Chateau Musar - The World's Most Dangerous Fine Wine
Making wine in a war-zone A border with war-torn Syria just a few kilometres away from the vineyards. A cultural tectonic fault-line of a country that has spent a lar...
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.
Why Love Europe?
Europe means different things to different people. To some, it’s a hot-topic political entity; to others it’s just a place they visit for two weeks every summer. To us of course, it’s Bordeaux and Burgundy, Bolgheri and Barolo, the slate slopes of the Rhine and the volcanic soils of Santorini. Our tiny corner of the northern hemisphere is absolutely central to wine. Remains of amphora in archaeological sites are evidence of its intrinsic role in our culture since antiquity. Today we’re responsible for more than half of the entire world’s wine production and, I’d argue, an even greater share of its wine diversity. Few other regions can produce wines that would rank amongst the world’s greatest examples of ripe, powerful Cabernet Sauvignon, perfumed and silky-delicate Pinot Noir, sumptuously rich Chardonnay and pinpoint-precise, mineral-laden Riesling. Add in Galician Albarino, Nerello Mascalese grown on the slopes of Mount Etna, Greek Xinomavro and countless other uniquely European wines, and there’s no debate to be had. While wine production all over the world traces its origins to European settlement, Europe continues to set the standards to which the rest of the wine world aspires. The highest compliment you can pay many Aussie Chardonnay producers is that their wine tastes like white Burgundy. The best Napa Cabernets taste like First Growth Bordeaux. If you’re a South American billionaire with aspirations to own a great wine estate, the consultant you hire to enact your vision will probably be a European like Alberto Antonini, Eric Boissenot, or Michel Rolland. It’s not a one-way relationship; advances made by new world organisations like UC Davis have changed – and often improved – the way we in Europe make our wines too. But it’s fairly telling that many of Europe’s finest winemakers are turning away from the technological developments of the late 20th century, in favour of a return to the low-impact, artisan techniques used by their great-grandparents. So whatever your individual wine preferences might be, there’s obviously something about Europe that you should love. But if it’s so obvious, why are we making a fuss about it? At Roberson Wine we’ve become renowned in recent years for our unparalleled range of Californian wines. We were the first UK merchant to spot an emerging trend towards production of finer, more elegant and stylistically more European wines in the golden state and, with all the excitement and column inches this has generated, it could be easy to forget that the core of our range has always come from the wonderfully eclectic wine regions of Europe. While we’re delighted that our Californian wines have been so successful, when Cliff Roberson set up a wine shop on Kensington High Street in 1991, his idea was to offer the classic wines of Europe in a fresh, new and innovative way. 26 years later, our vision remains just as strong. We'll be shining a spotlight on our European range throughout June with our Love Europe campaign. Shop our Love Europe Collection and join us at our Love Europe Tasting on Thursday 22nd June.
Bacchus - England's Grape
If the name Bacchus solely conjures up for you the image of a debauched ancient-Roman god of feasting and drinking excess, then you probably haven’t tasted what is fast becoming known as “England’s grape”, by the same name. Whereas the Roman god of wine is often portrayed as a slovenly glutton, the grape variety Bacchus is all nerve-tingling freshness and zingy citrus – something fabulous to install in an ice-bucket on a sunny summer’s day and sip instead of the usual Sancerre, or Pouilly Fumé. It wasn’t always obvious that this would be the case; originally conceived at a German Wine Institute in the 1930s as an early-ripening cross between Riesling, Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau, the grape never really took off in its native land, other than as something to blend in with other less-flavoursome varieties. However, following the grape achieving protected status in 1972, it began to be adopted by English winegrowers, who found that England’s cooler climate and shorter annual growing hours resulted in a gorgeously fresh, aromatic, Elderflower character to match with Bacchus’ naturally exuberant varietal flavours. Today, Bacchus is regarded by the English Wine Producers body as “one of the UK’s better varieties, capable of producing world-class wines” – and nowhere is this truer than at Roberson’s winery downstairs: London Cru. As Victoria Moore wrote in The Telegraph in March 2016, London Cru’s last vintage of Bacchus “might just be the best I’ve tasted…. 20 per cent of it has been aged on its lees in old wooden barrels to give it some texture, and the wine is absolutely bone dry. It’s lovely: broad, yet also fine, redolent of elderflowers and fat blades of grass.” If our preliminary tastings with London Cru winemaker Gavin Monery are anything to go by, the new vintage 2016 is looking even better, adding floral and stone fruit aromas, with richer texture in the mouth, from 5% barrel fermentation. So this summer, side-line the Sancerre, as you won’t taste anything more delicious, or quintessentially English, than London Cru’s Bacchus. While the grape variety might have started its life in Germany, it really has found its true home in the heart of England’s countryside. London Cru Baker St. Bacchus 2016 is available now.
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