How to start a cost-effective wine collection

Wine collecting can be competitive, and it’s often expensive. For example, when Nicholas Paris (Master of Wine from the Institute of Masters of Wine in London) presided over an auction between two Fortune 500 company executives, he witnessed the competition over a 1947 Burgundy push the price up from £6,240 to £39,000.

Paris is only the 34th American to ever be awarded the Master of Wine title, showing just how exclusive the industry can be. However, you don’t need to spend anything like the dedication, time or money on learning about wine to build a collection of good wine and enjoy the process.

Good wine collection is possible

If you’re interested in starting a wine collection without breaking the bank, here are some expert tips to get you started. As with every investment decision, a little research can go a long way.

Start by considering the region of the wine you’re looking at. Certain wines from specific regions will age better. According to Paris, this include wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Northern Rhone in France for reds. Italian red wines that do well with ageing include Amarone, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino.

White wines from France that age well include white Burgundy, white Bordeaux and Vouvray. From Germany, you should look at white Riesling for staying power.

Understand wine lifespans

Paris’s expert advice includes the fact that only 5% of wines across the world will improve in any meaningful way after five years. He says: “A lot of people purchase wines that are meant to be consumed much earlier and hold onto them for a long time. They’re not going to improve, and they certainly won’t have any value at that point.”

It’s also important to consider how much you ant to spend. Buying good wine that will age well doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money. It’s possible to find good bottles for £20 to £40, that will age well over the next decade, as long as you buy from the right regions.

Storage and packaging

Both how the wine is packaged and stored can make a big different for its longevity. Wines with a natural cork should have a longer cork, as bottles with either a synthetic or short cork don’t let the wine to age well due to the amount of air that can get in.

Screw tops are a better barrier to oxygen affecting the wine and can allow the wine to age for a number of years. Boxed wines are never meant to age, and should be consumed straight away, as they hold no value over time.

A mistake many amateur wine collectors make is not storing the wine correctly. Wines must be kept in cool, humid and dark places, and room temperature is generally too warm. Commonly used storage areas, such as cupboards or the larder, will prematurely age the wine because of the excess heat and light. You can get fairly inexpensive wine fridges that provide the right level of humidity, or a basement is a good option.

Follow these tips and you can get started on a budget-friendly good wine collection that will age well and grow in value.


French organic wine sales are set to soar over next few years

The future is looking distinctly green for French organic wines. Sales of wines from French vineyards made with exclusively organic grapes are expected to double over the next three years.

This is particularly significant, as overall wine sales are following a downward trend as consumption levels decrease.

Classes of wine

A wine industry research group from the UK, IWSR Drinks Market Analysis Group conducted the research. Organic wine is defined as that made from vineyards that no longer use chemical pesticides to protect crops against moulds and pests.

The research found that while sales from organic vineyards made up only 3.7% of the market in France in 2018, this is twice the number sold just five years ago. Around 9.3 million cases containing 12 bottles of organic wine were sold, according to IWSR. In 2012, the number was 4.6 million cases, showing how different classes of wine are becoming more popular. If the demand continues in the way projected, then sales should increase to around 17.3 million cases by 2022.

Higher prices

Organic vineyards can generally reach higher prices from consumers. In France, bottles of organically produced wine are selling at an average of 6.14 euros, which is approximately a third more expensive than a conventional bottle.

ISWR has been analysing the organic wines market since 1973 and say that they expect revenues to soon reach more than one billion euros every year in France. It’s likely that the rest of Europe will follow suit, as more people become concerned with sustainability and try to avoid chemicals in their diet.

France’s outlook reflects an increasing taste around the world for organic wine. Approximately 56 million cases were sold last year, showing an average annual growth of 14.1% since 2012. Most of these were sold in Europe, as the continent is leading the organic trend.

It’s expected that organic sales in France will continue to lead this upwards trend, with a predicted annual growth of 14% through 2022, compared with a global uptick of 9.2%.

