Please remember to approach the world of wine responsibly
HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE GRAPE
I thought to finish I'd include an article that was published on Jancis Robinson's website.
What made me fall in love with wine? I'd say it was the result of two very different things. Firstly, Napa Valley and secondly, Sherlock Holmes!
It was 1990 and I was working in the old Abbey National Bank headquarters that were on Baker Street. In fact the vast building covered what would have been 221b, home to the fictional detective. Part of my job was answering letters that fans from around the world sent to Sherlock Holmes and I was given the title of, 'Secretary to Sherlock Holmes'.
The majority of the letters that arrived came from the U.S.A. and I joked with a colleague that a tour could be organised to talk about the job to fans of the great detective. The response I received was a raised eyebrow rather like Roger Moore as James Bond and a rather loud tut like a disapproving teacher.
Three months later I was in San Francisco, coming to the end of a two month lecture tour about being the Secretary to Sherlock Holmes (I have always found disbelief a great motivator when organising something) when a couple came up to say hello. During the next few moments they changed my life forever.
Asking me if I would be up for adding another date to my lecture tour I asked them what they had in mind. They told me that it was a place about an hour north of San Francisco called the Napa Valley.
'They make great wine up there,' my host informed me.
'You mean like Paul Masson's Californian Carafes?' I replied, not wanting to appear gauche.
The slight laugh, snort and the willingness of my host to repeat my comments to anybody who would listen informed me that I had made a faux pas akin to wondering why John Wayne had never performed Shakespeare.
'Of course I'll come and do the talk,' I quickly responded trying to dig myself out of an obvious hole. 'Perhaps I might try some of this Napa Valley stuff?' How sophisticated I was in those days!
Times and lifts to Napa were arranged for the next day, and finding myself at a loose end I went to a nearby bar in Union Square.
"Could I have a glass of wine from the Napa Valley?' I asked confidently, feeling that this would be easy. Surely they only made some red, white and a blush for the lightweights.
Thirty minutes later the bartender had not only speedily told me about some of the different grape varieties that flourished (I use the word deliberately) in Napa, he'd also informed me about his favourite wineries and thrown in the odd bit of gossip about which owner's son was going out with which winemaker's daughter.
'I thought they were called vineyards?' I didn't want to sound like an idiot.
'That's what you European's call them. They do and say things a little differently in Wine Country,' he smirked and to this day I don't know if he was insulting me.
As if by magic a glass now appeared and various selections that he thought might be of help with my Napa Valley eduction were poured. The Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc was an eye opener and unlike anything I'd tasted up until that point. The years I tasted are lost to me now because I was new to this wine lark and didn't know they were important. It had a beautiful viscous fruity quality that made me quickly drive the memories of thin, insipid Paul Masson into the outtray in my brain forever.
The bartender didn't let my taste-buds rest for a moment and a small glass of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was placed before me.
'It's like chewing a barrel,' I told him.
'You don't like it? That's the Napa style. Make your Chardonnay's so woody you could build a log cabin with them. By the way, this winery beat the French in a blind tasting!'
'Really?' I sagely nodded, not knowing what the heck a blind tasting was, but pleased that people who couldn't see were given a chance to taste wine.
It wasn't that I disliked the oaky taste, it was just so new to me, and as I took a couple more sips I realised that it was a taste I actually enjoyed.
There were others that I tried that night, including a Cabernet Sauvignon from 'up valley' and something he told me was called Zinfandel. Each tasted better than the last, was intriguing with a growing complexity that now made me eager to go to visit this 'Napa Valley'.
I still remember my first visit, as the rolling pastures of the Carneros (it didn't seem as cultivated to the same extent in 1990) gave way to millions of vine rows to the north of the city of Napa before stopping at the beautifully small town of St. Helena where I was staying. The thing that blew my mind then (and still does when I visit now) was the smell of sunshine gently baking those ripening grapes.
Among the many highlights were the private tours of Inglenook, Spring Mountain where they filmed a show called, 'Falcon's Crest' and brief stops to sample the latest vintage accompanied with a quick gossip from knowledgeable pourers.
