jamie goode's wine blog

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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Friday, September 11, 2009

Another packed day: focusing on Chile

Another busy day, focusing on Chile.

It began at La Fromagerie in Marylebone, with a tasting of Cono Sur's organic wines with chief winemaker Adolfo Hurtado. We had a long discussion about organics, which was very useful research material for a book chapter, and finished the tasting off with four cheeses from La Fromagerie, matched with the Cono Sur wines.

They were (clockwise from 12 in the photo below) Cabecou du Rocamador (stinky but not too wild goats cheese with a soft rind); Napoleon from Montrejeau in the Pyrenees (a lovely ewe's milk cheese with rich texture and a lovely complex salty character - brilliant stuff, a bit like a softer version of comte); Taleggio di Valbrembana (guey but textured with lovely creamy, salty character, not too strong, very pure); and La Gabietout, Pyrenees (a mix of cow and ewe's milk, creamy, buttery, gentle and a bit nutty).

The wines were really good: solid commercial style with a twist of complexity.
Then it was off to lunch at the Bleeding Heart restaurant with Grant Phelps of Viu Manent, and Doug Wregg of Les Caves (who are the agents for Viu Manent). I think the Viu Manent range is probably the best in Chile: these are serious wines with real structure, good acidity, and loads of personality. Viu Manent's Carmenere, Viognier and Cabernet all excel. Their single-vineyard Malbecs, and their Viu 1 (mostly or all Malbec depending on the vintage) are just world class. I was blown away by them. Rather amazingly, Jay Miller of the Wine Advocate recently gave the top Viu Manent wines scores in the 60s. He was wrong by some 30 points, which is a staggering margin! (See a discussion on this here.)
Below: a full table, with Tina Gellie and Grant Phelps.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

New cheese discovery: Ilha Graciosa

Over the last few weeks I've made a new cheese discovery. It's a Portuguese cheese called Ilha Graciosa, which, as you might expect from the name, hails from the Azores island of Graciosa.

It's a medium hard cheese made from cow's milk with a creamy, almost buttery texture, and a wonderfully spicy character along with hints of vanilla and herbs.

Writing cheese tasting notes is fraught with peril: the same cheese will change in taste, texture and character with the season, as the diet of the animal producing the milk changes. The microbiology of the individual lot will differ a bit, also.

Anyway, the three lots of this cheese that I've enjoyed (it is stocked by Waitrose in the UK) have all been fantastic, and the last two chunks have been especially spicy.

Wine match? I'd go for a sweet new world red wine, or a richly textured white, such as an oaked Chardonnay or a bold Pinot Gris. It might also work with a Mosel Riesling Spatlese.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Portuguese cheese with Alentejo wine

There's been an Alentejo theme to supper for the last two evenings. Tiago, the marketing dude for the Alentejo region, kindly gave me two cheeses at the trade fair, left over from the food and wine matching session. So I felt it was only right to accompany them with a serious Alentejo wine: Malhadinha 2006.

Now the Alentejo is a warm region in the south of Portugal, which as well as producing some of Portugal's best-loved wines (mainly, but not exclusively red), is also known for its cork, wheat, sheep and the famous black pigs.

These two cheeses are pungent and intense ewes' milk cheeses. The first is Serpa, which is a semi-soft cheese that's coagulated not with animal rennet, but with an extract from the flowers of a plant that's a relative of artichoke (cardoon thistle). It is deliciously rich and intense, but not totally crazy. You open up the cheese with a knife and then scoop it out with a spoon.

The second is queijo de Nisa, which is cured for longer, and is semi-hard. It comes in small wheels that are about 10 cm across: you cut them into slices and eat the lot, rind and all. It is intense, spicy and delicious.

The wine? I don't normally find red wine a great match for cheese, but this coped very well with the intense flavours.

Malhadinha Nova 'Malhadinha' 2006 Alentejo
A blend of Alicante, Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in new French oak. This has a fresh, aromatic spicy nose with pure blackberry and raspberry fruit. It's ripe (15% alcohol) but not lifeless and over-sweet. In fact, it's really well defined. The palate is fresh and complex with wonderful spicy notes and vibrant fruit, but this tends more to red than black fruit in character. It's carrying quite a bit of oak, but this integrates almost perfectly with the vivid, bright fruit. I reckon this could age really well. 93/100

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Football and Grana Padano cheese

Just back from football. I've rather stupidly played for two consecutive nights, with different groups of people. I find it hard to say no. I'm 40 and my body is slowly winding down, but I love playing, and the more you use it the less you lose it. My feet are feeling a bit sore tonight, but everything else is still OK.

