jamie goode's wine blog: July 2006

Monday, July 31, 2006

'I have been fortunate to secure fruit from 140 year old vines in perhaps the best vintage on record', says winemaker Tim Burvill. 'What an irresistable opportunity!' The result is the Rockbare Barossa Babe Shiraz 2002, which at an RRP of £14.99 is actually fantastic value for money. It's a dark, intense wine with the oak providing spicy structure to the ripe, pure, sweet black fruits. There's plenty of complexity here, though, and with time the oak seems to merge seamlessly into the entirity of the wine, as if swallowed by its dark, intense core. The 15.5% alcohol is noticeable (how do you hide this?) but in the context of the wine it is almost hidden. This is the traditional Barossa style at its best, and if you are in the mood for it, it's great. (UK agent Boutinot. Availability Andrew Chapman www.surf4wine.co.uk; D Byrne; Bacchanalia.)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Beer isn't wine, but it is quite tasty and I like to drink it. Two favourites, both from Australia. Little Creatures hails from Western Australia, and it's a complex, fruity pale ale of real appeal; Coopers is from South Australia, and it's a bit tighter and fresher, but with just as much flavour. Neither are too sweet. Both are available in Oddbins for £1.49 - it's interesting that the sort of price differentials seen with wine, from cheapest to most expensive, aren't really seen with beer. Fantastic beer isn't much dearer than industrial lager - sometimes it's cheaper, even.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

On a reader's recom- mendation I tracked down a bottle of Muddy Water James Hardwick Riesling 2004 Waipara, New Zealand. It's great. Thrilling even. I've been doing a fair bit of Riesling recently, and a number of these have been from New Zealand, and this is the best of the bunch so far. It has lovely balance, and just a hint of residual sugar (or is it just fruit richness?) adds a lovely texture to the wine. There's good acidity and freshness, and some complexity, which I often find missing in these wines. It's available in the UK from Corney & Barrow (www.corneyandbarrow.com).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Quinta de Roriz is a smart property in the Douro owned by media baron João Van Zeller, who is, as you might expect, charming and articulate. His wines are made by the Symingtons, and tonight I’m drinking the affordable second wine, Prazo de Roriz, which at just 8€ a bottle, is potentially Portugal’s best value red wine.

Prazo de Roriz 2004 Douro, Portugal
A good deep colour, this has an inviting nose of pure, ripe red fruits, with some cherry and plum notes along with a hint of chocolatey richness. The palate is ripe with plenty of pure fruit, together with a spicy, savoury tang. A modern, fruity style with good concentration and purity. It’s almost new world style, but just about avoids being too forward and ripe. Convincing stuff and a bit of a bargain. Very good+ 87/100

It’s hot still, although the thunder storms and torrential rain this evening have cooled things down a touch. Two whites. Two more Rieslings, to be precise, following the recent theme.

Peter Lehmann Eden Valley Riesling 2005 Australia
Perfumed, persistent, savoury nose of lime, grapeskin and citrus pith. The palate is crisp, brightly fruited and quite tangy, with a citrussy character and a savoury bite. It finishes bone dry. Like many Australian Rieslings it is just a bit too dry and assertive for drinking on its own, but this would be a perfect mealtime companion with modern fusion cuisine. Refreshingly, this is just 12% alcohol. Very good+ 88/100 (£8.49 Noel Young, T Wright [Bolton], Abbey Wines, Taurus Wines, Cheers, Wines of the World)

Lingenfelder Bird Label Riesling 2004 Pfalz, Germany
The charming, slightly eccentric Rainer Lingenfelder makes some very smart wines, including this wonderfully accessible entry-level Riesling. It has an appealing nose that combines sweet melon and apple fruit with a nice minerality. The palate has just enough residual sugar to counter the minerally acidity perfectly, and the result is a plump, just off-dry melony wine of real appeal. Great for casual sipping. 11.5% alcohol. Very good+ 87/100 (£6.09 Oddbins)

Pooter is the ghost that haunts us bloggers. Back in 1892, brothers George and Weedon Grossmith published a hilarious spoof diary of a Mr Charles Pooter. Now it is in the public domain, several versions of the text can be found on the web (here is an illustrated version), and reads very much like a blog. We all fear being accused of Pooterism.
"Why should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see -- because I do not happen to be a 'Somebody' -- why my diary should not be interesting. My only regret is that I did not commence it when I was a youth."

