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Go Gamay Go!

The time, 4am, had come for me to go on my first wine trip. Feeling very lucky, I headed to HQ and hoped that my excitement about what Beaujolais had to offer was masking the obvious tiredness in my eyes and limbs!

Meeting up with my colleagues, we headed off to the airport to get all the boring, generic travel bits done and were greeted, upon arrival to France, by glorious sunshine as we collected our, unfortunately not gamay red, hire car. Setting off, we were soon surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards as far as the eye could see – the region is a classic portrait of southern France. As we settled at our accommodation for the trip, the old and classical Chateau Bellevue, I knew that I’d soon to be enjoying fantastic wine and food with the added bonus of two days off work!

After taking in the beautiful surroundings it was time for lunch (it’s a tough life). We were very privileged to be hosted by Xavier, current MD of Loron et Fils, who you could quite easily rename as Mr Gamay! As we chatted over lunch (whitebait freshly caught from the river next to our table) with Xavier under clear blue skies about Beaujolais, his knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for the region was infectious – I was desperate to learn and explore more.

Our first stop after lunch was Loron’s HQ. Xavier, who is the 8th generation of the family to run the business, showed us around and explained to us the extra care that they take with the wines – from vineyard to bottle. It was a remarkable place but I had my eyes firmly fixed upon the upcoming end of tour tasting!

The first wine was entirely new to me – a white Beaujolais. Made from Chardonnay, it had stone fruit on the nose with some lovely balanced acidity and a slightly honeyed finish. We then tasted some other whites from Burgundy that were all excellent but I was here for the full Gamay experience! Nine wines late, things started getting serious…Enter Chateau de Fleurie la Madone 2015. On the nose it was bright with fresh red fruit backed up by the smell of stewed back cherry and a touch of oak. On the palate the nose carried through but the fruit became much crunchier.

After this cracker, we tried a further six excellent wines but for me the Fleurie stood out – it  was a great example of how Beaujolais wines are great, not only for Summer, but also for the colder months thanks to their complexity. After being bowled over by the quality of the wines it was time to escape to the Chateau to eat dinner and reflect on a great first day in southern France

Wednesday greeted us with a classic French breakfast and, almost more importantly, the promise of more great wine! We headed off to the Beaujolais Cru village of Régnié to explore. Pulling over in the car, I was amazed at the way the soil changed – the top of the vineyard was almost like sand but as we walked down the vineyard, the erosion was so obvious, you could see the increased amount of granite in the soil. As we marvelled in our surroundings Oliver, our Beaujolais friend from Loron, had a surprise for us. Due to poor yields and a general lack of demand for Beaujolais wines, they believe that in as little as 15 years, Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages wine with be virtually non-existent. These vineyards will be replanted with the much more commercially viable Chardonnay and if you want to drink Beaujolais you’ll have to go for something from a Cru area. It’s a shame really because, as I was discovering, there is so much variety across the region that there is something for everyone here!

We then ventured to Brouilly and even got to visit the famous Cote du Brouilly and Mont Brouilly. Atop this extinct volcano, we were greeted by Beaujolais’ answer to Stone Henge! The incredibly passionate locals have constructed a ring of all seven soil types found within the region – they absolutely love their soil here and have carried out more research in recent years than almost any other wine region on the planet to show how unique and variable it is. Feeling a bit ‘soil-overloaded’ we visited two more of the Crus – St Amour and Julienas – each massively distinctive and different. There are 10 Crus in the region so I’m delighted to not have visited them all as it means I can return again one day!

As we drove back to the airport I realised that you should never judge a wine region before exploring all it has to offer and that it’s no reflection on quality if a region isn’t as well known or ‘in-demand’ as others. Most importantly though, Beaujolais isn’t something you just drink on the third Thursday of November, in fact, it has something to offer all year round.  

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#WineWednesday? Or Monday – Sunday Sips?

Time for a recycling trip

I do like a #WineWednesday, but truth be told, to limit a vinous treat to one day a week is somewhat ludicrous, how else are we going to get through the glorious (?!) English summer without a good Monday-Sunday guide of what you [I] could be [am] drinking this summer.

So as I sit here at my desk watching the torrential rain through the window [Steph wrote this last week but I’ve only just put it up, it’s about 32 degrees outside now], I feel completely inspired to share with you my favourite tipples to fit with the joys of wine Wednesday and beyond.* I’ll agree that some of them are a little dreamy rather than practical, but it’s all about self-love these days, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

*Please enjoy responsibly, these are merely daily recommendations, rather than a challenge…

Monday – Miserable or Motivational? Either way you’ve made it through day one so why not treat yourself with a little something to lift your spirits?! I’m loving the Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, its zippy citrus freshness with a touch of sweetness transports you to straight to Sicily and if you really want to embrace the Italian dream, ditch the soda mixer and top it up with a little Prosecco. I would.

