Articles from: March 2012

WIne Blog – Today’s events

Its been a busy day what with our regular Saga wine tasting up at the Pavillion in Enbrook Park. As always we have a great time with some great people over  the lunch break. Our sales manager Richard was his usual exuberant self telling all those who came along about our very special wines made naturally and with minimal intervention so none of those awful chemicals from the New World thank you.

Afterwards we delivered to one of our favourite customers in Ashford Leaf Lounge  who always give us such a welcome when we arrive with wines to replace  the  depleted stocks. There's a customer that has seen how trade has grown since stocking some good quality value for money wine instead of the horrible stuff they previously sold as supplied by one of those big wholesalers who shall be nameless. Well done Leaf Lounge and thank you. Finally to Kevin at oneonetwo wines. A man who knows a lot about wines and who has been buying for some time. Kevin has an eye for quality wine.

So its another week of supplying our family of customers and we thank you all. Cheers.

Simon’s Wine Blog – Madame Gautier – Traiteur

Simon's wine blog – Today we delivered to a new customer in London – Madame Gautier. Mark and Corinne run an amazing classic French traiteur business in London, supplying great traditional french food through their farmers markets and catering for private customers for dinner parties and events.

Mark and Corinne are also opening a venue in Barnes and a cookery school and wine shop. They have chosen Vintners Fine Wines to supply wines for their business and we are proud to be able to supply some quality classic wines direct from passionate winemakers in France to them. The picture is of husband and wife team Pierre and Brigitte Van Den Boom of Domaine deL'Enchantoir who supply, through Vintners  Fine Wines, some classic pinks to Madame Gautier.

We are similar to Mark, Corinne, Liana and Guy in that we also also run a family business as do our wine producers. Our winemakers strive to produce wines with known provenance of real quality by using sustainable methods. As our relationship with the Gautiers developes we would hope to introduce our winemakers to them and to invite our independent vignerons to London to present their own wines to customers of Madame Gautier. If you would like to learn more about the Gautiers please log onto Cheers.

Wine Blog – Our new storage facilities

Great news that Grainger Fine Wines Ltd has moved into a new storage facility in Dover and there you see a pic with Karin doing the paperwork bit. From three separate storage facilities we have now consolidated our storage to a new site in Dover which is much more conveniently placed for our shipments from France. This will make it much easier to supply our customers and increase our standard of service. Cheers.

Wine Blog – a wine list

Its always difficult to choose a wine list for a restaurant or wine bar that covers all eventualities. There is so much choice even for us when we are selling wines from France and Spain. We always provide first  and foremost the best quality wine for the price ie value for money. We reckon our house wines are streets ahead of our rivals and that is where we win our customers. Why not contact us to see what we have to . cheers.

Wine Blog – Wine styles

Simon talks today about the english palate. Part of our service to our clients is the feedback from their customers that we pass on to our wine producers on how a particularly wine should taste in the main but to a lesser extent we also direct them in the colour particularly pinks. We also advise on label design and presentation in general so that we are able to give as much help as possible in marketing the wines for our clients.

Taste is important. So for whites it has to be a good balance between residual sugar and acidity. Too much towards acidity is not a good thing and we try to make  a white wine have a soft taste so balance is critical. On pinks it is more difficult to determine the exact style as palates vary so much. In some areas of the country drinkers prefer a medium style but in others its more on the the dry side so with pinks its better to offer a choice to customers. The colour of pink is quite important and the trend is currently quite a blush colour. Labeling on pink wines is also a big factor and we find because its a fun drink the label has to reflect this mood. On red wines the most popular are medium well structured wines with well developed tannins. It cannot be too young not to have allowed the tannins to smooth out and soften. Sparkling wines are again a little difficult on style. I suppose generally a soft dry sparkler in the Brut and Extra Dry residual sugar range ie about 12 to 17 grams per litre. Traditional labels are always better in my book than the modern ones. Cheers.


Grainger’s Wine Blog – French Wine in a Nutshell!

