IWC Wine Merchant of the Year Awards Dinner
Simon gives his take on the IWC Wine Merchant of the Year Awards dinner: Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to the 2017 IWC Wine Merchant of the Year awards at London’s Hilton, Park Lane. With multiple awards won at both the IWC and Decanter Wine Awards over the last decade, many Roberson staff members are old hands at the wine award-winning business. But I, as a comparative newbie, was excited to be attending my first wine industry awards show – especially since my team was up for one of the major awards of the night – Online Retailer of the Year. The first challenge of attending was getting properly dressed; my attendance of functions requiring black tie has been pretty minimal since a rash of 21st birthday parties several decades ago. I wasn’t overly confident that my dinner suit, acquired around the same time for $35 US Dollars and constructed overnight of the finest nylon in Hoi An, Vietnam, would still be up to the job. Luckily, my wife had the foresight to persuade me to pick up a new dinner suit at the same time as buying a suit for my wedding a few years ago – and, after a bit of a dry clean, it proved to be in more than serviceable condition. So, appropriately attired and looking forward to getting a little moist around the collar on the Piccadilly Line, we set off to Park Lane, arriving just in time to glug a refreshing glass of Champagne and watch the first raft of specialist merchant awards being announced. Roberson Wine had won the IWC Specialist Merchant of the Year USA award for the previous 4 years. While we were nominated again this year, it was felt that the IWC might give someone else the nod, just to spread it around a little. As it turned out, this fear was unrealised, as the eminent judges of the International Wine Challenge sagely saw fit to give us the award again this year – for the fifth year in a row – and up onto the stage we went to collect our winnings. Once the applause died down and I had the chance to catch my breath, I was able to have a bit more of a look around the event – and, as well as bumping into London Cru winemaker Gavin Monery, I was extremely impressed by the size and slick organisation of the show. With a multitude of bars pouring a host of this year’s IWC Platinum Award-winning wines, a seated dinner for about 500 and a spectacular stage and screen awards presentation, it wasn’t hard to see why the gent sitting next to me at dinner described the event as “the biggest night of the year.” Finally the big moment for me personally arrived – the Online Retailer of the Year award, in which we were nominated for the first time, but up against two massively larger rivals. To cut a long story short, we didn’t win – but out of the 43 award categories, we were one of only 6 entries to be given a “Highly Commended” trophy, so we felt some justification in feeling rather pleased with ourselves. All in all, a fantastic evening – and looking forward to finding as many ways as possible to make our online service even better over the course of the next year – and picking up first prize next time.
IWC Awards 2017 - The Results Are In
In 2013 we opened our doors to the new wave USA movement and in 4 years, we have established a reputation as one of the foremost importers of USA wines into the UK. Today we offer 270 different USA wines and represent 31 USA wine producers. So it's an honour to be named winner of the International Wine Challenge Specialist Merchant of the Year in the USA category, for the 5th year running. Each year we make a clear commitment to sourcing wines from exciting new producers, many of whom practice sustainable methods of farming, but above all, make truly exceptional wines. We would not be here if it were not for our continuous search for innovation and quality, challenging stereotypes and really believing in the quality of what we do and the people who we work with to make it happen. We are known for championing small producers with big stories and the beauty of winning this award is that our producers get the recognition that they deserve.
