jamie goode's wine blog: August 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Noel Young cyberspace tasting with Virtual Wines

A plug for a virtual wine tasting coming up this Saturday (details here). It will be held by Cambridgeshire super-merchant Noel Young in conjunction with Virtual Wine (www.virtualwine.co.uk). To participate you need a broadband connection and a six-pack of interesting-looking wines from Noel's list, which will set you back £49. Although this would work out an expensive and rather boozy evening for just one person or a couple, it might be worth considering with a group of friends?

[Disclaimer: Virtual Wine have just taken out some advertising with wineanorak.com]

Cornas threat

Yes, I know, this is old news now - but it is still relevant. I was alerted a month or two ago by a couple of readers for some crazy sounding development plans that could take out a substantial chunk of the Cornas vineyards in the Northern Rhone of France.

Now, as most of you know, Cornas rocks. And there's only 100 hectares of it altogether. So development plans threatening at least 3.4 hectares sound very daft indeed.

You can read all about it on Jon Livingstone-Learmonth's site here. Pictured is a Syrah vine in Cornas.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

So I was wrong...and another good Merr-loww

Scratch my comments in the post below. The ones where I reckoned I could taste OK with a cold. Yesterday I could taste pretty well; tonight, not a thing.

My sense of smell has deserted me, and there's very little fun to be had from wine when you can't smell anything, save for the physiological effects of the alcohol. Port was a bit better: I managed to get some pleasure from the sugar and tannin on my tongue. But I still couldn't 'get' the wine at all. It's like looking at a picture through frosted glass.

I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll have recovered: the big worry is that with each successive cold there might be some cumulative damage to the olfactory epithelium - just as you get with your hearing from attending too many Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, Gary Moore, AC/DC and Saxon concerts in your youth. It's concerning to think that as you get older you lose the fine nuances, and end up just appreciating the brutal, obvious wines - or find yourself relying on your memory and reputations to assist you in sorting good from bad.

Last night I tasted a good Merlot; one which caught me a bit by surprise. I really wasn't expecting it to be this good. For a start, it was from South Africa, and secondly, it was from an unnamed producer, bottled as Marks & Spencer's own label. But this is pretty serious stuff, and it went very well with the barbecue I was cooking. So much so, that I ended up not bothering to open any other samples, and drunk most of the bottle.

Marks & Spencer Silver Tree Merlot 2005 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Sealed with a Diam. This lovely Merlot has a gravelly, minerally nose with nice spicy depth to the palate, which displays appropriately ripe (but not jammy) fruit. It's fruity, but not overly so, and there's just a hint of greenness here, but it's a good sort of greenness - this is a wine perfectly in balance. Satisfying stuff with some old world elegance. Very stylish and a bargain at this price. I reckon this must come from a serious producer. 89/100 (£8.99 Marks & Spencer)

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smelling...dimly

The cold which had been threatening to burst at any moment has really clicked into gear, and I can no longer smell all that much. It's a myth (from my experience at least) to say that you can't smell anything when you have a cold, but the clarity of the olfactory perception is certainly much diminished at the moment.

I reckon I could still taste wine OK in my current impaired state (in terms of rough impressions), but I'd be less sure of my perception - that I was actually 'getting' the wine.

The fact that we think we are 'getting' the wine or not is one argument in favour of the idea that wine tasting is, at least in part, objective. There is something there, that is a property of the glass of wine we are drinking, that can be 'got'. Aside from inter-individual differences in perception, the assumption is that the characteristics of a wine - what it tastes like - are properties of that wine.

When I write a tasting note, I first write the name of the wine. Then I write under it the descriptive words - a selection of terms from my sadly rather impoverished vocabulary for tastes and smells - that best describe my perception of that wine. But all the time, the assumption is that the description I have given is of the wine. I am describing the wine, and my descriptive abilities (or lack of them) affect how accurately I carry out this task, but what I am describing is a wine that, if you were there tasting with me, you could experience for yourself. In this sense, the perception of the wine in question is not a private experience.

