Saturday, March 27, 2010

Moi...personally invited by Mr Boisset

During our improvised meeting with Mr. Boisset at Prowein, we were invited by him to attend at a tasting during the Grands Jours in Bourgogne. The Grands Jours is a great tasting of all the appellations of Burgundy and this event is held every two years. What made Boisset’s tasting more interesting was the fact that all the domains they own were gathered together under one roof or more appropriately in one cellar.

Boisset Offices at Nuits Saint Georges

Given that Mr. Boisset will surely read this blog :) and also due to the fact that Boisset wines are found in all major markets, I will not go through all the wines we tasted and give descriptive tasting notes rather I will introduce to you the domaines from Boisset’s portfolio which I find most interesting.

Surely first place goes to Domaine de la Vougeraie. This domaine is particular at heart since it was through this winery that I was introduced to the real Burgundy. I spent 5 days of harvest working with Pierre Vincent and his team during 2008. Climatic conditions for this vintage were not ideal so we had to compensate with constant hard work at the sorting table to only let the best grapes through. I also remember vividly the afternoon of harvest at Bonnes Mares, one of the grands cru sites in Burgundy. I was so unfamiliar with all the cutting that at one point I cut my finger and promptly thanked God I was only doing this for an afternoon. Yet, the great passion and the big smiles you see on people’s faces during harvest is alluring. I loved every second working at the domaine especially during lunch when everyone gathered around the same table and shared cheese, pates and baguettes. My French back then was limited to Bonjour and Merci, so when the workers tried to explain something it was like Berenice the Puppeteer, trying to make herself understood keeping her mouth shut. Good fun but not only; beautiful wines are the norm of the day at Domaine de la Vougeraie. My favourites during this tasting were Vougeot Clos du Prieure Blanc Monopole 2007, Vougeot Premier Cru Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot Monopole 2007, Pommard Les Petits Noizons 2007 and Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Bel Air 2007.

Sorting grapes at Domaine de la Vougeraie Harvest 2008

Another domaine which I haven’t visited yet but which is interesting to me is Maison Jean-Claude Boisset. Founded in 1961 this domain is focused on producing wines transparent enough to express both vintage and terroir characteristics. Winemaker Grégory Patriat explained how little he intervenes during wine making, producing wines which can be enjoyed during their youth yet which offer good ageing potential. I will make it a point to visit this winery and taste a few more of these wines. My favourites were, Fixin Blanc 2007, Saint Aubin Premier Cru en Remilly 2008, Gevrey-Chambertin Les Jeunes Rois 2008 and Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Charmes 2008.

Tasting at Boisset March 2010

The last winery which I will talk about was founded in 1814 and is one of the oldest houses of Chablis, J.Moreau & Fils. Again I worked with this winery when I was manager of the Wine Dept. At Wands in Malta, now Farsons Beverage Imports Company Limited. My preferred wines from the tasting were Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2007 and Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2007. Both wines had an intense bouquet of citrus fruits whilst the palate had a really delicate balance between acidity, fruit and minerality. Subtle wines yet with a lovely authentic Chablis character. Around 2 years ago I also had the pleasure to taste some old vintages from this winery which were very interesting and therefore showing the potential of this winery.

Some interesting bottles sleeping at Boisset cellars.. Shhh!!!

Apart from the wines during this tasting I must say that the cellar was fascinating. Wines from Aloxe Corton 1961, Richebourg 1973, Richebourg 1865 and many other vintages surrounded the walls of the cellar. Maybe as a birthday gift this year Mr. Boisset will give me a 5 Euro corkscrew and an 1hr in his cellar, I would be thrilled like a girl in an ice cream parlour, which flavours shall I choose??!!! :)

Myself, the Native American and the Russian!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not only Tokay!

For most of us, Hungary is synonymous with the lusciously sweet Tokay wine. Yet Hungary has been producing dry wine since the 4th century BC. Again the Benedictines played an important role in the wine industry in this country and it was they who established the vineyards of Eger and Somlo. The collapse of communism had a great effect on viticulture in Hungary as most of their indigenous varieties have been replaced by international ones in bid to occupy supermarket shelves.

Yet at Prowein I had the pleasure to taste some lovely wines from Hungary made both by native grapes and international varieties. A winery which interested me in particular was Heumann. A German/Swiss couple producing wines since 1995 in the village of in Villány well known for red wine production. With only 2.5 hectares under vines and with the supervision of both a Hungarian winemaker and their son who is currently studying enology, this couple is producing wines of great quality which will surely soon feature on international magazines and awards.

