Less than a month to go to our Summer tasting and the debate has begun on which wines to show on the Manor Wines favourite tables. It looks likely that we will each pick our favourite wine, but which one to choose?
The wine we like to drink on a hot summers day being a summer tasting?
The bottle you run to after a tough day?
The bottle of wine to celebrate with?
Or the steady everyday drinking wine always sitting in the rack, so good that when you run out, you always have to buy more and cheap enough to open most nights?
If you want to know what I pick come along to the tasting. For more details on the tasting and to register your interest click here and we will send you an invitation.
Well, it could have been a lot worse … essentially the budget has added 5p to the price of a bottle of wine, and that is the difference that will be applied to Manor Wines’ prices from Monday 24th March.
Sparkling wines will have 6p added, and fortified wines 7p. No change on spirits.
The great news is that the duty escalator was not applied: this would have roughly doubled these increases. Phew.
There is a certain amount of confusion over exactly how much the duty increases are (for instance, HMRCs website says the increase for still wine is 6p a bottle). Our own calculations show the increases amount to a little less and, to give our customers the best deal possible, that is what we have gone with.
It’s worth emphasising that even with the lighter touch of this budget, duty is now £2.05 on a 75cl bottle of still wine. And the VAT on the duty (oh yes) brings that to £2.46 before you’ve even thought of shipping, bottle, label, cork – let alone actual wine!
The history of Champagne goes back a long way and the facts are muddled in the mist of time, so in this article I am forgetting the facts and telling the story my way. When this area of France produced a low quality still white wine, much of it was exported across the sea to England. Sometimes the fermentation process did not complete and some sugar was left in the wine, caused mainly by the cold weather stopping fermentation. When the wine warmed up in spring the fermentation could start again in the bottles. This caused the wine to become sparkling. French winemakers hated these bubbles as they saw it as a flaw, but of course the English loved the sparkling wine (probably, just because the French loathed it).
Another problem with this second fermentation was that it caused bottles to explode, which both French and English agreed was not a good trait. There was a certain young monk who had just been made the cellar master of the Abbey de Hautvillers, Pierre Pérignon. Dom Pérignon is credited with being the inventor of Champagne. Although there is no proof of this, never let facts get in the way of good folklore! The wire cage was added to stop corks popping during secondary fermentation.
A young lady called Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin married a wine maker call François Clicquot but she was widowed 6 years later at the young age of 27. She was then known as the widow Clicquot (Veuve Clicquot). She invented the rack that is used for riddling, the process which allows the gradual turning and moving of the bottles from horizontal to vertical. This moves the dead yeast cells and sediments to the neck of the bottle, dégorgement then takes place: the neck of the bottle is frozen and the frozen pellet of sediment is removed from the bottle; the bottle is then topped up and resealed.
The process of dégorgement weakens the neck of the bottle and allows the bottles to be opened with a champagne sabre. Napoleon’s officers are said to have opened bottles with the back of their sabre while riding out of her vineyard trying to impress the young Veuve Clicquot. I was taught this technique by Moët & Chandon at the Commodore Hotel, North Devon in a weekend course on Champagne, also in the distant past.
You cannot talk about the myths of Champagne without a mention of the champagne coupe, the saucer shaped glass which these days is less popular than the flute. The coupe is said to have been modelled on the breast of Marie Antoinette, but just to finish on an up for Les Anglais, the coupe was actually invented 100 years earlier to her – in England.
A genuine steal is a rarity in the wine trade, despite what supermarkets would have us believe.
Those ‘half price’ deals are actually almost always wines being sold at their true value – the offer price is what they’re actually worth. They are sold at double price for the requisite period before the ‘price cut’ and then offered at ‘half price’ with all the appearance of a stunning deal. Check out the blog “Devious Dealings” for some more some more insights into the dubious practices of our leading retailers.
Enough of that cynicism, because Chateau Constantin-Chase Pétale de Rosé 2012 is a genuine bargain: a really delicious rosé from the Luberon – essentially a provencal rosé – for £5.95 inc VAT. That, of course, requires a little explanation to be credible: what’s happened is that one of our producers has branched out and bought a new vineyard from which he wants to produce red wine but In the cellars is a quantity of rosé wine. He simply wants to clear the cellar as neatly as possible, and so we have access to a small parcel of wine at a genuine bargain price.
The wine is excellent (we should know, we’ve sampled it enough), absolutely comparable to wine we have to sell at twice the price, and there isn’t much of it. So, for once, grab a real half-price bargain.
Prosecco’s an Italian sparkling* wine, relatively low in alcohol (around 11%), named for the region it’s made in – Prosecco, just North of Venice – and it’s got to be made there, otherwise it can’t be called Prosecco. It’s made from at least 85% Glera grapes (which, confusingly, were also known as Prosecco).
It’s produced by the Charmat method: first, make a still wine, then put it in a tank with sugar and yeast to ferment again under pressure, dissolving CO2 and making bubbly. Bottle and drink within 3 years. Prosecco can be Spumante (fully sparkling) or Frizzante (lightly so).
Although it was once similar to the sometimes cloying sweetness of neighbouring Asti (which we think can be fantastic with cakes and puddings but not much else), the modern Prosecco is much more grown-up and adaptable. For many it’s the perfect aperitif, half the price of champagne, a good level of fruit that makes it interesting and easy to drink but remaining elegantly dry and refreshing.
* Like all things vinous, nothing’s absolute: there is still Prosecco, but not much is made and hardly any of that gets out of Italy.
… it’s now been confirmed by Eurostat that the UK is second only to Ireland as the most expensive country in Europe in which to buy alcohol. All the more reason to make sure that what you do buy is delicious as well as costing less.
One way of achieving great value is to avoid the obvious: great French Pinot Noir comes from Burgundy and all the world knows it. There isn’t that much, so it’s expensive. BUT the French do make Pinot Noir outside Burgundy and it’s called Le Fou (because only an idiot would try this), and, lo and behold, it’s delicious AND affordable. Get it now before the rest of the world finds out.
The arcane process of the annual Bordeaux wine price fixing (oh OK, better make that price setting) jamboree is well under way. With three “once-in-a-lifetime” vintages already this century, what’s a sensible drinker, who simply wants to enjoy one of life’s great pleasures without trying to outbid the combined financial muscle of the Far East, to do?
Look no further than Chateau Batailley. As a recent comment in the wine trade press remarked, it’s excellent wine at a very fair price. You’d be crazy not to.