Andrew Hanna is a driving force in his family’s wine importing firm, John Hanna & Sons. This year he’s launched a new venture with another family company, Neal Brothers Foods called, appropriately enough Hanna Neale Wine Merchants. Helmed by siblings Chris and Peter, Neal Brothers celebrated 25 years in businesses last year as a successful food importer and distributor. Industry watchers have noted that in recent years Neal Brothers has begun to move from simply carrying other brands to sourcing products to create their own house brand of things like chips, salsas and other snacks. Hanna watched this transition and wondered if he, with the Neals’ help, could do something similar in the world of wine imports to Ontario.
Hanna Neal Wine Merchants launched their first product at an intimate tasting of mostly family and friends at Boland’s Open Kitchen on Mount Pleasant. The wines, a white and a red, are called Mo, after the dominant varietal in the red: Monastrell, or as it’s called in France, Mouvèdre. The wines are both made by the Bodegas Castaño (another family-owned business) at their Sierra Salinas winery in Alicante, Spain. John Hanna & Sons has a longstanding relationship with Bodegas Castaño, and brings in their popular La Casona Monastrell, (which GFR has noted is a tremendous LCBO value wine for under $10). Hanna and the Neal Brothers went to Castaños looking for a wine that would appeal to the consumer that wants a step-up from the most basic selections, but is also price conscious. At $14.95 a bottle the Mo wines come in at under $200 for a case of 12.
The Hanna Neal partners hope that consumers will adopt the Mo wines as a kind of ‘house wine’, a staple that’s on hand and regularly bought. Peter Neal gave the example of ordering a case to bring to a weekend at the cottage. Right now, consumers need to order it directly from Andrew Hanna, but he expects to have it on LCBO shelves in the next few months.
The white Mo is a Moscatel and Chardonnay blend, vintage 2012. The Moscatel gives it a hint of aromatic florals, with a pleasing Chardonnay backbone. It’s not too acidic, and I think its well designed as an aperitif wine. The red Mo, also vintage 2012, blends a bit of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon into the dominant Monastrell. It’s big, juicy and full of dark fruit, but it was also surprisingly structured with a bit of tannin. The trouble with many warm climate reds in the Mo’s price point is they often come across as hot and sweet, highly alcoholic and full of residual sugar. The Mo is well balanced with enough character to make it a table wine, but enough fruit and flavour to enjoy a glass or two after dinner. Andrew Hanna has longed claimed, and shared the conviction of Daniel Castaños (as Jamie Drummond discovered a while ago), that Spanish Monastrell would be the next big consumer friendly wine, because of this versatility between food-friendliness and characteristics of what the Italians call a “contemplation wine”, that is one that can be enjoyed on its own. With Hanna Neal Wine Merchants and products like Mo, it may well become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him at twitter.com/malcolmjolley