2015 French Wine Crop Reaches 47.7 Million Hectolitres

harvestThe French Ministry of Agriculture has released its latest estimates for the year 2015. They state that France has harvested approximately 47.7 million hectolitres. The 2015 harvest is up 1% up from last year (47.1 mhl) and up 4% on the five-year average. Production of PGI wines and base wines for brandy is showing a significant increase last year, respectively +5% and +6%. Conversely, production of appellation wines, at 21.61 mhl is marginally down (-2%) on 2014 but 3% higher than the five-year average.

The Ministry of Agriculture ascribes the rise in estimated production to rainfall in August and September, which was particularly beneficial in the western part of the country, especially in Charentes. A report by Agreste states that “bunch weight is one of the highest this decade”. It also points to a surge in production of Cognac compared with previous estimates, with an extra 1 mhl harvested by producers.
France was divided into two halves this year, with the eastern part of the country enduring less favourable weather conditions than other regions. Drought affected Burgundy, Beaujolais and Corsica and reduced production potential compared with August forecasts. Alsace, which was also affected, but to a lesser extent. In the South-East of France, periods of rain in September brought forward harvesting and caused some losses. In Languedoc-Roussillon, the crop is expected to be virtually on a par with last year’s.

Source: Vitisphere

BULGARIAN – PART 3 – ROSSIDI WINERY

IMG_1128++Edward Kourian, owner of Rossidi Winery has been travelling with us throughout this journey and I was really looking forward to visiting his facility and tasting his wines. We drove into a gated industrial facility and parked. We have arrived at Rossidi Winery. So unique – just like the owner and his wines!

Rossidi Winery is located in the City of Sliven, 300 km east of Sofia and 130 km from both Greece and Turkey – its name is derived from the combination of the owner (Edward) and his lovely wife (Rossitsa) – hence ROSSIDI.

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We spent the afternoon learning about Rossidi, it’s history, philosophies and indulged in some tasting. The tastings were lead by both Edward and Winemaker Peter Georgiev.

We learn that not only is Edward an oenologist, he has also studied music, engineering and graphic design, and is also one of the founding members of The Bulgarian Association of Independent Wine Growers.

Rossidi has 40 hectares of vines with 7 currently yielding – located near the village of Nikolaevo in the Thracian Lowlands; with plantings of: chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The unique labels are designed by Edward himself; each are vivid and bold reflecting the true character of the wine.

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On the line up:

Rossidi Unison 2014

Rossidi Rose 2014

Rossidi Gewurztraminer 2013

Rossidi Pinot Noir 2013

*Ross-idi Winery Egg Fermented Nikolaevo 2013

Rossidi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Rossidi Syrah 2013

Rossidi Merlot 2013

Rossidi Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

*Signature by Rossidi 2012

*Ross-idi Winery Egg Fermented Nikolaevo 2012

Rossidi Syrah 2012

Rossidi Pinot Noir 2011

Rossidi Pinot Noir 2009

*ones to watch for

 

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Rossidi philosophy is: “The wine has to reflect the terroir it comes from and the main features of the variety it is made from and it should not be a commercial product deliberately shaped by the technologist to match the current fashionable tastes” he goes on to say “I believe we can be interesting not because we have copied someone but because we are ourselves and our wine reflects its terroir.”

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A distinct product is their Gewürztraminer – this grape variety is non-typical for Bulgaria

Another distinct product – they use the Egg-Shaped Concrete Fermenter for their chardonnay. With great success – for his first test run Rossidi won the only silver medal for Bulgaria at the International Wine Challenge London 2013, as well as a Decanter 2013 bronze medal.

Liz Palmer

BULGARIAN WINE – PART 2 – SOPOT WINERY

Our bus trip from Villa Teres to Sopot Winery took over two hours. Along the way we drove through the Valley of Roses – this is another beautiful part of the country. This lowland has three valleys, Balkin Mountains to the north and Sredna Gora hills to the south. Famous for its rose-growing industry, which has been cultivated for centuries, this area produces 85% of the world’s rose oil. It’s interesting to note that Bulgaria is one of the world’s largest exporter of rose oil, which is used in the production of: perfumes, creams, chocolates, liquors, jams, jellies and toothpaste. Towns of importance include: Kazanlak, Karlovo, Sopot, Kalofer and Pavel Banya. Unfortunately we missed the harvest, crowing of the Rose Queen and the sounds, sights, and wonderful fragrances of the festival by a few weeks.

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Arriving at Sopot Winery, which is 510 meters above sea level in the heart of the Valley of Roses, south of the town of Sopot – it’s one of the most favourable climatic zones for viticulture in Bulgaria, we saw spectacular views of the southern foothills of the central Balkan Mountain range.

