jamie goode's wine blog

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's freezing, so wine to warm

It's freezing cold. I had to spend 30 minutes waiting at Reading station this evening to meet older son, who was getting the train back from school for the holidays. I haven't been as cold in years. But let's be positive: the great thing about bitter cold is that suddenly a moderately warm room has the potential to confer immeasurable pleasure.

It snowed last night, albeit a little half-heartedly. I took RTL (above) for a walk this morning, and there was still a thin covering. She loved it, running around like a nutter. I think we're due a bit more tonight.

So time for some warming wine. I'm off to the South of France. Elian Da Ros' Aboriou 2007 from the Cotes du Marmandais is peppery, spicy, meaty and distinctly savoury, with a big dollop of Brettanomyces. It's a distinctive style: whether or not you like it will depend on how you respond to the animal appeal of brett. Le Clos du Pioch 2007 Montpeyroux (£7.99 Marks & Spencer) is much more elegant and less edgy, with subtly meaty, floral perfume to the bright raspberry and cherry fruit. I like both wines, but without food, the Montpeyroux wins out because of its balance and elegance.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Great value Shiraz, part 8

Here's an elegant, perfumed Syrah from the Languedoc that I really like. Could drink a lot of this: it isn't too heavy, but it has lots of interest. Please forgive the rubbish camera phone picture!

Laurent Miquel Cazal Viel Cuvée des Fées 2007 Languedoc, France
13% alcohol. Lovely aromatics here: sweet, ripe and full with a hint of meatiness. Lovely aromatics and a hint of floral character, as well as red berries and plum. The palate is juicy and bright with nicely poised ripe meaty red fruits. Deliciously drinkable with real personality, and not at all forced. 89/100 (£8.99 Majestic)

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Great value Shiraz, part 2

Another great value Shiraz. It's Asda's Extra Special Shiraz 2008 Vin de Pays d'Oc, which is made for them by Jean Claude Mas, Languedoc superstar.

This is an example of brilliant commercial winemaking, and it over-delivers for its price (which, I think, is £6.07, but I've seen this for closer to £5 on offer). It's sweetly fruited, well defined and has some meaty complexity to it. It's very drinkable, with a hint of seriousness. I like the fact that it tastes of Syrah. Do try it if you get the chance.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Serious Languedoc lunch, and tasting wines from India, Kosova and Georgia

On yet another beautiful spring day, I headed into town for a lunch with Christian Seely and his winemaker Cedric Loiseau focusing on the wines of Mas Belles Eaux, AXA's Languedoc property.

It was held at South Kensington restaurant Le Colombier, and was really good, with the exception of the glasses, which were crap. I hate to sound like a moaning ninny, but why bother showing high end wines to the press out of really, really bad wine glasses? And Le Colombier can't hope to be taken seriously as a wine restaurant if they can't be bothered to buy decent stemware. [I guess the worrying alternative is that they think their glasses are good.]

The Mas Belles Eaux wines were really good. Since 2005, they've taken a step up in quality, and are now among the Languedoc's best. Sadly, they aren't cheap (the reds range from £18-25 in price), but they should age really well.

Then it was off to Queensgate, next to the Natural History Museum, for a rather weird tasting. First, I tried the wines of Kosovan estate Stonecastle. Nice Riesling, delicious Vranac (which has just been listed at Waitrose and will be promoted at £5.99 from mid-April) and solid, fruity Merlot and Cab.

Then it was time for some Indian wines. These were from the India Food Company in Vinchur, Maharashtra in the Nashik wine region. In India they are labelled V&V; in the UK they will be either Godavari Estate or The Maharaj. A Chenin was green and nasty, while the rose, Shiraz and Zinfandel were solid but a tiny bit rustic. The Zin was the best of the bunch.

Finally, I tried several Georgian wines that are being imported into the UK by Guamarjos. These were really good, including a couple of lovely whites (Tbilvino Rkatsiteli and Marani Mtsvane) and a delicious Saperavi made in amphorae (Marani Satrapezo).

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

England hammer France...with some French wine

So I went to the Rugby today. I was a guest of Mont Tauch (http://www.mont-tauch.com/), who shared their hospitality (from the back of an old Citroen van in the Rosebine car park) with ex-Rugby player and wine producer Gerard Bertrand (pictured).