However, an argument could be made that what I am in fact describing is the interaction between me and the wine, and more specifically, a perceptual event occurring somewhere in my brain. In this sense, our potential for sharing this experience is dependent on us sharing: (1) taste and smell receptors that produce similar electrical activity for the brain to then process; (2) similar higher-level processing of this electrical information in the brain; and (3) similar experience (context) with which to review and further reflect on the perceptual experience (indeed, our experience may shape the perception itself).

It all gets very complicated, and the difficulty I have here in thinking about these issues is in trying to fit what I've learned with neuroscience into a sort of philisophical framework, without being too philosophically naive (which is something I'm prone to).

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Reach for the skies!

Just been away for a fabulous weekend, staying with my parents in Lidgate, Suffolk. The weather was fantastic, the kids behaved, RTL sort of behaved and we had a good time.

On Saturday my dad and I took the boys to IWM Duxford, which is a fabulous airforce museum at a functioning airfield. I confess to having a latent nerdy interest in aircraft - I grew up making airfix models - and so I was really looking forward to this.

Spread out over five hangars, Duxford's collection is incredible. There are also some very good hands-on exhibits for the kids, and we were fortunate enough to see flying displays from a Spitfire and Mustang. Yes, if you have even just one nerdy bone in your body, then Duxford comes highly recommended.

We drunk a fair bit of wine over the weekend, although my ability to enjoy it was somewhat muted by a cold. Some very brief notes on a few:

Fabre Montemayou Phebus Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Mendoza, Argentina: dense, savoury, intense, great value for an inexpensive wine. Serious, almost.

Pewsey Vale Riesling 2006 Eden Valley, Australia
Bright, aromatic, versatile and well balanced. Lovely stuff.

Wolf Blass Green Label Cabernet Shiraz 2006 South Australia
From a 75 cl PET bottle (plastic). BBE May 2008 on label. Open, sweet blackcurrant fruit with a noticeable green character. Generous, confected.

Cano Toro Cosecha 2006 Spain
A very well made cheapie. Vibrant, jammy, emphasis on forward fruit - perhaps a bit rough at the edges.
M&S La Basca Tempranillo 2006
Unoaked and with lovely sweet black fruits, this would have been lovely, but it was corked. Why on earth didn't M&S insist on a taint-free closure for this delightful, inexpensive red. Diam, ProCork, screwcap or synthetic for this sort of wine. No excuse for using natural cork.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Riesling from Chile?

So we're going to be looking at some more Rieslings over the coming weeks. A journey of exploration of this rather smugly self-righteous, but at the same time quite serious grape variety.

Here's an interesting one. I'm not sure whether I like it completely, but it's good to see Chile having a serious go at doing grown-up white wine.

Cono Sur Reserva Riesling 2007 Bio Bio Valley, Chile
Chile's attempt to do Riesling Kabinett - a very fresh, almost delicate wine with some residual sugar countering the high acidity. But Riesling Kabinett from the Mosel is 7-9% alcohol, and this is 13.5%. I'm getting a zippy cocktail of grapefruit, mandarin, lime and apple. It's a bit confected on the nose, but otherwise this is remarkably fresh and transparent. The interplay between the residual sugar (I'd guess this at around 14 g/litre) and the acidity works really well, creating a dry wine with a hint of sweetness. This is the best Chilean Riesling I've had and it's good value for money, but I'd prefer it more minerally and perhaps just a touch less confected. 87/100 (£6.99 Waitrose, Tesco)

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Facebook friends

I now have a staggering total of 10 http://www.facebook.com/ friends. Wanna be my friend? You only have to ask!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Now for...a serious grape variety

Forget Merrr-loww. What about a serious grape variety? Like Riesling.

Riesling has a moral premium among white wine grape varieties. Wine geeks love Riesling. Have to.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be taking a Riesling focus, which in real terms means drinking a lot of the stuff. I began tonight with three wines, two from Australia and one from Germany, but all in a vaguely similar style.

