Issue: 9 / Sunday 21 January, 2018
The Wine Merchant Judging Panel
Written by Stuart McCloskey
The Wine Merchant magazine is an excellent and informative independent monthly read for wine retailers, which is posted out to all 624 UK merchants who own a shop (The criteria for receiving their publication). This week I was asked to join their judging panel to assess a large range of Californian Wines, which is one of my specialities.
My fellow judges (representing a good mix of merchants) all met in London and we set to the task of assessing the wines. There were considerable numbers to judge, therefore we paired off and took set flights which had been pre-organised by grape variety. The wines were not served blind, recommended retail prices were listed and all judges were to use the 100 point scoring system. 85 points being their level for an acceptable wine.
My fellow judge and partner for the day, the enthusiastic Dich Oakley from The General Wine Co, tucked into the first Chardonnay flight, which offered a mixed bag, both in terms of price point and styles ranging from entry level at circa £15.00 per bottle to wines around £55.00. Both Dich and I agreed that the majority of Flight 1 disappointed. Entry level wines were flat, uninspiring and far too expensive. However, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars ‘Karia’ was excellent and something I will certainly be looking at stocking for The Vinorium. One of our wines, Liquid Farm’s was another standout (no bias as the majority of judges were in agreement).
We moved onto Flight 2: Pinot Noir. California Pinot Noir does not come cheap. In fact, it would be accurate to state that £30.00 does not guarantee a good bottle. £40.00 to £80.00 is sadly, where the majority of good+ to exceptional Pinot Noir stands today, which was quickly reinforced during our tasting. Far too many wines were simply not inspiring for their respective price tag with the exception of Lutum, a joint venture between Bill Price and Gavin Chanin.
Flight 3 was classified as odds & sods – Perhaps unusual blends or wines which ultimately did not fit into straight forward varietal flights. I will be candid – Some of these wines were shocking, bordering unpalatable however, I understand they have a place in the market which I personally find difficult to comprehend. My score range was low – Not one wine found favour above 70 points!
Flight 4 followed a brief lunchtime interlude. Chardonnay take II with some pleasing results but not one outstanding wine.
Flight 5 covered Cabernet Sauvignon, which I left to my fellow judges as time was running away from us. I heard some good things from Justin Knock MW (UK Director of Californian Wine Institute) and I have certainly experienced some great Cabernets from the Napa and Washington.
My homeward bound journey allowed me the time to reflect on my days tasting. If I had to summarise in a few short sentences – I would declare that many wines disappointed (too many wines received a score range from 78-85). The price Vs quality was a serious issue for me as many wines came up short. I would declare that New Zealand offers better Pinot Noir sub £35.00. Margaret River and New Zealand are comfortably ahead with their Chardonnays sub £35.00 too. Granted, there is some wonderful wines coming out California and we are serious ambassadors for the great wines of Paul Lato, DuMOL, Gavin Chanin, Gramercy Cellars, RAEN, Liquid Farms, Paul Hobbs and Varner to name a few however, as a huge wine growing region, California is off track and losing ground at this price point.
It also brought home how spoilt we are at The Vinorium with our wonderful collection.
100 Points, the only full case offered in the world market & a Domaine Romanée Conti-like resemblance says Robert Parker...
Peter Michael Ma Danseuse Pinot Noir 2012
100 Points Robert Parker “The compelling 2012 Pinot Noir Ma Danseuse (1,480 cases) is even better than the 2013. Notes of lead pencil shavings, DRC-like forest floor, black raspberry, blackcurrant, Asian plum sauce, rose petal and sweet cherry characteristics are found in this spectacular, multidimensional, prodigious Pinot Noir that should drink well for 10-15+ years. The clonal material probably came from one of the DRC vineyards, so it is not surprising that in this cool climate, with the great fruit purity California can achieve, there is a DRC-like resemblance.”
What’s been the
Hottest Trades this Week?
As expected, many of our customers took advantage of our January Under Bond Australia Sale with a staggering 11,498 bottles selling within the past seven days. Over 90% of the stock is heading to our customers in Hong Kong, which is a
pattern we see weekly.
SOLD OUT - 2007 CLARENDON HILLS HICKINBOTHAM SYRAH
SOLD OUT - 2004 KAY BROTHERS AMERY HILLSIDE SHIRAZ
SOLD OUT - 2008 TWO HANDS ANTEROS
SOLD OUT - 2007 TWO HANDS APHRODITE
SOLD OUT - 2006 TWO HANDS COACH HOUSE BLOCK SHIRAZ
SOLD OUT - 2007 TWO HANDS COACH HOUSE BLOCK SHIRAZ
SOLD OUT - 2008 TWO HANDS COACH HOUSE BLOCK SHIRAZ
SOLD OUT - 2003 TWO HANDS DEER IN HEADLIGHTS
SOLD OUT - 2004 TWO HANDS DEER IN HEADLIGHTS
SOLD OUT - 2005 TWO HANDS DEER IN HEADLIGHTS
SOLD OUT - 2006 TWO HANDS DEER IN HEADLIGHTS
SOLD OUT - 2007 TWO HANDS DEER IN HEADLIGHTS
SOLD OUT - 2009 TWO HANDS WINDMILL SHIRAZ
2012 Wolf Blass Black Label:
98+ Points Stuart McCloskey
“Textbook aromas of pencil lead, blackcurrants and touch of wood smoke intermixed roasted meats, dried herbs, ground pepper and blackberries. The 2012 possesses great purity and the quality of the fruit is clearly evident as is the winemaking skill. The wine is elegant and impeccably balanced – Not a hair out of place. Silk-like tannins compliment the deeply layered fruit and the seamless acidity keeps everything in check. The finish seems eternal, which is exactly what you want it to be. Simply stunning, an absolute joy to drink now (3-4 hours in a decanter) but will live well into 2030+”.
2001 Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard Shiraz
@ £79.50 IB per case of six
Our Nearest World Competitor Pricing: Crump, Richmond & Shaw @ £141.50.
Only 19 x Cases Left