WOTM: Goring Estate, Rosé, Sussex NV

Recently picked out by Matthew Jukes for its ‘brilliant balance and calm fruit’ in his pick of the nation’s best, the Goring Estate, Rosé, Sussex NV uses fruit from two vineyards, located on the South Downs in Sussex.

In a nutshell:

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.

The producer:

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 Château l’Eglise-Clinet and Château 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 the beautiful, family-run Wiston Estate in 2006, nestled in the heart of England’s rolling South Downs in West Sussex, to work with the Goring Family who has owned the estate since 1743. The Goring Brut and Goring Rosé are made exclusively for us by Dermot Sugrue and take their name from the Goring family.

The wine:

The grapes were very gently pressed in a traditional Coquard basket press and a pneumatic press. Most of the juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks in order to the purity of fruit, while a proportion was fermented in old oak barrels of 228 litres. This proportion was then aged in the oak barrels for a period of six months, imparting  subtle complexity to the resulting wine. A touch of red wine was added to enhance the colour. It was vinified using the Traditional Method with the secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. Dosage at disgorging was 11 grams per litre.

Serving suggestion:

The perfect apéritif.

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Spanish Wine

The diversity in Spanish winemaking is incredible, you can go from the relatively small wine producing region of the Canary Islands to Ribera del Duero and feel like you’re in a different country. The landscape of the Spanish wine scene ticks all the boxes and can provide everything you will ever need; from full-bodied food friendly reds, to elegant crisp whites. Spanish winemakers are discovering new styles that are turning heads in the trade.

We have taken a closer look at some things you might not have known about the Spanish wine scene.

  1. Spanish wine was the Romans’ favourite tipple

    Wine has been produced in Spain since the first century AD. The Roman historian Pliny the elder raved about wines made from the area known today as Alella, which is 20 minutes from Barcelona, Catalonia.

  2. Different classifications

    Spain has 78 sub-regions of wine across 17 provinces of the country, including the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. They are classified as Denominación de Origen (DO) and Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOC). Both denote that wineries meet strict requiremenets to produce winbe, with the DOC designation being the highest quality. Unlike DO or DOC, which is applied to an entire wine region, Vino de Pago is a classification for Spanish wine applied to individual vineyards or estates.

  3. There are over 400 grape varieties

    Over 15% of the world’s vineyards are in Spain, making Spain the number one ranked country in the world in terms of area covered by vineyard. The bulk of the production comes from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell, Albariño, Palomino, Airen, Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarello. There are also many lesser known  varietals, such as Gual, Marmajuelo and Vijariego from the volcanic island of Tenerife.

  4. Cava isn’t just from Catalonia

    Most people know that Cava is the main Spanish sparkling wine, which utilises the traditional method of production (same as Champagne). Although 95 percent of Cava production comes from Catalonia where it originated in the late 19th century, it can also be produced in Aragon, Castile and Leon, Valencia, Extremadura, Navarra, Basque Country and Rioja.

  5. La Rioja – 1,000 years of history

    The first mention of the name Rioja (pronounced ree-oh-hah) in official documents as a wine producing region dates back to 1092, while during the same time, King Garcia Sanchez I donated lands to the monastery of San Millan de la Cogolla, which included the vineyards. Monks and monasteries played an important role in wine production all across Spain after lands were reconquered from the Moors.

Take a look at our new range, of new-wave, Spanish wines.

Food & Wine Pairing with Gérard Bertrand

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 Languedoc-Roussillon. 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.

We have taken a closer look at some of the dishes that are best paired with Gérard Bertrand‘s wines.

Gris Blanc is an original rosé with a very pale pink colour plus grey and whitish tints. The vines are ideally in Tautavel area, between Mediterranean Sea and Pyrenees mountains, 30 km north to Perpignan in the South of France area. The dry and sunny terroir enables Grenache, the emblematic grape variety of the Mediterranean, to express its best aromas.

The palest of salmon pinks, this is a wonderfully pure, fresh flavoured wine, with vibrant fruit aromatics. The fruity characters are echoed on the palate, which has a lovely minerality and a zesty finish.

As a food pairing we recommend you serve it with oysters, or alternatively with other forms of seafood and shellfish.

The Domaine de Cigalus ‘Cigalus Rouge’, Aude Hauterive  is entirely cultivated following the principles of biodynamics. This estate benefits from a warm and sunny Mediterranean climate, allowing an advanced maturation of all the grape varieties.

The wine has especially delicate tannins and on the nose shows jammy black fruits, liquorice, spices and truffles. It is best to let the wine breath, allowing the aeration to result in the perfect expression of this wine.

The perfect pairing is a local Languedoc dish –  Cathare square of lamb, herbs, mashed potimarron and braised seasonal vegetables.

Château La Sauvageonne ‘La Villa Rosé’ is backed by the gates of Causses du Larzac, covering an area of ​​57 hectares at an altitude between 150 and 350m. The topography and the diversity of the vineyard’s soil, which is composed of Ruffles, sandstones and shales, brings a unique freshness to this wine.

Notes of crushed strawberries, sweet spices and flowers, the mouth is fresh, and is characterised by a velvety grain from red grape varieties and brioche notes from white grape varieties.

The wine pairs just as well with simple dishes such as seafood, as it does with complex dishes. A perfect dish to accompany this Drinks Business Rosé Master,  is a rosé pork medallion stuffed with candied red fruits, roasted potatoes.

