Many of you will be familiar with the fact that here at The Vintner we list just 100 wines, all ready for immediate drinking and tasting superb right now. This list changes seasonally as we publish both a Spring/Summer offering as well as an Autumn/Winter one. Typically we’ll change around 20% of our wines with each new list. Not only does this keep things fresh and interesting, it means our wines are constantly under scrutiny to make sure they’re absolutely the best out there and to ensure you’ll absolutely adore them.

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Last week saw oceans of sample wine descend upon Vintner HQ in the final selection stage of the process. These had made it onto the shortlist from 1000s tasted throughout the year by the team at winery visits and trade tastings across the globe. From Chenin Blanc to Vermentino and Cabernet Sauvignon to Zinfandel, this was a tasting of wines across all styles and price brackets with the purpose of finding some true gems to be delivering to you from October. There is not a single wine on our list that we wouldn’t stake our reputation on and to arrive at this point has involved some less than perfect examples of their kind but that’s what we’re here for – we taste the dross so you never have to!

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So, last week saw us tasting some 150 shortlisted wines to work our way down to 20 exciting newcomers. The dentists of South West London should be rubbing their hands together with glee as we sacrifice our pearly whites in the name of The Vintner 100 list but, in all seriousness (palate fatigue and black teeth aside), there are worse jobs in the world and there really is no better education in wine than simply tasting enormous amounts of it.

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Wines that really stood out for me and bottles I’m particularly excited about are Ocean Eight Pinot Noir 2012, Mornington Peninsula  which is in fact already available on our website – a seductive, smooth and full-flavoured Pinot Noir which is more generous and fruit forward than its Burgundian counterparts as well as the Soave Classico ‘Campo Vulcano’, I Campi – a fine and serious Soave with bags of ripe lemon & melon fruit with moreish minerality and a sense of class that seriously over delivers for the money, prepare the space in your fridges!

The Vintner 100 wine list will be printed by mid-October but keep your eyes on our website as new wines will be added (and available to buy) as and when they arrive in our warehouse.

My friend Matt Chatfield, Cornish food champion and founder of the The Cornwall Project opens his dining room at the historic Newman Arms on Rathbone Street next week. Wednesday night was the first night of the soft-launch so I was grateful to be able to taste the brand new menu along with Zeren Wilson (Bitten & Written) and colleague at The Vintner/Prince of Padstow, Charlie Stein who certainly knows a thing or two about Cornish food & drink.

The starters came and went in a blur of Champagne and White Burgundy, all delicious with Bourgogne 2013, Henri Prudhon, a wine I’ve written about on this blog before, being a highlight. It is a rich and weighty Chardonnay that seriously over delivers for a Bourgogne and is a great-value gem.

On to the main event as Matt’s team served a beautifully cooked lamb rump with new potatoes and anchovy dressing. After consulting the brilliantly constructed wine-list, put together by Bitten & Written, we decided there was only really one option and called for a bottle of Ridge Lytton Springs 2012. With a smaller cash margin on finer wines, it is brilliant to see the Newman Arms encouraging diners to indulge in better bottles without it breaking the bank.

Ridge is an iconic California winery that represents everything that is great about Napa Valley wine making. Famed for its Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the Montebello Vineyard, it also produces top-class Zinfandel and Chardonnay based wines.

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The Lytton Springs is made up largely of Zinfandel with some Petite Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre thrown in for good measure. The nose if full of dark, dense cherry fruit and with a beautiful perfume of violets alongside. American wines can so often be over-oaked but there is no such problem here. The use of oak oozes class as gentle, toasted vanilla aromas accompany the bold fruit. On the palate, the wine is again abundant with cherry fruit whilst some complexity comes to the fore with savoury notes and flavours of spice & tobacco. Right now, it is bright, youthful and delicious but this wine has serious potential to age. I’d love to try another bottle in 5 years time. A triumph of an evening as we wish the Newman Arms the best of luck!

