Pruning in Gusbourne

March 2nd, 2015 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

At the beginning of February, we rounded up a group of keen customers and headed off to the Kentish countryside on a day trip to visit Gusbourne Estate in Appledore. A day of terrifically dramatic weather (all four seasons made an appearance: sunshine, hail, snow, rain) made for an all-the-more-authentic Winter Pruning experience with Gusbourne’s head viticulturist, Jon Pollard.

The Pruning Master

The Pruning Master: Gusbourne’s Jon Pollard


Winter Pruning, one of the main focus’ of viticulturists at the moment, is a fascinating task of often under-estimated importance. It was interesting to see how decisions made would affect the growth and fruit quality of several years to come. What responsibility to be entrusted with the secateurs! There doesn’t really seem to be much of an exact science behind vine pruning; each plant has to be considered individually as to which canes or spurs to save for next year and what will become the most promising buds.

Romain (Chiltern Firehouse) & I attempting to negotiate a rather difficult vine

Romain (Chiltern Firehouse) & I attempting to negotiate a rather difficult vine

Thankfully we didn’t wreak too much havoc in the vineyard, and winemaker, Charlie Holland, did let us back inside his winery for a tour and exciting tasting of vins clairs. Then it was upstairs for lunch – a magnificent buffet of home-made goodies accompanied by delicious Gusbourne Blanc de Noirs – and wine tasting. The Late Disgorged Blanc de Blancs 2007 rounded the trip off very nicely, highlighting what English Sparkling wine can achieve with that bit longer on the lees.

The Gusbourne Pruning Team

The Gusbourne Pruning Team

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Australia Day Tasting

February 4th, 2015 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

It’s quite a big deal, London’s Annual Australia Day Tasting, held this year the day following Australia Day itself in that venue so well-known to us in the trade – the Lindley Hall. Said to be the most comprehensive tasting of Australian wine in Europe, the day brought together wines from over 200 wineries across Australia. And we, Clark Foyster, were proud to be standing behind the wines of our One and Only Australian producer: Mac Forbes of the Yarra Valley.

The spotlights on London's Annual Australia Day Tasting

The spotlights on London’s Annual Australia Day Tasting

It turned out to be a spectacularly busy day, attracting interested crowds from across the whole of the UK and beyond – I chatted even to people who had flown in from Germany and Sweden to be there!

Look at the crowds that fantastic Aussie wines attracts!

Look at the crowds that fantastic Aussie wines attracts!

Mac’s wines, lined up so beautifully one alongside the other with their stylish labeling and classy appeal, proved popular from doors open at 10am. No time for a quick coffee run; it was Bam! straight into Residual Sugar talk and answering questions about whole bunch pressing and maceration times! Though not there in person, Mac’s character and ambition shone through in his focused Rieslings, racy Chardonnays and incredibly pure Pinot Noirs. His “Hugh” Cabernet rounded the line-up off very well – a wine which was made in a traditional Victoria style in tribute to his Dad. It was a busy day at table 28, and great to see such an appreciation for the sense of place and character that the wines manage to capture so well. Having championed Mac’s wines in London now for 9 years, it will be exciting to see how this interest develops over the course of the year. I’ve got a hopeful feeling that 2015 could be Mac Forbes’ big year in the UK! 🙂

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Burgundy En Primeur 2013 Tasting

January 27th, 2015 by isabelle

We were delighted to welcome to our Burgundy En Primeur  winemakers Sebastien and Coraline Cathiard, Florence and Simon Heresztyn-Mazzini, Francois and Claudine Confuron-Gindre to represent three of our important Burgundy domaines.   This is always an incredibly busy day with a lot of last-minute preparation; brochures, samples, deliveries.  Fortunately, everything arrived on time with the exception of some of Sophie Cinier’s wines were were held up while customs officials sorted through a large backlog of suspicious packages.

The Davy Room at IOM3

The Davy Room at IOM3

The early birds: note the clean unstained table cloths and the neat layout of the bottles. By mid afternoon things were a little busier and less tidy…

Caption competition time?

