jamie goode's wine blog: September 2007

Sunday, September 30, 2007

In Plymouth

After returning from Bordeaux, I was off on travels again. This time, it was with the family, down to the West country to visit my brother Arthur and his family in Plymouth. It was a lovely weekend. On Saturday we crossed on the Torpoint ferry and hit Tregantle beach in Cornwall. It was beautiful. RTL, in particular, loves beaches, and must have run about 20 miles up and down the sands, stopping to bathe in the rockpools and to chase other canines. While we were there we picked some moules which we later cooked for tea, along with a couple of sea bass (which we didn't catch...). To top it all, City beat Newcastle 3-1 and are now third.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A brief Bordeaux visit

Just back from two action-packed days in Bordeaux. Day 1 was very practical, spent in Entre-Deux-Mers researching integrated viticulture - a scientific approach to sustainability that attempts to forge a balance between the environment, economic considerations and product quality. Yvon Mau have a club of 13 producers who are working in this system, which shows great promise because it is something that even large volume low cost producers can implement (unlike organics or biodynamics, for example), and it results in better quality with far fewer chemical inputs.

Then yesterday, Richard Bampfield (who organized the visit) and I set off early to do some tourism, either side of a visit to Jean-Christoph Mau's Chateau Brown in Pessac Leognan. We hit Saint Estephe, Pauillac, St Julien, Margaux before our visit, and then Pomerol and Saint Emilion afterwards. It's a really good time to see the visit as harvest is either soon to begin, or has begun, depending on where you are. More on the potential of 2007 later. For now, two pictures. First, harvest underway at Lafleur (Pomerol) and, second, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes at Lafite.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

From an Asda press tasting to Bordeaux

Asda press tasting today was well attended. I bumped into Tim Atkin, Victoria Moore, Anthony Rose, Joanna Simon, Malcolm Gluck and Julia Harding. Also present (bizarrely) were Christine and Neil Hamilton. I was surprised just how drinkable Asda's half-dozen sub 3 wines were. I thought this was a category that had dried up. Philippa Carr MW has been doing some good work with the business end of her range.

I'm off to Bordeaux tomorrow for a couple of days, to see the harvest, and the forecast is good. Horridly early start, though! I'll have to catch the 05:06 train.


Another Mondavi poster

Here's the second of the Mondavi posters that I blogged about in the post below. Still don't get the message, and the humour doesn't work for me. As an aside, I suspect the bit of the winery where the Woodbridge Shiraz is made doesn't look quite like this.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bizarre Mondavi campaign?

Snapped at Waterloo Station this morning: Mondavi Woodbridge have started a new poster campaign in the UK with what seems a rather bizarre message.

The two posters I have seen so far are the one above, where a hippy is playing guitar in a vineyard (a barred G chord to be precise), and another where a tour group in the winery is doing yoga. The message is 'California, but not that California", with the implication being that in the past California has been associated with hippies and alternative lifestyle, and that Mondavi has nothing to do with this.

It seems barmy to me. Who would you rather have make your wine? Hippies, surf dudes and creative types, or suits, bean counters and chemical engineers?

What is more appealing? Californian alternative culture as portrayed in these adverts (albeit here as a bad thing), or the California of materialistic conspicuous consumers ambitious to climb the social ladder and make loads of money, but little else? Am I the only one who thinks Mondavi Woodbridge are making a mistake with this campaign message?

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Meeting Dr Pirie

It has been an odd sort of day. Left home this morning in driving rain; returned this evening under blue skies.

I spent some time at a portfolio tasting for large agency Stratfords. Had a nice chat with Adam Eggins, chief winemaker at Taylors in the Clare Valley (known over here as Wakefield). Adam's a smart, tecchie sort of guy who makes some really nice wines.

Then I met with Dr Andrew Pirie (pictured), someone I'd wanted to speak to for a while. Many years ago, Pirie did a really interesting PhD on viticulture, and then founded Piper's Brook in Tasmania. After a break, he's now back in Tasmania working on his own venture, and also as chief executive of Tamar Ridge.

