Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Crushed Red Vine Soap

Best of French offers Crushed Red Vine Marseilles Soap, amongst other tempting organic and natural cosmetics. The Red Vine Marseille soap is very fruity and will be a real treat in your bathroom. Straight from the vineyard! As with all the Marseille soaps it will last you twice as long as an ordinary soap as it is left to dry for three weeks before it is released for sale.

Best of French is a treasure trove of goodies sourced from the most remote parts of France with an emphasis on uniqueness, authenticity and environmental awareness. The products are made by artisans, often hand prepared, from recipes and traditions stretching back down the centuries. Well worth a look!

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Horseshoe Wine Racks

Binef Horse Farm offers horseshoe wine racks and single bottle holders from Turkey. So you can store your wine and benefit from good luck all in one! Binef Horse Farm is situated in the town of Duzce with its thermal spas between Istanbul and Ankara near the Black Sea.

Horseshoes are considered a good luck charm in many cultures - a common tradition is that if a horseshoe is hung on a door with the two ends pointing up then good luck will occur. However, if the two ends point downwards then bad luck will occur.

One reputed origin of the tradition of lucky horseshoes is the story of Saint Dunstan and the Devil. Dunstan (who became the Archbishop of Canterbury in AD 959) was a blacksmith by trade. The story relates that he once nailed a horseshoe to the Devil's hoof when he was asked to re shoe the Devil's horse. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after the Devil promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is hung over the door.

Stone Cold

Stone seems to be the in thing at the moment for keeping your drinks cool. Marble wine chillers are popular because of marble's cool surface. The chiller is placed in the refrigerator to keep it cool.

Sippin on the Rocks are offering highly polished cubes made from imported granite directly from quarries in Scotland. The cubes are meant to be placed in a container in the freezer for about one or two hours then placed into a glass and covered with whisky. The cubes are said to enhance the aroma and flavour of the liquor and cool the liquor without diluting it. The cubes come in a gift set, a walnut wood box with two granite cubes and two glasses.

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Kir Royale in the UK

Harpers have reported that Dijon-based liqueur producer Lejay Lagoute, are releasing the first branded Kir Royale in the UK. The Kir Royal contains no colouring agents or added water and is available in 750ml bottles, with an expected retail price of £8.99.

It is expected to bridge the sparkling wine and cocktail sectors and the company will be looking to educate consumers on the heritage of the product and suggested drinking occasions, as a celebratory drink, as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to desserts.

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Beer Sommeliers?

A restaurant in Yorkshire has started the search for its first beer sommelier to help diners match beer with food.

Sam's Chop House in Leeds has 21 bottled Yorkshire beers and six cask ales on offer alongside traditional dishes such as Sam's brown onion soup or home made corned beef hash.

Co-owner Steve Pilling said:

"Food and beer matching is a relatively new concept, but I think if you offer it as an alternative it will work. What we'll do eventually is have a tasting menu so it would say, have our fish and chips with Sam's Bitter, for example."

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The World's Most Expensive Beer

Carlsberg have announced the release of a new beer which costs over £200 a bottle. Carlsberg Vintage No 1 will be sold in just three Copenhagen restaurants. The 10.5 percent proof beer is a very limited edition of just 600 bottles. It has been stored in French and Swedish wooden casks and has a deep brown colour.

The tasting notes reveal prune, caramel and vanilla flavours making it a natural pairing for cheeses and desserts. So far there are no plans to export Vintage No. 1.

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2,300 Year Old Wine Cargo Ship Found

Marine archaeologists will begin work in June to uncover the sand-buried hull of a 2,300 year old cargo ship thought to have been ferrying wine from the Aegean island of Chios before it sank off Cyprus' southern coast.

The vessel, dating from the 4th century BC is one of only a few such ships to have been found so well-preserved, said University of Cyprus visiting marine archaeologist Stella Demesticha.

The wreck rests on the seabed at a depth of 144 feet some 1 1/2 miles off the island's southern coast.

Demesticha said the wreck was also unique because it lies at a depth that divers can easily reach, unlike similar discoveries found in deeper waters.

Underwater photographs that researchers took of the vessel on initial surveying dives in November show a jumble of dozens of amphorae — clay urns used in antiquity to carry liquids and solid foodstuffs — lying on the seabed in the shape of the ship.

