jamie goode's wine blog: August 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I didn't hold out much hope for a six year old bottle of Californian Chardonnay, although Calera are supposed to be one of the better producers of this variety. But it always pays to taste with an open mind, and I'm actually quite enjoying this wine. White Burgundy it ain't, though.

Calera Chardonnay 2000 Central Coast, California
Quite a deep yellow gold colour, this has a full, complex nose with malty, buttery, toasty tropical fruit combined with a hint of coffee and honey. This probably sounds a bit too much, but the palate is quite well balanced with rich figgy, toasty, butterscotchy fruit backed up by good acidity, together with some fruit sweetness. This is a wine that would work really well with rich seafood or lobster, and while it's certainly towards the end of its peak drinking window (I'd have probably preferred it a couple of years back), it's still very much alive and offers a complex, rich, buttery expression of Chardonnay. I'm enjoying it, although I feel a but guilty about this - we're supposed to scorn Californian Chardonnay, aren't we? Very good/excellent 91/100 (£12.99 Waitrose)

I feel a series of blogs on Chardonnay coming up. I have quite a few in my tasting queue.

Marketing and Selling Stormhoek Wines

I've mentioned Stormhoek before on this blog a few times. They're the ones using blogs to market their wines, enlisting the help of blogger and cartoonist Hugh MacLeod to assist them in this goal. I've just tasted their 2005 Pinotage, which I'll blog on separately, but here's an interview with Hugh and Jason Korman about their strategy.

So, the Stormhoek Pinotage 2005 Western Cape. Is it any good? Regulars here know that I have a bit of a problem with Pinotage. It's the greenness and unripe characters that are so common, which result in wines that can be pungently medicinal and not all that nice. Or, winemakers try hard to mask this by bathing the wine in sumptuous, over the top new oak and pick late (which results in a combination of greenness plus overripeness).
This one is actually a bit different. It's nice, in fact. Look, it's not the sort of wine you want to spend hours analysing; it's a wine for drinking a little uncritically. And if you don't look below the surface too deeply, it's a very rewarding, rich, fruit-packed, spicy red. Best of all, it lacks the nasty greenness and medicinal character that can make Pinotage such a difficult drink. It's on offer at £4.99 from Waitrose from 4-24 September (normal price £5.99), so I reckon it's South Africa's second best value Pinotage (the best value is Ken Forrester's Petit Pinotage, which is gorgeously gluggable and good fun).

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Some time back, I did an interview for Australia's ABC Radio National about some of the themes discussed in Wine Science. It was broadcast last week on Robyn Williams' In Conversation programme. By following this link you can read a transcript or even listen to a recording of the show. Although it's horrible to hear your own voice, I listened to it and was reasonably happy with the outcome.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The power of brands in Western culture is an important and interesting issue. Such a shame, then to see a completely rubbish article on the topic on the magazine arm of the BBC news website. This piece, and the mind-numbing comments from the mostly-brain-dead which follow it, typify all that is bad about modern web journalism. Am I being fair, or just grumpy?

Earlier on today I had the privelige of meeting Dr Benjamin Lewin, one of the heroes of modern science. Ben founded the scientific journal Cell back in 1974, and it went on to become one of the top three life science journals (along with Nature and Science). Cell was well timed, and rode the wave of the molecular biology revolution. As editor, Lewin became one of the most powerful people in this expanding field. He also authored the influential textbook 'Genes', which is now in its eighth edition, and developed the sister journals Immunity and Neuron. He sold Cell to Elsevier in 1999, presumably for a reasonable sum. After developing a passion for wine, now he's doing his MW, and despite the misgivings he expressed about whether he'll pass or not, I reckon he'll sail through. I'm also flattered that someone of his reputation should have read my book on Wine Science.

