Author: Juel

What drives a Wine Collector?

Recently I read an article in the New York Times about a Brazilian bus magnate who’s buying up all the world’s vinyl records. This mysterious collector has record shops sending him semi-trailers worth of vinyl then hires interns to “bring logic” to his collection. He has even gone through therapy to try to understand his obsession. Beyond the money and the status, beyond the need to taste everything and “lick the dust, that is to say, love earthly pleasures” as Pascal wrote, beyond even love for wine –  Why do some people collect huge cellars of wine and then sell it all? I am not talking about buying a few cases of en primeur every year. Or those who who sell for financial or space reasons. What I am talking about are collections that include every wine from one vintage, or every vintage of one wine. And more. The question often crosses my mind as I watch the lots come through Christie’s. Today there is a bottle of Dom Perignon 1985 featured. Five bottles per …

The Mystery of Monfortino Barolo

A vertical of Giacomo Conterno is a prime piece of classic Barolo-ology to get the teeth into… to uncover the mystery of Monfortino Barolo. Turning up on a sunny Spring morning at the Corney & Barrow offices near the Tower of London, around the same time as Antonio Galloni was in town for his Giacomo Conterno dinner (and I, without a spare £1500 for a ticket) this was a dreamlike vertical. Sadly I arrived too early to meet Roberto Conterno. If I had met him, I had a lot to ask, especially about some of the ideas his father had about style and also some facts that seem to be different everywhere I search. Giovanni was quite demanding from all accounts – many vintages, which were good enough for most, were not deemed good enough to carry the label of Conterno and sold sfuso. The aromas produced by these wines, especially Monfortino, are understated and robust and the younger vintages flicker with seduction. They draw the taster in with elegant and classic flavours only to hint at …

Barolo 2010 at Fine + Rare

There are many buildings from the 1970s that I would want knocked down, but one called la Maison de la Celle Saint-Cloud is not one of them. Opened in 1974 in Paris and designed by Jean Pierre Raynaud, the place is completely tiled, an endless black and white grid. As ornate Persian tiles hint at the wonders of the universe beyond, this is a monument to the modern world. For me, it would be a struggle not to take some colouring-in pens. Unfortunately, it was closed in 1988 and demolished in 1993. The building is no longer, but the modern world lives on. Despite the dissection and analysis, Barolo will defy attempts to be put in a box. But what happens when you try? There is a rebellious spirit to this fine wine region, so that many producers end up singing, as Sid Vicious did, “I did it my way.” So it was with some trepidation when I went to the first Barolo tasting of the year at Fine + Rare where I tasted 90 + …

Back to Barolo School with Berry Bros & Rudd

The fine wine flavour of the month – of the year – is Barolo 2010. You would think this would make me happy. Instead, what I see is a missed opportunity to introduce more people to these great wines. Take Burgundy-level vineyard complexity plus Italian labels multiply by long cellaring time to the power of Italian wine laws. Copy and paste into an old Bordeaux en primeur spreadsheet. The result? A wine wrapped in more of a disorientating fog for customers than a drive in a minibus around hairpin bends in the Italian Alps in winter. Time to get back to basics. Time to go back to Wine School! You can never know too much when it comes to Barolo. So when I saw a Berry Bros & Rudd Wine School tasting of 2009 Barolo and Barbaresco at their cellars in St James’s Street, I put my hand up. Hosted by David Berry Green (DBG), who moved to Barolo in 2009. He lives and breathes nebbiolo. He can make the subject come to life with little tidbits …

Diffusion Line: Harvey Nichols Own Label

If these are house wines, then I want to live in that house. As See by Chloe, Miu Miu (Prada) or Marc by Marc Jacobs are secondary lines from high end fashion designers  at lower prices, Harvey Nichols Own Label works on the same principle. For those of you who have ever lined up at H & M for the latest diffusion line from a big designer then you will GET these wines. Kate Moss for Top Shop is about as close as it is going to get to the supermodel’s wardrobe; just as Margaux 2009 is a taste of drinking Rauzan-Segla 2009 everyday. The Rauzan-Segla 2009 Grand Vin is around £85 per bottle, not including all the storage and faff to buy Bordeaux at this level, the Margaux 2009 is part of the vintage for £25. A bit more easy-going than the Grand Vin, this is a very successful collaboration between the 2nd cru classe and Harvey Nicks. The “controversial” drawing by Karl Lagerfeld on the 2009 label in the Grand Vin is replaced by a simple picture of a (French? chic?) bicycle. This is quite of …

