Thursday, 22 May 2014

Wine and Warfare Part 7 : The Vivandières

By Rupert Millar

A vivandière serves French troops a drink
in the thick of the action at the Battle of Barrosa.
Women have often accompanied men to war and military camps through the centuries could be a bawdy mix of wives and harlots not far removed from a quasi nomadic rabble or perhaps a travelling circus.

One French officer complained that during the Peninsular War while the British had an army, the French had “a brothel” - Wellington disliked having women on campaign and only a very few were granted permission to join their lovers on the march; though many more came over anyway.

There were some practical reasons for not having women on the road. They were a burden on supplies and the presence of women could also lead to

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

From the Tasting Room : Conde de Cron

What more can be said about the most popular wine on our list? Not much, but we're going to try anyway!

It's made by Bodegas Muriel, a renowned Rioja producer from sunny Spain, whose team really know what they're doing. If this were a vintage wine, we can assure you it would sell out every single time. Fortunately for all concerned, there seems to be a never-ending  supply of this perfectly blended vino de mesa.

Looking over the Muriel vineyards

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

From the Tasting Room : Joseph Boulard Côtes du Rhône

Red wines from the Rhône have a checklist in our minds: big, rich, fruity, spicy. They're from a hot climate, charged further by the Mistral winds that sweep through the valley. The stony soils provide great conditions for growing grapes as they force the vines to dig deep down into the ground while also acting as heaters during the cooler evenings (they retain the heat from the sun and radiate it up into the vines at night).

Friday, 9 May 2014

Top Picks from the Bordeaux 2013 En Primeur Tasting

Last night, we held our Bordeaux 2013 en primeur tasting in the Bristol cellars. As you may have heard, 2013 was a challenging vintage but everyone I spoke to last night was surprised and delighted with the wines. For those of you who couldn't make it, here are a few highlights from the night...

First, it was a good year for whites - both dry and sweet. I'd be very happy with a case of Chateau Lespault-Martillac Blanc, made by Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier, which is a smart buy at £225 for a case of 12. As for sweeties, Chateau Doisy-Vedrines (£115 for 12 half bottles) was on fine form last night, displaying a wonderful vibrancy and energy.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Wine and Warfare Part 6 : Death in Burgundy

By Rupert Millar

Garibaldi before Dijon
In the wake of the German invasions of France in 1914 and 1940 it is very easy to forget that for hundreds of years the traffic went decidedly the other way.

With Napoleon’s retreat from Russia in 1812, Prussia rose again and declared a war of revenge and national liberation - crucially not just for Prussia but for all Germany and all of the German speaking peoples. Napoleon was pushed back through Germany in 1813 by the Russian/Prussian/Austrian alliance and decisively defeated at Leipzig the “Battle of the Nations” in October – the largest battle in Europe until the First World War 100 years later.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Matthew Hemming's Bordeaux 2013 Vintage

It’s a topsy-turvy world where an extensive tasting of the outstanding 2010 clarets leaves you physically exhausted yet a week tasting the fruits of the troubled 2013 vintage is fun, fascinating and rewarding in almost equal measure. Following a growing season featuring almost every challenge Mother Nature could throw at the vines, ‘13 is a rollercoaster of a vintage, peppered with exceptions and with hardly any rules.

I wish I could have tasted these wines with the late John Avery. He, like me, would have loved the fact that this is a year for wine merchants to roll up their sleeves, put in the hard graft to ferret out successful wines, and then offer straight-talking advice to guide customers to these chateaux. It’s not even true that you’re safe just buying the top wines this year - there are expensive flops as well as under- and over- performing wines from the lower echelons. That’s why tasting was so fascinating, because there are good wines from ‘13 and finding them was tremendously rewarding.

Monday, 5 May 2014

From the Tasting Room : Masseria Trajone Frascati

Frascati is a little-known region to the east of Rome in central Italy. It's a quintessentially Italian area, full of classical architecture, rolling hills and often bathed in glorious sunshine.

The Romans enjoyed these wines centuries ago and they have remained among Italy’s most popular. Continued improvements in the vineyards and cellars, along with significantly lower yields have led to much higher quality wines being produced and, as a result, Frascati is enjoying a well-deserved revival.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The World Relative to Averys : Part Two - Dr W. G. Grace

* W.G. Grace was Bristol-born and proudly represented both Gloucestershire and England.

* He made his debut for England in 1880 when Averys was just 7 years old.

* He scored 124 first class hundreds and 251 fifties. He also took 2809 wickets.

* The first (and arguably greatest) cricket superstar. With some cricket contracts pushing those of footballers these days, W.G.’s reported earnings would’ve been worth around £1 million in today’s money.

* While W.G. didn’t smoke, he was more than partial to wine; as Arthur Shrewsbury noted: “Grace himself would drink enough to swim a ship

* Every cricketer in the country knows the story of W.G. Grace when he was once out bowled. It is rumoured that, instead of walking off, he turned around, picked up the bails, put them back on the stumps and told the bowler “these people are here to watch me bat, not you bowl!