Gamay Focus 29: B Kosuge Wines Gamay Noir 2015 Carneros, Napa, California

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I’m in the Napa Valley for a few days, and on my first morning here I found myself at Oxbow Public market for some Ritual coffee. I couldn’t help browsing the wine selection and coming away with an interesting-looking bottle.

It’s made by Byron Kosuge, who worked for 15 years at Carneros winery Saintsbury, leaving in 2001. He then did shorter stints at a few other wineries, before starting out on his own in 2004. He’d wanted to make Gamay for a while and couldn’t find any grapes available, but he did manage to get hold of some cuttings. One of his growers, Brian Shephard at ‘The Shop’ vineyard (a 3.5 acre vineyard in Carneros so named because it’s planted next to Brian’s vineyard supplies shop) agreed to graft over half an acre of 15 year old vines to Gamay because Byron committed to taking the grapes, and the result is this, the first vintage of his Gamay Noir. It’s really good.

B Kosuge Wines Gamay Noir 2015 Carneros, Napa, California
13.2% alcohol. This is compact yet nicely fruity, with sleek black cherry and raspberry fruit, and a smooth, fine-grained, soft tannic structure. It’s quite old world in style, showing moderately ripe fruit but also some stony savouriness. Finely textured with lovely balance, this is a very convincing Gamay that drinks nicely. I’m impressed. 92/100 (purchased at Oxbow, Napa, for $25)

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Video: Alternative America - three producers from the USA doing something a bit differently

 

At the Real Wine Fair I caught up with three producers from the USA who are doing something a bit different, and making excellent wines in the process.

Scott Frank is an Oregon producer with a winery in downtown Portland called Bow & Arrow. He’s fallen for the Loire, and makes a compelling Melon (the grape of Muscadet) and a brilliant Gamay. He also makes one of the most refined cool climate Cabernets I have tried (a blend of Sauvignon and Franc).

Matthew Rorick is based in Napa, California, and with Forlorn Hope he’s concentrating on grape varieties that would have been common in this part of the world before prohibition. In particular, his Saint Andrews is a wine made from a vineyard planted with varieties that would have been popular in the 19th Century, including Green Hungarian.

Mike Roth’s Lo-Fi wines are distinctively packaged, with designs based on old record labels. His approach to winemaking, with grapes from Santa Barbara County, is decidedly analog rather than digital.

The Real Wine Fair, some thoughts

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Yesterday was the first of two days of the Real Wine Fair, which was held at Tobacco Dock in East London. This is a great venue, with wonderful natural light and a good atmosphere.

The Real Wine Fair is one of the two significant natural wine fairs held each in London year, along with RAW. Both are great, but the Real Wine Fair is better, in my opinion, because it isn’t so fundamentalist (RAW requires producers to put their sulfur dioxide levels in the catalogue next to each wine), and the wines tend to be more interesting (Real is signed acts imported by one of a select group of UK importers, while RAW is lots of unsigned acts – anyone who wants to pay to take a stand and passes the naturalness test). But I think it’s great for London that we have two such fairs.

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What I loved about yesterday, in addition to trying some excellent wines, was the buzz of seeing so many people enjoying these wines. And many of them were young. And cool. It must drive Robert Joseph, Bruce Palling and Jay Rayner crazy to see consumers having such fun drinking these natural wines. The future of wine is bright, I reckon. Let’s leave the ‘natural’ tag aside for a bit: there was just a spectrum of very interesting wines from all over the wine-producing globe on show. ‘Natural’ has been a banner under which these producers have gathered, and as such it has been a useful category. It’s a shame that the term has become divisive, and some of the cheerleaders of natural wine are at fault here by classifying the world in such a binary way: natural versus ‘chemical’ or ‘manipulated’. Promote natural wine through its virtues, not by bashing the opposition (or what you perceive to be the opposition).

The wine world can’t be neatly divided into two camps like this. Nor does a wine producer’s choice not to join the natural camp mean that they are adding lots of chemicals to their wine. There exist a spectrum of approaches to winemaking, and some are more natural than others, and most fine wines would probably be counted as natural if a sensible and slightly broader definition of the term is used.

I tried a few faulty wines yesterday. The main fault was mousiness, which is a strange fault that you can’t smell, but which you experience as an aftertaste once the wine has been in your mouth. It’s a deal breaker for me. In the right context I can live with a bit of brett, some oxidative notes, elevated volatile acidity (when it’s acetic acid and not ethyl acetate) and some reduction, but cork taint and mousiness are always bad.

