By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 2 January 2021


My pick of ten progressive wineries to watch in 2021:

Francesco Anichini Il Vallone di Cecione TuscanyFrancesco Anichini owns four hectares of vines in some of Chianti Classico’s best terroir.  With its special clay soils, aspect and organic/biodynamic focus, it is one Tuscany’s most exciting estates - but is surprisingly little-known - so well-priced in comparison to its Panzano’s Conca d’Oro neighbours.  Anichini focuses on indigenous Tuscan grapes with superb varietal expression of ancient CANAIOLO 2015 (£23.99) floral black cherry, peppery succulent fruits; MALVASIA NERA 2015 (£23.99) light plummy spicy; but his superb CHIANTI CLASSICO 2016 (£19.99 Raeburn Wines) Sangiovese/Canaiolo stole the show at our recent tasting.


Luis Seabra was Niepoort’s senior winemaker for many years, before setting up his own project eight years ago.  Seabra focuses on high altitude vineyards and like his former boss Dirk Niepoort he loves ancient field blends with native grapes co-planted on Douro’s yellow schist soils.  XISTO ILIMITADO TINTO 2017 (£16.90 L’Art du Vin) is a blend of seven indigenous grapes (including Touriga Franca and Tinta Amarela) grown at 500m in Cima Corgo.  Foot-trodden in lagar, wild yeast fermented and low sulphur; ripe damson fruit with peppery savoury smoky notes – reminded me of northern Rhone Syrah.


In a line-up of award-winning Spanish wines, Altos de Rioja’s ALTOS R PIGEAGE GRACIANO 2018 (£23 Laithwaites) shone out with intense liquorice cherry fruit and vibrant minerality. This new boutique winery, based in Elvillar has some of Rioja’s highest vineyards at 700m in Alavesa subzone in the foothills of the Sierra Cantabria mountains.  Their wines have bright fruit and vibrancy from high-grown vines.  Founded by experienced Riojan Roberto San Ildefonso, Bienvenido Munoz and Bordelais winemaker Jean-Marc Sauboua, ex-Chateau Haut Brion.  One of my current favourite Rioja bodegas.


Lidewij van Wilgen Terre des Dames Languedoc FranceEighteen years ago Dutch-born Lidewij van Wilgen moved to Murveil-les-Beziers between Faugeres and St Chinian having trained as an oenologist in France.  Her C18 farmhouse is surrounded by 14 hectares with 25 separate plots on different levels, all organic.  LA DAME 2017 (£14 Woodwinters) is a good value Grenache/Carignan/Syrah blend with juicy red fruits, taut red cranberry notes, wild garrigue notes, fresh acid with soft tannins; not as opulent as some Languedoc reds. 


At Tim Atkin MW’s New Chile tasting, it was a Malbec which stole the show.  Strange as you would normally expect to see Malbec from across the Andes, but LA RONCIERE MALBEC 2018 (£13.95 Corney & Barrow) by winemaker Juan Munoz shows sappy minerally side to Malbec grown on granite with savoury spice and silky tannins (with Merlot and Cabernet Franc in the blend).  La Ronciere’s Idahue estate set up just two years ago by Orueta brothers focuses on fresh terroir-led wines in cooler Lincanten zone of Curico 25km from the Pacific, an extreme site with similarities to Spain’s Priorat. 


Lebanon: IXSIR
With its first wine made just 12 years ago, Ixsir has catapulted itself to the lead of Lebanese’s modern quality wineries.  Etienne Debanne and winemaker Gabriel Rivero worked with Bordelais consultant Hubert de Bouard of Chateau Angelus to survey the whole area, selecting a high altitude region in Lebanon previously planted with table grapes up to almost 1800m.  They grow 14 different varieties across 20 hectares on terraces on both sides of Mount Lebanon from Batroun to Jezzine, on the highest vineyards in the northern hemisphere.  IXSIR GRANDE RESERVE 2013 (£25 Fine Wine Musselburgh) is soft lush plummy textured sleek blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.


South Africa: SIJNN WINES
Charla Bosman winemaker Sijnn Wines Malgas South AfricaIn 2000 renowned Cape winemaker David Trafford discovered an old ostrich and wheat farm in a remote location near Malgas on the Breede river, close to the south coast.  He was struck by the stony alluvial and weathered shale which reminded him of France’s Chateauneuf du Pape and Portugal’s Duoro.  This harsh dry land with low rainfall and oceanic influence has proved fertile ground for fine wine, with first wines made in 2007.  Talented winemaker Charla Bosman makes superb wines from low-vigour bushvines.  Syrah-dominant SIJNN RED 2016 (£30 Raeburn Wines), with Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira and more, has pure wild berry fruits, deep slate minerally – outstanding.


England: HARROW & HOPE
Harrow & Hope winery Marlow Buckinghamshire EnglandSon of retailer Tony Laithwaite, Henry is following in his father’s footsteps with his own Oxfordshire vineyard.  Seven years on from planting 15 hectares on hard flint, chalk and gravel of Thames Gravel Terrace, he has turned fully organic; a challenge in the British summer.  His mentor was brilliant fizz guru the late-Dr Tony Jordan who helped mould Henry’s style; richer, more textural and savoury in comparison to most floral English fizz.  He makes four sparkling wines, using oak for reserve wines.  HARROW & HOPE BRUT RESERVE NV (£28 Laithwaites) based on 2015 is toasty savoury with ripe fruit.  Look out for Rose's virtual tasting with Henry Laithwaite of Harrow & Hope on 22 January


HO (Hans Olivier) and his wife Carolin Spanier-Gillot (of Weingut Kuhling-Gillot) are one of the new generation in up-and-coming Rheinhessen who have embraced organic & biodynamic methods.  Based at the sunnier warmer southern part of the region, rubbing shoulders with better-known neighbours KP Keller, Jochen Dreissigacker and Fritz Groebe.  HO makes pure dry fruit-focused Rieslings on limestone soils, fermenting in large old foudre. MOLSHEIM RIESLING TROCKEN 2017 (£20.28 Justerini & Brooks) is rich and leesy with perfectly pitched acidity and balance.


An exciting producer on Santorini specialising in Assyrtiko.  He followed his grandfather, who made wine as a hobby, setting up his own winery in 2004 with 3 hectares across the island’s best villages – and it is now the third largest winery on the island.  Talented winemaker Lefteris Anagnostou crafts some astoundingly good single-vineyard Assyrtikos.  My favourite for its approachable price is lees-aged ASSYRTIKO ‘34’ (£30 Woodwinters) deliciously salty and minerally – and even better value is ASSYRTIKO TERRA NERA 2017 made from 50 year old vines (£17.99 Raeburn Wines).


Join Rose’s Burgundy & Bordeaux virtual tastings with Corney & Barrow Fridays 5 & 12 February 2021