jamie goode's wine blog

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Italian wines with the Manchester derby

Football talk, I'm afraid. It's half-time in the Manchester derby game. City started off badly, went 1-0 down. The prize? A place in a cup final, City's first since 1981, although this semi is over two legs.

Then City equalize from a slightly soft penalty. In a sign of respect to Mancini (the city manager), I'm drinking Italian.

Chianti Rufina Riserva 2004 from Villa di Vetrice (BBR) is nicely bitter, lively, plummy, earthy and has a hint of animal. Satisfying and a bit rustic. Nigel de Jong.

Banfi Rossi di Montalcino 2007 is more refined, less edgy and has some satisfying spicy, earthy notes with a bit of tannic grip. Solid, dependable but lacks any real excitement. A good squad member who'll do a job. Pablo Zabaleta. Better than many Banfi reds I've had of late, and this one will be in the Bibendum sale that starts in February.

The commentary team are hopelessly pro-United. City outplayed United for large periods of the first half. Shearer's the only one who realized that. The BBC football punditry is just so rubbish these days.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Football and spotify

Just rearranged my study. Brought in my amplifier and two speakers, which had been redundant since iPod and Bose Sound Dock arrived. Combined with the wonderful spotify, this means I can work with music, and a wide variety of music, too. So, dear readers, what should I be listening to?

Played 11-a-side football today. We have an occasional team made out of the Wednesday night five/six/seven-a-side group I play with. I started off as sub, but came on after 20 mins to play right midfield. With the game at 0-0, a minute before half-time, the ball broke to me outside the area. I'm not short of self-confidence, so I had a crack at goal. To my amazement, the ball rocketed into the top corner of the goal, from fully 20 yards out, Gerrard style. Awesome. We ended up drawing 2-2, which isn't bad. We got thoroughly beaten by this side last year.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Football: Chelsea versus Porto

I quite enjoy attending football matches as a neutral. You can watch the game without a gnawing sensation of anxiety in your stomach, for a start.

Tonight I went to Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea versus Porto.

On an extremely wet night in west London, both sides tried to play attractive passing football, and although the surface got a bit sticky as the rain kept pouring down, the game was open and quite engrossing.

Chelsea did just enough to win. A solitary Anelka goal early in the second half - he had a second stab at it when his first shot was well saved - was sufficient to see them 1-0 winners. But Porto gave them a few scares, and passed the ball around with confidence.

However, Chelsea just seemed to have a little more quality in most positions. In the absence of Drogba, who was banned, Anelka was very classy. He's not a target man, but instead has wonderful feet, pace, and a great eye for goal.

Chelsea's midfield is compact and solid, but perhaps lacks a bit of flair and width. Essien plays the anchor role really well, and Lampard is very effective going forward, but Ballack seemed a bit out of sorts.

I reckon Chelsea will have a really good season, but I don't think they'll win the premiership if tonight's performance was anything to go by. Porto are a good side, but they won't win the Champions League this year.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

A 70th birthday

It has been an enjoyable weekend. Yesterday I played 11-a-side football; the guys I play with on Wednesday evening (parent's from younger son's school) formed a side and we challenged another team who play quite regularly. Playing on a full-sized pitch with 11 each side is quite different to our smaller games on astroturf, but despite getting beaten, we did OK. I played three different positions: centre back, centre mids and right back. I'm now a little stiff. The game was followed with a pint of Fuller's Discovery at the Angler in Teddington. A really nice beer.

In the evening we partied with some friends who were celebrating their 40ths. It was one of those events where you get chatting to people and then suddenly it's time to go because you agreed with the babysitter to be back by midnight.

Today we were off to my younger sister's for lunch. The occasion: dad's 70th. It's weird to think of your parents growing older. I still can't get my head round the fact that I'm over 40. But he's looking pretty good for 70 (pictured above), so I'm hoping there's a component to healthy ageing that's genetic!

It was an informal, low key event (his instructions), but we still had some wine. Jobard's Bourgogne Blanc 1998 is holding up pretty well: fresh and minerally with good weight. Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2006 is also delicious: subtly green herbal with a hint of talcum powder, and a real sense of elegance.
Tonight I'm getting ready to head for Champagne in the morning. I'm spending a couple of days at Bollinger, visiting vineyards and tasting vins clairs. Looking forward to it.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, February 07, 2009

NWR: Are you City in disguise?

All out for 51. Crazy!

Labels: ,

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pousadas, football and the power of the blog

A few short items for Friday morning.

1. Pousadas rock. They're the wonderful hotels based on historical buildings, palaces and castles dotted around Portugal. Just seen on their website that they have some tempting specials. I'd love a week touring Portugal like this, or even a long weekend. [No connection or commercial plug here, just wanted to big them up a bit.]

