What we’re drinking: Our favourite wines

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This image shows a line-up of wines and spirits selected by our staff, featuring an English sparkling wine, Bollinger's Pinot Noir and The Macallan Whiskey.

Our experts relish any opportunity to help you discover something new – as much as they love a good wine itself. Here are a few of their favourites, from Bollinger’s lesser-known Pinot Noir to Hambledon’s sparkling wine. So dive in, find out what our team are drinking, and perhaps you’ll find a new favourite, too.

An unexpected red

2015 Coteaux Champenois, La Côte aux Enfants Rouge, Bollinger, Champagne

A still Pinot Noir from Bollinger? Why not. This is 100% Pinot Noir, originating from a single parcel of four hectares called “La Cote aux Enfants” – a very small production dedicated only to the greatest vintages. The result is a concentrated, powerful wine, with great ageing potential. It has an intense ruby colour, and the nose has notes of cloves, spice and pepper, reminiscent of Blaufränkisch (a black-skinned, blackberry-flavoured grape), along with truffles and sweet spices. On the palate, flavours like cherry, kirsch, prunes and hints of rose emerge – very Burgundy. This is, in short, a distinctive red wine from my favourite Champagne producer.

Dario Cinti, Wine Advisor

An English sparkling wine

2015 Berry Bros. & Rudd, English Sparkling, Blanc de Blancs by Hambledon Vineyards, Hampshire, England

Having celebrated a “big” birthday recently, I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of 2015 Berry Bros. & Rudd, English Sparkling, Blanc de Blancs by Hambledon. As celebratory bottles go, this one was a triumph. This English expression of Burgundy’s classic white grape (Chardonnay) instantly entices with piquant gooseberry and lychee aromas. If your mouth isn’t watering already, the invigorating acidity carries lemon, biscuit crumb and crisp, green apple flavours onto a creamily smooth finish. A superb, homegrown alternative to Champagne for a celebration, or something to make “Fish Friday” that little bit more decadent – it’s the perfect accompaniment to cod and chips!

Alexandra Gray de Walden, Product Master Data Administator

A comforting classic

The Macallan, 12-Year-Old, Double Cask, Speyside, Single Malt Scotch Whisky (40%)

In times of turbulence and uncertainty, an approach I sometimes favour is to lean into the comfort of the classics. From the Beatles to Beethoven, Mark Twain to toad-in-the-hole, familiarity can be just the tonic for a weary soul. Very few distilleries can even attempt to claim the plaudits heaped upon The Macallan. My current preferred bottle, kept always within reach, is the lusciously fruity Double Cask 12-year-old.

Rob Whitehead, Spirits Buyer

A poignant tribute

2015 Saumur Blanc, Chenin du Puy

We were all saddened at the recent news that Loire winemaker Frédéric Mabileau died in a light aircraft crash. As our Loire Buyer, Adam Bruntlett, said: “He was someone who was always asking questions of himself, always trying to improve and was open to hearing new ideas.” Last week, I drank his 2015 Saumur Blanc, Chenin du Puy, which I had picked up in our Summer Sale. Sadly, it has now all gone but his incredible 2017 Cabernet Franc is still available. The 2015 Saumur was in a good spot, five years into its life and still full of that vibrancy and “bitter minerality” that marks so many of the Loire Chenin Blancs. I had it with roast chicken, but it would stand up to a mild curry because of how rich it is. Full of complexity and depth, the 2015 Saumur is a worthy tribute to its maker.

Will Wrightson, Fine Wine Marketing Manager

Category: What we're drinking

On your reading list: Inside Bordeaux

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Jane Anson, photographed at Berry Bros. & Rudd
Photograph: Elena Heatherwick

Wine writer, author and critic Jane Anson has recently released her latest book, Inside Bordeaux. She is the winner of the Ramos Pinto Online Communicator 2020 award at the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards 2020. We talk to her about mapping out Bordeaux’s wine regions in painstaking detail and uncovering the secrets of its terroir.

Back in 2003, Jane Anson packed up her mother’s old BMW 628 with her husband and six-month-old daughter in tow. She thought she was off to France only for a year or so. “It was completely mad. We didn’t have a plan; we just drove to Bordeaux,” she laughs. Some 17 years later, she calls the world’s most famous wine region home.

