Ahead of this Thursday’s ‘Rhone Rangers’ LockdownLive! event, we thought we’d re-visit some basic principles of French wine labelling.  Here’s a quick outline of what AOC means :

In French – “Appellation d’origine Controlee”

In English – “Controlled designation of origin”Rhone Rangers header square

The principle is that a wine with an AOC classification has a guarantee of quality and origin, and the winemaker has strict guidelines to follow in order to obtain the classification.

AOCs vary massively in size. Some can cover large areas with a variety of climate and soil characteristics, others are small and incredibly uniform.

The Côtes du Rhône AOC covers about 400 square kilometres of land.

We must remember though, a wine that doesn’t carry an AOC classification is not necessarily of lesser quality.  It can mean that the winemaker simply hasn’t the desire to jump through all the hoops required to obtain the classification.  Or he may disagree with some of the AOC regulations.  For example, I know a winemaker who’s AOC states that there must be zero irrigation of the vines.  But he knows that a small amount of irrigation leads to far better results.  So why wouldn’t you?

Join us for ‘Rhone Rangers’ – a Lockdown Live event on Facebook – 7pm Thursday 22nd Oct 2020.

 

The captivating Pedro Urbina with his very special wines

A few years ago, we had a phone call from a friendly Spanish winemaker named Pedro, who happened to be in the area and wanted to pop by and share with us a few of his aged Riojas.  Not wishing to be rude (or indeed miss an opportunity), we agreed to meet with him.  Trouble was, Pedro was flying home and could only spare 10am Friday morning, particularly grim because it was the morning after a family wedding…!

Years ago, a 10am tasting after a night on the town would not have daunted me.  But 25 years in the trade and you really start to feel it!  Suffice to say, this was one tasting I wasn’t looking forward to.

And so it was, a couple of Alka Seltzer and here we were, at the beginning of a fabulous new trading relationship with the most charming of winemakers.  Pedro rocked up (he is a bit of a rock star to be fair) with his basket of goodies and, well, the rest is history.

Boy, were we impressed and stunned with excitement.  Pedro Urbina has an impressive handle on the English language – one of those people in life that you simply like to sit back and listen to.  He has a simple manner and within moments of meeting him, we were captivated by his angle on winemaking in the Rioja region.  Pedro is the current winemaker in this old family winery – he may be young, but he certainly knows what he’s doing.

The Urbina family enjoy a unique stance on Rioja wines, preferring to keep them in their cellars for considerably longer than most Rioja producers, releasing only when their wines begin showing real maturity.

That day, Pedro brought with him a selection of his older wines, very old to be precise.   In all my years in the wine trade, I had never experienced such old Riojas.  We started with a 2008 Crianza.  2008!!!  Most Crianza in today’s market is 2018!  It was a golden/brick colour, to be expected given its age, yet deliciously fresh as a daisy on the palate.

Next was a 1999 Crianza – yup nigh on 18 years old, fruit-driven with vanilla tones and once again fresh and zippy.  Then came my favourite – a 1998 Reserva Especial.  Its colour was almost orange, its flavours gamey and herbaceous in one.  The wine had complexity and sure enough, every sip took on a different angle.  Pedro suggested pigeon as a food accompaniment.

We followed this with a 1996 Gran Reserva.  This wine had spent significantly longer in tank before barrel age and bottling.  It was noticeable how much more depth and weight there was here.  Beef was the food suggestion here or a very tangy Cheddar.

Finally, Pedro’s ‘piece de resistance’, the 1994 Gran Reserva Especial.  He had enjoyed this himself the previous night with truffle-infused cheese.  Exquisite, enough said.Bodegas Benito Urbina Rioja Gran Reserva Especial

A few years on and we still have stocks of the 1994 Gran Reserva and the ’99 Crianza, whilst the ’98 Reserva Especial has been superceded by the 2006 vintage – I find myself jumping up and down whenever I mention the 2006!

Make no mistake, Urbina wines are something very, very special.  Always top of the class and hugely respected across the wine trade.  What more to say than thank goodness for Alka Seltzer!

If you’d like to learn more, be sure to join us live in conversation with the maestro himself on Thursday 8th October 2020 for a Lockdown Live! special event.

Details about the event are available HERE>

Vines growing on organic soils in the Canaries

Vines growing on organic soils in the Canaries

It’s extraordinary to think that volcanic soils are amongst the most fertile, yet it’s true. As volcanic soils begin to age, they begin the processing of breaking down, releasing the very nutrients and minerals that allow plants to prosper – nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and chlorophyll. And because volcanic soil is virgin soil, it’s entirely organic with no chemical fertilizers, additives or the like, so no unwelcome contaminants.

