jamie goode's wine blog: September 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Last night was a tasting and dinner in honour of Joao Portugal Ramos at the Portuguese Ambassador's Residence in Berkely Square (seen hear pouring one of his wines for the ambassador). For those who don't know him, Joao is one of Portugal's most high profile winemakers. After a number of years experience he set up his own family winery in the Alentejo, and it has since grown to be second in size only to Esporao in the region. He also makes wines in the Ribatejo (the commercially astute Tagus Creek wines from the Falua winery) and Beiras, and from next vintage he'll be dabbling in the Douro, too.

It was a small crowd, with a range of different wine trade types. Journos were represented by Stephen Spurrier, Jim Budd and Julie Arkell. We tasted for quite a while, then moved through to dinner. I was fortunate enough to sit next to Joao, and opposite the Ambassador himself, who as you'd imagine is a very smart chap with a keen interest in wine (he's quite a Francophile, and prefers elegance to power). Food was good, with a nice mushroom, smoked salmon and endive tart followed by bacalhau and then some rather good beef. The wines were nice too: Joao's Marques de Borba Reserva 1997 and 2003 were both showing brilliantly, and the red (2003 Vinhas Velhas) and white (2005) Quinta de Foz d'Arouce were very impressive and quite elegant.

The thing Joao Ramos does well is making good wines in pretty large volumes. It's an important skill. His 2005 Marques de Borba red is quite a smart commercial wine with generous berry fruit and a nice plummy savouriness. I gave it 86 points. It was that good. Joao asked me to guess how many bottles he made. I was nowhere near. The answer: close to 1 million.

Overall, a very good evening, which ended rather abrubtly at 10.30 on the dot when everyone was ushered out fast. Still, when you are a guest of the ambassador, there has to be a degree of formality. For more on Joao Ramos and his wines see my report here.

Closures again. For the benefit of readers who struggle to open screwcapped bottles, here is a video showing you how. The guy demonstrating gets my award for wooden presenter of the year. Next week: how to pour a glass of wine.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Is this good news for binge drinkers and the drinks industry? A cure for previously irreversible liver disease might seem like a green light for alcoholics to keep drinking. But you need to remember the other damaging effects of alcohol abuse: as well as cirrhosis, persistent heavy drinking causes cardiomyopathy (damage to muscle fibres of the heart; it also affects skeletal muscle - sports people will find it very hard to develop muscle mass while they are on the pop) and elevates the risk of cancer (acetaldehyde, the breakdown product of ethanol, is a carcinogen, albeit not the worst).

Fruit flies. One of the downsides of turning your kitchen into a winery is the invasion by large numbers of fruit flies. Drosophila melanogaster is perhaps the most studied model organism in genetics, so as a biologist I have a sympathy for these tiny critters (about 3 mm long). They're not really annoying like house flies because they are so small. But they get in your wine glasses and are generally everywhere, just buzzing (silently) around. Plus you can't let them get anywhere near the fermentation tanks because they can contaminate the wine.

The World of Fine Wine has a new website. It's very good - as is the magazine. I really admire what Neil Beckett, Sarah Basra and Stuart George are doing with this publication, which has now moved to a quarterly format. Yes, some of the articles do make me feel a little uncultured and - how can I put it? - downright poor, but there's no other magazine that takes such an informed, in-depth and intellectually stimulating approach to wine.

If you search hard enough you'll find a pdf of the first piece I wrote for WOFW, on wine and the brain.

Monday, September 25, 2006

There is hope for the world of wine while people are still making old vine Grolleau. Let me explain. Tonight I opened two red wines, both from the Loire, both biodynamic, and both wonderful in their own way. These are the first of a batch of wines from Les Caves de Pyrene (read more here), one of my wine retailer heros. They've got a wonderful list, which they primarily sell to restaurants plus the independent wine merchants, and then their own private clients. They began with wines of the southwest of France, but they've since branched out, chiefly to the Languedoc, the Loire and Italy. If you've grown a bit disillusioned about the modern world of wine, call them up, ask them to put together an interesting case of wine for you for under £120, and then be amazed by the results. It will restore your faith.

