Category Archives: Events

Top 10 Tips for Events

Hallgarten & Novum Wines Events Manager, Chris Porter, has been working with the company for almost 20 years and is the brains behind the logistical operation that is the Annual Tasting – our yearly showcase of the best parts of the portfolio. With preparations for the 2020 tasting well underway, Chris has taken a step back to consider the top 10 things to consider when running an event.

 

  1. Objective/theme

First off, define your primary objective and convey this to your customers. It is essential to be as targeted as possible to attract the right audience. What is our purpose? What do we want to achieve? Who do we want attending? Where is our focus? These are just some of the questions you will need to explore.

Whether it’s a large scale event showcasing hundreds of wines, or a smaller affair with a handful of producers, the overriding objective remains the same – to impress and generate business.

Ultimately, an objective combined with a theme brings focus, and will help to qualify the success of your event, with any achievements translating into sales and favourable write-ups.

  1. Timing is everything

Month – Timing is key and this next step should align with your main objectives. For example to gain traction on any newly launched wines, you must consider when the trade reviews their wine lists, as they will be more inclined edit their portfolio around then. Seasonality is also crucial, as certain themes work better at different times of the year.

Day – Most events work well mid-week. If yours is aimed at consumers, try to think when they would most likely have free time such as Thursday, which is late enough in the week but not a prime weekend day.

Time – In most cases it’s important to not start too early. Beginning at 11am works well in the wine industry for trade tastings, as this allows time for travel, but still provides an opportunity to taste before lunchtime. Also bear in mind the finish time and consider the audience. For us, if we’re inviting sommeliers or restaurateurs, they are often limited by service times, so finishing too early may not provide them with the opportunity to attend. For a wine merchant holding a tasting in the evening the hours between 6pm and 9pm are prime time.

  1. Choose the right venue

Venue choice is paramount to success, and as such it is crucial to choose somewhere that can accommodate the right location, capacity and ambiance to enhance your event. Alignment to your theme should also be considered. If you’re not holding the event at your own site, a spacious, well-decorated venues close to amenities such as transport links, hotels, restaurants etc. are a good option, and can be easily transformed to meet your needs. Consequently, opting for a premium venue is usually a good investment.

  1. Get inviting

Identifying your target audience is vital in order to tailor your event accordingly. On top of this, it’s important that any invite you design is clear and concise, with minimal content at the early stage. The essentials, if relayed effectively, should be enough to peak their interest; further information can be relayed at a later date.

Transmission of your invites to your selected audience is quite key, digitally inviting guests is time-efficient and simple, whereas a hand delivered invite is a personal touch that is always appreciated.

Timing is important here, if sent out too early, the event may be forgotten, but too late and run the chance of people already having plans. Two months in advance of the event usually works well and provides a suitable amount of notice for your customers.

  1. Social media – Promote, inspire and share

An extremely useful tool in promoting anything these days is social media. It is a great way to connect with the targeted audience for your event, and in the right hands can be incredibly effective.

The beauty of social media is that it is so accessible, you can easily create a buzz and spread the word across a number of different platforms, such as Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

To promote events effectively, creating a social media calendar to plan and regulate activity can help to build anticipation through a steady release of content.

Promotion of your event doesn’t stop on the day. In fact, it’s the perfect time to generate some noise about it! Getting staff and guests to use a previously specified hashtag when posting on social media can help endorse your event through various online channels via the sharing of photos and videos from the day. Keep an eye on who has used the hashtag and track the engagement after the event – these could be future customers!

  1. Reception – The gatekeepers

At any event it is essential to have a pair of sociable and welcoming people looking after reception. This is the first point of contact for all guests, and it is important to create a good first impression.  Streamlining this process to minimise time spent at this area will ensure customers remain satisfied, and are not put off by long queues before even entering your event.

The main jobs here are to register arrivals, meet and greet your guests, and be a point of reference through your customers throughout the day. Keeping track of attendance is imperative to understanding the success of the event.

  1. Food

It is important to remember that although sustenance should always be considered, it is not the primary focus of the day. If you opt to provide food, try to keep thing simple. Small plates and finger foods will encourage guests to socialise and also try different flavours with your selected wines. This is key, and where possible should be encouraged as it’s fascinating to discover how different wines pair with different foods.

