jamie goode's wine blog

Monday, December 21, 2009

Superb organic Port from Fonseca

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

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

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Another packed day: focusing on Chile

Another busy day, focusing on Chile.

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

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

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

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Organic German Riesling

You don't find all that many organic wines in Germany. It's surprising. I suppose in the Mosel it's hard to be organic, when you have small plots of vines in many vineyards, some of which are so steep that they have to be sprayed by helicopter. Anyway, here's an organic Riesling from the Rheingau that I quite liked.

Peter Jakob Kuhn Riesling Trocken QbA 2007 Rheingau
11% alcohol. Yellow colour. Savoury, minerally, limey nose with a hint of honeysuckle and apple. The palate is bone dry and mineralic with complex savoury, citrussy fruit and good acidity. Full flavoured with good food compatibility. 88/100 (11.99 The Winery)

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Organics and biodynamics unleashed: Vintage Roots tasting

Spent an enjoyable day tasting the range of UK merchant Vintage Roots. They are unique in that they only stock organic/biodynamic wine.

It was a really well organized tasting for several reasons. (1) The location is great: the Worx at Parsons Green is a light, airy space that's just right for tasting wine. (2) There weren't too many people (although it was well attended). (3) Plentiful supply of Riedel Chianti stems which are now the default wine tasting glass for serious tastings. (4) Just the right quantity of wines, c. 140, so you can taste widely in a day but not feel like you are missing loads out.

The wines were pretty good across the board, but for me, there were a number of stand-outs. It was good to see a healthy representation of new world wines, with the best producers being Millton (very consistent range from New Zealand's Gisborne region - wines of real personality) and Emiliana (Organic Chilean winery). I also really enjoyed the Champagnes from Fleury, including three versions of the same Vintage 1995 with varying dosages (5, 10 and 53 g), a brilliant Vintage 1996 and a lovely 1990. An honourable mention should go to Quinta do Coa's Douro red (the basic not the reserve), a pleasant, understated Californian Pinot from Barra, and an affordable, tasty Pinot from Meinklang in Austria.
I also had a nice chat with Tom Dean, a Brit who married into a wine estate in Piedmont and who has converted it to biodynamics over the last few years. He had with him a cow's horn and two biodynamic preparations: horn silica and horn manure (pictured).

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Taking it easy with organic Syrah

After an exhausting Wednesday, I decided to take things a bit easier today, day 4 of my freelance existence. I began by taking younger son to school and then walking RTL in Bushey Park, where she spent about 25 minutes in the water trying to eat assorted wildfowl (fortunately, with little success). I was standing helplessly at the side, calling her name in vain and generally feeling rather embarassed that I'm such a rubbish dog owner. 'There's no such thing as bad dogs', all the guidebooks on dog behaviour say, 'just bad owners'.

Then I set about my work, dealing with emails, doing some tinkering with the website, making some phonecalls, typing up some notes. Lunch was a brief affair, and I returned to work, pausing to do the afternoon dog walk, and then finishing about 5.30. I took a few breaks to play some guitar and make some coffee. The day passed pretty quickly.

This evening I hopped off to younger son's parent's evening. He loves his current teacher, a dude into his technology who uses an iPhone. I was very impressed by him, too - it's so nice when your kids are being taught well. Teachers have a great deal of power to influence their pupils, and I still remember the good (and not so good) teachers I had when I was at school. [As an aside, I almost became a teacher: when I was finishing my first degree I was going out with a medic in Leicester, and I had an interview to study teacher training in Leicester so I could be close to her. But then I realized it wasn't for me, and that she wasn't for me. Life would have been very different if I'd taken that particular fork in the road.]

After this I drove into central London to pick up the last of my stuff from the office. On the way I listened to Radio 4. I must be a sad old git, because it was actually very entertaining. I caught a program on science, and then a repeat of Melvyn Bragg's 'In our time'. A bit nerdy and geeky, but the sort of thing you listen to, learn a bit, and feel better for it. I also listened to the Sat Nav. My friend Rob has a sexy female voice on his Sat Nav, but I have a rather stern sounding bloke. It's the default voice, I think. Or it's the one Fiona has chosen.

Tonight I'm trying an organic red from the Languedoc's Minervois region, which has just been listed by Waitrose at 7.99 in store. It's one of those wines that I like, but I don't love. Does that make sense?

Chateau Maris 'Syrah Organic' 2006 Minervois, Languedoc
An intensely coloured wine made with grapes grown organically 'according to biodynamic principles' (which presumably means it is not certified biodynamic), weighing in at a heady 14.5% alcohol. The nose is a little shy, with some spicy minerality, a bit of alcohol, and fresh dark fruits. The palate shows vivid, pure red and black fruit with some rather grippy, peppery, spicy tannic structure and a drying, earthy finish. I like the way the fruit has been captured here: it's a vivid, fresh sort of wine. But the hot, slightly bitter alcohol does make its presence felt, too, and the fruit isn't rich enough to cope with the grippy tannins. 87/100 (7.99 Waitrose)

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Organic, biodynamic and Californian

I've had mixed feelings in the past about the Bonterra wines, if I'm honest. I've enjoyed them without falling in love with them, and I have to admit to being slightly suspicious by the way that Brown Forman (the parent company) have seemed to over-play their organic hand. It just seems like there's a disconnect between big company/corporate marketing strategy and the generally smaller scale organic/biodynamic approach.

But I'm an open minded sort of guy (or, at least, I like to think I am), and so I judged these two wines as I saw them. The Viognier is fantastic, and good value at 10. The flagship biodynamic McNab is quite a serious effort, which I reckon will show brilliantly with a few years in the cellar.

Bonterra Vineyards Viognier 2006 North Coast, California
Organic. Wonderful aromatic Viognier nose showing apricot, peach, honey and lemon. The palate has appealing bright fruit with a nice rich texture. It's apricotty and fresh, with some vanilla. Good concentration: a lovely full flavoured dry white. I'm impressed. 90/100 (9.99 Booths, Majestic [from May])

Bonterra The McNab 2003 Mendocino, California
A blend of 47% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Old Vine Petite Sirah. Initially fruity and a bit oaky, but after a short while this is beginning to show its true colours: there's some earthy, minerally, spicy depth to the ripe fruit. Quite elegant, albeit in a ripe style, with an attractive plummy savouriness. A stylish, well balanced, intense wine that finishes with firm tannic structure, suggesting it has some way to go. I reckon the oak will integrate well with a few more years in bottle, and this has great potential. It's almost like a serious, traditional Rioja in terms of flavour profile. 92/100 (19.99 Vintage Roots)

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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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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Another Chardonnay

Next stop in the Chardonnay trail is California. The more commercial Californian wines are often dire, but Brown Forman's Bonterra brand is one I've been quite impressed with, even though they've seemed to milk the organic thing rather too much. I really quite liked this latest release of their Chardonnay.

Bonterra Vineyards Chardonnay 2005 Mendocino, California
Lots of flavour here, but it's not overdone: I'm getting baked apples, pears and a hint of lemony freshness, together with some spicy, toasty oak which adds richness. Quite broad shouldered, but not as fat as I remember previous releases being. Very good+ 88/100 (Waitrose 8.99 although I think it is currently on promotion at a bit less)

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