WOTM: Domaine Gardiés, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel, ‘Clos Des Vignes’ Rouge 2020

Our December #Wineofthemonth would not look out of place being poured around a festive table. Hallgarten’s French Wine Buyer, Beverly Tabbron MW, recently described Domaine Gardiés as the ‘zenith of what this region has to offer’, with their range of wines offering ‘incredible freshness, with marked minerality and purity of fruit’.  

The Domaine Gardiés vineyards nestle in the foothills of Corbières. The vines are grown in the old plots on the Génégals,in caly-limestone soil, located on the heights of Vingrau.

In a nutshell:

An opulent and silky blend with rich notes of black cherry, layered with fig, olive and spice, beautifully balanced with ripe tannins underpinned by mineral freshness.

The producer:

Situated at the foot of the Pyrenees in the village of Tautavel, Domaine Gardiés has been a family vineyard for eight generations. Jean Gardiés took over the property from his father in the late 1990s, and subsequently crafted his own cuvées from their naturally low-yielding vines. He now works alongside his son, Victor, together they passionately cultivate their 35-hectare estate vineyard, which sits across two terraces based on clay-limestone and black slate soils in Vingrau and Tautavel – two of the finest villages of the Côtes de Roussillon.

In 1990, they purchased Mas Las Cabes, a 15-hectare estate on the Espira de l’Agly terroir. All the vines are certified organic and arecultivated with the utmost respect for the rugged and wild nature of the Roussillonregion. Understanding and nurturing the soils is at the heart of the Gardiés philosophy, and as a result, they produce delicate wines which are expressive of the terroir and are characterised by complexity, depth, structure and elegance.

The wine:

The grapes underwent traditional vinification, with maceration taking place in concrete tanks to gently extract the fruit flavours, colour and fine, elegant tannins. Fermentation took place with wild yeasts, the wine underwent light, daily punching down of the cap to ensure the desired level of extraction. The vinification time lasted for 20 to 25 days. The wine was aged for 12 months in 600 litre French oak barrels.

WOTM: Idaia Winery, ‘Ocean’, Dafnes, Crete, Thrapsathiri 2021

Our August Wine of the Month – Idaia Winery, ‘Ocean’, Dafnes, Crete, Thrapsathiri 2021 – comes from the largest of Greece’s islands. Idaia Winery is situated in the Dafnes region of Central Crete, using the  indigenous variety of Thrapshathiri (pronounced Thrap-sah-THEE-ree) which is grown in vineyards located at an altitude of 400 to 500 metres above sea level.  The soils, very low yielding vines and the distinctive microclimate, combine to create a unique terroir in which the Thrapshathiri variety thrives.

In a nutshell

A rich and impressive wine with delicate floral aromas followed by a generous and spicy mouthfeel with hints of savoury liquorice and pine and a refreshing saline, mineral finish.

The producer 

Idaia Winery is a boutique family-run winery situated in the Venerato, a charming village in the heart of the vineyards of the Malevizi district. Owned by husband and wife oenologists Vasilis Laderos and Calliope Volitaki, they specialise in producing wines from indigenous varieties and use their extensive knowledge, experience and passion to create these superb wines with strong personalities. Showcasing varietals such as Vidiano and Vilana, these crisp, dry mouth-watering whites are truly expressive of the terroir of Crete.

The wine

The winemaking philosophy is to create wines which showcase the quality of the indigenous varieties. Following a thorough inspection at the winery, the grapes were preserved for 24 hours at very low temperatures. The grapes were destemmed, then cold maceration took place for approximately six hours. The free-run juice was removed without having been pressed. After a cold settling, the wine was fermented with carefully selected yeasts which highlight the aromatic characters of this variety. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks at temperatures of 15°C, maintaining the purity of fruit in the resulting wine.

DIRT, by Olly Smith

“I feel the earth move under my feet”. The ferocious drama of an exploding volcano is a world away from the near imperceptible unfolding and recycling that gently shapes the living crust of our planet. Dirt isn’t really singular, but we tend to speak of it as though it’s one thing. The myriad physical matter contributing to the creation and character of the soil in a vineyard presents a colossal task of imagination. Who can hope to fully envisage the true scope and scale of its origins? As well as flora, fauna and weather, the silent remains of former inhabitants of this place all play their part. I think that’s why the sites of vineyards always feel poetic to me, gathering things that fall and giving life back through the vines. The soil is an ongoing opportunity, inseparable from the precise spot in which it exists yet always beneath our feet wherever we go.

I’ve always been struck by the impact volcanic soil has on wine. Whether it’s the acidity that flares out from a rich glass of Madeira or the intense finesse of Etna reds, an urgent cadence seems to be present across wines from volcanic soils which leads me to buy, keep and share a lot of them myself. Tokaji is one of my favourites and while it may not be top of everyone’s list, the thrilling zing of a bottle of sweetly charged 5 Puttonyos amplified by noble rot as well as the land of an old volcano is a lifelong delight of mine. The island of Santorini is another favourite, perhaps producing some of the most vivid volcanic wines. Great bottles typically deliver heroic intensity as well as thrilling, bristling zing across reds, whites and sweet wines pristinely charged with mineral-purity.

I first visited Santorini with Steve Daniel and Yiannis Paraskevopoulos many years ago when Campari was bafflingly unfashionable. Sipping Campari sundowners we discussed the pulse that seemed to pull through the dirt and pep up the fruit of the local vines. The nature of this UNESCO protected soil creates a phylloxera-free environment fostering spectacular vine age on the island which, coupled with different soil densities, elevations and aspects, gifts possibilities to intuitive wine growers and makers. One of the notable influences is the sea surrounding the vineyards on all sides. Yiannis famously experimented with aging his Assyrtiko called Thalassitis (‘from the sea’) underwater with really intriguing evolution, surging texture while still driving pure zing like a trident through the tastebuds. Without Santorini’s magic dirt, I’m not sure the wine would have evolved with quite the same spell-binding tension and focus.

Tasting wines from specific soil types for this piece was a revelation of tension, concentration, length and balance thanks in large part to old vines planted in specific soil. Let’s take a look at the specifics of some white wines and the dirt behind the label.


