jamie goode's wine blog

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An icon a day: DRC Grands Echezeaux 1971

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grands Echezeaux 1971 Burgundy, France
Cloudy and pale coloured on pouring, this doesn't look to promising, but actually it's drinking superbly. Old earthy nose with some smooth bright cherry fruit. The palate, however, is beautifully elegant with subtle, sweet cherry and herb fruit, some undergrowth and fine spicy notes. Super-smooth with good complexity and a bit of sweetness. This is beautiful, but drink now. 95/100 (Tasted at The Sampler)

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Affordable white Burgundy, alternatively closed

Enjoyed this Bourgogne Blanc, which I also tasted at Drouhin on my visit there in June. Interesting to see that it is closed with an attractive-looking Stelvin Lux. Opened two other Burgundies today from another leading negociant, Louis Jadot - these were both sealed alternatively, too, with Diam 5s.

Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Chardonnay 2007
Fine, minerally nose is fruity and quite refined with lovely precision. The palate is fresh and bright with nice acidity and some minerality. An attractove, pure white Burgundy. 89/100 (£11.99 Oddbins)

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Burgundy: the perfect wine region?

A late night thought, for some discussion, perhaps. Is Burgundy the perfect wine region for geeks?

We have great red wines and great white wines. Very few regions can pull both off to this level. At the top end, Burgundy produces perhaps the most compelling red wines and white wines on this planet.

Just two grape varieties are grown here (conveniently forgetting Aligote, which is probably a bit mean, and the traces of white Pinots), but the diversity is provided by the various expressions of these varieties.

This diversity comes from both winegrowing/making choices and also the vineyard soils. The vineyards provide the latent potential; skilled growers and winemakers then try to fulfil this potential. Then each vintage adds its own complexion and mixes things round a little.

Providing you had a sufficient disposable income, you could devote yourself to Burgundy, drink its wines almost exclusively, and not grow bored for a very long time.

What I love the most about the region, though, is the very real connection between the wines and the vineyards they came from. That's special.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bill Nanson on the 2004 red Burgundy problem

For those who don't read Bill Nanson's Burgundy Report, well, you should. I stumbled across this report of his on the problem affecting many red Burgundies from the 2004 vintage. It's a great piece of journalism.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Video: Meursault, Burgundy, with J P Fichet

The first film from my recent visit to Burgundy:

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Burgundy (3): Clos du Tart

My final day in Burgundy was a brief one: just time for one appointment before heading back to Dijon for the train.

But what an appointment! It was at Burgundy's largest Grand Cru Monopole, Clos du Tart. I'd recently tried a whole bunch of the wines in London, so it was fantastic to be able to visit this famous estate. I was shown round by Sylvain Pitiot himself, which was great.

It operates more like a Bordeaux chateau, in the sense that just one Grand Vin is made from this single vineyard (planted in 1141!), together with a second wine in many vintages. Full report will follow very soon.

I really, really enjoyed this short soujorn in Burgundy. It is a special place.
On the way home I bumped into Brian and Ann Croser at Paris Gare du Nord. They just happened to be standing next to me. Small world.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In Burgundy (2)

Incredible day's tasting and visiting today. We began in Meursault, with Jean-Philippe Fichet - really impressive wines, tasting back to 1992. Now I remember why I love white Burgundy. Below is a view over Meursault Tesson towards the village.

Staying in Meursault, we visited Domaine Pierre Morey, where we were hosted by his daughter, Anne Morey (below). Really precise wines, with real impact and minerality - using 'good' reduction well.

Lunch was at Louis Latour, with a big tasting that included some very smart wines, as well as some more commercial bottles. This was followed by a drive through some of the top vineyards of Burgundy (Corton Charlemagne is below, and below that I'm pictured in front of the Romanee Conti vineyard).

The afternoon began very well indeed. Domaine Dujac, with Jeremy Seysses (above), was one of the best tastings I've had all year. Such elegance and balance in the wines, going back to 1990.

Finally, we visited Sylvain Cathiard in Vosne-Romanee. It's a small family domaine that's making some serious wines. Sylvain and his wife Odette have recently been joined by their son Sebastien, who will be taking over the domaine in due course. They are pictured in front of their small holding of the Romanee St Vivant vineyard (above).


Monday, June 29, 2009

In Burgundy (1)

Took the Eurostar to Paris, then headed to Dijon, and now I'm in Beaune. There's something thrilling about Burgundy.

Just one visit today - Joseph Drouhin. We met with Jean-Francois Curie and Philippe Drouhin and tasted through a large range of wines, including a wonderful 2007 Clos des Mouches Blanc and the excellent 2007 Montrachet.

Then it was off to dinner at Le Benaton (www.lebenaton.com) in Beaune - an excellent, ambitious restaurant, where we dined well, with some fantastic older bottles (2003 Montrachet, 1990 Clos des Mouches and 2000 Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru). On the menu:
Les escargots de Bourgogne pieds de veau et anguille fumée en coque de pain , écume de brandade fondue de tomate et jus de persil (pictured above - a strange snail concoction where you had to inject your dish with parsley juice); and Demi pigeon du Louhanais désossé le filet rôti la cuisse farcie jus au mélilot (a delicious pigeon dish).

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Off to Burgundy

Excited to be off to Burgundy for a short trip tomorrow morning. Some nice visits planned:

Drouhin, Fichet, Coche Dury, Cathiard, Louis Latour and Clos de Tart.

And the weather forecast is fantastic.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

VLOG: I taste three Pinot Noirs

Here's another VLOG, for those who like this sort of thing. It's me, talking about three Pinot Noirs.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Olivier Leflaive dinner

After a long day in Manchester, I wasn’t finished. Arriving back into Euston at 19:45 I headed over to the Groucho Club on Dean Street for Corney & Barrow’s Olivier Leflaive dinner. It was a really enjoyable dinner – not least because I was sitting with some really interesting people.

As well as representing the peerless white Burgundies of Anne-Claude’s Domaine Leflaive, Corney & Barrow also have the agency for Olivier’s negociant wines. In some ways, the ‘Leflaive’ name must be a bit of a handicap, because it reminds people of what Olivier’s wines are not, making it harder to assess them on their own merits.

But these wines showed fantastically well. I joined just as dinner was getting underway, having missed the pre-dinner tasting of the 2007s. What was left of these wines was being held for me for a post-dinner tasting, which was very kind of Corney & Barrow, but twice as the evening progressed Cecily Chambers of C&B had to rescue them as entrepreneurial members of the C&B staff went and liberated them for their tables to enjoy!

The dinner wines:

Olivier Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Les Meix 2006
Lovely compex, aromatic, toasty nose with some lemony freshness. Crisp and bright with nice intensity. A lighter style, but still complex, and a lovely white Burgundy. 91/100

Olivier Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Les Meix 2002
Really toasty and full on the nose with lovely aromatics. The palate is bold and intense with rich, toasty, nutty, herby notes. Quite fresh, but at the same time it is almost structured, showing good acidity and lovely complexity. Drinking perfectly now. 94/100

Olivier Leflaive Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot 2006
Quite minerally, with a bit of matchstick reduction, but in a complexing way. The palate is concentrated and minerally with some matchstick notes as well as fresh fruit. Lovely stuff that’s savoury, mineralic and delicious. 92/100

Olivier Leflaive Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot 2000 (magnum)
Deep yellow/gld colour. Really broad, intense, nutty herby nose with warm toastiness. The palate shows evolution with powerful broad nutty, toasty notes. There’s a crystalline fruit character, too, but this is a wine that I suspect is just past its peak, so drink up now. 90/100

2007 wines

Olivier Leflaive Chablis Les Deux Rives 2007
Very fresh and minerally with lovely bright lemony fruit on the nose. Crisp, bright and fruity on the palate with a nice expressive character. 89/100

Olivier Leflaive Chablis Vaudesir Grand Cru 2007
Refined yet minerally lemony nose. Focused, fresh, pure minerally palate that’s quite backward but with great concentration and freshness. 90/100

Olivier Leflaive Montagny 1er Cru Bonneveaux 2007

Fresh, pure and quite dense with a minerally edge to the bright fruit. Tight and quite pure with lovely freshness and some real substance. 89/100

