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Second Wines, Not Second Best

What is a second wine? The 'second wine' concept originates in Bordeaux, where as well as the 'Grand Vin', many estates will also make an additional cuvée with fruit from less mature vines, typically in a way that allows for drinking without any need for extended ageing in the cellar. Oftentimes these wines are lighter, and more fruit driven, easier and earlier drinking in addition to being generally great value. So what do you want to do with your wine? Do you want to drink it now or lay it down for 10 years before it is approachable? Do you want to blow the holiday budget on one bottle or keep it and buy something with similar flavours, but a far more reasonable price tag? In the interests of research for our customers (I know, tough gig), we tasted three amazing examples of second wines this week, with the visit of Cécile Cazard, who represents Chanel-owned estates, Chateau Rauzan-Ségla & Chateau Canon. You know when you are tasting vintage claret at 09:45 am that you have started the day on the right footing. Croix Canon Croix Canon is the second wine of Château Canon, located in St-Émilion on the right-bank of the Gironde. Rather wonderfully, Chateau Canon was purchased in 1760 by Jacques Kanon who earned his fortune as a ‘privateer’, a polite way of saying pirate in those days. The Fournier family managed the estate from 1919 until it was sold in 1996 to Alain Wertheimer and Gerard Wertheimer, the owners of the famous luxury goods manufacturer Chanel, who had previously purchased Château Rauzan-Ségla in 1994. While Rauzan-Ségla’s and Canon’s first wines continue to fetch staggering prices, in part driven by their investment-grade status, there is amazing value to be had in their second wines. Croix Canon 2014 First up was Croix Canon 2014. This was a classic vintage across Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion, which reaped the benefits of an Indian summer that kicked into action in late August and continued through September and October. The resulting wine has a wonderful purity of fruit and a long finish to match. As with most right-bank estates, the dominant grape here is Merlot. One of the most surprising things we learned was that contrary to conventional food matching, Cécile recommended having a tasty white fish with the Croix Canon, for example a meaty fillet of grilled hake. Ségla Ségla is the second wine from the Château Rauzan-Ségla estate, located within the Margaux appellation on the left-bank. The château was managed by John Kolasa, who was also in charge of Château Canon until late 2014. The history of the estate dates back to 1661. Thomas Jefferson ordered 10 cases of Rauzan-Ségla after visiting Bordeaux in 1787. Ségla 2011 The 2011 vintage was marked by a warm spring and a cool summer, which suited the sandier soils of Margaux. The wine has intense aromas of black fruits and blueberries, integrated with subtle notes of vanilla. And the blend is predominantly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc thrown in for good measure. Cécile also suggested an unusual pairing for this wine. After allowing some time for the wine to breathe, she said that it would match excellently with some Indian cuisine. Ségla 2009 To round off a superb morning tasting, Cécile poured us the 2009 vintage from Ségla. Following a difficult winter, the spring, summer and autumn were ideal a decade ago in Bordeaux. The wine was noted for its elegance and silky tannins. While it is drinking very well right now, this is a wine that still has plenty of fine years ahead! We don’t know about you, but we are dying to put these food pairing suggestions to the test. We shall report back tout suite!

23/10/2019

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Roberson Wine

Celebrate and Win

Celebrate our 10th birthday and win a magnum of 2003 La Réserve de Léoville-Barton RobersonWine.com turned 10 years old on Monday 10th September. It's been a great ten years, and as part of our celebration, we're giving away magnums of the first wine we ever sold online, La Réserve de Léoville-Barton 2003, every week for the rest of September. The 2003 magnums have only become better with age (just like us...) - and this superb Bordeaux is drinking beautifully now. To be in with a chance of winning, place an order through the Roberson website, and you'll be automatically entered into the draw for that week. If you don't win that week, don't worry, simply place another order any other week during September and you'll have another chance to win. Good luck!