How to Fly First Class at Home

Tasting Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay 2008 is a bright blast of sunshine much like sitting on a tarmac anywhere after arriving from gloomy Gatwick. So, it does not surprise me this wine is on Qantas First Class. Even on the ground, this wine is a journey in itself. This is a complex and big wine, bright and juicy, with crystalline ginger and honey notes lapping up on the shore of your tongue like tropical waves. This is exactly what you want when flying (especially a 24 hour flight to Australia): at 36,000 feet flavours pale and diminish due to cabin pressure and air quality (as I found out when tasting for Skyscanner). Plus, you know exactly where you are with this wine. It is THE taste of Margaret River. There is no mucking about trying to be a Corton Charlemagne here. On the ground, at home, it is very dense and compact, almost monolithic… yet, yet… it is a true joy. One of those wines you where you lift your glass up to the light …

Anti-Valentine Wine: 100% Bastardo

Before you are completely consumed with kitsch and regret, consider this for Valentine’s Day. When everyone else is popping pink Champagne and being overcharged at restaurants, you need an antidote to keep your mind focused on why you did the right thing. This wine made of 100% Bastardo even has soulless and cold eyes that stare out at you like some sort of ready-made vinous voodoo doll. Yet, the wine inside, perfumed, spicy and elegant like nothing you ever remembered about your time together, is a bit like a Poulsard or pale Burgundy. Bastardo is a grape variety also called Trousseau, one of the varieties varieties in Cotes du Jura, but in the hands of the mother and daughter team at Conceito in Portugal it appears stronger, less laden with romantic bliss than its French cousins, and does it in style. Self-assured winemaking, with a scary label, this won’t leave you to cry in front of the hundredth re-run of Bridget Jones this Friday night. Most likely it will make you laugh, which is exactly where you want to …

Bordeaux to Maroc

There was a lot of talk about Bordeaux before I left for holidays… Is en primeur 2013 on or not? On that hanging question, I left it all behind at Stanstead Airport for a week of mint tea and tagines in Marrakech. Of course, “getting away from it all” is not that simple. If only you could leave work behind sometimes, but when you work in the wine industry it seems to follow you around like your hand or foot. You try to get away but end up in some sort of Interzone only for it to arrive on the scene again like some Burroughs bug. Even in Marrakech, Bordeaux seemed to follow. It started with the Domaine de Sahari at the beautiful restaurant run by women called Al Fassia in the new town. We had to try the Cinsault (under the menu as a Vin Gris) and the red – a Carignan blend. Mysteriously, on the label it mentioned a “Bordeaux enologist” had some part to play in it. Later I found  it was owned …

Oh! Ochota

“And if by chance you surf….. you would understand what a great barrel is.” After a pure two-tone fruity-vanilla start reminiscent of tasting straight from the barrel in a cold cellar*, it found a balance point exactly where satsuma, lemon curd and Comte cheese meet. In the current trend for leaner Chardonnay but more balanced on the side of sweet fruit and oak, it is happily supple (and definitely not fat). Made by Taras and Amber Ochota, and you can find their story here, this couple is a talented and well-traveled lot, who chose to dig at a hard spot for Australian Chardonnay (this is a difficult price point in the UK) and hit upon gold in the Adelaide hills. The wine did not reveal itself fully until the next day, which reminded me not to drink big white wines under screw cap without at least a good swirl in a decanter first (a decanter is not just for red wines).   Bottle number 9! The back label details:       *After being immersed in months of Burgundy …

