Cult Insider


A healthy holiday season – is red wine the answer?

Written by - Aaron Rowlands, Research Editor - Cult Wines

Good news for everyone planning to indulge in some of your favourite wines over the holidays – you might just be improving your health as you do so. A new study reiterated the view that alcohol in moderation may in fact offer health benefits. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (publishing in The Lancet medical journal) recently analysed data that indicated adults between 40 and 95 who drink moderate amounts of alcohol (let’s say one or two glasses of a Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto with an evening meal) may reduce their risk of heart disease. This should certainly help assuage any guilt as you get through your holiday wine supplies.

This isn’t the first study on the health benefits of wine, and it can often seem as if every few months new research makes an argument either for wine’s health benefits or warns against the risk for various diseases. In truth, wine probably has competing impacts on our health, but the recent Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation study involved a large data set from 204 countries, lending confidence to the correlation. Another study earlier this year in Japan (published in BMC Geriatrics) suggested that moderate but regular wine drinking might improve cognitive function in those aged 75 or higher.

Neither posits a causal link, but earlier research has looked at how wine may reduce the risk of some diseases due to the presence of polyphenols, often referred to as antioxidants. Evidence suggests polyphenols, a type of plant compound, protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes while also boosting brain and digestive health.

Health-positive polyphenols come in high quantities in many wines as well as dark chocolate, many berries, black tea, and various nuts including chestnuts. Already this sounds like a great Christmas spread!

Among wines, most tannic reds are the best sources of polyphenols, but the website Wine Folly has reported that wines made from Sagrantino, a rare grape from Umbria in Italy, contain the most polyphenols with Tannat, common in southwest France and Uruguay, also very high. Among more common varieties, Nebbiolo wines pack a hefty load, possibly the excuse you’re looking for to open that Barolo you’ve been saving. In fact, polyphenol counts are higher in younger wines.

The negative impacts of wine are often magnified by drinking in excess according to many studies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation research also showed that alcohol consumption in younger drinkers increases the risk of accidents and injuries as these age groups tend to overindulge more often. Research done in the Czech Republic in 2014 suggested red wine can raise good cholesterol levels (HDL) but only if people also exercise regularly.

Surely, more studies will follow in the coming years. But ultimately, we drink to enjoy the holidays, share moments with friends and family, and appreciate the craftmanship and luxury of the world’s finest wines. Any health benefits would be a bonus and maybe a reason to replace a dry January with a moderating January.


News in brief

News 1


Dreamy vineyard adorns Mouton 2020

Chateau Mouton Rothschild announced that the label of its 2020 vintage will feature the work of Scottish artist Peter Doig. Each year, the First Growth producer selects a different artist to produce an original work to use on the label of its iconic wine, boosting the collectability of each vintage. Peter Doig’s dream-like painting depicts a vineyard at night with grape pickers working behind a man playing guitar. Doig, who splits his time between the UK and Trinidad, described it as “homage to the people who work in the vineyard.”

News 1


Record-setting Hospices de Beaune

After the recent surge in pricing in Burgundy, it may not come as a surprise that the annual Hospices de Beaune charity wine auction raised EUR31 million, more than double the previous total for the event and a new record for any charity wine auction. This year’s auction for the 2022 vintage wines took place on 20 November at the Halles de Beaune in Burgundy and featured 802 lots (620 barrels of red and 182 white), the most ever at the event. The Pièce des Présidents, sold in memory of the late-Louis-Fabrice Latour, sold for EUR810,000, also a new record.

News 1


En Primeur Piedmont style

Barolo wines will get their own official en primeur campaign starting with the 2024 vintage. Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Dogliani has said that an annual event for buyers, collectors, journalists and critics will allow for barrel sampling and purchasing wines prior to bottling. Barolo regulations call for at least three years of ageing before release and five years for Riserva wines. In recent years, some wines have been available en primeur through a charity wine auction, the success of which spurred this idea to create an official campaign each year.


Joe Alim, Director of Greater China - Cult Wines - La Coulee de Serrant, Les Vieux Clos 2013

What we’re drinking

La Coulee de Serrant, Les Vieux Clos 2013

Joe Alim, Director of Greater China - Cult Wines

  • • Nicolas Joly is the godfather of the biodynamic wine movement. He makes the best Chenin Blanc in the world from several small holdings in Savennieres in the Loire valley.

  • • This is the third wine from his stable and thus offers great value for one of world’s best and least known winemakers.

  • • All wines from his estate are age worthy and require time in the bottle. You may want to decant the younger wines in order to bring out the full character.

  • • His wines are incredibly savoury – this particular vintage reminded me of eating an oyster! The aromas are intertwined with lovely hints of honey as well as different herbs. Very complex, but also silky and elegant - tasty stuff!


Our fine wine feature

Discovering the wines of Jura at a boisterous wintry festival

Written by - Aaron Rowlands, Research Editor - Cult Wines

When the cold sideways rain finally abated, a timid ray of February sun crept across the village square in Ruffey-sur-Seille in eastern France. But it was the glass of Vin Jaune, the signature wine of the Jura region, that shone brightest and kept us warm.

This was back in early 2020 at La Percée du Vin Jaune, one of the wine world’s most obscure but amazing festivals. La Percée (literally ‘the breakthrough’) takes place every January or February in a different village in Jura, France’s smallest wine region nestled between Burgundy and the Swiss border. The festivals are enigmatic, bursting with local flare and intensity - a perfect representation of Jura wines.

