Friday, 28 March 2014

Sparkling Wine: An English Product?

When you think of sparkling wine, the word ‘England’ doesn’t immediately come to mind. However if you look a little more closely at the sparkling wine trade, you’ll soon see that English producers of the drink have boomed within the last decade. What does it say about the English wine industry?

The English wine industry is often the subject of ridicule and derision. It has this stigma as a producer of sherry and nothing more. People often turn their noses up at the very thought of English wine. And luxury wine? Forget about it. There certainly isn’t any on the Ideal Wine Company product list and that’s hardly unusual.

That’s why the two concepts of ‘English’ and ‘luxury wine’ have never really gone together. That’s because when you think of sparkling wine, you think of Champagne, or more recently, Prosecco. Both are the ultimate in luxury, a decadence that you indulge in when you have something to celebrate.

They were two ends of the wine spectrum until now. The English wine scene is slowly overcoming the stigma of its past and has boomed in the past five years or so. As it turns out, experts say that the nation’s sparkling wine trade has formed a large part of that effort.

There’s no two ways about it. The English Sparkling wine trade is hot right now, and we’ve got the data to prove it. The Association of English Wine Producers, which acts as the industry’s promotional body for England’s wine market, recently quoted some impressive figures.

According to the Association, by 2015 there will be five million bottles of English top quality sparkling wine ready for global consumption. An impressive number by any stretch of the imagination. The Association also attached a retail value of £100 million to the sparkling wine. This means that, on average, a bottle is fetching £20 a week on the market.

From here, we see that the English Sparkling wine tradition is already benefiting this country economically, and it’s not hard to deduce that it would never be capable of adding this much to UK economic growth if we weren’t working with a quality product.

At the Ideal Wine Company, we predict a bright future for English Sparkling wine. It’s clear that the industry is changing, as it should, to keep up with modern trends. As English sparkling wine gets more popular, it could change the very mind set people have on the larger English wine industry. 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Mammoth EU & China Wine Dispute: Over at Last

The last month has seen global powerhouses Europe and China embroiled in a fierce dispute over wine exports, amongst other types of exports. Now that the dispute has been resolved, what does this mean for the international wine industry?

At Ideal Wine Company we recognise the emerging power of China. It’s hard not to; increasingly they have come to dominate every international industry in which they trade. They have grown to such an extent that they are now the second largest economy in the world. Only the US is larger.

That is why it is not surprising that China has become an important part of the global wine trade as well. It may not be known for the wine it produces; we don’t have any on the Ideal Wine Company product list at present. However, it is now a very large consumer of wine. Due to tradition, the Chinese population have a preference for red.

From this we can ascertain that any dispute over wine exportation would have a knock on effect on the international trade.  That’s just what happened.

Last year the dispute began when the EU countries objected to China flooding their market with Chinese solar panels. The dispute intensified when EU officials announced that they were imposing tariffs on Chinese producers of solar panels.

The very next day, the Chinese struck back with exportation restrictions on polysilicon, which is an important element for some types of solar panels favoured by Chinese producers, and wine. The Chinese justified the restrictions on exportation of EU wine because they claimed that they were investigating whether wine from the region was being sold at a low cost in the People’s Republic and whether they were also subject to unfair subsidies.

The international wine market breathed a collective sigh of relief this week as officials on both sides of the fence announced that the dispute was officially over. Although the issue of flooding the European market with Chinese solar panels hasn’t yet been resolved, the wine issue has.

The agreement the two powers came to should prove one to watch over the coming decade. Europe has agreed to aid China’s domestic production of wine and in turn, China has agreed to organise wine tastings for European products within its borders.

It’s clear that the agreement is being hailed on both sides of the continent. The EU Commissioner for Trade reportedly said of the deal that it is: “yet another positive development which will further strengthen the EU-China bilateral relationship”.   

At the Ideal Wine Company, we see this as a chance to diversify Chinese wine. With European knowledge and production methods, it could become a real contender on the world stage in the next decade or two.  It certainly is one to watch. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Mythos 2005: Israel's wine secret

One of the joys of working in the luxury wine business is getting the opportunity to bear witness to the up and comers, the wines catching everyone’s eye. That’s why this week we want to introduce you to the Mythos 2005: Israel’s wine secret.

