Category Archives: Emerging Regions

NYE Crackers

It’s show-time for sparkling wines! One night in the year when sparkling wines are the toast of the evening. From premium Prosecco, to traditional Champagne, to exciting English – we’ve got all bases covered to make your 2019 events go off with a bang.

 

Carpenè Malvolti ‘1868’ Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore, Prosecco Brut NV

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Carpenè Malvolti, founded in 1868 by Antonio Carpenè, was the first winery to produce a quality Prosecco. A qualified chemist, in contact with Pasteur and Koch, he was convinced that a wine as good as Champagne could be produced in Italy. He applied his knowledge to the Prosecco grape, which is now known as Glera, the majestic variety of the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene zone.

A floral and fruity bouquet with elegant aromas of ripe pear, crisp apple and citrus, layered with subtle herbaceous notes. Smooth on the palate with crisp, refreshing aromatics and an elegant finish.

 

Champagne Collet Brut 1er Cru, Art Déco NV

Champagne Collet is an iconic Champagne brand and its elegant Art Deco packaging is evocative of the Belle Epoque era from when it was established. It is the oldest cooperative in Champagne, dating back to 1921. Since its inception, Collet has been creating Champagnes of character with authenticity, elegance and great finesse. Located in Aÿ, in the heart of the Champagne region, Collet represents some of the finest growers and mainly sources from vineyards which are based on Premier and Grand Cru sites. Each cuvée reflects the diversity of the region’s terroirs and has been masterfully blended to suit gastronomic cuisine.

A swirl of very fine bubbles is reflected in a creamy style of Champagne with developed biscuity notes from extended ageing on the lees and a lovely long and savoury finish. This wine is full of charm.

 

Wiston Estate, Goring Brut, Sussex NV

Dermot Sugrue is not exactly a new name in the English wine industry but he is certainly a winemaker at the top of his game. Born in Ireland in 1974, he studied Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton Agricultural College before completing two seasons working at Château l’Eglise-Clinet and Château Leoville-Barton. In 2003, he joined Nyetimber and was appointed winemaker in 2004. From Nyetimber he moved to the beautiful, family-run Wiston Estate in 2006, nestled in the heart of England’s rolling South Downs in West Sussex, to work with the Goring Family who has owned the estate since 1743. The Goring Brut, Goring Blanc de Blancs and Goring Rosé are made exclusively for us by Dermot Sugrue and take their name from the Goring family.

An elegant, complex English sparkling wine combining a youthful purity of fruit with subtle toasty, nutty notes.

Island Hopping Wines

With  the UK enjoying Mediterranean style weather and many predicting a vintage year for English wine, we have taken a closer look at some of the sunny island wines you can serve here.

From the popular holiday destinations of Mallorca and Tenerife, to the picturesque and idyllic Santorini, to the lesser known island of  Brač off Croatia, there is plenty to tantalise taste buds.

From Mallorca… Bodega Biniagual, ‘Memories Negre’ 2013

Located in the heart of Binissalem, the small village of Biniagual was renowned for its wine production until the phylloxera plague destroyed most of the vines at the beginning of the 20th century.

“An approachable red with bright aromas of wild red berried fruits combined with a subtle hint of spice. Showing a beautifully balanced structure, soft and smooth with plenty of vibrant fruit and a satisfying finish. ”

From Brač, Croatia… Jako Vino, Stina ‘Cuvee White’, Dalmatia 2016

The beautiful Croatian island of Brač is famous for its white stone, which is known locally as Stina and was the inspiration behind the name of this stunning collection of Jako Vino wines.

“A youthful yet complex nose delights with layers of floral hints with tropical notes of apricot and mango. The full bodied palate is dry, refreshingly balanced and full of juicy yellow fruits with citrus hints on the lingering finish.”

From Santorini… Gaia Wines, ‘Thalassitis’, Assyrtiko 2017

One of the pioneers of the modern Greek wine revolution Gaia Estate was established in 1994 by Greek winemakers Leon Karatsalos and Yiannis Paraskevopoulos. This wine is made from the island’s indigenous variety Assyrtiko Episkopi, Akrotiri and Pyrgos regions.

“Explosive minerality with fresh lemon zest on the nose, crisp acidity on the palate and underlying floral notes. Refreshing with a crisp, mineral finish.”

From Tenerife… Bodegas Viñátigo, Listán Blanco 2017

The philosophy behind Bodegas Viñátigo is to revive and promote the extensive varietal heritage of the Canary Islands. The journey started in the 1990s, at a century old plot in the village of La Guancha, in the north of Tenerife, where the traditional varieties of Listán Blanco and Listán Negro were vinified in the old family winery.

“Made entirely from the local Listán Blanco grape, the wine shows aromas of dry fruits and an enticing hint of fennel. The palate is full-bodied with a refreshing, balancing acidity and ample fruity flavours and floral notes. A lovely crisp wine with great intensity and a long, persistent finish.”

