Tag Archives: wine

Winemaker Profile: Johann Donabaum

“Great wine is unique. It is as distinctive as the territory and the soil it is growing in and as inimitable as a signature.” Johann Donabaum

 

In 1961, Johann Donabaum’s parents decided to give up mixed agriculture and specialise exclusively on viticulture instead. Although it may have been perceived as a risk at the time, this turned out to be an inspired choice.

Viticulture and winemaking has been a constant throughout the majority of Johann Donabaum’s life. Growing up surrounded by family vineyards, he graduated from Krems School of Viticulture whilst still a teenager. Following his time studying, Johann completed a seven month apprenticeship with F X Pichler. This valuable experience gained him a great deal of new ideas and insight into the practices of a great wine producer, preparing him for his own successful winemaking career.

With his studying and training complete, Johann returned to the family vineyards. His father gave him the go ahead to take the helm and the young Johann was keen to implement his own ideas for the future. He had a clear vision of the direction he wanted his winemaking to take and he decided to focus on quality rather than quantity and champion terroir. This has led to his wines coming to be considered among the finest in Austria and attracting positive praise on the international stage.

Johann cultivates 7.5 hectares. For him, terroir is absolutely crucial. His knowledge of his vineyards is extremely detailed and this means he is able to cultivate the vineyards with exceptional care and attention. Understanding all the nuances of the different plots means they can be given individual attention and this enables Johann to truly express the terroir of his vineyards in the resulting wines.

Using the right grape varieties for the soil is key and many of Donabaum’s wines are on extremely steep terraces where the soil is rich in gneiss and slate. Johann, therefore, uses these plots primarily for growing Gruner Veltliner and Riesling. Johann’s aim with these wines is that they are forceful, dense, juicy, elegant and mineral.

Johann has a strong wine philosophy. He believes wines should be mirrors which reflect origin and terroir, and also the meticulousness and signature of the winemaker himself. For him, the vineyard is where the foundations are built for the quality of the wine and so getting the viticulture right is hugely important. Precise and careful cultivation is how Johann goes on to create wines of the highest standard.

A visit to Languedoc and Gérard Bertrand

Hallgarten & Novum Wines Marketing Coordinator, Charli Truelove, has taken to the road with Sales Manager, Phil Brodie in the Midlands team, and a group of General Managers from Revere pub group to experience Gérard Bertrand’s wines in the South of France.

Gérard Bertrand is one of the most outstanding winemakers in the South of France. He owns 15 estates among the most prestigious crus of Languedoc-Roussillon. Formery the IWC Red Winemaker of the Year and Wine Enthusiast’s European Winery of the Year, he is known locally as the “King” of the Languedoc. Wines bearing Gérard Bertrand‘s signature have a unique style, driven by the fundamental values of excellence, authenticity and innovation.

The Languedoc region, in my opinion, should be considered the next premium wine region of France alongside the likes of Burgundy and Bordeaux. The climate, terroir and winemaking skills have long been over-looked because of the wine trade’s interest in other regions, however only now is this area coming to the forefront of the trade’s mind thanks to producers such as Gérard Bertrand. The quality of Gérard Bertrand’s Estates consist of the finest terroirs of the Languedoc region and the quality of the wines is phenomenal which is reflected in the awards his wines win.

I had the pleasure of staying at Chateau l’Hospitalet. Gerard’s Grand Vin La Clape was voted Red Wine of the Year 2019 at the IWC awards this year. Here we were lucky enough to receive a tour of winery, tasting freshly pressed grape juice – Marsanne, Viognier and Roussanne, at the start of the fermentation process.

Gérard’s philosophy is that to be in harmony with nature is the best way to bring out the typical character of a terroir and to create fine wines. Gérard Bertrand switched to biodynamic farming at the Cigalus Estate in 2002. This type of wine growing strengthens the balance between the vine and its environment. A healthy vineyard, a protected environment and acclaimed wines show just how effective this approach is. Some parcels have been identified as having unique potential, revealing the individual history of the place and age of an exceptional terroir. They are recognized as the Grands Crus of the South of France. Just another example of showing off the amazing winemaking potential of the Languedoc.

