The Wine Merchant issue 114

Page 1

THE WINE MERCHANT. An independent magazine for independent retailers

Issue 114, June 2022

Trophy winners announced: see page two

The Secret Cellar’s future is now in the hands of its staff Employee Ownership Trust means that the Tunbridge Wells-based business will be run for the benefit of its team

T

he Secret Cellar, the independent merchant with four branches in Kent and Sussex, is now in the

ownership of its management team.

Former owner John Winchester has

created an Employee Ownership Trust,

loaning the staff money to buy the business over a five-year period.

The trust also includes the wholesale

division of the company, Milton Sandford Wines, based in Berkshire.

Winchester, who is retiring but remains a

were initially cautious about the EOT and

Fourteen employees have benefited from

allayed when the details were explained.

trustee, believes the deal is a better option for staff than a sale to an outside bidder.

the EOT and will be able to receive tax-free

bonuses of up to £3,600 a year. They would also be able to cash in on the value of their shares should the company ever be sold in whole or in part.

Adam Clarke, now managing director

of the Secret Cellar business, said staff

had concerns about implications for the stability of the company, but these were

“I see it that the staff decide the direction

of the company and how we want to take it forward,” he says. “After all, it is the

employees that benefit from any profits in the company, so have a vested interest in making it a success.

“I’m hoping we can push both parts of

the business to even greater success in the

next few years, sell more wine and increase our customer base.”

Clarke is hopeful that even in uncertain

economic conditions, The Secret Cellar

can remain profitable and even consider expansion. “I’d like to think that we can

grow The Secret Cellar beyond the current footprint – the direction of travel could

take us anywhere,” he says. “The current climate may mean growth takes a bit

longer, but we need to look at all areas of opportunity.”

Winchester believes the EOT model

could be suitable for other wine trade Free samples from suppliers and free tickets for wine lovers make for memorable Wednesday evenings at Specialist Cellars in Brixton. Find out more about Melanie Brown’s bright idea on page 11. Only about half of revenue comes from walk-in custom

businesses. “If you are confident in the

future of the company and the people, then an EOT is a useful vehicle to consider,” he says.

• Analysis, pages 8 and 9.


NEWS

Inside this month 4 COMINGS AND GOINGS Some problematic landlords in Brighton, it would seem

14 tried & TESTED The wines that caught our eye this month, and why we liked them

17 corked wines The industry says the problem of taint is disappearing. Does our panel of indies agree?

20 david williams Being an impartial judge of wine is harder than it may seem

Top 100 trophy winners This year sees the 10th edition of The Wine Merchant Top 100. It remains the only competition where the wines are judged solely by the independent retail trade. More than 1,000 wines were entered to be blind-tasted by our panel of 37 indies from all over the UK. As ever, the judges were asked to rate and score the wines as if they were buying for their own business. This year’s trophy winners impressed our panel enough to be the highest scoring wines within their respective categories and they were showcased on our stand at the London Wine Fair earlier this month. The Top 100 results will be published in full in the supplement that will accompany the July issue of The Wine Merchant, and will appear on our website.

Best Sparkling: Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois NV (RRP £70) Best Value Sparkling: Laborie Blanc de Blancs 2015, North South Wines (RRP £15.99) Best Red: Cà dei Maghi Amarone Della Valpolicella Riserva Canova 2015, Vindependents (RRP £56) Best Value Red: La Cote Sauvage Cairanne Cru 2018, Boutinot (RRP £15.49)

30 POP WINES The Glasgow independent where self-indulgence is not a sin

38 ITALIAN wine A whistlestop tour of all that’s exciting from the beautiful boot

Best White: Famille Hugel Pinot Gris Grossi Laüe 2013, Fells (£54.99) Best Value White: Iona Elgin Highlands Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Alliance (RRP £14.99) Best Rosé: Château Aspras Côtes de Provence Tomares Ballus Rosé 2020, Bancroft (RRP £18.49) Best Value Rosé: Jean-Claude Mas Mon Rosé 2021 (RRP £12.99)

54 make a date More tastings for your diary

56 supplier bulletin Essential updates from importers

Best Fortified: Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Gran Reserva 1999, Winetraders (RRP £35) Best Value Fortified: Henriques & Henriques 10 Year Old Malvasia NV, Mentzendorff (£22)

THE WINE MERCHANT MAGAZINE winemerchantmag.com 01323 871836 Twitter: @WineMerchantMag Editor and Publisher: Graham Holter graham@winemerchantmag.com Assistant Editor: Claire Harries claire@winemerchantmag.com Advertising: Sarah Hunnisett sarah@winemerchantmag.com Accounts: Naomi Young naomi@winemerchantmag.com The Wine Merchant is circulated to the owners of the UK’s 1,004 specialist independent wine shops. Printed in Sussex by East Print. © Graham Holter Ltd 2022 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT 943 8771 82

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Butlers decamps to Kemp Town

Level 3 and is now

running her own shop and bar in the Castle Quarter area.

Butlers Wine Cellar in Brighton has

She’s working with

reluctantly closed the doors of the

suppliers including

shop it has called home since 1979 and

Enotria&Coe, North

retrenched to its smaller Kemp Town

South Wines and

branch in the city.

Alliance. “I’m going

Henry Butler and Cassie Gould believe

for things that I like

the landlord of the original premises wants

but I’m also looking

to convert the building to residential use.

for unusual wines

Although Gould says they were sad to

and things that will

leave the Queen’s Park Road shop, there

interest will my

are upsides to the move. “It wasn’t our

choice,” she says. “But it’s worked out all

customers,” she says.

“I’m very organic and

cap

right.

vegan-friendly and

“We are thinking how we can make the

I like those styles of

most of the space we have in Kemp Town.

wine.”

It’s a good site for us and we like it here. People know us here.

“The shop is pretty rammed, so we’re

looking at possibly changing the layout.” The duo have been weighing up the

About 20% of the

Emily Wilson has a Spanish wine specialism at the new store

range consists of

Spanish wines and Wilson says she’s

looking forward to

possibility of moving Butlers to a bigger

downsizing, though Gould admits that not

growing that with the help of Alliance.

and wholesale revenue streams.

wine requirements.

Spanish vegan option too.

site, such as an old pub, where drinking-in

could be added to their retail, e-commerce “That would be the dream,” says Gould.

“Somewhere that we could offer bigger

tastings and more events. Obviously, with the way things have turned out over the last couple of years, it would probably

be silly to invest in somewhere that was predominantly events-based.”

No staff have been lost as a result of the

all Butlers’ Queen’s Park Road customers have migrated to Kemp Town for their

“Some have switched to online ordering,

but quite a few we have lost. People are

creatures of habit. It’s a 15-minute walk between the two shops, really.

“We’re on Deliveroo now, which is new

for us and gives us a bit of exposure.”

offered, and she’s managed to source a

Wilson says having the bar area in the

shop, which seats 20, encourages the

customers try the wines in store by the

glass and will allow her to hold tastings,

beginning with a chocolate and wine event earlier this month.

Macclesfield’s new indie opens

branch has opened in Sudbury, Suffolk. The

La Dulce Vendimia opened in

was officially opened by the town’s mayor.

Macclesfield last month.

There are already Wine-Boutique branches

Owner Emily Wilson previously owned a

tea room, but her growing interest in wine saw her sell her business to take a role as The store first opened in 1979

Platters of Spanish cheese and meat are

a pastry chef and tour guide at Holmfirth Vineyards in Yorkshire.

Since then, she has gained her WSET

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• John Greenwold’s latest Wine-Boutique hybrid shop and bar, which charges a £7 corkage fee for drinking on the premises,

in Felixstowe, Dereham and Frinton. • The owners of Edinburgh’s Dreadnought pub have bought The Wee Leith Shop, which they plan to transform into “Edinburgh’s tiniest offie”.


Bacchus Landlord is far from co-operative

Stoic, stubborn, and still allowed to get pissed

Since the Co-op purchased the building occupied by Brighton’s Seven Cellars, merchant Louise Oliver has been facing uncertainty over the future of her business. “I had an email from their representative

who explained that they are planning to

whittle down my lease and at the end they will be able to ask me to leave and cite

redevelopment as the reason,” says Oliver.

Louise Oliver is unable to relocate her Seven Cellars business in the short term

months. They sent architects and structural

certainly hope so, anyway.”

they won’t afford me the same privilege.

the local community, including popular

“The Co-op have actually said they

don’t want to discuss it for the next 18 engineers to my shop and started

measuring up, so they are able to plan but It’s infuriating.”

Oliver’s lease will naturally expire

A spokesperson for the Co-op said: “Co-

op is committed to serving and supporting local independent businesses.

“We have had discussions with our

in 2025 and with the Co-op making its

neighbours who have leases in place,

“refusing” to communicate with her, she is

confirmed plans to extend our Co-op store.”

intentions clear, it seems her relocation

is inevitable. As she reports that they are

unable to make plan to move to a new site, even though a couple of retail units have

become available in the sought-after area.

The Co-op currently has a shop opposite

Seven Cellars and a second one “just a two-

which run until late 2025, and these will be

honoured. At this stage we do not have any The company also added “subsequent

planning application submitted to build

flats on top of the two neighbouring units is not connected to the Co-op in any way.”

minute walk away”. The prospect of a third branch in the Seven Dials neighbourhood has not gone down well with residents. “We have received extraordinary

support from the locals, which in itself is a wonderful story,” reports Oliver.

“People are gearing up for marching

outside with placards and making banners to drape across the Dials. It’s amazing.

“I love the Seven Dials residents, they are

wonderful. Given that a group once lived

in the much-loved tree on the roundabout and had coffee and sandwiches winched

up rather than see it get chopped down, I

think the Co-op might have more of a battle on their hands than they’ve reckoned for. I

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Graham Sims is selling his New Forest Wines business in Ringwood due to ill health. “It’s stage 4B cancer,” he says. “I’m back on chemotherapy but there won’t be an operation now. It’s spread from my bowel to my liver and my lungs. It’s now palliative care, so life extending rather than curative.” But Graham is remarkably stoic. “I lost a friend of mind to a brain tumour when he was 18,” he says. “At least I’ve had a life. It’s a cruel thing. But my head’s in the right place. “I go into hospital and meet people in similar situations and I think it’s therapeutic to have a chat. “I’d rather get on with it. So it’s about making memories and doing nice stuff … and seeing if I can spend the children’s inheritance.” Graham expects to sell the business to Daniel Read, who joined the team just over a year ago (see Rising Stars, page 22). “Daniel is doing a good job,” says Graham. “He’s trying to raise the cash. He’s my preferred buyer because he’s been very good to me. He’s had the best training in the wine industry. Really he’s running the show all the way.” On the day that he spoke to The Wine Merchant, Graham had loaded the van four times and driven deliveries to various corners of the New Forest. “I am allowed to lift stuff but it will be too much for me to work in the shop,” he says. “It feels like I’ve got a proper business now, because I’m not working in the shop all the time. I’m actually paying myself money for not doing very much.” But his priority is enjoying quality time with his wife and sons, aged 20 and 11. Luckily, wine appreciation is still a pleasure that can be indulged. “They test your blood for absolutely everything to make sure you’re fit enough for the chemotherapy,” he says. “One of them is liver function. I’ve got cancer all over my liver – but they told me my liver function is perfect. I’m allowed to get pissed and fall over!”


NEWS

Wines made by women, judged by women Hannah and Sadie Wilkins’s inaugural Wine of the Times event will be the first of many celebrating industry unsung heroes

L

ast month Hannah and Sadie

Wilkins of Vineyards of Sherborne, in Dorset, held the first in a series

of events that will concentrate on underrepresented producers within the wine industry.

Wine of the Times 2022 was focused

on more than 200 wines from female winemakers.

“It was a unique opportunity to try, side

by side, wines all made by women,” says Sadie.

The judges were all women too, but their

backgrounds within the trade were diverse and both Sadie and Hannah say that this made for very interesting discussion points.

“As indies, we’re used to looking at wines

in a retail context, so it was fascinating

to hear first-hand, within our teams, how people in their particular context view

wines when they sample them,” says Sadie. “There were importers, buyers, people

from restaurants and people who had

experience working in wineries. Some had

just finished their Diplomas – everyone had some kind of connection to the wine trade.

“There was lots of debate, particularly

around value for money, and also how

commercial a style of wine was. Whereas

Hannah and I will quite often judge a wine with too much of a commercial appeal as not really being for us, other people in

the room were saying, ‘that’s got a really commercial palate, we need that on our list’.”

place was really incredible. And tasting

that many wines that are made by women was also incredible.”

Another adds: “I reckon that the same

event but held 15 years ago would have

been very sparse, both in terms of finding

female winemakers and in terms of finding females working in the UK industry.

“It’s amazing that that is changing. But

T

I would like to see more in the way of

the information will be presented in a

how incredible we all are and what an

he results will see a winner and

a runner-up from each category

as well as an overall winning red,

white and a sparkling from the day. All

brochure, which the Vineyards team are happy to share with fellow indies.

“We need to keep the noise going, share

the information and showcase the wines

that were there,” adds Sadie. “These events

are great, and we all feel lovely, but it has to do something.”

Judges bought into the concept and were

enthused by the event. “It still can feel

like a male-dominated industry,” says one judge, “but seeing that many intelligent,

knowledgeable, inspiring women in one

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 6

diversity generally in the industry. More

events that bring people together who can feel overlooked in the industry.

“[This was] an opportunity to celebrate

amazing job women in wine are doing – and to know that we are not alone.”

S

o, what’s the theme of the next

event? “It’s about championing an

underdog,” says Sadie, “whether it’s

grape-based, wine-based, the diversity of the winemaker, the winery or region. It’s going to be an annual series on under-

representation, so we’d welcome any ideas that anyone wants to share with us for the next one.”



ANALYSIS

Now let the workers have a go The Secret Cellar, with four branches in Kent and Sussex, is now in the hands of its staff following the creation of an Employee Ownership Trust. Former owner John Winchester explains why the deal was a better solution than a traditional sale

a figure was agreed and Winchester and

Why is John Winchester selling up?

his wife (and fellow director) Mary Rose

A heart attack two years ago persuaded

agreed a five-year loan. The law allows a

him to re-evaluate his priorities. “I’ve

term of up to 10 years, and it’s up to the

achieved so much and, aged 60, I was

parties concerned what interest rate, if any,

driving four vans full of wine each week. I

will apply. Winchester is not revealing such

started to think my race is done, I’m ready

details publicly.

to relax, play a bit more golf and enjoy life,” he says.

What kind of structure does the

Selling the company seemed an obvious

business now have?

option, but Winchester worried what a

buyer might do with the different strands

of the business, and the implications there would be for staff.

and it allowed the government to provide

environment, and equally, which piece

radical idea, and not one that is widely

“Would the buyer have the money for

the transaction in the first place, in this

would they want?” he says. “Do they want actual wines, because we’ve got a bonded warehouse of 100,000 square feet under

the Berkshire countryside? Is it the people

they want? Is it one of the shops they want, the products, the suppliers?

“It started to become uncertain in my

own head: would there be an independent

long-term future for the company, or would someone take an action on day two that you might not agree with?”

How did the idea of an EOT emerge? “I was reading an article about [hi-fi

retailer] Richer Sounds and it said that

this chap had put 60% into an Employee Ownership Trust,” says Winchester. “I’d never heard that expression before. So

I did some research to find out about it.

The legislation was only created in 2014

incentives to get a broader employee

ownership of companies. It seems like a known.”

What are the advantages of an EOT? From the seller’s perspective, the deal is tax-free. “And for the employees in the

future, instead of the profits going to the ugly capitalist – that’s been me for the

last 15 years – in the future they will go

into a company profit share scheme,” says

Winchester. “Those bonuses, up to £3,600 a year, are tax-free for the employees.

“The more I read about it, I just became

“There’s an independent trustee who we found in the open market, and there’s an employee trustee as well,” Winchester

explains. “You still have your traditional management structure, as with any

company, but management teams report into a trustees’ body, because it’s the trustees that own the shares of the company moving forward.”

Adam Clarke is managing director of

the Secret Cellar business, with its four retail shops in Kent and Sussex, while

Debbie Kerr heads up the Milton Sandford wholesale division.

“I’m a trustee so I’ll still be there in the

background,” says Winchester.

Will the day-to-day operation of the

comfortable with the idea that it would

two divisions change?

the company, to be able to own a business

I’ve delegated the day-to-day management

be nice for people I’ve worked with for a

Winchester says not. “They trade as they

without actually having to pay for it.”

but equally the day-to-day strategy, the

long time, who have created the success of

How does the money change hands? After an independent valuation process,

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 8

did last year, in exactly the same fashion. creation of the business plans. Whereas

I’ve created those with Debbie and Adam in the past, now it’s really for them to create,


bring them to the trustees’ board and for

action, that’s when they’d divide them out.”

successfully or badly. I think you’d be

Will employees get bonuses or

such as selling off individual shops,

dividends in the next five years, or is

or making acquisitions?

this unlikely until the loan is repaid?

Both options are available to the

a hidden secret, because you won’t get your

the trustees to agree the business plans.”

Winchester says it’s possible that dividends could be paid, or salaries increased, as a way of sharing the profits. But he thinks

it’s more likely that employees will award themselves the tax-free bonuses of up to £3,600.

“It really becomes valuable when some

sort of when a trigger event happens, like if someone came in wanting to buy all or some of the company,” Winchester says.

“Instead of that money coming to me, as it would have done in the past, it would be divided equally among the employees. “So the share ownership comes into

play if some sort of compelling event takes place, but in the meantime, the profits

grow and you can distribute them through different means.

“The trustees hold the shares on behalf

of all the employees and if there’s a trigger

Could the business make decisions

management team, as they would be with any company.

“You’d go to the trustee board and say,

‘we’ve had this offer, would it be beneficial for all the employees?’ And it works the

other way too, if we wanted to buy another company to include in the EOT.