From Sardinia… Poderi Parpinello,Isola del Nuraghi, Cagnulari 2015

Giampaolo Parpinello and his son Paolo strive to reflect the Sardinian terroir and reveal the typicity of the wines, on a 30 hectare estate the family have been running for three generations.

“A deep, intense Cagnulari with delicate aromas of wild flowers backed by concentrated, ripe red fruits and a touch of spice. Dry and elegantly structured with a smooth finish.”

From Crete… Idaia Winery, Dafnes, Vidiano 2017

Idaia Winery is located in Venerato, a village in the heart of the vineyards of the Malevizi district, which is part of the Dafnes appellation area.

“Delicate aromatic characters of ripe pear, melon and a hint of banana, lead to a refreshing acidity which balances the rich and charming palate. With an impressively aromatic aftertaste, this is the quintessential introduction to the Vidiano grape.”

 

For further details on any of the wines above, please get in touch with your account manager. 

Viñátigo, Volcanic Wines & The Black Dribbler

The first exhilarating thing you see as the plane approaches Tenerife is a snow-capped Mount Teide rising out of the mist. Considering the island’s reputation as a sunseeker’s paradise, this mirage-like sight – a Kilimanjaro of the Canaries – comes as a jolt.

Exiting the airport, the hoardes of holidaymakers turn left and dash to the fleshpots of Playa de las Américas and Los Cristianos; Steve and I turn right and make our way up the A1 autoroute through an unpreposessing industrial coastline until we turn inland and hit the beautiful town of San Cristobal de la Laguna.

“Welcome to the north, the real Tenerife,” says a genial Juan Jesús Méndez Siverio, the owner of Viñátigo and a man who is about to become a winemaking hero to me.

Steve and I listed the Viñátigo wines late in 2017, following tastings in London. We know the wines are extraordinary – but now we are about to find out just how extraordinary.

First things first, we say, as Juan cranks up his four wheel drive. Pronunciation? “Ah,” says Juan. It is vin-YA-t’go.”

Crossing the island, we become aware of the change in scenery and vegetation. “The south is hot and flat and arid, only good for average grape-growing,” says Juan in broken English. “But here in the north…” It doesn’t need more explanation. Here the vegetation is lush and green, the land heavily sloped, dotted with smallholdings, the moody clouds rolling in quickly off Mount Teide.

Juan takes us to the Valle el Palmar in the foothills of the mountain, climbing from sea level to 1,000 metres in less than five minutes through twisting hairpin dirt paths. It is so steep I’m convinced we are going to topple over backwards, and by the time we clamber out it is misty and damp and we appear to be standing in the clouds.

This is the organically-farmed Finca Los Pedregales vineyard, home of the mighty Tintilla.

“Is very small, two hectares, 33 terraces, very difficult to harvest, hard work,” jokes Juan. He holds up a bottle with the familiar ladder motif on the label and Steve and I both sigh “Ah!” as we now know where the ladder = terrace logo originates.

“Everything comes from the mountain,” Juan explains. “You have to pay it respect. It is the highest mountain in Spain. But for us, is importance because it is a volcano. The soil, you see. The soil.”

 

He bends down and hands us dense pieces of the phosphorous-rich rock, crumbling and black. The weight of it comes as a shock. But you can smell the minerals. I strand back and hold it – and  then the rain comes.

Not your average rain, but great wind-driven stair rods spearing into your face.

We leg it back to the car.

Minutes later, back at sea level at the pretty port of Garachico, all is warm and sunny and you might be in a different world. We sit on a harbour wall, buffeted by Atlantic waves, and sipp Juan’s Malvasia Aromática Classica, while we gaze up at Mount Teide, now framed against a beautiful azure sky. “In the eighteenth century the last great eruption destroyed this port. You can see where the lava ran.” Juan points to the valley which runs from the base of the mountain to where we stand.

Peculiar place, I think: one minute you could be in Malaysia; the next, Dorset.

The Malvasia has incredible acidity which masks the 60 grams of sugar. This is the type of wine which made Tenerife famous in the 16th century, when it was one of the most prized wines in Europe. Juan reminds us of two quotes in Shakespeare: in Twelfth Night Sir Toby Belch tells Sir Andrew Aguecheek: “O knight, thou lack’st a cup of canary. When did I see thee so put down?” and in Henry IV Part 2 we have Hostess Quickly admonishing Doll Tearsheet: “But, you have drunk too much canaries, and that’s a marvellous searching wine.”

A marvellous searching wine!

The island lived off wine from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. When the American Independence was signed they celebrated with Canary wine.  And then the grapes were supplanted by bananas and then tourism.

“One of my ambitions is to hold a wine tasting at Canary Wharf,” says Juan.

“I think we can arrange that!” says Steve.

