All 18 entries tagged Wine

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June 22, 2006

Wine lakes

There is a lot of debate in the press today about the EU's decision to grapple with the overproduction of wine.

The problems that face the european wine industry have been well known for quite a while and it will be interesting to see how the EU plans to tackle the issue.

There are many reasons for the current situation – falling markets for european wine; strong competition from New World producers free of the shackles of over–regulation and restrictive practices; the changing tastes of traditional export markets for wine; the intransigence of certain nations to adapt and change.

It's worth a bit of history at this point.

The EU wine legislation is based on a system of controls introduced by the French that was orginally designed to act as a gaurantee of authenticity. At the time there were many dodgy outfits churning out cheap crap and selling it as the finest claret. The AC system was introduced to try and provide an element of authentication for wine so that consumers could buy a bottle in the knowledge that it was what it said on the tin.

Over the years the AC laws have grown to lay down what you could grow, how you grew it, how you made the wine and what you could say about it.

The system was not designed as a system of ensuring quality, just the geographical source and production methods used. The difficulty is that the AC rules have become associated with 'quality' but that there is nothing really that says any given AC actually acheives any particular standard.

The problem for Europe is that the system has stifled innovation and that the New World producers who can operate outside of such regulation have been able to experiment and drive markets in a way that European winemakers have struggled to do.

In Italy, for example, a number of Tuscan winemakers had to spend years outside of the AOC system making very high quality wine that had to be labelled 'Table Wine' because they didn't fit the rules. In the end a new designation of 'IGT' was established in recognition that the wines were out–performing many AOC wines – both in terms of quality and price.

The difficulty here I guess is that in the EU the debate is always – how can we change the system, how can we ammend the regulations – never how can we improve the wine.

At the heart of this dilemma is the idea of craftsmenship and industry. For the big New World brands wine is an industry, in Europe it's more often treated as a craft – full of tradition and methods of practice that only change slowly.

And here I am going to now leap to the defence of the AC system – without it Europe would no doubt have lost many rare varities, many great wines and the kind of cultural and regional differentiation that makes European wine truly great and interesting for the connesiuer. You can argue that the current situation is about fashion – that people will come round again to the european way of making wine. I dread to think of the damage that could be done to the heritage and art of winemaking by chasing the market demand for fruity plonk.

Waiting for the market to come round to your way of thinking is a dangerous business practice, however. Europe has to change its wine laws to survive. The Australian and Californian experience demonstrates that you can have both mass–market industry and innovation alongside specialist producers of high quality product. Europe needs to acknowledge that its markets have changed and they need to change with them.

This has rambled a lot and I am not sure I can draw any conclusions as to how to go forward. My brain says business demands that you meet the needs of the market. My heart says wine is special – it's an art, a craft of generations that should be protected and celebrated.

Having said that I am not the average consumer – my wine purchases tend to be £10+ and I would not balk at paying an awful lot more for a bottle. I am the kind of person who sees a bottle of Mouton Rothschild for £250 and thinks – hmm, that's a good price. In the end I am not the type of consumer who is going to decide the future of european winemaking – that will be in the hands of the sub £5 brigade filling the aisles of Tescos.

Damn this is difficult problem…

August 22, 2005

Graham Beck Viognier

Not done this for a while…

Graham Beck Viognier – nice full and fruity wine with plenty of apricot flavours. Perhaps not as subtle as you might like, but that's South Africa for you. Still, a nice way to enjoy this wonderful variety for under £7 (from sainsburys)

February 01, 2005

Getting the priorities wrong?

Writing about web page

Decanter reports on Frances 70million euro bail out for the French wine industry – a proportion of which is intended to support future development.

Now, that sounds great – but look at the breakdown. 3.5 million for marketing – that's just 5% of the total. I would have thought that there needs to be a bigger investment in the marketing and promotion of French wine. Sure, deal with the wine lake, but without investing in marketing, and, lets face it, a major overhaul of the AOC system, we will right back here in another 10 years time.

January 31, 2005

Adding it all up

Some interesting news stories around in January.

