Portfolio Producers

The Justerinis Buyers travel annually to family-run domaines, estates and chateaux around the world - Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire, Germany and Piedmont to name just a few - in search of these great wines. This takes us to some of the most famous vineyards and the greatest producers. At the same time we also pride ourselves on constantly seeking out the bright winemaking talent and stars of the future. Please browse through our extremely proud portfolio here.

Alsace

A cocktail of soil types at the foot of the Vosges

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This has made matching wine with food a far more complicated and, consequently, more enjoyable conundrum than ever before. Whether it's infusing Vietnamese cooking with traditional French cuisine, or manipulating food science to create puddings that taste like breakfasts, there has never been so much fine and unique food on the menu.

There are few vineyards in the world producing wines better suited to this diverse and extraordinary modern offering than those of the sun-blanched slopes of Alsace. The longest average hours of sunshine in France, the superb geological cocktail of soil types that are so vital in shaping the character of a wine, and the passionate, unwavering wine growing of producers such as Domaine Weinbach, when combined, reflect the sheer quality and diversity of Alsatian wine. From Dry Riesling with pan-fried scallops, late-harvest Gewurztraminer with Munster cheese, or Pinot-Gris with guinea fowl, Alsatian wine can make unmissable partnerships with food and form an integral part of a memorable meal.

Argentina & Chile

Unbeatable value

Argentina is the world's fifth-largest wine producer, and for 200 years the Spanish, the Italians and, more recently, the French, have been making wine there. However, a per capita domestic annual consumption of 90 litres had long prevented Argentinean wineries to look beyond its country's boundaries. Now, with a rash of high-quality plantings of interesting varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet, Bonarda, Tempranillo, Torrontes and Sangiovese, together with a host of fine home and foreign winemaking talent who are heavily investing their time and money, Argentina's potential is being unlocked. Its ever growing presence in both the on and off trade is thanks to great producers such as the Cassone family, who first arrived in Argentina from Piedmont in the 19th Century. Their enthusiasm, investment and top class 90-year-old vineyards, situated in the prime Drummond area of Luján de Cuyo in Southwest Mendoza, 950 metres above sea level, has resulted in wonderfully rich, ripe wines of complexity and substance that could be considered to be some of Argentina's true flag-bearers.

Exports of Chilean wine to the UK last year have been growing for several years now. Chile still remains the benchmark for reliable, affordable wine and seems to consolidate this position consistently, year after year. A great example of the quality Chile can achieve at an affordable level are the Ochagavia wines. Simple but packed with intense soft fruit flavours; it is easy to see why Chilean wine has so seduced consumers. Not to be pigeonholed as simply a producer of ‘cheap and cheerfuls’ Chile has started to explore its qualitative potential with great rigour. Many wines from the cooler coastal regions have gained wide recognition for their quality, in particular Lleyda and Casablanca. 20 km from the sea in the Casablanca valley, the Diaz family’s small ‘Loma Larga’ estate is a relative newcomer to the Chilean wine scene but in a short space of time has become one of its most admired producers. Their varietal wines from Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon and Chardonnay each boast their own individuality and, whilst showing typical varietal characteristics, also exhibit a freshness and complexity rarely found in other Chilean wines.

Australia

Producers with an eye firmly on old world production values

Australia is a country that has a history of successfully blending multi- regional wines and marketing them intelligently to a wine drinking public that is more concerned with varietals than regions. However, in stark contrast to France's AOC system - which is under constant scrutiny from marketing men wishing to simplify labels and descriptions - Australians are now pushing for more specific regionality and indeed succeeding. The success of this new regionality will depend on whether the styles are individual enough to make a difference to the consumer, of course. Australia has already tasted success with famous top end areas such Barossa, Coonawarra and Margaret River, together with a small handful of other well-known regions. For these are now well-established, producing wines of quality and individuality, whether it's Barossa and its powerful reds, the mineral curranty Cabernets of Coonawarra, or the cool-climate wines of Margaret River; but can the practice follow all over Australia? As long time advocates of 'terroir', we hope so. Identifying unique terroirs, microclimates and capitalising on them to produce wines that have a sense of place and origin is essential if Australia is to take a further step up the qualitative ladder. One estate that is certainly making the most of its terroir is Voyager Estate, within the large Margaret River region, nestled in the ‘Golden Triangle’, that boasts unique soils and benefits from a coastal style climate with significant day / night temperature differences. Here, with a gentle, hands off approach to winemaking, the wines are the closest Australia will get to Bordeaux or the Rhône. Another cool-climate Australian region is Tasmania, the aptly named ‘Apsley Gorge’ estate makes absolutely stunning Pinot Noir. Francophile owner Brian Franklin works a harvest in Burgundy every year with one of the region’s top estates, he favours a natural approach to making Pinot Noir, producing a fruit-generous, but precise and really quite complex version of new world Pinot. These certainly demonstrate that there is more to Australia that fruit-driven value for money wines.

