Eimverk Distillery Iceland

Eimverk Distillery Iceland

It’s the holidays and a short break is needed. Unfortunately I’ve chosen the wrong place to look for grapes as I am off to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. This is a breathtaking land of ice and fire: long winters, frozen lakes, spouting hot springs called geysers and big woolly jumpers which dot the otherworldly, volcanic landscape now familiar to all Game of Thrones fans.
 Around three-quarters of the island is barren of vegetation; plant life consists mainly of grassland, which is regularly grazed by sheep (sheep out number Icelanders almost 3 to 1).

Typical view of icelandic landscape

Fabulous vistas

Iceland’s national spirit is Brennivín. Its potency has earned it the nickname ‘black death’. It is a type of schnapps distilled from potato mash and caraway seeds and well known for washing down the taste of the putrefied-shark dish, hákarl. This spirit is only brewed in Iceland and only in one distillery!
 Imagine then my relief when I read that Iceland also has a booming craft distillery culture!!

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The Icelandic climate has only twice in recorded history allowed for decent amounts of grain – first during settlement times, and now, due to global warming. The early settlers grew and brewed barley into mead and ale, and after barley production died down, schnapps or potato vodka became the drinks of choice for Icelanders. Now, with barley production growing again, that equation has changed.
 I contacted Eimverk Distillery ahead of time and they invited me to visit on one of their afternoon distillery tours.

Arriving at the small distillery in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Reykjavik, I was greeted by CEO Halli Thorkelsson, an extremely personable, dry-witted, entrepreneur with a huge passion for his family run distillery.

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The distillery has already received critical acclaim for their gin named Vor, which got a Double Gold Award at the 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

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But we’re not here to just to just praise their gin, we’re here to taste their whisky as well, which is the first of its kind to be made in Iceland.
 What a pioneering spirit they have!
 Halli and his brother Egill wanted to see if they could make their own whisky, just for the fun of it. So they started to experiment with a small still and after more than 160 different recipes, learning the ropes along the way, they found one in 2009 that their friend’s and family’s feedback was worth pursuing.

Everything , since then, has sprung from there.

THE GEEKY STUFF

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Eimverk gets most of their grain straight from the family farm. It’s 100% organic being exposed to nothing but the harsh Icelandic winter. With a shorter growing season, the barley with its low starch and sugar content, concentrates the flavours. The second ingredient, water, is a commodity that Iceland has in abundance and is so pure has no need to be treated – it comes straight from the tap!

Native botanicals


 Halli goes on to explain the inspiration behind their range of gins “Again we wanted to stay true to our heritage and only use native Icelandic ingredients. Vor, their small batch, barley-based, pot-distilled gin contains nine botanicals, wild picked Icelandic juniper, crowberries, birch leaves, thyme, Icelandic sea kelp and organically grown rhubarb and kale.

 

 

One variant is barrel-aged in first-fill virgin white oak barrels to give the gin a slightly woody, smokey character.

The surprise tipple of the day was their very pleasant `aquavit – Viti –

img_0741 dominated by caraway seeds and dill perfect as a digestif and awarded a Double Gold at the San Fransisco World Spirits competition.
 Pall, the charismatic, smooth-talking Sales and Marketing Manager took us through a wonderfully entertaining and informative tasting and tour.

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You get a real sense that the bold, pioneering, yet down to earth nature of Iceland is alive and kicking here at Eimverk. It’s still very early days for this young distillery so it would not be fair of me to compare its products to the more established distillers yet I do believe given time, these super-cool, passionate and friendly mavericks will mature into one of the Iceland’s main attractions.

Whisky

 

Their Young malt is called Flóki, Rating (4/5*) named after the first settler in Iceland and has a toasty, buttery oak aroma and tastes of oak leather and brown bready maltiness with hints of caramel shortcake honey and vanilla.

Their most unusual take on whisky however comes in the form of their “Sheep Dung” Whisky. “We wanted to make a whisky to emulate the peaty flavours of Single Malt but in Iceland we do not have any peat” said Halli “ The water in the ground is almost permanently frozen so it cannot form. The early settlers used to burn sheep dung to generate warmth. This sh*t is really good sh*t!!” He says with a smile. The barley is smoked over the burning dung to give it sweet almost green smokey notes which compliment the intensity of the barley. You may even find vanilla and white pepper.

Three farms Bjamholt Farm Eimverk family farm where they smoke their sheep dung for the smoked barley reserve  , Porvaldseyri Farm and Sandholl Farm

 

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FLÓKI – ICELANDIC SINGLE MALT WHISKY. Rating (4/5*)The distillery , for the first time in Iceland , has a 3 year old Single Malt. Their Single Grain Icelandic Whisky was released in a limited bottling in November 2017. Carefully distilled and made from 100% Icelandic barley and matured on ex-Young Malt barrels which have been mellowed by the maturation of our Young Malt.

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3 year old Single Malt,Rating (4/5*) Single Grain Icelandic Whisky will be released in a limited bottling of our very first 3 year old casks in November 2017.

Carefully distilled and made from 100% Icelandic barley and matured on ex-Young Malt barrels which have been mellowed by the maturation of our Young Malt.

Gin

 

 

VOR – SMALL BATCH
 (L) Rating (5/5*) Vor, Icelandic for spring is a premium pot distilled gin from a 100% Icelandic barley base.

In a delicate third distillation native botanicals are added to perfect an authentic taste of Icelandic summer.  Juniper Berries, Rhubarb, Crowberries, Angelica Root, Birch Leaves, Creeping Thyme, Iceland Moss, Kale and Sweet Kelp 100% are all grown locally and complement each other to produce a fresh and vibrant gin

Vor is a New Western style Gin with heavy botanical notes that compliment the sharp notes of juniper and the sweetness from our barley base.

VOR GIN – BARREL AGED RESERVE
 (M) Rating (4/5*) A special reserve edition of Vor Small batch gin which has been aged on new wood american oak barrel for a sweet and smoky gin with intense botanical notes.

