Anson on Thursday: Oak ageing holds key to wine sweetness

Anson on Thursday: Oak ageing holds key to wine sweetnessNew research to learn how some of the world’s greatest wines develop sweetness without the presence of sugar has pinpointed specific types of oak ageing as key, writes Jane Anson in her weekly column. Oak barrels influence flavour in wine more than we realise, suggests researchJean-Baptiste Lécaillon of Louis Roederer has been working with imminent Bordeaux oenologist Axel Marchal on a groundbreaking new project on oak ageing that has flowed out of that simple question of sweetness without sugar.
He has just taken delivery of three new oak vats in his cellars in Reims that will be used with Chardonnay grapes for Louis Roederer Cristal and Blanc de Blancs. The inside of the vats have seen only the lightest of toastings to limit their aromatic imprint on the crisp minerality of the Chardonnay.
But what the new vats should do instead is to subtly impart a series of taste molecules.
The two most dominant of these, first exposed during Marchal’s PhD research project, are called Quercotriterpenoside I and II (or QTT). These vats are the first worldwide to be cast iron to contain these molecules in each stave, as each one has been examined and approved by Marchal prior to delivery. Read more

Hardy’s owner sells share in Matthew Clark distributor

Hardy’s owner sells share in Matthew Clark distributorAccolade Wines has sold its 50% stake in UK wine, beer and spirits distributor Matthew Clark, prompting the share fee of buyer Conviviality Retail to soar on the London stock exchange. Matthew Clark Shares in Conviviality Retail, the owner of the Bargain Booze and Wine Rack chains, rose by aroun 25% following the announcement this week.
Conviviality will buy all of Matthew Clark after the distributor’s only additional shareholder, pub chain Punch Taverns, said it would also sell its stake to the retailer. The deal is value at around £200m.
Matthew Clark specialises in distributing wine and additional drinks to restaurants and bars around the UK.
Accolade Wines is itself owned by Australian finance companionship Champ Private Equity, based in Sydney.
Champ made Accolade after buying 80% of Mondavi owner Constellation Brands‘ business in the UK and Australia in January 2011. The deal built-in strong’s in Australia, as well as a 50% stake in Matthew Clark in the UK.
As part of the deal with Conviviality, Accolade said it had secured a 10 year contract with Matthew Clark to ensure that its wines continued to be distributed in bars, pubs and restaurants.
There have been additional high profile deals in the UK wine trade recently. In August, wine merchant Enotria said it had bought rival Coe Vintners for an undisclosed fee.
That followed an announcement last year that Bibendum had agreed to buy PLB, making one of the largest wine suppliers to supermarkets and bars in the country.
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Oregon Pinot Noir: Expert’s Choice

Oregon Pinot Noir: Expert’s ChoiceThe province has taken off in the 50 years since its first modern-era plantings, with sustainability-minded producers building wines with identity, finds sommelier Laure Patry.It all started in 1961 when Richard Sommer planted Oregon‘s first post-Prohibition vinifera grapes, including Pinot Noir, in the Umpqua Valley.
A few years before long, in 1965, David Lett planted Pinot Noir at Eyrie Vineyards in the Willamette Valley, as the cooler climate there was better suited to this Burgandian grape variety.
The temperate climate and costal marine influence in Oregon is ideal for cool-climate grapes such as Pinot Noir, and more wineries started to spring up. By 1974, the province’s wine producers recognised Oregon’s need to import excellent cool-climate clones from Burgundy, amongst others.
See Laura’s 18 top Oregon Pinot Noir wines: Read more

Monty Waldin’s taste of bush-vine Primitivo

Monty Waldin’s taste of bush-vine PrimitivoPrimitivo is practically synonymous with Puglia and the south of Italy. Yet it is taking a plucky band of pioneers to re-establish it in its truest form, as a bush vine. Monty Waldin reportsThe small town of Manduria lies a 40-minute drive southeast of the southern Italian port of Taranto, along a gently rising, arrow-straight road. This is the Salento peninsula, the baking heel of Italy’s boot.
My father came here in 1944, having landed at Taranto with Linked troops. With his radio receiver he’d crawl in Salento’s dusty, iron-rich red soil, using the local olive groves and vineyards as cover. Back then, Manduria’s vineyards were overflowing with Primitivo, Puglia’s signature red wine grape. Since the vines grew as low free-standing bush or alberello, Primitivo provided the perfect cover. To this day, Primitivo bush vines dating from the 1930s and 1940s wait in this arid part of Italy’s heel. But over the last 20 years most have been ripped out.
Monty Waldin picks five wines demonstrating what bush-vine Primitivo has to offer… Read more

