Voyageur Journal

Voyageur Journal

Importer #chitchat

I lived and worked in India from 2008 to 2010. At the time I was the regional cellar master for Amanresorts looking after South-Asia, based in New Delhi.

Often when I told people I worked in India people look at me puzzled and asked – why? As though I had signed up for voluntary torture. Its fairly safe to say that the vast majority of people who have visited India either love it or hate it – there is no in between…no hmmm…yeah, it was ok. Most people return home saying their experience was either amazing or horrendous.

I’m happy to say that I fall into the former category and love it. There’s no denying – it’s not the easiest country to live in and being the wine industry I most certainly struggled with the bureaucracy and red tape, but to this day I feel as though every time I have the opportunity to talk about Inida and my time there it gives me a little bit of its energy back.

After subsequently living in a number of other countries since, I have still never had a more passionate team, eager to learn and take the next step in their careers. It was definitely the most rewarding country I have ever trained in and if the wine taxes were to be reduced and the right opportunity came along, I would gladly go back. Some of my most cherished memories and friendships were made in India, including those of the suppliers I worked with.

One of the importers I most enjoyed working with was Vishal Kadakia, the owner of Wine Park, based in Mumbai.

India can seem somewhat impenetrable to wine producers, so vast and complex, that it is almost impossible to know where to start. Hopefully through Vishal’s perspective below we will be able to shine some light on how the current industry stands.

Voyageur Selections: When did you start Wine Park and why?

Wine Park: In 2005 I returned back from a 8 year stint in Boston to join my fathers plastics manufacturing business in India. I had developed a liking for wines during my stay in USA thanks to my European friends! After a level 2 WSET program and an exposure to the fascinating world of wine, my liking of wine quickly turned to a passion. A trip to burgundy in 2003 was an eye opener. I had then decided to do something in wine when the right opportunity came along. During my trip to Rioja in 2006, one winery showed willingness to work with us to export wines to India. Hence Wine Park was born in December 2006 as a small project.

VS: Tell us a little bit about the Wine Park philosophy and some of the producers you currently represent.

WP: Wine Park’s philosophy is to work with small family driven wineries making hand crafted wines. We work with dynamic, passionate and like-minded owners who are as equally excited to work and grow in India as we are. However this philosophy has many challenges in India. Small producers who could be rockstars in the rest of the world are relatively unknown in India and a huge effort has to be put into market their wines. We have been able to find success with clients by continuing in this direction and celebrating producers who make beautiful wines. Inputs from several individuals in the trade including Kavita has helped us shape this philosophy over the years for which I am grateful. A few of the producers we work with are: Saint Cosme (Gigondas), Querciabella, Brancaia, Bibi Graetz (Tuscany), Vietti (Piedmont), Donnhoff (Nahe), St. Urbans-Hof (Mosel), Billecart Salmon (Champagne), Roda (Rioja), Boekenhoutskloof (Franschhoek), Saint Clair (Marlborough), Honig (California), Rolf Binder (Barossa), Dominio del Plata (Mendoza)

VS: What is your decision making process for adding new producers to your portfolio?

WP: The process is very personal. I need to first really enjoy the wines in order to be able to sell them in India. Comparisons of wines from same region are important. I also need to get along with the producer. The pricing, packaging and commerce plays a vital role. And the most important is the Indian market requirement for new wines and its potential to be successful or not in today’s scenario.

VS: What is selling well in India at the moment?

WP: New World wines from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa are selling well. Consumers here in India find wines with a fruit forward style easier to drink and often easier to understand with their more simple labels and easier on the wallet too! Italian wines are also doing well due India’s love affair with Italian restaurants (probably the most popular after Indian and Chinese cuisine)

VS: Do you notice trends based on style or are they more linked to price point?

WP: Both. Let me cite an example. People enjoy Malbec from Argentina, however if you bring a very top end expensive Malbec from any producer it is unlikely to sell. There has to be a value associated to it. Similarly people enjoy a Chianti Classico but will often choose a cheaper one (even a Chianti) on the menu.

VS: What is the current tax structure for importing wine into India?

WP: This is a complex question and needs to be addressed separately. Generally the import tax is 160% and then there are a host of other taxes, which are state dependent.

VS: Is it correct that tax rates vary for every state? What is the most difficult and the most simple state to sell wine?

WP: Yes. The easiest state to work is Maharashtra (Mumbai) and Karnataka (Bangalore). Most complex…there are many.

VS: Are Mumbai and Deli still the biggest markets? Is one more prominent than the other from a consumption perspective?

WP: Yes. Mumbai and Delhi are still the biggest.

VS: Are importers like Wine Park able to sell wine directly to private clients/consumers or does wine have to be sold through a restaurant/hotel/retail outlet in India?

Wine Park cannot sell wines to a client directly. It has to be routed through the channels mentioned – Restaurant/Hotels/Wine Shop

VS: Are the majority of well known restaurants still found in hotels or are there more stand alone restaurants being opened?

