From the buying desk
Author: Catriona Felstead MW
As a New World Buyer at Berry Bros. & Rudd, I feel privileged to be in a position to source some of the wines which are bottled under our own label. The process involved in choosing the wines that we put our name on is similar, but slightly different, to buying a normal wine for our list. It is as if everything comes into sharp focus; it has to be perfect.
Our approach to the wines of our Own Selection range is not to find an easy-drinking, generic example from a region. We look for individuality and style, something that sets this wine apart from its counterparts – a wine that offers excellent value whilst maintaining interest, to the point of you wishing to take another sip or to pour another glass.
It might be something of a cliché but I would liken buying the wines under our own name to buying a tailored suit. Firstly, you have to look at the fabric of the wine, analyse the cloth, make a decision on the colour, the texture, the ‘feel’ of the wine and how it suits the range. Once selected, the fittings begin. Sometimes different blends are sent for consideration or, in the case of our Reserve White, Red and Rosé, the blending process is a joint task, conducted at the winery with our Southern France Buyer, Simon Field MW.
Sometimes, if the opportunity arises and if we have absolute faith in his/her ability, we speak to a producer at the beginning of the growing season about making a wine especially for our range. This was the case with our new Berry Bros. & Rudd New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough; Sam Weaver at Churton converted a block of his prized vines at the beginning of the growing season and tended those rows just for us. In a similar fashion, but with a twist, our new Producer Partnership Eden Valley Riesling came about when we discovered that Domenic Torzi was considering pulling out the Riesling vines from his excellent Frost Dodger vineyard in order to make it 100 percent Shiraz. We were delighted to be able to change his mind, and he agreed to keep the vines and make the first Eden Valley Riesling to appear in our range.
As with the tailor, the last fitting is critical – the tasting at which the final sample is approved. No new wine is admitted into our Own Selection without our absolute belief that it is an excellent example of its type. It is a glorious moment to be able to approve a wine for our range, especially if you have been waiting for the last nine months for the grapes to ripen and then the wine to be made. It is extremely rewarding.
From that moment on, the formalities of packaging commence, ensuring that not just the wine but the bottle itself comes up to our (fairly exacting) standards and, finally, the wine is shipped, arrives on our shores and appears on our shelves and on our website.
We don’t like to rest on our laurels, however, and are constantly reviewing our Own Selection wines, not just for quality reasons but also to keep things fresh. I can divulge a couple of secrets; after a long search, we finally have a brand new Pinot Noir from New Zealand on the way, plus our Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is moving to a crisper, grassier style next year. The Producer Partnership wines are particularly exciting as we search for small, unique parcels for this new venture. I am currently pursuing a single-vineyard Malbec from Argentina that that I hope bears fruit… Watch this space.