jamie goode's wine blog

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Is this the world's smartest dog?

No, it's RTL, and she's actually pretty dumb sometimes, as well as being fairly annoying. (Although the possibility remains that for a dog she's quite smart, and that's why she can be difficult, because like bright humans stuck in confined environments she gets bored.) But we love her. The title of the post is taken from the headline of a BBC news story promoting a Horizon program on the secret life of the dog.

As you can see from the picture, it has been snowing in earnest today in west London. Younger son still went to school, but our plans to go out for a long walk and do a bit of sledging (adults should have fun too) were thwarted by the fact that Fiona was very sick this morning with symptoms very similar to my recent bug. And I now have mild flu-like symptoms which are making me feel a bit grotty. So I took the dog for two shorter walks today, which she enjoyed immensely, and got lots of work done.

Maybe I should turn to a fortifying glass of Port. I have the Noval and Taylors 10 year old Tawnies open. They're both really good, with the Noval having the slight edge. Strangely, the Noval LBV 2003, also open, isn't as good as this wine usually is.

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

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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Monday, December 21, 2009

Superb organic Port from Fonseca

I always turn to Port in the winter. I should be drinking it all year round, but it tends to get forgotten a bit in the summer months. Here's a favourite of mine, that delivers a lot of pleasure for a relatively affordable price. It's Fonseca's organic Port, Terra Prima. There are very few organic Ports at all, because the spirit that is added to stop fermentation (about one-fifth of the blend) has to be organic too. And the Taylor Fladgate group were able to source and get approved organic spirit only in 2002, when this wine was first produced. It comes mostly (or all?) from selected blocks on Quinta do Panascal (where the fermenting grapes are pictured, above).

Fonseca Porto Terra Prima NV
This is wonderfully focused and almost vinous, with dense, spicy dark cherry and plum fruit showing lovely purity and good structure. The sweetness is offset by lovely dry, spicy tannins (almost Italianesque) and deliciously vivid, focused dark fruits. Better than most Late Bottled Vintage wines. Quite serious. 90/100 (£14.99 Waitrose)

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Delaforce Quinta da Corte 1991 - just brilliant

Looking for a Port to drink now? Well, here's a fantastic Single Quinta Port that's from a superb vintage, and which is over-delivering by some margin.

Delaforce Quinta da Corte 1991 Douro, Portugal
This is a superbly complex Port that is drinking well now. Complex, warm, intense spicy nose is herby and aromatic. The palate is really smooth and elegant with lovely rich spicy complexity. Wonderful poise and elegance here. Top quality Port to drink now. 93/100 (£17.99 Majestic, but £15.99 if you buy two bottles from 30/10/09 until 01/02/10)

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Missing the Douro - more pictures

I wish I was back in the Douro. It's such a magical place. Here are some more pictures from last week's trip. They're from Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas in the Douro Superior.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

2007 Vintage Port: a great vintage

Just written up the 2007 vintage Ports on the main part of the site here. If I wasn't paying for one of my children's education, I'd go big on this vintage, which I think is fantastic. I also think the 2003 vintage is equally excellent, after having retried a number of the wines.

My choices? I'd order a case of Noval, a case of Niepoort (backward but serious), a case of Taylors, a case of Graham, a case of Warre, and then some Romaniera and Silval to keep me going in the meantime. Vintage Port rocks.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Video: the Yeatman, a new luxury hotel in Porto

Here's a short film from last week's visit to the new Fladgate Partnership (Taylor, Fonseca, Croft) hotel project, the Yeatman. It's an ambitious and exciting venture, and it's due to be completed early summer 2010.

You can read my full write-up here.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Some more from the Douro

Mostly pictures of last week's trip, which will be written up in full.

The Douro's most famous grape variety: Touriga Nacional, here at Quinta de Romaneira.

Yesterday morning. Under the famous cedar tree on the terrace at Quinta do Noval, an awesome tasting of Noval VP and Nacional back to 1963 is laid out.

Margaret Rand and Chris Losh, my fellow tasters, with Christian Seely in the background.

These babies don't come out to play very often. It was a truly incredible tasting. Christian also included the vintages from Noval's dark era, when quality wasn't what it was supposed to be.

Christian contemplates the single, small lagar of 2009 Nacional, which was picked and filled earlier in the day.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

More from the Douro

Had a fantastic time at Noval; now on my way back home, logging on in Porto airport. Just time to post a few photographs. This morning we had a vertical of Noval VP/Nacional going back to 1963, which was rather fun.

Top to bottom: Picking Tinta Roriz at Noval; Quinta de Romaneira; Quinta do Noval; picking Nacional; filling a lagar; and a Noval terrace.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

In the Douro

For the last few days I have been in the Douro, first of all staying at Taylor´s Quinta de Vargellas, and now at Noval. Harvest is coming to a close here; it has been an early vintage, with a very hot dry July and August. Winemakers are describing it as complicated. The weather for this week has been very hot and sunny.