Unfortunately we don’t currently feature any Israeli wines on our luxury Ideal Wine Company product list; despite its rich cultural history and the role wine has played in shaping that history, the cradle of modern Christianity isn’t particularly known for its modern viticulture. That could be set to change.

Welcome to the Mythos 2005. This is the wine that was made by Benhaim winery and it was judged the best submission from 24 countries this month at the international Terravino Wine festival.

A deep hearty red that proves perfect for a cold night by the fireside, most critics hadn’t even heard of the winery, never mind the wine itself, at the start of Terravino. Benhaim is a small, family owned winery and considering it was up against some real giants of the industry, quite frankly no one expected it to win.

But win it did and it certainly deserved to. A wine that’s sold for 295 shekels (the Israeli currency) a bottle, it brings something new to a market that, quite frankly, has a tendency to be dominated by the more well-known French, Italian, Spanish, Argentinian and Californian labels.

Here we are seeing the power of the locally made wine. Benhaim has a varied range of products and each holds the quality of the Mythos. These labels include Benhaim Chardonnay 2012, Benhaim Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008 and Benhaim Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010. The Benhaim label is clearly diversifying all the time and adding a new dimension to the domestic Israeli wine market; something that is sorely needed.

Benhaim is the essence of the family owned winery. Owned and operated by the Benhaim family, it’s actually pretty new on the scene. It’s only been in operation since 1997 and in that time it has built up a stellar reputation for the quality of the product that leaves its premises.

The Mythos 20005 has done more than boost the international perception of the Israeli wine trade. Here at Ideal Wine Company, it has reminded us that the best wines often come from the smallest places. Commercialism only goes so far in viticulture.

Friday, 21 March 2014

French wine: now even more expensive

The wine community was left completely unsurprised this week, as once again, French wine prices soared. Considering that this seems to be an on-going trend, what does this say about the trajectory of the world’s most valued wine market?

French wine has always been expensive, and people have always expected it to be. The country’s excellence for wine is well established, and it’s penchant for superior, quality products such as Champagne, Chateau Latour and Cognac, has made it arguably the most famous wine producing region in the world.

However, prices are rising dramatically, even for France. This month the French government confirmed what the industry has long suspected. This is that wine prices in the continental nation have risen by a staggering 32% between 2012 and 2013.

Yes, that’s right, the price of French wine, on average, has risen by 32% on in the space of a single year. The government has said that this is down to small grape harvests in the country’s key viticulture centres, and that may be, but that doesn’t mean that higher prices won’t have a knock on effect on the world’s most popular wine market. 

Specifically, this was detailed in a report that was issued last month by Agreste, a department of the French Ministry of Agriculture. The report further revealed that the average price of wine from an appellation saw an 18% year-on-year increase in the six month period before January 2014. Compared to 2008 – 2012, this is a 25% rise in the price of French wine.

When it comes to specific regions, we get similar results in the ones that have traditionally been most popular with drinkers. Burgundy saw wine prices shoot up 32% in the first half of the year. On a five year average, this represents a 51% rise. Agreste noted that in the Burgundy region, “limited availability” had driven prices up.

The story was similar in perhaps the most famous French wine region (barring Champagne), Bordeaux, home of the world famous Chateau Latour. In Bordeaux, wine prices soared one fifth (20%) on the back of 2013’s notoriously challenging vintage. This was brought about by poor weather, essential in viticulture, and a freak hailstorm in the region’s Entre-deux-Mers appellation.

So it’s clear that circumstances such as changing weather patterns are altering the face of the French wine market. This doesn’t mean that you still can’t get quality luxury French wines for decent prices; we have plenty on the Ideal Wine Company product list!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Miracle machine: it was all a hoax

Yes, folks, it really was a hoax. We should have known that a machine claiming to turn water into wine was too good to be true. Saying that, why was the hoax ever put about?

Well, Ideal Wine Company blog readers, it was actually not so much a hoax, as a PR stunt. The stunt was performed in aid of the work of charity Wine to Water, an interesting project you just have to hear about.
We can see why they chose this kind of hoax. The Miracle Machine claimed to turn water; with the help of a few ingredients, such as yeast and grape concentrate, into wine, in just three days. Considering how popular wine is all over the world, as well as the tenacity of the original ‘water into wine’ story on society’s collective imagination, we can see why it proved a good PR stunt.

