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

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

Veuve Clicquot RICH – The Champagne for Mixologists

images2Each year LVMH unveils exclusive new products that celebrate the summer season.
One of their latest sun-drenched offerings debuts with “RICH”, a new champagne from Veuve Clicquot. Enveloped in seductive silver foil, RICH is an exciting new expression of Veuve Clicquot’s savoir-faire, created specially to be used in mixed cocktails. RICH is sweeter than other champagnes and brings out the best in the fruit and vegetable that it’s mixed with.

Cellar Master Dominique Demarville reconnected with the origins of Champagne-making traditions, when sparkling wines were dubbed “rich” because of their sugar content. A perfect example is the 1840 Veuve Clicquot found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea off the Aland Islands, which contained more than 150 grams of sugar.

Intrigued by this style of champagne, Demarville set out to reinvent this tradition with a fresh approach. Working with mixologists, he composed a cuvée with much higher sugar content than other Veuve Clicquot champagnes, at the same time increasing the percentage of Pinot Meunier grapes in the assemblage to emphasize the freshness and fruitiness of RICH.

Designed to be enjoyed on the rocks or bring out the Clicquologist in you and combine Veuve Clicquot RICH with pineapple, grapefruit zest, cucumber, celery, pepper or tea.

“Sugar in champagne is like spices in a recipe: when the dose is perfect it reveals new aromas and transforms the palate,” Dominique Demarville explains.

An Interview with Charles Keusters, Director of Food & Beverage, Casa De Campo, Dominican Republic

interviewCharles Keusters arrived at Casa de Campo December 2014 following a four-year run with Meliá Hotels International. His assignments included management positions with Paradisus Palma Real; Paradisus Punta Cana; INNSIDE Madrid Hotels; and ME Madrid. Charles earned his Hospitality Administration/Management Diploma from Les Roches Marbella. In addition, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics from Haverford College.

Casa de Campo Brief

Casa de Campo set the benchmark for luxury travel in the Dominican Republic back in the 1970’s and continues to elevate the standard.

This elite “sporting life” property is situated on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic, in the town of La Romana.

Luxury accommodations include 185 guest rooms, suites with private terraces, and over 50 villa homes some with private pools. Casa de Campos’s 7,000-acre property offers an abundance of recreational and relaxing activities, including: three award winning and truly spectacular golf courses “Teeth of the Dog”, “Dye Fore” and “The Links”, designed by award-winning designer Pete Dye; La Terraza Tennis Center; a 245 acre shooting center; polo and equestrian center; and variety of water sports. For relaxation and enjoying the sun, the spa and private beaches are a must. Six of the full-service restaurants provide International cuisine and wines all with breathtaking views. Casa de Campo has its own airport, heliport and marina; guests are welcome to arrive by air or by sea.

Liz Palmer

 What Food and Beverage concepts have you implemented since your arrival?

Charles Keusters

 My main objective is to give Casa de Campo villa owners and guests an experience they cannot find anywhere else – to make it a culinary destination.

The owners and guests have access to anything they want here. I like the culinary culture and always looking for new ideas – for my future plans, I’m looking to set up a riverboat where the chef will cook on the boat for guests. I’m also incorporating health and wellness into the menus and working with the chef to incorporate more indigenous vegetables and fruits into the menus along with local fresh fish, which is at our doorstep.

Liz Palmer

As Director of Food & Beverage of Casa De Campo, how do you manage your day and can your outline a typical workday for us?

Charles Keusters

It’s rarely the same every day for me.

I oversee private functions, all the restaurants, and catering for private yachts and planes.

Breakfast is usually at 7:30 am at Logo. Here I have breakfast and review my day. Then I do a-walk-around the property to see if everything is in order. 8:30 am there is usually a briefing with the General Manager. 9:00 am I have an executive committee meeting which includes the operations team where I review pricing and budging. After this meeting I walk around and oversee the various events around the property. Throughout the afternoon and evening I great guests and listen and respect their comments and suggestions.

Liz Palmer

What defines luxury to you?

Charles Keusters

Luxury is comfort, innovation, uniqueness, and anticipation, which are defining elements. Service also plays an important part.

Liz Palmer

Does Casa De Campo have a wine cellar? If so, how large is the inventory? Who maintains it? And who chooses the wines and prepares the wine list?

Charles Keusters

We have an 8,000 bottle cellar, with an inventory of French, Italian, Spanish, Chilean, Australian and New Zealand wines.

I manage and maintain the cellar and am currently reviewing the wine lists to make some future changes.

Liz Palmer

What is your favorite glass of wine to sip at the end of the day?

Charles Keusters

Wine is a personal experience – I like Italian and Spanish reds. Especially Cepa 21 from Spain.

Liz Palmer

Charles, how do you keep up on industry trends and cultural needs of global clients?

Charles Keusters

I’m personally interested in international industry trends. I read magazines, food blogs, and am constantly reviewing Instagram.When I travel I love to explore other cultures and their dishes.

Fresh from the Villers-Marmery vineyards of Champagne Henriet-Bazin, a chardonnay vine in flower

Fresh from the Villers-Marmery vineyards of Champagne Henriet-Bazin a chardonnay vine in flower. This principal growth stage falls between Leaf Development/Inflorescence Emerge and Development of Fruits.

Doc Schéma fleur de vigne + cadre copie

Principal features of a chardonnay vine in flower.

 

Source: Nicolas Rainon