What we’re drinking: staff picks
Author: Charlie Geoghegan
We recently asked our team a simple question: “what are you drinking these days?” Here, five of our colleagues from across the business give us their personal recommendation.
A charming Californian Chardonnay
Having previously spent some time in the US, my impression had been of domestic wines that were never quite in balance: too sweet, too tannic, too much (or not quite enough) oak. I should point out that I grew up in Bordeaux and the first white wine I fell in love with was a Pessac-Léognan: 100% Sauvignon Blanc, aged in new oak – so I do like oak! Clearly, I hadn’t been drinking the right wines.
Working at Berry Bros. & Rudd has restored my faith in American wines, and this Chardonnay by Ramey is a perfect example as to why. I recently enjoyed a bottle late on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, with family that I hadn’t seen for months. The wine instantly brought us back to warm summer days: there’s lively acidity, gunflint, lemon zest, ripe nectarine and just the right amount of smoky and toasty oak flavours. It’s nicely balanced, and has this additional, welcome, richness. This is a great California Chardonnay; I’d strongly recommend buying by the case rather than the bottle.
Clara Bouffard, Marketing Executive
A birthday treat from Veneto
I picked this up as a birthday treat to myself, and we took it along on a recent break in Devon. We savoured every drop; the wine has a perfect balance of bramble fruits and spice, coming from a little bit of age. It went wonderfully with the tomato-based pasta dish we made – though I suspect it would shine with just about any food.
Once lockdown ends, I think I’ll be booking some tickets back to the Veneto, to enjoy this in situ with proper Italian food.
Benjamin Bathurst, Digital Marketing Executive
The “other” white Burgundy
I have a soft spot for Burgundy’s “other” white grape at the moment, and this one is a belter.
This cuvée comes from a tiny 0.3-hectare plot of estate-owned fruit. The bold label and play on the Japanese word arigato (“thank you”) is enough to make the bottle, let alone the wine, stand out. My own resounding memory of this wine is of sharing a few glasses with family over a birthday dinner during lockdown in May. It’s nothing revelatory to note just how unusual May 2020 was; starting a meal with buttered brown shrimp and griddled sourdough, served with this wine, was a brief glimpse of “normality”. The wine offers some hallmark bruised apple and citrus peel, with fantastic weight and texture. It’s characterful and rounded, with a racy acidity to tie it all together. Cracking.
Distinguished by yellow wax-topped bottles, opulence and approachability, wines from this domaine never disappoint. Based in the south of Burgundy, the Bret brothers are stalwarts of organic and biodynamic viticulture, renowned for their terroir-driven wines – true of both their estate label and their négociant operation.
Will Protheroe, Digital Merchandising Executive
Northern Italian excellence
I recently enjoyed this Barolo in the pre-lockdown company of some very good friends. The agenda for the day was a simple one: visit my old Exeter University housemates (newlyweds; now Mr. & Mrs. Smith), watch the rugby, grill some food and enjoy some wine.
The rugby was some match; the nail-biting European Cup final between Exeter Chiefs and Racing 92 had plenty of excitement and drama. Best of all, the West Country triumphed!
Next, it was time to light the firepit and salt the meats. We had plenty to celebrate, so I’d brought a couple of bottles of the 2015 Barolo along with me. Barolo is always something of a treat for me, a wine for special occasions. Into the decanter it went while we gathered round the flames, checked the coals and debated which meat to stick on first.
Half an hour later, we served up a delicious platter of flame-grilled meats and vegetables, with some home-baked olive bread on the side; the Barolo was a delight with such a feast on this fire-warmed October evening. With beautiful aromas of dark cherries, forest berries, violet and black tea, this Barolo is excellent. The palate is lusciously silky, with some savoury spice. It’s got plenty of warmth and depth – perfect with rich foods. The second bottle went down a treat, shared around the re-stoked fire, admiring wedding photos and reminiscing about university antics gone by.
The Italians are firm believers in the simple things in life: good people, good food and good wines. All in all, it’s a hard philosophy to beat!
Will Blakely, Senior Wine & Spirits Advisor
A standout Cognac from Frapin
At this time of year, it’s great to have something to warm the cockles, and this fits the bill nicely. Frapin has been making exceptional Cognac since the 13th century; they consistently produce fantastically smooth, nutty and fragrant Cognacs that make the heart sing.
I first encountered this Cognac in a tasting of the impressive Frapin range at our Warehouse Shop. This was a real standout, holding its own among its older and more established siblings. There’s an amazing depth of flavour, and the price is approachable enough to entice Cognac aficionados and novices alike. I’ve shared this with friends and family, and it’s always a crowd-pleaser. Whether as an after-dinner tipple, a celebratory toast or after a takeaway pizza, F.L.B. punches well above its weight.
Markus Ljunghammar, Wine & Spirits Advisor
Browse all of our staff picks here.