2. It's a great time to be a City fan. Looking likely that we'll be in a relegation scrap (along with half the premiership?), and we're talking about signing Kaka for enough money to buy an average-sized premier league team like West Ham or Middlesborough.

3. Very amusing article in The Guardian about Masal Bugduv, a 16 year old footballing prodigy who made No. 30 in a list of the world's hottest footballing talents compiled by The Times. The only thing is, he doesn't exist. Bugduv was created by football bloggers, and then picked up by a number of media sources in the course of their research.

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Beeeerrr time!

Just back from taking my younger son to Craven Cottage to see Fulham play against Middlesborough. 3-0 to Fulham - a convincing performance that owed a lot to Jimmy Bullard's action packed midfield display. He's worth two players.

Anyway, it's beer time. These, opened tonight with my parents, were all pretty good.

Shepherd Neame Spitfire Kentish Ale
4.5% alcohol. Amber coloured this has lovely hoppy, spicy freshness with some citrus notes as well as a hint of toffee warmth. I like the slight bitterness on the finish. A good food beer. 8/10
[Aside: has a typo on the back label]

Shepherd Neame Whitstable Bay Organic Ale
4.5% alcohol. Orange colour. Aromatic, spicy, hoppy sort of nose leads to a nicely bitter, fresh palate. This is really drinkable with a nice spicy, hoppy freshness. 8/10

Brakspear Oxford Gold Organic Beer
4.5% alcohol. Golden amber in colour this is beautfully aromatic and fresh with some sweet, subtly hoppy notes (Target and Goldings hops used here). There's a bit of sweetness here. It's perfectly balanced and really delicious. 8.5/10

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer Rum Cask
7.4% alcohol. Brown coloiured, this is warm and rich with sweet fudge, chocolate and roast coffee notes, as well as hints of tar and warm spiciness. A remarkable, rich, warming sort of beer. 8.5/10

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 06, 2008

City vs. Fulham and a delicious cheap red

Went to see Man City play Fulham at Craven Cottage this afternoon. Located on the bank of the River Thames opposite Putney, Fulham's ground is pretty, compact and really easy to get to, and it's one of the away games I try to catch each year.

Despite the lunchtime kick-off, there was time for a couple of pre-match beers, and then City scored early on to lift the travelling support. The home fans were almost silent. Fulham pulled one back after half-an-hour, and from then on it was pretty much a stalemate. Both sides were well organized, worked hard and kept their shape. A draw was a fair result, but it wasn't a memorable game.

Would have been nice to have seen Robinho play, but he was injured. I don't think City will win the premiership this year.

One impressive cheap Italian red to report on. It's Il Faggio Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2007, put together by Liberty Wines and available in Asda at £5.99. Masses of sweet, focused blackberry and raspberry fruit with some spiciness and lovely purity. Robust, modern and savoury - and tastes like a £10 wine. The only slight downside is there's just a hint of rubbery reduction, but it's really quite delicious.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Some piccies from Bordeaux trip

Some pictures from the last couple of days.
Chateau Latour from above, with the Pichons in the background.

St Emilion from the air.

Bordeaux versus Chelsea.

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Typical City: B of the Bang

Footy talk with an artistic twist. My team, Manchester City, used to play at a ground on the fringes of Moss Side, called Maine Road. Like the team, it was a funny old place, with a rather odd juxtaposition of stands. The Kippax was a massive three tier structure, modern and impressive, which completely failed to mesh with the other three sides of the ground. Then there were the temporary corner stands, designed to fill in the gaps and increase capacity. It was a stadium suited to the team.

Then a few years back we moved to The City of Manchester Stadium. Remarkably, City seemed to have made a shrewd move. A brand new stadium at the expense of the council, built for the Commonwealth games in 2002, and then retrofitted out as a state-of-the-art football venue.

But things are never straightforward with the world's most interesting football club. A remarkable 60 metre sculpture was commissioned for the entrance to the stadium. 'B of the Bang' is a dramatic metal construction featuring large, lethal-looking shards of metal (pictured, rather unflatteringly, from the stadium itself on a cold February day). These shards began to fall off, rather perilously. So the studio responsible has just settled with Manchester City Council for £1.7 million (see BBC news story). It's just so city.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Football and South Africa's Cloudy Bay

Played football again tonight. I've been playing regularly again for the best part of two months now, and I really like it. It's a group of dads from my younger son's school, with a few ringers thrown in. The standard is pretty good (if you're c. 40 and prepared to risk stiffness for a few days afterwards, you have to have some commitment to the game), and it's great fun, as well as doing some good for us.