Alternatively, should you be hosting a winemaker’s dinner or something similar, providing foods that generate a wow factor when paired with your chosen wines, can really help to enhance your offerings. Be mindful nonetheless to select foods that do not detract from the wines themselves, irrespective of the circumstances.

Food for thought…

  1. Provide the right tools

In order for a wine tasting to be effective a few elements are key;

  • Tasting booklets – A source of information as well as a place to make notes.
  • Glasses – Too much is never enough! Try to allow for roughly 2 glasses per guest, however be mindful that some people may take more, and of course there are always breakages!
  • Ice buckets/Ice – This will keep you from running to the fridge but don’t over chill your wines.
  • Spittoons – An essential in any wine tasting. Make sure you provide enough, as they fill up quickly!

Miscellaneous – Don’t forget the little things! Pens, corkscrews, slow pours and jugs of water are all crucial.

  1. Break down/Finish

At the end of the day, you need to breakdown your event and tie up any outstanding tasks. It’s important that this is done efficiently and within the timings agreed with the venue. To ease the pressure I normally start a soft breakdown half hour before finish, just to make the task easier when the time comes.

At the close of the day, encourage guests politely to conclude their day. Then it’s all about working as quickly as possible.

Work with your staff/team to clean up and dismantle any physical equipment, banners, signage and surplus stock etc. You should be leaving your venue in the same condition as when you first arrived.

Once complete, thank staff for a job well done; a small victory drink normally goes down well!

  1. Review & follow-up

Evaluation of your event is a must. Gathering feedback can be done in a number of ways such as via an online survey, paper handouts or simply through conversations. The main thing here is timing – don’t wait too long after the event as people’s memories will fade.

Did things go well? How many potential new customers turned up? Any good write-ups? What didn’t work? What could we do better? The good stuff is great to hear but sometimes it’s better to focus on the negatives. Why? Well these are the things that need fixing, especially if you wish to repeat things in future.

Follow up with attendees & absentees. Thank them for coming and continue discussions if needed. For those who couldn’t attend, recap what they missed and let them know how to remain in contact. Regardless of whether they attended or not, a consistent follow up is key.

How to make the sociable product, sociable

Generally I consider myself lucky, because without intention or purpose, after years of experience in the industry, I have found myself in a position where I work alongside one of the most enjoyable, fascinating and sociable products available to anybody anywhere… wine.

 

This most sociable of products certainly makes my job interesting. The grapes, the countries, the stories, the tastes; there are endless variations to wine, and yet there is always something new and exciting round the corner.

 

So, how do you make this most sociable of products reach the most sociable of industries? In my job as Events & Design Manager I create and host a multitude of events, based on theme or focus that is at the forefront of the industry’s mind that can really bring our product to life. As I’m sure you can imagine, the possibilities wine provides are boundless, but therein lies the challenge!

 

How do you come up with new and engaging events about a product that has been around for centuries? The goal is to create tasting environments that are thought-provoking and stimulating, and to ensure that whilst there is a theme, the guest does not get weighed down by that and has the opportunity to do what they came to do: taste wines that will enhance their wine list.

The beauty of wine is that it brings people together. Tasting events do the same – facilitating conversation, allowing everyone to be sociable and engage with a glass in hand, either on their own or with a group of peers.

I want everyone to enjoy Hallgarten Wines tasting events, and yes I know it is business to most, but ultimately pleasure to everyone at the same time!

 

What does it look like? Smell like? Taste like? Sociable events like these represent an opportunity to get up close and personal with the product, and whether you are an expert or not, everyone’s opinion is valid as wine is such a personal, sensory experience, no one can ever be too wrong.

I feel lucky to be the one to establish these sociable occasions and see the joy it brings people. There’s nothing I enjoy more, than the buzz of an event and knowing I’m responsible for putting a smile on people’s faces.

 

Vinexpo Bordeaux: the end of an era

Some you may have seen that Vinexpo Bordeaux is moving to a new slot in February in Paris from next year.  Having been a regular visitor over the last few years, it was fairly apparent that the fair would not be continuing in its current form and needed to be revitalised mainly due to the importance of the monster that is now Prowein in Dusseldorf in March.

 

They had already moved the event to May this year in order to avoid the excessive heat that has accompanied Vinexpo in June in the past – one famous year when the ground temperature in the car park was measured at over 50 degrees – and reduced the duration by a day but the fair was a shadow of its former self.  For those who remember the marquees hosted by the Champagne houses and Bordeaux negociants together with restaurants with lakeside view, to see the lake looking so deserted was quite a shock!

