2022: my adventures in wines and spirits
Author: George Turner
From Burgundy to the Lake District, 2022 has been a year of adventures for George Turner. Each season has been marked by a special bottle shared with treasured company. Here, he shares four standout bottles from the last year.
How will we remember 2022? The year that Prime Ministers just couldn’t hack it; where the game of risk became all too real; or just another year where it didn’t “come home”?
With so much having gone on in the wider world, it’s easy to forget what went on in our own lives. Now, I’m certainly no Samuel Pepys – my last diary entry in 2018 will attest to that – but flicking through hundreds of photos and odd notes on my phone, I recalled those precious forgotten moments shared with others. It may not be surprising that many of those moments included a bottle or two. Here are four of my seasonal favourites.
Spring: a magnificent Riesling in the Lake District
In the spring of 2022, lockdown was still a very real threat, so my friends and I took a short romp up to the Lake District while we could. After a day of breathtaking views and some mindblowing gingerbread, we pootled on back to our little stone cottage (via the local brewery), to settle in for the evening. With the hearth blazing, we tucked into a hearty stew, washed down with several local brews.
In our little stone cottage, we were merry and warm. There is always a point, at the end of an evening, when you should probably stop. However, when a bottle 2001 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese is put in front of you, it’s remarkable how your body suddenly finds the capacity to continue.
Without much pomp, the bottle was opened and generously dished out. I took a moment to consider the faces of those around me. Curiously nosing this golden wine, they supped that sweet nectar and their eyes lit up with heady exaltation. My turn. The nose was generous and rich, with tarte tatin, oranges, honey and a lifted dry petal character. Then, the palate – oh, the palate! Deep and complex with a taste that just didn’t abate. Just like the nose, it was sweet, tart and floral. There was no finer way to end a treasured getaway with those I call my best friends.
Summer: baguettes and Burgundy
I am lucky to have spent many summers of my childhood camping in France where fond memories of picnics and bottles of wine firmly set the foundations for my love of le vin. This summer, my partner and I visited an area of the Mâcon in Southern Burgundy.
Here, life is slow, villages are quaint and the wine is excellent. One late afternoon, cycling along the voie vert, we stopped at a crumbling stone hut atop a hill overlooking Southern Burgundy’s vineyards. We sat basking in the summer sun, watching the village lull itself into a slumber on this hazy afternoon, while tucking into a rustic picnic.
Included in our little dejeuner was a bottle of 2018 Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine, Clos du Four by Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon. The 2018 vintage was a bold one for white Burgundies. The bouquet was full of zesty grapefruit, nectarines and a hint of almond, while the palate was rich and generous, but with an elegant restraint and a bright crystalline vibrancy. Is there anything better than being with someone you love, enjoying a fresh crusty baguette and drinking wine made from the very vines you’re overlooking?
Autumn: the bigger the better
While we can often be found sharing a glass or two, the Shop and Cellar teams rarely get the opportunity to sit down together and break bread. On one of those few occasions, we headed out to Brunswick House, a Georgian quirk sitting amid the high-rise surrounds of Vauxhall.
Each of us were tasked with bringing a bottle (or two) and while there were many contenders for top tipple, the magnum of 2004 Viña Tondonia by López de Heredia pipped it to the post. Already opened and decanted for us upon arrival, my first glass came whilst tucking into the juiciest Tamworth pork chop I’ve ever had. Glowing from the “few” bottles we had enjoyed thus far, my first sniff suggested to me that the wine was somewhat reticent.
Yet, when it hit my lips, its unfurling beauty illustrated just why this ultra-traditional Rioja is the leader of the pack. Plums, damsons and cherries woven between leather, spice and herbs; earthy, sappy and fresh. Perhaps it was this the setting, or the shared camaraderie over a little-known bottle of Rioja, but the ’04 demonstrated why all at Berry Bros. & Rudd have a soft spot for the wines of López de Heredia.
Winter: rum away with me
Nothing has captured my imagination quite like rum. As the grandson of a Merchant Navy engineer, I was brought up on a heady diet of tall tales and tots. Last month, two sisters came in looking for a bottle to gift to their grandfather.
It turned out that not only was their grandfather in the Merchant Navy, but had been based at the same port as my grandfather, and working on the same ships. Before the lightbulb in my head even lit, I had, without thought, pulled a bottle from the tasting cupboard, poured a healthy measure for each of us and allowed them to savour the moment I felt was coming: one of utter intrigue.
What I had poured was the Eminente, Reserva, 7-Year-Old Rum from Cuba – a rum that, when I first tried it, had hit me with a wave of nostalgia. Not because I have been to Cuba, but it is exactly how I imagined rum to taste when told those tales of rum-stewed buccaneers. The rum is delectably moreish, hugged by mocha, oak spice and golden syrup. I was certain I had chosen well for their grandfather – but I also hoped that I had sowed the seeds for two new “cane-heads”.
While we can’t predict what 2023 will bring, I can be certain of one thing: that I will dedicate more time enjoying wonderful wines and spirits – and creating new memories – with the people I care for. So, here’s to a new year, whatever it may hold.