Properly old vine Zinfandel: Precedent Evangelho Vineyard Zinfandel 2013

evangelho vineyard zinfandel

I’m  not a massive Zinfandel fan. It tends to make the sort of wines I dislike: very rich, jammy and obviously fruit dominated. But I’m open minded and I’ll always be curious to explore. I had a cracking Zinfandel a while back from Broc, and here’s another I really like. It’s made by Precedent Wine from a remarkable old vineyard, 10 foot by 10 foot plantings, head pruned, 125 year old vines, and unirrigated. And these vines are on their own roots! The vineyard is an old alluvial sand bar, with the granite and quartz sands going 30 feet deep. At harvest the grapes had a pH 0f 3.2 and 7.6 g/litre of acidity, which is a fabulous analysis.

Precedent Evangelho Vineyard Zinfandel 2013 Contra Costa County, California
13.9% alcohol. This is from a dry-farmed vineyard planted in 1890 on its own roots, and as well as Zinfandel there are a few vines of other varieties in there: Mataro, Carignan, Palomino, Chasselas and Muscat. It has a sweetly aromatic nose of fresh, slightly jammy cherry and raspberry fruit: it’s really perfumed and pure with lovely fruit quality. The palate is juicy and intense with lively cherry fruit and a grippy raspberry quality. So distinctive and really lovely. Fruit-forward, as you might expect from Zinfandel, but really fresh with zippy acidity. 94/100

UK agent: Indigo Wine

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Wine predictions for 2016

predictions wine

What do I know? I’m a wine journalist who travels the world, asks lots of questions, and has a slight obsession with interesting wine. But my love for wine means I’m seeing things from a particular perspective, and I can’t claim to understand all the segments of the wine business equally well. For example, I’m not in the business of selling wine. People who actually flog the stuff have insights I couldn’t hope to gain. But I’m bold and foolish enough to issue some predictions for the wine world in 2016. My predictions for previous years are here and here (I didn’t make any last year).

Segmentation of the market is so critical when we are discussing wine. This is because wine isn’t just wine. There are different rules and constraints for different segments, and our conversations will quickly become silly and frustrating if we talk across segments. So, with this caveat in mind, here are some predictions:

  • It’s been a big year for English Sparkling Wine, and I think 2016 will see further growth in and excitement about this category. I’ve heard trade murmurings predicting disaster scenarios of over-supply and falling prices, but there’s a sweet spot of pricing at £20-30 where good Brit fizz can sell enough bottles and also preserve its high-end image. I think the future is bright.
  • Natural wine is supposed to have died. Many of the famous wine journalists have predicted this. But it’s thriving. Outside the wine trade no one really cares that natural doesn’t have a definition, and far from it being a ‘scam’, outsiders see this movement as composed of genuine, dedicated people with a good story to tell. Expect ‘natural’ and ‘authentic’ wines to continue to thrive, even if they will never be mainstream.
  • Allied to the increased interest in natural wine, there’s the rise of lighter-coloured reds. I wrote about this recently. In 2016 this currently geeky interest will become more mainstream. Even Jacobs Creek are working on a lighter-coloured red wine project it seems.
  • Gamay is going to hit the mainstream in 2016. A variety for our times, and with red Burgundy so out of reach, there’s increasing focus on the best terroirs in Beaujolais. So is Chenin Blanc. Interest in Chenin has been a slow burn with consumers, but I think it is coming.
  • If you love good Chablis (who doesn’t?), then start stocking your cellars. Top Chablis is currently affordable, but it won’t be forever.
  • 2015 has been a bad year for supermarkets in the UK when it comes to wine. The major UK supermarkets have responded to the discounters by cutting their prices and reducing their ranges. It’s no huge loss, actually, because there was massive duplication and an illusion of choice before. It has been a long time since wine lovers were able to find any real joy on supermarket shelves, anyway. But that’s not where they should be shopping for wine, so I’m not knocking the supermarket buyers here. For the normal punter, supermarket wine ranges offer some clean, drinkable wines at good prices. I’d expect to see a continuation of this theme of offering smaller wine ranges in supermarkets with every day low pricing replacing the once-ubiquitous and often deceptive promotional mechanics. Wine writers might hate this, but I think we’ll see ranges that are better tuned to the needs of customers.
  • Elsewhere in the UK, I expect that Majestic Wine – a very important retailer for this country – will begin shifting its range towards private label/own brand. I really hope not, because this isn’t in the interest of wine producers or consumers. And they’ll probably issue lots of press releases telling us how well they are doing which the trade press will publish unedited.
  • It’s going to be a good year for high-end Bordeaux. The wine trade has been bitching about Bordeaux – and specifically the failed primeur campaigns of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 vintages. But 2015 is looking a promising vintage, and a hungry wine trade is less fussy than it might otherwise have been. So I reckon the wine trade and Bordeaux are going to make friends this primeur campaign. The Châteaux’ pricing will be more realistic, and the trade will forgive, after having flirted with other options. After all, what is the fine wine scene without Bordeaux? I hope I’m right, because the alternative scenario could be a disaster.
  • 2016 will be a good year for Chilean fine wine. Chile has always done good commercial wines, and now it’s starting to make some more interesting high-end wines too. There are a lot of smart, curious winemakers in Chile, and they have some good raw material to work with, including Pais grown in interesting terroirs.
  • 2016 will be the year when the rest of the world realizes that there’s more to Canadian wine than just ice wine. Riesling, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and even Syrah – there are great examples of all these varieties emerging from Canada’s diverse wine regions.
  • Sparkling wine – of all kinds – is on fire at the moment. It’s a category that will continue to grow. People love bubbles.
  • Wine by the glass – including alternative delivery systems – is going to continue to grow in 2016. It just makes so much sense, and the technology for keeping wine fresh when it is served this way has improved a lot.
  • And, finally, don’t expect the rosé revolution to slow down in 2016. Rosé in magnum: it’s a thing.

