New Douro 2005...the best yet!
I'm preparing for tomorrow's New Douro 2005 tasting by drinking some Douro wine. Specifically, tonight's drinking involves a pair of 05s from a Quinta I've no previous experience with, Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo. With a snappy title like that, I guess they like to be referred to as Quinta Nova, although that's confusingly close to Quinta do Noval.
I used to be quite economical with money. Tight, even. But then I married this wonderful girl who once took £100 out of a cash machine, got it blown out of her hand by a gust of wind, and laughed - even though the money was gone. This cavalier approach to dosh has rubbed off on me, curing me of much of my frugality - and now I don't even like to read my bank statements. I don't spend money unnessecarily, and I rarely treat myself (although it is really important to treat yourself once in a while), but I try to be generous. As long as we aren't in debt, then that's OK.
So popular is the Bordeaux 2005 vintage with the wine trade that the organizers of this year’s Union des Grands Cru tasting at the Royal Opera House had to operate a two-shift system. Given a choice of morning or afternoon tasting, I opted for the 10.30–13.30 band, and despite the split shifts, the place was still heaving.
Every now and then I drink a wine that (almost) leaves me speechless. It's usually not wines that wow with their first sniff or sip, but rather wines that beguile - that draw you in, and as your attention becomes focused on them, they seem to reveal progressively more, engaging both intellect and appetite in a journey of thrilling discovery. OK, less of the flowery language - I just really, really like this sort of wine. It's what the 'old world' does really well.
Just a few thoughts, strung together, some about wine.
"Only 500 Magnum bottles of this very special wine will be offered, and in a very individual way. They will be auctioned on Friday, 30th of November in the Douro Valley at an event hosted by Peter Mansell, Associate Director of Christie’s International Wine Department.
The 500 Magnums are divided into 30 different lots, ranging from 1 single Magnum up to a group of 60 Magnums, and many of the lots come with an 'additional and personal bonus' courtesy of each Douro Boy, these include a surfing Lesson with Miguel Roquette, dinner prepared by Dirk Niepoort, a golfing day with Vito Olazabal… even a football match against a Douro Boys team! There will be many wonderful items encompassing boat rides, delicious meals and overnight stays at the most beautiful locations in the Douro Valley."
This morning I went to a seminar on Terroir and innovation in the new world, put on by Lay and Wheeler to showcase their portfolios from Henschke and Sena/Arboleda. Prue and Stephen Henscke, and Eduardo Chadwick gave presentations, and we tasted their wines.
Grand Cru wines is selling off the last of Poniatowski's Vouvray stocks at knock-down prices. I have no commercial connection with them, but I thought this was worth mentioning as a service to readers:
Aside: Spooks is back! Tonight's episode was a good start. But back to wine:
I love interesting wines. For me, the thrill of wine lies in its diversity, which is at least in part rooted in sense of place. But it's more than this: human choices, such as which grape varieties to grow, how to manage the vineyard, when to pick, and what to do in the winery all play a role in shaping the flavour of wine.
Hsien Min, a wine chum and fellow Man City fan, was in town on a visit from Singapore. So we grabbed a bit of lunch and then headed over to a mini-press tasting at Bibendum. Forty or so wines on show in an informal setting. The highlight for me was Catena's Alta Malbec 2004. This is concentrated, extremely refined and has lovely structure. It's not terribly new worldy, which I think is usually a good thing. This is a wine that I reckon will age gracefully. It might lose out in a blind tasting of Malbecs because it isn't the most assertive or spectacularly aromatic, but it is pretty grown up and sophisticated.
Some bottles opened last night, and continued tonight, remind me why I do what I do: I love wine!
Today's blog comes in bullet points.
I've had a busy day, with two big tastings. Majestic first, followed by Waitrose. Not enough time to do them real justice: Waitrose alone would justify two whole days, with 240 wines on show, including some really good high end stuff. Majestic weren't shy, though, putting 130 wines up for tasting at the Landmark hotel. There were some real highlights: wines that I'm just dying to write about, but this will have to wait for another time, as I'm tired and I need to go to bed fairly soon.
So I did get a chance to quiz Bruce Jack yesterday about the Constellation/Kumala story. You can read the interview here. He was very upbeat about the opportunity he has to do something good with Kumala, 'taking the commodity and forcing it to be a real wine'.
Labels: south africa
Troy Christensen, President of Constellation Europe, said: “We are delighted to have reached agreement leading to the proposed purchase such a renowned wine company and to secure the wine making skills and expertise of Bruce Jack and his team.
