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Hard To Find Wines

  • Thanksgiving Wines

    Harvest celebrations are held the world over, in both religious and secular circles. Probably the most well-known harvest celebrations in Western countries include Thanksgiving Day in Canada and the USA and Harvest Festivals in the UK.

    Thanksgiving in the USA

    Thanksgiving takes place in the USA on the fourth Thursday of November. The festivities that led to modern celebrations in the USA can be traced back to a 1621 harvest celebration at Plymouth in today's Massachusetts and were introduced as a federal holiday by President Roosevelt in 1942.

    Traditional activities include family dinners, parades (such as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, held annually since 1924), charitable endeavours, religious thanksgiving services, big sporting events (for example, American football and basketball) and the unique event of Turkey Pardoning. Each year, the President of the United States is presented with two live turkeys. At least one of the turkeys, sometimes both, are pardoned from becoming Thanksgiving dinner and taken to a farm to live out the rest of their life.

    The usual foods enjoyed during Thanksgiving include roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, corn, autumn vegetables such as pumpkin, and pumpkin pie.

    Thanksgiving in Canada

    Thanksgiving in Canada takes place on the second Monday in October. While no firm evidence exists to confirm the details of the first Canadian Thanksgiving celebration, many believe that is occurred in 1578. The origins can be traced to harvest celebrations of French settlers in the 17th century. Today's celebrations are strongly influenced by elements of US Thanksgiving and by immigrants in the 1700s from Ireland, Scotland and Germany.

    The same foods as those enjoyed in the USA, such as turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, are served. Other foods, such as baked ham and apple pie are common, as well as salmon and wild game.

    Harvest Festivals in the United Kingdom

    Fruit and vegetables on a table with a cornucopia

    While the traditional Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving had no official date in the United Kingdom, it was traditionally held on the Sunday nearest the harvest moon occurring closest to autumn equinox. Harvest Thanksgiving in Britain has pagan roots but is now often seen as a Christian festival, celebrated by churches and schools in late September or early October.

    The festival is celebrated with singing, praying and giving thanks for the harvest. Collections of food take place which are then donated to charities to help those in need.

    Wine pairings with Thanksgiving meals

    Whilst Harvest Festivals do not traditionally involve meals like their cousins across the pond, more and more people are celebrating Thanksgiving in the UK, be they US or Canadian expats or others who enjoy the idea behind Thanksgiving.

    So, we've had a look at which wines you should consider serving at any upcoming Thanksgiving festivities you may have planned. While traditionally, Zinfandel and Beaujolais Nouveau have been wines served with US Thanksgiving meals, here are a few alternatives to consider:

    Aperitif - Rosé or Blanc de Noirs Champagne

    Perfect as a pre-Thanksgiving aperitif, Rosé or Blanc de Noirs Sparkling wines are bold enough to pair with a main course as well.

    Our recommendation: Lanzerac MCC Blanc de Blancs NV - £19.99

    Turkey - Pinot Noir

    Pinot Noir works well with white and dark turkey meat, cranberry sauce and creamy dishes such as mashed potatoes.

    Our recommendation: Porters Pinot Noir 2006 - £39.99

    Ham - Amarone della Valpolicella

    If ham is featuring as your main dish this year, Amarone's rich cherry and chocolately flavours will complement the sweetness of the ham. A moderate acidity acts to cleanse the palate which is ideal when serving rich meats and gravy.

    Our recommendation: Zenato Amarone Classico Della Valpolicella Doc 2011 - £48.00

    Venison - Shiraz

    Shiraz pairs well with venison due to it's spicy, gamier flavours, particularly if the venison is served in a casserole. Another good choice would be a Pinot Noir.

    Our recommendation: Kilikanoon Killerman's Run Shiraz 2014 - £13.99

    Tofu - Sauvignon Blanc

    Tofu has no significant flavour of its own, so pairing will mainly be down to how the tofu is served, prepared or its accompaniments. One tofu dish often served as a vegetarian option to replace turkey is tofurky. It is often very salty, so a Sauvignon Blanc with a crisp acidity will do well. Otherwise, if uncertain, another good option would be a Pinot Noir or a Sparkling wine.

    Our recommendation: Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2016 - £12.79

    In short

    If you want to select only one or two wines for your Thanksgiving celebration, we recommend a Pinot Noir and a Sparkling wine. Overall, Pinot Noir pairs well with most light and dark meats and a variety of dishes. And of course, who can enjoy a celebratory meal without Sparkling wine!

    A caution for vegans

    Not all wines are vegan. Whilst at first it may seem that being made from grapes and yeast, wines should be vegan, there is a winemaking process involved that introduces non-vegan elements. The process is called fining and is used to clarify wine. When selecting wines, choose those that are unfined and unfiltered. That way you can be sure that no animal products were used in the production of the wine.

