California is currently the most “interesting” fine wine producing region in the New World, according to Master of Wine and Pol Roger UK sales director James Simpson.
James Simpson MW
Speaking at the UK importer’s “Biodynamic Breakfast” last week, where Pol Roger showed the wines from California’s Robert Sinskey Vineyards, alongside those from French biodynamic producers Josmeyer and Drouhin, Simpson told db that the agency business was “sniffing around” for Californian brands.
“Bordeaux is boring and Burgundy is great, but they’ve got no wine, so if you are playing with fine wines then I think that California is the place to be,” he commented, adding that Pol Roger UK has just taken on Robert Sinskey, which is based in Carneros, following the addition of Napa’s Staglin Family Vineyard to the importer’s portfolio earlier this year.
Continuing, he said that a number of trends were favouring Californian wines in the UK. “We think that California is the next big thing in terms of fine wine and the exchange rate is good and the UK wine trade is looking for something posh to sell, and we’re not excited about Australia, South America or South Africa.”
He also told db that taking on fine wines from California was crucial to the continued success of Pol Roger UK, an agency business owned by the eponymous Champagne house.
“We have realised that the future of Pol Roger as an agency business is the top end of the market, and California fulfils that,” he said.
As for recent additions to the importer’s portfolio, Simpson said that neither Sinskey or Staglin “needed” the UK for sales, but “wanted” distribution in the market “for international respectability”.
Robert Sinskey makes Pinot Noir as well as Bordeaux blends in Carneros
He also said that Pol Roger UK had taken on the UK distribution for these brands because the Champagne house “liked the people and their wines”.
Looking ahead, Simpson admitted that Pol Roger UK would shortly be taking on another name from California.
“There is another coming out of the woodwork,” he commented.
Summarising, he said, “I think California is more interesting than anywhere else in the New World.”
However, he later added that he would include Oregon as a further source of interest for Pinot Noir specifically. “If I’m asked where I want to drink Pinot Noir outside Burgundy, it is Oregon,” he said.
In terms of supplying the UK’s top end retailers, bars and restaurants, Simpson said that Pol Roger Champagne, Hine Cognac and Glenfarclas Scotch “open the doors”, although he noted that Staglin now has the same effect “in uber posh American restaurants”.