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You’ll get an email whenever I publish something on here, pointing you to my latest jottings, with some extra info, and the odd post written on here, generally offering a more personal view. At most, you can anticipate one email a week – and, worst case scenario, if you are instantly filled with regret, you can unsubscribe at any moment. But another subscriber or two would make me feel almost as happy as being in a cellar and tasting epic wine (see below for pictorial evidence), and my hope is that it might bring just a fraction of that joy to you too.


Silence and scandal in Bordeaux

The tower of Ch. Latour

Although my past few posts have all been Bordeaux-centric, that is not the norm. For someone who spends much of their day job drafting offers for the grandest wines of Bordeaux, I’ve written relatively little about the region.

It’s the region that got me hooked on wine. I was interested in wine already, but a taste of 1989 Ch. Margaux made me realise how disarming, complex and enchanting it could be. A taste of 1989 Ch. Haut-Brion made me realise it could be life-changing.

Yet, while I’ve always loved the wines, I’m guilty of neglecting them – both in the glass and in the written word. I’ve found it all too easy to consider the region a little anonymous, lacking in the stories, personalities and evolution that makes me tick. Of course, that’s entirely unfair, and based merely on the fact that I haven’t had the chance to explore the region as much as I’d like. This year was the first time that I was immersed in en primeur fully – even if from afar. Since April, I’ve spoken to many of Bordeaux’s most talented and famous winemakers, and there have been stories aplenty.

Two articles have emerged and made their way into (digital) print in recent weeks. The first was a conversation with Jean Garandeau of Ch. Latour, delving into why the star estate seems to avoid the limelight (and talking about its undeniably world-class wines, even to me).

Most recently, I dove headfirst into the scandal of St Emilion’s classification system. I could have written a lot more (and that says a lot, given you’ll find 2,500 words or so here), but it was fascinating, and I can’t wait to follow the story as it unfolds – both with the 2022 classification, and the results of the ongoing court case.

Find both articles on frw.co.uk/editorial

A maiden vintage: Noëmie Durantou Reilhac

Noëmie Durantou Reilhac. Source: IMDB

I love this picture of Noëmie Durantou Reilhac: it captures the joy that I glimpsed in our conversation. I don’t get to talk enough women winemakers, let alone those that are in their 20s, and that’s a shame for the industry. The way in which she spoke about vines filled me with optimism, and excited to taste the wines she’d produced in 2020, her maiden vintage. They lived up to every expectation.

When Noëmie’s father, the legend Denis Durantou, passed away in May 2020, she stepped up to take over. The young winemaker (and actress, with her own theatre company) was now in charge of the family’s stable of illustrious properties, of which the jewel in the crown is Ch. l’Eglise-Clinet. But as the rain fell upon the vines, the threat of mildew building, there was little time to pause and consider the loss of the family’s patriarch. The vineyards weren’t waiting, so neither could they.

“When the harvest and vinification is over, it’s like waking up from a dream,” she told me. In 2020, I can only imagine what a blur the year must have been.

Read the full interview on frw.co.uk/editorial

A long overdue round-up

Blogs were built to be badly managed – and so I have lived up to the expectation with a rather embarrassing two-year lull. Here’s a quick(ish) look at almost everything that I’ve penned in that time.

Talking shop

Interviewing might look a little different these days, with a rapport dependent on the strength of the WiFi connection, but nevertheless it hasn’t stopped me being able to speak to some wonderful people in the world of wine.

Tasting notes

Two years’ worth of jottings on a host of brilliant bottles spans the globe:

Looking beneath the surface

A constant theme throughout is the challenge of climate change, and how winemakers can take on the growing threat, as well as limiting the impact they have. I spoke to a number of California’s top winemakers to find out what they’re doing (a shorter summary of which you can find here), and more recently examined the issue in Burgundy – where with the delicacy of Pinot Noir and recent warm conditions, the situation feels increasingly tangible and ominous. I also penned a guide to the lingo around sustainability, with a quick run-down of the differences between organics, biodynamics, natural and more – including what they actually mean, if anything, for the wine in your glass.

Something stronger

Just occasionally I drift into the world of spirits:

Under the knife

Remember restaurants? Lovely places where people bring you wonderful plates of food and delicious drinks in exchange for dosh? A very long time ago, I visited some stellar places in the name of “work”: Bright, Levan, and the now-shut Emile were particular highlights (although crossed fingers for a permanent home for the team from the latter in the wake of Covid). Add the former two to your post-lockdown wish-list.

