Bairrada

Cellar Chat: Bairrada

In our smaller, more intimate new tasting format, six Collective members taste and discuss a range of wines from Portugal’s Bairrada DO

Drawing together sommeliers from great venues across the UK, our first ever Cellar Chat was a chance for members to taste and swap opinions (via Zoom) about a range of wines from the Bairrada region.

We began with a short introduction from Portuguese winemaker, Tiago Macena, who gave our members a swift A-Z of the DO.

Like most regions in Portugal (the tenth biggest producing country in the world), Bairrada has a long history, with winemaking documented by Cistercian monks back in the 9th Century. The country has many climatic influences – continental in the east, Mediterranean in the south and Atlantic in the west.

Bairrada is very much about the latter. Cooler, fresher Atlantic weather dominates.

Our guide for the day, Tiago Macena

Bairrada is not a big DO – only 6,500 hectares – but it has a wide range of styles. Red accounts for 70% of the production, but it also makes white, rosé and sparkling, too – the result, no doubt, of those cooling maritime influences.

As important as the climate, however, are the shifts in soil.

‘Luis Pato says that this is one of the richest parts of Portugal in terms of soil influence,’ explained Tiago. ‘Even small plots can vary from sand to clay to limestone.’

Key whites are Bical and Sercial, while reds are dominated by Baga – a structured, earthy variety that can veer towards Nebbiolo in style. Touriga Nacional, Aragonez (Tempranillo) and Merlot are also significant, often used to add softness and sweetness to Baga’s inherent savouriness and tannin.

‘We’re used to blending – whether that’s varieties, techniques or soils,’ said Tiago. ‘Though that’s not just unique to Bairrada. It’s common for Portugal as a whole. It’s not that common to see a single varietal wine.’

With the basics covered off, our members moved on to the tasting of what promised to be an intriguing region.

Big skies, gentle slopes, mixed terroir and Atlantic weather – the key to Bairrada

White/sparkling wines

Vadio Bairrada Branco 2020

Bibendum, £13.13 ex-VAT

From a young winemaker, who’s native to Bairrada, this is a blend of the two classic white grapes, Bical and Sercial. Bical is an early ripener, and here it’s been given a little time in old oak to add weight. Sercial is a zesty variety that keeps its acidity well.

‘It will keep citrus fruit and even a saltiness for several years,’ explained Tiago. ‘Even a few years old it has a laser like acidity.’

This was true. The wine was sharp and bright – like winter sunlight off steel. But our tasters generally found it to be a bit hard still.

‘That creaminess of the oak, followed by the acidity on the finish is a bit overwhelming,’ said Emanuel Pesqueira from Gordon Ramsay. ‘There’s a lot of acidity here.’

The Royal Cavalry and Guards Club’s Andre Luis Martins felt it was ‘a bit like grabbing a young Chablis en primeur – you struggle to get through the acidity. Though with time the barrels [will] give it an added roundness.’

Tiago, who had a 2018 to try, said that with two years in bottle the wine was perfect, so it’s worth looking for slightly older bottles if you can.

‘I agree that it’s too young, but I really like that salty note on the finish. It would be really interesting to pair with food.’

Isobel Salamon, Eden Locke

Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas 2020

Raymond Reynolds, £13.30 ex-VAT

‘Luis Pato is probably better known than the region itself,’ said Tiago of this wine’s creator. ‘He’s an idol of mine, a true gentleman.’

Senhor Pato’s expertise was evident here, in what was an elegant, structured wine. It was based on the same two grapes as the first wine – Bical and Sercial – but with 25% of Sercealinho – a cross of Sercial and Alvarinho.

The Bical was grown on limestone (which brings acidity according to Tiago) while the Sercial and Sercialinho were planted on sand, for fruit influence.

Whether it was the addition of Sercealinho or the influence of the soils our tasters found this a more integrated wine, that was ready to drink now. More than one described it as ‘Riesling like’.

Our Portuguese panelists, Andre Luis Martins and Emanuel Pesqueira both felt it was softer, rounder and more approachable than the Vadio, while Number One at the Balmoral’s Damien Trinckquel declared it ‘very gastronomic – a great introduction to guests who’ve never had this type of wine.’

‘It’s so versatile. You could have it with everything from grilled salmon to poached cod. Fantastic.’

Daniel Jonberger, Headlam Hall

Aplauso DOC Bruto 2016, Regateiro Lusovini

Amathus, £9.05 ex-VAT

There is a long history of méthode traditionelle sparkling wine in Bairrada. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are both permitted, ‘though people can use them all over the world – only this region can make sparkling with Baga,’ said Tiago.

This wine majored on Baga, but had unusual partners in Touriga Nacional and Pinot Noir, all grown on limestone/clay soils.

‘Though we’re in a cool part of Portugal, we’re still significantly warmer than Champagne,’ said Tiago. ‘So we can expect more of a fruit profile.’

Our tasters were not madly in love with this wine. Andre Luis Martins felt it was a ‘commercial expression of bairrada – I’d have looked for more freshness and minerality.’

Baga, he pointed out, has a similar acidity to Pinot Meunier in Champagne.

‘There’s a lot of flavour and complexity,’ agreed Emanuel, ‘but it needed more structure. I was expecting more acidity – especially from a Blanc de Noirs.’

‘It’s not a bad wine, but I’m not sure it represents the region.’

Damien Trinckquel, No. One at The Balmoral
With centuries of winemaking, there are plenty of ‘vinhas velhas’ (old vines) in Bairrada

Red wines

Niepoort  Drink Me NatCool 2020

Raymond Reynolds, £15.50 / 1-litre bottle ex-VAT

NatCool is part of a project initiated by Dirk Niepoort, to create light, easy-drinking wines (what the Australians might call ‘smashable’). From the packaging (funky label, one-litre bottle) to the low- alcohol, low-extraction, pale-coloured wine, this is all about being different.

And across the board our tasters loved it, for its freshness, its elegance and its versatility. Indeed, much of the discussion centred on how to use it, with panellists seeing a use for it with everything from partridge and red cabbage to fish.

It could, they felt, work by the glass or by the bottle, chilled in summer or at room temperature. Emanuel Pesqueira described it as a ‘GP-making machine!’ and our tasters felt that once customers had been introduced to it, they were sure to get through at least one bottle.

‘I’d put this on by the bottle provided it was the right restaurant,’ said Isobel Salamon. ‘If you’re a small plate kind of place, it could go with so many different things.’

‘It could be a really great wine for the younger generation who like lighter styles of wine. And once it’s open they will really all want to drink it. It’s very sellable. A profit machine.’

Natasha Sernina, Chewton Glen

Marques de Marialva 2018, Colheita Seleccionada 

Not yet imported. Approx RRP £10.99

From the local co-operative in Bairrada, which deals with 700 growers, this wine was a great example of how good co-ops can be when they’re well run.

A blend of Baga (50%), Aragonez (30%) and Touriga Nacional from a warm vintage it spends six months in second-use oak. The result is a wine that is rich, ripe, and sweetly straightforward but that went down well with our tasters.

Andre Luis Martins found a freshness underneath the sweet fruit, which he attributed to the proximity of the vineyards to the coast.

Damien, meanwhile, found a ‘coffee liqueur note’ which he felt added a ‘slight bitterness and helps balance the sweetness of the fruit. It’s not entirely what I expect from Bairrada but I really like it. There’s a perfect balance between ripeness and acidity.’

‘I loved the balsamic and cassis notes. For people who like Cabernet, you can put that on by the glass and they’ll love it.’

Emanuel Pesqueira, Gordon Ramsay

Alianca Reserva 2018 

Boutinot,  £6.35 ex-VAT

There was a higher proportion of Baga in this wine (70%), backed up by 20% of Tinta Roriz and 10% of Touriga Nacional. The result is a rather more savoury wine – even from the sun-filled 2018 vintage – with Touriga adding a slight floral edge on the finish.

Damien made the observation that in this wine the Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional seemed to be doing a similar job to Merlot in Bordeaux or Tuscany – of adding softness and flesh to the muscle of the base variety – in this case Baga.

The somms enjoyed it very much – particularly at the price – and there was much debate about how best to use it.

‘It’s a lot more savoury,’ said Isobel. ‘I’d have this with lamb, rather than cheese, for instance. It’s got those nice savoury almost Italian characters, which would be perfect for a gastropub.’

Damien went down similar lines. ‘You want food with some fat,’ he said. ‘It’s a little sharper through the palate, but a little fat in the meat or the sauce will bring everything together. It’s like if you have a Nebbiolo.’

Emmanuel, meanwhile, appreciated the fact that it was vegan, which gave it an extra reason for sale.

 ‘It’s more Baga-dominated on the palate – more tannic, rustic and more earthy. The previous wine shows more Aragonez and Touriga.’

Andre Luis Martins, Royal Cavalry and Guards Club

Arco d’Aguieira 2016 

Portugalia, £13.23 ex-VAT

From the northern part of Bairrada, this was both our oldest and most expensive red wine. But its atypical varietal makeup was controversial: 95% Touriga Nacional, with 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and a splash of Tinta Roriz.

With lots of rich dark fruit and ripe tannins it was a concentrated, complex and rich wine which, of itself, was extremely good.

‘Outstanding,’ said Emanuel. ‘There’s earth, oak, and full deep blackberry and dark plum. I love it. And it would be great with a tomahawk steak.’

Isobel agreed, saying she was going to buy in some venison for the evening just to partner it.

Andre Luis, however, was less keen. ‘This for me isn’t Bairrada,’ he said. ‘I can get wines like this from Douro or Alentejo. For me, this is missing typicity.’

Damien agreed that this could be an issue – ‘If I order a Barrada I’d probably expect some Baga in the glass’ he admitted. Having said that, he also pointed out that ‘most people in the UK won’t know anything about Bairrada – and this is a beautiful wine.

‘I get wet stone, girolle mushrooms, powerful acidity and silky tannins; licorice and anis. If a sommelier poured this for a guest at £60-70 they will be very happy.’

All in all, a great – and thought provoking – conclusion to a stimulating and well-priced selection of wines.

‘Whatever you’re looking for – your menu, your style of food, your customer – there’s something here. It’s been a very versatile range of wines we’ve tasted today.’

