Seduced by sugar?

October 31st, 2017

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Interesting…. I have read two articles in the last few days that have slightly opposing views about residual sugar in wine. A few days ago this heading appeared on the Snooth website: 

Sweet Bordeaux is the new black

“Older generations of wine drinkers are taking cues from a younger generation that see the possibilities of Sweet Bordeaux white wines to create new and unique dining experiences. Sweet Bordeaux wines can be enjoyed in a multitude of Instagram-worthy moments throughout a meal. And they are available at an accessible range of prices, from value to premium and everything in between.

Sweet Bordeaux is operating around the world to promote the consumption of fruity and aromatic Bordeaux white wines through master classes, trade tastings, and trade shows. They also organize press trips that expose wine professionals to the possibilities of Sweet Bordeaux, especially when it comes to food and wine pairing”.  Snooth – October 29, 2017

This article appears to suggest that the move toward sweet or sweeter wine is something of a new trend, whereas the history of wine drinking, especially when it comes to residual sugar, appears to reveal a slightly different viewpoint. Written by my learned friend Tim Hanni MW.

“We are all genetically pre-programmed with attractions and aversions. Changes in preferences, from about four years old to very late in life, are largely reorganising what certain sensations represent. So, with observation, culture, peer pressure, and learning we adapt to associate things we didn’t like with aspiration or attainment – something we often refer to as an ‘acquired’ taste. We also equally associate things in a negative light, ‘disposing’ of tastes as well, such as the current hysteria over sweetness in wine for those who have become more ‘sophisticated’. Disposing of sweetness is easy for some people and impossible for a huge segment of the global market, and our insistence on dry wine as ‘good’ wine is ridiculous and does not serve the wine industry or reflect the history and traditions of wine.

Dry wines are the new fad (in relative terms) not the historical standard; the 1947 Château Cheval Blanc had over 30 g/L (3%) residual sugar. Most prized white Rhône wines were vins de paille – dried on mats and made into sweet wines. Countless sweet wines, including Château d’Yquem, were thought completely appropriate with fish, beef, or oysters. Montrachet, in the greatest vintages, was very sweet, not dry. Champagnes, as consumed in France, often had 140 g/L (14%) residual sugar – a lot more than American Coca Cola which has 108 g/L (10.1%) residual sugar. The global sweet wine opportunity was, and still is, about 25% to 40% of the total available market. Things have just gotten out of control with the dry wine fashionistas. And keep in mind that as wine has gone dry, consumption in France and Italy has plummeted.” Meininger’s Wine Business International – October 2017

I must confess that the stats relating to amount of residual sugar in some of these old wines took me somewhat by surprise.

Posted in Tasting

Oxford knows best!

October 26th, 2017

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One of the questions that we are sometimes asked is – why don’t we use screwcap for sealing our our wines? There are actually a couple of answers to this question. Closures have always been a subject of great interest to me, something that I have studied very closely for many years now. The fact that we now use a synthetic closure (with zero carbon footprint) was not a choice that was made casually, perhaps driven by cost – it was a long-studied and carefully considered decision. Indeed, with our current synthetic closure we know that we can, to some extent, now control the evolution of our wines (or at the very least, influence it’s shelf life). Not forgetting, of course, that evolution will also be determined by how the wine is stored….

A recent study, by Oxford University no less, is claiming that perhaps a cork is the right choice – that wines closed with a cork actually do taste better than those under screwcap. A very bold, and perhaps somewhat contentious claim! Having said that, they do qualify this by saying that the ‘ceremony’ of extracting the cork might have something to do with this. That subliminally this process adds a little ‘romance’ to the wine drinking experience – perhaps adding to the anticipation? One of the researching professors added “Our senses are intrinsically linked – what we hear, see and feel has a huge effect on what we taste”. They also went on to say that corked bottles were more likely to induce a “celebratory mood”, and we all know that our mood, surroundings and the company that we keep can all influence our perception of a wine.

My final comment is that we are very happy with our current choice of closure, as are the majority of our customers. This is rarely an area for complaint which pretty much supports the old adage “If it ain’t broken, then don’t fix it”! 

River of fire!

October 24th, 2017

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I am by no means undermining the devastating fires that we suffered in our region last week, but it is a relief to know that, thanks to some timely rainfall, and the heroic efforts of our fire crews (also not forgetting the brave Galician people themselves), this disaster is now pretty much behind us. Of course we still mourn the loss of three people who lost their lives in such a terrible way.