Olivier Leflaive Rully La Chatalienne 2007
Subtle herby, nutty nose with nice lemony freshness. Lovely fresh acidity on the palate with bright, citrussy, minerally fruit. Deliciously full and intense. 90/100

Olivier Leflaive St Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly 2007
Slightly toasty, taut nose with some herbiness. The palate is broad and herby with citrussy freshness and nutty, minerally depth. Long finish. 90/100

Olivier Leflaive Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Referts 2007
Nutty, minerally, toasty nose is taut and quite intense. The palate shows lovely depth with some toasty richness as well as herby, citrussy freshness. 92/100

Olivier Leflaive Meursault Clos de Cromin 2007
Broad but fresh on the nose. Intense but fresh and quite lemony on the palate with savoury, toasty notes adding firmness. Quite lean and savoury with high acidity. 90/100

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Keith's lovely Burgundy: Chauvenet Damodes

A few days ago I posted on the World's best Pinot Noir, commenting that New Zealand and Oregon seem to hit the mark far more consistently than Burgundy. Well, Keith P kindly sent me a bottle of Burgundy that he'd purchased in a sale for less than £5, which I couldn't help opening, even after tasting all day at the IWC for the second consecutive day. And it was really good - so much so that I've just finished it off tonight, after the third day's consecutive tasting when it takes something really interesting to make me want to face wine in the evening. This is Burgundy as it should be - elegant and complex.

Jean Chauvenet Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Damodes 1998 Burgundy
1998 is widely regarded to be one of the worst recent vintages in Burgundy. But here’s a beautiful wine. The nose has some savoury, meaty, soy sauce and earth notes, but they’re not out of control, and are joined by some ripe, silky red fruit characters. The palate is where this wine comes to life, though: it’s delicate, like a fine piece of silk – a little fragile, but supremely elegant with a wonderful combination of smooth, sweet cherry and berry fruit with just a hint of earthy tannic structure hiding in the background. It’s a beautiful wine, now at its peak – but I don’t think it will stay there for all that long, so drink up. But right now, it’s all silky elegance and is so easy to drink. Quite lovely: I feel bad about giving this wine such a high rating, but I think it deserves it, as long as you’re prepared to open it soon-ish. 93/100

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Contrasting Pinots: Jadot and De Bortoli

Two rather different Pinots, but both costing £9.99 and weighing in at 12.5% alcohol. One from Burgundy; the other from the Yarra Valley. Both producers have strong reputations for Pinot.
Which did I prefer?
The Louis Jadot Couvent des Jacobins Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2006 is simple with some cherry fruit and hints of earth and spice. It's quite savoury and works well with food, but if I'm honest, it's a bit boring and unexciting. It needs more ripeness and sweeter aromatics, really. If you are paying £10 for a wine you should expect to get something delicious; Jadot are a good producer, but even they can't make this level of wine interesting, which is a shame.
De Bortoli's Gulf Station Pinot Noir 2007 Yarra Valley (Sainsbury's £9.99) isn't perfect, but it delivers. There's a balance here between sweet cherry and plum fruit and some subtly green herbiness. This makes for a sweet but fresh expression of Pinot Noir that's got a degree of complexity and is really attractive to drink.
So I have to go with the Aussie Pinot. I feel slightly guilty about this, but it just tastes nicer.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

A 70th birthday

It has been an enjoyable weekend. Yesterday I played 11-a-side football; the guys I play with on Wednesday evening (parent's from younger son's school) formed a side and we challenged another team who play quite regularly. Playing on a full-sized pitch with 11 each side is quite different to our smaller games on astroturf, but despite getting beaten, we did OK. I played three different positions: centre back, centre mids and right back. I'm now a little stiff. The game was followed with a pint of Fuller's Discovery at the Angler in Teddington. A really nice beer.

In the evening we partied with some friends who were celebrating their 40ths. It was one of those events where you get chatting to people and then suddenly it's time to go because you agreed with the babysitter to be back by midnight.

Today we were off to my younger sister's for lunch. The occasion: dad's 70th. It's weird to think of your parents growing older. I still can't get my head round the fact that I'm over 40. But he's looking pretty good for 70 (pictured above), so I'm hoping there's a component to healthy ageing that's genetic!

It was an informal, low key event (his instructions), but we still had some wine. Jobard's Bourgogne Blanc 1998 is holding up pretty well: fresh and minerally with good weight. Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2006 is also delicious: subtly green herbal with a hint of talcum powder, and a real sense of elegance.
Tonight I'm getting ready to head for Champagne in the morning. I'm spending a couple of days at Bollinger, visiting vineyards and tasting vins clairs. Looking forward to it.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

A taste of heaven: Clos du Tart

Had a very nice afternoon over at Corney & Barrow's offices tasting a vertical of Clos du Tart. For those unfamiliar with this domaine, it's a monopole (that is, they own the whole Grand Cru vineyard) of 7.5 hectares.

Since 1996, Silvain Pitiot (pictured) has revitalized this great domaine, and now the wines are some of the very best expressions of red Burgundy, up there with DRC and Leroy.

As well as tasting the wines (2007 and 2007 La Forge, 2005, 2002, 2001, 1999), I had a nice chat with Sylvain. I'll be posting notes very soon; suffice to say I was thrilled by these wines.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Amazing wines at The Ledbury

Keith Prothero (pictured below) convened a lunch at the Ledbury yesterday. The occasion? Chris Mullineux, a South African wine grower who Keith is involved in a venture with, was in town to present the new Mullineux wines. Also present were Neal Martin, Jamie Hutchinson (the Sampler), Jim Budd, Nigel Platts-Martin (owner of The Ledbury, The Square and other restaurants), and Lionel Nierop (Bid for Wine). Keith kindly provided the wines, too.

I won’t dwell on the Mullineux wines, because I intend to write them up separately. Suffice to say, Chris is right up there with the very best South African producers. The Syrah is beautifully expressive with lovely aromatics and a subtle meatiness; the white blend is taut and complex, with lovely depth from old vine Chenin combined with Viognier, Clairette and Grenache Blanc; and the straw wine, a curiosity made from Chenin grapes dried to reach double their original sugar content, is fantastically fresh and complex.

For those unfamiliar with The Ledbury, all I can say is that you must visit. It’s one of London’s very best restaurants. Aussie chef Brett Graham is a genius and I’ve had some of my most memorable gastronomic experiences here. The food is modern and inventive, without being gimmicky. And the lunchtime menu is brilliant value, too.

We began with an old Sancerre that was quite puzzling: it tasted really young.

Pascal Cotat Sancerre Les Monts Damnés 2001 Loire, France
Really intense, linear nose with minerality, grassiness, grapefruit pith and taut herby notes. The palate is intense, savoury and quite herbal with bright fruitiness. A remarkably fresh 2001, with an attractive greenness. 90/100

With the first course (cured scallops with frozen horseradish, seaweed and herbs) we had the Mullineux white 2008 and Lopez de Heredia’s Tondonia Gran Reserva white 1981, which unfortunately was corked. We followed this with the Mullineux Syrah 2008, and then the fish course (fillet of turbot cooked on bread with new seasons morels, beef shin and cauliflower) was accompanied by:

Roumier Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 1994 Burgundy
Lovely sweet pure cherry and red fruit aromatics, with a subtle sappiness. The palate is lively and spicy with lovely grippy structure under the elegant fruit. Nicely structured with a lovely spicy finish, but perhaps not showing all it has at the moment. 92/100

Guiseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato 1974 Piedmont, Italy
Brown colour. Like an old tawny port on the nose, and an old oloroso in the mouth, with a strong molasses character. Sadly this is dead.
The main course (sauté of Berkshire hare with poached grapes and a feuilleté of chanterelles and Jerusalem artichokes) was accompanied by one of the best flights of wines I’ve ever experienced. Quite incredible! [Above: Jim Budd, Chris Mullineux and Neal Martin prepare to tuck in.]