During the drive to the winery in his home village of La Guancha, Juan fills in the gaps. He is a fourth generation winegrower, but the first in his family to study on the mainland. He owns 16 hectares, and works closely with 40 growers, who own another 21 hectares. His total production is 12,000 cases. Such limited production means he has to augment his earnings by teaching as a professor of viticulture and oenology at the Ciclo Superior de Vitivinicultura.

“We started off by trying to improve our production of the traditional grapes of Listán Blanco and Listán Negro. But when I began to research the wines for my classes in the late 90s, I became more and more interested in our winemaking history. The Canary Isles is one of the few areas in the world where phylloxera has never occurred and this means that we have an incredible amount of indigenous varietals. But most had become unfashionable, and were almost extinct. A lot of them only existed on the tiny island of El Hierro, the Jurassic park of vines.

“So I began to work with Fernando Zamora at the Rovira i Virgili university in Tarragona. First, we tried to identify these varieties. We found more than 80.”

Listán Blanco is Palomino, Gual is Madeira’s Bual, Listán Negro is the Mission grape. Tintilla and Marmajuelo are unknowns but probably originated on the Spanish mainland, where they were wiped out by phylloxera.

“Then, we transported many of them from El Pinar to Tenerife and began to propagate them.”

As a result of the work, he has become a seminal figure on the island.

His promotion of these near-extinct varieties explains why many of Viñátigo’s bottlings are small-runs and hand-numbered.

That he has done all of this without trumpeting his achievements and with minimal fuss immediately elevates him to winemaking hero to me.

At the stunning small winery we are joined by Juan’s winemaker wife, Elena Batista, who shows us round. It’s a beautifully designed winery, built into a hillside, with a Batcave feel to it. Small batch fermentation and vinification in 40 separate stainless steel tanks is key. Everything is gravity fed and the winery is cunningly designed to allow for natural ventilation. “Everything is designed to completely eliminate any chance of oxidation,” explaines Elena. Every piece of machinery is mobile. “The idea is that the machinery is designed around the grapes, not the grapes around the machinery.”

It is pristine clean. Viticulture is sustainably-focused. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented using indigenous yeasts. Grapes go through two triages, first in the fields and then again in the winery. Minimal sulphur is used in the winery and no synthetic materials are used in the winemaking.

After asking Juan to pose with a bottle of his 1697 Malvasia, we get down to a tasting.

 

  • The Listán Blanco 2017 has only just been bottled and has a saline, mineral feel to it. I’m struggling to find a more descriptive word, but Elena tells me: fennel. Ah! Tom Cannavan, writing about the 2016 vintage, mused that this “was the perfect white wine: fruity and with a herbal tang, medium-bodied yet not without palate weight and texture, and shimmering with soft but ever-present acidity to the last drop. Ultimately a fairly simple wine, but utterly delicious.”

 

  • The Marmajuelo 2017 is a massive step up. It still has a magnificent saline character, but now has nuances of tropical fruits – pineapple – to give it roundness and a richness. Cannavan, again, on the 2016: “This is a lovely, limpid white wine, described to me as being ‘A bit like Chablis’ by the sommelier in a restaurant, and whilst it does have a limpid clarity and freshness, it is just overflowing aromatically with passion fruit and guava, in a much more vivacious style. It is easy drinking, despite very good acidity, but with a smooth weight of fruit and a hint of minerality too. Terrific and different.”

 

  • The Gual 2017 has a darker, heavier feel to it. This bottle is from 50% grapes fermented in stainless steel and 50% fermented in concrete eggs. Juan then brings out a 100% concrete egg wine, which has an incredible yeastiness and body, due to the suspension of the yeast. A wonderful example of what the eggs can lay.

 

  • The Vijariego Blanco 2017 has just been bottled and is difficult to nose, but has a pear and stone fruit nose and reminds us all of Greek’s Assyrtiko.

 

  • The Negromoll (2017) is a fascinating wine; my favourite Viñátigo. It certainly has a touch of Pinot Noir about it, but without the surliness you sometimes get with that grape. This grape seems genuine, seems to want to please. It has beautiful cherry fruit and a surprising gutsiness to it. Brilliant stuff. We must bring this to a bigger audience, Steve and I agree.

 

  • The Ensamblaje Blanco 2016 is a blend of Gual, Marmamjuelo, Vijariego Blanco and Malvasia Aromática, has massive acidity and lots of stone fruit and more than a touch of the northern Rhone about it. The ’17 is more saline. Juan says that saline is a characteristic he looks for in all his white wines.

 

  • The Listán Negro 2017 is a beautiful everyday glass of wine, with a touch of rosehip and black pepper. Incredible value-for-money.

 

  • The Tintilla 2016 is a much bigger wine; there is masses going on: dark chocolate, tobacco, cranberry. A powerful, serious wine.