A picnic at V. Sattui, a brief tour of the Alexander Valley and an evening spent tasting and growing my meagre knowledge back at my hosts home also laid some of the groundwork for the start of my love affair with this region.
I have since been back many times, have named my daughter after Calistoga (for which she was honoured by the then mayor) and continue to seek out and collect wines from the area, but nothing will ever be as memorable as the first time I was driven up the Napa Valley with the sun beating down and the heat kissing the skin of those lovely grapes.
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With each edition I wonder about what
There's the Finding Nemo game that involves taking a drink when Dory forgets something and bloat bloats among other things.
There's a Harry Potter drinking game and you have to take a drink when Harry has something explained, you see his scar, Hermoine breaks a rule or Ron eats something. If I remember my Harry Potter well then that could involve a lot of drinking.
The final one I'm going to mention is one based on the boardgame Monopoly. I'm not a fan of this game and you probably drink to forget, forget that you're playing an awful game. Among the drinking rules for this are that you have to take a drink when someone lands on your property, ttake two drinks if you land on go and of course you must take a drink if you land in jail, although having watched a lot of prison films I'd hate to think what sort of hootch you might have to pout down your neck.
My thought naturally lead me to wonder if there is a wine drinking game out there, and I thought that it might be fun to invent a rudiementry one that you readers could add rules to as you thought about it so here goes.
I thought that if one hears the words micro climate that should merit two sips, if you have to buy somebody a trendy gin then you had to finish your drink (if you go out with the trendy gin brigade then you deserve all you get) and finally if you get through an En Primeur campaign without buying a single recommendation from the hundred or so merchants who claim to have inside knowledge, then you need to open a fine Champagne and celebrate the fact that you've avoided becoming part of the annual wine stampede that exits out of Bordeaux.
I would love to hear from you if you have any other rules to add to the game, and before somebody complains I am once again advocating sensible drinking and not just drinking to be mad or embarrassing.
So what is in our next edition?
Well the first piece of shock news is that plans have already been made and it only remains for the articles to be written.
Since the Guru and I will be making a return visit to California, we decided to make that the focus of the August edition. We've been going since 1990 and feel that it is time to look at how the Napa Valley has changed in that time.
I'll be dropping in on Corison Winery where I'm hoping for a meeting and a chat with the wonderful Cathy Corison. There's a visit to Tim Mondavi's excellent Continuum Vineyard and a bucketlist trip to Ridge HQ in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Guru will be reviewing trips to various wineries that were visited and telling us about various wines he tried, I'll be travelling to Mendocino in the hope of finding a place in wine country that is 'like it used to be', and I'm hoping to be able to drop in on a couple of the Ma and Pa wineries that I've read about.
There'll be visits to Sonoma, among which will be the wonderful Russian River Vineyards. I last tasted their wines about two years ago and I'm looking forward to how their wines have grown since my last chat with the head winemaker Giovanni Balistreri.
`15 QUESTIONS' will feature Grant Ashton, owner of 67 Pall Mall and don't be suprised if there is at least one other `15 QUESTIONS' from a prominent wine expert. Plans are afoot over who it will be.
I'm looking forward to popping in on Sutter Home (birthplace of the white Zinfandel movement). We'll see how they are managing to survive among all the boutique wineries and the absentee owners.
In addition, `THE RANDOM SIX' will features a variety of wines from Spain (which we will try on your behalf during our travels) and in oue `TASTE' section the wines of California will round off the edition nicely.
Can there be any more I hear you ask? I would reply that of course there can, but as a lot of it is in the planning stage I don't want to promise something that we cannot deliver.
So, hopefully there will be something crammed within the pages of Winefullness that will prove of interest. We hope that you'll stick around, enjoy and continue to give us your support.
Don't forget that you can subscribe to Winefullness (details on the next page). It's a good way to make sure that you don't miss a thing.
THE NEXT EDITION IS OUT
So apart from a page about keeping in touch, subscribing to Winefullness and a copy of the previous edition that is almost your lot! Well not quite, because we've still got to plan our summer holidays.
