Wine in Transit

Being here in Asia, I have started thinking again about how wine is stored. Or better said stored while in transit We have many times shaken our heads when seeing wine and beer being mishandled by letting it stand outside of bars and restaurants. The temperature here is almost always above 25C degrees. Most Asian countries are not traditionally wine cultures, so I get it that many do not know how to handle wine. However, should I order wine at all here in restaurants as the risk is quite high that it has not been transported that gently? Is it really that dangerous if a wine stands outside for 30 minutes to an hour? What kind of temperatures can wine take and for how long without being affected? As I could not answer these questions I took some time to read up.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am now ignoring wines requiring long term storage. This post will focus on wines exposure to heat/freezing during a transit process from winery to restaurant.

Exposure to Freezing

Wine is mostly water, but the alcohol in it lowers the freezing point. So depending on how much or how little alcohol percentage is in the wine bottle, the freezing point of the wine is probably around -9C. When wine freezes it expands pushing the cork up. This allows more oxygen to get into the bottle, and we all knows what that results to. yuk.

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Chilled in the glass, but how did it get here?

Exposure to Heat

Exposure to heat is believed to cause adverse chemical reactions in the wine that may lead to a variety of wine faults.  The wine may be spoiled or become “cooked” and develop off-flavors that taste raisiny or stewed.

At a glance, there is a limited amount study around this topic. It is a general belief that wine and heat don’t mix. However, some studies show that when the exposure is only for a short term, the wine remains unchanged. For example, a study done at the University of California shows that wine can tolerate temperatures up to 49C for a few hours without being damaged. I hope they are right. Another study done by Butzke and Chacón-Rodríguez (2012) concludes that heat exposure during transit (variation from -13C to 44C) significantly increased the effective bottle age and wine shelf life. The wines age jumped forward om average by 18 months. It’s not certain (nor probable) that the “ageing” due to increased heat exposure would be the same as if that wine were aged for a comparable amount of time at a more traditional storage temperature. It is likely that at least the subtle differences attributable to terroir would be lost.

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Hot and humid all day long

A Boston based company, eProvenance also conducted a study by monitoring over 5,000 actual wine shipments around the world. Its data shows that about 15 percent of shipments are exposed to extreme heat of 30°C. The study concluded  that wine exposed to temperatures over 26C for more than 36 hours showed permanent change to the wines chemical structure. If temperatures increased to 30C, the damage was permanent already after 18 hours.  In this study, shipments to China demonstrate the highest amount of exposure to heat, with 47 percent of shipments breaching 30C. On the route from France to China, a heartbreaking 90 percent touched that level.

Conclusions

After reading up I think I can conclude that extreme cold and heat will have an effect and that many shipments to this part f the world are affected somehow. It seems like there is a good chance that wine will be fine standing a few hours in the heat, however it is more the total transit process one should be worried about. Perhaps winter conditions would be at least slightly more beneficial as opposed to the summer, and perhaps Australian wine would also survive better to this part of the world as they have a significantly shorter transit.  But who knows.

I am not sure why the results by eProvenance are so poor. It is not like there is no possibility for a cold chain. I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry where companies spend enormous amounts of money on a guaranteed transport temperature of 2-8C. They use special containers (Unicoolers and Envirotainers) and temperature monitoring to follow that the required conditions are met. However, this is not a cheap service. I can believe that many wineries cannot afford that.

There are some cheaper and more reasonable options though, like frigo containers. The electricity powered cool-container is transported door to door, and adds only about 10% on the total transport price. This is similar to the transport we use for our wines when it is hot. Although we avoid shipping anything during the hot summer months anyway. A frigo container can also be used for sea freight.

So where is the problem then? Poor transport handling or cheap wineries/importers. Wherever the blame, it is a shame that it is usually the customer who suffers the most.

xx Soile

Sources:

Butzke, C.E., Vogt, E.E., and Chacón-Rodríguez, L. 2012. Effects of heat exposure on wine quality during transport and storage. Journal of Wine Research 23(1): 15-25.

K. MacNeil The Wine Bible pg 79-82 Workman Publishing 2001 ISBN 1-56305-434-5

 

 

Wineweek 58: Half Way Through Asia

We have come to the half-point of our tour. The journey has taken us via Bangkok, to Phu Quoc, Ho Chi Minh City and now Singapore. We will spend the following week in Asia’s capital of specialty coffee, and the best destination for wine, Singapore. For the last leg we move back to edgy Bangkok for a final week and a half. It feels like we have been on the road for a long time, however I have been wined and dined enough to not yet miss Stockholm. I am sure that a week in Bangkok will fix that (the wine scene is still very thin).

