Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Bully boy Tesco at it again! (my words)

The following is extracted from The Sunday Telegraph, November 2nd.

Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket, is demanding vastly improved trading terms from wine and champagne suppliers in a bid to keep prices down on its shelves in the run-up to Christmas.
One drinks company said that it had been given until this weekend to accept the new terms, in what is being seen as an across-the-board campaign by Tesco to get better deals from its suppliers during the credit crisis.
One Tesco alcohol supplier said that new “take it or leave it” terms from the retailer included an immediate cut in the price that it will pay for the products, a request for a doubling of funds for promotional activity and a ban on price rises to Tesco from the supplier for next year.
Another supplier claims that Tesco is asking for between five and 10pc off the price that it pays for goods. Wine producers are concerned that the move may lead to a fall in the number of suppliers that do business with the retailer due to the increased cost involved. “It will be survival of the fittest,” one supplier said.
Last December, the value of wine, beers and spirits sold in supermarkets grew by 3.9pc. However, producers have been hit this year by higher freight costs, duty increases and currency movements, which are wiping out much of their sales growth.
Tesco has said that customers are facing tough times as a result of the economic slowdown and are “looking to us to help”.

It is estimated that Tesco accounts for 3 out of 10 bottles of wine bought through supermarkets.

Back to my thoughts on this subject.

It is this sort of tactics that will drive wine suppliers, wine makers, and smaller wine merchants out of business. Tesco is well known in the trade as being a bully boy when it comes to demanding cost prices – I wouldn’t even use the word negotiate, Tesco management doesn’t know that word. If Tesco persists in this attitude, then the only way out for winemakers/suppliers is to stop trading with Tesco, which most will be afraid to do, or reduce the quality of the wines offered, to match their subsequent lower cost prices.
Fortunately I try to avoid the mainstream brands that dominate the supermarket shelves, so it will only affect me indirectly. But you can be sure that the majority of brands/labels on my list a have been produced with quality being paramount, not an ever reducing price driving down the quality. Also, coming from the clearance market, they are being sold at similar prices to inferior supermarket brands.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

I shall be conducting a wine tasting as part of a Festival Fare evening on December 5th in The Brunning Hall, Cosby, Leicestershire.
There will be complementary seasonal foods served alongside the wines, which will be selected to highlight the wide range of wines that I have on my website. We will start off with a welcome glass of Cava, then a couple of whites, before moving on to three reds. I might even open a Rosé if circumstances permit.
The venue has a licence so there will be the opportunity to buy extra glasses and bottles on the night, as well as place orders for Christmas deliveries.
The evening starts at 7.30 and tickets are £10 per person. All proceeds from this evening will be donated to Cosby Church building fund.
So if you live in South Leicestershire, why not come along for a fun evening and try a few interesting wines as well.
For more details, or to buy tickets, please contact the organiser; Ros Clark on 0116 2866318 or rosclark@tiscali.co.uk
The wines will be tasted in sample quantities only, so there will not be an excessive amount offered. The venue is within walking distance of most of Cosby, but if using a car please have a designated driver – don’t drink and drive.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

White wine good for you.

It has long been said that Red wine is good for you (in moderation of course) but now for the first time, scientists have found that White wine may be equally as good for your heart as red.
One or two glasses of white wine protects the heart and lessens the damage caused by a heart attack, their research showed.
Traditionally, red wine was thought to be the only wine that was good for you because it contains resveratrol, thought to have many health benefits.
But Dipak Das, a molecular biologist at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, told New Scientist; “We can safely say that one to two glasses of white wine a day works exactly like red wine,. The team found that rats fed white wine as part of their diet suffered less heart damage during cardiac arrest, compared with animals fed only water or grain alcohol.
These benefits were similar to animals that ingested red wine or resveratrol, its wonder ingredient found only in grape skin.
The colour of wine is determined initially by the colour of the grape skin, and consequently white wines are not left on their skins during fermentation as red wines are. White wine therefore contains little or no resveratrol, which led many to pin the so-called “French Paradox” – high fat intake, but low rates of heart disease – on the consumption of red wine.
Molecular tests of the rats’ heart cells suggest that white wine protects the cell’s powerhouse – known as mitochondria.
The above was reported in Wednesday’s Daily Telegraph. I’m not that comfortable with testing such theories on living animals, but the initial results do look interesting.
Right, I’m off to have a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Spanish wine

This is my first post on my new blog, and I thought that I would pen some comments on Spanish wine.

