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Autumn Vines

Date: Thu, Oct 23, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

Fantastic colours in the vineyards. Every small area of vines seems to be a different shade of green, yellow, golden, brown.

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Date: Tue, Oct 21, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

We live just outside an amazing village called Aigne in the Minervois. The Church is at the centre of the village and the houses are built in a snail shape around the Church ...originally to defend the Church.
1000 years of history.
Nothing seems to change around here. It has a humble charm and very slow pace of life.
The frenetic energy of the grape harvest has just come to an end. And now the vineyards are filled with men in bright orange jackets proudly holding their rifles. Yes 'La Chasse' has started.

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Chateau Jean Faure 2005...Buy Now

Date: Tue, Oct 14, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

This is a great write up in the November edition of Decanter magazine.
If the words are hard to see on the left...

''Top drawer St.Emilion. This has silky tannins,classic Merlot notes of ripe cherries and cedar plus subtle oak. It's fresh elegant and restrained with a long, promising finish: a wine that's testament to a great vintage.
2008-2018. Stockist Bla'' (Bella Wines)

If you want a case or two of this fantastic St.Emilion then email me straight away: hamish@bellawines.co.uk

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Date: Fri, Oct 10, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

How cool is it to be 5 years old?
To quote Jasper....'How much chocolate do you think I will be able to eat at my birthday party?'

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Harvest 2008 in the Minervois

Date: Wed, Oct 8, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

This is Mr Zen checking the sugar levels and alcohol levels on his Syrah....helped by his co workers! Unfortunately it has been a tough year for growers in the Minervois. Yields are significantly lower due to many reasons. The over riding problem is the on going drought (3 years now). However the weather has also been a bit patchy....Spring was cold and dull, so bud burst and flowering were not perfect. Summer was also a bit up and down. Mildew seemed to be a major problem in the vineyards....so lots of relatively expensive and time consuming spray treatments were necessary(mostly Sulphur and Bordeaux mixture). The late Summer and early Autumn season was OK with good average temperatures.
However sporadic and isolated hail storms effected some vineyards in the higher parts of the Minervois. We visited and tasted the grapes in many different vineyards throughout the area during harvest time. The grapes physically seemed smaller and the skins were denser due to the drought. The juice will be highly concentrated and in general terms it is no bad thing for the Languedoc area to produce less wine. The harvest is gradually finishing now....whilst Bordeaux is just starting! I will be tasting post fermented juice over the coming weeks and also the first 'Primeur' wines to get a handle of the quality and style of this vintage...we shall see!

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Fantastic wines at Mas Amiel

Date: Sun, Oct 5, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

Zoomed down to Mas Amiel wine estate to collect a few orders and taste some of their recent wines. These guys are making some seriously good wines. The soils are very minerally and schist based. The wine estate lies in the picturesque higher parts of the Valley d'Agly just inland from Perpignan. The vineyards are within the Maury appellation, which is essentially the area where the recent Channel 4 TV program Chateau Monty was filmed.
This area has a fabulous reputation for the Vin Doux Naturel wines (VdN's). The Mas Amiel wine estate also have a unique system of ageing their dessert wines in glass demi johns outside in an area that is exposed to excessive heat and all the elements of the weather. This produces wines that have a rancio, madeira, tawny port type character.....but they are unique! They will make a real difference on the Christmas table this year. The Mas Amiel Vintage Red is also fantastic paired with chocolate....one of the few wines that stands up to cocoa.

I love visiting this area of the Roussillon. It is wild and windy with fantastic views of the Pyrenees and also it is easy to make a small detour to the great beaches.......I took the boys to have a run at La Franqui.

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Logan Wines

Date: Thu, Oct 2, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

Look at www.loganwines.com.au to see the new label designs for these wines.

One of the frustrating realities of the wine business is that we deal with a physical living juice that usually sits in a heavy glass bottle whilst being transported around the place. As yet you can not fax or email wine (but I am sure it will happen soon!!).
I love the wines from Australia and I have worked for ten years, with a superb dedicated producer www.loganwines.com.au making interesting wines from a slightly lesser known,but up and coming area called Orange in New South Wales. However it takes over two months to ship these stunning wines from Sydney harbour to London docks, and then another frustrating week for the customs and local carriers to deliver to the Bella Wines bonded warehouse.
That's enough ranting......the wines are certainly worth waiting for.......
In the latest shipping container we have received:

Logan Cuvee M 2006 Sparkling £16.75 including vat per bottle.
This is the fizz. Peter Logan made this wine for his late father Mal.....who was certainly a sparkling character! The wine is a classy blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier (the main Champagne grape varieties). 16 months ageing on lees adds an extra richness to a delicious fizz.

