About Me


Gavin Hubble - (BSc & Post Grad. Business Marketing) - I started working in the wine industry over 23 years ago in New Zealand. Working in; wine retail, sales, wine production, label & packaging design, marketing, wine buying, consulting and wine education. I am responsible for the Brand Health of 60+ wine brands distributed here in New Zealand. Wine Brands from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. I work closely with the Trade Industry - (Retail Stores & Restaurants) introducing, educating and positioning exciting and unique brands to wine enthusiasts all over the world.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Petit Verdot

The Petit Verdot grape variety is one of the six approved grapes for making red wines in the Bordeaux region of France. Petit Verdot is thought to be native to western Bordeaux, likely present in the Medoc area well before Cabernet Sauvignon and probably more widely grown. Today - Petit Verdot is the least known and least grown of the Bordeaux red varieties.
It is usually used as you would use a spice in cooking because a little goes a long way. Petit Verdot will often be blended as little as 1% to 5% of the total wine in order to take advantage of some of its most dominant characteristics. Petit Verdot has a very deep purple colour and a strong tannin structure. It is usually used to impart these features to the wine into which it is blended. Because Petit Verdot tends to ripen late in the season and is often lost to rains during harvest, it is following another red variety, Carmenere, into near extinction in the Bordeaux region. The name Petit Verdot means 'little green,' a reference to the difficulties of growing this variety.

 

When it does ripen, when added in small amounts, it does add excellent, complimentary tannin, colour and flavour to the other red grapes in the blend. It has attracted attention among winemakers in the New World, where it ripens more reliably and has been made into single varietal wine.
Planted in suitable climes and properly cultivated, the fruit develops in relatively small winged clusters, loosely filled with round, dark red-to-black, relatively thick-skinned, berries.
Petit Verdot's reluctant cooperation in the vineyard is likely why it is not more prevalent. The aroma of Petit Verdot includes cigar box, smoke, leather and earth tones. In addition to violet and leather, Petit Verdot flavours can include peppers, spices, smoke and minerals. Petit Verdot is not recommended for those who enjoy a fruity wine: long aging in oak barrels can also fade its fruit flavours. Petit Verdot is also grown in Italy, Spain, California, Australia, Chile and Argentina with good success.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tétou - Finest Bouillabaisse

There are places in the world that define the meaning of ‘legendary’. One of these is a restaurant in a discreet building on the beach just along from the small Riviera village of Golfe-Juan.
Tétou was opened by Ernest Cirio in 1920 (after he was injured, serving in the French Navy during WW I) - and has been owned and run by the same family ever since.
Famous for hosting celebrates ranging from; Robert De Niro, Mick Jagger, Francis Ford Coppola, Diane Kruger, Bruce Willis just to name a few - and just before our visit Clint Eastwood, Brad & Angelina during the recent Cannes Film Festival and Tétou has also hosted another living legend Sir Sean Connery. Tetou is honoured by many for serving possibly the best bouillabaisse in the world.

    

Dismissed by other French chefs (possibly in envy) - and put on ‘Bucket-Lists’ by the rest of us, this is one of the Côte d'Azur's most famous restaurants, capitalizing on the high society that came here in the 1950s and 1960s. Retaining its Provençal charm despite its high prices, it has thrived for more than 85 years.
Appetizers are limited to platters of charcuterie with slices of fresh melon. The finest bouillabaisse comes at a steep price of just under €100 per person (the version with langoustes comes at €130 is in fact heavenly). Thanks to my 'host' knowing the owners Jacques-Pierre Marquis and his cousin Corrine Cuzzupoli Bruno (grand-daughter of Ernest) and head waiting staff, we had a VIP table at the window / beach side of the restaurant. The Bouillabaisse is served in several courses, first the soup with bread and the famous ‘rouille’ mayonnaise, and then they served us the whole fish and other seafood which was boiled in the soup. The Bouillabaisse has John Dory, red mullet, rascasse and various other local fish, and for a few extra Euros, lobsters as well.
The orange-coloured soup is of a taste and texture that cannot be improved upon, it has been perfected for over 85 years. I must admit a small portion of it went on my trousers, so keen was I - even though it is never ending. This is a feast in itself, trust me - you won't need a starter before and it will be hard to finish a dessert afterwards. Nearly every guest either eats the bouillabaisse or the lobsters as there is little else on the single page menu, that hasn’t changed since they first opened, - don't book if you don't like fish. Nearly all tables enjoy a panoramic view over the sea (possibly the best restaurant on the Côte d'Azur to see dusk).


