amarchinthevines

Learning about wine, vines and vignerons whilst living in the Languedoc


Leave a comment

Loving Languedoc

After tasting wines from around the world at RAW I opened a bottle or two at home. By chance the bottles I reached for were from the Languedoc, my first love. And how richly I was rewarded.

First up was the Grenache Blanc, The Velvet Underschiste, from La Graine Sauvage in Faugères. The domaine is the work of Sybil Baldassarre and I have got to know her through Jeff Coutelou. Sybil is a trained oenologue who decided to show she can make wine as well as advise upon its making. This bottle had witty references to Velvet Underground all over the labels but the wine itself was What Goes On (sorry). Pure Grenache Blanc the 2016 had lovely tannins underpinning the apple and pear fruit. However, what made this wine stand out was how it evolved over the course of an evening. The last glass was the most delicious of all, the wine had opened out to reveal more fruit. This was a wine of real quality. I have been fortunate to taste other wines of Sybil and suggest that she is a real star to follow.

Next up was another white from Faugères, known more for its reds. Clos Fantine is a long time favourite of mine and I wrote an article about the Andrieu family and their work a few years ago after spending a couple of days with them. Their gobelet bush vines high in the Faugères hills provide clean, pure fruit. Valcabrières is their white wine from the rare Terret Blanc and Terret Gris grapes. More white fruit flavours, pears to the fore but with a clean, fresh acidity. Again this was a wine which opened up as we drank down the bottle, complex and delicious. This was a 2014 and I believe the wine would age much further but it was pretty perfect now.

And, for good measure, I opened a bottle of Jeff’s, Flambadou 2017. The pure Carignan has been a star of the Coutelou domaine for a number of years, certainly whilst I have been there in 2014. This bottle was very youthful, the wine bright purple in colour and full of fresh black and red fruits backed with soft tannins. I shall keep my other bottles for a few years to allow them to develop complexity but it is good to follow a wine’s progress. With every wine of 2017 I taste I become more convinced that it is an absolute peak vintage for Jeff, the fruit and freshness backed with tannin and depth of flavour, they are stunners. Flambadou is a great wine, this 2017 definitively so.

Make no mistake the Languedoc can produce top quality wine, these three bottles were absolute proof to me that it will always be the source of my favourite bottles. I urge you to try them and other wines from the region which is my other home.


3 Comments

More from RAW

IMG_1606

My last post described my overall impressions from RAW, interestingly the hybrid issue has been in the news elsewhere a little, a topic I shall pick up again. To follow up I shall describe a few of my favourite wines without too much detail. If you want more technical details then the RAW site has information on each producer and wine.

Gravner is one of the most celebrated of natural domaines, a true pioneer of skin contact wine from the Friuli region. I thought these shone out against the other big names such as Radikon and Cornelissen, though I liked their wines too. Star of the show for me was my first wine tasted in the whole RAW event, Bianco Breg 2010. A blend of grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc the skin contact gave nice tannins and a firm finish but there was a lot of enjoyable white fruit flavour to add roundness.

IMG_1595

Brand is a well established Alsace domaine which has taken a turn to natural wine as Philippe has taken the reins. I liked a lot of these wines, my favourite was the Gewurztraminer maceration Tout Terriblement 16. As I said last time I am becoming convinced that skin contact works best with aromatic grapes and this showed lovely Gewurz notes without any of its tendency to go over the top. Lovely fruit and a long finish. (Very low sulphites)

IMG_1611

AMI is a newish domaine in Maranges using bought in organic grapes to make natural wines. I liked all the wines here, red and white from the basic Bourgognes to a Hautes Cotes and a lovely Maranges Premier Cru. Top of my list though was the St. Romain Blanc 17, classic Burgundy with citrus, hazelnut, cream and a delicious freshness. Definitely on my shopping list.

