Thursday, 21 August 2014
Friday, 6 June 2014
The man in this photo is Miguel Merino who in some ways is the inspiration for Smith and Evans wine. In the mid 1990s when I was working for the Spanish company Freixenet, I was asked to have dinner with the export guy for a Navarra winery called Ochoa. This sort of thing could be a real chore but Miguel was great and we had a lot of laughs. He was talking about buying a building a winery from scratch.
In his own words -
Since the beginning of my exporting career I have long dreamt of having my own small "bodega", where I could make a few bottles of wine of the best quality possible. Briones, in the heart of the Rioja Alta, gathered all the conditions I was looking for: old steep vineyards of Tempranillo grapes, chalky soil and a climate showing a marked Atlantic influence. Declared a town of historic and artistic merit, Briones is where we decided to site our bodega.
We have always called him Big Mig in hommage to the great Indurain and over the years we have always seen each other at the various wine fairs around the world but as is often the way, we rarely had time to properly catch up until this week when I showed him a picture of our bottle number 1 ( I doubt he remembers but he gave us his bottle number 4). Miguels advice? Congratulations, you have done the hard bit. Now that your wine is going out into the wide world the real worrying begins. Suffice to say, he and his sons make truly great wine. You can read more about them at www.miguelmerino.com/ If we ever finally get an online shop going, we must try to get some of his wines.
Posted by Guy at 10:32
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
When we planted at Higher Plot we chose a system called Double Guyot. Not because it had my name in the title but just because that's what French people did. Not exactly scientific but as good as anything to start with as it wouldn't stress the vines too much. What we have found is that the plants are happy here, maybe too happy and we can't have that. They give a good yield of grapes but they are also pretty vigorous growing lots of greenery and there's no market for leaves unless you are a Dolmades producer. What we need to do is to transfer that energy into extra grapes.
This year we're experimenting with double decker vines. This will mean more shoots but shorter ones. This has benefits in that less greenery means that there's better airflow which reduces the risk of disease and also potentially better quality as there's less shading and more light to ripen the grapes. Just to name drop, it was recommended to us by the illustrious Richard Smart no less. There are downsides. The bottom row is trained downwards to just about bunny height so they will be munching on the tips. The top deck is trained upwards and so we'll be looking for people with very long arms to harvest.
Will it work? Maybe, watch this space.
Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Friday, 11 January 2013
|Not Pretty but they work!|
The Romance of Winemaking.
For me our 2012 wines have existed as two spreadsheets on my laptop that show a series of chemical analysis and wine making steps. Once the grapes are delivered and pressed we issue instructions based on the initial readings as to how the juice should be handled. After that unless there's a proble, there is really not much point tasting the wines as it's easy to make snap judgements on something that is changing so quickly. Eventually no amount of analysis will compensate for getting some of it and having a great slurp to see how it tastes. The result is that yesterday in between meetings I called into the winery and was standing in a lab in front of two cheap plastic jugs that represent the better part of a years work. One a tank sample of 2012 sparkling wine and the other our still wine. Always a nervous moment. As we are now three years in, we have a much better idea of the context of how wines will develop and I am pleased to say that I am pleased! The numbers had looked OK but you never know. The guys at the winery said that the still - which will be a very light rose colour, is one of the best if not the best through there this year and the sparkling base wine is really good. We were worried that it would be light and without a distinctive character but really not so. Shame that there's so little of it! Laura and I are going to have to be on strict rations for personal consumption which is not going to be easy.
We also have some reserve wines in barrel from the last two vintages kept for a rainy day ( well that could be any day) and these are superb - I am really trying to be objective! They have gained richness and depth that on their own would make for something that could be over powering. We will use these as top dressing as the whisky folks call it or maybe sometime we will bottle some up on its own - a super Smith and Evans.
Watch this space.
Posted by Guy at 11:49
Monday, 22 October 2012
|Thanks to Liz Weber for the Picture.|
Thinking back on the difficulties of growing grapes in 2012 anybody sane would have just put the secateurs away, polished the tractor and opened a bottle of 2011 Rosé in memory of sunnier times and then sat in front of the telly for the whole "summer". All the way from late April to the end of September it has been like a stuck record - as long as the weather improves from now then all will be well but, it never did. Twice the work for half the crop. That just about sums up 2012 for us. But looking back we do have reason to be quite happy. The site has withstood all the ravages of the worst summer for 100 years and still produced 1.5 tons of clean ripe quality grapes that will make quality wine. This is remarkable considering some illustrious names have made nothing at all and others are up to 90% down. You can always tell that it's a low volume year when we drop off the crop at the winery. There are normally stressed people in various states of sleep deprivation from 14 hour days pressing and pumping juice but this year it was all very relaxed with plenty of time to plan the wine making and have a gossip with Kev the cellar manager.
|Thanks Celia for the picture.|
The few days post harvest are strange. You have yet to kick your five times a day Accuweather habit and planning your weeks around spray intervals. Without the grapes the vineyard instantly looks bare and has a very different feeling that is hard to explain, autumn has now begun. Inevitably, your mind starts to think about next year and I found myself picking grapes whilst also looking at where I would make the winter pruning cuts. 2013 starts here.
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
For years there has been over supply particularly from the European powerhouses of France, Italy and Spain. Growers have been desperate to get anybody to buy their grapes but also with the full knowledge that if nobody did then a friendly EU official would come along and take them off their hands to distill into industrial alcohol. For a few years now governments have been encouraging people to plant alternative crops to cut out the surplus. Unfortunately good sites are just as likely as bad sites to be grubbed up and so it doesn't mean anything for quality.
Another factor is that the world has become smaller and so growers have cottoned onto what everybody else is getting for their grapes and coupled with rapidly rising demand particularly in the USA and China means that there is less chance of trading off one region against another. It only took one important Chinese buyer to take a trip to Spain last year to hoover up a six or seven million litres to have a major knock on effect on pricing.
You now hear from many important producers that they are less interested in selling the the UK when they can get more money and get treated better elsewhere. It is true that some supermarkets can be abominable in doing things like delisting lines without warning for stock specifically labelled for them that can't be sold elsewhere. It has to be said not all of them do this and it's certainly not necessarily the ones who are always seen as being the bad guys in the media!
In the shorter term there have also been poor harvests in some of the real volume regions of Spain, Italy and to some extent France. New Zealand is also short from 2012 which all stacks up to price rises.
What does this mean - well in general it should be good news for growers. The suppliers of raw materials are always the ones that feel the real pain of our insatiable desire for cheap goods. People need to look to providing them with more secure long term contracts that they can take to banks in order to borrow money for cash flow, expansion and maybe even better quality who knows!
What does it mean? In the long term it will also be interesting to see where new plantings emerge. It will be dependent on climate change and water availability in particular which would rule out places such as Australia, California and maybe South Africa. My money is on serious expansion in China where they have already proved with crops such as apples that they are capable of large scale consistent and efficient production. Much as I would love England and Wales to fill the gap we will always be a niche high cost region however much growers currently worry about oversupply.
My other prediction is that consumers will turn to wine based drinks that have fruit juices or other flavourings added and probably lower alcohol - Peach Bellini or a Cranberry Cabernet anybody?
Watch this space!