By Rose Murray Brown   Published in The Scotsman 7 January 2017


Progressive wineries worth watching in 2017

Austria might not be the first place to think of when it comes to Pinot Noir, but there are some superb examples.  One of my current favourites is made by rising star Anton Bauer, based in Wagram region (known as Donauland until 2007) near the Danube.  He took over from his parents in 1992 inheriting 3.2 hectares after training at Krems wine school and in Burgundy.  He now has 30 including top single vineyard sites (Rosenberg, Spiegal, Berg & Gmork) – his Pinot Noir Reserve 2012 (£27 was the star Pinot at our recent tasting.  Bauer also makes interesting Merlot too.

Karl Johner is an energetic winemaker who owns a wine estate in Baden in southern Germany and in Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand – where he focuses Pinot Noir in both hemispheres grown on volcanic soils.  His Kaiserstuhl Pinot Noir 2014 (£13.95 The Wine Society is one of the best value German reds on the market.  His single vineyard Enselberg Pinot Noir (£19.99 Waitrose) is a meatier and spicier version of Baden Spatburgunder.

A great example of a progressive grower Champagne house, now with cellars on the prestigious Avenue du Champagne in Epernay.  Created when Oliver Collard married Caroline Picard in 1996, they combined the Collard’s Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vineyards in Vallee de Marne with Picard’s Chardonnay vineyards of the Cote de Blancs to give them impressive grape resources for blends..  They are one of only 20 houses who keep their wines in large oak casks to add complexity.  Their Champagne Collard-Picard Blanc de Noirs Cuvee Selection NV (£32 Swig is a great example of a rich biscuity gently oaked red fruit blend.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape lovers may well have encountered this impressive estate as it is one of the oldest, established in C14.  Recently purchased by Bordeaux guru Jean Michel Cazes who owns Chateau Lynch Bages, who runs the estate with his son Jean Charles has invested heavily and is producing some of the best classic wines of this huge appellation.  Chateauneuf du Pape 2012 Domaine des Senechaux (£32 Berry Bros & Rudd is a soft succulent example with deep dense black fruits from its high percentage of Mourvedre grape.

Dutch hispanophiles Clara Verheij and Andre Both first arrived in Spain in 1995 to set up a building business and language school.  Attracted by the old Moscatel vines growing on Axarquia slate soils at high altitude behind Malaga, they set up their own winery taking advantage of abandoned old vineyards in Sayalonga.  Today they make some of Malaga’s best sweet wines, beautifully made with ripe mandarin flavours and superb freshness.  Their Bauhaus-style winery is now a popular foodie destination with its inhouse restaurant showcasing Andalucia’s food and wine.  Try Ariyanas Naturalmente Dulce 2011 (£18.99 hf bt Waitrose Cellar; Indigo Wine) made from grapes dried in the Malaga sun.

A Tuscan wine estate with a difference.  Based in Chianti Rufina, 30 km northeast of Florence, where vineyards are higher altitude, the air is cooler and the wines more elegant, higher in acid and structured.  Organic wine estate Lavacchio is one of the best in the region (also look for Cantine Grati & Selvapiana in Rufina too) – where Stefano di Blasi and Frederico Cerelli makes the earthy textured mellow Chianti Rufina Riserva ‘Cedro’ 2010 (£19.95 Swig

Hampshire-based Hambledon was UK’s first commercial vineyard set up in 1952 by wine enthusiast Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones.  The vineyard was replanted with Champagne varietals for fizz in 2005 by current owner Yorkshireman Ian Kellett.  He hired Champenois winemaker Herve Justin from Duval Leroy – their Hambledon Classic Cuvee Brut NV (£28-£30 Marks & Spencer; Waitrose), made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier, is the current best English sparkling wine at this price.

New Zealand: CONEY
One of the challenges is finding New Zealand Pinot Noir that is not too expensive, as some are now priced over £20.  Tim & Margaret Coney first moved to Wairarapa in North Island, just north of Wellington, for retirement before converting their 16 acre sheep paddock to vines.  They now manage to produce unusually good value wines, with winemakers Debbie Christensen and Emma Easthorpe producing earthy savoury deeply fruit and approachable Pinot Noir at reasonably modest prices, like Pizzicato Pinot Noir 2014 (£14.99 Majestic Wine).

Australia:  PEMBERLEY
Pemberton region of Western Australia is better known for its tall Karri trees.  The first vineyards were planted in 1982 and show great promise for Burgundian varietals in this forested valley which is cool in winter and pleasantly warm in summer.  Winemaker Robert Bowen and viticulturalist David Radomiljac set up in 2009 and produce one of Australia’s best Chardonnays at this price : Pemberley Chardonnay 2014 (£15.50 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety).  Green apple, light toast from new and oak fermentation, gently leesy with a nutty finish.  Very popular at our Western Australian tasting.  Pemberley make interesting Pinot Noir if you can find it.

I remember visiting this remote family-owned winery in cool coastal Leyda valley in San Antonio region located just 9 miles from the Pacific – and talking to owner Matias Garces Silva about his ambitious plans when he began back in 2002.  Since then this progressive winery has produced stunning Syrah and Pinot Noir under their famous Amayna label.  Now they have just launched a brand new six-month oak aged cherry fruited Boya Pinot Noir 2015 (£11.99 Majestic Wine) showing what great value Chile Pinot Noir can be – it won the trophy for the best Chilean Pinot Noir under £15 at the Decanter Wine Awards.

The Newton Johnson family seem to go from strength to strength.  I remember visiting Felicity and Dave Johnson back in 1990 when the winery idea was just a ‘project’.  Now they are a well-established prize winning winery, based in the Hemel en Aarde valley near Hermanus, situated alongside the great names of Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson.  Sons Bevan and Gordon run the winery – their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are both 5 star Platter wines, no mean feat in the timescale.  A good entry level wine is creamy gently oaked Newton Johnson Southend Chardonnay 2014 (£14.50 Laithwaites).  Not shy to experiment, they have just released a new Albarino too.

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