Malbec World Day

Malbec is Argentina’s flagship variety, and the country has the largest Malbec acreage in the world. This variety originally comes from South West France, where it is called Cot and features a hard, tannic style. Due to its intense colour and dark hues, wines obtained from this variety were once called “the black wines of Cahors.” These wines consolidated their prestige in the Middle Ages and gained full recognition in modern times.
Malbec by numbers:
  • In Argentina 3,948,716.512 hectares of vineyard are Malbec
  • 86% of all Malbec vineyards in Argentina are in Mendoza
  • In 1852, Malbec was brought to Argentina by Michel A. Pouget
To celebrate, here’s a couple to choose from our portfolio to choose from.

Doña Paula ‘Selección de Bodega’, Uco Valley, Malbec 2015

Region – Mendoza
Sub-region – Uco Valley
Grape Varieties – Malbec 100%

“A sumptuous and opulent wine showing rich black fruit flavours, a well textured palate with dark chocolate and earthy notes and an elegant finish.”

Andeluna ‘Altitud’, Uco Valley, Malbec 2015

Region – Mendoza
Sub-region – Uco Valley
Grape Varieties – Malbec 100%

“A full flavoured Malbec with intense aromas red fruits and violets combined with delicate hints of vanilla, coffee and chocolate. Sweet fruit on the palate is backed by soft, but high volume tannins which give the wine a long and exquisite finish.”

Matias Riccitelli ‘The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree’, Lujan de Cuyo, Malbec 2015

Region – Mendoza
Sub-region – Lujan de Cuyo
Grape Varieties – Malbec 100%

“Deep purple in colour, with beautiful aromas of wild dark fruits, vanilla and chocolate on the nose. This is a complex and rich Malbec with smooth ripe tannins and a long finish.”

Zorzal ‘Eggo Tinto de Tiza’, Tupungato, Malbec 2015

Region – Mendoza
Sub-region – Tupungato
Grape Varieties – Malbec 88%, Cabernet Franc 12%

“A deep, intense and complex example of a Gualtallary Malbec, with the typical aromas of chalk, flint, and mineral tones. Structured and voluminous on the palate with a silky texture, this is poised and direct, with a refreshing quality.”

Piattelli Vineyards, Trinità Grand Reserve, Lujan de Cuyo 2015

Region – Mendoza
Sub-region – Lujan de Cuyo
Grape Varieties – Malbec 72%, Cabernet Sauvignon 22%, Merlot 6%

“A complex, elegant wine with a deep ruby hue, Trinità tantalizes the senses with an aromatic bouquet of plum and raspberry with hints of coffee and spice, which unfolds across the palate with sweetness and a hint of chocolate. A balanced wine with ripe tannins, full body and a long finish.”

What would the experts recommend…

Doña Paula, Estate, Mendoza, Blue Edition 2016

Region – Mendoza
Grape Varieties – Malbec 60%, Pinot Noir 30%, Bonarda 10%

Terry Kirby, The Independent; “This gorgeously attractive and sumptous wine, where the fresh cherry fruits of pinot noir, as well as bonarda, are added to the mix. The slightly sweeter touch makes it a good match for a leg of lamb.”

Matias Riccitelli, Hey Malbec! 2016

Region – Mendoza
Sub-region – Lujan de Cuyo
Grape Varieties – Malbec 100%

David Williams, The Observer; “Not only has malbec from Argentina established itself as one of the UK’s favourite red grape varieties since 2001, it’s also vastly improved, with, in this case, young gun Matias Riccitelli bringing real purity of black fruit and perfumed succulence.”

 

Or something original…

Clos Troteligotte ‘K-nom’, Cahors 2016

Region – Cahors
Grape Varieties – Malbec 85%, Merlot 15%

“A modern styled Cahors with concentrated blackcurrant, menthol nuances and intriguing undertones of crystallised pineapple. Supple with soft, fine tannins, the aromas of fresh black fruits persist on the palate. Full bodied, but approachable with a textured finish.”

Winemaker profile: Stefano Chiarlo

For generations, the iconic Chiarlo family has produced some of Piedmont’s truly great wines and winemakers. Stefano Chiarlo, Michele Chiarlo’s current Oenologist and Vineyard Manager, runs the winery alongside his parents and brother.

Founded by Stefano’s father, Michele Chiarlo in 1956, the family owns 60 hectares of vineyards and produces single varietal wines from indigenous grape varieties. The winery remains in the town where Michele was born and the family are proud to represent this area, where Michele is a leading figure in the Piedmont wine industry.

Following time spent studying Oenology at the Enological School in Alba, and after a period of National Service following his graduation, Stefano joined Michele Chiarlo in 1991.

Initially working as Assistant to Oenologist, Roberto Bezzato, Stefano was responsible for managing the vineyard and the vinification of Gavi, a hugely important wine for Chiarlo and Piedmont. Following seven years learning the trade at the winery, Stefano became chief winemaker in 1999 (a very good vintage for Nebbiolo based wines).

His winemaking philosophy centres on creating wines which are elegant, with subtle use of oak and respect for the varietal and terroir.

Away from the winery and vineyard Stefano, along with his father and brother, is a keen Torino football supporter. He also enjoys skiing, visiting good pubs and is a lover of the sea.