Caption competition time?

We finished off the day by heading off for dinner in a ‘typical’  pub; The Harwood Arms in Fulham. Our Burgundian friends will now be thinking that all English pubs serve home-made Scotch eggs. I can imagine them being quite disappointed next time they visit the UK and stumble upon a real dive of boozer with pickled eggs in a jar… We had a great dinner; many thanks, as ever, to Alex and his team. We had a few rounds of Le Ban Bourguigon as the evening wore on and ended up with a very superior Irish Coffee. Francois Confuron reckons he is a bit of an expert when it comes to Irish Coffee and give it a top rating.

irish coffee at the harwood
















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Finally installed in new offices

December 16th, 2014 by Lance Foyster

Potato spotted on St Mary's Road

Potato spotted on St Mary’s Road

It’s 4 years since we outgrew home, and moved to Northumberland House. It sounded rather smart, but actually  it wasn’t very grand at all.  In fact un-grand enough for them to decide to knock it down and build something nicer.  So we have spent a large part of the past 18 months looking for somewhere else, and it went down to the wire as our eviction date drew ever closer. But, finally,  now we’ve moved again and we’ve found a great location. This time we have large windows, a lift to the second floor and a lovely view down St Mary’s road, especially on a sunny day. (Isabelle even spotted a potato – or was it a coconut?) walking up the road the other day. We are also very close to home in case the urge to work into the night comes over us.

We even have some decent cellar storage space for all those samples.

Please note the new address and phone numbers: 45 St Mary’s Road, Ealing, London W5 5RG

Telephone: +44 20 8819 1458

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The New Zealand Cellar launches ‘Family of Twelve’ Case

November 26th, 2014 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

It was quite an exciting little happening that came over The Penthouse, in New Zealand House last week: the relatively new but already remarkably high profile New Zealand Cellar unveiled their latest offer – an exclusive mixed case of some of New Zealand’s finest, most prestigious wines from The Family of XII fraternity.

The Penthouse was buzzing at The Family of Twelve Case launch!

The Penthouse was buzzing at The Family of Twelve Case launch!

Founded in 2005, the Family of Twelve unites New Zealand’s most prominent fine wine producers, promoting the best hand-crafted wines the country has to offer. And we, Clark Foyster Wines, are delighted to be included in their fantastic initiatives promoting the wines of Kumeu River and Felton Road.

Clark Foyster Wines were very proud to be pouring the Kumeu River Village Chardonnay 2012

Clark Foyster Wines were very proud to be pouring the Kumeu River Village Chardonnay 2012

Headed up by Melanie and Sarah Brown, and Rosie Finn, of The New Zealand Cellar, an exciting private launch took place last Tuesday against a breathtaking backdrop of views across London town. Ticket holders gathered to taste the wines included in the ‘Twelve Case’ with producers and trade representatives on hand to explain the ins and outs of their particular wine. Nibbles, promotional pricing and the great energy that filled the room made for an impressive evening.


Mel of the NZ cellars and X of

Melanie Brown of The NZ Cellar with Roger Jones (The Harrow at Little Bedwyn)

It is the first time that Family of XII have put together a mixed case, which is delivered gift-wrapped to your door in perfect time for Christmas 🙂 Twelve iconic producers; twelve iconic wines. We are looking forward to watching the New Zealand Cellar’s success grow and are grateful for all that they and the Family of Twelve fellowship do to promote New Zealand’s fine wine here in London… And given that we list Kumeu River and Felton Road, their initiatives to promote both estates is always of particular appreciation! Well done everyone, onwards and upwards they say…

The Family of XII case unveiled, just in time for Christmas

The Family of XII case unveiled, just in time for Christmas

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Clark Foyster Wines and the beautiful city of Oxford: a match made in heaven! (Quite literally).

