Thursday, 19 June 2014

Wine and Warfare Part 9 : France’s Armies in the First World War

By Rupert Millar

Le Dieu Pinard – sculpted from chalk by Max Blondat
and now in the Musées des Années 30 in Boulogne
If any army in the world was going to follow the Roman example and have a wine ration effectively enshrined in law it would be the French. Wine has been a staple of French soldiers for hundreds of years and the First World War was no exception.

At the beginning of the First World War the daily allowance of wine per man was a quarter of a litre a day, by 1915 it was half a litre and by 1916, almost three quarters of a litre with the opportunity to buy more. The army was supplying its troops with 12 million hectolitres a year by 1916 - French vineyard owners from the Languedoc donated 20m litres for army use and France’s North African colonies provided a great deal of wine by the end.

This act of generosity on the part of the Languedoc was not without a less benevolent edge however. Just before the war the Languedoc-Roussillon was facing an

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Meet the man ‘Reinventing Chile’ - Sebastian De Martino

Sebastian De Martino is the fourth generation of the De Martino family to be making wine in Chile, a tradition that stretches back to 1934 when his family arrived in the Maipo Valley from Italy. Here, he talks to us about the journey they have taken in the last 80 years and how it affects the wines they make today .

For those customers who have never tasted De Martino wines, what can they expect?
Wines with a sense of place, that’s something that’s very important to us. They also need to have balance and a gastronomic essence. We don’t use new barriques; we use concrete, old barriques, 5000l oak casks, foudres and amphora even, so that the wines are faithful to their origins. So basically, honest, authentic, gastronomic, sense of place and purity. That’s what you can expect from us.

You’ve had a lot of recent press regarding your change of direction away from big, blockbuster wines towards this much more terroir-driven approach. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
We’re now 80 years old & I think as a family wine company we’ve been through different stages. When you look at the great producers of the world they have a ‘house style’, they don’t follow trends. I think for a company like us, we’ve only been going four generations, which although is old for the New World, it’s still a new company; it takes time to look at who we are.

Wines to Welcome in Summer

No matter how the weather turns out this summer, we’ve got the wines for you.

For those warm, sunny days when only crisp, zesty whites will do, we have a fine selection of classics. From the rolling French hills we have Chablis and Pouilly-Fumé, two of the most iconic wine styles in the world. From Italy there's Gavi, the crisp and juicy favourite that's perfect with seafood. It wouldn't be a summer selection if we managed to leave out New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with this one being particularly special, and it's from one of the best vintages ever! To round these off, I had to include one of my personal favourites: white Burgundy. This is no ordinary wine either, coming from winemaking legends at Potel-Aviron.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Wine and Warfare Part 8 : Battlefield Medicine

By Rupert Millar

An illustration from a book
on surgery from 1517
War tends to lead to the development of many things which are then absorbed into civilian practice. Medical progress in particular has been driven by warfare: as weapons evolved so too did the medical nous to deal with the resulting wounds. Anyone who’s broken a bone or suffered some sort of physical trauma or even required plastic surgery can thank techniques developed through centuries of conflict for their recovery - alcohol has a part to play here too as both anaesthetic and disinfectant.

Swords, pikes, billhooks, maces, bayonets, large calibre bullets, solid iron cannonballs weighing up to 24lbs, napalm and shell fragments the length of a man’s forearm; it is little wonder that casualty clearing stations are described as charnel houses. Worse still, until the end of the 19th century, hygiene, anaesthetic and good patient care were all virtually non-existent. Until the advent of ether and later penicillin, the only way to clean wounds or render a patient as immune to pain and infection as he was likely to get was alcohol.