We tasted four lovely wines from their portfolio. The first was Cuvee Blanc 2007, a blend of 60% Harslévelù, 35% oak matured Chardonnay and 5% Gewürztraminer. As one would expect from such a blend, the wine is very aromatic on the nose with rose, orange blossom and peach aromas and undertones of vanilla present from the oak matured Chardonnay. The palate is fresh with nice balanced acidity. I would love to enjoy this wine with some grilled fish on a terrace overlooking Mistra bay (Malta - photo below).

Next up, I tasted some red wines, starting off with the Kékfrankos (100%) 2007. The Kékfrankos grape is an indigenous grape in Hungary yet also found in Austria under the name of Blaufränkisch. This variety produces wines with moderate tannins and sour cherry flavours. For me this variety can give wines very similar to Pinot Noir from the Côte de Beaune yet still with a character of its own. Aged for 12months in Hungarian oak this wine is very supple yet balanced well with good acidity and tannins.

The next performer was Cuvée Segreto 2007 which again is a blend of 50 % Cabernet Franc, 20 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 % Merlot and 10 % Kekoporto (Blauer Portugieser). Kekoporto is again an indigenous grape which has rather soft acidity and tannins and therefore is mostly used in blends. This wine had more body and structure on palate with also more intensity on nose of black fruits with hints of chocolate and tobacco. The last wine to taste was the Cabernet Franc 2007, which reminded me of Cabernet Franc wines from the Bolgheri area in Tuscany. Full bodied with fine tannins and a very good fruity mid-palate. Nice long complex finish. Very appreciated and enjoyed not only by myself but also by Jancis Robinson.

For those living in Dijon we might taste a bottle of Chardonnay 2008 from Heumann winery soon since Mr.Erhard Heumann was kind enough to give me a bottle. Also, maybe we can taste more of their range at Au Gré du Vin, our favourite wine shop in Dijon! :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Second day of Budding at Prowein..

Sharing some moments with you..

Down to Earth seminar - Sense of Place
Tasting wines from NZ, Chile, Argentina, California and South Africa

Bordeaux 2007 Tasting
Tasting from Figeac to Chateau Rauzan Segla

Tasting some lovely Champagne

Chilling out & Partying!!

and ohhh yesss

Mr.Boisset driving us home!!! Awesome!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First day of Budding at Prowein..

So, finally I am in my hostel room relaxing a bit after a long yet successful day at Prowein. I can still feel the heels of my red shoes hammering my feet but the success of the day is too sweet to let such matters bother me! From where shall I begin and where I shall end?! Big question! Better just highlight a few points of the day in order of preference.

Wines I tasted:

1. Braida Bricco della Bigotta 2007 – I was introduced to this winery by a very good friend of mine a couple of years back in Malta. Today, one of my other good friends I met in Bordeaux is working as an export manager with Braida. Today, Nadine introduced me to what is in my opinion one of their best wines, Bricco della Bigotta. A wine made from 100% Barbera d’Asti from the marl soils of Monferrato. A wine aged in barrique but with greater elegance at least for the 2007 than the famous Bricco dell'Uccelone wine coming from the same winery. Nadine informed me that they will hold a vertical tasting of this great wine at Vinitaly, How can I MISS?!! So keep following for more news on this sexy Piemontese.

2. Eight Songs 2004 – I had to visit the Australian stand maybe to look for something interesting for the coming months. As wine I met Eight Songs by Peter Lehmann, made solely from the assiduously selected Shiraz. The wine when tasted really feels like eight different notes yet harmoniously brought together with silky tannins and lovely fruit. A wine I would like to taste again soon, maybe in Australia?!

