The Fine Wine Safari – 2018 in Pictures : Part 2…

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:

http://www.gregsherwoodmw.com

Happy New Year!

The Fine Wine Safari – 2018 in Pictures : Part 1…

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!

A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part Four: October to December

So with my final instalment of my year in wine in photographs, I’d like to thank all my friends for helping to make 2017 such a rich and exciting year full of treasured experiences. Long may they continue in 2018!!

Happy New Year!

Pieter Ferreira from Graham Beck was back over in the UK to host an incredibly interesting and enjoyable food and wine matching lunch. Plenty of their premium Cuvee Clive was poured. We were joined by Gary and Cathy Jordan who are also in the process of planting and planning their own English sparkling wine.

One of the most enjoyable tastings of the year involved the highly talented Reenen Borman giving a sell out crowd an excellent masterclass on all the wines and projects he is involved with. We were joined by his successful and dynamic UK importer Preet from Edgmond Wines, who represent some top young stars.

Hot on the heels of the Reenen Borman tasting was the highly anticipated Eben Sadie Masterclass showing a packed room multiple back vintages of both Columella and Palladius. We all know Eben is not big on travelling overseas too often so it becomes all the more special when he does visit us in London. Needless to say, the tasting attracted big guns like Steven Spurrier.

Then finally, it was time to welcome all the South Africans back to London again for the SA New Wave Tasting including Ryan Mostert, Chris Alheit, Craig Wessels, Duncan Savage and Donovan Rall.

The slightly shy, soft spoken Callie Louw who makes the incredible wines of Porseleinberg in the Swartland was certainly one of the big draw cards at the New Wave Tasting. The greatness of these wines will only truly be appreciated in 20 years time.

I was so pleased Chris Williams won the Platter Guide SA White Wine of the Year 2017 with his delicious Foundry Grenache Blanc. Such a talented winemaker crafting his magic equally with whites and reds. I love all his wines.

The following evening after the SA New Wave Tasting, Handford Wines took the opportunity to host its South Africa Icon Tasting at the SA High Commission with the support of WOSA UK. Lovely having several winemakers in attendance including Adam Mason, Carl van der Merwe and of course Schalk Burger Snr… though James Handford MW might beg to differ!

Yet another lovely fine wine lunch punctuated the year this time with Neal Martin and my ex-colleague Mick O’Connell MW who flew in from Dublin specially.

One of the biggest success stories of the year has been the resurgence of Greek wines in the UK and especially the wines of Santorini. There are none better than Yiannis Valambous and his incredible Assyrtiko expressions from Vassaltis Winery!

October also saw one the most fantastic fine wine lunches at Michelin Starred Chez Bruce to toast the departure of Keith Prothero back to the Cape! Great having Neal Martin join once again and owner Bruce Poole on hand to curate a fantastic lunch menu!

Not all Saffers visiting London make South African wine! Manfred Ing is making some wonderful expressions in Chianti Classico at Querciabella and on the island of Giglio.

With Xito Olazabal passing through London for the New Douro Tasting, we were very fortunate enough to grab him to present a sell out Quinta do Vale Meao Douro Masterclass for private clients followed by a lovely dinner. Had to introduce Xito to Eben’s amazing Old Vine Series Treinspoor Tinta Barroca red.

Next up, a wonderful evening at Vintners’ Hall in November to celebrate the graduation of the new Masters of Wine including the Noble Rotter, Mark Andrews. A big congrats.

Of course, always lovely to catch up with South African MW No.3 and Chair of the Education Committee, Cathy van Zyl MW.

November saw two more significant wine trade events, the first being the superb Wines of California Napa Valley Vintners Tasting. Always fun tasting with talent like Mike Turner and the legend Oz Clarke.

The other big gathering was the International Wine and Spirits Competition Awards ceremony which saw Joe Fattorini honoured as best communicator of the year and Abrie Beeslaar and Kanonkop winning Winery of the Year and Winemaker of the Year! What an coup for SA!

With December near, there was still time to host legendary SA Winemaker Jeremy Walker for a top tasting in London.

Many fine oyster lunches were enjoyed with my good friend Anthony Crameri from St Emilion. He is officially one of the founding members of the #handfordoysterclub

But there was still time to inaugurate Car Boot Ruth Spivey into the #handfordoysterclub. She seemed suitably impressed with the honour!

Here’s hoping that in 2018 I will be able to lure Mr Zalto UK Daniel Primack to South Kensington so that he can be inaugurated into the #handfordoysterclub!

End of November also saw a rarified gathering of global wine talent to celebrate the 50th birthday of Jamie Goode at the Winemakers Club wine bar in London. Thank you to all the Winemakers who flew in for the party… Rajat Parr, Dirk Niepoort, Duncan Savage, Mick Craven, Brian and Marion Smith, Norm Hardie just to mention a few. What an epic night of fine wine.

