California Vintage Update
This week Roberson Agency Buyer Keith Kirkpatrick hears from Jill Matthiasson about how the latest vintage in California is going. California Vintage 2018/2019 Jill Matthiasson: In the Napa Valley, we have a wet season and a dry season, and all of our rain comes in a 6-month period between November and May. Some years we get a lot of rain, some years we don’t. This year we got a lot. Now that the rainy season has ended and the weather has warmed up, everyone is hard at work in the vineyards. The shoots are growing like crazy; we are mowing down the waist-high cover crops and we have three tractors going non-stop. The crop looks excellent, lots of clusters on happy vines. We leased two more small Cabernet Vineyards, one on Mt. Veeder and one in Oak Knoll, so we will have more blending sources for our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which is quickly becoming our flagship wine. The Mt. Veeder vineyard is already CCOF certified organic, we will start farming the other new vineyard organically, and we finally convinced our last non-organic fruit-buying source to convert to organic, so we are very excited that for 2019 we will reach our goal of 100% organically farmed fruit! In other news, we opened our tasting room at our new winery, and are now welcoming visitors every day of the week. If you’re coming out this way any time soon… we’d love to show you around our new place. We made all of our wine in the new winery last year except our rosé, with all indigenous fermentations, and everything went great. We’re so happy to finally have the whole process, from farming through to winemaking, under our complete control. If you’re interested in seeing how this year’s wines might turn out, browse our range of Matthiasson wines now.
Spring into action
Wondering what wines to pair with spring's seasonal ingredients? Roberson food and wine matching aficionado David Adamick makes some suggestions. Wine Pairings for Spring Ingredients This should put a little one in your step now that the season’s arrived, and with it some great new additions to the Roberson portfolio: Jurançon Sec, London Cru English Bacchus/Pinot Noir Rosé, Jasnières, Coteaux-de-Loire, Cahors and Lalande-de-Pomerol to keep us busy when taking on spring’s seasonal offerings. These being morels, cockles, winkles, oysters, sardines, crab, spring lamb and venison to name a few. At a glance, things for the most part are looking fresh and delicate, where wines of elegance and restraint will find their best expression. Shellfish love everything from Champagne to Sauvignon/Chenin Blanc to Picpoul de Pinet and it’s always a minor joy to find more obscure, regional alternatives to the old favourites. Step up regional co-op Cave de Gan’s ‘Brut Océan’ Jurançon Sec, a cuvée of 100% Gros Manseng, a main local varietal from the Jurançon appellation near the town of Pau in the extreme south-west of France. All hand-harvested fruit of certified raisonée farming, fermented in stainless steel tank, ‘Brut Océan’ offers crisp, white stone fruit, a slight waxy and nuttiness and underlined by saline minerality, having both the acidity and definition to meet the delicacy of the season’s frutti di mare, and yet rounded with more body than you might expect. And as with Picpoul, Gros Manseng is perfect with grilled sardines – they also being in season. No less so Roberson’s soon-to-arrive wines from Pascal Janvier, whose Jasnières (Cuvée du Silex) and Coteaux-de-Loire give us striking acidity and a precision of fruit ideal with more delicate crustacea: pale, straw-hued, light and also delicate; nicely balanced and quite fresh; both cuvées have the slightest residual sugar that harmonises well with crab’s natural sweetness. And continuing the elegance is the returning London Cru Baker Street Bacchus, fresh from Kent/West Sussex vineyards: expressive gooseberry and elderflower aromas and a hint of freshly cut meadow. On the palate is great length, crisp acidity and wonderfully textured finish from aging on lees. Hand-picked fruit and gently pressed in whole bunches to preserve the delicate aroma and freshness, the majority fermented in stainless steel, with 10% fermented in barrel to help build texture on the mid palate. Close on the heels of Bacchus is the new Rosaville Rd Rosé, 100% Pinot Noir rosé from Surrey’s Greyfriars Vineyard. This will offer seasonal fare aromas of pink grapefruit and fresh strawberries with an elegant textural quality from time ageing on lees. A luminous, pale salmon hue it has also subtle savoury Pinot notes to compliment beautifully the natural delicacies of spring. As for reds, well, lamb loves ‘em all. But given its fattiness, we can do with an extra bit of tannin for which our first stop will be France’s own Mendoza -- Cahors. That is to say, the original heartland of Malbec. The twist here, however, is that Roberson’s new Prieuré de Cénac Cahors is made by a long-time winemaker in Argentina, Hervé Fabre, offering a wonderful expression to counter the relative glut of South American Malbec in the UK market. Fresh, crunchy black fruit with wonderful grip; firm structure, lovely sweet spice and