Austria

Beaujolais

Finesse, delicacy and great value

Beaujolais is still in crisis. Many producers are annually forced to leave grapes hanging on the vine, as they gain little or no return to fund the costs of harvesting and producing the wines. Years of relying on Beaujolais Nouveau and the resulting drop in quality has seen many turn against this once fashionable region, a problem exacerbated by the allure of approachable and consistent New World offerings. Even locally popularity has been waning. A high profile court case once saw the Beaujolais Syndicats take on 'Lyon Mag' for publishing deprecatory remarks about the quality of Beaujolais.

The Beaujolais Syndicates duly won their case for damages, but a bitter taste has certainly been left in the mouth. Despite all of the doom and gloom there are some unique, delicious wines being made. The refreshing, ripe fruit of good Beaujolais together with its lightness of touch would seem tailor-made for the modern consumer. The quality of Château de Raousset’s Fleurie and Morgon, both bursting with so much flavour and personality, prove there is potential in this hilly region and leaves room for optimism regarding its future. Another shining example is Dominique Lacondemine and his Domaines des Roches Bleues wines. He crafts pure, juicy Côte de Brouillys that have great structure and an uplifting mineral streak in them, they can be drunk young or with some bottle age, taking on the earthier characteristics of Pinot Noir as they mature. If wines like these are anything to go by, Beaujolais is far from finished!

Bordeaux

A tale of two river banks

Although only separated by some thirty miles the Medoc and the Right Bank are very different stylistically, historically and culturally. The left bank is dominated by Cabernet plantings, largely due to the fast draining gravel found close to the Garonne estuary. St Emilion and Pomerol are predominantly planted with Merlot and a small smattering of Cabertnet Franc. These varieties thrive on the limestone slopes and clay plateau found around St Emilion and Libourne.

In the Medoc one encounters magnificent, fairytale Chateaux surrounded by vast, flat vineyards. The Right Bank is a little less grand with more modest Chateaux or sometimes no Chateau at all. The topography of St Emilion and Pomerol are quite varied too. The flat planes beneath St Emilion produce unexceptional wines on sandy soils. The Cote of St Emilion affords vineyards a steep southerly exposure. It is here where limestone dominates that St Emilion really shines. As one moves towards Libourne from St Emilion the vineyards gently slope up towards the plateau of Pomerol. By Bordeaux standards the vineyards on the plateau have to be considered quite high altitude...

The Medoc was classified in 1855 creating a hierarchy which is still very relevant today. The First Growths are more sought after and command higher prices than even before. Today, one can drive the short distance from Bordeaux town to the vineyards of St Emilion in a mere 45 minutes. However, before the advent of the car, trade was reliant on the Garonne and Gironde. Therefore, although Belair and Ausone were considered to be of similar quality and shared a similar status to that of Latour, Lafite and Margaux, they were not recognised in the 1855 classification.

Pomerol now enjoys a reputation as one of the most exclusive appellations in the world. The appellation boasts many household names such as Petrus, Lafleur, Le Pin, Evangile, Conseillante, Eglise Clinet and Trotanoy, however, it hasn’t always been this way... Pioneers such as Henri Greloud and the Arnaud family may have spotted the potential of this terroir, but it wasn’t until Jean Pierre Moueix started marketing and distributing Petrus after the Second World War that collectors took note. We have a particular affinity with the seductive and charming wines of Pomerol, and are honoured to be UK distributors for both Petrus and Chateau Lafleur.

Generalisations are difficult to make in Bordeaux given the proliferation of Chateaux, the multitude of microclimates, winemakers, soils, subsoils, grape varieties and winemaking techniques. There are wines produced for early drinking, simple wines, complex, even ethereal wines, and true vins de garde, not to mention the unctuous and delectable sweet wines of Sauternes. It is a splendid and diverse region, steeped in wine making history, yet it is still filled with innovators, restless and determined to raise the bar and keep challenging perceived wisdom. Bordeaux is still very much leading the way!