Damien Trinckquel, No. One at The Balmoral
Winter grass in the vineyards is a good indicator of Bairrada’s Atlantic climate
MS badges

What I’ve learned from taking my first MS exams

With lockdown, reopenings and staffing pressures, Collective member Klearhos Kannellakis’ preparation for his first round of MS exams wasn’t ideal. He tells us what he’s learned from the experience and how he’ll bounce back stronger.

I took my Introduction and Certified exams on the same day in 2016. There was a tasting, a small practical and a questionnaire.

Two years later I took the Advanced Master Sommelier. That was a big step up. We had six wines blind instead of two, a written exam and a practical with many tables where you also had to answer questions. It’s almost like a junior Master Sommelier.

After that you have one or two years to prepare and sit for the Master Sommelier exam.

With Covid it’s not been easy to form a tasting group and being super-understaffed at work when we started again it’s not been perfect conditions either. The only plus side was that we had a lot of available time for studying the theory.

‘My mistake was that I didn’t have the right plans to prepare myself. It wasn’t lack of time that was the problem.’

Here’s what I’ve learned, and how I’d prepare differently next time.

The Theory

The exam is an oral exam, designed to replicate talking to a customer, it’s not a written exam paper. Someone asks you and you have to answer straight away. I found this hard.

Imagine being in a room for an hour, getting approximately 100 questions from two examiners – you have around 45 seconds to answer questions from anywhere on the planet. One question could be France, the next could be sake, then New Zealand. And you either know it or you don’t. You can’t go back to it later on.

Preparing flash cards and studying books, publications and websites are all vital in preparing for the exam. But so too is the verbal aspect of it. It’s important to team up with someone and ask questions face to face about the subjects you have studied and I didn’t do this.

The other mistake was that I tested myself by learning whole sections and testing myself on them. So doing all of Italy at once, say. But I needed to mix countries because that’s more difficult.

It’s important to mix up your flash cards

Covid and then reopenings meant that I didn’t have a mentor towards the end. That was another mistake. Having someone who’s been through this before can really help tell you what the examiners are looking for.

I prepared things I thought were important, but it’s probably twice the effort of doing the Advanced. The detail you need for every part of the world is really tough. In Tuscany, for instance, you don’t just need to know the 11 DOCGs and the permitted grapes, you need to know what a producer can call his wine if he doesn’t follow the laws. It gets more complicated.

You need to get 75% to pass, and I was far away from that.

For theory you need to learn a lot of information about a lot of places, such as all the Washington State AVAs

The Practical

In the practical there are four tables, each requiring different skills that I believe can change slightly from year to year.

In my exam, the first table had three wines from one region to identify and I had to do a ten-minute presentation – like staff training – on that region. It’s to show that you understand a region and can communicate it before service: climate, grapes, soils, appellations, food-pairing and so on.

How not to pass the ‘opening sparkling wine’ section of the practical paper… pic: Frank van Mierlo, Wikimedia Commons

The next table was serving sparkling wine and they ask you questions about it. It’s not just champagne. You need to know every style of sparkling and all the trends. In fact, that’s a key part of the MS – they really want you to be up to date with everything that’s happening around the world. Who’s buying land, new laws, new labels etc.

The third table was decanting a red wine, and there were questions about the specific wine I was serving: different vintages, which ones I’d recommend, whether I’d decant it or not – and then questions about the region, including other producers from that particular area.

They asked about pairing it with the local cuisine, but I didn’t know any local dishes from that region so that was my worst table in the practical. I scored highly on all the others.

The final table was to do with the business side of things. We had ten minutes to do three different tasks calculating staff wages, working out costs and breakages for stemware, and calculating cost and selling prices – GPs.

I was close to passing this section, and I really like that in the practical paper you have to describe and understand regions; I just maybe needed to be a bit more structured and systematic in my approach. Maybe I’ll create a template that I can use to answer questions whatever the subject, so I make sure I cover it all and don’t miss anything.

The Tasting

Everyone knows the tasting paper is hard. You have to get a score of 75% for the whole tasting. So you can’t make too many errors with this. The structure – alcohol, acidity, tannin, fruit descriptors, winemaking influences, climate and of course grape variety must be very accurate.

Out of the nearly 30 candidates this year, nobody passed the tasting paper – probably because it’s been a crazy year – people closed, open, changing jobs, reopening restaurants with fewer staff. It’s been hard for everybody, but we’ll probably all do better next year.

My problem was that I didn’t have somebody giving me feedback – I was just tasting blind by myself. My girlfriend would pour the wines for me and I would try them and describe them, but I didn’t have any feedback. You need a group or a mentor to talk to about the wines with. With Zoom and Skype I will now look at networking with other sommeliers and colleagues.

Tasting with other somms is essential

Some grapes have many different styles – like Grüner Veltliner which can be light and high acid or full-bodied and botrytised. So you need to be familiar with all of the different styles, all the different areas (Wachau, Kamptal, Kremstal, etc.) and the characters of the vintages, too.

The key is to be really focused on training your palate consistently for the whole year before the exam: trying similar styles next to each other – not blind – to understand the differences. Get that deeper level of familiarity and working on the mental preparation. Once you have a structured approach decided you are less likely to be stressed.

This year’s examiners – a terrifying bunch!

I think the real purpose of the exam is to achieve ‘mastery’ in each region, country, style of wine. This can’t be achieved by just learning lists but an overall understanding of history, climate, geology and geography, localised winemaking styles and the best producers and vintages.

You have to be able to speak confidently about all of the above, to truly understand how all these factors influence how the wine tastes. All while confidently decanting a bottle of wine with a nice smile!

Overall, I’m disappointed that I didn’t pass any of the papers – even if I was really close on one of them. But you learn and you come back stronger, and through the whole process – pass or fail – you become better.

With another year of studying, concentrating on my tasting, perfecting my service techniques, it can only make me better at my profession as a sommelier.

The tasting paper is notoriously tough and needs a LOT of practice
Torres

Discovery Tasting: Torres

The chance to sample almost-extinct Catalan varieties from Torres’ impressive vine recovery programme made for a memorable tasting

Torres are a name that needs little introduction: creators of a wide range of wines that are on sale across the world. This, in itself, is no mean achievement, but still being family-owned and family-run means that they are able to do things differently compared to many other large companies. And today’s tasting was a case in point.

Being family run has allowed Torres to take a very long-term view

It was a chance for our members to look at the extraordinary work that the company have done in attempting to revive forgotten, abandoned and almost-extinct Catalan grape varieties.

This was a project that began in the early 1990s – at a time, don’t forget, when most people were frantically planting Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet. And now, almost 30 years later, it is starting to reach fruition, with a number of ancient varieties starting to appear both in single-varietal form and as part of new and existing blends.

It’s been expensive, time-consuming, rewarding and mind-blowing in more or less equal measure. As Torres’ technical director, Josep Sabarich admits.

‘It’s a bit of a crazy project. Only a family-owned cellar could do this.’

Josep Sabarich
Josep Sabarich, Torres’ Technical Director

The starting point for the recovery project began in the 19th century, when phylloxera destroyed Europe’s vineyards. When people finally replanted, they did it in a hurry and didn’t necessarily put back in what had been there before. It was also a chance for growers to get rid of varieties that were hard to grow or unproductive.

The upshot was that hundreds of varieties fell out of use – and decades later, Torres decided to bring some of them back. Partly it was to recover some of Catalonia’s grape-growing heritage, but also, as Josep puts it, ‘because we felt that these varieties could bring us something that we don’t have in our vineyard at the moment.’

The family put adverts in the Catalan press, encouraging people to inform them if they had old vines growing wild on their land. They checked over the submissions with ampelographers, and then, finally, with DNA analysis.

A wild vine climbing up a cliff-face, pic: G et M André

If the vines were unique they propagated them (to get rid of viruses) and then, if all went well, started experiments in the vineyard. It was a huge amount of work, but educational – for many reasons.

‘We learned that we are not smarter than our ancestors,’ says Josep. ‘The majority of these varieties were stopped being used for a good reason – either they weren’t interesting, or there were quality problems.

‘But some stopped being used just because they were low-yielding, even though they are actually interesting in oenological terms.’

A key benefit seems to be that many of these native varieties are extremely well adapted to the local climate. For instance, they all have a longer growing season than varieties like Chardonnay or Merlot, ripening later but also preserving more acidity.

‘This could be a way to fight against global warming. To readapt our vineyards to the current situation.’

Josep Sabarich

Down the line, Torres will not be the only beneficiaries. They are sharing their discoveries with other growers who want to make wine with them. In 30, 40, 50 years’ time, the likes of Moneu, Pirene and Querol could be as familiar to sommeliers as Cabernet, Xarel.lo and Tempranillo.

It’s a project that is not just good for Torres, but for all Mediterranean viticulture.

New vines from ancient varieties, being propagated before planting in a greenhouse

The Wines

Forcada 2016

Our only white of the tasting was notable for two reasons: its low pH and a long growing cycle that often sees it ripen in mid-October – highly atypical for a white grape in Catalonia.

‘The first thing everyone does is to compare a new grape to another one,’ says Josep. ‘To look for a reference. Here we’re thinking more in terms of Atlantic varieties than Mediterranean.’

Forcada – rare but worth looking for!

The wine is made with a combination of new oak, old oak and concrete tanks.

‘It’s too raw after fermentation – very electric and acidic,’ explained Josep. ‘We wanted to give it more creaminess and complexity in the mouth. Oak and concrete can do this.’

Despite being five years old, there was still plenty of acidity in the 2016, and Collective members likened it to Hunter Semillon, Pinot Auxerrois and Chenin Blanc.

Current production stands at just 2000 bottles with a RRP of around £45. The new vintage should arrive in the spring.

‘It’s for sommeliers who understand this wine, because it’s not something commercial,’ explained Torres’ fine wine ambassador and former London sommelier, Joelle Marti. ‘It’s a wine for special wine lovers.

‘It’s important that people who drink these understand everything that is behind the bottle.’

Joelle Marti

Our members certainly did – the wine came out top in our members’ poll.