 

At the end of our dining experience - Jacques was even more generous - as he allowed me to read through the infamous guest-book that has been kept since they first opened, inside you have doodles from Matisse and notes of appreciation from Charlie Chaplin and nearly anyone else you can think of that has been on the silver-screen or in the arts (painters and musicians alike).
Do not try and just turn up and ask for a table, you will be disappointed - book several months in advance. NB: if you are planning to go, beware - they don’t take credit cards. Tétou are still one of the few places in the world that still do not accept plastic - cash only.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Le Colombe d'Or - (Art & Food)

The Colombe d’Or started life in 1920 as “Chez Robinson”, a café bar with an open air-terrace where people would dance at weekends. It soon attracted characters from the near and far. The friendly atmosphere together with the owner’s deep interest in the arts encouraged the visit of many famous poets, writers and artists and the walls are now covered by paintings, which were often exchanged for accommodation, meals or a bar tab. The grand wood panelled restaurant happens to be one of the world’s best art galleries. Picasso, Matisse and a host of other struggling artists used to stay here and settled their bills with paintings. The Roux family currently take care of the Colombe d’Or.

       

There are a number of restaurants around the world which claim celebrity clientele but La Colombe d’Or really does; Elton John, Michael Caine, Roger Moore (whom we sat next to on this occasion), to name but just a few, are all regular visitors who mix with every day diners on the crowded restaurant terrace. The valet parking is a godsend if you arrive by car. Pull up outside the small wooden door and hand over your keys to one of the valets.
The Hotel is located at the entrance of the village of Saint-Paul de Vence - (Picasso couldn’t have dreamt a more stunning place).
The food is traditional fare - but words struggle to describe the theatre and attention to detail from the staff that prepare and serve at your table the freshest of seasonal ingredients, the restaurant seats approximately seventy people in the main dining hall, thirty in a private room and one hundred on the garden terrace.
I would suggest to book weeks, if not months, in advance to secure a lunchtime or evening table. After we had enjoyed hors d’oeuvres - a magnificent basket of raw vegetables arrived - artichokes, radishes, cucumbers, carrots and celery appear in abundance. Among their number were sardines en escabèche, chickpeas, celeriac remoulade, black pudding, rice, couscous, potato salad, lentils, artichoke hearts, aubergines and squid, a banquet, even before our chosen fish mains arrived.
The Colombe d’Or remains one of the world's great experiences, the cuisine is simple - but a very memorable event, the atmosphere is unique and whether you are a film star or an ordinary diner they make you feel special. The food is good even if no Michelin stars and when you take into account the history, traditions, the quality of service and the setting - it is affordable.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vendange Tardive

Vendange Tardive ('VT') means 'late harvest' in French. The phrase refers to a style of dessert wine where the grapes are allowed to hang on the vine until they start to dehydrate. This process, called passerillage, concentrates the sugars in the juice and changes the flavours within it. The name is sometimes written as the plural form, vendanges tardives, referring to the fact that several runs through the vineyard is often necessary to produce such wines.

 

Alsace wines were the first to be described as vendange tardive but the term is now used in other regions of France. Since 1984, the term has been legally defined in Alsace and may only be applied to wines that exceed a minimum must weight and pass blind tasting by the INAO. Selection de Grains Nobles ('SGN') is an even sweeter category, for grapes affected by noble rot (botrytis). Vendange tardive is also an official wine designation in Luxembourg.
Since German is a common language in Alsace (along with French), the designation vendange tardive is often translated literally as Spatlese by the Alsatians. However, the must weight requirement for a 'VT' is higher than for the Pradikat Spatlese in Germany or Austria. In wine classification terms, a Vendange Tardive wine from Alsace is more close to a German or Austrian Auslese.
Gewurztraminer is the most common variety used for vendange tardive wines, as it readily achieves high sugar levels; these are harder to attain with Riesling and Pinot Gris, but with greater acidity to balance the sweetness, such wines can be very long-lived. Muscat vendange tardive wines are also sometimes seen.

