All posts filed under: 100ml

The Zero Dosage Dilemma – A Visit to Hambledon Winery Hampshire

Zero Dosage champagne is a dilemma for purists. On the one hand, it shows us an expression of the wine without the mask of added sugar before bottling. On the other, it can sound a bit similar to other marketing re-mixes such as Coke Zero, or perfume houses that put out so-called limited-release versions just before Christmas. Whether the finish of a sparkling wine with a sugar dose – and it is only a pipette – masks or enhances is a matter for debate.  “You either love it or hate it,” our guide at Hambledon Winery in Hampshire, Joe Wadsack explains, “It does take a while to get used to it, like jumping into a cold sea, but that shock is also what you want.”   Most people like to think they like “sugar-free” but would they if they were handed a glass at a party? To understand how dosage adds to, or takes away, from a wine, we tasted four different levels of dosage and the differences were quite apparent:  Zero dosage (Brut Nature = No added …

2014 Mouton Rothschild label by David Hockney

The 2014 Mouton Rothschild label shows the friendship between the late Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and British artist David Hockney. ‘In tribute to Philippine’ Most of all, it is a fitting tribute to the Baroness, who died in late August of the same year as the wine. Although it was her father who began the tradition in 1945 to commission artists, it was Madame de Rothschild who brought her own vibrancy and verve to the Chateau. The label shows the energy in the vibrating lines. The story in her obituary in the New York Times recounts when she approached Francis Bacon for the 1990 Mouton Rothschild label. She asked, “if she could use his painting of a nude that her father rejected, Mr Bacon asked what had changed. “I’m not my father,” she answered.” David Hockney is well-known for his smoking, but after his heart attack, he no longer drinks. Chateau Mouton Rothschild pays artists with five cases of Chateau Mouton Rothschild wine from the current vintage and five cases from other vintages.  Let’s hope that he has a drop and shares it with his many …

Corse you can: wines from Yves Leccia, Patrimonio, Corsica

Look up Corsica in Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book and right at the end of the entry, like an afterthought or a throwaway line, he writes: “Original wines that rarely travel.”  This is how the obsession starts. Thanks Hugh (again). In the small entry, HJ then recommends the wines of Yves Leccia. As luck would have it, the opportunity came up to meet Yves Leccia at Vinisud in Montpellier, and he sent me some wines to taste at home. It’s easy to like a wine – in fact, to like most things – when the sun is shining in the South of France, but how will they taste on a cold (as the Scots say) dreich day in London? Yves Leccia Domaine d’E Croce Patrimonio blanc Varieties: Vermentinu Region: Patrimonio, Corsica Year: 2013 Price: Approximately 27 € Retailer: Kermit Lynch (US), no UK supplier What struck me the most are the unique herbal flavours, much like the garrigue aromas found in the south of France. In Corsica, they call it fleur de maquis – the thickets of underbrush, rosemary and thyme. The Vermentinu is finer than the Vermentino found …

The Key to Burgundy 2014 en primeur

What’s the key to Burgundy 2014 en primeur? White wines, white wines all the way baby. How can you tell before they have been bottled? Nearly ten years experience of tasting wines at this stage, you can get an idea of the vintage. It’s all about the vibes. What does that even mean, VIBES??!! That will get you in a lot of trouble on twitter. Who cares. I’m in it for the Burgundy. The vibes…. As Michael Jackson would say about the white wine vintage, “I’m in ec-sta-sy!” You can tell from the hair standing up on the back of your neck. The zing. Ecstasy. Joy. It’s like this:     Which producers did you see at Burgundy En Primeur week? I went to Berry Bros & Rudd and Corney & Barrow 2014 en primeur tasting. Also, the Grand Cru Chablis 2014 tasting.  What do you think the trade will make of it this year? No one in the trade loves “a good white wine vintage in Burgundy”. There’s not the same money in it as a good red …