Charles Pooter introducing his Diary of a Nobody

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tonight I am alone, so I choose to dine on one of my favourite combinations: bread and cheese. I'm a relatively recent convert to cheese, but now I love it, confirming the notion that tastes that are hard to acquire are often more enduring than those we appreciate immediately.

Tonight I am eating Comte and Colton Basset Stilton with a bread I made earlier: I bunged in a bit of olive oil, some salt, a little sugar and some flour with dried yeast. I mixed it with some warm water and allowed it to prove (temperature in kitchen 27 centigrade today, as it has been for at least two weeks) while still quite a damp mix. Unfortunately, my rough and ready estimations mean the bread has turned out quite salty to the taste, but this means it goes quite well with the cheese.

Two New Zealand Rieslings provide the accompaniment. Both are very good. Waipara Springs Riesling 2004 Waipara, New Zealand is drier with lovely limey fruit, together with just a hint of sweetness. There's also some flinty minerality (reduction?). It's pretty dry though, with bracing acidity, and drier than most NZ Rieslings tend to be. Framinghams's Marlborough Classic Riesling 2005 is richer and thicker with some residual sugar providing the weight and richness that helps offset the high acidity. Both work really well with cheese.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Think of New Zealand wine, and the first thought is of Sauvignon Blanc. Yes, it's impressive and all that, but I reckon Pinot Noir could prove to be the Kiwi's more memorable contribution to the world of wine. I've tried three this weekend (representing the three main Pinot-producing regions), all from www.hellionwines.com, and I've enjoyed them all. And the good news is that they aren't prohibitively priced. It's nice to find really good wine that you can actually afford to drink.

Waipara Springs Pinot Noir 2004 Waipara, New Zealand
Hand harvested, destemmed, cold soaked, hand plunged, gently pressed and aged in French oak - a classic recipe for Pinot Noir, and here it has worked brilliantly well. This wine has a lovely perfumed nose of sweet, lush dark cherry and berry fruit, with a hint of spiciness. It is elegant, ripe and lush. The palate is dense and spicy with smooth, concentrated, rich fruit. Ripe and full with lovely weight: it's certainly a big style of Pinot, a bit like a modern-styled Grand Cru Burgundy. Delicious stuff. Very good/excellent 94/100 (£13.50 Hellion Wines)

Ranui Pinot Noir Wairau Valley 2005 Marlborough, New Zealand
Hand-picked and hand-plunged before ageing in French oak. Sweet rounded cherr and berry fruit nose with just a hint of stewed fruit. There's a sweet liqueur-like edge to the dark cherry and berry fruit. The palate is smooth with alluring dark cherry fruit. Not at all overdone: delicious stuff. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£9.95 Hellion Wines)

Lowburn Ferry Skeleton Creek Pinot Noir 2004 Central Otago, New Zealand
Perfumed, fresh black cherry nose is quite subtle, and has a pleasant, subtly green character in the background. There's a nice, spicy tang to the sweet black cherry fruit on the palate. Quite a rich, juicy, vibrant style. Tasty. Very good/excellent (£12.95 Hellion Wines)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

While the boys were at cricket practice I had a chance to pay my tiny vineyard a much needed visit. It's gone a bit crazy, with some vigorous growth, but a healthy crop is developing. I really need some guide wires to lift the foliage (I'm on a single wire system at the moment) and expose the bunches. Gave it a liberal spray of sulfur to counter the powdery mildew, which alas has already started to appear on a few of the bunches and leaves. The disease pressure is so high in the UK that you really can't miss a trick. I need to visit more often, I reckon. Anyway, I'm going to put some proper trellising in this winter so that I can lift the foliage and produce a vertical canopy. Then it will look like a proper vineyard.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Just discovered an excellent article on bottle fill level abbreviations over at wine-searcher.com. (One of the world's most useful wine sites.)

I wonder how much a correlation there is between bottle fill and wine quality in older wines? I'm sure there must be a strong one. But is it absolute? Do you ever get old cooked wines with good fill levels? Or great wines with low fill levels?