November 18th, 2014 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

And all of a sudden it was that time of year again, the Clark Foyster Wines’ Annual Oxford Tasting – one of the highlights of the company tasting calendar, it being such a different sort of event compared to those of the more exuberant London trade. Each year we organise a private tasting within the Oxford colleges presenting a snapshot of our evolving portfolio. It is a tasting for our customers based further North as well as for the University Professors who turn out year after year to contemplate their selections for the college wine cellars. Isabelle and Lance explained the unfamiliar notion of the Oxford University Wine Cellar during the drive up – the home of the prized wines of the professors for their evening meals, special dinners and events. What fun; so full of mystery, history and tradition!

A beautiful November’s day and a lovely drive up the M40 under a brilliant blue sky and alongside firey autumn trees. It was like something out of a fairytale pulling up outside Trinity College, make-believe in its perfection and its breathtaking beauty, just standing there exuding majestic grandeur.

We rolled out our Clark Foyster banner at the bottom of the wooden staircase, set out our wine selection and were set to go. I had been warned that the accuracy of the tasting notes were of particular importance at Oxford. And had witnessed Lance spending more time than usual pouring over their creation and grammatical accuracy. This all made sense when I saw how our guests tasted: slowly, precisely, quietly and always with a critical eye cast over the tasting note in front of them! Nobody was in a rush; time moves slower there.

Oxford portfolio tasting

Oxford Portfolio Tasting

Oxford is also a special place for Clark Foyster, in that it is where Isabelle first met Lance (in the library, even!); and it is where Lance first tried his hand at the wine trade. Still today, Oxford offers much support and custom, and is home to a few of our best trade customers.

What a lovely line up: Champagne and Gusbourne English Sparkling moved into spicy Austrian Grüner Veltliners and fruity Rieslings; Portuguese Bical into Greek Assyrtiko, through to sappy Zweigelt blends and serious Pinots; finishing off with sweet Vinsanto from Santorini. With a magnificent buffet spread to match, everyone was happy. A stroll around the gardens, a quick visit to a favourite pen shop to stock up on a fancy pen (random I know :-)) and then back to London we were headed… and to find that our wonderful coiled Santorini basket vines had arrived safely into the office… but that’s another story!!

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Leithaberg lights up London!

November 7th, 2014 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

It was a cold, blustery November day in London but hidden in the cosy upstairs of room of Vinoteca Soho a heart-warming wine gathering was taking place: London’s first Leithaberg tasting! Over the last ten years, the Burgenland region of Southern Austria has seen a dynamic group of young winemakers come together with the goal of producing wines which express the terroir and origin of the Leithaberg sub-region. Defined by the geographical borders of the Leithaberg Mountain and the large but shallow Lake Neusiedl, this wine region is believed to be one of the world’s oldest. And it was this Wednesday past that the Leithaberg winemakers united in London to present the wines of their newly created DAC. I was very excited to be spending the day with the one and only Mr Georg Prieler, a much-loved winemaker with whom Clark Foyster has been working for quite some time.

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Winemaker Georg Prieler and I gearing up for the day

There is something you need to know about Georg Prieler; and that is that he is a Superstar! He arrived in London that morning, fresh from his vineyards, looking just the part with his chic green trousers, check shirt, and tweed jacket. The combination of a gigantic smile, his warm and gentle character and the outstanding Blaufränkisch and Pinot Blanc that he bottles make him quite the Leithaberg ambassador.


The vibrant bunch of the newly formed Leithaberg DAC

It was a successful little tasting for London’s first. Prieler’s range of Blaufränkisch wines, tight and complex, full of delightful berry notes and spice, were showing beautifully as were his creamily textured Pinot Blancs – elegant and juicy. A great chance to show these unique wines, which are so full of character, to some customers and to some new faces.

Georg and his Blaufränkisch and Pinot Blanc masterpieces

Georg and his Blaufränkisch and Pinot Blanc masterpieces

Such an inspiring, zealous energy surrounds this group of young Leithaberg producers. They brought with them to London, along with their wines, a real sense of friendship and of light-hearted fun. Hopfully this will continue to shine through as the reputation of their wines and of their unique region gathers momentum. Good luck Leithaberg, we’re backing you!