Vogue’s 5 Favourite Wine Instagram Follows

I had my very own Carrie moment – well, I felt a little tipsy, at least – when I saw my name in Vogue UK magazine’s Top 5 Wine Instagram follows in UK Vogue, December 2015, alongside some of my favourite wine people: @leviopenswine @jordansalcito @noblerotmag and @honeyandvine If you were a young woman and an aspiring writer in the early 2000s, it was all about Carrie Bradshaw in S&TC. Who didn’t want to be writing her own column in New York City while looking out the window of her rent-controlled apartment with that walk-in wardrobe full of fabulous shoes? As Carrie would write in her column, I couldn’t help but wonder…. Then there’s the episode where she gets drunk in the Vogue editor’s office. “Martinis in the morning. Is this allowed? Is it “Vogue”?”     I love instagram, it’s great fun. Thank you, British Vogue. Now, in true Carrie fashion, it’s time to spill a cocktail (or nine) to celebrate. Find me on instagram @winewomansong  

On Berry Bros & Rudd blog: Marco de Bartoli’s Vecchio Samperi Ventenniale

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Marco de Bartoli winery in Marsala, Western Sicily. This is where I tasted one of Italy’s great wines: Vecchio Samperi Ventennale. When Berry Bros & Rudd asked if I could write about one of their Italian wines, I could not go past Marco de Bartoli’s famous Marsala. This is a story of one man (and wine) against the odds. Read the full story on Berry Bros & Rudd blog, “One man’s perpetual drive for quality” here >   

My top wines for summer

Like most things in Summer, less is more. I have been living on lighter wines that can get me through the bursts of heat that make London so fun in the summer. But if I am buying a case of wine to get me through this time of year, I want consistency. Something for a session on a long summer day. Not too much pondering over the glass. I’m having a little pale rosé backlash these days. It kind of snuck up on me: at this stage, and with drunk crowds spilling out onto the pavement, I could do without the rosé rage. Can flavour be stupid? Banal, perhaps. It is the flavour of spun sugar and the soft texture of marshmallow. But it can end up being as bland as if you followed Kate Moss’ attitude to eating: “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” If you are not really tasting, the pink slips down way too easily. You can see it in the tears of girls staggering after a day of drinking at about 11.30 …

1975 vintage Bordeaux: Claret Guide, Decanter 1976

If you are having a 40th birthday this year (& happy birthday, Angelina Jolie!), here is a vintage assessment of the 1975 Bordeaux vintage from Decanter in September 1976. Finally, it was a vintage to write home about: It is certainly cheering and reassuring for all who love Bordeaux to know that at long last there is a really good vintage safely in the cellars once more. At the same time this does not mean, unfortunately, that all Bordeaux’s problems have disappeared and indeed many of the economic problems seem to be as persistent and deep-seated as ever. This was a difficult economy for many industries including wine. The 1973 oil crisis could still be felt. Then there were a series of bad vintages in Bordeaux in the early 1970s and, without the technology we have today, there were consecutive years that could not be sold because they were simply undrinkable. The 1975 vintage was initially quite tannic but it has mellowed out over the past ten years, and the fruit has petered out in the lesser wines. Glad to see there was no hype …

How to spot a fake wine

“Of all the old wine bottles that show up on my social media feed, how many of these are fake wine?” asked a wine buyer friend at a long Saturday lunch, “someone should have Maureen Downey take a look.” Call Maureen Downey, the Sherlock Holmes of wine, with her tool box of magnifying glasses, blue lights, razor blades. In this fascinating video for Bloomberg, the top wine fraud investigator explains how she judges whether a wine is a fake wine or an authentic bottle. And how she breaks the bad news to her clients.