Other things

I’m still dreaming of Margaret River – in fact, three years ago today I was at Pierro learning how to run and clean the press. I wrote up a guide – should you ever be in the hood, here are some tips, mainly on what to eat and drink

Meet the maker: Charlotte Dalton & Cooke Brothers


“I’ve got a little bit of a thing for Semillon,” Charlotte Hardy smiles at me across her kitchen table, pouring her Love Me Love You Semillon. I’ve been bundled into the reassuringly normal chaos of family life – the day-to-day clutter of a baby and two wine brands lining the family’s kitchen surfaces, her partner Ben Cooke (of Cooke Brothers) feeding their gurgling daughter, Ada Grace. Charlotte’s dad – visiting from New Zealand – is even quietly settled in a corner. “I just love…” Charlotte continues, “It’s kind of the underdog variety, so I guess that’s why I like it.”

I touched down in Adelaide the day before, taking some time to explore the city before heading up to the Adelaide Hills – my first taste of South Australia. It’s an unconventional place to start, up here where a handful of producers – including the likes of Taras Ochota, BK Wines, Gentle Folk, Jauma and Lucy Margaux – have created a haven for natural wine, a cult that centres around the town of Basket Range. It’s a bucolic escape from the perceived industrial, conventional wine hubs of the Barossa and McLaren, village-like in both look and feel, with a real community of winemakers and wine drinkers.

Kiwi Charlotte Hardy started her brand, Charlotte Dalton, in 2015, after two decades making wine – both in New Zealand and Australia, as well as Europe, in particular a stint at Ch. Giscours for the “magical” 2005 vintage. “I’d be lying if I said that’s where I really decided I loved Semillon. I think I just decided to make it because it’s on the vineyard where I get my Shiraz. I made a tiny amount and just loved it. I’m thinking about doing different regions maybe, or different subregions… That might be the next thing, we’ll see.” She babbles excitedly, her brain fast-tracking on past now to what’s ahead. There’s a struggle, however, with Semillon – a variety that in her view still has a “really terrible reputation, like Merlot”. Even the block she gets fruit from currently is getting smaller and smaller, as patches are replaced with other more modish varieties.

Charlotte’s aim is to make Semillon that – unlike the lean and mean Hunter style – is pretty and, most importantly, approachable now. While some producers are starting to champion this underdog of a grape with skin contact iterations, “It’s not my bag,” Charlotte says – particularly with the thick-skinned Madeira clone she works with. “I like it just sort of clean and pure, I think if you leave it on skins for ages, you lose the Semillon-ness.”


Charlotte first came to the Hills as winemaker at The Lane, but left to set up a mobile wine lab after she realised no one was offering people a local service; a project and business which turned out to be an excellent way to build a network in South Australia (“I met a lot of winemakers and got to see a lot of wines and a lot of vineyards”, she tells me). It’s an important background, a scientific know-how that certainly influences her wine style; with strictly fault-free but minimal intervention winemaking – an approach that sometimes sits at odds with her trendy Basket Range locale.

“It’s an interesting movement,” Charlotte muses. “Being someone that’s not a natural winemaker that lives in Basket Range, I often get stuck in the debate and get quite heated about it. I dunno, there’s good arguments on both sides, I guess, why people head that way.”

For her part, she focuses on working with all wild ferments, minimal additions, only adding sulphur where she feels it’s necessary – for example, normally her Eliza Pinot Noir doesn’t get sulphured, but the fruit from the ’17 vintage wasn’t quite sound enough to warrant such a hands-off approach. “I like to look at the chemistry before I make a call like that. So if my pHs are fine, then I’ll go less sulphur – though not a huge amount of sulphur,” she explains. Both she and Ben focus on being microbially stable with as few additives as possible, but that is entirely dependent on the quality of fruit. The emphasis here is working in the vineyard, not only for quality, but to reduce work that would otherwise be necessary in the winery, for example, aiming to pick with super high acid, a natural preservative that will help reduce the need for additions further down the line.

“The market’s very forgiving at the moment, though, I think a lot of faulty wines are getting a lot of love,” Charlotte suggests. It’s certainly the case in the UK where wines with a certain kind of marketing appeal to wine drinkers – fanatics, most often – who are happy to guzzle fault-filled bottles, simply because they fit a certain profile. “Aldehyde,” Charlotte says – “Or mousiness,” Ben adds – “doesn’t have a location, does it? It’s not terroir.

