Category Archives: Campaigns

Four Days, Four Locations, Four Tastings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what were the stand-out wines?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Greek wines were the centrepiece

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Malbec, The Heart of Argentina

To celebrate Malbec World Day on 17th April and Malbec being the heart of Argentina we have selected a range of Malbecs that celebrate the essence of Argentina and will tantalise your tastebuds in April. 

Malbec is in the DNA of Argentina. It is grown in all the wine regions of the country, making up 35% of the hectares planted in Argentina.


2015 Piattelli Vineyards, Alto Molino Malbec

A vibrant unoaked Argentinian Malbec grown at high altitude, with its heady mix of plump, dark, brambly fruits, plum jam notes combined with sweet tannins and a velvety finish. The relatively cool climate gives a remarkably fine and elegant Malbec.

2014 Matias Riccitelli, The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree Malbec

A marvellous Malbec with explosive aromas of dark fruits and violets with impressive purity and length. All the hallmarks of world class Malbec from the young and innovative, Matias Riccitelli.

2015 Doña Paula, Estate Malbec Syrah

A more European take on Argentine Malbec. This Malbec Syrah blend, sourced from two of Doña Paula’s best vineyards in the Uco Valley, it is refined with a herbaceous character making this wine a perfect match with red meats and casseroles.

2014 Andeluna, Pasionado Malbec – Tim Atkin, 92 points

“The top Malbec at Andeluna (at least for now) is wonderfully fragrant and full of personality. It’s a big, bold wine showing masses of blackberry and liquorice notes, underpinned by the chalky acidity that’s such a strong feature of Gualtallary reds. The oak is  increasingly subtle on these wines”.

2015 Piattelli Vineyards, Malbec

Slightly smokey, with a fruity bouquet that delights the senses and warms the palate with notes of blackberries, blueberries and lavender. The ultimate steak wine!

2013 Doña Paula, Selección de Bodega Malbec

A blend of Doña Paula’s very best single vineyard estates from older and naturally lower yielding vines, which produce wines with great depth and complexity. The Seleccion is unfiltered giving even more character and concentrated black fruit and cherry flavours with a long and elegant finish.

2014 Andeluna, Altitud Malbec – Tim Atkin, 91 points

“Showing less oak, extraction and alcohol than in the recent past, this mid-level Malbec is aromatic, fresh and subtly oaked, with plenty of colour, aromas of violets and rose petal, sweet blueberry fruit and a chalky, minerally undertone”.

2015 Oveja Negra, Winemaker’s Selection Malbec Petit Verdot

Oveja Negra or Black Sheep is someone out of the ordinary who stands out from the crowd, like this Chilean Malbec Petit Verdot. It is tremendously aromatic and offers notes of violets intermingled with fresh black fruit aromas of 91 Points blueberries and blackberries.

And here’s a couple of suggestions from John Clarke, writing for The Independent:

2013 Dona Paula, Seleccion De Bodega 

“Sometimes you need a wine to push the boat out (rather than launch it, that would be a waste). This flagship wine, from the 1.35km-high Alluvia vineyard and the (only slightly less elevated) Los Indios and El Alto ones in Mendoza, does exactly that. It’s a layered and complex, full-bodied malbec with alluring dark fruit flavours, soft tannins and an elegant, lingering finish. Can be drunk now or will keep for several years yet.”

2014 Zorzal, Eggo Tinto de Tiza Tupungato 

“What comes first, the chicken or the eggo? Actually it’s all about the Eggo, since the name comes from the egg-shaped concrete vats the wine is matured in for a year without seeing a trace of oak. The result is a bright yet structured wine, bursting full of rich, dark fruit and berry flavours that has marked it out as one of Argentina’s most exhilarating malbecs. A wine to remember.”