OK, there are some predictions. I could go on with another 40 quite easily, but this will do for now. Let me know what you think – and your own predictions for this next year in wine.

Dinner at Noble Rot with Coche, Clos Rougeard, Quintarelli, Roulot, Bachelet and Mugnier

noble rot wine bar

Just before Christmas I had one of the most enjoyable dinners of the year. Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew of Noble Rot invited Neal Martin and I for dinner at their relatively newly opened gaff. We had some lovely food and some super wines, as you might expect. Noble Rot is such a good addition to the London wine scene. It’s just got so much character. And the food is lovely too (see the menu here ).


I really liked the Rock Oysters Raveneau, which are designed to go with said Chablis. Seaweed powder, brown butter and apple granita add the flavour, and they’re delicious. I also really enjoyed the slipsole and smoked butter. Just beautifully done, with amazing flavour.

The wines were pretty cool.


Coche Dury Bourgogne Aligoté 2011 Burgundy, France
Lovely matchstick mineral edge to the nose. Flavours of lemons, minerals and spices: zippy and taut with real precision. This is a brilliant Aligoté. 93/100


Domaine Roulot Meusault Les Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir 2007 Burgundy, France
Subtle creaminess here with lovely pear and white peach fruit, as well as a mineral character. Textural, fine and detailed with a hint of ripe apple. Quite lovely. 94/100


Domaine Bachelet Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 1996 Burgundy, France
Rich, supple, meaty black cherry and blackberry nose with hints of pepper and tar. Lovely freshness and a hint of green, with some olive too. Structured and quite powerful but also pretty floral black cherry notes. Still has a lovely density of fruit, even at 19 years of age. Proper red Burgundy., 96/100

Jacques-Frederic Mugnier Clos de la Marechale 1er Cru 2007 Burgundy, France
Quite rich with lovely black cherries, plums and spices. Concentrated sweet black fruits. Bold and textured with lovely richness. A powerful red Burgundy. 95/100


Quintarelli Alzero 2005 Veneto, Italy
Made from Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Cabernet Franc (40%) and Merlot (20%) grapes that have been dried on racks for 60-100 days. It’s then aged in barrique followed by further ageing in larger Slavonian oak. This is a cult wine, and we were served it blind. We didn’t like it very much, but we may have liked it more if we tasted it sighted first. Very rich and intense with coffee, spice, cocoa and chocolate notes. It’s quite sweet and porty, but there’s nice grip and a fine, grainy structure. Too rich and ripe for me. 87/100


Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2007 Veneto, Italy
This is a much cheaper wine than the Alzero, but it’s pretty nice. 6 years in large oak, no drying of grapes, 15% alcohol. Sweet and fresh with lush black cherry and blackberry fruit. Smooth and has some brightness. 92/100

clos rougeard

Clos Rougeard Les Poyeaux Saumur Champigny 2001 Loire, France
Fine cherries and spices with nice supple raspberry and cherry fruit. Supple and fine with real finesse. So fine. 94/100

