Anna Von Bertele
The Life of a Grape
Anna imagines the life of a grape in the Hedges Family Estate vineyard: Part 1 From my spot in Hedges Family Estate’s vineyard, high up here on the mountain in Washington State, I can see the pickers already busy at work, racing through the vines, choosing the best of us. It’s been a long hot summer, so we’re ready earlier than usual, but I'm feeling pretty good – the cool evenings are always so refreshing to balance out my sugars and stop me feeling too bloated. Some of my neighbours have already been chosen; up on Red Mountain we take a bit longer. My Chardonnay friends in Yakima Valley in south-central Washington were picked last week, as their winemakers wanted to keep freshness and not over-ripen those grapes, to maintain the balance of acidity with alcohol levels. They say my Red Mountain appellation is included in the Yakima Valley AVA, but we know we're special here. It was Christophe Hedges' father, Tom, who mapped out our special plot in 2001. It's the most special place with the best views all around; I'm so glad I'm going to be a Hedges wine. We're the smallest appellation in Washington State at 1630 hectares and the warm temperatures here are perfect conditions for us to make full bodied, complex wine. The breeze from the nearby Yakima River helps cool us down too, so we don't taste too tannic. Our soils are pretty great - sandy loam and gravel with a rich calcium carbonate content. I shouldn't boast about my conditions though - the whole state is pretty special really. It all started with the Missoula Floods. These happened about 13,000 years ago, but people still go on about them. Apparently floods the size of Lake Michigan discharged into eastern Washington, submerging all land up to 1200 feet above sea level. They bought sediments, sand and silt, which were deposited across the region, enriching our land and making irrigation simple because water can move easily, but not too rapidly, through the soil. It is all down to these ecological events that I grow so healthy and strong today. As a Cabernet Sauvignon grape, I'm Washington State's most produced red variety, though the state's not defined by one grape. My most common friends are Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Riesling. I know I'm a popular one though - delicious on my own or in blends. I've heard about my European cousins, how famous we are in a place called Bordeaux. They say our winemakers are inspired by this place and make the same style blends. But I hear that in Bordeaux the best ones are incredibly expensive - here we're actually very affordable and offer high quality and value. I'm already thinking about my final destination; I fancy being poured at a London restaurant. And rumour has it this is a possibility… a company called Roberson Wine apparently likes our wines and distributes them around the UK. I don't believe it, I was daydreaming and didn't realise he’s approaching me…. It's finally happening, I’ve been chosen! Part 2 to follow
Wine Tasting in London at Love Europe
Great to see so many of you at our Love Europe Wine Tasting at Winerama - Shoreditch last Thursday. It was also a pleasure to see many of our good friends at the tasting from Caprice Holdings - Annabel’s, Hawksmoor and the buying team from the Goodman group, D&D and Swig Wines to name but a few. For us, it was a full Roberson Wine team outing with all hands on deck; On-Trade, Off-Trade and Fine Wine teams coming together to pour some of our favourite wines from our European wine portfolio, under the open roof of Winerama’s East London skyline. The Love Europe wine tasting was also a great reminder of the core essence of Roberson Wine. Cliff Roberson opened his London wine shop in Kensington High Street 26 years ago with the idea of offering the classic wines of Europe in a fresh and innovative way – and the line-up of wines at the tasting showed that today, the vision remains just as strong. Wine on Tap and London Cru were the first things that people saw when they entered the wine tasting, followed by a handpicked, eclectic range of wines from our small producers with big stories, many of whom practice organic and biodynamic winemaking methods. A particular highlight was having the Dosnon Champagne makers, Nicolas and Davy, host a table at the tasting, where they cracked a very special bottle of their vintage 2008 - 1 of only 1080 bottles made. For the evening part of the event, we opened our doors to the public, with some familiar faces from our wine club, who were given first access to tickets, and the remaining contingent made up of London Street Feast regulars, for many of whom this was their first wine tasting. It was refreshing to speak to so many new young wine enthusiasts at the tasting and, what’s more, to discover people’s favourite wine of the evening via their votes placed in our ballot box. Those who entered their vote also had the chance to win a case of their favourite wine, with the lucky winner announced earlier in the week. So here we have it, the top 3 wines at the tasting from our consumer list: 1. Jean - Paul Thévenet 'On Pète la Soif!' 2015 2. J Laurens Crémant de Limoux 'Les Graimenous Brut' 2015 3. Bric Cenciurio Barbera d'Alba 2016 Due to popular demand, we have decided to host a follow-up wine tasting: Love Europe Round 2 - West-Side, on the 3rd August in our winery downstairs - London Cru. Nestled amongst the barrels and tanks of London's first winery, you will get to taste the same 20 wines, all of which can be purchased for less than £20. Again, tickets are limited so get yours quickly and come west-side for more wine fun! Until then, thank you and à bientôt! Love from RW and LDN CRU
