Portfolio Tasting – The Imbibe panel put McKinley Vintners under the spotlight

Drinks: Wines

The Imbibe tasters put specialist agency and on-trade supplier McKinley Vintners under the microscope. Julie Sheppard reports

How it works

This is the first of Imbibe’s Portfolio Tastings where we ask a team of sommeliers, bar managers, wine buyers and consultants to cast their experienced eye over a representative sample of a supplier’s range. Wines and spirits are tasted blind so that the panel can assess quality without preconceptions. Tasters are asked to rate the suitability of the wines for the on-trade, commenting on their food-friendliness or suitability as a by-the-glass offering. They are also given the opportunity to highlight wines that are particularly good value or outstanding quality. Star choices are indicated with a .

If you would like to have your range tasted and rated by the UK’s best sommeliers, please contact imbibe@imbibemagazine.co.uk or call 020 7840 6268

In the first of Imbibe’s portfolio tastings, our panel of judges put a selection of wines and spirits from the McKinley Vintners range to the test. Nine spirits and 41 wines were tasted blind from a range of over 250 and the panel wasn’t told who the supplier was until the end of the tasting. ‘Blind tasting removes any inhibitions or preconceptions, so it is a fair way of judging a supplier’s selection,’ pointed out Olivier Gasselin from the Bluebird restaurant.

‘I’m hoping to unearth some unexpected treasures that I haven’t tried before or have misjudged based on label prejudice,’ said Underdog Group consultant Nick Strangeway before the tasting. ‘I’m always on the look out for smaller estates with interesting stories – something to engage the customer and make an interesting and special experience for them,’ added Louise Gordon of the Westbury Hotel in Mayfair.

The majority of the bottles tasted were French, reflecting McKinley Vintners’ preference for food-friendly wines and spirits, and included examples from Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Rhône, Provence, Alsace and the Languedoc, as well as a trio of Gosset champagnes. There were also 12 wines from Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina, plus a Portuguese red.

So what did the tasters think? ‘The French reds were generally all very good and, as you’d expect, very food friendly,’ said consultant Stuart Hudson. ‘There was a good mid-range of wines with lots of personality and terroir character,’ added Andrea Briccarello of Bentleys. The red Burgundies and Alsace whites were the stars of the show for China Tang’s Igor Sotric.

‘The Pouilly-Fuisse was a discovery, as I didn’t know that producer, though it would have been good to try more wines from the lesser known French regions too,’ said Pennyhill Park Hotel’s Davide Vaccarini. ‘I would have liked to see some higher-end New World offerings, though the South Africans were good value for money,’ commented Martin Lam of Ransom’s Dock. ‘Some of the entry-level wines were good quality, especially for by-the-glass listings,’ said The Sloane Club’s Alex Gilbert.

‘The Portuguese red from Quinta Do Tedo stood out as good value for money and it would have been good to see more European varietals such as an Austrian Grüner Veltliner to spice up the range,’ said Orrery’s Robert Giorgione.

Thanks to Toby Ellis and his staff at The Atlas in London for hosting this tasting.

French Reds

88 Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru ‘Les Suchots’ 2005, Domaine Jerome Chezeaux, Burgundy £32.70

Red fruits and forest fruits on the nose: great power. Spicy and peppery on the palate. Fine and ripe tannins with sweet fruit on the finish. Great with game, beef and wild birds. RdP


83 Château La Croix de Grézard 2003, Lussac St-Emilion, Bordeaux £7.78

Dark kirsch and blackberry nose. Dry and complex with bramble fruit. Delicious and very food friendly. ML


80 Morey-St-Denis 2004, Domaine Georges Lignier, Burgundy £16.52

Gentle tannins don’t overpower the nice fruits, with a bunch of spice on the back of the palate. Would partner pheasant, grouse and partridge. AG


78 Château Haut-Brisson 2001, St-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux £14.63

A very intense nose with aromas of black cherry. Still very fruity with a good body and nice evolution of flavour. DV


78 Côtes de Provence 2004, Château Miraval, Provence £8.04

Ruby garnet colour. Dry, spicy and floral with red fruit, cloves and pepper. Would
be good with Argentine beef. IS


75 Biodynamic Côtes du Rhône Villages Laudun 2005, Domaine Duseigneur, Rhône £13.10

Nice fruits and an elegant finish with pepper spice. NA


74 Côtes du Ventoux La Source 2005, Château Unang, Rhône £6.46

Elegant with Provencal herbs and very ripe plum fruit. Shows intensity. The ripe and rich palate would go well with beef stew. OG


73 Givry Rouge Premier Cru Clos de Choue 2005, Domaine Chofflet-Valdenaire, Burgundy £10.52

Blackcurrant leaves, earthy notes and black pepper nose. Juicy texture, firm ripe tannins, sweet fruits with a minty finish. Good with earthy dishes and game. RdP


72 Château Tournefeuille 2005, Lalande de Pomerol, Bordeaux £12.78

Packed with fruit and spice, with plenty of elegance and finesse. A wonderful wine. RG


72 St-Chinian Red 2004, Château Puysserguier, Languedoc £6.58

Mid purple with really nice vibrant fruit. Pepper and bramble on the palate. A good sense of terroir. TE

