Wow how things come around. It was but a few months ago that I was complaining that a certain Malbec wine produced in the rolling hills of Kent had to be given away for free as the Euro technocrats stomped on this experiment after it was discovered that the grapes originated from Chile and were therefore not legal
Now it seems history is repeating itself, this time in America, this time in an argument over what can be classed as a château and what cannot (article found courtesy of my good friend The Oligarch Kings). So what exactly is all the fuss about? Well it appears that the French are getting particularly shirty after discovering American producers are trying to sell their wine in Europe under the guise of being produced in a ‘château’ when in fact the wine is being churned out of multi-million dollar processing style ‘châteaus’
I’m really in two mind about this. Whilst I completely understand the French point of view of wanting to preserve the name behind quality wine produced in the grounds of some off the oldest prettiest and most historic buildings on the European mainland, we can’t overlook the fact that globalisation comes at a cost that can’t be ignored. If France really wants to be seen and respected on the global stage it must make concessions and allow the mass-produced American wine into their country. Their best customers and everyone else in the know will still know the difference between some $20 bog standard bottle and an excellent year of an exquisite château. Moreover the UK booze cruise will just get more feverish!
Wait! (I hear the opposition cry). What about protecting the value of French wine? My answer here is simple. Whilst I understand that plenty of English produce (such as Stilton) has protected origin of source clauses written in we cannot be expected to hold French wine in the same regard as the scale is so much larger and after all we are only talking about a name and not the product inside!
How can it therefore be one rule for the rest of Europe (who would be looked at with disdain if they boycotted a foreign product) have one rule applied and France another? If the French winemakers truly wish to be respected on the global stage they need to abandon this ridiculous isolationism as others already embrace the inevitable effects (and benefits) of globalisation
It wouldn’t happen in the UK ……(just nobody mention the Windward Islands and bananas!)
Before I begin I feel I should note that going forward ‘nononsense’ wine will become ‘nononsensedrink’ as I branch out and move into other drink markets. So why this move you may ask? The answer boils down to the fact that there are so many other interesting ales and other drinks out there which this blog (by it’s very name) could not cover. Hopefully this change will allow me to discuss, make links and explore ideas far beyond the current scope with some hoppy real ale stories within my line of sight!
With the American Presidential Race reaching it’s hiatus, enthusiasm is mounting and the candidates are exploring any vote winning option that springs to mind. Mr Obama’s interesting approach is to brew his of special batch of ‘White House Beer’ using the special ingredient of Honey from the bees in the Whitehouse Garden. He has stressed that he has bought the equipment out of his own pocket and not from the pocket of the American taxpayer and let’s be honest Mr Obama is indeed playing to his strengths. The far right weren’t going to vote for him anyway and these are the same people who A. believe he is the devil and B. believe that drink was made by the devil so he doesn’t really have much to worry about on this front. He has however opened up himself and the Whitehouse to a majority of middle class democrat America who A. love drinking and B. would do it themselves if they could.
“So it may be the very bees in the garden of the Whitehouse that bring Barack back to the Whitehouse. Let’s hope so…”
Keep your eyes peeled for broader drink related posts to come…
So with the Olympics over its time to turn to the latest news stories rocking the wine world. So what did I stumble across this week, yep you guessed it, more english wine news and also here from 2011 in the Guardian.
It turns out even a panel of European wine magnates couldn’t knock English wine, with one Spanish wine expert going as far as saying the wine was excellent! So what next for England? Could we be the new player on the global sparkling market, boosting the economy in the process? I think not.
“When you buy a bottle of champagne you are not only buying into the wine itself, you are also buying into a romantic notion, a craftsman’s dream.”
Whilst we all love to see a bottle of local English line on the shelf of our local delicatessan, there is one thing that we seem to lack, the passion and craftsmanship that is seen elsewhere in the world. Let’s take the scenario of a French wine-making village. You can imagine it now, a quaint river babbling through the centre of the village, a dog lying under a shady tree in the village square and group of older men playing boules and generally being merry. OK so this image is a little cliched but it’s supposed to be as I am of course making a point.
