The Latest from Roberson

Thoughts on wine and other topics from the Roberson team


Jack Green

Rudolf Trossen - Natural Legend

Man of Mystery The legend of Rudolf Trossen is a treasure chest of mystery. One minute I’m listening to an hour long SoundCloud recording of his fermenting Riesling, the next I’m reading about his formative years as a young punk in the Mosel being almost driven out of Kinheim for blasting AC/DC too loud in the winery. He’s a character who everyone has an anecdote about, so finally getting the chance to spend some time with him quickly became the date in our diary everyone was talking about. The enormity of his visit was nicely summed up by Sandia Chang, owner of Bubbledogs, who said over our lunch with Rudolf ‘I’ve been waiting 10 years to meet you, it’s a dream come true’. Sandia first discovered Rudolf’s wines when she was working at the world-renowned Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen in 2008. His wines were the first natural wines to make their way onto this coveted wine list and remain there to this day. He became a staunch believer in Biodynamics after reading the works of Rudolf Steiner as a young winemaker. He quickly transformed his family’s domain into farming organically and employing all of Steiner’s principles; think dung in the cow horn, harvesting when the moon is in a certain place and only working on fruit days as determined by the biodynamic calendar. But for Rudolf, it’s so much more than just these practices. It’s a way of life. It’s your mood when you wake up. It’s when you get inspired by a piece of music. It’s sharing the fruit of hard labour with your friends at the end of the vintage. All these things help to build a culture in which the best natural wines are made. His outlook on wine is so simple: to make wine just from grapes. Many in the industry call this the natural wine movement. But Rudolf questions the entire concept of natural wines: “nature does not harvest any grapes - it’s always human beings who are at work.” At Kiln restaurant in Soho, he made it clear that he believes wine is just part of life. Some choose to obliterate it with chemicals to stabilise the wine, others choose to listen to the natural cycles of Mother Earth and produce wine with minimal intervention. What I took away from my time with Rudolf was far more than just his superb expressions of German Riesling. It was his simple, down to earth outlook on life. And wine just happens to make planet earth a much better place.


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Roberson Wine

Vegetarian Food and Wine Matching

Roberson staff share their favourite vegetarian recipes and wine matches Easy Lentil Stew By: Tayla Roberson I’ve been a vegetarian since 1980. That was a pre-foodyism age when quiche, potato skins and omelette were the on-trend options. Being meat free is much more interesting these days, but vegetarian food and wine pairing hasn’t got much easier; if you want a lovely glass of Bordeaux, Tofu doesn’t taste any better with it than scrabbled egg did. So, go old-school French to make a simple dish with flavour and character to meet the wine half way. It’s dark, delicious and almost meaty. The Ingredients: 200g Puy lentils 1 onion A couple of carrots A couple of sticks of celery A handful of cherry tomatoes A couple of small mushrooms A couple of bay leaves The Method: Take a large open bottom, shallow pan. Cut the onion into 8 and fry until soft in a splash of olive oil. Add the lentils. Cover with water. Add the remaining vegetables and a few bay leaves. Simmer gently for about half an hour. Top up with a splash of whichever wine you are drinking. It’ll be ready to eat when the lentils are al dente and the stock is reduced to a stew like consistency. The Wine Match: Perfect with a traditional Bordeaux like Château Franc-Cardinal, or a robust and slightly rustic southern French red, like L'Esprit de la Fontaine. --- Onion and Feta Pie By: Ben Greene This is a modified version of the Provence pizza - pissaladière - which normally features anchovies in place of the Feta below. The key is not to rush the onions. The Ingredients: 1kg onions Olive oil A sheet of all-butter puff pastry Black olives Feta The Method: Peel and slice the onions, then cook them in olive oil over a very low heat for two hours. They should collapse down without catching. Spread them on the puff pastry leaving a bit of a border, and brush that with olive oil. Scatter the black olives and Feta over the top. Bake in a medium oven for 30 minutes or so. The Wine Match: Match with a high-quality Provence rosé like Minuty's Rose et Or, or try a Greek white to match the Feta and olives, like Argyros' native Santorini grape Aidani. --- Vegetarian Chilli By: Simon Huntington When I was considerably younger and fitter, a friend talked me into taking part in a weekend ‘adventure race’. This was a cross-country running and cycling event, which involved the extra challenge of having to navigate using map and compass to specific points along the course. At the end of the race, there were huge portions of vegetarian chilli served up to all the competitors – and I quickly realised that I could cut out the middle-man and enjoy the best part of the race experience without the muddy and exhausting preamble. The Ingredients: 1 large onion 250g mushrooms 6 sticks of celery 2 chilli peppers, deseeded 2 sweet red peppers 1 tin chopped tomatoes 1 carton black beans 500ml vegetable stock 20g 90% cocoa dark chocolate ½ teaspoon oregano ½ teaspoon chipotle-smoked chilli flakes ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust for taste) The Method: Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry until translucent in a large cast-iron cooking pot, over a medium-high heat. Chop the celery, sweet peppers and deseeded chillies and add. Slice the mushrooms and add after a further 2 minutes. Once all the vegetables are softened, add the oregano, cayenne pepper and smoked chilli flakes and continue frying for 1 minute to release the flavours. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and the vegetable stock and, once back up to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer slowly and reduce for around 30 minutes. After 30 minutes (or whenever the chilli has thickened), grate the dark chocolate into the mix, add the drained black beans and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve with brown rice or a baked potato. If the chilli is too hot for your taste, add Greek yoghurt to reduce the heat. The Wine Match: I would generally serve this with a red, but the spices will clash with anything that's too tannic, so you're best off with a ripe, silky red such as the Jackhammer Pinot Noir. If you'd prefer a white, try Semeli's succulent, floral Thea Mantinia Moschofilero. Got your own tried and tested vegetarian recipe? We'd love to hear from you and might feature your recipe in a future post - just get in touch.