This point was driven home early on the shuttle bus. The villages themselves aren't big enough to accommodate all the guests so my wife and I stayed 30km away in the larger town of Louhans where we could catch an early morning shuttle. Rather than finding the bus full of international wine writers and tourists, it was chalk full of locals of all ages starting their festival early with bottles on Vin Jaune and other Jura wines open and generously shared!

Discovering the wines of Jura at a boisterous wintry festival

But there was a logic to this madness - every sip of the tangy, bone-dry Vin Jaune immunised against the biting cold that awaited us when we got to Ruffey. Once there, we strolled among the different tables set up around the village for sampling the latest Vin Jaune releases (typically the 2013 vintage after at least 6 years and 3 months ageing) alongside live music and food stalls aplenty.

Jura wines themselves are unique and typically come in very small quantities. Vin Jaune is of course the star and, much like the festival itself, is a wine of extremes. Made from the indigenous white Savagnin grape, Vin Jaune is stored for at least five years in barrels where a layer of yeast (voile) forms over the wine, similar to a fino sherry, imparting incredibly complex tangy, nutty, even curry-like flavours.

This yeast consumes almost every trace of sugar in the wine. The dryness is balanced by Savagnin’s signature sharp acidity, which also contributes to the wines’ ageing ability.

The festival also offers up Jura’s distinct white and red wines including some incredible Chardonnay that would impress Burgundy devotees as well as slightly oxidised whites from the Savagnin grape that pair perfectly with the region’s Comte cheese.

Here’s a roundup of Jura’s AOCs and some of my favourite wines:

Arbois - the biggest AOC production-wise contains some of the more accessible Vin Jaunes as well as unique, premium examples such as Bénédicte & Stéphane Tissot’s Arbois Vin Jaune 99 Mois d'Élevage which undergoes over eight years of barrel ageing for a deep, nutty Vin Jaune.

Côtes du Jura – a wide range of white, red and Vin Jaune wines emerge from the biggest AOC in terms of area. Anne et Jean-François Ganevat is one of my favourite producers with a diverse line-up including a Cotes du Jura Vin Jaune and a stunning Côtes de Jura Les Chalasses Veilles Vignes Chardonnay.

L’Etoile – the small 75ha appellation’s star-like qualities derive from its mineral soils and hilly terrain. Domaine Montbourgeau makes some of the finest L’Etoile Vin Jaunes. Chardonnay works well here and draws comparisons to top Chablis.

Château-Chalon – the unofficial ‘grand cru’ for Vin Jaune is named after a hilltop village and makes the most exclusive, long-lasting examples. Domaine Jean Macle and Benedicte & Stephane Tissot are producers to watch for from this tiny 45ha+ AOC.

The 2023 Percée du Vin Jaune for the 2016 vintage will take place on 4-5 February in the village of Voiteur, just outside Château Chalon.


Explore & travel

Opening the cellar doors on English sparkling

Written by - Olivia Bodle, Global Head of Events - Cult Wines

English sparkling wine has skyrocketed to new heights of popularity over the last two decades. It would be hard to find a decent restaurant or good wine shop in the UK without at least one English sparkling on its list. Warmer summers are improving vintage consistency and quality as well with the sunny 2022 a prime example.

With production having roughly tripled in the last 20 years and only a small percentage being exported, the vast majority is still consumed domestically. However, the positive momentum has spurred outside investment from Champagne houses Pommery and Taittinger.

But it’s not just shops and restaurants where you can find the best of English sparkling. England has followed the successful formula of US and Australian wine regions by building a strong direct to consumer market at their vineyards through welcoming tasting spaces, often referred to as ‘cellar doors.’ One third of all the bottles made in England are sold direct to customers at estates’ cellar doors, which also play host to tastings, tours and gastronomic events.

The English wine landscape involves lots of small, family run wineries and vineyards alongside a few big players.

Opening the cellar doors on English sparkling

I have outlined some of each below where visitors can find great cellar doors experiences alongside some of the best sparkling wines the country has to offer. This is by no means an exhaustive list. The majority of English vineyards lie in the southeast of the country, but I have included a few from other areas which might be closer to your home or could provide a nice excuse for a weekend away.

Smaller, family run estates

Artelium – East Sussex

Artelium burst onto the scene recently and have bagged almost every wine award out there. Their tasting room hosts regular art exhibitions and dinners. Their monthly raclette nights are irresistible, who can say no to mounds of hot spuds and melted cheese?

Brabourne Vineyard – Kent

This is as authentic as it gets. The beautiful Esther will give you a guided tour of their immaculate two-acre vineyard complete with roaming hens, ducks and dogs. You can taste through the wines in their corrugated iron tasting room with a cosy wood burner in winter or in the garden with a stunning view in good weather!

Langham – Dorset

Alongside classic bubbly, Langham also produce an unusual cloudy sparkling wine served from a keg. Their weekly “Fizz Friday” hosted in their barn is a right rural knees-up complete with homecooked food and music.

Westwell – Kent

If you want something unusual, this is the right place for you. The team at Westwell are experimental, making a range of styles including skin-contact, dessert wines, wild ferments, amphora, pet nats and more. Minimal intervention is a key theme at every step. Their tastings are accompanied by delicious locally sourced charcuterie and cheese plates.

Larger estates

Chapel Down – Kent

These are the big boys - they have their own restaurant (The Swan), a huge selection of tours and experiences from cheese and wine tasting to Christmas wreath making.

Gusbourne – Kent

Another big player with a host of fantastic dinners as well as a beautiful cellar door tasting room. You can also try a selection of their still red wines, some of the best England has to offer!

Balfour/Hush Heath

You can drop in for a wine tasting with local Kentish charcuterie, seafood and cheese. If you enjoy live music, they host Dining Club Music Sessions with live bands.


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