The unfinished symphony: On reviews from en primeur tastings

Listening to an interview with Philip Glass while driving home from the Loire got me thinking about recent discussions on completion in wine, in particular, assessing unfinished en primeur samples.   There was a story of one of Glass’ early performances. An audience member walked up to the stage where he was playing his new piece on the piano and banged down Glass’ piano lid in disgust.   When Glass retold the story on a BBC radio3 programme on the weekend, he admitted he did not like it, but he accepted the audience had their own reaction to the new style of music (and that it never really happened anymore). He was reminded of his mentor, John Cage, and his idea – it is the audience that completes the music.   After every en primeur tasting season in Bordeaux or Burgundy, the question comes up: how worthy are assessments of wine from a tank sample? It is a fair question if you pay for a wine reviewer’s report based on wines that are unfinished.   Neal Martin (The Wine Advocate) and Chris Kissack (Wine Doctor) seem to be in agreement on Kissack’s Wine Doctor blog post that Bordeaux …

How Bordeaux 2014 is like Kate Moss

Despite owning the world’s media focus for over 20 years, how much did we really know about Kate Moss at the height of her fame? Yes, we saw photos of leaving parties in Primrose Hill, the hazy wedding photos and the terrible boyfriends. But unlike other celebrities, she never talked about her personal life even when her image was everywhere. No interviews, no salacious tell-alls after the scandals, and only until very recently, no celebrity television shows. All we had was her turning away from us in the Rimmel TV ad with a four-word parting shot in her Croydon accent, “Get the London Look!” In the last couple of years, Kate Moss has lifted the “Kate Moss media embargo” on herself. And it’s…. (and I’m talking as a big fan over the years) it’s just not the same. No more guessing – we now know what she thinks or doesn’t think. That’s not what we want from our supermodels! We want the old cool Kate even if that is an impossible expectation for any human being to live up to for so many years. …

Where the Wine Tastes Better

Some thoughts on wine marketing. When I first started in wine, it was a few weeks after September 11. I worked on the weekend shifts while answering calls from customers and selling a few extra cases at the end with a commission for $2 each per case. It was a creative place, full of actors and musicians working on the phone, many people did not know much about wine. What they did know was people. What I learned then is something that has stayed with me all this time. And it is why I am not interested in being good. I am interested in great. There are three types of companies out there at the moment with respect to wine marketing – (1) people who are doing it well; (2) people who are not doing it well; (3) some who don’t believe they need it at all. Let me tell you what I think wine marketing is, it is very simple, and it is a verb: To make wine taste better. It is the affect of good marketing but …

Chinese Year of the Mouton

What lies in store for Mouton Rothschild in the Chinese Year of the Ram? With the recent record-breaking ex-cellar auction in Hong Kong, it certainly has been an auspicious start. Let’s looks at the steady rise in price of the 2000 Mouton Rothschild vintage for clues.  During Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, the menu is not just about the food. Each food also symbolises good luck. Favourites include sticky rice cake, which sounds phonetically similar to “higher year”, or raising oneself higher, and dried oysters – or haoshi – sounds similar to the term, “good business”. This year, the good fortune extended to the recent Sotheby’s auction of Mouton Rothschild cellar in Hong Kong, to coincide with the new year celebrations of the Year of the Ram, where it doubled its pre-sale estimate to fetch HK$32 million (£2.7 million). Just a few years ago, it was Lafite Rothschild that turned heads to Asia. But the price of Lafite has fallen dramatically. It is more than two years since Lafite Rothschild has been on an upward trajectory. Where every other …

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 …

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 + …

#bdx13 Doing it for the Kids

People are not afraid of a roundabout in Bordeaux. This is the first thing you must understand when you go there. The roads are circles within circles. Lately I have fielded questions from friends and family who are having children this year, “I would like to buy a case of wine for his/her birth year. What would you recommend from Bordeaux?” After a week in Bordeaux tasting the wines from the barrel, I would say there are only a handful of 2013 wines that will be acceptable to drink in 21 years. This is an early drinking vintage. 2013 is a very light vintage with red cherry berry fruits rather than the classic lead pencil/cassis/cedar notes. Also, I found in the lesser names this horrible manipulated taste –  residual sugar covering up the hole in the middle of it or harsh extracted tannins. No, they will never integrate. It is the seed stuck in the molar that you keep chewing. Drying, sharp and more shocking than hitting upon an unexpected anchovy on a juicy pizza. …

What is deliciousness?

