If you’re a Mosel Riesling lover, here’s another chance to do your bit to save the region’s best vineyards from obliteration.
If you’ve not already heard, a 160-metre-high bridge is under construction connecting the Mosel from the village of Urzig to a new four-lane motorway above some of the best Riesling vineyards in the world.
The road will run on a ridge above the famous vineyards of Zeltingen, Wehlen and Graach, mowing down the forest land. The deep trenches needed to build the road will cut off vital water to the surrounding vineyards, add to pollution and ruin a popular tourist area.
We’ve had a petition, a protest, and wine magazine readers are surely aware of this heinous crime but the wider public have been largely oblivious. Until now… Ernie Loosen, one of the major producers that will be affected by this ludicrous bridge has been a vociferous opponent of the bridge but now he is bringing the fight to the attention of the consumer.
The “Bridge Too Far” neck hanger campaign has been launched in the UK with major retailers including Sainsbury’s and Asda agreeing to carry the neck hangers on Loosen’s wines. I think this is great but why not extend it to fellow Mosel producers and taking the campaign to more people?
Nevertheless it’s worth buying a bottle, taking it round to your friends’, and spreading the word.
French wine sales are suffering at the hands of the Australians, Californians, Italians and South Africans in the UK. To add insult to injury, English wines are beating them at their own game: the International Wine Challenge (IWC) has just announced Camel Valley’s 2008 Pinot Noir Brut has taken the sparkling rose trophy ahead of the Champenois. This is another kick in the teeth for the Champagne region, after poor sales in 2009.
What I like most about the competition is the value awards. As a tight northerner, the price of decent wines can make my eyes water. Finding a great wine under a tenner certainly improves my mood. And my dad, a Liverpudlian (an even more notoriously tight lot), will be making a special trip to the supermarket to fill up on bargains when he sees the results (although not to Waitrose, as they haven’t made it as far north as my hometown yet)
So, what are the stars I’ll be sending my dad out to buy:-
Oloroso Trophy winner: Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Oloroso 12 year old for a mere £6.49
La Différence Carignan 2009, France, £5.81, France, Tesco.
Moon Bridge Riesling 2009, Australia, £5.49, Marks & Spencer
Domaine Villargeau Sauvignon Blanc 2009, France, £9.99, Majestic Wine Warehouse
Falanghina Campania 2009, Italy £9.99, Laytons, Oddbins
Retailers accused of paying ‘lip service’ to the green issue
Sunday 25 October
I’ve just attended a debate, which asked whether the promotion of environment credentials is a marketing ploy. The room was half-full at best, which is a sad indication of the importance of the green issue in the UK wine industry. Or perhaps everyone had gone on half-term a day early? Compared to the full-house at the recent low alcohol forum, it was a poor showing – I didn’t spot one major retailer.
It appears many wine producers are going green for the right reasons but retailers were accused of using the green message to suit their own agendas – making a profit. Unfortunately the supermarkets weren’t there to defend themselves, but there were some damning comments.
Michael Cox, UK director for Wines of Chile, which is one of the main producing countries leading the sustainability drive along with South Africa and New Zealand, said, “Most multiple retailers will pay lip service to green initiatives.”
The main problem is consumers see wine as a natural product and that means the word sustainable or organic on a wine label has less meaning than organic on a bunch of carrots. It goes some way to explaining why sales of organic wine have not kept pace with the rest of the organic industry. Cox added, “Having a social conscience does not appear to sell more bottles. The consumer is not prepared to pay a premium for organic wine because they don’t understand the concept. ”
Retailers are clearly doing things to help the environment such as the plastic bag reuse scheme but a cynic would argue it is only because the authorities have ruled they must reduce their plastic bag use. Angela Mount implied retailers didn’t give a damn about saving the environment – it is all about saving money. If the changes didn’t save money, then they wouldn’t do them. She argued bulk shipping and lightweight bottles improved margins for retailers, adding “I don’t believe the green issue is driven by the consumer. It is often a convenient ploy to reduce costs.”
Peter Darbyshire, MD of UK importer and distributor PLB agreed, “The green solution is to move the point of packaging as close to the point of sale. It is moving to the UK but sadly driven by retailers’ price motivation rather than the green agenda.”
With increasing consumer demand for lower alcohol wines, the UK wine trade got together to debate the key issues involved. Unfortunately, consumer opinion of lower alcohol wines is pretty poor at the moment with Dan Jago, head wine honcho at Tesco, even saying they had ‘leper status’ (see my you tube wine channel for his speech.)
Clearly there is work to do. Currently consumers have a low quality expectation of lower alcohol wines and don’t have any real knowledge where they can be found on the shelves. More encouragingly, 42% of regular wine drinkers said they would be prepared to buy low alcohol wines if the wines on offer were of equal quality to wines at ‘normal’ alcohol levels, according to new research by major importer PLB.
Unfortunately the term ‘lower alcohol’ and ‘reduced alcohol’ wines are not defined so they’re not technically legal, so you could say lower alcohol wines is a category that doesn’t exist in the eyes of the law. This is an issue the wine industry admits it needs to work on – we need a term to be able to explain to the consumer what we are actually talking about. And in terms of lower alcohol, there’s no definition of what a lower alcohol wine is – is it a 9% German Kabinett of a 12% Australian Chardonnay? Jago added, ‘We need to clarify what we are allowed to say and clarify the language of lower alcohol.’
In terms of technical know-how, there are plenty of technologies you can use – from reverse osmosis to spinning cone (my you tube channel has an interview with Tony Dann on spinning cone technology). However, Jago added they were ‘Frankenstein’s monster to a lot of people. The idea you can technically alter wine - wine should be a completely natural product, totally uninterfered, is still for many people the way in which they view this product.’
However, the message was these wines need to be brought into the mainstream and marketed as a decent drink first and a low alcohol choice second. All the major buyers were keen to see the big powerful brands bringing out low alcohol wines rather than small producers on the periphery. Julian Dyer, senior buyer at Sainsbury’s added, Let’s see if we can work on the mainstream and get the brands to work on lower alcohol wines.’