Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Exclusive Forrester Chenin for High Timber

Chenin Blanc pioneer Ken Forrester has created a sweeter version of his popular FMC Chenin for South African restaurant High Timber in London. As reported on the drinks business, FMC Première Selection Moelleux 2010 follows is a sister wine to the original Forrester Meinert Chenin (FMC), which has done much to raise the profile of South African Chenin Blanc on the world stage.

After a favourable 2010 harvest, Forrester (above) and good friend Martin Meinert opted to use one of the FMC barrels to create an exclusive wine for High Timber. Made in a late harvest style, the sugar content in Moelleux is much higher than in FMC, while the alcohol and acidity levels remain the same. Meinert describes the wine, which is barrel fermented and spends 15 months in oak, as “sweeter, riper, more voluptuous and sensual than FMC.”

Moelleux, which means sweet in French, is expected to arrive at the restaurant next month. “Each year we tend these old vines as best we can and are guided and forced to work in concert with nature, which is totally unpredictable. Occasionally, unpredictable weather patterns can result in disaster or a virtual miracle, the Moelleux we believe is the latter.

“After a fantastic harvest in 2010, we are delighted to present High Timber with its own exclusive FMC. We continue to be honoured at the reputation of the original wine, and hope that the Moelleux will be just as popular,” Said Forrester, who has hosted numerous wine dinners at the St Paul’s site.

With over 40,000 bins, High Timber, co-owned by Gary and Kathy Jordan of Jordan Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, offers one of the widest selections of South African wines in the capital. “To say I am delighted is an understatement. FMC is one of our most popular wines and with the Moelleux made exclusively for us, it’s the new jewel in our cellar,” said the restaurant’s co-owner and sommelier Neleen Strauss.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Legeron: RAW vs Real wine fair rivalry blown out of proportion

Isabelle Legeron MW, organiser of London’s forthcoming RAW wine fair, has spoken out about rumours of rivalry between her and Real Wine Fair organiser Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrène, saying: “Our split wasn’t acrimonious – everything has been blown out of proportion.” As reported on the drinks business, having both helped start up The Natural Wine Fair in London Bridge last year, both Legeron and Wregg are hosting their own natural wine fairs this year, at the same time.

Legeron’s RAW is being held at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane on May 20-21, while Wregg’s Real Wine Fair takes place at Victoria House in Holborn on May 20-22. “We decided the best way to move forward was to call it quits and organise two separate events. It’s a shame they’re both at the same time, hopefully that won’t happen next year,” Legeron said.

“It’s not an ideal situation, it would have been great to do a second Natural Wine Fair like last year. The fact that there are two fairs has got people talking and generated a lot of interest in both, but the rivalry has been exaggerated. I’m looking forward to the speculation on blogs and Twitter calming down so we can both get on with our jobs of organising our respective fairs,” she added.

Wregg agrees that the reaction to the news on blogs and Twitter has been counterproductive: “There has been some nasty blogging going on, trying to drive a wedge into something that should be really positive. Growers are confused by who is issuing the propaganda,” he said, adding, “I’m desperate that both events are successful because it will show there’s great traction with natural wines.”

Both agree that there is space for two natural wine fairs in London: “A natural split has occurred, with Les Caves de Pyrène growers going with the Real Wine Fair. A few producers want to be at both, but it has mainly been an easy decision where to go.

300 producers would have been too many for one show anyway,” said Legeron, who admitted that she doesn’t know when an official definition for natural wine will be decided, despite it being desperately needed. Progress will be made this year but there won’t be a concrete definition for a while, if ever,” she said.

As to whether she and Wregg will ever join forces again, Legeron is unsure: “Let’s get this first fair out of the way and then we’ll have to see. There will probably be two fairs again next year, just hopefully not at the same time.” Both events, planned to coincide with the London Interntional Wine Fair on 22-24 May, will feature around 150 growers, with each devoting a day to consumers.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Aubert & Mascoli

Aubert & Mascoli are the Gilbert & George of the wine world. Parisian Guillaume Aubert (left) sports large black framed glasses and a neatly coiffed beard, while Naples-born Giuseppe Mascoli (right), a philosophy graduate, part-time artist and self-confessed playboy, has short silver curls, a Mediterranean tan and is dressed head to toe in green on our meeting. They make unlikely business partners, but the ebullient Mascoli is the yin to soft-spoken Aubert’s yang. Having built up a successful restaurant business, with a portfolio including Blacks in Soho, pizza institution Franco Manca and neighbourhood Italian Rocca in Dulwich, while working as a sole trader bringing wine into the UK, in 2009 Mascoli joined forces with independent importer Aubert after a tip off by Anita le Roy, owner of Monmouth Coffee Company. “We were doing very similar things and had the same small grower philosophy, so it made sense to work together,” Mascoli tells me over a triple espresso in one of Blacks’ powder blue rooms.

