Wednesday, 15 December 2010

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...

Monday, 22 November 2010


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..

Friday, 12 November 2010

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 Bretheren 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! This doesn't prove that Britons are more drunk - or less sober - than other nations but just that they are linguistically inventive. And no, I haven't been on the sauce.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

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.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

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, as 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 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?

Saturday, 7 August 2010

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...

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

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. 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 bag.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

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 ladel in the sulphur during and after making the wine...

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

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!
Still, at least there is somebody who doesn't see the future as pear shaped.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

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...

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?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

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.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

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.

South Africa Moves up

For the twelve month period ended 23 January this year. AC Nielson 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 undoubtedly feeling the pressure.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Chilean Earthquake

It seems more than likely that there will be some disruption to Chilean wine supplies as a result of the serious earthquake of Saturday 27th February. Owing to the 6-8 week lead time for shipping Chilean wines this is not likely to be immediate, but at least two wine producing areas (the Bio Bio and Maule valleys) have been affected. For the vineyards this is unlikely to be more than a relative inconvenience but the logistics of exporting are going to be a much greater challenge. As wine consumers we can of course easily switch to another country's production, but in the meantime Chile looses that export income. We thought some customers might like to make a small donation towards providing tents for those without shelter through the innovative Shelterbox scheme. Either use the link above or by ordering a quantity of one or more of this item here we will pass on the same amount to Shelterbox.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

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...

Monday, 22 February 2010

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!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

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...

Thursday, 21 January 2010

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..

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.