Jako Vino, Stina ‘Cuvee White’, Dalmatia 2020 

This blend of 70% Pošip, 20% Chardonnay and 10% Vugava is dry farmed in the Stipančić vineyard dating back to the 15th century on the Croatian Island of Brač. Vines are pain-stakingly grafted onto centuries old roots that plunge deep into limestone soil. The aspect subtly favours the sea at an altitude of 420 to 550 metres and the resulting wine initially reminded me of an Assyrtiko from Santorini. Aromas of salty smoke and a flash of white pepper, lemon so bright I wrote ‘ignition’ in my notes and the palate is remarkable, packed with salinity and invigorating as a citrus meteorite. This wine took my tastebuds into orbit, lifted by pristine acidity with a finish that just keeps on rising. And such depth. A truly stunning wine.



Bodegas Viñátigo, Vijariego Blanco, Islas Canarias, Tenerife 2020 

Imagine the wafting niff of ashes from the barbecue of the gods! This wine leaps out of the glass with a sherbet ash eruption of salty lemon rind. There’s a subtle sense of roasted nut along with a lacing of dried oregano and lemon thyme. It’s gorgeous. And to taste? My first note simply reads “Wow. What a lovely glass of wine.” It latches on to every single part of the palate, richly textural together with a presence of throbbing zestiness. You know that feeling of sunshine glinting off a very beautiful sea on a hot day? That’s what this wine is, two things in one: a sense of depth underpinning blinding freshness. And it simply doesn’t fade easily – like a suspension bridge attaching to the tip of your tongue reaching towards an endless archipelago of bright glimmering light.

This is 100% Vijariego Blanco from La Guancha in northern Tenerife. The ungrafted vines inhabit a century-old volcanic plot with low yields of between 3000 and 4000 kg per hectare. Wild yeast fermentation in Allier oak barriques of 225 and 350 litres of varying toast levels. The wine was subsequently aged in oak on fine lees for four to six months.  The result is a wine of presence, tension and scrumptiousness. And it made me crave fresh shellfish for days.


Castel de Paolis, Frascati Superiore 2019 

My late grandfather would always order Frascati. He adored the stuff and I can clearly recall his appetising glass, flecked with sunlit condensation and a glinting promise of refreshment. As soon as my nose hits the glass in this case, memories begin turning in my mind, but they are soon overtaken by the realisation that this is Frascati of a different magnitude. The instantly fresh edge makes me think of a swimming pool in a grove of limes. And then it begins to unfurl, a deeper late summer scent of subtle peach and a Mediterranean herb garden fringed with jasmine on a balmy breeze.

This is gorgeous, one of the most precise and saline wines I’ve tasted in recent years – If you love Manzanilla, you’ll adore this. It really reminds me of taking a dip in the sea on holiday and licking your lips – invigorating stuff. This is sublimely poised, a bright sky of a wine that calls out for feta, green bell peppers, tomatoes – all the good stuff. And of course, ocean bounty. Blended from Malvasia del Lazio 70%, Trebbiano Giallo 20%, Bellone 5%, Bombino Bianco 5% on volcanic soils south of Rome, this wine has an immense sense of focus, or largesse coaxed into finesse. Volcanic soils rich in potassium and phosphorus have a way of delivering moisture and mineral freshness to the vineyard, planted at 5,500 vines per hectare to limit vigour. The Santerelli family are rightly to be hailed for bringing Frascati into the realm of classics to rival some of the world’s most famous white wine appellations. And for respecting and harnessing the discreetly mysterious power of volcanic vineyards.


Jako Vino, Stina Pošip, Dalmatia 2020 

This Croatian gem is hauntingly pale exuding exotic scents of pineapple, peach and passionfruit. There’s a salty sage hint here too, and again a sense of salinity. It’s utterly mesmeric to taste, finesse is the hallmark and it’s super textural. Its boulders turning to diamonds, finely shredded coils of exotic fruit ground through a salt cellar, a wine of charm a lazer-guided precision. Hard to think of a finer aperitif, pass me a bowl of salted cashews and I’m all set.

This is 100% Pošip from Brač, Dalmatia, Croatia – famous for its gleaming white stone that famously made the White House in Washington. Dry farmed, the Stipančić vineyard traces back to the 15th century between 420 to 550 metres above sea level. Mainly tank fermented with a small proportion in wooden vats, this is benchmark brilliance.


All of these whites have a sense of mineral purity with intensity and delicacy in near perfect balance. Magnitude framed with finesse. They all deliver a sense of vitality, that the vineyard is giving electrification to the experience of tasting. Along with volcanos, quartz is a mineral in dirt which has been whispered to me in hushed reverence for the freshness it can bring including Marc Kreydenweiss in Alsace, Johannes Leitz in Germany’s Rheingau and Pedro Parra in Chile’s Elqui Valley whose precision viticulture has since become world famous.

And there’s another famous white wine whose dirt is almost as famous as the bottles themselves, the Albariza soil behind the fortified wines of Jerez. Antonio Flores, Winemaker and Master Blender at Gonzalez Byass in southern Spain’s Jerez told me recently, “The albariza soil is a white, porous soil which is very poor in organic material. Even though it is not a characteristic soil for winemaking, it somehow shows a perfect symbiosis with the Palomino Fino grape variety, which accounts for 95% of the current total production in Jerez. The Albariza soil is purest (based on amount of chalk in the soil) in the most renowned pagos such as Carrascal and Macharnudo, which is where González Byass has the vast majority of its vineyards. The white colour of the soil supports the maturation of the lower grapes in the bunches as it reflects the sunlight. The albariza soil is capable of providing our wines both with life and personality. Firstly, life, because the Albariza soil is made of millions of layers and has a significant capability of retaining rain water. We help it along by digging trenches (the Aserpia) in the ground after harvest and just before the rainy season starts. The soil then stores this underground and feeds the vines bit by bit. Most importantly, it is capable of storing the rainfall all the way throughout the long, warm summer, and this way keeps the vines alive through its natural water supply system. It also provides personality to the wines. Through the ageing of the grapes, the Albariza soil provides a saline touch to the grape which later is pronounced in the wines. This is why you will find that the dry sherries all share the same kind of salinity (in the sweet wines this is overwritten by the sweetness).” I love the passion here, the way in which soil and the work with the soil is spoken in terms of an ally, method as well as place, the ultimate author of the wine’s character even after such intricate stewardship through the bodega.