3. Gernot Langes 2005 – The Bodega Norton winery I know well from my ex-job experience at ex-Wands, now Farsons Beverage Imports Company Limited. Here once again I was proved wrong. I thought I had tasted all the wines from this Argentinean company, yet I didn’t. Today I tasted ....... 2005 vintage which is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This wine is another fantastic new world bomb with black fruits and hints of chocolate intermingled so nicely that a taste is surely not enough for a lifetime. Too bad only a few 3000 cases are produced per year and retail price is around 100Euros per bottle.. mmmm.. hints for my birthday present maybe??!! Anyone reading?! :)

Master classes attended:

1. Innovation in Marketing - This great master class organised by Down to Earth brought together the New World regional giants together to discuss what make them so successful and how they can be more innovative to bring their wine to consumers. What left an impression again on me is the discussion on social media tools. I say again, since in November at the Rioja Future conference I attended a conference on social media and the key speaker was the guy who is making it all work so well, Gary Vaynerchuck (If you don’t know the guy google him up!). Well today, it was the owner of the small winery of Becksberg from South Africa which conveyed the importance of social media at this day in age. There are many tools a winery can make use of from Facebook to Twitter to Blogging, yet the most important issue is being committed 100% to making it work. Unfortunately, most small wineries don’t have the time and don’t see how direct sales can translate from such a venture yet WORD OF MOUTH is the strongest tool any company can benefit from. Through social media small wineries can have a say as the biggest wineries or biggest wine companies. They can make themselves count. Content is everything! Transparency is key!

2. Friuli Venezia Giulia, An introduction to this Northern Italian region – Being not just a Brunello wine lover, but being in love with Italy as a whole, this presentation was of great interest and benefit to me. Mr. Penco took us through all the main marketing, sales and export issues not for just Friuli but for Italy as a whole. He also gave a very good presentation about the wines and the men behind the wines which made Italian wine so successful. Names like Sassicaia, Tignanello, Piero Antinori and Angelo Gaja, featured in his presentation tying in most of what I said in my previous blog, how a man with a vision can change the fate of a whole region and even a county.

Well, I guess I have said enough for today... And I am looking forward to a nice dinner and a nice bottle of wine maybe a German wine for this evening?! Or just a good German beer.. Always goes down so well after a successful day of wine tasting! :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Crossing Wine Borders

Today we started travelling at 10am to Prowein wine fair. Together with my fellow MSc in Wine Business students, this is our first wine fair this year; for most its their first ever wine fair. So in the coming days I will be writing about interesting and less interesting observations at the wine fair.

On the way to Dusseldorf, between a stop and another and a few Russian conversations on the background I drowned myself into this interesting book I am currently reading, Io e Brunello by Ezio Rivella, “Come portai Montalcino vel Mondo”. Being in love with Tuscany, this book was given to me as a farewell gift by a dear friend and I must admit that it took me by surprise mostly because in the first few pages it is clearly indicated that this book is about one of the biggest and most commercial companies in Tuscany, Banfi. Being a wine lover and in particular being in love with the Sangiovese grape realising that this book is all about Banfi didn’t strike me as interesting. Yet again I was wrong! Yes I am wrong many times.. Accept for the times I am really sure about things and the Russian girl tries to convince me otherwise.. Back to the book, after reading the first few chapters I immediately realised that this book is not about the Banfi winery, the giant in Montalcino, but about a man with a vision, a wine vision.

Ezio Rivella is surely a man I will look up to throughout the coming years especially when the wine world will not look so shiny! Through this book I am learning that yes wine is a passion and like every passion it brings sacrifices, victories and obviously hard work. Ezio, if he permits me to use his first name, just had a vision of an ideal winery in the middle of Montalcino which he called Disney in Tuscany, Castello in stile Disneyano. A winery which any wine maker nowadays dreams of and which most wine makers come across in some stage in life. Yet his vision goes back to 1957 when most of the Italian wine produced was either Lambrusco, sweet and simple and mostly exported to the US, or Chianti in fiasco, the latter word says it all. Ezio’s dream was simple, create the best winery in Italy a winery everyone will look up too, a winery which produces from Gavi in Piedmont to Brunello in Montalcino. Even if he looked for quality in his wines he still needed financial stability, which even though came mostly from the American Mariani brothers, when times got rough and Italian wines were banned in US due to Italian production malpractice, Ezio was clever enough to recognise opportunities in the Italian market and make the most of them. He produced wines which could be sold a few months after the vintage like Gavi and he introduced Wine Tourism programs at Castello Banfi to generate more awareness and loyalty and therefore ultimately sales. A man who if even in love with wine and with Montalcino had the business mind of Bill Gates and knew when to stop dreaming and make numbers count.

Well in a few words this book is a must read for any wine lover with a dream! I have to come to an abrupt conclusion cos my Russian friend is becoming restless waiting for the Malteser to get ready and hop off to dinner.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Négociant turning into Vigneron

It always an experience visiting different wine growers and wine makers in Burgundy. Everyone has his own story to tell; can be recent history or can be generations of experience put together. The winery we visited this week is more of recent history. Alex Gambal winery goes back only to 1997 yet his wines will surely age enough to create history.

