jamie goode's wine blog

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Summer wine

It's the transition point between spring and summer here in London. Today started off bright and chilly, got a bit cloudy, and then morphed into a gorgeously sunny summer's afternoon.

It has been fun having our open-topped hire car for the weekend. The boys have loved driving around with the roof down, cruising with some tunes playing.

Had an email from a colleague today who was very upset by something I said on my website recently. I hate to upset people, and so I removed the offending lines. But I think they over-reacted: what I said was an honestly held opinion, and instead of dashing off an outraged email, perhaps they should have reflected on whether there was any truth in what I was saying. I think that criticizing our colleagues is fraught with danger, but we're going too far if we never comment on what others say for risk of offending them. As a journalist, my job is to say things that, from time to time, will make other people feel uncomfortable. My duty is to my readers, first and foremost. If I'm holding back a little from frank honesty all the time, in order to play it safe, my writing will suffer.

To celebrate the lovely weather, it's time to crack open some Vinho Verde. Today it's Sograpes Quinta de Azevedo.

Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2008 Portugal
Pale and lightly spritzy, this is beautifully delicate with a hint of pithy bitterness, some floral notes and delicious citrus character. The high acidity keeps things very fresh. This is a lovely summer wine. 87/100 (10.5% alcohol, £5.99 Majestic, but £4.99 if you buy a couple)

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Two contrasting whites

Fiona has gone to visit her aunt for a few days, leaving me in sole charge of the kids. Fair enough: I get to travel a lot, so it's only appropriate that I should experience the other side of this. It's actually quite tough work. I'll never moan about deadlines again.

Tonight I baked some bread and had a simple supper of the aforementioned bread with three cheeses: Manchego, Keen's Cheddar and Comte. With this, a pair of contrasting whites.

Afros Vinho Verde Loureiro 2008 Portugal
From the Lima sub-region, this is super-fresh and lively with lovely lemon, pear, melon and peach flavours. It's crisp and bright with fresh fruit and an attractive pithy character. High acidity is offset by the overt fruitiness. I'm really getting to like the Loureiro grape variety. 90/100
De Bortoli Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2005 Australia
Slightly reduced matchstick and cabbage edge to the nose, which shows rich, toasty notes as well as fresh, herby fruit. The palate is concentrated and intense with spicy, toasty notes complementing the well balanced fig and peach fruit, with a pithy, citrussy edge. Itís like a blend of a rich Aussie Chardonnay with a lean, minerally white Burgundy. Not quite pulling together, with the reduction notes sticking out - but with real potential. 90/100 (£12.99 Tesco, Oddbins; 13.5% alcohol)

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, April 03, 2009

Another Vinhao, and a Heathcote Shiraz

Two wines tonight. I'm finishing off the remainder of the Vinhao (red Vinho Verde) that I opened last night and posted an extended tasting note on here. I enjoy this style of wine a lot, while accepting that it's not to everyone's taste. It's a bit like drinking pressings straight from the press. There's a time and a place for it.

The second wine is a Shiraz from Heathcote that's quite striking.

Shelmerdine Merindoc Vineyard Shiraz 2005 Heathcote, Victoria
From a single 7.4 acre vineyard on granitic soils, wild ferment and aged in French oak. 14.5% alcohol. This has a complex nose of super-sweet blackberry and plum fruit with some meatiness, a hint of mint and a pure, almost liqueur-like richness. The palate is concentrated with lush, sweet, intense fruit combined with some spicy oak and complexing black olive, meat and herb notes, as well as hints of medicine. It's very much new world in style with its ripe, intense fruit, but there's some old world-style complexity here, too. Overall, though, while I'm impressed with its size and dimensions, it doesn't really pull together all that well as a whole: could the closure (screwcap) have anything to do with this? 90/100 (£23.99 Oddbins)

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, January 12, 2009

Late night wine VLOG: Vinho Verde

It's been a while since my last VLOG post. Here's a new one, including the wonderful crazy Vinhao I reported on yesterday.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Vinhao: amazing stuff, and woefully underappreciated

On one of my trips to Portugal this year - in May - I made a brilliant discovery. [Of course, I'm not referring to my process of discovery as brilliant; rather, it was what I discovered that was brilliant.] It's red Vinho Verde. I'd heard it mentioned many times, but had never tried it. But I was curious, because most people seemed to think of it as an oddity verging joke status. So when I saw it on a wine list at the hotel I was staying at I ordered a bottle. It was absurdly inexpensive, and arrived chilled. I popped the cork and poured it - it was a deep, intense, vivid, youthful red purple colour, with a trace of spritziness. And it tasted beautiful: sharp, tannic, vibrantly fruity, juicy, slightly green but sweet at the same time, and a brilliant foil for most foods with its high acidity.

