Saturday, 15 November 2008

Are you getting the deal you think you are

As things get tougher on the high street. The big wine retailers come up with ever more tempting offers. In fact over the last few weeks there has been an explosion in the big four supermarkets of what would appear to be some very tempting offers.
Some almost too good to be true?
My local superstore has wine pilled up right inside the door as you go in. Half price offer they proudly boast. For example Pinot Grigio rrp £8.99 now £4.50 min purchase 6 bottles. Great you might think? And certainly people are filling their trolleys with the stuff. You may have been one of them? But let me ask you this. Would you be so keen if it was just priced at £4.50? Probably not? But that's all it's worth.

You see the thing is it's this rrp (recommended retail price) you have to be careful of. This wine hasn’t previously been on sale at £8.99. Who has recommended that it be sold at £8.99? The supermarket themselves? We would all love to be able to charge much more for our wine than we actually do. Fact is that no wine is worth more than the market is willing to pay. So these inflated prices are at best aspirational or at worst very sharp marketing that is just within the law. Because clearly very few people are going to pay £8.99 for a bottle of PG but many would like to think that they have bagged a bargain. If you don't believe me put it to the test. Look out for one of these deals out Tesco's biggest rival. Buy a bottle of Pinot Grigio or anything else on one of these half price deals and taste it along side it's equivalent bog standard relative being sold at it's non inflated price and see if you can spot the difference? At the same time ask yourself if you would have been happy to pay double for it? Because you should have been. Fact is if it's been offered at half price then it should be worth full price.

Next time you’re in a supermarket take some time to look past all the generic brands like Blossom Hill, Jacobs Creek etc etc. Look past all the promotions and you will see that all of the serious well made wine that has some regional identity is no cheaper here than it is from most good independent wine merchants.
What's that old saying? Can't see the wood for the trees.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Another Italian wine under suspicion

Another Italian red wine is being investigated by Italian authorities for possible fraudulent grape mixing. U.S. trade authorities are again stopping the import of some wine until the Italian authorities have concluded their investigations.

The possible fraud is the second case in a year of Italian producers mixing wines with the wrong grapes. Earlier this year Italian authorities questioned whether some Brunello producers in Montalcino were blending their wines rather than using 100 percent Sangiovese grapes, as required.

Now two producers of Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano are being investigated for possibly using grapes from outside the region. Italian standards say the wine must be made from 70 percent Sangiovese grapes and the remaining grapes must come from the same region.

The U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau, have stopped issuing new labels to wine produced from June onwards until the Italian authorities can prove their has been no mixing up of the grape.

"We are waiting to ensure the label claims and for confirmation from Italian authorities," Gail Davis, the bureau's international trade division director, said. Davis said the bureau was also reviewing labeling of French wines from St. Emilion, based on media reports of a dispute over wine classification in France.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Robotic wine taster

A new robotic wine taster has been invented by scientists. Designed for quality control in the field, the device is made up of six sensors which detect substances characteristic of a certain wine variety. Components such as acid, sugar and alcohol can be measured by this detection, and from these parameters it can determine the age and variety of the wine.

The tongue was invented by scientists at the Barcelona Institute of Microelectronics, Spain, and is reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal The Analyst.

Wine industry specialists told the researchers they lacked a fast way to assess quality of wines – it takes a long time to send samples to a central laboratory for processing.

Cecilia Jiménez-Jorquera one of the inventors said: "This new tongue is not only swift, but also portable, cheap to manufacture, and can be trained to taste new varieties as required. The device could be used to detect frauds committed regarding the vintage year of the wine, or the grape varieties used."

Monday, 28 July 2008

Holy Wine

A nun from rural Mahlabathini in South Africa who makes her own wine from beetroot, Is set to turn it into a commercial venture thanks to the help of the South African health minister who was left speechless when she tasted the wine at an agricultural expo and promised to help her produce the wine commercially.

69-year-old Sister Lydia Ngema from the Order of Saint Benedict joined the Thwasana mission at the age of 14 and started making wine in 1977 as a hobby. But has never actually tasted her wine as alcohol consumption is not permitted by the Order of Saint Benedict.

