Episode 131 – Quick Fire
19th October 2022
Nine tremendous discoveries this week.
NV Westwell, Pelegrim Brut £32.50, www.westwellwines.com
The relaunch of Pelegrim sees winemaker Adrian Pike realise his dream of making a wine with later-picked ‘ultra-ripe fruit’, a lower dosage and extended lees ageing (three years). It also allows Adrian’s wife, Galia, to showcase her exquisite artwork making this bottle one of the most beautifully dressed creations on the shelves today. To mark the release, the new label features illustrations of microscopic sea creatures from chalk, flint and water. You may have seen Galia’s work before on Westwell wines. There is nothing like the expectation followed by the reward when beautiful artwork sets the promise of an all-encompassing and unique flavour that the manages to wine delivers. Made from 40% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinot Meunier and 25% Chardonnay, and using 20% reserve wines from previous vintages, this is a daring creation with 8g/L dosage that just about keeps the acidity under control. Complex, vital and with an edginess that puts it right on the precipice of funkiness but stops short of crossing the line, this is such a clever wine because it maintains its sensational complexity while embracing ordered chaos and untamed nature.
NV Coates & Seely, Rosé, Methode Britannique £36.75 (bottle) & £78.00 (magnum), www.coatesandseely.com; £34.95, reduced to £32.50 each by the case, www.leaandsandeman.co.uk
Made from 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier this exquisite wine has stealthily become one of the most elegant and rewarding of all English sparkling rosés. With a couple of years on lees and six months minimum in the bottle, coupled with a dash of reserve wine to add a smidgen of depth, this is not a weighty, dark style but a Tinkerbell, casting tiny magical spells on your taste buds. It is discreet, silky, rosehip- and cranberry-kissed, pervasive and yet not forceful or bullying, allowing its charms to seep into your senses effortlessly and infect your mood with unavoidable composure and a growing sense of delight.
NV Billecart-Salmon, Les Rendez-Vous de Billecart-Salmon No3, Meunier Extra Brut £250.00, for 3 bottles (£83.33 each), www.millesima.co.uk
The third Rendez-vous (you can read about the previous two on this website) is made from 100% ‘Meunier’. The base wine comes from 2015 and is drawn from the villages of Leuvrigny, Damery, and Venteuil), with 30% reserve wines 30% from 2013. It was aged for 64 months on its lees and disgorged in November 2021. The dosage is a brutal 2g/L. Remembering the old football chant, ‘Come and ‘ave a go if you think you’re hard enough’, this would be my lyrical one-liner to desribe this extraordinary wine. Weighing in at a feather-light 12% alcohol, there is more attitude in this incredible wine than an ocean liner of innocuous Pinot Meuniers. It reminds us that this grape is a superstar with astonishing potential and attitude when its winemaker respects it. With a beautiful nose that flings exotic fruit tones and rare tea perfumes at you, the palate pounces and subjects you to a one-sided taste bud martial arts lesson. The finish is so dry and arresting I needed a couple of minutes in a dark room to recover. There are two ways to approach this wine, and you need to listen in because if you try any other tactic, No3 will have your arm off. First, food. Grab some delicious, flavour-packed, preferably Asian-influenced seafood of the highest order, and you will be fine. Second, age. Just walk away for five years and try again later. Amazing, unexpected, dangerous and daring – this is yet another staggeringly fascinating wine from the House of Billy.
2021 Château Julia, Assyrtiko, Domaine Costa Lazaridi, Drama, Greece 13.5% £18.50, www.privatecellar.co.uk
I like the Assyrtiko grape enormously, but I have only ever tasted a handful of what I would term ‘serious’ versions, and this is not one. Serious wines are sometimes fun, but mostly they require too much thought, and I tend to get bored halfway through and open another bottle of something a little more delicious and a litte less demanding. Julia is a complex and engaging wine, and it is also delicious, but there is no pretence here. What you see is what you get, and for £18.50, you get a lot of refinement and excitement. I knew nothing about this estate until I looked it up on the PC website, and it was then that I discovered why this is not a ‘serious wine’ but a downright delicious and intricately assembled one. Florent Dumeau (of Aristea, Clos Cantenac and Château Séraphine fame – all regulars on matthewjukes.com) consults here, and this fellow does not miss a trick. He has nailed the art of making every wine he casts his spell on seem effortless and mesmerising while retaining its critical deliciousness gene. I had no idea he had connections in Greece, and I cannot recommend this wine enough because he has tempered and honed Assyrtiko’s exuberance, and the result is a modern work of art.
2020 Folding Hill, Pinot Noir, Central Otago RRP RRP £28.00, www.planetofthegrapes.co.uk, www.thegoodspiritsco.com, www.nywines.co.uk, www.corkage.co.uk
I cannot find this wine anywhere for sale in the UK, but I am very grateful that I was sent a sample, by owner Tim Kerruish, along with its sibling wine, the 2020 Bendigo Chardonnay. Only 300 cases were made of the Pinot, another typically calm and reserved wine from this understated set-up. Controlled and calm with admirable earthiness underpinning the silky, ripe fruit, this wine is as far removed from the ‘paint box’-scented, jubey-fruit, black-hued wines found in big brand portfolios. Relaxed and even, this is a gastronome’s Kiwi Pinot, and its lack of obvious exuberance allows us to focus on its origins and sensitive viticulture. This is a wine made by people who care about what they make and the palates for whom they make their wines, and its shows. 2020 Folding Hill Bendigo Chardonnay (RRP £21.00) is a mirror image of its Pinot stablemate. Creamy, dry, green-hued and tangy – this is a Chardonnay for those who favour anti-fruit more than fruit. These are both energetic wines with masses of integrity and plenty of flair, but it’s what is left out that makes them so compelling. They are basically stripped back, honest, true and vital, and this is why they work so well.
2021 Côte-de-Brouilly, Domaine Vavril, Cuvée de l’Héronde, Beaujolais, France £14.95, reduced to £13.30 each by the case, www.hhandc.co.uk
Stop everything and buy a case of this wine. It is one of the year’s great discoveries, and it continues an unbroken 30-year record of HH&C sniffing out bargain-priced, unmissable, killer-quality Bojos for our delectation. With Pinot-like intensity and peppery, granite-y Gamay flavours, this stunning red wine is packed with blackberry tones and leafy hints. It is so clean and lively it defies belief!
2020 Siepi, Mazzei, Castello di Fonterutoli, Tuscany, Italy £364.00 in bond per case of 6 bottles, www.uk.cruworldwine.com
I have followed Siepi since its inception, and while the intensity of the fruit and oak regime has undoubtedly challenged my sensitivities over the years, there has recently been a gradual and perceptible finessing of this mighty wine. The new 2020 vintage is the finest I have tasted in a very long time. Superbly grand and swaggering and as balanced a wine as any of this scale and impact at only two years of age, this is a prime example of terrific winemaking. Unlike so many cartoonish Super-Tuscans that need decades to soften, this wine is beautifully honed and amazingly easy to engage with and enjoy. It is already a classic, and at £60 in bond per bottle, it must also represent a staggering investment bargain! Only a couple of UK merchants are showing stock of this wine, and I am surprised that more fine wine specialists have yet to put up their hands, but they will!