Highlights from the Washington State and Oregon tasting

washington state oregon tasting

These were some of the highlights from this week’s Washington State and Oregon tasting. Some really lovely wines from the Pacific Northwest.


Gramercy Cellars Forgotten Hills Syrah 2014 Walla Walla, Washington State, USA
From the coolest vineyard in Walla Walla this is a deliciously nuanced Syrah made from grapes harvested in October. It’s fresh, livey and peppery with supple black cherry fruit and some black pepper with a subtle, integrated hint of green. A lovely, vital wine. 94/100


Cristom Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Oregon, USA
A fifth of this vineyard is on deep sedimentary soils, and this accounts for some of the palate weight. Expressive and quite structured at the same time with rich, spicy raspberry and cherry friuit. Appealing sweet fruit here and some finesse. 93/100

The Hedges crew: Sarah, Boo and Christoph

The Hedges crew: Sarah, Boo and Christoph


Hedges Family Estate La Haute Cuvée 2013 Red Mountain, Washington State, USA
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, farmed biodynamically. Supple and textured with very fine blackcurrant and black cherry fruit. Good structure here. Very expressive and balanced with lovely supple black fruits. 94/100

Josh Bergström

Josh Bergström


Bergström Sigrid Chardonnay 2014 Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
This is lovely: detailed, elegant and mineral with real finesse to the complex, mineral citrus fruits. Nice intensity here on the palate. 95/100


Beckham Estate Amphora Pinot Gris 2015 Oregon, USA
This is remarkable. 40 days on skins results in a full pink/red colour. Powerful, appley and lemony with nice texture and a stony, mineral quality under the fruit. Broad but with fresh acidity. So many details here: tea leaves, spice and herbs. So complex. 94/100


Bow & Arrow Air Guitar Red 2015 Oregon, USA
This is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc, and it’s fabulous. Vivid and pure with bright raspberry and blackcurrant fruit. Purity, structure and concentration with a rasping raspberry finish. Beautiful. 94/100


Minimus Muller Thurgau Pet Nat Vitae Springs 2015 Oregon, USA
Now for something a little different: a methode ancestrale from Muller Thurgau. It’s highly aromatic with sweet, textured, slightly creamy grape and pear fruit. Smooth, pretty and a but grippy. 92/100


Kelley Fox Wines Montmazi Pinot Noir 2014 Oregon, USA
Fresh and fine with juicy cherry and raspberry fruit. Good structure. This is primary and very detailed with nice freshness and purity of fruity. It’s a little fuller than Kelley’s other wines, but still very much on the low extraction, elegant end of the spectrum. 95/100


Ovum Wines Whale Memorista Riesling 2015 Rogue Valley, Oregon, USA
From the south of the state, at altitude, from alluvial clay soils. This is fermented for 6 months in concrete eggs. Very lively with lovely citrus (marmalade and tangerine) notes. Shows great concentration with a lingering, lemony finish. Such lovely texture and intensity here. 94/100


Two Vintners Syrah 2014 Washington State, USA
This is a strikingly aromatic wine with an open, sweet, meaty olive-laced nose. Very floral and enticing. The palate is sweet, meaty and spicy with ripe berries, olive tapenade and warm herbs. Ripe and seductive, flirting with over-ripeness but getting away with it. 93/100


Cadence Ciel de Cheval Vineyard 2013 Red Mountain, Washington State, USA
This Bordeaux-style blend is lively and bright with fresh red berry and black cherry fruit as well as an appealing spiciness. Lovely fruit expression and some subtle herby notes. Ripe but with elegance. 93/100


Domaine Serene Jerusalem Hill Pinot Noir 2013 Oregon, USA
I struggle a bit with the size of Domaine Serene’s Chardonnays, but their Pinot Noirs are very fresh and supple. This is rounded and berryish with a sappy edge to the supple red fruits. Has finesse as well as good concentration. 94/100


The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014 Oregon, USA
This is such a lovely wine, very much in the understated, elegant Eyrie style. Supple with real finesse to the red cherry fruits, coupled with some savoury, grippy structure. Great balance and drinkability. 94/100

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Fun in Athens: a wine shop and two wine bars

giannis vertigo

I really enjoyed Athens. On the first evening we popped into Mr Vertigo, a brilliant wine shop (and importing company) run by Giannis Signos (above). He gave us a taste of some Greek wines from a producer in Cephalonia, and they were just brilliant.