The Guru and I were wondering where we could go for our next Winefullness trip and decided to just `throw a dart in a map of the world'. Once we ruled out an exploratory visit to the vineyards of North Korea we thought that we might need a brief but more considered approach.
If you live in the United Kingdom and want to include viticulture into a vacation you have vast choices. Let's not include a trip around the vineyards of southern England because it's excellent but the weather just cannot be trusted. So where else is there?
Somebody once said that wine never grows in an ugly area and I think this is a philosophy we should all adopt when it comes to choosing where we holiday. This, of course, makes the choices even harder, but I feel that all you need is a car (always remember to appoint a designated driver) and a little adventure.
Spain is always a popular destination, and if you're heading near Barcelona you have Cava country on your doorstep. There's also the beautiful Priorat wines to be tried and I would always try to include this. If you are a jetsetter and venture to Malaga, not far away are the historic bodegas of Jerez where Sherry is in its natural habitat. Rioja can be difficult to reach, but if you can make it you are sure of a warm welcome.
I know a lot of people head to Italy, and wherever one stays there is sure to be a wine region on your doorstep. Without too much effort you'll find Chianti Classico in Tuscany, Primitivo and Nero D'Avola in the south and Barolo, Prossecco and Gavi in the north. If you also think about the wonderful food, how can you be on to a loser?
France is almost the same as Italy with the visitor being really spoilt for choice. The wine names are often familiar, but a Chardonnay from Burgundy can be so different from other areas of this huge country. You just have to let your tastebuds dive in!
We're All Going On Our Summer Holidays
Visit the Gironde and you have the wonderful wines of Bordeaux, Provence is generally Rose´ country and let's not forget Champagne (where you can pick up a few real bargains). Like all the areas I'm mentioning, each one could be the subject of several articles and I reiterate that I'm lightly touching on just a few.
If you're adventurous then California is full of viticultural excitement, Australia produces Shiraz that excites the pallete and can be smelt from about ten feet and there's more to New Zealand than Rugby, Hobbits and Sauvignon Blanc.
Thinking about the New World, there's South Africa, Argentina and Chile to add to the list, but wait. There are so many places that we could go to that have wineries to visit, wine to taste and great food!
I suppose that if you're going to Antartica you might be lost for a vineyard to visit, and as I write this I'm expecting emails telling me about a daring Chateau on an iceflow that is working it's magic with icewine.
For those who cannot be bothered, why not stay at home, pick a different country each week and then try as many great wines as you can. Simply prepare the right meal, and if you're buying into this why not watch some of the cinema from that country (easy with California, but I'm not sure my Hungarian will stand up if I decide on an evening tasting Tokaji)!
So, after a little deliberation over a bottle of Petit Shirah we've decided that we're heading back to California for the next edition!
`Somebody once said that wine never grows in an ugly area'
`I'm not sure my Hungarian will stand up if I decide on an evening tasting Tokaji'
A final piece of silliness from the United Kingdom. 'Majestic Wines' has decided to change its name to 'Naked' in the hope of halting growing losses.
Now to me it is obvious that this sort of name is designed with the young and the trendy in mind. Most people I know who are over fifteen look towards the heavens when they hear the word 'Naked', as though they want the ground to swallow them up.
Now this is where is all gets a little strange because while Majestic are desperately trying to chase a young market, guess what? Young people are drinking less and less!
When was the last time you actually saw somebody in an actual wine shop (not supermarket) who was being asked for proof of their age, and I don't mean the person who was delivering the post?
So Majestic, stop it this instant! Don't get to worked up about a market that thinks the height of sophistication is a bottle of gin that is shaped in a slightly provocative way.
Your market is already walking through your door and if you treat them correctly, continue to let them taste, discuss your wines and stock a wide range of product they will continue to support you and buy more in the long term.
To paraphrase Sacha Lichine in the Winefullness interview, you might not sell that strange shaped bottle of gin, but you will sell more wines in the long run, and just what is so majestic about the name 'Naked' anyway?