Back in January I voiced my love of Vincent Boyer’s wines after tasting them in the London Primeurs for Burgundy. Off the back of the these tastings we bought Vincent’s Meursault ‘Cuvée Fernand Boyer’ 2013 on to our list of 100 wines at The Vintner and it has been going down a storm.

In an effort to be far more regular with these vinous musing and to enhance my reputation with Bacchus a little more, I thought I’d leave my thoughts here after tasting it several times of the last week – it is a tough job but someone has to do it!

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This wine is named after Vincent’s grandfather, Fernand Boyer and I’m sure he’d be very proud. It is made up of fruit from four different Meursault vineyards; Moulin Landin, Les Pelles Dessous, Le Pellans & Le Prie de Manche – each bring their own personality and characteristics to the final blend.

Back in January, I noted that reds fared slightly better than whites in the 2013 vintage and whilst I maintain this, I believe there are still wonderful white wines to be enjoyed – this being no exception.

When I taste white burgundy, the thing I’m looking for to separate the men from the boys is tension – the fine balance created as richness and generosity battle with minerality and acidity as one drinks the wine – Boyer’s effort has tension in spades.

The nose is rich and decadent with butterscotch and popcorn accompanying a broad stone fruit profile. On the palate, one gets freshness to balance out this richness. With plenty of moreish minerality, stone fruits continue on the palate, marrying beautifully with floral notes of honeysuckle and blossom.

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The acidity in this wine is still very present, and perhaps slightly prickly but I do not mind this in a young white burgundy. As the wine ages and this acidity softens, look forward to added complexity as the wines take on nutty notes and gets even more silky. A real star and great value considering the eye watering prices we experience in this day and age.

@wjtrotman

@thevintner

http://www.thevintner.com/meursault-cuvee-fernand-boyer-2013-boyer-martenot-burgundy-france/

Bordeaux En Primeur 2014

The week before Easter saw the planes of British Airways & Easyjet packed with British wine merchants bound for Bordeaux to taste and evaluate the new vintage of both the red and white wines of the region. This is crucial work ahead of the release of the ‘En Primeur’ prices from each Château.

I, along with Clare & Gavin from The Vintner, tasted hundreds of wines from the region at numerous appellation tastings. Below are my thoughts on what to look out for and my favourite, most promising wines of the vintage.

As has been widely reported, the Right Bank appellations are less preferred in 2014 to the Left Bank so we started our tasting in St-Émilion in the hope of finding some Merlot-based diamonds in the rough. Ch. Clos Fourtet, Ch. Pavie Macquin & Ch. Troplong-Mondot stood out for me and whilst Pomerol seems to have had a comparative struggle in relation to other areas, there were some lovely wines to be had, namely, Ch. Beauregard & Ch. Gazin.

Next, we ventured to the very south-west corners of the region. Pessac Leognan had me excited by the quality of both the dry white and red wines – Ch. Pape Clément and Ch. Smith Haut Lafite continue to make truly magical wines. The whites in particular show great power with broad fruit whilst retaining a element of poise and elegance that makes them effortlessly alluring. Ch.Smith Haut Lafite, was a favourite of our Bordeaux virgin, Clare. and a tremendous lunch in the cellars of Smith Haut Lafite ensued – the 2012 Blanc is opening up rather nicely!

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Opinion in our ranks was divided with regards to the sweet wines of Sauternes in this vintage. Whilst I was excited by the energy and life in lots of these wines, others were left wanting for richness and breadth. The jury is out but I’d be interested in sampling GuiraudDoisy-Védrines & Doisy-Daene over years to come.

A cold lager at the end of a day’s wine tasting is hard to beat but dinner that evening certainly gave it a run for its money. Ch. Mouton Rothschild 1997 was followed by Ch. Léoville Poyferre 2005 & Ch. Climens 1994. A welcome break from 2014.

