3 Aug 2012

Spanish metal (Impressions of Spain)

It was a great privilege to travel through Spain for five weeks and visit the fourteen major wine regions to meet some of the absolute top producers in the country. What an amazing learning experience to not only be introduced to the wines they produce, but also their philosophies, culture and traditions. A lot of this is thanks to Scott Wasley who as I have mentioned is probably the most important importer of Spanish wine in Australia, working with an exceptional range of wines from the worlds largest wine producing country. I was fortunate enough to not only gain an insight into the most premium wines that Spain produces from the source, but also to their generosity and hospitality as many of the producers very kindly invited me to share lunch or dinner with them, and sometimes offered me somewhere to stay which as I have said is such a huge help to me as I am completely self-funding this trip. So from the beginning I would like to thank both Scott and all of the producers who gave me such a warm welcome to their regions and wineries.

Attempting to draw fino from the solera at Sanchez Romate

1 Aug 2012

Sweet tooth (Bordeaux, France - Day Five)

It seems somehow fitting that the last day I will be visiting wineries is spent tasting some of the most famous dessert wines in the world. Graves is in the southern part of Bordeaux on the left bank but a long way from Medoc. It is a special area in the sense unlike other parts of Bordeaux all three of the famous wines are produced here; namely red, white and dessert wines. Red wine is the largest proportion of production, and in fact this was the origin of claret wine. In the original classification of 1855 one red wine was given first growth classification,which was Chateau Haut-Brion. Graves is also famous for the sweet wines, most importantly wines from Sauternes and Barsac which were also classified back in 1855. As you would remember I visited Chateau d'Yquem which is the most famous Sauternes house that has been given special First Growth Superiur status, but there are a number of other first growth estates. The varieties used for these wines are semillon and sauvignon blanc with a little muscadet. The fruit is harvested so late that the berries are botrytised and the sugar concentrated, and it is not uncommon for several passes to be made through the vineyard during the harvest to ensure only the best botrytised fruit is selected. The fermentation is stopped whilst there is still a high level of residual sugar in the wine, which is where the sweetness comes from. I visited two Sauternes estates in the morning and finished the day with an estate in Saint-Emilion.

The many aromas of sauternes captured by Chateau Suduiraut

Lead by example (Bordeaux, France - Day Four)

If you don’t work in the wine industry then Bordeaux can be one of the best wine experiences you can have. For one thing the old part of the city of Bordeaux is quite beautiful and offers many epicurean delights (although wine lists are very inconsistent and of course parochial). There are plenty of places to stay providing your budget isn’t too small, and it is quite easy to get around thanks to the buses and trams. Getting out to the wineries means renting a car or joining a tour which by all accounts are great with some tour being allowed to visit some of the top producers. There are thousands of producers to choose from and they are all relatively close to the city. The chateaus are often beautiful and the cellars are filled with flashy fancy equipment and plenty of new barrels. Speaking personally I find Bordeaux to be one of the most boring regions to visit, in no way impressing me and making very little attempt to impress me. For one the thing they have a very homogenous and flat landscape offering one less influence on the terroir. As I have mentioned in the past fancy wineries and modern equipment don’t offer anything if you aren’t understanding and expressing your terroir well, which in most cases they are not (partly because in my opinion the terroir isn’t that good to begin with). I also feel they aren’t making respectful wines when they are doing pretty heavy maceration and new oak maturation, resulting in wines that don’t begin to drink until many years after they are released. The system of selling also is completely out of touch and arrogant in my opinion. There is a good reason why other regions in France and Europe get frustrated with Bordeaux, but at the same time their influence has been so strong on other producers around the world.

A lamp shade in the shape of the mouton of Mouton-Rothschild