During my visit, we stopped at Chateau La Sauvageonne, here the first vines were planted in the 1970s. In 2011 Gerard bought property, the grapes grown here are 70% red 20% rosé 10% white. During the tour of the winery, we were shown how each day the winemakers measure sugar density and temperature and again got to taste freshly pressed grapes direct from the tank, we watched from the top of a tank how the pumping over process works and then ventured out into the vineyards to look at the Mourvèdre vines on the clay soils, which keep the humidity as there is no irrigation here.

With Cab Sav/Merlot blends dominating Bordeaux and Burgundy with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay what can Languedoc claim to be its flag bearer? Rosé perhaps? Recently Gérard Bertrand launched Clos du Temple – a truly unique rosé, alongside other premium rosé: Sauvageonne Rosé, which wins high points scores every vintage… even Jon Bonjovi’s son Jesse Bongiovi is choosing Gérard Bertrand and the Languedoc to produce their wine, Hampton Water.

Languedoc-Rousillon has made leaps forward in recent years in terms of quality and popularity, the region is dynamic and promising with some exciting terroirs and producers. We are so proud to represent this leading French name in the UK, and cannot wait to see where the next few years takes them on their wonderful wine journey.

Winemaker profile: Nicolò D’Afflitto, Director of Winemaking, Frescobaldi

Overseeing the winemaking and viticulture of all seven of Frescobaldi’s historic estates is no mean feat. Yet, Nicolò D’Afflitto has spent more than twenty years doing just that.

Following a rural upbringing on a farm, Nicolò studied Oenology at Bordeaux University, graduating in 1982. His winemaking experience was enhanced spending time living and working in the US before he returned to Tuscany. It was there, in 1991, he joined Frescobaldi, working at Castel Giocondo in Montalcino. Four years later, he was managing all the estates, nearly 3,500 acres in total.

With over 700 years of Frescobaldi winemaking history and the 2020 Gambero Rosso Winery of the Year under its belt, producing consistently great wines is crucial. D’Afflitto believes the vineyard is the key with terroir creating wines with individuality. As such, attention to detail in the vineyard is everything. Nicolò takes a different approach with each of the seven estates and each vineyard needs different techniques to nurture its specific attributes. Each estate has a winemaker, general manager and viticulturist and D’Afflitto is also closely involved, all with the aim of creating something truly special, as well as unique, from every vineyard.

For Nicolò, his top priority is always the fruit. This philosophy is carried forward in both the vineyard and winery with the soil, climate, vine and human input all vital. Combining this care and dedication in the vineyard with assiduous use of oak in the winery allows Nicolò and his team to produce wines that show the grapes’ full potential. Frescobaldi’s long and illustrious history is not forgotten either and Nicolò takes pride in the part culture plays: great historical figures including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo have passed through Frescobaldi’s vineyards and its strong connections to Italy’s art, history and culture remain part of its fabric to this day.

Decades of experience managing Frescobaldi’s wine production means Nicolò has presided over many changes, including the replanting of Castel Giocondo and the introduction of new wines to the market, including Tenuta Perano – the family’s first venture into Chianti Classico and launched in the UK in 2018.

His work sees him travel thousands of miles per year visiting each estate every week to ensure the quality of all 12 million bottles produced reaches the family’s high standards. An experimental vineyard allows Nicolò to work on new trials and explore disease resistant varieties. This experimentation and strive for improvement allows Frescobaldi to build on their centuries of experience and strike the perfect balance between tradition and innovation.

What does the WSET Diploma really look like?

24 wine enthusiasts gather in a classroom in London. Armed with notepads, 12 tasting glasses and a passion for all things wine they are embarking on an in-depth exploration of the world of wine: the WSET Diploma in Wines. After graduating from Plumpton College, Hallgarten & Novum Wines Marketing Coordinator recently embarked on her fourth level of WSET qualification – below she takes a look at it from behind the tasting glass.