“The funding could come from any

investor, it could come from me, an

employee or from outside the company,

through equity or loan. The trustee body

must have 51%, but you could get 49% of the value to help finance.”

Is there a financial risk for staff? “There’s no money that any employee has put in,” says Winchester. “The person at risk, if any, is me.

“Like with any company, it’s a limited

company, it has a chance to trade

foolish as an owner to do this if you felt the future was doom and gloom, or you’ve got money back – you’d go into liquidation.

“If you are confident in the future of the

company and the people then an EOT is a useful vehicle to consider.”

How have staff reacted? At a time when many retail and hospitality

business struggle to retain staff, the EOT is seen as a way of encouraging loyalty.

“The fact that they won’t see me so

often is probably also motivating to them,” Winchester jokes. “And equally there’s

the concept of ‘I’m going to do what I did yesterday but if we carry on doing what

we do, which is make profit, I get a bonus as well.’

“I think there’s a general feeling of liking

the idea that they own the business now. I have seen the difference in people. There are more Facebook and Instagram posts

than there were before, and you just think, good – they feel part of it.”

Adam Clarke (left) with John Winchester

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 9


We are looking for a knowledgeable and enthusiastic Branch Manager to lead the team in our busy Tufnell Park store in north London, growing sales and providing a warm welcome and personable service for our customers. In this position, you will be responsible for: • creating initiatives to maintain business and develop new business • maintaining the highest standards of customer service • managing stock and placing orders • leading and motivating a small and dynamic team • engaging with wider sales and marketing initiatives • promoting our popular programme of tastings This is an excellent opportunity for a wine retail professional looking to develop their sales skills and product knowledge. In this role, you will experience every element of the wine industry, from buying to selling, imports and logistics to customer tastings and events. You will be a key point of contact in our growing retail business, with further opportunities available as we continue to expand. Salary based on experience.

If this sounds like the right challenge for you, find out more at theatreofwine.com/vacancies or email trade@theatreofwine.com to apply.

NOT YOU AGAIN!

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THE THEWINE WINEMERCHANT MERCHANToctober june 2022 2021 10


ight ideas br

33: Wine Tribe Wednesdays Melanie Brown Specialist Cellars at Pop Brixton, London

In a nutshell: Consumer tastings are nothing new, but there are a myriad of ways to run them. Wine Tribe Wednesdays are a perfect

example and what’s more, they’re free! Tell us more …

“The idea is to try to introduce more of our

community to new world wines and getting everyone to grips with Australia, New

Zealand, South Africa and now California. “It’s based upon trying to get the

community together every few weeks to

introduce new wines and producers. The

name sounds fun and inclusive and is a way

provide sample bottles. We purchase a case

No, and using Eventbrite pushes it out to

Describe a typical Wine Tribe

that come along to buy a bottle on the way

their followers, even if they are not on our

to make people feel more engaged.” Wednesday.

“They are very easy, laid back and casual. As we can have anything from 40 to 80

sign-ups for each event, we tend to divide

it into three groups over the one-and-a-half

of each of the wines that we are presenting on the night and we encourage the people out. We usually sell the majority of the

wines at the event and we often put a 20% discount on them for the night as well.” How do you decide on a theme?

all of their networks and they will re-

target the event within their platform to database. We are getting some amazing traction and definitely seeing more and

more new people. There are lots of familiar

faces too and it’s really nice to see that they all engage with each other as well.”

hour tasting. Every 25 minutes or so we

“Now that we are seeing more producers

container at Pop Brixton – to taste around

of them signed up to do the Wednesdays.

“Like everyone else, our events came to a

so we look at who’s visiting and who’s

for us.

have groups of around 20 people come into the container – we have a 20ft shipping

four to six different wines presented either by the producer or sometimes myself.

It’s aimed at consumers, so we don’t go into huge detail, but we keep it really interesting.”

How do the figures stack up if you’re not charging? “Other than the time and effort, it doesn’t cost us anything because our suppliers

and winemakers venture out this way from

Does it feel good to be back in the swing

that part of the world, we are getting a lot

of real life tastings?

winemaker or producer leading the event,

and things seem to be rolling really well

We notice a larger uptake when we have a available. We might be influenced by a

wine calendar event such as Sauvignon Blanc Day and we look at things we’re running internally as well.”

The ticket admin is done via Eventbrite. Do you have to pay for that service?

standstill for two years but now we’re back “Staffing is tough since so many young

people moved out of London, particularly

from the arts and creative industries. They were fabulous employees, but they’ve just disappeared out of London. We’ve got

loads of customers – we just need to find the right people to serve them.”

Melanie wins a WBC gift box containing some premium drinks and a box of chocolates. Tell us about a bright idea that’s worked for you and you too could win a prize. Email claire@winemerchantmag.com

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 11


Portugal’s ready to pop Wines of Portugal is once again running its successful June is for Indies promotion this summer. The generic body is collaborating with a number of the UK’s leading independents during June, with a range of activities both in-store and online via social media. Each indie benefits from a full support package from Wines of Portugal, and collectively the stores will be turning the country green and red at tastings, dinners and other promotions. Three of the independents taking part in this year’s activity explain why they love Portuguese wine, and give the lowdown on their promotional plans. Published in association with Wines of Portugal

Penny Edwards, Cellar Door Wines, St Albans I like Portugal’s diversity, its price points,

Michael Boniface, No 2 Pound Street, Wendover, Buckinghamshire

and the value for money, and the different

I love Portuguese wines: the character, the

Portuguese culture: it’s so relaxed.

a little bit difficult to get your head

grape varieties that are not found in

the rest of the world. I also really like

We are making a big push this year with

Portuguese wine. We currently stock about 20 to 25, but that’s expanding rapidly by

the minute, and we’re going to have over

80 wines for the promotion. I am tasting,

tasting, tasting all things Portuguese at the moment.

I’ve been sectioning it out. I’ve been

tasting a lot of Vinho Verdes, and

discovering it’s not just what people think it’s all about; I’ve been tasting a lot of

natural wines, and orange wine. There’s so much diversity within the regions.

I’ve been working closely with Kopke in

the Douro for Port and still wines for some years; they’ve got some lovely mediumpriced still wines, and limited-edition

whites and reds. I’m also working with

Quinta da Pedra Alta. I sell the full range. There are some really good Portuguese

brands and I’m really proud to be pushing them because the quality is so high.

During the promotion, there’s going to be

a big focus on the Enomatics, with various wines to compare,

including lots of

white Port. We’re

really showcasing Portugal and the

different regions and the

different styles, and moving away from the traditional – from what people think they know as Portugal, the old school.

We’re going to be selling over 200 tickets

for an event on Saturday, June 25 – a really big tasting, which is very exciting.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 12

range of styles, the different regions.

I quite like the fact it’s a bit obscure,

around: that’s good for a wine nerd. There’s nothing too smooth or polished … proper wines with real character, a

little bit niche and not mainstream, although

the range of accessible

wines from the Alentejo

are really easy to appreciate. When people get to try them they’re always shocked by where they come from.

You can also always get your customers

into the high-end wines from the Douro.

Our range varies. I buy from Raymond

Reynolds a lot, and from Liberty (Casa Ferreirinha).

It’s always been a strong seller for us. We

used to do more on-service, pre-lockdown, so we’d have the Niepoort Drink Me range by the glass.

We have two customers in particular

who spend £40-plus on Portuguese wines, so that’s going in the right direction. The

São Miguel (from the Alentejo) has proved very popular, and got a few customers interested.

During the promotion I’ll be doing

customer tastings alongside cheese – we’re also a cheese specialist – pairing the wines for each of the four weekends.

The display will be all decked out in

Portugal colours, and we’ll be doing social media on each of the wines that we’re

focusing on over the four weeks. We’ll be

doing a newsletter and a Discover Portugal tasting case, or two: one entry-level and one for the connoisseur.


Lucy Driver, South Downs Cellars, Sussex With Portugal, the focus on the indigenous is always interesting – it’s always nice to

have wines that are different. They’re also fantastic value and there’s a very broad

range: there’s something very different and exciting about them.

It’s definitely a country that has grown

over the past five years for us. We’ve

always had Portuguese wines, but we never used to have more than seven or eight.

Over the last five or six years, it’s definitely expanded.

Portugal is very well received by our

customers. They appreciate the value and a

lot of people holiday there so it’s not a hard sell – they’ll have enjoyed some delicious wine when they’ve been in the country. I would love to give it more shelf

space, but I’m limited, especially here [in Hurstpierpoint] ... we’re bursting at the

seams. Luckily I have high ceilings, but I

would love to have the space to double our Portuguese wine selection.

We have a lovely selection that we rotate,

so we don’t have everything all the time. We currently stock 16 reds and eight

whites, so 24 wines, but we will be getting at least another half dozen as part of the promotion.

We have four signature bottles, or

headlines, for the promotion, and they’re a broad range.

You have your classic Douro (Ramos

Pinto Duas Quintas Tinto), which has two

estates, one warmer and one cooler, which gives them the flexibility to make really

interesting wines. This a is a lovely, classic, richer style of wine, but very food-friendly and fantastic value.

Then, from the Alentejo, we have

the Sossego Branco (from Herdade de

Peso) and the Santhiago Tinto from Real

price [of the estate red].

Portuguese wines will be in the window for

one juicy, fruity red.

on Saturdays, and we are doing a dinner at

these? Well, it’s everything really: the

Companhia Velha. Both are good value

indigenous blends: one crisp, fresh white, And we have the Ponte Tinto from

Herdade de Mouchão. I’ve always been a

big fan of the Mouchão range, and this one

really showcases the quality but at half the

We are running the promotion from June

13 to July 2. We will have in-store pours

one of our wholesale accounts, where there will be a four- or five-course meal matched with four different wines. We’re hoping to have a full tutored evening, and obviously

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 13

the whole period.

What’s good about promotions like

materials, the information shared, the

background info. It’s all really helpful for staff training, and it helps to make a nice display in the shop.


TRIED & TESTED

Pommard 1er Cru Vieilles Vignes Les Parcellaires de Saulx 2018

Bodega Piedra Negra Jackot de Arroyo Grande 2021

Winemakers across the world agonise about the fine

This Lurton project is based in semi-desert conditions

look like simplicity itself, with cherry-fruit plushness

variety once confused with Sauvignon Blanc). Don’t

details of their Pinot Noirs and still end up with wines that somehow miss the mark. Here the job is made to

and breezy acidity combining in a wine that’s somehow rustic and refined at the same time. RRP: £64.50

ABV: 13%

Vindependents (020 3488 4548)

in Los Chacayes in Valle de Uco. Jackot is made with the Tockaij Friulano grape (aka Sauvignon Vert, a

expect fireworks in the glass: it’s uncomplicated and unpretentious, but with a cool, understated charm. RRP: £14.49

ABV: 13%

Condor Wines (07508 825488)

vindependents.co.uk

condorwines.co.uk

Bacio della Luna Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze NV

Lomond Conebush Syrah 2018

At this price point you want your Glera bubbles to

Lomond is based in the western Cape, ensconced

be more than just a throwaway thrill, and there are enough layers and structure to this Valdobbiadene

cru wine to make even the most hardened Prosecco detractor re-examine their prejudices. Fruity and flowery, but clean and classy too. RRP: £25.50

ABV: 11%

Buckingham Schenk (01753 521336)

A recent arrival in the Hallgarten & Novum portfolio, in a cool microclimate where its grapes can mature slowly and elegantly. The end product in this case

is satisfyingly plump, silky rather than glossy, with

warm plum and spice flavours and a guilty-pleasure seam of vanilla. RRP: £29.25

ABV: 14.5%

Hallgarten & Novum Wines (01582 722538)

buckingham-schenk.co.uk

hnwines.co.uk

Château Paul Mas Clos des Mures 2020

Henners Gardner Street Classic 2020

A Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre blend from a

Bacchus and Chardonnay can both stake a claim to be

name is usually synonyous with great value and this

the floral, herbaceous Kentish Bacchus that dominates

vineyard near Montagnac in the Hérault, surrounded by blackberry bushes – hence “Mures”. The Paul Mas

is no exception: it’s beautifully cushioned, with gentle tannins and deep, dark depths of fruity richness. RRP: £19

ABV: 14.5%

Côté Mas London (07771 969697)

England’s most promising white variety in still wines. Here they prove they can work together, even if it’s

the blend, with barrel-fermented Sussex Chardonnay providing the bass notes. Mellow and moreish. RRP: £17.99

ABV: 12.5%

Boutinot (0161 908 1300)

Cotemaslondon.com

boutinot.com

Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Gaja Ca’ Marcanda Vistamare 2020

There’s an element of precision engineering to Don

A wine for gazing out at the Tuscan horizon.

But the result always feels more like art than science.

captures the briney freshness of its eponymous sea

Melchor (there’s a reason for the 1% Petit Verdot

component, just as there’s a reason for 72% new oak). The 2019 is characteristically regal, with powerful,

lingering notes of earth, dried fruit and exotic spice. RRP: £95

ABV: 14.5%

Concha y Toro UK (01865 873713) cyt-uk.com

Vistamare’s stainless steel-fermented and aged

Vermentino, Viognier and Fiano blend somehow

view. Some stone-fruit sweetness just about squeezes through, with white pepper and sage seasoning. RRP: £44

ABV: 13.5%

Hatch Mansfield (01344 871800) hatchmansfield.com

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 14



BITS & BOBS

Favourite Things

Bordeaux’s winemakers are divided over calls for the EU to pay them to rip up their vines to curb a glut of unsold claret. The row comes after the Bordeaux

Wine Council backed a plan to limit wine production in the region.

Dean & Margaret Pritchard Gwin Llyn Wines, Pwllheli Favourite wine on our list

Thanks to Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy (the Sicily episode), we are really enjoying Frappato. The Santa Tresa Frappato is organic, light, fresh and vibrant. It will definitely be one of our red wines of the summer.

Favourite wine and food match

Barrel-fermented Verdejo, Bodegas Naia Naiades, served with baked scallops and crispy Serrano ham. This old-vine Verdejo is rich and toasty, with remarkable minerality.

Favourite wine trip

A trip to Piedmont arranged by Boutinot Wines. We stayed at Il Cascinone in the Monferrato hills. The highlight was a visit to Poderi Colla; the memory of standing in one of their vineyards listening to Tino Colla speaking so passionately is one that will remain with us for ever.

Magpie

Rip out your vines, plant sunflowers

Proponents say that the plan makes

economic sense, particularly if Brussels can be persuaded to provide subsidies

for winemakers who remove their vines;

critics are aghast at the prospect of seeing Bordeaux’s châteaux turning to the

production of crops such as wheat and sunflowers.

The Times, May 30

French vineyards are hit by drought The only French wine region not affected by drought is Languedoc. Matthieu Chazalon, a consultant engineer for the Wine Research & Development Company, said bud burst was very consistent and that clusters had been emerging thick and fast.

Lack of water will have consequences for

the 2023 vintage in dry-farmed vineyards elsewhere.

“Poor flower induction will reduce the

numbers and size of the berries,” Chazalon said. “This could be a problem in blocks earmarked for white or rosé wines.” Vitisphere, May 17

Penedès follows Bordeaux model In November of 2021, Spain’s DO Penedès announced a massive overhaul of its bylaws aimed at reorienting the region via a 10-year plan. One of the key aspects was a new

classification system called Vi de Mas [wine of the farm estate], the first five of which have just been certified.

While most wine regions looking to

implement a system use the so-called

“Burgundian Pyramid”, Penedès took a different approach that merged it with

some of the Bordeaux system, where it is an estate that holds the classification. Decanter, May 16

Favourite wine trade person

Alec Street, now with Liberty Wines. We met Alec when we first opened and he has guided us and educated us ever since. He has been so patient with us and remains a close friend.

Favourite wine shop

We have three! They reflect the personalities of their owners perfectly. John Hattersley Wines of Bakewell, Rob and Bridget Hoult of Hoults in Huddersfield and Ann Hayes at Ann et Vin, Newark.

No problem with rain in the Languedoc

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 16


Wine benefits from end of lockdown

?

THE BURNING QUESTION

How big a problem are cork-tainted wines these days?

In my previous job I was consistently opening a number of corked bottles every day, but then the volume of wine I was opening was significantly higher and we were opening older vintages and things like that. Since opening Half Cut I am yet to open a corked bottle, and I’ve not had any returned to us from a customer either. We mainly have everything under cork but some of our younger customers have actively asked me for screwcap wines.

Global wine consumption edged up in 2021 with the reopening of the ontrade, although trends vary greatly between regions. Global consumption is estimated at

236 million hl, marking an increase of

0.7% on 2020 volumes, according to

figures released by international wine

Holly Willcocks Half Cut Market, Islington

organisation OIV.

This represents a slight uptick on a

downward trend since 2018, although

volumes remain down on pre-pandemic 2019 figures of 260 million hl. Beverage Daily, May 16

We are 99% cork, so it does happen. I was chatting to our Chablis supplier and they are now going 100% synthetic because they are sick of having corked wines. The synthetic cork technology has really come on. They can select the density to allow a certain aging process and aeration. I had a wine recently that was slightly corked and it’s only because I know the wine that I noticed. If someone didn’t know the wine they might have thought it was just a bit oaky.

Jean-Paul Hourlier H Champagne winner H Pierre Hourlier Wines, Derbyshire

With modern cork technology it’s happening less and less. We opened some big bottles last night for a birthday, some really old stuff, and they were in really good condition. There have been occasions where I’ve been sent samples and they’ve been corked, but that is rare. Wines now are being made to be drunk in a couple of years rather than for laying down, where you are more likely to get an issue. Sometimes with natural wine you might get a bit of cork taint.

One way to increase the figures

Sekt set for sector categorisation

Will Heaton-Livingstone Selected Grapes, Bridport

Austria’s sparkling wines with a protected designation of origin have seen their three-tier categorisation amended to the designations Sekt Austria, Sekt Austria Reserve or Sekt Austria Grosse Reserve. The new Sekt Austria PDO aims to put

this category in a stronger position as it prepares to challenge international sparkling competitors.

