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They say that cutting out booze in January doesn’t bring any particular health benefits. It’s simple arithmetic really: one month off, eleven months on… you don’t need a medical degree to work that one out. Rather it’s about long term habits and patterns – drink sensibly all year round and you’ll be doing yourself far more favours. And while we’re on the subject of habits, why not consider what it is that you’re drinking. Now it would be wrong, of course, to say that as long as you drink organic booze, you can drink as much of the stuff as you like. If only. Opinion seems to be divided as to whether or not chemical residues from the pesticides and fungicides sprayed on non-organic vines, make their way into the finished product. A French study reported in Decanter last year, indicated that 90 per cent of the 300 wines tested contained traces of pesticide. Other studies, however, suggest that potentially harmful chemicals have either been metabolised during fermentation or filtered away by the time the wine reaches the bottle (I should really say box, shouldn’t I). But so long as a question mark remains, why not choose organic wine? When 100cl was set up, we pledged to stock nothing but organic varieties as soon as we could, and we are fast approaching our goal. In the past 6 months, every one of our new wines has been certified organic, and in 2014 we aim to bring even more organic producers on board.

The health benefits of organic wine must remain nebulous for the time being; but what of the taste? Who can say definitively that organic wine tastes better than non-organic wine? It is, after all, a question of… well, taste. But when you consider the care with which a producer of organic wines must take over his cultivation, and the difficulties he must overcome to avoid the need to dowse his vines in bug-bashing sprays, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that the end product will be high quality. Before taking on a new producer, we put their wine through a series of rigorous tests. We taste, we store, we re-taste, we decant, we pair with food, we blind-taste, we taste some more and it is only when we are absolutely certain that the quality of the wine passes muster, that we agree to put it in our boxes. And in our experience, which we like to think is extensive (in a good way, rather than a consistently smashed way), it is the organic wines which have proved to be the most reliable. Better nose, better taste, better structure. And if you don’t believe us, come along to one of our tasting sessions this year (email Roberta@100cl.co.uk for details), or order some of our new Rosso Piceno, in stock now. Organically certified, this is a plucky, winter red, the perfect wine with which to spoil your dry January.

Unreal Italian Wine

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 09.41.12Is it possible to get a hangover without actually drinking anything? A mental rather than a physical sense of malaise, which for all intents and purposes, leaves you feeling just as ropey as if you had sunk a bottle of 14.5% Malbec? Apparently it is, because this is just how I felt following a day at the Real Italian Wine event in Westminster this week. We spittooned, honestly, we really did. Every time. But somehow, after tasting so many glasses, the brain is tricked into thinking it has in fact consumed that amount of wine, and you are left thinking that you may as well have slugged it back and avoided the dribbly chinned humiliation of spitting into great communal vats. Except of course, you have to keep your wits about you. Because at the event, were around 60 of Italy’s best wine producers, in London with their wares for one day only. As we keep saying, this year’s aim is to increase the number of 100cl’s organic producers and to broaden our wine varieties. Quality, however, is what really matters to us, and amongst the wines on offer, we think we’ve found some gems that should, fingers crossed, be winging their way into boxes in the New Year. What is so special about a fair like this (other than getting wasted on free booze obviously), is that the majority of the producers are as yet unrepresented in the UK, which means they have no way of getting their wine into the country. And this is the real deal. You won’t find mass produced, industrial tasting Pinot Grigot here. These are the wines that Italy should be famous for: indigenous, blue-ribbon vintages, expertly made by true artisans. The emphasis of this year’s event was on Italy’s southern regions, with around two thirds of producers from Campania, Calabria and Puglia. We concentrated on organically and biodynamically grown wines, and after some serious tasting (yes, that’s tasting, not drinking), we’re confident we’ve found two or three new producers worthy of joining the 100cl clan. And so keep your eye on the blog, on our facebook page and on the website, because the family is about to grow…

