The Importance Of Vintages

What makes a good vintage, and what’s in a year? Why do those four digits printed on the label provoke such debate between wine enthusiasts, and even determine the value of some wines? Gary Bates, Majestic’s Marketing Manager, tackles these very important questions.

As with any fruit, the quality of the grapes used is directly dependant on the conditions in which they are grown, and the weather can vary enormously from one year to the next. This influences every point in the growing season, from the time when the vines begin to flower, to the time when the bunches of fruit appear, all the way through to the harvest.

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A growing season of perfectly-timed rain and sunshine may lead to a perfect, healthy harvest. On the other hand, extreme heat or cold, excessive rain or freak hailstorms can seriously upset an entire crop. As a consequence, weather conditions also affect the decisions made by vignerons regarding leaf pruning, management of yields, irrigation (where permitted) and most crucially, the date of the harvest. Those with skill and experience can still produce excellent quality grapes under less-than-ideal conditions with careful vineyard management and well-timed harvesting, particularly when assisted by a bit of good luck!

Some parts of the world enjoy relatively similar conditions every year, while the more marginal climates can be extremely challenging, and often lead to wide variation in quality or style between vintages. Back-to-back tasting of two vintages from the same producer can provide a fascinating insight into the influence of different climatic conditions experienced in each year.

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Knowledge about a vintage can also help you to answer that nagging question of when you should open a wine to enjoy it at its best. While certain vintages may favour rich, firmly structured wines with great ageing potential, others may be better suited to lighter, more elegant wines that can be better appreciated in their youth.

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The Importance Of Vintages

Light Up Winter

Winter is coming.

Cold, crisp mornings where the frost catches your breath turning to mist before your eyes, where leaves crunch beneath your feet. The dark gloom of morning lasting longer each day as the equinox looms closer, the dusk of twilight ever earlier as the days grow short.Royal Circus Winter

It is a time for long evenings; hearty, slow-cooked food; rich, smooth and silky red wine; warm evenings on the sofa – staying in is the new going out.

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Let’s invite over our friends, and find a new favourite wine to share with them. A glass of prosecco chase the gloom away, an inviting smell of home cooking drifting through as guests arrive. In the kitchen one glass for the saucepan, one glass for the chef. Open some bottles, be generous with the people who matter most. Smile, eat, drink, enjoy. Bring a sense of occasion to the long dark and brighten it with laughter.

Let’s light up winter.

Whisky

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Light Up Winter

Kangarilla Road Tasting

Kangarilla Road is hands-down one of our favourite producers in Australia’s McLaren Vale, so we were absolutely thrilled when Kevin O’Brien, the winemaker and founder of the family-owned vineyard, offered his time to our staff for a tasting held in London last night.  Kevin had just flown in from Vancouver, so his stay in London was pit-stop on his way back home.  For a man whose internal clock was telling him it was 5am the next day, he was on fantastic form.

kevinobrienKevin already had 20 years of experience as a winemaker when he founded Kangarilla Road in 1997 with his wife Helen, who came from the fashion industry – he brought the skill, and she brought the style!  The McLaren Vale is in South Australia, about an hour outside Adelaide, and is renowned as one of Australia’s top quality wine regions producing some of the best wines to come out of the Southern Hemisphere.  Geography is a huge factor, as is the geological composition of the soil on which the vines are planted.  As Kevin explained, you’re never far from the sea in McLaren, so it’s a massive factor influencing the climate.  It’s Mediterranean with warm summers and mild winters, but with massive diurnal range meaning that during summer the temperatures can soar to 35+ centigrade during the day and drop to 10 centigrade overnight.  The reason for this is its exposure to the South-Westerly coming from Antarctica, its path broken by Kangaroo Island off the coast and cliffs along the beautiful sandy beaches on the mainland.

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One of the most exciting – and educational – elements of the tasting was his introduction of the Scarce Earth Project, an incredible research effort into creating terroir wines in an effort to better map and understand the unique terroir of McLaren Vale.  He believes that they have actually identified soil components that add specific textural and structural elements into a wine.  Flavour and style may vary from wine to wine, but three winemakers have found – independently of one another – wines grown on certain limestone soils all share similar chalky tannins.  The next stage will be to perform chemical analysis of the soil and the wines from that soil to examine how much uptake of mineral elements can be found in the grapes pre-and-post vinification.