The cellars of Berry Bros & Rudd are a wonderful dinner venue (see the 3D view here). Last night I was there for a charity dinner in aid of Mercy Ships. I’d been invited as the wine dude (I don’t like the term ‘expert’) to give a brief introduction to each of the wines they were serving with each course (aside: these are very fairly priced at retail plus £10). As well as the atmospheric setting, the service was very professional and the catering of high quality. Before dinner we also had an introduction to the history of the shop from the well-spoken Demetri Walters—apparently, it was previously the site of one of Henry VIII’s real tennis courts.

We had some well chosen wines. Fizz was Berry’s cuvee of Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, with is precise, delicate and very impressive (it retails at around £19, which is good value). Patrick Javiller’s Meursault Les Clous 2003 was utterly delicious. From the ripe 2003 vintage I reckon this is one to drink now. It’s plump and rich but still pretty elegant, like an sprinter with big but perfectly toned muscles. Château Batailley 1999 Pauillac was delicious. It’s a property that doesn’t get much attention; consequently it is well priced. It is also quite serious: the ripe berry fruit core was complemented nicely by some minerality, earthiness and structure. I’m going to check out a few 1999s from Bordeaux, I reckon. We finished off with a Bonnezeaux (La Montagne, Domaine du Petit Val, 2003) which was also pretty tasty.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Non-serious, but fun - and perfect chilled on a night where the temperature is still in the 30s - is Lambrusco Rosso. I never thought I'd hear myself say that. But this partially fermented grape must, still spritzy and sweet, reminds me of a winery during vintage time. There's a haunting grape-skin green leafiness underneath the sweet raspberryish fruit. The acidity and greenness that would make this a mean, tart wine if it were fermented to dryness, help counter the sweetness nicely, resulting in a refreshing, fruity drink that's low (4%) in alcohol. Cheap, too, at £1.58 from Asda.

London is sunny and hot. It has been for as long as I can remember (which is about a week back...) - which means that we are in the midst of a heatwave. Today the temperature is supposed to be 34 centigrade (that's 93 in the old currency). I like this sort of weather, but wine doesn't. All over London, bottles will be quietly bubbling away in non-airconditioned wine shops. The way wine is treated through the supply chain is nothing short of appalling. Usually it's not a huge issue in the UK because the ambient temperature doesn't get too high and doesn't swing too rapidly, but in summers like this and 2003, I reckon a huge amount of wine will have sustained heat damage. Pictured is Marylebone High Street a few minutes ago.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tonight, a dinasour wine. One that isn't roaming the earth any more, at least in its present form. Back in June 2000 I first tasted this wine at La Vigneronne, with Rainer Pfefferkorn the proprietor (notes are here). It was my first ever La Vigneronne tasting - the first of many (these were to prove an important education in my early years as a wine nut), and I described this wine in glowing terms ('lovely, perfumed nose with an unusual medicinal edge. Again, lovely southern character. Opaque purple/ black -- the darkest of the Baruels. Massively tannic with dense fruit and firm acidity. Needs time, but will it ever resolve? Excellent'). Now, six years later, has it resolved. Sort of . Shortly after this tasting Pfefferkorn sold this estate, and I haven't followed it since his last vintage in 1998. But he did make some remarkably long-lived wines from a rather modest terroir, with high acid and tannin, as well as fresh, bright fruit.

Domaine du Baruel 1995 Vin de pays des Cevennes, France
Fresh, bright, spicy, earthy nose with some nice red fruits. The palate is tannic and spicy, with good acid hemming in the red fruits very effectively. It has evolved nicely, but it's still fresh, and there's a lovely earthy complexity emerging. Still pretty tannic, I reckon this is drinking almost as well as it is going to now, while there's still fruit to balance the structure. But no need to hurry. Remarkable for a 11 year old wine from the Languedoc. I'm enjoying this a lot. Very good/excellent 92/100

The fall-out from the La Rosa weekend. Joao Roseira has published some pictures from the Saturday night party, including two UK-based wine writers in their underwear, with faces blanked out to protect the guilty. See them here (and this is the link to Joao's blog). Unfortunately, I don't have any photographic means of revenge on Joao, but I do have some good pictures of a scantily clad Jasper Morris with a crocodile.

Monday, July 17, 2006

What do scores mean? For me, little more than an indication of how much I liked the wine. A sort of shorthand. I know what my scores mean to me, and I hope readers quickly get the hang of them.