I took the opportunity to visit some of our Bordeaux producers mainly to see what might be new and interesting in their range.  Without added sulphites is very much in vogue and I was impressed by the couple that I tasted with Antoine from Corlianges who supply us with the Mayne Mazerolles and Merigot.  Dominique is making some full bodied examples from his estate at Domaine Montfollet in Blaye which may be worth a second look.  Antoine was his usual bouncy and enthusiastic self and said how much he had enjoyed his recent visits with a few members of the sales teams in the UK.

 

I also focussed on looking at organic wines and as well as some potentially interesting Bordeaux wines from Passion et Terroirs (supplier of Fleur de Lisse), there was a dedicated organic section with a range from around the world showing the importance of this category. From France, wines from Fronton, Madiran, Jurancon and Bergerac could be up for consideration at some point in the future!

As a finale Thibaut and Marc from Chateau Boutisse and I were serenaded by a loud and enthusiastic percussion band from Cuba on the rum stand adjacent – I don’t think that Bordelais were very impressed!

 

So the Bordeaux Chateaux will have to find another way to host their dinners as the wine fair focus moves to Paris – and Dusseldorf of course.

The Annual Tasting… From the inside

Charli Truelove, Hallgarten Marketing Coordinator, was at the forefront of annual tasting logistics when we took to One Marylebone for the first time this year. Below she provides her perspective on what it is like from the other side of the tasting glass.

Arriving at the venue on Sunday to get ready for the two days ahead and prepare for what was our first annual tasting at One Marylebone; nearly 750 wines, from 152 producers, based in 23 countries were set to be on show for customers, press and those in the trade to taste. As soon as I stepped out of Great Portland street tube on that sunny Sunday I was wowed by the view that greeted me – One Marylebone. What is the first thing you should do in this situation? Take a picture of course…

Out of curiosity, I had a sneak peak of the venue on Google street maps before arriving, but was not expecting it to have quite this impact! The Grade 1 listed ex-church built, in 1826 is absolutely stunning. Pumped and ready to start the work ahead (unboxing, carrying, lining-up wines and generally making everything looked shipshape) I am even more bowled over as I step inside; up the stone steps through the impressive doorway into the beautiful wooden herringbone floored, stained glass magnificent venue.

The main task at hand on the Sunday was to simply make sure everything was in place for the two day tasting ahead. Wines numbered and on the table, boxes away, point of sale and signs in place, tasting books primed, pencils sharpened, all set up and ready to go.

On the morning of the first day of the tasting it is my responsibility to direct our suppliers to their designated table and it’s a pleasure to see the excitement on their faces as they walk into the venue and experience the new set-up for the first time.

As the tasting gets underway, by 11:30 I can’t help but notice a queue forming to get inside – ‘this is going to be a busy one!’. The day gets off to a flying start; corks were popping, laughter and chatter filled the building. No matter who you are in the trade, it is always a wonderful experience to taste wines poured by winery owners, winemakers, grape growers and wine experts, who embody the wines and it is clear to see the love and passion they have for what they do.

This year, the organising team decided to take our even catering to a whole new level – street level.  KERB is one of London’s leading street food organisations, whose sole goal is to make events taste better. We welcomed three different and exciting street food vendors, paired with wines from the tasting, to park up and serve their culinary delights to our guests.

  • Growlers – Portuguese rolls filled with hangar steak
  • Nazari – Inspired by Al-Andalus Moorish Spain
  • Hanoi Kitchen – The freshest Vietnamese street food straight out of Hanoi

My favourite was the Pregos – how can you argue with a steak sandwich on a Monday?

The new venue, new wines and new producers seems to be going down well with suppliers and guests alike. As I walk around taking photos and making sure everyone has all they need there is a positive buzz that fills the room, everybody is learning, pouring, tasting and generally getting excited about the wines and suppliers on show.

All in all a very successful annual tasting and my favourite venue so far. After three days, and almost 30,000 steps on my pedometer, I can’t wait to get planning next year’s!

Royal Ascot 2018: What to expect

Hallgarten recently became Official Wine Supplier to Ascot Racecourse, exclusively supplying all still wines to the world’s most famous racecourse.