But we need to learn to accept the odd fault, if it’s the price of beauty. And I think the occasional fault might well be the price of beauty: working more naturally does seem to be the path to making compelling interesting wines, but it’s a tough journey for many, with some failures as well as some successes. I really respect those who choose this road less travelled over a safer, more conventional approach.

We owe a lot to the natural dudes. Natural wine seems to have really changed the flavour spectrum of wine. It is a new aesthetic system, with new rules. For those who have been educated in the old system with its rather different benchmarks, it can be quite a challenge to adapt when more natural styles are encountered. The community of judgement that decides what is good and what is bad in wine has to ask lots of questions and enter into a discussion. Not all natural wines are good. How do we assess wines that are quite different in style to what we are used to? It’s hard, and for this reason some refuse to engage at all. Settle for the comfort of the familiar. It’s interesting that some have made a similar journey with food – branching out into experimental cuisine with an open, critical mind – yet when it comes to wine they simply aren’t willing to engage, and reject the unfamiliar as bad.

The best way forward is to embrace the new while retaining what is good of the old. And for wine producers, there’s a lot of cross-fertilization among the different camps. What was revolutionary or crazy a decade ago is now mainstream. And much of the progress is a return to the past. I’m enjoying being a small part in this world and watching the emergence of ever more interesting wines. It’s a good time to be a drinker.

 

Dinner at 67 with uncle Erni

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Gareth Birchley of Berry Bros & Rudd (and Come Dine With Me fame) convened a small dinner. Birchley, who was described by Telegraph wine columnist Victoria Moore as ‘a boisterous youngster with an estuary accent and a fondness for following up Michelin-starred dinners with Dom Perignon in hot tubs,’ is good buddies with Ernst Loosen, who he refers to as Uncle Erni, and so a few of us gathered at 67 Pall Mall for a late dinner after Erni had finished conducting a tasting.

I’m not a member of 67, but I have been a few times, and once again I was really impressed with the food, and especially the service. We had quite a few wines and we were dealt with brilliantly by head sommelier Terry Kandylis.

I didn’t take detailed notes, but here are some thoughts on the wines. We began with a very assured bottle of Dom Perignon Rosé 2004, which is just seamless and thoroughly drinkable, in the Dom style: serious but accessible. Then we had a bottle of Pierre-Yves Colin Morey Bourgogne Blanc 2011, which at £40 on the list is a bargain, because this is proper white Burgundy.

Things got properly serious with the next wine, which is Erni’s GG Reserve (an unofficial designation). This is a lovely wine. It spends two years on its lees in large oak, and it’s quite brilliant. This is how dry Mosel Riesling should taste. It just doesn’t seem to be the same fermented in stainless steel tanks.

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We had to go to Burgundy. Lagoon’s Meursault Charmes 2007 was really on song. Still quite youthful but with crystalline complexity, and fortunately no hint of premature oxidation which is still such a worry with white Burgundy.

musigny de vogue

Red Burgundy next, following the disappointment of a corked bottle: the 1983 Mouton, which Gareth had brought along especially for Mel Brown (a birth year wine!). We started with De Vogue’s Musigny from 1998. The general feeling round the table was that this wasn’t as good as it should be, and that they are usually underwhelmed with De Vogue. I thought it was pretty smart, but still quite tight and firm.

denismortet gevrey

Sticking with red Burgundy, it was time for something a bit fleshier and richer. This was provided in the form of a Gevrey-Chambertin from Denis Mortet – the 1er Cru Lavaux St-Jacques 2006. This is quite generous and seductive, and rather tasty.

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To finish with: something very special. It was Erni’s Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese 1995, which was singing. This is a special vineyard with 100 year old vines planted in slate soils, with a warm microclimate that gives it a talent for Auslese. It was a fitting end to a lovely dinner.

Fugazi! A lovely McLaren Vale Grenache from Ochota Barrels

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Had this bottle the other night at Noble Rot. You can tell times are changing if I’m going out and ordering (a) a Grenache (b) from the McLaren Vale. Both grape  variety and region are underestimated, and it takes a producer like Ochota Barrels to show their potential, with the strong imprint of winemaking and picking over-ripe taken out of the picture.

