The isolated DO of Costers del Segre is the most westerly of the Catalonian DOs. Here, a small handful of wineries cultivate a scant 300 hectares of vines where there are more olives grown than grapes. The area’s high elevation – higher than that of Priorat – means that the cooler climate forces growers to pick at the end of October with the harvest occasionally lasting until late November/early December, depending upon the year. Sometimes, there is snow on the ground by then.
Among the few wineries operating in the region is Mas Blanch I Jove. Although this husband and wife team both come from farming families, they initially chose to start an iron company in 1975, which proved to be quite successful. But, despite their financial success, the family led a simple life, remaining close to home, never going anywhere. Then, in 1984, the family won an all-expense paid trip to London that forever changed them; it opened up their eyes to travel. They starting traveling from that point forward and have been to China, India and Canada among other destinations.
Yet in spite of expanding their horizons geographically, they have returned to their farming heritage with the launch of the Mas Blanch I Jove winery in 2006. The 750 acre estate is given over to olives more than grapes, but the small production (35,000 bottles annually) has meant that the family can stay focused. Starting with pre-phylloxera, ungrafted vines found in the area, they were able to take the cuttings and propagate them on rootstock for use in their organic vineyard, which is primarily planted to indigenous varieties. However, Cabernet Sauvignon, which they do have, while not indigenous, has been planted in the area since 1920.
Their Saó portfolio of wines, which they explained is named for the word that means the optimum conditions in the soil, includes the Saó Blanc (a white blend of Macabeo and Garnacha), Saó Rosé (Syrah and Garnacha) and three reds – Petit Saó (Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon), Saó Abrivat (also Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon, but from older vines) and Saó Expressiu (Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon).
The family has also been able to merge their twin passions of wine and art. Since their iron business still continues to provide a generous income, they are able to use funds from the winery to support “starving artists.” Having noticed that artists make very little money in pursuit of their dreams, they commission local artists each year. Accordingly, a walk through their vineyard is almost like walking through a sculpture garden since various sculptures are scattered throughout the estate. This passion for art extends to the wine’s labels, which are not only beautiful on the front, but also include interesting quotes on the back.
While the parents continue to work daily in the iron business, it is their children that have taken the lead at the winery. Specifically, daughter Sara has chosen to pursue winemaking as her career and looks forward to building her future in the family winery.
China is on every wine producer, distributor and lover’s mind. It has and will continue to change the world of wine. Frankly China wine will continue to be a huge story in the years to come and this is a region that the Editors of Wine Portfolio have long focused on. Why? Because we love opening up new consumers to the world of wine. And so we are proud to present this exhaustive report of wine in the Middle Kingdom.
Recent years have seen substantial growth in Chinese grape wine market. From 2001 to 2012, the grape wine output in China had shown an upward trend with the CAGR of 16.5%. However, the 18th CPC National Congress called on the restriction of spending by central government bodies on official overseas visits, official vehicles, and official hospitality, “six bans”, and alcohol prohibition in the military, leading to the slowdown of growth or even decline in China grape wine market. In 2013, the output and consumption of grape wine in China went down by 4.7% year-on-year and 13.7% year-on-year, respectively.
By region, the consumption in China grape wine market varies a lot in terms of development. For now, China’s southeast coastal regions, including Shanghai, Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang where are economically developed, have achieved provincial-level market scale valuing RMB1-3 billion, city-level market scale valuing RMB100 million, and county-level market scale valuing RMB10 million. However, in the north and the vast central and western regions, the grape wine consumption is still at a stage of market incubation, with the exception of such cities as Beijing and Chengdu.
Due to the restriction of weather and geographical conditions, the grape wine production in China demonstrates higher regional concentration. In China, there are just three provinces and municipalities seeing the annual grape wine output of 100 million liters or more. Among these, the largest grape wine producers come to Shandong (the Bohai Bay area) and Jilin (Tonghua), with the combined output in 2013 amounting to 712 million liters or 64% of the national total. In Shandong, Chardonnay, Carbernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carignane are major grape wine varities. Also, planting bases of homegrown grape wine producers like CHANGYU, Great Wall and Dynasty are located in Shandong.