The partnership will see Hallgarten supply wine across the site, including at Royal Ascot. Michelin-Starred chefs Simon Rogan, Philip Howard and Raymond Blanc OBE will all showcase a specially selected range of wines in their respective restaurants during the Royal Meeting.

Royal Ascot is one of the most iconic race meetings across the world – there’s nothing quite like it. From the Royal procession, to the style and fashion, to the strawberries and cream (and the racing of course), over 300,000 people are expected to attend.

There’s a lot to consider across the five day spectacle, we’ve taken a closer look at what you can expect.

At Royal Ascot’s award-winning, fifth-floor restaurant, On 5, with its extraordinary garden terrace offering panoramic views of the racecourse. What will Michelin starred Philip Howard be pouring with his signature menus…

White:

Tenuta Ammiraglia, Massovivo, Toscana, Vermentino 
A lovely, intense straw colour, which leads to an impressive bouquet of fragrant blossom and exotic fruits, along with a fascinating vein of earthy minerality which is classic of this area. Fresh, crisp and sapid, but well sustained by its structure, it has an intriguing hint of almond on the finish.

Swartland Winery, ‘Founders’, Swartland, Chenin Blanc
An expressive Chenin Blanc, showing vibrant aromas of ripe passion fruit, guava and pineapple, underpinned by refreshing citrus notes. Well balanced with a full, fruity palate and a refreshing minerality on the finish.

Rosé:

Gérard Bertrand ‘Gris Blanc’, Pays d’Oc
The palest of salmon pinks, this is a wonderfully pure, fresh flavoured wine, with vibrant fruit aromatics. The fruity characters are echoed on the palate, which has a lovely minerality and a zesty finish.

Red:

Saint Clair, ‘Origin’, Marlborough, Pinot Noir 
Aromas of sun-kissed dark berries, boysenberry and freshly picked blackberries, are interlaced with toasted wood notes and a hint of dark chocolate. The palate is full of sumptuous dark berries, layered with freshly ground coffee beans and dark chocolate. A hint of cinnamon spice leads into a savoury finish.

 

Raymond Blanc OBE returns as chef-in-residence to the sixth-floor Panoramic Restaurant, which offers one of the finest views across the track and down the straight mile. What will Raymond be pouring this year with his gastronomic menu…

 

White:

Domaine Tabordet ‘Laurier’, Pouilly-Fumé
A classic Pouilly Fumé showing minerality complemented by notes of exotic fruits, tangerine, pink grapefruit and spicy undertones. The palate is powerful and refreshing and delivers a long, flinty finish.

Rosé:

Château de l’Aumérade ‘Cuvée Marie Christine’ Rosé, Cru Classé Côtes de Provence
A lovely pale powder pink hue, with refreshing aromas of grapefruit leading to succulent peach and apricot on the palate. Fruit forward and full, with a hint of spice, this elegant rosé has a refreshing acidity and a long finish.

Red:

Domaine de la Ville Rouge ‘Inspiration’, Crozes-Hermitage 
Deep red, intense aromas of red fruits and black olives. Spicy and peppery notes with silky tannins. An elegant and silky textured wine.

 Sweet:

Château Suduiraut, Castelnau de Suduiraut, Sauternes
This elegantly rich wine shows orange peel and mineral notes on the nose. The palate is full bodied with almonds, spice, honey and candied fruits through to a lovely, lingering finish.

 

Chef Adam Handling, of The Frog E1 and Frog by Adam Handling in Covent Garden, makes his Royal Ascot debut in 2018 as he takes his role as ‘Chef in Residence’ of The Balmoral – a brand new Fine Dining restaurant within the Royal Enclosure.

White:

Gérard Bertrand ‘Terroir’ Picpoul de Pinet
A complex nose, full of citrus and floral notes combined with white peach, exotic fruit and a hint of pineapple. The palate is rich with zesty fruit and a livewire acidity which keeps your taste buds tingling. The finish is long and well rounded.

Rosé:

Saint Clair,’Origin’, Marlborough, Pinot Gris Rosé
Pale salmon in colour, a refreshing rosé with lifted aromas of sun-ripened strawberry, whipped cream and spiced pear. Beautifully balanced and finely structured on the palate with creamy fruit flavours of raspberries and strawberries leading to a hint of spice on the finish.

