later we went out to dinner at a traditional Taverna in the mountains near the Alpha Estate with 2 students who had recently been employed by Alpha, showing their commitment to supporting the local community.

 

Xinomavro old vines
Agiorgitiko at Ktima Biblia Chora
The barrel room at Alpha Estate
A corkscrew museum at Ktima Gerovassiliou

 

Robin’s Late Summer Picks

With the Autumn almost upon us, Director of Regional Sales, Robin Knapp, has been looking back at the wines perfectly suited for late summer.

From the more esoteric side of the portfolio in Greece, to the Michelini brother’s concrete eggs in Tupungato, to some Old World Italian classics, below are a few of Robin’s top picks to help your customers cling on to the last of the summer wine.

Ktima Gerovassiliou, Malagousia 2016     
Glorious aromatics, with a fresh grippy flavour with a spicy and opulent mouthfeel.

Colomba Bianca, ‘Vitese’ Zibibbo 2016     
Superb aromatics – floral and fresh.  Palate has weight, freshness and fabulous balance.

Zorzal, Eggo Blanc de Cal  Sauvignon Blanc 2016  
Edgy and frisky,  showcasing a strong struck-flint mineral intensity, combined with grassy and herbaceous notes.

San Silvestro, ‘Adelasia’ Cortese  2016    
Super fresh and fully dry with incredibly vibrant fruit.

Ocean Eight, Verve Chardonnay 2014    
A complex and mineral Chardonnay with great poise and freshness.   Up there with the best Chablis 1er Cru…

Manolesakis Estate, Exis Red 2016 
A grippy, but soft fresh red.  A fab wine that is reminiscent of Beaujolais with brilliantly earthy undercurrents.

Eden Road, The Long Road Syrah 2013           
Just beautiful. A supple, delicate and smoky wine that is not remotely typical to an Aussie Syrah.

Frescobaldi, Tenuta Castelgiocondo, Campo ai Sassi, Rosso di Montalcino 2015
A medium weight, delicate even wine, full of complex herby fruit. Has characteristics similar to Pinot Noir.

The standout wine:

Chateau Ksara, Le Prieure 2014
 What a little cracker this is! 13% alcohol with good acidity, which makes it certainly cool European in style, rather that baking hot. The blend is made up of primarily the on trend Cinsault and Carignan with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah thrown in to add complexity.

Juicy, fruity and a good level of chunky, with plenty of flavour but not an overpowering wine. Just perfect for  meats or some garlic inspired casserole!

WOTM: Olifantsberg, Chenin Blanc 2014

In a nutshell:

The Olifantsberg, Chenin Blanc 2014 is full of ripe tropical fruits combined with honey and spicy apple notes, beautifully textured.

The producer

Olifantsberg is passionate about producing authentic wines with a true sense of place, which reflect the unique location of their vineyard. The focus is on sustainable farming and winemaking practices, resulting in limited intervention in the both the vineyard and cellar. The team are fully committed to understanding their terroir and managing their natural resources through conservation, which adds to the singularity of their wines. The unique terroir with its combination of schist soils, constant winds and elevation, produce concentrated fruit that results in elegant, fresh and age-worthy wines.

The wine

The wine was wild yeast fermented in one third 2000L foudres, one third seasoned barrels and one third stainless steel tanks. The wine was kept on the lees for 10 months before stabilization and bottling.

The tasting note:

The color a very light yellow. The nose is complex with ripe pineapple, passion fruit and mango. The palate is very elegant and fresh but complex with a lovely texture. This wine already drinks well but definitely has ageing capacity.

Are you ready for Rosé?

The sun has come out again and it’s time to put that Rosé back on ice. Below are a six-pack of wines that are sure to get your customers back into the summer mood.

Goring Estate Rosé NV

Dermot Sugrue is not exactly a new name in the English wine industry but he is certainly a winemaker at the top of his game. Born in Ireland in 1974, he studied Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton Agricultural College before completing two seasons working at Chateau l’Eglise-Clinet and Chateau Leoville-Barton. In 2003 he joined Nyetimber and was appointed winemaker in 2004. Over the following years he oversaw Nyetimber’s emergence as one of the world’s greatest sparkling wine producers. From Nyetimber he moved to Wiston Estate in 2006 to work with the Goring Family of West Sussex. The Goring Brut is made exclusively for us by Dermot Sugrue.