In less than three years the pair have grown the company considerably, and now represent over 35 small growers from Italy and France. Despite their success, they are keen to remain niche. “We need to stand out by bringing in wines not available anywhere else in the UK,” Aubert explains. But with both Germany and Austria boasting impressive natural wine credentials, why do they limit themselves to Italy and France? “It’s what we know,” says Mascoli. “I’m toying with the idea of bringing in Austrian wine, but my knowledge isn’t up to scratch yet.” Aubert admits that they buy with their heart and not their head. “It might not be best for business, but it’s best for us,” he says. Piedmont, Friuli and Tuscany are well represented from Italy, while the Loire, Languedoc and Roussillon make up the majority of the French offering, with cameos from Burgundy, Provence, the Rhône and Champagne. Their best seller is Piedmont-based Valle Unite, Franco Manca’s house wine, which can’t produce enough wine to supply demand.

The pair are pious in their devotion to natural wine, refusing to work with any producers that use sulphites or other additives. “People are trying to shortcut millions of years of history by manipulating wines with selected yeasts. I’d rather a wine have oddities than be tailor-made,” says Mascoli, who compares industrial wines to “cartoon characters” made to please children. “Natural wine is like a silent assassin,” Aubert interjects. “The more you drink, the less you can drink other wines. You start reacting badly to them, coming out in rashes and swelling up from all the sulphites,” he explains animatedly. Though passionate trumpet blowers for the natural wine movement, the duo didn’t set out to create a natural wine company – the focus was always on small growers – but, fittingly, it came about naturally. “The producers we started working with all happened to be natural, organic or biodynamic. It wasn’t by design,” says Aubert, adding: “There’s a libertarian element to the natural wine movement that appeals to me. I like the idea of questioning the status quo. It’s very left wing.”

The duo go on six buying trips a year, visiting restaurants and bars to sniff out the local winemaking talent. They mainly work in the on-trade, supplying top London restaurants and wine bars, including the newly opened Duck Soup in Soho, Terroirs, Hibiscus, Pied à Terre, Galvin La Chapelle and Tom’s Kitchen. “We sell in places where the sommelier is able to explain what natural wine is, as most people don’t know what it means. The definition is a bit blurred at the moment, which is a problem,” Aubert laments. To generate awareness of the brand, the pair took part in the Natural Wine Fair in London Bridge last autumn, and were surprised by the popularity of the event. Aubert believes the natural wine movement has gathered momentum so quickly in London because the city is more prone to the effects of trends than the rest of Europe. While he admits the hype will level out this year, he is adamant that natural wines are here to stay. “They’ve come into fashion due to the rise of the critical drinker. Consumers want to know the origin of everything. There’s more awareness now,” he says.

Mascoli concedes that natural doesn’t necessarily mean good. “There are a lot of really bad natural wines out there. The wines are so delicate, it’s easy to screw them up,” he says. Being a natural winemaker isn’t enough to earn an Aubert & Mascoli listing. “We import wines that are good before they’re anything else. If you have to excuse the wines by saying they’re natural that’s missing the point,” asserts Aubert, who says that to make good natural wine you need to “work like a bastard in the vineyard” and keep your winery “as clean as a hospital”.

Mascoli, meanwhile, believes natural wines require a critical approach. “They’re a bit like the works of Karl Marx: not intended for the masses. Marx was writing for a specific audience with a sufficient level of knowledge to understand and appreciate his work. The same can be said for natural wines,” he suggests. Having submitted work to last year’s Venice Biennale, does Mascoli see parallels with wine and art? “I see wine as the opposite of art,” he says. “God, the artist and the poet create out of nothing. The winemaker works with what is already in existence, acting as a pimp for nature, from the fruit he picks to the soil he respects. The winemaker is a shaman. He doesn’t create, he cures.”

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Chinese names for Bordeaux revealed

Christie’s auction house has unveiled an official translation of the 61 châteaux in the 1855 classification, after a year of discussions with the estates. As reported on, all but four of the châteaux have approved the Chinese translation of their names.

“We have confirmation from all but four châteaux that these Chinese translations are the agreed names for the whole Chinese speaking world,” said Simon Tam (above), Christie’s head of wine in China. “We are trying to make wine as accessible as possible for our clients. Language is the first barrier and we want to break down those barriers,” he added.

The auction house worked with châteaux to agree on a Chinese translation for the 61 estates. Though a small number of châteaux, including Cos d’Estournel, have decided not to take a Chinese name. The translations have been published on a poster (right), which will be unveiled to the trade during the 2012 en primeur week.

The posters will also be given to Christie’s clients and journalists. Tam is hoping that other auction houses and the wider wine trade will adopt the official translation. Christie’s is working on similar translations for properties in Sauternes, the right bank of Bordeaux and Burgundy, which it hopes to release later this year.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Skinnygirl wine set for US launch

Low-calorie cocktail brand Skinnygirl, brainchild of entrepreneur and reality TV star Bethenny Frankel (above), is to expand the brand into wine next month. As reported on, Skinnygirl will launch three low-calorie California wines – a Syrah blend, a Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio blend and a Grenache/Syrah rosé blend, priced at US$15 each. Each of the wines will weigh in at 12% alcohol and 100 calories per 5-ounce serving.

Frankel made her TV debut in American reality show Real Housewives of New York City, and went on to launch a reality spin-off series on Bravo, three books and a career focused on healthy living. Skinnygirl is one of the biggest US drinks industry success stories of 2011. It became one of the fastest-growing brands in the spirits industry on the strength of its flagship low-calorie ready-to-drink margarita, introduced in 2009.

