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Roaming at Roebuck

Driving up to Roebuck Estate’s ‘Home’ vineyard, situated near the tiny village of Tillington, the weather, as always, looks to be taking a turn for the worst. Large, dark grey clouds are rapidly approaching like an armada in the sky. As we look out to the distance, across the vines, a bright ray of sunshine breaks through the cloud formations, painting the rolling South Downs with bright golden rays, and highlighting the rich tapestry of the land. It is here that I start to appreciate, not just the beauty of this countryside, but how one could easily mistake it for being a famous international winemaking region across the Channel.

Situated between a row of vines we are treated to a wine and food experience in the most picturesque setting…

Thankfully they knew we were coming!

We are greeted by General Manager James Mead, Will Headley (Sales Manager) and Danielle Whitehead (Marketing Manager) who, along with the vineyard team, look after this relatively new estate. While it might be new, it has received a flurry of awards since its emergence onto the English winemaking scene.

Looking out across the vines from a purpose-built viewing platform at the highest point of the vineyard, we are treated to one of the very first, and very limited, bottlings of their Blanc de Noirs 2015 in magnum. As James introduces the history and ethos behind the estate and the wines, we discover a partial explanation for why the wines have been heralded so early in the Estate’s life. Grapes develop the potential for complexity and depth as the vines age. Roebuck were successful in purchasing four established south-facing vineyard sites in Sussex before nurturing them in their own special way. Combining these mature vines with the team’s winemaking skill and vision, has allowed them to produce wines with complexity and depth right from the get-go. The sites are all planted with the three main Champagne grape varietals (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), with their smallest Roman Villa vineyard (just 14 acres) producing only Pinot Noir. Although we didn’t visit the site, it is one for the local vineyard bucket-list!

James Mead, Roebuck GM, explaining biodiversity at the Estate

Walking amongst the vines, I was amazed by the diversity on show; from the leaves and rootstock to flora and fauna, and soil topography below my feet. It was during this initial wander that James and Will highlighted the Estate’s approach to sustainability. Sheep are bought in as natural grazers of the land, eco-friendly labelling and packaging is used across the range and the utilisation of the most up-to-date technologies at their disposal. This primarily means a nifty piece of software called Sector Mentor, which monitors and provides accurate readings of vines above and below ground to ensure only the highest quality grapes are produced. It is no surprise then that the Estate is one of the founding members of the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain certification; a remarkable feat for such a young estate, especially when factoring their final goal of achieving net-zero emissions in the not-to-distant future. 

We come to the final leg of the tour and perhaps the most jaw-dropping moment of the evening. Situated between a row of vines we are treated to a wine and food experience in the most picturesque setting. Not to be outdone by the landscape, we were treated to a tasting of their range as well as a scrumptious cheeseboard and salad selection for everyone to enjoy.

James Mead (front left), Danielle Whitehead (front right) and the Hennings’ team

The Classic Cuvée 2014 is a blend of the classic Champenois varieties. It has spent a generous 36 months ageing on lees (partial oak-aging for added complexity too). The use of 50% malolactic fermentation across their range means that the acidity softens as well as the technique adding more structure and complexity to the wines. The 2014 is instantly gratifying with richly textured layers of toasted pastry and citrus fruit notes backed by an appealing freshness on the finish. My first comparison blind would be towards the likes of Bollinger and Charles Heidsieck due to the richness and fruit profile. This was awarded the Decanter Platinum Medal and I can see why; it is a great introduction to the range.

…brilliant single vineyard, single vintage, single varietal sparkling to finish the night and a firm favourite amongst the team…

The next wine up was their newly released Rosé de Noirs 2016. Pale salmon pink in colour (almost Provençal) thanks to a splash of Pinot Précoce. It has a beautiful nose of fresh strawberry, raspberry and red cherry fruits followed by a creamy finish. Only produced in limited quantities, this is quite beautiful and one of the nicest English Sparking Rosés I’ve tried.

For the finale, we finish where we started, with the Blanc de Noirs 2015. A single vineyard, single varietal release, with 100% of the fruit sourced from the Roman Villa site. It is the pinnacle of the range combining the weight and complexity of the Classic Cuvée with the fruit and finesse of the Rosé de Noirs, whilst retaining its own unique style. A brilliant single vineyard, single vintage, single varietal sparkling to finish the night and a firm favourite amongst the team, heralded by all as the wine of the night! 