We are proud to list 14 wines created under Stefano’s watchful eye at Michele Chiarlo in our portfolio, from the iconic Barolos, to the pioneering Barberas, the immensely important Gavis and the delicious Moscatos. For more information on any of these wines, visit our website.

Greece’s Tuscan Future

On the road north out of Athens you pass some astounding Homeric monuments, so illusory they could be a series of Hollywood sound stages. These are juxtaposed with a display of graffiti of appropriately Olympian standard, on a par with anything the guerrilla precincts of Amsterdam and Berlin have to offer. Startling.

We are driving to the Gaia winery in Nemea on the Peloponnese, home of the Agiorgitiko. Yiannis Paraskevopoulosis, the co-owner of Gaia, is at the wheel. He is a tall, well built, square-jawed, handsome Athenian of very strong opinions, not afraid to air them, yet often doing so in a surprisingly soft voice. Each statement is phrased almost as a question, a prelude to polite debate, you might think; but he is not to be messed with. When we reach the subject of Natural Wines, he raises his eyebrows: “If you ask me: what is a natural wine, I ask: well, what is an unnatural wine?”

It takes about 90 minutes before the northern suburbs give way to the Gulf of Corinth and you get your first glimpse of the turquoise and latte Aegean out of which seem to grow the distant, spectral hills, oddly familiar somehow, and you think: ah, Greece!

When we reach the Gaia winery, perched at 500 metres above sea level in Koutsi, we gaze down at the valley floor spread alluringly before us like a quilt, then up towards Mount Kyllini, its peak covered in snow, and – my God – the wind is screaming. And it is here that Yiannis discourses on his love of Tuscany, Agiorgitiko’s resemblance to Sangiovese – and why he believes the best – oh yes! – is yet to come for his beloved Nemea.

You politely listen while he states his case.

“We have wasted forty years by planting the wrong clones. Forty years!”

According to Yannis, in ancient times the land was planted with 10,000 vines per hectare, which meant the grapes had to fight to survive. A couple of generations ago the farmers were encouraged to replant, this time at 3,000 vines per hectare. The results were weak grapes, and wines high in acidity and astringency.

“When I arrived here in 1997 the wines were a pinkish red.” He shrugs his shoulders expansively. “The other issue is that Agiorgitiko is a very flexible grape. If you increase the yield dramatically you will still get a palatable wine, and if you are paid by the kilo – which is how the growers were paid then – then that is what you will produce – a palatable wine.”

He gazes round the vineyard. “Now, we have replanted. We have seven hectares, six of which are planted with Agiorgitiko, one of which with Syrah. We also work with a very small number of growers, about fifteen, with whom we have long-term agreements. The key thing here is that we pay by the hectare, not by the kilo, so it makes no sense for any growers to simply produce a ton of low-class grapes.

“But the biggest problem for the area – and this is what separates us from Tuscany – is clonal selection. We were planting the wrong clones. Or, rather, an unidentified blend of clones, good & bad! They were always virus infected. And these viruses will mean that you lose polyphenols and therefore grape sugars. What we need is to create a Nemea that is virus-free which is largely what they have in Tuscany. We have a unique plant – there is no other Agiorgitiko in Greece apart from some experimental plantings in Drama in the north.”

But things are looking up – and Yannis explains the reason for his optimism. “We have worked with a scientist called Kostas Bakasietas, who has collaborated with the Entav Inra nursery in France. Only he was capable of doing it. Our research institutions proved incapable. He has identified five different Agiorgitiko clones which are the Olympic champions of the variety. Just five. And only one of those clones is currently in operation. And there is only one hectare planted with this clone. And guess where that is. Here! In the whole of the 3,000 hectares of Nemea, the largest appellation in Greece, there is one hectare. Right out there!”

He pauses. “But. It took me this long to work that out! What was I doing for all that time, you might ask. Well, I spent all of that time trying to make the current vines better. I looked after the water stress management; I raised the canopy by two feet; I started early leaf removing to expose the flowers. So I made lots of adjustments. But the key will be the new clones. Kostas is the engine and we are the first on to the train.”

As we make our way down to the winery, Yiannis continues. “You know, what has also held us back is the cost of land, and the difficulty of getting permission to plant vines. The Government thinks us wine producers are rich and so they prefer to give the farming rights to “poor” farmers.”

Yiannis lets out a meaty laugh. “I have enemies. Nothing but enemies!”

As we begin tasting in a stylishly-designed barrel room, Yannis talks of his love affair with Sangiovese and Tuscany. “I have always been inspired by Tuscany,” he said. “And Agiorgitiko is stylistically very similar to Sangiovese. Neither of them are blockbuster wines. Both are supple and have very round tannins. If you were to blend a Merlot into a Sangiovese you would have an Agiorgitiko. I look to Tuscany for inspiration. For instance, I decided to plant Syrah. Why? Well, partly because I love Syrah, but also because I wanted to do what they did with Super Tuscans. To step outside the legal boundaries, do something different. And Syrah performs brilliantly down here.”

And it does! After a beautifully balanced 2017 Assyrtiko – fresh, lemony and lively – and a lovely 2017 Moschofilero – rose petals, amazingly fresh – we crack on with the reds, investigating first the 2017 Notios, an 85% Agiorgitiko/15% Syrah blend, showing rasping fruit and lovely soft tannins. The 2016 Gaia S, a 70/30 blend of the same grapes, has masses of sweet, dark unctuous fruit. Finally, the 2015 Gaia Estate, 100% Agiorgitiko from 40 year old vines, is a stunner, sweet vivacious fruit, raspberry coulis, grippy tannins, amazing length.

