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News & Views From the World of Wine - and sometimes further afield..

News & Views From the World of Wine - and sometimes further afield..

Our news articles are repeated on our news blog where suitable - or even possibly unsuitable - comments can be posted..

Tall Order

Are we alone in considering that with Tesco's recent purchase of Giraffe Restaurants they have gone for the wrong animal? Or might it mean that giraffe burgers are coming soon to a store near you?

Mar 13

Depression session!

We are not surprised to discover that soft drinks and particularly diet soft drinks may cause depression, with a 22% (or 31% for diet soft drinks) increased likelihood that soft drink consumers will have been diagnosed with depression. The American researchers emphasise that there is only an association and not a causality, but what surprises us most is that the people surveyed were between 50 and 71! Are we the only ones to think that if they haven't progressed on to wine by that sort of age then they are certainly likely to be depressed?

Feb 13

Ages Old

A new system for 'ageing' spirits is set to land from the United States. This uses ultrasonic energy and oxidation to mimic the chemical changes normally achieved by the natural ageing process. It is rather unclear as to why this should be needed. Brandy and whisky have minimum genuine ageing requirements whilst gin and vodka are not spirits that require age - and the UK is not reputed for its rum production! This leaves the only potential for the system to age spirits such as vodka or gin that do not normally receive it. This probably leaves scope for 'new improved' vodka that is, for example, darker and more substantial. Though it must be doubtful whether 'artificially aged' on the label will have customers flocking....

Jan 13

Bootleg Electricity

It is not often we praise Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs but full marks to them for putting all the bootleg alcohol they seize through anaerobic digestion to produce biogas (methane and carbon dioxide) and then to produce electricity.

Jan 13

Not an urban myth

There is much fuss in Bordeaux about a Russian Oligarch who bought a run down Château and with a view to returning it to its former glory, got planning permission to demolish some outhouses. The council were very surprised when they discovered that the outhouses were still standing but the Château had been completely razed to the ground. Yes, the builders were Polish and yes, the Russian Oligarch has promised to reinstate the Château brick by brick and no there wasn't (yet) a vineyard attached..

Jan 13

Patchy Hangover

No sooner has the United States invented 'Bytox' Hangover Prevention Patch launched in the UK than it is being banned by the Medicines and Healthcare Agency, who consider it to be an unlicensed medicine - as it claims to prevent hangovers. One might have hoped that prevention was better than cure and if you are not ill when you take it, or it is to be hoped, afterwards, is it a medicine at all? The Hangover Patch replaces vitamins and folic acid (through a patch - like a nicotine patch - on the arm) which are usually lost during the diuretic process, which is a consequence of drinking. This system is superior to a pill because it allows for continuous release over a long period. It is applied 45 minutes before consuming alcohol - so it could be fixed at about the same time as you are putting on your glad rags to go out - and then it is recommended that it should be left in place for up to 8 hours afterwards. (On this basis there will be some who might have to consider whether they wear it permanently - perhaps on the forehead would be best). Even so, the Bytox website is emphatic that it "will not prevent you getting drunk and definitely won't prevent embarrassing and/or regrettable behaviour."

Now that would have been a real medicine.

Nov 12

Motorised bar stool

Perhaps only in America - it's taken a couple of years to reach us but we could not pass by a lovely story of a man drunk in charge of a motorised bar stool. What might have been the ultimate petrol head's machine or the ultimate drinker's seat turns out to have been neither, because it was a bar stool welded on to a ride-on lawn mower engine and chassis - it gives the impression of being neither stable nor comfortable. Pity because it surely would, if better constructed, be the supreme present for the man who has everything. It's getting near Christmas so further details by following this link: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/cops-bust-stool-fool

Nov 12

Tiny cost in bulk

It has been revealed that that of the  world's 10 largest importers of bulk wines one country pays the least. The popular perception is that this position is likely be taken by the UK but no, it is in fact France! The French pay an average of Є 0.34/Litre whilst the United Kingdom pays getting on for three times as much at Є 0.92/Litre. What this is more likely to reflect is the esteem of imported wine in France, a country that is certainly self sufficient in its own production! The UK by contrast is beginning to bottle 'better' wine as the green agenda means that bottling nearer to the consumer produces lower emissions and means that import costs are lower. A double benefit which it would clearly be foolish to resist...

Oct 12

Lady Bracknell would doubtless disapprove

There is a recent trend for wine packed in what is generally termed 'bag in box' to be disguised as something desirable - it says something about the contents that the packaging has to become so twee.  At least two producers have launched new lines disguising the bag, well really the box, as a handbag. Now this is referred to as 'bag in bag' but as its life is likely to be spent in the kitchen cupboard or fridge it is really only on the supermarket shelf that the presentation will be important. No lady is likely to be swinging it - or swigging it -  down the street. The wheel has come full circle since the days when a handbag such as Lady Bracknell's might have discretely concealed a small bottle of brandy. Rather think we remain with Lady Bracknell on this one.

Sept 12

Duty fix

It has been pointed out by Steve Parfett of the wholesaler of the same name that instead of minimum pricing it would be much more logical to standardise duty and bring it into line with the spirit system. Here alcoholic strength is multiplied by volume to work out the duty payable. Other alcoholic duty rates are based on bands and styles. This change would standardise the rate per unit of alcohol. Currently cider and perry pay easily the lowest rates of duty whilst wine at the top of the wine duty rate band (5.5%-15%) pays less per unit than the lower alcohol wines at the bottom. If minimum pricing is the aim then the duty rates should be sorted out first. This would also have the added advantage of not being able to be considered (so far at least!) an EU restraint of trade and avoid the legal shenanigans that would be involved. We live in hope...

Sept 12

Marriage Guidance

We should obviously promote marriage if we want wine drinking to flourish. An American Cincinnati university sociology study has shown that whilst men consume a little less alcohol when married this is more than made up for by the extra that women consume when married. Watch out for 'Relate' sponsored by WineDrop!

Aug 12

Probably the best lager description in the world

We certainly cannot improve on "Mass-produced lagers taste like corporate cardboard and have the aroma of market research rather than hops". Frazer Thompson, Chapel Down’s CEO - after winning gold for his own lager!

Jul 12

Cows, Wine and moos

The Independent has revealed that some French wine farmers have been feeding their cattle wine! We are told that it gives the meat a unique texture and an improved taste such that the farmers are hopeful that Michelin starred restaurants will take it. Apparently  the system has also been practised in Canada. A litre and a half of wine for a cow is supposedly equivalent to a human's 2-3 glasses and according to French scientists wine consumption may also increase a cow's sense of wellbeing, though quite how they detect this they do not reveal.  To us this sounds like French anthropomorphism - or perhaps the cows moo in a particular way..

