Saturday, 8 December 2012

Quincy. The Wine, Not the 70s Television Series

For several years now when asked what my favourite wine is I have answered that it is Quincy, Q-U-I-N-C-Y from the Loire valley. I always have to spell it as most people think they misheard me. In preparation for this blog I wondered to myself why I continue to say this as I like many other wines probably just as much. I suspect that the wine snob in me says it because it's a bit niche and not many people will have heard of it and that makes me look cleverer and more knowledgeable than I really am. Yes I know, terrible isn't it.

Of course when you say Quincy to most Brits and probably Americans even more they will immediately think of the television series starring the erstwhile Jack Klugman as the often harassed Los Angeles County medical examiner. The tv series continues to run on repeat in the UK to this day and remarkably Jack Klugman is still with us aged 90. And of course everyone remembers the titles with the fainting coppers.

Anyway I seem to have strayed far from the basis of my blog and that is AC Quincy is really rather beautiful wine. Not a huge amount is made, particularly in comparison with nearby Sancerre, an appellation that is famous throughout the world. According to The Wines of Central Loire website total production of Quincy in 2010 was 15,915 hl compared with 175,108 hl in Sancerre. i.e. Less than 10%. And you won't see Quincy in shops very often, to find it you will need to go to a decent wine merchants or possibly Waitrose or Marks & Spencers. But I think it's worth the trip, at least just once as it gives you all the same great characteristics as a decent Sancerre, with fresh acidity and lots of citrus fruits and grapefruit. And better still, it offers better value than Sancerre. At the present time a case of 6 Domaine Bailly Quincy 2010 from M&S will cost you about £11 a bottle which is certainly cheaper than a similar standard Sancerre.

And so we come to Menetou-Salon another lesser known appellation from the Central Vineyards of the Loire. Although better known than Quincy it is very much the little brother of Sancerre. I don't believe I had seen or tasted it until a couple of weeks ago. It is also a lovely Sauvignon Blanc with a hint of spiciness and a palate of traditional citrus fruits and white flowers. It sent me scurrying to my notes from my WSET exams and their maps of the Central Loire. There are several appellations that are even less known to us than those already described. Next on my list to try must be something from the Coteaux de Giennois or Reuilly.

Next Time:
Why buy two glasses, when you can get the bottle. Oh, and my mother-in-law Norma.

Enjoy your wine. Cheers!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Brazil....They Make Wine!

A couple of months ago I celebrated a fairly significant birthday milestone and was given some lovely gifts by my friends and family. One of the most interesting was a bottle of Brazilian wine. I know, Brazilian wine, who knew?

It was given to me by my friend David. Actually, David is more of a long standing friend of my wife and sister but I have also known him a long time. He works in the 'trade' as we call it, so often has access to rarities and curios when it comes to wine. I hope he won't mind me saying that not everything he has given me has been a winner. On a couple of occasions I have emptied a bottle of plonk down the sink that has turned orange from oxidisation, however most of the time they are little gems that you would rarely see in any supermarket. With that thought in mind I would like to thank him for the bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc he got for me last Christmas.

Brazilian Wine......Yes, really
But Brazilian wine was something else. I didn't even know they made wine in Brazil, or if they did, that they exported it to the UK. It turns out they do, and seemingly in increasing quantities. I wasn't entirely sure what I had, something for everyday drinking or to wait for a special occasion. I'll do some research online I thought. The bottle in question was a Miolo Lote 43 Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot from 2005. The only review I could find was very complementary so I thought a dinner with my parents-in-law, who like a fine wine, would be a good event to serve it. For those that follow me on twitter you may have seen my tweets from that day. I opened it a couple of hours before time giving a good amount of breathing time and I have to say it was delicious, an intense blackcurrant hit with a touch of spiciness to boot.

It got me thinking. I love Chilean wine and I'm beginning to like Argentinian wine (leaving aside football and Falkland Island sovereignty issues) but at some point in the past nobody in Britain really drank any South American wine. In 2010 123million litres of wine was exported to the UK from Chile. Britain imported more Chilean wine than any other nation. This may have been the high watermark as our imports reduced to 107m litres in 2011 just below the level of the United States. Even so our passion for South American wines is massive and in the last couple of years Malbec from Argentina has also become popular so why not Brazil. At present there is only 12,000 hectares of land under vine in Brazil compared with 117,000 in Chile. But I can only see that increasing and with it the amount exported to the UK which is only around 80,000 litres annually at present.

So if Brazilian wine does take off in this country over the next few years enjoy, and just remember you read about it here first. Thanks for reading.

Next Time:
Quincy. The wine, not the seventies TV show. Oh, and Menetou-Salon too.

