7 Wineries to Watch in 2018

Matias Riccitelli and his wines
Orin Swift “Abstract”
One of the Orin Swift “Machete” wine labels
Radford Dale The Antidote 2017
Riccitelli Old Vines Semillon 2015
Matias Riccitelli and his wines
Inside Bodega del Fin del Mundo, there are decorative barrels and other installations that showcase Patagonian arts.
House of Krug is not open to public, but I had the pleasure to be able to arrange a special visit and tasting as journalist.
Taste Chablis in a line-up, and you’ll amazed by the diversity of this single-varietal wine can bring you.
Jean-Paul Droin (left) was passionately showing his replica collection of archival materials about Chablis when I was in Chablis and stories about his discovery about the history of the area.
Emma Gao, owner and winemaker at Silver Heights, was sharing her philosophy behind winemaking at a vertical tasting of The Summit held in Hong Kong last year.
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2017 has marked a year of unpredictable changes. No matter we found the changes good or bad, let’s look ahead with a toast to kick start the year and enjoy ourselves at best we can! Here are 7 wineries you would want to watch out and grab (at least) a bottle to go for party with families and friends in 2018.

 

1. Orin Swift Cellars (Napa Valley, California, USA)

Orin Swift Cellars, founded by Dave Phinney in 1998, is best known for expressive wine styles and edgy images on their wine labels. Name of the winery pays tribute to his parents – Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift is his mother’s maiden name. In 2016, E. & J. Gallo Winery purchased the brand and Dave remained a key part.

Dave first involved in wine industry as a temporary harvest worker at Robert Mondavi back in 1997, and subsequently started venturing towards his own brands with just two tons of Zinfandel. After selling off successful brands, his focus remained with Orin Swift. Apart from typical Californian varietals one would think of (such as Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon), Orin Swift portfolio today includes “Machete” which features the varietal most known for its tannins and inky color, but least known for its ability to be delicate and complex: Petit Sirah. Each bottle of a 12-bottle pack comes with different wine label that adds some sensual touch on top of wine enjoyment. “Abstract” is another series that worth attention. Following the success of 2013 vintage that scored 90-plus-points from both Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate, 2015 vintage is a Grenache-based “California red wine” blended with Petit Sirah and Syrah resulting from tasting of 150 different wine lots by Dave. It collates places and culture and flavours across counties just like the collage of images on its wine label. Be ready to sit back, drink and ponder the label.

Stock is arriving in Hong Kong soon by March. If you cannot wait, check out their tasting room at St. Helena, California.

 

Orin Swift “Abstract”
Orin Swift “Abstract”
One of the Orin Swift “Machete” wine labels
One of the Orin Swift “Machete” wine labels

 

2. Radford Dale (Stellenbosch, South Africa)

Also in 1998, across the other end of the world in Stellenbosch in South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, Radford Dale was founded. My last encounter with Radford Dale was at Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa (PIWOSA) tasting held in Hong Kong last year. What impressed me were not the mainstream varietals in South Africa like Pinotage or Chenin Blanc, but Syrah and Pinot Noir that most people may not associate with South African wines. Nudity Syrah 2014 (Appellation: Voor-Paardeberg, part of the Paarl district) and Freedom Pinot Noir 2015 (Appellation: Elgin) were expressive and portrait the potential of fruits in South Africa to make wines alike Old-World Rhône Valley or Burgundy wines.

The mastermind behind the winery is Alex Dale, who started the winery with Barossa-born Ben Radford. Some years later, Ben went back to his homeland and Alex continued exploring the Cape to uncover the potential of soil, climate and vines. The Antidote Gamay 2017 is the latest addition to their portfolio. The Gamay Noir fruit for this wine comes from a single vineyard that is approaching 20 years old and is from one of barely a handful of vineyards in production. Gamay is still rare in South Africa now, it is truly a gem to discover.

