The following article was originally published on JancisRobinson.com.
Virginie and Bertrand Waris own seven hectares of vineyards across Champagne, making small production wines from a majority Pinot Noir from Sézannais, Epernay and Aube. As the fourth generation of the family, their practices are well established in making grower Champagne. Based in Avize, the property is a stone's throw from both Agrapart and Selosse, the celebrity growers in the village. Bertrand - who studied viticulture - has a clear passion for vineyard work and clarity of expression in the wines, but the Waris name remains relatively under the radar, the wines therefore offering good value for money. Waris have made Farr Vintners' "Ville de la Reine" label for fifteen years, so it was about time for me to visit the property and get a greater understanding of the wines and the philosophy behind them.
Last month, the Farr Vintners team spent three days in Scotland on a fact finding (and dram drinking) mission to learn more about whisky. Having been selling everything from single bottles to full casks for a number of years now, and with the recent release of our very own independent bottlings, it was the perfect time to take a deep dive, in situ, into this unique and inimitable drink.
New Zealand has an astonishing presence and reputation within the wine world compared to the volume of wine it produces. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is one of the strongest regional brands of the New World, and the country – particularly Central Otago – is synonymous with Pinot Noir. There are roughly 5,500 hectares of Pinot Noir planted in New Zealand (compared to over 20,000 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc), with a large proportion intended for sparkling wine. To compare, the hectares-under-vine are 10,000 in Burgundy, 12,500 in Oregon, and nearly 20,000 in California. Despite the relatively small plantings of Pinot Noir, New Zealand is considered one of the most important areas for the variety. That is, in part, because New Zealand’s wine production has always looked to high quality and premium prices. The climate, too, plays a significant role in the potential here. Though the region is still in relative infancy compared to the Old World, vines are now starting to mature, reaching deep into soils and producing world-class wines that can stand up to Pinot produced anywhere in the world – including Burgundy itself.
A little over a decade ago, Prince Robert of Luxembourg and the Dillon Estates bought Tertre Daugay - a Saint Emilion property with prime vineyards - and renamed it Quintus (as the fifth estate owned by Domaine Clarence Dillon). The estate has grown over time to include the vines from L'Arrosée in 2013 and, more recently, Grand Pontet. The cellars, vineyards and team have been overhauled, bringing expertise, experience and dilligence to the property in an effort to make Quintus one of the great wines of the right bank.
You have to see Château Grillet to truly appreciate it. An amphitheatre of terraced vines is carved into the perilously steep slopes overlooking the Rhône river. The small property sits below the majority of the vineyard, with lower terraces spreading right and left, and some new plantings curling away upriver towards Lyon.
Château Troplong Mondot has produced one of the more divisive wines in Bordeaux over the last quarter of a century. The full-blooded, ripe, inky, high-alcohol and fully-extracted style drew three-digit scores from many critics and scorn from others. With a traditionally British palate, I have found these wines impressive to taste in some vintages, though never something I would drink, or buy, myself; a tasting pour has always been more than enough. There has, however, been a seismic change since 2017, when Aymeric de Gironde was brought in to manage the estate. The results are already impressive, with changes in all aspects promising even more to come.
Nyetimber's Tillington Vineyard produces arguably the greatest wine in England; we have been supporters, and fans, of the wine since the first vintage was cautiously released nearly a decade ago. With the release of the 2014 vintage imminent, Brad Greatrix (who makes the wines alongside his wife Cherie Spriggs) came to Farr Vintners for the first vertical tasting outside the property of the first four vintages of this wine: 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014.
One of the joys in being part of both the Southwold and Ten Years On tasting groups is the middle night dinner, where members bring special bottles from their own cellars based on a specific theme. This year, the 2012 Ten Years On tasting gave us a great excuse to look at the legendary 1982 vintage forty years on. This was an exciting prospect, particularly for me, as I have had much less exposure to these wines than the more senior members of the group. It is well known that 1982 launched Robert Parker’s career when he hailed the ripe, seductive style as a great vintage. Of course, he was not alone in that view, though there were dissenting voices concerned with the ripeness of fruit and tannin paired with low(er) acidities that could affect the longevity of the vintage.
The annual “Ten Years On” blind tasting returned to its normal schedule after recent delays due to the pandemic. This year we looked at the 2012s, with 2018 Southwold fresh in our minds.