Food & Wine

The recent spell of inclement weather this country has been experiencing has served to undermine many a recreational plan this year.  So this bank holiday I decided to hell with it and go camping on Exmoor ‘en famille’, despite weather warnings of persistent and gale force wind and rain.  Fool hardy yes, but refreshing too, on many levels, not least because it meant I had the opportunity to sit under a canopy and engage in long conversations on all topics with our friends the Lawyers, who had also decided to make a stand.

So whilst the children ran around in streams, built dams and generally ignored the fact that they were caked in mud and soaked to the skin, we sat under the gazebo and made conversation and of course, being British, the topic of the weather was one of the first to be scrutinised.

If we think the weather on our blessed isle has been unkind, spare a thought for the Vigneron of France.   In March, when buds were bursting, frost descended almost unilaterally over the vineyards; in May and June, at flowering time, hail destroyed up to 60% of potential crops.  Across the summer, rain and humidity have brought on the worst cases of mildew seen for over a decade rendering the now nascent fruit rotten, and finally a new variety of fungal disease, Eska, is marching through the vineyards with care-free abandon.  It is a dire situation and one that will mark 2012 as one to forget for many people.

Under our canvas drawing room, the flow of conversation turned to wine.  Drinking, as we were a bland Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, I was asked why this, despite being £10, was nowhere near as enticing and exotic as a previous bottle of NZ SB which I had brought as a sample.  This is a tough one as it is never my intention to be rude, but one quick look at the former bottle gave me my get out.  This had been bottled in the UK, I pointed out, while the other was an NZ bottling.

So what?  Well, wine stored in 20,000 litre ‘bladder’ packs placed in a container and transported across the seas is never likely to be the very finest.  First, if you have spent your life working the vineyard, hand picking the grapes and caring for your soil, do you want to see your labour of love end up in a mass transporter?  Much like seeing hand raised, 28 day aged beef being thrown into a mass market pie.  Second, in order to stabilise and protect the wine through its various stages of transportation it requires careful addition of various products, and needs to completely biologically stable.

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Tuesday, September 4th, 2012