2019 In Review: A Year of International Discovery
Friday, December 20, 2019 in News
2019 was a big year across the board. Bordeaux, Burgundy and Classified Australian wines dominated the discussion as they do most years. But there were a few whispers that have increased in volume to make some noise for those lesser-explored international regions.
There’s a theme running through these wines. For the most part, we source them from international regions with a strong sense of tradition where younger winemakers are challenging the status quo. Some producers double down on tradition, firm in their belief in what has gone before, and others draw inspiration from regions and winemakers around the world to do something different.
This is what we’ve seen but it’s also what we’ve heard. Speaking to producers, primarily French and Italian, they say the same thing over and over again about the Australian wine scene. They explain that their increased demand on these shores is down to the growing sophistication of the Australian palate. Not just in wine but across the food and drink spectrum. We’re more adventurous, more discerning and more demanding than ever before. And, we appreciate quality. One Burgundian Domaine told us, ‘we don’t sell a lot of volume in Australia. The demand is for the high end wines.’
Piedmont, in the north of Italy, is the home to that most noble of Italian grapes, Nebbiolo, used in the making of Langhe Nebbiolo, Barolo and Barbaresco.
Every year, Australian interest in Nebbiolo grows. Indeed, Australian winemakers are producing great examples that should make us all excited about the future of the grape. The Piedmontese wines in our portfolio are showing strong year-on-year double digit growth.
Barolo presents a much lower price bar to collecting elite European wine than its French equivalents. It is also more accessible on the palate, neatly bisecting the gap between a structured Shiraz and an elegant Pinot. At the higher end, the wines flirt with immortality in terms of their ability to age. As these are often the most rare examples, allocations are frustratingly small.
Looking at Barbaresco–the queen to Barolo’s king– we’ve seen more than 130% increase in customer demand. Elegant executions of Nebbiolo without the Barolo premium, these wines stand on their own in terms of expressing their terroir.
The host of producers which were in demand this year include Michele Chiarlo, Elio Grasso, Elio Altare, La Ca Nova, Sordo, Rivetto, Cappellano, Sottimano, Terre Del Barolo (ArnaldoRivera), Giacomo Conterno, Rivetto, La Ca Nova and more.
ArnaldoRivera from Terre Del Barolo has been a ‘get’ for us. A trick to value shopping is looking for high-quality cooperatives. Purpose-driven to support growers and makers alike, prices often stay below those levels of privately held, ambitious wineries. Basically, great Barolo, smart buying.
France Northern Rhône and Beaujolais
In the previous year we saw some healthy growth in Northern Rhône demand. This year it's ramped up again.
Our top producers list is a ‘who's who’ of familiar names from Kermit Lynch's Adventures on the Wine Route (essential reading)–Guigal, M. Chapoutier, J.L. Chave, Domaine Belle and Rostaing. Demand driven increases in both volume and range have been well received.
It’s worth noting that talk around more contemporary executions of old-vine Australian Shiraz and Grenche will, inevitably, make some reference to the great Northern Rhône producers. Their sometimes eccentric approach to making wine might not be employed in this part of the world but their attention to detail is mirrored, as is their ambition.
Ah, Beaujolais. Cru Beaujolais est arrivé! We’ve seen triple digit growth in demand for Beaujolais. Our top producers are La Grange Cochard, Damien Coquelet and Moulin-à-Vent.
There are a few contributing factors to the dramatic increase. Firstly, Beaujolais wines are, in general, better than they have been for decades. Greedy growers (in the quality quarter) are a thing of the past. Gamay (Pinot’s country cousin), cropped for low yields and picked for a balance of freshness and flavour, is in favour with considered somms.
If you’re looking for Cru Beaujolais, you’ll need to look for names such as Moulin-à-Vent, Morgon and Côte du Py. The name ‘Beaujolais’ is often missing from labels in pursuit of rehabilitation of the region’s reputation. It’s been a success! Expect to see more in the future.
Spain Priorat and Ribera del Duero
A note on Spain, in general. You could make a strong argument that Spain is the most exciting wine producing country in the world right now. The clash of traditional versus the contemporary has been wonderful. While not quite as bad-blooded as the Barolo Wars of the 80s, the contretemps has energised Spanish wine.
In his brilliant book, The New Vignerons, Luis Gutiérrez details new producers, a number of whom have sold through Langton’s. Overall, we’re seeing exceptional growth in this market, doubling what we saw in the previous year. Again, great producers, increased range, depth and volume, and at the right time.
With a projected growth of over 300% (by the end of the financial year), Priorat has been in focus. Increased interest in producers such as Terroir Al Limit, Alvaro Palacios and Clos Mogador have done much of the heavy lifting.
Ribera del Duero
While only half of what we’re projecting for Priorat, Ribera del Duero is still looking at a robust growth of over 150% this year. Top producers include Dominio de Pingus, Vega Sicilia and Dominio del Águila.
The tax hurdle of importing wine from the US hasn’t diminished the interest in West Coast American wine. Our work with Établissements Jean-Pierre Moueix on their luxurious offers from Pomerol and Saint-Émillion has been important in exploring secure Dominus of California and, more recently, Ulysses.
We’ve seen strong double-figure growth in demand for trophy wines from Napa – Dominus, Opus One and Harlan Estate – as well as (perhaps surprisingly) Zinfandel from Ridge Vineyards.
If you want to access our portfolio of Spanish, French and US wines you can contact your Wine Broker.
An incredible year for our French wine portfolio, exclusive imports of sought-after producers...