So first and foremost I should say a happy new year to one and all. I hope Christmas bought plenty of good grub and fermented grape juice? It seems ages ago now since that festive period where the pubs are crowded, the shops are an ‘avoid at all costs’ zone and where the good and the great come together and toast the big man…
…Yes it seems far too many of us were too enthralled in the X Factor this year that we forgot to pay thanks and homage to the real big man – Mr. Pinot Noir! I don’t know about you, but the Malyon household consumed plenty of this over Christmas, and even had ABC Pinot Noir (cracking Californian winery – appeared in Oz and James Wine programmes). It’s one of those grapes that can make a plethora of diverse styles of wine, from super light, to super complex; although not so much rich and big, but complex none the less. I decided before that I would suggest the family drinking this with the traditional Christmas fare – the reaction was good and I think it was due to the fact that everyone was open for me to choose the wine – which helps! We had a few more Pinot’s during the course of the week that were all different and really showed the pure mix of quality found in this grape variety. Lots of talk of Burgundy already this year; claims of an outstanding vintage are being chucked around like a Turkish Hooker! It also just happened to be Burgundy week this week (just passed) and so the trade were out in full force tasting the crème de la crème of the juice coming from Burgundy. I tasted a few samples (Red Burgundies) and it is very, very good – already! They are still so young and many will go on for years, but some are drinking exceptionally well now. St Veran are also offering some very good whites at the minute too, albeit I am still to take part in some extra curricular ‘research’ to confirm my suspicions! Staying on the Burgundian tip, the head honchos of New Zealand wine have stated that there will probably be another 2 years where oversupply of wine will continue to be of a sore point. The vineyards will lose their value and grapes prices are unlikely to rise in the near future as a result, which to be fair, they have dealt with this very well. However, with this being a constant source of frustration for NZ given that, and I quote “low price private label wines now account for five of the top ten best selling New Zealand wines in the industry’s largest export market, the UK”. This is a pretty hefty statement and one that sends quite a message. I think this is the perfect time to really advocate kiwi wine, and for us to be ambassadors for what is (for me) the most interesting, diverse and consistently good wine making country in the world. You only have to ask people what white wine people drink; many of us will say a good Sauv Blanc and not always a Sancerre either, a New Zealand example are so common, because of their unique taste and absolute consistency. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – pungently aromatic and explosively flavoured wine, its zesty character is redolent of green capsicum (bell pepper) and gooseberry with tropical fruit overtones. What a tasting note that is to sum up a style of wine. That makes me salivate at the thought! Such is the quality and reliance on this that plantings have grown from 4,516 in 2003 to 12,336 in 2010! The trouble with having so much to choose from, and so many brands (be they big brands or small private labels) is that many get lost in the whirlwind of ever increasing parcels of wine landing in the UK. That said, it is still relatively easy to work your way through some. I tend to have a price point in my mind (this is usually about £6-£9) head down to my local ‘offy’ and take a plunge and choose a different one every time. A couple of goodies I have tried recently that I can recommend are:
Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – £9 RRP and Stephendale Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – £6.99 RRP
Remember as well that Kiwi Sauvy has been around for quite some time now, so really we are entitled to have a level of expectancy of them, and almost a dependancy on them to produce the goods on most of the juice they export to us. The first planting of SB was back in the 70’s in Auckland, then in 1976 it found its spiritual home in Marlborough – its is now, unsuprisngly the country’s most planted varietal.
Can I now quickly talk to you about my favourite of them all, up there with my dear friend Malbec is Pinot Noir, and NZ do it best by a friggin mile! For those of you on Twitter, I responded to a message that wine journalist Jamie Goode said “Kiwi Pinot is remarkably consistent isn’t it?” I responded by basically saying that although it is consistent, it can get a bit ‘samey’ at time, and I kind of regret saying that. I knew what I meant at the time but ultimately, there is so much diversity there, that it never gets ‘samey’. Take 2 examples. Brancott Estate pinot Noir (formerly Montana) is very light, not complex, easy and kind of ‘acceptable’ in a good way. Compare that to the wines that Phil Sexton produces (Giant Steps and Innocent Bystander)…yes I know that they are made in diffferent ways and the scales of production are as similar as the guile and subtlety of a gazelle and the lumpy Jesuschristness of Anne Widecombe (Gawd Bless er cotttons!). However, this explains well the kind of thing I mean. The taste and smell goes beyond comprehension with the latter, whereas as the former doesn’t – diversity personified! In my opinion the best PN comes out of Central Otago in the South Island, where the southermost vineyards in the world are found. The UK, Australia and the USA take nearly 80% of all NZ PN exported, making it highly popular, profitable in many cases and highly regarded. So much so that it betas red Burgundies for me in terms of consistency of flavour, longevity and reliability. Many in the trade agree with this, which says a lot for the kiwis vs. the heritage and sheer historical resonance it has with the wine world. They got it right I tell ya, and they will keep on going for years to come! My current faves floating my boat at the moment:
Yes it is always actually the season to carry a brolly in this country, but it rhymes with jolly, so I thought why not…why not aye!