Pirie is currently working on a book about terroir. It sounds like it will be a really serious effort - if not the last word on what we know about the science of what makes grapes grow best, then something pretty close. I'm looking forward to it, but he doesn't think it will be finished for a couple of years yet.
For more on Pirie and his wines, see www.pirietasmania.com.au

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Trevallon 2000: the real deal

Space on this blog is limited. I usually post just once a day, which means only a certain number of wines can get a look-in each year. It's for this reason that I'd like to apologise if you feel I have got the balance wrong: perhaps for not including enough of the truly worthy wines, instead giving too much space to slightly spoofy, commercial wines that are more widely available. In my defence, it's a difficult line to tread...

Well here's a wine that, for me, is the real deal. If you gave it to a new world winemaker, blind, then I suspect they'd probably give you a list of perceived faults, and I don't think they'd like it. And this would be a wrong assessment of this wine, in my opinion. It's Trevallon 2000. It rocks.

Domaine de Trevallon 2000 Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhone
Dark, intense, savoury and spicy on the nose, with an earthy, slightly medicinal whiff at the edges. It's complex and thought provoking. The palate is concentrated, earthy and spicy, with a firm, almost impenetrable spicy structure, giving it a very dry, savoury mouthfeel. There's some blackcurranty fruit here, but this is not a fruit-dominated wine. It's like a really good Bandol in character, with great depth and plenty of potential for long ageing. And it's only 12.5% alcohol. 94/100 (24.95 Yapp)

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

C'mon City

Just back from Man City v. Fulham at Craven Cottage (BBC report here). A great game of football that finished off 3-3, and which City were unlucky not to win, because they played by far the best football.

I've never seen a City side like this. Fluent, composed, with great one-touch passing and movement. Hamman was awesome playing a midfield holding role; further up the pitch the Brazilian Elano is as good as any player in the premiership in orchestrating many of the attacking moves.

Petrov had a great game out wide left, and capped it with a brace. Overall, a very good performance, even though three goals were conceded. I reckon city will finish top 5 this season. [Pictured is my chum Rob who I went with. We were there in the famous 4-3 cup win over Spurs a few years back.]


Sauvignon is (mostly) boring

Sauvignon Blanc is a really boring grape variety.

Of course, this is a generalization, which needs a qualifier: we actually drink quite a bit of Sauvignon chez Goode. It's a variety of great utility: well made Sauvignon is a really useful wine. But it rarely makes really interesting wines.

It sounds like I'm backtracking here. I'm talking about a grape variety that's successful, makes wines that are useful, and which I drink quite a bit of. Why bother with the criticism?

It's because I love interesting wine. Interesting wine is what got me into this hobby, which then became a living. Interesting wine is life-enhancing, intellectually stimulating and culturally rich. Sauvignon Blanc is rarely any of these things.

But last night we had a good one. It is the Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Adelaide Hills. There's interest here: a really vivid grapefruity zing providing counter to richer, almost melony fruity notes. It ranks near the top of the Sauvignon tree, I reckon. While I'd say it stops a little short of being a truly serious, intellectually or hedonically inspiring wine, it tastes really nice.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Hotel du Vin, Cheltenham

Stayed last night in Cheltenham at the Hotel du Vin, where I'm blogging live from. Verdict? A little mixed. The hotel has only been open since July, and it is sort of part travelodge, part luxury hotel in feel - some bits of the decor really work, some bits (most notably the carpets and coridoors and public areas) feel low budget. All the rooms are named after wines (ours is Hush Heath, the makers of the UK's finest pink sparkling wines), but the maze of coridoors and lack of numbering system makes it impossible to navigate. We kept running into guests who were hopelessly lost, as we were.

We arrived quite late and decided to have food in our room with a DVD. The food, and service, is great - you get the impression from the buzzy bistro (and the 'metal' in the parking lot) that the restaurant is 'happening'. I had a brilliant done ribeye which I washed down with a bottle of Jim Barry's Coverdrive Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. I'd opted for this because of my current interest in the Clare Valley - turns out that it's a Coonawarra/Clare blend. Very nice, dark and intense, and doesn't show the 15% alcohol too much.

