English wine gets boost from AXA head
Saturday 18 July
Christian Seely, managing director of AXA Millesimés, which owns properties like Quinta do Noval and Tokaji’s Disznoko, is setting up an English sparkling wine project. In less than an hour from the pandemonium of Waterloo station, I was in his new tranquil vineyard to find out more.
Seely has set up the venture independently of AXA (apparently AXA weren’t interested in English vineyards) with an old friend who used to work in banking, Nicholas Coates.
The Hampshire vineyard has 5 hectares of 15 year-old Pinot Noir and German vines. The German varieties will be grafted over with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay later this year. This spring, Seely brought over his Douro vineyard workers to plant a further 7ha of the Champagne varieties on a south-east facing chalk slope (apparently the Bordelais soil analyst told the pair “vous avez le sol Champenois”).
A farm building on the property is being converted to a winery in time for the harvest and Seely’s winemaking wife will be making the base wines (I may be lending a hand this autumn!). Consultants from Champagne will be brought in to oversee the sparkling wine process.
The first wine should be released in time for Christmas 2011. Seely says he plans to have both a rosé and a white sparkling wine; vintage and non-vintage cuvées.
There are hopes for a cellar door and a website is promised. Seely’s even planning a blog to keep us updated but he’s drawing the line at twitter!
For more information, see my article on decanter.com.
Boring boring Arsenal and Pinot Grigio
Wednesday 15 July
The neutral nothingness of Pinot Grigio has crept onto every wine list in the country, and has pipped Sauvignon Blanc to the number two spot in the contest for the nation’s favourite white grape variety.
A survey commissioned by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association shows 54% of regular UK wine drinkers have consumed the Gridge in the past six months. It has spread faster than margarine and the shelves are full of it. But it’s as boring as Arsenal used to be.
Chardonnay is still maintaining its number one spot in the battle of the grapes but its popularity has decreased in the past two years, according to the report. Nevertheless Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc have still some way to catch it.
In the red department, our love affair with fairly unexciting grape varieties continues. Merlot remains the most consumed red variety despite the film Sideways giving it a dressing down (some five years ago now – where has the time gone?). When most respondents said they drunk Merlot in the past six months, I’m fairly sure they weren’t referring to Pomerol or St Emilion wines. However, Syrah is on the up and is threatening Cabernet Sauvignon’s second position on the red rostrum. As a Syrah fan, that’s encouraging.
I’d love to write fortified sales are on the up but it’s difficult to argue with data saying the opposite. The survey shows consumption of sherry, port and dessert wine in the past six months is at its lowest ebb since the study started in June 2006. While consumption inevitably peaked around the Christmas period, the latest figures show just 11% of regular wine drinkers have had a glass of sweet wine in the first half of the year while 17% have had a glass of sherry and 23% port.
For more details on this research, see my article on decanter.com