Jane Anson on Inside Bordeaux

BB&R Press published Jane’s latest book Inside Bordeaux in May. It may be a 700-plus page epic guide – with enough material to satisfy the most enthusiastic of wine geeks – but it’s also a gripping read, keeping the less initiated turning pages. “In every case I’ve asked myself, ‘Why am I writing about this château?’”, she says. “They’re only in the book if I’m telling you something interesting: who’s making the wines now, what’s different, what’s interesting or why it’s worth finding them.”

Jane’s hope is that people who pick up the book will feel excited – enlightened, even; her aim is that readers can look at the region in a new, re-energised light. As she puts it, “We’re trying to move the conversation about Bordeaux forward.”

A head start

When she arrived in Bordeaux, Jane immersed herself in studying the art and science of wine. She worked through WSET courses and a diploma in wine tasting from the Institute of Vine & Wine Science (ISVV). She initially secured a writing job at Decanter, later deciding that she was ready to start tasting professionally. “After about six years as the Bordeaux correspondent I got to the point where I wanted to go deeper,” she says, “to properly understand the soils of Bordeaux. I wanted to explore all the things that we talk about for Burgundy: are they true for Bordeaux and why? I didn’t want to write something that would just scratch the surface. I absolutely know that there’s a tonne of stuff in this book which we’re writing for the first time.”

Mapping out the region

The key to breaking this new ground came from a contact made while Jane was studying for her diploma. “I’d spoken to Kees van Leeuwen, a professor at the ISVV, about translating his scientific knowledge into a more readable format, but that would have just been about terroir. I was so lucky that he agreed to do loads of new maps for this book. They’re so ground-breaking that they will now be used to teach new students of oenology and viticulture in van Leeuwen’s classes. And that’s really exciting.”

The finer details

As you might expect, Inside Bordeaux takes you through the Left and Right Banks. What might surprise you is the level of detail and analysis that, Jane believes, has never been brought together. “On the Left Bank, there are six key gravel terraces that have an impact on the taste profile of the wines. We have mapped them from the Médoc down through Pessac-Léognan to Graves and Sauternes, showing how they differ. That information was all out there but never in one place. Then on the Right Bank a key feature is the limestone plateau. It’s often just talked about in St Emilion but we’ve mapped it all across Fronsac, Montagne St Emilion, Castillon. Feedback even from the winemakers is that they are using it to further their understanding.”

The terroir of Bordeaux

“We think that Bordeaux doesn’t have terroir in the same way that Burgundy does, but these things make a huge, genuine difference to what your wine is going to taste like. It means you can start thinking, ‘Ah, that’s why I like Pomerol, because it’s that kind of soil.’” Then, Jane explains, once you’ve unlocked that information, you have the key to discovering all sorts of new wines. “We’ve found other areas of Bordeaux that have similar types of soil – which might be less expensive – so you can use it as a signpost to find unknown or less expensive wines.”

Of course, Bordeaux is not all undiscovered terroir – it is after all home to the world’s most famous wines. Jane’s work shows why it’s not money, marketing or family that have made the region’s biggest names, but their terroir. “There is a reason why Lafite can make a 12.5% wine in 2018 when everybody else was making 14%, or 15% wines. It’s the soil: eight to 10-metre-deep fine gravel.” Simply put, she explains, gravel is elegance; clay is power; sand is aromatics. “Latour has a lot of gravel but it has a lot of clay as well, and that’s why Latour is a much more powerful wine than Lafite, and why Lafite is a much more elegant wine than Latour. When those things fall into place, it’s really cool: it adds another level and appreciation and understanding.”

A changing landscape

Considering the region’s terroir brings Jane to the next big issue that her book addresses: climate change. As the world warms, and winemakers find themselves dealing with increasingly unpredictable weather, Jane has interpreted the maps to highlight where is likely to cope best.

“It’s increasingly important, with the change in climate, to look where might be good as it gets hotter,” she explains. “If you’ve got a particularly hot summer like 2003, the traditional places that get really ripe might get overripe, so you can start to look where you can get some of those qualities without it having been pushed so far.” This is exciting stuff. No matter which vintage you, as a consumer, are looking at buying into, Inside Bordeaux can help you decode what you should be buying and from where.

She has been equally rigorous about which properties she should include. “I wanted it to be different,” she explains. “One of the things that I, personally, am very interested in is organic wines, biodynamic wines, green winemaking – the people trying to do something different.”

Inside Bordeaux by Jane Anson is out now. Order your copy here.

