Matthiasson: Napa wines are like a Ferrari

29th April, 2019

Napa Valley wines are like a Ferrari whose power you can ramp up as much or as little as you like, according to local producer Steve Matthiasson of Matthiasson Wines.

Steve Matthiasson is turning down the power on California Cabernet

Speaking to the drinks business during a recent trip to California, Matthiasson, who is known for making wines of elegance and restraint, said that winemakers in Napa were free to choose which style of wines they want to make.

“Napa wines are like a Ferrari – you can drive at 200 miles an hour but you don’t have to. Some winemakers have the tendency to go over-ripe in Napa, but we have the freedom to make any kind of wines we want.

“California’s wine industry is still developing and there’s room for your own personal vision within it. We aren’t shackled by rules.

“My Cabernet is very different to your average Napa Cab – it’s more like the Cabs that were made before the Parker era as the alcohol is never above 13%. The wines in the Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976 were all around 12% alcohol.

“The fruit that goes into my Cab is very protected from the sun to avoid the grapes getting over-ripe and is picked deliberately early to retain freshness. It’s red fruit dominant with herbal accents

“There is a tremendous amount of clonal diversity in Napa Cabernet and a lot of different styles being made from different parts of the valley, and different perceptions about what is delicious.”

While Matthiasson is grateful for the freedom he has in Napa to plough his own furrow, he admits that making wines that go against the grain was a challenge at first.

“It can be a challenge being a winemaker in Napa as you can get pigeonholed as making a certain style of wine that isn’t necessarily true.

“Many Burgundy drinkers wouldn’t give Napa winemakers the time of day, and Napa lovers who go after the big lush styles won’t like my wines either.

“It took a while for me to find a lane to work in. I wasn’t able to sell my reds during the Parker era as that style of wine wasn’t popular then,” he said.

“I don’t want to replicate the Old World but I am informed by it,” he added.

Matthiasson, who was born in Canada and got a degree in philosophy before studying horticulture at UC Davis, cites the likes of The New York Times critic Eric Asimov and former San Francisco Chronicle wine columnist Jon Bonné taking an interest in and writing about his left field Napa White blend (pictured) as a turning point.

The wine is a blend Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano. He also makes a Refosco from grapes grafted onto old Merlot vines.

Rather than the off-trade, Matthiasson is targeting small farm to table restaurants in the US and places like Sager + Wilde in London.

While there is still a thirst for bold, ripe styles of Napa Cabernet, Matthiasson believes things will start to change when Millennials increase their buying power.

“Baby Boomers have a sweet tooth as they grew up on chocolate. Millennials’ palates are very different – they like drier wines with more acidity.

“They grew up in a different atmosphere and are much more interested in where their ingredients came from. They will seek out artisan products at farmers markets and are happy to pay more for high quality produce,” he said.

Majestic Wine unveils first Naked Wines retail store

29th April, 2019

UK retailer Majestic Wine has rebranded its first store into a Naked Wines stores, as it prepares to restructure and rebrand the wider business as Naked Wines.

Picture credit: Andrij Jurkiw, Store Manager, Regional Product & Operations Connoisseur & Product Consultant at Majestic Wine, (via LinkedIn)

In a post shared on Linkedin by the newly appointed head of the combined Majestic and Naked UK operation, Josh Lincoln, the new Wakefield store was revealed with new branding.

A tweet from store manager Andrij Jurkiw, highlighted the new wines now being stocked in stores, and pointed out that it was launching new services for customers.

Majestic Wines has confirmed that this this is a trial and that the shop was now selling a mixtures of stock from both Majestic suppliers and also Naked Wines. 

The retailer told db that at this stage, there are no more plans to transition any more stores – however it has not ruled out changing more stores to Naked Wines in future.

A spokesman said. “We will disclose full plans on the future of the stores in June, but all options remain on the table, including closures, sales and transitions.”  