 

The assembled band of 24 students glance around furtively, looking, intrigued at the classmates they will spend over 120 hours and nearly 2 years studying with. All have the same aim: to achieve WSET’s ‘flagship’ qualification, the final and most challenging course they offer. Despite such a specific goal the group is diverse, a range of ages and backgrounds, those already working in the wine trade, those who hope to and dedicated consumer enthusiasts. We leave that first introductory class both daunted and excited, eager to join nearly 10,000 Diploma graduates from around the world.

But what drives an ever increasing numbers of WSET diploma students and why is this important to the wine trade?

In 2018/19, celebrating its 50th year, WSET saw a 15% year on year increase in students, more than 20,000 of them in the UK. For those in, or hoping to be in the wine trade there are some clear benefits to achieving such well recognised and respected qualifications. The Diploma in particular is known by employers to be rigorous, demanding knowledge and commitment. Given the complex and ever-changing nature of wine having a high level of wine education can be very appealing to those working in the trade, giving them a greater understanding of such a huge topic.

Both employee and employer stand to benefit. Qualified staff can ensure customers perceive a business as knowledgeable and trustworthy. In addition, having wine educated employees enhances the customer experience which can boost sales. Wine knowledge is communicated to the customer and research proves customers with some level of wine education spend more. For the consumer in both the on and off trade, wine buying, like any purchase, has a level of risk and for more expensive wines the risk increases. Education can alleviate this and increase customer spend.

Conversely, this increase in demand and uptake of consumer wine education means staff in the trade need increasingly high levels of knowledge to meet the needs of their ever more savvy customers. The story and provenance behind wine has become more and more important to the consumer in recent years, increased wine education amongst staff means they are well equipped to impart plenty of information to the customer. Furthermore, staff who have all studied tasting through one standard approach can give consistency to the way they evaluate wine and as such enable them to describe wine to customers with clarity.

Qualifications like the diploma can benefit both wine trade professionals and their consumers. Providing employees with confidence to talk in detail about all aspects of wine means they can pass forward this knowledge to customers, putting them at ease and potentially enabling them to be more adventurous in their wine selection.

How to make the sociable product, sociable

Generally I consider myself lucky, because without intention or purpose, after years of experience in the industry, I have found myself in a position where I work alongside one of the most enjoyable, fascinating and sociable products available to anybody anywhere… wine.

 

This most sociable of products certainly makes my job interesting. The grapes, the countries, the stories, the tastes; there are endless variations to wine, and yet there is always something new and exciting round the corner.

 

So, how do you make this most sociable of products reach the most sociable of industries? In my job as Events & Design Manager I create and host a multitude of events, based on theme or focus that is at the forefront of the industry’s mind that can really bring our product to life. As I’m sure you can imagine, the possibilities wine provides are boundless, but therein lies the challenge!

 

How do you come up with new and engaging events about a product that has been around for centuries? The goal is to create tasting environments that are thought-provoking and stimulating, and to ensure that whilst there is a theme, the guest does not get weighed down by that and has the opportunity to do what they came to do: taste wines that will enhance their wine list.

The beauty of wine is that it brings people together. Tasting events do the same – facilitating conversation, allowing everyone to be sociable and engage with a glass in hand, either on their own or with a group of peers.

I want everyone to enjoy Hallgarten Wines tasting events, and yes I know it is business to most, but ultimately pleasure to everyone at the same time!

 

What does it look like? Smell like? Taste like? Sociable events like these represent an opportunity to get up close and personal with the product, and whether you are an expert or not, everyone’s opinion is valid as wine is such a personal, sensory experience, no one can ever be too wrong.

I feel lucky to be the one to establish these sociable occasions and see the joy it brings people. There’s nothing I enjoy more, than the buzz of an event and knowing I’m responsible for putting a smile on people’s faces.

 

WOTM: Barros 20 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro

The quintessential Christmas drink and the perfect way to end a festive meal… Port. Although there are many styles to choose from, we have chosen the Barros 20 Year Old Tawny Port as our Wine of the Month for December and one we would recommend being served with the Figgy Pudding.

