A Decade Against Decadence
Looking back on a decade of food and wine trends Well, there’s ten years gone. Ten years toward a lightness of sorts. Toward a dream of authenticity. Everything’s gotten… less. Much has gotten leaner. Less meat (though more free ranging), less oak, less packaging, ripeness, carbon emission… less alcohol. And correspondingly more vegan fayre, avocado, eastern Med/Middle East, charcoal grilling (emissions, people!), kimchi and street food. And on more plates of a lesser size: it was also a decade of the increasingly shared mess – or meze, if you will. But what was not less was burgers. Doubtless, it was the Burger Decade. The French even got in on Le Burger (Big Fernand). Independent burger brands springing up like mushrooms of autumn: Honest Burger, Bleecker, Patty & Bun, Dirty Burger, Lucky Chip et al., all co-inciding interestingly with the inverted trend of the casual high street dining brands (GBK, Byron) nose-diving at an equally fevered pace. Supplanted as they face-planted. But what did wine do? Well much, as we discovered Vinus Californius rediscovering it old self more restrained and back ‘in balance’ (kudos Roberson!) whilst the English got on to still wines -- also whilst their stock in fizz continued in its incorrigible ascent. Prosecco achieved gin-epidemic proportions in the UK and at Cava’s astronomic expense; then came… rosé. Pink oceans’ worth and predominantly Provençal. But again, with the trend toward freshness, subtlety and delicacy in much of the UK’s gastronomic scene – particularly London’s – it’s been appropriate. Greece came to the fore, at long last, thus seeming to push the venture further into and beyond the eastern Mediterranean. Beyond Provence and Prosecco Elsewhere, natural/organic/biodynamic viticulture flourished -- not to be confused with Natural Wine, however -- its pre-2010 pre-eminence finally drifting into twilight. An era of untamed, undisciplined wines of wild and funky abandon fading while its sounder principles of purity, transparency, simplicity and sense-of-place are preserved and passed on, dovetailing with an increased consumer awareness of and concern for higher quality produce of equally genuine provenance. The (literally) natural follow-on to which being an increased demand for vegan credentials in winemaking. No need to stop there, as things generally tend to go: once the vegan genie a-loose, furthering the tendency toward spasms of prudence, next in the crosshairs was alcohol itself and touch-down on the slippery slope to low/zero-alcohol… ‘wines’. Yum. As if one’s mind and sanity were accidentally dropped into that centrifugal separation device at the non-alcohol ‘winery’. God do help us all... Where was I? Ah yes: consumer awareness. The upside to all this over the past ten years has been a marked upward curve in his/her participation, awareness of and impetus to education in many things vinous. Ditto a heightened commercial savvy, the direct product of price-checking technologies’ proliferation with it increasingly consulted in the immediate on/off-trade moment. And this has surely contributed significantly to the trend to trading up whilst drinking less over the past ten years. Bringing us to the now. I would suggest no relent in the ongoing integration of consumer with what is consumed where, perhaps, both restauranteur and wine distribution channels will, in terms of market messaging, recognise that once again less is indeed more. It’s going to be interesting.
Trimming the Turkey
Is Christmas dinner all about the Turkey? The Christmas debauchery descends upon us in December. So much mulled wine, mince pies, pigs in blankets, roasted chestnuts and more is inhaled during the silly season that come January most are left gagging for moderation. Central to the revelry is, of course, a classic Christmas feast, with roast turkey and all the trimmings. Turkey has adorned British Christmas tables ever since it replaced roast beef or goose in Victorian Britain. In the restaurant world many seek to re-invent, transcend or transform the classic turkey feast to offer customers something original. To find out more, we asked three of the top restaurants on the south coast what they would be offering customers this year. Alternative Christmas Seafood restaurant English’s of Brighton has embraced its limited ability to serve a traditional Christmas feast, and Restaurant Manager Andre Pienaar said that guests flock there for that very reason. “In the past we used to make more of an effort to conform to traditional Christmas fare if with a slightly cheffy twist,” he commented. “However, we are increasingly placing ourselves as a Christmas alternative.” Pienaar continued that customers come to English’s of Brighton to swap turkey for fish, saying "we have come to celebrate that rather than fight it." "Bread sauce all over the place" Classic bistro Wild Flor in Hove is sticking to traditional game throughout the season with hearty, richer meat dishes. Wild Flor restauranteur Rob Maynard explained that pheasant would feature on the menu, as well as a beef cheek with celeriac and black truffle (pictured above). “Of course, there are sides of sprouts and bacon too, and bread sauce all over the place,” he said. “We like to always be pouring a healthy amount of Burgundy. With game birds especially, the lighter hand of Cotes de Beaune reds show well.” However, while Wild Flor and English’s of Brighton offer up a twist on the long-established Christmas feast, the more conventional punters need an outlet that provides them with what they desire. Back to turkey One such establishment is the Crown in Hastings, which has built a reputation for serving top quality British seasonal food & drink. Landlady Tess Eaton explained that in previous years the Crown stayed away from a traditional turkey dinner, instead opting for birds such as pheasant and partridge. But she said that: “We found that a lot of the Christmas party bookings simply wanted their hit of turkey! This year it makes an appearance, along with the obligatory sprouts and roast potatoes. “There is a line between pushing the boundaries, but also giving people what they wish to eat.” Fashions and fads will come and go, and restaurants will continue to innovate, but the Victorian Christmas roast turkey will always be a mainstay on the British restaurant scene.
