Producer Profile

Producer Profile: the Champagnes of Marie Courtin

30 June 2017 by Alex

This month as part of our Grower Champagne Month celebrations, we were lucky enough to taste the full range of Marie Courtin Champagnes. This small Champagne producer is owned and run by Dominique Moreau, granddaughter of Marie Courtin who tended the vines herself when the men in the family were fighting in World War I, while many other families abandoned their vines altogether.

Dominique farms a tiny 2.5ha in the village of Polisot in the Cotes des Bar region of Champagne. After many years of being somewhat overlooked, these southerly terroirs (Polisot is closer to Chablis than to Reims, for example) are home to some of the most exciting Champagne growers of all. The Marie Courtin vineyards are planted almost entirely to Pinot Noir, with a miniscule 0.5ha of Chardonnay. The vines are farmed according to fully organic and biodynamic principles, an approach which – although on the rise – is still very rare in the region. The philosophy here has always been ‘one grape variety, one vineyard, one vintage’, in stark contrast to the emphasis placed on blending by the vast majority of producers in the region. The yields are kept very low in order to ensure perfectly ripe fruit and Dominque adds no sugar at bottling – all the Champagnes are Extra Brut.

These wines have a pure and uniquely vibrant character which has to be tasted to be truly understood and bear little relation to the mass-produced, heavily worked Champagnes one often encounters.

Marie Courtin Bottles


From a vineyard with younger vines, this Pinot Noir is full of sweet spice character and bruised apples. The tension between generous texture, laser-like acidity, and stoney minerality creates an extremely moreish yet cerebral Champagne.


100% Chardonnay from Dominique’s tiny parcel. This shows more delicate structure than the Pinot-based wines, and some slightly more exotic notes of ginger. Driven by ripe green apples and citrus fruit, there is a refreshing, chalky texture here.


Efflorescence is in many ways the flagship cuvee here. This is made from Pinot Noir vines that are around 40 years of age. Smoky and intensely flavoured, Efflorescence shows an intense red fruit character that is reinforced by the fuller body of the wine. The breadth of flavours and aromas here is impressive.


Concordance is made from a special selection of grapes from the same vineyard as Efflorescence, and uses no additions of Sulphur at any point in the winemaking process. There is a real ethereal quality here, which is somehow more intense aromatically than the Efflorescence but also more elegantly structured on the palate. The same could be said about all the Champagnes from this address, but Concordance really feels like a living, breathing organism, changing slightly with every sip!

Meet the Godfather of Grower Champagne: Selossian Soirée at Chiswick

15 June 2017 by Alex
Oops... wrong Godfather!

Oops… wrong Godfather!

The Godfather of Grower Champagne, Anselme Selosse

The Godfather of Grower Champagne, Anselme Selosse

The wines of Domaine Jacques Selosse are rightfully considered among the most iconic wines in the world, but his great legacy of mentoring other growers and winemakers may be more profound than his own bottles.  What better excuse than  Grower Champagne Month to celebrate all of these great wines in one epic tasting?

Anselme Selosse currently runs Domaine Jacques Selosse.  He is often referred to as the Godfather of Grower Champagne and has been making his own wines from his own vineyards since 1980. As a reaction to the established order of Champagne grape pricing – a system which is based exclusively on village classification rather than being a reflection of the quality of individual vineyards and vignerons – Anselme has long been a proponent of growers making their own Champagnes.

Over the years he has been instrumental in nurturing, mentoring, and inspiring the current generation of young growers, often even lending them space in his own cellar to make their first vintages.  His starred pupils like Jerome Prevost and Ulysse Collin have been sat at the core of this “Grower Revolution” in Champagne, and their wines now sit at comparable levels of prestige and rarity. Even the most discerning Champagne lover would be satisfied with any one of these bottles in their cellar, but in our typically indulgent fashion we decided to open them all for one epic tasting of rare and iconic Champagnes.

It is such a rare opportunity to taste these wines together that I have no doubt this will be one of London’s most memorable tastings in 2017.