Riedel Stemware - Kufstein

In mid-to-late July, after driving across the border between northern Italy and Austria - I drove up to the village of Kufstein the head-office for Riedel and home of Georg Riedel. I spent 2 days visiting the Riedel factory and talking with the family, their team and watching the master craftsmen create the world’s finest stemware.

During my time at Riedel I had the opportunity to visit the factory floor and see at close quarters all of the quality steps that each piece goes through before being given the final seal of approval - the Riedel name on each piece before packaging and shipping off all over the world.
The craftsmanship and attention to detail at Riedel - simply has to be seen to be believed. On my arrival I was asked to make a journey through the world of glasses and senses. I was taken through a series of specifically designed rooms that teaches/ reminds us how we use all of our senses; eyes, nose, and all parts of our palate and how in combination they create the picture, voice and personality of each unique and individual wine.

      

The effect of these Riedel glasses on all wine is profound. It can be seen by all what a difference they make. Thanks to worldwide demand, the Sommelier series is now the wineglass benchmark and the most successful series of hand-made, mouth-blown wine glasses in the world.

It was incredible to watch the best wine glasses in the world being made right in front of my eyes, the Riedel Sommelier glass being mouth-blown, this range of glasses are their ultimate flagship brand.
The bowl is mouth-blown into a mold crafted to concentrate the wine's aromas and direct the flow of the wine to the optimal areas of the mouth/palate; the stem and base are handcrafted using centuries old techniques of glass crafting.
 
 
Claus Riedel, the first to understand how the shape of a glass dramatically affects a wine's bouquet and flavour, has turned knowledge into perfection, turned a sip into a celebration.
Backed by 250+ years of glassmaking excellence, Riedel wine glasses and decanters (yes don’t forget to decant your wine) are the finest instruments in the world for enhancing your enjoyment of wine.

Then after I thought that it couldn’t get any better than that, I was then invited to dinner at the Riedel family home, where each wine was served at the appropriate temperature in the correct glass, and each wine was decanted before each course, that was carefully matched with each wine.
As I say - wine is best when sipped, savoured and shared with good food and friends, this was definitely one of those occasions.
 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Trentino-Alto Adige

Driving alongside the Adige River, the second longest in Italy, which divides this mountainous region, you have to remember to concentrate on the road, as there is so much that catches the eye.

As the name suggests, the Trentino-Alto Adige is comprised of two separate areas. Trento refers to the southern part of the region and its capital is Trentino. The name Alto Adige identifies the northern territory that includes the higher (alto) part of the Adige River.
Following the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the area experienced the same fate as many other parts of Italy.
Subsequent waves of invaders occupied the region, but it was in the Middle Ages that the current ethno-cultural mix composed of mostly Italian and Germanic people occurred.
On my second day in the region I drove to Tramin-Termano - the home of the Gewurztraminer grape, yes I had to sample a glass.

      

As you drive through this region you can see why it is so sort after for the development of tourist resorts, agriturismos, B&B and holiday homes, especially in the beautiful Alpine areas of Alto Adige. I stayed in a relaxing eco-hotel in Sopramente, and then with some friendly local advice and directions that included pointing across the valley to a very tall peak - I eventually found a wonderful restaurant hugging the side of a mountain in Vezzano - I nearly forgot all about the wonderful meal and wine that was served, as the view was simply breathtaking..  
When you meet people and talk about food and wine you will hear - “Pane e vino fanno un bel bambino” or "bread and wine make a beautiful baby". This local expression reflects the widespread belief that bread and wine are fundamental sources of diet and development. That said; Trentino-Alto Adige produces less than 1% of the national wine production, but approx 10% of grappa production - yes, it was a must have after dinner.

