I LIKE to think that I am a person who plans well ahead, and I had planned that this month’s article was going to be about a visit that I had made to the vineyards of Alsace just after Easter, but forward planning has been made a thing of the past.
Under lockdown, my wine activities have been more passive than active, but news has come to me. I received an email from Allan Scott, the vineyard owner in Marlborough and Central Otago in New Zealand. For the first time ever in the 30 years that he had been making his own wine, he had not been able to supervise the vintage, and it had to be left to his son Josh. Nevertheless, they had a successful vintage.
From Champagne, the expectation is that of a big vintage. The problem is that, with a collapse in sales because of the pandemic, cellars are full of wine, and, in a bid to prevent a collapse in prices, there will be tight restrictions on the amount of wine that may be produced. In Burgundy, the flowering of the vine has taken place a full month before normal. This is normally a good sign.
In Bordeaux, the excellence of the 2019 vintage is being talked up, but, with the current uncertainties in the market, the wines will be difficult to sell, and there should be a significant reduction in the opening prices. If, as the Governor of the Bank of England forecasts, the economy will recover as quickly as it has collapsed, this would suggest that if anyone has any spare money, 2019 clarets should prove to be a sound investment.
As I have been restricted to home for the past weeks, here are some wines of interest from my own wine-rack. At Christmas, I bought from Lidl a 50cl. bottle of Moscato Passito di Pantelleria, Duca di Castelmonte, one of the great sweet wines of the world. Produced on the island of Pantelleria, which is closer to the coast of Tunisia than that of Sicily, to which it is administratively attached, it has an actual strength of 14.5 per cent, but has an enormous amount of residual sugar, so that, if it were fermented out fully, it might have a strength of 23 per cent plus.
One of my favourite red wines is Cent Visages 2016, from the Jean-François Mériau domain in Touraine. The grape for this is the Côt, which is probably better known to us as the Malbec, and this can rival the best from Argentina. I first came across this wine in a restaurant in France, and I am not sure whether it is available in this country, but, if in the future you are driving along the Cher valley, they have a sales outlet on the main road in the town of Montrichard.
Finally, another interesting wine from Uruguay: Juan Carrau’s Petit Manseng 2018 (Fine Wines Direct UK, Cardiff). This is a grape that originates in the French Pyrenees, and gives a spicy aromatic wine that is an admirable accompaniment to much Asian food.
Whatever your wine choice is in lockdown, as they say, “Enjoy.”