Clos Rougeard Les Poyeaux Saumur Champigny 2002 Loire, France
Supple and a bit sappy with nice cherries and plums. Elegant and precise with lovely focus and warm spiciness. 93/100

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Gamay focus 18, G Spot Vin de...France 2014 Beaujolais-Villages

gonzalez france beaujolais

This wine is from France Gonzalez, who works in Beaujolais. Even though it’s labelled Vin de France, it isn’t. She uses Vin de … France because of her first name, and she’ll probably get in trouble for it one day. It’s actually Beaujolais Villages. I bought it from The Sampler after trying her Nouveau 2015 on one of the enomatics (it’s really good). She started off in 2008 with half a hectare of vines and now has four.

G Spot Vin de…France 2014 Beaujolais-Villages, France
12% alcohol. Lifted red cherry and plum nose. Warm with some spicy notes, and quite natural. Complex, lively palate showing raspberries and red cherries with notes of tea leaves and herbs, and attractive grainy, grippy structure. Super-drinkable with some warmth, and lovely focus. Natural but nice, this just leads you back to another glass. 92/100

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2015, a year in pictures


January: a trip to the Ahr Valley, Germany. Pinot Noir country. Thanks Lars Daniels for being my travel companion.


February: Zell Am Zee, Austria, for some skiing. Managed one day of 3 (injured knee). Not my core competency, it must be said.


March: a visit to northwest Spain and Portugal, with Nick Oakley. Such interesting things happening in this part of the world. Not least: single-variety Vinho Verde. The next big thing?


March: Arinto about to go into the ground. A vineyard is born. Vinho Verde.


March: Cockburn’s Bicentenary tasting


March: my first ProWein. Telling the world about NZ Sauvignon Blanc and Canadian wine was my task.

st james

March: back to St James, Cape Town. Fifth year in a row, judging the Top100 South African Wines competition.


April: a few days in Franschhoek, exploring the real heart of this misunderstood wine valley. Here, with Basil Landau in his ancient Semillon vineyard. Kevin Swart is also in shot: it was his idea to bring me to visit this lovely place.


April: the view from SushiSamba, where I was at a Bruno Paillard event. London is a wonderful city. I’ve lived here all my adult life and I’m still getting to know it.


May: Canadian wine tasting at Canada House, with dudes like this (Norm Hardie)


May: RAW Fair was brilliant. Such a good bunch of wines


May: London Wine Trade Fair was excellent this year. Bumped into two of my favourite Saffers, too (Adi Badenhorst, Duncan Savage)


May: super-proud to be showing some Canadian wine peeps around some of England’s finest sparkling wine producers. This is Nyetimber. We also did Hambledon and Coates & Seely. 2015 was a big year for English sparkling wine.


June: Washington State. In in-depth exploration of Washington State (and here, in Walla Walla, I think we may have been just over into Oregon) with Treve Ring, Richard Hemming, Kevin Pogue (who was explaining some terroir to us) and Kate Sweet.



June: Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State


July: visiting Niagara wine country again. Including this dude: Thomas Bachelder


July: Niagara Falls, Canada. Judging the WineAlign National Wine Awards with a wonderful but slightly bonkers group of humans. I guess I fit in well.


July: In South Africa again, to judge the Standard Bank Top 10 Chenin Blanc


July: In Portugal for a Lallemand conference in Sintra, and to do a talk on the future of natural wine in Lisbon


August: had a beautiful time in Tampere, Finland, lecturing to a group of Sommeliers. Thank you Heidi and Matti for inviting me!


Late to the game, 2015 was the year when I really got into Grower Champagne. This beauty courtesy Francis and Bronwen Percival.


It has been a year filled with good lunches. Most of the best have involved these two fellas. Keith Prothero and Master of Lunch Greg Sherwood.


September: Cape Wine was epic. Lots of amazing wines. Here are two of the dudes: Donovan Rall and Peter-Allan Finlayson.


September: while in South Africa, had a beautiful time at the Sanbona game reserve.


September: It’s been a big year for Noble Rot. Mark and Dan opened their wine bar at last. And the triumph of the year was probably this well publicized blind tasting that put English Sparkling Wine firmly on the map.


September: Napa Valley. Memorable trip. Included a face plant at Mayacamas, which was my least favourite moment but my favourite visit. This is one of their replanted vineyards.


September: the view from Cain, another mountain vineyard in Napa


October: in the Douro with the Douro Boys. Super trip.


October: in Champagne. I definitely need to spend more time here.