Category: Bordeaux Wine

A summer’s end starter

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A summer starter recipe of creamy burrata, courgettes and peas
Photograph: Joe Woodhouse

This full-flavoured recipe delves into the veg patch’s sunniest corners to combine oversized courgettes and instantly evocative herbs with lusciously indulgent burrata. It’s a slice of late summer on a plate

This simple starter comprises some of my favourite late-summer ingredients – and everything can be made in advance (so it’s perfect for easy entertaining). Campania is the spiritual home of Mozzarella, but its more indulgent sibling, burrata, is from neighbouring Apulia. Local flavour combinations are often the best, so here we include Amalfi coast lemons. And, when it comes to wine matches, this should work in harmony with the whites of the region.

Burrata with courgettes, peas and lemon

  • 1 yellow courgette
  • 2 large courgettes
  • 2 cloves of garlic – smashed
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 small chilli – deseeded and finely chopped
  • Half a bunch of basil – picked
  • 1 lemon
  • Half a bunch of mint
  • 150g fresh peas – picked and blanched
  • 250g burrata
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil

Split the courgettes lengthways, and pan-fry the halves (cut-side down) in a good glug of olive oil, for two to three minutes, until nicely caramelised. Then add the smashed garlic, thyme and basil stalks and cook for a further two minutes. Turn the courgettes over and continue to cook until they’re just tender. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Place the peas in a bowl and season to taste. Mix in the zest of half a lemon and the chopped mint.

Finely slice the yellow courgette into thin rounds and place in a bowl. About five minutes before you are ready to serve, season with salt, pepper, a pinch of chopped chilli and a pinch of finely chopped garlic. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil.

Drain the burrata, place in a colander and tear into large chunks, retaining any of the creamy liquid that comes from the cheese.

To serve, warm the courgette halves. The yellow courgettes should have wilted slightly, so drain off the liquid if there is any. Mix this with the liquid from the burrata and a good splash of oil to form a dressing. Place the warm courgette in the centre of a platter, scatter over the pea mix and the torn burrata, finish with the dressed courgette slices and some torn basil leaves, then spoon over the dressing.

What to drink – recommended wine pairing from Barbara Drew MW

For a fresh, citrussy summer match to this recipe, head straight to Italy and pour a glass of Roberto Sarotto’s Gavi di Gavi. Made from the Cortese grape, the tangy grapefruit pith flavours will pick out the fresh pea and herb flavours and cut through the richness of the cheese.

Alternatively, taking our cue from Head Chef, another classic pairing for this dish would be a Southern Italian white wine; one from Campania, such as the Fiano by Vigneti Tardis, would work well. A complex wine, with plenty of weight and a hint of creaminess, this will complement the burrata superbly – a match that is as much about texture as flavour.

Further afield, look for whites with a balance of fruit and lemony freshness – New World Sauvignon Blanc would be an excellent choice. Our own New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc by Isabel Estate has just the right mix of tropical and green fruit, and a pleasingly round mouthfeel to offset the mouthwatering acidity.

Category: Miscellaneous

Mailly, the Grand Cru village

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Champagne Mailly, the collective of growers in the Grand Cru village

Our Champagne Buyer Davy Zyw gives us a taste of the extraordinary village of Mailly, home to our Own Selection Champagne

In the heart of the Montagne de Reims you’ll find Mailly, a 100% Grand Cru village. This means the family-grown grapes in this beautiful north-facing village are some of the best in the whole of the Champagne region.

Pinot Noir is dominant here: the grape gives the village’s wines the pure red fruit and spice characters, and the mineral freshness, that are Mailly’s signature style.

Grown on a bedrock of raw chalk, each parcel of sustainably grown vines is vinified separately to accentuate its terroir.

A sustainable wine; a sustainable way of life

Champagne Mailly, a collective of families, is a remarkable producer. They have already converted many of their vineyards to organic; all are farmed sustainably. They work without pesticides or herbicides, and therefore the vines are healthier, produce better grapes, create better Champagnes and encourages organic diversity amongst the vines.

Each vine is naturally surrounded by wild flowers, buzzing with insects and birds, there is true ecological balance. Production too is increasingly sustainable, we have recently changed the source of our glass bottles, to benefit the environment and lower our carbon footprint.

But the sustainability of the Mailly Champagne winery runs deeper into the chalk bedrock of the Montagne de Reims than the vines themselves. Each family member in the village of Mailly is an intrinsic part of the winery, and every family has ownership and involvement in the vines, the wines and how they are made.

This is why our UKC is truly sustainable, it keeps generations of Champagne lovers quenched with the finest bubbles of the region. And protects the livelihoods of the families and future generations of the Mailly village.

Find out more about our Own Selection Champagne here.

Category: Miscellaneous