10 Years and Counting

English Wine Walk Sussex 2012 006Why the picture of the celebratory wine glasses?  Well, it’s hard to believe but it’s 10 years since I pressed ‘Publish’ for the first Bristol Wine Blog on 28 July 2010.  At that time, I couldn’t have guessed that I would still be blogging 10 years later – or that anyone would still be reading it!  But I am and you are, so Thank You!

It hasn’t turned out quite how I imagined it would, though.  At the start, I was aiming to create a forum for those in and around Bristol to share their thoughts about wine and their recommendations for the best local buys.  But I underestimated how much wine lovers enjoy reading and talking about wine (almost as much as we enjoy drinking it!) and my hoped-for local community soon spread way beyond the city limits.  Indeed, WordPress tell me that, in the last month alone, the Blog has been read by people from more than 20 countries, so, welcome all you ‘honorary Bristolians’!

Counting back, I must have written more than 500 blogs since that first one.  Many have become out of date and so I have deleted them, but I’ve kept quite a few in the archive as they seem to keep attracting attention.  The most popular is one I posted way back in 2011 titled “Ungrafted Vines: A Taste of History”.  It has clocked up more than 2500 reads over the years and is certainly still relevant today.  It talks about the ongoing battle to combat the deadly vine disease, phylloxera, and explains why most of today’s wine comes from European vines (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc) grafted onto American vine rootstocks – a positive example of transatlantic co-operation!

And looking forward? Well, with the current pandemic, there will be fewer blogs about wine tasting events or courses and not so many mentions of restaurant meals, but my wife and I are still enjoying our wine so, what better plan for the next 10 years of Bristol Wine Blog than to go back to my original idea: to write and share thoughts about wine and recommendations for the best local buys?  And, to read your responses, of course.

The Answers

Last time, in Bristol Wine Blog, I set you a little wine-related quiz to keep you amused and interested. Here, as promised, are the answers, so let’s see how you got on:

1 (d) Cabernet Sauvignon is the correct answer.

Bordeaux probably Cab S

According to the most recent survey, there are 290000 hectares (725000 acres) of it planted worldwide, about 10% more than the 2nd most planted variety, Merlot.

2 Although St. George is the patron saint of England, the grape variety Agiorgitiko, which translates as St. George, is native to Greece, so answer (a) is correct. For those who want to show off, the Greek name is pronounced ‘eye-your-yit-iko’.

3 Chablis, being part of Burgundy, is made from (b) Chardonnay.

4 Although Italy and France produce more wine, (b) Spain has the largest acreage of vines planted. The low rainfall across much of Spain means the vines are planted further apart to avoid competing with each other for moisture so the vineyard area is bigger.

5 (d) Classico is an Italian term for a wine produced from the traditional heart of a wine region and so is the correct answer. The other 3 options denote sparkling wines from France, Spain and South Africa.

6 Chianti comes from the Italian region of (a) Tuscany.

24 Ricasoli wines

7 Grapes have been grown in New Zealand almost since the time of the earliest European settlers, but the first Sauvignon Blanc was only planted there in (d) 1973.

8 (c) Alsace is the only part of France that allows Riesling to be planted. It is adjacent to Germany’s Baden and Pfalz regions that also grow the same variety.

9 The town of Casablanca is in Morocco but the wine region is on the coast of Chile, so answer (c) is correct.

10 Most Chateauneuf du Pape is a blend of Grenache and, perhaps, 2 or 3 other grape varieties.

Chateauneuf_du_Pape

But, in all, 18 different varieties are now allowed in the blend, 5 more having been added to the already ridiculous array a few years ago. Answer (a) is correct.

How did you do?

I’d suggest 9 or 10 correct: award yourself the title of Grand Cru; 7 or 8: Premier Cru; 5 or 6: Cru Bourgeois; 3 or 4: Vin Ordinaire; Less than 3: so long as you enjoy your wine, does it really matter?

Hope this quiz kept you amused and interested. Take Care and Stay Safe.

 

 

Red or White?

white and red

I saw an interview recently with someone who claimed one of their ‘hidden skills’ was to be able to distinguish between red and white wine blindfold, so just by tasting. What’s so clever about that? Surely, it’s easy!

Well, no! There have been a number of studies carried out where people have been asked to do just that and the results, surprisingly, have almost always been that most only get it right half the time.

So, during these extra days spent at home, why not put on a blindfold and experiment for yourself? Ask someone to pour you 2 glasses and taste. And here’s a simple tip: look for tannin – that’s the drying sensation that you feel on your cheeks or gums when you taste red wine. Tannin comes mainly from grape skins and, as red wines are fermented in contact with their skins to produce the colour, you also get the tannin. For white wines, on the other hand, the winemaker usually separates the juice from the skins before fermentation and therefore, there’s little detectable tannin in the wine.

It’s not 100% guaranteed, however: as red wines age, they soften and their tannin becomes more integrated into the wine and so less noticeable, so that might mislead. Also, some wines, like simple Beaujolais, for example, are made using a different type of fermentation (it’s called carbonic maceration if you want to look it up!) which produces rather less tannin than a ‘normal’ fermentation. So that, too, might put you off track.

And how about white wines? Will they never have any tannin? Well, they might. Especially the currently fashionable so-called ‘orange’ wines – these are made using white wine grapes but fermented partly with the skins as a red wine would be. But, it would be a bit of a low trick if someone would give you one of these as your test.

But do have a try; it’s good fun and interesting – and you’ve got some wine to enjoy after you’ve finished. But, remember: no cheating and peaking out from behind the blindfold!

Death of a Legend

Michael-Broadbent-credit-Christies(photo above thanks to Christie’s Wine Auctioneers)

In these strange and unsettling times when we have to think ‘Coronavirus’ before every action we take, I guess most of us are looking for some good news.   But that’s not what we had last week with the reports of the sad death of one of the most respected names in the wine industry, Michael Broadbent at the grand age of 92. One of the first 25 people in the world to pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine exams, Broadbent was an acclaimed taster, a widely published writer, a skilled wine educator and a long-term director and principal auctioneer of Christie’s Wine Department.

Although I never met him, I heard him often and, when I began to take a serious interest in wine, the first book I was recommended to buy was his ‘Pocket Guide to Wine Tasting’; that was in the mid-1990s and I still have it and refer to it. Like the man himself, the book is elegant and precise but also a wonderful source of useful knowledge combined with realistic common sense.

His wine career began in 1952 but he soon moved to work at Harveys of Bristol before leaving to join Christie’s a decade later. When I followed in his footsteps and joined Harveys more than 30 years after his departure, his influence and particularly his ethos that all staff members should receive good wine training was still in place and my success in the Wine Diploma exams is testimony to this.

He leaves an amazing store of information; early in his career, he was advised to make a note of every wine he tasted – he did so, in small red covered notebooks, about 150 of them, containing details of around 100,000 wines, some dating back well before his birth!

Perhaps tasting that many wines is the secret to long life!

Join me in raising a glass to a wine legend, Michael Broadbent.