European wines from Spain, Italy and France have been imported into NZ since 2012 by Red Bridge. This came about because AJ was lucky enough to make the NZ team to compete in the World Long Distance Triathlon Championships, which were held in the Basque capital ; Vitoria Gastiez in Northern Spain (Pais Vasco – Basque Country) in 2012. Being located only 30 minutes from Spain’s premium wine region – La Rioja – was too good an opportunity to miss and through contacts made at the time he commenced importing a range of wines from the area from upmarket Rioja Alta producers Bodegas Perica.
Shortly afterwards, he established a relationship with Sicilian producers and began imports from there as well.
AJ now spends time working in Europe every year and has added stunning wines from throughout Spain , Northern Italy (Verona – Valpolicella Classico) , and Sicily to his range. 2019 saw the introduction of both French and Portuguese wines. New for 2020 are a number of wines from the famous Piedmonte region of Italy all of which further enhance what is now a very high quality portfolio .
The introduction of a range of French wines has been a few years in the making, but with the evolution of the business 2019 was the perfect time to commence importing from France. The initial offering includes Bordeaux, St Emilion, Margaux, Rhone and Champagne across a range of levels – all of which will provide the ideal base for further expansion of the French portfolio into other areas of the country.
Red Bridge’s importing of Spanish wines began in 2012 with the help of (his now very good friend) Carlos Soto; a winemaker throughout Spain for over 30 years, when AJ was introduced to the wines of Bodegas Perica. This small, high quality winery was the start of what is now a large range of wine from all regions across Spain that is imported by Red Bridge to New Zealand.
Following further trips to Spain , AJ added a number of additional wines to his portfolio in 2015. 2017 saw new wines arrive from Julien Chivite (Navarra) , Enate (Somontano) , Maset (Penedes) , Valtea (Rias Baixas) and Pena del Valle (Extramadurra) and 2018 the wines of NDQ/Crapula to complete his current extensive Spanish portfolio.
After competing in the World Championships, AJ & his partner Roz left Spain and drove through the French wine regions of Bordeaux, Burgandy and Champagne before ending up at Roz’s ex-pat brother Gavin’s home in Rotterdam. As they had a carful of samples the only solution was to hold a party!
During the evening a glass of wine was put in front of AJ (this happened more than once….) and with one sip he was hooked – the wine – a glass of Nero d’Avola . This led to a range of more than a dozen wines being imported from Sicily, and in 2015, following another recommendation from Rotterdam, the stunning Vapolicella, Ripasso and Amarone of Verona were next on the list.
Travelling first to visit boutique, limited production, high scoring producer Le Salette, AJ was lucky enough to also form an association with Farina Wines (2015 Italian Wine Producer of the Year at IWSC in London) , and the fantastic wines of two quality producers from Valpolicella Classico were added to his imported portfolio. Subsequently three further small, family run, boutique, top end producers in Valpolicella ( Coali, Montecariano and Montefaustino) were included, and 2019 saw the introduction of an additional (mostly organically produced) range of wines from Guiseppe Campagnola in Marono di Valpolicella. Following several trips to the area of Piedmont the classical wines of Barbera, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco and Barolo arrived at the beginning of 2020, further improving Red Bridge’s range of internationally recognised wine.
Portuguese wines are lesser known in NZ than the other primary European regions, however they represent unbelievable value for money – especially the high quality wines of the Douro River Valley.
The starting point for Red Bridge is one white and two reds from Vallegre; a fifth generation winemaking family with a large range of wines and ports all produced in the Duoro DOC.