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Up with the lark the next day for a tour of the Left Bank. The architecture and luxurious splendour of the Médoc are unrivalled and a top-notch day was had by all. First, to Margaux, where the wines gave us our first glimpse of the superb quality of Cabernet Sauvignon fruit harvested in 2014. There is great depth and complexity to much of the wines here with a real drive throughout which is encouraging for long-term cellaring. Many of the wines here were very good so singling out a few bottles is perhaps unfair. I’ll do so anyway though! Ch. Brane-Cantenac, Ch. Durfort-Vivens & Ch. Rauzan-Segla win my praise.

Next, a dream experience for all of us on the trip as we tasted the wines of Ch. Margaux  with Paul Pontallier at the property. This is a mecca for all Bordeaux lovers and it was indeed a great privilege.  All three wines; Pavillon Rouge, Pavillon Blanc and Château Margaux were simply outstanding. Of particular interest was another remarkable step up in quality with the Pavillon Blanc. Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, we got the impression that Pontallier was particularly proud of this wine and his writing since cements our thoughts as the Château are considering labelling it under the Grand Vin label.

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A brief tasting of a few wines of the Haut-Médoc followed before lunch, which was very much my focus after a couple of hours of Margaux tasting. My favourite? Ch. Poujeaux – a wine that will serve you well. Three courses of classic French fayre set us up for a demanding afternoon and there were boom-shankas all round for the various caffeine addicts on our table.

On next to Pauillac & St-Estèphe. Although these wines are perhaps the most tannic and difficult to approach when young, the level of quality was clear to see. Old favourites such as Ch. Batailley and Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste were tasting well whilst Ch. Clerc Milon showed excellent balance and body of fruit.

I feel we left the best until last with our tasting and I find myself agreeing with many in the wine-trade with their opinion that St-Julien is the appellation of the vintage. The wines are consistently excellent here with incredible depth and power yet a very real sense of poise and balance. I found Ch. Beychevelle, Ch. Gruaud Larose and Ch. Léoville Barton to be outstanding wines and certainly worth exploring.

We rounded off a terrific trip with a real blast of a party at Château Gruaud Larose. Vintages served up included 1983, 1988, 1993, 2003 and the icing on the cake? Jeroboams of the 1955. A magical wine and one that, amongst others,  I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

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Düsseldorf Becomes The Centre Of The Wine World For 3 Days

By Will Trotman

With March, comes Prowein. For those of you not familiar with it, Prowein is the world’s largest wine trade fair and over the course of three days it plays host to a colossal collection of wines and wine-makers from all over the globe and is the go-to place for our buying team when sourcing new wines. This year a four-strong team of tasters hopped over to Düsseldorf with the mission of discovering some new gems for the Autumn/Winter list of 2015.

The trip combined visits to our existing producers to taste new & forthcoming vintages but also to undiscovered winemakers in the hope of unearthing the next Vintner wine ‘superstar’.

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Gav and Pippa tasting wines from Borgo Paglianetto

The wines of Borgo Paglianetto were tasting wonderful. Their expression of Verdicchio is a real favourite at Vintner HQ and you can rest assured that the next vintage is just as delicious. The future is also looking very bright with Hervé Kerlann (Burgundy), Julien Collovray (Burgundy), Lucien Lurton (Bordeaux) & Grand Enclos de Château Cérons (Bordeaux). It was fantastic to catch up with the winemakers of these estates and taste across their whole portfolios.

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Will, Lucy, Hervé Kerlann, Pippa, Gavin

The final day at the fair was all about finding new wines and we were successful in finding some very interesting wines from Chile, USA, Italy, New Zealand and France. In particular, we were delighted to taste, and purchase on the spot, a brilliant new Californian Cabernet Sauvignon. Schug, is a superb wine and a must try on our new Spring/Summer wine-list for Bordeaux lovers. It’s not all fun at the fair, though and unfortunately we did have to taste some ‘less good’ wines in our quest but that’s what we’re here for after all and you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.

