Sunday 22nd Sept
Two weeks away from UK now on our way back a 24 hour ‘cruise’ from Santander Northern Spain to Portsmouth, we were warned that there was a storm brewing and Bay of Biscay is re-known for it’s rough sea but so far so good,
It has been a great trip - caught up with our suppliers, learnt more about the winemakers triumphs and catastrophes! Enjoyed the sunshine, some wonderful wines and now ready to get back to work.
Friday 21st Sept
Pedro meets us in the tasting room and we sample the full range of wines on offer here.
With each vineyard we visit we learn little gems of how the vigneron make and blend their wines, it is the passion of the artisan wine maker that makes subtle differences in wines on offer.
Here we try the oldest wines of our trip, a Gran Reserva from 1994, it is still drinking beautifully, this is due to how the grapes are treated, once fermentation and oak ageing has been completed most producers will bottle but here they put the wine in tanks and let it develop further, bottling is completed as and when required. Here they specialise in smooth drinking Rioja’s which last for years once bottled, luckily the vineyard has large storage facilities which allows them to keep several vintages like described above but also means there is a lot of money tied up for years before they get a profit from the wines.
Thursday 20th Sept
It is always a pleasure to be here the area is a very beautiful and unspoilt there are many historic buildings to visit and of course a plethora of Bodegas making one of the UK’s favourite red wines.
In 2003 we found David Moreno wines whilst on a cycling trip, stumbling on the tasting room and leaving with what is commonly known as wine legs, finding great difficulty to cycle the few miles required to the Hotel we were staying at!
The tasting room has been renovated since then and now it is one of the most popular places to stop for tourists having received a Tourist Award in 2016.
This year is the Bodegas’s 30th Anniversary, David Moreno with his family are all involved in the day to day running of the vineyard and today they are in the fields checking on the ripeness of the grapes so they can decide the optimum time to commence harvesting.
We are out of stock of most Moreno wines so once we have tasted the new vintages on offer, we decide on what to buy.
Just before we left David and his 2 daughters arrive back from the vineyards and gave us a chance to catch up with them all, we hear again how the hail last year means 2017 vintage will be down on previous years.
Tuesday 19th Sept
After an overnight stop in Zaragoza a busy town in the middle of the Spanish plain.
We continue onto the wine region Ribera del Duero we have one supplier here Bodegas de los Rios Prieto, situated on the outskirts of Pesquera de Duero a small town with approximately 600 inhabitants and 25 different Bodegas!
We are met by Dani one of the family who own and run this vineyard, he gives us a guided tour of the winery which they have developed to a state-of-the-art Bodega.
Firstly we watch as bottles are fed into the bottling conveyor belt, in one hour 3,600 bottles are filled, corked and capped ready for storage until they are ready for sale at this point the label is added, fascinating!
The harvest hasn’t started yet they are hoping to start picking in a couple of weeks, the winery is busy cleaning filters and preparing the tanks for the arrival of the grapes. They have 19 stainless steel tanks available and hope to fill at least 14 this year, 2017 had its challenges, due to hot weather and little rain the yield from the vines was cut considerably and only 4 tanks were used to make this vintage, the wine should be of great quality but the low bottle count means revenue from this vintage will be drastically reduced. We move onto the cellar where the barrels are stored - last year when we were here the rows were 4 high, today we can see the difference the reduced harvest has made, as there is plenty of free space.
We move onto the tasting area (glasses ready) we start by trying their only white wine made from the Verdejo grape, this variety isn’t grown here but in the neighbouring Rueda region and then onto their red range which this area is renowned for, all delicious - we stock up on the reds and this year we are adding the white Verdejo to our list.
What did we learn today, mainly how this industry is very precarious as things such the weather variations which obviously are out of their control, effects the profitability of the business, one kilogram of fruit makes one bottle of wine so if yields are down, the grapes smaller due to lack of water etc the bottle count at the end of the day will be less.
Saturday - Sunday 15-16 Sept
We are staying at a friend’s house in a small village in the South of France with beautiful views of the Pyrenees.
We have now travelled over 1,500 miles so being able to relax for a weekend is perfect, a chance to do the washing, catch up on paperwork, sun bathe and keep away from the auto-route.