I've always enjoyed Barossa winery St Hallett's relatively inexpensive Gamekeepers Reserve, which is a juicy, ripe, fruit-dominated red with a hint of meatiness and lovely purity. One of the secrets to this wine's success is that it has included a generous dollop of Portuguese grape variety Touriga Nacional. Now from the 2005 vintage St Hallett have released a varietal Touriga Nacional under the 'unearthed' label. I'm drinking it now and it is fantastic, in a modern, pure fruit sort of style. I like this wine, and it's good to see one of the wonderful Portuguese varieties perform well elsewhere.

St Hallett Unearthed Touriga Nacional 2005 Barossa
Wonderful nose: sweet, forward, intoxicating raspberry and blackberry fruit with a lovely spicy lift. Very pure and pretty. The palate has deep, smooth, slightly jammy fruit with wonderful richness and purity. There's a spicy backdrop, and very little oak evident - it's all about the pure, sweet, almost self-indulgent fruit. Quite delicious. A wine with some distinctive Barossa personality (ripe and sweetly fruited) plus some varietal character (floral and spicy). In flavour profile, it's quite like a souped up Gamekeepers Reserve. Still pretty primary, I wonder how this will develop (it's sealed with a tin-lined screwcap). Very good/excellent 92/100 (£14.99 Waitrose, but will be on offer at £9.99 from 4-24 September)

Monday, August 28, 2006

The last couple of days of the bank holiday weekend have been an enjoyable end to the nine day break where I've focused solely on the family, with just a tiny smidgeon of work squeezed in. Yesterday evening was quite special. We went with our good friends Karl and Kate to her parents' newly purchased riverside dwelling in Chertsey. He's a vicar who will be retiring in a couple of years, and this is where they plan to live. It's a beautiful spot on the Thames, and at the moment there's just a caravan on site. The kids played, we drank some beer and wine, cooked some dinner and messed around with an old boat - not for long, though, because it wasn't very stable and there was a real risk of sinking. Then, on the way home I spotted a hedgehog on the road. We stopped, with the lights on - hedgehogs freeze when this happens. I took our kids up to the hog and picked it up. Their first encounter with a live hedgehog. Lovely creatures, and I have some history with them. It's a long story, but as a student I had a lot to do with hogs because I shared a house for a year with a guy doing a PhD on them.
Today we were off on another day trip, this time to the Seven Sisters Country Park at Cuckmere Haven, in East Sussex (pictured). We had a pretty chilled time by the sea. Lunch was washed down with a bottle of Paul Mas Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Vin de Pays D'Oc, which at a fiver from Waitrose is money well spent: fresh, crisp, quite precise, and not too grassy.
This evening's tipple is a deliciously peppery, savoury Syrah. It's Ogier's La Rosine 2001 Vin de Pays de Collines Rhodaniennes from the Northern Rhone. It's not a heavy wine, but the Northern Rhone character shines through with it's bright, peppery, spicy fruit, with structure coming in equal part from the tannins and the acidity. In a strange way it manages to be both rustic and elegant at the same time. Definitely a food wine, but a style that I really appreciate.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

For yesterday's family day out we returned to the Surrey Hills (www.surreyhills.org), and took a truly spectacular circular walk based around Holmbury St Mary finishing on Holmbury Hill. Holmbury itself is halfway round the walk, so it's a good place to stop for a pint and something to eat. We stopped at both pubs, for an Everards Tiger at the Royal Oak and a Shere Drop at the King's Head. The Shere Drop, from the Surrey Hills Brewery, is delicious - bright and hoppy. It's pictured here. Of course, as we were drinking outside, it was probably lightstruck fairly quickly. While I'm on the subject of beer, I enjoyed Badger First Gold on our Dorset trip a couple of days ago. Another quite bitter, hoppy brew, which I think is my preference in cask ales.

Friday, August 25, 2006

How the electronic age has changed things! Even non-cricket fans will find this exchange of e-mails fascinating. When I spent a day at the fourth test between England and Pakistan a week ago, I thought it was a rather dull game that would end rather predictably. Not so. The ramifications will be felt in international cricket for some time yet.