They are clearly absurd, though. For example, most are within the band of 85 to 95, and there's a tight clustering around 90. In part this reflects that I'm drinking relatively consistent wine. But for me, there's quite a big difference between a wine that gets 88 and one that gets 92. It might be more sensible to give the former 55 and the latter 79 (in the UK a first-class degree is awarded to someone with an average score of 70 or above), but Robert Parker, who popularized the 100 point scale, clusters his marks at the high end, and so do I because fine wine lovers are familiar with this system.

I mention scores, because tonight I'm tempted to deviate from them. Sometimes a binary system of like/don't like is more appropriate, and tonight - a hot night after a hot game of football followed by chasing some deadlines - is one of those nights.

Tonight's post-football wine is Portuguese. Fitting, really, after the weekend I had. And it's a very good one. It goes firmly into the 'like' category, and at just 8 Euros from a shop at Porto airport last night (shock: journalist actually buys wine rather than blagging and sponging - hold the front page), it must be one of Portugal's great wine values.

Quinta de Cabriz Reserva 2003 Dao
From the impressive Dao Sul operation, an inexpensive Dao red that really delivers. Served a little warm (inevitable on a night where the temperature, just after midnight, is 26 centigrade), it is open, ripe and supple, with mouth-filling sweet red and black fruits backed up by a subtly tarry, minerally sappiness. It tastes like a traditional Dao that has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, with its greenness tamed, its fruit boosted, but all the while it retains some regional character. A hippy wearing a nicely-fitting suit. Thoroughly drinkable. Very good+ 88/100

Another picture. This one is my significant other, pictured on the terrace at Quinta de la Rosa, just before Saturday lunch.

Just back from three wonderful days in the Douro, celebrating the centenary of Quinta de la Rosa. This was Fiona's first visit to the world's most visually stunning wine region. More very soon on the proceedings of an exciting weekend. For now, I leave you with a picture of Pinhao, viewed from the vineyards above La Rosa (in temperatures in the forties, it was quite some effort getting up there).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

As I’ve mentioned already, I’m off to the Douro later today. It’s an exciting region. Think about Côte-Rôtie: a great hillside ‘terroir’. But there isn’t much of it: just a couple of hundred hectares. And they’re not making any more of it. In the Douro, there are thousands of hectares. Yes, folks, the Douro is massive, with many of the vineyards planted on the steep banks of the river and its tributaries. Altogether the three subzones, Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior, have 40 000 hectares of vines.

Until recently, though, virtually no serious table wine was being made here. This was a historical artefact – the Douro was devoted to Port production. Things have changed, for a variety of reasons described here. Now there are more than a dozen serious producers of table wine, and this is a number growing all the time. From what I’ve tasted of the 2004s, this looks like being a landmark vintage for the Douro. Across the board, there is now a critical mass of serious Douro wine such that the world – and not just Portuguese wine geeks like me – will have to admit there’s something going on here.

Is there an emerging Douro style? I think it’s still too soon to say. I would disagree with those who think that the best Port vineyards are also going to be the best for table wines. I know style is to an extent a personal choice. It’s a little presumptious of me to think I can tell wine producers what sorts of styles to aim at, but for what it’s worth, here’s my opinion.

I think the Douro will have missed an opportunity if producers aim to make big, very ripe, alcoholic ‘international’-style red wines, bolstered by new oak, and which have at best a five year drinking window. I think they are better off aiming for a style that champions elegance and ageworthiness over extraction and sweet, dead fruit (from very late picking). Yes, the Douro is a warm region and the wines from here will be powerful.

There’s nothing wrong with power, but as some of the best Douro reds have shown, power can be coupled with restraint and even elegance. Some winemaking styles obliterate terroir; the Douro should aim at letting the varied terroirs express themselves (whatever this means). Another thought: I think blending will be important, just as it has been with the Port trade. Single vineyards may not be the way to go. If you have several vineyards, with different aspects and altitudes, to choose from, the possibility of making use of terroir to assist blending a more complete wine becomes a possibility. The potential is there for the Douro to emerge as one of the great, classic table wine regions, and this needn’t happen at the expense of Port.

But to achieve this it has to do more than simply offer another batch of big, ripe, new world-style reds that could have come from just about anywhere. The Douro has a good story; now it needs to make use of the limited window of opportunity that is now open – you only get one chance to tell your story to the world, so tell it well by making distinctive, serious, thought-provoking wines. Just some thoughts, that’s all.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

And the funniest press release of the week award goes to:

"The difficulties of decanting a bottle of wine two hours before guests intend to drink it are obvious, since diners are more likely to want to enjoy it immediately after ordering.

