4 February 2017

Selecting a new rosé wine for Naked Wines

Me tasting the good stuff
As an Archangel for Naked Wines, I was recently lucky enough to be asked to to help them choose a new Provencal Rosé wine for their website.

It was pretty exciting stuff as it was the first time I'd visited the Naked Wines offices and met a lot of the people I've been chatting to online since 2012. Plus, I hadn't drank for 33 days previously. What a way to break dry January with a rosé tasting with Naked Wines?
Outside the Naked Wines
offices with Archangels
Simon and Darren

When I arrived at the offices, I did not feel let down by the Naked experience. The funky reception was dominated by a huge slide that transported staff between floors. Everything was quirky and open plan with meeting rooms named after principle Naked wine makers and wine vending machines for staff to sample latest vintages. What a fab place to work.

Archangel, Phil, 
shooting down the slide
And then the rosé wine arrived. Bottle after bottle after bottle of delicious looking wine. Some more delicate and blushy and some more red and fruity in colour. Turned out there were 37 of the stuff. It was like some sort of fantasy come true!

But when MD (and super fox) Eamon Fitzgerald kicked off the tasting, it became apparent that this was no jolly for Naked Wines. 

Wine Guru, Toby, had literally spent months talking to rosé producers in Provence to secure a selection of wines that would be, not only delicious, but exclusive to Naked. Plus, most of the wine makers were fairly small, artisan producers. And, if they were to secure distribution through Naked Wines, Eamon told us, it could be life changing.
Just a few roses to choose
from then....

On the train to Norwich, Archangels Simon and Darren had told me about a wine they selected at a previous day like this one. And, apparently the wine the Archangels chose was really unpopular with the Naked Angels. It literally "bombed". I did not want to be responsible for choosing a wine that the Angels don't like and I didn't want to let Eamon and the team down! 

We were instructed to use the spittoons and make the right decision. No pressure then.

I really hope that we made the right decision. Because the task was much more difficult than I'd anticipated!
Gorgeous Eamon laying down
the law. This was serious
business (I promise)

For starters, never before had I tried so many wines in such quick succession. Now, I'm a drinker and I've done a lot of tasting! But, we had to whittle 37 wines down to one which would go on sale on the website that evening! 

Our group initially had 12 wines to taste, then we tasted the 6 shortlisted rosés from all the groups and finally we selected one. I felt like I was literally tasting one wine after another after another! (I know, it's a hard life!)

Look how serious we were
Archangels Darren & Sarah
In addition, we had to keep in mind that we were helping to select a wine that would be popular with Naked Wines Angels. So, we had to consider the cost of the wine as well as whether it would be something that Naked customers would want to buy and would expect from a Provencal Rosé.

However, a few of the wines really stood out. And I was really pleased with the wine we chose. 

The Chateau Saint Hilaire Provence Rosé by Bruno Lapierre was mouth wateringly zingy with fresh strawberry fruit flavours, pale and blushy-pink in the glass and would be dangerously drinkable on a summer's day in the garden. 

My Archangel friend Ray
We finally met for the first
time that day!
In fact, 3,600 bottles went on sale that evening as a marketplace deal and nearly all of them had gone in just a few days, which hopefully showed we made a good choice.

I had such a great day and it was definitely worth the train fare and the total of 8 hours of travel to get there. I've also learned loads more about rosé wine (who'd have thought that a third of the wine drank in France was pink? They definitely have good taste). Thanks Naked Wines for an absolutely amazing afternoon (an AA afternoon).

28 October 2016

Naked picking for English Sparkling Wine

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to help with the grape harvest for a future English Sparkling Wine. Ok, so we weren't actually naked (it was far to cold for that nonsense) But our hosts were Naked Wines and one of their English wine suppliers, Ian Kellett from Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire so it was definitely Naked style!

I jumped at the chance as I've never helped with harvesting grapes before and I was keen to learn more. But, on the day in question, the weather couldn't have been much more dark and dank. It had seemingly rained all night and the roads were flooded on the way to the vineyard.

However, we were given a really warm welcome by Founder and MD Ian Kellett (and a warm coffee and croissant). And the vineyard looked as beautiful as ever, even through the rain.

We were all presented with our pruning tools under strict instructions not to chop any fingers off! It felt like a lot of pressure and my little team of my husband and another Naked Wines Archangel, Leon, got a little bit OCD with making sure we didn't miss any grapes. I personally think we were perfect pickers! 

It wasn't as hard going as I'd thought especially as there were so many juicy grapes and we were fortunate enough to be picking in a field where most of the grapes were at head-height. Thankfully, the sun shone nearly the whole time and my fingers remained in tact at the end!

Once we'd finished picking we went on a tour of the winery operation. I won't go into this too much as I already wrote about how fab it was in my post about a day trip to Hambledon Vineyard.

On this visit though we were lucky enough to have to have the MD and Founder of Hambledon wines giving us the tour. What shone through really crisply from Ian were three key themes:

Firstly, yes, they are using similar techniques, equipment and winemakers to the French. But with their own slant. Ian was a biochemist in a former life, clearly an innovative entrepreneur and massively driven. To such an extent that he even personally planned and designed the huge fermentation tanks. I really felt like they were taking the best of the French model and building on it. 

Secondly, quality. No cutting corners. No sloppy methods. Everything done the right way to make a truly quality bottle of sparkling wine. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Ian and the team clearly feel like they are on cusp of potentially something great for English Sparkling wine. The weather, the chalky soil together with the quality and innovative methods, meant that Ian believed within his lifetime, England would be making perhaps 50 million bottles of wine a year. Big stuff.

The few bunches that us Angels and Archangels picked that day will help towards the clutch. In fact, we picked enough to make 1,020 bottles!

And, yes, we got to enjoy a few glasses of the good stuff. Hambeldon supplies two Sparkling Wines to Naked Wines and since this was a Naked event, it was these that we had the pleasure of tasting at the end. 

My favourite without a doubt was the Pink Fizz called Old Winchester Hill Oeil de Perdrix NV which was named after the area the wine grapes are grown. Served perfectly cold in glasses that Ian designed himself (of course, I'd expect no less) it had lots of beautiful, small bubbles, deliciously dry and a light, blushed pink colour. 

I'll definitely be putting a few bottles in my next order. And, who knows? Maybe I will buy a bottle in the future containing some of the grapes that we picked!