A look at our 2019 Own Selection Gavi

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The new 2019 vintage of our Own Selection Gavi del Comune di Gavi has arrived. Davy Żyw, our Italy Wine Buyer, tells us all about it.

We are lucky enough to work with some of the world’s best producers to create our Own Selection wines. Each is the result of our strong relationship with a particular producer, and our total belief in the wines they’re making. We’re extremely proud of the new 2019 vintage of our Gavi di Gavi from Roberto Sarotto.

What is it?

The quintessential Northern Italian white wine, Gavi is famed for its delicacy and finesse. The vineyards of Gavi are planted on the hillsides of Monferatto, in the south-east of Piedmont. Exclusively a white wine zone, all Gavi comes from the Cortese grape.

Ours is made by our friend Roberto Sarotto of Tenuta Manenti. We’ve bought Gavi from him since 2001, when he was the winemaker at Gavi’s cantina sociale (winegrower’s co-operative).

Why is it different?

The name “Gavi” refers to the wider appellation, and also to its most important commune. There are 11 communes and seven hamlets here in total. When a wine is blended from sites across communes, it is labelled as Gavi. Tenuta Manenti, with its white tufo soils, lies within the Gavi commune; our Own Selection wine is thus not just a Gavi, but a Gavi del Comune di Gavi (or just “Gavi di Gavi” for short).

What’s more, this is a single site wine: it comes from the tufo-flecked and rocky Bric Sassi vineyard. This special terroir gives the wine more minerality and energy.

What does it taste like?

This is a textbook Gavi di Gavi, with elegant aromas of white flowers and green pear. The palate is focused and energetic, with generous layers of fresh apple and lemon peel. And those white tufo soils here impart a beautiful, refreshing minerality to the finish.

What should I eat with it?

As a refreshing white wine with high acidity, our Gavi di Gavi is a versatile food wine. So it’s perfect with shellfish, white fish or delicate green vegetable dishes.

You can buy our 2019 Own Selection Gavi del Comune di Gavi or browse all of our Own Selection wines on bbr.com.

Category: Italian Wine

Burgundy’s grapes: Pinot Noir

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

“For me, there’s no better red wine on the planet than Pinot Noir. And there’s no better place for Pinot Noir than Burgundy.” – Dominique Lafon 

The differences between Burgundy’s two grape varieties go beyond mere physiology. It’s a question of personality, really. Chardonnay is easy-going and adaptable, happy to make its home where it lays its hat. Pinot Noir, simply put, isn’t – it’s fussy, finicky and difficult to cultivate. 

For a vigneron to capture the essence of Pinot Noir in a wine is a balancing act, if not an outright dark art. Too ripe, and the fruit’s delicate charms are lost. Not ripe enough, and it’s lean and unforgiving.  

Pinot Noir around the world

It’s perhaps because Pinot Noir is such a temperamental character that so many winemakers find themselves in thrall to it. Many have tried – with varying levels of success – to capture its essence in their own corner of the globe. 

Parts of California have proven their worth; Sébastien Magnien fondly remembers his time in the Sonoma Valley. Neighbouring Oregon has become a home-from-home for both the grape and for some of Burgundy’s most famous figures – Dominique Lafon chief among them.

The Australians have found notable success in Victoria’s cool Mornington Peninsula – and considerably less of it in the Barossa Valley. Under its Italian pseudonym, Pinot Nero, it’s an important grape in Oltrepò Pavese and traditional method Franciacorta, among others. German Spätburgunder is not too shabby, either.

Burgundy: the home of Pinot Noir

Nowhere comes close to Burgundy, though. Here, the time-honoured combination of cool climate and clay-limestone soils, arranged over a meandering hillside, allow Pinot Noir to ripen slowly, preserving its finesse and balance. 

“There’s no better place for Pinot Noir than Burgundy,” Dominique Lafon tells us matter-of-factly. 

Growing successfully in this climate is no cakewalk, however. Pinot Noir is prone to just about every blight which can beset grapes. Its thin skin gives its wines supple tannins, but it also leaves the grape vulnerable to the elements: spring frost, rot, viruses and hail all present real threats to its survival.

The allure of Pinot

When the stars do align, a glass of Burgundian Pinot Noir which hits the right notes can be an experience like no other. You’ll know it when it happens. You’ll suddenly become aware that you’ve had your nose in the glass, inhaling the heavenly fruit and discovering its nuances, for 10 minutes – without having taken a single sip.  

