Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Red wine and high heel shoes on trayConsumed by the knowledge that spring is now round the corner I’ve been doing everything I can to prepare for the new season. As has become tradition I spent 48 hours on a credit card melting sejour in Paris to treat my wardrobe, followed this year by a couple of days at the Salon des vins de Loire to pick up tips on what I should be stocking on my wine rack this season. Let’s face it, if you’re going to spring clean then do it properly or not at all. That means wardrobe and wine rack.

On the TGV to Angers sitting in my new Marc Jacobs skirt I was already high on the excitement I’d absorbed in one of the fashion capitals of the world. Glancing at the cover of the French glossy I’d picked up I read “Chic et Sexy – Le style qui nous va bien” and I couldn’t help but hope it was a sign of the wines to come. Ok, so a French regional wine trade fair isn’t designed to get the blood racing in the same way as a new season catwalk show but it should certainly be the perfect opportunity for the wineries to show off in a big way, the spot light is on them for three days only, it’s time to reveal the seasons new releases. Or so you’d think.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pure bred Francophile, so if you ask me the French have things right in so many ways. An enviable reputation of being effortlessly chic, effortlessly slim, cool, beautiful, of making wine that people the world over aspire to make and long to drink and yet something has gone terribly wrong. Recently French wine has seen a dramatic fall in export sales, in the UK certainly the fall has pushed French wine to the number 3 slot now trailing behind the USA and Australia and on a bad day its even been seen to fall to 4th position. Economists will tell you it’s to do with the weakening £ but if you ask me it has something and everything to do with the lack of creativity of an ancient trade that just doesn’t seem to be able to wake up.

Walking around the Salon des vins de Loire looking for the inspiration I craved it struck me that this was yet another wine show created under the guise of drumming up interest in the regions wines while actually serving as a convenient get together for wineries that haven’t seen each other for a while. I visited several stands that weren’t particularly interested in taking me through their range and I saw enough white labels with Times New Roman script and a gold boarder to make my eyes turn square. I had to take a different tact, I decided to only taste wines that visually caught my eye. I had a mixed result including one winery who refused to let me taste their range because I only wanted to taste the wine with a good looking label. Arguably a superficial strategy to adopt, but how do wineries expect the end consumer to choose from the wall of wines if they’re not already in the wine-know? Wine bottles are judged by their cover. Fact.

I became increasingly sombre as I walked around the temporary streets of the Salon des vins de Loire and I felt the inspiration I’d gathered from the Parisian high street drain out of me. Unquestionably surrounded by excellent wines but with so many unable to grab my attention I couldn’t help but lose hope for my favoured spring time wines. Already suffering from a dated image and a feeling of wines from-way-back-when I had had high hopes for Sauvignon de Touraine and Muscadet Sèvre et Maine and dreamt that in the coming months they would be talked about with the likes of come-back kid superstars like Whispa chocolate bars and Heinz Salad Cream. Sadly though from what I could see there is still a lot of work to be done before they make a successful retro reappearance and once again become this seasons wines to be seen on your wine rack.

Luckily all may not be lost just yet as I’m encouraged to learn that the Loire has recognised they need to do something if they’re to save their sales instead of an all too familiar gallic shrug. As a region they’ve started a three year long Sauvignon Blanc de Loire Project which is a wine-making guideline designed for Loire Valley producers to adapt their wines to the export market and I’ve been invited to taste their selected Ambassador wines on Friday this week. This doesn’t leave much hope for my beloved Muscadet Sèvre et Maine just yet, and Sauvignon de Touraine won’t reap the benefits of the project for a couple of spring times to come but I’m hopeful that if the ambassadors dedicate as much time to the packaging as they already have to what its producing then there is no doubt in my mind that these wines will once again be en vogue and with a bit of luck it will be sooner than we think.

Thursday 18th February 2010

This blog was posted on Harpers Wine & Spirits Trade review on the 19th February 2010, visit

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13 Responses to “Design-a-wine….”

  1. Juliet King-Fish says:

    Hi Miss Bouquet
    this is the first time i have found your blog and i lurve it! so many important things to discuss and so well put. i have one question which follows from your Sauvignon blog. i love sauvignon – especially from the Loire and it goes especially well with river fish BUT tomorrow i am giving an experimental dinner for a special friend and we will be eating a Lamprey (kind of like eel)i was given last year and froze. would Touraine Sauvignon be right, or should i think about something a bit richer for the flavours. i’ve never eaten Lampreys before, but think now is the time to start!
    thanks J. O. King-fish, Mornington Crescent

  2. Miss Bouquet says:

    Dear Juliet,

    Thank you so much for your comment, it’s great to hear that you’re trying new foods as well as considering new wines. I would say that the wine you chose will depend on how you plan to cook the lamprey. If the sauce is rich I would suggest you try an oaked chardonnay, there are some delicate styles coming out of New Zealand at the moment. But if you plan to cook the lamprey au natural in style then a Touraine Sauvignon could be just the right companion.

    I’d love to hear what you decide to choose and how your special evening goes.

    All the best,
    Miss Bouquet x

  3. Juliet K-F says:

    Hi Miss B
    so glad you have got back to me. I’ve done a bit of research and I may need a red wine (I do want to impress with exactly the right wine).
    Lampreys are very fatty and have a thick scaly skin and they need to be cooked in their own blood with a red wine and onion type sauce. This is all a terrible experiment and a long way from my normal salad/pasta/salad type diet – why did I even START on this! and it’s TONIGHT!

    so do you think a Sauvignon to cut the fat and sauce or a rich red to match the blood sauce. if so – which red? I am at a loss, being very much a Champagne sort of girl.

    or should I just cut my losses and go for Champagne and Lobster Viennese (however cliched)??

