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British public remains ignorant of wines

The British public is painfully ignorant of the dishes and wines featured on menus and wine lists, according to the Muscadet Information Bureau.

The bureau based its conclusions on a survey carried out last May among 200 men and women nationwide.

What chance has a good wine of making an impact on the strength of its origins and reputation if, as the bureau maintained, nearly three quarters of the population don’t know that an “au gratin” dish is made with cheese, and nearly half don’t know the meaning of the term “à la carte”?

According to the survey the over-40 age group scored best, with 48% understanding a French menu as opposed to 21% of the under-25 group.

Young people admitted to feeling uncomfortable with French menus, almost one in 10 saying they ordered haphazardly and hoped for the best.

The assumption by restaurants that diners are familiar with common international restaurant terms was thought to be the main reason why people often order a dish they don’t want and are then dissatisfied with the meal.

When it comes to wine, fewer than one in five people claim any great knowledge of it. They are, however, keen not to show their ignorance. Four out of 10 people, the survey states, taste the wine in a restaurant without knowing how it should taste.

Northerners appear more honest about their lack of knowledge: twice as many as in the South would ask a friend to taste it for them. Few realise that the object of tasting a wine is not to assess its quality but to ensure that it is not corked or in poor condition.

Hand-pumped still cider

Inch’s, which claims to be Devon’s largest cider maker, has responded to the need for a still, draught cider to be served by a traditional hand pump.

The demand has been fuelled by pressure from the Campaign for Real Ale, which has indicated that pubs using a hand pump dispenser system with keg ciders are unlikely to be included in the Good Beer Guide.

The cider, known as Stonehouse Traditional Cider, has an ABV of 6%. It is made from undiluted apple juice, pressed from locally grown apples and is matured in huge oak vats holding as much a 42,000 gallons each.

The cider is later cold filtered and racked into five or 11-gallon poly-drums.

Laustau’s great range

Papirusa Light Manzanilla and the same bodega’s Solera Reserva San Emilio Pedro Ximenez. The first is described by Rowles as: “Soft, slightly seaweed nose, clean flor, good palate, good length, nice bite on the finish,” and the second: “Intense, raising nose. Great fullness. Wonderful syrupy palate; lasts for ever.”

It goes to remind us all what incredible variety and richness lies in the bodegas of Jerez, Puerto and San Lucar de Barrameda.

Look out for Bollinger ’88

Be ready for the release of Bollinger’s 1988 vintage Grande Année. Grapes were selected from only 17 Premiers Crus and Grand Cru vineyards, of which 70% belong to Bollinger.

Each cru was fermented separately in wood to ensure that individual styles and aromas were developed. The vintage is composed of 72% Pinot Noir and 28% Chardonnay and should retail at around £32 a bottle.

Designer wines

IF BOTTLE label and design counts, Whitbread should have considerable success with its range of Regional Classics. The design concept from Nucleus Design supports the brand mark with the use of regional maps on each label.

There are currently 32 wines available through Whitbread’s retail outlets and its restaurants, hotels and pubs.

The wines are just beginning to appear, and it will be interesting to see how this marketing exercise works with customers.

Taittinger Prize

The Champagne house of Taittinger deserves congratulations on entering its 28th year as sponsor of the Taittinger international culinary prize for young chefs.

It is open to chefs between the ages of 24 and 49 and finalists will this year be drawn from 10 European countries including Great Britain. Application forms from James Long on 0279 655935.

Wine at Olympia

The International Festival of Wine and Food, sponsored by the Sunday Times and Decanter magazine will be held at Olympia, London from 6-9 October.

Although the fair is aimed primarily at consumers it should also be of considerable interest to restaurateurs.

Leaflets and tickets are available from the box office on 071-373 8141.

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