By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 2 January 2016
Here is my pick of the top twelve wineries from around the world to watch in 2016:
Traisental, Austria: MARKUS HUBER
Markus is a dynamic young Austrian winemaker who really impressed tasters on our Austrian tour. Based in Reichersdorf in Traisental, just west of Vienna and south of the Danube, he has completely revitalised his old family business which has made wine here for over 200 years. Young Huber (who is also one of most handsome winemakers on the globe) manages to make beautiful elegant, precise wines at affordable prices, sold in considerable volume in UK supermarkets. Sainsbury’s great value own label Taste the Difference Gruner Veltliner (£8 Sainsbury’s) is made by Huber. You can also find Markus Huber Gruner Veltliner in Waitrose too (£10.75). No wonder he won the prestigious Falstaff Magazine Winemaker of the year in 2015 – well deserved.
Languedoc, France: CLOS BAGATELLE
I discovered this historic domaine in St Chinian, nestled in the foothills of the Cevennes mountains north west of Beziers by accident. I was really impressed by their white wine, as I have always regarded St Chinian as more of a red wine region, with an austerity and rusticity compared to their neighbours. This family domaine has been growing vines since 1623. Eight centuries later it is run by brother and sister Christine Deleuze and Luc Simon, who took over from their mother recently – there is a long tradition of female adventurers here as the historical family coat of arms depicts a woman in armour. Their wonderfully aromatic softly textured Clos Bagatelle Blanc 2014 (£13.95 Vino Wines, Edinburgh www.vinowines.co.uk; Swig www.swig.co.uk) comes from Assignan sandstone plot of old vines: an impressive blend of Roussanne, Carignan Blanc and Grenache Blanc.
West Sussex, England: WISTON ESTATE
Winemaker Dermot Sugrue (who worked at Nyetimber) has created wonders with the fruit from Wiston. Vines were first planted on the Goring’s estate near Pulborough in 2006, when Harry Goring’s South African-born wife Pip persuaded them to establish 16 hectares of vineyard on the periglacial dry river valley of Findon Park. Growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier vines on cretaceous chalk, using the UK’s only Coquard press and maturing in 6 year old oak barrels from Domaine Jacques Prieur in Puligny Montrachet, Sugrue is currently crafting the finest vintage Rose in the UK: Wiston Estate Rose 2011 (£35.95 Corney & Barrow, Ayr & Pathhead; Swig, London www.swig.co.uk; Noel Young Wines, Cambridge)
Thrace, Bulgaria: EDUARDO MIROGLIO
Italian wine producer and textile trader Eduardo Miroglio has invested a mere 22 million euros to date in this exciting Thracian venture; which also includes his Soli Invicto wine hotel – a first for Bulgaria. Miroglio saw the potential of this southern Bulgarian region planting 220 hectares of vineyards near Nova Zagora back in 2002 – which are now under ‘organic’ conversion. His range of Merlot, Mavrud and Pinot Noir are the best reds I have tasted from Bulgaria to date: Soli Pinot Noir 2012 Eduardo Miroglio (£9.95 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com) is very pretty elegant with rich morello cherry fruits and smooth tannins making it a great bargain buy.
Ribera del Duero, Spain: BODEGAS ASTER
It is hard to find such good affordable Ribera del Duero today than from this remarkable new estate. Vines were first planted in 1990, but they waited ten years before they were happy to make wine from their grapes – selling the grapes off in bulk in the meantime. The caution of its owners, top Rioja producers La Rioja Alta SA (who also own the exemplary Lagar de Cervera in Rias Baixas) paid off. Today their winemaker Julio Saenz is leading the field in Ribera del Duero for good value wines. Try his rich liquoricey mellow mature One Ribera Reserva 2009 (£11.75 Oddbins). Their pricier Aster Finca El Otero won the IWC Ribera trophy this year.
Piedmont, Italy: E PIRA CHIARA BOSCHIS
The energetic Chiara Boschis has revitalised the venerable old firm of E Pira based in the village of Barolo. Now working with her brother Giorgio (as well as making her own cheese too at Castelmango), together they tend two impressive vineyards Cannubi and Via Nuova making very feminine elegant styles of Barolo. Chiara is tireless with her experimentations – despite her modernist style, she has returned to the old tradition of using 20 hectolitre botte grande casks for maturation and makes two exemplary Barolos – one of which is Barolo Via Nuova (£44.95 Berry Bros & Rudd).