Now we're off to have a look round Cheltenham and find some breakfast.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Argentina, again

I seem to be covering Argentina quite a bit of late. Today was the Argentinean trade tasting at Lords, which seemed quite well attended. I caught a seminar on terroir and Malbec, which was presented by Philippe Rolet of Alta Vista.

He presented three single vineyard Malbec wines, from roughly similar altitudes, in three different vintages. The goal was to show consistent differences between the vineyards. The wines, from 2003, 2004 and 2005, were all fantastic, and all three vineyards seemed to have their own individual stamp.

But beacuse this was a 'generic' tasting, the rules were that the wines had to be shown bagged (blind). Politics. However, it was clear from the corks that these were Alta Vista's single vineyard wines, which made the bagging process rather pointless.

Chatting later to someone, their comment was that the wine business in Argentina is very political. 'Imagine Italy', they said to me, 'but ten times worse!'

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On the Riesling trail again

I've tasted a number of Rieslings recently. Here's one that really thrilled, that I'd rank up there with some of my top Riesling experiences. The slight downside is the cost. I'm guessing that most people are prepared to splash the cash for some wine styles (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne) but not others (such as the Loire and Germany).

Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese Nr 14 2005 Mosel, Germany
This is a really fantastic Riesling. Intense, thrilling palate with wonderfully complex, almost spicy, limey fruit. Really good, precise acidity offsets the rich, sweet melony fruit. Concentrated, fresh and precise, with great balance. 94/100 (21.60 Tanners)

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Grand cru Burgundy from Central Otago

Slightly provocative title to the post, I know. But there's a hint of seriousness to this trolling title: it used to be the case that Pinot Noir, the world's sexiest red grape variety, only ever really performed in Burgundy.

Increasingly, though, I'm finding myself seduced by non-Burgundian Pinot Noir. As a recent tasting with Josh Jensen confirmed, California can make really great Pinot Noir (as well as some really bad ones), and I've even had very palatable efforts from Australia (from the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, for example). But New Zealand is my current favourite destination for world-class Pinot Noir that I can afford to buy.

Tomorrow, I'm going to a Central Otago tasting, and in November I'm going to Central Otago itself (a long way...), as well as Marlborough and Hawkes Bay. I've enjoyed some brilliant Central Otago Pinot Noir in recent months, and tomorrow I expect the average quality level will be quite high. In anticipation, tonight I'm trying a pretty good Central Pinot from Lowburn Ferry.

Lowburn Ferry Pinot Noir 2006 Central Otago
Medium colour, which is a good thing with Pinot. You don't want your Pinot to look like Shiraz. Warm cherry and spice nose which is quite aromatic and fresh. The palate has a nice concentration of spicy berry and cherry fruit with good acidity keeping things very fresh, and giving a hint of plummy sourness to the finish. A bright, supple style with a fair bit of complexity and some structure, which makes me think it might age well over the next few years. 90/100 (Hellion Wines)

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Summer arrives late

It's been a strange summer here in England. April was hot and flowering of the vines was really early. Then May, June, July and August were wet. Almost completely. The last week, however, has seen unbroken summer weather, with high temperatures and plenty of sun.

This weather pattern, shared across much of Atlantic-influenced Europe, could just save the harvest in many regions, where settled weather in September is just what was required to finish off ripening and allow picking free from rain.

This is not a vintage to be a biodynamic or organic winegrower. With all the dampness, decent protection against fungal disease will have been essential, and that's really hard with just copper and sulfur.

So we've been making the most of the good weather. Saturday saw cricket in the nets at Marble Hill park, followed by a long walk with RTL. Then we had some good friends round for a barbie and a reasonable quantity of wine, including my last bottle of the wonderful Glenguin Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 from Orange in NSW. I'd drunk a lot of this, a wine I'd purchased from Bibendum on my return from a trip to the Hunter Valley in 2000, where I was really impressed by the Glenguin wines.

Today was younger son's birthday, and to celebrate we took the boys and a few of younger son's friends motorcross riding in Walton (pictured). It was really very cool, and I was a bit jealous I couldn't have a go.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Eat my globe: a great food blog

A plug for Eat my globe. It's a food blog by Simon Majumdar, who was with a publisher I was about to do a book with before they went belly up. Now he's touring the world, researching a foodie book of the same name.

