Easy come, easy go. We have stocked Ridge Vineyards for many years and strived to show them in their best light which we consider to be, with a touch of bottle-age. Sadly a change of policy means that these wines are only available to Independent Merchants “En Primeur” and ageing stock will only go to restaurants. Upon release, I think these wines are just way to bruising to put on the shelf. Not quite as bad as when Krug and Dom Pérignon Magnums are held back only for nightclubs and not for discerning private customers like you but not exactly putting best foot forward either. Other favourites will also fall by the wayside. When we gun for mainstays like the Brande-Bergère 2010 which we loosely describe as “a £16 wine that drinks like £20”, then a few Centimes rise can I feel be justified. But if a wine jumps by 10% and the ensuing Vintage is simply not as good then time to say au revoir. Au revoir therefore to Swan’s Russian River Pinot Noir as I just don’t see the 2013 as being worth £ 35 or so. I’ll be sampling many more non-Burgundy Pinots in the next month or two. Fingers crossed.
We still have the classic 2004 Vintage La Rioja Alta “904” at £ 36.00. Having spotted the just released 2007 Vintage at £ 44.00 at Oddbins last night and though we’d be about 10% below that price, I am still mulling over whether we should pile in with the same vigour as the 1995 & 2001 & 2004 Vintages. Judgement deferred.
Not unlike the La Rioja Alta is another wonderfully old-fashioned, backward, characterful, Pinot Noir brittle like Barbaresco 2013 from Produttori di Barbaresco. If you want textbook Nebbiolo and or Piedmont, this is it. A few cases arrived today. A couple of years back we had the 2010 Vintage at £ 27.00 and though this will go on the shelf at £ 29.50 later today, with a firm nod to that historic price we will do that at £ 27.50 for any weekly e-mail readers.
“Gentleman’s Claret” – traditionally this meant keeping a recognised Bordeaux for a benchmark twelve years before daring to touch. Well, bang on, this Friday we will have a fair smattering of 2005 Grand Cru Classé and top Cru Bourgeois, from Margaux, St-Julie, St-Estèphe, St-Émilion; Lalande-de-Pomerol; Haut-Médoc. From low £ 20’s to low £ 200’s. Currently out but another dozen cases of Château Brande-Bergère “Cuvée O’Byrne” 2010 back on the shop floor Friday.
When the Motorway ahead is clear and straight the temptation is to put it into top gear and floor it. Sometimes however it is perhaps wiser to drop down into third gear and pace oneself. Last week after winemaker dinners; birthday dinners; and customer wine tastings it was all a bit full-throttle. Like 2015 Burgundy, rich, ripe but at times a bit too full-throttle. As such I am taking a leaf out of that well-worn book and dropping down a gear to consider the pick of Mark Haisma’s 2013 and 2014. For those remotely concerned with global warming and just one side effect, higher alcohol levels, today’s offerings are both at a more sensible 13% abv. This coincidentally reminds me that I need to delve back into Thomas L.Friedman’s “Thank You For Being Late”.
For a big burly Aussie, Mark Haisma has always managed a very deft touch when he makes Pinot Noir. In no sense are they “colour by numbers”. If you want more old school, cooler, fresher Pinot these are certainly worth a look and not just for those Mark Haisma aficionados. He makes a handful of wines but these were my (and his) two picks for the respective vintages (and £1.00 each less than on the shelf):
Volnay “Les Grands Poisots” 2014 Mark Haisma at £ 35.00 per Bottle
Gevrey-Chambertin “Croix Des Champs” 2013 Mark Haisma at £ 36.00 per Bottle
(The Gevrey is already in stock; the Volnay due to follow tomorrow.)
Aged Australian: in any day now, some 2005 & 2006 Barossa Shiraz from a couple of legendary names just about to hit the floor. Speaking of legends, Dave Powell (formerly of Torbreck fame) came in obscenely early on Monday morning and I tried a range of his Powell & Son wines, mostly G.S.M., and a couple of relative successes will also follow in due course.
Château Beauchene, Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 2016 has arrived after the speedy success of the 2015 Vintage.Fleurie (Villa Ponciago) also back on the shelf.
For those that do follow Instagram, we are on Huntsworth_wine and typically that is where you can first see my current picks and successes.
