Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Doctor creates 'world's healthiest wine'

It sounds too good to be true. An Australian doctor claims to have created the world’s healthiest wine.

The drink purports to clean blood vessels and reduce the risk of heart attack with each glass.

Developed by Sydney doctor and wine historian Dr Philip Norrie, each bottle contains up to 100 times the amount of resveratrol - a naturally occurring anti-oxidant found in grapes - than a standard drop.

Resveratrol helps to maintain blood flow by keeping arteries free of fatty deposits called atherosclerotic plaque.

Dr Norrie said a wine infused with high levels of the odourless, tasteless anti-oxidant would act as a “vascular pipe-cleaner”.

“While the positive effects of moderate wine consumption have long been documented, the inclusion of such large quantities of this beneficial anti-oxidant is very good news for wine drinkers,” he told Australian Associated Press.

“What we’ve been able to do is boost the amount of resveratrol in wine and you wont even know its there ... you’re effectively clearing your arteries while you drink.

“Getting people to stop smoking, exercise and lose weight, is a nice idea but in reality it doesn’t happen. Drinking two glasses of wine is realistic, enjoyable and also good for you and I’ve made it even healthier,” he said.

Dr Norrie is now producing his own range of wine, including a chardonnay and a shiraz, each containing 100mg/L of resveratrol per bottle.

He said this was as much as is contained in 70 to 100 bottles of standard white wine or 15 to 20 bottles of standard red.

“I stress that these benefits are best realised with moderate drinking,” Dr Norrie said in a warning to any connoisseurs planning a wine-based health kick.

University of Queensland cardiologist Associate Professor David Colquhoun also stressed the need for “moderate” consumption as he said the benefits of resveratrol were well known.

“Studies have strongly suggested that consumption of wine rich in resveratrol can lessen cardio-vascular disease, heart attack and stroke, he said.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Weekends in France

Sue has had a tummy bug for the last three days. The French endearingly call any stomach complaint a 'gastro'. I always find this ironic as the Brits are so fond of Gastropubs!
Anyway it has meant full on child care for a few days....which is always great fun. Max and Jasper are developing strong and interesting characters. They are great with each other which is very important. They are also competitive! Max can now gallop on his pony and Jasper has mastered a steady trot. We have spent the last two evenings trying to be quiet around the house (which has never been our strong point). We have been gathering firewood from old vineyards that have been grubbed up and walking the dogs in the hills and forests. We have been playing chess and drafts. We even experimented with a 'cooperative' rather than 'competitive' game at breakfast this morning after I went to a fascinating talk last night about 'Jeux cooperatifs'. Tomorrow we are planning to go and see a special theatre show of Aladdin in Montpellier. Sue should be better by then, which is great. My only concern is that I will have to endure a trip to 'Old' McDonalds Restaurant. Maybe its time for a gastro?

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Lagerfeld, Dom Perignon pay homage to Claudia Schiffer's breasts

Karl Lagerfeld has frequently used Claudia Schiffer as a muse. But this recent article in Decanter
caught my eye.
I had never realized that the original Champagne coupe was based on the breasts of Marie Antoinette. It will certainly make me enjoy my Champagne more this Christmas.
The Dom Perignon website is also quite fun for more weird stuff about Lagerfeld and pretty people supping very expensive Champagne.

We have some magnums of Dom Perignon 2000 @£1050 per 6 magnums ex vat,
and also some bottles available:

Dom Perignon 1996 @ £795 per 6 bottles ex vat
Dom Perignon 1990 @ £895 per 6 bottles ex vat

telephone us or email to reserve your stock.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Cork, Forest in a bottle on TV tonight

Fascinating TV program on BBC2 at 8pm tonight.
An exploration of the use and abuse of cork.
Every time we weigh up which bottle of wine to buy, we hold the fate of nightingales, rare black storks, secretive wild cats and one of the world's most remarkable trees in our hands. Cork producer and wildlife enthusiast, Francisco Garrett explains what will be lost if cork stoppers are replaced by plastic or screwtops.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Logan Apple Tree Flat Merlot 2006 review

Surely this must be the most fun review for a wine from the lovely people at Reserve Wines (click on their name to see the review)in Manchester.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Languedoc Roussillon Wines

Here are some stats:
In 2006 the Languedoc Roussillon had 268000 hectares under vine.

The total volume produced was 16,044,000 hectolitres (1 hectolitre = 100 litres= 133 standard bottles (75cl)) Therefore the total production was 2,139,146,520 (that is 2.1 billion bottles!!!)

The split for this is:
69 % Red
18 % Rose
13% White

Of the total production:
19 % is Appellation Controlee.....meant to be the best.
54% is Vin de Pays....literally 'Country Wine' where you can mention the grape varieties on the label.
27% is Vin de Table...the rest.

The principal grape varieties planted:
Carignan 52000 hectares(ha)
Grenache 45000 ha
Syrah 44000ha
Merlot 31000ha
Cabernet Sauvignon 19000ha
Cinsault 14000ha
Total red:205000 hectares.
Carignan is still the most extensively planted grape variety. Although it is regarded as a bit of a weed and usually blended with other grapes it can still produce stunning wines...as long as the vines are old.

Chardonnay 12000 hectares (ha)
Muscat(s) 8000 ha
Sauvignon Blanc 6000 ha
Grenache Blanc 4000 ha
Total white:30000 hectares.

I believe that Chardonnay was only introduced to the Languedoc area in 1978. Its global domination is continuing!

The producers:
72% Cave Cooperatives
26% Independent Winemakers
2% Negociants.

The wine world is constantly changing and evolving. This is especially relevant in the Languedoc Roussillon where the volume of production has reduced significantly in the last few years. There have been generous incentives to grub up vineyards and stop producing wine. There have also been significant changes in demand for different styles of wines. The Rose revolution continues at pace. It will be interesting to see a similar set of statistics in 5 or 10 years time.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Best value wines of the world?

The Sud de France must surely have the largest diversity and greatest value wines of any wine producing region in the World.
Where can you get fantastic value Sparkling wine, elegant crisp fresh whites, fruity reds, classic oak aged reds, amazing dessert wines and much more???
The big swathe of land between Marseilles and the Spanish border has always been recognized for bulk production. But the quality growers are emerging and gradually gaining strong reputations. You do not have to pay crazy money to enjoy great value wines.
Many independent wine merchants in the UK such as Vin Neuf Wines in Stratford upon Avon have incredible selections of well chosen wines. They offer a personal, family service and they have pride in their quality wines. When the wine world can seem quite confusing and the bigger wine brands seem to take over every supermarket shelf it is well worth contacting a proper merchant such as Vin Neuf to tailor your Christmas needs.
The only problem is the enormous selection! This chap called Nigel is ready to pounce(notice the Visa card at the ready).