The Skinnygirl margarita sold 90,000 cases in 2010, according to Impact Databank, leading to Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc.'s purchase of the brand in March 2011. Frankel, who remains the face of the brand following the sale, was influential in determining the final blends and flavour profiles of the new line of wines.

"I wanted Skinnygirl to taste approachable, not too dry and not too sweet, a very drinkable blend," she said, adding, "I'm not a wine snob – I've found great wines at Trader Joe's. I didn't want this brand to try to be something it's not.” The wines are made by the California-based Winery Exchange under the direction of winemaker Kurt Lorenzi, who worked closely with both Frankel and Beam to create the blends.

“Looking at wine categories that fit the Skinnygirl consumer – health-conscious women in their ‘30s, we settled on blends. It’s important that we set the blend style in the first vintage," said Lorenzi. The grapes for Skinnygirl come from all over California to facilitate creating a style that can be reproduced year after year regardless of vintage variations. The initial run will be around 200,000 cases.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Wine comes to McDonald's in Mendoza

Mendoza outlets of McDonald’s have started selling wine as part of a value meal. Billed as the "Sabores Mendocinos" menu, the meal, on sale for 47 Argentine pesos (£6.86), includes a double-patty Angus beef burger, two meat empanadas and a 187mL bottle of Bodega Santa Julia Malbec. The label describes the wine as "an intense, balanced wine with aromas of red fruits and spices." I’m lovin’ it.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Dan Aykroyd on wine

In the second part of my interview with Ghostbusters star Dan Aykroyd, he tells me about his wine epiphany while filming The Blues Brothers, opening a treasured bottle of Trotanoy given to him by River Phoenix, and why Canadian ice wine would feature in his death row meal.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

China develops thirst for white

China is developing a growing thirst for white wine, according to Vinexpo. As reported on, red wine still makes up the vast majority of total wine consumption in China (91%), but white wine drinking rose by 19% last year, with 70% further growth expected by 2015.

Last week, the global wine and spirits exhibition group spelt out its views in Shanghai of the fast-developing Chinese wine market. Dominique Heriard Dubreuil, chairman of both Vinexpo and Rémy Cointreau, said China’s developing taste for white wine presents an educational challenge to vintners worldwide.

“In general, Chinese people don’t like to drink something cold, but white wine is not at its best when warm,” she said. According to Vinexpo, last year China overtook Britain as the fifth largest wine market by volume, behind the US, Italy, France and Germany. Consumption of wine on the mainland and Hong Kong rose by 21.5%.

Within three years, greater China will spend more money on still wines than the UK, and become the world’s second biggest wine consumer by value, after the US. Vinexpo expects China to consume over a billion more bottles annually between now and 2015 – a further 54% increase.

China is also on track to become the world’s biggest Cognac market by 2016, Vinexpo says, forecasting 47% growth between 2011-2015. China is already Cognac’s second largest market, after France. But recently Chinese buyers have complained of having trouble finding the extra-premium spirits they prefer. “In China, people want very old Cognacs, but global inventories of are not extensive,” said Heriard Dubreuil.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Drew Barrymore wine

Hollywood starlet Drew Barrymore has joined the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Madonna, Dan Aykroyd and Antonio Banderas by launching her own wine, in a move that hints wine may be gaining ground on perfume as the next big celebrity trend.

As reported on, Barrymore 2011 Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie IGT, a 12% abv crisp, dry and fruity white, is made from grapes grown in the Veneto, Friuli and Alto Adige in northern Italy. Barrymore, known for her roles in films such as Charlie’s Angels, Never Been Kissed, 50 First Dates and E.T., said she wanted to create a “fresh, dynamic and fun” wine that reflected her style and personality.

“Wine is all about the journey, the discovery of new places and new varieties,” she said, adding, “I’m excited about sharing this Pinot Grigio with my friends and family and other wine lovers.” According to Barrymore’s California-based distributor, Wilson Daniels, the wine has a pale straw colour and offers hints of “fresh apricot and lively citrus flavours”.

The label – designed by street artist Shepard Fairey, creator of the famous 2008 red and blue Barack Obama “Hope” poster – features the Barrymore family crest. The wine, which is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, will launch in California at US$19.99 a bottle, before expanding its distribution across the US later in the year.

Friday, 17 February 2012

RAW artisan wine fair comes to London

An artisan wine fair for fine, organic and biodynamic wines dubbed “RAW”, will launch in London this May. As reported on, the event will take place at the Old Truman Brewery in East London on 20-21 May, and will feature over 150 growers. Classic regions such as Burgundy, Bordeaux and Piedmont will be represented, as well as newcomers like Georgia and Serbia.

Organised by Isabelle Legeron MW (above), co-founder of last year’s Natural Wine Fair at Borough Market in London Bridge, RAW aims to build on the success of the Natural Wine Fair by acting as an independent event open to all producers, importers and official bodies. International grower associations La Renaissance des Appellations and VinNatur will be taking part, bringing with them growers from across the globe.

