Achaval-Ferrer

From the outset, the friends’ ambition was decisive and bold; they would make a world-class wine in Argentina, in high altitude Mendoza. In terms of customer satisfaction and Press recognition, they have achieved this in spades. The original group inspired today’s young Pretenders, a young talented team which is as passionate about the Achaval wines as the founders. The wines’ potential is set in the vineyard but tender aftercare helps. An exciting improvement therefore is the transformation from what was essentially a large hut to a magnificent state of the art winery – all in pursuit of improving quality.

More important, the fundamental principles of Achaval-Ferrer remain essentially unchanged. They are perhaps even stronger, exerted with renewed confidence. The wines of Achaval Ferrer will continue to come from the same excruciatingly low-yielding, high altitude sites and from ancient, un-grafted vines. The goals are to achieve absolute quality, create a very pure expression of Malbec, and ensure vibrancy and freshness across all of the wines.

Agricola Azienda Case Basse di Gianfranco Soldera

It is difficult to avoid superlatives when writing about this unique wine. The 24 hectares of vineyards and garden have been transformed from abandoned scrubland to a Garden Of Eden, where wildlife, flowers and vines flourish under the fastidious care of Gianfranco Soldera and his wife, Graziella. At around 320m above sea level, the property is high enough to avoid frosts, to enjoy warm, daytime temperatures and cool nights – ideal for even ripening. There are two distinct parcels of vines, planted exclusively with Gianfranco’s revered Sangiovese Grosso, the only grape he believes truly belongs here. Case Basse, 2 hectares in size, was planted in 1972 and Vigna Intistieti, 4hectares, in 1973. Gianfranco’s and Graziella focus on creating the perfect ecosystem.

The vineyards are tended with extraordinary attention to detail. Gianfranco, steeped in tradition, is outstandingly curious and forward thinking. Alongside time-honoured methodologies he invests heavily in the most modern research. My very first note “Tasting these wines one can only marvel at their complexity, their ability to be luscious, weightless, elegant, refined and yet powerful. They have subliminal authority and intensity.”

Château Rocheyron

Peter, Danish by birth, has certainly taken the road less travelled. He built a considerable reputation in Spain, settling there after having studied originally in Bordeaux. In Château Rocheyron, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, in partnership with wine aficionado Silvio Dentz, Peter has returned to his spiritual home with a unique opportunity to develop his longstanding love for Bordeaux.

Château Rocheyron is situated in Saint-Christophe-des-Bardes, just 3.6km from the centre of Saint-Émilion, on the edge of the celebrated limestone plateau. Peter is set on creating (or re-creating) a new norm – a return, in a sense, to the past but with all of the advantages of contemporary winemaking knowledge. He wants the wine to be as natural as possible and relishes in the advanced age of the vines, despite their limited yields. Farmed organically, Peter intends to move towards biodynamic disciplines, which is how he works in Spain. A firm believer that wine is made in the vineyard, this property is being run, in Peter’s own words, “like a First Growth” with meticulous attention to detail, rigorous vineyard management and ruthless selection.

Domaine Stephane Magnien

Domaine Stephane Magnien is located in Morey-Saint-Denis. The range is very exciting, with not only Morey-Saint-Denis Villages and 1er Cru but also some Chambolle-Musigny Villages, 1er Cru, a Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru and a Clos St Denis Grand Cru. There are also  some regional appellations. A very complete range with 80% of the vineyards in the commune of Morey-Saint-Denis. Founded in 1847 by Victor Magnien, the domaine‟s holdings cover 4.5 hectares, with an average vine age of around 50 years. There is a high proportion of Pinot Tordu, a clone of Pinot Noir producing particularly small berries.

Stephane is the fourth generation to run the estate, the family having started to make wine at the beginning of the 1900s. The chai is in the family house, dating back from the 18th century. Jean Paul Magnien, Stephane‟s father, was the first to bottle the wines under the family name, rather than selling them to negociants. Stephane took over in 2008, which was his first solo vintage.

Dominio de Pingus

Dispatched to Spain in 1990, to the then obscure area, Ribera del Duero, he began work on a short-term project which, subsequently, enjoyed much praise – Hacienda Monasterio. A victim of his own success, Peter found himself in total charge. Hacienda Monasterio established, Peter Sisseck started to get very twitchy. Instinct, born of his Bordeaux experience, called him to seek another challenge.

Although relatively unknown, as a region, Ribera del Duero has a long viticultural history and Peter believed that it had the potential to produce Spain’s finest wines. He sought out parcels of ancient vines, on perfectly exposed terroir, which he instinctively knew would produce something exciting, if in small quantities. The stage was set for the arrival of Pingus – a trailblazer which had the world at its feet from the outset.

L’Aurage

Louis, hugely talented, had learned his trade whilst working for his father François Mitjavile, the iconic trailblazer at Tertre Roteboeuf in St Emilion and Roc de Cambes in the Côtes de Bourg. Louis had forged a remarkable reputation in his own right, consulting widely, before he acquired this fabulous estate in the Côtes de Castillon, an appellation which borders St Emilion and enjoys the same clay/limestone soil as its esteemed neighbour.