Sclavos Vino di Sasso Robola de Céphalonie 2015 Greece
From limestone soils. Amazing precision with a fresh acid core and some richness of texture. It’s linear and the acid is so well integrated with the pear and table grape notes. Smoky and mineral in the background, but also so generous. 94/100

Sclavos Synodos 2014 Cephalonia, Greece
This is a red wine that’s a blend of Mavrodaphne with a bit of white grape Vostilidi. It’s from ungrafted vines aged 40 years or more. It’s beautifully floral, ripe and sweet wth silky berry fruits. Very smooth with some peppery detail and lovely finesse to the ripe, lush fruits. 93/100

Sclavos Metagnition 2014 Cephalonia, Greece
This is 100% Vostilidi. It’s an orange colour with intense, nutty, spicy flavours of grapes, pears, melons and whisky. Lovely weight to this unusual, rich, textural wine. Some almonds, too. 93/100

Konstantinos and Georgis

Konstantinos and George

Then it was off to dinner with Konstantinos Lazarakis, Stellios Boutari (of Kir Yianni) and George Skouras (Domaine Scours). We tried a few nice wines, as well as eating well.



Skouras Salto Mavrofilrero Wild Yeast 2015 Peloponnese, Greece
From a 700 m plateau, this was harvested in the second week of October. It’s a black-skinned clone of Moscofilero, made as a white wine. Very linear and pure with great acidity and attractive pear and citrus fruit. Juicy and fruity with nice presence. 90/100

Karadimos Family Palaiokastra Malagousia 2015 Atalanti, Greece
Linear, stony, generous and rich with some pear and melon fruit. Fine spices with some ripe apple notes. A rich, fruit-driven white with some oxidative hints and nice depth. Distinctive. 91/100

Hatzidakis Nyxtepi Assyrtiko 2014 Santorini, Greece
A late-harvested Assyrtiko weighing in at 15% alcohol. Overnight skin contact lends this a deep colour, and it’s oak aged for 15 months, only partially topped. Intense, spicy and vivid with some marmalade and citrus, as well as keen acidity. Rich and powerful, yet with some freshness, spiciness and good acidity. 91/100

kir yianni ramnista

Kir-Yianni Ramnista Xinomavro 2015 Naoussa, Greece
14.5% alcohol. This is vivid with a bit of mint and spice, as well as fresh raspberry and black cherry fruit. Smooth and stylish, this is a ripe interpretation of Xinomavro, with just a bit of its trademark tannic grip on the finish, lurking under the attractive fruit. 91/100

skouras mega oenos

Skouras Megas Oenos 2003 Nemea, Greece
12.5% alcohol. This was the first ‘super-Nemea’ wine, and it’s a blend of 80% Agiorgitiko and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, first made in 1986. It’s aromatic, sweet and leathery with black cherries, plums and lovely ripe fruit. There’s an elegant, mature character with herbs, leather, black cherries and blackberry fruit. Textural, mature and stylish, and drinking well now. 93/100

The next evening, we popped into two very impressive wine bars. First was By The Glass. Here we tried three wines, including a pair of older Assyrtikos.


Apla Dry Rosé Wine 2016 Drama, Greece
From the far north, this is a blend of Xinomavro and Cabernet Sauvignon. Really nice texture to this dry rosé, which is rounded and stony with fresh red cherries and a hint of strawberry and pear. Nice texture: dry with real finesse. 90/100


Gaia Estate Assyrtiko ‘Thalassitis’ 2011 Santorini, Greece
Really expressive and open with a creamy edge to the nutty citrus fruit and some lovely minerally acidity under the developed fruit. Expressive with real interest. Lovely purity and a citrussy finish, as well as almond hints. 92/100


Sigalas Assyrtiko 2008 Santorini, Greece
Pale in colour. Pure and linear with a lovely salty, mineral edge to the citrus fruit, with a hint of nice reduction. There’s a bit of candied richness here and some subtle toast. So pure and linear. Drinking beautifully now. 93/100


The second stop was a lovely wine bar with a more natural bent called Heteroclito. Here we had a gorgeous natural white.