The move not only requires grapes used

for this style of wine to be grown purely within Austria, but also promotes the country of origin more clearly.

It’s very rare these days, to be honest. It’s reduced dramatically over the past couple of years. We have a system in place so if it does happen we pass it back to the suppliers with lot numbers etc. We’re surprised if we see something coming back, but there are fewer corks in general. There’s still some of the old favourites like Chateau Musar with people bringing it back and saying it’s corked, when really it’s not corked at all, it’s just the style. Simon Jackson Yorkshire Vintners, Ripon

Champagne Gosset The oldest wine house in Champagne: Äy 1584

The Drinks Business, May 30

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 17


THE UPSIDE OF GLOBAL CATASTROPHE The planet’s soaring temperature isn’t welcome news for anyone, though it does make wine production viable in places like the Vale of Glamorgan. Alex Griem and the team from Cardiff independent Chilled & Tannin have taken a punt on an acre of land where they hope Rondo and Cabernet Cortis vines will help reduce their carbon footprint. Claire Harries finds out why the C&T squad wanted to get their hands dirty


C

ardiff indie Chilled & Tannin now has its own vineyard in the Vale of Glamorgan. The one-

acre plot in Llanbethery has been planted with

350 vines of Rondo and Cabernet Cortis.

“When we set up Chilled & Tannin we wanted

to have a wine business that was as sustainable as possible,” says co-owner Alex Griem.

“We’ve done lots of things, including offsetting

carbon on all our deliveries and repurposing

packaging where we can, and we try to pick wine from more sustainable producers.

“We already stock quite a few Welsh wines and,

apart from being fantastic wine, it cuts down the road miles.

“From the outset we wanted to have the approach

of grape-to-glass with as little intervention as

possible, so the first part of that was, let’s try to plant some vines and get our own grapes.

“Our next plan is to have some sort of urban

winery set-up in Cardiff. That way we feel we could probably have wine with road miles potentially of just eight to 10 miles.

“We’re under no misconception that owning a

vineyard isn’t going to involve some sort of carbon

footprint, but equally we shouldn’t need to irrigate it too much. We’re going to see how it goes.”

G

riem and his team are very much part of the

Welsh wine scene and he has been doing some voluntary work with the Welsh Drinks Cluster.

They have established relationships with a

number of Welsh producers, as well as winemakers from further-flung parts who supply their shop.

“We’ve been looking at how we can set Welsh wine apart from everything that’s happening in England and the rest of the world,” he says.

“One of the key things around that is typicity

of the wine and having grapes that are not grown

everywhere else, which is why we thought Rondo

would be good. Montgomery do really good things with their Rondo.

“Cabernet Cortis is a grape that ripens quite

early and is resistant to damp. It’s a cross between

Cabernet Sauvignon, which I think you’d have to be off your rocker to plant in south Wales, and Solaris, which is a grape we were quite keen on originally.” The business has been gifted the land by a loyal

and obviously happy customer, someone who Griem says “shares our vision”. The vineyard has also been

welcomed by the locals, some of who remember the plot as the old market garden for the village.

The site also happens to be situated between two

solar farms.

“Someone else has done an enormous amount of

expensive research to find out the sunniest site for the solar farms and we have just lucked out as our

vineyard is right in the middle,” says Griem. “It’s on a slope with a fairly southerly aspect. It’s a proper sun-trap with loamy limestone soil.”

H

ow confident is Griem in his viticultural skills?

“We’ve not employed a vineyard consultant, so the guys are relying on me and what I learnt

at the beginning of my WSET Diploma on wine production,” he admits.

“It’s a real labour of love and the goal for the next

three years is to get healthy grapes and to crack growing the vines as sustainably as we can.

“We are not going to try to create a Bordeaux-

style fine wine for the first few years,” says Griem. “We are going to have some fun with it, in the

same way that we have our philosophy in the wine

business – not to take things too seriously and enjoy it. We might make a pet nat as it’s fairly simple to do and it’s quite a fun wine.”

Griem’s thoughts are never far from the project’s

environmental implications.

“The irony is we are creating a wine business that

is trying to slow down environmental catastrophe,” he says.

“I suppose in a way we are betting slightly that

things will get a bit warmer and taking advantage of that. We’re reliant on global warming while trying to stop it!”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 19


JUST WILLIAMS

Confessions of a lean, green claret fan When tasting professionally, it’s hard to put your personal prejudices and predilections to one side and consider the objective merits of the wine in front of you. Luckily, plenty of independent merchants seem pretty good at it. David Williams isn’t always as successful

S

ifting through the Wine Merchant

that may even be a little bit cynical,

Top 100 results as they flowed in

patronising or dishonest.

from our 37 judges in May, a few

This line of argument is generally

pleasing patterns emerged.

espoused by merchants and journalists

I was happy, of course, that our judges

who claim to fill their shelves, articles or

seemed to share my opinion on some of my

social media feeds exclusively with wines

favourite indie wines and that they ranked

they would be happy to drink, and who are

them accordingly.

genuinely baffled by the notion that anyone

And I was impressed, as I am each

could sell or recommend something they

year, by some of their turns of phrase:

would never dream of drinking themselves.

sometimes funny, sometimes acerbic,

It’s a position with which I have some

but always more incisive and imaginative

sympathy, not least because I think

than we have any right to expect these

it’s extremely difficult knowing where

essentially functional bits of prose, all

personal stylistic predisposition ends, and

composed at speed and on the hoof, to be.

objectively “bad” winemaking begins.

It also occurred to me – as I read yet

another note for a high-scoring wine

that began with something like “not for me, but …” or “not really my style, but

The best example I can think of here is

Red light is probably a bad idea

…” – how well our judges deal with a

challenge common to all competitions and tasting exercises that aspire to some level of objectivity. They all seemed to have

mastered that most difficult of distinctions, the difference between what we like and what we think is “good”.

This is an area where wine-tasting – an

aspect of our professional lives that most

Confronted with a flight of wines that are

just not our thing, we must force ourselves to look beyond our prejudice, past our

mild distaste and boredom, and imagine ourselves with someone else’s palate.

There is a school of thought that would

say the act of empathy required to give a

chore.

productive – a form of second-guessing

spend our working days – can become a

“Parkerised”, “spoofy” and “modernist”:

the maximally ripe, super-toastily oaked,

generally high-alcohol style that swept the

people outside the trade think is an almost laughably easy and pleasurable way to

the style variously called “international”,

seal of approval to a wine we don’t enjoy, is, if not impossible, then certainly counter-

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 20

winemaking world in the 1990s and 2000s. It’s a style that has fallen from favour

over the past decade, certainly in the trade, and one for which I personally have little time. I would rather winemakers took

different decisions – indeed and at some level I feel they are making the wrong

decisions – if they are ending up with

wines that are thickly rich, glossy and heady with alcohol.

But, even if it takes a certain effort

of will (one that I wouldn’t bother to


make when I’m choosing what to drink

at home), I don’t think it’s disingenuous

to try and understand why others might

have different views on the style. This is a

school of winemaking – a genre if you like

– that has its own aesthetic standards. It’s

perfectly possible, once you’ve taken those standards on board, to see which wines within that school succeed.

A

ny taster worth their salt should, in other words, be able to pick out “good” examples of the

international style – wines that stand out

in some way or transcend their recipe – as well as identifying wines that fail on the

style’s own terms: wines that are no more than their clunky disconnected parts.

Even the most natural-oriented palate can spot the difference between, on one side, the Bordeaux de-luxe offered by arch-

Bordeaux garagistes such as Le Dôme,

and the flagrantly confected stickiness of

rating website Letterboxd, for example, has

the tyranny of the popular. There’s no need

people to admit that a film they admire left

Gallo’s Apothic.

This has nothing to do with giving into

to follow the deranging logic that says

that something is good purely because a lot of people like it. It’s just a matter of

accepting that there are other aesthetic

frameworks available, however imperfect your understanding of them may be.

It’s a notion that is widely accepted in

other fields where critical judgements come into play. We are perfectly

comfortable accepting that a Marvel

blockbuster is looking to do something

different to a Joanna Hogg-style art film (even if they feature some of the same

actors); and we don’t really judge our local chippie on the same scale as a Michelin starred restaurant.

The idea of disentangling liking from a

more coolly objective critical judgement is similarly widely understood. The cinema

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 21

space for both a score out of five stars, and a separate “like” button, all the better for

them cold – or to enshrine the notion of the enjoyable bad film, aka the guilty pleasure. The latter, of course, is another pitfall

with wine judging: we all have faults that we can be too kind about. My own tendency is

to be too lenient with lean claret, and other green Cabernet-based wines, which hit a very particular spot filled with nostalgic feelings for cheap French supermarket wines on camping holidays.

It would be foolish to think we can

override responses so deeply embedded

as this entirely. But if our favourite wines are always going to fit right in the centre of the Venn diagram where the circles of

“personal taste” and “objectively excellent”

cross over, the best judges are capable of at least trying to understand how the other half taste.


Rising Stars

Daniel Read New Forest Wines, Ringwood

‘I’ll be forever grateful to Graham for having trust in a complete novice’

A

fter being diagnosed with cancer, Graham Sims at New Forest Wines decided to take a step back from his business. He says he was lucky to have put his trust in Daniel, who he employed last April specifically to run the show. Far from being experienced in the trade, Daniel had recently left his well-paid role in the NHS to pursue a career in wine, but as he’d already undertaken some unpaid vineyard work and studied for WSET, Graham recognised his potential. “He was really throwing his all into it,” he says. “I’ve held on to the business, but I’ve been working from home the majority of the time. I’ve started off with the basics and gradually got him up to speed on how to run a shop and he’s been great. The customers absolutely love him and he’s getting on with the wholesale. “He’s done absolutely fantastically in a year. It’s been great for both of us. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better, to be honest. I’ve been very lucky. I can trust him and so it’s all worked out very well for me as well.” Daniel, who is now in the process of raising the funds to buy the business from Graham, says: “I spent the previous 10 years working for the NHS in data analysis and I was becoming a little bit disillusioned by it all. I think it was in the first lockdown when people were contemplating where they were in life. I decided I’d rather do something I’m interested in rather than something that was just going to pay the bills.” A move to Dorset prompted Daniel to leave his job and the search began for an opening in the wine trade. He visited several wine shops and, three months after dropping his CV off at New Forest Wines, Graham got in touch. “I’ve been running the shop with Graham’s help ever since,” he says. “It was a bit of a shock to the system, but a good one. It’s meant that I have had first-hand experience of everything there is to know about running a wine merchant’s. “I think Graham could see that I was keen to roll my sleeves up and do everything possible to help keep the shop running while he was away, but I’ll be forever grateful to him for having that trust in a complete novice.”

D

aniel says there are definitely aspects of his previous career in data analysis that have come in handy, especially when it comes to stocktaking and pricing. “Mathematics is always in the background,” he says. He has tentative plans for developing the business. “I wouldn’t want to make any changes straight away,” he says, “but gradually I would like to set up an online shop because at the moment there isn’t one. “This year we have seen a slight drop in sales because of the horrendous road works enveloping Ringwood – even Waitrose is down about 35%. “Having that ability for people to select wines online will be very important and I certainly see potential there. I was also thinking of the hybrid model, so people can come in and have a glass of wine. But I’ll keep the core business as Graham set it up.”

Daniel wins a bottle of Artadi La Hoya Single Plot Wine If you’d like to nominate a Rising Star, email claire@winemerchantmag.com

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 22


Marco makes his mark

Viña Dagaz wines express not only the character of some enviable Chilean terroir, but the restless experimentation of winemaker Marco Puyó. Sarah McCleery attends a dinner hosted by importer Condor Wines and Tim Atkin MW, where the range proves a big hit with guests

M

arco Puyó and the wines of Viña Dagaz are, according to Tim Atkin MW, the embodiment of “New Chile”: boutique, independent and experimental. Puyó’s CV is barrique-deep in Chilean winemaking. He worked at Rothschild’s Chilean Viña Los Vascos and was latterly director of winemaking at Viña San Pedro. Not only did he hone evident oenological skills in these roles, he also was ideally placed to find a terroir special enough to call his own. Planting of the 39-hectare Pumanque vineyard began in 2006. Located 21 miles from the Pacific Ocean, at 238 metres above sea level, its granitic soils held huge appeal for Puyó. “These soils are deep and we have quartz stone here too … it makes very elegant wines that are also very fresh,” he says. Between 2006 and 2015, Puyó continued his work at San Pedro and, to all intents and purposes, used Pumanque as a wonderful viticultural and vinification playground. From 2009, experimentation was the name of the game. What varieties, on which rootstocks, worked best, and where? Which vinification vessels were best for which

varieties? He has cement, eggs, foudres and oak barrels to choose from. The majority of the grapes were sold on, but he made and bottled a selection of wines and had the good sense to pull together a library of this Willy Wonka period, to assess how the wines progress over time.

I

n 2015, Viña Dagaz (meaning the beginning of a new path) was founded by Puyó and Patricio Gomez-Barris. The first wine served is from a rented vineyard in Secano Interior: Coelemu in the Itata Valley. The attraction with this vineyard is the 40-year-old Carignan bush vines which are planted in granite and quartz soils. Fermented and aged in concrete eggs, Guarilighue Estate Itatino Cinsault 2020 (RRP £18.99) is a joy from start to finish. It is bristling with floral, blueberry and cherry fruits. The palate is bright and full of energy, the finish a tiny touch savoury. Now it’s Colchagua all the way. Cuvée El Camino 2020 is a steal at the RRP of £13.99. A very polished, fruit-forward Cabernet Sauvignon (70%) and Carmènere blend, it’s the first vintage of the wine and it has hit written on every drop.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 23

Puyó and Atkin make repeated references to the elegance that the granitic soils impart to these wines. It is evident in the Estate Carmenère 2018 (RRP £18.79) but most strikingly so in the Kolwe Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (RRP £29.99). It is rare to taste a pure Cab Sav as supple, graceful and fresh as this is, the tannins meltingly smooth. The wine spends 18 months in medium-toast foudres. We finish with both the 2018 and 2019 Tierras de Pumanque (RRP £36.99) – Dagaz’s flagship red. There are subtle differences in the blend, but Cabernet Sauvignon is broadly two-thirds of the mix with Petit Verdot, Syrah and Carmenère making up the rest. The consensus is that the 2019 is the finer of the two, with its smoky, red fruited, grilled mushroom and spice. With its impressive grip and structure, Tierra de Pumanque is the wine that Puyó dreamt of making and it cements his credentials as one of the finest winemakers in Chile. Feature sponsored by Condor Wines. For more information about Viña Dagaz, or for samples, email orders@condorwines.co.uk


ARGENTINA’S LEADING ORGANIC WINE The Argento project was groundbreaking when it launched in 1999. Now, under new ownership, the range has been reimagined by a young team focused on organic wines with Fairtrade credentials, expressing the personality of ever-smaller parcels of land. Feature produced in association with Bodega Argento

A

generation ago, Argento launched in the UK with the aim of showing consumers the elegant, fruit-driven wines that were emerging from Argentina. The brand helped establish the country as a serious international player, and many of today’s Argentine success stories owe a debt of gratitude to Argento’s trailblazing work. Fast forward to 2022 and Argento has morphed, under new ownership, from a mainstream grocery label to Argentina’s leading organic wine producer, with Fairtrade accreditation in all its vineyards and a commitment to sustainable practices. These are wines channelled, via Walker & Wodehouse, at the independent trade. Chief winemaker Juan Pablo Murgia presented a selection of his range – not all currently available in the UK – to a group of indies at a tasting and lunch event organised in partnership with The Wine Merchant. “After 20 years, the project really changed,” says Murgia. “Now we are talking about a complete portfolio with different levels, starting at whites in the mid-tier all the way up to single-terroir icon wines. So it’s a completely new story. “To achieve that we have gone through a lot, including the development of five vineyards. It’s not only about the wines, it’s about the philosophy.”

Esquinas de Argento Organic Pinot Grigio 2021, Lujan de Cuyo, RRP £11

Pinot Grigio is

something of a blank canvas and Murgia was determined to create a wine with genuine personality. “Argento is the largest Pinot Grigio producer in Argentina right now,” Murgia says. “But we didn’t have an organic Pinot Grigio, so we decided to develop our own vineyard in 2015. We planted 25ha and in 2021 we could certify it as organic. “The results are very different from the conventional Pinot Grigio. It’s from a warm place – the lower-altitude vineyard helps Pinot Grigio develop fruity and tropical notes as well as good acidity.” Zoran Ristanovic of City Wine Collection in Richmond, west London, would prefer the wine in a green bottle, but was impressed by the contents. “It’s exceptional within the concept of what it is,” he says. “It’s a wine that brings a smile to your face straight away. It’s a perfect glass of wine. What more do you want from an aperitif wine when the sun is shining?”

Artesano de Argento Organic Fairtrade White Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo (Agrelo), RRP £9-£10

The largest organic vineyard in Argentina provides the fruit for this intriguing white Malbec. “We have 230ha divided into 75 blocks and there are different textures of soil,” explains Murgia. “This vineyard is almost at the foot of the Andes at 1,015m above sea level and it has a very strong influence from the Andes. “This wine is from the lower part of the vineyard where the vines have more vigour and production, and we found that it was perfect to make rosé and white Malbec.” The fruit is picked when acidity is still

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 24

high and pressed carefully to avoid colour extraction. “It’s an interesting wine with a lot of character,” says Riaz Syed of Stonewines in Barnet. “The possibility for marketing white Malbec is definitely there. This could really come into its own with food.”

Argento Organic Fairtrade Rosé 2021, Lujan de Cuyo, RRP £11.50

The tasting showcased the versatility of Malbec and this beautifully balanced rosé testifies to its versatility, in the right hands. With its intense red berry aromas and cherry notes on the palate, it’s not lacking the fruitiness that many consumers enjoy, but there’s a lively, fresh acidity too.