This is a working philosophy. But it is also a work in progress. Something I think about a lot during my day to day especially when tasting for many hours. What is deliciousness? Deliciousness is a state of ease, along with companionship (with wine and others) and most importantly (I agree with Thierry Thiese) charm. It does not try to blow you away with its amazingness. To paraphrase Thiese, it can be found in the big, medium and small wines. So it is not about points or trophies. Re-tasting Cascina Fontana Barolo 2010 – the last time I tasted this it was in the barrel in his winery in Piedmont. I remember it clearly because the wine jumped out of the barrel! A sign of things to come for the 2010 vintage? Really, if a Barolo like this doesn’t make you happy, what will? While some single cru wines’ non-fruit flavours, tannins and prices can be extreme, to the point of discomfort for some more sensitive palates, the blend of plush La Morra and serious …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Majestic friends

When I asked my friend why he wanted to go to the National Gallery to see this painting by Titian, he told me about how his manager had it on the wall when he first worked at Majestic. It is a magnificent painting, and if there is a shrine left to Bacchus, then this must be it. Once upon a time, it seemed to me as if everyone worked in the UK wine trade had started out at Oddbins. Today the wave of people coming through the ranks are more likely to be from Majestic Wines. They have enviable wine training at Majestic. My friend no longer works there but had just finished his WSET diploma so we decided to throw out the rule book and head to Terroirs.

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 …

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 …

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

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 …

THAT image

I didn’t want to say anything about this. Not because I don’t think it is extremely poor judgement by the designer to represent The 50 Most Powerful Women in Wine with a silhouette under a glass like some sort of rare insect in the shape of the neon sign advertising for the local strip club. No, it’s because I thought we were beyond this. A long time ago. Snore. But I must. The truth is I started this blog (and this is one of my first posts) as a reaction to a website project I was copy writing for in 2007 called “Women 4 Wine.” The only catharsis was to write what I really thought about after the spending the day writing through the lens of “women” or what was perceived as what they want. For this project, the wines always given to me were Rose, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio (!). Also, my brief was to de-emphasize the technical aspect in the copy and emphasize the lifestyle. I could feel all this talk about picnics …

2011 – Natural Wine

I said fate plays a game without a score, and who needs fish if you’ve got caviar? …When I loved, I loved deeply.  It wasn’t often. Josef Brodsky Was 2011 a good year for wine? When I look through my red moleskine notebook, I would say overall, yes – and there were certain trends. Here are my reflections on wine in 2011 featuring key wines that sum the year up for me. Natural Wine: 7 Rue de la Pompe, Mas Coutelou When I hear the word “should” I calmly pick up my bag, grab my coat, take off my heels, find the nearest exit and run for my life. Even if a Natural Wine is the nicest wine in the world, nothing irritates me more than to be told what I should or should not think (or drink).  Despite being embraced by some parts of the industry, natural/organic/biodynamic wine still divides people. Natural wine is not a sommeliers friend (although it is loved by sommeliers) and it is here where you see ideology bang up against practicality.

What haunts me

The irritation and resistance melted from Elisa’s face. “Oh, those are chrysanthemums, giant whites and yellows. I raise them every year, bigger than anybody around here. “Kind of a long-stemmed flower? Looks like a quick puff of colored smoke?” he asked. “That’s it. What a nice way to describe them.” “They smell kind of nasty till you get used to them,” he said. “It’s a good bitter smell,” she retorted, “not nasty at all.” He changed his tone quickly. “I like the smell myself.” – John Steinbeck, The Chrysanthemums It started before we even arrived in Burgundy. Way before that. On the road to Macon from Geneva. Like a shadow it kept showing up in the brightest of places. Our Sat-Nav must have been drunk, that’s the only way I can describe how it could possibly want to navigate us off the highway into the darkness. Into Jura. “I would love to take a quick detour to Jura,” I said, half-jesting as I knew all the great wines lay ahead of us in Burgundy. These …