Château Haut-Brion 1982 Graves, Bordeaux
Lovely aromatic, minerally nose with complex sweet fruit and gravel notes. Beautifully poised. The palate is complex with sweet berry and cherry fruit, some mineral notes and hints of tar and gravel. Really pure with fantastic balance, this is super-elegant and still quite fruity with amazing purity. Lovely. 96/100

Château La Mission Haut Brion 1978 Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Lovely sweet, pure blackberry fruit nose, with spiciness and minerality. Gorgeously aromatic with a gravelly edge. The palate is sweet and quite lush with lovely purity and elegance. Beautifully complex, this is a breathtaking wine. 97/100

Jabulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1991 Northern Rhône, France
Sweet, pure, liqueur-like nose with rounded red fruits. The palate is quite lush with some meatiness and bright cherry fruit, showing a liquer-like, jellied fruit purity. Sweet, with a fresh finish. 93/100

Château de Beaucastel 1981 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France
Aromatic, spicy nose with warm dark cherry fruit, herbs, ginger and tar. The palate has cherry fruit as well as notes of soy sauce, earth and herbs. Savoury and earthy, this is delicious, but may be beginning to fade just a bit. 92/100

How do you follow this? With a remarkable dessert (passion fruit soufflé with sauternes ice cream) and two serious dessert wines : the complex Mullineux Chenin Blanc straw wine, and Yquem 1986.

Château d’Yquem 1986 Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Deep gold colour. Sweet and viscous with barley sugar, honey and powerful citrus and peach flavours. Luscious and rich with some spiciness, dried fruit and minerality. Almost savoury! Lots of intensity here. 93/100

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Monday, March 16, 2009

A good lunch with some lovely old wines

I attended my first ever lunch at Berry Bros & Rudd's historic St James' St premises today. I was invited by Jasper Morris, the occasion being the visit of Californian winemaker Douglas Danielak; also present was fellow wine writer Margaret Rand.

We began by tasting through the Paras Vineyard wines that Douglas makes (you can read my review of these here). Then we went through to lunch, where we drank some rather interesting wines. I should lunch like this more often!

All the following were BBR bottlings/own labels. First, a white Burgundy, and then three reds from the 1960s, the first of which was served blind. Drinking older wines like these is a total gamble (sometimes they can just be nasty), but today, they all showed really well.

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatieres 1983
From Prosper Mafoux, a negociant-eleveur in Santenay. This is deep coloured, and initially it seems a bit nutty and sherried. But after a while it reveals lovely fresh mineral notes under some richer, apricot and barley sugar notes. An interesting, rather evolved wine. 89/100

St Amour 1964
From Thorin, this was served blind. It was a revelation. Lovely aromatics: pure, a bit spicy, with wonderful purity of fresh red fruits. The palate is really elegant with sweet, pure fruit, a hint of sappiness and a little spicy structure. Beautiful balance here - you'd never expect this from an old Beaujolais. So elegant. 93/100

Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Combes aux Moines 1964
This came via Reid, Pye and Campbell and is from Maison Lupe-Cholet. BBR paid £122 for the hogshead. It's a rich, dense wine with some meaty, soy sauce and herb notes on the nose, as well as just a hint of musty earthiness. The palate is dense and rich with dark fruit and some structure. Not totally pure, but deliciously rich and still drinking very well indeed. 92/100

Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru 1966
No information on who this is from. It's fresh and spicy with a dark cherry fruit nose. Well defined on the palate, this is almost youthful, with just a bit of earthiness. Really well defined, and ageing beautifully, this will continue to drink well for some time I reckon. 92/100

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Different faces of Pinot Noir

We had some good friends over last night for dinner, two couples and another friend, all of whom we've known for 20 years. There's something rich about this sort of history.

Among the various wines we consumed, there was a nice pair of Pinot Noirs, one from Burgundy and one from New Zealand - interestingly, both similarly priced.

The first was Drouhin's Rully 2006 (c £14 Waitrose). It's pale in colour (remember, this is often a good thing with Pinot), and quite savoury with an earthy edge to the attractive cherry fruit. Delicious, but lacks perhaps a touch of elegance.

The second is Villa Maria's Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 Marlborough (£15.99 Tesco, Noel Young, Fresh & Wild, Hailsham Cellars, nzhouseofwine). It's deep coloured, with lovely sweet dark cherry fruit and some raspberry and blackcurrant richness. While this is quite a rich wine, it's pure and elegant, too.

Which did people prefer? Some liked the Burgundy best, but I marginally preferred the New Zealand Pinot, with its richness as well as elegance. A close call, though.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pinot Noir: DRC and Australia

Lots of tasting today. I began at Corney & Barrow for the new release 2006 DRC tasting. It's such a treat to be able to taste these wines each year. They're absolute benchmarks of Burgundy at its very finest.

I had a chat with Aubert de Villaine, who is a total star: he's polite, thoughtful and patient, and is one of those rare people who is a winemaking legend, yet when you interview them they don't make you feel they are doing you a huge favour. I asked him about the 2006 vintage.

'The wines show that one cannot speak of great vintages or small vintages any more', says Aubert. 'Take the last 10 years: each has had its own character. 2006 was more difficult, certainly, than 2005, but, finally, with a small yield and a lot of care at sorting you have a maturity - both phenolic and sugar - that is at the same level as 2005. The difference is in the style of the wines'.

Aubert says that being organic is very important, and has had an effect on the quality of the wines. The domaine has been organic for 25 years, and part biodynamic for a while. With the 2008 vintage it is fully biodynamic. Yet Aubert thinks the big quality gain is switching to organics from conventional farming, not the move from organics to biodynamics.

The wines were really, really good, especially for 2006, and a write-up will appear tomorrow.

Then it was off to the Australia day tasting at the Emirates Stadium. It was a really good tasting, and a special feature was five themed rooms with 20 wines each, chosen by a particular Aussie journalist. Aromatic whites, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, blends and odd varieties, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon made up the selections, and this worked really well.

My favourite wines of the tasting were the super-elegant Pinot Noirs of Mac Forbes. They ROCK!

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

On tour in France (2) Macon and Saumur

The Lallemand tour continues. It's the next best thing to being in a band. We show up in town, check in to our hotel, have dinner together and then the next day we do our gig, finishing early afternoon. Then we pile into the tour bus and drive to the next destination.

Day 2 was Macon, where we did our seminar at the Lycee Agricole in Davaye. It really is beautifully sitauted, in the middle of the rather beautiful vineyards of Pouilly-Fuisse and Saint Veran (pictured above and below - two of the shots were taken in the early morning sun). I never realized just how attractive this region was. The room we were meeting in was the Salle de Jules Chauvet, named after the famous wine scientist who these days is celebrated as the father of natural wine.

After the seminar we had a five-and-a-half hour drive to Saumur, where we are today. We dined very well last night at 'La Reine de Sicile' on rue Waldeck-Rousseau. Really nice food washed down with Saumur wines, both white and red. I'm shortly about to give my presentation for the third time, so I'm hoping my delivery will be almost perfect!

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Icon wines at The Sampler

On the main site, I've just posted a lengthy review of innovative wine merchant The Sampler, which I visited last Friday (www.wineanorak.com/thesampler.htm). Here, as promised, I'm posting notes of the icon wines they currently have on tasting. It's always difficult tasting wines like these when you know what they are, because you don't want their reputations to influence you (either way).

Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée St Vivant 1993
Beautifully elegant, perfumed nose is warm and open with subtle herbiness, hints of earth and nice spiciness. A bit of greenness, but in a nice way. The palate is earthy and spicy with good structure and lots of elegance. The fruit is beginning to recede a bit but there’s lots of complexity here, and some herby notes meshing well with spicy tannins. Some people I was tasting with were disappointed by this, but I found it thrilling, although I wouldn’t say it has a huge amount of evolution ahead of it. And it’s absurdly expensive, but it is DRC. 95/100 (£699 The Sampler)

Harlan Estate 2002 Napa Valley
My first time with this cult Napa wine, which sells for around £600 a bottle. Fresh, spicy, earthy aromatic nose with sweet blackcurrant fruit and warm, subtly tarry, spicy notes. Hint of chocolate, too. The palate is sweetly fruited and dense with really nice dense, spicy, slightly earthy structure under the rich, but not overblown fruit. It’s an accessible new world-style wine but it’s balanced and has a long finish. 93/100

Screaming Eagle 1999 Napa Valley
A rare chance to try one of the most sought after Napa cult wines. Wonderfully aromatic with perfumed, sweet, complex, beautifully poised nose of tar, herbs, spice and sweet berry fruits. The palate is evolving beautifully with notes of leather and spice under the elegant sweet red berry fruits. Really nicely balanced with beautiful fusion of complex spicy notes, fruit and structure. 96/100 (£1500 The Sampler)

Château Margaux 1934 Margaux, Bordeaux
It’s always a great experience to taste very old wine, even though it is a bit of a lottery. This elderly Margaux is an orange-brown colour, and the nose is earthy, spicy, mature and quite complex. The palate is light with some earthy notes and fresh acidity, as well as some meaty hints. Not much left here: it has a beguiling, faded, haunting beauty, but it’s beginning to taste of old wine. There’s real interest, but I suspect this isn’t a great bottle. 92/100 (£550 The Sampler)

Château Petrus 1983 Pomerol, Bordeaux
A little disappointing considering the reputation of Petrus, but still an attractive mature Pomerol. Warm, spicy and earthy on the nose, with some sweetness. The palate is earthy, slightly herby and has fresh acidity, with some evolution. Quite structured but the fruit is beginning to recede a bit. An attractive, savoury wine, but some way short of greatness. 92/100 (£850 The Sampler)

Château Le Pin 1995 Pomerol, Bordeaux
This cult Pomerol is very appealing, but surely you don’t have to spend a grand to get something like this? Lovely sweet aromatics showing subtly leafy sweet red fruits. Quite complex. The palate has some firm savoury character with nice spiciness and freshness. It’s balanced, earthy and fresh with nice bright fruit and a hint of nice greenness. 93/100 (£1000 The Sampler)

Château Mouton Rothschild 2000 Pauillac, Bordeaux
Earthy, spicy and slightly rustic on the nose. Quite firm. Is there some brett here? The palate is earthy and dense with a robust spicy character. Dense and firm at the moment but lacks real elegance. To be honest, I expected a bit more from this. 91/100 (£700 The Sampler)

Château D’Yquem 1983 Sauternes
Totally beautiful. This is concentrated and perfectly balanced with dense, complex spicy lemon/citrus flavours with waxy, spicy notes and wonderful depth. Drinking perfectly now. 96/100

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1990 Southern Rhône, France
This is a lovely, light, evolved wine drinking at its peak. Complex, warm, spicy and earthy with a lovely earthy, spicy character, as well as some meaty funkiness. A savoury style with lots of interest. 94/100 (£160 The Sampler)

Added later: people have asked about the sampling prices - they're all on the website - http://www.thesampler.co.uk/sampling.asp?submenu3

For these wines:

Wine Icons
DRC Romanée Saint Vivant 1993 £31.46; Harlan Estate 2002 £27.00; Screaming Eagle 1999 £60.00; Château Margaux 1934 £20.37; Pétrus 1983 £38.25; Le Pin 1995 £43.33; Château Mouton Rothschild 2000 £31.50; Château de Beaucastel 1990 £7.20

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Another long drive...time for some listening

Just got back from driving elder son back to school. He's currently boarding in Devon, 3 h 19 minutes away when the roads are clear. I had to drive down and pick him up on Thursday and then return him tonight. That's a lot of driving.

Only one thing to do - that's listen to stuff. On the segments when I'm driving on my own, I can whack the volume up to decent levels, which I find always helps you to enjoy the music more. As a muso myself, I always enjoy hearing the different bits and how they fit together. I hate music as aural wallpaper, barely loud enough to hear - just providing some background noise.

My listening varies. An embarrasingly varied mix. Today I revisited Wishbone Ash (not listened to them for possibly a decade; used to love them when I was 16-19, and even saw them in concert once) and Nanci Griffith. Also popular at the moment, Sarah McLachlan's Afterglow and Sarah Bareilles' Little Voice. I'm off AC/DC and Rush at the moment.

I also listen to Radio 4. Caught a really interesting program on carbon dioxide this evening, presented by Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum, who was at the tasting I gave there earlier this year. There was also a program on the Darien scheme - important in the history of Scotland, but something I'd never heard about before.

The wine tonight is a crisp, minerally Rully.

Domaine Ninot Rully Blanc 'La Barre' 2006 Burgundy, France
A Chablis-like expression of Chardonnay: crisp, minerally, precise and with a taut presence. There's good concentration here and lovely fresh acidity. Distinct minerality is the central theme. Serious in a savoury, traditional style. 13% alcohol. 89/100 (£12.95 Jeroboams here)


Friday, December 05, 2008

A Burgundy-dominated wine lunch - fantastic!

Great wine lunch today. Ken Reich, Neal Martin, Amanda Laden, Sharon Bowman, Dan Coward and me gathered Harry Gill's Arches wine bar for a lengthy lunch. It was one of those lunches that just kept on going, and when Neal, Dan and I left at 5.15 we felt we were sloping off early. Harry kindly donated a wine (the George Jayer NSG) which he served to us blind. I really should do more lunches like this.

Château Ulysse Collin Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut NV
First vintage for this new producer – a non-dosage wine at 12.5% alcohol. Deep yellow coloured with lovely toast and herb aromatics. The palate is savoury and spicy with lovely depth and some richness, despite the lack of dosage. Lovely complexity and some notes of toffee, too, emerging after a while. Interesting stuff. 92/100

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1998
I love Taittinger’s Comtes, a Blanc de Blanc from Grand Cru vineyard sources, part aged in oak. Toasty and intense with lovely precision and complexity. Bright, expressive and fine with lovely toasty complexity as well as some lemony freshness. A really complex, refined fizz of great appeal. 94/100

Pierre Morey Meursault Perrieres 2002 Burgundy
Something not right here. Toasty, buttery, popcorn and cabbage edge to the nose, together with some oxidation. The palate is dense and savoury with good acidity but no depth.

Y de Yquem 2005 Bordeaux
A dry(ish) white wine from Château d’Yquem, and it’s delicious. Rich and intense with lovely lemony, melony, herby fruit. Some richer apricot, spice and wax notes on the palate which also has some sweetness (c. 8g/l residual sugar) as well as some vanilla and toast notes. The first time I’ve tried this, and I liked it. 92/100

Ponsot Clos de la Roche 1981 Burgundy
We bought this off the Arches’ wine list. You tend to approach old Burgundies from non-classic vintages with trepidation, but this was delicious. Beautifully aromatic with meaty, spicy, soy sauce notes as well as some fruit. The palate has lovely acidity and depth, with elegant, fresh fruit and some earthy notes. Beautifully evolved and drinking very well now. 93/100

Ponsot Griotte-Chambertin 1991 Burgundy
This is thrilling. Beautifully dense, spicy and aromatic with dark cherry fruit and a lovely savoury, slightly sour character. Beautifully perfumed and dense with lovely expressive personality and lots of complexity. 95/100

Dominique Laurent Ruchottes-Chambertin 2001 Burgundy
Very rich, smooth, dark and meaty with nice spiciness on the nose. The palate is intense, dark and spicy with lovely density and weight. Good structure. This is a powerful, rich wine with great potential for positive development. 94/100

Leroy Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Fonteny 1999 Burgundy
Amazing blackcurranty, leafy nose. The palate is powerful and rich with dense fruit. Structured like a Bordeaux. An extracted, rich style that’s not at ease with itself. 90/100

Emmanuel Rouget Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaumonts 1999 Burgundy
Dense, intense, spicy and quite firm with lovely lifted dark fruit aromatics and a complex, sweetly fruited palate. Quite a serious effort with plenty more to give. Very rich. 93/100

Domaine George Jayer Nuits St Georges 2002 Burgundy
Made by Rouget. Beautiful aromatics: sweet, rounded, spicy and smooth. The palate is quite elegant with nice complexity to the sweet red fruits. Ripe, rich and delicious. 93/100

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Addicted to Pinot: Philippe Pacalet Gevrey-Chambertin

I'm pretty much addicted to Pinot Noir these days. I can't refuse its charms. When it calls me, I am powerless to resist. I dream of Pinot, and when I awake, I can't wait until it's 6 pm and time to open another. [I exagerrate, a little. But I do really, really like good Pinot.]

