As the sun continues to shine (at least in somes parts), the summer of 2019 is seeing yet more rosé wine being consumed than ever before.

Remember, there are two basic categories of rosé wine – the first is where rosé is the result of failed red wine (literally a bi-product of inferior red wine); the second is those wineries that go out of their way to produce great rosés.

Earlier this year, we spent a considerable amount of time looking at competitors’ rosé offerings.  On the one hand, we wanted to see how good the market really was and on the other, we were keen to prove that our own rosé listings were competing with the best.

I am surprised, pleased, shocked, relieved – all of the above, to report that we have found no rosé to convince us that our own Chateau d’Ollieres is anything less than perfect drinking this summer.  Yup, we cannot find any other wine that comes close to Ollieres – neither at the price, nor for sheer enjoyment.

Chateau d’Ollieres is (unsurprisingly) situated in the tiny village of Ollieres, 30km east of Aix en Provence.   Owned by the Rouy family, winemaking has taken place here for over 200 years.  They use organic manures and hard-harvesting.  The blend is 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, 10% Syrah and the colour is as you’d expect – delicate baby pink.  This is an example of a winery that goes out of its way to make awesome rosé.  For die-hard pink fans, this is one to discover.

Chateau d’Ollieres 2018 – it doesn’t disappoint.  And worth a visit when you’re next in Provence!

It’s rare that I talk directly about an individual wine in a blog post, but I feel the desperate need to share with you one of the most pleasurable wine experiences I have had this year.

You can imagine that we get through a fair few bottles in a year, continually tasting both wines from our range as well as new kids on the block, as we strive to seek out the glory from the monotony.  And believe you me – there is a lot of dross out there.

Last week, however, saw a new arrival from one of our old pals in Alsace – Christian Binner.  His Riesling ‘Champ des Alouettes’ had us roaring with appreciation at this, his latest masterpiece, made from his tiny vineyards in Ammerswihr, Alsace.

The Binners date back to the 1700s, so there’s no shortage of ‘savoir faire’ in this family.  On the other hand, less is more when it comes to fine wine-making.  Under Christian’s stewardship, they farm organically and bio-dynamically.  They rarely filter (and when they do, sparingly), their use of sulphur is minimal (if not at all) and they use 100 year old barrels for slow aging.  It’s no wonder that the resulting product is harmony personified.  A split between honey and ripe quince and peaches, the flavours in this wine were simply exquisite.   Price-wise, take a small breath – £22.95 is a little scary on an unknown, but trust us, every single penny is worth it and more.

We will only ever hold minimal quantities of this wine – shout if you’d like us to reserve any for you.

exton-park-040-145x110

View from Exton Park Winery

As Euro zone wines gently increase as the pound falls to its 31 year low, let’s turn our heads towards our own home grown tipples…

2016 will surely go down as one of the most exceptional vintages in the history of English winemaking.

With the majority of vineyards in the south eastern parts of the country (think Hampshire, Surrey, Kent), the weather has been unbelievably kind with super temperatures that never really dipped at night (I do recall a rather memorable late evening in mid-July – 3.00 a.m and our guests were still comfortably seated outside – unbelievable!)

Many vineyards are now well into their picking but I read this morning that others are not kicking off this year’s harvest until October 8th.  Indeed the highly successful bubbly specialists of Exton Park have announced picking starts  Tuesday 11th.

The dry summer has continued throughout September (the highest temperature being recorded in September) and October shows no abate.  High daytime temperatures and warm nights make for ideal ripening conditions and hence we can confidently expect not just increased yields, but some super quality wines this vintage.

Sparkling production is also in a great position – up to double the volume in some vineyards compared to last year.

So before the sun says its final farewell this autumn, we should all be raising a glass of English wine and celebrating in style.  Afterall, knowing our unpredictable weather, it could be decades before we see these conditions again.

Check out our English wines here>

 

 

IMG_4509During a recent visit to the gastronomic region of Italy, Emilia Romagna, we stumbled across a wine which we really weren’t expecting – and it was everywhere!

