jamie goode's wine blog

Monday, September 07, 2009

Wine trade cricket, final installment for the season

Played my last game of wine trade cricket today down at Further Friars, on the wonderfully idiosyncratic ground of Keevil Manor.

We won this one comfortably last year; this year was not to be a repeat. We had a good morning session, reaching 138-4 on a rather unpredictable pitch. Then we collapsed spectacularly in the afternoon, losing six wickets quite fast. Remarkably, I scored all of our afternoon runs. Both of them. I have two bruises on my chest where I took two short balls that came up unexpectedly high, too. Six for two is quite a collapse.

Then we bowled. We began well, with Scott Trutwein on fire, picking up four wickets in all. I normally do well here, but the ball just wasn't swinging (we began the innings with an older ball that didn't shine up), and in my second over I pulled my hamstring. I bowled a further four overs after this, off a shorter run, but it wasn't really working. Jasper Morris hit the winning runs for them with a lovely straight drive.

Now I'm in pain and hoping that this isn't a long-term problem. Pictured is Jasper (with his back to us) chatting to bowling hero Scottie.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

An incredible day's cricket, but Guy misses out...

Spent an incredible day at the Oval yesterday, watching day 2 of the final Ashes test. I was with wine writer Anthony Rose, Decanter editor Guy Woodward and Chris Stroud of Foster's EMEA.

The Oval is a lovely place to watch cricket, and where we were seated was just about perfect, in the Bedser upper. The morning session was uninspiring: England didn't add many runs for their last two wickets, and Australia then batted through to lunch without loss, despite some tight England bowling. And then it started raining.

This was the stage where Guy decided to head back to the office to sign off the latest issue, so he swapped his ticket with his art editor, Patrick. I imagine he now regrets it, because we witnessed one of the most remarkable sessions of Ashes cricket, during which England took 8 wickets for just 72 runs. Broad and Swann did the damage, and it was thrilling stuff.

Shortly after tea, Australia were all out and England batted to close with the loss of three wickets. The game is far from won, yet, but this day certainly swung things in England's favour.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Seriously fun day's cricket with the wine trade team

No work today at all. Spent the day playing cricket for the wine trade XI versus the Hampshire Hogs down in Warnford.

It was a great day. We batted first under gray skies with high humidity, and were quickly reduced to 10-2 as their quick bowlers moved it around a bit. But then a mega-partnership between Charles Taverner and Mike Henley, who both scored in the 80s, set us up well.

Soon after a wine-filled lunch both departed, to be replaced by debutant Will - a South African who works as a winemaker with Distell - who hammered some awesome blows before being sharply caught.

A collapse of England proportions followed, but we'd already posted a good score, and we were all out for 235. Going in at no. 9, I suffered the humiliation of a first ball duck, stumped after going after one of septuganerian Christopher Bazalgette's famous dollys. They are just so tempting.

235 didn't feel enough of a target. They had lots of young guys on their side, with strength in depth. Last year they hammered us. And they began well. Will the saffer semi-pro was bowling amazingly - fast, accurate, quite scary really. But he didn't make a breakthrough. They had one very good batsman who was settling in. John Thorne got a couple of wickets, and almost had their top batsman, who was dropped.

Then after tea, I got a bowl. I was feeling good, and managed to hit a spot. Yet in my four overs I bowled two low full tosses on leg stump, which normally would go for runs, and got their two best batsmen out with them to easy catches.

We began to run through their side, with everyone chipping in. Kiwi Tim got a lovely caught behind; Dally got a nice LBW, as did Will. We got them down to their last pair with 18 overs left to play, and just one wicket needed to win.

But the overs kept ticking by, and a solid pairing of Bazalgette and a young lad kept our best efforts out. With just two overs to go I was handed the ball. I think we were getting desperate. First ball was on the spot. Second swung in and took leg stump. I was thrilled - it would have been shocking to have ended up drawing a game we'd worked hard to dominate, against good opposition. I finished with figures of 4.2-2-5-3, which more than made up for my shameful batting display.

It was a really solid team effort - one of the best wine trade games I've played in.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Cricket at Lords: England perform!

Spent a great day at Lords today, watching England play some very good cricket at the first test vs. West Indies. It would have been a perfect day, but for the chilly weather and heavily overcast skies! [Pictured above is the the England slip cordon in front of the Compton stand, with the new retractable floodlights in the background.]

