All posts by Amica Zago

Head Start: Part Three, Harvest at Château de Campuget

Now slowly progressing through more parts of the business, Hallgarten’s Head Start Apprentice, Amica Zago, has just returned from working a vintage in the south of France. Château de Campuget borders the Rhone Valley, Provence and Languedoc, marrying traditional elements from all three regions – an ideal opportunity to learn and get hands-on in the winery and the vineyard.

Following on from my fantastic few months spent in the Marketing team, I was able to embark on a once in a lifetime opportunity to work a harvest and gain an insight into the world of winemaking in the South of France. This was to be at the amazing Château de Campuget with Franck-Lin and his wonderful team.

Being able to witness the winemaking process and track the wine from the vineyard, to the tanks to the final product is a chance that Hallgarten has allowed me to undertake as part of the ‘Head Start’ Apprenticeship Scheme, and is an invaluable experience to anyone going into, or already working in the world of wine. Working a harvest gives you a complete understanding and appreciation of the product you are working with. And after a very long train ride, I was about to embark on this winemaking journey.

What you think would be the glorious world of making wine soon jolts you back to reality as the alarm goes off at 3:30am and long shifts are the norm – not that I was complaining!

Starting work in the very early hours of the morning, everyone comes into the winery on time and with a smile on their faces; winemaking is a job you do out of love rather than just as a job! The working day starts with the harvesting machine in the vineyard, picking the grapes and filling the tractors’ trailers, ready to be weighed and then dropped into the crusher – step one of the wine making process is now complete.

Before working a month in a winery, I had only made wine in a garage in Hertfordshire in the simplest form! Going to France and working in the winery with a full team and equipment you realise how much more there is to making incredible wines, than in a suburban garage winery. Every morning when you first start, then again at midday, you have to test the density of the wine in the tanks using a hydrometer also checking the temperature of the wine. The results are then passed back to the oenologist.

What did I learn?

There was so much to learn and I was able to put what I had already learnt from my Degree in Wine Business from Plumpton University into practise. Franck-Lin was keen to answer all my questions about winemaking enabling me to increase my knowledge immensely.

Something I didn’t know was why the grapes are picked in the early hours; this is because the grapes are cooler, reducing the risk of oxidation and also means that the grapes don’t have to be cooled while in the press.

I now understand the benefits of pumping over and the correct techniques required to produce good quality wine consistently. It was interesting to learn that different wines require different pumping over times, some require aeration during the pump over and others (for example zero sulphite wines) are not allowed the aeration.

What was my best part of my harvest experience?

Other than working alongside the most fantastic team in the prettiest of settings, my favourite part was definitely analysing the wines. On a daily basis the wines are analysed (sometimes more than once) on the alcohol percentage, pH level and total acidity. This is so that the oenologist can then work out whether any other ingredients (such as Malic Acid, Tartaric Acid or nutrients) need to be added to the juice. Wine analysis was very interesting to me as you were able to see how by adding certain ingredients balances out the wine. It was fascinating to analyse a wine in the morning, mix the ingredients recommended by the oenologist, adding them to wine while pumping over and then re-analysing and seeing and tasting the difference.

I can’t wait to taste the finished wines from the 2020 Chateau de Campuget vintages which I helped to make!

Head Start: Part Two, Marketing Department

As part of Hallgarten’s Head Start Apprenticeship scheme, inaugural recruit, Amica Zago, has just finished her spell with the marketing team before embarking on a vintage in the South of France. Reflecting on her time in the team, Amica has learnt a lot about the marketing function in the business, from PR and communications, to events and awards.

The Head Start scheme is an 18 month long programme to develop the future talent of the wine industry, providing a 360-degree perspective of the wine sector from vineyard to table.

After the three amazing months in the Customer Service Team, I moved over to join the Marketing Department in January and have been working and learning alongside various sub-teams including communications, buying, events and brand management.

During my time in Marketing I had many interesting jobs and tasks to undertake on a daily basis. One of these included writing five blog pieces which have been published on the HN Wines Blog, including an article on Lebanese wines and one on sweet wines.

I was also responsible for writing our internal communications keeping the team updated on wines that had recently featured in press publications. Something I personally found exciting was reading the press releases I had written featured on Harpers Wine and Spirit news website on Hallgarten’s signing of contracts with both Goodwood and Ascot Racecourse, and Hallgarten’s impressive WSET course pass rates.