Moneu 2020

Moneu – now back and in the bottle. Pic:_Jordi Elias

Planted next to Mas La Plana, in fertile soil with limestone, Moneu is a fairly low-yielding red, with good acidity, thick skins and plenty of colour. ‘It’s a very pure vinification with a short maceration to show just the fruit soul of the wine,’ said Josep.

This variety currently makes up 20% of the blend in Clos Ancestrale (the fourth wine here), where it is made in a more extracted and concentrated way that needs to be carefully watched.

Planted next to Mas La Plana, in fertile soil with limestone, Moneu is a fairly low-yielding red, with good acidity, thick skins and plenty of colour. ‘It’s a very pure vinification with a short maceration to show just the fruit soul of the wine,’ said Josep.

This variety currently makes up 20% of the blend in Clos Ancestrale (the fourth wine here), where it is made in a more extracted and concentrated way that needs to be carefully watched.

‘It’s very easy to extract colour and tannins,’ said Josep. ‘If you’re not careful you can go too far and get a rustic wine.’

The Moneu is not currently available as a single varietal – this was a sample bottle only. But perhaps that might change, because it was popular with our tasters.

Some Moneu is fermented in ‘tinajas’

Michal Dumny likened it to Dolcetto, while Harry Cooper felt it was ‘A little earthy, no tannin, spice and dark berries, with a little menthol on the finish. Very polished – my style.’

Remarkably, the oldest vines here are just seven years old…

Pirene

When they are first rescued the ancestral varieties obviously have no name, since nobody knows what they are. When naming them, the Torres team often try to link the new arrivals with people or places where they were discovered. This variety was found in several sites near the Pyrenees.

‘It’s my favourite of the three experimental varieties [today],’ said Josep. It is a little more serious as a wine, but still with good freshness and more complexity.’

Pirene: named after where it was discovered

With a very long growing season – it’s one of the first to bud-burst but picked the end of October – it gives a lot of colour. This vibrant wine was macerated for just four days.

Plans are to keep this as a single-varietal wine, though volumes are very limited. The new vintage (RRP £45) should be out in the spring. Members will need to register their interest early. And pray.

The rather beautiful ‘Pre-Pyrenees’ where ‘Pirene’ was found

Clos Ancestral 2019

A blend of 50% Tempranillo, 30% Garnacha and 20% Moneu, with an RRP of £16.99, Clos Ancestral was the most affordable of the day’s wines.

‘We wanted to have more democratic wines, to give access to ancestral varietals with wines that are more accessible,’ explained Joelle Marti.

Currently, the Moneu vines are only six years old, but Torres now have 16 hectares planted, and there are definite plans to grow the percentage of it in this wine, probably all the way up to 100% as the new vines come on stream.

Clos Ancestral: ‘More accessible’

‘These are easy-drinking wines, but also gastronomic, that pair with food and don’t disrupt it’

Joelle Marti

The plan is to create a full range of Clos Ancestral wines, using different varieties, including a white. It provides an exciting glimpse of the next generation of Torres wines; of ranges made with percentages of once forgotten varieties, in a low-intervention style.

‘Low intervention is not easy if you want to have regular quality,’ admits Josep. ‘You can lose some batches. But it’s an interesting way.’

The new Clos Ancestral vintage is due in spring.

Grans Muralles 2004 and 2017

The two Grans Muralles wines were, in one sense, very different from what has gone before. After all, this is an established luxury Spanish wine, with an RRP of around £100 that’s on top restaurant lists all round the world.

From Conca de Barbera in the hills of Catalonia, it has a slight air of Priorat about it: a Garnacha/Cinsaut dominant blend, from a continental climate, with alluvial, slatey soils.

But since 1996 Grans Muralles has also used some of the findings from the vine recovery programme. The 2004 included some Garró, while the 2017 had both Garró and Querol. Samso (used in the 2004) is not a rescued variety, but the Catalan word for Cinsault.

Garró is a tannic presence, designed to add just a little extra heft to the wine’s mouthfeel, but never more than 5% of the total. Querol’s presence can go as high as 20%, but is more typically 10-15%. It brings freshness and lift.

The slatey soils of Conca de Barbera are a key element in the style of Grans Muralles

Garnacha is, as Josep puts it, ‘the nose and the soul of this wine’, so the impact of the recovered varieties is not intended to be dominant, but to act as ‘seasoning’.

Of the two wines tasted here, 2004 was a cooler year with above average rainfall. 2017 was drier, warmer and has a lower proportion of Garnacha than 04. Josep calls decisions like this ‘the human inputs of wine’.

‘I love the complexity of 2004,’ he says, ‘but I also like the boldness of 2017. Though it could be a little raw just at the moment. Probably for today’s dinner I would prefer the 2004.’

‘It ages beautifully well,’ chips in Joelle. ‘We started this in 1996, so we know where we’re going with it.’

In 20 years’ time, they’ll be able to say the same for their exciting new Catalan grape varieties, too!

Late afternoon sun in Finca Grans Muralles – a wine on Michelin-starred lists across the world

Watch the video

Masi Tassi Tour

ADVERTORIAL

Masi, the top Italian producer based in the Veneto, hailed a black cab and invited some of the Capital’s best sommeliers to do The Knowledge and sample the range and diversity of Masi´s wine.

Giacomo Boscaini, export manager and seventh generation member of the family behind Masi, hosted the evening which stopped off at three of London’s great restaurants to showcase the various Masi Estates, paired with some choice dishes.

Masi host a group of top London Sommeliers to showcase its range of wines from the Veneto and Argentina

Giacomo was joined by twelve sommeliers, and Sommelier Collective members, from across London: Stefan Neumann MS; Amedeo Bellini, Sommelier, Petrus by Gordon Ramsay; Antonio Bellochi, Sommelier, City Social; Salvatore Castano, Sommelier, Friarwood’s; Francesco Delfino, Deputy Head Sommelier, Aqua Shard; Roxane Dupuy, Head Sommelier at Sketch; Michela Di Fazzio, Sommelier, Matteo’s at Annabel’s; Matteo Furlan, Head Sommelier at The Ritz; Alexia Gallouët, Head Sommelier, Haugen; Gabriele Galuppo, Head Sommelier, Beast; Jonathan Kleeman, Head Sommelier, Restaurant Story and Daniel Murray, Head Sommelier, A Wong.

Masi Cabs for the Masi Tassi Tour in London, November 2021

The tour started at Piazza Italiana, in the heart of The City, where a number of iconic Venetian wines were tasted with some great Italian dishes. Next up at Sushisamba, Covent Garden, the somms and hosts departed from the European theme; stretching over two continents to pair South American-Eastern fusion with the wines from the Masi Tupungato estate in Argentina. The tour ended at Hide, Piccadilly where guests tasted four Amarones and one Recioto, dating back to 2007, from the family’s cellars chosen specially for the evening by Giacomo.

‘Passo doble’, it’s like the Argentine tango: it’s a dance between Venice and Argentina”

Giacomo Boscaini, 7th generation Masi family

Commenting on the London tour Stefan Neumann MS said, “The evening combined heritage and culture and was a joyful experience – a win win combination. The three different Masi wine ranges, tasted in three different locations, were able to build a bridge between different cuisines.”

Stefan Neumann MS

THE WINES TASTED:

  • Canevel Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG Extra Dry
  • Colbaraca Soave Classico, Masi 2019
  • Toar Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Masi 2018
  • Brolo Campofiorin Oro, Masi 2017
  • Organic Passo Blanco, Masi Tupungato 2020
  • Organic Passo Doble Tierra Soleada, Masi Tupungato 2019
  • Organic Corbec Appassimento, Masi Tupungato 2017
  • Canevel Terre del Faè Prosecco dosaggio zero 2020
  • Costasera Amarone Classico, Masi 2015
  • Riserva Costasera Amarone Classico, Masi 2015
  • Campolongo di Torbe Amarone, Masi 2007
  • Mazzano Amarone della Valpolicella, Masi 2007
  • Angelorum Recioto della Valpolicella, Masi 2016

“Campolongo di Torpe” & “Mazzano” for me are respectively the Queen and the King of Amarone. 2007 was an incredible vintage and the wines are showing so well at the moment, still very young but super expressive.

Salvatore Castano, sommelier and fine wine advisor, Friarwood’s

The Masi story began in 1772, when the Boscaini family acquired prestigious vineyards in the small valley called “Vaio dei Masi”, which is the origin of the company’s name. After more than 200 years of passionate winemaking the company is still in family hands, run by the sixth and seventh generations.  

A benchmark in the art of producing Amarone at a world level, Masi constantly innovates and passes on its expertise in the Appassimento method, which has been practised since the time of the Ancient Romans. Use of native grapes and autochthonous methods, and the research and experimentation carried out by the company, make it one of the most famous producers of high-quality Italian wines in the world. Masi is constantly looking to set a new benchmark for the Veneto wines of tomorrow, as they did in 1964 with the launch of Campofiorin and the creation of the Ripasso category. As Giacomo Boscaini said on the evening, “The ‘Masi style’ is always about good balance and good acidity. In my opinion, 2015 was one of the best vintages in the last 50 years. Before 2016, it would have been one of the best ever.”


My favourite wine of the night was the Amarone Riserva Mazzano 2007. The most interesting was probably the Corbec, because of the unusual blend of Corvina and Malbec.

Amedeo Bellini, sommelier, Petrus by Gordon Ramsay

Masi wines are imported into the UK by Berkmann Wine Cellars.

Follow #Masi #masiTassi @MasiWines @Berkmann_Wine

Gosset Matchmakers 2021 Winners Revealed

Five finalists from across the UK gathered at Le Cordon Bleu’s Cord restaurant yesterday to contest this year’s Gosset Matchmaker’s competition. Contestants were left in no doubt about the scale of the challenge facing them.

‘We started this in 2016 and its just got better and better over the last six years,’ said Will Oatley, MD of Gosset’s importers, Louis Latour Agencies.

Matthieu Longuere MS from Le Cordon Bleu London school, and chairman of the judges, told the assembled teams about the extra challenge facing them, in the form of a Mystery Box, from which they would have to create a second dish to match with the Gosset Grande Millésime 2012. There was a wide range of ingredients to choose from, but all creations had to use Berkswell cheese – a sheep’s milk cheese.