Tonight I found three bottles tucked away that I'd forgotten about. I'm drinking one now. Elian Daros' Clos Baquey 1999 is an ambitious, tannic, extracted red wine that will never resolve. It's still tannic with high acidity, huge extraction and a dry mouthfeel (I have had several bottles of this wine and I wonder about the corks - they've all shown a lot of wine egress [is that the right term?] and seem rather hard). But despite this, it's an intense, aggressively savoury wine that works very well with food. It has a gravelly sort of finish. I'm always happy to drink a wine where the winemaker has tried really hard to make something interesting, even if it hasn't worked out brilliantly. I've got a few more of these tucked away, bought at advantageous prices from Grand Cru Wines. I'm sure I'll find occasion to drink them, aven though it's not a wine I can really recommend.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Today's family trip was to Dorset. Started out terribly; got better towards the end. We spent quite a bit of time on the beach at Kimmeridge (pictured), and then had an early dinner with the kids at the Cock and Bottle in a village called Morden on the way to Blandford (here). The food was superb. I had a whole sea bream that was perfectly cooked and utterly fresh. It wasn't tinkered around with too much - fresh fish doesn't need to much embellishing. Fiona had sea bass that was also beautifully cooked.

After a speedy drive home, I'm now drinking the second half of Jim Barry's Armagh 1996 Clare Valley, Australia. This was once the most expensive bottle of wine I had bought, at about £36 from Oddbins Fine Wine in Faringdon. It's a bit of a beast, still, and I'm drinking it before its time, but yesterday was a difficult day so I wanted vinous consolation in the evening, and this is what caught my eye. Concentrated, high quality fruit dominates, with a spicy, tarry complexity developing nicely to buttress it. Dark and smooth. At the moment I'd score it 92/100, but I think this is because I got it at a slightly awkward, adolescent stage.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

After a trip to London with the kids (just how long is it possible for two boys to spend in Hamleys???)it's time for a glass of wine. Tonight's offering is Fred Loimer's Riesling Langenlois 2002 Kamptal, Austria (Fred is pictured in contemplative mode). It's not an expensive wine (c. £8; another from Andrew Chapman), but it is satisfying. Austria makes some great Rieslings, and this one reminds me more of Australian Riesling (it's dry, with 12.5% alcohol) than anything from Germany, or even Alsace. It's not quite as piercingly dry and savoury as many Aussie Rieslings, but it shares the subtly honeyed, limey fruit with a bit of an acid bite on the finish, which is almost spicy. Quite sophisticated and grown up; good with food.

Looks like I've upset magnets and wine guru Dr Patrick Farrell MW by my blog entry here. So much so that he's replied. I'd be interested to know what my readers think about his carefully studied response. Just so it isn't lost in the comments section, I'm reproducing it here.

Jamie, Lots of talk, very little science. I, too, was not only skeptical, but also cynical when approached with the concept of magnets doing anything to wine. Only after doing several tastings was I surprised to discover that there was a significant difference. Only then did I consider possible mechanisms of action.

Speaking of science, Jamie, are you aware of the bases of fining? Electrostatic charges. Tannins are negatively charged and proteins positively charged. I do hope that I'm not delving beyond your scientific knowlegdge. I suspect not and I suspect that you may very well be a failed master of wine student. But let's save that for another time. I truly don't know though suspect that your arrogance and modicum of talent brought you up the ladder to a certain point and then no further.

Anyway, the device works well on extracted red wines and also inexpensive reds given the kiss of oak with either oak chips, oak staves, or a short but intensive stay in new oak barrels. The spirits device, even works better, on wood matured spirits. Jamie, do you not have even an iota of intellectual curiosity? Not even just a tad? What exactly is your scientific background. You blow away the concept out of hand. Do you have a master of wine credential? How about a background in biological chemistry? Microbiology? Or are you just another wine wannabe, perhaps with some journalism background?