Conventional wine sales falling

As organic wines soar in France, conventional wine sales decreased from 267 million in 2012 to 241 million last year. This doesn’t include sales of sparkling wines or champagne.

Jose Luis Hermosos, head of research at IWSR, says: “Several studies have shown that there are fewer and fewer people who drink wine twice a day, more and more who don’t drink at all, and most significantly, more occasional drinkers.”

If this consumer trend continues, then they expect demand to decrease further, with an expectation of selling 208 million cases in 2022. However, while the quantity is falling, the quality is rising. IWSR say that young people are drinking less but choosing better quality wines than the older generation, and this includes organic wines.

What makes a good wine?

In many ways, good wine is subjective. It’s all about personal taste in the end. But by finding out about the processes that go into making a great wine, it becomes easier to identify those that will suit you.

This applies whether you are a casual drinker of wine, or a collector of the finest vintages. A good foundational knowledge helps recognise a good wine – it’s that simple!

Four pillars of great wine

If we think of wine making having four distinct pillars that go into making it special, it breaks down the process. These are:

  1. High quality grapes.
  2. Skilful winemaking
  3. Long term vision
  4. Art

Put these all together, and you’re looking at a wine that can definitely be considered great. High quality ingredients and exceptional skill goes into making any great food or drink. And it’s exactly the same with wine. When we look at the most successful winemakers, they all have a long term vision regarding their brand and how they make the wine.

The third pillar is more nebulous. But it’s fair to say that there is an indefinable quality that goes with great wine that’s difficult to describe scientifically. Just as art is a personal, subjective choice, so is wine. The more you understand about the background, history and craft involved, the more sophisticated your taste will become.

What makes a good grape?

This comes down to vintage and terroir. The first encapsulates the way grape-growing is facilitated during a single vintage (ie. year’s growth). This covers every choice of the winemaker, from how they choose to manage pests, when they harvest the grapes, when and how they prune and irrigate and various soil treatments.

Terroir refers to the influence nature has on growing grapes, including soil, climate and weather. Another component that is just being recognised as scientifically important is Flora. This includes every living plant or fungi in the area, from trees, grasses and flowers to bacteria and yeasts.

What makes a successful harvest?
It’s all in the timing when it comes to harvesting wine grapes. When they’re picked, the ripening process stops. In cooler regions, winemakers need to think about the weather outlook and harvest before any heavy rains arrive. In warmer climates, mis-timing the harvest by even a few days can mean overripe wine, rather than fresh and fruity wine.

Sugar levels must be high enough before harvest commences. It’s also important that phenolic ripeness is at the correct level. This is the tannin’s condition within the seeds and skin of the grape. Grapes with fewer ripe seeds and skin will mean a bitter and astringent wine.

Some grapes naturally contain lower levels of tannin, so winemakers harvest them when they’re greener. This adds texture and acidity to a wine and is most commonly seen with Pinot Noir grapes. Others, such as Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon have higher tannin levels and should be picked when the phenolic ripeness levels are higher.

As you can see, there are many aspects for winemakers to get right to produce a good wine. Casual study of its basic components can help you choose a wine that better suits your palate.

Fine red wine for late autumn

We’ve reached that time of year between Bonfire Night and the start of Advent. In the US, there is always Thanksgiving to keep everyone going, but in the UK, we need a little extra help to bridge the gap between now and festive celebrations. If you’re finding the need for a late autumn treat, then here are a few red wines that will boost your evenings in front of the fire.

Choose a wine packed with chocolate and coffee notes, gentle spices and autumnal fruity flavours. Ideally, you want something with a mellowness that matches the misty mornings and bright, autumn colours outside.

South African red wine

A lovely choice from the Western Cape of South Africa is the Releaf Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Shiraz. It’s made from organic grapes and tastes rather like a blend from the south of France. There is also a hint of spice in the cassis and tobacco flavours, giving a harmoniously comforting finish. This is an ideal choice for a dinner party with friends or just relaxing in front of the fire.