  • Autumn Wines for Autumn Times

    The weather in the UK is turning chilly, nights are getting longer and with the first light fall of snow hitting Scotland just this past weekend, we are most definitely in the midst of autumn. While the harvest festivals and bonfire night let us know that we are nearly in winter, we are not quite there yet. So sometimes when it comes to wine, we can feel a bit uncertain as to which wines are the best options for these cooler, but not yet deep-of-winter, evenings and the various autumn celebrations.

    While you could drink any wine you personally prefer at any time of the year, if you want to pair your wines with seasonal produce and seasonally inspired dishes, then picking wines that suit the season would be a good idea.

    Naturally, in spring and summer, we tend to drink more rosés and whites, particularly the lighter, aromatic and crisp wines that compliment the warmer weather. But which wines are autumn wines?

    Red wines

    Red wine choices for autumn include light- and medium-bodied reds such as Merlot, Rioja and Pinot Noir, which pair very well with slightly heavier food that we tend to prefer in Autumn. Pair a Merlot or Rioja with a beef stew, shepherds pie or a lasagne. Pinot Noir is a versatile wine, pairing well with most meats, mushroom risotto and beef wellington.

    Hard To Find Wines has a wide selection of light- and medium-bodied reds to choose from for your autumn wines. Here are a few you might want to consider.

    Muratie Merlot 2006

    muratie_merlot

    Deep intense ruby red to inky black. A combination of plums and chocolate come to the fore followed by blackcurrants and dark chocolate on the palate. The full intense assortment of flavours provides a feast for the palate. The wine has lots of body, yet subtle with well integrated oak giving it a lasting finish.

    Vinedos Real Rubio Rioja Crianza 2011

    A bottle of Vinedos Real Rubio Rioja Crianza 2011

    The graciano grape combined with the classic tempranillo produces a wine with lively colours and solid acidity. On the nose, the French cask mingles with the red berries and vanilla. Potent in the mouth, long on the palate with pleasant, ripe tannin which completes the harmony of the wine.

    Te Hera Kiritea Pinot Noir 2012

    A bottle of Te Hera Kiritea Pinot Noir 2012

    A handcrafted Pinot Noir from Te Hera located in the Martinborough region of New Zealand. Only a very limited quantity of this premium Pinot Noir are produced. With redcurrant and a hint of ripened strawberries and eucalyptus on the nose and vibrant fruit on the palate, this Pinot Noir is followed by layers of dark cherry and tobacco. Fine, elegant and with just enough acidity and tannins to balance against the berry flavours.

    Other good autumnal reds include softer red blends and cabernet franc.

    White wines

    Oaked Chardonnay is an excellent white wine choice for autumn and it pairs really well with butternut ravioli, roast chicken and dishes with rich, creamy sauces. Another great white autumn wine is Viognier. Viognier may be full-bodied like Chardonnay but it has distinctly different aromas and tastes and it pairs with Moroccan food, root vegetables and pork with a fruity sauce.

    Hard To Find Wines' selection of autumnal whites include the following:

    GlenWood Chardonnay Vigneron's Selection 2015

    A bottle of GlenWood Vigneron's Selection Chardonnay 2015

    Produced from top quality 26-year-old vines and expertly barrel oaked to obtain a winderfully rich and creamy wooded wine, this GlenWood Chardonnay is barrel fermented with wild yeast for 12 months in new French oak barrels. A gentle oaked nose leading to a creamy, buttery palate and almonds and vanilla with a smoky peach and citrus finish.

    Mellasat Viognier 2014

    A bottle of Mellasat Viognier 2014

    Made using 100% Viognier, the grapes for this wine were picked at optimal ripeness, with the resulting juice barrel fermented and matured for 8 months. The nose undoubtedly shows beautiful floral and orange blossom aromas, with peach and apricot flavours on the palate.

    The four seasons option

    And if you really can't decide between all these options, you can always opt for the most versatile wine that fits all seasons equally well: Champagne and other sparkling wines such as South Africa's Method Cap Classique.

    Here are a couple to tempt you:

    Pierre Jourdan Brut NV

    A bottle of Pierre Jourdan Brut by Haute Cabriere

    This 40/60 Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend shows apple and lime crispness from the Chardonnay and depth with a hint of berry from Pinot Noir. The wine is produced using the traditional double fermentation method as utilised in Champagne to create wonderfully fine bubbles and mousse.

    Gaston Chiquet Selection Cuvee Champagne NV

    A bottle of Gaston Chiquet Cuvee Champagne NV

    With aromas of fresh apricots and plums on the nose, and fruit, minerality and floral top notes on the palate, this excellent Champagne from vineyards around Dizy is blended 40% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir.

    Of course, there are many other options on the Hard To Find Wines website to delight any wine enthusiast! So why not pop over to our selection of wines right now and make your autumn wines selection today!