Like food, wine is a part of the daily ritual, entwined with customs, festivities and local identity. However, falling exports and shifting drinking habits in France and elsewhere are pressuring the wine industry to adapt. However, after decades of mechanisation, intensification and chemicals, French vineyards are retreating back to the basics of painstaking labour, of hand-picking and sorting, re-establishing the role of the vine in producing high quality wine.

In touch with the wider reawakening of rural identity and the faith in terroir, the distinct local qualities of French wine are becoming more important than ever.

The History of French Wine: Key Dates
  • Pre-Roman: Vines, probably introduced from ancient Greece, established wine as a daily part of Gaulish life
  • Roman Gaul: Wine regions emerged, setting the grape growing boundaries that remain little changed today
  • Middle Ages onwards: Monastic orders played an important role in developing the winemaking process
  • Mid 17th century: The advent of corks encouraged mass wine consumption. Late 18th century Revolution took vineyard ownership out of Church hands and passed it, fragmented, to the peasants
  • Mid 19th century: The phylloxera aphid decimated vineyards. Some grape varieties were lost altogether – only resistant vines brought in from California saved the industry
  • 1935: The Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) classification system was introduced
Wine Classifications: What they Mean

Vin de table: Apart from the prohibition of naming grape origin on the label, there are few laws governing vin de table. Accounting for about a quarter of French wine, most vin de table is of average quality, although a handful of gems – unable to negotiate the strict AOC regulations – can be found.

Vin de pays: Encompasses about 150 wines of particular regional significance. Originally a humble classification, today many vin de pays carry a higher price tag than their AOC cousins. The label says where the wine is from, production methods and main grape variety used.

Vin délimité de qualité supérieur (VDQS): A small clutch of wines that fall between vin de pays and AOC conforming to rules of production, grape variety and yield. The VDQS classification was due to be phased out a few years ago, but new members are still being created.

Vin d'appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC): AOC classified wine should only come from the region, town or vineyard on the label. Unfortunately, duplicitous winemakers, often blending in non-AOC varieties, and the complexities of the AOC system itself have devalued its worth.

Grape Provenance

While New World wines are free to experiment with new blends and to plant on virgin soil, centuries of development and classification in France have created very strict rules about wine origin and content. Thus, champagne may only contain Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, while you won't find a Cabernet Sauvignon grape in the vineyards of Burgundy.

The Main Grape Varieties

French wines, in contrast to New World varieties, tend to be named by location rather than grape variety. Indeed, today many people only know the famous French grape varieties through their usage on New World wine labels.

Red wines





Cabernet Sauvignon

Bordeaux (Medoc)

Blackcurrant, green pepper, dark chocolate

Pinot Noir

Red Burgundy, Champagne, Loire, Alsace

Black cherry, strawberry


Bordeaux (St Emilion and Pomerol)

Plum, blackberry, mint


Rhône Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon

Blackberry, pepper, smoky

White wine






White Burgundy (Chablis, Mâcon), Champagne

Fruit, nutty

Sauvignon Blanc

Loire Valley, white Bordeaux, Bergerac

Fresh, gooseberry



Apple, spice, floral

Chenin Blanc

Loire Valley

Apple, honey, cinnamon

Sémillon White


Lemon (when dry), honey, peach

How to Read a French Wine Label

French wine labels vary widely between the regions. Some declarations of grandeur, like the phrasegrand vins on Bordeaux wines, are unregulated and effectively meaningless. Others, like the grand cruon certain Alsatian wines, give a guide to quality. The name of the wine – a vineyard, estate or a brand – will appear, as well as the vintage. The constituent grape varieties may also be noted.

There are, however, certain things that must be listed on all labels:

  • Bottle size (37.5cl, 75cl or 150cl)
  • Name and address of the producer (often an abbreviation or pseudonym)
  • Alcohol content
  • Classification (AOC, VDQS etc)
  • Place of origin (those that don't can only be classified as vin de table)
  • Warning to pregnant women (in 2006 a new law demanded that all wines sold in France carry a message about the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant)
Viti-culture: The French Wine Regions


The world's largest fine wine region fills 750 million bottles each year (give or take). Over 13,000 vineyards spread out from the city of Bordeaux, their wines distinguished by the area's subtle variations in climate and soil.

