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Systembolaget to the rescue

Interesting update on my previous thoughts about state monopolies on the sale of alcohol.

There was a report commissioned in Sweden on relaxing these laws whose results were reported in just-drinks recently, entitled; “End Systembolaget control, more drinkers will die – study” (here is the link, but I think it may be subscriber only)

“A report by the country’s National Institute of Public Health warned yesterday (28 August) that alcohol consumption would rise by 14% if sales were allowed only in privately licensed speciality stores, and by 29% if sales were permitted across the country’s grocery channel.

The institute warned in the report that “With grocery stores, the estimated additional annual toll would be 1,580 deaths, 14,200 assaults and 16.1m days of sick leave, a 40% increase”

Not scaremongering then!

It just so happens that it makes loads of money for the state and, as with any bureaucracy, would resist the change.

Posting in Vayne

OK, my turn to add to Gary Vaynerchuk‘s celebrity.

If you are reading this post I am guessing you will have come across this name on numerous other wine and internet sites (as well as TV and magazines), particularly in the last few weeks.

If you haven’t, read this then watch one of the episodes of winelibrary.tv.

I watched episode 303 on Sherry yesterday as suggested by Ryan at catavino.net and I don’t think it was one of his best. However, it did demonstrate something quite interesting. There was a definite disparity between how he described and reacted to the sherries (and, as it happens, some Montilla-Moriles) and what his ratings were.

What was funny was that my wife walked into the room as I was watching the episode and after hearing some of his desciptions, her reaction was: “he sounds like an American Jilly Goolden“.

Ha!

THAT is a “celebrity deathmatch” I’d like to see: “Gary Vaynerchuck vs. Jilly Goolden”. MTV, if you are listening, PLEASE make this.

(for European readers, there is some sort of block on the videos on the official MTV site but you can see a sample episode here instead [Warning - there are not for the faint-hearted])

Origins of UK Wine Culture

Hurry!

While it is still available, check out the recent BBC Archive Hour with Jancis Robinson. She (or rather the BBC Producer) has dug out all sorts of audio clips showing how our view of wine has changed in the UK over almost a century.

I need to listen to it again in detail, but there are great insights into the emergence of supermarkets, the role of women as decision makers, scandals and frauds, and much more.

Well worth a listen – I hope they keep it up for a while.

(and some of the accents need to be heard to be believed – and I don’t mean JR’s)

Cultural truths and myths

Sometimes articles come along that remind you that the full wine message has still not got through to all corners of the wine drinking world.

The BBC magazine site has a pretty good and well researched article on wine and wine appreciation. Kate Thal at Green & Blue helps to explain that understanding wine is not as complicated as many think, nor as many ‘TV celebrities’ try to make it.

It also points out that even a wine producing country like South Africa may not actually have an evolved Wine Culture because there are lots of people who have no knowledge or access to the stuff. Wine production and wine appreciation are not strictly linked (there are some countries that seem to forget this).

What is most interesting about this article, however, is not the main body but the way it ends, and the comments that readers make following it.

At the end of the article it feels the need to have a dig at (French) sommeliers saying:

“Ms Overton also suggests that there has been a hangover from the days when sommeliers were rather haughty and French and the wine trade was filled with posh Oxbridge types.”

Sometimes it seems that when you are down, you get kicked no matter what. However much the French, or for that matter the Germans, do to improve their wines, their presentation or their communication, the old truths just seem to hang around for ever. When was the last time you REALLY met a ‘haughty French sommelier’? Why dig it up again even if it was true?

Then we go on to read some more prosaic ‘home truths’ (amongst some other pretty good comments):

QUOTE: “The bigger the dent in the bottom of the bottle, the better the wine (so I’ve been told)”
RESPONSE: No! The dent in the bottom of the bottle, or punt, has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the wine. It often represents a more expensive bottle, so you could argue that pound-for-pound with another wine, it is probably worse value (with more of your money being spent on the bottle and not the wine). It may be that a good producer has chosen a more unusual bottle, but this does not reflect directly on the quality of the wine.

QUOTE: “I go for three things:
1. Full bodied
2. New world
3. Half price
It’s served me well so far.”

RESPONSE: Lucky you! Half price wines of good quality do exist, but you really are not experiencing the true possibilities of wine with this formula.

QUOTE: “My criteria: 1. must be between £5 and £10; 2. must have an animal on the label; 3. must be from S. Africa, Chile or Australia and 4. definitely not French.”
RESPONSE: Oh dear! It started so well with number 1.

and my personal pet hate:

QUOTE: “I always choose my wine by the alcohol volume.”
RESPONSE: Would you ever say: “I choose my holiday by the plane I’ll be boarding”. Of course alcohol is a factor, but it tells you NOTHING about the quality of the wine on its own. And what does this mean anyway? Do you aim for more alcohol per pound, or less? It reminds me of 20 years ago, with impoverished students trying to squeeze every ounce of alcohol from the weekly budget. Unfortunately I thought, or hoped, that wine had moved on from those days. There is so much good wine out there, even on a budget, that this kind of statement really needs to be consigned to the quote bin of history.

Wine Therapy

“Anti-wrinkle cream there may be, but anti-fat-b*stard cream there is not” Dave

What is “Wine Therapy”?

This is a detox treatment for the serious oenophile (wine lover), but with a difference. Instead of focusing on the consumption of wine, this is about those parts your regular tipple just can’t reach.

Wine Therapy (Oenotherapy, Vino Terapia, … etc.) claims to take the health benefits of wine to a new level by slapping them on your face, rubbing them on your skin or reducing them to a pill format that you can swallow without having to swirl.

Sound like fun yet?

I was recently invited to such a treatment whilst visiting Rioja. My treatment involved turning up at a spa, dressing only in the flimsiest shorts on Earth, and lying on a plastic sheet on a heated bed. Pretty dodgy so far.

Next, my therapist slathered my skin with a mixture made from honey & the tartrate deposits from wine barrels. How these “polyphenol rich deposits” (or something like that) are supposed to pass their antioxidant, and therefore anti-ageing, properties to me I’m not sure. However, having gritty goo rubbed all over you for 40 minutes is surprisingly enjoyable.

Next comes the wrap. Feeling like a certain overweight character about to do a Full Monty, I lay there wrapped in that plastic sheet to “absorb” (and sweat) whilst more vinous treatments were applied to my feet.

Next a strong mit and a shower, ready for the oil rub (I think there was some grape must extract there somewhere). Finally, feeling all rosy and fresh, I was served a delicate infusion (no grapes, and certainly no wine) and told to swallow a Resveratrol pill made from the concentration of grape skins and pips.

I must admit I felt good, but any form of massage and skin treatment would do that. As for any “health benefits” from the natural properties of grapes … well, maybe there was, and maybe there wasn’t, but I think I’d still rather take my grape-based medicine by the glass-full instead.

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