A few weeks ago I was extremely privileged to be invited to the prestigious Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair, London for a very special wine tasting. A tasting to celebrate the release of the 2015 Vérité wines.
VÉRITÉ & CARDINALE
Well, this was not going to be any old wine tasting.
Vérité & Cardinale are epic wines with huge reputations too.
If you drink (and taste a lot more) a few bottles of wine a year like me (I KNOW!! Understatement of the year) you will surely know of the Jackson family wines in the USA, hugely famous for its Chardonnay. I knew a little bit but thought I must do a bit of research for information before I go to this great tasting.
1974 Jess Jackson buys 80-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lake County and replants to grapes.
1983 Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay
Kendall-Jackson debuts with 1982 vintage Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay and wins first-ever Double Platinum Award in the American Wine Competition.
From 1986 to the present day they acquired many vineyards across California, Oregon, Tuscany, Bordeaux, Chile, South Africa and Australia.
In 1991 the Jackson family purchased a stave mill in France to guarantee high-quality French oak barrels.
2003 Jess was selected by Robert Parker Jr. as wine personality of the year, and won a lifetime achievement award in 2007.
Sadly on April 21st 2011 Jess passed away.
Tasting at the Dorchester Hotel.
The Tasting was compared by Patrick Schmitt MW, the wine maker behind Vérité – Pierre Seillan, The Jackson Family master Sommelier Dimitri Mesnard and Barbara Banke – founder and Chairman and her daughter Julia Jackson.
We started the afternoon with Vérité 2015.
Winemaker Pierre walked us through the vintage of 2015. What stood out immediately is that this was going to be an epic vintage. He explained that in 49 vintages making wine this was certainly one of his finest, definitely in the top 3!.
The weather meant that the grapes were ready to harvest earlier than ever before at the end of August for the first of the 50 micro crus used in the wine, ending the harvest on September 12th. Yields were modest in small clusters but had quality and good concentration making the 2015 harvest outstanding.
He went on to explain about the micro crus further, how the different elevations, aspects and the make up of the soil on each hillside has its impact on the wines.
So each of the micro crus are harvested by hand and fermented separately, then barreled in French oak, which have also have been toasted in different ways to suit each wine. This allows Pierre hundreds of options to make sure that the final blending of the 3 wines is perfect.
Pierre uses the term micro-cru to define his approach, which is to find the very best of each particular plot within an already outstanding vineyard
His passion exudes when he is talking about Vérité, 21 years making this wine and why it is an incredibly special wine indeed.
Vérité (the French word for TRUTH) comes in 3 wines. La Muse, La Joie & La Désir
These wines are a combination of old-world experience with new world fruit. The grape varieties are all tradition Bordeaux grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Although Bordeaux varieties this is no copy of Bordeaux, these wines stand tall by themselves.
Merlot dominated like the Pomerol wines of the Right Bank style in Bordeaux.
Merlot 90%, Cabernet Franc 7% & 3% Malbec blend.
Ruby red in the glass, on the nose its like a wild meadow but a little restrained due to being a youngster. On the palate Blueberry, blackberry and crème de cassis. Has a spiciness which we are told is from the deep roots in the soil of the old vines which stress the vines to work harder and creates this spice. The finish of this wine just keeps on going and going. This wine is still in its infancy however a classic wine that will age for decades to come. Outstanding wine.
97 pts Lisa Perrotti-Brown , Robert Parker
97 pts James Suckling
95 pts Antonio Galloni.
La Joie. “The Joy”
Cabernet Sauvignon dominated like the wines of Pauillac – Left Bank style in Bordeaux.
Cabernet Sauvignon 75%, Merlot 14%, Cabernet Franc 7% & 4% Petit Verdot.
This Vérité is obviously quite different to La Muse, as its CAB SAV blend shouts out blackcurrants, ripe cherry & some slightly tart damson plum in there too. Its more mineral also. This is a FINE wine also and will age stunningly over the next several decades.
99 pts Lisa Perrotti-Brown , Robert Parker
97 pts James Suckling
96 pts Antonio Galloni.
La Desir. “The Desire”
Cabernet Franc dominated like the wines of St Emillion Bordeaux.
The first two Vérité wines were brilliant….. however…. this really turns up the volume to 11!
It is so elegant, the nose and palate has finesse, its soft yet with a core of minerality that runs all through from the nose, to palate onto the long finish. Waves of flavours abound each taste, Dark berries, liquorice, tobacco, cedar and oh so silky. This wine has robust tannins but the wine is structured so you could decant and drink today, but of course this wine will unfold to be a beauty for many decades to come.
100 pts Lisa Perrotti-Brown , Robert Parker
98 pts James Suckling
98 pts Antonio Galloni.
So are these Bordeaux copies? ABSOLUTELY NOT!.
THESE ARE SIGNATURE WINES FROM SONOMA COUNTY CALIFORNIA!
These are wines without compromise, they are NOT working to the 1855 classification rules in Bordeaux. With Pierre’s micro cru it allows him to make wines that are respectful of that particular vintage and not to a formulaic recipe. When each barrel is tasted he starts to understand his vision for the blend to make that years vintage the best it can be.
These wines are full of passion and spirit. True greats.
Oh and by the way ….. if the French ever change the 1855 classification rules (cant see it in my lifetime) I think they may be trying some Sonoma wines for a new Vision of great wines.
Well it didn’t stop there….
We are then treated to a ” La Muse” Vintage overview
I will give a quick run over these before I send you to sleep with tasting notes….
2012 Robert Parker 97pts Liquorice, tar , light oak and spice.
2009 RP 96 pts Very Elegant & oh so long.
2007 RP 100 pts OH BOY! One of California’s greatest vintages.
2004 RP 98 pts Cigars!
2002 RP 99pts Super fresh has years! Interesting in a decade.
A couple of months ago I was wandering around the London wine fair, when I bumped into Rosamund Barton a director of the food and wine PR agency R&R Teamwork.
She asked had I heard of winebuyers.com, as they have just started the PR for them, and if I had a couple of minutes could she introduce me to them. I was persuaded as she said they had a sour beer made with natural English pinot noir grape skin yeast…. on their stand and I was intrigued to say the least. I’m easy to bribe!
So we arrive at their stand and I was introduced to Ciara who is head of marketing. So firstly Rosamund got me a glass of the beer. Wow its good.
To be honest I have seen many wine clubs and to be honest I have only ever been interested in a couple and they are plenty but a bit samey!.
So why is winebuyers.com different? Well I chatted with the owner Ben for more answers.
Ben & Ciara
Well for a start its free to join for ever single wine buying person in the world!
Not a thing to pay, not anything, nothing at all, nil, zero, nowt, zilch, sweet fanny Adams, zip, nada… Not a dicky bird!OK so now I’m intrigued, how are these guys going to make money…
Winebuyers.com are the intermediary website between either the vineyard or wine merchants. They don’t take any transaction fee, all they do is provide the platform. They make money by charging a subscription per month to the vineyard or merchants. They even provide free trials for the vendors so they can suck it and see! This is a sliding scale for the vendors depending on how many listings that they have. From £50 ($65,€56) to £450 ($585,€504) per month.
From me looking into this business and having run my own successful business for the last 25 years its blatantly obvious numbers of people are the key. Not only vendors which creates their income but also the members of the club who are doing the most important part = buying the wine.
So far they have grown organically with membership now exceeding 24,000, they also have 27,000 wines from 38 countries on the site.
27,000 is a huge amount to choose from and I hear you all saying so how is “x” vineyard going to sell his wine rather than someone else’s. Well Ben tells me that so far they have spent £350,000 building the initial platform so people can buy from all over the world because shipping and duty tariffs all have to be in their site too for everywhere!. They have raised a further £1 million which is being spent very fast I suspect in development and another round of funding is going to happening before the end of the year. So in answer to the question they are building sophisticated software algorithm’s which will guide each buyer to their types of wines. I think time will tell to see if 27,000 listings is too much or not enough….
Their ethos is to be a one stop shop for ALL your wine needs. So if you want “x” wine then they want it listed on their site. All wine listed is in stock too as they have built systems which all vendors adhere to so stock is always live.
So I want to buy a wine from Croatia, I click on what I want and then the system places the order with the vineyard directly, thus allowing smaller vineyards to distribute where they don’t have any distribution and also sell for retail price. The system also calculates shipping and duty that is applicable wherever you live too. All vendors will be subject to a ratings system on the site too, guessing this keeps everyone on their toes.
Their plan for the next 2 years… 100k bottles listed from 2000 vendors. A big ask but really they are building numbers of both at a really fast pace now.
They will promoting wines of the day, week & month too. There is no charge to the vendors for this and they are chosen by the staff at Winebuyers. This will also be giving exposure to vendors wines.
Time will tell but if their 1st year is anything to go by and Ben’s successful track record with luxury businesses we all need to watch this space…………… I wish them all the best of luck.
If you watch cricket you will know that England have recently had a comprehensive 4 to 1 test match victories against India….. bear with me for a second this is not a complete digression after one too many glasses of wine! Ciara suggested sending me some samples of ENGLISH & INDIAN WINES I had yet to try. In fact this blog was supposed to during the weekend of the last test match a few weeks ago but the courier managed to lose the box! and then I was swanning around Italy as many of you know following me on twitter.