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We tasted through the range carried by Majestic along with a few museum releases to show how the wines develop.  Kevin explained that in his mind whether or not a wine is intended to age isn’t really important, but if after ten years it still tastes good, it’s a sign that all the components were there for it to be a great wine in the first place.  In other words, he makes wine that can be enjoyed on release, but by making sure that the wine is made well from good grapes and handled well from the outset, you get a wine that tastes good at all stages of its life.  We tried a 2005 Cabernet along side the current 2011, and a 2004 Shiraz alongside the 2011 release, and they were drinking wonderfully.  We could sense the connection in the wines, but we also enjoyed the differences.

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The tasting finished with the 2011 Scarce Earth Project Shiraz – a wine which had to pass an independent panel review to be considered part of the project.  It was expressive, rich and silky with powerful fruit and delicate lifted aromatics – balanced, fine and with deliciously chalky tannins.  Definitely McLaren Vale, and very much an elegant expression of Shiraz but with power throbbing beneath the surface.

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We’re immensely grateful to Kevin for sharing his expertise (and the wines) with us, and incredibly excited to add the Scarce Earth Project Shiraz to our range.  It’s a very special wine and represents something very exciting.

You can browse the Kangarilla Road wines online here.  The Scarce Earth Project Shiraz is passing through customs at time of writing, so we hope to see it in store soon!

 

Kangarilla Road Tasting

Producer Profile: Trebuchet

Q: What do a church organ, a Ford Fiesta and a 300L wine barrel have in common?

A: They’ve all been launched by Dionysus, the 60ft medieval trebuchet at Journey’s End.

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The latest addition to our South African wine range, the Trebuchet wines are a new release from Journey’s End to mark the construction of a 12.4 ton, 60ft tall medieval trebuchet.

Journey’s End estate, owned by the Gabb family from Shropshire, sits on the Schapenberg Hills of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Near False Bay, they are the closest vineyards in Stellenbosch to the sea and this coastal influence means that they are generally a few degrees cooler than the wineries closer to the town of Stellenbosch. This gives them the potential for fantastic natural acidity and freshness.

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They’re not the first winery to build a trebuchet, but much like their wines, the Gabb family took the approach that if you’re going to do something, you should do it properly. After working a harvest with Wirra Wirra in McLaren Vale, Rollo Gabb was inspired by their medieval machine of war and reckoned he knew just the people to do it bigger. Three large Douglas Fir Trees were selected from the Dudmaston Estate near Bridgnorth and felled in March 2013. The metalwork, including the beam and 100 steel plates, was then commissioned at Marchbrook Shropshire and the trebuchet completed during the summer.

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A test launch was held – a Ford Fiesta, a piano and the defunct organ from Acton Round Church were thrown several hundred metres across a field to raise £1000 for a new church organ. Now tested, the great machine was dismantled and loaded into a 40ft container labelled as an art installation to be shipped to its new home in the warmer climes of the Cape, where it is now used to raise money for the community of Sir Lowrys Pass Village.

TREBUCHET in Shropshire: flinging objects (a car, an organ and a 'bomb') to raise funds for local church.

Our buyer for South Africa, Matt Pym had a go.

Watch the video to find out the full story behind the construction of this magnificent recreation of an ancient machine of war, put to far less bellicose use!

You can explore the fresh and lively Trebuchet Chardonnay here, and the deliciously savoury red blend here.

Producer Profile: Trebuchet

Producer Profile: Trebuchet

Q: What do a church organ, a Ford Fiesta and a 300L wine barrel have in common?

A: They’ve all been launched by Dionysus, the 60ft medieval trebuchet at Journey’s End.

T1

The latest addition to our South African wine range, the Trebuchet wines are a new release from Journey’s End to mark the construction of a 12.4 ton, 60ft tall medieval trebuchet.

Journey’s End estate, owned by the Gabb family from Shropshire, sits on the Schapenberg Hills of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Near False Bay, they are the closest vineyards in Stellenbosch to the sea and this coastal influence means that they are generally a few degrees cooler than the wineries closer to the town of Stellenbosch. This gives them the potential for fantastic natural acidity and freshness.

T30

They’re not the first winery to build a trebuchet, but much like their wines, the Gabb family took the approach that if you’re going to do something, you should do it properly. After working a harvest with Wirra Wirra in McLaren Vale, Rollo Gabb was inspired by their medieval machine of war and reckoned he knew just the people to do it bigger. Three large Douglas Fir Trees were selected from the Dudmaston Estate near Bridgnorth and felled in March 2013. The metalwork, including the beam and 100 steel plates, was then commissioned at Marchbrook Shropshire and the trebuchet completed during the summer.