Anna Von Bertele
The Life of a Grape
Anna imagines the life of a grape in the Hedges Family Estate vineyard: Part 1 From my spot in Hedges Family Estate’s vineyard, high up here on the mountain in Washington State, I can see the pickers already busy at work, racing through the vines, choosing the best of us. It’s been a long hot summer, so we’re ready earlier than usual, but I'm feeling pretty good – the cool evenings are always so refreshing to balance out my sugars and stop me feeling too bloated. Some of my neighbours have already been chosen; up on Red Mountain we take a bit longer. My Chardonnay friends in Yakima Valley in south-central Washington were picked last week, as their winemakers wanted to keep freshness and not over-ripen those grapes, to maintain the balance of acidity with alcohol levels. They say my Red Mountain appellation is included in the Yakima Valley AVA, but we know we're special here. It was Christophe Hedges' father, Tom, who mapped out our special plot in 2001. It's the most special place with the best views all around; I'm so glad I'm going to be a Hedges wine. We're the smallest appellation in Washington State at 1630 hectares and the warm temperatures here are perfect conditions for us to make full bodied, complex wine. The breeze from the nearby Yakima River helps cool us down too, so we don't taste too tannic. Our soils are pretty great - sandy loam and gravel with a rich calcium carbonate content. I shouldn't boast about my conditions though - the whole state is pretty special really. It all started with the Missoula Floods. These happened about 13,000 years ago, but people still go on about them. Apparently floods the size of Lake Michigan discharged into eastern Washington, submerging all land up to 1200 feet above sea level. They bought sediments, sand and silt, which were deposited across the region, enriching our land and making irrigation simple because water can move easily, but not too rapidly, through the soil. It is all down to these ecological events that I grow so healthy and strong today. As a Cabernet Sauvignon grape, I'm Washington State's most produced red variety, though the state's not defined by one grape. My most common friends are Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Riesling. I know I'm a popular one though - delicious on my own or in blends. I've heard about my European cousins, how famous we are in a place called Bordeaux. They say our winemakers are inspired by this place and make the same style blends. But I hear that in Bordeaux the best ones are incredibly expensive - here we're actually very affordable and offer high quality and value. I'm already thinking about my final destination; I fancy being poured at a London restaurant. And rumour has it this is a possibility… a company called Roberson Wine apparently likes our wines and distributes them around the UK. I don't believe it, I was daydreaming and didn't realise he’s approaching me…. It's finally happening, I’ve been chosen! Part 2 to follow
Wine Tasting in London at Love Europe
Great to see so many of you at our Love Europe Wine Tasting at Winerama - Shoreditch last Thursday. It was also a pleasure to see many of our good friends at the tasting from Caprice Holdings - Annabel’s, Hawksmoor and the buying team from the Goodman group, D&D and Swig Wines to name but a few. For us, it was a full Roberson Wine team outing with all hands on deck; On-Trade, Off-Trade and Fine Wine teams coming together to pour some of our favourite wines from our European wine portfolio, under the open roof of Winerama’s East London skyline. The Love Europe wine tasting was also a great reminder of the core essence of Roberson Wine. Cliff Roberson opened his London wine shop in Kensington High Street 26 years ago with the idea of offering the classic wines of Europe in a fresh and innovative way – and the line-up of wines at the tasting showed that today, the vision remains just as strong. Wine on Tap and London Cru were the first things that people saw when they entered the wine tasting, followed by a handpicked, eclectic range of wines from our small producers with big stories, many of whom practice organic and biodynamic winemaking methods. A particular highlight was having the Dosnon Champagne makers, Nicolas and Davy, host a table at the tasting, where they cracked a very special bottle of their vintage 2008 - 1 of only 1080 bottles made. For the evening part of the event, we opened our doors to the public, with some familiar faces from our wine club, who were given first access to tickets, and the remaining contingent made up of London Street Feast regulars, for many of whom this was their first wine tasting. It was refreshing to speak to so many new young wine enthusiasts at the tasting and, what’s more, to discover people’s favourite wine of the evening via their votes placed in our ballot box. Those who entered their vote also had the chance to win a case of their favourite wine, with the lucky winner announced earlier in the week. So here we have it, the top 3 wines at the tasting from our consumer list: 1. Jean - Paul Thévenet 'On Pète la Soif!' 2015 2. J Laurens Crémant de Limoux 'Les Graimenous Brut' 2015 3. Bric Cenciurio Barbera d'Alba 2016 Due to popular demand, we have decided to host a follow-up wine tasting: Love Europe Round 2 - West-Side, on the 3rd August in our winery downstairs - London Cru. Nestled amongst the barrels and tanks of London's first winery, you will get to taste the same 20 wines, all of which can be purchased for less than £20. Again, tickets are limited so get yours quickly and come west-side for more wine fun! Until then, thank you and à bientôt! Love from RW and LDN CRU
