Just enjoyed a Stopham Vineyard Pinot Gris, a Bolney Estate Pinot Noir and Upperton Vineyard's Aurora - stunning!
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Raise a glass for the Bank Holiday and enjoy!
THURSDAY, MAY 01, 2014
Keep the customer satisfied - why non vintage Bordeaux makes sense
(A piece commissioned by, and originally published on, Timatkin.com)
Imagine, if you will, two equally-skilled chef-restaurateurs whom we’ll call Jean-Paul and Jean-Jacques. J-P’s philosophy is simple: he makes the most out of locally-grown ingredients - even when they aren’t very good - and only cooks dishes he personally likes; J-J, on the other hand takes pride in traveling to find the best ingredients and giving his customers meals they enjoy.
In which of these culinary giants’ establishments would you most readily spend your money? Some of you I’m sure will happily place yourselves in J-P’s hands, and accept the parts of your meal that don’t work for you. I’ll freely admit that I’ll be down the road chez Jean-Jacques, for pretty much the same reason that I prefer jazz musicians who take requests and comedians who keep careful track of the laughs they get from every audience and polish their acts accordingly.
The wine industry - apart from the oft-derided ‘branded, commercial’ end of the market - takes a different view. This year, countless French producers are going to give us frankly substandard wine because it’s the best they could manage in the climatically challenging conditions of 2013. To return to my restaurant analogy, they’re like chefs who readily ask their waiters to serve second-rate steak with the explanation that the meat wasn’t very good at the market this morning. Except of course that restaurateurs who want to remain in business don’t do that: they frankly apologise for not being able to offer steak. Some vignerons will honourably follow a similar path with their 2013s, possibly biting the bullet and making a palatable non-vintage blend. Most however, will ask us to share their pain - and pay for the privilege of doing so.
These Europeans are, I freely admit, constrained by laws and custom. Outside Champagne and the Douro, vintages are sacred; the notion of a Bordeaux château fessing up to the need to skip one is as imaginable as a politician admitting that he isn’t going to implement one of the key policies in his manifesto. And, far from making frankly non-vintage wines, many winemakers proudly refuse even to take advantage of the legal right to blend 15% of another year.
Tradition is one thing, but this - to my mind - misplaced reverence for purity now seems to be increasingly apparent in the New World. If I had a bottle of Grand Cru Burgundy for every example of okay-but-less-than-dazzling 100% Sangiovese or Tempranillo or Vermentino I’ve been offered in Australia, I’d have a rackful of great drinking. Quite often, the winemaker freely acknowledges that the wine might have tasted better if they’d blended in a little of another variety, but they ‘just want to see how the pure version works’. Please don’t misunderstand me. I applaud them doing all this Research & Development. I just don’t see why they expect customers to fund it.
Fundamentally, winemakers, like chefs, musicians and comedians, have to decide who they are working for, and why their customers are giving them their money. Most wine drinkers, I’ll bet, buy wine for the pleasure it will afford them. In their minds, they may well have an idea of the way they expect and want it to taste; I don’t think they are paying for the experience of discovering how well or badly a producer has handled rainy or cold weather - or to be in on a first attempt with an unfamiliar grape. I’ll also bet that the people who do happily relish the intellectual rewards of sampling the admittedly substandard vintage or winemaking experiment are either loyal followers of that producer - like fans who turn out to hear a band try out songs from a new album - or avid wine enthusiasts.
So here’s my modest proposal. Winemakers could acknowledge the different audiences for which they perform. Produce small quantities of 2013 Médoc by all means for the faithful fans who are going to enjoy comparing it to the 2012 and 2011, but maybe make a non-vintage blend for everybody else. And, perhaps those innovative New Worlders could make a virtue out of their experimentation, labelling their R&D efforts as ‘discovery’ cuvées and inviting customers to tell them what they think of them. I’m sure the Jean-Paul’s of this world, and those who buy into the notion of ‘winemaker-as-artist’ will dismiss my suggestion out of hand, but I’d be very interested to see what they and others think.