Highlights? Swann was the star early on, as England put on quick runs to bring the total past 370. Anderson got a nasty knock on the back of his head, as he turned his back trying to duck a fast one, but was OK to continue. Onions, the debutant, was bowled first ball with a fast full toss that struck almost half-way up the stumps.

West Indies began at an amazing pace, but in a crazy spell of play Swann took two wickets in successive balls, then Onions got three wickets in one over. The result was that the West Indies were bowled out for 150-odd, and had to follow on.

It was a fine display of bowling by England, with the three quicker bowlers - Anderson, Broad and Onions, all averaging 88/89 mph, and occasionally going just over 90. This is proper fast bowling, and bodes well for the Ashes series, where a genuinely brisk, hostile attack is needed to give us a chance to bowl Australia out twice each match.

Spare a thought for Tim Bresnan, though, the other debutant bowler. While Onions picked up a five-for, Bresnan had just one over. Hopefully, he'll get a few more tomorrow.

Unless the West Indian batsmen change the way they're playing quite dramatically, this match will be all over tomorrow lunchtime, and it's going to cost the ECB a fair bit in lost ticket sales over the weekend.

And the wine? I was guest of Thierrys, and we drank a new Lord's branded red and white that they are producing. The white is a respectable, fresh 2008 white Burgundy, and the red is a Bordeaux 2007 from Lapalu that's tasty, ripe and generous (which is rare for relatively inexpensive Bdx).


Friday, May 01, 2009

Cricket on a Friday, with some wine

It was great to spend a day away from work today. Well, sort of. I was playing cricket, but with a bunch of wine trade colleagues, but that doesn’t count as work, does it?

Today’s game: the Wine Trade XI versus Gents of Essex at Coggeshall, a lovely ground in the Essex countryside that’s used as a county second XI venue. The pitch is invariably what is described by seasoned cricketers as ‘a road’, meaning that it’s so flat and consistent it favours the batsmen over the bowlers. This makes it great for pros who are bunging the ball down at 80 mph+. For the likes of me, it can make life a little harder, especially if you are bowling against good club-standard batsmen.

I met up with five others from the Wine Trade XI at Liverpool Street, where we boarded the 1018 to Kelvedon. We sat there in the carriage for an hour and a half before the train finally left, and the total journey time was 3 hours, which is 2 hours 20 minutes longer than it should have been . As a result, our side batted first, and so by the time we arrived, just in time for lunch, we hadn’t been missed as Mark Leveson-Gower, Geoff Taylor and Howard Sayers had put on 100 with just the loss of Geoff.

Lunchtime was accompanied a lot of wine. From memory, I recall trying the 2001 Ashbourne (the icon Pinotage – no, don’t snigger – from Hamilton Russell which was refined but very green), Esk Valley Verdelho, Storks Tower Cuesta del Aire red and white (a very attractive fruit-driven Spanish pair), Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Rouge 2004 (a bit herby/stalky), Zontes’ Footstep’s high end red (very rich and soupy with lots of everything, but fun if you are in the mood), Quinta de Sant’Ana red 2007 Estremadura, Portugal (lovely fresh, fruit-driven red with a hint of meatiness – very nice), Quinta de Sant’Ana Sauvignon 2008 (very impressive with lovely Sauvignon character), Quinta de Sant’Ana Fenao Pires 2008 (brilliant, fresh rendition of this variety), and Rosso di Montalcino and a Lazio white from Howard Sayers that were delicious. It was the best set of wines I can remember at a wine trade match.

After lunch we did the English thing and had a slight middle order collapse, but no.8, Sam Harrop, began to attack the Gents’ spin bowlers with some fearsome hitting. He was eventually out for 49, which represented an awesome effort, and helped us on our way to a respectable-ish total of 213. The comedy moment was probably John Worontschak going out to bat and only realising he didn’t have gloves and a box when he reached the middle. Much attention was also focused on the performance of our no. 11, Pierre, who is French. After receiving some explanation of what the lines on the pitch represented, he faced half a dozen deliveries and ended up 3 not out.

