Part 2 of my visit to Vilarnau – Amphoras, chestnut barrels and tasting the cavas

Dec 11, 14 Part 2 of my visit to Vilarnau – Amphoras, chestnut barrels and tasting the cavas

Posted by in All, Spain, Sparkling Wine

Yesterday I visited cava producer Vilarnau in Penedes, Spain (post here).   After my tour of the grounds and winery, it was time for a tasting of their cavas. As we were walking through the cellar to the tasting room, we passed by a collection of clay vases that were sitting under a set of spotlights. Curious, I asked my guide, Vilarnau winemaker Eva Plazas Torné, if they were some sort of archeology display. With a laugh, she explained that they were actually an experiment that they was currently conducting with the xarello grape. Eva explained to me that she was experimenting with fermentation in amphora made from the various soils of Penedes. I asked her if it she had gotten the idea from the Georgians but she told me that she had gotten the idea from a local potter that she knew, she liked his work and asked him if he could make amphora for her. Her idea is to make amphora from the  different soils of Penedes and ferment the xarello in a distinct amphora to see how the fermentation goes. Already, Eva says that one of the xarello’s (the one in the amphora mostly composed of clay) has almost finished malo while the others have changed to different degrees but not gone through malo. Eva hopes to find the best soil for the amphora and ferment the xarello in it. If things go to plan, she’s hopes to use 300 litre amphora next year. The experimental amphora this year are only 15 litres.  After fermentation in the amphora, she would than do the second ferment in bottle. It will be interesting to see how/if this experiment is successful. As for Eva, she admitted that she’s just as curious as me to see how it will turn out. Almost directly in front of the amphora was another experiment of Vilarnau, chestnut barrels. Eva explained that in the region a hundred years ago,they used to use chestnut instead of oak for barrel aging when...

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Penfolds Re-corking Clinic

Oct 27, 13 Penfolds Re-corking Clinic

Posted by in All, Australia

I had heard of Penfolds re-corking clinic but really didn’t know what it entailed. I just assumed people would bring in their old bottles of Grange and have the cork replaced periodically. Not so, as I found out when I was invited to see how a Penfolds re-re-corking clinic actually works. Chief Winemaker, Peter Gago was in attendence (he attends all of the Penfolds clinics around the world and examines many bottles personally) , along with 3 other Penfolds winemakers. They had set up shop in the ballroom of the Berkeley Hotel in Mayfair for a day of re-corking. Peter bubbled over with enthusiam while explaining the entire process to us. It turns out that Penfolds will only re-cork a wine once in it’s lifetime and have a very strict traceability system in place. Peter explained that once an old wine has been opened and certified, they refill it with 15 mls of the current vintage. This translates into 2% of new wine which will not affect the wine. Imagine if you had the wine re-corked every few years, after awhile, it would no longer be a 1950-something Grange, it would be something entirely different. Peter said that in the past they used to have difficulties persuading people that they should wait to have their wine re-corked but now they have a handy coloured guide which they can use to measure the amount of wine in the bottle. If the level falls below a certain zone, they will re-cork it, otherwise, they advise the owner to come back next time. The clinics are not only a chance to check on the state of a particular bottle but also a chance for Penfolds to hold what Peter calls “authenticity” clinics. In China, Penfolds does 3 day clinics where people have the opportunity to not only check on the vintage but also ensure that what they have really is a Penfolds wine. The clinics are also a chance for Penfolds to educate the consumer , informing...

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Working a vintage, my first week on the job at London Cru

