Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Guest blogger Frank Lewis discusses the qualities and experience needed to be a good executive chairman

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Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Frank Lewis, who is an accomplished Non-Executive, Executive Director and Chairman, equipped with a commanding track record over the past ten years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to the full business lifecycle from start-ups to success, from flotation to delisting, and in a few cases, to exit. Developed great versatility from dealing with diverse businesses and cultures, nationally and internationally, and acquired significant experience working with rapidly expanding AIM-quoted SMEs. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and integrity.

Frank is going to talk to us about the qualities and experience needed to be a good chairman.

The role of the chairman has become much higher in profile and the expectations have increased as, quite rightly, stakeholders now expect an engaged, energetic and involved chairman who does more than simply manage the corporate governance process.
The success of a chairmanship undoubtedly hinges on the relationship the chairman has with the chief executive, a relationship which should be centred on honesty, trust and transparency. The success of this relationship is based on mutual understanding by both parties of the distinction between their two roles.

Effective chairmen must have an extremely good knowledge of the business they are chairing, they must know enough to ask the right questions, and must provide a constructive level of challenge to the chief executive. One of the main faults of chairmen deemed to be ineffective is their failure to comprehend that they are not there to run the business, and that their role is instead to support and guide. In simple terms, the job of the chairman is to ensure that the business is well run and not to run the business.

There is, however, a fine line to walk between being too involved and being too remote. This means chairmen should devote the appropriate level of time to their roles, which means visiting operations, talking with staff and customers, as well as investors. The best chairmen are able to develop an empathy with the business and engage with its people and issues. But there is no “one-size-fits-all” prescription for an effective chairman. The right level of engagement will vary depending on the company’s stage in the business cycle, competitive environment and the experience of the chief executive.

What ultimately defines a good chairman is the ability to run an effective board and to manage relationships with both shareholders and stakeholders.

The qualities of an outstanding chairman are:
• Charismatic personality.
• Good communicator and listener.
• Clear sense of direction.
• Strategic view – The Big Picture.
• Allow chief executives to get on with their job.
• Good at governance.
• Broad experience.
• Business acumen.
• Able to gain shareholders’ confidence.
• Able to get to the key issues quickly.

The Role of the Chairman in an initial public offering

The appointment of the right chairman is key for a business wishing to IPO. The chairman would greatly enhance the prospects of a successful IPO, by building an effective board and calling on their years of experience to ensure the story a company sells to the market is both compelling and real.

Further, it is the task for the chairman to set the tone at the top and to say what they want the organisation to be, establishing good governance and making sure the business has the right corporate reputation in its community.

In conclusion, a chairman has done their job when the “vision for the business”, as set out and presented in the strategic plan to shareholders and stakeholders, has been achieved.

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You can contact Frank Lewis via his website: www.franklewis.co.uk and at: LinkedIn .

Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado talks about Port

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Aitor Trabado now concludes his 4th and final wine blog on Port Wine:

Today we will talk about Port wine. I love sweet wines. They come in different ways. We have sweet wines produced leaving the fruit in the plant for a longer time, allowing the water to evaporate thus making the sugar levels higher. Many producers elaborate this kind of wines either with white and red varietals. It comes with the expression “Late Harvest” in the label.

A step further is leaving the fruit in the plant even longer waiting for a fungus to attack the grapes: the botrytis cinerea. The most popular of these wines are the French Sauternes, where we can find Château D’Yquem, whose wines are really sought after and very expensive. In Hungary they produce the Tokaj following the same principle.

Then we have wines made by adding alcohol to stop the fermentation. This provokes the yeast to die due to the action of the alcohol. The remaining sugar that has not been turned into alcohol will give its particular sweet taste. Portugal’s Porto is the best place in the world for this kind of wine. The first notice we have of this wine goes back to the XVII century, when the wine had to be added alcohol to survive its transportation to England by sea due to the wine shortage they had in the island.

Red Port wines use mostly the following grapes: Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cão.

We can divide the red Port wines into two big groups: those which are aged in oak barrels and those which are aged in bottle.

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Aged in oak are full bodied, fruity wines with a deep red tonality and dark fruit flavors. We have Port Ruby, aged for two or three years, Port Reserva, a more quality wine, and Port Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) with four to six years in oak.
Then we have Port Tawny, which can be 10, 20, 30 and 40 years old.

The other group is the one aged in bottle. We have here the Port Vintage, the best wine produced in a single vintage. These wines spend two years in the barrels, then more in the bottle. Their longevity due to its quality is the longest one of Port wines. These are the most full bodied, structured Port wines. Not done using grapes of a single vintage is the Port Crusted. They can also age well in bottle.

