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David Williams Judging the Top 100 is hard work – but ultimately it’s all about wines that give pleasure

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Trophy winners The wines that were just that little bit extra special

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Tasting team There were 24 judges on our panel – all of them independent wine merchants

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Best Vindies Merchantowned agency business takes biggest haul of medals

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Vive la France There’s no surprise at the top of the country leader board – but we have a new No 2

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TOP 1OO T H E

W I N E

M E R C H A N T

2019 RESULTS


Winners’ supplement 2019

Published with the July 2019 edition of The Wine Merchant magazine www.winemerchantmag.com © Graham Holter Ltd 2019 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT: 943 8771 82 Photography by Joshua Tucker of Tucker Images Cover photo © Gena/stock.adobe.com


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The Wine Merchant Top 100


LIBERTY AD


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The Wine Merchant Top 100


CHAIRMAN’S REPORT

Work hard, play hard judging the wine merchant top 100 is a tough but rewarding gig

H

ard work. That’s one way of describing the judging process at The Wine Merchant Top 100. With more than 830 wines for our 24 judges to get through (a record in this, the competition’s seventh edition) how could it be anything else? Those judges give each and every entry proper consideration, debating the merits or otherwise of each wine with their co-judges, and making the case for their favourites with passion, all the while measuring their tastes against the reality of the modern independent retailing environment as

It almost goes without saying that the wines featured in this supplement were those that brought the most pleasure they ask themselves: can I sell this? It’s a process that takes time, and effort. But – we’re confident you’ll agree – all that work has its reward in the quality of the final selection, which many Wine Merchant readers will have seen and tasted already when they visited the Top 100 stand at this year’s London Wine Fair in May. As ever, the winners – both in the Top 100 itself, and the Highly Commended wines that just missed out on a place at the top table – make for a fascinatingly varied collection of wines,

both in terms of origins (from Croatia, Lebanon and Greece to Uruguay, Hungary and Wales, via the classics of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja, Napa, Barolo, Chianti and Champagne) and style (funky Vijariego Blanco from Tenerife to spicy, lustrous Barossa Shiraz). But there’s value, here, too; the idea runs through the competition like the name of a seaside town in a stick of rock. All the wines selected have been chosen for their high quality-to-price ratio, whether it’s a £50 Super Tuscan or a £9 old-vine Spanish Garnacha. It’s the quality of the wines that comes first, however, and that brings me to another word that sums up the Wine Merchant Top 100: fun. It almost goes without saying that the wines featured in the pages of this supplement were those that brought the most pleasure to the judges. Indeed, one of the perks of my job as competition chairman is observing those judges just as a wine inspires a Eureka moment, or seeing a hardbitten retailer’s eyes light up as they ask a fellow judge, “Wow, what is that?” The judges themselves enjoy it, too, of course. And it’s those moments – those wines – that make all the hard work of judging (and independent wine-merchanting in general) so worthwhile.

David Williams

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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The most successful agency in this year’s Top 100 competition: 2 Trophies, 16 Winners and 17 Highly Commended wines. Vindependents is a fundamentally different agency business owned by and run for 37 of the UK’s top independent wine merchants. Members make at least 40% margin on all our exclusive wines and gain equity in the business as they buy. We are looking for around 10 more members / shareholders. For more information try one of the following: • Request a roadshow visit or an invitation to our October 1st Portfolio Tasting in London • Come and see us at SITT Autumn in London and Manchester Contact jessica@vindependents.co.uk


Trophy winners

Best Red Wine

Best White Wine

Fèlsina Berardenga Fontalloro

Diamantakis Winery Diamantopetra White

IGT TOSCANA ITALY 2016

T

he winner of this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 Best Red Wine trophy is, in the words of the judges, a “stunning, enjoyable, stylish red with scents of Tuscan herbs, leather and spice”. It is a pure Sangiovese, grown in four vineyards – the titular Fontalloro and Poggio al Sole in the Chianti Classico zone and the Casalino and Arcidossino in the Chianti Colli Senesi – planted at 400m above sea level, with an average vine age of 50 years. Winemaking details include a fermentation at 28-30°C and a 16 to 20-day maceration, followed by ageing in a mixture of first and second-use barriques for 18 to 22 months, and then in bottle for eight to 12 months before release. We shouldn’t be surprised by the quality: this is a producer with a track record of making superb Sangiovese since Domenico Poggiali first acquired it in 1966. Based in a 470ha estate just north east of Siena in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga, winemaking is now overseen by star consultant Franco Bernabei.

Liberty Wines RRP £52.99

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ABV 13.5%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

PDO DAFNES, CRETE GREECE 2018

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n recent years, Greek wines have established themselves as firm favourites in the UK’s independent scene. And with wines of the charm, authenticity and sheer quality of the Wine Merchant Top 100 Best White Wine trophy-winner, it’s easy to see why. Over to the judges: “This is a beautiful, vibrant white with stone fruit and delightful floral and herbal notes,” they said. “It’s really very good: complex and layered, persistent and mouthwatering, and all at a very affordable price.” The architects of this piece of Greek vinous wizardry are the first producers from the country to be imported by Vindependents, a specialist in what the group calls “great value wines from indigenous varieties”. In this case the varieties in question (in a 50/50 blend) are Assyrtiko and Vidiano, grown by the Diamantakis family on their 28ha estate outside the village of Kato Assites south west of the city of Heraklion in the Malevizi province of Crete.

Vindependents RRP £16.50

ABV 13.5%


The most successful agency in this year’s Top 100 competition: 2 Trophies, 16 Winners and 17 Highly Commended wines. Vindependents is a fundamentally different agency business owned by and run for 37 of the UK’s top independent wine merchants. Members make at least 40% margin on all our exclusive wines and gain equity in the business as they buy. We are looking for around 10 more members / shareholders For more information try one of the following: • Request a roadshow visit or an invitation to our October 1 Portfolio Tasting in London • Come and see us at SITT Autumn in London and Manchester Contact jessica@vindependents.co.uk

BEST WHITE WINE IN SHOW DIAMANTOPETRA WHITE 2018 Exclusively available through Vindependents: RRP £16.50


Trophy winners

Best Sparkling Wine

Best Fortified Wine

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve

Henriques & Henriques 10 Year Old Bual Madeira

CHAMPAGNE FRANCE NV

DOURO PORTUGAL 2005

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hampagne Charles Heidsieck – the smallest of the classic “Grandes Marques” Champagne houses – is a serial winner in the the Wine Merchant Top 100 competition, regularly featuring in the final selection and picking up trophies over the years. This year’s set of judges were no less impressed by the quality on show in the company’s peerless Rosé Réserve. It’s a wine that is a real showcase of the art of sparkling wine blending. The base, vintage wine (80% of the final blend) is equal parts Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; the reserve wines are 50/50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. So far so complex. Then factor in 5% to 6% that is vinified as a red wine, for body, texture and red-fruit fragance. The result? “A really classy wine with lots of structure and depth – very vinous but with delicious red fruit and crisp apple, and complex notes of brioche and superb length and balance.” Liberty Wines RRP £67.99

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ABV 12%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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adeira has long been the quintessential insider’s wine. More than a few wine trade luminaries – step forward Jancis Robinson MW among others – have listed these distinctive fortifieds as their preferred desert-island choice. But it doesn’t always find the space on wine lists and merchant shelves it deserves. If that situation is to change, it will be down to the sheer quality and bang-for-buck quotient of wines such as this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100 Best Fortified Wine trophy winner. From a company with more than a century and a half ’s worth of history (it was founded in 1850), and the only major producer on the island today to own its own vineyards, this blend of wines made from the Bual variety and aged for an average age of 10 years charmed the judges. “Delicious rum and raisin richness and toffee notes that are so inviting,” the judges said. “It has really lovely balance and length – with lift as well as intensity.” Mentzendorff RRP £20.73

ABV 19.5%


Trophy winners

Best Rosé Wine

Best Value Red Wine

Domaine Gavoty Cuvée Clarendon Rosé

Brisa De Verano Garnacha Tinta ARAGON SPAIN 2017

COTES DE PROVENCE FRANCE 2018

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ver the past decade, the Provence style of rosé has become the pink standard around the world, with everyone looking to get in on the trend for all things elegant and pastel-shaded. But the original is still more often than not the best – and that was certainly the view of the judges as they sifted through the rosés at The Wine Merchant Top 100 2019, handing the Best Rosé Wine trophy to a true Provence specialist. Founded in 1805, Domaine Gavoty is one of the oldest estates in the region, and is still run by the same, eponymous family. Between 70% and 80% of the annual production is rosé, with the Cuvée Clarendon a classic of the saignée style, a blend of 70% Grenache with equal parts Cinsault and Syrah, given between three and six hours of skin contact. “Precise, perfectly poised, very appealing fruit,” the judges said. “Classic Provence rosé with a price point that is just right.”

Laytons RRP £18.95

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ABV 13.5%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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orthern Spain’s plentiful stocks of old bushvine Garnacha is one of the wine world’s great treasures, the source material for some of its greatest-value red wines. Making the most of those resources requires skill and local know-how, however. Which is where the team of Boutinot’s head winemaker Eric Monnin and Spanish project manager Jean Wareing MW and the star cooperative Bodega Borsao’s head winemaker José Luis Chueca comes in. Blending a little Syrah and Tempranillo into the mix, the trio’s expertly made, easy-drinking, succulent demonstration of Garnacha charmed the judges by squeezing so much flavour and class into a sub-£10 wine. “Very Grenache nose with nice snap and plenty of red fruit and spice and just a touch of prune,” the judges said. “Lovely deep flavour, structure and spice and fresh fruit on the palate – great value!”

Boutinot RRP £9.49

ABV 14.5%


Best Value White Wine

Best Value Sparkling Wine

Casa De Vila Nova Vila Nova Alvarinho

KWV Laborie Blanc de Blancs Method Cap Classique

MINHO PORTUGAL 2018

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t must, at least sometimes, be a little galling for the inhabitants of northern Portugal that the world’s wine drinkers have fallen in love with one of their native grape varieties but that most of those fans only recognise it when it is presented to them with a Spanish spelling. But here is prooof that Portuguese Alvarinho can be every bit as compelling as Spanish Albariño. It’s made by one of western Iberia’s best exponents of the variety, a company owned by a family so entrenched in the winemaking lands of Vinho Verde country that their idea of a “new house” (or “Casa Nova”) is one built in the 17th century on land the family has owned since the 12th century. The wine itself wowed the Top 100 2019 judges with its “honeyed, balanced flavours and aromas of acacia and lime. It carries its sweetness well, it’s quite commercial and rich, and it’s just the kind of wine you need for matching a variety of occasions, with that tangy, fresh acidity making it so lively.”

Boutinot RRP £11.49

ABV 12.5%

WESTERN CAPE SOUTH AFRICA 2011

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n a sparkling wine scene that has never been more competitive, you need something special to stand out from the fizzy crowd. Or, as in the case of KWV’s 100% Chardonnay fizz, three things. The first? Well, when so many producers are rushing out their cuvées onto the bandwagon before they’re remotely ready, here’s a wine that has had plenty of time both on the lees – three years –and in the bottle post-disgorgement. The second: despite all that time in the cellar, the price is extraordinarily fair: how many mature sparkling wines come with an RRP under £15? And the third: well, as the Top 100 judges said, it’s a “really delicious and satisfying wine”. They added: “There’s an intriguing chalky texture and lots of richness, with dried fruit and raisin notes. “All that comes with really beautiful acidic support. This would be an excellent and characterful addition to any range of sparkling wine.”

North South Wines RRP £14.99 ABV 12.5%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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Trophy winners

Best Value Rosé Wine

Best Value Fortified Wine

Caves Languedoc Roussillon Rosé des Plages Premium

Fonseca Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage Port

IGP PAYS D’OC FRANCE 2018

P

rovençal rosé has increasing competition in the south of France these days, with more and more producers in the Languedoc-Roussillon making pinks of pale interest at very competitive prices. That was what we said about last year’s winner of The Wine Merchant Top 100 Best Value Rosé trophy – and the same is true again this year, albeit with a different name on the (as it turns out; the judges wouldn’t have known) very smart packaging. Rosé des Plages is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Carignan sourced from vineyards on stony clay/ limestone soils at an altitude of 160m above sea level in the Saint Saturnin commune in Hérault department of the Languedoc. And it was a big hit with the Top 100 2019 judges. “Nice colour! Very pale onion skin,” was their verdict. “Lovely nose, too, of purple flowers and strawberry – this is a charming, well balanced wine with wild forest fruits. Value!” Vindependents RRP £11.99

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ABV 13%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

DOURO PORTUGAL 2012

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ne of the great, historic names of the Douro, Fonseca is justly famous for the quality of its vintage and single-quinta Ports – some of the finest fortified wines in the world. But The Fladgate Partnership-owned producer’s range is stuffed with fine wines at all prices, not least this exemplary Late Bottled Vintage. The blend of 2012 fruit is sourced from some of the best plots in both Fonseca’s own vineyards and their long-term partners’ in the Cima Corgo and Douro Superior, and is aged in large (27,500-litre) wooden vats before going into bottle after five years. “Such an appealing layered nose with fresh exuberant fruit but also some mature secondary flavours just starting to show through,” the Top 100 judges said. “In the mouth, it has so much sweet berry fruit and structured but velvety tannins – delightful texture. “This is very high quality Port and exceptional value for money.”

Mentzendorff RRP £16.50

ABV 20%


The most successful agency in this year’s Top 100 competition: 2 Trophies, 16 Winners and 17 Highly Commended wines. Vindependents is a fundamentally different agency business owned by and run for 37 of the UK’s top independent wine merchants. Members make at least 40% margin on all our exclusive wines and gain equity in the business as they buy. We are looking for around 10 more members / shareholders For more information try one of the following: • Request a roadshow visit or an invitation to our October 1 Portfolio Tasting in London • Come and see us at SITT Autumn in London and Manchester Contact jessica@vindependents.co.uk

BEST VALUE ROSÉ ROSÉ DES PLAGES PREMIUM 2018 Exclusively available through Vindependents: RRP £11.99


MEET THE

JUDGES ALL OF THE WINE MERCHANT TOP 100 JUDGES ARE INDEPENDENTS. WE ASK THEM TO JUDGE WINES IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY AS THEY WOULD IF THEY WERE CONSIDERING A NEW WINE FOR LISTING IN THEIR BUSINESS

Philip Amps

Hal Wilson

Alice Archer

Amps Fine Wines

Cambridge Wine Merchants

Cambridge Wine Merchants

Amps Fine Wines in Oundle dates back to 1901. Philip is the fourth generation of the family to run the business, which opened a second branch in the town in 2016. He has been part of our senior judging panel since the Top 100 began.