How about red wines? Most winegrowers I’ve spoken to attest to the value of low vigour soils when it comes to vineyards. Katie Jones of Domaine Jones in south west France is clear that “soil or ‘terre’ is so much part of the word Terroir – or what gives my wines their personality. I only have old vines, and the soils in my vineyards are basically not soil at all but stones and clay.  But the vines love it – cool clay to retain the moisture (we hardly have any rain) and stones to allow the roots to penetrate the soil.  Coming from Leicestershire I was shocked by what the locals called soil but the poorer the soils, the lower the yields and the more characterful the wine.  I do believe too that you can taste the stone in my wines especially the whites planted on schist.” I tasted three reds from disparate corners of the world, once again, the identity of their dirt was the thumbprint behind each bottle. Let’s take a look…


Feudi di San Gregorio, Taurasi, Campania 2016 

Initially there’s a lovely warmth to the aromas, baked strawberry, dried rose petal, cherry, baked almond, tobacco, dried herbs and a whiff of ash. And yet there’s a mysterious tension here. As soon as you sip it the palate is alive with acidity, incredibly fine, very firm tannin and a glass designed to enjoy with food. Umami, black olive and tomato richness with a pleasing micro-bitter thrill, I’m drawn to pair with glossy shellfish dishes such as lobster or prawn served in rich tomato sauces. Fillet of beef is the bullseye, I’d also love it with sausages from the barbecue. This is a wine of concentration and intensity without being overbearing. With volcanic soils, wines like this show gravitas. And drama. You may think you’re going for a walk with a poet but it turns out you’re in for a training session on a cliff edge with a boxer.

I adore the wines of Feudi San Gregorio. I remember on a holiday in Rome many years ago working my way steadily through as much of their output as I could find. This 100% Aglianico from Taurasi, Campania is a superb example of the right grape thriving in the correct conditions, it simply couldn’t be any more expressive. The volcanic soils are thanks to the violent eruptions of Vesuvius, some distance away which last erupted in 1944. Great events crafting an intimate moment, worth a thought when you’re next sipping this wine.


Badiola Vino de Pueblo Rioja 2018, Laguardia L4GD4  

Wow! This red has that quintessentially Rioja scent – the tickle of oak and the smoky allure -but beneath it is a layer of something special, a little like the faint fine ashy mist that softly billows when you’re clearing out a fireplace. This wine is impeccably judged. Whoever harvested picked exactly the right moment! In terms of ageing, this wine has the next five years to evolve and unfurl thanks to very fine grippy tannin and eruption of redcurrant acidity. Super turbo-charged finesse is how I’d describe this wine’s overall impression. It feels like a chapter distilled into a sentence and the palate travels – you start with fruit and end with a mineral core of presence, structure and fine density. Vitality, a word that seems to cover all the wines in this tasting! This wine unites the long tradition of Rioja with an invigorating vision for the future.

100% Tempranillo from Rioja Alavesa this youthful wine project founded in 2018 emphasizes site rather than ageing. The bush vines are ancient, low- yielding, many planted in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s planted on clay-limestone with altitude.  And the results are exhilarating.


Undurraga ‘TH’, Cabernet Franc, Valle de Maipo 2017 

Lovely to taste a red with a bit of evolution, glowing garnet in the glass with a sweet and savoury aroma that I could happily enjoy for years. Cigar, blueberry, ripe raspberry, leather, black peppercorn, black olive and a tiny whisper of cola nut. Just lovely in its complexity and the same on the palate, a real sense of ease with intrigue. It’s a diverse spectrum of richness, plush, and beginning to enter its prime time. Firm fine to medium velvet tannin and the hallmark here is tastiness, enhancing rather than shutting down flavour. I’m tempted to nibble a piece of cheddar alongside, but roast lamb would be a treat, or a mushroom and red pepper kebab. This wine has density, raspberry zing, blueberry depth, baked black olives, rich umami – all held in thrilling tension. The secret headline is lovely minerality that shines through the tannin as the fruit fades and svelte structure takes gentle command. This lingering textural feeling to the wine is immensely moreish and totally satisfying. I have a feeling this red is one of the great the sleeper hits of the wine world and this vineyard will some day command prices to make many European vineyards blush. It has the charm and grace of old Bordeaux with audacious pride in the sheer quality of its fruit.

Undurraga has nailed this blend of 85% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot. We are in Catemito, Maipo Valley an alluvial terrace formed in the Holocene period around 10,000 years ago. Sandy-clayey texture and lots of gravel for good drainage and a hand in balanced vigour and yields. These vines have barely begun at around 12 years old (own rootstocks) but the low-yield of 1.5kg already reveals what this vineyard is capable of. I couldn’t be more excited for its future. The wine is aged for 16 months in French oak barrels which for this rich style is just about bang on. Hard to resist a wine of this calibre and a daring look at Chile’s bright future.


These reds share a core of finesse, all the flavours in the world can dance around them but what seems to really matter here is structure, texture and a sense of density worn lightly. I remember standing with Nick Mills in Rippon vineyard overlooking Ruby Island glimmering in Lake Wanaka, New Zealand. I’ve always found Nick’s warm style of straightforward speaking to be as endearing as it is life-affirming. He held up some soil as he we were chatting, I forget his exact words but more or less described it as a heap of life in his hand. We went over to some steaming compost and the remarkable heat of it instantly showed how much energy was at play. Soil is a bit like a vinyl record. It can be in good shape, delivering a resonant experience. Or it can be in poor shape, not well looked after, creating a more hollow, glitchy experience.

Soil types, of course, are different from place to place, sometimes footstep to footstep. But a reassuring constant is soil’s ability to recover. It may take time, but a patch of earth that’s been farmed using chemical intervention seems to be able find its way back to balance given enough time. Today, soil and environmental health is a question more and more consumers are tuning in to. Coupled with the idea of the microbial activity in the soil, the symbiotic role played by mycorrhizal networks in the sharing and distribution of nutrients through dirt, the paradox of this silent yet characterful force is the loveliest thing to contemplate over a glass. We can’t escape it, the dirt is the land, the land is our planet and we are all joining forces with it sooner or later along with all beings that have passed before us. One love? I’ll raise a glass to that.



WOTM: Michele Chiarlo ‘Nivole’, Moscato d’Asti 2021 (75cl)

Our July Wine of the Month is a new take on an old favourite – Michele Chiarlo ‘Nivole’, Moscato d’Asti 2021, in a 750ml bottle! The Moscato grapes for Nivole come from the vineyards in the heart of the historic viticultural area of Monferrato, which have been carefully selected as they are the most suited to the Moscato variety.

In a nutshell

A gently sparkling dessert wine with intense peach and tropical fruit flavours, delightfully silky.

The producer

Michele Chiarlo is one of Piedmont’s most prestigious winemakers, producing outstanding wines from some of the most exceptional sites in Piedmont, including Barolo’s world famous Cannubi and Cerequio vineyards. Founded in 1956 by Michele Chiarlo and now run by his sons Alberto and Stefano, the Chiarlo philosophy “is to capture the terroir” and with judicious use of oak they develop some wines for ageing and some which can be enjoyed earlier. Their stunning collection of Barolo and Barbera wines consistently receive 90+ points from Wine Advocate, James Suckling and Wine Enthusiast.