As the teams surveyed the list of ingredients and threw ideas around, chef judge Laetizia Keating said she was ‘looking for the teams to work harmoniously together’.

‘Chefs often have a strong character, but you have to respect that your colleague has their own experience,’ she said. ‘You can match food to wine, or wine to food. There are different approaches.’

But which approach would be successful? Before long, our teams were tasting, preparing and cooking assiduously, always with one eye on the clock. Our judges watched and waited and eventually, once all the dishes had been presented and tasted we had a winner.

Judge Laetizia Keating quizzing contestant Lucy Meza-Ortega from 67 Pall Mall

Gosset Matchmakers Winner 2022

left to right: Adam Eyre, Chef, Fisher’s Baslow Hall; Julien Cointreau, Director, Champagne Gosset; Matthew Davison, Sommelier, Fischer’s Baslow Hall

Fischers, Baslow Hall, Derbyshire

Matthew Davison and Adam Eyre

Hand-dived Orkney scallop with nori salt, baked celeriac, fermented ceps, XO sauce, umeboshi furikake.

The scallop with nori salt and celeriac
Matthew and Adam explain their matches
The ‘perfectly cooked’ improvised Dover sole

A combination of their restaurant’s increasing Japanese/Asian influence, but with a seasonal, earthy, autumnal twist, the Fischers’ team’s signature dish held together well. Julien Cointreau was not the only one to appreciate the fact that he could clearly taste all the flavours – and that it worked very well with their chosen Blanc de Blancs.

‘A lot of thought went into this match,’ said Svet. ‘The use of the celeriac in the stock really works with the blanc de blancs. The whole thing is incredibly good.’

Svet Manolev MS – an ‘incredibly good’ match

Moreover, they kept the standard high with their mystery box dish: Dover sole with mushroom and bean fricassee, black garlic purée and Berkswell cheese and cream velouté. ‘We knew we could go autumnal and savoury, because we knew the champagne would lift it,’ said sommelier Matthew, who was making his second appearance in the Matchmakers’ final.

‘They really had the right idea on the pairings,’ said Louise. ‘Their thought process was very good.’

‘They nailed it with both courses,’ added Will Oatley. ‘The concentration, the flavours, and the combination with the champagne. And both dishes were cooked to perfection.’

As well as a magnum each of Champagne Gosset Grand Blanc de Blanc Brut, which they took away on the day, Matthew and Adam will (Covid permitting) be heading off to northern France in January for a three day immersive Champagne experience as guests of Champagne Gosset. They will visit the chateau and vineyards, tour the cellar and get a masterclass in blending and tasting with the chef de cave, Odilon de Varine.

‘We are both quite nervous of competitions, so we genuinely weren’t expecting to win,’ said a delighted Matthew. ‘But the industry has been so tough over the last 18 months that to come here and win was extra special. We can’t wait for the trip. I’ve not been to champagne before, to it’s great to have something to look forward to!’

We’ll bring you a review of what is sure to be an amazing trip.  And if you’d like to have a chance of winning the prize yourself, contact us, and we’ll make sure to let you know when next year’s entry goes live.

Champagne for all at the prizegiving
Gosset of course – in a variety of styles
‘We just won? Really?’

Runners up (in alphabetical order)

67 Pall Mall

Lucy Meza-Ortega and Sammy Benouhoud

Sammy Benouhoud (left) and Lucy Meza-Ortega bravely paired the Blanc de Blancs with a dessert

Champagne-infused jelly with lime zest and a touch of lavender flower, crème patissiere infused with apricot, robed with honey, apricot and a smoked thyme coulis.

Proof you can match blanc de blancs with dessert
Lucy and Samy explain how it’s done
Before presenting their quinoa mystery-box dish

‘We focused on apricot, because that’s a key flavour in the champagne,’ said Lucy. ‘The champagne will refresh your palate but also mirror the flavours.’

Matching a dessert with a blanc de blancs was a brave call – and split the judges. Some found the strong citrus flavours dominated the Blanc de Blancs; others thought it was excellent and nominated it their top match of the day.

‘They didn’t make it too sweet, which was smart,’ said Svet Manolev MS. ‘For me it really worked. They understood the flavour components in the wine and the dish really well.’

The mystery box dish, using quinoa, beets, kohl rabi and Dover sole, cut through with honey and black garlic vinaigrette was less successful – not least because the cheese seemed rather lost, but there was much to admire in Lucy and Samy’s overall effort.

The Creameries

Vic Watkins and Emily-Rose Lucas

left to right: Vic Watkins and Emily-Rose Lucas. Their mystery box dish was loved by our chef judge Laetizia Keating

A take on a gateau Breton with a brown butter biscuit base, prunes cooked in manzanilla and irish sheeps’ cheese ice cream.

A quirky reworking of a gateau Breton
Emily-Rose and Vic talk cheese to the judges
For chef Laetizia this was a great effort

‘We noted a maltiness and a nuttiness in the Grande Reserve Brut,’ said chef Vic Watkins. ‘Also notes of manzanilla, and we wanted to incorporate that.’

Another ambitious attempt, our tasters felt the dish worked in isolation, but was less successful with the wine, where the sweetness made the champagne taste rather austere. However their mystery-box dish – of beans cooked with thyme and bay, charred leeks and cheese made into a cracker was an imaginative statement which drew admiration from the majority of our judges.

‘Of all the teams, this is the mystery box dish where the Berkswell cheese element works best,’ said Laetizia Keating. 

Sketch

Emeline Gigaud and Francesco di Flumeri

Francesco di Flumeri (left) and Emeline Gigaud brought real theatre to their entry

Trompe l’oeil of Granny Smith apple poached in oyster and champagne dressing, scallops coral foam with blanc de blancs jelly.

No shortage of interest in this presentation…
… so lots for Francesco and Emeline to explain
A well conceived bean risotto on a bed of petals

The Sketch duo had clearly put an enormous amount of effort into their presentation, with not one, but two prepared dishes, as well as the mystery-box dish, plus a home-made tisane designed to capture champagne flavours, and pre-printed menu cards outlining the two preconceived dishes.

‘Blanc de blancs is not only for an aperitif,’ said Emeline. ‘We think you can enjoy it at any time of the meal.’

The judges listen intently to the presentations

It was an ambitious pitch, and the judges liked the idea of reworking the same ingredients in two different ways to create sweet and savoury dishes. But their prepared dishes ran into problems with the wine matching.

‘I liked the inventiveness, but I found the food overpowered the wine,’ said Louise Gordon.

The mystery-box dish, however – a far simpler bean risotto, made with fish-stock, was very well received. ‘I liked the simplicity – and it was a very good match,’ said Svet. Mathieu Longuere MS agreed, saying it was ‘their best dish’.

Where the Light Gets In

Emily Klomp, Seri Nam

left to right: Seri Nam and Emily Klomp – their foraging, sustainability and zero waste ethos went down well

Onion and scallop entrail sauce, emulsified with butter, soy and plum wine, topped with hawthorn oil, pickled samphire, sea purslane and maromi.

The ‘intense’ scallop entrail sauce
Emily and Seri explain their sustainability
The ‘almost there’ Dover sole mystery box match

Of all the teams today, this Stockport team had the strongest sustainability ethos, with hand-foraging and home-creation very much part of their entry. ‘We hate to throw anything away,’ said Emily.

The intensity of the scallop entrail sauce drew approving nods from our judges, as well as Cordon Bleu’s head chef, David Duverger, who was overseeing the teams in the kitchen. But it created problems for the wine. ‘It just overpowers the Blanc de Blanc,’ said Laetitia.  Reworking the sauce into a supporting rather than starring role would have been better, they felt.

Their mystery-box dish – Dover sole with creamy cheese water sauce, black garlic and crispy kale – was well conceived but just missed the mark.

‘You can see what they were trying to do, but they didn’t quite execute on it,’ said Louise.

Feedback From The Judges

If you’re thinking of entering next year (and you should!) then our judges have some advice for you.

‘Teams often just tried to match the flavours in the wine with similar flavours in the food. But it’s about more than that. Food pairing is how textures, temperatures and flavours interact… all of it.’ Svet Manolev MS, 67 Pall Mall

‘Some teams had one great dish but were let down by the other. It’s about consistency across the board.’ Laetizia Keating, Head Chef, The Pem

‘We weren’t necessarily looking for wow factor or theatre. We wanted something where neither the food or wine dominated. There were some dishes we loved on their own, but they changed big-time with the wine. We wanted dishes where you could still taste the wine and the food was highlighted by it.’ Mathieu Longuere MS, Wine Director, Cordon Bleu

‘The teams didn’t always talk enough about their thought process behind the wine matching – and that’s important. This isn’t about showing off. It’s about getting the essentials right and working together.’  Julien Cointreau, Director, Champagne Gosset

‘There were some outstanding dishes, but often they were let down by the mystery dish. Interestingly, simple was usually better.’ Louise Gordon, Head of Wine and Bars, Heckfield Place

The Judges

clockwise, left to right: Will Oatley, Managing Director, Louis Latour Agencies; Svetoslav Manolev MS, Head Sommelier, 67  Pall Mall; Julien Cointreau, Director, Champagne Gosset; Mathieu Longuere MS, Cordon Bleu; Louise Gordon, Head of Wine and Bars, Heckfield Place; Laetizia Keating, Head Chef, The Pem.

Thank You!

Many thanks to Teresa, David and all the team at Cord for the use of their restaurant, and all their help on the day. Congratulations to all the teams who entered – particularly those who trekked down to London for the final. And many thanks to Champagne Gosset for a great idea, encouraging young somms and chefs to get creative, work together – and drink great Champagne!

If you’d like to be notified about next year’s competition, ping us an email

awards tasting

Chianti Classico Awards Tasting – We Reveal our List Champions

One of the defining elements of The Sommelier Collective is that it is entirely focused on what you – our members – want and need. And our Awards Tastings are no different.

Wines are rated and scored – for those of you who like numbers and ranking systems; and our judges select their own favourite wines from the tasting – for those of you who prefer peer recommendation.