Logan Sauvignon Blanc 2008 £10.95
This is a fantastic expression of cool climate wine making. The wine is more grapefruit and passion fruit than zingy nettles and gooseberries, so it is more of a foody wine. But you can indulge on its own too. Peter Logan reckons this is his best Sauv Blanc so far but he would say that.

Logan Hannah Rose 2008 £10.95
Peter Logan makes this wine for his beautiful wife Hannah. A fascinating blend of 80%Shiraz and 20% Pinot Noir. Short (6 hours) skin contact and then delicate handling of the juice has created a very well balanced and pure deep rose wine.

Logan Cabernet Merlot 2005 £12.95
I adore this concentration of cassis flavors on this wine. The deep fruit is in superb balance with the richness of oak ageing. A wine to savour now, but also to lay down for a couple of years.

Logan Shiraz 2006 £12.95
Quality cool style Shiraz benefiting from 16 months ageing in French and Hungarian oak barrels. We have very limited quantities of this wine....so please reserve stock now.

Weemala Pinot Gris 2008
all priced at £8.99 per bottle.
Weemala Riesling 2008
Weemala Gewurztraminer 2008
Weemala Pinot Noir 2007
Weemala Shiraz Viognier 200
This range was created to reflect cool grapes from a cool climate. The aromatic varietals seem to flourish better and show more delicacy in the Orange region. The Riesling has always been fantastic. Peter Logan takes his inspiration from Rheingau German riesling...more concentration on delicate mineral styles ...rather than standard over citrus and petrol style Australian style Riesling. The Pinot Noir is a concentrated cherry style from a drought effected vintage. It is a charming easy wine.

Apple Tree Flat Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008 all priced at £7.50 per bottle
Apple Tree Flat Chardonnay 2006
Apple Tree Flat Shiraz 2006
Apple Tree Flat Merlot 2006
The Logan family have a stunning Cellar Door visitor centre and tasting room in the Mudgee area next to the Apple Tree Flat vineyards. These wines are great value and good easy drinking expressions of the area.

The Logan website is very useful for more detailed tasting notes and technical winemaking background. www.loganwines.com.au
These wines are available through a selection of quality wine merchants in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Please contact us directly at www.bellawines.co.uk for details of the nearest stockist.

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Weird Grapes

Date: Tue, Sep 30, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

My neighbours have nearly 30 hectares of near perfect viticultural vines. They work 7 days a week 365 days a year in order to look after the land. They are delightful people, two brothers in their late 50's/early 60's who live in a ramshackle farm house at the top of the hill with their mother(who must be well in to her 90's)!

Their father passed away a few years ago. He was known locally as the 'helicopter man' as he drove around with an open top Citroen 2CV with a large electric fan cooling him down! Sounds like a bit of a character. The family arrived in this area(originally from Spain) with no possessions over 60 years ago. They have grafted all their life and built up their vineyards and never sold anything. They have absolutely no ostentatious trappings of prosperity. They are just very hardworking people who know a lot about the soil, the vines, the winds, the rain, the sun and how to make things grow! ...essentially the most important things in life.
They are old fashioned in their approach to viticulture but they weigh up decisions with 50 years experience rather than the latest fashion.
They pick all their grapes by hand. The picture on the left is the harvest team in full action. I lasted about 15 minutes before I was left behind! They were picking grapes on the vines about 200 metres from our house. I was intrigued to see a mixed block of white and red grapes. Apparently this was the norm 50 years ago when this vineyard was planted. The grapes in the picture on the right (which looked incredibly healthy) are a mix of Listan (white) also known as Palomini Fino and Aramon (red). Look up wikipedia for more info. But these grapes are an essential fabric of the amazing mix of life in the South of France.

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Vin de Merde

Date: Fri, Sep 26, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

A Languedoc producer has recently produced a wine and labeled it 'Vin de Merde'.
He has attracted attention...and he has sold all his 5000 bottles that he produced.
Jean Marc Speziale from Aniane near Montpellier said that he wanted to bring attention to the Languedoc and let people be aware of the hidden gems.
I just think he is an idiot. I have had enough of these stupid wine labels. Cats pee on a goosberry bush Sauvignon Blanc was funny initially. Fat Bastard Chardonnay was also OK. Arrogant Frog and Ribet Red have a sense of irony as the wine is produced by a smart and decent quality French wine producer (at least he has a sense of self deprecating humor).
But 'Vin de Merde'.....is just classless and naff. Or am I just an old fuddy duddy?

