Is wine the new rock 'n' roll (again)?

Christmas catalogues are upon us again, and in browsing through the ones for clothing, I notice that the color they used to  call “Burgundy” is now known as “Malbec”—no kidding. Congratulations, Argentina, you’re arrived. Sort of.
          Also in the news, Decanter reports that hip-hop artist Jay Z has bought a substantial stake in Armand de Brignac Champagne (price per bottle: £210 in the UK or $299 in the US, though of course that could change now). The performer has referred to the wine in his music in the past. Other rappers are referencing other Champagnes in their music, and are reportedly interested in also buying in. Bling alert?

English wine: More good news

Good news about English wine keeps coming in, beginning with optimistic reports from several vineyards about the high quality of the harvest. . .
       This summer I visited Steven Spurrier and his wife Bella in Dorset, coincidentally on the day Steven was going over to Furleigh Estate to taste the final blend of his and Bella’s Bride Valley sparkling wine, which had been resting there in bottle for more than a year, while undergoing secondary fermentation. I was happy to go along. (Here they are afterward, contented.)
I’d never been to the winery, which has a tasting room that would rival anything in the Napa Valley, as well as lovely wines. I can say the same for Steven and Bella’s—freshness and elegance were the words that came immediately to mind. Afterward, we walked through the Bride Valley vineyard with Bella, quite relaxed now in her role as vigneronne after a couple of good harvests in a row; the view of their village below, and their house, was postcard-perfect. The wine will be released soon.
       Another notable sparkler is from Davenport, a winery in East Sussex, which I encountered on the wine list at Fera, in Claridge’s—bracing and delicious. It’s also made from organically farmed grapes. Will Davenport took the organic plunge just over 10 years ago, and it’s paid off. For example, his Horsmonden Dry White (named for the vineyard in Kent where the grapes are grown) just won the well-established (28 years!) and prestigious Soil Association Organic Award.
       Finally, London Cru, a winery based in London that makes wine from grapes purchased in various countries (but which isn’t allowed by the Food Standards Agency to say which countries or even which grape varieties on their labels), has made their first buy of English grapes, 3,000 kilograms of Bacchus from Sandhurst Vineyards in Kent. “This is the year to do it,” said winemaker Gavin Monery. As the grapes are local, the wine should be allowed to be labeled with locality and variety.

Just sayin' . . .

“Aromas of peach, oatmeal, subtle notes of charred peat, seasoned by complex lees derived characters, with flashes of matchstick, zesty orange rind and ginger deftly laced with complex seasoned oak. . . “  That’s an actual tasting note for a wine, though it’s edited down from the original, which was even longer (and sillier). Somehow, back in the 1980s, wine writers decided that stripped-down descriptions of wines wouldn’t do any more, maybe because they were looking to make their work more distinctive. So, what winemaker John Parducci once called “fruit-salad tasting notes” began appearing. They continue, despite much deserved derision, in some places. Now, supermarket chain Tesco has announced they will start using descriptions from consumers who have attended a special tasting of their new range; I was thinking it could be a good idea until I got to the end of the announcement, which noted that wine bloggers would also be included in the trials. Oh well. . .

English wine harvest 2014 looking good


Furleigh Estate, in West Dorset, is expecting its best-ever harvest this autumn, anticipated to be twice as large as the previous record yield, in 2010, as a result of two consecutive years of great summer weather, which enabled vines to thrive. Rebecca Hansford, owner of Furleigh Estate, said: “We are so excited about this year’s bumper harvest. A dry Glastonbury Festival and a warm Wimbledon are usually reliable indicators that the grape harvest is going to be good, so we’ve had high hopes. We are so fortunate that the English climate has been kind to the vines this season!”  I called around, and several other English winemakers said the same thing, so this could be the break-out year. (By the way, Furleigh Estate is where Steven Spurrier’s new sparkling wine, Bride Valley, was made. I visited the estate this summer and tasted the wine, which was quite impressive; more on that very soon.
copyright 2010-2015 by Brian St. Pierre