TOP TEN WINERIES TO WATCH IN 2018

TOP TEN WINERIES TO WATCH IN 2018 image

By Rose Murray Brown MW     Published in The Scotsman 6 January 2018

Ten progressive wineries across the world worth watching in 2018:

 

SPAIN:  VINA ZORZAL
For anyone looking for great value Spanish reds, the modern Zorzal winery in Corella village in southern Navarra is one of the most progressive in the sub £10 price range.  Andre Sanz with sons Xabier and Inaki (pictured) set up in 2007 in Ribero Baja and quickly began to focus on searching out gnarled old Garnacha and Graciano vines.  I would highly recommend their humble basic unoaked Garnacha Joven 2016 from old vines grown on alluvial gravel and clay at 380m altitude (£6.75), their more powerful Single Vineyard Malayeto 2015 (£10.95) and best of all the delicious spicy Graciano 2015 (£7.50: all at www.thewinesociety.com)

SOUTH AFRICA:  VILAFONTE
This joint American and South African wine venture produces just three wines, but has already hatched up the coveted 5 star Platter points for Cabernet-based Series C.  Set up by Mike Ratcliffe from Stellenbosch-based Warwick Estate, leading Californian winemaker Zelma Long and American viticulturist Dr Phil Freese who designed the first Opus One vineyard – and six others – this Paarl-Simonsberg based winery has some serious heavyweight names behind it.  Their focus is primarily on standout Bordeaux-style red wines using a high percentage of Malbec: Vilafonte Seriously Old Dirt 2014 (£21 www.thewinesociety.com)

AUSTRALIA:  BK WINES
Having trained in New Zealand, Argentina and California, Kiwi couple Brendon and Kirstyn Keys chose Australia as the place to make single vineyard wines.  They source grapes from a variety of growers fermenting them in their boutique winery in the bushlands of Piccadilly Valley in Adelaide Hills.  Their Chardonnays are the most exciting whites to emerge from Australia – try the lush elegantly oaked BK Wines Swaby Chardonnay 2013 (£35 www.swig.co.uk; www.standrewswine.co.uk)

GERMANY:  WEINGUT BERCHER
Nestled between the Black Forest and River Rhine in southern Germany and just across the border from Alsace, Baden region is best known for its Burgundian style wines.  One of the most interesting producers here is the family-owned C15 Weingut Bercher, who have now expanded to 42 hectares on volcanic slopes of Kaiserstuhl.  Try Bercher’s barrel fermented tropical fruit scented Chardonnay SE Dry 2015 (£26 www.thewinebarn.co.uk) made from a blend of loess and volcanic soils.

GREECE:  THYMIOPOULOS VINEYARDS
Talented winemaker Apostolos Thymiopoulos uses organic and biodynamic viticulture at his Trifolos based winery (close to the school of Aristotle) in Naoussa, central Macedonia.  He focuses on old Xinomavro bush vines grown on slatey soils, producing wonderfully earthy strawberry-scented Earth & Sky Xinomavro 2015 (£20-£25 www.robersonwines.com; www.houseoftownend.com); the best Greek red I have tasted recently.

PORTUGAL: SECRET SPOT WINES
The two man team responsible for the new Secret Spot wines are based at Quinta da Faisca in the Douro valley, where they explore small plots of very old vines in local Mendiz and Rio Torto valleys.  One partner is famous Portuguese oenologist Rui da Cunha, who calls the weathered schist soils around Favaios as the ‘grand cru’ for Moscatel Gallego Branco (aka Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains) – the other is viticulturist Goncalo Lopes.  For those who like unusual fortified wines, the team’s Secret Spot Moscatel do Douro 10 year old (£27 WineLine Portugal www.thewineline.co.uk) is similar to a wooded white port with honeyed apricot, fig and grape flavours and a delicious creamy rounded palate.

ITALY:  BASILISCO
Despite the fact that high quality Aglianico has been grown on the slopes of Mount Vulture in southerly Basilicata region since the area was a Greek colony, it is not well known outside Italy.  Basilisco is a new project by famous wine producers Feudi di San Gregorio from neighbouring Campania region.  They wanted to reclaim the ancient tuff stone caves in Barile and explore the quality of the volcanic derived clay tuff soils.  Their Teodosio Aglianico del Vulture 2013 (£12.49 www.strictlywine.co.uk) is one of the most approachable succulently fruity examples I have tasted from the often austere Aglianico grape.

NEW ZEALAND:  NEUDORF
Neudorf is currently making New Zealand’s finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a wonderful vibrancy and purity of fruit.  Based in little known beautiful Nelson region, just a couple of hours drive from Marlborough in the northern part of South Island.  Neudorf’s owners Tim and Judy Finn took a risk back in the mid 1970’s.  They bought an old mixed farm (pigs, raspberries and sheep) which had north facing clay based slopes which Tim reckoned was the best place to grow vines.  How right they were.  Their Moutere Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is superb, but best value is Rosie’s Block Chardonnay 2015 (£25 www.winedirect.co.uk) named after daughter Rosie who now works with them. 

FRANCE:  CAVE D’ESTEZARGUES
Twenty miles west of Avignon, this excellent little co-operative sources Grenache and Syrah from its ten member estates around Estezargues in the Cotes du Rhone.  Their hands-off artisanal approach sets them apart from other French co-operatives.   They focus on highlighting the individuality of each terroir and use no added yeasts, no new oak, no sulphur, no fining or filtration which is very unusual for a co-operative.  Their Coteaux du Pont Gard 2016 (£9.50 Oddbins) is a great value 50% Grenache/50% Syrah southern Rhone blend – made using organically grown grapes.

ENGLAND:  WINBIRRI VINEYARD
Winning the Decanter Platinium Best in Show award this year for an English still wine plucked East Anglia grower and winemaker Lee Dyer out of obscurity.  Based in Surlingham in Norfolk, Dyer unusually focuses on still wines in an industry now heavily dominated by sparkling wine producers.  Winbirri’s grassy lightly spritzy Bacchus 2015 (£13 Marks & Spencer) was described as ‘a perfect aperitif’; made from the usually snubbed Bacchus grape.  All eyes are now on Norfolk – and their Bacchus 2016 vintage just released is also showing well.


Join Rose’s wine tastings in Edinburgh, Glasgow & St Andrews www.rosemurraybrown.com from £36