Last night a group of us got in a lagar. It was tremendous fun treading grapes. I have so much to report on, but time is short, so it will all have to wait.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In Porto

A quick post from the road. I'm in Porto, staying at the Pestana hotel (below) on the waterfront, looking over to the town of Vila Nova de Gaia where all the Port lodges are located. The Pestana is a lovely hotel. The last time I stayed here in 2002 it was called the Carlton.

Last night we dined at the Factory House with Adrian and Natasha Bridge. It's a huge building that used to be the hub of the English Port Trade, liberated from the French in 1811. It is still owned and used by the English Port shippers, but there are now just three companies left because of mergers and consolidation: the Symingtons, the Taylor-Fladgate group, and newcomer Churchill.

Still decorated as it would have been 100 years ago, the Factory House is a piece of living history.

Every Wednesday the shippers would gather for lunch, drinking Port together, and playing guess the vintage. Wednesday was chosen because this was the day when no post arrived, so there wasn't much work to be done.

The Port last night? Fonseca 1970 from magnum. It was superb.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Duorum Vintage Port 2007

Above: José Luís Moreira da Silva, João Perry Vidal and José Maria Soares Franco of Duorum.

Duorum is latin for ‘from two’. It’s a joint project between João Portugal Ramos and Jose Maria Soares Franco. As well as two famous enologists, the ‘from two’ also refers to the fact that the wine is a blend from two rather different parts of the Douro. On the one hand, Duorum is renting two old vineyards and buying from a further 15–18 growers in the Cima Corgo; on the other, the Douro Superior, further up river towards the Spanish border. Currently, the Douro Superior vineyards are rented, but Duorum have also purchased 150 hectares – from some 60 different owners – which is being converted into a spectacular Quinta, called Castelo Melhor.
The first release of the Vintage Port, 2007, is what I'm drinking now. It's tannic and dense, but it has lovely violet and dark cherry fruit, with real intensity and some finesse. There's a spicy element to the structure. I love the combination of fruit purity and dense structure. 93-95/100 (this is a cask sample)

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Friday, May 29, 2009

A Vintage Port from 2007

It's kind of young, but I'm sampling a 2007 Vintage Port. It's from Duorum, the new joint venture between Joao Portugal Ramos (famous winemaker from the Alentejo) and Jose Maria Soares Franco (who for 27 years was the man behind iconic Portuguese wine Barca Velha).

It's incredibly drinkable - like many of the 2007 Ports, it has amazingly vivid fruit. This is a year of intense, vivid fruit expression, and Duorum is no exception here. It shows admirable concentration, with lovely rich, pure blackberry and dark cherry fruit. There's nice freshness, with some violetty complexity and also a bit of white pepper. The palate is firmly tannic, but these tannins are made palatable by the rich, pure, sweet fruit character. I reckon this is one of those Ports that will drink well young (if you're a bit nutty, like me, and don't mind tannin(, enter a short, sulky adolescence, and then age gracefully. I really like the style.

Pictured: Jose Maria Soares Franco and I on the bridge that leads to the Castelo Melhor station (now disused) in the Douro Superior, near the Spanish border. This is at the foot of the Duorum property Quinta de Castelo Melhor.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Another remarkable day

It has been another busy day. I am lucky to have one of the best jobs in the world.

I began with coffee with Andre Van Rensburg of South African super-estate Vergelegen (pictured above). Andre is a wine journalist's dream. He's talkative, controversial, direct - and smart and well informed with it. Our discussion was wide ranging, taking in subjects as diverse as leaf roll virus/mealybug, the over-emphasis of methoxypyrazines in Sauvignon Blanc and the concept of icon wines.

Then it was off to the Sainsbury's press tasting. Two stand-out wines that you must buy are the 2007 Taste The Difference Cotes du Rhone, which is £5.99 but tastes better than wines twice the price, and the 'Limited Release' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2008 which was sourced from Phil Sexton's Innocent Bystander operation, has a splash of Viognier and 15% Victorian Shiraz in it, and has beautiful concentration and texture. It will be on the shelf at £8.99 (good value at this price) but then discounted to £5.99 (which makes it absurdly cheap).

Next up, the 2007 Vintage Port preview at Somerset House (pictured). I hadn't read my invitation properly, so I was delighted when I got there to find out that the Ports from 2000 and 2003 were also being shown. Included were the Symington/Fladgate Partnership/Noval Ports. I set about the older vintages like a kid in a sweet shop ('candy store' for Americans). I love the 2000 vintage, and love the 2003 vintage perhaps a little more. The good news is that the 2007 vintage is fantastic: perhaps more on the fruit-driven style, but the aromatics and intensity on some of these wines was stunning. Dow, Graham, Noval, Silval and Romaneira were my picks from 2007. For 2003, Fonseca, Graham, Noval, Taylor, Vesuvio and Warre were all stunning. For 2000, Fonseca, Noval, Taylor, Vesuvio and (surprise) Smith Woodhouse were my top picks.