With China’s accession into the WTO, China’s import tariff on grape wine was reduced from 65% to 14%, bringing a large inrush of foreign wines into the Chinese market. In 2012, the wine import volume of China reported 394 million liters, equivalent to 2.4 folds of the figure in 2008. In 2013, the Ministry of Commerce launched anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations on made-in-EU wines. Together with the impact brought by the government call to restrict the spending by the central government bodies on official overseas visits, official vehicles, and official hospitality, China’s total import volume of grape wine witnessed a year-on-year decline of 4.5%. In 2013, China’s import volume of bottled wine accounted for 74% of the total, with France as the major import origin.
China grape wine industry is to enter into a stage for structural adjustment after 2013 (for instance, de-stocking targeting wine dealers, grape wine producers’ orientation to low-and medium-end market), in order to pop the market bubble for a comeback to the right track. It is estimated that the CAGR of grape wine consumption in China between 2013 and 2016 will post 9.7%.
Situated in southern France, the Rhone Valley is among France’s most important wine regions, producing more quality (AOC) wine than any other with the exception of Bordeaux. Covering a large area (the region runs 125 miles long), the Rhone produces a wide range of wine styles from full-bodied, aromatic whites and deep-colored roses to powerful reds.
Among the best known appellations in the region is Chateauneuf-du-Pape, named for the Pope’s castle when the papacy was centered in Avignon. Producers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape are permitted to select from 13 different grape varieties, with the reds mostly focused on Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and, to a lesser extent, Cinsault. Although not as well known (since they account for only 5% of production within the AOC), the white Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines are also produced from a blend of varieties, notably Grenache Blanc and Clairette.
This diverse selection of grape varieties is partially attributed to Joseph Ducos, a local winegrower who was instrumental in replanting the area’s vineyards in the wake of phylloxera. Ducos was owner of Château La Nerthe, one of the region’s oldest estates (dating to the 12th century).
Situated within the heart of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation, wine production at Château La Nerthe has been documented since 1560. Originally under the aegis of the Tulle de Villefranche family, Ducos purchased Chateau La Nerthe in 1870. Since 1985, the property has been owned by the Richard family and it is presently managed by Christian Voeux. The Chateau’s vineyards are 40 years old, on average, and have been certified as organic since 1998.
Chateau La Nerthe produces four wines: Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Clos de Beauvenir and Cuvée des Cadettes, the latter being a name first used by Joseph Ducos and revived in 1986.
Chateau La Nerthe Clos de Beauvenir Chateauneuf du Pape 2010, Rhone Valley, France, $130.00
A beautiful blend of Roussanne, Clairette (along with a bit of white Grenache and Bourboulenc), this small special cuvee is produced from a small (2.5 ha) single vineyard. Fermented in used barrels, with 8-9 months on the lees, the wine is dry with medium+ acidity and full body; aromas and flavors of waxy, peach, floral, musk, oak linger in the wine’s long length. Chateau La Nerthe has been certified organic since 1998. Previous vintages of this wine could easily age 10-12 years, but with a shift to fermenting a percentage of the wine in oak (in addition to aging it in oak), it is expected that the wine can age for 15 years.
Chateau La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2010, Rhone Valley, France, $48.00
With a majority of the blend given over to Grenache Noir, the wine is rounded out with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault and aged in a combination of oak barrels, casks and wooden vats. The oak is well integrated on both the nose and palate, offering notes of vanilla, wood and spice, along with black cherry, smoke and leather. Beautiful and complex, this wine can certainly age for a decade or more.
Delicious combinations fit for a luxurious hamper
De Bortoli Wines is a well known private wine company that’s been run by three generations of De Bortolis. It was first established in 1928 by Vittorio and Giuseppina De Bortoli, and then expanded by their son Deen. After his passing his children maintained the company’s premium status with their iconic Noble One dessert wines and prominent wines from Yarra Valley.
The core values of this family business involve “a culture of hard work, generosity of spirit and of sharing good food, good wine and good times with family and friends”. What better way to share great memories with loved ones than by gifting them with wine and dessert?
Below are just a few ideas on how to pair De Bortoli dessert wine with the most decadent desserts, resulting in hampers rich in sweet and tasty goodness.
Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2010
Desserts like stilton cheese, pear and almond tart, and a peach trifle can very well enhance the citrus and butterscotch flavors of Noble One. The wine could also be packaged with a pannetone since it also seems to be a recommended pairing; however it also appears to be an unpopular and also unforgiving dessert. It might be best to stick with the cheese or tarts.
The Hermits Hill Botrytis Semillon 2008
According to The Atlanta Wine Guy, Marks and Spencer’s wine expert Chris Murphy once said that when picking the right wine, “it’s certainly not about paying more money; it’s about a tangible difference in quality and discovering something new”. This budget friendly yet excellent tasting wine is best paired with fruit tarts, cream puffs, and blue cheeses. An assortment of desserts could really make the gift basket that much more luxurious.
De Bortoli Sauternes Botrytis Semillon 1983
From the family’s vintage collection, this wine has earned multiple awards from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. A truly remarkable wine, it boasts the essence of honey and marzipan. An orange soufflé packaged with this Sauternes would complete a gift basket with light and sweet flavors.
Bordeaux is more famous for its lush red wines but few realize that the region also produces dry, crisp, floral white wine. Wine columnist Will Lyons tracks down one of the top white wine producing estates and unearths their latest project.
Sure, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is hot right now; the NZ section in your neighborhood retailer is lousy with them and nearly anyone making wine in New Zealand these days has at least one in their line-up. But, despite its pre-eminence in today’s market, this grape variety has only been grown by the Kiwis for a few decades.
In fact, this popular grape owes a debt of gratitude to brothers Bill and Ross Spence for its Southern Hemisphere fame. The visionary duo first planted the variety in Auckland on the North Island in 1969 as a result of Ross’ studies at the University of Fresno, CA. Their first commercial production of Sauvignon Blanc was in 1974.
After studying viticulture from two separate hemispheric points of view – Ross in California and Bill at Massey University in New Zealand – the two brothers eventually established Matua Vineyard in 1973 in a tin shed on the North Island in West Auckland. From there, they went on to purchase land in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough, eventually establishing their largest vineyard holdings in Marlborough.
While the first set of Sauvignon Blanc vines were susceptible to disease and didn’t prove to be agriculturally viable, the Spence brothers went on to identify better suited clones and eventually identified the best material from which to plant a larger Sauvignon Blanc vineyard in 1978. By then, Matua had developed a solid reputation for its Sauvignon Blanc and other wines, winning numerous awards and acclaim.
In 2000, the Matua company was sold to Beringer-Blass Wine Estates, but the brothers remain actively involved with the venture. While Nikolai St George became Senior Winemaker as a result of the sale, Bill took on the role of Ambassador and Vintrepreneur.
I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Bill at a recent press dinner held in New York. Tromping through snow piles and trying to maneuver around knee-deep, lake-size puddles at every street corner, I made my way to The Musket Room. Prior to the invitation, I had never heard of this restaurant, but I won’t soon forget its delicious New Zealand-inspired cuisine.
We started off with Matua’s signature Sauvignon Blanc, produced with a blend of fruit from the three valleys in Marlborough. As a result of this blending, the wine is very well balanced, with a good dose of fruit, herbs and minerality. At Bill’s recommendation, I had the foie gras appetizer, which was a lovely match for the lively acidity of the wine. The main course was accompanied by a Pinot Noir, also from Marlborough. The earthy aromas and flavors, coupled with beautiful red fruit, were a perfect complement to my venison.
Although Matua doesn’t produce a dessert-style wine, Bill graciously ordered the Vinoptima Late Harvest Gewurztraminer from Gisborne for us all to enjoy with dessert; a sweet ending to a lovely meal.
Describing them as “porch wines,” Spence encourages consumers to open these wines and enjoy them with whatever they wish to eat or simply on their own – no need to pontificate on aromas or flavors or worry about pairing principles.
Both wines, which are part of the Matua Regional Range, feature newly redesigned labels. With their vibrant turquoise blue backgrounds and a Maori symbol called a Ta Moko created especially for Matua, which means “head of the family” in the Maori language, the new labels speak equally to the heritage and future of Matua and its wines.
A confit on a French menu may be poultry, pork or meat; or fruits and vegetables. Poultry and meat confits. Poultry, pork and meat confits are dishes that would never have been created today; today everyone has a refrigerator with a freezer…