We drank wines from both. Mont Tauch are one of the new breed of super-coops, and were showing a really nice Ancien Carignan among other wines. And I liked the Bertrand Tautavel and La Forge reds a great deal: modern, sweetly fruited, but fresh and well defined. It was very civilized standing in the sunshine, drinking wine with good company.

The game? Incredibly, England were brilliant. France played like England usually do. And by half time, England were 29-0 up. We were sitting in a largely French section, next to the French band, who were silenced by their side's performance. The second half was closer, but by then it was all over.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The last snowy pictures, and some Southern French supermarket reds

We're back from Norway. I can't speak highly enough of the SAS Radisson in Trysil (well, except for the somewhat limited wine options). When we checked out we were issued with a bill just shy of double what we expected (22 000 Kr as opposed to 12 000 Kr; £1 = almost exactly 10 Kr), caused by the hotel charging us rack rates rather than the internet prices we booked for. But, after showing them our booking, and watching ever-more-senior members of staff being summoned, they corrected it and then knocked a tiny bit more off. For a half-board package at such a beautiful hotel, we were very pleased with the final bill. I've added some pictures (dodgy quality, I'm afraid, from phone camera) just to taunt those who haven't made it to the slopes this season!

We then caught the Trysil Express bus to the airport (3 h journey time, £65 for the family), before catching our Norweigan flight (painless budget airline that actually allocates seats on check-in - useful when travelling with the family) to Stansted.
However good a holiday, there's something comforting about returning home. As I type, I've opened a couple of supermarket southern French reds.

Cave de Roquebrun Roches Noires 2006 Saint Chinian
Varietal breakdown: 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre. This has a nose of ripe red fruits with a pronounced roast coffee and cured meat character. The palate shows good concentration and a bit of spiciness, with some grippy tannic structure under the plum and cherry fruit. A solid effort. 85/100 (£7.95 Tesco; 13% alcohol)

Asda Extra Special Vacqueyras 2006 Southern Rhone, France
Surprisingly muted nose doesn't give much away, except for some faint liqueur-like red fruits and a hint of spice. The palate is more expressive with an attractive peppery character under the pure, smooth cherry fruit. This isn't a totally obvious wine: you need to look under the surface, and there you find some attractive Grenache fruit. Finishes a little earthy with some grippy tannin, which makes me think this wine might evolve a little more. Not mind-blowing, but authentic - decant for an hour to get the best from this now? 86/100 (£6.98 Asda; 14% alcohol)

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Cigalus - top Languedoc white

Don't come across many high-end Languedoc whites, but here's one that's been on my sample rack for a while. It's really refined and pretty serious, but I'm not sure about the price tag (it says £26.99 Oddbins, although I don't think they have any still in stock).

Gerard Bertrand Cigalus 2007 Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
75% Chardonnay, 20% Viognier and 5% Sauvignon Blanc, two-thirds of which is fermented and aged in new oak. It's a really refined wine that shows great balance between the lush, rounded, opulent Viognier and Chardonnay characters, and an innate sort of fruity freshness, which keeps it from being at all heavy. It's even a bit floral. The oak is really well integrated, just supplying a little vanilla spice and subtle breadiness. Overall, it's a really refined, modern wine of real poise, and the Viognier is adding something distinctive to it. 91/100

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Old vine Carignan

Carignan is an underdog grape variety. Most people don't rate it, but when it's fully ripe and from vines that yield sensibly - frequently, this means old vines - the results can be really interesting. This is a Languedoc wine from AXA's portfolio (the wine interests of AXA include Noval in the Douro, Pichon Baron in Bordeaux, and Disznoko in Tokaji), and because its 100% Carignan it's labelled as a Vin de Pays.

Mas Belles Eaux Vieux Carignan 2006 Vin de Pays de Caux, France
Old vine Carignan (over 60 years). Forward bright spicy fruit with some pure blackberry character and a bit of sweet black cherry. Nicely dense and savoury with some spiciness. Good combination of sweet pure fruit with some of that savoury, plummy, spicy Carignan character, as well as a bit of earthiness on the finish. Quite youthful with the potential to develop in bottle. 90/100 (£14.99 Bristol Wine Co, Cotswald Vintners, Hendersons Wines, Worcester Wine Co)

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A serious Languedoc white!

