Selecting wine in Burgundy

Early each year I make the trip to Burgundy to select the blends for our French wine ranges for the events and festival season ahead. The world of wine is something I’m familiar with, having worked in the trade for over 30 years, but each time I head south the anticipation of what I will find in the tasting room still gets the juices flowing. You see, although we are used to wine being such an everyday occurrence, there’s still the vagaries of each year’s harvest conditions to contend with. To make a brand out of something that changes with each crop is a real challenge, which has completely eluded most wineries. So, what we do is try and have a taste / style vision for our wines fixed in our mind before the visit. We have notes on previously chosen blends and our supplier offers wine from regular sources from which we select our final blends. In this way, we can go some way to achieving a level of quality and style consistency. That is, unless we find something outstanding which we can’t resist! That’s what happened on 2nd February 2015 in the offices of our supplier, near Macon, in Burgundy. So 2015 will ring some changes in our French Wine styles, for sure..

Event Wine Solutions takes the feedback on its wines really seriously. We try to visit all the events we supply (that’s a lot of driving, street food, great music, amazing art installations and friendly people encountered, but someone has to do it) and get comments back from consumers on our products. One of the most common responses is how pleased they are to be able to share a bottle with friends at a festival, rather than have a single serve 187ml ‘mini bottle’. After all, it’s how we drink wine at home and the pouring of glasses for friends is part of the ritual. The plastic bit doesn’t bother them, particularly when they find that the wine tastes great in this format. The wine taste and style is what we really want to have feedback on, however, because that’s what we can change in each year’s selection process.

2014 was a year where Rosé sales were strong, as result of the lovely summer weather. The Rosé wine style has been quite serious, compared with many sweeter Zinfandel Rosé wines available, but this has gone down well with consumers. Our white is deliberately low in alcohol at 11.5% and a crisp, firm, but aromatic style. This works well in warmer weather, as heavier whites with less well balanced acidity tend to go rather flat tasting as they evolve in warmer weather. Image a big Aussie oaked Chardonnay at 25 degs – it makes for hard work! The red wines in our range are Merlot and this grape variety works well during the day, but as the evening wears on it’s important to have a wine that doesn’t have too much tannin structure (the drying effect you get, similar to stewed tea), as this becomes more evident as the wine cools. These, and other issues, all have to borne in mind during the selection process.

Back to the revelation. This year we were presented with the opportunity to trade up in style to a single grape Sauvignon for our white wine, rather than the dual varietal Colombard Sauvignon favoured to date. A good quality harvest in the Languedoc, plus an improved Sterling position against the Euro meant that we could reinvest these gains in the wine. So, for 2015 our main white wine ranges will be pure Sauvignon and delicious it will be! The wine style is very floral, with good elderflower and herbaceous notes. There’s a soft acidity structure and a gentle elegance to the wine that I really like. It will be a big hit with our consumers, we are sure, even if it represents a slight departure from previous blends.

Then there was the Rosé. Up to now our colour has been richer and more akin to Rosé wines produced in Spain, perhaps, rather than a classic French colour from Provence. Colour matters – it guides our taste buds towards what they are about to have bouncing around them. Pale usually means light, elegant and drier than a richer colour. This year we were presented with a Languedoc wine that has all the elegant colour of a pale Provencal Rosé, but the ripeness and softness of a southern style. It’s definitely going to be a winner. After all, what’s not to like about a glugging French Rosé that will perfectly match food, but is just as enjoyable on its own and transports you to the Cote d ‘Azure!

So, to the Merlot. We wanted to find a blend that was big, ripe, juicy and without too much firm structure. Our favourite blend has all these qualities. The Merlot is not a monster, but has all the elegant bramble fruit on the nose, a warm, soft and ripe attack and then the smoothest of landings your concession Paella could wish for. Great food wine, but also perfect sipping red for the fireside in the fairy glade!

It’s easy to forget in the mêlée that is the summer festival season that the real work is done in the supplier’s tasting room, in the depths of winter in Burgundy. Wine at festivals and events should be just as good as at home. The fact that glass is often banned on site shouldn’t be a barrier to the enjoyment of great wine and our PET bottles are finding a larger audience all the time. We want our customers to continue to be saying nice things about their Event Wine Solutions wine experience, tweeting and following us, to help spread the word. Lest we forget, our products have to over-deliver, because you never get a second chance to make a first impression and for most, our plastic bottles of wine will be just that.

– Paul Scaife, Director