My top wines of 2013

Time to give thanks to all the great wines of 2013, and there have been a few.   Red Giacosa Barbaresco Red Label 1996 from this dinner at Medlar Very Budget red Pinot Noir 2012, Paparuda, Cramele Recas, Romania (£5.99) Special mention to all the posh Beaujolais   White Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2007 And all the EP 2012 Rieslings   Budget white Clos du Tu-Boeuf Cheverny 2011,Thierry Puzelat   Sweet Passito di Pantelleria Marco de Bartoli 2008 – at the winery in Marsala Sparkling Dom Perignon Oenothèque 1996 And then dinner at Leong’s Legend, Chinatown Fortified Mas Amiel 2010, Maury  And all the 2011 Ports, thank you   Dud Beaujolais Nouveau called Légende at Dijon-Ville train station   Nice Surprises A wine from Granada! A Givry at Montrachet restaurant in Puligny-Montrachet: Books Pomerol book I even wrote a limerick: There was an old wine from Pomerol, loved by the likes of Cheryl Cole, it was glam shine, a v good wine, & worth it more than L’Oreal Through a Sparkling Glass – Andrea Frost …

2012 Burgundy vintage – the new normal?

I was reminded of Schumacher when I was in snowy Burgundy recently to taste the 2012 vintage.  The British economist wrote a book in 1973 called “Small is Beautiful:  A Study of Economics As If People Mattered”. Published during a chilly economic recession in Britain, the idea is that because man is small, ergo, small is beautiful. The central argument based on observing village life is that “bigger is not better”. “Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.” In mossy caves, tasting from the barrels with pipettes held by the winemaker, there is something human (even humid, it was colder outside in the snow) about tasting in Burgundy cellars. The vintage is small. Again. And it is intensely beautiful. There are large negociants and domaines in Burgundy but at its best, Burgundy is a testament to the small. Each year there have been less and less barrels (Grivot, below). I was told by one domaine that the barrels along the wall were filled with water to ensure …

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Arvid Rosengren, working in Copenhagen, recently wrote a thoughtful piece about natural wine. At the end of the post he gives fair advice to those who are for and against natural wine, including: “If things seem black/white it’s only because you don’t know better.” The neon sign at Little Social Restaurant is from Godard’s science fiction film “Alphaville” (1965). In the movie it is  what welcomes visitors to this outer-space city where all emotion is outlawed. Everything in Alphaville is a statement and nothing is an explanation. Even the word “why” is criminalized. It’s a dark and dystopic future. To have it enshrined on the wall in ironic neon, begs the question: are we there?  My friend and I were at Little Social Restaurant to have a lunch on a school day so nothing could stop us being the complete opposite: loud, impulsive, dangerous and devil-may-care. We were there to have a very long lunch. The sommelier gave a low whistle of approval when we chose the 2011 Arretxea Hegoxuri from Irouleguy. It’s from a tiny region in the South-West of France made up of a blend of white grapes with challenging Basque names translated …

Brilliant Grillo

One of the most exciting things I saw in Marsala at the government’s nursery vineyards were the experiments that crossed native Sicilian varieties with ancient Georgian Saperavi. Anticipating environmental change in the next 10 years, it is a forward thinking approach by the oenologists (then again, wineries take at least a generation to develop). The vineyards are part of a desire to return to the local grapes, to understand their natural expression, rather look at others for a style. Or have a style foisted on them. So much of Sicilian history has been this story. It is an island where the conquerors have left their mark, even in the wines – for example, Zibibbo is Arabic for grape. The conquerers have been Greeks, Spanish, Arabs, Italian, and in the case of Marsala, the British. For the wine lover, the market forces of the supermarket and EU have too often conquered Sicilian wines. There was not much incentive other than to make cheap wines in co-operatives. Now we saw a different story. In West Sicily, there …

Dancing Jancis

Quick – what was the average number of bottles drunk per person in the UK in 1971? (The same year as the first edition of The World Atlas of Wine was published.) The spark for the original edition World Atlas of Wine was first ignited just around the corner from where Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson and Octopus Publishing launched their 7th edition of The World Atlas of Wine  – in both print and digital versions. As I lugged the tome home last night through Soho, I thought – I must get the digital version. Maps come alive on a tablet. And it would be very handy for carry-on luggage. Although there’s something about having a book beside you when you are drinking a wine (or studying – this is an essential read for WSET students). I love randomly opening a page to find something new about Japan, Slovenia or Piemonte. Both have their own advantages. As an aside, Hugh Johnson explained the original reason for the The World Atlas of Wine. At the time, Mitchell Beazley …

