Tuesday, 22 November 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?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

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...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


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!

Monday, 17 October 2011

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.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Contained Joy?

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

Monday, 19 September 2011

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...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

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..

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

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.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

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...

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...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

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...

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

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

Monday, 20 June 2011

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.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

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...

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

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 of 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.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

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 impossibilty deserves another we can only recommend the Flying Kiwi Pinot Noir..

Thursday, 21 April 2011

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.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

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 the 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.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

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?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

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.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

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 produces 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.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

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 and should not be encouraged. It would be unkind not to drink to that - in moderation of course.

Monday, 17 January 2011

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!

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.