The toast is… Good Health

PUBLISHED: 13:38 13 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:29 20 February 2013



Red wine on prescription - now there's a cheering thought

The toast is... Good Health

Red wine on prescription - now there's a cheering thought

In vino sanitas

As Alex Salmond looks to increase the age of purchasing alcohol in Scotland to 21, it is good to hear that one man is fighting back to promote the healthy benefit of drinking red wine. For many years there has been much debate about what is termed 'le paradoxe Français' - the fact that there are far fewer incidents of heart disease in south-west France than other parts of western Europe despite their high fat diet. Many experts have concluded that it is the increased consumption of red wine and olive oil that has had the beneficial effect of French longevity. In red wine it has been presumed that it is the presence of the anti-oxidant reservatrol that is the prime cause of this benefit. For the first time an Australian, Dr Philip Norrie of Pendarves Estate in New South Wales is about to launch on their market a wine that has enhanced levels of reservatrol - with up to 100 mgs of the antioxidant per litre compared to the usual 1mg for whites and 3-6 mgs for reds. I have met Philip a number of times over the years and he is a passionate defender of the health-giving properties of wine consumption. Assuming the enhanced wine gets clearance from the EU to be shipped over here, we could see these wines on the shelves next year. With a bit of luck, we might even get it on prescription!

Masters of the Universe

Congratulations to the ten new Masters of Wine. You may have seen the letters 'MW' after the name of a supermarket buyer and wondered what it meant. Indeed, many in the trade itself are somewhat in the dark about the exact meaning behind those highly sought after letters. Not surprisingly, as there have only ever been 264 created since its inception in 1953 - which means more people have made it into space than become an MW! To become one requires huge dedication and knowledge, the ability to pass a fiendish three-part 12 wine blind tasting practical exam, and then a theory exam consisting of four, three hour degree-level papers covering wine making, viticulture, the wine trade, marketing etc. If eventually you do manage to pass this, then there is the small matter of a 10,000 word PhD level dissertation to overcome before you can add those two magic letters to you name. Perhaps it is not surprising that so few have passed over the years. It does seem to give a hallowed status to those who have achieved this. I have been on many a tasting trip with an MW and it is certainly true that they have an astonishing depth of knowledge, but even they don't know it all: wine is such a vast subject no one could. And while it is certainly a huge benefit to be an MW if you want to be a supermarket wine buyer, very often the same single minded academic dedication means that they are limited in their eventual roles in the trade.

The unusual grape alphabet

E is for:

Thank heavens Portugal didn't go down the ubiquitous grape route, and instead has concentrated on its indigenous varieties. Encruzado is one of the great white grapes of the Dao and can either be part of a blend or produced as a single varietal. Well made examples, with the grape's natural high acidity, can keep for a number of years. Quinta dos Roques Encruzado £8.99 is probably the best example currently available.

This is an ancient white grape that was probably brought to Germany by the Romans, certainly before the Middle Ages when it was a grape of great prominence. Today it is only grown in the upper reaches of the Mosel and in Luxembourg where it is the second most widely planted variety. High in acidity, it produces wines of below average quality that are rarely seen outside their region.

This is not actually a grape variety although many people probably assume that it is (besides I was struggling to find grapes beginning with 'e'!) as it is in fact a blend of any of the Alsace approved white grape varieties though normally not the great ones, so more likely to be Sylvaner, Chasselas or Traminer rather than Riesling. The term literally means 'noble blend' but is normally anything but!

Forthcoming Tastings

Whitebridge Wines Christmas Tasting
More than 100 wines open to taste. Friday and Saturday, November 21 and 22. Please call for ticket availability - 01785 817229.

Iconic wines of Australia - A tutored tasting of Wirra Wirra of Maclaren Vale and Bests of Victoria
Two of the extremely rare Halliday 5-star wineries including the current International Red Wine Maker of the Year (Wirra Wirra)
Thursday, January 22, 2009, £12 per ticket.

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