Grimbergen Abbey monks to brew beer from medieval recipe

22nd May, 2019

A microbrewery is to be built inside the walls of Grimbergen Abbey near Brussels after monks finally uncovered the long-lost recipes and brewing techniques recorded in medieval manuscripts.

Father Karel Stautemas, sub-prior at Grimbergen Abbey, who is studying to be a brewer to join the microbrewery team.

The project has been several years in the making. Last year, the Belgian monks expressed a desire to begin brewing their own beer again, but were unable to locate the original recipe. It was reported at the time that four researchers had been trawling the archives for a year with no success, and were only halfway through the abbey’s collection.

The process had been further complicated by the fact the documents, which date from the 12th century and have survived three fires, were written in Latin and Old Dutch.

After more searching, the recipes and techniques used have been uncovered and will be used to create a series of limited-edition brews at a new microbrewery on site.

After playing a key role in searching for the recipes, father Karel Stautemas, sub-prior of the abbey, is to undertake formal brewing training alongside his other day-to-day roles. He and other fathers of the abbey will support head brewer Marc-Antoine Sochon.

Father Stautemas said: “Beer has always been part of life in the abbey and we are proud of the beers we have today. We’ve really enjoyed reading more about past brewing traditions in the pages of these ancient texts. We’ve spent hours leafing through the books, which are written in Latin and Old Dutch, and have discovered ingredient lists for beers brewed in previous centuries, the hops used, the types of barrels and bottles, and even a list of the actual beers produced centuries ago.

“This new knowledge adds to our brewing heritage and I’m really looking forward to combining this with my training to revive brewing at Grimbergen Abbey. We will continue to study further to learn more of the book’s undiscovered secrets.”

Head brewer Sochon added: “The microbrewery will be a place for us to combine modern, inventive methods with the ancient Grimbergen brewing heritage. We’re excited to use these books to bring back the medieval techniques and ingredients to create new beers that perfectly complement the excellent offering and flavours of the existing Grimbergen beers, such as Blonde, Blanche and Double-Ambrée.”

The range of beers currently produced under the Grimbergen brand share the name of the monastery as well as its phoenix emblem and motto. Beers were first made on site in 1128, however the brewery was moved away from the abbey in the 18th century. It is now made at the Alken-Maes Brewery for the Belgium market while a Carlsberg-owned facility brews it under licence for international markets.

At the launch event at the abbey, Grimbergen unveiled a limited-edition 10.8% ABV Grimbergen Triple d’Abbaye which it said is an example of the type of beer that will be brewed at the microbrewery, once it has been constructed. The beer was aged in whiskey barrels for five months according to a similar technique that was used to brew beers in the 1500s.

The microbrewery, complete with a visitor centre, is expected to open to the public in late 2020. It will also house an on-site restaurant and bar and will have the capacity to produce three million 33cl bottles each year.

Glenmorangie hosts oyster reef restoration conference

22nd May, 2019

Scotch distiller Glenmorangie and its conservation partners are currently hosting an international conference on restoring Europe’s lost oyster reefs.

Native oysters being laid in the Dornoch Firth last year. The oysters are placed on mussel and scallop shells to provide them with solid purchase while they grow.

Taking place in Edinburgh from 21-23 May, the Native Oyster Restoration Alliance (NORA) conference is being attended by marine scientists, conservationists and oyster producers from across the continent.

The aim of the event is to develop a blueprint for the reintroduction of beds of native oysters to the waters of 15 countries, reintroducing millions of the shellfish Ostrea edulis to Sweden, France, Germany, England, Wales, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Croatia.

At one point Europe’s seas were home to vast oyster beds, with one in the North Sea thought to have been at least the size of Wales if not bigger but they were all wiped out by overfishing a century ago. They are now one of the rarest and most endangered marine habitats on Earth.

Capable of filtering huge amounts of sediment as well as nitrogen from the water (a single oyster can filter 200 litres of water a day), oyster beds are essential for water quality and also boost marine biodiversity.