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Gusbourne Estate: Harvest 2014

October 1st, 2014 by isabelle

We started work with this premium English wine estate earlier in the summer and the Dirty Dozen Trade tasting last month was our semi-official launch.  We had the opportunity yesterday to take a group of our customers down to the village of Appledore in Kent so they could see the vineyard for themselves and taste the wines at the winery.  It’s great to have the chance to do winery visits which don’t involve planes and overnight trips and a lot of time off work for very busy customers!

We started with a tour of the winery led by winemaker Charlie.  He talked us through the processing of the fruit and the vinification process.  Most of us had been to wineries in Champagne and elsewhere; it was interesting to talk about the particular issues which arise in an English context, and how the challenges of climate and weather are addressed in the viticulture and the vinification.  Then we headed up to the tasting room for a taste through the current releases. With no language problems, we had the chance to ask quite a few technical questions and discuss some of the points in detail.  We had our first taste of the new Blanc de Noir 2011, which was disgorged in August.  This cuvee will be exclusive to Clark Foyster and we’re expecting to have it in stock from next month.

The rain was just about stopping at this point, and the sun came out as we set off on a walk though the vineyards to lunch…Many thanks to Charlie, Danny and Eric for their warm welcome and for the excellent treacle tart!


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The Dirty Dozen 2014: Better Together!

September 17th, 2014 by isabelle

The Dirty Dozen is one of the biggest days in our tasting calendar.  It’s only in its fourth year, but it’s already made its mark as one of the unmissable tastings of the year.  It’s a great way to catch up with our customers and also to show our wines to a wider audience.  The Dirty Dozen are a collective of 12 independent importers who have come together to stage a trade tasting which is bigger than any of us could comfortably pull off on our own.  It’s put together in a spirit of co-operation and even though we are (friendly) competitors, we can see the value in sharing our resources to benefit everyone.  Our busy on-trade customers can taste from several suppliers at a single focussed session without having to take too much time out of the restaurant,  For independent retailers, it’s a one-stop shop to hugely diverse range of wines which they know for sure will not be duplicated down the road. I don’t think many of the Dirty Dozen could claim to cover wines of the world and offer a complete list, but as a dozen, we certainly can.

Yesterday was also a great opportunity to show some rcent additions to the list, and we had three winemakers joining us to pour their wines and talk about them to a very engaged and enthusiastic audience.  Andrew Weeber, founder of Gusbourne Estate in Kent, was on hand to talk about his English Sparkling Wine.  He did such a good job that the wines ran out before the end of the day. Next to him, was Stefanos Georgas from Estate Argyros in Santorini, with a couple of bone-dry Assyrtiko wines plus a four year aged Vinsanto.  Both the Greek and the English wines are new to our portfolio and we were really interested to see how many people came over asking specifically for both of these to try. Certainly, the feedback was very positive; could this be the start of a new wave?

Mac Forbes had to leave early to fly to Norway for the next leg of his extended European trip, but he was able to catch up with some of his loyal UK fans, including the irrepressible Elitist Review.  If you’ve not previously come across this brilliant wine etc blog and you enjoy stylish prose and VERY strong opinions, then I’d highly recommmend it.

The only problem with the event was that we ran out of wine, which is a first time ever for us!  Next time we’ll be better prepared and more optimistic over visitor numbers.


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“Starting with Oysters” – Lunching in Champagne!

July 18th, 2014 by Alma Ledgerwood-Walker

It probably seems a little extravagant to drive to Champagne for lunch, n’est-ce pas? But when lunching happens to coincide also with a vineyard tour, winery visit and tasting at our partner Champagne House, Jacques Picard, the prospect becomes a little more reasonable 🙂 . For CF newbies, Paul Chandler and myself, this would be our first visit to Jacques Picard, and the first time we would meet winemaker, José Lievens, and all of his wonderful family in their home village of Berru. Clark Foyster has been working with Jacques Picard, importing their delightful range of champagnes, for 4 years now. And as we were about to discover, José’s kind invitation to join all the family for a lunch and champagne tasting is definitely not something we’d have wanted to miss!

