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The Boutique Wineries Tasting by Robert M Giorgione

“In these days of the ‘big brand’, talk of minimum prices for alcohol, and featureless bottles, it is essential to remember why we are all in this business: For the love of ‘real’ wine, made by producers who maximise the potential of their own beloved piece of terroir and who are passionate about producing truly outstanding wines in limited quantities.

The sense of thrill and enjoyment I had to have the opportunity to taste some interesting, well-made wines, which had been produced with individuality, authenticity and provenance made this even more personally rewarding. To also be able to discuss, share, make discoveries and meet up with fellow open-minded and passionate people. Morever, there were a couple of social media seminars, which were invaluable experiences and provided an interesting look into the current situation and the exciting potential of how things will develop in the future. Very ‘zeitgeist’.

Here’s a snapshot of some of my tasting notes and highlights:

Alliance Wines

08 Hidden Valley, Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa– a fresh, clean, herbaceous style, hints of gooseberry and nettle aromas, good acidity £7.99 RRP

08 Lalla Gully, Pinot Gris, Tasmania, Australia – a fresh, clean, nicely-balanced Pinot Gris, pear/pineapple notes, but with good aromatics and mouthfeel, not overly alcoholic which can be a problem with New World PG. Shows that the cool climate of Tasmania is proving to be an ideal spot for aromatic varietals £11.99 RRP

07 Amayna, Pinot Noir, Leyda Valley, Chile – an elegant style of New World pinot, cherry, damson and forest fruits, fragrant, supple tannins with firm structure, ripe, juicy, yet remaining fresh, focused and well-balanced and good acidity £18.49 RRP

07 Raats, Cabernet Franc, Stellenbosch, South Africa – well-structured, peppery black fruits, hints of spice, yet silky tannins, touch of savouriness and everything quite well-integrated and approachable. I’d tasted before the Chenin Blanc from the same producer and was impressed. The red didn’t disappoint either. Can be tricky with young South African reds, as in their youth they can be a little raw and too powerful £17.49 RRP

Hatch Mansfield

05 Domaine Carneros, Sparkling Brut, Carneros, California, USA – clean, dry, fresh, quite tight and restrained in style and a very good example of a New World fizz, but with the Champenois savoir faire £18.99 RRP

08 Esk Valley, “Black Label” Pinot Gris, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand – an aromatic, flavoursome Pinot Gris made tipping the hat towards Alsace, pear, quince aromas with a good mouthfeel, yet still clean and fresh. Very food-friendly £8.99 RRP (their Chenin Blanc is also good)

Vergelegen/PLB Wines

07 Chardonnay “Reserve”, Stellenbosch, South Africa – for a New World Chard this displays a wonderful restrained, mineral style and expresses the single vineyard from which it is produced. Focused winemaking from Andre van Rensburg(and a winery normally reputed for its reds) £13.99 RRP


07 Sauvignon Blanc, “Croatto”, Enzo Pontoni, Collio Orientali, Italy – offers freshness, a good mouthfeel, aromas of citrus fruits and herbs and displaying good minerality. On the finish good length with mouth-watering acidity. One of the regions most highly-regarded wine makers. I preferred this restrained style to the more oaky Ronco del Gnemiz £14.50 RRP Please try it as an alternative to Sancerre.

Ellis of Richmond

08 Rivetto Bianco, Piedmont, Italy – this wine was not listed, but available to taste nevertheless. I’m glad the wine maker was there from the Rivetto family, as it was an interesting opportunity to pick his brains about this one. Made from the Piedmontese indigenous grape called nascetta it displayed similarities to gruener veltliner. Dry, fresh, crisp, aromatic and very clean. Apparently, only a handful of producers make this wine and some use it to blend in with other varietals such as riesling, chardonnay, arneis and so on, but it’s limited quantities. A real discovery. Approximate price will be under £15 RRP

08 Pauletts, “Polish River”, Riesling, Clare Valley, South Australia – produced in one of the sub-regions of the Clare Valley, which over the years has become synonomous with riesling. This family has been making wines for many years and has become one of my favourites. Youthful, dry, fresh, apple, pear, grapefruit and lime zest and will become more oily with age. Great acidity, yet not austere, quite delicate on the palate. Will keep £10.95 RRP


05 Pyramid Valley, “Lebecca” Riesling, Marlborough, NZ – ‘off dry’ in style, almost like a German kabinett, delicate, aromatic, zesty, stone fruits and wonderful fresh acidity. Great aperitif, but also as a partner to Asian cuisine. One of my personal favourites. I also presented this wine on You Tube with Louis Villard from Imbibe magazine £15 RRP

06 Pyramid Valley, “Earth Smoke”, Pinot Noir, Canterbury, NZ – a wonderful Pinot made by Mike Weersing in very small quantities, very Burgundian in style. Throw this one in a blind tasting and you’ll probably think you’re tasting a Vosne-Romanee. I’m a big fan £34 RRP

06 Schubert “Block B”, Pinot Noir, Martinborough, NZ – from the more established region in NZ for Pinot. Made by the talented Kai Schubert. Quite earthy, some ‘Burgundian’ farmyardy aromas are starting to develop, yet even though the wine is well-structured it still remains elegant and nicely-balanced with ripe cherry and damson fruit, appropriate alcohol and fresh acidity £27.50 RRP A ‘modern classic’ of Kiwi pinots…one to watch

Eclectic Wines

08 Hatzidakis, “Santorini” Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece – forget about retsina, you simply must try these wonderful wines which are being produced in Greece now. Very modern, dry, crisp, fresh, clean ripe tropical fruit, aromatic and persistent length. Assyrtiko is a great alternative to Sauvignon blanc and a real discovery. This one is produced my one of the best wineries in Greece £10.50 RRP

Wine Australia

06 Chain of Ponds, “Corkscrew Road”, Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, South Australia – I remember the first time I came across this small family ’boutique’ winery and tasted their wines was back in the mid-1990’s. They swept the awards and gained a great reputation and soon became one of my favourites when I listed them whilst Head Sommelier at Oxo Tower. Moreover, they have proved that they’re not just a ‘one trick pony’ and have consistently crafted very good wines over the years. The husband and wife team used to be one of the contract grape growers for Penfolds before creating their own label. Adelaide Hills is cool-climate, so it’s generally better for these varietals and they maintain their freshness. A kind of wine I like to show someone who says they don’t like Chardonnay £12.99 RRP

Overall, I thought it was a fantastic tasting. However, I didn’t have the time to taste everything, because I also had another two tastings on the same day. Like I said, of the hundred or so wines I did manage to taste these ones stood out.

My thanks goes to Judy Kendrick for organising the event.”

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