Continuing yesterday's Languedoc theme, I wanted to share this wine with you, my loyal readers. It falls into the (slightly) weird but wonderful category. To be honest, I'd resisted cracking it open for a while because I thought that there wasn't much hope for a 2000 vintage Languedoc white. I was pleasantly surprised.

Domaine La Combe Blanche 'Le Blanc' 2000 Vin de Pays des Cotes de Brian, France
A blend of Roussanne and Viognier aged in barrel for 12 months. Yellow/gold in colour this is very smooth, with a fruity sweet pear nose that also has complex notes of mandarin, fennel and apricot. The palate shows warm, sweet fruit with a crystalline fruits richness and some hints of nuts and peach. Broad, smooth and quite complex, with freshness as well as richness. Just lovely. 92/100 (£9.75 Leon Stolarski)

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Monday, October 13, 2008

A serious wine from the Languedoc

I've neglected the Languedoc a bit of late. Back in the days of La Vigneronne (a London merchant who specialized in this region) I followed what was going on pretty closely. That's something I'd like to return to. Grand Lauze is a producer based in the Boutenac (officially a 'cru' since 2005) region of Corbieres. They farm organically, employing some biodynamic practices. They have 22 hectares in all, including some very old Carignan (youngest = 60 yo, much is over 100 yo) and Grenache vines. (See http://www.grand-lauze.net/.)

Grand Lauze Ledogar Vin de Table Francais
The Roman 'IV' on the label indicates this is from the 2004 vintage. This is one of those wines that ended up being rejected by the local Appellation authorization committee (in this case for Corbieres) for being 'atypical', hence the Vin de Table status. It's actually pretty serious: a blend of 12 barrels, 8 of which are 100-year old Carignan, 2 Mourvedre, 1 Grenache and 1 Syrah. All organically grown, with some biodynamic practices. Deep coloured, this has a tight, dense, slightly reductive nose showing spicy dark fruits. The palate is intense and concentrated with fresh, savoury, spicy dark fruits with firm tannins and attractive, minerally complexity. It's a pure, focused, youthful wine of real impact that needs time to show its best. Old vine Carignan at its best - not the easiest wine to 'get', but pretty serious. 91/100 (£15 http://www.therealwineco.co.uk/)

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Retro Fitou, yeah baby!

Interesting sample in the post today. A 'retro' Fitou, from hugely successful coop Mont Tauch. Though there's nothing terribly retro about the closure (screwcap with a saranex-only liner, just right for this wine), the label is very attractively retro, with a mock-torn effect. I think it works really well, and the whole thing looks very good indeed.

What about the wine? Like many of the wines in the Mont Tauch portfolio, it delivers without threatening to overdeliver. It's lacking a bit of concentration and stuffing (I didn't say dilute, although there is a risk that it is heading that way), but aside from this it is very well made with attractive spicy, earthy, dark cherry and red berry flavours. Nicely savoury, and very drinkable. Remember, though, this is an inexpensive wine and it's much, much better from a lot of the new world offerings at this price point.

Mont Tauch 'Retro' Fitou 2006 Languedoc, France
Light, with savoury, spicy, slightly earthy cherry and berry fruit, as well as just a hint of that wild herb complexity known as 'garrigue'. A versatile, drinkable red with a sense of place to it. 83/100 (£5.99 Tesco)

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A delicious Languedoc wine, blind

It had been quite a difficult evening (same old, older child), so as I was doing sentry duty after things had quietened down a little, Fiona brought up a glass of something blind for me to identify, and then enjoy.

I'm afraid I wasn't good on the identification front tonight. It was a really classy red wine, with smooth blackberry fruit and a bit of spicy structure, all in a very harmonious package. But it could have been ultra-refined new world, or sleek, modern-styled old world. It didn't taste Italian, nor did it taste terribly French or Portuguese, and it wasn't very Spanish either. So I opted for new world. Wrong. So then I guessed Languedoc, and was right.

I find wines like this, with no real sense of place, a bit unnerving. But I can't criticize it, because it is so beautifully made. Embarrasingly, I can't remember where it's from. I don't think it's Waitrose, and in the back of my mind I'm thinking Asda, although this doesn't seem right. If anyone knows, please share. Retail price would be around £9, which makes it good value.