Then it was off to Bibendum, for a tasting of 31 Pinot Noirs from Oregon, 2007 vintage. It was a blind tasting for Tim Marson's MW dissertation, looking at whether the various Willamette AVAs are recognizable blind across a range of producers. This was a vintage spoiled a bit by harvest rain - and, interestingly, some of the wines were showing some rot/geosmin characters to the extent that I'd dismiss them as faulty.
Tonight I've played football, and tomorrow it's day 2 of the test match at Lords.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Churchill's Ports and table wines, including the 2007s

Had an interesting tutored tasting today with Johnny Graham of Churchill Graham, who was showing a range of vintages of both his vintage Port, and also Quinta da Gricha single quinta Port. It was part of the Stokes Fine Wine portfolio tasting, so the Churchill table wines, including the 2007 cask samples were also on show.

The Gricha wines are fantastic: it's a north-facing vineyard with lovely freshness and definition to the fruit. The Churchill Vintage Port is also superb, but my preference is probably for the Gricha, which probably means I have a bad palate! But I love the freshness, acidity and fruit purity that wines from this Quinta show.

2007 samples of both Ports and table wines were fantastic (the glass above contains the 2007 Churchill VP). This looks like being a superb year - I've already heard lots of good things about it, but these were the first wines I have tasted from this vintage, which could be the Douro's best for a very long time. For 2007, Churchill have introduced some new table wines - a Reserva, a Gran Reserva and a varietal Touriga Nacional. They're all really good.
Look out for the regular Churchill table wine in Majestic at £8.99 - it's one of the best value Douro wines out, showing Douro personality at a reasonable price. The 2006 is really good; the 2007 will be a little better.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Some blind Sauvignons, a 30 year old Tawny and a 35 year old Claret

A family lunch at my sister's place in Gerrards Cross. Brother-in-law Beavington is a bit of a wine nut so we usually do some blind tasting, and befitting our give and take relationship (I do the taking part), he provides the wines. The tasting was a little scaled down this time in view of the credit crunch (although he is one of the few bankers who still have jobs) and also the fact that several of the party were ill. And I was driving.

Anyway, we started with three Sauvignons, and then did a really nice Tawny port and an old Claret from a slightly dodgy year. Great stuff.

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is tight, crisp and minerally with some limey fruit and grassy notes, as well as a bit of residual sugar adding roundness. Real purity and focus here - it's almost like a Riesling. 90/100

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fresh, herby, grassy nose. The palate is lean with high acidity. This is an acidic Sauvignon with some minerality. An averagely good Marlborough Sauvignon, which is surprising considering its fame. 87/100

Dog Point Vineyard Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
Remarkable stuff, vinified with a bit of oak, although it's not an oaky wine. Stongly herbal, aromatic nose with bright grassy fruit and some grapefruit and citrus pith notes. Pungent, intense palate with a tangerine peel edge to the grassy fruit. I had this down as a high-end Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc - quite unlike anything else I've had from New Zealand. 92/100

Chateau Lynch Bages 1973 Pauillac, Bordeaux
This is a fully mature, savoury Bordeaux with some soy notes joining the earth, spice and red fruit character. Tastes like old wine, but there's still some interest and life here. Savoury and bone dry with high acidity. Drinking quite well, but don't hold on to this any longer, because it's fading fast. 83/100

Sandeman 30 Year Old Tawny Port
Beautifully complex and intense with amazingly complex nutty, citrussy, woody notes combining together brilliantly. Superb with amazing acidity and complexity. Beautiful. 94/100

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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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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A brilliant, affordable Vintage Port

I wonder whether this division between Vintage Port and single-quinta Vintage Port is becoming outmoded. Could it be the idea of 'declared' and 'non-declared' years is going to gradually diminish in importance? That's the way it seems to be going. Anyway, this is a wine from a time when the declarations by the major Port houses were the big focus in the Douro.

It is a cracking Vintage Port from a non-declared year, and so the grapes here, which in other years might have gone into Fonseca's legendary Vintage Port, were used for this 'second' wine. Having said this, 1988 wasn't a terribly good year, but it has yielded a Vintage Port that, at 20 years old, is drinking perfectly. I'm probably going to be criticized by giving a wine from a dodgy vintage such a high rating, but it's just beautiful - it's not perfect, but it works so well.

Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 1988
I really like this. It's showing some evolution, which has added complexity, but there's still a real fruity presence here. Deep coloured, it's aromatic with lovely complex dark fruits with herbs, leather and spice, as well as a hint of sweet tarriness. The palate is open and lively - vinous, almost - with pure plum and dark cherry fruit backed up by warming spiciness and notes of earth, tea and tar. It's drinking beautifully now, with lovely complexity and a dark elegance, but do decant this because it has a ton of sediment in it. 20.5% alcohol. 93/100 (£19.99 Sainsbury, Waitrose, Fortnum & Mason, Booths, Costco, Makro)

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Two impressive unfiltered LBV Ports

Late-bottled vintage (LBV) is a category of Port that has been devalued a bit in recent years. The idea is that these are Vintage Port in style, but more approachable, with slightly longer in cask - ready to drink when released. [See my introduction to Port for more on this.] Yet promotional activity has meant that LBVs have become cheaper and cheaper in recent years, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

A few companies have broken clear of the pack and are making serious LBVs that sell for around £11 a bottle. These are frequently designated 'unfiltered' or 'traditional' to set them apart from the rest, and these are wines that can develop further with bottle age. The best are usually those from Noval, Crasto and Niepoort. These wines taste like mini-Vintage Ports and are great value for money. They're sealed with the same driven natural corks that are used for Vintage Ports, rather than the T-tops that are often found on cheaper Ports.