In reality, of course, it absolutely wasn’t possible – and even if it could have been, you wouldn’t have gotten quality luxury wine like those featured on the Ideal Wine Company product list – but it really did prove popular. It generated a tonne of press. But what was it actually promoting?

Wine to Water is a charity that seeks to address the world-wide water crisis. We need water to live, our bodies can’t go without it, and yet poor sanitation, according to the charity, affects 2.5 billion people internationally and deprives them of a clean water source.

Therefore the Wine to Water Movement is a concerted effort to bring clean water and sanitation to those 2.5 billion people. Their work includes carrying out repair work on broken wells, installing sustainable rain water harvest tanks and providing sanitation solutions. It’s essential work.

On their site, the charity have apologised for their hoax with a statement and explained why they did it. The statement said that: 'The Miracle Machine has generated enormous interest around the globe. We and supporters Kevin Boyer and Philip James are sorry to disappoint anyone who was looking forward to high quality wine in 3 days.'

It went onto elaborate on why the hoax had taken place, explaining that: 'For the cost of a bottle of fine wine, we provide a way to produce 99.9% pure drinking water to a family for up to five years and THAT is the true miracle.' 

It certainly is, but it also illustrates the strength that wine has on the human imagination. It was a powerful promotional tool used to highlight the work of this noble charity. That can never be a bad thing. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Celebrating St Patrick’s: The Irish Wine Tradition

St Patricks Day may have come and gone, but it got us thinking here at the Ideal Wine Company blog about the small but complex Irish wine making tradition. It may not be well known, but that certainly doesn’t mean you should underestimate it. So what do you need to know about the Irish wine growing tradition?

There was recently a piece in Forbes advocating that instead of downing emerald-tinted Guinness, St Patrick’s Day celebrants should turn to drinking red wine. The author of the piece argued that the ‘warm and convivial’ nature of the Irish soul was perfectly reflected in red wine.

It was an eloquent point, and anybody who has ever visited the emerald isle would attest to the fact that its people are warm, friendly and know how to throw a good party. However, the author then went on to talk about American reds.

We believe the author completely missed an opportunity here to educate people about the Irish wine making tradition. Make no mistake, it really is very small – that’s why we don’t feature any Irish wines on the Ideal Wine Company product list- but it is there and you can find some amazing vintages from vineyards on the emerald isle.

Ireland is far more known for the whiskeys it produces – Irish whiskeys are world famous – and that overshadows any interest in the wine making tradition. Most Irish wine making is centred on vineyards in the County Cork region in the South West of Ireland. However wine is also produced in Lusk, North County Dublin.

History suggests that the first people to ever settle the island migrated from Iberia after the most recent ice age, and it took a lot longer until wine was brought over. Records suggest that the Irish wine making tradition goes as far back as the 5th Century AD, when the population was converted to Christianity.

This is another example of the role Christianity played in the early modern wine making culture of the world. From the 5th Century onwards, monks produced wine in the Cistercian monastery in County Kilkenny, which spread to other monastic communities.  

Today Ireland is listed as a wine making country by the European commission and modern vineyards such as Blackwater Valley and Longueville House produce some of the finest wines, of both red and white variety, that you will ever taste.

At the Ideal Wine Company we know that it is a small thing, but the Irish wine making tradition is worthy of attention none the less. It’s as old as almost any other on the continent and you can get true quality in the wines produced on the emerald isle.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Wine: The one stop cure to diabetes?

The wine industry has been entranced this week by reports suggesting that moderate consumption of wine could cure diabetes. Considering the enormity of such a task, we want to ask this week whether wine really could be a one stop cure to diabetes.

We’ve long seen the health benefits of wine here at the Ideal Wine Company. There’s that myth constantly floating around that two glasses of red wine a day can keep you healthy and it really is true. Red wine is full of health boosting anti-oxidants which can be useful in everything from maintaining heart health to battling stress.

However even we’ve always stopped short of saying that wine is capable of curing serious conditions such as diabetes. However that is now what is being suggested by industry professionals as a result of this latest study.

Carried out by Advance, it was the world’s first and largest ever study into patients with type 2 diabetes. The study found that patients with type 2 diabetes benefited from drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. This particularly included wine and the study showed that consuming alcohols such as wine seemed to be linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular events and mortality.

The research project in question drew on information collected from 11,140 patients who came from 20 countries around the world, so it provided pretty conclusive results that are hard to challenge. It looked at the rate of alcohol consumption and correlated it to those with type 2 diabetes.