T31

A test launch was held – a Ford Fiesta, a piano and the defunct organ from Acton Round Church were thrown several hundred metres across a field to raise £1000 for a new church organ. Now tested, the great machine was dismantled and loaded into a 40ft container labelled as an art installation to be shipped to its new home in the warmer climes of the Cape, where it is now used to raise money for the community of Sir Lowrys Pass Village.

TREBUCHET in Shropshire: flinging objects (a car, an organ and a 'bomb') to raise funds for local church.

Our buyer for South Africa, Matt Pym had a go.

Watch the video to find out the full story behind the construction of this magnificent recreation of an ancient machine of war, put to far less bellicose use!

You can explore the fresh and lively Trebuchet Chardonnay here, and the deliciously savoury red blend here.

Producer Profile: Trebuchet

My Secret Marlborough: Matt Patterson-Green

We asked Matt Patterson-Green, Winemaker at Jackson Estate, to share some of his secret places to see, sleep, drink and eat in Marlborough.  If you make the trip down under, be sure to check them out!

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SEE

Marlborough is very much an outdoor orientated region with many things to do. Walk and fish, run, mountain bike or ride a horse along the banks of one of its rivers. Or relax and take a ride on the River Queen whilst enjoying and local wine matched with fresh local produce.

River Queen

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SLEEP

For a fantastic dining experience it’s hard to beat Herzog Restaurant, however a little known secret is the wonderful little cottage out the back that is available for weekends. Definitely my choice for relaxing and waking up amongst the vines.

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DRINK

There are many fine establishments for a tasty beverage or two but I like nothing more than enjoying a locally brewed craft beer from Dodson St. With a range of local and regional micro brewed beers on tap and a selection of local wine it’s a great way to wind down and relax at the end of the week.

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EAT

Rockferry Cafe. In an old converted Homestead Rockferry offer a wonderful selection of local seafood, cheeses and produce. One of my favourite places to pass a lazy Sunday lunch.

Discover the wines of Jackson Estate online at Majestic.  Click here to see them on our website.

My Secret Marlborough: Matt Patterson-Green

My Secret Marlborough: Matt Patterson-Green

We asked Matt Patterson-Green, Winemaker at Jackson Estate, to share some of his secret places to see, sleep, drink and eat in Marlborough.  If you make the trip down under, be sure to check them out!

Matt_Patterson_Green

SEE

Marlborough is very much an outdoor orientated region with many things to do. Walk and fish, run, mountain bike or ride a horse along the banks of one of its rivers. Or relax and take a ride on the River Queen whilst enjoying and local wine matched with fresh local produce.

River Queen

See 1

SLEEP

For a fantastic dining experience it’s hard to beat Herzog Restaurant, however a little known secret is the wonderful little cottage out the back that is available for weekends. Definitely my choice for relaxing and waking up amongst the vines.

sleep 1

sleep 2

DRINK

There are many fine establishments for a tasty beverage or two but I like nothing more than enjoying a locally brewed craft beer from Dodson St. With a range of local and regional micro brewed beers on tap and a selection of local wine it’s a great way to wind down and relax at the end of the week.

drink 1

drink 2

EAT

Rockferry Cafe. In an old converted Homestead Rockferry offer a wonderful selection of local seafood, cheeses and produce. One of my favourite places to pass a lazy Sunday lunch.

Discover the wines of Jackson Estate online at Majestic.  Click here to see them on our website.

My Secret Marlborough: Matt Patterson-Green

Producer Profile: Invivo

What do you get when you cross a business professional with a passion for wine and a talented winemaker in New Zealand? The answer is Invivo.

When founders Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron released their first bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in 2008, they had ambitions for creating something more than a little bit special.  Rather than make a wine that tastes of gooseberries, they wanted to make wine that tasted of wine, something to excite newcomer and wine connoisseur alike.  Watch the video below to find out the story behind the wine.

Discover Invivo online at Majestic.  Click here to see them on our website.

Producer Profile: Invivo

Producer Profile: Domaine Zind-Humbrecht

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht is owned and run by father-and-son team Léonard and Olivier Humbrecht. Olivier has the honour of being the first Frenchman to qualify as a Master of Wine. Their philosophy is to create wines true to the terroir of each vineyard, in order to show the unique diversity and complexity of each specially chosen site. It was founded by Léonard Humbrecht in 1959 when he married Geneviève Zind and merged their holdings, though the Humbrechts can claim a father-to-son tradition of winemaking dating back to the 1620s.

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Today, his son Olivier and Olivier’s wife Margaret run the Domaine. Olivier is one of the leading lights in Alsace, if not the wine world. He is a firm believer in making wine according to both organic and biodynamic principles; he is the president of Biodyvin, a certifying body for biodynamics especially for viticulture. Terroir is important to him and following these principles allows him to express a sense of place in every wine he makes.

