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.
Beginning the year with the annual Romanee Conti new vintage release with Aubert de Villane and his amazing, possibly best ever, 2015 vintages.
A new recruit to the Handford Oyster Club… the multi-talented Peter Allan Finlayson.
Tasting a sample of Meerlust Rubicon 2015 with owner Hannes Myburgh in London. The greatest release yet!?
Samantha O’Keefe from Lismore Winery in Greyton, Western Cape, making some exceptionally exciting wines in an off the beaten track area of outstanding beauty.
One of the high lights of the year for me was a fabulous wine dinner at my rugby club London Welsh where I help coach, with the great Sir Gareth Edwards who scored THAT TRY for the Barbarians in 1973!
A real behind the scenes operator and all round great wine maker, Luis Seabra, making his own Xisto Cru wines and also consulting to great names like Suertes del Marques in Tenerife.
Rajat Parr over in London again showing off his fabulous Evening Land wines from Oregon. But his Sandhi whites from Santa Barbara County are also to die for!
Meeting up with Vassaltis Winery owner Yiannis Valambous for a Greek wine extravaganza lunch. His wines from Santorini are among the very best on the island.
Recently described as the “Clarke Gabel and Vivian Leigh” of the South African wine scene, also two of my favourite people anywhere… Olive and Anthony Hamilton-Russell from the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley winery.
An epic catch up at one of my favourite London Michelin Star restaurants, La Trompette, with Anthony, Olive and Neal Martin from Vinous.com
The legend, the maestro, Steven Spurrier … if anyone deserves a knighthood on the honours list, this is the chap! Tasting Burgundy En-primeur 2016.
One of my favourite rising talents in the world of wine communications, education and media… Amelia Singer. Catch her at http://www.Amelias-wine.com
It’s not just the South African wine makers setting the South African social scene on fire. Bertus and Marelise Basson making incredible food to accompany the fine wine. A lovely catch up at Spek & Bone in Stellenbosch.
One of the greats of the South African wine industry, Ian Naude now solo as of 2018 and making some of the most stimulating and profound old vine whites and reds in South Africa.
Friendships forged through wine… Donovan Rall, Ian Naude and Bruwer Raats. Some of South Africa’s greatest talents.
No one is making greater wines in the Swartland or South Africa than this dynamic duo… Andrea and Chris Mullineux. Perennial Winery of the Year winners.
The hottest talent to hit the headlines internationally in 2018… the incredibly talented Lukas van Loggerenberg. Track his eponymous wines down!
My fellow MW class mate, Bordeaux marathon 2014 team mate and now Decanter Man of the Year 2018… Eduardo Chadwick.
Bordeaux En-primeur fires the starting gun for the new South African fine wine fund managed by financial wizard, the highly talented Ken Kinsey-Quick. Tasting the Chateau Le Pin 2017 with Jacques Thienpont and son in April 2018.
Chateau Lafleur winemaker Omri Ram presenting an outstanding tasting and lunch in London’s St James’s.
Always a privilege to judge South African wines with Fiona McDonald … the Decanter South African panel chair.
An incredible flying visit and marathon tasting with JC Martin at Creation Winery in the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. Some of South Africa’s finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines!
Tasting the 2017 Port component parts in London with the legend of Portuguese wines and Ports, Dirk Niepoort.
One of my favourite tastings of the year with Allegra Antinori tasting a vertical of one of my favourite white wines in Italy, Cervaro della Sala from Umbria.
Tasting the new Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007 at the London launch with the new Taittinger maitre de chais Alexandre Ponnavoy and the irrepressible fine wine aficionado Gareth Birchley, now ex-BBR and taking up the buying reins at Burns & German fine wine merchants in Chelsea in 2019.
A very proud moment in 2018 seeing South African artist William Kentridge being selected to design the Vendemmia d’Artista label for Ornellaia 2015. Tasting here with Ornellaia wine maker Axel Heinz and Steven Spurrier at the V&A for the launch.
More great friendships forged through wine. Tasting at Duncan Savage’s new urban winery with Ian Naude and bubbly producer extraordinaire Paul Gerber from LeLude in Franschhoek.
A highlight of the year, visiting Raffaele Pagano at Joaquin Winery in Campania to taste his iconic wines. Unquestionably one of the best kept fine wine secrets of Italy!
Celebrating a triumphant year of success for Meerlust with Hannes Myburgh, viticulturalist Roelie Joubert and wine maker Chris Williams.
Another epic visit to Montalcino to taste the barrel samples of Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino with owner Vincenzo Abbruzzese together with his son and his UK importer Masi Jacobacci. Truly epic age worthy wines.
After 11 years of carrying the mantle of being the 4th and last South African to pass the rigorous Master of Wine exams, in 2018 I finally passed the baton on to London based South African Cassidy Dart MW who became the 5th South African MW to pass since the institute started in 1953. Seen here celebrating with guest appearances by Chris Mullineux and wine journalist Angela Lloyd at Michelin Star Trinity restaurant in Clapham, London.
Another day, another epic tasting. This time a sweet Chenin Blanc tasting of the wines of Moulin Touchais back to 1947… with the current export manager Frederic, Chris Mullineux and Roger Jones.
Another real highlight for me was attending a Masterclass with these two Californian legends of Chardonnay… Jim Clendenen and David Ramey. Incredible benchmark wines from both these wineries.
Happy faces all round after another incredibly successful Old Vines Project Tasting In London at High Timber restaurant with Andre Morgenthal and IWC Wine Personality of the Year 2018, Rosa Kruger. Two people doing such important work to save South Africa’s old vine heritage.
One of the beneficiaries of the work of Rosa Kruger and the Old Vine Project… Chris Alheit, who probably produced the unanimous South African white wine of the year with his lieu dits Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017 from old Skurfberg vines sourced by Rosa Kruger.
A rare relaxed lunch with my favourite Bloemfontein gal in London. High Timber restauranteur Neleen Strauss joined our South African wine lunch with Keith Prothero at La Trompette restaurant for a day of fine wine. Neleen is another unsung champion of South Africa’s fine wines in London.
Watch out for the Fine Wine Safari year in Pictures part 2…. coming soon!