WP: Indian F&B scene is booming. There are many more exciting stand alone restaurants found today then a few years ago.

VS: Do you see retail sales increasing?

WP: Yes, retail sales are increasing, but more for Indian wines than imported wines as there is a huge price differential between both segments. However with more modern retail wine stores opening in India and good wines finding shelf space, the segment is growing steadily.

VS: Where do people mainly drink wine in India – or home or out socially?

Wine still is generally drunk socially. However there is a steady increase in home consumption of wines with better quality Indian wines becoming more available in the retail market.

VS: Do you see the strong whiskey presence lessening any time soon?

WP: No.

VS: When I was living in India, I believe the average wine consumption was 1 teaspoon per person per year, this obviously diluted by the huge population. Has the consumption increased over the last 5 years?

WP: Marginally again with more Indian wines being sold.

VS: What in your opinion needs to occur to open up India as a major player in the Asian wine market – as we see in Hong Kong and Japan etc?

WP: In random order 1) Reduction in Taxes 2) Wine Education 3) Hiring of Sommeliers in Major Hotel/Restaurant Chains

VS: What have been some of your highlights over the last decade working in the wine industry in India?

WP: Meeting and making some fabulous friends across the world. Drinking some beautiful wines. Traveling to amazing vineyards. And the journey of becoming a wine entrepreneur!

VS: What would be one piece of advice you would offer a wine maker interested in exporting his/her wine to India?

Find a right importer willing to work with you. Be an enthusiast of the Indian market: visit often and be willing to invest in the long term. Most importantly – be patient.

Thanks Vishal!

To learn more about Wine Park, visit their website



Inspiration Vault

I am a massive fan of Marie Forleo.

Her interview below of Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is one of my favourites.

Listen to them discuss their new book “A Path Appears” where they discuss hope and solutions for change in a world that can often seem overwhelming.

The title of their book is linked to a century old Chinese story that says “hope is like a path in the countryside, at first there is nothing, as more people walk back and forth a path appears.”

One person can make a difference.

Just the inspo we need at the Voyageur Selections office, as we get the week started with lots of plans in the pipeline.

Have a great week!


K x

Smashable Stuff in SA!

Since returning home to Australia it has been nice to remove my sommelier hat for the first time in a decade and really just be a true consumer for a moment. Drinking wine without thinking about which restaurant it would go well in, what the consumer perception of it would be and at what price point it would be listed. Ive always believed that the golden rule of being a good sommelier is to never write a list with only wine you like to drink on it, you certainly don’t list wines you dislike, but you have to curb your own personal preference to a certain extent and look at wine with an unbiased eye, appreciate it for exactly what it is and understand that every consumer is different, whilst staying true to your own personal philosophies and knowing that there needs to be something on your list for everyone. I have always said that if I was going to write a wine list just for me it would be full of just Riesling and Pinot and that would be it, one day I secretly hope I get the opportunity to write that list…
After 10 years overseas, one of the most exciting things about being back in Australia is getting to try the wines of the producers that have emerged during this time, many of them producing such small quantities that they are not available outside the state they are made in let alone overseas.

Tom : Shobrook Wines

Tom : Shobrook Wines

I recently spent the weekend in South Australia, where there are some seriously exciting wines being produced. From Shobrook’s Tommy Ruff, a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre from the Barossa that wine maker Tom suggests is the perfect thing to drink whilst riding your bike home. To James Erskine of Jauma’s various incarnations of Grenache from McLaren Vale and a Chenin that I could deadest drink for the rest of my days and not complain.

Photo Credit: Julian Kingma

James : Jauma Photo Credit: Julian Kingma

Yes, these wines can be classified as natural and receive all of the adoration and or wrath that ensues, but for me, when considering the final product and what is in the glass first and foremost, before how it is made, these are wines I simply just want to drink. Guzzle in fact. They make me thirsty just thinking about them, and they are kind of wines I can’t wait to show and share with my friends. If that is not the purpose of good wine then I don’t know what is.


Gareth – Gentle Folk


From the Basket Ranges enclave I am also loving the wines of Gentle Folk, who whilst at dinner I found myself reaching for time and time again. At less than a 1000 cases in total production, good luck getting your hands on some…its first in best dressed at there. The one producer of this special collection of humans that I did encounter towards the end of my time in Asia, were the wines of Lucy Margaux in Tokyo, where Anton the wine maker is seen as a demi-god to the natural wine drinking community with bottles of his wine selling faster than tickets to an ACDC concert in Adelaide. With their anime inspired labels, drawn by Anton’s daughter Lucy, their Japanese importer – Wine Diamonds – says they could sell 10 times the small allocation they receive, as I am sure could most sommeliers in Australia.


