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WoodWinters takes the path less travelled for portfolio refresh

Published:  23 August, 2022

‘Wines and whiskies’ supplier WoodWinters has taken on six new producers as part of a push to broaden its focus on indigenous varietals, Harpers can reveal.

Les Cretes – an historic estate from Valle d’Aosta – is one is one of four new Italian wineries currently in the process of making their way onto WoodWinters’ small producer and family orientated portfolio. The others in the Italian category comprise Cingilia in Abruzzo and I Pentri in Campania, as well as Masone Manu in Sardinia.

There is a focus on South Africa, too. Sakkie Mouton, one of the area’s rising stars, will feature on WoodWinters’ newly expanded list.

Finally, there is MD Andrew Johnson’s own project working to unearth ‘hidden’ wines. Veiled Vineyards aims to root out wines that would have otherwise missed an opportunity to reach the market – for example, wines made in secret, by ‘maverick winemakers’ or rare parcels previously destined to be blended.

“Les Cretes is generally considered one of best of Valle d’Aosta, which is a niche area,” Johnson said. “It’s one of those areas where lots of smaller producers have tiny amount of land, like Valtellina, where producers usually have quarter of a hectare. But Les Crete is undoubtedly one of the icons. That’s really what we’ve been looking for – producers honing in on indigenous varietals.”

Johnson went on to explain the rationale behind the focus. With the exception of Scotland’s three retail stores, sales at the business are predominantly focused on distribution to the quality on-trade both north of the border and in London, as the business shares a split focus. It is here, (in the on-trade), among discovery minded sommeliers, that interest for niche, local wines has grown.

“Sommeliers don’t want a Chardonnay from Greece. That’s not to say Greece can’t make great Chardonnay, but buyers are looking for that terroir and varieties that really communicate a sense of place.

“With Cingilia, we really wanted something from Abruzzo, but something with an indigenous focus. Cingilia is a really small producer. We love working with those small, family run operations where possible,” Johnson said.

Les Cretes, for example (pictured), boasts Torrette, Petite Arvine and Fumin in its stable. Meanwhile, Cingilia, another “rising star”, focuses on local varietals Cococciola, Pecorino and Passerina alongside the more familiar Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. I Pentri leans into Falanghina and Piedirosso, alongside Aglianico and Fiano, the red and white kings of Campania.

Sakkie Mouton, one of South Africa’s “top young guns”, came via a recommendation from South Africa specialist, Greg Sherwood MW. Based in Vredendal – not known as a traditional wine territory – Mouton is “pushing the boundaries of where we can make wine, but also with very high quality. It’s very small production of only three wines and only a handful of vintages so far, on allocation only. We’re super excited,” Johnson said.

Lastly, there is Veiled Vineyards. So far, the project has zeroed in on two “very old parcels of Semillon from Franschhoek” which were from the 2016 vintage, but left to age.

Johnson said: “The great thing is that these wines are now set free to express their unique individuality and story. Preserving old vines has become a crusade for many in South Africa and we are glad to play our part in helping create this wine, which is from two historic vineyards planted in 1942 and 1962.

“Semillion really benefits from age, but we just don’t see it. Part of the uniqueness of this wine is how Mother Nature simply decided that some of the Semillon would naturally mutate to Semillon Gris. These grapes were co-fermented to celebrate this unique phenomenon."

The new wines will be available to taste alongside the wider WoodWinters’ portfolio at the distributor’s Autumn Trade Tasting on Monday 17 October at Vinoteca City in London.