So, as we draw ever closer to the period in which our sweat pants come out to allow the over indulgent bellies to fill, the copious amounts of booze engulf our fridges, cabinets, back of sofas and just about anywhere really, it is time to start thinking about what we will all be cooking on the big day, as well as Christmas Day itself of course. You see, Boxing Day has always been my favourite day culinary speaking. I love the fact that for most of us, it’s just a large plate filled with festive leftovers, meats, cheeses and whatever you fancy; no rules, no frills and no manners – I think it is a chance to have a less informal get together with great food and wine and to talk about the day before. I love Christmas day and all that it brings, but I do love the day after even more so.
So for the first part of this post, I want to talk about what I will want to be enjoying this year with my Crimbo nosh and why I think you should try it too. Traditionally, the day rolled something like this…
Champagne in the morning with maybe a light snack or some Celebrations if some cheeky Herbert has already opened them, followed by perhaps a light ale or two and then the big lunch would be served, which inevitably would be served with a big red (a claret maybe) and also a choice of White or Rose. The Port would make an appearance with the cheese board on full show as well as the lump of stodge – aka Christmas Pudding! Then, a free for all as to an array of wine, beer and spirits to keep us all from going bored. Finally, the 2 hour kip on the sofa. Day 1 done!
Now this is just going on experience and a very light-hearted assumption. If I had my way for the nation, this is what it would roll like…
9am – My old mans Thai chili duck eggs on toast with a glass or two of Prosecco
11am – Selection of nuts and dried fruits with a small glass of Tokaj
xxx o’clock – Lunch is served and on show to cater for all tastes and expectations, wine that will go with all cuts of meat and accompaniments, and below are my choices
Top to bottom then, the Botter Prosecco is a fabulous bottle of fizz, in my opinion far better on Christmas morning than a Champagne or a Cava; this is soft with fruity depth and a lovely mouthfeel – £8.99-£10.99 from selected wine merchants. With the mid morning nuts and nibblets the Oremus Tokaj Late Harvest 2006 is to die for with its delectable fruity sweetness (tropical fruit with hints of honey and dried apricots (The Tokaj lies 240 kms north-east of Budapest, Hungary, situated in the Zemplen Mountains at the confluence of the Tisza and Bodrog rivers). Next in my ‘St. Nic Selection’ is the wine that I think goes best with Christmas lunch. Light in style but still filled to the brim with layers of dark berry aromas and flavours, the La Copa Tempranillo 2009 (Tempranillo is one of the 3 grape varieties that make up wines from Rioja (and on its own can make serious wine, enjoyed in its youth and either on its own or with food – which makes this for me the perfect choice as a half way house between a big white and a big red – bootiful especially as it costs just £6!! Then for the big gun – I give you 2007’s Pillastro Primitivo (Primitivo is the Zinfandel of Italy). This is a big n’ bold red fit for a King! Intense black fruit dominate with hints of spice and dark chocolate (some leathery notes as well actually) this is super smooth and super refined for such a great price of £9.99 from Lathwaites. A magic wine that I will be enjoying this year. Finally, for those that are still wanting more and whose top buttons are still in tact, I can suggest a stonking Barolo to go with the cheese; Villa Peironte 2006. Barolo is one of the most famous and renowned red wines in the world – feared and revered if you will across the globe from wine makers wanting to achieve a similar status and complexity. Barolo comes from the top left of The Boot in of Italy, and is best recognised because of its lighter colour and its brick-like colour on the rim. This particular example offers savoury notes at first, then come aromas of jammy plums and crushed red fruit. Now this has firm tannins which lends itself to cheese as well as other rich foods. I found this works with a big filthy, dirty, stinking blue! £22 at M&S (£10 sometimes on the build up to Christmas so keep your eyes peeled – get in there!)
After all that eating and drinking, the last thing you want is more bloody food, and more drink! But, there will come that time half way between Superman 3 or Gremlins when you think ‘Hmm, I could do with a glass of something, but I don’t want fizz, I don’t want anything big and I am not ready yet for a sweet and sticky – I know, I wonder if there is any Chateau de Campuget in this gaf? A ha, there is!! This is a crowd pleaser; it’s from The Rhone in South East France, and is a blend of Syrah (Shiraz) and Grenache and is a very drinkable with either a couple of cheeky monkey nuts, or on its own before you take part in your 2nd doze of the day. All in all, a happy days worth of enjoying one of life’s finest pleasures – WINE.
Now onto something that got my goat this week – I consider this a great country, one that thrives on knowledge and a comprehension of things outside the normal thinking of everyday folk. We are a collection of people who know certain things, and of course there are simply things that we do not know – I didn’t know that it is physically impossible for a pig to look up into the sky!! Fascinating, but not something I would expect a lot of people to know. YET, 16% of Brits didn’t know where Champagne came from!! Call me an over-reactor, but I think this is pretty poor form, surely everyone knows this right? Ah well, I was surprised at this and even more surprised that the admission of the thousands of Brits questioned would let the ‘pretty bottle’ design on a wine bottle sway them into purchasing it! Things will change I am sure, but we’ll keep going for the time-being, and spreading the word.
That’s a rap for this week, more to come this week including a great idea for gifts going into 2011, actually that is an understatement, this particular gift is brilliant. It involves owning your own vines! I’ll leave you with a car journey we have all done regularly…can we say the same about the conversation….classic!
