The Wine Merchant Top 100 Winners Supplement 2017

 

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The Wine Merchant Top 100 Winners Supplement 2017

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Winners supplement 2017

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ad The Wine Merchant Top 100 is the only competition to focus on wines exclusive to the independent trade. It’s judged by independents themselves, who assess wines based on character, quality and price. We are delighted that four of our wines made it into the Top 100 – and that a further four were awarded Highly Commended. 28 Recreation Ground Road Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 1EW 01780 755810 orders@abswineagencies.co.uk www.abswineagencies.co.uk

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Winners supplement 2017 4 Chairman’s report 6 Trophy winners 14 Top 10 countries of origin 16 The judges 20 Top 100 rundown 43 Top 10 suppliers 44 Highly commended wines Published with the July edition of The Wine Merchant magazine www.winemerchantmag.com © Graham Holter Ltd 2017 Registered in England: No 6441762 VAT: 943 8771 82 Cover artwork: © Rostislav Sedlacek/stockadobe.com Bottle photography by Rob Lawson

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Consistency, value and a touch of the esoteric Competition director and judging chairman David Williams looks back on a record-breaking 2017 competition When this competition started, we had a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve: the final list of wines (50 then, 100 now) should be able to form the basis of a really good, varied independent wine merchant’s list, with a spread of prices, styles and suppliers, and with the quirky rubbing shoulders with the reliable big names. Five years later, and – as I hope you’ll agree once you’ve gone through the wines featured in this supplement – I reckon we’re as close to that ambition as we’ve ever been. That we had a record number of entries no doubt helped: the talent pool was just that little bit deeper. But what I found really heartening – and intriguing – about this year’s selection was the range of suppliers: a total of 27 had one wine or more (in some cases several more) in the Top 100 and Highly Commended. It’s hard not to read that as a reflection of just how competitive the sector now is. The years when grabbing a slot in the multiples was the sole objective of many producers are long gone. Supermarkets remain important for volume, of course, but how many suppliers really enjoy getting lost in that profit-free zone? And so, an The Wine Merchant Top 100 2017 4

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Willunga 100; Greece’s Gerovassiliou and Gaia Estate; Italy’s San Marzano and New Zealand’s Saint Clair – suggests that consistency and value will always find willing takers. increasing number of established suppliers are looking to secure a bigger share of the qualityfocused independent trade, while others have explicitly set up to service it. After five years of processing the results – and experiencing the reactions of our annuallychanging pool of judges – it’s also possible to detect some trends about what appeals to independents, and what doesn’t. The performance of serial winners over the years – notably France’s Taittinger, Domaines Paul Mas, and Arthur Metz; Australia’s Teusner and Trends such as the rise of Swartland as South Africa’s pre-eminent winemaking region, and the increasing focus on regions beyond Rioja in Spain – also show up strongly in the data. And it was noticable again this year that judges – and by extension their customers – are increasingly impatient with overextracted, unnecessarily “big” red wines. Indeed, the high scores gained by such esoteric wines as a red from the Azores, a Chilean País, plus representatives from Croatia, Slovenia, Lebanon and our usual high-scoring cluster of Greeks suggests a real willingness to take a risk on the path less travelled. Of course, none of those wines would have made the cut if they hadn’t been well-made as well as unusual. And that of course is the real guiding principle of the competition: the judges are looking for wines they can sell, not just once out of curiosity, but time and time again. The Wine Merchant Top 100 2017 5