Le Cousin Rouge Vieilles Vignes Grolleau Vin de Table Francais
Olivier Cousin can't label this with geographic origin or vintage, but it's a 2005 from Anjou, I believe. It's biodynamic (Demeter certified) and it has no added sulfur (although the sulfites produced by the yeast during fermentation means that these are declared). I'm thrilled by this wine, although I could understand if others were less taken by it. Initially, on opening, this is a bit funky. In fact, it tastes a bit like homemade wine with a slight prickle on the palate. It's only after an hour or so that it begins to show what it's made of. I'm getting wonderfully pure, sweet yet restrained red and black fruits with an amazingly seamless quality. Yet there's still a tiny prickle of spice and minerals offsetting the otherwise smooth fruit. The wine carries itself very lightly in the mouth, with a little tannic grip on the finish adding a bit of contrast. I wonder whether something microbiological has been going on here, contributing to the prickle I'm getting. Still, I'm delighted to drink it, because it has real authenticity. Even if I'm not seeing it at its best, I'm enjoying drinking this - I guess it's the vinous equivalent of a dangerous friend - the sort of friend who can blow a bit hot and cold; who can be fantastic company one night but awful another. Still, the good times are so good they make the bad ones worthwhile. I've probably chosen a poor metaphor here, because this wine is good tonight, in part because it is true. I suspect it has the capacity to show better. Very good+ 89/100

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves 2005 Samur Champigny, Loire
Another wine confirming what an excellent vintage 2005 was in the Loire. This is the unoaked cuvee from Thierry Germain, master of Cabernet Franc, and it's amazingly exuberant. A very deep purple red colour, the nose is vividly fruited with raspberries, blueberries, smoke, tar and a fresh herbal tinge right in the backround. On the palate this shows a great density of fresh bright red fruits with grippy tannins and a lovely gravelly minerality. An extracted, intense wine to be savoured in its youth. Brilliant fun. This was Germain's first year biodynamic, apparently. Very good/excellent 90/100

Summer has stretched out wonderfully. We've just enjoyed a lovely weekend in temperatures more reminiscent on August than late September. On Saturday I took the boys off to play golf at Sandown park, and then in the afternoon I found myself with a couple of hours to kill in Guildford, having dropped one of them off at a party. My initial plan was to visit Les Caves de Pyrene, which is just a couple of miles out of town, but I didn't realize they are now only open Monday-Friday. So I carried on to Shalford, a small village on the Wey. From here I enjoyed a delightful walk along the riverbank up to Guildford and back. Going for walks in the countryside on my own? Am I a hippy? Or some kind of nutter? But it was really enjoyable. It's a very pretty walk, too. (For other would-be hippy wanderers, there's a nice website on the river Wey here.) Then on Sunday we joined three other families for a visit to Thorpe Park (which I believe is Chav heaven). For the benefit of those living outside the UK or who don't have kids, it's a theme park whose appeal is largely based around subjecting patrons' bodies to extreme G forces (which I don't mind), leading to motion sickness in extreme cases (which I do).

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I promised you more on the 'screwcaps taint wine' issue, and now it's time for me to deliver. Off Licence News carried a story on its front page last week titled 'Cork may yet redeem itself'. This was based on the results of the faults clinic run at the International Wine Challenge (see my report here) in 2006. This was coordinated by Sam Harrop MW, who I know quite well - I was able, therefore to have a behind the scenes look at how this was carried out, and I was impressed by its rigour. Sam's palate is pretty hot, and so I'd be inclined to put a fair bit of trust in these results.

