jamie goode's wine blog

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Video: the new year blind Champagne tasting

Here I taste Champagnes blind with brother-in-law William Beavington. Will Krug and Bollinger triumph over much cheaper growers' Champagnes when the label isn't in view? [And there's a nice family new year's toast at the end!]

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Lots of Champagne and a nice Port with family

Had a brilliant time last night with my family, over at my sister Hester's place in Gerrards Cross. All four siblings plus parents were gathered for the first time in ages.

B-in-law William and I filmed a blind Champagne tasting, which I'll be posting later. We gathered some high end Champagnes, a couple of lesser known grower Champagnes, and a sparkling wine ringer, and had them presented to us blind to assess without sight of the label.

The list included Bollinger, Krug, Belle Epoque 1999, Ruinart, Duval Leroy 2004, Legras BdB GC, Marc Chauvet Brut Selection and Pelorus 2005. The results surprised us! Then we drank them all.

After dinner, we had a couple of halves of Sandemans Vau Vintage Port 1997. I remember buying some of this from Oddbins for £4.99 a half almost a decade ago. It has developed beautifully, and thrown a shed load of sediment. Rich, sweet and spicy, this is much better than I'd have predicted. We also started on a large Cropwell Bishop Stilton. It was pretty good: nice balance between the creaminess and the bite of the blue.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Grande Annee 2000: an incredible Champagne

A serious fizz, this. A step up from the delicious 1999, and reasonably priced for a prestige cuvee. A Christmas treat?

Champagne Bollinger Grande Année 2000
Pale yellow colour. Fine aromatic nose is almost floral, with summer meadow hints and notes of toast and fresh lemons. The palate is concentrated and taut with lovely savoury herby, toasty notes, fresh persistent apple and lemon fruit, a hint of vanilla richness and some structure. A beautiful wine. 94/100 (£50 Majestic, £59.99 Tesco)


Monday, October 26, 2009

Stunning Champagne: R&L Legras

This is a wonderful Champagne, from R&L Legras in Chouilly. It's a pure Chardonnay, and possibly the best fizz under £30 from anywhere.

Champagne R&L Legras Brut NV
Very warm, aromatic, toasty nose is beautifully perfumed and quite profound. The palate is precise and taut with high acidity and real complexity. Lovely focused lemony fruit here. 94/100 (£25.95 Berry Bros & Rudd, www.bbr.com)


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lunch with Drappier Grande Sendree 2000

Just come back from a very enjoyable family lunch where b-in-law Beavington served a Drappier Grand Sendree 2000 in response to my trio of Portuguese wines. It's a fabulous Champagne: intense and alive. Of all the prestige cuvees, this is one of the best values in the whole region.

Champagne Drappier Grande Sendree 2000
Golden colour. Wonderful stuff: there's a lifted nose that is intensely toasty lively apple, citrus and herb notes. The palate has lovely savoury intensity with notes of minerals, lemons and spice. Beautifully poised and intense with great balance. Still youthful, and with so much personality. 93/100


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Champagne bubbles, take two: on the BBC news

Earlier this evening I did a slot on BBC news on the Champagne story. I was asked to bring some Champagne and glasses in as props. I'd tweeted that I was making the appearance, and a very proactive PR working for Champagne Lanson responded by sending me a couple of bottles to take in.

Unfortunately, strict BBC editorial guidelines meant that they weren't allowed to show the bottle, and after some deliberation it was decided that the presenters weren't allowed to try the fizz on air. Apparently, with all the issues surrounding expenses and the use of public money, the prospect of having presenters drink Champagne on camera was a step too far.

The slot itself was pushed back by some horrible west London traffic and a breaking story, but just before 9 pm we were live. It went really well: it was one of those on camera slots where it's all relaxed and has some energy of its own. I've done a few of these now, and I don't even have a glimmer of nerves, which make the whole experience rather enjoyable. I was sorely tempted to drink the Champagne, though: it just smelt so good.

Lanson is good stuff. It's very acidic and fresh, because there's no malolactic fermentation. But the aromatics are lovely, and it's fun to find out that the aromatic qualities of Champagne are in part because of these tiny flavour-bearing aerosols that break off from the surface as the bubbles pop.

[Thanks to Warren Edwardes of Wine for Spice for the screen grab.]

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Champagne bubbles in the news

A scientific paper in journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA), published tomorrow morning (embargoed until 8pm today), looks at the nature of the bubbles in Champagne and sparkling wines.

As they rise to the surface, they aerosolize, carrying very fine droplets bearing flavour molecules, which we can then smell. The authors of this paper identified the compounds present in these fine aerosols, showing that they are important in the perception of fizz.

There's a nice BBC news story on this here, which I contributed to.

The actual research paper is:

Gerard Liger-Belair, Clara Cilindre, Regis D. Gougeon, Marianna Lucio, Istvan Gebefugi, Philippe Jeandet, and Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin 2009 Unraveling different chemical fingerprints between a champagne wine and its aerosols. PNAS 106: 16545–16549

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Champagne in crisis? (Updated)

[Note added later: for a thorough review of this issue, including some important corrections to the information here, you should read the comments below, and also this article just posted on Jancis Robinson's website. JG, 10/09.]

There's a great piece in the Guardian about the issues facing Champagne, which quotes both Adam Lechmere and Robert Joseph. The key issues:
  • Champagne sales are down (exports down 45% in the first half of 2009 versus 2008 figures)
  • This year, growers are only going to be allowed to pick about half their grapes, leaving the rest on the vine, in attempt to reduce supply to keep demand high
Effectively, Champagne is a brand, and one of the rules of brand management is that you shouldn't kill your brand by discounting it.

