Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Buy Smarter and Drink Better Wines

If people are happy with their lot then who am I, or indeed any of us, to comment or pass judgement on their choice of wine? I would much rather help one person who is interesting in expanding their wine experience rather than berating any one group into changing their own lifestyle choices.

I sometime find myself defending MY choices with regard to the wine I drink. Simple things can help: explaining that the actual value of the wine in a £5.00 bottle is about 35p helps contextualise the relationship between price and quality. Also by suggesting people TASTE rather than just DRINK a wine has been known to stimulate a real interest which, if encouraged, can run and run.

Someone once told me that when life gets too hectic tread lightly and feel the ground below your feet. Tasting rather than consuming has similar restorative powers.



For further goodies about these ideas see whats happening over at Wine Conversation who are working with The Wine Gang Live.


Finally, this post was originally drafted in response to this post by Jamie Goode.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

You can't take it with you...

The WSET Advanced Course, or my 'drinking class' as some people disparagingly refer to it, is now in full swing. We are motoring nicely through the French wine landscape: Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Alsace have been and gone in a flurry of ever more confident tasting notes whilst the book-work grind of classifications, grape varieties and terroir rolls on late into the night. I am not, however, complaining. My solitary drinking is now a fundamental part of my revision. Every cloud...

During our Burgundy session Karen, our fantastic tutor, insisted that we tasted six wonderful wines including examples from Chablis, Meursualt, Nuit St George, and Morgon: a selection of wines which mirrors about 30% of my own collection. This led on to a brief discussion regarding keeping wine and drinking wine.

Wine is temporal. The wine in my cellar has a finite life and, no matter what I think, its beauty will fade. As you can imagine, for a wine geek like me that idea of taking the collection apart is heartbreaking. Watching the gaps in the racks getting bigger does concern me, but I am comforted knowing that the feelings of loss and guilt which follow me up the cellar steps as a cradle the last of the 2000 Pommard (the case bought after a boozy Christmas lunch at Chateaux Montreuil in 2003) will soon be superseded with the wave of calm relaxation which only a glass of top-class wine can bring to me. But to reduce the collection like this is immeasurably more satisfying than finishing a tasting note with the phrase 'past it' simply because I am more concerned with the wine collection rather than the wine itself.

As Karen said, "You can't take it with you".

DOMAINE GERARD CHAVY ET FILS PULIGNY MONTRACHET 2001
Provenance and price unknown. Available from Vininum at £34.00

After eight years in the bottle this white burgundy is now a clear deep gold wine. A clean and medium bouquet gives baked apples with liquorice hints but these are muted and lacking definition. Slightly off-dry with some acidity and no tannin, 13% alcohol, medium body and intensity adding a biscuity padding to the other flavours. Finishes with a long length and the warmth of the alcohol coming through. A good wine but most certainly past it. Shame I have another in the cellar, because it ain't going to get any better. This is what happens when you can't see the wine, only a collection of bottles.

VINCENT GIRARDIN "LES ENSEIGNERES" PULIGNY MONTRACHET 2002
Provenance and price unknown, and I can't find any more!

A clear and bright medium gold wine. Lovely fully developed clean nose, medium + intensity with apple pie, toasted almonds and vanilla notes. Ever so slightly off-dry with medium acidity and no tannins to speak of. The 13.5% alcohol together with its medium body brings caramel, smoke,and custard (!) to the underlying stewed fruit flavours. Finally a perfect length underlines the balance and complexity of this wine. A fabulous mature white burgundy currently right on the button.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

40 cloves of garlic and a chicken

Keith Floyd died today and without a doubt he was a real inspiration to me. Watching Keith crashing about in the kitchen berating the camera man and clutching a glass of wine before plating up the most delicious looking Pork au Pourve served with a Côte-Rôtie was quiet an eye-opener when your sat in a small Yorkshire mining village at the hight of Thatcher's Britain.

Tonight's wine will be consumed in full and glorious tribute to Keith. Cheers and back to me Clive!