I will be happy to put on a tasting, using the wines and spirits of my choosing, to demonstrate that you know little about wine. Or certainly, not what you purport to know. Are you game or just a wannabe?

Dr. Patrick Farrell, MW

Monday, August 21, 2006

Another day off today. We kind of stumbled along till lunchtime then decided to go out. Drove to Box Hill, near Dorking, where we spent a few pleasant hours wandering up and down hills and through woodland. [Pictured left is a view of the Denbies wine estate from the summit of Box Hill.] The weather was on and off, but mostly sunny. Typical English summer, really, but with just a hint of incipient Autumn, which isn't far around the corner. I always feel these last days of summer are precious; we have to make the most of them. And the pleasure is tinged with a sense of regret that summer is almost past, and we could have made more of it. As we were leaving the clouds gathered and rain began to fall, almost as if it sensed the mood.

Got in the car and drove south, ending up in Brighton (right), where we spent a couple of hours wandering along the seafront, and had an early dinner. It was sunny here, and quite warm. It was worth the journey.

This evening, opened another of my Andrew Chapman purchases - I was in the mood for a big Aussie.

Rolf Binder Wines Heysen Shiraz 2002 Barossa Valley, Australia
I get the impression that I've opened this one before its time: it's quite serious, but the nose is initially dominated by coconut and vanilla from the new American oak - it's hard to get past this to the concentrated, spicy and rather complex fruit. There's also a touch of alcoholic heat showing: it's a wine that isn't currently at ease with itself. But don't let this put you off. If you have the patience to stick this away for five years, I reckon you'll be rewarded by a complex, expressive Barossa red of real intensity. As well as the deep, pure fruit there's some good tannic structure, and the oak will likely subside into a supporting role with a couple of years in the bottle. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£12.74 www.surf4wine.co.uk)

Interestingly, my impression of this wine in the Barossa a while back tallies fairly closely (see here, where you can also see pics of the vineyard the wine comes from).

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Some nice bits to this weekend. Yesterday we went on a walk around the Valley Gardens and Virginia Water with some friends, followed by an impromptu tea in the park at Laleham (a combination of the cooker in one family's VW camper and our camping stove made cooking an option). Then this afternoon I played a round of golf with my two boys. They're just learning so we did the pitch and put at Sandown Park, followed by bashing some balls on the range. It was fun and I hope that in a few years time we'll be playing proper courses.

Just finished editing my chapter for a forthcoming book on wine and philosophy, which is edited by Dr Barry Smith, who as well as being a pro philosopher is also a wine nut. Here's my opening couple of paras:

"The central focus of any philosophical study of wine is the perceptual event that occurs when we ‘sense’ the wine that is in our glass, by sniffing it, or putting it in our mouths, or a combination of these two processes. The goal of this chapter is to explore the nature of this perceptual event from a biological perspective. That is not to say that (largely reductionist) science is the only legitimate way of framing questions about taste; there are limits to the sorts of questions that the scientific method can address. But what biology has to say about the perception of wine is of great use, because its insights can usefully constrain our thinking.

I’ve titled this chapter ‘wine and the brain’, because here I am assuming that the perceptual event of wine ‘tasting’ is one that occurs in the brain, and that it is one and the same as the electrical communication between neurons occurring here as we process the signals generated by our sensory apparatus when we encounter wine. To biologists, this suggestion — that conscious events are explainable in terms of neuronal activity in the brain — is uncontroversial: if they are aware of the mind–body problem at all, biologists frequently assume it has been solved. But I'm not a scientific fundamentalist, and I recognise that the reductionistic language of neurobiology is just one way of approaching the complex subject of conscious awareness, and that it doesn’t necessarily exclude other descriptive approaches. "

Friday, August 18, 2006

Spent a lovely day at the Oval today, watching day 2 of the final test match between England and Pakistan. The cricket wasn't great: England bowled all day to little effect, and Pakistan batted well without ever dominating. Because of a combination of bad light and rain we only had 60 overs. Still, it's great to see live sport. Drank a fair bit of beer, plus some wine with lunch - I was a guest of FGL wine estates, and so it was Wolf Blass. Riesling (blend of Clare/Eden Valleys) was very well balanced and quite zippy, Adelaide Hills Chardonnay was well judged with richness combining to good effect with some freshness, and the Platinum Shiraz was big, burly, complex but oaky. Mental note: I must watch more cricket. It's a good day out.

Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies is, in my humble opinion, a profound film. It’s raw, real, clever, and there’s some humour amid the painfully gritty reality. Mike Leigh is unparalleled at social commentary. You should watch it if you haven’t seen it. It’s poignant for our family because it deals with the difficult subject of adoption. Timothy Spall and Brenda Blethyn excell.

Two wines to report on.

Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Sec Chant des Vignes 2004 Southwest France
Quite a deep yellow colour. Distinctive savoury, slightly herbal, straw-tinged nose. Fresh, yet with a hint of oxidative character. The palate is concentrated and savoury with a lovely herbal, cheese-tinged, straw-like edge. It’s almost like a dry Loire Chenin. A lovely food-friendly wine with some complexity. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£9.95 The Wine Society, Stevens Garnier)

Château Saint-Jacques d’Albas 2002 Minervois, France
Vintages add a nice layer of complexity to wine. Even less-good vintages are to be enjoyed because they offer something different. This has a lovely savoury, spicy nose that is quite fresh and distinctive with a pungent, almost medicinal edge, earthy undertones and hints of mint and menthol. The palate is savoury and full with nice fresh spicy fruit. I enjoy this: lots of flavour and savoury character. Very good+ 88/100 (£8.95 Goedhuis & Co)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Friends of Australian wine will be raising a glass to Len Evans, who died today. I never met him, but Campbell Mattinson, who did has published this nice tribute.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Jamie Goode's wine blog got a mention on the BBC News site today (here). If follows a phone conversation with the journalist responsible a couple of days ago. When journos phone you up, I always find it interesting to see which bits get quoted. When you are a journo yourself, you have a feel for quotable segments and if you offer several, then it increases your chance of a name check (whic is of course what we all desparately want). Most journos I've spoken to from the serious media outlets are very accurate in their quoting. It's always a sign of a good journo if they can make you sound smarter than you actually are!

High alcohol is a big problem with many wines these days. But here was an Aussie Shiraz, at 15.5% alcohol, which wasn't unbalanced or alcoholic. How does that work? I guess it is something to do with the Clare Valley, which seems to be able to make big reds that are in balance.

Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 2003 Clare Valley, Australia
A really fantastic, traditional-styled Aussie red with lovely pure, sweet, well balanced fruit backed up by some classy oak (largely American, but some French too). It has a sweet, fresh red and black fruit nose with some spicy, chocolatey complexity. On the palate there is great concentration of pure fruit with some creaminess to the texture. Great balance: the oak supports the fruit very effectively, making a classically styled Aussie Shiraz of real appeal. Very good/excellent 93/100 (retail around £15, UK agent Negociants UK)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Write-up of Friday's Bordeaux 2003 tasting is now live on the main wineanorak site. Neal Martin's account of the same evening is also live here. Pretty good agreement between our general conclusions.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Wow. Had a great wine dinner last night, organized by Gareth Groves and Cassidy Dart with the intention of revisiting the Bordeaux 2003 vintage. Full write up should be posted this weekend, or early next week. In short, nine of us, including Keith Prothero, Neal Martin and Linden Wilkie, tasted eight top examples from this vintage, including Cos d'Estournel and the much talked about Pavie. We tasted blind and it was truly illuminating. After this we had some older Claret and a few Sauternes. A brilliantly enjoyable evening - one of the most enjoyable wine dinners I've attended. Thanks to Cassidy and Gareth for organizing this. All I'll say for now is that Pavie, tasted blind, didn't taste like a late-harvest Zinfandel (it was served in a flight with a ringer - a Turley late-harvest Zinfandel!).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

