It was a wet night and our government was in turmoil in London when we invited a wide range of consultants and wine folk to celebrate the forthcoming publication of the new Atlas.
On Tuesday, a monsoonal evening in London with major transport glitches of all sorts, we hosted the UK launch of the 8th edition of The World Atlas of Wine in Vintners' Hall. It seemed to me an absolute miracle that anyone at all turned up but we had what felt like a full house – 160 attendees perhaps – in this magnificent setting by the Thames, where medieval wine merchants used to unload their barrels.
The first people I greeted had come respectively from Russia, Canada, California, Australia, Georgia, Lebanon and Germany. It was that sort of evening. But of course the UK wine world was also very well represented with many a wine writer and Master of Wine.
Just after 7 pm our publisher Denise Bates of Mitchell Beazley/Octopus gave some pretty impressive statistics about the scope of the new Atlas and how well it has already been received, even though official publication date is not until next Thursday, 3 October. Foreign rights deals have already been done in Germany, Italy, South Korea – and, unexpectedly, Turkey. She certainly feels that the book proves an exception to the doom and gloom that has been pervasive in the publishing industry. We hope that our intensive two years spent completely revamping the book will help to bump up the 4.7 million worldwide sales to date of the first seven editions.
My esteemed co-author Hugh Johnson then outlined the history of the Atlas and just how difficult it was half a century ago to compile the first edition, which saw the light of day in 1971. He proposed a toast to our absent friend Michael Broadbent MW and his second wife Valerie.
My job was to explain what we were all drinking. Of course, although Laurent d’Harcourt and James Simpson of Pol Roger were there, Hugh and I felt we should fly the UK flag so decided to serve two English sparkling wines as everyone came in, shaking their wet clothes. And then we thought, in the truly international spirit of the Atlas, we should show our guests some wines that they might not ordinarily come across.
So Julia, our Atlas map supremo, managed to assemble the extraordinary array of wines listed below, many of them donated or suggested by our many international consultants, for which we are extremely grateful. We decided to set them on tables around the room in the order of the Atlas pages, so not in a particularly logical tasting order but at least we reminded everyone why we were there.
There were no duds and just one (Romanian) no show. I got the strong impression that everyone really appreciated the chance to expand their tasting experience. The Russian pair were two of the more exotic wines (Julian Barnes was a particular fan of the Chardonnay), along with the Thai and Indian examples. And I sensed particular appreciation of the Sardinian mature, unfortified, sherry-like 2010 Vernaccia, even if one of the serving staff suggested excluding it on the grounds that it smelt like sherry.
We hope you might enjoy reading the tasting list with Julia’s detailed background notes on each wine that was available for everyone to enjoy.
English sparkling wines
W Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2015 Kent, England Atlas p249
A blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 7% Pinot Meunier grown on Gusbourne’s own vineyards in Kent on clay-sand soils six miles from the coast with some maritime influence. Aged for at least three years on the lees.
W Hambledon, Première Cuvée NV Hampshire, England Atlas p249
100% estate-grown fruit, on Hampshire’s upper cretaceous white chalk (71% Chardonnay), aged for five years on lees. This mature blend is a careful assembly of their best tanks and barrels from the 2013 vintage with some reserve wines added for complexity.
W Ledda, Tenuta Matteu Soliànu Vermentino 2017 Gallura Superiore, Sardinia Atlas p186 Vermentino grown on granite soils on a terrace at 300–400 m overlooking the sea in the north of the island. Unoaked. 14%
W Famiglia Orro 2010 Vernaccia di Oristano, Sardinia Atlas p186
From the island’s west coast. Vernaccia made in an oxidative style like sherry but not fortified. Aged many years under a layer of flor yeast in chestnut barrels. 18.5%
W Reverchon, Filzener Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese 2015 Saar, Germany Atlas p229
Unusually fruity wine from the Devonian slate monopole vineyard of this revived, once revered, estate near Kanzem. Residual sugar 69 g/l, total acidity 8 g/l. 8%
R Daniel Twardowski, Pinot Noix 2016 Mosel, Germany Atlas p231
Burgundy clones of Pinot Noir on steep slopes of blue and red slate in the Droner Hofberg. Fermented with indigenous yeast and aged 16–18 months in French oak – 20% new and 80% used (ex DRC). Unfiltered.