“My aim is to promote transparency in the wine world in order to support the art of authentic wine production. I want to help people think about what they drink’,” said Legeron. RAW is enforcing a charter of quality that all exhibitors must adhere to – in order for a wine to be on show at the fair, all grapes must have been farmed organically or biodynamically, only indigenous yeasts used and the sulphur levels must be clearly labelled on the bottle.

The fair will include talks from a number of wine expects, including biodynamic ambassador Nicolas Joly of La Coulée de Serrant in Savennières, and José Vouillamoz, co-author of Jancis Robinson MW's forthcoming book The Grape. There will also be a pop-up wine shop.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Dan Aykroyd, Crystal Head vodka

I was lucky enough to meet the legend that is Dan Aykroyd this week, who was in town to promote the UK launch of his Crystal Head vodka, which has sold an impressive two million bottles since its launch in 2008. I caught up with The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters star at the American Bar at The Stafford Hotel to find out the story behind the skull bottle, why he chose to make a vodka over a Tequila or white rum, and whether or not he believes in ghosts.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Garage Wine Company

Wine and the City talks to Quentin Tarantino look-alike Derek Mossman Knapp of the Garage Wine Company at Quo Vadis in Soho, about his old vine Carignan project, the potential for sparkling wine in Chile, and why the future of Chilean wine lies in the mountain regions.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Motörhead Shiraz banned in Iceland

Iceland’s public sector alcohol retail monopoly (ÁTVR), has banned sales of Motörhead Shiraz in the country because the name “Motörhead” is apparently a nod to amphetamine abuse. As reported on, ATVR has refused to sell the Australian wine – Launched by the British rock band’s frontman Lemmy Kilmister – in the 48 Vínbúðin off-licences it owns across the country.

In defence of the move, the company said the wine promoted an unhealthy lifestyle due to references to war, unsafe sex and substance abuse in Motörhead songs. The wine’s Icelandic importer, Hjörleifur Árnason, has launched an appeal against the ban. Although ÁTVR has a monopoly on alcohol retail in Iceland, importers and distributors are able to deal directly with bars, restaurants and cafés, meaning the wine could still be sold in the country and can expect a higher profile following the controversy.

The band, which has been together for 37 years, has given its name to Motörhead Shiraz, as well as several other products, including Motörhead Vodka and Motörhead Rosé. Last March, Árnason applied for a licence to sell Motörhead Shiraz in Vínbúðin outlets. The application was rejected by ÁTVR on the grounds that the message accompanying the product was negative.

Árnason now fears that further celebrity wines will be banned in Iceland, including those by the Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Elvis Presley. Motorhead Shiraz was first released in Sweden in 2010, and has sold 120,000 bottles to date. Great Wine Online is currently selling the South Eastern Australian wine for £14.50 a bottle in the UK, describing it on the website as “fruity, with hints of blackberry, plum, eucalyptus and liquorice.”

Monday, 13 February 2012

d'Arenberg celebrates 100th birthday

Quirky McLaren Vale winery d’Arenberg marks 100 years of family ownership this year, and, as reported on the drinks business, chief winemaker Chester Osborn is keen to take the centenary celebrations around the world. “We’ll be hosting dinners and parties all over the world. We want to involve as many people as possible, we can’t think of a better excuse to have a party,” he said. The celebrations kicked off last week with a party hosted by the company’s 84-year-old managing director, d’Arry Osborn (left).

Chester has released a celebratory fizz called Dadd, made of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, to mark the centenary. Though milestone is worth making a noise about, Osborn, who is currently nursing a torn Achilles tendon, believes it represents a moment in a much longer journey. "I'm just the custodian at this time, preparing to pass it on," he said.

Established in April 1912 by teetotaler and racehorse owner Joseph Osborn, four generations of the Osborn family have worked the property and shaped the family business into its current form. d’Arry took over from his father in 1943 aged 16. During his tenure, he initiated the red stripe on the labels and championed Grenache. “Things were very different in those days. We worked with horses as we didn’t have a tractor. The winemaking was also a lot more agricultural,” he said.

d’Arry handed over the reins to his son, Chester, in 1983 after he graduated. At the helm, Chester’s main aim has been driving a focus on premium wines, while maintaining the techniques used by his ancestors. d’Arenberg now exports to over sixty countries and has become one of Australia’s best-known wine brands, its wines easily recognised by their diagonal red stripe and eccentric names, like The Stump Jump, Dead Arm, Hermit Crab, Love Grass and Laughing Magpie.

Osborn believes the quirky names keep the d'Arenberg brand fresh. "My father stopped saying “no more labels” about 20 years ago when he realised they increased our story," he said. The winery plans to release a number of new labels this summer, including a single vineyard Shiraz and a rosé called Stephanie the Gnome, taking its total count up to 60.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Artisan & Vine closes

Battersea wine bar and shop Artisan & Vine has been forced to close due to a lack of demand for local and natural wines. As reported on, founder of the southwest London venture Kathryn O’Mara said that sticking to her principles on natural and local wines and food cost her the business. “But changing to a more generic option would have cost us Artisan & Vine," she said.

O’Mara also cited reduced consumer spend combined with a neighbourhood location as having contributed to the closure. “As the prospect of recession came closer, it became clear that success on our neighbourhood street would require moving away from my vision of local and natural wines and food. Artisan wines and food simply couldn't compete on cost with their mass produced and chemically manipulated counterparts,” O’Mara said.

