Saturday, 31 January 2009

Its good to talk

My old boss was a bit of a bon viveur: fine wine, champagne, and wonderful food at the best London restaurants. He did not, however, like to go 'off-piste' when it came to the wine list. The white wine from burgundy and the red would be claret, but I do take the credit for doubling his choice of white wines by introducing him the Bordeaux whites. I remember the day when I got a gloating phonecall from the big man raving about the fabulous chateaux of Graves he was trawling around whilst I was up to my knees in the muck and bullets. "Don't forget to try the whites", I bellowed at him before the connection was lost. On the following Monday he spends thirty minutes telling me that I must try white bordeaux wine. Oh hum...

The Wine Society £8.50 (tasted 8.1-'09)

A jolly good Sauvignon-Semillion blend grand vin du Bordeaux blanc with a natural cork coming in at 12%. Bright medium gold with a clean and light fruity mellon nose. Dry with fresh acidity, no tannin, the medium body gives more citrus fruit and pear flavours. Nice simple length. A very good wine worthy of the half case stash in the cellar.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Keeping up appearances

I started writing this blog with three main purposes in mind:
  1. To taste more wine;
  2. To start to get under the (grape) skin of the wine world;
  3. As a kind of therapy.
Looking at the above list, I now believe that this blog is also in part a response to the general www (world-wide-woe, see what I did there?) running through January 2009.
I work in an industry which has been particularly badly hit by the recession. Having to focus on the contents of my glass in order to pin down an elusive flavour makes it easier to forget another disheartening day chasing increasingly scarce work. Reading, and engaging with, other far more capable wine bloggers has taken my wine appreciation and educaton in directions I would never of considered e.g. I didn't realise there were fifty Portuguese wine produced let alone fifty great ones. I then have to sit down and write this thing- I task far harder than I ever imagined. I have to concentrate, try to write something which is interesting and stimulating, and be creative. It is flattering when you know someone has taken the time to actually read what you have written, but I'm now moving away from the anxiety of wondering if it is actually being read to just enjoying the creative process. my new mantra is 'write for yourself'. Can you see where the therapy idea fits in?
But this is a blog and we're all crazy for fame and ratings, so I think I need to raise my game if this blog is to contribute anything to the world-wide-wine community. I do not want it to become just an electronic depository of my amateur tasting notes (I can do that on Snooth). Therefore my new blog check-list includes the following words:
  • tasting
  • reading
  • direction
  • structure
  • record keeping
  • enthusiasm
  • interest
  • curiosity
  • encouragement
  • ulterior motive

And just one other promise: I promise to stop making up other meanings for the acronym www.

Toot toot!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Chardonnay goes like this

If I was paying attention I would have opened both this classic white burgundy and the Chilean chardonnay I posted yesterday together and done a proper comparison. But no, I just ploughed on and picked the wine which matched my mood. I have no problem with that, but this is supposed to be an educational exercise as well as just simple camouflage for my wine habit. I must pay more attention in class, because it was only when the current Mrs T. pointed out that this particular wine was so much better when mixed with soda that I realised a learning opportunity had been missed. And please don't berate Mrs T., she's four months gone it's going to be a long wait for her not drinking until baby arrives if my wine consumption continues at the current pitch. So, about the wine...

The Wine Society £7.95 (tasted 23.i-'09)

A classic 100% chardonnay white burgundy, 13.5% alcohol with a synthetic closer.
In the glass the wine is clear, pale almost colourless lemon-green tint. A clean, medium nose presents nice fresh fruit with grapefruit being high on the list. The nose promises a lot and it does not disappoint: dry, high but easy acidity and absolutely no oak. "Crisp and refreshing" like the notes say, a light body with more apple and pear fruit, and a shortish but pleasant length. This is a very well structured and highly recommended wine.

Toot toot!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Its amazing what you (think you) can taste!

One of the key reasons I started blogging was to encourage (force?) myself to get out there and visit a few more independent wine merchants in and around my 'patch'. The first stop on my wine safari was Taste Fine Wine, in Almondbury near Huddersfield. But more of which another time because now I want to tell you about the grog.

Taste Fine Wines £8.99 (tasted 20 January 2009)

This is a Chilean chardonnay at 13.5 % with a real cork closer that ripped when extracted with you trusty waiter's friend (Grrrr!).

In the glass the wine is clear medium gold in colour and looks ever so inviting. The clean nose jumped out of the bowl and said 'dairy' which lingered alongside the full-on mango and melon tropical fruit with a vanilla under-score. This is a dry wine with low acidity and no tannins. The buttery body perfectly suits what one expected after the first pour, and alongside the fruit I also got some grass and a little mint. However, what really amazing me was the overwhelming taste of APPLE PIE AND CUSTARD that I got after a couple of good slurps. Maybe there is a far more appropriate description for these flavours but this was, for me, the best I could find and I'm sticking to it. This wine has a medium length which seemed to linger behind the ribs, which is surprising given the average alcohol levels.
I've never found a taste description so evocative before but this is one which I fear will stick. A decent oaked chardonnay which gave me just what I wanted. Recommended.