Over a lunch of grouper at a beachside taverna that looks like something out of Mamma Mia! Yiannis’ passion is infectious. “We need to move fast. We need different classifications to show the higher quality of hilly Nemea to valley Nemea. I want a different PDO for anything grown above five hundred metres but “they” won’t let me. We need to go higher to find the cooler nights. I am looking for longer ripening periods. Even at 15% alcohol you can end up with wines which are too jammy. But…” he leaves the sentence unfinished, a testament to his “enemies.”

Yiannis concedes that Greece’s reputation is built on whites. “But you can make great whites without taking great risks. With reds, you need to work harder. And even with our new good clones it is still a risk. We can learn from other peoples’ experience to get the learning period down from forty years to twenty years. But there is still a risk.”

He laughs. “But if we can get it right, then we can take on Tuscany. Yes, we have lost forty years. But I am positive. If you think that the wines of Gaia Estate are good today, then the Gaia wines of the future will blow your mind!”

WOTM: Matias Riccitelli ‘The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree’, Lujan de Cuyo, Malbec 2015

Recently awarded 90 points on RobertParker.com,  ‘The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree’ Malbec 2015 vintage is described by Luis Gutiérrez as; “more focused aromas and a silkier mouthfeel. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a light wine, it has its power and good ripeness, but the word now is balance–balance in its style to reflect the zone, year and varietal.”

In a nutshell:

Deep purple in colour, with beautiful aromas of wild dark fruits, vanilla and chocolate on the nose. This is a complex and rich Malbec with smooth ripe tannins and a long finish.

The producer:

Matias Riccitelli is the son of renowned winemaker Jorge Riccitelli. Having worked at some of the most prestigious wineries in Argentina and several vintages around the world, Matias used his experience, knowledge and passion and set up his own winery in 2009. His vineyards cover 50 hectares located in three selected sites within the premium growing region of Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza. This is a young and dynamic project in which Matias is seeking to express the full potential of Argentine terroir.

 

The wine:

Meticulous sorting of the grapes was performed by hand, prior to vinification in order to select only the best grapes. A cool maceration took place over five days, followed by the fermentation at controlled temperatures of between 26 and 28°C. The fermentation took place in small concrete vats with indigenous yeasts. 20% of the grapes were fermented as whole clusters. The wine was matured in used French oak barrels for a period of 12 months.

Serving suggestion:

This is a delicious red which accompanies grilled meats, pasta with rich meat sauces and soft cheeses.

Women with Bottle

In organoleptic experiments to test the wine tasting ability of men and women, female participants consistently come out on top. Their superior palates and tasting precision are well documented in scientific papers and journals, which explains why the female success rate in the Master of Wine qualification is now higher than men’s. This is now being reflected in wineries and cellars around the world as female winemakers take the helm in a traditionally male environment.

We’re proud to represent some of the best female winemakers around, and we believe the wines crafted by theses talented women from Japan and South Africa to Italy and France – are some of the very best in the Hallgarten portfolio.

Let’s take a look at these women with bottle.

Ayana Misawa – Grace Winery

It’s fitting that Ayana makes wine in Japan’s Yamanashi Prefecture from the revered Koshu grape. Her father Shigekazu Misawa is regarded as Japan’s Koshu pioneer. Ayana has studied winemaking on three continents, at the Enology and Viticulture Institute in Yamanishi, the Faculty of Enology of the University of Bordeaux, and South Africa’s Stellenbosch University. She has also made wine at some very well-known wineries, including Cape Point Vineyards in South Africa, Catena Zapata in Mendoza, Errazuriz in Chile and Mountford in New Zealand.

She’s now returned to her homeland and works for Grace Winery, one of Japan’s most prestigious wineries.

Try the; Grace Winery, Private Reserve Koshu, Yamanashi 2016

“Pure, sublimely crisp and mineral in style, this wine is fresh and elegant with subtle notes of citrus fruit and white pear. The palate, like the nose shows white fruits and spicy white pepper notes with a savoury note on the finish.”

Estelle Roumage – Château Lestrille

Estelle Roumage embodies this outstanding family domaine in Entre-deux-Mers, close to St Emilion. Her wines are delicate, precise and consistently punch above their appellation. She manages to blend respect for tradition with a modern outlook to vine management and winemaking techniques. On top of this Estelle has a real passion and talent for bringing her wines to her customers and engaging, in a way that really ignites their taste buds.

Try the; Château Lestrille, Le Secret de Lestrille, Bordeaux Supérieur 2012

“A rich, powerful wine with a beautiful balance between roasted aromas and intense black fruit flavours. Structured, it has velvety tannins and well integrated oak, complemented by complex dark berry flavours, hints of cigar box and a smooth, elegant finish.”

Juliette Joblot – Domaine Joblot

Juliette’s father Jean-Marc Joblot introduced her to winemaking on the family estate in Givry. She started making the wines herself in 2010 and has never looked back. “I learnt a lot from my father,” she says, “and now I make decisions.” She’s aware that little-by-little more women are entering the world of winemaking but is also quick to point out that in regions like Burgundy it can be difficult to be a women in the winery “because the Bourgogne men are very macho!” The young yet determined Juliette is further exploring her father’s approach of ‘lutte raisonnée’ in the vineyards, and is also looking to retain more freshness by limiting oxygen contact in the winery as much as possible.