For those unfamiliar with the term, biodynamics is the principle of planting, tending and growing using a holistic approach to agriculture; in many ways it is as much spiritual as it is scientific, sometimes following an astrological calendar, but the central tenet is that the vineyard should be a carefully managed, self-sufficient ecosystem. It features the use of herbal and mineral preparations, such as cow manure and ground quartz which are buried in cow horn for a period before being sprayed or sprinkled on the vineyard.  If that sounds like wine-voodoo to you, the results are worth it; the care and attention lavished on the vineyard and in the winery often produces exceptional results.

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The Domaine stretches over 6 communes within Alsace, and comprises of 40 hectares of vines in a patchwork of different terroirs. Near the village of Turckheim, the gravel soils of Herrenweg are ideally suited to the pungently aromatic Gewurztraminer, which needs good ripeness to show its best. In 2011, warm conditions meant they got just that and carefully picked harvest dates ensured the crop was in perfect condition.

Zind-Humbrecht has a reputation for producing wines with fantastic concentration, employing low yields alongside biodynamic viticulture so that the quality of the terroir shows itself in every vintage. Their aim is to create a balance between vine and vineyard, which gives healthy balanced grapes and harvesting by hand means that only the very best grapes make it to the winery doors. For the Turckheim Gewurztraminer Olivier uses whole-bunch pressing, followed by very slow fermentation in traditional oak casks. In some casks the fermentation can last anything from a month to a year, which along with 6 months lees contact adds even greater texture and complexity to the wine.

Traditional Alsatian oak fermentation casks

Olivier describes the wine as “…pale yellow, despite a high ripeness level of the grapes. The nose doesn’t show such richness and is quite delicate and subtle, only showing a few floral aromas (roses, geranium). The palate is unctuous and pleasing, there is no heaviness as the alcohol is quite low for a Gewurztraminer. Like many 2011 wines, this wine will age elegantly. Perfect with many spicy dishes!”

We’re really excited to offer Domaine Zind-Humbrecht’s Turckheim Gewurztraminer 2011 as an exclusive online parcel in unsplit 6-packs until 3pm Monday 13 October, or whilst stocks last.

Producer Profile: Domaine Zind-Humbrecht

Manager’s Mixed Case: Becky, Store Manager London City

Fancy taking a recommendation from one of our staff? This month, Becky, Manager of our London City store shares her favourite wines for October so you can enjoy exciting wines that she loves at very affordable prices.

“If you are feeling a bit down now that summer has drawn to a close, fear not, I have put together a selection of wines that will keep you company during the cooler evenings, right through to the festive season.

Firstly I have included the Invivo as a bit of a nod to the last of the summer nights. This Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region in New Zealand is beautifully smooth and crisp. It has a fantastic aroma of passion fruit and lime which leads into a palate of zesty citrus flavours. A perfect accompaniment to light fish and chicken dishes. If you’re finding it hard to admit that summer is coming to an end this is the wine to drink and reminisce.

Once you have finally come to terms with the end of summer and are starting to embrace the wonders of Autumn I suggest you give the Caixas Godello a try. This wine is delicate and rounded. The aromas of lemon, pear and melon lead into a soft rounded palate with remarkable texture. A great which is both light enough to enjoy on it’s own and weighty enough to go with most white meat and fish dishes.

The two reds that I have chosen are a definite must for the cooler evenings. The Vina Eguia Rioja Gran Reserva is a beautiful mature medium bodied wine. It has spent 30 month in oak giving it mellow flavours of raisin, prune and caramel. Couple this with the added complexity of vanilla, clove and leather and you’ve got a perfect example of a Gran Reserva Rioja. If you’re anything like me the thought of cooking after a hard day at work is not an appealing thought. So why not throw all the ingredients for a rich slow cooked lamb tagine in a slow cooker, head off to work and when you get home dish up, pour yourself a glass of this Rioja and put your feet up. Sounds like a perfect Autumn evening to me.

My final choice, the Santa Ana Malbec, is one that I tend to pull out at the end of a meal. It has lively plum and cherry characters on both the nose and palate, with supple tannins and a pleasantly soft finish. It is a great accompaniment to medium strength firm cheeses and a wine that I often take round to friends when going for dinner. Having said that I have been known to stock up at my local cheese shop and enjoy a glass or two at home with the curtains drawn and the heating on. It makes for a very cosy evening.”

Order your case of Becky’s favourites, available online until 3pm Monday 27th October.

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Manager’s Mixed Case: Becky, Store Manager London City