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.