The Story of the Stolen Glass

It’s a sad sign of the times when one is pathetically grateful for good customer service. Recently it has become a bête noire of mine having to deal with global internet companies. It could not have been a more different experience on the weekend. Visiting one of my favourite restaurants in Paris, La Verre Vole. (The Stolen Glass) – a little cave à manger near Canal-St-Martin. The place was closed for lunch but we knocked on the door anyway. The staff already had their staff meal on the table and were ready to sit down. They let us in and spent a bit of time talking with us about the wines. On the walls there is an excellent selection of natural wines – many I long to see in London, especially the Beaujolais and Loire wines. They pulled out a perfectly chilled Beaujolais and two glasses, “Have a seat by the canal and return them when you can.” I think we had mentioned a few we knew – we had seen a lot of Lapierre’s Morgon on the …

2009 Occhipinti SP68 Bianco Sicilia

Future shock. There was an idea floating about a few years ago that mobile phones would develop an intelligence to predict your next purchase while walking down the street. The utopian marketers did not see it as 1984-style surveillance, nor as an over-enthusiastic vision from an IT consultant, but as a new form of enlightened self-interest moving at warp speed. If you liked a certain brand, and wanted it at a certain price, your phone would alert you as you are walking past a shop. Just think how easily I could stump the system: all I would have to do is put in my recent ten wine purchases. My phone would melt walking past my local delicatessen – where I have found some amazing wines recently.

Which is the best Dom Perignon vintage: 2004, 2002, 2000

“Dancing, music, champagne. The best way to forget until you find something you want to remember….” Marlene Dietrich to David Bowie (youtube, Just a Gigolo, 1978) IF you are ever in the difficult situation where you have to make a choice from different vintages of Dom Perignon, don’t be shy. Here are my thoughts: The 2004 vintage sits between 2000 and 2002. If I had to choose between 2002 and 2000 then… 2002 wins hands down. Between 2004 and 2000? I would still choose 2002. Right now, the 2000 Dom Perignon has that sherry oxidative note taking on the toasty and brioche notes. The 2004 Dom Perignon can be happily opened now but will start getting better in 2017 and stay great until 2028. Despite tasting them many times, I’m still not totally convinced it was necessary to make 2000 or 2003 vintages – neither are a classic DP experience. Unlike the 1996 and 2002 vintages, which taste fresher and brighter. These bottles can be brought out at your funeral. Your friends will love and forgive you. The …

New Fine Wine Generation @ Medlar Chelsea

An all-women dinner at Medlar Chelsea was a snapshot of the tastes for the current generation of women in the fine wine trade. “I warn you,” I said to Clement beforehand, “this may be a tough crowd. We have two exhausted people who have just finished their MW exams, and the rest of us work in Fine Wine trade. Now I’m not saying we are going to be difficult but we are each bringing a wine to the dinner without anyone knowing what it is and so I can’t tell you. Oh, and the only theme is B – I know, no help there I’m afraid. Sorry you won’t have too much time to work out an order, if there is a logical order…” I admit, it was not an easy brief. Bravo to Clement Robert for he took it all in his stride. He certainly lives up to his title of UK Sommelier of the Year and more. The sequence of wines to come out to the table was sheer brilliance. Brought out in pairs, each …

Jacquart Champagne at Atelier Brancusi Paris

Jacquart Champagne’s new prestige cuvee 2005 alpha was launched last Tuesday evening at the Atelier Brancusi, the studio of the Romanian artist, situated next door to the Pompidou Centre in Paris. “Did his life end up okay?” I asked the museum guide, looking at the black and white photographs of him working in his studio amongst the organized chaos of marble dust and twisted metal. Everyone laughed at my question. Moving along… Not so fast.

