Wine Buff News
You might assume that all wines are vegan friendly, isn’t wine just made from fermented grape juice? you might ask, so where does the animal become involved in the wine making process? The reason that all wines are not vegan or vegetarian-friendly is due a process called ‘fining’. All young wines contain tiny murky particles, all natural such as tannin, tartrates and phenols and over time the wine will self-clear, however winemakers like to speed the process up and do so by fining the wine. Fining also removes unwanted molecules that filtration cannot remove, these molecules can often leave a taint in the wine which the winemaker wants removed before the bottle is opened. The fining agent when added to the wine acts like a magnet and attracts the hazy molecules, these become bigger and are easily removed, So, unluckily for vegans some fining agents can be animal based, though bulls blood was banned by the EU after the BSE crisis, other agents are still allowed such as casein (a milk protein), isinglass (fish bladders), gelatine, and albumen (egg whites). Fining with casein and albumen is normally acceptable to vegetarians but all four are a no, no for vegans, the finning agent are not additives to the wine as they are filtered out with the hazy molecules, however tiny traces of the fining agent maybe absorbed into the wine during the fining process. What complicates the issue further is there is no requirement for the wine maker to state on the label what fining agent was used. Therefore, it’s down to the wine retailer or restaurateur to know what has been used for fining and the only way they can know is to ask the winemaker. Many wine makers now use a clay based agent called bentonite which is vegan friendly and in recent years’ winemakers have moved to more natural methods, allowing wines to self-fine, it will normally mention on the label that the wine was unfiltered or may contain sediment. A growing number of our winemakers follow the natural process of wine making such as Apollonio (Puglia), Mas de Flauzieres (Rhone valley), La Bourree (Bordeaux) and Graviers (Margaux). So, if your concerned if your wine is vegan just ask the wine retailer. Some producers are now adding vegan friendly status to their labels such as Chateau Beaubois for their 2016 vintage onwards.
The 2015 vintage from Bordeaux is being hailed as close to its best, not on par with the exceptional 2010 but not far behind, in fact Bordeaux seems to be throwing up some interesting patterns for good vintages 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015 will 2020 follow the trend? From what we have tasted so far there is a wonderful freshness to the wines and the tannins present are soft and smooth. This is great news for drinkers of the smaller chateau wines which will be arriving in our shops during 2017 and will not require lengthy ageing before drinking, in fact it’s extremely drinkable right now and improves well with decanting. More importantly our wine makers are unaffected by the speculation and demand for the premier chateaux, for example the La Fauconnerie 2015 is currently on sale for the same price as the 2014 and 2012 vintages, the same can’t be said of the over-inflated prices of the premier chateaux. So, what makes 2015 so good? Well, in Bordeaux the weather dictates the style of wine for each vintage, in 2015 winemakers made whichever style they liked. This was primarily down to perfect conditions, I won’t bore you with the weather, as that’s what people normally do when they have nothing else to say. In brief, sunshine in the spring with no frost allowed perfect flowering, four months of dry weather produced tiny, purple intense grapes. Rain arrived in August to revive the vines and add life to the grapes. They were picked in cooler than average conditions in September which allowed wine makers to enter the vineyards and harvest the grapes at their optimum ripeness. All in all, it was the perfect score. Commenting on the harvest, Jean Claude Paret from Chateau La Fauconnaire said “it’s one of the darkest concentrations I’ve seen in the wine juice after harvesting” he added “the rain in August saved the vintage and will be reflected by a freshness in the wine”. The 2015 La Fauconnerie arrived in January 2017 and it’s proving a huge success, in the next few months we will be snapping up some more 2015’s from our Bordeaux wine growers, Michel Coudroy from Chateau Maison Neuve and Haut Tropchaud has been raving about the vintage saying “the wines from Pomerol will be opulent and a pleasure to drink”. Enjoy the vintage and make sure you put aside a few bottles for the coming years.
It is that time of year again where we are all planning what feasts are going to be enjoyed over the Christmas period. Whatever you decide, most of us will be thinking about what wines to buy as gifts or serve with the Christmas dinner. We have put together an exclusive selection that would be ideal for drinking over the Christmas period with or without food. Domaine Moulin Berger Julienas 2013 is a wonderful wine from the Beaujolais region of France, if you like Fleurie you'll love this wine. 100% Gamay grape, ruby red with red garnet tints, medium bodied; delicate aromas of strawberry and blackberry with a slight touch of cinnamon, smooth, smooth finish with a lingering fruit finish. Was €17.95 now €12.99. Chateau Rose Piney St Emilion Grand Cru 2007 classic elegant Bordeaux wine, black cherry and currant fruit intermixed with some spice box and forest fruits. Silky tannins, layered mouthfeel and expansive finish. Was €24.95 now €17.99 Tornesi Montelciano Le Benducce 2014. 100% Sangiovese grape, is a medium bodied wine with hints of strawberry, blueberry and pine. It has a fresh fruity flavour with medium tannin and high natural acidity. Was €16.99 now €12.99 Chateau Petit Fombrauge St Emilion Grand Cru 2002, over 14 years old, fresh cherry nose, bit of leather and pine wood. Plum and blackberry, good grip and structure, but smooth tannins on the palate, great balance, decant. Was €35.95 now €24.95