The Gents opened with two rather serious batsmen who made their intentions clear from the beginning. They hit us around the park a bit. Soon, our field was dispersed with several on the boundary. Our hands began to feel sore from stopping some lusty blows. Howie was the pick of the bowlers with his line and length, but debutant Tim – a Kiwi – did an admirable job bowling at a brisk pace from a run of just a few paces. The Wine Trade team has discovered a new opening bowler, and he can bat, too.

But while we gave ourselves a sniff of a chance with a few wickets, including some staggering catches – first a high, long swirler that Stuart Peskett bagged very proficiently, and then a remarkable diving catch from Howie after he’d run 30 metres to dismiss the Gents’ best batsman, Jimmy. But by this stage Jimmy had hit a fantastic century, and the Gents closed on our target with five overs to spare.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

NWR: Are you City in disguise?

All out for 51. Crazy!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Cricket and a strange Ridge

Played cricket today for the wine trade down in Keevil, Wiltshire, against Further Friars. The pitch was a little damp after all the recent rain, but we had good conditions to play in. Batting first, the wine trade team did well against some good bowling, and headed in to lunch at 80-3. After lunch, the wickets fell quite steadily, and I came in at no. 8 only to catch a ball full in the face off a top edge. There was quite a bit of blood, but fortunately I didn't lose any teeth, which would have been expensive. I carried on, but was last out bowled for 3, with our total at 126.

We then bowled well and got Further Friars out for just under 100. I had a long spell where despite my swollen face I was quite accurate, and came away with nice figures of 9-3-13-3. It was a good game on a tricky pitch. Afterwards Jasper Morris (who was captaining the wine trade side) opened several bottles, including a Ridge Alicante Bouschet 1995. It was dense, dark and incredibly intense, with some spicy American oak adding a rich, almost medicinal note to the bold fruit. Not terribly fine, but really striking, and potentially long lived. I don't think this wine was ever released commercially.

The state of my face plus bad traffic on the M3 meant that I wasn't able to make it for tonight's Roederer Awards ceremony at Somerset House. I was shortlisted for the online category, as was Jancis Robinson - but it was Tom Cannavan (of wine-pages.com) who won. Congratulations to him.

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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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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cricket at Lords and sweet wine

Spent the day at Lord's, watching the first day of the England v. South Africa test match. To those unfamiliar with cricket, the idea of a game that lasts five days must seem ludicrous. I suppose it is, but it is also wonderful that in this age of hurry and busyness, a day can be spent watching nothing much happening at a cricket match as a punctuation-style interval in an over-busy life.

South Africa have four good fast bowlers, and between them they kept things pretty tight, restricting England to 80-odd for none (this means England scored 80 runs without any of their batsmen getting out) by lunch. Shortly after lunch, though, South Africa made a breakthrough, with Strauss lbw for 44. Soon after, Vaughan was clean bowled for 2, and then Cook was out a few balls later for 60. At 117-3 things were nicely poised. But a solid partnership by Bell and Pietersen followed. Initially, Bell looked the more in-form, with some cracking shots. But as Pietersen entered the 20s, he found his touch, motoring towards his century with some bold yet measured stroke play. When I left, with a couple of overs to go, England were just over 300 with three wickets down.

Lords is a very attractive ground to watch cricket at. It also has the enlightened policy of allowing guests to bring a bottle of wine in with them, something that other test match grounds prohibit, perhaps because of fears of lost revenue and upsetting drinks sponsors.

Two sweet wines tonight.

Chateau Haut Bergeron Sauternes 2004 Bordeaux
Golden colour. Attractive sweet herbal nose with dried fruit, apricot, citrus peel and spice. The palate is viscous with citrus and barley sugar character as well as some appealing spiciness. A dense, mouthfilling sweet wine with some complexity. Deliciously rich. 90/100 (Asda £9.99/half)

Vendanges d'Automne Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois NV, France
Golden colour with some brown hints. Rich and quite viscous with notes of baked apple, dried apricot and organge peel, as well as some tea-like complexity. Very sweet, with a bit of spice on the finish. A satisfying, thought-provoking wine. 89/100 (Co-op £11.99/50 cl)

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Cricket, again, with a bit of wine

Spent a most enjoyable Friday playing cricket with the Wine Trade XI at Colchester. We had a rather different look to our side, because of the official Wine Trade XI tour to Porto (where, I get the impression, they play just a couple of games of cricket, but drink a good deal and generally let their hair down). But the makeshift side we put together was better than many of the Wine Trade teams I have played in, which was a good thing, because Colchester normally field a very strong XI, and there are lots of runs in this pitch, which is sometimes used as a county strip.