German Riesling 2012 Kabinett & Auslese

The 2012 Germany Riesling vintage is powerful and intense like “lots of violins being played together pianissimo”. There is a real drama to this vintage and the best seem to sweep you up in their drama. The yields are very low this year (down by 50%), particularly in the Mosel – no wonder there is no slouching: they are pure and focused, up and at ’em at first light and not lolling about all day in bed in their silk sheets all day (although you know they want to). Hear the orchestra warming up down before the stage. The last of the violins have stopped their tuning of the strings, the murmuring voices stop and there is a tap from the conductor. Here is my dream flight of the Riesling: Kabinett 5. Saarburger Rausch Kabinett #04 13 Zilliken (Saar) A five-star Saar. Velvet texture rolling over the palate in waves. Mouth-watering spicy tropical fruit with real energy and vibrancy. 4. Rotschiefer Kabinett, Van Volxem (Saar) Incredible power behind the fruit, off-dry high-definition Van Volxem brilliance. A must. 3. Brauneberger Kabinett, Fritz Haag (Mosel) This Mosel is …

Piedmont Report: 2009, 2008, 2007 Nebbiolo

With 2008 and 2009 in the market now, I dug up my 45 notes tasted in Serralunga d’Alba in 2011 and have included notes where re-tasted since then. I had always learned Nebbiolo derived from the word, “Nebbia”, meaning “fog”, alluding to the fog that sets in on the hills in Piemonte during harvest. The true meaning I am told, by every winemaker I met from Piedmont, is that Nebbiolo was named after the Piemontese word “Nebieu” meaning Noble. This may be the case, but these great wines made from Nebbiolo grape in Piemonte seem to be shrouded in fog – the fog of Italian classification laws. “We are very complicated in Piemonte,” said Pietro Ratti at the Symposium after the Nebbiolo Nobile tasting, almost as an apology. Most know Barolo and Barbaresco, some may even know they are made from Nebbiolo, but there are also other wines: Nebbiolo d’Alba, Nebbiolo from Roero and Nebbiolo Langhe. They are made from the same grape but are different classifications of Nebbiolo, some that cross over the same territories, even the same …

What’s so funny about Oltrepò Pavese

With a name like this (“umore nero” means black humour), you’d expect it to make light of its Pinot Noir clones from Burgundy, and sure enough, what you get is a deliciously dark and slightly disturbing rendition of a Beaune. Umore also happens to mean the juice from the grapes but there is nothing too funny here about the winemaking, it is fairly straight up: grown on limestone marl in Oltrepo Pavese at an altitude of 200-250 metres, this is a region in south-west Lombardy (just south of Milan), where when on the right soils, produces light mouth-watering reds but with a serious depth of macerated cherries and wild strawberries. It keeps developing in the bottle, and in the glass, making it more than a vinous one-liner. A speech bubble? Everyone is a comedian. But Curb Your Enthusiasm, the only funny thing is it is almost impossible to find Oltrepo Pavese in the UK and most of it is drunk locally. As comedian Larry David would say, it’s pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty good. 5 …

Fortnum & Mason Awards

It was all a bit crazy on Tuesday night. Especially as it is the middle of Bordeaux (and 2011 Port) en primeurs. So I was up for an award from Fortnum & Mason for Online Drink Writer with Knackered Mother’s Wine Club (Helen McGinn, ex-Tesco) and Matt Walls (who won a special award for his book – Drink Me!). It was nice to be nominated and congratulations to Helen and Matt. All of us have a background in the wine trade, which I thought was quite interesting. At least I was in the right category – when originally asked to apply for the award it was for food writer! This is very funny when you know how I order at restaurants: wine chosen first and then the food has to work around it. And if doesn’t work around it, then I will stick to the bread. Chatting afterwards with Financial Times’ John Stimpfig (nominated for Drink Writer Award) and his friends we got up the courage to speak to Mary Berry. A bit merry berry myself at this …

Random Access Memories: 2003 Rioja Blanco Gravonia

Tasting Gravonia on a cold Monday night while listening to the sneak preview of Daft Punk’s latest Access Random Memories album is like every 70s tropical sunset in the past but seeing it again projected in a fourth dimension. Both are what I can only describe as future-nostalgia. Lopez de Heredia’s wine are very old school Rioja, the one we long for… but have forgotten that is what we really want. It is rolling and smooth – the texture is downright mellow – and touches you as gently as the orange air of a Bali sunset. The honeyed groove is like Nile Rodgers on the bass. Did I mention the texture? Oh yes? It rolls with a creaminess but then seems to REFRESH every 30 minutes. Defying time by becoming younger and younger. As NME says in the review for the album, there is a “wide-eyed sense of freedom… coursing through.” An interesting fact I learned today is that the average age of the collaborators on the Daft Punk album is 45 years old with …

