What's New at artisan & vine?

This blog site includes news on latest wines, food, events, offers and happenings at artisan & vine. It also includes stories of my wine adventures in and outside the bar, wine facts and wine profiles.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Wine serving temperatures

The final onset of Summer seems to me a very good time to talk about the temperature at which wines should be served.

Let’s start with talking about why it makes a difference to serve wine at the right temperature and why the right temperature is different for different wines.

1. Our sense of smell operates on the perception of vapours. Red wines generally have a higher molecular weight than white wines, and so they need warmer temperatures for their aromatic vapours to be released. In general, the darker the colour of a wine, the heavier its weight, and the warmer it should be served.
2. Our perception of tannins are effected by temperature too. In general, the colder a wine is served, the more its tannins will be exposed; the warmer a wine is served, the softer its tannins may be perceived. For mature, soft tannins like those present in a Burgundian Pinot Noir, serving wine a little colder will show off the fabulously refined tannins better than ‘smoothing them over’ with warm serving temperature.

3. Sweeter wines are generally served better cold. The coldness emphasises the acidity, which is needed to balance the sweetness in the wine for freshness rather than syrupy-ness.

So what is the summation?

Sweet wines should be served between 4 and 7 degrees Celsius. Dry whites between 6 and 11. Very fine white wines (best Burgundy, German, Australian and Californian whites) between 10 an 12 degrees Celsius. Light reds should be served between 10 and 14 degrees. Heavier reds should be served between 14 and 18 degrees.

Now, if you get an ice bucket with your red wine this summer: you’ll know why!

Image: glasses lined up and ready to be drunk at artisan & vine

Friday, 25 June 2010

Visit to Sancerre

Last week Andy and I had the lovely privelege of some days in the Loire Valley.

We started in Tours, and went to a fabulous little wine bar to "orientate" ourselves with the local wine scene.

Day 2 was a trip out to Sancerre to visit the fabulous Sebastien Riffault. His Sancerre wines are out of this world - full of fruits and minerals - DESPITE being 100% Sauvignon Blanc.

Sebastien doesn't add an sulphites at all to his wines (since 2007), using the natural acidity and health of his grapes to preserve his wines. Horses rather than tractors are used in the vineyards, for the most part, and it was clear the soil was grateful for this.

In addition to rows of lovely weed-infested vineyards, Sebastien also grows his own biodynamic vegetables, which we took part in harvesting, before a wonderful sunshine BBQ.
We stock my favourite of Sebastien's wines, Sancerre Akmenine, at artisan & vine. Not your average Sancerre and a great example of how different natural wines can be from the norm.

Image: Andy (left) and Sebastien check out the beautiful vineyards on the rolling hills of Sancerre.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A new favourite? Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc

1 June 2010 saw the introduction of the new 2010-11 artisan & vine wine list. It heralded a lot of new exciting wines. It's fabulous to see how people are reacting to the new wines, and I reckon we already are starting to see a new favourite amongst our regulars.

Is it a big surprise that it's a Marlborough Sauvignon? Perhaps not. Though this wine is surprisingly good. We're selling it at only £12.90 take home, which makes it absolutely worth a try!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A visit to Davenport Vineyards, Kent

All of the wines at artisan & vine are either Local (English) or Natural. A natural wine is one that not only uses organic or biodynamic practices in the vineyard, but also uses minimal intervention in the winery. Most English vineyards are very low intervention but they are rarely organic and rarely ferment using wild yeasts indigenous to the grapes harvested. It’s a relatively minor point of distinction but it has factions of the wine world hot in debate. For me, the most important element is transparency: as consumers we should know what exactly is in our bottle of wine. Sadly, obtuse bottle labeling means that often we don’t.