CHATEAU HAUT BAGES LIBERAL 1999
Price and provenance unknown but you'll find it at Everywine for £35

5ème Cru Classé Pauillac coming in at 12.5% with a real cork closer. Clear, deep and intense ruby-garnet colour darkening to brown at the rim. Christmas cake, spices and soft cedarwood tumble around the clean and pronounced nose. A dry wine with some acidity which combine with the handsome tannins and medium body to give a lovely mouthfeel. Now we find some silky fresh black fruit alongside the mellow dried and stewed fruit flavours. Altogether a mellow and complex wine with a length which goes on and on.

Glorious!


Tuesday, 28 July 2009

They seek him here

I've just read this post over at Andrew Barrow's excellent Spittoon blog and it seems to exemplify the thrust of Jamie Goode's post regarding the provenance of particular articles, blogs, tweets, and press releases.

I have become increasingly sensitive to the ubiquitous nature of media personalities such as messrs. Oliver, Ramsay et. al. Move aside James Brown, these boys really are the hardest working people in show business.

I don't have an issue with their obvious and hard won success, indeed such enterprise should be applauded and their books do have a home on my kitchen bookshelf, but I do take umbrage with their apparent shape-shifting abilities to be in two places at once.

I for one am not fooled - shape shifters don't do cooking.

MACON LA ROCHE-VINEUSE DOMAINE GONON 2007
The Wine Society £7.95 (tasted 23 January 2009)

White burgundy so it's a 100% chardonnay. 13.5% with a synthetic closer. Guess what, it's clear almost colourless with only the lightest lemon yellow tint. Clean medium nose shows citrus green fruit including grapefruit; so far so textbook. Dry with easy acid, no tannin because its never been near any oak, and a light body with apples and pears. "Crisp and refreshing and refreshing and crisp". Finished with a short and easy full-stop length.
Well structured and popular with the ladies - a bit like Boyzone.

Wine fact: MACON LA ROCHE-VINEUSE is also the appellation of this Macon-Villages white burgundy, along with 42 other villages with the right to their own appellation. Thank you Jancis!


Friday, 24 July 2009

Got any snout?

I have bought a pipe and in doing so fulfilled a long standing ambition.

I did smoke cigarettes: Malboro Red and/or Gitanes were my weapon of choice (but never at the same time). I also smoked Embassy No.5 but they are the smoke of satan. I stopped smoking shortly after arriving at University. The relationship between drinking and smoking became far more passionate after I arrived at that distinguished seat of learning Leicester Polytechnic. My drinking became rapacious and with it my smoking. Something had to go - and it was 18 Marlboro in the canal much to the disgust of my Imperial Tobacco sponsored housemates.

Cigars are a different matter - I love cigars. My weapon of choice is a Cohiba Siglo IV and they have been with me at some of the happiest times of my life: weddings, graduations, holidays, Christmas, reunions, those rare moments of business successes. A cigar helps to magnify the feeling of smug sell-satisfaction which often accompanies these events. Thing is, you need a good two hours to really wallow your way through a cigar and it is increasing difficult to ring-fence sufficient time. So my attention turned to pipe smoking.

My extensive market research has revealed that no-one is actually smokes a pipe any more. The pipe-smokers I have known are all dead (due to old age rather than smoking related illnesses now that I think about it) so instruction and encouragement has been rather thin on the ground. The internet is an obvious source and YouTube has been a particularly successful hunting ground. The local specialist tobacconist was most informative, which I suspect is due to his surprise at seeing his customer base actually increasing. Anyway, I got the pipe, tobacco, pipe tool, Swan Vesta and got stuck into the smoking with the enthusiasm of a laboratory beagle.

I can now often be seen watering the garden in the pouring rain sucking like a Las Vegas whore working time-and-half on my pipe. Like I said, another ambition ticked off the list.