As for the rate of consumption, it was defined as thus, heavy consumption for men was 21 drinks a week, women 14 drinks per week. Moderate consumption was 21 or fewer drinks per week for men and 14 drinks or fewer for women. Furthermore after five years the study found 1,031 (9%) deaths, 1,147 (10%) cardiovascular events (CV) and 1,136 (10%) microvascular complications.

The interesting thing was that results showed that those patients who were in the moderate drinker category had less CV events, less microvascular complications and a lower rate of death. Furthermore the study showed that these benefits were most pronounced for wine drinkers.

A spokesperson for the study said that “in light of these caveats, it would be premature to make any firm clinical recommendations regarding alcohol consumption by patients with type 2 diabetes. Nevertheless, the current study finds no grounds to discourage mild to moderate alcohol consumption, at least in terms of its vascular effects.”

At the Ideal Wine Company we know that this isn’t conclusive evidence that categorically suggests that wine can contribute to the handling of type 2 diabetes. However it certainly gives food for thought going forward. 

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Is India the World's new wine hot spot?

The industry has never particularly regarded India as a wine centre of the world. However new findings on the rate of wine consumption in the sub-continental nation suggests that maybe they should start. Is India the world’s newest wine hot spot?

Up until now the Ideal Wine Company has been in agreement with the rest of the industry in the opinion that India is not a big market for wine. We don’t feature any Indian wines on our product list and quite frankly that’s because there are no wines of repute that have caught the attention of the industry that have been produced in Indian vineyards.

However India is one of the world’s oldest societies and it in fact has a robust viticultural heritage. Vineyards have been cultivated in the integral Indus Valley for centuries and the first vineyards were thought to have been introduced by traders from neighbouring Persia.

Wine has seen more troubling times in recent history. Despite the fact that cultivation of the crop was encouraged by Portuguese and English colonisers – the hot and humid climate is perfect for the practise – a phylloxera louse damaged the country’s crop in the late 19th Century. Then the prohibition wave that swept the country in the wake of independence hampered it further for decades.

However it looks like India is once again embracing one of its cultural traditions and in this case the numbers really don’t lie. Whilst the practise of wine making still isn’t particularly strong in the region, consumption has grown by leaps and bounds.

The Indian Express reported that a Vinexpo survey showed that the rate of wine consumption will have risen to 2.1 million cases in the sub-continental nation by the end of 2017. This is an increase of 73% from the 1.10 million cases the nation collectively consumed in 2013.

Broken down, the Vinexpo survey showed that red wine was the clear winner, as Indians are expected to drink around 1.15 million cases over the coming year. Furthermore the survey showed that growing red wine consumption is expected to increase from 61% to 71.6% of the total figure by 2017. This means that India really is a hot market for red wine right now.

These numbers are hardly conclusive; they are predictions based on expectations. However even a survey such as this highlights a growing trend of wine consumption in India. It’s certainly clear that whilst India may not, by definition, be a wine hotspot, it is certainly the new frontier for the world’s wine industry. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Miracle Machine: An Update

Last week we spoke about the Miracle Machine; the new device that turns water into wine, and what it could mean for wine drinkers across the world. Well we promised you an update and here it is. What more do we know now about the Miracle Machine?

First let’s start with what we already knew, which wasn’t that much. It’s the creation of wine industry veteran Kevin Boyer and it uses modern technology developed by experts in Silicon Valley to turn water into wine. That’s all we knew. However we did know that the device was to be unveiled in its entirety this week.

Now it has been unveiled we know a lot more about how the Miracle Machine actually works. We know that it uses water, grape concentrate, yeast and a finishing powder (designed to inject a barrel-aged-flavour) to the mix, to make wine.

However Boyer kept quiet about how the wine-bottle sized appliance actually turns these ingredients into wine. So the ‘miracle element’ of the Miracle Machine has been well and truly left intact. However it really is only a matter of time until we all find out and we do know that the process is supposed to take three days.
However Boyer and his entrepreneur partner Phillip Vine did give us some hints. At the unveiling of the revolutionary product, they were quoted as saying that the process the machine uses to make it happen employs "an array of electrical sensors, transducers, heaters and pumps."