Simon is currently in China, and the latest installment (here) is a brilliant bit of writing, including an account of eating dog. Perhaps he could eat mine? She's young and tender. We'd sleep more.

A chat with David Hohnen

Fiona has been away for a couple of days, which has left me in charge of domestic duties. It takes a lot of work managing a household with two kids. More than I'd realized, because a lot of it goes on behind the scenes. I'm just about managing to get everything done, except for the cleaning and tidying up...

Today, in between the school runs, I managed to get into town to interview David Hohnen (pictured). I'd met David a couple of times before, most recently on my Margaret River trip in April.

With Cape Mentelle he was one of the four pioneers who established Margaret River as a premium wine region, almost 40 years ago. In the 1980s he founded Cloudy Bay in New Zealand's Marlborough region. In 2003 he left to do his own thing, and with his brother-in-law Murray McHenry formed McHenry Hohnen, a new winery at the southern end of the Margaret River region. David is now a full-time farmer (sheep and a few pigs), but is still involved at vintage time. He's left the operation in the capable hands of daughter Freya.

I like what Freya and David are doing, and the style that the wines are made in. They're a bit European, with lovely definition. I'll be publishing the interview soon; it was a good chat. For now, you can check out an interview of David by Jeni Port in the The Age.
There's also some good stuff on the McHenry Hohnen website.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Malbec and meat - a heavenly marriage

Did you know that the annual consumption of beef by an adult in Argentina is 68 kilograms? Incredible. Someone has worked out that this equates to a seven ounce steak each, every day.

Today I was one of the judges at the finals of the Malbec Made for Meat competition, held at the Gaucho, Piccadilly. The Gaucho is a wonderful Argentinean restaurant which also has a wine shop attached to it, Cavas de Gaucho. [Pictured are fellow judges sitting opposite me: Victoria Moore has her mouth full, Anthony Rose is reaching to select the perfect match, and Peter Richards is jotting down his.]

Our task was to taste 14 wines (the finalists) blind with three different meats: pork, lamb and beef, assiging a score to the quality of the match ranging from 1 (poor) to 5 (sublime). It was an interesting exercise, and even more so because there was a steak and Malbec masterclass sandwiched in the middle of the proceedings.

In this masterclass, Gaucho beef expert Ryan Hattingh showed us the different cuts, discussed their merits, told us how to prepare them best - and then we got to eat them. There was loads and loads of steak to munch, and it was lovely. Each of the five different steaks were then matched with a specific Malbec, and the pairing was brilliant in all but one of the cases.

I came away from the session full of meat, and impressed by how well Argentinean Malbec and steak works as a pairing. Malbec and rare Patagonian lamb also works well, but perhaps not as spectacularly, and Malbec and pork is merely an adequate match in most cases. A full write up on the beef and Malbec masterclass will follow promptly on the main bit of the site.

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Busy day, and no dancing

Busy day yesterday, and I'm short of time right now, so I'll have to be brief (on my way to be a judge for the 'Malbec and meat' finals). Two tastings and a dinner and dance yesterday. The first of the tasting was the Bunch one (this is a group of half-a-dozen independent wine merchants, who each show just six wines...usually very, very good wines, but I'd love it if they showed a few more...and they had the worst tasting glasses I've ever experienced and a distinct shortage of proper spitoons yesterday), and the second was the Sainsbury press tasting, where I had a nice chat with tecchie guy Barry Dick. I also retasted their NZ Sauvignon Blanc in PET, which once again tasted really soapy.

Then in the evening it was the International Wine Challenge Dinner and Dance. Amazed by how many people were there, and had some nice chats, but, alas, had to leave before the dancing started.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two Rhones from 2005

Just brief notes on two Rhones from the 2005 vintage.

The first is from a tiny appellation in the northern Rhone - Brezeme - which is a varietal Syrah. It's the Cuvee Eugene de Monicault 2005 Brezeme Cotes du Rhone from J-M Lombard (available from Yapp for 14.50). It's a dense, savoury, slightly backward wine in the style of Cornas, with savoury dark fruits on the nose complemented by a minerally, earthy streak. The palate has high acidity and firm tannins, with a nice earthy freshness to the slightly muted fruit. It's a savoury, fresh style with good intensity and the potential to age well over the medium term. 89/100

The second is one of Waitrose's new 'own label' range, which they have created in conjunction with some leading producers. This wine, a Chateauneuf du Pape, is made by the Perrins of Beaucastel fame. It's pretty good.