Tuesday – Probably the most boring day of the week isn’t it? It means I look for an exciting wine to brighten the day, my fave ‘something a little different’ at the moment is the Fontanino Riesling, I like it because it bucks the trend; let’s face it the Italians aren’t famed for Riesling, but this little cracker from Piedmont is just perfect with a seafood pasta dinner, classic clean lemons and lime with that cheeky light kerosene edge. Bellisimo!

Wednesday – Wine Wednesday!! Woop Woop! Such a momentous hashtag-famous day should be accompanied by my all-time favourite style of wine – Sherry of course! On a very recent  #winewednesday I happened to pop by our Chichester shop, and there like a beacon of joy shinning from the enomatic tasting machine was the sublime FDC Antique Palo Cortado. Every penny of my £2.90 for a little glass of that was more than worth it – coupled up with a bag of Bonilla crisps, what a wonderful treat!

Thursday – Ooh, I like Thursdays, it’s a bit like a cuddle day – not quite that Friday feeling but a gentle reminder that the weekend is fast approaching. I enjoy a glass of Syrah on such occasions, a smack of black fruit alongside a subtle pepperiness is just the ticket for an evening in front of the telly. My pick of the Syrahs at the moment is The Seresin Estate Syrah, definitely a bottle to get your hand on.

Friday – Bubbles? It has to be doesn’t it? I like my bubbles big and creamy though, so go crazy, treat yourself – crack open a Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV. If it was good enough for Sir Winston on the daily, it’s certainly good enough for me on Friday!

Saturday – The one day where day drinking is perfectly acceptable, especially on a sunny afternoon with a BBQ and the family round. As we’ve been lucky enough to see a fair amount of the sun over the last few weekends, I have been slowly making my way through a bottle of Gonzalez Byass La Copa Vermouth. Load that glass with ice and a slice of fresh orange and max relax in the garden while you take in the complex combination of cloves, nutmeg and sweet touch to finish!

Sunday – Can we talk about roast dinners? Even in summer? Of course we can, at our table we are partial to a succulent leg of lamb, if it’s a sunny Sunday you can always swap out the veggies for a fancy salad [no you can’t Steph]. Whatever you decide, there is only ever going to be one wine I serve with my roast lamb and that is Luis Cañas Rioja Reserva Selección de la Familla. It was the first bottle I took home to my family all those years ago when I started here at Hennings. To this day, it is still one of my all-time favourite wines. Elegant and beautifully balanced with complex flavours of leather, ripe sweet fruit and herbs over a base of fine oak. Can you tell I like it? Don’t worry, we’ve got plenty in stock.

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The Grapevine 49

The Grapevine 49_cropped

There’s nothing like the opportunity to flex our vinous muscles with a stonking issue of our Summer Grapevine. We’ve been inundated with new wines over the last few months and have narrowed down quite a wide field of hopefuls into a few handfuls of delight. Zippy whites, crunchy reds and lots more besides have exceeded the grade – this promises to be our favourite issue yet. Here’s to Summer!

View issue 49 of The Grapevine

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The Grapevine 46

The Grapevine 46

Is there a more joyous time to the year? Light evenings, a bit of sunshine and the prospect of a few Bank Holidays to look forward to! Did you know that we have a national celebration for our wine industry too? Make sure you’re well stocked for English Wine Week at the end of May into June and don’t forget we’ve got lots of different English wines available in our shops and on our website. We’ve also included the odd parcel or two of ‘once they’re gone they’re gone’ wines like the Sablet and Boroli Barolo. There are some other brilliant wines in here as well as details of three upcoming tutored tastings so if you’re keen to experience the stories behind wine, why not book a ticket or two? Cheers!

View issue 46 of The Grapevine

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The Grapevine 45

The Grapevine 45_cropped

descends into the arrival of Father Christmas and my desire to read on is severely tested.

“Here it is, that time of year, the snow is falling there’s lots of cheer…” so begins my son’s favourite bedtime book at the moment. I don’t mind this opening but then it descends into the arrival of Father Christmas and my desire to read on is severely tested. With this in mind, and the seemingly ever earlier arrival of Christmas adverts and offers, we’ve tried to keep this issue of the Grapevine a little more winter and a little less Christmas. We haven’t succeeded in all areas though. In honesty, the wines are totally interchangeable and, we hope, will cover all of your festive needs. Don’t forget that this is only a snippet of what we have and to check in our shops and online if there’s something in particular you’re after. Thanks for your continued custom throughout the year and, my apologies, merry Christmas to you all!