This morning, when I was leaving home, I witnessed a fire of almost the very opposite kind – the sea and the sky on fire, with a wonderful sunrise over the Ria de Pontevedra. Feeling positive from this amazing view, this simply reminds us that we are lucky to live in such a beautiful corner of Spain.

Posted in Galicia, Odds & Sods

Continued from Part One….

Don’t ask me why but this second wine was actually called ‘Antika Mickey Mouse’ (I later discovered that this was simply because the owner is a fan, and was probably a better name option than his other wine which is called Antika Podfuck). This Czech wine was completely ‘natural’, hailing the South Moravia region of the Czech Republic, and when I say natural, I really mean natural. The 8 hectare vineyard of Milan Nestarec was created as recently as 2001, and the wine is made in such a way that there is pretty much no intervention, either in the vineyard, or in the wine cellar. A blend of Chardonnay, Traminer, Pinot Gris and Gruner Veltliner with fermentation on the skins for a period of 10 days, followed by period of ageing in oak barrels. There is no filtration, no clarification, and that’s it. The resulting wine almost defies description, and to honest, I was happy that I was only offered a glass to sample, and didn’t buy the whole bottle (it would be impossible to finish). In the glass it was a murky brown opaque colour – visually not inviting. On the nose…. well, I just don’t know – not like any wine I have ever sampled before. Weeks later I am still searching for a way to describe it – Earthy? Wet straw? Some type of acetone plastic? Bizarre! The palate was a complete surprise – it had some weight to it, but with a really savoury and quite salty flavour – for me a wine that you could sip, but not drink. Natural or not natural, I didn’t really like it.

Today’s post ended up being a bit too long – so I will split it into two parts.

There is a lot of interest these days in Natural, Organic and Biodynamic wine. Without entering into the technicalities I can tell you that these wines do not exist anywhere in our denomination – there is only one certified vineyard, but no certified wine cellars. It is quite simply that our climate makes this classification almost impossible. However, that’s not to say that we are not open minded, and we certainly enjoy trying these wines when the opportunity arises, sometimes with mixed results.

Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to try two such wines, one from France and the other from the Czech Republic.

As you may know, I am already a great fan of the wines of the Jura region of France, and more especially of the Savagnin grape variety. There are many small ‘artisan’ producers in this region, and they often produce varied and fascinating wines. I was offered a ‘Vin de France’, effectively a table wine without AOC, but I was soon to discover why. The wine ‘Le Zaune à Dédée’ was made from a blend of late-harvested Savagnin grapes from the Jura, and Gewürztraminer grapes from the neighbouring Savoie region. A wine macerated and then vinified ‘sous voile’ (aged under a fine ‘flor’, or film of yeast in the barrel, similar to many other wines of the Jura, and also a technique used in sherry making). The resulting oxidative style of wine is extraordinary. Not only is the wine slightly opaque, but it is pretty much orange in colour – many people would probably refuse it on sight alone! It has a nose that is so interesting and complex, that I could sit all day just smelling it (but come up with a different nuance every time). It has an overpowering aroma of honey, burnt orange, and perhaps a hint of lychee from the Gewurzt. From the honeyed smell you would be forgiven for thinking that it might be sweet on the palate – but not at all – it really misleads you in this respect. On the palate there are just so many exotic flavours, fused with hazelnuts and perhaps just a hint of salinity. But if I thought that this wine was difficult to describe, then the second left me with a blank tasting sheet!

Galicia burning…

October 16th, 2017

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Yesterday was a black day in Galicia – when forest fires suddenly sprung up in nearly every corner of our Province. It was almost as though they had been orchestrated, and indeed, Police are already saying that many had been started deliberately. 

Meteor-logically Sunday was already quite odd, in that by 8.30am on this mid-October day, the outside temperature was 23°C / 74°F (even before the sun had appeared over the horizon). The wind had picked up, blowing directly from the south, which after a summer of very little rainfall, had created the perfect environment for forest fires. (These warm winds had long been forecast, which is why I suspected that perhaps the pyromaniacs had chosen this particular moment to strike).

Three people died during the night, many homes and some businesses were destroyed, and one petrol station exploded in the inferno. Local people were rushing around with buckets, forming human chains, in a futile attempt to protect their homes. Of course, this was nothing on the scale of the catastrophe in California, but when people die, it is still a very serious event. The only positive note to this story is that it did start to rain, and I believe that this has helped to bring at least some of the fires under control. Today is still damp, so hopefully relief will come quite quickly.

