By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 4 January 2020


My pick of progressive wineries across the world worth watching in 2020:

Vik ChileChile: VIK
Norwegian-Uruguayan billionaire Alexander Vik (pictured right) wanted to make the best wine in South America.  He employed French consultant Patrick Valette to make it happen.  Vik’s new winery in Cachapoal valley south of Santiago looks almost space-age (pictured above), you can now stay in their ground-breaking art-hotel or dine in their 5 star restaurant onsite.  Their Bordeaux-style blends are really making waves for their fabulous quality.  My favourite is rich supple lush peppery French-oak matured VIK MILLA CALA VINA 2012 £35 Corney & Barrow; Slurp; Hic-winemerchants.

Samantha O'Keefe Lismore EstateSouth Africa:  LISMORE
Californian ex-pat Samantha O’Keefe (pictured right) chose a remote location under the snowy Riviersonderend mountains at 300 metres altitude near Greyton to plant vines back in 2003, despite the fact that there were no vineyards nearby.  She has been remarkably successful on the shale over clay soils.  Now with a new winery built since 2016, her wines are getting better and better.  Best is her barrel-fermented French oak-matured LISMORE CHARDONNAY 2016 £25.99 Exel Wines, Perth (Post-script: very sadly Samantha's house, winery and vines were destroyed in a fire in late December – but please buy her lovely Lismore wines to help her rebuild or contribute to her fund-raising page).

Matias Riccitelli ArgentinaArgentina:  RICCITELLI
Salta-born Matias Riccitelli (pictured right) grew up working for his winemaking father, Jorge Riccitelli.  He has now created his own boutique winery in Las Compuertas in Mendoca.  His best white is OLD VINES SEMILLON 2019 £31 Exel Wines with its rich intense honeyed creamy mouthfeel from vines planted 1000 metres altitude in 1950s matured in oak and concrete eggs.  His best value red is the gutsy opulent peppery HEY MALBEC! 2018 £10.99/£12.99 Majestic Wine made from old vines in Mendoza’s Lujan de Cuyo.

Samantha Connew of Stargazer Wines TasmaniaAustralia: STARGAZER
Kiwi winemaker Samantha Connew (pictured right) moved to Tasmania five years ago to work for Morilla estate and set up her own wine label, Stargazer.  She bought a small vineyard, Palinsander, in Tea Tree subregion of Coal River Valley near Hobart to supply grapes for her own wines.  STARGAZER RIESLING 2018 £27 Exel Wines; Luvians; Great Western Wine is made in minute quantities, but shows the island’s potential with its bright limey acidity, citric fruit sweetness and juicy mouthfeel.

Cedric Bouchard ChampagneFrance: CEDRIC BOUCHARD
Ex-sommelier Cedric Bouchard is one of the most exciting Champagne growers.  An anti-blender, he makes only single vineyard, single variety (Pinot Noir), single vintage Champagnes – memorable for their richness – more like white Burgundy than Champagne.  He doesn’t really like bubbles, as he finds them aggressive, so bottles using less pressure.  Roses de Jeanne are wines from Cedric’s own vineyards in Celles-sur-Ource in Aube region in southern Champagne.  INFLORESENCE BLANC DE NOIRS COTE DE VAL VILAINE £50 is rich dense and vinous.

Ximenez Spinola Exceptional Harvest 2017 Jerez SpainSpain:  XIMENEZ-SPINOLA
Not a new winery, it was founded in 1729 in Jerez de la Frontera, but today it is showing the way with interesting experimental wines from sherry country.  Unlike any other Jerez bodega, Ximenez-Spinola work solely with one grape, Pedro Ximenez, a tricky thin-skinned grape to grow in Jerez’s humid climate.  I particularly like winemaker Jose Antonio Zarzana’s off-dry white table wine: PX EXCEPTIONAL HARVEST 2017 £22.99 Luvians; Fine Wine Musselburgh.  Made from late-harvested grapes left on the vine; unique aroma of figs and prunes, natural sweetness with vivid fresh acidity to freshen the palate; serve with rich textured seafood or cheese.