Of the 100 wines on the artisan & vine wine list only one is both Local and Natural. This is the Limney Sparkling wine from Will Davenport. Ideally I would have two wines on the list but as usual, Mr Davenport is completely sold out of his outstanding still white wine… back in stock and on our lists in a few weeks (I hope!) His wines are in such hot demand that when the artisan & vine team and I went to visit his gorgeous vineyards in Kent last week, we had to help label bottles ourselves just to get them on the shelves!

Will makes two sparkling wines, a white and a red. He has two vineyard sites over Kent and Sussex. The wine is delicious – absolutely worth coming by for a try! The still white wine in particular is extremely exciting for the overtly local AND natural qualities it displays.

Image: courageous English wine maker Will Davenport risked organic farming in wet England and has succeeded. Here he shows our Karlee how to pack wines for us to take home and put on the shelf!

Monday, 21 June 2010

How to (finally!) taste wine

This is Part Three of a Three Part series on how to taste wine. There are three elements to tasting wine: seeing, smelling and tasting. Counterintuitive but true. Today I’m finally going to address what happens when wine is in your mouth.

Take a swig and swish.

Five main things we’re looking for:

1. Tannins. Tannins come from the grape skins or barrels that wines are fermented or aged in. You can assess how tannic a wine is by how it dries your mouth. Think of that sensation you get when you leave your tea bag in tea for too long – that is too much tannin.

2. Acidity. Acidity sounds bad. Interpret it as “freshness”. You can assess the acidity in a wine by how your mouth waters. Now you start to build a picture: a balanced wine is one where the refreshing acidity of the wine balances the drying tannins in a wine.

3. Alcohol. In a good wine, you shouldn’t taste or smell alcohol. The flavour and aroma molecules in the wine should be more prevalent than the alcohol molecules. A wine that is too alcoholic can be detected by that burning feeling at the entrance to your throat.

4. Sweetness & bitterness both take a little more practice to detect. Your best guide is that if you feel you detect too much of either: it’s probably not a great wine.

5. Length. Length is one of the most reliable indicators of a quality wine. How long does the taste of the wine stay in your mouth? The longer the better.

Image: this time last year I was tasting wine with Alain Chabanon at his domaine in Languedoc. We’re stocking his rose this Spring – it’s a real winner!

Friday, 18 June 2010

How to taste (smell) wine

This is Part Two of a Three Part series on how to taste wine. There are three elements to tasting wine: seeing, smelling and tasting. Counterintuitive but true. Today I'm addressing how to assess a wine’s nose (how it smells).

You’ve probably already consumed whatever wine you were working with yesterday, so, we start again: First, pour a small amount of wine into the glass – around 50 – 75mls, or a quarter full. This is not pretentious custom. We need room in the glass for swivelling (aeration), and also so that we can keep precious aroma molecules in the glass.

Before we swivel, take a sniff of the wine fresh poured. Older wines are unlikely to give off too much aroma without agitation. Ironically, more mass produced wines are likely to give an intense aroma from the outset. After your first sniff, swivel the glass. The aim is to let air into the wine and aromas out. Swivel for a few seconds and take another sniff. The character of the wine should now start to show itself.

The aroma of a wine is a strong indicator of the flavour to follow. Becoming familiar with the aromas and flavours you enjoy most, and being able to describe them, will help you select more wines you enjoy in future. Do you smell more fruit or more oak? Is the smell apparent with one sniff or do you need to concentrate to pick up aromas? Neither end of these spectrums is necessarily a sign of quality: you’re trying to get in tune with your preferences.

Here is a sign of quality we get from aroma: how does the aroma change as you work your way through a bottle? Excellent wines will evolve once opened and often the aroma becomes stronger or more interesting with time. Un-excellent wines (a technical term :) ) will loose flashy fragrances after opening. It’s an indicator of how well integrated flavour and aroma molecules are.

Image: large oak barrels, like the ones I’m shown at Comte Lafon in Burgundy, enrich the fruit aromas within the chardonnay; there is no need to mask inferior fruit with distracting oak

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Randall Grahm quotes from his visit to artisan & vine

On Monday 7 June, we had a wine superstar at artisan & vine, Randall Grahm, owner and wine maker of Bonny Doon Vineyards in California.