Both she and Ben hope to see their wines age, which is one of the main reasons they steer clear of a totally natural approach. “My wines are gonna be hard to sell if they’re two years old and they’re stuffed,” Ben says. Having studied both winemaking and viticulture, Ben has split his time so far between the two (including many years at Shaw + Smith, and three vintages at William Selyem in California) – but at the moment his “day job” is managing vineyards across South Australia. His brand, Cooke Brothers is a joint venture between Ben and his two older (non-winemaking) brothers: “They sort of tell me what they want to drink, and I try and make it,” Ben jokes. “The youngest brother wants a Cabernet, oldest brother wants a chardonnay, I’ll get a Pinot out eventually!”

While many producers up in the Hills are championing skin-contact and pét-nat (and in many cases a fair dose of faults), it’s refreshing to encounter new faces like Charlotte and Ben. Trendy enough to fit into the region’s cool crowd, their wines – however – are enjoyably different, dedicated as they are to producing clean expressions of place, occupying the rare middle ground, sitting happily on the spectrum between natural and industrial, and producing utterly delicious wines.

The wines



2017 Love Me Love You Semillon

The “Love Me Love You” duo is the “entry point” to Charlotte’s range. Her Semillon (Madeira clone) comes from Balhannah, machine-picked green at around 11.5 potential alcohol – machine-harvested because she wants more lees than whole-bunch can offer, and wants to reduce the skin maceration by cutting down on the time the fruit spends clunking through different pieces of equipment (using sophisticated machine harvesters means the fruit is picked, sorted and de-stemmed in one fell swoop, going straight into a fermenter in the winery). The fruit is left on full lees, transferred to old oak after fermentation, stirred and bottled in the August after vintage.

In her words, it’s “an acid bomb”, but the time on lees rounds it out, adding weight to the palate. With pure, tart, green gooseberry fruit, there’s a herbal edge and citrus freshness balanced by the creaminess on the palate.

2017 Ærkeengel

Ærkeengel started out as an experiment, pushing – in Charlotte’s words – “the lees contact boundary”. When she bottles her Love Me Love You Semillon, she takes all the solids and puts them in a few remaining barrels, bottling it after a further six months on “double” lees (spending a total year in oak). She loved it so much that she carried on making it.

The nose is full of crisp lime sherbet, crunchy Granny Smiths, pear-skin and grapefruit pith. The palate has an intense, raw power and incredible texture thanks to all that time on lees. It’s unlike any other Semillon I’ve tasted – offering both laser focus and breadth on the palate, both bright and rich, it’s brilliant wine.

2017 Grace Chardonnay

Named after their daughter, Ada Pixie Grace. This is hand-picked and whole-bunch pressed, then fermented in 100 percent new oak. Nonchalantly walks the line between New and Old World, with deliciously generous fruit, a touch of toast and a taut line of acidity holding it all together. Superb.

2017 Eliza Pinot Noir

This comes from one of only two Pinot Noir vineyards in Basket Range, planted by Phil Broderick. Charlotte doesn’t punch down or pump over the fruit, simply – as she describes it – “flinging it down”, all whole-bunch in a fermenter under dry ice and then presses it after 10 days, to new oak. She avoids punching down or pumping over as she doesn’t want to extract greenness from the stems, as they tend not to get much lignification.

This juicy Pinot has an intense herbal edge to it. Wild strawberries and basil, with anise – almost a medicinal edge (in a good way). A tightrope line of acidity balances the intense and mouth-watering fruit.

2016 Love Me Love You Shiraz

From the same vineyard as her Semillon, this Shiraz is Wendouree clone, planted in the ‘80s (making it one of the oldest vineyards in the area). Thirty percent is fermented whole-bunch and it goes into 30% new oak. Bottled in August as a fruit-forward style in comparison to her Beyond the Horizon bottling (see below).

This is a deliciously perfumed un-Shiraz Shiraz: pure cherry and wild strawberry (almost gummy-bear-ish) is balanced by a medicinal edge, with layers of smoke and toast. All sweetness and spice, the palate is intense with more bright fruit. There’s serious structure hidden in the depths of the fruit and juicy freshness, suggestive of a long future.

2016 Beyond the Horizon Shiraz

In a similar way to Ærkeengel, Charlotte holds back a portion of her Shiraz to push the structure further: it spends another 12 months in oak, 75 percent new. Originally another experiment, it has earned a permanent place in her range.

The result is darker and broodier – yet with all the perfume and freshness of the Love Me Love You Shiraz. The palate offers seamless tannins that almost disappear with the freshness, offering almost a tap on the shoulder to remind you that this isn’t quite as dainty as it seems. Rich black cherry and bramble fruit, with a slight savoury, spicy twist.