South Australia has plenty of great choices. Try the Robert Oatley McLaren Vale Signature Shiraz 2015, which is subtler than the usual Antipodean red. It’s still rich, but not too rich and has a balance of mocha and dark fruit flavours. It’s great with a Mediterranean style dish or just swirled by itself after dinner.

Perfect autumn grape

A grape that suits autumn perfectly is the carmenere. This produces wines packed full of velvety smooth, subtle but present, hints of coffee, berries, plum and chocolate. The best examples hail from Chile, such as the Seleccion Privado Zapallares Gran Reserva, 2016. This has some oaky ageing flavour, some spice and is ideal for the dinner table.

Heading back to Europe, the primitivo grape from Apulia in southern Italy is a good bet. Il Pumo Primitivo Salento San Marzano 2017 is a lovely choice, with its profile of peppery baked fruits. The western and southern regions of France also offer good choices at decent prices. Try the Domaine de Serame Merlot Pays D’oc 2016 from the Languedoc region, with its juicy red fruity profile.

Whichever you decide to try, enjoy the peaceful autumn evenings before you need to start shopping for more expensive, festive wines for the Christmas period!

What’s behind the growing popularity of natural wine?

There is an increase in popularity for natural wine, thanks in part to a growing awareness of health and wellness issues. Natural wine is the fermented juice of grapes handpicked from the vine. The difference between natural wine and regular wine is it undergoes minimal processing and there are no additives involved.

Whether it’s a healthier way to enjoy wine or not, it’s certainly growing in stature particularly for younger drinkers. According to Jacques Frelin who works in the organic wine sector in France: “Millennials are responsible consumers who enjoy finding out the origins of the products they consume.”

Sustainability factor

Research shows that organic wine sales increased by 22% in 2017, compared with only a 3% growth in non-organic versions. It seems that people are turning towards natural wine as part of a general trend in buying organic, more sustainable produce.

Small wine makers can maintain sustainability and make good wines that cause minimal damage to the environment. With climate change effectively reordering the global wine industry, it’s likely that natural wine will continue to grow in popularity. Organic, biodynamic and natural wines are all growing in popularity, with one recent survey showing almost 93% of customers in favour of natural wines, as long as they don’t compromise on flavour.

What is natural wine like?

As natural wine consists of fermented grape juice, there is nothing added in. This includes artificial yeasts and sulphites, which generally go into the wine process. It also means nothing is filtered out. This leaves an often cloudy-looking wine, which generally fizzes gently.

It tends to have a strong aroma and tastes very fruity. As such, it tends to go very well with food. And while natural wine is very much a buzzword in the industry right now, it’s actually an ancient way of making wine. Well before any machinery or chemicals were used to stabilise wines sold commercially, natural wine was everywhere.

Today, producers tend to be smaller and independent, allowing the customer to understand exactly where the grapes come from. The best part is that it’s very easy to drink. While there isn’t an official standard yet as to what constitutes Natural Wine, look out for organic wines with nothing added.

Spanish natural wine

A great example of a Natural Wine with a delicious flavour is Masia de la Roqua el Truc 2016 Branc from Spain. The region lies in the mountain range of Massis del Garraf between Tarragona and Barcelona. The wine uses select parcels of Macabeo grapes, which are more usually used in Cava. It’s a very dry feeling wine with 9% ABV and has undergone spontaneous fermentation without any added yeast or heat control.

Natural wine is definitely worth sampling, particularly if you are interested in organic and sustainable growing methods. It’s likely that we will continue to see a rise in popularity of organic and natural wines, as the consumer mindset shifts further to sustainable sources.

UK wine industry celebrating 2018’s ‘vintage of the century’

Whether used to buying wine online or tasting different vintages at events, wine lovers will love exploring the Rhine.

The Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany produces more than two-thirds of the country’s wines. It covers six of the 13 wine regions in Germany and covers a massive 159,000 acres of vineyards. All of which make it the ideal choice for wine aficionados.