 

  • The Baboso Negro 2012 is a big beast, with a massive perfume of violets and a heavy and structured palate with oozing black plums coating the mouth. Very intense. Juan tells us that they nickname this grape the Black Dribbler because it has very thin skin and when it gets close to ripeness it can split and dribble. This is almost too much for Steve and I to take in. The Black Dribbler!

 

  • The Ensamblaje Tinto 2014 is a blend of Baboso Negro, Tintilla and Vijariego Negro with ten months average oak-ageing. This is a big wine, with toffee, caramel and cedar box on the fore-palate, then cassis and dark chocolate.

 

  • Then after tasting two editions of the Elaboraciones Ancestrales, we are given an Orange wine, a Gual, made in the same way as the first Gual we tasted, but left to macerate for much longer. Unlike a lot of orange wines, this is beautiful with lots of mandarins on the nose, well-balanced and very clean, with a hint of quince.

At dinner that evening, while eating through different types of potato (your humble potato is elevated to gourmet status in Tenerife, a result of the island importing many different types from Peru centuries ago), we discuss the concept of volcanic wines. John Szabo, the Canadian Sommelier, had visited Juan and Elena during the writing of his book, Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, and the Tenerife wine industry makes great play on the volcanic nature of their wines.

“But how do you define a volcanic wine?” I ask.

“Minerality,” says Juan.

John Szabo, in his book, prefers “umami” which is something Steve, Bev and I have sometimes picked up in our tasting room, but we thought it was just Luton!

“It’s a smokiness in the wine,” says Elena.

Steve, with decades of knowledge of Greece behind him, says all volcanic wines have “tension.”

Darren Smith, writing recently in Imbibe, noted that there may be no such thing as a “volcanic” wine; because each volcano had its own wine suite, hinging on its particular chemistry (basic or acidic/alkaline), its own soil texture (loose pumice or scoria, sandy, clay-rich, or bedrock lava), its own micro-climate and its own cultivars, we would be better off referring to such wines in the plural: volcanic wines rather than volcanic wine.

Saltiness is also a common thread for Szabo, as Smith points out. In his book Szabo refers to a ‘weightless gravity’, a subtle power, concentration and longevity, and very much more of a savoury aspect to the wines than a fruity one.

“I agree with that,” says Juan. “ That is present in some of our wines. It may be from some of our plots we have right down by the sea’s edge. Salt must influence the wines, a little like the sea does for malt whisky on Islay.”

As for minerality, that, too, is a difficult concept to pin down. Steve and I use it a lot in our wine descriptions, but as Jamie Goode writes in Wine Science, minerality means different things to different people. Goode recounts  Stephen Spurrier telling him that “minerality did not exist as a wine-tasting term until the mid-1980s. During most of my time in Paris I don’t think I ever used the word.” Spurrier does use the word now. “I probably associate minerality with stoniness, but then stones are hard and minerality is generally “lifted.” No wonder we are all confused.”

Goode goes on to say that Jancis Robinson told him: “I am very wary of using minerality in my tasting notes because I know how sloppily it has been applied.”

“This is what makes wine so beautiful,” says Juan, as we prepare to leave.

While we were eating, a tropical storm had developed. The 100-metre race to the car park became an assault course as we dodged the flying branches of palm trees, one of which attempted to beat Steve to death. We ended up thoroughly drenched.

So much for sun-kissed island, I thought as I reached my room. But, fortified by another glass of a magnificent Baboso Negro (The Black Dribbler), I realised this had been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. I used to have a Shakespeare blog, so I was familiar with his references, but Juan and Elena had also brought to my attention a quote from another of my heroes, John Keats:

“Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy fields or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
Have ye tippled drink more fine
Than mine host’s Canary wine…”

Once more, the Cockney poet nails it.

Marvellous Macedonia

In September, South Sales Director, Daniel O’Keefe, took a trip to Macedonia and Northern Greece to visit a selection of our exciting esoteric producers from the heart of the Mediterranean.

Joining Daniel on the trip was Roger and Sue Jones, owners of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, a 1 Michelin  Star Restaurant in the Wiltshire countryside. Roger and Sue have been loyal partners of Hallgarten’s for about 16 years and we have become a central part of their restaurant . Over the years Roger has been highly influential, not only as a chef but also as a prominent wine writer and judge for Decanter, The Buyer and The Caterer.

Roger and Sue Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn

Ktima Gerovassiliou

On the first day of our trip we met Thras at the Gerovassiliou restaurant which was house in the stunning winery.  We  started our tasting of the range mid-afternoon while as we had lunch due to Vangelis and Thras being tied up in the winery during the busy harvest period.

The Sauvignon Blanc was quite a hit and the new vintage of the Chardonnay showed amazing levels of complexity, especially when it opened up. The big hit here though was the freshness and viniousness of the Avaton and the Estate Red.