Anton : Lucy Margaux



Speaking of wines idolized in Japan, just down the road from Lucy Margaux we also visited Ochota Barrels who make my favourite Gewurztraminer in the country and seriously good Pinot Noir amongst many other delicious treats.


Tarras : Ochota Barrels


Wine maker Tarras is such a legend that when the Rolling Stones came to town there was only one place they wanted to go after their ‘gig’, his place! Mick Jagger playing the piano in the winery…is next level. And that’s exactly what the wines being made from this awesome group of individuals are – next level.

I want to drink them all day, everyday and that’s that.



To buy these wines online (if you there is any left) head to their various websites:

#labellust – Burn Cottage

Burn Cottage is seriously awesome stuff. Made in Central Otago, New Zealand – everything about this wine is cool – the people behind it, the labels and most importantly the wine itself.

On visiting the property it was easy to see the cool-factor runs far deeper than its label. An immaculate bio-dynamically run property, producing phenomenal Pinot.


I sat down with owner Marquis Sauvage to learn more about them and their story.

VS: The Burn Cottage label is very distinctive, its unique and unlike any other. How did you decide on the visual imagery for the brand?

BC:  In meeting with our designer we went through a bunch of different types of imagery. They were able to get a feel for what it was that I was looking for, and the sort of imagery I like.  I am a huge fan of Heavy Metal, so those type of images come through in both The Burn Cottage and Cashburn Labels.  We also wanted to relay the message that we are a biodynamic vineyard, and make our wine with minimal intervention.   The story of The Green Snake and Beautiful Lilly just really seemed to cover all bases.


Marquis in the centre…

VS: Can you tell us the story behind the ‘Green Snake and Beautiful Lily’ fairytale and how it is relevant to Burn Cottage.

BC: The Green Snake and Beautiful Lilly is a fairy tale by Goethe. Rudolf Steiner, the father of Biodynamics, was inspired by this story so we thought it fitting to use the story as inspiration for The Burn Cottage Label.  The fairy tale is about how man should co exist within the natural world.  The images depicted on The Burn Cottage Label, are all represented in the fairy tale itself.   i.e: the snake, lilly, wise men, etc.


VS: Who did you work with to design the labels?

BC: We worked with some great wiz kids at a company called Mash Designs out of Adelaide Australia.  They have done some other fabulous wine labels.  In fact we are currently developing a new label with them at the moment, so stay tuned.  Dom there has done a great job for us.


VS: Was it the same people that designed your labels that also did your website?

BC: Mash also came up with the our website as well, which is super cool!  However, I may be biased.


VS: Do you think that the way wine looks/is packaged affects people’s perception of the actual wine?

BC: We wanted to come up with a package that was unique and grab peoples attention.  However, as with all great wine, the proof is in the bottle, so that had to be there too.  I think it would be difficult to “pull off,” a label like Burn Cottage if the quality of the wine was not there.  I think sometimes people see Burn Cottage as a cool label, and are surprised that the quality of the pinot is also there in the bottle.


VS: Were you trying to attract a specific demographic to your wines when you designed the labels or are they more a reflection of you, and this is what you are trying to express

BC: No, we were not going after a certain group of wine drinkers with the label.  We were being selfish, and doing what we liked!  It is the same way we make our wine.   We hope people like the label and the wine, but if not, that is ok too.  We always joke, that there is no middle ground with our label.  You either love it or hate it.  Which is fine by us either way.   We also wanted to take the pretension out of wine as well with our label, and make it accessible to all.

To get your hands on some visit and to get in touch with their awesome designers go to



Inspiration Vault

The #inspirationvault is a space where I post things that do just that…inspire me.

Having just returned to Australia, I am more conscious than ever of the role women play in the wine industry from wine makers to sommeliers and even more so, the role of the female consumer.

As a new business owner Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s talk from TEDx Women on female entrepreneurs really resonated with me and I thought it was the perfect start to my #inspirationvault.

I love where she stated that “women can no longer be both half the population and a special interest group.”  #agreed

Well worth the 13 minutes…watch below x

Importer #chitchat

I recently spent almost 2 months in Japan, whilst I was putting the wine program together for the new Amanresorts property in Tokyo.

I arrived to Japan knowing that it was regarded as the most sophisticated of all the major wine markets in Asia and expecting there to be a wide range of availability, but never in my wildest dreams did I think there would be the depth and diversity of wines I found there.

In Japan more than anywhere else in the world they are masters at specialising in the smallest detail – hence there are importers just focusing on the Rhône only, others just Oregon, many just natural wines. In Japan the natural wine movement has been embraced to a point of fanaticism. I think I could pretty safely say that Tokyo has more natural wine bars than anywhere else on the planet.

Anyway, moving on, in this series of blog posts our aim is to introduce you to the importers on the ground in various markets across the Asia-Pacific region.

To kick everything off we meet Carl Robinson, CEO of Wine Diamonds.