Yalumba Y Series Riesling 2006 South Australia
Bright, crisp and a bit smoky and minerally, with a nice herbal tang and an assertive, almost spicy citrussy character that's common to many Aussie Rieslings. There's also a bit of talcum powder character. A clean, precise style that is bone dry and food friendly. 87/100 (£6.50 Winedirect.co.uk, Auswinesonline.co.uk)

Mesh Riesling 2006 Eden Valley, Australia
A collaboration between Jeffrey Grosset and Robert Hill Smith (www.meshwine.com). Alive, limey, perfumed nose with a lovely crisp, bone dry, mineralic palate that verges on the austere with its high acidity, but it isn't heavy or phenolic. Distinctly savoury, this closes up a bit on the finish which is very tight. It would be interesting to see what this wine - sealed with a tin-lined screwcap - would look like under a closure that allows just a little more oxygen transmission. 90/100 (c. £14 Wine Society, Winedirect.co.uk, Handford)

Darting Durkheimer Michelsburg Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2005 Pfalz, Germany
Precise, crisp, lemony nose with a minerally, spicy edge. The palate is crisp and dry with a lovely citrussy character, together with a hint of honeyed warmth. Overall, this is crisp and dry, and quite simular to the Australian style, albeit with a bit more carbon dioxide spritz. A nice wine, and good value. 88/100 (£6.99 Marks & Spencer)

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A merr-low I quite like

I'm sticking with Merr-low for the time being. As an open-minded sort of guy - despite being quite opinionated at the same time - I like to give grape varieties, wine regions and producers a second chance, and even a third chance. In fact, part of the fun of wine is that the wine world is in a continual state of flux, not least because of the annual roll-over of vintages.

A challenge. Next time you go to a restaurant, I dare you to pronounce 'Merlot' with a hard 't' in your interchange with the sommelier. Gwan, gwan, gwan. You get 10 anorak points for this. You get a further 10 anorak points if the sommelier corrects you. You get a further 10 points if the sommelier corrects you in a condescending or patronising manner. You get a further 10 points if they do it with a little chuckle, as if to say, how stupid of you. I hate it when people are patronized by sommeliers. It's an attitude that takes wine from the people and puts it into the hands of experts.

Anyway, I digress. I found a Merlot I liked. The wine in question is actually from Patagonia in Argentina. My note follows:

Canale Reserve Merlot 2005 Patagonia, Argentina
The garish orange label isnít a good indicator of whatís in the bottle. This stylish red wine, from Patagonia in southern Argentina, is really quite restrained and balanced Ė itís not at all brash. The nose is quite fresh, with bright dark fruits joined by a bit of gravelly minerality and some vanilla and spice oak notes. The palate is quite Bordeaux-like: thereís a freshness and savouriness to the dark fruits thatís not usually found in the new world, with tar, spice and earth notes joining the well defined dark fruits. This rather sophisticated, well mannered Merlot is a wine thatís best with food, and which will age well over the medium term. 90/100 (Marks & Spencer £9.99)

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Goobye Eudora, hello Thunderbird

No, not the wine-based 'drink', but the email client. I've been getting so weary of deleting hundreds of spam messages each day, I've switched from Eudora (which I like but which is no longer supported), to Mozilla's Thunderbird as my email client, in part because it has decent spam protection incorporated into it.

So far, so good. It takes a while to get used to new applications, but I like the look and feel of it. And it let me import my Eudora inbox without any fuss. Now I need to start thinking about consolidating my various email accounts, two of which I use very regularly.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Stormhoek on glass 'collusion'

Interesting post by Stormhoek's Jason Korman on what he suspects may be an attempt by wine bottle glass producers to create a global shortage of glass so they can bump prices up a bit. Read it here.

'Mark my words, the biggest story in the wine trade this year won't be about wine, it'll be about shortages of glass bottles keeping the wine from getting to market.'

