Hibernating in style
When it’s cold, wet and starting to get dark around the same time you’re eating lunch, there’s only one thing for it: hunker down and wait for spring. After all, why would you want to go out when there’s a new series of Stranger Things on Netflix? But just because you’re wintering like a Grizzly doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself. It’s the best time of year for all sorts of delicious foods. And you’re much better off relaxing with friends over a cosy dinner chez vous, than fighting over the last 8pm table at Tres Cher. So how do you hibernate in style? Here are a few pro-level tips from Roberson Wine: The inexpensive Crémant that’s better than Champagne You might be staying in, but that’s no reason not to celebrate, even if you’re just celebrating the fact that you’re toasty and dry while the rest of the world are out losing their minds over hipster fried chicken and closed loop cocktails. J Laurens’ Champagne-method Crémant de Limoux is so well-made that it’s easily as good as most Champagnes costing twice as much. But at under £15 per bottle, you really can open a bottle just because it’s Friday night and you fancy some bubbles. Whites to keep in the fridge door What’s your tactic for fast-chilling a bottle when someone fancies a glass of white? Stick it in the freezer? Run it under a cold tap? Chuck a couple of ice cubes in the glass? Much better always to have something light, fresh and crisp sat in the fridge, ready for action. But why does it have to be boring old Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio? Try one of these inexpensive, but completely delicious beauties instead: Domaine des Cognettes Muscadet Ebner-Ebenauer Grüner Veltliner London Cru Baker Street Bacchus Fattoria Kappa Etabeta Vermentino Reds to drink with chocolate What could be better than stretching out on the sofa with a good book, some chocolate and a glass of red, while the rain lashes down outside? But does red wine even match with chocolate? First of all, we’re going to have to get something straight: there’s chocolate and then there’s chocolate. Dry red wines just don't match well with cheaper, more sugary, mass-market chocolate bars; if you're a Yorkie bar trucker or a Milkybar kid, you’d be better off going with a Pedro Ximinez Sherry. But increase the cocoa content to 60% or more and red wine matches start to work – after all, high-quality chocolate and red wine contain the same type of polyphenols, which are the plant compounds that act as antioxidants. You’ll still need to go for something ripe and velvety with soft tannins, so we’d recommend the following - all under £20: Vistalba Temporada Malbec Dupeuble Beaujolais Villages Viano Zinfandel Moobuzz Pinot Noir Reds to impress your foodie friends There are so many amazing flavours to be had at this time of year that you’d be crazy not to invite a few friends over, cook something special and get stuck in. Most game birds are now in season, British venison is widely available in the supermarkets, and it’s truffle festival time in Alba. If you want a great read about wines to drink with autumnal foods, check out David Adamick’s post The Great Game, but in general, full-flavoured reds with balancing juicy acidity tend to work well with both game and mushroom-based foods. David recommends: Mushrooms: Le Cantine Murgo Etna Rosso Wood Pigeon and Wild Boar: Coster del Sio Les Creus Venison: Hunt & Harvest Napa Cabernet Sauvignon The ridiculously under-priced sweet wine If you’ve heard anything about Sauternes, you’ll have heard that the most sought-after estate in the region is Chateau d'Yquem. The estate’s combination of topography and proximity to the river Garonne give its vineyards the perfect microclimate for the flourishing of Botrytis – the noble rot responsible for the world’s greatest sweet wines. But if you’ve heard anything about Sauternes, you’ll also have heard that Chateau d’Yquem can cost a fortune. However, nestled in the middle of d’Yquem’s vineyards is an interesting anomaly – a tract of land surrounded by d’Yquem on all sides, but owned by someone else entirely – Chateau Lafon. It’s one of the only significant Sauternes estates still to be family-owned and it’s rich, lusciously sweet, and a perfect match for blue cheese. But unlike d’Yquem, no one’s heard of Lafon, so a half bottle of their delicious nectar can be had for just £11.99. --- Happy Hibernation!
