Category Archives: Italy

Winemaker profile: Nicolò D’Afflitto, Director of Winemaking, Frescobaldi

Overseeing the winemaking and viticulture of all seven of Frescobaldi’s historic estates is no mean feat. Yet, Nicolò D’Afflitto has spent more than twenty years doing just that.

Following a rural upbringing on a farm, Nicolò studied Oenology at Bordeaux University, graduating in 1982. His winemaking experience was enhanced spending time living and working in the US before he returned to Tuscany. It was there, in 1991, he joined Frescobaldi, working at Castel Giocondo in Montalcino. Four years later, he was managing all the estates, nearly 3,500 acres in total.

With over 700 years of Frescobaldi winemaking history and the 2020 Gambero Rosso Winery of the Year under its belt, producing consistently great wines is crucial. D’Afflitto believes the vineyard is the key with terroir creating wines with individuality. As such, attention to detail in the vineyard is everything. Nicolò takes a different approach with each of the seven estates and each vineyard needs different techniques to nurture its specific attributes. Each estate has a winemaker, general manager and viticulturist and D’Afflitto is also closely involved, all with the aim of creating something truly special, as well as unique, from every vineyard.

For Nicolò, his top priority is always the fruit. This philosophy is carried forward in both the vineyard and winery with the soil, climate, vine and human input all vital. Combining this care and dedication in the vineyard with assiduous use of oak in the winery allows Nicolò and his team to produce wines that show the grapes’ full potential. Frescobaldi’s long and illustrious history is not forgotten either and Nicolò takes pride in the part culture plays: great historical figures including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo have passed through Frescobaldi’s vineyards and its strong connections to Italy’s art, history and culture remain part of its fabric to this day.

Decades of experience managing Frescobaldi’s wine production means Nicolò has presided over many changes, including the replanting of Castel Giocondo and the introduction of new wines to the market, including Tenuta Perano – the family’s first venture into Chianti Classico and launched in the UK in 2018.

His work sees him travel thousands of miles per year visiting each estate every week to ensure the quality of all 12 million bottles produced reaches the family’s high standards. An experimental vineyard allows Nicolò to work on new trials and explore disease resistant varieties. This experimentation and strive for improvement allows Frescobaldi to build on their centuries of experience and strike the perfect balance between tradition and innovation.

Heroic Viticulture!

God, this is an untamed landscape. I’ve never stood in a vineyard like this before. It feels more like a small jungle, a mass of unkempt and wild shrubbery, misshapen and twisted, like Triffids. And, dotted everywhere, huge lava outcrops. A Jurassic park of a vineyard.

If you look closely in the undergrowth you will see vines. But they look wild.

Which is the entire point.

Steve Daniel and I are on the impossibly steep slopes of Mount Ilice, an extinguished crater on the south-eastern flank of Mount Etna. From this vineyard of extraordinary beauty comes an extraordinary wine: Calmarossa.

We are visiting Santa Maria La Nave. And we are in awe.

In the hands of the lovely Sonia Spadaro Mulone, Santa Maria is not just a wine producer, but one devoted to the preservation of ancient vine varieties and centuries-old traditions, a kind of Etna natural history preservation society. “I live for and dedicate every day of my life to my indigenous vine varieties and my wines, taking care of them and sharing their beauty with the world,” Sonia has said. “Many of them are taller than me – they are ancient, fierce, and have been there for centuries. My duty is to protect and safeguard this invaluable heritage.”

The vineyard in which we are standing, situated at 800 metres, was finally purchased in 2016 by Sonia and her husband Riccardo following years of negotiations with numerous owners. They had begun managing it many years before, following in the footsteps of a devoted farmer, Don Alfio, who had biodyanamically cultivated the main part of the vineyard for more than fifty years. It had a pre-phylloxera heart (Sonia’s word) and included some varieties that were almost extinct.

But right now there is a fog which is not so much rolling in as sprinting in from the sea and within minutes visibility is down to fifty yards and you get an eerie Lost World feeling. And then we are sprinting for the car as a downpour of tropical proportions thrashes us.

To say that Sonia and her team are passionate about their work would be an understatement of volcanic proportions. Not only are they acting as wine archaeologists, but they are doing so in some of the highest vineyards in Europe. CERVIM, the Centre for Research, Environmental Sustainability and Advancement of Mountain Viticulture, which was set up to promote vineyards at altitudes over 500 metres, vines planted on slopes greater than 30% vines on terraces of embankments, and planted on small islands in difficult growing conditions: refers to this kind of winemaking as ‘heroic viticulture.’ Santa Maria La Nave was admitted to CERVIM a few years back.