On Thursday the 15th of June from 6:30pm to 9pm, we will be hosting just such an event in the Chiswick store. We are also very lucky to have a special guest on hand to help lead us through this epic selection.  Local Champagne expert Peter Crawford (aka @alavolee) will be presenting the incredible wines on the evening, and one quick glance at his social media pages or website will clearly demonstrate how lucky we are to have him in attendance to justly represent these amazing bottles:

Voutte & Sorbée ‘Blanc d’Argile’
Ulysse Collin  ‘Les Perrieres’
Ulysse Collin ‘Les Maillons’
Chartogne-Taillet ‘Beaux Sens’
Jerome Prévost ‘La Closerie Les Beguines’
Jerome Prévost ‘La Closerie Fac-Simile’ Rosé
Michel Fallon ‘Ozanne’ Grand Cru
Jacques Selosse ‘Les Carelles’ Grand Cru – Lieu Dit

The wines will, as always for these events, be accompanied by a selection of cheese and charcuterie and served in beautiful Zalto glassware. Tickets for this special event are £125 per person with seats limited to 12 people total to ensure there is enough wine to go around. We advise booking early to avoid disappointment as this tasting is already nearly fully booked!

RSVP via phone on 0208 994 8184 or email to get your tickets.

Introducing Rotie Cellars – Fine Rhone-Inspired Wines from Washington State

12 May 2017 by Alex

Rotie Cellars Line-upWinemaker Sean Boyd of Rotie Cellars set out in 2007 to make the best possible wines from Rhone varieties in Washington State. ourcing fruit from his base in Walla Walla as well as the Rocks district, his mission statement is encapsulated in his ‘Old World Wines from New World Vines’ tag line. The aim is to make the wines with moderate alcohol and ripeness levels and to pay homage to his favourite Rhone valley wines. We found these wines to be a breath of fresh air in a world of North American wines dominated by California, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. In fact, we liked them so much that we decided to import them directly and become their sole representative in the UK.

Bottle-SouthernThe Southern Blend is inspired by the likes of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and contains a majority of Grenache alongside varying proportions of Syrah and Mourvedre. This is a bright, raspberry scented wine with hints of peppery spice and leather achieving a great balance between power and elegance.

The Northern Blend is a ‘savoury companion’ to the Southern, based on Syrah co-fermented with around 5% Viognier. The bold blackberry fruit and black pepper from the Syrah are enlivened by the aromatic florality of the Viognier giving way to a generous, silky texture.

To celebrate the arrival of these beauties, we will be pouring the Southern Blend and Northern Blend for free in store on Wednesday the 17th of May 2017 from 5pm to 9pm in Chiswick, and on Thursday 18th of May 2017 in Kew. There may even be a couple of surprises to taste in the form of some limited edition single varietal bottlings!

Rotie Cellars Vineyard

Producer Profile – Fabio Motta

1 November 2016 by Alex
Fabio Motta

Young winemaker Fabio Motta

After studying agriculture, Fabio Motta went to work at the Michele Satta winery in the beautiful Tuscan coastal area of Bolgheri. After working here for five years and marrying Michele’s daughter, Fabio acquired 4 hectares of his own vineyards. Planted to Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, these vineyards are now nearly 20 years old. Fabio believes that ‘a good wine grower lives and works close to the earth, humbly’, his role is as a facilitator, allowing the land, the weather, and the grapes to shape the wines. In an area like Bolgheri with its large, aristocratic estates, this approach is as refreshing as it is unusual.

Fabio Motta’s range includes two excellent ‘Super Tuscan’ reds, ‘Le Gonnare’ and ‘Pievi’:

Fabio Motta, ‘Le Gonnare’, Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy, 2013

Gonnare Bottle ShotThe clay rich soils of Fabio’s vineyards are particularly suited to Merlot. All grapes are destemmed before being fermented with wild yeasts. The wine then ages for 18 months in French barriques, one third of which are new. The wine ages for a further one year in bottle before release. This full and gutsy red incorporates 15% Syrah alongside the Merlot and shows enticing spicy, herby complexity with plenty of well-rounded tannin. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has recently awarded 96 points to this vintage of Le Gonnare – second only to Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s Masseto (which carries a three-figure price tag!): “This is the first Bolgheri Superiore ever produced by young talent Fabio Motta. He used 85% Merlot and 15% Syrah to make his 2013 Bolgheri Superiore Le Gonnare. In terms of an inaugural wine, this red blend hits all the high marks. This is a delicious rendition that showcases the soft and elegant side of Merlot with the sassy spice and savory notes of Syrah at the back. Pretty mineral etchings give the wine definition and focus. The combination is beautiful. Only 3,500 bottles of this biodynamic wine are produced. Congratulations” – Monica Larner, the Wine Advocate, October 2016.

