The Latest from Roberson

Thoughts on wine and other topics from the Roberson team


Megan O'Rahilly

A lesson in minerality from Sancerre

When Gaspard Padet from Domaine Laporte in Sancerre started unloading rocks from his bag on to the table at our office training session, I began to wonder whether I’d turned up to a wine tasting or a geology lesson. In fact it was a bit of both. Gaspard started knocking a couple of flint rocks together (see video below), creating sparks and a smokey smell, and then encouraging us to sniff them. I think the term ‘minerality’ is overused in tasting notes (guilty), and it can be confusing, but it’s when you get to smell things like this that you begin to understand what it means. Gaspard spoke about how flint in the vineyards is very good at absorbing and reflecting heat, meaning that the soils soak up the heat in the day time and then cool very slowly through the night. This keeps the vines warmer and means that they ripen quicker. Diverting our noses from the rocks to our glasses, we began tasting Le Rochoy. The fruit for this wine is sourced from ‘Domaine du Rochoy’, a 10 hectare slope with flint soils. Straightaway I was able to pick up those gun flint aromas and there were no doubts about the origins of the wine. Through organic farming, Domaine Laporte are able to amplify these flavours which are unique to this place. The minerality (sorry) of the soil is subtle, but it sits in perfect harmony with the delicate grapefruit and lemon aromas which come from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Next under the microscope was Kimmeridgian marl. Marl is a crumbly mixture of different clays, rich with nutrients from fossils. In the village of Chavignol, the Sauvignon Blanc vines are able to dig their routes deep into these soils, absorb these minerals, and produce very elegant wines. Laporte use the fruit from Chivgnol to make La Comtesse, and while it is made following the exact same techniques as Le Rochoy, La Comtesse has a more floral character and a fuller structure in the mouth. Being part of such an interactive tasting really helps you understand what the winemaker is talking about and makes it easier to understand the effect a vineyard has on a wine. Although the wines that Gaspard brought to the table were all unique and terroir driven, the pure, fresh style of Laporte shone through in each.


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Gavin Monery

London Cru update - racking, less and other stories

This time of year in the winery is generally quiet. The wines are maturing and while they need the occasional racking the urgency felt during harvest season just isn't there. Racking, by the way, is where we use inert gas pressure to push the wines out of barrel and into tank, leaving behind any sediment and dead yeast. We then clean the barrels and return the wine. Over time this removes solids from the wine and leaves them bright and clear, reducing (and at London Cru often eliminating) the need for filtration down the track. The sediment that we are removing is mostly made up of dead yeast - those wonderful little organisms that fermented our grape juice into wine. This yeast sediment (called 'lees') is a double-edged sword; keeping wine in contact with it can release all sorts of wonderful textural and mouthfeel compounds, but it can also assist in the formation of hydrogen sulphide (rotten eggs) and various other complex sulphides. Leaving a wine 'on lees' is not without risk and wines need careful management and regular testing/tasting. One of the wines that benefits from some contact with the lees is Albarino, a new addition to our lineup in 2015. We were lucky enough to source our Albarino from Salnes, in the heart of Rias Biaxas. We have treated it with kid gloves in the winery, pressing the whole bunches gently in our basket press, before settling the juice for a few days to separate any solids (which incidentally are still called 'lees', despite not including any yeast). We settled our juice cold and simply via gravity (there are no enzymes added), after which we transferred 20% of the juice to barrel for fermentation, while fermenting the remainder in stainless steel. We use older barrels for this process, as we don't want any oak character in the wine. We do, however, want texture - that lovely, creamy, almost viscous texture that you can often find with the best barrel-fermented white wines. The yeast in the barrels have more surface area in contact with the wine than those in the tank, so more of those 'leesy' compounds are released, as well as subtle aromas of hazelnut and spice from the older wood, which adds complexity to the wine. Too much of this would mask the wonderful aromatic qualities of Albarino so finding the right balance is key. Essentially, we are trying to balance the fruit and racy acidity of the stainless steel component with some texture and complexity from the barrel component. Last week we felt the wine had reached a point where more time in oak would have overpowered the delicate fruit, but the textural element from the yeast was not quite where we wanted it. So we decided to rack the wine out of barrel, blending it with the stainless steel component and then transferring the wine to a new home in a 2,800L concrete tank for the next stage in its development. Concrete tanks behave in a similar way to oak barrels, without any of the oak flavour. Our tanks are unlined and as such are slightly porous, which allows for the minute ingress of air, while the low, rectangular shape keeps a high proportion of lees in contact with the wine. In this way we hope to continue to build texture while at the same time keeping the delicate, floral aroma intact. We expect to be bottling the Albarino in April for release in June, but if you'd like to try it before then feel free to book one of our tours where we explain the whole process in detail. Over a glass of wine of course.. Gavin Monery is the winemaker at London Cru, the capital's first winery and our sister company. London Cru makes wine under our offices in Earls Court, using grapes from selected European vineyards. Visit the London Cru website to find out more.



