The UK may be a dab hand at nobly-rotted sweet wine yet. The Meopham Valley Vineyard, near Gravesend in Kent, harvested its first botrytised grapes this winter, after one of the warmest, driest autumns on record. Owner David Grey left some of his Chardonnay crop hanging on the vine until the beginning of December. Britain's first home-grown sweet wine is expected to hit the shops next Christmas at about £20 a bottle.
London-based Thomas and Carter bars (the Evangelist and the North Pole) introduced a bin-end wine list in December, available in addition to its normal list, with a fixed mark-up of £8. Included is the Angelus Cabernet Sauvignon 1997, Wirra Wirra, McLaren Vale, at £22 (it's £17 in Oddbins).
Says managing director Steve Wilkins: "The list has come about as a direct result of the growing concern surrounding the price structure of wine lists in many UK restaurants and bars. People are drinking more wine than ever before, but an awful lot of restaurants miss the point. The more good wine people see, the more they'll be inclined to drink it."
Wilkins is hoping that by offering wines this way drinkers will splash out on the premium wines. "By using a fixed, transparent mark-up, drinkers will have a clear idea of how much a wine is actually worth and will feel more inclined to go for a more expensive bottle," he says, hopefully.
Berry Bros & Rudd (0870 900 4300) has released the latest edition of its Blue List - with Berry's poshest wines, including those for laying down. As well as the usual gamut of Bordeaux and Burgundy (with plenty of the stunning 1999 vintage - one of the richest in years), the company has increased its range of fine wines from Spain, Australia, California, Italy (including Supertuscans from 1997 - "the greatest vintage in living memory") and the RhÔne. And following the opening of the Still Room in its St James's Street shop in London, it has added a range of rare whiskies, Cognacs and Armagnacs. There's even a cellar advice department on 01256 340123.
The Wine & Spirit Education Trust has released details of its one-night events for the first half of the year. They kick off on 20 February at its London school with Completely Old World (£25). "Where was wine first made? No one is 100% sure, but the most likely origin is the south Caucasus," begins the lecture. This is followed by tasting samples from the Lebanon (no, not Chƒteau Musar), Cyprus and Malta.
The range of food and wine matching events has also been extended to include many different cuisines from around the world. The first is on 13 February (£45).
All the events take place from 6.30pm to 8pm. For more details call 020 7236 3551.