Try the; Domaine Joblot, Mademoiselle Blanc, Givry 1er Cru 2016

“Elegant and poised, this stunning wine shows complex aromas of yellow stone fruits and citrus notes layered with delicate floral nuances. Harmoniously balanced, it has a generous texture on the palate and a wonderful tension on the finish.”

Caterina Bellanova – San Marzano

Caterina is the queen of San Marzano and Primitivo is considered the king of Puglian grapes: this is certainly a winning marriage! Named European Producer of the Year 2015 in the Sommelier Wine Awards,  San Marzano is one of the most professional, forward-thinking cooperatives in Southern Italy with a reputationfor producing great wines. Trained biologist Caterina Bellanova, whose wines reflect the region and its native grape varieties, is at the helm.

Try the; San Marzano, Edda Lei Bianco, Salento 2016

“A distinctive blend with delicate aromas of sun-ripened peach and floral aromatics, which are interwoven with delightful hints of freshly squeezed lime, mint and herbal complexity. Beautifully balanced, the rounded palate is elegantly styled and has a touch of minerality on the finish.”

Louise Chéreau – Chéreau Carré

Chéreau-Carré has always been a family affair, and Louise Chéreau is the third generation to work in the winery which was founded by her grandfather in 1960. Alongside her father Bernard, she is heavily involved in the winemaking process, working the vintage from harvest to blending. “It is great to learn from my father as we build together a solid philosophy that will last until – maybe – a new generation is coming. We are a good team.”

Try the; Chéreau Carré, Château de Chasseloir, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie 2014

“The wine was matured on its fine lees- “Sur Lie” -until bottling which imparts an attractive “prickle” on the palate and a nice weight. Dry, with a characteristic crisp acidity and a bright, fresh minerality.”

Steffi Weegmüller – Weingut Weegmüller

With 300 years of winemaking history and a gaze to the future, the Weegmüller sisters have excelled in making delicious Riesling. Steffi is one of the first women to have worked in Germany’s male-dominated wine industry and she has mastered the technical aspects of winemaking, and – crucially – brings heart and sensuality to her work. She has been making the highest quality Pfalz wines for more than 25 years aided and abetted by a largely female team at the winery and behind the scenes. Her clean, pure wines have a delicate Pfalz spice and are very generous in fruit and length.

Try the; Weegmüller, Bürgergarten, Pfalz, Gewürztraminer Spätlese Trocken 2015

“Aromatic and restrained Gewürztraminer with a creamy texture and notes of rose, lychee, delicate spice and fresh ginger. Elegant, balanced and full of flavour.”

Nadine Ferrand – Domaine Ferrand

Nadine Ferrand is the latest family member to take helm at the Domaine in the heart of Pouilly Fuissé. She has transformed the vineyard and winery since taking over in 1984. She and her daughters are clearly doing something right as the wines regularly receive high scores from Robert Parker. Nadine Ferrand has brought the domaine to the top of Pouilly Fuissé. Her wines with vivacious fruit notes, buttery roundness and appealing minerality have been recognised by the Sommelier Wine Awards as a jewel of the appellation

Try the; Domaine Ferrand, Saint-Véran 2016

“This is a refreshing, complex and velvety white from Saint Véran. Ripe fruit flavours of juicy white pear combine with delicate notes of zesty lemon. Softly textured, with a harmonious balance between refreshing acidity and fruitiness, this shows great finesse on the finish.”

Samantha OKeefe – Lismore

Samantha O’Keefe’s is an amazing story. A native Californian, Berkeley educated, she and her husband realised their dream and bought a mountain in Africa. But then her husband upped sticks and Sam was left to bring up two young boys on her own, 300 metres up a mountain, surrounded by wilderness (and baboons). But nothing seems to faze her and she has made her mark with a string of stunning cool-climate wines that have wowed customers and critics the world over.

Try the; Lismore, Greyton, Reserve Chardonnay 2016

“A stunning example of a restrained, cool climate Chardonnay. Intense citrus aromas and classic soft fruits are layered with honey and vanilla notes. The palate is beautifully balanced with a refreshing, crisp acidity and a distinct minerality. Concentrated and refined, with a lingering citrus finish.”

Elizma Visser – Olifantsberg

 

Olifantsberg is situated on the Breedekloof’s Brandwacht mountain slopes, and is owned by Hollander Paul Leeuwerik, who is making great strides in progressing towards producing excellent Rhone-style wines. Elizma Visser joined the Olifantsberg team in 2015. This down to earth Elsenburg-trained winemaker has worked in France and Italy, before returning to South Africa.

Try the; Olifantsberg, Grenache Blanc, Breedekloof 2016

“A unique style of Grenache Blanc which shows delicacy and finesse. Subtle aromas of lime blossom combine with green herbal notes, white peach and quince through to a beautifully balanced and richly textured palate with a delicious saline hint on the finish.”

 

Viñátigo, Volcanic Wines & The Black Dribbler

The first exhilarating thing you see as the plane approaches Tenerife is a snow-capped Mount Teide rising out of the mist. Considering the island’s reputation as a sunseeker’s paradise, this mirage-like sight – a Kilimanjaro of the Canaries – comes as a jolt.