Argento Estate Reserve Organic Fairtrade Malbec 2020, Lujan de Cuyo (Agrelo), RRP £12.80

Forensic analysis of the Agrelo soil identified the profound difference that exists between blocks. “In the lower part we have soils that are dominated by clay and lime and more organic materials,” says Murgia. “The rootstock we select for each block is adapted to a particular type of soil. “When you start to go up you find all the alluvial influence; some of the rocks have calcium carbonate, which has an effect on the wine’s profile.” This wine comes from the middle section of the vineyard, and has more defined tannins and a more red-fruit profile than you’d find further down.

Argento Estate Reserve Organic Fairtrade Cabernet Franc 2020, Lujan de Cuyo (Agrelo), RRP £12.80

“Mendoza is a beautiful place for Cabernet Franc and for me Agrelo is one of the top


E PRODUCER

places for it,” says Murgia. “We have an exclusive vineyard for Cabernet Franc in this high-altitude region. Cabernet Franc in Argentina can develop a very special and complex character with its spiciness but at the same time red fruit and very soft and juicy tannins. “You have a wide option of styles: you can pick very early and go green pepper or you can go overripe and avoid those pyrazines or you can be in the middle, which is where we want to be. It’s not overripe, it has energy and freshness with red pepper and paprika.” Gabor Juhasz of Shepherd Market Wine House in London describes this as a good date-night wine, with appeal for male and female drinkers alike. It was also a standout wine for Julia Jenkins of Flagship Wines in St Albans. “It’s a commercial proposition without being too commercial in style,” she says. “It doesn’t have the easy, sweet notes. It has nice varietal character.”

Argento Single Vineyard Altamira Organic Malbec San Carlos 2019 (Paraje Altamira), RRP £16-£17 “Some of the best Argentinian wine comes from Altamira,” says Murgia. “This is a 20ha vineyard focused on high-end wines. We did deep research and after studying the different soils we separated it into 12 blocks. “Paraje Altamoira is about red fruit. The wine is very fresh, very delicate and elegant; with the violet aromas that are so specific to Malbec.” The wine is aged in large oak tonneaux to help preserve its subtlety and complexity. “I think the wine is in a good moment

Juan Pablo Murgia

right now but it’s going to gain complexity with time,” says Murgia. Julia Jenkins agrees. “I think it’s got lots of potential – everything is in balance, the fruit and the tannins,” she says. “It feels like it comes from much further south because of the extra freshness, but I suppose the 150 extra metres of altitude makes it taste much fresher,” adds Zoran Ristanovic.

Argento Single Block Organic Malbec 2019 San Carlos (Altamira), RRP £22

The fruit comes not just from a single block within the vineyard, but subdivisions within that block, which were identified with the help of a geologist. This is a micro-terroir wine that proved the most popular among the group.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 25

“It’s not a darker wine – it’s a more delicate and more complex wine,” says Murgia. “It has this graphite and floral profile; it’s less red fruit, it’s more complexity. We really like this wine. The violet profile is very high.” Gabor Juhasz says consumers are happy to go on a journey with Malbec and this wine could potentially be a useful stepping stone. “I like to put different priced Malbecs on the shelf,” he says. “Yes, Malbec can be a safety choice, but there is more to discover. “People know the wine so they feel safe to spend more on specific bottles, which is good.”


A New York state of wi

The wine scene in New York State is booming, with talented producers exporting some world-class interpretations of Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc ... and even unlikley varieties like Saperavi. Vines at Keuka Lake

Our recent Zoom tasting, in partnership with the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, introduced a group of independents to some of the wines that are already available to UK merchants.

I

t’s fair to say the wines of New York State are certainly a little bit under the radar, but a Zoom tasting of its

wines for Wine Merchant readers, led by

native New Yorker and wine educator Dan Belmont, helped to bring them more into focus.

“Everybody’s small in New York in

comparison to California,” Belmont

conceded. “It’s like apples to oranges. But

almost every New York producer is familyowned and operated, and we’re in 30 countries worldwide.”

New York is actually third in the table

“Just in Long Island alone, you can go

along the spine of the north fork, with

water a stone’s throw on each side, and

within 10 miles you can taste 40 different grape varieties.”

Bodies of water play a significant part

in the story of New York wine, with the Atlantic and numerous lakes providing cooling conditions to help moderate

summer heat in its each of its regions.

The tasting featured a trio of Rieslings

from one of these, Finger Lakes, a region

centred around a cluster of 11 glacial lakes. Red Newt Dry Riesling 2017 (RRP £29,

of wine producing US states, and its wine

Wine Treasury) comes from a producer

1950s and 1960s, when many immigrant

these glacial lakes is undeniable,” said

industry dates back to the 19th century.

But things didn’t really crank up until the families from European wine lands

recognised the state’s viticultural potential. A big game-changer was the New York

State Farm Winery Act of 1976.

“That lowered the bar financially

and legally to opening a winery,” said

Belmont. “At the time there were about 16 producers; now there are almost 500.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 26

located close to the shore of Seneca Lake. “The temperature moderating role of

Belmont. “There is no shortage of wines with residual sugar produced in Finger

Lakes, but the standouts are the dry wines.” Red Newt hit the spot with retailers.

“This is a must-try for a Riesling lover and

I can see this being an easy sell,” said Chloe Malone of Champion Wines in Chislehurst. Camilla Wood at Somerset Wine Co


ine Kelby Russell, Red Newt

thought it was “lime-zesty and rich, with

tasting, in both rosé and red form.

(RRP £35.99, Top Selection) is from

Wines) comes from the south fork of

loads of energy”.

Nathan Kendall Dry Riesling 2019

an eponymous range launched by the

winemaker for Hickory Hollow on the western side of Seneca Lake.

Belmont said: “He’s a Finger Lakes local

but, like many New York winemakers,

has travelled extensively. He worked in Australia and California, always with

the intention to come back to show his expression of Finger Lakes terroir. The talent the region attracts is incredibly exciting.”

Graham Sims at New Forest Wines in

Ringwood is a fan, describing it as a “lime explosion” and demanding “where’s my Thai lunch?”.

Osmote Seneca Lake Riesling 2019

(RRP £26, WoodWinters) showed the

influence of using old, large format barrels, leading, Belmont said, to “a softer quality

on the nose coming through and a creamy mid-palate”.

It was the favourite Riesling of Riaz Syed

of Stonewines in north London who found

it “expressive on the nose, [with] grapefruit and green apple”.

Aimee Davies, of Aimee’s Wine House in

Bristol, liked the Osmote’s “great nutty and rich ripe fruits” but added: “All three are amazing.”

Cabernet Franc was also a feature of the

Channing Daughters Rosato Cabernet

Franc 2021 (RRP £17.50, Wanderlust

Long Island, the area best known as the Hamptons.

“Real estate is incredibly expensive

but the vibes out there are fun – beach, barbecue and food – so big rosé

programmes are popular,” said Belmont.

Nathan Kendall

“Channing Daughters make several rosés a year and goes for single varietals.”

In the region generally, Belmont said,

“when they’re made with Saperavi you’ll end up with a darker colour but most of them are at the paler end”.

The red was Lamoreaux Landing T23

Cabernet Franc 2020 (RRP £19, Daniel

Lambert Wines), an unoaked wine that is

Ben Riccardi, Osmote

relatively light in alcohol, at 12.7%. “We don’t generally make 14%

wines,” said Belmont. “We’re looking for approachability and drinkability.”

T23 comes from a producer focused on

sustainability, again based near Seneca Lake. Belmont added: “Cabernet Franc is the

flagship variety of New York State. It’s

James Christopher Tracy Channing Daughters

vinified in premium ways across all the main regions.

“My favourite ones don’t overdo the

capsicum note at the end. Instead they just Continues overleaf

Everybody’s small in New York compared to California. Almost every producer is familyowned and operated THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 27

Josh Wig, Lamoreaux

Julia Hoyle, Hosmer


MERCHANT FEEDBACK Shane Slater Sheldons Wine Cellar Shipston on Stour

“I thought Dan was excellent as a host explaining the wine regions of the state and the regional variations of geography, geology and grape varieties. We don’t stock any wines from New York State but will think about how we can squeeze some onto our shelves.”

Camilla Wood Somerset Wine Company Castle Cary

“It was a very interesting tasting and I would be keen to order as we loved the Red Newt Riesling and Cabernet Franc.” Rob Hoult Hoults, Huddersfield “The tasting was really interesting particularly as I only had limited knowledge of New York and the Finger Lakes, so it was really helpful and we will definitely look at the wines from that area a lot more. The opportunity to taste wines from the region has never once arisen in my nearly 30 years in the trade – which either says something about the availability and exposure of the wines, or the parochial and occasionally backwoods nature of the Yorkshire wine scene.” Riaz Syed Stonewines, Barnet “It was an excellent tasting. It’s been a good few years since I last saw anything from the region, so I was looking forward to a progress report. We know about California, but less so New York State – what challenges they have faced with recent vintages, emerging trends or specialisms that we’ve missed.”

Vineyards at the Finger Lakes

kind of whisper it: ‘I’m Cab Franc and

I’m pretty awesome’.”

Graham Sims at New Forest Wines said it

was “much smoother that I was expecting on the palate, especially with the cool

climate,” and added: “Forget the Thai, the main duck course is on the way.”

Deiniol ap Dafydd, of Blas ar Fwyd in

Llanrwst, “loved the signature style of Cab

Franc and those deep flavours on the length”. Chardonnay is another “incredibly

versatile grape for all the New York

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 28

regions”, said Belmont, introducing

Hosmer Chardonnay 2019 (RRP £26, Vineyard Cellars). “Hosmer has a big

focus on soil health and quality vineyard practices.”

The Chardonnay was another hit with

our retailers. Aimee Davies said it was “dry, very rounded with a smooth finish – very fresh and clean”, and might have been

summarising the overall vibe of the tasting: “It wasn’t what I was expecting; pleasantly surprised.”


. T H E D R AY M A N .

A singular contribution to brewing John Bryan’s fascination with one variety of hop helped changed the landscape in the UK beer industry

A

bona fide British brewing legend retired last month.

aroma, bitterness and fruit flavours.

John Bryan, head brewer of Peterborough-based

Beers like Oakham Citra and the availability of more new

Oakham Ales, has hung up his mixing paddle for the

world hops in the UK changed that mindset, providing bigger and bolder flavours, but also inspiration and confidence. The

last time after 26 years. It’s not stretching things too far to suggest that Bryan helped

change the course of brewing history in the UK when he visited the US in 2009 and stumbled on a new hop strain that was then

role of hops shifted from a seasoning support act to the headline spot. Now, single-hop beers are legion. In south west England alone, there are several leading craft brewers who’ve delved

only into its third harvest. Bryan snapped up a bundle of the powerful citrus and tropical

deep. Bristol Beer Factory has produced series of one-off single

fruit-flavoured Citra with the intention of making a powerful

hop beers that variously showcased the attributes of Amarillo,

IPA, in keeping with the dominant taste trend of the time. The

Calypso and Chinook, among others. Optimist from the series

variety had been bred as a cross between the British hop East

lives on as a permanent member of its core range, a pale ale made

Kent Goldings and the US variety Tettnang to capture both

with Mosaic – another youthful US variety, dating only from

bitterness, from the former’s alpha acids, and aromatic citrus

2012, that delivers bitter intensity, mango-like tropical fruit and

notes, from the latter.

a hint of bubblegum.

Because of the limited amounts Bryan was able to buy, he ended up making a more modest 4.2% abv beer. It mattered not; the variety’s dual-edged power delivered a mouth-watering,

Also in Bristol, Arbor Ales makes numerous single-hop beers including one with the earthy, piney citrus of Simcoe. Down the road in Somerset, Quantock Brewery produced a whole series of single-hop beers last year and is following up with

zesty and, perhaps most importantly, moreish ale. Just a little over a decade later and Oakham Citra IPA is a

a dozen more in 2022. Its Obsessed With … range has included

modern classic. The beer accelerated the thirst for US hops

Eukanot, Centennial and Sorachi Ace, a Japanese hop bred by

among British brewers, pushed forward the interest in hop-

Sapporo for its lagers in the 1980s, which has characteristic

forward beers generally, and acted as an unwitting catalyst for

flavours of lemon and dill, with Quantock’s bringing in a hint

the production of more single-hop beers.

of coconut.

Though they weren’t unknown, even as recently as the start of

Cornwall’s Verdant Fruit Car Sight Exhibition is an 8% double

the 2010s single-variety beers were relatively uncommon. The

IPA, another Citra beer that delivers all the zest and vigour of

prevailing wisdom was that a blend offered more scope, with

Bryan’s original creation, and, at last, at the punchy alcohol level

different varieties providing the opportunity to tweak levels of

he originally envisioned.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 29


Russell Buchanan has a lot of trade experience, but limited space. So everything on his shelves at Pop Wines in Glasgow is there because he enjoys it, not simply because he feels it’s something customers or suppliers would expect. By Richard Ross

Liz Coombes and Simon Hill, Salisbury, April 2022

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 30


MERCHANT PROFILE: POP WINES

‘I focus on wines I like’

O

ne thing that sets the best indie wine shops apart from the

supermarkets is the role of gut

instinct in the buying process. Compare the mental image of the multiple buyer armed

with spreadsheets and tick-boxes with that of the stand-alone business owner making selections based on an intuitive feeling for

what’s going to get their customers excited. Russell Buchanan is very much in this

The shop’s snappy name was inspired by

that of his daughter, Poppy, and – naturally

– the noise of a cork coming out of a bottle. “I wanted something that was easy to

remember and I didn’t want anything too

What prompted you to start the

don’t think I was ready for that.”

around the world, but I don’t say that I

circumstances changed when I moved back

It was something I wanted to do for a long

need to have a certain amount from any

to Glasgow from Spain for family reasons

Broomhill district of Glasgow, on the north bank of the Clyde, in 2019.

He’d been working in trade for most of

his career, first on the supply side with

What was your vision for the business?

wanted to use suppliers and producers that

spray-painting the front of the shop, but I

“There’s no formula for it whatsoever. I

Buchanan opened Pop Wines, in the

couple of staff.

I always wanted it to be good value and a

business?

one place.”

grown since I started it and now I do have a

convoluted or pretentious. We did consider

camp. “I focus on wines that I like,” he says. try to have a fair representation from all

I could do myself. But the business has

time, but it seemed like a flight of fancy. My and I was looking for something that I

could do, maybe a bit of a passion project where I wouldn’t have to rely on staff

or other people – essentially something

well-curated selection of wines that would not necessarily be available everywhere. I I’d worked with in the past. The location

of the shop made sense too, but everything comes back to value for money, something a wee bit different, and a more personal

approach. It’s not a big shop, so the idea was to talk to people about the wines. What’s your typical customer like? Very varied. We have a lot of local

customers and we do sell a lot online as

well, so it’s hard to tell. Our most regular

customers tend to be looking for something really nice for Friday and Saturday night

Matthew Clark and Hallgarten, before

dinners. When the summer comes along I

opening a couple of bars in the city.

always make sure the fridge is stocked as

He then owned a restaurant in Barcelona

people come in to buy wine to have with

for five years before returning to Glasgow

their barbecues.

and opening Pop.

Just four months later the pandemic hit,

This part of town has a tradition of being

forcing a quick swivel to set up a website.

fairly booze-free.

“E-commerce was going to be the next

Yes, our licence is quite unusual in Glasgow.

stage of the business anyway,” he says, “but

Most off-licences operate until 10pm but

it forced my hand to do it sooner – maybe

ours is only until 7pm. It’s historically a

a year or two earlier – than I’d originally

wanted to. It saved the business, there’s no

Continues page 32

question about it.”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 31


MERCHANT PROFILE

From page 31

dry area. There are a few reasons but I

think the main one is the proximity of the hospital. The NHS were objecting quite

often to the renewal of licences but times are changing now.

It’s not an area with a lot of young

people, and most of the time I think it

becomes a wee bit quieter around about

5pm or 6pm, with the exception of Fridays and Saturdays. I suppose I could do with a little bit of extra time.

What would you say are your specialist areas? It really is wines I like, so it’s a very

personal thing and there’s nobody telling me what to do. The cost of living being

what it is, I have to be able to justify what

‘After an uneven beginning, it will be quite interesting to have an uninterrupted year’

I’m charging for every bottle on the shelf. Whether it’s a Verdelho from Spain, or

Burgundy or Bordeaux, it has to be value for money.

Cheap doesn’t come into it; it’s about

value. It’s a good way to build repeat

custom, because people trust that you

Do you look for any particular style or

good.

Not necessarily. We’ve got some tiny

know what you’re doing and they come

back. They know that the wine you sell is

Do you look for any particular style Pop Wines or approach to winemaking

in the wines you source in any way?

Not necessarily. We’ve got some tiny

producers and larger producers. I’m not a big advocate of natural wine; it just

has to be first and foremost a good wine. More and more producers are taking a

minimalist approach, which is great, but

I’m not going to start doing natural wine

just for the sake of it. Some are great, and some are not so great and some can be very expensive.

We do change things up according to

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 32

approach to winemaking in the wines you source in any way? producers and larger producers. I’m not a big advocate of natural wine; it just

has to be first and foremost a good wine. More and more producers are taking a

minimalist approach, which is great, but

I’m not going to start doing natural wine

just for the sake of it. Some are great, and some are not so great and some can be very expensive.

We do change things up according to

the time of year and what I think will sell.

In Scotland in the summer we try to focus on lighter reds, and rosé obviously gets popular. Good quality sparkling wines,

not necessarily Champagne, have become really popular.

Which are your main suppliers? I work with quite a few including


POP WINES

Hallgarten, Berkmann, Graft and Hatch. We try to keep it relatively tight, but basically

we’re happy to work with wine importers

who can bring something interesting to the table.

We have the beer side of things too. We

have some cider and a few bits and pieces in snacks. This used to be a deli, but it’s never been my ambition to throw away

lots of profit every week. I stick to things

like crisps, olives and charcuterie – things

people can pick up to complement a bottle of wine on their way home.