Burgundy

The golden slopes, where the grower is paramount

Burgundy can be viewed in two very separate ways. It can be highly complex and sometimes inconsistent, with swings of style from vintage to vintage, not to mention the complex labyrinth of vineyards and producers to choose from. On the other hand, it can be seen as fascinating in its complexity, rewarding in its thrilling quality and, if chosen correctly, have a consistency of quality across vintages whilst retaining each year its own style and identity.

Burgundy is also unique within the wine-growing regions of France in that it exports more of its production than is consumed on the home market. Some 60% leaves the country with over a quarter heading for the UK. Unquestionably we like our Claret in the UK, but it is Burgundy that is showing remarkable growth for Merchants such as ourselves, who specialise in seeking out the established, top quality wine-growers as well as new finds from among the burgeoning number of young Burgundian wine-making talents.

Today, first class Domaines will seldom, if ever, have a disaster and if they do, the wine will be sold off in bulk and not bottled under the Domaine label. Therefore the Domaine label is more of a quality guarantee than ever before, with vintage variation offering differences in style and longevity. At the top end the region is in good shape, not only because of a higher demand than ever before and not just thanks to the widely-lauded quality of the region’s household names, but perhaps more than anything else it is the crop of talented young wine-growers that points to Burgundy’s rude health. Whether it is Bachelet-Monnot in Maranges, Vincent Dancer in Chassagne, Domaine du Comte Liger Belair in Vosne-Romanée or Arnaud Mortet in Gevrey-Chambertin, young growers in Burgundy have already started to calve out impressive reputations. From Pouilly-Fuissé in the South through to the Côte d’Or and then Chablis in the North, our enthusiasm, and that of our customers, for the whole of Burgundy is unabated. At J&B we are, therefore, proud to be one of the UK’s biggest importers of fine burgundy, buying from over 50 Domaines.

California

Complex cabernet, Californian Style

Californian wines are enjoying a tremendous revival, from the top exclusive Estates to the more commercial volume producers. The replanting of most of Californian vineyards in the early-to mid-1990s is showing through in quality. The new selected low volume clones grafted onto Phylloxera- resistant rootstock are now of an age to produce grapes that are yielding excellent quality. The sometimes outrageous prices being demanded, and indeed paid by customers, are a phenomenon of the early 1990s. Prices today are becoming a little more realistic even for the so-called 'boutique' wines.

The highly prized Sterling Vineyard range produces wine of remarkable quality at very reasonable prices from their Diamond Mountain Ranch and Winery Lake vineyards. Cain Cellars are also on a roll with the recent run of excellent vintages, Chris Howell is making slick, complex and very well-balanced wine from the fantastic raw materials he has at his disposal high up on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. “The best claret outside of Bordeaux” as some put it. The team at Heitz, lead by Kathleen Heitz-Myers, is seriously over performing, too. They make impressive and much sought-after single-vineyard Cabernets, which habitually show great finesse married to a traditional charm that marks the Heitz style out so clearly; whilst their Zinfandel is of great interest - a beautifully crafted expression of the variety - ripe and enticing, whilst boasting a poise and restraint which many of its over-blown competitors lack; Heitz’s new clones of Chardonnay, too, are producing elegant and consistently great wine, packed with fine, bracing, fruit flavours.

Champagne

Champagne

The UK has been one of the world’s top markets for Champagne for some time. Our passion for bubbles and brands has seen extraordinary growth in Champagne consumption over the years, which combined with our great curiosity, has seen an expansion in the variety of Champagne being offered, too. Rosé, vintage, luxury cuvees, single vineyards, extra brut or even non-dosed styles have all been penetrating the market. There is a wider and more diverse range of Champagnes available in the UK than ever before. At the forefront of this revolution has been Vranken Pommery, and very aptly so. For it was Madame Louise Pommery who in 1874 was the first accredited with properly commercialising wine from Champagne, their Brut Nature. Today her legacy continues: Quality is at an all time high, as the stunning luxury Cuvée Louise will attest to; whilst innovation moves at a quicker pace than ever, the seasonal bottlings with blends tailored to each of the four seasons is a very fine and successful example of this.

Champagne is synonymous with big brands, impressive deep cellars and cutting edge marketing, however there is another side to the region. It must not be forgotten that majority of land is owned by small individual grape-growers. Increasingly some of these are starting to invest in growing and bottling their own wines, with many great results. Men like Michel Forget of Champagne Forget-Brimont. In the Montagne de Reims, Forget-Brimont have some stunning premier and grand cru vineyards, their standard Champagne is a blend of the traditional Champagne varieties, weighted heavily towards the refined Pinot Noir grape. A wine of great pedigree, richness and backbone.