Jul 12

The real thing

We are indebted to French research (L'Institut National de Consommation, since you ask) which has established that Coca Cola is alcoholic! There is only 10mg of alcohol in every litre but alcohol there is. In these quantities you'd probably die of sugar poisoning long before any effect from the alcohol, but it seems to have upset the world's leading 'soft' drink that by no means all other Colas were found to be alcoholic, but it was. Surely it can't have been a spiked drink?

Jul 12

Fun and games - continued

It seems that the initial fears of delivering in Postcodes affected by Olympic events are not as serious as feared and that good arrangements to mitigate delays are in place. We have a very positive communication from Business Post who undertake most of our London deliveries. They say that although delivery times will not be guaranteed and are likely to be earlier or later than usual they anticipate that with a combination of early starts and using smaller vehicles they should be able to cope with the vast majority of the usual delivery schedule. We'll cheer to that!

Jul 12

The etiquette of labelling

Was how the English version of a French email that landed in the WineDrop inbox was headed. A lovely pun of course because étiquette is French for a label. (It is intriguing to note that the origin of the French word is from the English "a ticket". The English then borrowed the French to mean correct manners.)

The article actually concerns the EU requirement, which reverses an earlier decision, that from1st August 2012 wine made from organically grown grapes can, indeed must, be called organic wine and display the EU logo. As the wines are still permitted to contain significant levels of sulphites this seems an odd decision. But that must indeed be the etiquette of labelling.

Jun 12

The language of wine that cheers

We learn from Vinexpo (the Bordeaux wine exhibition) of the league table for wine consumption. This is by country and is the country's total consumption of so called 'light wine' - that means fortified wines and sparkling wines are excluded. The UK comes in half way down the top ten at number five. First is the USA, but with five times the UK population that is not a great surprise, more so is that China, with four times the population of the US comes in only at number six. Europe takes the other three top places with Italy at number two, France number three and Germany at number four, whilst Spain (with admittedly only about half the population of Germany) is beaten into eighth place by its Spanish speaking ex with about the same population, Argentina. Russia, with a population about half the size of the US comes in at number nine, while plucky Romania with a population about a third of the size of the UK comes in at number 10. Fascinating that the UK is the highest placed of the 'non-wine-producing' countries. Looked at another way, the combined largest market by language is English speaking...

May 12

Lucky Numbers

We have just received the London Area Post Codes (which we hope are exhaustive) that will be affected by the Olympic Red Routes where there is no stopping allowed from 6.00am till midnight and which will consequently affect deliveries.  The lucky numbers are: E4, E11, E15, E16, HA0, HA1, HA9, IG1, NW2, NW4, NW8, NW9, NW10, SE8, SE9, SE10, SE13, SE16, SL3, SL4, SW1, SW5, SW6, SW19, W1, W2, W6, W8, W9, W11, W14, WC1, WC2.  There seem to be an awful lot of West London postcodes in here for games that are held in E15! But we do anticipate that more precise details on what these areas may expect in the way of a delivery service will be available nearer the time. (See 'FUN AND GAMES - Continued' above, July 12 for better details.)

May 12

Fun and games

The Olympic games take place between 27th July and 12 August and the Paralympics between 29th August and 9th September and - forewarned is forearmed - it seems that disruption to delivery services is likely if the delivery address is near a venue where competitions will take place. We imagine that most affected customers will be well aware of this but those of you sending presents and bearing gifts should be conscious that that difficulties may be significant on or around these dates in both London and Weymouth. London details are sketched out on the transport for London website
here.

May 12

Two Cheers from France

The French wine trade has particularly  high hopes of their newly elected President, François Hollande, because he actually drinks - whereas his illustrious predecessor was famously teetotal. They hope he revisits the Loi Evin (France's alcohol advertising law) and will be more supportive of wine exports. At WineDrop towers we fear he may be too locked in to negotiations with Angela "Europe can only be built together" Merkel to notice...

May 12

Time to be hard on soft drinks - continued

Our prices are gradually reflecting the duty escalator increase imposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the end of March. The alcohol trade has to be realistic and accept that it is a relatively easy target and taxes are better levied on discretionary purchases. But two discretionary purchases that still remain completely untouched by anything more than VAT are confectionary and soft drinks. These are both heavily implicated in poor health outcomes and rising rates of obesity. It has been done elsewhere in the EU so isn't it time they shared some of the UK pain? 

April 12

Carmenère to help red faces in Bordeaux

Apparently Château Brane Cantenac in Margaux has just reintroduced Carmenère to its 2011 vintage blend having been encouraged by the derogatory comments of a Chilean stagiare a few years ago, who was amazed it was no longer used in what is, after all, its homeland! Reports are that it certainly needs all the warmth it can get and in this respect global warming has actually been of assistance. Nonetheless it is still the last variety to ripen in the vineyard but by vinifying just a small quantity the consensus of the winemakers is that, as well as the oft mentioned intensity of colour, it does give a little added dimension to the palate. It will be interesting to see if others follow.

March 12

Quelquechose qui cloche

According to very counter-intuitive research done at Brook University in Canada, English Speakers are more likely to buy wine with difficult to pronounce names. So all the focus group money spent on finding English names for wines that might prove a challenge to pronounce would appear to have been in vain. And yet, and yet, apparently the research also found that wines with difficult to pronounce names were rated higher in blind tastings! Of course if they really were blind then you shouldn't know the names. And if they were rated higher before their names were revealed then they must have been found to be better wines - and the name was entirely incidental. The difficult to pronounce names would seem to have been mixed in with the difficult to understand logic!

February 2012

Australian Offer

Australia Day has passed but word reaches us that whilst Australia is still basking in the strength of its currency Moet & Chandon Champagne is selling for less than, amongst others, the Yarra Valley-produced Domaine Chandon! Trouble is if you are in the UK it's not worth a special journey - yet!

February 2012

Raising yeast

New Zealand scientists at the University of Auckland have now discovered that wild yeasts differ according to region. This is interesting because there are some winemakers who swear by cultured yeast and others who prefer a so called 'wild ferment'. On a recent visit to the Douro one Port maker was adamant that he only ever made use of wild yeasts whereas he was unsurprised that another house visited earlier (at the time owned by a large brewing group) only ever used cultured yeast! Because of course, a cultured yeast to a brewery is vital - it offers the possibility of consistency of style with every brew, which are often produced on a daily basis. With wine, produced just once a year, a certain variation in vintage is sometimes considered a good selling point so may actually be advantageous. What is more it now seems certain that wild yeast would play a part in this variation. It will also be a constituent of the mix in the 'terroir' of the wine - the individual vineyard character and regional identity. So far only New Zealand has investigated yeast in this way, but it seems reasonable to suppose that New Zealand is not unique. So this is just another small stitch in the large tapestry of wine analysis....