Glenmorangie has pioneered a scheme to reintroduce an oyster reef in the Dornoch Firth near its distillery alongside Herriot-Watt University and the Marine Conservation Society.

The Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP) has already introduced 20,000 oysters to the firth and the aim is to increase this to four million by 2025.

Dr Bill Sanderson, DEEP’s research director and associate Professor of Marine Biodiversity at Heriot-Watt, is chairing the NORA conference at The Royal Society Edinburgh. He said: “This is a game-changing moment for marine conservation. NORA’s pledge to bring back oyster reefs across Europe, opens the door to widespread restoration, with untold benefits for our seas. DEEP’s ground-breaking work in the Dornoch Firth proves that it is possible to return oysters to areas in which they have become extinct.”

Professor Henning von Nordheim, head of the marine conservation department in Germany’s Federal Conservation Agency BfN, added: “When we founded NORA in 2017 in Berlin, we gratefully realised the overwhelming support and eagerness of so many European partners to join this fascinating vision.

“There is a real chance to restore large areas of our over exploited marine ecosystems with native oysters, for the benefit of marine biodiversity and sea water purification all around Europe. In doing so we can learn a lot from each other at this gathering in Edinburgh.”

Constellation Brands and Gallo’s $1.7bn deal delayed

22nd May, 2019

The US$1.7 billion deal between Constellation Brands and E&J Gallo is to be delayed after both companies received a request for additional information and documentary material from the US Federal Trade Commission.

On 3 April, Constellation and E&J Gallo entered into an asset purchase agreement over the agreed sale of $1.7 billion worth of wine brands. Constellation intends to offload its wine brands priced at US$11 and below sold, including Clos du Bois, Black Box, Estancia, Mark West, Wild Horse, Franciscan, and Ravenswood, along with six winemaking facilities, to E&J Gallo.

Those wineries include Mission Bell, Turner Road Vintners, Clos du Bois and Wild Horse in California, Hogue Cellars in Washington, and Canandaigua in New York.

On 17 April, the companies filed the relevant forms in connection to the sale and submitted them to the US Department of Justice and the US Federal Trade Commission, according to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act of 1976.

However, on 17 May, both firms received a request for additional information from the US Federal Trade Commission in connection with a review of the transactions submitted.

Referred to as the ‘second request’, this extends the waiting period 30 days after both companies have complied with the request from the trade commission. As a result, Constellation expects that the deal will no longer be completed in the first quarter of its 2020 fiscal year (the three months to 31 May 2019), but rather the second half of the 2019 calendar year.

Constellation confirmed that it will continue the normal operation of its entire wine and spirits business until the transaction is completed.

Speaking at the time, CEO and president of Constellation Brands, Bill Newlands, said the deal would allow the company to focus on its premium brands which he said are performing better.

“One of the hallmarks of our success over the years has been our ability to evolve and stay on the forefront of emerging consumer trends,” said Newlands.

“This decision will help enhance organizational focus on a more premium set of wine and spirits brands that better position our company to drive accelerated growth and shareholder value. In turn, Gallo is acquiring a collection of great brands that complement their operational model and business strategy to provide quality products to consumers at every price point.”

Bordeaux 2018: Barton releases but at what (La)coste?

22nd May, 2019

Léoville Barton and Grand-Puy-Lacoste led this morning’s 2018 releases, two of the more notable labels to appear post-Vinexpo.

St Julien second growth Léoville Barton was out at €61.80 per bottle ex-négoce, up 17% on the 2017 opener and giving it a case price of £758 per dozen.

With Antonio Galloni, James Suckling and Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW all having given the wine an upper range of 96 points in their scores, this is apparently an effort that rivals the 2016.

The property is on something of a run since 2014 and several of those back vintages, particularly the 2014 and 2017 are available at a considerable discount to today’s release but this is a respected and widely followed label and will no doubt see some interest.

Pauillac cru classé, Grand-Puy-Lacoste meanwhile has continued its new, higher pricing strategy.