IMG_1623

Chateau Le Puy I had tasted before and enjoyed even more this time. The main cuvee from various years was lovely but my favourite was the Barthelemy 2016, from the Francs Côtes De Bordeaux appellation. There was such a depth of fruit in the Cabernet / Merlot blend, classic Bordeaux with lift! (No added sulphites). Similarly Chateau Meylet showed a lovely 2014 of real quality, not something I usually say about a Cabernet Franc led wine. (very low sulphites)

Agricola Marino has just 1.5ha of bush vines in Sicily making just 6,000 bottles. The two wines were lovely, my favourite the Turi Bianco 18 a pure Catarratto of white fruit and texture. Lovely labels too. Please someone, support Salvatore and import these great wines.

IMG_1622

Karim Vionnet is a well known maker of very drinkable Beaujolais. Last year in a joint venture with Domaine Viret they produced Nous, a blend of Gamay and Syrah which was generously fruity but had a lovely tannic backbone to add complexity and length of flavour. Very good.

German wines were what first got me interested in the whole topic so it was a slight disappointment that only one producer was present. However, Andi Weigand compensated in quality for lack of numbers. Some lovely wines from the Franken region using grapes such as Muller Thurgau and Silvaner. It was the latter which made my favourite. The maceration wine Skin 15 was fermented in whole bunches for 8 weeks, kept in old barrels for 3 years then refermented using 20l of juice from 2018’s harvest. The result was a perfumed, peachy and clean, fresh wine, a real joy. Unusual winemaking with no added sulphites producing great results, bravo.

IMG_20190311_125110558

The Morins of Touraize

Domaine De La Touraize is a Jura producer and the Morins showed a series of excellent wines reds, sparkling and white. I’d happily buy them all but top of my list would be the Savagnin 15, left for 2 years ‘sous voile’, i.e. under the flor of the yeasts, the method used in sherry as well as in the Jura. The result was nutty, stony, fruity – my notes simply read ‘gorgeous!’ Possibly my favourite wine of the whole RAW event. (very low sulphites)

I mentioned Thomas Niedermayr last time as I was impressed and intrigued by his hybrid grape wines such as the Souvignier Gris. However, my favourite was the 14 Solaris 2017, (the 14 refers to the year the vines were planted). Solaris was produced in 1975 by crossing various grapes in Czechoslovakia. The fruit was clean and fresh, white stone fruit, almost green and yellow fruit gum. These were fascinating wines from the Alto Adige.

IMG_20190311_133332153

Also from that region was Grawü, and another exciting range of wines though from more classic grapes this time. Lovely Pinot Grigio, the Bianco with Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurz in the blend was excellent too. There was another Bianco (16?) with more Sauvignon Blanc which gave more open flavours and I especially liked, as I did the skin contact Gewurz.

IMG_20190311_134817085

Finally I must mention the delicious Banyuls wines of Domaine Du Traginer. I enjoyed their Collioure table wines but the Banyuls were something else. A lovely Rimage 17, rich and delicious Grand Cru 08 as well as a lovely Blanc 15. However, the star was a Solera 2000 which was almost clear, light in appearance but with deep, full and fresh light fruits and a rich port like finish. A special wine.

IMG_1635

I could mention many other wines and I feel guilty for omitting some other very good wines. RAW showed that the world of natural wine is expanding and improving in reliability and quality. To counter the most common criticism of natural wines I should also mention that amongst the 350+ wines I tasted I only detected three with a problem of mousiness and one with a very slight cork taint. Any of the wines mentioned here would enrich your wine collection.

 

 

 

 

 


2 Comments

RAW impressions

IMG_20190311_095830148 (1)

Two days at RAW London, the natural wine fair which has become part of the establishment with fairs now taking place around the world. Isabelle Legeron’s work in organising the fairs as well as her excellent book ‘Natural Wine’ and other media work has helped boost the reputation of winemakers who work organically, biodynamically and naturally and she deserves much credit.

In a way that success is a two edged sword, Sunday afternoon’s public session was very crowded and parts of the The Store were very hot, not the best tasting conditions. Monday’s trade day was much more manageable and I was able to get to almost all the producers I had shortlisted. I shall be commenting on some of those in the next article, however, I wanted to give some general impressions first.