Harvest 2017: Roberson Reports, Pt.2
Wondering how vintage 2017 is shaping up? We’ve been checking in with a number of our producers from across the northern hemisphere, to find out how this year’s harvest has gone. Last time we spoke with John and David Viano from Contra Costa County, California - this week we're heading to Piedmont to hear from Elisa Giacosa of Bric Cencurio and Rizieri. Part 2: Piedmont, Italy The unique features of the 2017 growing season were severe frost in April and severe heat in August. The frost caused heavy damage to the vineyards and reduced yields, while the heat resulted in drought conditions, smaller than average berry size, and an early harvest. What were the challenges of 2017? In August it looked as though the harvest would be particularly hard – temperatures were averaging 38-40 degrees and the vines were under severe water stress. But thanks to rain in early September, the vines were reinvigorated and underwent a burst of physiological ripening, catching up with the sugar ripeness. Although quantities were affected, the wines have ended up being much better balanced and of higher quality than expected. How did you respond to these challenges? We checked grape maturation constantly and picked a month earlier than the average of previous vintages. We were lucky that September was much cooler after August, with large temperature differences between day and night. These were ideal conditions for producing perfectly mature Nebbiolo and Barbera. What is the result of the harvest so far? We are happy and satisfied. The only problem will be smaller quantities than are usually available. Do you have any interesting anecdotes or stories to tell? The early harvest and great weather during September meant that we were all able to go to the seaside and get suntans. That was our holiday for this year!
Sad news from California
California Burning Wildfires in California are nothing new, but when I woke a few days ago to see pictures of wineries and vineyards burning, it was unsettling. Just last month I had been basking in 30+ degree weather in Glen Ellen, sitting on my friends’ deck, looking across the Valley of the Moon to the hillsides and vineyards within view. Their house is now gone, burned literally to the ground and although they are safe, the fires are still raging through Santa Rosa, Atlas Peak and Potter Valley in Mendocino County. The wine industry is resilient and close-knit in times of difficulty and it will rebound without a doubt. But the fires have destroyed large swathes of irreplaceable vineyards and, most importantly, the homes and communities of those who work within the business. At Roberson Wine we take pride in our eclectic collection of producers. To us they are friends; individuals (not companies or corporations) who produce wines filled with their own personalities, quirks and passions. Only time will tell how devastating these fires have been to the wine industry, but we hope that the wine community and all the individuals who make it such an amazing place are safe in the coming days. Help us raise £10,000 In conjunction with other friends in the wine trade, we're aiming to raise £10,000 to support the wine communities of California and will be donating a proportion of the proceeds from our Californian wine sales during October. If you'd like to help out too, you can donate at the JustGiving page.
Cleaning up at The Dirty Dozen
Last month Roberson joined eleven of the UK’s most interesting independent wine importers at The Dirty Dozen. This annual tasting event champions smaller producers, who focus on “wines of integrity and authenticity”, that are “real before synthetic” and “that speak of the terroir”. The demand for these organic, biodynamic and natural wines was plain to see. As a society we’re ever more conscious of what we put in our bodies, and the wine trade is adapting well to this growing market trend. Tucked away in the basement of one of London’s leading record stores, passers-by would never have guessed that over 250 wines were being swirled, sniffed, slurped and scrutinised by some of the country’s finest sommeliers, wine retailers and wine journalists. Favourites among the Roberson selection were identified as the Plein Sud 2016 from Vignerons d’Estezargues, Rudolph Trossen’s Silbermond Riesling 2016, Seth Kunin’s Santa Barbara County Syrah 2015 and the wines of our new agency Vinca Minor. Vignerons d’Estezargues Plein Sud 2016 – A 50/50 blend of Viognier and Roussanne from the Cote de Rhone, Estezargues make their wine as naturally as possible, with minimal SO2. This wine displays a floral, fruity nose and juicy stone fruits on the palate, rounded off with great minerality. Trossen Silbermond Riesling Fienherb 2016 – Pioneers of bio dynamism, Rita and Rudolph Trossen produce organic fruit in the Mosel valley. Working in harmony with the land, the winemaking process is synchronised with the biodynamic calendar. With minimal intervention in the winery and use of indigenous yeast only, the end result is slightly off-dry, packed full of citrus fruit with a dazzling minerality that lingers on the palate. Kunin Santa Barbara County Syrah 2015 – Seth Kunin, a transplanted New Yorker, first arrived on the west coast to work in California's fine dining scene, where he fell in love with wine and ended up quitting the restaurant business. A fan of wines of the northern Rhone, this Syrah is a new world expression of a classic Saint-Joseph. This wine is silky and elegant with spiced blackberry fruit and hints of smoked meats and olives. Amelia Singer (ITV2’s The Wine Show expert and UK ambassador for California Wines UK) is a huge fan of Kunin and praised the wines while she tasted at Roberson’s stand: “I love how the ripeness of baked red plums is equally matched with a peppery, charcuterie-esque nuance. It really shows how Santa Barbara’s terroir allows winemakers to straddle the savoury and fruity aspects of Syrah.” Vinca Minor Santa Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 – Using organic fruit from high altitude sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains, this Cabernet is fermented with native yeasts and aged in neutral French oak to preserve the freshness of fruit. Bottled un-fined and unfiltered, this is a brilliant example of minimal intervention winemaking. Peter Richards MW from BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen tasted it at our table, describing it “as adorable as an eager and super-fluffy puppy”.