We bowled first, and our first few bowlers were simply too good for the batsmen, who played and missed a lot but didn't get out. We finally made a breakthrough shortly before lunch, and then, in the last over before lunch, which was my first, we dislodged their best batsman off a dodgy ball (I bowled a full toss, which was whacked in the direction of the boundary, and brilliantly caught by Ollie Styles of Decanter). It's not always the good balls that get the wickets.

Lunch, as usual, is accompanied by wine we supply. Nick Oakley, the captain, brought along two nice wines that he imports into the UK. First, a red from Quinta de Sant'Ana in Portugal's Estremadura, that was ripe and generous with rich berry and black fruit. This is about £9 in independents. The second was from Bierzo in Spain, made from the Mencia variety, and it was really beautifully fruited with fresh, vivid dark fruits and no oak influence. I can't remember the name of it, but it will be in supermarkets at around £6, and as such is a great buy.

After lunch, we bowled well enough, and wickets fell, before they declared at 220-ish for 8. My figures were 6-0-21-2, which is reasonably tidy. We began our chase slowly, but as the overs ticked away, we steadily accumulated more runs. Howard Sayers was the anchor of the innings, and after a Tavare-like start he began to hit out quite effectively, and was to finish on 96. Occasional player Sam Harrop, wearing cricket whites purchased for him by that other occasional antipodean cricketer John Worontshak that were two sizes too big, hit a speedy 17 that looked full of promise. Had we not run out of overs, we would have won comfortably; in the end a draw was probably a fair result, because we really should have bowled them out earlier.

It's funny how much fun you can have on a nice sunny day, playing a game where your individual contribution isn't all that much. I guess that's one of the appeals of cricket.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cricket and just a bit about wine

One of the benefits of being a freelancer is that you can take the odd day off without worrying about eating into your holiday entitlements and then having to have a difficult conversation at home about why you can only manage one week by the seaside in August rather than the customary two. Actually, I find it's essential to be able to do something that prohibits you checking your emails and writing another article (or blog post) from time to time, so invasive is the nature of freelance writing, where you can end up filling every idle moment with work. And standing a deep midwicket on a lazy summer afternoon achieves this goal very effectively.

So yesterday I was down in Warnford playing for the wine trade XI versus Hampshire Hoggs. Last year the corresponding fixture was a washout - we all turned upl (including Nick Oakley who drove for three hours from deepest Essex) and looked at the sky, looked at the pitch, had a lunch with some wine, and then realized that the pitch was so wet no play was going to be possible. If I remember correctly, there was about an inch of standing water under the covers.

This year, we arrived, and it began to drizzle. The rain cleared, we started, reaching 4-0. It rained again and we came off. It was looking grim, so we took an early lunch. I enjoyed a few glasses of the 2006 Rabbit Ranch Central Otago Pinot Noir, which is made at Chard Farm. It's really vibrant and fruity, with lots of presence, and upstaged a Giant Steps Yarra Pinot by some distance. I also sneked a couple of glasses of Bodega Farina's Val de Reyes sweet wine from the Toro region. It's unfortified, elegant and really quite nice - Bibendum carry this in the UK.

Eventually, things cleared up and we played a 25 over game, but we were well beaten by a side all of whom were under 30, and a majority of whom were under 20. They were clearly good cricketers, and while the wine trade side at full strength is a club-standard side, there were only nine of us (and that's with a couple of Hoggs ringers filling in), and most of us are the wrong side of 40. We scored 113 and didn't bat out the full 25 overs. I enjoyed my time in the middle, and felt very comfortable, but got run out for 7 with a direct hit. There were a couple of other run-outs, including a comical one where Robin Copestick set off for a run, Chris Quin at the other end didn't move, Robin reached Chris, who was standing his ground, only for Chris then to sacrifice himself at the last moment, probably because Robin is his boss.

When they batted, we were really looking at damage limitation, because we knew our target would never be enough. I opened with my gentle swingers, but unfortunately I had some problems with my length, and the rather dodgy cheap ball that Chris had provided simply didn't swing, as well as going out of shape after a couple of lusty blows. At the other end Charles Taverner ditched his usual brisk offspin to revert to bowling quick and was quite effective. But we didn't make the first breakthrough until late, and by then they were on their way to victory. There was still time for me to drop a swirling up and under, though.