Yet the sorts of market manipulations attempted by the Champenois make me feel uncomfortable.

The horror scenario for Champagne is that consumers should lose the perception they have that Champagne is special and worth a huge premium over other sparkling wine styles. What if consumers decide that it's fizz they want, not Champagne, and they can get fizz that ticks all their boxes from other regions?

With Champagne producers committed to protecting their price points through regulating supply, this creates an opportunity for sparkling wines from other regions.

Would it be so disastrous if Champagne were to win new consumers with £10 supermarket own-label Champagnes, £15 Grand Marques, and more prestige cuvees kicking in at £30? Lower margins but increased volumes might win customers who otherwise would shift to discover other sparkling wine styles.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dinner with Francis and Bronwen

Had a fantastic dinner last night at Francis and Bronwen Percival’s beautifully situated flat above NYD in Borough Market. They’d gathered a jolly crowd, with Jamie Hutchinson and Dawn Mannis of The Sampler, Champagne expert Peter Liem, and Neil Beckett and his wife Luciana. For the main course Francis headed outside to grill some wonderful slabs of beef, and as you’d expect we drank well.

Here are my notes on the wines:

Champagne Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Blancs 2005
This is Pinot Blanc from the Aube, effectively biodynamic, with no dosage. It goes through full malolactic, and is bottled with lower pressure than normal. Cedric Bouchard makes just 800 bottles of this, and The Sampler has the UK allocation of 50 bottles. Creamy, elegant and delicate with lovely pure, subtly lemony fruit. Lovely fruit expression: this actually tastes of Pinot Blanc. Fine bubbles with fresh acidity and no harshness. Such balance. 92/100
Champagne Doyard Cuvée Vendémiaire Extra Brut NV
From Vertus, this has a low dosage and is made from a blend of three years, with extended lees ageing. This one is 1998/99/00. Herby, toasty, complex nose. Intense with lovely precision and a bit of grippiness. Subtly toasty and herby with lots of character. 92/100

Champagne Marie-Noëlle Ledru Cuvée du Goulte Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs 2004
From a small grower in Ambonnay who titles herself a viticulturice. Focused lemony, subtly toasty nose is elegant with some restrained richness. Quite savoury with nice density and some subtle honeyed notes. Rich but fresh. 93/100

Domaine de la Bongron Mâcon Clesse Quintaine Cuvée Spéciale Levroutée 1995
14.5% alcohol with some residual sugar, too. Rich and intense with notes of barley sugar, apricot, honey and spice. The palate is dense and off-dry with some sweetness and a rich texture. A lovely wine that’s bold and still quite fresh. 91/100

Bollinger La Côte aux Enfants Aÿ Rouge 2002 Coteaux Champenois
A still red wine from the Champagne region. This is Pinot Noir from a small 2 acre south-facing vineyard in Aÿ. Focused and quite rich with fresh berry and cherry fruit. Dense and berryish, with some structure. There are also some medicinal notes as well as a hint of sappiness. It’s actually quite a big wine, and hard to pick as Pinot Noir. 88/100

Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Thalabert 1983 Northern Rhône
Intense, rich and sweetly fruited with lovely fruit: damson, plum and raspberry. There’s also a lovely savoury, meaty dimension here, with hints of earth, medicine and black tea. This has aged beautifully and is peaking now, I reckon, but there’s still lots of life here. 93/100

Equipo Navazos La Bota de Palo Cortado No 17 Bota Punta, Jerez
This stunning sherry is quite rare: just 600 half bottles were produced. Amazingly complex nose with notes of nuts, herbs, lemon and old casks. Fresh and intense with wonderful complexity, as well as some toffee and nut richness. Good acidity. 94/100

Equipo Navazos La Bota de Manzanilla Saca de Enero de 2009 No 16A
really interesting take on Manzanilla, showing floral, aromatic, nutty notes on the nose. It’s broad, complex and softly textured in the mouth with delicious tanginess and apple notes. Remarkable stuff with real complexity. 92/100

Szepsy Tokaji Cuvée 2002 Hungary
Wonderfully complex with rich apricot and peach fruit, as well as a touch of tangerine. Rich and concentrated on the palate, but not overly sweet, with great fruit focus to the fore and good complexity. 93/100

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Here's my Pinot Noir, as it looks today. The berries are starting to form, and you can still see the remains of the flowers. It's a bit less advanced than the same variety in Burgundy, but not too far off. [One Alentejo winegrower twittered today that their vines were going through veraison already!]
Last night was good fun. I met with the fellow organizers of the sparkling wine symposium for a planning meeting followed by dinner. We went to Fino in Charlotte Street (http://www.finorestaurant.com/), which is a swanky tapas joint that allows corkage for £15. So we brought along some wine, and drank well, with a high strike rate. Food was first-rate, and service was just right.
Champagne Philipponnat Grand Blanc 2002
Very fine, toasty, biscuitty, lemony nose with great precision. The palate is complex and fresh with lovely acidity and balance. Serious stuff that’s quite winey with lots of intensity. 94/100 (£39 Oddbins) [Oddly, the neck label on the bottle said 2004 vintage, while the front and back labels said 2002.]