Then, a few days later, in a small restaurant in Guimaraes, I ordered a carafe of house red. The waiter came with a jug of darkly coloured, vibrant, youthful red Vinho Verde that tasted just like it had finished fermenting. It was dark, intense, fruity, tannic and acidic - and so full of life. And it cost just a few Euros.

But when I visited Vinho Verde in November, I had to ask producers to show me their red wines. They just didn't think foreign journalists would be interested in such a 'local' taste. Indeed, it's hard to find the wine outside the region - even in Lisbon you just don't see it, despite the fact that quite a bit is made.

Vinhao is the principal grape that red Vinho Verde is made from. It's also known as Sousao in the Douro, and its distinctive characteristic is that it is a teinturier, a red fleshed grape. This explains the incredible intensity of colour that these wines have. Generally, I really like wines where the grapes struggle for ripeness and only just achieve it, as the Vinhao does in the north of Portugal.

I don't know why the Portuguese are so apologetic about Vinhao. It's an extreme taste, with high tannins and acidity, but this is offset by the amazing fruit presence, and the youthful character of the wines. They have rough edges, but so do many interesting people. Vinhao should be cherished as something unique, delicious, and thoroughly gastronomic.

Two Vinhaos have prompted this post. They are both from the same producer, Afros: one is still and one is sparkling. They're utterly brilliant wines, but not for everyone. The estate is being run biodynamically, with Rui Cunha (Covela) as the consultant winemaker.

Afros Vinho Verde Tinto Vinhao 2007 Portugal
Remarkable stuff, and pretty refined by Vinhao standards. Opaque inky-dark red black colour with a purpe rim. Intense, sweet but savoury pure raspberry and cranberry fruit nose. The palate has a slightly spicy spike under the intense, pure, cherry, raspberry and plum fruit with a spicy, tannic bite. Brilliantly vivid, savoury and moreish with a gastronomic character. Great fun, but with a serious side. I love it. 92/100

Afros Vinho Verde Tinto Espumante 2006 Portugal
Another Vinhao, this time the sparkling version. Really deep red/purple in colour, this sparkling red is really food friendly. There's nice vivid dark fruit here with a hint of chocolatey richness and a trace of meatiness. Lovely acidity and some delicious tannic grip. But it shows some refinement, too. This is delicious stuff that would work brilliantly with a wide range of foods. 91/100

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tawny Port and Vinho Verde

Fiona has been away for the weekend, picking older son up from his Devon boarding school and taking him down to her sister's family in Braunton to stay the weekend. So I've been with younger son, giving him my undivided attention (apart from when I have to walk our increasingly plump labradoodle - I reckon there are about a dozen poopies in her tummy).

In fact, we had some people round to have a look at Rosie, and they've placed a firm order for the first of RTL's litter.

Two wines tonight. A really elegant tawny, plus an impressive high-end Vinho Verde.

Reguengos de Megaco Alvarinho 2006 Vinho Verde, Portugal
Fresh, bright, minerally, lemony nose with some fruity depth as well as the freshness. The palate has a citrussy edge to some beautifully weighted just-ripe peach notes, with a lovely fresh balanced character. Quite serious stuff, this. 90/100 (UK retail c. £12, agent Hallgarten)

Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Pale in colour: cherry red with orange tints. It's smooth, sweet and mellow with subtle spicy notes on the nose. The palate is elegant and super-smooth with nice soft texture and some mellow warmth. Some floral notes and hints of cherry add aromatic interest; overall, this shows great purity and elegance. 91/100 (£16 Waitrose, Tanners)

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 31, 2008

I love Portugal (2)

The last couple of days have been very relaxing. The sun has come out, and so we've been to the beach, dipped in the pool, played some tennis, and generally taken it easy. Espinho, where we are staying, isn't the sort of place you'd think of as a holiday destination, but it's really nicely situated, on a long, sandy beach that runs north as far as Vila Nova (the town on the other bank of the Douro from Porto).

An added bonus is 15 km boardwalk running along the seafront through the dunes, which makes long beach walks and runs a lot easier, while preserving the natural habitats from too much human impact. Younger son has been busy hunting lizards, and was delighted, after many hours trying, to catch one at last. It was released an hour later, unharmed.