The Truth About Mac Forbes

Let’s try to forget Mac Forbes is rather attractive. I don’t want this to influence my perception of the wine in any way. Of course. That’d be completely unprofessional. Hands up – I had written about his wine before I met him: “Supersonic”. But, for the sake of objectivity, let’s get this out of the way… and he is married. So, I said it. There. What about the wine? Mac was in London between visiting Austria and Portugal. In itself, this is a very Australian idea of Europe and her wine. The island of Australia covers from St Petersburg to Dublin. Yet this is the key to understanding it. Let me explain.

Big fun

A lot of wine is like sitting in a long journey in a car forced to listen to someone else’s music, “you have to listen to this, you have to listen to this.” OK, sure, I’m open-minded. But, what… Is that your idea of fun?

Tar and Roses

Last week I met with two giants in Barolo in the space of a few days: Elio Altare and Maria-Teresa Mascarello. Their espressione of Nebbiolo are as starkly different as tar and rose. Tar and rose are the signature aromas of Barolo. I like the dissonant images that come to mind of thick, black gooey tar joining with delicate, velvet, pastel roses. There’s something about this wine that resonates with me on a primitive olfactory level: perhaps, it’s the realization that the best is not always sweetness and light. This also holds true for the people making the great Barolos of today, or anyone who decides to go against the grain. Yet there could not be two more different producers of Barolo. Altare uses French barrique; Mascarello is dead against it – using traditional large botte – and famous for the label “No Barrique, No Berlusconi”. Altare makes single-vineyard Barolo; Mascarello makes Barolo the traditional Piedmontese way from three to four cru vineyards. Altare visits Burgundy twice a year since 1976; Mascarello insists on traditional Piemontese spelling …

On Gin & Tonic. Because A Man Can Lose Himself in London

Apart from the smell of bergamot in Earl Grey tea and the exhaust fumes of black cabs, the smell that will always shock my memories back to London is juniper. That’s because I love Gin & Tonic; and, juniper is the key botanical in London Dry Gin. I do not see the point in drinking bad wine. Unless I am in a specialised wine bar or restaurant with a good wine list, when I am out call me Madame Geneva.

Wine Fetish and the Edge of Taste

Because I like my ankles, I learned quickly stilettos are not practical on the cobbled streets of central London. Some shoes are not made for walking. The only sensible place to wear them is in bed. That said, some wines are not made for drinking. I have noticed over the years, people who become fixated on wine long enough, begin coveting the bizarre tastes, the hard-to-find, the wine-beyond-price. For the everyday olfactory worker, this fetish for strangeness can not be talked about in polite company. You can not admit too much to your own personal preferences. To the outside world, if you talk about wine, you are supposed to be objective arbiters of quality who can communicate to the largest audience possible; it is better to supress your boredom with the clean, choc-berry matrix and the desire for new kingdoms of taste by hiding the key in the cellar. The other reason is the blank look given to people who don’t understand. No one wants to be elitist. What I am talking about is a …

Which Airline has the Best Economy Class Wine? The Results.

  Once upon a time, glamour ruled the air. Now in the highly competitive days of budget travel, having a drink on board is more about trying to remain as calm and comfortable as possible, a tool to block out the whole distressing experience until landing. Judging 15 airlines’ Economy wines, I was surprised to find a few Airlines managed cared to squeeze the last few drops of glamour left in the flying experience: the wine. But it is the very last drops. Without the aura of glamour, too often the reality is not pleasant: why even pour a NV Vin du Headache? Just suck the metal screwcap to get the last drops of a recognisable wine from something sharp and nasty and you pretty much have most experiences I have in Economy. For budget-strapped airlines, wine in Economy is chosen for everything other than what is in the glass: logistics, volume and price. Before the tasting, I cleared my mind of bad experience of on-board wines (don’t ask) and judged the 12 reds and …