Kumeu River Chardonnay 2005 Auckland, New Zealand
Fantastically bold and intense with dense, mealy, spicy fruit. Lovely intensity on the palate with savoury, spicy richness. A very rich style of Chardonnay, but it is serious and balanced. 93/100 (£21 Oddbins)

Millton Clos Ste Anne The Crucible Syrah 2007 Gisborne, New Zealand
I love this wine. It has a really fresh peppery nose with lovely vivid red berry fruit. Quite northern Rhône like. Lovely freshness and focus on the palate with dark pepper, dark cherry and raspberry notes, as well as some spiciness that may be from a bit of new oak. Fantastic effort. 93/100

Chaupoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne 2004 Northern Rhône, France
I was pleasantly surprised by this. It shows supple, sweet red berry and dark cherry fruit with a hint of pepperiness. The palate has elegant, midweight savoury red fruits. Lovely focus with good acidity and some pure, bright fruit. 91/100

Matetic EQ Syrah 2006 San Antonio, Chile
Lovely: dark, meaty, spicy and focused. A really dense Syrah with lots of intensity, and sweet but balanced blackberry fruit. We had this chilled down because it was quite hot, and it helped the wine a bit, although it did bring out the tannins a bit more. 92/100 (£16 Oddbins)

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Lunchtime fizz: Philipponnat non dose

Fiona and I have a few days without children. This is almost an impossible luxury, and we were planning to go away for a few days somewhere exotic. But RTL is in season, and there's nowhere we can leave her, so we're staying put. The only solution is to drink wine, good wine, and in quantity. We made a good stab at it this lunchtime, beginning with a zero dosage Champagne in the glorious sunshine.

Champagne Philipponnat Royale Reserve Non Dose
From the 2005 vintage, with no dosage added. Deep yellow/gold colour. Taut, warm, toasty and herby, with a lovely savoury, fruity quality and good acidity. This avoids being at all harsh, with a honeyed, toasty richness and a dry palate. Nicely complex. 91/100 (UK agent Les Caves de Pyrene)


Friday, April 17, 2009

Closures in the news

The subject of wine bottle closures has hit the UK media today - many leading newspapers carried a story on Duval-Leroy's plans to use a new, unspecified metal-based closure for some of its Champagnes. An example of the coverage is here.

The exact closure is a mystery - one that will be revealed at the London trade fair next month. I'm a bit confused, though. For Champagne, the closure has to be mushroom shaped, and currently the only closures found on Champagne are natural cork and Mytik (the Diam version of the Champagne cork). As far as I know, you simply aren't allowed to use crown cap - or, if such a closure could be devised, a type of screwcap - on Champagne.

It will be interesting to see what Duval-Leroy have in mind - and they have done brilliantly attracting all this media attention without even specifying what they're planning to use.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Just back from Champagne

Just got back from a couple of very pleasant days in Champagne, visiting Bollinger (above). With wonderful blue skies, it was fantastic to go for a walk in the vineyards of Ay (Grand Cru Pinot Noir) near the Bollinger HQ. We tasted the 2008 vins clairs, the Bollinger range, visited Ayala and ate very well. For starters, here are some pictures. More to come soon.

Bollinger vineyards in Grand Cru Ay. This is Pinot Noir.

What can you tell me about the rather unusual looking vineyard above?

All Bollinger's reserve wines are stored in Magnum; they have around 600 000 of these magnums in their cellars. When it comes to using them in the blend, someone has to uncork them and pour them in manually.


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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Friday, December 26, 2008

Serious Saffie Sauvignon and a top Champagne

Two very impressive wines today, a relaxed family Boxing Day. First, a remarkable South African Sauvignon Blanc. Second, a lovely Champagne.

Kumkani Lamner Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Groenekloof, South Africa
This is amazing stuff. Weighing in at 14.5% alcohol and with immense concentration, it's a serious Sauvignon from a vineyard whose climate is moderated by the fact that it's just 7 kms from the Atlantic ocean. It has a powerful green grassy, herbal nose with green peppery notes. On the palate there's tropical fruit/passion fruit richness balanced nicely by the powerful grassy methoxypyrazine character. Not at all subtle, but a serious, striking wine. 92/100 (£11.99 Majestic, £9.99 each if you buy two)

Mumm de Cramant Grand Cru Champagne Brut Chardonnay
12% alcohol. This Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs is beautifully precise with crisp lemont fruit and nice herb and apple complexity. It's concentrated and intense with lovely fruit expression. Quite dry and savoury - this has a lower dosage (sugar addition) than is normal for Brut Champagne. A brilliant effort. 93/100 (£43.99 Thresher, Harrods, Ocado)

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas day, and modest excess is in order

It has been a delightful Christmas day in the Goode household. We were woken just before 7 am, which, when you have kids, almost counts as a lie-in. After an hour or so of opening presents from Santa's sacks, it was time for breakfast, then walking the dog, followed by Church, followed by presents round the tree. Then it was time for lunch. We were joined by Fiona's mum (Patsy), her husband Fred, and Fred's American niece Maeve.

We did the traditional turkey thing, and it was delicious. To match, I opened a range of bottles. Two Champagnes to start: Bollinger NV (widely available, c. £32) is a classic, with rich, bold, toasty flavours. Ayala Brut Majeur is more precise with lovely tight citrussy, toasty notes (M&S £19.99). Both are delicious, but if pushed I'd opt for the the Ayala.

For whites, we went with two. First, a Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner 2007 Austria (£8 Waitrose), which is a deliciously bright Gruner with some richness and a hint of peppery character. This is a really good, affordable, versatile white. Second, a white Hermitage 2007 from Domaine du Colombier (another Bibendum sample), which is a perfect turkey match. It's rich and textured with ripe pear fruit and notes of honeysuckle and vanilla on the nose. Pretty serious stuff.

Just a solitary red, and it was polished off pretty quickly, which is a sign of a good wine. It's the Chateau La Tour Carnet 2004 Haut Medoc, Bordeaux. This is a serious effort that has the potential for further development but which is already drinking well. It's smooth and dark with rich blackcurranty fruit and some gravelly depth. This is one of Bernard Magrez' wines, and it's utterly delicious and reasonably serious. I wouldn't say it was a terribly good match with turkey, but sometimes you just want a delicious wine to drink whatever you're eating.

