All posts by HN Wines

WOTM: Ippolito 1845 ‘Mare Chiaro’, Cirò, Calabria 2021

Our May Wine of the Month is a new addition to our portfolio, located in the southern tip of Italy – Ippolito 1845 ‘Mare Chiaro’, Cirò, Calabria 2021. The Greco Bianco grapes for this wine come from the ‘Feudo’ and the ‘Difesa Piana’ vineyards, two renowned viticultural areas in the Cirò Marinatwo renowned viticultural areas in the Cirò Marina region.

In a nutshell

This crisp and refreshing Greco delivers intense aromas of tropical fruit, pear, peach and floral notes through to a vibrant palate with a delicious saline note on the finish.

The producer

With over 170 years of history, Ippolito is the oldest winery in Calabria. Located in the historic centre of Cirò Marina, the heart of Calabrian viticulture, the farm comprises a 100-hectare agricultural estate near the Ionian Sea. Winemakers for five generations, the Ippolito family values its heritage and follows a sustainable philosophy to protect the terroir, enhance the native vines and preserve the ecosystem. Balancing a traditional approach with investment in research in the vineyard and the cellar, they strive to create wines of elegance, exclusivity and identity. The Ippolito family are passionate about preserving the extraordinary heritage of the region, they only cultivate native vines such as Gaglioppo and Greco Bianco, and for the past 15 years have been engaged in a research project on native vines.

The wine

The wine is a blend of grapes harvested in two steps; the first enhanced the freshness and aromatics, while the second tranche of harvested grapes imparted structure. The grapes were hand-picked and carefully sorted, crushed, destemmed and cooled to 14°C before being gently pressed. The must was cool settled at 8°C, prior to fermentation with selected yeasts which lasted for three weeks in stainless steel tanks. Post fermentation the two wines were skilfully blended before being aged for four months in stainless steel tanks.

WOTM: Akriotou, ‘Erimitis’ White, Sterea Ellada 2020

Our April Wine of the Month is a new addition to our Greek portfolio from the team at Akriotou. The grapes for the ‘Erimitis’ White, Sterea Ellada 2020 are sourced from Plataea, a small village at the foot of the Kitheronas Mountain, in Central Greece. This wine is a blend of native varieties: Savatiano, Assyrtiko and Aidani, which are suited to the hot, dry climate as they have good drought resistant properties. 

In a nutshell

A rich and textured wine with delicate notes of peach, bergamot, lemon and pear complemented by buttery overtones through to a refreshing zesty finish.

The Producer

Vasiliki Akriotou is an oenologist with over 20 years’ experience in the wine industry. In 2015, she created her first range of wines from a micro-winery in the heart of Greece, which reflected her philosophy of winemaking. The vineyards are situated among the snow-capped mountains at altitudes of 280 to 380 metres above sea level. The range includes is Ορειβάτης, which translates as the ‘Mountaineer’ made from Savatiano, which recognises the steep, challenging terrain. This sublime, premium range of wines made from old vines of native grapes, is a true expression of this fresh mountainous terroir.

The wine

Vinification took place separately for each variety. The grapes were carefully selected, destemmed and crushed before the free run must underwent cold skin-contact maceration for six hours. Controlled fermentation took place at 14°C, with bâtonnage of the fine lees twice a week. The three wines were deftly blended and matured in stainless steel tanks for a total of 10 months, during which bâtonnage took place twice weekly for three months, reducing to once a fortnight for seven months, imbuing the wine with a lovely texture.

Getting to know Phil Innes, Loki Wines

In the latest issue of our wine-focused magazine, Assemblage, we took a step away from the Hallgarten business to catch up with some of our partners in the wine sector about how they have fared over the last two years. Here we spoke to Phil Innes, owner of Loki Wines.

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

A: The biggest learning is that even in adversity companies can adapt and thrive in any situation. We are coming out of the pandemic with an additional store, plus a significant online operation. As well as areas such as virtual tasting which I never thought would be so popular per pandemic. Also I really learned the importance of all the years of customer engagement that built up good will that we managed to use to our advantage during the pandemic.

What trends are you seeing from consumers in 2022?

A: South Africa has been massive, the country has always had a very strong following, however the last 12 months has seen big growth which I don’t see decreasing.

