Sunday, 31 May 2009

Inniskillin Ice Wine

Ice wine has been something that I’ve wanted to taste for a long time and at the LIWF this year I got my opportunity visiting the Constellation stand to try some Inniskillin wines. Germany has always been the traditional home of ice wine, but Canada has started to catch them up, producing some fantastic wines this year.

Inniskillin produces its wines from one of four grapes, Riesling, Vidal, Tempranillo or Cabernet Franc, producing some fantastically wonderful and complex wines. You’ve probably heard of most of these grapes, with the exception of Vidal; that’s because it’s a hybrid. This means that two other grapes are crossed together, in this case Uni Blanc and Seibel, to create a new variety.

In order to produce Ice wine they wait till mid January to harvest and the temperature has dropped below 8°C for a constant period. Due to the lateness of the harvest and the freezing process the grapes yield a much more concentrated juice, around 10 – 15% of what you would get for a standard table wine.

At the LIWF they had bought four of their wines with them, all from the Niagra region. There was a Riesling, two from the Vidal grape, a still and a sparkling, and a red one produced from Cabernet Franc. Whilst they were wonderful, the two that really caught my eye were the sparkling Vidal and the Cabernet Franc.

To produce the sparkling Vidal the primary fermentation takes place in a sealed vessel trapping the naturally occurring carbonation in the wine. This is unlike other Sparklings where it occurs from a secondary fermentation. The wine had aromas of stone fruit, such as Nectarines and Apricots, while the natural carbonation and the rich creamy texture is all balanced by the acidity on the palate, an absolutely outstanding wine.

As for the Cabernet Franc, the process is the same, with the exception that fermentation does not take place in a sealed vessel, resulting in a still wine. Brilliantly red in colour, with wonderful fruit aromas of berries, while on the palate again it had a rich creamy texture with flavours of strawberries and cream. Yet another wonderful wine..

It was definitely well worth the wait to sample these wines and I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for something fantastic to go with your desert!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Brown Brothers

Brown Brothers have done it again and produced some off beat, but fantastic wines that I was lucky enough to taste at this year’s London International Wine Fair (LIWF).

I’ve been a fan of their wines for many years, especially the Tarrango; a cross of the Portuguese Touriga red grape and the Sultana grape, it is a bright crimson, light bodied wine with flavours of red berries and raspberries. Best served young and chilled, especially on a warm summers lunch time. Their Orange Muscat and Flora desert wine is also fantastic, and as far as I’m concerned, a great alternative to the wonderful Sauternes. A little tip for a great desert is to pour it over a good quality Vanilla ice cream…simple, yet effective!

At the LIWF they brought three new Sparklings with them, a Prosecco, Zibibbo and Zibibbo Rosa, all of which were very pleasant wines. The Zibibbo Rosa reminded me very much of Hubba Buba! The stars for me however were their Cienna and Dolcetto and Syrah reds. The Cienna, like the Tarrango is best enjoyed young and well chilled. With wonderful aromas and flavours of summer berries, it is also only 5%, so you don’t need to worry about that usually inevitable next day hangover.

As for the Dolcetto and Syrah blend, again, it needs to be served young and well chilled. The aromas and flavours were more blackcurrants and spicy; at the show they served it with chilli chocolate – an unusual, but perfect combination! Try it at home!

Brown Brothers, my congratulations, yet again you have managed to produce some fantastic wines for us all to enjoy! So, next time you’re stuck for a wine, or want something a little different, try any of their range, they truly produce some incredible wines, especially the reds!

Monday, 25 May 2009

En Primeur - The Conclusion

The en primeur process has been around for centuries; however, this does not necessarily mean that it is still a viable institution. Many commentators believe the process to be both flawed and outdated, yet despite widely publicised negativity, no one seems to offer anything to replace it which would benefit both consumers and producers.

The major issue is that many of the châteaux are not prepared to sell their own wine which is why they use negociants. However, if châteaux work on this issue, they could vastly improve their distribution channels. Many producers don’t even benefit from the high prices charged for their wines on the secondary markets, and have become aggrieved by the lost revenue.

En primeur has become an outdated system, one which has created an air of elitism around Bordeaux and one which has become a huge area for debate in the industry. With many people within the industry turning against the process and questioning its benefit for the consumer, it is hard to see a change not occurring. It has also become too overpriced to remain a viable option for investors, leaving a surplus to required wine. If this happens, producers will have no choice but to accept they need to find new methods of sale, one which gives them the continued capital they require, but offers the best deal for the end consumer.