So Ciara sent me an English sauvignon blanc and an Indian Sangiovese…. yes Sangiovese. I know one is white and one is red before anyone says it was hardly a fair contest however, I drink and taste enough wines to judge them on their own merits.
So the English wine first….. of course!
Blackdown Ridge Estate. England
A Little history of the vineyard before we start from their website.
Blackdown Ridge Estate sits at 440 feet above sea level in the Sussex Weald, enjoying extraordinary views over the South Downs National Park.
Here we have planted vines to create fine English wines, taking advantage of the superb location and conditions.
The wines of Blackdown Ridge Estate are the result of the vision of owner, Professor Martin Cook, who has lived on the estate for 20 years. A passionate wine-lover, Martin was inspired to create his vineyard when an Italian family friend and winemaker, Antonio, suggested that the beautiful, serene south-facing slopes of Blackdown would be perfect for growing vines.
Antonio’s words inspired Martin to realise the potential of the estate and the first vines were planted in 2010. The soil of the Sussex Weald shares much with the terroir of the Champagne region of France, and this influenced our plantings of the classic sparkling wine varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. These have been used to create our first sparkling wine, released in 2015.
The grapes planted for our range of still wines include the aromatic Bacchus for our single varietal English white wine, as well as Rondo, Triomphe d’Alsace and, more recently, Sauvignon Blanc.
We have 10.5 acres currently planted to vines which are nurtured throughout the growing year with an environmentally sensitive approach to viticulture that ensures optimum ripeness, yield and fruit quality.
Blackdown Ridge 2016 Sauvignon Blanc
Made from 100% Estate grown Sauvignon Blanc
On the nose its sauvignon alright but not like a huge gooseberry blast from New Zealand, this wine is certainly more like the Torraine style from the Loire in France.
On the palate its a real delight for a wine priced at this point!
Grapefruit with a tropical feel, freshly mowed lawn with a herby note too, but not flowery its dry and has a zingy citrus feel on the finish with a lingering mineral note too. This would match perfectly to creamy seafood dishes as the wines acidity would be pairing heaven. Any shellfish would be perfect too.
Retails on winebuyers.com for only £10 ($13,€11.20)
Fratelli Wines, India
Some history about this Indian winery from their website.
FRATELLI… Italian for brothers.
And so it began, and so it continues to be with Fratelli. In the beginning there was an idea. An idea born of a general conversation between the sons of the fathers. From the soles of a thriving shoe business to the soul of Italian winemaking with a Tuscan icon in Piero Masi, is how this story began and how it has since evolved. Take three families, three sets of brothers separated by caste, country and faith, a shared dream and vision. Complete this fellowship of the grape, with the main cog in the Fratelli machine, a Tuscan with over 50 vintages of winemaking experience etched in his verysoul, and the rest as they say is history.
WINE MAKING PHILOSOPHY
Piero’s winemaking ideology is born of Tuscan tradition yet unbridled in its embrace of a more vibrant and modern new world philosophy. Letting the vineyard speak is our mantra, and Piero’s minimalist approach to winemaking, ensures Fratelli wines offer a more broader diversity of wine styles.
While adopting Piero Masi’s sustainable viticultural mantra, Fratelli goes beyond just winemaking and wine production. By placing the utmost importance and unbridled commitment to nurturing the very best from our unique terroir, the end results achieved are grapes with the purest expression borne of all the Fratelli vineyards. The core focus for Piero and his team is to develop each vineyard with their own identity, personality, style and resultant grape quality, which in the end paves the way for creating high quality, artisanal wines that are true to Fratelli’s core values.
India’s largest privately owned wine estate of 240 acres, Fratelli lies just 6 hours from Mumbai and 3 hours of Pune in the Sholapur region of Maharashtra.
Blessed with unique, nutrient poor, calcareous soils with an extraordinary resemblance to those of the Bolgheri and Chianti regions of Italy, and combined with the temperate Maharashtrian climate, the resultant wines showcase varietal purity, vibrant acidity and an inherent freshness as core attributes. Currently home to several more noted international and pioneering grape varieties, the Fratelli Vineyards offer up the idiom that anything is possible in India. Time is the key.
Fratelli, Maharashtra, Sangiovese 2015
Made from 100% Sangiovese.
Well this again was unmistakeably on the nose Sangiovese……. however as many of you know Italian wines are something I spend most of my life drinking and without blowing my own trumpet I know a good Sangiovese.
As soon as I tasted this wine it threw me a curved ball… It was just so dry and way too much tannin, by that I mean how am I going to write about this wine in a positive way. I am not a critic and my intention is never to rubbish any wines but I had the ENG Vs IND piece to write….. DONT PANIC!!!
I gave this some time which I wouldn’t normally have to do with a wine at this price point and ……..
Thank god!! It came to life after I decanted for actually only 20 to 30 minutes and was unrecognisable from when it was first opened.
On the palate this wine is medium bodied with cherry fruit at the forefront, although with a odd sweetness I’m not used to with Italian Sangiovese even though this is a very dry wine. The finish is smoky, spicey with more red fruits and dry. Would work perfectly with Pizza with a spicey topping or pasta with a rich tomato based sauce.
Retails on winebuyers.com for only £11.60 ($15,€13)
Well if you have read any of my recent blogs you would have been finding out a lot more about wines from England and the UK, however I am sure that most people out there have not tried wine from India.
What I can say with complete confidence is that you will be hearing lots more and not just from little old me.
The UK wine industry is in boom time and the next 20 years will be so exciting, and although I don’t have any specific data for India, you can be assured with its diverse climate huge labour work force and huge land mass they will one day become one of the worlds large producers.
Which wine won………
BLACKDOWN RIDGE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016 is the WINNER!!!
Well I know you must be amazed at the fourth blog in ten days!
I had met Tiléri and Natalie from Poulton Hill Estate vineyard at a couple wine tastings in the Cotswolds and really wanted to go and check out what they are doing.
Well my twitter buddy Swami, now lifelong food & wine friend from Iowa, told me he was coming to see me on an epic five week tour he had planned in Europe. So I started to plan a couple of days for him with me in Worcestershire. Food and wine both days was hugely important as Swami eats amazingly on his worldwide travels. With a few days before Swami’s arrival the weather forecast was superb for the upcoming days of his visit. With this in mind I thought we have to go to an ENGLISH vineyard!.
The new tasting room at Poulton Hill Estate.
So this was the perfect opportunity to visit Poulton Hill Estate in the stunning Cotswolds as its only 45 minutes from home. With only two days notice we were made extremely welcome by Tiléri and Natalie. Many thanks.!!!!
The 7 acres of the Poulton Hill Estate vineyard were planted in 2010, set in the idyllic Cotswold countryside, close to the Roman town of Cirencester and Regency spa town of Cheltenham.
The vines planted are on south facing slopes, 8800 in total, which equates to about 20,000 bottles per year. They have three white varieties: Phoenix, Bacchus, Seyval Blanc and three red varieties: Pinot Noir, Regent and Rondo.
Other than some occasional help around the vineyard Tiléri and Natalie do everything. Obviously labour is brought in for the harvest, but when I say everything I mean EVERYTHING.
These are two petite ladies and they get stuck into every single part of what’s involved within the vineyard. Vine maintenance, pruning, wires, thinning, you name it they do it. Not only that but they are the face of Poulton at many events in the UK too. Oh and the tasting room, paperwork, telephones, orders, deliveries……. EVERYTHING!
Tiléri was telling me that at an event when they told a consumer they were the ones that worked the estate the response was ” I’m sure you don’t – day to day” in which she responded, “feel free to come anytime and see that WE MOST DEFINITELY DO.
They certainly are a dynamic duo and they work bloody hard too! Both Swami and I discussed this on the way home after we had finished. We were sure that its not an easy job, however extremely rewarding when all the work comes to fruition with wonderful wines. Especially when the wines are winning awards and the wine buying public are loving them too!
2013 Brut Rosé has been highly commended at The World’s Finest Glass of Bubbly Awards 2017.
2012 Brut English Sparkling Wine has won yet another medal. The wine won a silver medal at The World’s Finest Glass of Bubbly awards.
Poulton Hill Bacchus 2016 wins Drinks Product of the Year at the Cotswold Life Food and Drink Awards.
English Sparkling White 2012, awarded a Q in the Quality Drink Awards.
Responsibility to the environment is an integral part of what they do. They have Babydoll sheep that graze the orchard and wildflowers planted to help the insect population.
They have two flocks of rare-breed sheep, Jacob’s Sheep and Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep, two of the oldest breeds in England. The Babydoll sheep are perfect for keeping the area around the vines tidy without eating the grapes also fertilizing the soil as they go.
So Natalie held the fort and Tiléri took Swami and I to see the vines.
The first thing that we both noticed were the stunning Roses! I have only ever seen this once before at Querciabella, in Tuscany (Querciabella is a Biodynamic Vineyard)
It’s a very old tradition which is done as vines and roses are both susceptible to the same mildew and fungus and they acted as an early warning system on the end of the rows. Although these days at Poulton Estate it’s purely for cosmetic reasons as vine management today is very different to how it was many years ago.
Back to the tasting room to sample the delights of Poulton Estate wines.
Currently they make six still wines, (the reserve red was just released when we visited and not in the photo), three sparkling, a Cotswold brandy and a Sloe de Vie.. don’t worry I will explain. I hadn’t heard of it either.