Finally we have white Port, produced using Malvasía Dourada, Malvasía Fina, Gouveio and Rabigato. They age for two or three years in big oak barrels and we can find them in dry and sweet styles.

Port wineries have traditionally bought grapes to other producers. Still, some of them have their own plots where they cultivate their own grapes. These are called Quintas and when the Port is done with the grapes of one single quinta the name of it appears in the label. Some of the most popular are Quinta de Vargellas of Taylor’s; Quinta da Roêda, of Croft and Quinta do Panascal, de Fonseca.

Some other important producers of Port wines are Niepoort, Graham’s, Cockburns, Sandeman, Dow’s, Ferreira, Quinta do Infantado and Quinta do Noval.

Port is one of the places where the grapes are still pressed by stepping into them, not using press machines.

If you want to enjoy a nice glass of Port wine, serve it with cheese or chocolate, and make sure you sit, relax and share it with a friend. This will be the best way to discover Port.

Aitor Trabado

Twitter: @atrabado
Mi Amigo El Vino – www.miamigoelvino.com

My other posts:
Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado
Aitor Trabado talks about Cabernet Sauvignon
Aitor Trabado talks about white wine

Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado talks about white wine

Aitor Trabado today talks about white varietals

Last week we talked about the red varietals I like most. This week we will talk about white ones. In any case, I normally prefer a red wine over a white one. I certainly believe in matching wines and food, and I’ve tasted pairings in which flavors of meals and wines are really enhanced by the matching but I also believe that when the company is good, the wine is good and the food is good, there is no way any of it will be spoiled by the, let’s say, mismatch.

For white varietals, I will go with these three: Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Viogner. Both in Mosel, Germany and in Alsace, France you will find great wines made with the first two. Weingut Barzen in Mosel and Domaine Schlumberger in Alsace produce great wines. I love Riesling. It comes in four different levels of sugar, from the dry Trocken to the so sweet Beerenauslese. Barzen makes all of them with great quality.

One Gewürztraminer I love is the one Domaine Schlumberger makes and also a superb sweet one produced in Spain by Gramona, a cava specialist making this Vi De Gel or Ice Wine with this varietal. Incredibly well balanced wine. Also in Northern Spain’s El Bierzo Luna Beberide makes a great Gewürztraminer.

In France you can find great Viogner wines, as it is a French varietal, but one that I really love is produced in Spain. Vallegarcía Viogner, Montes de Toledo-Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla La Mancha. I’ve tasted several vintages of this wine and it is always great.

Lately I’m getting fond of Chenin Blanc, especially that of the Loire Valley. Domaine de Bellivière makes a great one in Les Rosiers. I also have in my tasting queue two Chenin from South Africa.

Northwest Spain is widely recognized by its white wines. It is true that Albariño, the varietal found in Rías Baixas, produces a great wine. For my taste, it’s a bit too acid, though from time to time I enjoy a bottle of Albariño. Terras Gauda, Pazo de Señorans or Mar de Frades are good Albariños.

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Near the border with Portugal there is a small area within Rías Baixas named O Rosal. A great wine with Loureiro varietal is produced here; Dávila L-100 by small winery Valmiñor is a superb white wine.

Near Rías Baixas we find two more Dos: Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei. Another two varietals here, Treixadura and especially Godello, are really great. Vega de Lucia de Bodegas Gerardo Méndez and Guitián produce fruity Godellos. Bodegas Gerardo Méndez is one of those small wineries that you can enjoy discovering for the quality of its wines.

I also love Cava and Champagne. Cava is produced by the millions in the Penedès region of Catalonia. They traditionally use a coupage of three different varietals: Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Perallada. Lately we can find cavas produced with Pinot Noir such as Juvè & Camps Pinot Noir Brut Rosé or Gramona Brut Pinot Noir. Gramona also produces Mas Escorpi, a cava using Chardonnay 100%.

Our French neighbors and their Champagne. I really love Champagne. I’ve tasted lots of them, from the mainstream ones to small producers ones. My favorites are Pol Roger Reserve and Bollinger Special Cuvée. Pol Roger is also known because of its relationship with Sir Winston Churchill. Back in his days he was so fond of this winery that he used to store cases of it and he built a strong connection with them. Therefore, they have a special cuvee since then called Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill Cuvée for an average of 200 euro.

The varietals most used for Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier.

