Month: May 2015

English Wine Week

If someone had suggested 20 years ago, that English Wine would be celebrated – you may well have thought they’d had one too many. However, English Wine Week has arrived and there’s a lot to celebrate!

The English and Welsh Wine industry has steadily been growing in both size and reputation. There are over 470 vineyards and 135 wineries in England and Wales producing both sparkling and still wines. In 2013, around 1,880 hectares of land were devoted to the growing of vines (the equivalent of 2,645 full size football pitches) producing 4.5 million bottles of wine (enough to fill the London Aquarium 3 times).

The UK wine industry is now recognised as a premium wine-producing region. English Sparkling Wines won three trophies and 14 Gold awards at the 2015 International Wine Awards.

Furthermore, a number of English and Welsh wines now boast EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographic Indication (PDI) status. These labels indicate that the product possess certain qualities or enjoys a certain reputation due to its geographical origin, such as Melton Mowbray pork pies. Wines carrying these special labels have passed certain taste and analytical parameters. The producers must also prove the geographical origins of the grapes. PDO wines comply with more stringent rules on the origin of their grapes than PGI wines.

English Wine Week runs between 23rd May and 31st May 2015. The English Wine Producers are organising a whole host of events to celebrate everything about English Wine. For more information and to join in the celebrations, see here!

Image courtesy of English Wine Producers.

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Springfield Model 1855 Musket

How The Musket Made Wine Bottles Possible

Muskets and wine bottles may not have much in common at first glance… but when a musket jams then the two become far more similar…

Before the invention of the modern glass wine bottle, wine used to be stored in clay pots called amphora or in wooden barrels. Glass bottles could be made by heating silica sand but they were very thin and were not robust enough to survive transportation. Furnaces could not heat silica sand to sufficiently high temperature and in large enough quantities to economically produce a thicker glass bottle.

In the 17th century, the British invention of the coke-powered furnace solved this problem. Larger furnaces could be built to make enough glass at sufficiently high temperatures to mass produce glass bottles. By the 18th century glass blowing factories were turning our millions of narrow necked glass bottles a year. These bottles were all different sizes, roughly equivalent in size to the lung capacity of the glass blower, around 700ml to 800ml, made with a single blow.

Wine bottles were now robust enough to survive transportation but they needed to be stoppered. Another British innovation saw the use of stoppers made from the bark of the Quercus Suber tree, a species of Oak native to Spain and Portugal. These trees, now commonly known as cork trees, grow a thick bark from which cork is produced. Ingeniously, once the bark is harvested the tree simply regrows it.

So where do muskets come in? This firearm evolved as a handheld version of the cannon. It became the primary infantry weapon of the 18th and 19th centuries. Muskets were loaded with lead ammunition packed into the barrel by a long steel tool called a ramrod. After numerous shots the barrel would become lined with deposits and prone to jamming. The primary way to remove a jammed musket ball was to use a bulletscrew or gun worme. These resemble a modern corkscrew which could be attached to the ramrod and then screwed into the musket ball to pull it out.

Presumably, when soldiers did not have sabres to hand they used their gun wormes to remove corks from bottles. The rest is history.

Nobody really knows who invented the corkscrew. However, the first corkscrew patent was Patent No 2061 granted to Reverend Samuel Henshall, Princes Street, Parish of Christchurch, Middlesex, on August 24, 1795. His design featured a disc called a Henshall button, fixed to the base of the screw to prevent it going too far into the cork. The disc was concave to compress the cork, preventing it from breaking apart. Once the screw was fully inserted the disc gripped the top of the cork to help break the adhesion of the cork to the bottle. Henshall clearly didn’t invent the corkscrew, but his design was successful enough to be used for a hundred years.

So there you have it. The next time you use a cork screw be thankful that you are pulling the cork out of a bottle, not a jammed musket ball out of a musket!

Image is “Springfield Model 1855 – AM.030363” by Armémuseum (The Swedish Army Museum) – Armémuseum (The Swedish Army Museum) through the Digital Museum (http://www.digitaltmuseum.se). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Deutz Rose Champagne, perfect for a celebration with fizz!

It’s a girl!

The birth of a new baby is always a wonderful excuse for a celebration – and the birth of a new princess is certainly no exception!

In the days since the birth of Princess Charlotte a number of companys have joined in the celebrations with special creations and giveaways. From a chocolate pram made by Cadbury to free entry to theme parks, the celebrations look set to continue. Lucky girls named Charlotte can even enjoy a free glass of house wine at Bierkeller, Manchester on Friday and Saturday.

Despite not being legally entitled to drink alcohol for more than 17 years, the new princess has even had a cocktail created in her honour. Visitors to Tiger Hornsby in Newcastle will be able to buy a special blend of Veuve Cliquot Champagne, Bitter Truth Elderflower Liqueur and pomegranate syrup.

Souvenir hunters will be on the hunt for unusual memorabilia. For Rioja lovers, the focus will be on vintages from this year. In 1982, the year both Kate Middleton and Prince William were born, the Rioja vintage was rated excellent. Here’s hoping the 2015 can live up to expectations, but we’ll just have to wait to find out.

And this is just to celebrate the birth. Just as with Prince George, we’re sure that Charlotte will be inundated with gifts at her christening. Our personal top pick would be a bottle of vintage port which can be saved to enjoy on her 18th birthday.

In the meantime though, we simply propose to toast our newest princess with a glass of Deutz rose champagne! Perfect for princesses everywhere (royal or otherwise).