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.

My HeadStart into Customer Services

It’s safe to say that these past couple of years have been the strangest the world has seen for a long while – if you’ll pardon the understatement. I can remember how my family responded when I said I got the job at Hallgarten and Novum Wines. After a series of remote interviews and emails regarding the position, I finally got a call and – amazingly – they chose me! It was exciting, so I rushed over to tell them. My mum and dad gave me a hug, as did my sister, while my cousin said: “Wow, really? You?”

Yes, me. How supportive, eh? He’s a sweetie.

My excitement was so well balanced by a large yet healthy amount of nervousness; I was starting in a new town, new area, with new people, in an industry that I’d never been in before! But – another understatement incoming – it is an incredible opportunity. I get to experience the industry and company from all angles, from Marketing to Regional Sales; from National Accounts to Shipping, and all starting in Customer Services. This was to ensure that I gleaned as much information about our customers, and learned our portfolio as best I could both from customer, and the Account Managers that I’d need to interact with.


The 18 month HeadStart programme was launched late in 2019 to develop the future talent of the wine industry, providing a 360-degree perspective of the wine sector from vineyard to table. The programme encompasses placements across the Hallgarten business, ending with a month working the 2022 harvest with one of the company’s key European partners. It is designed to give the apprentice total visibility of the Hallgarten & Novum business, allowing them to generate a deep understanding of the financial, strategic and commercial aspects of the company.


My first week was mainly meeting the senior team and various departmental managers that I will be coming into contact with. Then, it was time to get stuck in the nitty-gritty of Customer Services (hereby referred to as CS) – very much the engine room of the company.

Contrary to what I first thought, it’s not just inputting email and phone orders from our customers. The team also organise deliveries, returns, credits, process orders from different ordering systems used by different customers, keeps an eye on stock, liaises with different departments – they expertly manage close to ten things, all at once. They also harmonise the relationships between account managers, couriers and customers.

I am nine months into the apprenticeship and I have worked a total of four months with the CS team, and I’ve decided that it’s not an understatement to say they are all Magicians. How they’re able keep up with everything is unbelievable and I almost felt bad getting in their way whenever I ask a question – however they were always happy to help. In some ways, I felt quite lucky as two other people started at the same time as me meaning we could bounce off each other. If one of us had an issue, the other two may have encountered it before and could sort it out. When we did need to ask a question to the others – which I have no shame in saying was often – they were so kind and patient with us. They sat down and explained the simplest way of sorting it or they’d just coax us in the right direction.

I think the hardest part for me was learning the sheer number of customers and the volume of codes for each and every wine. One of the quickest things I found out was that some customer descriptions don’t fully match up with the wine they are trying to order, so that was a lot of fun. But, in all of this, I am immensely appreciative of how generous and compassionate the team were with me. Even when it was so busy coming back out of lockdowns and Christmas, they still upheld their generosity like nothing I could ever praise or thank them enough for.

My time with the CS was unforgettable and an incredible grounding for the challenges that lay ahead for me at Hallgarten. Onto the next team – National and Regional Accounts!

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.

 

A french memoir

During the years that Beverly Tabbron MW have been responsible for the purchasing of our French portfolio, she has made many memories – memorable for so many reasons – of her various visits to our producers. Being a wine buyer certainly has its advantages and privileges; you get to travel to some beautiful parts of the world and spend time with some delightful wine growers. Here is her French memoir.

I, like many of my colleagues, have been missing trips to our producers due to the imposed travel restrictions. Now that we are (hopefully) out of the woods and able to travel, I am looking forward to being able to visit winemakers in person later this year – those who I have only been able to communicate with via Zoom, telephone and e-mail over the last 18 months.

Regardless of restrictions, and thanks to modern technology, we have still been able to introduce new wines to our portfolio from regions new to our list. I have discovered Domaine Vendange and their wines from the Savoie region – a mountainous part of France and part of the gruelling Tour de France route, where they produce tantalising wines from Jacquère, Altesse and Mondeuse with amazing minerality imparted from glacial soils. I have been looking for a range of wines from this part of the country for a while and am very excited to meet winemakers Diane and Benjamin in person, rather than virtually.

One of the regions that I look forward to visiting regularly is Burgundy, and I have vivid memories of so many tastings with Pierre Naigeon in Gevrey-Chambertin. Pierre is able to wonderfully explain the various terroirs of the region, ranging from cooler to warmer sites and the different soils, providing a complete masterclass on Gevrey-Chambertin. Pierre vinifies all of his parcels separately meaning he makes over 75 different wines – and there is a lot to taste as a result. He rushes around the winery with his pipet and glass fetching samples from tanks and barrels, and recently eggs, explaining everything in fluent English. As a result, I have missed trains and follow-on appointments after a tasting with Pierre having been so engrossed with the tasting. One year we even missed lunch as we overran – quelle horreur (this is France after all) – and were so grateful to Sebastien and Anne Bidault of Domaine Bidault, and Robert Gibourg who provided an ad hoc picnic of cheese, bread and cold cuts when we finally arrived to see them. Their wines tasted even better afterwards.

