Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Higher Plot Orchard


Apples have been grown and Cider made at Higher Plot for hundreds of years and there are still around 30 trees still standing which are at least 100 years old. The orchard is known as Half Moon. The one next door is called Full Moon because of the round shape of the hill. Over the next year we are going to start work on restoring it and planting new trees including some perry pears. The apples are old varietals including Golden Noble, Arthur Turner, Morgan Sweet and Bramleys.
 The Ton of apples that we crushed for the 2008 Bottle Fermented Cider.
This is a real contrast to the vineyard where control over clonal selection, soil management, spraying  and strict pruning is supposed to produce a regular (in terms of quality and quantity) crop. With the orchard, the trees are so entwined with their environment that they crop massively with no disease on a biannual basis with no intervention. This is a pure example of how  overtime biodynamic supporters see a natural balance establishing itself . I can really understand this but wonder how we could incorporate it into the vineyard over a number of years. The simple answer would have to be do nothing and see what happens! Maybe you lose everything for the first 2-3 years but then the balance would be acheived as the vines fought back.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Image versus Quality

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/29a2c3f0-532d-11df-813e-00144feab49a.html

Jancis Robinson is a wine writer that is fair and honest on most subjects and her thoughts on the quality of English wine seem about right to me - there is great potential, some people are making world class wines but not everybody is there yet. The link above was her view after a tasting which caused lots of feather ruffling in the English wine making community particularly because she wasn't very positive about still wines - she tells it as she sees it! She questions whether the quality is sufficent for the price and style. My view is that there is a niche for them just in the way that conumers happily pay £7-11.00 for Albarino, Gruner Veltlinger or even Picpoul which is now pretty fashionable in London restaurants despite being very very neutral. For me the varietal Bachus could hold the same place for England and Wales, interesting flavours which would be difficult to repicate in another country.

The point is, when people buy things like Champagne, quality is not actually the priority. Just as it is virtually impossible to tell one lager from another or one brand of cigarette from another, this is also true of Champagne. The famous names frequently buy finished bottles from cooperatives and stick their own labels on. Quality has to be up to a certain level but image is what counts. Having worked the West End of London as a Champagne rep in the 1990's , the brand managers really couldn't care if messages about dosage, malo lactic or reserve wines were getting out. It was  - who is drinking it, where are they drinking it and who can we tell?

Sunday, 11 July 2010

2009 Vintage of the Century

Yes - a third vintage of the century in ten years for Bordeaux wines.The others are 2000 and 2005. The press goes into overdrive, people buy the wine as futures - untasted, not even bottled. Prices go up with the top wines now at around €13000 a case.
Being old enough to remember years like1988,89 and 90 I wonder how they would have been treated nowadays - God Smiles on Bordeaux with trio of vintages of centennial splendour. You'd think that by now people would have owrked out that on average, Bordeaux has three great vintages per decade although this appears to be rising slightly with global warming.
Of all the places where wine is made they have really worked out how to attract interest and sales without having to have the tedious wait for the wine to be ready and the having your cash tied up for a couple of years. I'd love to do the same myself but not having made a single bottle it might be a but cheeky.

At the same price there is so much great wine in the world that you could buy and drink that day rather than waiting two years.
Still, I  bought two cases.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Non Alcoholics Anonymous

In England we are striving to acheive as much alcohol as possible from the grapes in our marginal climate and so it's ironic that I have just spent almost three years marketing lighter style wines which are dealcoholised down  as low as 5.5%. In places like California, South America and South Africa wines naturally come out at 15,16 or even 17% alcohol and in regular wines some of this is removed to make it palatable and this was just taking it to the next step.
When you ask people if they want less alcohol in wine they say no until you offer them something which tastes just like their usual brand and then, they start to think about how it would be good to have a glass at lunchtime and not fall asleep at their desk or maybe during a weekday evening when there's work looming in the morning.
And so, I think the time has come that I confess to myself and to my friends. Not all the time and I've got it under control but, - yes I am a non alcoholic. I do sometimes want to have the taste of beer but not the alcohol. I drink Becks Blue either on its own or mixed with regular beer to bring down the strength because I like the taste and I'm thirsty. I do it because I like it not because I have to and I'll accept the social stigma.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

1988 Priorat

Last night I was drinking a great bottle of Masia Barril 1988 Priorato with some friends who had come to stay. I must have bought it some time in the early 1990's from the Moreno shop in Paddington. Still completely fresh with lots of Garnacha character.  One of them lived there at the time and said that it was great until Robert Parker discovered the wines and then it all went downhill. I think that the reality is that a group of well funded producers made a concerted and orchestrated attempt to be "discovered" and recognised as makers of the most expensive wines in Spain. The likes of Clos Mogador and Alvarro Palacios are excellent in a modern style meets exceptional vine stock kind of way but ,you can't help but think that being the most expensive was the motivation and the marketing tool.
I've met Palacios and liked him (and his wines) a great deal and he always had a clear sight of what his message was going to be. He was completely un abashed even before release in saying that he was going to make some of the world's highest priced wines.
I look at our hectare of thriving vines and think about our plans for reserving still wines for future blends, barrel fermentation and lots of bottle aging and know that, however good the wine will be, - I'm no Alvarro Palacios.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Camel Valley Congratulations and Celebrations

Camel Valley have just won the trophy for best sparkling wine at the International Wine Challenge which is big news. I wonder if there'll now be a scramble on to find out where they got their grapes from? Their model is a sound one and is the same as most Champagne houses - grow some grapes yourself but then secure your supplies by buying in under longterm contracts. I wonder if a single grape from the valley made it into the wine?
I've never met the Lindos but can't help thinking that the wine business could do with as many people like them as possible - lots of promoting themselves and their brand which would be completely pointless without excellent wines to back them up. I hope that they are sitting in the sunshine enjoying their success but no doubt in reality they will be spraying, canopy managing and generally keeping a winery going.