More zelig-caravent! 2011 jardins des simples

There should be a word for that balloon-like fruit in natural wine. Plush is not quite the word. Nor is it as luxurious as velvet. I was thinking of a car safety airbag balloon – soft, in your face and I am sure many people who love big fruit in their wines will think it is heaven for a moment. I have tasted this texture many times in natural wines and I even detected it in the last vintage of the Rolls Royce of natural wine, Pontet Canet. Combined with the lack of astringent tannins, or wood, it makes the fruit turn to pillow. “But don’t car safety balloons come out in car crashes?” someone will inevitably say when finding this to be a natural wine. Poor natural wines, always guilty until proven innocent! That would be unfair to this Cinsault from zelig-caravent, jardins des simples 2011 from Pic St Loup in the Languedoc.  It has a rich, forward and smooth strawberry and raspberry character as if strawberries and raspberries have been left in the …

At Chateau Palmer #bdx12

This is what Bordeaux En Primeur week is like: it seems quite leisurely as we talk but it is really a quick yearly catch up on what has been happening since last time we met. This year CEO Thomas Duroux  stole us away from tasting Chateau Palmer to show us the new cellars. It is very interesting to hear how the yields must come down for organic viticulture, especially in Bordeaux – it is more humid down here than in Burgundy and needs constant labour-intensive (read: expensive) vigilance to keep away the mildew and pests so to keep the quality high. From original post for 2012 Bordeaux En Primeur week on Bibendum Times.

Flavour Chess – Jean Pierre Robinot, 2011 Concerto

2011 Concerto Jean Pierre Robinot Masquerading as simply a light red from the Loire, on closer taste this is an entirely new wine, keeping the red wine tannins but swapping the fruit part with white characters: grapefruit pith, pomegranate seeds and campari orange. After an hour, the Pinot d’Aunis grape interrupts like a waiter with an oversized pepper grinder stopping the conversation. After this interruption it settles down again into a light-bodied red wine, and losing the funk, making the whole experience as unsettling to the senses as being lost in some South-East Asian market before the humidity rises and the fruits are unpacked in the cool early dawn. Robert Parker would call his Anti-Pleasure Police, which is not such a bad thing, but I had myself reaching for my bookshelf. Jean Pierre Robinot could be said to be one of the founders of natural wine (along with Marcel Lapierre) so if you like wines made for modern air-heads this is not for you. However, if you are in to weird Loire grapes and intelligent …

Time for Certainties?

Locked out of my house the night before I left for Bordeaux to taste en primeurs, I decided the best way to pass the time was to eat at my local Italian restaurant and read up on last year’s vintage conditions. I always wonder whether customers read vintage conditions. Are they only interesting to people who understand how a plant grows? The basic ideas: the sun increases sugar, too much rain causes mildew, different soil types can hold water to the roots differently – the same applies to any fruit, and grapes, after all, are a fruit. Perhaps if you listen to gardening programs on the radio this will be interesting. I am sure for a lot of people their eyes gloss over the vintage reports. If you can be bothered to read it then I recommend you do because it does unlock many mysteries of the wine. It’s not all about the weather. This year it is also about the technology. The current taxation law in France encourages wineries to plough profits back into …

A letter to a friend #bdx12

… The first couple of days had some bettter wines than expected but nothing that rolled out the red carpet in the mind. You know, when the stars come out and the flash bulbs starting flashing. Everything afterwards different, a blur. It does happen. In some vintages. This is the problem when I go back over my notes – sometimes the best wines have none at all. Maybe they have a scribble or some trailing lines or absent-minded stars. The rest of the time it is too easy to get stuck on quibbling about something above average but nothing exciting. And maybe that is what Bordeaux is all about. Something easy to drink after ruling the world (at these prices). Not too much, not too sensuous. These are wines for Judges. And just as you would imagine – there are also some with aromas of extreme decadence. Striking, but not at this moment. You asked me once, if you only had one wine what would you drink? For me, from Bordeaux, it would be Chateau …