Last weeks, Sky News reported that Majestic’s board had appointed investment bank Rothschild to look for potential buyers for the company’s brand and around 200 stores, fuelling rumours that it may sell of the entire retail business, however Majestic’s chief executive officer Rowan Gormley previously told the drinks business that the Majestic name was unlikely to disappear from the high street. He said there would be two businesses at the end of the decoupling process, but it was as yet uncertain what that split would look like.

“It could be 10/90 one way, or 90/10 another way or 50/50, it doesn’t matter – but there will likely to be two businesses at the end of this, one of them is Naked, one of them is Majestic. They will still have a bunch of customers and there will still be opportunities for suppliers, and everyone else,” he said.

When the news of the sale first broke, analysts told db they believed the company would look to sell the whole of the  £264m retail division, the commercial business, which clocks sales of around £43m, and fine wine business, Lay & Wheeler.

Analyst Jonathan Pritchard of Peel Hunt told db the announcement hinted that it wanted “as clean a break as they can get”, but said it was unlikely another household name retailer would be interested.

“The trouble is everyone wants the same dozen or 20 stores, but are less keen on the other 180,” he told db.

Buyers could step in from the private equity sector and Majestic have also confirmed that come stores could be sold for conversion to residential.

The estate currently comprises around 200 retail stores, with approximately 16 in London, a further 23 within the M25, and the rest spread out across most regions of the UK.

Vinexpo Bordeaux promises ‘completely redesigned’ show

29th April, 2019

Vinexpo Bordeaux is marking its twentieth edition with a “completely redesigned” show with a total of 1,600 companies from 29 countries due to exhibit from 13 to 16 May.

The trade show is promising a “more manageable show” with bookable business meetings, trend-driven content and companies from 29 countries.

15% of the companies exhibiting at this year’s show are newcomers, with three countries – Sweden, Turkey and Vietnam – represented at the show for the first time.

French companies due to exhibit at this year’s show include Champagne Bollinger, Henri Bourgeois, Minuty, GH Martel & Cie, Grands Chais de France, Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, Albert Bichot, Joanne, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Bernard Magrez and CVBG-Dourthe Kressmann.

International companies include Clos de los Siete and Catena Zapata from Argentina; Robinson & Sinclair from South Africa; Felix Solis Avantis and Marqués de Cáceres from Spain; Italy’s Piccini and Emilia Romagna; and China’s COFCO Greatwall.

This year’s show will cover 70,000 m2 of exhibition space, making it “the largest international wine and spirits trade show in France,” according to the event organiser. The show will occupy both Hall 1 and Hall 2 at Parc des Expositions de Bordeaux.

The WOW! World of Organic Wines section will this year feature 150 producers from nine countries.

The biennial trade show is set to attract European buyers from the likes of Tesco, The Wine Society (UK), Casino, Le Petit Ballon (France) and Delhaize (Belgium) alongside Asian buyers from Jointek Fine Wines (Hong Kong), Paradox (China) and Nippon Liquor (Japan), and major US companies such as Total Wines.

New this year will be The Vinexpo Symposium, set to launch on Tuesday 14 May, in partnership with the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Regional Council. Entitled ‘act for change’, the symposium will focus on the impact of climate change on the wine and spirits sector looking specifically at climate change in the world’s vineyards, its affect on the operation of wineries and winemaking and the ‘wine economy’.

Vinexpo is also hosting a new international wine tasting event on 12 May in the grounds of the Palais de la Bourse.

Rodolphe Lameyse, CEO of Vinexpo, commented: Today, buyers and businesses alike must meet the specific needs of their target markets. With this in mind and in this highly competitive market, the Vinexpo group chose to make the flagship Vinexpo Bordeaux a more manageable size, while capitalising on its high-level business positioning and strengthening both its appeal and the quality of its content.”

Vinexpo’s five international shows include Bordeaux, Hong Kong, New York, Paris and Shanghai.

