Popping cork sound ‘makes wine taste better’ – experiment

People who drink wine after hearing the sound of a cork popping are likely to think it tastes better, suggests a small study conducted by an Oxford University professor.

An experiment with 140 people in London found that the same wine can taste better if it follows the sound of a cork popping versus the noise made by someone releasing a screwcap. Overall, the same wine was rated as around 15% better quality with a natural cork, according to the study.

The experiment was designed by professor Charles Spence, of Oxford University’s crossmodal research laboratory. Synthetic corks were not tested. It was held at an event also co-hosted by the Portuguese Cork Association, which is a strong advocate for natural corks.

‘The sound and sight of a cork being popped sets our expectations before the wine has even touched our lips, and these expectations then anchor our subsequent tasting experience,’ said professor Spence. He has previously conducted research on the effects of music genres on wine taste and has also recently written ‘Gastrophysics: The new science of eating’.

Several closure companies have invested in researching consumer psychology. For example, synthetic cork producer Nomacorc demonstrated to journalists several years ago that it was researching how the length of time it takes to pull a cork impacted on a wine lover’s satisfaction with the product.

There is fierce debate over closures in the wine world, with different markets preferring types. Many Australia and New Zealand wine producers, for instance, are staunch supporters of screwcap, which they have claimed is more consistent. Natural cork makers, meanwhile, claim that they have made significant progress to reduce the proportion of wines suffering from cork taint in recent years.

New Cru Bourgeois classification on-track for 2020

Bordeaux's Cru Bourgeois classification is on-course to bring back a three-tier quality ranking in 2020, as officials say they are confident of avoiding a legal quagmire.

The Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc in Bordeaux has confirmed that in 2020 it hopes to reintroduce a classification system bringing back the three quality levels of:

Cru Bourgeois

Cru Bourgeois Supérieur
Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel

If approved by government ministers this year, the new system would technically be valid from the 2017 vintage, but not unveiled publicly until 2020, said the director of the Cru Bourgeois classification, Frédérique Dutheillet de Lamothe.

It will replace the current system, in place since the 2008 vintage release in 2010, where ‘Cru Bourgeois’ is effectively a quality seal given on a per vintage basis before bottling. The 2015 vintage selection has just been announced and includes 271 châteaux, seven fewer than for 2014, released last year.

Seventy eight percent of the 300 members of Alliance des Crus Bourgeois voted to restore the three-tier system at a recent AGM. But, the most pressing question for the organisers is how to avoid winemakers contesting any decisions through the courts, as has plagued the St-Emilion classification.

It was also legal challenges that resulted in the 2003 Cru Bourgeois classification being abandoned. It was declared officially invalid in 2007 and then replaced with the current system.

‘We will ensure impartiality at every step of the process,’ Dutheillet de Lamothe said. ‘We have proved we are able to do this effectively over the past eight years.

‘And we believe that making a classification that is renewable every five years instead of every ten will also help – producers will be given regular opportunities for promotion.’

Has a heatwave dented the California 2017 harvest?

Harvest is well underway in Napa Valley, California, but three days back in early September may prove the defining moment for the vintage, when temperatures up to forty-five degrees Celsius scorched the fragile young grapes.

 ‘I can’t remember a hotter weekend in September, and I’ve lived in Northern California my entire life,’ said Rob Davis, winemaker at Jordan Winery in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.

The heatwave was the final event in a growing season defined by extreme, erratic climatic conditions. Winter saw heavy rainfall, while June met with an unexpected hail storm. But is the California 2017 vintage cooked?

Davis reported ‘minor sunburn’ on some Jordan Chardonnay grapes but added that most of his crop was back on-track after temperatures fell back. It’s worth noting that some winemakers had already harvested.

Down in Santa Barbara, winemaker Raj Parr said that for those who picked before last week’s heat spike, 2017 can actually be considered a cool vintage. But for those with grapes still on the vine—and that’s means the majority of Cabernet producers in Napa Valley—what is the prognosis?

It depends, ultimately, on the vineyard.

