Licensed to chill

PUBLISHED: 15:12 10 July 2009 | UPDATED: 08:56 21 February 2013

Francis Peel serves a cocktail of wine wisdom

Francis Peel serves a cocktail of wine wisdom

The spy who loved Champagne
With the new James Bond film Quantum of Solace opening next month, it is worth remembering that the spy's favourite drink is actually Champagne rather than Vodka Martini. In the very first film, James is confronted by the eponymous villain, "That's a Dom Perignon '55 - it would be a pity to break it," says Dr. No, confronting our hero at the dinner table. "I prefer the '53 myself," responds Bond. But in many of the subsequent films, Champagne Bollinger takes over as his preferred 'grande marque', appearing in over half of them. Justin Llewellyn, son of boffin 'Q' now works for Champagne Taittinger and claims that this wine was actually Ian Fleming's own favourite. However, while Taittinger appeared in a number of the books, it has so far only featured in one film: From Russia with Love, way back in 1963. So keep you eyes open to see what Bond favours this time - let's just hope he has turned politically correct and opted for elderflower pressé!
Champagne Taittinger 'Brut Rèserve' £26.95 Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut £30.95

Aussie Scorcher

I hope by the time you read this, the English summer will have picked up, but, while we have been suffering from unusually cold conditions, spare a thought for one of our favourite suppliers, Will Nairn of Peel estate in Western Australia. After some extraordinarily hot weather in December, the temperature soared to a massive 45 Centigrade on Boxing Day. The white grape vines had had enough and, in order to save themselves, sucked the juice out of the grapes, effectively destroying the year's harvest in one day. "I've been in the wine trade over 30 years," Will told me, "and I have never seen anything like it before." Global warming - or just another example of the vagaries of the world's weather?

Bag in the Box

Many of us in the wine trade have tended to sneer at the quality of wine in boxes. More often than not, it is the quality of the wine that is put into them rather that the box itself that is the problem. But I suspect that most of you aren't aware that more and more of the wine that you buy - especially from the New World - is actually bottled in this country out of a giant bag-in-the-box. With rising fuel costs, and an ever-increasing demand to be eco-friendly, more and more wines are being brought over in bulk containers - effectively gigantic bag-in-the boxes - that hold over 30,000 bottles of wine, which is far more that the 12,000 ordinary bottles that the same size container would normally be able to carry. It also has the benefit of being less likely to be harmed by temperature fluctuation - always a problem with shipping containers from hot countries - and the shipper can bottle the wine as he needs it, thus keeping the wine fresher for the consumer. How can you, the customer, tell whether the wine you are drinking if bottled at source, or in the UK? Look at the back label - you will see in small print the bottling number and tell-tale post code where it is bottled.

Prime Minister's Questions

After advising us to cut down on food bills, it is interesting to note that the Prime Minister's average wine bill for bottles added to the Government's cellars last year was just over £15 per bottle. With the entire cellar now worth something in the region of £2.5 million - that certainly reflects Roy Jenkins's school of socialism rather than Harold Wilson's!

The Unusual Grape Alphabet

C is for:

Carmenère - this red grape was very important in the Médoc in the 19th Century but susceptibility to disease meant that it faded almost into obscurity. It has suddenly re-emerged in Chile where for many years it had been mistaken for the Merlot and is now enjoying international acclaim. With rich black fruit flavours it is remarkably similar to the Merlot in style.

Chasselas - This is the white grape that we all come across on skiing holidays as it is grown mainly in Switzerland and the Haute-Savoie region of France, where it is sometimes called Fendant. In fact it is one of the oldest grape varieties known to man, possibly brought to Europe by the Phoenicians. Its lack of any real character has led to its marginalisation.

Corvina - A red grape that most of you will have tasted without knowing it as it is the main grape of Valpolicella and its neighbouring north Italian wines. Ripening late, it normally produces light, easy-drinking wines with a delicate cherry flavour, yet in the case of Amarone and Recioto, it produces wines of astonishing depth and intensity.

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