Aitor Trabado

Twitter: @atrabado
Mi Amigo El Vino – www.miamigoelvino.com

My other posts:
Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado
Aitor Trabado talks about Cabernet Sauvignon
Aitor Trabado talks about Port

Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado talks about Cabernet Sauvignon

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This week we will talk a bit about my favourite grape varietals. There are hundreds of different varietals around the world. As you can imagine, the same grape works in different ways according to where it grows. We can love the Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa and it will be different from a Cab planted in Lebanon. Of course, each varietal has a soul that reflects its own nature but the soil will give the grape its particular character.

Isn’t it good that each varietal has a particular wine region where it gives the best of it? Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux and Napa Valley, Merlot in Bordeaux, Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley, Tempranillo in Rioja, Tinta Fina in Ribera de Duero, Pinot Noir in Bourgogne and Oregon/Washington, Carmenere in Chile, Cabernet Franc in Argentina, Nebbiolo in Barolo, Sangiovese in Toscana, Sauvignon Blanc in Australia, Riesling in Mosel and Alsace, Chardonnay in Champagne, Syrah in Rhone just to name a few. Does this mean we cannot find a good Tempranillo somewhere else? Absolutely not. But one great thing about wine is that producers find the best varietal for their soil and they explore all its characteristics to make superb wines.

As you go tasting and discovering new wines, you will adjust your palate to it. You will discover which wines you appreciate more and which ones best adapt to your taste. In an ideal world you would be able to find your favorite wines in the same shop at a similar price, but unfortunately this place doesn’t exist. I know there are many websites for you to get those wines, but shipping costs and custom taxes make a bit hard to buy wine in distant countries.

In this ideal world, I would buy my Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. In the Left Bank of the Garonne River in Bordeaux they make some of the best and most expensive Cabs in the world. Still, I love the Californian ones. The truth is I’ve tasted more from Napa rather than from Bordeaux, and I love the body the Americans give to their wines. One of my favorites comes from Beringer Vineyards. The 1997 was an extremely delicious wine. I still treasure one bottle of that vintage. Some other ones that I love are the Ridge Monte Bello, the Caymus Special Selection and Mayacamas.

Napa also offers a great Zinfandel. And with this varietal there is one king and one king only for me: Turley Vineyards. They produce different Zinfandels across California, but the Dusi Zinfandel is perfection in a bottle for me.

If we talk about Merlot, we can talk about the Right Bank of Bordeaux. The small village of St. Emilion has almost more wineries around than population. Merlot here is found in single varietals or assembled with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. I recently discovered a good one at an affordable rate, Château Carteau. If you want to invest your long working hours on wineries in the surroundings, you will find Château Le Pin, Château Cheval Blanc or Château Petrus to name a few. But there are more wineries with great wines without needing to assault our bank account.

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Outside France I love one Spanish Merlot. Jean Leon Merlot, in Penedès. This is probably the wine I have tasted more different vintages and it is always great. I still remember 2001 as a perfect year. 2004 was also an incredibly great wine.

Being Spanish, I cannot neglect some of the best Spanish wines. We have here 65 different Denominations (DOs). We have so many excellent wines in every one of them. Still, for the wines that I love, I will talk about two of them: Ribera De Duero and Priorat. In both DOs you can find great wines ranging from 6 euro to 1000 euro. But you can enjoy superb wines at affordable prices. In Ribera, I love Pago de los Capellanes, Emilio Moro and Viña Sastre, every wine they produce. There are so many wineries producing highly rated wines that I can recite here, such as Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Hacienda Monasterio or Pago de Carraovejas, and lesser known winemakers such as Teófilo Reyes or Ascension Repiso to mention a few, but the ones I mentioned first offer incredibly sublime wines ranging 15-40 euro. Any of those wines make me look in awe at my glass while I drink them.

In Priorat we can find high-end wines like L’Ermita by Álvaro Palacios, ranging around 800-1000 euro, but also great affordable wines such Finca La Planeta by Pasanau Germans and Les Terrases also by Álvaro Palacios, for less than 30 euro. Clos Martinet or Clos Dominic’s Vinyes Vielles for around 40 or Clos Mogador around 60 euro. Great wines produced with coupages using Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

In France, besides the ever popular Bordeaux wines assembling Cabernet Sauvignon in the Left Bank and Merlot in the Right Bank with some Cabernet Franc, I’ve become in love with Pinot Noir from Burgundy. I am still beginning exploring the region, but the smoothness of their wines is absolutely great. Again, we can find bottles of wine more expensive than a sports car like the Domaine de la Romanèe Conti, but also great wines for less than 50 euro that will delight our palates. Paul Jaboulet, M. Chapoutier, Bouchard Père e Fills or Louis Jadot produce many different wines from the ample array of Denominations we can find in Bourgogne.

