Roberson Team Christmas Picks!
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The Secrets of Blind Wine Judging
The Secrets of Blind Wine Judging Our wine buyer Keith gives an inside look at the world of blind wine judging. Judging wine is a curious activity, especially when it is a ‘blind’ tasting. Repeatedly assessing the appearance and taste, of up to 100 different wines in a session. Then attaching a tasting note and score to each in turn. It’s a process filled with potential pit falls, and more than a few inconvenient traditions, ‘it’s how we’ve always done it’. Firstly, the ‘blind’ part. This form of tasting is supposed to force the taster to assess overall quality without being swayed by prior knowledge of the wine in question. It could be a famous chateau with a string of perfect scores in recent vintages and stratospheric market prices, or perhaps a £5.99 glugger from your local discount supermarket. Every wine professional invited to take part in a blind tasting will tell you this will never happen, they are capable of viewing every tasting measure poured objectively. If this were the case, then why are many of the world’s most famous and expensive wines routinely excluded from ‘blind’ assessment, even by experienced professionals? It is because this is an environment that throws up surprises and can trick the mind. It’s much safer for the precious liquid to be presented in person with the assessor in full knowledge of what they are about to taste. Even if not mind-blowingly great, the wines pedigree will ensure a certain level of ‘benefit of the doubt’ and will still come highly recommended. The large number of wines in the tasting can be problematic too. Palate fatigue is very real. When tasting wines in my work environment, either to check the quality of a new vintages, or to assess potential new listings from a new producers, I would limit the number of wines being tasted to no more than 8 or 10. This is to ensure that every wine gets a fair chance to shine. If faced with 30 different Cabernet Sauvignons or Chardonnays, it is very possible that the last one tasted will not get the attention it deserves, your concentration has wavered, your sense of smell and taste has been muted by the 15 or so fruit bombs that proceeded it, if the last wine is elegant and perfumed you will not pick it up. So how can these potential pitfalls be countered? One solution is having a varied panel of tasters doing the work. My most recent tasting took place in the company of a wine writer from the national press and a sommelier from a high-end fine dining restaurant. A mainstream journalist will always have the high street consumer in mind, armed with a dictionary of eye catching and appetising flavour descriptors. They seek out the characteristics that will give instant pleasure over a Sunday dinner with the family, for example, often with a keen eye for the styles that would offer great value in the weekly shop. A sommelier will use their experience of the fine dining environment to search for wines of quality that will pair well with food. How can this wine be recommended to a customer paying a significant sum for a special evening out? They often seek out wines that have some age, and therefore are a little more intellectual in their composition, a unique talking point that shows work has been done to find something special just for you. For myself, I take both approaches to the same wine. As a business we sell direct to consumers, as well as to restaurants and independent retailers. Having studied winemaking I find myself taking a rather technical and practical approach first, before letting myself get carried away with the more pleasurable elements. Is it correct? Are there faults? Does it taste like the variety on the label? Does it taste of its place of origin? Is everything I balance – acidity, fruit, weight, length, wood? If one dominates the others will it all come together at some point in the future to become complete? Only then do I start thinking of the flavour descriptors or food pairings, we all do it with different priorities and in a different order. What is telling, is that after tasting 100 different wines, for example, all of us will agree on the dozen or so really good or great wines. Similarly we will also agree on the dozen or so really sub standard efforts. Where it gets complicated is with the 70 or so in the middle, there is often significant disagreement; disappointment for me could bring a simple pleasure to another. This is when the variety of approaches, experience and priorities allows us to debate and meet somewhere in the middle. We can agree that although it may not be to personal taste|, there is very much a market for the wine, and perhaps you had not picked up on certain nuances or aspects that will make it a good recommendation. Re-taste it, approach it from a different perspective and you’ll often find yourself scoring it up or down a little. To finish, you average the scores in the hope that it gives a fair and critiqued appraisal of each wine. This is a score that not all will agree with, but should not be too far from the end users own assessment. One last, critical piece of the puzzle is price, and whether this wine with this score is a recommended buy or not. This is really the one part of blind tasting that I have a problem with. Imagine wine number 50 in the tasting ticked a lot of boxes, but there where 2 maybe 3 areas where I would like a little more. Now if that wine retails for £7.99 it is overperforming and I would highly recommend it, but if it is £45 I would be disappointed that the producer could not find the means at that price point to tick those other boxes, so I may not recommend it on the basis that you could find equal quality at a lower price, or better quality at the same. Knowing the price before blind tasting will just lead to the same fears that a taster will be swayed by the price, even though you don’t know the actual wine, if it is expensive you search for the positives, if it cheap you search for what is missing. A simple solution for me, is that you go through your process of assessing, tasting, writing your notes, and scoring. Then, before stating any recommendation, you are told the price. This final step is the most important for me, a lot of what goes before is, whether you like it or not, influenced by some degree by personal preference and opinion. In the end it is you and your business’ reputation that is on the line if you are going to recommend a wine. A note, score and recommendation that are all in harmony leaves little room for indecision with a customer, whether it is the Sunday supplement reader, online shopper or restaurant buyer. This fosters a degree of confidence and loyalty from your customers, a priceless privilege and something that is at the forefront of our minds every time we choose a wine at Roberson.