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

A: Although we already do a lot with Greece, I think we will see this area growing in importance as people are actively trying to discover new wines, and have an understanding of the world of wine prior to France and Italy. I think that whole area including Croatia, Slovenia, Armenia, Turkey and Lebanon will continue to see an increase over the next couple of years. I am still waiting for places like Bulgaria and Romania to come more into the consumer consciousness. I have seen some great examples coming out of these countries.

Which grape variety are you most excited about?

A: Can I tentatively say that Riesling is going to be very exciting… I just think Riesling has struggled with consumers, but certainly the dryer styles are becoming more popular now. It may be Riesling’s time to shine.

Are you seeing an increasing demand for sustainable and natural wines?

A: I think we are seeing a slight plateauing in interest, however vegan wines are continuing to grow in popularity.

What is your personal favourite wine/food pairing?

A: You can’t beat a good steak and Bordeaux

How do you organise the wines on your shelves?

A: By country

What are your plans for your shop in 2022?

A: We are currently refurbishing our first two sites, and also looking for a 4th site in the Midlands. I think as we come out of the pandemic traditional bricks and mortar retailers will see a big increase in demand as people continue to use online, but also want to go back to more face to face and expert opinion.

What is the best-selling style of wine in your shop?

A: Still Argentinian Malbec and New Zealand Sauvignon.

Quick-Fire Questions 

Dinner party or wild party?
A: Dinner Party

Cornwall or Ibiza?
A: Ibiza everyday.

Pinot Noir from Cote de Beaune or Central Otago?
A: Cote de Beaune

James Bond or Jason Bourne?
A: Bond

English bubbles or Champagne?
A: Champagne – Sorry England

Rich and robust or delicate and nuanced?
A: Rich and Robust

Negroni or Pornstar Martini?
A: Negroni – who in the wine industry chooses Pornstar Martini!?!

WOTM: Badia a Coltibuono ‘Cultus’ Chianti Classico Riserva 2017

We are taking a closer look at some of the new additions to our portfolio with our Wine of the Month for March; Badia a Coltibuono and its ‘Cultus’ Chianti Classico Riserva. An incredible location and region is the perfect backdrop to the rich history and legacy of such an estate. 

In a nutshell

Ripe red fruits and flora notes follow in the wake of a balsamic quality. Bursting with character with a lifting assortment of chocolate, liquorice and an elegant finish that lingers pleasantly on the palate.

The producer

In 1051, the abbey called “Badia” was inhabited by a community of Vallombrosan monks who dedicated their time and effort to study, aiding those in need and cultivation of vines and olive trees. The monks excelled in the practical elements of agricultural development and they chose the name ‘Badia a Coltusboni’, Latin for ‘good worship, good agriculture and good harvest’. Over a tumultuous period of history for Italy, the abbey was handed over to many, but in 1846 the 74 hectare estate was purchased and has been passed down through 6 generations of the Stucchi Prinetti family. Today, the family have leant themselves purely to the development of their estate, hospitality and their family’s heritage in terms of winemaking methods and customs.

The wine

The blend of the ‘Cultus’ (‘cultivation’ in Latin) is primarily Sangiovese, but with traditional varieties of Colorino, Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo added to bolster the flavour. These varieties were replanted recently to more traditional propagation methods in an effort to maintain the legacy and spirit of the estate’s history. The elevation of the vines at 250 – 330 metres help to keep the vines aerated and ventilated, keeping them healthy in the warmth of the region. Hand harvested fruit are met with wild yeasts in the winery as fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. The skins were left to macerate for 20 to 35 days and afterwards the wine was aged in 225l French oak barriques for 14 to 16 months.

A story about more than just a dog…

We spoke to our dear friends, Mulderbosch, in South Africa and they sent us this heart-warming tale about the new vintage of their flagship wine, Faithful Hound – a blend of five different grape varieties, made in Stellenbosch. Have a read and tell us what you think! 

“This is a story about more than just a dog…

In 1993 we launched our maiden Bordeaux-style red blend, calling it Faithful Hound. As it was inspired by an unswervingly loyal and devoted dog, our intention was to make a wine that would stay true to its style, never wavering or caving in to passing trends.