Exiting the airport, the hoardes of holidaymakers turn left and dash to the fleshpots of Playa de las Américas and Los Cristianos; Steve and I turn right and make our way up the A1 autoroute through an unpreposessing industrial coastline until we turn inland and hit the beautiful town of San Cristobal de la Laguna.

“Welcome to the north, the real Tenerife,” says a genial Juan Jesús Méndez Siverio, the owner of Viñátigo and a man who is about to become a winemaking hero to me.

Steve and I listed the Viñátigo wines late in 2017, following tastings in London. We know the wines are extraordinary – but now we are about to find out just how extraordinary.

First things first, we say, as Juan cranks up his four wheel drive. Pronunciation? “Ah,” says Juan. It is vin-YA-t’go.”

Crossing the island, we become aware of the change in scenery and vegetation. “The south is hot and flat and arid, only good for average grape-growing,” says Juan in broken English. “But here in the north…” It doesn’t need more explanation. Here the vegetation is lush and green, the land heavily sloped, dotted with smallholdings, the moody clouds rolling in quickly off Mount Teide.

Juan takes us to the Valle el Palmar in the foothills of the mountain, climbing from sea level to 1,000 metres in less than five minutes through twisting hairpin dirt paths. It is so steep I’m convinced we are going to topple over backwards, and by the time we clamber out it is misty and damp and we appear to be standing in the clouds.

This is the organically-farmed Finca Los Pedregales vineyard, home of the mighty Tintilla.

“Is very small, two hectares, 33 terraces, very difficult to harvest, hard work,” jokes Juan. He holds up a bottle with the familiar ladder motif on the label and Steve and I both sigh “Ah!” as we now know where the ladder = terrace logo originates.

“Everything comes from the mountain,” Juan explains. “You have to pay it respect. It is the highest mountain in Spain. But for us, is importance because it is a volcano. The soil, you see. The soil.”

 

He bends down and hands us dense pieces of the phosphorous-rich rock, crumbling and black. The weight of it comes as a shock. But you can smell the minerals. I strand back and hold it – and  then the rain comes.

Not your average rain, but great wind-driven stair rods spearing into your face.

We leg it back to the car.

Minutes later, back at sea level at the pretty port of Garachico, all is warm and sunny and you might be in a different world. We sit on a harbour wall, buffeted by Atlantic waves, and sipp Juan’s Malvasia Aromática Classica, while we gaze up at Mount Teide, now framed against a beautiful azure sky. “In the eighteenth century the last great eruption destroyed this port. You can see where the lava ran.” Juan points to the valley which runs from the base of the mountain to where we stand.

Peculiar place, I think: one minute you could be in Malaysia; the next, Dorset.

The Malvasia has incredible acidity which masks the 60 grams of sugar. This is the type of wine which made Tenerife famous in the 16th century, when it was one of the most prized wines in Europe. Juan reminds us of two quotes in Shakespeare: in Twelfth Night Sir Toby Belch tells Sir Andrew Aguecheek: “O knight, thou lack’st a cup of canary. When did I see thee so put down?” and in Henry IV Part 2 we have Hostess Quickly admonishing Doll Tearsheet: “But, you have drunk too much canaries, and that’s a marvellous searching wine.”

A marvellous searching wine!

The island lived off wine from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. When the American Independence was signed they celebrated with Canary wine.  And then the grapes were supplanted by bananas and then tourism.

“One of my ambitions is to hold a wine tasting at Canary Wharf,” says Juan.

“I think we can arrange that!” says Steve.

During the drive to the winery in his home village of La Guancha, Juan fills in the gaps. He is a fourth generation winegrower, but the first in his family to study on the mainland. He owns 16 hectares, and works closely with 40 growers, who own another 21 hectares. His total production is 12,000 cases. Such limited production means he has to augment his earnings by teaching as a professor of viticulture and oenology at the Ciclo Superior de Vitivinicultura.

“We started off by trying to improve our production of the traditional grapes of Listán Blanco and Listán Negro. But when I began to research the wines for my classes in the late 90s, I became more and more interested in our winemaking history. The Canary Isles is one of the few areas in the world where phylloxera has never occurred and this means that we have an incredible amount of indigenous varietals. But most had become unfashionable, and were almost extinct. A lot of them only existed on the tiny island of El Hierro, the Jurassic park of vines.

“So I began to work with Fernando Zamora at the Rovira i Virgili university in Tarragona. First, we tried to identify these varieties. We found more than 80.”

Listán Blanco is Palomino, Gual is Madeira’s Bual, Listán Negro is the Mission grape. Tintilla and Marmajuelo are unknowns but probably originated on the Spanish mainland, where they were wiped out by phylloxera.

“Then, we transported many of them from El Pinar to Tenerife and began to propagate them.”

As a result of the work, he has become a seminal figure on the island.

His promotion of these near-extinct varieties explains why many of Viñátigo’s bottlings are small-runs and hand-numbered.

That he has done all of this without trumpeting his achievements and with minimal fuss immediately elevates him to winemaking hero to me.

At the stunning small winery we are joined by Juan’s winemaker wife, Elena Batista, who shows us round. It’s a beautifully designed winery, built into a hillside, with a Batcave feel to it. Small batch fermentation and vinification in 40 separate stainless steel tanks is key. Everything is gravity fed and the winery is cunningly designed to allow for natural ventilation. “Everything is designed to completely eliminate any chance of oxidation,” explaines Elena. Every piece of machinery is mobile. “The idea is that the machinery is designed around the grapes, not the grapes around the machinery.”