Ligas Kidonitsa Barrique 2015 Pella, Greece
This is made by taking the end off a barrel and fermenting the white grapes as if they were red. It’s a deep orange colour, with a bronze hint. Marmalade, spice, nuts and pears with some grip under the tangerine and lemon fruit. Some cold tea character and a bit of fruit sweetness, with nicely integrated tannins. Lovely stuff. 93/100

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On beginnings and endings, and making sense of loss


Everything has a beginning; everything has an end.

There are beginnings of endings and endings of beginnings.

I’ve been thinking about these things for a while. A couple of weeks ago I was on Vancouver Island, sitting on a beach in Ross Bay, Victoria. It was a beautiful, still, late winter day, with milky sunshine just about winning over the high clouds. The sea was calm. I sat on the stony beach and played with the stones, got lost in the moment, and stared at the sea. Just a short distance from shore a couple of Orcas kept surfacing and disappearing. I’d never seen an Orca in the wild before.


I thought about beginnings and endings. We’re good at beginnings; not so good with endings. We pretend that endings don’t exist. We go into denial. This isn’t healthy, because when endings come along, we are devastated. We can’t handle loss. Why did this happen to me?


Our egos place us at the centre of the world. At the centre of all time. Isn’t this all about us? So we struggle greatly with the passage of time: ageing, the ultimate loss. Our culture doesn’t know how to deal with ageing, and the gradual loss of attributes that it values so highly. In a society where youth is worshipped, celebrities go to all sorts of surgical lengths to preserve their appearances: the illusion of youth in an old body.


We don’t know what to do with our old, so we try to hide them away. They remind us of the inevitable passage of time. And death scares us. In our horror at being reminded that our stay here is just temporary, we can’t allow ourselves to celebrate the life of one who just passed, so instead we enter solemn mourning and try to get it all over with as quickly as possible.


But the truth is this: the end is part of the beginning. If we are to live life properly, we must integrate endings into beginnings. We must acknowledge that all is temporary: that we will have an ending just as we had a beginning, and seasons of our lives will begin and then end. Integrate the end into the beginning, and live in the present. Then we will be able to deal with loss. Celebrate what the passing of time brings, and there is no need to mourn what is lost.


The route to happiness is, in large part, seeing ourselves as part of something bigger. We are players in a production that began before we joined and which will continue once we are gone. We need to play our part well, and then – to use the relay race analogy – we take the baton and hand it on to the next runner. Suddenly we are not at the center. We relax, knowing that it is not all about us. The weight is off our shoulders, and we no longer need fear loss, or endings. They are part of the beginnings, and there are always new beginnings to be had. And each ending is a beginning.


Greek wines on the world stage: a talk I gave in Athens

greek wine

Here’s a written version of a talk I gave to Greek wine producers in Athens yesterday. It’s not exactly what I said (I never read talks); but rather it’s something written around the points on my powerpoint presentation.

Greek wine on the global stage
Jamie Goode, www.wineanorak.com

Selling wine is hard, but some people succeed. Within every wine region, there are success stories as well as tales of despair. Understanding the global market for wine, with all its complexities and niches, is one way to make success more likely.

Perhaps the key factor in selling wine on export markets is getting good distribution: if your wines are in front of consumers they will buy them. If they are on wine lists or on the shop shelf, then people have a chance to choose them. Many mediocre wines are highly profitable because they are well distributed and marketed.

Wine is typically production led. People decide they want to make wine, and then once they have a full warehouse, then they try to sell it. So the issue of route to market the key one facing most producers. There are tends of thousands of different wine brands globally, with a mismatch between the scale of production (usually small) and the needs of the market (generally for larger volumes in fewer channels). This creates structural problems.

Where do you fit in to the wine marketplace? This is an important question to answer if you are a wine producer.

First, it’s important to realize that there isn’t just one market for wine, but rather there are many different markets, each with their own demands and rules. There’s some overlap, but it is unhelpful to think of the wine market as just one single entity.

Nor does there exist this rather mysterious single person-type – the ‘consumer’. Consumers come in all shapes and sizes.

Consequently, you have to decide where you fit into the marketplace, and where you want to play. What is your route to market? Who are you selling wine to? What is your niche?

The first piece of advice I would give is to avoid the bottom end of the market. This is easier said than done if you have large volumes of wine to sell.

The advantage of playing at the bottom end is that there is a big market for inexpensive wine, and a tiny market for expensive wine. So if you sell your wine cheaply, it is possible to sell a lot of wine.

