Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Royal Toast

I don't suppose that I could really let this week pass without making some comment about the Royal Wedding - and don't try to pretend that you don't know which wedding I'm talking about.... The coverage here in Spain has been almost as extensive as that in the UK, and I was actually quite amused to see the infamous TV movie of Kate and William on our screens yesterday evening. Of course it was made doubly funny as, not only did the actors bear little resemblance to our Royal couple, but on top of that they were dubbed into Spanish. Will I get locked in the Tower of London if I say that it was hilarious?

Anyway, to date I have not heard any mention of the type of wines they will be drinking with the Royal Wedding Buffet, but I dare say that there might be the odd bottle of Liebfraumilch floating about (which is apparently the Queen's favourite tipple). Perhaps I should write to the Palace and tell Her Majesty that our Albariño is not wildly different from her beloved Riesling (or perhaps Muller-Thürgau). I use the word 'beloved' because the literal translation of Liebfraumilch is 'beloved ladies milk'.

Of course the last time we had a Royal Wedding in Spain, we know for a fact that they did enjoy a bottle or two of Albariño with their meal, although for some odd reason we were not allowed to mention who the producers were (no Royal Warrants this time then).

Post Wedding Footnote:
One thing that I have noticed which always puzzles me, is the Spanish obsession to translate people's names. For example, the happy couple are now officially known as Guillermo y Catalina, our Queen is Isabel, our Prince is Carlos, and his sister is Ana. Correct me if I'm wrong but I can never remember the King of Spain being referred to as King John Charles, and his wife Queen Sophie......

Friday, April 22, 2011

For £2.99 a bottle it ain't Albariño!

There has been a lot of press recently about the price of wine and the ability of consumers to distinguish between good wine and cheap 'plonk'. As a wine professional I do hope that my own palate allows me to separate the wheat from the chaff, and my personal guideline to doing this is quite simple - you look for the 3 S's, in other words structure, structure and structure.

By this I mean the way in which a wine is put together, whether all its component parts are in balance - fruit, tannin, acidity, alcohol etc. For example, wines that are very well constructed might be described as having a fine structure, or in the case of a young wine that is not very forthcoming, a tight stucture. It's really the degree of harmony between these different elements that determines whether a wine is just average, or perhaps something really special .

The only thing I can say, is that the best wines (in my opinion) are not always the most obvious, they do not necessarily hit you between the eyes and yield themselves to you the moment you pull the cork. They often need time to 'open up' either in the bottle or in the glass, but boy, when they eventually do deliver you will know immediately, and the very best will have the ability to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end!

Indeed, there are many adjectives that you can use to describe a very fine wine, and journalists are much more adept at painting a picture than I am (they are, after all, attempting to translate the sensation of taste into words). I have never really been gifted when it comes to waxing lyrical about wines, but instead consider myself more of a technical taster, focusing on the component parts and how they might evolve and marry together, either now or sometime in the future. This is after all, the fundamental role of the buyer - to possess that special crystal ball.......

As always I digress. The original subject of today's post is the price of wine, and in particular a selection that I saw advertised on my TV at £2.99 a bottle. How do they do it (and do I really want to know)?

If you actually start to analyse the cost of getting a bottle to your supermarket shelf you might begin to understand what I mean.

By simply deducting the UK duty and VAT from your £2.99 bottle you are immediately reduced to a mere pittance of 69p! Then take into account, that this 69p has to include warehousing and shipping costs, the cost of the bottle, label, cork, capsule and carton - Oh! and by the way, the cost of the wine itself AND any profit for the wine producer and UK retailer.

Just a minute, my calculator has blown a fuse, it's trying to tell me that this simply doesn't add up! It's right, it doesn't add up. I think it's what they call a 'loss leader' - a product that sells below it's actual production cost.

I end by asking myself the inevitable question - can a wine at this price point really be any good?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Time for wine

Over the last couple of months we have been 'tarting up' the entrance hall to our wine cellar, and you my recall my post about a huge photo montage that I set up on one of the walls.