But Gary Rhodes and his team at Rhodes Twenty Four have discovered the perfect solution - Breathable Glass™, making their restaurant the first in the UK to offer instantly oxygenated wine. When restaurant manager Ludovic Bargibant came across the Eisch-made goblet, which allows glass to breathe and, therefore, the wine to oxygenate, he decided to test it out on Gary and his sommelier Yves
Desmaris [pictured left with one of the glasses].

In a blind taste test using two wine glasses - one breathable, one regular - Yves and Gary noticed a far better bouquet and more flavour in the breathable glass.

Ludovic commented: “Restaurants always need to be forward thinking to stay ahead of the game. So I am always looking to embrace new technology within the industry. Diners who come to Rhodes Twenty Four expect the best quality possible even if they are short of time. Using breathable glasses at the restaurant has turned around our service, particularly at lunch times when people are in a hurry.”

The head wine waiter usually has to allow two hours before serving a decanted wine but in these glasses the wine’s aromas develop so it reaches its optimum in just four minutes. Yves has tested the new glass on various wines and found that it works best with older wines, in particular reds like Pinot Noir or chardonnay, as it brings out the flavour almost immediately.

Yves said: "Since we started using the breathable wine glasses we have noticed real enthusiasm from diners. Previously it would take up to 2 hours to decanter and air an old wine before serving. With the breathable glasses, customers can order the finest wine and enjoy the full aroma and bouquet within minutes."

Glass Company Eisch discovered the concept of allowing glass to breathe after five years of research. The resulting new generation of goblets come in a range of different styles but are in keeping with the design standards of a top quality restaurant like Rhodes Twenty Four."

Monday, July 10, 2006

Pleasantly surprised by a Chilean Pinot Noir this evening. After a good, competitive game of football I got home and cracked open a sample. It was the Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2005 Rapel, Chile (available at £4.99 from just about everywhere, including Morrisons, Waitrose, Somerfield, Budgen, Tesco, Sainsbury and Oddbins). For a fiver you get an enjoyable, bright, fruity red wine that actually tastes of Pinot Noir, with bright dark cherry fruit and a nice savoury, subtly medicinal, herby twist. It's very drinkable indeed. Not great, but it over-delivers and is highly food compatible.

Very excited to be going to the Douro again this week. It's possibly the most astonishing and beautiful of all wine regions. I''m flying out Thursday and returning Sunday.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

World cup night. Bad luck, France. Had a feeling you were going to lose when I opened a high-end French wine that was shot. Note to Stuart Pearce: please sign Cannovaro and Gattuso - perhaps also Ribery.

Two wines tonight. Two Australian Rieslings. One bone dry, the other very sweet. Both were pretty good.

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Riesling 2005 Margaret River, Australia
Initially on opening this is quite reduced, but after a while aromas of lime, citrus pith and minerals emerge. On the palate it's bone dry, with bright, limey fruit. High acid makes this very savoury. It really needs food, but it's a very well done Aussie-style Riesling with good concentration. Very good+ 88/100 (UK agent Domaine Direct)

Tamar Ridge Limited Release Botrytis Riesling 2005 Tasmania, Australia
This goes remarkably well with raspberries. Try it! It is sweet and viscous, yet light and fresh at the same time. Lots of complex, sweet apricot and lemony fruit with a nice spiciness, some honeyed notes and high acidity. An impressive, precise sweet wine with some future ahead of it. Very good/excellent 91/100 (UK agent Vinus Vita)

Just been browsing through Hugh Johnson's Wine, which was published a year before I was born. It opens brilliantly, with the following:

"Think, for a moment, of an almost paper-white glass of liquid, just shot with greeny-gold, just tart on your tongue, full of wild flower scents and spring-water freshness. And think of a burnt-umber fluid, as smooth as syrup in the glass, as fat as butter to smell and sea-deep with strange flavours. Both are wine.

Wine is grape-juice. Every drop of liquid filling so many bottles has been drawn out of the ground by the roots of a vine. All these different drinks have at one time been sap in a stick. It is the first of many strange and some—despite modern research—mysterious circumstances which go to
make wine not only the most delicious, but the most fascinating, drink in the world.