Finally, what to say about Italy? This country deserves many entries in this blog and we will discuss Italian wines in the future. But for now we will mention Nebbiolo from Northern Barolos and Barbarescos, and Sangiovese from Central Tuscan DOs as Brunello Di Montalcino, Super Toscanos and Chianti. I love Italian wines and there are so many of them we can enjoy along with our meals or on their own.

Next week we will talk about white varietals.

Aitor Trabado

Twitter: @atrabado
Mi Amigo El Vino – www.miamigoelvino.com

My other posts:
Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado
Aitor Trabado talks about white wine
Aitor Trabado talks about Port

Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado

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Most of you know that I have travelled to vineyards across the world: South Africa, United States of America, France, Germany, South America, Portugal, Italy, Greece and as the famous quote states by Naomi Watts:

“I always love being in the company of friends. It’s all about good conversation and great wine.”

I thought it appropriate for all you wine-lovers to have some coverage on the subject of wine.
It is my delight to introduce a guest blogger, Aitor Trabado. Aitor is a wine connoisseur, wine spectator expert, and writer. He lives in Bilbao – Spain amongst some of the most impressive Rioja wines of the world. They use the impressive Tempranillo, Viura, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, Mazuelo, Macabeo and Garnacha grapes, which is also used around the world. I will be visiting Aitor in August and September for a full tour of the region, tasting some of the world’s finest wine.

So that you understand Rioja [ˈrjoxa] is a wine region in Spain, with Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.C – a. Qualified designation of origin). Rioja is made from grapes grown in the Autonomous Community of La Rioja, Navarre and the Basque province of Álava. Rioja is further subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Many wines have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions though there is a slow growth in single-zone wines.

Without further ado, here is Aitor!

Aitor Trabado

Good morning. My name is Aitor Trabado and I’ve been honored by Geoff’s asking me to post a weekly wine blog. I’m a wine enthusiast from Spain and I will try to share some thoughts with you about what I like about wine, wineries and wine tourism. I will write for the layman, not using those terms you can see in some specialized magazine that sound too pompous for the profane.

In my first entry I would like to talk about some of the wine denominations I most like. For that I will tell you first how I like my wines. Few years ago I liked a lot when wines were full bodied and strong. Now my taste has evolved towards more structured and less powerful wine. I still like strong wines, but they need to be very special for that. We will talk about those wines in upcoming entries.

I like to taste different wines. Obviously I have my favorite ones and though in the past I used to buy wine by cases, nowadays I prefer to buy two bottles tops, and keep on tasting more wines. I like to buy wines that may surprise me, wines that talk to me rather than wines that always taste the same no matter the harvest was done in a rainy year or a dry year. Recently I heard one joke about that. A group of winemakers were deciding who the best winemaker of Spain was. And one said the winemaker of this particular winery. When asked for the reason, which was partly joke, he said that this winemaker was able to put together one million bottles every year, and no matter rain, sun or snow, the wine always tasted the same. Well, these are the wines I run away from, those mainstream wines that never vary.

I like wines that are different year in and year out. Wines that show the personality of the winemaker and the character of the terroir. I’m not able to discern whether a year was dry or rainy, or the sea was close to the winery or not, but hey, that’s why the wine courses are and I’m enrolled in one to be done later in the year.

I like vertical tastings, when you taste different vintages of the same wine. There you truly appreciate the differences and the hard work the winemaker and everyone else in the winery do every year. It is amazing that one year the wine can be full bodied and well-structured and with lots of fruit, and the next year the same wine, the same terroir, the same grapevine can offer a completely different wine. I’ve been able to do vertical tastings several times and it gives a good insight of how live a wine is and how difficult is the job in a winery.

If you are a wino like me, or you would like to get into the wine world, my advice is that you taste as many wines as you can. This is the best way to identify which wines you like and which wine you don’t. And then you will educate your tasting buds to identify flavors in your wine glass.

Your taste will evolve for sure with the passing of years. Or maybe not, and you stick to the same wine once and again. I hope not, as there are so many great wines everywhere in the world just to always drink the same one. In any case, try to taste wines from different countries, from different areas, different grape varietals. You will find great wines for a few euro or dollars or pounds, there is no need to always to hot top end wines in the shop shelves. There is also a pleasure on finding this particularly good wine from a small winery at a great price. Of course sometimes it is safe to bet on the 25 euro wine, but many times you will find really good wines where you less expect it.

Aitor Trabado

Twitter: @atrabado
Mi Amigo El Vino – www.miamigoelvino.com

My other posts:
Aitor Trabado talks about Cabernet Sauvignon
Aitor Trabado talks about white wine
Aitor Trabado talks about Port