Wine Expert Francis Peel

PUBLISHED: 09:05 18 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:54 20 February 2013

Wine Expert Francis Peel

Wine Expert Francis Peel

Francis Peel lives in north Shropshire and owns the Midlands' largest wine warehouse, Whitebridge Wines

Sales of en primeur claret from the 2009 vintage surpassed all expectations and the leading broker, Farr Vintners, just reported sales for the year up from 83million in 2009 to 169million in 2010, a large proportion of which would have been 2009 Bordeaux. Berry Brothers, Englands largest wine merchant, reported en primeur sales up from 40million with the 2008 vintage to 110million with the 2009. In light of the current world financial situation this is an astonishing performance and it must be largely down to the excellence of the vintage. While the superstar en primeur wines wont be over in this country for some time, we have just had the first shipment of 2009 claret, our entry-point Bordeaux, the ever reliable Chteau Nardou Cuve Bois Meyney from the Ctes de Francs region, just east of Saint-milion. The merlot-dominated wine has an astonishing richness on the nose and layers of superb black hedgerow fruit underpinning the palate. If this is a sign of things to come we are really in for a treat when the great wines arrive.
Chteau Nardou Cuve Bois Meyney 2009, 6.99 per bottle.

Vieilles Vignes

Early this year, archaeologists discovered in Armenia what is thought to be the oldest winery in the world, dating from some 6000 years ago. The findings included a basic wine press and a clay vat surrounded by grape seeds, withered grape vines, and remains of pressed grapes, as well as pots and even a cup and drinking bowl. "For the first time, we have a complete archaeological picture of wine production dating back 6,100 years," said Gregory Areshian, co-director of the excavation and assistant director of the UCLA's Institute of Archaeology. He added that the vat, a shallow, three-foot square basin surrounded by a thick rim, resembles wine presses in use as recently as the 19th century throughout the Mediterranean and the Caucasus. Until now, the earliest known wine press dated back to just 1650 BC.

Biodynamics Weeds and Pests

Now here is an area where I do find myself more naturally able to agree with organic and biodynamic winemakers. Biodynamic farmers prefer to work with nature rather than fighting it. Needless to say, spraying with weed killer is outlawed and weeds are, wherever possible, dug up by horse-drawn ploughs, the seeds of the weeds collected and burned, before spreading the ashes back on the vines. Cover crops are sown between vine rows to promote biodiversity and help weed control. Pest control, rather than pest elimination, is based on maintaining biodiversity. Natural predators in the vineyard will keep pest populations at a level below that injurious to the quality and quantity of the grape harvest. Similarly to weed control, the pests are burned and the ashes of the dead bodies sprayed back on the vineyards.

Francis Peel lives in north Shropshire and owns the Midlands largest wine warehouse, Whitebridge Wines.

The dictionary of wine terms...

Q is for...

- Quinta A term describing a farm,
estate or vineyard in Portugal similar to Clos or Chteau in France. The individual quintas of the Port houses complicated matters when they started using the single quinta names in the lesser, non-declared vintages. Now some port houses also use quinta names in the good years as well, just to confuse the issue still further.

R is for...

- Racking This term describes the basic winemaking operation of separating the clear wine off the accumulated lees and other by-products of the fermentation process that accumulate at the bottom of the fermentation vat or barrel.

- Rehoboam Another of the big Champagne bottle sizes, this one holding six bottles (4.5 litres). As Churchill believed a magnum of champagne to be the perfect amount for two men when one wasnt drinking, this should do six of you nicely when three arent drinking!

- Reserve You will find the term reserve on the label of a bottle, as it is a term used throughout the wine world but there is no actual definition of what a reserve wine is. Often the term is used to indicate that a wine has been made from the finest grapes or has been oak-aged. In certain regions, such as Rioja, Reserva wines are strictly controlled and have to have been aged for three years in barrel and two years in bottle prior to release.

- Residual Sugar RS, as it is commonly known, refers to the amount of sugar left over after fermentation and is given in grams per litre. Below 2-3 grams the wine will taste bone dry. Remember that some wines such as Californian Blush wines can have frightening levels of RS without having to mention this fact on the label. Weightwatchers beware!

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