The Domaine by Lidewij Van Wilgen, pt.1
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 Holland. In this excerpt from Chapter One, First Impressions, Lidewij comes face to face with the harsh reality of living the dream. A narrow road winds its way up into the hills. Under the dark oak trees the tarmac is almost pitch-black, forcing my eyes into a squint each time a sharp beam of sunlight breaks through the cover. A bend in the road, an ancient stone wall, and then everything brightens up. The view becomes expansive again. Behind the vineyard, the burning sun colours the rocky plateau a bright yellow ochre. The road becomes a rough track. A cloud of dust trails in my wake as I drive towards the tall cypresses in the distance. I park the car and get out, the slam of the door breaking the silence and leaving behind only a startled emptiness. This is the image I have presented over and over to my friends back home: a large, sandy-coloured house standing in the shade of a sprawling ash tree. No one had any trouble filling in the rest of the picture: the long table outside on the gravel where we would sit drinking glasses of our own wine, happy children playing around us. It would always be summer. --- I leave the house and walk back to my car, the same dark blue Volvo that I used to drive on the busy roads of Amsterdam. Now it is parked in the shade of several tall cypresses, surrounded by nothing but an emphatic silence. ‘There’s no companion so companionable as solitude…’ I quote cynically in the direction of the vines that stare back at me without compassion. I have never felt as alone as in these past few interminably long weeks in this vast land. So, this is the 'Peace and Quiet' that had seemed so attractive to me back in Holland; that tempted me with the prospect of finding Buddhist-like harmony and truth somewhere deep down inside myself. The harsh reality, however, is that I often start my day now with a rising sense of panic when I throw open the shutters and see all that empty countryside stretching out before me. The utter emptiness, the all-pervading silence, the complete absence of human interference – they do nothing but intimidate me. Sometimes I exchange a few words with the local handyman or the boy who looks after our vineyard. But they have their own lives, their own routine, while my only role is to be here, a mere physical presence that is neither requested nor desired by anyone else in these parts. The locals treat me with a mixture of friendliness and pity; they toss a greeting in my direction and then return quickly to whatever was keeping them busy. So, this is what it's like to be nobody. We'll be publishing a series of excerpts from Lidewij's book over coming weeks. Read chapter two: Where I'm From now.
Anna Von Bertele
Beyond Burgundy with Bergström Wines
At Roberson Wine, we’re proud of our record as multi-award-winning American wine specialists. Although we stock a wide range of Californian Pinots and Chardonnays (which I completely adore), it's a region north of there, Oregon, that has for the past four years been the most intriguing and mysterious to me. From here we import Bergström Wines, a range of biodynamically farmed, site specific Pinot Noirs, as well as one of our best-selling wines, Old Stones Chardonnay, and also a premium Chardonnay. When I taste a Californian Pinot Noir, I can feel the sunshine in the bright palate, the warmth, the expansive coast; I love these wines. However, when I try a Bergström Pinot, my mind is less sure of the origin: vibrant fruits, spicy notes, what are those hints of morrels? Not a Burgundy wine, not from California… what is this region? Well this region is Oregon and with a history of only 50 years of winemaking, to me it's one of the most exciting. Last week I visited Bergström and was fortunate enough to taste through a 25 vintage comparison of the range. Josh Bergström makes 9 different expressions of Pinot Noir, most from single vineyards, with the exception of Cumberland Pinot, which is an expression of the Willamette Valley using fruit from his five estates. I'd tried most of these wines before, but it wasn't until visiting the vineyards and comparing them in such depth that I fully appreciated the diversity in the valley and how, just like in Burgundy, the terroir affects the grape. However, Josh was clear that he doesn't want his wines to be compared to Burgundy, since he feels that Oregon makes delicious wines in its own right. The winemakers are not trying to emulate another region; they're showing how great two of the top grape varieties in the world can be, when grown here. With a diverse range of soils, ranging from marine/sedimentary to more volcanic on their original 'Bergström Vineyard,' the potential in the region is huge, and if this is what is happening after just 50 years, I can't wait to see what happens over the next 50. If you haven't tried the wines of Oregon, I recommend the Bergström Cumberland - being a blend of their five estates, it is a great expression of the Willamette Valley and a great introduction to the range. Fresh and vibrant, with hints of earthiness and spice, this is just the kind of Pinot I want to be drinking. From the single vineyards, my favourite has to be the flagship Bergström - and having had the opportunity to walk through the vineyard and appreciate the view those grapes bask in every day, I'll be enjoying it more than ever before.
