All posts filed under: Review

A Judgement of Our Times – Trump Wines

If logic applied, the Trump wines (i.e. a project with enough built-in cynicism owned by teetotal reality-TV-star-turned US President Donald Trump) should be reliably terrible. But these are extraordinary times, as Adam Curtis explains in his political documentary HyperNormalisation; and in 2017, we prefer to retreat into a simpler world rather than face the huge complexities of politics today. And, he argues, this trend began 40 years ago. That’s about the same time as the Judgement of Paris tasting of 1976, where Californian wines were pitted against the French greats and won. After the “A Judgment of Our Times” blind tasting, for a brief moment, I felt outrage similar to Odette Khan after the original tasting. Organised by Evening Standard drinks writer Douglas Blyde, and James Hocking, wine director at The Vineyard Cellars and The Vineyard Hotel, we arrived with no idea of what to expect. We then entered the dining room where a large canvas shows the original participants of The Judgement of Paris in a heated debate. America First We tasted two wines at a time, completely blind. One of the wines in …

Back from the Edge: Cinsault in Lebanon

It’s nearly three years since I’ve been to Lebanon. While social media has become heavier and more political, the new wine from Domaine des Tourelles is fresher and even more joyous.  The new 2014 Domaine des Tourelles Cinsault Vielles Vignes was launched in London after a sell-out season in New York. Not long ago, Cinsault in Lebanon would have been pulled out in favour of more popular French varieties. Not noble enough; a workhorse grape; not enough money in it. Yet much like Carignan in the Languedoc, some old vines of Cinsault had been spared the vine pull. In retrospect, thankfully so. Cinsault in Lebanon was originally brought to the country by the Jesuits of Ksara from Algeria and today around 40% of grapes planted in Lebanon are Cinsault. But it is the recent success of South African wineries with Cinsault that have helped Cinsault reach new audiences. Far from the big, bold South African reds, the pretty aromatics and drinkability of South African Cinsault – such as ones from Flotsam & Jetsom and Waterkloof – are a welcome change, and work well with food.  Some …

Two wines for Christmas Day

At this time of year, I’m asked for my Christmas wine recommendations. There are two ways to approach choosing wine for Christmas day. Stick to the tried and traditional, or else, do your own riff from the standard hymn sheet. My favourite Christmas is when we tear up the hymn sheet altogether. One year, we drank mostly old vintages of German Riesling and had a great time searching for old bottles around town. (If you are in the UK, you can read it in this year’s Waitrose’s Food and Drink Christmas catalogue). This rather nerdy level of drinking is easy when there are only two of you. But if you have a big gathering with varying degrees of wine-geek-tolerance then you want a case of something that everyone will “get”. Not too precious, then again, it must have enough sense of occasion. With this in mind, and painfully aware of my tendency to go a bit over-the-top, when Wine Trust asked if I would like to pick my Christmas wine recommendations from their website, I chose a classic Oregon Pinot Noir and …

3 Wine Movies Reviewed: Sour Grapes, The Way of Wine & The Duel of Wine

Recently, three wine movies have explored the question: what is real (and fake) in the wine world? There is something quite unreal about the circus around fine wine. Especially over the past two decades, it has become a game for the supra-mangerial that has no relation to the humble product from the vineyard. Step back from three recently released films and it is easy to see why the question of authenticity, and what is real in wine, has become so important in the 2010s. Sour Grapes is the true story of the young emperor of fine wine, Rudy Kurniawan, who dazzled the fine wine auction scene in the early 2000s and went on to flood the fine wine market with counterfeit wine. Embarrassingly, a lot of wine experts went along for the ride. Jay McKierney writes that “The night before the auction I personally consumed, by my best estimate, over $20,000 worth of his wine – including the 1945 Mouton and the 1947 Cheval Blanc – and I was one of fourteen drinkers.” One of those drinkers being Rudy Kurniawan. Were they …