Mighty Mayacamas Roars
Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 will be released in the UK on Thursday 12th November. To request an allocation, please contact Private Client Sales Manager Patrick Robinson Mighty Mayacamas Roars When we think of Napa Cabernet there are certain names that resonate strongly with all lovers of wine, there’s Dominus, Opus One, Harlan, Maya and then another name that soars under the radar: Mayacamas Mayacamas Vineyards has been a source of legendary wine since 1889. A truly historic estate in the heart of Napa located at the top of Mount Veeder, the quality and longevity of Mayacamas’ wines is a product of the terroir on which the grapes are grown. At 1800-2400ft above sea level in the crater of a long extinct volcano, this combination of altitude, complex volcanic soils and dry farming yields concentrated berries that give wonderfully structured and complex wines. The estate was taken over in 2013 and the new custodians have ensured they continue to stay true to Mayacamas’ heritage, making precise Cabernet with spectacular ageing potential. These are not wines to tackle in their youth, they age gracefully well into their 30s. Under this new stewardship the estate has been going from strength to strength, the 2015 won No.2 in the Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2019, it also achieved 97+ from acclaimed critic Antonio Galloni. The 2016 however is certainly a step up in terms of quality, 99 points from Galloni: “The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is every bit as monumental as it was from barrel last year. Rich, deep and powerful, the 2016 is endowed with tremendous fruit concentration and all of the structure to back it up. Wild, savory and super-expressive from the very first taste, the 2016 is utterly magnificent. Wild cherry, grilled herbs, new leather, licorice and mocha infuse the 2016 with tremendous brooding power. The 2016 represents a striking, contemporary expression. All the Mayacamas signatures are there, but with just an extra kick of finesse that makes the 2016 a Cabernet of total allure”. Antonio Galloni While the score speaks for itself, this wine is clearly “utterly magnificent”, Mayacamas still has one more trick up its sleeve. The value in this wine is off the charts. This is a winery that can stand up to icons of the region and still offers value to those lucky enough to get their hands on a case. Mayacamas has firmly cemented itself as a New California Icon, a producer making truly epic Cabernet. The wines produced are of such sublime quality that they would rival even top producers from Bordeaux, further testament to this producer punching well above its weight. It is with bated breath we anticipate the release of the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon and justifiably so, this is the highest rated ever wine from the estate, a very exciting prospect indeed. The 2016 Cabernet is a wine that will cellar comfortably well in to the 2050s. We expect high levels of demand for this new release but if you are interested in a case please do contact Private Client Sales Manager Patrick Robinson for more information.
Move Over DRC, It's all about DDLC
To receive private client offers, or to request an allocation of Domaine de la Côte, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org Move Over DRC, It's all about DDLC For lovers of Pinot Noir the ‘go to’ was always Burgundy, however in recent years the sands have shifted. With a lot of buyers looking to California, and with producers like Domaine de la Côte it is easy to see why. In his recent review Antonio Galloni comments on the Domaine’s wines “some of the most epic, dramatically beautiful Pinots I have ever tasted in the Sta. Rita Hills, or anywhere for that matter”. Not only are these wines exceptional but they are exceptional value for money too! With other producers raising their prices with increased demand, Sashi and Rajat have no interest in following suit. They do not want to make cult wines, they make wine for wine lovers. Here at Roberson we have been banging the drum for the ‘New California Icons’, and it is quite clear that in their short history Domaine de la Côte have cemented themselves as an Icon. The Domaine was born out of the Evening Land Vineyards in Santa Barbara. They sold their estate to Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr, two greats of California winemaking, and they have been building acclaim around their estate ever since. Their Domaine is a collection of five vineyards on the western edge of the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County. The vineyards are sited on south facing slopes approximately seven miles from the Pacific Ocean. The maritime influence is felt in the vineyards, they make cool climate Pinot Noir of the highest calibre. The vineyards are planted with heritage California clones of Pinot Noir, in their Lompoc winery they make use of the whole cluster, fermentation is spontaneous, and the wines are raised in oak (approximately 20% new). Sashi and Rajat aim to produce wines that give a purity of fruit and a true expression of their terroir. The Domaine farms its vineyards organically and makes its wines with the philosophy of ‘add nothing; take nothing away.’ All the wines are produced and bottled at the winery in the town of Lompoc in Santa Barbara County, three miles from the Domaine. The critics consistently heap praise on the wines of Domaine de la Côte, with Antonio Galloni commenting below on the 2018s. “Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr made some of the most epic, dramatically beautiful Pinots I have ever tasted in the Sta. Rita Hills, or anywhere for that matter. The wines are rich, potent and full of character. As always, the Pinots are done with a healthy amount of whole clusters. The 2018s were racked into tank before harvest 2019 and bottled in January and February of this year. I was utterly blown away by the 2018s, and you will be too.” Domaine de la Côte’s popularity has grown steadily in recent years and the wines now sell out on release. These wines are snapped up eagerly by those in the know and they rarely see the light of day again. Cellared and savoured by those lucky enough to get hold of the wines. Only in their infancy, this is the 8th release from the Domaine. The best is yet to come, and that is a very exciting prospect indeed. With a particular focus on three site specific wines, the La Côte, Bloom’s Field and Memorious, you can get a thorough picture of the wines produced by Domaine de la Côte. La Côte The flagship wine for the Domaine, from a South East facing slope with heterogeneous soils. The wines from this vineyard are tense in youth and require cellaring to achieve their full potential. Described by Galloni as “an especially brooding, potent style”. Pop in the cellar and forget about for a few years. Bloom's field A South West facing slope with light clay top soils. This is a more approachable style, more vivid and exciting in youth. This is one to drink while you wait for the La Côte to come around. Galloni comments that the Bloom’s Field is “Aromatically intense and finely cut”. Memorious Downslope from Bloom’s Field the soils here are heavier alluvial deposits. The resulting wines are ripe, bright and full in their youth, these can be effortlessly enjoyed young. Galloni comments they are “deep, expansive and positively thrilling”. The 2018s, which are due to be released next week, are a very exciting prospect. These are high scoring wines yet they still represent such exceptional value for money especially when you compare to other US Pinots or indeed their Burgundian counterparts. Their wines are helping to redefine how people think about Californian Pinot Noir. To receive private client offers, or to request an allocation of these wines by the case, please contact private client sales manager Patrick Robinson, or email email@example.com
An American Food Journey
When you think of American food, you might immediately be thinking of burgers, deep dish Pizza or one of my personal favourites, the mighty hot dog. After-all, it’s the nation that bought us high-street fast-food staples such as McDonalds and Burger King. Yet, America has one of the most diverse food cultures in the world. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. It has a population of 325 million people, built largely on immigrants coming in search of fulfilling their American dream, bringing with them their family recipes from home. This has had a spectacular influence on the types of food and cooking methods from the rich, Italian culture of New York, to, one of my favourites, Mexican cuisine coming up into California. Here are three of our top food and wine pairings, piping hot from the USA. 1 - Mexican Moda Mexican food is going through quite the renaissance. Even right here in London, fashionable Mexican street food vendors can be found at every food market. Even some of the most celebrated chefs are launching their own restaurants here, including Kol, celebrating modern Mexican cuisine by Chef Patron Santiago Lastra. Mexican food is jam packed with flavour. Meats tend to be cooked long and slow, with the inclusion of a variety of smokey chillies. You’ll find plenty of salsa, tomatillo tomatoes and lots of herbs. These delicate flavours match perfectly with Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The savoury notes of Pinot marry seamlessly with a steak Taco, while the weight of a citrus packed Chardonnay is perfect with a Baja fish taco. Our Pinot and Chardonnay from Backhouse are the perfect match - and some of the best value in our range. 2 - Southern Soul No food tour of America would be complete without a visit to soul food mecca New Orleans. Of course, this is the best place on earth for fried chicken, yet the African-American influence has bought BBQ, spices, beans and creole gumbo to almost every restaurant in the south. One of our absolute favourite food and wine pairings, strictly reserved for a good Friday night cook off is sparkling wine and southern fried chicken. There are plenty of recipies to do this at home, and a couple of our favourite sparkling wines from the USA match perfectly - the Cruse Wine Co Valdiguie Pet Nat, and from Rajat Parr, the Sandhi Blanc de Blancs. 3 - Little Italy Italian food has probably had one of the largest influences on American cuisine. After-all, Spaghetti Bolognese, garlic bread, pepperoni topped pizza and meatballs are all American inventions. It all began in the late nineteenth century, when swathes of Italian immigrants headed to the states through Ellis Island. Of course, the west coast enjoyed the bounty of ingredients and recipes the Italians bought with them, in particular New York, which outside of Italy, is one of the best places on earth to enjoy Italian food. Whenever I’m cooking Italian food at home, I’ll always pop the cork on something from one of our go-to Italian/American wine families: Viano Vineyards. Viano came over from Piedmont in the 1920’s and purchased a vineyard in the Contra Costa County AVA, just outside San Francisco. The Viano Zinfandel is a knock-out with a rich beef ragu and parpadelle. Got an American food and wine pairing you'd love to share? Tag us on social media @robersonwine