Two I'm trying now are both really good. They're both from the 2003 Vintage, which was excellent for Port (although, sometimes, you get brilliant LBVs from slightly less good, non-declared years because if a Vintage Port isn't being made the grapes from the best vineyards end up in the LBV).

The first is the Barao de Vila LBV 2003 (Laithwaites £11.39), which is concentrated, dense, spicy, rich and really tannic. It's a mouthfilling, grippy wine which is as good as many Vintage Ports, so at this price it's a bargain. I'm often a bit disappointed by Laithwaites, but they've done well in sourcing this. The second is Quinta do Noval's Unfiltered LBV 2003 (£11.49 Oddbins, but the website only has the 2001; Tesco also stocked the 2001), which, when I opened it, was a bit shy and flat. After a while, though, it's qualities start to emerge. This is an aromatic, floral, linear style, with focused dark fruits and some firm tannic structure. It is, however, a little closed at the moment, with brooding intensity waiting to emerge. In two years I reckon this will have put on some weight, and will be singing. For now, though, the more rough and ready (and more concentrated) Barao de Vila will deliver the most vivid experience.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tawny Port and Vinho Verde

Fiona has been away for the weekend, picking older son up from his Devon boarding school and taking him down to her sister's family in Braunton to stay the weekend. So I've been with younger son, giving him my undivided attention (apart from when I have to walk our increasingly plump labradoodle - I reckon there are about a dozen poopies in her tummy).

In fact, we had some people round to have a look at Rosie, and they've placed a firm order for the first of RTL's litter.

Two wines tonight. A really elegant tawny, plus an impressive high-end Vinho Verde.

Reguengos de Megaco Alvarinho 2006 Vinho Verde, Portugal
Fresh, bright, minerally, lemony nose with some fruity depth as well as the freshness. The palate has a citrussy edge to some beautifully weighted just-ripe peach notes, with a lovely fresh balanced character. Quite serious stuff, this. 90/100 (UK retail c. £12, agent Hallgarten)

Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Pale in colour: cherry red with orange tints. It's smooth, sweet and mellow with subtle spicy notes on the nose. The palate is elegant and super-smooth with nice soft texture and some mellow warmth. Some floral notes and hints of cherry add aromatic interest; overall, this shows great purity and elegance. 91/100 (£16 Waitrose, Tanners)

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Vintage Port and dry Tokaji

RTL is definitely pregnant. Big nipples, starting to swell in her abdomen, and less hyperactive. Fancy a puppy? Labradoodles are great. Really!

Two interesting wines today. First, a dry Furmint from superstar Tokaji winery Disnoko. Then a really serious, affordable Vintage Port. Portugal is responsible not only for some serious table wines, but also three remarkable fortified wine styles: Moscatel de Setubal, Madeira and Vintage Port.

Disznoko Dry Furmint 2006 Tokaji, Hungary
Distintive, fresh, flinty, minerally nose with complex fresh herb and lemon notes. The palate is really minerally with distinctive herb-tinged fruit. It's a bit Chablis-like in style with pronounced minerality and a hint of smokiness. Lovely. 90/100 (£9.19 Waitrose)

Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port 2001 Portugal
Bottled in 2003, this is Taylor's top Port from a year that didn't quite make it to an official 'Vintage'. Coming after 2000, 2001 was actually a pretty good vintage in the Douro, and so this wine is relatively underpriced (had 2000 been a poor year, I bet they'd have declared 2001). It's a serious Vintage Port style, so could do with decanting, and will improve for some years to come - although it is delicious now. Deep coloured, it has a lovely floral, aromatic blueberry and blackberry nose with some tarry, spicy notes. The palate is concentrated with beautifully pure sweet fruit and a lovely spicy, savoury, tannic structure. I'd either drink this now, or leave it for a decade: I often find top Vintage Ports perform well young, enter a sullen middle age, and then reemerge into a mellow, complex maturity. 93/100 (c £23 Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, Selfridges, Majestic, Oddbins)

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fantastic wine dinner, with some incredible wines

Had a remarkable wine dinner last night over at the apartment of one of Luis Antunes’ wine friends, Luis Ferreira. A small group (6) of us ate, chatted and drank some incredible bottles. By the time we left it was 4 am. As a measure of how crazy the evening was, at 3 am Luis Ferreira brought out a blind white wine – it was the 2001 Yquem. Incredibly generous of him, but it felt a bit surreal drinking a legendary wine like this at that time in the morning. A mind-numbingly good line up of wines, really. The good thing is that these wines weren’t just tasted and spat: they were drunk and enjoyed.

Here are my notes.