With Mount Etna anything but dormant, grapes have been thriving on the foothills for centuries.   Mount Vesuvius (that hasn’t exploded for centuries) is considered to be one of the top ten active volcanoes in the world and is equally covered in crops.  Generally, the higher the altitude of the vines, the better the quality (cooler temperatures mean longer, more even grape maturation on the vine).

Check out our volcanic wines – they rate amongst the most naturally produced wines in the world.

For more information on organic and naturally produced wines, click here>

 

 

This past weekend, we spent with friends who are genuinely interested by the origins of our wines. Furthermore, by their support for organic farming and the overall ethical thinking of ourselves and so many of our great producers.

But what they really wanted was a simple definition of what  ‘organic’ means when it comes to wine.  So I’m writing a summary of the key points that I think everyone should be aware of…

First simple statement to understand :  Organic wine is wine made from organically grown grapes.  Simple. 

Second simple statement to understand :  Any chemical compound used in organic grape growing/wine-making must not have any detrimental effect on the environment or on human health.  

Grapes are certified ‘organic’ according to their nation’s regulations*.  This mean grapes grown free of synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or any chemical residues.

What does this mean?  Well, instantly the environment is cleaner, the soil and water free from chemical hazards and the vine feels better!  And if the vine feels better, then you can be sure that the fruit it yields should naturally be healthier.  And so it follows that we the consumer should be healthier too!

Wine that’s good for you – now that’s something to shout about!

*Bear in mind that there are plenty of wine producers who choose not to attain certification.  That is not to say that they are not producing organic wines, just that they choose not to spend their hard earned pennies on achieving certification.  

 

Ugni Blanc can produce high volumes if not managed.

It’s kind of odd, isn’t it – there we all were, in a state of lockdown, wondering at the extent of the loo roll run.  (The sensible folk amongst us paid little attention.)  And as we sat in our gardens on the warm spring evenings with just our neighbours to chat to, we were all grateful for the on-going availability of our beloved wine favourites – a far greater necessity than excess loo roll if you ask me!

It’s fair to say the wine industry (us included) worked its socks off to ensure continuity of stock for home sales.  Without pubs and restaurants vying for our attention, home consumption has never been so great.  But it still cannot account for the overall reduction in national consumption and we are now beginning to see the reality of a wine river emerging across Europe.

As the new harvest looms large (some wineries have already started picking), many wineries are reporting surplus wine stocks that they have been unable to sell during the pandemic.   Add to this that the 2020 harvest across Spain, France and Italy is set to be pretty high in both volume and quality and the dilemma of what to do with the excess begins to unfold.  Take Spain as an example, who have reported a potential 14% increase in volumes compared to the 2019 harvest.

Many wineries are reportedly turning excess stocks into industrial alcohol at a cost of millions of Euros.  Much of this may turn up back on the market as sanitizer which, whilst being of some benefit, is heart-breaking for the winemakers.

Then there are the wineries who are at the high quality end of the spectrum.  These wines have the potential for a long and valuable life and nobody in their right minds would want to destroy them.  So space is required – and a lot of it – but where?

And then there’s the thinning, or ‘green harvesting’ as it is known, where the quantity of grapes is literally reduced on the vine.  This is not an uncommon practice and is certain to take place in regions such as Champagne this year.

On the other hand, look out of the window and we see inclement weather which could reverse the problems overnight – a touch of early frost here, too much rainful there and the problem could resolve itself, or at least be semi-managed.

It’s true to say the 2020 vintage will be memorable whichever way it turns out.

 

I continually stop and pinch myself at the speed at which the world has changed since the early days of this pandemic.  It seems extraordinary to think that it was all but seven weeks ago that I was sitting in a restaurant – it seems like an eternity.   On the other hand, home cooking has never been so imaginative – I’m really rather enjoying it.  What was it today?  Prawns for lunch?  On a Monday no less?  Wow, what a treat!

But what of Hannibal Brown?  Until seven weeks ago, we’d been planning the continued development and expansion of our corporate wine business and label personalisation (check out www.personalisedwinedesign.co.uk) which we’ve grown over the last four years.  But the pandemic put paid to those plans literally overnight, with pretty much the entire nation closing their doors indefinitely.

Then there were our external events – Badminton Horse Trials, the Hay International Book Festival and our own seasonal consumer wine events – all cancelled until further notice – another colossal blow to our revenues.