Waitrose Les Chemins des Mulets Chateauneuf du Pape 2005 Southern Rhone, France
Made for UK supermarket Waitrose in partnership with the Perrins. Mainly Grenache with 20% Syrah, from two properties. Deep coloured. Spicy, slightly earthy nose with some savoury complexity. The palate is earthy and spicy with raspberry and cherry fruit coupled with firm grippy tannins. There's some richness and complexity here, but overall it tends towards austerity, with its high alcohol and tannin. Just a little more lushness and fruit sweetness would have given this wine great balance, but still, it's an enjoyable Chateauneuf. 88/100 (14.99 Waitrose)

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Bargain alert!

Read about it here first! One of the bargains of the year! OK, I'm slightly overstating my case, but there's a wine that I highly recommend at a very affordable price that has just come into Majestic (http://www.majestic.co.uk/). I've bought 8 bottles (12 of anything seems a bit much, especially given the fact that there is never a shortage of wine at home).

It's a wine that I tasted twice some months ago and which I gave exactly the same score to, 91, both times. It's a serious effort.

It's the Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Clare Valley, which is 7.99 a bottle in Majestic, but if you buy more than one the price dips down to under 6, which is silly for such a good wine. In Australia the winery is known as Taylors, but for legal reasons they had to change this for the UK market (I'm guessing that this is because there is a well known Port house under the same name). Pictured is a bottle that I enjoyed in April in Australia, showing a typo on the screwcap skirt. I don't know whether this has been corrected for the Wakefield version, which is exactly the same wine.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Enjoying wine

I'm sipping the remains of the Karthauserhof Spatlese I blogged on yesterday, as I prepare to wrap up early and go to bed. It's showing grapefruit and melon tonight, with a hint of honey. Just shows me how imprecise the language we have for wine is.

But the point of this post is that I wanted to share how much I am enjoying wine at the moment. It's not always the case. My enjoyment of wine goes through phases.

Most wine is pretty ordinary. In fact. I'd go so far as to say that 90% of all wine is crap, and you shouldn't waste your words on describing it. Enjoy it for the alcoholic buzz it gives you, and don't let it linger too long in your mouth.

Like the Papaya wine Fiona and I once ordered in Mombasa (largely because Fiona doesn't do beer, and because it was the only 'wine' we could afford). The only option there was to serve it ice cold and knock it back - don't take a sniff, because as it warms up in the glass it releases the heady aroma of horse's urine (well, what I imagine horse's urine to smell like).

In the pursuit of serving my readers, I'll frequently plough through a batch of samples and then end up depressed, and hating wine. There's no joy to be had in many commercial wines, which offer industrial, processed flavours and no personality at all.

If I go through a sustained period of opening and drinking crap wine, I begin to wonder why I'm bothering to write about wine at all. But of late, I've been lining up bottles that have turned out to have something to say. Bottles with personality; a sense of place. Wines that seduce; wines that thrill.

I still believe (and know) that most wine is rubbish, but it's that small proportion of bottles that have real character and merit that make me realize that there's nothing I'd rather do than pursue interesting wines and be paid to write about them. Except, perhaps, playing in a rock band...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

More on that serious variety, Riesling

Riesling, the grape variety with a moral premium.

I've tried two more over the last couple of days, both of which were enjoyable, without being incredible. But then they aren't expensive wines. I've rated the Kabinett marginally lower than the Spatlese, but I can think of more occasions where I'd drink the Kabinett. Both are at a heady (for the Mosel) 9.5% alcohol.