January 2012

Legal Niceties

The loi Evin (the law which prevents the advertising of alcohol in France) reached the ripe old age of 20 last month and there is debate as to whether it should be amended. The French, true to their stereotype, consider that one advantage of the law is that New World wine producers have found the French market very difficult and even now manage to retain a level of less than 5%. Many though, consider the image of France abroad is tarnished by such a law. Its inability to properly regulate the digital and social media worlds - never thought of twenty years ago - is clearly a disadvantage that could be a threat to the law itself but the principles of the loi Evin are surely good ones. We have come out before in favour of no advertising for alcohol as that would lead to a concentration on what is inside the bottle rather than the frippery outside it. The majority of EU wine laws are based on the French system - perhaps the EU could adopt their advertising rules as well?

January 2012

Vineyard mapping

We hear the European commission has come up with a proposal to remove all restrictions on vineyard planting by 2019. There is clearly no reason why vineyards should be any different from, say, wheat. What has existing vineyard owners more than a little worried is that if these vineyards are planted in existing AOC areas they will automatically be entitled to that appellation - that could mean, for example five times as much production in Rioja or twice as much in Burgundy. If this all gets approval then there could well be a very interesting supply and demand inbalance in 2020.

December 2011

Britain in the beerage

Normally when an Italian, a Portuguese and a Greek go to the pub the Germans seem to pay, even if only with considerable reluctance. But the Germans drink twice as much beer as the Brits yet Britain pays more than five times as much duty and VAT. According to accountants, Ernst and Young, Britain pays more than 40% of the European beer tax bill! even though Britain represents just 13% of Europe's beer consumption and 12% of the European population. Emigration anyone?

November 11

Hearty fayre

There is rejoicing at the Hôpital de Montbard, near Dijon, because a recent trial conducted by the Université de Bourgogne has affirmed the efficacy of red wine in assisting recovery from - or perhaps more properly guarding against a recurrence of - a heart attack in cardiac patients. Just a fortnight of consumption of 1 glass of red wine with meals improved blood cell fluidity and decreased levels of LDL (so-called 'bad') cholesterol compared with those who were given water. What seems to get less mention however, is that both groups were not dining on Boeuf Bourgignon and Chaource but alas, a Mediterranean diet. They were however drinking (what else?) red Burgundy. It would be interesting to know if the effect might have been more marked if Malbec rich wine from South West France had been prescribed instead. But probably this is not the piece of research that one should look to the Université de Bourgogne to conduct...

November 11

When NATURAL WINE is not so NATURAL

There is a growing clamour about the so called ‘natural’ wine movement which seems to market itself as a half way house to organic. Organic wine itself is rather full of inconsistency and confusion (see our summary on organic wine here) and the thinking behind ‘natural’ wine is equally muddled. The promoters are proud of their non interventionist stance and lack of ‘treatment’ of wine which they parade as naturally better. Reality, we feel, lies elsewhere!

If we return to first principles we can see that wine is never natural! Because although alcoholic fermentation takes place naturally in grapes, without human intervention it all too quickly ends up as vinegar which is the real natural result. So it is all very much a matter of degree. Some so called 'natural' wines are distinctly variable bottle by bottle. Interestingly, (leaving aside Austria and Germany where producers are still conscious of the antifreeze scandal) the natural wine movement is largely confined to France - a country with a Roman Catholic heritage and where not so long ago wines with what would today be regarded as faults were routinely on sale – the Good Lord had made the wine, as it were, and that was how it turned out, faults and all. The Protestant background of somewhere like Australia has led to a much more widespread technical approach in winemaking as a way of 'improving' nature. Of course this can lead to a certain standardisation, but for inexpensive wines this amounts to a version of quality control for the consumer. Without intervention interesting variabilty can all too easily be a lottery. And even for wines in wide production careful 'interventionist' winemaking and cellar practices lead to wines that have more individuality such as, for example in the barrel ageing of any number of wines from both old and new worlds, or Château Buisson Redon's microbullage (oxygenation) to enhance ageing characters of a simple Merlot based Bordeaux 'Petit Château'.

To paraphrase the cream producers, it may not be natural but it's nice. And nicer than it would 'naturally' otherwise be!

November 11

Has the time come to be hard on soft drinks?

Amid the much criticised news that the government is to continue with its cooperative approach with the food industry in reducing fat, this does not seem unreasonable when the soft drink industry seems to have been completely overlooked. Of course Coca-Cola is the leading sweet drink in the world and is - irony of ironies - a sponsor of the Olympics. The tooth decay it engenders is well-known, but less so is that unless you burn up the energy you consume in a soft drink virtually immediately (and here let it not be forgotten that Coca-Cola is selling not to the athletes but to the spectators) this energy will be changed into fat. So fine if your are running the 500 metres and like your dentist, but surely not such a good idea if you are not or don't.

October 11

Uncontained Joy - or not

News that the container ship that hit the reef of New Zealand's North Island has at least half a million pounds worth of wine on board is not good tidings for wine suppliers or customers. Certainly delays in someone's supplies are inevitable. There are no insurance claims yet permitted as the goods aren't yet lost, though the recent revelation that 70 or so containers have fallen into the sea may engender a rethink. Maybe there will be scenes as there were some years ago when the MSC Napoli came to grief off the South Devon Coast and "Sauvignon Blanc Galore" will turn out to be the sequel to "Whisky Galore"...

October 11

Australian non sequitur

As Autumn approaches we are brought down to earth with a bump as an Australian health body is adamantly declaring that alcohol does you no good at all. The 'Alcohol Policy Coalition' says that more than half of all alcohol-related deaths globally are from diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer or liver cirrhosis. Now here they are undoubtedly stating no less than the truth - but what they seem to have ignored is the length of life before death. After all, the fuss about the French paradox was not that Frenchmen didn't die (that really would have been a marketing gift for their wines!) but that they died later (or lived longer, to put it a little more genteely) than most and in particular than would be expected from their fat and alcohol intake. That seems still to hold. The message is still that red wine in moderation is likely to help you live longer and, we hope, more happily. But not, alas, for ever...

September 11

Mad Dogs, Midday Sun - and wine

Now we learn that drinking wine or eating grapes can help to prevent sunburn. According to researchers at Barcelona University, certain flavenoid compounds found in grapes are capable of stopping the death of cells and scarring of skin tissue caused by spending too long in the midday sun. How extraordinarily convenient. Remember you heard it here first - that large glass of red consumed with lunch earlier is purely and simply preventative before stretching out for a tan. Soon there should surely be a UV protection rating on the bottle next to the alcoholic strength..