Saturday, 29 November 2008

French men need largest condoms in Europe

Rather than rant about wine tax increases or finances I was amused to catch this piece in the Daily Telegraph this morning:

The French male is not noted for modesty when it comes to discussing his sexual prowess, and a survey of condom size appears to underline the point.

More than 10,500 men across 25 European countries were asked to measure their penis - and the French came out on top with a claimed average length of 6.09 in (15.48 cm).

This was 1.2 in (3 cm) longer than the Greeks, who had the shortest average measurement in Europe.

The Frenchman's French letter requirements were disclosed during an eight-month study conducted by the Institute of Condom Consultancy, based in Singen, southern Germany.

Jan Vinzenz Krause, the institute's director, refused to comment on how honest he thought the Frenchmen had been in reporting the data.

The purpose of the survey was to educate teenagers about the importance of effective contraception.

The institute also offers online advice about condom size and hosts "Pimp Your Condom" - an annual fair organised in cooperation with the national Aids Trust - with the aim of informing teens about sexually transmitted diseases.

Krause was in the spotlight in the past when he produced a prototype of the "spray-on condom" - an aerosol can which contains latex that creates a perfectly fitting condom.

However, the idea was not developed further.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

More Tasting Descriptions...

These last two weeks I have been on and off aeroplanes.....many wine tastings up and down the UK. A great fun time of year and great to hear views and comments from the most important people ...the people buying the wine!

A couple of fun observations/descriptions regarding wine.

Chateau Minvieille 2006 Rouge Bordeaux @ £6.99
Quoted by a lady in London: 'I like this wine. Yes, it is a good Monday to Wednesday style wine.'

Domaine La Prade Mari Viognier 2007 @ £6.99
Quoted by a man in Oundle: 'Yes lovely Summer drinking Viognier...Great hammock wine!'

Next week we will have to see what the good folk of Cornwall and Devon come up with....

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Tasting Notes

Sometimes I get fed up writing about the gooseberries, the grass, the blackcurrants, the damsons, honey, sage, melons and ripe plums when describing various wines.
It can be far more fun to 'personalise' your wine tasting notes.....as long as you remember your thread!!
I frequently call wines DP....no not Dom Perignon....but Dolly Parton....it is my simple note for a slightly unbalanced juicy fruity forward wine that does not have much behind but is a bit brash.

20 years ago when I was working in a prestigious wine shop in Belgravia I was frequently told by a flamboyant character of the wine trade that it was vital for female customers to hold the bottle in their hands.....once they get a feel they won't want to put it down!!! This was the same wine salesman who frequently shouted out...'this wine's a real leg opener' and then walked away. It has certainly stayed in my memory for showing a fun description.
Sometimes I feel that wine can be over analysed and over dissected. We are dealing with a fascinating and pure drink that should be enjoyed with good food and good friends......if Dolly Parton is about then so what.
I have recently come across a really interesting website called Chateau Petrogasm, which describes wine purely through pictures....no words, no bullshit.....just evocative pictures/images. It is fun and different and I really like it. Which wine do you think the beautiful Rose by Salvador Dali depicts? Have a look at the Chateau Petrogasm website and find out.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Logan Wins Gold

This blog is turning in to a Logan Wines advert!!
But Peter Logan sent me an excited email overnight:

'We have just been informed that our 2006 Weemala Shiraz Viognier won a
GOLD medal in the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. This is one of Australia's
most prestigious wine shows. This is a very good result for a wine of
this price.'

Certainly there are many many wine shows around the World, but I agree that the Royal Melbourne Wine Show is probably one of the most influential in Australia.
Great news for Logan Wines and a great help for a lovely wine that is great value at £8.99-£9.99 retail in the UK.

Wine Critics...How UK Consumers choose their wines.

The November report by Wine Intelligence 'Decisions,decisions:how UK consumers choose their wines' is quite interesting. Click on Wine Intelligence report for more info.
I have always been convinced that a high percentage of people walking in to a wine shop do not know exactly what they want.
They might know 1. Price or 2. Style or 3. Occasion or 4. Wines to avoid....but certainly I think that the quality independent wine merchants in the UK are well positioned to serve the 'Adventurous Connoisseurs' category that is 3.9 million consumers in the UK spending an average of £660 each on wine annually.
The other interesting part of the Wine Intelligence Briefing was the reach of wine critics.
The table featured here below is quite controversial (click on it to enlarge)as the awareness does not immediately translate to quality. Personally I would rate Jancis, Jukesy, Oz, Tim, Anthony and Jamie highly for up to date 'on the pulse' wine writing. Some of the others I am less sure about!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Logan Wines and eye candy!

Here are Peter and Hannah Logan from Logan Wines. Based up in the magnificent Mudgee region of New South Wales. They moved out of Sydney a few years ago to concentrate on winemaking. Their wines are now recognized in over 15 different international markets. They are highly regarded as a quality family wine producer with focus on the fruits from their vineyards in Mudgee and the cool climate region of Orange.
And......in Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer's recent book Taste 2009 (only available in Australia) Peter Logan is described as "the thinking woman's winemaker eye-candy"!! and as Peter comments....I wonder how hard the ladies have to think before they agree!

Peter's sister Kylie also has a herd of Alpacas on the estate, whilst Peter and Hannah run a herd of Angus cattle. They hang the beef for an extra long time to ensure maximum flavours.....(Fantastic accompanied by a Logan Cabernet Merlot 2005)
Sophie the dalmatian is also very important in the Logan family!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Top Sauvignon Blanc...from Australia!

We are very familiar with massively intense Sauvignon Blanc from the excellent vineyards of New Zealand....but now the cool climate area of Orange in New South Wales is producing some stunning Sauvignon Blanc wines.
The Logan Sauvignon Blanc 2008 has been awarded several trophies and Gold Medals in Australian wine shows and has even been selected by the Kiwis in their top 100 Sauvignons....generous fellows.

Here are some notes from Peter Logan on this stunning wine:

We harvested the grapes for this Sauvignon Blanc at three
ripeness levels between 12.2° and 13.3° Baumé from
16th to the 28th March 2008. The grapes are grown at
an elevation of greater than 900 metres on the slopes of
Mount Canobolas in Orange. Considerable rain in February
complicated the 2008 vintage, however dry and windy
conditions in March dried the vines sufficiently to avoid
disease and ripen nicely. The mild temperatures resulted
in a very good vintage for the Orange region, particularly
for aromatic whites. The vines have been trained on a
combination of VSP trellis and Smart Dyson trellis systems.
After picking and crushing the grapes in the cool of the
night, the free run juice was clarified by cold settling and
racking. It was inoculated with VL3, X5 and QA23 yeasts
and the fermentation took place over 18 days in stainless
steel tanks. 5% of the wine was barrel fermented in large
Hungarian oak barrels (500 L). Malo-lactic fermentation
was inhibited. The wine was lightly filtered before bottling.
Tasting notes
The Logan 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is pale gold in colour.
It has a pungent aroma of passionfruit, guava and nettle.
The palate zings with crunchy fresh flavours of pink
grapefruit, green papaya and lime. The finish is long
and crisp.

