Month: January 2015

Beer Sales Rise But Is Wine Now The Nation’s Favourite?

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has done a phenomenal job. Since the 1970s they have tirelessly campaigned for Real Ale, with a membership of well over 150,000 people making it the largest single-issue consumer group in the UK.

Unfortunately, their great work has not stemmed the flow of pub closures and declining sales. Since the start of the 1980s the number of pubs in the UK has declined by 29% and in the last fifteen years annual sales have dropped 23% according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

So it was with some justifiable cheer the BBPA reported last year that sales of beer had increased 1.3%, the first rise since 2006.

This positive news for beer is now being overshadowed by a survey conducted by YouGov and Populus. Of the 4,000 people surveyed around 60% declared wine to be their preferred alcoholic drink.

The FT quoted Matthew Jukes, an influential UK wine critic, as saying:

“This polling finally dispels the myth that wine is elitist. It is the most popular alcoholic drink in the UK, which makes the fact that it is so highly taxed a complete anomaly”

His comments reference the fact that for a £5 bottle of still wine, £2.88 (57.7%) of this is tax (duty and VAT). The last time duty on wine was reduced was 1984, when it was cut from £1.13 to 90.5 pence. In the 30 years since that cut duty has more than doubled to £2.05 (127% increase).

Perhaps this poll is not enough for the wine industry to claim they now produce the UK’s most popular alcoholic beverage. However, anyone believing that wine drinkers in the UK are generally middle class is probably now clinging to an outdated stereotype.

Get in touch and let us know whether or not you think wine is now The Nation’s favourite.

Image is “Red Wine and Bokeh” by Bas Leenders is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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World’s Oldest Wine In A Barrel Is Rehoused… Again

Lying in the Cave Historique des Hospices de Strasbourg in France is a very old wine. It is an Alsatian white wine made 20 years before Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos de la Frontera in Southern Spain to explore the Americas.

Having been around for more than half a millennia it’s not surprising that the barrel it was originally housed in failed and was replaced in 1718. After it was discovered that the newer barrel was leaking last April (2014) the wine was transferred to a steel vat whilst a new barrel was made to house it. Apparently, this week the wine was transferred to the new barrel built by people from the Radoux cooperage in France.

Incredibly this wine has only been tasted four times.

The first was in 1576 to celebrate an unlikely alliance between Strasbourg and Zürich, Switzerland. Strasbourg doubted that Zurich, around 150 miles away, would be a useful partner. The Swiss overcame French doubts by bringing porridge to them in under a day. This is now celebrated in the Hirsebreifahrt, or millet porridge trip, every ten years.

The second was in 1718 to celebrate the laying of the first stone of what would become Strasbourg’s first public hospital.

The third was during the Second World War. On 23rd November 1944 General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque led the 2nd French Armoured Division in liberating Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, from German occupation.

Finally, in 1994 tests were conducted by the department in charge of policing products and preventing fraud, the Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF). Seemingly they also tasted it as apart from remarking that the wine has an ABV of 9.4% they also said:

“the old thing has maintained an astonishing sprightliness… a powerful, very fine aroma.”

This is a pretty remarkable story… a little too remarkable… whilst researching I noted that Philippe Junger, in charge of the cellars, said in 2003 in an article from Jancis Robinson:

“About one percent of the volume evaporates each year, it’s the angels’ share, so we add a bottle of dry white wine every three months.”

Being the wine geeks that we are, it seemed to us that if this was the case then probably not much of the original wine would now be left. Using our rusty maths the Charles Rose Wines team reckons that in fact less than 1% of the original wine would now be present.

Can we really still call this a 1472 vintage? Junger also said:

“… in this barrel there is dry matter from at least 300 litres of 1472 wine, so it remains a 1472 vintage.”

Perhaps for such a historically significant wine we can just give it the benefit of the doubt.

Image is by Marylou Jean (photo), Alchemica (sorting, storing), TroisiemeLigne (comments, localization) (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Britons To Spend More On Wine Than The French

Since the credit crunch of 2008 we might be drinking less in Blighty but that hasn’t stopped the value of the UK wine market increasing by 15% to around £10.6 billion in 2014.

At this point, you could rightly conclude that if we are drinking less wine but spending more then its because of tax.

Tax on wine has gone up considerably in the UK since 2008, by almost 60% (£1.56 to £2.47 inc. VAT). Thats quite a lot, and the third highest in Europe behind Ireland and Finland (they have VAT at 23% and 24% respectively!) In France you’d pay just 3 pence in duty on a bottle of wine… sigh…

However, its not just tax, our spending habits have changed. Apparently the biggest growth is in the premium wines area for bottles costing between £7 and £14.

So we are drinking less but prepared to spend more to get a better product. If we continue to do that then by 2018 we will be spending £11.3 billion a year according to forecasts by Vinexpo, and we will have displaced France as the world’s second biggest still wine market. The US is the biggest and currently bigger than the French and British markets combined.

Full story in the FT.

A Wine For The Pregnant?