August 11

Civil Disruption

Amid the extraordinarily sad news of the recent riots in areas of London particularly, it grieves us to have to advise that this may adversely affect some of our deliveries - most particularly to areas of London where there have been diversions and road closures. One or two deliveries have been delayed and although they have all now reached their intended destination if rioting continues it may be that some further delays result to currently outstanding orders. At the time of writing London and adjacent portions of the home counties are the only areas affected. There is a useful summary on the ParcelForce website here - though on a slightly more optimistic note, in these areas the majority of our deliveries are undertaken by UK Mail/Business Post which, because of their depot locations, seem rather less affected.

August 11

Special Relationships

As those of you who keep up with such things will already know Poland has taken over the Presidency of the EU. They have decided to celebrate the historic friendship between Hungary and Poland (of which in our ignorance we confess we were unaware) by serving wines only from Hungary at the EU functions hosted during their Presidency. We wonder if this could set a precedent? Perhaps it should even be a condition of the presidency. It might be that only German wines could be served when the French hold the Presidential seat or only French wine when the Brits are in charge. Maybe only Greek wines when the Portuguese are on duty and only Portuguese when the Greeks hold sway. The fun could be enormous...

August 11

The Nuclear Option

Some Californians have set up a website 'beers not bombs' (link here) to change the world - they say - 'one beer at a time'. Still heavy on word play, they want to move 'from War to Peace' and so are selling bottle openers recycled from disarmed nuclear weapon systems. So if, when you open a beer with your new opener you feel a warm glow - well - keep your distance and don't call us...

August 11

Sit Down, Relax and Take Notice

Resveratrol, a compound found in most red wines is, according to the The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, likely to assist those with a sedentary lifestyle back to health. This is after one group of mice were given a daily dose and were found to have improved muscle mass and bone structure when compared with a control group. Trouble is that a glass of even the most resveratrol packed wine contains only one milligram of the stuff whereas a health supplement, for example, may contain as much as 500 milligrams. Farbeit for us to cast aspersions but after the first five hundred glasses the sedentary lifestyle might be rather difficult to quit, but you probably could keep taking the tablets...

July 11

Happy Birthday Pinot Grigio..Happy Birthday to you!

Keep it quiet, but Pinot Grigio has become middle aged.... It is now 50! First produced in the style we now know by the Santa Margherita winery in 1961, when, as their usual style lacked market success, they decided they would create a very lean and fresh wine by picking grapes early and having next to no skin contact during the fermentation. This also meant that the wine was straightforwardly fresh - even perhaps 'citrussy'- and also clear and limpid without the slightly coppery hue that it was wont to take on when fermented with the skins (as can sometimes be noticeable in Alsace Pinot Gris, for example). So they invented the lean and mean, undemanding drinking style that has been so very widely copied. Whereas the fuller style they changed from, which is predominant now only in Alsace, remains much less appreciated. Indeed so successful have the first fifty years been for the style that we bet there are many that do not even know that Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are exactly the same grape type!

June 11

A very good trip

Word reaches us from our supermarket spies that one of their customers received £10,500 this month - for slipping on a grape. But the Ambulance chasing lawyers seemed to do even better, pocketing £18,500. Only goes to show how dangerous these grapes are - much better to keep them safe by fermenting them.

June 11

Ripe for change

The American Association of Wine Economists (no less) has analysed climate data from1992-2009 and decided that the rise in the alcoholic strength of wine is primarily man-made. Climate warming might have lead to an increase of 0.9% but the actual average increase is 1.12%. At WineDrop Towers we never doubted that the rise was man-made. Even the French are paying much more attention to ripeness of grapes and now tend to harvest as late as possible. Fuller, riper wines are more crowd pleasing and because of the riper fruit often have more alcohol. In particular Robert Parker, whose palate is much reputed in America, likes big and forward fruit. Such has been his influence that the French even have an expression for being mentioned in his publications - être 'parkerisé'! The problem is the rest of us have been well and truly parkerisé too and French wine is not like it used to be...

June 11

Raise the bottle - then sink your ship, or is it the other way round?

We understand that a record price was paid for a 200 year old bottle of Veuve Clicquot that was found in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea off Finland's Åland archipelago during the summer of 2010. The buyer was from Singapore and spent 30,000 euros on his purchase. Indeed it seems that such was the auction's success that the islands are said to be thinking of holding a similar auction on an annual basis. Quite how this would work is not entirely clear but would seem to involve sinking a ship first. Still, forewarned is forearmed, so anyone finding themselves cruising in the Baltic would do well to ensure the Captain gives a wide birth to the Åland islands - particularly if there is Champagne on board.

June 11

Thumbs down

It is said that although the label might sell the first bottle, it is the wine that sells the second. Yet now there is news that Bordeaux is to fund a wine centre. It is a dramatic and expensive modern design fronting the Gironde river and likened, apparently, to a giant thumb. As the equally modern Copia Wine Center in California has gone bust and London's Vinopolis has in turn only lately achieved a firm financial footing, the record is not promising. It is important therefore that the customers will be suitably attracted by the giant thumb to part with their cash. But then it would need to be to really remarkable to persuade people to come back again and again. Unless the operators are just counting on a spate of wet Wednesdays - and Tuesdays, and Thursdays...

May 11

We are all flying now...

News that the Meat Trades Journal has discovered that about 17% of meat eaters think pork wings are a real cut of meat, makes us worry that either genetic modification has gone further than any of us here realised or that we really do believe that pigs may (not might) fly. And what wine to accompany Pork Wings Sir? Well if only on the grounds that one impossibility deserves another we can only recommend the Flying Kiwi Pinot Noir..

May 11

Warm advance creates delay

As the UK bathes in the sunshine of what could perhaps be called an Indian Spring, most French vineyard areas are reporting that their vines are are at least a fortnight in advance of usual. But worries persist about a late frost which could be dangerous or even fatal to grape crops. As the vines race to flowering the vignerons are in turn racing to catch up - or as one wag put it; if the crops are early then the farmer is always late.

April 11

Wine Tunes

We understand that an Austrian winemaker, a certain Markus Bachmann (perhaps the clue is in the name?) has invented a special speaker that exposes fermenting grape juice to classical, jazz or electronic music. The sound waves, he claims, produce better-tasting wine. Aside from the fact that he is a former French horn player (although brass players are normally reputed for their beer prowess) he says the wines seem to get more fruity - as, it must be admitted, many of us do when we listen to music.

Mr Bachmann has teamed up with six other Austrian wine growers to produce so-called Sonor Wines, priced - and maybe this is another clue - north of 19 euros a bottle and including a 2010 pinot blanc "infused with Mozart's 41st Symphony". Whilst the sound waves may indeed have an effect on the fermentation, the waves created by the price might be of a different kind - especially when across the Atlantic a Mexican producer also claims to use music, but he says he cannot be sure any of it works but is completely confident that it does ..er...no harm.

March 11

Sweet or Savoury?