View the latest issue of The Grapevine 45

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The Grapevine 44

The Grapevine 44

heartier wines and a few treats for a mid-week gloomy evening pick-me-up.

Summer came in the end then, although I suppose that might depend upon your geographical location. We love the autumn at Hennings. Not only are we lucky enough to be based in a part of the country that showcases the seasonal transformation so beautifully, but it also allows us to bring in some heartier wines and a few treats for a mid-week gloomy evening pick-me-up. From Vallone’s show stopping Graticciaia (page 4) to Iona’s sensational Chardonnay (page 13), we’ve got some of the most delicious wines ever featured in an issue. It’s now full steam ahead with our festive planning too so grab these offers while you can. Cheers from all at Hennings!

View the latest issue of The Grapevine 44

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The Grapevine 43

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our selection of wines for summer is every bit as consistent as the over-optimistic long range weather forecasts!

Well, here we are, the great British summer. Yes, it might be a touch chilly and overcast as I type this but, as always, I hear reports of the hottest July since 1976. As it’s mid-June now I’d say we’ve got about six weeks until that turns to an Indian summer instead. Thankfully our selection of wines for summer is every bit as consistent as the over-optimistic long range weather forecasts! Regardless of what the next few months bring we’ve got some brilliant wines to choose from including some party friendly magnums from Colombo on page 11, a pair of ridiculously good value Sicilians on page 14 and a ground breaking Gamay on page 19. Here’s to picnic blankets, sweet peas, potato salad, barbecues and the occasional ray of sun. Cheers from all at Hennings!

View the latest issue of The Grapevine 43

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#Orangewine | the future’s bright

Arnold Holzer

I’m not going to lie to you there are some truly breathtakingly awful examples out there

We at Hennings are never afraid of looking to the future and discovering new and exciting things. In this case, if I may use the phrase of a recently merged telecoms giant, ‘…the future’s orange’! Yes, the future is here and it’s orange wines.

For those that have heard of this stuff before, you’ll know that its usual home is in the trendiest of trendy London hipster joints, with a beard and several tattoos being a pre-requisite to entry. However and to the tune of many a chuckle it is becoming increasingly more main-stream. So for those of you that haven’t heard of them before orange wines are essentially white wines made in a way that you would a red wine – basically keeping the skins in contact with the wine for varying periods of time.

The resulting wine has a much more intense nose and palate with much more texture, even tangible tannins in some cases, and the colour of the wine (that comes primarily from the skins in every wine) develops an orange colour. The colour depends on how long the wine has spent in contact with the skins, and in the case of the two we have decided on, ranging from a golden hue to vivid orange.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you there are some truly breathtakingly awful examples out there and we tasted a couple of heinous ones very recently including one that tasted like Deep Heat! The sarcastic undertones of the often heard words ‘you have a tough job’ never rang truer than in this particular tasting. As we soldiered on we came across two that we thought were actually really very good, but in very different ways.

Our first choice is a Pinot Grigio, but this is no ordinary Pinot Grigio and I suggest that if you were after a Pinot Grigio in the first place you’ll be more confused than a chameleon in a bag of Skittles when you uncork it. This hails from Abruzzo in Italy and is essentially a ‘beginners’ orange wine whereby it has been left on the skins for just enough time to develop a bit of texture and a bit of colour along with some intensity on the nose and palate. Chill this down, pair it with some light food, perhaps some spicy food and you are on to a winner! It will certainly generate conversation around your dining table!

The next offering is from Austria and is made from a grape called Roter Veltliner, an obscure ancient variety that usually makes powerfully intense white wines. The vivid orange colour should not fool you, this is not a sweet wine. It is intense, peppery and spicy. Those of you brave enough to try it will be confused no doubt, as it is unlike any wine you will have tasted before and as such cannot be directly compared to any other. It is fruity and powerful with a nice level of acidity and soft tannins. The fact it looks so whacky in the glass should be considered an added bonus.  Jokes aside it is however great for matching with richer dishes as it can stand up to most things without the need to resort to a bottle of red. When a white or red could work I would urge you to go straight down the middle with an orange wine instead.

Wine can be incredibly varied and interesting and I think it’s worth celebrating that people are pushing the boundaries in order for us to try something new. Yes, you may get some odd looks from those you’re serving it to, but I think that’s part of the fun! You may also think it’s awful but I’ll let you decide for yourselves.