Asahi adds former Fuller’s cider and ales to ‘super premium’ portfolio

29th April, 2019

Japanese beer giant Asahi has confirmed the addition of former Fuller’s brands London Pride, Frontier and Cornish Orchards to its UK portfolio, following its acquisition of the British brewer.

The brands will join Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Asahi Super Dry, Pilsner Urquell and Meantime as part of Asahi’s super premium portfolio.

Fuller’s sold its cider, soft drinks, wine, distribution and wholesaling business, along with its beer and brewing operations, to Asahi earlier this year in a deal worth £250 million.

“All of us at Asahi UK are thrilled to be bringing these much loved cask ale and cider brands into our portfolio,” Tim Clay, Asahi’s UK managing director, said.

“Through our existing Super Premium Brand portfolio, distribution network, customer marketing and sales expertise we aim to extend and grow our new range across the UK and Ireland – to offer our customers the most comprehensive suite of Premium Beer and Cider brands.”

“Building on the heritage of Fuller’s London Pride, Frontier and Cornish Orchards, we aim to enrich consumer experiences through industry leading product quality, impactful marketing and by driving ongoing value to our customers. This year will be an exciting time for Asahi UK and our customers.”

Asahi has been developing its European business for some time. AB InBev sold SAB Miller’s central and eastern European beer business to Asahi for €7.3 billion (US$7.8bn) at the end of 2016, in a deal that saw Asahi take on Pilsner Urquell and Kozel, Poland’s Tyskie and Lecher and Hungary’s Dreier. AB InBev had already offloaded SABMiller’s other European beer brands, including Grolsch and Peroni, to Asahi for €2.55bn (US$2.76 billion).

One brand that was not included on the announcement was Dark Star, a craft brewery snapped up by Fuller’s in 2018. A spokesperson for Asahi told the drinks business the portfolio briefing, which was sent to journalists on Monday 29 April, “included only a selection of our brands within the release – both existing Asahi brands and those incoming from Fuller’s.”

Lion to open London brewery for Little Creatures brand

29th April, 2019

Australasian food and beverage company Lion is to open a London brewery for its craft beer brand Little Creatures, following its acquisition of UK breweries Fourpure and Magic Rock.

Little Creatures’ operations in Fremantle.

Following its acquisition of Bermondsey brewer Fourpure in July 2018 and Huddersfield’s Magic Rock last month, Lion is expanding its investment in UK beer.

The company is to open a taproom and restaurant behind new development Granary Square in King’s Cross. The 557sqm site features a six-hectolitre brewery, taproom and restaurant.

Lion first introduced Little Creatures to the London market in 2017 when it ran a pop-up in Elephant & Castle. As well as London, it is also opening new venues in San Francisco, Taipei and Auckland.

According to The Grocer, head brewer at Little Creatures, Lara Smith, has relocated to London from Australia in order to supervise the project.

Lion UK and Europe regional director Toby Knowles told the title that the investment in the UK would “embed the Little Creatures brand in the community, provide greater awareness and ultimately market the brand to an audience who already have a real interest in craft”.

Little Creatures was founded in Fremantle in Western Australia in 2000. Developing a reputation for its pale ale, it expanded its brewhouse in 2005 and was later acquired by Lion in 2012.

In 2013, it opened a brewery in Geelong in the state of Victoria. Since then it has also opened sites in Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. 

In addition to beer, Lion also acquired a 50% stake in Australian gin brand Four Pillars last month. 

At the time of Fourpure’s acquisition in July 2018, a statement released by the Bermondsey brewer revealed that Lion had four members of staff based in the UK.

It also added: “They [Lion] see Fourpure and our beer as a primary focus here in the UK and as their sole production brewing facility we will benefit from all the time, expertise and investment required to succeed, and that means that everything around the brewery will be a little bit easier and a little bit better.”

However, Lion has also gone on to invest in Yorkshire’s Magic Rock, enabling the Huddersfield craft brewer to increase its reach both in the UK and globally.