Château Beaucastel Blanc 2003 Châteauneauf-du-Pape
Yellow/gold colur this is a rich white wine that’s made in a slightly oxidative style. It has nutty, rich, broad fruit with nice complexity – toasty and waxy. Unusual stuff with a broad texture and lots of flavour. 90/100

Conceito Bastardo 2007 Vinho Regional Durienses
Apparently 100 years ago Bastardo and Alvarilhão were the most widely planted grapes in the Douro. They don’t have a lot of colour, and this is why Sousão, a teinturier (red fleshed) variety, was introduced from Vinho Verde. This is a remarkable wine. It’s a varietal Bastardo made in lagar, with stems, and no sulfur dioxide addition. Very pale in colour, it looks like a rosé. It has a beautiful, fresh, aromatic nose with a nice herby green edge to the bright cherry fruit. The palate is remarkable: even though this is a pale wine, it is intense, with a rounded texture and lovely spiciness. Fresh, super-elegant and persistent, this is a beautiful wine. It’s labelled Vinho Regional because the IVDP refused the Douro appellation numerous times because this is ‘atypical’. 93/100

Niepoort Charme 2002 Douro
Not much of this made in 2002. Quite deep coloured, the nose shows sweet aromatic, spicy-edged red berry and cherry fruit. Smooth and aromatic. The palate is dense an firm with some nice tannic structure and a core of tight spiciness. There’s some elegance here, but also some structure, with a subtle, integrated greenness. Stylish and intense with lovely purity, and beginning to evolve nicely – if I had some I’d keep it for a while before opening. 93/100

Prunotto Bussia Barolo 1996 Piedmont, Italy
A new-wave modern Barolo that’s ageing pretty well. Tight yet aromatic nose is spicy, minerally and tarry. The palate is fresh and intense with lovely bright tarry red fruits. Great acidity, and still quite fruity with nice minerality. 92/100

The next wine was served blind.

Château La Tour 1999 Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Tight, earthy, spicy nose with nice savoury black fruits. Brooding and intense. The palate is firm and tannic with some evolution, but real future potential. Serious stuff with some elegance. 94/100

Conceito Vintage Port 2005
Sweet, rich, intense and spicy with good structure. Pure and quite serious with lovely intensity of fruit. 93/100

Fonseca Guimarens Vintage Port 2001
Really nice aromatics. Fresh, slightly spicy and quite sweet with red and lack fruits to the fore. The palate is expressive, dense and sweet with lovely structure and brilliant spicy tannins. A very expressive, alive Port with real complexity. 94/100

Fonseca Vintag Port 2003
This is incredible. Intense, sweet, firm spicy nose. The palate shows some concentration with lovely intensity and firm tannins. A massively intense, structured Vintage Port that’s utterly serious. 96/100

JM da Fonseca Moscatel de Setubal 1976
Beautifully aromatic: fresh and spicy with dried fruits, citrus, waxy notes. The palate is super-concentrated with intense spicy, fresh, herby super-complex fruit and spice characters. Thrillingly intense with lovely complexity. Simply amazing. 96/100

JM da Fonseca Moscatel de Setubal 1960
Amazing stuff, with a really volatile, intense nose showing wildly aromatic varnish and old furniture notes. The palate is amazingly complex: powerful, intense, tarry, wild, raisiny and viscous with alarming flavours and an everlasting finish. I’d score this higher, but it isn’t really balanced. A remarkable wine experience. 94/100

You’d have thought we’d had enough by now. But no, as we stood round outside getting some refreshing night air, Luis brought out a large glass into which he’d dumped a whole bottle of a sweet white wine (it was a half!). I don’t really think my tasting note on this is much use. Truly delicious and quite special it was the Château d’Yquem 2001 Sauternes.

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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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Monday, July 14, 2008

Krispy Kreme and the Douro

Went to the fifth day of the Lord's test today.

After having been on Thursday for the first day, I was looking at the rate of subsequent play with great attentiveness. That's because test matches have five days scheduled for play, but because the scoring rate is higher than it used to be, most tests are now finished within four days, and it's rare to have much play on the fifth. As a result, no tickets are sold in advance for the final day's play (it's pay on the gate, £20 for adults, £10 for kids), and box holders for Sunday get to keep their boxes for Monday as a bonus. Which is why I was attending today, as guest of Douro producer Quinta de la Rosa - not the normal sort of corporate hospitality gig. Also present in the box from the wine trade were Tim French of Fortnum & Mason, Hamish Anderson of the Tate group and Charles Metcalfe.

Anyway, the game was nicely poised at the start of play, with South Africa trailing by 100 runs but with nine wickets in hand. It was going to be very exciting (if England got some early wickets), or very boring (if South Africa managed to bat through a few sessions unscathed). In the end, it was the latter. I love test cricket, but I'll admit that when games fizzle into a damp squib of a draw like this, it's enough to make you rush out and buy tickets to see some 20:20 fireworks.

England's bowlers struggled to trouble South Africa on a pitch that made batting look quite easy. Still, we had a very enjoyable day. Some Quinta de la Rosa wines were sampled. The 2006 Quinta de la Rosa is deliciously fresh and aromatic with vibrant dark cherry fruit and more than a hint of seriousness. 2005 Passagem, from their new property in the Douro Superior, is a serious effort with lush, sweet, pure fruit backed up by some spicy structure. I really liked this ripe but focused and balanced wine. The 2004 Reserva is evolving nicely with lovely purity of fruit. And I found out that the 1997 Colheita goes pretty well with Krispy Kreme donuts. Especially the one with a bit of jam in the middle.

