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Your guide to what’s happening in the world of wine. Edited by Julie Sheppard
Most port houses have moved to declare 2007 as a vintage port year – the first widely declared vintage since 2003. A cooler than normal summer growing season in 2007 ended with a warm and sunny September, allowing the grapes to reach perfect ripeness, despite lower than normal yields in the Douro Valley.
The cooler summer temperatures have created a distinctive vintage characterised by precise fruit, as well as unusually high levels of acidity and freshness. ‘It is a vintage that shows elegance and poise, backed with impressive structure and excellent balance,’ said Adrian Bridge, MD of The Fladgate Partnership, owner of Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft.
Quantities of vintage port will be smaller than usual – in the case of Fladgate, the smallest since 1992 – but houses are trying to keep a lid on prices despite the punitive exchange rate with the euro.Early highlights include Taylor’s, which exhibits a fleshy character with luscious fruit, great breadth and understated power, and Quinta do Vesuvio, tight and brooding on the nose, but showing inky, intense fruit undercut by the heady aroma of violets. Report by Richard Woodard
Just in time for summer, Franco’s, on Jermyn Street, has launched what it claims is the UK’s largest rosé wine list. Featuring 50 wines from 11 countries, the list majors on Italy – as you’d expect from an Italian restaurant – but also takes in pinks from Spain, Chile, Australia and South Africa among others.
Highlights include the Kim Crawford Pansy Rosé 2009 from New Zealand, with juicy watermelon fruit and Château Kefraya La Rosée du Château made from Cinsault grown in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Bottle prices range from £16 to £59 for the elegant Provence rosé Château de Selle ‘Coeur de Grain’ 2007 from Domaines Ott. Franco’s Restaurant & Bar, 61 Jermyn Street, SW1Y 6LX; 020 7499 2211
To prove that it can be fun and easy to match wines with different foods, Aussie wine brand Cape Mentelle has teamed up with L’atelier des Chefs in London to run a series of ‘Wine Kitchen’ evening classes for aspiring cooks. In each session a chef will give instructions to help you prepare a three-course meal, before a wine expert guides you through a tasting to match different wines with the food you have prepared.
Each session costs £72 and the next events will be taking place on 9 July and 10 September. For more information or to register for the classes visit www.atelierdeschefs.co.uk
It’s the dawn of a new era for iconic French wine region Burgundy, as the Burgundy Wine Board (BIVB) and technical wine-growing association of Burgundy (ATVB) have joined forces to persuade 50 wine estates to embrace biodiversity on a significant scale for the first time.
The aim is to maintain the viability of Burgundy’s unique terroir in the face of future climate change and preserve the unique characteristics of Burgundy grapes. The 10-year project will involve identifying and selecting seedlings from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay and Aligoté vines, which will then be cloned to create a library of vines. As many as 3,000 vines could be conserved in this way.
‘Biodiversity is concerned with assuring the durability of Burgundy’s wine production as well as its diversity,’ said Jean-Philippe Gervais, director of the Technique and Quality Centre of the BIVB. ‘In Burgundy we are lucky to have the Pinot Noir grape, which possesses a sort of “polymorphism”, meaning that for the same grape there are several individual genetic structures with slight differences between them. We have to preserve this genetic diversity by collecting, stocking and characterising several hundred groups of clones. We can then, if necessary, draw from these collections to ensure Burgundy
The launch of a new service this summer is poised to take the concept of wine consultancy to a stratospheric level when sommelier Philippe Messy (above), along with a clutch of award-winning colleagues, officially unveils Sarment.
It aims to become the world’s first dedicated personal sommelier service to the super-rich, with a membership-based, invite-only club of such exclusivity that only 75 people will at first be admitted. Each Sarment member will be assigned a personal sommelier who will be on hand 24/7 to take care of any and every vinous need, from advice on stocking a cellar and investing in wine, to tasting tuition and ordering ahead from the wine list in a restaurant on the other side of the world.