W Dveri Pax Sipon/Furmint 2018 Stajerska Slovenija, Slovenia Atlas p269
From a single vineyard near the village of Jeruzalem in north-east Slovenia at 300 m at the western edge of the Pannonian Plain. Sand, sandstone and marl. Unoaked. 11.5%
R Davino, Purpura Valahica Fetească Neagră 2011 Dealu Mare, Romania Atlas p273
Gentle slopes at 250–300 m on reddish brown soil with limestone in central southern Romania. Eight months in French oak (25% new). 14.9%
W Tsarev Brod, Pet Nat Extra Brut Riesling 2018 Danubian Plain, Bulgaria Atlas p274
Vines near Shumen on the Black Sea coast. Ancestral method, ie the fermentation continues after bottling, retaining the bubbles. Four months on lees, leaving a fine sediment. 11.5%
W Fanagoria, A Hundred Shades of Chardonnay 2016 Sennoi, Kuban, Russia Atlas p277
Vineyards on a fracture between the European and Asian tectonic plates on the Taman Peninsula, on calcareous black soil close to the Sea of Azov. Fermented and aged in new French oak. 13%
R Fanagoria, A Hundred Shades of Saperavi 2016 Sennoi, Kuban, Russia Atlas p277
Vineyards on a fracture between the European and Asian tectonic plates on the Taman Peninsula, on black soil close to the Sea of Azov. Aged in new American oak. 13.1%
Orgo Kisi Amber 2017 Kakheti, Georgia Atlas p279
From Maghrani and Argokhi in the Tsinandali subregion of Kakheti, south-eastern Georgia, at 600 m. Fermented in qvevri (clay vessels buried underground), six months on the skins and stems. 13%. (This was the leftover I took home for Nick and I to enjoy with our little cheese supper.)
R Tsinandali Estate, Sophia Alexandrouli/Mujuretuli 2018 Kakheti, Georgia Atlas p279
50% Alexandrouli, 50% Mujuretuli from the Tsinandali subregion on clay with lime at 650 m in eastern Georgia. Unoaked. 15%
W Paşaeli Kolorko 2017 Thrace, Turkey Atlas p285
Kolorko is native to the Şarköy area of Thrace, very close to the Sea of Marmara coast. Close to extinction, it was resurrected by Seyit Karagozoglu. Three months on lees and bottled unfiltered. 13.5%
W Ch Ksara, Blanc de l’Observatoire 2018 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon Atlas p286
Obeideh, Clairette, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat on stony clay/limestone on a plateau nestled between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains, at 900 and 1,800 m. Unoaked. 12.5%
R Ch Ksara, Le Prieuré 2016 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon Atlas p286
Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre on stony clay/limestone on a plateau nestled between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains, at 900 and 1,800 m. Fermented in concrete tanks built by the Jesuits who founded Ksara in 1857. 13%
R Pizzato, Veludo Azul Alicante Bouschet Reserve 2015 Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil Atlas p331
Red-fleshed variety, rare in Brazil, hand-picked. Rocky basaltic clay at 495 m in Serra Gaúcha, southern Brazil. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, part new. 13%
W Cave Geisse, Terroir Nature 2015 Pinto Bandeira, Brazil Atlas p331
50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, grown at 800 m in Serra Gaúcha, southern Brazil. Traditional method, four years on lees.
R Blank Canvas, Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2015 Hawke’s Bay, NZ Atlas p369
Single vineyard, free-draining gravel loam on an ancient riverbed. Hand-picked, 60% whole bunch, co-fermented with 7% Grüner Veltliner. Indigenous yeasts. 12 months in oak, 30% new. Unfiltered.
W Blank Canvas, Abstract Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Dillons Point, Marlborough, NZ Atlas p373
Dry-farmed vines from a single vineyard on alluvial silt in the Wairau Valley just 3 km from the Pacific. Hand-picked, fermented with indigenous yeasts in seasoned 500-litre oak puncheons. No malolactic, no lees stirring. Total 14 months on lees, unfiltered. 13%
GranMonte Verdelho 2018 Khao Yai Wine, Thailand Atlas p385
The only Verdelho in Thailand, planted nine years ago on red clay with shale and limestone at 350 m. 1,400 mm annual rainfall. Unoaked.
R Fratelli, Sette 2015 Maharashtra, India Atlas p385
60% Sangiovese, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon at 650 m in Akluj, south east of Mumbai. Subtropical climate. Fermented in tank and aged 14 months in new French and American oak. 13.5%
R Ch Mercian, Mariko Merlot 2015 Nagano, Japan Atlas p386
On stony clay at 650 m in Maruko district, Nagano, north west of Tokyo. 18 months in oak (50% new). 12.5%
W Ch Mercian, Kiiroka Cuvée Ueno Koshu 2017 Yamanashi, Japan Atlas p387
Kiiro means ‘yellow’. Pergola-trained on gravelly soils at 400 m near the river in Iwade district, Yamanashi, west of Tokyo. Picked early and fermented and aged six months in tank. 12%