Whilst almost everything is available in Japan, it can be a very intimidating market for wine producers to navigate. Hence on Importer #chitchat we aim to give you some insight into the varying markets whilst highlighting the best in the business.

VS: Wine Diamonds is relatively new in the Japan wine scene – when did you start Wine Diamonds and why?

CR: We started Wine Diamonds in 2012.

I have also for the last 10 years been running a larger international importer called Jeroboam. Jeroboam has big international brands such as Pol Roger, Hugel, Perrin, Yalumba, Joseph Phelps etc. About five years ago we started to get excited about some of the newer, modern small producers that were coming out of Australia and New Zealand. Initially Jeroboam imported a few of these. However after a while (and a few late night drinks) we thought that a small dedicated company would be the best way to promote these wines. We put together a great team of partners and then started to build up the portfolio. Our team was Ned Goodwin MW and myself for sourcing, marketing and educating. Ken-Ichi Ohashi, for wholesaling to his local network of Japanese professionals, and Yoshiaki Washitani owner of Wassy’s, Japans leading online retailer of new world wines.

VS: Tell us about the people behind Wine Diamonds…

CR: I have been in Japan for 18 years. I started as a somm then moved into consulting. I was doing the usual things, building wine lists, teaching, writing for several magazines and helping wineries get distribution in Japan. When the Perrin, Hugel and Pol Roger families started Jeroboam they hired me to put together their new world portfolio. It was a big success and we became close. Eventually I was able to take over the running of the business.

Ned was another long-term wine resident of Japan and we had been mates for several years. Ned too was consulting, writing and teaching for many prestigious companies both in Japan and internationally. We had often talked about doing something fun with the small artisan producers we loved, so we got together with Ken and Yoshiaki and started.

Ken is a wine distributor, educator, sake guru who consults (amongst other things) for the Somersault group of 20+ local distributors throughout Japan. These distributors formed the base of our early distribution. Yoshiaki Washitani is Japans most respected and important on-line retainer of New World wines. He has two physical shops in Osaka and a large team for the online business. Wassy’s is the only place where all our selections are available to consumers.

Once we had our shareholder group we needed a dynamic and energetic manager to run and develop the business. After much begging from Ned and myself we were able to persuade Yutaka Ozaki to leave his dream job as brand ambassador for Moet Hennessy to come and join us. Yutaka had previously worked with Ned at Global Dining, one of Ned’s large consulting clients. Yutaka’s energy has really seen the business take off.

VS: Can you give us a run down on your decision making process for choosing producers for the WD portfolio.

CR: We chose together and all agree on what we add to the portfolio. If anything Ned takes care more of the sourcing in Australian and myself for NZ. However after we find stuff we all sit down to taste and discuss. Our criteria is simple – they have to be delicious, and made by people we want to hang out with.

VS: When I was there I was surprised by how little Australian and New Zealand wine there was listed in the majority of the five star hotels and Michelin starred restaurants. They seem to focus on California of all of the new world regions. Where has that trend stemmed from in Japan? As in the rest of Asia it is generally the opposite with Australia and New Zealand dominating new world selections. Is it difficult to sell Australian and New Zealand wine in Japan?

France and Italy still rule here. Basically because wine has traditionally been part of the restaurant experience. There are 4500 Italian restaurants in Tokyo alone and more than 3000 French. Wine is imported distributed and drunk primarily in the on trade at these outlets.

With regard to the new world there has been limited demand (there are probably only 5 Australian and 2 NZ restaurants in Tokyo) so NZ and Aus traditionally tended to get token places on the large hotel lists and international restaurants. The US prevalence stems from trade ties and the post war fascination with all things USA that still prevails. In the 80’s when Japan was exporting millions of container loads of goods to the USA the Americans demanded they put something in the containers coming back. Hence companies like Honda motors were amongst the first Californian Wine importers. Now pretty much every Californian Wine brand is here.

With regard to selling Australia and New Zealand, I think the Wine Diamonds customer is attracted to our selections for the taste and style and not because they are Australian / New Zealand wines. We spend a lot more time talking about the people who make our wines rather than where they are from.

There is a growing movement on smaller, more casual restaurants, often in the grimier parts of the large cities, opening with funkier food and wine offerings. These are the outlets that have really taken to the Wine Diamonds portfolio.

VS: What are your thoughts on the natural wine movement in Japan, is it just a passing trend or here to stay?

CR: It’s here to stay. Post Fukushima Japanese consumers are very concerned about what they eat and drink. Integrity in food and beverage packaging has become a big deal. The idea of non-manipulated wines hits this nerve perfectly, and I am sure it will continue.

There are many dozens of restaurants that only serve natural wines now. They continue to open like crazy.

VS: Whilst I was there, I noticed that Lucy Margaux, one of the WD producers, has quickly become almost a cult wine – it is possible to explain why Anton’s wines have been so successful?