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Bella Wines - 2008-09-23

Date: Tue, Sep 23, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

This was an intesting article from The Independant Newspaper yesterday:

British wine buffs rediscover taste for claret

By John Lichfield
Monday, 22 September 2008

Sales of claret have soared largely because of the exceptional quality of the 2005 harvest

Getty Images

Sales of claret have soared largely because of the exceptional quality of the 2005 harvest

Britain is rediscovering its 800 years old taste for Bordeaux wines. After a collapse in sales to the UK five years ago, exports of medium and higher quality red Bordeaux, or claret, are booming – defying the economic crisis which haunts other parts of the French wine industry.

Sales of Médoc and Haut Médoc appellation wines – long a British favourite – have more than doubled in quantity in the 12 months to the end of June. Sales of the higher price "village" appellation wines from the same areas have increased by 28 per cent. Overall exports of Bordeaux to Britain, red and white, have increased by 13 per cent in volume in the year to July and by 52 per cent by value – despite a sharp fall in overall wine exports from France to the UK.

What explains the sudden shift in British tastes? Are UK wine-lovers abandoning their flirtation with "New World" and Spanish and Italian wines and returning to their first love, Bordeaux (a taste established when south-west France was English-ruled in the Middle Ages)? Yes and no. The boom reflects a wider recovery in the fortunes of even the cheapest forms of Bordeaux, which were in deep crisis until a year ago. But exports of medium and higher quality red Bordeaux to Britain, and the US, have exploded in the last year largely because of the near-mythical reputation achieved by 2005 claret, regarded as one of the finest years in living memory.

The cheaper forms of red Bordeaux – and all white Bordeaux – have not benefited to the same extent. They have suffered, like many other French wines, from the collapse of sterling and the dollar against the euro. Total exports of cheap and middle-range French wines have tumbled by 15 per cent this year. It is noticeable, however, that other growing regions – such as Languedoc and Côtes du Rhône – have suffered far more than Bordeaux or Burgundy.

"The figures are very encouraging," said Jean-Philippe Code, chief economist of the CIVB, the main trade body for Bordeaux wines. "Britain is one of our most important markets."

Sales of middle-range Bordeaux wines – those which retail in Britain at between £6 and £10 a bottle, and especially those from the Medoc – were "quite exceptional", up 118 per cent. While cheaper Bordeaux did far less well, partly because of the high value of the euro, the highest-quality Médoc, which carries individual village names and sells at £10 to £25 a bottle, also jumped 28 per cent.

M. Code says the boom can be explained in large part by the "2005 effect". That year's Bordeaux vintage, both red and white, but especially the red, is regarded as the finest for many decades. Though it can be kept, middle-range 2005 Bordeaux is now drinkable and has been appearing – and rapidly disappearing – in wine shops and supermarkets in the UK in the past 12 months. The 2006 Bordeaux vintage is also thought to be very good, but 2007 is considered mediocre.

"It is clear that the French, or some of the French, are beginning to get their act together," said Richard Halstead, operations director for the British marketing company, Wine Intelligence.

"The British love affair with French wine has never really ended. There is a large, educated public in Britain for French wines at a good price, especially wines that will keep and prove to be a good investment."

"All is in the lap of the gods," said André de la Bretesche, director of the association of producers of generic Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur.

"The next two weeks are crucial. If we continue to have fine weather, the 2008 red vintage could be marvellous."

Yes....Bella Wines have some superb 2005 Bordeaux wines available.

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Inside the monster

Date: Sat, Sep 20, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

This is the inside and outside of a grape harvesting machine. In the pic on the right the side hoppers are normally lower down...it was just being cleaned at the end of the day and the kids thought it looked like a monster. The machine is loud and bulky. The grapes are essentially riddled as they pass through the white bars (that look like whalebones) on the left. The grapes and bunches drop down in to the plastic light brown pouches which then transfer the grapes in to the big side hoppers. When the hoppers are full they are emptied in to a trailer and the grapes are taken to the winery.
More and more machines are being used around the South of France and the traditional pickers are becoming scarce.
Some stats:
1.It takes 8 pickers and two porters/tractor drivers one day to pick one hectare of grapes by hand. The grapes arrive steadily at the winery over the course of the day. The grapes will be in good condition (bunches intact)with very little abrasion. Perfect for making wine. Presuming all 10 workers are earning the basic agricultural minimum wage then this is a costly exercise.
2. It takes one man driving a grape harvest machine and one man driving the tractor with trailer approximately 2-3 hours to pick the same area (one hectare). The grapes arrive much quicker at the winery, however they have been severely shaken/battered.