Still, it's such a fun way to spend a day. I'm also playing next Friday in Colchester, then the following week I'm watching the Lord's test on Thursday, as well as playing on Saturday and Sunday. You never know, with all this, I might even improve a bit. There's plenty of room for that.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Press tasting with ODI cricket and Beaucastel 1983

Berry Bros' press tasting today was very good. As well as some superb wines, a thoughtful soul had decided to put the Sky coverage of England vs. Sri Lanka on the plasma screen in the Pickering Cellar, so as we tasted we could watch some of the cricket.

Highlight for me, in a tasting that included gems such as the 1996 Vega Sicilia Unico, was the magnum of 1983 Beaucastel that was shown alongside the 1998 in a regular bottle. Beaucastel invariably ages very well, and the 1983, at almost 25, is deliciously mature, spicy and warm. There's just so much earthy, leathery, spicy complexity to this wine - it is also supremely elegant, and dinking perfectly now. BBR still have some of this left, but it isn't cheap at £179 per magnum.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A great day of cricket, and a stunning sweetie

Today has been one of those rare days where everything simply goes much better than expected.

I was playing cricket for the wine trade XI against the Further Friars, down at Keevil Manor in Wiltshire. I didn't have access to our car today, so for the modest outlay of £30 I thought it was worth hiring one. Luckily, I got upgraded from the smallest, poxiest vehicle they had (which is what U'd paid for) to a brand new sporty Mondeo - OK, not a Mercedes coupe, but better than a Ford Ka.

Then, driving down to the game along the A303, the sun broke out. After the summer we have had, here, a perfect summer's day in September is not to be sniffed at.

We bowled first. Our opening bowlers were brisk, and the pitch was bouncy. The opposition batsmen made slow progress. Jasper Morris was run out, just after he had hit a six with a prettly flat aerial shot over mid off. I got a bowl just before lunch, as second change. I did a bit of work on the shiny side of the ball and ran up. The ball swang nicely, into the right handed batsman. The second ball lifted a little outside off, and the batsman kindly edged it behind. Two balls later, the new batsman gave a simple lofted catch to midwicket. My figures at this stage were 1-1-0-2. I carried on and the swing was incredible. As an example, I bowled one ball that started well outside off stump, beat the batsman on yorker length, and then ended up missing leg. After six overs I finished with figures of 4 for 19.

They were all out for 75. At no. 7 I wasn't expecting a bat, but I came in when there were 10 runs still to be scored. I decided to have a bit of a go, but didn't really connect very well, being dropped three times (yes!) on my way to 4 not out. But I did hit the winning run.

After play concluded, In recognition of the fact that it was his 2oth wedding anniversary, Jasper opened a rather nice magnum of Andre Jacquart Cuvee Speciale NV Champagne Grand Cru which we drunk out of plastic picnic cups. It still tasted pretty good. Other wines were opened, including a fantastic Tokaji, brought along by Christopher Fielden: Istvan Szepsy's 2003 Tokaji Szamorodni 'Daniel'. The bottle was hastily snapped (below), with Jasper's legs forming the backdrop.

Even though it was drunk from plastic, this was one of the very best sweet wines I've had in a long while. It was complex, pure, sweet, balanced, with lovely weight and poise. You know when you are tasting a really serious wine, and this was one of them. It's hard to convey the perception of such a wine in words.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cricket and greenness

Been at the cricket this evening, watching my sons play for the U11s. Elder son is a regular - he opens the batting and normally gets quite a few runs. Was bowled for just 4 today though (the moment is pictured, although the 'welfare officer' for the team we were playing was unhappy about me taking pictures...I think he wanted me to get parental consent forms signed from all the players...such is the modern world). Younger son is two years below in school, but gets the occasional U10 and even U11 game. Tonight he was keeping wicket, and did OK. It was fun to see elder son bowling, and younger son keeping wicket together.