The history of Santa Maria La Nave goes back to 1954, when farmer Giuseppe “Peppino” Mulone moved to Catania with his family, and became fascinated by the fertility of the volcanic soil, the lushness of the vine varieties and the magnificence of the grapes. Peppino’s passion for Mount Etna’s vines was handed down to his son, Angelo, and then his grandson Riccardo, his wife Sonia, and their workers, winemaker Enzo Calì, viticulturist Vincenzo Avellina and agronomist Andrea Marletta

And now we are heading to Santa Maria’s tiny underground maturation cellar where we make our way down the spiral staircase, wearing disposable polythene footwear to ensure there is no spread of germs. Attention to detail!

Here we taste through the five different barrels of the 2017 vintage which will be blended into Calmarossa. The wine is composed of 85% Nerello Mascalese, the undisputed prince of Etna varietals but one which was abandoned for generations, and 15% Nerello Cappuccio, a grape which produces epic colour, but one which has often not been held in particularly high esteem, something Sonia and her team are slowly changing. “Some brave winemakers have started to enhance the true nature of this vine variety with a bit of innovative craziness,” she states.

The difference in the barrels is amazing. The first has extreme toffee apple flavours, with a hint of saltiness; the second is more restrained with a touch more steeliness; the third is the biggest yet, with huge deep berry flavours and a delicious hint of sweetness on the finish; the fourth is an amazing concoction of baked cherry pie with a blackcurrant lozenge type kick; the fifth is the most reserved, with beautiful firm tannins.

We then go on to try the 2016 vintage from bottle. Masses of herby notes on the nose, silky and moreish on the palate, complex multi-layered and contemplative. Brilliant.

Now we try the Millesulmare Sicilia DOC Bianco, made from Grecanico Dorato, an ancient varietal which was originally thought to be Greek but one which has now been genetically linked to Garganega. It tastes beautifully, redolent of stone fruit, hints of gooseberries and a touch of lanolin. The grapes for this wine are a pie’ franco, grafted onto Richter 110 and Paulsen 1103 rootstock. They are grown in Santa Maria’s other vineyard, Casa Decima, at Contrada Nave, on the other side of Etna, the north-western slope, at an even higher altitude of 1,100 metres, and it is to here that we drive the following morning.

Thankfully, the rain has cleared and we make the ninety minute journey through the higgledy piggledy southern Etna sprawl and emerge at the far more beautiful northern slopes, where Steve and I jump out of the car and take our picture-postcard photographs of the summit.

The Casa Decima vineyard is one of the highest vineyards in Europe (and was once owned by Lord Nelson, no less.) The team began here in 2000, working with an agronomist who was conducting a fifteen-year experiment to find the best vine stock. “We grafted about six thousand plants of Grecanico Dorato and five hundred of the almost extinct Albanello. Many of them were abandoned and covered by brambles,” states Sonia. In 2004 they bought a number of adjoining plots from local farmers: perfect to preserve a precious DNA that was at risk of extinction. “We found a very high number of gaps in our vineyard, mostly caused by wild animals. In spite of the damage they made, we welcomed them, since they are natural inhabitants and they help us to preserve the local ecosystem. We promised ourselves that we would treat this small vineyard as an oasis, whose rhythm should be natural and chosen by the plants, and not by the human obsession to subjugate nature and use it to produce more to make more money.”

Here the views are expansive, the vineyards a little more restrained than those on Mount Ilice, the views breath-taking. “When I saw one of my neighbours spraying his vineyard, I was so distressed that I immediately tried to buy it,” Sonia states.

“We are looking for pure essence of Mount Etna in a glass,” she says. “We only grow local vine varieties. Our wines are the product of an extreme viticulture, performed in demanding and wild areas at high altitude, in precious patches of land which have been safeguarded during the centuries from the devastating volcanic eruptions, or in plots on steep slopes of ancient extinguished craters.”

Heroic indeed!And quite beautiful.

Summer Wine

“Strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring – my summer wine is really made from all these things!”

 

Hallgarten brand manager and one of our Greek wine experts, Evangelia Tevekelidou, has been considering what ‘summer wine’ means to her. 

This is how Nancy Sinatra describes her summer wine, and I have to admit, she makes me want a sip of it! Okay, okay, maybe more than one sip… But what is a summer wine really? What does it smell or taste like? Where does it come from? Is it a white, rosé or red? If you ask me it can be (nearly) anything! But anything, is a boring answer, so let me narrow down my thoughts. A summer wine must be a wine that reminds us of summer.