Fabio Motta, ‘Pievi’, Bolgheri Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy, 2013

FMotta PieviA blend of 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Sangiovese. Fermentation of each variety is done separately with only natural yeast in 33 hl. oak barrels. The cap is pushed down manually twice a day and delestage is used to let the must breathe. Fermentation takes two weeks for each variety, after which time the wine is blended. Malolactic fermentation takes place in second and third year barriques. The wine is aged in barriques of the same age for 12 months before bottling without fining or filtration. Notes of fresh red fruits, interwoven with balsamic notes and a rich minerality. The tannins are ripe and silky and the balance between alcohol and acidity creates a fresh and fragrant mouth feel.

Make sure you try Fabio’s wines this winter, Le Gonnare in particular is bound to be even more sought after having received such critical acclaim!

The new wave Aussies

30 September 2016 by Richard

Ten years ago all Australian wine was going in the same direction, right? They were big, brash fruit bombs that were particularly appealing to a few well known critics? Well actually, no, not really. They had started to make wines closer in style to the cooler, classic French regions, such as Burgundy. That is to say, in short, with more freshness and less oak.

Even more recently, a new generation has emerged and turned its back on conventional methods of winemaking. It has taken inspiration from the natural wine movement and minimised chemical additions, in particular sulphur dioxide. These new wave wines are typically fermented without added yeast, unlikely to have acid or tannin added, nor is it exposed to new oak. Successfully made they are like inhaling a big mouthful of fresh, mountain air – vibrant, fruit-driven, and textural and reflecting their terroir.

So, is this counter culture wine-maker a hirsute hipster wearing a Nick Cave tee and Hunter gumbies (wellies in Blighty)? A sort of Shoreditch meets Seppeltsfield (a Barossa Valley sub-region), right? No, not always, but the wild approach to looks and the hip wardrobe is reflected in their highly creative, eye-catching labels.

1st Drop Wines

1st Drop Wines

Take Matt & John’s First Drop wines as a starting point. At their ‘Home of the Brave’ winery in the Barossa , they use the absolute minimum amounts of sulphur and age in large old oak, resulting in bright, elegant styles of wines that are very smashable. Added to the mix are those imaginative labels, which reveal that they have been having just a tinnie-winnie bit too much fun!

Then there is Deliquente Wines, whose strap line is “drink like a delinquent”. Don’t stop reading here as Greg of DLQ makes small batches from unusual grapes in the most unlikely of regions, Australia’s Riverland, the engine room of the bulk wine industry there. He befriends the less popular, immigrant kids in this vast playground and transforms them into something super-cool. His Screaming Betty Vermentino, a grape of Sardinian origin, has just 11.8% alcohol, zesty pink grapefruit freshness and is far more sassy than a savvy (Sauvignon Blanc).Screaming Betty

Australia is reinventing itself and on the crest of a beautiful new wave – only they are riding it more naturally and stylishly than before and wearing beards this time.

Champagne Producer Focus

5 September 2016 by Alex

New Champagnes Cropped






You may have noticed that we are a little bit enthusiastic about grower Champagne here at The Good Wine Shop. Our Grower Champagne Month saw us celebrate our 25+ new grower Champagne listings with two tasting events that were attended by more than 100 people. As the summer draws to a close, we thought the time was right to provide a bit more in depth information on three of our favourite growers. Imported directly from the producers to The Good Wine Shop, these are some of the best value wines in an already great value category.

Hubert Paulet


Olivier Paulet

Based in the premier cru village of Rilly-la-Montagne in the Montagne de Reims, Champagne Hubert Paulet is run by Olivier Paulet. The fourth generation of the family, Olivier took over the estate in 1998 at the age of 25. While not fully organic (the harsh, damp climate of Champagne makes organic viticulture a challenge), Paulet uses a ‘reasoned fight’ approach to viticulture alongside some organic preparations for his 8 hectares of vines. He only uses Copper and Sulphur spraying when disease pressure is high and uses no insecticides or herbicides, preferring to use shallow ploughing and allowing grass to grow in between the vines in order to maintain soil health and keep yields low. Different grape varieties are planted on the soil that most suits them: Pinot Noir on soils with higher clay content, Chardonnay on chalky soils, and Pinot Meunier on sandier soils. The grapes are hand harvested and fermented in neutral tanks and lees ageing ranges from 28 to 72 months depending on the wine. ‘Dosage’ (the final addition of sugar before bottling) varies too, but is kept low, at a maximum of 9 grams per litre. Olivier produces only 2000 cases per year, and Champagne Hubert Paulet is exclusive to The Good Wine Shop in the UK.