Wine is fun fun is wine, drink it young and when you dine
It is better to read my blog posts on a PC/laptop rather than an iphone or another type of smartphone. The video content works better and, well, it’s just generally a bit better to read. Cheers!!
This seems to be a lot of what we all do at this festive time of year – no matter how pleasant the atmosphere around us, us Brits always have something to moan about; the snow and how unprepared the gritters were and are (ok that one is justified), the rising cost of petrol, the family causing grief over who should go where this Christmas, the rubbish attempt at Christmas lights this year on Oxford Street – they are terrible honestly, we need to take note of what Manchester do each and every year…
Now that is a display – £500,000 spend on showing the people of Manchester why Christmas matters – other cities, follow suit!
Anyway, the biggest concern of us this year is a way to enjoy what the festive season brings without the burden of needing to spend too much moolah. Now this can be done and it can be done well I promise. So, bearing in mind that this is a wine blog, I can provide a full proof way of having fantastic quality wine and a seriously good price and from a source that is both respected and highly reliable – Laithwaites Wine. You have probably seen the TV ad that discusses their Discovery Dozen case (in either red of white guise). I ordered my case online and within 2 days it was delivered to my local Laithwaites ready for me to collect – all for just £39.99. So that’s 12 bottles of mixed red wines from around the globe, that also consist of some award winners, for this price. You now compare that to what you would get for the same money on the offers aisle in Sainsbury’s…it doesn’t even bear thinking about. These kinds of offers ARE out there and ready to exploited, and I don’t mean that in a funny way. To get decent quality wine, a service to match and the kind of knowledge that you are looking for will not come anywhere else except from your local merchant, or places like Laithwaites and Majestic etc. This is what came in my mixed case of 12 reds:
Chateau Laubes 2006 – Bordeaux blend that is full bodied, smooth with velvety plum and cassis flavours. A classic example of a quality wine from this famous region.
Eiken Rust Pinotage 2008 – From the Western Cape of South Africa that is medium to full-bodied, juicy red plums and berries are abundant here. Great example of a Pinotage from a world-renowned wine growing country.
The Waxed Bat 2008 – Blend of Petit Verdot, Shiraz and Malbec from Argentina. This has won lots of awards and is a wine of the moment for many journalists and experts – the mere fact that this was included in the case was a massive bonus. A brilliant wine and one I shall save for Boxing Day lunch!
Los Rosales Chapel Vineyard Cabernet 2008 – A classic Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rapel Valley in Chile. Loads of black cherry on this little number, with hints of mint to round the whole juicy bottle off! Cushty.
Vina Labarta 2008 – A very fine Rioja from Spain displaying all the classic smells and flavours that are synonymous with this famous wine; strawberries, cherries, spicy oakiness and a lovely vanillary texture towards the end. There are so many Riojan examples out there, but this is a good one!
Il Papavero – This, when I read the tasting note and a bit about it I was a bit dubious with, and this is a perfect example of me jumping the gun a bit and ‘assuming’ what something ‘may’ be like. This is a Vino da Tavola, which means table wine and the comments stated that it was a “easy-going red”. Now for a millisecond, I did think, hmm this could fall short of my already growing expectations from what I have already discovered within this mixed case. Then reality kicked in, and so did the little dude that sits on my shoulder that said to me ‘Now Scott, don’t just think that this will be a steaming disappointment just because of what the text says, give it a chance’. So what did I think…well it was bloody lovely, very easy-going and one that is definitely a jug wine for easy drinking, but pleasant enough to be able to talk about.
Black Stump Durif Shiraz 2009 – Shiraz from South Eastern Australia rarely disappoints and this one is no exception. Loaded with powerful flavours of spicy cassis, blackberries, and the welcome hints of liquorice to warm the cockles. Ooh this is a goodie (much like Bill Oddie in fact!)
Villa Farnia di Farnese 2008 – Another Italian staple. This ‘Monte’ (Montepulciano) is another classic example of one of the country’s most famous wines; plenty of rich plumminess and smooth fruitiness to keep you going over a mince-pie on Christmas Eve (ok, not the best food match I have ever suggested, but it’s Crimbo and anything goes right?)
So, although this is 8 wines, there were a couple each of the extra good ones to round the number up to 12. Honestly, I urge you to try this Discovery Case and get your order in before the big day to please all tastes – and remember there is a white mixed case as well. Take a look today – http://www.laithwaites.co.uk/LW/jsp/templates/ourwines/feature.jsp?categoryId=cat1850006
Okey dokey so what else is new and interesting? Chris de Burgh!!! Yes, the man who wooed all the ladies into thinking that if you put on a red little number then all the men would fall at your feet. Well, the wallowing crooner has only gone and decided to sell some of his own private collection of, and I have to say, bloody awesome wines. This includes a 1945 Lafite, 1962 Latour and a Mouton 82! WOW!
Lady in Red – there is some kind of wine related joke there somewhere, be it clean or not, something somewhere!
Ooh, looky looky…
Christmas arrives at Virgin Wines
|| Print ||
|Written by Laura Clark|
|Thursday, 02 December 2010|
|Online retailer Virgin Wines is rolling out its 12 Days of Christmas promotion for the second year running.