It would not be so fascinating if there were not so many different kinds. Although there are people who do not care for it, and who think it no more than a nuisance that a wine-list has so many names on it, the whole reason that wine is worth study is its variety."

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tonight it was time to fire up the barbie, grill some steaks, and open something red. The wine for tonight is one that I'd been looking forward to trying for a while. It's Pete Schell's Spinifex Indigene 2004 from the Barossa. A blend of Mataro (aka Mourvedre, 64%) and Shiraz (the remainder), this wine reminds me why Pete is one of the most highly rated Barossa winemakers at the moment (see my review here).

It's ripe, and initially on opening seems a bit fruity and alcoholic. Give it a while, though, and that wonderfully tight, focused spiciness that is typical of Mataro begins to show through. This is quite a tannic, complex wine. There's structure here for this one to go the distance. It's a bit like a super-ripe Bandol. I really like it, and I reckon that Mataro/Mourvedre is a real geek's grape variety - it makes serious wines that aren't upfront and immediately appealing. But this wine is not one for opening now: I'd give it a couple of years' respect before popping the cork, if you want to get the best out of it. UK availability: The Cellar Door.

Just spent three days in Brittany, France, taking our boys to see their two sisters. We flew via Ryan Air from Luton to Brest and then hired a car. It would have been a remarkably painless way of travelling if we hadn't got hopelessly lost (a 78 mile journey ended up taking us 3 hours). When you are lost, you realize the importance of a decent map. We'd relied on a printout from Via Michelin, and then a map of the whole of France from a tourist information place in one of the towns we got lost in. Not a journey I wish to repeat. I'd also add that the Via Michelin directions suck, as does the quality of road signage in Northern France. Impressed with Ryan Air, though - but I wouldn't want to fly longhaul in one of those cabins: the rigid plastic backs of the seats mean you can't stretch your legs out in front of you.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Just some late-night thoughts on the internet. Not terribly profound. A technological development such as the internet is a tool. As such it can be used well, or badly; for good, or for ill. From my perspective it has given me a chance to establish a career in something I enjoy and have a degree of aptitude for. It gives people with something to say a voice.

For all its red buttons and supposed interactivity, television remains a one way medium. The internet is a conversation. Therein lies its power. We are told by television (and the printed media) that a certain wine property is the top dog - we can discuss this among ourselves, and come to our own conclusions. As some wine journalists (who style themselves as experts on global wine) have found to their cost, there are consumers out there who, because of their specialism, know far more than almost all journalists about certain wine regions. For so long, journalists have been pronouncing to a dumb public. Now this public have found their voice, and it turns out they are not so dumb after all.

Passion is powerful, and the internet gives passionate people a voice. This is percieved by commercial enterprises as being quite threatening. Traditional marketing is also scared of this effect. The marketing world has been turned upside down by the subversive power of the internet, and I wonder whether this will initiate a backlash. If wealthy people stand to lose through the new-found power of electronic communication, you can be sure that because of this influence, politicians will soon be interfering with the free exchange of information that the internet currently affords. I hope that this won't be the case, but I fear it might be.

It would be easy to come to the wrong conclusion about Zonte's Footstep Shiraz Viognier 2004, from Australia's Langhorne Creek. What I mean to say is that this wine could quickly be dismissed as being too sweet, too big, too ripe and just too tasty. But this would be a mistake. Yes, it is a big wine in a rich, ripe style. It has high alcohol and lots of sweet, dark fruit. But it works. The fruit is still alive, despite the ripeness.

Port is alcoholic, sweet and ripe yet traditionalists accept it because it works. So does this wine. I love the purity of the fruit; the complex spiciness; the fact that on the third night this is still drinking well. One of its great virtues is that the character here comes from the fruit. It isn't tarted up with oak. It's not subtle, but if you are in the mood for it, this wine offers very good value for money at £7.99 from Sainsbury.

I don't want to become known as the closures guy. But, having said that, it's an important subject, and I'm keen that the wine trade makes some wine choices at this fork in the road we are currently negotiating. So I'll continue to write about them, for the time being.