  • A History of Lebanese Wines

    Lebanese wines have been produced in the Bekaa Valley for 6,000 years and Lebanon has evolved into a significant wine-making region in modern days! Despite ongoing conflicts in the region, Lebanon produces of about 600,000 cases of wine annually.

    Wines of ancient and modern times

    Evidence from Rome shows that 2,000 years before Alexander the Great, the Phoenicians, the ancestors of the Lebanese, cultivated and domesticated the vine and produced wine. Wines from Lebanon were exported to Egypt around 2,500 BC and also introduced to Greece and Italy.

    From intact cargoes of wine discovered on sunken Phoenician ships, the wines appears to have been protected from oxidation by a layer of olive oil, followed by a seal of pinewood and resin.Wine played an important part in many of the religions of the day, including the Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Jewish and Christian religions.

    The Christian Bible makes mention of wines from the region, and Cana, where Christ attended a wedding and turned water into wine, is near the southern Lebanese port of Tyre. Baalbek was originally devoted to the Phoenician fertility god Baal but is also home to the remains of a temple dedicated to the Roman god of wine, Bacchus.

    A photo of the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek in Lebanon

    Lebanese wine production declined in modern times after Lebanon became part of the Caliphate, however due to community laws it was allowed among Christians for religious reasons. The Christians also developed an aniseed flavoured spirit reminiscent of Ouzo, called Arack.

    In 1847, Chateau Joseph Spath (Chateau Chbat) became the first modern day Lebanese wine-maker. Following in 1857 was Chateau Ksara in 1857 where Jesuits planted Cinsaut vines from Algeria in the Bekaa Valley, and in 1868, Eugène François Brun set up Domaine des Tourelles.

    Some interesting Lebanese wine facts

    Chateau Musar's Hochar family has a significant origin story with the family arrived in Lebanon with the crusades and have lived there ever since, setting up the winery in 1930.

    Between World War I and World War II, the French influence in Lebanon promoted a culture of wine drinking.

    Chateau Musar's mountainside cellars are so secure that during Lebanon's Civil War, they were used as air raid shelters.

    A view of the Chateau Musar cellar

    Yves Morard, a Frenchman, of Chateau Kefraya was arrested as a spy during the Israeli invasion. He was released when he proved to the Israelis that he could make wine.

    The Lebanese wine renaissance

    The end of the conflict in the 1990s saw a renaissance in the Lebanese wine industry. Since 1997, the number of wineries in the Bekaa Valley has increased from 5 to a total of 35 today.

    The 2006 conflict did not dent this trend despite the difficulties the wineries endured, such as almost missing the harvest and enduring collateral damage. Instead of breaking the industry, the coverage in the media created a demand, particularly amongst British consumer who bought Lebanese wine in solidarity.

    Overall, the Lebanese wine industry is an interesting and enduring one that deserves more attention. It may not be the first region you think of when purchasing wine, but I encourage you to try it. You will be delighted with these historic and tenacious wines.

    Visit our Lebanese vineyards page on our website to make your selection of great Lebanese wines.

  • Haute Cabriere Launches New Summer Menus

    Haute Cabriere, an iconic Franschhoek wine farm and a favourite stop on many of our clients' visits to South Africa, has released their 2017 summer menus. To complement the new menus and the beautiful setting of their location, Haute Cabriere will be extending their Tasting Room and Restaurant opening hours from 1 November.

    “With summer approaching it only makes sense to make this beautiful setting available for longer, and extend our food and wine offering,” comments Marketing Manager Lientjie McLachlan.

    New tasting room tapas and oyster menu for summer

    The Tasting Room will extend its hours 1 November 2017, and will be open from Mondays to Saturdays and Public Holidays from 10am to 6pm and Sundays from 11am to 4pm.

    A tapas-style, small plates menu has been introduced at the Tasting Room as a perfect accompaniment to the range of Haute Cabriere wines and Méthode Cap Classiques. 

    Various plates of tapas style food from Haute Cabriere's Tasting Room summer menus with Haute Cabriere's Pierre Jourdan Brut and other wines

    The small plates menu will be served on the terrace from 11am to 6pm Monday to Saturday during the South African summer season to allow guests to linger a little longer while taking in views of the valley.

    Restaurant dining now open seven days a week

    The Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant is now also open for lunch and dinner on Mondays, making lunch available seven days a week. Dinner is available Mondays to Saturdays.

    From October 2017 until May 2018, the Restaurant is open for lunch seven days a week from 12pm to 2pm and for dinner from Mondays to Saturdays from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

    A la carte menu

    Chefs Nic van Wyk and Westley Muller have created a lighter touch a la carte menu, that includes favourites such as malt-braised short rib with parsnip purée and nettle cream, trout escalope with buttered asparagus and hollandaise, and a gold leaf chocolate glazed mousse.