Released at €55 p/b, a 4.1% increase on last year it has a case price of £672. Its scores and notes are solid; a wine of “precision, energy and nuance” according to Galloni who gave it 93-96.

Perrotti-Brown, despite calling it “rich, plush and generous”, was more in the 92-94 point spread while Suckling gave it 94-95.

The 2014, 2015 and 2016 all have a 95-point score from Neal Martin so depending on whose palate you tend to follow most the 2018 may be the equal of those vintages and worth a punt but the 2014 and 2015 are below £500 and £600 a case respectively if you know where to find them.

Latour-Martillac, Kirwan and Chasse-Spleen are also out.

Wine of the Week: Hush Heath Estate Balfour Brut Rosé

22nd May, 2019

We at team db want to celebrate the very best bottles from our Global Masters. Every Wednesday, we’ll select a wine that picked up either a Gold or Master from our competition series, and tell you why the judges loved it.

English Wine Week kicks off on Saturday 25 May, and we’re itching to crack out our stash of homegrown fizz. If I had the money to burn, I’d start the weekend with this lovely pink sparkler from Kent’s onomatopoeic winery, Hush Heath.

Grapes for this single vineyard wine were hand-picked in the 2013 harvest, before winemakers Owen Elias and Victoria Ash worked their magic. This year English Wine Week falls on the May bank holiday, so Londoners can sample the estate’s wines themselves by schlepping to the state-of-the-art tasting rooms owner Richard Balfour-Lynn spent £4 million opening last summer.

Fermented in steel vats at 16%, this traditional method fizz spent 31 months ageing on its lees, which clearly made the difference with our judging panel, as it picked up a Gold in our 2017 Global Sparkling Masters.

The judges loved the rosé’s complexity, and despite a very delicate colour which one called “only just a rosé”, more than a few praised its “lovely” fruitiness. That secondary fermentation didn’t go unnoticed, as several judges including Lynne Sherriff MW enjoyed those baked bread and “toasted brioche” aromas.

Patricia Stefanowicz MW, who also joined our 2017 Masters judging panel, said she found the wine mature on the palate, with “crisp acidity,” while a number of MWs also picked up on its length. With hundreds of entries into our 2017 competition from Italy to the USA, it’s clear that Hush Heath’s rosé can hold its own on the international stage. Cheers!

The wine: Hush Heath Estate Balfour Brut Rosé

The source: Kent, UK

The grape(s): Chardonnay (37%), Pinot Noir (33%), Pinot Meunier (20%)

The style: A traditional method rosé sparkling wine

The price: £30-50

The medal: Gold – The Global Sparkling Masters, 2017

Wine Society launches new own label range

22nd May, 2019

The Wine Society has launched a new series of limited-edition private-label wines championing exceptional ‘under the radar’ grapes.

The Bin Series, which is available now, will flag up wines the buyers think are ‘worthy’ of the accolade of the new series and harks back to the Wine Society’s heritage of discovering new wines.

Each ‘Bin’ will be available for a limited time, on a ‘when it’s gone it’s gone’ basis. Depending on the parcel size, it will stock “100s of dozens of bottles rather than 1000s of dozens,” it told db. Although it would not bring a bin back in future, it said that if a particular wine proved very popular, the Society would consider adding a future vintage to the range under its grower’s label.

Head of Buying Pierre Mansour told db that throughout its history, the Wine Society had quietly innovated with its cutting edge wine range, citing it being the first merchant in the 1960s to ship Musar from Lebanon, pioneering en rama Sherry in the UK and being instrumental in persuading Gonzalez Byass to release their first Tio Pepe en rama exactly 10 years ago.

“With the Bin Series our aim is to be bolder and prouder about unusual grapes or off-the-beaten-track regions, that pass our quality-first approach to wine buying,” he said.

The first wine in the series, Bin #001 comprises a 2017 Bobal from producer Altolandon in Spain’s DO Manchuela, which Mansour described as “an under-the-radar gem that bowled me over”.

