Scientists create ‘supergrapes’ to combat fungal attack on vineyards

Growing vines that are impervious to rot or any parasites is surely the dream for wine makers. And now, scientists in France have made that dream a reality by creating four supergrape varieties that they say need almost zero pesticides.

However, traditional vineyard owners say that the supergrapes could lead to lesser quality ‘Frankenstein’ wine in the future. This is because they mix grape genes from different regions and grow the creation in labs, therefore diluting the purity.

Visually identical

The white and red grapes currently growing at the National Institute of Agronomical Research in Colmar, France, look just the same as any other you’d see in the region. But they’re very different.

They’re grown the lab as part of an ongoing programme named “Resdur”, which aims to create grapes that are “durably resistant” to any kind of fungi, including the two that can destroy whole crops: powdery and downy mildew

Over the last few months, scientists at Inra have been given permission by the state to grow four different supergrapes. Named Araban, Floreal, Vidoc and Voltis, wines made from then will be bottled next year and in 2020.

Decades-long research

Growing grapes that are resistant to rot isn’t a new idea. First attempts to do so started in the 1970s when scientists singled out a resistant gene. Since then, Inra has identified three more by crossing European, Asian and American grapes.

The man in charge of Inra is called Didier Merdinoglu. He says that the grapes will allow winemakers to reduce pesticide use by up to a whopping 90%: “We are talking about dropping from an average of 15 treatments per year to one or two, above all to kill off other diseases and parasites.”

Environmental breakthrough

As 20% of all pesticide use in France is concentrated onto vineyards, even though wine grapes consist of just 3% of the country’s crops, researchers say that these new grapes could be an environmental breakthrough. It will also make growing grapes cheaper for the owner.

France is under increasing pressure to reduce pesticide use fast, after a number of cancer cases among vintners. However, some winemakers remain resistant to the idea of a supergrapes.

They say that grapes grown in the lab could decimate centuries of careful growing traditions that have melded European crops with the local soil, producing subtly different varieties of wine. They say that replacing cultivated grapes with cheaper, much more robust but artificially cultivated ones will mean wine lacks the quality and flavour of the existing regional varieties.

Not GM

These grapes aren’t genetically modified, but purists worry that crossing over different varieties from around the world will lead to “artificial and unnatural ‘Frankenstein wine’”. One said: “This is like crossing a monkey with a man: it may be technically possible, but it goes against nature.”

While that may well be hyperbole from a traditionalist, France must lower pesticide use somehow and it’s likely that this will be the fastest way to hit their targets.

Foreign Office shifts to English wine

Around 52 per cent of wine served at high-end events at the British Foreign Office is now English. The government is increasing the number of wines made in England that they buy every year, as well as those served at official events. Ideal Wine Company take a look at why the shift to English wine has occurred.

Figures show that 3,052 bottles of wine were bought during the last 12 months. Of these, 1,500 are English (equivalent to 50 per cent). Ten years ago, English wines in the government’s cellar consisted of only 20 per cent.

Ideal Wine Company english wine
How is the Government shifting to English wine?

Serve British for Brexit

Miles Beale of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association is happy with this increase. He says: “We have urged government departments to ‘serve British’ and it’s great to hear that the FCO is stocking, serving and therefore supporting English wine.

“Consumers worldwide have woken up to the fact that English wine is a product of supreme quality.”

Government wine cellar
The government has had its very own wine cellar for many years. It’s looked after by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and is meant to be self-sustaining in financial terms.

Wines are generally bought young and left to mature. The annual statement for 2015 to 2016 shows that the cellar boasted 33,669 bottles of wine and spirits. The total value for the cellar’s inventory was £800,000 as at March 2016.

Selecting wine for events

Wines are selected for use at each event, depending on what kind of event it is and who is invited. The more senior the invited guests, the better the quality of wine they are served.

A private member’s bill was introduced in March by MP Nusrat Ghani to make sure that British consulates and embassies serve English wine at events. She said: “In a post-Brexit world, we must do all we can to get behind industries that show the sort of potential of our wine industry.”

Wine producer Jonica Fox, who is based in East Sussex, is also pleased with the figures. She said: “The Foreign Office is now flying the flag for us all.” As the UK is now home to more than 500 vineyards and produces millions of bottles of wine every year, it looks like this is one industry that could thrive post Brexit.

Can drinking wine keep flu away?

As we head out of summer and into flu season, it’s always worth keeping an eye out for any kind of remedy for the sniffles. Ideal Wine Company review if wine will help to keep the flu away this winter.

While you might reach for the paracetamol and cough medicine when you’re struck down by the symptoms of flu, it seems that there is another potential remedy that could be more fun.

New research shows that the best medicine could be either in your wine rack or in your favourite cup of tea.

Ideal Wine Company wine and health
Can wine prevent the flu?

Flavanoids fight infection

The study was overseen by scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine and published in the journal, Science. Results show that a common compound found in foods including black tea, red wine and blueberries appears to help gut bacteria fight off infections and, in turn, helps to prevent severe flu.

The scientists tested their findings on mice and found that the flavonoids found in these common products work with a specific gut micriobiome. It’s called clostridum oribiscidens and creates a metabolite that can boost the response of the immune system.