Finally, a pair of Vintage Ports, both from 1997. I have a theory with Vintage Port: it's great young, and it's great old. In the middle it has a bit of an awkward phase. I reckon the 1997s aren't showing their best at the moment, and while both of these are enjoyable, they need another 10 years to start singing. Quinta do Portal 1997 (£35 Great Western Wine) is rich, spicy and fresh with some earthy structure and nice balance. It's just beginning to show complex, evolved notes on the nose, and there's quite a bit of fruit left. The Cockburn's 1997 (c. £30 retail) is nicely expressive with warm, spicy, earthy notes as well as a tarry richness to the dark fruit. They're both wines aiming more at elegance than power. If I had to choose one, it would probably be the Portal. But for current drinking I'd probably opt for a cheaper traditional (unfiltered) Late Bottled Vintage Port (e.g. Noval, Crasto, Niepoort) than these.

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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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Friday, October 17, 2008

More tasting, with some gems

Two tastings today. Normally, Friday is a quiet day, with tastings clustered Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. But it's a busy time of year, hence a couple of essential tastings beinbg held today.

First up, Berry Bros & Rudd. The big draw here, in addition to a choice selection from Berry's fantastic range, was a rare chance to taste not only Krug's newly released Vintage 1998 (at £230 a pop), but also the Krug Clos de Mesnil 1998 (if you have to ask....oh, alright then - £720 - yes, that's per bottle).

But an additional treat was a wonderful, uninterrupted vertical of Quinta do Vesuvio Ports from 1989 to 2006. Ideally, I wouldn't want to have tasted through this before the Majestic tasting that was to follow, but you can't ignore such a great opportunity. Vesuvio rocks. Especially 1990, 2000, 2001 and 2003 (my favourite).

So, longer than I'd intended at Berry Bros somewhat compressed my Majestic experience. But I still tasted most of the Majestic offering, with some disappointments (more than I'd have expected from Majestic) along with a few very tasty wines (Cave de St Desirat Lirac 2007 a good buy at £5.99 offer price, a nice 2000 Navarra on offer at £5.99, a chunky, structured Aglianico del Vulture at £9.99, a fresh Vina Mayu Syrah from Elqui, and some nice sweet wines).

Now I've got taster's mouth. Only time will heal that.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cabbage in Champagne

Drinking a nice Champagne tonight that has a distinctive note of cabbage to it. It's the Asda Extra Special Vintage 2000 Brut, made by Chanoine Freres (£17.97). It's pretty serious stuff (won a Decanter gold and an IWC silver), and has a complex, toasty, cabbagey nose with savoury, yeasty complexity. The palate is concentrated, savoury and dense with nice grippy, toasty, herby flavours. Nice balance, too.

So where do the cabbagey notes come from? (They are actually much nicer than they sound, in the context of this wine.) I guess it must be a hint of reduction - something I often find in Cava, incidentally. Ordinarily, you'd want to manage your ferments so the yeasts don't produce too many of these sulfur compounds (which contribute aromas ranging from rotten eggs, through cabbage, through matchstick, to flintiness). But here, in this Champagne, they add a nice savoury richness. This is a nice fizz. Well done Asda.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

a (sort of) pink English fizz that's really good

Today has been quite a difficult one. I drove older son down to his new school (160 miles away), which he starts tomorrow. He's beginning as a boarder, at age 12, which must be incredibly difficult for him. Also, any parent reading can probably share a sense of how difficult it is to leave your child in someone else's care like this. But it's not a decision we came to lightly, and it's one that he participated in. He's an incredibly talented, able chap with a very bright future ahead of him, but had things carried on the way they were at home, then the future would have been much less bright. It seems a bit absurd and flippant to document this major change in a paragraph on a blog post, but I feel it needs to be mentioned, and it's either a paragraph or a whole book.

Back to the safe territory of wine, and more specifically a rather good sparkling rose from England that's the equal of a good rose Champagne.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Sparkling Rose NV, England
Made by Chapel Down, this is really delicious. A very pale salmon pink colour, it's only just a rose. The nose is super-sophisticated with tight herby, citrussy notes as well as a hint of strawberry. The palate is dry and complex, with a hint of fruity richness offsettin the high acidity really nicely. There's none of the overt herbiness that is the besetting sin of so many English wines, and all the flavours work in tandem to create a stylish whole. Pretty serious effort - shame about the rather naff packaging. 90/100 (£17.99 Sainsbury's)

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

57 varieties of rose Champagne

Spent the morning tasting rose Champagnes blind. 57 of them were lined up for a Wine & Spirit tasting held at the WSET, and it proved a rather demanding session. The problem with these sorts of blind tastings is that it's really hard to keep your concentration at the right level for the duration, and also that your palate can become quite fatigued.

But, providing you can stay in the zone (as David Williams clearly is above) and give your mouth the odd break, tasting lots of the same sort of wine like this in a blind format is quite illuminating. You get to spot subtle differences between the wines that you might miss if you just had one or two bottles in front of you. You get a broad-brush perspective of the category. And not having sight of the label can prevent those subtle biases that we're all prone to. There are weaknesses with this format, too, but those are its strengths.