In short, 4.4% of wines sealed with cork were affected by cork taint (2.8%) or oxidation (1.6%), and 2.2% of wines sealed with screwcaps were affected by reduction issues. Sam's going to send me the raw data so I can look at all the faults in more detail, but these figures are interesting. They suggest that musty taint (cork taint) is coming in a bit lower than previous surveys (which seem to agree on a figure of around 4.5%), and that screwcap reduction is a real-world problem.

But I have some quibbles with OLNs reporting. To suggest that cork may redeem itself is a little premature - and I think the way they have reported the whole issue is a little bit sensationalized. Then there are the factual issues. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) does not smell of rotten eggs. That's hydrogen sulfide. And the sulfide problems caused by the tight seal of tin-lined screwcaps don't cause the wine to smell vegetal or eggy - it's more a problem of rubbery/struck flint aromas (mercaptans are responsible for these).

It's a shame also that the national press have come in with the line that screwcaps taint wine. Screwcaps with tin liners (the form used predominantly in Australia and New Zealand) have the potential for 'reduction' problems (caused by sulfur compound such as disulfides but more commonly mercaptans), but this is the sort of fault that most consumers and most wine trade people would never pick up. It's hardly in the same league as cork taint problems, where the wines are completely spoiled. Certainly for many fast rotation wines there's never a risk of reduction problems (which typically take 12-18 months to occur), and it would be a shame if this sort of reporting were to kill screwcaps as a closure: with the right liners I think they can be an ideal wine closure, although I do have misgivings about the supertight seal caused by a metal layer in the lining material.

Sorry if this is all a bit technical, but it's important stuff, and without the detail we're likely to miss the real issues.

Gallo is the next destination in the Chardonnay voyage of discovery. Ernst and Julio's company makes more wine than Australia (actually, I'm not sure of this, but it sounds good - I think I heard it once and my fact checking in the third edition of Oxford Companion to Wine doesn't mention production volumes). This Sonoma Chardonnay isn't bad, you know. It's a ripe, sweet style - typical for California - and it would work well chilled with rich food, I reckon.

Gallo Sonoma County Chardonnay 2002 California
Ripe, sweet, buttery fruit on the nose. The palate is sweet with some vanilla and spice, and softly textured bready, melony, buttery fruit. Creamy, rich, warm and ripe - nice in this sort of style (which won't be for everyone). Ageing nicely, but drink up soon. Very good+ 88/100

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Today the Chardonnay trail heads homeward to Burgundy, but not to one of its smarter addresses. Were in the suburbs - Montagny - which is part of the Cote Chalonnaise sandwiched between the Cote de Beaune and the Maconnais at the southern end of Burgundy. This wine is from the Cave de Buxy, and it has cleaned the board at the 2006 International Wine Challenge, winning a gold medal, the French Chardonnay trophy and the International Chardonnay trophy.

Blason de Bourgogne Montagny Vieilles Vignes 2005 Burgundy, France
This is a crisp, lean, minerally expression of Chardonnay. It's full flavoured, with some taut lemony fruit and a rather savoury stony character, but the overall impression is one of minerality. If I was tasting this blind, I'd probably call it as a Chablis, because of its freshness and unoaked savoury presence. On its own it's left wanting for a little more richness, but with food this is a winner. A solid effort that's perhaps just a tad expensive, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was some room here in the retail price for promotions, in which case it will be a very good buy. Very good+ 88/100 (£11.99 Somerfield, Tesco)

Five vats (well, 5 gallon buckets actually) of red are fermenting vigorously in my kitchen. A few times a day I'm punching the caps down and giving the must a bit of air. The colour is amazing. Normally, English red wines are a bit pale, like dark roses, but these wines will be vivid and quite dark if the current colour is anything to go by. I'm not going to be using barrels, nor microoxygenation, so it will be harder to fix that colour during elevage. But I still anticipate that the end result will be quite big wines. [Of course, colour isn't everything. But in the context of an English red wine, it's a promising sign.]