 

For me – coming from Greece – summer is a direct association with holidays in the islands (ideally in the Aegean). So, surely a summer wine in my eyes should also be coming from these islands… One that comes straight to mind is Poderi Parpinello ‘Sessantaquattro’, Vermentino 2018 from Sardinia – the Smaragd of the med. Aromas of yellow fruits, dry but smooth and very textured on the palate, this Vermentino is the perfect match for shellfish by the beach.

 

Alternatively, Bodegas Viñátigo, Gual 2016 from the volcanic soils of Tenerife, in Las Canarias, will definitely impress your palate the same way as an ‘elaborate’ summer cocktail; smokiness, jasmine and tropical pineapple on the nose, followed by a rich buttery palate and a long finish.

 

Another favourite summery wine is Gaia Wines’ Assyrtiko ‘Thalassitis’ from the iconic and ever-so-Instagrammable island of Santorini. Thalassitis, meaning ‘coming from the sea’ (Thalassa is Greek for sea), is one of the most terroir-driven wines I have ever tasted. You can feel the salt, the volcanic soil and the bone-dry conditions where these old vines are, not just surviving, but thriving.

 

 

Being from this part of the world, I could continue my island wine list even further, but what about a summer wine being low-alcohol and therefore fresher on the palate? Under the hot sun, the alcohol percentage could help you keep fresh as a daisy and not result in too many ill-effects.

 

I tasted this exciting wine in the Hallgarten tasting room recently and it could (technically) be considered as an island wine too. England is a big island, no? Yes, I am talking about an English wine, from Essex, New Hall Vineyards, Bacchus Reserve 2018. It is very pale in colour and the alcohol is only 10.5%, making it a perfect choice to enjoy under the hot sun. The wine itself has an abundance of green apple flavours, white pepper notes and it has an absolute freshness that will cool any palate.

 

 

A wine we have seen take the trade by storm in recent years is Koshu, from Japan. Island wine, low alcohol – it ticks all the boxes! Grace Winery’s Koshu Kayagatake 2018is very light and lean in its style, but also elegantly floral with thirst-quenching acidity and only 11.5%. Arigato freshness!

 

 

After spending some time thinking about these wines, I have just realised all of my summer wines are white wines. Does this mean that summer wine always has to be white – no. When people think of summer wine rosé often springs to mind or a lightly chilled, fresh red wine.

 

In Greece, we often see temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius in the sun and nearly 70% of our local wine production comes from white varieties. I might be biased, but it seems that this is why my summer wine, is a white wine. Oh, oh summer wine…

The Beauty of San Marzano Wines

Driving home from Gatwick airport I’m feeling an element of what some might refer to as the “holiday blues”. Yet I’m returning from an important, three day work trip to our Puglian wine supplier, San Marzano, where we hosted some of our Brighton-based customers; The Coal Shed, The Salt Room, 64 Degrees, Murmur and Chilli Pickle.

 

The tiredness, grey skies and torrential rain certainly doesn’t help matters when you land and I remember a comment made by San Marzano’s Export Manager, Angelo Cotugno the night before; “I’m not sure how you can live in the UK, I will never leave Puglia”. Having now visited this sun drenched part of the world I can understand what he means.

 

Day one

On arrival in Bari, Puglia’s capital city, its importance as an economic hub is very apparent. We drive past large, colourful warehouses one after the other, after the other.  The vast land stretches out; there are none of the rolling hills which I’ve become accustomed to seeing in other winemaking areas of Italy. Olive trees and grape vines are in abundance (as are the crazy drivers).

 

The sun is shining fiercely and we’re already talking about what wine we fancy drinking with lunch – the crisp and aromatic ‘Talo’ Verdeca or the fruity ‘Tramari’ Primitivo Rosé are both popular contenders but for Chilli Pickle owner, Alun Sperring, who prefers a red, a glass of ‘Il Pumo’ Negroamaro is high on his agenda. The beauty of Negroamaro, one of Italy’s oldest grape varieties, is that its acidity keeps it elegant and refreshing, even on the hottest days.

 

We are all surprised at just how flat the land is and we discover that only three out of our group of 12 have visited this region. Despite several of us holding some level of wine certification, our knowledge of Puglia and its sub-regions seem limited. 10 years ago Puglia took up just a few lines within the diploma syllabus – being the largest wine producing region of Italy it was famed for bulk, blending wine, as opposed to the quality DOC/DOP wines that the likes of our supplier, San Marzano are leading the way with.

After a few hours experiencing the incredible Puglian culture at Canneto beach club where we could enjoy all of San Marzano’s wines , we make our way to dinner at the 4 Seasons restaurant in a beautiful town called Martina Franca – one of the highest towns in Puglia where the native grape variety Verdeca is grown. The flat roofed houses, each have Pumos decorating their balconies – these urn like ceramic ornaments from which San Marzano’s ‘Il Pumo’ range of wines are named after, are a sign of prosperity and luck.

