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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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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!

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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!

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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!

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The Grapevine 42

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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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The Grapevine 41

The Grapevine 41

The Grapevine 41…an opportunity to wrap up and drink some richer wines…

Well, thank goodness that’s over. There’s nothing I like more than moving into winter and the opportunity to wrap up and drink some richer wines. The team here have been hard at work compiling our festive favourites into The Grapevine 41 for your vinous pleasure over the next couple of months and think we’ve cracked it. Obviously, with over 1,000 products we’ve got masses more available both online and in our shops so if there’s something else you’re after then peruse via your preferred method – I’m certain you’ll find it. All at Hennings would like to wish you well for the coming festive period and take the opportunity to thank you all for continuing to support the independent – we couldn’t do it without you.

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The Grapevine 40 | our latest offers

The Grapevine 40

The Grapevine 40…order some wine, put the heating on, sit down and pop your feet up…

Summer certainly had its ups and downs with regard to the weather. On the whole it did offer a brilliant opportunity to enjoy the refreshing whites and spicy Provence Rosé wines of our last Grapevine in their preferred environment! As I stare out of my window Autumn, seemingly, is upon us so it’s time to revel in some fuller reds and richer whites. We’ve got some new and exciting Italian wines including some rustic reds and a delicious new Prosecco among a plethora of fuller and richer wines – the Cien Y Pico and Aragonia Garnacha are my picks. Order some wine from The Grapevine 40, put the heating on, sit down and pop your feet up – silly season is almost here.

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Spanish wine | A path well trodden

Scala Dei ruins - home to some awesome Spanish wine

You would have thought that having already visited various wine regions of Spain on buying trips more than a dozen times over the last 25 years there would be very little that could surprise one. My latest jaunt, at the end of April, flew in the face of this idea whilst invigorating my love for Spanish wine.

Starting in the Ribera del Duero, located on Spain’s northern plateau, our intrepid party visited the Legaris winery. This winery grows all its grapes in small bunches and tends them by hand. This, combined with their judicious use of barrels, means that the wines have great concentration and are a brilliant match to barbecued meats. Next stop Rioja.

Rioja, in north-central Spain, is easily the most famous Spanish wine region and takes its name from the Rio (river) Oja. Bodegas Bilbaínas is one of the oldest estates in the D.O. and was one of the 10 original wineries to register as a bottler in the early 20th century. As land wasn’t as scarce at the time of its founding all of its vineyards surround the winery, so they have excellent control during each vintage.

Costers del Segre, to the north-west of Barcelona, was next on the agenda with a visit to the incredible Raimat vineyards. It’s hard to believe that 100 years ago the area was desert and it wasn’t until the Spanish government built a canal system that the area was turned over to vines. Raimat was the first winery to be established here and today produces around 85% of the D.O.’s wines in one of Europe’s largest vineyards. Their fantastically valued wines, made under the head winemaker Mark Nairn, have that typical Spanish wine depth and richness but also lovely elegance and length.

It’s been at least 25 years since I last visited Priorat and it has changed so much. Last time I visited there were four wineries; now there are in excess of 90! Going to Scala Dei was like visiting an old friend as I’d visited it on a previous trip. It’s the oldest winery in Priorat, dating back to the 12th century, and has a very limited production due to its low-yielding hand-harvested Garnatxa vines. The wines are stunning and I’ve picked out the Scala Dei Garnatxa as a brilliant example of modern Priorat winemaking. We also stock the flagship Scala Dei Cartoixa which gives a fantastic expression of the more traditional Priorat style.

Last up was Peñedes and a visit to Codorníu and their delicious Cavas. Cava, although much derided, is made in the Traditional Method (see Steph’s piece on p14) and offers great depth and structure without breaking the bank. The Ecologica is a great summer fizz and is a real crowd-pleaser.

Well, that was the trip finished; time to board the early flight home and read up on my notes. What was a sprint between five of Spain’s best regions became the perfect opportunity to rekindle a love-affair with Spanish wines. I hope you enjoy the selection – it was tricky keeping it to six.

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