Pinot Noir from its home territory, Burgundy, frequently disappoints. You can spend a lot of money on a bottle of red Burgundy and end up with something filthsome and mean. Cheap Burgundy is almost always pointless. It's the region of the great wine swindle.

Tonight's wine, though, is the real deal. A naturally made red Burgundy from Philippe Pacalet, who I first met at the International Pinot Noir Celebration this summer in Oregon (see my blog post). He's a really interesting person with well thought-out views on wine.

You can read more about him here at Bertrand Celce's wonderful wine blog.

Philippe Pacalet Gevrey-Chambertin 2006 Burgundy, France
Quite pale in colour, this has a lovely aromatic, slightly sappy nose of sweet cherry fruit, with some subtle notes of fresh-turned earth. The palate is pure and elegant, showing smooth, precise cherry fruit with some firm, spicy, grippy tannic structure taking hold of the finish. A really light, pure, elegant style, but showing good concentration and enough structure to make me think this might reward mid-term cellaring. But it's hard not to drink it now. It's not perfect, but this is a benchmark example of elegant, natural red Burgundy. 92/100 (UK agent: Les Caves de Pyrene. £36.99 Zelas Wines)
Find this wine with wine-searcher.com

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Remarkable natural Burgundy

Tonight I'm drinking a wine that is bringing me great joy. It's alive. It's complex. It's elegant. It's wild. But it's just a humble Bourgogne.

Domaine de Chassorney Bourgogne Pinot Noir 'Bedeau' 2005 Burgundy, France
Frederic Cossard is a natural wines sort of guy who works with very little sulfur dioxide, and this is a beautifully expressive, pure, alive expression of Pinot Noir that belies its humble appellation. The nose is lively and bright, with enthralling spicy, almost meaty complexity under the fresh, vivid bright cherry fruit. It is slightly lifted, but not at all dirty or muddy. The palate has lovely freshness, with good acidity and spicy, peppery, sappy notes countering the sweet cherry fruit beautifully. Elegance, freshness and definition are the hallmarks here: there's a hint of rusticity, but it's not detracting at all from the appeal of this lovely wine. I think this is utterly beautiful, and I could drink a lot of it. 93/100

'Natural wines – are they different or are we making an artificial case for qualitative superiority?' says Doug Wregg of Les Caves, who are the UK agents of this wine. 'Tasting Cossard’s Bourgogne Rouge, Herve Souhaut’s northern Rhone Syrah [reviewed here] and the Pineau d’Aunis from Domaine Le Briseau, to name but three, you are aware that all the wines possess energy. They do not suffer “palate drag” whereby excessive fatness, sweetness, extraction, bitterness, alcohol or wood seem to hold back the very essence of the wine or cause our tongues to negotiate superimposed textures and flavours.'

I couldn't agree more.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Some fine wines at Pepi's dinner, with an Austrian focus

On Thursday evening, after the Sainsbury Press tasting, I headed over to Shepherd’s Bush with Tim Atkin for an Austrian wine dinner. The room was full of Masters of Wine (MWs) – they’d just had their AGM. And the purpose of the dinner was to celebrate the first non-Brit chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine, Dr Pepi Schuller, who is Austrian, but rather exotically has a PhD from the University of Stellenbosch.

The dinner was held at the wonderful Princess Victoria, a former gin house, then seedy pub, and now a serious wine-friendly gastro pub run by Matt Wilkin (see reviews here and here). It was a cracking evening, full of good humour, gossip, boisterous banter and fantastic wines. Here are my notes. The journey home was a long one involving two tubes and a bus, but it was worth it.

Walther Polz Therese Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Sudsteirmark, Austria
Serious Sauvignon from Styria, in southern Austria. Rounded and generous with ripe fruit and just a hint of greenness. Good concentration. Quite a rich style, but still savoury. 89/100

Georg Bruer Berg Schloossberg Riesling 2006 Rheingau, Germany
A fantastic wine that shows Riesling at its best. Lovey taut limey fruit on the nose; great concentration and minerality on the palate. Good weight with real presence and also a bit of residual sugar adding volume. 92/100

Bründlmayer Steinmassl Riesling 2006 Kamptal, Austria
Willi Brundlmayer was there to present this wine. Taut, pure and mineralic with some lemony fruit on the nose. Good concentration on the palate with lovely fresh acidity. Bright and lovely. 91/100

Louis Carillon Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Champs Canet 2005 Burgundy, France
This wine will divide people, I reckon. Nicely focused nose with creamy, nutty notes and precise citrussy notes showing some new oak. Oaky palate has nice focus and purity, with promise for the future. Oak dominated at present, though, and so the score is a bit of an act of faith. 92/100

Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Tradition 2005 Kamptal, Austria
Michael Moosbrugger made this wine in a traditional style after finding papers in the loft of the monastery detailing how the wines were made in the past, and it’s brilliant. Richly textured, smooth and slightly creamy with some spice and mineral characters on the nose. The palate is texturally rich and complex with great depth and a hint of honeyed richness. 92/100

Domaine Bonneau du Martray Corton Grand Cru 2003 Burgundy
An atypical vintage for Burgundy, but this wine still has lots of interest. Dark coloured, it has sweet, intense, spicy dark fruits backed up by firm, spicy tannins. Really dense and quite surprising, I suspect this will benefit from some age. It’s not really all that Burgundian at the moment! 90/100

Moric (Roland Velich) Blaufränkisch Neckenmarkter Alte Reben 2004 Burgenland, Austria
Lovely minerally blackcurrant fruit is the dominant theme here. It’s quite focused, with lovely structure from smooth but firm tannins. Good integration of oak and lovely minerality to this serious red wine. 92/100

Château Leoville-las-Cases 2004 St Julien, Bordeaux
This is a beautiful Claret of great purity, that’s ageing very well. Lovely blackcurrant fruit nose with minerally, spicy depth. The palate has good structure and presence under the generous, pure, sweet fruit. Just a baby, but with fantastic potential. 94/100

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A busy day of tasting, plus Monty's red!

Two very good tastings today. I started off at the Bunch press tasting at the Century Club. All the serious people were there, plus me (non-serious, of course). The Bunch is a coalition of six pretty serious wine merchants: Tanners, Berry Bros & Rudd, Lay & Wheeler, Adnams, Corney & Barrow and Yapp. Each merchant brings six wines plus one for lunch, although most of them sensibly had the lunch wine on the tasting table, too, because serious journalists don't tend to have long lunches washed down with wine these days. [Although, there is something to be said for actually enjoying drinking wine as opposed to just tasting it. On press trips, I often have wine with lunch, but not in the UK. Perhaps I have an inhibited, prohibitionist streak?] Lots of people asked me what I'd done to my face: obviously they don't read this blog.

I'll mention many of the wines I tasted later on this blog, because there were some really good ones. Tastings like this remind me why I love wine, and confirm to me that I've made the correct career choice. But just one will get a mention now, and this is an unofficial wine that was sneaked in by Adnams - it's Monty's Red. Attentive readers will recall my review of the first episode of Chateau Monty, a reality TV series on Channel 4 (Thursday, 8 pm) that has elements of wife swap, find a new home abroad and all manner of other reality TV delights. It follows the progress of wine journalist Monty Waldin as he sets out to make a wine in the Roussillon. And this is the final product. My verdict? He's done really well. It's a lovely wine that I really like, and which is better than he thinks, if the self-deprecating back label is his honest view - at £7.99 it's a really good buy.

Monty's French Red 2007 Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes, France
Lovely spicy, earthy edge to the fruit on the nose - quite savoury with some tarry notes. The palate is savoury and has an earthy undercurrent to the fruit, which is bright and expressive. A lovely wine, made in a style I really love. 90/100 (£7.99 Adnams)

After the tasting I headed over to Lillywhites to buy a cricket helmet. I've never worn one before, but my experience on Monday showed me how vulnerable the face is to a hard ball. Losing a couple of teeth would be very expensive indeed. It's not just the quick bowlers that are the problem: when I played at Colchester this year one of the guys on our team had just spent £5K replacing his two front teeth which he'd lost against a spinner when he top-edged a sweep.

