Issue: 63 / Sunday 24 March, 2019
Q & A with Ronan Rafferty
Winner of The European Tour Order of Merit, The Volvo Masters, Ryder Cup Player, and a long-standing customer of The Vinorium. Ronan is one of N.Ireland’s most respected golfers and has one of the greatest wine cellars in the game. Ronan has been kind enough to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule running his much loved corporate golf days to answer a few questions on his life, career and most importantly, his love of great wines!
How did you get in to golf in the first place? Do you have any advice for amateurs or beginners?
I was really lucky; My Dad played and encouraged my brother and I to play too. It also just happened that the area I am from in N.Ireland is a well-know golfing region. I also ended up going to a school that had a good golf team, competed in inter-school events and encouraged the kids to play golf. N.Ireland wasn’t the best place to be growing up in the mid-70s, but I had a good environment and lots of help behind me. Plus, and more importantly—I enjoyed it!
You have beaten Nick Faldo in the Volvo Cup, Mark Calcavecchia in the Ryder Cup and were named top of the European Order of Merit. Would you say that either of these are a career highlight or is there something else you are particularly proud of in your career?
It took me a while to get going in the Pro ranks, and it wasn’t until my 7th year on tour that I made the big breakthrough. 1989 was my ‘Glory’ year, winning the European Tour Order Of Merit, the Volvo Masters (Beating Faldo and Olazabal down the stretch) and playing in the Ryder Cup. What a year it was! (And also a good year for wine!)
I turned Pro quite young at 17, after a good but short amateur career. I had won the Irish Amateur Championships, played for my country at Boy, Youth and Senior level by the time I was 15. Then it was on to GB&I stuff, doing the same by the time I was 16. Golf was my life, even at a young age!
What has been the greatest challenge of your career?
I can honestly say I have been very lucky throughout my golfing life. I love to travel, love food and wine, like a nice beach (a lot of courses tend to be near the sea) and have never been afraid to explore. Probably all the things a Pro golfer needs! The only thing that gets in the way is losing your clubs! I’m a bit stuffed without them!!
Do you enjoy running the luxury golf days and what do these involve?
Today life is a bit different; I don’t play many events any more, I concentrate more on the ‘corporate’ end of things. Being Irish, I can talk the hind leg off a donkey! I have travelled to over 1,100 courses in my time, have met some fascinating people and have done a few wacky golf trips! I don’t have any problem looking after people and showing them a good time. Have clubs will travel!!
Your career has taken you all over the world. Is there one country that has a particular place in your heart?
Golf takes you all around the world—We tend to follow the sun (occupational hazard). In the early days, the tour was mostly around Europe. Then those of us who were a little bit more adventurous, travelled to South Africa, South America (I won my first pro tournament in Venezuela), then Australia opened up as an option. Their Tour was a ‘wrap-around’ schedule-Nov/Dec, Christmas off, then Jan/Feb. It was perfect to get away from the UK winter. In 1987 I took myself off to OZ—I loved it! Great courses, great climate, good tournaments, fab food, wonderful beaches, and of course The Wine!! I was hooked! It’s my all time favourite place! I did 13 winters overall. I would go back in a blink!
You are known for having one of the best wine cellars in golf, how many bottles do you have? Any real gems?
I hardly drunk at all until I went to Australia. But everywhere we went was surrounded by wine regions, Barossa, Margaret River, McLaren Vale, South Australia, etc, etc. I started tasting, collecting and shipping it home! There were so many to choose from and lots not available in the UK. The cellar grew and grew until bursting point. I hate to think how many different wines I had at one time? But it would have kept me going for a while!! Too many gems to choose from!!
When did you become passionate about wine?
My trips to Australia were the catalyst for my wine collecting. So many wines; so little time to taste them all!!
You have spent a lot of time in Australia, would you say that Aussie wines are your favourites? Which region?
The trips to OZ were always the highlight of the season—The European Tour was expanding to Asia and the Middle East-The schedule was getting bigger and bigger; But Australia was it for me-I did my whole ‘down under’ schedule around visiting wine regions and estates. It would be too difficult to choose just one—But maybe Barossa might clinch it?