Other stuff off the back of the label you may find of interesting: the wine is produced and bottled by Michel Laroche and Jorge Coderch, and is from the Casablanca Valley.

Toot toot!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

What do I know?

This is why I find wine just so fascinating - the way people respond so differently to the same wine.

Sainsburys £4.49 special offer 50% discount (tasted 1.i-'09)

This grenache, syrah, mourvedre Cote du Rhone blend weighs in at 14% behind the screw-cap, having been created by the big trans-atlantic negociant firm Boisset. In the glass its a clear, formal purple wine with a clean, pronounced nose of red and black fruit. With its low acidity and medium tannins, its full body presents more black fruit accented with a definite plumminess. All this is wrapped up in the expected pleasant finish.

This is a perfectly acceptable example of an big Rhone blend but when a wine is so confident about what it is, without any surprise or mystery, it looses something for me. The Murph, however, raved about it and I must say that I am in the minority - this same wine was commended in the Decanter Magazine 2008 World Wine Awards.

Toot toot!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Remember Space Dust?

Popular around the UK in the 70s and probably now banned by the EU for causing permature balding, space dust was the little sherbert crystals which used to crackle on your tongue. The way this wine rolled about my mouth with its acid zing brought back those same sensations.

The Wine Society c.£7.00 (tasted 16.i-'09)

A 13.5% Sicilian white from 100% Fiano grapes with an artifical closer. Clear and clean pale yellow/green in the glass looking bright and tempting. On the noise its full of citrus fruits with grapefruit, pear, and pineapple bobbing about in the bowl. Very dry and very acidic this wine went off like a bomb in the mouth with the acidulous lime and crab-apple edges that melow through the surprisingly long length. Lively and zingy, this is a fun-filled wine that needs to be drunk in the garden on an August evening rather than on a snowy January night.

This wine is a real hoot; try some in the sunshine.

Just as an aside, neither The World Wine Atlas (3rd ed.) or The Oxford Companion to Wine (3rd ed.) make any reference to fiano being grown in Sicily. Perhaps this is a recent development? The club tasting notes also hint at this saying:

"Mandrarossa is produced by the Settesoli co-operative in south
west Sicily in the hills surrounding Menfi, between Agrigento and Selinunte.
This premium wine is made from the finao grape, native to Campania, which has
adapted exceptionally well to the Sicilian climate."

Also, this wine is a Decanter 2008 Trophy winner for best wine under £10.

Toot toot!

Monday, 19 January 2009

The definition of a "well balanced wine"

I came across the concept of 'balance' this weekend whilst reading Jancis Robinson's Wine Tasting Workbook, and found that I could immediately relate to the idea that:

"A wine is well balanced if all its components blend into the whole with
none standing out [and that]... All good wines should be balanced by the time
they are ready to drink."
I like the idea of a wine being ready to drink when it is in balance (or 'harmonious') regardless of its age or cost. This gives me a good benchmark when drawing conclusions on the quality of a wine. And lo, what do I find this evening when I crack the red open but...

The Wine Society £6.95 (tasted right now!)
Natural cork closer.

This red bordeaux of 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc has a clear, deep ruby red colour. The clean nose quickly fills the glass with intense back and red fruit aromas giving a plummy fullness. Its low acidity and medium-soft tannins adds the raspberry theme of the cabernet franc to the merlot nose. It finishes with an easy length to a well structured wine in perfect balance.

This is an excellent claret.

Other facts about the wine from the WS tasting notes which you may find interesting include:

"The wines of Fronsac situated between Cotes de Bourg and Pomerol have the
same structure and body of the former with the perfume and roundness of the
latter. Chante Alouette, owned by Bernard Roux, is planted with 90% merlot and
10% cabernet franc on a clay/chalk slope above the river Isle. The [river] Isle
marks the outer limit of Fronsac, separating it from Pomerol."

Toot toot!