You opened in late 2019, so it was quite a short time before things went wobbly. It was just myself and I had to think on my feet. I’d spent a lot of money filling the shelves when I opened, and it was

just before Christmas, so sales were brisk. Things were inevitably quieter in January and February, and to get that news in March, it gave us a bit of a problem.

We were technically allowed to stay

open but I didn’t want to be the reason that people were out and about. At that time it

was extremely serious. We decided to close the business and I went and locked myself

in a darkened room for a few days and built a website, which I’d never done before. It opened us up to a lot of new

customers. People were buying six bottles

at a time, which they wouldn’t have done if they were just passing.

Russell Buchanan is happy to consolidate what’s already been achieved

be an online-only business.

here, so that’s really for the future. At

the delivery service.

About £250,000 this year. Margin wise we

been an uneven beginning to the business,

Yes, pretty much. I am finding that people

can. There were some good offers to be had

From a PR perspective it worked well,

as we were seen as a bit of a saviour to an extent. People were very appreciative of

Have you held on to those customers? who were ordering online are now coming in and introducing themselves and saying “you helped me through lockdown”.

It’s good that people are coming back

into the shop, as it was never intended to

What’s your annual turnover? are at 30%–35% and obviously we try to

take advantage of supplier offers where we during lockdown.

What does the future hold? I’d potentially like to do a bit of on-trade again, but we can’t have drinking in

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 33

the moment, certainly for the rest of this

year, I want to consolidate. Obviously, it’s so it will be quite interesting to have an uninterrupted year.

I’d like to expand the online side of

things and I’d like to import a bit of wine myself, but after Brexit that has become

a bit more difficult. The [proposed] duty changes and so on have tempered my appetite for it a little bit.

The Newington Green store has “a nice kitchen vibe”


THE VERDICT Emily Silva The Oxford Wine Company

Joe Whittick Whitmore & White Heswall

Hannah Ford StarmoreBoss Sheffield

Philip Amps Amps Wine Oundle

Dean Harper HarperWells Norwich

Nic Rezzouk Reserve Wines Manchester

Our panel of independent merchants tasted a selection of DAOU wines from the portfolio of C&C Wines. Founded by brothers Georges and Daniel Daou in 2009, DAOU Family Estates was created with the vision to make California “first growth” wine. Located in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles, DAOU Mountain provides the terroir to achieve this. The estate was named a “jewel of ecological elements” by the father of modern American winemaking, André Tchelistcheff, and was recently nominated for Wine Enthusiast’s American Winery of the Year. For more information, visit carsoncarnevalewines.com, or call 0203 261 0929 If you are interested in tasting these wines please contact Jon Carson: j.carson@carsoncarnevalewines.com

DAOU Chardonnay 2020

DAOU Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

“Rounded and full with a little sweet vanilla and coconut but plenty of tropical fruit. Exactly what you want in a young California Chardonnay, with a fresh, fruity finish that leaves you wanting another sip.” – Hannah Ford

“A classy glass of American Cab. Lovely dark fruits with structure to balance the wine. Very drinkable.” – Philip Amps

RRP £23.99

RRP £27.99

“A lovely wine that oozes Californian Chardonnay character. Silky smooth with a long, superb finish and wonderful zesty fruit.” – Dean Harper

“A powerful, sophisticated wine with an abundance of boozy cherries, bramble fruit, wet earth, cedar and oak, a touch of mintiness and eucalyptus, green bell pepper, peat smoke, liquorice … there’s plenty to unpick.” – Hannah Ford

DAOU Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

DAOU Reserve Chardonnay 2019

RRP £59.99

RRP £44.99

“Spot on. Really complex. I had it over three nights and it’s definitely a keeper.” – Nic Rezzouk “The nose is rich, creamy and buttery, with some honey, citrus and butterscotch notes. The palate is nicely balanced, with integrated oak influences, butterscotch and citrus notes on the lengthy finish. A quality barrel-fermented Chardonnay.” – Joe Whittick

DAOU Rosé 2019

“Loved the wine. Superb complexity which was discernible even if the wine was maybe slightly young. Gorgeous tannin; very smooth. Deep, dark and rich, with full flavour of fruit but not over-blown. Great use of oak. It tastes incredibly well made.” – Dean Harper “Both the Cabernets are very precise, with good complexity and freshness, the oak very well judged, and both age-worthy. Considering they’re California wines I think the value is really good.” – Nic Rezzouk

The Pessimist by DAOU 2018

RRP £27.99

RRP £26.99

“A moreish rosé whose flavour belies its pale colour. Full of summer fruit flavours.” – Dean Harper “Fruit-driven yet elegant, with presentation that would just walk off the shelf.” – Emily Silva “Nice and fresh, with dry peach and watermelon, and some minerality. Packaging is contemporary and stylish.” – Joe Whittick

“Gorgeous flavours throughout the taste profile. Superb both with and without food. Excellent fruit and a bit of spice on the end. Smooth tannins; very approachable.” – Dean Harper “The undoubted star. Delicious and opulent with a lifted nose of dark fruits, and a hint of herbs. There was a fight to take this one home, which I won, and served it with loin of venison. Perfect.” – Philip Amps

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 34


THE WINEMAKER FILES //

Nuno Falcão Rodrigues

Casal da Coelheira, Tejo wine region Traditionally the old Portuguese vineyards made field blends and so there wasn’t the chance to taste a single-variety wine to understand the real potential of Portuguese grapes. So at first we grew what we knew: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Syrah. Since then we have increased our understanding of our native varieties and now we work with those. Alongside the investment in the vineyard we have also modernised the winery. It was, and still is, a very nice traditional winery with concrete tanks, but we added a cooling system and we’ve updated the pressing machines, among other things.

When I finished my agricultural studies I dedicated my time to the winery. In 1997 I made my first wine completely alone, and that is when things started to be more difficult as all the responsibility was with me. Fortunately things went well, with several awards, which gave us some visibility.

We export about 60% of our production, but we are still a small winery. The property in total is 300ha but we have 50ha of vineyards and almost every year we are planting new vineyards and replanting others. Now we have about 70% Portuguese grapes. We are still focused on the whites; we have never given up on our traditional Fernão Pires. It’s a grape that was not

Terraços do Tejo White 2021 This a single-varietal Fernão Pires, one of the most typical grapes of Tejo region. We’re looking to make a wine that’s easy-drinking, fruity and quite refreshing. There’s a fresh aroma with citrus fruit and light vegetal notes. In the mouth there are clear apricot and plum characters.

very popular 10 or 20 years ago, but now we understand the diversity of wines we can make with it. If we treat it well in the vineyards we can make amazing wines. We have Arinto, and Verdelho, which is an important grape for us. We also still have Chardonnay. On the reds we have Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca – which maybe does not have the popularity of Touriga Nacional, but we usually make better wines with it. It’s quite a sensitive grape at the end of the ripening, and it’s very susceptible to early rains. As we are in quite a hot region, with very dry soils, we are able to pick the grapes quite early to avoid the end-of-summer rains. We have a lot of Alicante Bouschet, which gives us very good results. And we still have Cabernet and Syrah.

Our white wines are quite mineral and fresh. I think the sandy soil has an important impact on that. For the reds, they are quite bold and full-bodied, but still elegant and fresh. When I made my first steps in winemaking, experience was shared from one generation to another – habits and traditions that had no scientific explanation. Now, the region has a lot of winemakers who have travelled and have different experiences. I think we are more open-minded. By sharing the information with our neighbours and colleagues, we have helped the region to grow.

Casal da Coelheira Reserva Red 2019 This blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon is usually a safe bet when suggesting a wine to people I don’t already know. It’s probably our most universally popular wine: velvety, smooth and elegant, but also deep.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 35

Nuno comes from an agricultural family which entered the wine business in earnest when his parents bought a farm in the Tejo region of Portugal. Casal da Coelheira wines are represented in Wales by ND John Wines and the company is seeking distributors in other UK regions. More information at casaldacoelheira.pt

In the past it was not so easy because the region was known for bulk wine and high yields, but this is not the reality now and our image is changing. The quality of our wines has been recognised domestically and worldwide. We have so much diversity; we are able to produce very fresh white wines, full-bodied reds, traditional fortified wines and interesting sparkling wines. I think Tejo is going in the right direction.

Mythos Red 2020 The icon of our estate, produced with the same blend of grapes as the Reserva but from older blocks with significantly lower yields. This wine represents a picture of Casal da Coelheira and the terroir where the grapes are grown, from the concentration of the dry and deep sandy soils to the freshness of the cooling nights.


Lebanon plays to its strengths French traditions, small-scale production, altitude and diversity are four of the advantages enjoyed by Lebanese winemakers. Our recent online tasting of Chateau Ksara wines helped prove the point

T

here are four elements that make

Lebanese wine stand out, according to Michael Karam, the wine writer

and Lebanon expert.

First, it’s relatively small, in the grand

scheme of things; second, it has an affinity with France, the most celebrated of

winemaking nations; third, its vineyards

are, in most cases, at high altitude, making for fresher more elegant wines; and

last, it’s diverse, with 32 grape varieties currently cultivated, and more coming through.

“If the Lebanese can’t claim to be the

first people to make wine, we can definitely claim to be the first wine merchants,” Karam told a Zoom tasting for Wine

Merchant readers of wines from Château Ksara in the Bekaa Valley.

“Between 2000 BC and 300 BC, at the

height of the Phoenician trading empire,

the culture of wine was spread to the then known world.

“We only make 10 million bottles a year,

which is a microscopic amount compared

to the giants of Spain, Italy and France. We

Rhône varieties comprise “the first team”

Sauvignon Blanc, Clairette, and Muscat.

becoming more prevalent in whites.

heart and body,” says export director Elie

in red varieties, he adds, with indigenous varieties including Merwah and Obaideh Ksara co-owner George Sara adds

“identity” to Karam’s list of Lebanon’s USPs. He describes the French varieties imported from Algeria by Jesuit winemakers in the 19th century as the country’s “adoptive

children” which, together with Lebanon’s indigenous varieties, make up a palate of “heritage grapes”.

Ksara has taken inspiration from further

afield. “I don’t think people were interested in Greek wine until Assyrtiko came out,”

says Sara. “People could say the name and it was an international style that people wanted. That inspired us to dig into our archives and give ourselves an identity through our indigenous grapes.”

F

irst up in the tasting is Blanc de

l’Observatorie 2020 (RRP £11-

£12), a blend of 40% Obaideh, with

like that. We think small is beautiful.”

“Muscat gives the freshness in the wine

and Clairette and Obaideh present the Maamari.

The second white was the single varietal

Merwah 2020 (RRP £13-£15), made with

organically-grown grapes from 60-year-old vines at a height of 1,650 metres.

“Merwah is always the last variety

harvested because it is grown at such high altitude,” says Maamari. “It has a lot of

mineral character because the soil has a lot of stones.

“We used to think Mehwah was related

to Sémillon or Sauvignon Blanc but it has

been DNA-tested and we found there is no

connection. It’s native to Lebanon and gives the best expression of Lebanese terroir.” Sara adds: “After many years of

experimenting we decided Obaideh was more of a blender. We decided to make 100% Merwah because they are old

bush vines with a very low yield. We can

extract a lot of freshness but it also gives a nice fatty, oily structure that allows us to express it better as a single variety.”

Lebanon’s Francophone tradition was

Jim Dawson, of The Jolly Vintner Too in

established after the country was handed

Bournemouth, says: “I have not tried the

over to French control by the Allied victors

Merwah before and think it is superb –

after World War I.

different aromas and flavours.”

“The 50,000 civil servants and

Ashley Clarke, of The Secret Cellar in

soldiers who stayed until Lebanon

Kent, was also new to Merwah and found it

became independent in 1943 created

to have “a lovely freshness”.

Next up are two pinks: Gris de Gris

unprecedented demand for wine,” notes

2020 (RRP £12-£15), a blend of 60% old-

Karam.

“Our altitude is our ace card,” he adds.

vine Grenache Gris and 40% Carignan; and

Sunset Rosé 2020 (RRP £12-£13), a blend

“It’s what gives our wines their competitive edge.”

of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Syrah.

Diversity plays out in how Bordeaux and

Most of the 20,000-bottle production

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 36


run of the very pale pink Gris de Gris is

drunk overseas. “It’s appreciated on the

export market,” says Maamari. “We drink it a lot with fried fish as the acidity cuts

through the fat and gives a very interesting marriage.”

Of the Sunset Rosé, he adds: “Every year

we produce 300,000 bottles and every year we run out of stock. The colour is darker

than the Gris de Gris but the body is lighter. “It’s got red fruits, blackberries and a

touch of spice from the Syrah. It’s very easy drinking.”

Dawson at Jolly Vintner Too “enjoyed

them both” but thought the “Sunset has more bite”.

The unoaked red wine Le Prieuré

2018 (RRP £11-£12) is a blend of 40%

each Carignan and Mourvèdre, with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.

“The Mourvèdre gives an impression

of leather and black pepper; there’s

very nice fruit from the Carignan and a

slightly greenish side that comes from the Cabernet,” Maamari says.

The single varietal Carignan 2020

(RRP £12-£15) comes from the same old, low-yield Carignan vines used to provide

George Sara

grapes for the Gris de Gris. Again it is

unoaked, which leads, says Maamari, to

“velvety tannins, red and black fruits and a liquorice character”.

“It is delicious,” says Dawson. “Lovely

earthy black fruits and a soft ripe palate.”

Feature produced in partnership with Chateau Ksara Wines are imported by Berkmann Wine Cellars Find out more at berkmann.co.uk or chateauksara.com

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 37


COUNTRY FOCUS: ITALY

The village of Vernazza, in Liguria

A whistlestop tour of Italy David Williams covers the length and breadth of Italy’s boot, picking out a few favourite wines from leading UK suppliers to add spice and interest to independent ranges along the way

Trentino-Alto-Adige: A trio of top co-ops They may not always command the artisan glamour of the single small producer or

the heavily bankrolled gloss and marketing budgets of the best of the larger private companies. But co-operatives still very

much have their place in European wine

and, from north to south, Italy has its share of some of the best run of this socially conscious breed.

Few parts of the peninsula have quite

the same concentration of high-performing co-ops as the far north eastern regions of Trentino and Alto-Adige, however. This

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 38


But if the above are the wines that

provide the co-op’s 4,500 grape growers with their living, other parts of the

portfolio give the co-op its soul. The

premium tier of wines made from selected plots, often at high-altitude, offer quite

remarkable refinement for their circa-£20 RRPs. Its Rulendis Pinot Grigio, Maso

Toresella Chardonnay and Brusafer Pinot

Nero are some of the best-value Italian fine wines around.

Much the same can be said of the

offerings at star Alto-Adige co-ops Cantina

between them).

Both can trace their history back to the

1890s, and both are responsible for some

of Italy’s very best white wines, produced

from a typical Alto-Adige varietal mix that takes in the three Pinots (Bianco, Grigio

highest echelon of local production.

The Trentino co-op Cavit (UK agent

Boutinot) is rightly considered a model of enlightened modern winemaking,

skillfully mixing well-made, high-volume wines based on the region’s single most-

recognised variety, Pinot Grigio, with wellpriced indie favourites made from lesserknown local varieties such as Rotaliano,

Lagrein and Teroldego that the co-op has played a significant role in reviving.

gloriously tensile, shimmeringly complex and long-lived reflections of the region’s

beautiful but back-breakingly hard-to-work mountainous terroir.

The affordable side of FriuliVenezia-Giulia

sub-regions of Friuli are always there

Tramin’s 310 members have 260ha

without blushing to be part of the very

Blanc/Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc), are

members share 150ha of steeply terraced, often very high-altitude vineyards, and

least, some of their wines – can claim

Primo (both roughly 60/30/10 Pinot

To borrow from the language of football

significantly smaller scale (Terlano’s 100

is one place where co-ops – or, at the very

Terlaner and Terlaner Grande Cuvée

Terlano (Astrum) and Cantina Tramin

(Hallgarten & Novum Wines), albeit on a

spectacular, mountainous part of the world

5% in 2019) and Terlano’s top cuvées,

and Nero), Lagrein, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Single-varietal wines predominate,

but both co-ops have had success with white blends. Both Tramin’s Stoan

(Chardonnay 65%, Sauvignon Blanc

20%, Pinot Blanc 10%, Gewürztraminer

Co-operatives still have their place in European wine, and Italy has its share of some of the best run of this socially conscious breed THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 39

punditry, in any battle for best Italian

white-wine bragging rights, the various

or thereabouts. As the home of Gravner,

Radikon and the rest of the orange wine/ skin contact crew, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia is

arguably best known these days for being

hugely influential in shaping global trends in white winemaking.

But there is far more to white wine in the

region than the natural vanguard. Earlier

waves of winemakers, such as Schiopetto and Lis Neris, had drawn up a Friuli

trademark of pristine ripeness, with floral

tones and graceful acidity in their Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc, Ribolla Giala and Pinot

Grigio – characteristics that are still very much a part of the region’s attraction.

What have perhaps served the region

less well, certainly in the parsimonious

UK, are the prices: these are never going

to be sub-£10 or supermarket wines. But producers such as the very impressive

Friuli Colli Orientali estate Visintini (Lea

& Sandeman) are proving that you can get that fluent spring fruitiness at a price that

sits right in that independent sweet spot of around £15 a bottle.


COUNTRY FOCUS: ITALY

The rise of Barolo and Barbaresco has led to renewed interest in Nebbiolo from other sources

Veneto – Cà dei Maghi and the spirit of Allegrini One of the sadder stories to emerge from Italian wine this year was the death from

cancer, aged 65, of Valpolicella leading light Franco Allegrini.