MAN VINTNERS CELLAR SELECT PINOTAGE 2007
Lindley Fine Wine £7.99 (tasted 9 February 2009)

100% pinotage from the Cape region. 14% with a screw-cap closure.

Clear and clean: deep ruby-red and a good barbecue nose. Its dry with some little acidity touching the obvious high tannins. Full bodied building on the smoky nose to give tobacco and black cherry, all singed with burnt-rubber. Its got a strong length with 'something' in the tail. The overt structure comes from the young oak and could exploit the acidity to mature in the bottle and develop some more complexity.

Still a good wine though.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

How do you do yours?

In order to maintain some credibility to my claim to be part of the wine-blogging fraternity it helps to have something to blog about which is actually wine related, and so my wine notes have become a common feature in our house.

Being a student of the WSET my tasting notes do tend to follow a set format: Appearance, Nose, Palate, Conclusion and I can dash one off rather quickly. However, should I loose my way there is a rather nifty tasting check-list in the course pack which also hangs around the kitchen. The one draw-back to this approach is that my notes do tend to be rather formulaic; no doubt you've noticed.

Due to this rather speedy method of taking notes I tend to record them on whatever is to hand at the time: bank statements, envelopes, tax bills, daughter's artwork. "Look daddy, it's you...", "Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just pass me that crayon before I loose the original thought that this chablis is flint dry."

After a short period the collection of scrap paper starts to look just that - a collection of scrap paper and it begins to take over. But they do, eventually, make their way from the top of the bread-bin and into the study where they are securely corralled with a bull-dog clip until I get round to writing them up in my tasting book.

You have a tasting book don't you? Colour coded, indexed, cross-referenced, and in chronological order by tasting date.

Wine is my friend.

CHATEAU TOUR ST BONNET 2002
Latitude Wine £10.99 (tasted 26.ii-'09)

A 'Grand Vin du Bordeaux' Medoc claret at 12.5% with a cork closer and a fabulous deep red brick tinted colour. Clean medium nose showing jammy black fruits and oaky vanilla. Obviously dry with no acid, the good tannins present more fruit than one would expect from the nose: Cadbury's Fruit and Nut (a bar slightly warm and bought from the motorway service station to be exact) yet it has a surprising light body. My bottle did throw quite a heavy sediment so I would probably decant the next one as it also definitely opened up in the glass and bottle.

A decent enough wine to start any 'Claret Thursday'.

Just as an aside, according the The Oxford Companion to Wine, "the term 'Grand Vin' is often used to indicate the main wine of the Chateau, no matter how grand or humble the wine or the chateau." Thank you Jancis! So what we have here is a Bordeaux AC from the Medoc.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Do you know your Alsace from your elbow?


I subscribe to about a dozen RSS feeds, all from wine blogs which I particularly enjoy. International, eclectic, passionate and witty and occasionally slightly bonkers they encourage me to keep this thing going. But it must be a summer sun thing because there has been an invasion of Riesling (invasion being the correct collective noun for Alsatian wines) into my Bookmarks Bar. A quick survey throws up:

They're all at it! Has there been an eastern France love-in I've not been invited to? Not for the first time I've been left off such party lists I'll have you know. Who knows or indeed cares: here's my shout.

RUPPERTSBERGER RIESLING KABINETT 2007
The Wine Society (tasted 18 April 209)

10.5% with a natural cork. A clear and flashing bright pale gold wine that dances into the glass. A classic petrol-mineral Reisling nose together with ripe apples and honey. Its off-dry, acidic, and no tannins, nice body before the good length with the palette matching the nose.

This is the text book definition of an Alsace Riesling. Highly recommended.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Please leave your keys on reception


I just want to write tonight but I'm lost for inspiration. I don't want to write about what is pre-occupying me (work) because its stopping me enjoying what I love (home).

Home is good: my little girl is charming and growing up quickly whilst my new boy is, well, just that. Mrs T is on the mend and between us we are getting ourselves back into some semblance of normality after the upheaval of bringing WST into our home. Give it a few more weeks and he'll be sleeping through and we will have our evenings back.