Dan Ricciato, who oversees vineyard operations for consulting winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, said, ‘The final September heat really exposed weaknesses in specific sites that were laid out with disadvantageous row orientation, poor canopy management or general exposure issues. This was a great year to see which vineyards were farmed thoughtfully.’

Graeme MacDonald, who makes his MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon from his family’s portion of the historic To Kalon vineyard, said that canopy management was essential, explaining that grape skins, like human skin, are prone to sunburn and need the shade of leafy canopies to prevent shrivelled skins, or stunted ripening and colour development.

While the vines were still affected by the heat, subsequent cool temperatures helped to temper the negative effects. But, he added, winemakers won’t have a definitive sense of the vintage until fermentation time. Many, like Doug Shafer of Shafer Vineyards, turned to irrigation to slake the thirst of vines parched by the heat.

He explained that the mild temperatures throughout the rest of September have been essential in preserving quality: while sugars rise during heat spikes due to dehydration, they go back down when mercury falls. The essential thing is not to panic and pick before the flavours have fully developed, he said.

‘Now everything is right on schedule, and it’s looking to be a good harvest,’ he added.

Grape grower Andy Beckstoffer agreed that although the heatwave stunted the vines early in the month, the fruit is now in good shape, the sugars well-developed, and the flavours continuing to mature. Some in California are used to strong fluctuations in temperature. Cain winemaker Chris Howell said, ‘Here on the coast, heatwave is an apt phrase, because the weather truly does come in waves.

‘First cool marine air builds up and washes over us, then as the cooling wave recedes, warm air returns from the interior.  The cycle completes when the cooling breeze and fog return.’


Back in Napa Valley, Mike Dunn of Dunn Vineyards summed up the general sentiment succinctly when he said the subsequent ‘cooling off period will save the vintage’.

Chile is such a beautiful country. Absolutely everyone should go there at some point in their lives just to experience how amazing it really is. And it’s not just the scenery that is breath-taking, their wines are as well. We have a couple of great examples of what these guys are capable of…

Clos des Fous “Locura 1” 2014 @ £14.95
Pale yellow with a flash of green. The nose has hints of white peach, pear and white flower blossom. A subtle note of butter on the palate with freshness and brightness, balance and complexity. A persistent and mineral finish.


Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir 2014 @ £14.95
A vibrant ruby red with bright violet nuances when the light hits it, the nose of the Wild Ferment Pinot Noir pours red fruit flavours of cherries, raspberries, and exotic fruits, along with notes of dill and tobacco against a floral backdrop. The palate backs up the red fruit flavours with light notes of toast and nuts such as hazelnuts to the mix.


Clos des Fous “Caquenina” 2013 @ £14.95
A dark ruby-red wine with violet tones and outstanding red and black fruit aromas. Black pepper, tea leaves and notes of graphite and violets come through on the palate, revealing a full-bodied wine. The wine is generous and silky with very fine tannins and excellent acidity which enhance the Cauquenina's liveliness and balance.


These ones are some of our absolute favourites and will be with us for a while but don’t wait too long as they do sell out quickly!

It’s back to work for us here at Grand Cru Co and hopefully you’ve all had a good start to the week. We wanted to kick things off with a brand new offer which we have never done before…

For the immediate future, buy any one of the pictured bottles to get 2 free craft beers of your choice! There are 4 wines and 4 beers to choose from. We think it’s always good to broaden your horizons and what better way than to give craft beer a little nod.

Esk Valley Riesling 1015
This is a dry style of Riesling which is versatile and suited to a wide variety of food matches or as an aperitif. It has classic Marlborough Riesling characters of peach, citrus and honey with a long refreshing finish.

Delta Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc 2015
A wine with great concentration and a classic spectrum of flavour. It has a depth of blackcurrant notes and blackcurrant leaves on the nose with hints of peach and passionfruit. The palate is textural and mouthwatering with passionfruit and mineral flavours. Fresh acidity with underlying green herbal notes adds focus to the wine.

Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Of a lovely pale yellow colour, with greenish reflections, the Aconcagua Costa single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is elegant and austere. Citric aromas of grapefruit and lime laced with notes of passion fruit and subtle hints of herbs and a leafiness are predominant on the nose. This very big wine feels dry and edgy on the palate, with great acidity and a light mineral flavour that gives it nerve and freshness.

Seifried Estates Gruner Veltliner 2015
The nose is delicately fragranced with peppery characters, subtle spice and a twist of ginger. The palate has soft lemon/lime notes and a gentle phenolic and minerally backbone. The wine is dry and reveals an earthy mineral structure.

Come down and grab any of these to take advantage of this new deal. We aren’t even sure when it’s going to end so don’t miss out!



Lost wine grape ‘Tardif’ may protect against climate change

A 'long lost' wine grape has been listed on the official French register amid claims that it could help winemakers to withstand the effects of climate change.

A grape known as ‘Tardif’ in south-west France and which survived the phylloxera epidemic that plagued Europe’s vineyards in the 19th Century has been given a new lease of life via a listing on France’s official wine grape register.

It’s thought that Tardif’s late ripening qualities might give winemakers more options when faced with higher temperatures that are expected this century due to climate change. It is a slow grower, often reaching peak ripeness around the end of October to early November, said Plaimont Producteurs, the wine co-operative that lobbied for Tardif to be listed.

That could be an advantage in areas with long, hot summers and autumns, although it was unclear how the grape would fare in a more maritime climate with greater rainfall. Tardif is believed to be native to Gascony, but its family history was not clear.

‘We are delighted that we can reintroduce an indigenous grape variety of such high quality,’ said Nadine Raymond, Plaimont winemaker for re-discovered grape varieties. ‘The nursery is coming along nicely and we are looking forward to planting it next spring.’

Around 1,500 Tardif vines will be planted and commercial production could begin after the 2020 harvest. Tardif is known for its peppery and spicy notes, Plaimont said. Plaimont has been cultivating Tardif non-commercially after first discovering it in the Pédebernade vineyard in the Gers village of Sarragachies in south-west France.

The 200-year-old vineyard was declared a historic French monument in 2012, because of the range of rare and old grape varieties growing there. It is one of the only sites to have remained unaffected by the phylloxera pest that decimated French vineyards in the late 19th Century and eventually forced many producers to rely on American rootstock for survival. It’s thought that the Pédebernade vineyard’s sandy soils provided a barrier to the pest.

Brexit pain as wine prices rise further, says trade

There has been no let-up in the run of price rises on wine since the UK voted to leave the European Union and the pain may be about to get worse, according to the latest figures from the Wine & Spirit Trade Association.

The average price of a bottle of wine in the UK rose to £5.58 between the Chancellor’s Budget in March and 17 June 2017, up 4% on the previous year, said the WSTA. Its statement coincided with Parliament’s first reading of a Brexit divorce bill that would transfer EU rules into UK law.

Average wine prices had already passed the £5.50 mark for the first time in the final three months of 2016, according to figures from the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

While this run of price rises may not immediately impact drinkers of premium and fine wines, the WSTA warned that the entire industry is facing a ‘triple whammy’ of price pressures going into the autumn.

‘For the first time we can see the how prices have been affected by the triple whammy resulting from Brexit’s impact on the pound, rising inflation and the 3.9% inflationary duty rise on alcohol imposed by the Chancellor at his Budget in March,’ said the WSTA, which is holding its annual conference in London today (12 September).

‘I am sad to say the pain doesn’t end here,’ said the WSTA’s chief executive, Miles Beale. ‘The Autumn Budget is set to see alcohol duty rise by inflation once again,’ he added, calling for a ‘time out’ on tax rises.

The WSTA said that it commissioned a YouGov poll that found four out of every five respondents concerned about the prospect of paying higher prices for food and drink. The WSTA has committed to working with the government in order to achieve the best possible deal in Brexit negotiations.

Weather a Challenge for Italy's Growers

The grape harvest is well underway throughout Italy's wine regions, and to label this year's crop as challenging would be a major understatement.

