As I reflect on the year that was 2016, I again give thanks that I work in an industry blessed with so many amazing people… producers, winemakers, wine buyers, wine journalists, wine sellers and of course wine drinkers.
Personally, I’ve had an excellent 2016. I’ve never measured the success or failure of my years based on international political events. That would be far to dramatic. My year is more influenced by weather, vintages and the wines I taste and drink, and certainly who I drink them with and where.
So I wish all my accomplices in wine a wonderfully successful and happy 2017. Let’s make sure we enjoy more special bottles together!
Here is a little snap shot into some of my memorable moments of the past year…
Happy New Year.
Xmas present from Dirk Niepoort… a magnum of birth year Colheita Port 1971 bottled by hand on Xmas eve 2015, to be enjoyed in 2016. Jamie Goode and Neal Martin… many lunches and great bottles enjoyed together in 2016. A memorable Rinaldi vertical to start the years tasting schedule Hellish bush fires sweep the Cape in a very dry El Niño year. At the 3rd Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir Celebration, as moderator and guest speaker Sharing previous Pinot moments with Christian Eedes and David Nieuwoudt The amazing brains trust behind the Pinot Celebration Anthony Hamilton-Russell, my generous host for the week of the celebration Opening Anthony’s last Bordeaux blend 1984 and second last 1984 Pinot Noir, their 4th vintage
The fabulous Raoul Perez presenting his wines in London The superb wines from Envinate in Tenerife
The Romanee Conti 2013, one of the highlights of the year at the DRC release tasting
February is Cape Wine Auction time… having raised R33m for wineland charities to date Nederburg Auction tasting panel chair Tim Atkin MW, getting revved up! Mike Ratcliffe, the brains behind the inception of the Cape Wine Auction T-Bo Touch A special day post-tasting spent at Boulders Beach in Cape Town Another fabulous masterclass with Dirk Niepoort in the Handford cellar
Tasting Ridge Monte Bello 2015 En-primeur, one of my favourite wines and producers Tasting and judging with Ken Ohashi, Japan’s first Master of Wine, at the Nederburg Auction Pre-Selection Tastings Nederburg Auction tasting panel chair Tim Atkin MW, getting revved up! Ending a week in the Cape with a wonderful braai with Duncan and Zani Savage But no one braai’s quite like Bruwer Raats, joined by Ou Boet, Ian Naude
April was time for Wines of Spain Tasting and catching up with one of my favourite producers, Maria Jose and husband Jose Luis over far too much wine at the Remedy wine bar Hanging with Samuel and Basil Guibert at the Real Wine Fair Jurgen Gouws showing off new releases Craig Hawkins looking very relaxed at Real Wine Fair now he is “unshackled” An amazing week judging at Decanter World Wine Awards with icons of the industry like Andrew Jefford, Jim Budd and Stephen Spurrier
Johan Stompie Meyer launching his maiden releases in London at the Remedy Wine Bar Another Mullineux tasting filling the Handford cellar followed by a dinner of 1976 wines, Chris’ birth year. Always a home for Mullineux wines at Handford June 2016 Attending Andrew Gunn’s Benchmarking Tasting with Iona Wines and some of the world’s greatest wines. Epic, memorable tasting.
One of my highlight tastings of the year as a Brunello lover… Biondi Santi vertical of Riservas back to 1985! Another epic trip with my buddie Jamie Goode, this time to Germany to taste the 2015 releases No one does festivities with Riesling like Ernie Loosen. A legend, here in the Erdener Pralat Vineyard in the Mosel Only about 1200 bottles of Oberhauser Brucke GG produced. All destined for auction. Epic wine from an amazing Vineyard. Niederhauser Hermannshohle Vineyard Helmut Donnhoff looking very relaxed after a spectacular 2015 vintage, possibly the best since 1976 Judging the London leg of the Wosa World Sommelier Awards 2016 with Ronan Sayburn MS at 67 Pall Mall Nothing quite like a Peter Sisseck Pingus Masterclass! Peter’s epic 2015 St Emilion red Bordeaux The Mullineux’s back in London to join my Oyster and White Burgundy club! Andre van Rensberg presenting his new releases and 2015 barrel samples with consultant Michel Roland One of my most epic lunches of the year… with Peter Sisseck and a bespoke menu from Brett Graham at the Ledbury, to match multiple vintages of Pingus and Rocheyron
July 2016 One of my favourite restaurants, High Timber, and owner Neleen Strauss hosted David Sadie and Carstens Migliarina for a super tasting and lunch 2016 was the year wine returned to TV screens with presenter / journalist Joe Fattorini expertly hosting the series. Big year for Richard Siddle launching his new media venture, The Buyer. One of my wines of the year… thanks to John Baum of Winemakers Club. Pretty much regarded as wine of the vintage. Beautiful. A very special moment drinking De Toren in Delville Wood in the Somme, on 17 July 2016, 100 years to the day my great grand father was killed in battle. Very special moment.