Ochota Barrels The Fugazi Vineyard Grenache 2015 McLaren Vale, Australia
13.8% alcohol. From an unirrigated vineyard planted in 1947, producing tiny berries. Sweetly aromatic with ripe, smooth cherry and plum fruit. Very textural and fine with a faint hint of ginger and pepper, as well as fine-grained red fruits. There’s some fruit sweetness but also impeccable balance. 93/100

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A couple of English still wines from Flint Vineyard

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This is an interesting pair of wines from newcomer Flint Vineyard. England is best known for sparkling wines, and rightly so. Could there also be a future for still wines? I’m not convinced they show as much promise, but these wines are pretty good. Ben and Hannah Witchell established Flint Vineyard in Norfolk. The east of England is the sunniest and driest bit of the country, but there aren’t many vineyards out here because the soils aren’t as immediately compelling as some of the chalky terroirs in Hampshire, Sussex and Kent. But Ben and Hannah managed to find a really promising site in Camphill Farm, owned by Adrian Hopewell, and in 2016 they planted the vineyard in conjunction with him.

The first harvest will be 2019. In the meantime, they’re working with growers in East Anglia who supply them with grapes, and this is the debut vintage of their label.

Bacchus is a particular interest to Flint, and Ben was awarded a grant of £23 000 to research this variety by the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative. Bacchus is the UK’s third most widely planted grape. It’s a cross between Riesling and Sylvaner, and it produces aromatic wines that are quite Sauvignon-like.

Flint Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2016 England
11% alcohol. Winemaker Ben Witchell makes this wine from a stony vineyard in the Waveney Valley of South Norfolk. Fermented in stainless steel with a small oak portion too. Lively, fresh and complex with a nice stony, mineral edge to the crisp citrus fruit. There’s a touch of grapefruit here. It’s linear, fresh and quite zippy, but the bright acidity is really well integrated. Thoroughly convincing. 88/100 (£16 from the winery)

Flint Vineyard Bacchus 2016 England
11% alcohol. A combination of cooler and warmer ferments, with just a small portion aged in oak. Very pale in colour with a lovely fresh nose of elderflower and citrus. Pure and enticing. The palate is zippy and refreshing with crisp lemony fruit and keen acidity, and just a touch of green herbiness. Tight and focused, this is a really refreshing, slightly sherbetty expression of Bacchus with aromatic purity. 89/100 (£15 from the winery)

Gamay focus 28: Domaine Verdier-Logel Poycelan 2016 Côtes du Forez, France

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Popped into Terroirs for an early evening bite, and along with beautiful rilletes, pork terrine and Kernel table beer, we had this lovely Gamay.

It’s from the Côtes du Forez, which is a small appellation with just a handful of growers and a co-op, located in the middle of France between the Loire and Allier rivers. Just Gamay vines are grown here in the foothills of the volcanic mountains of the Massif Central, and this wine is made from old vines from iron-rich basaltic soils. ay as the sole grape to be used and Verdier-Logel produces separate wines including – from volcanic soils “Volcanique” –and from granite soils “Cuvée des Gourmets“. These soils impart a rich earthy fragrance to the wines which combines well with the elegant fruitiness of the Gamay grape.

Domaine Verdier-Logel Poycelan 2016 Côtes du Forez, France
13.5% alcohol. Gamay from volcanic soils. Intense and full bodied with dense, spicy blackberry and cherry fruit with some fine spiciness. Very juicy and richly textured with grainy tannins. So good and so drinkable, and remarkably dense for a Gamay. This is utterly delicious, and has a hint of seriousness, too. 92/100

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Top wines from ProWein 2017

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Three famous South Africans caught at ProWein

[This is a post in collaboration with my Canadian colleague Treve Ring.]

There are wine trade shows the world over, but there is only one that covers all bases from vintage Port to natural wine, from bag-in-box to classed Bordeaux, and from products ranging from Canada to China to Columbia to Champagne. Every March, the wine world heads to Düsseldorf, Germany, transforming this small city on the Rhine into an epic wine HQ – at least for its three days. ProWein is the world’s largest wine trade show, filling nine giant exhibition halls at Messe Düsseldorf with over 6400 exhibitors from 60 countries, and 55000 visitors to drink it all in – literally. Much more than an opportunity to taste (although you quite literally can taste from anywhere in the world), ProWein is the major meeting place for the global wine community, and where agents, importers, media – and noticeably NOT consumers (pros only) – meet to make deals and exchange cards. We spent three full days at the event tasting, filming, and for Jamie, presenting. Here are each of our 10 most memorable wines tasted over the event (these selections were made independently, so any overlap is unintentional), plus links to the films shot each day.