deep, earthy flavours with smoky, liquorice notes. Quite literally, Prieuré de Cénac Malbec is a most welcome refreshment from what is often enough the heavy-going, overripe and alcoholic New World offerings that abound. Finally, Châteaux Moncets and Chambrun, a coupled establishment of the Lalande-de-Pomerol appellation will be a final and ideal consideration as their Merlot-based, Right Bank wines meet both the weight and richness of lamb and venison, providing superb grip and acidity for counter balance. The 2014 Chateau Moncets is 66/32/2% Merlot, Cab-Franc, Cab Sauv offering more verve, freshness, red/black fruit and heightened acidity cleaning up nicely with ¾ used oak elegantly interwoven. A gutsier and opulent 2011 Château Chambrun has a predominance of Merlot (83%) with the remainder Cabernet Franc, offering slightly smoky, blackcurrant and blackberry fruit on the nose with silky tannins, sweet spice, fresh black fruit on the palate, finishing long and clean. With 50/50% new/old wood this time (also 16 months on) both wines display a more modern freshness and purity of fruit over oak and extraction. May your spring table creak!
Roberson's Best Rosé
Love rosé, but want to find out how to sort the pink from the plonk? Read on.... What makes a great rosé? Time was that rosé was nothing more than a money-spinning secondary product made by profit-hungry red wine producers. By bleeding off some of the juice during fermentation (known as the ‘saignée method’ - pronounced "san-yay"), your red became more concentrated, and you had some cheap pinkish juice that could be quickly vinified and sold for cash without the need for ageing. Nowadays the tables have turned, and rosé has become so popular that winemakers from in-demand regions like Provence are giving up on reds to concentrate solely on producing rosé. Yet success can be a double-edged sword. Such is the fashion for Provence’s pale, dry, delicate style of rosé that the number of brands has exploded, fruit prices have started to soar, and quality can sometimes play second fiddle to hitting a supermarket price point. So how do you sort the pink from the plonk? We’ve picked five of our best rosés, each of which is guaranteed to transport you to warm summer days and sun-dappled evenings. M de Minuty Rosé Château Minuty’s ‘M’ has been our best-selling rosé for years, and no wonder – with its iconic bottle design and strawberry-scented fruit, it’s the archetype of Provence rosé. While many producers in Provence have started to explore less favoured areas in search of cheaper fruit, Minuty only sources grapes from the best Côtes de Provence vineyards. M de Minuty is designed to be enjoyed as young and fresh as possible, so it’s always best to go for the newest vintage you can get your hands on. Fortunately, we’re Minuty’s official UK importer – so you’re always guaranteed to get the best price and freshest rosé at Roberson. Whispering Angel Whispering Angel by Chateau d’Esclans has arguably contributed more than any other wine to the incredible success enjoyed by Provence rosé today – so much so that it’s responsible for 20% of all Provence rosé imports into the USA. There’s a reason for the success – and it isn’t just the wine’s pretty bottle and evocative name. Crack open a bottle of Whispering Angel and you’re guaranteed fine, ethereal fruit and beautifully soft, silky texture. Minuty Rose et Or Rose et Or is one of the finest rosés in Provence, made from 30 year old vines planted immediately next to Château Minuty itself. It’s made solely using the ‘pressurage direct’ method, where red grapes are pressed and then the juice is left for a short time in contact with the skins, gently extracting colour. Timing is critical - too short and your rosé has no colour – too long and your rosé is a red. Fortunately Minuty has mastered the technique, and the Rose et Or is a wine to rival any in the world. Subtle, dry and beautifully well-balanced, it can be enjoyed by itself, or served as a proper foodie wine with seafood or charcuterie. London Cru Rosaville Rd Rosé The 2018 vintage is all about England. The summer that never seemed to end brought our wines previously unheard of levels of fruit ripeness and intensity, to match with the beautiful minerality that comes from growing vines on our chalky slopes. London Cru’s rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir grown on Surrey’s North Downs. With aromas of pink grapefruit and fresh strawberries, this is light, fresh and incredibly moreish, finishing with silky texture from time ageing on lees. Simpsons Railway Hill Rosé If there’s one English winery to watch, it’s Simpsons Wine Estate in Kent. Located just south of Canterbury, this area has the country's best wine-growing combination of chalky soils, low rainfall and high number of sunshine hours during the growing season – all contributing to the region’s fame as the garden of England. The 2018, from 100% Pinot Noir, has beautifully rounded texture, notes of citrus and nectarine, and is superbly mouth-watering. Finishing with a burst of minerals, this is the ultimate sunny-evening pick-me-up, or could be matched with fine English seafood. Cheers!