Krispy Kreme donuts look evil and I should hate them, but I find them thoroughly addictive. I was first introduced to them by my older son, who was already hooked at the time: I bought him one at the KK outlet in Bentalls in Kingston, and then found out that the coffee I'd ordered came with two free KK donuts. They looked appalling but tasted delicious, in much the same way that Pringles do. And now I have found they work with Colheita, which is a bit of a bonus.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

A rainy Guimaraes and some old wine with Dirk

Yesterday was appallingly wet. It rained and rained, and then rained some more. There were sheets of rain, and then there was drizzle, and then the clouds were so low they were at street level, and then the sheets of rain started again. So we hopped in the car and drove through Porto, past the impressive, compact FC Porto stadium and out the other side, heading for Guimaraes, the ancient capital of Portugal (above).

Portuguese drivers have a bad reputation, and there were a few hairy moments with crazy drivers on the motorway, but we got there safely. It was even wetter in Guimaraes, but that didn't spoil the beauty of this old town. We walked up to the beautifully preserved castle, where you can walk round the ramparts, as long as you have a head for heights (no guard rail here, as you can see in the picture below). Then we lunched well and cheaply on some typically Portuguese fare. I ordered a 25 cl jug of house red, and it was utterly fantastic - and just E1.25. It was a red Vinho Verde: amazingly bright red/purple in colour, with a bit of spritz and lovely vibrant, forward fruit. The acidity was really high, but in combination with the fruit this made it a brilliantly refreshing drop.
Then we were off to Dirk Niepoort's for dinner. It was brave of him to invite all four of us over. We were joined by Niepoort general manager José Teles and winemaker Luis Seabra. Time for a cellar raid. Dirk told me and Luis to pick something interesting, but he retained the right to veto. His cellar has a lot of Riesling, white Burgundy, red Burgundy (including a couple of rows of DRC), a bit of Rhone, quite a bit of Bordeaux and lots of old Portuguese bottles, as well as plenty of Port and Madeira.

So what did we drink?

Billaud Simon Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2002
Fine, bready and minerally, this is fresh and bright yet rich and deep at the same time. Quite serious. 92/100

Bernard Van Berg Le Vin Le Plus Simplement 2005 Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire
This red Burgundy shows what you can do with a lowly terroir and yields of just 18 hl/ha. It's quite reductive (burnt match) along with vibrant red berry fruit. It's fresh and quite elegant with freshness and nice depth of fruit and a bit of meatiness. Very stylish for this appellation, and with a few years in bottle should shed its reductive youth and turn out very nice. 90/100

Caves S. Joao Reserva Particular 1959 Portugal
This old bottle is a blend of fruit from Bairrada and Dao. A deep colour with some brown hints, this has a wonderfully aromatic nose that is dark and meaty with a lovely spiciness. There's old wine complexity here, but it is still really alive, with bloody, iron-like notes in the background. There's also a bit of herby undergrowth character. Brilliant old wine. 94/100

Chapoutier Hermitage 1978
Very fresh and complex with minty, herby notes emerging, as well as some dark fruit character. This an appealing wine with brightness and elegance to the fore. It's not a big, heavy wine, but instead shows a precise, well focused personality, and you get the feeling that this has still got a bit more to give. 93/100

Niepoort Pinot Noir 2006 Douro
Still in cask, soon to be bottled. This is from the highest, coolest Niepoort vineyards, and this year Luis Seabra said he cut his holidays short to pick on the 24th August, to keep the wine fresh. It certainly is fresh, with bright, ripe red fruit character and a bit of mintiness. There's some elegance and nice texture, with hints of vanilla oak on the finish. This is actually pretty stylish. 89-93/100

Robustus 2004 Douro
Robustus was the name of Dirk's first table wine, made in 1990 (for more, see here). This new Robustus is a wine made repeating many of the 'mistakes' Dirk made back in 1990, and it's fabulous. It's half Redoma, half Batuta fruit, bottled after four years in wood. Deep coloured, it has a fresh, pure dark fruits nose that leads to a focused palate with elegant fruit and some oak imprint. There's brilliant freshness here with good tannins. It's quite firm with lovely freshness and density. Serious stuff. 'Not a modern, fruit-driven, square wine', says Dirk. Just four 1200 litre barrels made. 94/100

Niepoort 1963 Vintage Port
We tasted this blind. The others were in the 1970s; I was in the 1960s but got no closer. It's mature, super-elegant, spicy and a bit floral. There's nice freshness here as well as a seamless texture. Almost perfect balance: this isn't a big, heavy wine at all. 95/100

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Fortnum and Mason

This afternoon I met with Tim French, wine buyer for upmarket London department store Fortnum and Mason. Tim, who comes across as young, articulate and smart, has been redeveloping Fortnum's house wines. Rather than them occupy the bottom rung in the Fortnum's offering, they are sourced from prestigious producers and then slotted into the upper-middle segment of the range, with the producer's identity made clear on the label.