 

We are treated to array of local dishes; plenty of Burrata, orecchiette pasta and sweet, local tomatoes for which the area is so famed for. The cellar here is full of aging Negroamaro – a reminder that this area can produce amazing, age-worthy wine at usually half the price of some more traditional Italian fine wines.

 

To end the night we receive a heartfelt speech from our Business Development Director, Joe Wadhams, thanking our customers and San Marzano for a spectacular first day – their Puglian hospitality certainly exceeds our expectations.

 

Day two

After a night’s sleep in the beautiful Relais Histò hotel in Taranto we set off early to experience some more Puglian culture. This time we board a private catamaran bound for the Salento Peninsula to discover the beautiful coastline around the heel of the Italian boot. The proximity to the sea is a constant reminder of how San Marzano can successfully produce wines of such elegance in this hot, flat setting. The constant cool sea breeze helps to retain the acidity in the grapes while the sunny conditions ensure plenty of fruit and ripe tannin – a perfect combination for age worthy wines.

As we board the boat, we are handed a glass of San Marzano’s ‘Tramari’ Rose – made from 100% Primitivo grown in the premium Salento sub-region of Puglia, this is the perfect early afternoon aperitif and pairs well with the octopus salad and seafood paella for lunch.

 

As we sail out further, we pass several ancient watch towers; Puglia’s strategic position and fertile soils made it an appealing target for colonization with numerous invasions from different parts of the world.

 

In the evening we travel to the small town of Grotagllie where we have dinner on the rooftop terrace of the Monun Hotel. This time the dishes are a modern take of the traditional fare – tomatoes stuffed with ricotta, raw sea bass with peach, seared Tuna steak and chilli infused ice cream. This fusion of new and old reminds me of San Marzano’s philosophy: “every day tradition and modernity”.

 

San Marzano was formed in 1962 by 19 local growers from the village San Marzano di San Giuseppe who had been growing vines for generations. The winery now deals with over 1,300 growers whose vineyards often cover no more than one hectare. The winegrowing here goes back centuries, yet the winemaking and approach is modern and forward-thinking.

 

Day three

On our final day we went to San Marzano‘s winery in the heart of the region. In many ways, we questioned if we needed to go, as we tasted virtually the whole range over the previous two days and once you’ve visited one winery you’ve seen them all, right? Well, we were wrong! The winery was an extremely interesting place to visit – first of all 70% of it is built underground; this is to maintain a constant cool temperature of 18C year round. In the cool cellar, 300 year old amphoras can be seen tucked away at the end of each row, alongside a couple of modern, concrete versions.

The rest of the cellar is full of oak barriques, a mixture of French, American and Russian oak depending on the wine inside. Back on ground-level, we walk amongst various sized stainless steel tanks and horizontal rotating fermenters – the majority of wineries use vertical  versions of these but the horizontal fermenters ensure a more even skin maceration during fermentation which is important for colour and complexity in red wines.

 

Before moving into the tasting room we’re introduced to San Marzano‘s Presidente, Francesco Cavallo, who has been at the forefront of the company’s success, continuing the passion and spirit of its founders since he was appointed in 1982. San Marzano‘s flagship wine, Sessantanni, which we taste shortly after is made in honour of these founders. The grapes for this 100% Primitivo are picked from 60 year old vines growing in the renowned Primitivo di Manduria DOP region. It’s full of lush black forest fruit, with underlying notes of fennel and herbs, and an extremely long finish.

 

Before we leave, Angelo mentions the new project that San Marzano are working on – Masseria Samia, a sustainable vineyard where they have lovingly restored its 16th century farmhouse which will eventually be open to friends and guests visiting the winery.

 

The atmosphere at San Marzano isn’t that of a large scale 15 million bottle operation. Their ethos and approach has an inclusive family feel, and their wines, just something special to share.

Poise, elegance, balance – a Nureyev wine

You forget just how steep the vineyards can be in Tuscany. Rolling hills, lone cypress trees, hilltop villages and medieval fortresses, yes, they all spring to mind when you think of Chiantishire. But, crikey, this is a steep slope.

We are at the top of the hill and the vines on both sides are majestic, the patterned seersucker rows stretching hypnotically into the distance. This is EM Forster country, but all I can think of is: I hope this driver knows what he is doing. There are four Land Rovers in single file formation, and our driver waits until the one in front has negotiated the slope before engaging the gears. And away we slither.

