Making Tastings Great Again! Last week saw the California Wine Institute’s prestigious Collectible California tasting return for a second helping in London to great success. The now annual event, held at the US Embassy, plays host to a number of importers showcasing some of the Golden State’s most celebrated and sought-after wines to the UK’s most influential trade buyers, private clients and press, before a black-tie gala dinner. With just over 200 wines on show, the small scale, premium tasting does exactly what it says on the tin – it is a tasting of some of California’s most collectible wines, all £50+, to reinforce California as one of the premium wine producing regions of the world, and to show that California wines should have pride of place in any great wine cellar. The prestige of having the event held at the US Embassy itself, a stunning fortress-like building surrounded by what I can only describe as a moat, added to the atmosphere. Then having to make your way through airport-style security and passport checks at the door, with US flags waving and quotes from the Declaration of Independence adorning the walls of the hall further heightened the anticipation and buzz around the event. Not that there needed to be much more, given the quality of wines available to taste! This was a more focused version of similar California tasting events in the past, and many a generic tasting I have been to, where over 700 wines were shown, and people simply mob around the tables with the most expensive wines without really trying through the selections. Shame on them! Although everyone can probably be guilty of this ‘white line fever’ at some stage or another… And while even £50 for a bottle of wine may seem like a large investment, and it is to an extent, the relative value that can be found in some of the top US wines when compared to similar quality from the Old World, namely Bordeaux and Burgundy, is striking! Favourites such as Domaine de la Cote from Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr, as well as Hirsch Vineyards, Mount Eden and Mayacamas to name a few positively shone. Mostly new release wines, but with a selection of back vintages to hint at the ageing potential of where some of these stunning wines might be going was a real treat. The growing sense of intrigue and awe around California as a leading wine producing region and the quality of wines it is now making was palpable, and the general hum of chatter and excitement surrounding the wines continued throughout the day and onto the dinner late in the evening. And having recently won the Decanter Magazine award for Best Usa Specialist for the 6th consecutive year, is there a better place to try some of California’s best and most collectible wines than with us? I’m not so sure!
Looking for value in Bordeaux
Bordeaux is not often the first name that comes to mind when talking about value wines. However, this is only because less known appellations are not exported as widely as the big names. Everybody’s heard of Pauillac, Pomerol, Saint-Emilion and other famous wine regions of Bordeaux… But what about the unheard-of appellations? They remain unfamiliar territory for most of us. To put it in simple words: each famous region of Bordeaux has a neighbouring appellation where you will find amazing value wines! Being born and raised in Bordeaux, I’ll take you on a trip through the South West of France and explore what else this beautiful region has to offer. Cote de Bourg / Cote de Blaye Cote de Bourg is the first region we’re going to have a look at. Often overlooked, and home of a lot of great wines. It was actually one of the first wine producing regions in France, due to its location next to the river, which made access to shipping very easy. Cote de Bourg is typically dominated by Merlot and is one of the only Bordeaux areas still to use Malbec in their blends. Expect wines full of juicy dark berries and a bit of a spicy kick to them thanks to the Malbec. They are incredibly popular amongst Bordeaux locals (and I can personally vouch for this, my favourite unplanned-evening-with-friends kind of wine) usually quite juicy and fresh, perfect when you crave a wine that has style but not too heavy to drink by itself or with light snacks. It is the perfect ‘Apéro’ red in fact! Our pick - Chateau Falfas - A dense but elegant wine with great structure and fruit concentration. The dark berry aromas are followed by soft wooden and tobacco notes on the palate. Lalande de Pomerol This is a family favourite. For as long as I can remember, there was always a bottle of Lalande de Pomerol on the table for any family reunions we had. A wine that brings people together (and never seems to run out from my grandad’s cellar!) An appellation that only exists since 1954. You will find some famous Domaines from Pomerol producing their 2nd wine in Lalande de Pomerol which will therefore be more affordable. The soils are slightly different to the ones in Pomerol, but the most planted grape remains Merlot. It is only a small region that was once part of the Pomerol appellation hence benefits from the similar terroir and climate. It produces softer reds, with a lot of elegance and purity. If you’re in the mood for a treat but it is only a Tuesday night, then Lalande de Pomerol is what you should look for. Our pick - Chateau de Chambrun - red fruits and plum flavours are layered with cocoa notes and a hint of spice. A seriously good wine that is firmly structured and can age in bottle. Moulis en Medoc The smallest of all appellations in the Medoc. It sits in between Margaux and Saint-Julien and is home of the best reds in the great value category. It benefits from a variety of soils that complement each other and allows the region to grow both Merlot and Cabernet successfully, even though the wines from the region tend to be Cabernet Sauvignon dominant. If you’re a lover of big powerful reds like I am, and a Left-bank aficionado in general, try the wines from Moulis, you won’t be disappointed! Just as full bodied as its famous neighbouring appellations and will reach their full potential usually after 7-10 years in bottle. My personal favourite food match for Moulis wines: Duck magret on the BBQ and a Roquefort sauce. So delicious! Our pick - Chateau Mauvesin Barton - cranberry, blackcurrant and cedar. A hint of smoke and polished tannins, this wine has depth and character. St Emillion Satellites Now these are probably the most commonly found on every wine shop shelves in Bordeaux. And the locals (I include myself in this) know that those wines are incredible value for the quality they offer. Lucky for us, they have made their way to the English market now and are not kept a secret anymore! Just like in Saint-Emilion, the dominant grape here is Merlot. Their difference in style comes mostly from the slightly cooler climate. Generally, you can expect full bodied but very mellow reds, with flavours of plums, prunes and leather. Some really outstanding wines are produced in that region. They are the perfect alternative; you’ll be astonished by the elegance and perfumed character typical of the region. Our pick - Chateau Lyonnat - Deep cherry flavours, prunes and dark chocolate. A hint of mint on the palate and fresh vibrant acidity to contrast with the velvety texture.