We rounded off our trip in some style with a dinner hosted by the Wines of Brazil. Much feasting and merriment ensued and let’s just say, the less said about the spontaneous samba dancing from Kevin Tessieux of Julien Collovray & myself, the better!

Wines from Estates mentioned in this blog:
Gevrey-Chambertin ‘Vieilles Vignes’ 2012 from Hervé Kerlann
Bourgogne Pinot Noir, 2012 from Hervé Kerlann
Terravignata Verdicchio di Metalica 2013 from Borgo Paglianetto
St-Véran 2013 from Julien Collovray
Pouilly-Fuissé 2013 from Julien Collovray
Margaux Grande Réserve 2009, Lucien Lurton
Grand Enclos Blanc 2012, from Château de Cérons,

January is Burgundy En Primeur time for UK wine trade. During the first few weeks of the year there are a plethora of tastings attend by the great and the good of all things vinous. This year, of course, we tasted the 2013 vintage. It is a crucial time for finding brilliant Burgundy for you and we had a crack team out in force.

Gavin, Charlie and I tasted hundreds of wines between 9th & 16th February during a week of heavy teeth-punishment that is sure to make our dentists wince – read about our favourites below.

2013 was a luckless vintage for many producers, particularly in the Cote de Beaune, has hailstorms destroyed fruit with the worst hit areas being Pommard & Volnay. However, some reasonable weather in September coupled with some skilful fruit selection from many winemakers has resulted in wines of higher quality than once expected.

Reds fared slightly better than whites in 2013 but there are some fine & promising wines across both varieties. With a bumper crop harvested in 2014, possible price increases were negated and thus some good-value wines are available to the discerning wine-lover.

Bernard Moreau’s Chassagne-Montrachets both at village and premier cru level were among our favourites. The wines were wonderfully ripe & balanced here with great tension. It is ‘tension’ that is the key to greatness with white burgundy – the fine balance created as richness and generosity battle with minerality and acidity.

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In Meursault, Patrick Javillier & Vincent Boyer (Domaine Boyer-Martenot) made excellent wines. Particularly interesting, were the comparisons between Vincent’s different village Meursaults with the characteristics of the vineyards and their unique terroirs making fascinating impacts on the style of the wines from En l’Ormeau, Narvaux and Tillets.

 

With the reds, our favourites producers from years gone by shone brightly again. Domaine Arlaud is quickly establishing itself as one of the greatest domaines in Morey St. Denis with their Grand Cru offerings of Clos St. Denis and Charmes-Chambertin showing tremendous potential for ageing. It was brilliant to meet the wine-maker Cyprien Arlaud who spoke with us about the bio-dynamic & organic nature of his vineyards.

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In Gevrey-Chambertin, Domaine Fourrier continues to make small amounts of world-class red burgundy. The wines showed perfect ripeness; long & alluring, these are wines to cherish for many years to come. Brilliant too in Gevrey-Chambertin was Domaine Duroché that many of you will know from the 2010s we listed. Daniel Rion made some exciting and seductive Vosne Romanée in 2013 and I’d urge you to try it also.

We rounded off September in the Vintner Tasting Room with a fantastic visit from James Leary & David Coulston the grower & winemaker of our Ward Valley Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013. James bought land in Ward, Marlborough back in 2007 and soon after started working with David Coulston to produce terroir-driven, interesting wines that are a testament to Marlborough as a world-class wine making region.

Marlborough sits at the top of New Zealand’s South Island and is divided into three districts – the Wairau, Awatere & Southern Valleys. With a long, consistent growing season and cooling pacific sea breezes, Sauvignon Blanc is famous for being the region’s principal grape variety but expressions of Riesling and Pinot Gris are also emerging and have great promise.