Pierre Naigeon in Gevrey-Chambertin

We have been working with a number of the Chậteauneuf-du-Pape producers in our portfolio for many, many years. I remember one occasion when André Brunel of Domaine les Cailloux reminded me that our companies have been working together since 1955 (I hasten to add that I was not around at the time)! This really stresses the importance we place on long term and consistent partnerships that we enjoy with many of our producers. Our partnerships with Château Fortia and Domaine de la Solitude also date from around this time, and we are now working with the next generation of the families who are coming through and taking over the reins at the estates. The wines are perhaps a little more modern in style as a result, in-line with current drinking trends but it is always such a pleasure to be able to visit these Domaines to see their diverse styles.

One of our favourite producers is the delightful Estelle Roumage of Château Lestrille, who is such a good ambassador for her wines and the region. Here she is behind the wheel of her 2CV taking Jim Wilson, our Portfolio Director and myself for a tour of the vineyards. Her white barrel-aged Bordeaux, Château Lestrille Capmartin, is made from a good proportion of Sauvignon Gris together with the usual Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle, a great illustration of the diversity of grapes that France can produce.

One of the downsides of being a buyer is that you always seem to travel to taste new vintages in the winter. I have often been in Burgundy, the Rhône and the Loire tasting ice cold white wines from tank or barrel in freezing cellars – hard to keep focused when your hands are shaking so much and a struggle to make your notes! I remember one particular year when I was in Sancerre where the wine was just undergoing its tartaric stabilisation with ice on the outside of the tank. It still tasted good once it had thawed out in the glass and mouth!

I read recently that France is estimated to have between 7,000 and 10,000 grape varieties, although only 250 are officially authorised by the Minister for Agriculture and 95% of all wines are produced from the main 40 varieties. It is always exciting to discover the lesser-known grapes and be educated, however long you have been in the business and whatever qualification you hold, and I am looking forward to continuing my exploration of the vineyards of France in the years to come.

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

Embracing Change

Things change, Steve Daniel writes. Life changes. I think we have all being given a brutal taste of this in the last 18 months. We adapt, change and ultimately learn to live with it. The world of wine is less dramatic, but like everything else it is not immune to change.

What we take as an absolute given at this moment might not be the case in the future.

At the turn of the last century German wine was the most revered and expensive in the world, and Château Petrus was just another Bordeaux Château until the 1960s. If you did not have Muscadet on your wine list or on your shelves in 1990 you would have either been fired or declared clinically insane.

How many people still have Muscadet on their absolute must-have list? A small number, I imagine. But what happened to it? In 1991 there was a devastating frost, supply dried up, prices sky-rocketed and the industry had to find an alternative. New Zealand Sauvignon, and the New World in general, arrived to mop up the demand. And where is Muscadet now?

If 20 years ago I had said that one of the most popular red wines, and an absolute essential on any rack, would be Argentinean Malbec most be people would have laughed!

I remember tasting Picpoul de Pinet in the Languedoc in the 1990s and saying what a brilliant wine it was to a producer, and that I was going to buy it. The producer laughed at me and said: “you are crazy no one buys Picpoul”. Well, now everyone buys Picpoul.

So, things change. These changes are usually precipitated by an event or a series of events.

With crystal ball in hand, where are we today and what events might mark a change to our drinking habits?

Within the wine trade it usually starts with natural events such as drought or frost, or hail, or fire which has an impact on supply and ultimately has an economic impact. Or the impact could be more gradual due to changing tastes of consumers, or the changing style of a wine due to climatic changes.

So what are the areas of concern and interest right now? I am going to focus more on white wines here…

New Zealand Sauvignon – the current go to wine on every retailers’ shelf and every wine list in the country. Due to unprecedented demand and short vintages in succession we are now looking down the barrel of shortages and price hikes (sounds a little like Muscadet in 91!). So what should we be drinking instead? My money is on South Africa. For me the Cape produces world-class Sauvignon Blanc from its cooler coastal regions. Lots of the vibrant fruit, similar to what you get from Marlborough, but with a more classic steely back bone closer in style to Sancerre pre-global warming. It is great value and we should all be doing the beleaguered growers and the winemakers of the Cape a favour. They have had to deal with drought and a COVID crisis that is as bad as anywhere on the planet. So, make sure you add Cape Sauvignon to your list!

Burgundy has been decimated by frost and hail, and there will be shortages and price hikes particularly on the household names like Puligny and Meursault. If you are looking for absolute quality, have some cash in the bank but still want to save a few pounds, South Africa delivers once again. Some of the most impressive Chardonnay I have tasted recently from anywhere in the world – and at any price – have come from the Cape. Richard Kershaw and Sam O’Keefe make stellar examples that you simply have to try.