Another hugely successful grower, further south in the Aube is Paul Dangin of Celles sur Ource, the source of our 250th Cuvée, selected and blended for our anniversary celebrations back in 1999.Today's 'assemblage' is exactly the same; made solely from top grade Pinot Noir, it has opulent aromas with rich fruit flavours and a long dry finish.

Germany

Riesling par excellence

Since the 1997 vintage we have seen a complete revival of Germany’s fortunes as a producer of world-class wine. Led by the aristocratic Riesling variety and a growing band of first class producers, the country finally seems to be enjoying the recognition it truly deserves.

It is a fact that, without exception, the British journalists, sommeliers and trade buyers are some of Riesling’s most loyal and persistent customers, clamouring for wine from the likes of JJ Prum, Fritz Haag, Donnhoff, Keller and Carl von Schubert. This most noble of wines is not only utterly delicious, but in today's modern, fast-moving world of over consumption, these delicate Rieslings are refreshing and light, 'weighing in’ at anything between 7.5% to 11.5% alcohol – a great antidote to the more recent trend of overly full-bodied, alcoholic wines. The variety is also greater than ever.

Traditionally, the finest wines have come from the sweeter Kabinett, Spatlese or super-rich late-harvest categories. The quality at these levels continues to blossom, particularly with rising stars such as Zilliken in the Saar and Schloss Lieser in the Mosel. However, growers like Horst Sauer of Franken or Schönleber of the Nahe are proving that there is a deserved place for dry 'Trocken' wine, too, with its tension, vitality yet ripe fruity flavours it can be a great match for the increasing variations of Asian fusion cooking currently so fashionable. Whatever the style, modern Riesling's irrepressibly stimulating, incisive characteristics combined with an appealing fruitiness make for the world’s most exciting, best value white wine.

Hungary

Italy

Piedmont to Sicily, an enchanting variety of seriously fine wines

The general quality of Italian wine has never been better and, certainly in Piedmont, there has been a succession of great vintages, broken only by the minor blip that was the tumultuous 2002 vintage. In the UK we seem to be gaining an increasingly insatiable thirst for modern Italian wines. Spearheading the attack is the Piedmontese Nebbiolo grape, in the guise of Barolo, Roero and Barbaresco. The variety is produced in small quantities, needs careful hand tending and has an aromatic subtlety and temperament similar to that of fine Burgundy, from where pioneering growers such as Elio Altare first drew their inspiration. Thirty years ago, in the days when Dolcetto fetched higher prices than Nebbiolo, there was a care only for quantity not quality. At a time when there were very few good winegrowers, Elio Altare was so driven by his passion for wine he even risked being ostracised by his family. Today alongside other pioneers such as Enrico Scavino, Roberto Voerzio and Domenico Clerico, he continues to make some of Italy's most spellbinding wines, whilst encouraging young growers to strive for greatness, too. Marco Marengo, the Corino brothers and Correggia are just a few examples of growers who have benefited from Elio's wise counsel, all of whom make some of the most elegant, exciting and drinkable wines in Piedmont. A star that has risen at lightening speed over the last few years is Azelia. With a raft of fine vineyards in Castiglione Falleto and Serralunga d’Alba Luigi Scavino has brought the estate’s wines to new heights, rivalling, we think, the very best in the region.

Further south, the Sangiovese continues to fight for recognition as one of the world's great red varieties. Its full potential is being exploited by men like Alexandro Sderci of Podere IL Palazzino in Chianti Classico, and Livio Sassetti of Pertimali in Montalcino, who produce exciting and rewarding Sangiovese in its purest, unadulterated form. In the picturesque hills of Carmignano, Mauro Vanucci crafts deep and seductive Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot blends from the hillside Piaggia vineyard. Italy is also the source of several exciting indigenous varieties, many of which have only recently been rediscovered. Italian wine aficionado, Marco de Grazia, realised a hard-fought dream by successfully producing his first vintage from his own vines in 2002. Planted in the shadow of the towering Mount Etna, the long-forgotten Nerello Mascalese variety produces wines of an almost Burgundian charm and delicacy. Today these are proving to be some of Italy’s most sought after new wines. It is a wine region being taken seriously enough that even some of the big names from Piedmont are looking at the possibility of acquiring vines there.