Chateau Paul Mas 'Les Dons' Vinus 2005 Coteaux du Languedoc, France
A Shiraz/Grenache blend from 40 year old vines on clay and lime soils, with a bit of maritime influence, this is sleek and sophisticated. Harmonious, smooth red and black fruits combine with fine-grained tannins and fresh acidity to make a very stylish, modern red wine of real appeal. Warm climate elegance here. 89/100

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Some Languedoc wines and an evil cork

Impromptu tasting of some Languedoc/Roussillon wines, after another bitterly cold day - on which it even snowed here in London, although a little half-heartedly. Pictured is the view outside the front of our house at about 4 pm. This is the reason God created the southern hemisphere, where I am escaping to on Monday.

Just a note on the evil cork (pictured above). It was sealing one of the Languedoc wines, a £2.99 AOC Minervois from Lidl. Now this Lidl wine was actually relatively sound and drinkable, but for a subtle streak of mustiness which I assume is TCA and its related compounds. In other words, cork taint. If you mash up bits of cork and stick them together, there's a very high chance that you end up with low level taint in almost all of them. If, say, one in 20 or one in 30 corks is tainted to above-threshold levels with TCA, then imagine the effect of dispersing this taint among all your corks. It's just a barmy decision to use cheap agglos like this, especially now there are many alternatives at a similar sort of price. Utterly evil.

Anyway, a mixed sort of bag of Languedoc/Roussillon reds on show tonight (partly because of a dodgy vintage, 2002, in the mix), although my enthusiasm for the two neighbouring regions continues. Here are my notes.

Mont Tauch Les Douze Fitou 2006 Languedoc, France
Gently herby, spicy nose with supple red fruit character. Palate is midweight with a nice combination of sweet fruit and spiciness. It's not a blockbuster, but it's nicely savoury. Likeable. 86/100 (£6.49 Majestic)
Les Hauts de Forca Real Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2003 France
Quite a dark, dense wine with a meaty, earthy edge to the super-ripe black fruits. Big, ripe, but savoury too, and not imbalanced. Rich, earthy, spicy, tannic palate is very bold, and showing a bit of Brettanomyces character, but in a rich wine like this it works quite well, making a full flavoured, attractively savoury wine. 90/100 (£10.99 http://www.therealwineco.co.uk/)
Abbotts Cumulus 2002 Minervois, France
100% Syrah matured in 40% new American oak, 20% old American oak and 40% in old French oak. Indeed, the dominant feature here is the sweet cocount and vanillla of oak lactones, which threaten to dominate the supple spicy fruit. It's tasty enough if you like oak - in fact, it tastes a bit like a new wave Rioja. I can see that there's a big market for this sort of wine, but it's not for me. 84/100 (£5.99 Averys)
Mas de l'Ecriture 'Les Pensees' 2002 Coteaux du Languedoc, France
A tricky vintage for Pascal Fulla's Mas de l'Ecriture, which is one of the Languedoc's star properties. Treat this like Burgundy, and open and decant, serving from a Burgundy glass. There's some earthy, spicy complexity on the nose with a hint of undergrowth. The palate is dense with sweet red fruits and some firm tannins. There's a distinctive earthy character. Drink soon-ish. 88/100

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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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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Taking it easy with organic Syrah

After an exhausting Wednesday, I decided to take things a bit easier today, day 4 of my freelance existence. I began by taking younger son to school and then walking RTL in Bushey Park, where she spent about 25 minutes in the water trying to eat assorted wildfowl (fortunately, with little success). I was standing helplessly at the side, calling her name in vain and generally feeling rather embarassed that I'm such a rubbish dog owner. 'There's no such thing as bad dogs', all the guidebooks on dog behaviour say, 'just bad owners'.

Then I set about my work, dealing with emails, doing some tinkering with the website, making some phonecalls, typing up some notes. Lunch was a brief affair, and I returned to work, pausing to do the afternoon dog walk, and then finishing about 5.30. I took a few breaks to play some guitar and make some coffee. The day passed pretty quickly.

This evening I hopped off to younger son's parent's evening. He loves his current teacher, a dude into his technology who uses an iPhone. I was very impressed by him, too - it's so nice when your kids are being taught well. Teachers have a great deal of power to influence their pupils, and I still remember the good (and not so good) teachers I had when I was at school. [As an aside, I almost became a teacher: when I was finishing my first degree I was going out with a medic in Leicester, and I had an interview to study teacher training in Leicester so I could be close to her. But then I realized it wasn't for me, and that she wasn't for me. Life would have been very different if I'd taken that particular fork in the road.]