So what have we been up to? I already posted some wine tips for Ho Chi Minh City. It was much more of a wine city than I initially thought (makes sense with Vietnam’s history as a French colony).  We enjoyed a lot of street food: Pho (noodle soup), Bánh Mi (Vietnamese baguette), sticky rice and fruits. I will write a separate post about the food tour we did (Ho Chi Minh Street Eats, I can warmly recommend). We visited some of the main sites as well as tried out the wine scene. Ho Chi Minh was very buzzing, but in six days, I was ready to move on.

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Celebrating Christmas eve in Ho Chi Minh City
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Our glasses were filled with Baron-Fuente champagne. I would perhaps not buy this bubbly by the box, but it was definitely half decent.
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We dig out specialty coffee wherever we go. Workshop at Ho Chi Minh City
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Arriving to Singapore
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Lights at Orchard Road
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Cold brew at Common Man
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A labyrinth of escalators at Dhoby Ghaut
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Coctails at 28 Hong Kong Street
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Japanese beer tastes fresh in the hot weather.

Now we are in modern Singapore, where everything works like clockwork. Wine is not cheap, but its available, the specialty coffee scene is mature and the ease of transport makes it possible to do more within one day. Singapore is one of the best cities for good cocktails, so for our first night out, we popped into one of the first and best speakeasies I know, 28 Hong Kong street. It is a widely known secret, but still very hidden. There is only s small copper sign indicating of its whereabouts. The food is dripping of fat and/or deep-fried (not a dieters paradise) and the cocktails are amazing. I wrote a review on it already last spring, you can read about it here. You can expect some more cocktail action to come during the following weeks.

That was it for this wineweek. Coming week, who knows what is going to happen. A new year is approaching with new adventures. We already looked at our calendars last night planning for some tastings and other events for the spring. Have a great week wherever you are!

xx Soile

 

 

Saigon – Wine City

Merry Christmas! On this Christmas day, we are saying goodbye to Saigon and heading towards the fourth leg of our Asia-tour, Singapore. Looking back on these two weeks, who knew that our stay in Vietnam would be so rich with wine. We must have had a few glasses every night. The old French colony is a fine destination (in Asia) if you have a craving for some fermented grape juice during your journey. Here are a few tips where to go in Saigon:

Wine Bar 38, is a three-story wine bar located on one of the main street, Dong Khoi. The name of the bar represents the street address, so it is not very hard to find. As is to be expected, the bar has a good selection of French wines. Additionally I saw some Riesling from Mosel, Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (Australia) and white Bordeaux. I was mainly eyeing the whites as it has been so hot. The bar has two dispensing machines, one for red and one for white wines for having tasters. Both fit six bottles. There is a happy hour between 5 and 7 pm. when all wines are 50%. Good deal if you ask me, as the price for a glass drops to a few euros (50-85K Vietnamese Dong).

Where: 38 Dong Khoi, Disitrict 1, Ho Chi Minh City

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The bottles are kept in a proper way
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The terrace
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White wine tastes great in the hot and humid weather

Wine Embassy is also located in district 1, just off the main street, Dong Khoi. The wine embassy has an even better selection of wines by the glass, and they offer small portions from 4cl and up. Wine Embassy also organizes tastings and wine classes. They serve everything from Riedel glassware. This bar is a touch up in wine-professionalism from Bar 38. The wine selection is very similar, heavy on France as well as Australia and other New World wines. Happy hour is also from 5 to 7 pm with a lovely 50%  off, so you will not end up paying an arm and a leg as long as you keep your eyes on the clock.

Where: 13 Ngo Duc Ke, Disitrict 1, Ho Chi Minh City

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The Wine Embassy
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Riedel glassware
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The dispensing machines carry a good selection by the glass
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Entrance to the Wine Embassy

Annam Gourmet Market is the place to go if you want to buy wine. You will not find a bargain, but if you want a bottle of champagne, the selection is ok. Ok for Asia I mean. You have a selection of around 20-30 bubblies including also some finer wines like a Krug Grande Cuvee. The champagnes start from around 700K Vietnamese Dong (around 30€). The shop has also other foods and treats. Keep your eyes open though, many western products are quite unreasonably priced, so you will find a better bargain on a box of sweets somewhere else.

