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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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...


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.