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Thoughts on wine and other topics from the Roberson team

Patrick robinson blog

Patrick Robinson

Hirsch Vineyards - Winemaking on the Edge

Hirsch Vineyards - Winemaking on the Edge If California had a Burgundian style Cru system then Hirsch Vineyards would sit firmly at the top of the Grand and Premier Cru tiers. David Hirsch established Hirsch Vineyards during the 1980’s in the Fort Ross Seaview AVA, a tiny appellation with challenging terroir and its own unique micro climates. His aim was to produce site specific wines, in a time when California’s style largely rejected this idea. Hirsch’s reputation grew and the likes of Kistler and Littorai were soon buying their fruit, then in 2002 he established the winery and kept the best parcels for himself. Yesterday some of the team at Roberson were treated to a tasting with Jasmine Hirsch, David’s daughter who now runs the business. Over an hour or so we learned about the challenges they have overcome to produce the best wine to come out of the ‘True Sonoma Coast’. Over the 400 hectares owned by Hirsch, only 30 is under vine. The rest of the landscape is unforgiving, owing to its proximity to the San Andreas Fault. The vineyards themselves are set on the ridges and divided into a number of blocks. These have varying soils, clones etc and therein have brought their own challenges. A couple of plots suffer from leaf roll virus and another vineyard is planted on rootstocks that are suffering from Phylloxera. However, due to expert vineyard management, the fruit produced is still incredible. It’s almost miraculous, and the wines that come from these stressed vines are amazing. Jasmine explained that each block is vinified individually. Once the final wine is made it is then blended into the right cuvee. These wines are incredibly site and terroir specific and have their own characters which can still be picked out each vintage. Jasmine described 2016 as “a classic Hirsch vintage, it allowed the individual terroirs to really stand out…Gorgeous wines” Jasmine was not wrong, the purity of fruit, the fine acidity, beautiful tannins, the differing expressions in each cuvee, they really are gorgeous. Please see below a summary of the wines tasted: 2016 'San Andreas Fault' Estate Pinot Noir Their flagship wine, what David calls ‘Hirsch Hirsch’, if you were only to ever try one Hirsch wine make it this one. A true expression of what they do made from a blend of 30 parcels. Lovely ripe red fruit, a fine line of acidity, very approachable. Jasmine likens this to a blend of Premiers Cru. 2016 'Reserve' Estate Pinot Noir A super-charged San Andreas made from a blend from around 10 blocks. Much more structure and ageing potential than the Reserve, very ripe and intense. Jasmine likens this to a blend of Grands Cru. 2016 'West Ridge' Pinot Noir A micro terroir from the western side of the property, a selection of 3 blocks, some vines affected by leaf roll virus. A very elegant refined expression of pinot, with lovely acidity. This is the most delicate of Hirsch’s wines. 2016 'East Ridge' Pinot Noir A selection from the oldest parcels on the east ridge, the warmest site on the property with some vines stressed by Phylloxera. A rich intense offering with superb concentration and structure. 2016 'Raschen Ridge' Pinot Noir From a plot in the middle of the property, this is a minute bottling from vines approximately 20 years old. Great structure, incredible purity of fruit with fine tannins, a very energetic wine. “Hirsch is new world fruit and old world structure” The wonders of Hirsch do not cease to amaze, they are a winemaker who manage to produce Pinots to suit every taste and they come highly recommended. Jasmine mentioned these wines show the Californian sunshine without the heat, the highest abv they produce is around 13.5%. For our Private Clients; if you would like any more information or to place an order, please do contact Private Client sales manager Patrick Robinson:


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Roberson Wine

London Cru 2019 Decanter Scores

The Decanter scores are in, and London Cru's 2019 vintage is officially its best yet. Here is the full rundown of scores, from Julie Sheppard, for the latest release. London Cru, Baker Street Bacchus, England, 2019 - 93 POINTS 'This elegant, gastronomic wine shows what can be achieved with English Bacchus in the right hands. Australian winemaker Alex Hurley uses grapes from West Sussex and produces this limited-quantity label (3,000 bottles) at the boutique London Cru winery - the capital's first urban winery. Fresh and appealing Sauvignon-like nose, with lime, gooseberry, herbal and grassy notes. Judicious oak use (23% of the wine spends seven months in used premier cru Burgundy barrels) adds a delightful creaminess to the palate, well balanced by fresh acidity, plus notes of citrus interwoven with passionfruit, fresh pineapple and subtle elderflower. Ends with a crisp grapefruit bite.' London Cru, Pimlico Road Pinot Noir Précoce, England, 2019 - 91 POINTS 'Précoce is an early-ripening type of Pinot Noir, well-suited to the British climate. Made at London Cru urban winery, using grapes grown in West Sussex, this dangerously drinkable light-bodied red can be served chilled. Attractive red and black berry aromas leap out of the glass, followed by a juicy palate with raspberry, cherry and blueberry fruit, plus soft tannins and a fresh cranberry crunch. Well judged oak (seven months in old Burgundy barrels) provides structure and adds spice to the lingering, fruity finish.' London Cru, Petticoat Lane Pinot Gris PetNat, England, 2019 - 90 POINTS Made in London's first urban winery with grapes grown in West Sussex, this funky PetNat has vigorous bubbles and crisp acid. Bottled with its lees, so if you keep it for three to five years it will evolve in the bottle, developing more bready, yeasty notes. Apple and yeasty farmyard aromas. The palate is crisp and fresh, with high natural acidity, notes of citrus and green apple. Only 200 bottles made. This vintage was the first entirely in the hands, and vision, of winemaker Alex Hurley. Alex has used his extensive experience and knowledge to make some innovative, and delicious, English wines that are both exciting and unique. Production for 2019 was considerably smaller than previous years at London Cru, but as these scores show the quality has never been better. With the 2020 vintage just around the corner, we are so excited to see what else Alex has up his sleeve, and enjoy the amazing English wines he will undoubtedly continue producing for London Cru.


Alex hurley

Alex Hurley

Meet The Winemaker!