The 57 wines were a mixed bag. Perhaps half a dozen were unpleasant, and another half a dozen were exceptional, but then there was a big cluster of very good but not world-beating wines in the middle. Interesting to see the range of colours, too - again, some were quite dark pink, most were salmon pink, and then there were a few that had hardly any colour at all. I'll get the names of the wines together with my notes in a few days, so I can write them up here.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A celebratory blind fizz

Got a sizeable cheque today. I felt a bit sad banking it, though, because it was my redundancy payment from what has become known in the Goode household as the 'day job'. As many readers will probably already know, for the last 15 years I've been working as a science editor, and as my interest in wine has grown, a parallel career has developed - wine writing. It was getting to the stage that I couldn't keep both going, and because wine is my passion, the science editing had to give. The fact that the organization I've been working for is closing down and my post is now redundant has helped me in my decision-making process (!!), and so from the end of this month I'll be able to give wine the time it deserves - expect to see this site improve in terms of content. I'm a bit sad to say goodbye to science, though, and I hope there's a way I can still have some involvement with the scientific community.

So, having banked the cheque, it was time for a modest celebration. Fiona surprised me with a blind fizz. I thought it was something pretty serious and fresh, but didn't get much further than that. It's not cheap, but it's really impressive.

Champagne Devaux Ultra D
'Ultra' refers to the fact that this fizz is bottled without a dosage - the 8-10 g of sugar that is typically added to fizz just before bottling to bring it into balance. It's fantastic stuff. Delicate, elegant, refined fresh lemony toasty nose. The palate is bright and elegant with good acidity and great balance. It's dry but not at all austere, even without the dosage. Just has great natural balance, which is what you want from a non-dosage fizz. A light, elegant style. 91/100 (£34.95 toastchampagne.co.uk, Harrods, Liberty Wines - contact info@dillonmorral.com for further information)


Friday, January 11, 2008

Two hits: Austria and Champagne

Two real hits last night, my last in the UK for a while - I'm making this entry from the business class lounge of Iberia en route to Santiago. It's quite nice being able to use an airline lounge because I normally fly economy. Anyway, these wines were just great - a fantastic full flavoured Champagne and a delicious Austrian sweetie.

Champagne Jean Moutardier Cuvée Selection NV
Quite deep coloured, this is a 50:50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It’s a serious Champagne. The intense, toasty nose has a fine herby edge and hints of toffee. The palate has rich toast and brioche notes, along with a bit of nuttiness and some citrus freshness. Great depth and intensity: a full flavoured style that is just delicious. Brilliant stuff. 92/100 (£19.95 Great Western Wine)

Herbert Triebaumer Ruster Ausbruch 2002 Burgenland, Austria Yellow/gold in colour, this is a rich, almost pungent sweet wine with lifted aromas of cantaloupe melon and apricot, alongside spicy and herbal notes. The palate is viscous (163 g/litre residual sugar) with bold, concentrated flavours of ripe apricot, citrus and melon, together with some spicy complexity. It’s a serious wine of real class and intensity that just manages to stay balanced despite the immense sweetness. 93/100 (£21.95 Great Western Wine)

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fizzy lunch and a Graillot

Continuing with our Christmas series of social engagements, today we had a really enjoyable family lunch with my parents and three siblings, plus my aunt, uncle and their kids, plus all the various sprogs. Quite a crowd in all, and it was good to see everyone. Cheerful mild chaos.

Brother-in-law Beavington was in good form and pulled out some magnums of Champagne - Drappier NV and Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. There's something special about drinking from magnum. As well as it being the best format for ageing wine, it just feels kind of generous and life-loving and a bit extravagant to be pouring a 1.5 litre bottle. The Ruinart Blanc de Blancs magnum, with its clear glass, looked particularly gorgeous (pictured above, on the table). The wine was really good, too.

At home this evening, I'm using the decanter again. The wine is Graillot's 1998 Crozes Hermitage. To be honest, I prefer Graillots Crozes to many Hermitages. They offer the essence of Northern Rhone Syrah, complete with edges and definition and personality. They can be quite challenging wines, though - the 1998 is an example of this. The last of nine bottles I purchased some time ago, this is still alive but was nicer a couple of years ago. There's high acidity, a bit of austerity on the palate, some green olive meaty notes and a bit of violetty perfume. The overall impression is a very savoury one, and I reckon this is definitely best with food, where it would excel with fatty meat, game, rich meaty stews or something a bit off-piste, like moussaka. A bottle that has been stored in pristine conditions might show a little better than this one, but I'd drink up soon if you have any. The most recent vintages of this wine that I've tried, the 2003, 2004 and 2005 have all been excellent.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

A biodynamic Champagne that rocks

It's a quiet Monday evening, so time for some fizz. And not just any old fizz, but a Vintage Champagne from one of the last century's great vintages, and from a biodynamic grower to boot. It's a really fantastic wine, and it should have been saved for a special occasion. But I don't feel too bad for opening it...

Champagne Fleury 1996
A yellow/gold colour, this has a sensational nose: it's complex and full, with notes of honey, baked apples, lemons, toast and pastry. The palate is concentrated with powerful flavours of lemon, herbs and toast. It's a rich style, with lots of impact, but kept fresh by piercing acidity. A really super effort - worth the relatively high asking price. Beginning to drink well now, but with this level of acidity it isn't going to fall apart any time soon. 94/100 (£38 Vintage Roots)

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fortieth celebration weekend

Whoever you are, you can't escape the passage of time. Rich and poor alike all age at more or less the same rate. Some people fight it harder than others do; some seem to accomodate the passing years better than others; but all grow chronologically older at the same rate.

I've just passed one of those significant barriers, the big four-oh, along with my twin sister. The fact that two of us were celebrating together required some sort of joint event, so Fiona organized a weekend involving the families of Anne and I, plus those of our two siblings, plus my parents, which totalled 10 adults (pictured above) and 11 children ranging from 1 to 11 in age.