I was also tasked with several larger projects to work on throughout my secondment. My major project was evaluating press coverage and the influence it has on our trade customers’ purchasing habits. For this project I researched various publications containing mentions of wines from Hallgarten, breaking these down to regional and national newspapers, trade publications and articles sourced from events. Then looking at each individual write-up and seeing if there were spikes in sales after the publications. From doing this, I learnt so much about the world of PR and media, and how a recommendation or comment really can influence purchasing habits.

Another area of the Marketing Department I got to experience first-hand is events. While in the team I was able to attend and assist the team in many events including tastings organised by wine bodies, the Annual Tasting and Minerality: Steve Daniel in Conversation with Dr Jamie Goode, the latter of which was live broadcast on Instagram. At the Hallgarten Annual Tasting I had the role of mentoring the Plumpton College students who were pouring at various producer tables. While at the tasting I also had a recorded conversation with Peter Richards MW about the Head Start Apprenticeship which has been included in Peter Richards’ podcast; Wait, wine can be a career?! (well worth a listen!).

Now, my next adventure as the Hallgarten Head Start Apprentice is taking me to France for the whole of September to work and experience the harvest at Château de Campuget, an exciting producer sitting on the border of three great wine regions – Southern Rhône, Provence and Languedoc.

The Sweet Treat!

Forget the chocolate, forget the cake, a glass of dessert wine is exactly what you need! After the long Easter weekend, Hallgarten Head Start Apprentice, Amica Zago, has put pen to proverbial paper on all things sweet and luscious, as well as reminiscing about a trip to the world-renowned region of Bordeaux.

From I’m not talking about the thick, heavy, super-sweet dessert wines here, I’m talking about the elegant wines with rich and luscious honey characteristics. These are the true sweet treats!

Sweet wine encompasses a wide range of styles; including sparkling, late harvest, noble rot, passito, ice wine and this isn’t even all of them! There are so many countries and regions with numerous grape varieties (both white and red) and winemaking practices being used to produce these stunning wines. Now, I’m not going to talk about all of these because, well, we just don’t have the time! However I would recommend to try as many styles as you can, each one style is unique and all as wonderful as another.

After a trip to Bordeaux, my relationship with sweet wine had done a 180! Before my wine trip, I would have said I hated the style and if I had to taste it I would most definitely always spit! But, going to Bordeaux, the home of Sauternes, and tasting the sweet wine in a small restaurant in the heart of St Emilion, my life had changed forever.

Sauternes wines are great as an after dinner treat (either to replace a sweet or drank with lemon puddings and cheesecakes). The wine can also be drank when the cheese board comes out, the sweetness of the wine combined with the saltiness of the cheese creates a beautiful balance. However, Sauternes extends further than dessert. In France, it is often drank as a wine pairing to many starters, one of the main food pairings is with foie gras which many may not think of as a perfect pairing, but I for sure can tell you, it is one of the best food pairings I’ve ever had!

A Sauternes to indulge in is the Château Suduiraut, Castelnau de Suduiraut which is an excellent example of a great Sauternes with stunning candied fruit character and a hint of minerality. This is the perfect ‘sweet treat’.

Since visiting Bordeaux, I have tasted many different sweet wines from a range of countries and I am always more and more impressed by them. Whether I’m drinking them on their own, with a dessert or with a savoury dish, I am always surprised by how much I love them now after hating them for so many years! I can’t imagine going back to a time where I wouldn’t drink sweet wine.

The Wine Gold Mine

The Eastern Mediterranean is a gold mine for wine, which is finally beginning to see its well-deserved place on the UK wine shelf. The region is home to some of the oldest wine producing countries and it really shows as the wines are so pure. Many of the wines are often produced from one of the hundreds of indigenous grape varieties grown in the area. The below are top picks from the UK Eastern Mediterranean wine pioneer, Steve Daniel.

Idaia Winery, Dafnes, Crete, Vidiano 2019

“Amazing, fresh, intense and mineral Cretan grape. Like standing on a hillside overlooking the Aegean, you can almost smell the salty sea air and the mountain herbs and it’s great value. Crank up the BBQ stick on the seabream or seabass, and away you go.”

Jako Vino, Stina ‘Cuvee White’, Dalmatia 2018

“The island of Brač is one of the most popular of the Croatian islands and a short hop from Split. Wonderful white wine from precipitous white stone slopes overlooking the town of Bol and the Adriatic Sea. A unique blend of Pošip (intense and mineral) and Vugava (exotic like

Viognier) with a splash of Chardonnay. The famous white stone from the island has been quarried for centuries and the white stone even built the White House.”