California can also make beautiful examples of Chardonnay, particularly in the cooler areas like the Santa Rita Hills. For a taste of what they can offer, try the iconic Sanford wines.  Australia is also making beautifully elegant wines in cooler areas, such as in Mornington Peninsula and Western Australia. Names to look out for are Paringa, Oceans Eight and Larry Cherubino.

Larry Cherubino entrance, Australia.

All these wineries also make spectacular Pinot Noir. If you are looking for value Pinot as an alternative to Burgundy, then Chile is the answer particularly, particularly those from the cool rolling hills of Leyda. The area reminds me of Santa Barbara, as do the wines.

With global warming some of the old, classic white wine growing areas are not making wines like they used to. I think the most obvious examples to me are Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume and Chablis. The reason the world fell in love with these wines was their freshness and minerality. My personal opinion is that the wines are now much riper and have lost some of their “Va Va Voom” or Vif as the French say.

Rather than being safe and looking for alternative sources of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, I think it is far more interesting to look for wines that maybe share the original style you were looking for, rather than the grape.

Areas that make wonderful wines that have that life, minerality and acidity might not be totally obvious. The North West of Spain and Portugal is a treasure trove for fresh, vibrant whites. I believe most people have now tried Albarino but there are so many interesting wines being produced in the region; try a Treixadura from Ribeiro, an Avesso, or a Loureiro from Vinho Verde. Godello is an excellent alternative to Macon. The wines are amazing and offer real value.

My personal go-to for white wines is Greece. I believe Greece is making some of the freshest, most interesting white wines on the planet right now. They are never going to be at the house wine level or even first price varietal, but pound-for-pound and excitement per mouthful they can compete with anywhere in the world. If you haven’t already, you must try these grapes: Assyrtiko, Vidiano, Malagousia, Kidonitsa , Monemvasia – all of which show why Greece is the word.

Assyrtiko vines, Santorini.

I believe the coastal regions around the Mediterranean are making great wines – Vermentino from Sardinia is amazing, as is the same grape often called Rolle in the South of France. I don’t need to mention Picpoul which still offers great value and reliability, and is now a mainstay on shelves and wine lists. Croatia makes wonderful wine from Malvasia, Posip and Vugava and the first ever Assyrtiko is now being produced in Lebanon. It’s vibrant, fresh and amazing value you will soon see more of it in Lebanon and around the world. Lebanon also makes amazing wines from indigenous grapes, like Obeidy.

For me, islands make the best wines. I have already mentioned Greece and Sardinia, but Tenerife, Majorca and Cyprus also make world class examples of mineral-driven white wines. The cooling effect of the proximity to the sea with the salty tang it imparts, the amazing terroirs and local grapes all add up to an exciting package.

Talking of islands, Blighty is making some great bracing white wines. I have often heard Bacchus referred to as the UK’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc – why can’t this be the next world-beating white wine? Or, with global warming, will we soon have Marlborough Sauvignon from Wiltshire?

Oh and I almost forgot, I think Muscadet is well worth re-visiting. Fresh, Crisp, mineral and offering great value! Surely it’s time Muscadet made a comeback… It’s been over 30 years now!

There is a vinous treasure trove out there, and sometimes shortages and adversity make us reach out to try new things. There has never been a greater need to do this than now. Diversity is the key. It makes for more interesting and unique wine lists, more exciting wine shelves and happier customers.

WOTM: Champagne Collet Brut 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs NV

Our October Wine of the Month – Champagne Collet Brut 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs NV – is an Art Deco inspired assemblage of six Chardonnay parcels from the best Premiers and Grands Crus of the Champagne region. The three pillars of this Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru come from the three famous Grands Crus of Champagne – Avize, Oger and Chouilly. Avize is a rich Cru which brings power; Oger offers tenderness and Chouilly imparts elegance and finesse to the blend.

In a nutshell

Vivacious and fresh, this 1er Cru delivers bright citrus notes with hints of white pepper, brioche and smoke, complex and elegant with a lovely long finish.

The producer

Champagne Collet with its elegant Art Deco packaging is evocative of the Belle Epoque era from when it was established. It is the oldest cooperative in Champagne, dating back to 1921. Since its inception, Collet has been creating Champagnes of character with authenticity, elegance and great finesse. Located in Aÿ, in the heart of the Champagne region, Collet represents some of the finest growers and mainly sources from vineyards which are based on Premier and Grand Cru sites. Each cuvée reflects the diversity of the region’s terroirs and has been masterfully blended to suit gastronomic cuisine.

The wine

The Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru was aged for a minimum of five years in Collet’s centuries old limestone cellars.