In a nutshell:

A rich and complex combination of dried fruit aromas,
with spice and subtle hints of wood. Elegant and full bodied, with a long, engaging finish.

The producer:

Having celebrated their 100th year of trading in 2013, Barros Port is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious companies producing and trading in Port. Much of their success comes from Colheita Ports – old Tawnies from a single year matured in cask for a minimum period of seven years.

Their expertise in Colheita Ports has established them as the stand out producer of this style. Barros leaves their Colheita Ports to mature in cask until being hand bottled to order. The loss of wine from evaporation (known as the ‘Angel’s Share’) is much higher in comparison to bottle ageing. It is a sacrifice they are willing to make and one that helps them achieve unsurpassed quality in their Colheita wines.

In June 2006, Barros Ports was integrated into the Sogevinus Group who are now responsible for growing the brand in the international markets.

The wine:

Produced by the traditional Port method. The grapes were destemmed, crushed and underwent a careful skin maceration to extract colour, aromatics and fine tannins. Fermentation took place in vats known as ‘lagares’, with constant pumpovers during fermentation.

Temperatures were controlled and maintained at between 28 to 30°C, until the desired Baumé was reached. At this moment, grape brandy was added, which is known as the ‘benefit’, resulting in a fortified wine with perfect balance. This is a blend of different harvests to achieve the array of characteristics that are typical of these aged tawny Port wines.

The wines have each matured in oak casks for varying periods of time; it is the average age of all the wines in the blend which defines the age on the label.

Serving suggestion:

Starters such as strong cheeses and pâté; or desserts such as toffee brownies, chocolate and pistachio pavé or goat’s cheese.

 

Are you ready for Rosé?

The sun has come out again and it’s time to put that Rosé back on ice. Below are a six-pack of wines that are sure to get your customers back into the summer mood.

Goring Estate Rosé NV

Dermot Sugrue is not exactly a new name in the English wine industry but he is certainly a winemaker at the top of his game. Born in Ireland in 1974, he studied Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton Agricultural College before completing two seasons working at Chateau l’Eglise-Clinet and Chateau Leoville-Barton. In 2003 he joined Nyetimber and was appointed winemaker in 2004. Over the following years he oversaw Nyetimber’s emergence as one of the world’s greatest sparkling wine producers. From Nyetimber he moved to Wiston Estate in 2006 to work with the Goring Family of West Sussex. The Goring Brut is made exclusively for us by Dermot Sugrue.

A supremely elegant rosé, with a subtle flavour of summer berries, freshly baked bread and spice overlaying a core of tangy acidity. Creamy and textured with a fresh finish.

Gerard Bertrand, La Sauvageonne 2015

Gérard Bertrand is one of the most outstanding winemakers in the South of France, where he owns numerous estates among the most prestigious crus of LanguedocRoussillon. Named in 2012 as the IWC Red Winemaker of the Year and Wine Enthusiast’s European Winery of the Year, he is known locally as the “King” of the Languedoc. Brought up in the Languedoc vineyards, Gérard Bertrand is committed to sharing the characteristics and exceptional diversity of each of the terroirs. Twenty years of know-how ensures that wines bearing Gérard Bertrand’s signature have a unique style driven each day by four fundamental values: excellence, authenticity, conviviality and innovation. We firmly believe Gérard will become one of the leading French names in the UK.

The bouquet offers up notes of crushed strawberries, sweet spice and floral notes of violet and hawthorne. Powerful and generous, with a velvety texture and a revitalising freshness. This wine is built on tension and stamped with a brilliant salinity.

San Marzano, Tramari 2016

In 1962, 19 vine growers from San Marzano whose families had farmed the land for generations, combined their efforts to establish ‘Cantine San Marzano’. Through the decades this cooperative has grown significantly, attracting over 1,200 vine growers. Using modern and technologically advanced vinification techniques they produce elegant wines that pay homage to the ancient Apulian wine traditions. The fusion of time honoured tradition, passion and contemporary techniques, enables this winery to produce wines with distinctive varietal and regional characteristics while reflecting the local terroir. In the Sommelier Wine Awards, San Marzano was awarded European Producer of the Year 2017.