Alentejo, Portugal: CORTES DE CIMA
Danish engineer Hans Jorgenson and his Californian wife Carrie met working on a palm oil plantation in Malaysia, but decided to leave the tropical climate for a new venture. They bought a boat, sailed around the world – and ended up buying 130 hectares in Alentejo, southeast Portugal – an área which reminded Carrie of her Californian homeland. Maverick Hans has never done things by the book, he planted Syrah against the local rules (labelling it Incognito) – and has forced the authorities to change. Cortes de Cima Syrah 2012 (£11.49 Waitrose) is still my favourite, but Cortes de Cima Touriga Nacional 2012 has just scooped both the Alentejo and Portuguese Trophies at International Wine Challenge 2015. This wonderful winery deserves to be better known outside Portugal.
BRAVE NEW WORLD
Maipo, Chile: DE MARTINO
Surely Chile’s most progressive estate, where the new generation Sebastian and Marcus de Martino are really pushing the boundaries. Not only do they have organic certification for their 300 hectare estate, they were South America’s first carbón neutral winery – and now Sebastian is experimenting with maturation in Austrian oak foudres and Georgian amphora. They own vineyards across various regions Elqui, Maipo, Limari and Itata – Legado Reserva Carmenere 2012 (£10.95 Berry Bros & Rudd) is great value food friendly Carmenere - a grape which de Martino specialises in. Watch out soon for their Muscat/Chasselas blend – a Chilean first!
Central Otago, New Zealand: TERRA SANCTA
I picked out this estate as my favourite newcomer at the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration this year, in a tasting of 37 Central Otago wineries. Not only is Terra Sancta’s label very distinctive, based on ancient map cartouche, but their Pinot Noir is also very striking. Their home vineyard Shingle Beach Pinot Noir 2012 has the distinctive spice and black plummy fruits you find in Otago Pinot with an added silkiness to the tannins. Co-founders Olympic swimmer/New York financier Mark Weldon and Kiwi lawyer Sarah Elliott (pictured right) work with Pinot specialist Jody Pagey to produce benchmark Pinots using 100% Bannockburn fruit. Terra Sancta Pinot Noir 2012 (£27.90 www.thenewzealandcellar.co.uk).
Walker Bay, South Africa: CRYSTALLUM
Following in the footsteps of their father, Peter Allan and Andrew Finlayson are really carving out a name for themselves in the Cape. Production is currently tiny, but anyone with a passion for Pinot Noir or Chardonnay should try their creations. Established in 2007, they began with Sauvignon Blanc – but now concéntrate on the Burgundian grapes in their strawbale winery. Try silky citric Crystallum Agnes Chardonnay (£20.49 www.sawinesonline.co.uk) or the best Pinot in the range, Crystallum Cuvee Cinema Pinot Noir 2013 (£31.49 www.sawinesonline.co.uk): thus named as this was the site for the filming of part of the Napoleon movie.
Clare Valley, Australia: CLOS CLARE
Brothers Tom and Sam Barry, grandsons of the famous Jim Barry, run this boutique winery in the corner of historic Florita Vineyard in Watervale. Whilst still studying at Adelaide university, the third generation of Barrys are already making a name for themselves. Their five acre plot has 43 year old dry grown vines – they make challenging Shiraz and Riesling: the two iconic varieties of Clare Valley. Just 500 cases are made of their Riesling, but with its incredible fruit purity, nerve tingling acidity, depth and concentration Clos Clare Riesling 2012 (£22.95 www.leaandsandeman.co.uk; www.hallowedground.co.uk) is one of my favourite Clare Rieslings.
Mendoza, Argentina: VINALBA
If you love Malbec, you must taste Herve J Fabre’s wines. Trained in Bordeaux, he arrived in Argentina in the early 1990’s when Malbec was barely talked about. In 1992 he built his first winery in Lujan de Cuyo in Mendoza, Fabre Montmayou, and now is leading the field for consistency and value with an exemplary range in both Mendoza and Patagonia. His Malbec Gran Reservado 2011 (£13.49/£17.99 Majestic Wine) is a benchmark muscular Malbec – but for something a bit different and cooler try his excellent new Patagonia Malbec/Syrah 2012 (£8.98 Asda).
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