The Wines:

Extra Brut Tradition
Brut Millésime
Brut Millésime Rosé
Cuvee Riselus



Denis Varnier

Denis Varnier has been at the helm of Champagne Varnier-Fanniere since 1989 and is the third generation at the estate, although the Fanniere family were growing grapes in Champagne as far back as 1860 before deciding to produce their own wines in 1947. Varnier-Fanniere’s 4 hectares are all classed as Grand Cru and are situated in the Cote de Blancs villages of Avize, Oger, and Cramant. One of the unique characteristics of this domaine is the high average vine age – 45 years – with some parcels (for example the holdings in the Clos de Grand Pere which are the source of the Cuvée St Denis) being over 70 years old. Chardonnay excels on the chalky soils here and the wines are made almost exclusively from this grape (with the exception of the rosé that requires a contribution from Pinot Noir). The base wines undergo full malolactic fermentation – a process that softens the texture and acidity of the Champagnes – and the final product is bottled at a slightly lower pressure than most fizz, supporting this generous character.

The wines:

Brut Rosé
Cuvée St Denis
Cuvée Jean Fanniere Origine

Michel Arnould


The Arnould Family

Michel Arnould’s grandfather-in-law Henri Lefevre began making his own Champagne in 1929, and this domaine was founded in when Michel married into the family in the early 1960s. Currently carrying on the family tradition in the Grand Cru of Verzenay are Michel’s son Patrick and his son-in-law Thierry. The 12 hectares of vines farmed here are planted 80% to Pinot Noir and 20% to Chardonnay, with an average vine age of 32 years and some vines dating back to 1950. Ploughing and grassing are also used here in order to encourage low yields and promote vine health. The winery contains more than 30 steel fermentation vats of different sizes to allow each parcel of wine to be vinified separately before blending. Around 8,500 cases were made in 2014.

The wines:

Brut Tradition NV
Le Grande Cuvée NV

Elemental Bob – a South African Gem

18 August 2016 by Alex
A picture of winemaker Craig Sheard

Craig aka Elemental Bob

The wines of Elemental Bob are made by a man named – you guessed it – Craig. These carefully made South African wines are making a bit of a name for themselves among sommeliers and in the best wine bars. Winemaker Craig Sheard studied agriculture in school and college and originally worked on farms. This led his brother to give him the nickname ‘Farmer Bob’. Craig later studied winemaking and began working as a winemaker on larger estates before founding his own side project in 2004. Wine is made as much by the elements as by man and this gave rise to the name Elemental Bob.

A picture of the Elemental Bob winery with decorative gargoyle

Craig’s barrels, overlooked by gargoyles

Craig rents space in a small corner (overlooked by decorative gargoyles) of a winery in Somerset West about 30 minutes outside of Cape Town where I was lucky enough to visit him in May of 2016. Here he vinifies the best parcels of fruit he can lay his hands on from wherever he can get hold of it, relying on tip offs from various friends and local winemakers as to what interesting grapes are available. A true one man band, Craig drives the truck to collect the fruit himself and brings it back to the winery. The wines are made with minimal intervention using wild yeasts and only the lightest filtration. A small amount of sulphur is added to prevent spoilage. Until the 2015 vintage all the wines from the Elemental Bob stable were literal ‘one-offs’ with production of between one and three barrels – too small to think of exporting. In 2014 Craig began to pursue the Elemental Bob project full time and now has sufficient access to fruit to make the core range of two wines currently available, although in 2015 only 17 barrels of white and 10 barrels of red were made.

elemental-bob-whiteThe Elemental Bob My Cosmic Hand White Blend changes proportions depending on the conditions of the vintage and the grapes available. It is blended by ‘feel’ rather than laboratory analysis: Craig sees the different parcels of different grape varieties as ‘colours’ and blends them until the wine matches the vision he has in his mind’s eye. In 2015, the blend is 34% Viognier (from Durbanville and Elgin), 29% Chenin Blanc (Durbanville and Swartland), 20% Verdelho (Bot River) and 17% Semillon (Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley). 60% whole bunches are included and some parcels of grapes undergo around 7 days skin contact. This is a wine of great complexity showing citrus, orchard, and stone fruits with subtle, pleasant vegetal character and smokiness. There is a wonderful balance to the elegant and saline palate that has some weight but no heaviness and gives plenty of refreshment.

