Monday, September 27, 2010

Trivento Reserve Chardonnay 2008

Chardonnay is pretty much everywhere, virtually every wine producing country makes some and they all seem capable of doing it well. Unfortunately a lot of them do it very badly as well, this wine is not expensive and is certainly isn't Puligny Montrachet but it really isn't bad either.

It has lovely acidity, although that may come from a bottle, which gives it a really nice lifted feel, there are some attractive mineral notes as well which really help this to feel better than it is , and whilst there is a bit of oak, it really does feel like it's just a hint which gives it a bit of creaminess. There'e plenty of fruit too, as well as a few lime notes the majority of the flavours are things like apples, quince and greenguage. If I'm going to sugest that it isn't perfect then it's a tad short on the finish and for me the alcohol just sticks out a little - but I am getting more and more sensitive to this so for the majority of you then it's not going to be a problem. Don't go buying this if you think you're getting something French - a - like though - this is most definately in the New World - it just happens to feel a little cool - although I think most of that has probably been achieved in the winery rather than in the vineyard.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Village Shops and Wine

Not for any particular reason, but today I have been thinking a little about why it is village shops often sell the worst products at excessively high prices. I fully understand that there is a need for them to make a profit and because turnover is generally low margins need to be pushed in order to make it worthwhile. But what I don't get is the fact that often what they sell is complete pap. And when you look at wine selections it really couldn't get any worse. Here are independent traders trying to make a living, and they do so by selling wines that have usually been picked up in a cash and carry and then putting a margin on it. Apart from the fact that the wines are terrible, because you're also paying a cash and carry the margins get squashed and prices are still far too high. Some make the mistake of trying to sell brands such as Blossom Hill or Gallo (the quality of which I'm bound to have said something about before) but then look expensive selling a wine that you can find in Tesco for £4 for near £8. Or worse still are selling Piesporter Michelsberg and Liebfraumilch and wondering why it isn't selling when it used to do so well!

Even those village shops who have bothered to buy in fresh bakery bread daily, local products, and the like often have terrible wine selections.

Well I think that there is an alternative, I mean there are wine shops that people actually make special journey's to go to. In other words, if people know the wine selection in a shop is very good, and competitive then they are more likely to bother trying the wines, plus people from other villages may actually come across in search of something for a dinner party or something a little nicer than you find in a supermarket.
Now it can be hard because those in charge of a village shop may well know nothing about wine, but there are two possible routes they can take. The first is to work with a merchant in a local town, they may even allow you to promote the space as being theirs to give it credibility. The other alternative would be to find a high quality agent / distributor who has a range of interesting wines from all the main regions - there are not that many of them, but I can certainly think of enough that would make it easy to place orders.

So please, if you have a village shop, have a go - promote it as a fine wine selection and let me buy something half decent when I'm away from home!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

WSET Diploma

So I got the results of my final diploma exam a few weeks back and they came back very good indeed - in fact better than I could have hoped for really - and ended up coming so close to getting a distinction overall that I was almost disappointed, not in that final exam (which is worth half the overall course) but because I know I missed out on a distinction in one module, (I got distinction in three modules worth 39 credits - you need 42 (out of 60) to get it overall), and in one module (spirits) I lost focus and wrote a terrible tasting note for a gin claiming it was in fact vodka! I'm pretty sure if I got that right I'd have got the top mark - so anyway I had mixed feelings. (even though only two people in the year globally (and one in the UK) scored a distinction)

Then the e-mail came in yesterday from WSET, telling me a) that I'd done well and that might qualify me to get a scholarship (a prize effectively) and asking me whether I was considering going on to study for the Master of Wine.

Now they haven't told me anything there, however there is one scholarship that offers part funding towards MW study and it turns out that it is offered to the students who come 2nd - 4th in the year (with two getting the award) - so I'm chuffed. I've turned down the offer - I'm not up for the MW just yet - but chuffed to have been asked.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wine websites

I've been thinking a lot recently about wine websites and merchants sites and what they acheive - are they really succesful and do they do what they really ought to and tap into the market that they all ought to.