After the tasting we were taken to a fabulous and lively fish restaurant in a suburb of Thessaloniki, where the local seafood cuisine was almost as good as the wines we had previously tasted and later met with Vangelis’ wife, and the team from the restaurant.

Tasting at Ktima Gerovassiliou

Ktima Biblia Chora

The second day took us to Ktima Biblia Chora, established in 1998, the privately owned vineyard lies on the cool climate slopes of Mount Pangeon, at Kokkinochori near Kavala, Here we were  guided around the estate by the excellent Annagret Stamos who works as a chemist in the area. She provided us with a fascinating tour and insight in to the unique climate that dominates the area.

The Estate White 2016 was, as expected, showing very well and the Ovilos White was my favourite wine to date – fresher and with less pronounced wood.

Following this tasting, we went to a lovely, quintessentially Greek taverna near the beach with Annagret and tasted some older vintages.

Experimental vines at Ktima Biblia Chora

Alpha Estate

Visiting the Alpha Estate was truly an eye-opener! Located in Amyndeon, North West Greece. It is the brainchild of two visionaries, second generation vine grower Makis Mavridis and Bordeaux trained wine maker Angelos Iatrides. An immaculate Estate that almost feels as if it is high up  in the Andes.

To kick off the day, Kostas gave us a really comprehensive tour of the vineyards and an insight into the incredible investment they have made into infrastructure – underground irrigation in the vineyard and horizontal rotating vinifiers in the winery. Kostas gave a very clear explanation of the processes that were specific to Alpha and an exemplary rationale as to why Alpha are promoting Xinomavro as a key variety to watch.

The amount of energy put in to trials of different varieties and processes is very impressive. They have, in fact, donated a parcel of their land to the Thessaloniki Viticultural College. You get the feeling that the philosophy behind Alpha Estate is both long-sighted and very progressive.

The stand-out tasting of the trip (all of which were excellent) . We tasted the full range of wines and were even treated to to some of the older vintages. It was again the reds that really shone from this winery with the overarching theme of fresh, clean and beautifully structured vinious wines. Kostas was really able to make us understand the evolution of the winery and wines as they are now.

Later we went out to dinner at a traditional Taverna in the mountains near the Alpha Estate with 2 students who had recently been employed by Alpha, showing their commitment to supporting the local community.

 

Xinomavro old vines
Agiorgitiko at Ktima Biblia Chora
The barrel room at Alpha Estate
A corkscrew museum at Ktima Gerovassiliou

 

Robin’s Late Summer Picks

With the Autumn almost upon us, Director of Regional Sales, Robin Knapp, has been looking back at the wines perfectly suited for late summer.

From the more esoteric side of the portfolio in Greece, to the Michelini brother’s concrete eggs in Tupungato, to some Old World Italian classics, below are a few of Robin’s top picks to help your customers cling on to the last of the summer wine.

Ktima Gerovassiliou, Malagousia 2016     
Glorious aromatics, with a fresh grippy flavour with a spicy and opulent mouthfeel.

Colomba Bianca, ‘Vitese’ Zibibbo 2016     
Superb aromatics – floral and fresh.  Palate has weight, freshness and fabulous balance.

Zorzal, Eggo Blanc de Cal  Sauvignon Blanc 2016  
Edgy and frisky,  showcasing a strong struck-flint mineral intensity, combined with grassy and herbaceous notes.

San Silvestro, ‘Adelasia’ Cortese  2016    
Super fresh and fully dry with incredibly vibrant fruit.

Ocean Eight, Verve Chardonnay 2014    
A complex and mineral Chardonnay with great poise and freshness.   Up there with the best Chablis 1er Cru…

Manolesakis Estate, Exis Red 2016 
A grippy, but soft fresh red.  A fab wine that is reminiscent of Beaujolais with brilliantly earthy undercurrents.

Eden Road, The Long Road Syrah 2013           
Just beautiful. A supple, delicate and smoky wine that is not remotely typical to an Aussie Syrah.

Frescobaldi, Tenuta Castelgiocondo, Campo ai Sassi, Rosso di Montalcino 2015
A medium weight, delicate even wine, full of complex herby fruit. Has characteristics similar to Pinot Noir.

The standout wine:

Chateau Ksara, Le Prieure 2014
 What a little cracker this is! 13% alcohol with good acidity, which makes it certainly cool European in style, rather that baking hot. The blend is made up of primarily the on trend Cinsault and Carignan with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah thrown in to add complexity.

Juicy, fruity and a good level of chunky, with plenty of flavour but not an overpowering wine. Just perfect for  meats or some garlic inspired casserole!

Jon Harris’ Top Picks From The Mediterranean Roadshow

On the fourth and final leg of Hallgarten’s Mediterranean Roadshow we welcomed guests to the 29 Glasgow , where they were treated to a range of 95 wines to taste.

