Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Decline in French Wine Sales

While scanning through The Times Online Business section today, I came across an article all about how French wine sales are struggling in the current economic climate ( ). The French wine industry has been in decline for many years now, struggling against the big brand names from the New World with its large advertising budgets. Combine this with the current exchange rates not being favourable, and the recession really biting into the world’s economies, it is no surprise it has the issues it currently does.

According to Marlous Kuiper at Euromonitor international, French wine exports have fallen by 12% in 2008, and are likely to continue to decline in 2009. Even in France, sales have fallen by 1% as they struggle to attract younger drinkers who don’t see wine as trendy any more, and the older generations who have cut back as they choose a healthier lifestyle.

The New World now accounts for roughly 50% of the UK wine market. This led to Steve Lewis, chief executive of Majestic to dub UK young wine drinkers as the “Jacob’s Creek generation”, many have never even tasted a French wine. This is a great concern to me, though I’m a huge fan of New World wines, wines from the Old World are some of the most complex and wonderful wines in the world. In an attempt to revive sales and draw in younger customers they have implemented price cuts, but will this be enough? Only time will tell on this point.

However educating the younger generations into what wines smell and taste of, along with food matching ideas might be a good place to start.

Many people don’t understand wines from the Old World as there is a certain mystique around them, however, if they educate people about wine and give some insight into why they cost the money they do, then maybe they will see an increase in sales!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Sainsbury's English Sparkling Rose

As I’ve already mentioned I decided to treat us to a bottle of English Sparkling this week, which was Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference English Sparkling Rose, produced by Chapel Down in Tenterden Kent. It’s made from Pinot Noir, Reichensteiner and Rivaner and has been made traditionally by secondary fermentation in the bottle for 18 months.

When pouring the wine I was surprised as it looked more like a white than a rose, however once the glass had started to fill up you could see a very pale salmon colour coming through. On the nose it had wonderful aromas of Strawberries, Rosehips and bready characteristics you would expect from being bottle fermented. And again these flavours came flooding through on the taste, with a delightful fine mousse that was extremely long lasting. The acidity, sweetness and flavours were all in balance with one another resulting in a wonderfully refreshing wine.

This is a wonderful example of how good English sparkling can be, and I can highly recommend it to any one, especially as an alternative to Champagne.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

English Sparkling Wines

English sparkling wines are absolutely fantastic, yet unfortunately, the vast majority of the public still don’t know about them. Instead most will go for a bottle of champagne if they are looking for a wine to celebrate with. So why are we not shouting about it louder than we are?

The main issue is current demand far outstrips supply. This has prompted Waitrose, the UK supermarket, to purchase a four hectare site in Leckford, Hampshire to plant their first vineyard. Unfortunately for us, it will take five years before its first vintage will be ready for us to enjoy; as the grapes will take three years before they are ready and the wine then spends a further two years maturing! This seems to be a very prudent move by Waitrose, who as a company, has seen an increase in sales of 18% year on year, resulting in a 55% share of the market (

Following on from this news, Nyetimber is hoping to turn itself from a boutique wine into a major brand. Its first step with this, was the appointment of Stephen Clark to look after Sales and Marketing, a man who has spent the last 20 years at Laurent Perrier. Nyetimber currently produces 70,000 bottles a year of sparkling from the Champagne grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. However, its six year expansion plan includes increasing production to 600,000 bottles (

So, with the future of English sparkling wine looking positively rosy, I decided to support our economy and go buy myself a bottle…more on that tomorrow.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Rioja's New Additions

The landscape of Spanish wine law in Rioja is on the move again (, with the Riojan government about to authorise a set of new varieties, following the other weeks approval by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and the Rioja Consejo Regulador. The new white varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Verdejo along with the native varieties of Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco and Turruntés. As for the red varieties the additions are little known Maturana Tinta, Maturana Parda and Monestel.

With the new international white varieties, they cannot exceed 49% of the blend with a minimum of 51% Viura, the aim of this according to Ricardo Aguiriano San Vincente, director of marketing for Rioja's Consejo Regulador, is to make Viura more fruity and fresh, which according to him is what the consumers want!

What is the point in having all this complicated European wine law, which is designed to protect regionality and heritage of the local wines, when all they do is change them when a regions wine sales begin to struggle. If producers want to introduce new varieties into their blends then they should do so with the loss of the quality status, as was seen in Italy with the introduction of the “Super Tuscans”.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Thai Wines Part Two

As for the on-trade range, that was a different story! Again they produce a red, white and rose table wine, but it is in the desert wine I found a real little gem.