“I believe that the South African wine industry offers a huge opportunity for Constellation Europe to drive sales, generate profit and enhance its corporate image.
“A major challenge for the UK industry is to build the value of the wine category through a greater focus on developing premium brands and delivering high quality for consumers.
“The proposed purchase of such a high-profile South African wine-making company and its dynamic portfolio of wines will mean that we have a credible premium-orientated portfolio to spearhead the development of South African wine in the UK and across Europe.
“Flagstone will help to take the South African category to another level of success by providing an incentive for the wine trade to ‘premiumise’ their wine business and by
encouraging more shoppers to trade up to better quality more often.”
Labels: south africa
Just some brief wine notes this Sunday evening, after an exciting sporting weekend. What is it with sport? I know that it's a non-serious pursuit that acts as a catharsis for us, the masses, to distract us from real life in all its misery, and that serious people shouldn't care about it. But I love sport. I read newspapers from the back page. This weekend has been fantastic: the rugby yesterday was astonishing, and then the football today was brilliant, too. Last season, I'd grown pessimistic about the premiership. It was boring. But this year it's thrilling (unless you are a Spurs fan - I enjoyed taunting one of my Spurs-loving friends today by asking him whether he'd heard the latest rumour - that Jol was going to be replaced by David Pleat...)
After mentioning Musar 2000 on my blog yesterday, I got some comments from people whose opinions I trust suggesting that 1999 is the vintage to go for. I've not tried this, so this afternoon, after watching England's heroic performance against the Aussies (how I regret not taking up the freebie ticket/flight/hotel option I was offered last week...but sometimes you have to put the family first) and taking elder son and friend to the golf range, I popped into Sainsbury, where I managed to find some 99 lurking behind a large quantity of 2000. (Yes, journalists sometimes do buy wine...)
Cloof, a South African producer from the Darling region, are making some interesting wines. Their Lynchpin is a bit of a tilt at left-bank Bordeaux, aiming at elegance and refinement. They even released this en primeur earlier this year (when I was really impressed with the sample they sent through). Now the finished wine, the Lynchpin 2005, is on the market, and here's my verdict.
Usually, most supermarkets will have a couple of press tastings a year. Tesco have had three in 2007, altogether showing almost 500 different wines. That's a lot. It's largely because they've been making a real effort with their range, and it shows: there are some interesting wines here, and the quality is consistently good. It's hard to be objective about which of the big retailers has the best range, but in broad-brush terms it seems that Tesco and Asda are on the up, while Sainsbury is treading water a bit. M&S seems to be doing quite well, but I don't know Morrisons/Safeway/Coop well enough to say too much about their performance.
Had lunch today at St John, with a very pleasant group of people who I'd not met before (this was one of those 'offlines'), with the theme being Burgundy. St Johns is good for wine dinners because the food is so great, and the service is superb. But the wine glasses are really bad. Your local corner bistro has better glasses. And the decision to have rubbish glasses, apparently, was made right at the top. We asked for their better glasses, but this was a bit of a problem as they were short of them (we were a party of 8), but after a while they appeared. They could only spare one each, though. And these were like slightly over-sized ISO glasses, which if I encountered in any other high-end restaurant, I'd ask if they had any better glasses. I'd brought along a couple of Riedel 'O' Syrah glasses in my bag, so I used one and donated the other to my neighbour. Enough about glasses. What were the wines like? My notes below. As an aside, my neighbour commented on the route many wine nuts take. It begins in Bordeaux, goes to the Rhone, and then finishes in Burgundy.
Spent the day on camera, recording videos for a wine retailer, http://www.winedirect.co.uk/, down in Hailsham. This is something I’d been quite keen to do because I’ve been thinking about recording videos to put on this blog. I think it could be quite fun.
Two Spanish wines tonight, in a distinctly modern mould.
Forgive the unrelated photograph. It's me on the back of a mechanical harvester, taken on Thursday afternoon in Entre-Deux-Mers. The other rider is Beverly Blanning. We were watching the harvest at Chateau Lavison, where Merlot was being picked, and the offer was made: do we want a ride? So precariously balanced on the back, quite high up, we watched as a couple of rows were picked. It's amazing how these machines can pick so well: the reception bins contained almost exclusively intact berries, and a simple triage at the winery picked out remaining stems and any rotten or unripe grapes.