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For the Ward Valley Estate Sauvignon Blanc, James explained how he harvests fruit from three different ‘blocks’, one in each valley, to create this ‘Triple Block’ Sauvignon. Each of the blocks contributes different characteristics to the blend and what results is a deliciously complex wine that typifies the Marlborough Sauvignon style. Interestingly, most of the fruit is grown on clay-type soils that are usually best used for Pinot Noir, though in this case it helps to achieve wonderful ripeness and body in Sauvignon Blanc.

David makes the wine in a fantastic, shared winery alongside other Marlborough wine-makers. They divide resources such as tanks and presses meaning that young, modern winemakers can get into the game without crippling upfront equipment costs – a brilliant concept. As well as his impressive technical knowledge, David passion for creating the ultimate example of Marlborough Sauvignon is clear and this is exactly why we love working with him at The Vintner and continue to enjoy the Ward Valley Estate Sauvignon Blanc as a stalwart of our 100 Wines.

This week’s staff tasting revolved around our wines from New Zealand. The Kiwi wine scene is a relatively new one of course, but it has quickly become a region of real quality with its wines and winemakers rivalling those at the very top of the pile from around the world. Production has increased too, with the 14 producers of 1997 multiplying to total 82 by 2006.

We’re very proud to list a fantastic portfolio of wines from Archangel in Central Otago. The Archangel Vineyard was established in 2003 by Mary and Janusz Zurakowski, who are the respectively married offspring of two women who shared a compelling wartime story of survival and destiny from their native Poland to the Arkhangel’sk labour camp in Siberia, through Russia, Persia, India, Africa and finally to England. Mary and Janusz’s drive is to honour their mothers through their vineyard and wines. Situated at Queensberry, just north of Lake Dunstan on the road from Cromwell to Wanaka, the Archangel vineyard measures 23 hectares, of which 7.41 are planted to Pinot Noir, 1.54 to Pinot Gris, 1.17 to Chardonnay and just 1.0 to Riesling, totaling 11.12 hectares at present, all managed sustainably and heading towards an organic regime.

Archangel Estate

Archangel Estate

We tasted across the whole range of wines from Archangel and they were showing wonderfully. The Chardonnay 2012 was the star of the show though. The wine has really come into its peak drinking time; distinctive and classy, the nose is broad, full of blossom and honeysuckle followed by a peach abundant palate with vanilla sweet spice. It is truly delicious and would work wonderfully with chicken and pork dishes. Of course, the Riesling ‘Halina’ 2012 and Pinot Gris 2013 are already favourites for many of you and are tasting as good as ever.

Archangel also make cracking Pinot Noir. We list two wines of theirs, Long Trek Pinot Noir 2011 and Archangel Pinot Noir 2010. The Long Trek is effectively the winery’s second wine and only made in selective years. It was delicious –  a spicy red plum palate is balanced with a fresh leafiness that makes the wines really approachable.  The Archangel Pinot Noir 2010 is a wine we’re enormously fond of. From a first-rate vintage, it has even greater concentration and depth than previous years and has huge ageing potential. Drink this between now and 2016 and we’re convinced it will turn into something very special.

Alongside the brilliant range from Archangel, we tasted our Main Divide Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. Main Divide is owned by the Donaldson family who also own the prestigious Pinot Noir winery, Pegasus Bay. The name ‘Main Divide’ is in fact the local name of the range of Southern Alps which form the backbone of  Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island of New Zealand). The wine is a Kiwi version of a classic Bordeaux blend. Using the traditional Bordeaux grape variety of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Matthew and  Lynnette also mature the wine in French oak barriques for two years. With a palate of wild blackberries and plums with vanilla and dark chocolate, this is the perfect autumnal food wine – enjoy it with beef and game dishes.