So we gathered at Moreleaze Farm in Somerset, where we occupied three cottages, with a swimming pool, games room and tennis court for entertainment. Friday evening was curry night, with my father as a chef, washed down with lots of fizz. But this was preceded by a trip to the local, one of the most remarkable pubs I've ever visited.

The Seymour Arms at Witham Friary is a bit of living history. For a start, it doesn't serve food. These days virtually all pubs are overpriced restaurants that serve beer. The Seymour Arms is what pubs used to be like, 60 years ago. There's one large room, with a wooden bench running around the perimeter, painted duck-egg blue. In the middle of the room are four large tables, with bench seats either side. The bar is effectively a large window, interfacing with the residential part of the pub in which there is a single cask of ale, a couple of casks of cider, and the other drinks. Only one beer was available, Butcombe, and it was £2 a pint. We had a couple of pints, played darts, and left in awe at this flash-back in time to a different era.

Saturday was a day of activity, including a tennis match in which sister Hester and myself were narrowly beaten by younger brother Arthur and twin sister Anne. Saturday evening saw a talent show with the various families each putting in a performance (brother Arthur's family rendition of Old MacDonald on the ocarina was the most memorable), followed by a slide and cine (super 8) show which my father had organized (seeing yourself on film aged five puts things in perspective a bit), and then the gala dinner - a black tie affair washed down with some serious fizz, good claret and Vintage Port. Significantly, we enjoyed some fizz from a Jeroboam, which is effectively a double magnum. Kindly provided by brother-in-law Beavington, it was an impressive Drappier Millesime Selection 1999 (pictured).

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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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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hard at work at the Bollinger lunch

A bit of a treat today. Bollinger lunch at Bruce Poole's fantastic restaurant Chez Bruce. There was a good turnout, as you might expect - someone commented that if a bomb had been placed in the restaurant, it would have taken out a sizeable portion of the UK wine press.

The food was extraordinarily good, and the fizz didn't disappoint. We kicked off with Bollinger's '2003' - a unique wine reflecting the rather unique weather conditions of that growing season. Atypical for Bollinger: light, fruity and quite expressive. A bit like a top notch new world fizz.

Ghislain de Montgolfier then gave a short speech, in which he mentioned how 2007 is shaping up. Apparently, we're looking at the earliest harvest in recent memory, because of the exceptionally hot April that led to early flowering. As long as nothing disastrous happens before late August, it should be a good one, too.

Bolling Cuvee Special followed, and this was really singing: back to the distinctive house style, that's quite intense, toasty, rich and yet fresh and balanced. The Grande Annee 1997 is a wine I've had a couple of times before and really liked. It's fresh, intense, concentrated and a little bit edgy, with good complexity. Then a rare chance to try the Vieilles Vignes Francaises 1999, of which we drank a good half of the UK's annual allocation between us (it's 12-18 bottles a year). This is quite different: rounded, complex, broad, thought-provoking. Finally, the 1995 RD is a bit of a stern beast. It's just so full-on, with massive acidity, massive flavour, massive savouriness. It will probably last a very long time - drunk now, it needs food.
Pictured: Stephen Brook (left) is entranced by Jim Budd's (foreground) shirt. Neil Beckett is also in the picture.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

More tastings

Two tastings this afternoon. First, Berry Bros & Rudd's press tasting in the Pickering Cellar of their historic 3 St James Street premises (pictured). Spent some time chatting to the likes of Tim Atkin (who is compering Monday night's Glenfiddich Awards: he finds out tomorrow who wins), Anthony Rose, Sarah Ahmed and the Berrys crew. My favourite wine was a Champagne: the 2000 Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs (here), which is currently showing amazing racy finesse and balance.

Then it was off to Delfina near London Bridge for the Sainsbury's press tasting. I spent quite a bit of time tasting through the range, which was consistently good but without many stand-outs. I really liked another Champagne: Duval Leroy Organic Premier Cru 2001, a straight Chardonnay from Trepail, with amazingly vivid, complex herby flavours. Wonder what the dosage was? I reckon it was low.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Champagne and sparkling wine

Continuing my semi-obsession with bubbles at the moment, I opened two fizzes side-by-side this evening. It felt a little decadent, because like it or not it is hard to get away from the image of bubbly wine and celebration, celebrity and conspicuous consumption. Two very different bottles, though, and this wasn't intended to be a straight shootout.

First: Champagne Mumm de Cramant NV Grand Cru Brut Chardonnay. There's a bright, fresh, perfumed, almost salty quality to the nose. It's tight, savoury and shows lemony freshness alongside some denser herby, toasty notes. The palate is bright, fresh and savoury with complex toasty, honeyed, herby depth. There's precision here, as you'd expect from a Blanc de Blancs, but there's also some midpalate depth and savoury weight. All in, it's a really lovely fizz. Bottled with 8 g/l dosage and a lower pressure (4.5 atmospheres versus the usual 6, which makes it less fizzy). Very good/excellent 93/100

Second: Deakin Estate Brut NV, Australia. Sealed with a crown cap, this is an attractively packaged fizz showing bright, delicate lemony fruit and nice acidity. A very fresh, almost transparent style of sparkling wine. It's not the most complex example of its genre, but at this price it's a great value all-purpose fizz. Very good 84/100 (£6.99 Oddbins, 6 for the price of 5)

Aside: crown caps are great for sparkling wines, but they aren't hermetic seals. The seal between the rim of the bottle and the cap is what determines the oxygen transmission properties, and this case it is some sort of plastic material, which allows oxygen diffusion. So for this sort of fizz it's fine; I'd be cautious about cellaring crown capped bottles for any length of time, though.

