Grapevine Archive for September, 2012
I have been in Spain for a few days visiting, among others, La Rioja Alta.
A big part of what makes their traditionally made Riojas so delicious is the racking process: moving wine from barrel to barrel to clarify it. This is done to all of their wines every six months.
Racking also oxygenates the wine, which softens the tannins until delicate and silky, and introducing all manner of complex, savoury flavours.
Here’s a video of José Felix, La Rioja Alta’s ‘trasegador’ (‘chief racker’!) in action. José racks some 56 barrels a day all year round.
And the wine? This is the 2011 vintage of The Society’s Exhibition Rioja Reserva. It will be available to members in four years’ time, by which point it will be even more silky and delicate thanks to José’s efforts. In the meantime, members can enjoy the delicious 2006 vintage.
I have just heard from Delicato who produce The Society’s California Old Vine Zinfandel. They are upbeat about the 2012 harvest. Here’s their take:
‘The 2012 Harvest is in full swing throughout sunny California. Uninterrupted weather ensured that we had a good crop set with healthy-looking vine canopies. Vine vigour has been great with water and sunlight playing integral roles in development.
‘With the weather being as smooth and consistent as it has been, we’ve seen great flavour development and are expecting a fantastic harvest in front of us. To date we have started to bring in most of the whites, with Sauvignon Blanc hitting the Black Stallion Winery in the first few days of September. Pinot Noir and the other reds will begin to be picked around the middle of September. San Bernabe Vineyard is no exception to this year’s exceptional harvest with virtually every block looking stunning… all this and it appears that even the Giants are harvesting a spot in the playoffs coming in to the final three weeks of the season in 1st place!’
Katie’s had an incredible couple of years: in 2009 she left her marketing job for the local wine co-operative with a plan to study winemaking. With a little help from her friends, including her ingeniously practical partner Jean Marc, rather than enrolling on a course she set herself up to make her first vintage from her Maury vineyards that same year. Her 2010 Fitou has just won the Fitou Trophy at the IWC awards.
The wine of hers that bowled me over however, was her white which almost didn’t happen. When purchasing the vineyard only at the eleventh hour did she find out that it was grenache gris, a grape of which she had no experience of and not the grenache noir that she was expecting.
The gamble paid off, the result is seriously classy: the fresh melon and pear fruit flavours are balanced with a subtle use of oak for an elegant food-friendly wine. Great for dinner parties (try with risotto or scallops) and well worth a go if you’re stuck in a white wine rut. I think this wine would suit both sauvignon and Mâcon lovers.
Domaine Jones, Collines Catalanes, 2010 is available for £14.95
The adopted name for South Africa’s Heritage Day yesterday, a national holiday making a long family weekend heralding the end of winter. It feels that way today anyway, in bright warm sunshine in the picturesque Robertson valley, where many of the surrounding hills still have traces of snow glistening in the distance, a reminder that winter is not long gone. I have never been so cold in the Cape as over the last couple of days, especially in constant heavy rain much of yesterday.
So the sight of the fire on the terrace at Quando on Friday evening was both heart-warming and bone-warming! Michelle and Roelf du Preez of Bon Cap, friends of Quando’s Fanus, Martin & Estelle Bruwer, brought along delicious bottles of their sparkling Chardonnay and The Perfect Blend 2009 red and, in addition to Fanus’ lovely Quando Sauvignon, all enjoyed his delightful new Pinot (selling like hot cakes on the local market).
Michelle’s birthday, and the Braai-cooking skills of our kind hosts were toasted; the wines made delicious accompaniments to certainly one of the best braais I have ever enjoyed. Home-made pizza baked beneath the embers was a first for me, and a fabulous rack of pork ribs, basted with olive oil, lemon juice and coriander seeds was sensationally good. With Quando specialising also in citrus fruit, even the lemons were home grown! Braai hospitality at its best.
Jo Locke MW
It is one of the wine world’s most underrated grapes, producing juicy red wines at everyday prices as well as serious, terroir-driven examples at the top end.
If that wasn?t enough it plays a lead role in many of the fabulously vibrant rosés, while grenache blanc and grenache gris make fantastically individual white wines.