Yes we can make a decent bottle of wine that impresses the Europeans and yes we would probably buy it but lets be honest the romanticism stops there. When you buy a bottle of champagne you are not only buying into the wine itself, you are also buying into a romantic notion, a craftsman’s dream. In England when you try to do the same you can only think of an abandoned shopping trolley in the babbling brook and a sprawling supermarket in which crime is rife an on the up. Again this image is a little stereotyped but I of course once again make a point. Lets hope that England wine making finds that something else to hang its hat on; it’s possible think of Bombardier ale, country life butter or Hovis bread.
I for one look forward to this time!
Continuing with the Olympic theme, there seems to have been some kind of Olympic food and wine revolution that has swept across London. With participants and representatives from a plethora of countries around the world, what better time to showcase the wares of each nation?
Of course included in this ‘revolution’ that has descended on the capital for the summer is wine from many of the countries. Many of these ‘houses’ for each nation’s Olympic teams are nestled at the heart of some of the cultural centres and markets of the capital and must surely not just do wonders for the local economy, but also for the communities in these areas. So where are they?
Switzerland: Nestled in Glasier’s Hall in the heart of Borough market (nearest tube London Bridge) is the official house of the Swiss team. Serving up everything form rösti to fondue, a glass of Swiss Chablais also doesn’t go amiss. Borough market is a hip and bustling place; a kind of creative quarter nestled underneath the railway arches of London Bridge aone not to miss! If you fancy picking up a decent bottle pop by to the Wine Pantry (@WinePantry) and pick up an excellent bottle in an excellent enclave.
Germany: Have taken over the Museum of London in the Docklands to showcase their club vibes. No doubt the building is now more akin to 80s Hamburg, however this official German House is a short walk from the German VIP ship currently moored in Canary Wharf. Again food and culture are the name of the game, and no doubt an excellent Reisling is on offer both in the building and on the VIP boat (nearest tube/DLR Canary Wharf)
Ireland: Trust the Irish to have made their house in the basement of a pub! Apparently they’ve changed it into mock up of Father Ted’s house. The pub itself, (the Big Chill House in Kings Cross) is an excellent venue (take it from me, I lived next to it for two years). With an Irish themed basement and a roof top terrace what more would you want to celebrate winning medals in style. Just a couple of minutes walk from Kings Cross tube and not a bad wine list too. Live music Friday and weekends too but £10 entry throughout the course of the Olympics .
Nigeria: Have taken up residence in the Stratford theatre Royal just a stones throw from the venue. Take a short walk from Stratford station to Nigeria House and get a real idea of Nigerian Culture
So it would seem that London is really a food and wine paradise for all. I’ll certainly be out and about and looking out for more, but in the meantime enjoy the party all!
In the meantime..
With the Olympics just around the corner the eyes of the world are going to be on London over the coming weeks. As a transport worker I for one am going to be exceptionally busy over the next month or so, and with this comes the worry that the Olympics will pass me by like a through train at some dreary station on a wet spring afternoon. If this does happen then so be it as long as I get a bottle of Olympic wine! Yes you heard it, there is going to be an Olympic wine on sale during the games!
As it turns out in the article there are lots of Olympic links to the wines chosen so in an equally cringe worthy fashion I will be making tenuous Olympic links in this article (I apologise in advance).
So the first question that has to be asked I suppose it what exactly are the Olympic wines of choice and what is so special that makes them of ‘gold’ standard (I told you it would be bad)? Well as it turns out the red is a Brazilian Tempranillo of excellent vintage in honour of the next venue of the games in 2016. The white and rose are South African (I am unsure of the link here). As it happens about one million bottles of the stuff will be winging their way to all but a few games venues. Moreover their low alcohol content at 12.5% apparently promoted responsible drinking for games spectators (presumably so that they don’t streak and give Usain Bolt a run for his money).
