ROSE Murray Brown brings you her top winieries to watch in the year ahead
Champagne, France CHAMPAGNE PIERRE GIMONNET
A very impressive “grower champagne” house which just gets better and better – its bottles would suit those who love chardonnay-based fizz cuvées. It’s now run by Didier and Olivier Gimonnet who are based in the village of Cuis in Champagne. They own almost 30 hectares of chardonnay vineyards with 16 hectares of Premier Cru and 12 hectares of Grand Cru in Cramant, Chouilly, Oger and Vertus. The reserve wines for their non-vintage are kept in bottle rather than tank. Champagne Pierre Gimonnet Premier Cru Cuis Brut NV has a beautiful texture, is vibrant and lively and superb quality for the price (£20.99 each for 6 bts, John Armit; £25 bt, the Wine Society; £36 bt, Oddbins).
Languedoc, France CALMEL & JOSEPH
I have been impressed with the very well-made range of wines from this new Côteaux du Languedoc micro-negociant run by Laurent Calmel and Jerome Joseph. Their Villa Blanche Chardonnay was voted most popular wine under £10 with chefs Neil Forbes and Mark Greenaway in our Scotsman Google hangout. Their red Côtes du Roussillon, Corbières and Minervois are also firm favourites, but their best red is Calmel & Joseph’s Terrasses du Larzac 2011, a spicy savoury blend of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre (£13.99-£14.95, Vino Wine Shops, Edinburgh; Ellies Cellar, Dollar, Perth, Crieff, Linlithgow and Auchterarder; Waitrose).
Rhone, France MARC SORREL
This is a recent find for me, although this grower’s domaine producing famous Hermitage has been in existence for nearly 100 years. Traditional hand-crafted wines using late picked grapes from old vines grown on prime sites in Hermitage (including Meal and Greffieux) make seriously good, very intense stylish syrahs – but they are not cheap. Sorrel’s 2009s and 2010s are superb (Hermitage 2010, £42 from Laithwaites; 2009, £39, Roberson Wines; the Wine Society; Justerini & Brooks; Berry Bros & Rudd).
All those nebbiolo-lovers (aka followers of barolo and barbaresco) who despair of the high prices should head north to the little-known region of Gattinara in the foothills of the Alps – still within the Piedmont wine region – where they grow the same grape as barolo. Here the nebbiolo grape is called spanna. I have been really impressed with the wines from the Nervi winery, run by oenologist Enrico Fileppo. Now with Norwegian backing, it is going from strength to strength. Nervi owns south-facing mineral-rich vineyards beneath Monterosa, Europe’s second highest mountain. Its nebbiolos have real depth of flavour. You can buy mature bottle-aged Nervi wines from Edinburgh’s Raeburn Wines: Nervi Gattinara 2002 is £18.99.
Republic of Macedonia STOBI
A newcomer to the world of wine, Stobi has astonished many sceptical tasters with its very flavourful white zilavka, sturdy red vranec and sweet succulent muscat. It is the largest producer in land-locked Macedonia, where the very hot summers develop full bodied weighty whites, gutsy reds and succulent sweet styles. What I enjoyed was not just the quality of these wines (and slick packaging too) – but I loved the unusual grape flavours. Currently it is my pick of the countries to watch from the Balkans. Try the plummy ripe Stobi Vranec Classic 2011 (£11, Cornelius Wine, 18 Easter Road, Edinburgh; Cork & Cask, Marchmont Road, Edinburgh; £9.99, Wine Rack stores, London).
A true Bulgarian treasure. This small boutique producer is currently making some of the best Bulgarian wines, from its base in the north-west. Enterprising Dr Ognyan Tzvetanov only sources old vines and makes tiny quantities, ageing them for long periods in old oak. They have a really interesting range of white and red wines – from Vox Dei Pinot Noir with a meteorite in each barrel and sturdy Gamza Black Pack, to the luscious oaked white Cuvée Bella Rada made from the Russian rkatsiteli grape (£13.50, Berry Bros & Rudd; £11.50, the Wine Society).
New Zealand LOWBURN FERRY
This is a tiny, but high quality producer with just four hectares of vineyards in central Otago near Queenstown making delicious ripe pinot noir. Lowburn Ferry, named after the crossing of the nearby Clutha River, was set up in 2000 by Roger and Jean Gibson on sheltered north-facing terraces in the Lowburn valley below the Pisa range. Try their ripe lush Home Block Pinot Noir 2012 (£29-£32, Ellies Cellar, Dollar; www.winetrust100.co.uk).
California DOMAINE DE LA TERRE ROUGE
This newly imported range from Bill Easton, who used to be a wine merchant and is now a serious artisan vine grower based on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in California, near the Shenandoah valley, focuses on classic Rhone varieties. I love his zinfandel from the old gold mining country of Amador, but his barrel-fermented, extended lees-aged white viognier produced on the granite soils in Fiddletown is really serious stuff – outstandingly good (Fiddletown Viognier 2010, £21, Luvians; Domaine Direct).
England HERBERT HALL
Nick Hall handcrafts one of England’s finest sparkling wines in an old Kentish hopfield. In his Marden vineyard in Kent he grows the same grapes (chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier) and uses the same method for creating the fizz as champagne. First planted in 2007, he is hoping to expand his vineyard a little to keep up with demand. Focusing on fruit rather than imitating champagne, his Herbert Hall Brut 2011 has floral delicacy with a dry stony touch. It’s impressive – and I look forward to tasting his cuvées from our warm 2013 and 2014 summers (£28, Great Grog, Edinburgh; Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh; Fortnum & Mason).
South Africa GLENELLY
Meet a newcomer on the South African scene located right in the heart of the traditional estates of Stellenbosch. An elderly French lady, May de Lencquesaing, has established herself with a series of impressive wines in this modern young winery. Lencquesaing sold her prestigious classed growth Chateau Pichon Lalande in Bordeaux, and headed to South Africa in 2003 to start anew. With 30 years’ experience of making top class claret in France she is now making very interesting Bordeaux-style reds in the Cape – and is certainly an estate to watch. I enjoyed her chardonnay, but was most impressed by her flagship red, a very elegant cabernet sauvignon with 24 months in new French oak called Lady May (£23, Marks & Spencer; www.sawinesonline.co.uk).
• Join Rose’s New Zealand wine tasting on 12 February at 28 Queen Street, Edinburgh, £40, www.rosemurraybrown.com