From the get-go Mulderbosch Faithful Hound has been a winner. We’re happy and proud to say it’s been that way for close on 30 years now. And while its popularity grows, so does its international and local critical acclaim.

But back, for a moment, to the faithful hound that lived out his days on the farm. Many years passed and beloved as he’d been, after 21 years we felt in need of a label update. We wanted a strong, visually compelling look, with good shelf standout, that would focus primarily on the contents of the bottle. And so, we took the dog out of the picture.

But over the years, people would continue to ask: “What happened to the dog on the label?”

Faithful Hound wasn’t just a representation of a once-loved dog. He’d become a symbol of constancy and fidelity. So, to show our appreciation for the constancy and fidelity wine lovers have extended to us, he’s back on the label. This time with a lifted tail, signalling a joyful, upbeat outlook and Mulderbosch’s belief in the future. His optimistic tail also reminds us to make the most of life.

And now, to what’s inside the bottle: our special corner of Stellenbosch has and always will be our guiding star. We still harvest the same fine vineyards here, but as we’ve learned more about the myriad intricacies of our precious eco-systems, we’ve made important farming improvements.  We’ve invested in low-impact weed control and that means NO pesticides. We use only organic fertiliser to nourish the soil. We’ve cut down on water consumption in the vineyards and the cellar. And we’ve installed solar power in our cellar and our production line to further enhance energy saving.

We also conserve more indigenous habitat (have a look at our flora and fauna and our marshlands, on the farm or on our website, when you get a chance). We’ve also stepped up our integrated pest management (have a look at our owl family, for instance). We’ve made it our mission to farm better, wiser, and more regeneratively with the health of the soil as our starting point.

The 2019 vintage of Faithful Hound features all five Bordeaux varieties, with Cabernet Franc in the lead (29%), followed by Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Merlot (22%), Malbec (12%) and Petit Verdot (12%). It’s a rich but refined blend of complexity and depth. It unfurls layer by layer to reveal a bounty of beautifully integrated berry and savoury notes, supported by fine-grained tannins.

It will give you great pleasure now, but it has the staying power to last another 10 years at least. The composition will change slightly from year to year to accommodate vintage expression, but the style will remain constant. As will our appreciation for your loyalty.

The Mulderbosch Team

 

 

You can check out their amazing vistas and unique pest-controlling owl family here: https://mulderbosch.co.za/

And here’s their range on our own website: https://www.hnwines.co.uk/wines-producers/producers/1680 

Location, Location, Location

Climate change has a multi-faceted effect on wine production. It influences which grapes can be grown, the character they develop, how healthy they are, and the way in which they are nurtured and vinified. How climate change affects wine regions varies markedly depending on their location. Increasing temperatures and extreme and erratic weather can be hugely challenging for wine producers.

Regions which would previously have been marginal, or even impossible, for successful viticulture are now able to ripen grapes. Traditionally 30°-50° latitude was considered the zone for viticulture but more and more areas including much of the UK and even some areas of Sweden are seeing vineyards appearing. Conversely, regions in Australia, the US and elsewhere are struggling with increasingly high temperatures.

Imagine, you have a pot of money and the freedom to establish a vineyard in any corner of the globe. It seems like a great choice to have but, as the climate changes, deciding what to plant and where is anything but straightforward. Much like property, when it comes to vineyards location is paramount. It’s much more complicated than which country or even which region, vine growers must consider all manner of factors to ensure their grapes can thrive.

Keep it cool?

If the climate is on the cool side, is there protection for the vines? Hills or mountains can keep wind and rain at bay and allow vineyards to succeed. The South Downs in Sussex and the Vosges Mountains in Alsace are just two of many regions where this can be seen. Where sun is scarce, are there enough sun facing slopes to allow grapes to ripen and are the flatter areas viable for any grape growing? Even if the geography looks favourable there is still the not-so-small matter of the soil being suitable particularly if large amounts of rainfall is likely.

Considering a cool climate site for a vineyard could be a wise investment for the future as cooler areas move in to the sweet spot for viticulture as temperatures increase. This makes forward planning all the more challenging though, as the right vines now may not work as the vineyard warms. A flexible approach when it comes to which wine styles to produce may be the answer. English wine has demonstrated that this can be effective. Starting out with only its sparkling wine really being recognised for their quality, English wine producers are increasingly making high quality still wines.