Anna Von Bertele
Harvest 2017: Roberson Reports
Wondering how vintage 2017 is shaping up? We’ve been checking in with a number of our producers from across the northern hemisphere, to find out how this year’s harvest has gone. We’ll be publishing thoughts from several key growers across Europe in coming days, but first, we’re heading to California to hear from John and David Viano. Part 1: Contra Costa County, California “Hey John, how’s harvest going for you this year?” John: “In a word, crazy!” In Northern California, harvest kick started after a heatwave in the last two weeks of August. The vintage itself had huge potential, with a great warm year and much needed early season rain after many years of drought - “with all the rainfall this year we were expecting to see large berry size, but to our pleasant surprise, size remained normal.” This means the grapes have concentrated flavour, rather than being weak and diluted. However, the end of summer heatwave put up some obstacles to an easy year. Out in Contra Costa, a region with only a few wineries, the Viano brothers suffered from lack of available labour and harvested at least 80% of their grapes themselves. 35 tons of fruit were harvested by 4 people in 10 days, not forgetting the other aspects of production that need doing at the same time! But experienced winemaker brothers John and David have not let some strong sunshine get in the way of their crop. They’re used to these kind of hot conditions, so wild-farm their vines with huge canopies of growth protecting the grapes. Any exposed grapes that did suffer from sunburn or shrivelled in the heat have been abandoned, meaning their crop size is smaller than average, however they still believe that what they have managed to pick is above average. We look forward to seeing the results when the wines are released in 4 years’ time.
The Great Game
Matching wines with the flavours of the new season As loathe as I am to admit it, autumn is coming. You may have noticed also. It’s been coming since about 28 July, as I make it. And by mid-August I was reminded almost daily of that cruel, soul-corroding British ‘joke’ about ‘summer falling on a Wednesday this year’. Ha ha. It’s inevitable. So what else to do but drink well and therefore happily, and happily the silver lining comes in the form of wonderful autumnal game offerings to help do so: grouse, guinea fowl, venison, wood pigeon, partridge, rabbit… wild mushroom. Here are autumnal flavours for the taking, with not-so-little help from those reds which have the guts, acidity and structure to stand up to the deeper, earthy and nuttier glories of the season. But let’s for a moment resist the Pinot Noir default reflex and look further afield: Nerello Mascalese from Sicily. Cantine Murgo’s 2015 Etna Rosso has wonderfully fresh acidity and nice sweet/savoury, zippy and spicy red fruit flavours and also fits in where a good Gamay would. Grown on Etna’s volcanic soils and aged 8 months in the traditional chestnut, just about any fowl will be game with Le Cantine’s cuvée. Get some ceps, chanterelles or porcini involved and things get really exciting. Moving along the spectrum of flavour we get darker power with wood pigeon and wild boar. Accordingly, things should get weightier with the reds, though with a need to keep that acidity up - Sangiovese being the easy option. But let’s again go off-piste to the curious little Catalonian appellation Costers del Segre (no, I’d not heard of it either). Real freshness and depth to be found in Costers del Sió’s 2014 ‘Les Creus’, an invigorating blend of Tempranillo and Grenache (85% / 15%) giving enough weight and brightness to balance all elements. Red berries, spice, earthy minerality and cleanly finishing off any lingering gaminess. This is right. Finally, the end game (sorry, I’m almost done) is venison. Big, bold, rich… and though Napa Cab with deer may not be so uncommon, an affordable and fresh expression of the former often is. 2015 Hunt & Harvest Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is black, sweet, deep and supple but with that green pepper typicity to give life and verve to what can sometimes be a cloying experience for the palate when getting through such-sized elements. I return again to acidity and structure: they are here as they must be and all helped along with a wee bit of Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in the mix. Weighty, fully-flavoured, refined tannin & freshness, H&H cleans up and redeems beautifully a seasonal culinary experience. Get on with it, autumn.
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