Wednesday 10 December 2008

Wine blogging and 10 London wine facts

Yesterday I was introduced to the world of wine blogs in a tasting event organised by Robert McIntosh of wineconversation. Having sampled a number of wines created by wineries who blog, it was clear that the blogging doesn't get in the way of the quality - and what could be nicer than to read about the winery and region as you drink their wine? Try these out (all were represented last night, and they offer a good idea of the diversity of blogs available):*

Thirst for Rioja - the name is self-explanatory! Lots of lovely images to go with the discussion of this wine-making region.
Winzerblog - German for 'winemaker's blog', it includes daily 'to do' lists for real insight into winery life.
Bodega Tintoralba - a bilingual Spanish/English blog full of news, updates and videos about the winery.
Poggio Argentiera - another winery blog, Italian with some English, where readers are encouraged to offer uncensored comments on the wines.
Casa de las Vides - blog for a Valencian winery, with lots of reflections on the role of social media in marketing wine.
Cortes de Cima - a vineyard in Portugal run by a Danish-Californian family, which also produces olive oil.
Vinos de Jerez - knowledgeable and wide-ranging sherry-lover's blog.
Quevedo port wine - a nice mix of detail about Quevedo and more general discussion of port.

If you think it's a little incongruous to promote wine blogging in a country which produces so little wine, think again! London has long been at the centre of the wine trade. To mark that - and my own wine adventure - here are ten facts about London's wine connections:
  1. London has its own museum of wine, Vinopolis - taste as you learn! Aptly, it's situated in Southwark, an area known for its drunken debauchery and prositution in the Middle Ages since it was handily outside the City walls. Much of this vice was licensed and controlled by none other than the Bishop of Winchester.
  2. London wine-sellers had to have a licence. In the seventeenth century, these licences were issued from premises in a spot still known as Wine Office Court, off Fleet Street. One wine house surviving from that period is the Olde Wine Shades in Martin Lane, EC4 - although it has been substantially rebuilt and the frontage is early Victorian.
  3. An exception to the licence requirement was made for some members of the Vintners' Company, which received its charter in 1364.
  4. The Vintners, along with the Dyers and the Crown, own swans on the Thames. They mark cygnets with two nicks to the beak during the annual Swan Upping. (Swans were valued for eating, for swandown, and for their quills, used as pens).
  5. The Vintners' Company also presided over the import of wine - no small matter, since between 1446 and 1448 wine made up nearly one-third of import trade.
  6. Westminster Palace had its own vineyard in Vine Street, now more famous for its place on the Monopoly board.
  7. In the twelfth century, taverns tended to sell wine (beer was sold in aleshops) and there were said to be over 350 in London. According to William FitzStephen in 1173, 'the only plagues of London are the immoderate drinking of fools and the frequency of fires'.
  8. Bordeaux was ruled by the English from the 12th to the 15th centuries; they even gave its wine an English name, Claret. Henry le Waleys was Mayor of London in 1274 and Mayor of Bordeaux in 1275.
  9. As his Drury Lane Theatre went up in flames, Richard Sheridan is reported to have watched from a nearby coffee house, saying, 'A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.'
  10. London diarist Samuel Pepys was more sceptical about the value of wine: on 26 January 1662, he wrote, 'Thanks be to God, since my leaving drinking of wine, I do find myself much better, and do mind my business better, and do spend less money, and less time lost in idle company.'

Sorry Pepys, but I've no intention of 'leaving drinking of wine'. Cheers!

* Apologies for the lack of accompanying tasting notes... ahem... mumble...


José Eduardo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
José Eduardo said...

Dear Caroline,

I'm glad that we could bring one of the Cortes de Cima wines to such an event like the London Bloggers Meetup. I hope you all enjoyed it.
Cheers from Portugal.

Robert McIntosh said...

Wow! Love all the London wine facts. Excellent post, and of course a great entry in the competition for the wine prize!


CarolineLD said...

Thank you both, and yes - I enjoyed the wine very much!

Gianpaolo Paglia said...

Hi Caroline, thank you for attending and tasting our wine from Tuscany's Maremma, and for the very interesting post on london and wine indeed.
Bye from Somerset, currently our Tuscany's substitute ;-)
Gianpaolo, Poggio Argentiera

CarolineLD said...

Thank you Gianpaolo - and thank you for a lovely evening with delicious wines! I hope you're enjoying Somerset; I'll be visiting myself this weekend. (Must admit, I'd prefer Tuscany...)

Peter Ashley said...

Lovely. I've staggered by Vinopolis so many times and didn't go in because I thought it was just another wholesaler. Now I shall grace them with a visit. And Pepys. I like him. Didn't he bury a Stilton in his garden during the Great Fire of London? I may do the same on Christmas Eve when my neighbours press their cold noses up against the windows of Ashley Towers.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Excellent post, Caroline, thank you.

Re Pepys, the burial of the cheese was mentioned this morning on Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time, which this week was about the Great Fire of London. I think the person who mentioned it said it was parmesan, but that Pepys buried "other stuff" too.

CarolineLD said...

I'd heard parmesan too, but Stilton sounds so tempting at this time of year!

Emilio Saez van Eerd said...

Wow, Caroline, great post! I think the London Blogger Wine Tasting and all bloggers who have participated have written history as well. I hope you enjoyed our wines ;-)

Emilio, La Casa de las Vides

CarolineLD said...

Thank you, Emilio!