Cambridge Wine Merchants was established in 1993 by Hal and friend Brett Turner. It now has seven branches (four in Cambridge, plus three franchises elsewhere) as well as a large wholesale operation. Hal is another senior judge.

MW student Alice manages sales to the Cambridge and Oxford University colleges. Last year she spent time winemaking in Stellenbosch with Rustenberg Wines. She is the chairman of the Champagne Academy.

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The Wine Merchant Top 100


Caspar Bowes

Henry Chambers

Charlotte Dean

Caspar began his career at Majestic. Along with his wife, Victoria, he started his Devizes business in 2002 and sells to a private client base, both through Bowes Wine and their educational wine sampling club, The Daily Drinker.

Vagabond is a rapidly expanding business with six locations in its London portfolio. Henry has been running the Fulham branch for over two years and puts his tasting skills to the test when working alongside head buyer Colin Thorne.

After running a wine bar and working in wholesale, Charlotte opened her Norbiton shop over 10 years ago. She sells breads, cheeses and other local produce alongside her carefully curated range of wines and regularly holds tutored tastings.

Simon Evans

Andrew Gray

Jez Greenspan

The Naked Grape has three shops in Hampshire and Berkshire. Founder and MD Simon also runs a huge number of events from cocktail masterclasses to summer festivals for 20,000 people.

A specialist in sparkling wine, Andrew is a wine judge and teacher, based at this Covent Garden wine parlour. He also uses street markets and tastings to create awareness of the hidden world of global, small-production sparkling wine.

Jez has over 20 years’ retail experience and 10 of those have been in the wine trade. He opened his London shop three years ago with the philosophy of delivering “straight-talking, no-nonsense advice” to his customers.

Bowes Wine

The Naked Grape

Vagabond

Grays & Feather

Wined Up Here

The Wine Twit

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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Daniel Grigg Museum Wines

Sunny Hodge

Diogenes the Dog

Sam Howard

Daniel spent time at Spirited Wines and Majestic before joining Museum Wines in Dorset. Under his guidance the company has expanded to incorporate a second site and multiple wholesale accounts. Daniel became MD in 2017.

Sunny’s career has seen him rise within the hospitality industry with plaudits at Gaucho, Margot and Fordwich Arms. He opened his first shop and wine bar, Diogenes The Dog, in Elephant & Castle last year.

Sam joined Norwich merchant HarperWells in February 2014, his 15th year in the wine industry. He is a privateclient sales specialist who, in previous roles, has worked in the fine wine market, selling to international clients.

Julia Jenkins

Jonathan Kleeman The Twisted Cellar

Dee Nel

Mews of Mayfair

Before starting her own business in St Albans in 2004, Julia was a buyer for various companies and marketing manager for Sainsbury’s wine department. She keeps her wine knowledge up to date by going to as many tastings as possible.

Jonathan is an experienced sommelier and director of hydration at the Bishops Stortford merchant. With a career spanning The Ritz, Social Eating House and Quattro Passi, he pays scrupulous attention to detail and flavours.

Dee’s career in hospitality has involved senior roles at Giraffe and Merchants Tavern. Now she is responsible for keeping the shelves well-stocked with premium and everyday-drinking wines for her discerning Mayfair customers.

Flagship Wines

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The Wine Merchant Top 100

HarperWells


Graham Northeast

Louise Peverall

Tim Peyton

Graham took over the Christchurch business in 2001 when Hall & Woodhouse exited the off-trade. He has expanded the range to around 650 wines, attending around 20 trade tastings a year in pursuit of new finds.

Lou and Bruno set up the East Dulwich business five years ago with the commitment of offering their customers wines from small vignerons, instead of the larger producers, by importing directly themselves.

After working for a wine merchant in Bath, Tim moved to London to look after Real Ale’s retail arm. The company is a craft beer specialist with three shops, two of which trade with the caviste model, offering a 50/50 split of beer and wine.

Ben Proctor

Ted Sandbach

Kat Stead

Bona Fide Wines

La Cave de Bruno

Real Ale

Provisions

The Oxford Wine Company

Brigitte Bordeaux

Ben runs this wine shop and bar in north London specialising in farmhouse wine and cheese sourced from France and Italy. The company represents about 20 growers who produce authentic wines from indigenous grapes.

Ted runs one of the UK’s largest and most admired independent wine merchants, operating from warehouse headquarters near Witney, as well as running two shops and a wine café. The company is also an important regional wholesaler.

Kat’s love of wine developed when she joined the Wine in Nottingham Group and started her WSET qualifications. In 2018 she left her career as an English teacher to realise her dream of opening her own wine shop and bar in Nottingham.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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Mario Sposito Bedales

Jesal Thakker

Riding Wine Company

Nick Underwood

Mario works as wine director at Bedales and Bob’s Lobster in London. He graduated from the University of Salerno with a degree in political and institutional communication and holds the WSET Diploma.

Jesal and partner Vikram are the proud owners of this new Ealing business, specialising in natural, organic and biodynamic wines sourced from small vignerons whom they met on an epic motorbike journey through Europe.

Nick runs Underwood Wine with brother Tim just outside Warwick. The company was set up in 1980 and specialises in servicing events, wholesale trade and private customers together with broking, cellar clearances and “understated retail�.

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The Wine Merchant Top 100

Underwood Wine


Argentine, Australian and French white

HIGHLY COMMENDED Australian white Devil’s Corner Sauvignon Blanc, Tasmania 2018 (£19.15, ABS): Electric, fresh, racy Aussie alternative to Kiwi Sauvignon. Tamar Ridge Riesling, Tasmania 2017 (£19.95, ABS): Alsace goes to the Southern Hemisphere: beautifully balanced Riesling. Chaffey Bros Wine Co Düfte Punkt Riesling Gewürztraminer Kerner, Eden Valley 2017 (£15.95, Enotria&Coe): Aromatic, precise, idiosyncratically delicious Aussie white blend. Jim Barry Assyrtiko, Clare Valley 2018 (£21.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Convincing peach, citrus and subtly floral Australian take on a Greek favourite. Berton Vineyard Winemakers Reserve Viognier, Riverina, New South Wales 2018 (£11.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Good value authentic Viognier flavours; fleshy but fresh. Moss Wood Semillon, Wilyabrup, Margaret River, Western Australia 2018 (£17.95, Laytons): Oily, waxy, lemony lusciousness. Powerful white. Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Chardonnay, Victoria 2017 (£17.99, Liberty Wines): Clean, brisk, fruit-forward modern Aussie Chardonnay. David Franz, Long Gully Road 132-Year-Old Vine Semillon, Barossa Valley 2017 (£22, The Knotted Vine): Saline, stony minerals, super length: a sleeper; still in nappies.

Austrian white Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltiner Smaragd Terrassen, Wachau 2018 (£20.12, Domäne Wachau): Smoky notes, toastiness, yellow fruit; highquality Grüner. Mittelbach Grüner Veltliner, Kremstal, Austria 2016 (£13.98, Dalling & Co): Mature, leesy, peppery, fine fruit: true varietal Grüner. Schreibeis Wiesserbugunder, Neiderosterreich 2015 (£13.98, Dalling & Co): Plush, off-dry with soft peachy fruit. balanced and easy-drinking; long finish.

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The Wine Merchant Top 100

VIÑA COBOS FELINO CHARDONNAY Luján De Cuyo & Valle De Uco, Mendoza, Argentina 2017 Californian wine legend Paul Hobbs has been a key figure in the shaping of modern Argentine wine. After first working with the Catena family, Hobbs started his own Mendoza winery in 1998, and has developed a range of fine whites and reds at a number of pricepoints. One of two Top 100winning wines from Hobbs’ fresh and fruit-driven varietal Felino range, this Chardonnay charmed the judges with its “beautiful balance between ripe fruit and well-measured oak. “It’s a classy take on Chardonnay that proves just how good Argentina can be with the variety – and at a very competitive price point for the quality.”

LOWBOI RIESLING Porongurup, Great Southern, Western Australia 2018 Guy Lyons is an exciting winemaker who by day plies his trade for respected Great Southern cool-climate producer Forrest Hill Wines. This impressive Top 100-winner, however, is all his own work, part of his Lowboi side project that has met with great acclaim in the past couple of years. According to the judges, it’s a “classical, and very varietal take on Riesling. It has an impressive ageworthy character, being beautifully balanced, zesty and pure. “It’s a wine that feels young right now but has so much energy – the kind of thing that you would tell customers to buy more than a couple of bottles of, and to put one away for a few years.”

MAGPIE ESTATE, RAG ‘N’ BONE RIESLING Eden Valley, South Australia 2018 Magpie Estate is more than usually connected to the UK independent wine trade – one of the two partners behind the business is none other than Cambridge merchant Noel Young. Young works with Barossa legend Rolf Binder to source and make a range of classic Australian wines from both the Barossa and, in this case, neighbouring Eden Valley. Binder and Young have come up trumps to deliver a Riesling that “would really work in an independent setting. “It has a classic varietal nose, with stone-fruit notes and a touch of kerosene, while the acidity and fruit are beautifully balanced with the residual sugar.”

Alliance Wine

The Knotted Vine

Boutinot

RRP £15.49 ABV 12%

RRP £26.50 ABV 12.5%

RRP £12.99 ABV 12.5%


CARDINAL RICHARD Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, France 2017 All hail the great Muscadet revival? Well, maybe not quite yet, but there are definitely signs that the estuarine Loire appellation is on the way up again after a long period when it fell out of fashion and favour. As the judges said of this “brilliantly elegant, true-to-type” example of the Melon de Bourgogne variety, “it can be a really good-value alternative to Chablis for customers looking for something to go with seafood, shellfish etc. “This is clean and saline with soft notes undercut with lemon citrus and green apple.

O SAUVION Haut-Poitou AOP France 2018 The popularity of Sauvignon Blanc shows no sign of abating, but how does a merchant make their range of the verdant variety stand out from the crowd? One way is to go a little off the beaten track in Sauvignon’s spiritual home, with the quality emerging from lesser-known subregions such as HautPoitou, near Poitiers some 30 miles south of the Loire now very much on the rise. That tends to translate to good value when compared to the bigger names of the Central Loire. That’s certainly true here.

LOUIS JADOT PERNANDVERGELESSES BLANC Burgundy France 2013 One of the great classic Burgundy négociants, Louis Jadot has arguably never been so consistent, providing quality wines at decent prices from across the region. From the Côtes de Beaune village of Pernand-Vergelesses, this Chardonnay is a typical example of Jadot winemaking expertise, with the hand-picked fruit given a 15-month élevage in French oak barriques. ”Vanilla ice cream, spice, crunchy fruit, linear and taut with bruised apple on the palate,” the judges said. “This is a really nice example of white Burgundy that is nearing the end of its life but is showing beautifully now.”

DOMAINE FERRET POUILLY-FUISSÉ Burgundy France 2016 A cast of strong women has shaped the history of Domaine Ferret, with Jeanne Ferret and then her daughter, Colette, building a reputation for fine Chardonnay before the 18ha domaine was acquired by Louis Jadot in 2008. Jadot stayed true to tradition by turning to another woman, Audrey Braccini, to oversee the winemaking, and the quality remains among the highest in the Mâconnais, with meticulous viticulture and viniculture the hallmark of its range of crus. “It has a buttery, creamy nose, and then a palate that is luminous and balanced,” the judges said. “This is very high quality Chardonnay: delicate, poised and really drinkable.”

DOMAINE BELLEVILLE RULLY 1ER CRU LA PUCELLE Burgundy France 2017 Founded a century ago in Rully in the Côte Chalonnaise, Domaine Belleville makes fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from a fragmented patchwork of vineyards dotted throughout Burgundy. This cuvée is sourced from a stony east-facing site in La Pucelle premier cru in the domaine’s home appellation, and spends 12 months in barrels, of which 25% are new. “Layered, honeyed, smoky, fat, persistent and well balanced,” said the Top 100 judges. “This is really beautifully made topnotch white Burgundy and a real pleasure to drink: ripe, concentrated and lingering.”

“Sappy and racy and clean, it really works and the price-quality ratio is right up there. Time to bring Muscadet in from the cold!”

“Classic gunflint and gooseberry nose with grapefruit,” was the verdict. “An intense tangy Sauvignon palate, with lemon, sherbet and really good acidity. Long. Fresh. Invigorating. Great value.”

Famille Helfrich

Famille Helfrich

Hatch Mansfield

Hatch Mansfield

Vindependents

RRP £11 ABV 12%

RRP £10.60 ABV 12%

RRP £32.30 ABV 13%

RRP £33.50 ABV 13.5%

RRP £30.99 ABV 13.5%

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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French, German and Greek white

GÉRARD BERTRAND CHÂTEAU SAUVAGEONNE GRAND VIN BLANC Coteaux du Languedoc France 2016 A highlight of the diverse Languedoc-Roussillon portfolio of rugby proturned-vigneron Gérard Bertrand, this serious white blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Viognier is an illustration of just how far the region has come in recent decades. Using fruit sourced from a vineyard with a unique microclimate in the north of the Hérault, it is aged for six months in 225-litre barriques. “Rich golden tones and notes of baked apple and pastry,” said the judges. “It’s rich and full with toasted almonds, finishing with savoury complexity.”

DOMAINE DE SAINT COSME LES DEUX ALBION BLANC IGP Vaucluse Principauté D’Orange France 2017 Louis Barruol’s St-Cosme has a justified reputation for producing some of the finest southern Rhône wines around from a base in the heart of the Gigondas appellation. Reds are, naturally, the main focus of Barruol’s skills, but he also makes some evocative whites. A blend of Viognier, Marsanne and Picpoul, it wowed the judges with its “charming Viognier perfume: cooked apricot and white flowers. “It’s fruit-forward but with a glossy texture and a sappy finish that is almost bitter in a satisfying way. Great value, too.”