Or turn up the heat?

Where heat and dry conditions are the primary concern, mountains can once again be the vine grower’s friend. Not as a shield this time but for altitude, enabling grapes to have more diurnal temperature variation and a longer ripening period. Altitude plays a huge role in the production of many high quality wines. Moderating influences from nearby rivers, lakes or oceans may also be needed along with cooling breezes to offer respite to the vines. Mountains and water sources also need to be considered for ease of irrigation.

As in a cooler areas, climate change must be considered when in hot regions as the vineyard must be able to cope with potentially even warmer temperatures to come. Without cooling influences the quality of wine produced could be low or production could become unfeasible. A warmer site will ensure ripe grapes and may initially be ideal for producing high quality wine. Once again, future proofing a potential vineyards site is a challenging proposition with numerous factors to consider.

Grape Expectations

Grape varietal selection is pivotal to successful viticulture and climate change is altering the suitability of some varieties for the sites they were once synonymous with. Difficult decisions must be made between well-known international varieties which are likely to sell well versus those which are best adapted to the location. Some hybrid varieties, and others which have been used primarily because of their tolerance to cold may become surplus to requirements in many areas. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Assyrtiko and Vermentino will all fare better in hot conditions than the likes of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Selecting varieties which will work now and in the future as well as those which can produce consumer friendly wines is crucial.

The recipe for great wine requires the grapes, the soil and the topography to align As climate change continues this recipe will keep evolving bringing both challenges and exciting opportunities for winemaking.

WOTM: Lomond Wines, ‘Phantom’ Pinot Noir 2018

February’s Wine of the Month is a new addition to our portfolio; Lomond Wines. Situated as far south in South Africa as vineyards can get, the vines themselves are in view of the sea – only a hop, skip and a boat ride away from Antarctica on the Agulhas Plain.

Please welcome, the ‘Phantom’ Pinot Noir

In a nutshell

Medium-bodied, fragrant, with lingering notes of spices, red berry fruits and a grounded earthiness that brings it all together. A charmingly balanced red wine with nuanced oak and bright acidity.

The producer

Lomond Wines, aptly named after the Ben Lomond Mountain where the vineyards are planted, was established in 1999 overlooking the sea where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans greet each other. The cool air that washes over the vineyards from the sea and the 18 different soil types found around the vineyards – along with great drainage – makes for late ripening and intense and complex wines of world-class calibre. Scattered and surrounding the vines are the endangered Elim Fynbos, flora that is indigenous to the region, making the vineyards ever more picturesque. Since 2005, Lomond are proudly part of the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy that strives to protect these beautiful, diverse plants. Not only do Lomond use sustainable practices, but they are pioneers in winemaking.

The wine

The 2018 was heralded by a cool, dry summer that slowed ripening down to concentrate the flavours. Hand-picked and hand-sorted grapes were fermented in open top barrels that underwent manual punch-downs. After this, the wine was transferred to a combination of 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill French oak, which it then spent 12 months in to mature.

WOTM: Larry Cherubino ‘Apostrophe Possessive Red’, Great Southern 2019

Australia Day 2022 is fast approaching, providing us with an ideal opportunity to reflect on one of the jewels in our portfolio: Larry Cherubino. A world-renowned winemaker, based in Western Australia, Larry produces incredible wines that showcase their origin.
Our January Wine of the Month is Larry Cherubino’s  ‘Apostrophe Possessive Red’, Great Southern 2019, hailing from a vineyard located in the Frankland River area of the Great Southern, which is considered to be one of the most distinctive viticulture areas in Australia.

In a nutshell

Medium-bodied, this delicious and fleshy wine has flavours of fresh and juicy cranberry and blackberry with a herbal and smoky bacon tang. Rhône with a silky Australian twist.

The producer

Former ‘Winery of the Year’ by James Halliday and Matt Skinner, Larry Cherubino wants his wines to be distinctive and to speak clearly of their variety and vineyard site. He believes in paying meticulous attention to the vineyard, canopy and water management, picking at the right time and minimal intervention in the winery. Larry also makes wine under the Laissez Faire label, an exquisite range of natural wines which are the ultimate expression of site, made in small batches from hand harvested grapes. From delicate whites to opulent reds, all his wines have pure class and finesse.