The tasting featured the unique flavours of many indigenous varietals from countries on the Med’s shores – the South of France, the Maremma, Southern Italy and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily including wines from the more marginal Mount Etna.

From the more exotic and adventurous Eastern Mediterranean, we will showcase wines from Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Lebanon, countries which have emerged on to the UK wine scene over the last decade.

Jon Harris, Sales Director – Scotland, picks out his Top 3 wines from the day…

1

Château Ksara, Blanc de Blancs 2016 Blanc de Blancs, Château Ksara, Bekaa Valley 2016

 

“Perfect for summer, fresh and bright with a surprisingly rich finish”

2

San Marzano, ‘Tramari’ Primitivo Rosé Salento 2016 'Tramari' Primitivo Rosé Salento IGP, San Marzano, Puglia 2016

 

“As with everything these guys do, exceptional, looks great, tastes even better. Defines the term “Brosé” – a rosé wine acceptable for men to drink in public!”

3

Colomba Bianca, Kore Nero d Avola 2016Nero d'Avola 'Kore' , Colomba Bianca, Sicilia DOC 2016

 

“Excellent example and perfect for BBQ season. Big, bold and spicy but not over extracted.”

Four Days, Four Locations, Four Tastings

At the start of June we went on a tour of the UK with the unique flavours of many indigenous varietals from countries on the shores of the Med – the South of France, the Maremma, Southern Italy and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily including wines from the more marginal Mount Etna. From the more exotic and adventurous Eastern Mediterranean, we will showcase wines from Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Lebanon, countries which have emerged on to the UK wine scene over the last decade.

The Roadshow stopped off in Bristol, London, Birmingham and finally Edinburgh.

Justin Keay, writing for The Buyer visited us in London to taste through the range of wines and below is what he thought…

Under the direction of its head of buying, Steve Daniel, has been steadily building up its Mediterranean wine portfolio collecting together wineries from the Lebanon, Occitanie, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus and Croatia. But it was the wines from Greece that Justin Keay was particularly enamoured with.

UK wine supplier, Hallgarten, thinks small is beautiful, and they’re right. When it comes to the  Mediterranean, the smaller wineries in its portfolio are producing world class wines that also deliver outstanding value for money.

Last September, Hallgarten took its South African wines and winemakers out on the road, hosting a series of tastings that showed how far the Rainbow Nation’s wine industry has come in recent years. Recently it’s been the turn of Hallgarten’s impressive Mediterranean portfolio – four tastings, four days, but made worthwhile by the sheer quality of what was on show.

Less can be more, I said to myself, noting that in just 95 wines and 11 tables Hallgarten had wrapped up much of what is currently interesting in winemaking in the Mediterranean.

So what were the stand-out wines?

Starting with the eastern Mediterranean, Lebanon’s Château Ksara – located in the Bekaa Valley, adjacent to Syria – was showing 10 wines, all pretty good by any standard. The reds, for those who like their Bordeaux blends, are well made and quite serious although it was the Cuvée 3eme Millenaire 2013, (a blend of 40% Petit Verdot, 30% Syrah and 30% Cabernet Franc) that really impressed. This was full-on cassis fruit intensity, good balanced oak (14 months in barrel), and still very much in its youth.

The stars here, though, were the whites, specifically the Chardonnay 2014 and the fresh, fruity Blanc de Blanc 2016, a blend of 55% Sauvignon, Semillon and Chardonnay. This last wine, which spends several months in French barrique has a wonderful, light oak mouth feel. Very moreish.

Mediterranean
Daniel O’Donnell in London November 2016 for a Masterclass
on the wines of Kayra

At the next table, Turkey’s Kayra Wines showed its continuing renaissance under chief winemaker, Californian Daniel O’Donnell. His high end reds Buzbag Reserve 2013 and Versus Okuzgozu 2014, are both excellent, with the latter a full-bodied, rich wine that could still do with a few more years until it reaches its best.

The entry level white, however, Buzbag Emir-Narince 2015 proved that O’Donnell’s work has truly permeated through even the lower end of the Kayra range. Refreshing, just 12% MediterraneanABV, but lovely fruit on the palate.

Hallgarten had also pulled out its excellent Gerard Bertrand range, some wonderful Italian wines, two wines from Croatia’s Kozlović winery (including a distinctive, quite bitter Teran from the variety that makes the ultimate ‘Marmite wine’), and from Cyprus Kyperounda‘s Petritis 2016 a wonderful 100% Xynesteri that has understandably become a bestseller on that eastern Mediterranean island.

The Greek wines were the centrepiece

However, for me it was the three tables featuring the crop of Hallgarten’s  Greek range that were the centrepiece of this tasting, and especially the whites, which were almost uniformally highly accessible, despite most being made from indigenous varieties of which I’d never heard. Most were also lowish in alcohol, being typically around 12.5%.

