All posts filed under: France

Looking back at Chateau Sociando-Mallet

The Chateau Sociando-Mallet house style is the equivalent to those modern interiors you see in French design magazines that I like to browse at the newsagent waiting for the Eurostar back to London. Clean lines and sparse interiors with a simple piece of design in just the right place. Modern, not excessive in style; and, it never seems to mess up. Meanwhile, there’s baroque elephants up the road at Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estephe and further south in Pauillac, the route des Chateaux of super-second Chateaux that can rival Kensington Palace Gardens for real estate bling. Stuck in the middle with you, as the song goes, is Sociando-Mallet, where the focus is simply on the essentials to make good wine: aspect, the soil, the fruit and the vintage. A vineyard with a view The view of the Gironde from Sociando-Mallet has to be one of my favourites in Bordeaux, especially at sunrise. As the road along the Gironde in Pauillac swings up a small hill to Saint Estephe, you will find Sociando-Mallet and a view of the river looking wild and …

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 …

In Montpellier for Vinisud 2016

Last week I was at Vinisud 2016 in Montpellier for the Mediterranean wine trade fair. It was my first time at this event, and as far as locations go, you could not do better than tasting wines on the sunny coast of France in February. I was there as a Vinisud Ambassador, along with Charlie Arturaola (producer of the film, “The Ways of Wine” and other wine films), Denise Medrano (The Wine Sleuth), and Michelle Williams (Rocking Red Blog). The Ambassador team was a social media powerhouse, becoming a sounding board for the producers and presentations. In a single day, the TweetReach broke new records via the official #VINISUD2016 hashtag with nearly 1,500 twitter posts recorded. According to Sylvain Dadé of specialist agency SOWINE, which hosted the Vinisud Digital Hub, over the last two days of the show, 533,000 accounts were reached with 4.8 million prints. On Tuesday, we found #Vinisud2016 was trending on twitter alongside that other little event going on at the time, The Grammys (!).  Charlie, Denise and Michelle are true social media professionals at the top of their game; each of their presentations at …

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 …

The view from Paris: natural wine and the vegetable whisperer

This is my view. We are staying with a young sommelier friend. He moved to Paris from Copenhagen and now works at one of the grand dames of the natural wine bistro scene, Chateaubriand.  On the wall of his apartment in Oberkampf is an old chalkboard he was given by the guys at Verre Volé (67 Rue de Lancry, 75010 Paris) – one of the places where many wine people hung out a few years ago. Verre Volé also made an impact on me back in the early part of this decade: I remember turning up after they were closed so they gave me a few glasses and a bottle of Métras to sit by the Canal Saint-Martin while we waited for them to open again. “Natural wine only” lists are not a new phenomena. But what is happening in the new bistro scene in Paris (described as “bistronomie”) is not just about natural wine, but also about “natural food” and maybe, in the longer term, we may look back and see that it was even more than that – a coming together of a greater philosophy about the environment and …

How does classic white Bordeaux fit with my not-so-classic life? A week in photos

The case of Bordeaux blanc from the Bordeaux Council sat in the corner of my tiny London flat like an elaborate piece of 17th century furniture. The idea of drinking Bordeaux blanc everyday is very grand, but how does this classic style of wine fit in with my not-so-classic, real life? Instead of opening all the bottles at once, we opened up a bottle or two every night with dinner to see how it worked with food. Which it does. Spectacularly. But not with everything. Don’t believe the label if it ever says aperitif – you will be wasting half the experience. Most Bordeaux blanc is better with food. There are better aperitif wines out there but there are not as many complex food wines out there as Bordeaux blanc. I photographed my week of meals at home (and one special occasion meal on the weekend) pairing white Bordeaux with food. Here are the results. But first, some tips on buying white Bordeaux under £20.   What to look for in Bordeaux Blanc under £20 The last bottle of Bordeaux blanc I had was a bottle of 2011 Smith Haut-Lafitte – not an …