Finally, a last throw of the dice celebrating Andrew Johnson’s birthday at the best restaurant in London and possibly the UK… the Ledbury. Farewell to Sam Lucas who has worked at the Ledbury for longer than I can remember and who takes up a top job in New York at Per Se Restaurant. You will be missed.

Oh, and thank you to Ledbury regular and Richmond neighbour Gareth Birchley for the photo! You scraped in Gazza! 😂🍷

A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part Two: April to June

This is part 2 of my wonderful year in wine 2017 as seen through the lens of a camera. So many wonderful people encountered, delicious wines consumed and wonderful experiences forged into long term memories.

Part 2: April to June 2017

Many a late evening spent Chez Sherwood with this fella, David Shaw. Our friendship was truly forged through fine wine… Champagne Cristal 1985 in this instance.

After a busy session judging and tasting in South Africa, it was straight back to Europe and a week in Bordeaux to assess the 2016 En-primeur vintage. Always fun tasting with this chap – Tim Atkin MW. Funny enough, he knows a little bit about Bordeaux as well as South African wine!

Contemplation in wine… with Chateau Le Pin 2016 and a true gentleman of Bordeaux, Jacques Thienpont.

Still in Bordeaux! One of my favourite winemakers of all time, Peter Sisseck, taking us through his 2016 St Emilion Rocheyron as well as Pingus 2016! Delicious! 🍷

No trip to Bordeaux is ever complete without a tasting with the original bad boy himself, Jean-Luc Thunevin.

Lovely to see Philippe Bascule again at Chateau Margaux after I narrowly missed him in Napa Valley in March at Inglenook, where he is still consulting for 6 weeks a year.

Tasting with François Mitjavile of Tertre Roteboeuf in St Emilion. A truly passionate individual making some of the most individually great wines in St Emilion.

After tasting in Bordeaux, it was great to hook up again with these gals, Amelia Singer and Andrea Mullineux, in London for the UK Leeu Passant launch. Who says the world of wine is dominated by men!??

End of another year at the popular Remedy Wine Bar. Plenty of wonderful wine moments enjoyed there with these two, owner David Clawson (left) and regular quaffer-in-chief David Shaw.

We are very fortunate that the awesome Noble Rot Restaurant and Wine Bar is going strong. Here the whole rat pack enjoying an evening of 89/90 Chave, Jaboulet, Pegau and Beacastel! L to R. Neal Martin, Dan Keeling, Rowley Leigh, Luis Gutierrez (from the Wine Advocate) and a very generous wine collector!

Funny enough, Luis Gutierrez was on holiday in London with his family and we bumped into them all at the Remedy Wine Bar the following night! Introducing Luis to Testalonga Wish I Was a Ninja Colombard Pet Nat!

Attending the inauguration of the new Institute of Masters of Wine HQ in Battersea with a few friendly MW faces.

Lots of fun to be had when Uncle Ernie visits London. Great tasting through his delicious Ernst Loosen 2016 Rieslings.

Attending the legendary Michael Broadbent MW’s 90th Birthday at Vintners’ Hall with his son Bartholomew Broadbent and a host of wine trade celebrities. A great honour.

Always fun catching up with Craig Hawkins in London for his refreshing take on winemaking! Love his latest releases.

A real wine trade power crowd gathered to celebrate the launch of The Telegraph journalist Victoria Moore’s new book, Wine Dine Dictionary. A great piece of work.

Fellow guests Will Lyons, Anne Burchett and Anthony Rose (above) and Matt Walls, Dan Keeling and Julia Harding MW (below).

Always exciting tasting the new Barolo releases with Theresa Mascarello (below). Her wines are becoming uber collectable and near impossible to buy on release.

Wonderful privilege to taste and write up a superb Creation Pinot Noir Reserve Vertical with JC and Caroline Martin at the wonderful 67 Pall Mall. Awesome Hemel-En-Aarde Ridge wines.

Lovely to finally meet Winemaker Norm Hardie at the Wines of Canada tasting at Canada House on Trafalgar Square. Some superb cool climate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

May month means London Wine Trade Fair time. Always a privilege to taste with the legendary Steven Spurrier.

Catching up with my California Trip partners in crime at the trade fair, journalist Peter Ranscombe and master blogger, Mike Turner. Two very talented wine trade commentators.

Another of my favourite winemakers, Julien Schaal, has had a fantastically successful year being awarded his first Platter Guide 5 Stars. Great catching up with him at his importers London Portfolio Tasting.

My other California Trip partner in crime… Sir Colin Hampden – White. An amazingly talented photographer, wine judge and Whiskey Editor & connoisseur. Sharing memories together of our Raymond Winery visit in March.

A big highlight of the year sharing a long lazy lunch with Pinotage king Beyers Truter. Such a lovely chap and full of very entertaining wine trade stories. He has certainly been around the block!