Alcohol-free wines are a mixed bunch. So when we noticed this article titled “There’s now a ‘wine’ for pregnant women” we were naturally curious.

9Months is a company based in Carolina in the US. It is essentially bottling South Australian grape juice and adding carbonation to produce a sparkling… err… let’s call it juice, as wine is usually defined as an alcoholic drink.

The grapes are immediately frozen after picking to prevent fermentation. It’s intended to be a premium product priced at $16.50.

On the surface this seems like a great idea. Take grapes that would have been used for wine, don’t let them ferment, turn them into a wine-like drink but without the alcohol. Hey presto, a wine alternative for people who don’t drink and for expecting mothers.

It’s a fantastic idea, so good in fact that it’s already been done, by Shloer of course. We have lots of friends that don’t drink either through choice or according to religious beliefs. Accordingly, when the Charles Rose Wines team is entertaining, we serve a variety of soft drinks including Shloer.

Shloer is named after Jules Shloer who supposedly invented the original recipe, and much to our surprise, it seems this seemingly ubiquitous beverage never made it out of the UK to the US.

All this means that if you want a sparkling grape juice drink, then in the UK you can get one for £2, but an equivalent, albeit perhaps higher quality version in the US will cost you a tenner.

Surely the US already has grape juice drinks? Surely? Anyone?

We’ll stop now before we sound like a Shloer marketing partner! Image is of our sole remaining bottle purchased (not given to us by Shloer before you ask) some time ago at a popular supermarket.

Forget About White Wine Sending Women Loopy! Does It Even Actually Exist?

Does white wine send women loopy? Does it even exist? It’s not an existential question, this is a wine blog after all!

The commonly held belief is that red and white wine grapes are fundamentally different because white wine grapes lack the pigment that turns red wine grapes red.

However, an article in New Scientist seems to refute this. It turns out that white wine grapes do contain the same pigments in red wine grapes, anthocyanins, just in far lower concentrations.

This explains why some bottles that are intended to be white wine, can actually come out with a tint of rosé.

So, if white wine grapes are just red wine grapes with lower concentrations of anthocyanins, do we really only have red wine grapes? Do we only really have wine grapes? Does white wine even exist?! Thats as much pondering on that subject as we are prepared to do.

Turning to the bigger story of late, the Daily Mail’s story that white wine turns women crazy! The Telegraph has a more balanced approach, as you might expect, to addressing this particular urban legend.

Decide for yourself, but know this, if white wine does send you (or anyone you know regardless of gender) crazy then its highly probable red wine would also have the same effect!

Image is “White Wine” by Quinn Dombrowski is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Rioja Classifications: know Your Reserva From Your Crianza

Here at Charles Rose Wines we love Rioja. There a few different types when classified by age.

If you have ever wondered about the difference between Reserva and Crianza then let us fill you in!

Oak

There are four classifications of Rioja. The differences centre on how long they have been left to age in oak.

It is impossible to talk about Rioja without mentioning oak.

Oak has been a part of Rioja production for around three centuries and is key in producing a Rioja’s hallmark vanilla flavours.

Originally it was French oak barrels which were used. Increasingly, American oak is now a popular alternative. Many producers use both. How many oak barrels might a winery own? Probably around 10,000… at least!

So, the four classifications of Rioja are as follows.

Rioja

Wines labelled as simply ‘Rioja’ have spent less than a year in an oak ageing barrel.

Crianza

Red wines must have been aged for a minimum of two years.

White and rosé wines must have been aged for at least a year.

For all three types a minimum of six months must be spent ageing in oak.

Reserva

Red wines must have been aged for a minimum of three years with at least a year in oak.

White and rosé wines must have been aged for at least two years with a minimum of six months in oak.

Gran Reserva

Red wines require a minimum of five years of ageing with at least 18 months in oak.

White and rosé wines require at least four years of ageing with a minimum off six months in the bottle.

What do we stock?

We carry our favourite Rioja, a Beronia Rioja Reserva because we believe it is offers the best balance between taste and price. This particular wine is aged in French and American oak for 20 months with a further 18 months in the bottle.

If you have a favourite Rioja then let us know! Get in contact by email or leave a comment.

Smoking Bishop: A Great Way To Use Up Leftover Port

Christmas and New Year are now but a distant memory… but you’ve still got some Port left. If at this point you are thinking:

“No I haven’t, I drank it all”

then you can skim read the rest of this post!

If by some miracle you do have some port left, here is a great idea on how to use it up.

Smoking Bishop

If you’ve never seen a Smoking Bishop then the good news is you can make one with relatively few ingredients. It’s basically a mulled wine recipe using Port, red wine and some spices.

Whilst researching this recipe I was surprised to learn that it was mentioned in arguably the first cookbook written for ordinary people. Eliza Acton, an English poet and cook, wrote Modern Cookery for Private Families which was published in 1845. Apparently, the cookbook set the standard for listing ingredients and suggesting cooking times for each recipe. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was apparently inspired by it.