But first, the food.   Bologna is the real foodie capital of Italy, with the local Tortellini, Lasagne and Tagiatelli on every menu in town.  Just up the road is Modena – the home of Balsamic Vinegar.  Then 40 minutes further west (north-west) is Parma – you guessed it, Parma Ham and Parmesan cheese.

The wines from the region of Emilia Romagna are somewhat overshadowed buy it’s neighbouring states, but there are some fantastic wines being
produced in this area.IMG_4510

We visited Monte Delle Vigne, outside a town called Ozzano Taro (20km from Parma).  This is a modern and spacious property, the vines looked in great condition and the state of the art winery was very impressive.   They produce a number of high quality wines here but what we were interested was their Lambrusco(s).

Now why does this word strike fear into our hearts?  Is it due to the similarly named Lambrini?  The ‘Urban Dictionary’s’ definition of which is amusingly as follows: Lambrini is cheapo wine that is around 7% and its only about £2.00 Mainly drunk by chavs because they cant afford any decent sort of beverage.”

That aside, Lambrusco is a red grape of which there are around 60 different varieties – similar to Muscat in that sense.  The grape skins carry a rich pigment which produces ruby coloured wines, whose foam can only be likened to cherryade.IMG_4514

We were interested in their most traditional style wine, ‘I Calanchi’, which is made from Lambrusco Colli di Parma.  This wine is totally dry – whereas some of the scary Lambruscos we had dared to taste in Bologna were much sweeter.   Actually, pleasantly surprised.  Served at a nice chilled 12 degrees or so with some delicious Parma Ham and Parmesan, this wine was actually very pleasant and made for a nice change.

You will see in the video below that we were actually slightly frightened by the look of it, but, don’t be, if you see it, it’s really worth a go.

See our video here: https://youtu.be/vcHPoElszy

The Malbec Grape

The big day is 17th April!

Malbec with no added sulphites

Malbec with no added sulphites

Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (the 7th president of Argentina) is the man to thank.  In 1853 he decided it was time to kick the Argentinian wine industry into action!  On the 17th April 1853 he submitted a proposal which would put Argentina on the world wine map.

It was that year, 1853, that the Malbec grape was introduced to Argentina.  10 years later the Phylloxera plague started killing off vines all across Europe and the Malbec vines in the Southern Rhone were taking a real battering.  Whilst that was happening, the vines in Argentina were adapting to the varied soil types and were starting to produce Malbec wines which were better than those from its homeland of France.

By the 1950s, Argentina was the only country left growing original Malbec vines of French origin.  The Malbec wines of France were hard and tannic, and the wine was quite often used for blending – just a small percentage added to other grape varieties to give those wines some tannic structure.

The Malbec wines of Argentina (especially the Mendoza region) are world famous, the wines are fruity, approachable, well balanced and offer a spectrum of styles.  From light and fruity to the more serious wines, aged in oak and with much raging potential.

Argentina is now easily the biggest Malbec producer in the world with 76,600 acres of vineyards planted across the country, followed next by France’s 13,100 acres.

So, it’s time to crack open a bottle and raise a glass to the Argentinians for the amazing transformation of this world class grape variety.

You can view our Malbec wines on our website here >

We often show Malbec wines at our wine tasting events, if you fancy a fun evening with your friends or event a get together with your colleagues then we would be happy to tell you all about our wine tasting events, simply get in touch.

Ridgeview Vineyard Chardonnay Vines

Ridgeview Vineyard Chardonnay Vines

We decided to take a mosey down to Sussex this weekend and have a nose around a producer who has been on our radar for some time. Ridgeview Vineyard was founded in 1994 by Mike and Chris Roberts.  Their mission – “to produce world class sparkling wines in the South Downs of England”.  Members of the second generation of the family are now established in key roles within Ridgeview, keeping the family tradition going. They have their original vineyard right next to the winery which is 100% Chardonnay and produces their Blanc de Blancs – a zesty, crisp little number.  Their other vines are dotted around the surrounding countryside. We were met at the winery by the lovely Hannah, who generously took us through the 6 wines of Ridgeview.  They only produce vintage wines these days, so no blended non-vintages.  We were tasting 2013 (2012 was a disastrous year in the industry and the previous vintages were like the proverbial ‘hot cake’). English sparkling wines are growing a strong reputation in the wine industry and amongst consumers too.  We hope to have one of the Ridgeview family and their wines at our up coming tasting so stay tuned! View our other sparkling wines here >

Ridgeview Vineyard Wine Tasting

Ridgeview Vineyard Wine Tasting

Ridgeview Vineyard Wines

Ridgeview Vineyard Wines

 

Winemaking is so often considered a fabulous job, packed with glamour and excitement.  But I was saddened to read yesterday of a 25 year old Spanish winemaker who died earlier this week.  Overcome by CO2 fumes, Nerea Perez fell directly into a fermenting tank and died of suffocation.