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TAITTINGER PRELUDE GRANDS CRUS NV Champagne, France LES DOMAINES PAUL MAS COTE MAS FRISANTE 2015 Vin de France 2015 One of the few remaining Champagne houses still in the hands of the original founding family, Taittinger has always been among the most forward-thinking – a tradition that continues with its recent investments across the Channel in English sparkling wine, and with groundbreaking cuvées such as this year’s Sparkling Wine Trophy-winner. Designed to offer the consistency of a non-vintage and the complexity of a vintage, it’s a 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from 100% Grand Cru villages in the Côtes des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims. “This is a very fine wine with great length and finesse,” the judges said. “Fine perlage, delicate bready notes on the nose, and a delightful, delicate, racy but complex palate.” Having already mastered the art of what his company website calls “everyday luxury” with his vast, value-busting range of Languedoc red and white wines, Jean-Claude Mas has recently pulled off the same trick with sparkling wines. Mas uses Picpoul to make the base wine for this deserved Wine Merchant Top 100 Trophy-winner. And, as one judge pointed out, the finished fizz, which has its second fermentation in tank, has elements of both Picpoul de Pinet and Prosecco – “an inspired commercial combination” of two of the 21st century’s most popular wine styles. “This would be a really valuable entrylevel sparkling wine for any independent wine merchant – at this sort of price, it would go down a storm,” the judges said. “It has nice delicate yeasty notes, green apples, creamy mousse, and a fresh, easy-drinking feel. Great value.” Hatch Mansfield RRP £52.75 ABV 12% BEST SPARKLING WINE TROPHY Les Domaines Paul Mas RRP £8.99 ABV 12% BEST VALUE SPARKLING WINE TROPHY The Wine Merchant Top 100 2017 6

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Our fantastic four. www.department33.co.uk 07557 053343 / 07515 555807 Department 33 WINES OF BORDEAUX - et la France

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KTIMA GEROVASSILIOU MALAGOUSIA 2016 Macedonia, Greece 2016 MAN FAMILY VINEYARDS FREE-RUN STEEN CHENIN BLANC 2016 Western Cape, South Africa 2016 One of the great success stories of modern Greek wine, Evangelos Gerovassiliou began his revival of his family’s vineyards in 1981, planting what was then the almost-extinct indigenous variety Malagousia. In the years since, the operation has expanded to some 70ha and both winery and variety have been justly lauded, with this wine becoming a longterm favourite of the Top 100 judges and the wider independent merchant scene. In the words of the Wine Merchant Top 100 class of 2017: “This has a simply great nose: it’s smoky, with liquorice, sherbet dib-dabs and confit lemon. On the palate, it’s super-intense and lively with hits of gooseberry, blackcurrant leaf, minerals, salt and zest of lime. It’s just so pure and harmonious, a real modern Greek classic.” Since its foundation in 2001, MAN Family Vineyards’ simple avowed intention has been to “make wines we’d love to buy”. “Quality wines that offer excellent value for money and great packaging,” was Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines RRP £16.99 ABV 13.5% how they went on to define that – a description that most certainly applies to the 2017 winner of the Top 100 Best Value White Wine Trophy. As the name suggests, only free-run juice from Chenin Blanc grapes sourced from very old vineyards in the AgterPaarl area is used to make what the judges called “a little star of a white”. “Super-vibrant nose of lemon and lime zest, straw, hay, dried grass and honeysuckle,” the judges added. “On the palate it’s bright and pure with no oak, but lots of grapefruit and kumquat in a style that’s tight and together.” Enotria & Coe RRP £8.75 ABV 12.5% BEST WHITE WINE TROPHY BEST VALUE WHITE WINE TROPHY The Wine Merchant Top 100 2017 8

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We are pleased to announce nine winning wines and five highly commended wines in this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100. It’s been quite a medal haul for Famille Helfrich – the independent arm of GCF – in this year’s contest. Yet our winners represent just a small fraction of the wines we produce across France – wines that are finding a natural home with a growing number of specialist independent wine shops in the UK. Contact Chris Davies on 07789 008 540 or email cdavies@lgcf.fr to find out more.

