Anteprima Amarone 2010 – Presenting a new vintage and status

On the last weekend in January, Verona becomes a buzz with Amarone even more than usual as the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella organises Anteprima Amarone, the annual presentation of the latest vintage of the Veneto’s flagship wine : this year marking the first to be bottled under the DOCG status.

Anteprima Amarone 2010

Gloriously blue skies, the first real snowfall of the year and a high profile Serie A football match were good reasons to be elsewhere that weekend, yet over a thousand wine lovers and press attended the 11th edition of the Anteprima Amarone held at the majestic Gran Guardia in the centre of Verona. The event created by the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella to “preview” the new release of Amarone. In reality, each producer crafts their flagship vino according to their own philosophy : some have already started selling their 2010 after the minimum ageing period whereas others arrive with barrel samples preferring to leave their Amarone to rest for longer. The ruling that each of the 60 exhibitors could present 2 vintages however ensured that those who prefer to age for longer than the minimum were also able to showcase the finished product.

This year’s event started with the customary opening presentations by the President, Director and Vice Director of the Consortium, the latter making a very in-depth analysis of the characteristics of the 2010 vintage. A panel of tasting experts had already analysed a number of samples heralding it an excellent vintage with Marano della Valpolicella standing out as the area that gave the best results. Well-known journalist Sebastiano Barisoni acted as moderator providing provoking comments on how producers should examine the long term consequences of their the present-day commercial strategies seemingly attacking the producers that have been caught in a downward price-swirl for this once elitist wine. He also criticized the positioning of Recioto, the deliciously sweet dessert wine, that has seen sales decrease over the past years.

The director, Olga Bussinello, proudly unveiled the new logo of the consortium. A clean modern logo incorporating the V for Valpolicella, T for tradition and territory and C for Consortium. The new-look follows the developement of activities to assist smaller wine producers with expanding on international markets and investments in eco-friendly practices.

Now wanting to forget that wine always needs to go alongside food, the organisers  provided a rich buffet to soak up the alcohol-laden Amarone. Corrado Benedetti, one of the areas most famous salumi and cheese producers laid out a selection fit for a king whilst iconic pattisier, Perbellini, provided panettone, pandoro, sbrisolona (the traditional accompaniment to Recioto) and a millefoglie to die for.



Campo Viejo – where size is everything

This autumn I had the chance to visit one of the Rioja’s largest wine producers Campo Viejo thanks to the very nice people at Pernod Ricard and I have to admit it was perhaps the most impressive visit I’ve ever done. Not only for the scale – producing 24 million bottles is no easy task – but also for the attention to detail and the thought that went into every element.

Campo Viejo barrelstore

Not surprisingly the figures were mind-blowing:  grapes harvested from 4700 hectares vinified separately in 320 steel vats. A warehouse where 5 million bottles of wine were left to age, 70,000 oak barriques in the barrel store all housed in a winery of 45,000 sqm, an amazing feat of architecture.

Designed to fit harmoniously into the landscape, most of the structure is hidden underground and the feel inside the huge spaces is futuristic, almost science-fictional. The precision involved in making wine on this scale is mind-boggling. Each step in the process is monitored down to the tiniest detail and needless to say every inch was spotlessly clean.

Contrary to what some may think, this was far from a factory for making coca cola, this was an operation set up to use as mush diversity in each element in order to create a wine that would be consistently expressive of the Rioja. The mix of hundreds of components (each vineyard vilified separately, 300 different batches of oak for the barrels) is a necessary element when producing wine on such a scale.

Campo Viejo vatroom

My write up as a tourist can be seen on my blog bubbleandchic but what I took away from the visit was a great understanding of how unfair the wine industry is becoming. There’s the growing idea that good bottles of wine can’t be made from large producers and that the mass produced wines have little passion for what they do or hold little interest for the consumer. In my time in this industry I’ve come across many small producers would benefit from seeing just how Campo Viejo’s attention to detail enables them to make consistently good wine. Their staff were extremely warm, welcoming and informative and  were nothing less than passionate about what they do and the Campo Viejo brand.