The advantages of hand picking are obviously the quality of the grapes. However the economic advantage of the grape harvest machine are also significant. The machines have certainly evolved enormously over the last few years and they are less hard on the grapes....but there is still a lot of free run juice arriving with the grapes at the winery, which is not ideal when the winemaker wants to control the fermentation more precisely. The other advantage of the machine is the pure speed. The vineyard owner can be far more precise for harvest and also pick all his grapes at absolute optimum ripeness...whereas a team of pickers take a long time to get around all the vines.
I love tradition but these monster machines seem to be taking over.....this machine cost €70,000. The cost/investment should be justified over a five year period.

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Wine Traditions

Date: Thu, Sep 18, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

The harvest has started slowly in the Minervois. After the white grapes were picked there has been a slight lull as the red grapes ripen a bit more. Wine growers just want the acids in the pips and the grapes to ripen a tiny bit more before the main part of the harvest is picked. The roads are all blocked with tractors, trailers and the monster harvest machines as some of the early (softer skin) reds are being picked.
This morning I got in to the office early to get some work done. At 7.30am some friends who work in the winery stopped for their 'breakfast' with their daughter. I was pleased to see that the menu consisted of a baguette, some coarse pate and a bottle of red! Some traditions are superb. It certainly beats a cup of coffee and a bit of toast. At least there were low 'food miles' involved.

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Why is always the most expensive wine corked?

Date: Wed, Sep 17, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

I visited customers last week in England and tasted some fantastic wines.
Decisions now have to be made for pre Christmas orders, so it is an important time.
With one wine merchant I set up a tasting of three different vintages of Chateau Haut Maurac, Cru Bourgeois Medoc. It was really interesting to see the 2003 next to the 2004 and then the 2005. These wines will sell at the important price level between £12-£15.
To review:
2003 Ch. Haut Maurac....very smooth evolved, but very well balanced style. Good depth of spicy blackcurrant and creamy oak harmony. Decanter selected this for Septembers Wine of the Month.
2004 Ch. Haut Maurac....more earthy and classic 'old fashioned' style of Bordeaux...similar to Ch. Cissac. No faults just old style and fleshy rather than soft fruits.
2005 Ch. Haut Maurac....very interesting to try again having tasted several times. Still showing exceptionally well. Absolute perfect balance with super intense deep dark mature fruits and evident oak showing its current youthfulness....this will age for another 5-7 years at least.
Then we poured the 'piece de resistance' a Saint Emilion Grand Cru from the 2005 vintage that we were both really looking forward to...it would potentially retail at £27....IT WAS CORKED.
I know that much has been written about natural corks versus plastic corks as well as alternative screw cap closures....but this was really frustrating. Nobody really knows the true statistics for the percentage of corked wines. Maybe it is 1%, but it could be as much as 5%. What other industry would tolerate this level of wastage/spoilage?? My frustrations are financial! I traveled a long way to visit a good customer and allocated a specific time (9am!) to taste an important range of wines. We were both deflated and annoyed that the sample was corked but we both realized that this is an ongoing industry issue. The wine world evolves and has innovative periods...it has certainly evolved from the time when a rag was stuffed into an urn!...but we still need to do something about cork taint, TCA and corked wines.
However the tasting finished on a high note when we tasted the stunning Mas Amiel Mini Maury NV. (in the picture)This is a rich 100% Grenache wine with a blend of red fruits and a hint of mature dark fruits. If anyone likes chocolate! This is THE wine. A must for the Christmas table this year.

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Mediterranean Diet

Date: Mon, Sep 15, 2008 Wine Tasting Winery Blogs Wine Business

Here it is!!!!!!!!!!!!
A diet consisting of olive oil, grains, fish, fruit and vegetables.....low amounts of meat and dairy and reasonable levels of alcohol are nine per cent less likely to die of heart disease!!!!!!!! Apparently 1.5 million people have been surveyed in order to find this amazing statistic.
More importantly adherents to this diet are 6 % less likely of developing all forms of cancer and the likelihood of being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's is 13% less.
All these stats are from Florence University. We certainly conform to this fresh healthy diet although perhaps I increase the red wine quota from time to time. Well someone's got to look after the 'wine lake'.
As we spend a large part of our time in the South of France we certainly notice the minimal amount of dairy products in the standard diet. It is quite an achievement to find fresh milk locally. However we retain our northern European desire for delicious milk chocolate. Also having a four year old son who survives on Nestle Nesquik powdered chocolate can test the limits.
PS The picture is Max 'guarding' the amazing profiterole wedding cake for Jo and Imogen's great wedding back in June.........it was delicious.

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