IMG_20190310_150218860

Simon Woolf interviewing Isabelle Legeron

Perhaps it was the fact that I spent a bit of time and lunch with Simon Woolf that orange or amber wines were to the fore of my RAW experience. Seemingly every producer is working with skin contact wine, some have been doing so for generations, some for years, some making their first experiments. Simon’s book ‘Amber Revolution’ is one of the best written wine books of recent years and I highly recommend it. As for the wines themselves, well they varied greatly. Once again I was struck by the success of skin contact wines using aromatic varieties which seem to add extra layers of aroma and flavour compared to others. Successful examples here included Riesling (Domaine Brand in Alsace), Gewurztraminer (Brand and the Alto Adige producer Grawü) and Silvaner (Franken producer Weigand). Make no mistake orange wines are here to stay.

Hybrids and cross bred grapes are gathering some attention in the wine world with climate change and disease resistance amongst the reasons for their cultivation. It was interesting to taste a few examples here notably two examples of Souvignier Gris. This grape is a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bronner, the latter a white grape produced from hybrids Merzling and GM6494 (a romantic name if ever there was one). Slovenian producer Batic and Alto Adige’s Thomas Niedermayr both had examples (they were unaware of each other’s bottles until I told them). The results were excellent in both cases, creamy but fresh white wine with plenty of good aroma and flavour. This is certainly an area of winemaking which will be interesting to see unfold.

Niedermayr wines to the left, the left bottle is Souvignier Gris, a photo showing its pink grapes is in front. The Batic example is the white bottle.

The growth of quality winemaking in Central and Eastern Europe has been well documented, the evidence was clear once again at RAW. Austria has been a source of excellent wine for a few years now, Georgia too. Add in the Friuli / Slovenia region for orange wines, Czech, Hungarian and Swiss producers too. There were some lovely wines and the story behind wineries such as the Czech Jaroslav Osicka is inspiring, a family working in organic ways, determined to do things right whilst struggling against bureaucracy and attitudes from those in authority and colleagues too. Osicka, Batic, Balog, Natenadze’s were all wineries which offered good wines from these regions and which I would recommend. My friend David Crossley regularly reports upon the growth of such wines and I recommend his report on Osicka and others here.

IMG_1599Miha Batic with Jaroslav Osicka

The continued success of natural wine’s big guns continues unabated. The likes of Radikon, Gravner and Cornelissen attracted large crowds on both days, rightly so. These are fascinating, unique wines. Cornelissen wines have become more consistent to my taste in recent vintages and they were showing very well. In the hunt for the new let’s not overlook the established stars.

Similarly I was struck by how much classic wine regions shone for me at RAW. My favourite ranges of wines were probably the Burgundies of AMI and the Saint Emilion wines of Château Le Puy and Château Meylet. I would not have imagined that to be the case even a year ago. These classic regions have a new wave of producers, such as AMI, who are working in organic, biodynamic and natural ways and the results are great. Expensive, perhaps, but delicious.

Finally, fairs such as RAW always throw up surprises and new discoveries. I had no intention of visiting Sicily producer Marino but an empty table on a crowded day proved fortuitous. I really liked the two wines of this small domaine, the Turi Bianco in particular. As is so often the case lovely people make lovely wines, a young couple deserving of success. I was pleased to see David liked them too in his report. Other pleasant surprises: the Welsh producer Ancre Hill, with a terrific Orange Wine (of Albarino grapes) and two PetNats; a new Languedoc producer to me, Mas Lasta with fresh, flavoursome wines including a white wine made from Grenache Noir; the excellent Banyuls wines of Domaine Du Traginer.

By Monday afternoon my tasting abilities were exhausted. As usual there were regrets at missing one or two producers but I had enjoyed myself and came away confident that RAW winemaking is in a healthy place with new, exciting producers and ideas emerging to join the wealth of talent already established. I shall be sharing more of my particular findings next time.