Lion’s parent company Kirin Holdings, which as well as the Kirin Brewery Company and Kirin Beverage Company, also has a 55% stake in Myanmar Brewery Ltd, jointly owns San Miguel Brewery and has a 24.5% stake in Brooklyn Brewery.

Bordeaux 2018: Pessac-Léognan

29th April, 2019

In this great if heterogeneous vintage, Pessac-Léognan has produced more than its fair share of the greatness while contributing less than its share of the heterogeneity. It deserves more attention than it typically receives.

Smith Haut-Laffite (Photo: Colin Hay)

When it comes to the Left Bank we typically think first and foremost of the classed growths of the Médoc and their famous classification system of 1855. The wines of the Graves (with a classification system only introduced in 1953) and of Pessac-Léognan (in which all of its classed growth are located but which only came into existence as an appellation in 1987) are often overlooked. This is unfortunate at the best of times. But in 2018 it is a particularly egregious omission. For in this heterogeneous but potentially great vintage Pessac-Léognan is more homogeneous as an appellation than most and it certainly has its fair share of the greatness.

In what follows I seek to give these wines some of the attention that I think their quality warrants – first in the most general terms and then in a little more detail.

As with my portraits of the Médoc and the right-bank before, it is useful to start with data on average vineyard yields. Here, to aid comparison, I present the figures for Pessac-Léognan alongside the averages for the the principal appellations of the Médoc (Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe) and the Right Bank (Pomerol and St Emilion).

The picture that emerges is already striking. Yields in Pessac-Léognan in 2018 were among the lowest of the appellation. Only Pomerol (with an average yield in 2018 of 36.2 hl/ha) suffered more. In fact, even that is potentially misleading. For expressed as a percentage of average yield over the preceding decade, Pessac-Léognan’s yield in 2018 was lower than any of the Left or Right Bank appellations bar one – Pauillac.

In short, 2018 was not easy; and it was particularly tricky in the northern Graves. Many of the factors for this are likely by now to be familiar in that they are shared with the other leading appellations– the spread of downy mildew in the first half of the summer; evaporation, hydric stress and the resulting concentration of the grapes on the vine in September; and (if much less significantly and only in some vineyards) the legacy of frost damage in 2017. But to these, as in some parts of the southern Médoc (Haut-Médoc and Margaux), we can add a fourth – hail.

On 26 May a significant part of the appellation was hit by the band of hail storms that extended south from Blaye and Bourg through parts of Margaux and the southern Médoc to Bordeaux itself and on further south to Pessac-Léognan. In the space of an hour significant damage was caused in certain vineyards.

Take Carmes Haut-Brion for instance. Here there are, in effect, two wines from two completely different terroirs. Carmes Haut-Brion itself comes from the commune of Pessac. It was untouched by hail and the final yield was 37 hl/ha – very close to the appellation average. But 12 kilometres to the south, in the commune of Léognan, in the former vineyard of Le Thil from which Le C de Carmes Haut-Brion comes, there was considerable hail damage. The final yield here was a rather more meagre 25 hl/ha.

De Fieuzal, a further six kilometres to the south and west, was suffering a similar – and not entirely unfamiliar – fate. In 2016 it lost a significant proportion of its potential production to hail; in 2017 it lost the entire crop (in both red and white) to frost; and in 2018 it suffered, once again, significant hail damage. Stephen Carrier was philosophical – and he has made two excellent wines; but there is not a great deal of either. The final yield for the red is a parsimonious 24 hl/ha.

It is difficult, of course, to look for the proverbial silver lining in the dark storm cloud. But in a sense things could have been worse – and Pessac-Léognan might even be said to have been spared to some extent. There are two factors at play here. The first is that, for those who suffered it, the hail damage reduced quantity but not quality. And the second is that in Pessac-Léognan more than perhaps in any other leading appellation, the mildew that spread like wildfire through the vineyards hit the grapes much more than it did the foliage. This was certainly not the case in much of the Médoc.

