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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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

The Seeds

Argh! I haven’t been able to update the blog and it’s the pips! Thank you for all the kind emails asking about Wine Woman & Song. I’ve been working in a new day job, doing a lot of writing for http://www.bibendum-times.co.uk – which I now look after. I will post again. In the meantime, here is a little entertainment from that most maligned part of the grape, The Seeds. Like a very best wine, it is a strip-tease, honest-to-goodness. Hope to see you back here soon, and thank you so much for the support.

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?

Italian bubbles hero

Today I met a hero of mine over lunch, Michael Broadbent. For someone who has read his Decanter column for over 15 years, this was a real pleasure. I had a fabulous chat about his love of Italian bubbles at a lunch with Ca’ del Bosco from Franciacortia. He entered the room of this sensationally top-quality sparkling wine producer at L’Anima – the king of understatement – “I rather enjoy your bubbles!” What we are talking about in this photo is his love of Moscato d’Asti and how it is such a pleasure to everyone and makes a brilliant house wine! What a real treat, I just want to share this moment with you X More about fantastic Ca’ del Bosco sparkles from Italy in next post. photo taken by @walterspeller – with whom I equally adore, and an excellent observer of Italian wine.

On Vinissima: Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino to be sold? Rumours from Montalcino

Rumours from the hills of Montalcino today is Colle Massari is acquiring Piero Palmucci’s Poggio di Sotto. An elderly gentleman with no offspring interested in taking over the vineyard, it could soon be in the hands of Claudio Tipa, winemakers from Maremma, part of the family who are also patrons of Alinghi team in the America’s Cup…. click here for more on Vinissima.net

Giacomo Conterno – A Tale of Two Vineyards

When one of the oldest Barolo house changes guard, it is worth sitting up and taking notice. Cantina Giacomo Conterno is a great name in Barolo wines and was established in 1908. With the passing away of the formidable Giovanni Conterno in 2004, his son Roberto took the helm. There have been a few changes since then… click here for more on Vinissima.net

Pure Pleasure State: Vermentino! (Amore, Amore, Amore)

  The state of Vermentino is pure pleasure. So I raised my eyebrows to the challenge to show there were different styles of the vermentino grape. To me it is obvious: all vermentino seems to show a wave of glamourous flavour which ends in a quiet shhhh of reaching the shore. Whether the Vermentino is from Liguria, Tuscany, Sardinia or the emerging areas in Australia. But there are differences.    Solosole, Poggio al Tessoro, from Maremma is quite simply the taste of licking warm, bronzed skin after a swim in the ocean ending in the quiet of an acidic kiss. Australian vermentino, from Chalmers in Mildura in Australia, also shows the very lean, citrus mineral style after an exciting display of flavours (smoky, herbs, orange/lemon). If you know the superb Rieslings from Eden Valley you will know what I mean by the eventual leaness.   But it is Sardinia that takes the award for pure fabulous beach style; but, is it really surprising? There’s no other way of saying it – this is rich for …

Sicilia Report – Nero d’Avola Qualità

16% of Sicily’s total vines are devoted to Nero d’Avola and it is considered Sicily’s most important red grape. It has a full-bodied flavour, closer in style to Shiraz than Pinot Noir, with the ability to keep its refreshing quality despite the soaring heat…. click here for more on Vinissima.net

Top 5 Wine Posts for 2010

Jump for stars!! Find the Princess! Dodge the King! Like a Super Mario, Wine Woman & Song grew twice in size this year to take on extra hits and new worlds. Here were the highest-scoring Fire Flowers from 2010 (this year’s most-read posts):

The One that Got Away

This wine had the place smelling like Christmas for a week. Can I give you a tasting note from broken bottle? At around £120 – £140 per bottle, I have to at least try… I was down on my hands and knees licking the floor. Risking shards of glass in my tongue just to have a taste. Excellent colour for a Barolo, pale rose colour, it hardly stained the floor… Spice and pine, leather, cinnamon and cloves, if only Gaja could make a “2004 Conteisa Room Deodoriser”. A very expensive way to give a place ambience, but I am sure it would be a great success: everyone commented how wonderful the place smelled. Dear reader, I cried. What would you do??