Sister Ngema said "her wine-making had been controversial because people assumed she drank what she made. I don't touch it. None of us drink here, here; we are not allowed to drink any form of alcohol. I don't taste my own wine."

She added "almost any fruit or vegetable could be used to make wine. I make seven types - from beetroot, plums, carrots, oranges, grapes, grapefruit, and mixed-fruit wine. Virtually anything can be turned into wine."

According to Sister Ngema, it takes five years to make a good wine, but she said big companies had a way of speeding up the process. "Which is what makes my wine so unique - it's made from ordinary fruit and matures on its own."

It is hoped the new business venture will provide jobs for the local community and any profits will go back to helping the local community

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Great news for white lovers!

A white wine which is as beneficial to health as red wine has been developed by scientists.

The Israeli wine contains enhanced levels of plant chemicals which are believed to fight heart disease.

Researchers from Technion, the Israeli Institute of Technology, found that they were able to fortify white wine with health-giving polyphenol compounds.

Red wine is naturally fortified with the compounds, which are concentrated in grape skins.

The fermentation process releases the polyphenols, giving red wine its colour and its antioxidant properties.

So how do you solve the moral dilemma - is it a glass of white or a glass of red the doctor ordered??

Monday, 2 June 2008

The all blacks are coming

There's trouble brewing in the New World!

Australian wine makers have been warned to expect a lot more competition from neighbours New Zealand over the next year. New Zealand has just recorded its biggest ever vintage, with yields up almost 40 per cent on last season.

Philip Gregan, from the New Zealand Wine Growers, says more pinot noir, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc will be exported to Australia.

"We think we're in for quite a challenging marketing year, because the vintage came in that much bigger than we expected," he says.

"Having said that, we are seeing very strong demand in Australia, in the United Kingdom, the United States and a number of other markets as well, so I think we can say it's going to be a very interesting year, we'll just see how strong that demand is."

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Tragedy of wine producer

A wine producer was killed in a freak accident at his vineyard when he was crushed by hundreds of bottles.

George Musgrave, 66, who ran Polmassick Vineyard in St Ewe, Cornwall, with his wife Barbara, 62, was killed when half a tonne of empty bottles fell on the father of two.

He was airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske, but later died from his injuries.

Police are not treating his death as suspicious.

Monday, 19 May 2008

India set to shine in the world of wine

The London International Wine Fair opens in London this week and some of the more unusual brands on display are from India.

Industry experts are predicting that India will emerge as one of the largest wine producers in the world in the next fifty years.

Some of the Indian brands to be showcased at the fair include Marquise De Pompadour, Tiger Hill, Indage Reserve, Chantilli, Riviera, Ivy and Omar Khayyam.

Most of their technology and advice is from Europe, Indian winemakers are now promoting themselves in a big way to catch the attention of the rest of the world. Though India offers an ideal climate for winemaking and Indian wines have also won many prizes abroad, the biggest challenge for their industry is to make wine lovers around the world comfortable with the Made in India tag.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

China will be leading wine producer by 2058

China will come to the fore in the next half-century and emerge as the leading wine producing country. This is according to a new document out from Berry Bros & Rudd entitled 'The Future of Wine Report'.

Two significant areas are set for change in the next fifty years, it says. Firstly, the rise of wine brands will lead to massive changes in the marketing and packaging of wine products and secondly New World wine countries will see radical changes as climate change sets in.
China especially (currently the world's sixth largest wine producer and number four in terms of area under vine) will come to prominence as the leading producer by 2058.

The report says Cabernets and Chardonnays, in particular, will be in demand.

Alun Griffiths MW said: "China has the vineyards, but not the technical expertise, however, if good people from wine producing countries think there is opportunity to make wine in China, they will go there and invest."

Friday, 9 May 2008

Just for the computer buffs?

Our prayers have been answered!!

Women hospitalised after cafe mistakes washing up liquid for wine

Two women have been taken to hospital after a New Zealand cafe mistakenly served dishwashing liquid as mulled wine.