Good Times, Delivered
Introducing our beautiful new Roberson Wine NakPack delivery boxes. At Roberson we don’t like to take wine too seriously. For us, wine is all about good times, great food, and enjoying the moment with friends and family. So, to keep good times rolling, we wanted to achieve two things with our new boxes. First is to get you your wine order as quickly, conveniently and reliably as possible by offering best-in-class packaging. Second is to communicate our feel-good wine philosophy with the design on the box. Since introducing NakPack, our breakage rate has dropped to less than 0.2% - and we think our artist Natt Milovanovic has absolutely nailed it with her imagery of dancing, music and food. We hope you’ll be as pleased with the contents of your delivery box as we are with its design! We’d like to get you involved. Next time you receive a wine delivery from us in one of our brand spanking new boxes, take a photo of the box by your front door (external shots preferred) and send it to us at email@example.com. We’ll send you a voucher worth £7.95 for free delivery on your next order – and might feature your image on our social media. For another good time, go to Roberson Wine!
Decanter Retailer Awards Shortlist
We’re incredibly proud to let you know that we’ve been shortlisted in three categories at the 2019 Decanter Retailer Awards: USA Specialist of the Year Online Retailer of the Year Innovator of the Year It’s been a busy 12 months! This year we hosted the UK premiere of movie Somm 3 in our urban winery in SW6, we put on ‘Parallels’, an acclaimed trade tasting comparing fine wines from our producers in France and the USA, we organised the first Bacchus Focus tasting, hosted by Peter Richards MW, and launched Minuty’s Limited Edition rosé at a hugely attended party beside the Thames. All this happened alongside massive growth in orders placed through our website – and it’s this we’re most thankful for, since more of you than ever before have chosen to trust us as your online wine merchant. We want to let you know that, while we obviously hope to win our categories on 26th September, we’ll never be content to rest on our laurels. We have big things planned for the next 12 months and we’ll never stop innovating in our mission to offer the most exciting range, sharpest prices and best service of any online merchant. Join our mailing list to stay in touch with all the latest news and offers from Roberson Wine.
Red Wines to Chill (with)
Can you chill red wines? What type of red wines are best if you want to serve them cold? Digital Trainee Marie-lou Galiana heats up the debate. Why Chill a Red Wine? It’s the end of the summer, you’re all “rosé-d out” and thinking about how nice a bottle of red sounds. But it’s still quite warm and you love a chilled drink. Chill your red! Some of you might think of it as blasphemy. It’s not. It actually is quite nice, providing you respect a few basic rules. Which red wines can you chill? Let’s get something straight first. When talking about “chilling a red” we don’t mean drinking it ice cold like you might with a rosé, we mean slightly chilled - as in 20 minutes in the fridge is probably enough. The ideal serving temperature would vary between 12 - 14 degrees. Then it’s all about the acidity and fruit concentration of the wine. You want to look for wines that have high acidity and low tannins, so think about light grape varieties like Pinot Noir and Gamay from Burgundy. Of course, you can branch out a little and try chilling other light wines like northern Italian reds, and many German and Austrian reds also work beautifully. Chilling a red wine will basically emphasize the fruity, juicy character of the wine and make it a much fresher style that can easily rival a nice bottle of rosé on a hot day. Less common grape varieties that are great chilled: If you’d like to venture even further off the beaten track, there are also some lesser-known varieties that can be enjoyed chilled such as Zweigelt, one of the native grapes from Austria. Or have you heard of Counoise? This is a great one to try chilled. It is one of the authorised varieties to use in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and has light tannins and body, yet holds bright fruits and freshness. What about fuller bodied red wines then, you might ask? Well, worry not, that can also work. There are a couple of rules though: cold temperature heightens the fruits present in the wine but also the tannins, so make sure you pick a wine that’s full but has low tannins like a juicy Malbec or a lower-alcohol Zinfandel. If really there is nothing you’d rather drink than a big Bordeaux or Californian Cabernet, then stick them in the fridge for 15min or so and that will bring out the fruit character without emphasising the tannins too much. Food pairing suggestions for chilled reds: As it turns out, light red varieties are incredibly versatile and therefore great food pairing wines… See below for a few dishes that work really well with chilled reds. Charcuterie platter - try with Dupeuble Beaujolais or Ebner-Ebenauer Zweigelt Balsamic pickled beetroot and goat cheese salad - try with London Cru Gresham St Provence herbs marinated chicken skewers - try with Duvernay Cotes du Rhone or Arnoux et Fils Vacqueyras Beef carpaccio - try with Castello di Querceto I Colombi Sangiovese Sesame and soy seared tuna - try with Jolie-Laide Gamay Grilled asparagus with pine nuts - try with Bric Cenciurio Barbera d'Alba Roast duck magrets with fig sauce (for the fullest) - try with Moobuzz Pinot Noir or Maxime Magnon 'Rozeta' Corbieres Happy chilling!
