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15 May 2014

Focus on Families - Luigi Bosca Argentina

When wines from South America first began to make their presence felt on the world stage,the charge was led by Chile during the 1980s. Argentina was a huge producer which concentrated primarily on the home market with traditional wines that were not generally well-suited to the export market. Meanwhile Chilean producers were modernising and exporting wonderful wines to the UK and USA. However much has now changed and Argentina is rightly recognised as a grower and producer of high qualilty wines at a range of prices from mid-market upwards. Mendoza and Malbec may be what it is best known for, but the country's production is much broader in both grape varieties and geography,extending as it does from Patagonia to Salta in the north and from Bonarda to Torrontes.

The Arizu family is one of many producers with a long tradition of making wine, which began in 1901 when Don Leoncio Arizu founded Bodegas Luigi Bosca. It is however,more than one hundred and ten years on,one of the few still owned by its founders: the continued development of the winery is now in the hands of the fourth generation of the family. Tradition is combined with innovation. For example in 1989 Bodegas Luigi Bosca was instrumental in the establishment of the first Argentine Controlled Denomination of Origin, Lujan de Cuyo in Mendoza. Their D.O.C Single Vineyard Malbec, from the eighty year-old vines of the Vistalba vineyard, was one of the first single vineyard Malbecs in the country.  

A great strength of Luigi Bosca is a combination of a certain size with their family independence. The seven vineyards they own around Lujan de Cuyo amount to more than 700 hectares and are planted with varieties brought from Europe in the 1890s; they also grow Torrontes in Cafayate in the province of Salta. This means that they are able to control and constantly develop the quality of their wines at very competitive prices. Irrigation is provided by the pure meltwater coming off the Andes and the family grow their vines according to biodynamic principles, although they do not have certification. Testament to the quality and value of their wines is the fact that they export around 60% of production and are present in about 50 countries, the most important being the UK and USA, as well as in the premium part of the Argentine market. For some great pictures, go to their website.

We wish them many more generations of success!

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Thank you!

Chris Burn

Category: News
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posted by Love Your Wine
8 May 2014

Schild Estate - A Family's History

When Ben and Alma Schild bought the Three Springs Farm in Rowland Flat,in 1952 they probably had little idea of what it would become. Today it is one of the largest privately owned vineyards in the renowned Barossa Valley region and a leading light in the growing and making of top quality wines through sustainable agriculture. The location in the Southern Barossa means that the site benefits from a cooler climate, which means that the grapes ripen more slowly, and so develop concentrated flavours and an elegant balance of acidity.

The Schilds practise what is known as micro-blending, to take account of the patchwork of different soils in the vineyards, so that the harvest from different plots within a vineyard will be vinified separately, according to soil-type. This approach applies then equally to single varietal wines as well as to blends such as their delicious Grenache Mourvedre Syrah - known as 'GMS', made from hundred year-old vines that are hand-picked.

Small wonder then that they earned this accolade from Wine Specatator in February 2013:"Schild's entry-level Shiraz has all the stuffing of a blue-chip bottling, but sells for a fraction of the price. The winery is able to achieve this because it's one of the largest independent growers in the Barossa,with more than 400 acres under vine."

The recent changes to their labels depict scenes relating to the family's life and history since 1952. When Ben died suddenly in 1956, it fell to Ed, as the youngest and only one of eight children still at home, to pick up the mantle. He was sixteen years old.The hands on the new GMS label represent the three family generations involved in the business so far.

He steadily increased the size of the family property to today's holdings of over 450 acres under vine. Production increased from 450 cases in 1998, the year in which the Schild Estate label first appeared,to 50,000 cases in 2011,so Ed and his wife Lorraine's family of four children have certainly been busy! In 2010 their own on-site winery was opened and the following year they released the first estate-grown and bottled vintage. 

Category: News
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posted by Love Your Wine
13 March 2014

2012 Vintage in Burgundy

2012 Vintage in Burgundy

In our second look at the 2012 vintage, it's the turn of Burgundy, as we look at another  region renowned for great wine in a year of difficult weather. In part this is to give a guide to some of  the wines we tasted at a trade tasting last month, but also to illustrate again the important point that generalisations can be misleading and that plenty of good wines are made every year – by the people who know how.

It’s easy to overlook the fact that viticulture is a branch of agriculture. This is why skill and experience are so important. In ‘ growing wine’, making wine and ageing wine, there is at every stage a multitude of possibilities open to the producer who is interested only in making high quality wines. Your independent wine merchants and importers seek out the best of them every year.

And so it is with the 2012 vintage, for which weather conditions were generally difficult. However the kind of top growers that we favour produced high quality wine, although inevitably in much lower than normal quantities. The reds are characterised in general by delicate but well defined, lively fruit , with good acidity levels, fine tannins and already quite good balance, with considerable ageing potential for the very high quality wines. Many whites are already attractive and developing good balance, with good ripeness, acidity levels and appealing fruit, from fresh citrus to the richer, peachy end of the range. Again at the higher end, the wines will develop substantially as they age.