A supremely elegant rosé, with a subtle flavour of summer berries, freshly baked bread and spice overlaying a core of tangy acidity. Creamy and textured with a fresh finish.

Gerard Bertrand, La Sauvageonne 2015

Gérard Bertrand is one of the most outstanding winemakers in the South of France, where he owns numerous estates among the most prestigious crus of LanguedocRoussillon. Named in 2012 as the IWC Red Winemaker of the Year and Wine Enthusiast’s European Winery of the Year, he is known locally as the “King” of the Languedoc. Brought up in the Languedoc vineyards, Gérard Bertrand is committed to sharing the characteristics and exceptional diversity of each of the terroirs. Twenty years of know-how ensures that wines bearing Gérard Bertrand’s signature have a unique style driven each day by four fundamental values: excellence, authenticity, conviviality and innovation. We firmly believe Gérard will become one of the leading French names in the UK.

The bouquet offers up notes of crushed strawberries, sweet spice and floral notes of violet and hawthorne. Powerful and generous, with a velvety texture and a revitalising freshness. This wine is built on tension and stamped with a brilliant salinity.

San Marzano, Tramari 2016

In 1962, 19 vine growers from San Marzano whose families had farmed the land for generations, combined their efforts to establish ‘Cantine San Marzano’. Through the decades this cooperative has grown significantly, attracting over 1,200 vine growers. Using modern and technologically advanced vinification techniques they produce elegant wines that pay homage to the ancient Apulian wine traditions. The fusion of time honoured tradition, passion and contemporary techniques, enables this winery to produce wines with distinctive varietal and regional characteristics while reflecting the local terroir. In the Sommelier Wine Awards, San Marzano was awarded European Producer of the Year 2017.

Made from the Primitivo grape, this is a very appealing pale and tangy rosé with aromas of roses and wild strawberries against a creamy background of Mediterranean spice.

Frescobaldi, Alie 2016

A Florentine family with thirty generations dedicated to the production of great wines across six Tuscan estates. The Frescobaldi style brings together tradition and innovation. With the goal of being the most prestigious Tuscan wine producer, Frescobaldi firmly believes in respecting the local land while focusing on the highest quality grapes for its wines. The Frescobaldis own over 1,000 hectares of vineyards, all located in excellent areas for the production of fine wines. Directly managed by its family members, the Frescobaldi name is deeply connected with the history of art, culture, trade, finance and wine in Italy.

Refined and elegant, Alìe is characterised by its delicate rose colour and subtle peach highlights. Fresh with ripe fruits, citrus, white melon and a hint of cherry, the palate is textured with a streak of minerality. A beautifully balanced wine, with an intense and persistent finish.

Campuget, ‘1753’ Rosé Syrah Vermentino 2016

Costières de Nimes, the easternmost appellation of the Languedoc, is effectively part of the Rhône since the climate, soil and topography are so similar to those just over the river in the southern Côtes-du-Rhône vineyards. The relatively uniform soils are marked by large pebbles on gentle, typically south-facing slopes. Château de Campuget was established in 1942 and is a top quality estate near Nîmes, steeped in history. The Château itself was built in 1753 and at the same time the first vines were planted, prompting the 1753 range of wines which mark this historic date. The fusion of tradition and progression unite in the cellars here, producing wines with integrity, finesse and a wonderful expression of terroir, from a wide range of traditional Rhône varieties.

This dry, aromatic rosé shows enticing notes of grapefruit with delicate citrus hints, a refreshing palate of elegant red berry fruits and passion fruit.

Saint Clair, Pinot Rosé Gris 2016

Neal and Judy Ibbotson were pioneers in the Marlborough wine industry, first planting vineyards in the valley in 1978 and then establishing Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994. They own 160 hectares of vineyard in ten different Marlborough locations chosen specifically for the attributes of their individual “terroir” and ability to produce top quality grapes. Neal Ibbotson combines his extensive expertise in viticulture with the talent of one of New Zealand’s leading winemaking teams, led by Matt Thomson and Hamish Clark. Since 1994, when wines from the first vintage all won medals including gold, the name Saint Clair has been synonymous with quality and its award-winning record continues today.

A fresh and luscious palate with bright sweet strawberries, watermelon and red cherry. Well balanced fresh acidity ensures a round elegant palate and a lingering finish.

 

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