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

More harvest action 2006 - this time from California. The Wine Spectator has two harvest videos, from Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer, and Doug and John Shafer. No really gripping action, but the Turley video does include some interesting detail of how Helen does her sampling to determine the moment to start harvesting.

There are other videos here, including a series of three videos of an interview with Michel Rolland here. A bit banal, actually - James Suckling, who is interviewing Rolland, doesn't ask any tough questions. Indded, he comes across as a bit of a sycophant. All style, no substance is the impression we are left with.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Spent an enjoyable day at the Wines of Argentina tasting today, held at the home of cricket, Lords. Malbec rocks. It's official: Argentina is making a lot of very good Malbec, and it is beginning to perform with its white wines, too. Perhaps the highlight of the day, though, was the seminar on the effects of altitude on wine, which was presented first thing in the morning by Catena winemaker Mariela Molinari (pictured), in the Media bubble (the view from which is also pictured).

She explained that because Mendoza is on the side of the Andes, it can offer all five of the Winkler winemaking zones (ranging from chilly to hot) within a short distance of each other. This is an amazing viticultural 'tool'. We tasted five different wines, ranging from the 'low' altitude site (low is a relative term here) at 850 metres up to nearly 1600 metres for the higher sites. Interestingly, Catena are taking a scientific approach, looking at the twin effects of high altitude (lower temperatures and increased sunlight intensity) on the wines.

The seminar had some good scientific content (probably too much for some of the participants; perhaps not quite enough for nutters like me) and Mariela dealt well with a modestly hostile crowd of 30 - quite a few tough questions were asked, some with agendas. I'll write this up in detail soon.

Just a brief heads up to a news piece in the Telegraph titled 'Screwcaps blamed for tainting wine'. It's based on the publication of the results from the faults clinic at the International Wine Challenge. More on this later.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Tonight the Chardonnay trail takes me somewhere a bit strange. I've been up late processing grapes, and now I've cleaned up after myself (sort of), it's time for a glass of wine. But this isn't what I was expecting. Initially, I didn't like it. But after a while, I did.

Rives-Blanques are certified by Terra Vitis (not organic; more a sort of reasoned, ecologically friendly approach to viticulture). Their website is definitely worth a visit. I'd be interested to try some more of their wines - they do a Chenin Blanc, which sounds appealing.

Chateau Rives Blanques Chardonnay Cuvee de L'Odyssee 2003 Limoux, France
A yellow gold colour, this initially seems a bit over-developed, with some oxidative nutty, appley notes, a bit of spice and some alcoholic warmth. There's a hint of Speyside about it. On the palate it is warm, nutty and quite complex with good concentration and some vanilla and spice undertones. It's not a wine that will appeal to everyone, but I find it quite delicious in a sort of semi-oxidised style. It has kept its balance and there's still some acid there, despite the ripeness and size. A wine to ponder. Very good+ 88/100 (£8.95 Great Western Wine)

Nice harvest blog here, in Italian and English. This is how the professionals make wine. Tonight I shall be crushing some Seyval, Riechensteiner and Dornfelder. The first two vats of red are now fermenting away happily. Colour is fantastic. I'm fermenting one lot of red with stems together with the skins from very ripe Riechensteiner; the other also has a little Riechensteiner in, but was destemmed.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Harvest 2006 day 2. Here's the story. Adriaan planted a vineyard 5 years ago, and hes been making wine from it. I've not seen him for more than a decade, but he finds out I've got into wine big time, and this year he hasn't the time to process the grapes. He generously offers them to me. I was expecting to make a tiny amount of wine from my allotment. Now I have the grapes from a modest vineyard to work with. They needed harvesting this weekend, which coincided with the birthday of my son and the 40th of a close friend of Fiona's, hence time has been tight.