It is pristine clean. Viticulture is sustainably-focused. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented using indigenous yeasts. Grapes go through two triages, first in the fields and then again in the winery. Minimal sulphur is used in the winery and no synthetic materials are used in the winemaking.

After asking Juan to pose with a bottle of his 1697 Malvasia, we get down to a tasting.

 

  • The Listán Blanco 2017 has only just been bottled and has a saline, mineral feel to it. I’m struggling to find a more descriptive word, but Elena tells me: fennel. Ah! Tom Cannavan, writing about the 2016 vintage, mused that this “was the perfect white wine: fruity and with a herbal tang, medium-bodied yet not without palate weight and texture, and shimmering with soft but ever-present acidity to the last drop. Ultimately a fairly simple wine, but utterly delicious.”

 

  • The Marmajuelo 2017 is a massive step up. It still has a magnificent saline character, but now has nuances of tropical fruits – pineapple – to give it roundness and a richness. Cannavan, again, on the 2016: “This is a lovely, limpid white wine, described to me as being ‘A bit like Chablis’ by the sommelier in a restaurant, and whilst it does have a limpid clarity and freshness, it is just overflowing aromatically with passion fruit and guava, in a much more vivacious style. It is easy drinking, despite very good acidity, but with a smooth weight of fruit and a hint of minerality too. Terrific and different.”

 

  • The Gual 2017 has a darker, heavier feel to it. This bottle is from 50% grapes fermented in stainless steel and 50% fermented in concrete eggs. Juan then brings out a 100% concrete egg wine, which has an incredible yeastiness and body, due to the suspension of the yeast. A wonderful example of what the eggs can lay.

 

  • The Vijariego Blanco 2017 has just been bottled and is difficult to nose, but has a pear and stone fruit nose and reminds us all of Greek’s Assyrtiko.

 

  • The Negromoll (2017) is a fascinating wine; my favourite Viñátigo. It certainly has a touch of Pinot Noir about it, but without the surliness you sometimes get with that grape. This grape seems genuine, seems to want to please. It has beautiful cherry fruit and a surprising gutsiness to it. Brilliant stuff. We must bring this to a bigger audience, Steve and I agree.

 

  • The Ensamblaje Blanco 2016 is a blend of Gual, Marmamjuelo, Vijariego Blanco and Malvasia Aromática, has massive acidity and lots of stone fruit and more than a touch of the northern Rhone about it. The ’17 is more saline. Juan says that saline is a characteristic he looks for in all his white wines.

 

  • The Listán Negro 2017 is a beautiful everyday glass of wine, with a touch of rosehip and black pepper. Incredible value-for-money.

 

  • The Tintilla 2016 is a much bigger wine; there is masses going on: dark chocolate, tobacco, cranberry. A powerful, serious wine.

 

  • The Baboso Negro 2012 is a big beast, with a massive perfume of violets and a heavy and structured palate with oozing black plums coating the mouth. Very intense. Juan tells us that they nickname this grape the Black Dribbler because it has very thin skin and when it gets close to ripeness it can split and dribble. This is almost too much for Steve and I to take in. The Black Dribbler!

 

  • The Ensamblaje Tinto 2014 is a blend of Baboso Negro, Tintilla and Vijariego Negro with ten months average oak-ageing. This is a big wine, with toffee, caramel and cedar box on the fore-palate, then cassis and dark chocolate.

 

  • Then after tasting two editions of the Elaboraciones Ancestrales, we are given an Orange wine, a Gual, made in the same way as the first Gual we tasted, but left to macerate for much longer. Unlike a lot of orange wines, this is beautiful with lots of mandarins on the nose, well-balanced and very clean, with a hint of quince.

At dinner that evening, while eating through different types of potato (your humble potato is elevated to gourmet status in Tenerife, a result of the island importing many different types from Peru centuries ago), we discuss the concept of volcanic wines. John Szabo, the Canadian Sommelier, had visited Juan and Elena during the writing of his book, Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, and the Tenerife wine industry makes great play on the volcanic nature of their wines.

“But how do you define a volcanic wine?” I ask.

“Minerality,” says Juan.

John Szabo, in his book, prefers “umami” which is something Steve, Bev and I have sometimes picked up in our tasting room, but we thought it was just Luton!

“It’s a smokiness in the wine,” says Elena.

Steve, with decades of knowledge of Greece behind him, says all volcanic wines have “tension.”

Darren Smith, writing recently in Imbibe, noted that there may be no such thing as a “volcanic” wine; because each volcano had its own wine suite, hinging on its particular chemistry (basic or acidic/alkaline), its own soil texture (loose pumice or scoria, sandy, clay-rich, or bedrock lava), its own micro-climate and its own cultivars, we would be better off referring to such wines in the plural: volcanic wines rather than volcanic wine.

Saltiness is also a common thread for Szabo, as Smith points out. In his book Szabo refers to a ‘weightless gravity’, a subtle power, concentration and longevity, and very much more of a savoury aspect to the wines than a fruity one.

“I agree with that,” says Juan. “ That is present in some of our wines. It may be from some of our plots we have right down by the sea’s edge. Salt must influence the wines, a little like the sea does for malt whisky on Islay.”

