English wine ramps up the innovation

Most wine-lovers include New Zealand somewhere in their favourite bottles. The popularity of New Zealand wines has always been impressive in the UK, which is surprising when you consider how little they actually make.

New Zealand makes less than 0.5% of the total wine production in the world, but its high quality and accessible flavours make it an enjoyable choice. The UK is one of New Zealand’s most important and valuable export markets in the world. Let’s take a look at why New Zealand wines are enjoyed by so many people, and exactly what they produce.


New Zealand wine soil is fertile and productive

Fertile soils abound in New Zealand, and these combined with its temperate climate make it an ideal location for wine making. It’s famous around the world for producing delicious whites and reds and have plenty of varieties to choose from.

Almost 60% of New Zealand’s wines are from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. The Marlborough region makes most Sauvignon blends and has done since the first grapes were planted in 1973. By 1990 New Zealand became well known for its Sauvignon Blancs both locally and internationally.

The 1990s also saw a boost for Chardonnay from New Zealand, although it’s never been as popular. Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne specialise in full and medium bodied Chardonnays due to their location in the warmer North Island. In the same decade Pinot Gris gained popularity. It’s produced throughout the country and makes up around 7% of New Zealand’s wine production.


Rich red wines from New Zealand

The colder regions in New Zealand make a lot of Pinot Noir, which makes up 8% of the country’s overall wine production. The South Island is known for many red wines, including the fuller bodied and freshly aromatic flavours of Marlborough’s Pinot Noir.

Red wines from Waipara Valley are enjoyed for their more savoury flavours, and the Central Otago region produces soft and fruity reds. Cabernet Sauvignon wines are also well renowned in New Zealand and go back to the early 1800s. Around 80% of the Pinot Noir production takes place in Auckland/Northland and Hawke’s Bay.


Other grape varieties popular in New Zealand

Mass production of Riesling began in the 1980s, despite the grape being introduced in the 19th century. Around 90% of the country’s Riesling is made in the South Island and is centred on the Waipara/Canterbury region.

Shiraz on the other hand has always struggled to gain a hold in New Zealand, despite its popularity in Australia. It makes up just 1% of the country’s winemaking production.

Due to New Zealand’s wine reputation, there are lots of wine trails, vineyards and wineries in New Zealand that have become extremely popular tourist attractions.

How UK wine exports are on the increase

English Wine Week has been and gone with good news for the UK wine industry. Exports of UK-made wine is are predicted to be worth £350 million by 2040, according to the Government’s Department for International Trade (DIT).

Production of wine in the UK reached 15.6 million bottles, a record-breaking amount. And vineyards across the country can look forward to celebrating overseas success, thanks to a rise in demand.


UK wine exports expanding into emerging markets

Because of this soaring demand from global markets, UK wine producers are beginning to look at new markets. In 2017, The Classic Reserve, a wine from Hattingley Valley vineyards became the first from England to be sold at Whole Foods in the United States. It was on the shelves of 420 shops in the chain across 40 states, which has boosted its profile.

Overall sales of UK wine shot up 31% between 2015 and 2017. By 2040, this should reach a production level of 40 million bottles a year, which equals a retail value of £1 billion.

Government support for UK wine makers

As part of the general promotion of English wine, the DIT have supported many producers overseas. For example, English wine was promoted at the Nantucket Wine and Food Festival between 15 and 20 May 2019, which is the biggest wine event in the US.

Various UK vineyards, including Chapel Down, Gusbourne and Hattingley, showed their wines at the event, thanks to support from the Food is GREAT campaign. This is an inter-departmental Government initiative between the DIT and the Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

English sparkling wine continues to do well

It’s also been a fantastic year for English sparkling wine, with producers all over the country receiving awards. These include major wins at the International Wine Challenge (IWC), the International Spirits Competition (IWSC) and the Decanter World Wine Awards.

The wine industry in the UK is responding to this surge in demand by identifying the key markets. The biggest export markets for UK wine are Scandinavia and the United States, but focus is also on emerging markets like Japan.

In a DIT press release, International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox says: “It is such an exciting time for the English wine industry right now. The potential for exports is going from strength to strength due to the rapid growth of the sector and an increased demand from overseas markets for high quality British wine.”

Export will remain a key strand of the UK wine industry’s growth over the next few years, with the ultimate goal of becoming the premier wine market in the world.

Is there such a thing as the perfect food and wine pairing?

Pairing food and wine has long been considered something to strive for by culinary experts. Restaurants, food experts, chefs and cookery writers have been recommending the best wine for certain dishes for decades, if not centuries. But is it an exact science, and does it really matter which wine you serve with your dinner?


Whether you believe there are perfect wine and food pairings or not, there is an entire industry built around the concept. Sommeliers taste hundreds, and possibly thousands, of different wines to match with a menu. There is a set of instructions in place regarding the balance of acid, fat, salt and alcohol to achieve the perfect match. But recently, the wine industry has been upset by experts suggesting it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.


Perfect wine pairing may not exist


Tim Hanni, a US chef, Master of Wine and certified wine educator announced at the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Celebration that he doesn’t think the perfect food and wine pairing exists. He qualified this by saying that the industry is doing “a lot of damage the way we’re matching wine and categorising it.”


After the event, he told The Drinks Business that he is concerned with the genetic traits that cause people to taste, smell and experience sensations differently. It’s a scientific fact that some people lack certain taste receptors and can therefore tolerate much more bitterness than others, for example. In contrast, more than a third of people are very sensitive to bitter flavours and don’t enjoy any wine with an alcohol content of more than 13%.