Jamie’s selection:

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Filipa Pato Post Quercus Baga 2015 Bairrada, Portugal
11% alcohol. Fermented and aged in amphora, 40% whole bunch. This is a beautiful wine that’s floral and structured with fresh, silky red cherry and plum fruit with some nice grippy structure. Precise raspberry and cherry fruit. So fine and textural, this is great stuff. 95/100

Vidal Legacy Chardonnay 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Lovely intense spiciness on the nose with some nice matchstick reduction. Lemony and fine, with some pear richness, white peach fruit and subtle toast. Lovely mineral dimension, too. 95/100

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Champagne Vazart Cocquart Special Club Blanc de Blancs 2009 France
Aged under cork. There’s a subtle toastiness here, with lovely rounded pear and citrus fruit, and a hint of baked apple. Very delicate with a lemony edge. Shows finesse. 94/100

Schloss Gobelsburg Ried Lamm 1er Cru Grüner Veltliner 2015 Kamptal, Austria
Lively, fresh and complex with good acidity. Very lemony and taut with a lovely peppery edge to the fruit. Very fine spicy notes, finishing peppery and lively. 94/100

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Disznoko Kapi Vineyard 6 Puttonyos 2011 Tokaji, Hungary
This is from a single plot on south-facing slopes. Intense, fragrant and lemony with amazing acidity under the complex sweet flavours of honey, spice, apricot and marmalade. Amazing acidity counters the sweetness, and this is linear and fine, with incredible structure and power. 97/100

Quinta do Noval Colheita 1964 Douro, Portugal
Wonderfully spicy and intense with lovely intensity and complexity. Notes of old furniture and orange peel, with lots of spiciness. Beautiful freshness and detail here, showing superb concentration and an endless finish. Pristine; almost perfect. 97/100

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Tolpuddle Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Tasmania, Australia
Pure, linear and transparent with fresh, bright lemony fruit. Has nice purity with some grapefruit character. This is light and elegant with real finesse, but it’s not lacking in concentration. 94/100

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FIO Falkenberg Riesling Trocken 2015 Mosel, Germany
This wine is from the FIO collaboration between Dirk Niepoort and Philipp Kettern, and it’s fermented and aged in large old wood barrels. Very fine, taut and superbly mineral. Transparent and fine with expressive fruit. Harmonious and weightless with great precision. 96/100

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Niepoort Turris 2013 Douro, Portugal
From a very old 0.8 hectare plot, this is 30% whole bunch and spends two years in old fuders. Elegant, fine, supple raspberry and red cherry fruit with hints of apple and spice. Elegant with lovely acid structure. Fresh cherries and raspberries with hood structure and acid. This starts gently, but then just grows and grows on you. Remarkable. 96/100

Crystallum Peter Max Pinot Noir 2015 South Africa
30% whole cluster. Pure floral aromatic nose with sweet cherries and plums. Elegant and supple with lovely purity and finesse on the palate. Red cherry, red currant and lovely silkiness and weight. 95/100

Treve’s selection:

Philippe Pacalet 2013 Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy, France
Philippe Pacalet carries on in the vein of his uncle Marcel Lapierre with his terroir-centric, non-interventionist wines. This is from 45-year-old vines in six different lieux-dits, fermented wild and aged one year on the lees, with the only additions being minimal sulphur at bottling. Floral raspberry, forest berries, dusky cherry is veined with a wild herbal note and bright, red currant-tinged acidity. Mid-weight but lifted, there is a fine textural grip on the tannins to structure. 93/100

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Graham Beck 2016 Cuvée Clive, Robertson, South Africa
From Pieter Ferriera, godfather of fizz is South Africa, this is the winery’s premium MCC (Method Cap Classique) and only produced in exceptional years. Previous years have been 2001, 2009 and 2007. “No rules” according to Pieter, the 2016 is a blend of 80/20 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir from their Robertson limestone-laced vineyards, partially fermented in oak and with 60 months on the lees before bottling. The newly released 2016 expresses with crystalline lemon, scented salted plum, minerals, earthy lees and an exceptional depth and reach. The finish is lengthy, and this will continue to build and impress with cellaring. Impressive. 94/100