This week saw the launch of the brand new, 2019 vintage of London Cru. For this vintage, London Cru created a new twist on the classic English Bacchus, produced it's first ever English red wine (a Pinot Noir Precoce) and experimented with a limited production of delicious, lively Pinot Gris Pet Nat. To celebrate these new wines, we decided to sit down with our amazing London Cru winemaker, and introduce you all to the man behind the bottles. Hey Alex, tell us a little bit about yourself! I’m Alex the winemaker at London Cru. I’m originally from Melbourne, where I got my first wine gig working in the Bellarine Peninsula, with a winery called Lethbridge Wines. Ray and Marie, the winemakers here, are hugely inspirational, exciting and passionate. Randomly, at the time I was also working with Alex Byrne who opened Melbourne’s first urban winery called Noisy Ritual. These guys played a big part in my winemaking, and why I came to work at London Cru. Since this kick-off I spent a few years studying winemaking and working in Italy and France, but finally landed in the UK to sate my love of cool climate vino! What made you decide to become a winemaker? Wine has always been a big part of my life. I grew up in a wine loving family, organised every holiday around visiting wine regions and even got married at a winery. There came a point when I realised this is what I should be doing…the passion took over and here I am. Tell us a little bit about where you worked before London Cru? As with most winemakers I started my career doing short term stints in different wineries. As I mentioned earlier, things kicked off with Lethbridge Wines in the Bellarine Peninsula. Here I fell in love with making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, yet what stuck most was Ray’s experiential ethos. While being on the low intervention end of the scale, Ray is a master of blending and building components for a wine. From skin contact and extended lees stirring, to cold maceration and Pied de cuve, Ray literally had everything going. Firing on all cylinders all the time. This is thoughtful and playful winemaking – each wine will be different, each vintage will be different. A truly exciting and inspirational place to learn the trade! GD Vajra in Barolo was also one of my most memorable places to work. Stunning fruit – I can’t stress this enough. Their vines are some of the most manicured examples I’ve ever seen, every leaf and bunch exactly where they should be. The vineyard team are the heart of this winery. These vineyards also have a huge number of different varieties which was great fun; Freisa, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera, Riesling…to name a few. This was a winery where you learn focus, to really focus on the little things, with zero compromise. It’s these tiny little extra things, that take a wine to the next level. Then came Le Grappin in Burgundy 2018. Here I learnt that despite how hard I thought I’d worked in the past, I was but a babe! I was about to run a winemaking marathon every day, for two months. These guys invest so much love and passion into small batch, physical, hands on winemaking. 5am drives to the picturesque hills of Fleurie in Beaujolais, running up steep vineyards picking fruit, processing the fruit until 10pm, then finally home to a delicious natural wine filled Michelin quality dinner. Now wake up at 5am and repeat. These guys know how to make exciting wine and leave you with a lasting experience. Closer to home I worked for Gusbourne in Kent. This is the most well-oiled operation I’ve ever worked for. From the minute you step into the team– everything – literally everything – has been organised, thought of, planned, which makes the job amazingly smooth sailing. Turns out this ‘planning’ magic also helps to establish one of the most exciting brands for still, and sparkling wine in the UK. Fruit quality was astounding good and completely convinced me that the UK was a force to be reckoned with. This winery sealed the deal – I was instantly excited about making wine in the UK. After working for Gusbourne I was hooked. What’s the best part about your job? I love sharing a wine I’ve just recently finished, with my wife and any friends who happen to be around. It’s good to be a winemakers pal! There is always a wacky experiment going on which just has to be put to the test. On a personal level there is something hugely satisfying about getting that first honest impression. I really should wait a few months, but after all the work harvesting, fermenting, barrel ageing, hand bottling I sometimes just HAVE to pop a cork to see how it all landed. A tough job, but someone’s got to do it. What have you been working on? The last few months I’ve been preparing the wines we’re releasing on the 27th July. Excitingly – the Pinot Noir Precoce is the first red London Cru has made from English fruit, and Petticoat Lane is our first PetNat. You've been working hard to open the London Cru cellar door again. What are you most looking forward to about this? Being an urban winery without visitors and tours is very strange. The main attraction of working in a city winery, is we can have great ties to the London wine scene, wine bars and local community. Bringing accessible winery experiences to Londoners is a big part of what makes London Cru tick. Our regular tours and winemaking experiences are likely to kick off again in August. Who are your favourite vineyards and producers to visit in the UK? Gusbourne offers a truly glamorous experience. London is home to several Urban Wineries now - apart from London Cru, which are your favourites? Urban wineries in London are in a great place. Blackbook and Renegade both bring something a little different to the scene. Sergio at Blackbook made a Chardonnay in 17 which I personally thought was one of the best around. Cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot with a low intervention ethos is always going to be exciting. Renegade is a cool spot to grab and drink. I’m really excited to see what their new winemaker Andrea, pulls out of his hat. A mix of English and European sourced fruit keeps these guys mega exciting to watch. Sparkling red, skin contact Bacchus and amphoras, all in a little bar in Bethnal Green!