The wine

The fruit was hand-picked and sorted, followed by fermentation in small lot fermenters. A moderate extraction was aimed for, thus ensuring vineyard characters were fully expressed. The wine was then aged in new and one year old oak, for six to eight months.

Boundaries are there to be pushed

Japan, Georgia, India, Armenia, Cyprus. What comes to mind when you think of these countries? It is not the typical who’s who of winemaking countries, but seeing wines on lists and on shelves is fast becoming the reality of the modern wine world. Producers are pushing the boundaries of their capabilities in the winery and vineyards to the limits, and frequently beyond what were previously their boundaries would be. New grape varieties are being created, historical ones replanted. And ancient winemaking techniques are being revitalised much to the delight of the modern, edge-seeking consumer. This can be a lot to take in for those in the trade, never mind the consumer. The key is to dip into this cornucopia and search for the jewels to crown your offering.

 

There are a multitude of ways we can use this new abundance of wines to be an opportunity. Simple upselling: More desirable varieties can now find their way creeping down the wine list, replaced by Catarratto, Ugni Blanc, Fernão Pires. ‘House’ Sauvignon Blancs and Merlots from France or Chile can move down the list to make room for more competitive value found in lesser known varieties, regions or countries such as North Macedonia or Croatia – great wine places where production costs provide relative bargains. Wines from these countries have been widely available in supermarkets for a number of years now and so consumers are far more used to seeing them, and don’t have the misconceptions of years past. This diversification also means it is no longer necessary to replicate countries and varieties quite so frequently. Customers will pay for comfort of knowing exactly what they are drinking, but others will appreciate the opportunity to explore more so at tempting price points.

 

Not all customers want to be challenged, and that’s fine. The classics are classics for a reason and the comfort-zone is a very nice place to be. However, we can still provide great options in these regions by using slightly ‘left-field’ options. For example, Bordeaux can still offer fantastic value in sub-regions like Blaye, Cadillac or Fronsac amongst others. A wine from one of these areas will generally be far better than a similarly priced Margaux or Pomerol, but still has Bordeaux on the label and will provide a much better experience (and price) for the guest.

 

For those willing to creep outside of the norm there is a huge array of styles, regions, grapes on offer for them to explore. This is where the ‘weird and wonderful’ come into their own. Alongside a good team understanding, lesser-known wines from Greece, Croatia and Georgia can, and do, compete at the punchier end of a wine offering. It takes a confidence in ones’ customers and team to list these wines ahead of another, more familiar name, from more recognisable countries and regions, but this is what can really separate a wine offering in this increasingly competitive space. Customers rarely talk about what a great Chablis they’ve had, because they get what they expect; whereas a fantastic wine which they have not had before – or even perhaps had a negative perception of previously – is often noteworthy enough to tell friends about.

 

I love wine lists which tie together the whole concept of a business. The opportunities here are hugely varied, but traditional French and Italian restaurants are renowned for having the majority of wines from their respective countries. If you were in Bordeaux you would do very well to find a wine from anywhere more than 30 miles away, and the same goes for Burgundy, Alsace and many other wine regions. This is because the wine and food of a region grow up together, and so work harmoniously to create the perfect experience. This same concept can be mirrored elsewhere, now that we have the range of wines available to manage it. An Argentinian restaurant no longer has to look to Europe for fresh, aromatic wines, they can look much closer to home in Cafayate or Patagonia where the extremes of climate are being utilised to increase the diversity of wines being made. Wines from India, Japan and the Middle East can all be used to add some locality to a respective wine list. The world in general has become so much better connected, and alongside cheaper travel, cultural knowledge has spread much more readily making local, regional gems easier to find. This too can be said for winemaking, which through shared experiences and practices is developing at a fast pace.

 

Push the boundaries. Your customers, team and accountant will thank you.

-David Shearsby, Account Manager, London

WOTM: Champagne Duval-Leroy, Brut Réserve NV

A new sparkling addition to our portfolio, Champagne Duval-Leroy, Brut Réserve NV has landed just in time for the festive period. This cuvée is a blend of 15 crus with 40% of reserve wines, resulting in a complex and consistent style.