This is truly a whisky drinkers gin as it is made from a new whisky base which is then re-distilled with our selected native botanicals’ and oak rested for a period of 2 months.

Perfect for sipping neat on the rocks, for martini’s or for an intense gin and tonic.

VOR GIN – SLOE STYLE RESERVE
 (R) Rating (4/5*) Following the tradition of Sloe Gin making in UK we have developed an Icelandic variation by using the available native berries. mixing blueberry and crowberry juice for a sweet and subtle sloe style gin. Perfect for sipping neat or in various cocktails.

 

Viti Brennivin

 

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VÍTI – ICELANDIC PREMIUM AQUAVITE
 Aquavite Rating (5/5*) also called Brennivín in Iceland has a dominant flavour of caraway seeds and is the traditional spirit of Iceland.

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Víti is triple pot distilled using a small batch distilling unit. This method gives a truly unique spirit base from the Icelandic barley and allows all essential oils from the native botanicals to be carefully preserved during the distilling process.

Visit Aquavite for more info on Víti Brennivín.

 

 

 

So the tasting with Pall went through 3 whiskeys and 3 gins as well as the aquavit. I wasn’t quite expecting the sheep dung to taste as it did- slightly reminiscent of soil and not at all smokey. Probably a lesson that I learn from wine tasting is never believe what you’ve learnt or what your heart says – taste and assess.   The sheep dung whiskey was smooth with a gentle earthiness. This was a great addition to the distillery. The three year old (a first for 🇮🇸) was smooth also.

 

 

 

So as you can see from the photos that were taken over a four-day period Iceland is something else. You have all of natures wonders at your doorstep. Only 3 hours from London , probably 5 from New York and all set in spectacular scenery. Not many places encapsulate all that Iceland has to offer  – rugged landscape, world-class restaurants , cultured, cool and trendy and welcoming people. Surely a bucket list country.

 And don’t forget the Northern Lights!!! 

Music Pairing for Eimverk Distillery – Enjoy sitting in a club chair, a favourite glass and fill with Folk or Vor – relax and press play !

TGW

 

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Welsh Wine, yes Welsh wine at it’s best – and its delicious!

White Castle Vineyard Ltd
Llanvetherine,
Abergavenny,
Monmouthshire.
NP7 8RA

White Castle Vineyard is owned by Robb & Nicola Merchant and is situated in the beautiful rolling countryside of Monmouthshire in the village of Llanvetherine – Southern Wales. The 5-acre vineyard is planted on a south-facing slope that is ideal for growing vines and ripening grapes for this part of the country. Usually northern hemisphere vineyards need SE facing. Currently, in the UK we have close to 400 producers with 27 in Wales (2 even in Scotland)

Robb and Nicola
View down to the Barn from the vineyard

Most of the vineyards in Wales have an area just under 1 x rugby pitch size (1ha) for their vines. Whitecastle has just under double that. Not a big size by modern day standards but a great feat considering the attention it has received in recent years. Its reputation has been steadily increasing largely due to supplying major supermarket/s and producing some pretty good wines!

As well as tending to the vines Rob has also been busy restoring a 16th century Croft Barn with Lottery Funding. Seems he never stops!

After exhaustive research into vineyard management the owners decided on the most suitable grape varieties for growing and after farming the land and planting the vines the first harvest was available in September 2011 two and a half years from the initial planting (2008) 

The first harvest gained the vineyard Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) from Wine Standards, allowing the produce to be labeled Welsh Quality Wine. This is the top standard for UK wine and a great accolade for a 1styear of production.

WANT TO KNOW More. I can send you a fact-sheet about the quality control of wine. Email me thegrapewizard@gmail.com

When the vineyard reaches full production it should have the capacity to produce 12,000 bottles of wine a year, including sparkling wines.

Here is just a selection of wines from the vineyard.

Fortified Wine 1581 £25.00

Grape: REGENT

Tasting notes

Fortified wine. Deep Ruby in colour with a fragrant brambly aromas. The palette is Rich, round and smooth

Pair with Cheese, after dinner or alongside dessert.

Pinot Noir Reserve 2016 £25 

Grape: Pinot Noir 

Light and ruby coloured with a hint of vanilla, red currants and red cherries on the nose. On the palette is a big smack of blackberry and smoky vanilla

Pair with lamb, fish or pasta – might even suit Carpaccio of Ostrich!

WHITE WINE 

Gwin Gwyn 2017 £15

Grape: Phoenix and Siegerrebe 

A gentle “sniffy sniff” on the wine immerses yourself into a glass of floral elderflower with ripe citrus fruits.

Lemons
Elderflower

Pair with shellfish such as oyster’s prawns lobster and any fish with a hard back!!

Sparkling white 2015 £30.00 

Grape: Phoenix 

An elegant Brut made in the Champagne style. On the nose it has hints of elderflower and gooseberry. A delicate mousse worthy of a champagne house Biscuity aromas 

Pairing: most appetizers. Try it with fish and light. Toast with it before or after a meal. 

ROSE 

Rose 2013 £13.50

Grape:  Pinot Noir, Rondo and Siegerrebe 

Dry delicate rose with a hint of strawberry and summer fruits. Good acidity and very refreshing.

Perfect for a summer party on a hot summers day. This is a fabulous aperitif that can be enjoyed all year round 

Whitecastle also offers an option for members to plant One option for members is to plant a vine scheme. You can choose 1 of 5 grape varieties for 12 months. Rewards include: a personal certificate of adoption with a plaque with your chosen name placed on the vine. A tour of the vineyard for 2 people included with a glass of wine. An invite to the harvest to handpick the grapes, and a bottle from your adopted vine to take home. A great service and a revenue steam that will prove invaluable if an operation like this is to survive

2018 has seen an unprecedented year for yields on UK vineyards . This has been an exceptional year. Near perfect growing conditions created a bumper harvest. Whitecastle was no different . Harvest was on 27thSeptember with high yields and lasted till 21stOctober. Should be an interesting next 12 months  for the vineyard !