Chico's Restaurant in the mountain resort of Queenstown on South Island pleaded guilty to a charge of selling food containing extraneous matter — the chemical sodium hydroxide — that caused injury

Customer Sarah Ferguson had ordered a glass of "Mountain Thunder" mulled wine from the cafe and spat out the liquid when she experienced a burning sensation on her lips and mouth.
Cafe worker Bethany Sim then offered to test the drink and suffered a similar reaction.

I can think of some so-called popular wines over here that may struggle to pass the dishwasher test!!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Same wine - different lable

Have you ever wondered if you are continually drinking the same wine but with a different label?

Well your concerns may not be unfounded.

A recent industry report flagged up a frightening statistic - there are currently an estimated 3000 second labels floating around the worlds wine racks.

So what is a second label? Lets be clear, it is not a second wine. Merely a bottle with a differently designed label to disguise the fact that there are thousands of wines on sale in the high street that are exactly the same in every detail. Except for the name and the price - yep, the price.

Second labels are a valuable, cost effective tool for the the majors to make more money without over stocking. It enables them to widen their range of wines and spread it out around different stores, without actually having to buy new wines from different growers. There are many growers that will quite happily label many of their wines to suite your requirements. Therefore if you have a chain of shops you can label the same wines to suite the expectations of your clientele. For example if you have two shops, one in a fairly affluent area and one in an area where the customers are a bit more price sensitive. You can label the same wine differently to appeal to both sets of customers.

It also enables you to charge a £1 or so extra depending on what you think it will bear.

It is a useful tool for the majors who stock their wine departments according to the demographic of each particular stores customer base. It also enables the producers or their agents to sell the same wine to different companies without conflicting overlaps.

Is it illegal? No it certainly is not. There are strict EU laws governing the labeling of wine.

According to the Food standards Agency these are the legal requirements.

'Specific mandatory items must be shown, in one field of vision. These include nominal volume (eg 75cl), alcoholic strength (eg 11.5% vol), bottler's details, country of origin, type of wine. In addition a statement about the sulphur dioxide content will be required on any label when this exceeds 10mg/litre.'

That is all you legally need to have on the wine label and it doesn't even need to be on the front label. It is perfectly OK to print all this info on a back label.

You may now feel as though you've been had but is this any different than buying cheaper own brand products rather paying more for the leading brand that is made by the same manufacturer? You may well be paying more for the same product because of the way it is dressed up?

A case of 'The King's new clothes' maybe?

Credit crisis? What crisis?

While the global credit crunch has forced many consumers to curtail their spending, one Beijing-based billionaire has splashed out a record $500,000 on 27 bottles of red wine.

The anonymous Chinese entrepreneur bought a mix of vintages of Romanee Conti, a Burgundy wine and considered to be among the world's most exclusive with only 450 cases produced each year.

The price is the highest that has ever been achieved for a single lot at auction.

And the best part of the story? Apaprently, he hasn't bought the wine as an investment - he's bought it to drink!

Monday, 7 April 2008

New contender for the world's most expensive wine

Champagne house Krug has announced the release of it's new 1995 Clos d'Ambonnay. This is their first new release since launching their Rose 25 years ago. It's also the House's first 'Blanc de Noirs' - meaning that it is made entirely from Red grapes, in this case Pinot Noir.

But the real headline grabber is the price which is £1500 - £2000 - per bottle, not per case! This phenomenal price puts it above the price of other heavyweights such as Dommaine de Rommane Conti and Chateau Petrus.

So how do Krug justify such a price? Well at the risk of sounding glib, they won't have to. The fact's are it was produced from one tiny walled vineyard the Clos d'Ambonnay which is just 0.6 of a ha. In 1995 it yielded a paultry 250 cases. So it is inevitable that demand will outstrip supply - even at such an exorbitant price. One London merchant is reputed to have claimed that he could sell the whole lot with one phone call.

But never mind the price, does it taste any good? Well according to Serena Sutcliffe MW who tasted the wine last year "It is quite sensational" and more then worthy of the Krug name.