“These wines have been really well received even in parts of the country you wouldn’t necessarily expect, because they are approachable and work well with and without food. We had one restaurateur who put a Gaia white as one of his house wines and he’s amazed how well its selling, even better than his Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc,” says Steve Daniel, Hallgarten’s head of buying, who says the growing interest in a healthy Mediterranean diet has also boosted interest.

Mediterranean

First off were three whites from the Idaia Winery in Crete, which produces some 240,000 bottles a year mostly from local varieties. On offer here was the Idaia Gi Vilana 2016 (£10.75); the Vidiano 2016 (£11.57) and the Ocean Thrapshathiri (£11.24), all made 100% from their respective grapes. All interesting, for me the clear winner here was the Thrapshathiri, a delicate, fresh wine with lovely herbal aromas, and a clear crisp finish.

From the Peloponnese, a winery that is a virtual shrine to near extinct grapes, the wines of the beautiful Monemvasia Estate – which produces less than 200,000 bottles a year – were at the other end of the scale taste-wise, and no less interesting for that.

The 100% Kidonitsa White PGI Laconia 2015 is made from one of the grapes used in making Greek Malmsey, which originally hailed from Monemvasia and was first made Mediterraneanhere by monks back in the Middle Ages. This had a wonderful quince taste on the middle palate but a fresh finish, and was quite unlike the more full-bodied Asproudi White PGI Peloponnese 2015, which has benefited from barrel ageing and time on the lees. My favourite of this batch.

Moving swiftly on, to northern Greece and Macedonia, the wines from Ktima Gerovassiliou were quite exceptional. All of them. This winery – founded by Vangelis Gerovassiliou – is best known as having almost single handedly revived the Malagousia variety which almost disappeared in the 1970s – which generally produces well-rounded and aromatic wines that age well but are also very fresh and accessible when drunk young.

The best example here was the Malagousia PGI Epanomi 2016 (£13.55) a full and generous wine that has benefited from being part (20%) fermented in oak. Yet Ktima Gerovassiliou – which now produces 400,000 bottles with plans to increase up to 500,000 – is no one trick pony; its award-winning single varietal range were all pretty good (including a Sauvignon Blanc that spent six months in oak, and a Chardonnay, seven months) but the award-winning Viognier PGI Epanomi 2016 (£14.45) was quite exceptional – lightly oaked, with lots of peach and apricot on the palate, and of generous body. The reds are also good but needed more time, especially the still overly acidic Avaton PGI Epanomi 2013, an interesting blend of Limnio, Mavrotragano and Mavrudi.

And of course, Gaia, whose wines have long been favourites of mine. Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, chief winemaker of this pioneering producer (which makes wines on Santorini and in Nemea in the Peloponnese) was modest when I asked what makes them so special.

“When you have such fantastic raw materials – old vines, rich soil, wonderful weather – it is not so difficult to make such distinctive wines,” says Yiannis.

He’s being far too modest, of course, as one sip of his Thalassitis Assyrtiko PDO Santorini 2016 (£17.26) confirms. Made from very old vines, this is an amazingly full and saline wine, unsurprising because the vines are apparently regularly sprayed with sea salt, but also zesty and fruit forward. This is a superb wine with a remarkable sense of place, as is the Wild Ferment Assyrtiko 2016 (£19.36) made from grapes grown at higher elevation and partly fermented in oak casks.

Mediterranean

Of the reds, the Gaia S. Agiorgitko Syrah PDO Nemea 2015 (£17.15) was the most memorable, fermented and aged in oak for 14 months, and checking in at 15%, though this is already so well-balanced that you really don’t notice it.

To finish? Gaia’s remarkable Vin Santo 2005 was the most moreish wine of the tasting, a deliciously irresistible blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani and Athiri from Santorini. Nectar of the Gods indeed.

 

WOTM: Goring Brut NV, Wiston Estate

To celebrate English Wine Week kicking off on 27 May our Wine of this Month is Goring Estate Brut NV, a wine from The King of English Sparkling Wine himself, Dermot Sugrue.

In a nutshell: 

An elegant, complex English sparkling wine combining a youthful purity of fruit with subtle toasty, nutty notes.

The producer:

Dermot Sugrue is not exactly a new name in the English wine

industry but he is certainly a winemaker at the top of his game. Born in Ireland in 1974, he studied Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton Agricultural College before completing two seasons working at Chateau l’Eglise-Clinet and Chateau Leoville-Barton. In 2003 he joined Nyetimber and was appointed winemaker in 2004. Over the following years he oversaw Nyetimber’s emergence as one of the world’s greatest sparkling wine producers. From Nyetimber he moved to Wiston Estate in 2006 to work with the Goring Family of West Sussex. The Goring Brut is made exclusively for us by Dermot Sugrue. It comes from the chalky soils of the South Downs in West Sussex which are not dissimilar to the vineyards of the Côtes de Blancs in Champagne.