As you drive through this region one thing you will notice are the vines frequently still trained on the pergola trellis system on both the flat and steep areas used since historical times.
Depending upon many factors that we don’t have time to discuss here - the pergolas or overhead trellises, allow air to circulate beneath the leaf mass, designed to delay the ripening of some varieties and allowing pickers to stand beneath to harvest. More recently, producers have begun training some vines closer to the ground using a variety of techniques.
There are three indigenous grapes in this region, one is the white Nosiola and the other two are the red Teroldego Rotoliano and the Marzemino. In addition to the native grapes, well known international varieties such as Chardonnay, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Müller-Thurgau, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Nero are grown throughout the region.
One main distinction between Trentino and Alto Adige production is the fact that in the northern area the wines are produced typically by small family-owned wineries that sell their wines locally with limited exports to Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Trentino on the other hand counts on a large number of growers who join large cooperatives.
Generally the wines produced here are of an excellent quality, but like many Italian phrases that can lost in translation, the local wines are at their best with local dishes and cuisine – if you are tempted and you should be, remember to match these wines with fresh flavours, salads with quality virgin olive oil and cured cold meats (e.g. speck) when enjoying these wines.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The World's Best Gelato

San Gimignano (in Tuscany / Italy) is home to the world’s best gelato - “trust me”. The Pluripremiata Gelato Shop - located in the ‘Piazza della Cisterna in San Gimignano’, has won the world’s best gelato competition in 2006, 2007, 2008, and again 2009.
So there was a very good reason for the long queue outside of the Gelato shop, all waiting patiently under the Tuscan sun to sample for the first time, and for people like myself, my second for the day, the best Gelato in the world. Sergio Dondoli is the owner and master ice cream maker of the ‘Gelateria di Piazza’, known all over the world and visited by a great number of celebrities.


 

His ice cream parlour is mentioned in the most important world gastronomic guides and is continuously visited by local and international guests. Due to his experience and partiality to experiment he has created original and unusual gelato flavours. Sergio’s creations have become famous (in fact registered trademarks): Crema di Santa Fina (cream with saffron and pine nuts), Champelmo (pink grapefruit and sparkling wine), Dolceamaro (cream with aromatic herbs) and Vernaccia Sorbet enhance his already highly extensive selection.
Sergio's creations continue to excite: and his inventions include very original and successful combinations of flavours, like sorbets flavoured with aromatic herbs such as Raspberry and Rosemary, Blackberries and Lavender, Gorgonzola cheese and Walnuts, Curva Fiesole (ricotta and bilberries), Sangue di Bue (spicy chocolate and sour cherries) - just to name a few.
All his ice cream creations involve using only the highest quality ingredients, particularly typical to the region - like ‘DOP’ Saffron with has a protected designation of origin from San Gimignano and Vinsanto; Also the ‘Tonda Gentile’ Hazelnut from the Langhe region and the Bronte Pistachio. Sergio is also the only one to offer ice cream with Amedei chocolate, awarded the Oscar in London for being the best chocolate in the world for 5 years running (2005 to 2009).
Sergio takes part in many events and is also a member of the Italian Team that won the last two editions of the Ice Cream World Championship. He also tries to share his incredible knowledge of ice cream making - by hosting courses all over the world. During my 4 days staying in a Tuscan Villa across on top of the adjacent hill to San Gimignano - I found myself enjoying at least 10 flavours - ranging from a 1.70 Euro (a great price and an irresistible size to sample two at a time) through to 4 Euro’s. If in Tuscany - do all that you can to find you way here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mulled Wine

Mulled wine, variations of which are popular all around the world, has been enjoyed for thousands of years, is wine, usually red, combined with spices (e.g. cloves and cinnamon) and typically served warm. Historically, when wine often went bad, by adding spices and honey, it could be made 'drinkable' again. Nowadays, it is a traditional drink during winter, especially around ski resorts and on festive winter occasions.
'Glogg' is the Nordic form of mulled wine, similar to Gluhwein in German-speaking countries. Gluhwein is usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar.

