Nik Darlington of Pip of Manor Farm

"Old Dogs, New Tricks: When classics take you by surprise" presented by Nik Darlington from Pip of the Manor, the new wine shop in Seale which Nik started last year. Nik also founded Red Squirrel Wines, the online wine store, which has become Graft Wines where he is marketing director. He lives near Seale and has been a frequent and popular WSWS speaker. Nik has chosen an eclectic selection of wines which he describes as a roll call of some of Pip's best selling wines, whether in the new Pip shop or out in the restaurant trade, and typically well-known wines or regions but made in surprising ways. including a classically robust South African red... but from closer to Botswana than Stellenbosch.

In keeping with the spirit of COP26 Nik described the affect of global warming on wine production, especially in the Loire where higher temperatures over the past 10 years have changed the wines from thin and austere to wines with a good fruit profile. The Chenin Blanc from Saumur in the Loire Valley was a good example of riper more fruit driven wine. There are said Nik too many poor over-oaked Chardonnays around but the unoaked one from the Laguedoc where the vines are grown in their favourite limestone soil in Cabardes was delightful and very popular even with members who do not normally like the grape. Sauvignon Blanc is produced in many countries and regions and the Murdoch Hill from a cool spot in the Adelaide Hills in Australia was not typical of the variety and showed what cool areas in a hot country can produce.

The first red wine was a simple, light and inexpensive blend of Cabernet, Tannat and Merlot from Gascony, the home of Armagnac, where wine quality from its sandy soils is also improving. Its simplicity appealed to some but others found it lacked fruit and was a little austere. Further south the Cahors region was renowned for its big red, tough never to mature red wines (black wines) based on the Malbec grape – which is now the main grape of Argentina where the different climate makes a very different wine. However modern methods and wine makers are now making very approachable wines and the surprisingly low alcohol – 12.5% - Chateau Combel-la-Serre was nicely balanced and brambly. 

Nik showed two Italian wines. An authentic Sangiovese from the small village of Predappio in the Emilia-Romagna where Mussolini was born – authentic as it was unoaked and made in stainless steel. Only a 2019, it is drinking well now and opened out after a time in the glass suggesting good things to come. The Sobrero Langhe Nebbiolo, also 2019, is drinking very nicely now and is an example of how much more approachable these wines can be compared to the traditional austere style. An excellent “Trick” among the “Old Dogs” and at least as good as entry level Barolo said Nik. South Africa’s main area for wine is the Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek triangle an hour north of Cape Town. Nik had brought a Lowerland Die Verlore Bokooi (means the lost nanny goat), a blend of 4 varieties, which comes from the Orange River and is much nearer Botswana than Cape Town – so hot. The grapes are grown on a tiny 3.5 hectare estate and driven overnight to Stellenbosch for vinification, a combination that produces a lovely, soft ripe wine that got top marks with the South Africa vinophiles.