Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A modern Spain

By Richard Bailey
Senior Account Manager

With more land under vine than any other country on the planet, it is amazes me that – with the exception of Rioja and Penedes – just about every other wine producing region in the country has remained relatively obscure. But make no mistake – Spain not only produces some of the world’s very finest wines but it also offers the consumer an almost unparalleled level of diversity and choice. Coupled with high quality and traditional production values you will have to look long and hard to match the value found here.

Wine production in Spain is quite unique; wineries and their surrounding acreage tend to be larger than elsewhere, yet, due to the often arid conditions and maturity of the vines, yields tend to be significantly less than in other countries  (Spain’s average is somewhere around 25hl/ha, compared to the classed growth’s of Bordeaux who’s yield tends to hover between 35-40hl/ha.) On top of that, many vineyards tend to be less densely planted so the threats of botrytis, mildew and many other hazards that would harm the fruit quality is minimal and since 1996, irrigation practices have been legal, so we have a real chance of seeing quality products turned out reliably, year after year, after year, after year.

Another huge benefit of buying Spanish wine is that the producers do all the aging for you! Yes, Spain does make incredibly age worthy wines that will benefit from some time in the cellar but whether it be Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva, you can buy a mature red wine that is ready to drink straight out of the box. Excellent news if you struggle to leave your cellar untouched for any period!

So, where should you look for these bargains? Take your pick; In the North East you will find one of the most inspiring areas of red production on the planet, Priorat. Here, Garnacha based blends are fused with international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah; rich, powerful and fleshy. Many examples will drink from release and last a lifetime (Try our Cal Pla 2006 Priorat)

Or head South East to discover what I deem to be the most luscious and hedonistic expressions of Monastrel (Mourvedre) on the planet – Bodegas Castano ‘Hecula’ 2009 or Juan Gil Monstrell 2008 – 90+ Parker Point wines for under £10 anyone?

If you’ve been a lifelong Rioja fan why not sample the wines of its neighbour, Navarra? Expect traditional style with a modern twist, Tempranillo blended with the great varietals of Bordeaux. (Vina Del Portillo 2002 Reserva)

And what about the whites? If you’ve been searching for a change to your Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay then the wines of Galicia are for you; be it a zippy Albarino or my personal favourite the beautiful Godello (Grego y Monaguillo Godello)

I’m barely scratching the surface here. With over 600 indigenous varieties alone it would take ten lifetimes to explore all the hidden jewels Spain has to offer. The Point to this entry is to make sure that you are aware, that over the last 20 years or so there has been a major shake up all over Spain, a vinous revolution! There has been massive investment, both financial and educational alongside a hugely successful integration of modern viticultural and vinification practices. Spain are making some amazing, super high quality products, that is the bottom line!

Why so cheap? That’s a question I cannot answer fully. Suffice to say, I have no doubt the status quo will not remain for much longer…

Happy exploring.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Beat the post-holiday blues

By Sarah Turner, Averys

This time last week I was sat in a beachside café in Mallorca enjoying the sunshine, a plateful of sardines and a healthy glass of rosado.

Back home in England I’m sat with my laptop, a strong black coffee and wondering whether I can cobble a sandwich together from the remnants in my fridge. The kids are back to school, the washing’s backed up & I have a ‘to do’ list as long as my arm, (which is why I’m writing this blog instead!).  It’s official. I’m suffering from post-holiday blues.

But all is not lost. Amazingly enough we arrived home to one of the sunniest weekends of the summer. And instead of just dreaming of those sunny evenings on the terrace, I was able to recreate them in my own back garden. All I needed was a glass of chilled, crisp, dry sherry and a bowl of almonds.

 For me, no wine is more quintessentially Spanish than sherry and with a glass of La Gitana Manzanilla in hand the post-holiday blues seemed to drift away. Its sea breeze freshness and salty tang remind of that just-got-back-from-the-beach feeling and it really whets your appetite for another glass!  

There are lots of wines where the merest whiff can remind you of holidays in the sun.

Prosecco makes me feel like I’m on holiday whenever I pop open a bottle. In Italy, Prosecco is a wine for any occasion – not just special celebrations. Follow their lead and enjoy a glass of Corte del Calli Prosecco for the perfect post-holiday pick-me-up.

Rosé is another top holiday tipple and apparently the French now drink more rosé than white. Enjoy a glass of Château de Beaulieu Provence Rosé, a pretty pink rosé from one of our favourite holiday hotspots, and imagine you’re sat in a French café overlooking the Mediterranean.

And as for everyone who enjoyed the ‘glorious’ British summer and team GB Olympic success, you can keep on celebrating all things British with a glass of Nyetimber Classic Cuvée. This elegant English fizz rivals the best of Champagne and comes from vineyards in West Sussex, less than a mile from my house.

Maybe it’s not so bad to be back in England after all.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

New Zealand with Mimi Avery

New Zealand’s wine history goes back a long way, vineyards were established in Hawkes Bay by Te Mata in 1896 and Corbans planted in Auckland in 1902. But it was not until the late 70’s early 80’s that small quantities of New Zealand wines were found their way to the UK. Montana planted in Marlborough in 1973 and by the 80’s were wining awards with wines where there was volume enough to export properly.