So what do I think of all this Olympic vintage discussion? Well the first hurdle (note another Olympic reference) i’m assuming that the producers had to overcome was whether to serve the wine in a plastic or glass bottle. No doubt LOCOG have demanded plastic bottles to protect punters from being shanked in a similar way to at festivals, however this automatically seems to make the wine taste distinctly different. I would of course expect LOCOG to restrict alcohol being sold to a select few suppliers (in the same way that you can only use a Visa card or eat at Mcdonalds at the venues) but all of this does seem a little over thought in the grand scheme of thing.
There will be no other wine on offer for spectators to chose from so it doesn’t really matter how excellent the wine is or how well it is plugged as ‘responsible’, spectators are going to drink it by the gallon either way. Why therefore does Olympic wine have raised up as yet another stalwart of the Olympic dream when it is probably just quaffable plonk? Nevertheless I don’t care about all of this, I just want to get my hands on a bottle for posterity although this does seem to nullify the point of my argument so far. This doesn’t matter, no doubt you won’t be able to take a bottle out of the venues in case it upsets a local happy seagull so the point stands….
It’s a strange old world. One minute it seems it’s too expensive to go abroad the next apparently we’re going to France like there’s no tomorrow! In my previous posts I showed that you could pick up some pretty decent wines from the continent so this resurgence in day trips to France has to be a good thing. If you do go perhaps steer clear from the ‘Tesco copies’ in Calais (which are designed for the bulk British buyer) unless you’re planning to stock up on vats of the stuff and aren’t that concerned with quality. If you’re happy to spend a little more then perhaps head inland a but more and find the more local supermarches or out of town French Majestic. Here you are more likely to find some decent bottles but still at a much better price and avaliability than in the UK (after all you are going there to save money)
With austerity biting the booze cruise seemed a thing of the past, however with the strengthening pound ans cheap ferry tickets means there is a form of resurgence from this [much loved] British bargain expedition. This could however be a double edged sword. Whilst we wont turn down the bargain offerings, small quality wine merchants back in the UK are likely to start struggling again.
One can only hope that this does not happen……
I’ve always wanted to visit the sites of Asia. The Great wall, the Palm Julmera, etc all spring to mind as impressive attractions on an impressive continent but I have yet to make it there.
What is also impressive is Asia’s surge in wine appreciation in recent years. Surprisingly it’s not just the rich taste of many European wines helping to supplement some of Asia’s foods that is the major pull, it is also the ‘health benefits’. This said, only a few weeks ago I commented on the non-committal health fads that seem to be rife in society today, however in Asia it seems that it is there very health recommendations that drive wine consumption. Indeed expensive goods have long been the guilty pleasure of the middle classes, however it seems that the notion of a more expensive good being good for you has gone the mileage in Asia.
“Globalisation appears to have brought the exotic to the Orient but at what cost?”
There is one other thing to take from this, new markets that span the world are emerging as legitimate centres of wine enjoyment. This said it is ironic that an area once referred to as the Orient is now not as ‘exotic’ as it once was as European wine now becomes the new desire for many. What a role reversal, globalisation now appears to have brought the exotic to the Oritent but at what cost?
Keep your eyes peeled for news, tastings and articles to come
In a week where we have seen the apprentice candidates try and sell wine (mainly unsuccessfully) it got me thinking, is there anywhere in society today that wine has not reached? I’m sure the Queen will be quaffing many a bottle with her hubby the ‘foot in the mouth’ prince as she toasts her jubilee in. Nevertheless in an age with so many alternative drinks on the market, where does wine stand and will it continue to stand the test of time?