North-west of the city, on the Gironde estuary's left bank, the Médoc region is the prima donna of world wine. Médoc reds like St Julian, Pauillac and Margaux are dominated by the smoky, blackcurrant twangs of Cabernet Sauvignon.

South of Bordeaux, the gravelly Graves region supports similar reds and a few notable whites. On the Gironde's right bank, Merlot grapes fair better in the clay soils of St Emilion and Pomerol while Entre-Deux-Mers produces famous AOC whites.

South of Bordeaux, the world capital of sweet white wine is found in Sauternes where once every three years or so the weather delivers the perfect level of noble rot for a heavenly elixir.

Wines from Bordeaux are easily recognised by their straight, high-shouldered bottle.


Legendary but unpredictable, the spiritual home of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is subject to the climatic vagaries of its northerly latitude. Most of the estates here are small (about ten acres), family run affairs dwarfed by the heavyweights and big business of Bordeaux: often a winemaker will take grapes from a vineyard carved up by dozens of different smallholders.

Growers must also work within strict legislation demanding that many Burgundian wines are pressed from a single grape variety. When grower, grape, maker and vintage are married successfully, Burgundy makes sublime wine – all you have to do is find the right one. The great dry whites of Chablis, reds and whites of the Côte d'Or and cherry twang of Beaujolais – made solely from Gamay grapes – all reside within the region.

Burgundy, like most French wine regions, operates its own classification system alongside the AOC:

  • Regional: Labelled Bourgogne Rouge or Blanc, the lowest level of Burgundy wines could come from anywhere in the region
  • Village: A wine made only from grapes grown within the boundaries of a certain village
  • Premier Cru: Both the village and vineyard name will appear on the label, although some wines are drawn from a mixture of premier cru vineyards within one village
  • Grand Cru: The cream of the crop can simply carry the name of their vineyard without mentioning the village name


Sheltering behind the Vosges Mountains, the northeastern hub of French wine is unique in various respects. The varietals used give much of the region's white wine a perfumed, fruity yet dry taste, alien to most of the country. Similarly, in contrast to colleagues in the other major appellation contrôléeregions, Alsatian vintners tend to print a grape name on the label, identifying by variety rather than location. Nearly all the wine produced in Alsace is white, with only a few pockets of Pinot Noir bucking the trend. Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Muscat are three big names – each a bit dryer in Alsatian hands than you might expect.

Alsace has been granted appellation contrôlée status as a whole, indicating that any wine produced here carries the AOC mark. Where a grape is mentioned on the label, the wine will be made purely from that variety. A total of 50 grand crus display the name of their vineyard. A few of the region's cheaper wines are blended, in which case the word Edelzwicker may appear on the label.

Sparkling wines carry the name Crémant d'Alsace, while Vendange Tardive indicates a wine, often sweet, produced from grapes left on the vine for a late harvest. Around 80 percent of Alsatian wines are varietals, pressed from a single grape type.


It all begins innocuously enough. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes (and those three alone) are blended to make a still, often sharply acidic wine. A measure of liqueur de tirage (sugar and yeast) is added to the bottles, which are then stored for a second fermentation. Remuage, gradual turning over a two-month period, brings any yeasty bits to the top before the neck is frozen and the sediment removed (a process called dégorgement). A liqueur d'expédition (wine and sugar) is then added and a cork quickly banged in to round off the process.

Essentially, this complicated, fascinating procedure, the méthode champenoise, unfurls because Champagne struggles to produce a good still wine so far north. That said, the quality of champagne remains dependent on the blend of grapes used.

The two main types of champagne

  • Non-vintage: Champagne blended from wines produced across various years, using the same proportions each time to create a consistent taste immediately identifiable with the producer. Can only be sold after 15 months of aging
  • Vintage champagne: A blend of wines all taken from the same year's harvest, deemed sufficiently good to declare a 'vintage'. A vintage year usually equates to about five years in every ten. Must be aged for three years before being sold.

