Spanish reds “with nuts”
Tuesday 12 April
The nights are drawing in and those early morning starts are made even harder by the lingering darkness. Autumn has arrived and suddenly a cold glass of savvy or rosé doesn’t seem quite so appealing. It’ll soon be time to crank up that heat pump and drink a wine that warms our cockles.
A timely flying visit to Auckland by a Spanish winemaker reminded me there’s nowhere better than Iberia for a good value, gutsy red.
Telmo Rodriguez is renowned for making wines across Spain - from Malaga in the south to Galicia in the north. He is a pocket rocket, full of enthusiasm for wine and, boy, can he talk.
The Spanish wine industry has been transformed in the past 20 years by his generation. Previously, big business and local co-operative wineries dominated the Spanish wine industry, making vast quantities of plonk from potentially great vineyards.
Most New Zealand producers would kill to have the 30, 40 or 50-year-old vines the Spanish were mistreating and it took the likes of Rodriguez and other renegades to realise the vines could be returned to greatness with a little bit of tender loving care.
The industry in Spain also has a wealth of native varieties to play with, including tempranillo (which tastes like “merlot with nuts”, according to Spanish wine importer, Steve Bennett MW), garnacha, graciano, verdejo and albarino. These varieties help it stand out from the crowd.
The country’s most famous wine region, Rioja, produces medium-weight Tempranillo-based wines with a lick of vanilla oak - but there are also fantastic areas like Ribera del Duero making Tempranillo on steroids: deeply coloured, alcoholic, structured wines. Toro is also a good value option for people who love Rioja.
There are many other regions making great value reds, from Calatayud to Jumilla. You could say there’s never been a better time to discover a whole new world in the old world.
2008 Armantes Old Bush Vine Garnacha, Calatayud
($17.99, fine wine stores including Fine Wine Delivery Co La Vino, Wine Vault, Point Wines)
Intensely juicy and full-fruited garnacha, produced by Master of Wine Norrel Robertson.
Bursting with fresh red cherries, herbs and spices, it’s as smooth as Barry White. Better still, you get change from a twenty.
2007 Bodegas Arrocal Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero
($23.99, La Barrique stores)
This is a hulk of a wine: dark and concentrated with ripe blackberries, liquorice and lashings of vanilla.
Firm tannins give massive structure and mouth-watering freshness.
2008 Telmo Rodriguez LZ, Rioja
($28.99, Caro Wines, Point Wines, Wine and More, The Fine Wine Delivery Company, Moore Wilson & Co)
This tempranillo-based rioja combines pure damson and blackberry fruit with the spice and smoke of chorizo.
It’s not a massive wine but it is deeply satisfying at the price, and also has a gentle savoury tannin.
This article was originally published in my NZ Herald on Sunday column. To see the article click here
Will Winefuture 2011 sink or swim?
Tuesday 30 November
Winefuture 2009 - where were the future wine leaders?
Winefuture moves to Hong Kong in November 2011
I sincerely hope the second edition of this conference is better than the first, as I would have been seriously pissed off if I had spent more than 700 euro on a ticket to Winefuture in Rioja.
I also hope that the conference addresses the future rather than having allowing speakers to unabashedly promote their company – Xavier Pages, CEO at Codorniu told us about his grandfather and the history of the company for the first ten minutes before he actually got to something interesting. And while I like Stephen Spurrier his speech on the future of wine writing was a Decanter advertorial. Nevertheless he has been invited to speak again.
Similarly Mel Dick of Southern Wine and Spirits stood up and told us about a wine event in Florida experiencing great weather. Strike me down, he’s been invited back to speak too.
If Winefuture is to be a success this time, it must run on time, those speaking should have their speeches checked before they start doing a personal PR campaign, there should be some speakers who represent the future of the wine industry, and wi-fi access must be available. It’s not much to ask. Let’s hope they can get it right second time around.
Does wine need vintages?
Tuesday 17 November
Do we really need vintages? Most Champagne don’t and they’re doing quite nicely.
This was the challenge laid down by Robert Joseph at Winefuture last week and he left listeners mulling over it.
