Francis Peel reports on the New World order

PUBLISHED: 12:34 22 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:57 20 February 2013

Chateau Des Labourons

Chateau Des Labourons

A wine merchant's list naturally evolves all the time, but there are very few wines that have remained in my range since we started the company 26 years ago.

A wine merchant's list naturally evolves all the time, but there are very few wines that have remained in my range since we started the company 26 years ago. There is an excellent Fleurie called Château des Labourons and a range of French table wines from a Chablis producer, Lamblin fils - or at least there was until this month. Finally the time has come to say goodbye to an old friend that has been overtaken by the New World wine order. Today, we are able to ship both Australian and South African wines that both exceed the quality level of French 'vin de table', are significantly cheaper, and importantly come with a screw cap, a factor vital not only for quality reasons but also for the ease of serving. Most of the school balls and weddings that we supply want the ease that a stelvin closure gives. The weakness of the Pound against the Euro, combined with the ever increasing quality and quantity of the wines produced in the New World, is the cause. Will this be a short term solution? I'd don't think so. Even if the Pound strengthens significantly against the Euro, it is unlikely that consumers will want to revert to old-style table wine.

A year in the vineyard at Domaine de la Brillane


The vines start to come properly to life in May, and depending on the weather, their growth can be spectacular - up to 5cms a day. Thank goodness the days are longer since we are often up with first light, and out in the fields until late. We begin spraying at this time, too - a combination of copper sulphate and sulphur, to protect against the two main enemies: mildew and oidium (powdery mildew). Since we are fully organic in everything we do, these are the only two products that we are allowed to use, and they are more of a preventive than curative nature. It is thus all the more important that we spray at very regular intervals (8-10 days max), and that we keep an ever vigilant eye open for first signs of any disease.

May is also when we take on an extra team of seasonal helpers to do our 'de-budding' : taking off the extra shoots that if left alone will simply produce extra spurs, extra bunches, extra grapes - thereby increasing the yield on the vines over and above what we are looking to achieve. The job of de-budding is one that has to be done at exactly the right moment - too early, and we won't see the extra shoots; too late, and instead of being able to pick them off with our fingers, the shoots will have hardened and need to be cut off with secateurs, a much more time consuming process. Hence the extra team drafted in, and they will spend the next two and a half months with us.

And in the cellar - we will have bottled our Cuvee de Printemps, (available from Whitebridge Wines £6.99) a young fresh red wine for drinking with barbecues, and hoping that as the weather improves, we get more and more visits to the cellar door!

...Rupert Birch - owner/vigneron

For more information on the vineyard and their up-market B & B, look at their website:

The Unusual Grape Alphabet

M is for:

Mission - Probably a sub-variety of Chile's Pais, this was the first Vinifera wine grape planted in North America by Father Juan Ugarte in Southern California in 1697 at the Mission San Francisco Xavier. It makes basic light reds and is still to be found throughout Southern California, particularly in San Bernardino County.

Manseng - there are two versions of the grape the 'Gros' and the 'Petit', with the latter being the finer. Together they produce one of France's finest white wines, Jurancon, from the Pyrnes-Atlantiques. Jurancon can be an intriguing, aromatic dry white, or a stunning botrytised sweet wine of great longevity.


Mavrud - Bulgarian wines seem to be on the way back, and wines made from the Mavrud grape are among the finest. From the Greek word 'mavros' meaning black, Mavrud makes a sturdy and intense red, normally aged in oak. It is almost exclusively grown in the south of Bulgaria with the finest examples to be found coming from the Asenovgrad province.

Spring tasting

Francis Peel's Midlands business based at Whitebridge Wines, Stone, Staffordshire, will be holding its 26th Annual Spring Tasting on Friday 8th May 6 - 9 pm and Saturday 9th May from 11- 2pm. Tickets (10 Friday and 5 Saturday) can be ordered from the office on 01785 817229 or by email to

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Shropshire Life