Not to be outdone by the reds, Italian whites deserve a serious mention. Cutting through the swathe of bland, characterless, white Italian wine that has hitherto dominated the market, some really mouth-watering wines are being made by quality-conscious growers. In Veneto the Ginis make a Soave Classico exclusively from the high quality, low yielding Garganega variety, planted on the poor soils of the steep Classico hillsides. Whilst in Umbria, Giovanni Dubini's classy single vineyard wines from the Palazzone Estate, whose beautifully poised, mineral and polished examples of Orvieto are some of Europe’s most interesting and keenly priced white wines.

Justerini & Brooks House Wines

About J&B House

Putting your own label on a wine requires no small measure of confidence, that the wine you are promoting stands up to the competition and is good enough to bear the company name. It's for this reason that in recent years we have slimmed down our house selection. It now stands at 6 wines and champagnes, two ports and a brace of cognacs. A selection that we feel truly represents the best value, most true to their origin offerings of their particular type. Our two clarets, the much loved 61 Reserve Claret and our ever popular J&B Pomerol are both made exclusively for us by the Moueix Family - true royalty of the Bordelais Right Bank and producers of wines such as Petrus, Providence, Hosanna and Belair-Monange. We changed our J&B Red Burgundy producer in 2006 and haven't looked back since. The plaudits roll in and the customers who taste this cannot understand how such a fine burgundy can cost so little. The fact that the grapes come from in and around Vosne-Romanee might have something to do with the quality. Our longest running house champagne Sarcey continues to provide complete elegance at a very affordable price tag, whilst the 250th Anniversary blend is now in its 10th year of 100% Pinot Noir popularity. By popular demand indeed!

Loire

Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir

Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé continue to lead the way as France's most sought -after Appellations Contrôlées. Their popularity has far outgrown that of the Loire Valley's other regions, and this trend shows no signs of abating. Under the craftsmanship of dedicated, passionate winegrowers like Serge Dagueneau, Lucien Crochet and the young Pinard brothers the reputation of the quality of the region’s wines is in good hands. An estate worth singling out is that of Didier Dagueneau, who very tragically died in an accident in 2008, long before his time was due. A perfectionist who did not suffer fools gladly, Didier was passionate about making the best wine he could from the flint and clay soils in Pouilly and is perhaps responsible for proving that the Loire valley could produce some of the world’s best white wines. Didier’s talented son, Benjamin, who had been working at the estate for several years, has taken the reins and is already showing signs of emulating his father.

The Loire Valley is also home to Chenin Blanc. Whether it's dry, off dry or sweet, nowhere else in the world can you find Chenin with such racy, invigorating and spellbinding flavours, whether young or with some bottle age. Men like Noel Pinguet of Huet, Jacky Blot of Domaine Taille aux Loups or Jo Pithon and his glorious Anjou whites are leading the way. Chenin from the Loire will be the next big thing to make its mark on the wine world, watch this space.

The viticultural advances and the extreme efforts of many growers the Loire Valley has seen over the last decade have without question sent quality soaring high; this is no more evident than with its red wines. Despite a marginal, northern climate, a good grower can now be expected to make good quality wine almost every vintage. Cabernet Francs from the likes of Yannick Amirault and Jacky Blot’s Domaine de la Butte of Bourgeuil, Domaine Charles Joguet of Chinon or Philippe Vatan of Saumur-Champigny can be wonderfully rich, complex age-worthy wines and are still under-appreciated, thus offering some of the Old World's best value red drinking. Loire reds are now to be taken very seriously. There have been a raft of stunning wines made from 2003 onwards, despite some challenging conditions during dome of these vintages. The future looks bright.

New Zealand

Natural winemaking, serious wines

The vineyards of New Zealand lie in between the 35º and 45º latitudes, the European equivalent of between Bordeaux and Southern Spain. However the cold, strong prevailing westerly winds from the Pacific make for a cooler overall climate than the figures suggest. Growing vines on the margins can have some spectacular results, notably Rieslings in the Mosel and Chardonnay in Chablis. Nevertheless, it was not until the 1980s that large-scale plantings of quality varieties got underway. The whole nation's cultural attitudes changed - Müller-Thurgau was replaced by Sauvignon and was planted on the dry gravely riverbeds of Martinborough and Marlborough. Throughout the 1990s, Pinot Noir vineyards sprouted in all parts of both the North and South islands, from Auckland to Central Otago. At Justerini & Brooks we have followed developments carefully. We have worked with New Zealand's most respected and sought-after wineries for more than a dozen years. The highly successful Palliser Estate, is now considered the benchmark for Pinot Noir at both Pencarrow and Palliser levels, it is also producing fabulous Sauvignon that has an extra ripeness and texture in comparison to the grassier examples found in Marlborough. The Estate's long-term viticulturist and winemaker, Allan Johnson, has a great advantage in having this dual role, as he has complete control of the winemaking process from start to finish. He spends twice as much money on viticulture than most of his neighbours and the results speak for themselves. One of our more recent finds is the Foxes Island wines made by highly respected winemaker John Belsham. A domaine approaching 20 years old with a man of John’s experience at the helm was always likely to be of interest and we were bowled over when we tasted his wines. There is a finesse and lightness of touch to the range that makes them gloriously refreshing to drink and definitely echoes John’s experience making wine in France.