As I write I'm snacking on Grana Padano, a wonderful hard cheese from Italy. It's like parmesan, but a little less hard and dense. It still has that wonderful spicy bite, though. It's actually a bit cheaper than parmesan, and you can use it in recipes in much the same way, as well as eat it on its own.

I have two different Grana Padanos open. The first is Asda's own label (£2 for 200 g), and the second is Medeghini (Sainsbury's £2.50 for 200 g). The Asda version is a bit smoother and simpler, while still being very tasty. The Medeghini has more of that spicy bite and crumbly texture that I love in Grana Padano. They're both great value for money when you compare them with the cost of the other high-end cheeses that I buy regularly, such as serious cheddar, Manchego, Comte and cave-aged Gruyere.

Hard cheeses, I find, work quite well with wine.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

The 'F' word does beer, and macaroni cheese with Stichelton

You know, I think the 'F word' is good for food, and even drink...

For those outside the UK, let me explain. The 'F word' is a national TV show in the UK that's the platform for celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. It is fast-paced, popular and profane. But it is brilliantly done. Like Top Gear, the car program that appeals to people who have no interest in cars, the F word draws in viewers with little interest in what they put in their mouths. But, precisely because of this, it's a program that has the potential to get many people interested in real food.

Tonight, Gordon was brewing his own beer, with a view to matching it with food. What sort of beer? In an inspired choice, he chose to emulate Innis & Gunn's wonderful oak-aged beer that's aged in used Bourbon casks. [Aside: the C4 website repeatedly mispells this name as 'Inns and Gunn')

And then in his interpretation of Macaroni cheese he uses the fantastic Stichelton cheese. This is the Neal's Yard interpretation of Stilton, but made with unpasteurized milk, the way that the best Stiltons used to be made. Randolph Hodgson found that in recreating the classic style, he was unable to use the Stilton name - by law, Stilton now has to be made with pasteurized milk. But his Stichelton, still a work in progress, is better than any Stilton.

I reckon Gordon has some very good researchers indeed. It's kind of ironic, though, that a show devoted to redicovering and promoting the best of all that is edible is sponsored by Gallo. I guess that shows that wine has a bit of a mountain to climb.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Burgundy 2006 with cheese

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wine with cheese, again

Apparently, the best way to gain weight is to eat at night, just before bed. I remember reading this advice in an interview with Vin Diesel, normally a tough, shaven-headed, six-pack touting hard guy who had to put on weight (and hair) for the excellent Find me guilty. He snacked on ice cream, late at night, and his six pack became a two-tyre.

Now as a person who likes to eat and drink, but doesn't want to become a fat boy, I'm on a continual diet (of sorts). I don't eat as much as I want, most of the time. It's tough, though, because I do love food.

Indeed, one of the things I've noticed about fat people - and I'm not being judgemental here, because I truly believe that beauty resides within, and you should feel good about yourself whether or not you conform to society's shallow obsession with appearance - is that they do enjoy their food. Forget about all this talk concerning metabolic rates and leptin gene status: if you have a friend with a big belly, just watch how much they eat. It's an eye opener.

I digress. Anyway, I have a weakness. I like to snack and drink late at night as I work. I've never had a six-pack, and this is probably why.

Tonight, I'm nibbling on Comte and bread, along with two rather different wines, both of which work quite well with the cheese. The first is the remainder of the Karlsmuhle Riesling Kabinett 2005 I reported on here a few days ago. It's amazing how well these young Rieslings keep in the fridge. Off-dry Rieslings seem to be a good match for quite a broad range of cheeses.

The second is a brilliant young Alentejo (Portugal) red - the 2006 Monte da Peceguina from Malhadinha Nova. It's amazingly vibrant, with ripe, pure summer fruits complemented really well by some grippy tannins and good acidity. I think it's this sweetly fruited, vibrant, juicy character that makes this a red wine that works with slightly harder (but not hard) cheeses like Comte. It's a wine that bridges the new and old worlds.

Some more thoughts on wine and cheese. Wines that rely on tannins for structure work less well with cheese than wines that rely on acidity. This is why whites generally work better with cheese than reds. Unusually for reds, the Peceguina relies more on acidity for structure than tannin; therefore, it works quite well with cheese. Tannins and cheese are a bad match, generally.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sustainability and cheese

Had lunch today with Dr Cecil Camilleri of Yalumba, who was keen to talk about the pioneering work he has initiated on sustainability. It's important, because this will be increasingly important in the wine industry. Also present was Valerie Lewis of Negociants (Yalumba's UK arm), and we ate at Black and Blue, an upmarket steak joint in Borough Market. Borough Market is a buzzy sort of place, and I like it.