A wine critic, one Eric Asinov, writing in the New York Times has suggested that detailed tasting notes are a waste of time because "one critic’s ripe raspberry, white pepper and blueberry is another’s sweet-and-sour cherries and spice box". This contains a considerable element of truth and is one of the reasons why we at WineDrop towers do not indulge in too much florid prose in our own tasting notes. He continues "But the general character of a wine: now, that’s another matter. A brief depiction of the salient overall features of a wine, like its weight, texture and the broad nature of its aromas and flavours, can be far more helpful in determining whether you will like that bottle than a thousand points of detail. In fact, consumers could be helped immeasurably if the entire lexicon of wine descriptors were boiled down to two words: sweet or savoury." He goes on to say that rather than actually requiring sugar in "sweet" wines or none in "savoury" they should be applied to the tasting impression and that wines with lots of weight would count as sweet and lean and minerally wines would count as savoury. An interesting idea that has erm, legs, but perhaps "heavy" or "light" might be an easier description?

March 11

New Zealand News

Amid the very sad news of the Christchurch earthquake we are pleased to say that our nearby Marlborough wine producers were almost completely unaffected - indeed for them the worse earthquake was in fact the first one - last year. NZ wine supplies should continue unaffected.

Feb 11

Head hurting

A food chemist at the University of British Colombia has received approval from the authorities in Canada and the USA to use a genetically modified yeast which achieves malolactic fermentation (though the malolactic is not strictly a fermentation but a bacterial reaction -see here - but we digress) at the same time as the alcoholic fermentation. This produces fewer biogenic amines (the neurotransmitter, histamine is an example) that produce allergic reactions -particularly headaches- in some people. The modified yeast doesn't introduce any genetic material that would not be present anyway in the normal bacterial malolactic fermentation. A gene from malolactic bacteria was, apparently, spliced it into the DNA of some wine yeast and the resulting yeast completes the alcoholic fermentation and the malolactic fermentation simultaneously. Clever - and quicker. But not all wineries like to add yeast - many prefer to let naturally occurring yeasts do the job. And because it is genetically modified nobody will admit to using it - so if you are looking for that wine that's not going to give you a headache you might get the headache just looking for it. And being genetically modified it has not been approved in Europe. So at least that's one headache we won't - or perhaps will - be getting.

Feb 11

Logical Moderation

Word reaches us that a book by Robert Beardsmore called Guilt-free Drinking concludes, with irrefutable logic, that if moderate drinking actually improves health then reducing moderate drinking or giving it up altogether makes health worse. It should, therefore, not be encouraged by the 'nanny' state or anyone else. It would be unkind not to drink to that - in moderation of course.

Jan 11

Britain on the Pink

What we forgot to say is that the same Vinexpo research established that Britain consumes 10% of world Rosé production! Still the Brits are not the only ones - we are only fourth in the world!

Jan 11

Wine by numbers

Vinexpo, the Bordeaux world wine exhibition, has commissioned research which reveals that China is the most rapidly expanding wine market - but that 90% of the production is home produced. So whilst the French cry into their Perrier (or whatever it is they drink now, because it's much less wine!) it has been established that France, Italy and Spain are still the largest producers of wine but their production is expected to decline (lower yields and grubbing up of poorly performing vineyards apparently). Argentina, Chile, South Africa and of course China are on the up. The UK meanwhile has become the world's largest wine importing country both by volume and value. And in the wine consumption league per head? Britain is languishing at tenth.

Jan 11

Weathering the storm..

The weather has naturally been hampering some deliveries and indeed supplies (it has been snowing in Perpignan for example) but our carriers have generally been doing a sterling job and we are suffering - if any - only minor delays in this, the third week of December. We have had a problem with corks on Casal Garcia so we had to suspend sales of certain lot numbers and this situation is likely to be back to normal only in the week before Christmas - apologies are in order for those of you still waiting for supplies and we must hope the weather does not get too ferocious. Weather updates appear regularly on our delivery page here. Perhaps, after all, a white Christmas is not all it's cracked up to be...

Dec 10

Location..location..

This is rather belated news principally because few countries seem up to speed - although this change was instituted from 1 August 2009. We seemed to have missed the rejoicing in the streets but the EU wine regime is being brought into line with that of food. So the Appellation d'Origine Protegée (AOP) replaces Appellation d'Origine Controllée, the Italian DOC becomes Denominanazione D'Origine Protetta (DOP), and so on. The Vin de Pays are replaced by IGP - Indication Géographique Protegée. Gradually sub regions will disappear - so no more Chianti - all will be Chianti Classico, no more Premières Côtes de Blaye just Côtes de Bordeaux. So simpler in the end. But this simplicity will take about 10 years to 'transition'! We are likely to have two lots of regulations running alongside each other for some considerable time, which is likely to be confusing. Additionally in France (and potentially in other countries if they wish) Vin de Table has been abolished! In its place is Vin de France, which like Vin de Table, can come from anywhere in France but, unlike it, can declare the constituent grape varieties and the vintage on the label. There is a rather strange website which gives further details here. This is really a reposte to the New World, who have for so long sold their wines by grape variety rather than by area and is likely to help in France's export markets - whilst the French home market remains blissfully unconcerned by grape varieties and is much more interested in location..location..

November 10

Not so think as ..

There is much fuss and reflection about the British propensity for drink (although it seems to have gone unnoticed that Britons are actually consuming less alcohol than we did 10 or even 5 years ago) with some even suggesting that it is indicative that English has more words for drunk than Eskimos have for snow. Whereas the sober French for example have it so imbued into their culture that they rarely get drunk and do not require or have the variety of synonyms that English has. (The small matter of not actually knowing how many words the Eskimos have for snow doesn't seem to impair the debate.) These suggestions rather miss the fact that English has a larger vocabulary than most other languages - including French. England and the English speaking world has Protestant traditions (the country of the Plymouth Brethren after all) where drinking was frowned upon - if not made illegal. So when you examine the other words for drunk it turns out that most terms are borrowed and are either ironic or euphemistic or just emphasise disapproval. Have you been slaughtered or just pickled? Or only whoozy or tight? After all none of these words is unique to alcohol consumption - far from it! Really this just doesn't prove that Britons are more drunk - or less sober - than other nations but just that they are linguistically inventive. And no, I promise I haven't been on the sauce.

November 10

Hello, 'ello, 'ello

Amid the frightening news that various companies selling wine en primeur for investment, seem only to have ever had one case of wine between them all although their turnover was £2.5m! it is comforting to note that a national fraud line has been set up (to include wine). With some of the eye watering prices asked - and seemingly paid - for 2009 Bordeaux (which, let us remember, is still in the barrel at the Château) wine for investment is probably very attractive to crooks in that it involves large amounts of money for something which, even when bought legitimately, takes about two years to deliver. And as the market in the past has been remunerative for genuine investors, people still think wine will bridge the recession. But, even if we avoid the crooks, with low inflation it may be may difficult to avoid making a loss this time round. And if you wait too long, eventually it all ends up as vinegar.... So, now particularly, proceed with care, as the Constable might say. - Oh and that fraudline number is 03000 123 2040.