"It became evident that a suburban location in this economic climate was not right for our concept,” she added. Trends towards drinking at home helped increase off-licence sales for the business, but the wine bar rent and overheads demanded a higher ratio of on-premise sales. Artisan & Vine has won numerous awards at international wine competitions for its championing of home grown English wines.

"We leave proud in the knowledge that so many people enjoyed so many occasions – special and every day – within our humble walls. We are eternally grateful for the amazing support we've received from the wine industry, awarding bodies, neighbourhood traders and the most adventurous and enthusiastic customers and staff a wine bar could ever hope for," O'Mara said. A note from O’Mara on the website’s homepage reads: “Unfortunately Artisan & Vine has ceased trading. We’d love to thank you all for a wonderful three and a half years on St John’s Hill.”

Friday, 10 February 2012

Bottle Apostle to open second site

Independent wine merchant Bottle Apostle in Victoria Park is to open a second site in North London. Larger than its East London older sibling, the new site in Crouch End, set to open at the end of March, will stock over 500 wines. As reported on, the range will be very similar to the original shop, but will feature 50 more reds and 50 more whites. In keeping with Bottle Apostle's try before you buy philosophy, it will also offer 16 wines by the sip from two Enomatics.

“Our other site has four Enomatics, but we’re going to do things a bit differently here, and change the wines on offer almost every day,” owner Andrew Eakin said. “We looked at sites in Primrose Hill, but decided on Crouch End because it’s got a village feel to it. There are other wine shops in the area, but that doesn’t scare us,” Eakin added.

Food will play an important role at the new store – Eakin plans to host two wine-themed supper clubs a week for up to 20 people. “I’ve ordered a huge kitchen, which will live at the back of the shop. We’re already in talks with Nuno Mendez of Viajante and chef collective The Young Turks, who are keen to host supper clubs,” Eakin said.

The shop, which will also stock a range of rare spirits and specialist beers, will be run by Bottle Apostle Victoria Park manager Christopher Sherwood, who is currently is recruiting a new team. Despite finding it hard to find staff for the new venture, Eakin is optimistic about the current state of wine on the UK high street.

“We have the most loyal customers in the world and our sales are up 30% on last year. People are sick of buying bad supermarket wine, but they don’t want to feel looked down on at snooty wine merchants. We’re all about making wine buying simple and fun,” he said. Eakin plans to open a further four sites and turn Bottle Apostle into a small chain, insisting his third site will “definitely” be in West London.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Beaujolais Boys revisited

As reported back in June on Wine and the City , a quiet revolution is taking place in Beaujolais. Looking to capitalise on the success of the much-lauded 2009 vintage are a troop of dynamic young winemakers, aged between 25-35, who are re-energising the region with their experimental, forward-thinking approach and determination to make characterful wines with a sense of place. Not only are they poster boys for the region; they’re an exciting sign of things to come. Read on for a profile of 10 young winemakers to watch, originally published on

Charly Thévenet, Age: 28

With his poster-boy good looks, Charly Thévenet (above) would look more at home on a catwalk than in a vineyard, but the 28-year-old couldn’t be more serious about wine. He keeps things simple, producing just one wine – a 100% Gamay from three hectares of 80-year-old vines in Régnié. The resulting Grain & Granite, which is aged for four years in old Burgundian barriques, has already caught the eye of American wine author and importer Kermit Lynch, who has snapped it up for the US market. The son of famous “Gang of Four” Morgon producer Jean-Paul Thévenet, Charly, who worked a harvest with Piedmont producer Luigi Pira before a stint with the late “Pope of natural wine” Marcel Lapierre in Morgon, chose Régnié as his canvas because he believes the terroir-driven cru has tremendous potential, the pink granite soils producing aromatic wines with a mineral core that show a good balance between freshness, solid acidity and structure. “I wanted to do something different and put Régnié on the map,” he says. “It’s an exciting time for Beaujolais. There’s a lot of unity between the younger generation and more of an open door philosophy.”

Richard Rottiers, Age: 34

Curly redhead Richard Rottiers took over 3.15-ha of Moulin-á-Vent vineyards aged between 40 and 80 years old in 2007. Keen to produce wines that reflect its unique terroir, he now owns 4 hectares in the cru village, where he hopes to be certified organic by 2014. Rottiers has chalked up vintages all over the world, including Chablis, California, South Africa, New Zealand, and more locally, Brouilly. His style of winemaking is traditional, with partial use of CO2 and the use of a soft extraction process. After press, wines are transferred into vats and barrels for the malolactic fermentation and aging process: 6 months for the traditional Moulin-á-Vent, 10 months for the Moulin-á-Vent Champ de Cour. Rottiers settled in the region after falling in love there and says that through his relationship with local girl Corinne, he has developed a passion for the land and its history.