The Society described it as “intensely rich red with generous blueberry and spice flavours, made from Spain’s native bobal grape” and noted the approach to winemaking by producer Rosalia Molina and her husband reflected a growing and exciting trend in Spain that puts the vineyard and quality of grapes at the heart of everything they do.

“Old vineyards (up to 140 years) and high altitude (1100m) results in grapes that have near perfect balance between flavour ripeness and freshness. They then take a light touch in the winery- no fining, no chemicals, tiny amounts of sulphur- so their wines are unadulterated expressions of the natural characteristics of the vines,” it said.

A second wine in the series is already in planning for the summer.

Earlier this month The Wine Society reported turnover in excess of one hundred million pounds for the first time, after seeing a 3% increase in sales despite against a tough backdrop for booze retail in the UK.

he Society said it believed its business model – as a not-for-profit organisation that is owned by and sells to its membership – “frees it from many constraints that companies are bound by, allowing it to operate in a different way to its competitors”.

Former head of Napa winery pleads guilty in university admissions scandal

22nd May, 2019

Agustin Huneeus Jr., the former CEO and president of Huneeus Vintners, has pleaded guilty to offering a bribe to alter test scores and get his child a sports placement at a university.

Image: Huneeus Vintners

Huneeus pleaded guilty to charges at Boston federal court on Tuesday (21 May) which involved paying US$50,000 for someone to alter his daughter’s SAT scores and bribing a member of the University of Southern California athletics department a further $250,000 to secure a place on the water polo team.

He paid the $50,000 sum to alter the exam results in 2018 and made an initial $50,000 payment to the USC official before he was arrested.

Huneeus, who has already stepped down from his position at his wine company, has accepted the charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; supervised release for three years; a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater; a mandatory special assessment of $100; restitution; and forfeiture to the extent charged.

In a written statement delivered outside court Huneeus expressed remorse and apologised to students who secured their place “on their own merit”.

“With my plea today, I am taking full responsibility for my wrongful actions,” he said. “My life has been devoted to my family and the people I have worked with and for. I have disappointed them all and brought shame on myself and the people I love.

“While I wish I could go back and make different and better choices, of course I cannot. What I can do now is to say: I am sorry and I apologise. Beyond my circle of family, friends and colleagues, I also apologise to students who work hard to get into college on their own merit, as well as to their families.

“Today’s plea was an important step in my effort to take responsibility and accept the consequences for acts that I deeply regret, and I hope that with time and effort, I will be able to earn back the respect of the people whose trust I have betrayed.”

Prosecutors have recommended that Huneeus serve 15 months in prison and receive other financial penalties. He will be sentenced in October.

Huneeus and Gordon Caplan, a former partner at a New York law firm who also entered a guilty plea on the same day, are the 12th and 13th defendants to plead guilty to charges as part of the scandal.

The scandal, which was first made public in March this year, centres around William “Rick” Singer, 58, of Newport Beach, California. Singer owned and operated Edge College and Career Network, a college counselling and preparation service, and was the CEO of the Key World Foundation (KWF), which claimed to be a charitable institution that provides education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It has been alleged that between 2011 and February 2019, Singer conspired with parents, athletic coaches, a university athletics administrator and others to secure placements for students at top universities. These include Yale University, Georgetown University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and Wake Forest University.

As well as Singer, 33 parents and 13 coaches and business associates have been charged for their involvement in concealing bribes and fixing test scores. The total number of people charged in relation to this scheme is 50.

Singer was charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice. He pleaded guilty in court in Boston in March.

Marci Palatella, founder and owner of Preservation Distillery in Kentucky, and Gregory Abbott, founder and chairman of New York food and beverage distributor International Dispensing Corp, have also been arrested and charged for their involvement in the scandal. At the time of writing, they have yet to submit a plea.

Jamie Oliver’s restaurants to face administration

21st May, 2019

UK television chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant business is preparing to file for insolvency, putting around 1,300 jobs at Jamie’s Italian, Fifteen and Barbecoa at risk.

