What a fabulous year 2018 was for wine. Some excellent vintages were put to bed, plenty of energy and enthusiasm was shared by global winemakers and overall, there seemed to be a growing appreciation for interesting wines from all regions of the world, not just from the classics.
What ever 2019 throws at us, I think it is safe to say that those who are prepared to join the journey and immerse themselves into the wonderful and intriguing world of fine wine, they will come out the other side socially, intellectually and experientially greatly enriched.
2018 also saw one of the longest and warmest summers on record in the UK. This photo which is becoming quite famous now, was taken at my “Deck Party” in July. A really great bunch of wine trade friends were invited and a lot of delicious bottles were consumed. In the pic from left to right… Jamie Goode, Gareth Birchley, Giles Cooper and Neal Martin.
With David Sadie appointing new UK importers, wine trade buyers and journalists were treated to a spectacular masterclass tasting of the entire David & Nadia range as well as mini verticals of Skaliekop and Hoe Steen Chenin Blanc. It took a lot to wipe the smile of contentment off Jancis Robinson’s face after the tasting.
With the legend Ken Forrester passing through London En route back to Cape Town from the USA, it was the perfect opportunity for a Chenin Blanc focused fine wine lunch at Michelin Stared La Trompette restaurant, seen here with Wines of South Africa’s London marketing head, Jo Wehring.
The summer was also all about Island wines. The previous year I profiled the top wines of Tenerife. This year it was the turn of Mallorca. One of my favourite visits and tastings was with Francesc Grimault from 4 Kilos Vinicola.
The famous Vice White Blend made by Paul Jordaan and Eben Sadie.
2018 also saw the return of the tri-annual Cape Wine Trade Fair. But before the week of Cape Wine could commence, the weekend of the Nederburg Auction and The Noble Vice Food & Wine Festival had to be navigated. Above, the special Vice White Cuvee made by Sadie Family Wines for organiser, Angela Jordaan. This was unquestionably the best organised food and wine event I have attended in years, possibly ever! Don’t miss it next time round.
With Eben Sadie’s winemaker, Paul Jordaan, who is taking over most of the winemaking responsibilities at Sadie Family Wines, allowing Eben more time to focus on the vineyards and precision viticulture. “Better fruit will make better wines.”
While I have been a Nederburg Auction pre-selection judge of over 5 years, this was the first Nederburg Auction I attended in person. A lot of fun was had with fellow trade colleagues, from left, Journalist Norman McFarlane, Andrew Johnson from Woodwinters, Eben Sadie and Hedonism Buyer Alistair Viner.
A quick pit stop at Mulderbosch allowed us to kill three birds with one stone. We got to taste Adam Mason’s Mulderbosch wines, his own Raised By Wolves wines and also assistant winemaker Mick Craven’s new Cabernet Sauvignon that he produces with his winemaker wife Janine Craven under the Craven Winery label.
Tasting with Adam Mason, his UK importer Andrew Johnson and winery owner Brian Smith from Elgin Ridge, who are also imported into the UK by Woodwinters together with Les Caves de Pyrennes.
With precious little time to taste anywhere else outside of the Cape Wine Trade Fair, I did manage to visit Brookdale Estate in Paarl where Duncan Savage is consultant winemaker for UK owner Tim Rudd. Always great to see and taste with talented Duncan Savage.
The second last event before Cape Wine 2018 started was the superb Chenin Blanc Association beach party in Cape Town where I bumped into the irrepressible Wendy Appelbaum, philanthropist extraordinaire and owner of star boutique Cape winery De Morgenzon. Always good to catch up over Chenin!
Finally, the last but also the best event before Cape Wine 2018…. I was honoured to co-chair the “Wines That Raised Us” Old Wine Seminar organised by the Whole Bunch group of producers, presenting rare wines from the 50’s and 60’s sourced from the Winshaw Cellar. Above with young guns Reenen Borman, Lukas van Loggerenberg and Franco Lourens.
Back in London after 10 days in South Africa, it was time to catch up with my favourite Piedmont producer, Gaia Gaja showing her epic Cru 2015 reds from both Barolo and Barbaresco.
Another real highlight of the year, tasting with one of the winemaking masterminds of the English sparkling wine industry, Dermot Sugrue. He has some how had a hand in making almost every great bubbly in the UK!
Great to catch up again with journalists Neal Martin and Will Lyons at the epic Kumeu River vertical tasting presented by Farr Vintners of all their Chardonnay Cuvees from 2006 to 2016. Full notes on the Fine Wine Safari of course! A once in a life time event for sure.
As if the world descending upon Cape Town at Cape Wine 2018 Trade Fair was not enough for these boys, Craig Wessels, Adi Badenhorst and Duncan Savage were soon back in London causing mischief again!
Chris Mullineux grinning like a Cheshire Cat after an incredibly successful Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Old Vine White vertical tasting at Berry Brothers & Rudd featuring every vintage produced to date. Seen here with guest Neal Martin from http://www.Vinous.com
October saw me jetting off to the island of Santorini to taste every vintage produced by the Vassaltis Winery. An incredible and enlightening exploration of the island and its old vines with owner Yiannis Valambous and winemaker Yiannis Papaeconomou.
More friendships forged through wine. Another Autumnal meeting of the TW Wine club in west London with Anne Burchett, her daughter, Jamie Goode and David Shaw. Fabulous, memorable evening. The smiles say it all!
Another day and another tasting. This time with Hannes Storm and his wife at his new UK importer FMV. Such mind bogglingly great Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.
Winemaker extraordinaire, Ian Naude jetted in to the UK to present a series of phenomenal, gripping masterclasses profiling his range of old vine whites and reds from Naude Family Wines. These are true gems to fill your cellar with! If you have not tasted his wines yet, it’s got to be top of your list for 2019. Trust me!
Another superb tasting highlighted a bitter sweet moment … celebrating the retirement of Port maestro Paul Symington from the family business. What a wonderful chap. All the best for the future!
I was very honoured to be invited by Mike Ratcliffe to the UK launch of Vilafonte Series C 2016 and to write up the mini Vilafonte vertical. Incredibly well made wines that feature in my Top 10 Reds of 2018 from South Africa.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Nothing dull about spending a wonderful day out in the Herefordshire countryside doing a spot of shooting with BBR host CEO Dan Jago and above, Damien Barton Sartorius from Leoville Barton.
One of the last wine lunches of the year, this time at the Michelin Stared Glasshouse restaurant in Kew. Another sister restaurant of the Ledbury, La Trompette and Chez Bruce… the most consistently excellent group of Michelin Stared establishments in the UK. All “must-visit” spots for international food and wine lovers.
The wintery Solent sun setting on 2018.
Hope you enjoyed the Journey with the Fine Wine Safari. Follow my blog at:
Happy New Year!