elemental-bob-pinot-noirThe My Cosmic Hand Pinot Noir is a blend of two parcels grapes (60% is from the Hemel en Aarde Ridge, with the remainder coming from Overberg) and is made with 40% whole bunches, giving a pleasant savoury character that is often missing from many ‘New World’ Pinots while still being full of enticing ripe fruit. As with the white blend, this is aged for 10 months in old French oak barrels and made with minimal intervention. There is real complexity here alongside plain and simple deliciousness and drinkability, a rare combination at this modest price point.

A closer look at the label reveals that these two wines carry the moniker ‘Crystal Edition’ and we noticed that some of Craig’s barrels had various crystals strategically placed around them. One of our group curiously asked him ‘are they decorative or functional?’ to which Craig replied – with an enigmatic smile – ‘definitely functional’. Perhaps this IMG_7207goes some way towards explaining the uniqueness of these brilliant wines.

Much is made in the wine world of ‘small production’ wines, but in there is no hyperbole here: our stock of these wines is sadly extremely limited. Contact the Chiswick or Kew stores to secure your bottles.

Find out more about Elemental Bob, or follow Craig on twitter @Elemental_Bob

Click here to view the rest of range of South African wines.

Real Wine Month

3 March 2016 by Johannes

Real Wine Month (April 2016) is a movement championing wines made organically, biodynamically and naturally; somewhat like the campaign for real ale (CAMRA), but for wine. We invite you to join the celebrations…

These “low intervention” ways of production can result in some of the most interesting wines on the market. It’s important to say at the outset that none of these approaches guarantee the quality of a wine, but the guiding philosophies focus primarily on sustainable viticulture and the absence of chemicals and pesticides. The belief is that by minimizing human intervention in the cellar and ensuring environmental harmony in the vineyards, the wines will be healthier and best express the true voice of the terroir.

Natural wine makers in a vineyardAs a fairly difficult category to define, many of these wines and wineries subscribe to different environmental certifications, and sometimes none officially at all.  They are all slightly different approaches and are not mutually exclusive (in fact biodynamic wines are a slightly more extreme example of organic viticulture and natural wines even more so). Broadly speaking, organic wines are made with limited man made substances (known as agrochemicals in the trade) used in both viticulture (growing the grapes) and vinification (turning the grapes into wine). Biodynamic wines are the same, but made according to Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic agriculture rules. Many of the rules are based on astrology and spiritual and mystical ideology, drawing some scepticism from non-subscribers across the industry. Whatever one’s opinion on the philosophy behind it, some of the best wines in the world are made following these practises.

Horse in Cecchin vineyardNatural wine is made with as little intervention as possible. It tends to be grown organically or biodynamically in the vineyard, and then in the winery is where the decisions to make a natural wine define it. Therefore, the yeast to start fermentation must come from the vineyard rather than using commercially available inoculated yeast; there are very few allowed additives and almost no sulphur dioxide is allowed. Those who are sensitive to sulphites ­­tend to choose natural wines for this very reason. As a result, a lot of the wines gain many interesting and unique flavours; on the flip side of this, the incidence of faults is much higher as few preservatives, if any, added to the wine. Sometimes, they can look and taste so unlike conventionally produced wines that the average consumer should carefully consider all potential styles when beginning their foray into the realm of these wines.

At The Good Wine Shop, we have a good range of organic, biodynamic and natural wines. When well made, they account for some of the most diverse, iconic and interesting wines in the world. The premier estates of  Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Domaine Leroy, and Domaine Leflaive of Burgundy, as well as Chateau de Beaucastel from Chateauneuf du Pape, are a few examples of iconic wineries all following biodynamics. We also have some great “low intervention” everyday wines – such as customer favourites Ciu Ciu and Campo Flores.

To celebrate Real wine Month we’ll be bringing in a selection of low intervention wines which we’ve tasted recently and loved. These will be open to try in all out shops on the weekends of Saturday 9 & Sunday 10 April and also Saturday 23 & Sunday 24 April.