As for minerality, that, too, is a difficult concept to pin down. Steve and I use it a lot in our wine descriptions, but as Jamie Goode writes in Wine Science, minerality means different things to different people. Goode recounts  Stephen Spurrier telling him that “minerality did not exist as a wine-tasting term until the mid-1980s. During most of my time in Paris I don’t think I ever used the word.” Spurrier does use the word now. “I probably associate minerality with stoniness, but then stones are hard and minerality is generally “lifted.” No wonder we are all confused.”

Goode goes on to say that Jancis Robinson told him: “I am very wary of using minerality in my tasting notes because I know how sloppily it has been applied.”

“This is what makes wine so beautiful,” says Juan, as we prepare to leave.

While we were eating, a tropical storm had developed. The 100-metre race to the car park became an assault course as we dodged the flying branches of palm trees, one of which attempted to beat Steve to death. We ended up thoroughly drenched.

So much for sun-kissed island, I thought as I reached my room. But, fortified by another glass of a magnificent Baboso Negro (The Black Dribbler), I realised this had been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. I used to have a Shakespeare blog, so I was familiar with his references, but Juan and Elena had also brought to my attention a quote from another of my heroes, John Keats:

“Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy fields or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
Have ye tippled drink more fine
Than mine host’s Canary wine…”

Once more, the Cockney poet nails it.

WOTM: Olifantsberg, Grenache Blanc, Breedekloof 2016

Recently awarded 91 points by South Africa’s leading wine magazine, Winemag, the Olifantsberg, Grenache Blanc, Breedekloof 2016 is a rich 100% Grenache made by Elizma Visser in the Breedekloof wine district is our Wine of the Month in March.

In a nutshell:

Richly textured and beautifully balanced, with delicious notes of stone fruits, lime blossom and green herbal notes with a hint of salinity on the finish.

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 grapes were whole bunch pressed to ensure an elegant extraction of colour, aromas and flavours. Natural fermentation took place in seasoned French oak barrels and large oak foudres which added layers of complexity. The wine was aged for 10 months on its fine lees, adding texture and richness.

Serving suggestion:

Accompanies fresh seafood, rich fish dishes or cuisine with a subtle hint of spice.

Winemaker profile: Larry Cherubino

Larry Cherubino has been making wine around the world as a flying winemaker (no, that doesn’t mean he whizzes around the vineyards on a jet pack) for over 20 years.  

 

His passion for wine can be traced back to an early age, after being brought up by a family who pressed grapes on their farms and in a small family vineyard. He then went on to work as a cellar hand in Australia and Europe during his time as a student. In fact, Larry enjoyed being around winemaking so much he postponed his degree to experience even more vintages!

 

After graduating in Agribusiness and Horticulture, and with his passion for winemaking now fully ignited, he went on to study further, this time in the field of Oenology at the prestigious Roseworthy College, Adelaide.

 

Following many years travelling the world, designing wineries and vineyards New Zealand, USA, France, Italy and South Africa, and a stint as head winemaker at Houghton, finally, in 2004, Larry bought a vineyard of his own. Investing in the little known, but geographically large region of, Great Southern.

 

In the first year Larry released only one wine and the business was run on a tiny scale. A few years later he had the opportunity to buy the neighbouring vineyard and acres of prime river and vineyard country. The business then took off, growing quickly, with the estate now boasting over 120 hectares.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Larry’s eponymous winery produces a number of ranges, Cherubino, The Yard, Pedestal and Ad Hoc, all with one thing in common -the wines are made with minimal intervention to demonstrate the true quality of the grapes and grape growing.

 

Larry has won numerous plaudits for his wines, in 2011 it was Halliday’s Winery of the Year and in 2017, Best Value Winery, recognising the quality and value of the whole portfolio – 25 out of 35 wines received a prestigious value rosette.

Wines from the whole range constantly win critical acclaim, with nearly every wine he makes getting 90+ Halliday points and several featuring in Matthew Jukes Top 100.

 

WOTM: Gérard Bertrand, Code Rouge, Crémant de Limoux NV

Gérard Bertrand, Code Rouge, Crémant de Limoux NV is an IWC Silver Medal winning Cremant which stands out from the crowd on a shelf or wine rack! The perfect fit for Valentine’s Day.

In a nutshell:

An enticing floral aroma with notes of pear and citrus, refreshing and vibrant on the palate

The producer:

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 wine:

A Crémant, made using the traditional Champagne method. The grapes were manually harvested and carefully transported in harvesting bins. The juice was very gently extracted using a pneumatic press, which allowed 30 to 40% of the press juice to be extracted without having to re-press.

The juice was then allowed to settle prior to the alcoholic fermentation, which took place at a controlled temperature of 18°C. A meticulous blending of the various terroirs and grape varieties was then carried out, with bottling throughout January to encourage the secondary bottle fermentation. Aged on its fine lees for a minimum of three years, the Code Rouge was riddled and disgorged according to the Champagne method.

This Cuvée has all the traditional features of Gérard Bertrand’s wines: the emblematic red colour of the bottle and the Alpha and Omega symbols, symbolising the endless cycle of nature which inspired its name Brut Eternel.

Serving suggestion:

The perfect apéritif! A great match with sushi, Asian influenced cuisine, spicy dishes or fresh fruit salads with basil.

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