Sunday, 28 June 2009

Glass Case

Penfolds have revealed that they are undertaking trials of glass stoppers for their flagship wine 'Grange'. Although of the opinion that cork "cannot be beaten" except for the tricky problem of cork taint, it had originally been thought Penfolds would opt for screwcap. Certainly whilst they have bottled a proportion of their wine for many years under screwcap, it is clear that they have come to the conclusion that this closure is not ideal for the proper ageing of the wine particularly for export (from the days when we were the UK importers, wine that does not leave the Grange cellars was considered to show no significant difference whether closed with cork or screwcap!)
This glass stopper is not the vini-lok (pictured) but one of their own design which is made without a silicone seal but entirely of glass - complete with a microscopic weave to mimic the cork's ability to allow the ingress of tiny amounts of oxygen over a long period. As glass is inert this is the holy grail for wine stoppers...It remains to be seen whether Penfolds' new owners, Fosters, a brewery, will further finance this development!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Message From the Director of Consumption

No we didn't know there was one either - but the EU has everything! One Robert Madelin, who was holding a conference at this year's Vinexpo wine fair in Bordeaux. He has at least said there are no plans for an alcohol free Europe (which if he had had it would probably not have been the right place to announce it!) He naturally wants member states to be more active in their anti-alcohol strategies, but we feel they are pretty over-active already. Surely the elephant in the room - though admittedly not in France where the loi Évin is pretty strict - is that throughout most of Europe there is little or no control on advertising.. We'd be relaxed about a loi Évin for the EU. Must have a word with the Director of Consumption...

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Australia loses some old friends

Under a recent agreement with the EU Australia has undertaken to phase out the use of some interesting names: Burgundy, White Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Manzanilla, Marsala, Moselle, Port, Sauternes, Sherry, Spatlese and Tokay amoung them. No mention of Kanga Rouge, but apparently Australian Sherry (as was) will now be called "apera" (short for aperitif in case you were wondering as we were..ironic really that apéritif is a French word)while Vintage Tawny and Ruby substitute, simply enough, for Port. Australian Tokay however becomes "topaque" - for a reason we can only consider, well, opaque. Ironically again these regulations come in just as the first Australian investment arrives in the original Hungarian town of Tokaji. It will be interesting to see what other replacement names are chosen. Any suggestions?

Vodka Europe Going Down

It used to be said that there were three Europes: Wine Europe, Beer Europe and Vodka Europe. Now we learn that wine sales in Poland, previously reckoned to be a veritable anchor of Vodka Europe, increased last year by 15% by volume and the majority is red wine from the New World - particularly Chile. It is reckoned by some to be a purely urban phenominon, but that is where the majority of the population live anyway..Down the hatch takes on a rather different meaning..

Thursday, 18 June 2009

American Worries

We understand there has been an article in the New York Times recently pouring scorn on the idea that moderate drinking may be quite good for you. The trouble is, they say, that there is no cause and effect - noone can say categorically that a little drink is good for you (though Guinness famously was!) - only that moderate imbibing is what healthy people happen to do.

This may be true, though the 'Mediterranean diet' would seem to make you more healthy when you move there, but of course it may just be that looking at the sea is good for you...

For us at WineDrop we tend to feel that there is no truth in the idea that Hamburger restaurants' 'supersize me' makes you fat. It is just that fat people tend to want to eat a lot...

Could it be that America's Puritan heritage is getting the better of them? It is true too that some alcohol companies have paid for scientific research which seems to come out in favour of 'a little alcohol', but surely if the piper were properly calling the tune they would have come out in favour of 'an awful lot'? When, however, you get down to the biochemistry of Dr Roger Corder of Queen Mary College London, and his research that the procyanidins present in grapes (particularly those varieties in Gascony and Sardinia which undergo long fermentations) are the most active polyphenols limiting the production of a protein that causes constriction of the arteries, there is less to argue about.

