The Low-Down on Organic and Biodynamic Wine

Some winemakers prefer organic and biodynamic viticulture methods of producing wine. Several Burgundy estates have started converting to organic produce and other estates maintain selected vineyards that produce biodynamic wines.The Bordeaux region is particularly suitable for this method because the climate there produces mists that are a natural pest repellent. What this means in laymen’s terms is simply that these winemakers are not using chemicals and fertilisers during the winemaking process. Another difference between organic and non-organic wine is the use of sulphites, which increase the shelf-life of non-organic brands but can also influence the flavour. The reason the organic methods are becoming so trendy is that more and more people worldwide are becoming health conscious and environmentally aware. As a result, they are demanding to know exactly what they are consuming.

Taking it a Step Further: Biodynamic Wine

Biodynamic wine starts off as organic wine and then goes further by using agro-ecology and ecologically self-sufficient methods to cultivate it. This wine is produced with careful consideration of the earth’s natural rhythms, the moon, and the stars. Biodynamic winemakers also introduce medicinal plants like Valerian, Dandelion, and Chamomile into the process. Yes, this sounds very complicated and it is, but if a winemaker takes so much care in producing wine, the product may certainly reflect that in taste and quality.

Despite Controversy, it’s Still About Preference

In France winemaking tends to be highly traditional and anything unorthodox can unsettle wine producers and clients who are used to conventional methods. There is also controversy about sulphites. In Europe and Canada organic wines may have added sulphites – in the US this is not the case. Some may argue that European organic wines cannot even be called organic, others take more of a relaxed approach. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference. It is certainly an interesting way of making wine and looking out for your health and the planet. Whether the taste is up to par, one can only find out by tasting. And, as with all wine purchases, it is vital to only deal with a reputable wine merchant.

From Corks to Screw-On Caps – Wine Is Full of Surprises

If you are a wine enthusiast you’ve probably noticed that screw-on caps are no longer only used on cheap wines. More and more often bottles of really good wine are being unscrewed, rather than uncorked.

How Did the Screw-On Cap Trend Begin?

Believe it or not, screw-ons have been on the market since the late 1950s. Although back then they were generally associated with cheap plonk, and a fine winemaker would by no means let such a cap anywhere near his/her brand. It was only in the early 2000s when Australian winemakers decided to put practicality before prestige and started using screw-on caps for high-end bottles of wine as well. It is cheaper, and surprisingly has additional merits as well…

Science Seals the Deal

Some winemakers prefer the screw-on method for wines that are meant to be drunk young like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. The screw-on caps provide a better seal than cork and keep oxygen out of the bottle, which ensures a well-preserved and crisp wine. Chardonnays and red wines, on the other hand, are of a heavier, fuller and a little more complex nature. As such, they could actually benefit from a slight presence of oxygen, and so corks may be a better choice for them. The extra air softens the tannin through oxidization and makes the wine smoother in taste and texture. However, not all winemakers agree with this approach.

Screw-On Resistance

Some sommeliers argue that screw-on caps don’t allow for calculated levels of ‘oxygen ingress’, while real corks are variable with oxygen ingress rates. There is also the cultural issue – while certain wine lovers may enjoy the quick and easy process of opening a screw-on capped bottle, traditionalists strongly argue that opening a bottle of good wine with a corkscrew is part of the wine drinking ritual. With wine it is hard and maybe even wrong to separate between product, experience and history. For some it is the actual wine that matters more than the packaging, and for others the ceremony is as important as the taste. Whether you opt for this change or against it, it cannot be denied, screw-on caps are here to stay, as are synthetic corks and even boxed and canned wines, but that’s a debate that deserves a blog-post of its own.

Reasons for Buying En Primeur

The en primeur wine industry is full of magic, mystery and suspense, and if that’s not enough it’s also a good investment that doesn’t necessarily require wine expertise. If you are new to the field of buying wine futures, prepare to be pleasantly surprised in more ways than one.