Peter Logan reckons that the style of sauvignon blanc he believes Orange produces well is half way between the strong, pungent and incredibly popular Kiwi style and the more refined, subtle, minerally and beautifully balanced Sancerre style.
We have a few cases that have just arrived in the UK, so if you are interested please contact me immediately to reserve stock....the retail price is £10.95 in the UK.

Monday, 10 November 2008

More Autumn Vines

Weird how different vines change colours. The vines on the right are Domaine La Prade Mari Viognier (now served at Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant)whilst the vines on the left are very old vine Carignan.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


Dreary damp weather in the Minervois, so we zoomed over to Limoux (30km south of Carcassonne) to explore. Lovely town square where they have a masked Carnival from January to Easter every year.
The main reason for being in Limoux was to taste and explore the fabulous sparkling wines.

Essentially there are three types produced:

1. Blanquette de Limoux....mainly Mauzac grapes (90%) but also can be blended with up to 10% Chardonnay and or Chenin Blanc.
2. Cremant de Limoux.....a higher percentage of Chardonnay is permitted (up to 70%) with the rest being Chenin and Mauzac.
3. Blanquette Methode Ancestrale...the old 'natural' style that I mentioned at a tasting last week. Weird and wonderful style rather than commercially interesting! But strange apple cider characters develop from this 100% Mauzac wine.

Selectively there are some really interesting wines here. We are looking at developing a range of great value sparkling wines that are top quality and aged for 15-18 months in bottle. And all this for a retail price under £10 per bottle in the UK!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Wine Tastings

I love showing new wines to people and seeing their reaction........hopefully positive!!!
At this time of year my diary is chockablock with tastings from Scotland to Cornwall. It is really good fun to catch up with wine trade friends and also to introduce new and exciting wines to the discerning UK wine drinking market from Australia, Bordeaux and Sud de France.
Many of these tastings are hosted by wine merchants and some can attract up to 4-500 people. But sometimes smaller tastings are far more informal and a great opportunity to have a good chat about the wines.
For the first time earlier this year I presented six wines before, during and after a fantastic dinner party for 12 people in a private house. It was great fun and very successful.
Sometimes wine tastings can be a fun way to get a team or company together. The wine tasting itself can be lighthearted or detailed depending on the theme or mood.
If you are interested in tasting some exciting wines in the UK and want to organize a company tasting or a tasting for enthusiastic wine drinkers, then please contact me.

Christmas Wines

Now that we have turned the page and all of a sudden Christmas is only a month away we have to seriously consider the key aspect to secure a fun Christmas for everyone....yes the wines. I am writing this now as Thanksgiving would also suit many of these wines.
I would suggest:

Pre dinner drinks/aperitifs
Blanquette de Limoux from Ch. Rive-Blanques (see below) (approx £11 per bottle)
Mas Amiel Muscat 2006.(£12).........if you are having pate de foie gras this is sensational.

Logan Sauvignon Blanc 2008(£11) is a zesty fruity Sauvignon with a delicious mineral backbone.
Moulin Gimie Chardonnay 2006(£9) is a great alternative to good Burgundy at a fraction of the price.

Main Course (presuming turkey):
Ch. La Gaffeliere 2001(£45)......pure class from St.Emilion.
Cuvee Image 2005(£9)..........earthy deep chocolate character from the Sud de France.

Mas Amiel Vintage Red 2006(£14)........great with chocolate too.

Christmas Pudding:
Mas Amiel Mini Maury(£9)..............an absolute revelation...concentrated fruit but elegant balance.

And after to accompany coffee!
A large glass of Mas Amiel 1969(£60)......this is especially suitable for anyone who might be 40 next year.

Many of these wines are available via Bella Wines or through our network of quality wine merchants in the UK....so use google or wine searcher or drop us a note and we will help out to find the right wines at the best prices.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Sud de France 'Festive Wines' Tasting in London

Two days in London this week at the Maison Languedoc Roussillon in Cavendish Square. This is a relatively new venue (opened in June). And it is the 'window' in Central London for food and wine from the South of France. It is a great place and hopefully we can host some interesting wine tastings during 2009.
I was involved in organising a 'Festive Wines' event. We had some fascinating sparkling wines from Limoux...the first place to make sparkling wine in France. It was a good opportunity to try a selection of these wines from large and small growers. The Domaine Antech Cuvee 'Doux et Fruite' 2007 (Blanquette de Limoux) was amazing. It is a sparkling wine made in the 'Methode Ancestrale', which means that the first fermentation is stopped by chilling the juice and left on lees during the cold winter months. The secondary fermentation is then started in the Spring with the addition of yeast. It seems a very natural way to produce a wine..working with the seasons. However as Francoise Antech-Gazeau said, it is a very difficult process to manage and also to maintain the stability of the juice without letting rogue yeasts start an uncontrolled fermentation!
The wine was made from Mauzac grapes, which is virtually unique to Limoux and small areas of Gaillac. It is a tricky grape to grow and vinify as it is prone to oxidise easily and loose the flavours. This wine was an amazing medium sweet sparkling wine with a clear 'green apple' fresh style, but also with a depth and slight biscuit richness. The pleasant shock for me was the alcohol level at 6%. This was a very good wine and certainly one that I will be buying for Christmas. A very good aperitif wine.

The other sparkling wine that really stood out was the Chateau Rives-Blanques, Blanquette de Limoux 2006. This was a totally different style. A really classy wine made from 90% Mauzac and 5% each Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. The wine had an excellent mousse and medium biscuity rich nose. However the palate was defined by its elegance and the perfect balance between tight structured acidity and beautiful rich harmonious fruit. A wine that is very good value from this well run wine estate that adheres to sustained agriculture principals.