The question is "could you tell the difference between the Clos d'Ambonnay and a glass of traditional Moet et Chandon? I think the answer has to be an emphatic 'Yes!' But, could you justify the price?

Hmmmm ....... better sleep on that one!

Read more about super expensive wines

Friday, 4 April 2008

Italian officials block shipment of Brunello di Montalcino wines

Italian officials have blocked the shipment of Brunello di Montalcino's wines.

The magistrate of Siena, an appointed judicial authority, has questioned the controls exercised by the consortium of Brunello di Montalcino, which governs the stipulations of how the wine is made in both the vineyard and the cellar.

Authorities are scanning thousands of documents, including winemaker notes, harvest and bottling records, Consorzio registrations and DOCG stamps.

If the slightest discrepancy is found, even if subject to interpretation and explanation, the existing stocks of the 2003 vintage Brunello, the year in question, will be sequestered from distribution, the company said in a statement.

Stocks already on store shelves and restaurant cellars will not be affected.

"The situation has quickly become political and threatens the commerce of innumerable small businesses and the pleasure of millions of consumers around the world,” Marc Goodrich, chief operating officer of Banfi Vintners, a US importer of the wines, said.

“The promise of Brunello to the consumer remains valid and unquestioned, but has been caught in crossfire between warring factions in what amounts to a political disgrace.”

Goodrich claims the majority of Brunello producers are likely to come under scrutiny. This could lead to the sale of the 2003 vintage suspended, potentially for several months if not longer.
“We will not know what really happened until all the political dust settles and the authorities retreat,” he said. "But in the meantime, they have put at risk the commercial, social and governmental reputation of all Italy.”

Friday, 28 March 2008

Red wine kills cancer cells?

A natural anti-oxidant in grape skins and red wine can help kill cancer cells in the pancreas by crippling the cells’ core energy source, says a new study.

Findings of the study have been published in the latest edition of the journal, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. Other natural anti-oxidants include caffeine, melatonin, flavonoids, polyphenols, and vitamins C and E.

Although red wine consumption during chemotherapy or radiation treatment has not been well-studied, most physicians would not tell the patient to give it up during treatment. Perhaps a better choice, Okunieff said, would be to drink as much red or purple grape juice as desired.


Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Clarke names Maison in top list

For the third year running Maison du Vin has been named in top wine expert Oz Clarke's list of top UK Wine Merchants!

Oz also lists our Rolle – Chateau Coujan as one of his best 250 wines in the UK.

The wine is now available on line from our shop at only £6.99 per bottle.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Wine maker insures nose for £3.9m

A Bordeaux wine maker has insured his nose for £3.9 million, a report in the Daily Telegraph confirms.

The policy was taken out by Ilja Gort, the Dutch owner of the Chateau de la Garde in Bordeaux, France, to cover the loss of his nose and sense of smell.

Mr Gort, who produces Tulipe Wines, said his nose was his most important asset, as a good sense of smell was essential to guarantee the quality of his wines. While the tongue has only five areas of taste, the nose can distinguish millions of different scents, he added. "This certainly is an insurance policy not to be sniffed at," said Jonathan Thomas, lead underwriter at Watkins Syndicate who co-insured the policy with Allianz Nederland.

"The nose and sense of smell of a winemaker are as important as the fingers of a chef.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Has the wine bubble finally burst?

For the last year at least the wine world has been rife with rumours of big price increases and the un sustainability of cheap wine.

Now with the huge 14p a bottle duty increase announced in the recent budget, the days of the ‘Bog off’ (buy one get one free) are definitely numbered.

Uk shoppers love a bargain but this ‘mind set’ has largely been indoctrinated by the supermarkets that much prefer to deal in high volume at the cheap and sometimes not so cheerful end of the market.

The storm clouds have been gathering for some time.

Drought, frosts and poor harvests in Australia is one factor.

Up until a few months ago a wine shortage in Oz was unthinkable. But so bad is it that even they have had to import wine to fill their wine boxes! Australia has traditionally supplied the UK with much of its bulk

Branded wines.

