Berry Bros’ & Rudd has sponsored wine-pages for over a decade, during which the company has managed the impressive balancing act of honouring the values and traditions of its 300 year history, whilst extending its range of cutting edge online services, including their brand new web site at www.bbr.com. I have just tasted through a dozen wines from the BBR portfolio.
(2015) From the best recent vintage in English winemaking, BBR have gone to Gusborne Estate in Kent for this wine, which has been made to a fairly exacting specification: it is all Chardonnay with part of the base wine being fermented in oak barrels. There's a delicious creamy apple character on the nose, the barrel certainly adding a little toast and nuttiness, but a nice bruised fruit development from the time in bottle too. The palate has a softness, a hint of sweetness, but again that tight apple character, the Cox's pippin nuttiness and very good citrus acidity. It's another very convincing Blanc de Blancs from the 2011 vintage in England - and delicious.
(2015) From relatively cool Patagonia in Argentina, hundreds of miles south of Mendoza, a handsomely packaged Sauvignon Blanc that comes from barren desert vineyards. This is Sauvignon in a much more European rather than Kiwi style, the nose flooded with citrus and flinty, stony minerals with just hints of the leafier character and some cool stone fruit and lime. In the mouth it is richly textured with its 14% alcohol, but that biting clarity continues, touches of leafiness, hints of tropicality, but driving through with that core of lemon, apple and salty ozone character. A fine Sauvignon.
(2015) This is a South African Chenin in the barrel-fermented, ripe and honeyed style. With its 14% alcohol it is powerful, immediately so on the nose with toast and toffee apple, a squeeze of lemon and buttery sense of weight and richness. In the mouth it is full-flavoured and full-textured, there's a hint of exotic fruit ripeness and sweetness, then the creamy almond quality of the oak fills in beneath whilst the fresh acidity propels the finish. Just delicious, ready to drink, but should also cellar for a few years.
(2015) From one of my favourite Cretan producers (reviewed in-depth in 2012) this is a subtle but absolutely ravishing little wine that perfectly sums up the Lyrarakis family's obsession with celebrating local varieties, in this case the grape 'Dafni'. Pure and gentle on the nose there are delicate aromas of bay leaf and blossom, a subtle grapefruit peel note and hints of mint and sherbet. In the mouth it is bone dry, but it is textured too, with a great shock of citrus and cool apple and salt acidity.
(2015) Don't let the name or indeed the grape fool you: this is California does Italy, the wine from Lodi producer l'Uvaggio di Giacomo, who are obsessed with Italian varieties and also bottle Primitivo, Barbera and Moscato. There's a touch of waxiness on the nose - maybe like waxy lime peel - with a pleasing leafy green herb note and plenty of freshness. In the mouth it bursts with ripe and vivacious flavour, a touch of pepper and spice and plenty of crunch as well as hints of sweet smoky mango and lychee. Long, with a really fresh grapefruit and orange tang of acidity and only 12.5% alcohol, this really is a delight.
(2015) Cabernet Franc is the great red wine grape of Bordeaux's 'right bank' as well as the Loire Valley in France, and yet it is a variety that does not always travel well, finding nothing like the global popularity of its cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon. And yet when it is ripe and made well it offers a wonderful combination of full-fruited richness and an energised, lively personality. This is a terrific example of that, ripe and sweetly packed with blackcurranty fruit, yet so agile with its cherry and raspberry lick of red fruit acidity, svelte tannins and sappy and refreshing edge.
Like an excellent Loire red (or even a fine Cru Beaujolais in some ways), but with the dial turned up to 11. Watch the video for my full review and for specific food matching suggestions.
(2015) This is a Beaujolais Villages wine from vineyards in the village of Lantignié just north of the 'Cru' Régnié. A classic Beaujolais made with semi-carbonic maceration it is delightful stuff, just 12.5% alcohol and cherry-fresh with watercolour paintbox aromas and a sense of sappy, gravelly dryness on the nose. On the palate it is pitch perfect Bojo - soft red fruits, edged with briar and spice, and with a long, fresh finish showing moderate tannins and good, juicy acidity. Would be delightful with roast chicken or turkey.
(2015) For its own-label Margaux BBR hasn't stinted by having 2nd Growth Brane-Cantenac make thier wine. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, the vines are 35 years old on average, and the wine opens aromatically with classic cassis fruit, delicate earthiness and some cedar, and genuine Margaux perfume with subtle floral and tobacco hints. In the mouth it is perfectly balanced. The 13% alcohol is moderate, and the wine walks a lovely line between a touch of Bordeaux austerity and dustiness, and a more exuberant fruit concentration, sweetness and density. Tannins are polished, acidity it precise, and this has good savoury length as an archetypal Claret for Christmas drinking, or cellaring for five years or more.
(2015) Note that this Shiraz comes from the 2011 vintage, so has had a little time to soften. From cooler coastal vineyards it retains genuine freshness despite its 15% alcohol, the nose offering a fine grilled meat, crisp bacon fat character so typical of Syrah from cooler zones, as well as meaty berry fruits and white pepper spice. In the mouth it is hugely fruity, a great, deep core of ripe and sweet black fruit, but always edged by that meatiness, a touch of bittersweet endive, and freshening cherry acidity. It's a big, plush and textured wine without a doubt, but really well balanced.
(2015) This unfiltered Vin de France red comes from a steep hillside estate of 40-year-old vines that are farmed biodynamically. Bright crimson in colour, it has buoyant cherry and raspberry aromas and a little touch of red liquorice. In the mouth it is smooth and silky, with refined tannins, a naturally concentrated red fruit and effortless feeling of balance with its juicy acidity. Not hugely complex, but really rather long and with a touch of developing spice.
(2015) What a treat to have this class act in our case. From arguably Tuscany's greatest terroir, this Sangiovese was vinified in stainless steel before maturation in large Slavonian casks - the recipe for many of my favourite Brunelli. It comes from an organic estate farmed by the same family since the 1930s, and opens with the most evocative perfume of blood and tar, tobacco and ripe cherries, the fruit and smokines swirling in the glass, spice and pepper too. In the mouth that long cask ageing has softened the edges of a firm, intense wine, 15% alcohol adding to the plushness and sense of quiet authority, the palate dense but not not dull, enlivened by the spices, the juicy acidity and the tight liquoricy tannins. One to enjoy now with a steak or lamb, or to lay away for up to a decade.
(2015) Like their Margaux, BBR have gone to a top producer in the shape of Port house Dow for this wine, a blend of three top Port vintages, bottled in 2004. Traditonal 'crusted' Port is matured for 18 months or so in cask and aims to give the quality of Vintage Port at a lower price. In this case a full 10 years in bottle has produced a beaufifully mellow wine, not at all spirity, but filled with crushed, pulpy red fruits, exotic spice, floral, violet notes and hints of cocoa. On the palate it is sweet and soft, the richness and ripeness of the fruit supported by that chocolaty character and with the alcohol and acidity giving an authoritative, fresh finish. Have it with Stilton by all means, but I'd be even happier sipping a glass of it on its own after Christmas dinner (£19.75 by the six-bottle case).