Simon huntington blog

Simon Huntington

The Best Wines to Match with Pizza

What are the best wines to match with pizza? Commercial Director Simon Huntington fires up the oven, rolls out the dough, and flings some wine and pizza pairings in the air. For many years pizza was amongst my least-favourite foods. Unfortunately, I’m old enough to have suffered through the 1990s, when pizza bases were doughy, cheese was stringy, and you typically had to visit a ‘Hut’ to eat it. No self-respecting wine merchant could possibly recommend drinking anything ‘serious’ with such junky food. Little did I know that this British/American pizza appropriation abomination bore little resemblance to the gloriously simple, yet deliciously real deal from Italy. My eyes were opened when I spent two weeks cycling around the south of Italy in my early 20s. Here the terrain is largely shaped by volcanoes, and the landscape is about as glorious as it gets on a bike, full of twisting climbs, flat-out descents, and stunningly ancient hill-top towns. One of the best things about cycling is that allows you to consume the daily calorific allocation of a mid-sized elephant. Rolling into one of the hill-top towns at lunchtime on the first day, the only thing that was going to fill my pachyderm-sized hole was a seriously large quantity of carbs and fat. And so, my love affair with pizza was born. Suddenly, I understood that pizza bases could be fluffy rather than doughy. Cheese could be hand-torn and scattered rather than smeared. Tomato sauce could be rich, herby and tangy. Flavours could caress, rather than assault, your palate. Proper pizza could, and should, be matched with properly delicious wine. So without further ado, here are the best wines to match with your proper Italian pizza: Piedrasassi 'PS' Syrah with Pizza Capricciosa Pizza Capricciosa offers a whirl of flavours, combining creamy mozzarella, salty prosciutto, earthy mushrooms, and tangy artichoke. Those are a lot of different flavours to partner! A match tested by our other resident pizza expert Jack Green (see video above), Piedrasassi’s PS Syrah stands up to these complex flavours brilliantly. This is a wine that sits shoulder to shoulder with the greatest wines of the Northern Rhone and offers a brilliant entry point into one of the most critically acclaimed producers of Rhone varieties in California. Fruit-forward, with pure blackberry flavours and layers of spice it is a wine to match with the finest foods – including, of course, the finest pizzas. Murgo Etna Rosso with Pizza Margherita Some people think of Pizza Margherita as boring, or the ‘vanilla’ of the pizza world. Those people are wrong! Margherita is a design classic – something so perfectly able to execute its purpose that it’ll never be bettered. The best Pizza Margherita is made with sweet San Marzano tomatoes, grown in the volcanic soils of southern Italy. Combined with top quality mozzarella and fresh basil, these simple yet perfectly balanced flavours call for a flavoursome, yet fresh and juicy red from fruit also grown in volcanic soils. Murgo’s Etna Rosso is grown on the slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna, and it is beautifully fragrant with aromas of wild strawberry, yet underpins this fruit with a savoury, earthy, mineral backbone. It is fresh, juicy and can be served lightly chilled. Sobon 'Shenandoah' Zinfandel with Pizza Diavola The devil’s pizza is probably the invention of Sicilian émigrés to America, for whom the slightly bland pepperoni pizza they found there required a little spicing up. The key trick with any spicy food is to avoid matching it with any overly-tannic wines – instead you should look for smooth, round reds with plenty of sweet, ripe fruit. Sobon’s Shenandoah Zinfandel is a perfect example. Not too heavy, bursting with ripe red-berry fruit and with bags of personality, it’ll more than stand up to the heat and intense flavours of a Pizza Diavola. Maubernard Bandol Rosé with Pizza Romana In Naples they call this pizza the Pizza Romana. In Rome it is called the Pizza Napoletana. Either way, in both places anchovies are added to the traditional tomato and mozzarella base, alongside plenty of oil. With this dominant fishy flavour, a fresh, fragrant rosé such as Maubernard’s from Bandol in Provence works brilliantly. From fruit grown in vineyards only a short distance from the coast, you can practically taste the Mediterranean sea spray in this vibrant, refreshing wine – perfect for the saltiness of the anchovies. ‘I Colombi’ Sangiovese with Pizza Quattro Formaggi A classic Pizza Quattro Formaggi should be made with Mozzarella as its base cheese, accompanied by a blue cheese, a creamy cheese, and a hard cheese. As a result, any wine match has to cope with a lot of contrasting flavours of cheese! A simple, yet fabulous partner is Castello di Querceto’s ‘I Colombi’ Sangiovese, which is a wine made from fruit wholly grown in Tuscany’s Chianti Classico region, declassified to offer utterly brilliant value. Ripe, smooth, full of dark cherry fruit, this red finishes with wonderful juiciness that will cut through even the strongest and cheesiest of flavours. Got any of your own pizza and wine pairings? Let us know on social media, @robersonwine.