Friday, 16 January 2009

These places are few and far between

I can spend hours browsing around a wine shop (just ask the current Mrs T.) and its amazing just what you can find if you're prepared to get down on your hands and knees and root around at the back of the shelves.
I would like to use this blog as a reason/excuse to spend more time tracking down quality independent vintners and getting their stores better known in the wider world. I have, therefore, started work on this google map of wine merchants in the north of England - something the Brits around here may find interesting. I can't vouch for any of the yellow spots, but I've made it to the greens and very good they are too.
Please feel free to either add to the map or send me your recommendations and I'll stick them on. The only rule is that they must have a retail store open to the public without appointment. International contributions more than welcome!
Toot toot.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

I couldn't, I know I shouldn't, not with people watching - but I did anyway

To cheer myself up in the first week back at work I took myself off to Latitude Wines down in the Leeds Calls. I decided to drop in for a couple of reasons: (1) I was in that neck of the woods on business anyway and (2) we were going to the Murphy's for a bit of a do on the Sunday and I fancied a drinkie. On the day two my three purchases were tasted and promptly drunk before and with lunch; and very good they were too - but something is still bothering me...

Latitude Wines £29.50 (tasted 11.i-'09)

Its a Guigal so its not going to be too shabby to start with, and Chris at Latitude 'fessed up to thoroughly enjoying a bottle of this over Christmas.

Real cork closure and 100% Viognier grape giving a clear pale lemony yellow wine with 13.5% alcohol. Clean light nose with no trace of oak. From a subtle start the aromas burst into a floral fruit bouquet which follow through with into the tasting, so much so that I suggested an almost off-dry touch. Low/medium acidity gave the wine a good medium body with a wonderful mouth feel. Like the nose, packed with flavours including gooseberry, pear, mango, and almonds all finishing with an excellent length.

We all concluded this was an excellent wine, including the Murph who's appreciation of the whites is condescending at best.

Latitude Wines £26.50 (tasted 11.i-'09)

I love Barolo. I have several good examples squirreled away in the cellar, all of which are older that this magnificent wine we opened on Sunday. And this is my problem: this bottle had a bed-space next to its brethren, but it never got to see its berth. Yes we decanted it and left it to breath but I still think it need more time, like another five years in the dark. When to drink? I'll save that for another post. Here's the tasting note:

A clean and clear medium velvety red from 100% Nebbiolo. Real cork closer. Clean and bright on the nose giving black fruit and cherry. Dry with low+ acidity, good medium tannins and a full body which gave up cherry, liquorish, and black olives. Terrific length and an easy finish.

A great, great wine (Mrs M. called it "outstanding"), but I still think I was hasty with the cork-screw. Maybe I'll buy another...

Just to finish this note off, there is an excellent article on Poderi Colla at Wine 90.

Brace yourselves...

...First tasting note coming up.

Just to put this tasting note in context, I passed the
WSET Intermediate Course (I have a certificate AND a badge to prove it!) in 2007 and therefore my notes will follow their excellent system for the foreseeable future until I get more comfortable with publishing my thoughts. Also, and with immaculate timing, I'm not actually drinking at the present time whilst the vets complete their tests, whatever that means. Sooo, I'll be using some past notes to keep the blog ticking over until I'm back on the sauce. I'll give you a tasting date so you can see when I got my gums around the glass.

The Wine Society £6.50 (tasted 20-xii-'08)

100% bonarda grape from western Argentina. Presented here with a screw-cap closer. This is a deeply intense rich purple wine with a clean medium nose giving red/black fruit and a hint of vanilla oak. The medium/high tannins carry a full bodied big finishing wine with lots of blackberry flavours. An excellent meaty winter red.

There it is, my own note prepared without reference to those supplied from the Wine Society (WS), but I'm pleased to say that my comments are not a million miles away from their own. Pat me that was lucky! You may find the following details taken from the WS note of interest:
Bonarda is a late-ripening Italian grape, well suited to the warmer
Argentine climate. This aromatic example is made by one of Argentina's top
winemakers: Susana Balbo. She uses grapes from her husband Pedro Luis
Marchevsky's low-yielding vineyard in Rivadavia, south eastern Mendoza.
Toot toot!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Got to start somewhere

According to Vinography there are over 500 English language wine blogs (even more if you add the pod-casts and videoblogs) and I haven’t even mentioned the Spanish, French, Italian and other international bloggers out there. So one has to ask why do I think we need another?

Well, apparently the most
blogged wines are: Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot; whilst the most blogged wine regions are: Napa, Sonoma, California, Wine Country (wherever that is), France, New Zealand, Australia, and Washington. Can you see a West Coast theme developing?

Whilst these US blogs are an invaluable source of information their relevance to my quaffing and collecting is somewhat tangential to say the least. There are, of course, some fabulous UK wine blogs and web-sites produced wine enthusiasts (both amateur and professional) and these, together with many of the sites run by UK retailers, are in my opinion an invaluable source of information and advice. But this is the Blogosphere (I promise to only use this hateful phrase only once!), and I have an opinion which I want to share with the world.

I think others could benefit from joining me as I chase around the UK seeking out good wines and the retailers who provide them. So like it says at the top please feel free to encourage, chastise, ridicule and celebrate with me as I pursue a dream of taking this hobby and turning it into a life’s work.