Then it was off to Vinoteca (fabulous wine bar in St John Street, but that's another story) for a tasting of Burgundies from HG Wines, the wine merchant arm of St John restaurant. These guys have bought very well, and I really enjoyed their wines. More to follow.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

The IPNC Salmon Bake and some mosh pit wines

The hottest ticket in McMinnville: the IPNC Salmon Bake, which was held last night (Saturday) in the Linfield College Oak Grove. The wild salmon is baked on Alder stakes over an open fire (pictured), which is a traditional method, and looks pretty spectacular. The salmon is served with a sumptuous buffet, and sommeliers go round distributing wines to the tables so you get to try quite an assortment of things.

It was free seating, but the smart journos were those who found their way onto Jim Clenenden's table (I didn't), where some serious wines were being opened. A couple of other tables had some high-end collectors who'd brought their own wine, and before long there was a crowd (described by one winemaker as the 'mosh pit') gathered round anxious to blag any scraps that might be falling. People are generous with the wine they bring, but even so, there's a limit to how generous you can be with just one bottle, and so there's an interesting social dynamic that develops when people are trying to blag pours.

I tried:

Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre 2000
Slightly reductive with a lovely cabbage note. Long and mineralic with great weight and depth. Fantastic wine. 94/100

Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre 1996
Slightly oxidised nose. Herby, a bit funky, but still some nice minerality. I'm not sure this is an OK bottle.

Drouhin Charmes Chambertin 1985
Beautifully soft and evolved with some earthy, spicy structure. A lovely aged red Burgundy of real charm. 93/100

Dujac Clos de la Roche 2001
Wonderfully textured earthy, spicy Pinot with lovely expressive character. Dense and full with massive concentration and rich texture. Thrilling wine. 95/100

Dominique Laurent Gevrey Chambertin Clos St Jacques 1999
Seriously expressive with fresh fruit and earthy complexity. Nicely structured with brilliant purity and depth. 95/100

Rene Engel Clos de Vougeot 1996
Very earthy and dense with a mushroomy character. Quite earthy and evolved. 90/100

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 1993
Elegant, complex nose. The palate is fresh, vivid, spicy and beautifully expressive with good structure. 95/100

Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne 2003
This maybe atypical, because of the hot summer, but it's still a very nice wine. Rich and sweetly fruited with lovely smooth toasty complexity. 92/100

Denis Mortet Gevrey Chambertin Les Champeaux 2002
Savoury, dense and complex with a lovely earthy edge to it. Mouthfilling, savoury and spicy. 94/100

Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir 1996 Santa Barbara County
Evolved and quite earthy but there's some freshness to the fruit here: this is still alive and drinking very well. A ripe expression of Pinot but interesting with it. 88/100

Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru 1999
Beautifully focused and structured with lovely freshness and some tannin. Complex stuff that's pretty serious. 95/100

Leroy Auxey Duresses 1976
Focused, earthy and fresh with a citrussy edge and some good structure. Finishes tannic, and it's drying out a little, but it is drinking brilliantly still and has lovely minerality. 93/100

Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Sandford & Benedict 1999
This is brilliant. Earthy, spicy nose leads to an expressive palate that's quite pure with lovely focus and depth. Quite profound, and drinking perfectly now. 94/100

F Mugnier Bonnes Mares 1998
Earthy, dense, spicy nose leads to a palate that is quite structured. Evolving really nicely, there's some real complexity here. 93/100

Then it was 1130 pm and time for bed: I declined an invitation to go the dive bar with the other journos.

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Philippe Pacalet - wonderful natural Burgundy

One of the winemakers present at the IPNC this year is Philippe Pacalet, from Beaune. He is an interesting guy whose Pommard 1er Cru 2006 was beautifully expressive and elegant, with amazing aromatic purity.

He's the nephew of Marcel Lapierre, and was mentored by Jules Chauvet, among others. So it will come as no surprise that Philippe uses no sulfur during his winemaking, save for a bit at bottling. He doesn't own vineyards himself, but rents plots with interesting terroir. He also had some interesting theories about why it is that grapevines are so susceptible to disease (they have been vegetatively propogated for so long it makes them weak) and what he would do about it (GM vines, but only with the motivation of doing away with any spraying). It's very interesting to meet a natural winemaker who isn't bound by dogma (although I wouldn't want to suggest that most are).
He's a producer whose wines I'll look out for in the future.

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Day two of the IPNC

So, it's day two of the IPNC here in sunny McMinnville, OR. I got caught out last night by the diurnal temperature differential which is of Mendoza proportions: 80 degrees by day, 50 by night. Consequently, I froze as the dinner progressed and I was wearing just shirt sleeves. So today I hit downtown looking for some warmer clothing options. The only shop selling clothes, as far as I could tell, was a surf/skate dude shop. I shall be attending tonight's salmon bake looking like a wannabe 19 year old skateboarder.

Spare a thought for Tyler Colman whose Mac died on him. News travels fast, though. Someone came up to him today and said words to the effect of, 'Tyler, can **** have your power supply now you won't be needing it.'

This morning we had our seminar on sustainability. We began with the Jasper (Morris) and Dominique (Lafon) show, which Jasper chaired fantastically. We tasted Dominique's wines as he told us about his journey to biodynamie. We were about two thirds of the way through when one of the audience asked whether Dom could explain more about how he uses Vitamin E in his winemaking. It was a wonderful moment.
Then there was a panel with five Pinot Noir producers from around the world talking about their interest in sustainability. Ted Lemon, of Littorai outlined his four definitions of biodynamy.

  • The farm should be seen as a self-contained individuality, with the goal that it should be entirely self-sustaining
  • The material world is nothing more than condensed spirit, so we are farming the spirit rather than material.
  • The idea of using preparations is that by putting them on the ground it enhances the spirit dimension of your farm.
  • The enhanced wine and food grown using biodynamics gives us the force to confront the challenges of our lives.
Following the seminar there was a really nice lunch including some great wines, and also one of the most remarkable gastronomic experiences I've had. It was a suite of three bacon desserts. Yes, bacon. And they worked amazingly well. These were made by Cheryl Wakerhauser from Pix Patisserie in Portland.
[Note: message edited and a comment deleted to prevent someone getting into trouble]

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekend wines: Portugal and pink Burgundy

Two wines to report on from the weekend. One a leading Portuguese red from the Alentejo; the other a delicious pink wine from Burgundy.

Malhadinha Nova Pequeno Joao 2005 Alentejo, Portugal
A small production run of Cabernet, Aragones and Syrah that's bottled in 50 cl format. Beautiful purity of sweet raspberryish fruit with foresty, blackberry notes in the mix too. The palate is pure and intense with lovely fruit intensity and nice spiciness. Ripe, rich, fruit-driven and delicious. 92/100

Simonnet-Febvre Bourgogne Rose 2006 France
Pink orange in colour, this has a sweet nose of strawberry and redcurrant fruit, with a herbal freshness. The palate is richly textured with a nice sappy finish along with the sweet fruit. Stylish and appealing. It's hard to make serious rose, but this is almost there. 87/100 (£9 Hayward Bros, Anne et Vin, Hennings, ND John)

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Two wine blogs of note

Two blogs I've recently stumbled on and which I think deserve a plug:

1. Winosapien (http://wino-sapien.blogspot.com/), which contains the thoughtful musings of a wine-loving doctor from Australia.

2. Domaine David Clark (http://www.domainedavidclark.com/blog.html), which contains insight into the life of a Scottish-motor-racing-engineer-turned-vigneron in Burgundy.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

One day, two remarkable tastings

Two amazing tastings today. Feel a bit spoiled, I guess.

Zubair Mohamed of Raeburn kindly invited me to a lunch featuring the wines of Gianfranco Soldera, who makes Brunello's most sought-after wines (he's the UK agent). Quite a nice coincidence seeing as I was in Montalcino only last week. The tasting was held in the private room at The Square, and we were ten in all: three wine writers (Neil Beckett, Stephen Brook and myself), two restarateurs (Nigel Platts Martin, owner of The Square and The Ledbury, and Ossie Gray of River Cafe), and the balance sommeliers.

This was my first experience of Soldera's wines, and they were mindblowingly good. Really complex: made in a traditional style with a long elevage. What a treat. The food at The Square was brilliant, too. It really is one of London's very best restaurants.