Eliza’s recipe is a bit elaborate, for example saying:

Boil one bottle of port wine, burn a portion of the spirit out of it by applying a lighted paper to the saucepan…

At that point the thought of using a whole bottle and possibly losing our eyebrows turned us off this recipe, so here is the one we made instead.

Ingredients

  • 150ml of Port – we used Ruby but any will do
  • 150ml of red wine – we used Rioja, buy again any will do
  • 100ml of orange juice – we used fresh, smooth without bits, use your judgment!
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 medium sized orange
  • some whole cloves

Optional (if you have it)

  • 1 pinch of allspice
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 pinch of ginger

Putting it together

Cut the orange into quarters then cut the quarters in half or into three to make eight or twelves wedges. Stud each of the wedges with three or four cloves.

Put all the ingredients together in a saucepan on a low heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. This should allow the honey to dissolve and the spices to infuse. Ladle into heat proof glasses and you’re done!

(Note, push those cloves in, ours all fell out in the pan!)

Get Some Sunblock On Your Grapes

When it comes to dealing with extreme climate Australia must surely be one of the most experienced and resourceful countries in the world.

2014 was Australia’s third hottest on record, and the ten hottest years have all occurred in the last 13 years according to The Conversation.

Extreme heat is bad news for grapes, if the temperature is too high they suffer a similar fate to people, heat stress. Grapes get dehydrated and sunburnt. Countering dehydration is a simple matter of adding more water, assuming you have it. However, how do you stop a grape getting sunburn? Simple, sunblock of course!

If you find this surprising you might also be surprised to know that similar products are being tested on fruit and vegetables in countries around the world to prevent heat stress.

On the surface this might seem like a waste of time and resources but heat stress for fruit and vegetables is a major problem. Plants sweat in a similar way to people, water is secreted through pores in the plant as part of photosynthesis, in a process called transpiration. As this water evaporates it helps to cool the plant.

However, just as with people, as the ambient temperature rises, so does the amount of water a person, or a plant, needs.

So, before you scoff at sunblock for Syrah, consider that it might help reduce the amount of water required by fruit and vegetable growers, which can only be a good thing.

Full story at The BBC.

Image is “Hunter panorama-1b-web-l” by Mfunnell at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:JohnnyMrNinja using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Benefits Of “Mushroom Management” For Wine

Mushroom Management is the last thing any organisation wants to be accused of practicing. However, being kept in the dark is great if you are a wine. For wine, light damage is a very real threat.

Premium wines, that are intended to be stored, are usually contained in tinted or coloured bottles. Darker coloured glass prevents light in the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum from breaking down elements of the wine that are desirable. Wines that are intended to be consumed soon after bottling often go into clear glass bottles. After all, hopefully they won’t be around long enough to get light damaged!

Shockingly, the group that produce the Wotwine app are claiming that over a third of the wines stored in clear glass bottles, from some 6,000 wines they sampled in the last two years, had suffered light damage.

Remarkably, they also claimed that around 4% of the wine they purchased from supermarkets was light damaged. If true that would be far more prevalent than cork taint, which is thought to only affect around 1% of bottles.

Their reasonable theory is that the fluorescent lighting prevalent in supermarkets often is of a wavelength close to UV, and hence may damage wine within a few hours of it being on the shelf.

Their advice is to pick up a bottle from within the wine aisle and to avoid bottles on aisle ends as these are more likely to be light damaged.

Of course, once you have purchased your wine, no matter where you got it, keep it a cool dark place until you are ready to drink it.

Full story in Harpers.

Image by Philip Larson (originally posted to Flickr as DSC02022) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Why do we celebrate with Champagne?

From the smashing of a bottle to launch a ship, the popping of corks at New Year or a wedding, or the spraying from the winners podium of a formula 1 race, champagne is the celebratory drink of choice.

But why do we celebrate with Champagne?

Following the development of sparkling wine in the Sixteenth century in the Languedoc region of France, it seems that Champagne was first produced in the Champagne region in the Eighteenth century. However, it was initially referred to as “the devil’s wine”, due to it’s propensity to explode or pop it’s cork thanks to pressure in the bottle.

Over time and thanks to the work of people such as Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin and Andre Francois, Champagne production became more stable and the taste refined.

Despite that initial stigma, Champagne has long been associated with the anointing of French Kings and was fashionable at the Court of Henry IV.

While royal favour did much to encourage patronisation amongst the nobility, it was in the 19th century and the increasing rise of the middle classes, that Champagne took hold as the sign of celebration. As the new merchant classes rose in number and wealth, so did the purchase of Champagne. While merchants could not afford to drink Champagne every day, they would purchase bottles for special occasions.

So let’s raise a glass in celebration of celebrating with Champagne!

Interested in trying some? We’d love it if you glanced at our range of Champagne!

Image is “Champagne” by Jon Sullivan/PDPhoto.org – http://pdphoto.org/PictureDetail.php?mat=pdef&pg=8346. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.