There were some interesting dessert wines from mainly muscat grapes (but also Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier and Ugni Blanc) and then there was a great selection of older and amazing Vin Doux Naturels. These are fortified wines mainly from the Roussillon area near Perpignan. The key grape varieties being Grenache Noir, Carignan and Maccabeu.
I adore the 1969 Mas Amiel, Maury, which is a great example of a perfectly balanced aged Maury wine. I always think of this wine being a cross of old Madeira and aged tawny port....but it is unique. This is ideal for an unusual gift for someone who is 40 years old next year!!!
But surely the most interesting wine at the tasting were the two older wines from Domaine de la Coume du Roy. It is not often that you get the chance to taste some wines from 1925 and 1932! Agnes Bachelet travelled over to London with her young son to show him the sights and for everyone to taste these incredible wines. The wines had lost their red/brown colour and were nearer to dark cognac colour. The nose on the 1932 Maury initially had evident alcohol and I thought that it might be a tricky wine to taste. However on the palate the wines really danced! The 1932 had a smooth rich caramel smooth texture and still lively acidity. Whilst the 1925 seemed perfect. The wine had a smoother nose and an excellent balance of rounded creamy textured caramel palate. This wine lasted for a long time on the palate and exudes class.
These wines are still ageing in large oak barrels. Agnes draws off a small amount for bottling whenever she needs some stock!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Languedoc Versus Bordeaux at Vin Neuf

I recently did a wine tasting at a very good wine merchants called Vin Neuf Wines in Stratford upon Avon.www.vinneuf.co.uk We selected some smart Languedoc wines and compared them to some smart Bordeaux wines. The Languedoc wines ranged in price from £5-£12, whilst the Bordeaux wines were £12-£30.
There is no doubt we are in a financially 'interesting' time in the UK after various stockmarket collapses and bank failures and impending doom and gloom. So guess which wines were the most popular????????????
Yes, the Bordeaux wines.
Undoubtedly the wines were very good, however I think that there is a stronger message that even in hard financial times people generally look for quality wines that they know about and understand rather than exploring slightly lesser known areas such as Languedoc.
The customers were generally knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but I was slightly shocked(and happy) about the support and resulting sales for the higher priced wines.
Here are the wines that we tasted:
from Languedoc...
Domaine La Prade Mari Viognier 2007 £6.99
Domaine La Prade Mari Carignan 2007 £5.49
Element Syrah Cabernet 2007 £5.99
Domaine La Prade Mari 'Conte des Garrigues' 2005 £12.50

from Bordeaux....
Chateau Haut Ballet 2005, Canon Fronsac £14.00
Chateau Haut Maurac 2003, Cru Bourgeois Medoc £12.95
Chateau Jean Faure 2005, St.Emilion Grand Cru £29.50
and as a bit of an oddity/novelty:
Mas Amiel 10 year Old Maury £19.95

It should be an interesting if challenging Christmas sales period ahead!!!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Autumn Vines

Fantastic colours in the vineyards. Every small area of vines seems to be a different shade of green, yellow, golden, brown.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008


We live just outside an amazing village called Aigne in the Minervois. The Church is at the centre of the village and the houses are built in a snail shape around the Church ...originally to defend the Church.
1000 years of history.
Nothing seems to change around here. It has a humble charm and very slow pace of life.
The frenetic energy of the grape harvest has just come to an end. And now the vineyards are filled with men in bright orange jackets proudly holding their rifles. Yes 'La Chasse' has started.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Chateau Jean Faure 2005...Buy Now

This is a great write up in the November edition of Decanter magazine.
If the words are hard to see on the left...

''Top drawer St.Emilion. This has silky tannins,classic Merlot notes of ripe cherries and cedar plus subtle oak. It's fresh elegant and restrained with a long, promising finish: a wine that's testament to a great vintage.
2008-2018. Stockist Bla'' (Bella Wines)

If you want a case or two of this fantastic St.Emilion then email me straight away: hamish@bellawines.co.uk

Friday, 10 October 2008


How cool is it to be 5 years old?
To quote Jasper....'How much chocolate do you think I will be able to eat at my birthday party?'

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Harvest 2008 in the Minervois

This is Mr Zen checking the sugar levels and alcohol levels on his Syrah....helped by his co workers! Unfortunately it has been a tough year for growers in the Minervois. Yields are significantly lower due to many reasons. The over riding problem is the on going drought (3 years now). However the weather has also been a bit patchy....Spring was cold and dull, so bud burst and flowering were not perfect. Summer was also a bit up and down. Mildew seemed to be a major problem in the vineyards....so lots of relatively expensive and time consuming spray treatments were necessary(mostly Sulphur and Bordeaux mixture). The late Summer and early Autumn season was OK with good average temperatures.
However sporadic and isolated hail storms effected some vineyards in the higher parts of the Minervois. We visited and tasted the grapes in many different vineyards throughout the area during harvest time. The grapes physically seemed smaller and the skins were denser due to the drought. The juice will be highly concentrated and in general terms it is no bad thing for the Languedoc area to produce less wine. The harvest is gradually finishing now....whilst Bordeaux is just starting! I will be tasting post fermented juice over the coming weeks and also the first 'Primeur' wines to get a handle of the quality and style of this vintage...we shall see!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Fantastic wines at Mas Amiel

Zoomed down to Mas Amiel wine estate to collect a few orders and taste some of their recent wines. These guys are making some seriously good wines. The soils are very minerally and schist based. The wine estate lies in the picturesque higher parts of the Valley d'Agly just inland from Perpignan. The vineyards are within the Maury appellation, which is essentially the area where the recent Channel 4 TV program Chateau Monty was filmed.
This area has a fabulous reputation for the Vin Doux Naturel wines (VdN's). The Mas Amiel wine estate also have a unique system of ageing their dessert wines in glass demi johns outside in an area that is exposed to excessive heat and all the elements of the weather. This produces wines that have a rancio, madeira, tawny port type character.....but they are unique! They will make a real difference on the Christmas table this year. The Mas Amiel Vintage Red is also fantastic paired with chocolate....one of the few wines that stands up to cocoa.

I love visiting this area of the Roussillon. It is wild and windy with fantastic views of the Pyrenees and also it is easy to make a small detour to the great beaches.......I took the boys to have a run at La Franqui.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Logan Wines

Look at www.loganwines.com.au to see the new label designs for these wines.

One of the frustrating realities of the wine business is that we deal with a physical living juice that usually sits in a heavy glass bottle whilst being transported around the place. As yet you can not fax or email wine (but I am sure it will happen soon!!).
I love the wines from Australia and I have worked for ten years, with a superb dedicated producer www.loganwines.com.au making interesting wines from a slightly lesser known,but up and coming area called Orange in New South Wales. However it takes over two months to ship these stunning wines from Sydney harbour to London docks, and then another frustrating week for the customs and local carriers to deliver to the Bella Wines bonded warehouse.
That's enough ranting......the wines are certainly worth waiting for.......
In the latest shipping container we have received:

Logan Cuvee M 2006 Sparkling £16.75 including vat per bottle.
This is the fizz. Peter Logan made this wine for his late father Mal.....who was certainly a sparkling character! The wine is a classy blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier (the main Champagne grape varieties). 16 months ageing on lees adds an extra richness to a delicious fizz.

Logan Sauvignon Blanc 2008 £10.95
This is a fantastic expression of cool climate wine making. The wine is more grapefruit and passion fruit than zingy nettles and gooseberries, so it is more of a foody wine. But you can indulge on its own too. Peter Logan reckons this is his best Sauv Blanc so far but he would say that.

Logan Hannah Rose 2008 £10.95
Peter Logan makes this wine for his beautiful wife Hannah. A fascinating blend of 80%Shiraz and 20% Pinot Noir. Short (6 hours) skin contact and then delicate handling of the juice has created a very well balanced and pure deep rose wine.