That might not sound like good news; but it was. For although mildew-impacted fruit needs to be removed, and removed carefully, its removal causes no damage to an otherwise perfectly healthy plant. Indeed, the effect is much like an (albeit early and severe) green harvest – it encourages the concentration of terroir notes in the remaining fruit.

Mildew impacting the foliage is another matter altogether. For this also has to be removed and, crucially, that damages the capacity of the plant to ripen fully whatever fruit remains. Arguably, then, it was more possible in Pessac-Léognan than in Margaux, for instance, to make a great wine with significantly reduced yields. That is undoubtedly one of the (unappreciated) secrets of the appellation’s comparative success in 2018.

This also helps to explain another intriguing factor. For, as in Pomerol, but not many other leading appellations, the climatic characteristics of the vintage seem in Pessac-Léognan to have accentuated rather than suppressed the terroir notes in the very best wines.

In St Emilion, Margaux and even Pauillac, it was sometimes difficult to tell wines apart. But in Pessac-Léognan, I was consistently struck in each leading property by the signature of a different and singular fruit profile. This, to be fair, is a product of wine-making just as much as it is of weather. The concentration of mildew on the grapes and not on the leaves certainly played a role. But as Guillaume Pouthier explained to us at Carmes Haut-Brion, this is a vintage in which wine-makers had the capacity to make very different wines, depending on the choices they made.

When it came to picking, in particular, their hands were not tied in any way by the weather conditions. It is a vintage, then, in which choices made in the vineyard and, afterwards, during vinification are very much on display. But although styles certainly vary, most of the leading crus seem to have gotten those choices right if my two recent visits to the appellation are representative.

Mallya given final extradition appeal in July

29th April, 2019

Vijay Mallya, the former head of India’s United Spirits, will have a final chance on 2 July to convince the High Court in London why he should not be extradited to face charges of fraud and money laundering.

(Photo: Wiki)

His extradition to India was ordered by Westminster Magistrates Court in December and confirmed by the Home Secretary, Sajid Javed, in February.

At the hearing, his legal team will make an oral plea, having already failed to convince the court in writing that the charges against Mallya are without foundation.

If the High Court further confirms the extradition warrant, Mallya’s final recourse to prevent his enforced removal to India within 28 days would be to convince the European Court of Human Justice that under the provisions of its Rule 39 he would not receive a fair trial in India or that he would be held in inhumane conditions.

Legal sources say it will be difficult to make such as case as the Indian authorities have upgraded the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai to meet his medical needs and have already convinced Westminster Magistrates that he will await trial in conditions that meet international standards.

Mallya has, however, always maintained that the charges against him are trumped up and politically motivated and some commentators on the subcontinent have speculated that if the national elections now in progress result in a change of government the official attitude to Mallya might soften.

Meanwhile, the tycoon, who fled to the UK in March 2016 on the eve of a warrant being issued for his arrest in India over debts of £1.15 billion associated with his failed Kingfisher Airlines, continues to challenge the processes of the Indian courts.

During a hearing on Thursday, Mallya’s lawyer told the Bombay High Court that by declaring him a fugitive economic offender and allowing attachment of his assets, a special court had given him an “economic death penalty”, saying that the “debts and the interest on such debts are mounting”.

In challenging several provisions of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act that have been used against him, his counsel said Mallya had sufficient assets to pay off his “debts but the government won’t allow the use of these assets to clear the debts.”

Mallya’s counsel asked the court for an injunction against the confiscation of Mallya’s properties in India, but this was refused.

Earlier Mallya himself had issued a series of tweets, criticising the government and banks for spending money on legal fees to recover money from him in the UK when he had offered to repay them in full in India.

‘O ver pizza launches second London site

29th April, 2019

Following the success of its debut London restaurant in Borough, ‘O ver has opened a second venue in the St James’s Market development.

Translating from the Neapolitan dialect as ‘truth,’ ‘O ver are known for their unusual pizzas created using dough infused with purified seawater, with the belief that “less sodium and more minerals makes the food lighter and easily digestible.”