On the subject of football, younger son, who has never shown much interest in sport (he's more into wrestling, dancing, hip hop and AC/DC) has been playing for his school 'B' team, as captain. I went to see him play this afternoon, and he did really well. He's tall, skinny, athletic and committed, and while he's only just developing real awareness of tactics and position, he had a really good game. I was proud to watch him.

So, to tonight's wine. It's Spier Private Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Stellenbosch, South Africa. This is as dramatic as Cloudy Bay was when it was first released: bold, aromatic, almost overpowering in its intensity, with rich tropical fruits, plus fresh grassiness, some chalky minerality and hints of smoke and spice. Concentrated and richly textured, yet fresh at the same time. It's a full-on style with real interest, and much better than I was expecting it to be. 91/100 (£13.99 Morrisons)

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 20, 2008

C'mon Citeh...the pain continues

Spent the evening watching Manchester City's Premier League encounter with Newcastle United, with my City-supporting chum Rob round at Pranay's house (he's a friend who has both Setanta and Sky Sports - he's planning to get up at 5 am tomorrow to watch India finish off Australia in the test match, which would be a fantastic result. Respect).

Things started well with City winning a slightly controversial penalty and Newcastle having the offender sent off. But then, just before half time, Newcastle pulled a goal back. Shortly after the break, they scored another. It was amazing: City had close to 70% of the posession and an extra man, but were losing! Life is never straightforward following this club. Eventually we equalized, but it was a strange and rather disappointing game that should have been won.

My verdict? City need more options than *just* playing a very tidy, neat passing game that relies on the killer pass from the edge of the box. They also need to threaten from both flanks, with the options to attack from slow build-up play down the middle, or from wing play, or from more direct balls from deeper positions. They need to be able to play on the break, but also to take the game to the opposition. Variety like this stretches defences.

For me, the most effective player tonight was Shaun Wright-Phillips. He's the real deal. Robinho is clearly a genius, but he has to be careful not to play too deep, where he is less effective. Martin Petrov is sorely missed. Ched Evans looked pretty good, again, coming on as a late substitute. I wonder whether Jo might find his position under threat when Benjani is fit again?

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Austrian Sauvignon that rocks

Played football again tonight for the first time in ages, and it was great fun. I was really encouraged that while I felt knackered after 10 minutes, I stayed that way for a full hour without feeling totally knackered. Football is brilliant for fitness. You run a lot in short bursts, but because you are chasing a ball your mind is taken off the fact that your muscles and lungs are in real pain, and thus you cover much more ground, more pleasurably, than you would if you were jogging or running on a treadmill. Best of all, if you exercise regularly, you can drink more wine and eat more calorific foodstuffs (e.g. cheese) without becoming fat. Not that it's wrong to be fat. It's just that I have such a fragile ego I need to avoid becoming fat because I couldn't cope with other people's disapproval.

Time for some wine after the football, and nothing better than a beautifully aromatic, fresh, minerally Sauvignon from Austria. This is a really superb effort.

Huber Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Niederosterrich, Austria
Wonderfully pure, precise and aromatic, with lovely minerality and bright fruit, along with some freshness from high carbon dioxide levels. The palate is pure with rounded, fresh, almost transparent fruit, a hint of fruit sweetness, and then beautifully focused minerality. It's a bright wine, but it's not at all sharp or acidic. There's a lovely combination of ripe fruit and minerality, but none of the grassiness that's a signature of this grape in New Zealand. It reminds me a bit of Gruner Veltliner, with its textural components and hints of spiciness. 91/100 (UK agent Thierrys)

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 01, 2008

NWR: Deep pockets. How deep? Very deep pockets.

Who are Chelsea? Who are Manchester United?

Life as a Man City fan is never boring, but over the last week it has got a whole lot more interesting. We're having to pinch ourselves to convince ourselves that this isn't just a dream.

First of all, City re-sign Shaun Wright-Phillips from Chelsea, and win 3-0 against Sunderland away with SWP scoring twice. Then there's a big money take-over by Abu Dhabi's royal family (see here) on transfer deadline day. A spokesperson for the group confirms that they have very, very deep pockets. Then there are rumours that City are bidding with Manchester United for Spurs' Dmitar Berbatov, at around £34 million. That would really upset UTD, and at the very least should put the price up substantially, even if he does end up joining City's rivals. Sweet. [Breaking news - he's signed for UTD for £30.5 m, when a day ago UTD weren't willing to pay £25 m - and they've got a proven temperamental player on their hands to boot. Good luck.]

Then comes the news that City have signed prime Chelsea target Robinho. He's a 24 year old Brazilian striker from leading club Real Madrid, and 24 hours' earlier would have been well out of City's range as one of the world's leading players. Outbidding Chelsea is super-sweet, especially when City aren't paying any more money than Chelsea would have - it's just that Real were so upset with Chelsea they'd rather sell to City, given the choice. There's a nice Youtube video of Robinho here, although I should add that these Youtube compilations tend to make anyone look great - even I look like Pele when you collate all my good moments (c. 50 seconds) and omit all my bad (c. 2 years).