The wine

The grapes were gently pressed and the must stored at very low temperatures. The temperature was raised and a slow fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel autoclaves until the alcohol level reached 5%. During this process, part of the carbon dioxide developed during fermentation remained captured, imparting the wine with its mild, natural effervescence. The temperature was then lowered to 0°C to arrest the fermentation and also to retain the natural sweetness and freshness of the Moscato grape. The wine was micro filtered to give the wine its clarity, purity and prevent any further fermentation of the yeasts.

Customer Profile: Maray Restaurants

Mark Jackson, Bar Operations, Maray Restaurants

Questions – longer form responses:

How would you describe your wine list?

A: At Maray, our wine list features wine primarily from regions that our food is inspired by: Middle Eastern small plates. We try to balance unusual exciting wines with familiar key grape varieties. We want to create wine stories for guests and make it a memorable experience!

How do you lay out your wine list? And why does this work well for your guests?

A: We offer all wines in 175ml glass, by the carafe or bottle. This really opens the list up for guests to try something new without committing to a full bottle, and place key grape varieties at higher price points to encourage them to try something new or unfamiliar. With red and white we structure the list into sections, such as ‘Big & Bold’ or ‘Spice & Fruit-Forward’ to help direct guests toward flavour profiles they enjoy. Keeping the layout clear and concise also so not to overwhelm our guests with pages and pages of words.

Where do you think is the next up-and-coming wine region?

A: With the issues currently impacting New Zealand and parts of Europe, we may see a move from consumers, as they look to more up-and-coming wine regions such as parts of South Africa. It is also an opportunity for us to recommend different wine producing regions – we have a red from Croatia on our list which I love to introduce people to!

What are guests ordering most from your wine list?

A: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are our strongest sellers, closely followed by a Merlot and Blanc de Blanc from Château Oumsiyat in Lebanon. We have a really good spread of sales across the whole list, some guests may have three glasses of different wines in the same sitting, which is exactly what we are trying to achieve: take them on a journey.

What are your biggest learnings from the pandemic in 2020 and 2021?

A: The value of investing time and energy into team training has proven invaluable and has helped create a wine culture within our company. We focus on the stories behind the wines, the people that produce them, and create wine experiences for guests. Consumers love to learn new things that they can pass on to their friends and family.

Have you seen wine tastes change over the last three years?

A: Consumers are more educated and much more open to discovery than we first thought. Moving away from those same old wines they have drank time and time again, and are in search of something new. We are very well placed at Maray to deliver that. Consumers are also very environmentally conscious, so being able to offer wines on our list that are socially and environmentally responsible has become more important to our guests and will continue to do so.

If you could have any wine on your wine list (past or present), what would it be?

A: All our wines from Château Oumsiyat in Lebanon; particularly the Merlot we currently have is stunning!

What would you like to see guests ordering more of?

A: We have some really interesting wines from Greece, Turkey and North Macedonia that I love. I’d would like to continue directing guests to those wines from that area of world from which our food is so heavily influenced by. What grows together, goes together.

What is your personal favourite wine/food pairing?

A: As a vegetarian and working in restaurant that primarily celebrates vegetables on the menu, I really enjoy a Disco Cauliflower (our top selling dish) with a glass of chilled Kayra, Beyaz Kalecik Karasi Rosé from Turkey. Belter.

Quick-Fire Questions – short responses:

Dinner party or wild party?

A: Dinner party

Cornwall or Ibiza?

A: Ibiza

Pinot Noir from Cote de Beaune or Central Otago?

A: Central Otago, New Zealand

James Bond or Jason Bourne?

A: James Bond

English bubbles or Champagne?

A: Champagne

Rich and robust or delicate and nuanced?

A: Rich and bold

Negroni or Pornstar Martini?

A: Negroni

HeadStart: In Marketing

It’s been a minute and a couple of months since my last update regarding my little journey and should you be sticking with it, I thank you! This time we shall be looking at my time in the company’s marketing department. My job has the benefit of seeing plenty all of the company’s big and small moments and how it all melds together into one big ball of wibbly-wobbly, drinky-winey stuff (if you get the reference, you’re better than most), and the marketing department is most definitely the communal “hub” of the company.

It was a dark winter’s day as I started with the department – I remember it vividly and unknowing what my first job would be just made the morning feel that little bit more ominous. I’d finished up the previous week with Customer Services’ Christmas rush and having a few – maybe slightly messy – days to reset over New Year’s. It was in this moment of questioning, when all hope seemed lost, that Mr Ben Jackson, a beacon of light, appeared to me like hope in a snowstorm. He was my point of contact for the next three months and what a point of contact he was.

He was like that fairy-tale hero, presenting himself only in times of great need and turmoil to save the lowly apprentice from the darkness that envelops them. His name is whispered in hushed tones across the new office – unsure as to whether it’s out of respect or dislike – and his poise over his work is second to none.

(Yes, to those who are wondering, he does check these before they’re released).

Without any sarcasm, he was incredibly helpful. He assigned a couple of press releases to write, which was a fair step away from my usual writing style. I’m quite flowery in the way I write and I digress often – you might have noticed. Writing a press release is different; you’ve got to be to the point and focused, without straying too far from the established formula of “main point, quote, fact, outro”. I make it sound so restrictive, but in a way it needs to be. The point of the piece needs to be clearly presented to the reader as soon as possible, with the bulk filled out with an understanding of why it’s happened without too much fuss or mucking around. I found them quite challenging, yet also quite therapeutic in a lot of ways because it took me away from my usual and I could just put things plainly, which is impossible to me in any other circumstance apparently.

2022 also marked the return of the Hallgarten Annual Tasting. It is naturally our biggest event of the year with so many moving pieces but after a year out and so long not being able to organise events of this scale, it was so good to finally get stuck in. More than 700 wines on show in the heart of London including plenty newbies we’d never seen before, over 100 suppliers crossing countries to join in, and with 1,000+ signed up to come and taste, it was a memorable moment when everything came together. Sarah Charlwood, our new Events Manager, did an incredible job organising everything to a tee even after only 8 weeks of being with Hallgarten and it was good fun to work with her with it, even in my limited capacity. She’s on holiday at the moment, a well-deserved one! The take-home for it all was more than just a roaring success, but that we have established that after a tumultuous couple of years, we are on the road to recovery.