It reminded me of my very own experience whilst making wine at Domaine de la Chevaliere in southern France several years ago.  Luckily, I’m here to tell my tale but I shall never forget that horrific experience.

Domaine de la Chevaliere is a fantastic, state-of-the-art winery with safety features galore.  Yet when a grape fermentation takes hold, the air literally fills with CO2 as the grapes break down and suck up every last ounce of oxygen.

Ventilation is key – windows, doors, fans, you name it.  Yet on the day that I was affected, not even this was sufficient.   Being starved of oxygen, your body is literally poisoned with carbon dioxide.  I was confined to bed for four or five hours so that my body could recover .

Spare a thought for Nerea Perez – a bright young winemaker who, by all accounts, had a sparkling career ahead of her.

Isn’t it amazing how a bottle closure can attract so much intrigue!  It’s just a bottle closure, after all.  And yet I bump into people regularly who are fascinated by the simple cork and unconvinced by an ugly screwcap.  Truth is that the cork has dutifully served our wine industry for literally centuries – the Greeks in the 5th Century BC used cork as a jug closure.

Cork has a wonderful, natural sponginess and gives great adhesion against the side of a glass bottle.  It is completely renewable because the trees from which it is taken do not die and it’s completely bio-degradable.  cork v screw copyBut cork’s singular most important appeal (or downfall – depending on which way you look at it), is that it is porous and therefore allows micro amounts of air to permeate very slowly into the wine, thus allowing the wine to age very slowly and evenly.   Needless to say, wines destined for very long maturation generally favour this form of closure.

Paradoxically, this last point is also responsible for cork being less popular amongst winemakers in today’s faster moving world and many have moved away from it.   For all it’s attributes, the bottom line is that cork is not 100% reliable.  For one thing, two corks are never the same – one may be more porous than another,  therefore how can two bottles ever age identically?  A more porous cork may allow more air to enter the wine leading to oxidation.  If this happens, you have a potential vinegar issue on your hands.  These inconsistencies have caused headaches for winemakers for years.

In the ’90s, the level of poor quality cork was considered to be unacceptable by the Australians and New Zealanders.  That part of the world was already researching the benefits of using screwcaps instead of cork and many winemakers were convinced that they would be better off using this more modern day closure.

In simple terms, screwcaps do not allow air to enter wine so the wine is 100% protected from oxidation.  Screwcaps are recyclable (although not natural) and infinitely more reliable than cork.  The most important advantage of screwcaps is that they preserve the aromatic freshness and youthfulness of wine and this is a major advantage for wines designed for early drinking.

Some will argue that the theatre of pulling a cork has been lost to the rather dull unscrewing of a screwcap.  Try telling that to a busy London bar in the height of summer!

Whatever the virtues of each closure, there is no question that the quality of wine plays the most vital role to the ultimate enjoyment – it’s what’s inside that counts!

 

I had a phone call this morning from a gentleman who was looking for advice on what to do with the vines on his allotment.  (Actually, I have to gloat just a little here – he found us a result of our very spectacular front page colour photograph in this week’s Guardian Newspaper – that’s the Wimbledon Guardian, not the national…yet.  Interested in seeing it?  Drop onto our social media sites here>

Back to the vines… our conversation revolved around whether to cut back the foliage at this critical time of year.  And if so, by how much?

It did get me thinking that with a warm winter and great summer (let’s ignore much of August), even England (normally quite late to pick) could be gearing up for a slightly earlier harvest.