3 terroirs in Saumur-Champigny you need to know

As the boat drifted away from the town of Saumur on a summer night, and I was drifting away in my thoughts at the end of the day (and, perhaps, from one too many glasses of red), I thought about the knotty notion of terroir. When does wine become more than just about thirst? The Loire is a vast collection of different terroirs following the Loire River from the centre of France to the Atlantic. We were in Saumur-Champigny AOC, in the centre of the Loire region. South-east of Angers, on the left bank of the river, and east of Coteaux du Layon and Anjou. The boat drifted to the point in the river where the Saumur region ended and where Touraine began. A winemaker pointed to the old stone stairs on the river bank. The stairs were divided down the middle. Although they joked about it, saying one side was for the people in Saumur and one was for Touraine – there were clearly still some healthy rivalries between the neighbours. The line where one region started and another ended was clear in the …

Les Grands Tablées du Saumur-Champigny 2015

Right now I am in Saumur for a two-day festival called Les Grands Tablées du Saumur-Champigny. Last time I was in Saumur, the constant rain kiboshed our plans to ride bicycles through the vineyards. That was the dream, anyway: a little exercise to go with the wine drinking. We did try. But the rain put a stop it – worst luck – and we ended up staying inside the local restaurants instead, drinking the 2014 vintage and tasting the local cheeses. Now I developed a serious taste for this refreshing red that is – pound for pound – one of the most versatile red wines out there, I am happy to be back in Saumur again to finally meet the winemakers and see the vineyards. The 2014 vintage is an exciting moment for Cabernet Franc in Saumur-Champigny. It’s worth celebrating, especially if it is pouring all night long. This year the event had a British theme (there were a lot of “British” bowler hats, which only made me look like droog A Clockwork Orange. Or maybe Mel and Kim). Was it just a gimmick? There is a deep connection with Britain in the area – this is …

7 Best Things About Fine Beaujolais Now 

One of my favourite Raymond Chandler stories is called, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. It is largely dialogue between couples talking about love around a bottle of gin as the sun goes down. Every one is sure of their own idea of what they mean when they talk about love, but the more they talk, the more confused they become. The title of the short story comes to mind when we talk about Beaujolais. What are we talking about when we talk about Beaujolais? Funnily enough, if you see Beaujolais featured on the front label, then this is not what I am talking about here. These are either Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages. Nor is it the wines you see during Beaujolais Nouveau on the third week of November. What I am talking about is Cru Beaujolais – labelled with the name of the cru rather than the word “Beaujolais”. The ten cru are: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Morgon, Regnié or St-Amour. Last month I tasted the 2014 vintage of Cru Beaujolais in London and met Jean Bourjade, Managing …

David Hockney A Bigger Splash

The Perfect Splash: Champagne Nathalie Falmet Le Val Cornet NV

Once in a while I taste a Grower Champagne* that could break through the noise of big brand Champagne marketing. Brilliant examples of grower Champagnes that have done this are Jacquesson and Pierre Gimmonet, producers who are not affected by anxieties about the done thing in the tightly-regulated region, producers who have singularity of vision and style. Focus for a Grower Champagne is like concentration in diving and what allows them to constantly change, somersault and twist so the end result of all this experimenting with names, blends and single vineyards – for those in the high seats cheering them on – is one perfect, delicate splash. Onto Nathalie Falmet Le Val Cornet NV. My first impression of this single vineyard Champagne is delicacy but this was quickly overcome by the bright flavours of summer: layers of freshly-cut nectarines, red apples and strawberries. All of this feels gentle and joyous, like a walk to the park for a picnic on a sunny day, until you realise the deeper notes of honey, caramel and liquorice suddenly have you in the path of a parade complete with …

Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur NV at Hook Camden

Whenever I hear of the Champagne Ayala, I instinctively move the Y-sound and think of the French fashion designer, Azzedine Alaïa. This is the designer loved by 1990s supermodels: all black, super tight, super sexy clothes. To my mind, this Champagne is not dissimilar in style: elegant, sensual yet precise. Ayala is not just a miserable step-child of Bollinger. When Bollinger acquired Ayala in 2005 it put money where it was needed and then left it alone.  It’s remained a Grand Marque in its own right. One of the original “drier styles” of Champagnes developed in the 1860s. Both Bollinger and Ayala are neighbours situated in Aÿ, an area known for its Pinot Noir, but this is where the similarities between Bollinger and Ayala style end. What is the difference between Bollinger and Ayala? To keep the 1990s fashion theme going, Bollinger is to Ayala as Georgio Armani is to Azzedine Alaïa. And Ayala (and Alaia) is less mainstream and well-known. For me, I love Bollinger but sometimes it has to be Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur NV for its slightly drier and lighter style. At Hook Camden, the lovely Dublin lads created …

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 …

Chablis food pairing at The Chancery London

Mineral is a loaded word in wine circles. Someone will always ask reproachfully, “Have you actually tasted a mineral, or are you really talking about acidity; if you are talking about stones, how do you even know what a stone tastes like??” Well, yes – yes I have. I know the taste of pulverised oyster shells fossilised in rock. Last Wednesday at The Chancery for a Chablis dinner, I gave this Kimmeridgien stone a good lick while nearly mistaking it for the bread. We are at The Chancery for a three-course dinner devised by chef Graham Long, and where I had a very nice chap sitting next to me. “WHY O WHY do you want pain in your wine?” the nice chap asked as we sat down at our places. I think he was talking about acidity. Apart from my jaded palate needing a good jolt now and again, the good vintages of Chablis have excellent acidity, which means it can deftly handle any food thrown at it and then throw some interesting flavour shapes back. Combined with texture and weight, it …

What’s not to love about 2014 Loire wines

Wines from the Loire are not for everybody. Except for the super-refreshing sparkling wine, made in the same way as Champagne, that starts every meal we had on the long weekend staying in Saumur. Or the bright pink Pinot d’Aunis rosé everybody in town seemed to be drinking, from flat-capped pensioner to gangly teenagers, in the local pub off the busy Saturday morning market. Not everyone would think of a Saumur-Champigny red with a sirloin steak like they did at the local Argentine restaurant – it’s an elegant crisp red rather than the usual full-blown Malbec. That’s a shame because the wines are packed full of fruit, especially the reds. Loire wines seem to be polarised between the natural wine crowd who love to fetishise grapes (fair enough) and the rest who have to wade through a lot of bottles, but when finding the bottle, re-confirms its classic status. There is a lot to love about the 2014 vintage. The constant rain over the long weekend meant our original plan to cycle along the Loire river had to be cancelled. Instead, we visited an excellent local …

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. …

Burgundy Young Guns

The generation shift happening in Burgundy is one of the great trends in wine. The number of producers in this year’s Burgundy 2013 en primeur offer under the age of 40 has shot up to over half. This has increased the number of wines we can offer you. Why?  One explanation is the way Burgundy is distributed through the en primeur system. Allocations in Burgundy are based on loyalty and loyalty takes time. If there is one thing about the winemakers from Burgundy, they are extremely loyal – to the land and their long-term customers. We have known many of these producers for years. Often we see when the generation changes hands, the younger generation is dissatisfied with the old ways and changes their negociant. Or the producer is bought by a bigger fish, for example, Faiveley buying Dupont-Tisserandot when Didier Chevillon retired. As Burgundy adopted the Napoleonic system of inheritance, vineyards are either inherited or, with increasing prices, bought by larger companies (although we have yet to see this on the same scale as Bordeaux. With a string of low yielding vintages, time will only tell). When both generations are working at the …

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 …

The Sauce on France

Surely that is not Tottenham Court Road but the Champs-Élysées? Douglas Blyde almost had me believing we could see Paris when we arrived for his L’Hexagone (France) tasting on the 33rd floor of the Paramount building. “If I didn’t have wine in France I would be gasping of a bottle of Tobasco. The wine is the sauce,” he says. This is one of my favourite ways to think about wine. It doesn’t have to be more complex than that – although we had some brilliant wine and food matches all evening. In particular, Ceviche with Cave de Turkheim Gewurtztraminer from Alsace. Did you know that the Vosges mountains in Alsace has the biggest concentration of Michelin starred restaurants in the world? I digress. We started off with a racy (my notes say, risky for some reason – let’s go with that) Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet. There is a growing sentiment amongst wine friends that Muscadet is most underrated and its time has come. Although we all like to feel that we can beat the system (so good! so cheap!) and you do get a lot of wine value for …

#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. …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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.