Look Mum, No Bottles

look mumCyclists and bottles do not have the cosiest of relationships. They have their moments of course: a cool beer at the end of a hot ride might be just the ticket; but a puncture caused by a shard of glass from a broken bottle will turn the relationship sour pretty quickly. Unless it’s made from super light weight ergonomically moulded plastic, cyclists and bottles are well advised to keep their distance. Which is why 100cl’s arrival at Look Mum, No Hands on Hackney’s Mare Street, really is a match made in heaven. Would it even be possible to puncture a tyre with one of our boxes? Answers on a postcard please (and drinking an entire box such that slashing your own wheels with a penknife seems like a good idea is not the response we’re looking for). Look Mum, No Hands opened on Mare Street at the beginning of July, following in the footsteps of the original Old Street café, which was founded by three cycle-mad coffee drinking friends in 2010. The new Hackney branch, like its Old Street sibling, is somewhere to get a decent cup of coffee while getting your bike fixed. And if your bike isn’t broken, just leave it outside (you can even borrow a D-lock from the barristas) and enjoy the bike wheel pendant lights and road-racing murals, while drinking a glass of our Sangiovese del Rubicone or Bianco Sardegna.

One Year On

(Well, technically it’s been just under a year…)  And to mark this auspicious occasion, free boxes of Bianchello for everyone.  Not really.  But have a rundown of the story so far instead.

It was mid-2012 when the idea became a reality and 100cl approached its first producers.  There were a few thorny issues to sort out first: duty (thanks Mr Osborne, by the way, for all your support), importation, storage.  But there was fun to be had as well: tasting wasn’t too much of a burden, and with the help of Mat  Fowler we came up with a pretty natty box design.  Filming our video in Wilton’s Music Hall back in November was one of the year’s highpoints, and we are greatly indebted to our leading man, Mark Powell, and to Ryoko and Jake, who directed and produced the film (http://www.100cl.co.uk/).  And then just before the end of the year the website went live: Alex and Andy, thank you, thank you.  The beautiful artwork which adorns the pages (http://www.100cl.co.uk/about-us/) was created by Irene Fuga, and don’t miss our cartoons on facebook – Babak G, you’re an inspiration.

In the spring of this year, we launched ourselves on Twitter, and are delighted with our growing collection of followers (why not join the brood if you haven’t already, https://twitter.com/100cl1).  It was around the same time that we imported our first batch of boxed new season olive oil, produced from olives grown on the Roberta Frontali estate near Rimini, and as the only bag-in-box oil available to buy in the UK (we believe), this was something of a milestone for us (and for those of you who missed out on the first lot, there’s another truck load on its way).  And then it was summertime, by which point we had totted up a Verdicchio di Matelica producer and a Vermentino di Sardegna made by the Suore del Sacro Cuore (available soon, keep your eye on the website or facebook page for information https://www.facebook.com/100cl.co.uk.).  This September we were thrilled to be interviewed by Giuseppina Andreacchio for the wine blog Vino al Vino, which is part of the Italian food and wine website Lei Foodie.  How’s your Italian?  Test it here http://www.vinoalvino.org/blog/2013/09/the-next-big-thing-vino-organico-in-bag-in-box-by-giuseppina-andreacchio.html, and if that’s too much like hard work, paste the whole thing into Google translate, the result is bound to be crystal clear.  Finally, to top off our first year, we have just been asked to supply wine at the Mare Street branch of bike shop and café, Look Mum No Hands (http://www.lookmumnohands.com/).  Exciting stuff which we think worthy of a blog in itself…  And stick with us, in the next few weeks you’ll be able to order and pay directly through the website.  But for now, thank you loyal supporters of 100cl, we couldn’t do it without you.  Saluti!

Packing a Punch

wine_virtual_wineWe are pretty proud of our boxes. They are a long way from the unattractive cartons which our parents used to buy in the 1980s and stylistically speaking they are, we think, a cut (well several cuts actually) above the boxes you see at the supermarket. We’ve used recycled materials for our handles and the bags inside the boxes are BPA free, Phthalate free and PVC free.

That said, for us packaging is an ever-evolving phenomenon. Bottles and boxes may be the norm today, but things are set to change and 100cl hopes to be ahead of the game when these new packaging concepts are fully developed. There are a number of ideas out there involving bags, cartons and plastics, and we are exploring various options that might, ultimately, beat the box in terms of convenience and sustainability.