'I've tried to put myself in the consumers' place', says French. 'When you come to Fortnum and Mason, you want quality and authenticity. Customers are largely buying our reputation and expertise'. When he chooses wines for own-label, French says he is 'looking for the most authentic example of an appellation or terroir'. He adds that, 'we are working with producers that stand out among their peers'.

The reason I was meeting with him is because I'm going to be writing an article on his new Port range, which comes from Dirk Niepoort. 'Port is such an important category for us', says French. 'Of all my own label challenges, one of the most important was to get the Port right'. When deciding on a supplier, he began with the LBV. He had some 40 wines open and tasted through them. Of them all, the Niepoort wine stood out. He's gone on to develop a range of five Ports and one Douro table wine from Niepoort, which we tasted together.

In brief:

1) Dry white Port: quite complex, fresh and moreish, and a bargain at £10.50

2) Douro 2005 table wine: this is the Vertente, and it's really good. French says, 'It's a style of wine that in many ways a Claret drinker would be familiar with, but it has modernity, too. For the traditional drinker it's a new experience in comfortable surroundings'. I agree. £14.50

3) LBV 2001: a mini-Vintage Port. Delicious. £13.50

4) Vintage Port 1997: this is stock left from Passadouro. Concentrated, smooth and intense, with a silky, layered palate. Serious. A bargain. £27.50

5) 10 Year Old Tawny: A brilliant balance between youth and development. Lovely delicacy and aromatics. 'I love the play of savoury and sweetness', says French. Finish is eternal. £22.50

6) Colheita 1991. Profound. Complex, spellbinding, with a lovely elegant soft texture, with subtelty and finesse. 'This whispers to you', says French. 'It's just so interesting'. £35

Footnote: Fortnum's wine bar allows customers to drink anything from the shop with a £10 corkage. From October, they will be open until 11 pm. Anyone fancy some serious drinking, with food?

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bordeaux and Port

Two very nice (but affordable) wines to report on tonight. The first is a well proportioned, balanced Claret; the second, an overperforming LBV Port.

Chateau Senejac 2004 Cru Bourgeois, Haut Medoc, Bordeaux
Lovely nose shows some blackcurrant fruit but it's quite restrained, and not too fruity, with a balanced, complex earthy, gravelly, cigar box sort of character. Very smooth and elegant. The palate is earthy and spicy with good density of fruit. Midweight with some nice tannin and really good balance. A well proportioned sort of wine where nothing sticks out too much, and at this price a real bargain for Bordeaux. This sort of wine is what Bordeaux is all about. Very good+ 89/100 (£9.25 Waitrose)

Niepoort LBV 2001 Douro, Portugal
This is a late-bottled vintage Port that would put some vintage wines to shame. On the nose there's some spicy, herby complexity, with some lifted tar notes and a bit of perfume. The palate has a pronounced spicy tannic structure underpinning the sweet fruit. Finishes drier and more savoury than you'd expect. Plenty of personality here, and a persistent structure. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£13 Butlers Wine Cellar, Cambridge Wine Company, Fareham Wine Cellar, Fortnum & Mason, Bentleys Wine and others)

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Ashes and Port

Just watched the last of the Ashes highlights. These have been staple viewing over the last couple of months - I think I've only missed two of them. And how depressing for England cricket fans like me to see such abject capitulation.

Still, let's put it in perspective. We have an averagely good England side up against an awesomely good, ruthlessly professional Australia side - who would hammer any other test side at the moment, the way they are playing. Credit is due to the likes of Warnie, Ponting and McGrath for being so good. And England didn't help themselves with their amateurish preparation for this series.

To console myself, I cracked open another 2003 Vintage Port. This time it was Cockburn's Quinta da Canais 2003. It's very enjoyable even at this early stage, with dense, spicy dark fruits. There's good structure here, but also a little bit of a green streak, which will no doubt mellow with age, but I reckon will cause this wine to be a solid mid-term drinker rather than a truly serious Vintage Port for the long haul. Score-wise, I reckon perhaps 90/100, which recognizes the admirable density and oomph, but also acknowledges the lack of real class and finesse that would take this wine into the premiership.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back to the wine...

Feeling great today. After a remission of my vicious gastric disorder on Boxing day (thus no wine, hardly any food), I awoke feeling physically sound for the first time in ages. I actually felt like drinking wine!

