The Seven Varieties of Laherte Frères

It is a calm and humid morning in Champagne as we climb into a car taking us to Chavot. We have a booked tour and tasting at Laherte Frères, one of my favorite grower producers in Champagne. I say favorite so often, that what is special about this one? In addition to having some excellent entry level champagnes, Laherte Frères has a fairly rare cuvée in their selection, Les 7. It is a blend of all seven grapes allowed to be used for champagne. Continue reading “The Seven Varieties of Laherte Frères”

The Return to London

In less than two weeks, I am starting my short yet efficient summer holiday. It is quite common here in the Nordic countries to take four or fine weeks, however myself and M save our holidays to the winter. Something that is on the agenda every summer though is a long weekend in London, our former home city. There is nothing like summer in London. It is so vibrant, like always, and unlike the Nordics, July is still buzzing. Its also quite interesting to go and mingle in the city post-Brexit. I am hoping for some really good prices on wine. We have had our eyes on some bottles of Bollinger VVF, that are now much cheaper with the weaker currency. Lets see if we end up taking that road of no return. When you start collecting bottles like the VVF, I doubt that you ever stop.    Continue reading “The Return to London”

Wineweek 85: Whats New in Helsinki

I think it has finally happened: my home for 30 years, Helsinki, has become somewhat of a stranger to me. I just realized it when browsing all the new restaurants have popped up this year. The city is changing, and I am not keeping up with that change. Perhaps I have become a bit of a Swede, thinking that Stockholm is the place for foodies. However, Helsinki seems to be giving Stockholm a run for its money. As I am still editing my Midsummer pictures, I thought I would instead share some of the new places I have listed as must-visits for the fall (many restaurants in Helsinki close for the summer). I have not tried them yet, but I will. If you have some experiences, please share!  Continue reading “Wineweek 85: Whats New in Helsinki”

Wineweek 83: Memories from Epernay

It is already a week since we boarded a train back to Paris from Champagne. Time goes by fast, as these photos make me feel like they were taken yesterday. Ok, so a week is not that long of a time, but it still feels almost unfair how short days have become. I still remember a time when minutes felt like hours and hours like days. I feel lucky to have taken a lot of photos to remember these precious moments by.  Continue reading “Wineweek 83: Memories from Epernay”

Grape Love: Pinot Meunier, the Challenger in Champagne

Today I thought I would write about a relationship that has been developing for some time now: my growing love for the least known of the three main grape varietals used for Champagne, Pinot Meunier. We all know Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but Meunier as a grape is often left in the shadows. It has perhaps traditionally been considered more as a “filler” instead of the leading grape. However, Meunier can produce a charismatic and an absolutely wonderful champagne just o its own. Continue reading “Grape Love: Pinot Meunier, the Challenger in Champagne”

Wineweek 81:A Fresh New Look

We have worked all week. Every evening after dinner, we have opened our laptops to work on our new Shopify web shop. It has felt good doing some extra work for the business, as we have admittedly been slacking off lately. Or rather been focusing on tasting wines instead of actively selling them. Today we launched the new website with great pride! Not that it looks as good as many professionally made web shops, however, I consider this quite an achievement as we are complete amateurs in this field. Oh, the possibilities one has today with  To honor the launch, we have also added some great new wines to the selection. Continue reading “Wineweek 81:A Fresh New Look”

Wineweek 80: Pictures From New York

Finally I have a chance to post some proper pictures. I was running around with my camera all week in New York, however, was not able to edit them before returning home. The only place I skipped having the camera was 11 Madison Park. I felt it was slightly inappropriate to hover over all of the nice dishes with my heavy Nikon. I will spend some time writing more about wine bars and restaurants during the coming week. Until then, enjoy the photos! Continue reading “Wineweek 80: Pictures From New York”

High-flying Wines: Scandinavian Airlines from Stockholm to New York

A few years back M and I made a decision: we would no longer do the cramped cattle thing on long haul flights. If we were to fly for over 6 hours, we would do it comfortably or not at all. Not to say it would have to be Business Class, but at least economy extra with a proper leg space. Up to this date, we have not yet paid for one pair of business class tickets, but always flown in comfort. We have used points and vouchers, traveled on dates inconvenient for others, whatever has been at that time the best way to secure leg space. So today, an eight hour flight does not really sound like such a bore. It is actually an extended part of the vacation as it is enjoyable. Continue reading “High-flying Wines: Scandinavian Airlines from Stockholm to New York”

Wineweek 61: Ice Age

We have returned to Sweden and boy is it cold here. Seriously, its below -10C. My face freezes when I go out. The warmth of Asia is just a faint memory and now we have to patiently wait for summer. Its going to be a long wait…how have humans survived at these latitudes for this long?

Continue reading “Wineweek 61: Ice Age”

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