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7 Unusual Wine Innovations

Our world is ever-evolving, not least thanks to our quest for continuous innovation to better everyday existences.   The world of drinks is no exception, & with competition fast & furious, the more traditional world of wine tries its best to hold its own.

 

And of course success has to be tempered (& indeed built upon) by less success. Sometimes something hasn’t been brought to market for good reason.

 

Herewith a round-up of a few of the more unusual & arguably less useful innovations brought to the party..

 

 

Wine Sling

 

Whilst we appreciate arm waving is important, so is being able to move freely around the room without sloshing wine down your front. However, if hospital-chic is your thing, look no further.

 

3 bottle wine glass

 

THREE bottles. In ONE glass. Whilst we see where they were going with this, we shall politely stick with the good old fashioned 6 glasses per bottle rule. Thank you.

 

Wine chain holder

There’s guarding your goods &, ahem, guarding your goods. Wine is, of course, infinitely guardable AND shareable, but slightly intrigued as to how this chain combats a corkscrew. It is however, magic.

 

Bosch Power Tool corkscrew

 

No words describe this appendage from Bosch. It does however leave you with a particularly tickling image of DIY Dan taking on a bottle after some manly drilling for picture hooks.

 

Tree root carafe (by Etienne Meneau)

 

Beautiful, alluring & yet wholly impractical on pretty much all levels aside from an aesthetically wow display piece.  Breathing & pouring inside, the idea of cleaning is really quite terrifying.

 

Wine Monkey Caddy

 

Cheeky chappy Mr Monkey doesn’t want you to see the label. & will do his best to warm things up to branch-swinging rainforest climes given half a chance.

 

Get a Grip Wine Glass Grip

 

For the most streamline of stems comes the most rubbery of gadgets. One size fits all; should you want your wine glass to double-up as a bicycle handle, the solution has arrived.

 

The beauty of the above is, of course, that they all lend themselves to being subjectively interpreted. For some the idea of having 3 bottles in 1 drink, or indeed fastening down the dust mask & drilling into the bottle may well be the dream. And the best innovations often fail first time round. We do, however, draw the line at the sling. For now.

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  • Guide to Labels: Bordeaux

    Fine wine’s tour de force Bordeaux spans 120,000 hectares of vines, more than 8,500 growers & 60 appellations. Throw in a prevalence for all sorts of classification (blame Napoleon), it’s no wonder that there is rather a lot of information to absorb from its labels. And that’s before the content even comes into consideration.

     

    Predominantly what came to be known as claret, reds dominate in the Bordeaux region, but one shouldn’t forget the wonderful sweet wines of Sauternes & Barsac; neither the small percentage of dry whites, rosé & cremant.   Sporting a heady mix of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot, sauvignon blanc, semillon & muscadelle, Bordeaux has something rather special when it comes to producing what are arguably the best wines in the world. And it lies in both their climate & soil. Being next to the Atlantic, & with not one, but two source rivers dividing things up makes for a very changeable both. And goes some way into explaining how so many different grapes & styles of wine flourish in this area.

     

    With such variety, labels do not, of course, follow a steadfast set of rules, but we hope that the below will help give some pointers. Or maybe a dinner party conversation or two, at least.

     

    Classification

     

    Bordeaux flies the flag for French wine classification. And in doing so created it’s very own asset class. It all stems back to the ‘Grand Exposition” of Paris in 1855. And Napoleon. Who wanted to create some a quality-based grading system to showcase the finest French wines to the rest of the world. Bordelais brokers opted for a price, production & location approach which favoured vineyards on the Left Bank of the river: 59 of them to be precise & 1 from the Right. Not wanting to be completely leftist, they also picked out 26 of the sweet white wines from Sauternes & Barsac with Chateau d’Yquem defining its very own class, ‘Premier Cru Supérieur’ (a little liquid gold never goes amiss, especially in Gaie Paris).  Over 100 years later, in 1959 the Right introduced it’s own ‘Graves Classification’ & popped a humble 23 chateaus on its books. If you can’t beat’em, join’em.