10/09/2018

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Roberson Wine

Celebrating English Chardonnay

Liz Sagues, author of A Celebration of English Wine (Robert Hale, 2018), investigates the growing success of English Chardonnay English Chardonnay - Something to Celebrate? English Chardonnay: what a world away, in flavour as well as distance, from the gold-hued, oaky, vanilla-sweet examples that gave the grape such a bad reputation, prompted the ABC (anything but Chardonnay) movement and still influence those wine drinkers who have never realised that Chablis is made from Chardonnay. And Chablis is so much better a comparison for English Chardonnay than wines from hotter vineyards. Our home product isn't truly Chablis-like, even though some who make it hint at that. But it does share some characteristics, with a properly British individuality – after all, there can be very considerable similarity in the soils into which the vine roots dig. While English Chardonnay has the crispness of the French classic, there isn't yet the same stony minerality, and the scents and flavours more often evoke the flowers of hedgerow and meadow than tropical fruits. As befits so young an introduction, styles vary a lot, from the very light and almost tart to denser, riper wines. Oak rarely appears – generally, unless the cellar skill is very high, a good thing with such delicate raw material. Older vines, and a little more maturity before wines are sold, will surely raise the 'wow' level soon. Quite rightly, Chardonnay is called the chameleon grape, and England will as the years progress add more colours to the existing spectrum, though they will surely remain bright and fresh. To put the present story in context, a little history is relevant. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are now by far the most-planted grape varieties in England, a massive switch from the late 20th century, when Müller-Thurgau, Reichensteiner and Seyval Blanc filled the vineyards and the noble varieties were rare. But they were there: Sir Guy Salisbury Jones, the man who revived English commercial viticulture after WWII with his 1950s Hambledon vineyard, had Chardonnay vines. Ripening was a problem, though. Pathé filmmakers recording the 1972 harvest thought the berries were 'too small and too green'; Chris Foss, head of the pioneering wine department at Plumpton College, felt much the same about other plantings a decade later: 'Chardonnay berries were like frozen peas'. The revolution in vine choice has come about for two reasons. One is that noble varieties now ripen properly most years in England, because of the gentle rise in summer temperatures (global warming is less welcome for the weather variability and violence it also brings). The other, probably more influential, is the success of English sparkling wine, where the vast majority of Chardonnay grapes end up. Fizz needs acid, and England's grapes have that. But the increasing, and increasingly good, examples of still Chardonnay are proving that the destination should not always be sparkling. A good number of new entrants release still Chardonnay while waiting for their sparkling wine to be ready for the market – it makes budget sense. There are, though, going to be more and more producers for whom still wine is most important, and significant figures favour Chardonnay. London Cru's 2017 Chancery Lane English Chardonnay is on sale now at £18 per bottle.

15/06/2018

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Longing for l'Apero

Purchasing Assistant Marion shares her favourite tradition. I love pubs in the UK. There is nothing like them in France, but I have to admit, I sometimes get a bit nostalgic about the “aperos” we do in my country. An apero is basically a pre-dinner drink that very often, evolves into the dinner itself. Like having a pint and crisps in the pub, we meet up with friends in a bistro or at home and enjoy wine and finger foods. For these occasions, I always go for a good rosé and it is usually the first bottle to be emptied! With our current rosé focus sale, there are plenty of ways to match your wine for l’apero: M de Minuty, Château Minuty The fresh acidity and delicate fruits are so versatile, that you can pair Minuty with almost anything. For a quick apero, just match it with stuffed olives and mixed nuts like pistachios, cashews, almonds, peanuts… so simple! Rose et Or, Château Minuty More expressive than M de Minuty, with grapefruit notes and white peach. The Rose et Or is great with a charcuterie board (saucisson, jambon cru, pate en croute…) as its acidity will balance out the fattiness of the meat. Whispering Angel, Château d'Esclans In the same style of Minuty, Whispering Angel is also a dry Provence rosé made by Sacha Lichine, who has become famous for making Provence’s most expensive rosé wine: Garrus. Whispering Angel is expressive, slightly sweeter on the palate, with notes of strawberries and raspberries. This wine would be heavenly with fresh goat’s cheese, rosemary and honey toasts, and a bowl of cherry tomatoes. Cremant de Limoux Rosé J Laurens, N7 Sparkling wine is also great for apero and it is a shame to keep it for dessert only! The sweetness and creaminess of the bubbles call for melon and prosciutto wraps, or watermelon and feta slices with a drop of balsamic vinegar. For all these wines, make sure to chill them before serving, but don’t freeze them otherwise all the subtle aromas won’t develop in your glass. Bonne santé!

