Tag: Winemaker

Wine & Perfume | Q&A with Frances, founder of Abel

Frances and my paths keep crossing for many years now. I started off as her intern at New Zealand Winegrowers many years ago and went on to work at Villa Maria, Frances previous stomping ground as a winemaker, before we swapped continents and having our first child around the same time.

Frances is still living in Amsterdam and due to her entrepreneurial spirit founded the boutique perfume brand Abel. I caught up with her to find out more about Abel, the only 100% organic eau de parfum in the world that is so pure you can even enjoy it mixed as a cocktail!

Hi Frances, thank you so much for your time…

Tell us a bit about Abel…
Several years ago I was frustrated when I couldn’t find a natural (and ideally organic) perfume that smelt and looked great. I’ve always been super intrigued by the world of smells, in fact when I was deciding to study viticulture & oenology, I was also interested in studying to be a perfumer – however Milan or Paris seemed a little out of reach for this South Island country girl!

abel 4

So when I realised this desire I had didn’t seem to exist, I thought why not? And if I pulled together the right experts around me, could we make one? The idea was born. That was the beginning of 2012.

abel 3

Fast-forward to today, Abel now produces two perfumes (we think they are the only 100% organic eau de parfum in the world). We are sold in several countries (mainly in Europe) in some of the world’s most exclusive perfume houses.

What does a “normal” working day look like for you?
There really is no normal. Between a 1 year old baby and managing all aspects of the business with no full time staff, but people based all around the world. It’s a balanced chaos!

What are the similarities between wine and perfume?
There are loads! From the roots deeply entrenched in French culture, to the romance and passion inspired by the olfactory experience. Interestingly, it was the similarities that drove my interest in both, but it’s the differences that have actually been more profound throughout our journey with Abel!

In winemaking, the vineyard is king and the best wines are still produced using the best grapes, from the most carefully nurtured vineyards on the best sites – a formula that hasn’t changed in many centuries.

With perfume it’s different, you start from scratch and develop a perfume to meet a creative vision – combining the ingredients you need and perfecting it as you go over many trials. Modern perfumers have a palate of over 3000 (mainly) synthetic ingredients from which to build that vision. Sometimes these synthetics have been created to replace natural ingredients (i.e. synthetic musk, to replace natural musk that used to be taken from the gland of the make deer), sometimes they are to created to smell like notes that never existed in nature (i.e. burnt rubber!).

In creating Vintage ’13, we were limited to a palate of organic ingredients (much smaller even, than a palate of natural ingredients). So like winemaking, it again became about the quality of the individual organic ingredients – we compared sandalwood from Australia, with its fragrant eucalyptus notes, to sandalwood from East India, with its rich warmth. Working with natural ingredients is different to synthetics in many ways, not least that we are subject to limited supply and seasonal variation (we can’t just replicate the note in a laboratory). The philosophy behind our ‘Vintage’ fragrance is that each time we bottle, we will release a new ‘Vintage’ – much like a vintage Champagne, showcasing the seasonal nuance of that year’s vintage.

What do you miss from working in the wine industry?
I miss the camaraderie of the New Zealand wine industry. It was a really great world to be part of.

Perfume in cocktails. Tell us a little bit more about this trend …
Our perfumes are made using only organic essential oil and food grade organic alcohol (therefore are drinkable **in small quantities!). When I saw an article about perfume inspired cocktails at the Ritz Carlton Berlin Curtain Club, I got our Berlin based distributor to get onto them about a REAL perfume cocktail! We are now served at the Ritz in a special Abel cocktail (Black forrest champagne – yum!), and like serving the perfume in cocktails as a surprising way of telling the ‘organic story’.

Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
So many favourites! I think there’s something to be said for the local pairings in their local environment – it’s a little cliche I know. But nothing taste better than Marlborough mussels and a local Sauvignon blanc when in Marlborough. We were recently in the Cinque Terre and sitting overlooking the ocean, the austere white harvested from the (frighteningly steep) terraces nearby with their local pesto gnocchi.

What’s your go to wine at the moment?
I love living in Europe with the wealth of European wines on offer. Most recently, I picked up Spanish Tempranillo / Syrah / Merlot from Tierra de Castilla in central Spain at my local organic grocers. We drank it on Sunday evening with a Moroccan chicken tagine I had slow cooking all afternoon. I remember using the words “stinky” “salty” and “ripe” when drinking it which are all very good words in my view!!

Favourite spots in Amsterdam:
I’m a huge fan of our neighbourhood – Amsterdam’s Oud West (the old west). It’s a melting pot of ethnic street markets, boutique hotels and trendy cafes. I keep a Pinterest board of some of my favourites!

Highlight in 2014:
Hands down, the birth of our son Rufus – which took place in our apartment, on a full moon, Friday 13th! The birth itself was incredible but it’s what it signified and the days and week’s ahead that are truly mind-blowing!!

Last book read:
John Lennon’s biography (actually still in the process of reading)… My husband Dave is a big non-fiction reader who travels to London often for work, so I generally find I’m reading his WKSmith cast offs! (Obviously English books aren’t everywhere in Amsterdam!)

Advice on buying perfume:
Try before you buy. As in try properly. A good perfume (especially some made with at least a few natural ingredients ) will evolve significantly as you wear. So you need to find something that works with your body chemistry. Don’t buy trends and don’t buy something you like on someone else.

Dead or alive, who would you want to wear your perfume?
Fran Lebowitz. I recently read an article about her opinions on modern dressing (it made me regret the amount of time I spend in my yoga pants in public!). But she has such sass, conviction & personality and takes a choice-full approach to grooming – something I wish more people did!