The Loire Valley

As the longest river in France, the Loire's corresponding wine region snakes along a considerable course. Viewed in their full extent, the vines curl all the way from Muscadet territory on the Atlantic coast to the Côte d'Auvergne encircling Clermont-Ferrand. Wines produced in the Loire reflect this scale with an impressive variety: dry, sweet, red, white, still and sparkling can all be tasted amid the country's most charming vineyards. Yet, despite such diversity, many outside France associate the Loire solely with the Sauvignon Blanc grape, pressed into affordable dry to medium dry whites like Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. Alas, as similar New World wines grown in a more reliable climate make inroads into the global market, the Loire's rather mixed, unpredictable bag of wines struggle to maintain their overseas audience.

Rhône Valley

Another region, another global superstar – wines from the Rhône Valley grace the upper echelons of any wine list. Nurtured by warm climes on well drained slopes, it's no surprise that this ancient corridor of oenological nirvana produces 450 million bottles a year. The region harbours a distinct north/south split, ruled from above by the big Syrah grape and from below by Grenache-led blending. Unlike most of the country's wine producing regions, the Rhône Valley has entered the 21st century in rude health, the voluptuous character of its wines a match for any overseas competitors.

In the valley's northern reaches, the small Côte Rôtie appellation produces meaty single estate reds, while Condrieu offers peachy whites made from Viognier grapes. At the southern end, Châteauneuf-du-Pape carries its reputation well, making use of up to 13 grape varieties – Grenache and Syrah at their heart.

The catch-all Côte du Rhône AOC covers all of the wines produced along the Rhône Valley's length. However, in truth, the majority of grapes squeezed into Côte du Rhône will come from south of the region. Quality varies dramatically, although the best (and most expensive) have traditionally come from the Côte du Rhône-Villages (labelled as such), arranged in clumps around Orange and Avignon.

Other French Wine Regions


The vast area of vines (the largest in France) curving round the Mediterranean Sea is beginning to shed its reputation for perpetual underachievement. As the rise of New World wines continues, Languedoc-Roussillon offers an affordable French alternative. Indeed, many of the makers responsible for raising the region's profile learned their trade in Australia and California. At present, quality remains incredibly varied and the area's woolly appellation zones offer little in the way of a reliable guide.

What to drink: Corbières and Fitou are two of the big reds, produced from Carignan loaded blends. The Coteaux du Languedoc and Roussillon areas have been making wine for well over 2,000 years; the latter has gained a reputation for producing some dazzling reds and rosés, while the former also seems on the up with its Carignan-Syrah blends.

Jura and Savoie

Jura has pulled back from the brink as a wine region, gradually clawing back the land under vine after decades of decline in the 20th century. However, it remains a region where wine (and idiosyncratic grape varieties) has progressed little in centuries.

What to drink: The area is famous for vin jaune, a yellow wine made from the Savagnin grape with its nutty hint of sherry. Here too you find vin de paille, a sweet white traditionally made by drying the grapes out on straw. Both are something of an acquired taste. Arbois and Côte du Jura are the main growing areas, producing vin jaunevin de paille and a few Pinot Noir-led reds. The scattered Vin de Savoie appellation, harbouring a light white made from the Jacquère grape, is about as close as wine gets to the Alps.


From the Rhône delta around to Nice, Provence harbours some rewarding wines, most of them overlooked outside the region.

What to drink: Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence and Côtes de Provence are the largest appellations. Both are dominated by fruity reds, made with Grenache grapes in Aix and Carignan in Côtes de Provence; certain vineyards have also taken to bolstering their wines with Cabernet Sauvignon but are forced to sell them as mere vin de table in accordance with AOC rules. Côtes de Provence is also home to some famous rosé wines, again with the Carignan grape at their heart. The rosés' colour and taste are achieved by reducing the amount of time the wine spends in contact with the grape skins.