At the more affordable price levels, some of the white wines which were already drinking well were Christophe Cordier’s Bourgogne Blanc Vieilles Vignes, Macon Fuisse and Pouilly-Fuisse, which were developing some nice body and richness, as well as being very fresh – the Macon had only been bottled 2 weeks earlier. Patrick Javillier’s Cuvees are favourites for their excellent value, since they are great quality but sell for quite a bit less than his Meursault wines. Still ‘En Primeur’, the Cuvee des Forgets was very fresh and will develop nice fruit, while the Oligocene already has some richness and his Meursault Les Tillets is already drinking beautifully, with fresh acidity and soft oak combining with some ripe fruit and good texture.

In reds there were some excellent ‘generic’ Bourgognes at the lower end of the price range, such as those from Domaine Tollot Beaut (Chorey-Les-Beaune) and Domaine Joseph Roty. The former’s Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru Les Lavieres En Primeur 2012 was already very good with some fruit developing, while the latter’s traditional style, slightly rustic  Marsannay (2011)was very approachable. 

So plenty of good wine around, including at the more approachable end of the price range. We think good Burgundy is absolutely 'worth it' - and so are you!

By Chris Burn

Category: New Wines
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posted by Love Your Wine
28 February 2014

2012 in The Rhone Valley

Following on from the last post about the generalised approach to categorisation of quality in different vintages, here is a quick look at one in particular.

The awful weather of 2012 produced difficult conditions for growers in many French regions, but the Rhone valley managed to escape the worst of it and in particular had  a good summer – dry on the whole, with sufficient rainfall. This meant that the top quality growers were able to make wines as good or better than their excellent 2011s.

In summary, wines in the Northern and Southern Rhone are characterised in 2012 by lower alcohol levels than in recent years, with plenty of concentrated ripe fruit and all-round ‘structure’ – which means that whilst these wines should age well, they are also  attractive and ‘open’ enough to reward early drinking. The combination of fresh acidity and concentrated, pure fruits provides a similar profile for the excellent 2012 whites also – good early drinking with ageing potential.

Add this to the general value for money to be had in the Rhone, compared to the higher profile regions – and there are compelling reasons to investigate some wines and consider stocking up. This applies from the lower to the high priced wines, so if you don’t know them, starting at the less expensive end is a great way to go! At a trade tasting earlier this month, which included ‘en primeur’ wines, we tasted some of these wines, of which these are a just a few, with impressions:

Domaine Grand Veneur (Southern Rhone)

Cotes du Rhone Reserve Blanc 2012. This is a blend of Roussane, Viognier and Clairette (50/40/10%), very fresh,medium-bodied and with lovely aromatic fruit: drinking nicely.

Cotes du Rhone Viognier 2013. 100% Viognier, extremely impressive, white peach, lovely freshness of course, good balance of fruit and acidity, superb length: stunning!

Le Clos du Caillou (Southern Rhone).

Cotes du Rhone, Bouquet des Garrigues 2012. A blend of 85% Grenache, 10%Syrah and 5% Carignan/ Mourvedre/Cinsaut, a great combination of freshness and fruit, great length and a touch of spice. Aged in large barrels for soft oak. From vineyards that would have been classified as Chateauneuf du Pape had not the then owner been more interested in hunting when the legal classification was done many years ago!

Until next time.

By Chris Burn

Category: Wine Tasting
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posted by Love Your Wine
6 February 2014

Does the weather make the wine...?

Much is generally made of the contribution of weather to the outcome of  the vintage every year in wine growing regions, especially in the longer-established ones, which tend to be those more subject to variable weather. This is nowhere more the case than in regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy.

However, as regular readers will by now know, loveyourwine is nothing if not a great respecter of the skills, knowledge and all-round craft of the growers who we talk to at tastings and whose wines we sell. This know-how is always, even in great weather years, fundamental for creating the best possible wine from the available harvest; from pruning, controlling the yield, achieving the desired levels of grape ripeness through to the choices made in fermentation and maturation, to name but a few examples. all of these factors have a significant influence on the quality of what we drink.

So while vintage ratings are a useful starting point, such use of their craft by growers is also a good reason why it’s probably not helpful to go too far in selecting your wines just on the basis that such and such a year was a ‘good’ (or ‘bad’) year in such and such a region, because it means that there are people who manage to make excellent wines in ‘poor’ vintages. Also there are generally exceptions to the prevailing weather in any case – and it’s the local conditions that matter to the vigneron.

So what is helpful is to buy the wines of quality growers whom one can trust. These family businesses, it is always important to remember, are always mindful of the need to preserve their reputation for quality. They tend to do this naturally, because they are custodians of small pieces of land and a business which has been built by previous generations – but they also understand that it makes complete business sense not to cut quality to preserve short-term profit.

This can be particularly challenging when the weather conditions mean that there is insufficient volume in the harvest to produce the desired amount of wine, but market conditions limit the ability to increase prices. But sometimes an outcome can be that they will make a superior version of  a less expensive – typically ‘entry level' - cuvee, for example, because the quality wasn’t high enough for a more premium wine to be made in that year.

These thoughts were prompted by a visit to a trade tasting this week which included a range of top white and red 2012 Burgundies and Rhone wines presented by their producers, who found ways of overcoming a difficult vntage to produce small quantities of wines that are already looking really good in many cases. Please come back here to read  in a bit more detail about the challenges of this vintage in the next post!

By Chris Burn

Category: New Wines
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posted by Love Your Wine

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