Made from the Primitivo grape, this is a very appealing pale and tangy rosé with aromas of roses and wild strawberries against a creamy background of Mediterranean spice.

Frescobaldi, Alie 2016

A Florentine family with thirty generations dedicated to the production of great wines across six Tuscan estates. The Frescobaldi style brings together tradition and innovation. With the goal of being the most prestigious Tuscan wine producer, Frescobaldi firmly believes in respecting the local land while focusing on the highest quality grapes for its wines. The Frescobaldis own over 1,000 hectares of vineyards, all located in excellent areas for the production of fine wines. Directly managed by its family members, the Frescobaldi name is deeply connected with the history of art, culture, trade, finance and wine in Italy.

Refined and elegant, Alìe is characterised by its delicate rose colour and subtle peach highlights. Fresh with ripe fruits, citrus, white melon and a hint of cherry, the palate is textured with a streak of minerality. A beautifully balanced wine, with an intense and persistent finish.

Campuget, ‘1753’ Rosé Syrah Vermentino 2016

Costières de Nimes, the easternmost appellation of the Languedoc, is effectively part of the Rhône since the climate, soil and topography are so similar to those just over the river in the southern Côtes-du-Rhône vineyards. The relatively uniform soils are marked by large pebbles on gentle, typically south-facing slopes. Château de Campuget was established in 1942 and is a top quality estate near Nîmes, steeped in history. The Château itself was built in 1753 and at the same time the first vines were planted, prompting the 1753 range of wines which mark this historic date. The fusion of tradition and progression unite in the cellars here, producing wines with integrity, finesse and a wonderful expression of terroir, from a wide range of traditional Rhône varieties.

This dry, aromatic rosé shows enticing notes of grapefruit with delicate citrus hints, a refreshing palate of elegant red berry fruits and passion fruit.

Saint Clair, Pinot Rosé Gris 2016

Neal and Judy Ibbotson were pioneers in the Marlborough wine industry, first planting vineyards in the valley in 1978 and then establishing Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994. They own 160 hectares of vineyard in ten different Marlborough locations chosen specifically for the attributes of their individual “terroir” and ability to produce top quality grapes. Neal Ibbotson combines his extensive expertise in viticulture with the talent of one of New Zealand’s leading winemaking teams, led by Matt Thomson and Hamish Clark. Since 1994, when wines from the first vintage all won medals including gold, the name Saint Clair has been synonymous with quality and its award-winning record continues today.

A fresh and luscious palate with bright sweet strawberries, watermelon and red cherry. Well balanced fresh acidity ensures a round elegant palate and a lingering finish.

 

A Perfect Pit-Stop Tasting

The Hume Highway runs straight and true and long and passes such evocative places that you want to pull off every few miles to take a look; the Great Dividing Range, Rutherglen, Glenrowan (“Ned Kelly’s Last Stand!”), Milawa…

Yesterday, on my way down from Murrumbateman to Melbourne I pulled off at the exit for the Strathbogie Ranges and found myself cautiously winding my way up a dirt road, before I came upon Callie Jemmeson and Nina Stocker, whose brands Pacha Mama and White Stripes are made here. We had a brief tasting at an outside picnic table, accompanied by prosciutto, cheese, wonderful bread and fruit. I looked around at the alpine-type scenery – we seemed to be miles from anywhere! – and at the two beautiful winemakers who were making me feel so at home and whose wines tasted so good, and I thought: this must be a candidate for my nicest wine tasting ever!

The winery which they lease stands pristine and empty, the tanks just cleaned and waiting for the grapes. “Any day now,” says Nina.

They source from a wide range of Victorian vineyards. Callie told me that during one trip earlier this year she covered 800 kilometres visiting their growers, which makes me moaning about my trip look pretty pathetic. Their partner is Callie’s father, Dave Jemmeson, who helped launched Friarwood and Mitchelton. Serious pedigree here, then.