One big problem with changing the process is that despite a constant stream of objections to the process, no one has been able to find a suitable replacement to the method, if indeed there is one at all. Without the producers improving their network of distribution and exploring new channels, such as the internet, while investing in marketing campaigns it is unlikely they will accept any push for a change.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

EN primeur - the con's

For consumers there are several risks in buying wine on an en primeur basis. Whilst selling early is a benefit for the producer, this passes all of the risk on to the investor. Should the wine not be as good as was expected in the original tasting, investors can suffer huge losses none of which will be covered by the Châteaux from which they purchased the wine.

Investors and collectors can also find that the wine they have bought is not as good value as they first thought, and in some cases, it is often possible to pick up the same vintage several years later for the same price, or even for less. An example of such a case can be seen with a case of 2000 vintage St Joseph Offerus which was offered en primeur in 2002 for ten pounds per bottle. Many invested in this, seeing it as an opportunity to make a healthy profit margin, but were disappointed, when in 2003 Seckford’s began selling it for eight pounds in their January sale.

There is also a possibility that having paid upfront, the merchant may go in to liquidation before the wine is delivered. This often leaves the investor with no way in which to obtain the wine they bought, or get any kind of refund on the money they have spent. There is also a risk that the merchant may have oversold their allocation of the harvest, leaving customers disappointed. This can result in issues for those who have gone on to take orders from others, as they will no longer be able to fulfil their promise.

The best wines offered through the en primeur process mean that not only does the consumer have to wait an additional eighteen months for delivery, but they must then wait up to another decade before the wine reaches its full potential. Not only does this mean that consumers have to wait a lengthy amount of time before they can even taste the final product, it also means additional costs are involved in cellaring charges, unless you’re lucky enough to have an underground cellar of your own.

Whilst en primeur wines are valuable if you are looking to stock a cellar, and have the money to invest for long periods, for those who want to experience the wine this is often not the right way to go. This leads to yet another financial issue for buyers who find that end consumers only want to buy the wine when it is ready to be drunk, so investors in en primeur have to tie up their money for a long time, before they can see any return.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

En Primeur Part Two: The Pro's

Arguably, the advantages of buying en primeur are few and far between for the consumer. However for those looking to make an investment; the practice arguably holds great sway. For them, the ability to buy high quality wine from the most sought after regions, for a heavily discounted price makes it a worthwhile process.

As consumers and investors pay before wine is even bottled another advantage is the ability to choose the sizing of the bottle you require. The producer will present the wine however you want it, from a half to a magnum. Whilst this might not be important to some, for some wine enthusiasts the opportunity to buy wine in a magnum, which is a rarity, adds to the draw.

From a producers point of view, the advantages are numerous. Firstly, and for many châteaux’s, most importantly, is the fact that they do not have to wait three years to cash in on that years harvest. This means the chateaux itself has to invest less capital to sustain its business.

Secondly, en primeur wine creates a huge demand within the industry, due to the publicity it receives. The economic laws of supply and demand mean that when there is high demand for a product in low supply, prices will naturally be high if there is a market for them. With en primeur pricing being guided by commentators such as Robert Parker, and regarded as some of the best in the world, it is unsurprising that many producers are able to charge large amounts for wine which isn’t even matured.

Finally, selling wine en primeur reduces the châteaux’s own risk. By selling it before it is matured, producers do not have to concern themselves with the possibility of unsold wine not to the complexity of the original tasting. Again taking away the risk and ensuring a profit!

Tomorrow – the con’s!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

En Primeur – An Introduction

En primeur roughly translates from the French as “first refusal” or “in early produce.”
In its pure form the method originated two centuries ago, when merchants selected barrels of wine which they would then bottle themselves. Today the bottling process has been taken over by the châteaux. Despite the changes, the principle remains the same, allowing producers to benefit greatly from the advance payment for their wine.

In its simplest terms en primeur is the practice of selling wine before it is ready for release, before it has even been bottled. These are unfinished wines, which are only half way through the maturation process. It will be months, even years, before these wines are ready for the bottling process, after which they will still require further maturation before they become approachable.

The method is traditionally practiced by the wines of outstanding quality from Bordeaux, Burgundy and The Rhone valley. Other regions such as Italy, California and Australia have recently begun to partake in this practice on an extremely limited scale.