What was your most memorable wine to date and best bottle from The Vinorium?
You ask a question that may be too hard to answer! So many great wines, not expensive, just great bottles/magnums with friends; maybe over some cheese and pâté. Wines that bring a smile to your face and make you wonder what the rest of the world is doing! But if you push me: 08’ Shirvington Shiraz!!
Do you have a favourite grape variety and region?
Easy-Shiraz/Syrah (Aussie & Californian)
We have heard that you’re a huge fan of Montrachet. Have you found a worthy contender from the new world? How do you feel they compare?
Through my career I have met some fantastic people with a passion for wine and I have been fortunate to taste some extraordinary bottles. Classic French being some of the highlights. Lots have tried to copy, some have got closer than others. Some of the ‘New World’ wines if you closed your eyes, are dead ringers! Flowstone comes to mind as does a Kumeu River ‘Mates’ vineyard—But sometimes a good oaky, buttery Chard hits the spot: Beringer!
We know you host fantastic tastings for guests at The Renaissance Club, a final qualifying venue For The 147th Open Championship and host of the ASI Scottish Open 2019. We hear most of your functions go on for days and perhaps the reason why you buy large formats! Please describe the experience your guests receive…
I am delighted to say that I am the proud Ambassador for The Renaissance Club in Lothian, a Private course just outside Edinburgh. It’s a fantastic new golf course (10 years old) that this year will host the Scottish Open. We have many international members who are keen on their wines! One of my first duties at the club was to host an ‘Ambassadors’ evening; 2 days of golf and good food. I supplied some wines for the members to taste. I think they liked them! They managed to plough through several Imperials of red, Double Mags of Rosé and a quantity of Mags of white. A good time was had by all—with maybe the odd headache!! If I had been opening standard bottles all night, I would have been there forever. Large bottles are very practical at times!!
Who can join a guests list for your super wine events?
You need to be invited! Watch this space!
You are our biggest buyer of large format bottles, is this because it’s club policy that wine is poured by the litre and not by the glass?
My love for Large Format Wines actually comes from a boys fishing trip I go on. 12 guys who all like a nice glass or two. We have a set of Riedel tasting glasses (sorry Stu!), by the time I have finished pouring the twelfth glass the first guy wants a top up; by the time that is done we are looking for the next DMag or Imperial. If I were opening normal bottles, there would be no time for fishing!
Is The Renaissance Club wine list mainly old world, would you like to see more Aussie wines on the list?
The wine list at The Renaissance Club is very international. The members like to have variety. Although I’m biased and try to push them towards having more Australian (with a little Californian thrown in).
We know you love the Shirvington and Two Hands wines. Which Vinorium wine do you think would be a good choice for a house wine of The Renaissance Club?
Shirvington and Two Hands are both some of my all-time favourites and would make fantastic ‘house’ wines, but I think they would also like Kay Brothers, St Hallett, Grant Burge, Vidal, Dry River and maybe one of my new faves Orin Swift! Could we have 8 house wines??
We know how full your schedule is for the upcoming months, which imperials are you most looking forward to opening?
Again an easy answer for me; Shirvington 08’ Shiraz closely followed by the Cab Sav! Although the 04’ Imps of Two Hands ‘Deer in Headlights’ are a real eye opener! As were the ‘Viking’ Imps I got! Decisions, Decisions!!
"If Leeuwin Art Series is the Margaret River Chardonnay ace, then Pierro is the king!"
Pierro Chardonnay is without question, a world-class wine and has won so many awards over the years. Moreover, it is well entrenched in the top three Chardonnays of Australia. Not withstanding the above accolades, the highly respected American magazine Wine & Spirits voted the Pierro Chardonnay the best in Australia, which and if truth be known, does not come as a surprise to those in the know! Pierro Vineyard lies in the central Willyabrup sub region of Margaret River. The fully mature ‘Gin Gin’ clone Chardonnay vines are closely spaced which increases relative humidity. The vineyard is very stony; at night the heat radiates back into the clusters of Chardonnay effectively burning off excessive levels of malic acid. Low levels of malic acid in the Chardonnay fruit means that the complex aromas and flavours derive from malo-lactic fermentation do not smother fruit definition. The wine is vinified in Burgundian fashion with barrel fermentation in new French oak, lees stirring (bâttonage) and lees contact. Doctor Mike Peterkin is able to combine a fastidious attention to detail with a relaxed approach. Pierro Chardonnay possesses incredible intensity, generosity, complexity and concentration.