Oct 10

Are screwcaps just boring?

There is now debate as to whether screwcap closures are in fact greener than cork. It has been suggested that because the failure rate is much lower than cork (no cork taint) then in fact the screwcap closure avoids wine spoilage and so, even though it consumes more resources to produce in the first place, it is 'greener'. Even leaving aside that barrel taint and cork taint can be exactly the same thing, and screwcaps cannot prevent barrel taint, since these findings generally revolve around quantities of wine that were bottled a decade or more ago (and particularly in the New World where the systems of shipping European corks half way round the world wrapped in plastic were not conducive to high quality outcomes), it is still difficult to draw any firm conclusions. Standards in the cork industry have definitely improved substantially of late and the days of bottling vintage port or Château Lafite under screwcap are still not with us. It is the imperceptibly slow oxidisation that cork allows that reaps such great rewards for the consumer - though clearly without a 100% pass rate. Screwcaps seem to allow change using the oxygen already in the bottle but not anything extra. As with many things it is balancing homogeneity against high (and sometimes low) quality that has us all squabbling.

It is often considered that this variation would not be acceptable for Baked Beans so why should it be for wine? The answer is that Baked Beans in a can would long ago have been deemed to be past their 'use by' date but, subject to the correct storage conditions, should be edible. They are unlikely to improve in quality however. Baked beans in a vacuum sealed glass jar should taste pretty much the same as on the day of production as long as the jar seal has remained completely secure. Here wine has an advantage, because not only is it usually in an inert glass container but also contains alcohol as an antiseptic and preservative - so the seal to its 'glass jar' can be less secure. Subject to the correct storage conditions many cork sealed wines will get better. Not a certainty of course - they may just change, but with a judicious choice of raw material 'magic' can result. Perhaps then, we should reckon that corked wines are for fun and screwcapped wines are just for drinking?

Sep 10

Chilean supplies back to normal - but not so for Argentina

We are pleased to say that supplies of Chilean Wine are broadly back to normal. Where there are supply problems it is that there is no Mission Peak Red - for example - until the new vintage. But in the meanwhile Vicuña Cabernet Merlot should be able to take the strain. The same cannot, however, be said of Argentina where delays in analysis for Natamycin in the very limited facilities available locally continue to cause stock shortages in the UK. There appears little prospect at the moment of much improvement in the situation this year and the best advice seems to be to fill your boots when you can get hold of what you require...

Aug 10

The shape of things to come?

In Pennsylvania, as an addition to state controlled liquor shops, wine is now being sold from wine bottle dispensers. See the picture here These machines not only require your identity and age to be verified before they will supply but also the customer must undergo a breathalyser test before the machine will dispense your choice! Designed to enable people to buy wine in smaller supermarkets, it is experimental to start with but allegedly has, so far, been well received...Just blow in this tube.

Jul 10

Organic failure - or success

We are unsure whether to rejoice or to be slightly worried to discover that the European Commission takes a similar view to ours: there is no such thing as organic wine - only wine produced from organically grown grapes. The world of organics is very disappointed (as well it might be) but there really is little excuse for such a wide variation in the requirements of the supervising and approving authorities between - and importantly often within - countries. This really needs to be harmonised first, long before anyone gets near deciding whether, for example, it is correct organic practice or not to ladle in the sulphur during and after making the wine...

Jun 10

The future is egg shaped

An 'environmental' Champagne producer (and no, we don't believe the emphasis should be on the last two syllables) has ordered two large oak casks that are egg shaped. He sees this shape as giving a better fermentation as it "favours natural convection". So far these seem to be unique and are quite a sight (see here). Still, at least there is somebody who doesn't see the future as pear shaped.

Jun 10.

Natamycin in Argentinean Wines

This problem - if such it is - relates to a chemical which is widely used in the dairy industry in tiny quantities as a mould suppressant on cheese. Under EU rules because natamycin is not permitted in wine it is therefore illegal. (It is not legal in winemaking in Argentina either!) A new German system of analysis first spotted it and ever since Argentinean shipments have been delayed trying to get the only laboratory in Argentina with the capability of such analysis to certify that there is no natamycin in the wine... The most likely source of contamination is, it seems, oak chips where small quantities may have been used by a supplier to ensure the chips remain biologically 'clean'. Meanwhile all Argentinean wines destined for the EU are subject to lengthy shipping delays. Hence please understand that our stock levels do not currently accord well with demand...

May 10

Top spot?

Champagne Heidseick Monopole has, it is alleged, complained to the tiny Old Dairy brewery in Kent about an infringement of the trade mark 'Red Top' - which seems an entirely appropriate name for a beer from an old dairy, yet also seems to indicate a remarkable lack of confidence by the Champagne company in their own product. Is it really something that would get confused with beer? It is true that the champagne is now part of the Remy Cointreau empire, but even so surely noone is going to confuse Champagne Charlie - or are they?

May10

Some encouraging news from Chile

Despite continuing aftershocks - though of reducing intensity - Chilean wineries are giving their full attention to the 2010 harvest. Many point out that, as the main event occurred at the weekend and with fermentation tanks already standing empty and ready to receive the new vintage, damage both to personnel and equipment has been less and recovery has been easier than was first feared. It seems that it is probably the infrastructure of roads and services - and housing in the worst affected areas - that will take longest to recover.

March 10

A fino moment

We wonder if it is the start of a trend with the UK's first sherry bar opening this month. Certainly sherry sales do not seem to be as buoyant as we are always told they are. Yet it seems somehow appropriate that this sherry bar should be opening in - Islington.

March 10

South Africa Moves up

For the twelve month period ended 23 January this year. AC Nielsen the marketing research agency shows South African wine sales grew by 20% in volume to 12.27 million 9-litre-cases. In contrast, French sales fell by 12% to 12.266 million 9-litre-cases. So South Africa has moved to third in the UK supply league table, after the USA and Italy. Although France appears still to retain its leadership in the on trade here too they are feeling the pressure.

March 10

Flying Cork

The Portuguese cork industry is branching out in a bid to find new markets for its declining cork stopper business, where the screwcap has made painful inroads. Of course there will probably always be a place for a good unblemished long cork in a bottle of vintage Port or Claret, which is designed to mature in the bottle. But most wine is consumed in the month after purchase and in this market the cork share is only about 70% (down from over 90%). The industry needs to consider the long term - the cork bark is first harvested when the tree is about 20 years old and then again about every 10 years for the next two centuries. The future plan is to make aircraft wings out of carbon fibre and cork instead of PVC, whilst resistance to fire (and oil prices) will be used to advantage inside the aircraft too. But they may have some unexpected competition in that land of the screwcap: Australia is considering planting the Quercus Subur to exploit its resistance to bushfires. At least the Portuguese know they have to give a minimum of 20 years notice...

