JWL Issue #089: About High Altitude Wines

March 17, 2020

Yesterday, the Prime Minister recommended to people that they avoid pubs, bars, and restaurants. He did this without forcing them to close, and therefore leaving them with little financial protection.

I can’t comment on the wider COVID-19 stuff, but this feels particularly harsh on the hospitality sector, which is already working on paper-thin margins as it is. Many restaurants and wine bars I see are handling this with particular grace, and my local favourite Peckham Cellars made the decision to close indefinitely.

I’ve seen multiple calls for restaurants to offer vouchers for sale while closed, so that cashflow is maintained to be paid back at a later date. Fine idea indeed.

My copy of Victoria James’ Wine Girl arrived yesterday, which I’m looking forward to start reading. It’s a memoir about her time as one of the youngest female sommeliers in the trade, and the obstacles, humiliations and triumphs associated. There was an extract in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago, which I’d highly recommend.

I’m not sure how long they’ve been there, but I spotted in Waitrose a new range of lesser known grapes this week. I picked up a few of them to try out during impending isolation and couldn’t quite hold off. Expect a handful of these over coming weeks.

We finally got the new Wine List website live this week. It’s evolved from its prior one-page holding site, into what will become a fully fledged site. Visit the new site here and let me know what you think.


Pais is a Chilean grape, which used to be the country’s most widely planted – that is until the Bordeaux blends took over during the last 20 years. At just £7.99 from Waitrose, this is an absolute steal for anyone who likes cool climate red wine: think cherries with an underlying herbaceousness.

Château Cruzeau Pessac-Leognan (£17.99 from Waitrose) is a brilliantly elegant example of sauvignon blanc. Good sauvignon blanc for me is defined by what it’s not: this is not green and pure elderflower, it’s not too astringent, it’s not too thin. This is ripe but balanced, with an aromatic aroma that would suit being an aperitif as much as it would some food.

Finally, with Petites Estones Red, there’s an abundence of fresh young red fruits in here: cherries and raspberries, along with some slight peppery notes. On the palate this is smooth with lusciously silky tannins. It went through malolactic fermentation in stainless steel and then seven months in oak, and each stage has softened this wine. (We thought we’d sold out, but we’ve actually got three final bottles for £48 now, with free postage.)


High altitude wines (like the Petites Estones)

High altitude has two primary affects on the wine, but first we have to understand why. The higher the elevation of the vines, the closer to the sun they will be and therefore the exposure to the sun is greater. Elevation also brings with it higher variance between night and day. More sunlight helps develop thicker skins on the grapes, which means more colour and tannin. While higher day & night variability, means the grapes retain acidity bringing elegance to the wine’s structure.

This week at The Wine List    

We’re starting work this week on the next stages of the learning materials you get in the boxes. The last three weeks has been spent with dozens of hours talking to customers, reading surveys and watching people use the product. As a result, version two is just around the corner. Previews on the IG soon.    

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