Both Robb and Nicola have been nominated for a few awards, this year, most notably The Rural Business Awards for Wales and Northern Ireland 2018 and were one of the finalists in the Best Rural Drink Business.

It is fabulous to see a UK vineyard and more importantly a Welsh one doing so well in the marketplace. It is testament to the hard work and dedication that all producers put in to produce a product that 10 years ago would have been ridiculed. Robb and Nicola are passionate about this venture and when I saw Robb at the WineGB event, showcasing his wine, he was very personable and spent an inordinate amount of time talking to me. I know this vineyard will go from strength to strength. The varietals may not be to everyone’s taste and consumers may not know what Rondo and Siegerrebe are but they are delicate and balanced. Think of Rondo as an alternative Pinot Noir.

To learn more please go to either www.whitecastlevinyard.com or visit my website (www.thegrapewizard.com) email me thegrapewizard@gmail.comand ask me any questions. Sign up if you want to receive an article every-time I post.

Photos courtesy of Whitecastle vineyard

Elegance, romance and a surprise ending on a trip to the opera and a vineyard. A visit to Fumane di Valpolicella, home of Allegrini.

TheGrapeWizard @ Allegrini
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Dramatic skies over Villa del Torre

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The (hazy ) view looking down onto Valpolicella country

So finally Summer is here and I am off on a long awaited trip to the open air opera festival in Verona. This was a trip that had been on the bucket list for quite some time, not just because of the world class opera but because Verona lies in the heart of the Valpolicella region, east of Lake Garda and west of Venice in Northern Italy. The hilly agricultural and marble-quarrying region north of the Adige is famous for wine production and is home to Italy’s, most famous, most celebrated, biggest and boldest wine – Amarone.

We chose to stay in a most welcoming Agroturismo, atop a hill just south of Verona. It was a well established place attracting both local and tourist custom. With its own organic winery and well run kitchens, breakfast and lunch under the shade of the vines was a most agreeable experience.

So after a couple of days squeezing in everything Verona had to offer; culture, opera, gelato, long evening strolls around town doing “La Passeggiata” moving gracefully as only a Brit resembling A Man from U.N.C.L.E. can do – the morning finally came when it was time to look beyond the city walls.

The countryside around Verona has some of Italys oldest wine production, established in the 16th century to quench the growing thirsts of the Italian Nobility. Words such as Negrar, Soave, Bardolino and towns that included the word “Valpolicella” litter the map. As a sight-seeing destination for wine buffs and amateurs alike, this region does not disappoint. Ancient terraces of vines, studded with cypresses and historic hilltop villages. Personally, I find this region rivals the more feted Tuscany in terms of prettiness.

Our destination was the picturesque village of Fumane di Valpolicella, home to a foremost Amarone producer the Allegrini Family who have been producing wine for over four hundred years. Its vineyards span 247 acres or 100 rugby pItches of vines. They produce their flagship wines of La Grola, Palazzo della Torre and La Poja from four Vineyards each showcasing different styles; .Corte Giara is their young, easy drinking wines, Poggio al Tesoro produces more restrained, elegant wines and San Polo the perfect terroir for Sangiovese grapes producing wines with great finesse of fragrances and elegant flavours. Allegrini also purchased the Villa Della Torre estate in the heart of Fumane di Valpolicella which now serves as the official Headquarters of its operations

The red wine known as Valpolicella is typically made from 4 grape varieties. Click on 4 grape varieties (below) to learn more. These grapes produce a variety of wine styles including a Recioto dessert wine and Amarone, a strong wine made from dried grapes.

Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Molinara.

The most basic Valpolicella Classicos are light, fragrant table wines similar to Beaujolais nouveau and released only a few weeks after harvest and not for ageing. Valpolicella Superiore is aged at least one year with an alcohol content of 12 percent. Valpolicella Ripasso is a form of Valpolicella Superiore but made with partially dried grape skins left over from the fermentation of Amarone or Recioto.

Amarone della Valpolicella, usually known as Amarone, is a rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina and other approved red grape varieties (up to 25%).

The afternoon of wine tasting at Villa Delle Torre kicked off with a tour of the house and gardens with a glass of the Estates cool, crisp Soave in hand before retiring to a barrel-vaulted wine tasting room for the main event – a tasting of five of their fantastic wines accompanied by hunks of salty aged Parmesan and fresh local bread.

GW Tasting Notes:

SOAVE 2017

Grapes : Garganega and Chardonnay
Straw yellow in colour and the nose reveals notes of white flowers followed by fresher jasmine flowers and a crisp and delicate citrus vein.

GW Score 4*

VALPOLICELLA 2010

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 70%, Rondinella 30%
Ruby red in colour, the nose shows notes of cherries, echoed by fresher hints of pepper and aromatic herbs. Whilst young it is lively and playful – delicate later on.

GW Score 4*

PALAZZO DELLA TORRE 2015

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 40%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 25%, Sangiovese 5%
This wine is elegant good aroma. Ruby red in colour with purple hues, it offers hints of raisins, vanilla, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon. Soft and velvety tannins with a long finish. The delightful aroma of raisined grapes is enhanced if the wine is served at 18° C in a large wine glass.

GW Score 5*

AMARONE 2014

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 45%, Corvinone 45%, Rondinella 5%, Oseleta 5%
Vintage 2014 began with a mild winter. From April onwards, the weather started to get progressively worse, culminating in a surprisingly cold and wet summer. Meticulous trimming and selection was necessary at harvest time to select grapes of sufficient quality. Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Oseleta are left to air dry at least until December and are then checked daily to ensure perfectly healthy grapes. This wine has structure and depth and shows mature fruit and spices – good acidity and smooth tannins.