Designing Minuty Limited Edition
This summer’s M de Minuty Limited Edition Rosé has been launched by Château Minuty and is on sale now. The Limited Edition bottle is prettier than ever this year, featuring beautiful new artwork by acclaimed British designer Ruby Taylor. Inspiring The Limited Edition Rosé The new M de Minuty Limited Edition design effortless captures the feel of summer in St Tropez, featuring shells, seafood and sunglasses – all of which match perfectly with the beautifully pale, delicate and refreshing rosé contained within. One sip of M de Minuty Rosé is all it takes to transport you to long summer days and warm Mediterranean breezes – and the Limited Edition bottle is sure to set the scene at any picnic, barbecue, or garden party this summer. But what about the artist behind the design? We met up with Ruby Taylor to find out a little bit more about drawing inspiration from Provence and the design process behind the new Limited Edition bottle. An Interview with Ruby Taylor Roberson Wine: Hi Ruby, we love this year’s Minuty Limited Edition bottle. You obviously have an appreciation for all things Provençal - what was it about Provence that inspired you the most? Ruby Taylor: I love the colours and the atmosphere, the mix of old and new. There was so much amazing food and wine, it was incredible. RW: What was your favourite food and wine experience in Provence? Ruby Taylor: I think La Verdoyante was probably my favourite, the view was amazing! RW: So were you a wine drinker before the Minuty project? Ruby Taylor: Absolutely! I’ve always been partial to a glass of Taittinger, although M de Minuty is now my tipple of choice, obviously. RW: Glad to hear it! You obviously spent quite a bit of time in Provence, gathering inspiration for this year’s Limited Edition Rosé design. Do you have any insider tips, that a typical visitor might not know about? Ruby Taylor: I had lots of fun when we hired a Mini Moke - a classic little open-top car a bit like a tiny jeep. It’s a really fun way to zip around and see the sights. RW: It must be an unusual challenge, creating a design for a bottle. Did you have to approach the artwork differently to other projects you’ve worked on? Ruby Taylor: I try to approach all projects similarly, sketching ideas first and then building up to a final design. This was a bit trickier in a sense that the ‘canvas’ was a bottle so there were some constraints as to how it could be printed, which meant there was more planning involved. RW: So do you now have a lifetime supply of M de Minuty Rosé? Ruby Taylor: Ah that’s a good point! I’ll have to check with Minuty! Chateau Minuty’s 2018 M de Minuty Limited Edition Rosé is on sale now.