French Whites & Rosés

85 Puligny Montrachet Les Levrons 2006, Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur, Burgundy £23.50

Herbal hints and nuts on the nose. Has a fat and oily texture but still elegant with a clean finish. Good as an aperitif or with shellfish and fleshy fish. RdP


80 Champagne Gosset Grand Millésime 1999, Champagne £33.16

A clean lemony, yeasty nose. The palate shows the maturity and development of a good vintage champagne. A serious wine. ML


80 Riesling Grand Cru Hengst 2003, Wunsch et Mann, Alsace £9.07

Lemons, limes, nectarines and petrol on the nose. Really zippy acidity and a long finish. Try it with a Thai green curry. WB


78 Champagne Gosset Grand Rosé NV, Champagne £29.22

Aromas of violets and red and black fruit. Elegant and delicate – has poise. The palate is crisp, creamy and a little toasted. Could be matched with strawberry desserts or serve it with tapas. OG


78 Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Hengst 2004, Wunsch et Mann, Alsace £9.68

Lychees, roses and flowers on the nose. A good Gewürztraminer at a reasonable price. Not too sweet
with fresh acidity. Will be good with spicy dishes. AB


77 Rully Blanc Premier Cru 2006 Grésigny, Domaine Michel Briday, Burgundy £11.02

Good mouthfeel with acacia and linden notes. Mid-length with good fruit. Might partner Bresse chicken or duck salad. LG


76 Champagne Gosset Grande Réserve NV, Champagne £25.10

Good colour and nice bubbles. Toasty, fruity, flowery aroma. Youthful but with a long finish. Great as an aperitif or with light dishes and fish. IS


74 Côteaux Varois 2005, Château Miraval, Provence £6.32

Real citrus fruits: limes and lemon peel. Nice acidity. Perfect for salads and
chicken dishes. AG


Rest of the World

76 Douro Red DOC 2006, Quinta Do Tedo, Douro, Portugal £6.56

The nose is a Portuguese/Northern Rhône mix; brambley and rustic. Lovely rich fruit and a velvety texture with good tannins. TE


76 Viognier 2007, Alpha Domus, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand £7.95

Bright and fresh on the nose, like a spring breeze. Zingy on the palate – a breath of fresh air. NS


75 The Morgenhof Estate 2004, Morgenhof Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa £10.30

Good tannic structure overlaid with ripe berry fruit. Good for game, especially venison and boar. SH


74 Pinot Noir 2006, Mount Dottrel, Central Otago, New Zealand £10.93

Ripe redcurrant and black pepper with a minty base and soft tannins. Very drinkable. Lovely with Angus beef or sausages. LG


74 The Navigator 2004, Alpha Domus, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand £7.95

Aromas of cooked plums, leather and mulled spices. Intense cooked cherries. Ripe tannins and plump fruit. OG


73 Gold Assemblage Carmenère 2004, Viña Estampa, Colchagua Valley, Chile £6.64

Spicy and herbal nose. Very mineral on the palate. Very good value for money. NS


71 Torrontes 2007, Finca El Retiro, Mendoza, Argentina £5.29

Really expressive punchy nose. Floral hints of lychee, apricot and orange peel. Palate has great acidity and spicy minerality. Serve as an aperitif or would be top with ceviche. WB


For more information please contact:

McKinley Vintners, 020 7928 7300

Email: info@mckinleyvintners.co.uk


Spirits Portfolio

The spirits tasted were only a small selection of the McKinley Vintners range, which also includes Château de Lassalle bas armagnac, Dolin vermouth and Domaine Perraton Frères crème de cassis.

‘It was a pity there weren’t more spirits to taste, as McKinley has a very good range, which is particularly strong in rum, cognac and French spirits,’ said Nick Strangeway. ‘Where was the Dolin? It’s an excellent vermouth!’

But overall the panel was impressed by what was on offer. ‘The quality of the spirits was very high,’ said Martin Lam. Stuart Hudson agreed adding, ‘The calvados was brilliant – it still had so much fruit for its age.’

82 Calvados AOC Pays d’Auge 1973, Christian Drouin, France 42% abv £94.39

A symphony of flavour: citrus floral, caramel and dried fig. The heat is balanced by the intensity of flavour.  An excellent calvados. KM

81 Royal Lochnagar, Harris Malt Whiskies, Scotland 46% abv £31.09

Horlicks and white chocolate and on the nose, with minty freshness. On the palate, salted caramel and wisps of herb and citrus rind cut through white chocolate. Aperitif-style whisky. NS

80 Caroni 1998 Trinidad, Bristol Classic Rums, Caribbean 40% abv £22.15

Rich muscovado sugar, orange peel, candied ginger and a touch of tar on the nose. Much drier on the palate than expected with notes of clove and cinnamon. Lovely long finish. NS

79 Glen Grant, Harris Malt Whiskies, Scotland 57.1% abv £75.45

Delicious and rich with spices and peat. Very complex. ML

78 Karukera Rhum Vieux Agricole Réserve Special, Christian Drouin, Guadeloupe 42% abv £25.69

Very good palate that keeps developing. A good sipping rum. SH

77 Domaine Château de Fontpinot XO, Cognac Frapin, France 41% abv £49.75

Palate full of candied fruit and rich prunes. Wow! NS

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – November / December 2008

About Author

Leave A Reply