The Tale of Broc Cellars
Chris Brockway and the tale of Broc Cellars We are no strangers to the concept of an ‘Urban Winery’ here at Roberson. Our own London Cru sits in an old Gin Distillery near Earls Court; inspired by producers who pioneered this concept in California. It’s a simple one, the idea of creating quality focused wines, in urban settings, with fruit sourced from further afield. Yet this simple idea courts controversy. Isn’t it illogical to completely remove grapes from their home and transplant them into the bustle and concrete of a modern city? What’s the allure here? California is a huge state, with diverse wine growing regions that are well connected. You no longer need to be on a vineyard’s doorstep to produce excellent wine from its grapes. Urban Wineries have opened a new world of winemaking, with freedom to create whatever you want in a space that’s not tied down by tradition or geography. Enter Chris Brockway. Chris is a winemaker who learnt all the rules before he started to break them. When most people think of Californian wine, they think of the rolling hills of Napa and picturesque rural wineries. They think of big bold Cabernet’s, rich buttery Chardonnay and Zinfandel at every turn in the road. It is classic, it is tradition, and it is a region that’s very proud of its heritage. It should be, but it should also be very proud of the creatives shaping its future. Chris Brockway studied at UC Davies before working for JC Cellars, and was set up to produce very traditional Californian wines indeed. Yet he was also frequenting a Natural wine bar in San Francisco, where the wines were very different to what he’d been taught to make. Chris started to go against the grain. Who’s to say that there is only one way to make ‘Californian’ wine? In 2006, Chris set up shop in an industrial unit in Berkeley and Broc Cellars was born. From day one, Broc was all about experimentation. No grape variety, style or winemaking method was off limits, and Chris always opted for quality over quantity. This is how it has remained for the last 14 years. He isn’t bound by geography, and sources grapes from far and wide; Zinfandel from Sonoma, Valdigué from Solano County, Carignan from Alexander Valley and Counoise from Mendocino. In 2013, Chris produced 6,000 bottles from 15 different varieties! All as naturally as possible, with spontaneous fermentations and minimal use of Sulphur. Today Broc has expanded beyond Berkeley in many ways, developing collaborative relationships with its trusted growers across California. Together they’ve worked hard to eliminate all use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers in the vineyards. The wines are so alive, from their light Beaujolais-esc Valdigué (a variety once mistaken for Gamay!) to their bold spicy Syrah, and everything in between! Year on year, they are defined by vibrancy and freshness; something that really seems to stem from happy vines and a creative mind. Broc Cellars is an urban winery that completely embraces what it is and puts no limits on what it can do. Total freedom and innovation in an unlikely part of California.
Focus on Burgundy
What makes Burgundy so special? When I was 22, I flew to Paris, hired a car with a broken Satnav and got very lost driving to Burgundy in the hot August sun. My hosts in Chablis were busy preparing for harvest, so I spent most of my time exploring the breadth of the Cote d’Or alone. Wandering through vineyards, eating too many eclairs, tasting amazing wines and falling head over heels for this unique French region. I’ve been hooked ever since. Burgundy roughly stretches between Dijon and Lyon. It is defined by individual villages, growing predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, although other grape varieties, including Aligote, Pinot Blanc and Gamay are also permitted. Each village has its own designated vineyard areas complete with scored quality levels (Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru), appellation laws, and distinctive styles. As a good rule of thumb, villages in northern Burgundy (aside from Chablis) mostly produce wines from Pinot Noir, and those in the south from Chardonnay. However, there are exceptions. You can find some amazing Pinot Noirs grown in southerly Chassagne Montrachet, and the northerly village of Morey St Denis is home to a 100% Aligote Premier Cru (Clos des Monts Luisants). There is even an appellation near Chablis called Saint Bris, that grows Sauvignon Blanc. Just when you think you’ve got Burgundy figured out, it’s very good at throwing curve balls and opening a whole new world of wine to explore! We are very lucky to represent some wonderful Burgundy producers at Roberson. Two who I visited last year, were Domaine Pierre Guillemot and Domaine Chavy Chouet. Domaine Pierre Guillemot Domaine Pierre Guillemot are a big part of the history of Savigny-les-Beaunes, having produced wines in the village for eight generations. We visited at the end of June 2019, in the middle of a scorching heat wave. 36C without a cloud in the sky, it was a welcome reprieve to walk down the steps of their ancient cellar to taste wine in the cool and dark. All their wines are wonderful, but my personal favourite is a white Savigny-les-Beaunes produced from their Dessus Les Gollardes vineyard. This vineyard was planted over 50 years ago with 70% Pinot Blanc and 30% Chardonnay. Phillipe Guillemot (who now runs the winery with his brother Vincent) describes the wine as not a blend, but a co-habitation, celebrating the unique character of both grapes, whilst still working in harmony. Phillipe then pulled a bottle from the back of the cellar, caked in dust and cobwebs (pictured above). He opens and pours. We all taste together blind. What vintage he asks? We put our heads together. The wine is so fresh, and the fruit is still forward. There are hints of honey to show development. We agree on a year between 2008 and 2010. The actual date? 1991. Our jaws hit the floor! We currently stock the 2017, and it is drinking beautifully, but don’t underestimate this Domaine, that wine has the legs to age for many many years to come too. Domaine Chavy-Chouet Domaine Chavy Chouet was the next stop in the day. Based in Meursault, the Domaine is run by Romaric Chavy, who took over from his father Hubert at just 22. One of his great winemaking influences is his godfather Francois Mikulski, which I feel translates well in his own style. Focusing more on a lean, pure fruit profile instead of masking the Chardonnay with rich oak (as has previously been the norm). Romaric is a key player in shaping the modern style of Burgundy. Again, we move out of the sweltering sun and into the cellar, to taste his 2018’s from barrel. This is where Romaric’s unique style comes into its own, his focus on preserving acidity and fruit working perfectly with this richer, warm vintage. They’re damn good! People are often apprehensive about drinking young Burgundy, but if you are going to buy any 2018’s to drink (or age for that matter!), the wines of Chavy Chouet are perfect.