Anyone who thinks that large producers have little to offer, should really take a trip to Bodega Campo Viejo and then think again…

WBIS – Wine Business Innovation Summit – 2nd edition

Wine. Business. Innovation. These are the three ingredients we mixed together when creating the WBIS event in Brussels in January. I say “we”, I’m referring to  myself and Marc Roisin, founder of Vinogusto and a passionate wine business entrepreneur, along with Jens de Maere, distributor and promoter of Belgian wines.

Earlier this year,  170 people bore the snow and sub-zero temperatures to travel to Belgium for the first edition of the Wine Business Innovation Summit. This January, we’re taking the event to yet another cold, beer-centric city : Munich.

WBIS Brussels

So why is that?

Well being a wine event doesn’t mean that we have to be in a wine region to enjoy it. This event is more about the business behind the wine industry rather than the wine itself although wine gets a spotlight during the guided wine tastings by the Wines of Germany and the German Wine Institute on Sunday. We’ll also have a moment on friday night to share some wine together.

Munich, like Brussels, is pretty easy to get to from almost everywhere in Europe. For us it’s important to chose a place that people can fly, drive train and coach too without too much effort. Being one of the largest airports in Europe, having direct rail links to France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy and then being easy to read by road, a trip to Munich shouldn’t turn into a logistical mission.

And what will we be doing there?

Just as the first edition, we turned to the on-line wine community to decide what they wanted to talk about and, via a poll and online voting, we can up with a range of topics for our programme of seminars. We limited our first WBIS experience to one day and some of the attendees told us they’d like to see more content on the Sunday so this year we’ve made a second half-day programme with more sessions and two wine tastings.

This year’s programme will include the importance of bloggers on the wine scene, the rise of wine clubs, how to become a professional wine writer, how video can make a difference to our brand, the importance of place Vs brand, the importance of consumers in driving sales. All the seminars are lead by experts in each field.

Who do we expect to come?

This is the question I often hear, “Who is #WBIS aimed at?” and here I have to say “people in the wine industry who are looking to grow and develop new projects”. I thnk its important in any business to learn, grow, develop and change. Some of the wine producers I work with have great vision – analysing their markets and developing new products to meet the needs of new consumers, knowing how they want to develop their business and very often they are looking for people to help them make that happen. We have entrepreneurs launching new projects to help consumers choose wines, provide services to wine producers or down the supply chain and we have bloggers and communicators looking to understand how the market is changing and how they can make the most of their role in it. WBIS is a collection of dynamic people looking to make headway, foster new projects and be disruptive in a traditionally conservative wine market.


On the WBIS website, we have the programme of the event as well as tips for where to stay and a link for registration


Video from WBIS in Brussels 2013

French Wine Trip – a summary in pictures

A few weeks ago I posted about the #Frenchwinetrip, an innovative project funded by FranceAgrimer and coordinated by Sopexa (to whom I very willingly lent my professional services :-)) involving a bus, a group of international bloggers and as many French wine regions we could cram into 9 days. The aim was to use the words of the chosen wine, food and travel communicators to reveal the diversity in styles of French wines across 6 different languages.

During the trip we met wine producers, sellers, negociants, promotional bodies and educators and tasted over 250 wines from just about every corner of France. Those we didn’t visit directly were included in the ad-hoc tastings we created along the way, on the bus, at dinner and during a wine tasting competition we put together on the last night in our snug apartment in Beaune. Thanks to the amazing attention the wineries and promotional bodies paid to us, I have so much material from that trip that I don’t know where to start so here’s a first post with a few of the pictures. More tales of the #Frenchwinetrip can be found on

Linn Grubbstrom - our blogger for Denmark
Linn Grubbstrom – our blogger for Denmark

Day 1 – The trip started in the Loire on a rainy Saturday afternoon. We arrived late on our branded bus from Brussels due to traffic, rain and a longer than expected stop at what we presume to be our driver’s favourite service station. The video team were there with their cameras, boom and mic’s poised to catch the first swirls of the glass from our 6 bloggers Jens, Irene, Linn, Matt, Sebastian and Alex as they listened to a presentation of wines from the region. This was just one of the stands of Vitiloire, a wine festival held in Tours city centre every year known to be one of the most successful town wine fairs in existence.

Cycling in the Saumur-Champigny vineyards
Cycling in the Saumur-Champigny vineyards

Day 2 – Luckily the day after the sun shone as we headed out with our bikes up and down the hills of the Saumur-Champigny learning about how the appellation has encouraged organic agriculture and has invested in weather stations to allow give farmers more information about meteorological conditions to limit the use of treatments in the vineyards.