15/05/2018

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Vegetarian Food and Wine Matching

Roberson staff share their favourite vegetarian recipes and wine matches Easy Lentil Stew By: Tayla Roberson I’ve been a vegetarian since 1980. That was a pre-foodyism age when quiche, potato skins and omelette were the on-trend options. Being meat free is much more interesting these days, but vegetarian food and wine pairing hasn’t got much easier; if you want a lovely glass of Bordeaux, Tofu doesn’t taste any better with it than scrabbled egg did. So, go old-school French to make a simple dish with flavour and character to meet the wine half way. It’s dark, delicious and almost meaty. The Ingredients: 200g Puy lentils 1 onion A couple of carrots A couple of sticks of celery A handful of cherry tomatoes A couple of small mushrooms A couple of bay leaves The Method: Take a large open bottom, shallow pan. Cut the onion into 8 and fry until soft in a splash of olive oil. Add the lentils. Cover with water. Add the remaining vegetables and a few bay leaves. Simmer gently for about half an hour. Top up with a splash of whichever wine you are drinking. It’ll be ready to eat when the lentils are al dente and the stock is reduced to a stew like consistency. The Wine Match: Perfect with a traditional Bordeaux like Château Franc-Cardinal, or a robust and slightly rustic southern French red, like L'Esprit de la Fontaine. --- Onion and Feta Pie By: Ben Greene This is a modified version of the Provence pizza - pissaladière - which normally features anchovies in place of the Feta below. The key is not to rush the onions. The Ingredients: 1kg onions Olive oil A sheet of all-butter puff pastry Black olives Feta The Method: Peel and slice the onions, then cook them in olive oil over a very low heat for two hours. They should collapse down without catching. Spread them on the puff pastry leaving a bit of a border, and brush that with olive oil. Scatter the black olives and Feta over the top. Bake in a medium oven for 30 minutes or so. The Wine Match: Match with a high-quality Provence rosé like Minuty's Rose et Or, or try a Greek white to match the Feta and olives, like Argyros' native Santorini grape Aidani. --- Vegetarian Chilli By: Simon Huntington When I was considerably younger and fitter, a friend talked me into taking part in a weekend ‘adventure race’. This was a cross-country running and cycling event, which involved the extra challenge of having to navigate using map and compass to specific points along the course. At the end of the race, there were huge portions of vegetarian chilli served up to all the competitors – and I quickly realised that I could cut out the middle-man and enjoy the best part of the race experience without the muddy and exhausting preamble. The Ingredients: 1 large onion 250g mushrooms 6 sticks of celery 2 chilli peppers, deseeded 2 sweet red peppers 1 tin chopped tomatoes 1 carton black beans 500ml vegetable stock 20g 90% cocoa dark chocolate ½ teaspoon oregano ½ teaspoon chipotle-smoked chilli flakes ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust for taste) The Method: Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry until translucent in a large cast-iron cooking pot, over a medium-high heat. Chop the celery, sweet peppers and deseeded chillies and add. Slice the mushrooms and add after a further 2 minutes. Once all the vegetables are softened, add the oregano, cayenne pepper and smoked chilli flakes and continue frying for 1 minute to release the flavours. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and the vegetable stock and, once back up to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer slowly and reduce for around 30 minutes. After 30 minutes (or whenever the chilli has thickened), grate the dark chocolate into the mix, add the drained black beans and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve with brown rice or a baked potato. If the chilli is too hot for your taste, add Greek yoghurt to reduce the heat. The Wine Match: I would generally serve this with a red, but the spices will clash with anything that's too tannic, so you're best off with a ripe, silky red such as the Jackhammer Pinot Noir. If you'd prefer a white, try Semeli's succulent, floral Thea Mantinia Moschofilero. Got your own tried and tested vegetarian recipe? We'd love to hear from you and might feature your recipe in a future post - just get in touch.