His first game will be against...Chelsea.
As you'll see from the picture, even some of the news agencies are so shocked by this news they've assumed that the wrong Manchester team are involved (above). Also, I don't know much about AFP, but when they say '3 hours ago', I'm unsure as to their source of information - the story broke about 7 minutes prior to me taking this screen grab from the web.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NWR: City fans are the best

[Not wine related]

Haven't had any Man City talk for a while on the blog (this is the football team I support for those a little puzzled...http://www.mcfc.co.uk/). As regular readers will know, I was, along with just about every other City fan, perplexed and distressed by the way the chairman - the ex-Thai priminister - dispensed with the services of Sven at the end of last season, even though he'd got City playing good football and transformed the club from relegation battlers into contenders for Europe.

Anyway, after this ill-judged, heavy handed decision, he sort of redeemed himself by making a sensible choice for the next manager - Mark Hughes. While some uncertainty surrounds the future of the chairman, who has had to return to Thailiand to face trial for corruption, the City faithful can look forward to the new season with a degree of optimism.

The season begins early, because City have managed to get into the UEFA cup by the backdoor route of the fairplay league. Basically, the country with the most sporting behaviour gets a place, which is given to the team that fouled the least that didn't already qualify for Europe, and that's City. The only drawback is you have to start right at the beginning of the competition, and City will be playing their first game against a team from the Faroe Islands.

It's difficult to get there, so one enterprising City fan has chartered chartered a trawler. Sounds hilarious, although not for land lubbers who suffer from motion sickness.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Portuguese white blend with a difference, and more footy

FA Cup final day. [For the benefit of non-English readers, this is the final of England's main soccer cup competition, which has been going for 120+ years and is rich with history and passion.] This year, we had a final without any of the big four for the first time in ages, but like the Millwall vs. UTD match a few years ago, there was a non-premiership team in the final - this time Cardiff City. The game itself was quite good, with Cardiff showing well and Portsmouth looking decidedly short of ideas. A rather scrappy, but well taken goal by the talented but ungainly Kanu settled it Portsmouth's way. Could have done with a few more goals, and even a sending off to make it truly memorable, though. In Parker points? 86/100.

The football season is all but ended, with just Wednesday's Champions league final to come. The latest on the City/Sven saga is that Thasking allegedly decided to put the whole squad up for sale, which is crazy. City have issued a statement saying this is nonsense, which such a proposal surely should be. The cost of assembling a side of equivalent quality would be immense.

The reality is that the premiership has a top three of Arsenal, Chelsea and Man UTD. Then there's Liverpool who have fourth spot to themselves. Vying for fifth and sixth place are a gaggle of teams, including Everton, Aston Villa, Tottenham. Then I'd say there's a group of teams who are safe from relegation but who would struggle to get into Europe: West Ham, Newcastle, Porstmouth. Then everyone else is involved in a relegation battle. Where do City stand? At the moment, they're just about in the fighting for 5/6th group (look, I'm being optimistic). Which isn't bad. The cost of creating a team, from scratch, that could find themselves in the same position is absolutely staggering. Let's face it, to improve a side that is already safe in the premiership is difficult, even if you have a bit of cash to play with. There just aren't that many really good players around, and even fewer of them are available. Look how Liverpool have struggled trying to keep up with the big three.

The danger is that messing around with the squad too much and selling some of the stars could result in a side that is suddenly thrust into the relegation scrap. That would be disastrous.

Onto more cheerful subjects. Let's talk wine. I'm sipping, as I write, a rather unusual bottle of Portuguese white. It's called 'Wine writer's white cuvee: created for the IWA by Charles Metcalfe, blending wines from all six IWA producers, to celebrate the 2008 London extravaganza'. This is an upcoming tasting of Portuguese white wines, and IWA stands for Independent Winegrowers' Association, so the component wines will have come from Luis Pato, Quinta dos Roques, Quinta de Covela, Alves de Sousa, Casa de Cello and Quinta do Ameal.