It doesn't prove that alcohol doesn't do you harm but it does prove that a constituent of an alcoholic beverage does you good! For us - net effect: happiness! Or as the Aussies would say "No worries".

Monday, 15 June 2009

Champagne Maestro stopper

First unveiled at the recent London Wine Trade Fair this invention is really a crown cork (though the French nomenclature 'capsule couronne' just sounds so much more refined!) with a built in opener. This is all camouflaged with a plastic protective cap or 'dome' all surrounded by foil (again the French 'coiffe' is more prestigious) to finish and look as much like the traditional shape as possible. Its particular advantage is alleged to be that it is much easier to open than a traditional cork and was especially convenient to women (perhaps this had something to do with the fact that the first taker was Champagne Duval Leroy, which happens to be run by Carol of that ilk). Comparisons with opening a beer bottle are entirely correct but little mentioned. Unless this is behind the reason it is currently not allowed to be sold - seemingly because the stopper doesn't have 'Champagne' written on it!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Australian faults versus French pleasure

It is interesting that The Australian Wine Research Institute's Advanced Wine Assessment Course is getting an airing at the upcoming Australia G'Day celebration. 'The course covers how to detect wine taints, and a number of wine flights are tasted to help guests build their tasting consistency in a judging context.' Should be interesting to attend - yet and yet there is a nagging fear that the seeking out of faults is what Australian judges do. Where as the French in a more latinate fashion seek out just what gives them pleasure.

Perhaps it is all a symptom of what Peter Sichel used to say, "Australian wines are made for competitions; French wines are made for food."

Anyone attending the course please tell us...

Friday, 12 June 2009

Wine Sales Going Down - Taxes Going Up

In 2008 duty on wine increased by 17%, meaning the British are now among the most heavily taxed wine drinkers in Europe. The wine market also declined by 2% - a remarkably resilient performance in the circumstances..Perhaps as a result of it being one of the few drinks categories where people tend to mature into it when they might have been in the five pints of lager or luminous green alcopop category in their youths. And when people get into wine they tend to remain into it for life (according to a recent report by Mintel). Who said things don't ever get better?

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Rosé by another method

The plan by the EU to facilitate an easier response to competion with the New World by allowing Rosé wine to be made by blending Red and white wines together has been withdrawn. This follows heavy lobbying from parts of France and Italy - rather ironic really in that Champagne Rosé is normally made by this system. But although it was permissive rather than obligatory, it was felt by some producers that it devalued rosé wines in general. As Champagne is easily the most expensive rosé on the market we had hoped that some devaluation might be no bad thing...

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Champagne news

Champagne exports are rumoured to be down 40% of late and Champagne sales in France itself are certainly down 9% even though what the Champenois did manage to sell - poor things - was at a higher price than the previous year. What is surprising it that the French market for imported sparkling wine increased by 12% and these wines now represent almost 4% of the entire French Sparkling wine market (including Champagne). Britain still remains Champagne's most important export market but things are not easy here either as is clearly reflected in Bollinger's 'promotion', which seems to have a surprising degree of permanence and which we are already reflecting!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The Changing face of France

When the Brits first joined the EU it used to be said that the most noticeable effect was that the French were drinking more beer and the Brits more wine. Now we learn that not only are French wine exports down by an average of 8% but The French are drinking less and less wine. Consumption seems to be going the way of those other stereotypes - the stripey top and the string of onions. Annual consumption per head has declined from the giddy heights of 120 Litres per year in the 1960s to 47 Litres in 2007 and only 43 Litres in 2008 - with the younger generation drinking least!
The major success story for everyday French wine of recent times is a wine which uses reverse osmosis (broadly filtering - to you and me) to reduce its heady Languedoc strength of 13% down to a more user friendly 9%. English wine producers of course have the opposite problem - but perhaps there is an untapped export market accross the Channel? In any case English Sparkling wine , made albeit to a French recipe is generally now considered world class. Well that is Europeanisation for you...

Friday, 5 June 2009