Australia Despatch: Notes from Sydney

Before I left London everyone warned me about the cost of a lime in Australia. What was everyone talking about? After the third person had mentioned it I found the story on the BBC website about the outrageous cost of the £1.50 lime (usually about 30p in London). Luckily for me the taste of lime is THE taste of Australia – I have never tasted lime in wines from anywhere else – it is in the Riesling but also in some other varieties I did not expect… Lime is a very cooling taste, so it works well for early evening drinks on hot days. When I visit Australia I like to try wines from regions that I do not see often in the UK. I often despair at the selection in the UK; as relevant to me as Paul Hogan or a Walkabout pub. It’s a formula that works but like any formula it is a bit dull. What is going on in Geelong or King Valley or Tasmania? That is what I was eager …

Manouches, Zelig-Caravent

    Tonight my friend from Agde and my travelling days (from a time when you could walk through customs with a corkscrew, wine bottle and shoes intact) bought me a wine from around his area in Languedoc. The wine is called Manouches. Quite by chance, my friend says. Then it is a wonderful coincidence: Manouches also means gypsy. But it means more than that. The word has an association with Django and jazz – “Perhaps because Django was a Manouche, and ‘gypsy-jazz’ music is so accociated with Paris & France, the word has become synonymous with gypsy-jazz guitar.” Djangology.net The wine has the intense pure blue fruit common to natural wines but it also has a dark shadow (non-fruit) that follows the bright midday sun (fruit): thyme and nuttiness (hazelnut). I like the Languedoc when it is like this: breaking the rules. It is a platinum gypsy: an unusual blend of 70% Alicante Bouschet and the rest Cinsault. Image: Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Countessa.

wine speak in Soho

There is nothing like getting your boots dirty in a vineyard to understand wine. Yet most of the wine I drink is in an urban environment. So how do we make sense of wine jargon in the city? Armed with our phone cameras, in the cold drizzling rain, we had 45 minutes to find out (warning: NSFW).

Vignaioli Naturali di Roma 2013

“I have a great appetite for splendour, but at the same time very simple tastes,” says the Valentino quotation at the entrance of his recent exhibition Valentino: Master of Couture in London. The Roman fashion maestro could have also been talking about Italian wine. On the weekend of February 9-10, I was in Rome for the Vignaioli Naturali di Roma. It was not the normal natural wine tasting (if there is such a thing as a normal natural wine tasting).

Pomerol by Neal Martin

On Monday night I saw Kraftwerk’s Computerworld show at the Tate Modern. Standing on the sloping cold concrete floor of the Turbine Hall with 3D glasses watching 20 minute songs of minimalist German electronica, what can I say? It was brilliant. Radioactivity, Pocket Calculator, Robots, Autobahn… fun, fun, fun. But what surprised me is how many times I laughed. Not only when recognising the song but also to the dead-pan humour

Dom Perignon Rose 2002

I remember vividly the two types of customers who coveted Dom Perignon Rose. There was the geeky Champagne collector who had an intimate knowledge of all the vintages and variations and then there was the Warlord-types who drink it everyday and live in central London for half the year for tax (and other) reasons. Not in either camps, it was a happy coincidence to be invited to the

Jean-Marie Fourrier on 2012 vintage conditions

The last time I spoke to Jean-Marie Fourrier it was November 2011 in his cellar in Gevrey-Chambertin. He gave a very clear and poignant portrait of the vines after the wet summer of 2011. As I mentioned in my previous post, he explained how, by the time winter had arrived, the plant was confused by the unusual weather patterns. At the end of 2011, the stalks had not turned from green to wood completely so an unusual second sprouting happened again in winter. Especially for those who

End of Year Stocktake 2012

‘Actually, I rather like birthdays. It is a good reason to talk to yourself, to ask yourself what you have been doing, what you are doing and what you will do. Girls who can’t go off and talk to themselves stay girls and never become women. Women who can’t take stock turn to drink, take pills or worse, but I can take stock. I can send for the bill of life and add it up too. If I ever feel depressed I consider what I have done and what I have accomplished — starting from nothing and arriving now with so much happiness.” – Sophia Loren The dreaded stock take! A necessary evil in restaurants or retail is to count up all the bottles at the end of the month and see if they tally with the sales. This post stocktakes all the bottles and conversations over the year. Looking back, 2012 seems to add up to a fine balancing act between bling and natural wines. Here are some of my highlights from the first …