Winemakers notes "100% Chardonnay Handpicked, hand-sorted, gently whole-bunch pressed. Fermented and matured in French oak (50% new, 50% one year old). Malolactic secondary fermentation. Hand-stirred on the lees for 12 months.
Following on from the low yielding 2015 and 2016 vintages, 2017 saw a return to normal yields. Summer was cool and there was rain late in March, after the chardonnay harvest at PIERRO had been completed. The 2017 continues the remarkable consistency and quality that is PIERRO Chardonnay. More aromatic than usual with hints of apple, melon and butterscotch. The palate is delicate and intense with length and precision. A wine that will build complexity with age and will reward cellaring."
**Available for delivery from Thursday 28th March**
£42.95 per bottle
Only 23 hours remain before prices revert.
Last Sunday we decided to discount all the Glaetzer-Dixon wines as we felt that everyone should get a chance to taste these amazing bottles.
Glaetzer-Dixon Reveur Pinot Noir 2015
* Last week's Wine of the Week *
97-98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “Ethereal is a good place to begin and certainly one of the best bottles of Pinot Noir I have drunk sub fifty-pounds. You would be mistaken to believe this wine has a decade of aging behind it due to the tawny rim. The bouquet is astonishing, and again would deliver a verdict of a mature wine; dried rose petals, cherry, warm minerals and a lovely savoury undercurrent. Close your eyes and think autumn with a splash of wild strawberry. The palate is fresh, medium-bodied, precise, with acidity judged to perfection. The wine fans-out with a lovely garden savouriness with bay leaf, cedar and finishes with dried, blood orange. As with many wines, I am drawn to the wines texture and this is ultimately blessed. It’s simply effortless, harmonic and will fill you and your glass with serenity”. Served in a Zalto Burgundy glass.
£37.95 per bottle
Glaetzer-Dixon Avancé Pinot Noir 2017
96+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “The Pinot Noir for the ’17 Avancé was sourced from three vineyards in Southern Tasmania’s Upper Derwent and Coal Valleys. Sweet, succulent entry with an abundance of red cherries, wild strawberry, plums and sweet spices all laced together with bright, perfectly judged acidity. Medium-bodied, with pure silky tannins. The quality of racy, plush fruit is exquisite however, it’s the wines overall balance and completeness which stands out the most. You will have to look very hard to find a better buy for the money. A wine of pure and total pleasure. Just gorgeous and not to be missed”. Served in Zalto Burgundy glass (Highly-Recommended by the way! ), drinking beautifully now but will develop over the next 3-6 years.
£22.50 per bottle
Glaetzer-Dixon La Judith Shiraz 2014
"If Mon Père is Saint-Joseph, this is Hermitage."
97 Points - Joe Czerwinski "Nick Glaetzer's incredible 2014 La Judith Shiraz smells something like pfeffernüsse and cherry preserves, offering layered aromas of cracked pepper, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg and red fruit. It's medium to full-bodied, feeling bigger and more expansive than its modest 13.7% alcohol, while being rich, silky and long. The oak, entirely new, has been nicely absorbed into the wine, contributing spice and texture without getting in the way of the fruit. It's a tour de force of Tasmanian Shiraz, albeit one produced in micro quantities of 232 bottles. If Mon Père is Saint-Joseph, this is Hermitage."