But, of course, we need not have worried. Riccardo Giorgi and his team are not only excellent winemakers, but they are expert at manoeuvring four wheel drives around the vineyard. And what a vineyard!

Tenuta Perano lies in the heart of the Chianti Classico region in Gaiole. And the reason for the procession of four wheel drives is because Frescobaldi have invited 50 or so of their distributors from around the world to enjoy their first sight of the new estate. Later on there will be hot air balloons, a presentation from Lamberto Frescobaldi and a steak cooked by rock star Panzano chef Dario Cecchini.

Two things strike you immediately: the altitude (“it is 500 metres above sea level compared to 250 metres for Nipozzano,” Lamberto Frescobaldi tells me later, over dinner). And the estate lies in a beautiful amphitheatre which catches every last drop of the sun. This is balanced by the tramontana wind, which sweeps through at night to lower the temperature. It is this combination of altitude, vineyard siting and the free draining galestro soil that gives the Perano wines such character.

The estate now produces three wines, a Classico, a Classico Riserva and a Gran Selezione “Rialzi”. “There will be no IGTs from here,” says Lamberto. I can’t wait to taste them over dinner.

But first, I almost come a cropper in the hotel air balloon. It all looks a bit precarious and the wind isn’t helping, but I manfully haul myself into the small basket with three other distributors, all of us wearing looks of trepidation. The weather is playing up, and it takes a long time before lift-off, and when it does the hot flame which our pilot blows into the balloon seems to come perilously close to my head. These days I haven’t got much up top and for a moment I worry about getting my bonce singed. Meanwhile, one of the spectating distributors shouts up to the pilot: “Don’t lose that salesman – he’s my best man and sells thousands of cases!”

When we eventually make it back down – thank God – we are then taken on a tour of the winery – probably the most pristine I’ve ever seen.

And then comes the T-bone!

The legendary showman Cecchini (strapline: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter) enters to a blaze of klaxon horns. “To the table!” he exhorts, kissing everyone, and dishing out huge wedges of beef. It is complete chaos but no-one seems to care. The steak is sublime – and doesn’t he know it! Later on I queue to get my photograph taken with him like some fawning teenager. But, then, everyone else does.

Meanwhile, I listen to Lamberto talk about the wines. “We are looking for poise and elegance, and balance here,” he explains. He tastes the Classico. “This is a Nureyev wine,” he says.  The Riserva has more weight, but the tannins are sweet and soft. “This is a feminine wine,” he says. And then we move on to the Gran Selezione, the Rialzi, which means rise in the land. “This one is masculine,” he says.

Talking of masculinity, here comes the marching Cecchini again, now singing. Best to keep my head down, eat his steak and drink the wonderful wines.

Michele Chiarlo is the Picasso of the wine world

“We are – and always will be – only Piemonte,” says Michele Chiarlo.

We are standing in the cellars at Chiarlo’s Calamandrana winery and the still sprightly 83 year-old is telling his audience of worldwide distributors where his priorities lie. We are the lucky ones who have been invited to his annual symposium, and Michele, who still visits the winery every day, is proudly showing us around the barrel room. The Alliers oak tonneaux are gleaming, but as Michele explains; “I want to capture exactly the terroir and not the oak. These here are merely to prepare the wine for release.”

This terroir-driven focus has always been at the heart of the Chiarlo philosophy, further proof of which is Michele’s insistence on producing single-varietals rather than blends and only using indigenous grape varieties. This philosophy has been infused into his sons, winemaker Stefano and Alberto, who takes care of sales and marketing. The focus is rooted in an exceptional collection of vineyards in the Barolo and Barbera appellations.

But it wasn’t always like this. Michele chuckles; “fifty years ago, when I started making Barbera, people thought I was crazy.” But the proud owner of La Court has had the last laugh. “We have made our reputation with Barbera.” It continues to this day: the first vintage of Cipressi Nizza was immediately hailed as Wine of the Year by Wine Enthusiast.

And while the Cerequio and Cannubi Barolos are world class, the Barberas are world WORLD class, and you have to think this is where his heart ultimately lies. We decide immediately to christen him the Father of Barbera. Michele laughs sheepishly. A lifetime of accolades has not changed an essential humility.

But when Stefano takes us into the vineyards, he is keen to emphasise the family’s Barolo heritage. “Every Barolo producer wants to have a piece of Cannubi,” he says, scrambling over the unique terraces which characterise the vineyard. And from where he is standing he can point upwards a couple of hundred metres to where the ultimate Barolo vineyard, Cerequio, lies – the extra altitude the defining nature.