Sep 15, 13 Working a vintage, my first week on the job at London Cru

Posted by in All, England, Lifestyle, London

Phew! I am knackered. I’ve just finished my first week at my new job and I’m exhausted. When I signed up as Event Coordinator for the first urban winery in London, London Cru (opening to the public early Nov. 2013), they vaguely mentioned something about helping out with the vintage in the winery. I, of course, jumped on that and said I’d be happy to help out. Little did I know that I would get to be a fully pledged and integrated member of the team (read: cellar rat). I am getting such a kick from spending all day in the winery and learning so much. Gavin Monery, the winemaker, is more than happy to answer all my questions and genuinely wants to share his passion for the vine.  Lots of winemakers started out as cellar rats and although I may be late coming to the game, there’s still hope for me yet. The concept behind the winery is to bring the wine making experience to Londoners. It’s not very easy to gain access to a winery during vintage time but at London Cru, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the wine making experience with their winemaker. As a wine lover living in London, I’d be thrilled if I was able to ruck up to Zone 2 (Earls Court) and make wine in a real, fully equipped winery. Well, soon you will be able to do just that. The winery is going to be open year round for events, dinners, tastings, masterclasses and even Christmas parties as well as other such happenings. At the moment though, we’re concentrating on making our wine which should be available next year. Anyway, the grapes arrived on my second day in the job and I was thrown in the winery as the first load of 4 tonnes of chardonnay from Ch. Corneilla in the Roussillon arrived. Sorting, pressing, and putting the must into tanks used up most of the day and at the end,...

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Tikves, Macedonian wine coming to London

Jun 03, 13 Tikves, Macedonian wine coming to London

Posted by in All, Food and Wine

Last week Tikves Winery held a dinner in Central London to introduce Macedonian wines to the UK market. It was an interesting tasting to be sure as I wasn’t really clear on WHERE Macedonia was but I was interested to see what they were offering. It turns out that Tikves is one of the oldest wineries in the Balkans (that’s where Macedonia is) and they’ve been making wine sine 1885. They are also one of the biggest, making over 35 million bottles as  year. Their primary market is the US but they are now looking to grow their UK market. They grow indigenous grapes (temjanika, rkaciteli, smederevka, stanosina, vranac, plavec krastosija) along with international varieties –  chardonnay, grenache blanc, sauvignon blanc and riesling. We tried a range of both their whites and reds at a tasting before sitting down to dinner at Baku in Knightsbridge. In general, I found the wines to be well made, the wines made from  indigenous varieties being the most interesting. Rkaciteli Special Selection 2012 (white) was aromatic with slight honeyed notes, having  good acidity and balance. I could easily imagine this to be an excellent summer quaffer. One of the international blends I did like was the Barovo White 2012 (grenache blanc and chardonnay) a juicy but dry wine with plentiful citric notes. However, it was on the high end of the scale pricewise and I think I would wait for the price to come down on that one. The reds were interesting but again, the standout of the bunch was the single variety, Vranac Special Selection 2012. Fruity, easy drinking and very approachably soft, this wine was a winner. The Belavoda Red 2011 (50% vranac and 50% plavec) was enjoyable with our main of smoked Barbary duck breast, washing down the flavoursome duck easily but again the price was a bit steep as far as value for money is concerned. As I was sitting next to the wine maker, Marko Stojakovic, during dinner I asked him where he...

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Langlois-Chateau, Loire Valley wines

It may seem like I only drink champagne but that’s not true. Sometimes I drink sparkling wine, too. All kidding aside, I do enjoy a good sparkling wine and some of my favourites are cremants.  A cremant is a French sparkling wine that does not come from the Champagne region. It’s as simple as that. So for example, you can have a Cremant de Bourgogne, Cremant de Alsace, or as in this particular post, a Cremant de Loire. In each case, the sparkling wine is made from grapes that are grown locally and usually produced in the traditional method but not always. I met up with the the wine maker for Loire Valley producer, Langlois-Chateau, Francois-Regis de Fougeroux recently  for lunch at Cigalon on Chancery Lane. Francois-Regis brought along  his sparkling wines as well as a few red wines for us to have with lunch. The white sparkling was composed of chenin blanc, chardonnay and cabernet franc and the rose sparkling was 100% cabernet franc. Langlois-Chateau is owned by Bollinger and benefits from the experience and expertise that the Champagne house brings to the table. They are the only house that buys grapes and then vinifies them separately as opposed to other producers in the Loire who buy the “must” and make their sparkling wines from there. They also use the “traditional method” with the wines spending at least 2 years in the cellar before being released. All of this results in sparkling wines that have much in common with champagne. The brut sparkling wine had very fine bubbles with good balance and citrus fruit flavours, a great aperitif. I really enjoyed the rosé, an aromatic and fruity nose followed on by loads of strawberries and raspberries on the palate, very fresh and morish. Francois-Regis calls this his “swimming pool” wine, perfect for lounging on a hot (well, here in England the most we can hope for is a warm) summers day. Another plus in choosing cremant de Loire’s is the price tag. Both...

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