The wines of Sherry and Jura are known for developing under flor – a film-like yeast that protects the wine from oxygen – and now a New Zealand producer is set to launch its first wine aged under flor.
Bellbird Spring in Waipara, an hour’s drive north of Christchurch, has been allowing a Pinot Gris-based …
With the London International Wine fair fast approaching (again!) there’s a host of new launches filing up my inbox.
Another vintage of Pinot Grigio doesn’t cut the mustard but the re-appearance of La Gitana Manzanilla En Rama gets my taste buds working.
La Gitana En Rama was first released in November 2011 and quickly sold out. In a stroke of luck (right time, right place), I managed to get my greasy hands on a single bottle courtesy of a sherry bar. It will, no doubt, be as hot as a stolen car again this time around.
En Rama is pure, unadulterated Manzanilla. It is only possible to bottle this special batch twice a year – in spring and autumn – when the flor is at its thickest. It is unfined and unfiltered unlike most sherries produced commercially and thus is more unstable but, in my experience, more interesting. Javier Hidalgo explains: “It is precisely in those two moments of the year when we bottle en rama, to catch the maximum intensity of flor aromas and taste.”
Historically, transport facilities made it far more complicated to ship wines drawn directly from the cask due to the exposure to extreme temperatures in transit. With improvements in transportation , the bodega has been working to preserve this style of manzanilla in its natural form, as you would taste in the bodegas in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. With no stabilisation, it should be drunk within three months of bottling.
Javier Hidalgo adds: “For me en rama supposes the experience of eating the plum I grab from the tree it the countryside, with the sun shining and the birds singing around me. Straight from the branch (“rama” in Spanish) to the mouth. Certainly different from the conventionally bottled wine.”
It is hoped the new en rama sherries from both La Gitana and Tio Pepe will give the sherry industry a much needed boost.
I’m currently researching the emergence of sherry bars in London and the current fortunes of the sherry industry. While it means drinking a lot of sherry like Tio Pepe en Rama and a 1968 Oloroso with iberico jamon and other delicious morsels (woe is me), it also involves a lot of staring at statistics.
The UK head of the Sherry Institute of Spain supplied me statistics enough to drive me to drink but also some fun statistics from New Zealand. From the figures, it would seem I am making a fair dent in the Manzanilla sales in the country. I probably drink a couple of litres of the stuff each month, so 12 litres in the first half of the year. In the past six months, just 352 litres of Manzanilla were exported to New Zealand, making my personal consumption almost 3.5% of the country’s total consumption!
Fino exports are thankfully rather higher at more than 6000 litres between January and June.
It might come as no shock to Brits that almost 60% of sherry sales in Aoteroa are sweeter styles like ‘medium’ and ‘cream’. I have moved thousands of miles yet can’t get away from a nation of sweet sherry drinkers. On the other hand, there are a lot of British ex-pats and even a British corner-store selling Branston pickle, Yorkshire tea and I’m sure if I ventured in, there’d be a dusty bottle of Croft or Harvey’s Bristol Cream on a shelf.
So, inspired by the likes of Jose and Pepito I may have to run a Sherry evening upon my return to New Zealand – who knows, it might improve the stats!
Can we really say we’re surprised that another New Zealand vineyard has gone under owing a whopping $24 million (£10.8m)?
There’s been a slow trickle of grape-growing and wine producing companies that have gone into administration in the past year but I believe Awatere Vineyard Holdings’ demise could push the flood gates open.
Vineyard plantings have tripled since 2000, with grape prices falling as much as 50% following two consecutive bumper harvests, in 2007 and 2008. There have been a host of new entrants to the industry with romantic dreams of making their own wine or investors wanting to jump on the bandwagon and make a quick buck. If only they had done their research before making the plunge, they would have found that the soil wasn’t flecked with gold.
Central Otago producers Anthem Hodings and William Hill winery, and Marlborough’s Cape Campbell have already fallen victim to the oversupply and economic downturn and others will follow.
It’s a sad situation for those affected but the imbalances that have been created in the last three years need to be redressed. We’re likely to see the bigger companies getting bigger as they swallow up vineyard land; vineyards will be pulled out and replaced with other crops, and life will go on. Hopefully, the industry will have learned its lesson too.
The neutral nothingness of Pinot Grigio has crept onto every wine list in the country, and has pipped Sauvignon Blanc to the number two spot in the contest for the nation’s favourite white grape variety.
A survey commissioned by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association shows 54% of regular UK wine drinkers have consumed the Gridge in the past six months. It has spread faster than margarine and the shelves are full of it. But itâ€™s as boring as Arsenal used to be.
Chardonnay is still maintaining its number one spot in the battle of the grapes but its popularity has decreased in the past two years, according to the report. Nevertheless Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc have still some way to catch it.
In the red department, our love affair with fairly unexciting grape varieties continues. Merlot remains the most consumed red variety despite the film Sideways giving it a dressing down (some five years ago now â€“ where has the time gone?). When most respondents said they drunk Merlot in the past six months, Iâ€™m fairly sure they werenâ€™t referring to Pomerol or St Emilion wines. However, Syrah is on the up and is threatening Cabernet Sauvignonâ€™s second position on the red rostrum. As a Syrah fan, thatâ€™s encouraging.
Iâ€™d love to write fortified sales are on the up but itâ€™s difficult to argue with data saying the opposite. The survey shows consumption of sherry, port and dessert wine in the past six months is at its lowest ebb since the study started in June 2006. While consumption inevitably peaked around the Christmas period, the latest figures show just 11% of regular wine drinkers have had a glass of sweet wine in the first half of the year while 17% have had a glass of sherry and 23% port.
For more details on this research, see my article on decanter.com