Was £100.00 per bottle
Glaetzer-Dixon Mon Père Shiraz 2016
97 Points - Stuart McCloskey “A Shiraz which is lighter on its feet but full of pedigree. The flavours are layered and beautifully defined with cherry, violets and sweet spices. Silky, expressive without being brash which is very much the skill of Nick. Fresh, nuanced and again, produced with a captivating sense of elegance. There is nothing missing with Nick’s Shiraz, just a different and refreshing, new perspective. Gorgeous and I am looking forward to seeing how this develops over the next five years. Just lovely."
£42.50 per bottle
Irresistible offers not to be missed
We thought we would offer a wee-discount on both the 2014 & 2015 Eileen Hardy chardonnays offered at irresistible prices.
We've also included the HRB range which are cross-regional blends produced from hand selected grapes. Only the premier Australian regions for each varietal are considered for inclusion. They have all been awarded 95 points from James Halliday and are currently priced at just £15.00 per bottle.
Finally, with a heavy heart, we will be de-listing their super-premium Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon and we offer our remaining stocks at prices to sell.
Farewell to the ABC club!
Loved or loathed? Chardonnay is a grape variety that, more than any other can cover a spectrum of styles and flavours almost as broad as wine itself. From lean and taut, fresh citrus, steely and saline to rich, buttery styles, ripe with peach and apricot fruit. It is a vital ingredient to many of the world’s great sparkling wines, either blended with the Pinots or just on its own. It’s natural acidity, ability to age and aptitude for taking on the flavours of its production process make it an ideal choice for sparkling wine. It has been planted across the globe, in all soils and all climates and has an unquestionable ability to express, through its character, the conditions in which it is grown.
It is happily grown in any climate and simply adjusts its style accordingly. In cool climates such as New Zealand, Tasmania and Chablis, it can show its fresher side, with crisp, vibrant orchard fruit and citrus flavours. In warmer climates, it can be soft and ripe with a stone fruit profile or even become tropical showing pineapple, mango, or on occasions, banana. It has a natural affinity with oak; old oak helping to soften acidity and add texture, producing a rounder, softer style while new oak imparts flavours and aromas of toast, flint, vanilla or coconut, to name a few. When bâtonnage is applied, stirring the yeast deposits that form at the bottom of the barrel, further texture can be added, creating viscosity and biscuit flavours. When aged, Chardonnay can become nutty, with flavours of almond and hazelnut. Any number of methods can be applied to any condition and climate so it is no wonder that Chardonnay has such diversity of styles.
Prior to the 1980s, although still grown in moderation, Chardonnay was barely known across the world outside of Burgundy and Champagne. There were smatterings of premium level Chardonnay in California, such as Château Montelena, made famous in 1976 when it beat some of Burgundy’s best in the Judgement of Paris, but compared to today, it was exclusive to just a few regions. However, with the majority of these, especially the French examples, the geographical name of the wine was far more famous than the grape variety itself.
In the 1980s, with the rise of new world countries enjoying rapid commercial success across the world, their tendency to name the wine after its principal grape variety instead of the region or village helped to put Chardonnay on the map. Carving a reputation that has grown into being possibly the world’s most famous grape variety. In both California and Australia during the 1970s it accounted for a tiny proportion of vines grown, but by the early 1990s, Chardonnay had become the most widely planted white grape variety in both.
However, the success that the grape enjoyed during the 1980s and 1990s came at a cost. Its adaptability and unfussy nature in being easy to grow in any conditions led to an influx of high production plantings in the hot, interior regions of Australia’s Riverina and California’s Central Valley. The majority of these wines were bulk production, capitalising on the world’s thirst for the grape and were often produced to cheaply mimic the well-respected Burgundian style that many new world producers had adopted and produced to great success.
The oak influence of these high-quality wines was imitated with poor results often using oak chips to engulf the wine in flavours of sweet oak with none of the skilful subtlety, textural enhancements or general balance of the premium examples. These wines flooded the UK market, being glugged and guzzled in every pub, bar and restaurant around the country throughout a significant part of the 1980s and 1990s, satisfying the seemingly unquenchable thirst the UK had developed for the grape.