Hanni says these differences make the notion of ideal food and wine pairings obsolete, as they depend so much on personal taste receptors.


Food and wine pairings should be adjusted for personal taste


Clement Robert is a wine buyer and Master Sommelier for Caprice Holdings, London. He agrees with Hanni that taste is subjective but does not agree that sommeliers are blocking people from enjoying food and wine.


He says that wine pairings are simple, and expert sommeliers will always adjust their suggestions to cater for personal taste.


Of course, if you’re visiting a fine dining restaurant, the wine list and sommelier are all part of the experience. But the popularity of House Reds and Whites shows that many customers don’t want to overthink their wine choice, and just want to enjoy their meal.


So, is there such thing as a perfect food and wine pairing? As the debate rages between wine experts, winemakers and Master Sommeliers, it’s probably best to assume that there is no single answer. Everyone has their own opinion, and most people have a favourite wine. It’s about finding the wine that’s perfect for you, and not worrying about whether it is the ‘right’ one.

Lucky diners served a £4,500 bottle of wine by mistake

For many of us, ordering a special bottle of wine is part of the experience of dining out. And it was extra special for a table of diners at Hawksmoor Manchester, an up-market restaurant in the north of England.

When a table of guests ordered a £260 bottle of Bordeaux, they already thought they were in line for a treat. What they got by error was a bottle of wine worth £4,500.


Which bottle of wine is worth so much?

The restaurant tweeted that they hoped the customers have enjoyed the expensive 2001 bottle of Chateu le Pin Pomerol, which was served by mistake. According to a spokesman from the restaurant, the error was only noticed after the customers had left.

The original order was for a bottle of Chateau Pichon Longueville Contesse de Lalande, 2001, for a still impressive price of £260. Unfortunately for the restaurant, a server picked up the wrong bottle. Fortunately for the guests, they were served something that the manager of the restaurant says is “something spectacular”.

Just 500 bottles of the 2001 Chateau de Pin Pomerol were made, and it is described in the restaurant’s tasting guide as having: “an extraordinary perfume of crème de cassis, cherry liqueur, plums, liquorice, caramel and sweet toast”.


How can a wine be so expensive – and is it worth it?

The incident begs the question as to whether most people would realise they were served something costing 17 times the bottle they actually ordered. And what makes certain wines so expensive anyway?

Expert opinions are divided as to whether the costliness is obvious from the taste, with some saying that it’s self-evident and others, like wine expert Jilly Goolden disagreeing. In an interview with the BBC Goolden says that “you wouldn’t know if you were tasting wine worth £4,500… It’s a very old wine. It would look different and would probably have lost quite a lot of fruit – those drinking it might even have been disappointed.”


Rare wines become more expensive over time

Le Pin is one of the most expensive wines available, with much of its value coming from its rarity and provenance. Only 500 cases were made on a very small vineyard (one-acre), which drives its scarcity value. This also means the cost of making it is obviously higher, which is passed on in its label price.

And while there is a very obvious difference between a £5 bottle of wine and a £25 bottle of wine, the experts say that it’s less easy to detect as prices climb. Either way, the diners at Hawksmoor Manchester had a much more special experience than they could have anticipated!

How do tannins affect the flavour of wine?

Some types of red wine make your mouth feel ‘dry’ when you drink them. New research into why this happens finds out why tannins affect the flavour of different wine types.

The character and quantity of red wine tannins are often affected by different factors. These include how thick the grape skin is, the climate of the growing season and how the wine is cellar stored.


Different wine types affected by tannins

Researchers have published their findings in the latest issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry regarding the effect of tannins. They show that the tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, are more numerous, contain more pigment and are physically larger than the tannins in Pinot Noir.

They experimented by extracting tannins from a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon and discovered that tannins from Cabernet form more protein in saliva. This backs up previous research that shows wine can cause a dry mouth sensation when proteins in tannins and saliva interact.


What are wine tannins?

Tannin is a polyphenol that appears naturally in plants, wood, leaves, seeds, bark and, of course, fruit skins. In wine, tannins add astringency, bitterness and complexity of flavours.

Wine tannins are usually present in red wines however it is possible for tannins to be present in white wines if they are oak aged. Tannin is dry and tasted in the front part of the mouth as well as the middle of the tongue. An easy example to try of pure tannin is in unsweetened black tea.

Tannins in wine come from either the grapes or the wood of the barrels it’s aged or stored in. Grape tannins are in the stems, skins and seeds of the grape, and as red wines have more contact with the skin there is more time for tannins to dissolve in the liquid. On the other hand, wood tannins dissolve in wine if they are in contact with the liquid.

Examples of red wines that are high in tannins include Petite Sirah, Monastrell, Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Lower tannin wines include Zinfandel, Grenache and Pinot Noir, which is why the researchers used Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir to discover more about tannins.


Different factors affect wine taste

The researchers also found that tannins don’t make these changes happen on their own. Other factors within wine affect the tannins and how they affect the flavour and taste of the wine.

In the article, the team of researchers say: “When the opposite type of tannin was put into Cabernet or Pinot wines, the sensory panellists could not detect differences in dryness. For example, when Cabernet tannins were added to a Pinot wine, the drink appeared to have the same dryness as the original Pinot.”

They also point out that aromas from the wines would also have influenced the test panellists’ perception of the flavour of the wine.