Firstly, according to Wine International the world wine production is at its highest since 1992. But, there is a problem:

"However, the world's wine drinkers only managed to consume 2.3 billion litres, leaving an expected shortfall of 5.7 million litres, the biggest gap ever."

Secondly, the French are lobbying the EU to allow the distillation of 1 billion litres of wine – and not just the crappy stuff. They are asking to distill large quantites of AOC wines – supposedly the top wines in the system.

Thirdly, French winegrowers are increasingly militant in the face of collapsing markets and are demanding intervention from the Government and the EU.

Fourthly, the US is set to consume more wine than France for the first time in 2005 -

There seems to be a lot of overproduction in the system. Whilst the top names might still be able to demand high prices in the market, the producers of cheap, simpler might be struggling to make ends meet. What worries me more is the potential loss of small scale production of not-so well known wines that don't have the name of their more illustrious brethren, but do have the quality and integrity to warrent attention. You have to worry about the fate of some indiginous variaties and rare old vineyards that might be lost because they don't perform well in the market, even if they are of historic and cultural importance.

Running for subsidies is not a long term solution to overproduction – nor can winegrowers expect demand to stay high for ever – one bad story in the US press and watch wine drinking drop like a brick.

Nor does the clarion call of Quality over Quantity really make a difference here. Quality as defined by wine experts doesn't really come into the equation when consumers hit the supermarkets – price and reliability are the more important variables.

So what to do? Maybe europe needs to reassert its basic level plonk – get people used to drinking French, Italian and other euro wines again, then move them on to the good stuff. It's a challenge facing Australia at the moment. The cheaper end of the market is saturated and a low margin zone for producers. The challenge is to get drinkers moving onto the premium brands. It's a challenge that goes to the heart of the Australian wine making tradition and reputation.

Perhaps Europe needs to reset its marketing to the consumers and start again.

Weekend wines

Couple of Interesting wines over the weekend.

First up, Domaine la Clovallon Pinot Noir 2002. A lighter style of Pinot Noir, opaque in the glass and light fruits on the palate. Very low tanin and quite crisp – perhaps we served it too cold! The closest comparison I can make is with some of the near blush pinot's from Russian River in California. Very delicate and more suited to June than January.

Louis Latour Mâcon-Lugny Les Genièvres 2003. We tasted the 2002 vintage at a recent tasting and were impressed with this – the 2003 shows the hot vintage from that year with much less acidity and balance overall. A lesson in why you will need to watch out with this vintage.

Morgon, Le Clachet 2003 – Beaujolais, on the otherhand is showing some great wines in 2003 – this is the latest I have tried from this vintage and shows why you should stock up whilst you can. Great fruity nose – cherry's all over, with a lovely soft texture on the palate. A good weight and a very long finish. Very drinkable. Could 2003 be the vintage that moves Beaujolais from Vin de Merde to something a little more worthy?

December 06, 2004

Visit to Vinopolis

Made my first visit to Vinopolis this weekend – the wine exhibition in London for those who don't know. Rather underwhelming in many ways, but there was the opportunity to taste a few things from countries not normally represented on the shelves of supermarkets and offlicences.

Up front I have to apologise for not properly noting the names of the producers or wines themselves, so I hope I don't denigrate a nations fine efforts based on the samples of one or two bottles from said country.

Anyhoo – this was an opportunity to taste:

Huangdong Riesling, China, – Pretty bland but generally unoffensive stuff

An Indian white blend – Sweet rather cloying wine that went straight into the spitoon.

A Thai red and white – the white was bearable, the red very difficult to drink.

We also tried Romanian and Georgian wines, both of which suggested that there is something worth watching in those countries. Whilst the wines on offer were pretty ordinary, there is potential here – not surprising considering the heritage of many eastern european countries. I know that many Italian producers are starting to invest in some of the former Soviet Bloc, so it will be interesting to see the fruits of their labour.