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 …

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 …

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.

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

Luxury and humour: Mouton Rothschild 2010 label by Jeff Koons

Luxury and humour are not easy bedfellows. Where luxury takes itself very seriously and conforms to rules, humour gets the uncontrollable giggles. If humour happens in luxury then it is not often intentional, which is why I found the latest Mouton-Rothschild 2010 label breathtaking – a first growth with a sense of humour. Jeff Koons work comments on commercial culture we live in by blowing it up out of proportion to see it out of context.  The huge Puppy (1992) made out of flowers; Balloon Dog (1994-2000), extra-sized, twisted balloon art made in silver silver stainless steel; or, the self-portraits of him and his then wife Cicciolina like a pornographic Botticelli in Made in Heaven (1989 -1990, & nsfw). One of his early series was called, “Luxury and Degradation” (1986) based on spirits such as Jim Beam and Hennessey “The Civilised Way to Lay Down the Law”. I have seen the Puppy a few times around the world and loved how it endeared the very young and very old. The label has an absent-minded graffiti over the classical repose. It is an interesting …

Waris-Larmandier Sensation

After being chatted up by a few Champagnes at a tasting, it was good to have a real conversation with Waris-Larmandier Sensation NV. The better grower Champagnes do not waste words; they have something they need and want to say. In this case, poised and radiant, it was also the way it said it. The 10% of Pinot Blanc (only possible because the vines are

New Champagne from Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois

  When I was younger, if I imagined what a grown-up Champagne was supposed to taste like, this new Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois is what I would have conjured: filled-out in the middle, pleasantly adult force of dried fruits and toasted brioche, citrus pursed lips and a creamy foundation. What happened to the sharp Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve NV (or Billy Cart as we fondly called it) that was as sleek and mineral-acid, beautiful and effortless and (click the fingers) fierce. It is still available, but why is the extremely beautiful fruit from Mareuil-sur-Ay “under wood” as if its laser brightness needs to be contained and put under a soft-focus lens? The weight from the oak puts it in an elusive category of Champagne to go with food. Elusive because, as much as I pray everyday to drink Champagne, with every meal, every day, this never happens enough to buy a Champagne specifically for a meal. It will do better with some age, although, like real estate and marriage, that it is asking a NV to …

Natural Wine Bars & Bistros in Paris

The Entrance for Artists. As readers of this blog may know, the last thing I enjoy with a glass of wine is a list of rules. I’d much rather join the circus. Arriving in Paris a couple of weekends ago to see a few natural wine bars, I stayed in the very un-chic 20th arrondissement. Groups of homeless men lay in sleeping bags huddled together beside concrete road blocks showing political signs from Mélenchon’s Communist Party. It was a very crisp, cold weekend. Pamphleteers handed out how to vote slips for Francoise Hollande.

2003 Dom Perignon: Dark Revelations

If fine wine can be defined by how much it develops in the glass over time, prestige Champagne is by how well it stops time. Only Dom Perignon could make the District Line in winter peak hour feel as alive as being on a yacht in the Midi sunshine. It is a long time since I felt that beautiful. I have been asked a few times since the tasting, “Is 2003 better than the 2002?” Compared to the 2002, which had powerful white florals and laser-like lightness (and I love love love), the 2003 had a different richness and density. Chef de Caves Richard Geoffroy persuaded me not to use the word broad – not that Dom Perignon could ever be a rugby player wine –  but perhaps a better word would be darker (I found out later there is a higher percentage of Pinot Noir in 2003). It is certainly a different animal to the 2002. From the first moment of candy nougat that brightly swirls to an austrian bakery character and stripes of hazelnuts it dazzled like a fun fair alley at night. The cinammon and …