Thanks Frances, I hope our paths keep crossing!

Make sure you visit Abel’s website and follow them on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Cheers,
Caro

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Winemaker Profile: Renée Dale

Occupation:
Day job: Contract bottling winemaker at WineWorks Auckland.
Extracurricular job: Winemaker for my own wine brand {moi} wines & partner in Winery Doors.

Description:
It’s important for one to get a foot in the door of the industry at a young age but how does one keep it there? In my experience the wine industry doesn’t always lend itself to developing young talent coming through. It’s all very well doing a Wine Science degree but what truly defines a winemaker? It’s different in every wine business you look!

By starting my own brand I’ve been able to continue my learning and growth in this industry at a level that sustains my thirst for knowledge. “My Own Invention – {moi} wines” forces me to learn the process of product development, wine production, compliance, marketing, brand management, accounting, business development. Basically from word to go and I just can’t get enough!

With all the knowledge I’ve absorbed in the last decade I needed a creative outlet in which to direct my extra energies and I can take these learnings with me into my daily role as a bottling winemaker for WineWorks. I’m much more passionate because of this side project and confident my duties are performed on behalf of our clients with the highest care and degree of detail. It’s not all about {moi} you know!

Renée Dale 1

Number of years in the wine industry:
10

First Job:
First job ever? Cast in a Weetbix Ad
First job in wine industry? Trinity Hill cellar door sales – the best kick start to my career in the wine industry, thanks to the awesome people who worked there!

If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
I’ve often thought about this and at different times of my life I have had different answers. I can be a bit fruity, unique, structured, a little quirky or spicy, with many layers, and I tend to look at life quite deeply. I think I am a Syrah – at the moment I’m thinking of the last Syrah that took my breath away – St Joseph 2010 Vignes de l’hospice.

Renée Dale 2

What would you do if you wouldn’t be a winemaker?
As I’m passionate about permaculture I’d love to somehow be involved in sustainable business development/consulting.

Why did you decide to work in the wine industry?
I loved the idea of combining food science and creativity as well having an active job that could help me travel to some of the most beautiful places on the planet. The reality sometimes means it is very physical or grubby and not as romantic as you’d expect. I am constantly learning and growing throughout my career and it has become my constant – my ground zero so to speak and it keeps me sane when life around me can seem tumultuous.

Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
{moi} wines 2013 Viognier and homemade smoked fish pate is a winning combination!

Renée Dale 3

Share a fact about your winery that only a few know:
My first vintage of Cabernet Franc for {moi} was accidental – I was meant to be making a Viognier for M-Wines and the seasonal rains ruined a lot of white fruit that year.

Hidden gems and favourite spots in your region:
I wouldn’t say it is a hidden gem so to speak but it is one of my favourite places in the whole world – Wainamu Lake & sand dunes near Bethells Beach, West Auckland.

Things you still want to do:
– Make port for a season in Portugal
– Scuba dive in the Galapagos
– Travel to France, India, Mauritius and Chile
– Make Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Riesling

Last book read:
To cork or not to Cork – Michael Taber.

Advice on buying wine:
Don’t be afraid to try something new or difficult to pronounce!

Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
Jesus

Follow {moi} wines on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter.

Cheers,
Emily

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Meet the Maker: Sofia Elena

Occupation:
Winemaker from Argentina and Vineyard & Winery Assistant at Burn Cottage in Central Otago.

Description:
I’m almost an expert in tasting grape juice and wine and I’m passionate about great aromas and tastes. I’m also knowledgeable about wine chemistry, microbiology and how wine evolves as well as viticulture, technology, machinery used for winemaking and health practices for the food industry.

Number of years in the wine industry:
5 years.

First Job:
Cellar hand in Viña Cobos, Paul Hobbs’ winery in Mendoza.

If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
An elegant, long, fruity but complex and lasting Pinot Noir or white wine from any region & winemaker who put lots of love and time into it.

What would you do if you wouldn’t be a winemaker?
Travel expert, counsellor, translator … maybe veterinarian.

Why did you decide to work in the wine industry?
Before turning 30 I found myself wanting to start another career I’m really passionate about and, knowing that I love good wine and following my friends´ advice, I started talking to people related to the wine industry. After all that, I decided that I wanted to start all over again and study, I really enjoyed it and it was the best decision I ever made!

Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
A few favourite matches: Juicy Malbec & Asado because I’m Argentinean. Cote Rotie with tête de veau because it’s very French (I love France). Any good Bourgogne wine and local Bourgogne cheese. And any great wine that makes you talk about it, matched with good friends that love wine.

Hidden gems and favourite spots in Central Otago:
To name a few, Rippon in Wanaka, Mt Edward in Gibbston, Hawkdun Rise wines in Alexandra, Sato wines (a small producer of natural wines), Brennan in Gibbston Valley, and of course Burn Cottage is a hidden gem as well.

Things you still want to do:
Lots of things but mainly learn how to make great white wines in a region where they are very difficult to produce (South America). Make my own wines.

Last book read:
Peter Proctor, Grasp the Nettle.

Advice on buying wine:
Buy a different wine each time, try different things and learn what you like, buy from small producers and by region, not by brand…just because you might find a gem with an excellent price-quality ratio from whom you never heard about, and if possible do blind tastings, educate yourself.

Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
Frida Kahlo, although she liked hard liquor & tequila, I’m sure she’d appreciate wine and write an awesome and passionate description about it.

You can find out more about Burn Cottage here.

Cheers,
Emily

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