Yesterday we harvested perhaps half the vineyard. Today we did another quarter. I was up last night until 2 am processing some grapes. It's called a learning curve. The weather has been ideal. We were harvesting in dry overcast conditions yesterday; warm and sunny today. Adriaan's vineyard has four varieties: Dornfelder and Regent (red); Seyval Blanc and Riechensteiner (white). Because of ripeness levels I'm blending both varieties of each colour together - the aim is to achieve balance by this prefermentation blending rather than by use of additions and fakery. More later - need to go and watch Spooks.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Today was harvest day. In nice, dry conditions, too. Pictured here is Adriaan (whose vineyard it was) plus my two boys, working hard to get the Regent in. More later!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Looks like I will be making more wine that I bargained for in 2006. I've been contacted by two people who have grapes they can't process and who want to find a good home for them. One is an old friend who I haven't seen for more than a decade but who has established a sizeable vineyard - so plenty of grapes, and from the measurements of TA and pH, they need harvesting pretty soon - this weekend looks ideal. I'm quite excited. I'll have reasonable quantities of four varieties to play with - two red and two white.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

There have been a rash of photo quizzes over at the UK wine forum. So here's my own, hastily concocted effort. How many of the producers can you spot in this picture of bits of wine labels? Best answer wins a bottle of the 2006 vintage of my as-yet-to-be-named wine. Latest news is there may be far more of it than I first thought.

I'm slightly concerned that my Chardonnay trail is becoming dominated by Australia. Must do something about that. Well, after mentioning Steve Webber a couple of posts below, I figured it would only be polite to include one of his wines. It's the De Bortoli Yarra Valley Chardonnay. Whole bunch pressing (so this was hand picked fruit), barrel fermentation and lees stirring have been employed to good effect. But the crucial bit is what is done in the vineyard. Many of the Chardonnays I've been trying have been at 14 or 14.5% alcohol. This one is a rather Burgundian 13%, and has good natural acidity.

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2004 Yarra Valley, Australia
Quite a tight, subtly reductive mineralic nose with notes of smoke and flint, with citrussy fruit complemented by toasty richness. The palate has nice freshness and complex minerally fruit. This is joined by hints of toast, vanilla and straw. A restrained, intriguing style: it's not quite like Burgundy, but the intention here has clearly been to aim at elegance and refinement rather than power. Could age well for a few years, too. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£12.99 Waitrose, Oddbins)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

So, how's the Chardonnay trail going? I decided to try Jacob's Creek, the Orlando Brand. But not just the regular JC. No, I went to the top - to JC's top Chardonnay (part of the 'heritage' range). Here's my note.

Jacob's Creek Reeve's Point Chardonnay 2003 Australia
A perplexing wine. Is it brilliant (some have described it as a baby Yattarna), or is it merely very good? This is one of those bottles that doesn't quite answer the question. The nose shows quite fresh, bright lemon-edged fruit with some melony richness and a hint of vanilla. There's some green apple character, too, with tight spiciness. The palate is quite concentrated with tight lemony fruit, some pear fruit, and some oaky richness. Good acidity and finishes quite savoury. Restrained, fresh and bright, but at the same time a bit ungainly and chunky. Is it serious or is it missing the point? Time will tell. It's certainly aiming at restraint, which I guess is a good thing. Very good/excellent 90/100