GW Score 5*

Give this region a try and find something “just off the beaten track” that you just wouldn’t normally experience. Who wouldn’t like a christmas pudding in a wine or cracked black pepper smattered all over a dark red ! Valpolicella is is now a top ten region for me.

Click on 4 grape varieties (below) to learn more 

Corvina Veronese, CorvinoneRondinella, and Molinara.

Music Pairing 

Herbie Hancock – Gershwin’s world

🍷 The Grape Wizard ratings 🍷

5* A must buy – don’t miss it.

4* Invest in this cheeky bottle for something different

3* ‘A middle of the road’ pleaser

2* Under average. Disappointing.

1* Do not go near this one – avoid at all costs.

Oatley Vineyard (UK)- A vineyard with a small footprint and a big heart

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Oatley Vineyard, Oatley Lane, Cannington, Bridgwater, Somerset TA5 2NL, UK,

wine@oatleyvineyard.co.uk

+44 (0)1278 671340

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Now there’s a famous saying that you shouldn’t mention politics and religion in the same sentence whilst in the presence of friends. Times have changed…. In the run up to the exit of Europe we should be discussing and lobbying the Government on this fragile but very successful industry. Not only do we had 397 vineyards ( 27 in Wales.) But we are not currently championing home grown talent. When was the last time you went into a pub and had the choice of ordering extensive UK wine. Where is the loyalty ! Who wouldn’t want to pay £14.99 (retail) for a UK produced wine. Just this weekend (28/10/18) i went into a farm shop and although they had some UK wine and spirits products IT was a poor advert for a great industry.

British sparkling wine , however, has seen a resurgence in recent years and has even taken on Champagne producers and sparkling wine estates with great effect. UK wines are on the cusp of becoming notably international. Always been the country that produced laughable wine. Now we are a force to be reckoned with. 2018 has seen a bumper harvest. (UK Report )

Oatley vineyard is one such place. Great vineyard producing fabulous wines

Jane and Ian(below)

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upsticked in 1985 from west London and moved to Somerset – Investing not only a new life but also £350 on a 1951 Ferguson T20 tractor.

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What a beauty ( not the exact one but you get the idea ! )

Having had a few facelifts in its long life they used the tractor to help sow the seeds          (sorry!) for the future. In the initial days both of them worked long hours and sacrificed blood ,sweat and tears.  Vines soon flourished and 3 years later (usually the time it take vines to produce fruit (grapes)), on the 5th November 1988, the vineyard came alive.

In the early days the reward for helping with the harvest was bread and cheese for the harvest workers, now its a 4 course meal with the estates wine. Just shows how far the vineyard has come !

The vineyard is situated in the SW on England , just south of Wales. It is only 1 Ha or 2.47 acres or 1x International sized rugby pitch

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(If you look at the top right of the photo you’ll see the vines)

The vineyard aims to use very little herbicides, using good husbandry to minimise the need for fungicides. To produce dry wines that reflect the vines, the place and the year both Jane and Ian

–  use minimum intervention winemaking and low levels of sulphur;
–  use lower weight bottles to keep our carbon footprint low;
–  use high quality traditional corks to help maintain the important mixed cork oak ecology in Portugal;
–  sell mainly directly within the southwest of England: low “wine miles’;
–  maintain our old vines in good health for as long as we can, keeping our traditional aromatic vine varieties;
–  promote biodiversity by letting our alleys come up to seed in May and June, letting our hedges grow and maintaining a wild area next to the vineyard
–  stay small and make only wines that we like to drink, from vines tended mainly by our own hands.

Their philosophy is to manage the vines meticulously so as to minimise disease through vine management and minimise artificial controls. They use no herbicides and promote biodiversity and try to have a low carbon footprint (see points above)

click to see more about carbon footprint and to see what yours is

Most years they produce two dry white wines from their two grape varieties. Kernling and Madelaine Angevine

Kernling is a white grape variety, which originated from mutation from the grape variety Kerner. Whilst Madeleine Angevine is a white wine grape from the loire valley in France. It is also popular in Germany, Kyrgyzstan and Washington State,USA. Madeleine Angevine is a fruity wine with a flowery nose similar to an Alsatian Pinot Blanc. It is crisp, acid and dry and pairs particularly well with seafoods such as crab and oyster

Oatley Vineyard’ Range  – Leonora’s and Jane’s.

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“Leonora’s” wines are dry and elegant, similar to a dry Riesling in style. They can be drunk young but develop in the bottle, showing complex honey

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overtones when approaching four years old or more. made from Kernling grapes, a first cross from Riesling that ripens to pink – it is the pink clone of the better-known Kerner grape.

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“Jane’s” wines, from golden Madeleine Angevine grapes are light and crisp with a flower-scented nose

and citrus notes, sometimes with a hint of elderflower and on the finish, gooseberry. Delightful as an aperitif,  for a party, in a summer garden or just for a refreshing glass at home. Best drunk young and fresh, within 2-3 years. Often likened to a restrained Sauvignon Blanc in style.

Elizabeths2015

Every now and then they produce a blend of the two varietals, named “Elizabeth’s” after their daughter. These wines, when available, make good wines to pair with food with the structure of the Kernling coupled with upfront fruit from the Madeleine,

Oatley has one French oak barrel, hand-coopered by Master Cooper Alastair Sims. It is light-toasted and fine-grained – from the Tronçais forest – for subtlety.

A small amount of wine was used to make barrel matured wine between 2010-2015. From 2016 onwards a new barrel was used , a barrique from Seguin Moreau of Cognac, known as a “Fraicheur”, made especially for light varietals, with fine grained French oak staves, very light toast and heads made from acacia rather than oak, to add a little brightness to the flavour. In 2016 they won a trophy for their endeavours (see link below)

Oatley even picked up a trophy at a recent competition. Please click to see more !

Their winemaker is Steve Brooksbank, at Bagborough, near Shepton Mallet where he destems, crushes and presses the grapes for Oatley.  Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. Which lessens the influence of oak – so wine is clean and fresh. They also use lighter weight, (400g) bottles to keep our wines’ carbon footprint down. Everything that they do at Oatley is for the sustainability and the lesser impact on the environment

A very noble thing to do.