Throughout the tasting it was obvious to Swami and I that these ladies certainly are involved with everything aspect in the vineyard, as their knowledge and experience, to all of our questions, from terroir to bottle was very impressive.
Bacchus is of German origin and named after the Roman God of wine.
In the glass this is light gold with a platinum edged quality too. Elderflower and peach on the nose. On the palate its fresh grapefruit, gooseberry, ripe tropical notes too. On the finish its dry and crisp with a touch of mineral right on the end. Really good on its own or with some fresh seafood it would be a delight!
Phoenix 2015 (although now 2017 vintage)
Again the variety is of German origin.
In the glass this is very light in colour indeed. The nose has fabulous elderberry and herbaceous hints reminiscent of a traditional French Sauvignon. This medium-bodied wine is packed full of flavour with notes of lychee, elderberry and gooseberry, followed by a refreshingly clean finish.
Special Reserve 2016
Phoenix is of German origin and Seyval Blanc is of French origin.
Grapes: Phoenix and Seyval Blanc
Pale straw colour in the glass with fresh aromas of elderflower and pear on the nose. The palate is bursting with juicy peach, finishing with tones of zesty lemon sherbet.
Grapes: Phoenix, Seyval Blanc, Rondo and Regent
The NV Rosé is salmon pink in colour, has cherry and slight plummy tones with a long, long finish. Delicious summer sipping!
This wine is a delight drunk on a hot summer day or will pair with white fish, chicken or pork dishes.
This wine was not tasted on the day and had not been released. It is available now.
It has soft, well-rounded, ripe summer fruits on the nose that lead to delicate hints of damson plum and strawberries, with a crisp, dry finish on the palate.
Special Reserve Red 2016
Well I drank this one again last night.
Grapes: Rondo and Regent, with only 663 bottles made of this first vintage of this wine.
In the glass this wine is deep violet red in colour with a vibrant violet edge. The nose is blackberry, ripe black cherry with a touch of vanilla toastyness. The palate is an explosion of fruit! Black Cherry, quickly followed by stewed sweet plums. This wine is aged for six months in American oak so it does have a touch of vanilla although very little, and on the end it has a lovely spicey touch. Tannins are well integrated and it has a lovely soft lingering fruity finish. Really enjoyed this wine. Will also be good to see how it develops in the bottle over the next 12 months.
On to the sparkling wine
A new name for English sparkling wine? Well Poulton Estate certainly think so.
Poulton Hill Estate has a trademark registered for ‘Bulari’ (a variation of the Latin for bubbles) as a generic term to describe English sparkling wine.
English sparkling wine producers have been searching for a catchy name to signify prestige and reflect ever-increasing quality for years now. The use of the Latin term Bulari reflects the fact that vines for wine-making were first introduced to Britain by the Romans.
As a recognition of their awards, quality and success, Poulton Hill Estate’s award-wining sparkling white and rosé wines will now be labelled Bulari. High-quality English sparkling wine producers, who meet the same strict production criteria for making English sparkling wines, will also be able to use the term under license.
Time will tell if this name catches on….. but always I hear lots banded round the industry that we don’t have a name like, Cava, Sekt, Prosecco or Champagne.
In the glass it’s beautiful pale pink with fine perlage. On the nose it’s a summer berry heaven! A Strawberry and cream delight. This was the first glass we started with on the tasting and I think Swami was surprised at how good quality this tasting was going to be. This follows by quite a long dry finish with a touch of minerality on the end.
This is great as an aperitif but equally a great food wine. In fact the first time my wife and I had this wine was at a lovely pub down the road from the vineyard and I had a burger for lunch. Paired a treat!RRP: £27.99
English Sparkling Brut
Grapes: Seyval Blanc, Phoenix, Rondo and Regent. ( not tasted on the day)
Poulton Hill Estate English sparkling wine is a rich straw yellow colour with a slight touch of pink. The nose is a lovely blend of English summer fruits, with hints of gooseberry and grapefruit. The palate is equally reminiscent of an English summer, with notes of crisp green apple, elderflower, a touch of lime and hints of redcurrant and strawberry. RRP: £60.00
Grapes: Seyval Blanc & Pinot Noir
Pale straw golden in the glass with fine perlage, the nose is green apples and pears with citrus notes of orange, lemon and limes. On the palate juicy apple bursts across your tongue followed by citrus freshness which creates a wonderful well-rounded mouthfeel. This is very clean and fresh.
Sloe de Vie.
Sloe de Vie displays delicious fruit flavours of sloes hand-picked at the peak of ripeness following the harvest in 2015.
Once fermented, the sloe wine was triple distilled and then bottled.
The delicate aromas and freshness of the fruit have been preserved, resulting in a spirit of exceptional smoothness. Much like a fine grappa. RRP £37.99
This Limited edition Cotswold Brandy has been produced exclusively from grapes harvested by hand at the Poulton Hill Estate in 2013. Following fermentation, the base wine has been triple distilled and then matured in American Oak casks.
Cotswold Brandy has a wonderful nose of deep almond and vanilla, with hints of wood and notes of spice. The palate is beautifully soft and smooth with a fruity finish.
Each bottle of this limited release has been carefully hand labelled and individually hand numbered. Unfortunately it was only a 200 bottle run and its all SOLD OUT!
Experience Poulton Hill for yourself
It really is a wonderful vineyard to visit, the Cotswold countryside is stunning and definitely worth a visit for a weekend or longer. There are plenty of places to stay from B&B’s to luxury country house hotels.
Poulton Hill Estate Vineyard feature. Pictured tiléri charles-jones. 21/07/17 Thomas Kelsey
Poulton Hill Estate Vineyard feature. Pictured tiléri charles-jones. 21/07/17 Thomas Kelsey
Poulton Hill Estate Vineyard feature. Pictured tiléri charles-jones. 21/07/17 Thomas Kelsey
Poulton Hill Estate Vineyard feature. Pictured roses. 21/07/17 Thomas Kelsey
Poulton Hill Estate Vineyard feature. Pictured tiléri charles-jones. 21/07/17 Thomas Kelsey
You can join Poulton estate for a relaxed tour around their vineyard, where they will take you through the history and the growing of grapes. From there, you can sample a selection of their wines at their Cellar Door. Tours start at 11am and last about 1 ½ hours. Tickets cost £15 per person, with a maximum of 20 tickets available for each tasting.
Tours run Monday to Friday and one Saturday per month until Oct 2018.
For dates and to book your tour, please call Poulton Estate on: 0044 (0)1285 850257
Why not join Tiléri & Natalie for a harvest experience? Harvest is one of the best times of year at Poulton Hill Estate. There is always a great atmosphere as you will work up and down the vines in pairs picking the fruit. If you would like to help out or learn more about what happens at harvest time in a vineyard, please contact them : email@example.com
Huge Thank you to Tiléri and to Natalie who were fabulous hosts to us. I really do take my hat off to all the hard work that you put into this vineyard. Its obvious it is so much more than a Job to you both. Salute 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷
Again I wrote this blog because I love what they are doing at Poulton Estate and their wines.
I have not been paid to write this blog nor do I have any affiliation to Poulton Estate.
The wine drunk last night SPECIAL RESERVE RED 2016 was kindly given to me by Swami who bought it on our visit. Thanks Swami.
Hi again…… I know 3 blogs in a week! and there is more next week too.
Astley vineyard is actually the closest vineyard to my home in Worcestershire. (40 mins south of the UK’s 2nd city Birmingham)
When I started to taste more English still wines at trade events I really had to go and visit Astley as they are 15 minutes from my house. I spoke with them on twitter for a while and then about 7 months ago in Jan 2018 I visited for the first time. I haven’t written about them until now because there were big plans afoot at Astley which will all come clear in this blog.
Astley used to be the most northerly vineyard in the WORLD! When it was established in the Severn Valley, Worcestershire, in 1971.
The terroir for this part of Worcestershire where the vineyard is planted is Triassic Sandstone and about 200 million years old (ish) this provides excellent drainage and a naturally high acidity in the wines also.
The vineyard is on an east facing slope located by a deep valley which draws away cold air, 1/2 mile away from the river Severn which also moderates the micro climate.
Below is a geo map of the county. Sandstone was used for many of the old buildings in the county too.
The original founders, the Bache family, planted varieties such as Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe decades before its potential in England was realised. Many of these vines still stand – including their unique 46 year old Kerner – providing ASTLEY now with almost unrivalled maturity and heritage. There is also Pinot Noir, used for blending and some chardonnay……. which is used for nothing as it never ripens enough! It is being replaced in the not to distant future.
Jonty Daniels who was a bit of a legend amongst small English wine producers owned the vineyard for over 24 years, and retired in July 2017.
He wasn’t going to sell to just anybody, they had to have the same vision & values for the little estate that he had. So in 2017 the Haywood family bought the vineyard and moved in, July 17′.
There are 5 Haywood’s in the Family that are involved passionately in this new venture/adventure.
Dad & Owner: Tim. Each time I have visited Tim is super busy getting his hands dirty and really getting stuck into every job on the estate. A far cry I’m sure from his past life as a Financial Director in the City.
Mum: Bev. The first time I met Bev she was pruning the vines in Jan. On their website it describes Bev as the lynch pin holding it all together. Bev if you are anything like my mother & I am sure that you are. We would all be lost without our Mums.
