The New Year signals new ideas and fresh starts, so I looked back through my tasting notes to try to capture the early essence of 2024 in vinous form. I found a collection of wines that stood out for their ingenuity, originality, and individuality.
These fresh, new, and engaging wines are ideal for ushering in the New Year. Each bottle possesses a sense of brightness and verve, and they are all culminations of various flights of fancy from their makers. It feels like these wines were made with eagerness and excitement and that can only come from the personnel in charge.
This doesn’t mean to say that those wineries with long histories cannot summon up these emotions and imbue them in their wines, but it needs to be genuine for these characteristics to be recognised in the glass. All too often, one senses toil and drudgery even in world-famous wines because the season was challenging or the mood in camp was tense.
It is incumbent on those in management positions to endeavour to fire up enthusiasm and excitement in their teams so that the wines capture this mood and sing in the glass. If you haven’t upgraded your labels for aeons or have yet to introduce a new cuvée to your classic portfolio, you do not need to feel you lack drive, originality or momentum.
Simple things like the changing seasons and an imminent, new harvest should be enough to bring a sense of elation to those people who truly belong in the wine business, and the New Year is a time to celebrate these feelings. Let your flights of fancy soar and bring infectious enthusiasm to everyone around you because the electricity is unmissable in the glass!
2020 The Grange, White from Black, Hampshire
I was bowled over when I tasted the 2018 vintage of this rebelliously named wine back in September. This note on the newly released 2020 vintage is a Vineyard scoop, as I was privileged to taste the very first bottle.
As you will have spotted, White from Black is a conscious move away from using French terms on English wines, following pioneers Mereworth and their 2019 White from White, released in 2022 and featured on this page.
Zam Baring’s 100% Pinot Meunier sparkler is a thriller. Using 52% neutral oak to bring a degree of grandeur to proceedings and balancing the keen acidity with 7.5g/L residual sugar, this is a terrific expression of the dynamic Pinot Meunier variety, and it brings a spicy and more textural delivery of orchard fruit right to the front of the palate in which the drinker can indulge their senses.
In spite of its youth, this wine is flying and it is set to push The Grange to even headier heights. While this wine already looks stunning, I have no doubt it will age beautifully, too!
2022 Kinsbrok KIN
I loved the 2021 vintage of KIN: a glorious wine made from blending sheer panic with small parcels of grapes that, individually, were not of sufficient quantities to make standalone single-variety wines. And it worked – after all, I wrote this wine up in this Magazine.
The 2021 inspired passion and emotion in everyone who tasted it so Joe Beckett and Rebecca Dancer decided to do it all over again in 2022. But this time, the Reichensteiner/Pinot Gris/Pinot Noir Précoce cocktail failed to light a fire under its creators, so they added more complexity via the medium of Bacchus, Chardonnay and some rosé made from Pinot Noir. The result is a riotously floral, succulent, edgy, and arrestingly stony wine with some obviously expressive elements tempered by contemplative, soulful highlights.
While it weighs in at a slender 11.5% alcohol, the flavour amplitude is shocking. No oak is employed, and a generous 4g/L residual sugar softens the brittle corners, making 2022 KIN another incredibly successful exercise in sensitive blending informed by great taste.
2019 Saffron Grange, Classic Cuvée
I love the Saffron Grange label, inspired by woolly mammoth teeth and tusks that were found in the River Slade that runs along the bottom of this vineyard.
A rare outcrop of upper cretaceous chalk forms the deep subsoil at this 5ha property, and this means that Saffron Grange makes bright, crystalline sparklers underpinned by a refreshing sense of crispness and ‘white minerality’.
The Classic Cuvée is made from 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier and with a generous 9g/L residual, this is a silky, open, smooth, and perfumed wine. With three years on its lees, this wine is ready to drink now, and its competitive price is sure to endear it to adventurous wine lovers in search of a classy and well-balanced fizz.
With a feisty 2020 Pinot Noir Rosé – £32.00 www.saffrongrange.com – blessed with crisp, red cherry-soaked fruit and cleansing acidity also in the line-up this is a star estate to watch out for in 2024.