Time to get back out there!

One of the greatest things about going out to your favourite (or new) restaurant is the absolute excitement, and minimal effort required in getting a superb meal being served to you and cooked by professionals with extreme passion for the end product. And generally getting to share it with the people you love or like… There really is nothing quite like it!

You start browsing the food menu, then onto the wines – oh the decisions… Sometimes the wine choice can be hardest element of the adventure, but should we be looking at this differently? With extreme pressure on staffing levels across our industry, we need to try and make things as fun and easy for guests as possible, and help guide them to a wine that is going to elevate their whole experience. Let’s be honest, most people are incredibly nervous when it comes to ordering wine. It is the “face off” of not wanting to look silly in front of your server and mates…”Just go for the wine you can pronounce”, your head says.

This is where I think operators can have some fun. I am certainly not saying we need to reinvent the wheel, and a huge number of operators do this already, but having some fun with your guest is where we can make that lasting experience for them. By simply recommending glasses of wine on your food menu that might otherwise be overlooked, or by having a ‘by the glass’ selection that challenges the ‘norm’ and not being afraid to change these regularly, the customer experience can be greatly enhanced.

I’m not suggesting a complete overhaul of the wine list as I do think having a core wine list and ‘by the glass’ offering is crucial, but a little bit of stardust to make things fun is where it is at for me. It can also make things more interesting when matching wines to your food dishes and can push your customers to be that little more adventurous and out of their comfort zone.

We are very lucky in the UK to have such a huge variety of wines to choose from. Literally, every wine producing corner of the world is accessible to us here in the UK and they are making some insane wines. We should be celebrating this, but also understand how utterly daunting this is for someone not in the wine trade. For a little perspective, I was not scared to omit Sauvignon Blanc and Malbec from a restaurant’s ‘By the glass’ selection. These wines have this unique gravitational pull that guests would automatically select without fully engaging with all that is on offer. This then helps free up a couple of slots by the glass and allows the operator to have some fun by selecting more esoteric wines!

I do appreciate that some might think that the food and wine matching scene is quite tricky, however it is very ambiguous and subjective. Yes, that Sauvignon Blanc will go perfectly with that Goats Cheese but the Assyrtiko from Lebanon will be much more fun and do the exact same job. Rib-Eye steak and Malbec you say? Why not go Tannat instead…

I’m not saying that we have to go completely rogue here as there as there are producers in the well-known regions of both the Old World and the New World doing some really cool stuff as well, but all I can emphasise is giving your guest that little X-Factor experience when dining with you.

I always used to liken a service in the restaurant as a show, of sorts that people have come to experience. So surely, doing something different to what they might have been to on their last outing is more attractive whether that’s on the food or wine side of things? Serving sizes is also key to me. By recommending 100ml or 125ml glasses of wine gives people the option to try and have a couple of different glasses throughout their meal.

For me, I always enjoyed the part of my previous roles within the restaurant trade where I had the opportunity to guide customers out of their comfort zone. It created conversations with guests, and also gives you the chance to share some of your expertise and wine discoveries. Of course, staff training (especially wine specific training) is crucial to this working well. I think every operator should invest more time in this aspect as it builds the foundations for our industry as well as creating confidence in your guests and team. Also, it makes the whole experience more engaging and fun for your team which will ultimately rub off on your guests. After all, we all started not knowing a lot at some point in any career path you choose.

So, have some fun and make it easy for your guests to choose something that they might not necessarily have chosen without you!


It’s one of those beautiful balmy spring evenings when London feels immortal.

Steve and I are making our way – via a couple of Neck Oils – to Notting Hill’s Mazi restaurant. We’re here to catch up with two of our South African winemakers who are over here working the market.

But these aren’t just any two winemakers.

They are two of the most effervescent, inspiring, ravishing and super-talented winemakers on our list. (And I don’t even care for the phrase “super-talented!”)

Lovely to see you again, Sam and Elizma!

Hugs and kisses as we settle into Mazi’s courtyard. Then the shots of Mastiha Negronis are poured – followed quickly by another – and then the Assyrtiko, and then the sharing plates arrive, oh, and the bread, and the conversation is breathless. They’re catching up with each other as they’ve been working different parts of the country – “Oh, and I went there and you should have seen the restaurant…. “Oh, but I was there and  what a night…”  – and it’s non-stop. Steve and I can barely get a word it. We just nod.

And we eat. Heavenly plates: smoked aubergine; sea bass tartare; langoustine. The food here is stunning.

Samantha O’Keefe has the higher profile. Of Californian origin and owner of Greyton’s Lismore Estate, she had come from nowhere in double-quick time to become one of South Africa’s most awarded winemakers, with multiple Wines of the Year awards, before suffering the heartbreak of seeing her winery and house burn down in a December 2019 fire which went viral and provoked worldwide sympathy. She has rebuilt and is slowly getting back at her peak – but the memory still brings tears to her eyes.

Elizma Visser is the younger, and has been winemaker at Olifantsberg in the Breede River area of Worcester for the last few years, gaining a reputation for stylish and polished wines; Tim Atkin gave her the Best Young Winemaker gong in his last South African Report.

Amidst the giggles, there is much talk about itineraries, on which customers were soooo nice, and wasn’t that tasting well, and, oh yes, what plane are you on tomorrow morning?…

And the food keeps coming: courgette cakes; calamari; feta tempura.

But everything revolves around the wines. Which of their wines they are happiest with; which new techniques they are working on; the difference in terroir and climate between their two areas. And here’s the thing, Elizma is beginning to work with Syrah, a varietal which has elevated Sam to world-class status. Better still, Elizma has two samples which we open and begin to taste. And it here that the relationship between teacher and pupil is most obvious, with Sam endlessly giving out tips and suggestions. Did you think about this? Have you considered that? Elizma nods. We drink. This is good. Very good. Black olives, anise, thyme and lashings of plummy fruit.

And unbelievably, after all the food has been cleared away, Elizma then orders a plate of lamb – and wolfs it down. What a gal!

I take a quick photo on the hand held, and – lo and behold – it’s quite decent.

Later, on the tube, I study it again. Take a look. What do you see? What I see is the absolute affection and respect these two winemakers have for each other. And the laughter.

A pleasure to share the evening with them.

The Heat is On

Scene One: Simpsons Wine Estate, Kent, October 2020.

Walking amid the vines in the Roman Road vineyard with Charles Simpson, we are interrupted by none other than Oz Clarke, here to film a piece for ITN news about the rise of English wine.