After our tour of the winery and hotel and settled in the restaurant for lunch and tasting.

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The principal owner is businessman Docho Shikov. Sopot Winery currently has 12 ha of vineyards, with 16-year-old vines, with majority plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon. The facility has modern, state-of-the-art equipment, with a full lab for conducting analysis and research. Head Wine Technologist, Georgi Dchorbadzhakov, goes on to say that they have “an annual production of 120,000 bottles”.

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Wines worth tracking down:

Sopot Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition 2013
Sopot Syrah 2014

Liz Palmer

BULGARIAN WINE – PART 1 – CHATEAU KOLAROVO

Bulgaria is one of the oldest winemaking countries in the world; this Balkan nation has been stomping grapes since the time of Thracians who were big fans of Dionysus.

With the fall of communism and recent investment and innovation, they’re again immerging on the international markets. Bulgaria has five official wine regions, each with their own microclimates and grape varieties.

Danube Plain (northern) region

Taking in the fertile plains between the Danube and the vast Stara Planina range, this dry, sunny region is home to 35% of Bulgaria’s vineyards – plantings include Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Aligoté, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pamid, Merlot, and the sweet Muscat Ottonel. The deep purple, slightly spicy Gamza is the region’s signature variety.

Black Sea Coast (eastern) region

Running down the coast from Romania to Turkey, this region encompasses 30% of Bulgaria’s vineyards. With long, hot summers and mild autums, conditions are ideal for white varieties including: Dimyat, Traminer, Riesling, Muscat Ottonel, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc.

The Valley of Roses (sub-Balkan) region

Specifically known for rose oil production, this small region produces dry whites. It’s particularly famous for Misket.

Struma River Valley (western) region

This small but significant region is home to the village of Melnik. Despite having a population of 400 people, Melnik is a nation-leader in producing strong reds; its signature, Shiroka Melnishka Loza, was a favorite of Winston Churchill. The region’s arid, Mediterranean climate also makes it ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Thracian Lowland (southern) region

This region – south of Stara Planina and extending to the Sakar Mountain – produces one of Bulgaria’s most famous wine grapes: the red, spicy Mavrud. Other ripper reds include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Muscadine and Pamid. The Bessa Valley sub-region has serious vintage: wine has been produced there (by the Dionysus-doting Thracians) since the 5th century BC.

 

CHATEAU KOLAROVO

 

There are over 37 mountains in Bulgaria with most of them in the south. Our next appointment took us to Sakar Mountain which is in the southeast. Between four mineral-rich rivers: Maritsa, Tundzha, Sokolitsa and Sazliyka and close to the borders of Greece and Turkey, there has been an increased concentration of aspiring newcomers. These new producers are seriously concentrating on bigger reds like Cabernet, Syrah and Mavrud and Merlot.

After another lengthy and fun bus ride, we came to Chateau Kolarovo, which is housed in a former Soviet warehouse. The facilities are very basic. This boutique winery was founded in 2009 by businessman and horse lover Stoyan Stoyanov.

Chateau Kolarovo currently has 12 ha of old vines in cultivation, manly red varieties. Founded six years ago this small winery now produces 40,000 bottles annually. Since its first vintage in 2009 Chateau Kolarovo has won many international awards including two recent Decanter awards this summer for Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Silver) and Ahal 2011 (Highly Recommended). We learned that the “Ahal” wines were named after a Bulgarian horse breed that is bred for long-distance racing – hence the logo.

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We had an informal tasting and lovely regional-style lunch outside in the garden area, led by winemaker Iliana Koeva and Stoyan Stoyanov’s son.

Stoyan Stoyanov and Iliana Koeva

Some excellent reds tasted:

Kolarovo Ahal 2010

Kolarovo Ahal 2011

Kolarovo Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Kolarovo Merlot 2010

Kolarovo Special Selection 2009

Kolarovo Syrah Premium 2011
Chateau Kolarovo is definitely one to watch out for.

 

Liz Palmer

Wines of Sicily ~ Part 1 – Sicilia en Primeur 2015

The 12th edition of Sicilia en Primeur was held this year in Taormina at the Grand Hotel, Atlantis Bay from April 14th to April 18th. Organized by Assovini Sicily, it’s one of the most important events of the year – it’s the international preview of the last vintage, addressed to both Italian and international press.

Who is the Assovini Sicily?

Assovini Sicilia was founded in1998 by three leading wineries: Diego Planeta (Planeta Estates); Giacomo Rallo (Tenuta di Donnafugata); and Lucio Tasca d’Almerita (Conte Tasca d’Almerita) for the purposes to meet the challenges of the winemaking sector, including the promotion and communication on behalf of its members.

