We’re in the good company of wine expert Jamie Waugh, Fortnum & Mason’s Fine Wine Manager, as he guides us through his favourite wine regions.
For me, wine is a passionate and emotive subject. Wine, like good food, is so important in our lives and it becomes more so as we get older and our appreciation and experience increases. My wine experience goes back quite a way because my father was in the wine trade, so wine is in my blood. He always gave me a little taste of wine when I was growing up—in the same way that many children on the continent are introduced to wine—hence it was very much part of my upbringing.
This has to be a favourite region, not only because I love champagne but also because champagne is a huge part of our business! We are focusing here on grower champagne. Just like in Burgundy, grower champagne houses own the grapes and bottle all the wines themselves, and this differs from the larger, more well known houses, who source grapes from across the Champagne region. We have two grower champagnes on offer: one is a Blanc de Blancs, 100 per cent Chardonnay, and the other is a Blanc de Noirs, which is 100 per cent Pinot Noir. Blanc de Noirs champagne is a rare thing in Champagne, and this bottle—made by the esteemed Dethune family—is one to behold.
The English have been buying Bordeaux wines since the 14th century, so we’ve had a long love affair with wines from this region. No other single region produces such internationally renowned red, white and pudding wine. It is still relevant today, as it produces wines of great consistency and fascinating complexity. The lands through which the River Gironde flows also offer wonderful variation in terms of style. On the Left Bank, you have the celebrated Cabernet-dominated appellations of St-Estèphe, Paulliac, St-Julien, and Margaux, whilst on the Right Bank you have the Merlot appellations of Pomerol and St Emilion. South of Bordeaux, you have the wonderful dry whites of Graves region, and the unctuous sweet wines of Sauternes. All jewels in the French crown.
This is undoubtedly my favourite wine region of all, and Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are kings here. The focus here is on the grower, and production is tiny. In Burgundy you will often find domains who might own no more than two or three prized rows of vines. Historically, the wines were notoriously expensive and inconsistent. However, by the late eighties this all changed with the advancement of technology and the dawning of a warmer climate. This heralded huge improvements in quality, and the wines are probably the most sought-after in the world today—both reds and whites.
This is another region I love. These wines have always been light, racy, with wonderful acidity and freshness, and are the antithesis to the full-bodied wines you now find across the world. Loire wines are exceptionally pure and pair beautifully with seafood, for example. Muscadet is a wine I always buy, with its simple lemon fruit and minerality. It’s affordable, too!
New World wines have been very fashionable over the years and with good reason. The wines produced are distinctively their own, and they don’t need to be compared to, for example, the wines of Bordeaux. They are good enough to stand on their own. Rich wines of the Barossa Valley were under appreciated until the early eighties. Now, the Barossa Valley is considered to produce amongst the greatest Syrahs in the world, alongside the great wines of Côte Rôtie and Hermitage. Some of the vines were planted in the 19th century, so they are gorgeously fragrant, and complex with concentrated old-wine fruit.
My final red wine region is Margaret River, on the far southwest coast of Australia, 172 miles south of Perth. It’s very remote with amazing surf! Here they make beautifully fragrant wines in cool-climate styles. We’ve just bought Cullen’s Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2013 vintage and it is due to arrive in London any time now. It is magnificent and has been exclusively bottled for Fortnum’s.
The green steep volcanic slopes of the island of Madeira are celebrated for their production of fortified wines. As the name suggests, these wines are unique to the island, and have been produced for over four hundred years. The island is a Portuguese dependency and lies off the west coast of Africa, north of Tenerife. The wine is aged in oak barrels for many years, in extremes of temperature. The exposure to air over such a long period makes the wine indestructible, and so you can keep the wine for many weeks after the bottle has been opened—if you can resist it for that long. Madeira is the most wonderful match for Christmas pudding.
See more: Matthew Fort’s Favourite Wine Regions