Patrick robinson blog

Patrick Robinson

Kongsgaard's Jaw-Dropping Chardonnay

Not long ago we wrote about the New California Icons – a fresh generation of acclaimed west-coast wines. This week saw the 2018 release of one of the most sought-after, the Chardonnay from Kongsgaard. A winery that has been producing truly outstanding wines since 1996. John Kongsgaard defied convention at the time by making wines in a Burgundian style. Uncompromising in his approach he consistently makes some of the best Chardonnay in California, elegant and full bodied with fantastic ageing potential. He only selects the best fruit from low yielding vines, vinifies with indigenous yeasts and ages in French oak, this is truly low intervention approach, as such, very little is made. Kongsgaard Chardonnays are at the forefront of Napa wines, and consistently achieve high praise. Tasting from barrel The Wine Advocate critic Lisa Perroti-Brown awarded 93-95 points to the 2018 commenting: “The palate has electric intensity, with a refreshing line of racy acid cutting through the tightly wound stone fruit and spicy layers“ she goes on referencing the founder of the Wine Advocate, "Robert Parker once called Kongsgaard’s technique 'The Death & The Resurrection.' Clearly, it works—these classically forged Chardonnays are consistently jaw-droppingly incredible.” The wines are normally allocated owing to minute production levels. However, owing to a bumper crop in 2018 there was a little more to go around, yet these wines still remain as rare as hen’s teeth. However, they are still great value especially when you are able to source on release. Kongsgaard’s Chardonnays tick all the boxes when it comes to the different wine buyers, they are amazing wines to drink, exciting to collect owing to their rarity. And they are investable, the 2018 was released at £990 under bond per case (12x75), the previous vintage (2017) is now trading at over £1,200. We at Roberson love these Chardonnays and cannot recommend them highly enough, we do have a few cases available so please do get in touch with Private Client Manager Patrick Robinson if you would like any secured.


Ellen doggett

Ellen Doggett

What is a Flying Winemaker?

Demystifying winemakers who take flight The term ‘flying winemaker’ is one that you may have heard before, and wondered what on earth it means. It crops up from time to time in wine articles, on the tongues of sommeliers and even on TV. Yet it’s not something people tend to elaborate on, so the actual meaning of the term often creates confusion. We have a lot of first hand experience with flying winemakers! Enter Hugh Ryman, a man with whom we have worked for many years to create some fantastic, affordable wines to be drunk on all occasions. Hugh was one of the first winemakers to crop up under the term ‘flying winemaker’, which was coined by Tony Laithwaite (of Laithwaites Wine). Originally from the UK, Hugh developed a strong love for wine, and winemaking, from an early age, thanks to his late father’s ownership of a winery in Bergerac. The winery was a big part of Hugh’s life, and he still maintains a stake in it to this day. Growing up around vineyards and winemaking lead him to pursue a formal education from the University of Bordeaux, before taking off around the world to hone his skills. This is where the ‘flying winemaker’ concept comes into play. These are winemakers, like Hugh, with great expertise and experience, sharing their knowledge with wineries across the globe. They move according to demand, and tend to stay at a winery for a single vintage before moving on. This allows wineries to benefit from top winemakers, without having to create long term financial commitments, and in turn enables these winemakers to make beautiful wines in all the corners of the globe; from Australia, to Chile, to California to France. The world is their oyster. This is how Hugh made his career, along with others like him, taking the skills he learnt around the world, to wineries that might not otherwise be exposed to new ways of working. The ‘flying winemaker’ concept has grown in popularity, allowing winemakers to travel and see the world, leaving behind delicious wines in their wake. Certainly a very appealing lifestyle! Hugh’s flying days are now over, but his legacy lives on. Now settled in the sunny south of France, he makes Orbiel and Grand Noir for us at Roberson, drawing on the amazing techniques learnt from the many countries he’s made wine in.


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