Dozens of producers, hundreds of wines and over a thousand visitors made for a busily stimulating tasting at Enotria & Coe this week. Chris Losh mainlined some coffee, sharpened his elbows, and went in search of the good stuff
Two sparklers with wood
This English winery is acquiring a strong reputation and a tasting of its portfolio showed why. Based near Winchester in Hampshire, the quality of its fruit is impressive, but the key factor is probably the use of old barrels to barrel-ferment a proportion of their wines. Coupled with slightly longer bottle-ageing than most English sparklers, it makes for wines that are both lifted and textured. The Classic Reserve is an excellent non-vintage white, but the star was probably the 2014 rosé – a genuinely flavourful, but also zingy, red-fruited wine with effortless balance.
£28.03, Hattingley Valley
This small Epernay-based house wasn’t caught out by the frosts last year. It works with 60 or so growers, taking tiny amounts from each of them, so its supplies weren’t affected. Alfred Gratien is a new addition to the Enotria & Coe stable, and a good one, bringing some serious small-grower kudos to the portfolio. Key to its style is that, along with Krug, it’s one of very few Champagne producers to barrel ferment all its wines. Using old wood, there’s no overt oak flavours, but a definite integration and richness. It’s seen well on the competitively priced Brut Classique (£31.88), but even more so on the fabulous Millésimé 2005. The latter is more like a good Meursault than a champagne; rich, multi-layered and still beautifully vinous.
£52.69, Alfred Gratien
Two Kiwi whites
New Zealand Sauvignon often seems caught between two polar opposites: cheaper wines with exuberant primary fruit, and more expensive wines with barrel and lees work that customers don’t always expect. This wine sits somewhere between the two. It’s from a single vineyard in the Awatere Valley, but one that undulates, giving different exposures and allowing the winemaking team to build in more complexity than is the case in an unoaked wine. There’s attractive, leafy blackcurrant fruit and a refreshing pink grapefruit character that should make this a high-quality food match option.
£12.15, Yealands Estate
Set up by an expat Scottish farmer, this estate is located in a less well-known vineyard area. Gladstone is on the south coast of the north island, not far from Martinborough. The vineyards are farmed organically, and to our surprise this was the star of the line-up. It’s 100% barrel-fermented, with plenty of lees contact, and that gives the wine real richness and texture. What starts off as red-fruit flavours drifts into creamy pineapple with a hint of smokiness and a chewy, salty finish. Offers interesting food matching options at a good price.
£11.89, Urlar Estate
Instant Argentinian Terroir
Sure, we all know that Argentinian Malbec walks off your list without you having to lift a finger. But if you’re looking for something a bit more interesting that isn’t going to scare your customers – or bust their budget – then this pair are well worth a look. They’re both Malbecs, but from two different areas. The ‘Textura Fina’ is from lower vineyards, situated 900m above sea level, and fine-textured clay near the river; the Calcareo is (unsurprisingly) from stony, more limestone soil at an altitude of 1,150m. While the former is soft, juicy and red-fruited, the latter is darker, tauter and more structured. They’re an obvious – and palate-friendly – way of making terroir understandable to your punters, as well as bringing a point of difference to your Malbec offering.
Both £12.97, Trapiche