Our unique co-operative model gives our buyers the best of both worlds, able to nurture relationships going back generations while also freeing them to scour their regions for the most exciting new winemaking talents. Here are just a few of the newer faces they think should be on wine lovers' radars in the year ahead.
Jacques and Anaïs Cattin
Joseph Cattin, Alsace
The Cattin family have a long history of making wine, not unusual in Alsace, but from their arrival back in 1720, they have invested in vineyards and winemaking through generations. Currently at the helm is young husband and wife team Jacques and Anaïs and they have already made their mark with an impressive new winery, plus a wine bar and tasting and meeting space, with panoramic views over the vineyards in the village of Voegtlinshoffen 10km south of Colmar.
Typical of the new generation taking over, Jacques and Anaïs are outward-looking and English-speaking and much travelled, but they are also deeply invested in their region and keen supporters of their local football team!
Like many of their peers they are also exploring terroir with new site-specific wines and making Alsace more accessible by creating new blends of noble grapes and giving them a more modern presentation, alongside their existing comprehensive range.
The name for Alsace blends – Edelzwicker – may seem a little old-fashioned but people are cottoning on to just how good these wines are. They offer wine lovers, and especially those new to Alsace wines, the opportunity to taste a mix of the noble grapes of the region – a classic blend of riesling, muscat, gewurztraminer and pinot gris. Perhaps crucially, they fit so well with modern-style cooking too and Jacques and Anaïs are doing a brilliant job of bringing these wines to a new audience.
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Weingut Rainer Wess, Austria
Christina Wess is a very special winemaker. Only in her early 20s she is already making waves in Austrian wine through the work that she does with her father Rainer, at their small family winery in Krems. Rainer has had a long career working in Austrian wine and Christina caught the bug at an early age. She headed off to France and other parts of Europe to work vintages for a number of different wineries, gaining experience which would be admirable for people twice her age.
Christina has since become more and more involved in the winemaking at Weingut Rainer Wess, where her dad now spends most of his time in the vineyards, with Christina taking more control of the cellar. Unfortunately, women in the wine world are still largely not afforded the same platform or opportunities as their male counterparts, but Christina hasn't let this stop her. Her skill, quiet determination and focus on letting her wines speak for themselves has meant that she is fast gaining a reputation as a truly exciting winemaker; female or otherwise. Her interpretations of grüner veltliner and riesling in particular are truly special.
Christina's modesty, progress and her raw natural talent we believe puts her in the top handful of winemakers to watch in Europe.
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Black Chalk, Hampshire
As new faces to watch go, they don't come much newer than Black Chalk, a family owned and run winery based in Hampshire's beautiful Test Valley. Despite being the new kids on the block, this property has hit the ground running and bagged numerous prestigious accolades already: Gold at the International Wine and Spirits Championship, Overall Trophy Winner and Newcomer of the Year at the Wine GB Awards, Overall Winner at the Independent English Wine Awards, and Winner of our very own Wine Champions Competition earlier this year. Pretty impressive for what is only their second vintage!
Black Chalk was set up by Jacob Leadley and his brother-in-law Andrew Seden. Jacob, who left a comfortable job in London to retrain as a winemaker, was formerly making the wine at well-respected Hattingley Valley where he was already gaining a reputation. He and assistant winemaker, rising star Zoë Driver, craft their sparkling wines from the traditional blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grown locally in the heart of the chalklands of Hampshire. Black Chalk's 2016, which we chose for our offer, lets the chardonnay at its core shine, with a focused apple and citrus core alongside chalky minerality and toasty richness from extended lees ageing. Quintessentially English and utterly outstanding, Black Chalk are just getting started and we can't wait to watch them grow.
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Fernando Mora MW
Bodegas Frontonio & Cuevas de Arom, Campo de Borja
Fernando Mora is one of Spain's brightest young winemakers. An engineer by profession (in the automotive and wind industries), he fell in love with wine and was determined to turn his passion into a profession. His first wine was made in 2008 from garnacha grapes which he planted in his grandparents' garden and made in the bathtub of his apartment! In 2013 he took the bold step of leaving his job, creating Bodegas Frontonio with like-minded friends and then two years later also started a new project called Cuevas de Arom in Campo de Borja, Zaragoza. Obsessed with garnacha, he is proving to be a master of the grape. On the subject of masters, he is one of the few Spanish winemakers to gain the notoriously difficult master of wine qualification which he attained in 2017.
His wines have also caught the eye of Jancis Robinson MW, who chose his Cuevas de Arom As Ladieras Garnacha, Campo de Borja 2016 as her 'desert island' wine when she joined us for an Instagram Live chat last year. Fernando's skill is in transforming the garnacha grape into wines which have an elegance and freshness about them, a million miles away from the blockbuster jug wines that the grape was once associated with.
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Domaine Roche, Cairanne
It's a typical tale for this family property in the southern Rhône village of Cairanne. The estate dates back to the 17th century with a certain Victorin Roche helping to establish the local co-operative in 1929. The family would sell all its grapes to the co-op of which Romain's father Marcel was president for many years. But after going to wine school and various stints abroad, Romain hankered after making his own wine, initially persuading his father to rent him some of the family's own vines to start his own domaine in 2009. Romain is a firm believer that everything starts in the vineyards and is lucky enough to have and estate with some very old vines, including some plots of old carignan, a grape which does very well in Cairanne. Now that Cairanne has cru status (it used to be simply 'Côtes-du-Rhône'), its wines are likely to have greater recognition and Romain Roche is set to be one of the stars of the appellation.
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Canalicchio di Sopra, Montalcino
Francesco's family were also founders of the local consorzio and similarly chose to bottle their own wines back in 1966 rather than sell the grapes to the co-op. As the third generation in charge, the highly skilled and dynamic Francesco is taking the estate and its wines to new heights. Francesco had to hit the ground running when in 2007 he was obliged to drop out of business school to fill his grandfather's shoes who had had a stroke.
He's achieved and awful lot in a short space of time bringing energy and a new philosophy to the winery. He started by carefully making in smaller batches from separate parcels of vines in order to better understand his vineyards and see exactly what his terroir was telling him. At the same time he began transforming the winery, removing decades old casks and generally cleaning things up. More recently he completed an ambitious winery development, digging out new levels below ground and providing more space to work more efficiently. He likes to make pure-tasting, bright wines; his preference for casks, though is to use older oak and larger format barrels which he believes gives a lighter touch in his wines.
It is fitting that as Francesco, whose forebears who were part of the consortium that established the Brunello di Montalcino wine, is now part of the modern day group of producers and is very much seen as a leader of the new generation of Brunello producers.
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