    “Our garden is producing an abundant asparagus crop and who doesn’t love the classic combination with hollandaise,” comments Van Wyk. 

    The Sunday Feast menu

    A view of a Sunday Feast selection from Haute Cabriere's summer menus

    The Sunday Feast was created to celebrate the traditional family lunch. Originally launched for winter, it has now become a permanent addition to the menu as the perfect end to the weekend. The Feast menu is priced at R370 pp and includes Haute Cabrière and Pierre Jourdan wines.

    The launch of Haute Cabriere Chardonnay Reserve

    A photo of Haute Cabriere Chardonnay Reserve on a table with a meal

    Since Achim von Arnim, former Cellar Master, launched the brand in the 1980s, Haute Cabrière has been specialising in wines made exclusively from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. As the pioneer of many innovative wines, including their Chardonnay Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir Unwooded, Haute Cabriere has chosen 2017 to launch their maiden vintage of Chardonnay Réserve, currently only available for sale directly from the Restaurant and Tasting Room.

    “It’s been a year in the making, and we are very proud to add this wine to our portfolio,” says Cellar Master Takuan von Arnim.

    For reservations to enjoy their new summer menus during your visit to South African this year at Haute Cabriere: call +27 21 876 8500, e-mail restaurant@cabriere.co.za or visit www.cabriere.co.za.

    To purchase wines through Hard To Find Wines, please visit our Haute Cabriere page.

  • Chateau Musar: Wines with History Part 2

    Our post last week focussed on Chateau Musar's signature wines, Chateau Musar Red, White and Rosé. This week, we will learn more about their other ranges: Hochar Père et Fils Red and Musar Jeune Red, White and Rosé.

    Hochar Père et Fils Red

    Hochar Père et Fils Red is made over four years from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Grenache harvested from a single vineyard. Like Chateau Musar Red, the blend reflects the character of the specific vintage. With rich red berry flavours and dark fruits, Hochar Père et Fils Red is very much an old world style wine with restrained flavours and a dignified dryness.

    Hochar Père et Fils Reds are not fined or filtered. The wines are suitable for vegans as they have not come into contact with any animal proteins, often used in the fining process. Their rich texture means they are likely to produce deposits in bottle which requires that the wine be decanted, at least one hour before drinking.

    Best served at between 16 and 18°C, this wine is an ideal partner for casseroles, all red meats, tuna steaks and Mediterranean dishes. As it is not too heavy, it is also perfect as a stand alone wine.

    Hochar Père et Fils Red 2013

    Image of a bottle of Hochar Pere et Fils 2013

    The 2013 vintage will be released this Autumn. Blended in spring 2015 from 50% Cinsault, 35% Grenache and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and bottled later the same year, the 2013 harvest at Chateau Musar can be summarised by the word "elegance".

    The 2013 is a well-balanced vintage, bright ruby red in colour with a nose of forest fruits, red cherries, tobacco and sweet spices and a palate full of mulberries, plums, blackberries, spice and subtle notes of coffee beans.

    Musar Jeune

    Created in response to the demand for a "current drinking" Musar wine, the Musar Jeune range was first produced in 2007. Unoaked and vibrantly fruity, Musar Jeune wines are produced from the grapes of youthful Bekaa Valley vines. These wines can be poured straight from their bottles. There is no need to decant.

    Musar Jeune Red

    Image of a bottle of Chateau Musar'

    An unoaked blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, Musar Jeune Red is created to be consumed within a few years of harvest.

    Deep, dark ruby red with aromas of blackcurrants, blueberries, black cherries and violets, this intensely fruity wine has silky tannins and a hint of spice at the finish.

    Best served at between 16 and 18°C with grills, roasts, casseroles, cold meats and mature cheeses. This wine is suitable for vegans as it is neither fined nor filtered.

    Musar Jeune White

    A bottle of Chateau Musar's Musar Jeune White 2015

    Musar Jeune White is an unoaked blend of Viognier, Vermentino and Chardonnay.

    This blend of French and Sicilian varieties is fresh and zingy with passion fruits, apples, elderflower, figs and pears and a dry, refreshing finish.

    Enjoy chilled at 12°C with grilled fish, roast chicken, seafood salads and spicy oriental dishes.

    Musar Jeune Rosé

    A bottle of Chateau Musar's Musar Jeune Rose 2015

    Made from Cinsault and Mourvedre grapes, Musar Jeune Rosé is a big, concentrated rosé with intense aromas of blueberries, Kirsch, strawberries and roses.  The palate is dominated by rich red fruits, cherries and pomegranate. This rich and mellow wine has an impressive structure with good acidity, light tannins and a long finish.

    Drink chilled at 12°C. Best served with food, this wine partners well with baked salmon, shellfish, roast pork or tomato-based pasta dishes.

    To purchase Chateau Musar's excellent wines, visit our website or call us on 01746 389 749.