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Blanche d'Armagnac

A new appellation called Blanche d'Armagnac has been created to incorporate White Armagnac – an unaged eau de vie which producers hope will modernise Armagnac's image and compete with the likes of vodka.

Apparently vintage Armagnac is in short supply due in part to increasing demand from new markets such as Russia. Sébastien Lacroix, director of the Bureau National Inter-professionnel de l'Armagnac, said:

"Blanche will bring real originality and freshness in the setting of a huge explosion of white spirits. We are the first white eau de vie to gain an appellation. But above all, while our colleagues are aiming for the most neutral character possible through increasing the number of distillations, we are doing the opposite in trying to give Blanche real character."

White Armagnac is not a new concept – it's been traditionally drunk in Armagnac in the middle of a Gascon meal as a palate cleanser and is known as “Trou Gascon”. However the first available White Armagnac in the UK is called Gascon Kiss and looks as if it is being marketed at female drinkers.

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Marks & Spencer Launch Pink Port for Women

The Telegraph has reported that Marks & Spencer are launching a vibrant pink coloured port described as a world first specially created to appeal to women. The soaring demand for rosé wine inspired the port and it is created by taking only a small amount of colour from the skins of grapes which grow in Portugal's Douro Valley.

Sue Daniels, the chain's port specialist, said: "Some people wrongly think port is the preserve of men but we have created a drink which will appeal to women because it is light and flavoursome."

However, Guy Woodward, the editor of the wine magazine Decanter, was unimpressed, describing the flavour as more like vodka and cranberry juice than a typical port. Decanter was also concerned as the pink port is “worrying close to the alco pop market”.

Hasn't M&S heard of white port? – it's delicious when drunk chilled with a side dish of olives!

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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Google Founder Buys Vineyard

One of the co-founders of Internet search engine Google plans to buy into a boutique Wairarapa vineyard.

Mebus Estate owner Michael Mebus confirmed one of the two Google creators (Larry Page and Sergey Brin). More than 60% of New Zealand wine is aimed at foreign markets.

Moving away from Wairarapa's main wine area around Martinborough, Mebus was one of the first to plant the terraces above the Ruamahunga River southwest of Masterton in 1995.

The property comprises 25ha of planted vines, two homesteads and a modern winery, which produces chardonnay, pinot gris and noir, sauvignon blanc and merlot varieties.

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McGuigan to Plant Vineyard In London

Australian wine producer McGuigan Simeon is to plant a vineyard in the heart of London’s financial district early in 2008. The attraction will form the centrepiece of a marketing push for a new range of McGuigan wines in the UK this year, and follows the success of a similar project in Sydney last November.

Visitors and stressed City workers will be encouraged to walk amongst the vines, which will be surrounded by a carpet of turf and wine barrels.

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Champagne Bars

Close on the heels of Saint Pancras Station's Champagne Bar – the longest in Europe at over 90 metres the Liberty Hotel in Boston is soon to become the home of the first Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar in the USA.

The Liberty Hotel was formerly the Charles Street Jail and was renovated to its current luxurious state in 2007. The bar is named La Grande Dame and flute glasses and bottles of La Grande Dame as well as other bubbly selections from the French Champagne house will be available. This is just the third Veuve Clicquot bar in the world; two others recently opening in Hamburg, Germany and Macao, China.

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Champagne Flavoured Marmite

Marmite are making a Champagne flavoured version specially for Valentine's Day with a heart shaped label and "I LOVE YOU" in big bold letters printed on it.

The company – whose slogan is Love It or Hate It? – is making 600,000 of the 250g pots, which are 0.3 per cent bubbly and w ill go on sale in supermarkets on January 21 at £2.99 each, instead of the usual price of around £2.15.

Before then they will be sold at posh department store Selfridges for £3.99 – along with 50 pots that have engraved silver lids at £145 each.

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Château Mouton-Rothschild's New 2005 Label

Since 1945, the labels of Château Mouton-Rothschild have been illustrated by the work of a contemporary artist. Last year, the honour was bestowed upon Prince Charles to celebrate 100 years of the Entente Cordial between Britain and France.

Prince Charles' watercolour, of pine trees at Cap d'Antibes on the Cote d'Azur, was not painted specially for the château, but was selected personally by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild. The château began this tradition with the iconic 1945 'V' for Victory bottle designed by Philippe Jullian. Since then each different artist commissioned for each year is paid in wine: 5 cases of the currant drinkable vintage followed by 5 cases from the artist's year of birth.