The great excitement was earlier this evening, when after spending an hour hunting for crabs, we found an adder near the hotel, which we were able to follow for a while (albeit at a couple of arm's lengths). He was thrilled, as was I: there's something about a genuine encounter with nature that a zoo experience just can't match, even though the species may be the same on both occasions.

All this talk of nature, and naturalness, leads me on to wine. We've been enjoying some wines that taste pretty natural, namely Vinho Verde, both Branco and Tinto. Quinta da Aveleda Branco 2006 is brilliantly fresh and fruity with real precision; Ponte da Barca Tinto 2006 has been my red companion over the last two nights, with vibrant, juicy fruit, a bit of spritz and high acidity - just 10% alcohol, too. It's really fresh and drinkable - not serious, but fun and delicious.
These wines taste natural, even though, for all I know, they may have been made industrially. The thing is, they are expressions of where they have come from. No one has tried to fake them, making them taste sweet and modern. They are not perfect wines, but they have character and they are affordable. I guess this is one of the reasons I like Portugal.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I love Portugal...

Post from the road. I'm in Portugal, this time with my family. As well as visiting solo on several occasions, I've been here with Fiona a couple of times before, but this is the first time we've brought the kids along, and I'm really glad we did. There's something special about this country that I wish my two boys could 'catch' a little of.

The reason behind the visit is to learn more about cork and its production, courtesy of the leading cork producer in the world, Amorim. I'm keen to find out more about the sorts of measures that Amorim are taking to eradicate taint issues, which still haunt the industry, and also about the natural cork-based alternative closures they are marketing. I'm also looking at issues such as sustainability, which are of great current interest.

It's the first time I've really tried to juggle a work trip and a family trip in this way. It's fraught with danger, in the sense that if Amorim were to foot the whole bill this would be a significant conflict of interest (rather than just a mild one). I guess the only way to deal with this problem is to be honest, and disclose any such information, and trust that readers realize that at all times, I'm trying to deliver the best, most balanced, most informed perspective on any particular issue that I'm writing on.

After all, my reputation, and thus my future earning potential, depends on this. If gathering data means spending time with winemakers, staying in their homes, eating dinner with them, having flights paid for, and receiving samples, all in order to get the best perspective and inside line on any particular story and issue, then as long as it is disclosed, it is not a huge problem. It's the undisclosed, behind the scenes deals that are worrisome. And for me, in half-term week, being able to combine family time with work on the road is hugely advantageous.

Last night we stayed in the Alentejo at Monte dos Arneiros. It's a beautifully quiet, secluded country retreat just an hour's drive from Lisbon, and we liked it so much we intend to go back there in the near future. While I visited Amorim's plants at Coruche, the kids and Fiona swam and rode bicycles through the 500 hectares of cork oak forest that this property manages. Food was authentic local fare, presented without any fuss or pretension. The weather was atypically cool and damp, but we still had a good time.

Tonight we are staying in Espinho, at the Hotel Solverde. It's on the coast, some 18 km south of Porto, and despite the dire account of Espinho in the Rough Guide, it seems quite a nice spot - well, at least, the hotel is rather plush and well managed, boasting indoor and outdoor pools, a spar, and a helicopter pad. We haven't hit the town, yet.

Much merriment was had this evening when we checked out the indoor pool, and were told that we had to wear swimming hats. All of us. We purchased these from the spa reception - elder son chose pink, younger son red, I was yellow and Fiona was blue. They made us all look very daft indeed, and it reminded me of the time when we fell foul of French swimming pool laws that insisted on males wearing speedo-style trunks and not swimming shorts (so, as a mark of protest, we swam in our briefs, which was, rather strangely, allowed).

Tonight we dined on room service and ordered some wines from the restaurant list. Even in a five-star joint like this, you can drink well reasonably cheaply. The wine list had some good names (alas, no vintages or descriptions), but we enjoyed the Quinta das Bageiras 2003 Bairrada (good, complex, earthy, spicy Baga that tastes wonderfully natural and traditional) and the Casa de Togeira Vinho Verde 2007 (laser-sharp, crisp and attractively fruity). The former was 17 Euros, the latter just 11.
Tomorrow I meet with Amorim's technical expert Miguel Cabral, and then we're off to Antonio Amorim's home for dinner with the kids. I really hope they behave themselves. His kids are of similar age, and ours have been sternly warned...

Labels: , , , ,