When Eve was born the only way I could get my head around the fact that we were about to become a family was to think of her as a guest with plans for a significantly extended stay. WST's arrival feels somewhat less structured - possibly because we are both far more relaxed about the whole thing.

We like relaxed at Townend Towers.

BOUCHES DU RHONE: DOMAINE DES GAVELLES 2005
Yapp Bros £6.50 (tasted 6 March 2009)

13.0% Grenanche/ Syrah vin du pay blend with "a modicum of Cabernet Sauvignon". Cork closure.
Clear red wine with a real depth to the colour. The clean intense bouquet is full of red and black fruit, so much so that it smells stronger than 13.0% and the heat of the Rhone comes trough the toasted nuts and oak vanilla. It's dry with low acidity and whilst the tannins start at eleven they quickly soften to give this wine a good mouthfeel. Blackberries and dried fruit (especially raisins) with a touch of smoke. A good wine which will compliment food wine.

This wine took me to France: street cafe, Gitanes, a carafe of this wine served in Parisian Goblets. I know where I want to be.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

It's feels like everything is passing me by


Just how important do I think I am?

I have this blog, my blog, and I have said before and reiterate again that it is written with the full expectation that no-one will actually read it. But when they do, well suddenly I get ideas well above my station. I start to believe that I really am the next Hemmingway, an hard bitten reportage hack who will re-write Death in the Afternoon for a 21st century audience.

After front line service in several European theatres of war Ernest took himself off with his Moleskine notebook and lost himself in the Spanish plains to reconcile the place of bull-fighting in the psyche and culture of the people. Me, well lets just say I have the notebook. I do drink Rioja and I have recently invested in a pipe, but a life lived and to write about - forget it... Who am I trying to Kid?

And this brings me to social networking sites. Can someone explain to me the what, why, and how? I'll use my recent experiences with Twitter to elucidate.

The Wine Gums Twitter Page was created last night with far less fuss than when I built this blog. I took the tour and get my head around the idea of answering the question "what are you doing?" and launched myself into it.

So my first Tweet was "Going to bed"

Well it was about 11:30 pm and I knew I had a busy day coming up. Then I stopped and actually thought about what I had done, and boy did I feel stupid.

I have two kids, a wife, a job, a mortgage, and 99 other problems so how does me telling some very kind people who allowed me to pester them that I'm off to my bed contribute ANYTHING to the development of society, the greater body of human knowledge and the literature canon? So I went to bed (because I am a man of my word) but couldn't get to sleep because I'm wondering why I've just told people that I'm going to my bed. The blurb says that:
"Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"
Not being one to give up easily I thought I'd soldier on. Tonight when I went to answer The Question it struck me that I should really phone some of my fiends, family, and co-workers to tell them -wiping baby sick off the sofa. Its more personal and they get the message quicker. But I didn't. I stopped myself because I know the question they would be thinking whilst I shared with them this moment of domestic bliss would be "What did I say which sounded like 'tell me what your doing'?". My day to day doings are just not that interesting and I'm not that important.

This leads on to my final problem of how can one fit Tweets (and the rest) into your day to day routine without being sacked, divorced, or sectioned under the mental health act? Should I Tweet my boss to tell him, "I'm swinging the lead when I should be working"? It's a recipe for disaster.

I'm not important enough, and certainly not interesting enough, to make a living Tweeting and Blogging and I'm not bright enough to know how to weave it into the fabric of my life seamlessly and for the greater good of those who know me. It really does feel like everything is passing me by.

If, however, you have stuck with me to this point I sincerely thank you; when I have received comments (both electronic and in person) I am genuinely grateful and it does spur me on to do it again - its all your fault.

I'll stick to the wine.