Csaba Sebestyen Hungary wineHungary: SEBESTYEN PINCE
The Sebestyen family’s small winery in hilly Szekszard region of southern Hungary offers some of the most interesting Hungarian reds from local Kekfrankos and Kadarka grapes grown on volcanic soils.  They work with 22 hectares, half of which they own themselves – making wine in an old garage-turned-winery.  Winemaker Csaba (who used to be a mechanic) and his sister Csilla (ex-sommelier at Andrew Fairlie) make deliciously vibrant cherry-fruited spicy SEBESTYEN KADARKA 2017 £14.50 like a peppery version of Pinot Noir.

Pichler-Krutzler Wachau AustriaAustria:  PICHLER-KRUTZLER
Elizabeth Pichler, daughter of cult white winemaker FX Pichler in Wachau, and Erich Krutzler, a red winemaker from southern Burgenland, are one of Austrian wine’s new power couples (pictured right). Their Gruner Veltliners and Rieslings from Wachau’s steep Loibenberg, Supperin and Kellerberg vineyards are some of the best wines I have tasted this year.  PICHLER-KRUTZLER RIESLING KELLERBERG 2015 £42 is gorgeously rich in a juicy baroque style with sleek minerally notes and honeyed richness.

Te Whare Ra New ZealandNew Zealand:  TE WHARE RA
TWR is a small family winery based in Renwick in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley.  Winemakers Aussie Anna and Kiwi Jason Flowerday (I do love their surname) focus on low yields from old vines from their organic and biodynamically-run 11 hectare vineyard, which is one of the oldest in Marlborough first planted in 1979.  They make great Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir – but my favourite is gingery rich spicy TE WHARE RA SV5182 GEWURZTRAMINER 2017 £24 L’Art du Vin; Les Caves de Pyrene with its sweet lingering finish.

Jacob Leadley Black Chalk English wineEngland:  BLACK CHALK
Exciting new entrant to the English fizz scene – calling themselves ‘small batch producers’.  Jacob Leadley (pictured right) is a talented winemaker (he currently works at Hattingley Valley), who quit his job in the city with an ambition to create his own wine, making wines which typify Hampshire’s chalklands.  Only two wines so far, but the range will expand once the planned new winery is built.  The best is BLACK CHALK CLASSIC 2015 £35 Vino Wines & Cornelius Wines in Edinburgh; elegant creamy fizz with floral appley aromas, which focuses on Pinot Meunier alongside Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Nicolas Jay Pinot Noir 2016 Momtazi OregonOregon:  NICOLAS JAY
Jean Nicolas Meo-Camuzet is one of several Burgundians who have been lured across the Atlantic to exciting Pinot Noir country in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Best known for superb Vosne Romanee in Burgundy, in Oregon he combined forces with music-biz friend Jay Boberg with plans for the new winery being drawn up when I visited them at their Dundee-based home.  WILLAMETTE VALLEY PINOT NOIR 2016 Nicolas Jay £72 tastes like a bridge between earthy ripe ripe Oregon Pinot and elegant structured Cote de Nuits.

Peter Vinding Diers has made wine in South Africa, France, Spain, Hungary and mentored famous Peter Sisseck of Pingus and Jacques Thienpont of Le Pin.  Always fascinated by Sicily’s volcanic soils, in 2006 he bought Montecarrubo from an old woman in Melilli because he felt it was the perfect place to plant Syrah – and set about planting massal selections (with wood taken from older vineyards) imported from Cote Rotie in the Rhone.  His top wine is Il Carrubo, but I preferred more accessible IL PICCOLO VINDING MONTECARRUBO 2017 £29 : a deliciously ripe peppery Syrah with minerally undertones.


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