Then, after a couple of hours to recover some strength, I was off to the Caledonian Club in Halkin Street (off Belgrave Square - embassy territory) for a Domaine Leflaive masterclass, with Anne-Claude Leflaive, hosted by Corney & Barrow. How often do you get to try perhaps Italy's best red wines (OK, I may upset some Barolo fans by saying this...), followed by wines from what may be the world's greatest white wine domaine (I've just upset some Germans here)? The 2003s disappointed, if I'm honest, but the 2004s are thrillingly good, with a hint of reduction and high acidity: they'll outlive me, I suspect. And the 1996 Chevalier Montrachet and 1997 Pucelles were fabulous. Full notes to follow on both events.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

A mountain white and three Pinots

It's been a nice day here at the Goode residence, as I end week two of my freelance life. I confess: Fiona and I took another long Friday lunch together. This time we went to Richmond and ate at Wagamama, which I think I'm slightly addicted to. We both ordered no. 42 - yaki udon (£7.25) which consists of: teppan-fried udon noodles with curry oil, shiitake mushrooms,
egg, leeks, prawns, chicken, chikuwa, beansprouts and green and red peppers, garnished with spicy ground fish powder, mixed sesame seeds, fried shallots and pickled ginger. It's fantastic. I had a beer and Fiona had a glass of Chilean Sauvignon.

Tonight, three Pinots (what a fickle grape) and a mountain white. Tomorrow I'm going to Twickenham for the rugby.

Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle 2006 Vallee d'Aoste, Italy
From the Cave du Vin in Morgex, this is a pure, fresh mountain wine that's part of the Vini Estremi group (http://www.viniestremi.com/). Weighing in at just 11.5% alcohol, it's delicate and minerally with a subtle apple and herb flavour and high acidity. There's a lovely bright savouriness to it: remarkably refreshing stuff. I do like mountain wines. 88/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene)

Parducci Pinot Noir 2006 California
Mendocino-based Parducci are these days riding the sustainability wagon (I haven't used the perjorative term 'bandwagon' here) - see www.parducci.com/sustainability. I remember Oddbins used to stock a Parducci Charbono a few years back; now they are stocking this Pinot Noir. By Californian standards this is an inexpensive wine, and it certainly tastes like Pinot, although at this price point it's facing strong competition from the cheaper NZ Pinots. The nose is quite sweet, with bright berry and cherry fruit, but there's also a savoury green herbal streak. The nicely balanced palate has a bit of this sweet and savoury thing going on, with sweet berry fruit countered by a spicy herby savouriness. It's not quite elegant enough to be a must buy, but it's certainly acceptable at this price, and avoids being confected and forced. Reminds me a bit of the Cono Sur Pinot. 86/100 (£8.49 Oddbins)

Domaine Mas Viel Pinot Noir 2006 Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Sealed with ProCork, a natural cork with a special membrane attached to each chamfered end, to prevent any risk of TCA transmission from the cork to the wine: I haven't seen many of these around. It has a ripe, forward sweet berry fruit nose that's richer than you'd expect from Pinot. Quite dense on the palate with some firm tannins, ripe fruit and a herby tang, together with some sweet vanilla oak notes. It's attractive, in a flirty sort of way, but this doesn't really taste like Pinot. Still, it's quite cheap, and I suspect that if it was from Chile or California, it would have its fans. 81/100 (£6.95 http://www.therealwineco.co.uk/)

Blason de Bourgogne Mercurey 2003 Burgundy
This is bright and quite tart, displaying cherry and raspberry fruit with some stern, savoury earthy undercurrents. It's lean, a bit acidic, and ungenerous. There's also a rustic herbal streak. It was just a shade under £10 from Tesco and Asda a couple of years ago, and I think it was a bit overpriced. It would work well as a food wine, I suspect, but it's a bit severe on its own. 80/100

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Some nice wines with friends

I have a few nice wines to report on, from a dinner last night here chez Goode, where I was joined by David Bueker (visiting London from the USA) and Greg Sherwood MW (of Handford Wine). I'd never met David before, but I have communicated with him over a period of years on internet wine bulletin boards. Sounds weird, I know, meeting up with people you met on internet boards, but all the 'real life' interactions I've had with fellow wine nuts have been positive ones, and last night was no exception.

Three is a nice number for a wine dinner, and we had some really interesting wines. David brought along a Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Heiligenstein 2006 Langenlois, Kremstal. I love Austrian Riesling, and this is a really superb example of dry Riesling at its best. It's rich and mineralic, with plenty of weight and a nice texture. Drinking very well now, but good for another five, I reckon. I'd already opened a Reinhold Haart Riesling Piesport Domherr Spatlese 2005 Mosel Saar Ruwer, which was nowhere near ready to drink. It has the richness of an Auslese with lovely spicy apricot, honey and citrus flavour. I think it's a superb wine, but not for broaching now. Another Riesling I opened by way of comparison, Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Riesling 2005 Eden Valley, was very reductive, with lots of burnt match character and a rather grippy mouthfeel. I wonder whether this was because of the tin-lined screwcap.

A fourth Riesling we tried was Dr Loosen Beerenauslese 2006, in 187 ml bottle. It was sweet and rather simple, lacking complexity (this is now in stock at Waitrose). Greg brought a couple of bottles. The first, Chateau de Donos Corbieres 1989 was still alive and had some evolved earthy complexity. The second was probably the wine of the evening. Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey Crand Cru 1990 was just singing. It's one of those rare wines where you feel you are drinking it at its peak. Smooth, mature and really elegant, I'd rate this at 94 if you forced me to put a score to it. I really liked the next wine, but it had its work cut out following the Burgundy. It was Domaine du Gros Nore Bandol 2000. Spicy and dense, as you'd expect from Bandol, but with fantastic purity of fruit, too. I have 11 more bottles of this, and I'm pleased about that.

Finally, Tamellini Vigna Morogne Recioto del Soave 2003 is sensational. Deep coloured, it is a thrilling viscous sweet white with complex apricot, honey, peach and vanilla notes. I guess for me this would tie for wine of the night. It's amazing stuff (another gem from Les Caves de Pyrene).

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

DRC 2005

The new release tasting of DRC's iconic Burgundies is one of the most eagerly anticipated dates in the wine calendar. It's not every day you get to taste wines like these. I'm not sure of the prices yet, but expect the top wine, the Romanee-Conti, to be over £1000 per bottle on release (and even at this price, you'll have to join a very long queue).

So I popped into Corney & Barrow this morning to try the 2005s. A lot of familiar faces were there, including the triumverate of Neal Martin, Bill Nanson and Linden Wilkie (who made a whole morning out of it, sitting down, taking extensive notes, trying the wines, sitting down, chatting and so on). I also saw Tim Atkin, Natasha Hughes, Anthony Rose, Harry Gill, Serena Sutcliffe and Jasper Morris (who at one point dropped his glasses into a spitoon as he bent over too far).

My report on the wines is posted on the main site here. You can compare my notes with those of Eric Asimov of the NY Times, who also tasted the wines recently here.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

A good red Burgundy

I don't drink enough Burgundy. Trying to redress this balance, I opened one this lunchtime. A village Gevrey, it's quite elegant and understated, but at over £20 it feels a little on the expensive side. Perhaps I'm being unrealistic, but if I shell out £20 on a bottle of wine, I want something exciting. It's not that this wine is expensive by the standards of the region - it's actually one of the best £20 red Burgundies I've had - and I suppose this is the reason I don't really drink a lot of Burgundy.

Albert Bichot Gevrey-Chambertin 'Les Corvees' 2004 Burgundy, France
A light red in colour, this is a really pleasant, elegant red Burgundy with restrained cherry fruit and a pleasant earthy, spicy structure. It's got an almost weightless quality to it, with all the components working in harmony. There's a supple, slightly green quality under the fruit, which makes this quite savoury. If it just had a little more richness and fruit sweetness, it would be really top notch. Satisfying drinking now and for the next couple of years. 89/100 (£21 Soho Wine Supply, Harrison Vintners)

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Burgundy 2006 with cheese

This week sees the 2006 Burgundy en primeur tastings in London. There are a lot of them – I've been invited to at least eight, and there are others, too. I'm not sure whether there's a lot to be gained from spending a whole week of my life tasting barrel samples from just one vintage...it's not that I'm widely regarded as an expert on the region's wines, after all. I reckon that I can spot decent Burgundy when I see it, but I don’t have the breadth of experience to be able to give ‘expert’ buying advice across the appellations.