November 09, 2004

Bennetts winter tasting

A few highlights from the recent Bennetts Fine Wine winter tasting:

Bourgogne 'Cuvee Forgets' 2002 and Bourgogne 'Cuvee Oligocene' both from Javillier (£13.99 and £17.99) – both really approachable Bourgogne Blancs, fruity and well balanced. Just goes to show that you can find great wines without having to jump headfirst into the complex Burgundian AC system.

Cotes Roannaise Gamay 'Vielles Vignes' 2003, Robert Serol (£6.99) – really really impressive wine making. For those who think Gamay only produces 'vin de merde' then this should persuade you that in the right hands it can give something rich, fine and serious. At this price this is going to become a staple part of my cellar. Not for keeping, but I wouldn't be able to resist it that long any way.

Julienas 2002, Trenel (£9.55) – another reason why you should start taking Beaujolais more seriously.

Chateau L'Argilus du Roi 2001, St Estephe (£14.80) – a good rounded Bordeaux, drinking well now. Made by Jose Bueno who has 21 years of experience at Mouton Rothschild – it shows in this wine!

Pinot Grigio 2003, Livio Felluga (£14.99) – extra time on skins gives this a really full body and nice flavours.

Riesling Polish Hill 2003, Grosset (£16.99) – absolutely delicious riesling, deservedly well regarded. Packed with lime fruit and a great balance. Will be keeping a bottle of this for a while to see where it goes.

Condrieu 'Chery' 2002, Rapet (£29.95) – just stunning quality. Delicate and delicious.

Saffredi 2000 Le Pupille (£55.00) – expensive, but worth every penny. Beautiful weight and balance between fruit, acidity and oak age.

Lustau P.X (£13.50) – great sweet sherry, would be perfect for Christmas

Quinta Do Infantado 10 year old tany port (£10.95) – a delicious port which due to a high natural alcohol level require less spirit and so has less of the 'spirity' character and more of the original base wine flabours. This results in a delicate and interesting port with a fantastic, and surprisingly intense, nutty finish. Serve this to surprise the port bore at the christmas table.

Lots of other fine things were tasted – too many to mention in one post!

October 04, 2004

Kim Crawford 2001 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

For those who find the overly aggressive acidity of many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs a bit too much to handle, the Kim Crawford 2001 Sauvignon Blanc is a great example of a softer and richer style of wine.

There is the distinctive asparagus nose, very full and clean, but the palate is soft and restrained, showing gooseberrys and a touch of residual sweetness that balances the natural acidity perfectly. Went very well with artichoke risotto.

£8.99 – Bennetts Fine Wines (currently stocking 2003)

Plaimont Les Vignes Retrouvees Cotes de Saint Mont Blanc
A great French country wine – fruity and easy to drink. Crisp acidity and good length. Perhaps not one to recommend as we head into winter as it is much better suited to sunnier times – but what the hey!

£5.49 (ish – don't hold me on that) – SH Jones, Edward Sheldon

August 23, 2004

Pesquera Crianza 1998

Opened a bottle of Pesquera Crianza 1998, Ribero del Duero that has been in the cellar for a few years.

Always an impressive wine this was soft and gentle with no aggressive tannins present. The oak ageing was evident with a gentle smoky leather flavour underpinned by red fruit.

The 2001 vintage is available on for about £13 – a smart buy, or if you want something a little cheaper try the second wine, Condado de Haza, usually around £8–9 a bottle.

August 19, 2004

Pilgrims Progress

To celebrate moving out of our house we toasted the event with a glass of Pilgrims Progress NV Brut Sparkling Wine, made by Camel Valley Vineyards in Cornwall to celebrate the promotion of the mighty mighty Plymouth Argyle from the 3rd to the 2nd division (now the 2nd and 1st). It was quite a refreshing drink – light and fresh with crisp citrus flavours and acidity bordering on the high side but kept in check. It is perhaps a shame to think that much of this wine ended up on the pitch at Home Park rather than in the glasses of the supporters!

I look forward to the next issue – celebrating the arrival of West Country football to the Premiership (now if only we could get Bristol City performing as well)

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