jamie goode's wine blog

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Loire and Germany for dinner

Yixin Ong was in town, so on Friday night he convened a wine nut dinner at RSJ, with myself, Rahsaan Maxwell and Tom Blach. Tom and Rahsaan are people whose writing I've read on the internet, but have never met before. It was a very nice evening, with some interesting wines and a couple of near misses - wines that were good but had the potential to show better. (Pictured, left to right, are Tom, Yixin and Rahsaan.)

We began with a sparkling Vouvray from Huet - a 1987 - which was quite lovely. It was delicate and bright, but had a little of that Chenin funk that worked really well. This was followed up with an old Muscadet - the 1990 Luneau Papin Muscadet Le L D’Or. Initially we wondered whether this might be corked, but then decided it was just showing rather faded, along with some distinctive savoury minerality that stuck out a bit. Not at ease with itself, and others had fared better with this wine recently. 2000 Domaine de la Bellivière Coteaux du Loir Hommage à Louis Derré was a remarkable, lightweight red wine with a minerally, gravelly edge framing some slightly meaty but otherwise very fresh fruit. Lovely and expressive: points chasers would hate this. Then we moved on to a pair of Germans. 2006 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Spätlese #17 was expressive, minerally and a bit zippy from some carbon dioxide, and had some lovely weight to the fruit. 2006 Daniel Vollenweider Wolfer Goldgrube Spätlese GK was much richer, with over 100 grams/litre of residual sugar, and a thick, rich texture. Stylish and in need of some time for the complexity to emerge from all that sweetness. Finally, we went for a big gun, spotting the 1971 Huet Clos du Bourg Moelleux 1ère Trie on the list at a decent-ish price. Sadly, it was tiring a bit. It came up at room temperature, so we decanted and chilled it in the ice bucket, only for it to turn from light brown to dark brown in 20 minutes. It was still nice - under the oxidation there was the memory of a complex wine, but sweet Vouvray is usually pretty much immortal, so it was a shame not to get a pristine bottle. The evening came to an end and we were relatively full of wine, and Yixin was tired enough to fall asleep on the last train home. But he bravely revived enough when we got back to crack open a half of Reinhold Haart 2005 Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Auslese, which was showing lovely lush fruit with a nice transparency to it, and the promise of greater things to come.

Evenings like this remind me why wine is such an interesting subject.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

A magnum of Las Cases

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

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Some celebration wines with Neal

Went to The Arches for Neal Martin's dinner to celebrate his elevation to superstardom. It was my first visit to this hallowed venue (see a nice article by Andrew Jefford on the Arches, and Harry Gill, its proprietor -pictured). There were eight of us, and Neal provided most of the wine, the balance of which we bought from Harry's wonderful list, with Harry joining us and contributing a couple of surprise bottles of his own. Most of these wines were tasted blind. It was great fun, but I don't feel up to submitting a full report just now - one will follow, with some pictures. Until then, a list of the wines:

Lafon Meursault Perrieres 1995
Lafon Meursault Goutte d'Or 1995
Roumier Rouchottes Chambertin 1991
Dugat-Py Charmes Chambertin 2001
Le Pin 1988
Lafite 1976
Sandrone Cannubi Boschis 1996
Sandrone La Vigne 1996
Voerzio Barolo Sarmass di Barolo 1998
Ch Montelena 1991
Jasper Hill Emily's Paddock 2001
Ch Filhot 1935
Zind Humbrecht Herrenweg Turckheim Pinot Noir 1989
Valandraud 1994
Parker Coonawarra 1996
Hallgartner Jungfer Riesling Spatlese 1971 Rheingau (producer??)

A fantastic evening, but a dangerous place to visit!

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Clark Smith and his Roman wine

Last night I met Clark and Susie Smith, thus fulfilling one of my long-held ambitions. Clark is the guy behind www.vinovation.com, a hi-tech wine consulting company in California, and I've wanted to meet him ever since I wrote one of my early Harpers technical pieces where I interviewed him by phone. But he isn't advocating using technology to spoofulate wines. Seeing technology as a useful tool, he then sets about using his tool kit, which includes microoxygenation and reverse osmosis, to make more interesting and tasty wines. Not convinced? Well, I'll do a lengthy article soon on this subject, which I hope will explain what I'm getting at.

We tasted a range of wines before dinner, including a 'sweet spot' tasting of an Amador County Syrah - the same wine at 15.4%, 14.2% and 13.75% alcohol. The differences were striking. We also tried Clark's own wines - which effectively act like business cards. WineSmith is his high end range; Cheapskate the everyday stuff. In fact, the Cheapskate wines are the best $8 wines you'll ever taste. At least that's what I reckon. After the tasting we headed over to Tendido Cero, one of my favourite eating places, where we ate and drank well (my choice - a bottle of the 2004 Finca Sandoval from Manchuela - dark, spicy and mineralic, with a bit of the new world and a bit of the old).

Tonight's tipple is the dregs of one of the wines tried last night. It's the WineSmith Roman Syrah 2003. The remarkable thing about this wine is that it is made without any addition of sulphur dioxide, the almost universally used wine preservative. Clark explains how he made this wine on his own Grapecrafter blog:
"To be safe, I began with a wine that could serve as its own preservative, one that would consume oxygen and oppose a microbial takeover on its own, and also a varietal type for which microbial complexity might be regarded as a plus.

I decided to work with a high altitude syrah which had a lot of reductive strength from two sources: tannin and minerality. Raw unpolymerized tannin has the ability to gobble tremendous quantities of oxygen when wine is young. A beneficial side effect of micro-oxygenation is the creation of a rich, light structure which integrates aromas. Oxygen is the wire wisk in creating a tannin soufflé. This is going to keep the wine from smelling spoiled later on when the microbes have their party.

Paradoxically, working properly with oxygen doesn't oxidize the wine -- rather it increases its ability to take up more oxygen. The chemistry of phenolic polymerization is well understood, and in this case, Vern Singleton's 1986 paper on the vicinyl diphenol cascade explains why polymerizing tannins become more reactive than their precursors. "

It's a really thought-provoking wine. There's some aromatic purity and elegance, with sweet dark fruits that have a brooding depth to them. The palate is very unusual and interesting. It's expressive and angular, with firm tannins and a meaty, spicy sort of rasp. These jostle with some funkier, herby, tobbacoey sort of elements. It finishes savoury and spicy. It's a wine that seems to show you one thing and then another. It's not a wine for everyone: some will find these bold, savoury flavours just a little too dangerous. But I like it a good deal.

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