Anything but Assyrtiko: Greek wine reviews

I do not drink enough Greek wine to say Anything but Assyrtiko just quite yet – there is still so much to love about Santorini – but after this selection from the Daily Drinker for my Greek wine reviews I can see past the horizon beyond Santorini. Under the blaring midday sun on the beach, imagine a very cold white wine called Roditis by Tetramythos as the high thrilling squeal of children chased by waves, with the Malagousia, Domaine Gerovassiliou creating a general hubbub of civilised conversation of adults on the towel nearby. As the sun goes down, these voices become more distinct and clear – the Kidonitsa, Monemvasia Winery draws near and whispers idle romantic thoughts with rich fruit that lingers beyond midday, yet as fresh and essential, as a cool shower at the hotel before dinner in the local restaurant. The Robola, Gentilini is a complex, balanced wine that continues the holiday as the true souvenir of the summer in Kefalonia. A timeless Greek wine, it could be the best white wine from anywhere, yet as specific to its time and place, …

Greek Assyrtiko: between thyme and the deep blue sea

What is the Greek wine Assyrtiko? Grown on the volcanic soil of Santorini, it is a white wine that when good, is a summer wind by the sea made into taste and smell. Last night I had the Hatzidakis Assyrtiko with hot salmon, fresh herbs and dijon mustard on ciabatta and, although it is not a traditional Greek dish, it is an excellent match for this wine: as clear as white houses against blue sky. For those who had too much cheap retsina on a package holiday once: this wine will rock your preconceptions about Greek wine. Let in the fresh air. There is no reason why Santorini AOC should not be more well-known: minerally, fresh and from a major Greek Island. The technology is there to create fresh white wines, hopefully Hatzidakis will pave the way for more wines from this region. Tasting with a handful of vine-ripened tomatoes before dinner lifted the wine to another level, and my friend suggested it was the methoxypyrazines that are working together in tomato and the Assyrtiko (the green tastes in wine, …

5 favourites from Armit Wines Annual Tasting 2015

Armit Wines is fortunate to have some big agencies on their books – Ornellaia, Gaja, Rioja Alta, Giacosa, Huet, the list goes on – but here are the 5 wines which stood out for me at the Armit Wines Annual Tasting 2015 for no other reason than pure crazy fabulousness:   1. Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demi Sec 2009 (Loire) Masterful. As you would expect from one of the last vintages by Noël Pinguet – legendary winemaker and son-in-law of Gaston Huet. This is a wine where taste moves faster than the speed of thought. Pure and light, sweet and savoury, weightless and gravity. And it all just comes together so effortlessly. I saw a friend who is an expert on the Loire do a beeline for it when he entered the room. It’s pretty much like that. Everything else disappears. RRP £17.oo duty paid ex vat 2. Domaine Gourt de Mautens Rosé 2010 (Rhone) On a buzz feed listicle, 24 Bizarre Japanese Ice-Cream Flavours, you’ll find ice-cream comes in whitebait, shark fin and cactus flavours. This Rosé is not exactly your classic strawberry pink, …

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 …

Pride and Prejudice: Hyde de Villaine Belle Cousine Napa Valley

When my friend Will Hargrove from Corney & Barrow said to try this, I said YES OF COURSE THANK YOU. But really I had been around the whole room and purposely skipped Hyde de Villaine Belle Cousine because it was from Napa. Why so perverse? (I get asked this a lot). It’s a £50 bottle of wine! I don’t know. There’s just too much talk about Californian wines, sorry. I’ve tuned out. It’s like at school when it was popular to see Dirty Dancing, and everyone pretended to do the sexy dance with Patrick Swayze, and I would not see it on principle. Then I saw it about twenty years later, and I really liked it. Up there with some of the best 80s films: Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller and Ghostbusters. My teenage self says, I don’t want to pay for a heavy bottle or a brand name and I don’t understand their system of allocation based on being on a mailing list that hikes up prices. If I want a drink to have with a cigar then I’ll have a dark rum. Too much, already. …

The Best Wine with Seafood

Thank god for social media because that’s how I recognised the Thomas “Braemore” Semillon on the menu at North Bondi Fish. This is the best wine with seafood I’ve had for a while. For people who know the usual drum beat of Australian wine, this particular Hunter Valley Semillon may be unrecognisable. The delicate and clean flavours can seem barely perceptible; but, this is what makes it work so well with the silky flesh of wood-fired Yamba prawns, creamy Moreton Bay bugs, fresh scallops or lobster linguine. The texture is a like for like. It’s as essential as a lemon cheek for seafood, and as decadent as stolen lunch hour at the beach. Taste it once and you want it again. In fact, we returned to the restaurant the next day to do just that. Brilliant. * Clever marketing can make you buy the first time but not the second time. Australian wine marketing has worked very well at the cheaper end of the wine market for a long time. Perhaps because it’s a land of long distances where messages …