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BODEGA SOTTANO JUDAS 2013 Mendoza, Argentina 2013 HECULA MONASTRELL DO YECLA 2015 Yecla, Spain 2015 Based in Perdriel, and with vineyards in five other prime spots in Mendoza, Bodega Sottano has become one of the leading producers of Malbec in Argentina, with a knack of combining power with elegance. That’s certainly the case with the topof-the-range Judas cuvée, a blend of low-yield fruit from Perdriel and Luján de Cuyo that is aged for 24 months in new oak (70% French, 30% American). “This is a hugely impressive Malbec that is built to age – we’d say until at least 2025 – and which shows the full potential of Malbec from Argentina,” the judges said. “Bold in flavour with notes of bramble and spice on the nose, the palate is packed with dark fruit, liquorice and white pepper, while the tannins are superbly fine-grained and appetising.” The Vindependents RRP £49.99 ABV 14.5% Few wineries have done more to raise the profile of a single grape variety than Yecla-based Familia Castaño has with Monastrell. Once regarded as little more than a blending and bulk wine agent, it’s in no small part thanks to the efforts of Daniel Castaño and his family that the variety, a native of Spain, has become one of the country’s calling cards. Even now, however, it can offer superb value, with this powerful example, which is aged for six months in a mix of American and French oak, being a particularly persuasive case in point. “Vibrant cherry, peppery, upfront juicy nose,” the judges said. “Lovely pepper and sweet spice. Highly quaffable, well made, and simply excellent value for money: it’s just a bloody nice bottle of wine!” Liberty Wines RRP £9.99 ABV 14% BEST RED WINE TROPHY BEST VALUE RED WINE TROPHY The Wine Merchant Top 100 2017 10

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“An intense, classic, toasty, full-flavoured Champagne with yeasty aromas, notes of brioche and citrus fruits and great length.” New Generation McKinley 020 7928 7300 orders@newgenwines.com www.newgenwines.com

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FERNANDO DE CASTILLA ANTIQUE PALO CORTADO NV Cortado, Jerez, Spain NV EQUIPO NAVAZOS I THINK MANZANILLA EN RAMA Jerez, Spain NV A company with an aristocratic pedigree, Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla has consolidated its position as one of the finest bodegas in Jerez since it was acquired, along with neighbouring almacenista José Bustamente, by Norwegian Sherry industry veteran Jan Pettersen in 1999. Pettersen’s relentless focus on quality has included making a deal with a local grape grower to ensure supply of the very best grapes, an approach that has paid handsome dividends in the quality of his top Antique range, of which this Palo Cortado is an undoubted highlight. Equipo Navazos is an unusual business venture, effectively a group of Sherry-loving friends, led by the criminology professor and wine writer Jesús Barquín, who partner up with bodegas to bottle and market some of the best Sherry around. “Lovely nose of caramel, honeycomb and biscuits,” the judges said. “There’s a delightful lift to the palate. This is seriously classy: honeyed but never sweet, really intense; stunning, with an endlessly long, nutty finish.” For the affordable I Think label, the team joined forces with Eduardo Ojeda at La Guita, who allowed them to make a “personal selection” of their favourite 60 butts out of the 12,000 in the bodega, which the team then transferred, with minimal filtration, into bottle. The judges described the wine as “very pure”, with “saline and hazlenut, classic Manzanilla iodine and an ozone nose”. “The palate is surprisingly rich, with more of that iodine coming through. It’s nutty of course but there’s also some fruit – apricot or peach – in a quite remarkable wine for the price.” Boutinot RRP £35.55 (50cl) ABV 20% Alliance Wine RRP £9.95 (37.5cl) ABV 15% BEST FORTIFIED WINE TROPHY BEST VALUE FORTIFIED WINE TROPHY The Wine Merchant Top 100 2017 12

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TOP COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN 2017 Country 1 France 2 Spain 3 Australia 4 Italy 5 Portugal 6 New Zealand 7 South Africa 7 Argentina 9 USA 10 Chile Top 100 25 13 13 10 9 7 6 5 3 2 Highly Commended 27 19 16 15 7 5 7 10 6 8 Points 102 58 55 45 34 26 25 25 15 14 Methodology Three points were awarded for a Top 100 place, and one point for each Highly Commended placing. The Wine Merchant Top 100 2017 14

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NAUTILUS CUVÉE MARLBOROUGH BRUT NV The Wine Merchant Top 100 - 2017 WE BEGAN MAKING NAUTILUS WINES IN 1985 – THE EARLY DAYS OF MARLBOROUGH WINEGROWING. Our philosophy is to craft wines that are textural, complex and food friendly, respecting and showcasing the unique Marlborough terroir. Nautilus Estate is proudly imported and distributed by Negociants UK

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