Winemaker Profile: Hamish Clark, Saint Clair

Saint Clair’s senior winemaker Hamish Clark has been at the winery for 13 years. The Zoology graduate worked his way up from the position of cellar hand in 2001 and is now a key member of the winemaking team. Here he shares his thoughts on Saint Clair, foie gras and conquering Everest.

Continue reading Winemaker Profile: Hamish Clark, Saint Clair

Women with Bottle

In organoleptic experiments to test the wine tasting ability of men and women, female participants consistently come out on top. Their superior palates and tasting precision are well documented in scientific papers and journals, which explains why the female success rate in the Master of Wine qualification is now higher than men’s. This is now being reflected in wineries and cellars around the world as female winemakers take the helm in a traditionally male environment. We’re proud to represent some of the best female winemakers around, and we believe the wines crafted by theses talented women from Japan and South Africa to Italy and France – are some of the very best in the Hallgarten portfolio.
Let’s take a look at these women with bottle.


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

Grace Winery, Koshu Private Reserve:
Japan Touted as a representative wine of Japan by Jancis Robinson, this wine is pure, elegant and authentic just like its winemaker Ayana. Fresh as Mount Fuji, the wine brings the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, just like a refreshing breeze on a warm, sunny day. A wine with powerful expression of its terroir, minerality and a timeless grace.

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

Château Lestrille Capmartin Clairet
This is a Bordeaux-British love story: Clairet wines were originally shipped from Bordeaux to England during the Middle Ages and known as French Claret. These dark rosé wines established the fame of Bordeaux as a wine-making region before the reds took most of the glory! Estelle shows her talents by making a wine full of fruit and finesse, refreshing yet characterful, pairing wonderfully with spicy food, roasted meats and barbecues.

Juliette Joblot
Juliette’s father Jean-Marc Joblot introduced her to winemaking on the family estate in Givry. She started making the wines herself in 2010 and has never looked back. “I learnt a lot from my father,” she says, “and now I make decisions.” She’s aware that little-by-little more women are entering the world of winemaking but is also quick to point out that in regions like Burgundy it can be difficult to be a women in the winery “because the Bourgogne men are very macho!” The young yet determined Juliette is further exploring her father’s approach of ‘lutte raisonnée’ in the vineyards, and is also looking to retain more freshness by limiting oxygen contact in the winery as much as possible.

Domaine Joblot, Givry 1er Cru ‘Clos de La Servoisine’
The Joblot family is world famous for their refined, fleshy, spicy and structured cuvées, “Justifiably recognised as one of the great producers in Burgundy” (Robert Parker). This wine has typical Pinot Noir aromas with attractive cherry fruit. Lots of ripe tannins in the mouth. The fruit flavours linger in the mouth finishing with a spicy edge and hints of leather.

Caterina Bellanova
Caterina is the queen of San Marzano and Primitivo is considered the king of Puglian grapes: this is certainly a winning marriage! Named European Producer of the Year 2015 in the Sommelier Wine Awards, Cantine San Marzano is one of the most professional, forward-thinking cooperatives in Southern Italy with a reputation for producing great wines. Trained biologist Caterina Bellanova, whose wines reflect the region and its native grape varieties, is at the helm.

Cantine San Marzano, ‘Talo’ Primitivo di Manduria
Ruby red colour enriched with violet reflections; a generous bouquet of ripe cherries and plums, with pleasant notes of cocoa and vanilla. This wine has a velvety texture, softened by the warmth of the Primitivo grapes; with persistant sweetness on the finish. Elegant but vigourous like a Southern Italian lady, this is one of the best value ‘3 Bicchieri’ wines available.

Francesca Pratesi
Born in Florence, Francesca Pratesi spent her childhood in the Tuscan countryside where she learnt plenty about vineyards and winemaking from her father and grandfather. She studied Agronomy at the University of Florence and began working for Marchesi Frescobaldi in 2004, first in the cellar then as the winemaker at the stunning Castello di Pomino estate where she makes still, sparkling and dessert wines, including the revered Pomino Bianco.