Son: Chris. Chris exudes passion for this project! A great guy and like the whole family 100% committed every day to anything that the vineyard requires. He spent 2 years at a luxury wine shop and is WSET Level 3 qualified, Chris is Astley’s wine man.
The Finnish Wife of Chris: Matleena, who is the business manager and accounts dept.
Daughter: Daisy. Resident Landscape Architect and artist. Daisy lends her creative eye to projects and looks after the estate woodland and gardens.
The previous owner Jonty always had the wine made at a large commercial vineyard but the Haywood’s have other plans completely. They want control over the whole process.
The first part of this I saw a few months ago, in early May, where the foundations for the new winery & the new tasting room & shop were getting underway.
Everything has changed at Astley…… well except for the vines!. Their new Astley branding for the business together with their new beautiful bottle labels are a credit to them. A collaboration with the very talented team at Wearebeard, based in Worcester. In fact I must get in touch with them to get new pietrovini branding!
New nature inspired labels incorporating the wildlife around the vineyard. Please click on any of the bottles above to get much larger image. It will open a new page.
So now in July, just a few short months after the start of new buildings, the new shop and tasting room are complete. The winery will be finished imminently.
So the new tasting room has a great layout including a bar!, plenty of tables and seating and even a quite corner to relax in too.
The whole ethos of what the Haywood’s are doing at Astley is a credit to them, they understand that they are a boutique winery with only 5 acres of vines, they will never make much more than 10,000 bottles per year. So to that end they have made the whole vineyard extremely visitor friendly, from walking through the woodland to the vineyard, or just popping in to have a glass of their wine on the new terrace. (Licence will be in place within weeks.) They will also be opening as a bar once or twice a month on a Friday or Saturday night, ticket only to enjoy their wines. Check website for updates.
Not only are they doing their own wine tasting sessions but Chris is providing monthly tastings for other wines from all over the world too. Sometimes these are just tasting nights but also they are doing gourmet food nights with wine matching each course. Which are quite the event.
Starting with a quick tour of the vines with Chris and some Q&A too.
Then a stroll up through the vines to the huge Teepee where the wines and delicious food is served.
These events will take place frequently, there are 3 over the next few weeks. Take a look at the website link https://www.astleyvineyard.co.uk/events if you fancy a great night in the vines. Perfect Summer BBQ wines, Natural wines & the KERNER tasting experience which is not to be missed.
Join the Haywood family for a special exploration of the Kerner grape. Focusing on wines made from Kerner, you will taste an exclusive range of wines both from their private collection, as well as from Astley Vineyard’s unreleased stocks. Unlike their other events, you will sit down with their entire family and explore wine as a group.
About time I started talking about their delicious wines.
Madeleine Angevine 2016or “MAD ANGIE” as is sometimes known in the UK.
Grapes: Madeleine Angevine
Residual Sugar: 7.6 g/L
Total Acidity: 9.2 g/L
A delicate wine floral on the nose, on the palate grapefruit with a touch of peachy notes too. On the finish the there is crisp acidity with a little mineral note too. A real citrus blast of a wine. a real foodie wine.
RRP £ 11.00 Bargain!
Severn Vale 2016
Grapes: Bacchus, Madeleine Angevine, Kerner & tiny drop of Oaked Sauvignon Blanc too.
Residual Sugar: 10.2 g/L
Total Acidity: 8.4 g/L
This is a fabulous light summer wine for sitting out on the patio in the sunshine. Off dry. On the nose its apples all the way! On the palate ripe fruit with a crunchy green apple freshness delighting with a light floral note, which then leads to more rich tropical notes and citrus acidity from the MAD ANGIE and Kerner on the finish. The SB in the wine gives a little roundness on the finish, but as its only about 2% its not made it feel oaky in anyway shape or form.
RRP £ 10.00
Grapes: Siegerrebe & Bacchus
Residual Sugar: 3.8 g/L
Total Acidity: 6.1 g/L
This is quite a big wine on the nose with a multitude of huge tropical fruit flavours filling the nose which makes you desperate to taste. Super fruity wine, yet dry. Mango, pineapple, passionfruit with the zest of limes. An absolute delight. In fact I drank one last night.
This wine is a great aperitif however it will be stunning with Asian food, spiced foods or as I had last night crab pâté on granary toast with ripe tomatoes.
RRP £ 16.00
Residual Sugar: 9.7 g/L
Total Acidity: 8.5 g/L
For those of you who have not heard about Bacchus, well for me it’s to England what Sauvignon Blanc is to NZ.
It’s a crisp & dry wine, it’s packed with flavours of elderflower, kiwi fruit, lime, grapefruit and crisp green apples. All this fruit flavour yet dry but with a good acidity and a lingering finish too. Every time I taste this wine new flavours appear its a really delicious wine.
RRP £ 16.00
Old Vine Kerner 2015
Grapes: Kerner from 45 yr old vines
Residual Sugar: 10.3 g/L
Total Acidity: 8.8 g/L
For me without a doubt this is Astley Vineyards flagship wine. Its truly wonderful, I cant quite get my head round the fact that its from Worcestershire and 15 minutes from my house!
Slightly off dry this wine is elegant on the nose with fresh elderflower & honeysuckle. On the palate its white peaches, elderflower, a zestyness of freshness too. On the end it has a little nutty and spicey touch too.
I was and am a big fan of this wine. I bought this wine, then went back within a few days to get a case. It definitely has some aging potential too.
RRP £ 19.50
Vintage Spakling Kerner 2014
Residual Sugar: 11.8 g/L
Total Acidity: 9.8 g/L
Now I’m going to review this when the next vintage comes out as its not now for sale as its all been sold.
What’s interesting it’s really a great English Sparkling wine that is not made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier.
RRP £ 28.50 SOLD OUT (SORRY)
But you can have by the glass in Central London at the Coral Rooms at the Bloomsbury hotel.
Images above were taken by me this morning 5th Aug 2018. 46 year old Kerner vines and this years crop so far.
There are great plans a foot and the grape press is being delivered tomorrow, so I will keep you informed about Astley’s new in house winery too.
I wrote this because I love what they are doing at Astley and their wines.
I bought their wines myself and have not been paid to write this blog nor do I have any affiliation.
Well I mentioned in my Part 1, WINE GB, piece last Sunday about Robb Merchant who is the Chairman of the Welsh Vineyards Association and also owner of White Castle Vineyard whom I had met at the Wine GB event in London.
White Castle Vineyard is owned by Robb & Nicola Merchant, situated in the beautiful rolling countryside of Monmouthshire (WALES!) in the village of Llanvetherine close to the towns of Abergavenny and Monmouth.
Robb had worked for the Post Office in South Wales for a long time in a senior management role which was a pretty stressful life and he decided to get away from the rat race.
Robb & Nicola purchased the 12 acre small holding in 1995 which they then converted the milking parlour barn into their home. It was then 2008 before the dream of owning a vineyard became a reality, 5 acres of a gently sloping, south facing field was purchased adjacent to the property. Soil samples were tested to see if it was ok for vines and they had the thumbs up, so off they went and purchased the vines.
In May 2009 the first 4000 vines were planted. Pinot Noir Précoce, Regent, Rondo, Seyval Blanc & Phoenix varieties so now there certainly was no going back. In May 2010 they planted another 800 vines this time the variety was Siegerrebe.
So in early May one beautiful sunny Sunday morning I suggested to Mrs D that we should take a ride out in the car….. towards Abergavenny…. maybe call in to a vineyard… I have to say my wife is a super star and enjoys wine too….. although just about tolerates by obsession.
On to Google……. I know they are open. I intend to surprise Robb unannounced. Which I have to say he took extremely well as he was busy and had a tasting/tour an hour after we arrived. Sorry Robb. Proper Gentleman.
After a quick hello and introductions to our wives we decided to check out the 5 acre vineyard. Now I know to some people this will sound so small but the passion that Robb & Nicola put in is incredible. Their aim is to make boutique wines (and making them they definitely are) and because production is less than 10,000 bottles per year unfortunately most of their wines will go to the ever expanding top restaurants (including Michelin Star) in the area. Although there is nothing stopping you ordering the wines directly from their website. However there are plans for expansion of the vineyard…. watch this space.
So through the Grade 2 listed barn, dating back to 1581! Now been totally restored, as a tasting room, for tours, hire and events.
Over the beautiful river bridge, wow the water is so clear! I know it looks empty but it really is not. The water of these rivers and streams in Wales is incredible.
To the Vineyard where the vines are waking up from their winter sleep. 6th May 2018.
So after a walk around, seeing how the different vines (grape) varieties were at different stages of growth we went back to the tasting rooms to try WELSH WINE!
Now because of their size its not practical to have their own winery, so they use Three Choirs Vineyard for their winemaking which is only 25 miles away. https://www.three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk/gloucestershire .
That said Robb & Nicola decide the whole process of how they want the wines made.
Starting off with “GWIN GWYN” 2016 which is Welsh means WHITE WINE.
On the nose its predominantly Elderflower, then on the palate its a lime, gooseberries, and super fresh. Its a dry wine with a lovely zesty finish. Also right on the end of the finish I was getting sherbet (but not in a fizzy way!)
Next was the White Castle Brut sparkling wine:
Made from 100% Phoenix Grapes 12% ABV RRP £30.00. 1000 Btl Production
When poured this wine has super fine perlage, zesty fresh on the nose. On the palate it feels soft & delicate with elderflower & gooseberry notes classic of the Phoenix grape.