IMG_1627

 


2 Comments

More words about bottles and wine

IMG_20190209_232426437_HDR

This weekend I head down to London for RAW and will have lots of wine to report back so I thought I should mention some wines I have enjoyed over the last few weeks before they were forgotten amidst all those RAW discoveries.

IMG_20190209_203549968_HDR

Let’s start with my birthday which I spent in the company of family and friends, it doesn’t get better than that.  A number of bottles were opened of course. Let’s start with the Coutelou wines, how could I celebrate without Jeff? The Blanc 2016 is a blend of many white grapes such as Maccabeu, Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Muscat which were aged in barrel for a year. That oak age gives a richness which is different to many of the previous Blanc/PM wines. There’s an unctuousness rather than a taste of wood but the wine remains clean and satisfying. Lovely.

IMG_20190209_232447562_HDR

The magnum of Flower Power 2015, a blend of Syrah with the Flower Power (Font D’Oulette) vineyard of so many varieties. Still youthful and fresh with bright red fruits there is also a growing power and complexity. The other bottles will be kept for a few years. And no celebration of mine would be complete without La Vigne Haute. This was 2017, turning into an exceptional vintage. The Syrah is generous with red fruit but has a streak of fine tannin and a firm edge still, hard to resist now but with discipline I shall keep some bottles for the future. My desert island wine.

Along with those gems other bottles went down well too, there were many of us! Jordi Llorens’ Blankafiorti 17 is a blend of Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in the Tarragona region. A definite sense of Spanish warmth with a richness but plenty of fresh dark and red fruits, however, maybe one to keep for a couple more years to be at its best. Valette Macon Villages 15 is a lovely wine, a lovely example of Chardonnay with a citric edge to the Chardonnay richness, well balanced and delicious. Tollot Beaut’s 2006 Chorey les Beaune was classic Burgundy, the age adding smoky, vegetal notes to good Pinot fruit.

Other wines on other occasions. Testalonga wines from South Africa are becoming a firm favourite with me as mentioned on here recently. Stay Brave 18 is a Chenin Blanc matured on skins for 11 days, a relatively light maceration, giving a golden colour and very fine texture but plenty of fruit and pleasure. This made a real impression on me, a wine I will remember for a long time. La Bufarella 17 from La Salada comes from further along the coast from Tarragona towards Barcelona in the Penedes region. The Xarel.Lo grape has good acidity (it’s the main Cava grape) so stands up well to the 6 months maceration here. Much more orange in colour than Stay Brave and with more complexity and tannin. Also from Xarel.Lo was the Clot De Les Soleres 15, light, fresh with a touch of sparkle, a good aperitif wine.

Red wines included Andrea Calek’s À Toi Nous, a lovely blend of Grenache and Syrah from the Ardeche. Rich fruit but plenty of freshness, this is one of my favourite domaines in France, the labels aren’t bad too. Domaine La Marfée Della Francesca 2007 comes from near Montpellier. The age has allowed the 80% Mourvèdre to develop plummy, leathery notes, the Syrah adding more direct fruit still. Certainly its age has made this biodynamic wine more complex, this was my wife’s favourite wine of recent weeks. By contrast the 2018 50-50 Gamay – Pinot Noir blend from the Auvergne producer Domaine Miolanne, Volcane Rouge, was light and fresh. The Gamay dominates, this is very like a young Beaujolais and the Pinot adds a little richness. I liked this a lot, a food wine for sure. La Paonnerie is in the Ancenis area of the Loire. Jacques and Agnès Carroget plant various crops such as oats and clover amongst the vines to add nitrogen to the soils amongst many other organic, environmentally sound practices. Simplement Gamay 16 is very enjoyable on a drinkability level but there is some complexity in the bottle with sharp raspberry fruit.