It is remarkable what the team at Roebuck have achieved in such a short space of time; producing world-class wines right on our doorstep. As we said our goodbyes and drove off, the clouds finally open-up painting the vineyard as a dark-shimmering backdrop against the rolling hills – unlike our arrival, there was no mistaking where we were, and no mistaking where this Estate is heading. 

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Fresh New Beginnings

It is currently 27 degrees (I had to check my phone for confirmation) as I write this [sorry Al, took a bit of time to upload…!]. Most of the UK’s been bathed in sunny, clear blue skies for what is coming up to a week now. As much as I like this weather, it would be very un-British to not moan so I cannot resist in saying that I’m certainly looking forward to cooler evenings and fresher, less sweltering days [no sooner said than done!].

Being my first post, it would be rude not to introduce myself and tell you a little snippet about my background working in the wine trade and Hennings. I must admit, I’m not one to usually talk openly about myself! I have tried to come up with a fun way of relating my progression in the trade with a style of wine. This sounded so easy in my head compared to typing it down, so here goes….

I was incredibly fortunate to land a role at family-owned Nautilus Estate in New Zealand’s Marlborough region…

To kick start my career in wine, I joined Hennings’ Chichester shop some six years ago, fresh from completing the WSET Level 2 award, which we teach if you’re interested. It was an exciting opportunity to work in a small, close-knit team where you could learn from one-another. This was no more evident than gradually tasting through the range. Hosting producer tasting events became invaluable, as did our Enomatic tasting machines. This encouraged me to undertake my WSET Level 3 award, which was a step-up in difficulty and stress factor, especially when tasting wines blind!

Albarino would be my first wine when comparing these early days to a bottle of vino as it’s new, refreshing and very approachable. It’s grown all over the world but its home is the Rias Baixas region in Spain. The wines are utterly refreshing, and show an array of stone fruits and citrus with zippy acidity thanks to the cool, coastal climate. It just calls for a hot summer’s day enjoyed with friends, and pairs beautifully with any seafood dish – in particular paella or risotto. My pick would be the sensational Mar de Frades Albarino.

Fast forward a couple of years and, with my experience and knowledge growing, I had an itch to go work a vintage in a winery – an ideal opportunity to see the whole winemaking process from grape to bottle. I was incredibly fortunate to land a role at family-owned Nautilus Estate in New Zealand’s Marlborough region. It was an experience that encompassed working with like-minded individuals from around the world, in all aspects of winemaking from processing picked grapes through to filling and sampling tank/barrel fermentations. This experience helped me grow as a person and bought with it a wealth of knowledge upon the finale of the season and my return to Hennings.

It would be easy to pick New Zealand Pinot Noir for my comparison (especially coming back with a particular taste for it) but Chenin Blanc, and its ability to change with age, would be my second comparative pick. Made in a variety of styles, it has this lovely balance of fresh orchard and stone fruits when young but given time will develop honeyed characteristic. Always an underrated option and one I easily recommend to people wanting to try something new! It’s very hard to beat the brilliant False Bay Slow Chenin Blanc 2020 when it comes to Chenin Blanc at a sensational price.

A bit of a gem that really opened my eyes to Greek winemaking and wider possibilities…

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and with it, exciting new opportunities arise! Not least when referring to the heartfelt closure of our Chichester shop and a new opportunity to work in Digital Marketing here at Head Office. I am looking forward to seeing yet another aspect of the wine trade and where this journey will progress to for me. I’ll be posting regularly here, as well as through our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter channels. You may even see me working an odd (not literally) shift in one of our Petworth or Pulborough stores so don’t hesitate to say hello! So, for the final wine, I’ve gone a bit off-piste with the native grape variety Xinamavro (please try the Thymiopoulos Xinomavro Jeunes Vignes 2019) from Greece. A bit of a gem that really opened my eyes to Greek winemaking and wider possibilities. Often compared stylistically as sitting somewhere between Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, the wines are light red in colour revealing an abundance of fresh, crunchy red fruits; cherries, strawberry and raspberry, with liquorice and tobacco notes developing with further age. Cracking wines that will age for decades – hopefully like my career in wine!

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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

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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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