Starting yesterday (December 1), the initiative enables customers to receive a special offer by email for 12 consecutive days, excluding weekends.
The offers, which include free gifts, one-off special deals and large savings off customer favourites, new wines and Christmas selections, will also be promoted to visitors of Virgin Wines’ website. Customers will have 24 hours to take advantage of each offer.
Coinciding with the promotion, the online wine retailer is running a Christmas competition via Facebook, where online users have the chance to win free wine each day for 10 days.
Jay Wright, managing director of Virgin Wines, said: “The promotion was incredibly well received last year – selling more than 10,000 cases – so we were very keen to bring it back again this year. However, this time, we’ve included even more discounts and special deals.”
For those that have £4,500 to spare this Crimbo, why not treat your loved one/s to this; The new packaging for the ultra-premium Cuvée Pierre Frapin 1888 features stylish detail. The addition is a luxury leather travel case with saddle stitching and a luxurious and opulent golden interior. The entire package comes in with a hefty price tag of £4,500, but for that you get a blown-glass decanter from Cristalleries Royales de Champagne, with a 24-carat fine gold stopper, all protected by a matching suede bag which is tied with a golden cord. Of course, we mustn’t forget the Cognac inside that will be sure to keep the winter chills at bay – yes please Santa!
That’s me for this week folks, next week though have a cool feature in mind all about what to drink this Christmas with your dinner, and trust me, it wont be full of the usuals. Plus in January, I hope to have secured some time with the fine people at The Good Wine Shop here in Kew, South West London for a full on feature in about their shop that I am hoping will really bring home the reasons why we should be making the most of our local merchants and supporting them in what they are trying to achieve. I feel a campaign coming on!
Wine is fun, fun is wine drink it young and when you dine.
Buneos Dias Senors y Senoritas!
It has been a week of eventful goings on! Both good and bad I have to say. The good being the Penfolds tasting that I attended that was exemplary in every way, to which I will elaborate on later, the crazy events in Hong Kong where a wine auction was held, and wait until you read what was sold and for how much – economic downturn…what economic downturn? On the bad side, I now face mornings waking up without the always enjoyable prospect of cycling through Richmond Park on the way to the office, no morning coffee with a certain someone who I used to share ‘last night’s tipple’ reviews with and most importantly, no bloody income! That’s right folks, I have become a victim of the ‘laters mate’ philosophy, or in layman’s terms, I got booted out of the business! Such are things at the moment, in all parts of the working world and certainly not just the wine trade, that decisions need to be made and cuts implemented – unfortunately I have become one of the ‘cuts’ and so I find myself here on a Monday morning writing this blog post, when really I should be doing is sitting at my desk working away on the next consumer campaign, checking the media for all things wine and telling people about it, reacting to what I have found, and being convivial with people in a way that allows me to work my 9-5 but also converse passionately with my colleagues (sorry, ex colleagues). Working! Always a tricky situation for those that have been through it, but I am finding it especially difficult because I adored what I did, well most of it anyway. Ok, so enough about that, nobody wants to read about my strife! However, it does bring me neatly onto a question that was once asked by Yosser Hughes – Gizza job!! If any of you that read this blog are fellow trade people and know someone that knows something about something in the Wine Trade, I would love to hear about it. I NEED to get back out there in the trade, even now after just one day! I must continue my journey wherever that may be and tell my stories.
Ok, so the Penfolds Tasting that I must tell you about. It was at the Hospital private members club in Covent Garden, and I actually took the missus with me to this one. She is great in that not only does she really support me in what I want to do and achieve, but she takes the time to actively learn about what i am learning about, and as a result, has a bloody good palate on her – despite her spending every hour God sends doing her CIMA qualification! So, the scene was set, and in we walked into a darkened set of rooms with tasting pods in each corner. By the way, I have to point out that although i am lucky enough to attend quite a number of tastings and events, I always get excited about each new one and always go in with the thought that it is my first time! What is the point in looking at it as a chore, or another slice of aimless networking opportunities that don’t actually work out? It will only work out if you really want it to and if you talk to people and share thoughts and ideas. So, I go in with this fresh attitude to each and every event I attend. So we were handed a glass of wonderful Koonunga Hill 76 Shiraz Cabernet 2008. Absolutely fantastic, smooth, full of fruit and not stickiness that I often get with Aussie reds. Then we were escorted to our seats where we would be entertained for a while with the trials and tribulations of the ex director general of the BBC Greg Dyke – you may remember him from back in 2004 when he resigned from the BBC following the Hutton Enquiry. Have a read about if you are not familiar with it, it is very interesting. Anyway, he had many things to say and anecdotes to use, all of which were inspirational and at times hilarious! After that, we simply tasted our way through some superb wines:
Koonunga Hill – Autumn Riesling 2008
Thomas Hyland cool climate chardonnay 2009 – this was excellent and what made it unique was that its spent 7 months on the lees (ok, pay attention, the lees is the yeasty residue that is left behind after fermentation
Koonunga Hills 76 – Shiraz Cabernet 2008
Bin 28 Kalimna – Shiraz 2007
Bin 28 Shiraz 1991 – this was a pretty special wine, not only was it the ‘vintage year’ that Greg Dyke chose to talk about, but it just happened to be one of the greatest vintages of Australian Shiraz on record. Wines from here and in this year show deep red colours, rich, complex flavours of chocolate, coffee and sweet jammy plums – sticky in a lovely way! Wine writers describe 1991 Aussie Shiraz or Syrah as plush and lavish…need I say more?