IMG_20190225_094617753_HDR

Different altogether was one of my favourite sherry wines, the Palo Cortado Cayetano Del Pino which offers the freshness of a manzanilla with the complex nutty notes of an amontillado. It is a great wine, I’d sneak some onto that desert island with La Vigne Haute.

There have been a couple of duds along the way but the last few weeks have provided some excellent wines, I hope you have enjoyed sharing my thoughts. On to RAW and more new wines.

 


2 Comments

The Douro

 

IMG_20190218_121926665_HDR

I have had the good fortune to visit vineyard regions around the world. The Douro Valley, home of table wines and port wines was one I had always wanted to experience and, for my recent birthday my wife organised a visit. I shall come on to the table wines in the next post, port takes centre stage this time.

IMG_20190216_125754105_HDR

The English had a large role in developing the port trade and vineyards having signed an exclusive trade deal for the wines with the country’s oldest ally, Portugal. To help preserve the wines on the bumpy river journey from the Douro valley to Porto and the sea journey to England alcohol was added to the wine. Port wine has long been a favourite here in the UK and for me personally. So, it was a true delight to finally get to see the famous vineyards and the port lodges of Porto.

We wandered around the riverbank on the other side from Porto in Vila Nova De Gaia where the most famous port houses have their bases. At Calem there was an excellent tour with high tech displays showing the various types of port and how they are produced.

IMG_20190216_162519315_HDR

Quinta Da Noval is one of my favourite port producers and I enjoyed the tasting there of various types from white port to vintage via ruby and tawny. On to lunch at Graham’s on the hilltop with its excellent views over the river and its bridges.

IMG_20190216_155224472_HDR

A splendid lunch it was too and dessert was accompanied by tawny port of 10 and 20 years age. The bottles were 4,5l (6 standard bottles) and we were told to help ourselves, a dangerous invitation. The 20 year old tawny was especially delicious, perhaps the best wine I had all week.

However, there are a number of smaller independent producers and it was good to try some of those too, I do like to get away from the big names. Wine bars such as Portologia and Capella Incomum served such wines as Quinta Seara d’Ordens and Quinta Infantado, just as good as the more famous producers.

IMG_20190218_191916370

A day trip to the Douro valley itself with Douro First tours was the highlight however. A boat trip on the river, stunning viewpoints, an excellent lunch and tastings accompanied by an informative, knowledgeable and caring guide in Nuno. A full day, sadly with the worst weather of the week but that did not spoil the stunning scenery nor dull the respect I developed for these winemakers tending their vines on the near vertical slopes.

 

Note the green strips on the terrace with 3 rows of vines on each

The tastings were at Quinta do Beijo and Casa Dos Barros (also known as Vintage Theory)and reinforced the opinion that independent producers deserve a higher profile with port consumers. Joao Monteiro greeted us and took us round the cellars tasting the table wines and ports. Highlights included the concrete tanks where the grapes are still trodden by feet and the old barrels the biggest holding 19,000 litres, the oldest 170 years old!

The ports themselves were equally impressive, a lovely young tawny and especially an amazing white port of 1963, almost as old as me after that recent birthday. The white port gets darker with age because of oxidation so that it becomes a similar colour to the tawny ports which lighten in colour with age. Do Beijo had recently won a Gold Medal at The International Wine Challenge for its 40 year old tawny. It was magnificent, liquid sunshine which lingered in the mouth until lunch.

IMG_20190218_131528076_HDR

1963 White port 

The tawny ports of Vintage Theory were very good too, the 20 year old my personal highlight. The 20 year old tawny wines have a good balance of fruity wine with the complexity of barrel ageing.

IMG_20190218_155555345

This was also where we had lunch in a lovely restaurant.

The terracing and dry stone walls which make vine growing possible in this valley are something to behold. Narrow strips of land with just one or two rows of vines were common, the effort in doing vineyard work must be immense. The results are worth that effort and port is under appreciated around the world. There is a lot to learn, white port was my major discovery on the visit and I still don’t fully understand colheitas. It will be fun to learn though!