Let’s firstly step back in time to an age when grape growing and wine making was a slow one, influenced by the seasons, a culture of patience. No unnatural fertilisers, no pesticides, with a hands on approach to managing the vines and making the wine. The wine was matured using natural yeasts and the bacteria present on the grape skins to perform fermentation, allowing longer maturation rather than rushing it along with additives, colouring, acid or stablishing agents. In the past this would have been called traditional wine making. Moving to the present day wine is still made from grapes, but there are now many farming philosophies of getting from the bud to the bottle. First on the list is Mass Production Wines, Wine and wine names may conjure up images of idyllic vineyards sloping down to creeks and rivers, with smiling workers hand picking grapes, and a hands on approach in the cellar. With industrialised big brand wines nothing could be further from the truth. The vineyards are vast expanses of vines grown on an industrial scale as far as the eye can see. The ground is treated with fertilisers and the vines are often fed nutrients via a watering system. Pesticide and fungicide spraying of the vines follows a strict timetable regardless of the health of the vines or grapes, It’s an all our nothing philosophy. Foliage is cut back by industrial hedge cutters and all the grapes (good & bad) are harvested mechanically. Once crushed, vast tanks of over 500,000 litres ferment the wine, here the lab technicians in white coats become involved. If a fault occurs in the wine, it’s not a case of pouring the tank down the drain, so early intervention always occurs, additives and manipulation ensure a consistent taste, so that every bottle produced tastes exactly the same year on year. Next on the list is Traditional & Lutte Raisonee “Reasoned Struggle” This method of farming is found more mainly in the Old world countries, the wine making follows the traditions of previous generations but also uses modern methods especially in the cellar. There is no certification for this method or yearly checks. It is the vineyard owner who recognises the importance of sustainability and the bio diversity of the vineyard. In France it is also called Lutte Raisonne which in farming terms means the wine grower will only intervene in the vineyard if it is a necessity. Lutte Raisonee is very close to Organic farming, however there are no rules and no checks to ensure the practice is being followed. Terra Vitis (Living Earth) This is an independently certified process that vineyards in France undergo, and in many cases some wines from the vineyard will be organic and others Terra Vitis. It is popular with small French growers who cannot afford the time or expense of Ecocert (inspections, paper work, and certification are time consuming especially for the small grower who is already a busy one man show). As a member of Terra Vitis, the grower is committing to rules which when followed, will produce healthy, high quality grapes and also respects and improves the eco system of the vineyard. No added Sulphites All wines contain sulphites. It’s a natural ingredient in all wines, sulphite free wines do not exist. However, in the last few centuries winemakers have been adding sulphite to wine as a preservative. In the last few years sulphite has had some bad press. However, if you compare wine to other foods, it’s placed far lower on the scale compared to processed food and dried fruit. Some people have a reaction to sulphur, so you should avoid wines that have high levels. These are normally wines that travel to our shores from further distances, for example wines from the New World may have to travel huge distances by land and sea in extreme temperatures and the wines would become cooked and bland in taste. To counteract this, the highest permitted levels of sulphite is added in order to preserve the wines. If you suffer from wine triggered allergies, avoid these wines and seek out the wines that are shipped from our neighbouring countries and from smaller wine makers, who would make their wines for their local markets and not for mass export. Organic This type of farming adheres to a strict list of practices some allowed some not. It’s about avoiding synthetic pesticides on the grapes and in the soil, no herbicides, fungicides or fertiliser and no use of genetically modified organisms. Weed management between the vines is carried out by ploughing or the use of cover crops, which also act as natural fertiliser. As with all organic products a small percentage of non-organic ingredients are allowed, but in general the grapes used are organic. Additives are restricted and sulphur added is greatly reduced. Biodynamic This is a holistic approach to organic farming, the entire vineyard is considered whole and there is an interconnection between all living things. However, it also believes everything is cyclical and tuned into energy patterns of the earth such as the equinox, sunrise, sunset etc. and that agricultural activity should be scheduled in accordance with the position of the moon and the planets. Animals are an important component, they graze and trim the vegetation around the vines while fertilising the soils. Many organic growers would follow biodynamic practice but it is expensive to be certified, you can regard biodynamic farming as a philosophy and organic farming as adhering to rules. Natural Wines Most people by now are aware that the term natural is totally unregulated when it comes to food and drink. However, there are a lot of good wine makers who proclaim that their wines are Natural. Though there is no legal definition of what this is and who is enforcing it. The guidelines set out by these growers proclaim their wine follows organic practice with a more sympathetic approach to the wine making with minimal or no intervention in the cellar. Again none of this is regulated.
You may have encountered the term Claret and wondered what it is? After all, there is no grape variety called claret. The term can be traced back to medieval times and has evolved in its meaning through the centuries. However one thing is certain, it’s deeply rooted in Bordeaux. The term Claret comes from Clairet which means clear, and Clairet is a French type of wine much loved in medieval times but rarely seen in the modern era, in fact when Eleanor of Aquitaine’s married Henry Plantagenet of England in the 13th century. Eleanor brought with her a taste for these wines and very soon galleons were shipping loads across the Channel to satisfy the great English demand. So originally all Clarets were Clairets, any clearer? The Clariet is a peculiar dark rose and over time the English word Claret was used to describe Bordeaux wine that had been spiced, eventually the term Claret was used to describe any wine red wine from Bordeaux. So what is Clairet wine like? Well it is a deep dark rose colour, made from the same grapes as the reds of Bordeaux, the grape juice is left lie on the skins for at least two days if not more, rose wine just sits in the grape skins for a few hours. It is silky smooth, smells of ripe rich fruit and has a big fruit finish. If you would like to try some we have a batch in from Chateau Haut Maurin, a wine from the past well worth a taste. But the most important question is, do you like it as much as we do? Why not add yout review of this quentisencial Bordeaux wine.