England's Best Vineyards
Wondering where you'll find England's best vineyards? Roberson winemaker Alex Hurley looks at what science can tell us. Many vineyard regions are adjusting to the challenges of a warming climate. In England this has opened the door to an exciting opportunity to explore our own terroir. We have historically been a large wine consuming nation and remain one of the most important wine markets in the world, yet now we have an opportunity to produce our own world-class wines. This growing industry is particularly intriguing as our viticulturists can follow their own passion free from any historical baggage. This unique situation has turned the UK into one of the world’s most exciting wine regions. As a relatively new wine producing country, we are still learning where we can produce great wines. You may have noticed vineyards popping up everywhere from Kent to Wales. Unlike many traditional wine regions, such as Mosel, Burgundy & Champagne, who have had 100s of years of exploration and vine selection, in England this adventure is just starting. STRAP YOURSELF IN… HERE COMES THE SCIENCE Whilst experimentation and growing vineyards where we like is one way to find the best sites, this takes many years and will inevitably result in some low-quality failed developments. On the other hand, with a scientific approach, we can assess vineyard suitability linked to soil type, aspect and climatic parameters, finding sites which will have less risk of frost, lower disease pressure, and where it is easier to ripen the grapes and produce first-class wines. Based on a study by Dr A. Nesbitt in 2018, the potential prime viticulture land in the UK is around 33,700 ha. Most of these regions are based in Kent, West and East Sussex, Essex and Suffolk. While this is certainly a significant area of suitable land for vineyards, on the scale of Champagne, it is interesting to understand what makes these sites suitable. SOIL When explaining the aromas and taste of a wine, the first point wine commentators like to present is the soil type of the vineyard, such as clay, chalky or loamy soils, and perhaps how similar it is to other regions in the world. Whilst this is certainly interesting, the soil type is just one element that defines the quality of a vineyard site. Factors such as vineyard aspect and slope, site drainage, quantity and intensity of sunshine, susceptibility to frost, and rainfall are just as important. SUNSHINE The amount of sunshine is an obvious requirement for the development of healthy plants. A vineyard site needs enough sunlight hours during the growing season to successfully ripen the grapes. The vines convert the energy of the sun through photosynthesis into sugars which feed its growth and development. These sugars fuel the growth of the vine, make their way into the berry and subsequently are fermented in the cellar into alcohol. A grapevine without enough sunshine or leaves to catch the sunshine will ultimately not produce quality grapes. In these cases, the resulting vine will be poorly supplied, the grapes will not ripen, and the wine will have an unwanted green and vegetal character. In fact, each vine variety has specific climatic requirements. The optimum amount of sunlight hours per day, growing season average temperatures, the slope of the parcel, the canopy system, differences in day and night time temperatures, and the orientation of the vineyard will change variety to variety and even clone to clone. This explains why many of the vines planted in the UK from the 1970s were early ripening hybrids such as Reichensteiner, Müller-Thurgau and Bacchus, as these varieties ripen earlier and require fewer sunlight hours to achieve maturity. More recently as the climate has warmed, Champagne grape clones have been extensively planted throughout the UK. These vines are well adapted to growing in cooler climates and, due to the lower sugar requirement of sparkling wine, can be produced with exceptionally quality in the UK. In the last few years, particularly the warm 2018 vintage, the ability to ripen still wine clones such as Burgundian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay clones has also become a reality in the UK. Whilst quality will vary vintage to vintage, the climatic trend implies that achieving ripeness with these varieties will continue to become easier. There may even be a day where grapes like the early ripening Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot could be planted and achieve maturity, but we are still many years from this. FROST Another key consideration in finding the best vineyard sites in England is their exposure to frost. When the vines are breaking dormancy due to the warming weather of spring, the buds and shoots will start to emerge. These shoots are delicate and very sensitive to damage by frost. To make things a little more complicated, the buds actually consist of 3 or more potential shoots. The first shoot is the most developed and will have the highest fertility, while the secondary and tertiary buds, which the vines will utilise after a frost event, have dramatically lower fertility. Frost has dire significance for grape growers as these less developed buds will produce fewer grapes per hectare. Consequently, the probability and intensity of frost events in April and May must be considered when you have the goal of producing great wines year in year out. Vineyard sites in flat, low lying areas are obvious examples which should be avoided and sites with a slight slope and known to be sheltered to some degree from frost should be sought after. RAINFALL AND… BACK TO SOIL The final important factor we must consider in order to locate England’s best vineyard sites is the amount of rainfall throughout the year, critically during the growing season. Vines need water for photosynthesis, transporting nutrients from the soil throughout the vine, and to regulate temperature. However, excess water in the soil can waterlog the vine’s roots and stunt their growth and development. Going full circle back to the topic of the soil type, the real importance of soil type in the vineyard is typically associated with its water holding capacity and drainage. Another point regarding rainfall throughout the growing season is that it will increase the humidity in the vine canopy and the likelihood of diseases, such as Downy Mildew. Regions with high rainfall during the growing season will have a larger incidence of canopy challenges and will require more intervention and chemicals. In England the East Coast is known to have a much lower rainfall than the West, with the regions in the South East having the most suitable amount of rainfall during the growing season. SO WHERE ARE ENGLAND’S BEST VINEYARDS? Considering the soils, sunlight, frost, and rainfall helps us to identify the most suitable vineyards regions in the UK. However, it will still take many years as the industry matures to sort the wheat from the chaff. Currently, Essex, Kent, and Sussex are well established and for good reason. From the start of spring, these regions have a lower chance of frost events, less rainfall during the growing season, and have the most suitable amount of sunshine in the UK. It should be no surprise that many of England’s most acclaimed vineyards are found in these regions, including Roberson's new English producer, Simpsons Wine Estate, and the vineyards that supply fruit for Roberson's own wines, London Cru. Of course this doesn't preclude great wines being made elsewhere in the UK - just that, due to climatic conditions, it'll be trickier to do it consistently. The English wine industry’s future is very promising and ultimately, we will be a producer of world-class wines with a real sense of place. Just watch us.