Jack Green

Remembering Bruno Giacosa

Off-Trade Sales Manager Jack Green reflects on the life and influence of Bruno Giacosa, who passed away this week. How Bruno Giacosa quietly revolutionised Piedmont Giacosa… this name will make the hairs on the back of any Italian wine lover’s neck stand up. It’s a name that stands tall, proud and as a beacon for all winemakers dealing with Nebbiolo around the world today. I was saddened to hear of Bruno Giacosa’s passing this week. Quite simply one of the greatest winemakers in Italy, let alone Piedmont. Over my seven years at Roberson, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to taste his wines on a few occasions. Most memorably, his daughter Bruna visited our old shop on Kensington High Street, importer in tow, to show her father’s latest offerings. That was the one shift everyone wanted to work. He had been making wine since the 60’s, buying fruit and bottling his own wines until one day in 1982, he was able to purchase his own vineyard and take his winemaking to the next level. This indeed catapulted him into winemaking stardom, his small Falletto vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba (pictured above) becoming one of the most famed vineyards in the Langhe and one where you’ll always find a troop of tourists taking pictures, rain or shine. Bruno suffered a stroke in 2006, which made him reluctant to release the wines from that vintage since he felt unable to properly judge the wines and did not want mediocre wines being released. This showed just how high his standards remained, even through difficult times. Today, his two daughters Bruna and Marina are running the estate, aided by oenologist Giorgio Lavagna. Hopefully one day soon I’ll get to taste his spellbinding wines again and, when I do, I shall raise a glass to the great Bruno Giacosa.


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Paul Williamson

Burgundy 2016 Vintage Review

Private Client Sales Manager Paul Williamson weighs up the quality of the 2016 vintage in Burgundy, which is now available to purchase en primeur. Burgundy 2016 - The Verdict January is always an interesting time in the wine trade. Every year the hard-working Burgundian winemakers scrub themselves up and showcase their latest vintage at importer tastings in lavish old halls across London. It’s all handshakes and smiles as the winemakers and importers big up the vintage. Those tasting the wines in turn make sounds of satisfaction while swirling the young juice in their mouths and giving the thumbs up to the pourers, no matter the actual opinion. With the 2016 vintage however, most of those gestures of affirmation are genuine. Once all the pleasantries are done, the scramble for the finest and rarest bottles commences. In a vintage like 2016 it makes the game even harder, with frost and hail during the growing season indiscriminately knocking out yields across the Cote d’Or. Even the mighty Grand Cru vineyards didn’t hold impunity from Mother Nature’s wrath with many suffering significant yield loss. The damage across the Cote was uneven, but in general 2016 is characterised by less wine. The end of the summer fortunately brought ideal ripening weather and the winemakers were very happy with the berries they were actually able to bring back from the vineyards. I took the picture above whilst picking in Savigny-Les-Beaune during the 2016 harvest and while the bunches were sparse, the fruit we put in the baskets was in beautiful shape. The reds in general are characterised by ripe, but not overly ripe, juicy fruits with soft tannins and good acidity. If chosen wisely you will find classic and classy quality. The whites generally are pure and zingy, perhaps more suited to earlier drinking, but isn’t that what wine is all about. At Roberson we import directly the seriously good value wines of Domaine Pierre Guillemot and Domaine Chavy-Chouet. Two producers whose wines won’t break the bank but will provide you with fantastic drinking. We do also scour the market for wines from some of the top names which we will be offering over the coming weeks. If you would like to receive these offers, please do drop me an email and I would be delighted to discuss what we can offer.