After a good run of wines I finally hit the wall last night. I opened three wines, none of which really worked for me, and all of which disappointed to a degree. Banrock Station Sparkling Shiraz ought to be more fun than it is: all I got was some sweet fruit with a bit of CO2 prickle. Cape Mentelle's Cabernet Merlot 2004 didn't deliver what you'd expect from one of Australia's top wineries. It tastes a bit like a Chilean wine with its sweet blackcurrant fruit riven through with a green streak. 14.5% alcohol provides a bit of heat to what is really an average mid-weight new world red. The last one hurt a bit, because I've been such a fan of this winery and know the people involved: Tagus Creek is making some very smart £5 wines from Portugal's Ribatejo region, but its attempt to move upmarket with the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Touriga Nacional 2005 seems to have faltered a bit: it tastes a bit dried out on the palate, with the vibrant fruit receding a little in the face of a rather dry, dusty structure. OK, they haven't made a fake, overly sweet sort of wine in the mould of so much of today's commercial winemaking, but - I'm guessing here - they may have overdone the microoxygenation in an attempt to build structure, and they may have just pushed the extraction a little too far. It's not a bad wine, but it's missing something.

Tonight, I retried these wines before passing judgement. Then I opened something that works for me - Yalumba's Hand-Picked Mourvedre Grenache Shiraz 2004 Barossa. You know, Mourvedre and Grenache may be the Barossa's two best grape varieties. This wine doesn't knock your block off, but instead charms with elegant ripe, sweetly spiced red fruits. There's something of the southern Rhone about it. It seems absurd to liken Grenache to Pinot Noir, but I really think - as Dave Powell of Torbreck suggested to me - that Grenache is the Pinot Noir of the south. Mourvedre adds to the pepperiness and sweet fruit of Grenache a lovely spiciness and savouriness. And I reckon the Shiraz fills in the gaps. This is quite a convincing wine, albeit at a price (around £18 retail). A wine that I'd love to try in a decade.

Lunch today was at the very special Pearl (www.pearl-restaurant.com) in Holborn, with Matt Bird who I had met at the charity dinner at Berry Brothers & Rudd a couple of weeks back. On this sampling, the food was simply outstanding. We took advantage of the fact that Pearl has an excellent sommelier in Michael Davis (who impressed) and also a wide range of very smart wines by the glass. Pearl use the Cruvinet system (a nitrogen delivery device to keep wine fresh for quite a time, which makes it feasible to offer lots of wines by the glass without waste. Michael explained that when he hasn't served a wine for a few days, he will run off the 20 ml or so that accumulate in the pipes, which will not be fresh. Otherwise, the wines keep very well.

From the website:

"The Pearl Bar holds an exquisite selection of wines preserved by the Cruvinet System. This allows an offering of 32 of the worldís best wines by the glass, so that everyone has the opportunity to sample some of the most exclusive wines money can buy. The Cruvinet system enables wines to be opened while maintaining their freshness for up to five weeks. The wines are constantly on a nitrogen system which displaces oxygen from the open bottles, thereby enabling wines to remain fresh until time to open a new bottle. In addition to the premium wines, 8-10 House Wines are also available by the glass, making Pearl's offer of over 40 different wines by the glass in measures of 175ml or by the bottle. "

