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Five minutes with James Hocking, James Hocking Wines

Published:  03 May, 2022

Andrew Catchpole catches up with the specialist importer after the launch of The California List to discover what is driving interest in the Golden State’s wines.

Given that we are just emerging from a pandemic, we are very happy with the performance of Californian wine in both the on and off-trade. We are seeing a broad selection of products listed – Napa Valley and Sonoma County certainly account for the premium end; however, Lodi county has also seen significant progress for us, notably for Zinfandel and more alternative grape varieties.

In the £15-30 rrp category we are seeing some wines that are unashamedly Californian, yet with excellent winemaking, balance and elegance, punch above their weight. Customers like the exclusive nature of small production but first and foremost comes quality of product and this is something I feel California can deliver right now.

We continue to see lovely hints of European elegance, as opposed to the full-on, high-alcohol styles. Nothing has changed in the perception of Napa and Sonoma counties in that they are regarded as the premium end of what California does, but I am excited to see Lodi making a mark in the UK trade for affordable, balanced wines that deliver well above their price point. [It’s] also good to see slightly more unusual grape varieties such as Fiano and Albariño perform alongside the estabslished classics.

Since first importing California wine in 1999 I feel very much that California has come of age.