A Decade Against Decadence
Looking back on a decade of food and wine trends Well, there’s ten years gone. Ten years toward a lightness of sorts. Toward a dream of authenticity. Everything’s gotten… less. Much has gotten leaner. Less meat (though more free ranging), less oak, less packaging, ripeness, carbon emission… less alcohol. And correspondingly more vegan fayre, avocado, eastern Med/Middle East, charcoal grilling (emissions, people!), kimchi and street food. And on more plates of a lesser size: it was also a decade of the increasingly shared mess – or meze, if you will. But what was not less was burgers. Doubtless, it was the Burger Decade. The French even got in on Le Burger (Big Fernand). Independent burger brands springing up like mushrooms of autumn: Honest Burger, Bleecker, Patty & Bun, Dirty Burger, Lucky Chip et al., all co-inciding interestingly with the inverted trend of the casual high street dining brands (GBK, Byron) nose-diving at an equally fevered pace. Supplanted as they face-planted. But what did wine do? Well much, as we discovered Vinus Californius rediscovering it old self more restrained and back ‘in balance’ (kudos Roberson!) whilst the English got on to still wines -- also whilst their stock in fizz continued in its incorrigible ascent. Prosecco achieved gin-epidemic proportions in the UK and at Cava’s astronomic expense; then came… rosé. Pink oceans’ worth and predominantly Provençal. But again, with the trend toward freshness, subtlety and delicacy in much of the UK’s gastronomic scene – particularly London’s – it’s been appropriate. Greece came to the fore, at long last, thus seeming to push the venture further into and beyond the eastern Mediterranean. Beyond Provence and Prosecco Elsewhere, natural/organic/biodynamic viticulture flourished -- not to be confused with Natural Wine, however -- its pre-2010 pre-eminence finally drifting into twilight. An era of untamed, undisciplined wines of wild and funky abandon fading while its sounder principles of purity, transparency, simplicity and sense-of-place are preserved and passed on, dovetailing with an increased consumer awareness of and concern for higher quality produce of equally genuine provenance. The (literally) natural follow-on to which being an increased demand for vegan credentials in winemaking. No need to stop there, as things generally tend to go: once the vegan genie a-loose, furthering the tendency toward spasms of prudence, next in the crosshairs was alcohol itself and touch-down on the slippery slope to low/zero-alcohol… ‘wines’. Yum. As if one’s mind and sanity were accidentally dropped into that centrifugal separation device at the non-alcohol ‘winery’. God do help us all... Where was I? Ah yes: consumer awareness. The upside to all this over the past ten years has been a marked upward curve in his/her participation, awareness of and impetus to education in many things vinous. Ditto a heightened commercial savvy, the direct product of price-checking technologies’ proliferation with it increasingly consulted in the immediate on/off-trade moment. And this has surely contributed significantly to the trend to trading up whilst drinking less over the past ten years. Bringing us to the now. I would suggest no relent in the ongoing integration of consumer with what is consumed where, perhaps, both restauranteur and wine distribution channels will, in terms of market messaging, recognise that once again less is indeed more. It’s going to be interesting.
