Fresh New Beginnings

Fresh New Beginnings

Written by Alex Lill under Wine 3rd Aug 2021

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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