CR: Japanese love the story behind the wines they drink. Anton has a great story. With any movement (such as Natural wines) there are those who do it for marketing and those that walk the walk. Anton, making his own wine, cider, salt, vegetables, beer, dry goods etc. is the real deal and the Japanese have been quick to recognize that. The labels also hark to Japan with the Manga designs created by his daughter Lucy. It’s a perfect match.

VS: Are you looking to expand the Wine Diamonds portfolio? If so, what are you looking for?

CR: Yes, we are keen to keep our portfolio fresh and relevant. Many of our producers are very small and cannot give us more wine. Hence we need to keep finding more like-minded producers that add value to the portfolio. We are looking for anything that excites us.

VS: Whilst Tokyo is quite a stable market, it is still susceptible to trends. What do think will be the next big trend?

CR: I think we are still at the beginning of the Natural wine trend and this has a long way to run. For wines I think that Japanese consumers will continue to demand wines of honesty and integrity. The industrial wines will continue to slow down here whist artisans will do well. Oh, and the other BIG trend will be the prevalence of Japanese wines as an important part of restaurant wine lists. The local industry is on fire!

VS: Last but not least, what’s your favourite thing about being a part of the Japanese wine market?

CR: Japan is a great place to be in the wine business.

If you are passionate about what you do and are willing to invest the time and effort then you can build a good following and a successful business. It always takes longer than you think, but if you stick at it Japan is immensely rewarding. The foods is not bad either!

Thanks Carl!

To visit the Wine Diamonds website got to


Design: Viña Tondonia P1

The design series of this blog will focus on a range of architectural aspects, from winery design and function to their interiors. I am by no means a professional in this arena just an observer of beauty, and hence these posts will merely be my own personal musings.

In Part I below, the inspiration behind Lopez de Heredia’s, Zaha Hadid designed stand and tasting room is revealed.

This is a direct excerpt from their website, with the story told by the current generation of the family now entrusted with preserving the 138 year history of this iconic winery.

López de Heredia in the Brussels World Expo in 1910

The history of our wines has always been linked to the history of our family. Over the years we have stored an endless number of objects related to the winemaking world, as well as personal objects and documents of great historical value, for we are fully aware that one of our most precious treasures is the history of the last 138 years. In 2002 we had many things to celebrate, including the 125th anniversary of the bodega, thus fulfilling the dream of our founder – Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta – in achieving the “Supreme Rioja”.

In 1910, Europe and America were undergoing a euphoric moment of peace and hope, with the impulse of communications and business which gave Madrid a modern character and a European outlook. This circumstance was used by Don Rafael to set up his offices on the corner of Calle Alcalá and Calle Sevilla, in an area that had taken on a certain air reminiscent of the “City” in London, with the monumental buildings of the large banks and the offices of “La Equitativa”, where López de Heredia was established.

1915-La Equitativa y Calle de Alcala-Cataneira y Alvarez

1910 also saw the opening of the Hotel Ritz in Madrid, and Don Rafael succeeded in making people associate Viña Tondonia with an expression of good living during this “belle époque”.  Tondonia began to be served at the tables of “L’Hardy”, “Tournie”, the “Hotel Ritz” and later in the “Palace”, in the same way that it would later become popular in the best restaurants around the world. Two events gave our great-grandfather, the founder of the Haro bodega the perfect opportunities to lend his products the cosmopolitanism he so desired: firstly, the Brussels World Expo in 1910, together with its rival, the Buenos Aires World Expo, which was held around the same date to celebrate the centenary of the Argentine Republic.

Excited by the fact that the two events were situated in the centre of Europe and in the capital city of the most prosperous nation in Latin America respectively, he planned the presentation of his wines in the setting of an artistic, original and elegant structure, influenced by modernist trends. Don Rafael’s friendships throughout Europe, together with the collaboration of his eldest son, Don Rafael López de Heredia Aransáez (who, by the age of twenty, had finished studying mechanical engineering in Germany, and had already embarked on further studies in England and France) were important influences in putting his father’s ideas into practice.

Among the aforementioned friendships, Don Nicolás de Escoriaza, an agricultural engineer and Royal Commissioner for the Spanish representation in the Brussels World Expo, gave Don Rafael sound advice and helped iron out any problems they had in installing the López de Heredia structure inside the Spanish pavilion.

Letters detailing the first contacts with a specialist French company, probably recommended by Don Escoriaza, have been kept. Don Rafael was unable to reach an agreement with the firm in question due to the fact that the latter felt that they would not have enough time to complete the project before the opening ceremony.

The construction of the stand

The Haro craftsmen must have been very excited at being entrusted with this project, which had been personally conceived by Don López de Heredia (conscious of the artistic trends of the period) in collaboration with the architect J. Cabrera y Latorre. The structure consisted of an enclosure that opened onto a backdrop of shelves and mirrors of Venetian character, finished with balusters and a colophon crowned with flags.