    PS what’s your opinion on a magnum of 1977 Silver Jubilee Commemorative Bristol Cream Sherry my Uncle Frank left me? can I sell it?

  4. Miss Bouquet says:

    Hi Juliet,

    Hearing more about your dish makes me certain that sauvignon isn’t the right partner, however I do still feel that a white wine would work well. If you don’t want to step too far out of your usual sparkling wine territory then my first suggestion would be a vintage champagne blancs de blancs. These can be pricey and not something found often in supermarkets so you’d need to head to your local wine shop and ask them to talk you through their range and see if there is one that fits the bill.

    Alternatively I’d suggest a riesling from Alsace, again best to ask your local wine shop about their range but tell them you want one that is medium in weight and off dry. The aromatic flavours of a riesling like this will definitely cut through the fat of the lamprey and still have enough flavour to shine through the complexity of the recipe.

    Have a great night experimenting!
    Miss B x

    PS: I’m afraid I don’t hold much hope for anything other than sentimental value of your 1977 Silver Jubilee Commemorative Bristol Cream Sherry. If I were you I’d open it, toast Uncle Frank and then use the iconic retro style bottle as alternative water carafe at your next dinner party

  5. Henry Vindeplop says:

    Hi Miss B
    Have to say that I dont really agree on the Alsace route. The Lamprey fatiness really needs something with a bit of meat, perhaps SA Chenin would be good but even something red (the blood eliment)needs to be covered. It tends to disipate whilst cooking so it would be interesting to know how it was cooked. Steamed, pan fried or casarole?

  6. Juliet K-F says:

    Hi Miss B
    Sorry I had to run and miss your words of wisdom but I winged it with the lamprey. Not one of the best meals I’ve ever cooked 🙂 ooooohh! it was sooooo fatty that if lampreys had cellulite and a wobbling bum, this was the eel that did! reee-volting! luckily I made a light salad on the side (thank god metro-men eat salad 🙂 ) which we washed down with lots of my favourite fizz, Theophile Roederer vintage. He bought a lovely Hardys Stamp shiraz which helped disguise the lamprey – it was just a shame his Homme par Erudux aftershave clashed with the ginger scallops to start!
    luckily my handbag worshipping at Harvey Nix was postponed (just as well as I had my eye on a Marc Jacobs anne hobo bag!)as i ran into an old flame who demanded Champagne on the 5th floor. lovely. my 3rd most favourite bar, especially late in the evening when the art deco style is so well lit and the foreign clientele are so friendly.

    must dash – G&T at The Lansdowne at 6!

  7. Juliet K-F, mornington Crescent says:

    @Henry Vindeplop, Hi Henry
    great to hear someone else who has dared to eat disgusting lampers. It was sort of caseroled but the sauce had LOTS of red wine to Hide the blood. Are you a foodie, winey urban out n about sort of guy?
    What is SA Chenin? I’m only just learning about wine and I need all the help I can get – I thought Miss B would be a great start.

    Any ideas on garlic snail salad? Tonights treat at the Grandmothers – shame when family wins over a night out on the tiles. At least I’ve time for a fizz at uber cool Redux first.

  8. Miss Bouquet says:

    Loving the time you’re spending on my site and the funny & fishy tales you have to tell. The imaginary imaginative world that you live in tickles my gills, I wonder if you would consider writing a piece for my BBF page?

  9. Juliet K-F, mornington Crescent says:

    Hey! Miss B! I’m hurt! I’m not bright enough to be imaginative and I definitely NOT imaginary!

    I guess you assumed that from my name. Well actually I just have odd parents and we all got odd initials – my brothers are WAL King-Fish and TAL King-Fish. So I got away lightly and now am used to it.

    Don’t judge people so fast Miss B or we may lose the faith.

    Now, can you tell me more about Riesling from Alsace?
    Be kind!

  10. Louise Noste says:

    @Juliet K-F, mornington Crescent,

    I’d like to know more about Alsace riesling too – please tell all Miss Bouquet x

  11. Miss Bouquet says:

    Hi Juliet & Louise,

    So much to tell you about it, there are so many styles! The main thing you need to remember is that Rielsing from Alsace is lovely and aromatic which means it goes well with strong flavoured food (think asian, indian, that sort of thing). They come in varying levels of dry and sweetness and confusingly this isn’t always explicitly labelled as such, so whenever possible its best to talk to your local wine shop who will advise you on the style of their range.

    Its a snapshot of an answer, does it help or does it leave you wanting to know more?!

    Miss B x

  12. Juliet K-F says:

    A start Miss B!
    can you recommend any wine producers for the different style? also do you know of any wine shops in North London that have a good range?
    I had a lovely trot round Robersons the other day, a sort of wine-porn heaven – and such a beautiful shop, and close to the joys of Ken High shopping. I came home with a sparkling shiraz instead of Champagne Jaquessonwhich was a bit unexpected. I had no idea they made red sparkling wine! now what should I eat with it, that won’t trash the diet?
    TGI Friday!!

  13. Miss Bouquet says:

    A great wine shop in north london is The Sampler:, it’s on Upper Street in Islington, it has over 1,000 wines from around the world and 80 of them are available to try at any one time… You should give it a go. It would be a great way to taste the different styles of Alsace riesling for starters. So much more fun to try before you buy n’est pas!

    Sparkling shiraz, yum. As a wine concept that orginates in Australia it’ll be no surprise that the best food to match it with is BBQ. If that plays havoc with your diet then it may be best to avoid opening it altogether and taking it as a gift to the next dinner party you go to.

    x x