Edouard Parinet, Age: 27

Baby-faced Edouard Parinet is in charge of the development of Château du Moulin-à-Vent, the emblematic domain of the Moulin-à-Vent appellation bought by his father in 2009. The estate stretches over 30 hectares of vines in the heart of the cru village and its vineyard plots, including Champ de Cour, La Rochelle and Les Vérillats, boast some of the best terroir in the appellation. Parinet works solely with Gamay, and, thanks to Moulin-à-Vent’s iron-rich soil, the terroir produces Gamay to rival the Pinot Noirs of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune in neighbouring Burgundy. Parinet aims to express the nuances of Moulin-à-Vent’s terroir through his wines, with Croix des Vérillats, grown on sandy soil with a high exposure to the sun, and Champ de Cour, made on argilous soil, coming from two unique terroir parcels within the granite-dominant region.

Julien Merle, Age: 31

Colin Farrell lookalike Julien Merle is a lone star shining on the periphery of the Beaujolais region. Taking the reins at his family property eight years ago aged 23, he produces small amounts of old vine natural wine from eight hectares in Légny in the south of the region. The charismatic 31-year-old is passionate about promoting the quality of southern Beaujolais: “There’s a lot of snobbery towards the south in the north. They think we’re not up to scratch,” he admits. Merle makes five wines, and is keen to keep production down in order to focus on quality. His top wine, Cuvée Philibert, is made from old vines and aged for eight months in French oak barriques. All the wines in his range display bright fruit, freshness and uplifting acidity, proving that southern Beaujolais can compete with the crus in the quality stakes. Like many of the new generation, Merle is keen to champion natural winemaking – all of his wines are sulphite free. “I want to share the taste of my land through my wines,” he says.

Aurélien Grillet, Age: 25

Acquiring 2 hectares in the Les Charmes climat of Morgon, fresh-faced Aurélien Grillet set up Domaine du Chardon Bleu next to his father’s estate in 2007. Dedicated to organic principles, Grillet ferments grapes from his old vines using naturally occurring yeasts or additives. After a two-week maceration period the wines finish their fermentation in tank and are rested during winter then bottled without filtration, sulphur or additives. The ambitious 25-year-old producers two wines: Les Charmes, made from 55-year-old vines, and his top cuvée, Vieilles Vignes, from 110-year-old vines and low yields of around 10hl/ha, which is aged on fine lees for a year before bottling. Grillet believes there is “no great wine without respect for the land on which the vine thrives, grows and gives its fruit.” He sees it as his duty to preserve the land and keep it alive through sustainable practices.

Paul-Henri Thillardon, Age: 25

Deciding to break away from his father’s cooperative, Paul-Henri Thillardon makes wines in the Burgundian style from six hectares of old vines in Chénas. The enterprising 25-year-old negotiated a deal to rent both the vines and the corresponding winery – a renovated space dating back to the 18th century, from a local doctor, whom he part pays in wine. Having studied winemaking in Hermitage, Thillardon is passionate about making wines of character, which he does through extended maceration. He is currently experimenting with soil types, including pink granite, schist, granitic and alluvium. Thillardon’s range comprises four wines, but he’s experimenting with many more, including an as yet unnamed barrel-fermented Viognier. As with many of the new generation, Thillardon is dedicated to organics and has taken to using horses instead of tractors in the vineyard. He chose to make wine in Chénas as he believes it to be the cru with the brightest future: “Chénas has extraordinary terroir, the region has incredible potential,” he enthuses. “I want to change Beaujolais’ image. I want to show how diverse it can be. I’m proud of my heritage.”

Mathieu Mélinand, Age: 26

Tall, dark and handsome Mathieu Mélinand is chief winemaker at his family's 20-hectare pink granate and sand property Domaine des Marrans in Fleurie, which boasts vines up to 120-years-old. Mélinand is a purist, vinifying each parcel separately for maximum expression. He also macerates his wines for up to three weeks for higher concentration. Although the domaine is a Fleurie specialist, with vineyards covering 10 hectares in different climats, it also produces a Morgon, Juliénas, Beaujolais-Villages from the steep slopes of Jullié, Chiroubles from a slope named Les Côtes and a Beaujolais from the south of the region near Saint Jean d’Ardières. Each wine is matured on fine lees then bottled at the domaine for six to ten months.

Cyril Picard, Age: 35

Angelic-looking Cyril Picard manages his family estate, Château de Cercy, in Denicé. Having been in the hands of the Picard family since 1908, the 35-year-old is on a mission to prove that Gamay need not equal wimpy wines by producing gutsy, structured, barrel-aged, old vine reds from his 33-hectare estate taking in Brouilly and Moulin-à-Vent, where the average vine age is 80-100 years old. Picard, who started winemaking aged just 22, is also proving his mettle in the white wine arena with a pair of oak-aged Chardonnays. While all the wines in his extensive range are unique, they have a signature style: big, bold and well structured, with bright black fruit and a savoury core. Picard, who has worked stints in Germany, the Côte Rôtie, Condrieu and Saint-Joseph, admits making wines with big personality from Gamay can be tough: “It’s a thousand times more difficult to make great Gamay in Beaujolais than great Syrah in Saint-Joseph.” In this vein, he wants to limit production in order to focus on quality. His top wine, the 14.75% Moulin-à-Vent “Premium” is produced in miniscule amounts – just 780 bottles last year, which are all numbered and signed.

