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.

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!

It’s going to be a vintage year for Sussex wine

Continuing the trend for an exceptional harvest for English wine, a vineyard in Sussex is looking forward to an unprecedentedly successful year.

The Nyetimber vineyard estate is located in the south of England, between Horsham and Worthing. They began their harvest more than three weeks earlier than the usual time and are hoping for enough grapes to produce one million bottles of sparkling wine. This would be a record beating year and is predicted to be up to 30% more than a normal year.

Hot summer

The long heatwave during the summer months, combined with an ideal amount of rainfall has created conditions not seen in England before. This year’s summer temperatures came second only to the infamous heatwave of 1976 and vineyards across the country are reaping the benefits.

Head winemaker at the Sussex based vineyard said: “We are very excited about this year’s harvest following ideal conditions over the past few months. I would put my money on this being a very high-quality year.”

Single vintage

The harvest looks so promising at Nyetimber that they are planning to use it to produce its newest single vintage Blanc de Blancs. The current release of this wine is from the 2010 vintage, and consumers would have to wait until at least 2024 to get their hands on the release made from this year’s harvest.

If they do go ahead with a 2018 Blanc de Blancs then it would be bottled during the first six months of 2019. The wine is then aged for at least five years before it reaches the shelves.

Industry growth

Nyetimber is one of many English vineyards that is experiencing high levels of growth as the changing climate boosts the wine industry in the UK. Owner and CEO Eric Heerama said: “Nyetimber has been on a remarkable journey, growing 20-fold in just over a decade. Today marks the beginning of what I hope will be our best harvest yet, an important milestone for English sparkling wine which is well on its way to becoming the finest in the world.”

Research shows that Prosecco sales have finally fallen, after consistently rising in the UK for a number of years. This is partly due to the upsurge in enthusiasm for the higher quality English sparkling wine now available.

Vintage year

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has gone on record stating that it fully expects 2018 to be a vintage year for the UK wine industry. They attribute this to a wet spring followed by the extended heatwave. These weather conditions combined to form early flowering vines and very generous bunches of grapes.

WSTA CEO Mike Beale said: “The last bumper year for English wine was back in 2014 when good weather created ideal growing conditions for our grapes, with vineyards across the UK producing the equivalent of 6.3 million bottles of English and Welsh wine that year.”

It’s expected that the 2018 vintage will be even more successful than the one four years ago. Viticultural expert Stephen Skelton said that an early harvest always indicates high quality grapes: “As for volume, we normally crop about one third of Champagne. This year I would guess we would match their level.”

Increase in vineyards

Sparkling wine accounts for two thirds of all Welsh and English wine currently produced. Figures from HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) show that 3.86 million bottles of still and sparkling wine made in UK-based vineyards went on sale in 2017.

At the moment, vines cover 2,200 hectares in the UK, and it’s expected this will increase to more than 3,000 by 2020.

Looking for great value French wines

In a world where prices seem to rise constantly, and the future of the economy is uncertain, it’s good to know that you don’t have to sacrifice quality for quantity.

France is home to some of the priciest, most exclusive wines in the world and it’s certainly the country to turn to if you’re looking for something extra special. So, it could seem strange to link France and value for money, but as a great wine nation should, it offers a bit of both.

Affordable quality

In among the lovely wines produced in France there are, of course, plenty of over-priced and lesser quality wines too. The key, as it always is when looking for a wine to enjoy, is to find a balance of quality yet affordable wines.

Premium wines have been rising in price steadily for a while now, leaving French wine as a good option for value. For example, even champagne is cheaper than English sparkling wine at the moment, thanks to some stunning seasons for English vineyards over the last couple of years. Look out for creamy, stylish champagnes that aren’t too expensive, and the chances are you’ll be enjoying a superior flavour.

Champagne style

If you’re looking for something other than a champagne style wine, then it’s a case of knowing which to look out for. This is particularly the case when it comes to selecting from a wine list at a restaurant, as classic wines are generally heavily marked up.

If you go for Macon Villages rather than the more expensive Chassagne-Montrachet, for example, you’re in for a treat. Or you could choose a deep and vibrant Beaujolais (which is, of course, technically part of the Burgundy region), instead of pricier wines from the Cote d’Or. The massive vineyards in the Langeudoc-Roussillon also offer reliable and enjoyable wines for decent prices.

New regions

Alternatively, if you spy a wine from a region you’re unfamiliar with, the chances are it’s going to better value than the one you know. Good regions to look out for a Reuilly in the Loire, costieres de nimes on the edge of the Rhone river, Bergerac on the outskirts of Bordeaux and jurancon sec in the south west. The very obscure pacherenc du vic bilh region offers absolutely lovely dry and sweet wines, so it’s always worth seeking out.

You should look out for French bottles labelled with the place they’re made, rather than the ones that pick out the grape variety. This generally means a tastier bottle, although there are exceptions like jura chardonnay and piquepoul noir grapes.