The names which have adorned the Mouton label read like a Who's Who of eminent 20th century artists: Chagall, Dali, Picasso, Warhol, Bacon to name but a few. The only vintage without a label is for the 2000 vintage, where the bottle was engraved in gold depicting the famous Mouton rams, whilst 1978 has two different label designs.

This year for the 2005 vintage Baroness Philippine de Rothschild has decided to entrust the label art to Italian sculptor Guiseppe Penone.

According to the artist, his Mouton 2005 label is designed to represent the growth of the vine leaf and, at the same time, the splayed hand of the drinker, soon to grab a glass of Mouton.

To see illustrated examples of the entire collection see article Sotheby's Labels Mouton Mania in Avenue Vine.

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E & J Gallo Sponsor Gordon Ramsay's F Word

The F Word is back on our screens for 10 weeks in April and E & J Gallo will sponsor the new series on Channel 4 as the centrepiece of their UK marketing campaign for 2008.

A source close to the deal told Wine & Spirit the firm was initially unsure about linking up with Ramsay, expressing concern about the celebrity chef's notorious swearing on-screen.

Ads focusing on the Gallo Family Vineyard portfolio will appear at the beginning and end of the show and of each break. The brand will also sponsor the F Word clips and recipes on with advice on food and wine matching.

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New TV Wine Documentary

Wine & Spirit have reported that Burgundy specialist Jasper Morris MW and Bordeaux specialist Simon Staples, who both work for Berry Bros & Rudd, are filming a three-part series for the BBC. The programme will follow a year in the life of a wine merchant, focusing primarily on Burgundy and Bordeaux. Filming for the series began in October last year.

Berry Bros & Rudd is one of three companies participating in the documentary. The remaining two participants are yet to be confirmed although one of them is likely to be a high-profile Bordeaux château.

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Bottle Shock Film Opens to Mixed Reviews

Bottle Shock, the movie about the Judgement of Paris Tasting in 1976, has drawn mixed reviews after its premier at the Sundance Film Festival. It was one of the hottest tickets going and has been billed as the next Sideways. The film has been surrounded in controversy as it pipped its rival to the post. Bottle Shock's producers were threatened with court action by the rival film makers and their script has only just been completed as it was held up by the Hollywood screen writers strike.

Bottle Shock stars Alan Rickman (Harry Potter), Bill Pullman (Independence Day), Rachael Taylor (Transformers), Elisha Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Freddy Rodriguez (Ugly Betty) Chris Pine (Smokin' Aces), Dennis Farina (Snatch), Miguel Sandoval (ER) and Bradley Whitford (West Wing). So far the main complaint has been that the film doesn't centre enough on the wine and the tasting but focuses more on a love affair and family feuds.

To watch the trailer click here.

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Monday, 21 January 2008

Red Wine Warmer

I thought this was quite a good idea - how often do we forget to buy wine on time, plus, with bottles often stored in the garage, they are ultimately cold. With the Therm au Rouge red wine sleeve and its magic formula it will warm your red wine to the perfect drinking temperature in minutes. This amazing sleeve can be reused time and time again by simply boiling it in a saucepan of water for five minutes.

How does it work? Simply uncork your bottle of red wine first, and slide the Therm au rouge wine warmer over the bottle and bend the silver 'clicker' to activate the warming process. This will turn the gel white as it warms the red wine. Wait approximately 5 minutes (light bodied reds) or 12 minutes (full bodied reds) and your wine is ready to serve.

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Champagne Sabrage

An unusual gift for the wine lover in your life is a sabre – once used to open Champagne bottles – known as Sabrage. You can find this at – which is full of great wine accessories and gifts. The sabre is slid along the body of the bottle toward the neck and the force of the blade hitting the lip separates the collar from the neck of the bottle. The cork and collar remain together after separating from the neck.

This technique became popular in France when the army of Napoleon visited many of the aristocrats domains. It was just after the French revolution and the sabre was the weapon of choice of Napoleon's fearsome cavalry (the Hussars). Napoleon's spectacular victories across all Europe gave them plenty of reason to celebrate. During these parties the cavalry would open the Champagne with their sabres. Napoleon probably encouraged this and is known to have said: "Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it."