4 Comments

The good, the very good and the ugly

Some recent wines. I was on a roll of good wine after good wine since the start of the year but that came to a stop on Saturday. The wine responsible for that was a Georgian amber wine from Pheasant’s Tears. I have had the good fortune to drink a number of similar Georgian wines from the Rkatsiteli grape and many were excellent. Sadly, this wine was full of volatile acidity. VA is caused by bacteria which create acetic acid (the acid which gives vinegar its taste). The bacteria could be produced during fermentation or by contamination by unclean equipment.

IMG_20190202_185606442_HDR

Sometimes a little VA adds something interesting to the flavour of the wine, Chateau Musar in Lebanon is famous for having  a little. It depends on individual preference whether you like it. I quite like it myself. However, this was way too tainted to be drinkable. Unfortunate.

IMG_20190202_144726367_HDR

As for the good wines. Unsurprisingly one was a Coutelou wine, Classe 2013, Grenache, Syrah and a little Carignan Jeff informed me. Still a lively purple colour with delicious red fruit flavours with soft tannins to support and add complexity. Classe ages so well, it is hard to resist when young but this showed the benefits of letting the wine knit together over a number of years.

From Sicily the Vino Rosso 2016 from Vino Di Anna was a fine example of how good the wines from this island are. I was fortunate to visit and taste many wines there a few years ago and met Anna Martens at a tasting a couple of years ago. This red made from 90% Nerello Mascalese and 10% Nerello Cappuccio had fresh, cherry flavours the clean acidity helping the red fruits. Lovely.

IMG_20190202_144806874_HDR

South African wines, on the other hand, are more of a mystery to me. Testalonga is the domaine of Craig and Carla Hawkins in the Swartland. Chin Up 2018 is pure Cinsault, one of my favourite grapes. This was very light in colour, almost a rosé or clairet. Yet Chin Up had power and plenty of light, juicy fruit. This was a genuine pleasure to drink and I am looking forward to trying more of the Testalonga wines.

IMG_20190129_220808802_HDR

Finally a port, Quinta Da Noval 2003. There was a lovely balance in this wine, the alcohol had blended perfectly with the Touriga Nacional grapes, there was no alcohol aftertaste that often happens with lesser ports. Apparently the vines are at high altitude and there was a lightness and freshness to this wine, full fruit which was long, long lasting. A reminder of how good port can be.

IMG_20190202_144817156_HDR

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Wines of 2018

case2018

I described my wine related highlights of 2018 in the last article. Not surprisingly some of my favourite wines of the year are related to those highlights, orange wine and Australian wine.

Let me start with orange wine, the focus of the excellent ‘Amber Revolution’ by Simon J Woolf. I could include Jeff Coutelou’s OW 2016 which we drank regularly through the vendanges. However, I have limited myself to just one of Jeff’s wines as part of this case. That is made from Muscat and my favourite orange wine which I drank in 2018 was made from Viognier, not often my favourite grape. It does reinforce a theory that some of the best orange wines are made from aromatic, characterful grapes which add to the sensation of texture created by skin contact. So, the first bottle into my case is by Australian producer Kalleske, Plenarius Viognier 2017. I described it in Brisbane where I came across it as having “aromas of, well, oranges. Lavender too. It was delicious with tangy zesty fruit and lovely texture”. Seven days skin contact only for the biodynamically grown grapes, enough to add tannins without overpowering the fruit. Lovely.

Red wines next.

I drank Patrick Rols’ Les Anciens 2016 late in the year and it jumped straight into this case. I loved the iron filings like aroma and deep red fruit flavours of this wine made from Merlot and the Cabernets, Sauvignon and Franc. To make wine that good from some of my least favourite grapes, real talent and healthy grapes!

That lunch!

My Coutelou wine comes next. There were so many highlights, including 1998 Cabernet and Syrah still brimming with life. However, everyone knows my favourite wine, the one I would choose above any other is La Vigne Haute 2010. The 2017 is a beauty and the 2018 promises to be special too. However, Jeff opened the 2010 one July day over lunch with our friend Steeve. The years add a complexity and depth to the fruit and acidity to make a dream wine. Just stunning.