En primeur purchasers fall in to two distinct categories: Wine lovers, who are unfazed by the prospect of waiting years before they can taste the final product; or investors, whose aim is to make a financial profit from leaving the wine to mature. The latter are the most predominant buyers.

The en primeur process is a complicated one, in which people purchase wines on others recommendation. Often, they will not have even tasted the wine for themselves, and are led simply by the profile and recommendation of wine commentators within the industry, such as Robert Parker, Clive Coates and James Suckling.

Barrel tasting for Bordeaux en primeur wines occur the spring after the harvest, which equates to a maturation of around six to eight months, leaving the raw wine still highly tannic and undeveloped. Tasting for en primeur wines of Burgundy and The Rhone regions occur another six months after that, leaving them in a similar condition to that of Bordeaux. The tasting allows producers of the wine to understand how the market will react, by the feedback of the wine connoisseurs. It also gives the negociants a chance to see how the finished article will develop, giving them an idea of the quality of the wine. This in turn allows them to determine the eventual price.

En Primeur - Time for a change?

Having written an essay on En Primeur for my WSET Diploma last year, I though I’d share with you some parts of it.

So, from this evening, I’ll be posting one part a day (there are four parts). This will include an introduction to the process, followed by short articles on the pro’s and con’s of it usage, ending with my own conclusion on whether I believe it is time for a change in the industry.

As always, I welcome any comments, so if you agree, or disagree with my opinions please do say!

Monday, 18 May 2009

red truck wines Mini Barrel

Apart from getting the opportunity to taste lots of fantastic wines at the London International Wine Fair I also got to take a look at some new packaging. There was the wine can from REXAM, and the wine carton with a straw…..though that looked more like a carton of juice which I’m not entirely sure is a good idea!

One very innovative type of packaging that caught my eye was the mini wine barrel from red truck wines, Sonoma, California. It looks like it sounds, (and the picture shows) a mini barrel. This is an alternative to the traditional three litre bag in box (otherwise known simply as wine in a box), holding the equivalent to four standard bottles of wine. The best bit is, once opened it will keep the fresh for around 40 days.

Unfortunately the mini barrel isn’t available to UK consumers yet. However after speaking to one of the guys on the stand, I found out they are looking to introduce it into the UK in about a year’s time, once they’ve worked out a few figures!

Guys please try and get it over here as soon as possible!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Sauvignon Blanc or Bust?

I’ve always loved New Zealand wines; their Sauvignon Blanc is without a doubt my favourite, though they do produce some fantastic reds with their Merlot and Pinot Noir. So, for me this week’s news in Decanter was delightful! The UK public have finally caught on, but why now?

Traditional wine producing countries such as France, Italy and Spain, have all seen a recent downturn in UK sales. Whilst much of this can be attributed to the current economic crisis and strong Euro exchange rate; the 42% increase in New Zealand wine sales in the UK, in only 12 weeks, suggests there is more going on.

A good Sancerre will cost you between £18 and £20; where as a New Zealand equivalent will cost you a mere £13 in comparison. So, it’s definitely a cheaper option, something which is undoubtedly an advantage in the current market. Add to the price difference, the fact that for a long time New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has been considered better than its European counterparts, and I think we’ve uncovered the reason for the spike!

People tightening their belts is encouraging them to look at the things they buy, whether that be clothes, shoes, food or wine. Nothing is exempt. So if someone offers something of the same quality, but at a much lower price, its no wonder its selling like hotcakes.

Though I would love to see this continue, an article on The Times Online about the Decanter World Wine Awards, suggests that the 2008 vintage New Zealand wines are “evil, watery, grassy wines.” (Their words not mine!) I guess we’ll have to wait and see…..

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Pomegranate Wine from Rimon Winery

Having finally managed to decipher some of my notes from this week’s London International Wine Fair, the first thing I wanted to post about is this amazing Pomegranate wine (and yes I can already see everybody turning their noses up at it!), from the Rimon winery in Israel.

In order to produce this wine they use traditional winemaking techniques and then age it in French Oak barrels. They produce it in three styles, a dry, desert and port style wine.