But then the signs of a silver lining – our newly developed website (thank you 3Mil!), ready and able to cope with an unexpected yet welcome influx in online wine sales.  Could we manage?  Were our systems sufficiently robust to cope with an online spike?  It got me thinking about the virtues of being small and nimble with a great team of capable people, able to react fast to a change in customer demand when all around us we were hearing of larger retails unable to supply, not able to deliver and some even closing their doors.

In truth, the few service issues we have faced were solved thanks to small, like-minded, local businesses jumping in to help out and we thank them and won’t forget them.

We’ve taken massive learnings from this enforced lockdown – the need for imagination, open-mindedness, constantly re-thinking and re-formulating, and never, ever losing belief.  Who would have thought that the idea of a hosted ‘virtual’ wine tasting could become so popular?  Now we have dozens of households taking part.  Then there’s our DIY tasting kits – literally a kit, including wine, with which to hold your own wine tasting?  Simple!  And as for our foray into social media live streaming, who’d have thought people would want to tune in a watch us live on a Sunday evening?  Well, it turns out they do!

People have been so embracing to change, it’s refreshing to see the nation’s resilience in times of challenge and restriction.

Let’s stick together everyone – we’re gonna get through this.

Who’d have thought it…  So many of you out there are so keen to get your hands on one of our brand new DIY Wine Tasting Kits! 

Actually, we’ve been offering wine kits for years, but never really gave them a second thought.  Afterall, our REAL LIVE wine tasting events were always so much fun and great customer interaction.  But whilst we brave the on-slaught of you know what, and have had to put all our live events on hold, the ‘Doing-It-Yourself’ thing doesn’t seem such a daft idea.

What’s more, you can compete with friends and neighbours by encouraging them to purchase the same kit – a proper competition that isn’t restricted by the lockdown.

The wine kits’ contents include an array of vinous questions and plenty of entertaining trivia to keep everyone guessing and amused.  All the wines are concealed from view, so no peeping!  Go on, why not give it a go – have a look at the DIY range here>

Hi everyone,

We hope you are all staying safe and well.  The sun’s out and the rosés are in stock!Food Bank Donations 2020

We continue to deliver wine locally and across the nation and reiterate we are taking every precaution under the sun.  Don’t be surprised when you see us ring on the doorbell and do a runner – we are conscious of helping you stay safe as much as ourselves.

FOODBANKS NEED OUR HELP – Today see’s us launch our small but important contribution to the community.  You may have heard in the news that foodbanks are desparately struggling at the moment.  We want to help and are asking all of our customers to dig deep and contribute wherever they can.

When we deliver your wine to your door (London/Surrey only), we’ll collect anything you can spare.  Just leave your donations on your doorstep and we’ll collect and deliver it on to the Wimbledon foodbank.
There’s no pressure, just anything you have spare.
An update on items needed from the Roehampton Community Box team:

Roehampton Community Box – Food List for collections/ donations

All food needs to be in-date.

  • orange/blackcurrant squash.
  • Tea
  • caster sugar
  • cereal
  • Porridge
  • Bread
  • Jam/ chocolate spread etc
  • bagels
  • Pitta
  • Wraps
  • Cheese Crackers
  • Cheese triangles
  • Tinned Tuna
  • Bake beans
  • Tinned Tomatoes
  • Bolognese pasta sauce etc
  • Spaghetti hoops
  • Tinned vegetables
  • stock cubes
  • Soup
  • Lentils
  • Couscous
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Flour
  • Noodles
  • Ketchup
  • Dried Fruit
  • Oil
  • Biscuits
  • Snacks/ treats
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Fresh fruit and veg that will last such as:
  • apples, bananas, oranges, carrots, onions, garlic and potatoes.

 

Wimbledon’s food bank requests:

The foodbanks are in particular need of any of the following :
  • UHT Milk
  • Tinned Fish
  • Tinned Meat
  • Ketchup!
Less urgent but still needed:
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Tinned Tomatoes / Pasta Sauce
  • Baked Beans, Spaghetti Hoops
  • Tinned Veg
  • Tea/coffee
  • Tinned Fruit
  • Biscuits
  • Fruit Squash
  • Custard / Rice Pudding
  • Instant Mash
  • Biscuits
  • Toiletries

That’s it for today.  Stay safe everyone and don’t forget the rosé!

As I listen to the latest updates on the radio this morning, I wanted to keep you fully aware of Hannibal Brown’s continued services.

Whilst all of our events have been cancelled for the foreseeable, Hannibal Brown is a little more fortunate than many business – online businesses have been swamped over the last couple of weeks and we have felt this too.

In the midst of all that has been happening, we have had a website upgrade which is now fully operational.  It is clear, however, that the internet is overloaded nationwide, so please be patient when processing your orders with us – you may notice that the response time is slower than usual.