November: in Hong Kong for the first time, taking part in the wine fair


November: Rugby World Cup Final. Quite an event.


November: off to Italy. Watching grapes dry at Masi, Veneto.


November: visiting Poli, amazing grappa producer


November: watching more grapes dry, this time at Maculan


December: Rootstock Festival, Sydney. Here with Amber and Taras Ochota.


December: had an amazing time visiting some of Australia’s new wave producers. Pictured here, in the Barossa, Fraser McKinley (Sami Odi), Abel Gibson (Ruggabellus) and Tom Shobbrook.

So that’s a brief glimpse of 2015. It has been eventful, fun and also very complex. I’m so looking forward to 2016.

Fedellos do Couto Bastarda, a lovely lighter red from Ribeira Sacra, Spain

This is a beautiful lighter red wine from the Ribeira Sacra region of Spain. It’s from the Merenzao variety, which is the local name for Bastardo (Portugal) and Trousseau (France). The Fedellos do Couto project (which translates as the ‘four brats of Couto) is a collaboration between Jesús Olivares, Carlos Bareño, Pablo Soldavini and Luis Taboada, and they have 5.5 hectares of vines.

Taboada had vines in his family property, with prized old north- and east-facing vineyards (cooler exposition), while Soldavini is a viticulturist, and Bareño and Olivares are winemakers. The project has been going since 2011. The wines are made with whole clusters, wild yeasts and neutral French oak. Soils are granite and schist. UK agent is Indigo Wine.

Fedellos do Couto Bastarda 2013 Ribeira Sacra, Spain
11% alcohol. Pale cherry red colour. Wonderful aromas of cherries, herbs and violets with some cherry liqueur notes. Sappy and bright with lovely purity. Fine and expressive, this is a silky lighter-style red wine with fresh red cherries the key theme. Quite Pinot-like. 93/100

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Some post Rootstock thoughts on naturalness in wine


[This post was written immediately after the authentic/natural wine festival Rootstock that I attended a month ago. I've held off publishing it until now.]

The subject of natural wine is still controversial. Rootstock, which is pretty much a natural wine fair, has many friends, but also its critics, and I feel caught in the middle, slightly. I love natural wine, but I am not fully Rootstockian. Post-event, here’s how I’m feeling.

First, do I have to choose? Sometimes it seems this way. Are you in or are you out? I want to be part of the Rootstock scene, and I love natural wine. But I also love wine that wouldn’t meet the strict Rootstock criteria, but which express their place beautifully, and are made by sensitive people who listen to their vineyards and interpret them through what they do and don’t do in the winery.

Can’t I like both? Does one (moving in a natural direction) have to lead to the other (the destination of nothing added at all)? Working more naturally is often a key to producing more interesting, expressive wines. That’s why I was drawn to the natural wine movement: because I liked many of the wines. They were really beautiful and elegant. Some wines, though, are beautiful and elegant and they have 100 parts per million of total sulfur dioxide. I love grower Champagne, which inevitably uses some cultured yeasts for the second fermentation. I don’t want to give that up. Sometimes I’m in the mood for cloudy Pet-Nat, sometimes not.

It clearly isn’t my job to set the rules for Rootstock or to tell the organizers what they should do. But I have a slight concern. Let me explain. I stayed with Michael Dhillon at Bindi last night. Aren’t the Bindi wines beautiful? They’re pretty natural, by most counts. But Michael may occasionally have to add a bit of acid (he rarely does), and he adds enough sulfur dioxide to make sure the wines age properly (although some no-added sulfites wines age well, he’s not sure that his would). So when he was invited to Rootstock, he had to decline because he didn’t think he could honestly say he fitted the criteria. That’s honorable, but producers such as Bindi would be a great addition to Rootstock.

I don’t care for the (admittedly unspoken) ‘you’re in, you’re out,’ nature of Rootstock, but I do understand the need for entry criteria. Could these criteria be more results focused, though? People who work pretty naturally, but who are invited on the basis that their wines are really interesting? There’s just too much obsession with sulfur dioxide levels are the moment.

Rootstock, along with the natural wine movement, has to go back to the vineyard a bit more. It has to return to the place where the wine is really grown. And it’s not just as simple as organics and biodynamics. In some ways, to consider a wine natural simply because of stuff not being added or done to it in the winery is a bit bonkers. I could buy a couple of tons of grapes, rent some winery space, make a few barrels with no additions, design a zany label, and declare myself a natural wine grower. If it went wrong, I could turn it into Pet-Nat. But this isn’t really meaningful or interesting, unless the real focus was where the grapes came from, and in some intelligent way I interpreted that place.

