Wine with Francis Peel

PUBLISHED: 16:30 17 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:10 20 February 2013

Wine with Francis Peel

Wine with Francis Peel

Wine wisdom from Francis Peel

Vintage whine

Wine wisdom from Francis Peel

We had a school song with the line: the suns of May for the schoolgirls play, but give to the boys October, the point being that rugby and mud were the male spiritual home and it was only girls who enjoyed springtime. Well, perhaps it is an age-thing but I would much rather have the May sun, and I always tell my children that the first day of the Easter holidays is the best day of the year, with the spring holidays, summer term and summer holidays all stretching ahead of them. This year, my wife and I sat down in the evening of that same day with a celebratory bottle of champagne Champagne Gosset from the oldest champagne house and one of our favourites. It would have been a perfect moment if it hadnt been corked. Undaunted, I had a bottle of Sancerre in reserve. Again the familiar musty smell rose from the glass. Two bottles in a row. I know I go on about being a screw cap (or in the case of champagne, crown cap) fan, but pouring 40 of wine down the drain when there is a perfectly sound alternative is enough to drive me to perhaps I was there already!

This is always the time of the year when the wine world gets excited over the tasting of the new vintage in Bordeaux. Whatever the pros and cons of en primeur buying, it is an exciting market especially in a year like 2010 when the conditions for the 2009 harvest looked to be almost perfect. This combined with a world coming out of recession meant that the campaign has been eagerly anticipated. What none of us were expecting was the announcement in Decanter Magazine that the wine buyers of North Korean dictator, President Kim Jong-il, had bought the entire output of the second wine of Chteau Latour Les Forts de Latour one of the worlds great wines. That was, until we noticed the 1st April date on the announcement!

Those of you who are regular readers of this column will remember that last year we had a monthly report from my friend, Rupert Birchs vineyard in Provence. This year he has taken on a vineyard in Southern Argentina (they harvest in March) and he sends this report:
Just a quick word from deepest Patagonia, where the harvest is in, the grapes have all been destalked by hand, and are now gently fermenting in their brand new concrete vats... gosh it sounds easy when written like that! The reality is a little different each day has brought with it a number of problems, hassles, and serious intellectual challenges; but the grapes are delicious, and the question is whether we can manage to avoid screwing them up by no means a foregone conclusion! It is fascinating out here. I think the closest analogy I can find is that it must be something like the Wild West, or the very early days of Napa primitive, full of hope, and a massive need to be able to cobble things together. I will keep you posted on progress It will be another year at least before Ruperts wines are available in bottle but I will keep you informed on their development.

Francis Peel runs the Midlands biggest wine warehouse, Whitebridge Wines at Stone in Staffordshire. On Friday, May 7 he is holding a Spring Wine and Food Evening with more than 50 wines for tasting alongside a barbecue and a variety of fine cheeses.

Tickets priced 17 can be ordered on 01785 817229 or by email:

The Dictionary of Wine Terms

E is for:

*Eiswein: An unusual German (and Canadian) wine made by crushing
frozen grapes that have been deliberately left on the vine until winter and then picked frozen. The resulting juice is extremely sweet. Because of tiny quantities this method produces, they are vastly expensive, but, unlike other great pudding wines, they are not botrytisised.

* levage: Literally, the bringing up or raising of a wine, a French term that can encompass making, maturing and bottling a wine.

* En primeur: The (in)famous selling of claret that takes place in April and May every year where large quantities of the previous years wines from the chteaux in Bordeaux are put up for sale before they have even been bottled. Buying en primeur is often the only way to get hold of sought-after wines from good vintages at anything like a reasonable price but extreme caution is needed as you are effectively handing over your money two years before you will see the wine so you need to do a lot of research both into the vintage and the company you are buying from before committing yourself.

* Estate Wine: This term normally implies a wine that comes from an individual wine estate rather that one made from bought in grapes.

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