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Top of the table

Forgive the non-wine focus of this post, but I couldn't let the occasion pass without a comment.


For non-football fans, the significance is that the team I follow, perennial underdogs since the late 1970s, yesterday beat their illustrious neighbours, to maintain a 100% record in this (admittedly very young) premiership season and top the table, 15 places above UTD. It's an exciting time to be a City fan.

You can see highlights here


Next up, Arsenal away. Bring-em-on!

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

...but not Merrr-loww

I gathered together five or six Merlots last night for a bit of comparative tasting. I won't name names (yet), but it reminded me that this is not my favourite grape.

I know that Merlot bashing is now a popular sport ever since the film Sideways, and in truth I have had some fantastic Merlots in the past, but in general terms Merlot is a really difficult grape to make good wine from. People talk about Pinot Noir being fussy. I reckon Merlot is even fussier.

We have a full house at the moment: Fiona's brother and his family are visiting from Geneva, and Fiona's sister and her family are visiting from Devon. It's fun, even if it does stretch our accommodation facilities a little. We hit London yesterday, and had some fun.

We began with the Science Museum and the spy exhibition (which the kids liked) and the Spongebob simulator (which the kids liked, but I'm not sure what the science connection was), then went to the Rainforest Cafe for lunch (which the kids liked), before catching the Simpsons movie (which is fantastic). We had planned to do more, but it's amazing how time flies, and how tiring a Saturday in London can be - it was unbelievably busy in town.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

I love Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a wonderful grape. It's definitely in the top three of red grape varieties - possibly even top. But I'm not always in the mood for it. The downside is that good Pinot Noir isn't that common, and it's usually expensive.

What Pinot Noir does so well is elegance. You don't want big, dark, tannic, dense Pinot Noir. You want it to speak with a fluent voice, not to shout. You want it to be quite light, smooth, elegant and expressive.

Last night I opened three - two Villa Maria Pinots from New Zealand and Marks & Spencers Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2005. I liked them all, but the more expensive of the Villa Maria duo was thrillingly good. New Zealand is my favourite destination for affordable Pinot Noir at the moment.

Villa Maria Pinot Noir Pinot Noir Private Bin 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is a fresh, bright Pinot Noir with a nice dark cherry and spice nose. It's lively and quite elegant. The palate has a fresh buzz to it - almost a hint of spritz and some nice elegant cherryish fruit. Delicious stuff: bright and zippy. 89/100 (£9.99 Tesco, Sainsbury)

Villa Maria Pinot Noir Cellar Selection 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lovely nose: fresh, spicy meaty red fruits here, with nice perfume. Ripe but still very fresh and quite cherryish. The palate is complex and spicy. It's really expressive with lively acidity and an appealing meatiness. A delicious wine. 92/100 (£11.99 Tesco, Thresher, Booths)

Marks & Spencer Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2005
Quite dense cherry and herb fruit here, with a green edge to the savoury red fruits, together with a bit of earthiness. It's nice enough but it lacks excitement and isn't terribly elegant. Not bad value, though. 85/100 (Marks & Spencer £6.99)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Procrastination, and wild rock rocks!

One of the features of the broadband internet age is that there are now 1001 ways to procrastinate. Never before has it been so easy to put off doing proper work by hopping over to check the BBC news site, or waste time on facebook or flickr, pick up emails yet again, or just generally arse around on various blogs and internet sites.

At least in the age of dial-up it cost money to stay online, and getting online was a mild hassle so you just collected your messages a few times a day. 'Always on' connections make this sort of discipline difficult. I find that to work effectively, it takes me perhaps five minutes to get in the zone, and maybe another 10 to function really efficiently. So if I'm continually replying to emails, or browsing, then it's much harder to achieve the state of maximum productivity. So I'm going to make a pledge to procrastinate less over the next month. [Heck, now this is beginning to sound like one of those awful 'work more efficiently in the information age' blogs...]