The stars of the tasting the Archangel Chardonnay 2012 and Main Divide Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 are our new Wines of Month. Snap them up now at the special-offer price and enjoy.

thevintner.com

@thevintner

@wjtrotman

 

Summer in London can be difficult at the best of times – the sardine-tin tubes, the hoards of tourists, the sweat-drench suits…so last month, the Vintner team hopped over the channel for a wine weekend away. But this was no ordinary booze cruise. Far from a shopping spree in Calais’ Carre Four, we journeyed to Beaune – the capital of Burgundy – to  visit some of our existing producers as well as taste wines from as yet undiscovered domaines. Indeed, this was an educational trip, a chance for everyone to enhance their understanding and appreciation of this enigmatic region.

Our weekend began with a visit to Maison David Moret, in the centre of Beaune. We currently list three of David’s wines: Rully 2012, Puligny-Montrachet 2012 and Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Folatieres’ 2011. After we refreshed our memories with a couple of glasses, we were reminded why that is the case. David might not own any vines but he’s got his finger firmly on the pulse, and is able to produce exclusively white wines using the finest fruit sourced across the Cote de Beaune. We tasted the 2013 vintage from barrel across his whole range as well as trying a couple of older vintages (it would have been rude not to…). The wines were superb – rich in style but with the balance and elegance that typifies the best white Burgundies. Moret, along with many other producers is constantly considering the ‘tension’ in his wines – the fine balance created as richness and generosity battle with minerality and acidity. It is this tension that makes white Burgundy so alluring and delicious.

Tasting at David Moret

Tasting at David Moret

Next on the itinerary was a visit to Pascual Arnoux at Domaine Arnoux Pere et Fils in Chorey Les Beaune. Pascual produces the Chorey Les Beaune 2011, Savigny Les Beaune 2011 and Beaune 1er Cru ‘En Genet’ 2011 that many of you will recognise from our 100 Wines list. Again, a swift tasting reminded us why these wines are so popular with our clients. The 2012 vintage tasted fantastic, each wine displaying all of the power and structure to indicate great ageing potential. We tried the 1999 Savigny Les Beaune which gave us a glimpse of what Pascual’s wines can become. It was still fresh and soft with beautiful red fruits whilst boasting the secondary characteristics of menthol and leather that lovers of aged red Burgundy long for.

A tour of the Vosne Romanée vineyards followed, including the Romanée-Conti vineyard of Domaine Romanée Conti – birthplace of the most expensive wine on the planet and erm, not on our Wine List…

Vosne Romanée vineyards

Vosne Romanée vineyards

Saturday centered around a visit to Hervé Kerlann’s Chateau de Laborde in Meursanges. The technical Director of the Kerlann operation, Clement Piquet, showed us around the beautiful estate before sitting us down to a tasting of wines across the Hervé Kerlann portfolio. The Bourgogne Pinot Noir and Gevrey-Chambertin were both tasting very promising for the upcoming vintage and we look forward to listing them again.

Before our flight home on Sunday, we had time to squeeze in just one more visit. This time, we dropped in at Julien Collovray’s winery in Macon, for the chance to learn about wine-making on a much larger scale.

Collovray’s operation and portfolio are far bigger than the other producers we’d visited during the weekend and the scale of the wine-making was mightily impressive. We list Julien’s brilliant Pouilly Fuisée 2012 & St. Veran 2012, and these wines are really reaching their peak now. Alongside these, we also tried newer vintages of each to get a glimpse of what we have to come. Rest assured, the Pouilly Fuisée 2013 & St. Veran 2013 are absolute belters and we’re certain you’ll love them.

 

@thevintner @wjtrotman The Vintner

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After an enjoyable few months working with Blake Johnston at The Stamford Wine Company, I’m very pleased to announce that I’ve moved on to a role with Chelsea-based wine merchant The Vintner. I’ll mainly be involved in selling The Vintner’s wines and am really excited about this next step in my career in the wine trade.

Next time you’re in London look out for one of our fantasticimage looking vans. Apologies for the volume of the music blaring out of the windows!

You can check out The Vintner here: http://www.thevintner.com