He asked producers why they thought they could get away with being so inconsistent. He has a point. While most wine geeks are interested in the vintage and how the rain/sun/hail affected the taste and structure of a wine; most couldn’t give a monkeys. They want consistent quality year in, year out. If the 2009 isn’t as good as the 2008 and they are the same price, how can that be understood by the average punter?
OK, many wine laws require the vintage to be stated on the bottle but it really wouldn’t make any difference to the consumer if Casillero del Diablo or Hardys had the vintage on the bottle or not. Plus, if you had a poor year then blending from older stocks (like they do in Champagne and in some parts of the new world), you would be able to deliver greater consistency. That’s all consumers want and what they expect from a brand. Joseph said: “The wine industry has no idea at all about brand identity…Consumers like simplicity and consistency: everything that wine doesn’t stand for.”
What do you reckon?
Winefuture finally gets into gear
Friday 13 November
It took half of the conference to get going, but finally Winefuture is looking to the future with some interesting insights and opinion. However, there’s still terrible wifi access and, unsurprisingly, things aren’t running to time. Next time, I’d like to see this gig held in Switzerland.
This morning’s session on emerging markets really gave us food for thought. Don St Pierre Jr, CEO of ASC fine wines gave us his insight into the Chinese market, which is the next big thing for the wine industry and should’ve had more time spent on it. One of his main points was that many producers have high hopes of breaking the Chinese market but have little understanding of the Chinese market or the fragmented system of distribution, which means they end up being disappointed when they try.
St Pierre Jr added: “For the import market to be more promising the quality of domestic wine needs to improve. That will not happen until the domestic players are focused less on volume and packaging. It will be led by smaller wineries and the bigger wineries will be forced to produce better quality.” Unfortunately, this won’t happen overnight.
What about the Russian market? There were very few predictions by the Dimitri Pinsky, founder of a major Russian wine distributor DP-Trade, because the government has just appointed a committee to look at the re-introduction of a state monopoly on alcohol. The committee is due to report back in March 2010 and until that time there seems little point in making predictions.
The Russian government is trying to stamp out alcohol abuse and it thinks it can do this by imposing a state monopoly. Pinsky said: “Alcohol abuse is not a new thing in Russia.”
“But the truth is from 2005 alcoholism has fallen to the lows of 1990 after Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign in 1985 and 1986.
“It looks artificial and suspicious that the volume of the alcohol market looks attractive and is now worth nationalising”.
Winefuture limps into action
Thursday 12 November
Winefuture should’ve started with a bang – it was more like a wet weekend.
I can’t say it’s been that enlightening. There haven’t been many new and interesting things said to be honest with you. I am covering the event for a number of magazines and boy oh boy has it been hard to find anything really newsworthy.
Plenty of speakers have had their chance to unabashedly promote their company – Xavier Pages, CEO at Codorniu told us about his grandfather and the history of the company for the first ten minutes before he actually got to something interesting. And while I like Stephen Spurrier his speech on the future of wine writing was a Decanter advertorial. The twitterati at the event had a field day. The magazine should’ve sent a real journalist like Adam Lechmere or Guy Woodward (editors) who could’ve made a real contribution to the debate.
I sloped off before the “How to improve sales and consumption through fairs and competitions” but from all the tweets, it seems that I didn’t miss much. Rob McIntosh of wineconversation.com tweeted from the event: “BREAKING NEWS: Mel Dick announces a wine event in Florida experienced great weather”
If I had been paying for the ticket, I might be feeling robbed by now if it weren’t for Ryan Opaz of Catavino and Gary Vaynerchuk livening the day up
Nevertheless I’ve met a lot of old and new faces, which is great, and I’m ever the optimist for a better day tomorrow.
Quotes of the day
“People are obsessed with wine scores…scores have become involuntary sellers of wine or a defence tribunal for consumers” - Jose Penin, founder of Penin guides
I don’t give a crap about about facebook and twitter but I care about consumers. “You should be embarrassed if you don’t recognised that this platform allows you to talk to them.” – Gary Vaynerchuk
“Bordeaux Grands Crus are the Champs Elysee of Bordeaux but also the Silicon Valley”- Matthieu Chardronier, CEO CVBG Dourthe