The Grape Wizard Geeky stuff

In 2011 EU wine legislation went through a few changes and there are now 4 distinct categories of wine that all vineyards have to adhere to if they want to put certain descriptions on the label          Click here for more info !

PDO

PGI

NON PDO/PGI still wines (Varietal )

NON PDO/PGI Sparkling wines (WINES)

Oatley vineyard has the honour of having all its wines at PDO level. English Wine PDO is the highest quality standard for English wines. English Regional Wine PGI is of similar technical standard but can include wine from hybrid vines and wines with no, or little, added sulphites.

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) denotes

• Quality and characteristics that are essentially or exclusively attributable to the geographical environment in which it is produced

• The grapes have been grown exclusively in the defined region (ie England/Wales) and are only of the Vitis Vinifera genus

• The production of the wine takes place in the defined region (England/Wales)

Wines will be labelled English (or Welsh) Quality Wine.

Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) denotes

• Wines produced under this scheme must possess a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics attributable to the geographical origin

• At least 85% of grapes used for its production have been grown in the defined region (ie England/Wales), with the rest from the UK, and are of the Vitis Vinifera genus or a cross of Vitis Vinifera and another genus of Vitis (therefore allowing hybrid varieties such as Seyval Blanc)

• The production of the wine takes place in the named area (England/Wales)

Wines will be labelled English (or Welsh) Regional Wine

NON PDO/PGI still/ sparkling wines (Varietal )

This category sits above basic uncertified wine. Successful application for this status allows the wine producer to state the cultivar and vintage on their label e.g. ‘Bacchus 2015’.
Where 85% or more of the grapes used in the wine are of a single variety then it is permissible to show just that variety. If more than one variety is stated then all varieties included must be shown in descending order of percentage. In either case at least 85% of the grapes must come from the stated vintage.Use of the protected term ‘English’ or ‘Welsh’ or ‘English Regional’ or ‘Welsh Regional’is NOT permitted on labels.There is no testing requirement for this status.

Can be labelled as ‘varietal wine’.

NON PDO/PGI Sparkling/still wines  (WINES)

This wine has not passed through one of the above categories in the UK Quality Wine Schemes and does not have to have been tested.

Labels should be kept plain and refer to the product simply as ‘white wine’ for example. Use of the protected term ‘English’ or ‘Welsh’ or ‘English Regional’ or ‘Welsh Regional’ is NOT permitted on labels. Statements of vine variety and vintage are NOT permitted on labels. There is no testing requirement for this status.

Only Wines and Quality Sparkling Wines that have passed through the appropriate wine scheme are permitted to indicate vineyard name.

In order to gain PDO and PGI status wines are required to pass independent assessments after the wine has been bottled.   Applications will be swiftly processed, enabling producers to market and sell their wines efficiently.  All successful wines will be listed on the UKVA website, enabling trade and consumer customers to verify the wines they buy. Consumers and trade buyers are therefore assured that there is a system in place to ensure quality standards are met every step of the way.

Producers that opt out of putting their wines through the scheme may use the term ‘English (or Welsh) Wine’ on the label but other information is restricted; for example vineyard location cannot be included.  The term ‘Table wine’ has now disappeared.

TheGrapewizard Vintage Notes for Oatley Vineyard

2014 was a top year  Lots of grapes and fruit ripened sufficiently . Almost no pests and an early harvest. Some would say it was a stress free year !  Jane’s 2014 was awarded a Silver Medal in the Summer 2015 UKVA competition.

2015 Colder than 2014 ,  difficult year to ripen grapes  The grape sugars were ok but failed to colour up and the acidity was high.  Madeleine was good but the Kernling lacked intensity in the mid-palate. Decision was taken to blend the two varietal wines and producer 2015 “Elizabeth’s”.

2016 was a dream year for vine growers with rain and sun in all; the right places.  “Jane’s 2016” was very popular

2017 Spring frosts with warm dry summer let to lower than expected volumesThe Jane’s 2017 will be released in early summer 2018. The Leonora’s 2017 will be cellared for a year or two.

So Jane and Ian have kept what they believe to be true. To keep their integrity and to showcase their wines in the environment that they are grown in . Wines are sold locally, farming practices are always in the continuing improvement of the estate and only make wines when they believe that  any of their 3 wines are at their best. Using their two major varietals to make a third wine when they can’t  or don’t want to use Madelaine or Kernling is a good marketing tool. Although small they seem to be vert adept at getting the most out of the environment. Its testament to their ideals and beliefs.

I think if they made a sparkling wine they would do rather well at it.  I hope with the bumper harvest of 2018 great things will come from the estate.

GW

all photos with kind permission from Oatley vineyard

Modern opulence at Louis Roederer. May 2018

TheGrapeWizard at the doors of Louis Roederer

I was lucky enough to be invited to the amazing Louis Roederer estate in Reims last month, late May 2018.  Getting up early is never easy , but 4.30 AM is great time for the soul.  No Commuters, birds tweeting, the world waking up and life just about to start for the day.  Just a shame I had to walk to the Underground with my eyes shut!

No problems on the Tube and everything at Customs went quickly and efficiently. On the train, the usual business meetings are happening with lots of convivial chatter.   As I take in the Kent countryside swooshing past the window, I feel a sense of jubilation.  Louis Roederer has been on my radar for a while and finally I am on my way.  So I begin to wonder, despite the hour, if a glass of Champagne when I am offered is in fact appropriate.  I refrain this time – its still a little early. even for the GW!

It’s all thanks to Alexandra at Maisons Marques et Domaines (LR Distributor in the UK), that I am finally ticking this House off my “Tours at the Most Coveted Vineyards” bucket list.

