jamie goode's wine blog: Alion vertical

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Alion vertical

It's a tough life being a winewriter, but there is the occasional perk. Like today's Alion vertical, followed by lunch, which was held at top London eatery The Square. Of course, wine nuts reading will already be aware that Alion is a separate estate in Spain's Ribera del Duero owned by Vega Sicilia, making wines in a more modern style (but this is relative: Vega Sicilia is very traditional). We tried all the vintages of Alion, ranging from the inaugural 1991 to current release 2003, plus the current releases of Vega Sicilia Unico, Vega Sicilia Reserva Especial, Pintia Toro, Valbuena, Mandolas and Oremus Tokaji, in the company of proprietor Pablo Alvarez and winemaker Javier Ausas. A rather special line up of wines, and the prospect of trying these coupled with lunch at the square brought out the great and good of the winewriting/drinking fraternity.

For the tasting I was flanked by David Peppercorn and Steven Spurrier, with Serena Suttcliffe sharing the same table. In front was Jancis, Sarah Jane Evans, Beverly Blanning, Hamish Anderson, Stuart Peskett (Harpers) and Linden Wilkie. Also spotted were the Irish contingent (Tomas Clancy, Joe Breen, Liam Campbell and Raymond Blake), Julian Jeffs QC (who was a charming companion at lunch) and Stephen Brook.

The food:
  • Roast isles of Orkney scallop with vanilla, endive, tangerine and sauternes (the only dish that didn't really work)
  • Tortellini of Devon crab with a capuccino of shellfish and basil (sensational, as were all the dishes from here onwards)
  • Roast fillet of john dory with oxtail, morels and red wine
  • Roast and smoked loin of fallow deer with celeriac, chanterelles, caramelised root vegetables and pink peppercorns
  • Comte and st nectaire
  • Brillat-Savarin cheesecake with rhubarb
Pictured: Vega Sicilia winemaker Javier Ausás presenting his wines



At 5:43 AM, Anonymous Dave said...

So how where the wines? I've had all but the 92 Alion so far, they all seem to be drinking very well at this stage. 95, 96 and 01 would be the highlights for me.

Some brett issues in 93-95 from what I've seen, some in a good way others not. I'd be interested in your views.



At 8:40 AM, Blogger timmyc said...

And people ask why on earth anyone would want to try and work in the wine trade when it doesn't pay all that well!


At 9:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jamie, excellent blog, but excercise some modesty. I remember throwing a copy of Decanter against the wall having read a piece where Robinson rhapsodied about some culinary spectacular at Margaux. It was the proverbial upper-class icing on the cake. We Brits on more typical incomes prefer to read the words of suffering types, not those over-indulged. Keep wine accessible for all, not a closed circle of wine dinosaurs.


At 10:18 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

Paul, I think Jamie is impressively modest on this blog. What he describes is the reality of the wine trade, and more particularly for wine journalists I should think. We get invited to some pretty special meals. Perhaps these pleasures partly compensate for the less than lucrative income, but I doubt that many people think of it that way.

Good food and good wine seem a natural combination to me.

At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Yes - for all the occasional nosebaggery at the Square and suchlike Michelin twinklers, wine journos still, for their sins, have to submit their palates to the serried ranks of commercial brews peddled at the blockbuster supermarket tastings. These fine wine seminars and verticals are to prevent them losing the will to live.

I've done a few fancy-pants verticals in the last couple of years and you certainly don't always spend your time genuflecting in the presence of greatness. For every plum that an estate pulls out and presents you, there are stalks a-plenty.

Meanwhile on the other side of the tracks many of the other wine journos in London this week were at the Sopexa Top 100 Vin de Pays (as narrowed down from over 1000 entries) getting their gnashers into such delights as oak-chipped flavoured Merlot from the Languedoc and cheap lemon-squeezy Sauvignon. There were some perfectly decent wines but you have to put an amazing number of things in your mouth that frankly don't belong there.

The wine trade certainly doesn't pay well. Don't begrudge the journos one of their deserved perks. And as Christopher implies if you're tasting some great wines why not experience them with top food if you possibly can?

At 4:00 PM, Blogger chris said...

I met Julian Jeffs at the UGC tasting last year and from that experience of him I'm not at all surprised to see him described as charming. A man with plenty of experience under his belt, in wine as well as other fields, who probably has an anecdote for every occasion I would think.
Chris Kissack

At 12:31 AM, Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

Off-piste, but damn that Chancellor, Scotch-snifting Brown! How dare he raise the taxes on wine when spirits remain in stasis? Douglas.

At 9:37 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Douglas, wouldn't worry too much about the current duty levels on wine - at least they are a flat rate, which doesn't penalize us wine buffs too much.

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