Where: 16-18 Hai Ba Trung, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

This was my first time in Saigon, so I think we just scratched the surface. I am sure there are some even better wine spots in the city. We had such a good selection at the hotel lounge, that we did not really go out and explore that much. Our hotel, the Sofitel Saigon Plaza, also has a decent bar in the lobby, as well as we read up about the roof top bar at the Sheraton being quite ok. So if you don’t have time for much research, the hotels seem to carry an ok selection (and the prices weren’t that bad).

This was it from Ho Chi Minh City. Next time I will be writing to you from Singapore.

xx Soile

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Wine Quotes

It is almost Christmas. Doesn’t really feel like that here in Vietnam, but the calendar does not lie. Christmas eve is tomorrow. I am a bit on holiday mood as well, so I thought about sharing a few of my favorite champagne quotes with you. Makes for good dinner table conversations (and to be honest, I am feeling a bit un-creative). So here you go, words from (wise) men and women, all connected by a love for the French bubbly.

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  1. “Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s
    Champagne!”                                                                                               Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, (1874 – 1965).
  2. “My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne.”
    John Maynard Keynes, American writer (1883 – 1946).
  3. He who doesn’t risk never gets to drink champagne.”
    An old Russian proverb (does this mean I risk it every week?)
  4. “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
    Mark Twain, American novelist (1835 – 1910)
  5. “In Success you deserve it and in defeat, you need it,”
    Winston Churchill 

I agree with every one of them!

Have a warm and bubbly Christmas!

xx Soile

 

 

Wineweek 57: Good Morning Vietnam

This week we have been in Vietnam. First five days on Phu Quoc island and as of yesterday in Saigon. We are here to eat and drink. What else! Phu Quoc was a bit of a holiday for us. We stayed at a nice resort by the sea. In the evenings, we took the shuttle to “town” and had some local food and beer. Now we are in Saigon and the hunt for wine is on!

As Vietnam is a former French colony, there is a history that speaks in favor of there being wine available. And there is. I was surprised by the difference to Bangkok, but after considering the difference in both countries past, it is clear that Saigon is a much more vibrant wine destination than Thailand. Thailand (former Siam) has always been independent, so western influences have come late.

The old colonial buildings in Saigon are beautiful, the traffic is just as bad as I thought it would be, and the food is awesome. We really got lucky with our hotel though. We invested in staying at the Sofitel, and it is really worth every penny. With a complimentary upgrade we are able to visit the executive lounge and they serve cakes and Tattinger in the evenings. This is by far the best hotel experience (after our honeymoon) of my life. And it cost us something around 100€ a night (M must have found some good offer).  I would say it’s a steal.

Back to wine bars. We have already found two that pass the bar as proper wine hangouts. It is quite common that from 5-7pm there is a happy hour with 50% off. So the bill ends up around 3-5€ per glass. Not bad at all! There is of course a high French influence. You can find white Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier on the list as well as come Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir from France. Additionally you have some nice wines from New Zealand and Australia as well as the South American countries. I would say Spain and Portugal are non existent her, if you don’t count the Freixenet (yuk) I saw in the gourmet shop. I can pass that one thank you very much.

That was it for this wine week. I will write more about the Saigon wine-scene next week. Enjoy the photos!

xx Soile

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Chicken leg with BBQ sauce and chili
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Please don’t eat us (I didn’t)
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Sunset on Phu Quoc
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Even simple Vietnamese restaurants are pretty
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Friendly welcome to the Sofitel
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Some chilled whites at Wine Bar 38
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Proper wineware at the Wine Embassy
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Proper wine bar in district 1 
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Spices for Pho
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All gone! Tattinger at the Sofitel

 

Bangkok at Night

This is not a wine post. But I really like the vibe in Bangkok at night, so I thought I would share some photos. Now I have a good camera in my hands, it is just the photographer that is an amateur. Here are a few shots that I think capture Bangkok the way I see it after dark.

Yes, I know I have said I would not spend that much time on photos…no excuses, I am weak.

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Lights at the night market
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Fresh fruit juice 24h a day
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These ingredients turned into a tasty plate of fried rice
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Taking a break
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The local pub
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The lamp shop
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Motorcycle taxi taking a break
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Happy kitchen
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Eating out
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The remains of the Soi 38 night market
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At the Okura lobby bar. There is someone reaching for our snacks..