In wine, as in most things, Corsica is something of a law unto itself. Italian grape varieties play an important role in wines for which AOC status seems to have been granted arbitrarily.

What to drink: Vin de Corse is an appellation applying to the entirety of Corsica and is thus largely obsolete as an indicator of quality. Meaty, herb tinged reds, dry whites and full-bodied rosés all fall within its bounds. Other AOC regions are more precise: Patrimonio reds blend Italianate grapes for wines with longevity and clout, while the whites are made exclusively from herby Vermentino grapes. Vermentino is used in Ajaccio whites too, although here the blended reds, led by the Sciacarello grape, take precedence.


Large co-ops and tiny smallholders operate side by side in the south-west. Bordeaux's domineering grape varieties overlap into the vinous mélange, yet you also encounter little known local varieties making distinct if untrendy wines.

What to drink: While Bergerac is still regarded as the cheaper sibling of Bordeaux, its reds are granted increasing prestige. The tannic ‘black wine' of the Cahors appellation is produced from the Malbec grape, although today many makers moderate the brooding red with Merlot. At the foot of the Pyrenees, the dry and sweet whites of Jurançon carry a pineapple bouquet. A few miles north, the Madiranappellation produces a bullish red traditionally made with the Tannat grape.

Wine Festivals

Marathon du Médoc – Bordeaux: In one of the world's stranger celebrations of wine. Bordeaux fans – most in fancy dress – run 26 miles through vineyards and past historic wine chateaux in September. Aid stations feature cheese and wine tasting, prizes are given in wine and non-participants can, of course, pass the time exploring local vintages.

Fête de la Pressée – Burgundy: In Chenove, near Dijon, September brings the harvest and a festival that dusts off a 13th century press to squeeze the first grapes of the year.

Foire Régionale des Vins d'Alsace – Alsace: This week-long fair in Colmar celebrates wine made across the region; perfect for washing down the distinctive Alsatian cuisine also on show.

Festival of St Vincent – Champagne: The champagne houses parade, concerts are held and festive dinners take place in Epernay and the surrounding villages each January.

Loire: The medieval village of St-Aubin-de-Luigné in Anjou holds a festival celebrating its local specialities – wine and eels – each July.

Bau des Vendanges – Rhône: Avignon pays homage to its local wines at the start of the grape harvest in early September.

Grainger’s Wine Blog – Our new portfolio

Simon today is talking about our new wine portfolio. To jump ahead of the new duty payments we have bought in some real crackers to add to our single estate wines. The budget has increased the duty on a still bottle of wine between 5.5 and 15% alcohol to £1.90 a bottle and on sparklimg wine to £2.43 so we managed to creep in some wines from the Old World in France. You may not know this but there is now a real movement towards the Old World wines where provenance is the key. On single estate wines we buy from producers who  completely control their own production from growing the grapes to vinifying and bottling so you know what is in the wine. The trouble with these big producers is the question of what they use in the vineyards and in the wineroom? I'm convinced that, like food, you have to be much more certain about the provenance of what you eat or drink. You would be surprised about the contents of wine and what lurks in the residue. So look for good small producers like ours. . Cheers.

Grainger’s Wine Blog –

Grainger’s Wine Blog –

Grainger’s wine blog – wine tours

Simon's french wine blog is today about our return to France for the coming wine tour season. What joy we cannot wait to greet our first guests in April. This year we are running a set programme each week for our self catering guests who wish to come on  half and one day wine tours and wine tasting dinners at Manoir de Gourin. Mondays will be a get together of our weekly guests for a supper or BBQ weather permitting or a wine tasting dinner dependant on demand. On Tuesdays I will be hosting the one day tours with a talk at Manoir followed by a morning at one of our estates, a picnic lunch in the vineyards or on the terrace with an afternoon visit to a domaine or wine house. Thursdays will be set aside for our half day wine tours with an evening buffet on return to Manoir. Let us know if you would like to book a self catering break or a residential wine tour. for self catering or for residential wine tours. Cheers.

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March 2012
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