Trimming the Turkey
Is Christmas dinner all about the Turkey? The Christmas debauchery descends upon us in December. So much mulled wine, mince pies, pigs in blankets, roasted chestnuts and more is inhaled during the silly season that come January most are left gagging for moderation. Central to the revelry is, of course, a classic Christmas feast, with roast turkey and all the trimmings. Turkey has adorned British Christmas tables ever since it replaced roast beef or goose in Victorian Britain. In the restaurant world many seek to re-invent, transcend or transform the classic turkey feast to offer customers something original. To find out more, we asked three of the top restaurants on the south coast what they would be offering customers this year. Alternative Christmas Seafood restaurant English’s of Brighton has embraced its limited ability to serve a traditional Christmas feast, and Restaurant Manager Andre Pienaar said that guests flock there for that very reason. “In the past we used to make more of an effort to conform to traditional Christmas fare if with a slightly cheffy twist,” he commented. “However, we are increasingly placing ourselves as a Christmas alternative.” Pienaar continued that customers come to English’s of Brighton to swap turkey for fish, saying "we have come to celebrate that rather than fight it." "Bread sauce all over the place" Classic bistro Wild Flor in Hove is sticking to traditional game throughout the season with hearty, richer meat dishes. Wild Flor restauranteur Rob Maynard explained that pheasant would feature on the menu, as well as a beef cheek with celeriac and black truffle (pictured above). “Of course, there are sides of sprouts and bacon too, and bread sauce all over the place,” he said. “We like to always be pouring a healthy amount of Burgundy. With game birds especially, the lighter hand of Cotes de Beaune reds show well.” However, while Wild Flor and English’s of Brighton offer up a twist on the long-established Christmas feast, the more conventional punters need an outlet that provides them with what they desire. Back to turkey One such establishment is the Crown in Hastings, which has built a reputation for serving top quality British seasonal food & drink. Landlady Tess Eaton explained that in previous years the Crown stayed away from a traditional turkey dinner, instead opting for birds such as pheasant and partridge. But she said that: “We found that a lot of the Christmas party bookings simply wanted their hit of turkey! This year it makes an appearance, along with the obligatory sprouts and roast potatoes. “There is a line between pushing the boundaries, but also giving people what they wish to eat.” Fashions and fads will come and go, and restaurants will continue to innovate, but the Victorian Christmas roast turkey will always be a mainstay on the British restaurant scene.
Unstoppable Tignanello Tignanello is the brightest star in the ever-growing Super Tuscan movement. Super Tuscan wines like Tignanello, Sassicaia and Ornellaia are becoming increasingly desirable, and their rise shows no signs of abating. According to a report this year from the fine wine trading platform Liv-ex, the number of Italian wines being traded on the secondary market has quadrupled over the past five years, two-thirds of which are from Tuscany. This is indicative of the recent rise in popularity of Super Tuscan wines, and what is more, Tignanello was earmarked as the top performer by the platform. Fit for royalty Tignanello is fast becoming a household name and in this vein hit the headlines this year for sundry reasons. The upsurge in interest led three opportunist Italian criminals to counterfeit 11,000 bottles that they were planning to sell in foreign markets, particularly Belgium and Germany. Thankfully the scheme was foiled by the police in February. Additionally, the Super Tuscan is so hot at the moment that it has made its way to the dinner tables of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Duchess of Essex Meghan Markle. Reports quote the two separately announcing their love of the wine. “Tignanello improving dramatically” At Roberson Wine HQ, we have also noted heightened Tignanello activity. Private clients have reached out to us for 13 different back vintages of Tignanello from half-bottle to magnum formats over the last year, with the 2015 vintage representing over 20% of the market share. And total Tignanello sales at Roberson Wine have increased by a third over the last 12 months compared to the previous year. Oliver Bartle, Head of Fine Wine at Roberson Wine, commented on the trend: “Demand for Tignanello over the past 12 months has increased across all channels here at Roberson. “With other big names being far more expensive and with the quality of Tignanello improving dramatically, it is no surprise that our clients want to add this rising star to their cellars.” We are currently stocking the 2015 and 2016 on our website, for £103 apiece. For more information about Tignanello back vintages or special formats, please contact email@example.com. View all of our current vintages of Tignanello. Grab yourself a bottle. Don't miss them.
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 large proportion of its short history engaged in sectarian conflict. Extraordinary and distinctive wines, that can age for decades. Is Lebanon’s Chateau Musar the world’s most dangerous fine wine? It wasn’t always this way. The Bekaa Valley in which Musar’s vines are planted has been home to wine production for more than 6000 years. The ancient inhabitants of this land had extensive contact with the Phoenicians, and through their trading network may have been responsible for spreading the grape vine across the Mediterranean. One of the world’s most perfectly-preserved Roman temples can be found in the area, dedicated to their god of wine, Bacchus – and the valley was known as the ‘breadbasket’ of Rome. Yet Musar has had to survive both war and the commercial wilderness to assume its rightful place as one of the few truly iconic wines - a legend of the eastern Mediterranean. Why? Because it is uncompromising, unique and endlessly fascinating. Fermentation is in concrete, before the wine spends a year in the vat, then a year or so in French Nevers oak. It's blended in the third year, put back into vat and bottled, and cellared for up to six or seven years before release. There is no fining, minimum filtration and sulphites are kept very low. The whole approach is low-interventionist and the result is truly unique, and very long-lived. While the wine is widely fêted by wine-lovers and critics alike, the prices have remained extremely reasonable. Mature vintages approaching 20 years old can be had for less than £30 per bottle. Very few other wines from anywhere else in the world can be enjoyed with so much bottle age for so little money. Fancy seeing what all the fuss is about? Roberson Wine maintains the best selection of older vintages of Chateau Musar, immediately available for next-day delivery - free over £100.
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