 

Radford Dale The Antidote 2017
Radford Dale The Antidote 2017

 

3. Riccitelli Wines (Mendoza, Argentina)

Matias Riccitelli, born in Cafayate (Salta, north of Argentina), established Riccitelli Wines in 2009. His mentor (and his father), Jorge Riccitelli, is one of Argentina’s most acclaimed winemakers working as Chief Winemaker at Bodega Norton for 25 years until his retirement last year.

This winery drew my attention when I was judging for Argentine Wine Awards 2016. Among wines in a flight called “other whites” (i.e. varietals other than Torrontes), Riccitelli Old Vines Semillon 2015 stood out from the crowd. It turned out taking home the title “Regional Trophy of Patagonia”, beating the famous Malbec or other varietals renowned in the region. This wine was part of the project started in 2015 to revalue old vineyards from the Argentinian Patagonia. Vines were planted by end of the 1960’s and located by the Negro River. The other varietals made into wines under “Old Vines from Patagonia” series are Malbec and Merlot. Some other wines in the Riccitelli Wines portfolio also came from old vines planted on vineyards at different part of Mendoza, Argentina.  Experience the depth and complexity brought by old vines today! Riccitelli Wines are available at Amorroso Fine Wines in Hong Kong.

 

Riccitelli Old Vines Semillon 2015
Riccitelli Old Vines Semillon 2015

 

Matias Riccitelli and his wines
Matias Riccitelli and his wines

 

4. Bodega del Fin del Mundo (Patagonia, Argentina)

My month-long wine trip in Argentina ended with throwing away clothes in exchange for space to stuff wines into my suitcase. I brought a few bottles of 100% Cabernet Franc, including Mendocino ones and a Patagonian FIN Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2012 autographed by Julio Viola, founder and owner of Bodega del Fin del Mundo.

Julio started his adventure in San Patricio del Chañar (Neuquén Province) in 1990. Nine years later, first vines took roots in the soil of the valley, inaugurating production of wine in Patagonia area. This area is known as “The Land of the End of the World” because of its southernmost location in South America. Over decades, the winery develops; quality and quantity have both increased. I have tasted a good range of the Bodega del Fin del Mundo portfolio and some wines from Bodega Malma which Viola family owns a share. FIN Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc was by far the most memorable, alongside refined sparkling wines 100% Pinot Noir Brut Nature, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc and few top-quality Malbec wines. Despite most people think Cabernet Franc is just a blending partner to complement Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it can be a superstar on its own: well-structured, elegant, voluminous, full of fruits & flavours.

 

Inside Bodega del Fin del Mundo, there are decorative barrels and other installations that showcase Patagonian arts.
Inside Bodega del Fin del Mundo, there are decorative barrels and other installations that showcase Patagonian arts.

 

5. KRUG (Champagne, France)

One of the mainstream impressions about champagne is celebration and brand names; for connoisseurs, it is about terroir, technicality (test your knowledge here), and stories behind the names; for champagne lovers, it brings pleasant enjoyment and injects energy into our lives. For people at LVMH-owned House of Krug, it is about all of these.

Some years ago, I interviewed Eric Lebel, Chef de Caves, and Olivier Krug, Director of Krug. Our conversation was not only about jargons, nor how complicated the winemaking process is. We indeed spoke about individuality of champagne, creation of Krug ID that presents consumers stories behind each edition of production, and total experience of having a good glass of champagne with simple food ingredient, plus music pairing. Every year, Krug invites chefs around the world to explore a single ingredient for uplifting the Krug & culinary experience, and gather musicians to bring relaxing Krug moments for champagne lovers.

Krug 2004 has just landed in Hong Kong for few months; expect sensational enjoyment throughout this year. Get also vintage 2003 and 2002 to do a trio Krug party! Don’t forget to check out their suggested food and music pairing too.

 

House of Krug is not open to public, but I had the pleasure to be able to arrange a special visit and tasting as journalist.
House of Krug is not open to public, but I had the pleasure to be able to arrange a special visit and tasting as journalist.