At Justerini & Brooks we have followed developments carefully. We have worked with New Zealand's most respected and sought after wineries for more than a dozen years. The highly successful Palliser Estate, is now considered the benchmark for Pinot Noir at both Pencarrow and Palliser levels, it is also producing fabulous Sauvignon that has an extra ripeness and texture in comparison to the grassier examples found in Marlborough. The Estate's long-term viticulturist and winemaker, Allan Johnson, has a great advantage in having this dual role, as he has complete control of the winemaking process from start to finish. He spends twice as much money on viticulture than most of his neighbours and the results speak for themselves.

Port

Discovering Port

The spectacular Douro valley is one of the world’s most breathtaking vineyard areas.The Douro’s origins are in Spain (known there as the ‘Duero’) from where it carves its way through Portugal before finally dispersing into the Atlantic Ocean at Oporto. The vine spreads like a rash over 165 kilometres of its slopes, which are sheer enough to make working on them a fatally dangerous experience.This is why a tasting at any one of the hundreds of Quintas is often interrupted by the thunderous echos of dynamite as men try to blast out rock from the hills, paving the way for more workable terraced vineyards.

The prime area of the world’s oldest demarcated wine region (its limits were set in 1756) is known as the Upper Douro, an area east of one the tributaries – the Río Torto. Rainfall is at its lowest and the sun at its strongest here, where the harvest brings in Port’s thickest and sweetest of local grape varieties (these include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz,Touriga Francesca and Tinta Barroca). This is the birth place of Vintage Port, a staggeringly dense fortified wine only released in the best years when Port houses have enough grapes of high quality to pick from their many vineyards or ‘Quintas’.

The area is dominated by the big port houses such as Dow’s, Warre’s, Graham’s, Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft, whose flagship wines are these vintage bottlings. Some houses still use a proportion of granite ‘Lagares’ for fermentation (traditional vats accommodating
several people who use their feet to crush grapes), these are the most effective way of extracting maximum colour and flavour in the shortest time possible, vital for a wine to be fortified by clear spirit. Gradually these are being replaced with modern thermo-controlled stainless-steel tanks because of the difficulty of regulating the temperature in them.

The Douro’s lighter grapes are used in the production of Late Bottled Vintage and Tawny Ports.The former is a wine from one vintage that is kept a little longer in wooden vats than vintage port, usually two or three years, that is then filtered before bottling to assist immediate consumption. Tawny’s are given extended ageing in cask to produce wines of complex oxidative aromas and flavours of nut and dried fruit. The very best of these are usually over 20 years old, providing subtle and sophisticated after-dinner drinking.

Rhône

North and South, two very distinct regions

On a commercial level the Rhône for years has been one of the most successful French wine regions, largely thanks to the most aggressive and prolonged advertising campaigns ever seen by an appellation, for their Côtes du Rhone reds.

At its height the Rhône was the second biggest selling French wine region by volume and value in terms of UK sales. Whilst such commercial success is to be applauded, it should not overshadow the outstanding quality and continued value for money of those interesting wines from small quality-driven growers and Domaines. Here at the quality end of things, the region’s commercial success has been matched, if not surpassed. A great run of vintages starting in 1998, barring the obvious exception of 2002, together with a wider pool of winemaking talent than the Rhône has ever seen, has brought the region’s wines very much to the attention of some of the worlds great wine collectors.

The Rhône is not stagnant either, along side the great established names such as Rostaing, Chave, Sorrel, Perret, Pegau, Vieux Télégraphe, Clos des Papes and Mont Redon you have plenty of young guns snapping at their heals. An area that seems particularly alive in this respect is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Domaine de la Barroche, Jean-Paul Versino and Pierre Usseglio are three of the young stars who have already built up great reputations. In the north Cornas and St Joseph are two up and coming regions that are starting to generate a lot of excitement. The former, renowned for dark inky wines as big in stature as the best Hermitage, has two outstanding producers flying the quality flag Thierry Allemand and new-comer Mathieu Barret of Domaine du Coulet; whilst in the wider St Joseph appellation there are some glorious pockets of vineyard grown on east to south facing granitic slopes, the wines here are very different in style to Cornas, they are less muscular but none the less have the potential to reach a quality, complexity and finesse not far off that of Côte Rôtie. Men such as André Perret, Jean-Louis Chave and François Villard are the region’s great champions.