I got there a little early, so I nipped into Neal's Yard to buy some cheese. Rather predictably, I walked out with a small chunk of Montgomery's, supplemented with a small chunk of Keen's. Both are fantastic. Keen's is a bit creamier, and while it has that spicy bite I really enjoy in cheddar, it's a little tamer (with a grassy, buttery mildness), than Montgomery's, which is so spicy and expressive it's a bit of an acquired taste. I'm not going to let RTL anywhere near these. To pair with these you are best off with a white wine: I don't think a red would work. I'm drinking a Henry Pelle Menetou Salon Morogues 2005, which doesn't quite have the richness to make a great match, but which does the job adequately well.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

On the river

Another warm, mostly sunny day here in London. We headed over to lunch with two couples who are good friends Karl and Kate, and Paul and Ros, over at 'The Land'.

'The Land' is a riverfront property newly acquired by Kate's parents, known as 'The Land' because that's all it consists of: a good size, prime frontage on the river Thames at Chertsey that's approximately 60 metres deep. There's a caravan on it, plus a few sheds, but no planning permission for a permanent residence - Kate's father, a vicar, has bought it as a retirement location.

It's a beautiful setting, and we dined well, with the food washed down with some nice wines, including an Ascheri Barbera and a voluptuous Primitivo from Puglia. Then we went for a spin on the Thames on Kate's father's boat. Very relaxing.

This evening we watched A good year - a film that actually has at its core the subject of wine. But don't waste your time on it: it's a limp lettuce of a film, based around a flimsy, predictable plot. The cast, led by Russell Crowe, give the impression that they can't really be arsed to act, so weak is the script, and with just the faintest hint of a twist, the story ambles on to an utterly predictable and cheesy conclusion. A bit like a branded wine, it's not objectionable or unpleasant, and slips down easy enough, but it's uninspiring and leaves you unsatisfied.

And then RTL ate my cheese. I'd taken a few slivers off a chunk of comte, and left the rest on the worktop. The dog snarfed the lot, and before I'd realized it was all gone. Now she's sleeping soundly, with a belly full of decent cheese. My cheese.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Remarkable Loire Chenin

The last couple of evenings have seen me tussle with a profound but challenging Loire Chenin. It's Savennieres Roche Aux Moines 1994 from Domaine Aux Moines (website here), which I'm pretty sure comes from Caves de Pyrene. A deep gold colour it has a wonderful nose of tangerine, lemon, minerals and a faint hint of spice. The palate is tangy, deep and dry with good acidity, some apricot and a lovely cheesy, herby sort of Chenin complexity, together with citrussy freshness. It's dry, savoury and intense: quite a challenging cerebral sort of wine. A bit like a dry Sauternes in flavour profile. Very good/excellent 93/100

It goes pretty well with two cheeses I bought from Harvey Nicholls' food hall before the Craggy Range tasting: a beautifully tangy, nutty Reserve Comte, and a wondefully intense, tangy Montgomery Cheddar which hasn't yet reached the crystalline sort of stage that this cheese can evolve into.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Extreme cheese?

Popped down to Neal's Yard Dairy in Covent Garden today. They had a sign outside the shop commenting on the recent Press coverage of Montgomery's Cheddar, which the news reports have dubbed 'Vindaloo Cheddar', referring to its strong flavour, a result of the 24 month ageing process.

People passing by the shop were being given a sample of Montgomery's, which they were presumably relieved to find didn't taste of curry at all. It's not cheap, at £20 a kilo, but it's an unfortunate fact of life that all decent cheese costs this sort of money. And it's fantastic. I certainly wouldn't say it was 'extreme'.

See also: my recent report on wine and cheese matching here.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

cheese and natural wine

Sbrinz, a Swiss cheese, is new to me. Finding out that I was exploring the world of cheese, Bill Nanson (www.burgundy-report.com) kindly brought some over on his recent visit for the DRC tasting.

It's a hard cow's milk cheese that's similar to Grana Padano or Parmesan in texture. This one is 36 months old, and it probably has a bit of a fuitier, tangier flavour than its Italian counterparts, and is a little less salty. It's great on its own. I reckon it's quite wine friendly, too. It's also a cheese with its own official website.

Tonight's accompaniment is one of the natural wines I bought on my Paris trip.