It so happens that the last salaried position I held in the wine trade was for an importer solely of wines from Spain, and I can trace my love of Spanish wines to then – some 18 years ago. In those days Spanish wine meant just two things to British wine drinkers – at the top end was Rioja, and at the bottom was the bulk, cheap wine supplied under own-label in the Co-op and others, and under brands such as Hirondelle. I well remember trying to interest wine retailers with red wines from Ribeiro del Duero and Toro, amongst others, and being met with blank looks. Even more difficult to sell to the trade back in the 1990’s was Albariño from Galicia. At that time white wine from Spain was almost an afterthought with the only volume coming from the bulk market. With most of it being bought as a brand, customers probably weren’t aware that they were drinking Spanish white wine. Mind you it was fairly insipid stuff.

It could still be argued that white wine is still to this day somewhat of an postscript to red wine as far as Spain is concerned. You only have to note the dearth of quality Spanish white wines in the multiples. If you, like me, enjoy trying new wines, and long for something different from Chardonnay, then why not give Spain a consideration.

The late 80’s and early 90’s saw a sea change in attitude towards premium Spanish White wine. In the far northwest corner of Spain, the Rias Baixas (low rivers) is located in lush, verdant Galicia, snuggling just above Portugal. The Rias Baixas district gained DO status in 1988, and since then has made considerable progress, particularly with Albariño. Whilst a dozen grapes are permitted (half of them red) Albariño now makes up more than 90% of total plantings. Albariño is likened to both Riesling and Viognier, Riesling for its minerally character and Viognier for its bouquet of peaches and apricots. Many wine experts, including the legendary Miguel Torres, believe that Albariño is actually the Riesling grape and that the vines were brought over by medieval German monks who were establishing monasteries on the Camino de Santiago. The regulatory council in Rias Baixas disagree and believe that the Albariño grape is indigenous to the area. While the experts can’t seem to agree on the origin of Albariño, they definitely agree that it is Spain’s most elegant white grape. Albariño wines are fairly low in alcohol, are quite floral and very delicate. They are considered to be some of the most sophisticated wines from Spain, red or white. One of the best producers is the Bodegas Pazo de Villarei with wines under the “Terra d’Ouro” label now available on my website.

Located northwest of Madrid and just southwest of the mythical Ribera del Duero red wine region, lies the hugely successful wine appellation of Rueda. Wine has been produced in the Rueda region commercially since the 11th century during the reign of Alfonso XI who was the ruler of the kingdom of Castilla y Leon (the castle and the lion). Rueda was destroyed by the Moors in the 10th century during the ongoing battles and the area was depopulated until Alfonso XI, as a last effort to save the region from complete destruction, declared that anyone working the land would gain ownership of it. In came the monastic orders, and wine production was begun in earnest. Sherry style wines (oxidised) were made in Rueda for centuries from the native Verdejo grape. Rueda wines came to be particularly adored by the Royal Courts.

Like many other wine regions in Europe, Rueda suffered in the first half of the 20th century. The Spanish civil war and the dictatorship under Franco did nothing to benefit the local wine industry. It wasn’t until Marques de Riscal, the famed Rioja winery, arrived to Rueda in 1971 that the region came back into relevance for wine lovers. The region was revolutionized with the new ideas and technology Marqués de Riscal brought, and has become famous for producing delightful, fresh and fruity white wines from the Verdejo grape (as opposed to unfashionable, Sherry style wines). Riscal also introduced Sauvignon Blanc to the Rueda wine region, which they discovered blended sublimely with Verdejo. These days, Rueda is wildly successful and producing amazingly good value for money fruity wines that are regularly compared to French Sancerre, and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. On my website I have 2 excellent Rueda wines; one from the above mentioned Marqués de Riscal, and another multi-award winner from Javier Sanz under their “Villa Narcisa” label.

Check out also the superb “Allozo” wine from La Mancha, made from Spain’s own Macabeo grape.

Open the website – then open a bottle and open your mind to the unique flavours that quality Spanish white wine can bring. And at my prices it will only cost you the same price as a bog-standard white from the supermarket.