Next up was White Castle Regent.
100% Regent Grapes. 11.5% ABV. RRP.£18.50
This pours red with a violet edge and looks and smells super fresh. On the palate its fruit, fruit and then more fruit! Blackberry, Morello Cherry with a lovely smokiness too. Its so fresh and a would be a delight on a summers day with a BBQ or any time with a plate of charcuterie. This wine I think would also be lovely, slightly chilled down to 12-14c
RONDO was next.
100% RONDO grapes, 11.5% ABV RRP £17.50.
Again this red wine is bright cherry red in the glass, fresh berries on the nose with a touch of spice too. In the mouth its black fruit all the way, medium bodied not to heavy at all but dry on the palate finishing with a lightness of oak too. Spends 4 months in OAK.
Next to PINOT NOIR…. But not any old PN
100% Pinot Noir Précoce 2016, Known in Germany as Frühburgunder. This is a mutant of original PN which ripens earlier for cooler climate vineyards. 12% ABV RRP. £20.00
This for me really is their flagship wine. This wine spends 9 months on oak
25% No OAK, 25% New OAK, 25% + 25% in differently aged oak barrels. Then blended.
On the nose it has a much bigger and bolder feel than the Regent or Rondo. In the mouth its fresh but at the same time a great richness of cherries with blackberry touch too, vanilla, lightly spicy and subtle toasty notes too. So soft on the palate and so well balanced with tannins and acidity. (The PN Précoce is known for its lower tannin and acidity and it really shows) I liked this wine a lot. In fact Robb put me a case by please!
I actually had this wine last night, you can check my twitter feed. I was sat in the garden when my neighbour, knowing I like the odd glass of wine (really???) asked what I was drinking, Welsh wine I replied….
She laughed, yeah yeah, no really what are you drinking I told her I was deadly serious and she should try it. She tried the wine (well her face was an absolute picture.) and then put down the glass and picked up the bottle…. I cannot believe that this wine is from Wales, it really is WELSH WINE! its delicious so smooth full of fruit and well just…. delicious!. My reply was that its only 40 minutes away near Abergavenny and you can go and visit and get your own haha.
Last but not least….. DESSERT WINE yes really a dessert wine made in WALES.
1581 its called, due to the date of the old Croft Barn, it is made from 100% Regent grapes. This is delicious and should be drunk with a beautiful cheese, figs and dates platter. Only 500 Bottles made. I will be reviewing this later after a tasting with friends. I’m going to see who guesses where its from and what its made from…… NO ONE WILL HAVE A CLUE!
So overall are these wines any good?
Well I guess the proof is in the purchases. I bought all of the wines reviewed!.
Below are some great pictures Robb has sent me from the 2016 & 2017 harvests.
If you are in area please go and visit, there are lots of top restaurants near by also.
Great Britain is making seriously good… no seriously bloody great wines!
Wine GB is the premier wine event for the UK wine industry held at the Royal Horticultural Society Lindley Hall in London. All of the Vineyards at the event are listed at the end of this blog with their websites and twitter handles too. Please check some of them out.
For sure Great Britain is known for its stunning (worldwide) award winning sparkling wines, however what really was the shocker for me is how fantastic English still wines have become also!.
Just a few FACTS about GB wine industry to get you started:
(ALL FACTS FROM WINE GB WEBSITE)
Commercial Vineyards: 502
Hectares Under Vine: 2554 (6308 Acres) Hectarage planted has tripled since 2000
Vines Planted in 2017: 1 Million
Predicted Planting for 2018: 1.5 to 1.7 Million Vines
Types of wine sold: Still wine 32% (1.9m btl) Sparkling 68% 4m Bottles
Export: 27 Countries (4% of wine produced)
Top Grape Varieties: No1. Pinot Noir 31.5%, No.2 Chardonnay 30.2% No.3 Pinot Meunier 9.5%. These 3 sparkling varieties account for 71.2% of all grapes grown in GB currently.
So I spent the morning tasting Sparkling wines. From table to table, one vineyard to the next the quality was outstanding. Below were my sparkling wines of the morning, however ALL the sparkling I tasted on the day were of such a high quality.
Hambledon: Vineyards: Première Cuvée NV RRP £42.50
Gusbourne: Blanc de Blancs 2013 RRP £35.00
Nyetimber: Blanc de Blancs 2010 £43.99
Cottonworth: Classic Cuvée NV RRP £28.00
Now I have written a few pieces lately on Sparkling wines (check the archive) so I am not reviewing any of these sparkling wines today. What I have mentioned earlier are the wonderful still wines GB is now producing.
I bumped into my great wine buddy Mike again! (www.pleasebringmemywine.com @pbmmw – twitter) who told me that I needed to taste a wine. I was stood next to the Welsh Vineyards Association stand. I did not have very high hopes. How wrong was I!
OK once again I was proved to be a complete muppet! I ended up being there 20 mins and having a great and interesting tasting!
So I was introduced to Woody from Montgomery Vineyard who poured me a glass of white wine
It was 100% Solaris grape variety 2016.
Solaris meaning “Sun” is an early ripening variety originally from Germany and perfect for the cooler climate of Wales. Its fruity & Zesty with a fresh slightly off dry feel, then with tropical, slightly nutty finish. Great Summer sipping! Approx RRP. £20
Then came the second wine. RONDO 2016: This is a medium bodied red with a big redberry fruit burst. Rondo is again a cool climate grape variety. Approx RRP £20
I’m looking forward to visiting soon to further follow up on these wines. (please note this vineyard is not open to the public ….. YET)
Then I met Robb Merchant, who is currently Chairman of the Welsh Vineyard Association & also owner of White Castle Vineyards in Abergavenny. Only about 40 mins from my house actually…. but that’s another story in a couple of blogs time (next week I promise!) 5 Acres 4800 vines, truly a great story. Pinot Noir Précoce 2016 Approx RRP £20
This intrigued me to start to look for all the other still wines at the tasting.
Denbies Wine Estate was my next stop. This estate is based in Surrey in the south East of England and the vines were planted in 1986. Denbies is currently the largest producer in the UK with circa. 500,000 bottles per year. Now they make a lot of sparkling wines but I was interested mainly in their range of still wines.
What drew me too the table was I saw in the catalogue that they had Pinot Gris & I love Pinot Gris.
The Pinot Gris poured was very pale in colour, so a good start. On the nose there was brioche and ripe fruits. It has lots of body and has a full on mouth feel, but with zesty acidity on the finish its beautifully balanced. Approx Retail £17 Bargain!
PINOT NOIR 2016. Well I’m quite fussy about the old PN as it goes but I was pleasantly surprised by this full on single varietal PN. Fairly light cherry red in the glass. On the nose and the palate it was a plummy/raspberry delight. I could have easily pulled up a chair, sipped all afternoon and would have done if there was also a nice plate of charcuterie.
Just before I left Denbies table I was asked would I like to try the dessert wines. Well to be honest that was a new one for me. I actually didn’t know GB wine industry made any. I was put right then and have been since too. I’ve always been a fan of dessert wines and have at least 20 different types at home. So of course I jumped at the chance.
Denbies produce 2 dessert wines. Noble Harvest 2016 & The Brokes Botrytis Ortega 2016
Both Wines are made from 100% Ortega Grapes. While the Noble harvest was delicious, golden in the glass & heavenly on the palate 12%ABV (RRP £24.95 Half bottle) The Brokes Botrytis 2016 was just stunning wine and winemaking. 10%ABV deep rich golden nectar in colour, absolutely heavenly on the nose, and the palate is divine, caramelised orange, a touch of vanilla from the oak barrels and OH OH OH so rich. Yet on the finish it is not cloyingly sweet and is a pretty clean finish. Only a 500 bottle production unfortunately but if you can get it its worth the cost. RRP £60.00
Before I bore you all to death I have one more wine to share with you.
Simpsons Wine Estate “The Roman Road Chardonnay 2017”
Ashleigh from Simpsons was telling me that it wasn’t quite ready as it had only been bottled for less than 2 weeks, however they were really wanting to show the trade their new Chardonnay. This was their 2nd vintage of the wine only. On my initial tasting I was very impressed considering the length of time in the bottle and had barely had time to settle. I then tasted the wine another month later at the London Wine Fair and it was developing amazingly.
This is an elegant Chardonnay, it has only spent for 3 months in French Oak.
Its fresh on the nose, with a lime zestiness and white peaches (just like the wonderful ripe white peaches I have in Italy for a true Bellini)
On the palate its mineral, citrus and super clean with the slightest touch of vanilla & spice on the finish. This wine is very good. RRP £22.99
The Roman Road Vineyard, is situated alongside the route the Romans first marched when invading England in AD 43, bringing with them the first vines. FACT!
The reason I haven’t written about this tasting until now is very simple. I wanted to go and explore what I had locally, central UK, within an hour of my house for more still wine gems. These blogs will be ongoing over the next two weeks and are on small boutique vineyards.
White Castle Vineyard, Astley Vineyard, & Poulton Hill Vineyard.
Please see below links to all the vineyards at WINE GB and also the relevant associations of county’s too. Also a great resource is the WINEGB website. Please take the time and explore these wonderful vineyards.
Keep a look out for the branding above as you are going to see a whole lot more of it in the not so distant future for sure!.
Let me explain more.