Louis’ aim is to harvest super-ripe grapes which offer intense black fruit, allied to ripe, supple tannins, making for a seductive, richly-textured palate. His challenge in the cellar is to extract the fruit’s full potential in a gentle, regular way and then stabilise the result through long maturation in new oak barriques. Louis wants to see opulence in his wines, rather than concentration, with balance being the overall objective. Domaine de l’Aurage is a tremendous ambassador for the Côtes de Castillon appellation, sumptuous, elegant and long.

Roc de Cambes

This is his property in the Côtes de Bourg, a vineyard reminiscent of Tertre Roteboeuf, being as it is, a natural amphitheatre with a perfect aspect overlooking the Gironde River.  It comprises fourteen hectares of old vines planted on the most highly reputed slope of the Côtes (les Croutes), where the heat of the sun on the slope is regulated by the effects of the estuary and cool clay/limestone soils. This makes for regular growth and wonderfully ripe, concentrated fruit.

Essentially François Mitjavile’s approach was to coax optimal quality in a region with great, but often unrealised, potential. He made Roc de Cambes flourish. With his son Louis (now owner of L’Aurage) and his daughter Nina (increasingly at the helm) his experience and philosophy from St Emilion come into play here. Together they control vigour and pick only when the grapes are super-ripe. They have succeeded in creating a wine which has led to many an embarrassing moment at blind tastings when compared to received “great” wines, first growths included. Roc de Cambes has a wow factor in spades.

Tardieu-Laurent

He and his oenologist son Bastien buy wines in their raw, fermented state. Top quality ingredients are essential and critical to Michel’s and Bastien’s work is the building of long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with a network of producers, who own specific, top quality parcels, almost always of low-yielding old vines. They know by heart both the vineyards and the specific parcels within, which are of interest to them. The resulting wines generally undergo malolactic fermentation overseen by Michel and Bastien as are both the maturation and the blending.

Given that accurate translation of terroir and vintage is fundamental to the Tardieu-Laurent mind-set, intervention is minimal. None of the wines are fined and only a few have a very light filtration. An important ingredient, in the beginnng, was the barrels. Oak has however been scaled back over a number of vintages and for four years Michel and Bastien have favoured large oak foudres, preferring slow, measured exposure to oxygen rather than oak character per-se. The naturally-restricted volumes result in increased complexity and intensity – world-class wines which thoroughly deserve their international acclaim.

Tenuta di Passopisciaro

At Trinoro, Andrea Franchetti created a vineyard, essentially from scratch, clearing rough woodland terracing and planting it – the entire works. Here, on Etna, his task has been more about resurrection rather than creation, bringing long-since abandoned vineyards back into production and, for a little bit of extra fun, these vines are planted on the slopes of a very clearly live volcano! There is no doubt that Etna means business – a constant trickle of smoke and the odd flame destroy any illusions to the contrary. This strangely beautiful, totally arresting terroir presents a unique palette of aromatics to the winemaker.

Here, minerality assumes a new dimension with individual lava flows imparting a distinctive personality and complexity on the finished wines – as do the different altitudes. The reds are very individual expressions of the indigenous Nerello Mascalese grape, the contrade representing individual lava flows. The white is in fact 100% Chardonnay and was planted by Andrea. Whatever drives Andrea Franchetti to such lengths, we must be grateful that he has the imagination to envisage seemingly impossible projects and the courage to succeed in them.

Tenuta di Trinoro

We ought to set the scene for Andrea Franchetti’s vision and waywardness. His family have similarly been visionaries across centuries, a noble, Italian family of Jewish origin, related by marriage to the Rothschilds. Andrea’s uncle was the American artist Cy Twombly, Hemmingway was a family friend. In his early years, Andrea cycled and hitchhiked to Afghanistan – a hint of his intent always to take the road less travelled. He had fallen in love with the wines and modus operandi of Bordeaux and there he learned of the importance of terroir.

Somewhat incongruously it was this understanding of Bordeaux which led him to start a vineyard from nothing but scrubby woodland in the Val d’Orcia, Southern Tuscany. There were no access roads and certainly no vines but that all seems to have had little bearing on Andrea’s determination to produce wine on this site, from scratch, from Bordeaux varietals, in the main. Andrea knew instinctively that Trinoro would be a fabulous site both in its geographical positioning and in its soil, which is rich in marine deposits and, under his stewardship, so it has proved.

Tertre Roteboeuf

This is his property in the Côtes de Bourg, a vineyard reminiscent of Tertre Roteboeuf, being as it is, a natural amphitheatre with a perfect aspect overlooking the Gironde River.  It comprises fourteen hectares of old vines planted on the most highly reputed slope of the Côtes (les Croutes), where the heat of the sun on the slope is regulated by the effects of the estuary and cool clay/limestone soils. This makes for regular growth and wonderfully ripe, concentrated fruit.

Essentially François Mitjavile’s approach was to coax optimal quality in a region with great, but often unrealised, potential. He made Roc de Cambes flourish. With his son Louis (now owner of L’Aurage) and his daughter Nina (increasingly at the helm) his experience and philosophy from St Emilion come into play here. Together they control vigour and pick only when the grapes are super-ripe. They have succeeded in creating a wine which has led to many an embarrassing moment at blind tastings when compared to received “great” wines, first growths included. Roc de Cambes has a wow factor in spades.