Red:

Gérard Bertrand ‘Naturalys’, Pays d’Oc, Syrah
A deep colour, with shimmering hints of violet. Generous nose, packed with red fruit and spice. Supple, aromatic and impeccably elegant on the palate, with refined tannins and lively fruit flavours offset by subtle herbaceous aromas.

Sweet:

Quady Winery, ‘Essensia’, California, Orange Muscat
Vibrant orange in colour, this wine delivers luscious sweet oranges and apricots on the palate. The bittersweet orange marmalade notes balance well with the zesty citric acidity.

 

What else to expect by numbers…

56,000
bottles of Champagne

80,000
cups of tea

21,000
jugs of Pimm’s

7,000
rumps of English lamb

3,000
kilos of beef sirloin

3,500
fresh lobsters

 

#NewWaveSpain – What stood out

We have recently taken a closer look at our Spanish portfolio, and decided to embrace the regions that may not be at the forefront of people’s minds when they think about buying Spanish wine.

To showcase these we took our refreshed Spanish portfolio to Brindisa in Shoreditch, on a sunny day in June. Below are a selection of the picks from the day’s tasting.

Xosé Lois Sebio, ‘O Con’, Rias Biaxas 2015

An intense and aromatic example of Spain’s iconic variety, Albariño. Aromas of citrus fruits combine with floral notes and mineral nuances. Deliciously refreshing and balanced with deep fruit  flavours enveloped in an enticing mineral character. This is wonderfully sapid with a very long, fine and intense finish.

From quirky wine maker, Xosé Lois Sebio, whose sole intention is to respect and express the soil, variety and area; producing wines with soul and personality.

Bodegas Viñátigo, Marmajuelo, Islas Canarias – Tenerife 2017

Highly aromatic and intense on the nose with pure notes of passion fruit and fig tree leaves leading to an equally intense palate with opulent fruit and a very long, persistent finish.

The philosophy behind Bodegas Viñátigo is to revive and promote the extensive varietal heritage of the Canary Islands.

Pagos del Moncayo, ‘Prados Fusión’ Garnacha Syrah, Campo de Borja 2016

Dark ruby in colour, Prados Fusion offers a rich, fruity nose with  Mediterranean red fruits enhanced by hints of sweet spice. The  palate seduces with layers of juicy red fruits, smooth and silky tannins and a long finish.

Pagos del Moncayo is a family-run producer based at the foot of the Sierra del Moncayo, in the heart of the Iberian Mountain range. The artisanal winery embraces the traditions which have been passed down through the generations, inspired by centuries of cultivating Garnacha in the vineyards of Campo de Borja.

The diversity in Spanish winemaking is incredible, you can go from the relatively small wine producing region of the Canary Islands to Ribera Del Duero and feel like you’re in a different country.

 

Wines to pair with pumpkin

Summer has well and truly left us and winter is on it’s way, but first the leaves are turning orange and guests are looking for a different type of wine. With Halloween decorations adorning restaurants and bars across the country today, we look at the best wines to pair with pumpkin.Carpenè Malvolti, 1868 Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore, Prosecco Brut NV

For a pumpkin risotto, try offering a dry Prosecco. The clean, light flavours of the sparkling white wine help lift the almost floral aspects of the pumpkin without accentuating any sweetness. The Carpenè Malvolti, 1868 Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore, Prosecco Brut NV is ideal with its floral and fruity bouquet, elegant aromas of ripe pear, crisp apple and citrus, layered with subtle herbaceous notes. It’s smooth on the palate with crisp, refreshing aromatics and an elegant finish, and a perfect pairing for pumpkin risotto.

Castello Nipozzano, Vecchie Viti, Chianti Rúfina Riserva 2014If you’re incorporating cream into a pumpkin dish, the food gets more wintry weight, so a wine with more body works well. Sangiovese strikes the balance of standing up to something like a pumpkin inspired cream sauce without overpowering the main ingredient. The Castello Nipozzano, Vecchie Viti, Chianti Rúfina Riserva 2014 boasts a lovely ruby red colour and has notes of raspberry, currant, and gooseberry leading to a finish of cocoa and white pepper. The 90% Sangiovese wine strikes the balance  perfectly between standing up to, and complementing, a creamy pumpkin dish with its medium body and silky tannins.