Back to wine. Last night, watching City record their their second successive victory of the new campaign on Match of the Day, I opened a Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red 2005. And Wild Rock rocks! (see the tasting note below)

Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red 2005 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
From the Craggy Range stable, this is a blend of Merlot and Malbec from the Gimblett Gravels of Hawkes Bay. It's really impressive: a lovely, well balanced red in a Bordeaux mould. Attractive nose of dark fruits - ripe but still fresh, with a minerally, gravelly edge. Dark, almost brooding palate shows a lovely savoury edge to the spicy dark fruits. Some grippy, spicy tannins on the finish, together with just the faintest hint of animal character, complete this satisfying wine, which is not at all sweet or over-ripe. In its focus and depth, it reminds me a bit of some of the leading Margaret River reds from Australia. 90/100 (£9.99 Waitrose, on offer at £7.49 from 3-30th September 2007)

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Sangiovese, including a Chilean

Two more Sangioveses opened this evening, in service to my readers - and prompted by my recently roused curiosity about this variety.

Errazuriz Estate Sangiovese 2005 Aconcagua Valley, Chile
(Waitrose)
Does Sangiovese travel? Not very well in my limited experience, and this wine is frankly disappointing. Immediately there's this distinctively Chilean nose: sweet pastille red/black fruit with a slightly rubbery, green herby edge. It's hard to pick up any varietal character. The palate similarly shouts 'Chile' rather than 'Sangiovese', although if you can see through this masking character, then you get some fresh, spicy red fruit and a bit of earthiness that does have a slightly Italian feel to it. It fails to excite and I don't really enjoy drinking it. I was going to say, 'it's not a bad wine', as a qualifier, but I fear that it is. 76/100

Piccini Selezione Oro Chianti Riserva 2004 Italy
(£7.99 Tesco, though from 12/09 until 9/10 it will be at £4.99)
Nicely bottled with a rather snazzy gold label, this is a well balanced, light-ish, easy-drinking style of Chianti. There's a modest sort of nose here: some sweet, slightly earthy/spicy fruit emerges after a bit of coaxing. On the palate there's a nice balance between the approachable plummy, red berry and cherry fruit and the earthy spiciness - overall, the impression is one of savouriness. This isn't a wine that will blow you away, but at the offer price it's a very respectable companion for a weeknight evening meal that offers great value for money. It's incredibly easy to drink, and every few sips you get a hint of seriousness. 85/100

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

So Sangiovese does rock, after all?

Further to my comments on the Querciabella yesterday, some more thoughts on Sangiovese.

You know, I think Sangiovese is a grape that falls into the Serious rather than the Non-Serious category, despite what I may have said in the past. It's just that, for one reason or another, it frequently underperforms. Thinking out loud, it seems that even those grapes which are mostly Non-Serious, like Merlot, do have their moments (anyone for Petrus?), and when they do perform they can be stellar. But, generally, it's good advice to pass when offered a Merlot.

So I search my rack for more Sangiovese. I come up with the following:

Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva 2003
(£9.99 Majestic)
Now I'm going to give Banfi the benefit of the doubt here, and put this wine's relative underperformance down to the dodgy 2003 vintage. Now this is a perfectly adequate Chianti, showing a muted, rather earthy nose which leads to a savoury, balanced palate with a bit of plummy fruit, some spice and a rather earthy, tannic finish. But it doesn't excite or thrill. It lacks something, but I can't quite put my finger on what this something is. 86/100

So I return to the Querciabella Chiantic Classico 2004. You know, I may have underrated this wine last night, even though I enjoyed it a good deal. It has so many different dimensions: acidity, tannin, fruit, spice, aromas, savouriness, length, bitterness. It's really alive. On tonight's showing, after being open for 24 h, I'd rate this as 92/100, with some upside potential.

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David Molyneux-Berry on fake wines

An interesting and controversial talk by David Molyneux-Berry on counterfeit wine, from the recent Taste 3 conference.

The really interesting (and controversial) bit is towards the end.