Megan O'Rahilly

You can't beat the classics

We all love finding something new. Personally, the only reason I go on Twitter is to find out what’s up and coming before jumping on the band wagon and trying it out. On my January health hype, I’ve been caught up following a lot of people posting about new recipes to try with whacky ingredients from all four corners of the earth, and while a few of them have been delicious, quite a lot of them have just been a complete faff and pretty disappointing. I can’t help thinking that sometimes you can’t beat your classics, like Delia Smith's roast or Mary Berry's lemon drizzle cake. The same applies to wines. We get told to try this or that because a certain winemaker has done something innovative, but what about the old favourites that we already know and love? Here are three of our long-time favourite wines that make up part of a staple Roberson diet. Sancerre 2014 by Gerard et Pierre Morin People throw the word ‘Sancerre’ around without really remembering that there are some spectacular wines in this category. Sancerres can be beautiful, and this one from Domaine Gerard et Pierre Morin is particularly brilliant. When Pierre came in to taste his wines with us back in November, we were all impressed by how much attention he pays to detail. An organic approach to farming ensures that the upmost care is taken to express terroir in his wines. This Sancerre is a blend of fruit from different vineyards, resulting in a fresh and flavoursome wine with beautiful citrus notes. Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2010 by Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix Although I might be banging on about the classics, this isn’t exactly your standard Chablis. Nevertheless, this atypical wine is something of a favourite in the Roberson office, venturing away from the dry mineral flavours that you expect from this region. Defaix releases his wine slightly later than most Chablis, allowing it to spend more time on lees and achieve that richer, fuller flavour that you'd associate more with a wine from the Côte de Beaune. This is a complex and stylish wine that we keep coming back to. La Dame by Mas des Dames As long-time fans of Mas des Dames, we've been offering the wines from this domaine in the Languedoc for years. It's hard to think of other wineries that we've worked with for as long, but of course, we wouldn't keep a wine on our shelves if we didn't love it. Dutch winemaker Lidewij van Wilgen has done a lot to improve the reputation of wines coming out of the region, producing wines of exceptional quality. Time after time, La Dame never fails to impress us with its lovely dark fruit and peppery kick.



Megan O'Rahilly

Romaric of Chavy-Chouet visits Roberson

Last week, we welcomed Romaric Chavy from Domaine Chavy-Chouet to London. To kick off his visit, we had a bit of a boozy BYO meal on Tuesday with loads of interesting wines and some delicious rotisserie chicken. Romaric brought with him a scrumptious magnum of Premier Cru Mersault which went down a treat. After a bit of a late night, Wednesday involved some in-house training with Romaric tasting his new 2014 vintage. All of the wines were showing beautifully, but a particular highlight for me was the Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champs Gains which was silky and rich with beautiful minerality. Thursday was the last day that Romaric was with us. After visiting some of the restaurants where his wine is served, he helped out at our Introduction to Quality Wine evening, giving our consumers a unique opportunity to meet the man behind the bottle. Romaric was heading up the ‘place’ table and explaining the effect of terroir on three of his wines: Bourgogne Blanc ‘Les Femelottes’, Puligny Montrachet ‘Les Enseignères’ and Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Folatières’. Tasting all three of these wines alongside one another gave a great insight in to the vineyard classification system and how the different terroir really does change the taste of wine. Romaric went back to France early on Friday morning, but it was great spending time with him and tasting his wines. We look forward to seeing him again soon.



Ben Greene

How to taste wine

Our first Introduction to Quality Wine tasting of 2016 was last night, and with the new year came a new guide to the tasting, full of useful information for those just starting out in wine. If you're thinking of coming along to a future date, or if you're just looking for some guidance on how to taste wine, here's an extract you may find useful. A very brief guide to wine tasting Tasting wine is easy. All you need is to concentrate and use all your senses. Look at the colour, swirl the wine in the glass and inhale the aroma, then taste it carefully. Colour Red wine fades from purple to tawny with age, while white wine darkens. Aroma & Flavour Sometimes it's helpful to compare the aroma and flavour of a wine with other things you are familiar with - lemons, apples, game, earth, pepper, for example. With practice, you’ll learn what ‘Pinot Noir’ or ‘Bordeaux’ taste like on their own terms and be able to contrast different examples. Taste & mouthfeel As well as thinking about the flavour, when you taste a wine think about these basic elements and how prominent each of them is: Sweetnesss - Can you taste sugar or is it dry? Acidity - Does it taste crisp and fresh? Does it make your mouth water? Alcohol - Does it taste or feel ‘hot’? Tannin - If it’s a red wine, can you feel mouth-drying, grainy tannins? Balance & body Are the basic elements in harmony? For example, if there is sweetness, is it cloying, or is it matched by a refreshing acidity? This is balance. If a wine is powerful, with lots of alcohol and flavour, it’s full-bodied. If it’s delicate, it’s light-bodied. Your opinion If you don’t like something, try to be objective. Is it a good wine anyway? Judge each wine by the standards it aspires to. A £10 Beaujolais will not be as grand a wine as a £100 Burgundy, but either can be good, bad or sensational in its own way.



Ben Greene

Benjamin Franklin on Wine

Benjamin Franklin did not say 'Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.' If, like me, you know this and find the misquotation's continued appearance all over pubs, t-shirts and hats irritating, then good news - I've discovered a t-shirt that's just for us. Perhaps one day there will be a t-shirt that points out how irritating we are for telling everyone they've got it wrong the whole time. But until then, here's what Franklin did say, about wine: “We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” Benjamin Franklin, Letter to the Abbé Morellet, 1779 That's the part that's usually quoted, and I thought I knew it well until I read the whole letter yesterday. Out of context it comes across as a bit pious, especially when you notice it's addressed to an abbot. But it turns out that despite his title, the satirical writer André Morellet was far from being known for any strong religious conviction. Franklin's letter to him begins, 'You have often enlivened me, my dear friend, by your excellent drinking-songs'. The whole thing is one long joke between friends.


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