Sports and booze – it’s not normally a good mix. Except when sportpeople move into making the stuff. Vijay Armitraj, whom we’ve spoken to elsewhere on this site, launched a couple of wines from India, likewise golfers: Bernie Els, makes very good wines, Greg Norman is making wines in Nappa and now Sir Nick Faldo has joined the throng, putting his name on a range of wines, celebrating the countries of his major wins. The wines were put together by Milton Sandford Wines and were launched with RandR Teamwork at Searcy’s Urban Coterie in London.
We went to meet Sir Nick and check out the wines, which were really excellent!
When you are VERY successful, when you have the highest-selling red wine in the UK and a range of awards in your award cabinet (we all have one, don’t we?), do you rest on your laurels? Do you sit back and admire your success? No, you don’t because the a) there’s someone right behind you, keen to take the top slot and b) Why would you? There are always new things to do so why not do them?
Thus it was that I met the team from Cono Sur at Fizz, the Sparkling Wine show last October. Cono Sur Bicicleta is the most successful range of red wines in the country and Cono Sur have gained a reputation of drinkable, good quality wines, both from Bicicleta and from their other ranges, including and perhaps especially Reserva Especial and Silencio. So now, the front-runner in red is launching sparkling wines: a single Brut and a Rosé – no fancy marketing, no grand story, no alternate versions, just those two wines made to be easy and pleasant to drink. This is what sets Cono Sur apart – clarity, simplicity and an adherence to their vision of “No family trees, no dusty bottles, just quality wine” and uncluttered labeling. It’s a formula that works. In fact, their policy of simplicity and clarity run through everything they do so, when I spoke with them at the show, the interview was remarkably short – to the point, comprehensive and, yes, clear:
If you are a French wine-maker, it is likely that you are a fairly small operation and that you could benefit from some sort of collaboration with other makers – be it through a coopérative or a négociant. Some, like the group calling itself Rhône Vignobles, choose a looser connection.
They held a tasting, with the able assistance of Peretti Communications, in London and I went along to see what’s what. Read More →
The Champagne Bureau’s Annual London Tasting was held this year in One Great George Street, ’round the corner from Downing Street, the Palace of Westminster and along the park from Buckingham Palace. As ever, the Peretti team set up a splendid bash. The great, the good, the adequate and the befuddled congregated like wildebeest to watering hole.; they all wanted to find out what’s gnu in Champagne. (sorry)
Grover Zampa joined forces with tennis legend Vijay Amritraj to bring out two wines from their vineyards in Bangalore, southern India.
They chose Vijay’s annual Wimbledon Summer party at the St James’ Court Hotel – a Taj hotel to launch them. This glamorous even was attended by stars of the worlds of tennis and wine and a splendid time was had by all.
Wine people are generally lovely! Winemakers have the long view to life that is needed when working in a job where, from planting to drinking can be 30 years! Wine importers and sellers and keen for us to buy things that make us feel good (if used in moderation) and, generally, wine writers and journalists really, REALLY love their work. Occasionally we even get paid to do this … not often and not many of us, but occasionally. So it was an utter delight to meet Jane Parkinson and hear her expound on the subject of Discover The Origin and Portuguese wines and, the very next day, attend the Wines of Portugal Annual London Tasting.
We knew it would be lovely, we didn’t expect it to be so interesting and surprising:
English sparkling wines have a perception problem: Yes, they’re good, yes, they’re elegant and stylish, yes, they’re local but, when you come down to it they’re just not Champagne, are they?
True, they don’t yet have the history that comes with Champagne; but the times and the weather they are a’changing: with European temperatures rising, what were optimum conditions for Champagne are now found in Southern England. And it’s starting to show: Kent’s own Gusbourne Estate sparkling wines won medals galore this year against top Champagnes, gaining themselves much interest from buyers, journalists and consultants around the world, most of whom had, previously, simply not heard of Gusbourne.
So, to find out what they’re all about and how English wines are mounting a serious quality challenge to Champagne, we ventured down to Kent to meet the owner and the grower.
The UK Champagne market is, as we’ve said again and again, complex and crowded. Importers and makers need to fight prety hard to be noticed. One of the problems is the sheer number of brands and labels available. However what we, the consumers, often don’t realise is which Champagne is owned by which other Champagne house.
The clothes you wear to a tasting are important – you want something that you don’t mind staining with red wine; hence there is a prevalence of scruffiness and flamboyance in the wine-writing fraternity. So imagine the consternation caused by being required to wear a suit and tie to a tasting! I only own one suit … and it’s cream – definitely not safe in the presence of large quantities of red wine.
However, the invitation was from Sarah Abbott of Swirl Wine Events to a tasting featuring almost all the wine-making members of the Lurton family and held in the RAC Club on London’s Pall Mall. I mean … who could resist?
You may know the wines of Wolf Blass from the supermarket, where his Yellow Label wines sell pretty well. But Wolf began by making premium wines, characterised as Black Label, Grey Label and, more recently, Platinum Label. These high-end wines are much more about the individual character of the vineyards and are priced to match.
As a new-comer to the range beyond the ubiquitous Yellow Label, I was delighted to be invited to the 2011 UK launch of the rest of the range, held in the breath-taking penthouse of the Radisson Edwardian Hotel in Mayfair.
There I was given a chance to talk to Wolf Blass’ chief wine-maker, Chris Hatcher:
While the grand wine houses boast of their age and ancient heritage and the newer wine-makers talk of creating a lasting presence in winemaking, there is a group of Londoners who are doing it the way it has always been done. The Urban Wine Company have been gathering the grapes of private growers around London to create a wine that has been dubbed Chateau Tooting, although this year’s output goes by several names. Read More →
A new vintage of wine like CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino is usually launched with a tasting and, occasionally, a party of some sort. These may be in highly prestigious city venues, in quirky Hoxton restaurants or at trade shows. While the tastings at the trade shows can justify themselves in a purely business sense, the other lunches and gatherings are, on the face of it, simply the chance for a good party. Read More →
Supermarkets like to publicise their wine lists twice a year; once in the spring, for the summer market and again in the autumn to highlight their Christmas drinkies. Sainsbury’s held their Spring tasting in the back room of the Delfina in Bermondsey and I set out to get a sense of what is likely to be good for the summer parties and picknicks from the Sainsbury’s range.