The disadvantage of playing here is that you will be squeezed on margins. Also, you are competing with people who can make drinkable wine at incredibly low prices. There are perfectly adequate wines on sale in UK supermarkets for £5 a bottle still, which is remarkable considering the level of duty and VAT on wine in the UK. Supermarkets will be paying less than a Euro a bottle ex cellars for these wines. If your ex-cellars price is higher than a couple of Euros, supermarket buyers won’t be interested.

The problem is that there is an over-supply of cheaper wine, and producers therefore have no negotiating power. Plenty of people are behind you in the queue, and you will lose your slot if you put your prices up.

Of course, commodity wine is important, but it’s a horrible place to play. Most normal people just want a nice glass of wine that doesn’t taste bad and which is affordable. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, but grape varieties often used as a buying cue (e.g. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay), and sometimes country of origin might be. There is little brand loyalty, and this route to market is controlled by large retailers who buy to price.

What about ‘Greek wine’ as a brand? Is there are role for generic marketing? Possibly, yes, but we need to explore how this might succeed. The first thing to emphasize is that this requires a high degree of cooperation and collaboration for it to work. Everyone has to see that a rising tide does indeed float all boats, and that success for one is success for all. Your competitors aren’t your fellow producers. There’s a need here for vision and long-term thinking.

It’s important to think about how your wine looks to others, coming across it for the first time. Take a step back and see with fresh eyes. And understand the markets you are selling into. You need to be realistic about what you have. Make use of third-party constructive criticism of your wines from people who have the right sort of context and understanding. Don’t be so close to your wines that you can’t bear to have them criticized. But at the same time, believe in what you do and don’t damage the integrity of your venture by shifting everything to suit whims and fashions.

It’s good to make use of influencers. This doesn’t just mean journalists with newspaper columns. There are also influencers who have some weight with the trade and gatekeepers. It’s possible these days to access rough metrics that allow you to gauge the extent of influence that wine communicators have. Look at the sort of material they produce before sending samples or trying to connect with them: do they have a track record of writing about your sorts of wines? Will they be able to give you coverage before you have distribution?

You only get one chance: first impressions matter. If you are going to start talking about your wines, they initiate the conversation at the right time, and get the message right from the start.

If it looks like generic marketing won’t work, then consider gathering together in producer groups. Devise a joint marketing plan, pooling resources. Be creative and think of fresh, innovative ideas to get attention. Decide on a unified message, tone-of-voice and collective image. It always looks good to others when producers collaborate and get alongside together.


Always: think of how this looks to outsiders.

Be realistic in setting goals and expectations; think longer-term.

There are some success stories in the world of wine, and I’d like to pick on just three of them as examples. The first is Provence Rosé. Here we have a region where there’s a perfect match between the product image and the image of the place. Provence makes good white and red wines, but it excels with rosé, and it has been smart enough to market itself as a single-style region. Provence rosé is good quality, it is aspirational, and producers realize that the packaging and presentation matter as much as the wine quality, and actually serve to enhance wine quality. They have experimented to good effect with alternative bottle shapes, too, and this has been well received. It is never sold for its value for money, but, like Champagne, it is unapologetically expensive compared with its competition.

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a superb success story. Here we have a new-ish region that has grown massively over the last 30 years, and with it the New Zealand wine industry has grown. New Zealand is defined by Sauvignon Blanc, and the Marlborough version took the world by storm. It’s consistently good, it’s immediately recognizable, and the brand story has been kept very simple. New Zealand makes other excellent wines, but it has kept Sauvignon wisely to the fore.

Central Otago Pinot Noir is an example of a region choosing a simple marketing message, offering consistently good, tasty wines, and succeeding. Central Otago makes many interesting wines but has built its image around the one variety it does best. It has also been a very collaborative, together sort of region.

There are many niches in the wine world, and you have to find yours, if you are making anything other than cheap wine. One example of a niche that has worked well for many small producers is natural wine. It has been a bit controversial, because some complain the wines are faulty, that there’s no official definition of ‘natural’, and that by calling your wines natural you are suggesting those of others are ‘unnatural’. But it has worked. Natural wine has its own ecosystem, with specialized routes to market. The natural wine consumer affairs seem to resonate well with younger wine drinkers in particular. And there are many specialist natural wine bars in cities around the world. This niche suits some producers but requires a big ideological commitment.