Cheap wine revolves around volume. Restrict that volume and producers can no longer afford to take a hit on the discounting demanded by the supermarkets. In reality the only people who have footed the bill for our cheap wine drinking habits is the producer, and the supermarkets have squeezed the life out of them!

There are also increased production costs, transport and the fact that for over a year now UK wine importers have been losing on average 10% against the Euro.

In the past the supermarkets have managed to sustain the £4.00 price slot by sourcing ever-cheaper sources of supply. Remember Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon? That was over twenty years ago. When that dried up they went to Chilli, Australia, Argentina. Where next?

The fact is to make cheap palatable wine from pretty poor grapes you need a lot of expertise, good infrastructure, good trade links and money to invest.

There are not to many wine producing countries left that you can trust to come up with the goods on a consistent enough basis.

So is the demise of cheap wine a bad thing? Well we think not.

If the average price of a bottle can nudge through the £5 barrier (it is currently £4) it may well encourage more people to ‘Trade up’ and throw off their ‘Price Shackles’ leaving them free to explore the wonders that await them in which quite frankly is another world!

Have you ever asked yourself ‘How much actual wine am I getting for my £4? After all you’ve paid £4 shouldn’t you get £4 worth of wine?

Sadly not.

The costs associated with making a bottle of wine can vary enormously, and have a profound effect on how the wine will behave once bottled and ultimately drunk.

Let's start by looking at the typical costs of a bottle of wine from Australia to see where the money is spent.

Retail Price

Retail Price £3.00 £5.00 £7.00 £12.00 £20.0 £25.00

Duty* + VAT £1.92 £2.35 £2.69 £3.57 £4.97 £5.85

Shipping Costs £0.20 £0.20 £0.20 £0.20 £0.20 £0.20

Retail mark-up £0.90 £1.50 £2.10 £3.60 £6.00 £7.50

Winemaking cost £0.04 £1.09 £2.15 £4.77 £8.97 £11.59

*Duty based on 2008 £1.47/bottle

You can see that for a £3 bottle of wine the winemaker has 0.04p to grow the grapes, make and bottle the wine. To produce wines on the scale required to be profitable requires a total focus on costs and producing large volumes of cheap grapes.

Your challenge here is to do the maths and try and work out the value of the wine left in the bottle after everyone has been paid. You may struggle?

It stands to reason that you really do get what you pay for and that it is an absolute certainty that the more you pay the better quality you get.

There is also the question of additives. If you find you are waking up with a nasty hangover after a glass or two of pub wine, or any cheap wine for that matter. You are probably justified in feeling unfairly treated. After all you were not drunk? Far from it. No, but you unwittingly drank a cocktail of chemicals and additives!

It stands to reason that if you start out with a poor quality base product. You are going to have to use short cuts and other tactics to cover up those short comings and turn your product into something saleable. Whether it be veneer on chipboard or additives in wine.

There are far less additives (if any) in good quality, relatively expensive wine because the producer doesn’t need to use them. Simple as that.

There is an old French saying in the vineyards

‘Great wine is the result of an exceptional climate and gifted people’

And it is rarely sold cheaply.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Kevin Griffin Interview Harpers Weekly June 2006

The following interview with Kevin Griffin, Proprietor of Maison du Vin and The Wine Word first appeared in Harpers Weekly.

What possessed you to buy a shop on a really busy 'A' road between the two parts of a Kent village?

We were looking for a property. We wanted to add some asset to the company. John Toogood and I were looking for a farm or a building with some land where we could have maybe a wine warehouse and storage. We went up many fruitless dead ends, then this property came up. It was an old hairdresser's, with a gym in the cellar and a three-bedroomed apartment upstairs.

It was in a terrible state so it was on the market for a cheap price.

But you guys are former salesmen. I thought you did not want to open a shop?

I had always said I would never, ever run a shop. Forget it, impossible, non-starter – shoot me if I even think of it. But this property happened to come with a shop window, so we thought we'd put stock in the window and if someone comes in and buys a bottle, that's a bonus.

You obviously haven't got any hypermarkets or superstores close by.