FAUSTINO V WHITE RIOJA 2006
Taste Fine Wines £7.79 (tasted 12 February 2009)

Cork closer and 12%. New frosted bottle design from Faustino so I thought I'd stumbled across a real rarity before I was quickly put in my place by the merchant...
Made with the Viura grape (also know as Macabeo and which displaced the Malvasia and Garnucha Blanc after Phylloxera) together with Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. A clear pale, pale almost colourless white wine just touched with lemon green sparkle. Clean light bouquet with pronounced dairy at the front (due to the oak) that give way to vegetal and mineral notes. The palette is dry and acidic with a wash of tannins, but the mineral flavours remain which brought to mind a good Chablis, but this did pass as the wine warmed and opened up to leave a good long length.
Give it a go.

As a short aside regarding Rioja 'classifications' and oak which applies to both red and white Riojas. All Rioja must have a minimum of six months in oak, after which the following titles can be applied:
A further one year = Crianza
Two years = Reserva
Four years = Gran Reserva

Toot toot

Monday, 6 July 2009

Something had to get me back

I never really went away, not in spirit at least, but its been three months since my last post. I do, however, believe I have several very good excuses:

  • The boy arrived! William Sonny was born early June to a very thirsty Mrs. T;
  • My little girl turned three and needed some careful managing to ensure all the time we invested in bringing her up as a happy care-free child wasn't undone by the arrival of a very hungry little brother;
  • Whilst the consumption of a restorative glass of burgundy may appear an obligatory part of paternity leave unfortunately its not the best idea. Being woken at the most unearthly hour to act the doting father and sensitive husband is best performed without the fog of the grape;
  • Business continues to be gripped by the worst recession since I stopped drinking blastaway and purple nasties in the long-bar at Leicester poly and got a proper job.

Am I forgiven? If you can't forgive me, consider this wine I caught Mrs T enjoying this evening and see if you can find it in your heart to love me again - not that anyone reads this anyway...

FRAGOSO CHARDONNAY 2008

Marks & Spencers £5.99 (tasted tonight!)

Argentinean 100% chardonnay, 13% with a screwcap.

Clear pale yellow, both in the glass and on the nose; the aromas are full of tropical fruit and peach blossom. Obviously dry and without any tannins, the high acidity does veers towards raw, but when you get above fridge-cold this does easy somewhat (but you can't get away from it in the length...) The fruit motif continues in the tasting with the stone-fruit really showing through the easy-drinking mouthfeel.

I must say the eye-rolling expectation of mediocre white wine which is my usual reaction when I encounter most South American whites is in this case unjustified; get some and get some summer fun.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

My Center Parcs Wines

On Monday we're off to Stalag Luft Whinfell Forest for five days with the Murphs. Four adults and three kids; but in truth we really have three adults and three kids because Mrs T is somewhat pre-occupied with the impending delivery.  I know that every day the eternal battle between parents and children will be fought in the Cumbrian woodland: who will tire first?  I have no intention of giving in easy and intend to fight dirty through the use of performance enhancing suppliments.  Want to know what I've packed instead of my Speedos?
  • Azienda San Martino Barolo 2000
  • Clos de L'Oratoire Des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2001
  • Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie 2000
  • Mas Belles Eaux Sainte Helene 2005
  • Mas de Daumas Gassac 2002
I'll let you have the tastings when we get back.

Tasty

I have been diligently keeping tasting notes for about three months now and I am finding it a most enjoyable distraction.  I cannot pretend that there aren't times when I want to crack a bottle and just get stuck in but I have committed to using this blog as a learning experience so I'm soldiering on.  This tasting note was taken just after I started and it was interesting to read what I wrote at that time.  I would describe my note as somewhat cautious , unlike the wine which knows exactly what it is doing.

MACON LA ROCHE VINEUSE, DOMAINE GONON 2007
The Wine Society £7.95 (tasted 23.i-'09)

13.5% with a synthetic closer. 100% chardonnay white burgundy.
This wine is clear, almost colourless, with a pale lemon yellow tint.  Its has a promising clean medium nose full of citrus fruit, especially grapefruit.  This is a dry wine with easy acidity levels and  no tannin which is not surprising as its never seen any oak.  Typical crisp and refreshing white burgundy body which brings through apple and pear flavours.  A well structured wine with  a  nice, if short, length.  Jolly good.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Choo choo!!

