‘Our first proper tasting for ages, and I was unable to attend having contracted Covid, (the reason for the long hiatus since our well-attended Italian tasting in March 2020). This was particularly galling after I had helped organise the attendance of some of the winemakers, notably producers of three new grower Champagnes who I had unearthed on on my post-vendanges trip in October. Some of the team who were able to be there report below.’ (Charles Lea)
Ophelia Hirst writes: We were delighted on March 30th to be able to hold our largest, most ‘normal’ tasting since the pandemic started. The gorgeous library at the Royal Society of Chemists, with it’s entrance on the courtyard of the Royal Academy, was to be our venue and, considering we’d first booked it in early 2020, we were chomping at the bit to finally be able to get in and share some of the freshest, ‘Spring-iest’ wines we had.
We welcomed winemaker friends, old and new, to present their newest releases. We had one entire room dedicated to Champagne, and were delighted and proud to have three of our newest ‘signings’ with us on the day – Nicolas Maillart, Gilles Lancelot and Max Ullens – each wowing and wooing with their gorgeously crafted wines.
In the ‘other’ room were a rising star of the Rhône, Graeme Bott from Domaine G&J Bott, the ever-charming Francisco Santiso from Adega Eidos and Vinos la Higuera, Peter Lehnert and his rejuvenating Rieslings from Weingut Lehnert-Veit and, a rare sighting this side of the pond, Guillaume Philip from L&S’s perennial bestselling Domaine des Diables (MiP* Rosé).
It was a hugely enjoyable and informative day; a treat made all the sweeter from being denied it for two years. A huge thanks goes to all our producers who attended on the day, and to our wonderful customers in attendance who made it so enjoyable.
Ophelia Hirst’s wine of the day
2020 PIESPORTER GOLDTRÖPCHEN Riesling Kabinett Weingut Lehnert-Veit
£16.95 | £14.95
‘A true delight, a wine that makes you question every single Riesling-naysayer out there. Lip-smacking deliciousness – a real elixir that this time of year calls out for, and at a very sensible 8.5%. As noted by Jancis Robinson on the day: ‘Spring in a bottle’.’
Phil Weeks’ wine of the day
LES GOISSES Blanc de Blancs Brut Fleury-la-Rivière Champagne M & G Heucq NV
£43.25 | £39.50
‘There were many wines that grabbed my attention at our Spring Tasting but the Champagne Les Goisses from M & G Heucq was totally captivating, beautifully pure and lithe, a perfect sense of balance and poise. This is a stunning wine at a very fair price and comes highly recommended.’
‘Special mentions should also go to the Fleurie Clos de la Roilette (£19.50 | £17.50) from Alain Coudert, just perfect in every way, and the Chinons from Bernard Baudry that showcase how great Loire Cabernet Franc can truly be.’
Jack Chapman writes: For me, having joined Lea & Sandeman during the pandemic, it was almost too exciting just to be physically in a room, tasting wine with everyone. An immensely eclectic mix to begin with, I found myself hosting perhaps the broadest ranging table – from a German Pinot Noir, to two very different Riojas and even a few new vintages of old favourites from the Rhône. Ultimately, however, the standout for both me and those gathered was somewhere in the middle of ‘my’ table.
Domaine Richeaume is from Provence, specifically the Montagne Sainte Victoire (quite literally just up the road from MiP*) but bucks the rosé trend to create one of the finest reds from the region. Initially founded by German Henning Hoesch, who gave up his career at Yale to become one of the pioneers of organic viticulture in the region. His son Sylvain has since taken up the mantle, having worked at Ridge, and Penfolds, moving even further down the ecological route into full biodynamics. Those familiar with the latter two wineries will see some of their style reflected in these, with Richeaume’s grapes influenced largely by both altitude (they are 300m above sea level) and the cooling breezes from the Mediterranean itself (a mere 30km away). Combine this with the highly calcareous soil and you build a picture of how this generosity of fruit is combined with both structure and restraint to make something which everyone agreed is just outrageously drinkable. The star of the three was their Cuvée Columelle.