Indeed, such is the complexity of Burgundy, with its terroir-based patchwork quilt of vineyards that are shared among many growers (in most cases), if you want to be a real Burgundy expert you have to devote most of your working life to this region.

So what about the 2006s? I went along this afternoon to the Berry Bros & Rudd tasting in the splendid setting of One Great George Street, near Westminster Abbey. I didn't spend an awful lot of time tasting, so I can't really give the definitive answer on the vintage. But I did have a nice time catching up with colleagues (I spoke with Joanna Simon, Tim Atkin, Charles Metcalfe, Victoria Moore, Neil Beckett, Anthony Rose, Natasha Hughes, Jane MacQuitty and Jasper Morris among others). It was also nice to bump into Francis Percival, the food writer, who was there to demonstrate a couple of Neals Yard cheeses for the private customers who were soon to arrive (pictured). I tried a Berkswell, which was made with late lactation milk and is therefore a bit funky because of the high solids, and a really lovely Montgomery Cheddar that was complex, spicy and delicious.

Jasper's take on the 2006 vintage seems a fair one. ‘It’s totally different to 2005, which was a truly great year’, he began. ‘This was a nice year, producing some stylish wines that show perfume and which taste like Pinot Noir and Burgundy.’ He anticipated that customers would taste through the wines and find many that they liked. ‘There is variation here’, Jasper cautions. In terms of pricing, the reds are stable or down and the whites stable or up from the previous year, ‘but Burgundy doesn’t move a lot’, he said.

The wines I tried were exclusively red, and were at the light end of the spectrum. Some were showing firm tannins. They seemed a bit expensive, on the whole. It was really nice to have a chance to chat to newcomer David Clark, a Scot who has recently established himself as a Burgundy grower with 2 hectares of vines in relatively lowly appellations, which he’s farming with meticulous care, producing some really nice wines. More on him later.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Not so humble humble red Burgundy

A fine way to cap a weekend is to open a bottle of red Burgundy. But only a relatively humble one - a Bourgogne Rouge. This humble bottle turns out to be more than respectable though. It's from Boisset's super-domaine, Domaine de la Vougerie, which was created in 1999 (for background the reader is directed to a typically good article by Bill Nanson).

Domaine de la Vougerie Bourgogne Pinot Noir 'Terres de Famille' 2004 Burgundy, France
Made from a blend of grapes from the Cotes du Beaune and Cotes de Nuits, this is a wine that punches above its weight. The grapes are destemmed and left without crushing in the cuve, to which no yeasts are added. It's not too dark in colour, which is often a good thing for Pinot. The nose has quite classic cherry, herb and earth characters, combining sweet fruit with more savoury notes. The palate has elegant sour cherry and herbs with some sweetness as well as a bit of savoury, earthy tannic structure. It's a very expressive, natural tasting wine that is drinking very well now. A brilliant, affordable expression of Pinot Noir from what was a difficult year in Burgundy. It would be interesting to put this into a blind tasting with some more esteemed peers. 89/100 (£12.95 Berry Bros & Rudd)

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Burgundy lunch

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.

Burgundy lunch at St John, 4 October 2007

Fontaine Gaignard Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets 2004
Very bright, lemony, toasty nose is quite aromatic. The palate has a creamy, toasty richness. It’s broad with some bright lemony freshness. 90/100

Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 1994
Initially this is amazingly youthful, and a little mute, but it begins to express itself after time in the glass. Fresh, tight minerally nose with a stony sort of character. The palate is tight and minerally with nice pure fruit and a rather reticent, elegant personality. After a while, this wine begins to show itself with some complex minerality emerging. Serious stuff in a rather lean, tight style, with the potential to develop further. 93/100

Dominique Laurent Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Les Damodes 2000
Aromatic, open, slightly funky nose reminds me of some ‘natural’ wines, with its meaty warmth. The palate is open and elegant with warm, spicy, open fruit. It’s a very attractive style of wine, but perhaps a little unusual. 90/100

Fourrier Griotte-Chambertin Grand Cru 2003
Deep coloured. Open, sweetly fruited nose is quite dark with a hint of tar and some slightly funky notes. The palate is full, spicy and quite elegant with sweet dark fruit and a bit of tannin. It’s not really giving a great deal at the moment. 89/100

Armand Rousseau Ruchottes-Chambertin ‘Clos des Ruchottes’ Grand Cru 2003
Lovely aromatic nose with forward ripe fruit and a hint of meatiness. The palate is beautifully expressive with sweet fruit – almost like a very elegant New Zealand Pinot Noir. Quite expressive and fruity, this is delicious, but perhaps atypical? 93/100
Armand Rousseau Chambertin Grand Cru 1997
This is more evolved than you’d expect, with a distinct brown tinge to the colour. It has a warm, deep, spicy nose with a tarry, fudgey edge. The palate is dense, spicy and full with some nice spicy tannins. Quite expressive, warm and complex. The fruit has faded, though. 91/100

Armand Rousseau Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 1997
Open, expressive, elegant nose is beautifully perfumed with lovely aromatic red fruits. The palate is open and has lovely fresh, expressive red berry fruits together with some cherry notes and some spice. Supremely elegant: this is what we come to Burgundy for. 94/100

Faively Corton ‘Clos des Cortons’ Monopole 1990
Slightly medicinal, spicy nose is quite savoury. The palate is still quite tannic with some medicinal, spicy notes, but these tannins are beginning to soften a bit. I can only guess that this was once a big, chunky, tannic wine. Now it’s evolving: it isn’t particularly elegant, but there’s some real appeal here. 91/100


Friday, May 04, 2007

Rioja and cricket

I really enjoyed my visit to Rioja Alavesa, despite the punishing start and the 22 hour day it necessitated. I was visiting Bodegas Palacio in the Rioja Alavesa, who are achieving great success with fruit-dominated Riojas aged in French oak, as opposed to the more common oakier, American oak-aged style that this region has become well known for.

We began by looking at a range of white Riojas. They are keen to produce a high-end white Rioja, and in order to have a clearer idea of where they should go in terms of style they opened some of the better-known examples and we had a discussion. Then we tasted through their current range. After this, it was time for a lunch and more discussion, with a bottle of 1964 Glorioso Rioja Gran Reserva to help us. Lunch was followed by a trip to visit some vineyards; primarily, two that have been earmarked for an icon red wine project. The first was old vine Tempranillo, the second some 80 year old Graciano (pictured). As is common in the older vineyards here, the vines are trained as bushes, with two or three main arms which are then pruned back to a couple of short spurs each. These vineyards just look fantastic.

We then returned to taste samples from these vineyards made in the 2005 vintage. In short, they were great. The Graciano was amazingly fresh and vibrant with great density, good tannin and high acidity. Unoaked. The Tempranillo had been oaked and showed fantastic richness of fruit, yet still retained freshness. Blended together the result was superb: intense but fresh and with great definition. Much better than many of the inky, soupy, oaky high-end newwave Riojas on the market at the moment.

Woke up this morning feeling fresher than I should have done, perhaps because it was my first game of cricket of the season, for the Wine Trade XI captained by Nick Oakley, versus the Gents of Essex, held at Coggeshall's fine ground. It's normally a batsman's track, so bowling can be quite hard work. Last year (reported here) I had figures of 7-0-42-0. This year, though, it clicked. I opened the bowling, and with the fourth ball cleaned out Coggeshall's overseas professional with a ball that swung in and then straightened out. The next over I got another wicket. And one more two overs later. My figures of 8-2-31-3 would have been a lot better but for the final over where I conceded one more run than the previous seven overs together. Chasing 231, we went on to win the game with 7 down and a few overs to spare.

Tonight I'm drinking a very nice affordable white Burgundy: Albert Bichot Bourgogne Domaine du Pavillion 2005 (Oddbins £8.49). It's fresh and bright with a really nice reductive edge, which, in the context of this wine, works really well.

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