jamie goode's wine blog: Chicken run, a museum Riesling and a fairtrade Shiraz

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Chicken run, a museum Riesling and a fairtrade Shiraz

Three rather different elements are thrown into the pot to create tonight's blogpost.

First, an aside - this blog has a google page rank of 6, while the main site index page has a page rank of 5. That's a bit odd. Am I spending too much time blogging?

The first element is some telly. It's not often that I sit down in front of the TV - even though the last two nights have seen Fiona and I get through four episodes of the West Wing (we're on series 3) - but tonight I watched the second program of Hugh's chicken run on C4.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is on a mission to wean the nation off intensively reared chickens. But denied access to film in the 'battery farms', he creates two scaled down chicken farms of his own in adjacent sheds, one free range and one intensive. I enjoyed the program, and I'm highly sympathetic to its aims: I believe we have a strong moral duty to treat with kindness the animals we are going to eat.

But I think this program may backfire, in part because of the honest intent shown by the program makers. Because I'd expected battery farming to look a lot worse than the vision of it presented by Hugh.

My preconceptions: I had thought the chickens were kept in small cages, and had their beaks clipped to prevent them from pecking holes in their neighbours, and that many of them died and were left to rot in situ. Instead, they are just kind of crowded and never see the sunlight, and the weak or sick are removed and sacrificed. It's not pretty, but it's better than I had anticipated.

The emotional bit in the program is when Hugh breaks down in tears because he has to finish off two sick birds in the same day. Look, I would hate to have to kill a chicken. But this is the man who raises pet pigs for the pot. I thought he was made of sterner stuff.

Still, despite the criticisms, I'll continue buying free range chickens (which are reared the same way, but in less dense situations, with bales of hay, plastic footballs, suspended CDs and access to an outdoor area). But the program makers are spinning this one out a bit with lots of shots of Hugh in his red Land Rover and various contrived reality TV moments. Hugh is very good on camera, though.

The second element is a really nice Riesling.

Pewsey Vale 'The Contours' Museum Release Riesling 2001 Eden Valley, Australia
Intense, fresh, limey nose with a pronounced spicy quality, and a bit of honey and toast. The palate is bone dry and piercing with high acidity, a lemony zing and an attractive freshness. It's quite complex and not too petrolly, with a delicious, precise 'nervous' sort of quality. Not heavy or phenolic. 91/100 (RRP - £10.99 Stockists: Berry Bros & Rudd, Selfridges & Co, Australian Wines Online, Premier Vintners, Free Run Juice, Averys of Bristol, Layton Wine Merchants, The Wineman)

The third is a delicious, affordable, quaffable Chilean Shiraz.

Marks & Spencer Fairtrade Shiraz 2007 Curico Valley, Chile
From Vinos Los Robles, this is really appealing. It's vibrant, juicy and aromatic, showing red and black fruits with a nice spiciness, and a savoury twist. It's fresh and quite pure, and lacks that off-putting rubbery greenness that some Chilean reds show. This isn't a wine to beat you around the head: it's really nicely balanced. Savoury finish. 85/100 (£5.49 Marks & Spencer)

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At 10:51 PM, Anonymous jeremy said...

Has anyone seen Lisa Dinsmore's piece on Paso Robles? It's about how popular it's become. The good and the bad side haha.
The Other Wine Country

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Gabriel said...

Jamie - how much is the Riesling, and who sells it?

At 8:27 AM, Anonymous keith prothero said...

Jamie---re ranking on Google. Since you expanded and enhanced your blog,I rarely visit your main site anymore.
It is a bit like wine-pages.I visit the Forum daily but perhaps the home page only once a week at most.

At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Lar said...

Hi Jamie,

bit of serendipity going on here. I was reading "The Science of Wine: From Vine to Glass" by someone who shares the same name as you. Mad! ;)

I put it down to look at Chicken Run.

Agreed, battery farming didn't look as bad as I thought it would, though I'm sure it can worse in reality.

I've also tried that Riesling, cost me about €15 in Dublin. Really liked it.

