Saturday, 24 April 2010

The monsters that kill wine.

Yes, I have to let some of my chest on those supermarkets, although that for some they are a super important source of sales, in general for all colours wine they rolling on a path not healthy long term.. but do they care???

My flat mate had a dear friend over yesterday, for a late lunch early dinner type of event.
So when I came home around 6 'ish they were sitting on the balcony in full sunshine enjoying the dishes he had prepared.

I eventually tucked in and savoured the tabbouleh salad with nice vine tomatoes some onion, flat parsley and cucumber. Dressed with a lemon based vinaigrette and well balanced spices.
There was also organic hummus, fresh olives, poppy seed bread slightly toasted, cheeses, I can't remember all that was served but there was plenty to feed a nation.

With all that they were drinking a Pinot Grigio from Palastri 2009, from the Trentino region North West of Italy.

Now I am always a bit scary when a Pinot Grigio accesses a table, as for me they are really not that great beside some fruit and dryness there is not much to expect f these wines, (something that has struck the Italian producers and have been working on a up-marsh).

Well on that note I was totally right, it had a pleasantly floral/fruity nose and a straight flight through the palette not leaving too much of excitement and surprise.

It was very short and left you with a very dry mouth making you want to wet your palette very much straight away.
Which for me is a sign of cheap wine making and working totally on quantity and not quality, the wine gives you nothing but anything not resembling a sign of terroir, identity and complexity.

You want to enjoy your wine and discover its story and terroir.
So for me all that supermarket stuff which goes for a buy two get a third one for free nothing more than bad intentions in a bottle. 
My next question is simple, I wonder why you want to buy it?

You need a hit of alcohol?
You actually can't justify spending more then £5 on a bottle?
You don't really care as long it keep you going?

Here in the UK there are not enough small wine shops around and also because supermarkets kill them and most of the time people don't really want to or have the culture to do the effort just going to a wine shop and buy a nice bottle of wine for some real good prices.

Supermarkets; you can get it all at once, but as we know far from the good stuff, as their war is to give their customers the best price.

Then is that always right?
I ask myself when a supermarket has a bottle of wine at a reduced price and you look at the original marked priced, you realize how much profit they actually do make, so they do not really get you the best value for the price.

Never forget a wine has its value and from the moment you begin to disrespect that as you just want to make a good buck, you loose credibility as there is no justification to sell a wine at £20, that actually its value as in structure, depth, intensity, complexity and pleasure has not the strength for a £20 price tag and actually is really worth £13

I always advise people to avoid buying supermarket wine and if they do go at least for something above the £12 mark as the value of the wine will be better.
So it is worth to spend a bit more on a bottle of wine as you should enjoy and discover the essence of wine.

Hans

Friday, 2 April 2010

Champagne a world apart (re-edited)

Image result for champagne wallpaper hd
Yes our beloved bubble, has a long story of how it all became to what we know it today.
First of all it is classified in the category of sparkling wines and pretty much all countries who produces wines will also produce a bubble. Champagne however has the extra qualification term of VMQPRD, which means Quality Sparkling Wine Product of a Determent Region.

Champagne is the king of the bubbles as it has itself established all over the world and is the only region which produces solely sparkling wine, well recently the production of red has been taking light but in really super small numbers.
Besides Champagne has become a luxury brand associating its product in the image of wealth, success, celebration and more and more food paring.

Now Champagne, the region was initially at the time not intending to produce a sparkling wine. The wine growers of the region wanted to produce a still wine for their kings and Queens in Reims, as it was for a long time the capital of France.

As they were in direct competition with the region of Burgundy who they and still are producing the most distinguished and top class wine the whole world knows about, they had to work twice as hard.

But the region of Champagne which geographically is situated the most northern of all wine regions in France, had to deal with extreme harsh weather conditions and had so much trouble to extract the right amount of sugar and aromas to produce a still wine wordy of a Burgundy. 

They encounter that same problem year in year out when they put the grapes through the fermentation process; which is the releasing of carbon dioxide and the absorption of oxygen, the natural process of sugar transforming into alcohol and by that creating a wine.
There was a slight little bubble always present in the wines, a problem that really irritated many wine makers in the region. As then at the time for the French this was not a wine to proudly present at the tables of their kings and queens.