Perhaps inspired by my wife Angela, and the fact that she is always late for everything (a woman's prerogative I think they call it), I have now created a huge clock on one of the other walls!

But this is no ordinary clock lifted out of a box - it is my very own creation. To be honest I don't recall where the idea came from, but the concept is really quite simple. The numbers are replaced by wine bottles. This apparently 'simple' concept was however, much more difficult to translate into reality.... To begin with cutting the bottles in half proved to be almost impossible, and then sticking them to the wall was also quite a problem. It's possibly not until you actually cut a bottle in half and see its profile, that you realise how fragile it really is, and suffice to say that applying glue to a thin, sharp rim of glass is no easy task either, requiring the patience of a saint (I have to admit, not one of my greatest virtues).

So, after a couple of hours with a glue gun, not to mention my very sticky fingers, you can now see the result.

I wonder if this will mean that Angela will be on time in the future? Probably not!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bogus Castro Martin 2012

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - this being the case, then it has to be said that the Chinese have been 'flattering' a lot of products over the years! Their latest target, wine.....

You may recall that a few months ago I was writing about Gallo's famous 'Red Bicyclette' Pinot Noir, whereby they were found guilty of passing off a blended wine as a single varietal. At least, in this particular Gallo case, the wine was actually produced in the country of origin - being made from French grapes, albeit not 100% Pinot Noir.

However, in this latest fraud it is the famous Jacob's Creek brand that is being ripped off ; an Australian Chardonnay that was actually produced in China! Hundreds of cases have been seized in London, where perhaps surprisingly, it was the consumers themselves who brought it to the attention of authorities. Customers complained to Pernot Ricard (the owners) that their beloved Aussie Chardonnay tasted 'unusual' or perhaps even 'diluted', it simply had 'a different taste and colour'. Of course a quick glance at the label might also have given the game away, as it boldly declared 'Wine of Austrlia' - presumably these sophisticated wine fraudsters did not have spellcheck on their computers.

Whatever next? Perhaps Castro Martin - Made in Taiwan?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

R.I.P. Oddbins

Last Thursday must be viewed as a very sad day in the UK wine trade when the announcement was made that the Oddbins chain of wine shops was going into administration with debts of more than £20 million.

It is not that many years ago that Oddbins was regarded as the most avant garde of all wine retailers, and to be present on their shelves was one of the greatest accolades for any serious producer.

In those days not only did they have the most cutting-edge selection of wines, but they also boasted a highly original catalogue illustrated by the artist Ralph Steadman. By far their greatest asset at that time however, was one of the most highly respected buyers in the UK wine trade. No, not me, but a chap called Steve Daniel, who from personal experience I can tell you, had a very fine palate. It was Steve's exciting selection of new and original wines that put Oddbins at the forefront of the UK retail trade, and on the customer 'wishlist' of every wine producer.

To quote my journalist friend Tim Atkin, Oddbins were "quirky, audacious, arrogant and bloody good at what they did"..... long may they be remembered for their contibution in helping to make London (and the UK) the 'shop window of the wine world'.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Beer for dogs! What next, wine for cats?

In the difficult economic climate that exists at the moment we are always looking for new ways to develop our sales.

We recently saw a beef flavoured beer especially developed for dogs, in a glass bottle with a picture of a weimaraner on the label. Imported from Holland it is called Kwispelbier, which literally translated means 'tail-wagging beer'. Made using a traditional beer brewing technique, it contains malted barley extract and absolutely nothing harmful - consequently the dogs are really lapping it up (in every sense of the word!)

So, if they can make a beer for dogs, then why not a wine for cats? We are so near the sea that consumers often say that they can taste the salt air in our Albariño, so how about enhancing this flavour with a bit of fish or seafood? It would be quite a simple process to macerate some fish or seafood in the tanks - et voila! A new product for cats, opening a whole new world of possibilities for our bodega.

Any suggestions for a suitable name? How about 'CataPesca' - which loosely translated would mean 'tasting of fish'?