Original Stand from 1910

Original Stand @ Brussels World Fair in 1910

Of the original installation of the stand in the Brussels World Expo in 1910, only the image above remains. The inexorable passing of time has deteriorated the glass plate that held the image, but despite this, it has served as main testimony and reference for the required restoration process.

The exquisite care with which the stand was disassembled has made it possible for it to reappear in its full aesthetic glory ninety-two years later, bringing together the value of wines of López de Heredia Viña Tondonia, the “Rioja Supremo”.

The restoration process of the stand

For some time, and apart from continuing to build the original projects of our founder, we have been restoring and maintaining old objects of great historical and emotional value not only for ourselves but also for our friends and clients, as well as for our region.

The restoration of this shop was one of the dreams of all the members of our family. We have carried it out with professionalism and as faithfully as possible. For this, we have based the project on old photographs, plans and documentation. In line with the essence of restoration work, we have used natural products that do not damage the patina or natural aging of the wood, as well as reversible methods that make it possible to assemble and disassemble the installation in the future as many times as we wish. The idea of restoring this modernist stand was an old dream that was made possible as its fragments were scattered around the winery. On occasions, the wood was found in a damaged state, softened by the damp, hollowed out by woodworm or discoloured by dust.

The stand as it is today, restored by Blanca Ameztoy Fernández-Montes

The beautifully restored original stand as it looks today.

Blanca Ameztoy Fernández-Montes dedicated more than one year to the recuperation of these beautiful pieces, putting the wood through processes of cleaning, disinfection, consolidation and waxing, always with natural products and fully respecting the original conception of the structure. Although most of the structural and decorative elements have been retrieved, some were lost, as is the case with a small part of the floor, one of the display cases and part of the cornice. Even so, to remain faithful to the project and conserve the symmetry that was characteristic of the shop. These parts have been reconstructed with the same measurements and materials shown in the conserved documents. A new material covering has also been made for the installation, since the original was unusable. However, in this case also, the appearance and raw material with which the original was made has been respected. All these efforts have made it possible for the modernist shop to be put on show today as it was in 1910.

Zaha Hadid Stand

Together with the restoration of our great-grandfather’s shop, and to commemorate so many years dedicated to the creation of quality wines across the generations, we decided to allow ourselves  another architectural luxury. In our decision to restore the modernist stand and use it in the Food and Drink Fair of Barcelona to celebrate our 125th anniversary, we encountered a problem: the stand had to be located in the open air. For this reason, and so that the stand could recover its former splendour and utility, we thought of creating an exterior structure that would cover it and protect it. In López de Heredia, we were familiar with and admired the work of Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi architect based in London and known for the spectacular nature, innovation, art, daring and subtlety of her work.

We commissioned her for this project, and she got to work immediately. The innovation and sensitivity she displayed in integrating tradition with modernity; wine with aesthetics, and nature with architecture, produced the building we see today.

Zaha Hadid designed stand which houses the 1910 original.

Zaha Hadid designed stand which houses the 1910 original.

This is the first contribution of our firm to the world of modern architecture. Hadid’s sensitivity and her understanding of our company philosophy led to a mutual understanding from which this new project was born, namely a building project for a new extension to our existing bodegas, which now houses the old stand and a shop, entertainment and exhibition area. 
Throughout the 138 years of our existence, we at López de Heredia have always shown an interest not only in the meticulous care of our vineyards and the winemaking process, but also for the aesthetics of our buildings, our products and our entire image. It is not a case of gratuitous looks or pleasure in contemplating beauty; it is a philosophy of integration, which completes the magic of the wisdom of the land of the region of La Rioja and the time it allows us: the transformation of the grape into fine quality wines.

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Over the last 138 years, the different generations of the López de Heredia family have dedicated themselves to the purpose of achieving exceptional wines, masterpieces of craft and refinement, capable of competing with the best in the world; a desire that the founder of the winery, don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta, defined as the “Rioja Supremo”. Founder of a large dynasty that has stayed in family hands since 1877, he had a clear vision of the future, outlining plans and projects that his descendents have continued to develop in the Haro winery up to the present day. Zaha Hadid, a specialist in establishing dialogue with the environment by means of architecture, participated with us, encouraging the passion for beauty and care in carrying out work that is to be left as a legacy to the land that has helped us grow vines over the last 138 years.


On the final day of my last visit to Tokyo I had the amazing opportunity to visit Tokyo’s famed fish market – Tsukiji. The world’s largest and busiest fish market it has long been a popular destination for tourists, however recently it has been closed to the public and hence even though I had been in Japan for 6 weeks, I hadn’t managed to find a way to visit. That is of course until I met 3 Michelin star chef Ishikawa-san. After an amazing meal at his restaurant by the same name, where of course phenomenal seafood was served, our conversation led to Tsukiji, I mentioned that I hadn’t had a chance to visit and with only a few days left in town, it was an experience that would have to wait till my next visit. Totally unsatisfied with my ‘ill see it next time attitude’, Ishikawa-san offered to personally take me. How could I refuse?