DOMAINE BOTTGEYL PINOT GRIS LES ELÉMENTS Alsace, France 2016 A family domaine of 15ha with roots in Alsace winemaking going back to the late 18th century, Domaine Bott-Geyl has been run by JeanChristophe Bott since 1993, and has been biodynamic since 2002. All of which points, on paper, to the kind of handcrafted, smallproducer wines that are the lifeblood of independent wine merchants. And the wine in the bottle doesn’t disappoint. “Very classy Pinot Gris nose with expressive spicy pear and a nice interplay of sweet fruit and acidity, and a sappy texture,” the judges said. “There’s a lovely richness here, it’s broad and almost decadent, but with just enough acidity for freshness.”

DOMAINE BOTT-GEYL GEWURZTRAMINER GRAND CRU SONNENGLANZ Alsace, France 2011 The second wine from this biodynamic Alsace producer to make the Top 100 this year hails from the Sonnenglanz Grand Cru in the Beblenheim commune. Here, at an altitude of 220-270m and with a south-eastern exposure, the terroir is marl-limestone, and the conditions lend themselves to producing ripe grapes with plenty of of richness – not least with the Gewürztraminer that accounts for around 40% of the cru. “Totally engaging voluptuous and decadent Gewürz,” the Top 100 judges said. “So much bold spice mingling with the sweetness and exotic fruit richness. A (Turkish) delight!”

PETH WETZ UNFILTERED RIESLING Rheinhessen Germany 2016 Husband-and-wife duo Christian Peth and Maja Luise are at the helm of this boundary-pushing winery based between Worms and Alzey in the Rheinhessen. The pair, who manage some 30ha of vineyards around the towns of Bermersheim, Dalsheim and Westhofen, are known for their work on French varietals, but also have a neat line in the region’s classic variety, Riesling. According to the Top 100 judges, the Unfiltered version “can’t really be faulted for under £10 – it’s just tremendous value. “If a customer came in and asked for a fresh white and walked away with this they’d be very impressed.”

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Walker & Wodehouse

Vindependents

Vindependents

Walker & Wodehouse

RRP £29.49 ABV 14%

RRP £10.39 ABV 13.5%

RRP £19.99 ABV 13.%

RRP £32.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £9.72 ABV 12.5%

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The Wine Merchant Top 100


HIGHLY COMMENDED Chilean white Tapihue Wines Vina Quintay Grand Reserve Chardonnay, Casablanca 2017 (£12.29, Halewood International): Balanced, cool-climate Chardonnay.

Croatian white

WEINGUT DÖNNHOFF, OBERHÄUSER BRÜCKE RIESLING SPÄTLESE Nahe, Germany 2013 The Nahe’s terroirist master of Riesling, Helmut Dönnhoff, now ably assisted by son, Cornelius, continues to make some of Germany’s finest wines from his 25ha of Erste Lage, or grand cru, vineyards. The vineyard here is a monopole situated right next to the river, with a terroir of weathered rock, with gray slate bedrock covered with a layer of loess loam. And, according to the Top 100 judges, it yields a wine of “perfect, exquisite balance between sweetness and acidity. “It’s not at all cloying – it’s just so classy with its lemon and orange flavours, and waxy texture.”

DIAMANTAKIS ASSYRTIKO

AVANTIS ESTATE WINERY LENGA

Kato Asites, Dafnes, Crete, Greece 2018

Evia, Greece 2018

It was a stellar performance in this year’s competition for Crete’s Diamantakis, with a Trophy for Best White for its Diamantopetra White, and a second slot in the Top 100 for this electric Assyrtiko. High altitude is one of the keys to the success of this dry white: the Assyrtiko vines are planted at 600m above sea level in the eastern foothills of Psiloritis. Winemaking, in the family’s modern facility opened in 2008, is precise, aiming to capture the vibrant joys of the variety. “Bright, zingy and fresh – great value,” said the judges. “Such a nice balance and with all that delightful citrussy fruit this is just the thing to recommend to customers looking for a match with fish.”

Greek Gewürztraminer? If you’re making wine in a country that can do quite OK with its own enticingly aromatic varieties, that might seem like an odd thing to attempt. But after years of work Avantis Estate was convinced that the famously billowing spicy variety could work very well in the terroir of Euboa in central Greece. And the judges were inclined to agree with them after tasting this unoaked cuvée, named after the wife of Avantis’ driving force, Apostolos Mountrichas. “Very punchy, spicy, rosepetal and lychee-scented nose – yup, this is very definitely Gewürz,” the judges said. “It works really well – there’s great balance among all that exotic flavour.”

ABS

Vindependents

Avantis Estate Winery

RRP £39.80 ABV 8%

RRP £13.99 ABV 13%

RRP £14 ABV 13%

Kozlovic Malvasia, West Istria 2017 (£14.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Intriguing herbs, flowers and stone fruit; fresh acidity.

English white Gusbourne Guinevere, Kent 2016 (£25, Gusbourne): Burgundy comes to Kent! Classy oakinfluenced Chardonnay.

French white Domaine Bouchié-Chatellier Pouilly-Fumé ‘Premier Millésimé’, Loire 2017 (£23.99, Boutinot): Elegant, flinty, true-to-type Loire Sauvignon. Turckheim Pinot Blanc Organic, Alsace 2017 (£12.99, Boutinot): Clean, easy-drinking freshness with nice weight of orchard fruit. François Lurton Mas Janeil Blanc Le Traou de l’Ouille, Côtes du Roussillon 2015 (£21.50, Enotria&Coe): Characterful, smoky-reductive, rich and golden: complex. Domaine Cazes Collioure Clos des Paulilles White, Roussillon 2017 (£17.95, Enotria&Coe): Rounded Grenache Blanc/Gris blend with peachy floral tones. Sylvain Loichet Ladoix Village Blanc Bois de Grechons, Burgundy 2015 (£50, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Soft, creamy, approachable white Burgundy. Gouffier Bouzeron ‘Les Corcelles’, Burgundy 2016 (£23.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Fresh, wellmade 100% Aligoté. Jean-Luc Colombo St-Péray La Belle de Mai, Rhône 2018 (£25.50, Hatch Mansfield): Decadent: marzipan, stone fruit and honey.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

27


Italian and New Zealand white

HIGHLY COMMENDED French white Domaine Les Ors AOP Limoux, Languedoc 2017 (£12.24, Famille Helfrich): Nicely made, good value southern French white Burgundy lookalike. Domaine de La Bretonnière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Clisson, Loire 2014 (£15.50, Vindependents): Savoury style: mineral, nicely mature.

CANTINE COLOMBA BIANCA LUMARI CATARRATTO – INSOLIA Terre Siciliane Italy 2018 The largest co-operative producer in Sicily is very much focused on quality and the careful stewardship of its members’ land. With some 1,800ha now certified organic, Cantine Colomba Bianca is the largest producer of organic wine in Italy. Many of those vines are native varieties – with two classic Sicilians Catarrato and Insolia forming the blend in this typically good-value dry white. “Very aromatic nose, with fresh minerally notes and zippy youthful acidity,” the judges said. “Delightfully fresh and crisp with appealing texture, character and good length.”

PLANETA CHARDONNAY

LEFTFIELD ALBARIÑO

Menfi, Sicily Italy 2017

Gisborne New Zealand 2018

One of the big names of Italian wine, the Planeta family have been key figures in the rehabilitation of Sicilian wine since the latter part of the 20th century. The family now has interests throughout the island, but its wines from vineyards around Menfi were the first to open the eyes of the world to Sicily’s vinous potential – with a world-class Chardonnay leading the way. The wine remains a class act, and remarkably well priced given its status as among the world’s finest made from the variety.

Albariño is well on the way to becoming an international variety now, with versions of the northwestern Iberian variety emerging from Uruguay to California and the Languedoc. Among the most exciting of the new-wave of Albariño producers, however, are to be found beneath the bright skies of New Zealand. Certainly this Gisbornegrown example from Te Awa’s quirky, experimental Leftfield collection impressed the Top 100 judges with its varietal expression.

As the judges said, “This is very much not your usual Chardonnay. It has brilliant depth of flavour and layers of complexity. It’s funky, saline, mineral: fine wine.”

“Pure, with lemon and kiwi notes, this is beautifully fresh with racy acidity,” the judges said. “On the palate, there’s lychee and a nutty-honey character, lifted by that acidity.”

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Enotria&Coe

Hatch Mansfield

RRP £10 ABV 12.5%

RRP £28.50 ABV 14%

RRP £14.80 ABV 13.5%

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The Wine Merchant Top 100

Domaine de La Bretonnière, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie Cuvée Prestige, Loire 2018 (£10.50, Vindependents): Precise with grapefruit and leesyyeasty bready notes. La Cave de Gan Jurançon Le Véritable, Jurançon 2017 (£10.50, Vindependents): Cooked lemon and tropical fruit with zip and length. Domaine Belleville Rully La Perche, Burgundy 2017 (£25.99, Vindependents): Textbook white Burgundy: rich, pronounced, good freshness. Domaine Pierre Vessigaud Pouilly-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes, Burgundy 2017 (£26.95, Daniel Lambert): Delightful soft pear fruit; good persistence. Domaine Renaudat Quincy, Loire 2018 (£18.99, Daniel Lambert): Green apple with basil and grassy hints: complex, sappy, refined. Domaines des Carlines en Beaumont, Jura 2016 (£40, New Generation Wines): Bruised apple and grapefruit; long and sherbety; something different. Producteurs Plaimont Le Charme Sauvignon Blanc, IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2018 (£7.99, Cachet Wines): Bargain lemon drops and freshness.

German White Weingut Aj Adam In Der Sangerei Riesling Feinherb, Mosel 2017 (£27.49, Boutinot): Tangerinetangy Riesling with flashes of steely acidity. Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Trocken (Bronzelack), Rheingau 2017 (£31.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Classic Riesling with electric acidity. Dreissigacker Morstein Rheinhessen Riesling 2014 (£59.99, Liberty Wines): Classical, elegant understated: top-flight German Riesling.


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The Wine Merchant Top 100


New Zealand and South African white

HIGHLY COMMENDED Greek white Ktima Gerovassiliou Malagousia Epanomi 2018 (£18.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Bright, enticing, with grapefruit segments and clementines.

Hungarian white

FRAMINGHAM NOBLE RIESLING Marlborough New Zealand 2018 With its predilection for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, it’s easy to understand why the Loire Valley and Burgundy are generally seen as the points of comparison for New Zealand. But the country has always had a knack – albeit in smaller volumes – for producing Riesling inspired by great German wines. Framingham, for example, has long had an affinity with the variety – its first release in 1994 was a Riesling – and experience tells in the botrytisaffected, Beerenauslesestyle Noble bottling. “Top fruit – this is lycheeluxurious,” the judges said. “Beam me up to a summer island, this is a real winner! Fabulous length and balance.”

WATERKLOOF CIRCUMSTANCE SAUVIGNON BLANC Stellenbosch South Africa 2017 Founded by Paul Boutinot 15 years ago, Waterkloof’s holistic approach continues to yield some very special results. Farmed biodynamically, the vineyards, planted on the slopes of Schapenberg, with views of False Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, are low yielding, with fruit that is treated with sensitivity by winemaker Nadia Barnard. The Circumstance fruit ferments with natural yeast in mostly used 600-litre barrels, leading to a “nice creamy, buttery aroma, integrated with orange blossom and kiwi,” said the judges. “There’s kaffir lime leaf, buttered sweetcorn, citrus, great texture. Vivacious wine. Great value!”

BOUTINOT THE TEA LEAF Wo Piekenierskloof Olifants River South Africa 2017 Named for the rooibos leaves that grow wild among the vines on the Piekenierskloof escarpment and which lend a distinctive green tea-like aroma in the winery as the grapes are crushed, this is another winner from Boutinot’s Cape winemaking team. Old-vine Chenin Blanc leads the way in a blend with Grenache Blanc and Palomino, which have a long (10-month) fermentation with wild yeast in wooden barrels. “Ripely intriguing on the nose, with classic Chenin golden-apple notes and yellow plum,” the judges said. “On the palate there’s chalky-salty minerals and succulent fruit. Individuality at a great price.”

Liberty Wines

Boutinot

Boutinot

RRP £17.99; 37.5cl ABV 9%

RRP £12.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £13.99 ABV 13%

Kardos Dry Furmint, Mad, Tokaj 2017 (£11.99, Boutinot): Bruised apple and pear with savoury-spicy notes; good value and a bit different.

Italian white Monte Schiavo Pallio di San Floriano Verdicchio Classico Superiore, 2017 (£12.49, Boutinot): Fresh clean and lemony; subtle and appealing. Azienda Agricola Contesa Capparrone Abruzzo Passerina 2018 (£10.49, Boutinot): Easy and light and fresh; lovely citrus quality. Fabrizio Vella Bianco Organico, Sicily 2018 (£8.49, Alliance): Useful sub-£10 white with gentle fruity appeal. Cavit Rulendis Pinot Grigio, Trentino 2017 (£17.99, Boutinot): Light and graceful with mountain-stream freshness. Cantine Colomba Bianca Vitese Grillo, Trapani, Sicily 2018 (£10, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Minerally lemon notes with lovely balance: Very Italian, very stylish. Jermann Vintage Tunina IGT, Friuli Venezia-Giulia 2016 (£47, Enotria&Coe): Spicy complexity and fluency. High quality. Principe Pallavicini Malvasia Puntinata Roma, Lazio 2018 (£15.99, Liberty Wines): Lovely bright fleshy peachiness, balanced with crisp acidity. San Marzano Verdeca ‘Talò’, Puglia 2018 (£10.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Rounded Puglian rarity with lots of personality. Roccolo Grassi Soave, Veneto 2016 (£19.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Soft and long with intriguing herbal notes.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

33


Spanish and US white / French rosé

BODEGAS ADRIÁ VEGA MONTÁN GODELLO Bierzo, Spain 2018 Godello still plays second fiddle to Albariño when it comes to recognition of north-western Spanish white grape varieties. But Bierzo’s Bodegas Adria is very much a specialist in the variety, which accounts for the majority of the company’s 50ha of vines. In the winery, the policy is all about gentle treatment of the grapes and the use of native yeasts in fermentation. The results, according to the judges, are intriguing. “Summer afternoon floral aromas, bell pepper and honey,” they said. “It’s a high-acid, honeyed style that works with or without food – very moreish with a nutmeg-like finish.”