Upon arrival  I am greeted warmly by Maria at L.R.  who gives me a fun-packed tour of  the Headquarters and what a great experience it is!  I feel like I am the kid that won the golden ticket touring the Willy Wonka factory!

It’s so great to learn more first hand about a world-class producer and especially one so respected by the industry itself.  There are many producers making unadventurous, bland champagnes for the mass consumer.  But LR is not one of them.  LR produces special wines with distinctive characteristics. What a pleasure to be here!

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Louis Roederer is now managed by the seventh generation, led by Frédéric Rouzaud and is one of very few independent, family-run Houses remaining today, producing over 3.5 million bottles and shipping to over 100 countries.

 Starting out as Dubois Père & Fils in 1776,  Louis Roederer inherited and renamed his Uncle’s House in 1833.  In contrast to the practices of his time, Louis decided to invest in his own vines with the idea to master the end to end process of creating vintage wines.  Owning his own vines gave him control of quality and led to particularly distinctive characteristics, establishing L R’s reputation as one of Champagnes best producers.

By 1876, production had reached 2.5 million bottles, 10% of total production of Champagne and exporting had begun to Russia.  Viewed by many as the world’s first prestige cuvées,  Cristal was in fact created at the request of Tsar Alexander II, for exclusive consumption of the Royal Household.  It remained exclusive until 1945 when Cristal was first launched commercially for the rest of the world to enjoy!

Back in 1876 and as the political situation worsened, the Tsar feared assassination and requested that his Champagne was bottled in clear glass so that he could see the bubbles and prevent anyone hiding a bomb in the punt (GW note: a punt is a Champagne bottle’s characteristic bottom recess or hollow).   Louis Roederer commissioned a Flemish bottle maker to create a clear lead glass Champagne bottle with a flat bottom and its why today the bottle is still wrapped individually in its now distinctive yellow cellophane to protect the wine from UV light.

 From the acquisition of those first 15 hectares of vines in the Grand Cru vineyards of Verzenay in 1845, LR’s vineyards now stretch across 240 hectares or just under 600 Rugby sized pitches.  All their vintage Champagne originates from these vines  – 410 individual parcels of land to be precise.  Their distinctive characteristics are very much a product of thr provenance of each vineyard as they are able to

choose the very best grapes from any of the 3 main areas of production depending on the success of the season.

The Montagne de Reims, The Vallée de la Marne, and The Côte des Blancs. (see below)

champagne-guide-map-social-2

Their Champagne involves all 3 classic grape varieties

  • Chardonnay for its minerality, finesse, and elegance;
  • Pinot Noir adds structure, complexity and is useful for ageing;
  • Pinot Meunier brings harmony and softness and a hint of rustic to certain cuvées

 

Last but not least the WINES !

Here I’ve listed my top 4 wines from LR. There are of course more wines to the estate but the ones that stand out for me are highlighted below.

Brut Premier

The freshness, finesse, and brightness of Brut Premier makes it the perfect wine for festive occasions. Its is structured, rich and has a good length.

 

After the upheavals of the First World War that destroyed more than half of the LR estate, Léon Olry Roederer reconstructed the new vineyards by buying grapes externally to ensure survival of the House during this difficult period.  He created multi-vintage wine with a consistent flavour, whatever the harvest year.

It is now called Brut Premier.

A blend of around 40% Pinot noir, 40% Chardonnay, and 20% Pinot Meunier. It is aged for 3 years in LR’s cellars and left for a minimum of 6 months after dégorgement (Removing frozen yeast after second fermentation in the bottle )

Louis Roederer Vintage

In my opinion, their flagship Champagne which best represents the LR terroir and the finesse, purity and precision of their wine-making skills is Louis Roederer Vintage

 

 LR uses the structure and power of the Pinot noir grapes from the Montagne de Reims (see map) to create its Cuvée Vintage. Exposed to the north-east, the grapes mature more slowly on the vine and the character of the wine intensifies and becomes more refined through ageing – if the vines were exposed to the South East it would be perfect aspect for the grapes to grow. Hence the slowing down of the maturing process

Composed of around 70% Pinot noir and 30% Chardonnay, 30% the Vintage cuvée is generally matured on lees for 4 years and left for a minimum of 6 months after dégorgement (disgorging) to attain perfect maturity.

The palate is characteristic of LR’s vintages:  a rich and winey fullness is refined by the sweetness, acidity and tight blend of the Pinot noir grapes of Verzenay. Tasting reveals sparkling suggestions of candied fruits, almond paste, toast, white chocolate, and caramel

Blanc de Blanc Vintage

This Champagne is pure and bright. Its contrasting tones range from an intense, chiselled acidity to the supple lightness of notes of fresh hazelnuts, almonds, and white flowers with accents of acacia, broom, and honeysuckle.

 

From 1830 onwards, the House of Louis Roederer acquired extensive knowledge of the terroirs and plot-by-plot vinification. Louis Roederer selected two exceptional Grands Crus: Mesnil-sur-Oger and Avize producing taut, highly aromatic wines that have finesse.

 

100% Chardonnay, the Blanc de Blancs Vintage cuvée is generally matured on lees for five years and left for a minimum of 6 months after dégorgement.

In the mouth, the attack is typically Chardonnay—it is smooth and delicate, and markedly sweet. Slightly sweetened floral notes and white fruit and dried fruit notes are combined with the almost chalky minerality of the Côte des Blancs.

The texture has notes of sugared almond, a sensation that is strengthened by a soft effervescence that envelops the mouth. This is followed by an impression of finesse, elegance, and freshness, strengthened by suggestions of fresh mint and basil.

CRISTAL

Cristal is both powerful and delicate, combining subtlety and precision.

LR’s most famous wine was created in 1876 to satisfy the demanding tastes of Tsar Alexander II. The emperor asked Louis Roederer to reserve the House’s best cuvée for him every year. To distinguish this cuvée, this exceptional champagne came in a flat-bottomed, transparent lead-crystal bottle. The new brand was named after this precious material, which is particularly transparent and luminous.

