Today’s talk by Barry Starmore, was an introduction to wine and spirits.
Barry has been in the wine business over 25 years, during which time he has been a Sommelier at the Savoy Group, and worked for ‘Odd Bins’ and the ‘Wig and Pen’ (both no longer in existence). He is now a Director of ‘StarmoreBoss’ in Sharrowvale Rd. where they offer tastings of wine and whisky, and talks on how they are made.
Distillers and wine makers must have experience, and a passion for what they do, as the parameters are everchanging – climate, location, farmer, viticulturalist etc
A generation ago, wines were mainly from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Portugal, Italy, Spain, but now they are from all over the world, but, nevertheless, wines from traditional sources are still very important.
The UK is the biggest importer of wines which come from Japan, Georgia, Holland, South Africa, South America etc……… Australian wines first came to the UK in 1986. However, research is ongoing worldwide to locate new terrains, grape types and how to farm them.
In the UK there are 503 vineyards and 133 wineries. The most northerly vineyard in the UK is at Junction 46 on the M1 at Leventhorpe (near Leeds) and the nearest one is at Renishaw Hall.
Sales of wine in the UK topped £10bn last year and sales of Spirits were similar. The duty on a bottle of wine is £2.80 plus 20p for the label and bottle, whereas whisky has a duty of £7.50/bottle.
Big retailers import wine by the tanker load and bottle in the UK, which is all strictly controlled, so it is still good, even when ‘’bottled’’ in magnums or boxes.
The Grapes –There are 5 noble main grapes but 10000 varieties of grapes in total. Italy uses 2000. The rest of the world diversifies on varieties to suit their situation.
- Cabernet Sauvignon with a blackcurrant flavour is the most popular as it is slowest to ripen but good in different soils. Malbec grapes have medicinal properties!
- The soil is treated with manure and the vines allowed to trail, rather than being trained, with, sometimes, roses added to the lines of vines, for helping the process. Less chemicals are now used as there are new methods of getting rid of bugs.
- In the Northern hemisphere the grapes are harvested from late August to October, in the evening, which stops oxidation of the grapes. If the fruit is ripe and the sugars high, then they may be picked earlier. They are then put in a cool tank or vacuum for 10 to 12 days to stabilise them.
- The process then includes adding yeast and sugar to the unfermented grape juice (the must) plus a bit of sulphur (minimal natural sulphur if possible, to reduce the effects on headaches and pancreatic problems that some drinkers suffer from).
- Oak barrels are important for fermenting or storing, as they take out the tannins and allow long time development. For Beaujolais Nouveau the grapes are not pressed hard, they are stored and processed in neutral stainless steel, clay or concrete tanks and bottled quickly so that they have less tannins and more flavour.
Cork tree bark is harvested only every 7 to 10 years to allow the tree to recover. The cork must be washed in clean spring water, so as not to leave a taste and to allow it to last longer before drying out. Wine matures better with a cork than with a screw top. Plastic stoppers are OK but shrink after about 5 years. Glass stoppers are used by the Australians.
Wine should be drunk within 3 or 4 days of opening. Some wine brought back from Europe which was good drunk in Europe when fresh, is only designed to last 2 weeks, so it is never as good at home.
Keep wine at 8 to 10 degrees a long time before opening. There is no need to turn the bottles during storage. Stand the bottle up 2 days before opening and decant and filter reds before drinking.
Ice wines are made from grapes left on the vine and picked after they have been frozen. They have less juice as they are shrivelled, and produce a sweet wine.
There were comments from the members about the descriptions of wine, written on the bottles. The palette is most sensitive in the morning, so see if you can taste the wet grass and gooseberries then!
This was a very interesting and informative insight into the appreciation and making of wine, but there is obviously a lot more to learn.