Operations assistant Max Edge continues his adventures in £10+ wines. Don't miss his previous post: Breaking Bacchus. Put a zin(g) in your step Something occurred to me recently. By actively buying wine only in the £6-8 bracket, I had been neglecting the 4th biggest wine growing nation in the world – the USA. You can bet your bottom dollar that is a lot of wine. Perhaps this ignorance had been influenced by some of the typical stereotypes associated with American Wine: Either it’s way too expensive, Or it’s under £6, found in abundance and probably best left on the shelf. So, in my next venture beyond the £10 threshold I shall heed the advice of the Pet Shop Boys and “Go West” to find an answer to the question: does delicious, great value American wine exist? The answers are fairly easy to find at Roberson. Having retained the title of International Wine Challenge Specialist Merchant of the Year for USA for the seventh consecutive year, our USA portfolio represents some of the most outstanding, respected producers, with quality wines across the entire price range. The difficulty comes in choosing which one to try. Roberson has a wonderful selection of wines in the £10-20 range. Cabernet Sauvignons & Zinfandels from Viano Vineyards and Marrietta Cellars, and Pinot Noirs by Backhouse and Moobuzz all represent astonishing value for money. My decision didn’t take too long. After all, there was an occasion in the diary and food to be matched with. A helping hand came in the form of a text message from Dad earlier in the week. “Saturday; Barbecue; Leg of Lamb; Bring Wine”. The Gastronomic cogs of my brain got to work. I’ve always had an affinity with the dark-skinned, high ripening varietals found all over Italy, and if I wasn’t venturing to the “land of the free” my go-to choice would be a Negroamaro or Primitivo of Puglia, where the warm Mediterranean climate creates super-ripe, medium-bodied wines with jammy dark berry fruits; perfect for the Summer season. A barbecue calls for something a little more full-bodied to spar with though. American red wine; full-bodied; high acidity; jammy dark red fruits; subtle peppery notes. There’s a clear winner. ZINFANDEL! I’m not ashamed to admit I only recently learnt that Zinfandel and Primitivo are more-or-less the same grape. I might be getting a few ‘side-eyes’ from my colleagues for this admission but expanding my knowledge of wine is the one of the reasons I traded in my bar blade and waiter’s friend. And until now, I didn’t drink American wine, so perhaps they’ll forgive me. I took the plunge and went for Sobon Estate Zinfandel, The Rocky Top (£19 a bottle). Oomph! The wine has a great complex nose of summer red berries (cherries, redcurrants & cranberries), notes of white pepper and cassia bark and has fantastic structure and depth. It’s one of those wines that lets you know you’re in for a good time. Thanks to the high elevation of the vineyard, the wine is fresh with great acidity, full bodied and rich along with some gentle spice. A perfect partner for the food being served up. Barbecued Moroccan Lamb Leg with Chickpea Tagine The lamb leg is boned and butterflied to allow for a quick cook time and marinated in a spice rub made of ras el hanout, hot paprika, cumin, pepper, parsley, coriander. These spices help create a mild aromatic flavour and form a tasty blackened crust when left over hot coals, while the meat is tender and pink inside. Served alongside chickpea tagine, packed with flavours of the Mediterranean and North Africa and a simple wild rocket salad. The jammy fruit notes in the wine perfectly complement the spiced crust and juicy pink lamb. Zinging acidity cuts through the naturally fatty meat and the velvety finish makes for easy drinking in the summer sun. At 14.5% however, I’d advise against committing to evening activities. Fortunately, I’d learnt my lesson from last time and came prepared with a second bottle. Evening sorted.
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