Thursday, 24 February 2011

Sitt 2011 Tasting Notes and UK observations.

Sitt is the Specialist Importers Trade Tasting and it takes place every February in Manchester and London. I have just finished showing a selection of wines at the London tasting yesterday. It was a fun event and it is always great to see so many trade buyers and journalists. As I spend so much time travelling in Bordeaux and Languedoc it is a rare occasion to see some people! It is an opportunity to re acquaint as well as meet new people.

The UK wine trade has always been a dynamic market place and trading post for all sorts of wines. This specialist trade tasting mainly caters for artisan producers and importers rather than the big corporate companies. The UK economy is not in the best of shape at the moment with various tax rises and impending job cuts. There is a sense of uncertainty and it is a time to be stoic and work hard and clearly focus on the core values of your business. There will be companies merging and undoubtedly companies going to the wall in the next couple of years. But this also leads to a great opportunity to build loyalty and strengthen. If you can survive the hard times......then the good times will be great.
This year I was showing a range of wines from Bordeaux, the Rhone and Languedoc. It was the first time that I was not showing Australian wines at this event. The Australian wines are becoming extremely expensive in the UK due to the exchange rate. Fundamentally Australia is still producing some exceptional wines, however they have various issues to deal with domestically regarding drought and basic vineyard economics. At the moment Australian wines are rapidly becoming less popular in the UK market. I am sure that they will 'come back' but it might take a few years.
This is what I was showing....
From Bordeaux:
Chateau de la Riviere Rose 2010 £9.49 (recommended approximate retail price in the UK.)
A lighter style of Rose from 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. With a screwcap closure this is an elegant fresh crisp wine for Spring/Summer.
Chateau du Pin 2009 £7.99
It is sometimes difficult to find decent reliable consistent claret under £10. This is a lovely fresh juicy style of mainly merlot red. The 2009 was a great year at the top end for Bordeaux, but also at the lower scale there are some delicious wines produced. Elegant, ripe and tasty.
Chateau Bois Noir 2008 £11.99
This is a really beefy style of Bordeaux. The wine is made by Cyril Gregoire and is classified Bordeaux Superieur. It is deep dark and has a roasted mocha character nose. Excellent serious concentrated style.
Chateau de la Riviere 2006, Fronsac £19.99
This Chateau continues to produce excellent quality and value wines. This mature Bordeaux has an intensity of merlot dominant fruit with poise and balance from good oak ageing. This wine is approachable now, but will benefit from further cellaring.
Chateau de la Riviere 2007, Fronsac £19.99
Ironically the 2007 Riviere is developing quicker than the 2006. This wine has a savoury texture and has a brooding bramble and damson cream character. Delicious.

From the Languedoc:
Domaine La Prade Mari Viognier 2010 £7.99 (tank sample showed)
Excellent fresh crisp white with a hint of white peach blossom and apricots. A refreshing white from a small block (1.2 hectare) of vines.
Domaine La Prade Mari Roussanne 2010 £14.50 (barrel sample showed)
We aged this wine in 4 new oak barriques (225 litres). The grapes are from a very young plot (4 years old), which produces a rich nutty character on the wine. The integration of fruit and oak gives a beautiful balance and richness. The vanilla texture from the oak stands up to the quality of the fruit. Very small quantities available. (we only produced 2300 bottles!)
Domaine La Prade Mari 'Rubis des Garrigues' 2010 £9.99 (barrel sample showed)
The first Rose wine produced by Eric Mari. Equal parts Syrah/Grenache/Carignan and Mourvedre harvested by some extremely able pickers (Max and Jasper Wakes-Miller aged 6 and 8). We fermented this wine in stainless steel tanks and then put it in to older oak barrels for 4 months just to add a richness to the wine. The wine is showing very well now. It has a deeper pink/red hue and a nose of summer pudding and strawberries. This will be delicious this Summer as a Rose to be served outdoors with food when Summer arrives.
Domaine La Prade Mari Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2009 £6.50
This wine surely has to be one of the best quality /value wines available. The vines are 80 years old and they contribute to the beautiful elegant rounded ripe juicy style of red wine. Dark cherry characters on the nose and clean balanced palate. The wine has very light tannins from the fruit rather than oak ageing. It is also refreshing at 12.5 degrees alcohol. An absolute bargain.
Domaine La Prade Mari 'Secret de Fontanilles' 2008 £8.50
The word 'garrigue' is hard to directly translate from French. It is essentially the wild shrubby hedgerow that surrounds the vineyards in the south of France. The 'garrigue' has incredible mixture of flora and fauna with thyme, rosemary, fennel, wild garlic, wild onions, sage, gorse and rocket. All these herby aromatic characters are hinted in this delicious deep red.
Domaine La Prade Mari 'Chant de l'Olivier' 2007 £10.99
50:50 Syrah and Grenache aged in 2 and 3 yr old barrels. This has depth, richness and outstanding quality fruit. An international winemaker chose this as one of his favourite wines at the tasting.
Domaine La Prade Mari 'Conte des Garrigues' 2007 £12.99
Same % grapes as the Chant de l'Olivier above, however this wine has newer oak barrels. The influence of the newer oak gives the wine a slightly tighter structure. Very classy deep, dark garrigue characters and ideal with roast beef or roast sanglier.
Domaine La Prade Mari 'Gourmandises des Bois' 2007 £25.00
80% Syrah: 20% Grenache Very pure elegant Syrah. I have always thought that this wine would show comparatively well in a blind tasting of top quality northern Rhone wines.