This is my first live on-line wine tasting so I suppose I should be twittering.  (Note to self to become more web 2.0 at the first opportunity...)
Back in the day I used to commute from Yorkshire to London twice a week courtesy of GNER.  Now time has moved on:  National Express (NE) drun the trains and I work in Leeds.  Since then plus the addition of kids means I'm in London about once a fortnight tops.  So what does this mean?
  1. No more half bottle of scotch in the bottom of my 'overnight' bag to see me through the week away from my family;
  2. I've stopped smoking like a laboratory beagle (actually I've stopped full-stop);
  3. Less exposure to different wines.
Point (3) has nothing to do with the Yorkshire wine desert in comparison to the elysian fields of London; its all to do with GNER.  Its hard to comprehend but dinner on the GNER from London was a real pleasure .  Forget your soggy sandwich and suspect pork-pie GNER had train dining sorted.  And they had the wines to match.

Back then I didn't keep notes and at times I barely knew what I was drinking thanks to the other GNER staple being STELLA, but I remember quarter bottles of prosecco at c.£5.00 and third (!) bottle of Tavel for less than £8.00.  I would argue that GNER had the best mobile wine list in the country, so much so that Tavel is still on my must-have cellar list.

Soooooo, tonight on the 2003 London Leeds train we're trying again...

JEAN DIDIER MERLOT 2007
National Express £.....(tonight darling)
Screw cap, 13.0% vin de pays by the half bottle.

Looking at the label Playford Ros are providing NE with their wines so that is encouraging.  This 100% merlot from the Longuedoc Roussillon isn't burnt one would expect from a single varietal from this region.

Clear, deep purple red and full bodied in the plastic cup the nose is packed full of dark black fruit.  All the usual suspects but with distant nutmeg structure.  Dry, little acid with some good tannins it has the body of a vin de pay: think carafe in a roadside cafe before Toulouse play Nantes at home on a wet Sunday in March.  Black cherries are overlaid with something smokey (cheese!?) and mint or thyme.  Just what you want.  I'd have some again.




Wednesday, 1 April 2009

"A gallon of goat's milk equals two pairs of knickers Margo"

THE AVENUE PEA-POD BURGUNDY 1975
Surbiton £priceless (enjoyed most evenings on UKTV Gold)

Created with passion by the master vintner Tom Good this particular vintage has more attitude than the Geraldine the goat.  On the nose we get masses of legumes underscored with petrol (one is instantly reminded of some of the best 2002 Margaret Valley Rieslings). With the full body of Margo Ledbetter yet tighter than Felicity Kendall's bum, it's obvious sharpness will continue to mature and delight with age.

Highly recommended after crawling over London Bridge in Jerry Ledbetter's Volvo.  We live wine, we live The Good Life.


Monday, 30 March 2009

Christmas in September?

A large proportion of wines tasted to date have been sourced from the Wine Society, an institution I cannot recommend highly enough.  I am especially fond of my membership as it was a leaving gift, together with a rather nice deposit in my account, from my last company.  Their service, choice, and knowledge is second to none and their mixed-cases are a great route to new wines.

As I have previously mentioned, I am (still) ploughing through their Christmas Ideas Mixed Dozen which arrived at Townend Towers just in time for the festivities to begin and me finishing work.  It is only now, however, that I realise that I should have ordered the case in June giving me sufficient time to taste ALL the bottles by September to ensure my Christmas wines are selected in good time.  To be fair to the Wine Society the clue is in the name of the case...

Picking Christmas wines in September?  Well I suppose it coincides with the switch-on of the Christmas lights.

A samurai sword of a wine

I'm still crashing through what's left of the Wine Society's Christmas Ideas Mixed Dozen and I think I've saved the (almost) best to last.

