During the First World War, a young cavalry officer was stationed at a location in France which was so beautiful that, years later, he returned to buy acres of vineyards there. These were the finest Champagne producing vineyards in the whole of the region and, before too long, he became the head of the most famous Champagne house in the world. His name was Pierre Taittinger.
There’s a story behind every bottle of wine and these stories must be heard – a difficult task if the intended ears are across an ocean or even the world. Back in 1994, four gentlemen, Patrick McGrath, Pierre Henry Gagey, Eduardo Chadwick and George Fistonich, saw an opportunity to build a bridge that would allow family-owned wineries to tell their stories, in their own words, to an attentive UK market. They set up a small import agency called Hatch Mansfield with three brands on their books – Louis Jadot, Errazuriz and Villa Maria.
This year, Hatch Mansfield marks 25 years in business, showing off an impressive, but selective, portfolio of premium wine companies – still family-owned and still the masters of their own fates.
Last week, I had the opportunity to celebrate with Hatch at their birthday party, which kicked off with a tasting of 31 wines from their portfolio. I started with Champagne Taittinger, naturally, and absolutely loved the Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs Brut 2008 – a lovely soft sparkling with toasted brioche aromas and notes of pear and apricot on the palate.
‘Nothing makes the future look so rosy as to contemplate it through a glass of Chambertin,’ said Napoleon – I did and it does, especially when it’s the Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint Jacques 2015 from Louis Jadot. I also enjoyed two Sancerres from Joseph Mellot – one traditional in style (Sancerre Pierre Etienne 2015) and one rather more contemporary (Sancerre L’Original 2015). For me, the former had the edge – I liked the peaches and cream with a softened minerality over the bold flinty freshness of L’Original, which I do hear goes fantastically well with goat’s cheese – I take note.
I tasted Tim Atkin MW’s Chardonnay of the year, Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2017 from Errazuriz and enjoyed its beautifully bracing salinity, the kind that seems to only be present in wines from sunny, coastal vineyards, like those of Aconcagua Costa.
Other highlights included C.V.N.E.’s Imperial Gran Reserva 2004, Gaja’s Barbaresco 1999, The Pennant Chardonnay 2012 from Robert Oatley and Esk Valley The Terraces 2006.
In the last quarter of a century, Hatch Mansfield have been instrumental in the exposure and consequently deserved success of some exceptional wines and they will already leave a legacy to be proud of. Here’s to the next 25 years of special stories and sublime wines.