Clarke, who opened the winery in 2016, said: “I grew up around here and I know the Elham Valley well. It is seriously chalky, well protected and south facing – very similar to Champagne.”

In his book on English wine, Clarke states that he had been making speeches about the effects of climate change since the early 1990s “to deaf ears, frankly.” But he knew that Champagne was about one degree warmer than southern England. Yet Champagne had been warming up all through the 1980s and 90s, so didn’t that mean that England could now produce what Champagne did a generation earlier? And – unlike Champagne – English winemakers tended to make still wine, too.

Expanding on this, Clarke suggests that the effects of climate change and global warming could be catastrophic for parts of the world – but if there is “one place where climate change has completely transformed a way of life for the better, it would be in the vineyards of England and Wales.”

Later, in the tasting room, sampling the stunning Simpsons wines in advance of listing them, we are reminded just how far English wine has come. Are these chardonnays from Chablis or from England – they are simply amazing! Is this all down to climate change?

Is this because of the Heat?

Scene Two: Hallgarten tasting room, Luton, just about any time in the last five years.

Before us are rows and rows of wine samples, some in unlabelled lab-type sample bottles, and some in their finished labelled bottles. The tasting team take one last glance out of the window at beautiful downtown Luton and then begin the process of spitting and slurping as we make our selections.

This morning we face dozens of wines from France; some we accept, some we reject. But one thing is constant: time and again Steve will say: “This does not taste like Sancerre.  This is too rich, it’s too fat.” They’re not necessarily bad or faulty, Steve says. “But they don’t taste like they used to when I came into the trade. Have the French forgotten how to make Sancerre?”

Or is it now just too warm to make Sancerre as we know it? And is this caused by climate change? The Heat?

Scene Three: Chateau Lestrille, St. Germain du Puch, summer 2021.

Estelle Roumage looks out over her vineyards in the Entre-Deux-Mers and explains to us how she is trying to cope with global warming.

“We are planning to plant other varietals in order to adapt to climate change, and avoid over alcoholic wines. We are aiming to introduce Castets in our future plantings, most probably in 2023.

“Also, one of the adaptations we have done over the past years is to not thin the leaves automatically on every plot, which was a common practice in the 90s and 2000s. We only do it now on the eastern side of the row (morning sun), or sometimes not at all.”

Estelle Roumage: coping with Heat!

Scene Four: The New York Times, October 2019.

The discussion moves into the mainstream when Eric Asimov brings the topic to the attention of his readers in a series of articles in which he discusses how climate change has affected the wine trade, describing how producers have experimented with adaptations, not only to hotter summers, but also to warmer winters, droughts and the sort of violent events that stem from climate change: freak hailstorms, spring frosts, flooding and forest fires.

“Farmers have been on the front line, and grape growers especially have been noting profound changes in weather patterns since the 1990s. In the short term, some of these changes have actually benefited certain regions.”

Places, like England, said Asimov, which were historically unsuited for producing fine wine, have been given the opportunity to join the global wine world. The Simpsons are certainly proof of that!

In other areas like Burgundy, Barolo, Champagne and Germany, where great vintages were once rare, warmer growing seasons have made it far easier to produce consistently exceptional wines.

But “even with such success, the character of these wines has evolved in part because of the changing climate — in some cases subtly, in others deeply.”

Is this what Steve is picking up with Sancerre?

Scene Five: Geneva, August 2021.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its long-awaited report on climate change. In summary, whether you accept that the human race is responsible for global warming, it is undeniable that the world is warmer than it once was. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the average global temperature has risen about 1.4° F, with about two thirds of that rise occurring since 1960. Though predictions vary widely, the IPCC states that in the 21st century average global temperature could rise by 11.5° F. If mankind acts, this rise could be reduced to 2° F. However, even at the lowest rise, the planet faces catastrophic, results.

The primary cause of global warming is the “greenhouse effect,” caused by burning of fossil fuels (which is the greatest contributor), widespread deforestation, the loss of natural “carbon sinks,” oceanic acidification, the use of landfills, and large scale cattle and sheep ranching, which infamously causes the release of methane, a non-CO2 greenhouse gas.

Not stated in the report – but highlighted elsewhere – is that one ultimate and terrible consequence of global warming could be a rising sea level. A five metre rise in sea level would inundate some of the planet’s greatest vineyards and wine producing regions with flooding. These could include portions of Bordeaux, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia׳s Swan district, and California׳s Carneros appellation. Added to the coastal flooding, more inland vineyards could face heightening levels of salinity in ground water which could affect vine growth. Earthquake is another threat, triggered by rising sea levels.

Scene Six: Glasgow, November 2021.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries sign the Glasgow Climate Pact, aiming to turn the 2020s into a decade of climate action and support.

Nations reaffirmed their duty to fulfil the pledge of providing 100 billion dollars annually from developed to developing countries. And they collectively agreed to work to reduce the gap between existing emission reduction plans and what is required to reduce emissions, so that the rise in the global average temperature can be limited to 1.5 degrees. For the first time, countries are called upon to phase down unabated coal power and inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.

Scene Seven: Here. Now.

They are already happening. The consequences.

The wine map has been extended (witness Simpsons Wine Estate). Wine grapes have always grown in narrow geographical and climatic ranges where temperatures during the growing season average 12-22°C (54-72°F). But winemakers are growing grapes in places once considered too cold for fine wines. In pursuit of the best sites, wine producers are moving north in the Northern Hemisphere, and south in the Southern.

Producers are now planting vineyards at altitudes once considered inhospitable to growing wine grapes, seeking relief from long exposure to the sun, and – crucially – where the night time temperatures plunge. Today, vineyards in the regions of Salta, such as those of Piattelli, are at altitudes of over 6,000 feet.

Winemakers are looking at different varietals, sometimes planting varietals which can withstand warmer temperatures (witness Estelle Roumage). In Bordeaux, where producers may use only use permitted AC grapes, seven additional grapes have been selected for experiments to determine whether they can be used to mitigate the effects of climate change: The four red and two white approved varieties are well-adapted to alleviate hydric stress associated with temperature increases and shorter growing cycles. The red grapes are Arinarnoa, Castets, Marselan and Touriga Nacional, and the whites are Alvarinho and Liliorila.

It is undeniable that climate change will impact the costs of production. As we have seen, winemakers are already adjusting their practices and adapting their winemaking business for a warmer world.