After this I drove into central London to pick up the last of my stuff from the office. On the way I listened to Radio 4. I must be a sad old git, because it was actually very entertaining. I caught a program on science, and then a repeat of Melvyn Bragg's 'In our time'. A bit nerdy and geeky, but the sort of thing you listen to, learn a bit, and feel better for it. I also listened to the Sat Nav. My friend Rob has a sexy female voice on his Sat Nav, but I have a rather stern sounding bloke. It's the default voice, I think. Or it's the one Fiona has chosen.

Tonight I'm trying an organic red from the Languedoc's Minervois region, which has just been listed by Waitrose at £7.99 in store. It's one of those wines that I like, but I don't love. Does that make sense?

Chateau Maris 'Syrah Organic' 2006 Minervois, Languedoc
An intensely coloured wine made with grapes grown organically 'according to biodynamic principles' (which presumably means it is not certified biodynamic), weighing in at a heady 14.5% alcohol. The nose is a little shy, with some spicy minerality, a bit of alcohol, and fresh dark fruits. The palate shows vivid, pure red and black fruit with some rather grippy, peppery, spicy tannic structure and a drying, earthy finish. I like the way the fruit has been captured here: it's a vivid, fresh sort of wine. But the hot, slightly bitter alcohol does make its presence felt, too, and the fruit isn't rich enough to cope with the grippy tannins. 87/100 (£7.99 Waitrose)

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Super southern French red

I feel bad. I've been neglecting the Languedoc a bit. I first really discovered it through Mike and Liz Berry's wonderful shop La Vigneronne, on Old Brompton Road in South Kensington (it's now Handford Wines). But for a few years I've not been following this dynamic region as closely as I should have been.

As I write, I'm drinking a really impressive Minervois. It encapsulates what is great about the best Languedoc reds: it's ripe without being jammy or soupy; it has freshness; there's non-fruit complexity; it's affordable.

Domaine Tour Trencavel Minervois 'Lo Cagarol' 2004 Languedoc, France
This is a tight, youthful, brooding effort that needs time to develop. After half-and-hour it's beginning to show its real personality: dark spicy, slightly earthy notes underpinning focused plum and blackberry fruit on the nose, leading to a savoury, mineralic palate with superb balance between the fruit and the slightly earthy structure. There's a real elegance here, and while it's a heady 14.5% alcohol, there's no impression of over-ripeness. The Carignan makes its presence felt here to good effect. 91/100 (£10.99 http://www.therealwineco.co.uk/; see also http://www.domaine-tour-trencavel.com/)


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A lovely Viognier

Very impressed by tonight's wine, a Viognier from the South of France. It wasn't so long ago that Viognier was a rarity. Now it seems everyone is growing it, especially in the Languedoc. Growing Viognier is one thing; doing it well is another matter - but Anna and Jorge Maslakiewicz seem to have got it just right. Their success has come by skill and hard work: they identified the style they wanted to make, took great care in the vineyard and cellar, and then benchmarked their wine against other Viogniers until they were sure they'd got it right. The results are impressive.

Domaine St Ferreol Viognier 2006 Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Lovely stuff. Beautifully aromatic nose with tangerine peel, apricot, honey and vanilla notes. The palate has a lovely texture and great balance, with bright fruit, a hint of sweetness and a rich texture. Rich but not too rich, this is the qualitative equal of a good Condrieu. 90/100 (Not available in the UK yet; 6 Euros ex-cellar price)
Added later: it is now available in the UK from The Flying Corkscrew, Le Caviste, Bertrand & Nicholas, Leon Stolarski Fine Wines - priced £9.95 or therabouts

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Three pre-Christmas wines I like

We're gearing up for Christmas in the Goode household. It's approached fast - indeed, this year has just zoomed by. And it feels a bit of an odd sort of Christmas, this year. Not in a bad way; just different. It could be that I'm facing a really important year in 2008, and this is playing on my mind. It could be that our family, which has seen its share of dysfunction (our boys are adopted, and had a very poor start to their lives, which has unfortunately set their emotional 'templates' a little askew), is actually beginning to work reasonably well. Whatever the reason, I'm looking forward more to the festive season this year than I have for some time.

On Friday afternoon we went to see a Christmas film at the wonderful IMAX cinema near Waterloo station. It was Polar Express in 3D, and if you have kids, I recommend it. The screen is fabulously large, and the sound system state of the art.