It has been great catching up with our suppliers in France, the pallet is now full and ready to be transported to the UK.
We have added 7 new wines to the range
From Côtes de Gascogne - Les Vignerons du Brulhois
Rosé Grain d’Armour, limited edition 2017
A big thank you to all our French Wineries for making us so welcome.
Friday 14th Sept
Today we deliver 300 bottles to the warehouse ready to be packed and delivered to UK.
There is just one more vineyard for us to buy from here in Languedoc Jonathan and Rachel Hesford are the vignerons here, we arrive to find them doing a wine tasting for a family from Northern France who had found about this brilliant vineyard by seeing Jonathan on France 2 telematin where he gave a talk about the work entailed in running an Artisan Vineyard .
Since we visited here last year there have been major transformation in the wine cellar and tasting room, the old enormous barrels removed and new stainless steels tanks installed in their place. The icing on the cake is the addition of a new wine press which Jonathan describes as the Porsche Carrera of all de-stemmers!!
We spend a very pleasant hour tasting the whole range of Treloar wines, once finished decisions have to be made as to what we export!
The winery now is state-of-the-art but at the end of the day what makes a good wine is the vigneron who nurtures the vines in all weather, knows when to pick the grapes, before the wine making process can begin, where finally he can blend the grapes to make the wine. He is like a great Chef who knows what to add and when to make delicious wines for us all to enjoy?
Thursday 13th Sept
Another busy day with two vineyards to visit both in Languedoc. We have taken wine from both Wineries for several years so today we need to visit taste new vintages and decide how many bottles to purchase.
First stop is to Château l’Argentier which is located in the commune of Sommières owned by Élisabeth and François Jourdan. Élisabeth’s parents bought the vineyard in 1937 and they took over the running in 1983, convinced of its excellent wine-growing potential they set about clearing new plots, planting young vines and rehabilitating the old cellar. The vines are worked to respect the terroir, regular ploughing inputing organic manure if required ( balanced and natural grassing are the foundation of this vineyard).
They are seeing the results of their hard labour and producing great red wines from the new and old grapes, some of the vines being used today were planted in 1930's the older the vine means less fruit but the flavour is intensified . We stock their signature red ‘Gres de Montpellier’ and their very unusual Rosé made from the aramon grape.
We stop off for a snack and then visit AOC Picpoul de Pinet.
Christelle and her husband run Domaine la Grangette which extends over 60 hectares they are the only Vineyard to make Piquepoul in the 3 colours of wine.
The wine cellar and tasting room are located in restored stables built during the XVII century. We sample wines here but our pallet is nearly full so we can only buy one our customer’s favourite the white Poule de Pic again the weather has played its part here and this year the production of this wine has been halved due to cold and rain during the crucial growing season.
Wednesday 12th Sept
Château Rouquette sur Mer wines have been included on our list for 4 years and our visit never disappoints. Jacques Boscary the owner meets us and insists that we have a tour of the estate. We have visited many vineyards since we started the business and each is different but this appellation is special - the drive to Nabonne sur Plage is unusual the rock formation could be in Jurassic Park! as you drive to the entrance of the Cave you pass gun batteries left from World War II which were built to protect the area from German Occupation.
The vineyard itself in Roman times was an Island off the coast of France which gives the soil unique properties, the centre of the estate has a ruined castle from this era, as I say this is a very special place! For more historical information on this area visit https://www.la-clape.com/en/content/history
Driving round with the owner it is very informative showing how he and his team make the most of this challenging terrain but for me you just need to smell the air, you are bombarded with pine from the forest, herbs and fresh breeze from the Mediterranean.
The wine reflects all the unusual elements of this area and we have replenished our stock, this wine needs savouring
Pour it - Swirl it - Smell it and taste
Back to work today and 2 visits to suppliers!
Sebastien the winemaker is here to give us a tasting and update us on all news from the vineyard. Last year we were unable to have their popular Rosé wine La P’Tite Soeur as the crop had been decimated by a heavy frost in April and this meant the grapes did not form so harvest was cut considerably.