Our tasters had many factors to consider when finding wines to be List Champions

But the third part of our judging process is choosing our List Champions. These are wines that stood out in the tasting either for getting the highest score overall (Best in Class) or having the best score to price ratio (Best Value).

But we also asked our judges to look for wines that were particularly well-suited to fulfilling certain key roles within the restaurant.

So we also gave out awards for the wines deemed Best for Group Dining; Best for Preservation System and Best for By The Glass. In making these assessments, our judges looked not just for quality but also for style, price and value for money. The winning wine had to be good, good for the role, and good for the money.

They are very practical awards that are designed to make it easier for sommeliers across the UK to home in on finding a specific wine style quickly. They’re a bit different, but we hope that you like them and find them useful – certainly our judges enjoyed having to think about the wines in this way.

Anyway, many congratulations to our winners. We hope that you enjoy trying them, listing them and selling them.

Stefano Barbarino (left), Lionel Periner (centre) and Fernando Cubas discuss the candidates for the Best for Group Dining award

Best in Class

Brancaia Chianti Classico 2019

This award goes to the wine with the best overall score. Since there were two other wines that averaged a score of 96, our judges looked at the one that had consistently high scores from all tasters (rather than, say, three very high scores and two lower ones). Price, too, was a factor. The Brancaia was significantly cheaper than either of the other 96-point wines, making it great value.

Our judges loved this, quite simply, for being a brilliantly classic expression of Chianti. Not big and shouty, but bright, elegant and beautifully put together. Any venue looking for a quality Classico expression should have this on their radar. And the margin options are good at this price.

‘Quite pale, which anticipates the suave, finely perfumed cherry nose. Very elegant and harmonious. Acidity is the leitmotif – vibrant, elegant Chianti.’ Mattia Mazzi

‘Floral, fruity, not too intense, delicate and elegant.’ Franco Fortunati

‘Classic Chianti colour and nose, with a high acidity and velvety texture. Aromas of tomato paste, dried oregano, dried roses, meat and pepper. Classic Chianti flavours.’ Paola Giraldo

Brancaia Chianti Classico

£17.77, Enotria&Coe


Best Value for Money

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2018

On one level, value for money is easy to calculate – it’s the wine with the most number of points for the lowest price. But our judges also felt that we should be going for a wine with at least 90 points. Something, in other words, that our tasters really wanted to list. And at this level, the Rocca di Montegrossi really stood out. Serious quality for the money.

There was a structured linearity to this wine that really appealed to our tasters – like it was walking a tightrope between ‘fruity’ and ‘edgy’ but always perfectly in balance.

‘Pronounced on the nose, with ripe strawberries, cherries and earthy notes with a hint of vanilla and spices. Rich, but not harsh tannins. Complex, with well-defined flavours.’ Paola Giraldo

‘A dry, ‘vertical’ Chianti. A fine balance of nerves and fibre, length and intensity with purity of flavours.’ Mattia Mazzi

‘Black fruit, plums and balsamic notes, this is very clean and balanced. Great to pair with food such as pork and pasta.’ Franco Fortunati

Rocca di Montegrossi

Available from Flint Wines, £13.50


Best for By The Glass

Quercia al Poggio Chianti Classico 2019

The By The Glass criteria are easy to understand: the wine needs to be easy-going enough to drink on its own, but have the chops to work with food if necessary. The nature of Chianti – that it is largely a ‘food’ wine rather than ‘drinking’ wine perhaps explains why our winner here is priced where it is. The cheaper entries, while often pretty good, mostly needed food.

This light to mid-weight Chianti was one of the most drinkable of our tasting – certainly for the price point, all spicy red fruit, flowers and lift.

‘Classic fine Chianti aromas – red plum compote, flowers, a hint of freshly ground black pepper, mocha and slight smokiness.’ Lionel Periner

‘Ripe and juicy on the nose, with red plums and cherries. Very approachable.’ Stefano Barbarino

‘Vanilla, cinnamon and strawberry on the nose; good complexity and a round structure.’ Konstantinos Nestoridis

Quercia al Poggio Chianti Classico 2019

Currently not imported in the UK. Contact the winery for information. Trade price calculated at £12.46 ex VAT


Best for Group Dining

Villa Cerna Chianti Classico 2016, Cecchi

Group Dining is growing in importance in hospitality (or was, pre-Covid!) so having the right wines is really important. Our tasters wanted a wine that was very typical of its style, but also approachable for everyone and (very important) at the right price – several notches above ‘house’ or ‘entry level’ but not actively expensive.

Like many of the best wines in this tasting, the Villa Cerna managed to balance some classic Chianti savouriness with plenty of fruit ripeness, to leave a wine that was very much of its place, but still accessible.

‘Ripe red fruits. Smoky and toasty – elegant on the palate, with a beautiful stony finish.’ Stefano Barbarino

‘Fresh raspberries with a hint of saltiness. Very fresh and vibrant.’ Paola Giraldo

‘Cassis and pencil lead with hints of balsamic. Seductive tannins.’ Fernando Cubas

Villa Cerna Chianti Classico 2016, Cecchi

£14.70, Vinexus


Best for Preservation System

Castello di Fonterutoli Gran Selezione 2016

We all know the importance of having a top-notch selection of wines on by the glass pour. It brings something special to your customers, allows for imaginative (and upgraded) tasting menus and can be good news for your cash take. Because these wines are often rare, unusual or expensive, quality and character, rather than price was the key factor here.

Gran Selezione can be a controversial style. Chianti purists don’t always like the oak use, though looking at the scores in our Awards tasting, our judges didn’t have a problem with it. Because the style is polarising, this is a good style to sell in single (expensive) serves, and this offering from Castello di Fonterutoli was reckoned to be the best wine of the tasting for that purpose.

It was different, self-confident and very definitely had its own character. Perfect for your wine preserver.

‘Red and dark berries, cooked blueberries and flowers. A creamy texture, with high tannins. Full-bodied, but the tannins, fruit and acidity are balanced.’ Paola Giraldo

‘Seductive and extrovert. Pretty, forward sweet red fruits. An artwork. I love this take on GS.’ Mattia Mazzi