2017 Fox Hill Vineyard Chardonnay

This vineyard was one of the first planted in the Hills, by Tony Jordan and Brian Croser, back in 1984, originally for sparkling wine. Ben picks his fruit at the same time as people picking from the same site for fizz, which gives you an idea of the acid level he’s after. That has been softened by full malo, some in two-year-old barrels, and a lot of lees stirring (over 9 months). Only four barrels were made, it was bottled in December.

Fresh and round with intense citrus, this is much leaner in style compared to the Schoenthal, but with an almost yoghurt-y depth to it. Ladel-fuls of lemon curd and tightly wound power. Needs time.

2017 Schoenthal Vineyard Chardonnay

This feels much more expressive at the moment – with lime blossom, sherbet intensity and pithy edge to it. On the palate, it feels taut with all the bright acidity, intensely vibrant with a zesty richness and citrus power that drives on to a long finish. “Insane” reads my note from a second tasting.

2016 Broderick Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

This is the first wine Ben made under the Cooke Brothers label – pushed by Charlotte to start making wine under his own label. He feels Cabernet can really thrive in the Hills, with similar temperatures to Bordeaux. The fruit – as he name suggests – comes from the Brodericks in Basket Range.

This is one of the prettiest expressions of Cabernet I’ve tasted – delicate cassis fruit and perfume, with an almost – and bear with me here – red apple edge. Bright and fruit-driven there’s nonetheless a smoky tone and a palate that has a fine frame of structure. The finish is spicy and fresh.


Who makes the rules?

Maria Hergueta_New Wine Rule s_Jon Bonne_bottles_crop

Illustration: María Hergueta

For most people, it’s the sight of Paul McCartney, Bradley Cooper or Beyoncé that leaves them weak at the knees; I worship at a less traditional altar of celebrity. The most talented winemakers, Jancis Robinson MW, Hugh Johnson (oh, Hugh!), these are the people who leave my jaw on the floor, suddenly lacking in vocabulary, unfamiliar with normal sentence structure – yet inexplicably filled with a desperate need to make some form of embarrassing contact.

It was this that prompted me – entirely unasked for – to introduce myself to Jon Bonné. I cringe every time I think about me, fangirling all over him. Seized by Champagne bravado, long-time admiration and his presence mere metres from myself, I ineffectively and inarticulately declared my love for him, his impeccable taste and his way with words. There are some writers whose palates seem to align with yours, guiding you perfectly to new discoveries, speaking thoughts that lurk garbled in a corner of your mind. For me, Jon Bonné is The One for me. He figuratively led my trip to California, inspired many of my visits in Australia – nudging me in the direction of producers I loved. His writings on Punch are my mainstay – the bread and butter of what is a fairly high-carb vinous literature diet.

His first book “The New California” should be an essential on every wine-lover’s shelf – capturing the excitement of new-gen Cali and sharing the whos and hows behind the movement. But his latest book came as a surprise – or at least it did to me. The New Wine Rules declares itself to be “a genuinely helpful guide to everything you need to know” – most surprisingly, it actually is. It doesn’t claim to teach you the difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay – instead it offers “a framework for embracing this weird, wonderful wine world that we get to live in”.

The book is, Bonné suggests, an answer to the fear that has pervaded the world of wine for generations: “fear of displaying bad taste or revealing what they don’t know. Screw that. Wine is too great a thing to be limited by fear.” It’s a call to arms for us to try harder to democratise wine, swipe away its elitist ways and make it fun – and it succeeds. It’s a book filled with the joy of drinking wine and, at its most basic level, shows you how not to be a wine wanker.

But there are elements in the book that don’t necessarily stick to its mission: while I agree 2,000% with the idea “Champagne is for pretty much any day of the year” (let it rain magnums of Krug!) – that simply isn’t a reality for most people, who can’t justify spending that amount of money on wine for any day. And the “cool matrix” of wine – for all its uses – doesn’t reassure the average consumer that there are no “wrong” choices. While wine – like anything – will always be subject to the whims of fashion, bottles shouldn’t be “uncool”, there shouldn’t be a drink that puts you in the loser camp.

Despite these small flaws, I loved the book. I read the US version when it was released late last year, and read it again when it came out in the UK last month – and loved it both times.

Read my full review on the Berry Bros. & Rudd blog here.
The New Wine Rules (Quadrille, £10) is out now.

The year gone-by

While another year flies by, and I bid to make more of this site, a quick run-through of jottings past is due. Here is a short-list of the topics that I typed on in the not-so-recent months…

Keep an eye out for more soon.