The best food and wine of 2010 by @winewomansong on Bibendum Times

Ask anyone who has had their tongue pierced what it feels like and they always tend to shrug it off and say they didn’t feel a thing. I was thinking about this when asked what were my favourite wines of the year. What has marked my tongue so much this year that I can never forget it? Maybe not my actual tongue, but pierced my memory and overturned my senses. Some wines have seared my memory so much, they have changed the way I perceive wine permanently. Here’s just a small sample of my favourite wines – tongue jewellery – from 2010:

Lunch with the Marchesi de Frescobaldi at new Harrods Wine Department

Being a family with a well-recorded ancient past must not always be pleasant, but at least, like old photos or tear-stained letters, the evidence does not require many words. True, such things as archives, documentaries, and fashion can cause trouble over the years. And it definitely has for the Frescobaldi family at one time or another in its 700 year history. But avoiding disaster in the long-term requires a checklist as short as that for any winemaker: soil, weather, location. Looking at my notes from lunch with the Marchesi Leonardo Frescobaldi and

Delicious Chance: Essencia at Chez Bruce

By delicious chance, just three weeks before the year finishes, I finally tasted the number one wine on my 2010 Wish List: Tokaji Essencia (1993).   Well.   Technically, 1993 is a good vintage for Essencia. But a good vintage is never really enough of an explanation, and unfortunately, vintage is not enough to justify this wine. Essencia is meant to be one of the world’s treasures. The worst thing about it was it is a great wine but it had lost its way only through a lack of love – whether because communist vineyard management was still having an effect on the grapes at the time or whether this particular bottle had been stored shabbily and without care.   Or was it me? Have my expectations changed over the year? Probably. Like any wine obsessive, there is a danger of becoming too over-critical. However, tasting the Essencia while spoon-fed lashings of Crème Brûlée at Chez Bruce softens even the most analytical stance… Despite my misgivings, it manages to shine with a tangy, overripe effect, …

2009 Beaucastel: Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark

2009 Chateau Beaucastel En Primeur Tasting Tasting Chateau Beaucastel en primeur is like pressing pause on a moment in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto, currently hurtling through space on the 1977 Voyager Space Probe Golden Record as a record of mighty human achievement. The red is a concerto of the full 13 varieties permitted in Chateauneuf du Pape, which, as they mature, has a symphonic effect as it develops in the bottle. Each component has its moment on stage, the Mouvedre has its moment before retreating to the chorus while Grenache takes over the lead. In other words, at an En Primeur tasting, you really are tasting only a polaroid snapshot of an orchestra. The talk at the tasting table was: “Has Beaucastel returned to an European style of winemaking?” (and I’ll add, it was said with a certain sigh of relief by the tasters beside me). Walking back through the grey stone streets around Bank, I wondered – is it the winemaking or the vintage? This is a different (and quieter) wine than the standout vintages …

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 …

Anarchy in the UK? K Vintners’ Viognier, Washington State

When Bill Grundy famously interviewed the Sex Pistols for ITV in 1976 he asked Siouxsie Sioux, was she worried or was she enjoying herself… “Enjoying myself,” she replies. But then the conversation controversially turns on a few swear words and the interviews ends at only 1 minute 30 seconds. “My wines are not for everybody. My wines are not friendly. They are preposterous,” answers Charles Smith from K Vintners to my question whether the reds at 15% alcohol are a true expression of Walla Walla, Washington State. This was to be a short interview. As I have not tasted many wines from Washington State, I have had to come to my own conclusions. Well, are they as preposterous as the winemaker says? Hardly. They are perfectly nice. In particular, the Viognier is a quiet little floral with good acidity and restrained manners. We had the Viognier with lobster and it was the best food match of the evening, singing together more like Westminster Abbey choir than a DIY thrash punk band. If this is punk, …

Old Man Claret: Bordeaux at £10 – £15 per bottle

“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” – Henry Miller Why drink Bordeaux at £10-15? Many other wines stride in with hi-how-are-you blasts. At this price, there are many choices for a medium-bodied red wine from nearly every corner of the globe. That’s why some are asking, is Bordeaux even relevant anymore? Especially those looking for quick teenage kicks. Many times, I have called Bordeaux in this price range Old Man Claret. Sometimes planky oak, sometimes contemptuous fruit. But a good bottle – and there are many good examples, especially from Listrac, Lussac St. Emilion, Graves and Cru Bourgeois, etc – are safe, reliable, well-made and good company. However, I will admit it often does not make me want to sing and dance on table tops. What I like about it though, is it is more like going to dinner with a friend you’ve known for twenty years: there’s little need to always talk and constantly re-introduce yourself. If you are seriously interested …

Fifth Dimension: Movement in Taste

It’s a fact that when you are truly dehydrated, the impulse for thirst in the body shuts down. So you never really know if you are dehydrated even though you desperately need water. In a similar way, sometimes with wine, you don’t know a good one, or the idea of what that may entail, until you have one. It’s a thirst you did not know existed! Recently I hit upon a new scale: this wine makes me happy to be alive. I have talked about the theory behind this in January 2009, How to Survive Passionate Intimacy with a Dreamy Partner While Making a Fortune on the Path to Enlightenment, but now I realise: there’s a lot more to this Theory than I initially thought… only because there’s been plenty of Practice in the meantime. So, back to more Practice. Last night I had 2008 Friulano, San Blas, Vitivinicole Valle from Colli Orientali del Friuli… a white wine from Friuli. This is what astounded me: the movement across the tongue. It had a combing sensation. …