20/02/2018

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The Domaine by Lidewij Van Wilgen, pt.3

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 The Netherlands. Read excerpt one: First Impressions and excerpt two: Where I'm From now. Chapters 6 and 7: First Weeks at Mas des Dames The winery is like an island. We’re all alone in this sea of green fields. Every once in a while, out in the distance I see a farmer on an old tractor looking in our direction. I follow his gaze, see our brand new machinery glinting in the sun in front of the cellar, and wonder what he makes of it all. In the shade of the almond tree in front of the wine cellar, Siebe, our vintner, is talking to Bruno, our main worker. I stare at the white jerry cans on the ground with their death heads and choking fish symbols. I kneel down to read one of the labels: très nocif pour le milieu aquatique - highly toxic to aquatic organisms. I think of the small stream down below and the little fish swimming in it. ‘Is it really necessary to do so much spraying?’ I ask. Bruno frowns at me. Suddenly, I see myself as if from a distance, the city girl in her trendy skirt. What would I know about weed killers and pesticides? Four days later, Adrien and I drive two anxious little girls to school. As we park our sleek blue Land Rover between two old Peugeots, I feel ill at ease – it’s shocking to see just how out of tune we are with our surroundings. At the school gate several small groups of women are chatting idly. Adrien's jovial 'Bonjour!' is acknowledged, albeit grudgingly, but is followed quickly by a resounding silence. These people all know each other; we are complete outsiders. Intruders almost. When we walk outside Adrien puts his arm around me. His attempts at reassuring me are quickly smothered by a scene in my mind’s eye that is so overpowering it leaves me gasping: Marijn, sitting on the floor in a beam of sunlight at her Montessori school back in Haarlem. I feel the tears welling up as I picture the jigsaw puzzles spread around her, the children's artwork hanging on the walls, all her little friends. What on earth are we doing here? --- 'Hey, that’s a perfect job for me!’ I say a few days later when Siebe is about to send Mia back into the vineyards to test the grapes for ripeness. Siebe fires me an admonishing look. ‘No, no,’ he says, gesturing at me to sit down. ‘Look, for this kind of work you have to be systematic. You can't just pick one hundred individual grapes at random; you have to have a system. ‘Fine,’ I say, ‘then I'll choose a couple of different rows in each section, and I'll make sure to pick at different heights.’ I stand up to go but Siebe doesn’t move, so I sit down again. He sighs and says: ‘No, Lidewij, I can't let you do this, no way. We’ve been using Mia's system right from the start. The results wouldn't be consistent if I suddenly let someone else pick the samples. It’s just not possible, sorry.’ ‘Are we going to harvest the grapes soon?’ I ask Siebe when he stops by that afternoon. ‘Harvest? Us?’ He regards me with something approaching pity, the silly child who's asked yet another stupid question. ‘Lidewij,’ he says wearily, ‘you have to understand that our quality criteria are a lot different from those of a cooperative. They have to gather the grapes on time from a host of different coopérateurs. So they have to start early. But we can wait until that precise moment of optimal ripeness.’ He takes a grape from one of the bags on the kitchen counter. ‘Here, take a look at the seed.’ He pops a grape into his mouth and then shows me the seed on the end of his index finger. ‘See the tip of the seed? It's still green. A grape isn't ripe until the seed has gone completely brown.’ I put a grape into my own mouth and take out the seed. He’s right; the top of it is still green - not yet ripe. ‘You can taste the seed as well,’ he goes on. ‘A ripe one has a roasted-almond flavour, not that sour, greenish taste.’ He takes another grape and bites it in half. ‘Look at this one. Do you see that? The seed is still stuck to the flesh. In a grape that is ripe the seed comes away real easy.’ I have just learned three extremely useful empirical criteria, with the result that I end up eating a lot more grapes over the next few days than is strictly necessary. I get a kick out of being able to follow the grapes' maturation process myself now using this simple, timeworn method. It comes as no surprise to me a week later when Siebe announces that the grenache blanc grapes are ready for harvesting. I had already come to the exact same conclusion myself. As Mas des Dames' UK importer, we're publishing a series of excerpts from Lidewij's book. Read excerpt one: First Impressions and excerpt two: Where I'm From now - and check back soon for the next part.

14/08/2017

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