A photo of four bottles of Ganevat wine from JuraAlready arrived and on the shelves are the wines of Jura legend Jean Francois Ganevat. He’s been producing very special wines since 1998 at his tiny winery in Jura after making wines in Burgundy. No sulphur is added at all to the reds and tiny amounts in the whites; in spite of this, the wines develop in bottle for years and are much sought after. We are lucky to be able to showcase five of his Cuvées in the shop. My favourite is the slightly mad red blend “J’En Veux Encore” (I want more) which mixes 18 different red and white varietals. This wine is made in extremely small quantities, and lovingly hand de-stemmed and all co-fermented. All of his wines are fascinating in different ways, but every one is a treat!

The centrepiece of Real Wine Month is the Real Wine Fair which takes place in east London on Sunday 17 April (and April 18 for the wine press and trade folks). Over 150 growers and winemakers will be pouring and presenting their wines. In addition to the extensive range of wines, The Fair will also feature an array of artisan food producers, an on-site shop and a series of seminars and masterclasses on themes surrounding natural wine. Entry costs £20. However, we have three pairs of tickets to give away – one pair for each shop. To win these all you need to do is buy any organic, biodynamic or natural wine between Monday 13 March and Wednesday 13 April. Our staff will take your details, all the names will go in a hat…and we’ll let you know on Thursday 14 April if you’ve won. Good luck and good drinking!

Vineyard images courtesy of Real Wine Month

Marvellous Madeira

2 December 2015 by Johannes

The perfect wine to sip by a crackling fire over the festive season, Madeira is also a small island in the Atlantic which, although nearly 1000km from the mainland, is part of Portugal. It gives its name to the fortified wine produced there which is unique in a variety of ways. 

Historically, wine has been cultivated on Madeira for nearly 500 years, and for the first half of that, it was fairly average unfortified wine. Being a convenient port for European traders, particularly British, ships stocked up on the wine in the 17th century and took it to India as it was probably the last stop where wine could be obtained. It was found that the wine which spent months cooking in tropical temperatures, swilling around in the hold somehow tasted much better than when it was fresh. So the winemakers started to mature it on the island over long periods in the roasting hot eaves of their lodges; giving it rich, baked fruit aromas. This simulated the lengthy, hot journeys and also made the wine extremely resilient, as anything that could happen to it, had happened.

dOliveiras sweet madeira

Styles of Madeira don’t vary hugely in the same way Sherry does. There are drier and sweeter styles, but they all have a little bit of sweetness to counter the brisk acidity. The quality however varies a lot; there is a lot of bulk Madeira made in huge tanks which is usually used in cooking. At the next level are the three year old Madeiras, which have a minimal maturation and are perfectly good quaffing wines. After that there are the five year old reserves, of which we stock the dry, sweet and medium styles. The D’Oliveiras ones we stock are aged traditionally in wooden casks and show plenty of complexity and richness. Next up, the 10 year old reserves; these are fully aged in cask, have a deep brown colour and have very warming baked fruit flavours and aromas.

The Colheita/harvest Madeiras are single varietal wines which are either aged for more than 20 years, or have the concentration to do so. They have to come from one of the ‘noble’ grape varieties, all of which have their own characteristics, usually tied to acidity and sweetness. Madeiras which have any of the following varietal names on are generally the best the island has to offer:

Verdelho: Generally makes a medium-dry style, aromatic Madeira. Equally good starting a meal off or finishing it, Verdelho Madeiras are some of the most versatile. Try the sublime 1994 vintage.

1989 d'oliveiras malvasia madeira.png_Thumbnail0

Malmsey/Malvazia: Tends to make the sweeter, pudding wine styles, but retains a decent acidity. We have a lovely 1996 vintage.

Boal/Bual: Medium sweet and sweet styles are made with the slightly unfortunate sounding Boal (pron. Bowel)

Sercial: The highest acidity variety which makes a distinctive, fresh, dry style apéritif wine. Treat yourself to the 1971 vintage

Terrantez & Bastardo: Both varieties are really quite rare and only produced in tiny amounts. The nature of Madeira being basically indestructible means that there are a fair amount of bottles made over the last couple of centuries that exist still and are quite drinkable. Both tend to be medium dry. We stock a great 1988 Terrantez.