The American Revolution
The American Revolution The year is 1976. Steven Spurrier is an Englishman who owns a wonderful little wine shop in Paris, just off the rue Royale. He is constantly on the look out for exciting new things and has a very open mind about wine. Quite unique for someone selling in Paris, where the clientele are Francophiles through and through. Thankfully for us, Steven’s outlook is very different, and he has become captivated by the wonderful wines being made in North America. However, he also knows that his French customers would turn their noses up at an American wine, no matter how delicious and exceptional they were. Therefore, he concocts a daring plan; a tasting event unlike anything the world had ever seen. He would gather together some of the best tasters around, and host one of the most infamous blind tastings in history. The year is 1976, and this is the Judgement of Paris. Every wine tasted blind, with the taster having no idea which wine is from where. A mix of top Bordeaux and top Burgundy, pitted against their American counterparts. A bold move indeed, but when the tasting was over and the results were in, the winner was clear as day. American wines triumphed over the French, and in the course of a single day their reputation and demand sky rocketed. Steven even went on to star in a motion picture about the tasting, ‘Bottle Shock’ (although he does look remarkably like Alan Rickman in it …). 1976 put North American winemaking in the spotlight. It was proof that you didn’t need hundreds of years of tradition to make incredible wines. In fact, North American winemaking was a very young industry at that point. Two world wars, The Great Depression and Prohibition had brought it to its knees, nearly killing it entirely. Yet it still rose like a phoenix from the ashes as a personification of the American dream. Through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s it quietly worked hard at its craft, turning so little into so much. The Judgement of Paris proved this hard work paid off and the wine world would be forever changed for the better. Unfortunately, the phrase ‘what goes up, must come down’ is quite apt for what came next. The rise of wine critics in the 80’s and 90’s saw the North American wine industry chase top scores, but lose itself in the process. Big, chewy, tannic, oaky, rich. The finesse started to disappear, and what remained were eye watering prices on wines that wouldn’t be drinkable for decades. North American wines lost their shine and appeal to wine drinkers, and were left to gather dust in dark cellars, never to see the light of day again... or so it may seem. The next generation of North American winemakers were fed up with pandering to the critics. It was high time for a revolution, and boy what a revolution it would be. They set about to return to the glory of 1976; to make honest, vibrant, exciting wines that celebrated their unique growing conditions, and gave the French a run for their money. They wanted to make wines to be drunk and enjoyed, not squirreled away for decades. 1976 had Steven Spurrier to bring this about, and in the 21st Century the revolution was brought to the masses by Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle. ‘The New California Wine’ is a book we urge you to read. It is a love letter to modern North American winemaking (specifically California, but we find the story it tells is just as relevant to other states like Oregon). It catalogues the revolution of the ‘New Wave’ of Californian producers who breathed new life into the region, and sent ripples of change through the industry. The change they’ve effected is undeniable, and has also paved the way for a new generation of critics who champion this change and celebrate wines to drink not cellar (Antonio Galloni of Vinous being a notable example). These producers are particularly important to us, because we are so deeply proud to import their wines to the UK. The likes of Corison, Mayacamas and Mount Eden, have always gone against the grain. They’ve bucked the trend and stayed resolute on their personal styles no matter the critics' opinions. The 80’s and 90’s were difficult, but with the new wave has come the long overdue acclaim they truly deserve. After all, if you believe in what you’re making and do it well, eventually the world sits up and listens. The new American classics are also perfectly represented by Jamie Kutch, Domaine de la Cote, Arnot-Roberts, Kongsgaard, Hirsch, Josh Bergström and Sandhi. Taking the classic grape varietals that first brought North American wine such acclaim (namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), and putting a fresh spin on them. Then you have rule breaking mavericks, pushing the boundaries and going against the grain. Piedrasassi, Jolie-Laide, Tatomer and Broc Cellars are paving the way for new ways of working, and proving that you can still make exceptional North American wines in unconventional ways. The Judgment of Paris made North American wine exciting 44 years ago. This ‘New Wave’ of North American producers, who’ve crashed onto the scene in the 21st century, are keeping North American wines just as mind blowing, and exciting now. There has never been a better time to drink US wines.