 

Produced uniquely during the best years, when the Chardonnay (around 40%) and Pinot noir (around 60%) grapes have attained perfect maturity, Cristal is aged for 6 years in LR’s cellars and left for a further 8 months after dégorgement.

Cristal is a remarkably balanced and refined champagne. It has a silky texture and fruity aromas, complemented by a powerful mineral quality with white fruit and citrus notes. Cristal is a wine that keeps well: it can be conserved for over twenty years without losing its freshness and character.

THE 2002 HARVEST

2002 was an extraordinary harvest, in which all the criteria for a great vintage in Champagne were met: temperatures were uniformly warm, without excess sun or heat, with a markedly mild winter and a slight shortfall of rain during the growing cycle.

This is regarded as the best year in the last 20.

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Cristal 2002 £279.20 Amazon.co.uk

BUY BUY BUY!

GW BEST CHAMPAGNE VINTAGE YEARS

BEST to worst

1990, 1996,1985,1988,2002

1995,1982,2006,2008,2004,1975,1998,1979, 2005

1989,2007,2000,1999,2003,1976,1997, 1993

1986, 1992,1983,1994,1987,1991,1984

If you want something special go for the top row  , something more affordable is 2nd third and fourth row.

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Line up of tasted Champagnes

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In Bottle form !

Sadly due to last-minute events, just before I arrived the – Chef De Cave – Louis Roederer’s Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon was unable to have an interview with Me. I am still hopeful and have submitted the questions for Jean-Baptiste to answer on his return

Stay tuned for interview when it’s posted.

Below are question submitted but not answered

GW: Name one thing that you haven’t accomplished that you would like to
GW: Name one champagne other than your own which you like and why –
GW : If you were to keep a memento of your favourite bottle of Champagne –  , what is the best way to remove labels from the Bottle and what would the Champagne be ( If it wasn’t one of yours)
GW : What do you think of the English and Welsh sparkling wine industry.
GW :Name one thing that scares you !
GW :Wine is so much better enjoyed if paired with music. What song/genre would you pair with
The Louis Roederer Estate of wines
Slide1
GW :What are you drinking at the moment
Slide2
GW:What wine would you like to try that you have’nt ,or a wine that you want to invest in?
Slide3
GW:Who is the person/persons you most admire and why
GW: Whats going on in the estate in the month
And finally no GW article would be complete without a music pairing.
A delicious glass of LR Brut Premier goes very well with a spot of Keith Jarrett.
Salut!  GW.

 

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Harry Megan : must have Wedding tipples !

This weeks article will be a short one. I’m currently in Champagne and Alsace conducting 2 interviews for the website and I thought it would be a good idea 💡 to publish a short piece on the big day for the reluctant royal 👑

Prince Harry and Megan get married tomorrow and there seems no better way to showcase British alcohol 🍷. Both wine and spirits.

We currently have 124 wine producers in 🇬🇧 and some are more prominant than others

Three that stand out for their style passion and popularity : Camel valleyHattingley Valley and Black chalk

£25.16 with a case price from camel valley

A fresh and fruity fizz, perfect for all celebrations. With English hedgerow scents and a touch of honey 🍯 on the palate.

 

A limited release, this wine is a classic blend of grapes from their vineyard. It has a fine mousse with soft approachable fruit with a delicate oak character.

£80 direct from producer.

The use of oak barrels provide this wine with depth and complexity. The result is a fruit driven, perfectly balanced, crisp English sparkling wine.

£35 direct from producer.

 

Links to producers can be seen above

If you don’t fancy sparkling wine why not try some cocktails 🍹 to while away the 10 hours of 📺 your about to watch.

What better way than to enjoy the “ginger cocktail” and the “absent father” cocktails

Cocktail 🍸 courtesy of Diffords

‘Dirty Harry ‘ ginger martini 🍸

Recipe

————

1½ shot vodka

2 unit London dry gin

Use your favourite gin if you would like !

2¼ shot Sake

¼ shot Monin Pure Cane sugar syrup

Method

————

MUDDLE ginger in base of shaker. Add other ingredients, SHAKE with ice and fine strain into chilled glass.

Garnish with a ginger slice on rim

Lightly spiced with ginger, distinctly oriental in character

“Absent father ” cocktail 🍸courtesy of the drinks mixer.com

1 oz. Bulleit rye

0.25 oz. Dillon’s absinthe

0.1 oz. Fernet Branca

1.5 oz. cold brew coffee

0.25 oz. simple syrup

2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake over ice. Cinnamon stick and mint for garnish.

So what ever your drinking this weekend. Make it a celebration of this couple. Enjoy the 🌞 and toast this couple to a long and happy life.

“And if your reading this Harry I’d be happy to have an interview with you, of course when things have quietened down. “

Just mail the wizard 🧙‍♂️

For the rest of my loyal followers please email me if you need any help or advice with choosing any 🇬🇧 wines

Email me

En Primeur 2017 – A GrapeWizard insight!

Every time at this time of the year we see hoards of wine buyers and wine critics trekking down to the Gironde in Bordeaux – Moleskine in hand , full of previous years grape notes and baguette stuffed full of ham and cheese – 🥪 Ready for the onslaught that is Bordeaux En Primeur

buyer-debate-2

And Them !!

Ready to taste arguably the worlds best wines. En Primeur is a funny old thing.

It’s like buying a flat or house off plan (wine is in the barrel and a price is set for investors and consumers to purchase. Months later the wine is placed in bottles and the price is re-assessed.) In all this time critics and producers rate the wines – influencing the price up or down. Do you buy or choose something else. What is the best Chateau for the year and can i get my hands on it ?

 

Want to see my last article on 2016 ?

 (Click here to see 2016 En Primeur) 

 

Wine critics and Producers normally have a consensus on the very best years (1982, 1990 2000 2005 2009 2010, 2016 ) . These are the best years to get your wines from – but it will cost you !!