Blending Bordeaux at the Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux
Blending Bordeaux at the Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux

Day 3 – We arrived in Bordeaux. The Bordeaux AOC appellation accounts for 1.5% of the world’s vineyards and 5.4milion hectoliters (which would be 720m bottles) of quality wine are produced here each year. Just about all Bordeaux wines are blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the combination depending on the location of the vineyards. The left and right banks of the Garonne river have very different soils and microclimates making them more or less suitable to each grape variety. We tried our hand at blending at the Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux.

I am so sweet Bordeaux

One of the savoury dishes paired with sweet bordeaux

Day 4 – Sweet wines of Bordeaux – the sweet wines of Bordeaux are made in 11 AOC appellations covering 4,040 hectares. With 530 estates producing 15m bottles of sweet wines per year, the lush wines account for only 2% of the Bordeaux production. Too often thought of as accompaniments to desserts, the Sweet Bordeaux body is working hard to educate consumers on how they can be matched with a range of dished including tapas, oysters, shellfish, fish, spicy dishes and cheeses. We stopped off at Chateau La Bouade for a winery visit and special food and wine pairing lunch with top chef Gerard Gottrand including these deliciously spiced chicken wings.

After lunch it was time to board the bus and head South..

Languedoc - a beautiful place to make wine
Languedoc – a beautiful place to make wine

Day 5 –  Languedoc – the new El Dorado of wine. During our 2 days in the region we visited a winery and had two dinners in the company of wine makers from many different appellations. We discovered some amazing are being made in this region which was previously only known for its bulk wines. Large wineries looking expand their portfolio (Domaine de l’Ostal Cazes is owned by the same family as Chateau Lynches Bages in Bordeaux) as well as wine affascinados looking to live their dream of buying a vineyard are taking advantage of the low cost of land and perfect weather conditions (lots of sun, dry summers and plenty of wind) to make modern, deliciously fruity, complex wines that are changing the reputation of Languedoc wines.

Gres de Montpellier

Day 6 – Gres de Montpellier – On our way towards Burgundy, we stopped near the town of Montpellier to visit two Chateau producing Gres de Montpellier wines. The wines much be at least 70% Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre (of which at least 10% Grenache) and are bottled in their own Gres de Montepellier signed bottle, like those of Chateauneuf du Pape in the nearby Rhone Valley region. The wines must be aged for at least 16 months and are full of fruit, cinnamon, spices, and minerality. This is one wine that will definitely make its way onto my shopping list.

The wines we tasted at Joseph Drouhin
The wines we tasted at Joseph Drouhin

Day 7 – Burgundy – This region accounts for 0.5% of the world’s wine production and 4% of the world’s value of wine. There may be only two main varieties (Pinot Noir for the reds and Chardonnay for the whites) but the diversity of the terrain means that 60,000 different styles of wine are produced here each year. After being completely lost in the same-same-but-different appellations and crus, I reverted to the rule of thumb: the longer the name the better and more expensive it’s probably going to be. The tasting of 14 wines at Drouhin was one of my favourites of the trip – the Clos des Mouches 1990 (which we were told was a perfect vintage) was a proper treat.

Day 8 – After another winery visit, lunch with sushi and white wines from Chablis and the Jura, it was finally time to relax with a lot of local food and many more bottles of French wines. With more than a week of travelling through the French vineyards behind us, it was time to test our palates with a “guess the French wine” competition. In keeping with Burgundian complexity, we threw in wines from regions we’d not visited. We had surprised looks, gasps of “I thought it was!!” and a lot of eye rolling especially when Champagne was confused with a Cremant de Jura, and an unusually non-aromatic Alsacian Riesling got the better of all of us that the general conclusion was – we may have done a lot, but France has so much still left to show us that we can only hope there’ll be time for a Road trip in France 2014..  let’s hope so…

Once the work was over, the roles were reversed on the film crew.
Once the work was over, the roles were reversed on the film crew.

P.S. Our 6 wine and travel crazy bloggers posted, pinned, clicked, recorded and tweeted about our adventures to their public and bravely stood in front of the camera’s of our untiring video crew every day providing content in English, French, Dutch, Danish, German and Russian. A longer film of the trip will be released in the next few months.