Some time ago now I got chatting to Richard James. (@RathfinnyRich – twitter handle, you should follow him, he has a great sense of humour & even posts wine occasionally, ha ha, actually with very interesting wine posts!) We started chatting about the vineyard (Rathfinny) where he works and lives in East Sussex on the south coast of England.
It sounded fascinating that although the vineyard was purchased in 2010 they were yet to launch their sparkling wines. When you are starting to produce sparkling wines in the UK you definitely have to be in it for the long haul…… however ALL that changed last week.
Rathfinny spectacularly launched their sparkling wines at the extremely prestigious setting of Somerset House in London.
Before I tell you about the day though let me give you some history behind the Rathfinny Estate and story so far.
Rathfinny Estate was founded in 2010 by husband and wife, Mark and Sarah Driver. They bought a working arable farm of some 600 acres (242Hectares) which in 2012 was planted initially with 50 acres of the three great sparkling wine grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier. There are now 185 acres of vines planted and another 215 acres will planted before 2021 making this England’s largest vineyard. There is also a small quantity of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris planted on the estate.
Although I’ve yet to visit the vineyard, (I will be visiting later this year) what is strikingly clear from the Rathfinny website, literature and launch event is that Mark & Sarah are extremely serious about their wine business. Mark quit the rat race of being a hedge fund manager (bloody hard work!) in the city of London managing a $6 Billion fund and found himself a two year viticulture course which was the start of realising his dream of owning a wine estate.
The Rathfinny Estate vineyard is located within the South Downs national park. Three miles from the sea, it has chalk soil and its in south facing slopes making ideal conditions for producing some world class sparkling wines.
The brand new £5.5m purpose built winery was nominated for a RIBA award (Royal Institute of British Architects).
What is very impressive is that from day one the winery has been built to be self-sufficient both for water and energy. The winery is currently the largest in the UK.
There has been enormous investment in this venture, starting with the initial investment in the property, planting the vineyards and now with 36 full time staff.
It doesn’t stop there either, down the road in the village of Alfriston you will find the Gun Room so called because its said to be once the gun store Duke of Wellington. This is currently Rathfinny’s Cellar Door, where you can taste wine and also buy other gifts and wine-related products, championing local goods and artists, although from June this is moving down to the main estate Tasting room.
You can eat & stay here too, built originally for seasonal workers you now can B&B in style at the Flint barns. A new restaurant too!
With this hugely impressive set up and plans to have over a million bottle production within the next decade then you need to employ top Vineyard managers and winemakers which is exactly what they have done.
Cameron Roucher, The Vineyard manager. Bio from Rathfinny Website.
Here from before there were vines, Cameron came to Rathfinny after many years growing and working at some of the most prestigious wine companies in New Zealand and Australia. His early life saw him growing up on a hill country sheep farm, but it was a passion for growing that led him to vineyards. He has subsequently only ever worked in the wine industry. With the help of his team has built the vineyard from the ground up, and knows every inch of the site. He brings experience, knowledge and essential management skills in the area of vineyard management and production to Rathfinny.
Jonathan Médard, The Winemaker. Bio from Rathfinny Website.
Hailing from Epernay in the heart of Champagne, Rathfinny’s winemaker Jonathan Médard brings a wealth of international experience to Rathfinny Estate. On receiving a degree in biochemistry and a master’s in Oenology (Université de Reims), he trained in the wineries of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Champagne Louis Roederer, Moët & Chandon and Champagne Boizel prior to honing his expertise in California and Virginia at Newton Vineyard and Kluge Estate respectively. An alumnus of the University of California at Davis’ Wine Executive program and fluent in three languages, Jonathan was most recently Vice President of Winemaking for up and coming Central Coast California winery, Conway Family Wines. He is excited to return to his sparkling roots with Rathfinny.
So finally onto the launch event! Somerset House on the Strand in London.
The day was split into two parts, the afternoon launch of the 2 new wines at a trade/press tasting and then a Gala evening.
The most important factor….. The wines…. Are they any good?
Well if you know anything about me and my twitter feed since 2015 if I talk about a wine then I like it. I’m not trying to be a MW or top notch wine critic so if I don’t like it I don’t post it. So you don’t need to be a rocket scientist after I have written this piece to understand these wines are damn good!
First up is the Rathfinny Estate 2014 Blanc de Blancs.
Release June 2018
36 Mths Lees aging
Dosage: 4g/l ( fruit picked as ripe and late as possible for maximum flavour)
Vintage notes: 2014 was moderately warm and dry growing season, little rain during flowering (June) and Veraison (September) Harvest started 19th Oct for a small crop of high quality fruit.
Note: The label on the wine, has a zagged edge to its top … actually no its the “Seven Sisters”, or as most people know them as “The white cliffs of Dover”
Pale gold in colour, persistent perlage. Apricots with a super fresh zesty feel on the nose. Zesty lemon hits the palate which quickly turns into creamy apples. Mineral notes drive right through this wine. The terroir of the chalk shining through for a dry crisp finish. Overall for a first release of their sparkling wines…. 1st Class!!
Rathfinny Estate 2015 Rosé
Release June 2018
50% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier
24 Mths Lees aging
Vintage notes: Spring arrived late in 2015 after a cold winter, budburst and flowering were a week later than the 2014 vintage. Reasonable flowering from a warm summer provided a ripe yet small crop. Harvesting started 19th October. August and September was high rainfall but despite this the fruit was high quality and clean. Bearing in mind these vines were only planted in 2012 it was a brilliant result.
This wine is a delicate pink in the glass, vibrant perlage on the pour. The first thing that hits you is the berry fruits on the nose. On the palate its like an Eton Mess. (for those that don’t know what the hell Eton Mess is – Its smashed up strawberries, Chantilly cream and meringue. I now how to goggle the origins of this…..
Well it seems Eton Mess was first mentioned in print in 1893 and it is commonly believed to originate from Eton College and is served at the annual cricket match against the pupils of Harrow School.
The finish is long, vibrant mousse but although so fruit driven it it still dry and mineral too. GREAT WINE. Served perfectly with bite size Victoria sponges. (forgot to photo those…. ARRRGHHHH)
Interestingly when I said to Richard at the launch that I could see all the top restaurants in London and further afield serving this with afternoon tea the response was that initially the first delivery is going to the Savoy for exactly that!
Both these wines are very good indeed. Equally, both will pair with food but also delightful to drink on their own as an aperitif!
This first vintage is small, being just 5000 bottles of each of these wines…… however this estate is built for much bigger things. I can see in the future that RATHFINNY will be asked for, like people ask today for Moet and Verve.
This event was run incredibly well and I have to say that the PR company that Rathfinny are using are obviously seasoned pros!
After the afternoon tasting, my wife and I had a quick bite to eat and then on with the glad rags for the Gala evening.
We were greeted by an entrance of video screens of the estate and also (faux) vines planted all the way down the aisles. Down some steps we entered into the gala and wow it looked amazing down in the old vaulted basement rooms of Somerset House.
As product launches go and in my 25 years in business I have seen many, however not many are ever as smooth and polished as this Rathfinny launch event. I tip my hat to Sarah, Mark, everyone at the estate involved & their PR company for this “Grand” event.
Oh before I go they also have a collaboration making Gin from the wasted skins of the grapes. Oh boy its good! As any of you know me on twitter I am very partial to proper GIN. For research purposes only I tried a G&T and a Negroni. This is done in a venture with @SilentPoolGin (twitter) website https://silentpooldistillers.com/
I have left the comical parts until the end to keep you all enthralled, please stick with it as don’t want to stretch to PART 4. haha
OK I’m now on a roll and they will be regular I assure you.
Well after the previous fabulous evening’s events and an early night……………. (no comment) we had to be back in the tasting room at 9:30 sharp….. OK we were on Italian time so give or take 30 mins ish.
We were told to wear warm clothing and to wear some good boots too. By the way the fog was lifting enough to see Friuli for the first time in full techno colour! We were definitely in wine country. Vines, vines and more vines.
We had already had breakfast before we left the hotel but on arrival we were greeted by great coffee……….Would youexpect anything else from Italians!) and some delicious pastries too. Well we were going out on a winery tour in the cold and possibly having to do some work in the vineyards too…… so plenty of both was consumed by me.
So everyone (as predicted within 30 mins of allotted time) had arrived and it was time for a winery tour.
I mentioned in Part 2 that although Angoris is a large producer in Friuli they are far from a huge commercial bash out the wine type of business.
So what are they about then?
Martha Locatelli started to tell us about their Sustainable development program and that economic growth by itself is JUST not enough, development is real only if it improves the quality of life in a long lasting way for the future generations. For environmental sustainability it means the ability to enhance the environment as a “distinctive element” of the territory, while ensuring the protection and renewal of natural resources and heritage too.
To this end it must be always be 3 ways, these are fundamental & inseparable for development of Angoris. Now for quite a large producer 100,000’s bottles per year this is no mean feat.
Now I know that’s all very easy to say…. however below is what they have achieved since 1997. Please take a minute to take this in. Some of you might think that this is me just rambling on about ECO this and ECO that, but really many wineries have to step up to the plate too, they cannot be just about how many bottles can they produce. It has to be about the future generations of vineyard owners too. Now this does not have to be that all wines need to be natural, Organic (many wineries follow the Organic principles but they are too close to their neighbouring vineyard that still sprays insecticide etc) or by bio dynamic principles. Sustainability is key to a successful vineyard.