Our current Fine Wine List has an International Grenache Day selection to explore; in addition, here is a handful of wines that I feel offer a great summary of grenache’s appealing qualities (red, white and rosé):
Spain (Calatayud): Cruz de Piedra Garnacha, 2010 (Red, £5.50)
Spain (Terra Alta): Jaspi Blanc, 2011 (White, £8.50)
France (Roussillon): Domaine Jones Rouge Grenache, 2010 (Red, £11.95)
Spain (Rioja): Muga Rosado
Spain (Calatayud): El Puño Garnacha, 2007 (Red, £16)
Australia (McLaren Vale): d’Arenberg The Beautiful View Grenache, 2009 (Red, £38)
Just arrived in sunny, if rather chilly, Cape Town, where I’m told they have had a long winter rather better for the vines than for the locals and visitors.
We normally reserve this time of year for European vineyard visits, but next week sees the first Cape Wine show here since before the World Cup and the industry has moved on at an inspiring pace since then.
I am greatly looking forward to the excellent overview such events provide, whilst desperately trying to protect some time in my schedule to sample ‘off the beaten track’ with exciting new growers, and members’ recommendations.Not long before heading south I bumped into Gary Jordan, winemaker owner of Jordan Estate in Stellenbosch, who was in the UK to, amongst other things, pick up a couple of Decanter Trophies. Gary was an honorary guest at an extraordinary 30 vintage vertical tasting of Loire chenin blanc (more on which anon), where it was fascinating to have a winemaker’s input to the discussion.
I asked Gary about the 2012 harvest which I had heard had been pretty challenging early on. Gary was delighted with how it had progressed, however, with less dramatic heat spikes than the norm and a favorably longer ripening season – or ?hang time? as the Aussies like to call it.
So I am looking forward to tasting the new vintage too, at Jordan and elsewhere.
Joanna Locke MW
South Africa Buyer
I am delighted to have won this award again. Critical acclaim is always well received. However, I am even happier that Chile is number two in terms of sales at The Wine Society (only sixth nationally). It shows how wise Wine Society members are. You all have a good eye for quality and value for money, which Chile continues to offer across a wide range of grape varieties and price points.
New and better vineyards
Chile has always been good at matching grape variety to climate, and the newish coastal vineyards in Leyda and Limarí have shown their excellence for sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and cool-climate syrah. A whole new generation of vineyards are now being planted taking account of the further variable of soil. These have been soil mapped before planting, using newly available rootstocks ideally adapted to the characteristics of certain soils, and varying planting density according to soil fertility, together with drip irrigation allowing lower vigour hillside vineyards to be planted. Many are now starting to come into bearing. These will further improve quality.
Chile continues to surprise and innovate. The Itata valley (between Maule and Bío-Bío), the home of unirrigated old bush vine vineyards planted on rolling hills, is exciting interest. We listed a lovely cinsault from De Martino last year. Some new pais wines are appearing too, often made in a maceration carbonique style and tasting like a light, strawberry-fruit pinot noir.
Chile?s only constant is change!
The affection for Alsace at The Wine Society goes back several generations of buyers and it would be nice to think that somehow they realise that all their efforts have paid off, and that for a fifth year in succession the International Wine Challenge has awarded us with the title of Specialist Wine Merchant of the Year for Alsace.
This has been a big Alsace year for us as unusually I found myself visiting twice in twelve months. First it was to taste the 2010s intensely and in depth, and then in June, just before the Jubilee, it was to show members of The Wine Society Dining Club around.
It was on this occasion that I met up with this new equine face of Alsace, Nikita, here pulling a plough on the Grand Cru Brand above the village of Turkheim.
So much has changed in Alsace from the days of industrial production to the artisan approach adopted by a growing number of estates. A generation ago, brilliant minds included Leonard Humbrecht, Léon Beyer, Jean Meyer, Bernard Trimbach and of course Johnny Hugel. The best Alsace estates are close family businesses where the generations follow seamlessly, each time bringing something new but always with the same aim of making excellent wines.