On PageRank, Google really likes blogs. Why? It's frequently updated content. What you could do is a regular blog post, perhaps monthly on "From the archives" linking back to content on the main site.

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Martin Jones said...

Hugh F-W has not gone to the limits of the Govt's guidelines on acceptable standards for battery hen production so his physical conditions are better than most, we can assume. Also television not yet being smellevision, you have to imagine the stench and eye-watering impact of all that ammonia. I thought the clincher last night was that the locals tumbled to the fact that a free-range chicken can work out at only 50p/portion (approx - assuming 5 eats) more than the intensively-raised ones.

At 6:59 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Thanks for the comments - I've updated the posts with stockist details for the Riesling

At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As emotive as these programs are, they ignore a lot of science behind the welfare of the animals. Having worked professionally in the industry, I assure you that the free-range systems for egg and meat production often result in standards of welfare far below what is acceptable and certainly below the welfare of those in battery cages. We (especially celebrities) have to be very careful not to apply our reactions to a situation instead of understanding the animals reaction.
In terms of industrial production, neither system is acceptable.

NB As this blog is spidered by google, I have to post anonymously.

At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

I agree that it "doesn't look that bad."

Of course one mustn't forget that it's Hugh's company (Keofilms) that are making the "Big Food Fight" series.

Interesting about the refusal of the supermarkets to be filmed. I guess that's because they don't trust Hugh and his producers not to distort their words. Or maybe there really is something to hide!

At 6:40 PM, Blogger Antonia Stuart-James said...

I might point out that here in my local Carrefour supermarket in Belgium, a cheap chicken costs about 5€, a corn-fed chicken costs 9€ and a free-range chicken, 12€ so the price differential is greater. Cheap eggs cost 0,10€(30 for 3.15€), barn eggs 0,26€ and free range eggs 0,39€. Divide by 1.4 to convert to £.

Time and again, the programmes referred to the price and "what the consumer wants". Actually, it is what the supermarkets want in their price war. Chickens used to be a luxury and not a cheap food option. Supermarkets forced the farmers to produce cheaper chickens and eggs and to find ways to continually cut the price. We are used to paying a certain price for a food then a supermarket offers us an own brand option for less so we eat that instead. Tesco go further with their white brands - the 9p tin of baked beans, for example. We did not demand such cheap beans but it was offered to us by Tesco who want us to buy from them and not a competitor. Many cheap foods are sourced from third world countries produced by cheap labour. The product is canned nearer home so labelled produce of eg Italy and we are none the wiser.

I did not eat chickens or any meat from 1984 to 2007 because of the way chickens are farmed in the UK, not because I am an animal lover which I am not but because of the forced feeding, the unnatural lives, the inevitable disease and knock-on effect on our health. I suffered one week with salmonella poisoning in 1980 caused by a chicken sandwich. I started eating chicken again just to be sociable but eat no other meat. Well the odd slice of Serrano ham. I am not evangelistic about vegetarianism. It is simply my quiet preference and a much cheaper food option.

The point about chickens is not so much which type of whole chicken you choose to buy but about the poor quality of meat used in chicken products, especially the nuggets given to children because they are tasty. LISTEN PEOPLE - THEY ARE RUBBISH.

I wonder whether KFC and McDonalds will now be forced by consumer pressure to consider their chicken sources.

I know millions of people are on a low budget. (I once heard the frightening statistic that 38 million of the 60 million Brits in the UK had less than £112 to their name!) Yet many of these people still find money for alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets. Don't get me started on the latter. Then there are new clothes every season, piles of them cheaply bought at Primark, a car and the must-have holidays. Very few people in the UK are so poor that they cannot make healthier food choices - like eating cheaper beans and pulses instead of meat. It is all a question of priorities.

Will someone please investigate why smoked salmon is now so cheap? It used to be a luxury, Christmas day food but 200g of cheapo Atlantic product made(?) in France now costs 1,50 € in Carrefour, down from 2,99 €. Of course it is thin and the odd bit is too chewy to eat but it is edible enough for sandwiches. Even my 10 year old's school sandwiches.

©Antonia Stuart-James 2008 on http://antoniastuart-james.blogspot.com/


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