Reinhold Haart Piesporter Kabinett 2005 Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany
Quite limey with a slightly spicy nose. Aromatic and fresh with some minerality. The palate is crisp but with some melony richness, adding a smoothness and modest plumpness to the texture, and there's a bit of complexity already. Not too sweet: you could almost use this as a dry wine at the table. Quite delicious. 88/100 (http://www.frenchandlogan.com/)

Karthauserhof Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Spatlese 2003 Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany
Yellow/gold colour. Quite minerally. Not terribly sweet tasting because of the acidity, but it is off-dry. Thick textured but still fresh. This is a precise sort of wine with a bit of spicy richness on the mid-palate. Quite a long finish. 89/100 (http://www.frenchandlogan.com/)

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Another merrr-low - one for Musar fans?

Continuing in my pursuit of the drinkable Merlot (I jest...), here's an interesting one. It's from Argentinean winery Weinert, known for their wines made in a distinctive 'traditional' mould. This was really nice, and reminded me a bit of the famous (and funky) Lebanese wine Chateau Musar. Look, this won't be to everyone's taste, but I think it's a delicious wine in this particular style.

Bodega Weinert Merlot 2002 Mendoza, Argentina
Slightly faded brown/red colour. The nose is aromatic and evolved, with earthy notes and a sweetly spiced character. The palate is soft and spicy with a very smooth fruity character and nice sweet earthiness. This is a bit Musar-ish, with its reliance on non-fruity elements. It's deliciously balanced. 90/100 (10.95 http://www.winedirect.co.uk/)

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Congrats to Greg Sherwood MW

Congratulations to my old buddy Greg Sherwood, who has written several articles on South African wine for wineanorak, on being awarded his MW. [For those unfamiliar with this award, MW stands for Master of Wine; it's a fiendishly difficult task to pass the exams, and there are fewer than 300 MWs worldwide.]

Greg, a South African, manages the Handford Wine shop on the Old Brompton Road.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Pic St Loup I really like

Tonight I'm drinking a red wine that I really like. It's from the Languedoc sub-appellation of Pic St Loup, a region which I have a special affinity for (see my report here from a few years back). What I like about this wine is that it is expressive, it's fresh, it has definition, and it isn't just about lots of sweet fruit bolstered by spicy oak, which so many wine styles rely on these days. It's a Burgundian-styled Languedoc wine, if you will. It tastes authentic.

Mas Bruguiere L'Arbouse 2005 Coteaux du Landuedoc Pic Saint-Loup
A blend of equal parts Grenache and Syrah, and weighing in at a modest 13% alcohol, this is a really expressive 'drinking' wine (as opposed to one you just taste). It shows fresh, bright, spicy, peppery red berry and cherry fruit. It's not heavy, and there's a brightness to the palate with some juicy acidity keeping things fresh and savoury. There are some grippy, spicy tannins, too, and some meaty complexity that holds the interest. A great food wine, but it's generous enough for casual sipping, too. 89/100 (8.15 from Yapp)

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Back to tasting

The usually busy London wine tasting season took a break during August, but things are beginning to pick up again now that we're into September.

This week events have included the Decanter World Wine Awards dinner (which I skipped...but then, come to think of it, I didn't get an invite in the first place), the Roederer wine writer awards ceremony (congratulations on winning the wine writer prize, Mr Jefford), and then today a tasting held by new online merchant http://www.winedirect.co.uk/.

Held at the White Horse in Parsons Green, a small but select band of tasters were present (Neal Martin, Olly Smith and Stephen Brook, who is pictured above). The wines were really interesting: this is a range that focuses on wines in the 8-15 range, and there's plenty of good stuff to be had for this money.

I really liked lots of the wines, but the following stood out:

Boekenhoutskloof Porcupine Collection Viognier 2004 Franschoek
Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay and Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River
Folie a Deux Menage a Trois Rose 2005 Napa
Craggy Range Syrah Block 14 2005 Hawkes Bay
Webersburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Stellenbosch
Vina von Siebenthal Carmenere 2006 Aconcagu
Kalleske Clarrys Red 2006 Barossa
Bodega Weinert Merlot 2002 Mendoza
Hans Spirit of Marlborough 2001
Spinifex Indigene 2005 Barossa
Krone Borealis Cap Classique 2001 Tulbagh

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A great day of cricket, and a stunning sweetie

Today has been one of those rare days where everything simply goes much better than expected.