Steve Webber of De Bortoli was one of the many interesting people I met in the Yarra Valley, earlier this year. He's genuinely passionate about what he does, he loves wine, and he's prepared to experiment. Note the chalked inscription on the barrel to his right. There was another labelled 'Cornas', which may have been the best Aussie Syrah I've yet tasted. Whatever people say about overproduction, Aussie wine is thriving at the high end because of winegrowers like Steve who are trying to push the boundaries a bit.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Summer has come back for an encore - the last weekend has been an unexpected treat, with temperatures in the late 20s Centigrade. After lunch on the patio we had a lovely afternoon cycling to Twickenham green for a birthday party that the boys were attending. While I was there I had a chance to check on the progress of my vines (at the allotment). They're coming along well, and I tasted some of the grapes - I reckon harvest won't be long. Pictured is the Pinot Noir. After the party we went to the Prince Albert for a pint, and then headed home before darkness made family cycling hazardous.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Penfold's Koonunga Hill used to be a reasonably serious, ageworthy wine. When I first started drinking wine back in the early 1990s it was an affordable, spicy, chunky red - and one with a reputation for improving in bottle. I remember a tasting of Penfold's high end wines a few years back where some museum vintages of this wine were brought out to show. Since then, however, I suspect the wine has changed. Current release, 2004, is not something I'd advise readers to cellar. I don't think I'd advise them to buy it, either - it's not a bad wine, but for the price (£6.99) there are plenty I'd try first.

I'm getting dark fruits with a hint of bonfire and rubber. On the palate there's overtly sweet fruit with a green herbal edge, some jamminess and rather a bitter finish. It tastes a bit like a cheap Aussie brand, and I notice this is no longer South Australia in appellation, but South Eastern Australia (which takes in the serious volume, low quality irrigated regions of Victoria and New South Wales). What is there to distinguish this from the likes of Hardys, or Jacobs Creek (actually, I prefer the Jacobs Creek Shiraz Grenache to this)? Sorry to be so negative, but given my good associations with this brand, I wanted it to be good.

In pursuit of a good wine experience, I've opened something completely different.

Clos Baudoin Aigle Blanc Vin Tris 1989 Vouvray, Loire (from half bottle)
17 years on, this wine is beginning to sing, albeit it an unusual voice. But that's Chenin for you. Lovely, intense, savoury perfumed nose of damp meadow hay, herbs and fresh bread. Cut apple, too. Quite complex. The palate is quite rich and full, with the residual sugar offset by the acidity and a herbal streak, which is dominated by warm notes of straw and cheese. It finishes with the sweetness and acidity in a nice, chunky, savoury sort of tension. A thought provoking wine with enough oomph to make a good food match for richer dishes. Nothing quite like Loire Chenin, is there? Very good/excellent 90/100 (From Grand Cru Wines, remarkably cheaply a few weeks back)

I'm currently writing up my Swiss wine experience from earlier in the year; one of the most interesting (of many such) people I met on the trip was Hans Ulrich Kesselring of Bachtobel. He's a thoughtful, conscientious winegrower with a strong interest in the science of wine - you can read one of his typically insightful essays here.

The rest of the Bachtobel website is worth a browse, too. Beautifully produced.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Latest report from the Chardonnay trail comes from New Zealand. Waiheke Island, to be precise, near Auckland. Like the label design, by the way.

Cable Bay Chardonnay 2004 Waiheke Island, New ZealandHmmm, this is a new world style wine, but it's quite fresh and bright, with high acidity. Taut and a bit minerally with flavours of white peach, citrus and a touch of vanilla. Almost structured, with a bit of phenolic bite on the palate. Hasn't really developed much interest yet, and while it's a nice enough drink it doesn't quite work for me. Very good+ 88/100 (was £14.99 from Unwins, before they went bust; screwcapped, tin liner)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

One of the big current stories is fake wines. Fake expensive wines. Fake VERY expensive wines. It turns out that some people think that wines from one of the most famous collectors could have dodgy provenance, as Neal Martin's article explains. Decanter also have a news piece on this. It's a big story - expect to hear more on this. This is what Serena Sutcliffe of Sotheby's said to me on the subject earlier this year:
"Frauds are a big worry, stop (not just the auction scene). If I could give you a £ for every fake bottle I have seen or tasted, I would be as rich as Croesus. It has happened over the last 20 yrs, with a tremendous escalation recently, with huge money swirling about and totally innocent
punters up there buying with no point of comparison. They saw them coming. It is a HUGE INDUSTRY, ESP IN STATES AND ASIA - but unhappily it mostly seems to originate in Europe and is then sold by middle men in the two areas indicated. A lot of money has been made. In the last few yrs we have seen cellars with millions of dollars' worth of fakes in them. We might refuse them, but they then go elsewhere....They vary from the basic, photocopied labels etc, to the extremely sophisticated, but there is a pattern to them and they ALWAYS originate from the same group of people, when you delve."