Domaine Moulin Gimie Merlot 2008 £7.50
Merlot can be overcropped and jammy in the Languedoc but this example is pure class. It has won Gold medals in Paris (for what it is worth) and has a light menthol structure balanced with dark damson and blackcurrant fruits. An excellent everyday drinking red.
Domaine Moulin Gimie 'Les Fossiles' 2008 £10.99
The first showing in the UK for this unusual blend of Merlot, Syrah and Mourvedre. A delicious savoury slight milk chocolate character (probably from the mourvedre) balanced with intense red summer fruits.

From the Rhone:
Kreydenweiss 'Perrieres' 2008 Costieres de Nimes £12.50
Marc Kreydenweiss(16th generation winemaker from Alsace) bought this 19 hectare property in the southern Rhone in 1999. This wine is a beautiful example of Syrah/Grenache/Carignan and Mourvedre which thrive on the iron rich soils. An incredible depth of dark fruits wrapped in a sling of top quality oak. This wine also has a freshness which presumably comes from the biodynamic treatments in the vineyards and cellar.
Kreydenweiss 'Ansata' 2007 Vin de pays de Coteaux de Flaviens £15.00
100% Syrah therefore this wine has to have the rather unusual Vin de Pays classification. However this does not diminish the pure quality.
Kreydenweiss Chateauneuf du Pape 2007
Marc Kreydenweiss works 2 hectares of vines in the famous appellation Chateauneuf du Pape. These 2 hectares are mainly on sandy soils, which have never been sprayed with pesticides (the land was previously worked organically). Now Marc has converted the land to biodynamic principles and produces a sublime quality red wine. This wine packs a punch with 15 degrees alcohol, but it is in perfect balance with layers of elegant ripe cherry and herbal fruit characters. Truly a wine to savour.

These are background notes and observations on the wines rather than specific tasting notes. I am happy to quote ex cellar prices for UK trade buyers.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

UK Wine Tax Calculator New App

An interesting new free App available from Itunes. Quite shocking to see exactly how much duty and taxation is cleared off from a £5 retail bottle of wine in the UK.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Organic, Biodynamic and Egyptian Wines

Last week I zoomed off to my first big wine tasting event of the year. It was an organic wine show in Montpellier, France called Bio Millesime. This annual event is a good starter for the year in January. The tables are completely mixed up between regions and countries, in order for people to browse and move around rather than just pinpoint certain areas. This gives the wine tasting an element of confusion, but also conviviality! IE Lots of people lost at the same time.
I have attended this wine show over the last few years and it has grown out of all proportion. This year it took up 3 halls at the exhibition centre. Organic wines are expanding rapidly.
I have been relatively ambivalent towards organic wines and organic viticulture. I have always tasted a wine and judged a wine for quality and price before categorizing whether it is organic or biodynamic. However one of the wineries that I work closely with (Domaine La Prade Mari) is converting to organic viticulture. The picture here is myself and Eric Mari the owner of Domaine La Prade Mari having a look at some very healthy grapes just before harvest last year.Sometimes organic can mean a price premium when I genuinely think that most people in a wine shop don't really care. They would rather have a delicious wine that fits their price or buying criteria. If it is organic then that is a bonus.
It is noticeable that the organic culture is very strong in the Languedoc Roussillon, as the warm Mediterranean climate and cleansing strong winds make viticulture slightly easier. However up in Bordeaux (which has a higher rainfall and higher humidity) it can be more difficult to be organic. However this is changing as two significant Bordeaux Chateaux have fully embraced biodynamics...Chateau Pontet Canet in Pauillac and Chateau Guiraud in Sauternes.
Here are some figures on organics(courtesy of Drinks Business):
Languedoc-Roussillon’s organic vineyard coverage increased by 51.9% from 2008 to 2009 , Rhône-Alpes by 50.8%, Aquitaine by 45.2%, Burgundy by 43.2% and Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur by 34.6%.
The national growth was 38.9% to a total of 39,116 hectares. Growth is slowest in the North and West, where climate makes organic viticulture much more of a challenge. Organic vineyards in the Pays de la Loire grew by just 7.1% over the same period. Alsace also showed a relatively modest increase of 13.5%.

It is interesting to see how organic culture is increasing. I was truly amazed with the quality and improvement of many wines last week. I tasted over 300 wines and scribbled notes on which wines to follow up. One of the interesting stories was from a gentleman who is the viticulturist for a vineyard project in Egypt. As I had never tried Egyptian wine I was drawn to his wines out of interest. They were particularly good quality. The white was a blend of 90%Vermentino with 10% Chardonnay, whilst the Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend worked particularly well on the reds. The wines were called 'Jardin du Nil' and they will soon be appearing in global wine markets. The story about planting vineyards in deserts where the temperature is over 50 degrees in the Summer and there is virtually no rainfall was intriguing. It was also interesting to hear that the University of Montpellier are visiting Egypt to see how the Stem Potential Technique of using water for vines is effective. The principals used in Egypt could well be useful in the Mediterranean countries if global warming persists.
This afternoon I am traveling to the Rhone valley to taste one of the wines that I found at Bio Millesime. An absolutely gorgeous wine from just near Chateauneuf du Pape. I will reveal more later if I get the deal for distributing the wines.