BODEGAS VIÑÁTIGO VIJARIEGO BLANCO

TALBOTT VINEYARDS SLEEPY HOLLOW CHARDONNAY

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain 2017

Santa Lucia Highlands California 2016

Wines produced on the volcanic soils of Tenerife have become cult favourites in recent years. Part of the explanation lies in the current appetite for unusual local varieties, which the island – which has never had to cope with phylloxera – has in spades. But it also helps when you have wineries of the quality of Bodegas Viñátigo to make exceptional wines from a variety such as Vijariego Blanco. As the Top 100 judges said: “This is something deliciously different, mingling creamy notes with tanginess and salty acidity. With intensity, complexity and unusual flavours, what’s not to like about this for an independent?”

Vindependents

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

RRP £13.50 ABV 12.5%

RRP £23.99 ABV 13%

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The Wine Merchant Top 100

Planted in 1972, Sleepy Hollow vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands has long been known for producing some of California’s best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Indeed Wine Enthusiast magazine listed it as one of California’s “Grand Crus” in 2016. Talbott Vineyards bought Sleepy Hollow in 1994, and the Chardonnay there has itself become a high-scoring icon in the American wine press.

DOMAINE DU GRANDPRÉ FAVORITE ROSÉ

VIDAL-FLEURY CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROSÉ

Côtes de Provence France 2018

Rhône, France 2017

Although every winery and its dog is making a rosé these days, the best of the breed are still the work of specialists. And, with 80% of its annual production devoted to pink wine, rosé specialist is certainly the phrase you’d use for Domaine du Grandpré. With 30ha of vineyards in the heart of Provence rosé country at the base of the Massif des Maures, Grandpré blends its wines from Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Rolle.

You have to go back to pre-revolutionary days – 1781, to be precise – to get to the beginnings of Vidal-Fleury, the oldest continuously operating winery in the Rhône. That story began with a vineyard and winery in Côte Rôtie, but for the past century Vidal-Fleury has been busy making wines throughout the valley. For this rosé, the Cinsault (50%) gets a direct pressing, the Grenache (20%) is made by saignée and the Syrah gets a little skin contact in cool temperatures before pressing.

Can it make it on this side of the Atlantic? Our judges clearly think so: “Sophisticated, long incisive but rich, this is beautifully done: just what you want from top Cali Chardonnay.”

The style is classical and, as the judges said, “built for food. Lovely onion skin colour; on the palate this has a very appealing gentle spice quality and a long finish.”

All of which leads to a rosé “of distinction”, according to the judges.“It’s juicy and brisk with nice concentration of red fruits and balancing freshness.”

E&J Gallo Winery

Vindependents

Louis Latour Agencies

RRP £30 ABV 14%

RRP £13.99 ABV 13%

RRP £13.99 ABV 13%


The Wine Merchant Top 100

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The Wine Merchant Top 100


Argentine red

HIGHLY COMMENDED Italian white Gianni Tessari Soave, Veneto 2018 (£11.95, Laytons): Fresh and young with tropical fruit and spicy hints. Ca’ Dei Frati Brolettino Lugana 2017 (£27.99, Liberty Wines): Spring-like flavours, pretty aromatics; restraint and freshness.

BRESSIA MONTEAGRELO CABERNET FRANC Mendoza Argentina 2016 Walter Bressia has been working as a winemaker in Mendoza for years. But he has only recently stepped out on his own, making use of his extensive contacts and local know-how to locate fine old vineyards to provide fruit for a range of highly individual wines. He works with his son, Walter Jnr, to prove once again how good Cabernet Franc can perform in the region’s high altitudes (between 940m and 1,100m above sea level in this case). “Better – much better – than many a Malbec,” said the judges. “This is pretty much faultless for the price, with really classy style: it’s fresh and with that typical Cab Franc pencil-shaving character.”

BODEGAS MELIPAL SUPERNOVA I

TRAPICHE PERFILES MALBEC CALCAREO

Mendoza Argentina 2016

Mendoza Argentina 2015

As Argentina’s modern wine industry matures, so we are finding more and more producers beginning to focus on specific terroirs. That’s nowhere more apparent than in Mendoza, the country’s winemaking heartland, where the individual sub-regions are at last getting their due. Melipal, for example, is all about the Agrelo sub-region, where it has numerous plots, each of which is treated individually. The judges were much taken with this Malbecled (65%) Bordeaux-style blend, with Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc in the mix. “Delicious, rich dark fruit and velvety texture,” they said. “Superb value for trading up to.”

Trapiche prides itself on having been a pioneer in numerous developments in Argentina. The use of French varieties, French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks: all were Trapiche-led. And now the 130-year-old winery has become a leader in the latest development: terroirspecific wines. This Malbec, for example, is designed to show off the limestone terroir on which it is grown – and to contrast with other Trapiche Malbecs grown on (and named after) other terroirs. “Plums, violets, garrigue herb and the texture of melted ice cream,” said the judges. “Proper wine – is it old vines? – with a seductive finish.”

Boutinot

Laytons

Enotria&Coe

RRP £17.49 ABV 14%

RRP £18.95 ABV 15%

RRP £17.50 ABV 14.5%

Japanese white Chateau Mercian Koshu Gris de Gris, Fuefuki District 2017 (£19.49, Boutinot): Engagingly light, orange-tinted Koshu with spice and savoury notes.

New Zealand white Yealands Estate, Single Block L5 Sauvignon Blanc, Awatere Valley, Marlborough 2018 (£14.75, Enotria&Coe): Classic NZ Sauvignon with green pepper, gooseberry and citrus. Rockburn Pinot Gris, Central Otago 2016 (£20.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Loads of quince and poached pear flavour but nicely balanced. Ibbotson Family Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2017 (£15.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Lively, citrus-packed take on Kiwi Sauvie. Mount Brown Riesling, Waipara, Marlborough 2016 (£13.95, Davy’s Wine Merchants): Floral, honeyed, balanced and drinkable.

South African white Neil Ellis Whitehall Chardonnay, Elgin 2017 (£25, Gonzalez Byass UK): Skilled cool-climate winemaking with depth and fine acidity. Swartland Limited Release Roussanne, Swartland (£11.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Good value stone-fruited Cape white Rhône-alike. Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer, Cape South Coast 2017 (£12.25 to £13.25, Seckford Agencies): Fun Riesling-led blend with loads of zip and energy. Swartland Bush Vines Chenin Blanc, Swartland 2017 (£15.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Typically rich but tangy, orchard-fruity Cape Chenin.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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The Wine Merchant Top 100


Argentine and Australian red

HIGHLY COMMENDED South African white Hartenberg Wine Estate The Eleanor, Stellenbosch 2016 (£19, Hartenberg Estate): Savoury brioche, toast, and keen ripe fruit – high-class Chardonnay. Fairview La Beryl Blanc Chenin Blanc/Muscat, Paarl 2017 (£21.99, Liberty Wines): Rich, golden and ripe: a deliciously intense experience. Painted Wolf Pictus V, Coastal Region 2016 (£17.99, North South Wines): Satisfyingly rounded, ripe,rich but incisive Cape white blend. De Kleine Wijn Koöp Eekhoring Wit, Western Cape 2017 (£13, Red Squirrel Wine): Waxy texture and loads of fruit and honey: great value. Black Elephant Vintners, Two Dogs, A Peacock & A Horse, Franschoek 2018 (£16, Red Squirrel Wine): Citrus and stone fruit-scented Sauvignon with extra nutty dimension. Doran Vineyards Arya, Voor Paarderberg 2017 (£9.95, Doran Family Vintners): Great value CheninGrenache-Roussanne blend.

Spanish white Xosé Lois Sebio Albariño ‘O Con’, Rías Baixas 2017 (£24.95, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Poised, aromatic, complex, mineral: superb Albariño. Castillo De Aresan, Vino de la Tierra De Castilla IGP 2018 (£9, Famille Helfrich): Breezy, crisp with nice fruit: terrific value. Bodegas Martínez Lacuesta, Rioja Tempranillo Blanco Cosecha 2018 (£12.50, Vindependents): Great, very pretty rendition of this unusual variety. Adegas Terra de Asorei Pazo Torrado, Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas 2018 (£12.99, Daniel Lambert): Blossom, lemon, honey: open, fruity-floral Albariño. Bodegas Rafael Palacios Louro do Bolo, Valdeorras 2017 (£20.95, FMV): Concentrated, complex Godello with great acidity and length. Mundo De Yuntero Organic Blanco, Castillo La Mancha 2017 (£7.49, Halewood International): Pungent Verdejo notes and superb value. Well-made at a supermarket-beating price.

VIÑA COBOS, FELINO MALBEC

AMALAYA MALBEC

Luján De Cuyo & Uco Valley, Mendoza Argentina 2017

Calchaqui Valley Salta, Argentina 2017

The second wine in this year’s Top 100 from the Felino series made by star winemaker Paul Hobbs at his Viña Cobos operation in Mendoza, and it’s another standout. That a Hobbs Malbec should be so attractive shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, this is the man who, as far back as the late 1980s, helped persuade first the Argentinians and then the world that the variety could be a calling card for the country.

The Amalaya estate is part of the Hess Collection, and like its stablemate, Bodegas Colomé, it has a justified reputation for highquality winemaking at vertiginous altitudes in the far north east of Argentina. The vines for this wine – which includes a small percentage of Tannat and Petit Verdot alongside the 85% Malbec – are scattered across the Amalaya estate, whch rises to more than 1,800m in the Calchaqui Valley.

MITOLO WINES JESTER CABERNET SAUVIGNON McLaren Vale Australia 2016 There’s a touch of the dream team about the pair of collaborators behind Mitolo Wines. Frank Mitolo, who started the operation in the late 1990s, is a man who knows the lie of the land in McLaren Vale; Ben Glaetzer from the Barossa Valley, who came into the business in 2001, is one of Australia’s best winemakers. Together the two produce wines that overdeliver at a variety of pricepoints, with the Jester Cabernet Sauvignon consistently one of the best-value Aussie indie reds around.

“Fragrant, great structure, beautiful fruit, super finegrained tannins: this is exceptionally well made Malbec with a lot going on Bravo!”

That brings, according to the judges, a “really notable purity to the fruit” in a wine that is “superbly juicy and exuberant. Flavours of fruits of the forest and lushness all round. Great value too – it would go down a storm with customers.”

Alliance Wine

Liberty Wines

Liberty Wines

RRP £15.49 ABV 14%

RRP £12.99 ABV 14%

RRP £15.99 ABV 14.5%

“This is a wine of restraint, minerality, delightful black fruit,” said the judges.

“Deliciously intense dark fruits – yum!” said the Top 100 judges. “Soft tannins and then a fresh finish. This is exactly what you want from an Aussie Cab.”

The Wine Merchant Top 100

39


Top 10 Suppliers VINDEPENDENTS LEAPS FROM THIRD PLACE IN 2018 TO TAKE TOP SPOT

Supplier

Top 100 placings

Highly Commended

Points

1

Vindependents

18

17

71

2

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

11

35

68

3

Boutinot

14

14

56

4

Liberty Wines

8

13

37

5

Laytons

6

4

22

6

Walker & Wodehouse

5

4

19

7

ABS

3

8

17

7

Hatch Mansfield

4

5

17

9

Alliance Wine

4

3

15

10

Mentzendorff

4

1

13

Methodology Three points were awarded for a Top 100 place, and one point for each Highly Commended placing.

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The Wine Merchant Top 100


Australian red

HIGHLY COMMENDED USA white Raymond Vineyards Reserve Selection Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2014 (£29.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Toasty, sun-filled California Chardonnay.

Uruguayan white

FLAMETREE WINES EMBERS CABERNET SAUVIGNON Margaret River Western Australia 2017 A consistent high performer in Western Australia’s Margaret River for the past decade, Flametree Wines has its headquarters overlooking Geographe Bay. Winemaker Cliff Royle is the man at the helm in the cellar, sourcing grapes from partners throughout the region to craft wines at a variety of price points, with the fruit-driven Embers range built for easy, and early, drinking. “A touch of bell-pepper on the nose, classic Maggie River freshness and delicous red and black currant and berry,” the judges said of the Embers Cabernet. “An effortless Aussie red with a touch of Bordeaux-like class.”

GRANT BURGE HOLY TRINITY

GRANT BURGE MIAMBA SHIRAZ

Barossa Valley Australia 2012

Barossa Valley Australia 2016

The star producer at this year’s Top 100 competition? Well, with three wines in the final selection, Australia’s Grant Burge must be in with a shout. The first of the Burge team’s winning trio takes its name from another world-beating trio – or trinity: the classic, Southern Rhône inspired red blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre. “Absolute classic Aussie red blend – bloody brilliant mate,” said the judges. “It’s well developed, but still with plenty of fruit and grippy tannins. There’s currant, raisins, dates, lavender, menthol and eucalyptus – a wine you’d be happy to recommend to your customers for a Saturday night special.”

Take two for Grant Burge Wines in this year’s Top 100 is a highlight of the Barossa producer’s Vineyard Collection of single-vineyard wines.

Bodega Bouza Albariño, Montevideo 2018 (£19.95, Laytons): Mouthfilling, ripe, balanced: a South American challenge to Galicia.

Welsh white Montgomery Bacchus/Solaris, Montgomery 2017 (£20, Daniel Lambert): Elderflower and cut grass; fresh and very drinkable.

French rosé Gérard Bertrand Hampton Water Rosé, Languedoc 2018 (£19.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Elegant, super-fresh with subtle strawberries.

It comes from the Miamba vineyard in the south of Barossa, which was purchased and then replanted by Grant Burge in 1983.