The Road to Enlightenment
The Road to Enlightenment
WINEFULLNESS: 'Is there a myth about the wines of Thailand that you wish to dispel?'
SUPPACHED: 'That the grapes first introduced to the Kingdom of Thailand, when it was still called Siam, were from the court of Louis XIV.
'To become a Monsoon Valley wine today, we have asked for a royal concession from our beloved late King Bhumibol Adulyadej to employ his experiments in growing Shiraz on sandy soil.'
WINEFULLNESS: 'Do you consider your wines to be food friendly?'
SUPPACHED: Yes we do. Our wines are made to be a kind of staple with Asian cuisine, especially Thai, and hot dishes.'
WINEFULLNESS: 'Which wine is Siam Winery at its best?'
SUPPACHED: 'Our Monsoon Valley Shiraz. It's another interpretation of Shiraz that is aimed to accompany Asain cuisine. It is a kind of a light to medium bodied red, and packed with flavours. Soft with silky tannins.'
WINEFULLNESS: 'Is there a chance that viticultural tourism in Thailand will grow?'
SUPPACHED SASOMIN: 'Not exactly in the sense of a 'wine route'. In Thailand there are only a few wineries with only about three being close together. Thus, there is not a well-established wine route. However, vineyard visits are quite popular and for the Thai people the vineyard and winery tour is an attraction they enjoy. It can be just for quick refreshment, a meal, a photoshoot and then they move on.'
WINEFULLNESS: 'What was the last book you enjoyed reading?'
SUPPACHED: 'Finance for the Non-Financial Manager'. It sounds weird obviously, but it really opened my eyes with regards to numbers, and it makes me think of sustainability in terms of business and wine production. I used to make wines just for pleasure and passion, but now there are lots of discussions and field research going on to find out the most suitable grapes and vineyard practices to make a business sustainable while still offering great wines.
'Otherwise, 'Alex Ferguson' by Michael Moritz.'
1)Tell me about Domaine de Baccari
Domaine de Baccari is the fruit of a dream and a passion for wines that my husband, a surgeon, Amine Bahnini, and I always shared. After long years of planning and of discussions, it was in 2013 that we decided it was the right moment for us to make use of our vineyard in Meknes for producing the right wines according to the standards we envisaged as consumers and producers and constructing our green field cellar.
We wanted authentic Moroccan wines that are of high quality, with a round, crispy taste, meeting international standards and evoking the identity of our terroir and expressing our farming philosophy in biodiversity and social commitment.
In order to do that, we had the chance in partnering with the world-class renowned winemaker Stephane Derenoncourt who confirmed the qualitative potential of the soil. He was, and still is, essential with his team in setting up the winery and the whole production of winemaking process, and conducting the vineyard based on our common vision for sustainability, organic farming, ethical labor practices, and the best methods in the industry.
From a story of a couple seeking to produce their own wine as a testament to their passion, to the vineyard of my husband’s origins, to the Phoenician wine-making methods of my homeland, to the smell, color, and taste of our elixir, Domaine De Baccari is a not just a wine, it’s a regal for all senses.
2)How has the outbreak of Covid 19 affecting your business?
As you can imagine, COVID 19 has caused harmful disruption to our trade, especially with the interruption of logistics, the reduced mobility due to total lock down, the closure of restaurants and retail outlets… Having said that, Domaine De Baccari has not furloughed or laid-off any of its employees. During the whole period we continued caring, working and attending to the vineyard.
3)Are people amazed when they found out that wine is made in Morocco?
Yes, people at large in general. And they are even more amazed when they find out that there is a woman behind involved. But I think it serves us in a good way, to break the misconceptions and biases. It also creates a nice surprise to have a good wine from other than the typical origins, especially as we have chosen a grape variety and a blend which is unusual in Morocco and even in Europe, the cabernet franc and the syrah.
4)At Domaine de Baccari you grow such a diverse range of corps. Are the reasons for this financial or for the health of the soil?
This is a good point. It all has to do with the soil, the climate, the grapes, and the required quality of the wine. At the end, the financial aspect should come as a result of your pursuit for excellence, and not as an end by itself; you can only sell what you are convinced of. And it has to be perfect or close!
