POSTED ON 21/06/2014

A return to Olympia from Docklands this June turned out to be an inspired move for the London Wine Fair, one of Europe’s most important wine trade fairs. One of the biggest successes was a new section called Esoterica, with boutique companies specialising in native and rare grape varieties from countries as diverse as Croatia, Greece, Canada, China, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Switzerland, Austria, and Portugal.

King of Wines, Wine of Kings

POSTED ON 14/06/2014

There are some who call barolo Italy’s red burgundy and while comparisons are odious, it’s true that both these grandest of reds rely on the marginal climate of their northerly location for their exquisite scents and subtly elusive flavours. There are reasons why the ‘wine of kings and king of wines’ isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, or glass of wine at least. First it’s pricey, secondly its taste can take acquiring, thirdly demand for the best exceeds supply.

Doing it by Halves

POSTED ON 07/06/2014

I ‘m puzzled as to why a more extensive selection of half bottles isn’t available on retail shelves and in restaurants and bars. If I’m driving through Champagne , I like to detour via the Aube region to pick up a 24 half-bottle case of Drappier’s delicious rosé Champagne. Having halves on hand is just the ticket for theatre intervals, for an apéritif for one or two and for gifts when I can’t think of anything else. If I lived alone, I’m sure I’d be grateful for more half-bottles, but for some reason, there never seem to be enough.

The Asda Wine Shop

POSTED ON 24/05/2014

You have to feel for Asda. Ok maybe you don’t, but squeezed between the devil of the discounters and the deep blue sea of Waitrose, M & S and Majestic, life just got tougher for the middle ground supermarket. So credit to the wine team’s Philippa Carr, an experienced but unstuffy Master of Wine who’s getting to grips with the need to keep prices down while raising customers’ expectations of improved quality. One answer is to stock 500 wines, including 100 premium wines, in the Asda online Wine Shop, with free delivery and 10% off Wine Shop orders till 1 June.

Aussie Rules

POSTED ON 17/05/2014

After an unimpressive tasting of Australian big brands earlier in the year, my faith in Australian wine was restored at this month’s Decanter World Wine Awards. The total of wines tasted by the 200 plus judges at London’s Tobacco Dock topped 15,000 wines for the first time, while Australia’s contribution, at over 1000 wines, was substantial. Numbers don’t necessarily add up to quality, and it was our job sitting nose in glass for a week to sort the wheat of trophies and gold, silver and bronze medals from the also ran chaff.

Bang for Buck

POSTED ON 10/05/2014

After three unexceptional years on the trot, Bordeaux had a golden opportunity to win (back) friends and influence people by reducing the price of the mediocre 2013 vintage. The UK wine trade made itself hoarse shouting that prices needed to decrease by 30 - 35% if the wines were to sell at this early pre-bottling release stage. But Bordeaux blew it. The trouble is that the châteaux don’t care enough because they can hold the Bordeaux merchants to ransom by threatening to withhold their allocation in a good vintage.

A Rose By Any Other Name

POSTED ON 03/05/2014

I’m sure there are many of you who think that the idea of superior rosé is as plausible as equating cupcakes with haute cuisine. To disabuse us of the notion, Richard Bampfield MW and his client, the enterprising Jean-Christophe Mau, owner of Château Brown in Bordeaux, put on a blind tasting last month of premium rosés around the world at London’s Westminster Boating Base.


POSTED ON 19/04/2014

Do you know your top 10 wine brands? Do you care? Not even wine is immune from the tyranny of the list, the beloved trivial pursuit of popular culture. Calculating factors such as share of the market, growth, brand awareness, relevance and heritage, The Drinks Business, a trade publication, recently turned up a list of the world’s top 10 most powerful wine brands. And the winner is? The California wine giant Gallo, followed, in descending order, by Concha y Toro, Hardy’s, Robert Mondavi, Yellow Tail, Sutter Home, Lindemans, Beringer, Jacob’s Creek and Blossom Hill.

Day of Malbec

POSTED ON 12/04/2014

Thursday is World Malbec Day and while I’m not a fan of treating grapes like saints by giving them their own day of the year, I feel an exception is well deserved in the case of the malbec grape. Known as Etranger, or stranger, in 18th century Bordeaux, this varietal interloper from Cahors in South West France found its way into Bordeaux as the black wine of Cahors, in order to bring muscle and colour to skinner clarets. As a half-sibling of merlot, malbec remains a minor variety in Bordeaux and was still known as cot or auxerrois in its heartland of Cahors until recently.

A Game of One Half - Southern Hemisphere Values

POSTED ON 05/04/2014

Given that the World Cup will be kicking off almost before we know it, the cannier wine retailers have placed their orders for South American vino early so that those of us without a head for caipirinha can enjoy a bit of South American sunshine in the glass. It was a game of two halves with Sainsbury’s getting the ball rolling with its all-encompassing southern hemisphere tasting while Marks & Spencer focused more specifically on the wines of South America.

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