Assovini Sicily currently has 72-member companies, which express all the areas of production.

Today it represents 80% of bottled wine in Sicily and 59% of it is exported exclusively to USA, Canada, Brazil, China, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, Germany, UK and Scandinavia. The total amount of the bottled wine by the Assovini shareholders is worth approximately 250 million euros.

Sicilia en Primeur 2015

Over 70 international and 20 Italian wine journalists attended this year’s Sicilia en Primeur. We had a chance to speak directly with owners, winemakers and marketing teams. Forty members from Assovini Sicily participated and here we the opportunity to taste over 300 wines from the 2014 harvest, including some previous years. The tasting was a full expression the different wine areas of Sicily.

This year’s theme was sustainability and biodiversity. Of the 72 members, 61% have environmental certification, 39% produce wine from organic grapes and around 82% operate according to the rules of the guided and integrated pest management. Assovini Sicilia also believe “it’s their ethical duty to the local community and nature, to be concerned for the environment”. What makes this Sicily so special is that the producers take great lengths to preserve the environment by: recovering indigenous grape varieties which are naturally adapted to their microclimates; invest in technology to produce clean energy, such as solar panels and wind mills; and reduce the resource consumption by using efficient work procedures. Several protocols of sustainable practices have been adopted.

Francesco Ferreri, President of the Association states: “we have set ourselves the aim of presenting to the world oenology quality that respects the environment and safeguarding the biodiversity that characterize Sicily”. This says it all.

Vintage 2014 – A Great Year

It was a difficult harvest everywhere but Sicily, with producers being optimistic. The weather conditions improved at the end of June and the vineyards enjoyed a warm and dry growing season typical to the island. Francesco Ferreri, president of Assovini Sicilia says: “The quality of the production this year will give great balance and elegance to Sicilian wines”.

Sicilia en Primeur 2015 – Tasting

The tasting was organized two ways.
There was the “Producers Room” which was dedicated to “meet and greet” the owners, winemakers and marketers. Here we had the opportunity to taste wines from different vintages and participate in vertical tastings, with a strong emphasis on the 2014. Then there was the “Sommelier Room” which was dedicated to tastings coordinated by sommeliers. Some of us seized the opportunity to participate in blind tastings.

Sicilia en Primeur 2015 – My 2014 Favorites and ones to look out for:

Cottanera Etna Bianco 2014

Baglio di Pianetto Ficiligno 2014

Caruso & Minini Grecanico 2014

Donnafugata Prio 2014

Fazio Aegades Grillo 2014

Feudo Maccari 2014

Girolamo Russo Nerina Etna Bianco 2014

Masseria del Feudo Grillo 2014

Occhipinti SP68 Bianco 2014

Planeta Cometa Fiano 2014

Rallo Beleda 2014

Rapitalà Vigna Casalj 2014

Tasca d’Almerita Cavallo delle Fate 2014

Terre di Giurfo Suliccenti 2014

Valle dell’Acate Zagra 2014

Zisola Azisa 2014

Sicilia en Primeur 2015 – List of participating wineries:

AL – CANTARA
ARIANNA OCCHIPINTI
AZ. AGRICOLA GREGORIO DE GREGORIO
AZIENDA AGRICOLA TORNATORE
BAGLIO DEL CRISTO DI CAMPOBELLO
BAGLIO DI PIANETTO
BARONE BENEVENTANO DEL BOSCO
BARONE DI VILLAGRANDE
BARONE SERGIO
CANTINA WIEGNER
CANTINE RALLO
CANTINE SETTESOLI
CARUSO & MININI
COTTANERA
CUSUMANO
DONNAFUGATA
DUCA DI SALAPARUTA – CORVO – FLORIO
FAZIO CASA VINICOLA IN ERICE
FEUDI DEL PISCIOTTO
FEUDO ARANCIO
FEUDO MACCARI
FEUDO PRINCIPI DI BUTERA
FIRRIATO
GIROLAMO RUSSO
GRACI
LE CASEMATTE
MARCHESI DI SAN GIULIANO
MASSERIA DEL FEUDO
MUSITA
PIETRADOLCE
PLANETA
PRINCIPE DI CORLEONE – POLLARA
SPADAFORA
TASCA D’ALMERITA
TENUTA DI CASTELLARO
TENUTA DI FESSINA
TENUTE RAPITALA’
TERRE DI GIURFO
VALLE DELL’ACATE
ZISOLA

Also integral to the event we visited the production territories and visited 10-13 wineries, depending on which tour you were assigned. See Wines of Sicily Part 2 – The Tour

Liz Palmer