The wine is in a clear glass bottle, sealed with the longest, most perfect-looking cork I've ever seen. I wish all corks were this good (pictured). What about the wine? It's reductive with a strongly minerally, flinty, slightly rubbery nose, but lovely fresh citrussy fruit. The palate is quite tight, showing some more of that mineralic reduction, and more of the citrussy fruit. The acidity is quite high, making this a refreshing sort of wine, but there's a bit of flatness, too. Reduction and oxidation in the same wine? Possible, but I don't want to be too hard on what is essentially a sound wine. However, I think this is a case where the whole isn't greater than the sum of its parts. But it is a thought-provoking sort of wine.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Footy talk

Apologies to the sensible readers who aren't obsessed by sport, but I have to get this off my chest. What on earth are Manchester City doing if they are seriously thinking of sacking Sven? (Here.) Despite the tail-end blip, this has been the best ever season for City in the premiership. But then remember that this is a club that sacked Tony Book after City finished 2nd and then 4th in what was then Division 1 back in the late 1970s, and then Peter Reid after two successive 5th place finishes. Both interventions led to a period of instablity and ultimately relegation. While the current craziness seems to be initiated solely by Thaskin, who must be naive, badly advised or both, we're talking about a club with a history for self-destructive behaviour.

Good to see two English teams in the final of the champions' league. I was hoping Liverpool would progress at the expense of Chelsea tonight, because then I could cheer for them in the final. Now I may be put in the uncomfortable position of having to cheer for UTD, which as a City fan will be quite hard. But I admire what they've done this season.

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 10, 2008

This is not a football blog, a cracking affordable aussie, and a film

This is not a football blog. Therefore I shall say very little about today's Manchester derby, except that City were good value for their win over United. I'm also thrilled that the City fans respected the minute's silence. Vassell, Benjani, you beauties.

The wine tonight is one that surprised me. I don't expect a great deal for a sub-£6 Australian red, but this wine over-delivered. It was bright, fresh, a bit meaty, a bit peppery and very tasty.

Stamford Brook Shiraz Viognier 2006 South AustraliaMade for Sainsbury by Angoves. Lovely fresh sweet dark fruits nose with a bit of pepper and some meaty richness. Really focused and appealing. The palate is pure, peppery and bright with great balance. It’s not at all confected or soupy. For the price, this is really good: as well as sweet fruit, there’s a fantastic savouriness and a bit of old world peppery Syrah character that I really like. Delicious. 88/100 (£5.99 Sainsbury’s)

Finally, a film. We saw Atonement last night, after having read the book. The film was very true to Ian McEwan's novel, but the ending in the film is less ambiguous than that in the book. If anything, the film is clearer and better integrated, although you miss out on the delicious, rich, complex writing style of McEwan. It's really worth seeing - James McEvoy is simply fantastic, as he was in the Last King of Scotland.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, February 03, 2008

More city stuff...sorry!

In what I promise will be the last footy post for a long time (unless we win the Manchester derby next Sunday), just a few pictures from today's stadium tour. Some prawn-sandwichy seats (in the directors area); me and Rob in the tunnel; and the pitch with some of the same photosynthesis lights that I saw at the Emirates on Thursday (City still have the same pitch that was laid a few years back when the stadium opened - UTD have to re-lay theirs during each season).


Saturday, February 02, 2008

In Manchester with the mighty blues!

I'm in Manchester with my chum Rob. We've been to see City play Arsenal at the City of Manchester stadium, which is one of the most impressive football venues you can imagine [I am heavily biased, of course]. City played OK-ish; Arsenal played very well - the result, 3-1 to Arsenal, flattered them slightly - their first goal was soft, their third came when we were chasing hard in the final minutes. I have to admit that Arsenal are a great side, and City could really do with a striker like the awesome Adebayour.

It was an early start to get here, though, for a 1245 kick-off time. And that was after a heavy Friday night out with the school dads in Twickenham. We started out at the White Swan (three pints of Tribute), proceeded to the Barmy Arms (a Bombardier and a London Pride) before finishing off at the Eel Pie for a final pint. At this stage I had to bail out while the others went off for a curry. This is what happens when old blokes who don't get out very often are let out for the night.

So we got to Manchester in good time, went to the stadium and parked without any hassle. Because the COMS is located on an old brownfield industrial site, there's loads of parking. It's a really well thought out stadium and copes pretty painlessly with 48000 crowds.

Rob and I are staying over, making a bit of a weekend of it (indeed, this match was a present from our respective spouses, which was very kind of them). We're staying in the Radisson Edwardian, which used to be the Free Trade Hall. It's pretty central, and an excellent place to stay, with a great spa.

