jamie goode's wine blog

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A remarkable Roussillon white: Matassa

This is a brilliant wine, but it won't be to everyone's tastes. It's the sort of wine that if I were a sommelier, I'd warn people about. This is because it has some reduction, but for me this is good reduction: matchstick and flint, which I think will set this wine up for a long future, and which adds complexity in this context (and this doesn't 'blow off' - it's still there on day 3 - I think this idea of reduction blowing off with air is not always true). Quite profound.

Matassa Blanc 2007 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, France
13% alcohol. 70% Grenache Gris, 30% Maccabeu. This is a serious, complex, backward wine that’s a bit of an acquired taste, but which I think is brilliant. It has a smoky, minerally, almost salty nose with some nuttiness and a bit of burnt match reduction. The palate is dry, savoury and intensely mineral with a long, nutty, broad finish. There’s real focus and intensity to this wine: it’s not at all fat. Just delicious, and all set for an interesting evolution over the next 5–10 years. 93/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene)

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cabbage in Champagne

Drinking a nice Champagne tonight that has a distinctive note of cabbage to it. It's the Asda Extra Special Vintage 2000 Brut, made by Chanoine Freres (£17.97). It's pretty serious stuff (won a Decanter gold and an IWC silver), and has a complex, toasty, cabbagey nose with savoury, yeasty complexity. The palate is concentrated, savoury and dense with nice grippy, toasty, herby flavours. Nice balance, too.

So where do the cabbagey notes come from? (They are actually much nicer than they sound, in the context of this wine.) I guess it must be a hint of reduction - something I often find in Cava, incidentally. Ordinarily, you'd want to manage your ferments so the yeasts don't produce too many of these sulfur compounds (which contribute aromas ranging from rotten eggs, through cabbage, through matchstick, to flintiness). But here, in this Champagne, they add a nice savoury richness. This is a nice fizz. Well done Asda.

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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.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Danish reduction

Just back from Denmark, where I was attending Lallemand's technical conference. Last night, I arrived at Billund airport at 11.30 pm, and was driven 40 km to Horsens, for the Bygholm Park hotel (http://www.scandic-hotels.dk/) where we were meeting.

It's a beautiful setting, surrounded by attractive parkland (above). I was up early to put the finishing touches on my presentation, grab some breakfast, and then wander down to the conference room.

It felt like a rare luxury to be able to attend a scientific meeting. This was the first I had been to since I finished my day-job employment as a science editor. The open spirit of enquiry and generosity of spirit that you get at scientific meetings is to be marvelled at. [Science is one of the few truly cooperative human ventures I can think of that actually works.]

The program was as follows:

Technical meeting Sulphur compounds –production and sensory impact

Wine faults and their prevalence: data from the world's largest blind tasting
Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop

The genetics of sulfide taint production in Saccharomyces
Angela Lee Linderholm, Linda F. Bisson, Kevin L. Dietzel, Yeun Hong, Gagandeep R. Kumar, and Carrie L. Findleton

Formation of aroma-active S-compounds by Oenococcus oeni during malolactic fermentation in wine-like media and wine

Doris Rauhut, Volker Schäfer, Beata Beisert, Bernd-Christoph Lochbühler, Magdalena Gawron-Scibek and Sibylle Krieger-Weber

Optimizing wine quality through the application of flavour-active yeast strains and nutrients.
Chris Curtin

A reduction in smell?
Michael Moisseeff

I'm happy to expand on any of these if there's any interest. I thought all the papers were excellent. The most entertaining by far, though, was the final one, which featured some fun with scents. Moisseeff works the audience brilliantly - he's like a stand-up comedian. I should really blog on his talk separately.

I left after a quick beer to catch my return flight, and was back home by 10 pm. Utterly painless journey, in part because I was flying from a tiny airport in an organized sort of country. A really good day.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wine faults in Denmark

I'm currently enduring that special part of hell also known as Gatwick South Terminal, en route to Billund in Denmark, where tomorrow I'll be presenting a paper on wine faults at the XXth Entretiens Scientifiques Lallemand. I've never been to Denmark before, and seeing as I'm coming back tomorrow evening, I doubt I'll see much of it. Apparently, Legoland is in Billund.

Most of my talk will be based on the last three years' data from the International Wine Challenge. These data have been collected by Sam Harrop MW (pictured), who is a co-author on this paper, and they're really exciting. The strength of this data set is that it's large (c. 15 000 wines opened, 10 000 separate wines entered); it's a 'real world' analysis of faults; some reasonably smart palates have been involved in getting the data; and there are multiple years' worth of data to look at. The weakness is that it's sensory analysis and not chemical, and also that faults such as reduction and brettanomyces may well be under-reported, as well as the possibility of false positives.

One of the exciting things about the paper is that it will contain a regional breakdown. Some countries are over-delivering oxidized wines, bretty wines, and wines with reduction defects.

There's a limit to what I can say about the data here, because they aren't mine to share. But I can say (and these are provisional figures from an ongoing analysis, so please don't quote them elsewhere) that cork taint is hovering around 3% all three years. Screwcap reduction is around 2.5%, but going down. With 2008, it seems that winemaking faults are overtaking closure faults as the chief cause of problems. Around 7% of wines entered into the challenge show some sort of fault, which isn't really good enough.

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