Logan Cabernet Merlot 2005 £12.95
I adore this concentration of cassis flavors on this wine. The deep fruit is in superb balance with the richness of oak ageing. A wine to savour now, but also to lay down for a couple of years.

Logan Shiraz 2006 £12.95
Quality cool style Shiraz benefiting from 16 months ageing in French and Hungarian oak barrels. We have very limited quantities of this wine....so please reserve stock now.

Weemala Pinot Gris 2008
all priced at £8.99 per bottle.
Weemala Riesling 2008
Weemala Gewurztraminer 2008
Weemala Pinot Noir 2007
Weemala Shiraz Viognier 200
This range was created to reflect cool grapes from a cool climate. The aromatic varietals seem to flourish better and show more delicacy in the Orange region. The Riesling has always been fantastic. Peter Logan takes his inspiration from Rheingau German riesling...more concentration on delicate mineral styles ...rather than standard over citrus and petrol style Australian style Riesling. The Pinot Noir is a concentrated cherry style from a drought effected vintage. It is a charming easy wine.

Apple Tree Flat Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008 all priced at £7.50 per bottle
Apple Tree Flat Chardonnay 2006
Apple Tree Flat Shiraz 2006
Apple Tree Flat Merlot 2006
The Logan family have a stunning Cellar Door visitor centre and tasting room in the Mudgee area next to the Apple Tree Flat vineyards. These wines are great value and good easy drinking expressions of the area.

The Logan website is very useful for more detailed tasting notes and technical winemaking background. www.loganwines.com.au
These wines are available through a selection of quality wine merchants in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Please contact us directly at www.bellawines.co.uk for details of the nearest stockist.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Weird Grapes

My neighbours have nearly 30 hectares of near perfect viticultural vines. They work 7 days a week 365 days a year in order to look after the land. They are delightful people, two brothers in their late 50's/early 60's who live in a ramshackle farm house at the top of the hill with their mother(who must be well in to her 90's)!

Their father passed away a few years ago. He was known locally as the 'helicopter man' as he drove around with an open top Citroen 2CV with a large electric fan cooling him down! Sounds like a bit of a character. The family arrived in this area(originally from Spain) with no possessions over 60 years ago. They have grafted all their life and built up their vineyards and never sold anything. They have absolutely no ostentatious trappings of prosperity. They are just very hardworking people who know a lot about the soil, the vines, the winds, the rain, the sun and how to make things grow! ...essentially the most important things in life.
They are old fashioned in their approach to viticulture but they weigh up decisions with 50 years experience rather than the latest fashion.
They pick all their grapes by hand. The picture on the left is the harvest team in full action. I lasted about 15 minutes before I was left behind! They were picking grapes on the vines about 200 metres from our house. I was intrigued to see a mixed block of white and red grapes. Apparently this was the norm 50 years ago when this vineyard was planted. The grapes in the picture on the right (which looked incredibly healthy) are a mix of Listan (white) also known as Palomini Fino and Aramon (red). Look up wikipedia for more info. But these grapes are an essential fabric of the amazing mix of life in the South of France.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Vin de Merde

A Languedoc producer has recently produced a wine and labeled it 'Vin de Merde'.
He has attracted attention...and he has sold all his 5000 bottles that he produced.
Jean Marc Speziale from Aniane near Montpellier said that he wanted to bring attention to the Languedoc and let people be aware of the hidden gems.
I just think he is an idiot. I have had enough of these stupid wine labels. Cats pee on a goosberry bush Sauvignon Blanc was funny initially. Fat Bastard Chardonnay was also OK. Arrogant Frog and Ribet Red have a sense of irony as the wine is produced by a smart and decent quality French wine producer (at least he has a sense of self deprecating humor).
But 'Vin de Merde'.....is just classless and naff. Or am I just an old fuddy duddy?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

This was an intesting article from The Independant Newspaper yesterday:

British wine buffs rediscover taste for claret

By John Lichfield
Monday, 22 September 2008

Sales of claret have soared largely because of the exceptional quality of the 2005 harvest

Getty Images

Sales of claret have soared largely because of the exceptional quality of the 2005 harvest

Britain is rediscovering its 800 years old taste for Bordeaux wines. After a collapse in sales to the UK five years ago, exports of medium and higher quality red Bordeaux, or claret, are booming – defying the economic crisis which haunts other parts of the French wine industry.

Sales of Médoc and Haut Médoc appellation wines – long a British favourite – have more than doubled in quantity in the 12 months to the end of June. Sales of the higher price "village" appellation wines from the same areas have increased by 28 per cent. Overall exports of Bordeaux to Britain, red and white, have increased by 13 per cent in volume in the year to July and by 52 per cent by value – despite a sharp fall in overall wine exports from France to the UK.

What explains the sudden shift in British tastes? Are UK wine-lovers abandoning their flirtation with "New World" and Spanish and Italian wines and returning to their first love, Bordeaux (a taste established when south-west France was English-ruled in the Middle Ages)? Yes and no. The boom reflects a wider recovery in the fortunes of even the cheapest forms of Bordeaux, which were in deep crisis until a year ago. But exports of medium and higher quality red Bordeaux to Britain, and the US, have exploded in the last year largely because of the near-mythical reputation achieved by 2005 claret, regarded as one of the finest years in living memory.

The cheaper forms of red Bordeaux – and all white Bordeaux – have not benefited to the same extent. They have suffered, like many other French wines, from the collapse of sterling and the dollar against the euro. Total exports of cheap and middle-range French wines have tumbled by 15 per cent this year. It is noticeable, however, that other growing regions – such as Languedoc and Côtes du Rhône – have suffered far more than Bordeaux or Burgundy.

"The figures are very encouraging," said Jean-Philippe Code, chief economist of the CIVB, the main trade body for Bordeaux wines. "Britain is one of our most important markets."

Sales of middle-range Bordeaux wines – those which retail in Britain at between £6 and £10 a bottle, and especially those from the Medoc – were "quite exceptional", up 118 per cent. While cheaper Bordeaux did far less well, partly because of the high value of the euro, the highest-quality Médoc, which carries individual village names and sells at £10 to £25 a bottle, also jumped 28 per cent.

M. Code says the boom can be explained in large part by the "2005 effect". That year's Bordeaux vintage, both red and white, but especially the red, is regarded as the finest for many decades. Though it can be kept, middle-range 2005 Bordeaux is now drinkable and has been appearing – and rapidly disappearing – in wine shops and supermarkets in the UK in the past 12 months. The 2006 Bordeaux vintage is also thought to be very good, but 2007 is considered mediocre.

"It is clear that the French, or some of the French, are beginning to get their act together," said Richard Halstead, operations director for the British marketing company, Wine Intelligence.

"The British love affair with French wine has never really ended. There is a large, educated public in Britain for French wines at a good price, especially wines that will keep and prove to be a good investment."