There are many stories about this tradition. One of the more spirited tales is that of Madame Clicquot who had inherited her husband’s small Champagne house at the age of 27. She used to entertain Napoleon's officers in her vineyard and as they rode off in the early morning with their complementary bottle of Champagne, they would open it with their sabres to impress the rich young widow.

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Posh Playstations and Wine Mobile Phones

Champagne has always been a symbol of luxury – and Bordeaux wines represent sophistication.

Well – it stands to reason they are not going to name a “must have” fashion dictated product after an alco-pop are they?Sony has succumbed to the bling factor and has issued a limited edition PSP in a new Champagne Gold colour. The newly revealed PSP is set to become highly collectable.

The latest in LG's increasingly curiously named range of handsets is the 'Wine Phone' (I'm guessing because of the colour – it also comes in red – not because you can trample it with your feet and get sloshed on the juices).

The Wine Phone made its debut last week in Korea for just 300,000 KRW (£162) with an inevitable global launch to follow.

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Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Crémant d'Alsace – The New Cava Craze

Crémant d'Alsace is fast becoming the popular alternative to Cava and Champagne – the French have been aware of this for years and the fact is now spreading to the rest of Europe. From less than 1 million bottles in 1979, the annual production of Crémant d'Alsace has grown spectacularly since 1980, to meet increasing demand not only in France but also on export markets. Rose Murray Brown has recommended Crémant d'Alsace Joseph Pfister £8.49 in her article “Sparkling Company” in the Scotsman as one of the best sparkling wines for under £10.00:

“Lime blossom aromas, very creamy deep fruits, good finish for the price.”

The article also said that France proved the dominant force within the category of sparkling wines with the New World lagging behind. It's a cracking wine and if you'd like to learn more on Crémant d'Alsace Joseph Pfister check out Nicks Blogs:

Discovering Crémant d'Alsace – Seriously Good, Seriously Inexpensive and Seriously Pinot
Crémant d'Alsace
Champagne Prices to Rise – Are There Cheaper Alternatives?
Crémant d'Alsace – The Pocket Pleasing Alternative to Champagne

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Ice Wine Sparks off Ice Cider

Ice Wine has inspired the creation of Ice Cider in Canada. In Quebec, several producers are making ice cider by fermenting the juice of apples that have been left to freeze on the trees in winter.

The largest, Domaine Pinnacle on the southern slopes of Pinnacle Mountain in the Eastern Townships, was established by Charles Crawford and his wife Susan in 2000. Their ice ciders have had phenomenal growth with half a million bottles produced in 2007.

Their signature beverages include ice cider, a reserve ice cider (a blend of rare varieties), sparkling ice cider and Creme de Pommes, an ice cider cream liqueur.

As in the Wine Routes of the Old World there is even a Cider Route established so that tourists can visit the cider making facilities as well as the orchards.

Kristen and Bruce Jordan make a variety of different fermented ciders at Sea Cider, their farm and ciderhouse in Saanichton, British Columbia, a rural area outside the province's capital city. According to Kristen cider apples are inedible (you'll know that if you have ever tried one – they are mouth puckeringly bitter) because they are too astringent and have a lot of tannin.

Kristen thinks of cider apples in two categories, Old World apples and New World.

"You can make good cider from both kinds, but they each have different styles. If you are talking old world, that would be Hertfordshire, Normandy or Somerset style, and typically the biggest distinguishing feature is their level of tannin."

She adds that in this category of apple it is called bitter sweets and bitter sharps.

"The bitter refers to the level of astringency or tannin which makes the apples inedible," Jordan explains. "That masks the sugar and acidity and the cider then gains interesting structure because the tannin adds to the mouth feel much like a red wine."

On the other hand, the new world apples would produce a very different kind of cider, she says. "The primary characteristic is the acidity. And they have a slightly higher level of alcohol." Very similar to the New World wines then! It's interesting to see this characteristic displayed by a fruit other than the grape.

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The Grapple

Not an inspiring name I know, but the Grapple is a new fruit which is an apple infused with grape. It's not a GM fruit – thank heavens – nor is it the offspring of crossing both plants – which, incidentally, produced the grapefruit by the crossing of a pomelo fruit from the East Indies with a Jamaican orange in 1693, the nectarine which is the result of natural crossing of the peach and the plum and the loganberry which was the result of interbreeding blackberries with a raspberry by Judge J H Logan in California in the 1880s.