After listing a whopping 28 wines last week it was no surprise that I had one “please unsubscribe me”. Thus short & sweet this week.
With American Thanksgiving looming (though in about a week’s time the notion of Thanksgiving might change somewhat) I will e-mail American customers with some “fly the flag” options including Kistler Vineyards; Arnot Roberts; Ridge Vineyards; Peter Michael…
Aside of some, seasonal, 2001 Sauternes (bottles & halves), super traditional Rioja 2004; top Californian Chardonnay; more 2003 & 2005 Bordeaux all in this week it is worth reiterating that I have rarely bought with such gusto as these last couple of months so if you can drop by to see the new kids on the block, please do. And to further reiterate just how good the 2015 Brouilly; Sancerre rouge; & Piedmont Nebbiolo (£ 15 to £ 18.50) all are.
Food glorious food this week. Okay, so my bias is towards the vino fino but how many London restaurants would I not want to take my own wine to, Noble Rot, Andrew Edmunds…? That’s a pretty short list. A wee new development for that bastion of tradition and character in the not so seedy backwaters of Soho is the wine trades’ perennial favourite, Andrew Edmunds. Their literary luvvies clearly decamp each weekend and that means the upstairs Club is now open for the weekend. For circa 20-25 people this can now be booked privately, weekends only.
We are a little pushed for wine dinners between now and Christmas so will look to have three in 2017’s first quarter. The first of which will be Wednesday, 18th January at Holland Park’s “Flat Three”. Aside of a planned seven course menu (£ 69.00) we will line-up a Riesling & Pomerol extravaganza. They are incredibly kindly not charging corkage so not to be missed and again I will individually e-mail the usual suspects for our wine dinners. One of the overwhelmingly successful curiosities of our last wine dinner here were genuine (dead) wood ants. And at £ 600 per kilo, no mere frivolity either. This should satiate both the adventurous and the classicists. Again, wine dinners can be booked, privately and individually, just like at Sally Clarke’s so if emboldened, just ask and we will strive to fit.
Lastly Aladino’s on the bend down the hill. I went t’other night and only two other tables were taken. A great shame because the food (or the starters at least – I had three) were all excellent. They have a small corkage charge and kindly even waived it for us. Their effort was commendable, beautifully decanted, great wine glasses. Shame for them in that they really deserve and need to be fuller.
A few days after the U.K. Referendum an Irish drinking buddy from The Churchill Arms opposite said “you’ll be sorry when all those bankers disappear!”. It is not as if I hadn’t given a thought but it did make me draw up a list our top thirty customers and see what their demographic of plying of trade led to. Interesting. An arty bunch you mostly are! Anyway, using that same marker I have taken our top-selling, most appealing, recommended etc., thirty or so wines and am giving you as good a guide as I can as to what has or soon will be raised due to a stronger Euro versus the Pound. Given that I am told, some Merchants, have simply put all their prices up across the board by 10%, I thought this weekly is especially pertinent for Huntsworth to show its colours. I am pleased to say that the damage thus far is limited and by buying forward (more than we have ever done) look to mitigate for as long as possible. As of today, only two wines out of 28 below have been increased thus far.