Grüner Veltliner offers the zingy characteristics Johann Donabaum, Johann Federspiel, Wachau, Grüner Veltliner 2015that go well with pumpkin in any of its guises, but shows especially well next to a savoury option like a pumpkin gnocchi. The home of Grüner Veltliner is Austria, so look no further than Johann Donabaum’s Johann Federspiel, Grüner Veltliner 2015 a fabulous, restrained wine with bright apple and lime characters, combined with white pepper, cardamom and spicy minerality. The wine is balanced and refreshing and makes it the go-to partner for any pumpkin dish!

 

Happy Halloween!

A Gourmet Evening at Chapter One

Chapter One is what fine dining is all about. Exceptional food in a stylish setting. An extensive list of carefully chosen wines. Impeccable service with meticulous attention to detail. Outstanding value for money.

The Chapter One team also hold three exclusive Gourmet Evenings each year, with each course being specially matched with a particular wine.

Hallgarten’s Adrian Needham was on hand to guide the guests through each wine…

Hot and Cold Canapés

 Bernard Remy, Brut Carte Blanche NV

‘Lively and intense with a delicate and persistent mousse, refreshing notes of lime and lemon combine with floral nuances, honey and a touch of mint on the palate.’

Customer’s verdict: “Perfect start.”


Pea Bavarois With Mint, Pea Shoots & Mint Oil

Vina Ventolera, Litoral Sauvignon Blanc 2016

‘Fresh and bright, brimming with lime, guava, and passionfruit flavours. A touch of freshly cut green peppers and gooseberry lead to the full flavoured palate, which is well balanced and wonderfully vibrant.’

Customer’s verdict: “Heavenly!”


Baked San Marzano Tomato Tart With Cornish Cock Crab & Basil

Kayra Wines, Beyaz Kalecik Karasi 2015 

‘Pale pink in colour, with delightful notes of citrus, orange flower, pink grapefruit and ripe red fruits. The palate echoes the nose with wild strawberry and raspberry dominant and a lively, crisp finish.’

Customer’s verdict: “Very pleasantly surprisedby a Turkish Rosé!”


Ricotta Agnolotti Girolle Mushrooms, Broad Beans & Belper Knolle Cheese

Ca’Rugate, Valpolicella DOC Rio Alba 2016

‘Concentrated aromas of red fruits, ripe blackberry and deep cherry flavours, with floral notes and a hint of spice, supple on the palate with a velvety texture.’

Customer’s verdict: “widely appreciated for it’s quality and lightness”


Josper Grilled Rib-Eye Of Australian Beef, Sautéed Spinach, Australian Truffle Potato Purée, Roasted Roscoff Onion & Bordelaise Sauce

Perez Cruz, Carmenere Limited Edition 2015 

‘A spicy wine with vibrant notes of blackberry, blackcurrant and a hint of mocha. Elegant and complex on the palate with supple tannins and a savoury finish.’

 

Customer’s verdict: “Massive hit! Perfectly paired with the Rib-Eye and truffle.”


Scorched Apricot With Almond Ice Cream & Almond Brittle

 


Kentish Strawberries With Elderflower And White Chocolate Creameaux & Strawberry Sorbet

 San Silvestro, Moscato d’Asti DOCG NV 

‘Made from the Moscato grape, this sparkling wine is fresh, fragrant and delicately sweet with a fine mousse.’

 

Customer’s verdict: “Very impressive and surprised by just how well this finished the evening!

Ca’Rugate at the tre bicchieri tasting

Today we are part of the great and the good in the plush surroundings of the Church House Conference Centre at Dean’s Yard in Westminster – which is an interesting place to be during a General Election campaign.

We’re here for the annual Gambero Rosso tre bicchieri tasting and I’m showing off the award-winners from our wonderful Ca’Rugate winery. Based in Brognoligo di Monteforte in the heart of the Soave Classico region, Ca’Rugate is one of my all-time favourite producers. We started working with them about four years ago (we couldn’t believe our luck!) and since then it has been a real thrill to introduce their wines to our customers. They made their name with their amazing selection of Soave wines (check out their history of tre bicchieri awards), but in recent times they have won just as many awards for their Valpolicella wines.

Today I am showing the Monte Fiorentine Soave Classico 2015, the Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2015 and the Punta Tolotti Black Label Amarone 2012.