"All is in the lap of the gods," said André de la Bretesche, director of the association of producers of generic Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur.

"The next two weeks are crucial. If we continue to have fine weather, the 2008 red vintage could be marvellous."

Yes....Bella Wines have some superb 2005 Bordeaux wines available.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Inside the monster

This is the inside and outside of a grape harvesting machine. In the pic on the right the side hoppers are normally lower down...it was just being cleaned at the end of the day and the kids thought it looked like a monster. The machine is loud and bulky. The grapes are essentially riddled as they pass through the white bars (that look like whalebones) on the left. The grapes and bunches drop down in to the plastic light brown pouches which then transfer the grapes in to the big side hoppers. When the hoppers are full they are emptied in to a trailer and the grapes are taken to the winery.
More and more machines are being used around the South of France and the traditional pickers are becoming scarce.
Some stats:
1.It takes 8 pickers and two porters/tractor drivers one day to pick one hectare of grapes by hand. The grapes arrive steadily at the winery over the course of the day. The grapes will be in good condition (bunches intact)with very little abrasion. Perfect for making wine. Presuming all 10 workers are earning the basic agricultural minimum wage then this is a costly exercise.
2. It takes one man driving a grape harvest machine and one man driving the tractor with trailer approximately 2-3 hours to pick the same area (one hectare). The grapes arrive much quicker at the winery, however they have been severely shaken/battered.

The advantages of hand picking are obviously the quality of the grapes. However the economic advantage of the grape harvest machine are also significant. The machines have certainly evolved enormously over the last few years and they are less hard on the grapes....but there is still a lot of free run juice arriving with the grapes at the winery, which is not ideal when the winemaker wants to control the fermentation more precisely. The other advantage of the machine is the pure speed. The vineyard owner can be far more precise for harvest and also pick all his grapes at absolute optimum ripeness...whereas a team of pickers take a long time to get around all the vines.
I love tradition but these monster machines seem to be taking over.....this machine cost €70,000. The cost/investment should be justified over a five year period.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Wine Traditions

The harvest has started slowly in the Minervois. After the white grapes were picked there has been a slight lull as the red grapes ripen a bit more. Wine growers just want the acids in the pips and the grapes to ripen a tiny bit more before the main part of the harvest is picked. The roads are all blocked with tractors, trailers and the monster harvest machines as some of the early (softer skin) reds are being picked.
This morning I got in to the office early to get some work done. At 7.30am some friends who work in the winery stopped for their 'breakfast' with their daughter. I was pleased to see that the menu consisted of a baguette, some coarse pate and a bottle of red! Some traditions are superb. It certainly beats a cup of coffee and a bit of toast. At least there were low 'food miles' involved.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Why is always the most expensive wine corked?

I visited customers last week in England and tasted some fantastic wines.
Decisions now have to be made for pre Christmas orders, so it is an important time.
With one wine merchant I set up a tasting of three different vintages of Chateau Haut Maurac, Cru Bourgeois Medoc. It was really interesting to see the 2003 next to the 2004 and then the 2005. These wines will sell at the important price level between £12-£15.
To review:
2003 Ch. Haut Maurac....very smooth evolved, but very well balanced style. Good depth of spicy blackcurrant and creamy oak harmony. Decanter selected this for Septembers Wine of the Month.
2004 Ch. Haut Maurac....more earthy and classic 'old fashioned' style of Bordeaux...similar to Ch. Cissac. No faults just old style and fleshy rather than soft fruits.
2005 Ch. Haut Maurac....very interesting to try again having tasted several times. Still showing exceptionally well. Absolute perfect balance with super intense deep dark mature fruits and evident oak showing its current youthfulness....this will age for another 5-7 years at least.
Then we poured the 'piece de resistance' a Saint Emilion Grand Cru from the 2005 vintage that we were both really looking forward to...it would potentially retail at £27....IT WAS CORKED.
I know that much has been written about natural corks versus plastic corks as well as alternative screw cap closures....but this was really frustrating. Nobody really knows the true statistics for the percentage of corked wines. Maybe it is 1%, but it could be as much as 5%. What other industry would tolerate this level of wastage/spoilage?? My frustrations are financial! I traveled a long way to visit a good customer and allocated a specific time (9am!) to taste an important range of wines. We were both deflated and annoyed that the sample was corked but we both realized that this is an ongoing industry issue. The wine world evolves and has innovative periods...it has certainly evolved from the time when a rag was stuffed into an urn!...but we still need to do something about cork taint, TCA and corked wines.
However the tasting finished on a high note when we tasted the stunning Mas Amiel Mini Maury NV. (in the picture)This is a rich 100% Grenache wine with a blend of red fruits and a hint of mature dark fruits. If anyone likes chocolate! This is THE wine. A must for the Christmas table this year.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Mediterranean Diet

Here it is!!!!!!!!!!!!
A diet consisting of olive oil, grains, fish, fruit and vegetables.....low amounts of meat and dairy and reasonable levels of alcohol are nine per cent less likely to die of heart disease!!!!!!!! Apparently 1.5 million people have been surveyed in order to find this amazing statistic.
More importantly adherents to this diet are 6 % less likely of developing all forms of cancer and the likelihood of being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's is 13% less.
All these stats are from Florence University. We certainly conform to this fresh healthy diet although perhaps I increase the red wine quota from time to time. Well someone's got to look after the 'wine lake'.
As we spend a large part of our time in the South of France we certainly notice the minimal amount of dairy products in the standard diet. It is quite an achievement to find fresh milk locally. However we retain our northern European desire for delicious milk chocolate. Also having a four year old son who survives on Nestle Nesquik powdered chocolate can test the limits.
PS The picture is Max 'guarding' the amazing profiterole wedding cake for Jo and Imogen's great wedding back in June.........it was delicious.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


In the Sunday Times I read that Nicolas Sarkozy is looking at English city centres and especially Croydon in order to plan and develop areas of Paris!!! Bonne chance Monsieur Sarkozy. Maybe he ought to start closer to home. Montpellier is the delightful capital of the Herault department and capital of the Languedoc Roussillon region. It is very clean, it has a fabulous functional tram. It has modern architecture that blends seemlessly with the older styles. It has .....a very good university, a very good medical school, major international business (Dell are one of the largest employers) a clean and efficient airport, a half decent football team, a very good and young rugby team playing in the Top 14 division in a fantastic new stadium (built for the Rugby World Cup last year).And.....Montpellier is c 15 minutes from the beach. It took me 8 minutes from the motorway to get to the centre of town AND find a parking space within 100 metres of my meeting place! I am looking forward to being in London later this week!!!!
The reason for my visit was to explore promotional possibilities for the 'Sud de France' brand with some of the French governmental export associations. It is great that the whole Languedoc Roussillon wine and food area is uniting behind a simple and evocative banner such as Sud de France. Unfortunately the meeting has resulted in loads more work!! But hopefully we shall see a positive result for 2009.
After the meeting it was great to catch up with Matthew Stubbs MW and find out more about his new Vinecole project. We are surrounded by fabulous wine and food in the South of France but two areas that need expanding are wine education and wine tourism. Matthew has just started his wine education school and I plan to visit soon.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Weather update on harvest 2008