Beautiful Middle Rhine

For the most visually stunning option, choose the Middle Rhine. This runs through a valley liberally lined with castles among Unesco listed countryside. Most of the wines from here are white, with varieties including Rieslings made from the Silvaners grape. This is known as the ‘queen of grapes’ thanks to its delicacy. Among popular reds from the region are the deep red Portugiesers and the drier Dornfelders.

Most cruises down the Rhine sail between Amsterdam and Basel, with loads of stops on the way. A popular highlight is the town of Rüdesheim, which makes its own wine. It’s home to one of the best-known streets in Germany, the Drosselgasse, which is crammed with taverns serving up local specialities.

When you’ve tasted enough of the wines, you can take in a panoramic view of the region’s vineyards via a cable car trip up the Niederwald Monument.

Wagner vineyard

The largest vineyard in the Middle Rhine is the family-run Wagner. You can try wines from the vineyard at the Weinhaus Wagner, which is in Koblenz. This beautiful city sits at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers.

Further down the Moselle river, you will find Bernkastel-Kues. This has an interactive Wine Museum, which offers virtual flights over the vineyards to interested visitors. You can also taste wine in its old cellars. The Cologne Wine Museum is also worth a visit. It’s difficult to miss, as it has its own vineyard on the roof. It’s packed with more than 40 different varieties of grape and inside, the museum follows the history of wine from the Romans all the way up until the present day.

Wine festivals and events

There are loads of wine festivals along the Rhine, particularly between spring and autumn. The peak season for wine-orientated events is August and September. A highlight is the Bernkastle-Kues festival during the final weekend of August. It’s famous for crowning a wine queen and hosting a spectacular vintners’ parade.

The main festival is called Rhine in Flames, which marks the beginning of the harvest season. Held over five weekends between May and September, it boasts massive firework displays lighting up the river at different locations. Various historic buildings and castles are lit up at night, making for stunning views along the river.

Most organised cruises include regional wines served with dinner, and you can always buy your own and bring back on board along the way. Many cruise providers cater for wine lovers with cruises including talks by experts, guided tastings and loads of visits to cellars and vineyards.

Why 1086 Prestige Cuvée is a British sparkling wine to invest in

It feels to many as if English wine is a new phenomenon. However, wine making in the UK actually goes all the way back to Roman times. A few centuries later and the Domesday Book listed more than 40 vineyards in England in 1086. And this was when Nyetimber was first mentioned.

While Nyetimber was not a vineyard in the 11th century, the long historical legacy of the estate is behind the name of its new prestige cuvée – 1086. Recently launched into the market, the new label also comes during the 30th anniversary year of this pioneering English wine producer. They have set a new, and very impressive, benchmark for English sparkling wine.

World-class wine

Head winemaker Cherie Spriggs says: “From the early days of working together with Eric Heerema, the owner of Nyetimber, we were confident that a world-class cuvée was possible from our own vineyards.”

1086 is the culmination of these early ambitions and is made from a selection of the best grape parcels. It is so special that it will only be produced in exceptional years, which are 2009 and 2010. The former has been developed into a white sparkling wine, while the 2010 vintage both a white and a rosé.

Nyetimber only makes sparkling wine with its own grapes, rather than buying from other vineyards. This practice is unusual enough in England, but also in the Champagne region itself. Cherie says: “It means we can get to know and understand our vineyards intimately, ensuring that we make no compromises in how we look after them throughout each year.”

Saving best vintage

A combination of careful record-keeping and close monitoring of the fruit development every year means the team understands the quality of each vintage. This allows them to save the very best for 1086.

Securing the top-quality grapes from the vineyards is fundamental to the success of the wine. The winemakers don’t use complicated techniques to make their wine, believing instead that their strength lies in simplicity. This means that the wine is not oak barrelled and techniques such as micro-oxygenation aren’t used. They say that: “there are no shortcuts to perfection.”

What do 1086 wines taste like?

The most recognisable characteristic of a 1086 wine is its balance between texture, acidity and length. They all combine naturally and seamlessly in the mouth. The 2009 white is packed with notes of roasted nuts honey and pastry, with a core of acidity leading to a pure finish. The 2010 Rosé is an elegantly flavoured wine with floral, red fruit and cassis notes.