Castello di Pomino, Pomino Bianco, DOC
High altitude, endless light and a touch of femininity; a wine, made from Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco which is all style and finesse. A hidden gem coming from one of the smallest white wine DOCs in Tuscany and the Frescobaldi dynasty.

Eleonora Marconi
In 2005 Eleonora worked a vintage at Castello di Nipozzano as an intern assisting the winemaker in the cellar. Seven years later she joined the winemaking team full-time. In the intervening years she graduated from the University of Marche with a BSc in Viticulture and Oenology, made wine in Western and South Australia, and carried out further vintages at Nipozzano. “First and foremost, I want to be recognised as a winemaker,” she says. “But I also feel the position of women in the industry should be recognised.”

Castello di Nipozzano, Chianti Rufina Riserva DOCG
This is a sensational, savoury, complex red that represents the Chianti appellation at its best with a modern touch. A woman can be innovative without breaking tradition! Dark sour cherry and violet aromas combined with spices and a long lasting mineral finish.

Louise Chéreau
Chéreau-Carré has always been a family affair, and Louise Chéreau is the third generation to work in the winery which was founded by her grandfather in 1960. Alongside her father Bernard, she is heavily involved in the winemaking process, working the vintage from harvest to blending. “It is great to learn from my father as we build together a solid philosophy that will last until – maybe – a new generation is coming. We are a good team.”

Chéreau Carré, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine
One of the oldest producers in the region, growing old vine Muscadet on some of the best soils . The grapes are hand harvested with a careful selection of berries, and are stored in small boxes to preserve the aromas until pressing. Louise makes clean wines with a crisp acidity and bright, fresh minerality.

Steffi Weegmüller
With 300 years of winemaking history and a gaze to the future, the Weegmüller sisters have excelled in making delicious Riesling. Steffi is one of the first women to have worked in Germany’s male-dominated wine industry and she has mastered the technical aspects of winemaking, and – crucially – brings heart and sensuality to her work. She has been making the highest quality Pfalz wines for more than 25 years aided and abetted by a largely female team at the winery and behind the scenes. Her clean, pure wines have a delicate Pfalz spice and are very generous in fruit and length.

Weingut Weegmüller, Riesling ‘Der Elegante’ Mandelring Kabinett Trocken
This delicious Riesling has amazing aromas and concentration of ripe fruit and fresh notes. This is an organically-farmed dry Riesling with luscious fruit and richness with characters of lemon and grapefruit and a lovely, dry and zesty finish.

Nadine Ferrand
Nadine Ferrand is the latest family member to take helm at the Domaine in the heart of Pouilly Fuissé. She has transformed the vineyard and winery since taking over in 1984. She and her daughters are clearly doing something right as the wines regularly receive high scores from Robert Parker. Nadine Ferrand has brought the domaine to the top of Pouilly Fuissé. Her wines with vivacious fruit notes, buttery roundness and appealing minerality have been recognised by the Sommelier Wine Awards as a jewel of the appellation

Domaine Ferrand, Pouilly – Fuissé
The Ferrard family philosophy is simple: ‘Chardonnay, expressing itself with a feminine touch.’ A well balanced and elegant wine with fresh yellow plum flavours and spicy notes that carry through to an invigorating mineral palate and buttery finish.

Samantha OKeefe
Samantha O’Keefe’s is an amazing story. A native Californian, Berkeley educated, she and her husband realised their dream and bought a mountain in Africa. But then her husband upped sticks and Sam was left to bring up two young boys on her own, 300 metres up a mountain, surrounded by wilderness (and baboons). But nothing seems to faze her and she has made her mark with a string of stunning cool-climate wines that have wowed customers and critics the world over.

Lismore Estate Vineyards, Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc
An attractive Sauvignon Blanc with a strong character, synonymous to its winemaker, Samantha O’ Keefe. The wine is barrel fermented with natural yeasts and spends 11 months in used oak giving it great complexity and freshness. Lots of bright citrus, herb and toasted nut characters.