There is a Budgens at the top of Moor Hill, but otherwise the nearest Sainsbury's are in Tunbridge Wells and Hastings, both about 15 miles away, and there's a Waitrose in Tenterden. Also, what you have to bear in mind is that this is a rural community and, by definition, they do not like supermarkets.

How did you and John meet and come to work together?

We were both regional sales managers for Pieroth, the company that owns Hallgarten. John left in 1995 and I did not get on with the new German sales director, so I left in 1997. I had not seen John for two years, so I rang him and he said: 'Come and join me.'

We both had loyal customers so we just continued buying wine from the likes of Enotria, Alliance and Wine Services, and picking up bin ends from the likes of Corney & Barrow and Bibendum, and then selling them on. John has customers predominately in Surrey and London, whereas mine are in Kent and Sussex.

We do visits to homes and offices, and John still does a fair amount of selling over the phone.

That's all very well, but you're still in the middle of nowhere.

We're actually in the middle of a huge, moneyed area. All of the villages around here still have a butcher, a baker, a local store, a hairdresser and a post office.

A housewife will ask the butcher to recommend what she should cook and then she asks us what wine she should buy. A man came in and asked if we had Louis Roederer Cristal. I said: 'Yes, the 1997, at £130.' He said: 'Great, I'll take two.' We also do Dom Pérignon 1986 in a gift box for £79.99.

I see you have Penfolds Grange at £150, but what would you say is your speciality?

We are 75% French. I have a hugely wealthy stockbroker who rings me up and says: 'I have no wine and we're having a dinner party.' He orders four or five cases of claret at £40/£45 a bottle and two half-bottles of Y'Quem at £89.99 each. There aren't many shops that have magnums of Mouton (Rothschild) out in the shop.

That's all well and good, but how do you get word around?

We have visiting winemakers – Marion Giribalbi from Piedmont, Florence Guy of Château Coujan in St Chinian and Rueben Uribe Echevevria of Virgen Blanca in Navarre, Spain – who do business lunches and tutored tastings. We get 15 people to lunches and 20 or 30 people to evening tastings. We make about £500/£1,000. We also do wine safaris. Last year, we went to Beaune, the year before Bordeaux and this year the Rhône. We have a luxury coach, and we charge about £750 per person all inclusive. We also have two fine wine auctions a year.

So life seems pretty good. What gets your goat?

What p***** me off is the likes of Sainsbury's and Thresher selling things at cost or 40% off. We are one of the few independents that import our wines direct – we source about 50% direct. Unlike some, that wait and see who the medal winners are and then order them in. We are prepared to take the risk and try different things.

We may have only one Sancerre, but it is a good one.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Maison du Vin Wine Safari to Italy

Once again What’s On Magazine was delighted to accompany Maison du Vin and ten other lucky couples on their latest ‘Wine Safari’ to Piemonte in North West Italy.

The region is home to red wine legends such as Barbera, Barbaresco and the mighty Barolo. There are also some delightful white wines such as Gavi, Arnies and Favorita.

It’s true to say that the area does not get it fair share of tourists as it tends to get bypassed in favour of Tuscany. But we can assure you that the whole region is stunningly beautiful. Made up of a mass of rolling hills and steep vine-covered slopes. Many of the hills are topped with gorgeous ancient villages, like Sinio where we stayed in the luxurious five star Hotel Castello di Sinio.

The Northwest Italians love their food with Saturday and Sunday lunch being particularly important family gatherings. Indeed, one of the many highlights was Saturday Lunch at the ‘Nettle Vigne Trattoria.’ Now many restaurants claim to be set in a vineyard but this is literarily built on a terrace right in the middle of the vine-covered slopes. The views were amazing as was the ten-course lunch!

Every year during the first weekend in October the culinary world descends upon the town of Alba to indulge in the heady delights of its world famous ‘white truffle’ festival. These highly prized and very rare subterranean fungi were changing hands for thousand’s of euros! Needless to say we resisted the temptation. But we were treated to some white truffle shavings as part of our sumptuous eight-course dinner that evening.