To taste, the wines are excellent. The dry has flavours of cherry with a hint of black pepper in the background; the desert also has the flavours of cherries but with hints of chocolate. The port style is, as it says on the bottle, a port style wine with a delicate warm finish.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was very difficult to distinguish these from traditional wines, and they come with the added health benefits of Pomegranates which are high in antioxidants, and contain vitamins A, B and C, iron, calcium and other essential minerals. For those of you interested, they are also kosher wines, unsurprising considering their origin.

Now to the important part - would I recommend these wines to anyone? Strangely enough, yes I would! They are a little different but they are superb, so congratulations to the Rimon winery and keep it up.

If you want to sample these wines for yourself, you can find them in Waitrose as well as several small wine shops and delis.

For more information go to:

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A Day at the London International Wine Fair

What a day I’ve had today! As some of you may have guessed I’ve been to the London International Wine Fair, I’ve tasted some fantastic wines, and some very strange ones!!

I’ve tasted wines from places that I didn’t even know produced wine and wine made from pomegranates (yes you did hear me right!) which I’ve got written down and ready to share with you, once I can decipher my own notes! I also saw some fantastic new packaging ideas and some not so great, or at least in my mind. The only downside for me was that I could only go for one day and not the full three days it’s on. There’s so much there to look at and to taste, so next year I’m planning on spending a bit more time there!

Expect some more detailed wine articles soon!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

the Grand Ardẽche Chardonnay from Maison Louis Latour

I recently paid a visit to Wimbledon Wine Cellars, where they have a fantastic range, to pick up a present for a friend. As I didn’t have a lot of time I asked for their recommendation for an oaked fruity white. What they recommended was the Grand Ardẽche Chardonnay from Maison Louis Latour, a Vin de Pays des Coteaux de L’Ardẽche, priced at around £9.
A bright lemony green colour with wonderful developing aromas of vanilla and oak, on the palate it is a dry wine with a good level of acidity and a medium body. With a creamy texture, it had flavours of vanilla, a touch of spice from the oak barrels it was aged in, and hint of green apple and lemon in the background.

An outstanding wine showing good complexity in the flavours and balance between these, the acidity and the dryness of the wine, it is very burgundian in style. But what else would you expect from Maison Louis Latour? Ready to drink now, it was thoroughly enjoyable, but could also be kept for a couple of years too, if you wanted to enhance the flavours even more.
Thank you very much Wimbledon Wine Cellars!

Terrorists in the Wine Industry

According to Decanter this week, we now have militants within the wine industry! Having never read anything about this kind of thing before, I’ll admit I was shocked to read about CRAV, a French militant wine group, who had set fire a co-operative and vandalised a bottling line in the south of France (

After doing a little research I discovered that they formed as CRAV in the 80’s, and have been attacking the big wineries in the south of France since then. Though these dates suggested a quite recent group, a little bit more digging revealed they have been around in one guise or another since 1907!

The groups aim is to gain higher prices for their wine and is made up of the smaller wine producers in the south of France. In 2007 they gave President Sarkozy an ultimatum that if wine prices had not increased within one month then they would “go into action.” They even went as far as to say that they could not rule out deaths!

Honestly, what is the world coming to when you get terrorists within the wine industry!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure

Having recently been ill, I was subjected to three weeks of my sofa and the wonders of daytime TV…..lucky me! However, in and amongst all these repeats, there was one little gem which I’d missed the first time around, and that was Oz and James’s Big Wine Adventure (thank you Dave for keeping me sane!).

Watching the programme, the thing that staggered me the most was James May’s inability to understand the concept of Terrior. It might just be me but I thought Oz’s constant attempt to help James understand deserved a medal, but I digress, the TV show isn’t what I really wanted to talk about. It reminded that I was bought the book that accompanied the show as a Christmas present, and I’d never read it! So in an attempt to stem the boredom I sat down and got reading.

Having a little wine knowledge I thought I would find the book just went over information I already knew, but I was surprised in what I found. For those of you with in-depth wine knowledge, the simplicity of Oz’s insight in to the world of French wine might not be comprehensive enough, for a wine novice it did a great job. Without over confusing the reader with the extremely complex French wine laws, it gave enough information to help make an informed choice. There was also lots of information about vineyards, the wines they produce, places of interest to visit and the whole process of producing wine, from growing the grapes to the end product itself. There is also an enormous amount of information to help you plan your own wine adventure, and whilst, yes, you could find all this out from the internet, it’s great to have it all compiled and neatly organised in one place.