Please note that the views expressed in this talk are those of David, and do not necessarily match my own.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Chianti and Aglianico

Two Italian wines tonight. With some spaghetti. How cliched.

First, a Chianti. I've been a little tough on Chianti here on this blog in recent months. This is one I like, though. And it has the most amazing, high-quality long cork, just like they used to use in the old days (pictured).

Querciabella Chianti Classico 2004
Quite deep coloured, this has an arresting nose of savoury, quite minerally/gravelly dark fruits, with subtle earthiness and a fair dollop of refinement. The palate is distinctively savoury, combining a plummy bitterness that is so typical of many Italian wines with Claret-like weight and poise. This is a serious effort that isn't taking the short-cut of concentration, over-ripeness and new oak that some Tuscan wines opt for, but instead retains authenticity and adds to this refinement. I like it. 90/100 (£13.99 Waitrose)

Second, an Aglianico - nicely packaged, and good enough without being terribly exciting (like so many of today's wines, I guess).

Cantine Sasso Aglianico del Vulture 2005
Great label design, with a vivid bright red synthetic cork to match. Deep coloured this has a distinctive, rather baked oxidative edge to the spicy, earthy red fruit nose. The palate has an earthy, herby, rather evolved character that's quite savoury, but which lacks freshness and fruit. This would work well with hearty, full flavoured food, but on its own it tastes a bit tired. 82/100 (£6.99 Waitrose)

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pinot Noir from England

Can England make serious wine? Your answer to this question will probably depend on your definition of 'serious'. Here's a promising English rendition of Pinot Noir - a good wine, but not a great one. Is it serious? Not by my definition of the term: I reckon it needs a bit more oomph (yes, elegance and oomph can come as part of the same package), a bit more definition, and a little 'magic' before it falls into this category. But Bookers are on the right track, it seems.

Bookers Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 Sussex Regional Wine
Pale coloured, like a dark rose. Lovely balanced cherry and herb nose with a hint of undergrowth and sappiness. The palate is soft with a bit of herby, spicy bite to the open, light cherryish fruit. It's a very light wine which just lacks a little in depth. But it's charming, understated and food friendly. 88/100 (£12.99 Telegraph Wine Club or direct from http://www.bookersvineyard.co.uk/)

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

A wild vine observed

It's been one of those perfect summer days here in west London, following on from a similarly balmy, sunny day yesterday.

Wandering around early Friday evening there was a hummy, buzzy sort of atmosphere - a sense that something was about to happen; as if people were set on enjoying themselves in whatever form this enjoyment might take. A spirit of leisure was unleashed. And because we've waited so long for this summer feeling, and because there isn't a lot of summer left, there was a sense of urgency - that we must make the most of this now - added into the mix, which ramps the intensity a notch.

I took RTL for a long walk on Hounslow Heath this morning. It was beautiful, and even more so because the flight path into Heathrow wasn't directly overhead today. During the course of this excursion I did a double take as I found a grape vine growing up an oak tree (pictured). Of course, the natural habit of Vitis vinifera is as a woodland climber: it's specialized for this role, with its fast growth of narrow-girth shoots, tendrils, drought resistance and a root system that's extremely good at going deep and competing with established plants for resources of minerals and water.

Where the grapevine shoot finds a gap in the canopy of its host plant, the exposure to sunlight initiates the process of flower (and thus grape) formation. However, there weren't any noticeable fruit clusters on this 'wild' vine, which is most likely derived from a table grape used to being grown in much warmer, sunnier climates.

Then this afternoon I took the boys to play golf, in almost perfect conditions. Warm but not too hot, with a gentle breeze.

Another reason to be happy besides the late appearance of summer is that the football season began again today, and Svennis' City team won 2-0 away at West Ham.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Holiday in the country

Sorry for the radio silence over the last week. I've been away, on holiday, staying at a lovely converted barn in the middle of the English countryside. I've been without e-mail access, and so I'm just picking up my 2944 messages (the majority of which will of course be junk), and I didn't do any work.