In fact, last month 100cl was approached by just-drinks.com and just-foods.com, an online resource for the food and drink industry, and asked to give our opinion on the future of food and drink packaging. And we were only too happy to give our two pennies worth. The full report is not available online, which is perhaps a good thing as it makes for fairly dry reading. The process of contributing to the research project, however, did help to focus our minds on where next for 100cl.

For the moment we’ll be sticking to the boxes but to keep you in the loop, here is a roundup of some recent developments in the world of drinks packaging.

  • PET bottles: plastic 75cl bottles, shaped like a traditional wine bottle, but lighter, stronger and easier to recycle than glass. Sainsbury’s now stocks two wine varieties in these bottles;
  • Composite bioplastic capsules made from annual renewable crops such as corn, sugar beet and sugar cane, to replace the foil and plastic capsules currently topping wine bottles. The carbon footprint of these capsules is 60% lower than conventional plastics;
  • Cork alternatives made from renewable polymers derived from sugar cane. 100% recyclable, with a net zero carbon footprint.

And for some really fun packaging ideas check out The Tulip, the Crest Cardboard Wine Bottle and STACKED Wines at http://www.packagingoftheworld.com/search?q=wine.

Acid test?

Have we told you how low the acidity of our extra virgin olive oil is? Actually, we have. Several times. But why are acidity levels so important, and are you sure you realise just how low the level in 100cl’s oil is? Indulge us. Let us explain.

In general terms, the lower the level of an oil’s acidity, the higher the quality of the oil. Acidity in olive oil is measured in terms of the amount of oleic acid, or free fatty acid (FFA), present in the oil; this is different to a simple pH assessment of the oil. Oleic acid is a naturally occurring monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid (try saying that after a couple of glasses of Sangiovese). As the percentage of oleic acid in the oil goes down, the flavour of the oil improves. An inexpensive so-called “ordinary virgin olive oil” may have an oleic acid level of not more that 3.3 grams per 100 grams (any higher than this and the oil would not be fit for consumption); to be classed as an extra virgin olive oil, oleic acid levels in the oil must not exceed 0.8 grams per 100 grams. If an oil has an acidity level of lower than 0.3 grams per 100 grams, it is considered an ultra premium oil and will normally be pretty expensive.

To ensure that levels of oleic acidity remain low, great care must be taken while growing, harvesting and pressing the olives, and once processed, the oil must be stored correctly. If, for example, poor quality olives are used, or if olives picked off the ground are included in the harvest, this will increase oleic acid levels. To keep levels low, the olives must be picked by hand and they must not come in contact with heat or chemicals during the pressing process. The finished oil should then be stored in a cool, dark environment.

100cl’s 2012-13 extra virgin olive oil, which comes from the Roberta Frontali estate near Rimini, has an oleic acid level of 0.09 grams per 100 grams. Now you know why we keep going on about it.

Better make it a beer.

So duty on wine and spirits has gone up, and duty on beer has been reduced. The raising of rates on wine from £253.39 per hundred litres to £266.72, or from £1.90 per bottle to £2 per bottle came, if we are honest, as a bit of a shock. After so muchpress speculation that the 2% alcohol duty escalator would be scrapped, we were hoping for a break. But with the deficit rising again and the economy apparently contracting, something had to take a hit, and booze is an easy target.

For those of us in the wine trade, of course, it is an almighty pain in the ****. But why the discrepancy between wine and spirits, and beer, particularly when wines and spirits are among the few expanding homespun industries in the UK? Well, we all know the traditional reasons for targeting alcohol in general: easy money for the government, thinly disguised as the encouragement of better habits for citizens. Drink less, and we’ll fleece you for it if you don’t. Unless of course, as of 25th March, you are a beer drinker. The chancellor says he is trying to support pubs, but according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, over 41% of drinks sold in pubs are wines and spirits. I spy a hole in your logic, Mr Osborne. (In fact, I spy many holes in your logic. Do you even have a logic?). I also spy a hole in your legality, and it has been suggested that the government’s discrepancy in its treatment of wines and spirits on the one hand, and beer on the other, contravenes EU law.

Realistically, however, the government’s move will not be challenged in the courts. Who has the money to do this? Certainly not the small independent producers and importers who are the ones who will really take a hit. And the government has already put together its defence, that duty on beer and duty on wines and spirits remains “broadly similar”.