Kayra, Beyaz Kalecik Karasi Rosé, Aegean, 2018

“Imagine yourself sitting in the harbour of Kalkan, watching the sunset, feasting on meze. A beautiful pale pink, delicate orange scented rose with just a touch of sweetness.”

 

Bodegas Viñátigo, Marmajuelo, Islas Canarias – Tenerife 2018

“An amazing rare wine from a grape now only found in the Canaries, which was discovered and brought back from the brink by Doctor Grape: Juan Jesus Mendez.

“This is an enormously rich, intense and aromatic white wine

fermented in a blend of stainless steel and concrete egg fermenter. Tiny amounts are produced every year, and most of it is guzzled by the locals and discerning tourists. We manage to get an allocation every year.”

Bodega Biniagual, ‘Finca Biniagual Negre’, Mallorca 2014

“A rich and intense spicy red made from the local Manto Negro red grape with the addition of Syrah and Cabernet. A great substitute for wherever you would use the best Malbec you can get your hands on. The perfect alfresco BBQ wine.”

Château Oumsiyat, ‘Cuvée Membliarus’, Bekaa Valley, Assyrtico 2018

“A great value Assyrtiko, and Lebanon’s first and only one! Assyrtiko may well have been taken to Santorini by the Phoenicians, so this might be a case of the grape going back to its original home. A brilliant partner to grilled seafood and all sorts of other Lebanese delights.”

Lighten up the lockdown period with these three styles of wine

When you’re in the wine trade in these times of lockdown, a glass of wine after work once you’ve shut the laptop down is what keeps you sane! Here are some of our Hallgarten Head Start Apprentice, Amca Zago’s ‘go-to’ styles of wine with a recommendation for each.

 

  1. What better way to lighten your mood than some bubbles?

The sound of the cork popping, the crackling noise the bubbles make when you pour the wine into the glass and the first sip of your well-deserved wind down time – that surely is happiness for everyone? There are so many styles of sparkling wine to choose from, but my ‘go-to’ at the moment and the one which is putting the biggest smile on my face is a little-known vino frizzante from Emilia-Romagna produced using the Pignoletto grape variety.

As an alternative to Prosecco, Pignoletto Frizzante is often produced in a Charmat (tank) method, however the effervescent is usually softer than that of Prosecco. Cevico ‘Romandiola’ is a slightly unique Pignoletto Frizzante as it spent 15 days on its lees which makes for a much fuller, creamier and harmonious palate.

  1. While waiting to get away, why not have a wine from your favourite holiday destination

Hardly not being allowed to leave your house let alone the country, you have to bring the holiday back home. Holiday to me is often all about the wine, drinking with the sound of waves crashing on the rocks, sea mist filling the air and the sun beaming down.

Therefore, while the sky is blue, try sitting outside (possibly with a coat on, we are in England after all) with a crisp, aromatic glass of Bodegas Viñátigo Marmajuelo from the Spanish island of Tenerife. If you close your eyes (and ignore the temperature) the bright aromas of passion fruit and fig tree leaves along with the racy acidity can really make you feel as if you were truly on holiday.

  1. Being in the wine trade, you always have to be drinking something a little different

You don’t always need a style of wine as your ‘go-to’. Why no

t pick up a bottle of something you’ve never heard of, never tasted or always wanted to try? Sometimes, especially if you work in the wine trade, you have to expand your palate and knowledge by tasting the out-of-the-ordinary, unique and exciting wines. This includes a huge range of styles; from orange and natural wines, to indigenous grape varieties, to small producers.

These wines can be anything that will make your eyes open wide, put a smile on your face and make your taste buds pop. There are so many interesting wines which are worth trying during the ‘lockdown’ period, so why not start with a wine from the country which is considered to be the birthplace of wine… Armenia. Armenia has many indigenous grape varieties, each with their own characteristics, however the white grape variety Voskehat is a good choice for the spring/summer time and while the sun is shining. The ArmAs Voskehat has intense and complex aromas which follow through onto the long, elegant palate.

Go and make your lockdown that little bit more enjoyable by pouring yourself out that glass of wine!

 

 

 

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Lebanese Wines

There seems to be little knowledge about Lebanese wines within the UK even though the Bekaa Valley has been producing wines for over 6,000 years, making Lebanon one of the oldest wine producing countries! However, Lebanon Law under the Caliphate meant that wine production had to stop other than amongst Christians for religious reasons. This meant that modern day winemaking didn’t take place until 1847. So what is there to know about Lebanon wine production and Lebanese Wine?

 

1 – The Temple of Bacchus

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon is home to The Temple of Bacchus, the god of wine, winemaking and grape harvest – surely this means that Lebanon is also the home of wine and wine production.