Eusebia 2014 Felines Jourdan, Languedoc – from £ 8.50, now £ 8.95 (but still eminently worth it)
Réserve de Gassac Blanc 2015 Languedoc at £ 10.00 (up 3% to us but price unchanged)
Château Beauchene 2015 Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc at £ 12.50 (hope to maintain)
St-Véran 2014 Cave de Prissé at £ 13.00 (hope to maintain)
Gewürztraminer 2014 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht at £ 16.50 (unchanged ‘til Christmas then up 5%)
Jean Daneel Chenin Blanc 2014 South Africa at £ 17.00 (with 52 cases still in our Bond we can maintain this into next year and this price is already lower than the last 2-3 years)
Kumeu River Chardonnay 2013 New Zealand at £ 19.00 (with a little effort from the Estate we anticipate no increase through Christmas at least)
Sancerre 2014-2015 Comtes Lafond at £ 22.50 (an increase to us but we have just bought 252 bottles of the 2015 so will maintain for a while yet)
Pouilly-Vinzelles “La Soufrandière” 2014 Bret Brothers at £ 23.50 (circa 15 cases and will maintain ‘til exhausted)
Côtes-du-Rhône 2012 É.Guigal at £ 9.50 (an opening offer and currently lowest market price as far as we can see)
Château Brande-Bergère “Cuvée O’Byrne” 2010 at £ 16.00 (with some forward currency for the 200 cases still reserved for us ex Château we will maintain this price well into next year and very likely until exhausted)
Bourgogne Rouge “Vieilli en Fût Chêne” 2014 Nicolas Potel at £ 16.00 (just shipping some more and will maintain price)
Sancerre Rouge 2015 André Dezat, Loire at £ 16.50 (to remain unchanged for foreseeable future)
Blaufränkisch 2013 Moric, Austria at £ 17.50 (fractional rise but we’ll maintain historic price)
Urbina Reserva Especial 2001 Rioja at £ 18.50 (37 cases in Bond so price unchanged until exhausted)
Urbina Gran Reserva 1994 Rioja (after two years unchanged) rising from £ 26.00 to £ 27.00
Chianti Classico 2012 Fontodi at £ 19.50 (56 bottles left only, unchanged ‘til exhausted)
Turpino 2010 Querciabella, Tuscany at £ 23.50 (stunning price already and looking to secure a further 144 bottles to maintain that)
Château La Tour de By 2005 Médoc at £ 23.50 (from our ex Château shipment, just a 3-4 cases remain)
Le Cupole 2012 Tuscany at £ 28.00 (circa 50 bottles remaining, unchanged ‘til exhausted)
Palladian Cabernet-Sauvignon 2006 Napa Valley at £ 32.00 (20 cases in our Bond so until exhausted)
Vigno Zamo 2007 Friuli at £ 33.50 (last 18 bottles arrive tomorrow before reviewing the 2008 vintage)
La Rioja Alta “904” Gran Reserva at £ 35.00 (circa 90 bottles remaining, unchanged ‘til exhausted)
Castello di Bolgheri 2011 Tuscany at £ 44.00 (we have 80 bottles remaining and then Pavarotti has emphatically sung!)
Admittedly this will be our toughest area in potential and indeed certain price rises. We will do what we can but some Champagne Houses are working with us.
R.& H.Lamotte Premier Cru & 2006 Vintage at £ 24.50 & 26.00 (200-250 bottles of each, then afterwards, not sure…)
Pierre Gimmonet 2009 at £ 37.00 (a mere 24 bottles, then maybe £ 39.00)
De Venoge Blanc-de-Noirs at £ 42.00 (just taken 72 bottles in today and delighted to say that De Venoge are working with us to maintain current pricing)
Jacquart Le Mesnil Blanc-de-Blancs at £ 47.00 (delighted to say that Jacquart are working with us to maintain current pricing)
So many fabulous things in this week (1982 Bas Armagnac; Double Magnums 2000 & 2005 Bordeaux; 2014 Puligny-Montrachet; Meursault; Corton-Charlemagne & a plethora of other Bordeaux from classic vintages) but this week’s Top Thirty sufficiently long so weekly indulgence and silly season and Tuggy’s Tips, next week!
Breaking news – the 2009 Vintage of Château Brande-Bergère is gone, finito, terminado, history. Not a bottle, not a magnum, not an Imperial to sell. The ‘get-out-of-jail’ however is that the 2010 Vintage has just landed. Two years ago I preferred the 2009 to the 2010 but given the many months that has slipped by, I am relishing a chance to try the 2010 and will do again tonight.
Château Brande-Bergère “Cuvée O’Byrne” 2010 at £ 16.00 per Bottle
Weekly indulgence = weekly bargain
Trawling the gilded aisles of Whole Foods at the foot of Church Street (on someone else’s dollar I hasten to add) I spotted the Turpino 2010, a “Super Tuscan”, at £ 32.99 on the shelf. For those who would like an immediately accessible, entertaining, direct but soft and charming Super Tuscan at a smidge over £20, this is a definite winner. On the difference you could nip down to Whole Foods and pay for your lunch!
“Turpino” 2010 Agricola Querciabella, Tuscany, Italy at £ 23.50 per Bottle
Cabernet-Franc; Syrah; Merlot; organically grown grapes.