I've been asked several times now for my write up of events... as it is nearly two weeks ago now. Here's the problem... I was so busy talking and tasting - as usual - that my notes are well... non-existent. My memories are great, but not necessarily great reading.

Time to rely on a more reliable source. Luckily for me, a more avid note taker, Jamie Goode, was on hand for the evening taking fantastic notes.

The following quotes from Randall are from Jamie's brilliant wine blog:

"On Cigare Volant, his flagship wine: ‘I started out trying to make Châteauneuf du Pape. I don’t even like Châteauneuf du Pape, but I do like Burgundy.’

On reduction: ‘One way I think of reduction in wine is like horniness in guys. It can be a little off-putting at times but it is a sign that they system is working the way it should.’

On cool climate viticulture: ‘A cool climate for me is also an appropriate climate. The grapes come in balanced. You don’t need to acidulate or dealcoholize the wine. If you have to manipulate the wine, this suggests that you are not growing the grape in the right places.’
‘Not all vineyard sites are created equal. Not all vineyard sites are good for grapes!’
On terroir: ‘The notion of terroir is the most beautiful idea in wine lore. A true vin de terroir needs a good rooting system. Terroir is a radio signal, and it is a question of the signal to noise ratio. We want to amplify the signal without distorting it. For example, if you restrict yields in a deeply rooted vineyard, you amplify the signal. Drip irrigation dilutes the signal. The ratio of roots to fruit is probably the single greatest determinant of wine quality.’
On the California wine industry: ‘The wine industry is a sort of disaster now – a victim of its success. When I got started, people did it because they loved it. It’s now a business, and too much money is invested in it. It has given the business a loss of self confidence. Everyone needs a consultant, and even the consultants need consultants. The era of cooperation and goodwill has largely gone.’"

Image: Randall Grahm at artisan & vine. I don't know why this image refuses to sit straight...

How to taste (see) wine

Given that I just spent the best part of the last week tasting tasting tasting in the Loire Valley (stories from that to follow!)… I thought it was a good topic to get into for this week’s Wine Facts. (less a fact than a tip but I know you’ll grant me that leeway).

There are three elements to tasting wine: seeing, smelling and tasting. Counterintuitive but true. Today I’m going to address assessing a wine’s appearance; we’ll cover nose and palate over the next days blog entries.

Firstly, pour a small amount of wine into the glass – around 50 – 75mls, or a quarter full. This is not pretentious custom. We need room in the glass for swivelling (aeration), and also so that we can keep precious aroma molecules in the glass.

Under normal circumstances, you will know the grape, region and vintage of the wine you’re drinking. That all the case, there are wines who lose their fruit quickly (age fast) or show characteristics atypical of their region or grape. We can judge some of these elements by sight.

Look at the colour of your wine: white wine becomes deeper with age; red wine becomes paler. All wines become browner with age. When you tilt your wine glass at an angle, older reds will be almost completely transparent at the rim: it’s not a lack of quality… it’s just age J Depth of colour – in red or white wine – will indicate how thick the skins of the grapes were and/or how long the grape juices were left in contact with their skins during maceration.

When your glass is tilted to the side: wines with a single, consistent colour gradient, are general “drink now” wines that are unlikely to evolve. Wines with a glossy appearance and subtle gradations in the wine colour are superstars – you must be drinking an artisan & vine wine J

Image: last July I tasted Catherine Massioneuve’s outstanding Cahor Malbecs across vintages and cuvees. The rich berry darkness of the wines a certain indicator of the rich flavours and aging potential.

Friday, 11 June 2010

My pièce de résistance: the new artisan & vine wine list

The last few months I’ve been tasting and talking and tasting some more. Here are the results, my pièce de résistance: the 2010-11 artisan & vine wine list.