And so we are stuck with a colossal rate of duty, which dwarfs equivalent taxes levied on alcohol in the rest of Europe. A bit of a blow really. I think I need a drink

– better make it a beer.

Celebrity Tailoring

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If you are wondering who the chap on our homepage is - the dapper looking one helping himself to one or two glasses of wine – you might be interested to know that he is in fact something of a celebrity. We held the shoot last autumn and asked an old acquaintance, Mark Powell, to star. He was happy to oblige, and if you refresh the homepage you can see the various versions we made. Mark is a Soho-based tailor who over the years has suited, among others, Mick Jagger, Paul Weller and David Bowie. So far so famous. But then a certain Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, secured an Olympic gold and was voted Sports Personality of the Year. You can see where this is going… It was, of course, Mark who dressed the famously stylish cyclist when he received his award at the BBC, and who has been working with Bradley for nearly two years now. Unsurprisingly Mark showed up to our shoot with a spectacular rail of suits, jackets and trousers, a few of which you can see in the video. We staged the shoot in Wilton’s Music Hall, a wonderfully dilapidated place, which is apparently the world’s oldest surviving grand music hall. And with the expert skill of our director friends, Ryoko and Jake, the film was made. For more information about Mark, see http://www.markpowellbespoke.co.uk/index.html To see some of Ryoko and Jake’s other work, see http://www.ne-o.co.uk/

Oil

Our boxed extra virgin oil has arrived and as we keep on saying, it really is the first Bag-in-Box olive oil that we know of, to be sold in the UK. The oil itself is of the highest quality, which makes the 3 litre £35 price tag a snip, if you consider that 500ml of quality extra virgin oil usually retails at around £13 to £15. And in order to help you decant smaller amounts of oil when required, we are providing miniature glass measuring cups with each box. The blend of three olive varieties makes this a versatile oil. We would recommend using it to make pesto or salad dressings, as well as drizzling it over white fish and plain, salted vegetables. And as artichoke season approaches, don’t forget that the best way to enjoy these is by dipping the leaves in either vinaigrette (three parts oil to one part vinegar) or plain, seasoned oil.

Flowers Gallery

We are still providing wine for the Flowers Gallery, which has branches on Kingsland Road and Cork Street. They have opened several shows in the past three months and we are delighted that viewers have been able to quaff 100cl’s Bianchello del Metauro di Claudio Morelli and Etna Rosso di Scilio while perusing the exhibitions. Highlights include the December opening of Cork Street’s annual “Small is Beautiful” show in which selected artists are invited to submit work in any medium, so long as it is under 9 by 7 inches, January’s Nadav Kander exhibition and February’s Boyd & Evans retrospective. For more information, see http://www.flowersgallery.com/

Recent arts events

Art EventNovember saw 100cl’s grand entry into London’s art world. Well, perhaps this is a little overstated, but we were delighted to be asked to supply the wine for the openings of two major art shows. The first, “In My Life, the Unseen Beetles by Henry Grossman”, was held at Beak Street’s Rock Paper Photo gallery and featured previously unpublished photographs of the fab four taken by this celebrated photographer.

The second held at the Flowers Gallery on the Shoreditch end of Kingsland Road, mark the 80th birthday of the gallery’s founder, Angela Flowers. Angela is one of the UK’s foremost contemporary art dealers and having established her first gallery in an attic over 40 years ago, she is credited with anticipating the so-called BritArt explosion, as well as steering London’s art scene to its new home in the East end. The commemorative show will feature a range of artists with whom Angela has worked during her career and 100cl was thrilled to be a part of this major event.
For details of the Flowers Gallery see : www.flowersgallery.com

Self help africa

Self Help AfricaIn December we donated wine for the One Night in November charity raffle, held in Hoxton’s East Village as part of an evening showcasing some of London’s most talented Afrobeat artists. The event was organized to celebrate the charity Self Help Africa’s successful work in helping African smallholder farmers to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. The organization began its work 28 years ago and has helped change the lives and living conditions of many people in Sub-Saharan Africa. We were delighted to be able to contribute to the evening in this small way and wish the charity every success in their continued fundraising efforts.