As with anything, too much of it can cause a swift fall from grace and this sickly, rich, overly oaked style of wine caused an entire generation to almost shun the grape variety for good. The self-proclaimed ABC club, “Anything But Chardonnay,” emerged soon after with scores of people associating this style of wine with the grape variety and vowing never to let it pass their lips again. Even if a particular wine only had Chardonnay as a minor component, many would still not even entertain the idea of drinking it and rather unfairly, blamed the grape and not the quality or production methods for the style of wine they had begun to loathe. The new world’s trend of varietally labelling dramatically backfired for this particular variety.
This remains however, only one side of the story and it is unfair and simply inaccurate to say that half of the world simply stopped drinking Chardonnay from the start of this century. Many quality wines continued to be produced, bought and enjoyed throughout, but there is no denying the damage that was made to the reputation of new world Chardonnay.
Still, as a result, the new world producers immerging at the beginning of the century had a stronger focus on quality, planting on the cooler regions and sites, closer to the coast or at a higher altitude, creating fresher styles reminiscent of the fine whites of the Cote d’Or. With these producers, Chardonnay began fighting back and today, its image across the new world is of quality, continuing to be the world’s most planted grape variety, but this time for the right reasons.
Today it is truly back with a vengeance, with Australia and the US leading the pack and New Zealand a close second also offering some great examples. Premium Chardonnay has found a home in many new world coastlines and hills, from Australia’s Margaret River or cool Tasmania, USA’s California coast or New Zealand’s Marlborough. Producers continue to revel in its diversity, crafting everything from fresh, vibrant styles abundant in citrus and mineral to powerful, complex wines, textured and long lived. We no longer talk about new world Chardonnay as simply a comparison to great Burgundy but instead refer to them as simply, some of the world’s greatest wines.
The styles of Chardonnay from the new world remain as diverse as ever, allowing us to experience all that this variety has to offer. Those that have shunned this grape for good are doing nothing more than missing out on the wonderful array of flavours, textures and styles that Chardonnay is capable of. Just from this single grape, you can find a wine to suit every palate.
Here, we take a look at the various personalities of what continues to be the world’s most famous grape.
Bright, fresh and vibrant
Watershed Senses Chardonnay 2016
Gold Medal - 2018 Melbourne International Wine Competition
Gold Medal – 2017 Wine Show of Western Australia
96 Points – James Halliday Wine Companion 2016 "Small batch-fermented in French oak (18.5% new) on lees for 7 months with light battonage. The combination of high quality cool grown grapes and sensitive winemaking has produced this lovely chardonnay, the first release of a chardonnay in the Senses range. Delicacy teams with intensity (an oxymoron if ever there was one), grapefruit, white peach and nectarine the drivers, not the oak."
£17.95 per bottle
90 Points - Antonio Galloni
"The highlight in this range from Foxglove, the 2014 Chardonnay packs a serious punch for the money. Bright, juicy and exuberant, the Foxglove Chardonnay will thrill readers looking for a budget-priced Chardonnay. Lemon peel, white flowers and mint meld together in a rich, beautifully layered Chardonnay long on class. Aging in steel and blocked malolactic fermentation keep the flavors bright, but there is no shortage of depth or intensity. This is a fabulous wine, especially considering its modest price."
£16.95 per bottle
Kumeu Village Chardonnay 2016
18 Points - Raymond Chan "Bright straw-yellow colour with some depth, lighter on the edge. The nose is softly full and gently up-front and voluminous with aromas of yellow stonefruits in an amalgam with white peaches and a subtle mealy and nutty overlay. Medium-full bodied, the palate is stylishly up-front with flavours of ripe yellow stonefruits and peaches with nutty and savoury mineral interest. The mouthfeel has fruit richness lending rounded textures and plenty of presence. The wine flows positively along a fine phenolic line leading to a lingering dry finish of stonefruits, nuts and mealy detail. This is an elegantly rich, up-front Chardonnay with ripe stonefruit, nutty and mealy flavours with good weight, a rounded mouthfeel and a dry finish. Match with poultry, pork and veal over the next 3+ years. Hand-picked Kumeu fruit, WBP and indigenous yeast fermented, 75% in tank and 25% in seasoned oak to 13.5% alc., the wine given extended lees aging, undergoing 100% MLF"
£11.95 per bottle
Talbott Vineyards Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay 2016 - UK Exclusivity
97 Points - Stuart McCloskey
"By far, the standout wine from the Talbott samples which I received. The nose unfolds with some aeration but retains its tight, mineral and steely fresh character – a nutty character unfolds after a while. The palate offers a degree of richness but has a tight and elegant core which is most attractive. Buttered citrus, stone fruits and tropical layers in abundance with touches of toast and oak. The mouthfeel and textural grip are impressive which support the wine’s overall harmonious balance. Lovely acidity and vitality which contrasts beautifully with the ripe fruit and toasty, mealy flavours. This is just beginning to show its full potential and will comfortably cellar for 5+ years. Excellent and served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware."