Two days later I found myself standing on the corner of the outer market (jōgai-shijō) ready to head into the inner market (jōnai-shijō) and see what all this fish hype was about. Within moments of walking inside and almost being hit by a 300kg frozen tuna on fork lift being driven by a Japanese Schumacher, I understood immediately why they attempted to limit the number of tourists allowed inside. This is serious business. More than 700,000 metric tones of seafood pass through Tsukiji, with a total value in excess of 600 billion yen (approximately 5.9 billion US dollars). Ishikawa-san tells me that he rarely visits the market himself, as prefers to leave it to the professionals. Surely, I thought, as one of only twelve 3 Michelin Starred chefs in Japan, he would be regarded as a pro, but in Japan of course there is someone who specializes in everything at every level and at Tsukiji this would be the realm of the wholesalers and distributors.


The market opens most mornings (except Sundays and holidays) at 3:00 a.m. with the arrival of the produce by ship, truck and plane from all over the world. The auction houses (wholesalers known in Japanese as oroshi gyōsha) then estimate the value and prepare the incoming individual items for the auctions. The buyers (whom must be licensed to participate in the auctions) also inspect the fish to estimate what they would like to bid for and at which price.

The auctions start around 5:20 a.m. Bidding can only be done by licensed participants. These bidders include intermediate wholesalers (nakaoroshi gyōsha) who operate stalls in the marketplace and other licensed buyers who are agents for restaurants, food processing companies, and large retailers.

The auctions usually end around 7:00 a.m. Afterward, the purchased fish is either loaded onto trucks to be shipped to the next destination or on small carts and moved to the many shops inside the market. We arrived at about this time and let me tell you, the energy inside was frenetic. We walked the aisles of the market – which was a maze of styrofoam boxes each brimming with every kind of seafood imaginable – you name it, if it had gills, fins or scales and could live underwater it was there in abundance. It was mid-December, so being winter the items in abundance were Yellowfin Tuna, which is more fatty and particularily good in over the colder months, snow crab, scallops but more interestingly monkfish liver known as ‘Ankimo’ and sperm ‘Shirako’ of puffer fish ‘Fugu’ and Cod ‘Tara’ both regarded as delicacies in Japan – I’ll leave you to make your own mind up on the last two ingredients!


The activity declines significantly around 8am and the shops start to close at 11am. It’s been said that no visit to Tsukiji is complete without a sushi breakfast and hence it was time to eat some of this delicious seafood we had been gawking at all morning There are plenty of sushi counters, but to find the best ones, you need to wind your way to the restaurant area near the wholesale fruit and vegetable market, just inside the main gate off Shin-Ohashi Street. Look for the lines, this will immediately tell you what sushi is worth waiting for. I have to say the memory of eating sushi and sashimi whilst drinking sake and beer for breakfast with Ishikawa-san, two of his restaurant team and one of my good friends is one that I wont forget soon. The owner of the restaurant we went to was an elderly woman reminiscent of the soup-nazi from Seinfeld, but I guess when you are serving fish that fresh and good, there’s no need to be nice.

Our final stop before I had to head back to the hotel to pack my bags was right on the outer edge of the market for a bowl of steaming hot udon noodles with the most delicious tempura I had ever had, the perfect end to our winter morning at Tsukiji.



I later learnt it was lucky that Ishikawa–san did insist I visit on this trip, as there are plans to relocate the market to Toyosu in 2015. Apparently a retail market, roughly a quarter of the current operation will still be maintained ay Tsukiji, however the remaining area of the market will be redeveloped as it currently occupies some of the most valuable real estate in central Tokyo. The market has already survived one move, 1923, post The Great Kantö earthquake when it was relocated from its original Nihonbashi location to the Tsukiji district, I am positive it will endure the next and I look forward to visiting again.


Arigato Ishikawa-san and your awesome team, for gifting me with one of my most amazing Japanese experiences.



To book a table at Ishikawa in Tokyo go to

#labellust – Vinteloper

The first winery to be featured in #labellust had to be Vinteloper. They were actually the labels that inspired me to make talking about labels, the graphics and the design of them, a regular feature of this blog.

The Labels!

The Labels!

Hence, it was only natural that we spoke to David Bowley owner and winemaker or as his business card says – chief everything officer!