Château De l’Aumerade Rosé Cuvée Marie Christine, Côtes de Provence 2018 (£14.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Fresh red fruits and subtle citrus: textbook Provence.

The winemaking team – led these days by Craig Stansborough – mixes up the élevage, with some of the blend finishing its primary and secondary fermentations in barrel.

Cantine Colomba Bianca Lumari Nero d’Avola Rosè, Sicily 2018 (£10.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Punchy, well-made, food-friendly rosato.

“Classy dark fruit; looked for white pepper … and found it!” said the judges. “Medicinal notes, balanced and well priced at £19.99: a definite place on our Top 100 shelf.”

Vindependents

Fine Wine Partners

Fine Wine Partners

RRP £15.99 ABV 14%

RRP £25.99 ABV 14.5%

RRP £19.99 ABV 14%

Italian rosé

Portuguese rosé Quinta Do Espinho, Camila Rosé, Douro, Portugal 2017 (£16.99, The Portuguese Fine Wine Company): Floral-fragrant and lovely acidity. Quality pink.

Spanish rosé Bodega Sierra Norte Pasión de Bobal Rosado, Utiel-Requena 2018 (£10, Boutinot): Gutsy Spanish rosé with gluggable cherry juiciness.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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Australian, Chilean and French red

GRANT BURGE FILSELL SHIRAZ Barossa Valley Australia 2015 The last of the trio from the Accolade Winesowned Grant Burge in this year’s Top 100 selection is a wine much loved by fans of the Barossa. Sourced from the eponymous 99-yearold vineyard which also supplies some of the fruit for Grant Burge’s legendary top wine, Meshach, the Filsell Shiraz is matured in a mix of French and American oak for 20 months.

HENSCHKE MT EDELSTONE SHIRAZ Eden Valley Australia 2013 Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz has been ranked among Australia’s greatest red wines ever since its first vintage in 1952. The secrets of its success are twofold. First and foremost, the eponymous Eden Valley vineyard, planted in 1912, with its dry-grown, centenarian vines on their own rootstocks, provides fabulous (biodynamic) fruit.

ESPINOS Y CARDOS SANTA MACARENA PINOT NOIR

VIÑA ECHEVERRIA CARMENÈRE RESERVA

CHÂTEAU DE BELLEVERNE LE CRU DES AMOUREUX

San Antonio Valley, Chile 2017

Curico Valley Chile 2016

St-Amour, Beaujolais France 2018

As the Top 100 judges said as they weighed up a run of wines made from the variety, good quality, affordable Pinot Noir is something of a holy grail for most wine merchants – a quest that all too often proves elusive.

In the UK, we have a tendency to think of Chilean wine as a thoroughly modern phenomenon, but Viña Echeverria gives the lie to that idea.

But those same judges were convinced that this Chilean take on Pinot has what it takes to fill that hoped-for slot on the shelf.

The winery was founded in 1930, with an agricultural heritage that goes back even further, to the 1700s. But the Echeverria family has moved with the times: recently awarded Sustainable Winery status, the family’s modern winery produces a range of more than 20 wines that are marked by consistent quality.

It’s almost 30 years now since Samantha Bailey set up Boutinot’s French operation with an office in Burgundy. Bailey is now part of a team of 20 devoted to sourcing fruit and making blends for Boutinot’s French range, with Bailey herself responsible for the final cut on this Top 100-winning Beaujolais from the SaintAmour cru.

“With super concentration and depth of flavour, this is classic and classy Barossa Shiraz from the top drawer,” said the judges.

Second, the Henschke family’s winemaking nous, which lets the quality of that fruit shine through.

“We love the ripe plummy fruit and mix of pepper spice and overall lushness, but there’s more to it even than that. A wine that will make an evening special all by itself.”

“This is a wine that could stand up to 20 years or more in the cellar, which – after some debate – we feel justifies the price,” the judges said. “It’s tight and coiled now, but there’s so much power and depth.”

Fine Wine Partners

Enotria&Coe

Alliance Wine

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Boutinot

RRP £24.99 ABV 14%

RRP £122.50 ABV 14.5%

RRP £10.99 ABV 14%

RRP £9.99 ABV 13%

RRP £19.49 ABV 13%

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The Wine Merchant Top 100

“Fruity, with bright acidity, this is a charming red with real Pinot character,” the judges said. “OK, so it’s not massively complex, but it’s superb value.” The wine comes from a single vineyard just 5km from the Pacific Ocean in one of Chile’s emerging cool-climate regions, San Antonio.

“Touch of red berry fruit, a hint of spice, balanced acidity and lovely fine tannins,” the judges said. “Awesome value.”

“Highly superior Beaujolais with savoury ripe fruit and delightful tannins,” the judges said. “A soft and velvety texture and superb varietal character, with secondary characteristics emerging. Would suit Burgundy- as well as Beaujolais-lovers.”


HIGHLY COMMENDED Argentine red Viña Cobos Felino Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza 2017 (£15.49, Alliance): Bright and fine-textured, cassis-scented, high-altitude Cabernet. Kaiken Ultra Malbec, Mendoza 2017 (£14.99, Liberty Wines): Dense and rich with black fruit and wild garlic: lots of personality.

CHÂTEAU DE GRAND PRÉ FLEURIE Beaujolais France 2017 A classic small French family domaine arranged around an 18th-century castle, Château de Grand Pré makes classically styled Beaujolais from its 6ha of Fleurie (and 2ha of Morgon) vineyard. The domaine – certified organic since 2012 – was revived by Louis and Renée Bertrand in the 1970s, and is now run by their children and grandson. In 2018, the family produced a “textbook Fleurie”, according to the judges.

DOMAINE AMIRAULT ‘CLOS DES QUARTERONS’ ST-NICOLAS DE BOURGUEIL Loire, France 2016 The Amirault family has been living at Clos des Quarterons for more than 180 years, and the latest generation of the family continues the tradition of winemaking in St-Nicolas de Bourgueil. The family makes a little Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, but it’s Cabernet Franc that’s the star of both the appellation and the domaine. Unoaked and made from biodynamically-farmed fruit, this expression is “all about summery, easydrinking elegance”, the Top 100 judges said.

DOMAINE HENRI & GILLES REMORIQUET NUITS-SAINTGEORGES Burgundy France 2017 It’s been another good year in the Top 100 competition for this overperforming, under-theradar Burgundy domaine, with two wines making the final cut. This year, the Top 100 judges were won over by Gilles’ village wine, which they described as “excellent value and a really good choice for merchants, whether you’re serious about or merely flirting with Burgundy.

“Very pure with violets and raspberries – and crucially, not too twiggy as Loire reds can sometimes be.”

“It has lovely pale rose tints in the deep clear ruby colour, and on the nose there is great complexity with wild cherry and subtle forest floor. Classic Burgundy Pinot in other words, that will age very well.”

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Richmond Wine Agencies

Vindependents

RRP £13.41 ABV 13.5%

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RRP £37.99 ABV 12.5%

“It’s a youthful, vibrant Gamay with a very appealing nose of cherry and berry,” they said. “On the palate it’s fresh and vibrant with well balanced ripe fruit and very good length.”

Santos J Carelli Carla Chiaro, Mendoza 2015 (£13.85, Santos J Carelli): Succulent and rich with a plush velvety feel. Santos J Carelli 34, Mendoza 2018 (£9.60, Santos J Carelli): Fruit-forward, youthful, vibrant plumminess; easy-drinking. Gauchezco Estate Malbec, Mendoza 2017 (£10.99, Connoisseur Estates): Rich fleshy plum fruit and a touch of vanilla. Good value.

Australian red Journey Wines Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria 2017 (£33.50, ABS): Effortless flow of strawberry fruit and Pinot forest floor. Devil’s Corner Resolution Pinot Noir, Tasmania 2017 (£22, ABS): Ripe and succulent with coolclimate freshness and herbal notes. Chaffey Bros Wine Co Pax Aeterna Old Vine ‘Barossa Nouveau’ Grenache, Barossa 2017 (£17.95, Enotria&Coe): Modern Grenache in Pinot style. Light, supple and red fruity. Houghton Thomas Yule Shiraz, Frankland River, Western Australia 2014 (£49.99, Fine Wine Partners): Spicy, deep, balanced, gorgeous texture with medicinal tones. Houghton Gladstone Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Western Australia 2016 (£49.99, Fine Wine Partners): Top-quality Maggie River claret with loads going on and freshness to spare. Jim Barry Watervale Single Vineyard Shiraz, Clare Valley 2016 (£21.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Great black fruit and liquorice; sumptuous but not over-done.

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French red

HIGHLY COMMENDED Australian red Teusner Wines Avatar Grenache Mataro Shiraz 2016 (£24.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Dark and slick with flavour to spare, powerful but in-check. Sidewood Shiraz, Adelaide Hills 2015 (£15.95, Davy’s Wine Merchants): Polished and muscular, fresh tints and soft savoury tannins.

Chilean red Kalfu Wines Kuda Pinot Noir, Leyda Valley, Chile 2017 (£12.95 to £13.75, Seckford Agencies): Classy coastal Chilean Pinot with lift and freshness and great fruit. Tabali Talud Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley 2015 (£17.99, Boutinot): Super blackcurrant juiciness and mintiness; proper Chilean Cab. Bodega Volcanes De Chile Tectonia Grenache Petite Sirah Mourvèdre, Central Valley 2013 (£17.99, Connoisseur Estates): Sweet ripe fruit and savoury wildness: something a bit different for Chile.

French red Antoine Olivier Santenay 1er Cru Beaurepaire, Burgundy 2016 (£38.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Creamy vanilla and redcurrants; crunchy, spicy, excellent balance. Antoine Olivier Santenay Les Charmes, Burgundy 2016 (£34.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Perfumed nose, dark berries, good acidity and tannins. Château de Cîteaux Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru Les Duresses, Burgundy 2015 (£41, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Attractively lean mineral style, with classic Burgundy earthy tones. Château Peuy Saincrit, Bordeaux Supérieur 2017 (£10.93, Les Grands Chais de France): Spice, black forest fruit, blackcurrants, balance and lots of character for the money. Château Puy Guilhem Fronsac, Bordeaux 2009 (£27.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Rich, complex and savoury: dry peppered meats. Long and concentrated.

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DOMAINE HENRI & GILLES REMORIQUET 1ER CRU ‘LES BOUSSELOTS’ NUITS-SAINTGEORGES

BRICE VERGEZ CHÂTEAU GRANDIS HAUTMÉDOC

CHÂTEAU DE ROUILLAC PESSACLÉOGNAN

Bordeaux France 2010

Bordeaux France 2012

Burgundy France 2017 The second of Gilles Remoriquet’s Top 100 winners is, according to the judges, a “truly classy Burgundy that shows why the region is so special”.

There’s a lot more to Bordeaux than overpriced big name classed growths and cheap and cheerful “ordinary” claret. But finding the gems in the middle ground that so many independent customers crave is not always easy.

There’s plenty of intriguing history at this Pessac-Léognan estate, which was once owned by Baron Haussman, architect of modern Paris.

It comes from Remoriquet’s vines in the Bousselots premier cru vineyard, which is located in the north of the Nuits StGeorges commune towards Vosne-Romanée.

Step forward Vindependents, which has brought the wines of the under-the-radar but rather brilliant Haut-Médoc producer Brice Vergez to the UK.

“It’s very pretty in the glass, with an attractive colour that is very Burgundy,” the judges said. “It opens with ripe red fruits and moves onto a touch of white pepper. On the palate there’s structure for age, and superb complexity and elegance.”

A Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc blend, the estate wine is aged for between 12 to 18 months depending on the vintage, with the 2010 bringing “a delightful lightness of touch and purity”, according to the judges, with “herbal tones, cassis and pepper”.

Vindependents

Vindependents

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

RRP £56.99 ABV 13%

RRP £19.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £34.99 ABV 13.5%

But today it’s the combination of forwardthinking, environmentally focused owner (since 2009) Laurent Cisneros and winemaking star Eric Boissenot that has helped the estate realise its full potential. The 2012 vintage is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Merlot that, in the words of the judges, “is expensive but very lovable. Sexy, creamy and oak-driven, with expressive sweet black fruit with some touches of cedar and silky tannins. Fine ‘Vin de Garde’.”


HIGHLY COMMENDED French red Château Merigot, Côtes De Bourg 2015 (£14.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Good value, foodfriendly claret with ripe cherry flavours. Famille Deroose Caladoc Rouge, LézignanCorbières, Languedoc-Roussillon 2016 (£12.95, Richmond Wine Agencies): Deep, dark colour and silky smooth raspberry flavours.

GEORGES VIGOUROUX CHÂTEAU DE HAUTE-SERRE Cahors, France 2015 The Vigouroux family are winemaking royalty in Cahors, with four generations having dedicated themselves to making fine wines from the region’s great red grape – Malbec. The Château de HauteSerre is the family’s “grand cru” property, renowned for making Malbec comparable in depth and complexity to top-flight Bordeaux.

VIDAL-FLEURY ST-JOSEPH Rhône, France 2015 The second wine from the esteemed Rhône house to make the Top 100 2019 selection is a classy 100% Syrah from St-Joseph – an appellation where the firm has been making wines since the 1920s. The winemaking for the 2015 vintage– an excellent year in the Rhône – includes what the firm calls a “long and traditional” three-week fermentation with indigenous years, and a 12-month maturation in large oak foudres.

DOMAINE CAZES CLOS DES PAULILLES RED Collioure, Roussillon France 2017 One of the Roussillon’s most celebrated estates, Domaine Cazes has evolved with the region, adding a serious reputation for dry styles to its longstanding virtuosity with sweet and fortified wines – and becoming France’s largest organic and biodynamic producer in the process. Its wines from the dramatic seaside vines of Clos des Paulilles in Collioure are the latest to make, as it were, a splash, with both the white (Highly Commended) and this Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre blend impressing the Top 100 judges this year.

That was certainly a comparison that the Top 100 judges were comfortable in making.

It all leads up to a classic northern Rhône Syrah with plenty of savoury charm, according to the Top 100 judges.