The much-admired winemaker and

creative driving force of the eponymous family firm did more than most to raise

Langhe v Lessona v Valtelina: The growing wonders of Nebbiolo

the past 40 years, as he turned attention back to the vineyards (not least the

Pinot Noir lovers have seen it all before.

the greatness of local variety Corvina, at

Call it the Burgundy equation: finite

diverse global fine wine market = no longer

the level of winemaking in the region over

vineyards + critical acclaim x increasingly

family’s superb hillside plot La Poja) and

possible for mere mortals to buy any wines

the same time as bringing a much more

from the most famous sites.

rigorous and considered approach to the Amarone drying process.

Allegrini’s spirit lives on in the

unfailingly consistent wines in the family’s

worked as the vineyards, and in which

elsewhere in the region, not least in the

Maghi is one of the standout producers

portfolio, with their vivacious fruit

and definition. But it can be found, too, work of serial Wine Merchant Top 100 winner Cà dei Maghi.

Another family-run estate producing

high-quality wines in which the elaborate winemaking processes are as fastidiously

the influence of the drying process never obscures the quality of the fruit, Cà dei

in the Vindependents portfolio, whether it’s making intriguing partially-dried

Garganega, richly polished Amarone, or fragrant, compulsively drinkable Valpolicella Classico.

Dirk Niepoort

Is something similar happening for

Nebbiolo lovers trying to secure bottles of

their favourite Barolo and Barbaresco? The success of recent vintages such as 2016 had many long-term fans of Piedmont’s great red grape struggling to get their

hands on allocations amid rising popularity and prices all over the world.

Still, just as Burgundy’s ascendancy has

led to a dramatic improvement in wines

from the region’s supposedly lesser crus

and villages – including Beaujolais – so the rise of Barolo and Barbaresco has led to a renewed interest in Nebbiolo from other sources.

On one level, that means a healthy trade

in the more affordable Nebbiolo produced as part of the broader Langhe DOC, which, led by impeccable bottlings from the likes

of GD Vajra and Sottimano, have never been more approachably balanced, fragrant and polished.

But it has also led to a spike in demand

for the very different styles available up

country in Alpine Piedmont and over the

border into Lombardy’s Valtelina, among other places. The graceful northern Piedmontese Nebbiolo of Proprièta

Sperino in Lessona and the ethereal beauty

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 40


Harvesting Nebbiolo grapes

of La Spia in Valtelina are among the best examples of “mountain Nebbiolo”.

Central Italy: Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo The story of Nebbiolo in modern-day north west Italy has plenty of parallels with the

progress of Sangiovese across the country’s centre.

Certainly, lovers of what is often thought

of as a distinctly Tuscan speciality are

now spoilt for choice beyond the classic Tuscan appellations, with some of the

most exciting examples being found in

Emilia-Romagna and Umbria as well as

Montalcino, Montepulciano and Chianti.

Among the most intriguingly drinkable

Sangiovese The Wine Merchant has

encountered recently are those made in

Emilia-Romagna by the former wine writer Giorgio Melandri from sites on slopes

above Modigliana. An altogether jauntier, fresher style that plays up the tang and

Reggio Emilia

rasp of just-ripe cherries, they “speak a

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 41


COUNTRY FOCUS: ITALY

different language”, as Melandri, quoted

on importer Indigo’s website, puts it. Still, there are plenty of different

Sangiovese accents and dialects across Tuscany, too, from the concentrated

intensity of Castello di Bossi Chianti

Classico to the graceful depth of La Florita

Brunello di Montalcino, to name two recent Wine Merchant favourites.

And if that’s not enough, there’s always

Ciliegiolo. Once considered a minor player

in Tuscany, this close relative of Sangiovese (although which is the parent and which

the child nobody seems sure) is enjoying a

renaissance in Umbria, thanks to producers such as Leonardo Bussoletti, who makes

four very different, but equally delightful

Ciliegiolo cuvées that range from the bright and floral to the more darkly earthy and spicy.

Sicily: Where the hype is Tammy Nell, David Nieuwoudt and Alex Nell of Cederberg justified It is hard to think of a wine region

anywhere in the world that has attracted quite the same level of hype as Sicily’s

Etna in the past 20 years. The on-trend combination of rare grape varieties,

recovered old vines and entirely distinctive wine styles with a genuinely extreme

Erice in Sicily

viticultural environment is understandably hard to resist. There would be a fine story to tell even if the quality of the wines themselves didn’t measure up.

That the quality has remained

remarkably high even as more producers have begun producing Etna wines is

testament to the fundamental quality

of the region’s grape varieties – Nerello

Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio for reds, and Carricante for whites – and their

suitability for the surprisingly varied volcanic terroir. And with wines as

exquisitely beautiful as Tuscan winemaker

Andrea Franchetti’s Passopisciaro project’s

Occhipinti or the ever-consistent pan-

electrically charged Chardonnay), it’s hard

positive Italian island story. Sardinia’s

Contrada wines, from individual plots of very old vines (which also includes an

to feel that the attention focused on Etna isn’t justified.

Still, the region’s irresistible rise

shouldn’t obscure the progress made

elsewhere on the island, as shown by

such engaging producers as COS, Arianna

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 42

island pioneers of modern Sicily, Planeta. Nor should it overshadow another

quintessentially Mediterranean wines have never been better, notably in the windswept, salty, textured Garnacha

(Cannonau di Sardegna) and Carignan

(Carignano) made by the likes of Giuseppe Sedilesu, Santadi and Tenuta Soletta.


THE WINEMAKER FILES //

Paolo Bianchini

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona How did you learn your winemaking craft? Presumably your late father Giuseppe taught you a lot. For the most part I learned what I know from my father, then I studied agriculture. Passion, however, remains fundamental: without this you cannot do this job.

If you had to explain your winemaking philosophy in just a few sentences, how would you describe what you’re trying to achieve with your wines? We work respecting tradition and carefully following every little step. Our goal is to create elegant wines with a good structure. You make wine in a beautiful setting. How would you describe your terroir and its benefits for your vines? I feel lucky to be in a beautiful place but I am most lucky for the geographical position and microclimate. The property is on the south east side of the Montalcino hills, not far from Monte Amiata and not too far from the sea: this creates strong day-night temperature variations that help not only the vines but all the vegetation. Tell us about Sangiovese Grosso. It is a grape that is very sensitive to climatic variations and needs to follow a very specific seasonality. In recent years, the challenge is precisely this: to be able to ensure, through constant work, that this precious grape does not suffer too much from climate change.

Brunello di Montalcino is a world classic. But how does it maintain that status? Is the aim to make consistent wines that people can instantly recognise, or maybe evolve the style as the years go by? Brunello di Montalcino is certainly among the best-known wines in the world. I believe what makes this wine so famous is the dedication and care that every producer of Brunello di Montalcino puts into making it. From the first sip you can immediately understand that it is not just a simple “glass of wine”; there is a lot of work behind it, a story to tell that has often lasted for generations.

How important are Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and what role do they play in your winery? At the end of the 80s we decided to plant these international grapes in our territory, just as small experimental productions. The goal was, and is, to see how international vines can evolve in the Montalcino area. We still produce a couple of wines with these vines.

Are you still a keen cyclist and do you enjoy cycling in Tuscan wine country? Does it give you a different perspective on the land you work with? Biking in my homeland is definitely one of my favourite non-work activities. I can immerse myself completely in nature and see details that I had not discovered before.

Rosso di Montalcino Rossofonte 2019

Brunello di Montalcino 2017

RRP £30

RRP £45

It’s our single vineyard selection for Rosso di Montalcino. A perfect companion to any meal but certainly a wine that stands out. We open it very often at home.

A Brunello di Montalcino that seems to be perfect and drinkable right now. That year was not easy from a climatic point of view, but it was certainly one of great harmony and balance.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 43

Ranked as one of the greatest producers of Brunello di Montalcino, Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona was bequeathed to Giuseppe Bianchini, whose son and daughter Paolo and Lucia now run the business. Paolo is a former pro cyclist with Italy’s Colnago team. Wines are imported by Mentzendorff 0207 840 3600 mentzendorff.co.uk

What are the biggest challenges facing Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona in the coming years and what would you like to achieve next? The biggest challenge is to remain what we are: always remembering where we started from, continuing to produce wines of great quality.

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2015 RRP £115

The Riserva is the wine for special occasions. Just last night I uncorked a 2015 to celebrate something special with my family: just fabulous!


THE WINEMAKER FILES //

Francesco Illy, Podere Le Ripi I fell in love with nature when I was very young, but I began as a nature photographer at 34. I bought the books of most great masters and I learned to see nature with new eyes. Now I just look. It’s enough to fill my emotions. And when you arrive at Podere Le Ripi you cannot help falling instantaneously in deep, deep love with it. It’s like lightning hitting your soul. In 1997, I bought Le Ripi from a Sardinian shepherd. I had my house in Montalcino with 50 hectares of land with not a single vine: just sheep pastures. I bought a bulldozer, and began to prepare my soil and to plant it. I told myself: “I’ll plant the vines, I’ll grow the grapes … and then I’ll sell them. I’m too old to learn this job.”

All I knew came from being a wine drinker. Not even a very knowledgeable wine drinker! Put it this way: I knew nothing about wine. But then 2003 arrived. First crop. Damned dry and hot; there was no way to sell those grapes. So, we made a wine, with my friend Jan Erbach as oenologist. Was it Jan or the soil? Today I would say both. But the wine was excellent. That’s how I, the almost ignorant wine drinker, became a winemaker. Learning by doing, with lots of knowledgeable friends as teacher: the years are long, and you learn a lot. First you must learn. Then you must innovate. My very, very young team come

from very good schools; they’ve learned a lot. Put them in a classic environment, with a senior management, and they will repeat what they know. I’ve been putting them with totally junior, immature management, and creativity exploded like Champagne after shaking the bottle! How did I come to this? I just call it luck. Period.

When we make a biodynamic treatment, we always obtain the result we expect from it. So: we know it is healthy, it works, and it does good to the soil, because our soils are alive. We believe that living soils have more complexity, and so we get more complex wines out of them. And the market likes our wines. So maybe we are right. But who knows? I always say (so I wrote it on one of my labels) “be crazy, my friend”. Why? Can you imagine how foolish one needs to be (talking about myself) to dream that, after 50 years in coffee, knowing nothing (almost) about wine, you will become an important winemaker at an international level? If you are just a bit sane, you should think: “impossible”. And this is the mistake! Now that I’ve done it, I know I am sane, but I also know that it’s been thanks to the courage to believe in an insane dream that it came true. Be crazy, my friend!

Francesco Illy is heir to the famous Trieste-based coffee dynasty and an acclaimed nature photographer. After falling in love with an estate in Montalcino, he established a biodynamic winery, planted, in part, with what he believes are the world’s smallest vines. Podere Le Ripi wines are imported into the UK by Jeroboams Trade 020 7288 8888 www.jeroboamstrade.co.uk

What does the future hold for Podere Le Ripi and the wines we make? Crazy, innovative ideas; you’ll see. You’ll taste. Hahaha!

Sogni e Follia Rosso di Montalcino

Lupi e Sirene, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

Bonsai IGT Toscana Rosso

We produce this from vineyards on the west side of Montalcino, that give us a light Sangiovese, compared with the east side, that we age for about 30 months in a big wooden tank and then for about a year in concrete, for a Rosso di Montalcino that can be enjoyed for many years.

From a single vineyard on the east side of Montalcino, Lupi e Sirene was the original label of Podere Le Ripi. This vineyard, about 2ha, has a density of 11,500 vines per hectare and gives us a Sangiovese that, after just a few years in the bottle, has beautiful balsamic flavours.

To make a great wine, we need to wait till the vines become old, so the roots can go deeper and deeper trough many different substrates of soil. So we planted a hectare with a really high density: 62,500 Sangiovese vines per hectare, The result is Bonsai, and we make just 1,000 bottles.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 44


COUNTRY FOCUS: ITALY

East v west, in the south In many respects, the progress of mainland southern Italy’s three most significant wine regions – Puglia on the east, and

Campania and Basilicata on the west – is

strikingly similar to that on the islands. It’s a story of the dawning realisation that the mezzogiorno’s role as the engine room of

Italian wine had all but come to an end as domestic consumption dropped off a cliff in the 1980s and 1990s, and that finding

ways to make smaller quantities of better wine was the only way forward.

For Etna in this scenario, read the

various volcanic terroirs of Campania

and Basilicata, and the graceful, mineral, complex whites, and intense, inky reds, made on them by producers such as

Sassi di Matera, Basilicata

Pietracupa, Ciro Piciarello, Donna Elvira and Luigi Maffini (Campania) and Elena

Fucci, Battifarano and Vigneti dei Vulture (Basilicata).

But the successes on the west shouldn’t

obscure the progress made in the east. Puglia may still have a knack with

sweetly intense, densely satisfying but fundamentally good value reds, but its palette is considerably more diverse

these days than is sometimes assumed. Producers such as Cantele, Masseria Li

Veli, and Cantine San Marzano are adept at making interesting bottles from the

Outstanding vintages, and better winemaking Nicholas Moschi, director of buying, Liberty Wines We have ahead of us a remarkable sequence of excellent vintages from regions like Tuscany and Piemonte, with 2019, 2020 and 2021 all showing great promise. The 2019 IGTs, along with the single-vineyard Barbaresco, will be released this year, but with wines like Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino

underrated local white Verdeca, and

requiring longer mandatory ageing, it means we can look forward to

conjuring Italian Zin-alikes from Primitivo

the length and breadth of the peninsula is the constant improvement

unheralded reds such as Susumaniello,

new releases from these outstanding vintages until at least 2026.

and Negroamaro.

coming from producers whose wines are already held in high esteem.

Malvasia Nera and Nero di Troia as they are

Puglia has a knack with sweetly intense, good value reds, but its palette is considerably more diverse these days

Regardless of vintage, the most exciting element we are seeing across

Significant improvements in viticultural practices are certainly playing a big role, as are less visible but very important refinements in winemaking. Great experience, and better grapes, mean the producers can intervene less, something that has resulted in greater clarity of expression in the best Italian wines. It is this restless advancement that singles out the best, who continue setting new standards of excellence.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 45


THE WINEMAKER FILES //

Harvest time in Devon

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi The Colombini family has owned land in Montalcino since 1352, and Fattoria dei Barbi since the end of the 18th century. The property extends over 350 hectares of fields and vineyards in southern Tuscany, in Montalcino, Scansano and Chianti. The current owner is Stefano Cinelli Colombini. Wines are imported to the UK by Enotria&Coe Telephone 020 8961 5161 www.enotriacoe.com The estate has an amazing history. Is this something that is always in your mind or are you focused entirely on the present and the future? How can you build, or plan, a future if you ignore the past? Even the most futuristic skyscraper is built on very deep foundations. Therefore, the present and future of my estate are rooted to a very strong past.

How would you say the style of winemaking has evolved, due to things like technological improvements, climate change and changes in consumer behaviour? The only non-mutable thing in the world is death; climate, technology, consumer tastes and the economy are always changing and we must change with them. This is the reason why agriculture is more an art than a science. Tell us a little about the Sangiovese grape and what it’s like to work with. What challenges does it present and why does it thrive in your terroir? Sangiovese is basically a medieval hybrid between the Tuscan Canaiolo and a grape from southern Italy, called Calabrese. Together with Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo and Nerello Mascalese, it lacks an entire family of antocyanines, the acylates. This makes its colour less intense but adds an elegance and finesse. It is a very productive grape,

[Senza Solfiti] Sangiovese after seven months or less.

but when the quantity increases, the quality decreases. So you must do a lot of pruning to control the yield. Sangiovese changes from hill to hill. In Montalcino, Sangiovese has found its perfect weather: dry, windy and sunny, but quite cold during the summer nights.

How important is the UK market to you and why do you think Italian wines have such success here, especially in the specialist independent trade? Brunello was the favourite wine of King William III, but after the 18th century it never found the favour of English wine lovers. Who knows why? Maybe the English taste is more based on French standards than any other in the world. It is really funny: among the major export markets, the UK has always been the worst for Brunello and the best one for Lambrusco and Prosecco. That’s why I appreciate even more the effort of the independent trade that supports high-quality Italian wines. Do you think more consumers want to drink their wines earlier now and if so, have you adapted your winemaking style accordingly? I believe that consumers want to drink good wines. Some wines are better when young and some are not. Probably in future we will sell Brunello Riserva after seven years or more, and our “No Sulphites”

THE WINE MERCHANT june may 2022 46

What do you hope to achieve at the estate in the coming years and how might the wines change? This strange new weather is a disaster for sure for many grapes and crops, but it seems to fit well with Sangiovese and Montalcino. In the cold 60s we had two five-star vintages (1961 and 1964), in the icy 70s just one (1975) but in this warm and dry decade we had 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2019 and then 2020 and 2021. We’ve never had so many good vintages in a such short time, due to weather which is a major problem elsewhere, but not for Montalcino. I believe that our wine has a great future, and this idea is so widespread that more and more top investors and top wine producers are trying to buy in Montalcino. Luckily the vast majority of the land is owned by local small producers, who are absolutely determined to stay as their ancestors did for many, many centuries. They will not sell, so Brunello will remain truly Tuscan.

Stefano’s range highlights Brusco dei Barbi is the Tuscan character in a glass. Senza Solfiti is the exuberant fruit in a glass. Brunello Fattoria dei Barbi “blue label” is like the Greenwich meridian: it is the standard for whoever loves Tuscan wines.

