Talking Wine – December 2017

For many years it has been claimed that alcohol is good for the heart but now, according to the Times, it is also good for the head. It seems that people who have a few glasses a day are less likely to suffer dementia in old age. Researchers have found that if you have up to three glasses a day you are twice as likely to reach the age of 85 than had you been a teetotaller. Linda McEvoy, an associate professor at the California San Diego School of Medicine says that “the study is unique because we have considered men and women’s cognitive health at late age and found that alcohol consumption is not only associated with reduced mortality but with greater chances of remaining cognitively healthy in old age”.

However it was pointed out that the reasons may be socioeconomic. Those who drank wine tended to be wealthier and better educated with better access to health care as well as being less likely to smoke. The study does not suggest that we should all start drinking more but it is comforting to know that a few glasses a day may actually be helpful in preserving us in old age !

Carignan is a wonderful grape but one that very few know about – I intend to change that! Thirty years ago Carignan, grown predominantly in the south of France, was considered a workhorse grape with little potential other than being a useful wine to blend. The French government actually paid wine growers to grub it up and plant more noble grape varieties. Then, with improved understanding of the grape and often with better wine making techniques (thank the Australian flying winemakers who helped the Languedoc reach its potential) a revolution started.

Those who remember the early days of the Oxford Wine Company will remember that I got involved in a fascinating and successful project near Carcassonne. A friend, who was a fruit farmer, bought a 100 acre farm in the heart of the Languedoc for the price of a two bedroom semi in Abingdon. His plan was to grow peaches and apricots, which he is doing successfully, but he rang me when he discovered he has plenty of rows of 57 year old Carignan. I landed 48 hours later and with the help of a wine consultant whom I knew, we were told in no uncertain terms that we had ” some good stuff here” A small investment later and a rapid lesson in grape cultivation and we were bottling the Domaine de Souterranne Cuvee Christophe, one of the first old vine Carignans to hit the UK – albeit in a small way, and chosen by Oz Clarke as one his top one hundred wines for three years in succession.

That project stopped after 6 years due to a fall out with our neighbour, who made our wine, which seemed a great deal better than his own – hence the problem !

Now here we are again creating our own blend of the rare old vine Carignan and bottling it under an exclusive label called Native and selling at £8.99 – an absolute snip !!