In a nutshell

Refreshing and elegant, with biscuity flavours layered with dark chocolate, cinnamon and roasted yellow fig, beautifully balanced and refined.

The producer

Champagne Duval-Leroy was founded in 1859, with the alliance of the Duval and Leroy families and has subsequently been passed down for six generations. Today, it is one of the last remaining independent, family-owned Champagne Houses. In 1991, Carol Duval-Leroy took over and today successfully leads the house, together with her three sons, Julien, Charles and Louis. Carol Duval-Leroy is the first and only woman to date to be appointed president of the Association Viticole Champenoise.

Certified HVE3, the family is firmly committed to sustainable development in the vineyards and in the cellars under the watchful eye of chef du cave, Sandrine Logette-Jardin. Based in Vertus, in the heart of the Côte des Blancs, they create distinctive Champagnes of finesse and elegance, while capturing the essence of the terroir of their 200 hectare estate, which comprises 40% of Premier and Grand Cru villages in the Côte des Blancs and in the Montagne des Reims.

The wine

The blend is made up of approximately 15 crus, including: Chatillon sur Marne, Venteuil, Fleury la Rivière de la Rive droite de la Vallée de la Marne, Vallée de l’Ardre, Côte des Bars and Coteaux de Sézanne. The vineyards are situated on the renowned, chalky soils of the Champagne region. Champagne Duval-Leroy was one of the first
Champagne houses to be HVE3 certified and a multitude of sustainable practices are employed. Measures are taken to combat the run-off of rain water, to limit the pollution of both underground and superficial water; grass cover crops are grown and processes to combat soil erosion are employed.

Biodiversity is positively encouraged, sustainable fertilisers are used and sexual confusion of predators takes place instead of insecticides. The plots and weather conditions encountered are carefully monitored, with soil testing and cartographic, computerised methods in place for full traceability of products used in the plots. Above all, preventative measures are in place to minimise the use of products, which if necessary, are carefully chosen to have the least impact on the environment.

 

WOTM: Alpha Estate, Amyndeon, Reserve Vielles Vignes Single Block Barba Yannis, Xinomavro 2017

Our November Wine of the Month is a multi-award-winning wine from northern Greece, recently scoring 93 points in Decanter magazine Alpha Estate, Amyndeon, Reserve Vielles Vignes Single Block Barba Yannis, Xinomavro 2017.  Made from 100% Xinomavro, on 01st November we celebrate #XinomavroDay. A day dedicated to this grape variety most commonly found in Greece to symbolise the typical end of harvest in Northern Greece and the start of the production of wines made from Xinomavro.

In a nutshell

This is a savoury red made from 90 year old vines with an enticing aroma of raspberries and sun dried tomatoes combined with liquorice and wild herbs, lovely flavour concentration and a dry finish.

The producer

Alpha Estate is located in Amyndeo, North West Greece. It is the brainchild of two visionaries, second generation vine grower Makis Mavridis and Bordeaux trained wine maker Angelos Iatrides. Angelos is one of the most talented winemakers working in Europe.
This pristine estate in the cool highlands of Western Macedonia comprises 120 hectares of privately owned single block vineyards and employs the most up to date vineyard techniques and winemaking technology to produce world class wines from French and indigenous Greek varietals.

The wine

The Xinomavro (pronounced Ksee no’ ma vro) grapes were destemmed, lightly crushed and cold soaked with skin contact. Fermentation took place using an indigenous yeast strain which has been isolated from the specific block. The grapes were vinified at gradually increasing temperatures, before being maintained “sur lie” or on its fine lees, for 18 months with regular stirring. Maturation took place in Allier-Jupille French oak casks of medium grain, for 24 months, with a minimum of a further 12 months ageing in the bottle prior to release. Bottled without fining and filtration.
The Single Block Barba Yannis is named in honour of Mr Yannis, from whom the single block of 3.71 hectares was purchased, in 1994. The estate vineyard is located in P.D.O. Amyndeon, in the region of Macedonia and is situated at an altitude of 620 to 710 metres above sea level.