A quicker return to health

These immune boosting flavonoids can reduce the impact of flu symptoms and reduce the time it takes to get back to full health.

The study’s lead author, Ashley Steed, says: “For years, flavonoids have been thought to have protective properties that help regulate the immune system to fight infections.

“Flavonoids are common in our diets, so an important implication of our study is that it’s possible flavonoids work with gut microbes to protect us from flu and other viral infections. Obviously, we need to learn more, but our results are intriguing.”

No research on humans yet

Tempting as it is to get hold of your favourite bottle of red when you next have symptoms of a cold or flu, it should be noted that tests are yet to be carried out on humans.

Therefore, the true effect that red wine, tea and blueberries have on your gut bacteria or the flu you’re suffering from is far from certain. Either way, they’re unlikely to do you any harm as long as they’re consumed in moderation.

If you’re suffering from winter flu then it could be advisable to stick to the black tea and forgo the wine altogether – at least until more concrete evidence comes in!

Prosecco popularity not slowing down

There’s a special day for everything these days, and everyone’s favourite sparkler Prosecco is no different. This year’s National Prosecco Day fell on 13 August 2017, and was celebrated in style, particularly in New York. Ideal Wine Company discover what’s so tasty about this year’s National Prosecco Day.

Ruffino, the major Italian winemaker, got together with The Doughnut Project to come up with a match made in heaven – Prosecco flavoured doughnuts.

Ideal Wine Company prosecco doughnuts
Prosecco doughnuts are the new craze!

Cocktail infused doughnuts

A series of cocktail themed doughnuts had already been showcased celebrating New York bars by The Doughnut Project, so they were the obvious choice for the Prosecco version.

Co-owner of The Doughnut Project, Leslie Polizzotto, says: “We’ve done many alcohol infused doughnuts in the past. Because of our track record, we were approached by Ruffino to do a Prosecco doughnut in honour of National Prosecco Day on 13 August.”

Limited sale window

The tasty treats were on sale at The Doughnut Project’s shop on West Village Morton Street in New York until 20 August. They predictably went down a storm with New Yorkers.

The Prosecco doughnut is the latest in a long line of products aimed at bringing the fizzy favourite ‘out of the bottle’.

Prosecco popsicles

Earlier in 2017, a UK based company called Pops created Champagne and Prosecco Bellini flavoured popsicles. Also on trend were a variety of sparkling wine infused products including wine lollipops and gummy bears flavoured with rosé.

It’s no surprise that Prosecco has captured the hearts and minds of consumers happy to buy spin off products. A survey taken recently by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) showed that a whopping 97% of those interviewed between the age of 18 and 24 drank Prosecco.

The report also showed that sales of the popular wine leapt by 12% over the last year. Even more impressive, a survey by accountancy group UHY Hacker Young taken in 2016, showed that sales of sparking wine throughout the UK increased by more than 80% from 2011-2016.

Increased consumption is expected to continue with predictions of an increase of around 19% by 2020.

Start-up aims to rebrand Sherry

It’s time for a ‘total reinvention’ of the old classic, according to a new company. The aim of XECO Wines is to resurrect Sherry’s image from its outdated ‘granny’s favourite tipple’ and reposition it as a delicious, refreshing aperitif. Ideal Wine Company reviews Sherry’s rise into the limelight.

XECO Wines was started by three friends, all self-confessed fino Sherry ‘fiends’. Their love of this old favourite prompted them to come up with a workable strategy to “bring Sherry out of grandma’s cupboard and into wine bars and onto cocktail menus across the UK”.

Ideal wine company sherry
Sherry is making a comeback as a delicious aperitif.

First release

XECO Wines will be releasing a dry fino Sherry as its first product. Made with Palomino grapes in Jerez, the Sherry is aged in American oak caskets for at least four years. This takes place at Diez Merito, which was established in 1876.

The resulting wine is pale golden in colour and described as “light and fresh on the palate, with dainty savoury ‘Umami’ aromas and a hint of salinity”.

Developing Sherry cocktails

As well as launching newly branded products, the company is working with various mixologists to come up with a range of both classic and new cocktails using Sherry. The aim is to make Sherry cool again and introduce it to a whole new generation.

The new packaging and brand design is central to this relaunch of a product considered old fashioned by many. They describe their packaging choices as ‘disruptive’ and the range features larger than life historical characters from Spain and England interspersed with eye catching graffiti art. The characters include Cervantes and Catherine of Aragon on the Spanish side, and Henry VIII and Shakespeare for the English.

Creating an impactful brand image is part of the strategy to set XECO Sherry products apart from the traditional branding of the current products. XECO Fino is on sale now from Master of Malt and is priced from £15.99-£16.99. Look out for an Amontillado set available over the coming months as well.

Not the only new Sherry on the market

It seems XECO has its finger on the pulse as there are other industry moves to bring Sherry into the 21st century. These include the launch of a new Sherry-based sparkler by Gonzalez Byass. It’s called Croft Twist and comes pre-mixed. Based on an Andalusian cocktail, its ingredients are Fino Sherry, crushed ice, lemonade and a mint garnish.

Earlier in 2017, Waitrose also revamped their range of Sherry. Their new look bottles went on sale in May after abandoning the colour coordinated look in favour of more individual styles.