Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

 

As the wine director at Jaynes Gastropub, I am constantly trying to edge people away from the common toward the lesser-known grape varieties and wines. Like pinot noir? Then try nebbiolo. Like Syrah? Then consider a blend from Provence. When it comes to the diners seeking “big” wines, such as cabernet, merlot or malbec, I have one secret weapon and that is Rioja.

Rioja can be either red, white or rosé. The red is made from what I consider to be Spain’s greatest grape, tempranillo, blended with smaller amounts of garnacha, graciano and mazuelo. Tempranillo is a variety that shares some characteristics with nebbiolo and pinot noir: thin-skinned, light in hue yet very bold with the ability to yield highly complex and utterly delicious wines. Rioja is also somewhat reminiscent of French Bordeaux, with strong oak integration, albeit American white oak instead of French wood. In the end, this wine is utterly Spanish and well worth seeking out. Here are a few recommendations:

A 2008 C.V.N.E. Vina Real Crianza is an excellent entry-level Rioja and very approachable when young. The vanilla characteristics of the American oak blends beautifully with the red cherry and berry fruits. This particular wine comes from the Rioja Alavesa region. The Vina Real Reserva is a very modestly priced wine, generally around $16 retail, from a fifth-generation producer. (Available at Bine and Vine on Adams Avenue.)

My all-time favorite Rioja producer is R. Lopez De Heredia from the city of Haro in La Rioja Alta. It makes some of the most traditional wines in the region with 135-year-old cellars filled with cobwebs, spiders and dust, the antithesis of the spit-shined and pressure-washed modern winery. Lopez, as it is affectionately called by American wine geeks, holds back vintages before release longer than just about any other producer and creates some of the most interesting wines in the world, including a 13-year-old new release rosé. The winery’s current-release Crianza is the 2005 Vina Cubillo Crianza, available by the bottle at one of the best wine restaurants in San Diego — Costa Brava in Pacific Beach. Owner Javier Gonzalez and I share a mutual love for this winery.

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Ouch!

 

Unlike most other wine categories, Champagne sales were not sufficiently buoyed by surging demand from Asia and North America to compensate for declining shipments to Europe in 2012. A large share of consignments are Europe-bound and because of this, the economic crisis hit the region with a full frontal attack.

 

According to Champagne marketing board CIVC, sales of Champagne for the first eleven months of 2012 were down 3.8 percent on the previous year. The fall is primarily due to a drop in sales in France – the region’s largest market – where they declined by 5.2 percent to 144.35 million bottles, though also to falling volumes in Europe. Moving annual totals within Europe dropped by 8.3 percent due to markets such as the United Kingdom and Germany. However, Thibaut Le Mailloux, spokesman for the marketing board, said the figures should be put into perspective: “the downturn comes on the back of two years of strong growth that followed the 2008-2009 financial crisis”.

Fortunately, although many of the region’s sales outlets are in Europe, non-EU countries came to the rescue with a rise of 3.5 percent in sales. The Chinese market may well be geared to red wines, the first half of 2012 saw it reach a turning point with China entering the top 10 export destinations for Champagne for the first time ever. Sales surged by almost 100 percent to 947,713 bottles over the half-year. Fellow Asian market Japan also rose significantly (+26 percent) to over 4.5 million bottles.

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Deep discounting over the Christmas period in the UK and France has led to Champagne volume growth in the major multiples but also one bankrupt supplier.

Retailers in Champagne’s two largest markets employed aggressive price cutting tactics to entice shoppers during December, while suppliers of inexpensive supermarket labels struggled to make money as they attempted to absorb the increasing cost of grapes.

The latest figures to be released in the UK show that supermarket chain Asda achieved a 25% increase in Champagne sales over December from an aggressive deal on its exclusive label Pierre Darcys.

Having slashed its price from £23.98 to just below £10 a bottle, the supermarket reported sales of almost 250,000 bottles in a single week in the run up to New Year’s Eve.
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Wine from Rioja.

Wine from Rioja.

 

Rioja is becoming “increasingly polarised” in terms of quality, according to one of the top winemakers in the region.

“Some producers are destroying the image of Rioja by putting Gran Reservas on the market for £8 a bottle, which is stupid,” Jesús Madrazo, chief winemaker for Contino, told the drinks business during a visit to London this week.

“The region is becoming increasingly divided between those at the bottom end producing volume wines, and those who are really serious about quality and terroir,” he added.

Madrazo believes the future for the region lies in the new generation of terroir-focused winemakers coming up through the ranks.
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A good reason to celebrate!

Italy, number one!

Prosecco emerged as the wine favourite among shoppers in the UK at Christmas, with soaring sales of the Italian sparkler reported by Majestic, Waitrose and Tesco.

Tesco said sales of Prosecco in 2012 were likely to be double those in 2011, while Waitrose wine buying manager Ken Mackay reported it as ‘the biggest seller by far’ in a 23% sales surge for sparkling wine over the Christmas period.

Majestic chief executive Steve Lewis told Decanter.com that sales of Prosecco had soared by 55% by value in the last seven weeks of 2012, while Champagne sales were flat and overall sparkling wine sales rose 22%.

Majestic reported overall sales up 5.1% over the same period, with like-for-like sales rising 1.1% – broadly in line with the company’s performance over the rest of the year to date.
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ilus_pano_cava

 

Noel Reid, wine and spirits buyer at Frederic Robinson has said positioning Champagne at prices not far above that of Prosecco or Cava could “very seriously damage the reputation of the entire segment”.

His comments come on the back of the Harpers’ news story on December 19, when Dr Steve Charters MW, professor of Champagne management at Reims Management School claims on the back of the Eurozone crisis the market will not pick up until 2014/2015.

In response from an on-trade perspective Reid said: “I think it is fair that Champagne sales mirror the success or otherwise of our economy at that time.” He added there will always be individual brands that buck the trend due to great marketing or brand loyalty, in other words success stories which you find within any consumer sector.

However, Reid said the fear for Christmas 2012 and 2013 is that retailers will simply “buy” market share with huge price reductions that have a significant impact on sales and can lead to a real worry of consumers believing that the prices are sustainable with clearly they are not.

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From the Iberian Peninsula to Germany, wine growers faced low quantities of grapes and a lot of work in the vineyards.

Europe's bad 2012 Wine Harvest

Europe’s bad 2012 Wine Harvest

Harvest. For winemakers, no other word is loaded with so much potential and anticipation. After a long growing season of endless work in the vineyards, harvest means pencils down, time’s up. And no matter how hard you have labored all year, at the end of the day, nature usually has the last word.

In the last of five 2012 vintage reports, vignerons in key European wine regions are reporting low yields. In Germany, wet weather created constant work in the vineyards. In Austria, Spain and Portugal, drought was the main factor, reducing the crop and challenging growers to nurture ripe, balanced fruit. Quality looks good, quantity not so much. As for final quality in the bottle—it’s too early to know. But here’s a sneak peek.
• Austria
• Germany
• Portugal
• Spain

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