Can you believe it? Cricket is becoming popular in the USA. See here and here.

Congratulations to Jorge Borges and Sandra Tavares: their new Douro white wine, Guru 2004, won the white wine trophy at the International Wine Challenge 2006. The results were announced last night at the official IWC dinner. Good news for Portugal and the Douro.

"Champion White
Guru 2004 Wine & Soul
This is a subtle, understated, elegant and beautifully-made wine which demonstrates that Portugal can make brilliant, dry white wine to rival some of the world’s greatest. This is a wine made from Portuguese varieties, not the usual ‘international’ suspects. UK Stockists – C&D Wines £17.00. This wine has also won the James Rogers Trophy."

Congratulations are also due to Jorge and Sandra on the birth of their first child, a boy, on July 27th. And today they were pressing the Guru 2006.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Just finishing off a long, detailed article on the problem of premature ageing of white Burgundies, which began in the mid-1990s. It's for The World of Fine Wine. White Burgundies are so far absent from my nascent Chardonnay trail. I'll have to do something about that. For now, we turn to Chile.

Casa Lapastolle Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay Atalayas Vineyard 2004 Casablanca, Chile
Powerful stuff, this. Big nose of open, ripe pineapple and melon fruit, with a herbal edge and some nice freshness. It's fruit driven and nicely poised. The palate is bold and concentarted with more of that direct, nicely framed fruit and good acidity. The oak is well in the background (part of the wine was in stainless steel) and melony, herby fruit dominates. A wine with real impact yet some restraint, my only criticism being the high alcohol. Very good/excellent 91/100

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Wine chum Bill Nanson has recently launched a blog as part of his Burgundy Report, and today he has written a thoughtful review of my Wine bottle closures book. Thanks Bill! Must say, I think his site is one of the most elegantly designed of all. In fact, I'm a little jealous of his web design skills. Not bad for an industrial chemist from Basle.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bill Nanson was in town, so the usual threesome of Bill, Neal Martin and I had one of our lunches, at Sakura. It was good.

Number two in my new Chardonnay trail is one of Australia's top examples.

Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay 2002 Margaret River, Western Australia
Yellowish with very subtle green glints. Lovely nose: complex and bold. Quite taut and a bit minerally, but also with some bready, toasty richness and ripe fruit. It's well disciplined. The palate combines complex tropical fruits with fresher citrus notes, well supported by almost structured oak (with a bit of vanilla) and good acidity. It's intense, complex and quite tight, even at four years old, with great poise. A really superb example of Chardonnay. Blind I think I'd go new world, but it's at the top of the new world pile. Very good/excellent 94/100 (£35 Waitrose)

The kids go back to school this week, and the summer has almost moved on, but not quite. Had a lovely warm summery day yesterday, and tomorrow is supposed to reach 26 centigrade. We went cycling along the Thames and lunched in Richmond. Then elder son got a drawing pin in his front tyre, which complicated plans for getting home. How does a drawing pin find its way onto the towpath of the Thames?

My vines are appreciating the warm settled weather, after a very wet August. This is the crucial home straight now - if we have settled weather over the next month, it will be a really good vintage. Disease pressure has been quite high, but I've been much busier with the sulfur this year, particularly early on when it's crucial to control the oidium, so just a few vines have any sign of disease.

Of course, no one really cares about the vintage in Twickenham. But they do care about the vintage in Bordeaux. And just look at this forecast for the next week here. 35 centigrade tomorrow! Of course, harvest won't be underway for a couple of weeks yet, and possibly longer. But it's very promising for another top vintage.