But then again, Rootstock makes me question my own beliefs, which is a good thing. One question I am posing myself: do we make too much of stability in wines? We complain if every bottle isn’t the same. But should wines be living and vital, changeable and unpredictable? Have we listened too carefully to the wine scientists? Yes, an acidified, fined, clean, sterile filtered wine with healthy free sulfur dioxide levels will be stable. But what about a wine that has a healthy microbial ecology all through its life, and is never sulfured, never fined, never filtered? Aren’t some wine problems hospital diseases, caused because over-cautious interventional practices have created a microbial desert so bad bugs can come and have a field day? Is it a bit like the vineyard: once you begin with the mentality of immediately spraying in order to deal with some microbe or insect problem, then there’s a strong risk you are committing yourself to increasing intervention like this because you have created an imbalance, in the vineyard as well as in your mind.

We’re sometimes so close to wine that we lose the ability to keep a perspective. This is shown time and time again in discussions on natural wine. You simply can’t think of wine as this one single thing. Segmentation is absolutely necessary, because the rules that apply to one segment of the market don’t apply to others. To think of natural wine with a commercial/commodity wine viewpoint just leads to a ridiculous discussion where no one really connects.

If you are a wine buyer for large retail outlets, such as supermarkets or wine chains, then natural wine fairs are not for you – in a professional capacity, at least. Of course these wines are irrelevant to large retail. They are hand made in relatively small quantities and they need to be explained or understood. If you come at them with a commercial mind, then you’ll find problems with them. This doesn’t stop them being delicious and commercially valid, in their segment.

Let’s use cheese as a comparison (it’s sometimes healthy to step away from a subject we are too close to). Supermarket cheese illustrates the point quite well. By far the bulk of the offering is highly standardized, commercial cheese. It just tastes of cheese. Or, more accurately, it tastes of a commercial version of the type of cheese that it is. Customers want mild Cheddar that tastes of mild Cheddar and which is affordable and offers no surprises. They want affordable Parmesan, affordable Mozzarella, affordable Manchego, affordable Gruyère – all of which will offer a bit of the personality of the type of cheese they are, but not too much. Then there’s the ready sliced or grated versions of cheese, and so on. A supermarket cheese offering delivers quite a range of familiar cheeses, some of which are OK, and many of which do their job perfectly well.

Then we have artisan cheese shops. They might have versions of the famous names, but these will usually be much more expensive and have much more flavour. And then they’ll have a range of really interesting, often strong tasting cheeses with a real story to tell. For flavour-geeks like me, this is very exciting. But take those cheeses and put them in a supermarket, and they won’t sell, and you’ll likely upset the customers who buy them without realizing what they are buying.

In the wine world we have the sorts of people who should really be sticking to the artisan cheese shop criticizing the supermarket cheese range. And we have a whole bunch of folks who don’t like artisan cheeses criticizing the artisan cheese shop for not being more commercial and for offering cheeses that normal people would find objectionable.

Natural wine is hugely commercially relevant, if you do your market segmentation first. Commercial wine? It will always be commercial wine, so we shouldn’t waste too much time worrying about it or writing about it.

I can imagine some readers seething in indignation at this point. How elitist! Normal people drink and buy inexpensive, fruit forward wines, so those are the ones you should be writing about! People love sweet reds and wines with added fruit essences, so how elitist and out of touch you are for ignoring them! We need new wine communicators who will talk to normal people about the sorts of wines they drink!

Well, I don’t think this way. For a start, ‘normal’ people – who the wine trade is so desperate to reach – simply don’t read about wine. It’s far too abstract. Second, it’s just not honest. I don’t think there’s much to be said about mass market wines. They taste of wine. There’s a need for them. But I’d be dishonest to rave about them, even if my motivation was to help the wine trade. I want to tell the world about wines that excite me. What’s the point of compromising my integrity to write something that no-one will read? It’s a wonderful lose-lose scenario.

Do you know what I think is really elitist? To think that normal people can’t cope with interesting wine. Many of them won’t ever want more than just simple, affordable wine, but there’s a small subset of the population who are interested in flavour, and unless they get a chance to develop that interest by experiencing interesting wine, then this interest will lie dormant, which is a shame.

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Analogue in a digital world

keys niepoort

Vinyl isn’t dead.