The devotion to perfection has meant that Nyetimber has won a fair number of awards. They have taken home gold for every vintage since their harvest in 2006 and continue to beat other English sparkling wines to the post. Cherie has also won the Sparkling Winemaker of the Year award at the International Wine Challenge 2018. Not only is she the first woman to win this title, but also the first person from outside of the Champagne region.

Why is the 1086 so good?

A combination of careful grape selection and sheltered vineyards make for the best possible conditions to ripen pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay grapes. As Cherie says: “Nyetimber 1086 is the ultimate translation of our wine making vision from vineyard to glass.”

It’s also a great example of just how far the English wine renaissance has travelled.

Tips and tricks for selecting the best wine to suit you

Tips and tricks for selecting the best wine to suit you

Not everyone is a wine expert. And when you’re looking for a fancy fizz or a cheap red for dinner, it can be confusing to find the wine that best suits you. Here are some tips by wine experts to help you find your ideal bottle of wine for any occasion.

  • Check the label

Most people look at the label for information on the wine’s vintage and origin. However, you could be missing some important information that sheds light on the quality of the wine. And that’s the importer’s name.

Learning about the importer of your favourite wine will help you find other that you will like. Most importers of smaller wineries tend to share a common thread. John Paterson, wine director of Frankies Sputino in New York City, says: “Most importers of smaller wineries share a common ‘ethos’, and you might discover more wines you enjoy from places you might not have expected.”

  • Understand label markings

When looking for wine from countries like Italy and France, you should learn about label markings. These will help you become more informed about the wine you’re buying.

For example, wines grown in the EU are marked by geographical indications showing that they are of a certain quality. Phrases such as ‘appellation contrôlée’, AOP, PDO/DOP and AOC show that the wine originates from a specific region. This usually means that the wine is held to a high standard that preserves the region’s integrity.

If you want a Californian wine, you should look for traces of specific wine regions with that state. If the label only shows the state of California as its origin, then it’s unlikely to be high quality. The idea is to find a specific region.

  • Don’t be put off by screw tops

While purists may prefer a cork, screw tops preserve bottles of wine in the same way. It has no bearing on the quality of the wine, and if you skip bottles because they don’t have a cork, you could be missing out. They also mean the bottle will never be spoiled by a tainted cork.

Wine experts on TV might sniff corks, but this tells you very little anyway. All it does is cement the smell of the cork in your brain, which can over-ride the real flavour of the wine itself.

  • Chill your red

There is a long-standing assumption that red wine should be served at room temperature and should never be chilled. This isn’t the case at all. Some red wines, such as Gamay, are delicious when served chilled.

  • The glass you choose is important

If you’re used to drinking your wine from any available vessel, think about investing in quality glasses. The right wine glass can enhance your experience of the wine. It doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money but have a look at different shapes and consider how they would affect the flavour and smell.

Winemakers in the UK worried about potential tax hike

Fourteen winemakers across England and Wales have appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond to think again about a rumoured increase in duty. They’ve banded together due to concern that any hike in duty could hamper wine exports from the UK and inhibit growth in an industry that is only just getting off the ground.

Although an unseasonably long, hot summer has boosted crops in the UK, and English fizz in particular is doing well, wine making in this country is far from stable as an industry of the future.

Autumn budget

So, when it emerged that a rise of 3.4% could be on the cards at the Autumn Budget they banded together to write to the Chancellor. The rise would be in line with inflation and in real terms would add 9p onto a bottle of sparkling wine, and 7p onto a bottle of still wine.

Around 66% of all wine produced in England and Wales is of the sparkling variety, which attracts the highest amount of duty at £2.77 per bottle. For still wine, consumers pay £2.16 in tax per bottle.

Chris White is chief executive of Denbies Wine Estate, which is located in Surrey. He is one of the 14 signatories and said that the action taken by the winemakers is: “necessary in order to support the current demand for English wine and the growth of the industry.” He also goes on to say that: “A duty freeze would also stimulate further our opportunity for export. We would like to see the Government adopt a model employed in all other EU countries where the lower duty rate has helped support the growth of their wine industry.”