The two main wineries we visited were, the internationally renowned ‘Fontanafredda’ and the legendary ‘Mario Giribaldi.’Maison du Vin is the UK’s sole shipper of Giribaldi wines. Mario and his family treated us to a superb eight-course Sunday lunch complete with a wine tasting led by Mario himself.

All in all, it was a fabulous weekend. Another triumph for Maison du Vin!

Piemonte is a magical, seductive part of Italy. Majestic hills, deep valleys and gentle swirling mists, a fairy tale land of plenty, with a strong sense of ‘La Dolce Vita’. Simply wonderful!

Next year … Tuscany………can’t wait!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Wine Safari to the Rhone Valley

This article first appeared in What's On Magazine in November 2006 and is a short account of our Wine Safari to the Rhone Valley in Oct 2006.

We have just returned from another wonderful Wine Safari to the Rhone Valley. Organised by Maison du Vin of Hawkhurst.

Yet again we were very warmly welcomed by all the wine growing families we visited. One of the many high lights was being taken to see a Mobile distillery in action. It was set up in a village car park in Hermitage. It is used to make Eau de vie from the left over grape skins.

The amazing thing is that local people bring their joints of meat to be poached in the hot vats of steaming alcohol and yes we were watching our own lunch being cooked!

A big thank you must go to Jean Pierre Mucyn and his lovely wife Helene of Domaine Mucyn at Tain-Hermitage for their hospitality; to take such a huge chunk out of their very long and busy day would not have been easy at such a critical time of year, yet they chose to share their lunch with 22 strangers! Memories of the few hours we spent with Jean-Pierre & Helen Mucyn and their entire family will stay with us forever.

Their generosity and the way they organised 22 people descending on their home was outstanding special mention must go to Fabrice at Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateau Neuf du Pape.

His enthusiasm commitment eloquence knowledge and delivery were fantastic. Yes, of course he had done it many times before but remember it was'nt just a sales pitch, they don't sell from the Chateau and he is not performing to groups of tourists on the hour every hour.

Again it was an absolute privilege to be there and one not available to the average touring punter! French wine is having a tough time right now so thank goodness for people like Eric Chauvin of Domaine Souverain Sablet (another great lunch by the way)! Fabrice and Jean-Pierre Mucyn. They are at the very vanguard of what still makes French wine so unique and interesting. They deserve our support for they are at the very heart of that one word so uniquely French, one small word that means almost everything. Terroir.

The hopes, dreams, ambitions, disasters, triumphs, history traditions of one place and its people translated through a product captured in a glass of wine, an expression of place. Hand in glove with everything we stand for Real wine Real places Real people.

So ends another wonderful trip. Looking back it seems like the sort of thing that only happens to travel writers, journalists and TV personalities, but it happened to us our happy little band one glorious sunny day in early Autumn, lost somewhere beneath the vine covered slopes of the Northern Rhone - How wonderful!

Special thanks to Kevin and Beverley Griffin of Maison du Vin for organising such a superb weekend and we can't wait for next years Wine Safaris to Italy!

Monday, 11 February 2008

How much would you pay for your wine?

OK - so you can buy a bottle of wine for under £3.00 per bottle, but you can pay a whole lot more!

Take these beauties for instance:

Chateau Margaux 1787 £112.500
Chateau Lafite 1787 £80.000
Chateau d'yquem 1784 £28,294
Massandra Sherry 1775 £21,750
Domiane de Rommane Conti 1985 £14,055
Le Montrachet 1978 £11,964
Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1945 £8,187
Screaming Eagle 1994 £1,916

Would that be one case or two sir!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

The One Hundred and Fifty Two Grape Variety Wine

Announcing the 'One hundred and fifty two grape variety wine!'

Master Italian Wine Maker Mario Giribaldi has, after ten years work, released his 'Cento Uve' - and the wine is made from 152 different grape varieties!

As you can imagine such a feat is very rarely attempted let alone perfected.

The wine is powerfully built yet has tremendous finesse with lashings of fruit and a wonderful seductive inky black colour. This will reward the patient few for at least the next ten years!

This 2004 vintage is now available in the UK exclusively from Maison du Vin at a price of £29.99 per bottle.