So, this then, is Michele Chiarlo. Exceptional vineyards; exceptional wines. A sixth generation wine family rooted in Piemonte’s terroir which has built up a worldwide reputation, underlined by a stunning collection of 90-plus points from Parker, Suckling and the Wine Enthusiast.

And yet.

This only tells half the story.

So far, we could be talking about any number of winemakers. There is something else, and it is difficult to put a finger on it. But then you walk around the amazing Chiarlo Art Park at the La Court vineyard. This diverse selection of world-class modern art dotted incongruously around the vineyard may help explain the attraction of Chiarlo. This modernity also finds reference in the stunning series of labels which adorn the great wines. Has there ever been a more eclectic, stylish and individual set of labels? And maybe it also finds reference in the style of the wines, which, in the Classico selection, allow the consumer to enjoy at a relatively early age – key for the restaurant trade, but in the individual Cru, also remain true to the ageing tradition.

It is this fascinating juxtaposition between tradition and modernity which lies at the heart of the Chiarlo appeal.

Looking at the art selections, I pipe up: “Michele is the Picasso of the wine world.”

“Yes,” says another distributor. “He even looks a little bit little Picasso!”

Women In Wine

In organoleptic experiments to test the wine tasting ability of men and women, female participants consistently come out on top. Their superior palates and tasting precision are well documented in scientific papers and journals, which explains why the female success rate in the Master of Wine qualification is now higher than male.

This is now being reflected in wineries and cellars around the world as female winemakers take the helm in a traditionally male environment. We are proud to represent some of the best female winemakers in the world, and we truly believe that the wines crafted by these talented women – from Japan and South Africa to Italy and France – are some of the very best in the Hallgarten portfolio.

Lucia Minoggio, Castello di Nipozzano, Italy

Lucia’s family has always been linked to wine. Her mother, grandfather and her great grandfather were wine-growers in Piedmont. Lucia herself developed a passion for dance at a young age winning a scholarship at Balletto di Toscana in 2003 in Florence where she danced for 5 years. Meanwhile, she started studying winemaking.  In 2008 Lucia left her ballerina career, to pursue her winemaking dream. Lucia’s first encounter with wine, after her graduation in 2011, was in the heart of Chianti Classico where she worked for two years in many different sectors of production in the cellar and lab. Dealing mainly with red wines, she was introduced to the wine industry under the guidance of leading consultant winemaker, Franco Bernabei. In 2013, she travelled abroad to learn more about wines around the world which helped broaden her skills and knowledge. She started working as winemaker for Frescobaldi at the beginning of 2016.

Valeria Antolin, Piattelli, Argentina

It is hardly a surprise that Valeria Antolin became a winemaker. Her father was a famous sparkling winemaker in Mendoza and she followed in his footsteps, taking a degree in Agronomy from Universidad Nacional de Cuyo before working her way up at Piattelli. She has been with the estate since it was founded in 2002 and is now the principle winemaker at its Mendoza and Cafayate (in the Salta Province) wineries.

Samantha O’Keefe, Lismore Estate Vineyards, South Africa

Samantha O’Keefe’s is an amazing story. Berkeley-educated Samantha O’Keefe left her native California and an executive TV job, in search of a simpler life. She settled into her own sliver of paradise in the form of a 600 acre former dairy farm in Greyton, South Africa. Nothing seems to faze her, she shares her property with a troop of baboons and a leopard. She has made her mark since her inaugural vintage in 2006 with a string of stunning cool-climate wines that have wowed customers and critics the world over.

Estelle Roumage, Château Lestrille Capmartin, France

Estelle Roumage embodies this outstanding family domaine in Entre-deux-Mers, close to St Emilion in Bordeaux. Her wines are delicate and precise, and consistently punch above their appellation. She manages to blend respect for tradition with a modern outlook to vine management and winemaking techniques. On top of this Estelle has a real passion and talent for bringing her wines to our customers to share, to taste, to learn, to engage, in a way that really ignites their taste buds.

 

Sonia Spadaro, Santa Maria La Nave, Italy

Born in Augusta, on the Ionian coast of Sicily, Sonia grew up in the orange groves of Lentini, watching Mount Etna erupt. Sonia discovered the world of wine by chance and decided to start tending to the family vines and work in the cellar on the vinification processes. After graduating in economics, she completely devoted her life to wine and became the owner at Santa Maria La Nave as well as becoming a sommelier. Santa Maria la Nave is a small boutique winey on Mount Etna, specialising in wines from autochthonous varieties.

Stefanie Weegmuller, Weingut Weegmüller, Germany

Stefanie is one of the first women to have worked in Germany’s male-dominated wine industry. She has supremely mastered the technical aspects of winemaking, and – crucially – brings heart and sensuality to her work. She has been making the highest quality Pfalz wines for more than 25 years, assisted by a largely female team at the winery and behind the scenes. Her clean, pure wines have a delicate Pfalz spice and are very generous in fruit and length.