Since 1997 they began a process for improving the energy saving in the winery and increasing the purchase of modern equipment for sustainable management of the vineyard and the cellar. 1997: it was possible to reduce the use of water for cleaning the cellar thanks to a winery water well. 2001: a careful process of reforestation started, which has had as result 35 hectares woods in the company property, composed of different species of trees. 2010: They bought special machinery to recover the product during the treatments in the vineyards, it helps us to avoid the waste;
2014: with the target to obtain agricultural products through a low environmental impact they have agreed to: 1) Integrated production: a system of agricultural production, which uses all the means of production and for the safeguard of agricultural productions from adversity, with the target to minimize the use of chemical substances and rationalize the agricultural fertilization, respecting the economic, ecological and toxicological principles. 2) S.Q.N.P.I.: National Quality Integrated Production System; 2015: Usage of last generation wine filtration system, which permits a total elimination of pollution by-products (flours, filters); 2015, 2016 and 2017: They receive the award Ecofriendly, founded by Verallia in collaboration with the guide Vinibuoni d’Italia. It is an award, assigned to the companies and to the consortium, that stand out for their dedication to the environment sustainability values; 2016: They now use modern machinery for mechanical removal of the grass and infestant plants in the vineyard, removing totally the chemical weeding; 2017: Now have obtained agroclimatic environmental compliance with regard to membership of SQ.N.P.I. for the year 2016.
In 2013 a photovoltaic system of 1800 m² and 200 kw has been installed on the roof, this helps us to avoid the emission in the atmosphere of several hundreds tons of carbon dioxide every year.
The Winery Tour:
Well we walk into the winery and they are old school and also state of the art when it comes to machinery.
We then had a masterclass from Alessandro Dal Zovo, the winemaker at Angoris on the 1648 Brut Spumate.
Then we tried the 1648 with No dosage (no added sugar), it’s delicious, so fresh with huge green apple fruit and vibrant acidity. I know its not to everyone’s taste to have a wine with no dosage but I always love to try it. When you taste wine with no additional sugar added it truly shows the quality of the wine making. Often, sugar is used to mask faults that a wine may have but when tasting NO DOSAGE you can truly have only brilliant wine. What it also shows is the confidence in Alessandro’s ability as a wine maker to produce a superb product. You would not offer a NO DOSAGE product to all of your distributors at a grand event if it was not superb wine. The 1648 is normally 7mg/l of added sugar so its still pretty dry.
Off out into the vineyards:
Villa Locatelli is a total of 630 hectares – vineyards, woods and arable land 85 hectares of vineyards in Collio, Colli Orientali and Izonzo regions of Friuli 50 % wines sold in Italy – 50 % wines exported to 35 Countries in 5 Continents
We then moved onto the Pinot Gris vineyard behind the winery to witness the demonstration of some a state-of-the-art machinery which eliminates the grass/weeds etc. on the sub-rows of the vineyards. This equipment allows Angoris to join the system of National Quality of Integrated Production, without the use of pesticides. Its’ incredible to watch this equipment at work. As the sensors touch the vines it carefully goes around them as to not damage them, but gets everything else in between!
From the 2 pictures above you can see how these old vines are developing. What is really interesting is how much stone there is in the soil. These were ancient flood plains hence so many small stones.
After the Pinot Gris vineyard we all got onto a coach and travelled through Cormons onto the small town of Rocca Bernarda. We then meandered, for a couple of miles, up a small winding road. (poor coach driver, would have been hard enough in a car!! although didn’t seem to phase him one bit)
These terraces are pretty steep but that’s not the challenging part to this land. Its only a few feet below the surface that is all rock.
The walk from the road though the vineyard with the mountains in light fog ahead of us was truly magical. It was fresh day, it had rained through the night and into the early hours of the morning and the fog was finally clearing! What is interesting is that although it had rained quite a lot, it was not really wet under foot. It had all drained down through the soil and into the rock below. I’m hoping that the vines roots grabbed some on its way past!
This vineyard is in the eastern hills from the Angoris winery and we are now looking out over Friuli to the forests of Slovenia which are only about 6 miles away.
We kept walking until we reached a sign saying that we had reached the rows of Tocai Friulano vines which were planted 65 years ago.
I was then given these (see below) …… Disguised in a wine box, could have done with a glass of wine about now, when we all opened our boxes to find Secateurs & gloves. We were to have a pruning masterclass.
Note to self at this point… PAY ATTENTION TO Alessandro or I am going to destroy a 65 year old vine!
Its a good job that I had a clear head and didn’t spend until the early hours in the hotel bar with some other distributors after the gala event the night before………….. PHEW!
So Alessandro showed us on a few vines.
3 things to concentrate on….
Take away all last years branches that are not needed
Decide which branches left and right that you are going to use for this years growth
However, when doing 2. you have to be thinking about the next buds for the following years
So its my turn…….. Drum roll please….. getting prepared……
Safety first glasses and gloves!
So after our masterclass I think I pretty much knew what I was doing.
So the easy bit was getting rid of the branches growing in the wrong direction. What I mean by that is that they are growing towards you and away from you. These are no good as you want them to travel left and right on the trellis and not everywhere. OK these were eliminated…. all going to plan so far. So all the old stuff out the way I have to decide on this years left & right branch and the year afters buds too.
Well I thought I would talk through with Alessandro exactly my plan…. his response VA BENE! (it’s all good in Italian) not really surprised because I was obviously a natural he then said cut away! I am joking slightly here over an extremely, even most, important job in the vineyard… (by the way I wasn’t joking that I was a natural pruner extraordinaire!)
After my little bit was done Alessandro said …. great job you are a natural pruner, you have the job, Obviously I was super pleased with the praise until he said only 85 Hectares to prune…. this job takes 25 people full time (subject to weather) 4 MONTHS!!! GULP! Wow that really is an extraordinary amount of work all done very carefully by hand, you cant take your eye off the ball as you may be OK this year but you were not looking for next years BUDS!
When everyone had had a go pruning (not up to my standards obviously) they said time for a snack, so back up the vineyard towards where we had left the coach… I say that because it had now disappeared.
Well we were now greeted by a feast of sausages, lardo / bread and mulled wine to warm us up.
So delicious and just what we needed as it was January after all….
I then noticed that the coach had come back into view… phew didn’t want to walk all the way back. In true Italian style (as we had just eaten) it’s now time to get on the coach as we are going for more tastings and lunch.
So now we arrive at a restaurant, Its owned by Angoris and almost before I got through the door a glass of wine was thrust into my hand by one of the waitresses… Don’t mind if I do! Oh boy it was delicious, an Angoris Pinot Blanc and just what I needed after my endurance in the vineyard.
We then proceeded to try another 6 wines from Angoris and a delicious Buffet lunch. Loved the food…. OK the wines too haha.
So when we were finishing, I got to see the real Angoris, Martha showed what she and the company are really about.
Martha called in every member of the Angoris staff one by one that had been in involved in Passagio to huge rousing applause for them all. You knew it was with heart felt joy for each and every member of staff, that had made the Passagio dal Angoris a wonderful success and that all attendees had had an amazing time.
It’s not just a company it’s a family, staff included!
I will never forget my couple of days at Angoris… Actually I can’t wait to go back.
In January I was extremely fortunate to be invited to Passagio di Angoris, which was to be held at Villa Locatelli just outside of Cormons in Fruili, north eastern Italy.
So at the end of January I get myself on a plane to Venice Marco Polo airport, where I was meeting up with Jane & Chris Salt from Hay wines who import Angoris into the UK. My plane landed late, in thick fog, in fact it was the first time I had been on a plane that had to be landed on autopilot as visibility was……… well actually there was no visibility. In fact the first time I knew we were close to the ground was when the wheels had touched down, to the great shock of most of the plane.
Finally after both of our planes delays we met up and picked up the hire car. Setting off through the fog easterly to our hotel. So after about 90 minutes we arrive at the hotel and so far we had seen absolutely nothing of the Friuli region as we only had about 100m visibilty on the highway! So we quickly dropped off the bags and got our glad rags on for the gala event in at Villa Locatelli.
We arrived at the entrance gates to Villa Locatelli and proceeded along a stunning tree lined driveway which was beautifully lit with torches all the way down to the Villa, making this a very grand entrance indeed. We were definitely in for a very special evening. After our driver had dropped us off we were led to the tasting room for nibbles and a few delicious glasses of 1648 Sparkling wine.
This Brut sparkling wine is made from 100% Chardonnay in the classic method. The grapes are hand harvested, destemmed and then cooled in the winery, they then undergo a cold soak maceration directly in the press. After pressing, the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks & left to rest on the lees 6 months. What is interesting about these tanks is they are horizontal tanks and not vertical tanks, this gives the wine more contact with the lees.
The wine is then bottled and it’s rested in for a further 30 months. Finally the sparkling wine is then placed in the pupitres for 3 months prior to disgorging.
The 1648 Brut (named after the founding of the vineyard) is truly delicious. Straw yellow in colour, very floral with toasty bread notes on the nose. On the palate its a joy, persistent perlage makes the wine soft, but so fresh and dry (7g/l). The finish is creamy but with a mineral tone too. Delightful!
When everyone had arrived (fog!) we then moved to the villa for a fabulous presentation about the Angoris 2017 harvest.