 

6. Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin (Chablis, France)

‘Freshness’ will be one of the key wine words for 2018. Sometimes, it is mistakenly thought as ‘easy-drinking wine that is rather simple’. Indeed, that is not necessarily so. A good example of multi-faceted wines associated with ‘freshness’ is Chablis. Wines of Chablis are made from one single varietal Chardonnay. Thanks to the special Kimmeridgean soil type and cool climate, wines are high in acidity, crispy, with characteristic mineral aroma. Typically made with no or little oak, the resulting wines are lively fresh-style dry white wines.

History of Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin can be traced back to as early as before 1537 when the Droin families owned vineyards. Benoît Droin joined the domaine in 1999 and became the 14th generation of driving force behind the winery until today. His father, Jean-Paul Droin, has dedicated his time to Chablis archives since his retirement in 2014. One of his research topics is the origins of names of some Chablis climats.

Wines in the portfolio include Petite Chablis, Chablis, 9 Premiers Crus and 5 Grands Crus. Benoît uses different winemaking treatment such as varying fermentation or aging in oak or stainless steel tanks to produce wines that best present characteristics brought by different plots of lands. Tempted to try? My suggestion is to begin with Grand Cru Les Clos, Premier Cru Vaillons, Premier Cru Mont de Milieu and Chablis.

Last but not least, Bourgogne Wine Week Tastings 2018 will be in town from 26 Feb – 3 Mar. Check this out to learn more about Bourgogne, including “Pure Chablis”.

 

Taste Chablis in a line-up, and you’ll amazed by the diversity of this single-varietal wine can bring you.
Taste Chablis in a line-up, and you’ll amazed by the diversity of this single-varietal wine can bring you.
Jean-Paul Droin (left) was passionately showing his replica collection of archival materials about Chablis when I was in Chablis and stories about his discovery about the history of the area.

 

7. Silver Heights (Ningxia, China)

Ningxia, located at the edge of Gobi desert in northern China, has gained worldwide attention over the last decade. International wine critics and journalists have been flying in to demystify this rising star on the wine map. One of the major ‘contributors’ to put this region into spotlight includes Silver Heights, a boutique winery started by Yinchuan-born Emma Gao. She studied oenology in Bordeaux and met her lifetime companion Thierry Courtade, whose family has been making wine at Château Calon-Ségur for three generations. They got married in 2003, returned to China in 2005 and made their first vintage in 2007.

With experience of merely 10 vintages, she has indeed made impressive breakthroughs in vineyard management and winemaking. Despite sometimes things are still experimental or worked out by trial and error (as she described when we last met), the wines have spoken for her about the potential to be world-class quality wines.

 

Emma Gao, owner and winemaker at Silver Heights, was sharing her philosophy behind winemaking at a vertical tasting of The Summit held in Hong Kong last year.
Emma Gao, owner and winemaker at Silver Heights, was sharing her philosophy behind winemaking at a vertical tasting of The Summit held in Hong Kong last year.

 

 

 


 

Jennifer Luk is passionate in sharing her global travel, wine & dine experience to all wine enthusiasts across Hong Kong SAR and Mainland China. Through casual wine appreciation workshop, wine events and various levels of tutored tastings, she brings the participants to the World of Wines. Also, as a pioneer of wine appreciation in complete darkness in Asia, she led wine lovers to enjoy wines in a new light of experience through “Wine Tasting In The Dark” event. In recent years, she has fallen in love with marathon in wine regions. She has successfully completed Marathon du Médoc 2012, Marathon du Vignoble d’Alsace 2013 and participated in Run in Reims 2015.

More Information:
– Candidate, Master of Wines
– Coach, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology team at Left Bank – Bordeaux Cup (2014 – 2016) o JudgingPanel, Everyday Bordeaux 2012
– Judge, Argentine Wine Awards 2016
– Awardee (China/ Hong Kong/ Macau), Wine Australia Travel Scholarship 2010

 

 
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