The Grapple was patented in Washington state, nick-named apple country in the US, by a family of growers who have experimented with apple breeds for the past 98 years. Using a secret process, mature examples of the Washington State Extra Fancy Fuji apple are immersed for several days in a marinade which transforms their flavour to that of a Concord grape.

Apparently the soaking in grape juice permeates the fruit's skin but leaves the crisp texture intact. Some reports have said that the taste is overly sweet.

Other fruits hybridised in the USA are the peacharine (a cross between the nectarine and a plum),

the pluot (a cross between a plum and an apricot),

a plumcot (a similar cross but with less of the plum in its parentage)

and the aprium (more apricot than plum and bigger and yellower than the plumcot).

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Aspall's Make Cider Aimed at Women

Aspall, makers of super premium Aspall Suffolk Cider, has launched a new pink cider to try and capitalise on the increasing popularity of rosé wine and encourage more women into the cider category. It targets 18-45 year old women.

Perronelle’s Blush is a blended cider made from fresh pressed English apple juice, which is then re-blended with Crème de Mur blackberry liqueur to obtain a blackberry and apple pie flavour, according to the company.

Aspall director, Barry Chevallier Guild, says: “The cider market is booming and more and more consumers who wouldn’t have chosen cider before are now giving it a try.

‘Most of the ciders on the market now are premium mainstream products which tend to be served over ice and appeal largely to male consumers. Our research has identified a specific gap in the market for a sophisticated premium cider to introduce women to the category and target the top end of the market place.”

It is available in a 500ml bottle, and has an abv of 5.4%. The large bottle size suggests the company wants consumers to drink the cider as they would a bottle of wine.

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Beer Beats Lager

The Observer has reported that sales of beer are increasing for the first time in living memory while those of lager are decreasing - at least in Britain's supermarkets according to a new report. The trend, which shows ale sales up 6.6% and lager down 0.2%, surprised many in the brewing industry. Tesco has now increased its selection of beers from 50 to 200. Owen Morris, of Camra, said that although overall sales of beer were in decline, those of independent brewers were up 7.5%. People, he added, were discovering that real ale was an "artisan product" and cared more about taste than price.

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Bilk – Beer With Milk

A Japanese Brewery has created “Bilk” - a combination of beer and milk, after the drink was suggested as a product that would help use up surplus milk. It reportedly has a fruity flavour that its brewers hope will be popular among women.

The idea for the drink was conceived after dairy firms threw out a huge amount of surplus milk and the son of the manager of a liquor store in Nakashibetsu, whose main industry is dairy farming, suggested the idea of producing the milk beer to local brewery Abashiri Beer.

Since one-third of the drink is milk, the drink has been viewed as a good way to use up milk in the town. As milk has a low boiling point, the brewery made sure to control the temperature during the process so the milk wouldn't boil over. After they added beer yeast and hops and began the fermentation process, the beverage looked and smelled like tea with milk. However, when fermentation was finished and the drink cooled, it had the same colour as beer.

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The Smoking Ban v Beers and Ales Made With Nicotine

I can't believe I am writing this but it's true - NicoShot Beer, from Germany, is the world’s first nicotine-infused beer, designed to help smokers control cravings.

According to the press release, NicoShot is not necessarily a cure for smoking, but it can help smokers make lifestyle changes "without having to walk out of the bar for a quick smoke to deal with sudden withdrawal symptoms."

NicoShot contains a shot of natural nicotine, equivalent to a few regular filtered cigarettes. One 250 ml can of NicoShot contains 6.3% alcohol by volume. The press release notes that three cans of the brew are comparable to an entire pack of cigarettes:

"Similar to nicotine gum, NicoShot is considered nicotine replacement therapy that provides a steady, controlled release of nicotine . . . It can be used to relieve withdrawal symptoms at the beginning of quitting, to relieve urges from cigarette smoke (cravings) while quitting, or to avoid relapse months after quitting when a new stress or situation may trigger a strong urge to smoke."

NicoShot is made by fire brewing the beer separately and then adding a standardized herbal extract of natural tobacco leaf (Nicotiana tabacum L.).