Here are some lovely ripe Muscat grapes that were picked and processed on Friday. These grapes will be destined for a light fresh blend..probably with Vermentino, Grenache Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.
We checked out some of the Syrah vineyards that had been hit hard by the hail storm on Thursday evening. The result has been that the grapes were picked yesterday (Saturday) and brought straight in to the winery. The decision being that they are not going to be in good condition if they are left on the vines, so it is best to pick a bit early now and a decent rose wine might be salvaged. It was strange to see the winery in full go at 6.45pm on Saturday evening when most of the French struggle to work a full 5 days most weeks. They had received 30 tonnes of grapes during the day. So this was evidently serious!
We had more rain last night (started at 5.45pm and lasted 90 minutes), but the wind has been a bit stronger and the vines are clearing. Lovely bright and very warm, sunny day on Sunday. The main part of the red grapes will be picked this coming fortnight.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Weather Disaster in the Minervois

Just had a frantic cellar rat charging in to my office!
Apparently last nights storms were far worse than expected. The storms had hail stones...the nightmare of grape growers.
The initial (slightly hysterical and very over dramatic French) reaction is that there has been major hail damage around the village of La Caunette and Minerve. The quote of 'wipe out' and '100% loss' was deciphered through the puffing Frenchman.
This could be serious as some of the top wines for www.lestroisblasons.com are from the hills around La Caunette and Minerve. I will zoom up there later today to find out what is going on....pics to follow.

Purple Cauliflowers and Storms in France

Well, what a weird 24 hours. Sue and I popped in to the Corbieres region yesterday and just needed to grab some fruit and veg for lunch. On entering a small veg shop in a small town you suddenly appreciate the French attitude towards food. I have never seen a veg shop with a selection of 3 different colors of cauliflower. Maybe it is global warming, maybe there is a nuclear plant nearby...I don't know. But it does make eating a bit more fun.

On another important note we had major storms in the Minervois last night. This is a crucial time for the grape growers as the white grapes are being picked and the reds should be started next week. The storm swirled in from the Montagne Noir and after masses of dramatic lightning the heavens opened. The folk down in Narbonne looked to take the brunt of the storm, but we still had a lot of rain over a two hour period. We have certainly needed rain in this area over the last few months and it is not a major issue. The critical period is over the next couple of days. If the humid/damp weather remains there could be a risk of rot in the grapes. If the cleansing vent du nord strikes up then we could be saved. The other key issue is that many of the soils around here have a clay base.....so it is a nightmare maneuvering a tractor with clogged wheels. Think of a swan trying to take off from an icy lake with too heavy wellington boots.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Chateau Monty on TV tonight

This should be an interesting TV program on Channel 4 in the UK tonight. Monty Waldin is a UK journalist, who has been partially living in Italy recently. Monty has been writing for a few years now and he is approaching 40......sounds familiar.
Monty's passion is biodynamics. he has written books and articles on the subject and now he has been commissioned to make a television program. I saw a TV camera chasing Monty around an organic wine tasting in Perpignan earlier this year.....now it all makes sense.
I take my hat off to Monty as he is now putting his knowledge to practical use. The program will show the ups and downs of his adventures working a vineyard in the stunningly beautiful Roussillon area and trying to make a wine following the (slightly weird and cranky) principles of biodynamism. I am regularly visiting Mas Amiel winery, which is virtually next door to Monty's vines (the other side of the village of Maury)so I will be watching tonight.
Look forward to seeing how he gets on.......

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Surge of Rose

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Rose wine seems to be shedding its image as a sweet, unsubstantial summertime tipple if recent sales figures from around the world are anything to go by.

Despite a dreary summer that has had Britons reaching for their umbrellas as often as for their picnic baskets - sales of rose wine have risen by about 30 percent this year, according to the trade magazine Off-Licence News.

One in every ten bottles sold is now pink in color -- that's up from one in twenty bottles just three years ago.

The figures are indicative of a global renaissance for rose, particularly for top end wine whose quality and complexity is fuelling the boom.

In the United States, sales by volume of rose wines priced over $8 a bottle have risen just short of 50 percent in 2008 year according to Nielsen, a market research company.

"Where there used to be a $10 plateau for rose wines they're now all the way up to $50," says Chip Hammack, director of K&L Wine Merchants in Los Angeles.

"They're catching on a lot in the Los Angeles area because a lot of people go to the Cannes Film Festival and they get exposed to really good rose and they come back and look for it," he says.

While the U.S. and UK markets might be more prone to wine fashions the true test of rose's rebirth is in France, where some media reports say sales of rose could outstrip sales of white wine this year and account for one in every five bottles of wine sold.

On the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, near the main rose producing region of Provence, the wine has been a stalwart of the lunch table or the beloved pre-dinner 'apéro' for generations.

But it's the increasing presence of fine roses on sommeliers' lists in chic Paris restaurants, long the exclusive domain of grand French reds and whites, which underlines how far rose has come.

"There's a real change in the thinking about rose. It used to be for the barbecue or on the 'terrasse' or for holidays and festivals in the sun," says Virginie Morvan, purchasing manager at Chez Lavinia, a stylish eatery in central Paris.

"But now, wine growers are investing in making wine that can be drunk at the table, even with meat, and these are wines that are full-bodied," she says.


That's right - even with meat!

This new view of rose, particularly with young drinkers who are bucking historical consumption trends by drinking far less wine than their forebears, is a boost to French winemakers battling climate change, currency fluctuations and rising costs of production.

However, there is a concern that, just like in the 1970s when sweet, blush wines had their moment before fading into obscurity, the current rose success story will be a passing fad.

Jean Jacques Breban, President of the Interprofessional Council of Provence Wines, said the aim was to make good quality, affordable wine.

"On the one hand we must continue to improve the product - I think that's the most important. On the other hand, we must keep our feet on the ground and we must keep it reasonable when it comes to the price," says Breban.

The improvements in the product in the last twenty years have been immense.

Alain Combard, the owner of the rose producing vineyards at Domaine Saint Andre de Figuiere in Provence, admits there once was a time when rose wine often was simply surplus red wine and white wine mixed together.

Now, he says, the skill and attention that goes in to making rose has become an art form equal to the making of a classic red or white.

Red wine grapes are pressed and the skins and seeds are left to interact with the juice for just the right amount of time, usually a few hours, to give off color but not the deep tannins of a full red wine.

"A good rose is fruity but with some depth. It's a wine where once you have a glass you say to yourself 'why not another?' It's a wine that gives great pleasure," says Combard.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Back to School...Will anyone drink wine again?