That is remarkable, on so many levels. Digital is better than analogue. So we are told. When CDs came along, the days of vinyl were fast running out.

Then, with the advent of digital music delivery and iTunes, surely analogue was finished. We’d entered the digital era.

I think there’s a parallel with digital and analogue in how we live our lives. It’s now possible to be connected all the time. It has never been easier to work excessively in this always-on age. With the increase in competition, how can we afford to switch off? At all?

The challenge for a freelancer like me is that the more I work the more money I earn. Why shouldn’t I work more, and harder, and more efficiently (plenty of self-help books promising to assist me in this)? Wouldn’t it be madness not to?

It’s all very digital thinking. And I’m not sure it’s very healthy. What about down-time? What about the mundane? Of course, if you are very successful you get rid of the mundane by paying other people to do it, and there’s no real downtime because you are always connected and can fill in the gaps by getting your phone out.

I am guilty of this, and I don’t think it’s terribly healthy. We humans are analogue by design, not digital. I’m not rejecting the digital, though. Always-on allows me to do my job. In terms of music, subscription services like Spotify and Deezer open up a whole catalogue of musical discovery that’s quite amazing.

But it requires discipline and wisdom to navigate the new now and stay fully human: to remain analogue. Discipline to not fill all the moments; to leave space; to have down-time. As an aside, I’m also not a huge fan of the headphones culture, even though I love music. Listening is part of being present, and it surprises me when I see people taking a walk or run somewhere natural and beautiful who aren’t also listening.

So, how does this apply to wine? I think wine is one of the few products that is still widely made on a human scale. That’s because it relies on grapes, and vines care about where they are planted and top vineyards are usually quite small. Family businesses often make the best wines. Despite all the modern technology that’s available to winegrowers, there are still plenty of cellars that use traditional techniques. The best wines are analogue not digital.

It’s reassuring that vinyl isn’t dead. It’s reassuring that Moleskine notebooks and ink pens still exist. It’s reassuring that people still buy books. Analogue is human.

Christmas Grower Champagne: Legras Presidence 2007, Savart L'Ouverture and Selosse Initial

R&L Legras Presidence

Three Christmas grower Champagnes. Quite lovely.

Champagne R&L Legras Présidence Vieilles Vignes Brut Grand Cru Chouilly 2007 France
Low dosage of 5 g/l, Blanc de Blancs. Very stylish, fresh, lemony and creamy with subtle toast. Very fine and linear with a bit of depth but also lovely purity and complexity. Fabulous stuff. 94/100 (Lea & Sandeman stock this for £45.95; Berry Bros & Rudd have it for £50)

champagne savart louverture

Champagne Savart l’Ouverture NV France
100% Pinot Noir, 7 g/litre dosage, disgorged July 2015. Ecuil 1er Cru. Fruity and rounded with nice apples and pears. Attractive with some subtle oxidative notes and a lively apple and citrus fruitiness on the palate. Primary and fruity with a youthful feel, this is really good. 91/100 (£30 Roberson)

champagne jacques selosse initial

Champagne Jacques Selosse Initial Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV France
This is a Blanc de Blancs from three successive harvests, and from three Grand Cru sites: Avize, Cramant and Oger. Disgorged May 2012. Tremendously rich and vinous, and well integrated. Pear, ripe apple, spice and a hint of honey with nice citrus fruit, too, as well as white peach. Textured and complex and broad, this is showing incredible balance and complexity. So distinctive. 95/100

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More Christmas wines: the English contribution


These were three English wines that took part in yesterday’s festivities. The first two were served blind.

Hambledon Vineyard Classic Cuvée NV Hampshire, England
Tasted blind I reckoned this was a fine Blanc de Blancs – either a grower Champagne or English! Very fine, bright and lemony with lovely acidity. Pure and refined with amazing clean, sharp lines. Very fine, this is rapidly becoming an English classic. 92/100


Urban Wines Dryad’s Garth Rosé 2011 England
This is made from grapes collected from allotments and gardens across London. A truly urban wine. It’s made at Bookers Vineyard, and it’s pretty good. Blind, I had no idea where it was from. Open, fresh and with notes of tangerines, cherries and stewed plums. Rounded with some strawberry and hedgerow notes. Really distinctive and attractive. 88/100


Jenkyn Place Brut 2010 Hampshire, England
Made by Dermot Sugrue, from chalky soils on the North Downs. Tight, fresh and lively with some pithy notes and nice lemony fruit. Very pure with a hint of grip on the finish. This is a lovely youthful fizz. 91/100

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