So when harvest arrived and most of the time they waited as long as they could (weather permitted) so the grapes could take in as much sunshine as possible to hopefully reach the right sugar level and aromas needed to make a still wine. So quite often it happened that they started the fermentation process mid to end of October.

So in Champagne (and in any region for that matter) when November arrives and the temperatures drop dramatically, the wines stopped going through their fermentation process, they went to sleep so to speak. Then at the time they thought that the cycle had done full circle and the fermentation process was complete. 


First of all they sold their wines in barrels, and the Brits were the first and biggest customer. They shipped the wines to the UK of which they would then process it to complete the maturing. The odd thing that happen there was because of temperature rising as the ships were warm, when tasting the wine they noticed a slight spark and thought that this was absolutely marvellous..

The French began to bottle the wine and laid them to rest throughout the winter. So when they tasted the wine during winter they noticed that there still was that little fizz, so they thought it might need more rest. Of course it puzzled them a lot and of course they kept on trying and improve the wine.

But when the temperatures began to rise again in spring time, the wine inside the bottles began to ferment again and so the carbon dioxide was looking for a way out but as there was no way out, bottle by bottle began to explode as the pressure was way stronger then the glass could handle.

So the interesting part of it all is that it was actually the English who discovered this phenomenon by pure accident as they bought a lot of wine from champagne for the Royal family in the UK.
So when they bottled it, there too the carbon dioxide was way to powerful for normal shape bottles, which made them working on how to preserve that bubble they loved so much in a bottle. Yes the Brits invented the bottle you know all today used for Champagne and the Spanjards the cork.

So the work began with the wine growers in Champagne to see how to improve this. Shortly after the discovery the famous monk Dom Perignon who single handed perfected the process and made the drink even more desirable, he perfected the art of blending, the art of what champagne is all about.


Let us not forget that first and foremost champagne has its strength in blending. Because of the difficult years they were facing, they had to mix years together to be able to produce a drink worthy of drinking.  Then at the time a single vintage did not had the strength to be served on its own, only when there was an exceptional year they were able to produce a champagne from that particular year, which we all know as vintage Champagne.

Of course these days certain houses produce pretty much a vintage every year as it can be sold for a better price as the vintage named on the label gives you the reference of age, but that does not always mean that the Champagne will for that be better or even wordy of a vintage.

Champagne has three predominant grape varieties.
The most planted grape is the Pinot Noir with about 38% of the surface then you have the Pinot Meunier with 34% of the surface and Chardonnay with 28% of the surface. Then there are 4 more grape varieties that are in the appellation champagne, they are Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris,Petit Meslier and Arbane.

Also champagne has rules: All harvest has to be hand picked, that is to preserve a maximum the sugars and aromas and to not damage the crop (as most grapes used are black). The press houses were established in the centre of the vineyards so time was reduce from picking to pressing. Many house work their press in different stages, a secret many houses hold.

As it says in its technical term "sparkling wine" you start first of all producing a still wine, which then through a second fermentation process becomes a sparkling wine. This is done with a "liqueur de tirage" which is yeast and sugar added to the wine. This will create the bubble inside the bottle and is laid to rest for a minimum of 15 months, this is another law implemented in Champagne. Most houses will leave their Champagne rest for 2 to 3 years, so most of your Brut NV are at least 2 years old.

Once the Champagne had gone through this whole process the dead yeast has to be extracted as we all have seen the images of the bottle standing upside down, this technique was invented by "Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin". Then through a particular system, first done by hand now by specialised machines, they extract the dead yeast and add a "liqueur d'expiditions" (some more sugar and already made Campagne) to fill the bottle to its 75cl norm and complete the process.

Then some of the Champagnes will rest for many more years. Most vintages will sleep for 7 to 10 Years. The rose Champagnes between 4 and 5 years some even more, Ultra Brut (which has hardly any sugar left, we could say it is the slim line of all Champagnes) 5 years.

So as you can see it takes time for a Champagnes to come to its completion.

Of course when you ask to most people give me a brand of Champagne.
the top names will be
Moet et Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon, Cristal, Mumm, Krug, Ruinard, Laurent-Perrier as those Champagnes have immense marketing machines behind them. Also most houses mentioned above are part of the LVMH group, which is he biggest and most influential group in Champange. .