Vintage Variation

Making wine is not for the faint hearted! You can prepare as best you can, have everything ready to go and just at the point when everything seems to be going swimmingly, Mother Nature intervenes in the blink of an eye, often with devastating effect. Late spring frosts across Europe have been awful; Extreme drought has been all too common in California, Australia and South Africa; golf ball-sized hail stones can rip through a vineyard in a matter of minutes destroying both grapes and vines; and torrential rain, at the wrong time, can lead to a rapid change of plans and the five star vintage ruined. An unexpected natural disaster is only ever just around the corner.

It is however these unexpected challenges which seem to bring the best out in some winemakers. In a perfect vintage, the pressure is on the winemaker to not mess up that which nature has delivered on a plate. Any winemaker would of course jump at the opportunity to make a wine in the ‘vintage of the century’, that has the potential to age for decades, impress critics and consumers alike and help to raise the profile of their winery. But in the more challenging years when conditions are far from perfect, this is when the best winemakers earn their stripes resulting in wines that stand out against their peers.

An often unexplored side of vintage variation is rosé wine, particularly with those at the premium end of the market. When consumers, and those in the trade, think of rosé, it is often assumed that they should be consumed when they are young and at their freshest, however when made in a different style, perhaps with some oak ageing, they can age and develop just as well as whites and reds. In the South of France, Gérard Bertrand’s goal is to do just that in Clos du Temple – create a rosé wine that carves out a niche in the market, competing one the same level as some of the world’s finest wines. First made in 2018, each of the three vintages produced so far have varied in style, and continue to do so as they spend more time in the bottle. Having recently tasted all three alongside each other it is clear that Bertrand is achieving his goal; creating a premium rosé that doesn’t have to be enjoyed young but can provide a different experience when aged.

Look out for the new release of Jim Barry’s The Armagh Shiraz 2017 which comes from eight acres of vines grown in the shallow gravelly heart of the McCrae Wood vineyard in the Clare Valley. The parcel of vines for The Armagh was planted on its own rootstock, during the drought of 1968/1969 with the first vintage release not until the 1985 vintage. Every vintage of these cherished old vines is unique and the 2017 is looking fantastic from a later, cooler harvest, but this won’t be physically available until spring 2022 nor ready to drink for a few years. We do however have two fabulously different vintages in stock for immediate enjoyment – The Armagh 2012 from a lower yielding vintage, as a result of the very wet 2011 season, however the quality is exceptional and now approaching 10 years of age it is entering its prime (98 Pts – James Suckling); By contrast The Armagh 2013, due to the exceptionally hot summer is packed with power and incredible intensity with lots of dark fruit and mocha flavours (96 Pts – James Suckling).

Finally, one wine region that experiences significant vintage variation is the Douro in northern Portugal. Vintage ports are only released in the best vintages, which works out on average to be about three times every decade. At Barros, whilst the vintage does play a part, the vagaries of vintage are less pronounced due to the long ageing in casks and careful blending develop the complex flavours and incredible length. Barros 10yo and 20yo tawnies are without doubt some of the finest on the market but it is for their Colheita ports that they really stand out. The 2005 Colheita (Best Fortified Trophy, Wine Merchant Top 100, 2018) still has flashes of red berry fruit but with a dried fig and hazelnut character. The 1996 was a big volume vintage by Douro standards which would hint at less intensity on the wines, but the Barros 1996 Colheita (17.5 pts Jancis Robinson) is beautifully soft and velvety with rich dried fruit and a wonderfully long finish. For the ultimate treat for your customers you must try the 1978 Colheita which at over 40 years of age is concentrated and powerful with classic spice and nutty texture all beautifully supported by balanced acidity and a flavour that goes on forever.

Vintage variation should be expected, embraced and celebrated as great wines can be made no matter what Mother Nature throws at us. We are blessed to have a selection of wines from all over the world, however, due to the nature of the business we don’t pick and choose which vintages we will buy and support, we work in partnership with our producers to make sure that every year, the wines that have been carefully nurtured in the vineyard and cellar are given every opportunity to be enjoyed by consumers everywhere. There is an obsession to compare one vintage against another however the diversity of the wines within a vintage and the anomalies of the weather between vintages lead to many unexpected surprises.

– Christo Lockhart, Hallgarten Sales Manager, London