DOG POINT VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007
The Wine Society (tasted 4 March 2009)

Screwcap closure and 13.5%.  Shouts 'class' as the young vibrant clear lemon green wine dances around  the glass.  The first attack of clean dryness is accompanied by tropical banana fruits which themselves give way to cut grass. You know this is a subtle yet sophisticated wine.  In the mouth we have a very dry and freshly acidic classic sauvignon blanc: cold steel and granite chip dryness with the refreshing zing of acidity.  (Describing good sauvignon blanc always brings to my mind a razor sharp samurai sword being pulled from its sheath!)  The fruit does still push through the minerals helping to set this particular wine apart from other (albeit excellent) New Zealand sauvignon blancs.

I have previously blogged about well-balanced wines - add this one to the list.  I cannot recommend this wine highly enough.

Some background facts lifted from the tasting notes you may find of interest:
"Dog Point is the creation of James Healy and Ivan Sutherland, the former chief viticuturalist and head winemaker at Cloudy Bay...  The 2007 is their third vintage and shows why this is fast achieving cult status in the wineworld."


Friday, 20 March 2009

There was this nun in the bath...

I think I'm being stalked.  Recently, with every turn I have been aware of a malevolent presence - a ghost from my past.  I first became aware of the mysterious lady in blue whilst searching wine articles on the FT under the pretense of designing a business rescue strategy our company.  I can across this article which gives a fascinating history of Peter Max Sichel and his ambition to "set about refining Blue Nun into a single, perfectly positioned product".  As we all know, he was very successful.  Blue Nun then started cropping up on the TV, in Decanter Magazine, and I even found an entry in The Oxford Companion to Wine - which reveals some really scary facts about just how popular this wine once was. Has something changed since my last encounter with the blue lady?

BLUE NUN ORIGINAL 2007
Sainsbury's c.£3.99 (tasted 18.ii-'09)

Herr Sichel's Tafelwein is a clear, pale yellow drop which splashes around the glass.  It has a clean soft bouquet which is floral (elderflower?) and lemon fresh toilet cleaner aroma.  This wine is SWEET (as opposed to a sweet wine) but it does eventually nudge itself along to fruitiness which has a 'smashing orangey bit in the middle'.  Very little acidity is detected and the wine does have a certain cloying character to it.  There is also a distinct lack of body and a negligible length.

At this point the tasting note and recommendation is heading for the 'that was fun now pass the Chablis' section of my wine database BUT...

I opened this bottle on takeway night at Townend Towers, and this week it happened to be Chinese.  So with a box-full of the Pagoda's finest we took the Nun along for the ride, and found what I believe is the perfect accompaniment to Chinese food.  The sweetness of the wine counter-balanced the usual saltiness of the food perfectly, whilst the admittedly limited acidity was just sufficient to cut through any oiliness. This wine knows it's not there to impress but to add a little counter-point to the meal; something I guess it has been doing for fifty years.  There's another in the rack for ready for the next chop-stick shop shock.

Chop chop!

PS if you want to know what happened to the nun in the bath, drop me a line...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

I know what I'd be doing if I had the cash

At a time when household budgets are getting tighter and everyone is being far more prudent with their finances I would say that Berry Bros & Rudd are acting in a cavalier and reckless fashion in offering fine claret at these prices.  For example:

1999 Ch. Leoville-Poyferre @ £49.40 per bottle
2003 Ch. Lynch Bages @ £53.56 pb
2005 ch. Talbot @ £40.75 pb

These are drinkers' claret - this is not for investment but for enjoyment.  And all are marked down by at least 20%.  If you want to really push the boat out there is a whole swathe of 2005 classed growths with a similar level of discount including my desert island claret the 2005 Ch. Figeac @ £70.65 pb, thats  a whopping 23.5% discount!

