All posts filed under: London

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 …

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 …

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 …

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).

A night out with Millenials

Here’s what happened. Take a couple of millenials to a wine shop (20 year olds in non-marketing speak). Get them to pick out a wine, my treat. “How about this wine?” I suggest, in a nice transylvanian, Twilight-style font? In other words, a classic Burgundy. But no, what do they pick out?

wines for a rainy summer

Another weekend of rain, has this been the 40th day/night yet this summer? I’m at home watching the Scottish Open in Scotland, particularly enjoying when the commentators whisper, “It’s a cruel game, cruel, cruel…” I’m not a golf expert (at all) but it seems like a lovely, polite game and the bleak, spare Scottish landscape is stormy but dry making me long for my favourite whisky, Lagavulin 16 year old. And any sport where they smoke cigars, is my idea of a good sport. This has been a week of Riesling, starting with dinner with Ernie Loosen

zombie nights

Three everyday olfactory workers were in the mood for something spikier. After a tasting that upheld the status quo in international Pinot Noir we wandered the back streets of Charing Cross like a trio of lost souls with crazed laughter and in the mood to push past Official Judgement. During the blind tasting I heard a few times, “I nailed it”, said with all the gusto of a funeral director. If you work on the coal face with customers, then it is hard to be zealous about natural wine, but pretty easy to be disillusioned by wine media, with this heady combination of funk and abandon we stumbled into Terroirs. We were in a funk. Time for something to mirror our mood.

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.

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.

Dinner with Francesca Planeta

At a press dinner with Francesca Planeta, it did not surprise me when she said her wine had run out at Milan Fashion Week. These wines are seriously loved by the fashion industry. What does come as a surprise is to learn Planeta has only been making wines in Sicily since 1985. Think Italy and wine: what comes to mind is old estates with centuries of history. Then there’s Sicily… dormant for the past 4000 years, it has recently become a hotbed of wine innovation. The world’s love affair with Planeta started with their Chardonnay. We tasted the 2000 vintage and I was instantly back in the 1990s: poured from a double magnum, it’s a full-bodied Chardonnay with prominent oak, a style which has now fallen out of fashion somewhat. But this is Chardonnay: there is no other grape that is dictated so much by fashion.  Contrast the latest 2009 Cometa Fiano. It’s Sicilian style, full of fabulous pure fruit expression that had a consultant exclaim on first tasting, “When a wine comes out like this, it’s indigenous in …