5)What makes people receptive to trying the wines of Domaine de Baccari? Is it reputation or a spirit of adventure?
I think it is a combination of many things. Wine lovers and connoisseurs are experimental, and they like to try new wines. It’s the passion, the adventure, and the story behind our wine and of course the reputation of Stephane DERENONCOURT… And I think that we have gathered some good reviews by now from people who have tried our wines, from all the medals that we have earned and all the salons in which we have participated, which is creating a sense of assurance and quality, and which makes more people curious about trying Domaine De Baccari.
6)The wines of Morocco are closely linked with the wines of Europe, but are there an attempt by the winemakers of Meknes to establish its own identity?
Although our winemaker in Domaine De Baccari is French and our wine-making process is compliant with European standards, you can notice a unique taste in our wines especially the Reds and the Rose’s. Wines of Meknes have a unique bouquet, unique flavors, and carry their own identity. It is true that they can be reminiscent of some South European wines, but the wines of Meknes do have their own character eventhough winemakers are mostly Europeans. The difference is that unlike in big European producing countries, we still lack an official standardization and labeling body by the authorities, to help create individual identities due to social religious reasons related to alcohol. In Morocco which is unfortunately not much known there are refined wine connoisseurs!
7)What makes you laugh?
I like your question it makes me smile, but what mostly make me laugh is my husband’s jokes that only him and I understand (sometimes).
8)Which wine typifies Domaine de Baccari and which vintage should the buyer be on the lookout for?
I can think of two: “Premiere De Baccari Red” aged in oak barrels, which not only marked our debut, but also has a very marked taste on the palate, vintage 2013 which was our first baby. And “Premiere De Baccari Rose” which was our first Rose and noticeable from its exclusive bottle designed by Chantal Thomass.
9)Is it possible to visit Domain and do you see a growth in interest in the wines of Morocco?
We are welcoming visitors to our Domain coming from all over the world, Australia, Us, France etc, for an educative visit and wine tasting and we even have a rudimentary small dining area perfectly suited for an authentic degustation and to experience a food menu with wine pairing. The food comes mostly from our permaculture garden in which we have a large variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits.
As for seeing a growing interest in Moroccan wines, I believe that there is a long way to go, liable to a lack of enough international promotion and marketing, distribution for exports, and facilitation for conducting business. It is sometimes stressful to see the undermined potential of some of the good wines here.
10)You put a lot of faith in the use of Amphorae. What do you think that these bring to the wines of Domaine de Baccari?
Amphorae usage is one of the oldest methods in wine-making. Not only is it symbolic of a historic process, but it also provides perfect natural conditions for preserving the wine – which is a natural substance itself – for oxygenation and temperature. It even gives the wine a unique earthy aroma.
11)Is it possible to escape from winemaking?
It is more than a job. It’s a passion, it’s a lifestyle, it is nature and a permanent reminder of your roots. The question is: do you really want to escape it?
12)What is your favourite time of the day?
Every day is different. It’s the time when I am sitting by the pool after a working day and having my first sip of wine after a cold beer. It’s the time when we have finished a long day of manual harvesting from early morning and then sitting in groups and watching the laborers (including my daughters) taking turn in sorting the best grapes before crushing. Or it’s that time of the day when I have fed my cats and finally had a moment to read a book in tranquility.
13)How do you feel the future will affect Domaine de Baccari?
I would have loved answering this question by a straight : yes I know, in fact I cannot predict how our business will ultimately progress, especially as a boutique winery, but what I look forward to is that we continue producing this wonderful wine without having to change our philosophy and without having to concede for the exceedingly commercialized international wines.
14)What are you doing to combat climate change issues?