We decided to grab some food and watch a film. We ate at Wagamamas, and it was good food - simple and fresh and with plenty of flavour. Then we watched a remarkable, unusual film - Cloverfield. It's about huge, wantonly destructive aliens who invade Manhattan (why always Manhattan?), but it's entirely shot as faux camcorder footage later recovered from the scene. As a result, it's incredibly jerky (there were wet patches on the floor of the cinema where they'd cleared vomit up from people who'd experienced motion sickness), but it has a really greast sense of realism. I really enjoyed it - it was silly, a bit scary, and quite fun.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Australia day tasting and footy talk

Went to the Australia day tasting today, which was held at Arsenal's impressive Emirates Stadium (though as a City fan I hate to admit this). Unfortunately, it was so crowded tasting proved very difficult. The problem was that the gallery area simply wasn't big enough to cope with four rows of tasting tables; people didn't have the room to taste comfortably (pictured above).
So rather than talk about the wines, let's talk footy. [Coincidentally, my chum Rob and I are heading up to the City of Manchester Stadium this weekend to see City play Arsenal: should be some good football played, as both sides like to do the right thing and play an attractive passing game.] Pictured above is the pitch at the Emirates, where the grass is being encouraged to grow throughout the winter by the use of some bright lights. Remember the 1970s? I have vague recollections of watching the Big Match, and from November through to February most of the games were played on pitches that were browner than they were green, resembling bogs. The keeper would punt a ball upfield and it would plug in the mud.
It may have been a more manly game then, but if you want to play attractive football you need a good pitch, and this sort of attention is needed to keep the grass growing. The alternative is to have a pitch like Chelsea's, which has traditionally cut up badly and then needed relaying half way through the season (remember the famous 'Stamford beach' a couple of seasons ago where Chelsea took on Charlton on a surface that was effectively sand?)

So Man City are struggling a bit at the moment. After showing lightning early season form they've slumped to sixth, although they are still within one win of fourth place. There are five teams fighting for this final Champions league spot – City, Liverpool, Villa, Everton and (potentially, if they continue improving) Spurs, although you could argue that Portsmouth are in the hunt, too.
That City are in this group is remarkable, considering that for the last few years they've been closer to the relegation battle. Sven has a lot to do with this: he's clearly a very, very good club manager. I don't think City's current lack of form is anything to do with him: teams seem to go through these cycles, even when they are managed really well.

Interesting to see that despite the money that Sven has been given, the core of the side is made up of Pearce-era players and youngsters who have come through the academy. The back four of choice in recent months were all here last year: Dunne, Richards, Ball and Onouha. Hamman, Ireland, Johnson, Etuhu, Vassell, Mpenza, Sturridge, Hart, Schmiechel also pre-dated Sven. Of Sven's signings, Petrov and Elano are sensational, and Corluka is also impressive. Gelson Fernandes has also done well, and while Garrido isn't starting, he's got promise. Bianchi didn't work out and Bojinov is crocked. But providing the players can find some fresh inspiration, I don't think City are too far off a top four side.

It's been fun watching the goings on at Newcastle. Newcastle have always had a self-destructive streak, but this is real crash and burn waiting to happen. Allardyce is a very good club manager and they didn't have the patience to let him sort things out, so they sacked him. Then they go and hire Keegan, off the managerial scrap heap.
I've got a soft-spot for King Kev, after he gave us that one season of incredible football when we gained promotion from the Championship with something like 104 goals. Watching Berkovic and Bernabia playing together with Huckerby and Goater banging in goals for fun, and Wright-Phillips beginning to show his best, was brilliant entertainment. But in the premiership Keegan's fragility in the face of pressure began to tell. Not given the media/fan love he seems to need, he appeared to withdraw into a shell. How will he fare in the goldfish bowl of St James' Park? Newcastle fans have passion; they also have unrealistically high expectations for their side. These expectations aren't going to be met, and Newcastle will do well to avoid being sucked into a relegation battle.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Predictions for 2008

Those of you who follow both the blog and the main wineanorak site will see that I've put up a list of wine predictions for 2008 (here).

In bullet form they are:
1. More competitive market
2. Belt tightening by consumers
3. Neoprohibitionism on the move
4. Alternative packaging increasing
5. High alcohol takes a beating
6. No more RP for UK retailers
7. Fewer corks
8. Australia struggles; NZ thrives

I also think we'll see a change of government in the UK, that bird flu will cause a global pandemic (get out your Tamiflu and food supplies), and that Man City will nick a champions league spot. On that latter point, you can see City's win last night here. I reckon they should sign Berbatov, Bentley and Mascherano and then they'll be challenging for the title. [Now I'm verging on silliness, I admit it.] Just got my tickets to see West Ham v City on Saturday in the FA Cup - I'm going with my chum Rob, and we're both taking our kids (he has two girls about the same age as our boys). I've not been to Upton Park before - it should be a good game.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 22, 2007

C'mon City

Just back from Man City v. Fulham at Craven Cottage (BBC report here). A great game of football that finished off 3-3, and which City were unlucky not to win, because they played by far the best football.

I've never seen a City side like this. Fluent, composed, with great one-touch passing and movement. Hamman was awesome playing a midfield holding role; further up the pitch the Brazilian Elano is as good as any player in the premiership in orchestrating many of the attacking moves.