One of tonight's tipples is a pleasant, affordable New Zealand Pinot Noir from Stoneleigh (Waitrose £7.99) that has supple, rather elegant cherry and red berry fruit. Not thrilling, but pretty good. However, the reason I mention it here is because of the closure. It's the new Stelvin Lux. Rather than being an aluminium cap which is then clamped down, with rollers forming the screw thread against the surface of the glass (which results in a thread evident on the cap), Stelvin Lux has a plastic thread inside it, which means that the screwcap has a smooth finish. It's a cosmetic change, effectively. And perhaps at the cost of some performance? How robust is this, given that the plastic thread is an extra component in the cap? Will it be effictive in holding the wadding tight against the rim of the bottle?

Quote of the week so far:

'He doesn't discourage the brett from growing in his cellars. If he did, that would be manipulation. It takes manipulation to prevent or fix VA and Brett.'
The US importer of Chateau Musar, praising Serge Hochar's non interventionist approach to wine making, on erobertparker.com.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Some more rather dodgy looking 'wine' grapes spotted, this time on a book cover. The book in question is titled 'Emerging Varietal Wines of Australia: A Guide for the Adventurous Winelover', by Darby Higgs. Tell me these aren't table grapes.

Monday, July 03, 2006

UK-based consumer/trade title Wine and Spirit (formerly Wine International) have a nice website (www.wineint.com). Sadly, the designers seem to have fallen for the usual wine website sucker move - they wanted to have a bunch of grapes in the design, but because they didn't have any images of wine grapes, they've photographed some table grapes (surely these aren't wine grapes? Table grapes usually look nothing like wine grapes). Another possible victim to this sucker move is the otherwise excellent Green and Blue (www.greenandbluewines.com; see below).

Just writing up my Sunday Express article on celebrity wines (that is, those made by celebs). I found this nice article on Sam Neill, the northern Ireland-born New Zealand actor who makes the Two Paddocks Pinot Noir in Central Otago.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Two contrasting white wines tonight, representing either ends of the (dry) white wine spectrum. First to the plate, Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Riesling 2006. It's bright and delicately aromatic, with hints of honeysuckle and lime. The palate is bracing with precise lemony fruit backed up by high acidity. It's verging on the austere: bone dry and without much richness of fruit. Very minerally and tight - really needs food. I like this, but it could do with a bit more weight or fruit, or even a bit of sweetness, in order to balance the acidity. A 90 point wine.

Second, a bit of a celebrity wine. Apocalypse Now. The Godfather films, 1, 2 (the best) and 3. Francis Coppola's the dude behind them, and one of his wines, the Francis Copploa Diamond Collection Chardonnay 2004 Monterey County is my other tipple this evening. It's big and fat like an affluent Californian, with lots of peachy, figgy fruit, but there's some seriousness here in the way of good balancing acid. The overall result is a pleasant wine. Chardonnay it may be, and Californian at that, but it tastes good and keeps the drinker's attention. An 89 point wine.

Two contrasting wines. One lean and precise, the other fat and entertaining. Both good, but both different, and fit for different purposes. That's what makes wine such fun.

Apologies to those who are uninterested in the sport, but I feel I have to mention football today, and in particular that game. All I can say is, Rooney you plonker. And you'd think if you were being paid tens of thousands of pounds a week you'd be able to do better from 12 yards. It's quite a big goal, after all.

It's been a busy social weekend. On Friday night we were at the rather posh Lensbury in Teddington for a summer ball. Hideously late finish. This was followed on Saturday night by a 40th party in the new Forest last night, including a barn dance (no comment). This latter party created a dilemma, relating to a certain football match, which kicked off at 4 pm. If we watched the game at home, we'd be late for the party. The only option was to drive down in time for the game and watch it somewhere convenient. We agreed to meet some friends down there, but arriving with 20 minutes to spare we got lost and resorted to catching the game in the nearest pub we could find. It was a rather working class establishment in Christchurch; still, we had a good view of the game, and at least some of our fellow viewers weren't utter neanderthals...

The people hosting the party had a field full of wild boars. One of these unfortunate (and rather attractive, in an ugly sort of way) animals was being roasted in full view of its family. It was delicious. I drove back just after midnight, and it was one of those journeys where I had to shake my head vigorously at intervals in a bid to stay awake. Horrible feeling. No wine to speak of this weekend (I've been drinking beer), with the exception of a really delightful Rose from Torres with lunch today. Almost perfect in this setting.