CAMPAGNA FINANZIATA AI SENSI DEL REG. UE N. 1308/2013 CAMPAIGN FINANCED ACCORDING TO EU REG. NO. 1308/2013


Three reasons why we’re excited about Italian wines Alex Aldersley-Hey, brand manager, Armit Wines

sun. Complex, textural Fiano, or ageworthy, laserlike Trebbiano d’Abruzzo are really grabbing attention

• Return to Sangiovese – this quintessentially

in the trade. Even Pinot Grigio is shaking off its

Italian grape variety has certainly been dealt a

reputation as bland and basic, with Alto-Adige in

rough hand with low-quality Chianti or over-oaked

particular offering some incredibly exciting high-

“international” styles dominating perceptions in

altitude wines.

recent history. But there are an increasing number of producers returning to the purity of fruit and

• Low intervention winemaking – although

terroir focus that this wine can provide. The variety

it’s a pretty traditional country with regards to

has so much intensity, class, and complexity,

winemaking, we’re enjoying Italy’s response to

we’re delighted to see more and more wines that

the global low-intervention movement. You get

champion its inherent varietal character. This has

some first-wave diehards like Marina from Punset

resulted in bright, more vibrant wines, often with a

making funky wines that wouldn’t be out of place

single-site focus. Querciabella, for example, have

at a natural wine fair, but more generally you see

finally released their Single Vineyard Chianti after 10

a huge variety of styles and prices from organic

years battling appellation bureaucracy!

and sustainable practices. Certification isn’t as common due to expense and lack of flexibility, but

• Native whites – in a similar vein, native Italian

it’s a growing and welcome part of the producers’

white varieties are having a great moment in the

outlook.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 47


THE WINEMAKER FILES //

Harvest time in Devon

Ilaria Felluga, Marco Felluga and Russiz Superiore The Marco Felluga winery is based in the fortified citadel of Gradisca d’Isonzo, while the Russiz Superiore estate is located in Capriva del Friuli. Representing the sixth generation of winemakers of her family, Ilaria Felluga has now taken the reins of the business, under the guidance of her grandfather Marco. Wines are imported to the UK by Enotria&Coe Telephone 020 8961 5161 www.enotriacoe.com Broadly, how would you describe the winemaking style and how it differs across the two estates? Both the Marco Felluga and Russiz Superiore estates belong to the Collio DOC area. This has a huge impact on our winemaking style. Each hill in this area has its own microclimate, but they all have a common denominator: a unique type of soil. It’s called ponca, in the Friulian dialect, or flysh in Italian, and it is made of a stratification of marl and sandstone. The soil is rich in minerals and it lends sapidity and minerality and is ideal for white varietals. Because of this, the Friulian wine tradition leans more towards the production of white wines: our production is roughly of 80% white varietals and 20% red varietals. However, our red wines are quite remarkable too. They are characterised by a peculiar structure and unique balance,

and they can age for a long time. The vinification process varies for the two wineries as well. The vast majority of Russiz Superiore white wines undergo a vinification process in which 85% of the must ferments in stainless vats and the remaining 15% in oak barrels. On the other hand, most Marco Felluga white wines are fermented exclusively in stainless steel vats. Your father Roberto has been described as one of Fruili’s brightest stars. What will his legacy be and how will his work live on through the wines? I was really moved by all the support I received. I know how valuable the work of my father was and my goal is to continue what he had started. Some of the cornerstones of his wine philosophy were innovation, sustainability and environmental protection, the high quality of the products, constant research and respect of the land, its history and traditions. It’s by following these principles that he started producing white wines that can be appreciated both when they are young and after some years of bottle ageing, when they have developed notes of ripe fruits and an interesting mineral complexity. This idea led to one of my father’s most important projects, the creation of three Riserva white wines: the Collio Pinot Grigio Riserva Mongris Marco Felluga, the Collio Sauvignon Riserva Russiz Superiore and the Collio Pinot Bianco Riserva Russiz Superiore. My father continually told me that taking care of what surrounds us is essential to ensure a future for us and the generations to come. Well, I completely agree with him and that’s the main reason why we have taken many steps in that direction. Your father was eager to promote the

THE WINE MERCHANT june may 2022 48

Ribolla Gialla variety. Do you share that enthusiasm and if so, what makes the grape so interesting? I think it’s just in our blood. There is a lot that makes this variety so interesting. It has an intense aroma with a floral and fruity background of exotic fruit, grapefruit and apple. I love how pleasant and balanced it is in the mouth, with its interesting extractive body and excellent freshness.

What ambitions do you have for the business and how big a task is it to assume responsibility for such an admired wine producer? Well, of course it’s a huge responsibility, but I feel very lucky. I have many trusted collaborators by my side and, above all, my grandfather Marco, who guides me and is an endless source of knowledge. And, as I’ve said, my father was the best mentor I could ask for. My biggest ambition right now is to carry on my father’s work, especially what he has done with his Riserva white wines and for the environment.


SOAVE IN FOCUS

REACHING FOR THE SKY G

iuseppe Inama probably didn’t consider himself a visionary. But the land deals he struck in the 1960s and 1970s, which added a string of vineyards on Monte Foscarino in Soave Classico to his family wine business, now look particularly shrewd. Giuseppe didn’t bottle his own wine: the juice was sold to bigger players in the Veneto region. It was only when his son Stefano took over as winemaker in 1992 that the Inama name started to appear on labels. Now, with a third generation involved, the family is redefining what Soave Classico can be, making wines that express variations in terroir that few even realised existed. This is a volcanic landscape, and Foscarino’s soils are characterised by basalt and tufa, but also clay, providing a patchwork that can be interpreted with the region’s versatile Garganega grape. “My grandad really understood that the grapes from certain hills were so different from each other,” explains chief executive Matteo Inama, grandson of Giuseppe, pictured right. “He started to focus on the Foscarino and now we have 20 hectares there. “If you have plain soils with a lot of fertilisers, Garganega becomes quite neutral. It’s not super-high in acidity or super-fruity. This means that it does not have a really strong varietal character. So it’s a variety that is really able to express, through its florality and through its elegance, the place where it’s grown.”

A

bout seven years ago the Inama family began employing the services of specialist viticulturists and a technical director to help them take their winemaking to the next level, and the rewards of this work are now hitting the market. It took a lot of extra effort to get to this point. “We’re dividing vineyards more, we’ve doubled the number of batches we work with; and we decide later what to blend and how to get the balance in the blend,” says Matteo.

Inama’s two Soave Classico wines are proof of how varied the wines can be. In 2020, the local consorzio introduced a cru system of Soave, Unità Geografiche, which is making it easier for producers like Inama to achieve success with wines from prized terroirs. Carbonare comes from a very cool, sheltered spot halfway up a basalt hillside, with water flowing just under the surface of the rocks. “It’s a wine with tension and citrus aromas,” says Matteo. “We use no barriques, only stainless steel, and no malolactic, so there’s a lot of freshness and purity in the wine. It has exactly the same sensation that you feel in the grapes.” Foscarino, meanwhile, is grown on a drier and windier site, facing south east. “With Carbonare we do three hours’ maceration; with Foscarino it’s six to 12 hours,” says Matteo. “So the wine is a bit more golden and more oxidative in style. It’s richer, with a more leesy sensation; there’s more batonnage. It’s a super-gastronomic wine.”

T

he new classification has also paved the way for a grande cuvée wine, I Palchi, from the terraces of Monte Foscarino, and even more premium launches are imminent – not just under the Soave banner, but from Inama’s red wine collection, grown on the nearby Colli Berici. Organic and biodynamic winemaking are now central to the Inama philosophy. “We’ve worked so hard and invested so much money in the vineyards to create more sustainable viticulture,” says Matteo. “And finally, after five or six years, we’re able to look back and say, wow: the wines have changed so much. “It’s a lot of fun, actually. There have been sleepless nights and nervousness, but I think now everything is running so smoothly and the staff are super-excited and whoever had doubts doesn’t have doubts anymore. They have ideas.”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 49

The Inama family always knew that Soave was capable of varied and complex expressions. Thanks to a radical overhaul of their winemaking, it’s a point they are now proving, to the delight of their customers. Feature sponsored by Inama and Winetraders Ltd. inama.wine winetradersuk.co.uk


RETURNING TO

As the trade prepares for the 31 Days of German Riesling

RIESLING

I

t’s perhaps stretching things a bit to call Riesling a Marmite grape variety. It’s not that everyone either loves it or hates it, more that they either retain an almost evangelical zeal in singing its praises or are completely indifferent towards it. The home of Riesling is Germany, of course, where almost 60% of the world’s supplies of the variety are grown, where northern altitude, rocky soils and sleep slopes provide the optimum growing conditions to achieve minerality, acidity and backbone. Some 77% of the vineyard area of Rheingau is accounted for by the grape, and almost two-thirds of Mosel. It’s reasonable to assert that Germany, like Riesling, hasn’t featured in the most in-vogue wine nations in the UK market for several decades now. But while other countries have been cutting their cloth to suit the shifting tastes of export markets, Germany has been sticking to what it does well – and modern trends now seem to be tilting back in its favour. Wines of Germany says the country’s wine exports to the UK increased by 62% in value during 2021, and that Riesling increased its share of all white wine consumed in the UK from 15% to 16%. A tendency towards wines with relatively low

promotion, Nigel Huddleston considers the variety’s unique position in wine industry lore – and why consumers are rediscovering a classic style

alcohol levels plays to the trend for moderation, while its high acidity makes it, for many, the perfect match for spicy, Asian cuisine, tapping into major food trends of recent years. Add in its unusual ageing potential – for a white wine – and a versatility that makes Riesling equally at home making dry, off-dry, sparkling or dessert wines and it clearly has a lot going for it. “Riesling can be any flavour and run across the taste spectrum,” says Philip Amps, at Amps Wine Merchants in Oundle. “People are happy to talk to a wine merchant and get advice. We can say: ‘This will go with … ’. That means they can try any Riesling with confidence.” All of German Riesling’s positive attributes have at some point featured in the campaigns of retailers taking part in Wines of Germany’s 31 Days of Riesling promotion, which returns again this year. But for the true fans of German Riesling, it’s a grape variety that is for life, not just July.

A

mps Wine Merchants was the off-trade runner-up in last year’s promotion, for a strong social media campaign, and interest in German Riesling is definitely growing, says Philip Amps. “It went through the doldrums but it’s now something that people are asking for as they

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 50

grow in their wine drinking experiences,” he says. “The older generation will just say it’s too sweet and won’t even look at it. But there’s a younger generation who are coming through and recognise it for what it really is. “People used to just want ‘a dry white wine’ but now they’re looking for something a bit more fruity and are honest enough to say they like that in a wine. “With the plethora of spicy food available there is now people are finding Riesling works extremely well with it. As more international cuisine is coming in, it’s a reason why people are turning back to German Riesling. “Also, it’s a bloody good price at the moment. Some of the wines deliver really good quality for the money.” While many German producers may have stuck to their stylistic guns more than those in, say, Iberia or South America, the country’s prevailing Riesling character – in as much as it conforms to any generic trope – has evolved in some measure. “As it’s moved away from the petrol, kerosene [style] to pure fruit flavours it’s been a distinct advantage,” observes Amps. “When people try the classic petrol-style Riesling, particularly from Alsace, they say, ‘ooh, classic Riesling’ and then they go and buy something else. People are actually looking for a more fruit-driven style.”


THE WINEMAKER FILES //

Markus Molitor Markus Molitor represents the eighth generation of his family to take charge of Weingut Markus Molitor. The business has vineyards on the steep slate slopes of the Mosel River, with Riesling the principal variety. The wines, imported by Winetraders, are painstakingly made in a traditional way, with native yeasts and maturation in large oak casks. Visit markusmolitor.com or winetradersuk.co.uk for more information.

My father Werner, who had owned the winery before I took over, lost his right arm when I was a young boy. He needed support and help in the vineyard and cellar – so I became his right hand. He taught me all about viticulture and vinification and I spent every free minute with him in the winery. I did not only learn every single step of winegrowing and winemaking, but I also took over his passion and enthusiasm. All of our vineyard soils are composed of slate, in nearly infinite variations. The main difference is the colour: grey, blue and red. But there are huge variations from vineyard to vineyard. Slate is a very smooth stone that means that it can be very weathered. The vines’ roots are able to grow through the stony soil down to 10 to 12 metres deep. They can collect many minerals through the different layers and transfer these into the grapes.

The wines vary from plot to plot. You may always recognise them as Mosel Riesling, but there are infinite possibilities

from light to heavy, from expressive minerality to spicy fruitiness, from cool to warm character.

Year by year we face a new adventure. This is what makes it so special, because no vintage is similar to a previous one. But this is also the hardest thing about working in the vineyards. We have to deal with freak weather conditions which could be really devastating: frost, hail, drought etc. These extremes are able to destroy our passionate efforts and the daily work of a whole season in just a few minutes. As has been the case for centuries, the wines are fermented only by natural yeasts and matured in large oak casks, with no fining, no enzymes, no cultured yeast, nor any other correctives. The old three-story deep cellar is carved into the slate rocks of the hillside and provides an optimal, consistently cool, and humid climate. Here, our wines can ferment extremely slowly and as nature dictates. After fermentation, our wines age on the lees for months to gain mellowness and body.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 51

For me there is no other option than using natural yeasts. In fact, I would never experiment with any of my wines. Imagine the hard work in the vineyards all through the year, which should find its highlight in harvesting the perfect grape. I would not risk this for something I am not convinced of.

I’m trying to help restore the wines of our Mosel valley to their former glory by producing unmistakeable Riesling wines true to their individual vineyard identity. So nothing has changed since the beginning, except for the size of the winery. We currently own 120 hectares, planted with Riesling (more than 90%) and various Pinot varieties. We harvest all of the vineyards by hand so we’re able to allocate every single berry in its own category. This labourintensive work leads to 80 to 90 different wines per vintage, each one absolutely unique in its composition and taste.

It sounds like a contradiction but, to keep the traditions, we need to progress. For example, climate change forces many challanges and it will have a significant impact on the work of all winemakers. We will be dealing with increasingly extreme weather phenomena: extreme hail, extreme dry or wet periods, extreme storms etc. And yet basically everything stays the same: year after year, or day after day, we have to adapt to the situations given by nature.


FOCUS ON GIN

Where does gin go from here? The category’s boom years have given way to a sales plateau. So how to keep consumers interested? As Nigel Huddleston reports, there are differences of opinion and in approach

T

oo much of a good thing can be bad for you. Premier League football, triathlons, Wordle … whatever

your pleasure, the sheen starts to rub off after excessive wear. So it has seemed in gin for some people lately, with the joys of buying, selling and even drinking it devalued by the sheer amount of ginrelated stuff that’s out there.

Anecdotally, it’s led to some retailers

declaring gin to be “over”, gazumped by

rum or whisky. The data is inconclusive.

WSTA figures show a drop in the number of bottles of gin consumed last year in the UK last year, but value sales nudged back into growth to pass the £2bn mark, heading back to the levels of 2018 before the

pandemic took a chunk of the market.

However, on-trade number cruncher

CGA reported that in the three months to

January, vodka overtook gin in the on-trade as sales of the latter declined.

Given the distortions of the pandemic it’s

probably too early to make a real judgment on exactly where we are with gin, but clearly the category has “issues”.

A tendency towards novelty in flavours

and serves is one of them. Norway’s

There’s also just a lot of gin around,

with the mainstream press bombarding consumers with clickbait about “the

raspberry gin from Aldi that you just

have to try”, or some such, on an almost

daily basis. The discounter currently sells consumer choice, or a brand that lacks a clear and authentic identity?

Aldi’s selling this stuff at £15 a pop.

And the cost-of-living crisis isn’t going to

make it any easier for indies trying to flog

artisan-made gin that generally comes in at

shouldn’t be underestimated.

of marketing at Mermaid gin producer

distilling and finishing process,” he says.

between £30 and £50.

The aptly-named Ginnie Taylor, head

Isle of Wight Distillery, observes that

“gin enthusiasts are still well and truly passionate about the category”.

No doubt many are, but there’s also

ennui settling in among others who like the odd G&T but wouldn’t self-identify as “gin enthusiasts”.

So where does gin go from here, and

what can producers and retailers do to keep it genuinely interesting?

Make juniper the star

banana-themed Eurovision entry seemed

John Hall, head distiller at Cornwall’s

authentic approaches a bit further down

gin and away from gimmicky flavours, and

like good fun at the time, but looked less attractive when compared with more the line, if you catch my drift.

Some brands are s

10 flavours of its Haysmith’s gin: great

Trevethan Distillery, thinks the agenda

needs wresting back to classic juniper-led says that consumer thirst for knowledge

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 52

“True distilleries will have numerous

tweaks and variations to their steeping,

“Give the consumer some insight into this; they are more interested than you think.” Some have taken an extreme approach

to the problem. Pinkster raspberry gin

has taken the fruit out of its main product to market the core spirit as a stand-alone drink for the first time.

And Holyrood Distillery’s Height of

Arrows has abolished all other botanicals in favour of a juniper-only approach.

The distillery says it wants to show how

flavourful gin can be created from fewer

ingredients, the way whisky is honed from just barley, water and yeast. The only

additions are made after distillation: a little salt as a flavour enhancer, as in cooking,

and beeswax to create a smooth texture.


Vichy Catalan, “the most mineral-heavy potable water in the world”.

It is, says the company’s co-founder Jake

Burger, “our attempt to make an innovative gin, pushing the envelope in every way we

can, while remaining within the boundaries laid out in the London dry gin regulations”.

Local angles

Tarquin’s Leadbetter thinks “localisation and terroir will be more important than

ever” in gin’s future, while Declan McGurk

of County Fermanagh’s Boatyard Distillery, whose gin is distributed by Speciality

Brands, adds: “Regionality now certainly seems to be a key purchase trigger as

consumers seek and champion locallymade gins.”

Welsh spirits brand Foragers sources

botanicals – heather, elderberries and

sea buckthorn – from the landscape of

stripping back the botanicals to focus squarely on juniper

Snowdonia and the north Wales coast for

its Yellow Label gin. The sea buckthorn is,

with juniper, one of only two botanicals in

its Black Label gin which, thus, also fits into the authentic, juniper-forward category. Cornish rum brand Mainbrace has

Seasonality and limited editions Tarquin’s, with its bottles with the

distinctive blue wax seal, has been among the most popular gins in independents over the past decade.

“We always have an exclusive,

seasonal, limited edition gin available

for independent retailers,” says founder Tarquin Leadbetter.

“It keep things exciting, allows a point of

difference from the high street, and helps

push the boundaries of our innovation and experimentation as distillers.”