 

Almonds and raisins are often added to the Scandinavian version, though not to the German mulled wine. Fruit wines such as blueberry wine and cherry wine are sometimes used instead of grape wine in Germany. The oldest Gluhwein tankard is documented in the high noble German and first Riesling grower of the world, Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen around 1420. This gold-plated lockable silver tankard imitating the traditional wine woven wooden can is called 'Welcome'.
In Romania it is called 'vin fiert' (boiled wine), and can be made using either red or white wine, sometimes adding peppercorns to the brew. In Moldova the 'izvar' is made from red wine with black pepper and honey. In Italy, mulled wine is typical in the northern part of the country and is called 'vin brule'.
Sangria, a popular punch in many Spanish-speaking countries, is made with red or white wine mixed with sugar and plain or sparkling water, flavoured with citrus fruits, and served chilled.
Mulled wine is easy to make and can be made with white, rose and red wine as the base and as few or as many spices and fruits that you have in your home, so the next cold night in with family and friends, think about making and enjoying a glass of mulled wine.

Sagrantino - Umbria, Italy

In July I spent about a week studying in the wine region of Tuscany - during this time I had the rare opportunity to visit and learn all about the research, work and the new plantings of Sagrantino that the Cecchi Winery has been involved with for some time now in Montefalco, Umbria, central Italy.
Sagrantino is an Italian red grape variety that is indigenous to the region of Umbria in Central Italy, in the province of Perugia, in the commune of Montefalco and makes some of that region's most distinctive and exciting red wines.

     

It is grown primarily in the village of Montefalco and its surrounding areas; there are a few dozen or so producers that work with this rare grape, with only about 250 acres planted in total. With such small production, the wine is not widely known outside of Italy, Montefalco for that matter, even though it was granted DOCG status in 1991.
The origins of the Sagrantino grape are widely disputed, but what is known is that it was used primarily for dessert wines for many years, the grapes being dried in the 'passito' style, much like a 'Recioto di Valpolicella'. At some point, the wines were made in a dry style, and that is how they are predominantly made today, which trust me is very good news.
The Sagrantino grape is one of the most tannic varieties in the world, and creates wines that are inky purple with an almost-black centre. Sagrantino has higher tannin levels than almost any other variety, including Nebbiolo. Thus a well made Sagrantino has excellent aging potential; indeed, given its firm tannins, Sagrantino demands sometime to develop in the bottle before it is opened. The bouquet is one of dark, rich berries and fruits with hints of plum, spices, cinnamon, and earthy undertones.
The Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG requires 100 percent Sagrantino grapes to be used, with a required 30 months aging before release, of which at least 12 in oak barrels.
Sagrantino has as excellent ageing ability. A more approachable and affordable 'Montefalco Rosso' usually contains only 10-15% Sagrantino and allows up to 70 percent Sangiovese with the remainder being Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, though some winemakers also use Colorino in the blend.
Sagrantino is a dynamic and exciting wine to look out for on your travels, the Cecchi team and I enjoyed a few examples of this wine with several different local cured red meats and other dishes in the stunningly beautiful walled village of Montefalco.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Saignee

This winemaking process involved bleeding off a portion of red wine after only a short period of time, and contact of the juice with the grape skins. Because the colour of red wine is derived from pigments in the grape skins, the resulting juice is a light or bright pink not red. This process is how many rose wines are made, the only exception being Champagne where rose may also be made by blending red and white wines before the secondary fermentation in bottle, although for still rose wines it is believed that the best wines are made by the saignee method.
The rest of the winemaking process, steps remain basically unchanged in that there is a progression of alcoholic fermentation, filtering, and then bottling all in a short space of time.