Then on Saturday it was time for a family winter picnic on Box Hill. We took RTL, of course, and half way round the walk set out our picnic rug, sat down, and had soup, bread, cheese and pate. The few passers by must have thought we were crazy, because it was mightly cold. But it was beautiful: there was a bit of mist in the air, along with some milky sunshine. Later in the afternoon I took elder son to the golf range, where there was a beautiful winter sunset. And I was really hitting the ball well.

Today we had friends round for what turned out to be a delightful Sunday lunch. We had some friends round last Sunday as well. It's good to be sociable, and friends are so much more rewarding than things, aren't they?

So, to some wines.

Cantina di Monteforte Soave Superiore Classico 2005 Italy
Made from 100% Garganega grapes by Kiwi Matt Thomson (he featured on this blog recently for a seminar he did on Brettanomyces). This is a really interesting wine, and it's relatively rare to be able to find an interesting wine for £7 these days. It's a richly flavoured white wine with a lovely minerally, herbal character, as well as richer melon/tropical fruits. There's depth, presence and richness here, but it's all in savoury balance. Fairly serious. 89/100 (£6.99 Waitrose)

Gemtree Vineyards Bloodstone Shiraz 2006 McLaren Vale, Australia
This screwcapped-sealed red is initially a bit dumb and simple on opening, but with several hours of air it begins to come to life. It's a rich Aussie Shiraz, but there's a bit more to it than just sweet fruit and oak. The nose shows attractive pepper spice, a hint of vanilla and bright, fresh raspberry and dark cherry fruit. The palate is fresh with nice tannic structure and vivid sweet red and black fruits. It's certainly a big wine that's sweetly fruited, but it doesn't descend into a sweet fruit mush - there's enough spicy, peppery freshness to act as a counter. The result is very appealing, but do give it time. 90/100 (£9.99 Oddbins)

Domaine Leon Barral Faugeres 'Jadis' 2002 Languedoc, France
Now for something a little different. This is a deliciously complex, funky Languedoc red that tastes a bit like a French version of Chateau Musar, the gloriously funky Lebanese red. If you approached this wine with a 'new world' mindset, you'd probably spit it out. But I think it's fantastic, because it really works, and it's tremendously food friendly. It has a warm, aromatic, spicy, meaty, earthy nose that's incredibly rich and inviting. The palate is rich and ripe, with meaty, earthy, savoury notes as well as sweet fruit. There's a slightly dry, subtly metallic finish, which is perhaps the only downside. I'd heartily recommend this wine, but be warned: it's on the funky side, and if you don't like your wines with a bit of funk, steer clear. 91/100 (£12.50 Les Caves de Pyrene)

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Pic St Loup I really like

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

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

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Reductive Viognier and a nice Syrah

Two wines tonight, both of interest.

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

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

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

France fights back - Mont Tauch

Despite what you hear in the press, there is hope for the French wine industry. The evidence? Wines like these from the Mont Tauch cooperative (with a great website - http://www.mont-tauch.com/). They are affordable, well made, modern, and have a sense of place about them. I can't imagine that many consumers, tasting these two wines alongside new world equivalents at the same price, would prefer the new world options - and especially if the wines were at table, with food. Mont Tauch rock.

That's not to say they are perfect wines. The Corbieres is perhaps just a touch too extracted (or am I being over-fussy at this price point?). The label design is very retro, and I'm not sure it communicates the right message. The back labels are dense with information, but I wonder whether a single message could be more effective and tell the story of the wines a bit more ('ideal with cheese, stews curries and grills' is a bit catch-all, and 'serve at room temperature' perhaps a little redundant).

Mont Tauch Corbieres 2006 Languedoc, France
Deep coloured. Lovely savoury, spicy, almost earthy undercurrents to the ripe, dense red fruits nose. The palate is richly fruited with lots of earthy tannins and great concentration. It's mouthfilling, dense and quite savoury with a drying finish. I like the density and stuffing, but with its prominent tannins this is a wine that would work best with food. The Carignan in the blend makes its presence felt here. The modern face of Corbieres, and a bargain. 83/100 (£4.99 Somerfield)

Mont Tauch Fitou 2005 Languedoc, France
Bright, fresh, peppery red fruits nose is aromatic and welcoming. The palate is vivid, bright, a little sappy and really nicely weighted. It's savoury and food friendly, finishing with dry, peppery structure. It's not as dense or rich as the Corbieres, but the extra freshness and spice makes this potentially a more successful wine. Very drinkable and another bargain. 84/100 (£4.99 Waitrose, Sainsbury, Somerfield)

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

An organic Langudeoc red and yet more cricket

It's been a bit of a cricket-focused sort of week. On Monday and Tuesday evenings I took the boys down to a local artificial wicket, where we set up our new sprung stumps (a great purchase) and trained for a hour or so each time.