Berry Bros & Rudd is a London institution and a key part of our wine heritage and industry. For nearly ten years I worked  around the corner in Carlton House Terrace,  and Berry's was there to fuel my growing passion for wine.  Loosing Friday lunchtime in Crown Passage enjoying the Davy's house burgundy before popping into Berry's would always set me up nicely for the weekend.  And back then you could slip into Dunhill's for an havana cigar (Cohiba Siglo no.III please) if you just couldn't face the afternoon in the office!

Binge drinking is often touted in the press as symptomatic of our failing society, with the low cost of alcohol being identified as fueling this trend.  I think Berry's deserve to be taken to task and asked to justify their own prices which are encouraging weak-willed wine-pips to 'binge cellar' often with long term implications to their families and financial well-being!

Questions should be asked in the House, because they already are in mine!

Long live Berry Bros & Rudd!

Monday, 16 March 2009

He's back with a Mac!


Almost a month to the day since my last post.  Technology conspired against me;  after the last post the Dell desktop I've been running into the ground over the last six years gave its hard-drive a final waltz before dying completely.  My last post was it's last post.

Around Christmas time I'd started to see the "blue screen of death" and, after shelling out £25 for the privilege, the nice lady from Dell explained that the two error codes related to a hard disk which was about to fail and a motherboard with a short-circuit.  Now I'm no IT monkey, but this sounded pretty terminal to me.  My first concern was to (i) make sure I didn't loose the 5000+ photos I've amassed even though only twelve are any good, and (ii) rescue iTunes for the sake of my sanity.  One new external hard-drive later and everything of value was safely decanted off the dodgy Dell.  We struggled on till February when, with a faint popping noise, the Dell threw in the towel and stopped responding.

Now, when the current Mrs T was pregnant with our first I went out and bought her a Mac Book so that she could keep in touch with the wider world and maybe start the novel she's always been threatening to write [What novel? - Wife].  What I hadn't bargained for was the capacity for internet shopping one post-natal woman was capable of.  After three months I was scared to leave the house because by the time I would get home John Lewis would be reversing another tail-lift Luton up the street with the next delivery to their best customer.  But I did like the Mac.  Indeed, I coveted it - badly.  The death of the Dell was the opportunity I was waiting for.

It took a while to get here and longer to recover all my data to it than the time spent by those Herberts at CERN have been mucking around with their big magnet, but at last I have it.  All 15" of my shiny new MacBook Pro.

I'm loving the way it all works and hangs together. I'm working on that sanctimonious moon-faced expression all Mac devotees have when they watch PC users curse their grumbly IT, a state to which I return to whilst working for the man.

But, no more macking about, I've got a wine-blog to write if I am to  justify all the wine drunk over the last month.  Without the blog it would have served no purpose other than to satisfy my own greed and on-going quest for early on-set gout.

Toot toot!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Did we revert to type? Wales 23 - 15 England

And so it came to pass, the Englishmen were punished for their over-confidence and lack of discipline. You just can't trust anyone these days can you? Put a team in a match-winning position and they revert to type: loose all creativity and forget everything you have practiced on the training ground. Where's the wine?

CASTELMAURE GRANDE CUVEE CORBIERES 2005
The Wine Society £11.50 (tasted 28.i-'09)

14.5%(!) grenache-syrah blend with a natural cork. First impressions are promising: deep and rich ruby-red colour and a clean medium nose full of spice and strawberry red fruit. The palette is dry, with a little acid hanging about (the tasting notes suggest it will see out 2011), and high tannins giving it a full viscose mouthfeel. Red and black fruit now with liquorice undertones. The long length regresses the blackberries back to the bramble, and dusts your mouth with Schwartz turmeric. Interesting and rustic moves past robust and starts to nudge raw.

One could say that this is a full winter wine which needs rich food, and the argument that (certain) wines cannot be drunk without food is one which I subscribe to. I cannot, however, envisage just how hearty your cassoulet would have to be to justify a wine as rustic as this. I started my wine-life with good Corbieres, but I don't recall it ever being this raw.

Proof of a more refined palette, a bad bottle, or a poor tasting note?