S & SW France

A maze of terroirs and blends and some truly progressive winemaking

In the last ten years, France's battle with New World wine for shelf space has been most competitively fought by the Languedoc-Roussillon. Here in the South of France, growers have adapted to modern trends, producing varietal, fruit- generous wines that seduce new, young consumers. Situated near Pézenas, Domaine Montrose are the ultimate example of the modern Languedoc Estate, producing carefully made varietally-driven wines of charm and personality. From Cabernet/Syrah to Viognier, their wines ooze ripe, juicy fruit flavours whilst retaining a freshness and balance that make them so drinkable.

Varietals aside, the Languedoc boasts a whole treasure-trove of interesting, great value wines even at the higher end of the price scale. Each year, the region takes giant strides towards realising the potential of its mosaic of soil types and microclimates. Whilst not yet matched by broad demand in the UK, it cannot be much longer that the sheer quality and personality of the region’s wines goes so unnoticed. There is enormous potential in some of the new sub regions of the Languedoc such as Pic St Loup and Montpeyroux, but it is perhaps the Roussillon that really ignites the senses. Here former French sommelier and journalist Hervé Bizeuil started the revered Clos des Fées vineyard near Vingrau. Blessed with old Grenache and Carignan vines (a large proportion of which are over 70 years old), and with great skill and enthusiasm, Hervé has gained a big reputation amongst those in the restaurant trade and journalists alike. Another fine estate is the joint venture between one of the region’s benchmark producers, Gérard Gauby, and British shipper Richards Walford. Their Le Soula wines are extremely fine terroir-drive examples of Roussillon that boast great finesse and fresh acidities, thanks to the high altitude and decomposed granite and limestone soils of the Agly valley.

Sherry

Discover Sherry

In the heartland of Andalucia in southern Spain, a silent revolution has been taking place. The main players are the Palomino Fino grape, chalk albariza soils and a wealth of vinous experience on the part of the Jerezanos. The results from the best producers are refreshing, complex and often inspiring. Sherry is back, with top quality Manzanillas, Finos and Amontillados breathing fresh life into a sensational wine. Styles range from dry, salty (Manzanilla and Fino) to medium and rich Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado styles. The older Amontillados, Olorosos and Palo Cortados are some of the rarest and most intense examples to be found, offering unique and compelling drinking every bit as complex and exciting as the world’s best wines.

South Africa

Bridging the gap between the New and Old World

The South African wine industry has come a long way since the end of Apartheid. The surge started with high-volume commercial brands dominating the market, this trend continues still to day, South Africa’s ability to produce white wine from the ubiquitous Chenin Blanc at a price barely achievable anywhere else in the world has made it one of the top value for money choices in the big grocers. However South Africa has been a victim of its own commercial success, pigeon-holed merely as a producer of low-priced wine. Whilst it does this well, there is far more to it than that. This breath-taking country is world-renowned for its bio-diversity, home to a myriad of flora and fauna species, and at last we are starting to see this diversity in its winemaking too. In recent years it has started to build a great reputation for its white wines, slowly but surely, however, we are starting to see the great potential of its reds. Seen as the halfway house between the ‘new’ and ‘old’ worlds South Africa is capable of producing wines that balance generous, ripe fruit flavours with fresh, invigorating acidities – a combination that is starting to prove a hit.

Stellenbosch is perhaps at the forefront of this quality surge. Now synonymous with top quality South African wine, this cape region boasts all that is required to make great wine,- good climate, slopes and poor soils. Whilst some of it is, perhaps, too hot to make really great wine, there are pockets capable of making the very best of the best. These are in the cooler zones, either close to the sea or high up in the mountains. One man who recognised the region’s great potential was Laurence Graff of Graff Diamonds. He purchased a fabulously placed but rather ailing estate called Delaire, meaning “from the sky.” Once owned by South African wine guru, John Platter, the estate passed through various hands, none of whom were able to give it the full attention it deserved. Now, though, the estate is being restored by Mr Graff to its rightful glory. High up in the mountainous Banhoek Valley, it is situated in one of the premier zones in Stellenbosch, counting Tokara and Thelema as its neighbours. The wines are intense, precise and show a distinct leaning towards French wine in style, albeit with a bit more flesh and ripeness. Another producer blazing a trail is the talented Rudi Schultz, co-winemaker at Thelema. Thelema allow Rudi to make up to 1000 cases of his own wine. At the moment he makes one wine, a Syrah, from Stellenbosch. Intense peppery, warm but not un-Rhône like, this is one of the most interesting and complexity attempts at a new-world ‘Syrah’ style we have tasted, and at a fraction of the price of its other new world competitors. Rudi is one of the country’s great rising stars.