In closing I would say that you can only start from where you are now. The first step in approaching export markets is an honest appraisal of where things stand. Get someone smart and impartial to give you feedback. Put yourself in the shoes of others when assessing your wine range. Look for compelling stories that are already there as you set out to tell others about you. Don’t underestimate the power of packaging: people’s expectations are shaped hugely by how a wine is presented, and the context in which it is opened. Look at trends in wine styles: ripeness, oak use, fruit profile. What does the modern marketplace (or at least the bit you play in) expect? With social media, you get to tell your own story.

Selling wine is difficult, but some people succeed. If it is to be you, the first most important decision is to choose where you want to play in the marketplace. Everything else will follow on from that.

Video: what makes Elgin a special wine region?

In this video clip, I interview Andrew Gunn of Iona, and his winemaker Werner Muller, about what makes the Elgin Valley a special wine region. We also talk about Elgin’s particular talents: the grape varieties that excel here.

See also, my other Elgin videos:

Two lovely Kiwi Pinots: Burn Cottage and Ata Rangi

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir

It was nice to drink these two side by side: a couple of New Zealand’s most highly regarded Pinot Noirs. Both were showing really beautifully, in the middle of a dinner with some other strong wines.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2013 Martinborough, New Zealand
Fresh, floral and detailed with lovely black cherry and raspberry fruit. Real finesse here with a bit of meatiness, good acid and some structure. Youthful, grippy and firm on the finish. This is serious stuff that just develops beautifully in the glass, with some nice sappiness. 95/100

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2012 Central Otago, New Zealand
There’s a lovely autumnal character to the nose with a sappy green edge to the black cherry and blackberry fruit. The palate has lovely texture and freshness with richness combined. Fine grained tannins and sweet liqueur-like black fruits. Served slightly cooler, this has lovely focus. 95/100

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Some new Torres wines, with Miguel

miguel torres

Miguel Torres was in town, to discuss Torres’ environmental concerns, and also to show some new wines. I have great respect for Mr Torres, who has made the environment and climate change a big focus for his company. It’s a real interest of his, and a couple of years ago I took part in an Eco-Sustainable forum they organised in Vilafranca. Prior to that, on a visit in 2012, I was given a look at some of the research they were undertaking.


Currently, Torres are making a big effort to influence their suppliers, because 80-90% of the carbon footprint of a wine is in the logistics chain. ‘The best way for us to reduce our carbon footprint is through our suppliers,’ he says. Last week, Mr Torres was in Barcelona giving out awards to suppliers based on their environmental performance. He’s convinced that photovoltaic panels are the energy of the future, and Torres have recently added 6000 m2 of these solar panels, in addition to the 12 000 m2 they already have. He’s frustrated though that the power company is refusing to let them add these new panels to the grid. ‘I wrote an angry letter to he minister,’ he says.

One of his goals is to be able to capture CO2 produced during fermentation. ‘If we can change it to CO, we can make carbonates, which are very stable,’ he says. Torres take a long-term approach. They have bought potential vineyard sites in cooler areas in Aragon which they can’t yet plant (they are still too cool), as an insurance policy. ‘We plant today and think: how is it going to be in 40 years?’


Miguel Torres Chile Santa Digna Estelado Uva País Extra Brut NV Chile
This is a new wine, and it’s an organic traditional method fizz from País. Very fresh, pure and lively with subtle but bright citrus and red cherry fruit, showing lovely focus. Very linear and fruit driven. Subtle and pure. 88/100


Torres Sons de Prades Chardonnay 2014 Conca de Barbera, Spain
This is from Milmanda from the younger vines, and it’s 50% oak fermented and aged for 6 months. Lovely weight here: it’s rounded with some mealy notes and nice texture, with white peach and pear fruit. There’s some richness and also some freshness, with elegant citrus notes on the finish. 91/100


Jean Leon Vinya Palau Merlot 2011 Penedes, Spain
25% new oak. Ripe with lovely texture to the gravelly, spicy black cherry and blackberry fruit. Good structure with some supple berry fruits and a slightly citrus peel edge. Lively and delicious. 92/100


Purgatori 2013 Costers del Segre, Spain
This is a blend of Carineña, Garnacha and Syrah. Spicy, savoury, cedary edge to the fine, sweet blackberry and black cherry fruit. There’s lovely richness to it but it’s still in balance. Seductive and supple with nice balance as well as a slightly chocolatey edge. Lovely ripe wine. 93/100




Vancouver wine festival: two trans-Canada tastings


Here are my notes from the last two seminars that I have to write up from the Vancouver International Wine Festival. These were both sessions that covered Canada’s coast-to-coast wine regions, from Nova Scotia in the east to British Columbia in the west. A spectrum of price points and wines are represented here. The take-home message, if there is one, from the Canadian presence at the festival, is that Canada is coming of age as a wine-producing country. The various regions all have their strengths, and there are some lovely wines being made here. Not everything is perfect, and there are ongoing challenges, but there’s a lot to be excited about.