‘Leather, tobacco and earthy.’ Franco Fortunati

Castello di Fonterutoli Gran Selezione 2016

£30.66, Maisons Marques et Domaines


Chianti Classico Champions, 2021

Chianti Classico Awards 2021

Full list of award winning wines from The Sommelier Collective Awards.
ScoreProducerWineCategoryImporterTasting note
96BrancaiaChianti Classico 2019Chianti ClassicoEnotria&Coe
Price £17.77
Quite pale, which anticipates the suave, finely perfumed cherry nose. Very elegant and harmonious. Acidity is the leitmotif - vibrant, elegant Chianti.' Mattia Mazzi. 'Floral, fruity, not too intense, delicate and elegant.' Franco Fortunati. 'Classic Chianti colour and nose, with a high acidity and velvety texture. Aromas of tomato paste, dried oregano, dried roses, meat and pepper. Classic Chianti flavours.' Paola Giraldo.
94Il Palagio di PanzanoChianti Classico 2016Chianti ClassicoSeeking UK importer
Price £28.22
Forest floor, cedar wood and plums. A complex nose, but very elegant at the same time. Smooth and well-balanced with a long aftertaste, and very well integrated oak.' Franco Fortunati. 'The most complex, charming and classy of our flight.' Mattia Mazzi. 'Intense and pronounced, with aromas of kirsch, dark cherries, plums and balsamic. Still very young and bright.' Paola Giraldo
92Famiglia ZingarelliRocca delle Macie Tenuta Sant'Alfonso Chianti Classico 2019Chianti ClassicoSeeking UK importer
Price £30.00
Ripe but not cooked fruit, herbal - thyme, oregano, tomato leaf; forest floor, coffee, vanilla - high quality oak. Long, evolving finish with ripe tannins.' Klearhos Kannelakis. 'Dark fruit, hints of cacao and dry flower petals. Dry and spicy with a full-bodied structure. It would match with slow-cooked food.' Lionel Periner. 'Black fruit with hints of black pepper and spices - good concentration on the palate.' Fernando Cubas
91CasalosteChianti Classico 2018Chianti ClassicoLaytons
Price £14.55
Nice expressive red fruit - cherries, strawberries and tomato leaf. New French oak, with lavender, juniper and polished tannins.' Klearhos Kanellakis. 'Pronounced and complex, fruity, spicy and seductive with black cherries and roses. Very defined fruit, acidity and tannins.' 'Plump fruit, warm, gentle and approachable.' Mattia Mazzi.
91Conti CapponiVilla Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2018Chianti ClassicoCava Spiliadis
Price £14.50
A touch of liquorice syrup, blueberries, cinnamon, cloves and cedar. A great expression of age and balance.' Konstantinos Nestoridis. 'Moreish cherries, elegant and intense, the fruit is well-defined. A very well thought-out wine. It's a step up in concentration, colour and aromatic intensity.' Mattia Mazzi. 'Very fresh and smooth with a long length. It would be lovely to pair this with a beef tartare.' Stefano Barbarino.
91RuffinoSantedame Estate Chianti Classico 2015Chianti ClassicoBibendum
Price £16.85
A lot of earthy notes and pungent spices, such as black pepper and tobacco, but fresh on the palate and very well balanced. Would like to pair this with a loin of lamb.' Stefano Barbarino. 'Open and complex. Cherries and dark berries with lightly toasted bread and hints of pot pourri. Nicely aged Chianti.' Lionel Periner. 'Gentle and well-balanced between acidity, tannin and fruit. Silky.' Fernando Cubas
91Rocca di MontegrossiChianti Classico 2018Chianti ClassicoFlint Wines
Price £13.50
Pronounced on the nose, with ripe strawberries, cherries and earthy notes with a hint of vanilla and spices. Rich, but not harsh tannins. Complex, with well-defined flavours.' Paola Giraldo. 'A dry, 'vertical' Chianti. A fine balance of nerves and fibre, length and intensity with purity of flavours.' Mattia Mazzi. 'Black fruit, plums and balsamic notes, this is very clean and balanced. Great to pair with food such as pork and pasta.' Franco Fortunati
90RiecineChianti Classico 2019Chianti ClassicoAlliance Wines
Price £18.49
A very elegant young Classico. Approachable now, but with concentration and complexity. Pure, modern, top tier.' Mattia Mazzi. 'Great aromatic character of black cherries and black tea with violets and raspberries on the palate. Good complexity.' Konstantinos Nestoridis. 'Ripe on the nose, with crunchiness on the palate. Clean, gentle and lively. Youthful, but with lots of potential.' Stefano Barbarino
90Tenuta di ArcenoChianti Classico 2019Chianti ClassicoOenofuture/Jackson Family Wines
Price £15.00
The nose is open, with dark cherries, dark fruit, plum, light spices and a hint of bitter cacao. Harmonious, dry and elegant with great structure.' Lionel Periner. 'Dark fruit and sweet spices - vanilla, cloves and pine.' Klearhos Kanellakis. 'Ripe red plum fruit on the palate. Concentrated, with grainy tannins.' Fernando Cubas. '
89FonterutoliChianti Classico 2018Chianti ClassicoMMD
Price £13.15
Dry fresh berries, with a hint of spices and fresh oregano with some saline notes. Very Mediterranean.' Paola Giraldo. 'Cranberries, strawberries and cherries with hints of liquorice. Would pair well with a duck breast.' Stefano Barbarino
89BanfiChianti Classico 2017Chianti ClassicoLouis Latour
Price £13.08
Kirsch, dark cherries and strawberries. In a good way, it's not too complex - good balance, juicy and easy to drink.' Franco Fortunati. 'Violets, wooden box and red fruit. It shows off the region and the grape really well.' Konstantinos Nestoridis
89Mannucci DroandiCeppeto Chianti Classico 2018Chianti ClassicoFlint Wines
Price £11.50
Beautiful nose of black cherries, lavender and pine herbs. Savoury and sweet red fruit palate with silky tannins.' Fernando Cubas. 'Cherries, balsamic and a leather note with violets. Very enjoyable. Would work well by the glass.' Franco Fortunati.
89Lamole di LamoleChianti Classico 2018Chianti ClassicoAlivini
Price £18.00
Red fruit, floral aromas with bitter chocolate and thyme. Textured tannins and good length.' Fernando Cubas. 'Herbal, with a hint of sweet spice and white chocolate. Crunchy fruit on the palate. Easy drinking.' Stefano Barbarino.
89Quercia al PoggioChianti Classico 2019Chianti ClassicoSeeking UK importer
Price £12.46
Classic fine Chianti aromas - red plum compote, flowers, a hint of freshly ground black pepper, mocha and slight smokiness.' Lionel Periner. 'Ripe and juicy on the nose, with red plums and cherries. Very approachable.' Stefano Barbarino.
87Fattorie MeliniGranaio Chianti Classico 2018Chianti ClassicoBibendum
Price £9.00
Black plums, rosemary and rose petals on the nose and spicy red cherries on the palate.' Konstantinos Nestoridis. 'Lovely aromas. Dark cherry fruit, with a hint of gentle spice and dry herbs. Full bodied with dry, full tannins.' Lionel Periner
87Tenuta CarobbioChianti Classico 2016Chianti ClassicoSeeking UK importer
Price £12.10
Dark fruit, plums and balsamic. Good to drink by itself or with pasta dishes. Easy drinking.' Franco Fortunati. 'Red fruits, sour cherries and herbs. Dry, high tannins on the palate.' Paola Giraldo.
87BorratellaChianti Classico 2017Chianti ClassicoSeeking UK importer
Price £12.45
Fine herbal nose and a cherry palate with silky tannins.' Fernando Cubas. 'Simple wine, though with great vibrant fruit and nice freshness. Friendly.' Lionel Periner.
85CecchiVilla Cerna Primocolle Chianti Classico 2017Chianti ClassicoVinexus
Price £7.90
Red plums, berries and some floral character. Open and fruity, but quite light.' Lionel Periner. 'Ripe fruit, but also quite herbaceous. Dry tannins show its youth.' Stefano Barbarino.
96CasalosteChianti Classico Riserva 2017RiservaLaytons
Price £23.00
Dark berries, red fruit and orange peel, with meaty hints. Dry, but with a velvet texture - the tannins are dry, but well integrated.' Lionel Periner. 'Fruity, but with a herbal, leafy meatiness. Would pair really well with bolognese.' Klearhos Kanellakis. 'Very complex and seductive, rich and flavourful. Perfect for lamb cutlets and grilled parmigiana.' Paola Giraldo.
94Famiglia ZingarelliRocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva 2018RiservaSeeking UK importer
£36.00
Intense, with ripe fruit, herbal tones, a chalky minerality and some earthiness. Long, complex and high quality.' Klearhos Kannelakis. 'Earth, mushrooms, liquorice and a hint of blueberries. Savoury palate, with a hint of pepper and a stony minerality.' Stefano Barbarino. 'Fresh cut herbs, well adapted tannins and good balance.' Fernando Cubas.
92Castellare di CastellinaChianti Classico Riserva 2018RiservaBibendum
Price £20.19
Intense cherries, roses and an almost seaweed salad aroma - herbal with a hint of minerality. Complex, and very interesting.' Paola Giraldo. 'Cassis, black pepper and thyme, with hints of blueberry jam. Silky tannins with a balsamic finish.' Fernando Cubas. 'Elegant aromas with smooth texture and velvety tannins.' Lionel Periner.
92BrancaiaChianti Classico Riserva 2017RiservaEnotria&Coe
Price £26.15
Cedar, prunes, nutmeg, wet stones, liquorice and pepper. It's like a tomato-based Roman sauce! Huge potential.' Paola Giraldo. 'Wild strawberries and rosemary, with well-balanced acidity and tannins.' Fernando Cubas. 'A lot of floral violet notes on the nose, with ripe red and blue fruits and sweet oaky spice. Rich, but really drinkable. Great for pork chop with borlotti beans and a red wine sauce!' Stefano Barbarino.
92FrescobaldiTenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva 2017RiservaHallgarten&Novum Wines
Price £28.19
Tobacco, leather, baked fruit, wooden floor and sweet spices. Fruity, smooth and elegant.' Franco Fortunati. 'Cranberries, orange, silky oak - elegant and smooth with a hint of kirsch.' Lionel Periner. 'Sweet and sour on the palate - almost like Amarone.' Stefano Barbarino.
92Il Palagio di PanzanoChianti Classico Riserva 2016RiservaSeeking UK importer
Price £28.20
Very herbaceous with lots of pungent spices. Intense, with a long, spicy finish.' Stefano Barbarino. 'Kirsch, cherry, violets, leather and sweet spicy notes. Well integrated oak, with a long finish. Would work well in a Coravin.' Franco Fortunati. 'Tangible fruit, but multi-dimensional. Warm and firm. Developing nicely.' Mattia Mazzi.
91CarobbioChianti Classico Riserva 2015RiservaSeeking UK importer
Price £18.52
Cherries, orange peel and flowers. Full-bodied palate with coffee and toasted bread, but an elegant finish.' Lionel Periner. 'Blueberries, morello cherries and sweet spices, with hints of tea. Vibrant.' Konstantinos Nestoridis. 'Cinnamon, cloves, coffee, black fruit and violets. Would pair well with pasta dishes or mushroom risotto.' Franco Fortunati.
90BorratellaChianti Classico Riserva 2017RiservaSeeking UK importer
Price £17.31
Redcurrant and roses with sour cherries and sweet spices. Quite high acidity.' Paola Giraldo. 'Ripe fruit, soya and ink. Earthy tobacco. Long finish.' Klearhos Kanellakis. 'Herbs, game and red fruit on the palate with very fine tannins.' Fernando Cubas.
90CecchiVilla Cerna Chianti Classico 2016RiservaVinexus
Price £14.70
Ripe red fruits. Smoky and toasty - elegant on the palate, with a beautiful stony finish.' Stefano Barbarino. 'Fresh raspberries with a hint of saltiness. Very fresh and vibrant.' Paola Giraldo. 'Cassis and pencil lead with hints of balsamic. Seductive tannins.' Fernando Cubas.
90Fattorie MeliniVigneti La Selvanella Chianti Classico Riserva 2015RiservaBibendum
Price £12.55
Smoky and meaty on the nose. Blackberries and dark plums with a spicy background.' Stefano Barbarino. 'Not pretentious, but well-made and assertive at a great price point.' Konstantinos Nestoridis. 'Dark fruit and cranberries. Finish is elegant, but a bit short.' Lionel Periner.
89Mannucci DroandiCeppeto Chianti Classico Riserva 2017RiservaFlint Wines
Price £11.50
Elegant aromas of red fruit and sour cherries. Well defined, with fresh acidity. Would work by the glass.' Paola Giraldo. 'Gentle fruit, textured tannins and fresh herbs.' Fernando Cubas.
88Lamole di LamoleChianti Classico Riserva 2017RiservaAlivini
Price £21.00
Orange peel, forests and crunchy red fruit. Dry palate with smooth tannin.' Lionel Periner. 'Well balanced and well integrated.' Fernando Cubas. 'Lean and green.' Mattia Mazzi.
88Tenuta di ArcenoChianti Classico Riserva 2018RiservaOenofuture/Jackson Family Wines
Price £20.00
Mushroom, leather, tobacco, but doesn't develop too well on the palate.' Franco Fortunati. 'Cassis and Indian spices. Grippy tannins.' Fernando Cubas.
96RuffinoRiserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 Gran SelezioneGran SelezioneBibendum
Price £28.06
Cassis, strawberry and raspberry jam with pleasant use of oak that's well integrated. Smooth tannins and elegant.' Franco Fortunati. 'Well balanced and complex. Fruit, herbs, earth, cinnamon and smoky oak. Harmonious.' Klearhos Kanellakis. 'Ripe and fruity, with balsamic and liquorice notes. Saline, savoury and meaty on the palate.' Paola Giraldo.
95Castello di FonterutoliGran Selezione 2016Gran SelezioneMMD
Price £30.66
Red and dark berries, cooked blueberries and flowers. A creamy texture, with high tannins. Full-bodied, but the tannins, fruit and acidity are balanced.' Paola Giraldo. 'Seductive and extrovert. Pretty, forward sweet red fruits. An artwork. I love this take on GS.' Mattia Mazzi. 'Leather, tobacco and earthy.' Franco Fortunati.
92Rocca di MontegrossiVigneto San Marcellino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015Gran SelezioneFlint Wines
Price £28.00
Ripe, dense, slightly woody and herbal.' Klearhos Kanellakis. 'Tangy and dry, with quite intense vigour. Tobacco, gravelly flowers and minerality.' Paola Giraldo. 'This wine is true to its place and coherent to its appellation. Extremely well made.' Mattia Mazzi.
91Quercia al PoggioVigna le Cataste Gran Selezione 2016Gran SelezioneArmit
Price £27.00
Blueberries and cigar box, with cinnamon, vanilla and firm tannins - would work well in a Coravin.' Konstantinos Nestoridis. 'Baked plums, and black fruit, balsamic notes, cedar wood, cinnamon and cloves.' Franco Fortunati. 'Nice fruit and richness, though the tannins cut in on the finish.' Paola Giraldo.
89Tenuta Di ArcenoStrada al Sasso Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2016Gran SelezioneOenofuture/Jackson Family Wines
Price £28.00
Cassis, blackberries and herbs on the nose, but delivers less on the palate.' Klearhos Kanellakis. 'Fruit and roses on the nose with a hint of nutmeg and pepper. High acidity on the palate - this is still young.' Paola Giraldo.
88Rocca delle MacieRiserva di Fizzano Gran Selezione 2018Gran SelezioneSeeking UK importer
Price £60.00
Wild, spiced and polished. Definitely made to impress, with cutting-edge winemaking. Attractive and polished.' Mattia Mazzi. 'Still vigorous on the nose, and it needs to soften. But definitely complex, with ripe cherries, minerality and some earthy notes.' Paola Giraldo.
88Lamole di LamoleVigneto di Campolungo Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione 2016Gran SelezioneAlivini
Price £35.00
Floral and ripe-fruited, though still quite tannic.' Klearhos Kanellakis. 'Sandalwood and vanilla. Smooth and elegant.' Franco Fortunati. 'Plumper fruit, coarser tannin. Masculine and muscular.' Mattia Mazzi.

