Why all Top Selection wines taste the same
In its 20-year history, Top Selection has put together an eclectic portfolio, full of quirky as well as classic wines. But there’s nothing random about the line-up. Look closer and the wines share some common themes: balance, freshness, and remarkable value for money, whatever the price point. No wonder Akos Forczek’s team are winning so many accolades
Being named Fine Wine Merchant of the Year was a pleasing way for Top Selection to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The accolade, presented in the Sommelier Wine Awards, was a gratifying recognition for Akos Forczek and his team, and the way they have tried to shape their business over the past two decades.
Of course, Top Selection won the same prize in 2019, and 2018 as well. Clearly, this is a business that’s getting a lot right, and not only when there’s a milestone anniversary to acknowledge.
“Yesterday, we had an independent merchant here doing a tasting with us,” says Forczek, speaking from Top Selection’s smart offices a short walk from the Thames.
“I lined up about 30 wines and asked him, ‘why do you like working with Top Selection?’ and he said: ‘The reason is because your wines live up to your company’s name. All the wines I try, irrespective of the price point, the quality is always there’.
“He also said that when he tries one of our wines at £25 a bottle, he could sell it for £35 – the wines over-deliver.”
The Top Selection range spans the continents and includes quirky as well as classic styles. But the common thread, according to Forczek, is freshness and elegance.
“We buy as a team,” he explains. “For us it’s about the ease of drinking: freshness, good length in the mouth, not being overwhelming or having too much of anything; well-integrated oak.
“My friend told me one day that there are three things that matter in wine and I keep repeating it like a parrot to everyone: balance, balance and balance.
“Honestly, I can’t put it better than that. It’s true.”
Top Selection works with more than 80 producers in 24 countries. “We try not to work with competing people from the same wine region,” Forczek says. “That comes from my personality; I believe in something and I go for it.
“You go to some people and they might have eight Riojas. I can’t work like that – if I have something that I believe in, then I focus on that, and that’s what we work on.”
The roster grows organically but is essentially “very stable”.
“I think as a company we evolve with our winemakers. Whether we are very good judges of character or we are just lucky, I don’t know, but the people we work with tend to adapt their wine as the years go along.
“They do interesting things: like Kracher [the Austrian producer] went into a joint venture to make wine in Transylvania, so now we have a Romanian Ice Wine. These are the things that happen.
“When I originally started with Parés Baltà in Spain it was just Parés Baltà in Penedès, then they went to Priorat, and then to Ribera del Duero, so now we have wines from all three wine regions from them, and they are equally excellent.”
Top Selection has built up a loyal following in the independent trade and is keen to expand its business with the sector.
“We are not looking to have short-term ad-hoc partnerships with our retailers – and we are not looking to be in every shop,” Forczek says.
“In other words, we have preferred partnerships with retailers in different areas – we don’t want relationships with six or seven retailers in a small area. We’d rather work with a handful we can fully support and not create competition with each other in the same region.”
The company believes it has every tool at its disposal to help its independent partners, from samples to help with tastings to video and social media content.
Indies are already seeing their online sales boom and Forczek is convinced the trend is here to stay.
“Consumer behaviour is fundamentally changing,” he says. “They say something like 20% of shopping happens online and I think this will massively increase and it is here to stay.
“People are happy to receive food and wine at home and we need to be prepared for that. That’s why having indies is paramount in getting our wines out there to the consumer. They are our ambassadors.”
SOME PORTFOLIO HIGHLIGHTS
Alves de Sousa
Domingos Alves de Sousa inherited his family’s quintas in 1987. After studying viticulture in Bordeaux and his native Portugal, acquiring additional properties and constructing a modern cellar at Quinta da Gaivosa, he released his first vintage in 1991.
Müller produces Germany’s most acclaimed Rieslings. The combination of the fantastic Scharzhofberger terroir, the greatest Grand Cru in Germany, and Egon’s genius as a winemaker, result in wines of incredible minerality, fruit, acidity and perfect balance.
Co-founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976, Duckhorn has spent 40 years establishing itself as one of North America’s premier producers of Napa Valley wines.
In 1631, Szepsy Laczko Mate was the first man to ever write down how to make Tokaji Aszú. Eighteen generations later, now under István Szepsy’s direction, the same standards remain.
Located in the Seewinkel, an area in the Burgenland region of Austria, the Kracher Winery benefits from a microclimate perfect for the generation of botrytis.
For more information, visit www.topselection.co.uk