Tonight I'm drinking Mellasat M 2003 Paarl, South Africa (see http://www.mellasat.com/). It's beautifully packaged in a Burgundy-shaped bottle. A blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Pinotage, this is a deep coloured wine with a nose of fresh, subtly green dark fruits. There's a nice savouriness here. The palate has more savoury, spicy dark fruit, but this is joined by a herby greenness. It would have been a really nice, understated, food-friendly red wine, but the green streak - which on the nose adds freshness and works quite well - is too obtrusive on the palate, and for me is a big distraction. Greenness at a certain level can be a good thing - it's an important component of many great Bordeaux wines, for example. But here, in conjunction with ripe fruit and at this sort of level, it verges on the faulty. There's still some enjoyment to be had from this wine, and if it could lose its greenness it would be really nice. Like so many South African reds... 82/100

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Rained off and getting organized

Supposed to be playing cricket today for the winetrade XI versus the Hamsphire Hoggs, down at their lovely ground near Petersfield (above). But it rained and rained. Then it stopped and the sun came out, but an inspection of the pitch revealed standing water, under the covers. So we had lunch, before the decision was made to call the game off just before 3 pm. Not a wasted journey though: an occasion like this gives you a good chance to chat with your colleagues and make some new connections. I did feel sorry for Nick Oakley, though, who'd driven down from Colchester specially for the game.

Got home and decided to get organized. I work with piles of paper (as well as a sort of electronic pile in my Eudora inbox), and in my study before I started sorting there were four piles, each perhaps two feet high. I've just spend over an hour working through them, chucking stuff out, discovering important stuff, and realizing that I have a lot of material that needs writing up soon. I realize I could be more efficient, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it - I have resources of time and energy, and if I just get more efficient I might end up running out of energy and still have time on my hands.

More rain is forecast for the weekend. This really is the most miserably damp June I can remember.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cricket (again), Meerlust and Rose

I'm tired at the end of an interesting day. This afternoon I played cricket at Hampton Wick: it was the Wine Trade XI versus Balls Brothers for a fun 20/20 game. I was donated to Balls Brothers as a guest player - technically this was because I was the last to sign up; perhaps, though, the Wine Trade XI fancied some easy runs off my bowling.

I took second over, mixing it up a bit (not deliberately) and going for a few runs. Just two overs though: everyone bar the wicket keeper gets to bowl two overs in these games, which makes for some great comedy bowling moments. The wine trade struck lustily and ended up with 150-odd. In response, Balls Bros fell short by 20 or so, to which my contribution was two (I went in at the rarified position of 7 - perhaps I was suffering from altitude sickness - and was lbw).

A barbecue and much London Pride plus various donated wines followed. Interestingly, one of the wine trade team was Chris Williams, winemaker for Meerlust and also his own venture, The Foundry, which I have written about in the past. Chris is rubbish at cricket, but extremely talented at winemaking. We tried two Meerlust wines which he didn't make, but did blend - the 2003 Merlot and 2003 Red. They're impressive in a distinctive Meerlust style: spicy, quite dense, a little earthy and nicely savoury.

Chris has been changing the wines a bit, but not too much, giving them a bit more generosity and focus. Under the terms of his employment he is able to make 2000 cases of The Foundry wines, a project he operates in tandem with a silent partner. He's invested the equivalent of £50 000 so far, and with the last vintage just began to break even. His commitment is to Meerlust for the forseeable future, but he hopes one day for The Foundry to become the focus of his whole attention.
Now I'm relaxing with a glass of rose, nursing three cricket-ball inflicted injuries, two on my right hand and one on my right foot (a full blooded cover drive). It's Ochoa's Rosado de Lagrima 'Finca el Bosque' Single Vineyard 2006 Navarra. A blend of cabernet and garnacha, this is quite deep coloured. It has a bright, bittersweet nose of cherry and cranberry, which leads to a palate of juicy, savoury cranberry fruit with a spicy finish. This is juicy, full flavoured and refreshing, and extremely food friendly. A hint of seriousness even? 86/100 (£7.99 Abbey Wines, £6.99 Taurus Wines, £6.65 Bretby Wines)

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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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Monday, June 04, 2007