I was playing cricket for the wine trade XI against the Further Friars, down at Keevil Manor in Wiltshire. I didn't have access to our car today, so for the modest outlay of 30 I thought it was worth hiring one. Luckily, I got upgraded from the smallest, poxiest vehicle they had (which is what U'd paid for) to a brand new sporty Mondeo - OK, not a Mercedes coupe, but better than a Ford Ka.

Then, driving down to the game along the A303, the sun broke out. After the summer we have had, here, a perfect summer's day in September is not to be sniffed at.

We bowled first. Our opening bowlers were brisk, and the pitch was bouncy. The opposition batsmen made slow progress. Jasper Morris was run out, just after he had hit a six with a prettly flat aerial shot over mid off. I got a bowl just before lunch, as second change. I did a bit of work on the shiny side of the ball and ran up. The ball swang nicely, into the right handed batsman. The second ball lifted a little outside off, and the batsman kindly edged it behind. Two balls later, the new batsman gave a simple lofted catch to midwicket. My figures at this stage were 1-1-0-2. I carried on and the swing was incredible. As an example, I bowled one ball that started well outside off stump, beat the batsman on yorker length, and then ended up missing leg. After six overs I finished with figures of 4 for 19.

They were all out for 75. At no. 7 I wasn't expecting a bat, but I came in when there were 10 runs still to be scored. I decided to have a bit of a go, but didn't really connect very well, being dropped three times (yes!) on my way to 4 not out. But I did hit the winning run.

After play concluded, In recognition of the fact that it was his 2oth wedding anniversary, Jasper opened a rather nice magnum of Andre Jacquart Cuvee Speciale NV Champagne Grand Cru which we drunk out of plastic picnic cups. It still tasted pretty good. Other wines were opened, including a fantastic Tokaji, brought along by Christopher Fielden: Istvan Szepsy's 2003 Tokaji Szamorodni 'Daniel'. The bottle was hastily snapped (below), with Jasper's legs forming the backdrop.

Even though it was drunk from plastic, this was one of the very best sweet wines I've had in a long while. It was complex, pure, sweet, balanced, with lovely weight and poise. You know when you are tasting a really serious wine, and this was one of them. It's hard to convey the perception of such a wine in words.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Reductive Viognier and a nice Syrah

Two wines tonight, both of interest.

Yalumba's Eden Valley Viognier 2005 had the potential to be an excellent wine. That it is merely good, is, I suspect, down to the closure - in this case a tin-lined screwcap. The luscious, rich, complex peachy fruit that typifies many top Viogniers, here enhanced by ageing in old French oak, is hidden behind the dominant theme of this wine: some intense, almost pungent struck match reduction character. In the absence of chemical analysis this is an educated guess, but I reckon the low redox environment generated by this almost hermetic seal has led to a shift in the sulfur chemistry such that a clean wine at bottling has turned reductive. If this was a rich Chardonnay, the reduction might have been complexing. But here it doesn't work: it masks the fruit.

Second wine is Laurent Miquel's Nord Sud Syrah 2004, which at 6.99 in Tesco is agood buy, with its ripe, concentrated, meaty/spicy fruit. It's quite perfumed, and has a sane alcohol level of 13.5%. Very stylish winemaking for a humble Vin de Pays d'Oc.

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Rosie's new friend

While we were lunching yesterday, Rosie The Labradoodle disappeared upstairs (unknown to us - this is something she is never allowed to do at home) and came down with a rather large soft toy in her mouth. It was a horse, almost the same size as she is. She was allowed to bring it home, and RTL and horsey have been inseparable since. She slept with it last night.

Our hope is that horsey will give her the companionship she misses when we all go to bed and she's left downstairs. We'd be delighted if she were to stop waking us up in the middle of the night by barking loudly just because she's lonely.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Le Dome 1996, plus others, blind

So we headed off to brother-in-law Beavington's (who is married to my sister Hester) for lunch, along with twin sister Anne and her husband Dominic. Little did I know that I was going to be treated to a flight of 13 wines, all blind. It was a really interesting excercise, and we had a great time.

