Look away now if you’re allergic to statistics because there’s a danger that the OIV’s 2015 statistical report on World Vitiviniculture will send you into a deep slumber the like of which you may not have enjoyed since that TV documentary on Katy Perry. Come to think of it, this deconstruction of the latest production and consumption figures for vines, grapes and wine could be the answer to the insomniac’s prayer. For wine geeks like me however, and perhaps even a few of our readers, the report of the International Organisation of Wine and Vine makes compelling reading.
“Look into my eyes, can't you see they're open wide. Would I lie to you baby, would I lie to you?” Charles And Eddie
Splendide mendax as I’m sure you’re aware, means nobly untruthful or untrue for a specific purpose. It’s the academic equivalent of the white lie and it lends its name to a study which claims that the wine industry is telling porkies about alcohol levels on the label to improve sales. One of the more surprising findings is that higher-priced wines are less honest in their labelling than plonk.
In the beginning there was Vinoteca, then along came Terroirs and its offshoots, Soif and Brawn, soon followed hot on their heels by Sager + Wilde, Les Deux Salons, the 28-50 group, The Remedy, 8 Hoxton Square,10 Cases Cave à Vin and Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels. And I haven’t even mentioned London’s burgeoning tapas bar scene. Need I go on? Well yes, actually. Noble Rot is the current darling of the winebarista set, and Jane and David have unselfishly visited it on your behalf (see http://www.thewinegang.com/blog/londons-newest-wine-bar).
In late August, in the grand surroundings of Wiesbaden’s Kurhaus Kolonnaden, Germany’s VDP held its annual ‘sneak preview’ of the 2014 dry whites and 2013 reds from grand cru sites, known in Germany as Grosses Gewächs. It’s a brilliantly organised tasting that’s attended by just about every wine critic that knows and loves his or her dry Rieslings - and not just their Rieslings as we shall see - both from within Germany and from further afield.
Earlier this summer, I was invited to taste the first ever bottling of Scillonian wine from England’s most southerly vineyards. The first vintage of Robert Francis’s Holy Vale wines grown and made on the Isles of Scilly was to be bottled by the Austrian sweet wine meister Willi Opitz. If the connection seems a little tenuous, Robert Francis had been buying Opitz’ wines for his hotel wine list at The Star Castle for 20 years and Willi had hosted a few wine dinners there. When he discovered that Robert had made wine, he offered to help with the bottling.
Let’s raise a glass to the fact that at the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn earlier this month, Champagne and Burgundy were voted onto the official list of Unesco World Heritage sites. Two glasses in fact, one of Cristal and the other of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, whose Aubert de Villaine was instrumental in obtaining the enhanced status for Burgundy.
Thanks to an unfortunate flood in my cellar caused by water seeping in from a neighbouring property, the damage to the labels and wooden cases of the 2005 clarets I bought en primeur meant that they would be reduced by some 25% in value if I were to sell them. I received unofficial advice to that effect from no less an authority than Bonhams, the auctioneers.
If it’s Monday, it must be Marks & Sparks, if it’s Tuesday it must be Tesco….Yes, this year’s crop of supermarket and high street press tastings seemed even more bunched together than usual. As night followed day, so Asda followed Aldi and Marks followed Morrisons as their revolving doors welcomed the wine press before spitting us, dazed and confused, back onto the street. On the plus side, this lack of consideration for the wine writer’s schedule, teeth and gums, did at least offer a snapshot of the new Spring / Summer showcases.
Oh lord, could this really be our last day already? I needed another week of this and I don’t think I was alone. After waking to a spectacular sunrise over the ocean and a traditional Japanese breakfast, an onsen spa dip put me in the mood for a gentle cruise flitting through endless small islands and oyster farms in the gentle waters of Matsushima Bay.
Yesterday’s rice washing had been great fun, if not for the brewery, and because allowing a group in and involving them in one of the sake-making processes was so exceptional, the story was reported in the Yamagata Shinbun the next day http://yamagata-np.jp/news/201502/25/kj_2015022500523.php. Fortunately my blushes were spared as the photo that accompanied the news story was not the one of me tipping rice into the wrong container but into the rice steamer.