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The Grapevine 42

The Grapevine 42_cropped

The thousands (yes really) of wines the team have tasted over the last few months…

It was light last night when I left work – let joy be unconfined. This issue of The Grapevine is almost finished too, once this bit has been typed, so it’s time for a double celebration. We’ve worked tirelessly on this issue and couldn’t be happier with the result. The thousands (yes really) of wines the team have tasted over the last few months have been distilled down to a seemingly small number and a selection of them can be found within these pages. The rest will make their way into our shops over the next few months so everyone has something new and exciting to explore. The tastings haven’t always been easy (see pages 18 and 19) but they’ve always been fun. There are some brilliant wines in here as well as details of three upcoming tutored tastings so if you’re keen to experience the stories behind wine, why not book a ticket or two? Cheers!

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Wine tasting season | so many wines, so little time

Wine tasting delights

We’ve had a bit of a fag-packet wine tasting calculation in the office and reckon we’ll taste around 2,500-3,000 wines between us by the end of February.

The first couple of months of the New Year are always a mixed bag for us. Following the Christmas chaos, organised chaos I’d like to add, January inevitably feels a little sluggish. There is a flip side to the calm start to the year. As well as having some time to plan our exciting wine tasting events for the year, a little bit of design work (new bags, banners and the like) and having a general website content catch up, I find myself in the gloriously manic wine tasting season.

This season comes around every year and lasts from mid-January to mid-March. Of course, we taste wines all year round but these early months are when we cull and refresh our range the most. We’ll taste anything – low-alcohol wines from Australia? Yep and no thanks; sparkling wine from Spain with a Sherry dosage? Let’s go for it; £5 Italian Sauvignon Blanc to £100 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon? Everything has equal billing and I’m always delighted to be surprised so why not.

We have a few of options when it comes to tasting new wares. First, there are the agent and ‘body’ events. The agent/importer tastings tend to take place in London and will feature their entire range. They’re good fun and a great opportunity to taste new vintages of wines we already sell. The ‘body’ events can be massive. These are organised by a particular trade body or collective along a theme, so Wines of Australia, Wines of Argentina, The BFT (Big Fortified Tasting) etc. They can be massive affairs that are often pretty daunting – the recent Wines of Australia tasting featured over 1,000 wines from 245 wineries on 80 tables. The second, much more civilised option is to taste at our HQ.

We’ll gather samples from new importers, unrepresented vineyards and wines we’ve found at tastings before our ninja tasting team and crack through them. I would say this is a much softer paced affair than the big external tastings but in reality it’s still pretty full on. Two days into the week and we tasted 40 wines last night (highlights below), have another 72 tonight and the rest of the week is looking pretty stacked. We’ve had a bit of a fag-packet wine tasting calculation in the office and reckon we’ll taste around 2,500-3,000 wines between us by the end of February. I think next year I’ll make a note to keep an eye on numbers so I can bring you the exact number, it might also be worth mentioning it to my doctor.

For us there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to choosing new wines so when we taste we have to think about how the wine will fit into the existing range and what part of our business it’s for. Will the wine be for wholesale or retail, website or agency, special parcel or new continual line? The wine tastings can be a mixed bag and you can quite easily taste 50 wines and only think one or two are worth pursuing. Other times, like last night, you can taste 40 and love 15 of them – it’s all about tasting as much breadth as possible so we can find wines you’ll love. Last night’s tasting, with one eye on our spring Grapevine, had a range of wines from Argentina, Australia, Burgundy and a few thrown in from New Zealand and Chile. It was a joyously stimulating selection that is sure to appear over the coming months; we know you’ll love them so watch this space.

Highlights:

Puro Corte d’Oro 2012 – an amazing Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot blend from Mendoza. Made by an acclaimed Argentinian winemaker who also plies his trade in Pomerol it’s sumptuous and so classy. A likely special parcel of 20 dozen – should be about £18 (normal price £25). I’m in love with the packaging too.

Serbal Cabernet Franc 2015 – sometimes you come across a winery and winemaker at a wine tasting that can do no wrong. Atamisque is a perfect example of this. They make 13 wines and they’re all brilliant. This is from their Serbal range (all unoaked) and has amazing bell pepper and pencil shaving notes. It has loads of red berry fruit and top-notch freshness – great to see these ‘new’ varieties performing so strongly.

Catalpa Malbec 2013 – Philippe Caraguel from Atamisque can do no wrong for me. Malbec of this quality is hard to find and for sub-£15 it’s crazy. There’s layer upon layer of classic sweet Malbec fruit and subtle French oak (50% of the wine) with a resonating freshness. When this hits I’d be stocking up for summer and beyond. Take a bow Philippe.

VIK 2011 – What better way to finish a Monday night tasting than with an ‘icon’ wine? It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère blend from Millahue with a splash of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah. Sure, a £100 bottle of red from Chile might not be a school-night pleasure but it’s astoundingly fresh and complex. Think Bordeaux with a much broader aromatic range. You should take a peek at their winery/holistic retreat vik.cl/en/ – heavens above…

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