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Our Guide to Fine Wine
As a Wine Club there are a few things that make up the identity of Honest Grapes: a relaxed, social atmosphere with fun events, your very own Wine Guru, great value thrilling wines to drink from our Sommelier Selection, and a dazzling list of fine wines for you to lay down in your cellar. We’re avid wine collectors ourselves and love building a fine wine portfolio for our Club Members, thanks to our unrivalled access to many of the world’s greatest and rarest wines.
We’re often asked what exactly fine wine is, so today and as Decanter's Fine Wine Retailer of the Year, we’re taking you through a tour of the world’s most iconic producers, as well as a quick guide on how best to store your prize bottles, thanks to our partner Sorrells. Whether your interest is in investment or collecting (or a bit of both), let’s get started!
Bordeaux and Burgundy
When someone thinks of the world’s great wines, naturally their attention turns towards the illustrious regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy. From Pauillac in the Medoc to Saint-Emilion on the right bank, the different appellations and Grand Cru Classés of Bordeaux are some of the most revered and sought-after wines, especially for investment. Full-bodied with impressive tannins, they have extraordinary aging potential, with some bottles still drinking after 100 years! Ask a wine lover what the world’s greatest wine is, chances are they will say a Bordeaux First Growth like Chateau Margaux or Mouton Rothschild.
Of course Bordeaux isn’t just famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The racy, complex dry whites of Graves and Pessac-Leognan made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon can be truly profound, whilst the sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac are also well-worth adding to the cellar, and if you can get hold of something as special as Chateau d’Yquem you are in for a real treat!
Heading north-east from Bordeaux takes you to the glorious wines of Burgundy. Whereas Bordeaux is occasionally thought of as the more intellectual of the two, in reality the wines of Burgundy can be just as cerebral. They also speak to the heart, with pure, terroir-driven expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
We’re huge fans of Burgundy at Honest Grapes and are reaching the close of a wonderful en primeur campaign for the 2019 vintage. From villages right up to grand cru, the Cote d’Or has so much to offer the collector, and their hallowed names include the coveted labels of Domaine Romanée-Conti and Dugat-Py.
Other Giants of the Old World
As much as we love placing Bordeaux and Burgundy in our Club Members’ cellars, as collectors ourselves we recognise that great wines come from all over the world. That’s why we’re especially big on regions like Italy, where top winemakers in Tuscany like Antinori, Valdicava and Castello di Romitorio now enjoy similarly titanic reputations for their SuperTuscans, Sangiovese and Brunello di Montalcino Riservas, whilst further north San Leonardo is considered one of the great Bordeaux blends alongside Tenuta San Guido's Sassicaia.
There’s so much more to France than just Bordeaux and Burgundy too. Champagne is a celebratory staple with artisan growers such as Frerejean Frères and famous houses like Dom Perignon proving very popular with Club Members year-in-year-out, whilst nearby in Burgundy we've seen some absolutely delicious cru Beaujolais (made using Gamay) from rising star Jane Eyre. You can also find extraordinary wines in the Rhône. Syrah is king in the north, where vineyards cling like limpets to the rugged slopes of Côte Rôtie & Hermitage, whilst in the more serene southern Rhône top GSM wines (Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre) from Châteauneuf-du-Pape such as Chateau de Beaucastel have global appeal. Even further north in the Loire Valley we’re seeing trailblazing biodynamic estates like Clos Rougeard develop a cult following and fetch some seriously high prices.
In Spain, Priorat’s Clos Erasmus from our good friend Daphne Glorian is a thrilling, highly sought after wine (although their second label Laurel is well-worth checking out too!). The dry Grand Cru Rieslings of Alsace in France and the Mosel in Germany are prized by collectors, and we're huge champions of biodynamic pioneer Clemens Busch. Recently we released the latest Gran Reserva 890 from La Rioja Alta, a wonderful Tempranillo from one of Spain’s most influential Bodegas.
Into the New World
The New World is also home to some of the world’s great wines. With improvements in viticulture, Club Members are now enjoying everything from Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs and Central Otago Pinot Noirs from New Zealand to breathtaking cool-climate Malbecs high up in Mendoza’s Uco Valley with the extraordinary PerSe project. In our award-winning Wine Therapy Sessions, one day we might be exploring a trio of wines from South Africa's Western Cape, whilst the next we're heaing down under to sample some biodynamic Aussie Shiraz from Henschke.
The most coveted New World fine wines undoubtedly come from the US, propelled to fame after the Judgement of Paris in 1976 where an expert panel blind tasted a selection of Bordeaux and US fine wines, giving the latter the overall highest scores. These mainly come from California where you can find some of the world’s best Cabernet Sauvignons, with collectors fighting over scarce allocations of the likes of Opus One and Harlan Estate.
Many of the top New World wines are released through the Union des Grands Crus in Bordeaux during the summer's Icons campaign that trails the new releases from Bordeaux in the late spring. Last year saw some excellent wines, with highlights coming from South America where Chilean superstars Sena and Argentina’s Cheval des Andes both received 100-point scores.
Fine Wine Investment & Storage
The Honest Grapes approach to fine wine investment is a little more iconoclastic, and we like to think of it as investing in your future drinking pleasure (find out more in our brochure). Growing your own cellar is not only immense fun, but also a real joy to enjoy the wines as they mature and see your portfolio grow over time. And with the right approach, your cellar can even finance itself after 10 to 15 years.
For storing fine wine, we’re huge fans of the beautiful bespoke designs of Sorrells. As an investment, wine must be stored within optimum conditions to ensure both the wine and the bottle itself survive. The contents of a bottle are sensitive to surroundings, therefore atmospheric conditions must be stable and at the required temperature and humidity. Whilst the bottle itself can spoil due to over exposure to UV light and the wrong humidity, causing the label to rip, peel or fade. The four main storage elements to control and monitor are heat, vibration, UV and humidity. All as important as the previous, finding the perfect balance results in a wine that when the day comes, is worth the wait.
For most wine enthusiasts, their collection will no doubt house bottles of which they cannot wait to try. Storage for these bottles differs from that of an investment collection. Creating a social space, or one that can be admired is often of high importance. Whilst being stored within an aesthetically pleasing, custom wine room is advantageous, creating the right storage conditions is at the top of the priority list. Bottles should be stored at their optimum drinking temperature, and not that of the long-term storage conditions. Drinking temperature varies dependent of the style of wine, whereas ageing wines are all stored at the same temperature, no matter the variety.
No matter the requirements for storage, Sorrells create wine rooms that encompass every element for fantastic wine storage. Bespoke, tailormade wine rooms by Sorrells offer their clients a space to store their collection within sublime design.
To see Head Wine Guru Tom's top fine wine picks, click here.
Published on: February 2, 2021