The latest creation from Portobello Road

Distillery in London is its Special Reserve 101 gin that retails at £59.

It’s made with a potato base spirit, aged

in oak, which gives a viscous, creamy

texture. The botanicals are steeped for

double the length of time than normal and the gin is then cut to bottle strength with

expanded into gin with one distilled

BELLINIPOLITAN Exhaustion with the whole gin thing has swung the white spirits pendulum back in vodka’s favour. The Cosmopolitan cocktail dates back to postProhibition America, but it had its heyday in vodka’s last great wave of fashionableness at the end of the 20th century, when the launch of Absolut Citron wowed New York bartenders. This Cosmo/Bellini hybrid tempers the cranberry sharpness with a touch of stone-fruit sweetness and adds some bubbles for a summer’s day treat.

with lemon verbena harvested from St

Michael’s Mount, and three different types

of seaweed – kelp, dulse, and sea spaghetti – sourced from the Cornish Seaweed Company in Gweek.

To ease the shopping journey around

local products – and those sourced from different countries or that just fit into various flavour profiles – McGurk at

3cl lemon vodka 2cl triple sec/Cointreau 1.5 cl peach juice 1.5 cl lime juice Splash of cranberry juice Sparkling wine of choice

Boatyard urges curation of retail ranges

rather than just lumping everything on the shelves at random.

“Applying the same mindset as wine

and grouping gins by region can be a good way to guide consumers,” he says. “Gin

producers need to support this through

transparency, so that when consumers look at a bottle, they can identify where it is from, and the style of the gin.

“Whisky is a category that succeeded

from this approach, but both gin and rum have some way to go.”

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 53

Put all the ingredients except the fizz into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until cold to the touch. Strain into a Martini glass or large flute and top with the sparkling wine.


MAKE A DATE

Waddeson Wine Inaugural Collection Tasting

Bordeaux Day Bordeaux Day returns to both Manchester and London this summer. Producers and distributors will be on

hand to present their latest wines.

Showcasing wines from the extensive

Winning producers within the Bordeaux

Waddesdon Wine portfolio, including

Hot 50 Selection 2022 will be showcasing

The Rothschild Collection, Penfolds,

other wines from their portfolio, while

Frescobaldi, Joseph Phelps and Hundred

35 Bordeaux producers seeking UK

Acre.

representation will have their wines on

This tasting event will also see the

unveiling of Roseblood, the grand rosé from Château d’Estoublon.

show in Bordeaux Undiscovered. Get on your bike for Wines of Chile on July 5

For more information contact Hannah

Spencer House 27 St James’s Place London SW1A 1NR

newest releases from leading agents. For more information, contact

Armitage: hannah@cubecom.co.uk. Tuesday, June 28

There is also the chance to taste the

the winemakers for the masterclass, after which a free-pour tasting will showcase a selection of the highest scoring wines. Contact Anita Jackson: email info@

teambordeaux@cubecom.co.uk. Monday, July 11 The Stoller Hall Hunts Bank Manchester M3 1DA

Imbibe Live

winesofchile.org.uk. Tuesday, July 5

Arlettie

The one event in the calendar that

Asia House

13-14 Margaret Street

focuses on the entire world of drinks,

63 New Cavendish Street

London W1W 8RN

from wines, beers and spirits to soft

London W1G 7LP

drinks, RTDs, mixers, tea, coffee, no and low-ABV drinks, waters and associated products. To register, contact marketing@imbibe.

com.

Monday, July 4 and Tuesday, July 5

Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages & Crus Tasting

Olympia London Hammersmith Road

A self-pour tasting with a Crus

London W14 8UX

masterclass presented by wine writer Matt Walls. There will also be a wine

Wednesday, July 13

Real Italian Wine & Food Around 80 producers of Italian food and wine will be showcasing their goods at this 11th edition of RIWF. The aim is to present a comprehensive

range of products from different Italian regions. It’s an opportunity to make

contact with selected producers as well as

Wines of Chile 2022 Special Report

talk focused on Côtes du Rhône and

A masterclass and tasting of wines

Wednesday July 6

The Royal Horticultural Halls

featured in Tim Atkin MW’s Chile 2022

Glaziers Hall

The Lindley Hall

Special Report.

9 Montague Close

80 Vincent Square

London SE1 9DD

London SW1P 2PB

Atkin will be joined via Zoom by each of

sustainability. Contact Solenn Guillermin: email

sguillermin@sopexa.com.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 54

attend a number of seminars.

For more information contact, Antonietta

Kelly: a.kelly@ice.it. Thursday July 14


The Vindependents tasting takes place on March 21

I

Curried Fish, also the deliverer of Golden

often get letters from my fans asking

Chanterelles, the permanent Fag-Breaker

me whether my Amazing Lunches

peering in windows, the “Hi Babe”

are true. “Yes”, I write back from the

womaniser who used to stand next to

stretch Hummer that is my mobile office,

the Italian section telling any customer

tucking into my current favourite Amazing Lunch of prawn Marie Rose served in a

perfectly ripe avocadopear using a rasher

of stiff precooked yellow label Co-op bacon

as a spork. “For I have the sad affliction of a complete lack of imagination.”

One of the most endearing qualities of

my colleague Ann is her insistence, despite all evidence to the contrary, that she has a friend. Let’s call her Hilary, because that’s what Ann calls her; she has a friend that

is – and there’s no nice way of putting this

because this is a rather nice way of putting this: Imaginary.

19. CHIP SHOP KITTEN Some members of the Valhalla’s Goat team in Glasgow may have imaginary friends, but Phoebe Weller now has an actual reallife cat

They “run” together, they occasionally

popular so no one is sure as to why she has

“Hilary was in,” Ann says. “You just missed

keeps Ann happy, and a happy Ann makes

“share a Negroni” in the lane behind Ann’s house, but no one has ever met “Hilary”. her.” Aye, right.

There was a time when Ann paid some

woman who was having lunch outside the Overly Bright Italian Restaurant a fiver

to say that she was Hilary, but we quickly saw through this ruse, and we also saw

Ann give her a fiver and wink. Ann is very

felt the need to invent a running partner,

and one with such a ludicrous name, but it for a happy shop, apart from Meadlords because Ann has it in for them. Usually

mellow Ann can’t abide Meadlords and cats, which is fine because they tend to hang out together.

I have neither the time nor inclination

(given that most of my social juice is

greedily soaked

up by Surprisingly Boring Adam,

an oft-forgotten

Saturday afternoon treat) to invent a peppy pal for “running”. I do

however now have a Real Kitten that Pepe from the

chip shop gave

me. Pepe, as you will remember, is the inventor of Battered

THE WINE MERCHANT June 2022 55

who picked up a bottle that it was “shit”; legendary Pepino, who occasionally grooves into a hip-swinging shuffle

accompanied with a very direct look that

makes you wonder what’s going on in his imagination.

H

e brought Pepina into the shop on Sunday night just when we

had started doing some Actual

Work, ie shutting down the shop – the

most efficient part of the shift. I wonder

if you have tried to do Actual Work with a

tiny recently-plucked-from-your-mother’sembrace kitten gripping your shoulder in

terror? Actual Work is difficult at the best

of times, but this took Imaginary Work to a whole new level.

Ann was thrilled! Customer reaction

was mixed. Big tattoed Jock in for his alcfree carry-out croaked onimously, Pepina, it’s your uncle Jockie, whilst

anysparechangehaveanicedaygodblessya stopped his rhythmic dirge to coo

and make other noises that weren’t

anysparechangehaveanicedaygodblessya. Dr Robert’s complete disregard for the cat made me wonder if indeed she did exist, but then he showed me a photo without

explanation of his wife being overwhelmed by Adler, his Norwegian Forest cat.

Pepina is doing very well now, before

you write in. She has shown herself to be

a talented Timelord (stealing rather than

surfing) with a remarkable imagination. I

just watched her playing with an imaginary something for 37 minutes.

There is much less time for nothing when

surrounded by people and cats and their imaginary doings.


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

gonzalez byass uk The Dutch Barn Woodcock Hill Coopers Green Lane St Albans AL4 9HJ 01707 274790 info@gonzalezbyassuk.com www.gonzalezbyassuk.com @gonzalezbyassuk

vintner systems The computer system for drinks trade wholesalers and importers 16 Station Road Chesham Bucks HP5 1DH sales@vintner.co.uk www.vintner.co.uk

Vintner Systems has been supplying specialist software solutions to the wine and spirit trade in the UK and Ireland for over 30 years. After 300 installations at a wide range of business types, we have developed the ultimate package to cover everything from stock control and accountancy to EPOS, customer reserves, brokering and en-primeur. Whether you are a specialist wine retailer, importer or fine wine investment company, our software will provide you with the means to drive your business forward.

THE THEWINE WINEMERCHANT MERCHANTmarch june 2022 2022 56


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

LOUIS LATOUR AGENCIES 12-14 Denman Street London W1D 7HJ

0207 409 7276 enquiries@louislatour.co.uk www.louislatour.co.uk

Charlemagne Cross returned to its rightful place on the Corton hillside Following a period of restoration, after it was accidentally damaged last September, the Charlemagne Cross has been returned to the heart of the Corton-Charlemagne appellation in a ceremony led by Louis-Fabrice Latour,

president of Maison Louis Latour and Lorraine Sénard, president of the Aloxe Corton Vinegrowers.

The cross was originally located in the courtyard of the

Hospice de Beaune but was moved by Louis-Fabrice’s

grandfather and great uncle at the request of Jacques Copeau, a theatre actor, who lived in Pernand-Vergelesses and lacked a space for his performances.

The Latour family is closely linked with the cross and the vineyards on the Corton hillside, having been vinegrowers

here since the first half of the 18th

century and later acquiring Château Corton Grancey in 1891. They were

also responsible for the introduction of Chardonnay after the phylloxera crisis when they recognised the potential

of vineyards that had previously been dedicated to red grape varieties.

hatch mansfield New Bank House 1 Brockenhurst Road Ascot Berkshire SL5 9DL 01344 871800 info@hatch.co.uk www.hatchmansfield.com @hatchmansfield

Save the Date Hatch Mansfield Autumn Tasting Tuesday 20th September 2022 at the Tower of London Details to follow

Register your interest rachelhollinrake@hatch.co.uk

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 57


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

liberty wines 020 7720 5350 order@libertywines.co.uk www.libertywines.co.uk @liberty_wines

Raising a glass to our founding Italian producers As we celebrate Liberty Wines’ 25th anniversary year, we reflect on the 12 Italian wine

producers who have been with us since day one – the 10th March 1997. Tuscany’s Capezzana, Conti Costanti, Fèlsina Berardenga, Fontodi, Isole e Olena, Petrognano, Petrolo and Selvapiana, as well as Poderi Aldo Conterno and G.D. Vajra in Piemonte, Franz Haas in Alto-Adige, and Specogna in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, all feature in our first price list.

These producers epitomise our philosophy that continues to this day: to offer our

customers individual, premium wines that represent the best variety, quality and value of their region. Aldo Conterno and Capezzana are historic names of Italian wine, Franz Haas a passionate ‘King of Pinot Nero’,

Vajra, Specogna and Petrognano create impeccable wines full

of personality, Fèlsina and Costanti are masters of a powerful yet elegant expression of Sangiovese, Petrolo’s ‘Galatrona’ is the

‘Pétrus of Tuscany’, Giovanni Manetti of Fontodi and Paolo De

Marchi of Isole e Olena are legends of Chianti Classico, and there is no better producer in

Chianti Rufina than Selvapiana.

It is thanks to these exceptional producers and countless more over the years that we

have been named Italy Specialist Merchant of the Year 19 times by the International Wine

Challenge. While our great friends Aldo Conterno, Franz Haas and Ugo Contini Bonacossi of Capezzana are sadly no longer with us, the wines that bear their names will continue to be among the stars of our Italy portfolio, and we raise a glass to all.

richmond wine agencies The Links, Popham Close Hanworth Middlesex TW13 6JE 020 8744 5550 info@richmondwineagencies.com

@richmondwineag1

Sacha Lichine Single Blend Rosé 2021 has landed Born in Bordeaux, Sacha Lichine began working at his family property, Château Prieure Lichine, during the summers of his youth.

A defining moment in Sacha’s career came about when he started running the estate. Recognising the importance of innovation in an increasingly varied wine industry, Sacha decided to develop a new line of wines. Saca Lichine Single Blend Rosé 2021 is a fusion of Grenache and Cinsault selected from the Hérault region, between Pézenas and Béziers.

The wine has a bright, blush colour with an elegant nose. It is both full and balanced, with a fresh finish.

Saca Lichine Single Blend Rosé is included in our Summer Offers. Please contact us for your copy.

THETHE WINEWINE MERCHANT MERCHANT september june 20222021 58


BERKMANN wine cellars 104d St John Street London EC1M 4EH 020 7609 4711 indies@berkmann.co.uk www.berkmann.co.uk @berkmannwine @berkmann_wine

SUMMER WINES FROM LEBANON Founded in 1857, Château Ksara is one of Lebanon’s oldest wineries. It was created by Jesuit priests who were living and working in Lebanon and who planted French vines in the high altitude Bekaa Valley. In doing so, they laid the foundations of the modern Lebanese wine industry. Today Château Ksara’s vines are all planted between 1,000m - 1,800m in a terroir that gives their wines incredible freshness and complexity, while the diverse portfolio celebrates both heritage and innovation underpinned by responsible winemaking practices. Summer is the perfect time to curate a unique and exciting collection of Lebanese wine for your shop. For more information or to purchase, contact your Berkmann account manager or email info@berkmann.co.uk

buckingham schenk Unit 5, The E Centre Easthampstead Road Bracknell RG12 1NF 01753 521336 info@buckingham-schenk.co.uk www.buckingham-schenk.co.uk

@BuckSchenk @buckinghamschenk

Sicily is a very unique place offering a great diversity of terroirs dotted around this beautiful island. The name Gergenti derives from the old Sicilian name for the town of Agrigento. Gergenti wines are made with some of the best grapes grown in Sicily and our range includes a Grillo, a Frappatto and red blend of Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese and Frappato.

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 59


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

Fells Fells House, Station Road Kings Langley WD4 8LH 01442 870 900 For more details about these wines and other wines from our awardwinning portfolio from some of the world’s leading wine producing families contact: info@fells.co.uk

www.fells.co.uk

@FellsWine je_fells

top selection 23 Cellini Street London SW8 2LF www.topselection.co.uk info@topselection.co.uk Contact: Alastair Moss Telephone: 020 3958 0744 @topselectionwines

Redefining Argentinian Fine Wine

@tswine

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 60


mentzendorff The Woolyard 52 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UD 020 7840 3600 info@mentzendorff.co.uk www.mentzendorff.co.uk

Celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee year with the Hambledon Vineyard Premiere Cuvée, effervescent with 70 years of winemaking history! 70 years ago, her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II succeeded the throne. The same year, in the small village of Hambledon, Major Guy SalisburyJones planted the first of many vines on the south-facing chalky slopes surrounding a house in Hambledon on the South Downs. It was with this act that history was made – the creation of England’s oldest commercial vineyard.

For more information, please contact your Mentzendorff Account Manager

AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL WINE AGENCIES 28 Recreation Ground Road Stamford Lincolnshire PE9 1EW 01780 755810 orders@abs.wine www.abs.wine

SAVE THE DATE! AWIN B AR RATT SIEGEL P ORTFOLIO TASTING The Stables, 40 Earlham Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9LH

@ABSWines WEDNESDAY 7TH SEPTEMBER 2022

For further information or to register please contact lesley@abs.wine 01306 631155

ok

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 61


SUPPLIER BULLETIN

jeroboams trade 7-9 Elliott's Place London N1 8HX 020 7288 8888 sales@jeroboamstrade.co.uk www.jeroboamstrade.co.uk

@jeroboamstrade

hallgarten wines Mulberry House Parkland Square 750 Capability Green Luton LU1 3LU 01582 722 538 sales@hnwines.co.uk www.hnwines.co.uk @hnwines

Assemblage Issue Eight – ‘Dirt’ In the latest issue of Assemblage, renowned wine communicator Olly Smith is our guest writer, bringing an interesting perspective on soils and terroir: “Dirt isn’t really singular, but we tend to speak of it as though it’s one thing”. Olly explores the diversity of soils and their influence on the wines. Steve Daniel, Hallgarten’s Head of Buying, writes another of his engaging personal perspectives – this time on Italy. And amongst a host of other interesting articles, we also talk to Hardy Ovasie from Levels Bottle Shop in Eastbourne for his perspective.

Read the magazine online from the Hallgarten website or get in touch to request a hard copy!

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 62


walker & Wodehouse 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR 0207 449 1665 orders@walkerwodehousewines.com www.walkerwodehousewines.com

@WalkerWodehouse

New 2021 release of Gérard Bertrand’s iconic prestige Rosé We are delighted to offer this iconic rosé on a pre-shipment basis, the first offer of its kind from our recently announced partnership with Gérard Bertrand in the Languedoc.

We are offering 3x75cl wood case, single 150cl magnum in wood and

single 300cl jeroboam in wood. The 2021 will be bottled mid-June for delivery in July.

Situated in Cabrières, in the heart of the Languedoc region, the Clos du

Temple vineyard is composed of 12 hectares, made up of 11 small plots

clinging to the hillside, naturally enclosed by the relief and vegetation, and farmed using biodynamic principles.

The work of the horse and the mule promote the connection between

the mineral, the plant, the animal and the human. The manual harvesting in boxes is done at daybreak in order to benefit from the night-time

thermal lowering and thus preserve the freshness of the berries. Each plot is harvested at the optimum date and vinified separately.

For more information, please contact your account manager.

Famille Helfrich Wines 1, rue Division Leclerc, 67290 Petersbach, France chris.davies@lgcf.fr 07789 008540 @FamilleHelfrich

They’re all smiles to your face …

THE WINE MERCHANT june 2022 63