The red is produced from Shiraz, but does not have the normal spicy characteristics you would expect from the Shiraz grape, instead you get a medium bodied wine with low tannins and low acidity with flavours of Blackberries. The rose is also produced from Shiraz, but in this incarnation it has the spicy pepper aromas you’d expect from Shiraz, with wonderful flavours of red berries and a refreshingly high acidity. The white is made from Colombard and is a wonderfully crisp wine with yeasty and apple tart flavours. These wines are available in the UK and if I was in a Thai restaurant and saw these on the wine list, then yes, I would be quite happy to order a bottle or two to go with dinner.

Time for the star of the show, the Muscat desert wine, which I can only describe as sublime! It has a very pale salmon colour and is lusciously sweet with plenty of crisp acidity to balance it out, and flavours of poached pears with a hint of marmalade in the background, absolutely stuning! Please, please let’s have this in the off trade as well!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Thai Wines Part One

Thai wine, not something I ever thought I’d be talking about, but here we are, and to be fair they are extremely good. I got the opportunity to taste the wines from Monsoon Valley at the LIWF this year, which I gave a try, despite some reservations.

The vines are planted in two vineyards; the first a floating vineyard situated in the Chao Phraya Delta, 60km south west of Bangkok, here the vines are planted on islands surrounded by canals. The second vineyard site is located on the Pak Chong Hills 250-300 metres above sea level and is recognised as the countries prime region for growing internationally known grapes. As you’ll see from the picture they also use elephants to help with the harvest, of which there are four apparently. Like most wineries they produce a range for both the on and off trade, which they had brought to show with them.

For the off-trade there is a blended white, made from White Malaga and Colombard, which has a crisp acidity and flavours of apple and citrus. There was also a Rose from White Malaga, Colombard and Shiraz, resulting in flavours of red berries, and finally the blended red in the range, made from Red Pokdum (which is unique to Thailand) and Shiraz that had aromas and flavours of strawberries and red cherries. While these wines were very palatable, they were most definitely nothing special. In fact I may go as far as describing them as dull and uninteresting. If I saw one on the shelf of my local wine merchant, I wouldn’t buy it, so probably for the best that they’re not available in the UK yet.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Plume - Low Alcohol Wine

Low alcohol wines have always been something of a disappointment to many of us over the years. This has been down to the techniques employed to make them not being able to reproduce the flavours and complexity you would get from a normal wine. There is, however, a new low alcohol wine to hit the UK shelves this summer (

Plume, the lowest alcohol wine currently on the market, comes in at only nine percent. Produced at the Domaine de la Colombette in the Languedoc by Vincent and Francois Pugibet, it is made using a process known as reverse osmosis. This is a method of filtration which can be used to remove many things from wine, but in this instance it’s only a reduction in the level of alcohol they are seeking.

Plume hit the headlines several years ago, after signing a deal with Tesco to stock its wine in the UK. However, the French wine authorities argued that wine produced using this technique could not be legally exported as French wine. As a result it was immediately recalled.

Lodging an appeal, Plume argued its case on two grounds. Firstly, they stated that the wine was not being exported as the UK is a member of the European Union, and secondly that from the 1st August 2009 the reverse osmosis technique will be classed as a legitimate experimental technique for wine production. Unsurprisingly they won.

Let’s hope that after this wait the wine lives up to the hype surrounding it and that the filtration method used only reduces the alcohol level and doesn’t strip out the flavours of the wine itself!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Kiwi World Domination!

Sorry I've not posted for a while....I've had an influx of visitors and too much wine! Hopefully most of which will make it on to this blog at some point! But anyway, back to today's proceedings.Having already commented on the rise of New Zealand wines popularity in the UK, I was thrilled to read one of the latest articles on Decanter online. Apparently even America has caught on to the delights of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Nobillo of Marlborough has become the number one selling Sauvignon Blanc brand in the US, taking over from Kendall Jackson of Napa Valley. This has come from an IRI sales survey for April, based on volume.

Joe Stanton, chief executive of ConstellationNZ said topping the US Sauvignon Blanc sales had been the company’s main goal since launching the brand six years ago. They have been meticulous in every detail of the packaging, choosing the more popular flint white glass rather than the more traditional French green glass bottle. They also bucked the trend putting New Zealand wines under screw cap and sealing the wine under cork.

Does this mean that a new benchmark has been set for Sauvignon Blanc? I’m not sure. Personally, I don’t think that it’s quite there yet, but I think many producers in the old world will be assessing what they are doing from the vineyard to the winery, to ensure that they are producing the best wine they can. After conquering the UK, and now the USA, the Kiwi’s seem to be out for world wide Sauvignon Blanc domination, and good luck to them! They really do produce some of the best examples of what Sauvignon Blanc is capable of!