David Bowley

David Bowley

I actually saw people with tattoos of his wine label before I had seen the actual wines, I was at an awesome event that brings Pinot Noir lovers together called Pinot Palooza. His table was one of the busiest, but I wasn’t in any rush, the setting was Carriage Works in Sydney, it was a sunny day, there was a DJ playing good tunes and a Mexican foodtruck – what more can you ask for. Eventually I made it to the Vinteloper table and was immediately impressed by the labels, it was lust at first sight. #labellust can be dangerous for the heart however, expectations are high and all to frequently some of the best labels are found on the most average wines. A little bit like meeting a handsome guy or a beautiful woman that you have absolutely nothing in common with. Its pretty awesome however when the wine in the bottle is equally if not better than you had hoped for. The wine leaves a lasting imprint on your memory.



Since then, I have gotten to know David, tasted all the wines and can tell this guy just gets it. From the website and the language used, its not just about being on trend – he’s in it for the long run.

We had chat with David to find out how his labels came about and why the visual identity of his winery is so important to him.

1). How did you go about your creative process for deciding how you wanted Vinteloper as brand to look and in turn the labels?

After 4 years of the ‘old’ labels, it occurred to me that the message I communicated to people about VINTELOPER through tastings, social media and some of the unique events I do was not being reflected in the package. I woke up one morning in a cold sweat, rang a friend who is a graphic designer and said “we need to get together – TODAY”.


2). Can you tell us a little bit about the story behind each label?

My wife, Sharon, is an extremely talented person who has levels of intelligence, commitment and precision most of us can only dream of. Although she is not a professional artist, she loves to draw. One day, she drew something that contained incredibly fine detail and many layers, much in the same way I hope my wines are. Meshing these elements together was a no-brainer.

The super talented Sharon!

The super talented Sharon!

3). Who did you work with to design the labels?

Sharon is responsible for the drawings then I work with Chantal at Faux, Non Faux! She is a fantastic and really talented designer in Melbourne.


4). Was it the same people that designed your labels that also did your logo? So cool that people want to tattoo it on themselves!

Kind of… It has been a group effort between Chantal, Sharon and I. We really wanted the logo to be simple, powerful and distinct. Easily recognisable as Vinteloper. The devil is in the detail as they say, which is therein the line drawing and afterwards water colours come in to play.


5). Do you think that the way wine looks/is packaged affects people’s perception of the actual wine?

Absolutely! You can sight examples the world over from both old and new. Think of Chianti in the whicker baskets, what perception does that give, similarly labels like Penfolds or Wendouree, they speak of tradition and established quality. At the other end, take my MO/13 Moscato Giallo. Packaged in a 500ml amber beer bottle with a crown seal. It felt like every single person that saw and tasted that wine made a connection to cider, mostly because of the packaging. It is SUPER important as most of the time it is the only form of communication you have about the wine and what it should be about.

MO/13 Moscato Giallo

MO/13 Moscato Giallo

6). Were you trying to attract a specific demographic to your wines when you designed the labels or are they more a reflection of you, and this is what you are trying to express?

There is a target demographic but it is pretty broad. I want to attract people who like interesting things. “Interesting things” can be a lot of things, so it can be easier to tell you what isn’t interesting… Marlborough Sav Blanc is not interesting. A coffee from McCafe is not interesting. Ordering the Muesli when you go out for breakfast is not interesting… I want to attract people that are searching for interesting. That like fine detail & commitment to a craft. I want to attract people who value FREEDOM. Freedom of expression, artistic freedom and who value the concept of searching for the best possible experience. I hope the labels express that.


Awesome David. Thanks for sharing with us the creative process behind your beautiful wines and their labels.

Now more importantly, for everyone that wants to actually taste what’s inside the bottle – head over to where you can purchase it.




Im the last person on the planet that can say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ when it comes to buying wine. I have bookshelves full of books with great covers that I haven’t read and im the sucker that buys the overpriced shampoo and conditioner at the supermarket, just because I like the packaging.

Its for this reason that I have always been aware of wine labels and the affect they have on me. I love them. With wine being my profession however, I always try to be as unbiased on this front as possible and just look at the wine in the glass when assessing its quality. But lets face it – we’re human – and labels and their design play a major role in the decisions we make when buying a wine. There’s nothing more I love than having a wine with a cool label arrive on my desk, or browsing the shelves of a great wine store – I could spend hours in a wine store, just as I could a book store, I know many people who feel the same.

Wine labels have cognitive effects beyond simply informing consumers about the bottle’s contents – region, vintage, varietal etc. Evidence suggests that labels can emotionally affect a consumers’ memory of a wine, their purchasing decisions, and even their perceptions of the wine’s quality. Hence, it is my opinion, that in today’s crowded global wine market, a producer would be crazy to believe that their label is irrelevant.

So this got me thinking – what is it about a wine label that appeals to people, the secret recipe that convinces them to spend an extra $5 than they originally intended. Generally I am all about the story behind the label, my job as a sommelier is to tell you more about a wine than the label can, but in #labellust we are going to focus on nothing else. We’ll be interviewing the graphic designers who craft them, the winemakers who go extra mile to stand out on the shelf, sommeliers and you the consumer to see what it is about wine labels that make us lust over them.