Unstoppable Tignanello Tignanello is the brightest star in the ever-growing Super Tuscan movement. Super Tuscan wines like Tignanello, Sassicaia and Ornellaia are becoming increasingly desirable, and their rise shows no signs of abating. According to a report this year from the fine wine trading platform Liv-ex, the number of Italian wines being traded on the secondary market has quadrupled over the past five years, two-thirds of which are from Tuscany. This is indicative of the recent rise in popularity of Super Tuscan wines, and what is more, Tignanello was earmarked as the top performer by the platform. Fit for royalty Tignanello is fast becoming a household name and in this vein hit the headlines this year for sundry reasons. The upsurge in interest led three opportunist Italian criminals to counterfeit 11,000 bottles that they were planning to sell in foreign markets, particularly Belgium and Germany. Thankfully the scheme was foiled by the police in February. Additionally, the Super Tuscan is so hot at the moment that it has made its way to the dinner tables of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Duchess of Essex Meghan Markle. Reports quote the two separately announcing their love of the wine. “Tignanello improving dramatically” At Roberson Wine HQ, we have also noted heightened Tignanello activity. Private clients have reached out to us for 13 different back vintages of Tignanello from half-bottle to magnum formats over the last year, with the 2015 vintage representing over 20% of the market share. And total Tignanello sales at Roberson Wine have increased by a third over the last 12 months compared to the previous year. Oliver Bartle, Head of Fine Wine at Roberson Wine, commented on the trend: “Demand for Tignanello over the past 12 months has increased across all channels here at Roberson. “With other big names being far more expensive and with the quality of Tignanello improving dramatically, it is no surprise that our clients want to add this rising star to their cellars.” We are currently stocking the 2015 and 2016 on our website, for £103 apiece. For more information about Tignanello back vintages or special formats, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. View all of our current vintages of Tignanello. Grab yourself a bottle. Don't miss them.
Chateau Musar - The World's Most Dangerous Fine Wine
Making wine in a war-zone A border with war-torn Syria just a few kilometres away from the vineyards. A cultural tectonic fault-line of a country that has spent a large proportion of its short history engaged in sectarian conflict. Extraordinary and distinctive wines, that can age for decades. Is Lebanon’s Chateau Musar the world’s most dangerous fine wine? It wasn’t always this way. The Bekaa Valley in which Musar’s vines are planted has been home to wine production for more than 6000 years. The ancient inhabitants of this land had extensive contact with the Phoenicians, and through their trading network may have been responsible for spreading the grape vine across the Mediterranean. One of the world’s most perfectly-preserved Roman temples can be found in the area, dedicated to their god of wine, Bacchus – and the valley was known as the ‘breadbasket’ of Rome. Yet Musar has had to survive both war and the commercial wilderness to assume its rightful place as one of the few truly iconic wines - a legend of the eastern Mediterranean. Why? Because it is uncompromising, unique and endlessly fascinating. Fermentation is in concrete, before the wine spends a year in the vat, then a year or so in French Nevers oak. It's blended in the third year, put back into vat and bottled, and cellared for up to six or seven years before release. There is no fining, minimum filtration and sulphites are kept very low. The whole approach is low-interventionist and the result is truly unique, and very long-lived. While the wine is widely fêted by wine-lovers and critics alike, the prices have remained extremely reasonable. Mature vintages approaching 20 years old can be had for less than £30 per bottle. Very few other wines from anywhere else in the world can be enjoyed with so much bottle age for so little money. Fancy seeing what all the fuss is about? Roberson Wine maintains the best selection of older vintages of Chateau Musar, immediately available for next-day delivery - free over £100.