Become a wine judge

If you want to be considered as a judge for our next Awards tasting, please apply here.
We’ll be looking at English sparkling wine and New Zealand Pinot Noir.

This could be you, if you apply to be a judge at the next Awards tasting.

Many, many thanks to Fernando and the team at the Intercontinental on Park Lane for hosting the tasting, looking after us so beautifully and supplying us with lots of coffee. Big respect.

Next in the Awards series will be Great British Sparkling Wine and New Zealand Pinot Noir.
Adam Michocki

‘I Had Literally Zero Exposure to Wine When I Was Growing Up…’

You don’t need to grow up surrounded by wine to develop a passion for it. Collective member Adam Michocki tells us about his journey to Michelin star status, the pressure of becoming a head sommelier, and how he hopes to make Polish wine the next big thing


You grew up in Poland – did you drink much wine when you were younger?

I had zero exposure to wine when I was growing up. Literally zero. At that time there was no culture for wine at all [in Poland]. So when I started working in hospitality it was all completely new. Burgundy and Bordeaux were colours rather than wine styles!

So how did you get into wine?

I worked for a year at an independent fine dining restaurant in Lodz and they did wine tastings and training. The first training we had, I was so amazed by the wine. Weirdly it was aromatic varieties that I loved at first – Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurz, Pinot Gris.

A proud moment: winning the Best Young Sommelier competition in Poland in 2018

Where did your wine journey take you next?

I moved to Alsace, in Colmar. I didn’t know anything about Michelin starred service at that time, but it was full service – everything was served under a cloche. I was there for two months. I was just exploring – nothing serious. But then when I went back to Poland it was to a very good restaurant, Likus. They had 250 wines on the list, all from France, Italy and Spain. For French wines, especially, it was very good. 

Is that what really sparked your interest?

I was very curious about the wines, regions and grapes, and I wanted to learn new things. I did WSET level 3, but i wanted to do the Diploma, which meant going to either Austria or London. I hate speaking German, so I decided to come to the UK in 2016.

Where did you start?

At Chez Bruce. I didn’t care what the food style was. I just wanted to work under a head sommelier – Sara Bachiorri – who was happy to share their knowledge and experience. Eleven months later I moved to our sister restaurant, The Glasshouse, to be a head sommelier for the first time.

Adam’s 11 months at Chez Bruce saw him pick up 3rd place in the International Young Sommelier Competition

How did that feel? Was it intimidating?

I always wanted to be a head sommelier, and the Glasshouse was good. I could do what I believed in. I had a free hand, and it had 700 bins. But when it happened I wondered whether I was good enough. I was 27 and it’s a big responsibility. I was very afraid that I wasn’t ready, that I wouldn’t be good enough. So I started studying a lot and doing competitions.

So at that stage was education key for you?

Qualifications are important – they help you to grow. But personality is also very important. You shouldn’t show off in front of the guests. You need to be humble and kind. Some people pass WSET Level 3 and they think they know everything, when they don’t. People need more time to relax into the responsibility and understand that customers don’t come to a venue for the sommelier – they come there to enjoy themselves.

Are you still taking qualifications?

My Advanced has been postponed seven times over the last two years. I went for Advanced in February 2019, but I got sick and lost it on the blind tasting. Theory I had 85% and I passed the practical, but you can’t taste with a blocked nose… There’s nothing you can do. It’s your day and you need to be ready. I always felt like I needed the papers – the pins. But now I’m much more relaxed about it. I have a family, and dogs – so many other things I need to do with my time.

With his ‘three kids’ Adam has a lot in his life beyond studying now

Any tips for studying?

It’s very helpful to taste with someone else. It gives you someone else’s perspective. It’s something I like about judging with other people. But WSET Diploma and CMS are both totally different in their approach to theory and the tasting. You need to connect with people who are doing the same thing.

And where are you now?

Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall. It’s a big operation. A really great hotel and very impressive. When they opened they were named second best newcomer in the world. The restaurant is one Michelin star, and the plan is to get up to two or three-star. We have the inspector coming tomorrow! I’m doing about 55 hours a week. In the Glasshouse I was doing 44 hours. So it’s a big commitment.

Do you have any tips for putting a list together?

Every place is different. The Man Behind the Curtain [one-star Michelin in Leeds] was tasting menus, so it was all about the pairings rather than the wine list – which was very short. Just 30 whites and 30 reds. Here it’s a tasting menu too, but there are 500 bins – top Bordeaux and Burgundy: DRC, Petrus and so on – and people are buying them. But building a small wine list is a lot more  difficult. You need to do really smart buying to accommodate different countries and different styles in the price ranges. You’re never going to put five Burgundies on the list if you only have 30 available spaces.

What’s your approach to wine pairings?

I like to put unusual wines and styles which people wouldn’t normally choose like Brachetto d’Acqui, Bugey Cerdon St. Joseph Blanc, Yuzu Sake, fortified Malbec, Czech Pinot Noir. Nothing too funky – but just enough so people can get out of their comfort zone in a very enjoyable way.

In the Michelin-starred surroundings of Grantley Hall

Are any wine styles exciting you at the moment?

My palate is constantly evolving. Initially it was aromatic whites, then full-bodied reds. Then I fell into Champagne and oaked Chardonnay. Now I’m really excited by Polish wines. I tasted over 100 during lockdown. I tried a Pinot from the Czech Republic, from Moravia – the same latitude as Burgundy, only the climate is a bit more continental. It was so stunning, when I tasted it I thought it was a Chambolle-Musigny premier cru, at least. But a fraction of the price.

Is it possible to find wines like this in the UK?

Suppliers don’t know about them. But I’m working to import some of these wines. They’re in London City Bond and should be ready any day now. There are a lot of hybrid PiWi varieties, like Solaris and Johanniter. But there’s a move to vitis vinifera – especially Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus some Austrian varieties like Zweigelt.

The Sommelier Collective will be running an article by Adam about Polish wines shortly. But if somms want more information on the subject, or to enquire about tastings, they can contact Adam via Instagram on adam.somm or email on orders@centralwines.co.uk

Chianti Classico Awards Tasting – Judges’ Recommendations

We know how important the opinions of your fellow sommeliers are to members of the Collective. So a key part of our Awards Tastings is to ask the judges to pick their own favourite wine from what they’ve tasted on the day.

It needn’t be the highest-scoring or most-expensive wine; it needn’t have won a Special Award. It didn’t even matter if the rest of their team didn’t like it as much as they did.

The point is, it was a wine that really spoke to them, for whatever reason. So if you like what they say about it, perhaps it will speak to you, too.

Mattia Mazzi

Il Palagio di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 (92 points)

This wine had gorgeous, tangible fruit, with depth of concentration and real multi-dimensionality, as if it was a blend of several different plots. There was warmth and muscle, but also restraint – it was really developing nicely. For me it had a sense of place, but also its own identity. It would work well by the glass in a wine preservation system.

Currently not imported, contact activities@palagiodipanzano.com for information. Predicted price £28.20

Mattia Mazzi, wine judge, The Sommelier Collective Awards 2021

Paola Giraldo

Casaloste Chianti Classico Riserva 2017 (96 points)

This wine has a complex, seductive nose – tomato passata, reduced sauce, bolognese, spices and nutmeg. It’s rich and powerful, but also a very good expression of terroir – complex and elegant at the same time, and I found it good value for money. It would be great with flavourful dishes like pan-fried meat with butter and herbs, parmigiano-based dishes, cured meat and stews.

£23.00, Laytons

Paloa Giraldo, wine judge, The Sommelier Collective Awards 2021

Stefano Barbarino

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2018 (89 points)

This is quite ripe, with plenty of strawberry and cranberry character, but it’s also herbal with hints of black pepper and slightly spicy on the palate. It’s fresh, clean and gentle, but also elegant – from a cooler vintage so it has nice freshness. The tannins are ripe and soft. It’s just a very enjoyable, easy-drinking wine, and I’d serve it with duck breast and cherry compote.

