Wine with Francis Peel, April 2010
PUBLISHED: 15:47 14 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:02 20 February 2013
We talk wine with expert Francis Peel
Iwrote in my introduction to the Whitebridge Wines 2010 list in January that this year would be the year of the Rainbow Nation with the Football World Cup and ever improving wine sales. What I hadnt even suspected then was the astonishing statistic just published that South Africa has now overtaken France in volume of wine shipped into the UK. In overall terms, this puts France fifth behind Australia, California and now South Africa. This is an astonishing effort by South Africas wine-makers, coming as they have done from an almost standing start at the end of the apartheid era and it is a fitting tribute to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mandelas release from prison, but it is also a cruel blow for Gallic pride. Perhaps it will force producers in some of the overpriced regions of France to bring their prices down or else find that the entente cordiale has been severely damaged.
As I write this column, news of the devastation of the Chilean Earthquake is still coming through. The disaster struck only two weeks before the start of the harvest and most of the deaths seem to have been in the major wine-making region of the Maule Valley where greatest damage has been reported. At one of the worst hit wineries, Julio Bouchon of J. Bouchon, reported that his beautiful old winery has been levelled.
You can smell wine along the roads in front of the wineries. Tanks laying on their sides, collapsed buildings, barrels and glass everywhere, said Chilean winemaker Sven Bruchfeld. It has been estimated that around 12 per cent of existing stocks have been destroyed in the quake, but it is certainly lucky that it struck early on a Saturday morning when the wineries were largely empty or many more would have been killed. Hopefully power will have been restored in the wineries before the harvest as the country has already been suffering from the weakness of its currency against the dollar and this natural catastrophe may well cause a number of estates to go out of business.
February saw Fairtrade Fortnight when people around the country were encouraged to take part in the Big Swap when shoppers exchanged a million non-Fairtrade products for their Fairtrade counterparts. Certainly with wine a lot of swapping must have taken place over the last year because, in a stagnant market, sales of Fairtrade wines have increased by 89 per cent. Last year was a tough one for everyone, but a desperate year for many poor communities and small farmers in developing countries, said Harriet Lamb, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation. Despite the recession, the public are still voting with their wallets for fairness and want to change the indignities of an unjust trading system.
I have always been a keen advocate of Fairtrade wines but the wine has to stand up on its own feet. Similarly to coffee and tea, some of the early Fairtrade offerings left a lot to be desired, but recent attempts have proved far more successful and we are now shipping several containers a year of Fairtrade wine from the excellent Stellar Organics Fairtrade winery in South Africa. Forget you preconceptions and give them a try!
Stellar Running Duck Shiraz red, Chenin/Sauvignon white and Shiraz ros, all available at 5.49 per bottle.
An Alphabet of Wine Terms
D is for:
Decanting/Double Decanting: Decanting is the act of pouring the wine from the bottle into another container. It used to be commonplace when the majority of wine threw a sediment. These days it is more often done to allow the wine to open up as oxygen mixes with it on pouring. This has led to Double Decanting pouring the wine into a secondary container, rinsing out the bottle, and then returning the wine to the bottle a good way to open up big, young red wines.
Dosage: In the champagne method, the sediment caused by the secondary fermentation is removed by the freezing of a plug of wine and lees in the neck of the bottle. The dosage is the liquid used to top up the resulting gap and determines the level of sweetness.
Demi-Sec a confusing term that most people with elementary French would think means half-dry, but actually means by English standards really rather sweet!