A Pacha Mama Riesling from the 2016 vintage is so ripe that I ask about residual sugar but Nina says there is hardly any. It is a serious wine, beautifully open in the glass and full of just-crushed citrus fruit.

A White Stripes Pinot Grigio 2016, sourced from the King Valley, shows lovely ripe appley fruit. Another wine – The Dagger – uses the same source but with different yeasts – and has an underworld funkiness to it.

The best wine is a Pacha Mama Yarra Valley (Upper Yarra and Coldstream) Chardonnay 2015 which has a lovely soft lime-and-butter nose, quite elegant.

The 2015 Pinot Noir from the same region, using six different clones, has a vibrant cherry Tunes nose, is medium-bodied and ready for early drinking. Very moreish.

The Pacha Mama 2015 Shiraz from Heathcote has open, vibrant fruit with just a touch of (attractive) rusticity. There’s complexity at work here, but also very attractive gluggable fruit which a brilliant combination. Would go great with food.

Finally, the White Stripes Synergy from the 2015 vintage is probably the most interesting wine, as it is one of the few Sangioveses I will taste on my trip. It is still youthful, generous, with gregarious fruit and a purple texture, and dark cherry flavours in the mouth. Softly scented, curious and diverting, this is an attractive and interesting wine.

Unfortunately I have to dash as I am late and I feel a bit guilty at letting Nina and Callie haul all the picnic gear back indoors. They do not seem to mind at all. There is a fierceness of determination at work here and I think they are at the beginning of a journey that will take them far. I will keep in touch regarding importing their wines.

In the Papers: Château Ksara in the Evening Standard

Lebanese wine is as much of a mystery to some as Lebanese food. Evening Standard’s Nuria Stylianou has introduced readers to her four must try Lebanese wines, and the food from Arabica Bar & Kitchen to pair with them.

Stylianou describes the Château Ksara, Reserve Du Couvent, 2013:

“A medium-bodied red with Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from Château Ksara. Lebanon’s oldest and largest producer in the Bekaa Valley, Château Ksara has been making wines since 1857, when the founding Jesuit priests created the country’s first dry red wine. Ruby in colour with vanilla spice, cassis, blackberries and plums with a herbaceous undertone, Reserve de Couvent is aged in oak for six months to add a little smoke to the mix. A match for lamb chops with za’atar – the blended spices and fresh rosemary complementing the herbal element of the wine.”

And the Best New Zealand Producer of the Year is… Saint Clair Family Estate!

Saint Clair, pioneer in the Marlborough wine industry, has been awarded the accolade of Best New Zealand Producer of the Year at the AWC Vienna International Wine Challenge 2016.

The AWC Vienna is the largest officially recognised wine competition in the world, with over 12 thousand wines entered from 41 different countries in 2016.

The landmark award win has also coincided with the local and prestigious Air New Zealand Wine Awards Gold medal winners, with Saint Clair achieving Gold medal status for a variety of wines at various price points.

The winery’s consistent recognition in a variety of wine competitions, both locally and internationally, is a clear indication of the quality present across the entire range; reinforcing Saint Clair’s position as a leading New Zealand wine producer.

saint_clair_1

 

Some Recommendations for International Cabernet Sauvignon Day

 

Tomorrow (30th August) is International Cabernet Sauvignon Day, which is great because:

a. it’s a Saturday
b. the weather looks good for a barbecue
c. do you really need another reason to open a bottle of Cab?

So, whether you’re barbecuing or not (but what better than a chargrilled steak to go with a glass of dense, fruit-packed Cabernet?) why not celebrate this landmark day in the wine drinking calendar by opening a bottle or two of the good stuff.

Here are some top recommendations from the team:

• Michel Torino Cuma Cabernet Sauvignon (organic), 2013
• Andeluna Cellars Altitud Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011
• Berton Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011
• Larry Cherubino Cabernet, 2009
• Carmen Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva Maipo Alto, 2011
• Viña Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, 2012
• Chateau Ksara Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010
• Raymond Vineyards Family Classic Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast, 2012
• Viña Echeverria Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, 2012