Second Wines, Not Second Best
What is a second wine? The 'second wine' concept originates in Bordeaux, where as well as the 'Grand Vin', many estates will also make an additional cuvée with fruit from less mature vines, typically in a way that allows for drinking without any need for extended ageing in the cellar. Oftentimes these wines are lighter, and more fruit driven, easier and earlier drinking in addition to being generally great value. So what do you want to do with your wine? Do you want to drink it now or lay it down for 10 years before it is approachable? Do you want to blow the holiday budget on one bottle or keep it and buy something with similar flavours, but a far more reasonable price tag? In the interests of research for our customers (I know, tough gig), we tasted three amazing examples of second wines this week, with the visit of Cécile Cazard, who represents Chanel-owned estates, Chateau Rauzan-Ségla & Chateau Canon. You know when you are tasting vintage claret at 09:45 am that you have started the day on the right footing. Croix Canon Croix Canon is the second wine of Château Canon, located in St-Émilion on the right-bank of the Gironde. Rather wonderfully, Chateau Canon was purchased in 1760 by Jacques Kanon who earned his fortune as a ‘privateer’, a polite way of saying pirate in those days. The Fournier family managed the estate from 1919 until it was sold in 1996 to Alain Wertheimer and Gerard Wertheimer, the owners of the famous luxury goods manufacturer Chanel, who had previously purchased Château Rauzan-Ségla in 1994. While Rauzan-Ségla’s and Canon’s first wines continue to fetch staggering prices, in part driven by their investment-grade status, there is amazing value to be had in their second wines. Croix Canon 2014 First up was Croix Canon 2014. This was a classic vintage across Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion, which reaped the benefits of an Indian summer that kicked into action in late August and continued through September and October. The resulting wine has a wonderful purity of fruit and a long finish to match. As with most right-bank estates, the dominant grape here is Merlot. One of the most surprising things we learned was that contrary to conventional food matching, Cécile recommended having a tasty white fish with the Croix Canon, for example a meaty fillet of grilled hake. Ségla Ségla is the second wine from the Château Rauzan-Ségla estate, located within the Margaux appellation on the left-bank. The château was managed by John Kolasa, who was also in charge of Château Canon until late 2014. The history of the estate dates back to 1661. Thomas Jefferson ordered 10 cases of Rauzan-Ségla after visiting Bordeaux in 1787. Ségla 2011 The 2011 vintage was marked by a warm spring and a cool summer, which suited the sandier soils of Margaux. The wine has intense aromas of black fruits and blueberries, integrated with subtle notes of vanilla. And the blend is predominantly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc thrown in for good measure. Cécile also suggested an unusual pairing for this wine. After allowing some time for the wine to breathe, she said that it would match excellently with some Indian cuisine. Ségla 2009 To round off a superb morning tasting, Cécile poured us the 2009 vintage from Ségla. Following a difficult winter, the spring, summer and autumn were ideal a decade ago in Bordeaux. The wine was noted for its elegance and silky tannins. While it is drinking very well right now, this is a wine that still has plenty of fine years ahead! We don’t know about you, but we are dying to put these food pairing suggestions to the test. We shall report back tout suite!
Making Tastings Great Again! Last week saw the California Wine Institute’s prestigious Collectible California tasting return for a second helping in London to great success. The now annual event, held at the US Embassy, plays host to a number of importers showcasing some of the Golden State’s most celebrated and sought-after wines to the UK’s most influential trade buyers, private clients and press, before a black-tie gala dinner. With just over 200 wines on show, the small scale, premium tasting does exactly what it says on the tin – it is a tasting of some of California’s most collectible wines, all £50+, to reinforce California as one of the premium wine producing regions of the world, and to show that California wines should have pride of place in any great wine cellar. The prestige of having the event held at the US Embassy itself, a stunning fortress-like building surrounded by what I can only describe as a moat, added to the atmosphere. Then having to make your way through airport-style security and passport checks at the door, with US flags waving and quotes from the Declaration of Independence adorning the walls of the hall further heightened the anticipation and buzz around the event. Not that there needed to be much more, given the quality of wines available to taste! This was a more focused version of similar California tasting events in the past, and many a generic tasting I have been to, where over 700 wines were shown, and people simply mob around the tables with the most expensive wines without really trying through the selections. Shame on them! Although everyone can probably be guilty of this ‘white line fever’ at some stage or another… And while even £50 for a bottle of wine may seem like a large investment, and it is to an extent, the relative value that can be found in some of the top US wines when compared to similar quality from the Old World, namely Bordeaux and Burgundy, is striking! Favourites such as Domaine de la Cote from Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr, as well as Hirsch Vineyards, Mount Eden and Mayacamas to name a few positively shone. Mostly new release wines, but with a selection of back vintages to hint at the ageing potential of where some of these stunning wines might be going was a real treat. The growing sense of intrigue and awe around California as a leading wine producing region and the quality of wines it is now making was palpable, and the general hum of chatter and excitement surrounding the wines continued throughout the day and onto the dinner late in the evening. And having recently won the Decanter Magazine award for Best Usa Specialist for the 6th consecutive year, is there a better place to try some of California’s best and most collectible wines than with us? I’m not so sure!
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