This past Thursday we had the chance to spend an evening with importer and wine expert Bartholomew Broadbent. As the son of wine writer and MW Michael Broadbent, Bartholomew has truly grown up in the wine industry. He’s watched it change over the past few decades and has a unique perspective on the world of wine.
We were thrilled to have him here to walk us through some of the highlights of his truly international portfolio. While many importers specialize in one specific country or even region, Bartholomew cherry picks what he thinks are the best, and best value, wines from all over the world.
We started with the A.A. Badenhorst Chenin Blanc from South Africa. While many South African Chenin Blancs are wan and characterless, this was full of Chenin character while remaining crisp and refreshing. Next we traveled all the way to the Russian River Valley in California for a sip of Chardonnay from Inman. In his usual dryly humorous way, Mr. Broadbent quipped that he doesn’t usually like Chardonnay, but this is one he’ll gladly drink. We would, too – at under 13% alcohol (very unusual for sunny California!), it had the ripe fruit and kiss of oak you’d expect from a California Chardonnay, but stayed light on its feet.
We tasted two great value reds from Portugal, and discussed why consumers are so reluctant to embrace the delicious, inexpensive non-port wines from this region. But despite the confusion over this category – the grapes are hard to pronounce, and there is such a strong association between Portugal and sweet wine that it’s hard to break – everyone had to admit how delicious the Casa Ferreirinha Esteva was once it was in the glass. Portuguese reds always have a delicious, primary fruit quality to them. Though this is often seen as a detriment, it shouldn’t be! Fresh fruit flavors are enormously appealing, and there’s no reason why we can’t have room for both the noble, more vinous wines of Bordeaux and Rioja along with fresh, juicy reds from places like Portugal.
An evening of wines from Broadbent Selections wouldn’t be complete without talking about Chateau Musar, a famous winery from an unusual place for wine: Lebanon. Ch Musar’s earthy, unique wines have gained a cult following, and the 2007 Hochar shows why. Though its made from familiar Mediterranean varietals like Cinsault and Grenache, it expresses them in a way that is unique to the winery and the climate of the Bekaa Valley. Ch Musar survived decades of civil war in Lebanon, and its fascinating history adds to the wines’ appeal.
Bartholomew told us that the fact that his portfolio doesn’t concentrate on any one region has made it challenging to gain a foothold in the marketplace. Retailers and restaurants are used to having a ‘go to’ portfolio to turn to for specific categories like Italian wines or Burgundy or organic wines. We certainly think like that when we’re putting together our orders, but several of these wines have earned spots on our shelves anyway, a testament to their excellent quality and value. Many thanks to Bartholomew Broadbent for taking the time to walk us through his portfolio, and most of all for the humor he provided along the way as well.