Then on Wednesday evening, eldest son had an under 11 game, which I watched. He opened the batting and played like Chris Tavare, surviving for 8 overs and scoring just 1. Both he and I expected this to be hist last meaningful contribution to the game. But then, as our team bowled, he came on as second change and delivered four overs quite beautifully, taking one wicket for 9. Life is full of surprises.

Another surprise was that today, youngest son, who is in year 4, got a call-up to the year 5 (Under 10) team and played his first proper game of cricket at Hampton Wick. Playing with the older lads, he didn't get to bat, but was kindly given one over to bowl. He did OK, and I was very proud of him. This is all the more impressive because a year ago he showed no interest in sport at all.

Tonights tipple: an organic Languedoc red - Chateau du Parc from Marks & Spencer. It's a medium bodied wine with a distinctive peppery freshness. Actually, it's *really* peppery. It's honest and delicious, and good value at £4.99. The Rosemount from last night is still tasting nice after being open for a day.

Aside: I've been playing with Flickr. My very first efforts are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamiegoode/ - if it works well, I'll put all my pictures (gazillions of them) here.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A nice tasting...and a new discovery

Today’s Richards Walford tasting at the Baltic was a bit of a treasure trove: lots of interesting stuff. This year we had Riedel glasses – a great improvement on the restaurant glasses we had last year, an improvement for which we were all suitably grateful. [See my post here. Karen from R-W reminded me of this today, and pointed out that the glasses cost 0.50 each to rent.] ]In fact, if there’s one consistent change in professional tastings that I’ve noted over the last three or four years is the increasing use of the Riedel Chianti glass as the standard tasting glass over less suitable tasting glasses (including the rather small but otherwise nicely shaped ISO).

I didn’t taste as diligently as I could have done. I spent an afternoon, when there was plenty there to occupy me for the whole day. And I talked lots. It was nice to bump into Jorge Borges who was showing the Passadouro wines, and David Harvey, who is moving increasingly into the area of natural wines – a real interest of mine. It was also nice to chat to Alister Viner from Harrods, who I met in the Douro in July, and George Austin of Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards.

I met Olivier Jullien for the first time and tasted through a vertical of Mas Jullien from the Languedoc. These are impressive wines. But perhaps the ‘find’ of the tasting were the wonderful Châteauneuf du Papes of Isabel Ferrando at Domaine St Préfert. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such an exciting set of wines from the Southern Rhône: these showed wonderful elegance and purity, alongside remarkable complexity. She was previously a banker with Credit Agricole, and only purchased her 15 hectares of vineyard in 2003, which was her first vintage. She gained experience with a number of winemakers, her biggest influence being Henri Bonneau. ‘Prefer my wines to be elegant and feminine, like those of Bonneau’, she reveals. ‘He doesn’t interfere much, but he understands’.

Olivier Jullien (pictured) wins the prize for best jumper of the day. Congratulations Olivier!

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Organic white Minervois

An interesting white that I wanted to blog about. It was a sample sent some time back, and rather frustratingly I have no recollection of who it was sent by, although I'm pretty sure it wasn't a major UK retailer - perhaps direct from the domaine.

Le Moulin des Nonnes Cuvee Ines Blanc 2003 Minervois, Languedoc, France
A blend of 50% Roussanne, 40% Grenache Blanc and 10% Muscat a Petits Grains; organically grown grapes. A deep colour, this has a beguiling minerality to the ripe, melony fruit. It's from a hot year, but it combines ripeness with a lovely mineralic freshness, with the result that it's a fat wine walking the line of overripeness but just staying on the right side. You've got to be in the mood for this sort of white, which with its declared 14% alcohol packs a bit of a punch, but it does it very well - creditably, the oak is barely noticeable, which allows the fruit the spotlight. It's the beatifully perfumed nose that wins it for me. Very good/excellent 90/100

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