Barossa Soul

Jet lag happens because a jet moves faster than the soul, said William Gibson in Pattern Recognition, “Souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.” One of the first things I do when I arrive in Australia is hit the local wine shops. Not only because I am looking for a distraction for my jet-lag, or perhaps, more accurately, a cure for it, but because I am always so happy to see a much bigger range of wines and styles than we see over here in the UK. Australian Savagnin, anyone? There were three – three! – in our local independent wine shop. Perhaps there is not a huge market here in the UK, but this grape from Jura must have seemed like a good idea when they planted the vines at least 10 years ago. It’s an exciting time here for new varieties. Tscharke Wines have an interesting Savagnin, called “Girl Talk” (more grrrl than girl), but it was their 2012 Tscharke Gnadenfrei Grenache that dropped us directly to our …

Riesling Trocken 2013 by Rebholz

There is something wry and world-weary about dry Pflaz Riesling. The mineral quality is so self-effacing that it would not surprise me if it preferred to keep company with the young and effervescent sparkling mineral waters at the dinner table rather than the serious conversation of the old cellared reds and the over-caked whites. I want to use the word “refreshing” for 2013 Trocken Riesling from Rebholz – the master of the Pfalz – but that term would feel far too energetic and youthful. It reminds me of a very strange party I went to for a 90 year old customer who had never done anything more than polo in Argentina – this wine makes a party out of random people as it stays fascinated in everybody. Sliding up to fancy chicken wings or pretty little nori rolls so it can provide the erudite chat. Not everyone can be devoted to the inconsequential so seriously, so sincerely and for so long. This wine outlasts them all. mineral and cool 

Reto by Ponce

  Fashion photography, much like most wine writing, can focus too much on the facts for my taste – shoes, hats, dress, size, price, perfunctory smile and twirl – and then, there is the photography that makes everything “rich and strange“. This is the photographer, Guy Bourdin: his exhibition is currently on at Somerset House in London. His posters stare back at me every night on the tube on the way home from work. The effect of his photography on the senses during peak hour is like seeing an elaborate window display of pastries when on a sugar-low. Although Ponce (pronounced Pon-the) is the winemaker on everyone’s lips at the moment, from his cool spot in Manchuela in Spain, I was blissfully unaware of the wine facts when I tasted Reto. It is big, wintry white wine that some may dismiss as easily as puff shoulders and flouncy gowns. It is big but this Albilla (the grape variety) is certainly more precise than a Chardonnay from the 1980s. Not everyone wants lean and mean and I believe there is a secret group of people …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Awake in Turkey – Arcadia Vineyards in Thrace, #ewbc 2012

Zero  Is where the Real Fun starts.  There’s too much counting Everywhere else! – Hafiz, I heard God Laughing * Technology, as Max Frisch said, is the art of arranging the real so that we no longer notice it. In a hotel room in Instanbul, on the way home from the Digital Wine Communications Conference in Izmir, I can hear the call to prayer bouncing around the minarets across the city and I am wondering: what makes Turkish wine so distinctly Turkish? It was a question that I knew had no easy answers.

From Rhone with Love – J.L. Chave at Christie’s

The night before the Christie’s tasting of J.L Chave pre-auction wines, the swimming briefs worn by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale went at auction for £44,000 (with 5 bidders). During the tasting, we were reminded by Anthony Hanson MW that in the past Rhone was shipped to Bordeaux to be used as bulk wine. In between these two extreme stories, sat before us the wines of J.L. Chave. The market of fine wine, like other markets, is based on sentiment. And

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

Handle on Calabria

A wine from a 2100-bottle production of red Ciro from Sergio Arcuri in Calabria is a revelation. Apart from finding a Calabrian wine at Berry Bros & Rudd tasting, what makes it a miracle is that it is not baked to jam under the hot southern Italian sun: perfumed and with a fine structure, very pale in colour, delicate and crisp. It had the same sensation of holiding a baby sparrow in the hand and feeling its beating heart in your grip. Fragile but with a strong sense of life.

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?

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 …

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