A few years ago Lafite Rothschild was trading at £22000 a case. Some months later it was down to £14000. – if you were an investor that was bad news. It shows how much is at stake if you make the wrong choice or buy at the peak of the value price. Chateau Pavie, by comparison was raised in the upper echelons of ‘Class A’  St Emillion classification (explained) – as a result bottle price went from. £300 to £1300. For the investor this is good news for the consumer not so.

The secret is finding out which producer has excelled in that particular year.

2017 was not without its problems though as various wine critics have stated :

 

Will Lyons(L) of Berry Bros has stated that the “wines are lively and fresh and are possibly not of the quality of 2015 or 16” (9/10’s in the wine world – 2005 and 2000 would be a 10) Bordeaux yield (grapes grown) is also down by 40% on 2016 equating to a loss of 300 million bottles.

Jancis Robinson (M)highlights that there was a small crop this year (supported by Lyons ) that was at least 45% down on last year, that the growing season was “pretty good” but that 80% of the top wines from the best producers were not impacted by frost. Very good year for Pauillac, St-Julien, St-Estèphe. Bulk wines went up and top wines prices stayed static..

She believes that almost all of the top and very good wines are not affected. Good for potential investors.
JamesSuckling.com (R) states “The quality of 2017 is much better than most people might expect… it’s not in the same league as the outstanding 2016 and 2015 vintages.”

He scored some of the wines from the great names of Bordeaux – 96 to 99 points. The 2017 vintage underlines that vintage variations among the top wines of Bordeaux

GW Tip

So you have to be very careful when choosing to invest or to enjoy the wines by comparable years. So safely assume 2017 to be a 7 or 8. Kind of really good but not exceptional or outstanding. Not as good as the last two years but no far off.

Chateau Andulet and Chateau Climens wiped out complete stock and have stated that no production occured. A result of the frost.

All of this seems quite negative news there is some positive -the frost that seems to have attacked so much of Bordeaux seems to have affected only Côtes de Castillion-Blaye,  St Emillion and Pomerol. Only small areas and not the big swathes of the heartland of Bordeaux

The frost seems to have crossed the Gironde and affected up to 1 km inland. See Gavin Quinneys map below

005481_maps_final_921-630x695

CouGavin Quinney

Please click on each map to see how close the frost got on the 2017 growing season . Any vineyards that are 1km from the river are vunerable to damage. Be cautious .

 

View the map below and use the red amber green spots to warn you of what to not invest in and what your safe with !

bordeaux-wine-map

 Avoid Côtes de Castillion blaye and lesser top chateausred-horse-dot-m_2778460a

Chateaus close to the gironde (within 1km)- See Below

Grand Puy Ducasse (St Estephe)avatars-000076718647-ptllos-original

Coufran (haut Medoc)avatars-000076718647-ptllos-original

Ch. Malacasse (Haut Medoc)avatars-000076718647-ptllos-original

Ch. Delamarque (Haut- Medoc)avatars-000076718647-ptllos-original

Ch. Leovill – Poyferre (choose wisely) avatars-000076718647-ptllos-original

Green GreenCircle-56a87e193df78cf7729e54d9   Click here to see a list of top Chateaus largely unaffected by the frost

So vineyards that fall into the red dot are producers to very carefully consider not investing in

Vineyards in the Orange dot fall in the danger zone of the frost of 2017 – research very carefully

Vineyards that fall in the green dot require very little research as 80% of the top chateaus had no problems whatsoever.

So the most important thing to understand is what wines are investable what regions are the right regions for climate over the growing season and which ultimately will mature over 10+ years. So far 2016 and 15 are better than 17 and for that reason demand will not be as high as the previous 2 years.

d’Yquem 201798-99
Latour 201798-99
Cheval Blanc 201797-98
Château Suduiraut 201797-98
Cos d’Estournel 201797-98
Ducru Beaucaillou 201797-98
L’Eglise Clinet 201797-98
Lafite Rothschild 201797-98
Lafleur 201797-98
Margaux 201797-98

taken from James Sucklings website En Primeur 2017

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So just by giving two examples the consensus is not universal – it is merely subjective. If i highlight 6 critics you would probably find different conclusions to the vintages .

If  everyone rated exactly the same that would be boring !

If you keep a close eye on the market and the ongoings with potential sales of Chateau’s classifications and what producers are doing  you can get a fair indication of what might happen. That is  the time to invest. In the last year I have invested £2500 and made £500 on that  Most of the wines have not matured yet or are on the cusp of the maturing window. Not bad for a beginner….

GW Investment tips

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2017 Leoville Barton(no prices released as yet) (2016’s price was £370 /6 outstanding value

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2017 Decru- Beaucaillou (no prices released as yet) (2016 £142.00×6 =£852 )

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2017 Chateau La Fleur-Petrus(no prices released as yet)(2016 £158×6 = £948)

If your feeling brave ………..

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2017 Chateau Angelus, St Emillion (no prices released as yet)(2016 £298×6 =  £1788)

and the outsider

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2017 Chateau Clinet (no prices released as yet)(2016 £78×6= £468)

Whether you have a preference for one wine critic or another the best thing a wine investor/consumer is have some affinity with their chosen critic. It is important that you believe in the tastes and experience of your chosen taster. Whether it be status  or the way he/she writes one thing is important is that you have that relationship.  Hundreds of critics exist out there  some notable examples are :

What ever your choice do it because you like them !

If you are going to invest in this year , be cautious. There are a lot of fabulous regions waiting to be discovered  – not just bordeaux

Washington Wineries, USA

Oregon Wineries, USA

Alsace wines , EU

Wines of Great Britain, UK

All these areas offer good value for money and have a diverse range of tastes and styles. something for everyone. Explore and transport. Its so cheap to do so

Remember its your money Have fun with it . This could be the new pension . Wine is in demand .

Wine Investment

Stick to a few rules and you can’t go wrong !

Enjoy the Journey !!!

GW