How to understand wine

How to understand wineWhat makes a nourishing glass of wine? Berry Brothers & Rudd's new book clarifies six key factors which keeps a wine in balance. The diagram demonstrates how climates affects the flavour of wine. A wine needs balance between all the factors that contribute to the taste and character. Read the guide below to know how to better be with you wine.
ACIDITY
Acidity is a positive in wine – it preserves the wine, gives it backbone, keeps it fresh.
Detect acidity through its mouthwatering look, a tingling sharpness on the tongue.
Try tasting one glass of unadorned water, then a second with some lemon juice added: you’ll notice the look of the acidity in your mouth. Any fruit needs some acidity to be enjoyable, and wine – the juice of the grape, at heart – is no exception.
Too small acidity, and the wine will taste flabby and over-sweet. Too much, and it will be tart, astringent and sour.
In general, the cooler the climate, the higher the acidity. For examples of high- and lowacidity wines, compare a Sauvignon Blanc wine with a Gewurztraminer.
FRUIT RIPENESS
Grapes in different climates, with more or less sunshine, ripen to different degrees – reckon of a green apple compared to a tropical fruit. Or compare a ripe, juicy peach with a hard, unripe one.
Fruit ripeness can be a excellent clue to whether the wine comes from a cool climate, or a warmer one. (See the above diagram). Ripe, fruity wines can be more immediately attractive than austere, mineral ones. But both sorts have their charms – and their uses.
You will find that acidity and fruit ripeness have an inverse relationship with each additional. Read more

Gallo buys California Central Coast winery

Gallo buys California Central Coast wineryCalifornia wine giant E&J Gallo has taken another step in an apparent quest to revamp its business after agreeing to buy estate wine specialist Talbott Vineyards. Rob Talbott, of Talbott VineyardsTalbott is based in California’s Central Coast, in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, is one of the US sunshine state’s largest producers of estate grown wine, said Gallo. It did not release a fee for the deal.
The go is the latest in a series of vineyard buys by Gallo and suggests the companionship is seeking to re-orient its business towards the more premium end of the wine market.
Some rivals, such as Mondavi owner Constellation Brands, have been doing the same, believing there is a larger sales opportunity there.
Talbott was founded in 1982 by Rob Talbott and it specialises in the classic Burgundian varieties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Read more

China wine book makes tough reading for Bordeaux chateaux

China wine book makes tough reading for Bordeaux chateauxA new wine book on China’s rapid emergence on the fine wine scene - and its sudden retreat - could make uncomfortable conception for several classified Bordeaux chateaux, writes Jane Anson. Xiamen Port China, Chinese wine shipments, wine shipments, Suzanne Mustacich has lived and worked in Bordeaux as a correspondent for various publications over the past decade, giving her a useful sense of context to the rise of China within the local wine trade, and the subsequent attempts by both sides to hegemony opportunities and profits.
Parched Dragon makes full use of this background knowledge with research into how the Chinese wine market has grown, fleshed out by interviews with key players in Bordeaux, Hong Kong and China.
The tale takes us through the beginnings of the industry with the early plantings of vi nes by 19th century Catholic missionaries to the recent impact of the austerity drive that started in Development 2012 with Wen Jiabao’s vows to clamp down on the misuse of public funds.
The book is extremely detailed and the sheer number of names, facts, deals and data threatens at times to get in the way of the storytelling. But that is not to detract from the achievement here.
Many of the players that Mustacich writes about have been unwilling to go on the confirmation previous to. There is some brilliant in the rear-the-scenes explanation of the rumors and scandals that have rocked Bordeaux over the past five years that châteaux and merchants have hitherto been so careful about burying.
These include the millions of euros worth of cancelled orders from Chinese buyers during the market crash between 2009 and 2012 and the deals where 1855 classified properties discreetly made second marks specifically for the Chinese market, where they bypassed the traditional route to market of brokers, merchants and local importers to go direct to buyers.
Although the chateaux involved are allowed to wait anonymous, it’s apparent that this is going to make uncomfortable conception for many of the classified properties in Bordeaux.
But the human tales are the highlight of the tale, following the role of players such as private investigator Nick Bartman tracking the wave of copy wines across China, or Philippe Papillon’s rise and fall as a négociant and ‘China specialist’ on the Place de Bordeaux.
All come up against the might of the Chinese government’s infamous Five Year Plans, and these parts often read like a cross between a detective tale and a darkly comic tragedy.
Mustacich is evenhanded in her approach. Both China and Bordeaux are shown to be ruthless in first courting each additional’s attention, then pursuing the money as the market takes off and finally in their attempts to cover their own backs when things go sour.
The overall feeling at the end of conception is one of unease for the future, even as the Chinese market continues to grow and opportunities multiply. Mustacich wisely doesn’t try to wrap things up too neatly, choosing instead to point out that ‘China challenges the rules of the game, but the game will subdue be played’
Parched Dragon by Suzanne Mustacich is set for release in the UK and the US on November 10 (Henry Holt, approx £20 in UK), in audio, kindle and hardcover. It is plotted to be published in China, but must first apparent a censorship audit.
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