Our links to the New Zealand wine industry were forged when Mr Corban, then working at McWilliams in Australia, suggested to Dad that he extend his trip to Australia, in 1965, to New Zealand and visit the family vineyards in Auckland. It was on this trip that the passion for New Zealand wines started. In the early 70’s we imported a couple of NZ wines but it was not until 1979 that it became a commercial success.

The 1978 Cellar book article in the New Zealand Herald, written when Dad was Chief Judge for the first time at the National New Zealand wine competition, has J.C.Graham saying ‘This year’s chief Judge, John Avery, of the famous Bristol wine firm… the job is lightened when working with a man like John Avery, who holds the hard to-earn British title of Master of Wine. With life long insights into wine lore and practices, he also helped to fend off fatigue with his ready wit.’ (See full article)

My Passion for wine was really ignited on a round the world trip post University, funded by my year out as a Student Civil Engineer, I did work experience with Allan Scott and his family in Blenheim Marlborough, and developed a love for Sauvignon Blanc (unlike my father) but also Riesling, Allan always has a soft spot for his delicious aromatics.

In 1997 we were one of two companies that bought the first pallet of Felton Road Pinot Noir (1995) from Christopher Fielden, and have since had to take 2 bottles back so that Nigel Greening had a full Library set.

The first of our 2012 New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are on the water,  they are our customer favourites such as Invivo and Sunshine Bay,  and there will be new offerings too. There have been varied reports about the harvest across New Zealand. After wide spread issues with fruit set in Marlborough the harvest there is down by 23% on 2011. “...lighter than average crops in this significantly cooler than average year proved to be the key.

Vineyards with strong healthy canopy were able to take advantage of the sunnier warmer weather when it did eventually arrive” says Hamish Clark, St Clair’s senior winemaker. However Otago had a bigger harvest than 11, with Chris Keys of Gibbston Valley saying “we are happy with the 2012 quality. Smaller bunches have given welcome intensity, and flavours are excellent.”

Generally North Island had a better vintage than South and volumes are up on last year with no new plantings. Even with an 18% volume reduction overall this is still the 4th largest vintage ever, similar in size to 2010, source New Zealand Wine vintage summary.

Whilst waiting for the 2012 to arrive, I would suggest drinking the Waihopai Sauvignon Blanc 2010 that I took on holiday, to cornwall, last week. It was delicious, it went with both our al fresco lunches and the shell fish at dinner, a great all rounder.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Independent Wines of the Week: Abbots & Delaunay Alto Stratus Carignan 2010

Despite the English-sounding name, A&D are bespoke Languedoc specialists and this is part of an excellent range of their wines made fully available only recently in this country. Very carefully made using grapes from 100-year-old vines grown on stony ground, this is a complex, individual wine, with tastes of cherries, plums, vanilla and herbs on the palate and a good, long finish. A real special-occasion wine for all red roast meats. £16.99

Click here to order your case

Monday, 3 September 2012

Medal-winning Musar

By Andy Wadsworth
Wine Sales Advisor

Like millions around the country, I’ve been glued to the television watching incredible sporting events during the Olympics.  The Olympics isn’t just about sport, it is an affirmation of our humanity. Many sports men and women overcame major physical, political and religious challenges to compete in the London Games. It’s inspiring.

Consider Oscar Pistorius, “The Blade Runner”, a South African double-leg amputee, who ran the 400 metres in a staggering 45.44 seconds. In a recent interview Pistorius said “A loser isn’t the person who gets involved and finishes last. A loser is the person who doesn’t get involved in the first place.”  Pistorius’ triumph is shared by everyone; it encourages us to be who we truly are.

The wine industry is also not without its heroes - people who, like many Olympians, have overcome remarkable odds to achieve their dreams. Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar had his own challenge to overcome in viticulture.  His father had established a major winery in ancient vineyards located 15 miles north of Beirut, Lebanon. But, just as the vines came into full maturation, the region was ravaged by civil war.

In the 1983 growing season, Serge had to be smuggled in by boat in the dead of night so that he could tend his vines. In the late 1980’s, although that particular danger had passed, there was a new one – bombs. The Chateau, situated in the Bekaa Valley, was close enough to Beirut to endure frequent shelling, and the cellars doubled as bomb shelters for the local villagers.
Today, Chateau Musar is a multi medal-winning estate internationally regarded for producing some of the world’s finest wines. Made principally from Cabernet Sauvignon, their Grand Vin must mature for at least 10 years in the bottle for optimum drinking. It is truly one of the most precious and unique wines available today from a region first put under vine by the Phoenicians. It’s inspiring.

Wine Highlight:
Chateau Musar 2002 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon - £23.99
After four successive years of drought the 2002 vintage is widely regarded as one of Chateau Musar’s best for Cabernet Sauvignon – the key component in their impressively unique wines. Chateau Musar 2002 underwent a long, slow fermentation polished off by maturation, for one year, in French Nevers oak barrels. The wine, now starting to reach its full potential, shows intensely complex spicy red fruits and cedar aromas. The palate has immense power punctuated by generous plum, damson and red and black fruit flavours. The finish is long and spectacular featuring Christmas cake, spices, figs and dates. Without doubt one of the finest vintages in living memory, eminently enjoyable now and over the next five years.