jamie goode's wine blog

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A nice walk followed by Semillon

We took advantage of our child-free status to walk in the countryside. The walk? One of the Guardian's series on British walks, this one in the Oxfordshire countryside focusing on the white horse of Uffington - here. It was really enjoyable, and the directions were clear and unambiguous. We completed the 10 mile route in 3.5 hours, and for most of the way RTL could be let off the lead.

Tonight's wine? An Australian Semillon, but not from the Hunter Valley. Hunter Semillons are one of Australia's unique contributions to the fine wine scene: they're low in alcohol, high in acidity, and start out life neutral but age into a beautiful toasty maturity. Now this is an exception. It's a top Semillon but it comes from the Barossa.

Peter Lehmann Margaret Barossa Semillon 2002 Barossa, Australia
A wonderfully intense unoaked Semillon that's different to the classic Hunter style, but has some similarities, too. Powerful, minerally, limey nose with wax and herb notes. The palate is intensely limey with some toasty, honeyed richness. Taut, crisp and citrussy with a grippy, savoury finish. Drinking beautifully now but will probably improve. 92/100 (11.99 retail, 12% alcohol)

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tesco press tasting

For anyone with a newspaper column, one of the most important tastings in the calendar is that organized by Tesco, who sell more wine than anyone else in the UK. And today was the Tesco spring tasting, held in the pleasant surroundings of County Hall on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Westminster.

The Tesco wine range is quite strong at the moment, and there was a nice mix of the outright commercial and more geeky 'individual' wines, with quite a bit in between. I came away with lots of ideas for filling my Express column, which now includes seven wines each week.

A I wanted to blog about here is one that surprised me as soon as I took a sniff. It's De Bortoli's All Rounder Semillon 2002, from the Riverina region, and which sells at 6.99 a bottle. This is utterly remarkable stuff. It's a more-or-less dry botrytised Semillon, with 9.5 g/litre residual sugar. The nose is incredible: complex apricot, lime and spice with some sweet melony notes. It smells like a really good Sauternes. The palate is just off-dry, with complex lime, herb and vanilla notes. Concentrated and intense, this is an incredible wine, and a complete bargain. You just have to ignore the dreadful packaging.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Semillon and more films

I have a cold. It's not horrendous, but it's mightily annoying, and tasting wine with a cold is like the equivalent of driving in rain with broken windscreen wipers - something I've done before, many years back when I was courting Fiona in a blue Vauxhall Astra 1.3 Estate with 140 000 miles or so on the clock. The windscreen wiper motor had failed, and it was summer, and in the interim period between the motor failure and getting a 'new' motor (from a breakers yard) I risked it, checking the weather forecast before driving. On the way back from Fiona's place in Cheam one day, it started raining. The remainder of the 5 mile drive back to Wallington was tricky, to say the least.

Anyway, I can still taste a bit, although not as well as normally, so I've opened another of the Bibendum sale wines (starts 3rd July, www.bibendum-wine.co.uk). It's the Glenguin Estate Old Broke Block Semillon 2005 Hunter Valley. An unoaked style, as is the norm in the Hunter with this variety, sealed with a tin-lined screwcap. It has a very attractive, bright personality with lots of vivid lemon and lime fruit and a savoury, acidic palate. There may also be just a hint of reduction here, of the flinty, minerally variety. Primary and intense, this is a boldly flavoured wine that I reckon is best in its first flush of youth. If it wasn't for the suspicion of reduction (which I can't be sure of because of the cold), I'd get some of this and lose it in the cellar for a few years to see if it underwent that Hunter Semillon sort of transformation. Good value at the sale price of just over 5.

Now a change of subject. Continuing my occasional commentary on films watched, I have three more for you, two very good and one a bit mixed.

The first is the mixed one. Babel, as the title suggests, is a film exploring the issue of communication difficulties, across cultures, languages and even the barrier of sensory impairment. There are three separate stories (although most reviews seem to pick out four); two connected quite strongly, with the third linked-in only tenuously. We begin in Morocco, with the shooting of an American tourist (Cate Blanchett) by two shepherd boys arsing around with a rifle. Didn't anyone tell them that guns are dangerous? The rest of this story centres on her husband's (Brad Pitt) attempts to summon medical help of a standard acceptable to Americans. The second story follows the plight of two kids being looked after in San Diego by a Mexican au pair who takes them with her to her son's wedding over the border because she can't get time off. The third story tracks the difficulties encountered by a hearing-impaired Japanese teenage girl in Tokyo, who finds that her emergent sexuality is the only way she can really connect with those around her. Overall, the film absorbs in places and shocks in others, but lacks any real coherent message, which is a drawback for a movie that otherwise feels like it's designed to convey a message. It's Hollywood trying to do an art house movie, but maybe that's a bit mean, because it is worth watching, all things considered.

The second film is altogether more inventive and clever, although you don't want to be taking it too seriously. Little Children is a wonderful black comedy exploring the hopes, aspirations and fears of affluent smalltown America. Kate Winslet is a bored housewife who finds (illicit) love and companionship by means of a trainee lawyer who can't quite bring himself to pass his final exams, and is acting as house husband to his pushy career wife. The occasional narration, which fades out as the film progresses, is very Desperate Housewives in feel. It's hard to describe much more without spoiling the plot, but there's just one scene, in which the local paedophile slips unnoticed into the crowded municipal swimming pool in flippers and a snorkel mask, and then is spotted causing a mass exodus reminiscent of Jaws, that is a work of comic genius. But this film is more than just a black comedy. There's some poignancy, too, and the characters are portrayed with sympathy and astute observation. Well worth watching.

Talking of comic genius, the third film in this selection, Hot Fuzz, is quite brilliant. Simon Pegg writes and stars in this buddy cop send-up. I really liked Pegg's previous effort, the fantastic Shaun of the dead, and Hot Fuzz is its equal. The story? Pegg is an ambitious and effective constable in the Met, who is transferred to a small country village because his high arrest rate is showing his colleagues up. Things are not as they seem though: Sandford is just too clean and crime-free to be believable. Brilliantly scripted, although perhaps just a little over-long, you gotta see it. Dude.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Bank holiday boozing

My twin sister, Anne, her husband Dominic and their two nippers came to stay for the bank holiday weekend. We had a really good time, helped by the fact that our kids and theirs got on very well. Yesterday we headed up to London, spending a couple of hours at the Imperial War Museum and then heading over to Kensington Gardens for a picnic, lubricated with some Lindauer fizz. They live just round the corner from Trent Bridge in Nottingham, so we'll try to arrange a trip up there to correspond with a suitable game (we're talking cricket here). Dominic still hasn't quite forgiven me for taking him to see City play at Notts County (we're talking football now) several years ago when City were travelling the divisions. He's a rugger man, and so wasn't really prepared for the experience of being in the away end with the hardcore City boys. If I remember correctly we drew that one 1-1, with Goater getting one of his three yard specials to equalize and the city captain getting sent off quite early on.
Some nice wines over the weekend, of which my favourite was Henschke's Louis Semillon 2005 Eden Valley (13 Waitrose). It's complex, tight and minerally with just a hint of struck match reduction and some richness as well as the lemony fruit. Stylish stuff.

We also had a bit of an impromptu beer and cider tasting, including a really weird Marzen Schlenkera Smokebeer from Bavaria that smelled like salami. I really enjoyed the Aspall Dry Premier Cru Suffolk Cyder, which is fresh, light and precise with zippy acidity. Almost Champagne like. Their website is www.aspall.co.uk, and you can get it in Asda and Sainsbury, I believe.

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