Thanks to The Hospital Club and indeed Penfolds for hosting such a great night and see you at the next event!
Sticking with Australia, we all know the usual suspects when it comes to Australian wine, probably the widest known is Jacob’s Creek right? There are plenty of others, in fact thousands! Thing is, I have a soft spot for Aussie wine and the way they express themselves; through their winemaking. I have met a few wine makers from Australia and they don’t stand their and talk to you too technically about it, and start to waffle on about residual sugar and ph levels. As a lover of wine first and foremost, i don’t wish to know the top-level details about the wine, I want to know and hear about the love that went into it, the people who took all the time required to make the juice as brilliant as it could be and the careful caress of outgoing, passionate and life-living Australian hands! I get this type of feeling from all whom I have been lucky enough to meet. It is this attitude and application that has led Australia to be the fourth largest exporter, exporting 750 million litres of wine a year. Also, its well worth knowing that domestically, Australians consume 500 million litres of wine a year too! It’s a BIG business and plays a massive part of the Australian economy. Quick injection of Australian wine knowledge:
Australia is made up of many wine regions, but really there are 5 (in my opinion) that are best known, most of you would have heard of –
Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra, Hunter Valley, Yarra Valley. The Hunter Valley is probably the most famous of them all, being the most tourist friendly and most visited in Australia. It is just a 2 hour drive north of Sydney and has a plethora of restaurants, vineyards, attractions and even a visit to Greg Norman’s (famous Aussie golfer) own vineyard! Ironically, given the international resonance of its name, the Hunter Valley is actually something of a sideshow when it comes to the main business of Australian wine. The first commercial Chardonnay on this continent may have been produced here (by Tyrell’s) and Rosemount may have built a global reputation in the 1980’s on its ‘Show Reserve’ Hunter Valley Chardonnay (anyone remember that one?). But today most examples of this variety are produced elsewhere. The one bearing Greg Norman’s name, for example, comes from the Yarra Valley in Victoria. If you are ever intending visiting Australia, the Hunter Valley is a must! I’ll tell you about the rest over the next few posts.
So, with us all facing the backlash of an economic downturn, we are all cutting back; its Asda own rather than Cilit Bang, its Branston beans instead of Heinz, Go & Wash rather than Wash & go – and its Blossom Hill rather than Wolf Blass. However over in Hong Kong, they adopted the ‘couldn’t give a monkeys’ attitude to the financial difficulties. Recently, they was a fine wine auction at Sotherby’s where Chateau Lafite Rothchild was the star lot! Now, when I said at the top of this post ‘wait until you see what people paid’ I meant it, take a look at this…
- Two cases of 2009, which will be bottled next year (estimated at $10,000-15,000 each), fetched $68,632.
- Five cases of 2005 (each $12,000-18,000) each brought $37,435.
- One 2000 case ($20,000-30,000) brought $71,751; two more of the same brought $62,392 each.
- Two 1986 cases ($12,000-18,000 each) went for $65,512.
- An imperial (six-liter bottle) of 1982 ($25,000-55,000) found $148,182.
- Two regular cases of 1982 ($35,000-65,000 each) each brought $132,584.
- Six bottles of 1961 ($4,000-6,000) sold for $62,392.
- A 1959 jeroboam (five-liter bottle, estimated at $30,000-50,000), found $171,579.
- Three bottles of the 1949 ($5,000-8,000) got $53,034.
- Two 1945 bottles ($5,000-10,000) brought $49,914.
- A lone bottle of 1929 ($2,000-3,000) found $34,316.
My very first reaction to this was that these people hard more money than sense. What are they thinking, have they no savvy whatsoever?? Then I began to digest it more and more and came to one simple conclusion; wine really is up there as an item, consumable good, product, whatever you want to call it. I always give an argument to my friends that I don’t believe that wine should be seen as a commodity, but really, in years to come, someone very lucky is going to be able to open that bottle, that magnum, that case of wine and enjoy something that only ever gets to be really enjoyed and experienced over one lifetime, and so yes, although at the time of purchase, it can be seen as a ‘product’ and an investment, as much so as a car, a house, a share in a company – but of these examples, do these ever get better the more the time goes on? I would say no to that. As a quick round-up, here is what Jamie Ritchie (Senior Vice President of Sotherby’s) had to say about the recent auction:
On that bombshell as Jezza Clarkson would say, there is a job offer on the table in Russia, so erm….Moscow!