“Very refined with elegant structure, fine tannins and bright blackcurrant fruit,” they said. “Then a surge of bright cherry that leaves you wanting more. Beautiful, balanced wine in an almost Bordeaux style.”

“Dark berries and leather and sweet strawberry and olive – complex!” they enthused. “Just what you want from a Rhône Syrah, plus a little savoury bit more.”

Enotria&Coe

Louis Latour Agencies

Enotria&Coe

RRP £27.50 ABV 14%

RRP £26.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £16.95 ABV 14.5%

“It has a soft and velvety, come-hither quality”, they said, “with light spice, friendly raspberry and strawberry fruit, and an irresistible moreishness!”

Domaine La Lôyane Cuvée Elie, Lirac, Rhône 2017 (£18.99, Vindependents): Sweet fruit and charry tannin; youthful; long, chunky and rewarding. Domaine Henri & Gilles Remoriquet, Nuits-SaintGeorges 1er Cru Les Damodes, Burgundy 2016 (£57.99, Vindependents): Tightly coiled; fresh cherry; beautiful acidity, crunchy feel. Diva Sud Font de Joubert Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône 2016 (£31.99, Vindependents): Classic southern Rhône: wild, full, spicy, great length. Diva Sud, Un Bon Canon Côtes du Rhône 2017 (£11.99, Vindependents): Good value, good depth: a cut above the usual Côtes du Rhône. Paul Jaboulet Aîné Cotes du Rhône Rouge Secret de Famille 2015 (£7.40, Walker & Wodehouse): Lovely little Rhône: an affordable weekday treat. Domaine De La Creuze Noire Coteaux Bourguignons 2016 (£17.55, Daniel Lambert): Brilliant, vivid Gamay fruit and succulence. Calmel & Joseph Les Crus-Caramany, Languedoc 2016 (£15.99, Daniel Lambert): Warming, spicy and rich: loads of wine for the money. Château Pesquié 974 Ventvri, Ventoux, Rhône 2017 (£14.50, Flint Wines): Abundantly juicy dark fruits and a savoury edge. Domaines Paul Mas Côté Mas Red Intense, IGP Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon 2018 (£5.52, Domaines Paul Mas): A banker! Just what you need from Pays d’Oc at this entry-level price. Domaines Paul Mas Château Paul Mas Clos de Savignac, Grès de Montpellier, Languedoc 2017 (£17.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Serious style, structured with great fruit concentration.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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German, Hungarian and Italian red

WEINGUT RAINER SCHNAITMANN SIMONROTH SPÄTBURGUNDER TROCKEN

KOVÁCS NIMRÓD WINERY MONOPOLE BLUES KÉKFRANKOS

Württemberg Germany 2016

Eger, Hungary 2015

Like so many scions of European winemaking families of his generation, in the 1990s Rainer Schnaitmann decided it was time for his family to make wines themselves rather than sell their grapes to the local cooperative. After taking himself to New Zealand and Trentino to learn the winemaking ropes, he soon began to earn acclaim for terroirdriven wines such as this impressive Pinot. “Sweet creamy fruit, subtle spice and tertiary notes – very complex,” the judges said. “There’s delightful balance and great length: an example of why German Pinot has become so trendy.”

Owned by the eponymous businessman, philanthropist and jazzlover Kovács Nimrod is part of a new wave of producers that have helped Hungary’s Eger region back to prominence as one of central Europe’s finest winemaking terroirs. Nimrod has vineyards in prime “grand cru” and “premier cru” sites in the region, on which he produces a mix of international and local varieties such as Kékfrankos, the grape behind this deliciously idiosyncratic red. “Chalk, earth, Comté and Cheddar cheese – it’s kinda weird, but it works,” the judges said. “It has a really ballsy impact, worth a try for curious punters.”

VYLYAN FRANC Villanyi, Hungary 2015 When we think of Cabernet Franc we think first of the the Loire, followed closely by Bordeaux, and we will be aware of its increasing importance from Argentina to Virginia. In southern Hungary, however, the locals believe they might have the best terroir for Cabernet Franc in the world, with an appellation, Villány Franc, exclusively devoted to the variety. It’s an opinion encouraged by critics such as Michael Broadbent, and that wines such as this Top 100-winner do nothing to dispel. “This is a great find, and just the right price for the quality,” the judges said.

CÀ DEI MAGHI VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO Veneto, Italy 2017 A small family estate in the Valpolicella hills, Cà dei Maghi was founded in the 1950s, but has really come into its own in the past decade since Paolo Creazzi began to oversee the winemaking. Creazzi’s range is finely balanced between the classical and the more experimental, with this traditional Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara blend from the Valpolicella Classico DOC very much among the former. “This is a charming Valpolicella in a fresh, pretty, juicy and very drinkable style,” the judges said.

“It has a really classical character, with nice evolution and hints of spice.”

“Light, fresh, easy-going, with great balance and very pure fruit – it’s all there, and it’s excellent value.”

IL CASCINONE CROCERA BARBERA D’ASTI SUPERIORE Piemonte, Italy 2016 The Il Cascinone estate in the Monferrato hills has been part of top Piemontese producer Araldica’s extensive vineyard holdings for two decades now – time enough for all the hard work and investment the company has put into replanting and restoring the 102ha estate to really pay off in the wines. Barbera is a key variety on the estate, with a 20-yearold 6ha plot providing the core of the Crocera, blended with fruit from younger vines and aged for 12 months in French oak barriques. “Lovely creamy fruit, soft, ripe and balanced, with the light acidity lifting the flavours,” the judges said. “Good value and very Italian food-friendly.”

ABS

Boutinot

Laytons

Vindependents

Boutinot

RRP £40.70 ABV 13%

RRP £16.99 ABV 12.5%

RRP £19.50 ABV 13.5%

RRP £16.50 ABV 13%

RRP £9.99 ABV 14.5%

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The Wine Merchant Top 100


HIGHLY COMMENDED French red Domaines Paul Mas Château Crès Ricards Oenothera, Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc 2017 (£14.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Bags of wild character and power; slick tannins and dark fruit.

Indian red

IL CASCINONE RIVE BARBERA D’ASTI SUPERIORE Piemonte, Italy 2016 The second of the two fine Barberas from Araldica’s Il Cascinone estate in the Monferrato Hills to make it into the 2019 Top 100 final selection uses fruit grown on the estate’s oldest vines. After fermentation in stainless steel tanks, the wine is racked to a mix of old and new French oak barriques, where it undergoes malolactic fermentation and matures for 18 months, with a further six months in bottle before release. “With its concentrated dark plum fruit it has all the hallmarks of quality Barbera,” said the judges. “There’s complexity here, and good integration of oak and fruit, with balanced acidity and great length.”

CASTELLI DEI RAMPOLLA CHIANTI CLASSICO

FATTORIA ORMANNI CHIANTI CLASSICO

Tuscany, Italy 2016

Tuscany, Italy 2016

The Rampolla family has owned the land around Castelli dei Rampolla for nearly 300 years. But it’s the activity on the estate in the past 50 years that is of most interest to wine lovers – a period in which the family, and specifically Alceo di Napoli Rampolla, conceived and planted the vineyards of what would go on to be one of the leading players in Chianti Classico’s modern renaissance. The estate wine is an expression of Sangiovese with just a seasoning of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. “It delivers 100% Chianti character at a great price,” the judges said. “Deep, savoury with dried herb and red and black fruit, long and with great acidity.”

An historic estate dating back to the 13th century between Poggibonsi and Castellina in Chianti, Ormanni has been owned for the past 200 years by the Brini Batacchi family, with Paolo Brini Batacchi and his daughter Paola looking after its 68ha of vineyard. Sangiovese is king here, naturally, with the Batacchis working to express the specific character of the the Barberino Val d’Elsa commune. “There’s lots of grip, tannin and power here, in this impressively deep and structured Chianti Classico,” said the judges. “Notes of fennel and white pepper bring added complexity to a wine that could hardly be more expressive and impressive for the money.”

Boutinot

Laytons

Vindependents

RRP £15.99 ABV 14.5%

RRP £24.95 ABV 14.5%

RRP £18.50 ABV 14.5%

Fratelli Sette, Akluj, Maharastra 2015 (£20.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): India meets Tuscany: nice fruit, chunky, proper Sangiovese flavour.

Italian red Uggiano Sangiovese Syrah ‘Il Sanzio’, IGT Toscana 2017 (£8.99, Boutinot): Cherries and leather; touch of oak and spice; decent value. Tenute Orestiadi Nero d’Avola Molino a Vento, Terre Siciliane, Sicily 2018 (£9.50, Enotria&Coe): A bundle of ripe cherry and plum fun. Tenute Orestiadi Nerello Mascalese Molino a Vento, Terre Siciliane, Sicily 2018 (£9.50, Enotria&Coe): Bright and full of fresh red berry fruit. Tramin Lagrein, Alto-Adige 2017 (£16.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Super-juicy, lots of keen black fruit and freshness too. San Silvestro Barolo ‘Patres’, Piedmont 2014 (£25.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Classic Nebbiolo nose; nicely balanced; refined. La Bioca Barbaresco Ronchi, Piedmont 2015 (£25.95, Laytons): Intense, chewy, dark and brooding with aromatic finesse. Massolino Barolo Classico, Piedmont 2015 (£47.99, Liberty Wines): Seriously classy; effortless; still very young. Capezzana Barco Reale Di Carmignano, 2016 (£16.99 Liberty Wines): Ripe and juicy and youthful; vibrant tangy, plummy fruit. Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Tuscany 2016 (£25.99, Liberty Wines): Rich but balanced; nice suave texture.

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Italian red

HIGHLY COMMENDED Italian red Cantina Valpolicella Negrar Ripasso Le Roselle, 2017 (£12.99, North South Wines): Cherry and chocolate; extra dried-fruit richness. Cà Dei Maghi Amarone Cànova, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto 2012 (£54.99, Vindependents): Luxurious texture; amazing range and depth of flavour. Cà Dei Maghi, Amarone Camparsi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto 2015 (£43.99, Vindependents): Big and heavy with delicious chocolate-raisin and black cherry fruit. Avignonesi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany 2015 (£25.99, Vindependents): Classic Sangiovese with oregano, cherry and leathery notes. Trastullo Primitivo, Puglia 2017 (£12, New Generation Wines): Dusky blackberry and dark plum; lots of bang-per-buck. Poggio Al Tesoro Il Seggio, Bolgheri, Tuscany 2015 (£25.99, Liberty Wines): Beautiful plump and plush fruit; silky and smooth and full. Vila Rosa Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico, Tuscany 2015 (£50, Casa Vinicola Luigi Cecchi e Figli): Top-of-the-range Chianti with big ageing potential. Cantine Colomba Bianca Vitese Nero d’Avola, Sicily 2018 (£10, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Plenty of juicy dark berry and plum. Pasta-a-go-go.

New Zealand red Saint Clair, Pioneer Block 26 ‘Tutu Block’ Pinot Noir, Waihopai, Marlborough 2017 (£21.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Slick and supple with pure cranberry and raspberry fruit. Rockburn Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2016 (£30.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Bright Pinot character with Asian spice intrigue; great length.

Portuguese red Casa Relvas Herdade Sao Miguel Tinto, Alentejo 2017 (£13.99, Raymond Reynolds): Appealing brambly sweet fruit and complexity.

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The Wine Merchant Top 100

CASTELLO DI NIPOZZANO FRESCOBALDI, CHIANTI RÚFINA RISERVA VECCHIE VITI Tuscany, Italy 2015 There are few bigger names in Italian wine than Frescobaldi. The family has been involved in wine for a staggering 30 generations, and today has six estates in Tuscany with more than 1,000ha of vineyards. The Nipozzano estate is based around an 11thcentury castle in Chianti Rúfina, the highest and smallest of the Chianti sub-appellations. For the estate wine, a little Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with 90% Sangiovese to make a “hugely enjoyable authentic Chianti, with cherry drops, violets, depth and great balance”, the judges said.

CASTELGIOCONDO FRESCOBALDI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO

ROCCA DI FRASSINELLO SUGHERE DI FRASSINELLO

Tuscany, Italy 2012

Maremma, Tuscany Italy 2015

One of the jewels in the Frescobaldi family’s Tuscan crown, CastelGiocondo is an historic estate that was among the first to start making Brunello di Montalcino in the 19th century. The fruit for this wine comes from 25-year-old vines in an 8ha single vineyard at the highest point (350 to 450m above sea level) of the CastelGiocondo estate. The wine is matured for five years in barrel and bottle before release. “This is a stunningly complex wine, a true expression of Brunello,” the judges said. “There’s lots of depth and power, plus a meaty, savoury element. Superb.”

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

RRP £29.49 ABV 13.5%

RRP £52 ABV 14.5%

A joint venture between Chianti Classico’s Castallare di Castelina and Domaines Baron de Rothschild (of a little wine by the name of Lafite), Rocca di Frassinello brings together 500ha spread across five small estates in the risingstar Tuscan region of Maremma. In a winery built by Shard architect Renzo Piano, the project works with a 50/50 split of French and Tuscan varieties, with the blend for Sughere being 50% Sangiovese with 25% apiece of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. “This is a wine of real rustic charm and bags of character – you can smell Tuscany,” the judges said. “Proper intensity of fruit: this is a bit of a bargain.” Walker & Wodehouse RRP £12.82 ABV 14%


HIGHLY COMMENDED Portuguese red Quinta do Vale Meao Meandro Tinto, Douro 2016 (£19.99, Raymond Reynolds): Serious quality: fruits of the forest and polished tannins. Quinta dos Roques Reserva Tinto, Dão 2015 (£29.99, Raymond Reynolds): Great acidity and structure; fragrant and complex.

South African red

MASSERIA SETTEPORTE ETNA ROSSO

FEUDO MACCARI SAIA NERO D’AVOLA

SCHENK ITALIA BOCCANTINO SUSUMANIELLO

Jordan Black Magic Merlot, Stellenbosch 2016 (£18.05, ABS): Cape claret with lovely fullness and roundness of plum and cherry and fine tannins.

Sicily, Italy 2016

Sicily, Italy 2015

IGT Salento, Puglia Italy 2016

Bon Courage Pinotage, Robertson 2015 (£13.15, ABS): Bacon barbecue meatiness; slick ripe fruit and very drinkable.