Spring time in the vineyard is a crucial time as the flowers are beginning to form so if they are caught by frost then there will be no fruit, another weather hazard is hail, as soon as the grapes start forming on the vines their skins are fragile and can be damaged by the hail stones, some vineyards will cover the vines with netting but this is costly and you need to know when the storms are coming.
All stocked up we now make our way to Narbonne sur Plage.
Tuesday 11th Sept
Today no visits are planned, just a long trip to deliver the wine we have bought to a warehouse in Perpignan, where we start the Groupage.
Now is time to relax!
We have found a lovely Boutique Hotel on the outskirts of Beziers.
Monday 10th Sept
Today we have two producers to visit.
Both are in the Côtes de Gascogne wine region, different appellations but growing similar range of grapes.
First we visit a small co-operative ‘Les Vignerons du Brulhois’ this is unusual for us as we normally deal direct with the Vineyards. However here they only take grapes from a handful of small single Domaines giving them the facility to make, bottle and store their wines.
We learnt about HVE certification (High Environmental Value) the goal is to foster biodiversity, to reduce the impact of crop protection products, control fertilisation and water resources - keeping a high quality production. This is a different approach to Organic farming as it looks at the whole environment from pollinating insects, fauna and flora which shelter endangered species of bats, they are predators of grape berry moths and help keep the use of pesticides to a minimum.
Back in the car and we make our way to Château Viella - Madiran Appellation. We have stocked wines from this vineyard since 2010.
Today we are welcomed by Claire and enjoyed a lovely lunch with her whilst sampling the range of wines, the meal was finished with this year's pears from the Château gardens which have been bottled and complement their dessert wine Louise d’Anne. Claire and her sister have joined the family business and are working on marketing and blending of the wines. Labels are being re-designed and several new varietals have been planted to see how they develop in the Madiran soil. Once established they will experiment by blending them with the existing varieties.
Exciting times, the girls Great Grandparents started wine making here in 1936 and it is good to see the new generation joining the Vineyard.
Sunday 9th Sept
Sunday and it is a work day!
Château La Tour de Chollet is our destination in the Bordeaux region, Kirstie and Paul own and work this Vineyard.
2018 will be their 12th year living in France, they left the UK to start the business, not only do they make wine but have a Gite which is let out on a Bed and Breakfast basis. It is a perfect place to stay, explore the countryside and to taste wines from this famous French wine growing area.
We arrive in a light drizzle which is welcome rain for the vines. The vineyard is quiet today where yesterday it was very different, the harvest of white grapes was in full swing, all are hand picked, there is a bumper crop this year due to weather conditions which were very wet until July, mildew has been a problem, the effected leaves were all removed by hand which was time consuming but effective as this vineyard is 100% organic so pesticides cannot used. Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon are the native grapes and are blended to make the Blanc Sec Exceptional over the years the blend has evolved as the Sauvignon vines have matured the mix is now 50/50 where the earlier vintages Sémillon was the dominant grape. We sampled the 2017 vintage, it is delicious crisp and fresh with a long clean finish.
Tasting continues with their reds first we try 2015 Cuvée Classic a rich, round fruity wine which is fermented in stainless steel tanks and very easy drinking, in the past we haven’t had this wine on our list but we have decided to add it so will be available by the end of the month. We also sample 2015 Cuvée Prestige this won’t be available until next year but worth waiting for as it is maturing well.
Saturday 8th Sept
We leave Normandy and travel South for an over night stop at Saintes.
No vineyards to visit here just time to relax and mosey around this ancient town and enjoy a repas listening to a very talented Jazz trio.
Friday 7th Sept
Early Friday morning we leave the UK to start our trip to France and Spain, sun sparkling on the English Channel no swell, a perfect way to start this years visit.
Off the Ferry at Caen we make our way to our friends' house, where after a cheeky Barton Rosé! we walk down to the town centre in Port-en-Bessin - all enjoyed the tradition French Cuisine in a small restaurant watching the fishing boats sailing in and out of the harbour. We have arrived ‘This is France’
On y va!
Carte-du-Vin are off on their travels again!
We leave the UK at the beginning of September, sailing from Portsmouth to Caen and returning 2 weeks later from Santander in Northern Spain.
Watch this space for updates.