And Germany is not the only one at it – there are reports that The Old Bear Brewery in Keighley, Yorkshire, has reacted to the smoking ban in pubs here in the UK by making a Tobacco Beer with nicotine. This means that the customer can enjoy his beer and get the nicotine at the same time, without leaving the pub. However on checking their site I can't find any reference to this – does anyone know more?

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Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Bordeaux Pink Panther Rosé

Chateau de L’Orangerie is introducing the Bordeaux Pink Panther Rosé 2006, created in conjunction with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). They say that this 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet blend marries Hollywood entertainment with a prestigious AOC label. It’s available in some european countries already.

Trade magazine The Grocer has pointed out that the new Pink Panther line could fall foul of British marketing standards which advise against using images that could appeal to under-18s. Disney recently chickened out of marketing Ratatouille Wine for the same reason - and also - supposedly because Californian wine producers thought that Disney should promote wine from the USA and not France.

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Femme de Champagne

Champagne Duval-Leroy has released Femme de Champagne 1996 (Champagne Woman).

Duval-Leroy remains, at the beginning of the 21st Century, a family-owned firm; for that we should be grateful, as Champagne has already had more than its fair share of big business buyouts. It was established in 1859 but in 1991 Carole Duval-Leroy took on the mantle of running the family firm, following the death of her husband. Carole's dynamic influence on the company, together with the applied skills of winemaker Hervé Jestin, has been a great benefit.

With a woman at the helm quality at Duval-Leroy has soared. Innovation and improvement have been the driving force behind Duval-Leroy’s rebirth – not to mention modernism!

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Witches Brew

The magical effects of absinthe come from the wormwood used to make the drink (the thuione it contains is reportedly psychoactive) and now a new Vodka has been released which is cashing in on this effect.

Apparently Babicka Vodka’s 500 year old recipe was that of a Czech Witch and was used as a medicine in ancient times. "Babicka" is the Czech term for an extraordinary band of 16th Century peasant grandmothers with a mysterious reputation for witchcraft.

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The Pros and Cons of Drinking Wine When Pregnant

The Greeks were the first to write about food that satisfied nutritional needs. During the middle of the 7th century, Paul of Aegina wrote several medical books that mentioned foods that had definite nutritional purpose. One of his recommendations was that pregnant women should drink red wine. Today's modern medicine does not agree with him – or does it?

Daniel Rogov’s article Wine and Pregnancy – Lies That Women Are Told is the most comprehensive and intelligent I have found.

According to Rogov a great deal of recent research and a re-examination of the alcohol-pregnancy issue show that there is no conclusive evidence to demonstrate that moderate drinking during pregnancy can harm the foetus:

Lipp and Whitten, whose "To Your Health" was published in 1995, are among an increasing number of doctors and researchers who feel that pregnant women have no reason to fear drinking a glass of wine every day. Indeed there is even new research that shows that moderate drinking during pregnancy may actually help the development of the child after birth.

Some studies go as far as to indicate that light to moderate drinking may actually improve the chance of successful pregnancies. A study by Ruth Little and Clarence Weinberg concluded, for example, that there were fewer stillbirths and fewer losses of foetus due to early labour among women who consumed a moderate level of alcohol.

Israeli gynaecologist-researcher Howard Carp feels that “an occasional glass of wine or any other drink is fine, no problem at all, and those women who drink a glass of wine once or twice a week with their meals should not feel any guilt or fear at all." Like Dr. Carp, Dr. Direnfeld acknowledges the harm of drinking in excess but feels that "a reasonable amount of alcohol, say a glass of wine per day, will not harm the baby."

At the end of the day it’s down to personal choice – and as Jancis Robinson has pointed out: women are capable of choosing for themselves.

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Wine Women Want

The gender-centric seal Certified Wine Women Want might appear in stores, showcasing the winners of the first National Women's Wine Competition in Santa Rosa. Women for WineSense, established in 1990 to promote moderate wine consumption, organised the national competition last year, where 30 female judges sampled 1,500 wines from over 30 states.

"Women no longer have to be guided by rating systems that are almost universally male-determined," said Lea Pierce, a WWS national board member. "This is an important thing, and it's not about political feminism. There is a body of research that may or may not indicate that women's palates are physiologically different than men's... it is undeniable that most women use wine very differently than men."

English writer and Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, one of the world's best-known wine journalists, recently pointed out that according to anecdotal evidence women have more sensitive palates than men, a more open approach to wine and are more receptive to less established varietals.

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I Name This Ship . . .