Kids are back to school, Summer is gradually drawing to a close. Although it is still very hot during the day the mornings are a bit fresh. The grapes are ripening and tractors and harvest machines are at the ready for the imminent harvest.
The only thing to concern us is the global financial market. When everyone seems to be economizing and cutting back on expenditure........will anyone drink wine again?????????
A couple of quotes from Winston Churchill

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

and specifically regarding wine supplied by Bella Wines!

"I am easily satisfied with the very best."

Friday, 29 August 2008

Award Winning red wine from South Africa

The 2004 Somerbosch Cabernet Sauvignon is just about ready to be enjoyed now. This wine had an amazing intensity when tasted in 2006, which has now calmed and mellowed into a beautiful rounded elegant red wine. Matured in mainly French oak barrels, so that tight rich full style of toasty oak is now in perfect harmony with the intense spicy cassis ripe fruit. This wine is sensational with roast lamb or richer meats as well as a strong cheese. Awarded a GOLD MEDAL at the Michelangelo Wine Awards in South Africa. The winery has now sold out in Stellenbosch, so we have the last few cases remaining in the UK. A great deal at £99 per case including vat. Send orders direct to: sales@bellawines.co.uk

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Chateau La Grave Harvest starts

Just heard that Chateau La Gravehttp://www.chateau-la-grave.net/ at Badens have started their harvest last night. They pick their white grapes...mainly Sauvignon Blanc during the night and very early morning, when the temperature is much cooler. The grapes will arrive in pristine condition at the winery.

Chateau La Grave is unusual in the Minervois area to have so many white grapes planted. They seem to benefit from the very cool breezes that come down from the North passed the city of Carcassonne. Their wines are always very clean and cool with delicate flavours. Look forward to tasting them later this year after fermentation or early next year.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Domaine Les Eminades Cebenna 2005

Colour: Intense, opaque deep garnet red.
Nose: Intense, spicy, mature, ripe, dark, brooding, serious, rich, mocha, alcohol intensity evident.
Palate: Deep, ripe, intense layers and layers of clean dark damsons and dark mature fruits.
After: A long smooth slightly smoky finish. Balanced tannins. This wine will develop further but is excellent now (with a bit of air in a decanter?)

Cebenna is the best wine produced at this very small and very hands on wine estate run by the passionate husband and wife team of Luc and Patricia Bettoni. They have small parcels of ancient Grenache, Carignan and Syrah vines scattered around the St. Chinian hills. Their enthusiasm is enormous, their dedication is charming. They are converting to total organic certified viticulture (however they have been practising organic principles for many years.) Certainly a wine estate to watch for the future.
I had to stop cycling this morning to take this snap. Sometimes the natural environment confounds you. 5 minutes later the sun was shining and the lights were on! The camera says 6.02am..but I can confirm that it was 7.02am in France. This picture is looking East (as we are northern hemisphere!) towards the rocky outcrop of La Clape and the coast beyond. The mediterranean sea is about 30 km as the crow flies. Summer is drawing to a gradual close.

Monday, 25 August 2008

A cloud! Harvest starts soon.

Max took this picture last night. I think this was the first cloud that we saw all day! Fantastic weather with a cleansing vent du nord.
Lots of clearing up work in the vineyards all weekend.
The harvest here in the Languedoc will start soon (some whites are gradually being picked). Lots of grape analysis and chin rubbing and general decision making will take place over the next month. Although the lack of water is an ongoing problem and there are rumblings that this will reduce the quantity significantly, the omens are looking good.

Bordeaux saves France

I found this interesting article written by Sophie Kevany recently.

International sales of the exceptional Bordeaux 2005 vintage have saved French wine export figures for the first half of 2008. Figures released last week, for the period January to June 2008, show a fall in French wine export volumes of 8.72%, but an almost equivalent rise in value of 8.16%, compared to the same period in 2007.

Broken down by wine category the figures, compiled by France’s national agency for export development, Ubifrance, show a clear drop in exports of cheaper wines, and a rise in demand for more pricey ones.

Exports volumes of lower category vin de table wines for the period fell by 35.65%, and value by 19.53%. Exports from the more expensive Bordeaux region on the other hand fell by 1.52% in volume, but rose by a significant 42.5% in value.

Hervé Henrotte of Ubifrance said the significant rise in Bordeaux values was partly explained by sales of the exceptional 2005 vintage, now being delivered to retailers and consumers.

However, the overall export trend, Henrotte said, was away from simpler, cheaper wines and towards higher priced, more sophisticated ones.

“In America and the UK people are moving away from varietal wines and towards more complex ones, particularly the young, urban drinkers,” he said. “They are not buying a food product, they are buying a moment of pleasure.”

Henrotte also said the dive in volume and value of the cheaper wine exports was partly a correction on last year. “During much of 2007 exports [of these wines] rose significantly during the ban in Russia on imports of wine from Moldova,” he said.

However, the high value of the euro against both the dollar and sterling also played a role he said, as well as the fact that at this lower level, there was a lot more competition from other wine making countries, and consumers were more price conscious.

Cabernet Franc is rarely seen on a label alone. It is normally blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for classic Bordeaux blends, or made as superb wines in the Loire region.
However this little beauty comes from an historically fascinating wine estate on the outskirts of Beziers in the South of France....Baronnie de Bourgade. The wine estate was owned by Baron Gilles de Latude and his English wife Ruth Parker until very recently. Gilles and Ruth have now sold up and are enjoying themselves on a 'Grand Tour' of France. They worked relentlessly to develop their original and stylish label 'Les 3 Poules'. They were extremely successful with this wine, winning international acclaim and trophies, awards etc. But sometimes the energy exerted in growing grapes and producing wine....let alone the marketing/traveling and eventual sales are too much vis a vis the financial return.
I wish Gilles and Ruth good luck, and will closely monitor the future wines from this property under the new ownership.
The Cabernet Franc here was from the 2005 vintage. It has a superb deep spicy nose with ripe autumn fruit balanced with a classic Cab. Franc cut capsicum earthy character. No oak aging for this wine, so the palate is pure fruit with a grip from fruit tannins rather than heavy wood. A clean and well balanced wine for early drinking rather than long cellaring. A universal food match wine, but lovely with barbecue meats and cheese.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Wine made by women for women

This is an interesting new wine competition.
Apparently more than 70% of wine purchased is by women.
This competition is for wines made by women and judged by women.
So Melanie, the winemaker at Cave Les Trois Blasons www.lestroisblasons.com entered two of her latest wines.
And bingo....
Element Syrah Cabernet 2007 16/20
Element Merlot Grenache 2007 14.83/20
I noticed from the website that the chair of the judges was a lady called Laetitia Bléger, France Beauty Queen 2004, the daughter of a wine grower from Alsace.
This is all great. However the person who seemed to have created the competition was called ....Didier!