This has all come about because I've been working with some colleagues on putting together a new site for our work - hopefully it'll be all up and running by November and I'll post on here once it's done.

I think that far too many merchants think that the way to make money from the web is to have a e-shop where they list their wines, put up special offers update once in a while and then sit back and wait for the money to roll in. Except it isn't that easy - if it was I'd have gone solo and done it a long time ago. The problem of course is that if you aren't a household name (or very early one) like Tesco or Majestic people are not going to just come on in looking for wine to buy. In the same way merchants hope that by listing their wines on wine-searcher and by being good value they will pick up business - and they can - but it is dependent on them having a selection of wines that are the kind of thing that are highly sought after "named" products - we're talking Lafite, Romanee Conti, Gaja or Grange - but not every merchant does these wines and it would be pretty boring if they did. In fact most merchants sell wines that they have handpicked to meet a particular need in their range at a particular price point - but it may be that the quality of the wine is far greater than its renoun - in which case the merchant isn't going to sell a lot online just by waiting for people to come on in.
The next way people sell online is if they have a good mailing list, of people who will visit their site when prompted to, the old mail order merchants are particularly active on the web for this reason. But for a merchant like S H Jones - our renoun is local and we're very much based from our shops and in the locale rather than having a wide distribution - and it is relatively locally that we aim to start building business but hope to push out from our base.
If a merchant wants to sell a fantastic little known wine - they need to do it by hand selling it - which is fine and great if you are stood in a shop, or at a tasting where you can enthuse to people about a wine - what a merchants website and online presence ought to be trying to achieve is to take that hand selling and enable more people to hear about how good it is - through blogs, videos, and a host of online media. Introduce people to certain wines, give them a great offer on a first purchase, build trust and communicate with them again and again and again. Then when they've bought wine from you, loved what they have bought, loved the service, bought into the wines your selling then they may become regular customers.
Our most regular internet customer at the moment is in Australia - they shop with us because they have family who live locally, because the wines sell are good, and because they trust us to pick the right thing and offer excellent service. I suspect they also like the fact that we're not necessarily the slickest operation in the world - but then we are honest about it - we try!

Monday, September 20, 2010

A lovely biodynamic Viognier from New Zealand

I'm not sure how you go about making biodynamic wine in New Zealand, other than very carefully. Sure Monty Waldon did it down in the (relatively) dry south west of France, but in New Zealand it rains a fair bit and you would think that fungal infections might well cause all sorts of problems, but somehow those lovely people at Millton Vineyards, ( have managed it. Millton were also the first vineyards in New Zealand to be fully certified organic. None of which guarantees that what you put in the glass at the end of the day is going to taste good.
Biodynamics is a strange one, I don't know whether there is anything in it, my mind tells me that it is probably a load of rubbish, but what I do know is that to farm biodynamically you have to look after your soil and your vines very very carefully and can take nothing for granted - and that being the case it is likely that an acre of biodynamic vines will have been more carefully looked after than an acre of vines that have not - whatever anyone may say.
From a soil science point of view, the roots of plants are suceptible to all sorts of chemicals and their ability to take on minerals can be hugely affected by the soil composition particularly if there are lots of chemicals in there, and fungicides such as copper based ones (allowed even in organic viticulture) really destroy the soil micro flora growing there all which contribute to less effective and less healthy roots (and therefore vines) and less healthy soil.
As an example if you were to take the 100 most prevalent microbes found in soil - copper sulphate would kill the fungal microbes (along with the algae which have symbiotic relationships with the fungi) Those algae provide nitrogen in a format that the vines can use and so on - essentially just as maintaining a healthy set of microbes in your stomach is important (so those lovely people at Yakult keep telling us) if you want healthy plants then you need healthy soil and microbes are important in that.

Anyway enough science - back to the wine! This is Millton Vineyards Viognier and it is lovely - some really nice fresh apricot and honeysuckle aromas, some really pure fruit great mouthfeel with terrific intensity and a good finish.