Nova Scotia

Benjamin Bridge Brut Méthode Classique 2011 Nova Scotia, Canada
Lively, bright and intense with keen acidity. Citrussy and intense with lemons and fine herbs. Beautiful core of acidity here: really fine. 92/100

Blomidon Estate Winery Crémant 2013 Nova Scotia, Canada
Seyval, L’Acadie and Chardonnay, traditional method. Very pretty, floral and grapey with a pithy edge to the linear fruit. Good acidity with a slightly sherbetty character. Lovely fruit expression. 90/100

Benjamin Bridge Methode Classique NV Nova Scotia, Canada
Distinctive waxy edge to the lemony fruit. Zippy and bright with keen acidity. Complex waxy, herby characters here as well as lively lemon and grapefruit. Great precision here, and bracing acid. 90/100

Blomidon Estate Winery Chardonnay 2014 Nova Scotia, Canada
Very distinctive with a nutty edge to the pear and citrus fruit. Lovely acidity with some tangerine complexity. Deliciously rounded with a nice contrast between the ripe pear fruit and the fresh acidity. 88/100

Jost Tidal Bay 2015 Nova Scotia, Canada
Zippy and floral with lemons, orange peel, grapes and talcum powder. Fruity and textural with a light body and a hint of sweetness. 87/100

Gaspereau Vineyards Riesling 2015 Nova Scotia, Canada
Very zippy and lemony with juicy citrus fruits. Light with high acidity. So bright and intense. 89/100


Trius Brut NV Niagara, Canada
This is pretty good, with a subtle toasty edge to the pure citrus and pear fruit. Lively lemony edge with good balance here. Nice fruit expression. 90/100

Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2014 Beamsville Bench, Canada
So lively and pure with a lovely citrus mineral core. Lemons and stones with a dry finish. 90/100

Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery Roman’s Block Riesling 2013 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
Made from vines planted in 1975. This is from the year that Lake Ontario froze. Intense and dry with a stony edge to the piercing lemon and lime fruit. It’s really mineral and vivid with lovely acidity and a long lemony finish. 92/100

Closson Chase South Clos Chardonnay 2014 Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
Rich and full flavoured with fig, pineapple, nuts and spice. Keen acidity with some baked apple notes. A big expression of Chardonnay. 88/100

Closson Chase South Clos Chardonnay 2014 Prince Edward County, Canada
Richly fruited with a herbal, cooked cabbage edge to the pear and peach fruit. Bold with rich fruit, and some toast and spice complexity. An unusual, full flavoured Chardonnay with a touch of mint on the finish. 88/100

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Montague Pinot Noir 2014 Niagara, Canada
Sappy, vivid raspberry fruit here with some red cherry brightness. Lots of fruit, with a subtle minty edge. Structured and quite primary, with the potential for development. 91/100

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2014 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
Lovely wine: fresh red cherries and plums with nice grainy structure and some stony mineral characters. Some herbs and undergrowth in the background. Fresh, cool finish. 91/100

Chateau Des Charmes Cabernet Franc 2014 St. David’s Bench, Niagara, Canada
Fresh and vivid with sweet black cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Floral and expressive with some roast coffee and spice hints. Fresh and detailed with good acidity and a savoury finish. 89/100

Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc 2013 Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara, Canada
There’s a lovely chalky, mineral edge to this attractive berry fruited Cabernet Franc. There’s an attractive greenness which integrates well with the cherry and raspberry fruit. Lovely purity. 91/100



Summerhill Pyramid Winery Blanc de Blancs 2010 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Lively, pithy and bright with lovely citrus fruit. Very linear with some grapefruit notes. A tight, primary wine with nice purity, and it belies its age. 91/100