Wine is fun, fun is wine, drink it young and when you dine
Lots of feedback last week so thank you for that, particularly around thoughts on ordering wine when out for a bite to eat. One person commented that when they are out, they tend to just go for a beer because they are embarrassed about asking for the wine list due to being intimidated by the waiter into making a decision quickly! I would love to know where this place is! No restaurant should make their client feel like this, under no circumstance and no matter what kind of establishment it is; The Fat Duck or a Toby Carvery! My concern is that this feeling could be quite common in people that are not so confident and feel less empowered than others to discuss their wine conversation. I really don’t wish to complicate what is essentially asking for a glass of X with my Y dinner, but it’s so simple, and yet hang ups about it are being talked about in forums online and has become a bone of contention within these small groups – and they are small groups to be fair, but this shouldn’t exist at all. I could go on, but I won’t because it’s not compelling enough to warrant talking any more about it …it does anger me though! (I have my angry face on, looks like Mr.T chewing a vinegar coated toffee) So, the fun staff – I think I may have diverted my attention away from the fact that wine is fun; my footnote at the end of each post says so, so it must be eh! Back in the day, 6000BC to be factual about it, wine was introduced to the world from Georgia and Iran and played its part in religion to begin with. The Greek god Dionysus represented wine! However, as time went on, wine became more of a social beverage and was accepted more and more – as time went on and wine production grew. Today there are over 1.5 million vineyards in Europe alone – even going by that simple fact, you can tell the scale of the beast………..and indeed the wonder that is vino! So, on that note, why not enjoy wine in a not so serious way where you can still learn – think of it as a class taught by Zippy, Bungle and George rather than sitting in a classroom with Mr. Ridley with his tweed jacket, fag stained beard, scuffed moccasins and trousers that look like they were made using sand and superglue! (I love reminiscing about my school days). Match It! I tried this once with my wine buddy Dave and our respective ‘better’ halves one Saturday night – and it started well, but then it became evident that the girls were merely interested in trying the wine without taking the time to see what food goes with it! The idea is for a group of you to bring a bottle of whatever you want and with that, bring a selection of food – this ca be a bag of almonds, some fruit, vegetable crudités, spices, herbs, coco pops, pop tarts – absolutely anything to be honest. Once you have this, you all place your wine on the table or floor and make sure you are all in a circle and that the wine is open, food prepared and ready to be devoured. You need to try the various foods with the wines and decipher what goes with what, and indeed what doesn’t. This is just plain fun right – better than necking a tinny and munching your way through a soggy kebab with some bad salad and worse chips! I found this a right good crack, and a brilliant way of injecting a bit of ‘Palate Training’ into the evenings frolics. This works both as an ice breaker for those nervy kind of house parties where if somebody sneezes the gasps of shock erupt from the mouths of the guests, and also at evenings where you are wanting to talk about politics and world debt – brighten it up with a game of Match It! Check out this link for a few fun things to do with wine. http://www.wineintro.com/fun/ So – what do we all think of wine labeling these days? In a world where we can now buy apps for our phones that will scan a bottle of wine and tell us where the nearest stockist is and where the world is a bit more precious over having greener bottles and labels made using recycled materials. My view is more is more!! Going against the grain a little, as the whole ‘less is more’ ideology spans across so many different things, but when it comes to wine, I think the more we can all see, learn, find out and explore about the wine the better. Why would you want to buy a bottle of wine with a front label but no back label? Why select a bottle that tells you where the wine is from, but goes into no detail as to what the wine actually is (grape variety). There are tight laws about labeling, for example the label MUST carry the name and full address of the bottler of the wine and in Australia and America, certain wines must state that they contain sulfites (quick heads up, sulfites naturally occur in wine and are added to halt fermentation and to preserve wines). This said, I still see loads of bottles of wine on shelf that contains hardly any information – certainly of value to the consumer anyway. Lets be honest, most of us would think that if a bottle starts with the name ‘Chateau…’ then it would suggest to us that “this wine must be good” – and to a small degree it doesn’t! For me, labels should indicative of what the winemaker is trying to do – if the winemaker has made a wine that shows lots of fruit, then the label should represent this in every sense – the colours on the packaging, the tasting note you see on the back label, the bottle itself. This is easy to say, but you see where I am coming from. A winery/brand should be as expressive with its labeling and packaging as much as it is with the winemaking itself. A wine that does this very well is Jacob’s Creek. The wines are fruity, tasty, show character and quality. The labels reflect this, there is nothing too poncy or elaborate about the text, its clean, concise, light-hearted in its approach and I love the ‘perforated parts you can peel from the back of the label, so that you can keep it and remember what the wine was if you forget it – genius! Couple of recommendations now that I have tried and tested over the last week:
I Monili Primitivo del Tarantino 2009 Racemi – forgive the long title, but this is a stonker of a wine at a cracking price!! £7.49 or £5.99 if you buy 2 bottles – I can’t tell you enough how lovely this is!
Rioja Gran Reserva 2002 Gran Vendema – a great example of a true Riojan wine, full bodied, rich and sumptious with that lovely vanillaryness that the oak provides! On special offer at Majestic at just over 9 sheets!
Fairleigh Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Marlborough – lovely example that typifies kiwi Sauvignon Blanc; fruit driven with balanced acidity and a crisp, lively finish – and at £7.99 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles, its hard not to be tempted!
Remember as well to try before you buy where you can – Majestic actually have some of the best tasting pods in their stores where you can have a taste of all sorts, especially their offers of the week.
