We’re all aware of the centenary of the First World War and the commemorations will no doubt go on for many years to come. Undoubtedly the war changed the face of Britain, and indeed the world, irrevocably. We can thank this war for the invention of tanks, the poetry of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, and women’s suffrage. It also saw a change in our drinking habits.
Once the Treaty of Versailles had been signed and the world was left to rebuild, Britain’s drinking habits began to shift. One often thinks of port as a rather old-fashioned drink; in Port and the Douro Richard Mayson draws attention to the time that port became the fashionable tipple of the day:
‘In the aftermath of the First World War, ruby Port was drunk in huge quantities by the British and became strongly associated with the archetypal street-corner pub. It was often the basis for a long drink, ‘Port and lemon’ – a shot of ruby poured over ice, let down with fizzy lemonade and served with a slice of lemon. I have to admit to being a fan of the British soap opera Coronation Street (one of the longest-running TV series in the world) where Port and lemon was a special-occasion drink enjoyed at the Rovers Return by ladies like Hilda Ogden (when she wasn’t in her curlers). The fashion for Port and lemon began to fade in the 1960s and, sadly, the Hildas of this world are now few and far between. More recently, Liz MacDonald has been known to enjoy a Port and lemon now and then but ruby Port has now given way to proprietary brands like Archers and Baileys. Port and lemon was that sort of drink!’
So as we remember the fallen this year why not raise a glass of Port and lemon to their memory – we think you’ll enjoy it.
To mark the Negociants UK winemakers tour, where winemakers from Australia and New Zealand come to the UK to share their passion for wine and perhaps divulge a few of their trade secrets, we’ve been thinking about how place defines the wine that it creates.
The wine trade is truly global and in Secrets of wine, Giles Kime highlights the sheer diversity of winemaking and the variety of different regions where it is produced. Could you tell the origin of your glass from just a sip? Here’s what Giles has to say:
Wine falls into two categories: the stuff that reflects the winemaking tradition of the region where it was produced and the sort that tastes as though it could have been made anywhere in the world where the sun shines enough to ripen grapes. There’s not much wrong with the latter; the huge advances in winemaking technology in the last decade have made it possible to produce good-value wines virtually anywhere. What sets these two kinds of wine apart is something that wine buffs call ‘typicity’ – meaning that they conform to a certain style that is typical of the wine’s birthplace. How important is this quality? If wine is enjoyable to drink, surely to worry about typicity is nothing more than splitting hairs? Possibly. But a world without wines that reflect their origins would be very boring. Which would you rather do? Drive hundreds of miles through the unchanging landscape of the American plains or wind your way through the ever-changing scenery of France, Italy or Spain?
When it comes to wine, variety is undoubtedly the spice of life. While the consistency of ‘global’ wines might offer a convenient option for everyday drinking, the highs and lows are provided by wines that taste of the place they come from. There are parallels between winemaking and cookery. The people of every region of the world have their own tastes in food that are influenced by the available ingredients, the climate and the gastronomic tradition that has evolved over the years. Precisely the same is true of wine.
A sense of place versus a suggestion of terroir
Describing a wine as having a ‘sense of place’ could easily be confused with suggesting that it expresses terroir. Though terroir does contribute to the sense of place, the typicity of a wine has more to do with winemaking tradition – the style of wine created by techniques such as oak ageing and blending. The grim reapers of the wine world might make gloomy predictions that typical wines are being replaced with ones that have no regional characteristics, but the fact is that these two kinds of wine can coexist happily side by side.
Where to find typical wines
Although it is easy to see typicity as a quality that is peculiar to European wine
regions such as France, Italy and Spain, some New World areas are developing their own styles and winemaking traditions. For instance Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand tastes very different from Sauvignon from Western Australia, and Barossa Shiraz has a style different from Shiraz made in South Africa. Here are areas where you are likely to find more typical wines that are true to local tradition than homogenous ‘global wine’.
|Old World||The New World|
The Mosel Valley
The South of France
|The Barossa Valley
The Clare Valley
The Hunter Valley
The Margaret River
The Napa Valley
If this has got you in the mood to find out more about wine, you might be interested to know that Infinite Ideas soon to publish a new addition to the classic wine library, the sixth edition of Sherry by Julian Jeffs. It’s available to preorder now.
It has been a very exciting week in the Infinite Ideas office. We have signed up two new authors and are looking forward to developing our classic wine list with The wines of Austria and Spirits distilled. We have managed to stay (relatively) sober throughout the excitement however and will be updating you on these new titles over the coming months.