 

The difference between simply macerating the wine and removing the must and saignee is that the wine left after the bleed-off is often times still being made into a more concentrated red wine, and the rose is a by-product.
So the saignee method can be used by winemakers to increase intensity in their red wines. In this case, only a small portion of juice is bled away from the skins to make rose. But the remaining juice stays in contact with the skins. Because there is a greater surface area ratio of skins to juice after the bleed, more colour (and possibly complexity) can be extracted from the skins into the red wine-to-be. As a result, some people refer to rose made by the saignee process as a by-product of red wine production.
Some top rose producers, particularly in the south of France, prefer not to "bleed" their grape juice. Instead, they treat red grapes destined for rose much as they would grapes for a white wine. After the grapes are harvested, they are crushed and quickly pressed or whole cluster pressed - just as white wine grapes are - directly into a fermenter. In this way, there is little or no skin maceration. Not surprisingly, wines made in this fashion are a lighter shade of pink. Enjoy these roses in their youth and served at approx 6-8 degree C.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Languedoc in 24 hours

On this most recent visit to Languedoc-Roussillon the world’s largest wine-producing region, it was a whirlwind 24 hours.
One needs to sit down when you think about the volume of wine that is produced in this sun drenched part of France. The Languedoc’s wine production exceeds that of Bordeaux, of Australia,  of South Africa and Chile combined, mind boggling - I think I need a glass of wine, so we found a small village that cooked fresh local cuisine and sampled a few of the local wines that can only be found in these village brasseries and local wine shops.
The region comprises some 290,000 hectares of vines, this equates to ten times the size of New Zealand under vine.

 

Today, and for several years now Languedoc-Roussillon’s wine production is all about quality rather than quantity: In the past this area was infamous for its' poorer quality viticulture with high production yielding large quantities of ‘vin de table’. This is no longer the case for many wineries, yields have been significantly reduced and quality is now their focus.
To accommodate all of the options available to winegrowers and winemakers here, there are some thirty appellations and crus included within the Languedoc region, including white, red, rosé, sparkling and sweet wines.
There are roughly 2,800 producers in Languedoc-Roussillon; between them, they make around two billion bottles of wine a year.
There are 15 main wine regions (each made up of many domains) in Languedoc-Roussillon, these appellations include; Coteaux du Languedoc, Faugeres, St Chinian, Corbieres, Minervois, Fitou, Muscats du Languedoc, Limoux, Collioure, Cotes du Roussillon and Banyuls to name but a few and many more areas of Vin de Pays.
The soils and ‘terroirs’ area are varied, from Schist, Sandstone, Marl, Gravel, Pebbles, Limestone, to Granit and Alluvial soil; thus making many splendid and diverse styles of wine. Working in harmony with the modern varietal approach and a new wave of young, passionate and dynamic winemakers have established themselves.
In this vast area there are many different grape varieties, the reds include Carignon, Cinsault, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. The whites, Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Marsanne, Roussanne, Vermantino, Mauzac, Chenin and Clairette.
The region stretches from the Spanish border in the west to Nimes in the east, an area sandwiched between the mountains and the Mediterranean ocean. I had the fortune of taking the train from Barcelona in Spain through to Nice in France last year 2008, definitely one of those train-trips of a lifetime.
A new banner, 'South of France' has been created to cover the whole of the Languedoc-Roussillon area. Set-up in the hope of creating a single, defined, modern identity that will enable the Appellation and the ‘Vin de Pays’ producers to work together to present a united message to the world's wine market.
The breathtaking landscape of sea and mountains, together with the sunny climate and the rich local flavours of Mediterranean cuisine, express the characteristics of Languedoc's unique and wonderful wines.
So after a full day of travelling, vineyard, winery visits and tastings - it was time to find a hotel, restaurant to take it all in - and sample some more of these dynamic, early drinking styles of wine.
So we found our way to ‘St Guilhem’ and a small hotel ‘Le Guilhaume d’Orange’ hanging to the steep sided gorge of the Hérault River and enjoyed the evening until we found ourselves closing up the place then waking up before we even had time to fall asleep to hit the road again.
If you have a wish list of places to visit before you move on from this mortal-coil - ‘St Guilhem’ should be on your list, plus sampling some local Languedoc cuisine and wine on a summers afternoon.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summer in Provence

If you are looking for a ‘Garden of Eden’, look no further than Provence, in the south of France. I must admit this was not my first visit to this stunning part of the world, or my first visit to Routas Winery. They say you can’t get enough of a good thing - the people and the wines here at Routas are something special, both have a unique character and personality that are intertwined. I think it will take me a lifetime of visits before I can say I truely understand the unique wines made here.
The location of Routas is spectacular; in the heart of Provence, halfway between the French Riviera and the Alps. It is surrounded by small medieval villages that cling to steep cliffs and kilometers of spectacular hillsides, forests and rivers.