The Portale family has been cultivating vineyards on the slopes of Etna for generations – long before the wines produced on this active volcano became a must-have for the world’s sommeliers and merchants.

With vineyards just south of the city of Noto in south eastern Sicliy, Feudo Maccari is owned by the Moretti Cuseri family of Tuscany’s Tenuta Sette Ponti, and is a specialist in the variety that takes its name from the nearby town of Avola.

Today, Piero Portale, who succeeded his father as the head of the family business in 2002, has 27ha of land to play with at an altitude between 650m and 800m above sea level.

For this cuvée, the 100% Nero d’Avola fruit is harvested from 30-to-40year-old Alberello-trained (aka bush) vines – and aged for 10 to 14 months in French oak barriques.

The world-class Sicilian red grape Nerello Mascalese is the core of this wine, blended with 5% Nerello Cappuccio.

“Wow, this is a Sicilian stunner,” the judges said.

“Elegant, finessed, with bouquet garni notes on the nose,” the judges said. “It has a nice tannic structure, earthy, scorched soil, leather … a lot going on!”

“You’ve got kirsch, freshly laid tarmac, violets, dried rose, old leather and then fresh cherries too in the mix. “The tannins are really fine and the wine is rich but somehow elegant.”

The idea behind the Boccantino range from Schenk Italia is to operate a little like a New World company, with characterful varietal wines from a number of Italian regions sold together under the same umbrella brand. The brand covers wines from Abruzzo, Campania, Sicily, Sardinia and, in this case, Puglia, and is made even more distinctive by its insistence on idigenous local varieties. In Puglia that means a 100% Susumaniello, aged without oak to show its character to the full. “With black forest gâteau flavours of dark chocolate and black cherry, this is balanced with a bit of complexity and structure and is a steal at the price,” the judges said.

Vindependents

Boutinot

Buckingham Schenk

RRP £19.99 ABV 14%

RRP £22.99 ABV 14%

RRP £10.50 ABV 14%

Post House Missing Virgin, Stellenbosch 2016 (£24.25, ABS): Big and rich fruit, glossy and ripe with appealing smoky notes. Tokara Reserve Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2015 (£28.20, ABS): Deliciously ripe currant fruit; sumptuous but balanced freshness. Ernst Gouws Pinot Noir, Western Cape 2016 (£16.49, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Olive savouriness and ripe jammy fruit; intriguing. Spice Route Swartland Pinotage, 2017 (£14.99, Liberty Wines): Good intensity of red and black fruit; hint of smoke. Lots of character. Holden Manz Visionaire, Franschhoek 2013 (£17.99, Vindependents): Cape Bordeaux-style blend with appealing touch of savoury maturity. Spier Signature Pinotage, Western Cape 2018 (£6.06, Walker & Wodehouse): Terrific value: hightoned fruitiness and good depth.

Spanish red Viña Mayor, Crianza, Ribera del Duero 2015 (£18.99, Alliance): Dark damson and raspberry slickness and intensity. Impressive. La Rioja Alta Viña Arana, Rioja Reserva 2011 (£26, Armit): Lovely balance of oak and fruit; complex, long.

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Italian, Lebanese and New Zealand red

SAN MARZANO PRIMITIVO DI MANDURIA RISERVA ‘ANNIVERSARIO 62’ Puglia, Italy 2015 Serial Top 100 winner Cantine San Marzano has had another good year in the 2019 competition with two of its Puglian wines making the final cut.

SAN MARZANO COLLEZIONE 50 VINO ROSSO D’ITALIA

DOMAINE DES TOURELLES VIELLES VIGNES CINSAULT

Italy NV

Bekaa Valley Lebanon 2017

Another wine from Cantine San Marzano in the Top 100 – and another celebrating the Puglian co-operative’s 50-plus vintages of existence.

The first is a wine named for the company’s founding year, 1962, when the original 19 growers came together to form a cooperative dedicated to quality Puglian wine with respect for tradition.

It’s a blend of Puglian speciality grape varieties Negroamaro and Primitivo, from bush vines that are more than 50 years old, which is fermented in stainless steel tanks with native yeasts before being aged in French oak barrels for 12 months.

Today there are more than 1,200 vine-grower members, and the quality is as high as ever. “A big sweetie of a red with wide appeal, with loads of black cherry, nutmeg and new leather, chocolate and a finish of garrigue herbiness,” the judges said.

“It has a seductive nose of tar, violet, black cherry and freshly sharpened lead pencil,” the judges said. “On the palate there’s artisan black sweet liquorice, blackberries (slightly stewed) and beautiful harmony and integration.”

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

RRP £26.99 ABV 14.5%

RRP £21.99 ABV 14.5%

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The Wine Merchant Top 100

One of Lebanon’s oldest and most respected producers, Domaine des Tourelles has a history dating back to its foundation by Frenchman François-Eugène Brun in 1868, and is now run by the Issa and Issa elKhoury families. Boutique production and expression of the Bekaa Valley terroir are the watchwords that inform this rare 100% Cinsault from 60-year-old vines. “A little bit of grip in the tannin department, and a very food-friendly structure overall; this is a quality homage to the Cinsault variety,” the judges said. “On the shelf it would be a worthy alternative to a certain big name, without the brett and variability!”

HUNTER’S PINOT NOIR

MOUNT EDWARD TED PINOT NOIR

Marlborough New Zealand 2016

Central Otago New Zealand 2017

Jane Hunter has been one of the leaders of New Zealand wine for more than three decades now, spearheading the country’s Sauvignon Blanc-led emergence on international markets, and her small but perfectly formed familyrun operation in Blenheim continues to impress. Hunter’s nephew, James MacDonald, leads the winemaking operation now, and for this Pinot Noir he has come up with a now-classic Marlborough style that is, in the words of the judges, “bursting with easy soft red fruit. “Floral, aromatic and gentle, it has a lovely supple feel and really great balance and length. It’s a wine with wide appeal that shows that Marlborough isn’t all Sauvignon Blanc.”

Described by importer Alliance Wine as a “maverick”, Mount Edward winemaker Duncan Forsyth is one of the New Zealand wine industry’s most creative winemakers. In the wild marginal climate of Central Otago, Forsyth uses biodynamic practices and minimal intervention in the winery, with vinification in open-top fermenters, plunging by hand and a maturation of 11 months in French oak barriques, of which 20% are new. “Very impressive, really serious Pinot Noir from what would seem to be a very skilled winemaker,” the judges said. “It has dark plum, savouryearthy spice, and gorgeous balance and length. It would age well too, if you can keep your hands off it!”

Boutinot

Laytons

Alliance Wine

RRP £17.99 ABV 14%

RRP £15.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £22.99 ABV 13.5%


HIGHLY COMMENDED Spanish red Bodegas Ontañon Rioja Gran Reserva 2010 (£27.49, Boutinot): All you want from a Gran Reserva: oak, soft fruit and mature flavours in balance. Valenciso Rioja Reserva 2011 (£23.49, Boutinot): Well made; mellow with a touch of pepper and vanilla spiciness. Marco Abella Clos Abella, Priorat 2014 (£45.99, Vindependents): Big and brooding but balanced with liquorice and earthy depths. Viña Ginesa Reservas Imperio Gran Reserva, Valdepeñas 2010 (£10.99, Vindependents): Stuctured, rustic with appealing cherry liqueur flavours. Viñas del Jaro, Jaros, Ribera del Duero 2016 (£19, Moreno Wines): Toasty oak and lots of dark berry action; weighty but good fresh finish. Rioja Crianza 2015 (£13.25, Las Bodegas): Oak is nicely worked, red fruit is good and ripe; price is right. Bodegas Nodus El Renegado Tinto, 2017 (£7.99, Bodegas Nodus): True-to-type Bobal with a hint of reduction but richly juicy fruit. Bargain.

USA red Talbott Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California 2014 (£35, E&J Gallo Winery): Developed nose of leather and spice and ripe, warm fruit. Louis M Martini Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, California 2015 (£35, E&J Gallo Winery): Round and full with intense fresh fruits; glossy texture. Louis M Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, California 2014 (£40, E&J Gallo Winery): Attractively jammy juicy fruit and very soft tannins. Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, California 2016 (£18.95, Enotria&Coe): Woodland notes and spice; restrained fruit; soft tannins. Trefethen Family Vineyards Merlot, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley, California 2016 (£34.99, Daniel Lambert): Clean, commercial style with excellent ripe fruit and creaminess of texture.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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The Wine Merchant Top 100


New Zealand red

HIGHLY COMMENDED Welsh red Montgomery Rondo Red, Montgomery 2017 (£20, Daniel Lambert): Vibrant Beaujolais-style red with herbal notes and primary fruit.

Portuguese fortified

WILD EARTH PINOT NOIR

AKARUA RUA PINOT NOIR

Bannockburn Central Otago New Zealand 2016

Central Otago New Zealand 2017

Founded in 1998, Wild Earth has 35ha of Pinot vineyards in two of Central Otago’s primest locations: on Felton Road above the Kawarau River, and beneath the Pisa Range in the North Lowburn district. Here, Californian expat founder Quintin Quider leads a small team who craft some of the region’s – and New Zealand’s – most attractive Pinot (and Riesling), with winemaking in open-top fermenters and with a portion of whole-cluster in the blend, followed by ageing in a mix of new and old French barriques for 12 months.

Central Otago has become one of the world’s cooler-climate hotspots for Pinot Noir in recent years. But before its reputation was established, it took courage and foresight to plant vines in the region. The Skeggs family therefore deserve great credit for taking the plunge in the mid-1990s, when they took a punt on a 50ha northfacing site in Bannockburn – the kind of site that more recent arrivals can only dream of.

BURN COTTAGE MOONLIGHT RACE PINOT NOIR Central Otago New Zealand 2015 With Ted Lemon of California’s Littorai, one of the world’s great Pinot and Chardonnay winemakers, at the helm in the cellar, it’s not all that surprising that Marquis Sauvage’s Central Otago project has become such a cult favourite among Pinotphiles all over the world. Of course, it also helps that Sauvage chose such a wonderful site – a 24ha former sheep paddock on the Burn Cottage road – to plant his vineyard in 2003.

“Top-notch Pinot – very smart and expressive, with good concentration; compact, fresh, good length – lovely,” the judges said.

That vineyard, now 21 years old, remains the heart of the family’s wines such as the Rua Pinot, which, according to the judges, is “full of Central Otago character: big, bold and ripe with an earthy savoury element and warm rich flavours that are balanced by freshness.”

Liberty Wines

Liberty Wines

Liberty Wines

RRP £24.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £19.99 ABV 14%

RRP £34.99 ABV 13.5%

“Lots of wild complexity: some aromatic Syrah-like notes of wild herbs, and Pinot earthiness and striking brightness,” the judges said. “Such a nice feel to it; it’s a pleasure to drink. A classy addition to any range.”

Fonseca Crusted Port, Douro NV (£18, Mentzendorff): Deep colour with layers of flavour, complex nose and juicy finish.

Australian sparkling House of Arras Grand Vintage, Tasmania 2007 (£34.99, Fine Wine Partners): Mineral tension; length; lovely interplay between ripeness and acidity. Innocent Bystander Moscato, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia 2018 (£10.49, Liberty Wines): Delightful spring-in-a-glass: floral, sweet and zippy.

English sparkling Gusbourne Blanc De Blancs, Kent 2014 (£59, Gusbourne): Creamy fizz and lipsmacking typical English green apple acidity. Smart. Fitz Sparkling Wine, Sussex NV (£21.18, Walker & Wodehouse): Fruit-forward, Prosecco-like style: peachy and easy-drinking.

French sparkling Champagne Lallier Brut R014, Champagne NV (£33.49, Boutinot): Lovely mouthfeel, light mousse, good fruit, toasty hints, balanced acidity. Dopff Au Moulin Crémant d’Alsace Cuvée Julien Brut NV (£19.99, Hallgarten & Novum Wines): Fruity style, pears and cream; honeyed; good length. Irroy Extra Brut, Champagne NV (£35.55, Hatch Mansfield): Mouthwatering acidity and lots of nutty (almonds) autolytic complexity. Decent value. Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé, Champagne 2006 (£235, Hatch Mansfield): Very refined, beautiful balance of fruit, acidity and fine bubbles.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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South African and Spanish red

HARTENBERG WINE ESTATE THE STORK Stellenbosch South Africa 2015 “Bramble fruit, notes of tobacco; ripe and complex, and supported by lively acidity. This is a really well put-together Cape Rôtie with lots of finesse and flavour.” Such is the judgement of the Top 100 judges on this 100% Stellenbosch Shiraz from one of South Africa’s best producers of the variety. It’s the work of cellarmaster Carl Schultz, who has been working at Hartenberg Estate for 25 years. He uses all his experience to craft a wine from a specific plot of Shiraz vineyard with “clay–rich ‘terra rossa’ type soils”.

POST HOUSE PENNY BLACK

HOLDEN MANZ VERNISSAGE

Stellenbosch South Africa 2016

Franschhoek Western Cape South Africa 2015

The postal theme in the name of wine and winery is no coincidence. The homestead in the farm that became Post House Vineyards was once a post office, and the inspiration for Nick Gebers when he launched his first wine from the estate in the 1990s. Situated on a ridge between the towns of Stellenbosch and Somerset West, Post House Vineyards now has 38ha planted to a mix of grape varieties, among them the Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Chenin Blanc that make up this unusual blend.

An emerging South African star, Holden Manz is based in gorgeous surroundings against a backdrop of mountains in the south of the Franschoek Valley. With 16ha of its 22ha planted to vines at 300m above sea level, the estate is unashamedly Frenchinspired, according to Vindependents, with wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot among others. For the Vernissage, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon combine for a wine that the judges described as “infused with delicious soft fruit”.

NEIL ELLIS PIEKENIERSKLOOF GRENACHE Piekenierskloof South Africa 2015 A very special vineyard is the basis for this very special Grenache from one of the Cape’s leading producers. The vineyard in question is filled with dry-farmed bush vines planted in 1954 on their own rootstocks in the Piekenierskloof on Table Mountain sandstone soils. In the winery, Warren Ellis, son of the visionary, eponymous owner and founder, ferments the fruit in stainless steel and then matures it for 19 months in a mix of new and old 500-litre barrels.