Magnavai Janjo

What is Vegan Wine?

What makes a vegan wine? Isn't all wine vegan? Mags investigates.... The vegan community is on the rise, with more than half a million vegans living in the UK at the last count. Does the decision to go vegan mean giving up your favourite tipple? Certainly not! There are a huge selection of wines that are suitable for vegans. But both vegans and non-vegans alike may wonder why animal products might be involved in wine production at all. After all, isn't wine just made of grapes? Of course, the raw ingredient of wine is grapes. If these grapes were left to grow wildly and the fermentation process allowed to happen spontaneously and totally uninterrupted, the product would certainly be vegan. However, the taste would be nothing like what we’re used to drinking, since winemakers typically intervene in the process to improve the quality of their wine – and these interventions may sometimes involve products derived from animal sources. A basic understanding of the winemaking process will shed some light into vegan-friendly wines. The process goes as follows: The Winemaking Process: Harvesting - Crushing - Pressing - Fermentation - Clarification and Fining - Stabilisation - Bottling At the crush, the winemaker can add enzymes such as pectinase to aid in the extraction of flavour aromas. These enzymes can be naturally extracted (from mushrooms), or synthetically produced in a lab. The choice boils down to price points sought, the grape variety and suitability to the winemaker’s preference. Then there’s the clarification and fining stage, performed because most drinkers don’t want “bits” floating around in their wines. After fermentation, the alcoholic liquid isn’t the clear and bright elixir we see on our shelves; it is more akin to a cloudy cider than a glass of wine. Simply filtering the wine isn’t as easy as it sounds, since the lees is so fine that you’d need specialized membrane filters, which come at a cost and may harm the wine’s flavour. The answer is to use fining agents such as Bentonite, Casein, Gelatine, Isinglass, or Kieselsol, which can be natural, synthetic, plant or animal based. The reason that animal products might be used at this stage may be due to cost, but also because some fining agents are more suitable to certain styles of wine. For example, Albumin from egg whites gives a smoother mouthfeel and softer tannin profile to fine red wines, hence its widespread use in Bordeaux. It’s important to note that, whatever fining agent is used, it doesn’t remain in the wine – the process of fining removes both fermentation particles and the fining agent itself. However, vegans will still wish to avoid drinking wines which have been fined using an animal-derivative product. There is good news however. As winemaking science continues to make great strides, winemakers are finding increasingly clever ways to achieve stable, clear wines with minimal intervention. Being vegan is no reason to avoid drinking wine, since our huge range of vegan-suitable wines is sufficiently diverse to please even the most discerning of palates.



Magnavai Janjo

My WSET Journey

Starting today, Roberson is now an accredited provider of WSET courses. WSET qualifications are globally recognised as the international standard in wine and spirit knowledge. You need no prior knowledge or experience of wines, just an interest and a willingness to learn and explore. WSET Level 1 is very much an introduction to the world of wines. You learn the main types of wine, how to pair them with food, how to serve and store wine and the main grape varieties. This enables you to confidently select wines which will best accompany any dish, and answer nagging questions which might have been too embarrassing to ask such as, “what’s the difference between Champagne and Prosecco” – besides the price of course! The WSET sets you on a path which opens a world of endless possibilities and opportunities. For me, it revealed a passion for a subject I never knew existed. Never again will you be intimidated by a wine list. You’ll become the “wine-o” amongst your circle of friends, the trusted “expert”, and above all, you’ll gain a qualification which is internationally recognised. I started as a 19-year-old cider drinker with no knowledge of wine whatsoever. What began as ‘casual learning’ and an opportunity to earn a little more (working in the wine department of a major supermarket) ended up as my career, enabling me to travel to some incredible parts of the world, meeting some amazing people. I went for a 5k run along the shores of Lake Garda, sipped Xakoli at midnight in the Basque country and stood at 1,000 meters altitude at Adige, overlooking Trentino. All that started with a single WSET class all those years ago. Today, I’m studying for the Master of Wine qualification. Take WSET Level 1 at Roberson and you will have the opportunity to learn about wines in an actual winery, something which many wine students would kill for. The course is designed to bring wine studies to life. There is no theorising - you will have the unique opportunity to see everything from a press to an oak barrel up close and personal. Immerse yourself in this one-day course and discover the fascinating world of wine. You won't regret it. For more information and to book, visit our WSET page.


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