The World Wine Web
When you think about the fine wine trade, you may have an image of a bunch of old men sitting around a table in a cavernous French chateau. With an eye-wateringly rare red wine sloshing around their glasses, they spend their days furiously discussing vintage variation, critic scores and prices, while deciding which of the wines from their seemingly endless cellar is the most valuable. Well maybe not. That may have been how things were done before (or maybe that’s just how I used to imagine it), but modern day wine trading is a whole lot different. Having a hand in setting up our new fine wine trading website recently, and sitting on tenterhooks every morning for the past few weeks waiting for the furious flurry of emails about the latest en primeur releases, the whole process got me thinking about how integral the internet now is for anyone looking to buy fine wine. Gone are the days of the traditional courtier, travelling to and fro from negociant to chateau by horse and carriage, carrying messages of prices and deals and facilitating agreements between the two parties. Now, everything is instantaneous. If I want to find out the price of a particular wine I’m interested in buying, in a few clicks I can compare every merchant from here to Timbuktu, how much it costs, and even how much it used to cost - if I want to berate myself for not having bought it 6 months ago when it was a fraction of the price. I can even see if buying in a different currency would be more beneficial, which at the moment unfortunately is truer than I would like to admit. So I know how much a wine costs, but is it any good? My knowledge of fine wine is strong, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to spout off the top of my head if the 1971 Branaire Ducru is going to be show-stoppingly brilliant and a wine to tell my kids about, or if it has gone the way of the dodo and would be more like drinking a bottle of vinegar that’s been left out in the sun too long. No problem, a few clicks onto a critic’s website and I can tell you everything you need to know about it from its aromas, how it tastes, when you should drink it, if it has any ageing potential, how it compares to any other vintages of Branaire Ducru and whether I should look out for the 1975 instead. You can sit back on the sofa with your feet up, and, prepared with your newly acquired wine and market expertise, order a case of fine claret from one of France’s most revered chateaux, safe in the knowledge you got a slap-up deal for it. The vintage is exceptional, it’s perfect to drink now (because you don’t have the patience to store it), and you can imagine yourself to be the Wolf of Bordeaux Street for a few hours.
Anna Von Bertele
Natural wine. It’s one of those phrases in the industry that some express huge enthusiasm for, while others turn away and don’t even want to acknowledge it. So what is natural wine? There’s no set definition, no scientific test that can be performed on a wine to label it ‘natural’, but according to a panel of experts at Decanter Magazine, it means a wine is: - Made from fruit grown in vineyards farmed organically or biodynamically - Hand-harvested - Fermented with indigenous yeasts - No enzymes - No additives such as acid, tannin, colour and little or no added SO2 - Unfined and no (or light) filtration - No other heavy manipulation At Roberson Wine, we don’t choose to buy one particular type of wine, or wine that’s only made in a certain way. We buy wine that we love to drink and that we think our customers will also love. It's happy coincidence that the wines we love tend to be from smaller producers, who hand-craft their produce and who often happen to follow the principles above. It’s wine production as it was in the olden days, when wine was left to its own devices, and where the terroir and the grapes expressed their true characteristics. This is not as simple as it sounds; you still need the hands of an excellent winemaker, who understands how best to make the key decisions – for example when to pick, how to crush, what type of fermentation to initiate. Done badly, natural wine-making can result in a cloudy wine that tastes like cider; it’s actually easier to make a conventional, non-natural wine, by hiding faults with sulphur. However, when done well, natural wines can offer a pure expression of terroir and grape and can be absolutely delicious. Our natural wine collection showcases the best styles of natural wine… and in case you didn’t know, there is a rumour that natural wines don’t give you a hangover… check it out for yourself.
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