February 10

Scottish Wine at last?

A vineyard has been planted in Perth and is due to give its first vintage in 2010. Jokes about global warming seem inappropriate this year but as anyone who has spent a winter in Burgundy will know, it's not the winter but the summer that's important. So here's to a blistering Perthshire 2010 vintage!

February 10

Brand New Red Bicyclette

What is it with bicycles? Various wineries and co-ops in the South of France are being prosecuted by the French authorities for selling cheap Pinot Noir, that wasn't, to Gallo for its 'Red Bicyclette' brand. One might have thought Gallo should have been able to smell and taste the difference but, as one wag has already pointed out, probably the overwhelming aroma was that of a nice fat, high margin...

January 10

Make Mine A Swimming Pool - continued

Making derogatory remarks about lager has - of course - prompted a 'friend' to point out that you can bathe in red wine too. At Kanagawa in Japan there is a health resort where bathing in red wine is said to be a rejuvenation treatment for the body. Well perhaps, but the last time this writer so much as trod grapes for half an hour it took two months for the legs to tone down from bright pink to pallid white. If it had been total immersion there would need to be a racial type created. Closer inspection of the spa does reveal - doubtless to the relief of passport authorities everywhere - that there is quite a lot of water with it - so it is more of a dark rosé colour. Just enough probably to put you in the pink..

January 10

The Tractor Factor in New Zealand

Grove Mill, the world's first Carbon Zero winery, has modified a tractor to run on vine prunings, which as a tractor is often going six hours a day they consider well worth the cost. Although we had visions of this new tractor looking rather like Stephenson's rocket it turns out that the vine prunings undergo gasification first and the result can then be used as fuel. But the real pity is that those steaks grilled over the vine cuttings will loose that unique tangy flavour that is so delicious... Still, perhaps that's progress, perhaps not.

January 10

Make Mine A Swimming Pool

Word reaches us from Starkenberg in Austria that a health spa is offering a recuperative break where the spa's bathing pools are filled up with - er beer. Apparently bathing in beer has health benefits such as improving skin tone and blood circulation. Pure prejudice leads us to suggest that this must be the proper use for lager and is for certain miles better than drinking the stuff...

December 09

PET Beaujolais Nouveau in Japan

Japan has for some years now been Beaujolais Nouveau's largest market but recessionary pressure and declining sales has led to what the trade will doubtless call 'packaging innovation'. Many retailers are to sell Nouveau in PET plastic bottles, which are both cheaper and -allegedly- more environmentally friendly than glass. It is certainly true that nobody is looking to buy Beaujolais Nouveau to 'lay down' so part of the objection to plastic bottles is immediately overcome. As the largest Burgundy negociant supplied the USA with Beaujolais Nouveau in plastic last year, we are left wondering whether this light, fruity and easy to appreciate wine might be the forerunner for a major packaging change for other wines. If Australia and New Zealand can champion the screw- cap perhaps France will be the PET champion? At least if we are selling our Beaujolais Nouveau next year in PET you'll know they are!


November 09

Wine (not just Guinness) is good for you

At the World Wine Symposium in Italy Jean-Robert Pitte, ex President of the Sorbonne University, lamented the fact that the French state did not separate alcohol from wine. That sounds rather like being able to get alcohol out of the wine but being unable to get the wine out of alcohol. This is entirely logical and nor should they be separate. Where he does have more force is when he pointed out that L'Association Nationale de Protection contre l'Alcool et les Addictions (French quangos seem to have even longer names than British ones) has an annual budget of 66m Euros and 1,400 employees! What on earth do they all do? We trust they don't drink at lunchtime.. Yet Dr NK Yong, a Singapore wine enthusiast, seems rather to hope they do - "anyone who tells you wine is not good for you is lying. If the politicians don't understand this, you should change the politicians." This has rather more impact when you realise that Dr Yong is 80 years young.


November 09

White wine attacks tooth enamel shock

We were unsurprised to discover that the acidity in wine is bad for tooth enamel and the acidity in white wine is generally higher than red. According to the German University study that made this earth shattering discovery, eating cheese with the wine helps (full of calcium - like our teeth). The British Dental Association has replied that "If you're going to have a glass of wine do so with your meal and leave a break of at least 30 minutes afterwards before you brush your teeth." What they don't mention is that if you brush your teeth before drinking the wine you might never drink wine again...Please don't try this at home!

October 09

Paternoster Lift

This lovely phrase (referring to one of those lifts that goes on continuously without ever actually stopping at a floor) has been used by a report in the American 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' to describe the way the bubbles in Champagne act as a flavour delivery system! It is not unique to Champagne but also found in 'good' - for which read bottle fermented - sparkling wine. By using mass spectometry it was discovered that the aromatic compounds were present by a factor of up to 30 times more in the bubbles rather than the wine. Their continuous rising and bursting delivers the flavour. (Shades of "every bubble has passed its fizzical" which was an advertising campaign of old for a soft drink.)

However, to anyone who has ever tasted still 'Champagne' before it passes through its bottle fermentation this will certainly come as no surprise. Without the improvement brought about by secondary fermentation it is doubtful if it would be drunk at all!

October 09

Some like it hot

French wine lovers - and Greenpeace in particular (though it is unlikely many of us had them marked down in this category) are warning that global warming may see off the wines of Meursault, Montrachet and Volnay. If global warming continues at is current rate the temperature will be six degrees warmer on average by the end of the century. Already between 1996 and 2008 the time taken for grapes to mature in Burgundy has reduced by ten from fifty to forty days. This is distinctly serious for such a prestigious area, where the length of time taken to fruit maturity is very important for finesse and complexity. France loses this at its peril! No wonder a group of chefs, sommeliers and winemakers wrote to 'Le Monde' in August to insist that Nicolas Sarkosy push for a strong agreement on climate change. He would probably be all the more motivated if they were to mention that, should it happen, Southern Britain is likely to be a major beneficiary of this particular bit of climate change...

September 09

Record price for Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon

It is true that we do not unfortunately have stocks of Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon 1965 and 1967, which achieved record prices at the recent South African Nederberg wine auction, but we do have stocks of a rather later but almost as delicious 2004 vintage at just £7.29 a bottle!

September 09

Bring on the Clones

Carmenère is the grape that may well have originated in the Médoc. After the phylloxera outbreak the 1880s it was not replanted. Chile however had been supplied with vines earlier in the century and had no phylloxera problem (indeed still doesn't) and is now the home of far and away the largest quantities of Carmenère vines, such that it is now considered a (so called) signature variety for the country. Even so it is remarkable how it can add an attractive depth to a Cabernet Sauvignon as in the Terra Mater version. Perhaps this should be unsurprising in view of its Médoc heritage!
With a view to improve quality - some single variety Carmenères can be a bit 'grassy' or 'herbaceous' - the Chilean government is funding the University of Talca to try and discover the best clone. But again the attitude is very wise "We don't want to completely lose the green or peppery character, otherwise it won't be Carmenère" says the university. Hear, hear - a clone but not cloned!

