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Cellar’s Market | Justin Knock

Master of Wine and Oeno’s Director of Wine Justin Knock shares what it’s like to buy and taste the world’s finest wines for a living – and three underrated labels you'll want in your cellar

Buying wine from the world’s greatest wine producers is a privilege and a pleasure, and we’re very fortunate to have this luxury.

Tasting is a critical component of buying, but it requires a huge amount of experience and training to be able to research opportunities, identify potential wineries and effectively price, ship and market the wines so that both the winery and the end consumer are happy.

One of the highlights of my career has been my work with the Institute of Masters of Wine which awards the coveted Master of Wine title to those who pass their vigorous exams.

In the UK there are currently 208 MWs. This program is a brilliant route for becoming a luxury wine buyer, not only for the examination of your knowledge but because it sharpens your tasting acumen and puts you into one of the world’s greatest professional networks that can help sourcing of wine.

The Oeno wine team is multi-national, with people from Italy, France, Spain and Australia. We have all worked at very high levels in winemaking, the on-trade, in sales and in marketing in different global markets so we understand the consumer mind in multiple destinations.

My personal experiences as a Director of the California Wine Institute for several years, a winemaking ambassador for Penfolds and regular wine show judge in South Africa has developed my knowledge and networks in these areas, and these are extremely powerful for forging relationships with potential winery partners.

Here are some of the most exciting brands that we are working with closely…

Montevertine

Chianti Classico Riserva Montevertine illustration

The Super Tuscans, so evocatively named and bold in their aspirations, have captured the attention of the world and taken Italy’s finest wines onto a global stage.

Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Masseto and Tignanello are already well-known and established, but there are other Super Tuscans rivalling and at times exceeding their levels of quality.

Montevertine, a stunning property in the highest altitudes of Chianti Classico is one such unsung name, despite being the oldest Super Tuscan producer after Sassicaia.

Their flagship wine, Le Pergole Torte, comes from a small parcel of old vines and in recent vintages has been reaching incredible quality levels that are adored in Italy but are less well-known internationally.

We’ve been acquiring rare lots and large formats as this is a producer that is finally garnering the recognition it deserves. The 2016, tried recently, might be the best Super Tuscan I’ve ever tasted.

Dominio de Es

And then there is the maverick, an oft-used term in the wine world, but well-suited to Bertrand Sourdais.

He arrived in Ribera del Duero, where the wines are as rugged as The Man With No Name, and rather than conforming to local predilections he turned a caressing hand to prephylloxeric Tinto Fino and Albillo yielding wines with soaring perfumes and sensuous tannins more akin to Grand Cru Burgundy.

His best single vineyards, La Diva and La Mata and Carravilla, are tiny, yielding less than 500 bottles each, and are over 100 years old and full of distinctive character defined by sand, clay and chalk.

So impactful have been these wines that they have shaped an entirely new movement towards elegance and seduction harnessed to Ribera’s insane natural power and that is redefining the future for Spain’s most illustrious region.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the job is discovering exciting new wineries with untapped potential. So when we came across Cervantes we were immediately intrigued by the story.

Cervantes is built on the classic American dream, a family who migrated from Mexico to California and over time acquired land to farm their own vineyards.

In this case this is an unofficial sub-region of Napa called the Pope Valley, where there are few producers, land is affordable and the climate more continental and yet produces wines that are recognisably Napa in character with gorgeous fruit and burnished tannins.

Even better, there are established vines planted in the late 1990s producing outstanding grapes and situated on a north-facing slope – an intelligent hedge against climate change and similarly attributed to some of the best vineyards in Napa on gravelly benchland.

Legendary consulting winemaker Andy Erickson, with names like Screaming Eagle and Mayacamas on his CV, completes the quality picture at this new estate.

At the moment I’m personally very exciting about the opening of OenoHouse, our fine wine boutique and bar in the Royal Exchange in the heart of the City of London.

Set to launch this summer, our impressive stock list will include some of the rarest wines on the planet as well as an outside terrace bar for enjoying a glass or two in the London sunshine.

OenoFuture provides fully managed fine wine investment services to clients across the world. For more information, visit oenogroup.com/future or contact us at info@oenofuture.com.

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