We will continue to do our absolute utmost to maintain our service levels, ie. deliveries within 1-3 days across mainland Britain.  But please be aware that we will be simplifying our range for the coming months as certain wines become unavailable.  As such, you can expect a little disruption and we may need to make substitutions from time to time.

On a more positive note – we have just introduced some new lines for the spring and of course the rose season is almost upon us – hoorah!  Not forgetting our Personalised Wine Design service, which is ready when you feel the need to put a little cheer back in someone’s step – a personalised bottle of wine does wonders for putting a smile on someone’s face.

NOTE FOR  LOCAL DELIVERIES – if you find yourself in need of any essentials, then please don’t hesitate to contact us and we will endeavor to help you.

We reiterate that our office and vehicles are being continually deep-cleaned and the team are following strict hand sanitization at all times.  Our couriers are also following all guidelines.  They will not request a signature and will retain a minimum 2 metre distance at all times.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Pamela, Jude and Hannibal

Just an update from the team at Hannibal Brown to say that whilst we are sad to announce the cancellation of our Spring Wine Event (destined for 2nd April), we are quietly optimistic that we might be able to go ahead with our summer event in late June/early July.  Of course, we will let you know in due course.

In the meantime, you can be assured that our wine retail business continues.  Our office has had a deep clean, as have our vehicles and our dedicated couriers, and we have instigated on-going measures to keep us and you as safe as possible.

Should you wish to buy wine from us, our delivery service as normal.  But we won’t be asking for a signature upon delivery and we will be keeping a minimum 2 metre distance apart.  Packing is all being carried out using hand sanitiser and gloves.

We hope that you will have the confidence to purchase your wines from us in the coming weeks and months.   There are so many great wines to choose from these days, and our portfolio continues to emphasise organic wines as a healthier option.

Stay safe and healthy and feel free to give us a call anytime – we always have time to chat about wine – 020 3876 8008.  Best wishes, Pam & Jude.

When someone recently mentioned that we were nearing the end of yet another decade, it made me think back to the weather variations of recent years – and of course how that has impacted on grape harvests across the planet.

As I write, we’ve just witnessed horrendous wild fires in Australia and the USA, both within frightening proximity of vineyards.  In Europe, we are experiencing extraordinary rainfall – let’s hope that most wineries managed to pick their grape crops ahead of the floods.


The thought of older vintages gone by got me thinking about the virtues of allowing wines to age substantially before drinking.  It goes without saying that 99% of wine is sold almost as soon as it is bottled – such is the need for wineries to get paid.  But those lucky enough to experience older wines will know that holding off drinking your wine and cellaring it for a number of years really does pay off.

Consider our 2002 Riesling from Pierre Frick in Alsace – it’s a wine that’s nearly 20 years old, but you wouldn’t know it, such is it’s freshness.

Yes, the colour has turned deep golden and the primary fresh apply character has mellowed into a honeyed characteristic.  But this style of mature wine has globules of honeyed character, making it potentially perfect with next month’s turkey!  The great thing about well made Riesling is the acidity – a good acidity gives wine half a chance to age for years and years.  The result is we get to enjoy an altogether different but heavenly wine experience.

Visit Hannibal’s Grotto for plenty of wine gift ideas this Christmas.

Today sees the launch of a new listing for us from a super producer, based in the stunning Paarl region of the South African Winelands.

Anyone who has taken time to visit the wineries of the Western Cape will know that the region is arguably one of the gems of the wine world.  My first venture to South Africa was in the Year 2000, when sanctions had only recently been lifted, and expertise was joined with excitement in the development of their wine industry.  Throughout the apartheid era, a co-operative (KWV) monopolised the industry, and whilst volume was not inconsiderable, quality was lacking in most areas.  Insufficient funding to sustain wineries, poor winemaking and often lack of hygiene were all contributors to a nation’s wine industry that was lagging way behind the buoyant Aussies and Kiwi production that we have come to love so much.

Those days are in the past, and South Africa these days is well positioned in the everyday, less expensive category, right up to the best of the boutique range.  And we Brits can’t get enough of them.  I for one am amongst their #1 fans – how a country could turn an industry in such a short space of time has to be admired.   Visiting those Winelands time and again is a joy that everyone who has a penchant for wine and travel should explore.  (Give me a shout if you want any advice on where to go.)

Our latest additions – a white and a red known as Jonty’s Ducks have a delightful story.  Organic is their middle name – just watch this video and our web-footed friends and you’ll be instantly charmed.  As for the wine, well if this isn’t worth a look, then….

Find the wines here>