Now, staying with this theme, what does everyone feel about buying wine online? Does it float your boat? Or does it taint your cork? Either way, we are finding ourselves immersed with ‘online offers’. Online wine shops is nothing new, neither is it innovative anymore. However, there are some people out there that seem to think that there is certainly room for innovation; a way for us to buy wine online without losing that ‘touchy feely’ way about buying it from a shop, or tasting it before saying “Yes guv’nor, I’ll have a case” or “Jog on Mr. Man, that tasted like suet!” One such company is Yourfavouritewine.com formally Gondolawines.com – it’s backed by Peter Jones (Dragons Den) and run by Angela Mount MW. The thing that these guys do differently, is that its not just an online wine shop – oh no! It has partnered with TopTable.com that will see lots of competitions being run and also, a wine and food matching video by a celebrity chef will be sent to its 500,000 database in November! Also with TopTable.com, it will be running three consumer wine and food tasting events for 500 subscribers at top London restaurants in November/December. Another very useful part of the site will be their spirits and gifts range that will be launched in mid-November. This site means business! Research has shown that the average basket size is £103 – take that as you will. I think that is very good considering their minimum order is just one bottle! Logon today and have a look – just in time for Christmas!! Yourfavouritewines.com
I’ll sign off this week with a note from the Sotherby’s auction that is happening as I write this post…3 magnums of Chateau Petrus (very famous Bordeaux) has been sold for £93k!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! May we all enjoy our £5.99’s knowing that some bugger out there has spent a fortune! Mind you, if I had that sort of cash spare, I would absolutely have bought them too! I have been lucky enough to get an invite to an event on Tuesday night that sees some high-profile business people give speeches on Penfolds (Australian wine brand – reputable and well-regarded) – that includes a tasting of some of their oldest and finest wines, so I will be writing about that on Wednesday.
Until then remember that…………….Wine is fun, fun is wine drink it young and when you dine
Thanks for holding out for this one! Too many distractions to list last week, but they did include suggested paranormal activity in our flat! Nuff said eh!
Few things to talk about this week including sharing a glass of wine with 2 London Wasps players, restaurant wine lists and a visit to a fine wine fair.
I went to the Fine Wine Fair on Saturday, and it was my first fine wine fair, as opposed to the countless trade fairs I had been to, and generic consumer wine shows over the years. This was not only all about fine wine, but it was also the first event run by a trade magazine (The Drinks Business), that was aimed solely at the general public – ahem, er sorry, their was a trade session on Saturday morning that me and my winebud Dave attended…but that aside, it was predominantly for the normal folk. The purpose was to either introduce people new to wine to the wonders it can offer at a level that is pretty high-end, with the intention of them tasting and experiencing wine they would not normally have on a day-to-day basis (to be honest, none of us would!) The other aim was to engage people (notice I use the word engage rather than educate – frowned upon at the moment!) in wines of the world, and most importantly not just wine from Australia, New Zealand and other places that ‘people’ know of. This was a proper chance for us to taste some german Rieslings, some Chilean dessert wines, champagnes from some very prestigious vintages and houses and to learn a little bit about pretty expensive wine.
I attend quite a few wine fairs and shows, bur rarely do I get a chance to talk to the wine makers or the people representing the brand/s in a way that allows me to engage with them in a more detailed way. Basically, I could chat up some of the PR girls and taste some pricey gear with the big wig MD’s of wineries! I don’t beat round the bush me!
Seriously though, these consumer fairs open to the public are great as an open forum for you to taste whatever you like, ask the kinds of questions you would rather not ask in a restaurant or a wine shop because you quiver with inadequacy, and mainly for you to experience the cream of the crop. The cream of the crop for me on Saturday were these:
Wines of Spain
Emiliana (Organic and Biodynamic Vineyards) Chile
Scala Dei – A winery in Spain that is fantastic (Scala Dei literally translates as ‘Stairway to Heaven’)
Spanish wine is quite high on my agenda and always has been really. I work closely with a spanish brand now and the quality of Spanish wine has been and continues to be so good. Trouble is, there is so much on offer, and more so that not it is all of a decent quality, unlike many other counties where there is the cheap, acidic, sugar loaded mess right up to the ultra stuff – of course, you do get this pretty much everywhere, BUT Spain always amaze me with price vs. quality – actually, it’s not even a vs. for me, the two go hand in hand; average price = good wine…premium price = excellent wine…ultra premium wine = unreal wine! That is how it is for me. Of course we also need to look further from Tesco and Sainsbury’s to get a real grasp of what Spain offers us.