As someone who professes to know a bit about wine, I love the chance to taste blind. Of course, there's more to a wine that just what is in the glass. The context matters, and the sight of the label can help a great deal in guiding or shaping our perception. At the same time, the sight of the label can lead us into bull***t land, where we begin to 'experience' things we have never really perceived, but this doesn't mean that the only legitimate tasting is blind.

What blind tasting does is focus the mind and provide a bit of a reality check. If a taster can't tell the difference blind between a first growth Bordeaux and a Chilean Cabernet, or Krug and Cava, then what are they doing wasting my money buying the top stuff? If the difference is too close to call, then they could save a lot of money by buying the cheaper option.

I'll just mention one of the wines we tasted today here; many of the others deserve their own space. It's a wine I immediately identified as a top Bordeaux, but it had what hindsight shows me to be some distinctive Cabernet Franc/Merlot leafiness - a clue that I missed, and which would have led me more to the right bank than the left.

Chateau Le Dome 1996 Saint Emilion
Beautifully perfumed, showing lovely deep, smooth dark fruits nose with a nice spiciness, and a subtle greenness that's really attractive. The vivid blackcurranty fruit makes me think Cabernet Sauvignon, and there's a bit of bloodiness, too. Quite intense on the palate with good savoury dark fruits and nice structure. Some age here. Not a heavy, structured wine: the key here is the gravelly, minerally complexity under the sweet fruit. 94/100

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Chardonnay, Shiraz and Airfix

It's been an easy family day here chez Goode. And we don't have all that many of those. On this blog, I'm probably guilty of painting a picture of domestic bliss. But, like many families, I suspect, we have lots of struggles. [Indeed, one of the reasons why we probably have so many, and also one of the reasons why I don't post pictures of my children here, or name them, is because they are both adopted.] It's probably because of all the struggles that the times where we function as a normal family are all the sweeter. You've no idea how much pleasure a day out without serious conflict can bring us...

Having said this, things have been good of late. Since our day at Duxford, reported below, the boys have been crazy about Airfix models models. As someone who grew up on airfix models, I'm very pleased about this, and I've been happy to assist them, bathing in a warm glow of nostalgia as I sniff the heady aroma of enamel paint, polystyrene cement and white spirits. In this age of the playstation (I'm not knocking it - how we would have loved to have a playstation in our day - it would have killed a lot of boredom), doing something physical like assembling model kits has a sort of moral premium over the virtual world of electronic gaming.

The boys are currently working hard on various projects, including a Gnat, a Stuker, a Hawker Hunter, an M24 tank and a forward command post (whatever that is). A little militaristic, I agree, but then I did spend most of my childhood immersed in guns, tanks, planes and battleships without turning out to be at all violent (except on the football pitch). I think you grow up to realize the waste, sadness and tragedy of war - but you can still admire the Spitfire, Lancaster and B29 as fine aeroplanes.

Back to wine. Two Aussies tonight. The first, which is pictured, took me by surprise a little. I was expecting Hardy's Winemaker's Parcel Chardonnay 2005 to be commercial crap. But when I tasted it, I was really impressed by its balance. Then I looked more carefully at the label: it's from Padthaway, in South Australia. The terroir is the difference: in this case, red/brown loam over limestone, and a relatively cool climate. A great region for Chardonnay, and the soil has made this wine, which shows nice nuttiness, really good fruit, and a hint of almost Burgundian cabbagey reduction, which adds complexity. The big company, Hardy's, has done well here - this is a really nice Chardonnay.

The second wine is another which shows the benefit of a really good vineyard site. The vineyard in question? Jim Barry's Lodge Hill in the Clare Valley, and its the 2005 Shiraz. From several recent experiences, I'm beginning to think that the Clare Valley is a special place for red wine. Note follows:

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2005 Clare Valley
(Natural cork closure) Very deep coloured. Wonderful fruit purity here, despite the 15% alcohol which means that in the EU this wine has to be labelled 'special late harvested'. Ripe, sweet nose with lovely lush red and black fruits, but it's still alive and fresh. Not at all dead. The palate has pure, vivid spicy fruit with lovely focus, backed up by some tannic structure that keeps it savoury. There's a bit of alcoholic heat here, adding sweetness and bitterness at the same time, but that's my only negative on what is a lovely, intense, fruit-driven wine. 92/100

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