Fabien Chasselay, Age: 27

With three years as chief winemaker at his family property, Domaine Chasselay, under his belt, wine alchemist Fabien Chasselay has begun to experiment with a variety of styles, making everything from a nutty white Beaujolais to an 8% abv sparkling Gamay and a 100% Pinot Noir, while his barrel-aged Morgon and Fleurie have been taken on by online organic wine pioneers Vintage Roots. Having worked stints in Rutherglen, Australia, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the daring young winemaker’s latest trick is a sweet wine made from Cognac and partially fermented grape must named La Mistelle d’Améthyste after Bacchus’ girlfriend. “I like to keep challenging myself," he says. “A lot of my wines are purely experimental. When I get bored, I invent a new wine.” At the domaine, where he makes wine from organically certified grapes with his sister Claire, weedkillers have been replaced with infusions of lavender, horsetail, seaweed and nettle. Despite having a 15-strong range, production remains small at just 5,000 cases a year from 11 hectares across Morgon, Fleurie, Brouilly and Chénas.

Julien Sunier, Age: 35

The exuberant Julien Sunier set up his winery high in the hills of Avénas in 2008, producing Fleurie (1.10 hec), Régnié (1.1 hec) and Morgon (0.8 hec) from old vines. The vineyards are farmed organically and Sunier adopts a natural approach to winemaking using minimal intervention and very little sulphur during bottling. Grapes are fermented in concrete vats in whole bunches using indigenous yeasts. The resulting juice is then aged in both tank and barrel for the Régnié and just barrel for the Fleurie and Morgon. The green-minded winemaker is passionate about terroir and believes wines should be made for instant enjoyment rather than for laying down for decades. As well as wine, Sunier also produces saucisson and is converting his farmhouse into a B&B, which he hopes to open next year.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Cadogan launches £25,000 Champagne bath

Knightsbridge hotel the Cadogan has launched a Champagne bath menu in time for Valentine’s Day, and is offering a Dom Pérignon 2002 bath for £25,000. As reported on, the 122-bottle Champagne bath starts at £4,000 for a soak in Louis de Custine Brut 1998. Available to hotel guests from 14 February, and running for a year, while the bath is drawn, an optional “bath butler” will be on hand to pour the submerged guest a one of six complimentary bottles offered with the service, and serve chocolate covered strawberries.

Along with Dom Pérignon and Louis de Custine Brut, customers can choose from the Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut 2002 bath for £6,000, the Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé 2004 bath for £8,000, or the Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label 2006 bath for £8,000. “We’ve had surprising amounts of interest in the baths already,” the Cadogan’s sales and marketing director Lee Jones said. “Most of the interest has been at the top end. We’ve already had one guest pay the deposit for the Dom Pérignon bath,” Jones added.

The service, which can also be booked by external customers, was devised by recently-appointed general manager Will Oakley as the “ultimate indulgence” to mark the five star hotel’s 125th anniversary. Shortly after opening in 1887, the hotel served as the setting for actress Lillie Langtry’s courting of the future King Edward VII. Oscar Wilde was also famously arrested in room 118 in 1895.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Jackson Family Wines acquires Clarendon

Jackson Family Wines has bought the revered Clarendon vineyard in McLaren Vale – the source some of Australia’s finest Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. As reported in the drinks business, although no purchase price was announced, industry sources estimate it was sold for more than US$10m. “It says something that an iconic American wine company wants to have a stake in Australia and in the Clarendon Hills,” said David Hickinbotham, who managed the family vineyard. California-based Jackson Family Wines is keen to add more high-end estates to its portfolio and is eyeing up opportunities in South Africa.

The sale of the 180-hectare estate, which has grown grapes for wines including Penfolds Grange, Eileen Hardy and Clarendon Hills, comprises 84 planted acres on rolling hillsides, and two homes. The Hickinbotham family put the site up for sale in 2010 after the death of Alan Hickinbotham, David’s father, who bought the estate several decades ago and greatly expanded the plantings. “We had six offers and we all agreed that this was the best fit,” Hickinbotham said.

Clarendon Hills proprietor Roman Bratasiuk, who labeled single-vineyard Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings as Hickinbotham Vineyard, will continue to have rights to the same portions of the vineyard under terms of the sale to Jackson. “They didn’t have to do that,” Hickinbotham noted, “but they agreed to honor what was a handshake agreement for the past 15 years.”

One of the first vineyards planted at elevation in South Australia, Clarendon was established in 1858 and has vines dating back to 1923. The estate includes an 8,000-square-foot stone mansion and an earth sheltered house built into a hillside, designed by celebrated German architect Gerhard Schurer in 1981. Jackson plans to convert both buildings into hospitality houses for guests.

Katie Jackson, daughter of the company’s late founder Jess Jackson, and current chairwoman Barbara Banke, will be responsible for the Clarendon property. “We see more interest in Australian wines, especially at the top end,” Jackson said. “My father taught me that it’s all about the vineyard, and this was a great opportunity to add a special one. I know how beautiful the area is, and how great the wines can be. I have high hopes,” she added.