A very enjoyable read which I would highly recommend to anyone no matter how much you know about wine!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Clos Monistrol Cava Vintage 2005

Having posted several articles about Champagne I thought I’d offer up an alternative to this fantastic wine, that being Spain’s sparkling offer, Cava. There are many fantastic Cava’s on the market, but you do need to be careful as there are also many poor quality one’s out there. Cava for many years suffered with a very poor reputation for quality, however with the permitted introduction of Chardonnay into the blend, the quality and complexities of the wine have increased enormously. In fact, I would argue that a good Cava can be on par with a bottle of champagne, especially when you consider the average price point of each.

The wine I’ve tasted this week is Clos Monistrol Cava Vintage 2005. Pale lemon in colour, to the nose the wine was showing developing aromas of freshly made bread with a hint of green apple in the background. These flavours were again shown on the palate with an added touch of citrus and a refreshing acidity that are all perfectly in balance. I thoroughly enjoyed drinking this, though I am a big fan of Cava anyway!

If you enjoy the delights of champagne and are looking for an alternative, then this is one which I would highly recommend. Priced around £12 in most of the major supermarkets, it’s a great buy. The bottle I bought was on offer at £6, making it even better value!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The London International Wine Fair and DISTIL Trade Show

This week sees the London International Wine Fair and DISTIL Trade Show at ExCeL in London, one of the most exciting events in the wine industries calendar. As usual most major wine producing and importing companies from all over the globe will be there. These include Mentzendorff, Enotria, Emilio Lustau and Constellation, all of whom will be showing off their latest offerings for both the on and off trade.

Along with the actual wines, many of the wine makers will be there to talk you through their creations for the coming year; traders will also be able to attend master classes throughout the three days to really hone their tasting skills.

I got my pass and a copy of The Grapevine this weekend, and having studied it to find my route for day, the wines that have caught my attention so far include the new range from Brown Brothers, the latest additions to the Montes Alpha range and of course the fantastic range sherries that will be available to taste. Boy can I not wait till Thursday! Hopefully I’ll have plenty of tastings to put on here!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Campo Viejo Tempranillo Rose

A friend came over for dinner last week, bringing with him the customary bottle of wine. So I thought, why not write it up on here! (Something I am going to be doing more often, as I get in to this so bear with me!)

The wine in question was a bottle of Campo Viejo Tempranillo Rose 2007, not a wine I would buy myself, not being a big fan of Rose, but when it’s free who’s complaining?

Firstly, a bit of history for you; the Tempranillo Rose is the latest addition to the highly successful Rioja brand, Campo Viejo, and is produced from 100% Tempranillo which is Spain’s classic red grape variety. A very pleasant, youthful, refreshing wine it is bright pink in colour with the aromas of raspberries, strawberries and plums. Quite a simple wine, it showed the same flavours on the palate, and had a good balance between the acidity, sweetness and fruit flavour.

All in all, it was an acceptable quality wine, though nothing thrilling. Best drunk chilled on a warm summer’s day!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

My Dream Job

Wow….I’ve found my dream job! California’s Murphy-Goode Winery is offering $10,000 a month for someone to eat good food, drink wine and live in a luxury home and blog about their experiences. The successful candidate will get a deluxe private home in Healsburg (which is within walking distance of their tasting room) as well as your return airfare.

In return all the lucky ‘winner’ will be expected to do is explore Sonoma County’s vineyards and embrace social media, buy posting weekly blogs, photo diaries, video updates and media interviews, as well as ‘tweeting’ and ‘facebooking.’ During your time out there, you also get the opportunity to create a special wine to mark your time with the company!

To apply you need to complete the online application ( and post a 60 second video about yourself….Oh and the closing date is the 5th June – good luck!

Now then where’s my video camera…

Saturday, 2 May 2009

More Bad News for Champagne

Despite all the hype about the tasting of the world’s oldest bottle of champagne this week by Perrier Jouẽt, the industry has been dealt a blow with Moẽt Hennessy Champagne reporting a slump in their sales of 35% in the first three months of 2009, according to Decanter (you can read the full article here Brands under the Moẽt Hennessy umbrella include some of the most luxurious champagnes like Moẽt & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Ruinart, Mercier and Krug.

Is this a sign that the global economic downturn has hit the luxury good market? Or could it just be a post-Christmas slump? And could this be why Louis Vuitton Moẽt Hennessy is rumoured to have held talks with Diageo about the possible sale of its wine interests? Though, I must stress this has been denied by both parties.