In the Mumm picture the corner is turned down: apparently, in days gone by the wine was delivered unlabelled, and the turned-down corner of the business card indicated personal delivery. Although made since 1882, this cuvee wasn't released commercially until 1960.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Champagne: tasting vins clairs

It's a day well spent when you learn something new. I tasted Vins Clairs for the first time today, some 14 of them. Vins Clairs are the base wines that result from the first fermentation of Champagne grapes, and the ones we were tasting were a selection of 2006s from Champagne Mumm, presented by cellar master Didier Mariotti. The base wines are picked at about 9-10% alcohol, with high acid, and are chaptalized up to about 11%. Much later in their life they'll undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle - about 18 grams of sugar per litre will raise them up a degree of alcohol to 12%, and then they will have a final dose of sugar, usually about 9 grams/litre, to balance them out after the plug of dead yeast cells is removed.

Tasting base wines isn't supposed to be fun. These are not wines you'd enjoy drinking with your dinner. They all have their different characteristics, and are like colours on an artist's palate, which the cellar master can then blend to good effect. A good base wine will typically have high acidity, good flavour and nice midpalate structure, but they vary, depending on where they come from in the region and the variety used. Didier says that tasting the vins clairs is the most important part of his job.

Champagne is fascinating, and I'm enjoying learning about it. As an aside, kudos to Didier for fulfilling his commitment to this tasting despite nursing a freshly broken ankle (from handball - his crutches are visible beside him in the picture).


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Champagne and Portugal

Today was a busy day of tasting. Two unmissable events, for me at least: the annual tastings for Champagne and Portugal. The day began with a prompt 10 am start at Banqueting house for the Champagne gig, which was preceded by a pleasant wander over the Thames from Waterloo station. It was a lovely early spring morning, but a hint of freshness in the air and diffused, milky sunshine.

I tasted a lot of very good Champagnes, more than a few excellent ones and just a handful that I’d rate as just ordinary. Highlights rather predictably included the 1995 Krug, a monumental wine that won’t be approaching drinkability for another five years at least, and also a couple from Jacquesson: the 1996 vintage and the non-dosage Dizy 2000. Tarlant impressed, as did Larmandier-Bernier.

Then it was off to Lords, a beautiful venue for a tasting on a bright Spring day. Main focus here was the selection of 2005 cask samples from the Douro (very promising vintage; possibly a little better than 2004). The big surprise was the presence of Alvaro Castro (of Quintas da Pellada and de Saes in the Dão) – he doesn’t usually come to the annual tasting. He had a wonderful roster of wines with him, including the marvellous Caroussel, Dado and Pape wines, as well as wines from his two Quintas. I was really impressed by these. Sad aside: Alvaro remembered that I'd put a picture of his dog on my website, roaming his vineyard. The dog is no longer, having been poisoned by hunters, he reveals.

Now I’m on the way home, with a stained, wine-residue mouth and reams of notes to type up. Tomorrow should be a little less strenuous: just the Majestic press tasting in the morning and then a tutored tasting of Vin Clairs in the afternoon.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Spring and fizz

It's been a gorgeous day, here in our small part of the world. I took the day off and spent it with Fiona and RTL. After dropping the kids off at school we headed for Box Hill for a nice long walk. It was a special day: bright, clear blue skies, laser-sharp hues and a gently-warm sun. Lunch was consumed sitting outside at a pub in Chilworth, accompanied by a pint of Greene King IPA, followed by a short walk along the River Wey. These are the sorts of days that form enduring positive memories which you can feed on later.

Tonight I'm on the fizz again. Champagne Mumm Cordon Rouge 1998 is a more than respectable effort. It's bright, lemony and very fruity on the nose, but the palate is a good deal richer with notes of toast and vanilla, coupled with good acidity. It's quite fresh as well as being very full flavoured. I suspect there's a fair bit of both Pinots in here. It's fairly serious (I scored this as 91), and with its full flavour and body I reckon it's a good food Champagne. Fizz is expensive, though, compared with other wines. Majestic stock this on a 3 for 2 offer, which brings the price down to a very competitive £23, as opposed to the list price of £35.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tesco and Roast

Today was Tesco press tasting day. It was held at the Worx in Parson's Green - a venue that's a bit out of the way but which is absolutely ideal for wine tasting. It's a bright, white, airy space, with plenty of room. Some nice wines on show: I particularly enjoyed the Bollinger Grand Annee 1999, which I drunk several glasses of after last week's Bordeaux event, and the Taittinger Prelude NV. But it wasn't the expensive stuff that was the sole focus: for my purposes, it's great to find really good affordable wines with a wide distribution, and Tesco have quite a few of these. As the most important (in terms of volume) wine retailer in the UK, it's good to see they are putting some effort and thought into their range.

Last night I dined at Roast in Borough Market with Jo and Andre of Wines of South Africa. We did the obligatory Pinotage discussion, and I got into trouble by gently teasing them about the 'variety is in our nature' slogan, but otherwise it was a very productive evening. I'm a big fan of WOSA, who do a great job promoting South African wine. We drank a Raats Chenin Blanc and the 2003 Solitude Shiraz from Fairview (or was it the Beacon?). Both were excellent. Roast slightly disappointed. The food was OK, but not quite as good as I'd hoped. And the cheese selection was rather limited: just four were being offered. But the location, decor and service were spot on.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Champagne Gosset

I drink quite bit of fizz, most of it unremarkable but enjoyable. Every now and then, though, I come across one that’s quite special, and reminds me of what the fuss is about. On Friday night we cracked a good-un.