Freeze on duty

There was a freeze on duty for the wine industry in 2017, but this has done little to shift the significant tax burden from restricting growth and inflicting damage on rural communities, accord to the WSTA (Wine and Spirit Trade Association). They point to the fact that the Treasury will receive a big boost when this year’s bumper vintage finally goes on sale and say that this makes the proposed rise in duty more difficult to understand and deal with.

There is no doubt that the summer of 2018 will result in a much bigger harvest this year. This only adds to the constantly increasing yield, which has accelerated nicely due to more planting over the last decade.

With Brexit fast approaching, the wine industry is a big part of the UK economy outside of Europe, and winemakers clearly hope that the government will support them. Simon Robinson is the chairman of Hattingley Valley in Hampshire. He said: “The English and Welsh wine industry is a bright spot for the UK economy, which is set to flourish as long as the government provides a stable and supportive environment.”

Allowing the industry to grow will revitalise rural unemployment, boost development and underpin developments in the tourism and hospitality sector.

Over the last decade, the area in which vines have been planted in England and Wales has more than doubled, with one million being sowed in each of the last two years. There are now more than 500 vineyards in the UK, plus approximately 150 wineries producing around six million bottles every year. The industry will be waiting to see the effect of their appeal when the Budget is announced at the end of October.

Most expensive English sparkling wine unveiled

Most expensive English sparkling wine unveiled

Nyetimber, one of the rising stars of the English sparkling wine sector, has launched a prestige cuvee rose. It’s priced at an impressively expensive £175 per bottle as the wine estate attempts to compete with top tier Champagnes. It’s now the priciest English sparkling wine on the market.

The range is named 1086, which is an allusion to the year the West Sussex wine estate was first mentioned in the Domesday Book. There is a 2009 brut priced at £150 and the 2010 rose at the previously mentioned £175. Together they are the most expensive sparkling wines from England available.

Exceptional vintages

As they’re so pricey, the pair will only be produced during exceptional vintages with grapes from the estate’s very best parcels. As such, the particular blend will vary according to the vintage used.

1086 2009 brut is a blend made from 11% Pinot Meunier, 43% Pinot Noir and 46% Chardonnay. The 2010 rose is a blend of 25% Chardonnay and 75% Pinot Noir and both are aged for at least five years sur lie (on the lees). This ageing process means that they are kept in contact with dead yeast cells and not filtered in any way. This enriches the wine and is mainly done for white wines to give them a deeper flavour.

Nurturing quality

Chief winemaker at Nyetimber, Cherie Spriggs, said that the 2009 brut contains “notes of honey, pastry and roasted nuts” and has “a pure and long finish”. The 2010 rose “is silky and elegant with a pure crystalline backbone, evoking floral, cassis and red fruit aromas.”

The wine producer has bottled a small number of magnums of both the rose and brut, priced at £375 and £325 respectively. They also have second vintages lined up of both wines, with a 2013 rose and 2010 brut planned to go on sale later. Spriggs explained: “A wine like 1086 is only possible because we harvest and ferment each parcel separately.”

Nyetimber has more than 90 separate parcels in its vineyards, meaning they can develop and nurture the most nuanced flavours to create the best product to represent the estate. And 1086, they say, represents the best of the best. CEO Eric Heerema added: “We had a dream to create the ultimate expression of this estate. Harvesting from small parcels of our very best fruit, we have created a glorious prestige cuvée.”

The estate was also the first to launch an English fizz priced at more than £50 a bottle. Back in 2013, it also released a single expression from the 2009 vintage, which was called Tillington and came in at £75 per bottle. Only 2,900 bottles were made, all individually numbered.

In 2017, Chapel Down held the crown for the most expensive English sparkling wine on the market with Kit’s Coty Coeur de Cuvée blanc de blancs from Kent, which was priced at £99.99 per bottle. It’ll be interesting to see what next year has in store!