In their youth, the wines beguile with their bright red summer fruit and floral high notes, those trademark silky tannins making them temptingly drinkable even when young. The best, which can age for many years, can take on extraordinary complexity and esoteric character, with many a purist deeming them ready to drink only when the aromas start to evoke game and farmyard character. 

It’s not uncommon to hear Burgundian winemakers explain that they don’t really make wine; they simply use the grape as a way to express terroir. If that sounds rather far-fetched, it’s worth testing. When you compare wines from each village, side by side, you might just see what they mean. 

Category: Burgundy Wine

The cocktail hour: White Lady

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A photo of our White Lady cocktail

The White Lady cocktail was born in London and refined in Paris; today, it’s loved far and wide. Here’s how to make the timeless classic.

The White Lady is said to have been created at Ciro’s Club – a historical London nightclub just off Haymarket – by bartender Harry MacElhone. The original recipe consisted of triple sec, crème de menthe and lemon juice. By 1929, MacElhone had opened his own bar in Paris, which is when crème de menthe was replaced with gin. This is the version we know today, and it’s delicious with our No.3 London Dry Gin.

The ingredients

  • 45ml No.3 Gin
  • 22.5ml Triple sec
  • 22.5ml Lemon juice
  • 10ml Sugar syrup
  • Lemon

The method

Shake all the ingredients together with ice until very cold. Strain the liquid, discarding the ice, then return the liquid to the shaker and dry shake (without ice). Pour into a chilled glass, garnish with a twist of lemon zest and enjoy.

Discover another recipe for our No.3 London Dry Gin here.

Category: Cocktails

Burgundy’s grapes: Chardonnay

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chardonnay grape
Photograph: Jason Lowe

Across the world, Chardonnay may be considered a divisive “Marmite” grape, but in Burgundy, it reigns supreme.

For anyone starting their Burgundy adventure, the region’s sheer complexity can be daunting. Thankfully, there’s at least one aspect which is really quite simple: the grape varieties. All the great wines of Burgundy are produced from either Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

Burgundy’s white grape: Chardonnay

Chardonnay is adaptable, malleable and responsible for many of the world’s finest white wines. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular with winegrowers and winemakers in almost every wine region on earth. 

Yet, Chardonnay is often misunderstood. Perhaps more than any other varietal, it suffers from a bad reputation in certain circles of wine drinkers. Overly oaky, buttery and alcoholic examples – an increasing rarity, it must be said – are enough to turn some people off for life. And that’s fair enough. But often what people dislike is this style of Chardonnay, not Chardonnay itself.

In fact, and particularly when it comes to Burgundy, novice drinkers may not even realise that the sublime wine they’re enjoying – a crisp, steely Chablis for example – is even made from Chardonnay. This isn’t the drinker’s fault. European wine labels historically emphasise the place a wine has come from, rather than its grape variety. With the ingredients left largely oblique, it’s easy to understand why somebody might think that Chardonnay and Chablis are two completely different things.  

The key thing to remember is this is a grape with myriad styles.  

Vibrant, lively Chablis

When it comes to Chablis, Chardonnay takes on a pure, refreshing and lively style. Here in the northern part of Burgundy, growing conditions allow for a long, slow ripening: this lets the Chardonnay develop complexity while retaining its characteristically fresh acidity. The grape manifests itself with a lot of vibrancy, lively citrus and stony minerality.

Most Chablis producers don’t use any new oak, making this an exceptionally pure expression of fruit. It’ll very likely appeal to even the most hardened Chardonnay sceptics – particularly alongside some simply prepared seafood. High-end examples can age for many years, starting to soften and taking on intriguing nutty and spicy notes. 

The Côte de Beaune

For an entirely different style of Chardonnay, look to the Côte de Beaune. Its Chardonnay is nothing short of luxurious, notably when from the most famous villages of Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault. Chardonnay from Puligny has freshness and floral notes, coupled with rich generosity. Chassagne boasts notes of orange and marmalade, with nuanced spiciness, depth and concentration.

In Meursault, the classic description of butter and hazelnuts frequently rings true; it may not have a Grand Cru vineyard to append to its name, but these village wines often stand out among their neighbours. Further south, the Mâconnais has a style of its own, too: Pouilly-Fuissé remains the benchmark, with well-deserved and long-overdue Premiers Crus on the way. 

Chardonnay’s versatility

The versatility of Chardonnay – in Burgundy alone – means that there’s something here to suit any palate. There’s endless interest in exploring the different wines produced even on a single hillside.

To visit the region is a revelation: stand in one spot and have Grand Cru, Premier Cru and village-level vineyards all within a few paces, each responsible for wines which differ as much in style as they do in price. 

Category: Burgundy Wine