     

    All this classy classing has left us with what we have today, with 5 growths: Premier right through to Cinquieme, collectively known as the ‘Grand Crus Classés’.

     

    Image

     

    The Bordelais are proud of rather grand homes, & justly so. Generally an image of the chateau takes pride of place on its bottled fare. If not the castle, then the family crest; the more aristocratically authoritative the better.

     

    Vintage

     

    Not the trickiest to grasp given we all abide by the Gregorian calendar.   A given vintage is often sold en Primeur (in the Spring after it was harvested) & kept in barrel for up to 2 years. Good things come to those who wait. And Bordeaux’s maritime environment makes sure there’s plenty of variation year to year, so eventual release is not without suspense.

     

    Château / Domaine

     

    Bordeaux is all about the brand & the name of the château or domaine is just that.. Big family names like Rothshild & Lurton are often included in the domaine name; no space for shy or retiring in this particular world!

     

    Appellation

     

    Bordeaux is far larger & more diverse than it’s singular city name suggests. With 57 different appellations, or areas, that are easiest to place into 6 main categories: Red Bordeaux & Red Bordeaux superieur (generally Right Bank & Entre Deux Mers & not classified); Red Cotes de Bordeaux (hilly outskirts & again not classified); Red Libourne (Right Bank); Red Graves (Left Bank); Dry White and, last but by no means least, Sweet White.

     

    Like Burgundian terroirs, appellations are dictated by their soil & the climate. Bordeaux, being by the sea, has all sorts of interesting subterranean differences going on: Left Bank is closer to the Atlantic, its nutritious & gravely top layer is particularly adept at the late ripening of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes; Right Bank’s Saint-Emillion is further from the sea & predominantly limestone which is great for balancing water whereas Pomerol’s clay retains liquid & stops its merlot from over-ripening.  Sauternes sits between the Garonne river & its tributary, the Ciron; the difference in water temperature (Ciron is from a spring source) makes for the all-important morning mist that allows botrytis to work it’s noble magic.

     

    The most famous appellations have become household names & are synonous with the quality of wine produced there: Margaux, Pessac Leognan/Graves (the name changed in 1987), Sauternes, Pauillac, Saint Julien, Saint-Estephe, Pomerol & Saint-Emilion. Quite the stellar line up!

     

    Bottling Info

     

    Most Bordeaux is ‘Mis En Bouteille au Chateau”; unless it’s cooperatively grown fare (therefore not classified) & bottled by a Négociant, who will bottle from an array of sources & generally under their own brand, as per their Burgundian counterparts.

     

    Alcohol Content

     

    The Bordelais have come under fire for increased alcohol over the years; currently averages gradually creeping up to 14% which edges towards fortified territory & quite rightly helps deter from over-zealous swigging. Bordeaux definitely deserves its due respect!

     

    So there we have it – reassuringly complex & steeped in all sorts of grandesses. Napoleon would be proud indeed.

     

     

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  • Farewell to Grande Dame of Burgundy

    Anne-Claude Leflaive, know as the ‘Grande Dame of Burgundy’ sadly passed away at Domaine Leflaive on Monday 6th April. Her death is a great loss to the world of wine; a strong woman who was seen both as pioneer & maverick, constantly standing for what she believed in.

    She joined the family business, Domaine Leflaive, in 1990, taking over sole responsibility in 1993. She was one of the earliest biodynamic propagators, & over the next 4 years converted the entire domaine. Her conviction, & charisma in conveying it, led for her to be one of the most respected & celebrated biodynamic wine growers & a pioneer for excellence, especially in her beloved Burgundy.

    Accolades flew thick & fast, from her work on the actual domaine to within the industry at large. Her energy, enthusiasm & ability to articulate her passions touched all those she met, & those much further afield. She led by example in creating some of the finest wines in the world, inspiring many & fearing none.

