Bouchard Finlayson wine estate’s global ambassador Lia Poveda is a trained sommelier and is based in the UK, where she represents the South African vineyard (which exports more than 50% of its wine production to over 30 countries worldwide) in the European and Asian markets. She attends wine trade shows and does wine training with various trade customers globally, informing them of our wines so they can take that info and impart it to their customers. Poveda is currently furthering her skills by doing her Masters of Wine diploma. We chatted to her about her life in wine.
How did you come to be involved in the wine industry?
I grew up in a family that owned various businesses, ranging from restaurants to hotels, a wine shop, a wine brokerage and so on… When I was little, my brother and I would spend our free time in one or another of our kitchen restaurants, and the smell of the stoves and the fire and high-pressure environment of the service will stick with me forever. Also, food and wine are integral parts of my upbringing and one doesn’t go without the other. Our meals were always served with wine and for as long as I can remember, even as children, we always had a taster of wine at the table.
I later started working in the family businesses to earn my pocket money. My uncle, a well-known sommelier in France, gave me the inspiration for my career; I fell in love with wine by listening to him talking about it. I also fell in love with the fact that wine has a humble beginning but has the ability to age through time and history, that it relies heavily on and makes a pact with mother nature, but at the end will be defined by a talented maestro winemaker, and that it can enhance specific moments in your life with friends and family and bring you back to those memories.
So I ended up studying the hospitality business and, later on, wine in Burgundy. I am a sommelier and wine buyer by trade but I took the plunge to be on the other side when the wonderful opportunity to work with Bouchard Finlayson came up in 2013.
Can you describe what your job as a global ambassador for the Bouchard Finlayson brand involves?
My role is to expand Bouchard Finlayson’s reach in relevant export target markets. I am based in London, as the UK is our biggest export market, and this allows me to be at the hub of our European operations. I support our importers in Europe and Asia by visiting them and their customers, raising awareness of our brand by hosting various trainings for their sales teams, restaurants, wine shops and hotels as well as wine dinners and other events. I also attend various international wine fairs.
If you were a wine, what would it be?
I would be understated and classic with a great ageing potential and above all, have the ability to make people happy.
What’s your current favourite cultivar, and why?
Pinot Noir, for all the reasons stated in my answer to the above question. If managed well in the vineyard and winery, it can truly be exceptional. When I present our beautiful Galpin Peak and Tête de Cuvée Pinots I never talk too much about them, as I believe that Pinot Noir is a grape of emotion and speaks for itself. It will always be my first love and is also subjectively experienced by each individual; people like it for different reasons.
What’s the most memorable wine you’ve tasted?
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Romanée-Conti 1923, which I tasted when I was 19 years old and working in a three-Michelin star restaurant in France. It was one of the last bottles of its kind and the feeling was indescribable. I was far too young to understand it and I wish I could go back in time.
What tastes remind you of your childhood?
There are so many and, as a true French girl, butter, bread and croissants are some of them. But I spent much of my childhood with my grandparents in the south of France, so Mediterranean flavours always remind me of home, too: the Garrigue and Provencal herbs, and the smell of the markets – a mix of herbs and olives. My grandmother makes the best bouillabaisse, a traditional fish stew from Marseille, with rockfish such as rascasse, sea robin, red mullet, conger, dorade, turbot, hake, monkfish… she would catch her own fish and whatever was missing would be bought at the port of Marseille early in the day, and it was served with a traditional rouille (a sort of mayonnaise made with olive oil, garlic, saffron and cayenne pepper). The taste is an explosion of all Mediterranean flavours and this truly reminds me of childhood.
We’re hearing big things about how good the 2015 vintages are set to be. Would you agree that this is going to be an exceptional year for South African wines?
I agree that 2015 is one of those perfect vintages! At Bouchard Finlayson we won the highest number of accolades for this vintage for both our flagship Missionvale Chardonnay and Galpin Peak Pinot Noir wines. Overall in South Africa and as much as you cannot put all areas in the same basket, the conditions started perfectly during winter – it was cold and wet, allowing perfect dormancy and regeneration of the vines that would lead to good crops the following year. This was then followed by a warm, dry and windy growing season leading to disease-free vines and healthy berries with low pH and a perfect balance of acidity, producing smaller berries but intense flavours and quality. In some areas yields were recorded at their highest, and in others yields were smaller, but overall everyone agrees that the quality of the fruit was amazing. Finally, early and dry harvesting conditions were the perfect way to process that fruit and keep its quality under control.
Which part of the world should every serious wine lover visit?
I believe that every serious wine lover should visit the Western Cape. I always explain that it is like driving through all the traditional wine regions of France, Italy and Spain in one go: the terroirs are so diverse, the wines really reflect each area, the value for money is amazing, winemakers are constantly striving for better quality, and they are also well travelled and have a great understanding of what is current. I believe that South African wines really can stand up as world-class wines.
What is your current favourite restaurant in South Africa?
For a place to impress or for a special celebration, it would have to be Azure restaurant at The 12 Apostles Hotel on the Atlantic Seaboard, where you can expect delicious food, first-class service and the most amazing surroundings between the mountains and the ocean. More intimate and relaxed is Marianas, located in Stanford. I like cooking that is from the heart, and I enjoy well-executed classics that are simple but tasteful. Marianas offers all of this. It is owned by Mariana Esterhuizen and her husband Peter, and they cook almost everything using produce that’s either from their garden or locally sourced. It is unpretentious and you should not expect an extensive menu – usually there are three to four starters, mains and dessert – but everything is done to perfection.
What would your last meal – and last drink – be?
As long as I was surrounded by the people that I love the most, the rest would not be important. An expensive and extravagant bottle of wine and meal would be nothing if they were not shared with someone… but that said, my last meal would probably involve black and white truffles and a delicious bottle from Burgundy.
Visit bouchardfinlayson.co.za for more information.