       

These estate-grown and bottled wines have had positive reviews from all corners of the wine world. One of the many comments: "One of the best wine producers in Provence" - Robert Parker Jr.
In 2005 Scotland's Sir David Murray bought the estate, ushering in a dynamic new period for Chateau Routas. Due to the variable soils and intense summers, the reds from Routas can display a robust, Rhone-like richness, and its whites (e.g. Viognier) show maturity and vitality. Some soils are red like crushed brick, while others are crumbly grey limestone mixed with red stones that bleach in the hot sun. At 1,300ft above sea level, the elevation is among the appellation's highest, providing cool nights that slow the ripening of the grapes, contributing complexity and dictating harvests that are up to a month later than other nearby vineyards.
The estate's 260 hectares encompass wheat fields, olive trees, and truffles. Red poppies give way to brilliant yellow sunflowers, and in the autumn, the surrounding forests yield abundant mushrooms, that the local wild boar population feed upon, when they are not able to eat the grapes due to the electric fences.
Jean Louis Bavay - the winemaker was raised five hours north in Chablis. Jean Louis learned the art of making delicate rose at Bandol's Domaine Ott, a skill he has developed upon to produce the acclaimed Chateau Routas rose.
Jean Louis speaks of grape varieties in almost human terms.  He is not a strong advocate of 50/50 blends; he feels that they fight with each other for dominance in the bottle. Jean Louis is looking for finer tannins, concentration and greater complexity in his wines.
Local born Philippe Saraciva - the vineyard manager has the soils under his fingernails. He discovered his life's work early on, learning from his grandfather, joining Chateau Routas fresh from school.
Philippe sees his challenge as producing the best possible grapes for Jean Louis. With over eighteen years' experience working together, the two have a near-telepathic relationship, timing the harvest for optimum complexity of flavour and adopting the time honoured method of hand picking their grapes. Routas only produce small volumes of; Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah, Viognier and Rose, so when in Europe keep your eyes open for the opportunity to sample these exciting and vibrant early drinking wines.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Quinta

First - what does Quinta mean? In Portuguese Quinta is a country house (farm) with a small plot of land, where fruit, vegetables and or vines are often cultivated.

How are Quintas (vineyards) classified?

In the Douro region vineyards are graded on a scale A to F with A being the best. This grading system was initially considered in about 1755 but wasn't initiated until after the formation of the Casa do Douro in 1932. Its objective was to promote the production of higher quality wines and to undertake a 'Registration of Property'. The survey was commenced in 1937 and completed in 1945.

 

 
There are up to 12 qualities that a vineyard is measured on (Location, Aspect, Altitude, Gradient, Nature of land, Soil, Micro-Climate, Vine Varieties, Age if vines, Vine Density, Productivity, Vineyard Maintenance) - and each of these qualities are awarded points and the total points gained dictates the grading.
Port is grown and made on these Quintas in the demarcated region of Northern Portugal. This area approximately 1,600 square km's or 242,700 hectares and stretches from 100km's inland from Porto along the river Douro to the Spanish border. The Port growing region is divided into 3 separate areas, each with their own specific meso-climates; the Baixo Corgo, Alto Douro or Cima Corgo and the Douro Superior.
In the past, there were many grape varieties used in Quintas in the Douro region, and farmers chose the grapes that in their opinion were better suited to their particular vineyard. Nowadays there are stricter controls aimed at improving overall quality. There a six recognized top grape varieties, plus certain additional approved ones. The top six varieties include: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Tinta Amarela.