One of my most fun lunches of the year with Craig and Carla Hawkins, featuring some lovely wines, notably Montrose 1970 and Jaboulet La Chapelle 1982.
Summer time and the living is easy.., with great friends Gareth Birchley, Jamie Goode and Neal Martin. BBQ Chez SHERWOOD in St Margarets. Sweden for Summer Hols and plenty of fine wine, way too much Rose and plenty of lazing about by the lake. Amazingly restful.
An amazing lunch hosted by Elgin Ridge owner Brian Smith at Chez Bruce, presenting his new releases and some excellent old world benchmark wines care of Keith Prothero. Here with Neal Martin and Times journo Will Lyons Another St Margarets local Brian Smith, when not chasing after Marion Smith in Elgin. The Annual Birchley Richmond Green Picnic
Lovely back to school tasting after the summer with Alex Starey and Craig Wessels of Keermont and Restless River wineries Always a privilege to attend the Cape Winemakers Guild pre-auction tasting at Berry Bros & Rudd. Fabulous Swig importer tasting with new releases from Blank Bottle No Adi Badenhorst sadly but my first taste of his Dassiekop Steen was special Zoo Biscuits hit town in a big way. Loving Mick Craven’s epic 2015 reds and whites.
Peter-Allan showing Jamie Goode and I his lovely 2015 new releases. Tim Atkin MW previewing his 3rd South Africa Report with Siobhan from WOSA in support! Gaja Celebration was a once in a lifetime event featuring the most epic food and wine. Thank you to Angelo, Gaia and the family.
Well, who could forget the Cristal 2009 release tasting. Beautiful, seductive wine. With John Lodge of the Moody Blues doing a late summer presentation of his Krisemma Chardonnay 2014 from Richard Kershaw in Elgin. What a legend and the wine was a Decanter Trophy Gold!! The lovely Eve Faiveley hosting a fine days shooting at the West London Shooting Club with fine game food and fabulous Faiveley wines from Burgundy. Memorable day.
Anthony and Olive joining the exclusive Oyster & White Burgundy Club! An epic MW trip to the Greek Island of Tinos, 2 hours off Athens, visiting one of Greece’s finest wineries, Clos Stegasta Clos Stegasta winemaker Spiros
An epic release tasting and lunch at Terroir Wine Bar with the fab range of minimal intervention wines imported from USA by Les Caves de Pyrennes Keith Prothero’s farewell lunch at the Glasshouse before his return to the Cape. One of my whites of the year, an epic Redoma Branco Reserva from Dirk Niepoort. My buddy and ex-colleague Mick O’Connell cracked the MW code to become one of the small number of Irish Masters of Wine. Proud moment. I taught him every thing he knows of course. The World Rugby Awards was a fitting year end black tie event, and I was a gracious guest of Schalk Burger & Sons’ importer Sporting Wines. What a night with the stars. With SA Sevens Star Seobelo Senatla An incredible tasting with Laura Catena. Beautiful benchmark Argentinian wines. The end of the year but the Anwilka & Chateau Angelus tasting with Hans Astrom and Stephanie de Bouard was amazing with super wines. December 2016 The Ian Naude Old Vine Masterclass was a sellout tasting with amazing wines. The 2013 flew into my 10 most memorable wines of the year! Lovely to have BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen and Dawid Justice in attendance.
Wonderful to end the year with buddies (and locals) Anne Burchett and Jamie Goode. Lovely evening of fine wine and food. Couldn’t lay my hands on a decent 67, Jamie’s birth year, so 66 had to do. Boy was it a stonker! One of my wines of the year. Andrew Johnson, wine trade colleague, great friend and fellow Bon viveur. Fabulous year end dinner at the Ledbury for his 45 birthday. Onwards and upwards in 2017. Year ending Champers, the fab Gosset 15 Ans, spending 15 years on lees in the Gosset cellars. One for the connoisseurs. My message that has held me in good stead through out 2016….