The Basics

En primeur, also called wine futures, is the early purchase of very young wine, hence the name, that hasn’t yet been bottled. It works like this: every spring, when the Primeur campaign opens, thousands of wine professionals visit the Bordeaux region, some come to taste and review, while others come to purchase or invest. More than 150 of the top Bordeaux estates welcome buyers, retailers, journalists and wine experts from all over the world to taste samples of the latest vintages on offer, and prices are set based on the feedback they receive. Wines are released for sale in a number of phases, and prices are adjusted along the way. While Bordeaux is the en primeur capital,the tradition has expanded over the years to include the markets of Burgundy, California, the Rhone Valley, Italy and Port.

Why Buy En Primeur?

If you know wines, you know that they can change significantly in the months between the en premier tastings and the bottling. However, this risk can be controlled by dealing only with established and reputable wine merchants, and the advantages of investing in wine futures are many.

Firstly, there is the price, en primeur wines are usually much lower in cost than they will be once released, making them a good investment. Then there is the opportunity, when you buy en primeur you are given the chance to buy wines that are high in demand and limited in quantity. These wines could easily become impossible to find on the market after they are bottled. Finally, there is the mystique, the excitement of buying something that hasn’t yet become the fullest and best version of itself.

You Don’t Have to Be a Wine Expert to Enjoy a Visit to a Tasting Room

Wine tastings are an exciting experience for wine enthusiasts. If you love the aroma of the old favourites and find yourself curious by the unexplored, if your pallet is fascinated by the complexity of the taste, you will no doubt enjoy a visit to a tasting room.

Sommeliers and other wine professionals have specialised wine tasting processes, but they are not the only ones who enjoy the ritual-like experience of discovering wines. Wine tasting rooms have a large informal following, and a set of less publicised guidelines. Even though recreational wine tasters take a less analytical approach, it is still important to stick to these rules.

What are the Rules?

The practice of wine tasting is as ancient as wine making and the conventions of tasting room etiquette have evolved through the ages. Nevertheless, a few unspoken rules and suggestions have stood the test of time, and here they are:

  • Eat something – Don’t go to a wine tasting event on an empty stomach.
  • Leave your preferences at home – You may have never enjoyed Pinot Noir, but go ahead and give it a go anyway, you may be pleasantly surprised when trying something unusual one day.
  • Don’t wear a fragrance – Although you may be used to your scent, it can ruin the experience for everyone else within range.
  • Don’t show off – Even if you are an expert, try not to talk too technically. You will be taking the fun out of the experience for those who are not as knowledgeable as you.
  • Spit or swallow? – Believe it or not, it’s up to you. You can go ahead and swallow the wine you are tasting , it’s not all about getting educated, there should definitely be some fun involved. However, if you will be visiting several tasting rooms, moderate what you take in.
  • Don’t request ‘the good stuff’ – That is rude, but feel free to express your opinion about the wines you’ve tasted, it will help your host understand what you should taste next.
  • Linger meaningfully – Most wineries are happy to allow people to taste a wine again when they are considering a purchase, however, not when they are trying to get drunk.
  • Make a purchase – Some wine tastings are free, and others waive the tasting fee in lieu of a minimum purchase. Depending on the circumstances, it would be polite to buy at least two or three bottles.
  • Tips? – Tipping staff at a winery is entirely at your discretion. Even though tasting rooms may seem like bars, they are not. If a staff member was particularly attentive and it feels like the right thing to do, by all means, go ahead and give them a tip.

Tannins in Wine

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Tannins but Never Dared to Ask

Tannin is a polyphenol that naturally occurs in bark, fruit skins, leaves, seeds and wood. Approximately 50% of plant leaves are tannins. The word comes from the Latin word for oak bark, ‘tannum’. In wine, tannins come from either the wine grape skins or seeds, or from wood. It is the element that gives it a dry taste. It also adds astringency, bitterness and another highly sought after element: complexity.

The Taste of Tannin

When you take a sip of wine, mostly red but also white sometimes, the taste of the tannins will catch you particularly in the front part of your mouth and in the middle of your tongue. If this doesn’t sound familiar, try taking a mouthful of unsweetened black tea, which is almost 100% pure tannin dissolved in water, it tastes dry and sharp. Tannin can be found in quite a wide variety of foods. Here are a few examples:
– Nuts like almonds and walnutsblack-tea-tannins
– Dark chocolate
– Cloves
– Cinnamon
– Grapes
– Pomegranate
– Red Beans

Grape Tannins

Grape tannin comes from the stems, seeds and skins of grapes. When making white wine, grape skins are extracted before the fermentation process, whereas red wine grapes are fermented with their skins and dissolved over time. This means that red wines are generally higher in tannins than white wines. Nonetheless, even in red wines tannin levels vary. For example, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Temprannillo and Petit Verdot are high in tannin while Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Merlot and Grenache have significantly lower tannin levels.