Petrov had a great game out wide left, and capped it with a brace. Overall, a very good performance, even though three goals were conceded. I reckon city will finish top 5 this season. [Pictured is my chum Rob who I went with. We were there in the famous 4-3 cup win over Spurs a few years back.]


Monday, August 20, 2007

Top of the table

Forgive the non-wine focus of this post, but I couldn't let the occasion pass without a comment.

For non-football fans, the significance is that the team I follow, perennial underdogs since the late 1970s, yesterday beat their illustrious neighbours, to maintain a 100% record in this (admittedly very young) premiership season and top the table, 15 places above UTD. It's an exciting time to be a City fan.

You can see highlights here

Next up, Arsenal away. Bring-em-on!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Procrastination, and wild rock rocks!

One of the features of the broadband internet age is that there are now 1001 ways to procrastinate. Never before has it been so easy to put off doing proper work by hopping over to check the BBC news site, or waste time on facebook or flickr, pick up emails yet again, or just generally arse around on various blogs and internet sites.

At least in the age of dial-up it cost money to stay online, and getting online was a mild hassle so you just collected your messages a few times a day. 'Always on' connections make this sort of discipline difficult. I find that to work effectively, it takes me perhaps five minutes to get in the zone, and maybe another 10 to function really efficiently. So if I'm continually replying to emails, or browsing, then it's much harder to achieve the state of maximum productivity. So I'm going to make a pledge to procrastinate less over the next month. [Heck, now this is beginning to sound like one of those awful 'work more efficiently in the information age' blogs...]

Back to wine. Last night, watching City record their their second successive victory of the new campaign on Match of the Day, I opened a Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red 2005. And Wild Rock rocks! (see the tasting note below)

Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red 2005 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
From the Craggy Range stable, this is a blend of Merlot and Malbec from the Gimblett Gravels of Hawkes Bay. It's really impressive: a lovely, well balanced red in a Bordeaux mould. Attractive nose of dark fruits - ripe but still fresh, with a minerally, gravelly edge. Dark, almost brooding palate shows a lovely savoury edge to the spicy dark fruits. Some grippy, spicy tannins on the finish, together with just the faintest hint of animal character, complete this satisfying wine, which is not at all sweet or over-ripe. In its focus and depth, it reminds me a bit of some of the leading Margaret River reds from Australia. 90/100 (£9.99 Waitrose, on offer at £7.49 from 3-30th September 2007)

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Sven at City

[Non-wine-related football banter. Sorry.]

So yesterday Sven rocks up to City (see pictures here on the BBC news site). He's not actually manager yet, but his appointment may be confirmed today...or tomorrow... With City, nothing is straightforward and eveything is possible.

Sven has one of his puzzled 'what on earth are we going to do here' looks on. Some media outlets have suggested that Sven says he needs 10 new players to make City competitive. It's never dull following this team.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A wine like Man City

I'm trying to think of a wine like Manchester City, the football club I support (http://www.mcfc.co.uk/). But I can't. Oasis frontman and City fan Noel Gallagher sums the situation with City up best:

"The fixture list comes out on Thursday, we haven't got a manager, we've only got half a team and we haven't sold any season tickets. It's brilliant."
He adds:
"It's pure Man City. I'm loving it."

Labels: ,

Monday, May 21, 2007

Football, ice, Beaujolais and anticipating the trade fair

Some bits and pieces. Just got back from playing football for the first time in ages. Had a slight twinge in the hamstring before I played, but I didn't feel too bad on the pitch, although I knew I shouldn't really be risking it. Like a child, though, I just couldn't defer gratification. Last time I had a hamstring problem I was limping for two months.

Afterwards I copied the example of premiership footballers. And I'm not referring here to going out to a nightclub, drinking absurd quantities of booze, and then getting arrested for attacking someone. I used ice. Apparently, the tradition now is not to take big communal baths where everyone hunts for the bar of soap, but rather to fill a small bath with ice and then get in it. It's really good for muscles. So I sat for half an hour on one of those wine cooling things I found in the freezer. My hamstring felt much better for it.

Time for something to drink. I turned to Beaujolais, and a bottle I wasn't expecting a great deal from. For me, George Duboeuf represents the commercially successful face of Beaujolais winemaking, turning out correct, saleable wines that are agreeable but don't excite. In my experience they've always been well made, but lacking a real sense of place. This wine is a bit better than I was expecting, but if I'm going to be really honest, it's in that mould.