Whilst many in the industry still doubt the quality of the wine it can produce- don’t expect any with the quality of those we feature on the Ideal Wine Company product list to appear anytime soon – it is attracting investors by bucket load. With the soon to be launched kickstarter campaign expected to bring in the crucial funding, the Miracle Machine should hit the markets at around $499.

However developers are clearly ready to push the machine on the wider public and as such have designed an app to accompany purchase of the Miracle Machine. It links to the device via Bluetooth and according to Boyer and Vine allows you to track the wine making process of the machine with your smartphone.

At the Ideal Wine Company we welcome any innovation that helps the wine industry to evolve. Saying that we doubt it’ll be a source of true quality luxury wine. Where this whole project goes from here has yet to be determined. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Is It Possible to Turn Water into Wine?

You may think that turning water into wine in the real world is impossible, but is it really? It turns out that it might not be, thanks to one new gadget set to hit the shelves soon. 

At the Ideal Wine Company we’ve always been fascinated by the long and varied history of wine. One of its most well-known parts, according to certain sources, occurred 2,000 years ago, when a man called Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Canaan. 

Whilst the water into wine story is the one myths are made of, and one that has come to hold a particular significance in the Christian religion, it’s not something that we ever thought could be replicated in the modern day. After all, scientifically we would conclude that it’s impossible.

However we might have to change our minds on that as this week technology blogs have blown up with the news of the release of one simple gadget that could, in theory, replicate this amazing feat.

According to sources, it is called the ‘Miracle Machine’ (perhaps a nod to the miracle of the gospels) and it could be set to hit the mainstream very soon. It’s due to launch on kickstarter next week, so we’ll have to wait until then to get the full details.

However we can start with what we do know. When you look a little deeper it turns out that it’s less about recreating a miracle and more about making the wine making process more scientific to bring it into the 21st Century.

The idea was first conceptualised by wine industry veterans, Kevin Boyer and Phillip James. After doing some research in tech haven Silicone Valley, they determined that they could bring something more scientific to the process of wine making. However it took a lot of experimenting and a year before their efforts bore any fruit.

We don’t really know how it works yet; we’ve have to wait until next week to find out. However at the Ideal Wine Company we even find the idea of the Miracle Machine fascinating. However, it’s in its infancy and we somewhat doubt the quality of the wine it would produce. It’s hardly going to be luxury.

So it may not be perfect but the Miracle Machine does highlight something about the wine industry; it thrives on innovation. It has to, in order to keep up with 21st Century technology. The Miracle Machine very well could be the next step. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Learning About Wine: Where Can You Start?

Wine is one of the most amazingly complex things you can learn about; there’s so much variety that you’ve never really learned it all. Saying that, where can you start?

At the Ideal Wine Company we recognise that if you’re in the market for a luxury bottle and you feel somewhat lacking in your knowledge of the drink, it can be intimidating. There are so many questions to ask and so many answers. This is because wine is such a versatile drink that there’s no definitive answer.

However there are sources you can go to in order to transform yourself form wine buffoon to wine buff. Remember that knowledge is power; the more you have, in this case, the more likely you are to make an informed decision when it comes to choosing your luxury bottle.

The first place to start is the internet. Considering the wealth of information on the World Wide Web, it shouldn’t surprise you that there are thousands of guides on there, ready and waiting to teach about wine. However you have to remember that information from the internet isn’t always reliable, so take it with a pinch of salt.

However if you’re looking to move on from internet guides, why not get adventurous and take a trip to a vineyard? There are some particularly beautiful vineyards on the continent and most have tours on offer that teach you about the entire process of viticulture. It makes the perfect getaway and reminds you that when you wish to learn about something, you always need to know where it comes from.

If a getaway to a continental vineyard isn’t in the cards for you right now, why not try a wine tasting course? These days, colleges around the country feature entire classes dedicated to learning about the wine and the great thing about this option is that you get to engage with an expert. Not only can you hear from them, but put your questions to them for a deeper understanding of the drink you’ve come to love.

Finally, if you want to strike out on your own, why not form a collective? Start your own wine tasting group. You’d be surprised how many people in your neighbourhood would be invested in such a group, and you can use it as an opportunity to learn and grow together. There’s nothing like a shared experience to foster a deeper understanding.

At the Ideal Wine Company we’ve always seen the mystery as one of the reasons that wine is so fascinating. You can never know it all, but you can clock up some life changing experiences trying.