Christine Vernay
“My name is Christine Vernay, this is the identity I was born with. As a child I was shocked to read mail addressed to my mother as Madame Georges Vernay, as if she didn’t have her own name!” Christine, with her feminist streak is known as “the popess of Condrieu” and produces wines with incredbile finesse and elegance. The domaine has certainly put Condrieu on the map. When Georges Vernay retired in the mid-nineties after more than 40 years making and growing Condrieu he asked his children – two sons and a daughter – if they were interested in taking on the estate. Only Christine was, and today she excels at making exquisite Condrieu and Côte Rotie. ‘Wine is a pleasure, but it also tells a story,’ she says.

Domaine Georges Vernay, Côte – Rotie, ‘Blonde du Seigneur’
A benchmark Syrah of smoky black olives with great power and structure. A smooth and elegant wine. Perfect to accompany game and mature cheese.

Sabine Mollard
Domaine Marc Morey was established in 1919 by Ferand Morey and is now run by the current young and talented winemaker Sabine Mollard, the daugher of Bernard Mollard and hiswife, who is Marc Morey’s daughter. Sabine took over the winemaking in September 2003 following the tragic death of her brother. Through hardwork, study and determination she has become one of the best producers in Chassagne. Her St Aubin ‘Les Charmois’ is her best kept secret – an unknown appellation – a small parcel giving birth to a graceful wine.

Domaine Marc Morey, Saint Aubin 1er Cru ‘Les Charmois’
This wine has flavours of lemon peel which combine with orange, vanilla and hints of smokiness. Medium to full bodied with more citrus on the palate. It has heaps of minerality and good acidity keeping the mouth lively. The finish is clean with buttery elements.

Séverine Lemoine
Having worked in finance, Séverine Lemoine was given the opportunity to buy a small parcel in Lirac and decided to follow her dream. Her domaine, Les Cigalounes, was born – now her pride and joy. The vines are grown using a traditional philosophy and are now certified organic. Domaine des Cigalounes is a small 7 hectare property, located on the rocky plateau between the villages of Tavel and Lirac on the opposite bank of the Rhône from Châteauneuf- du-Pape.

Domaine Des Cigalounes, Lirac
Attractive deep red. Aromatic and smooth with notes of fruit and spices. A soft and full wine with an extremely silky-textured finish. This wine is food friendly and a great alternative to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Isabelle Fort
The Durand family has owned the seven hectare estate of Château la Fleur Grands Landes in the Montagne district since the 18th century. In 1969, Mr Carrere, Miss Durand’s husband took over the estate. Since 1997, his daughter Isabelle Fort, wife of Jean-Philippe Fort, an oenologist from Michel Rolland’s team, has been running the estate.

Château La Fleur Grands Landes, Grands Landes Montagne St Emilion
Isabelle Fort took over from her father in 1999 and has evolved the style of the wines to retain more freshness and to extract the best fruit from the Merlot. The result? A well balanced wine, dark fruits with herbal, spicy notes and silky tannins.

Cecile Dupuis
Château Bonalogue was purchased by the Bourotte family in 1926. Since then, each family member that has run Bonalgue has been lucky enough to do so with complete freedom and independence. Today the estate is run by Jean-Baptiste Bourotte and the vineyard is in excellent condition, and the wines pay tribute to the exceptional terroir of Bonalgue. Impressed by the bright young intern who had been working with them for a few harvests, the Bourotte familly, the owners of the Chateau, apppointed Cecile Dupuis chief winemaker in 2009 when she was only 23.

Château Beausejour de Bonalgue, Pomerol
Cecile uses minimal intervention techniques, including using no herbicides in the vineyard. A traditional Claret with earthy and liquorice flavours and a just a hint of chocolate through to a rounded finish.