Guy Breton Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2004 Beaujolais
With a front label that looks like a back label, this is an unusual, interesting, but less than fully convincing wine. There's some lovely, smooth, pure elegant red fruits, which are complemented by some spicy, minerality, a slightly out-of-place richer fudge and tar edge, and at the end of the palate a bit of earthy, herbal character. Overall, this is a delicious, fresh, easy drinking style of Beaujolais with a real transparency and honesty to it, but all the components don't quite sit together in harmony. I hope that doesn't sound too negative, because this is a very enjoyable wine. Very good+ 88/100 (Les Caves Auge, Paris)

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A new book project and cheese

Tripped off to Islington today to visit MQ Publications. I'm going to be doing a book with them, on wine, but not as you know it. The team there have come up with a brilliant idea for a wine book that isn't like other wine books, and is of general appeal. Yvonne Deutsch, who will edit the project, has some wonderful ideas and will be a hands on editor - it will be fun working with someone who wants to have some creative input in the project. Will share more details when it's the right time. One of the MQP people who has been advocating this project strongly is Simon Majumdar, who is a bit of a wine nut. He has an excellent foodie blog, which can be found at http://www.majbros.blogspot.com/.

This evening I supped on Comte cheese and a fantastic bread (ancienne) from Villandry, which at £2 is an expensive loaf. But consider that crap plastic bread costs £0.70 a pop, then this - one of the best breads I've had - is a total bargain.
Washed down with several wines, including three of the remarkable Simcic whites (from Slovenia), which see extended skin contact - this makes them a little tannic. They're weird by modern standards, but I like them a lot. I'd love to make a wine that's a blend of red and white grapes, treated like a red wine with maceration on skins, and with balance achieved not by blending but in the fermenter.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

beer... and more cheese

Big lunch here chez Goode today, with a number of friends, including our chums who've just returned from a month in Aus. They bought with them a bottle of De Bortoli's Gulf Station Pinot Noir 2005 (Oddbins) from the Yarra, and it was really nice. De Bortoli rock at the moment - there are some great wines coming from their Yarra operation. I'm in the process of writing up my report on a visit there.

Two beers and two cheeses tonight. The cheeses were English: a Colston Bassett Stilton and Keen's Farmhouse Cheddar. Both were really lovely, with the deliciously rich, creamy Keen's winning first place in my affections. While the Colston is impressive, I'm still struggling a tiny bit with blue cheeses.

On the beer front, Sierra Navada Pale Ale really works for me. An orange/brown colour this has a complex fruity, spicy aroma with tangy citrus notes, and in the mouth it's hoppy and spicy with lovely balance. Brilliant, and widely available (Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Morrison’s, Co-Op, Booth’s). Another enjoyable beer in a similar style is the Proper Job IPA from the St Austell Brewery in Cornwall. This has a lovely citrus and honey nose with a warm malty note, and in the mouth the sweet, spicy fruit is backed up by nice hoppiness. It's a great food beer, and it's available from The Beer Club of Britain.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

two more cheeses

A non-wine digression... Long-time readers will probably recall that I'm developing a bit of a nerdy interest in cheese, after never eating it at all until a couple of years ago. I'm no expert, though - although it's fun exploring the rather bewildering variety of cheeses out there.
Had two cheeses for the first time in recent days. First, Appenzeller, which is a rather spicy, tangy mountain cheese that's moderately hard. Quite nice. Then, a little more to my tastes, another cheese called Ossau Iraty. This is a semi-hard sheep's cheese from the French Pyrenees, and it tastes a bit like Manchego, although it's a little softer and creamier. It's really nice.
Cheese raises for me the issue of typicity. When you buy a particular cheese you want it to taste the way it should, because it is labelled by its 'appellation'. If a wine is labelled by an appellation, by labelling it thus the winemaker is entering into a sort of contract with the consumer that this wine should taste of where it comes from. The question is, who decides what a wine from a particular place should taste like?


Thursday, December 21, 2006

buying wine and cheese

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

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Monday, December 04, 2006


Just finishing off bits and pieces (an express column and an article on climate change) before my wickedly early start for Spain tomorrow. To accompany my writing, I'm eating a cheese that's new to me: Doux de Montagne, described as a mild cheese with a fruity flavour and a creamy texture. It's mid-way between a hard and soft cheese, and has nice mildly tangy flavour. One I think I'll buy again.

Had a gorgeous Comte last Friday evening at Teddington's L'Auberge. I love Comte, but this one was particularly good, with a lovely smokiness and loads of flavour. Other current favourites include Manchego and Cave Aged Gruyere.

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