O. Fournier Wines & Opportunities!

Please note photographs will hopefully be included soon!





It was by a rather circuitous route that I first learned of the wines, and furthermore, the opportunities, offered by the O. Fournier Group. As a regular guest broadcaster on the SCOFFQUAFF Programme on Channel Radio, UK, I was followed, one week, by Señor José Manuel Ortega Gil-Fournier, one of the founders of the Group.


E-mail addresses were exchanged and websites viewed. The more I learned about the Group, the more excited I became – had I the where-with-all to be part of this exciting project, I’d certainly be interested! I wonder if any readers may be similarly inspired?


To paraphrase the Group’s own words, theirs is an admirable objective – to produce wines of undoubted quality, both in the Southern Hemisphere and in the North, respectively in Argentina and Chile; and Spain, Ribera del Duero, to be precise; and to sell those wines, worldwide.


With a budget of 8 million, 4 million of which has already been spent, it’s an ambitious project! The Group owns vineyards in all three countries, but it’s in Argentina where the prospects look particularly interesting. There are 84 vineyard plots owned by the Group and although lots have already been sold, there are still vineyards for sale. Some of these plots also include permission for a villa to be built on the land, surrounded by the vines that will produce the grapes to make the owners’   own wines!


These wines, made by the Group’s expert winemakers and staff, can either be sold via the Group, using all their contacts and the already established international markets; or there is also the option of owners producing their own label wines and developing their own markets. Both options are designed to cover costs and make a profit!


Of course, there’s a lot to it and the best way to find out all you need to know is by visiting www.ofournier.com, clicking on the ofwinepartners.com icon.


Señor Ortega kindly sent me some wines, examples from all three areas of production, and I’m impressed with what I’ve tasted – I’d like to taste more!


The Urban range of wines, which embraces the three countries and both Hemispheres, is designed to represent modern winemaking techniques with a view to delivering a fruit driven product which is easily accessible for those whose lives are in the fast lane, but which include some depth of flavour too. All of the four wines have been aged in oak for just three months, including the white Chardonnay, therefore enfranchising those who like the upfront fruit flavours but also require a little complexity.


Strangely enough I tasted the first, an Argentinian Malbec from the Mendoza Region, whilst in France, in Cahors, to be precise, the original home of the Malbec Grape Variety! Taking coal to Newcastle!


The vineyards of the area now known as DO Cahors were decimated by the invasion of Philoxera, the devilish pest that ruined the European wine trade at the time, as the 20th Century was about to arrive. Some growers who had the where-with-all and the courage escaped with some of their healthy vines, emigrating to Argentina, and starting, though they didn’t know it, what has become a fantastic success story – Argentinean Malbec.


Mendoza Valley is where much of the Malbec is grown, to wide acclaim –and it’s here where the O. Fourner vineyards are located. The simple label on the bottles, a design common to all the Urban range, describes on the outside, a part of that which the contents give to the taster. And it’s this easy drinking aspect that makes the wine so attractive.


Take your time, though, hold the wine on the palate for a while and you’ll also discover a bit more. There is a very faint earthy minerality which contributes to the overall fruity sensation. Blackberries, for me, rather than Blackcurrant, and yet there is a very slight flavour, and yes, feeling, of Cassis on the finish. It’s quite rich, lovely as glass of wine after work, but will taste, and feel, good wine meat dishes and pasta too.


I was interested in the Chardonnay from Chile. The Urban Uco Chardonnay vines are grown at well over 1,000 metres above sea level. There’s plenty of sunshine but at that height there is a dramatic drop in temperature at night, during the growing season. The result is a Chardonnay that has tropical fruit on the nose and palate, with noticeable masked banana aromas too, but also a faintly Burgundian elegance with fresh acidity.


This wine has also had the benefit of three months in oak, in this case, I suspect, French oak, which may have contributed to the Burgundy reference! I enjoyed this wine as an aperitif but also with cheese and, on the second night (which is also a compliment, for it lasted well, in fact for three days), it was well received with roast chicken!


Staying in the Southern Hemisphere and also in Chile, I next tasted the heady (14·5% abv) Urban Maule Red Blend – 50% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 20% Syrah. A fascinating wine, given that it has the fresh acidity of the above Argentinean Malbec, which was made from grapes grown at great altitude, when this wine comes from a vineyard of only 90 metres above sea level!


Again, the three months in barrel have added some depth of flavour as well as enhancing the aroma profile. You’ll find a light touch of coconut and coffee too with a very slight black pepper taste sensation on the palate, but, as with the whole of this range, it’s the accessibility of the fruit that makes this wine stand out! Look for plums, damsons perhaps and a touch of black cherry.


Finally, though there are several other ranges of wines made by the group (including yours, one day?!), a wine from much nearer home. Urban Ribera 2011is 100% Tinta del País (aka Tempranillo) and made in DO Ribera del Duero. It’s a tough call but I’d say that this was my equal favourite of those taste, with the Malbec.


There are classic strawberries on the nose and palate with some darker fruit notes too. You’ll find some depth in flavour and a certain presence – it also weighs in at 14·5% abv and is a real mouthful of pleasure!


So, do you fancy being a part of the O. Fournier experience, becoming a consumer like myself, of a wine-making partner?!


Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com and through his wine services website www.colinharknessonwine.com , where you can also subscribe to his newsletter (free of charge, of course) and therefore have first-hand and early news of the various wine events he organises, most of which are sold out very quickly! Colin is also on Facebook; Plus you can follow him on Twitter @colinonwine for the latest on the Spanish Wine scene!

Thoughts on The 2015 Vintage


Who’d be a Winemaker?


It’s that exciting/frightening time again – the 2015 Vintage is upon us! Indeed, as I write in just the 2nd week of August, in some areas of production in Spain and the most southerly areas of France, it has already begun. For the growers it’s an agonising mix of anticipation and worry – all of which is done with one eye on the vineyards and the other, on the sky!


All the toil of the previous eleven months, which started just after the 2014 ‘vendimia’    (harvest, in Spanish) and continues until the last grape is picked will have impacted on the finished article – the wine. Some of the 2015 Vintage wine will be available in only a matter of weeks, indeed there’s one bodega, the only one in the Cartagena Area of Production, that promises that at least one of its wines will be on the shelves in very early September!


However, according to Denominación de Origen regulations the wine made this year which is destined to be aged, be it a Roble, or Semi-Crianza (aged in oak for anything up to six months); a Crianza (aged for a specific minimum number of months in barrel and then in bottle, before its release); a Reserva (same again, but longer in oak and often bottle); a Gran Reserva (same again, but the total ageing, barrel and bottle added together, must be at least 5 years; or a wine that has come to be known as a Vino d’Autor (a wine that has been made according to the winemaker’s whim, which does not necessarily fit into one of the brackets above), will not be available for some time.


Then there are the other categories of wine – from Vino de Pago through Vino de la Tierra and eventually to Vino de la Mesa, which in fact does not always mean the  lowest in the quality stakes! I agree, it can be confusing!


In simple terms the above means that probably the majority of the 2015 vintage will not be available until, at the earliest, the first few months of 2016. Many, of course, won’t be on the wine merchants/supermarket shelves for a number of years. So, for the poor winemakers there is the continued worry of the wait. Who’d be a winemaker?


And, of course, there is another reason why such an occupation can be precarious, to say the least. A phrase that we first heard, perhaps 20 years ago – Climate Change, or in the early days, Global Warming, comes worryingly to mind!


Although it was the scientists who officially documented the evidence and first raised the alarm, it was those in agriculture, including of course, wine grape growers, who started noticing subtle (and not so subtle) changes in their crops. Fortunately the politicians, well the honest ones, started listening to the scientists and then began pressing for change.


In the fields, the change had already started. In the case of wineries different growing methods were adopted, and continue to be so. In several cases, where possible, land at higher altitude was acquired and re-planting occurred. In the vineyards themselves canopy management became the buzz-technique, where leaves are left in place to provide some shade from the relentless sun.


All very well, but whilst we can shelter from the sun, we still need the rain. I’ve lived in Spain now for 18 years, having visited for several years before that, the first time as far back as 1973. There is no doubt in my mind that 2014/15 has been both the hottest and the driest here in South East Spain. Rain has been promised (note, I don’t say, threatened!) today as I write. Nothing significant has happened, nor has it for months. We are talking serious drought here, and it’s a major concern.


Wineries which have started their vendimia will hope that any major rainfall now holds off until all their grapes are in, to avoid a dilute vintage. Those, mostly in more northerly areas, will be hoping for some rain to give the grapes a final boost, but not torrential downpours, and horror of horrors, hailstorms, both of which can/will damage the grapes beyond use. Who’d be a winemaker?!


Bodegas Enrique Mendoza, DO Alicante, for example, has been proactive regarding the lack of rainfall. No, the family and staff haven’t been engaged in rain-dancing!  Instead, at considerable cost, a few years ago, they installed a system, computer controlled, which automatically triggers a drip-feed of water to the vines when they begin to show signs of stress, to the point where their survival becomes questionable.


Foolproof? Well, apparently the system is – but it is, of course, dependant on their being water to feed the feed, as it were. Look, I’m sorry, holidaymakers, the bottom line here is that we need rain, significant, regular rainfall that will cool the vines and the earth; that will start to replenish the reservoirs; that will correct the underground water table; and that will begin to redress the terrible imbalance from which we are all suffering!


And it’s not just in Spain. I was recently in Provence, home to the lovely Provençal Rosé (or is it? See my Blog www.colinharknessonwine.com click Blog). We were hoping to escape the temperatures and humidity of Valencia at the end of July, beginning of August – not a chance.


Provençal producers are similarly worried about record high temperatures and lack of rain. In a couple of days following my writing this Cork Talk, I’ll be in Cahors, another area in France famous for its wines (robust and darkly coloured reds in this case), where I’m also expecting to see wilting vines and an early harvest in progress.


Who’d be a winemaker?!


In a few months time I should be writing about bodegas’ and DO’s opinions of the standard of this year’s harvest and of the wines we are likely to find, stamped, proudly, I hope, with Vintage 2015!


PS Please note there are a number of exciting wine events this Autumn, starting in September. Watch this space, and better still, join my e-mail list for regular ‘News from the Vine’!


Contact Colin: colin@colinharknessonwine.com and through his wine services website www.colinharknessonwine.com , where you can also subscribe to his newsletter (free of charge, of course) and therefore have first-hand and early news of the various wine events he organises, most of which are sold out very quickly! Colin is also on Facebook; Plus you can follow him on Twitter @colinonwine for the latest on the Spanish Wine scene!