The wine:

This was the first crop from a Sussex vineyard planted on chalk in 2006, harvested in near perfect conditions. Equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, it is pressed in traditional Coquard basket press with small portion put to new oak. 18 months on the lees with 8g/L dosage.

 

Try something from a new region… Kayra, Kalecik Karasi, Blanc de Noir

In a nutshell:

A delicate pale pink colour is mirrored in the strawberry, cherry flavours of this of dry and refreshing wine.

The wine:59810 - Kayra Beyaz Kalecik Karasi Rose

The grapes from the Denizli region were harvested at optimal ripeness and those from the first part of the harvest were used to make this pale pink wine. It is a blanc de noir produced from the indigenous red variety, Kalecik Karası, which is pronounced as “kahle-djic-cah-ah-ser”. Only the free run juice from the initial pressing was used, the must was then fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, preserving the freshness and aromatics.

Tasting note:

Pale pink in colour with delightful notes of citrus, orange flower, pink grapefruit and ripe red fruits, which follow through to a palate of wild strawberry, raspberry, a hint of ginger and a lively acidity on the finish.

Try it with:

Serve at 6 to 8°C with salads, fresh shellfish and sushi, or serve as an apéritif.

The producer:

Kayra is producing premium wines from the Anatolia region-considered to be the birth place of wine-and is at the cutting edge of winemaking in this diverse nation. The wines are made from unique and intriguing local varieties. These indigenous varieties, whilst being ancient to Turkey are now being vinified using modern techniques and are producing award winning results. Anatolian grapes, along with international varieties, are planted in the best sites following the philosophy of terroir. The vineyards and wineries have been significantly invested in.

The Elziğ winery, located in Eastern Anatolia was established in 1942 and is dedicated entirely to the production of red wines. The Şarköy Winery in Thrace was built in 1996 and embraces a cellar for 1,200 barrels, reserved for the ageing of special cuvées. Under the guidance of consultant winemaker Daniel O’Donnell, it is Kayra’s aim to reveal the true potential of Turkey and to bring their rich history and generous spirit to lovers of fine wine.

Peter Dean, The Buyer, voted it his Best Rose Wine of 2016

2017: It’s sure to be a grape year

Sparkling wine:

2016 has without a doubt been the year for sparkling wines in the wine industry. A trend that we have seen growing and growing, with the UK seeing a huge 80% rise in sparkling wine sales over the past five years – according to HMRC figures.

Italian sparkling wine has become the dominant force in this arena; recent Mintel figures reveal that 28% of all consumers have purchased Prosecco in the past six months, compared to just 18% that had bought Champagne and 18% that had bought Cava.

We predict this demand for Italian sparkling wine continuing well into 2017 with Prosecco being joined as the market leader by its co-patriots; Lambrusco and Pignoletto (pronounced peen-yo-let-o).

Originating from North-East Italy, Lambrusco, a red sparkling wine, is the name for both the grape and the designated growing areas in which it is produced. The wine’s bright acidity, subtle fizz and dark tannic fruit lends itself perfectly to foods synonymous to Italy, such as fatty charcuterie and hearty pasta sauces.

Pignoletto, is an ancient grape variety originally grown in the hills outside Bologna in Emilia-Romagna, North-East Italy, not far from where Prosecco is produced. Like Prosecco, Pignoletto is made using the charmat method (second fermentation in steel tanks) which produces a crisp, refreshing and fruity wine – a great alternative to Prosecco!

Natural, organic, biodynamic and sustainability:

Natural, organic, biodynamic and sustainability are the current buzz words in the wine industry and are set to become front of mind for the customer in 2017. These styles have become commonplace on wine lists and the shelves of independent retailers in recent months, with consumers keen to explore wines which have greener credentials and have been produced with minimal intervention or impact on the environment.

Emerging regions:

In 2017 the popularity of wines from emerging regions will continue as customers are keen to try more exotic and interesting varietals. Two Eastern Mediterranean nations in particular are set to take off – Turkey and Greece. Not only has the quality of Turkish wines improved dramatically over the last 5 years, but Turkish influenced restaurants have also become increasingly popular thanks to the rise in eastern Mediterranean cuisine and the Mangal theme (think new openings such as Neil Rankin’s Temper and Yosma).

Also set to grow is the demand of Greek wine. The whites in particular stand out from the crowd with their striking elegance and finesse, and aromatic qualities that offer the consumer an excellent and cheaper alternative to old world favourites, as well as providing the opportunity to taste something different and exciting.

The trend of quality over quantity is one we will see develop further in 2017 as consumers are becoming more likely to opt for a more premium wine that is memorable. This is partly due to an increase in wine knowledge with today’s consumer becoming more discerning, and party due to overall a decline in overall alcohol consumption.

Whatever 2017 holds, we are sure to see both the on and off trade branch out and experiment with new and interesting wines to feed their customers imaginations.