As reported by Sky News, the restaurant chain Jamie’s Italian and the celebrity chef’s other venues have called in a KPMG to handle the insolvency process, with further details to be announced later today.

23 Jamie’s Italian outlets alongside restaurants Fifteen and Barbecoa are said to be affected. Jamie Oliver Holdings, which operates Jamie Oliver Limited and Jamie Oliver Licensing Limited will continue to trade as normal, as will the international restaurant franchise business, Jamie’s Italian International Limited.

The administration comes only two years after Oliver’s business went through a restructuring to offload unprofitable sites.

Oliver said: “I am deeply saddened by this outcome and would like to thank all of the staff and our suppliers who have put their hearts and souls into this business for over a decade. I appreciate how difficult this is for everyone affected.

“I would also like to thank all the customers who have enjoyed and supported us over the last decade, it’s been a real pleasure serving you.

“We launched Jamie’s Italian in 2008 with the intention of positively disrupting mid-market dining in the UK high street, with great value and much higher quality ingredients, best in class animal welfare standards and an amazing team who shared my passion for great food and service. And we did exactly that.”

The announcement follows a number of other restaurant chain closures including Carluccio’s, Prezzo, Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner.

According to data consultancy Kantar, diners in the UK are increasingly expressing a preference for experiential outlets rather than full-service restaurants such as Jamie’s Italian. For the year ending 24 March 2019, full-service restaurants experienced a 6% decline in sales, while almost five million fewer trips were made to such sites in the 12 weeks to 24 March 2019, in comparison to the same period last year.

Venues such as cafés and coffee shops, however, have experienced growth of 8% in the year to 24 March.

Cru commits to sustainability plan

21st May, 2019

Cru World Wine has announced it is to implement a new sustainability plan to help lower and off-set its carbon emissions.

The plan is part of a new wave of initiatives the merchant plans to implement to help tackle its environmental impact.

These will include an annual Environmental Impact Assessment and on-going efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

The newly implemented plan has four main components:

  • Reduction of unnecessary stock movements: with storage in Singapore, Bordeaux, Hong Kong and London, from 1 June Cru has said it will offer lower purchase prices to clients who choose to store their wine in the warehouse location where the wine first lands.
  • Consolidation of deliveries: Cru will encourage clients to consolidate deliveries by increasing its minimum order value for free delivery.
  • CO2 emissions published: Cru will publish on its website the amount of CO2 produced by each stock movement and delivery so clients can better understand their environmental impact and plan their transfers and deliveries accordingly.
  • Carbon off-setting: Even with the above changes implemented, Cru estimated it will still generate 250 tonnes of CO2 per year so it has committed to offset these emissions entirely through a VTS-certified carbon reduction programme.

What you need to know about the drinks industry charity’s #benevolentcolours campaign

21st May, 2019

Drinks industry staffers are wearing red, white and rosé-coloured clothes today to raise money and awareness for drinks trade charity The Benevolent.

It’s part of a project to raise awareness of the ‘It could be me’ campaign aimed at getting as many members of the drinks industry to sign up to donate £5 a month.

The campaign is being brought to life through a PR collaboration with agencies Dillon Morrall, Emma Wellings, Limm Communications, Phipps, and R&R Teamwork, who will all champion the campaign at the London Wine Fair.

Michael Saunders, chairman of The Benevolent, and Chris Porter, outgoing CEO, said, “We wanted to get the best creative minds round the table to help to raise awareness of all the great work that the Charity is involved with.

“Top of the agenda was creating awareness of the ‘It could be me’ campaign and encouraging individuals to sign up to donate a small amount every month.

“The Charity is under constant pressure as it delivers financial support to those in need and regular donations are vital to the success of our work.”

Employers are being encouraged to get staff involved in dressing up and signing up to the campaign.

For every picture posted on Instagram, Twitter of Facebook #benevolentcolours @drinkscharityuk, the PR collaboration will donate £1 to The Benevolent.