Posted in Galicia, Local News

On one or two odd occasions (Sunday brunch for example), we’ve probably all indulged ourselves in an odd ‘beverage’ or two – maybe a Bloody Mary, Mimosa or something similar? For me at least, drinking wine or alcohol too early in the day has never felt quite right, but that’s probably just a person thing – each to their own I guess.

In recent years however, there are some worrying trends that have developed, all related to early morning drinking. For example, a common sight at many UK airports are groups of young men and women, enjoying their traditional full English breakfast….. with drink in hand. This sometimes extends to several drinks, eventually culminating in unruly behavior, even on early morning flights. The problem appears to be that once border control has been cleared, then normal UK licensing hours don’t apply, and so travellers are free to drink what they like. It is becoming quite a problem for the airlines – air rage fueled by alcohol.

I was a little perplexed therefore to read what I assumed to be a ‘serious’ article entitled “8 breakfast wines you should be drinking” – some restaurants are now apparently offering a wine list with breakfast. The recommendations rather depend on what you are ordering, but the majority of those offered are white, ranging from crisp, fruity white, to sweet white (intended to accompany your pancakes!). There is even one suggestion that a chilled, light red could be teamed up with your bacon dishes, albeit I find that eggs are notoriously difficult to marry, and most red wines would probably be rendered metallic, harsh and astringent by a ‘runny’ egg yolk.

Personally, I think that wine with breakfast quite a bad idea, and believe that a line has to be drawn somewhere, and round-the-clock drinking should not be encouraged. Whatever happened to ‘responsible drinking’ and ‘wine in moderation’? Has that now become an old-fashioned concept?

Computer catch up

October 5th, 2017

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Just before the harvest (apart from all our preparation work), we were occupied by a series of computer training sessions. Well, not so much computer training, but rather software training. During 2017 we have been progressively rolling out our new, updated software package. We started with accounts, eventually moving on to stock, bottling, labelling and then finally, we turned to the harvest. This has been a huge undertaking, and despite the training (carried out mostly at break-neck speed), we are now trying to put into practice all the procedures that we were shown in theory – and it is by no means an easy task!

Indeed, we made a decision at the very beginning of the harvest that we would only enter the bare minimum of information into the system, and the vast majority we would input later when the pressure was off (keeping copious records on paper as in previous vintages). The last couple of weeks, we have spent hour after hour staring at our screens, sometimes just trying to figure out how to make it all work – connecting the theory with the reality is not quite as simple as you might think.

Although today’s photo is not very high quality you might still be able to make out that nearly every tank in our cellar is full. A few tanks are deliberately left empty merely give us some space to work – for example, when racking, we need to have at least one empty tank to re-locate the wine.

Harvest Report 2017

September 26th, 2017

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Wine making update

September 25th, 2017

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I just finished writing an e-mail to someone a moment ago, apologising that our bodega was in a bit of a ‘limbo’ state during their very recent visit. Meaning that whilst our obvious priority is the wine making, we are also undertaking cleaning, some re-painting and preparing orders. This period of activity is almost more exhausting than the harvest itself. Clocks and calendars are completely meaningless as all of our days fuse into one long extended week – weekends simply don’t apply. Our work timetable is dictated entirely by all the essential cellar work as the transition from must into wine bluntly refuse to take a day off!

Unfortunately (from a rest day point of view), the weekend just gone was probably the busiest of the entire wine making process. With the fermentations well under way, as I have previously mentioned, there are quite a number of tank additions that have to be made at this time – bentonite perhaps being the most significant of these. Bentonite is our choice of fining agent, for clarifying our wine, and was first discovered in Fort Benton, Wyoming (so no prizes for where the name originates), and is a type of clay made from volcanic ash. Not only does the bentonite drag all the unwanted solids and dead yeasts to the bottom of the tank, but also helps to keep the wine stable during fermentation. As it is a natural product, it also means that all of our wines are suitable for vegetarians.

Our grape reception area which was extended just before harvest, is now getting just a little more pampering as we give it a new lick of paint, just before we re-fill it completely with 2,000 empty harvest baskets ready for next year. For a space that is only used for 7-10 days a year, it’s certainly had more than it’s fair share of attention recently!

Posted in Bodega, Post Harvest

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