Anna Von Bertele
Harvest 2017: Roberson Reports
Wondering how vintage 2017 is shaping up? We’ve been checking in with a number of our producers from across the northern hemisphere, to find out how this year’s harvest has go...
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
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.
Anna Von Bertele
Natural wine. It’s one of those phrases in the industry that some express huge enthusiasm for, while others turn away and don’t even want to acknowledge it. So what is natural wine? There’s no set definition, no scientific test that can be performed on a wine to label it ‘natural’, but according to a panel of experts at Decanter Magazine, it means a wine is: - Made from fruit grown in vineyards farmed organically or biodynamically - Hand-harvested - Fermented with indigenous yeasts - No enzymes - No additives such as acid, tannin, colour and little or no added SO2 - Unfined and no (or light) filtration - No other heavy manipulation At Roberson Wine, we don’t choose to buy one particular type of wine, or wine that’s only made in a certain way. We buy wine that we love to drink and that we think our customers will also love. It's happy coincidence that the wines we love tend to be from smaller producers, who hand-craft their produce and who often happen to follow the principles above. It’s wine production as it was in the olden days, when wine was left to its own devices, and where the terroir and the grapes expressed their true characteristics. This is not as simple as it sounds; you still need the hands of an excellent winemaker, who understands how best to make the key decisions – for example when to pick, how to crush, what type of fermentation to initiate. Done badly, natural wine-making can result in a cloudy wine that tastes like cider; it’s actually easier to make a conventional, non-natural wine, by hiding faults with sulphur. However, when done well, natural wines can offer a pure expression of terroir and grape and can be absolutely delicious. Our natural wine collection showcases the best styles of natural wine… and in case you didn’t know, there is a rumour that natural wines don’t give you a hangover… check it out for yourself.
Anna Von Bertele
I often daydream about living in the Golden State and, sitting in the sun on Saturday in London, looking up at the vast blue sky, I felt I could have been in one of David Hockney's California paintings. I imagined mountains in the distance, palm trees all around and a clear blue swimming pool I could dive in to... recurring motifs in Hockney's work. That evening, Tate Britain had invited Roberson to present four of our Californian wines to people visiting their current David Hockney exhibition. The Californian wine we sell benefits from the expanse of sky and climate Hockney captures, so the opportunity to introduce people to some of our favourites, to give a taste of the state before they immersed themselves in the paintings, was a marriage of senses. It was hard to narrow down our huge range to just four wines from the region, but we eventually settled on Lioco's Sonoma County Chardonnay, Lompoc's Pinot Noir, Peirano's Old Vine Zinfandel and Slingshot's Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines, which encapsulate the balance and elegance that define our range, evoke the sense of possibility of the landscape they come from in a way akin to the paintings on display. The selection also demonstrates the variety of the regions, four of the main grape varieties and the approaches of producers inspired by different features of California. Enjoy these wines and feel the inspiration from this incredible region.
Anna Von Bertele
Working above a winery has its intriguing days – the whirring of the sorting machine, the aromas of fermenting grapes and most recently yesterday, the clattering of the bottling machine. And it is this development that I find the most exciting. After the journey the grapes have been on, this is the final preparation before the wine can be enjoyed. The clattering of the machine yesterday was particularly exciting – it was bottling our only English grape of the harvest, Bacchus. Five months ago, the Bacchus grapes in Great Whitman vineyard in Essex and Sandhurst Vineyard in Kent were picked and travelled to London Cru winery in London. Gavin the winemaker is particularly excited about this variety – it’s only recently been grown in England so all winemakers are experimenting with the best way to treat it. Most examples in the UK will have some residual sugar, however Gavin has fermented his to bone dry, managing to create the perfect balance between acidity and flavour, and he’s fermented 5% in barrel to add depth and texture to the wine. After much clattering, dubious music and chatter from the very helpful volunteers that came in for a day to assist, the Bacchus is now bottled and ready to drink. It’s having a couple of weeks to settle, but watch this space to have the chance to try what might just be England’s best Bacchus wine.
Anna Von Bertele
Right now I’m sitting at my desk feeling pretty satisfied, perhaps even smug, as last night I got to eat at one of the most talked about, hard-to-get-into restaurants in London - The Barbary. I had high expectations which were vindicated because not one single dish disappointed. My only problem was that I was a little over-zealous and got too full before being able to try every dish on the menu. I'm still fantasizing about quite how heavenly the dishes were. The best news of all – they've used one of the best wine suppliers in the country.... So I thought I'd share the top three dreamy food and wine matches from my evening. Sunier's Fleuire with baba ganoush. This is one of my all-time favourite dishes and the Barbary did it to perfection – so smoky and silky with scattered pine nuts on top which added another dimension to the texture. The fruit, purity and depth of this biodynamically made Gamay provided a match made in heaven. Matthiasson Linda Vista Chardonnay with Cauliflower Jaffa style - deep fried florets with a tomato, coriander salsa – the acidity and subtle creaminess of this Napa Chardonnay paired with this dish was so divine it left me wondering if I needed meat in my life… However, this notion was short-lived. Our Slingshot Napa Cabernet with Pata Negra neck followed – the juiciest, tenderest, melt-in-the-mouth chargrilled pork was the perfect counterfoil for the pure fruit and soft tannins of the Cabernet. There are too many delicious dishes and wine combinations to mention, but I’ll let you go and discover them for yourself (make sure to try the monkfish and Austrian Zwiegelt too!) I’ll leave you with thoughts of the naan e Barbari, a soft flat bread cooked in their clay oven, the most perfect accompaniment to all the sauces and spices - just don’t make my mistake and make sure you save room for all the other delicious food. In some ways, I’m glad I didn’t get to try the whole menu - it means I'm going to have to go back there again soon!
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