Champagne Gosset Brut Excellence NV
Lovely open stylish fruity nose: aromatic, fresh, herby, appley. The palate is elegant and very fruity with lovely balancing acidity. It’s complex, full flavoured, but not at all clumsy. So overall, an unusual combination: a Champagne that is very fruity, but at the same time complex and stylish. Very good/excellent 92/100 (Great Western Wine)


Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Christmas greetings, dear readers. After a few days' abstinence, I felt up to some wine today. Just a little, and nothing terribly excessive. We began with the two wines I bought on Thursday for research purposes. Domain Chandon ZD 2002 is a delightful Aussie fizz with good complexity and a very dry finish. Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006 is a very good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but you are certainly paying a premium for the label: I could easily find seven or eight NZ Sauvignons that are its equal, and which are much cheaper. Finally, a Bandol: Lafran Veyrolles Longue Garde, which is now entering is earthy, evolved phase. Nice in a very savoury style.

The Goode family Christmas day has been a very successful one. This has not always been the case, I should add! Just the four of us, plus various animals. Lots of present unwrapping, a nice lunch, a walk, some telly, some family games, and for everyone else an early night. I have to stay up to see to the hound, but I'm hoping to find my bed soon. Merry Christmas.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

buying wine and cheese

Just come back from Waitrose, where I did a pre-Christmas treat shop. On the cheese front I bought Keen's Cheddar, Colston Bassett Stilton and Comte. But I also bought two bottles of wine. I try very hard not to buy wine, because my kitchen is full of it, and I have to work hard to keep on top of the samples. I can't always stop myself, though - and it's also healthy to remember what it feels like to shell out your own cash on the stuff. It's easy to overlook the fact that a £20 Chianti Classico or red Burgundy is just plain dull when you didn't pay for it. When it's your own £20, you quite rightly have higher expectations, and you are more likely to be appropriately critical.
What did I buy? First, a bottle of the crowncap-sealed Domaine Chandon ZD 2002, which I recently wrote up (this was £13.99). I liked it in the Yarra; will I like it in my kitchen in London? Always helpful to calibrate my tasting notes with my drinking notes. Second, from the same LMVH empire, a bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (£15.99). An odd choice? Well, my brother in law, Beavington, raves about this stuff. I've not tried it for a couple of vintages - I'd come to the conclusion that it's no better or worse than a dozen other leading Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs. But Beavington is insistent that it is magical. I'm slightly worried that he's a bit of a label drinker, but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt by buying this wine to see whether it over-delivers in the way he says it does.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

A new addition to the family

We have a new member of the Goode household. After a lot of umming and arring, and after exhaustive research, we decided to get a dog.

What do you get when you cross a labrador with a poodle? A labradoodle, of course. Now don't laugh: this is the proper name for the breed. Fortunately, ours looks more like a labrador than a poodle. She's 12 weeks old, and we've called her Rosie. She's pictured just after her arrival: the boys were thrilled.

There are pros and cons to dog ownership. The pros? You get unconditional love and affection, and unswerving loyalty. You also have an excuse to go for lots of walks (which for some might be a negative, but I love going for walks). The family is enriched. The cons? Going on holiday becomes more complicated (although lots of friends have expressed an interest in borrowing a dog). The smell. And picking up turds (which all socially aware dog owners should do).

To celebrate Rosie's arrival we had a bottle of Roederer Brut NV, which is a very lovely full flavoured fizz with good acid and nice toasty richness. It's one of those fizzes that you really could serve throughout a meal; I also think it would develop with a year or two in bottle.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

A magnum of Las Cases

Friday night I was out for a wine dinner at L'Auberge in Teddington. It was c0nvened by Alex Murray, who until recently worked for Berry Bros & Rudd, along with two of his ex-colleagues from Berrys, Chris Maybin and Charlie Bennett. We drank and ate well: Bollinger Grande Annee 1997, Pol Roger Winston Churchill 1996, Colin Deleger Chassagne Montrachet Les Vergers 2003, Langoa Barton 1996, Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos Des Ruchottes Grand Cru and Mission Hill Reserve Riesling Eiswein 2003 were all polished off with relish. But the highlight for me was the magnum of Leoville Las Cases 1985 that Alex brought along.
Decanted a couple of hours earlier, this was a magical wine, drinking perfectly. Perfumed, open and inviting, this combined sweetness of fruit with lovely earthy minerality. Quite dry and savoury, but very youthful tasting for a 21 year old wine. This is why Bordeaux is so sought after, and why people like to drink it at 20 or 30 years old. Also, magnums just seem to age so well: perhaps they offer the perfect level of oxygen transmission/volume of wine that allows the wine to reach just the right ageing destination. This was also an impeccably cellared bottle, which is so important with older wines. It was so nice to have a whole magnum between the four of us of such a lovely wine.
Got home by bus at about 1.30 am; fell asleep listening to the cricket.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Roederer Cristal

Roederer Cristal. I drank two vintages today at BAFTA in London's Piccadilly (you can see the BAFTA 'mask' in the background of the picture) - the 1990 and 1996, from magnum. Both were utterly fantastic: fresh, complex and almost perfect, with the 1990 just having the edge on the 1996 at the moment. In time the 1996 may prove the better, but it's a hard call.

Cristal is famous as being the favoured tipple of hip-hop stars and gangsta rappers (see here and here, for example). It would be nice to say that it's overhyped, but it's not. This stuff is thrilling. Almost unbelievably good. I also tried the Roederer 1999 releases, my favourite being the Blanc de Blancs, which again is spectacularly fresh and vivid with lots of complexity. The regular vintage 1999 is also very impressive, with some more richness underneath the fresh fruit. Roederer rocks.