Giesen The Fuder 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
This organic single vineyard Dillons Point Savvy was from wild ferment 25-year-old vines, aged in 1000L German oak fuder (cigar shaped) for a lower oak to volume ratio, and was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Intense white asparagus, savoury lemon thistle, fine flinty ash on the gentle lemon curd palate finishes with a snap of brisk lemon acidity to brighten and carry. Broken stones and salts on the lengthy finish. This is not about the fruit, and will honey and deepen with age. 94/100

Tolpuddle 2015 Chardonnay, Tasmania, Australia
Tolpuddle is the Tasmania project of Adelaide Hills’ Shaw + Smith owners/cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith MW, who continued their focus on cool-climate wines with this site in NE Tazzie’s windy and maritime Coal River Valley. Cream, fine pear, marine salinity and delicate reductive notes, with bright, lemon acidity slicing through and lifting the lees complexities up. This vintage of the barrel-fermented, fuller white went through 100% MLF, though has ample bright acidity to carry. Apple butter and fine stony spice on the finish of this fresh, youthful wine, one that moves with understated fluidity, and potential to age very well. 93/100.

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Fio Reserve 2013, Mosel, Germany
Fio was formed in July 2016, a joint partnership between Portugal’s Dirk and Daniel Niepoort, and Germany’s Phillip Kettern, of Weingut Lothar Kettern. Fio Reserve is Riesling from Falkenberg, a higher, cooler, steep site, and was produced fundamentally non-interventionist. Fermented wild and spending 2.5 years in old German foudres (no MLF) before being bottled without sulfur or filtration, this is alluringly salty, with a mineral ring and haunting oxidative notes. The line and cut of acidity is impressive, as is the intensity, considering the 10.5 percent alcohol (oh, Mosel). Impressively lengthy, this will age beautifully. 94/100

Niepoort 2013 Turris, Douro Valley, Portugal
This 0.8 ha Turris single vineyard is more than 130 years old, and located on schistous soils on the right side of the river in the Cima Corgo. The potent fruit is 30% whole bunch pressed before spending two years in very old 1000-2000L old Mosel foudres, followed by 18 months in bottle before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Savoury stunner, with beauty dark plum, wild blueberry, thorns and dark florals. Elegant and seamless on the medium-plus palate (12.5%), but with a textured fine grip, toothsome tannins and stony salts echoing on the finish. This is an impressive young, tight wine with real gravitas, starting gentle, and growing on the palate with each sip. 95/100

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Hattingley Valley 2013 King’s Cuvee, Hampshire, England
A sneak preview of the September 2017 release. This is a 70/30 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend fermented in, and then selected from the winery’s top barrels before headed to bottle without filtration. Thirty months on the lees, and no MLF (which is rare for English sparkling), this is a serious, full and earthy fizz, with a very direct form, lees-lined palate, and citrus, green apple notes. Lemon pith shimmers on the lengthy finish. 6 g/l dosage. I look forward to retasting when released, and watching this new project grow. 93/100

Leeu Passant Elandskloof Chardonnay, WO Elandskloof, South Africa
Leeu Passant is new line debuted at ProWein, from highly lauded couple Chris and Andrea, of Mullineux Wines. One of two 2015 Chardonnays released, with the site being the only difference. This was whole bunch pressed, fermented wild with natural MLF. This higher altitude vineyard is warm in the day and cool at night, holding the freshness, but with the power and concentration from the day sun. Lovely concentration, focus and creamy lees-lined palate in a streamlined frame, with apple, cream and toasted popcorn. Detailed acidity brightens the full and richer style. 92/100

Disznókó Tokaji Aszú 2002 6 Puttonyos, Hungary
Disznókó’s vineyards have been considered First Growth since 1732. From fully raisinated and botrytized grapes, a reflection of the ideal 2002 autumn. Pouring a deep golden hue, this potent sweetie is full with white honey, lemon cured, waves of ash and dried apricot and pear. There’s an addictive savoury brown butter undercurrent here, providing a contrast to the sweet richness, and setting it off beautifully. Length goes forever. 94/100