Award-winners to the left of me, award-winners to the right of me, but punters are queueing up at my table – and it’s definitely not because of my good looks. Word has got out and everyone wants to taste the Soave. It lives up to its reputation, caressing and undressing the palate with a seductive allure of hazelnuts and cream, cut through with a water-on-pebbles minerality. My job is sooo easy when the wine is as good as this.

But just as gratifying is the reaction to the reds. One particular wine “counsellor” becomes my best pal by bringing over client after client to taste the ravishing and voluptuous Amarone, surrendering themselves to the heady concoction of blueberries, blackberries, cherries and spicy oak. The tasters look at me in awe. Nothing to do with me, I tell them; it’s all the work of Michele Tessari and his team.

The Ripasso is equally well received. It is the subtle touch of sweetness on the finish which lingers on the palate which causes everyone to pause, stop, gaze into a faraway space and reflect on the beauty of what is in their mouth. The senses surrender.  It is the way the taster looks at you as if to say; “Thank you” which brings the smile to your face.

It was at the beginning of the 20th century that Amedeo Tessari, Michele’s great grandfather, first sensed the quality of the land and began making wine. Amedeo, a modest man,  would probably have felt out of place among the finery of Dean’s Yard. But his legacy lives on.

The wines continue to beguile.

 

The Wine Writer’s Easter Wines

Easter is the time of year to enjoy good food and good wine with your nearest and dearest. Below is a range of wines for all occasions over the weekend as chosen by some of the nation’s wine writers.

 

Jane Macquitty, The Times, selects her best buys in the run up to Easter weekend:

2015 Gérard Bertrand, Cigalus

“Sensational, biodynamic, oak-aged Midi white, Chardonnay with Viognier and Sauvignon, bursting with exotic, spice-box and grapefruit-styled pizzazz.”

 

John Mobbs, owner of Great British Wine, has chosen his English bubbles to kick off Easter celebrations:

Sugrue Pierre, The Trouble With Dreams 2013

“On the nose, this is clearly the most complex wine on the nose of the five (though at £39, the most expensive too). The nose is nuanced and expansive, with apple and citrus freshness matched with equal amounts of nutty biscuit complexity.

Acidity is youthful, almost eye watering in its vibrance; the most mouth-watering of green apple crispness! And then those bubbles – the mousse is absolutely luxurious and leads the way for an eclectic blend of baked stone fruit and pastry flavours. Citrus freshness interweaves constantly, as do waves of toasted nut and hints of caramelised sugar.

The words bracing, unctuous and exuberant are all descriptors I love in a sparkling wine – but few wines combine all of these qualities and then some. Sugrue Pierre 2013 does just that.

As a relatively new release, this 2013 is just a baby and has at least a decade of development ahead of it. Order a case and enjoy a bottle or two now, then lay the rest down in a cool, dark place and reap the rewards of patience when the time comes!”

 

Terry Kirby, The Independent, has selected his wine for the fish course over Easter Weekend:

2014 Saint Clair, Pioneer Block 3 ’43 Degrees’

“A Marlborough sauvignon blanc from a single vineyard showing fabulous intensity of flavour, with incredibly full flavours of tropical fruits and green herbs and a long finish, achieved, say the winemakers, by planting rows of vines at an angle to give the right blend of sun and shade. This is wonderful with seared scallops, peppered tuna, any Asian-tinged fish dishes and, if you can find it, early season English asparagus.”

 

Matthew Nugent, Irish Sun, recommends an immaculate Spanish blend for an Easter Sunday slow roast pork loin:

2013 Tandem Inmacula

“Delicious bend of Viura and Chardonnay make this glorious white from Spain’s Navarra region. Powerful nose of apricots, melons and pears with smoky mineral notes leads to a very expressive, fresh but elegant palate that has exceedingly good depth with heaps of stone fruit and citrus notes and a little minerality on a long and clean finish.”

Winemaking As An Art Form – Restaurant Magazine, March issue, Jane Parkinson

In Jane Parkinson’s Liquid Assets feature of March’s Restaurant Magazine she takes a look at Winemaking as an art form… 

 

Wine of the Month:

Paringa Estate The Paringa Pinot Noir, 2O12
This is not cheap, but is one of the leading lights of Mornington Peninsula and this release is stunning. It is bold yet retains enough Pinot delicacy and has a fresh acidity with red cherry juiciness. It also has broad tannin shoulders after 10 months in French oak but it matches up perfectly to the generous fruit.