POSTED BY ROBERT JOSEPH AT 10:46 PM
Over 220 wines, spirits and beers to try with many of the winemakers flying in to man the stands. There is also a great selection of local wines and sparkling wines to try as well to tie in with English Wine Week.
As if that is not enough, there are some brilliant masterclasses to enjoy.
Looking forward to the best Wine Fair yet - 650 people last year.... Fantastic! Let's go a few better.
Best of all? You can keep your engraved tasting glasses!
Petersfield Festival Hall, Saturday 7th June, 11am-4pm
We were proud to be invited out to Spain as one of twenty UK independent wine merchants invited by 'Wines from Rioja' last week. The trip was hosted at the Consejo. Andrew Catchpole, Harper's top journalist, held a seminar with the President of Rioja, Luis Alberto Lecea, who also delivered a brilliant Introduction to Rioja.
The morning provided us with a comprehensive insight into the importance of the UK independent market to Rioja. Andrew then hosted a fascinating 'round table' discussion which included the independent merchants' personal experiences with the retail and wholesale environment in the U.K. Lively debate continued on from all sides of the table which was both stimulating and enlightening. However, there were 37 winemakers and vineyard / winery representatives out in the main hall avidly waiting to meet us and pour us their wines and share their stories, so the debate had to be put on temporary hold.
It was an intensive session with 34 rioja wineries (we also had 32 wineries to enjoy the following day). The quality of wine on show was really outstanding and each producer showed so much passion for their craft. With more than 100 wines to try before lunch it seemed like it would be a long day...... but the enthusiasm of the producers and the craftsmanship behind the wines made for an educational and enjoyable morning. Thank you to all who gave up their time for us.
In all we visited 6 wineries of various sizes. The Riojans were very welcoming and we were treated very well. We visited the well known Marques de Caceres and Faustino as well as Franco Espanolas and Ramon Bilbao and Navajas. We were treated to some fantastic food and tried so many sublime wines. At Ramon Bilbao we we whisked off into the mountains to visit the vineyards in a 4x4. When you sit at home or in a restaurant enjoying the wine you have chosen it is easy to forget how much work goes into its production. Visiting a vineyard establishes that link to the first step of the life of a wine and seeing the origin gives the wine a sense of place... and the Rioja Alta is completely breathtaking. From young vines just starting to produce wine to 80 year old gnarled bush vines producing the famous Tempranillo that makes up most of the famous wine of Rioja. From traditional caves racked with delicious smelling oak barrels to ultra modern wineries producing wine on an industrial level - we saw a wide gamut of production methods. In Rioja, so much pride goes into every step of the wine's life.
The real gem for me was a visit to the small Bodegas Paco Garcia whose wine we have stocked at The General Wine Company since 2011. A picturesque winery nestled in the valley below the Sierra Cantabria and the Clavijo mountains. They only produce three wines and each one shone like the bright stars they really are - moving away from the traditional with an exciting modern twist. D e l i c i o u s!
Rioja is committed to quality and this was evident in every wine we tried and the wineries we visited. It is also apparent that wines from Rioja are proud of their traditions but are willing to embrace change to keep up with the evolving global market (as seen in the wines of Bodegas Paco Garcia)... one thing is for sure, as a consumer, Rioja is an exciting area to explore with much to offer everyone. It was a shame to have to get back to Bilbao for our flight home. I shall return, no doubt this time for longer!
#WinesofRioja #andrewcatchpole #Spain #HarpersMagazine #PacoGarcia #TheGeneralWineCompany
Let us know your favourites, however random - it is personal taste to a point!! We will publish the most intriguing and try them out for ourselves. A prize will be given to the best in class!
Photo: Thanks to #LatinaWineBlogger.com
We like to think we have chosen well!
Domaine Henri Delagrange Pinot Noir http://goo.gl/EVmPYN
Peiriere Viognier http://goo.gl/2QnLhl
Domaine Helene Perrot Chablis http://goo.gl/Fp0Uva
Chateau Cissac Cru Bourgeois http://goo.gl/qEoHif
Cheers guys - hope you enjoy!
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