But the big question is: will wine drinkers accept a new style of wine (witness Steve Daniel)? Will they happily quaff wines from grape varieties suitable for hotter climes, such as Nero d’Avola, Vermentino, Fiano, Vranec and Xinomavro? Will they accept a different flavour profile from their Pinot Noir grown in Burgundy? Or can they bring themselves to drink a Pinot Noir from England?

The Heat Is On.

Putting the Customer, into Customer Service

The Customer Service department is the beating heart of any business; processing customer sales orders, ensuring deliveries arrive in the right place at the right time and, above all, making sure our customers are looked after from start to finish.

The Customer Service team are a close-knit group, working alongside each other every day. Some of the team have been with the company for one year, some for over 25 years – a testament to just how close-knit they all are. Adding all these up, their combined experience at Hallgarten totals over 138 years of service!

The team of 16 have varied roles within the department. The majority are on hand daily to accept, prioritize and input orders within the area deadlines, accounting for any special requirements, promotions, pricing, samples and doing their upmost to make sure all orders are entered correctly.

As part of our Customer Service, our Delivery team ensures all orders are sent across to the warehouse as swiftly as possible, all stocks are correct and work closely with our logistics partner, LCB, to make sure delivery planning is carried out efficiently.

However, we are not resting on our laurels, as we are constantly working on projects to help improve our in-house systems, led by our order and delivery Supervisors, and the Customer Services Manager. The team take great pride in offering the best service possible and are always looking at ways to build better relationships with customers and colleagues.

The pandemic has hit the country hard in the last two years, and our Customer Service team was no different as we dealt with much publicised issues with stock availability due to HGV driver shortages and port delays. Working closely with our Shipping and sales teams, we were able to ride out the storm and offer suitable replacements where we could. Whilst the challenges we faced were new to all of us, we retained our over-riding desire to ensure Customer Service was not affected. The hospitality sector may have been in hibernation, but our partnership with these businesses did not stop as we pulled out all the stops to help them diversify their businesses, whether into local delivery or online wine shop!

With the Customer Service team, and the full company, moving to working from home during this time we were able to utilise video calls to kept our spirits up – sometimes just from sharing what we watched on TV that week. From being such a tight group in the office, it was great to see nothing changed when we moved to our home offices. Over the last year we have worked hard with the support of our sales teams and other departments, building ourselves back up and know we can now handle anything that comes our way!

In spite of all the issues in 2021, it ended up being a huge year for order entry, processing over 54,000 invoices (equating to over 380,000 product lines), and with everything else going on we still managed to keep our team accuracy at 99.01%.

To say I am proud of the team for everything they have achieved in the last two years would be a huge understatement. They continue to increase levels of customer service each and every day, and with exciting plans in-store for 2022, I know this is going to be another incredible year.

Onwards and upwards!

Katherine Hughes, Customer Service Manager

On a Mission

Picture postcard stuff, this: it is a gloriously sunny northern California day, and we are sitting on the veranda of a century-old Hacienda, looking out over the very first parcel of land to produce wine in California, and admiring a Hollywood-type vista of vines and palm trees – and a restored turkey warehouse.

Hard to beat, this wine tasting lark. Heaven on earth. A rose Pinot Noir 2021 is reasonably deep in colour, and has a rich and expressive nose. Others describe it as guava and lime, but I get shedloads of raspberries. It has more body than most roses and has a beautiful firm textured mouthfeel.

But first, some history: in 1858, Emil Dresel, a German son of a wine producer in Weisenheim, emigrated to California in search of his fortune. On 12th March 1849 he purchased 400 acres of land two miles east of Sonoma Square, the spot where, just 10 years before, the Bear Flag Revolt had established California as a state in the American Union.

Emil planted cuttings of Riesling and Sylvaner, brought from his homeland, and possibly the first of those varieties imported to the United States. Emil and his brother Julius went on to become wine industry leaders, fervent Abolitionists, gamblers, land stewards – and intermittent outlaws.

Fast forward to 2007, when fourth-generation California farmers and brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani (of Croatian descent) took over the property, and christened it Scribe. Both had an interest in wine, having spent post-college stints at vineyards in Europe and South Africa. The property was a mess; a dilapidated turkey farm which had served as a brothel and a speakeasy! Over time, the brothers restored its soil, and in the process even unearthed a handful of treasures from its past—Prohibition-era glass and other old china, antique work stools and even opium vials.

“We planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling. We also retained a tiny amount of the Sylvaner  – the only two hectares in the whole of the US – and a precious two acres of Mission,” says Adam.

Adam and Andrew sit before us, a sea of denim and a shared enthusiasm for sustainable winemaking that borders on the evangelical. Impossible to dislike these guys.

As we speak, Matt Ahern, the personable head honcho of the Scribe sales team, pours us the 2021 Rose Pet Nat. This is unusual in that it is a Pet Nat that actually tastes nice! It has a gorgeous nose of pink grapefruit and elderflower and – oddly – nettles. Huge mouthfeel, lots of body and – clean! Very moreish. Expect the Unexpected.

Next up, served with a smorgasbord of hors d’oeuvres, is a 2020 estate Chardonnay, harvested from a vineyard on the slope of Arrowhead Mountain in the southern Mayacamas, which has a steely, Chablis-like feel to it. Adam explains that the weight on the palate comes not from wood but from the intensity of fruit. Again, it has lovely texture.

But there is more to this place than wine. You feel as though you could kick off your boots, put your feet up and stay a long long time. Somewhere I read that Scribe is all about appealing to young, social wine lovers who feel that in a digital world, real luxury is good farming, good food and drink, and good people. The only bit I don’t qualify for is “young.”

Andrew explains that they farm as sustainably as possible, but are “pulling away from “Natural”,” feeling it too restraining. “We don’t call this wine “Orange” he says, as we taste a 2021 Chardonnay. “We call it “Skin Contact”.” It is beautifully aromatic, crunchy fruit and bags of salinity. “We look for nuance,” he says.

An estate 2020 Pinot Noir (about to be replaced by the 2021) has lovely soft red fruit, and then gamey nuances, and on the palate has that ravishing acidity that is the hallmark of good Pinot. Extremely soft tannins.

The wines are great, but we are desperate to taste the fabled Mission (Chile’s Pais, of course.) And, boy, it doesn’t disappoint. The nose is of bark and red clay, and on the palate is lovely soft raspberry jam fruit and those strawberry toffees you used to eat as a kid. Adam describes it as being somewhere between a Pinot and a Syrah. One of the highlights of the entire trip.

We finish with a Cabernet Sauvignon, which I hadn’t realised they made. “We’ve always had a foot in the Napa,” says Adam. They make two, from Atlas Peak East and Atlas Peak West; this is the east version. It is so ripe and juice that Steve describes it as “Bordeaux, but with nicer tannins and without the brett.”

