Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What value Gold?

I have to admit that I have mixed views about the true value of wine competitions, not because we don't mind winning the occassional gong, but more because the award system itself is often wide open to abuse. I will explain.....

From experience I believe that it is very often the most obvious, young, full-bodied and over-extracted wines that are put forward to win awards. In the case of white wines this can be the wine that is laced with new oak, or one that perhaps retains a suggestion of residual sugar. Entries with any degree of structure, elegance, complexity or even bottle-age can quite easily be lost or overpowered simply because they are not fully understood, or their true underlying potential is not recognised. Of course these more 'commercial' styles have their place in educating the novice wine consumer, but on the other hand there should always be space for some award winning wines of subtlety and refinement too.

My second concern is that wine competitions have now become very big business – 1,000’s of wines submitted, with each bottle commanding a substantial entry fee, that can, in some cases, result in a generous profit for the organisers. At times, it must be said, there has also been an "over generous" quota of medals and certificates awarded (regardless of overall quality), simply to keep producers satisfied, justify the fee, and promote continued support.

Finally, there is the problem of the 'doctored sample'....... Organisers of wine competitions invite producers to send their samples, and it is only human nature that a cellar would wish to submit their very best bottle. This being the case, some unscrupulous wine makers reserve a special tank or barrel of wine that is used exclusively for this purpose, and has nothing to do with the quality of the wine that ends up in your local wine shop. In this way, not only are the judges duped, but also the poor consumer is being cheated out of his bottle of the genuine award winning wine.

In saying all this I must emphasise that this is not sour grapes (pardon the pun), as we have been lucky enough to win our fair share of awards over the years. I guess that what I am trying to suggest is that medals and certificates can be misleading, and do not necessarily guarantee consistent or even outstanding quality.

I can assure you that an odd gold medal will not make our own wine taste any better than it already does! For us at least a great bottle at a reasonable price means so much more.
Footnote: By coincidence this article from the New Zealand Herald was posted on 2nd December 2006, about 10 days after I made this entry.

Another installment from the McCarthy's soap box series

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thinking of the poor winemaker.........

A thought for the weekend…….

"Sometimes when I reflect back on all the wine I drink I feel shame. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the vineyards and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this wine, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, "It is better that I drink this wine and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Seguin Moreau select Casal Caeiro

Only the very best........ Seguin Moreau

The French barrel makers Seguin Moreau have something of a reputation in the wine world, and can be found in many top Burgundy domains, as well as the cellars of some illustrious names, such as Antinori in Italy for example. They can also be found in the humble cellars of Bodegas Castro Martin too!

Indeed, these barrels did not arrive with us by accident - a few years ago Angela and I travelled to Vinitech in Bordeaux to visit Seguin Moreau and make some tastings with them. In this way we could select exactly the type of oak, grain and level of toasting best suited to our wine. Since then we have gradually added a few new barrels each year (on a rotation basis) until we now have 100% Seguin Moreau.

On a recent visit by the Seguin Moreau 'technician', he tasted our Vendimia Seleccionada Barrica and was very impressed, and we later sent him a sample bottle. As a result they have now asked if they can show our wine on their stand at Vinitech this year, and of course we did not say no!

Imagine, a French barrel maker showing a Spanish white wine in the heart of French red wine country...... Bordeaux.

Spain Gourmetour (Sept-Dec 2006)

Review by Henrik Oldenburg, Denmark

Winery: Bodega Castro Martín
Wine: Albariño
DO: Rías Baixas
Type: White wine
Elaboration: 100% Albariño

In my opinion, Galicia is for the modern Spanish white wines what Priorato is for the red wines. The wine region north of Portugal has specialized in the white grape Albariño, used as Alvarinho for the best Vinhos Verdes in neighboring Portugal. It is a grape which provides freshness and acidity to the wine – the rest depends on the producer.

This producer is a family business, founded in 1981. Like so many other growers in Galicia, they only possess a few hectares, so they have to buy most of their grapes from other growers. They must have reliable neighbors, for the wine is crispy and challenging, with prominent acidity, but also with a discreet, gentle sweetness which gives a unique balance. The wine comes from the best corner of Galicia: the Rías Baixas.

Matching recommendation: It is no coincidence that this wine is produced in an area with some of the best seafood in Spain. Drink it cooled with lobster, crabs, prawns, mussels – or with anything else that calls for acidity and dry freshness.

Henrik Oldenburg is a master of art and literature, but has written approximately 40 books on wine and food since 1977, among them the world's largest book on Port and the first book on wines from the southern hemisphere. For his annual Oldenburgs Vinguide he tastes 8-10,000 wines every year. He is the publisher and editor of the Danish gastronomic magazine Smag & Behag and a member of the Danish Gastronomic Academy.

Footnote: Castro Martin is one of only six wines (red and white) selected from the whole of Spain

Click here to see the original article