I had two wines: The Loimer Käferberg Grüner Veltliner 2004 was fresh, precise, peppery and a bit spicy with lovely fruit. Then with my seabass I had the 2005 Mesh Eden Valley Riesling (a collaborative venture between Yalumba and Jeffrey Grosset - really impressive stuff). Matt had a rather rich Californian Sauvignon Blanc (Phelps, I think) followed by the smooth, rich, silky Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2004. It's not the world's cheapest restaurant (the wealthy lawyers in the locale keep the prices high), but it's up there with some of the best, and the decent by the glass service makes it a good option for wine nuts.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Quick plug for the Association of Small Direct Wine Merchants (http://www.asdw.co.uk/), a band of 20 internet-based merchants attempting to flog a diverse range of wines to the unsuspecting UK public. They've put together a remarkably professional magazine called Grapestalk (available free from their website), and in an age of consolidation and a retail market dominated by fewer players, let's hope merchants like this, who can deal with small parcels of interesting wine, can thrive. My only question is, if any members thrive and are no longer 'small', will they be asked to leave? ;)

Had breakfast at the The Wolseley on Piccadilly this morning. It was full and there was a nice buzz. A good option, I reckon.

Walking back up to Portland Place, I was thinking about the qualities that go to make a good writer - or should I say a successful writer. One of the most underestimated, yet crucial is the ability to be a good finisher. Lots of people have good ideas. Many go on to make a start. Relatively few persevere to the point where they actually finish. I have three very good ideas for books. One has been commissioned, one I'm doing myself, and one I'll sit on a little longer until I can do it justice. But I am determined to finish all three.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The weather has changed in London. It's no longer like Singapore; more like nice English summer weather. No need for three showers a day, and it's possible to enjoy being outside again. Pictured is Regent's Park this lunchtime.

Oh no! Magnets and wine are back in the news (see here, here and here). The gizmo under discussion is marketed by Dr Patrick Farrell MW.

Dear readers, unless what we know about science is false, I reckon there is as much chance of this device doing what its manufacturers claim as there is of Stuart Pearce phoning me up and asking me to play centre forward for Manchester City in their opening game of the season against Chelsea. Tannins are not going to undergo chemical rearrangement into longer chains as a result of a magnetic force. The reason people have been convinced this device 'works' is that it is aerating the wine. Pour the first glass and taste it. Then pour a second through this device, and it may well taste a little different because it has been aerated. The proper comparison is to take the device and compare it with one which is the same, just without the magnets. Pour a glass from each, but under blind conditions so the power of suggestion is removed. Any difference? I didn't think so.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Quick quiz. Whose house is this? Which country is this? Which region is it? What's the significance of the vineyard pictured? One point for each.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm on a bit of a good run with wines at the moment, and I'm enjoying my drinking. Two interesting wines open at the moment, both of which overdeliver in the value for money stakes. These were purchased this week as part of a mixed case from Andrew Chapman. Yes, I know it, I've been buying wine again.

Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2004 Canberra, Australia
Deep coloured, this shows lovely pure, smooth, aromatic red and black fruits. It’s hauntingly pure. The palate is smooth and concentrated with a nice spicy complexity under the fresh dark fruits. Pretty serious stuff: I guess this shows that the purity and aromatic richness of the more expensive Shiraz Viognier from this producer isn’t all to do with the Viognier addition, more the quality of the fruit. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£13 Andrew Chapman) 08/06

Churchill’s Late Bottle Vintage Port 1999 Portugal
It’s rare that I actually have to decant an LBV, but this unfiltered beauty from Churchill really needs it. It’s sweet, dark, concentrated and spicy with nice aromatics and relatively firm tannic structure. This is pretty serious, and probably has the potential to improve with a few years cellaring. Interestingly, 1999 wasn’t a vintage year in the Douro (it was tricky), but the Niepoort and Noval LBVs have also really impressed from this year, too. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£12.50 Andrew Chapman, http://www.surf4wine.co.uk/)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Jamie Goode, amateur beer critic, part two. This lunchtime I had another enjoyable beer. It was Innis & Gunn's Oak Aged (6.6% abv). Tasted from a Riedel 'O' series Syrah glass (a very useful beer glass, by the way) it was an appealing orange brown colour. It tasted rich and complex with sweet, honeyed, toasty aromas and a smooth palate with a bit of warm spiciness. Am I just being seduced by the oak, like novice wine drinkers? I don't think so: this is a nice, rich, complex drink. The real deal. I got it from Waitrose, but I think it's pretty widely available, and as I said before, good beer costs about the same as ordinary beer, which in this case was £1.49.