Torrid heat and a serious drought (especially in the north) have combined to bring about intense grapes, most of which are being picked two to three weeks ahead of schedule. Thankfully, some recent rains helped slow things down so, while 2017 may not be an outstanding vintage, it certainly will be better than the disaster some had predicted only a month ago.

The region of Piedmont offers an apt analysis of this year's unusual growing season, as Stefano Chiarlo, winemaker for Michele Chiarlo, can explain. He notes that after a very mild winter with not much snow, vegetation started a bit early in March, which was followed by cold, windy days in April. A good amount of rain fell in April and May, but from June until early September, it was a long, hot summer, especially in the province of Asti, which affected growth of Barbera and Moscato in that zone.

Hail, always a threat in Piedmont, hit the commune of Neive in the Barbaresco production zone, quite hard in April. Valter Fissore, winemaker at Elvio Cogno, reported that he lost 40 percent of his Nebbiolo at the Bordini cru in Neive; other vintners in this locations suffered even higher percentages of damaged vines.

Drought conditions were a key factor in understanding this year's growing season in Piedmont, as Andrea Roccione of Scarpa winery in Nizza Monferrato explained. "The 2017 harvest comes after two vintages, 2015 and 2016, that were also quite dry. The water reservoir from 2014, a rainy year, had run out after the past two years. So this vintage has been particularly complicated because of that."

Combine that with extreme heat – this June was the hottest on record in Piedmont – and you have accelerated growth in the vineyards, resulting in lower acidity, as well as a loss in varietal aromatics. "In order to survive, the vines have started to suck their own pulp," says Roccione. "So what you get from the vine are dried-out grapes that are highly concentrated, but also a very poor harvest, because you don't get much out of the vine."

Thankfully, about two inches of rain fell throughout much of Piedmont on September 1, the first precipitation in some areas in almost two months. Temperatures, which had been more than 100 degrees the last few days of August, dropped to a more typical range of high 70s to low 80s, allowing for at least a slight delay in ripening. Harvest did start the last week of August, with Moscato and then some Dolcetto; both varieties were being picked at the Poderi Colla estate in Barbaresco on August 29. Proprietor Tino Colla seemed pleased with this initial crop, stating that "regarding acidity, it will not be too high, obviously, but it will not be too low either".


What better to sit back with than a bottle from the Spanish masters? Everybody knows that the Spanish have been in the wine game for a very long time. Some believe that the first grape vines were cultivated in Spain sometime between 4000 and3000BC. It would seem that they have had quite a while to perfect their skills, let’s have a look at what they have to offer…

Hecula Monsatrell, Familia Castano 2014 @ £9.95

This 100% Monastrell wine is deep cherry red in colour, with complex aromas of raspberry, mulberry and liquorice. On the palate, it shows juicy blackberry flavours, freshness, soft and rounded tannins and a long finish. Enjoy with hearty stews.

Izadi Rioja Blanco 2014 @ £12.95

Straw yellow in colour with bright green tones. With succulent citrus and yellow stone fruit on both the nose and the palate, this fresh wine is well-structured and has a refreshing acidity but a nice bit of body to give some backbone to this wine.

Vina Ardanza Reserva Rioja Alta 2007 @ £26.95

Complex and perfumed primary and secondary aromas of earth, spice and red fruits with a long, elegantly structured medium weight body of spicy tannins and layers of flavour. Enjoy over the next decade as the richness and power will soften to spice and earth, augmenting game casserole or wild duck.

All of these wines are available in the shop but are all rather popular! Come and grab a couple before they all disappear!


After a pretty wet weekend we think it's time for a wine which will correct all of our troubles and give you a little bit of your own personal sunshine. Our Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Blanc is a pure chardonnay and of absolutely amazing quality for the price...

Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Chardonnay 2013 @ £9.95 down to £8.96
Nicolas Potel living up to his name. This bold but classic citrus-led nose offers notes of blossoming acacia flowers and marzipan. Straightforward at first and nicely rounded on the palate, with a complex flavour of almond on the finish.

This offer of 10% off extends to out entire range of Burgundian whites so now is definitely the time to come and grab a couple! Use BOURGBLANC10OFF at the checkout on the website or come in-store to take advantage of this offer!