In New Zealand I was a little disappointed with some of the vaunted Pinot Noirs of Otago but some of the Syrahs were excellent, often from Gimblett Gravels on the North Island. However my favourites were from Hans Herzog in Marlborough, another biodynamic producer next to the Wairau River. I liked everything I tasted there whites and reds such as the Pinot Noir, Tempranillo but my favourite was the outstanding Herzog Nebbiolo 2013. Concentrated fruit flavours including peach and apricot surprisingly, light and fresh. Memorable. (shown in the photos above where Petra poured it)

My final red is Little Things, Joy’s Wild Fruits Field Blend 2017. This was one of the wines in made by James Madden in his first vintage, unbelievable that it could be so good so soon. I described it like this when I was there, “The vineyard is next to the sea at Fleurieu Peninsula and most of the grapes are technically white, eg Pinot Gris, Savagnin, Chardonnay, but they are picked with the Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet from the same vineyard, pressed together and left on skins for more than a week. This is heady wine; bright, light and mighty good. Fresh and zesty from the whites, fruity and spicy from the reds.” I am going to choose this as my wine of the year, the single wine I enjoyed most of all.

Another field blend, another Basket Range wine. Basket Range Vineyard Blend 2016 is made by the Broderick brothers Sholto and Louis. Made from Petit Verdot, Merlot and the Georgian grape Saperavi, fermented and made together. Bright fruits, spice and appealing tannins this was a wine of pleasure but with added complexity too.

White wines provided most of my 2018 highlights, here are the final picks.

Little Things again, no apologies. I am sure some will accuse me of bias but these are genuine picks based on quality. Little Things Sweet Child Of Mine 2017 which I described as “Chardonnay is from 28 year old vines, whole bunch pressed, tank fermented and then aged in old barrels. It is a delight. There is a creamy note but a clean acidity runs through with lemon and spice notes.” Basket Range Chardonnay was a true highlight of my trip Down Under, other fine examples came from James Erskine of Jauma and Alex Schulkin of The Other Right. Interestingly their wines were from the same vineyard as another of my picks.

Gentle Folk Scary White 2017. Named after the vineyard Scary Gulley this blends the Chardonnay with Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc with lovely acidity, a creamy fruit profile and a sense of the area – friendly and classy. Gareth Belton is a very talented producer, excellent Pinot Noir too. One of a very talented bunch of winemakers in Basket Range.

Yet another Australian Chardonnay makes the list. Luke Lambert Chardonnay 2016 is made in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne where I drank it. There is a lovely apple and pear fruit, a touch of citrus and great length. Not Burgundy but similar in profile yet clearly Australian in its ripeness. All class.

Talking of Burgundy. Domaine Valette Macon Chaintré Vieilles Vignes 2016. I drank this from magnum at lunch during vendanges and again in single bottle from the excellent Chai Christine Cannac in Bédarieux. It may not be the most celebrated Burgundy but this relatively humble area produces a pure, creamy but citrus, hazelnut and white fruit flavoured delight. A producer I hope to find out more about.

Four Chardonnays and a Merlot/Cabernet blend so far. What is the world coming to? Well, let’s add some exoticism. Bacchus, Ortega, Huxulrebbe and Segerebbe to be exact. From England. French readers think I have gone mad! Davenport Limney Horsmonden 2016 is the work of a very talented producer in East Sussex whose PetNat is another favourite. This wine has a distinct floral note to the aroma profile, fresh and fruity. English wines are really on the move.

No sparkling wines to add this year, I had some nice ones but nothing which made me go wow. Only eleven wines though. Well to make the case I am adding another bottle of the Little Things Field Blend as my favourite of the year. Or maybe the 2010 La Vigne Haute.

Please would someone bring in some of the Australian wines to the UK market. I am missing them already.