This is indeed an urging and sensitive question that we take seriously. There are many production layers, and we make sure that in each layer where we can make a difference, we make the least impact. We practice responsible planting without pesticides or herbicides, and we spread mulch between the vine rows to keep the soil’s humidity; we value the water and for this reason we irrigate in the night starting the month of July. Our grapes are hand-picked and not mechanically (ideal both for the environment and the quality of the wine); the bottling is from the best bottling company in Europe which are under strict European emission regulations; we don’t use synthetic corks for our bottles; and our ageing happens in natural French and Austrian oak barrels as well as stainless steel tanks. Ultimately, the carbon footprint of the wine-making cycle generally has the least percentage in the wineries.
15)Which questions do you wish I’d have asked you, and how would you answer it?
I would have liked you to ask me about where to find our wines. My answer would be: either by visiting Domaine De Baccari, or by contacting us directly for wholesale, to find out the nearest outlet where you can try our wines. And there is one bottle which we would like to dedicate to you to sample, with our compliments and it is the Première de Baccari 2013.
Testa has developed a reputation for interesting wines served in a location that hugs closely to a pretty lake, and as I leave my car for the tasting room I notice a group of elderly ladies taking a painting class before lunch. I hope they're doing landscapes because if it's nudes I'll send them scurrying away.
The tasting room bar is one of the smallest I've ever encountered and is manned by a young lady who is working here before college starts (is this the norm in Ukiah?).
She pours wines with a silence that shouts volumes. Where are the tales of family, the stories of history and the pairing tips?
I actually found most of the wines that I tried were a little pedestrian until I sampled the 2015 Petite Sirah and a wine they simply call 'Black' which appears to contain several varietals and I would call 'Mighty Fine'. Testa has now taken a step up the tasting scale and I can why the place is garnering such positive reviews.
WINEFULLNESS: 'How do you see your business growing over the next few years?'
SUPPACHED: 'I don't think we will grow our business drastically. We are more about trying to educate wine consumers about Thai Wine Culture and trying to gain more of a reputation among Thai people for the coming years.'
WINEFULLNESS: 'What is your favourite time of day?'
SUPPACHED: '4-8pm. It is a time when we gather together, either cellar crews or family. With my family I enjoy cooking and drinking. We spend quite a good amount of time in the kitchen.'
WINEFULLNESS: 'What is the point of different when it comes to the wines of Thailand?'
SUPPACHED: 'Of course there is a question of why Thai wine at all? Even though they are made out of mainstream grape cultivars, they may taste differently to what you know. We do have our unique terroir. Our Monsoon Valley wines are made to respect the espression of terroir and pruity of fruit, yet that are suitable for Thai and Asian cuisines
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Nelson Family Vineyard - Sauvignon Blanc 2018
This was a little gem that I found while waiting to visit somewhere else, and while the colour was clear and pale, this didn't mean that the wine was weak and pathetic.
It's fruit forward in an arresting way that almost cleans the palate. I found this a very easy drinking wine and that was why I enjoyed it so much.
Wines of Yorkshire
Dr. Jelena Havelka
'In thrket. '
'Our wines are made to be a kind of staple with Asian cuisine.'
North, South, East & West
The Wines of Yorkshire
GONZALEZ BYASS PORTFOLIO TASTING
Dr. Jelena Havelka
They Make Wine Where?
Portfolio Tasting 2020
WINEFULLNESS: 'Is climate change becoming a problem for you?'
SUPPACHED SASOMIN: 'We conduct lots of field research, and carry out microvinification programs such as grape breeding and trellis management. Also, in terms of winemaking practices we have explored and adopted different conventional winemaking techniques used in the old world. For example, back in 2016 we harvested our Shiraz under a heavy rain and I had to adopt the Italian Repasso technique to cope with the unhealthy skins.'
As I study this interview, look at their website and try to gather information about the Siam Winery I feel excited by the potential that lies in their grasp. I don't know if they will ever take on the 'Big Boys', but I feel there is a determination that they are going to do their best. The market they are entering can be a difficult one to gauge, and if anybody is going to decide the course of Siam Winery it is the Thai consumer with their seemingly wary attitude to the positive nature of Thai wine.
If that battle can be won, then we are at the beginning once more, because getting the rest of the world to accept Thai wine might involve making a wine that Thailand finds too tannic for its own palate.