Bordeaux 2018 Vintage Report
Looking for info about the 2018 vintage in Bordeaux? Head of Fine Wine Oliver Bartle has just returned from tasting the latest releases in Bordeaux – here’s his take on the 2018 vintage. 2018 Bordeaux - A Snapshot After spending four days in Bordeaux to taste the 2018 vintage, I arrived back into the office last week and like every year, my colleagues were keen to ask my thoughts of the vintage. My response this year, “up and down”. I can use the term up and down to talk about many parts of the past week. It applied to the short one hour flight to the south west of France, the weather over the four days I was in Bordeaux, climatic conditions during the 2018 growing season and most importantly, the wines produced in 2018. The 2018 Growing Season in Bordeaux: The first half of 2018 was extremely wet, also with hailstorms, followed by a much milder spring. This led to a lot of mildew which impacted the amount of wine produced at many estates. These weather conditions at this stage worried winemakers and put the quality of the vintage in doubt. But then the sunshine prevailed and led to an extremely hot and dry summer, rescuing 2018. Grapes were small, but extremely rich in sugar and tannins, conditions which led to high alcohol in most wines, some up to 15%. But do not be put off this, as I will explain below. 2018 Bordeaux - The Wines When I look through my hundreds of tasting notes, I always search for the words I’ve written the most to describe the vintage. So here goes: Rich, Elegant, Fresh, Pure & Balanced. So if they are my most commonly written words, why am I saying "up and down"? 2018 is not 2016, where every wine I tasted sang from the trees. It is a vintage where the top Châteaux have produced simply brilliant wines, but many smaller estates have failed to reach those heights. People always ask for vintage comparisons. I would say 2018 offers a mix of the richness of 2015, coupled with the freshness of 2016, but without the consistency of either of these years. If pricing is reasonable, I wholeheartedly recommend buying 2018s; they are up-front wines, yet have the ability to age for decades to come. Alcohol is certainly high, but the freshness and balance of the wines hide it, unlike in 2009 and 2010, where it is prevalent. In terms of highlights, I can certainly recommend once again Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion. They have produced an excellent wine in 2018 with wonderful purity and balance. We have been following this up-and-coming estate for a number of years now and I have no doubt it would be a great addition to your cellar this year. Château Tour Saint Christophe is another estate we have followed and it again hits the great heights of previous vintages this year. Power, complexity and richness prevail, it is a bargain! Château Beychevelle is always a fantastic wine to taste En Primeur, but the 2018 is the finest I have ever tasted from barrel. Their second wine, Amiral de Beychevelle, is serious too and is certainly worth a look. 2018 Bordeaux - Left Bank Highlights Les Carmes Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan) Palmer (Margaux) Rauzan-Ségla (Margaux) Lafite Rothschild + Carruades de Lafite (Pauillac) Montrose + Le Dame de Montrose (Saint-Estèphe) Cos d’Estournel (Saint-Estèphe) Beychevelle + Amiral de Beychevelle (Saint Julien) 2018 Bordeaux - Right Bank Highlights Tour Saint Christophe (Saint Emilion) Cheval Blanc + Le Petit Cheval (Saint Emilion) Canon (Saint Emilion) Vieux Château Certan (Pomerol) Lafleur (Pomerol) Bordeaux 2018… What next? We expect releases to begin within the next two weeks, with most coming in May/June. Our private client manager Paul Williamson will be offering as soon as the Châteaux release. If you wish to receive those offers or have specific requests, please do contact him via email, or call him on 020 7381 7881.
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