Wood Tannins

But the grapes themselves are not the only source of wine tannin. Wines that are aged in wooden barrels absorb tannins from the wood, which in this case is usually oak wood due to the interesting flavours it infuses into the wine. And even when the aging process doesn’t take place in a wooden barrel, oak chips and tannin powders are becoming increasingly popular as a more affordable substitute.

Are Tannins Healthy?

Tannin is quit a controversial topic health wise. At some point, it was marked as a cause for migraines but the debate about the connection between migraines and tannin is on-going. Other than that, studies have shown that tannins have antioxidative properties, as primary and secondary antioxidants. They assist the prevention of cellular damage and are effective against bacteria and viruses., not to mention reducing blood pressure – just one more reason to love wine.

Wine and Chocolate: A Cliché or a Match Made in Heaven?

Although we have no idea why, there seems to be a general perception that chocolate and wine go well together. Pairing food and wine is almost a science, but what about chocolate? Let’s consider for a moment whether it’s just a concept somebody invented to increase sales on Valentine’s Day, or if it is something worth exploring.


Chocolate and Wine Are Miles Apart

First of all the unlikely pair come from completely different geographical locations. Most of the cacao trees in the world are grown in hot and humid places like South America, West Africa and Asia – not really ideal areas for wine production. Although wine is also produced in South America, the best known wine countries are Chile and Argentina – not Ecuador and Brazil, where cacao is grown.

This does not necessarily mean that the two don’t match. Anybody who has had chocolate covered cherries or has dipped strawberries into a chocolate fondue fountain will tell you that fruit and chocolate can go very well together indeed. Continue reading

New Rules Could Lead to a Rise in Wine Storage in France

There are many kinds of wine warehouses. They vary in size, location, history and design, but there are some things they all have in common. Whether you store your wine collection in an old quarry or a disused World War II bunker, it is safe to say that your storage warehouse is most probably dark, cavernous, cold and absolutely traceable. These key elements are all essential for top wine investment merchants. These are the storage conditions they pride themselves on, and rightly so, after all, it is technically their money that is going into storage.

Wine Storage

High Quality, Low Profit

Surprisingly, some wine storage warehouses don’t profit from providing these perfect storage conditions. Believe it or not, France has not been making money from wine storing. Even though a large percentage of wine is stored there, the French facilities have not been profiting from the storage. While bonded warehouses in countries like the UK, Switzerland and the US charge for storage, in France payments are only due once the wine leaves the warehouse. This means that the wine can be sold and resold, the owner can profit from each sale, while the company providing the storage facility makes practically nothing.

An Aroma of Change

But, this is all about to change. After nine years of lobbying, certain laws regarding wine mobility in France have been relaxed. This could effectively put French storage facilities in line with other warehouses around the world. According to the previous rules, it was illegal to release wine back into the local market after it had been stored. As a result, wines were moved to other countries for more flexible storage and distribution. But as of recently, France no longer requires companies to know exactly where their wine is headed before storing it in bonded warehouses in the country.

Great News for France

The market for bond storage is nearly exclusively for high-end investment wines. With the new laws in place there is no longer any major reason to move wines out of France and sacrifice their distinction as truly ex-Bordeaux. In theory, the new rule makes Bordeaux an ideal centre for storing and reselling en primeur wines, which were delivered from a nearby winery with 100% traceability and a minimal carbon footprint. Having the ability to hold stock in transit without being liable for taxes also means that stock pools can be expanded.

What does the Future Hold

How will the UK, Switzerland and the US react to this new reality? Will they form partnerships with bonded warehouses in France, set up their own bonded facilities, or amend operations in some other way? We will have to wait and see. This is certainly an interesting time for these changes to take place. Despite Brexit affecting wine movement between the EU and the UK wine remains an excellent investment and is still being bought and sold all over the world. It may be down to a mere shift in perspective to make it work for all parties concerned.