Monday, 6 February 2012

LVMH profit boosted by wine and spirits

The world's largest luxury goods group, LVMH, reported a 1% rise in 2011 net profit this week, as the company continues to show strong growth in its wine and spirits division, despite economic uncertainty in Europe. As reported on the drinks business, the group’s net profit topped €3 billion as sales jumped 16% last year, driven mainly by spending in Asia. "I'm going to be a bit repetitive because 2011 was an excellent year like 2010, and like I hope 2012 will be," said chief executive Bernard Arnault.

"After an exceptional 2011, LVMH is well-equipped to continue its growth momentum across all divisions in 2012. Its strategy will remain focused on developing brands through strong innovation, quality and expansion in high potential markets," he added. The French group’s portfolio includes Champagne brands Dom Pérignon, Krug, Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon, Château d’Yquem in Sauternes, and Château Cheval Blanc in St Emilion. It also owns Glenmorangie and Ardbeg whiskies, and Belvedere vodka.

LVMH's robust performance sets high expectations for the luxury goods industry. "It's somewhat of a paradox to say that 2011 was a year of global prosperity, but we are lucky to export most of our products," Arnault said. The company’s latest figures show that the European debt crisis hasn't triggered a slowdown in the US. In the fourth quarter, sales in Europe rose 3%, but the strongest growth came from the US and Asia, excluding Japan.

Arnault doesn't see an end to LVMH's good fortune. "Barring a major accident and despite the difficulties in Europe, the world economy is growing and the world wants more and more of our products," he said. The company’s fashion division, which includes brands such as Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and Dior, also showed strong growth.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Wine of the Week: Ornellaia 2008

Welcome to a new section of Wine and the City – Wine of the Week, where each week I will taste and rate a different wine from around the world. While I’ll endeavour to make the majority affordable and accessible, I’m starting the section on a high note with a very special wine, Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore 2008.

One of the three so-called “Super Tuscans”, along with Sassicaia and Solaia, it’s easy to forget the estate of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia was founded a mere 31 years ago in 1981 by Lodovico Antinori, who chose an unspoilt patch in the hills near the medieval hamlet of Bolgheri, set in a triangle formed by the Tyrrhenian Sea, Bolgheri and the town of Castagneto Carducci. The ambition was to create fine wines to rival the best in the world. Since establishing the estate, Lodovico has passed the baton on to current owner, the Marchesi de Frescobaldi.

Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore is the estate’s flagship wine, produced since 1985 from select, hand picked parcels across the estate’s 97 hectares of limestone-rich calcerous soils. Made from a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc and a 3% dash of Petit Verdot, while showing beautifully now, the 2008 vintage is one for lying down. The 2008 growing season was marked by a wet spring, which lead to low yields of high concentration. The summer was hot, but temperatures cooled at night, allowing for the development of colour, aromatics and phenolic ripeness in the Cabernet Sauvignon, resulting in a bold, structured wine built for ageing.

Crafted by German winemaker Axel Heinz, after the grapes are gently crushed, the wine is fermented in French oak barrels (70% new) then aged in small barriques for 18 months, followed by a year of bottle ageing. An intense deep purple, the nose is full of ripe blackberries and black cherries alongside tobacco, balsamic and herbal notes, and hints of dark chocolate, mocha, tar and spices. The Cabernet dominant palate is dense, concentrated, textured and giving. Fleshy, soft and opulent, with a sweetness to the fruit, it’s a Rubens of a wine, with velvety, fine-grained tannins and a lightening bolt of minerality running through it. Firm yet racy, with a liquorice finish and incredible length, it’s a clever balance of power and elegance made very much in the international style, which will go on happily for 20 years.

Wine and the City rating: 18/20.

Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore 2008 is available from Berry Bros & Rudd, Harper Wells and The Wine Society for £100-120 a bottle.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Rolland collaborates on charity wine

Bordeaux go-to consultant Michel Rolland has partnered with international charity Wine to Water on a South African wine that will help provide thousands of Ethiopians access to clean water. As reported on the drinks business, Bonne Nouvelle 2003, a Cabernet, Merlot and Pinotage blend from Stellenbosch, means "good news" in French.

US$20 from every bottle sold will go directly to Wine To Water to dig deep bore wells in the Dale region of Southern Ethiopia, where 6 out of 10 people lack access to clean water. The project's initial goal is to raise US$40,000 – enough to fund four wells, providing permanent water access for over 8,000 people. Ethiopia is currently battling a water crisis, with millions struggling to survive every day due to drought and contaminated water.

California winery and importer Montesquieu Wines is facilitating the project by distributing the wine in the US at no charge. Owner Fonda Hopkins, who works separately with Michel Rolland and Wine to Water founder Doc Hendley on other projects, brought the pair together. "Michel and Doc come from very different backgrounds, but both are so passionate about life and committed to excellence that the partnership was a natural fit,” she said.

“It's wonderful to see some of the top players in the wine community step up to the plate to make a difference,” said Hendley, whose charity has provided water to over 100,000 people in twelve countries, including Sudan, India, Cambodia, Uganda and Kenya. Hendley is currently touring the States promoting his book Wine to Water: A Bartender's Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World, published by Penguin.

Michel Rolland is one of the most influential winemakers in the world. He consults for over 100 properties, including Angélus and Ausone in Bordeaux, Ornellaia in Tuscany and Harlan Estate in California. Bonne Nouvelle is available at for US$39.