When asked how he chose to start his winery here in Burgundy, how he chose this region out of any other region, he answered, “Burgundy chose me!” With those few introductory words I immediately understood that the wines we were about to taste were going to be great. From those words Alex could be identified as a true passionate wine maker in Burgundy, always on the look out to make great wines.

Starting as a négociant in 1997, Alex recently bought around 2 hectares along the Cote D’Or and now produces around 60,000 bottles per year from 20 different appellations. 20 different appellations vinified and bottled separately, all showing the true character of the site. In fact, Alex tried to explain how he tries to translate the true character of the place into his wines. He thinks that the word terroir has be overly used and abused and that with over 200 appellations in a small region like Burgundy, character and style of wine can vary with every vine row.

After a tour of the cellars we started our tasting with a very interesting wine, never tasted before in Burgundy, Blanc de Noir. Just like Blanc de Noir Champagne this is Blanc de Noir yet still not sparkling. Therefore a still white wine coming from the Pinot Noir grapes from their vineyards in Volnay. Grapes are picked and unlike for other red wines they are pressed for 2 to 3 hours to extract only the juice. The juice is then drained into a steel cuvee and after transferred to one year old oak barrels where both the alcoholic and malolactic fermentation occur. After 10 months of maturation in oak the result is a lovely balanced wine with very good acidity and straightforward fruit, ideal to serve as an aperitif or to be drunk with light summer lunches.

Another wine which caught my attention was St.Aubin Premier Cru Les Murgers des Dents de Chien 2008. Yes, first what struck me was the name given to this vineyard site, yet as soon as I tasted it the minerality and lovely racing acidity of this wine left an impression. Alex explained that the name comes for the calcareous soils around their vineyards in St.Aubin which when broken down look just like dogs’ teeth. The Chassagne Montachet Premier Cru La Malroie 2008 tasted after the St.Aubin, had complexities on both nose and palate. The nose showed citrus fruits yet with touches of apricot notes whilst the palate had lively acidity balanced with minerality and fruit. A wine to age surely for another 5 to 6 years to appreciate better its complexities.

From the three red wines we tasted, Clos Vouguet 2007 again showed complexities just like the Chassagne Montrachet. Tannins where present yet well integrated and will surely soften out into a harmonious wine as it ages. The Vosne Romanee 2007 which will be ready to drink sooner, showed stunning notes of red fruits of cherries and raspberries on the nose with hints of mint not so typical of Burgundy, yet a characteristic noted by Alex in this wine.

All wines reflected both vintage and character of site. One of the final questions I asked Alex was, “with all the different appellations in Burgundy, with all the négociants and vignerons, is Burgundy wine just for the passionate wine lover? Can it be too complex to understand?” Here Alex compared vineyard sites to music scores and wine makers to composers. All wine makers can have music scores they can play. Yet only a few develop their talent and become a philharmonic orchestra. Consumers have to choose between the different bands and orchestras where only the most passionate can enjoy the best crescendo.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Introducing the Malteser

So it’s the Malteser, crunchy on the inside and chocolaty on the outside. That is how she was once described in Tuscany; her revelation towards what her life should turn out to be. Way back to the first time I was in Tuscany I felt confused. I just had stepped out of University and all my friends had good jobs they liked or seemed to like. Me? I just couldn't find myself. Until that day in Panzano during the feast for Chianti Classico a few wine makers, a lot of tourists, since then I knew it was all about wine, about the passion for it, about its roots.

So now when I am in the car with a crazy yet lovely Russian girl on one side and firms like Veuve Ambal and Louis Bouillot on the other, commercial yet unreal, I question, What got me here? Surely not my roots directly. I mean my father always supported me in every way he could but he wasn't a wine grower and we used to drink mass produced wine for most of my childhood, so I cannot relate to any of that. Yet when I bring myself to look beyond my tiny room in Dijon, I see where wine got me, a Malteser, from the tiny island of Malta to the core of Burgundy. So here I want to share my thoughts, my feelings and believes, it can be very hard, yet wine will help me translate the message better.

Look for more winey feelings here and share yours with me, or better us!

Just follow your dream... it the most fulfilling emotion you can get... believe in yourself no matter how weird you sound!!!