 

Chloe Gabrielsen, Lake Chalice, New Zealand

Raised in Turangi on the shores of the mighty Lake Taupo, Chloe’s early exposure to viticulture began with helping her parents pick out wine from the local store (they were fiends for a big Aussie red). After finishing College in 2001, Chloe moved to Marlborough to pursue a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology degree through Lincoln University, completing her first harvest at the Saint Clair Family Estate in 2006. Now more than ten vintages later, Chloe is the winemaker at Lake Chalice, producing the very best results for this superb winery… that is, when she’s not being a Mum to Asher, member of multiple sports teams, performing in Kapa Haka (Māori performing arts), being a cross-fit addict or cooking a mean kai (kiwi food)!

 

Ayana Misawa, Grace Winery, Japan

It’s fitting that Ayana makes wine in Japan’s Yamanashi Prefecture from the revered Koshu grape, as her father Shigekazu Misawa is regarded as Japan’s Koshu pioneer. Ayana has studied winemaking on three continents, at the Institute of Enology and Viticulture in Yamanishi, the Faculty of Enology of the University of Bordeaux, and South Africa’s Stellenbosch University. She has also made wine at some very well-known wineries, including Cape Point Vineyards in South Africa, Catena Zapata in Mendoza, Errazuriz in Chile and Mountford in New Zealand. She has now returned to her homeland and works for Grace, one of Japan’s most prestigious wineries.

Volcanic Campania

The Campanian Volcanic Arc has at its centre the mighty Mount Vesuvius. This is dangerous territory. A devastating earthquake rocked Avellino in 1980; it  was from these ruins that Antonio Capaldi built Feudi di San Gregorio. The  winery champions Avellino’s native grapes – Greco di Tufo, Fiano and  Aglianico, as well as the Falanghina from nearby Benevento.

In less than 30 years it has become a benchmark for the region.

The flagship Serpico Irpinia is produced from centuries-old Aglianico wines and is an unforgettable mouthful of dried cherry, liquorice and leather.

The Aglianico grapes used for producing Serpico are produced in a historic  vineyard named “Dal Re”. This historic region of the Apennine countryside is known as Irpinia and it has a unique terroir and climate in which vineyards  coexist with fruit trees, olives and aromatic herbs. The winds here divert a  beneficial rainfall which creates a microclimate in Irpinia that differs from   Campania, the winters though brief are snowy and cold and the summers can be wet and prolonged.

Recently the winery has begun producing a stunning array of traditional-method sparkling wines under the Dubl label – these are not to be missed! Produced using the traditional method sparkling wine, the end product has a fine and persistent mousse. A fresh and aromatic wine with notes of crisp golden delicious apple, peach and floral hints of camomile, complemented by rounder notes of apricot.

For more information on the wines of Feudi di San Gregorio, please get in touch with your account manager.

Volcanic Soave

The Tessari family began farming on the dark and volcanic land of the Rugate hill, near the centre of Brognoligo, over 100 years ago. The volcanic origin of the land and its limestone and basalt characteristics make the soil generous, capable of giving life and taste to the typical grapes of this region, Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave.

The estate was renamed Ca’Rugate in 1986, taking its name from the volcanic  hills where the vineyards are located. Now run by the fourth generation,  Michele has brought with him a lively, passionate and entrepreneurial spirit.  Considerable expansion has taken place in recent years with investment in a new technologically advanced cellar and expansion into the Valpolicella area  with the purchase of vineyards in the hilly zone of Montecchia di Crosara.

Monte Fiorentine – which lends its name to the Tessari family’s highest cru – is a territory in the Rugate district, in the heart of the Soave Classico,   characterised by hills with an average altitude between 120m and 350m. It is a historic vineyard par excellence, evocative, homogeneous and entirely planted  with Garganega grapes.

Ca’Rugate has been awarded the prestigious ‘Tre Bicchieri’ award rating from Gambero Rosso multiple times, making it one of the most awarded producers in the competition and has been hailed by the New York Times as one of the  ‘Top Five producers of high end Soave’.

For more information on the wines of Ca’Rugate, please get in touch with your account manager.

Veganuary

If there has been one buzzword in the food and drink world recently, ‘vegan’ is surely it. Veganism has skyrocketed in recent years and with it the demand for vegan wines.

Although wine is made solely from grapes, it would be wrong to assume that  all wines are suitable for vegans. To celebrate Veganuary, the go-vegan month,  we have hand-picked a selection of vegan wines from our portfolio that your customers are sure to love throughout Veganuary and beyond.