£37.95 per bottle
Sanford & Benedict
99 points - Stuart McCloskey
"Almost a repeat of my introduction from the 2013 vintage - “In short, this is one of the most astonishing Chardonnays which I have enjoyed for many years”, however the 2014 just eclipses the stunning 2013. A difficult wine to describe as superlatives do little, if any justice. Incredibly graceful, almost a weightless elegance, feminine, magnificently detailed bouquet which expresses minerality like no other US chardonnay. The palate is developing all the time with a core of minerality.
Presently, this is a wine that is all about finesse and elegance, as flavours will develop with a little more bottle age. Utterly magnificent! (Please decant)."
£40.50 per bottle
95 Points - Bob Campbell
"First release of a new Marlborough chardonnay. Full-flavoured, with salty, briny, citrus, toasty yeast lees and spicy oak flavours. Lively, tangy wine with a pleasing texture and lengthy finish. Intensity and power suggest good cellaring potential. Clearly one to watch"
£31.95 per bottle
Richer and broad shouldered
Lisa Perrotti-Brown (RobertParker.com)
"The 2016 Chardonnay Mannequin has delicate peach blossoms and ripe pears notes with hints of ginger, freshly baked bread and allspice. Full-bodied with a seductive oiliness to the texture, it fills the palate with spicy pears plus savory/toasty nuances, finishing long and perfumed. 8,100 cases produced."
£31.95 per bottle
Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2013
97 Points - Stuart McCloskey "The 2013 is a beautiful and well endowed Chardonnay. Rich, buttery pastry (a touch of crème pat / crème brulée) coats the palate. This is quite simply the richest chardonnay I have come across in a very long time, yet displaying incredibly ethereal elegance. I love the notes honeysuckle, poached pear with a little citrus underpinning the evocative mouthfeel. This is a magnificent Chardonnay which drinks amazingly well now but has the quality and structure to last another 6-8 years."
£37.95 per bottle
Paul Hobbs Ellen Lane Estate Chardonnay 2014
95-97 Points - Robert Parker "The 2014 Chardonnay Ellen Lane Estate exhibits more gravelly, wet pebble notes and loads of uplifted aromatics, including peach, pineapple, orange rind and lemon blossom. It is again a complex style of Chardonnay made from a cold microclimate."
£105.00 per bottle
Our top Chardonnay
Ramey Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2013
Winemakers notes: 2013 summed up to be a perfect vintage with clear sunny days and cool evenings. This produced a long, moderate growing season with extended hang time and even ripening, resulting in a full range of flavors while retaining natural acidity.
We press the whole clusters for delicacy. Native-yeast and full native malolactic fermentation take place in barrel, with sur lies bâtonnage. After aging 12 months in 20% new French and Hungarian oak barrels (François Frères and Demptos), this Chardonnay is fined and stabilized in tank during the following harvest. It was then bottled without filtration in February, 2015.
Coming from these two special vineyard sites (77% Martinelli Charles Ranch Vineyard; 23% Platt Vineyard), our Sonoma Coast Chardonnays show great depth of flavor, length of finish, aromatic complexity, and a fine balance between richness and delicacy. These two vineyards have typically cool climates, low vigor soil, and a vine selection that generate small berries, small clusters and inherently low yields.
£36.50 per bottle