Breakfast in London; Dinner in Reims - two seperate worlds

The vineyards of Jacques Picard – a world away from the hustle and bustle of London

And so, the assorted Clark Foyster – Sommelier gang of this trip set out, Paul up front driving us confidently out of sunny South Ealing in our large and rather cumbersome minibus, direction Reims. After a remarkably smooth journey, including a brilliantly efficient crossing of the Channel in the ever-so-slightly-unsettling Euro Shuttle, and an expert transition from the “right” to the “wrong” side of the road by Paul, we were greeted by José as the sun was starting to set in Reims.

That evening, José very kindly led his troop of London visitors on a mini-guided tour of the city, culminating pretty nicely in one of Reims’ trendiest wine-bars. There, we sat outside, munching our way through varieties of charcuterie and listening to the locals go crazy with their car horns as the national team tried their hardest to beat Ecuador in the Word Cup. José, who with all of his knowledge and success remains a light-hearted and jovial sort of chap, poured his prized Brut Reserve and talked us through the ins and outs of Jacques Picard – still the only Propriétaire – Récoltant of the village.

José (Jacques Picard) in the vineyard, where he likes to be best

José in his vines, where he likes to be best

After more introductions to family members (grandmothers, daughters, sons… dogs), the following morning began with a vineyard visit and winery tour. All topics fully covered – soil compositions understood, pruning decisions explained, the full vigneron experience had – we moved into the much cooler winery to enjoy a studious apéro of base wines and a masterclass in the art of blending. Fogetting most certainly not, a vertical tasting of vintage champagne, ‘Art de Vigne’.

And so it was lunchtime. The barbecue had been going since 11am in preparation; and yes, the whole family was involved!

“We’re starting with oysters”, announced José.

I hadn’t seen oysters so big before (although to be fair, I haven’t eaten that many). José went on to explain the oyster scale of measurement, ranging from Size 6 (the smallest) to Size 000 (Monster oysters)! He told us that we were only tucking into Size Two – nothing like size Double Zero which require a knife and fork and which he had tried while on holiday in Brittany.

Starting With Oysters - it's a hard old life

Our “taille 2” oysters, just perfect when washed down with a glug of Jacques Picard Brut Nature

Thereafter the courses continued to flow – frogs legs did make an appearance… along with razor clams, red mullet, lamb, rice salad, cheese, and homemade cherry tart.

But if the food was fantastic; the range of champagne was sublime! The Brut Nature – fresh, crisp, clean, all that you would expect from a well-made-zero-gram-dosage-champagne, but with a friendly nose and delicate palate, and not too dry either with its higher percentage of Pinot Noir and Meunier. The Brut Reserve, all zesty and full of lemon-freshness from a prevailing percentage of chardonnay but with also a richness of texture from extended lees ageing; and then 2002 vintage Art de Vigne, showing its softer, richer, more buttery side. I picked up notes of hay and fresh apricots, and an alluring whiff of white truffle.

Hard at work - tasting through the Jacques Picard range

Hard at work – tasting our way through the Jacques Picard range of champagnes

Champagne is a long way to drive to have some lunch, but it’s not that far when we consider the importance of sharing a meal and wine with the family of people behind the champagne that we choose to import and sell back home. Tasting a wine with the creator on your left and his wife on your right, somewhat heightens your senses, allowing perhaps for a more holistic appreciation of the juice in your glass. For me, when I taste a wine in the exposing context of its terroir, surrounded by the vineyards in which it was born, some mysteries behind its character are brilliantly unveiled. This too is the case when I get to know and better understand the people behind its creation. Here at Clark Foyster, Lance emphasises often the intertwined nature of wine and people, quite a simple notion I suppose, but fascinating and heartening nevertheless.

Now, who can I interest in some Jacques Picard!?


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