Georges Duboeuf Chiroubles 2006 Beaujolais
Slightly confected nose has sweet fruit and a bit of bubblegum character. The palate has a bright red berry fruit presence: it's accessible, juicy and quite fun, with good acidity and a bit of grippy tannin. There's nothing wrong with this at all, and it's better than the majority of Beaujolais I come across, but it lacks any excitement for me. It's the sort of wine I' be happy to drink if there weren't any more exciting options on a wine list, but it wouldn't be my first choice. Very good 84/100

It's the London International Wine and Spirit Fair tomorrow, and continuing on until Thursday. I'm chairing the closures seminar tomorrow, and then attending a seminar on Rustenberg on Wednesday, followed by a Nomacorc seminar on Thursday. I'll also be wandering around, probably in a bit of a daze, because this is a huge event.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 14, 2007


Forgive the non-wine related indulgence of some footy talk.

This last premiership season has been rubbish. Last night on the final Match of the day of the year (always a sad event), Lineker and Hansen were commenting on what a great season it has been - one of the best. I disagree, but then I am a Manchester City fan. Bad feelings about City's dodgy season aside, I just feel that top-flight football has lost some of its glamour, its sense of excitement, and whatever magic it had left. It's turning a bit soulless and repetitive.

And now Stuart Pearce has been sacked. Yes, City's season has been a poor one. But Pearce is an honest guy who inherited a bit of dodgy squad and has had a limited budget to bring in new players, at a time where top talent has been scarce and expensive. Respect to the man. I don't see what sacking him will achieve, unless of course it is a late attempt by the board to lure big Sam before he takes the poison pill of signing on as Toon manager. Well, at least we weren't relegated.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Barton speaks sense

Non wine related: What is it about Manchester City that makes everyone associated with this football club speak sense? First we have the manager, Stuart Pearce, admitting on TV that the referee was right to send one of his players off for diving (see e.g. here), and now Joey Barton - perhaps soon to be an England Player - rants, quite rightly, about the profusion of autobiographies being published by footballers in their early 20s here. It's a breath of fresh air. I quote from the Guardian piece:
The midfielder recently aired his views about players with new autobiographies out. "England did nothing in the World Cup, so why were they bringing books out?" he asked, before paraphrasing the contents: "We got beat in the quarter-finals. I played like shit. Here's my book." People might pray for his call-up, if only to see how he mingled with authors such as Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Californian Pinot Noir with a Spanish twist

Played football again for the first time in a while last night, and remarkably I'm not too stiff today. And this evening, quite by chance, I met one of my PhD supervisors for the first time in more than a decade. I suppose it's Tony's fault that I even did a PhD. As a rather immature 21 year old I'd just finished my degree, got one of the five firsts that were awarded in the life sciences that year (which surprised a lot of people, including myself), and sort of fancied the idea of becoming a scientist (I was desperately ignorant of any other career options, to be honest). Tony is one of those guys who is utterly likeable and easy to hang out with, and the thought of working for him, in a department I was already familiar with, was a very appealing one. It was great to catch up with him again - and almost bizarrely, it was because he was attending a lecture on the health benefits of moderate wine consumption. I quickly reassured him that most of what he was about to hear was bollocks because of confounding (a rather brutal summary, but one with more than a grain of truth to it) and the best reason for drinking red wine is because it tastes nice and is mildly intoxicating. Meeting Tony reminded me of how much I enjoyed my time as a PhD student - it would have been fun to work as an academic.

Tonight I'm drinking Californian Pinot Noir. One of my guilty secrets is that I've quite liked many of the Californian Pinots that I've tried. I guess Pinot Noir in California, despite the Sideways effect, hasn't been touched by quite the degree of pretension and price escalation that has bedeviled Californian 'Cabs'. The wine in question is from Marimar Torres' Sonoma estate. If you are approaching Pinot Noir from a Burgundian perspective, then this is pumped up on steroids with bulging biceps and pecs that look like rather taut breasts. But what I like about it is that it is savoury and quite complex, with a similar sort of flavour profile as an extremely cool climate mountain Syrah. It has the structure to age, and isn't tarted up with sweet fruit.

Marimar Estate Dona Margarita Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004 Sonoma Coast, California
From a 12 acre organic vineyard six miles from the Pacific, with 2340 vines per acre (high density) trained low. 62% Pommard clone and 38% Dijon 115 clone. Aged in a mix of half new and half one year old French oak barrels for 11 months before being bottled unfiltered. This wine has a deep colour, with a nose of sweet dark cherry and blackberry fruit, complemented with a bit of spicy oak. It needs a bit of time to open out. The palate shows lovely savoury dark fruits with a firm spicy structure. It's fresh, purely fruited and focused with some elegance, but it is currently quite primary and tannic, with a bit of high class oak evident. There's some nice earthy complexity, together with the faintest hint of rhubarb. There's some real potential for development here: quite a serious, full-on expression of Pinot Noir, albeit at quite a high alcohol level (14.5%). I'm impressed. Very god/excellent 92/100

Labels: , , ,