Opening on the site formerly occupied by Anzu, the interior offers a warmly lit décor of marble, mirrors, brass and walnut, while guests also have the opportunity to dine alfresco.

The menu features the concept’s classic pizzas alongside dishes such as Genovese pasta with a 12-hour beef and amber onion ragu; Tuscan pork sausage and porcini pappardelle; fresh seasonal salads; and homemade desserts.

The drinks list includes a carefully curated selection of wine alongside cocktails and beer.

In focus: The future of English sparkling wine

29th April, 2019

Last year’s impressive vintage showed that the UK wine industry – especially its sparkling output – can hold its own on the world stage. Phoebe French speaks to major players and finds out why 2018 was a game-changer in Britain.

“I imagine hell like this: Italian punctuality, German humour and English wine,” quipped the late English actor and broadcaster Sir Peter Ustinov. In 2008, food critic Jay Rayner used similarly inflammatory language, this time bringing music into the equation.

“English wine is like Belgian rock or German disco: a waste of everyone’s time and money,” he sneered in an article on cheese and wine pairing. It might seem odd to start a feature with two derogatory comments, but to understand the story of English sparkling wine, it’s essential to recognise its humble beginnings.

In just over a decade, the English wine industry has transformed from a largely hobby-driven endeavour to a sector dominated by qualified professionals, building a reputation based on quality and newfound expertise.

There are now more than 500 commercial vineyards in Great Britain. The area under vine in England and Wales has increased by 160% in the past 10 years to reach 2,888 hectares, with a further two million vines due to be planted this year.

Of the wine produced in England and Wales, 71% is sparkling. Once the object of derision, it has attracted major investment from former banking executives, politicians and two of Champagne’s leading houses – Taittinger and Pommery.

With much of the vineyard area lying north of the established 30-50 degree latitude limit, viticulturalists and winemakers operating in England use techniques such as careful pruning, green harvesting and malolactic fermentation to ensure they achieve optimum phenolic ripeness and balanced acidity. Frequent frosts, low temperatures, prolonged cloud cover and inopportune rainfall can make wine production a struggle. But in 2018, it was a different story.

‘Everything went right’

“There was nothing particularly outstanding about 2018, it was just that everything went right,” says Chris Foss, head of wine development at Plumpton College, England’s viticulture and oenology education centre.

“In 2017, we were decimated by spotted winged drosophila – what the frost didn’t get, the fruit flies did – it was awful. In 2018 they didn’t come; they don’t like the hot dry weather. Last year, I had a student who was studying downy mildew, but we didn’t get any at all as there was no rain. It’s really sad when you read his project.”

Ruth Simpson, co-owner of Simpsons Wine Estate in Kent, agrees. “Everything was possible in 2018, it was the perfect year,” she says. “For us, 2018 is the game-changer year because it means we finally have some decent volume after only producing around 22,000 bottles in 2016 and 2017.”

Mike Wagstaff, owner and winemaker at Greyfriars Vineyard in Surrey, says: “In England you also find that big years correlate with very ripe years because we’re a lot more sensitive to the weather. We had an extraordinarily ripe harvest. To put it in context, last year we produced 202 tonnes compared with 125 tonnes in 2017, and normally we would expect between 100 and 125 on average, so we were up by 60%.”

Nyetimber’s Cherie Spriggs

For Nyetimber in West Sussex, 2018 also proved a milestone year. “From the 2018 harvest we will produce more than a million bottles for the first time, and this record amount will help us meet growing international consumer demand, as well as increase our stocks of reserve wine, “ says head winemaker Cherie Spriggs.

While the sparkling wines will take several years to mature, Sam Linter, managing director and winemaker at Bolney Wine Estate in West Sussex, says she could smell the difference in 2018.

“I noticed when I was walking through the winery when the wines were fermenting that the fruit aromas were more intense than we’ve smelt before, not massively so, but they were. We’ve had some good vintages but this was the best we’ve seen, and we’ve been around for over 40 years,” she says.