The Domaine by Lidewij Van Wilgen, pt.1
At the height of her career, Lidewij Van Wilgen gave up her job at Saatchi in Amsterdam to start a new life in the French countryside and become a wine maker, producing the beautiful Mas des Dames. She wrote a book about her experience, Het Domein (The Domaine), which became a best seller in Holland. In this excerpt from Chapter One, First Impressions, Lidewij comes face to face with the harsh reality of living the dream. A narrow road winds its way up into the hills. Under the dark oak trees the tarmac is almost pitch-black, forcing my eyes into a squint each time a sharp beam of sunlight breaks through the cover. A bend in the road, an ancient stone wall, and then everything brightens up. The view becomes expansive again. Behind the vineyard, the burning sun colours the rocky plateau a bright yellow ochre. The road becomes a rough track. A cloud of dust trails in my wake as I drive towards the tall cypresses in the distance. I park the car and get out, the slam of the door breaking the silence and leaving behind only a startled emptiness. This is the image I have presented over and over to my friends back home: a large, sandy-coloured house standing in the shade of a sprawling ash tree. No one had any trouble filling in the rest of the picture: the long table outside on the gravel where we would sit drinking glasses of our own wine, happy children playing around us. It would always be summer. --- I leave the house and walk back to my car, the same dark blue Volvo that I used to drive on the busy roads of Amsterdam. Now it is parked in the shade of several tall cypresses, surrounded by nothing but an emphatic silence. ‘There’s no companion so companionable as solitude…’ I quote cynically in the direction of the vines that stare back at me without compassion. I have never felt as alone as in these past few interminably long weeks in this vast land. So, this is the 'Peace and Quiet' that had seemed so attractive to me back in Holland; that tempted me with the prospect of finding Buddhist-like harmony and truth somewhere deep down inside myself. The harsh reality, however, is that I often start my day now with a rising sense of panic when I throw open the shutters and see all that empty countryside stretching out before me. The utter emptiness, the all-pervading silence, the complete absence of human interference – they do nothing but intimidate me. Sometimes I exchange a few words with the local handyman or the boy who looks after our vineyard. But they have their own lives, their own routine, while my only role is to be here, a mere physical presence that is neither requested nor desired by anyone else in these parts. The locals treat me with a mixture of friendliness and pity; they toss a greeting in my direction and then return quickly to whatever was keeping them busy. So, this is what it's like to be nobody. We'll be publishing a series of excerpts from Lidewij's book over coming weeks. Read chapter two: Where I'm From now.
Anna Von Bertele
Beyond Burgundy with Bergström Wines
At Roberson Wine, we’re proud of our record as multi-award-winning American wine specialists. Although we stock a wide range of Californian Pinots and Chardonnays (which I completely adore), it's a region north of there, Oregon, that has for the past four years been the most intriguing and mysterious to me. From here we import Bergström Wines, a range of biodynamically farmed, site specific Pinot Noirs, as well as one of our best-selling wines, Old Stones Chardonnay, and also a premium Chardonnay. When I taste a Californian Pinot Noir, I can feel the sunshine in the bright palate, the warmth, the expansive coast; I love these wines. However, when I try a Bergström Pinot, my mind is less sure of the origin: vibrant fruits, spicy notes, what are those hints of morrels? Not a Burgundy wine, not from California… what is this region? Well this region is Oregon and with a history of only 50 years of winemaking, to me it's one of the most exciting. Last week I visited Bergström and was fortunate enough to taste through a 25 vintage comparison of the range. Josh Bergström makes 9 different expressions of Pinot Noir, most from single vineyards, with the exception of Cumberland Pinot, which is an expression of the Willamette Valley using fruit from his five estates. I'd tried most of these wines before, but it wasn't until visiting the vineyards and comparing them in such depth that I fully appreciated the diversity in the valley and how, just like in Burgundy, the terroir affects the grape. However, Josh was clear that he doesn't want his wines to be compared to Burgundy, since he feels that Oregon makes delicious wines in its own right. The winemakers are not trying to emulate another region; they're showing how great two of the top grape varieties in the world can be, when grown here. With a diverse range of soils, ranging from marine/sedimentary to more volcanic on their original 'Bergström Vineyard,' the potential in the region is huge, and if this is what is happening after just 50 years, I can't wait to see what happens over the next 50. If you haven't tried the wines of Oregon, I recommend the Bergström Cumberland - being a blend of their five estates, it is a great expression of the Willamette Valley and a great introduction to the range. Fresh and vibrant, with hints of earthiness and spice, this is just the kind of Pinot I want to be drinking. From the single vineyards, my favourite has to be the flagship Bergström - and having had the opportunity to walk through the vineyard and appreciate the view those grapes bask in every day, I'll be enjoying it more than ever before.
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