 

2015 Sauvignon Blanc ‘Eggo Blanc de Cal’, Zorzal
Mendoza, Argentina

Made by Juan Pablo Michelini, the man with the best beard in Mendoza! Cool climate new world Sauvignon Blanc made in the style of a flinty Pouilly-Fumé with minimal intervention.

Awards: 16.5 Points; Jancis Robinson // 94 Points; Decanter Magazine

 

2017 Smederevka, Tikveš
Tikveš, Macedonia

Smederevka (Smed-er-EV-car) is the most popular white varietal of the Republic of Macedonia. You must try this: while relatively low in alcohol, it is full of flavour with stone fruits, tropical fruits and zest.

2017 ‘Sophia’, Basilisco
Basilicata, Italy

A peachy little number! Luscious organic Fiano from historic Basilicata in Southern Italy, made from vines from a single hectare vineyard on ancient volcanic soils. Wonderful freshness and minerality.

2017 Zibibbo ‘Vitese’, Colomba Bianca
Sicily, Italy

This crisp, fruity Zibibbo shows lifted notes of succulent white peach combined with soft floral aromatics of orange blossom and jasmine. Bright and perfumed with a zesty citrus finish.

Although winemakers may let a wine settle, waiting for the proteins capable of haze formation to clear naturally and leaving it unfiltered, most producers will filter out these impurities through the fining process.

To do this, traditionally, a number of animal products have been used in fining through adding substances like casein (milk), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (meat) and isinglass (fish), which act a bit like a magnet drawing all the smaller particles together so that they can be filtered out. These substances aren’t left in the wine so most
winemakers manage to avoid disclosing this on allergen labelling.

However, for ethical reasons you can understand why vegetarians, and in some cases vegans, might want to steer clear.

2017 Kratoshija, Tikveš
Tikveš, Macedonia

Kratoshija (Krat-oss-SHEE-yah) is a native grape of the Republic of Macedonia and a relative of Primitivo. Sustainably farmed, this is a vibrant red fruit bomb, offering excellent value.

Awards: Top 100; Wine Merchant

2014 ‘Silhouette’, Olifantsberg
Western Cape , South Africa

Naturally fermented in open-top fermenters to encourage a lower alcohol and sulphur content. This handcrafted wine is based on Syrah, with small additions of bush vine Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre.

2017 Nero d’Avola ‘Vitese’, Colomba Bianca
Sicily, Italy

A brilliant, deep red organic Nero d’Avola from Sicily with rich, juicy flavours of ripe plum and black cherries interlaced with subtle violet notes.

2016 ‘Le Prieuré’, Château Ksara
Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

A rich and spicy unoaked red made from organically grown grapes at Lebanon’s oldest winery. A blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah and Cab Sauv with supple fruit made for a hearty vegetable stew.

Awards: Silver; IWSC

 

 

For more information on any of the wines above or for our full vegan portfolio, please get in touch with your account manager.

WOTM: Basilisco ‘Sophia’, Basilicata 2017

Kicking off 2019 we have chosen a wine that ticks all the boxes. This vegan wine from award-winning producer, Feudi di San Gregorio, is ideal if you are planning on embarking on Veganuary or even if you are looking for a wine to add some fire to your shelves, from its volcanic soils.

In a nutshell:

A lovely perfume reminiscent of fresh flowers, nectarine and apricot over an opulent texture and a lovely mineral bite on the finish.

The producer:

Basilisco is Feudi di San Gregorio’s winery in Basilicata, located in the  commune  of Barile, in the very heart of the Aglianico del Vulture DOCG. The vineyard sits at altitude and the vines are grown in volcanic soils, surrounded by olive trees and nourished by the warm Italian sunshine, conditions which are ideally suited to southern Italy’s flagship variety, Aglianico.
The vines are farmed organically under the watchful eye of Pierpaolo Sirch and have been certified as organic from the 2015 vintage.

The wine:

The grapes were exclusively harvested by hand at the optimal level of maturity and ripeness for each micro zone in the vineyard. The berries were fermented in stainless steel vats under temperature controlled conditions. Following  fermentation, the wine was rested on its fine lees with regular lees stirring, which added texture and complexity to the resulting wine. The wine was made in an unoaked style, retaining the characteristics of the Fiano grape and expressing the terroir of the vineyard.

The last eruption of the Vulture volcano took place 130,000 years ago and since then nature has restored its balance, creating a terroir with extraordinary features.

For further information on the Basilisco ‘Sophia’, Basilicata 2017
or any other Basilisco wines, please contact your account manager. 

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.