It was a good job, because we were off for a family get-together at the Beavingtons (my wine-bibbing brother-in-law's pad), where food and wine were on the menu. It was the first time all four of the Goode children (myself, my twin sister Anne, younger sister Hester and younger brother Arthur) had gathered in the same location for ages and ages. We all brought our kids (12 in all) and a merry time was had. The wines included:

Smith Woodhouse Vintage Port 1966
This old Port wasn’t decanted, and so needs a little air to open up. It has a mellow, soft spicy nose that’s initially a little spirity, but becomes a quite fruity and fudgy. The palate is soft and complex with mellow red fruits, yet still has a bit of spicy bite. Rich, intense and drinking very well now. I reckon there’s no hurry to drink this up, although it’s probably not going to get any better. Very good/excellent 91/100

Château Suduiraut 2001 Sauternes
This is fantastic. Wonderfully intense, full nose with apricot, lemon, spice and vanilla notes. The palate is broad and super-concentrated, showing complex, viscous apricotty, marmaladey fruit bolstered by good acidity and with some honey notes. Even at such an early stage it’s already a first-rate example of Sauternes and is potentially immortal. Excellent 95/100

Francois Mikulski Meursault 2002 Burgundy
Good yellow colour. Rich nose showing some evolution, with nutty, toasty fruit. The palate is quite rich with toasty, spicy notes and some lemony freshness to the fruit. A delicious, modern-styled white Burgundy that’s drinking well now, but which I wouldn’t age too much longer. Very good/excellent 90/100

JP & JL Jamet Côte-Rôtie 1999 Northern Rhône
Another crack at this wine, which I’ve now had several times. At an en primeur tasting many years ago I described this 1999 as possibly the best young wine I’d ever tasted. It’s now approaching a rather savoury phase, now that the puppy fat is shed, and it shows itself as a classically styled Côte-Rôtie. Perfumed nose has spicy, animally, meaty characters alongside the fruit. The palate is savoury and intense with lots of fruit but also a distinctive meaty spiciness. I’ll not be opening my remaining few bottles for a while. Very good/excellent 93/100

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

winter warmer

Today had a real winter chill to it, which in the days of global warming is sort of reassuring for the UK in late December: it's supposed to be cold in mid-winter! Indeed, I'd just love some sub-zero temperatures, together with a dusting (or more) of snow, for the Christmas holidays.

I went for my usual lunchtime walk today, through Regent's Park. The morning mist had cleared, but the air was still heavy with moisture. It gave the sunlight a rather milky feel, and gave the cold air a penetrating quality that cut straight through my clothing, chilling my skin in an icy blast. In the rose garden the work of winter pruning was well under way, even though some blooms were still evident. Pruning is a strongly metaphorical process, reminding me that this is a convenient time of year to address areas in my own life that could do with cutting back, in order to encourage healthy future growth.

Watching the crowds in London, it seems that there's an unusual tiredness/weariness to people. It's something you expect with the season; this year it seems to be exceptional. I guess for many this year has been a difficult one. Next year will have its own peculiar challenges, which are likely to match or exceed what this year has brought. That's the impression I'm getting. Of course, this might be total nonsense. But I'm going to use the next week and a bit to do nothing much. Downtime. However, I'll still be updating the site and blog - for me, this is fun.

The 'winter warmer' of the title of this post is a vintage Port. From Barros, a producer best known for its Colheitas, the 2003 Vintage is showing really beautifully at the moment. I've been drinking a lot of young Vintage Port recently, and I'm enjoying it a good deal. You've got two choices with Vintage Port: catch it young and enjoy it in its first blush, or stick it away for a decade or more, with two or three decades recommended for the top examples.

Barros Vintage Port 2003 Douro, Portugal
Deep coloured, this Vintage Port has a wonderfully perfumed, open nose. There’s an almost floral, herb-tinged dark fruits character, which is supplemented by lifted spicy notes. It’s very seductive and expressive, with a nice sweetness. The palate has lovely sweet fruit with some assertive spiciness and a bit of tannic grip, but it’s not really built for the long haul. Instead, this is a beautifully poised, perfumed Vintage Port which will keep for a decade or two, but which will probably reach its peak earlier rather than later. It’s incredibly enjoyable now, though. Very good/excellent 93/100

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Passionate about Port

Normal tasting has resumed. I can smell again. Perhaps not perfectly, but then who smells perfectly all the time? Our physiological apparatus likely changes daily in subtle ways without us realising it. Tonight's tipple is a Single Quinta Vintage Port. It's Cockburn's Quinta dos Canais 1998, which is a good wine from a dodgy year. the Quinta is in the Douro Superior (it's pictured above, from my July visit to the Douro) and although Cockburn's purchased it relatively recently (1989), it forms the heart of their vintage Ports.

I like Port a good deal. It's quite hard to learn to taste Port well (in this respect, it's a bit like Champagne - you need to practice lots, which is no hard task). The key is not to be fooled by the fruit or the sweetness, but to look a little deeper, to the structure (at least when you are evaluating serious wines) .

This one shows good concentration, lots of fruit, and a lovely spicy tannic structure. There's nice definition and freshness to the fruit, with a fair bit of spicy complexity. It's rich and quite tarry, showing some evolution. It descends towards a fudgey, spicy, almost raisiny richness on the finish. I reckon this is a reasonably serious wine, but one that needs to be drunk sooner rather than later. It's quite perfumed, and for this reason I'd recommend it as a wine that will give lots of pleasure, but only if it's drunk relatively soon (in the next three years - my wild prediction is that beyond this it will descend into soft, spicy anonymity). I'd score it 92/100 for current drinking.

In comparison with the Noval Unfiltered LBV 2000, which has been open a few days, this shows more ooomph and richness (by a whisker), but the Noval has a lifted, floral aromatic character and fruit freshness that this wine lacks.

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