No Fear

T’is the season. To those who write in the small hours and make wines in the long hours and do what you love. In the season of competitions…. This is for you. Via Nick Cave’s letter to MTV… TO ALL THOSE AT MTV, I WOULD LIKE TO START BY THANKING YOU ALL FOR THE SUPPORT YOU HAVE GIVEN ME OVER RECENT YEARS AND I AM BOTH GRATEFUL AND FLATTERED BY THE NOMINATIONS THAT I HAVE RECEIVED FOR BEST MALE ARTIST. THE AIR PLAY GIVEN TO BOTH THE KYLIE MINOGUE AND P. J. HARVEY DUETS FROM MY LATEST ALBUM MURDER BALLADS HAS NOT GONE UNNOTICED AND HAS BEEN GREATLY APPRECIATED. SO AGAIN MY SINCERE THANKS. HAVING SAID THAT, I FEEL THAT IT’S NECESSARY FOR ME TO REQUEST THAT MY NOMINATION FOR BEST MALE ARTIST BE WITHDRAWN AND FURTHERMORE ANY AWARDS OR NOMINATIONS FOR SUCH AWARDS THAT MAY ARISE IN LATER YEARS BE PRESENTED TO THOSE WHO FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE WITH THE COMPETITIVE NATURE OF THESE AWARD CEREMONIES. I MYSELF, DO NOT. I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN OF …

5 Regions in Australia You Should Know (if you pretend to know anything about wine)

ARGH. All this talk about boring, high-alcohol, industrial Australian wines. Usually by people who believe Australia is one large hydro-dam of Chardonnay. Yes, really. When I worked in Mayfair in London, someone actually asked me whether Australia has vintages. Someone who buys a lot of wine, and frankly, should have known better. So to avoid further embarrassment: here are five regions around Australia producing cool, elegant, dynamic wines that you should know so you don’t look like a parochial, ignorant, cheap wine fool. A cheat sheet for my “Anti-Flavour Elite” friends to get you up to speed with what is really happening in this diverse country. Mornington Peninsula Example: Kooyong Estate Pinot Noir, Stonier Pinot Noir Great Ocean Road What you need to know: Mornington Peninsula is a wealthy part of Victoria, only one hour’s drive from Melbourne. No expense is spared in these small vineyards; in some places you wonder if they also iron the grass. The cool air from the huge expanse of ocean, which leads to Antarctica, benefits Pinot Noir especially. In …

Michael Broadbent on music and wine tasting

“What perhaps is needed is something approaching musical notation, for in many ways the problems are similar. Both music and wine appeal to the senses; both are fleeting, in the sense that actual sounds and flavours cannot be retained by receptive ear or palate; both, on the other hand can be appreciated, even greatly loved, by those who lack technical knowledge or who are without a deep interest. But to reach the heights of full understanding and to convey this to others, rather more is required.” – Michael Broadbent in Winetasting Link: Michael Broadbent’s Winetasting

Bordeaux En Primeur 2009 vs The Volcano

Ejafjallajokull may have told Europe to kiss it’s ash during the week, but volcano or no volcano, the 2009 En Primeur show must go on. No volcano was going to stop Bibendum’s annual Bordeaux tasting, nor the punters from tasting a good vintage nor the winemakers to show off a great year. Anthony Barton, from Chateau Langoa Barton and Leoville Barton, even flew in on a private jet, against the flight restrictions, to make it for this important tasting for UK En Primeur buyers. Nine hundred people showed up to the tasting room at Lord’s Cricket Ground: the excitement was palpable. Especially compared to last year’s less-spectacular vintage smack-bang in the middle of the credit crunch pain. The sun shone through the windows as if it was God himself blessing the wine… Okay, now that’s an exaggeration. And there is a lot of hype and exaggeration around this vintage. But after tasting the wines, I can sympathize with the superlatives. Knowing what I know now, I am more forgiving to some of the media coverage …

Savennières: what’s cool in wine right now

Sit up straight. Now pay attention. I’m not going to say this twice.Savennières commands. The Chenin Blanc from the region in the Loire, doesn’t care about being popular or relaxing in front of the television at the end of the day. Turn the television off, says this wine, this is going to be a serious conversation about ideas. If you want to know it: taste, drink, read a book. Of course, this makes it instantly unpopular. Like avant-garde Japanese fashion, the steely mineral character is almost angular, yet try wearing it at a supermarket and you may get some blank stares. Not everyone is going to like it, or get it, but who cares. The best are dissonant yet interesting. The worse are flabby and boring. Even more annoyingly, with Savennières, the quality is highly dependent on the vintage. Best producers I have been fortunate to taste are Baumard (Clos du Papillon, Monopole) and Clos de la Coulee de Serrant from Chateau Roche aux Moins by biodynamic wine star, Nicolas Joly. It’s not popular. Not …