5 Top Tips for The Perfect Dinner Party
Lockdown has been a strange time for everyone. Most of us would’ve taken up a bit of dodgy DIY, becoming an expert sourdough baker or dusted off those forgotten cake tins to make endless batches of banana bread. These are things that haven’t really continued since lockdown ended, but one thing that might become a more regular occurrence is the old-fashioned dinner party. With a large number of restaurants still closed, many of us are hosting friends instead; choosing to shop for better ingredients and becoming a bit more confident in the kitchen. With the revival of the dinner party, we thought we’d share our top tips for being the perfect host, bringing your dining room to life and ways to introduce a bit of that restaurant magic into your own home. Tip 1 – Prepare ahead and keep it simple The old saying goes, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. And that truly applies here. Prepping as much as you can in advance will save you time and hassle when your guests arrive. From making sure your dishwasher is empty before the dinner party, to setting the table well in advanced so you’re not rushing around at the start. Keeping things simple will help you not only in the preparation, but also at the end of the evening when all your guests have gone, and you’re left with the washing up. Don’t try and do 3 courses on 3 separate plates. Serve from the middle and tell your guests to hang onto the same plate throughout. Keep the food simple too. For example, cold starters mean you can prepare ahead and serve immediately. You don’t want to spend your whole evening in the kitchen while your guests are having all the fun. Tip 2 - Bring the restaurant home We think bringing elements of a fine dining restaurant into the home, will make your guests feel like their having a Michelin star experience. From writing out simple menus, to name place cards, these little touches will go a long way. Here are some suggestions: 1) Writing out the menu’s for each guest. It is a small detail, but instantly makes your dinner party seem like an event. 2) Reuse your old wine bottles as candle holders. We have a great wine bar hack for this, as often the neck of a bottle is too narrow to fit a dinner candle. Simply dunk the end of the candle in some boiling water, for a few seconds. The wax will soften, and the candle will fit in the bottle neck with ease. 3) Reuse your old wine corks as place setting holders. Cut a thin strip off the bottom (to make a flat base) and cut a line across the top. You can then fit a name card in the top cut. 4) Writing your guests names on their wine glass with a chalk pen (available on Amazon, in WH Smiths and most stationary stores). With Covid safety being so important, this is a good way to make sure no one accidentally drinks from another’s glass. It also stops you from spending your whole evening re-washing glasses. Tip 3 - Splash out on nice glassware One simple way to get maximum enjoyment from the wine you’ll be serving, is to drink it in proper wine glasses. And that doesn’t mean spending hundreds of pounds on a set of new Zalto’s. Riedel and Spigleau offer superb, restaurant standard wine glasses at a really good price. Another sure way to impress your guests is to decant your wines. Even if it’s 30 mins before serving, the process of decanting wines will allow your wines to open up fully before drinking and will also make your guests feel part of something special. All wine can be decanted. And it’s super easy! Tip 4 – Be brave with your food and wine pairings Keeping things simple doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on flavour either. There are some fantastic, easy recipes out there that can be paired with unusual wines. For example, deep, full flavoured reds like Shiraz pair really well with spice, perhaps a lamb or vegetable curry. Merlot is great with slow roasted meats, like a pulled pork taco. White wines can equally bring some interesting conversations to a dinner party, why not try hotdogs with Champagne, or salmon Gravalax with a cold glass of Provence Rose? Desserts are always fun too. Some great pudding wines will elevate a simple dessert to new levels. Try a cold icewine with a peach cobbler. Sweet wines will also pair really well with a well selected cheese board, especially creamy, blue cheeses. Tip 5 – Remember to enjoy yourself Hosting can be stressful, but always remember that it’s just a bit of food and wine. Hospitality comes from the heart, and no matter what you serve, or what inevitably goes wrong (you’re only human), the overall experience will still be wonderful. The simple act of cooking for friends, in your own home, is already so special. Everything else is just a bonus. You are not a professional restaurant, and your friends will love you even if you accidentally burn dessert. Great restaurants like to treat their customers as guests; people they have welcomed into their home to lavish with kindness, generosity and the food they like to serve. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Relax, go with the flow, and always enjoy yourself. Bonus tip – The Hangover cure One last note from us. Drink well, eat well, and make sure you have a pint of water ready before you go to bed and no concrete plans the next day. Stock up on the berocca for the next morning and have the ultimate greasy breakfast foods ready to fry up. There is no set ‘hangover cure’ but these three tips have seen us through a lot of groggy mornings.
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