But there are other extremely unique Champagnes.
Salon, which only produces vintages Champagnes but only when the vintage is wordy of producing, if the year in not to their standards they give the grapes to the mother house Delamotte.
There is Jacque Selosse, Egly-Ouriet, Bollinger, Jacquesson, Billecart-Salmon, Deutz, Louis Roederer, Pol Roger, Grand Siecle and Alexandra the Laurent-Perrier, Henriot, Charles Heidsieck, Agrapart et Fils, Pierre Gimonnet et Fils, Gosset to name you some of my favourites.

So don't panic when you see someone decanting a Champagne as it needs to bread sometimes a bit like a wine. Also serve it between 9 degrees and 11 and make sure the glasses are clean, no dust nor traces of washing up liquid as it will affect the taste, the bubbles and the style of the Champagne.

Also do try to design an entire dinner with Champagne as the sole drink. There are so many different varieties out there and styles that for each dish you will find a Champagne that will handle the pressure of support.

Well i hope this will give you some light and until next time please do drink responsibly.




Chateau Senejac Cru Bourgeois 2001 Haut Medoc

Last night a dear friend of mine called me up asking if we could meet up for a drink.
So I gladly came along as it was a long time ago i have not seen her. she took me to a gastro pub in Battersea London, called the lighthouse. A well designed and good atmosphere like place. It was packed but then lots of places were last night as most of the population have a 4 day off as it is Easter weekend.

So we nosed through the wine list to see if there was anything that might be acceptable to drink as i have great doubts on those gastro pubs and pubs in general with their wine selection.
initially, hmmm was the emotion coming through my veins, but then there was a bin end section on the wine list where, we with some debate decided to taste the Chateau Senejac Cru Bourgeois Haut-Medoc 2001.

The vintage 2001 is with 2000, 2005 and the 2009 (which is on primeur now at the moment) the vintages to invest of the last 10 years. 2003 was not bad but way too hot and so you have wines that are somewhat lazy carrying very ripe fruits, lots of sugar, lack of freshness and acidity an in a lot of cases over riped.
as we all might know 2005 was a magic year for the wine maker as all elements were perfectly set into place to create and obtain a super healthy grape, which is very important to make your wine but i will come back to vintages another time and why certain years are much better then others.

So we asked for one bottle of Senejac which was a whopping £32 and to my taste not worth that price tag more like £24 to £26.
The wine does not carry the luggage to be seen with a £32 price tag on its chest, one thing that irritates me greatly in many establishments as they only think of how much more profit they can pull out of this 750ml boy/man.

Sadly most don't have the skill to actually value a wine for its merits, and because it is written Bordeaux and Cru Bourgeois, they straight away assume it should go up by more then it should.

This bottle you buy here in the UK at wholesale price between £10 and £18 all depending on the vintage. Even so 2001 is overall a very good vintage, Senejac was somewhat short in length and had a weak structure on the palette.
On the nose you had a mix of red fruits somewhat hidden so its expression was medium and had a lack of oxygen during the fermentation process, also it was producing quite a bit of sediment.

The body was more medium then heavy which is not a bad thing and the wine had a fairly dry emotion on the back of the throat.

It was not an unpleasant wine but there are others out there that for similar price will give you a better ride.
I give this wine the Chateau Senejac Cru Bourgeois Haut-Medoc 2001 15/20 (79/100)

Its pricing on the wine list is not its fault but the fault of the greedy bloke of the establishment, which in the bigger scale of things is like all the other donkeys doing what has always been done and if you don't have the knowledge of what the product is all about then what do you expect.

If anyone has tasted this wine even of a different vintage, I would be more then happy to have some feed back on this.

The reason for that is firstly, I like to hear what other palettes have to say about this wine and also as I am in the process of setting up my boutique style wine bar and i am looking for quality and the right value. Also if any of you have some good suggestions on wines you think are absolute amazing please pass them through, as I want to design a list of precision, quality, value and inspiration.

for now I say goodbye and let the wind blow the sails of your imagination, returning to the western shores with debate and knowledge.

Hans