The warm spells around budburst and flowering, the lack of severe frost, and the prolonged dry spell over the summer months and throughout harvest resulted in a record year for English wine. According to the official figures from Wines of Great Britain, 15.6m bottles were produced in 2018, beating the previous record (6.3m bottles in 2014) by 9.3m bottles.

One of the criticisms that has been levelled at English wine over the years centres on levels of acidity. With a more marginal climate than the likes of Champagne, English sparkling has a leaner style, meaning a good knowledge of acidity-management techniques is an essential requirement for those making wine in the country.

Greater consistency

Bolney’s Linter accepts that acidity can be a challenge, but says the accumulation of knowledge in the industry has led to greater consistency and balance.

“We’ve moved away from unbalanced wines, but the criticism we had in the past, certainly in the early years, was fair,” she says. “I always see criticism as an opportunity, and a lot of us have done the same. We looked at it, we’ve learnt from it and we’ve improved what we’re doing. We’ve looked at where we plant, cropping levels and canopy management. English wine is always going to be fresher, crisper and more linear. That’s our style, and I think that’s great.”

Charlie Holland, head winemaker at Gusbourne in Kent, shares Linter’s outlook, adding that winemakers should use England’s higher acidity levels to their advantage.

“Acidity is a dirty word in the mind of the wine consumer,” he says. “But for me, acidity is one of the most important attributes of a wine; it’s what brings a wine vibrancy, freshness and helps it to age gracefully.

“We have to look at what our strengths are in England, and one of them is that we have higher acidity than some areas of the world that produce sparkling wine. We need to embrace that and show that off. It should be a positive story.”

Jacob Leadley, winemaker and owner of Black Chalk, who doesn’t have a physical winery but sources grapes from Hampshire, agrees. “We must remember that acid is a big part of the joy in English wines, and as the industry grows we are finding ways to work with acid and celebrate rather than fear it. Fresh, fruit-forward wines with depth and complexity from lees ageing is a style that I feel English sparkling wine can and should be a world leader in,” he says.

With large volumes of grapes with phenolic ripeness and acidity in perfect harmony, will the 2018 vintage help winemakers to showcase the country’s true potential? For one thing, the added volume will ease the pressure to release wine, often at a stage when the producer doesn’t believe it’s ready.

Linter explains: “It can be challenging in England in terms of financing – the cash required to lay down stock is huge. We always sell out of our wines, and we’d really like them to have more bottle age than they do. Now we’ve got an excess of stock we can really start to build up the reserves.”

Blackbook winery releases ‘first’ London-grown wine since Roman era

26th April, 2019

South London’s Blackbook winery claims it has developed the first “London-grown, London-made wine since Roman times.”

The wine, Tamesis, is named after the Roman name for the River Thames, and is a single vineyard still wine made from Bacchus grapes grown at Forty Hall Vineyard, in Enfield, North London.

“Forty Hall Vineyard is the only commercial-scale vineyard in London and is run as a social enterprise engaging a committed set of enthusiastic volunteers,” said Blackbook’s co-founder Sergio Verrillo.

“It is certified organic, avoiding the use of synthetic fungicides, herbicides or fertilisers to encourage sustainability, biodiversity and natural balance. I am a winemaker who likes to follow a traditional winemaking approach with low sulphur wines and indigenous ferments, seeking to preserve the varietal characters in its wines.”

The label references three symbols: The component parts of the Thyrsus, a staff wielded by the Roman God of wine; the Battersea Shield, discovered in 1857 during excavations for the Chelsea Bridge; and the bee wing that is a reference to the honey laden Thyrsus, and the “buzzing army of volunteers at Forty Hall.”

The Tamess is the first in a series of three new releases from the winery. It will be joined by its “I’d Rather be a Rebel” 2018 rosé, and “The Mix-Up”, its 2018 50-50 Bacchus-Ortega blend.