San Marzano Tramari Primitivo Rosé
2016 

A chirpy and well-priced rosé, from a Puglian co-operative. lt is pale salmon in colour, dry and bright with strawberry, cranberry and raspberry.


Lismore The Age of Grace Viognier, 2O16

A barrel fermented Viognier aged for a further 11 months in 2251 Burgundian barrels. It’s rich with peach schnapps.


Sugrue Pierre Brut, 2013
This excellent fizz is from Dermot Sugrue. With 8g/l dosage and some fermented in new oak, this is classy with lemon sherbet fruit and buttered toast richness.


Ancilla Lugana, 2015
Coming off the shores of Lake Garda, this has a plush side, thanks to the 10% fermented in oak. lt has melons with an almond nuttiness for texture.


Ellevin Chablis Brigitte Cerveau, 2015
A zippy, zesty chardonnay with taut lemon that isn’t sour thanks to the salty lick of chalk and biscuit that make this feel medium bodied in weight.

a Saturday night in Adelaide

Adelaide is absolutely rammed tonight. It’s the opening night of the Fringe Festival and a vast parade is winding its way through the city. Hindley Street is heaving, a seething mass of people, beautiful and vulgar and loud. Screaming police sirens compete with the pulsing throb of electro from the bars and the shouts of fifty thousand voices. It takes ten minutes to walk 100 yards. While it is not yet in the same league as Newcastle’s Bigg Market, it’s not far short.

Meanwhile, over the Torrens River, Guns N’ Roses are playing at the Adelaide Oval. I make my way slowly across the bridge. I don’t have a ticket, but then thousands of others don’t either, so I join them on the grass outside the stadium. We might not be able to see them, but we can hear them. I open my bottle of Florita Riesling which Sam Barry gave me earlier and I pour it into a paper cup. The luxury of being a wine buyer.

There is an astounding contrast between this hedonism and the bucolic vine-growing fields in the surrounding hills. Crikey, this place is steeped in wine history. Earlier today I popped in at the revitalised Seppeltsfield winery, now transformed under the guidance of Warren Randall. I tried the tawny from the year of my birth – 1961 (a good year in Bordeaux, too)! It is the first time I have drunk my own vintage. Brett Wadrup then poured me a 100 year old Para tawny – sticky toffee pudding time! Even though the winery is now a tourist attraction, you can see from the original gravity-fed layout and remaining buildings which were built from imported wood, such was the lack of local hardwood, what an amazing feat this was. God, pioneers such as Joseph Seppelt were tough! During my tour my mind wandered back a couple of days to my long trip up from Melbourne, when I drove past the other Seppelt winery in the Great Western area in the north of Victoria. As a working winery, this has largely been mothballed by its multinational owners – the juice from their vineyards is now trucked hundreds of miles to another facility. Sad. If I’d had more time during my drive up from Melbourne I would have stopped in for a visit to their historic underground cellars – and then popped over the road to pay a visit to Best’s.

I also went to see Bleasdale, down in Langhorne Creek, at the invitation of Martin Strachan, with whom I worked when he was Negociants’ man in the UK a decade ago. This is another famous old winery, with reminders of their past everywhere. Frank Potts was the pioneer here. I tried a 16 year old Verdelho, an 18 year old Grenache/Shiraz Tawny and 20 year old Grenache/Shiraz/Verdelho. Priceless stuff! And the table wines are very good, too, including a textbook GSM. Funny region, Langhorne Creek. You arrive down a winding hilly road and you find yourself on one long single straight road from which all the flat vineyards radiate. It actually is a flood plain, and the waters which cascade down from the Adelaide Hills via the Bremer River provide the much needed irrigation. Martin tells me that they had no floods in 2013, 2014 or 2015, but they had five in 2016. The cooling effect of the nearby Lake Alexandrina, Australia’s largest freshwater lake, provides a respite from the heat. A week ago, when it was 41 degrees in Adelaide, it was 26 degrees in Langhorne Creek. There are only a handful of independent wineries here – but the quality of wine is exceptional, as I will confirm when I return in a couple of days to meet with our man Greg Follet from Lake Breeze, currently making exquisite Cabernet and Shiraz wines.

I can’t wait to go back!