And so to the horse, not for show but preferred to a tractor on certain slopes as the use of a horse avoids compacting the earth. Just one of many little details which on its own might have little meaning but taken with lots of other details can help create greatness. Like using biodynamic composts, which more and more growers are using.
Alsace is both a victim and a result of history. It has known greatness, especially during middle ages but also disaster: there is a saying that says that Alsace is good at two things: making war and making wine.
I believe the seemingly endless list of wars, invasions and campaigns is behind us. Now is the time to discover what made Alsace such a jewel that was worth fighting for.
More members are drinking Alsace wines than ever and our list continues to grow with new additions including Albert Boxler from Niedermorschwihr, the Ribeauvillé co-op and Kientzler (also from Ribeauvillé).
At last week’s International Wine Challenge Awards, The Wine Society won the Specialist Merchant of the Year award for Portugal for the first time.
We are absolutely delighted that our ? and your ? support for Portugal over the last few years has been recognised in this way, and also delighted for Portugal, and for all our producers whose wines have been over-delivering (whichever way you look at it, on quality, interest and value) for years.
This is a mark of just how far Portuguese wines have come, especially since joining the European Union in 1986. (I remember in my early years as a wine student, Portuguese wines were among the easiest to spot in blind tastings, along with Italian wines at the time, for their often rude tannins and oxidised fruit. They are now long gone).
Over the years many retailers have made admirable attempts to support Portugal’s traditional and emerging wine industry, but our unique status as a co-operative populated by wine enthusiasts has allowed us to make steady progress and establish Portugal as a small but increasingly important part of our range and tastings programme.
Earlier this year (and arguably long overdue) Decanter Magazine made Paul Symington, MD of the Symington group responsible for many of the best Port houses as well as the Altano, Chryseia, and Vesuvio wines in the Douro its Decanter Man of the Year, and Paul is our guest at The Society’s Festive Dinner in December.
At the start of this year’s harvest, it is too early to say whether 2012 will turn out to be a “vintage” year for Portugal, thereby creating a celebratory hat trick. In the meantime, for members who have followed our exploration into Portugal’s wonderfully varied wine regions to date, and to others who might now feel more tempted to do so, there is plenty more to come, including our next offer and tasting dedicated to Portuguese wines in November.
Jo Locke MW
Last night we were proud to pick up more gongs at the International Wine Challenge awards ceremony at the Hilton, Park Lane.
The evening was hosted by Charles Metcalfe and Tim Atkin MW, two members of the distinguished judging panel which also includes Oz Clarke, Sam Harrop MW, Peter McCombie MW and Derek Smedley MW.The IWC (?the original Oscars of the wine trade?, some would say) has been going since 1984 and involves several weeks of blind tastings by numerous panels of wine judges, made up of an international band of trade experts.
To have your wines identified as trophy winners by your peers is highly gratifying and reinforces what our members already know, that we have some of the best wine buyers in the business!
Society buyer Marcel Orford-Williams was present to collect his trophy for Alsace Specialist Wine Merchant of the Year (for the fifth time in a row). Spain buyer Pierre Mansour collected his prize for The Society?s Exhibition Rioja Gran Reserva, 2001 from CVNE, which was awarded The Rioja Trophy. (Sadly this wine is already out of stock, but it will return in magnum format in time for Christmas!).
Chief buyer Tim Sykes picked up the specialist merchant award for Chile on behalf of buyer Toby Morrhall (an award given to us for the sixth time in seven years) and, a first for The Society, the Portuguese specialist award ? a terrific recognition of buyer Joanna Locke MW?s determination to bring these wines to a wider audience and members? continued appetite to try new things.
Finally, we were delighted to retain our title of IWC Wine Club of the Year, with the judges saying:
?The Wine Society continues to offer great value for their members from an impressive range which has been expertly selected by a great team of buyers. Their remarkable storage facilities at a fair price and the broad range of events throughout the year are everything you would want from a wine club.?
And though some of us present may have been a little disappointed not to have had our award presented by Mick Hucknall of Simply Red fame (he was there, not just in his capacity as a winemaker, but to present the Lifetime Achievement Award), we could not have been more pleased or privileged to have been there.