Bacchus

Healthy Bacchus Grapes

So, for all you folks lucky enough to own a vine, here are the critical points to think about :

  • taste, taste, taste – simple enough, but very important.  The grapes must have ripeness, ie natural sweetness.  If they are green, leave them on the vine and hopefully they will come round
  • foliage – after some rain in August, the forecast in the south is pretty good now.   Cut back excess foliage and ensure the grapes are warmed (not burnt) by the sun.  Important they should dry out after rain, or they’ll attract unwelcome rot
  • triage (selection) – look for unripe bunches (ie those that really haven’t sprung into action), cut them away – they are no good.  Bunches should be even, fat and healthy.
  • black grapes – break the skins and check for colour pigment.  Ideally you want plenty!
  • talk to the vines!  Well, why not!

That’s it for now.  I’ll be back later in the week once I’ve looked for myself at the progress of local vines.

So2 (or sulphites) used in tiny quantities are neither toxic nor harmful.  It’s a fact.

Sulphur Dioxide (So2) is the additive prescribed to protect wine from harmful bacteria.  Just as it is used as an antiseptic, it is also an antioxidant, ie. It staves oxidation in wine which, left untreated, will turn wine to vinegar.

A scary image of harmful chemical spraying

SCARY IMAGE OF HARMFUL CHEMICAL SPRAYING

So much controversy surrounds the use of So2 in wine, not least because of the increasing noise made about the effects of sulphites on health.  Many wine consumers complain of headaches and varying nauseous intolerances. Yet less than 1% of us are reported to have been diagnosed with sulphite intolerances.  This said, it’s hard not to argue on the part of consumers, given the varying degrees of So2 used from producer to producer.

So next time you wonder why the cabbage in the back of the fridge lasts forever, the likelihood is that it has been treated with So2.  If it hadn’t been, it may well have turned rotten before it even arrived through your front door!

Our advice – stay away from the big brands and stick to organically produced wines.  Organic wines apply sulphites very sparingly and only when absolutely essential.

STOP PRESS :  if you want to discover more about organics, BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW FOR Hannibal’s forthcoming wine event, entitled THE OLD CURIOSITY WINE TASTING ADVENTURE –   See details HERE>

Take me back to Wine Cases

tindall vineyards

Happy vines means happy wines!

So many questions surrounding Organic wines, so here’s a few FAQs that we’ve tried to answer without getting too bogged down in detail :

Q.  What is Organic Wine?         Organic wine is wine made from organically grown grapes.   Any chemical compound used in organic grape growing/wine-making must not have any detrimental effect on the environment or on human health.

Q.  I thought wine was natural? What chemicals are used?        Wine is indeed a very natural product, but ‘non-organic’ wine growers may choose to protect their vines by using synthetic pesticides, fungicides or herbicides.  Organic wines only use natural such products.

Q.  How do I know it’s organic?        New regulations were enforced in 2012 ensuring certification runs right through from vineyard, harvesting to bottling.  A certified ‘organic’ wine will carry the term ‘organic wine’ on the label.

Q.  What if it isn’t certified?          It’s an expensive business becoming certified ‘organic’ (literally thousands of pounds)and some wine growers prefer to spend their well-earned money elsewhere.  This means that there are many growers who choose to follow organic principles but who are not bothered about gaining the certification.  (We like these people – ethical to the core, but not bothered about a piece of paper.)

Q.  Is Organic Wine better for me?          Well, whilst the effects of too much alcohol intake will have adverse effects on us all, Organic wines are friendlier to us and the environment.  No synthetic toxins and considerably less sulphites mean we are ingesting a more natural product.

Q.  Anything else I should know?          One more thing….. remember that ‘organically certified’ wines are certified under their respective countries’ organic regulations.  The regulations vary from country to country, which means one country’s regulatory definition of ‘organic’ may differ considerably to another’s.

Check out Leon Barral> – a master of organic naturalness.

This past weekend, we spent with the fine folk of Battersea, who visited our stand at The Foodies Festival.  I was excited by the number of people genuinely interested by the origins of our wines.  Even more so, by their support for organic farming and the overall ethical thinking of ourselves and so many of our great producers.

But what people 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. Natural fertilizers

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 must be 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!

Keep up to date with our Fact Cards, posted all this week through social media.

For more information on this subject, click HERE>