Our industry is powered by hard-working, visionary women with world-class taste – Matthew Jukes.
Years ago, I remember hosting a tasting of Australian wines for The Wine Society at One Great George Street, in Westminster. These facts I remember, but the moment which most sticks in my mind about this event was one of the questions from the floor.
A chap asked me why the majority of the wines which I was showing that day were made by women. I am never lost for words, but this stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t know why. It didn’t even occur to me and it never has done what gender the person is who makes the wines that I like. Sometimes I know, most of the time I don’t, but my job is to taste wine, write up and talk about the very finest – that is it. On this particular date, I had unknowingly picked a suite of wines made by some of the most seriously talented winemakers Down Under – the vast majority of whom happened to be women. On reflection, it was an incredibly big deal, indeed it was a turning point for me.
Our esteemed editor, Jo Cowderoy, reminded me that this edition coincides with Women in Wine month. All of my editors and art directors in all of my jobs are women and my COO and Head of Production at Jukes Cordialities are also women. They are, by far, the finest candidates for their positions and all of the women for whom I have worked in my two decades writing about wine have guided my career with consummate expertise and unstinting encouragement. But I realise that the wine world is not an equitable industry even though I am certain that a mighty percentage of the finest wines in the world, and many of those which appeal to my palate, are made by women.
In addition to the three inspirational women responsible for the wines opposite these incredible people have shown me just how much energy, vision, dynamism, taste and drive we have in our business. What would our industry be like without Ingrid Bates at Dunleavy, Sandy Luck at Aldwick, Augusta Raimes at her eponymous estate, Kristin Syltevik at Oxney Organic Estate, Corinne Seely at Exton Park, Emma Rice at Hattingley Valley, Collette O’Leary at Henners and Urban Foxes Wines, Sarah Midgley at Plumpton, Annie Lindo at Camel Valley, Ruth Simpson at Simpsons, Elise Lane at Laneberg Wine, Alison Nightingale at Albourne, Sarah Driver at Rathfinny, Lynsey Verrillo at Blackbook Winery, Caroline Stevens at Danebury, Jonica Fox at Fox & Fox and Tamara and Mardi Roberts at Ridgeview among many, many others! I, for one, would not have been able to find great English wines to write about every month for three years in this magazine, in fact, I might not have even lasted twelve months! In addition, I would not have any of my wine writing commissions without female editors putting their trust in me.
2014 The Bolney Estate, Cuvée Noir Brut
Sam Linter needs no introduction in this magazine because the MD/Head Winemaker at the family-run Bolney estate is a genuine pioneer in our industry.
It is, however, worth underlining and highlighting that she has been leading the Bolney charge for no less than thirty years and this continued excellence is worthy of a heartfelt standing ovation. With a broad portfolio of strong wines everywhere you look, I have picked perhaps the least commercial number in the line-up and yet this is a wine that I think is absolutely delicious and one we should all sing about because it is a food-matching star.
Dark, berry-stuffed, peppery and fresher than many a Sparkling Shiraz, this is a crunchy, prickly number with a welcome savoury feel which balances the exuberant fruit. I can even taste a lick of tannin here and this brings added flair and daring. Pop the cork with beef in black bean sauce, rogan josh, chipotle chilli beef, seared venison with blackberries or a classic mixed grill, this wine is a veritable magician with tricky dishes.
2019 Oastbrook, Pinot Gris
I have never met America Brewer but her story is heart-warming (check out her website) and after studying at Plumpton College she is clearly a talent to follow.
In the December 2019 issue of Vineyard, I wrote up the 2018 vintage of this wine and a year later this 2019 gets a nod, too. There are very few wines in the UK that step up to this level in consecutive vintages so congratulations to this visionary viti-specialist/owner of Oastbrook. Luxurious and layered and yet not fat or sweet-edged this is another wine with thrilling balance and while I love its classical stance there is still a quintessential English vibe deep down in the flavour of this accurate and immensely refreshing wine.
I know I bang on about restaurants and food a lot in this column, but the gastronomic suitability of wine is all-important in our crowded market and in the world of white wine, this must be one of the most multitalented whites I can think of. Textural, lusty and refreshing, with no obvious oak or alcohol coupled with serious class and polish – this wine should be everywhere in the off-trade and on-trade, when the hospitality industry finally opens again.
Congrats America you have done it again and I await the 2020 sample with anticipation.
MV Nyetimber, Cuvee Chérie, Demi-Sec
Cherie Spriggs is the ultimate professional and there is clearly a no-compromise rule at Nyetimber.
Her wines shine in the glass and since she and her husband Brad Greatrix joined Nyetimber nearly fifteen years ago the wines have forged an elite reputation both here and overseas, too. I could pick any wine from Cherie’s portfolio for this column, but I decided to select the one which nearly bears her name. I say nearly because while Nyetimber has wisely decided to leave the acute accent off the word Cuvee (this is an English wine after all) that accent did not fall to the floor because it popped up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Chérie.
True to form, Cherie (Spriggs) is too modest to allow this wine to be named after her, although this is a delightful nod, and the accented spelling of Chérie, as we all know, means ‘sweetheart’ while also hinting at a dosage-influenced wine. It also refers to Nyetimber’s own sweetheart and every single other sweetheart who receives this wine as a gift.
Oh, and a tasting note? There is no need because this is the finest demi-sec in the country and it kicks into touch virtually every Champagne demi-sec I can think of, too, because the balance between silky fruit and bracing acidity is spot on!