    Sign up to our blog posts at the bottom of the page so you don’t miss our next post. Or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all our news.

    Thank you to Chateau Musar for the photographs used in this blog post.

  • Chateau Musar: Wines with History Part 1

    In a previous post, we followed Chateau Musar's history and took a look at their vineyards and winery. In this post, we take a look at the range of wines created originally in 1930, the Chateau Musar Red, White and Rosé.

    Chateau Musar - the top of the range

    Chateau Musar Red

    Chateau Musar Red 2009

    Released seven years after harvest, Chateau Musar Reds are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan. They are always aromatic with persistent fruit flavours, presenting plums, damsons, cranberries, cherries, figs and dates. Each vintage will differ depending on the qualities of the dominant varietal, but will remain unmistakably Chateau Musar.

    As the wines age over decades, they acquire tawny hues and mellow notes. The cellars still hold bottles from the 1950s.

    Chateau Musar Reds are neither fined nor filtered and are richly-textured. In vintages over a decade old, they are likely to ‘throw a crust’, or develop sediment and will require careful decanting.

    Following decanting, the wine should breathe for several hours. Best served at 18°C with roasts, grills, casseroles, game, and mature cheese. As Chateau Musar Reds are unfined and unfiltered, they are suitable for vegans (fining often includes the use of animal proteins).

    Chateau Musar White

    Chateau Musar White

    In the same way as the Red, Chateau Musar White is released seven years after harvest. The White is a blend of ancient, Lebanese grape varieties Obaideh and Merwah that are often said to be related to Chardonnay and Semillon.

    When still young, the wine is yellow-gold, with a creamy texture. It is rich yet dry, with intense citrus notes and honeyed nuances. This unique style has been likened to ‘dry Sauternes’ or mature white Graves. As the wine ages it develops tawny hues and mellow spicy characters. The cellars still hold bottles of this wine dating back to 1954.

    Chateau Musar Whites are at their best when allowed to breathe for several hours. They should be served around 15°C. Excellent with pâtés, rillettes, and seafood dishes, they also match spicy food due to their intense flavours.

    Chateau Musar Rose

    Chateau Musar Rose 2013

    Chateau Musar Rosé is only made when specific qualities in the grapes are achieved to ensure an elegant balance. This wine is still and softly-oaked and is reminiscent of rosés of the Champagne region.

    The young Rosé has a salmon pink hue. It is smooth and well-balanced with a velvet texture. Aromas and flavours are of peaches, pears, oranges, grapefruit, almonds, wild herbs and citrus leaves. As they age, the Rosés develop mellow, spicy notes and tawny hues.

    As with the White, Obaideh and Merwah grapes are the main components of Chateau Musar Rosé. Approximately 5% Cinsault adds a subtle colour to the wine.

    Chateau Musar Rosé is at its best after being left to breathe for several hours. It should be served 15°C with canapés, olives, nuts, seafood and Provençal dishes.

    We will be posting Part 2 of this blog post later this month. It will feature Chateau Musar's other wines, Hochar Pere et Fils and the Musar Jeune range. In the meantime, to purchase any of Chateau Musar's excellent wines, you can do so through our website.

    Sign up to our blog posts at the bottom of the page so you don’t miss the next installment. Or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all our news.

    Thank you to Chateau Musar for the photographs used in this blog post.

  • Chateau Musar: A Family Firm

    A true family business

    The story of Chateau Musar begins in 1930 when 20-year-old Gaston Hochar founded this Lebanese winery. His inspiration was the 6,000 years of winemaking tradition in Lebanon, enhanced by his travels in Bordeaux. Strong links with Bordeaux remain to this day through Gaston's relationship with French senior officers stationed in Lebanon during World War II.

    Gaston had two sons, Serge and Ronald.

    After studying civil engineering, Serge Hochar, Gaston’s eldest son decided to study oenology and he became a student of Emile Peynaud at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux.

    Gaston stepped aside in 1959 and Serge took the reigns as winemaker at Chateau Musar. Serge was chosen as Decanter Magazine’s first ‘Man of the Year’ in 1984. His dedication to producing exceptional quality wines during Lebanon’s Civil War gained him this accolade. In 2010, Serge received the “lifetime achievement award” from German magazine Der FeinSchmeker.

    Serge has two sons, Gaston and Marc. Gaston now manages the day-to-day running of the winery and Marc looks after the winery's commercial details.

    Unlike many other Lebanese wineries that closed due to the war, Chateau Musar continued to operate, often driving lorry loads of grapes through complex detours over the mountains to avoid battles. In only two years, 1976 and 1984 was Chateau Musar unable to produce any wine. This persistent continuity of operation was thanks to Gaston's son, Ronald.