The pictures were taken with a Nikon D5500 and 50mm lens.

xx Soile

Wine Trends 2016

As we are closing in on the new year, I thought I would do a post about some current wine trends and what to expect in 2016. I am all but on expert, so I did some research with my trusted partner in crime – Google. What comes up when typing in “wine trends in 2016”? Continue reading “Wine Trends 2016”

Wineweek 56: The Start of 2015 Wineventures in Asia

This week the weather conditions improved significantly. Starting from zero degrees in Stockholm we moved to plus 36 degrees in Bangkok. It’s hot and humid after the rainy season,  feels like a sauna when walking outside. But it is lovely. This years tour will include Bangkok, Phu kok island, Ho Chi Min City and Singapore. I suspect the latter to be the best destination in Asia for wine (you never know if Ho Chi Min surprises).

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Browsing for some wine at Arlanda airport…a Bollinger VVF would be nice (if I could afford it)
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Ready for takeoff! Thai served Veuve Cliquot as their welcome champagne.

If you were following the Winecurious last year you might recall my frustration and lack of wine in Bangkok. You can read about it here.   This time we came slightly better prepared. M had looked up a few new places where we could find a decent glass. What I find disturbing though is the way that many locals here treat wine. We have seen boxes lying around, waiting outside in the hot sun to be picked up by restaurant staff. Wine is not something many locals drink (due to the heavy subsidization of local beer and whiskey), so many don’t know how to treat it. At nice places, you can of course complain if the wine tastes odd. So better stick to those.

This first leg is just a short stop in Bangkok. Tomorrow we set off towards Vietnam. However we already had the chance to check out one of the bars on the list, the Okura hotel bar. The Japanese five star hotel is located in Phloen Chit, right next to the Sky Train station (convenient). The hotel looks very fancy, but I had no problem walking in wearing a sweaty t-shirt and sneakers. The service was also spotless. We just sat down in the lobby bar and ordered nice cold glasses of white: one Riesling and one Sauvignon Blanc. Serving temperature was great and the wines were both good, however, a bit uninteresting. No problem, as long as I can fight off the wine-deprivation (I suspect it will get worse in Vietnam). The list of wines by the glass was long to be Bangkok (usually it is just a choice between red and white): one sparkling Prosecco, five whites and five reds.

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Coffee stop at Roast Bkk
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Waffe breakfast at Ink and Lion
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A cool glass of white at Okura Bangkok Lobby Bar

We also passed a new place in Ekkamai (on our way to coffee places of course), which is the area where all the expats live. A french bistro that advertised it sells 35 different French wines by the glass. That should be interesting to try out when we return in around three weeks to end our journey.

The best place, I suspect, is still the @494 at the Grand Hyat. Even though I usually adore hotel bars, this one has been the best wine experience I have had in Bangkok. Even on an international scale it would be ok. Hopefully M’s list has some other good places I can report to you about in three/four weeks.

Now it’s off to bed for me. Tomorrow will be a travel day. I am hoping to snag a few bottles at the airport to have as backup if Phu kok island has nothing to offer. We are staying at a French hotel though, so usually they have at least something. Otherwise I will settle with beer.

xx Soile

 

A Hundred Years of Champagne at the Nobel Banquet

One of the biggest events of the year (in Sweden), the Nobel prize ceremony took place in Stockholm this week. It is always held on the 10th of December at the Blue Room in the City Hall. I am not all that interested in who gets the prizes (not more than other world news in general), however, it is fun to read up on what wines and food were served at the banquet. While browsing this years menu, I noticed that the Nobe Prizel-website has listed the banquet menus all the way from the first event in 1901. That’s over a hundred years of wine-history right there if one just has the energy to browse through. Off course I was so curious (crazy) that I did it. Talk about too much information. However I still used an hour to read through and list all of the champagnes in an excel-table. So here is a what I discovered – a short history of champagne at the Nobels:

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The City Hall in Stockholm is the venue for the Nobel ceremony. Picture: Michael Caven, michaelcavenphoto.com
Year 1901, the first Nobel banquet ever was held at the Grand Hotel of Stockholm  (which is still there) and the champagne served was Creme de Bouzy Doux et Extra Dry. A short google did not reveal what is the fate of this champagne today. If anyone knows, please share! This was followed by several years years of Mumm de Cramant. Not surprising as the 100% Chardonnay from Mumm is their best (at least to my opinion). Must have been somewhat sweeter at that time. After the Mumm-boom followed Louis Roederer and Chares Heidsieck until the war began in 1914 and the banquet was suspended for several years.

Throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century Champagne was generally much sweeter than it is today. The champagne served in the 20’s and 30’s were mainly cuvées described as Américain (“American taste”) or Sec, and contained from 110 to 165 grams of sugar per liter. Seriously, I prefer my bubbly less than 3 grams. It is amazing how sweet these were. I know it was the taste of that time, however I wonder if one really could taste the difference between good and poor quality grapes with that much added “dosage”.

In the 40’s there was several years of Nobel-silence due to the second World War (1939-1944). And after that champagne was not on the menu before 1950. Bordeaux reds seemed to be the trend accompanied by Port wine. The 50’s were nice and varied, the champagne changing every year. There were Deutz, Heidsieck, Eugene Barbier as well as Lanson champagnes on the menu. The trend seemed to turn towards dry (although who knows what Brut meant at that time).

In the 60’s someone clearly was fond of Pommery, as it was served every year until 1969 when someone had the sense to change to Krug. The early 70’s were a golden age of non-vintage Krug Private Cuvée (today known as Grande Cuvée). The Pommery-mania came back in the late 70’s followed by the early 80’s dominated by Mumm Gordon Rouge. In 1984 Möet & Chandon took over for all of nine (9) years.

In the mid-90’s another trend started – the trend of serving vintage champagnes. Mostly dominated (again) by Pommery, the Nobel-guests drank vintages from the 80’s until 2010. This is a slightly surprising turn as the beginning of the 90’s was a hard time for Sweden with a lot of people declaring personal bankruptcy, sky high unemploymemt and bank crisis. Good times followed after the Millenium for the economy as well as the Nobel champagne, Dom Perignon stepped in with vintages from the early 90’s (-92,-93 and -95).

In 2011 the Nobel champagne went entry-level again. However they have made some nice choices: Vve. Forny, Gaston Chiquet as well as the last two years: Tattinger. This year, however, the champagne of choice was again a vintage. A nice one as a matter of fact: Brut Milléssimé 2008 (wonderful year).

There, my short history of champagne at the Nobels. I must say it is not very exciting is it? Rather main stream I would say. It would be fun to hear who has been the one to select the wines. Does the selection mirror the preferences of the organizers, tastes of the Swedish Royals or perhaps just what is trendy at that time. It is of course possible that a company (importer perhaps) either pays or gives the champagnes for free. That would be quite cheap marketing as the Nobel champagne receives some media attention.  Whoever it is, they seem to be very fond of Pommery..

xx Soile

Discoveries About Pol Roger

I am always interested in a wine producer with a story. Preferably many stories. Pol Roger has 160 of history and a style that is loyal to the founders vision. I have always liked their champagnes. They are charismatic and masculine, have powerful notes and a long lingering aftertaste. It is always a pleasure to open a Pol Roger, even the basic Cuvee. Recently I attended a tasting where the importer for Sweden gave me a few fun facts on what makes the house so special.

First, the cellars of Pol Roger are deep underground. In 1900 the family cellars collapsed and the new cellars were dug under. The temperature is cooler, thus the champagnes develop slower than the competition. This is why you often don’t see very young vintages out in the stores, they are still too tight to put on the market. I wonder if the Salons are also aged in cooler conditions..

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Tasting Pol Roger at Magnussons

A second interesting fact refers to the Pol Roger Special Cuvee Winston Churchill: the secret recipe to celebrate the man who said “champagne should be cold, dry and free” (I couldn’t agree more). The cuvee is said to be his favorite and every vintage is made to mirror his taste. Actually Winston’s favorite vintage was the -28, so the wine is made to be as similar as possible to that specific year. I wonder how many bottles they have left and if they every year pop open a bottle to compare? If you want to have a taste, you can find a bottle of the -28 for around 3000£ at a special wine dealer. I wonder how good that would be…

Very recently I had a taste of the Pol Roger blanc de blancs 2006, vintage 2004 as well as the Winston Churchill 2002. All tasted great but it is clear that they have not reached their full potential yet. So definitely something to put aside for a rainy day (or just a Monday, who knows).

Wishing you a great week and hopefully some good moments with Pol Roger!

xx Soile