BODEGAS HISPANO-SUIZAS BASSUS FINCA CASILLA HERRERA Utiel-Requena Spain 2015 A Swiss and two Spaniards – Marc Grin, Pablo Ossorio and Rafael Navarro – are the men behind this high-quality producer in the UtielRequena DOP in Valencia (hence the name). From their 61ha of vines, they specialise in mixing the local Bobal with international varieties, not least in this HispanoBordeaux blend of Bobal with Petit Verdot, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, which is aged for a total of 20 months in a mix of French and American oak.

“It’s very much in the new wave of elegant Grenache,” the judges said. “Lively red fruit and hints of spice, soft and supple, versatile with food and very lively.”

“Unusual blend, but it works really well – and it’s a good talking point for customers,” said the judges.“With lots of dark fruit and classy oak, it needs a little time, but it’s all there.”

The fruit is aged in a mix of 90% new and 10% second-fill French oak barrels for 18 months.

“With big dark juicy fruit, with a hint of spice and well balanced acidity, this is a serious Cape blend that hits the meat-matching spot with plenty of grip,” said the judges.

Hartenberg Estate

ABS

Vindependents

Gonzalez Byass UK

Boutinot

RRP £33.50 ABV 14%

RRP £22.70 ABV 15%

RRP £13.50 ABV 14%

RRP £20 ABV 13.5%

RRP £25.99 ABV 14%

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The Wine Merchant Top 100

“It’s a fun, versatile wine, with well-integrated savoury oak at a more than reasonable price.”


HIGHLY COMMENDED French sparkling Taittinger Nocturne Sec, Champagne NV (£44.15, Hatch Mansfield): Delicate nose; creamy mouthfeel, expansive palate: mineral, bready, floral. Long. Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve, Champagne NV (£49.99, Liberty Wines): Golden, with fine bubbles, lots of biscuity richness; excellent balance.

UVAS FELICES EL HOMBRE BALA OLD VINE GARNACHA

NAVAJAS RESERVA TINTO

Madrid, Spain 2016

There are certain wine styles that are pretty much essential staples of any independent wine range, and a goodquality Rioja Reserva, at a competitive price, is certainly among them.

The winner of last year’s Top 100 Best Red Wine trophy has wowed another set of independent merchant judges with the followon vintage, and only narrowly missed out on the top prize again. “So fragrant and aromatic with pine needles and cherries and raspberries,” the judges said. “The palate is glossy and supple and lively and pure, with a medium weight and easy-soft fruits and juicy freshness.” It’s the product of a fruitful partnershop between Barcelona retailers Vila Viniteca and master Garnacha makers Commando G, using old (50 to 90-year-old) Garnacha vines from high up in the Sierra de Gredos hills near Madrid.

Rioja, Spain 2011

For the Top 100 judges, this was a wine to meet that demand. “A Rioja with personality – herbal and smoky notes, tight but well-ripened fruit, and nicely integrated oak,” they said. “We really like the elegant silky palate, and there’s good volume and length, too. Just what the doctor ordered for all those many Rioja fans.” The team behind the prescription is Bodegas Navajas, a 110-year-old winery that has been run by the Navajas family since the early 1980s.

LA RIOJA ALTA VIÑA ARDANZA RESERVA Rioja, Spain 2010 One of the great names of classical Rioja, La Rioja Alta continues to craft wines in the traditional way at its atmospheric winery in the famed station district of Haro. A long-term favourite of independent retail ranges over the years, the Viña Ardanza Reserva is as good as ever in the 2010 vintage, according to the Top 100 judges. “Mature savoury nose; nice rich and mellow classic Rioja character,” they said. “Although there’s oak here, it’s beautifully worked, and the fruit beneath is perfectly ripe on the nose. The tannins are there but they’ve softened with age. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could dislike this. Top-notch and, for the quality, not badly priced.”

Boutinot

Walker & Wodehouse

Armit

RRP £23.49 ABV 14.5%

RRP £13.41 ABV 14.5%

RRP £31 ABV 13.8%

Champagne Delavenne Grand Cru Brut Tradition NV 2013/2014 (£36.99, Vindependents): Intense with perfumed almonds, baked apples; zingy! Champagne Delavenne Grand Cru Brut Nature, Champagne NV 2012/2013 (£39.99, Vindependents): Citrus and melon notes; lovely fresh feel. Champagne Palmer & Co Blanc de Blancs, Champagne NV (£27.69, Walker & Wodehouse): Clarity, freshness, lifted lime and lemon; persistent length. Domaines Paul Mas Château Martinolles Crémant De Limoux Grande Réserve, Languedoc-Roussillon 2013 (£17.50, Domaines Paul Mas): Powerful with crisp apples and aged notes. A good example. Domaines Paul Mas Château Martinolles Crémant De Limoux Rosé, NV (£14.99, Domaines Paul Mas): Subtle red fruit; tangy, fresh – great value.

Italian sparkling Ruggeri Prosecco Argeo, Veneto NV (£14.75, Enotria&Coe): Ripe and bold fruit; fresh and pure; nice classic Prosecco cream soda mousse. Ferrari Maximum Brut, Trento DOC NV (£25, Enotria&Coe): Fresh fruit and lots of mineral interest; crisp and dry finish. Bacio Della Luna Cuvee, Veneto 2018 (£11.49, Buckingham Schenk): Simple but good value with briskness and pear and floral notes.

Spanish sparkling Castillo Perelada Reserva Brut, Cava NV (£10.50, Halewood International): Good tension with a touch of toastiness and softly foaming mousse.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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Spanish and USA red / Fortified and sparkling

BARDOS ROMANTICA CRIANZA Ribera del Duero Spain 2016 The Vintae group is one of the most innovative wine companies in Spain, working with a collection of wineries throughout the country, and creating high-quality wines at consistently good prices with strikingly distinctive modern packaging. The company’s Bardos operation in Ribera del Duero is no exception, as the Crianza, made from old, low-yielding vines in Quintanilla de Onésimo, proves. “Lovely bright, keen succulent damson fruit, typical of good Ribera Tempranillo [Tinta del País],” the judges said. “There’s a pleasing streak of freshness and just enough grippy tannin. Overall this is excellent value, with great fruit and complexity.”

RAYMOND VINEYARDS COLLECTION CABERNET SAUVIGNON California, USA 2016 The Raymond family’s roots in the Napa Valley go back to the 1930s, and they were one of the early trailblazers in the region’s modern rise to fine-wine prominence, founding a 36ha estate in Rutherford in 1970. The family now has some 121ha, spread between Rutherford, St Helena and Jameson Canyon, which they farm using biodynamic and organic practices. And the green ideas extend to power: 100% of its needs come from renewables. Sourced from vineyards throughout California, this Cabernet has “vivid juicy fruitiness, full of summer berry fun,” the judges said. “A real blast of California Cab sunshine.”

IRONSTONE OLD VINE ZINFANDEL Lodi, California, USA 2016 California’s Lodi region has become synonymous with Zinfandel. It now produces around 40% of all the state’s Zin, its stocks of old vines making wines of heady intensity that have loyal fans all over the world. Ironstone is, in turn, synonymous with Lodi, the estate, run by the Kautz Family, producing this Top 100-winning Zin from fruit grown in the Mokelumne River sub-appellation, with its sandy loam soils and Mediterranean climate. “Just a total bargain, the kind of thing that you would go to an indie to find,” the Top 100 judges said.

BODEGAS HIDALGO LA GITANA MANZANILLA EN RAMA Sanlúcar de Barremeda, Spain NV Bodegas Hidalgo’s La Gitana Manzanilla is one of the world’s most consistent and best value wines, showing the salty-savoury charm of Sanlúcar in a supremely drinkable way. Bottled without filtration or cold stabilisation straight from the barrel, the En Rama – or raw – version takes all that La Gitana character and intensifies it, making a wine that wows Sherry-lovers each year with its vibrancy.

“Blueberry fruits and spices, raisins; chocolatey and juicy but fortunately not too sweet or crazy big and alcoholic as Zins can sometimes be.”

The Top 100 judges are among the fans. “Chalky and nutty, and surprisingly full,” they said. “There’s so much freshness here and notes of honey and hazlenut. Complex but so, so drinkable.”

FONSECA TERRA PRIMA ORGANIC PORT Douro, Portugal NV The first-ever organic Port on its initial release in 2002, Terra Prima was the result of Fonseca’s pioneering the viticultural practice in the region, having set aside a portion of its Quinta do Panascal for organic production in 1992. Today, the entirety of Fonseca’s Quinta de Santo António in the Pinhão Valley is given over to organic production. The judges had no idea of any of this when they were tasting Terra Prima, however. Their only considerations were quality and value for money. And they loved it, making it the second Fonseca wine to make it into the 2019 Top 100. “Elegant, opulent, deliciously ripe and fresh black fruit, great balance,” they said.

Vindependents

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Walker & Wodehouse

Mentzendorff

Mentzendorff

RRP £13.99 ABV 14%

RRP £19.99 ABV 13.5%

RRP £8.24 ABV 14.5%

RRP £18 ABV 15%

RRP £18 ABV 20%

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The Wine Merchant Top 100


How the Wine Merchant Top 100 breaks down by price

£22.80 average retail price of winning wines

(2018: £20.38) GUSBOURNE BRUT RESERVE Kent, England 2014

OEDORIA CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE Burgundy, France NV

Now established as one of the “Grandes Marques” of English sparkling wine, Gusbourne made its first plantings at the 15thcentury Gusbourne Estate in Appledore in Kent in 2004.

With consumers ever more adventurous when it comes to sparkling wine, but with value never far from their minds, it’s no wonder that Crémant de Bourgogne has never been more popuar in the UK.

The estate now has 60ha planted to the traditional Champagne trio of grape varieties, with a further 30ha in West Sussex.

And as the judges said of Oedoria’s example, “It just fits in the range at that perfect price-quality level.

CHAMPAGNE DELAVENNE GRAND CRU BRUT RESERVE Champagne, France NV (2012/2013) Based in the Grand Cru village of Bouzy, the Delavenne family have been growing Champagne grapes in the Montagne de Reims for four generations.

“A blanc de blancs with lots of creamy bubbles and textures and fruit with acidity that really hits the spot,” the judges added.

Under the leadership of Jean-Christophe Delavenne, they make a range of dual-vintage Champagnes, with this flagship cuvée a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay from the family’s vineyards in Bouzy and Ambonnay.

The wine is the work of a Beaujolais co-op initially formed in 2009 with the merger of La Cave des Vignerons de Liergues and La Cave du Beauvallon de Theizé and which now has 376 members working 1,156ha.

Made without malolactic, it has “lovely mousse and lemon and citrus notes with a really fresh mouthfeel”, the judges said. “The acidity really keeps this wine alive and zingy. So approachable and drinkable!”

Gusbourne

Daniel Lambert Wines

Hallgarten & Novum Wines

RRP £39 ABV 12%

RRP £18.95 ABV 13%

RRP £39.99 ABV 12.5%

Aged each vintage for a minimum of 36 months on the lees and three months on cork, the Brut Reserve, a blend of Pinots Noir and Meunier and Chardonnay, captivated the Top 100 judges. “Great English fizz with the zingy-blingy fresh-ascan-be acidity, with depth of fruit and aged notes – a class act but not too expensive,” they said.

3 wines are below £10

(2018:13)

How the Wine Merchant Top 100 breaks down by style

61

red wines

27

white wines

5

sparkling wines

4

rosé wines

3

fortified wines

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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Sparkling

HUNTER’S MIRU MIRU ROSÉ Marlborough New Zealand NV The second wine from Jane Hunter MW’s pioneering Marlborough estate is, according to the judges, “a great example of why New Zealand is so good at making good value, great quality sparkling wine”. A blend of 55% Pinot Noir, 42% Chardonnay and 3% Pinot Meunier, Miru Miru Rosé is made with the traditional method and is aged on its lees for 18 months. “There’s a lot of wine for the price here,” the judges continued.

CVNE ROGER GOULART GRAN CUVÉE GRAN RESERVA CAVA Cava, Spain 2011 Now part of Rioja’s CVNE family, Roger Goulart has long been known for its quality-focused approach to Cava production from its base in Sant Esteve Sesrovires in the Alt Penedès in Catalonia. The house has 20ha of vineyards, planted to the traditional trio of Xarel. lo (the house’s speciality), Macabeu and Parellada, and ageing takes place in cellars built some 30m underground – with the Gran Reserva getting a minimum of five years’ ageing before release.

“The Pinot quality shines through with red berry and cherry fruit and fine mousse – persistent and clean and fresh but with lots of flavour and even some savoury notes. Elegant and rich at the same time. At this price, it’s a must list!”

“Rich, well balanced, bold and generous,” the Top 100 judges said of the 2011 vintage.

Laytons

Hatch Mansfield

RRP £21.95 ABV 12.5%

RRP £20.40 ABV 12%

58

“Lots of flavour and fine silky mousse. Good value.”

The Wine Merchant Top 100


Top 10 Countries FRANCE STAYS AHEAD WITH CONSISTENT PERFORMANCE – AND ITALY OVERTAKES AUSTRALIA TO CLAIM SECOND PLACE

Supplier

Top 100 placings

Highly Commended

Points

1

France

26

47

125

2

Italy

16

29

77

3

Australia

8

17

41

3

Spain

10

11

41

5

South Africa

7

18

39

6

New Zealand

8

6

30

7

Argentina

6

5

23

8

Portugal

4

4

16

9

USA

3

5

14

10

Germany

3

3

12

Methodology Three points were awarded for a Top 100 place, and one point for each Highly Commended placing.

The Wine Merchant Top 100

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Profile for The Wine Merchant magazine

The Wine Merchant Top 100 Winners Supplement 2019  

The Wine Merchant Top 100 Winners Supplement 2019

The Wine Merchant Top 100 Winners Supplement 2019  

The Wine Merchant Top 100 Winners Supplement 2019

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