2014 HARVEST – Tenuta di Angoris
The winter in Friuli Venezia Giulia was mild with low rainfall. After these early weather conditions, the temperatures were then above the normal average by the end of March, which lead to an early sprouting of the vines about 15 days before the year on average.
At the end of April, a mass of cold air reached the vineyards, lowering the temperature below zero in the night of April 21st. The shoots then slowed down their growth, due to the low temperatures of the days following the freeze. Luckily the losses were not too bad and thankfully not like many areas of Italy and France who suffered devastation of these early shoots by this frost around the 21st which has caused, in some areas, a huge reduction in the final grape crop.
Summer was then marked by heat but also key to a successful vintage was they also had enough rain which then supported a normal course of ripening for the grapes. These were excellent climatic conditions for the vines to obtain a perfectly healthy grapes.
So how will the wines vintage 2017 be from Angoris in Friuli?
For sure they are going to have top quality white wines, as some of the finest Friuli vintages, and the red wines will be smooth, scented & elegant, with lower alcohol degree.
The evening in the Villa had only just got started and we were in for a real treat of amazing foods and wines. Culminating with a launch of a new wine later in the evening.
Amazing lighting in the villa had been set up and the whole room was constantly changing colours. IT WAS THE LIGHTS WE HADN’T STARTED ON THE MAIN WINES YET!!
An absolutely delicious meal & wines followed….. The 3 wines to the left of the below picture have won 3 Bicchieri from Gambero Rosso.
Then we were introduced to the new wine. A new Pinot Nero DOC Friuli Isonzo.
So called as a dedication to Martha Locatelli’s (who is the owner of Tenuta di Angoris) paternal grandmother.
Martha firstly discusses with us that Pinot Noir was once made in the winery in the 1970’s and how they are now developing wines again from the past. She also tells us that her grandmother, was a decisive person who (like her grandfather Giulio) was a great part of her childhood. Martha describes this Pinot Nero “Albertina” is just like her grandmother: “Elegant, determined, enveloping and comforting” and oh boy she is not wrong!
A great wine & my hat off to the winemaker Alessandro Dal Zovo, who features a lot in part 3 and who also trusted me with secateurs too on 65 year old vines….. UNDER CAREFUL SUPERVISION & GUIDANCE I hasten to add.
This Pinot Noir is very impressive indeed, although not quite ready for market it still needed a few more months developing in the bottle.
“ALBERTINA” is being launched officially at Vinitaly 2018. I will fully review this wine once launched after Vinitaly.
Now those of you who know my daily postings on twitter will see that I drink very little Pinot Noir, why?? hmmmm, that’s a tough one when I ask myself this question today. I guess its because years ago I just drank so many ordinary ones that were not that great so started to avoid! I only really enjoyed great Burgundy PN and that’s ……. expensive! However I have had some amazing ones in the past 12 months from all over the world and I am now converted back to Pinot Noir. I know you are all out there saying what an idiot!!! I second the IDIOT motion if that’s any help!
Albertina is simply delicious and I know will be a big hit for the Angoris. Production of this Pinot Noir will be quite low numbers.
Until this release all the estate Pinot Noir, was used in sparkling wines on the estate since the 1970’s
Now at the end of Part 2 of the Angoris blog I just want to thank Martha and the team for an amazing evening and for what the next day was about to offer too.
But before I GO………….
What is so clear from my first few hours at Angoris, was that although they are one of the larger producer’s in Friuli, their philosophy towards the land, vineyards & wines were so far from a large corporate company and very refreshing to see.
In part 3, I will be going into far more detail about Angoris and their mission to make wonderful wines, the environmental issues and how they let me loose with secateurs in the vineyard.
Firstly apologies to all as it’s been ages since my last blog!
Wine is not my business (unfortunately) but it is my great love & passion, however I own a business which I have had for 25yrs & I have been flat out busy. Don’t get me wrong I’m glad to be busy because it allows me travel, eat & drink fabulous wines too, however it does unfortunately restrict my spare blog writing time.
So once again “Sorry” but I’m now making the time, in 2018 from March, for regular Pietrovini blog time👍🍷🍷
A couple of months ago I was asked to go to a vertical wine tasting, I was so looking forward to this one. Why? Simple really it was 2 grape varieties I know well but had never had the opportunity to explore their ageing potential.
Note: Vertical Tasting (for those of you that don’t know) = Tasting the same wine from different vintages to see how they develop and also how the weather can change the wine dramatically.
The two grapes are Friulano & Refosco both from Friuli North eastern Italy and both produced by Tenuta di Angoris.
Brief History of the Estate: (Part 3 will have more details from when I visited a few weeks ago for the Passagio di Angoris event & they even let me loose in the vineyard with some secateurs!)
In 1648 Locatelli Locatelli was given 300 fields in an area of Cormòns known as “Langoris” by then Emperor Ferdinand III for his service as a General in the 30 Years War. At this time this area of Friuli was part of the Hapsburg Empire. I have to say a very generous gift indeed!!
Original Land document 1648
The 17th Century Villa Locatelli is the home of the Tenuta di Angoris
We started the evening with a Collio Bianco Riserva 2015
This was an interesting start to the evening. This wine has since won 3 Bicchieri from Gambero Rosso which is very high praise indeed.
The grape varieties are 60% Friulano, 30% Sauvignon Blanc & 10% Malvasia Istriana.
A delicious wine for sure! It’s aromatic with sage, thyme & green herbs. On the palate its dry yet rich with green apples and tropical fruits. Wonderful mineral notes too, although the Malvasia Istriana is only 10% it shines through to make this wine so rounded and an absolute delight to drink. No wonder it won 3 Bicchieri
Friulano DOC Tasting:
The Friulano grape was once known as Tocai and you will see this on the 2005 bottle below. The Italians were made to change the name of the grape by a European court ruling taken out by the Hungarians to protect their grape Tokaji (pronouced Tock-eye).
Even though not spelt the same and there is no genetic connection between these varieties they still had to change it.
So we start with the 2016 & 2012 Friulano
The 2016 was only released a couple of months earlier from the tasting in Sept 17′ (sorry should have done this before but been on WORK catchup!) The grapes are harvested by hand planted on (Guyot system) vines which were planted in the 1950’s. The yield per vine is low but there are many vines planted per hectare.
2016 was initially wet early in the vintage but improved to low 30c’s temps but cooling off at night. Pale straw yellow in colour, with pears, melon, herbs and a touch of spice on the palate. On the finish a very light buttery feel.
2012 was a super hot vintage with yields much lower and the grapes ripened earlier. This gives the wine more fruit and less acidity. Pear fruit with a slight almond nuttiness. Creamy mineral finish. Quite different from 2016 but equally delicious.
2011 next. This was a cool and rainy vintage initially but saved by a warmer spell before harvest which produced a good crop here. The 11′ is more herby and slightly more acidic. I liked this wine a lot as it was so fresh with slightly lower alcohol too.
2005 was our final vintage to taste. This proves with no doubt that Friulano can definitely age well. This was a cool vintage.
Much darker yellow in colour now with its ageing, the fruit still shines, a new richness has evolved, and the finish is long and rounded.
Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso DOC Tasting:
There are at least 9 different Refosco grapes but dal Peduncolo is by far the best…. This is what Angoris tell me and its delicious!
This wine is made with the cold maceration process with malolactic fermentation.
This wine is super dark garnet in colour almost black. Blackberry, cherry & tobacco on the nose. This wine is crisp, dry, noticeably acidic and quite strong tannin’s. I love it.
2015 is the 1st vintage to try. 2015 is definitely going to be a good vintage for wines from Italy. It was a pretty hot vintage so the reds are super ripe fruit which shines through. When tasting this wine you get black fruits then pepper & spice, although fairly strong on tannins it still has bold fresh fruit. There is a mineral note running through the finish due to the limestone clay that the vines are planted in.
2014 this differs because of the weather. A cold and rainy vintage. However this has made the wine more herbaceous, spicey and noticeably more acidic. Having said that very enjoyable.
2009….. Wow ok this is why you do vertical tastings, this wine is a totally different animal, has more spice than a 1990’s girl band (SPICE GIRLS YOU MUPPETS)
It was a hot vintage and this shows with massive fruit, spice on the palate, although now its ageing nicely with the tannins more balanced with acidity.
2006. This was a hot vintage in Italy and has provided some great wines from across all areas of the country. Ripe cherry flavours much less spicey and the tannins are still going like a steam train. I just needed some fatty lamb chops and i would have been in heaven!
Well this is a great wine! Its balance is incredible, fruit abounds, so rounded and tannins a soft delight! I actually didn’t write many notes on this except loads of expletives of how delicious this wine is!
Congratulations Angoris for top quality wine making!!
Part 2 (out within days! I PROMISE!) Is about my Angoris adventures in Friuli.
I would like to give a huge thank you to HAY WINES for the invite to this incredible tasting evening & to Frantiska from Angoris bringing these wonderful wines. Their details below:
Hay Wines is a family owned & independent wine merchants based in the medieval market town of Ledbury, Herefordshire. United Kingdom. With over 1,200 wines, whiskies, spirits, liqueurs, beers, ciders and perries, supplying wholesale solutions to restaurants, pubs, hotels, wine bars & also to you and me via the shop or online.
Hay wines have an extensive range of organic, biodynamic, natural, vegan, low sulfite wines. The Italian wines directly imported under the watchful eye of Michele Longari their in-house Italian Sommelier.