Wineries are cottoning on to the marketing gimmick of naming their wines in quirky ways to grab our attention and the new owners of the Summerland Winery called Scherzinger actually solicited blog readers for suggestions as to a name for their new venture . . . it’s now called Dirty Laundry and it’s a runaway success.

The origination of the name came from the fact that Summerland had a Chinese laundry with a brothel upstairs in the old days!

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Designer Labels

We are all seduced by labels one way or another – including those on bottles of wine.
Tongue-in-cheek names such as “Old Tart”, “Le Freak”, “Fat Bastard Chardonnay” and “Chat en Oeuf” are designed to shock and tickle our funny bones. They present a “new look, new style” in direct contrast to the classical, antique looking, Chateau engraved facades of the traditional bottle.

Anthony Rose writing for the Independent points out that animal labels are “in” too, not only in the name e.g.: “Arrogant Frog” and “Goats do Roam” (a jab at Cotes de Rhone) but also in the artwork:

“At a Morrison’s tasting, I came across four French bottles with, respectively, a Cat, a Hedgehog, a Sandpiper and a Butterfly on the label.”

Apparently wines with names like "Monkey Bay" and "Smoking Loon" outselling new non-animal brand names by almost 3 to 1.

If you are interested wine labels then Peter May's site is the answer to your prayers. Peter has also written a well illustrated and fascinating book on the subject - Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape - which is not only asborbing but shows the art and the inspiration behind the labels. It's available from

Don’t Judge A Book By its Cover

It is not as if these animals have anything to do with the wine production but they are being used in a process of association. An attractive label draws us to the bottle and says something to our subconscious about the swirling contents within it.

It made me laugh as in the ancient Cider and Perry producing countryside around my home an Octogenarian Cow Man told me that should the odd fly or drunken wasp fall into the Cider barrel, let alone an inquisitive rat, they were left to dissolve – “adding to the flavour”. Imagine trying to portray that on the label!!!

Cider, back then was sold in barrels or those dull grey stone bottles you often see adorning the beams of drinking houses. No labelling there. It was the contents that attracted the Punter. They knew where the Cider came from, they saw it every day. Nowadays in this ever shrinking world labelling has to reflect the character of the contents to pull us in to buy. Few of us have travelled to the New World or had time to wander in the dusty, sun drenched vineyards of France to see where the contents of our latest purchase came from. The label has to tell us.

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Wine for the Jacuzzi - Or From It?

I didn’t know that the family famous for the Jacuzzi spa also made wine! Apparently they do. They have just opened a lavish new winery in the Sonoma Valley in partnership with the Olive Press. Fred Cline is the maternal grandson of Valeriano Jacuzzi, one of the five brothers who took part in the creation of the Jacuzzi Spa. Fred and Nancy Cline also own Cline Cellars.

The new winery takes its inspiration from the Jacuzzi family home in Italy and has stone buildings assembled around a central courtyard. One wing is devoted to the Olive Press which makes high-end olive oil.

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Chateau d'Yquem and Dior

One item that might tempt me to add to my fantasy shopping list is L'Or de Vie. I say fantasy as it's priced at $320 (splutter!). Château d’Yquem and Christian Dior have teamed up to create L'Or de Vie (Gold of Life). It's a skincare product based on the legendary vines of Château d’Yquem which are reputed to have extraordinary vigour and regenerative power, along with roots that dig deeper than any others. The wines undeniably have the ability to age for decades while retaining their vitality—the winery dates back to 1593, and top shops stock bottles a century old and more.

Scientists at Dior claim to have discovered a special substance in the Sauvignon Blanc vines on the estate; they harvest select vines by hand and age them for six months before extracting 10 molecules, which they transform in the lab into a potent antioxidant formula including Myobenol C and Resveratrol Trimer. The final polyphenol-rich products—La Crème and L’Extrait—are packaged in gold-tone containers housed in clear glass.

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Rosé d'Anjou Aims for a Come Back

Chatshow host Vanessa Feltz is now Queen of Pink. Vanessa was voted Queen of the Year at an event organised by Loire Valley Wines in 2007 which was part of a wider initiative by Anjou to shake off its passé image (well if Mateus can do it – why not?).

The Queen’s Garden Party was held in aid of London’s gay community and Helen Lederer of Absolutely Fabulous fame led an informal wine tasting.

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