    Both Serge and Ronald were involved in Chateau Musar from young, washing bottles and working at the winery. Ronald recalls working from 7am to 5pm at the winery in Ghazir and then working evenings at the Chateau Musar shop in Beirut.

    Ronald’s son Ralph is also involved in the family business. Based in the UK office, he focusses on the South East Asian market. Elsa, Ronald's daughter, has produced a documentary on Chateau Musar.

    All in all, it is quite clear that Chateau Musar is a family business through and through!

    The Vineyards

    Chateau Musar Vineyards

    Chateau Musar's red varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan are grown towards the southern end of the Bekaa valley, about 30 km south-east of Beirut. Their white grapes, the indigenous Lebanese Obaideh and Merwah (likened to Chardonnay and Semillon respectively) are grown at higher altitudes, around 1,500 meters above sea level.

    Between August and October each year, the grapes are hand-harvested by locals and are then shipped by lorry to the winery located at Ghazir, an hour away from the vineyards.

    The Winery

    Whilst the vineyards are situated in the Bekaa Valley, Chateau Musar's winery is an hour away in Ghazir, about 20 km from Beirut. In the 1930s, when Gaston Hochar began making wine, the borders of Lebanon had not been settled yet. He wanted to ensure that his winery remained within the boundaries of the country, so chose the family's 18th century castle, called M'zar (from where Chateau Musar derives its name). This Arabic name means "place of extraordinary beauty" or "shrine to be visited", and true to its name, overlooks the Mediterranean.

    Over time, cellars were built into the nearby mountain for long term wine storage. These were so secure that they were used by locals during the Lebanese Civil War as air raid shelters.

    A view of the Chateau Musar cellar

    Chateau Musar achieved organic certification in 2006. However, given the remoteness of the vineyards, it could be argued that Chateau Musar was informally organic before the term "organic" was devised!

    The wine making process remains as natural and non-interventionist as possible in the winery. Wild yeasts create fermentation, rather than cultured yeasts being introduced to the wines. Only a very small amount of sulphur is used and the wines are not fined or filtered.

    The Wines

    Chateau Musar produces three ranges of wines: Chateau Musar in Red, White and Rose, Hochar Père et Fils Red and Musar Jeune in Red White and Rose.

    Chateau Musar also produces L’Arack de Musar, a Lebanese aniseed flavoured spirit.

    Keep an eye out for a follow-up blog post this month that will feature Chateau Musar's wines in more detail. In the meantime, if you want to purchase any of their exquisite wines, you can do so through our website.

    Sign up to our blog posts at the bottom of the page so you don’t miss the next installment. Or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all our news.

    Thank you to Chateau Musar for the photographs used in this blog post.

  • GlenWood's People, Community and Environment

    In our previous post on GlenWood, we learned about their history, philosophy and award-winning wines. This post will look at their commitment to people, community and environment as well as the awards and accreditation they and their people have achieved in recent years.

    People

    GlenWood is committed to the development of its people and includes this as an element in its business planning and strategy.

    TRAINING AND AWARDS

    Over the past few years the following awards have been won by people on the GlenWood team:

    - Franschhoek Farm Worker of the Year

    - South African Cellar Worker of the Year.

    GlenWood's Assistant Farm Manager since 2011, Cornel Paulse won Franschhoek Farm Worker of the Year in 2013 and 2015 and placed third in the Western Cape's Farm Worker of the Year in 2015.

    "In line with our staff development programme, we are currently training two people who we hope to enter next year," said Zinaschke Steyn, GlenWood's Assistant Winemaker.

    Assistant Farm Manager Cornel Paulse with his award for winning Franschhoek’s Farmworker of the Year

    Assistant Farm Manager Cornel Paulse with his award for winning Franschhoek’s Farmworker of the Year (Photo: GlenWood)

    PEOPLE ACCREDITATION

    GlenWood's farm and cellar have both earned Wine & Agricultural Ethical Trade Initiative (WIETA) accreditation for legislative compliance, working conditions, workers' health and safety, and housing and tenure requirements.

    The WIETA accreditation is clear evidence of the importance GlenWood affords its people development strategy.

    Community

    GlenWood's involvement in Franschhoek industry and community projects includes Vignerons de Franschhoek and Bhabhathane.

     

    GlenWood is a member of Vignerons de Franschhoek, an organisation promoting Franschhoek wines, wine industry training programmes and supports the efforts of Franschhoek Wine Valley, the region's tourism organisation.

    The Bhabhathane Programme was launched by Alastair Wood, GlenWood's owner. Bhabhathane means change. Its objective is educational transformation in Franschhoek and its mission is to make all schools and Early Childhood Development Centres in Franschhoek centres of excellence. Bhabhathane's understanding is that the people of the Franschhoek valley, particularly local farm workers, will be uplifted through education.

    Over the four years that Bhabhathane has been operating, it has achieved success with its Early Childhood Development Project, Principal Enrichment Project and Teacher Enrichment Project.