Round-up time


The Spring/Summer 2017 issue of No.3, edited by me

Sheesh, how did it get to July? This blog has been long-neglected, so it’s time for an update on all that’s been in the four or so months gone-by.

Most recently, I’m still wanging on about California: here’s an overview for the uninitiated on why the Golden State is hot property for hip sommeliers right now – looking at how it got to where it is today. There are plenty of exciting wines that didn’t make it into the piece for one reason or another. Here are a few producers and bottles that should be on your radar: RPM Gamay, A Tribute to Grace Grenache (any of the different cuvées), Broc Cellars (a recent bottle of their 2014 Valdiguié was particularly pleasing), Matthiasson, Failla, Wind Gap, Domaine de la Côte Pinot, Sandhi… it’s fair to say I’m addicted. But you should be too.

It’s been a pretty great year for me so far. Although it’s been hectic and busy (Berry Bros. & Rudd’s stunner of a new shop at 63 Pall Mall certainly drained some of my time), I’ve been fortunate enough to have my writing acknowledged by people who seem to know about these things. Back in April I made it onto the long list for the jancisrobinson.com Wine Writing Competition, seeing a couple of my pieces published to a broader audience than ever before. (Fortunately no trolling yet.) It was even more of a treat to receive an honourable mention when the final shortlist was selected. There are some great writers on that list, and I felt in good company. (Joss Fowler’s brilliantly un-grown-up, grown-up blog, Vinolent, is well worth a read.)


The luck seems to have continued, and last week my name made it onto the shortlist for the Emerging Writer of 2017 in the Louis Roederer International Wine Writer Awards. Worst case scenario, I’m looking forward to a glass or two of the outrageously delicious Brut Premier at the awards in September. A good friend of mine, the entirely dishonourable HoseMaster of Wine has been shortlisted for the second year in a row – you should check out his scathing pieces too.

And what else in terms of the doing, rather than basking in under-the-radar glory?

I’ve snuck in a couple more restaurant reviews under the guise of “work”: Rochelle Canteen – the BYO to end all BYOs (and one that is rumoured to be applying for a licence, so rush there now); and Plot, a bizarre little spot in Tooting that serves bloody good food and bloody good prices. What more do you want?

I also had the chance to talk to The Telegraph‘s wine columnist Victoria Moore about her new book, The Wine Dine Dictionary. I really didn’t expect to like it (and sort of hoped I wouldn’t), but my copy is already looking rather well thumbed.

In editing news, the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of No.3, Berry Bros. & Rudd’s biannual publication is out. You’ll find my name alongside the Editor’s letter and can unfortunately blame any typos on me. I interviewed the legend that is Dukes’s very own Alessandro Palazzi for the sidebar to this feature, which may or may not have ended in a stiff drink. You can pick up a copy at one of Berry Bros. & Rudd’s shops, or I’d be happy to pop one in the post for you – just send me a message.

I also cast my beady over the latest issue of Noble Rot before it made its way to print. By far the most enjoyable wine magazine out there – for any level of knowledge – it’s perfect Sunday brunch reading. Bloody Mary optional.


The Broc way / The rise of Ridge


Does it get more urban than this? Two barrels in Broc’s ex-inkwell factory winery in Berkeley.

I’m a bit low on time to write at the moment, but in case you hadn’t read my piece on Broc Cellars or Ridge Vineyards on jancisrobinson.com, here are some snaps to inspire you to do so. Berkeley’s Broc Cellars did urban long before London Cru; while Ridge Monte Bello was one of the original wines in the Judgement of Paris. The wines from both – extremely different producers – are brilliant. Read more about them on Jancis’s site here.

Sitting down with the Naked Chef

Jamie Oliver is studying the room, a PR machine whirling around him – photographers setting up in one corner, white-shirted chefs loading haunches of rare-breed meats into fridges, support teams juggling appropriately slim-line laptops and iPhones, a black-suited security team milling at the door. We’re sitting in the back corner of the new Barbecoa, a week before its official launch, chatting about the restaurant, the area, and how to stay ahead in the restaurant game.

It’s perhaps no surprise that the extraordinarily successful Naked Chef is a perfectionist. “I’m not quite happy with this room at the moment,” he muses, not particularly aimed at me. “I haven’t quite digested what I’m not happy about yet. I need to fix a few things.” This, combined with an expert entourage and a natural flair for self-marketing, has led to him becoming his very own, unique brand – one that is recognised and, for the most part, adored by anyone from the ages of 9 to 90.

Read my full interview with Oliver here on bbrblog.com, with details of his newest venture and his thoughts on our evolving attitudes to food and drink.