There is still plenty of untapped potential here, South Africa will no doubt gain great international acclaim for its wines in the years to come as it starts to discover and understand the quality of some of its other wine regions, particularly interesting ones to watch would be the Walker Bay, Hemel-en-Aaarde and Elgin areas south of Stellenbosch near Hermanus.

Spain & Portugal

A hotbed of exciting new winemaking talent

The popularity of brand Rioja shows no signs of abating and is single-handedly supporting Spain's stronghold in the UK. The thirst of the British public for the sweet, soft and juicy flavours that Rioja's Tempranillo grape can offer seems almost unquenchable. The last few years have seen the emergence of intelligent, quality-driven producers who have turned their backs on the traditional extended cask ageing, in favour of a shortened rearing in barrel that allows the wine a slower and more even maturation in bottle. The New World will have to hope that the drip of modern Riojas and Tempranillos seeping into the UK market does not turn into a flood. For, in the best instances, they offer the alluring, generous flavours the likes of Chile and Australia have been seducing the public with for the last ten years, whilst boasting their own unmistakable identity and sense of origin. One of the pioneers of high quality modern style Rioja is the Eguren family. Based in the delightful town of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, they produce an impressive array of wines from the engaging unoaked Joven, semi-Crianza and Crianza Saigoba wines, to the exquisite single vineyard Señorio de San Vicente and Amancio wines.

Though it could be considered dangerous that Spain's profile relies so heavily on Rioja, there are so many new and exciting wine-producing areas sprouting up throughout the country that these fears can easily be allayed. Spain's well-documented potential for the production of first class, exciting and modern wine is being realised by areas such as La Mancha. Here, the Eguren family produce their succulent Épico Tempranillo that offers a value for money that is unmatchable anywhere else in the world. A deeper, darker sibling of Tempranillo is the Tinto Fino, a variety being exploited to great effect by the now renowned Ribera del Duero region. In fact this high-altitude, continental valley is home to some of Spain’s most exclusive and sought after wines. One of these is Aalto, a joint project between Javier Zaccagnini and Mariano Garcia, as Vega Sicilia winemaker for over 20 years he is one of Spain’s legends. Their Aalto and Aalto PS are polished, intense and complex wines; whilst full-bodied and serious they nonetheless display the great finesse and generosity that the world’s best wines exhibit. Toro, next door, is an exciting region quickly gaining recognition for the quality of its wines. Here too a close relative to Tempranillo, Tinto del Toro, is the grape of choice. With great terroir and extremely old vines the Eguren’s Teso la Monja estate are making three of the region’s leading examples – Almirez, Alabaster and Victorino.

There is also more to Spain than Tempranillo – Priorato, a region in Spain south of Barcelona whose great potential is only just starting to be fully exploited. Its slate ‘llicorella’ quartzite soils, sheer slopes and altitude make it not only one the country’s wildest and most picturesque but also one with the greatest quality potential. The blend varies according to the producer but is usually based on Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan). Three of the regions leading exponents are Vall Llach, Mas Doix and Mas Martinet. The wines boast, style, ripe generous almost Mediterranean flavours with a defining, and tempering mineral complexity that eminates from the strong slate component in the region’s soils.

Portugal is someway behind Spain in the popularity stakes however in terms of the rich diversity of its indigenous varieties it can be second only to Italy as a wine producing-country. The Douro valley is placing more emphasis, to great effect, on its red table wines as opposed to just its famed fortified Ports. It is a region to keep a close eye on. The Ribatejo is another wine-producing region with great potential that caught our attention thanks to the astonishing efforts of the Pinhal da Torre estate. Here Paulo Saturnino Cunha exploits some impeccable vines, including the fabulous indigenous Castelão, Trincadeira, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Nacional varieties, and employing traditional foot crushing in stone ‘lagares’ alongside modern temperature controlled vinification, makes some of Portugal’s most complex characterful and stylish wines.

United Kingdom