Jack Chapman’s wine of the day
2018 DOMAINE RICHEAUME Cuvée Columelle
£34.95 | £31.50
‘A blend of roughly a third each Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot weighing in at 14.5% alcohol, but (and we’re getting a bit science-y here) with a PH of 3.6 (2016 Lafite was 3.7, to give you a marker) illustrating the ripeness-with-acid-balance further. To anyone who is a fan is gorgeous ripe fruit, tempered by freshness and elegance, this is a must have. By the end of the evening, it was the only one where we’d drunk all of the bottles…’
Angus Barcroft writes: tastings for us are such an important part of what we do, and after a two-year hiatus, it was so great to be able to put on a tasting for both trade and private customers. What was even more exciting was that we had a room devoted to Champagne. What a fitting way to kickstart our tastings again and the perfect way to highlight our ever-growing range of Grower Champagnes.
All the L&S stalwarts were showing very well. Barnaut, Gonet-Medeville, Legras, Larmandier-Bernier (the 2011 LARMANDIER-BERNIER Vieille Vigne du Levant Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Grand Cru Cramant (£82.95 | £76.95) was sensational and we are fast approaching the end of this vintage, so get in there quick before it’s all gone) were in fine fettle as per usual. Of the newbies, we were very lucky to have Gilles from Lancelot-Pienne, Max from Champagne Ullens & Nicolas Maillart showing off their wines, all of which were excellent. However, there was one wine that really knocked my socks off on the night and got some excellent feedback from many of my customers as well as many of the attendees who I spoke with.
Angus Barcroft’s wine of the day
2015 LES COUPÉS Blanc de Noirs ‘Franc de Pied’ 1er Cru Écueil Nicolas Maillart
£96.50 | £89.50
‘This is very much in the prestige cuvée category, but if you’re a real Champagne nut like I am, this is well worth your consideration. Not least because it tastes amazing, but it is very different to many of the Blanc de Noirs (100% Pinot Noir) you will find in Champagne because it comes from a single vineyard of ungrafted vines, grown on sand. The nose has a wonderful depth of brioche & pastry as well as some bruised apple notes, red fruits & hazelnut. On the palate it is concentrated in flavour, creamy and perfectly balanced. There’s elegance and restraint, but power too. I loved it! So easy to drink now, but this should reward some further cellaring. Excellent.’
Tom Lorimer’s wine of the day
I’ve been drinking and thoroughly enjoying The Barraud family’s wines for nearly three decades at Lea and Sandeman now.
It’s the sheer consistency and quality that stands out from vintage to vintage and at a price that makes you feel you have something very grown up in hand. On the dinner table it catches most out for being a much grander Puligny and Meursault from the Côte d’Or, not from the now increasingly fashionable Mâconnais where you can find their vineyards all around the dramatic cliffs of the rocks of Solutré and Vergisson.
Allen Meadows goes a step further (2014 Burghound) – ‘I have said this before, but I will say it again: no one makes better wine in the Mâconnais than Barraud. There are a few domaines that produce wines that are sometimes just as good, … but none of them surpasses the quality he consistently produces. If you aren’t familiar with the wines, you owe it to yourself and your pocketbook to check them out.‘ Allen Meadows, Burghound.com.
2019 POUILLY FUISSÉ Les Châtaigniers Domaine Daniel Barraud
£29.95 | £26.95
‘All I would change (copyright disallowing) is to update his note to 2022 – the wines are even better and especially this Les Châtaigniers which had everyone gassing around the tasting table on the day. It’s the first time I have tasted this particular wine from the Barrauds where the vines are 55 years old and higher up on the slope in Fuissé. Pale yellow, beautifully fresh with lots of energy, and driven honeyed fruit. Less mineral than most of their wines but absolutely nothing to take away. Another fabulous addition to their range and I suspect it will garner the same following as their ‘En Buland’ which always sells out within weeks of release – and all for under £30. Where does it happen in most of Burgundy anymore?’