All good things come in threes and we have also signed up a new book to our business list, Authentic leadership. Next year is shaping up nicely!
Our author Richard Mayson won the Louis Roederer award for international wine feature writer of 2014 and Richard had a rather splendid evening at the ceremony. You can download the free ebook, Richard Mayson’s guide to vintage Port and read all about this fine wine.
Football business received a fantastic review from Back Page Football, which said ‘it could be Tsjalle van der Burg that fans hold aloft as the saviour of football.’ You can also listen to Tsjalle discuss his book and his thoughts on the future of football here.
If you’re a business leader or would like to be one in the future, you can now get your hands on a copy of 100+ management models by Fons Trompenaars and Piet Hein Coebergh.
Catherine handed in her MA dissertation and will never do homework again (that is unless anyone is willing to sponsor her PhD?). Rebecca was completely indifferent to the result of this week’s bake off and Richard admitted that he has never read The Great Gatsby.
Now that the referendum is over and we’ve all breathed a sigh of relief over the fact that we won’t have to change our passports or bulk-buy haggis before the price rockets, we think that a drink is in order to celebrate the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So break out your whisky and, if you’re English, relish in the fact that import tax was just a bad dream! Glass in hand, why not try this quiz from Infinite Ideas’ newly signed book Spirits Distilled, by Mark Ridgwell, to see how much you know about the national drink of Scotland.
1. In what year did an Excise Act lay the foundations of today’s scotch whisky industry?
2. Scotch blends account for what percentage of all scotch sold in the world today?
A. Over 75%
B. Over 80%
C. Over 85%
D. Over 90%
3. A mash for scotch may be distilled to what maximum level of alcohol?
A. 72% abv
B. 84.5% abv
C. 94.8% abv
D. 96.4% abv
4. Which grain(s) are permitted in the production of scotch malt whisky?
D. All of these grains
5. Single malts, bottled as such, gained global recognition in their own right from which decade?
6. Which of these terms is a correct and legal description of a blend of malt whiskies?
A. A vatted malt
B. A blended malt
C. A pure malt
D. An individual malt
7. Peat found in the Highlands typically contains what type of plant materials?
8. Which region in Scotland boasts the world’s largest concentration of individual distilleries?
9. Which single malt pioneered the current popularity of single malts?
C. Glen Grant
D. Glen Scotia
10. In what year was a law passed requiring all Scotch to be aged for at least 3 years?
Answers will be posted on Monday. Good luck!
If you’re excited about the publication of Spirits Distilled, then why not take a look at the classic wine library too.
This week, Infinite Ideas signed a new book, Spirits explained by Mark Ridgewell. We love spirits, and not just the ghostly variety, so this new signing will make an excellent addition to the our series on wines and spirits. However, in all the excitement, we forgot, for just a moment, the impending Scottish referendum and were reminded about Scotland’s most profitable export, whisky.
Tomorrow the polls will be open and the future of Scotland will be decided, but what does this all mean for the whisky business? With Scotland’s future as a member of the EU still very much in doubt if the vote is a solid ‘YES’ will this mean that we will have to pay import tax on Famous Grouse?
Whisky is as Scottish as haggis, tartan and highland cows, and the country thrives on the tourists who come every year for distillery tours and to sample their favourite spirit in its home. Whisky is to Scotland what Guinness is to Ireland. No longer will supermarket shelves be offering our good friends Bell’s, Glenfiddich and Johnnie Walker.
The drink is embedded in Scottish identity and yet with Alex Salmond unsure about which currency he will be adopting if the country votes yes (the pound, the euro, the oat?) whisky makers are concerned about the effect that the global market will have on their soon-to-be ‘priceless’ products.
Before you rush out to panic-buy your Scottish spirits in bulk, consider that the whisky business will flourish no matter what. An independent Scotland will still be providing us with the perfect nightcap (that is, unless they make an alcoholic irn bru) though it may be slightly more pricey, perhaps we will appreciate it all the more.
Visions of hordes of whisky-lovers queueing up at the Dumfries border smuggling whisky back to England is a far cry from what you can expect. But for all those who have yet to make up their mind before the polls, you may be swayed by a tipple or two. Consider the whisky. Consider the whisky drinkers. Consider yourself…on the fence?
If this final push from both sides has got you all in a flutter, you can download Nicholas Faith’s guide to cognac for free, and have yourself a drink to settle your nerves. Cometh the hour, cometh the vote.