The telegraph has raised an incredibly interesting article today about how champagne, cocktails and even ales have become the favourite accompaning tipple to many a meal in chique London restaurants and brasseries. So it would seem that wine is not as high on the public agenda as it once was, as restaurant proprieters aim to branch out and seek new accompaniments to some of the nations favourite dishes
Despite the above, I can’t see this trend catching out. Lets take real ale for an example. One minute we’re told that consumption of this fine stuff is on the decline, and the next we are told it’s streets ahead of its nearest lager rival. It seems that the media machine changes it’s mind quicker than you can neck a yard of ale, and this brings me nicely on to my final point. Let’s stop with the flitting fads that the media try and grab our attention with. Wine has been around for thousands of years and it is still consumed in [probably ever increasing] quantities. If it was going to be eclipsed by some ale alias then do you not think that this would have happened already?! I am happy that London’s restaurants are branching out but this doesn’t mean that wine is on decline.
Tried some ‘light’ wine the other night. Was interesting to say to least…. Will blog on it in due course!
We all seem to take it for granted that when we walk into a our local branch of Sainsburys, Tesco or (insert other corporate food retailer) we can easily pick up a decent bottle of red and take it round to a friends and put the world to rights. In America things aren’t quite as rosy. 40000 different alcohol laws seem to govern the sale of alcohol across the Union with small retailers the hardest hit as seemingly ridiculous laws govern everything right down to the size of the floor from which alcohol can be sold from. Moreover cross-state selling legalised in 2005 makes it even more difficult for independent retailers to make an honest buck. OK so this rampant globalisation is just part of what makes the world go round but it seems somewhat contradictory that independent retailers in certain states could reap the benefits of state legislation without any interference. The usual story, that globalisation has struck at the heart of these local retailers can of course be dismissed but this time it has a strange sting in the tail.
“[…] the same battle is evolving but in ever smaller locales”
This change in legislation seems to have forced open the debate on what is the driving force in modern day America. Is it the state or is it the Country that should have the final say? Whilst dear old Uncle Sam seems to spread prosperity to all, if you ask any local spirit retailer in Maryland whether they are happy with this arrangement and they’ll have a few choice words to say to you. This links back to the original point made, prohibition in the 20s caused friction among who should have the last say on whether alcohol could be sold, State or Senate? Now the same battle is emerging but in ever smaller locales. Will this lead to a new State separatism or is it a storm in a wineglass?
It seems that on a daily basis we turn on the news or open the paper only to be bombarded by the results of the latest scientific study about health fads. One minute we’re told that fatty food will kill us, eating fish will cause us to drop dead at forty paces or that bacon we eat will cause us to turn into some kind of livestock. In addition to this it seems that the doctor’s orders change on a daily basis with regards to alcohol consumption, how much and when. On the one hand we are told that no alcohol intake is the only way to live but on the other we are told that if we don’t drink enough then we will slowly lose our minds. Well guess what, a new studfy has been released tells us that drinking red wine can reduce age (sigh)
OK, so this does appear on the Daily Mail’s website so we should take it with a pinch of salt, however this seems to reaffirm what we’ve been told on and off for years, that a glass of red wine a day is good for you and can extend life expectancy. In this instance it is the newly dubbed ‘miracle’ ingredient reservatrol that reduces the ageing process of consumed regularly. It also appears that there is some fairly complex science behind this which involves analysing mitochondrial genes/DNA. With the opportunity to turn this substance into a drug and amplify the age reducing properties of the chemical gives al kinds of benefits, and opens up a world of treatment for cancer and heat disease. Despite all of this optimism (which hopefully isn’t misplaced) I for one am cynical that this will just be passing phase before the next ‘danger’ foodstuff hits the headlines.
” […] it is this premature optimism that leads to a ‘cry-wolf’ indifference among the general public”
Why can we not more fully research options and start the process of making a saleable drug before we hail this as the new miracle cure for all? Although I don’t doubt the optimism and need to share such good news, it is this premature optimism that leads to a ‘cry-wolf’ indifference among the general public. As a result when real treatments come out they are but a drop in the ocean among all the other announcements made in this realm which is surely the opposite of what were are trying to achieve.
This said I for one will happily drink the wine to keep me as young, healthy, beautiful and modest as I currently am.