Enjoy your wine. Cheers!

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Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Wine that Tastes of Nothing

In May 2011 Nielsen reported that Italian wine sales had overtaken both French and American wines sales by value in Britain for the first time. Many of the national papers, including the Telegraph, reported this fact as the triumph of Pinot Grigio as it's sales represented 40% of all Italian wine sales and that in Britain Pinot Grigio is now third in volume behind Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Quite staggering really given that it is grown in one quite small area of northern Italy and also 20 years ago virtually no-one out side of the wine trade had even heard of it.

Pinot Grigio - The Wine that Tastes of Nothing
But I have a theory about Pinot Grigio. People (especially women) like it because it tastes of nothing. And there is it's appeal, it's neutral, inoffensive and easy to drink with almost any kind of food you like. Don't get me wrong, if there is nothing else available I can happily glug back a glass or two but essentially it feels like drinking water. My wife loves it, and indeed drinks little else. Sauvignon blanc, "no thanks", Chardonnay "don't like it, it tastes of stuff", and Gewurztraminer, well no point in even asking.

Peter Stringfellow - Pinot Grigio Lover
I tested my theory out on my staff during a wine tasting a few weeks ago and most of them agreed with my thoughts. Actually my ambivalence towards PG is longstanding. Perhaps 10 years ago I saw a television program where Peter Stringfellow (if you don't know, think Britain's poor imitation of Hugh Heffner but without the mansion) said he was famous for drinking Pinot Grigio. Now I don't know Peter well, or indeed at all but I thought he was most famous for dating girls young enough to be his daughter. I wondered if I had dreamed this up and thought I better check this out whilst writing this blog and yes it is true. I thought at the time that it gave PG an air of naffness. I still do.

Returning to the original report I said that 40% of Italian wine sold is Pinot Grigio but that means that 60% of it isn't. Italy has some of the most fantastic wine in the world, much of which is little understood or drunk in Britain. I was lucky enough to be in Carluccio's in Birmingham only last night and the range of Italian wines available is great.

So by all means have a glass or two of Pinot Grigio but also give something different a try. You might just like it.

Next Time:
Brazilian wine, yes really. Oh, and my friend David.

Enjoy your wine. Cheers!

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012


I love wine, there I said it. Love talking about wine, love reading about wine, love others talking about wine, love tv programs about wine but most of all love drinking wine. Now you may think I'm some kind of near alcoholic whose tipple of choice is fermented grape juice but that is far from the truth. I love lots of other intoxicating beverages too!! However I hope to use this blog to share my passion for wine and why I think it is the greatest beverage in the world (okay, after a well made cup of  PG Tips with one sugar).

California 1989
Ward Family Dinner
The truth is my love of wine is relatively new and I did not take wine seriously until I was well into my 20s. The photo was taken in 1989 whilst my family and I (aged 17) were on holiday in California and shows my parents and sister eating dinner in our apartment with a bottle of what I think is Robert Mondavi white (not sure what although probably someone could magnify the image and tell me). What is clear though is that I am not drinking wine, instead I have orange juice to enjoy with my meal and that would have been my choice. I think my sister, who was 12 at the time, was drinking wine mixed with lemonade.

Actually the whole notion of us drinking wine at all was quite unusual even then. The only time wine really made an appearance in our house was during a roast Sunday lunch where a bottle of Piesporter or possibly Niersteiner that had been purchased from our local Gateway (remember them!) supermarket.

In 1990 I got my first job in hospitality as a barman at a hotel. Wine over the bar in those days consisted of red or white (never rosé) served from giant optics hanging up in an 'ever so slightly' chilled cabinet hanging on the wall. My lack of knowledge, or even training, meant that I even filled a fridge with red wine once thinking I was doing the right thing (and before anyone says I am aware that some wines (Beaujolais, anyone) do benefit from a little refrigeration).

By 1997 I had left and returned to said hotel and was now in a junior management position with responsibility for banqueting operations. And better still, I was sent on my very first course to learn about wine. And what a revelation it was. I may blog about my liking of the WSET (Wines and Spirits Educational Trust) at a later date but the course for the first time got me to try red wine seriously and I realised that not all wine tastes the same. I still have my original notes from that course somewhere about, and ocassionally when I come across them they make me smile. But that was an opening for me into the wonderful world of wine and I've loved it ever since. Subsequently I completed two further courses in wine and proudly wear my green Advanced WSET pin badge on my suit every day at work. And once in a while, customers sometimes even ask me what it is and that gives me a real thrill!

Next time:
The rise and fall of Pinot Grigio. Oh, and Peter Stringfellow!

Enjoy your wine. Cheers!