Visited the allotment earlier to check on the vines. Not much sign of fungal disease, but I gave them a prophylactic spray, and watered the younger ones. I think I'd like the whole vineyard to be Pinot Noir. Maybe I'll graft it all over. In the meantime, I reckon I'll make a vineyard blend, with red and white grapes together, and macerate on skins as if it was a red wine. Next year, when I get my first proper crop, I reckon I'll need to get an old barrel to make it in. Now that would be fun, although I don't think Fiona would like a barrel in the kitchen. I think there's room for one. And they look quite cool.

Friday, August 04, 2006

crusher destemmer in action

Just exploring Youtube for wine-related videos. Found this nice one of a crusher destemmer in action.

My write-up of the recent Douro bash at Quinta de la Rosa is now on the main wineanorak site - it should have been a blog entry but it was too long. Includes a nice picture of Jasper Morris riding a crocodile.

Google maps is a good way to waste some time. I particularly like the hybrid satellite/map option, although the resolution of the satellite imagery varies. Burgundy, for example is half hi-res and half low-res, and was viewed in winter or early spring so the vineyards don't look that good. The picture here is the high-resolution view of my house (it's the one with the red car in front of it), but this picture was taken before we lived there. In my browsing I also visited where I grew up, and the various houses I've lived in since. Things look a bit different from above.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

There's not much good on telly, but occassionally a rare gem of a program pops up. Lat night I discovered, rather late in the day, Rob Brydon's clever spoof panel show Annually retentive. With its element of self-parody (which Brydon does so well), it's very much in the vein of Cock and Bull Story, mentioned below. Self-parody is difficult to do well. As with Brydon's part-mentor Steve Coogan, it only works if it is very close to the bone. What I mean is that Alan Partridge was so successful because you always beleived that there was a lot of Partridge in Coogan.

You can see episode three on http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/, and for those with access to BBC3 it is on again tonight at 11.20 pm.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

L'Esprit de Font Caude Montpeyroux 2000 is tonight's tipple. It's one of those wines that really would have been better a couple of years ago. It's a serious, new wave Languedoc, which in its youth had plenty of impact - lots of sweet spicy red and black fruit. Now the fruit has faded and receded, a bit like a 35 year old bloke who's beginning to lose his hair. What's left is some meaty-edged sweet fruit, showing alcoholic heat together with an earthy minerality. It's an adequate drink, but it spent all its energy looking flashy in its youth, and now middle age approaches the cracks are beginning to show. Is this decline a result of the vintage, or the winemaking style. Dunno. Still, credit to Alain Chabanon for sourcing a near-perfect looking cork.

Some films. A Cock and Bull Story sees Steve Coogan back to his best. It's an adaptation of Laurence Sterne's 18th century non-novel The life and times of Tristram Shandy, Gentelman and rather appropriately it's a sort of non-film. Coogan and co-lead Rob Brydon work very well together, ably supported by a star-studded mainly British cast. It's very, very funny. It also has a great website: http://www.tristramshandymovie.com/.

The other films were more serious. Proof is in the same mould as A Beautiful Mind, in that it explores mental illness in smart people. This time, maths genius Anthony Hopkins goes nuts and is looked after by his daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow. Gwyneth is also a maths genius, it turns out, and as well as inheriting her father's skills with numbers, she finds after his death that he also passed on his more wacko tendencies to her. An uncomfortable sort of film. The third film I couldn't watch. Shooting dogs covers the incredibly painful events that took place in Rwanda in 1994. The little I could watch of this suggest that it is a brilliantly done film, full of integrity and honesty.