We were staying in Worcestershire, not far from the Malvern Hills, which are spectacular. We also had some great weather - had we visited a couple of weeks earlier, most of the surrounding countryside would have been under water.

So, lots of walking the dog, lots of going out for the day, lots of eating and drinking, and lots of sleeping. Indeed, if there is such a thing as sleep debt, I've paid mine back double. I'm now well into sleep credit. The picture shows the boys feeling rather weary after ascending a few hills.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Indian wine

A new experience earlier this evening. I was at the home of winemaker John Worontschak, with Sam Harrop, when John pulled out a wine that he'd made earlier. From India.

It's a Indus Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2006 made in Nasik, India, from grapes grown at 620 m. John says that the climate is warm and dry, except for when it's wet, in which case it's monsoon wet. The winery was designed by John, and set into a hillside it works by gravity flow.

The wine has a distinctive methoxypyrazine chalky greenness on the nose, along with a bit of lemon pith character. In the mouth it is clean, quite crisp and fruity, with more of the typical Sauvignon greenness. I'd be lying if I said that this is the world's best Sauvignon, but it is quite drinkable, and it's the best Indian wine I've ever had. Actually, it's the only Indian wine I've had, but that aside, there's some promise here. Tasted blind, we agreed that we'd probably place this in South Africa.

I guess there's money to be made from selling good quality Indian wines to the Indian middle classes. An impressive 250 tons of grapes went through the Nindus winery last vintage.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A big Malbec and a Black Tower

Three days without rain now. Looks like we're going to get a summer (of sorts) after all. And two rather different but quite interesting red wines to report on.

But first a slight digression about oak. Have you ever noticed that oak is very much more obvious when you open a bottle and pour it immediately, than when you've opened a bottle, poured some wine out and then let it sit (or decanted it)? I wasn't keen on the Lafage Roussillon white I reported on recently immediately after I'd opened it because of the obvious new oak, but it settled down after a night in the fridge. The Torres Gran Sangre de Toro also came across as overoaked immediately on opening, and was better some hours later. Tonight's first red also seemed much more oaky on opening than it does now, some three hours later. Why is this?

First up we have a very good Argentinean Malbec. This isn't a subtle wine: it's extracted, it's very ripe, it's quite alcoholic, and 14 months in French oak were needed to tame the tannins. If I was the winemaker I'd make some adjustments here which I think could turn this very good wine into a superb one. I'm enjoying it, still, and for the price it's good value if you're in the mood for something big.

Salentein Malbec 2004 Valle de Uco, Mendoza
Very deep coloured, this inky dark wine has a full nose of ripe dark fruits, spice, some minerals and new oak. The palate is bold, ripe, spicy and quite tannic with sweet spicy oak adding a slightly confected quality. There's high alcohol evident, too. It's a big old wine with plenty of oomph, but there's some spicy complexity, too. Begging for a big steak to go with it. I'd probably have preferred this to have a touch less extraction, a little less ripeness and a bit less oak, because the vineyard is clearly an excellent one, but for the price this is very good value and if you are in the right mood, it's more-ish. 89/100 (£8.49 Tesco)

The second wine can be seen to the right of the Salentein in the picture. Yes, folks, this is Black Tower, but not as we know it. This successful German brand, a frequent guest at dinner parties in the 1970s along with its peer, Blue Nun, is back. The wine in question, in the distinctive (and appalling) tall, tower-like bottle with a mottled finish, is a red, made from Dornfelder and Pinot Noir. It's actually quite drinkable.

Black Tower Dornfelder Pinot Noir 2006 Pfalz, Germany
Hideous bottle shape. Deep coloured with sweet red and black fruits on the nose, showing creamy blackcurrant fruit. The palate is summer pudding in a glass - blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants - with some sweetness and a juicy quality. Some residual sugar here? Astute commercial winemaking. 82/100 (£4.49 Tesco)

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