    Environment

    GlenWood is committed to protecting the environment and as such, have dedicated ten hectares to the regeneration of indigenous Cape fynbos. The farm also only uses environmentally-friendly agricultural practices.

    ENVIRONMENTAL CERTIFICATION AND ACCREDITATION

    GlenWood has achieved the following certification and accreditation in relation to its environmental endeavours:

    - Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) certification: this is a voluntary environmental sustainability scheme, complying with international criteria.

    - Bio-Diversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) accreditation: this accreditation guarantees sound conservation practices, assuring  consumers that accredited vineyards and cellars follow eco-friendly practices and natural habitats are protected.

    - Wine of Origin (WO): this industry certification assures consumers that wines are produced using grapes from a specific district. All except one of GlenWood's wines are produced using their own grapes, qualifying the wines as Wine of Origin Franschhoek.

    All these additional measures go to show that not only are GlenWood wines fantastic, high quality wines, but that the ethos of GlenWood to support local people, community and environment makes these wines even more special.

  • GlenWood's Award-Winning Wines

    We are really excited to be welcoming GlenWood Vineyards' winemaker, DP Burger, to our Shropshire Tasting Rooms this Friday evening. DP will be hosting a food and wine pairing that will feature six of GlenWood’s wines.

    For more information on the event and to purchase tickets, email us on sales@htfwines.co.uk.

    A brief history of GlenWood Vineyards

    GlenWood started it's history as a general farm in 1811 in the Roberstvlei area of Franschhoek. In 1986, Alastair Wood purchased the GlenWood property. His farming dream was to produce wine.

    “This property immediately attracted me because, not only was it suitable for farming grapes to make quality wine, but it also gave me a wonderful sense of being at the very heart of nature while still being close to the village”, Alastair said.

    DP joined the team shortly thereafter and spearheaded the property's development over the following twelve years, until the farm was fully planted.

    GlenWood's wines

    The farm's 30 hectares consists of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Merlot and Shiraz. Semillon was chosen due to it's traditional link with Franschhoek. The other cultivars naturally suit the valley’s terroir.

    Follow this link for a comprehensive list of GlenWood's wines stocked by Hard To Find Wines.

    Awards gained in 2017

    Below is a table showing the awards GlenWood's wines have received during 2017. You can learn more about GlenWood's achievements and their award-winning wines on their website.

    Glenwood award-winning wines 2017

     

    Philosophy

    All decisions taken at GlenWood are processed through a simple grid of Simple, Natural, Quality.

    Simple

    Simplicity governs taste, design, architecture, business decision, production and so on. In simple terms, the team will always err toward focussing on the basics.

    Natural

    From viticulture practices to winemaking materials and techniques, GlenWood prefers eco-friendly, natural approaches. They are also deeply committed to regenerating and preserving the indigenous Cape flora, fynbos. Learn more about this in our next blog post.

    Quality

    All aspects of the business are underpinned by the concept of quality and this governs every interaction and decision taken at GlenWood, from the cellar to the office to the vineyards.

    Our blog post next week will take a look at GlenWood's focus on people, sustainability and community. Sign up to our blog posts at the bottom of the page so you don’t miss the next installment. Or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all our news.

  • Meet Mark Davies - an interview

    We caught up with Mark Davies, Director of Hard To Find Wines recently and put some questions to him about the business, wine and life in general (well, as it pertains to wine of course!).

    Question: Please briefly explain your role at HTFW.

    I am currently a man with many hats. From sourcing new wines and liaising with existing suppliers, keeping the website up to date (as much as possible) and boxing and sending the wines from our warehouse. All in all very much a plate spinner and juggler!

    Question: How did you get into the industry?

    Out of university I spent several years working in the catering industry as a chef, so was always surrounded by wine and people with a thorough knowledge of wines. Having worked unsociable hours in a hot and steamy kitchen for 5 years it was an easy decision to jump ship and enter the world of wine importing.

    Question: What convinced you to start HTFW?

    A friend had been working in the wine industry specialising in South African wines and operating on a local basis and was looking to expand his business. In partnership Hard to Find Wines was established.

    Question: How did HTFW begin?

    After 2 days locked in a small office with no windows and lots of awful name ideas, the name Hard to Find Wines was finally settled upon. We felt it concisely summed up what we wanted the company to become, specialising in quality wines from small boutique producers from around the world rather than the commercial alternatives in the big supermarkets and wine outlets.

    Question: What sets HTFW apart from other retailers?

    Although increasing in size year on year, we are still family-owned and run with the ability to offer truly personal service to all of our clients. I think unusually for the wine retail industry, we sustain incredibly close links with all of our suppliers, who in the main part are more like family friends. We also hold stock of all the wines we list so are able to offer next day delivery on the vast majority of our wines.

    Question: How do you choose which vineyards to work with?