2 – Lebanese wine is exported to over 30 countries

Lebanon produce around 8 million bottles a year (less than 1% of French wine!), however the wines are still exported to over 30 countries! Of these, the UK is the top country for exporting, yet the UK wine consumers are still often unaware of Lebanon as a wine producing country.

3 – The Only Assyrtiko in Lebanon

The Greek grape variety Assyrtiko pairs perfectly with Eastern Mediterranean foods including Greek, Turkish and you guessed it, Lebanese. Chateau Oumsiyat was the first producer to vinify the crisp and citrusy grape variety in Lebanon, ‘Cuvee Membliarus’. The wine is best paired with Lebanese small plates and Mezze.

4 – The Lebanese Bordeaux Blend

Lebanon produces many wines of similar style and grape varieties to Bordeaux and the South of France. Lebanon was occupied by the French until 1943, could the French occupation be the reasoning for the plantings of French grape varieties resulting in French blends? Chateau Oumsiyat Jaspe (the French word for variegation) and Grande Reserve are two examples of Lebanese wines using French varietals and produced in a ‘French’ style. As well as producing Bordeaux red styles, Chateau Oumsiyat (and other Lebanese producers) also cultivate and produce white Southern French styles, such as the mouth watering Chateau Oumsiyat Blanc de Blanc.

5 – Two Indigenous Grape Varieties

Within the 2,000 hectares of Lebanon under vine, there are over 25 different international and local varieties grown. The two most widely planted indigenous varietals are Obeidy and Merwah, both white grape varieties. Obeidy is an aromatic variety which has characteristics of exotic and tropical fruits, Chateau OumisyatObeidy’ has exotic flavours with hints of peach and a touch of minerality which travels through to a clean salty finish.

Is it time to go and try some Lebanese wine?

Head Start: Part One – Customer Services

As part of Hallgarten’s Head Start Apprenticeship scheme, inaugural recruit, Amica Zago, spent her first three months at Hallgarten learning the ropes in the Customer Services Team. Reflecting on her time in the team, Amica sees the three months as the ideal start in the business. The Head Start scheme is an 18 month long programme to develop the future talent of the wine industry, providing a 360-degree perspective of the wine sector from vineyard to table.

After graduating from Plumpton College (University of Brighton) with a 2:1 in Wine Business, I was very fortunate to find the job of my dreams within the industry. Even better, it’s an 18-month Graduate Apprenticeship Programme lled “Head Start”, allowing me to work and learn from each department across all of the business.

After the first 10 months I will have gained experience within Customer Service, Marketing, Finance, Logistics and National Accounts teams. I will then be spending a month abroad with one of our major suppliers working through the harvest season, returning to Luton and joining the Sales team for the last six months of the apprenticeship.

Andrew Bewes: “Nurturing the future talent of the wine industry is essential to the development of the sector we work in and it is our responsibility to help guide these individuals to the next level. We devised the Head Start programme to give apprentices the tools to be able to embrace any aspect of the sector we work in and provide added value to customers.”

 

After completing an internship with the company in the summer of 2018, in September 2019 I was excited to be back and was warmly welcomed back into the company and introduced to my new supervisor. Within the first few hours I had settled in, now knowing there was nothing to fear, I was definitely starting to enjoy this new opportunity. Now three months into the role, I’ve just finished working within the Customer Service Team (CST) and have to say what a lovely team to be in: fun and so knowledgeable!

Having now completed my secondment within CST, I realise how starting out as a Customer Service Advisor gives you great insight into the company, learning the diverse and exciting wine list and being able to understand how the Customer Service and Delivery Teams aid the sales organisation, ensuring that customers are able to receive their orders within their requested time window – I never thought customers would have such precise delivery slots!

The main role of a Customer Service Advisor is to input all the orders, these are received via email and phone, and come from both the Sales Representatives and customers directly. This does mean that you’re constantly multitasking between the PC and phone calls… at times I was liaising with other teams within the business one minute, perhaps talking to the delivery team, and then on the phone to a customer – you need to keep a cool and level head at all times. The role has definitely improved the way I interact, both spoken and written and raised my confidence levels immensely.

I have known for a while that my dream job within the wine industry is to become a Sales Representative, working in Customer Service has taught me a lot about how important it will be to have a really good working rapport with the back office. Now I know what information I need to provide to ensure CST have everything they need, I’m sure that my orders always go through smoothly! Without them and their great work, my future customers will be on the phone to me complaining – and that’s not what anyone wants!

And now, on to marketing… I’ll be back with another blog soon…