What’s new?
· More Italian wines including Barolo, Chianti, Brunello and Barbaresco
· Some classic premium New World wines including New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Australian Shiraz and Californian Cabernet Sauvignon
· Twelve English vineyards and twenty English wines
· Ten wines under £20
· Maps, icons and explanations of key world wine regions
· A printed off-licence price list, available whenever we’re open

Check it out the new wine list online here. We have a new range of exciting wines on by the glass also, so get tasting now!

Image: the artisan & vine wine list, so so exciting inside!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Sunday Speed Dating at a&v

The sun comes out and suddenly everyone is feeling that little more up for fun. Is it all of the sun-kissed skin? Simply the appearance of skin? That extra glass of rose? That additional round of pints? Whatever it is – the effects are everywhere!! And we’re keen to support all of that fun!

So, if you’ve been looking at our Thursday night speed dating but not been able to get here after a day at your high powered job, we have just the avenue of adventure for you!

New to the London dating scene is Sunday afternoon speed dating.

Click here to find out more and book your place. At only £10 / person, it’s time to give it a go!

Speed dating is fun, and it works. Here's an excerpt from an email the Original Dating guys (who run the events at artisan & vine) received last week regarding our Thurs night speed dating:
"Hi there, I just wanted to email some feedback that I met someone at one of your events, at the Artisan and Vine pub in November of last year, and that we have been seeing each other ever since. So thank you! I had come along with friends to try something different and never expected anything serious to come out of it, so was pleasantly surprised, and would recommend it to friends!"

Image: yeah, that's the front door to the bar.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

World Cup at artisan & vine

We’ve had so much fun thinking about ideas for the World Cup at artisan & vine. We have our fab new beers on tap – Peroni and Erdinger – and bar stools ready for swivelling.

We’ve also introduced a few special promotions… here’s the deal:

AUSSIE PROMO: a free can of Fosters for everyone at the bar each time Australia score a goal*

WORLD CUP WIDOWS PROMO: half price wine for groups of 4 or more ladies during each game of the World Cup*

GROUP GAME PROMOS: listed on our World Cup Wall Chart here*

That’s right, we have an artisan & vine World Cup Wall Chart, showing which games are on when, which we’ll be showing, and what additional deals we have on for each match.

Relax, sit back, come to your local female friendly, family friendly bar to watch the World Cup live.

*terms and conditions apply

Image: the completely awesome artisan & vine World Cup Wall Chart

Friday, 4 June 2010

Another perspective on English Wine

Looking for another perspective on English wine for this English Wine Week?

Click below to read what Tim Atkins MW had to say in today's issue of The Times.

I'm in enthusiastic agreement with Tim's Top Six English Sparkling Wines (as you could guess, we stock half of them!) and of course his praise of English sparkling wines and the tremendous progress that the industry has made in recent years.

I have a little more time for the English still wines from "non-noble" grapes than Tim seems to. Seyval, Bacchus, et al may not currently be producing the most complex or world changing wines, but they do reflect our fresh English terroir, creating fresh easy-drinking wines. Come by a&v sometime to try.

Image: grapes getting ready to be wine at Bolney Wine Estate, Sussex

What happened at the English Wine Open Bottle Session

This Wednesday gone saw our first ever English Wine Open Bottle Session. It was a fabulous night with 29 different English Sparkling, White, Rose and Red wines all on show.

Most popular wines on the night? It was a very close call but I reckon the Nyetimber Blanc de Blanc 2001 was probably the overall favourite; Camel Valley and Biddenden were also extremely popular producers.

Over forty people came along to take part in the two hour whirlwind wine tasting. And there were not a small number of curious Australians and Americans among them! The French contingency respectfully declined.

Image: a new wine to artisan & vine, the Warden Abbot from Warden Abbey, Bedfordshire was also popular, and has become one of my favourite English white wines.