    When looking for new vineyards to represent in the UK the search generally begins with some background homework online before jumping on a plane to visit. We usually focus on smaller vineyards with an ethos to quality and craftsmanship much like that of Glenwood Vineyard, where the winemaker DP Burger has been ensconced for over 20 years and is very much hands on.

    Question: Tell us about a highlight since starting HTFW.

    A highlight was actually quite recently when I was asked to organise a re-enactment of the Judgment of Paris from 1976, a famous blind tasting hosted by Steven Spurrier where Bordeaux was pitted against the best of California. In our tasting the US wines came out on top yet again, but was fantastic to be able to taste side by side the likes of Chateau Haut Brion and Ridge Montebello, some of the top wines in the world.

    Question: What is it like working with family?

    Based on our family farm in Shropshire, we have just completed building our new 6000 sq ft storage facility and offices and our old barn and farmhouse converted into a luxury guest house and function venue. Between Harriet and I we handle all aspects of the business, from travelling around the world sourcing new wines to boxing them up and shipping them out. One of us is always on the end of the phone to help customers with friendly and expert advice having generally sampled all of the wines we list.

    Question: What do you do on your day off?

    Being a small family-run business, days off are a rarity, but when I can and the sun is out I am not too shabby knocking a ball around a golf course.

    Question: Tell us about a wine related challenge or failure you faced and how you overcame it.

    Over the past decade it has been an incredibly steep learning curve, with wine being such a huge and complex subject. From not knowing my Claret from a Bordeaux, extensive tasting of all things wine has got me to possibly knowing 5% of what there is to learn! Who knows by the time I am 70 I may be up to 30%. Anyone who claims to know all there is to know about wine is way off the mark, and every week I learn something new.

    Question: What is your favourite wine? Do you stock it?

    Although a cliché my favourite wine is also our biggest selling wine, but in my opinion for good reason. Haute Cabriere Chardonnay Pinot Noir is produced in Franschhoek SA and has been in our portfolio right from the very start. It is a little unusual in that it is a blend of red and white grapes to produce a white wine, but is incredibly versatile and utterly delicious.

    Question: Are you a collector? If so, what is your most prized bottle?

    Through Hard to Find Wines I am incredibly fortunate that I am able to taste a whole range of wines, including En Primeur releases from around the globe. With my work hat on I purchase numerous wines for laying down ranging from the obvious French Bordeaux and Burgundy to Tuscan, Rioja and Napa wines. Personally my budget is a little more conservative, however, I do have a few nicely aged bottles tucked away and a case of Taylor’s 1977 vintage Port which I am yet to delve into.

    Question: What wine do you favour for a special occasion?

    Every Christmas I scour the warehouse for something special for Christmas day lunch. As a treat I always plump for a magnum as there is something a little more indulgent about opening a big format bottle, plus they age more slowly and develop often more integrated and subtle flavours. Last year was a magnum of Bodegas Hermanos Pecina Gran Reserva Rioja 1998 which was superb.

    Question: Where do you enjoy travelling to most for wine related matters and why?

    South Africa is where we started and still represents around a third of the wines we import and is without doubt my favourite wine destination. Wonderful weather, food, wine and people make the Cape an unforgettable experience every time you visit. I very rarely have to book a hotel and instead am welcomed on to the farms themselves to stay with the owners and winemakers. The other major advantage is that within a 2 hour drive of Cape Town you can tour all of the principal wine growing areas of the Western Cape.

    Question: How do you keep up to date with wine trends and industry news?

    For much of the year tastings are on a weekly basis and I often taste over 300 wines per week. Mingling with peers in the industry is by far and away the best way to keep up to date, along with following blogs and websites of some of the top wine journalists like Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker.

    Question: What are the biggest perks of your job?

    Without a shadow of a doubt the biggest perk is the people that I meet and work with. The wine industry is full of individuals all with a passion for what they do and each has their own specialities which you can learn from. The travel and wine tasting is a bonus too.

    Question: What advice can you offer wine novices on choosing wine?

    The most vital thing to remember when choosing a wine is that you must enjoy it personally. Every one has different tastes so do not worry what others think. It is also important to remember that the higher the price does not necessarily mean you will enjoy the wine more. However, with duty and VAT in the UK making up at least £3.50 of the cost of a bottle, for every extra £1 you spend the quality goes up exponentially. Also check the back label, often you will find wines at the cheaper end of the spectrum are mass bottled here in the UK and have lots of sugar and other additives such as egg or fish protein.

    Question: Tell us an unusual/memorable wine tale.

    Even though friends and family know what I do for a living, it still astounds me the number of people who, when invited around for dinner will bring wine! On occasion they will surprise me with a good choice, but invariably the opposite. Recently a friend brought a bottle of artificially flavoured Echo Falls which I promptly tossed out of the kitchen window.

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