    Her legacy lives on through the domaine & the wine school she co-founded in Burgundy: “Ecole du Vin et Terroirs”. Whilst the wine world is in shock, they will be coming together to celebrate her life this Saturday. Our thoughts & respect are with her family & friends.

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  • Calendar Month Ahead – April

    Just as white rabbits start springing from hats, the wine world too delves into magic realms of its own. April sees the Bordelais gather round cave cauldrons for the tie up of 2014 Bordeaux En Primeur; it also sees the kick-off of the big global trade exhibitions with Vinitaly in Verona.  Closer to home, wands are twitching too, particularly with a series of Australia-themed events & tastings.  From The Wine Society ‘Wizards of Oz’ to a D&D’s ‘Wonderful Wines of Aus’, something must be in the air when it comes to celebrating the viticulturous fare of Down Under.  If that all sounds too yellow brick roaded, there’s plenty of the more traditional goings on too.. Read on for some fool-free inspiration:

     

    Wednesday 1st
    Wine & Dine Wednesdays
    Vinopolis, London SE1

     1st to 5th
    Austraila vs France drop in tastings: Burgundy
    Pont de la Tour, London SE1

     

    Monday 6th – 12th
    Austraila vs France drop in tastings: N Rhone
    Pont de la Tour, London SE1

     

    Tuesday 7th
    Your wine PT – ‘More pretty than plump’
    10 Bells, Commercial, London E1

    Eurovision Wine Contest, Wine Society
    Assembly House, Norwich NR2

     

    Wednesday 8th
    4 Decades of Lopez de Heredia Rioja: Tondonia
    West London Wine School

    Wine Society Eurovision Contest
    Essex County cricket ground, Chelmsford

     

    Thursday 9th
    Austrian Masterclass
    West London Wine School, Fulham

     

    Monday 13th
    Wine Australia’s Tasting Blind Club
    Australia House, London WC2

    13th – 19th
    Austraila vs France drop in tastings: S Rhone
    Pont de la Tour, London SE1

     

    Tuesday 14th
    Flirting with Fruit & Wood
    10 bells, Commercial St, London E1

    ThirtyFifty Wine Tasting & Appreciation
    The Restaurant Bar & Grill, Manchester

    Jancis Robinson tutored tasting: Portugal
    Quality Chophouse, London

    It’s Ghana be Grape!
    King & Co, Clapham

     

    Wednesday 16th
    Louis Roederer Champagne Tasting
    West London Wine School, Fulham

     

    Friday 17th – 18th
    Laithwaites Vintage Wine Festival
    Old Billingsgate, London
    Monday 20th
    Fine Wine – Burgundy 2005, 10 years on
    West London Wine School, Fulham

    The Wizards of Oz – Wines of Australia
    Lords Cricket ground, London

    20th – 26th
    Austraila vs France drop in tastings: Faugeres
    Pont de la Tour, London SE1

     

    Tuesday 21st
    Butt Clenching Big Ones (Tasting)
    10 bells, Shoreditch E1

    World of Wine (tasting) – Germany, Alsace, Austria & UK
    West London Wine School, Fulham

     

    Wednesday 22nd
    Discover Italy Tasting
    West London Wine School, Fulham

    French Classics – tasting & nibbles
    Edinburgh, Queen St

    The Wizards of Oz – Wines of Australia
    Glasgow Trades Hall

    Saturday 25th
    Tutored Wine Tasting, English & Welsh Wines
    Wem Street Market, Shrewsbury

     

    Monday 27th
    A tale of 2 rivers: Rhine & Danube tasting
    Merchant Taylor’s Hall, EC2R

     

    Tuesday 28th
    Seductively Sweet (tasting)
    10 bells, Commercial Street E1

    Jancis Robinson Odd & Obscure tasting
    Quality Chop House London

     

    Thursday 30th
    Sherry & Tapas Tasting
    West London Wine School, Fulham

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