June highlights wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my fabulous trip back to South Africa to celebrate my father Roy’s 80th birthday with a special bottle of Bogogno Cannubi Barolo Riserva 1937.

Posted by my old school pal Fortunato Mazzone at his amazing new restaurant, Forti’s Grill and Bar. Such a special evening with so many fab bottles of wine including this Drappier Grande Sendre 1988!

Managed to squeeze a standard 9 hour wine trade lunch in with the great Derek Kilpin of fine wine specialist importer Great Domaines. A lot of special bottles consigned to history!

I had the pleasure of Dirk Niepoort’s company several times through the year at numerous tastings and lunches, none more exciting than the Niepoort 2015 Vintage Port Launch Tasting! What a legend!

Pleasure to host Giuseppe Vajra from Piedmont for an fabulous tasting including vintages of one of my favourite Barolo crus, Bricco delle Viole. Burgundy meets Barolo!

Hans Vinding Diers was born on the Rustenberg Estate! Now days this cousin of Peter Sisseck is happily married with his first child making some truly amazing wines down in Patagonia, Argentina. I can’t wait to visit there one day!

Another great picture with two of my great wine pals, Car Boot lady Ruth Spivey and Remedy Wine Bar owner David Clawson. Smiles all round after a superb Burgundy lunch at Cabotte Restaurant.

Perfectly fitting to end my second instalment of my year in wine through pictures with two people who work tirelessly promoting South African wine, Jo Wehring and Andre Morgenthal. What a year it’s been for South African wine, especially in London with the phenomenal Old Vines Project Tasting launch at the South African High Commission being one of my vinous highlights of the year!

A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part One: January to March

Another very eventful year in wine! While 2017 may be considered a very challenging year for global politics, from my experiences, it was another very successful year in the wine trade.

Some amazing wines were tasted, beautiful wineries visited and new friendships forged over some great bottles of wine. Here is Part 1 of 4 covering the first quarter of the year.

January – March 2017

Always great catching up with my jet setting buddy Jamie Goode over a few bottles of fine wine. Wine journos don’t do “dry January” luckily!

Gaja is one of my favourite wineries, so it was great having Giovanni Gaja over in the UK for 3 months while working with his importer.

Always great to catch up with Peter-Allan Finlayson from Crystallum over a few decent bottles.

Hannes Myburgh one of the biggest characters in the SA wine trade, overseeing production of Meerlust, one of the greatest South African Icon wines, with Winemaker Chris Williams.

Wines of Germany rolled out the big guns at their annual investiture dinner at Vintners Hall. Here Hugh Johnson, Neil Beckett and Margaret Rand.

Brian Bicknell became one of my favourite NZ winemakers when I fell in love with his wines at Seresin. Now days, he produces some fab wines at his own winery Mahi in Marlborough.

Axel Heinz from Ornellaia hosted one of the most exciting tastings of the year – A deconstruction of Ornellaia 2015 and all it’s component parts.

I headed off to California in March with a star studded crew, none more so than up and coming tv / media sensation, Amelia Singer from the Wine Show.

Great catching up with Bruce Cakebread at one of many fantastic Napa lunches and tastings.

Popped my cherry finally and visited one of my favourite wineries, Silveroak in Alexander and Napa Valley. Marketing Director Vivian Gay a great old friend after all these years!

Back in London, Alvaro Palacios presenting the new vintages of L’Ermita from Priorat always a big highlight!

Before heading back to South Africa for judging, I was treated to a great tasting with Pieter Bubbles Ferreira from Graham Beck.

Top Team and top times at the Nederburg Auction pre-selection judging with Richard Kershaw MW and Kenichi Ohashi MW among others.

Lovely catching up with Duncan Savage to taste the new CWG Love Boat red and white in Stellenbosch.

A fantastic preview tasting of all the new release Mullineux wines along with the superb Leeu Passant wines at their Roundstone Farm in the Swartland.

Perfect timing means being able to Gate crash Adi Badenhorst’s Oesaf end of harvest party.

An epic memorable dinner hosted by Chris and Andrea Mullineux at Roundstone with Eben Sadie and Rosa Kruger.

Fabulous tasting of new vintages with legend Ian Naude. Exciting changes ahead for 2018 as he finally goes solo under the Naude Family Wines label.

A superb tasting and lunch at Gabrielskloof tasting the fabulous 2016 wines from John Seccombe, Donovan Rall, and Peter Allan Finlayson.

Then on to Hamilton Russell Vineyards to be greeted by Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell bearing gifts of Beluga caviar and Bollinger Champagne for our sundowners on the cliffs above Hermanus. Lovely!

Then, one of my best tastings of a 10 day trip with young, supremely talented winemaker Emul Ross. Quality has never been this high at Hamilton Russell!

And then back to the UK in time for Bordeaux En-primeur and the 2016 vintages.

Part 2: April to June 2017 coming soon…