Emiliana – a vineyard that ‘produces a complete portfolio of organic and biodynamic wines with character, faithful expression of terroir and unique personality‘ – there words not mine. High on the agenda these days is organic wine (lets face it, we are living in a more organic world than ever now) and so winemaking organically, albeit far from widely known at the moment amongst most of us, is a way of life for many. Organic wine, broadly means that no synthetic chemicals are used in the agriculture. The less chemical intervention there is the better and healthier the produce, and in my very ‘new eyes’ to this, particularly when talking about wine, Emiliana vineyards do this brilliantly and explain it in a way that is simple to comprehend – from a consumer point of view as much a a professional point of view. Organic methods yield the strongest, richest grapes possible with the fewest detrimental effects on the environment, and the resulting wines reflect the organic commitment to quality – a simple statement of intent. More to come around the organic wine topic in the coming weeks
Scale Dei – this was a wine that I tasted that was the best I have tasted…ever!! The vineyard is situated in the Tarragona province of the north-east of Spain. Priorat is on of the country’s most traditional and inspiring red wine regions. Now, when most of us think of Spain, we think of Rioja and thats fine, as it accounts for much of Spain’s wine output (over 14,000 vineyards and 190 wineries) however, regions in Spain that produce fabulous wine, such as Priorat are far less recognised by us, but worth talking about…so i will. What makes this region unique is that the vineyards are planted on steep hill side terraces or deep within valleys and so this means that the land can only be tended and harvested by hand. One of the wines I tasted was the Cattoixa Reserva; a fine example of the regions red offerings that are very deep in colour, intense aromas of red fruits, jammy strawberries and some licquorice notes towards the end. I urge you all to try s red wine from this part of Spain – just ask your merchant to try a red wine from ‘Priorat’. I actually found out that I had spoken to the PR girl many times in the past, but just never met her, so meeting her on the day was not only ‘a face to a name’ situation but a good chance to catch up – as these things tend to be. My thanks to Tim Fordham from Montrachet Fine Wine merchants and Patrick Langguth from the Wine Export Association of German Wine Estates for allowing me to share some wine with them on their respective stands!
My champing at the bit to get writing again has overwhelmed me so much that I actually began to tell Dominic Wauldock (Wasps and England rugby player) about it a tasting recently!! As if he wants to listen to me talk about wine…..BUT actually he did and it was a very engaging conversation too I’ll have you know! He likes a drop of wine now and then and has a decent palate on him.
Staying with the grub ‘n grapes theme from last week, but this time, rather than talking about matching your own wine with you food at home, it’s all about restaurant wine lists. My part here is two-fold; what we see and do when given a wine list and what we should be doing instead! Before I got into the trade I was like many, in that when the wine list was handed to me, to start with I pretended to know what I was looking for in order to look half clued up on what I may choose to order. At that point, I knew that a Shiraz was a red and a Sauv Blanc was a white, but really that was about it. One thing I always used to know as well, was that Chilean Merlot was a wine that loads of people at the time seemed to go for. Currently, Chile is at No.3 in terms of best-selling wines on a restaurant wine list, behind Italy and France respectively – I just thought because everyone else drunk it, that it must be good and really only ever stuck to that. Worse than this was that despite me always asking for the same thing in restaurants, sommeliers or waiting staff didn’t recommend anything else to me, and in some places I was a regular – even more reason for he waiter to suggest something for me to try! My point here is this – why do we lack the confidence to be able to ask for a wine list and actually bother to read the full list and ask questions? Instead we ‘pretend’ we know what we are talking about and in many cases balls it right up and end up with a bottle of Hock with the beef medallions, shallots and fondant potato we just ordered….that cost £25! So how do we overcome this? Well, by now we should all be in a place where we are some what savvy about what we like to drink, particularly at home. This is so much easier than you may think – you know what you like, so simply tell the sommelier what you would usually have – and do not be afraid of talking to them about tannins, legs, tears and all the technical bits that sound poncy – this will only help to make your choice that much better in the long run. Also, never be afraid to ask to try a sample before you make a decision. Now some restaurants will not allow this and either get a bit funny about it and suggest in their own unique way that they know what they are talking about and so you should trust them entirely – which is all fair enough, but if you want to try it, then go for it – what is the worst that can happen? He/she says “No, but I am happy to make a recommendation to you’…simply ask to they the recommendation instead. Sounds a bit long-winded right, when all you want is a glass of plonk with your nosh. Trust me though, in order to get this ‘confidence’ we are talking about, this is the type of behavior we should all be adopting in my opinion. Plus, the sommelier will also be respectful that you do have a comprehension of what wine you like to drink, and argo will converse with you more so that you have taken the time to talk to them and ask the questions. Like I have said from the very start, wine is totally a confidence based topic when out and about wining and dining – if you know what you like, tell the world and practice what you preach. There, easy peasy!
Finally this week, I must give a mention to The Wine Store in Chippenham, Cambridgeshire. I tiny little shop in the same vicinity or setup as a well known farm shop that serves both local people and others from further afield, much due to their diverse range of fresh quality produce. This place though was as much quaint as it was old school; friendly staff who as soon as we walked in offered us to take part in a tasting of some red and white Bordeaux and Burgundy, which were fabulous by the way! I must thank them, and although I live in London and this was in the middle of Cambridgeshire, I shall recommend it to those who pass through Chippenham. Great place – plus a bottle of Tempranillo that I will be cracking open tonight… oh and the receipt, handwritten!! They don’t do ’em like that anymore!
I have some photos and some other media to share with you tomorrow which should be good – keep ’em peeled peeps.
That concludes the story this week. Next week, time for a bit of fun, so a couple of things to try at home and some words about my mate being taken to Louis Roderer for a few days – well, more of a nudge of jealousy actually rather than a nice little comment or two from your truly
Wine is fun, fun is wine drink it young and when you dine.