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Luke Lambert 2015 Yarra Valley Nebbiolo, Victoria, Australia
One of the rare Nebbiolos that excels as an expat from its native Piemonte. From two rocky and granitic vineyards in the hills of Yarra Valley, fermented wild on skins for one month and matured in large old oak before being bottled without fining or filtration. An alluring hay and wild herb note woven throughout this crisp and frisky, young, lighter bodied red. Salted black plum, floral cherry, perfumed wildflowers are textured with grippy, fine tannins and completed with a lingering dried floral and pink pepper note. Decant and serve slightly cooler for best enjoyment. Quite characterful and unique – a bright new lens for Nebbiolo. 92/100

Self versus non-self: on wine becoming part of us

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One of the questions that has interested brain scientists and philosophers alike is that of self versus non-self. How do we distinguish what is part of us, versus what is part of the environment?

This sounds like a trivial question. When I see my hand move, I know it is part of me. That’s obvious. But in terms of perception, this is not trivial at all. It is the concept known across several disciplines as body schema.

In 1998 an interesting experiment was reported that has now become well known as the ‘rubber hand illusion’. A group of people were seated with their left arm resting on a table, hidden to their view by a screen. Then a rubber arm was placed in front of them, oriented in the same way as their real arm, and they were asked to look at it. The scientists used two paintbrushes and stroked both the subjects’ hands and the artificial arms at the same time. This created an illusion where the subjects believed that the artificial arm was actually theirs. This is such a strong illusion that if you were taking part in the experiment, you’d become distressed if someone were to stick a needle into the rubber arm. The experiment is tapping into the mechanisms we have in our brains that decide what is self and what is non-self.

Another interesting observation is that when we hold an object, we come to think of it as part of us (see this paper as an example). For example, if we have a rake in our hand, we see that rake as part of us perceptually. The same is true if we are wearing clothes: they become self versus non-self. Or if we are driving a car – this could explain some of the aspects of road rage. It could also go part of the way to explaining why some people identify so closely with their cars, and why cars are such a prominent part of conspicuous consumption. Status-obsessed people are very fussy about the car they drive. Interestingly, we don’t think of the car as self when we are a passenger in it. The car-as-self phenomenon seems to be caused by the act of driving, and the holding of the steering wheel and moving the pedals and gear stick, and seeing the effect of these actions. For this reason, will the appeal of driverless cars be limited? Will it be unsatisying to own a car that we don’t actually drive?

What about eating and drinking? When we hold a knife and fork, they become part of us. They become self. The food that the cutlery propels to our mouths is in the act of becoming self. When it is on our fork, it is our food, and shortly after this it becomes part of us in a more literal sense as we ingest it. And then there is the transition as the wine is absorbed and digested, and passes from our gut, which is the outside of our inside, to our true inside. The wine then interacts not only with our internal tissue, but also alters our mind – the ultimate stage of becoming us.

So when we have wine in our glass, does our relationship with that wine change? Does the act of wine drinking change the wine from non-self to self in this multi-step process? I think it does, and this transition could be important for the way that we experience wine. As we pick up a wine bottle and pour a glass, we are aware that soon this wine will become part of us. This adds an extra dimension to the appreciation of wine, but is one we rarely consider.

Marqués de Murrieta Dalmau 2009 Rioja, Spain

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This is a single vineyard wine from leading Rioja producer Marques de Murrieta. It’s a selection from the 60 year-old Canajas vineyard, which is part of the 300 hectare Ygay estate surrounding the winery in the south of Rioja Alta. Altitude us 465 m, and the varietal breakdown is 74% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Graciano. The wine is aged for 20 months in new French oak. It’s an impressive, concentrated, sleek wine in a modern style. It’s not my sort of wine, but I admire it for what it is.

Marqués de Murrieta Dalmau 2009 Rioja, Spain
14.5% alcohol. Ripe, concentrated and refined, this shows sleek black cherry and blackberry fruit with a fine-grained tannic structure and a smooth, rich, chalky, subtly tarry undercurrent, with well integrated vanilla oak. This is plush, more-ish and harmonious in a very ripe style. It’s not jammy, though, with the structure and savoury elements matching the sweetness of the fruit. It’s drinking really well now, and although it will survive longer, I don’t think age will add much to this lush, generous wine. The tannins have melted nicely into the ripe fruit, and there’s a warm autumnal quality to the fruit. 94/100

See also: a tasting of the wines from Murrieta back to 1925

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