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?

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?

Monday, 16 February 2009

Week two - the big one: Wales 9 - 8 England (HT)

As I made a little rugby nest for myself on the sofa this Saturday ahead of the game, the little sports voice in my head said, "don't worry it'll be alright". We all have a sports voice which occasionally speaks to us before a big game, right? I distinctly remember when I first heard mine- aged 11 on the coach to Wembley in 1983. The soothing words "don't worry" were validated when my beloved Featherstone Rovers beat Hull FC with a conversion in the final minutes by the mighty Steve Quinn, bringing the Rugby League Challenge Cup back to Yorkshire. I cried my eyes out with shear pride and relief. So when I heard that same voice again on Saturday a strange calm descended.
I felt justified in my near-zen state as England held the Welsh at 9-8 at the end of the first half. Whilst England continued to give away easy points through their inconceivable lack of discipline, they showed genuine guts and determination to take the game to Wales. Great strength and belief were evident in their performance, despite their well-deserved underdog status at the start of the game. Yet again Paul Sackey showed just how valuable he is is to England, whilst Andy Goode went some way towards staking a more permanent claim to the stand-off's jersey. But this is Wales and no-one can under-estimate the overwhelming superiority of the current six-nations champions. The second half selection from the kitchen wine-rack was going to be difficult, but at the start of the the game I felt that my wine of choice had to reflect my quiet confidence.

Oddbins £8.99 (tasted 8.i-'09)

100% pinot noir, 12.5% with a screwcap. This looks like a promising pinot - clear, medium and ruby red. Red fruit with vegetal aromas and little farmyard nuances perpetuate the expectation of quality. On the palate: dry, low acidity and soft tannins bring the raspberry fruit through with a delicious caramel texture. A good length draws a satisfying line under the tasting.

A very very good everyday burgundy, especially at this price. A wine with no need to shout about its quality.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Full time final score: England 36 - 11 Italy

This was a game where the same teams were only separated by the Italian's choice of Bergamasco at scrum-half. There were times in the second half where England showed a lack of vision not seen since their nil drubbing by South Africa in the the World Cup. And I'm an England fan. What got me through the second half?
Sainsburys £5.49 (tasted 7.ii-'09)
Now just to be clear, I like Frascati. It reminds me of being in Rome; big long lunches with a dewy bottle for Frascati to wash down the pasta before spending the rest of the afternoon watching the beautiful people go by.
12.5% with a screw cap. Pale lemon yellow, clean nose which is light and floral, almost meadow fresh. Typically dry with a lively acidity and a good medium body, stone-fruit joined the floral flavours. Finished with a good length to complete this refreshing and easy drinking wine.
Now, want can I drink to see me through this afternoon's expected Welsh masterclass?

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Half time round-up: England 22 - 6 Italy

It may have passed some of you by but the Six Nations started on Saturday with England playing Italy at Twickenham. This was a lazy and unimpressive start by the once mighty World Champions, but three first half tries hid England's blushes. Their lack of form was, thankfully, overshadowed by a shambolic Italian decision to put their fine open-side flanker Bergamasco in at number nine.

Sainsburys £5.99 (tasted 18.xii-'08 but drunk frequently)

100% cortese grapes deliver a pale lemon yellow wine which shows light citrus lemon and lime on the nose. A dry wine with medium acidity, no tannins, and a light body. Green apples alongside the citrus notes peak through the short length. It was good for me as I was thirsty, but something with a little more depth to distract me from the rugby would have helped.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

A home for stray wines

If your house is anything like ours you tend to find random bottles of wine squirrelled away all over the place. This one I found looking all forlorn next to our tumble-drier rubbing shoulders with some Schweppes mixers and the growing odd sock collection. With further investigation the current Mrs T 'fessed up that this was a random Christmas gift but, given her current delicate condition, she couldn't face looking at it on the kitchen counter so it had eventually found its way to its current resting place. Well I couldn't just let it go to waste when I have a wine blog which needs constant feeding - lets get stuck in!

Providence unknown but I would suspect any good chemist (tasted 29.i-'09)
Bulk market Californian screw cap chardonnay at 13.5%. The clear and a very pale lemon yellow immediately made one expect a stone dry zingy chardonnay, but the bouquet gave far more fruit than expected with melons, bananas and a definite honey hint. An off-dry wine with a some tannins which confirmed the honey-oak. The low acidity amplified the tropical fruit and blossom flavours, giving this wine a very full body which bounced around the mouth. The length matched this fullness, which was far greater than the nose or appearance suggested.
No snobbery here so lets judge a wine on its particular merits. There is a lot going in the bottle, but one cannot describe this wine as complex. Jumbled or confused could be better descriptions. I remember buying Gallo Turning Leaf zin fifteen years ago because I "wanted something different", and this wine falls into the same category. If I was at the same stage of my wine 'career' today, I'd probably buy a bottle of this and would not be disappointed.
An essay about bulk production responding to market demand?

Monday, 9 February 2009

Nigel Tufnal's wine

I thought I was about to tuck into another big old Shiraz as I popped the cork but the FRUIT on the nose told me straight away that I should have paid more attention when I pulled it from the rack; another misconception about Australian wine burst - not all red is Shiraz. And boy, was this a fruity wine!
The Wine Society £11.50 (tasted 1.ii.,09)

Comes in at 14.0% behind the screw-cap. A clear deep velvety viscose red with lots and lots of fruit and some leather in the background all make this a very inviting wine. But the fruit gets turned up to 11 once you get a mouthful: blackberries, black current, black cherries and plums all jostle for position. Its dry, with little acidity, plenty of tannin (it spent two years in french oak) and a proper length.

This is a very, very, good red wine. It doesn't pretend to be a Bordeaux - its an Aussie Cabernet Merlot which knows exactly what it is doing.
Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Australia is a bit of a blind spot

I've decided to swallow my pride and get stuck into some antipodean tipple, and the 101 Australian wine has to be their Shiraz. But first perhaps I should explain my particular issue with Australian wines.

Ten years ago I was bored silly by having to chew my way through yet another obvious in-your-face red wine which shouted "I'm an Australian Shiraz pommy, deal with it!" At that time London seemed to be awash with Aussies and the last thing I wanted was for the contents of my glass to share the same social charms as the guy who served it. Others stuck with, it but I retreated to the safety of the old world and claret.

But you can't ignore progress and today I am constantly delighted and inspired by the ever increasing quality, variety, and sheer creativity of Australian wine. So (baggy) hats off, corks (on strings) out, and bottoms up(-side down), lets see what we can find!
The Wine Society £6.25 (tasted 17.i-'07)

100% Shiraz with a screw cap. The vibrant velvety red left a satisfying viscous film as I swirled it around the glass and a promising licquorice scent filled the bowl - and I'm a sucker for liquourice. With low acidity and quite pronounced tannins this was a full bodied wine with a nice mouth feel. I got chocolate and vanilla behind the spices, together with the promised underlined liqourice which stayed through the decent long length.

A decent Aussie Shiraz with plenty to offer.