Wild Goose Vineyards Stony Slope Riesling 2015 Okanagan Valley, Canada
First grapes planted here in 1983, in the Okanagan Falls. Fresh and pretty with lively lemony fruit and some melon richness. There’s a bit of table grape sweetness on the finish. So fruity and appealing with lovely purity. Lovely acidity. 90/100

Quails’ Gate Winery Rosemary’s Block Chardonnay 2014 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Powerful, spicy and nutty with bold citrus and pear fruit with some peachy richness. There’s richness here, but also nice acidity and complexity. In this richer style, this is a lovely wine. 92/100

Averill Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Vancouver Island, Canada
Fresh and sappy with a green edge to the supple red cherry fruit. There’s a nice savoury, spicy finish with good acidity. Vivid with nice cherry fruit. Very drinkable and direct with purity and focus. 90/100

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery Syrah 2013 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Sweet but fresh blackcurrant and black cherry fruit with some cedar spiciness and hints of mint and medicine, as well as olive and meat notes. There’s a strongly savoury, medicinal, piney finish. The lush, ripe fruit is really appealing, though. 88/100

Tantalus Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Supple cherry and plum fruit with nice freshness and hints of meat and olive. Good structure and focus with nice acidity, and a bit of tannic grip. There’s nice density here. 91/100

Mission Hill Family Estate Oculus 2011 Okanagan Valley, Canada
This is modern yet classically structured. It has the gloss and bright, sweet blackcurrant and blackberry fruit that speaks of the new world, but also the lovely structure and acidity of the old. There’s potential for development here, and it’s balanced and appealing. 92/100

Laughing Stock Vineyards Perfect Hedge Syrah 2014 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Modern, intense and vivid with some olive savouriness and lovely sleek blackberry and black cherry fruit. It’s modern but delicious with nice purity and luscious ripe fruit. Floral aromatics here. 93/100

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UK sparkling wine sales continue to soar

sparkling wine

New data released today show that in the last 12 weeks of 2016, in the run up to Christmas, 45 million bottles of sparkling wine were sold in the UK. In shops and supermarkets, sales were 40 million (up 12% on the previous year’s data), while 5 million bottles were sold in restaurants and bars. This is a rise of 54% over five years. Sparkling wine is on a roll.

These data are contained in the Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s (WSTA) latest Market Report. Off trade sales were £270 million over this period (10% increase over last year) and on trade sales were £127 million (+37%). Combined sales were £1.2 billion in 2016.

These are interesting figures. The UK remains the largest export market for Champagne. It’s good that we’re getting something right.

Elgin vintage experience 4, Elgin Ridge


The final day of my Elgin vintage experience 2017 was spent with biodynamic winery Elgin Ridge.

This is a film of the day:


We went to the vineyards where Sauvignon Blanc was being harvested. The grapes were looking perfect.




The grapes are harvested in lug boxes and then taken a short distance to the winery.


Also being harvested, after the Sauvignon was finished, was some Semillon. This was also looking very nice.




Owner Brian Smith described the plan for the day.



The first job was to take the riper bit of the Sauvignon and foot tread it in small bins, to make a skin-contact/carbonic component for the new Chaos wine, which is a blend of Sauvignon and Semillon. You can see me foot treading this on the video. Dry ice and some sulphur dioxide were added, and the whole bin was then sealed up with plastic wrap around the lid.


The rest of the Sauvignon was destemmed and crushed.


Some of it was pumped into a couple of barrels. Above you can see a barrel with some dry ice in the bottom. The end of the barrel has been taken off and the Sauvignon will ferment in this like a red wine, in contact with the skins, before being pressed off.



The barrels are then sealed up to allow fermentation to begin without too much air contact.



The rest of the destemmed and crushed Sauvignon goes to the press. Above is the juice running off the grapes that are being loaded into the press.


The Semillon arrived early afternoon, looking in good shape.



Again, this was part foot-trodden in bins, and part sent to barrel for fermentation.


A Pinot had finished fermenting and was ready to be de-egged. These concrete eggs are manufactured in South Africa and are much cheaper than bringing over a Nomblot (the original, most famous egg) from Europe. They are great for fermentation and ageing of both reds and whites, and add a nice texture. The first job is to remove the wine.


Then it’s time for Kosie to get all the skins out, which is a job that requires him to go inside the egg and use his hands.


The skins are then shovelled into the press, and pressed.



  1. Iona
  2. Paul Cluver
  3. Almenkerk
  4. Elgin Ridge