48 Bottles just landed on the shop floor first thing this morning...
As soon as someone anew knows I am a Wine Merchant, they say “how wonderful it must be to drink wine all day…”. Not exactly. There are some bonuses, admittedly, albeit occasionally. This week, the bastion of the Whigs and the Dilettanti Society, Brooks Club on St-James’s, presumably looked down upon by the somewhat more polished Whites opposite. Then to Merchant Taylor’s Hall, a shilling’s throw from the Bank of England. Yesterday, Cavendish Square…today St-Vincent Square. Yet for every wine that I feel might just merit your attention, I must try at least nineteen that don’t make the grade, nineteen that strips the enamel from my teeth, nineteen which sear but not soar. This week alone, not even halfway through and even being ruthless in my selection I have indulged wines from Champagne; Burgundy; The Rhône; Ventoux; Madiran; the Jura; Switzerland; Beaujolais; The Loire; Languedoc; Ribera-del-Duero; New Zealand; The Lebanon; California; Portugal; Italy but how many of note to put before thee? Three, maximum. One of which is that elusive thing, a good Beaujolais Cru. From the cheap bubble-gum flavours at the lower end to finer more complex examples at the top end, which fine though that they are, start to mimic Burgundy which kind of defeats the purpose of a Beaujolais Cru. The next issue is that 2015 was such a substantial, rich and fruity Vintage that much of the Fleurie; Beaujolais; Moulin-à-Vent etc., that I tried was simply over-the-top. Sensational often but not Beaujolais as we know them. Thus hedging my bets with consecutive vintages for this old School Brouilly:
A top Beaujolais Cru:
Brouilly 2015 Château Des Tours at £ 14.50 per Bottle
This is super clean, fresh, smooth red fruits with a touch of richness which works in its own right as sheer entertainment.
Brouilly 2014 Château Des Tours at £ 14.50 per Bottle
The 2014 however is that more traditional, textbook Brouilly with cooler fruits, and that Gamay brittleness in the best sense of the word.
These will be both in on Friday.
One of the other successes was an old-fashioned, pale, rustic, honest Sancerre Rouge by André Dezat & Fils. Might feature in next week’s e-mail but also on the shelf this Friday. The final of this triumvirate of winners is from the Loire. We almost instantly sold-out of that cult wine, ChâteauRougeard from Saumur-Champigny and its ticket price (£ 75-150 a bottle) amplifies and reiterates that cult status. However, yesterday I came across another Cabernet-Franc, from Chinon, which is a little east along the Loire from Saumur. Stylistically this is a dead-ringer for the Rougeard and if lacking that ethereal level it is still an intriguing comparison at a far more modest £ 25.00. So for those few who appreciate Loire Cabernet-Franc but also the texture of say Northern Rhône, this will be worth a venture. This is also scheduled to land on the shop floor on Friday.
Though Christmas is a ways away we are boosting our stock of Magnums & Double Magnumsand Bordeaux led, obviously, we have some new Magnums of St-Julien; Margaux; Graves and Double Magnums of Margaux; Pauillac & St-Estèphe in or due in.
Thinking Pink, still:
£ 8.00 – Le Chapeau Qui Rit 2014 Vin de Pays d’Hérault
£ 10.00 - Château Croix de Basson 2015 Côtes de Provence
£ 13.00 - Château Des Chaberts “Cuvée Prestige” 2015 Côteaux Varois-en-Provence
£ 13.50 - Château Pampelonne 2015 St-Tropez (£ 37.00 Magnum)
£ 17.95 - Chêne Bleu 2015 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse (£ 44.00 Magnum)
£ 17.95 - Château Miraval 2015 Provence (£ 40.00 Magnum)
£ 24.50 - Domaine de Tempier 2015 Bandol
La Rose du Clos 2015 Domaine Des Lambrays, Burgundy at £ 47.50 per Magnum
MOST IN THE FRIDGE. Tom and Selim both in tomorrow and day after so any pre Bank Holiday Weekend deliveries a doddle.
Whilst away in Sweden I have been trying a fair few wines, of course. From that there will be a couple of White Burgundy additions from the impressive 2014 Vintage. Early September sees round two of all the U.K. Wine Trade Tastings so Selim and I will cover much more than usual and notify any Olympic efforts.