There are Madeiras for all occasions and many go well with food if not in food, such as Madeira cake. All of our shops will have a selection of styles and ages open to try in the run up to Christmas so do come in and discover the marvels of Madeira!

Kingston Distiller’s Neil Beckett – In conversation

24 November 2015 by Sarah

Customers visiting The Good Wine Shop rarely lack “ginspiration” as we have over twenty different types on our shelves. These come from as far away as the Black Forest, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and even Yorkshire (the home of Andy, our Chiswick Manager and spirits buyer)! Closer to our shops, just down the river, is Kingston Distillers. Founder, Neil Beckett, who gave his name to their gin, dropped by for a chat…

How did you get started with distilling?
Well, some less charitable friends declared it to be a midlife crisis but I think it was more down to a desire to develop a really good gin, something refreshing and bittersweet but also really smooth.

Your London Dry Gin is called type 1097. How long did it take you to come up with type 1097? Were there another 1096 mixes?
Getting it right took a while! The 1 refers to our first ever gin and the 097 refers to the recipe number so it was a long process but we managed to keep it under a hundred!

A photo of seven bottles of Becketts Gin

What makes Becketts special?
I wanted to create a classic gin, nothing too left-field but at the same time it needed to have something distinctive. I think I’ve managed to develop a really appealing gin that’s both crisp and refreshing but also very smooth, which is almost a contradiction and unfortunately rare.
A couple of the botanicals are pretty special. We add mint which we grow here; it seems to combine with juniper very nicely, giving it that cool pine flavour. But most special of all is our use of English juniper berries from Box Hill. Most other gins source their juniper exclusively overseas so it is wonderful for us to be able to pick them ourselves just down the road at such a beautiful location.

A photo of Neil Beckett picking juniper berries

Neil picking juniper berries on Box Hill

Using English juniper is obviously important to you…tell us about your involvement in its conservation
Well, to pick the juniper from Box Hill we needed to obtain the consent of Natural England and the National Trust. Permission is required as juniper is increasingly rare in England and is therefore a priority species for conservation. Yet it is indigenous to England, you only have to look at the number of places with juniper in their name to realise that it didn’t use to be so rare. A walk up to Juniper Top in Surrey reveals no juniper so we are undertaking a long term conservation project to re-introduce juniper to this area from seed. However, it has become very apparent to me why juniper has become so rare. It is the panda of plants, seemingly having little interest in reproduction! Hence this is proving to be a long process!

How do feel about the tide of new gins coming on to the market?
I try not to pay too much attention, ignorance is bliss!

Those new gins seem to have an ever more extensive list of botanicals in them – you’ve adopted a less is more approach – why?
I wanted to create a beautifully balanced classic gin with a couple of special elements that would make the perfect G&T and would also work neat. The star of any gin has to be juniper which combines perfectly with the mint. Then we have two wonderfully balanced citruses (lime and sweet orange peel) and you’re just about done.
So it’s a singular gin without too many confusing or competing flavours, which I think is what makes it so refreshing, literally and metaphorically! And because the gin is simple it makes a perfect base for you or your bartender to experiment with adding other flavours, comfortable that you won’t have a battle on your hands with an overpowering gin botanical.

Apart form Becketts which other gins do you like to drink? 
As I say, I don’t tend to try many other gins though I like the clean and refreshing gins from Williams Chase and enjoy the odd Pinkster.

Photo of a bottle of Becketts Slow GinUntil recently, Beckett’s London Dry Gin had been your only product…but you’ve just released a limited edition sloe gin – how did that come about?
As soon as we had devised our London dry gin recipe I was absolutely convinced it would make a fantastic sloe gin. So, it was always going to be our second product. I really like sloe gin, particularly at this time of year, and I’m really proud of ours.

What’s next for Beckett’s – can you give us a sneak peek into 2016?
Well, we shall shortly be adding a Cocktail section to our website. We have asked some of the best bartenders in London to develop cocktails using Beckett’s and will be publishing their fantastic recipes so anyone can try making them. I haven’t yet decided what to develop next year though there are a couple of fantastic ideas in the pipeline!

Finally, what’s your favourite way to enjoy your London Dry and the sloe gin?
Well, the London Dry would be as a G&T – 50ml of Beckett’s, 100ml of a good Indian tonic water, plenty of ice and garnished with a sprig of mint. For the sloe gin, neat!