I look out at the scene again. Everything seems so understated, so stylish – even the labels. And it would be easy for Andrew and Adam to look just a little self-assured. But in actual fact they are as courteous and humble a twosome as you could ever wish to meet. Matt is made of the same ilk.

And the hacienda does feel like a home. It was redesigned by artisan friends. Extended members of the family work here in what has been described as a perfectly-curated family business; Kelly Mariani, a veteran of Chez Panisse, looks after the kitchen; there are cushions and soft furnishings everywhere and it wouldn’t surprise you to see Joni Mitchell and James Taylor sitting cross-legged and strumming their guitars  – feather canyons everywhere – (which is appropriate because Andrew’s wife is the singer-songwriter Lia Ices); they have a writers’ residency (one of whom was essayist Sloane Crossly); and you expect at any moment they will all hunker down in front of some burning logs with a wood-fired pizza and the music clunked high.

Stylish wines. Stylish place. Stylish people.

A Sense of Place

Sometimes wine has the capacity to delight. Sometimes it has the capacity to surprise.

And sometimes it has the capacity to amaze.

We’re at the Senses Wines vineyard in Sonoma County with owner Christopher Lloyd Strieter. We are surrounded by a Gods-Own country of redwood trees, organically grown vegetables and artisanal breads. But I don’t really register any of that. All I am thinking is: How can something be this good? How can they have come so far so quickly?

The story of “they” is brief. Senses Wines was founded in 2011 by three childhood friends from Occidental: Christopher Lloyd Strieter, Max Thieriot, and Myles Lawrence-Briggs. All were just 22 years old. All either had family ties with the wine industry or at least some related work experience. (Christopher, for instance, had majored in Finance, Economics and Physics, before slogging away in inventory at VinFillment warehouse and working with Williams Selyem and Jess Jackson of Jackson Family Wines.)

Now here’s the first BIG FACT. They had one major advantage: Max’s family had planted and owned a stunning vineyard – the BA Thieriot vineyard, five miles from the Pacific Ocean, and next to the town of Bodega of Hitchcock’s The Birds fame – which at that time sold grapes, but not wine. “Wouldn’t it be cool to turn those grapes into wine, we thought,” says Christopher.

Here comes the second BIG FACT. The three decided not to seek investors, but to pool all of their limited savings into the scheme. To this day they have no investors (and no safety net.) They made 112 cases in 2011 and reinvested everything over the years. “We didn’t know what we were doing. We just concentrated on paying the bills.”

Third BIG FACT coming up: Max Thieriot became a well-known actor, starring in Bates Motel and SEAL Team. So they are guaranteed publicity.

As well as the BA Thieriot vineyard, they began to source Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit from high quality vines throughout the Sonoma Coast and Russian River areas. Quality was always the key. Now they deal with about twelve different vineyards.

But a turning point came with the fourth BIG FACT: ace winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown approached them to make their wines. “He offered to make wine for us if we sold him some of our premium fruit for his other wines.” Brown was once named ‘winemaker of the year’ by Food & Wine Magazine, and has received perfect scores from The Wine Advocate and many others.

Fifth BIG FACT: they decided to sell their wines directly rather than through wholesalers or Cellar Door (they don’t have a cellar door.) “We sell primarily through the mailing list to thousands of people within the U.S.” Today, their business is booming, while the waiting list for their vintages grows.

Senses Wines (on the label the second letter ‘e’ has been substituted with the number ‘3’ representing the three founders and the three wine senses of sight, scent and sip) first became a boutique, and then a cult.

All of this is interesting, of course, but what turns interesting into fascinating is to learn of it while tasting the wines. Because they taste extraordinary.

 Christopher pours a 2020 Russian River Chardonnay. I immediately think: Puligny-Montrachet. It’s a lovely floating-on-air wine, a hint of ice cream sundae with a smidgeon of lime. Firm acidity. Brilliant lightness of touch.

A 2020 Charles Heitz Chardonnay is pure Burgundian, with a honeysuckle and cream nose, balanced by perfect acidity.

But Christopher is keen to state “We shouldn’t ape Burgundy. We are Occidental, Sonoma County, West Sonoma Coast. We don’t want opulent and rich. We want elegance”

A 2020 UV El Diablo Chardonnay has more body to it, a whisper of toast, more creaminess, more Meursault-like (I merrily ignore Christopher’s non-Burgundian plea.)

Finally, their estate 2020 BA Thieriot Chardonnay: I only rarely get to taste Le Montrachet, but I can’t help being reminded of it. A staggering combination of pure fruit and perfect acidity.

As we taste, and then walk the vineyards (with Christopher pointing out where he used to play as a kid) I still can’t get my head round it. “How come you’ve become so successful so quickly?”

He laughs. “We are meticulous about everything and we do it all in-house. I’m the spreadsheet guy and the lucky one to host events around the world. I do the numbers and we keep things very tight. Max does all things branding and gets us air time. Myles is in the vineyard, and helps with production and events.”

Yes, they have had a couple of advantages, but Christopher is keen to stress a couple of things: “We didn’t have any pre-conceived ideas, no history baggage. And we did work hard with our winery friends and always made sure we kept on friendly terms.”

But these wines are so good, and I still don’t get it. But there is one other thing at the back of my mind. Christopher had also told us that they have 50,000 followers on social media. It was always going to be that way, of course, for three young educated hipsters. But not many others wineries have that clout. I was reminded of the success that Barack Obama had had when first running for president with a new form of politicking via social media. A new way. But the point is that no matter how savvy your marketing and selling skills are, the wines have got to match up.

And if the Chardonnays are good, the Pinot Noirs are mind-blowing.

A 2019 Terra de Promissio Pinot Noir has sturdy young fruit, raspberries and rose petal, such lightness of touch!

A 2019 MCM88 Pinot Noir is sturdier and creamier with a lovely plummy finish. This wine hails from the vineyard formerly known as Keefer Ranch, top-of-class Russian River Valley fruit and terroir.

Finally, from their other estate, the 2019 Day One Pinot Noir has beautiful texture and mouth feel. Lovely dark velvety chocolate fruit, tannins firm and sweet. Supreme balance.

So: we end the tasting with me stunned. We stand on the veranda of the small house in the middle of the winery and gaze out over a beautiful landscape. “We’re farmers first and winemakers second,” says Christopher.

What a place in which to farm. What wines! And I still can’t work out how they’ve done it.