£13.15, Maisons, Marques et Domaines

Stefano Barbarino, wine judge, The Sommelier Collective Awards 2021

Franco Fortunati

Il Palagio di Panzano Chianti Classico 2016 (94 points)

This wine has a complex nose, with notes of wood floor, plums and cedar wood. It’s very smooth and elegant on the palate – well integrated with seamless tannins and balsamic notes. It’s nicely aged. It’s a complex wine but very well balanced and the price/quality ratio is outstanding. It’s a lovely expression of Chianti Classico, and I’d have it with rack of lamb.

Currently not imported, contact activities@palagiodipanzano.com for information. Predicted price £28.20

Franco Fortunati, wine judge, The Sommelier Collective Awards 2021

Fernando Cubas

Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico 2019 (90 points)

This is a ruby-coloured wine, with aromas of fresh and ripe fruit – mostly plums. It has good concentration on the acidity, but also neat structure – fresh acidity and grainy tannins with a finish that’s both savoury and long. I really liked its balance and concentration – particularly for the price point. It’d be great with beef, hard cheese and pasta dishes with tomato-based sauces.

£15.00, Oenofuture/Jacksons Family Wine Estates

Fernando Cubas, wine judge, The Sommelier Collective Awards 2021

Klearhos Kanellakis

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva 2018, Famiglia Zingarelli (94 points)

There was ripe fruit here together with herbal notes, chalky minerality and a light earthiness. High quality oak, but also balanced with ripe tannins. It’s very classy – everything you would want from a top Chianti Classico, with a high level of complexity, typicity and elegance. It’s a good wine for wine-pairing; great with beef wellington, for instance.

Currently not imported, contact the winery for information. Predicted price £36.00

Klearhos Kanellakis, wine judge, The Sommelier Collective Awards 2021

Konstantinos Nestoridis

Banfi Chianti Classico 2017 (89 points)

This has an attractive ruby colour, with notes that are really reflective of the region. There’s wooden box, followed by a tart of Muscat grapes, then it’s dry on the palate. It’s friendly and relaxed, fresh but full-bodied. It’s great value for what it is. I’d have it with duck a l’orange with smoked beetroot.

£13.08, Louis Latour

Konstantinos Nestoridis, wine judge, The Sommelier Collective Awards 2021

Click here for the full Chianti Classico results and here to see our List Champions.

If you’d like to be considered as a judge for our next Awards tasting – UK sparkling wine and New Zealand Pinot Noir – please register here.

Register as a judge for our next Awards tasting, and you too could taste so fast you become a blur!

Gosset Matchmakers Shortlist 2021

Food and wine matching is the heart of the sommelier’s job; a combination of passion and flair, but also knowledge and experience. This is why the Gosset Matchmakers competition has established itself so quickly in the heart of the profession – because it taps straight into what makes the job both interesting and challenging.

To remind you how it works: a chef/sommelier team select an expression from the Gosset range of champagnes, and work together to create a dish that they think matches it perfectly.

It’s a chance for young chefs and sommeliers – entrants must have less than five years’ experience – to show what they can do. To ally teamwork and vision with creativity and delivering under pressure.

Sifting through the entries was a particular treat this year, since we’d asked the candidates to create short Instagram videos showing what they had done and why. We felt as though we’d got to know the entrants even before we’d tasted their amazing creations!

There was so much skill and talent on show that creating a shortlist was a tough task indeed.

But here are the entrants to make our first ‘cut’, with the finalists due to be announced next week.

Having seen so many wonderful looking food-pairings on screen, we can’t wait to taste them in real life – and we hope you enjoy watching their videos as much as we did!


Gosset Matchmakers Shortlist 2021

(entrants listed in alphabetical order)

67 Pall Mall, London

Lucy Meza-Ortega and Sammy Benouhoud

Chosen Wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

The team at 67 Pall Mall elected to match the Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs with a dessert containing many of the champagne’s key flavours of citrus and stone-fruit.

‘When we first tasted this champagne we were delighted by its elegance and refinement,’ said sommelier Lucy. ‘We wanted to mirror this through a simple yet effective dish, where balance is key.’

At the base of the dish was a champagne-infused jelly with lime zest and a touch of lavender flower, on top of that a crème patissiere infused with fresh apricot, apricot tartare, robed with honey, apricot and smoked thyme coulis. Finally there was a sprinkling of crumble, also infused with lime zest and smoked thyme.

‘We put together all this to bring out the beautiful flavours of the champagne without hiding them,’ explained Lucy. ‘They really come together to create something that elevates both the dish and the champagne without hiding each other’s components.’

Lucy Meza-Ortega and Sammy Benouhoud from 67 Pall Mall, London

City Social, London

Ljudmila Bobik and Adam Cowie

Chosen Wine: Gosset Grande Reserve Brut

The starting point for this team’s pairing was a simple one: ‘It was inspired by the idea of ‘it goes where it grows’,’ said sommelier Ljudmila. Champagne, as she pointed out, is famous for its rabbit dishes, so that’s what they majored on.

In this case, the rabbit was wrapped in parma ham with new Jersey potatoes, morels, broad beans and peas, finished with a truffle black mushroom puree with pea shoots. An accompanying sauce was made from rabbit bone stock.

‘The rabbit is cooked sous vide so it’s very delicate, and the champagne pairs with it very nicely and brings some more savouriness,’ explained Ljudmila. ‘Also it cuts the richness and toastiness of the parma ham while cleaning the palate. The elegance, freshness and complexity of the champagne is a perfect match.’

Ljudmila Bobik and Adam Cowie, City Social, London

The Creameries, Manchester

Emily-Rose Lucas and Vic Watkins

Chosen wine: Gosset Grande Reserve Brut

Both Emily-Rose and her chef, Vic, were of one mind with their choice of matching the Gosset Grande Reserve with a dessert.

‘The sweetness that comes through on it, followed by that very beautiful nutty profile… We found it incredibly appealing to work with,’ said Emily-Rose.

‘As soon as we tried it, we thought it would pair really well with a quite salty or savoury dessert,’ added Vic.

The result was a take on a Gateau Breton: a brown butter biscuit base, on top of which are prunes gently cooked in manzanilla sherry, ice cream made out of a ‘tangy and creamy’ Irish sheep’s cheese with malt loaf biscotti and roasted almonds to give it some rich malty flavour.

Emily-Rose Lucas and Vic Watkins, The Creameries

Fischer’s Baslow Hall, Chesterfield

Matthew Davison and Adam Eyre

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

The entry from the Peak District designed an ambitious scallop dish that they were hoping would ‘encapsulate the five tastes that you would experience on your palate.’

Looking towards the autumn season, they started with a hand dived-Orkney scallop with nori salt, baked celeriac, fermented ceps from ‘last season’s forage’, XO sauce, umeboshi furikake with more sliced nori on top and a reduced celeriac stock.

‘We are looking more towards autumn with this dish,’ explained sommelier Matthew. ‘But we feel that the fact that Gosset don’t do any malolactic fermentation means the true expression of champagne will shine through and allow it to cut through the natural sweetness of the scallop. It offers toasted and nutty subtleties to complement our dish and create balance.’

Matthew Davison and Adam Eyre, Fischer’s Baslow HAll

The Game Bird at The Stafford, London

Davide Santeramo and Marco d’Andrea

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

Chef Marco created a vibrant green asparagus risotto with a carpaccio of Sicilian red prawns on top of it with crispy onion garnish and artfully positioned blobs of yuzu cream that captured the very essence of early summer.

And it was this joyous, breezy element that formed the basis for the wine matching.

‘I chose the Gosset Blanc de Blancs to go with this because of the elegance and finesse of the wine,’ said sommelier Davide. ‘It should match perfectly with the flavours in the dish. The risotto is made in a light, summery style so the acidity of the champagne will cut through the creaminess and fattiness without being overwhelmed.

‘I also think the citrus notes of the champagne will work well with the red prawn carpaccio placed on top.’

Sketch: Lecture Room & Library, London

Emeline Gigaud and Francesco Di Flumeri

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

Emeline and Francesco created a video that was something of a work of art, featuring the grand arrival of the bottle and ingredients into the venue, and a beautifully-shot preparation and serving of not one, but two dishes – a starter and a dessert – based on the same key ingredients.

‘We started with the concept that champagne and blanc de blancs is always suggested at the beginning of the meal, but never enjoyed with the dessert,’ said Emeline. The idea was to tap into Gosset’s sustainability message by using the same ingredients throughout.

The main course was a ‘trompe l’oeil’ of Granny Smith apple poached in oyster and champagne dressing, scallops coral foam with Gosset blanc de blancs jelly, Granny Smith and samphire salad with apple vinaigrette and breadcrumbs. ‘The dish extends the continuity of the champagne,’ explained Emeline. ‘It’s all about the balance between the delicacy of the creaminess and the twist of the freshness.’

The dessert – Lemon Amalfi confit with vanilla – used the same components but ‘worked in a different way’. ‘This is a contrast pairing,’ said Emeline. ‘Proof that minerality and sweetness are not opposed, but can be complementary.’

Emeline Gigaud and Francesco Di Flumeri, Sketch, London

Where The Light Gets In, Stockport

Emily Klomp and Seri Nam

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

‘Champagne is usually associated with quite luxurious ingredients,’ said sommelier Emily. ‘So I think what we’ve decided to pair with it is very interesting.’

Certainly, the innovation is to be applauded. This does not look like a dish that would be served in too many restaurants in and around Reims.

‘The delicate flowers on the nose and saline finish took us straight to the beach,’ explained Emily. ‘For the oldest champagne house we created something luxurious but patient and considered at the same time.’

The main ingredient is onion and scallop entrail sauce. ‘We cooked the onion wrapped in kombu and steamed after leaving it to marinate overnight,’ said chef Seri.  

The sauce was emulsified with butter, soy and plum wine, before over the top they added a little hawthorn oil, pickled samphire (foraged locally), sea purslane powder, and a touch of maromi ‘a by-product of our bread soy-making process’.

‘The sea herbs bring forward the chalky minerality, and a little plum wine in the sauce heightens those mirabelle plum notes on the nose,’ explained Emily. ‘Seri’s idea to marinate the onions gently in kombu brings out a really delicious savoury, umami note in the wine.’

Emily Klomp and Seri Nam, Where the light gets in, Stockport