Gruner Veltliner

Had my brother and his wife to stay for the evening. They live in Plymouth, but had some business in London and so stopped over Chez Goode. So we drank some wine and played some cricket with the boys. Both my lads are getting into their cricket these days so today I'd bought them some decent bats: Woodworm 'The Flame' size 4 and 5, respectively. Coincidentally, they colour-matched one of tonight's tipples: the Laurenz und Sophie Singing Gruner Veltliner 2005 (pictured). I bought a case of it from Tesco a few weeks back, then at a price of under £5 a bottle, which is ludicrously cheap for a zippy wine that actually tastes of the grape it is made from. It's now back to its normal price, which is still very reasonable. I don't buy a lot of wines by the case, and when I do I normally regret it. But we're getting through this case briskly. Five bottles left. Another wine sunk tonight was the Massena Moonlight Run 2003 Barossa. Bought at around the same time for c. £10 a pop, I've drunk just 3 of the case to date. It's nice, but could do with just a hint more freshness and presence,

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Summer with Alsace

It's been a perfect summer's Saturday here in London. Wam but still comfortable temperatures and lots of sunshine. The day began with cricket practice for the boys: I drop them off on Twicknham green, then take Rosie for a walk via my allotment (where I applied the second sulfur treatment and dealt with the prolific weeds).
After cricket practice and a spot of lunch we played some more cricket on a local artificial wicket, and I was really impressed with one of our friends' sons, who at age 10 is already the sort of batsman you don't want to bowl at: he's got a full range of shots and is ruthless with anything short or wide. The next Pietersen.

One of this evening's wines is worth mentioning. It's a biodynamic Alsace Pinot Blanc. Pinot Blanc is often regarded as at the lower end of the Alsace pecking order, but I often really like the wines. Why don't we drink more Alsace wines? They rock.

Josmeyer Pinot Blanc 'Mise du Printemps' 2006 Alsace
Delicate gently herby nose with nice poise and freshness. The palate is bright and fresh with herb and mineral-tinged fruit, in a dry style. There's a touch of honeyed richness, making this a really versatile summer white. Very good+ 89/100

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cricket and Wolf Blass

Cricket. Went to the first day of the test series against West Indies today at Lords. Woke up to drizzle. Oh dear. Got to the ground at about 10 am: drizzle. Hmmm. Delayed start. Overcast and dark. England were put in to bat; the West Indies bowled only averagely; England reached lunch at 80 odd for nothing. Cook (below) was batting well; Strauss was scratching around a bit. Straight after lunch England lost a couple of quick wickets and Pietersen came in. After a few choice shots he lost his way a bit and then the batsmen took the light and went off for an early tea. After the break Pietersen got out, but Collingwood and Cook carried on resolutely, went off again, came back again and then Cook completed his century. England added a couple more to reach 200-3, then they came off again for good as it got a bit dusky. Great fun to be at the test; the cricket could have been a little livlier. Given the conditions, England have made a solid start, and if they can reach 380-ish, then they'll be well placed, although their bowling line-up looks a bit short - and if Harmison doesn't click, he's just about unbowlable, in which case we'll struggle to dismiss anyone.

Aside: Wolf Blass, who sponsor the test series, have an interesting sample stand (above and below), where punters can rock up and get free wine. The stand is manned (is there a better term?) by well informed girls who introduce each wine. I turned up as an average, relatively uninformed consumer and got some really good answers and guidance. It's probably hard to assess the effectiveness of this sort of marketing, but intuitively you'd think that getting people to actually taste your wine is a very good idea, and this is one of the few fora where you can do this. All the better if this tasting is guided by the person pouring, and these girls seemed to know their stuff.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Rioja and cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Monty gets a five-for

Amazing. Monty Panesar, ignored for the first two test matches (for those who haven't got a clue what I'm on about, I'm talking about the sport of Cricket, and England versus Australia, otherwise known as the Ashes), has taken what the Aussies call a five-for, as England skittled the Aussies out for 244. England finished 51-2 in reply. Whether or not England capitalize on this probably depends on how KP and Freddie feel - if they play well, we could walk away with this. If they fail, then we could end up looking at a first-innings deficit. It's wide open.

The blogging phenomenon has caught on to the extent that it's now part of the BBC coverage of the Ashes series. Most of the entries aren't that gripping, though. It goes to show that blogging well is an art - one that I'm trying my best to learn.

On the subject of blogging, there's a BBC news article looking at some predictions made by technology group Gartner on the future of blogging. They reckon that during the middle of 2007 the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million, and maintain that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs. One of their experts suggests:
"Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they're put on stage and asked to say it."

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