France also offers some decent natural wines. These include petillant naturel (also known as ‘pet nat’), which is a gently fizzy sparkling that is bottle while still undergoing the fermentation process.

Keep your eyes peeled, and you can find plenty of French wines to enjoy without breaking the bank.

A choice of whites to enjoy this September

As the weather in the UK is currently in an in-between stage, no-one is quite sure whether to expect an Indian Summer or full-on Autumn. Either way, it’s time to switch from summer wines to a different flavour as we prepare for the start of a new season.

The long, hot summer has meant plenty of lighter white wines and roses being enjoyed with picnics and barbecues, but Autumn mists bring with them the urge to switch to something a bit more substantial. After all, at some point the temperature is set to drop and nights will become chilly.

Late summer temperatures

Many whites work for warmer days and nights, as well as when the temperature drops. For example, if we head to France and the southern Languedoc region, we can find a huge variety of wines at decent prices. An interesting grape from the region is the terret blanc, which delivers refreshing citrus along with sharp acidity. The Villa Blanche Terret Blanc has all of this along with a lemony mouthfeel and is the perfect accompaniment to salty snacks such as anchovies and olives.

Another grape from the same region is Muscadelle, which tends to be used in Bordeaux blends. It’s unconnected with the more commonly known muscat grape. The Chateau Peyreblanque Blanc, Graves, 2016, is a wine consisting of 80% Muscadelle and 20% sauvignon gris. After a short oak ageing, it has a tempting and subtle flavour that combines riche fruit, a floral nose and a definite smokiness from the gris. It goes perfectly with lobster and oyster for a special late Summer dinner party.

Blended whites

A blended white that works very well is the Papa Figos Douro Branco 2016. Only a few white wines come from this region, and this uses local grapes and is named after the beautiful golden oriole bird. It’s a full character wine, with stone fruit and peach flavours working well with the refreshing texture, making it tasty with grilled fish dishes.

While many people will have been enjoying the easy nature of pinot grigio during the hot weather, another version for Autumn is very interesting. The Slovenian Seven Numbers 3 Pinot Grigio 2016 has an oaky texture, along with green apple, stone fruit and vanilla notes.

Mix it up

Another wine ideal for late summer days is The Grey Slate, Dr L, Private Reserve, 2017, from the Mosel region in Germany. An approachable mix of peach, pineapple and lemon flavours with a dry edge, it’s lovely with some simple seafood.

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules about the kinds of wine you should enjoy during different seasons. However, it’s always nice to mix it up and try new flavours as we wait for Winter to arrive and move on to deeper, more textured, full-bodied wines.

How the global wine industry is changing

The wine industry is going through changing times. Small and medium sized winemakers are struggling against the biggest producers, while higher real estate and climate change are presenting their own challenges.

While the market for wine drinkers continues to increase, it’s becoming trickier for many to find what they want. The demand is primarily for small batch winemakers, who grow their own grapes in the traditionally popular wine-making regions.

Consumer focus

Consumers and trade are both still very much focused on wine from historic regions, and wines made by people who grow their own (grower-producers). However, it’s becoming more difficult for these kinds of growers to be seen against major labels.

The US is the largest wine market in the world and consumes 13% of the global supply according to the Wine Institute. As such, they often dictate certain patterns of buying and consumption. As the biggest producers in the US have consolidated, it’s become trickier for small and medium sized wineries, who are struggling to be seen.

Research from the State of the Wine Industry 2018 report shows that sales growth in the US will likely continue to rise steadily between two and four per cent. However, the premium sector is looking at a softening market, with a growth between four and eight per cent in 2018, compared with 10-14 per cent in 2017.

Challenges for producers

Adding to the concerns for smaller growers, the challenges presented by retail estate prices and climate change are even more pressing. During 2018’s summer, heatwaves struck across the world. More than 1,590 heat records were either smashed or reached, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin reports.

Some experts say that rising temperatures will soon mean that traditional wine regions will not be able to produce wine in the future. They cite Tuscany, the Rhone, Napa, Chile and Bordeaux as just a few regions that will find wine making unsustainable. By 2050, some scientists predict that the area suitable for growing wine will decrease by 73% in some of these areas.

Real estate prices are also rising across the world. For example, in Bordeaux, prices are increasing by 15.5% year-on-year, adding to the pressure for smaller producers. However, this mix of factors is creating different opportunities for up and coming growers.

Adjusting focus

Wine brokers and industry disruptors see wine as a business. For example, Brett Vankoski founded Latitude Beverage, a company that buys pre-made wine and rebottles it under different labels. He said: “While we all focus on the art of making wine, it was always essentially about commerce. When winemakers find themselves struggling because of a poor harvest, they adjust what they’re doing.”

This subtle shift could be a boon for smaller producers, as they are nimble enough to pivot their business to fit the changing needs of the market.