Gearoid Devaney (ex-Tom Aikens), Christopher Delalonde (ex-The Square) and Sébastien Chevalier (ex-Amber in Hong Kong) will be consulting alongside Messy (ex-L’Etranger). And the price of membership to this blue-chip wine club? If you have to ask, you can guarantee you’ll never be invited to join. Report by Andrew Catchpole
A London wine shop has taken action to reduce its carbon footprint by offering customers wine direct from the barrel. Wine of Course in Highgate encourages punters to bring in their own empty bottles, to be filled with French red or white for £8.50 per bottle – about £5 less than the same wine would cost ready-bottled. The initiative cuts down on fuel consumption and emissions from transporting glass bottles. What’s more, the wine on offer is ‘natural wine’ – made without chemicals and low in sulphites. So it’s good for you, as well as the planet. Wine of Course, 216 Archway Road, N6 5AX; 020 8347 9006
Artisan fizz Armand de Brignac is already the Champagne du jour for celebrities and fashionistas; US rapper Jay-Z is such a big fan that he even has a bottle in his video ‘Show Me What You Got’. But now there’s more to love since the range, which already features a brut and a rosé, includes a new blanc de blancs.
Made from a blend of premier and grand cru Chardonnay grapes from the 2002, 2003 and 2005 vintages, mostly grown in La Montagne de Reims, it’s a light, elegant and feminine fizz.
Like all the Armand de Brignac Champagnes, the blanc de blancs comes in a distinctive metallic bottle, hand-finished with a pewter label, hence the nick-name Ace of Spades. For stockists and prices, visit www.armanddebrignac.com.
Michelin-starred spice maestro Atul Kochhar (pictured left) has launched his own white and red wines. They are available by the glass at both Benares in Mayfair and Vatika at Wickham Vineyards in Hampshire. Made at Domaine du Grand Mayne in the Duras, a stone’s throw from Bordeaux, Kochhar’s wines comprise a Sauvignon Blanc and a Merlot.
Renowned for his contemporary approach to Indian cuisine, Kochhar was inspired by his involvement with Wickham. ‘I wanted to tackle the spice challenge,’ he says. ‘It’s a balancing act between the acidity and the fruit [in the wine].’ He believes Sauvignons from regions such as New Zealand and Australia can overpower the food, and so he’s veered away from the tart green fruit aspect towards more mature, stone-fruit flavours. ‘I wanted something that was clean and light. I’m very happy with the white wine. It’s the perfect complement to seafood and white meat.’ The red is more of a work in progress. ‘The tannins are not quite right,’ he admits. ‘It’s a good table wine, but I want to bring in a touch more fruit to match the spicy food.’ Report by Susanna Forbes. www.benaresrestaurant.com; www.vatikarestaurant.com
The inaugural Spanish Wines Tasting at Old Billingsgate in March was a stunning success. There were 150 wines – all available in the UK – plus a delicious assortment of tapas and speciality food. Oh… and guitar music and wine experts to assist. Highlights included wines from Rioja, Priorato, Rueda, Jerez and Ribera del Duero, while on the grape front Albariño, Verdejo, Tempranillo and Garnacha won new friends among the 300 attendees. All ridiculously good value at £15. If you missed it this year, keep your eye on squaremeal.co.uk in February 2010.
Congratulations go to Laura Rhys from Hotel TerraVina in Hampshire, who has been named UK Sommelier of the Year 2009. Rhys (right, with Christian Holthausen of Champagne Charles Heidsieck) beat off stiff competition from 150 sommeliers around the country at the event which was organised by the Academy of Food & Wine.
Two new websites have launched, aiming to give wine lovers more information about their favourite tipples. On www.alsacewines.co.uk, Francophiles will find free information about Alsace and its wines, as well as food and wine matching suggestions and recipes. While fizz fans should go to www.ChampagneGuide.net, a subscription service that has notes on more than 100 Champagne houses and 600 wines, written by American critic Peter Liem who is based in Champagne.
Italian chain Carluccio’s will be celebrating all things Sicilian in its annual wine festival this year. Running from 7 June to 1 August, the event includes special wine tastings and winemaker dinners, and will promote regional and seasonal produce. There’s even a chance to win a trip to Sicily in time for the wine harvest. See www.carluccios.com for more details.
Research has shown that investors in fine wine have weathered the economic downturn better than those who favour commodities such as oil and gold. Data from London-based Premier Cru Fine Wine Investments showed average returns of 35%, with some as high as 71%, on investment values of £10,000 between 2006 and 2009. Stacy Golding of Premier Cru, said: ‘Being easily realisable and protected under bond, fine wine will come into its own this year as the full effect of the market comes into force.’
Editorial feature from Square Meal Lifestyle Magazine Summer 2009