September 09

Chilean Sustainability

The University of Talca in Chile is attempting to put forward a programme for sustainability, which is "more than organics". Although Chile is a country admirably suited to organic viticulture, being protected from pests and pestilence by both the Pacific Ocean to the West and the Andes mountains to the East it is admirable that there is a realisation that producing organically grown grapes can count for very little, particularly if, say, the vineyard contributes to soil erosion, intrusive irrigation or large energy use. Hats off to the Chileans for working on the complete picture!

September 09

Seriously folks..

A professor of oceanography and statistics (an odd combo - but at least the second is relevant) who also happens to own a small winery in California's Humboldt County decided to study wine competitions after seeing his own wines win in some events and yet get no awards in others. He has upset many by discovering that this alarming inconsisitency in the way his own wines were rated was the norm. His suggestion that the competitions were pretty self serving has not gone down well in the sunshine state!
It is interesting to compare with the UK's own International Wine Challenge, where not only is it the world's biggest competition but anecdotally is fairly consistent. The stupidity is that the long embargo on the results often means that the wine has changed considerably since it was judged and in one or two cases sold out! The add-ons such as Wine Merchant of the Year are though, similarly self serving, indeed companies propose themselves in true unbiased fashion! The panoply of competitions is however likely to be much enhanced if the BMA get their way for a ban on alcohol advertising. This would be one of the minor drawbacks of what would otherwise be a very good thing. Alcohol probably needs to be made more serious..

September 09

France back as top dog

It seems that France, after faltering last year, is set to be the world's number one wine producer again. Spain's production is well down this year, by 4%, in Italy - last year's top producer - production will be little changed, whilst France's production is scheduled to increase by 12%. According to a study by the Milan based Italian Wines Union, France is due to produce 48.1 million hectolitres of wine. Can the world keep up, because French consumption is declining..?

September 09

Gloomy View from Australia

No this is not a recessionary new wine from Australia, but a summary of the economic outlook given by Fosters, the brewer that now owns the famous Australian names of Wolf Blass and Penfolds. It has announced that its global wine volumes are down 5%. It is scrapping 37 wine brands and disposing of 36 vineyards. It also has started selling its vineyards in California. The bright spot? Beer sales are strong... Penfolds Grange drinkers may be pleased that more potential investment is on its way from beer drinkers' profits..

August 09

You heard it here first..

Well actually no - we are indebted to 'The Guardian' for bringing this to our notice. Italian banks are likely to take wine as collateral for loans. And it is not as crazy as it at first sounds because they won't be accepting cases and cases of plonk de plonks so you can max out on the holiday money, but good wine that matures and improves. So it should be perfectly safe as long as they ensure they get repayment before it has turned into vinegar. Could put a whole new slant on the idea of taking the bank manager for a drink...

August 09

Drinking not smoking..

News reaches us from Canada's Niagara that old kilns once used for drying tobacco leaves are to be used by a winery to dry grapes so they can make their own version of Amarone - but not by drying the grapes over a couple of months or longer but just a fortnight! More intriguingly they are going to use another old kiln to blast the harvested grapes with humidity and botrytis cinerea, which is the mould responsible for the sweet concentration of Sauternes for example. But in European vineyards the mould attacks the grapes on the vine and they are late picked so the juice is highly concentrated. Although it will be an intriguing trial, factory kiln production is unlikely to be any great threat to Château Yqem just yet...

August 09

New Zealand feeling the squeeze

Gisborne grape growers are facing difficult times as Pernod Ricard, the French drinks conglomerate, seems to have cut back its grape requirements by as much as 25%. This is predominantly destined for its Montana label, New Zealand's biggest (but not its best) wine producer. Constellation - another conglomerate, this time American- has not helped by following a similar course for its Nobilo label. Chardonnay is the predominant grape of the area and the one most out of favour with the consumer now touched by the so called ABC view (Anything But Chardonnay). Some producers are vowing to go back to growing avocados... Certainly fashion and farming are uneasy bedfellows and probably it is also prudent to beware of exclusive supply to enormous conglomerate wine companies.

August 09

From Prohibition to McMerlot in less than 80 years

In what one American wag has christened the arrival of the McMerlot a fast food chain (not in fact that one) in North America has decided to sell wine with its burgers - in order to move up into "fast food premium" according to their spokesman. Whatever that means. Still don't they know that if there really is beef in those burgers McCabernet McSauvignon is likely to be a better choice?

August 09

Please contain your excitement...

On the 1st August 2009 the EU introduced new Wine Regulations. Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée(AOC or AC) becomes AOP (Appellation d'Origine Protegée) and Vin de Pays wines, often referred to as Country Wines, will now be known as IGP (Indication Géographique Protegée). So that's alright then. At least any wine is now, legally, able to put its constituent grape varieties on its label, which is how most of us start to consider the style of wine that is likely to appeal to us. This should certainly help Europe to compete a little more easily against the New World. Money to subsidise distillation will now also be phased out to encourage wine producers to be more market orientated. However this writer laments that the addition of sucrose (one lump or two?) has at the last minute been permitted - concentrated grape must would be much more honest!

August 09

When is a Burgundy not a Burgundy?

A recent Wine & Spirit Association survey has found that most UK wine consumers think that, whilst the country of origin is probably of consequence, region is unimportant. It is intriguing in this context to see that the Burgundians are locked in dispute with their Beaujolais colleagues further South, who are planting Chardonnay apace. Beaujolais has always been counted as part of Burgundy even though their red grape is Gamay rather than Pinot Noir. But a mature Beaujolais Cru such as Moulin à Vent is often indistinguishable from mature Pinot Noir from further North. Yet it is the Chardonnay - the same white grape that is grown throughout Burgundy that is really causing the problem. The Burgundy winemakers' association considers that the Beaujolais producers should be calling all this production Beaujolais Blanc, whereas in fact it has the right to be called Bourgogne Blanc. They consider it is not Burgundy.. Surely their time would be better spent on ensuring the quality was indistinguishable from the posher stuff further North. But on second thoughts this is probably what is worrying them...

July 09

The Real Thing

Apparently a consignment of Bodegas Kohlberg wine from Bolivia has been found to offer rather more than was expected. The Bulgarian authorities have discovered that over 90% of all bottles contained just liquid cocaine. We did not know too much about Bolivian Wine either but it is apparently much appreciated in the Czech Republic. No wonder..

July 09

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