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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??

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, …

Primal Genius: Protero Adelaide Hils Merlot and S.C.Pannell

This is a story that starts 2.6 billion years ago. When oxygen first gathered in the atmosphere and single-cell mitochondria ruled the planet, the landscape of Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills was formed. When the volcanoes stopped spewing poisonous gases and the single-cell animals and algae could start to get on with the process of reproduction. Glaciers melted. Fish got legs. Dinosaurs died out. A mere 60 million years ago the Kimmedgian soils of Chablis formed. Humans started fires. It’s been a long way, baby. Until 2000, when the Baldarasso family called in two of Australia’s finest winemakers Paul Drogemuller and S.C.Pannell to see what they could do. The incredible S.C. Pannell What I wanted to taste here on my trip to Australia was a Nebbiolo from Adelaide Hills. If anyone could make a Nebbiolo outside of Piedmonte, which seems almost an impossible feat, then it would have to be S.C.Pannell: his training includes vintages at G.D. Vajra in Barolo, Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Burgundy and Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux. He is also …

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 …

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 …

South African Chenin Blanc (Mullineux White): what’s cool in wine right now

There’s nothing really wrong with most Chenin Blanc from South Africa, it’s usually a perfectly nice breezy linen shift of a wine to throw in your bag for the day at the beach. This couldn’t be said about South African wine five to ten years ago, and for that reason alone, it has to be politely acknowledged that most South African wines have improved immensely. Well done. Then you taste Mullineux White from Swartland, South Africa. This is when you suddenly realise the danger of being too nice, wondering where the hell does it get you anyway. Sometimes good manners can be a shorthand for laziness. This is such an intelligent wine that it makes all other wines from South Africa appear like they need to try harder. This wine combines extremely intelligent vineyard practices to create something uniquely South African with South Africa’s (in)famous variety Chenin Blanc – or “steen” as I remember it almost sneered. It has a waxy character reminiscent of a very good Savennieres but with a white Rhone sensibility (due …

montepulciano d’abruzzo: what’s cool in wine right now

From the elegant and svelte to the overextracted and black, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo comes in as many styles as towns in the Abruzzo region of central-eastern Italy. And as many degrees of quality. Get the right wine though, and you have a rich Cote-Rotie but at the fraction of the price. The Montepulciano grape is very powerful, big variety which is Mediterranean in style – you can taste the warmth and herbal character from the earth. It is big but not heavy, and a good example shows a vigour that is sometimes missing from overripe Rhone or Shiraz. What’s great for us is it tends to sit as the second cheapest wine on wine lists everywhere in London. But don’t confuse it with a distinctly different wine with a similar sounding name, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This ‘Montepulciano’ denotes the name of the town in Tuscany, made with Sangiovese and is a lot dearer, whereas Montepulciano d’Abruzzo describes the name of the grape variety (the grape called Montepulciano) from the Abruzzo region and is usually found …

what’s cool in wine right now

Far from me to impose my tastes on you (!), this is a new series on what I observe people like to buy who seem to have taste at a premium in all aspects of their life. ie. they are pretty cool. There’s nothing scientific about it, other than intense everyday observation. It’s more a Face Hunter snapshot on the street than a marketing document. If this was Grazia it’d be called: What’s Hot in Wine! But the idea of hot wine makes me feel queasy. And winter is over. Bring on summer already. That’s why first up is the very easy to drink, yet with an interesting savoury bite, an Italian white wine from Sardinia – Vermentino di Sardegna.

Ten wines to buy 2009 Bordeaux En Primeur

a beautiful dream… Following on from my post En Primeur – five questions to ask before buying I’d like to share with you the list of 10 clarets I’d buy from Bordeaux 2009 En Primeur.* Notice there are no first growths or fashionable names (Mouton, Lafite, Margaux, Cheval Blanc, Ausone etc). En Primeur on this level is more about obtaining the limited allocation rather than buying for long-term drinking. They have their own allocations and prices determined by their own market, which exists in another stratosphere. This is a fantasy shop, but it’s a realistic fantasy shop. There are a few cases in my list for around £200 – £240. Without knowing the prices yet, nor the demand (will China be a huge presence in En Primeur buying this year, after all? The debate continues…) here is my fantasy shopping list of 2009 Bordeaux based on quality/value and good long-term drinking pleasure based on reports from last week at the En Primeur tasting. So, let’s go shopping! Price Guide – expensive to value £££££ – …

Why wine tastes better with music

“It is widely acknowledged within the scientific community that music affects behaviour, however this is the first time it has been scientifically proven that music can affect perception in other senses and change the way wine tastes. The research showed that when a powerful, heavy piece of music is heard, a wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon is perceived as being 60 per cent more powerful, rich and robust than when no music is heard. Now, back to practicing my cat dance on last night’s empty bottles… Link: Why wine tastes better with music

2010 Wish List #3: Screaming Eagle

“How can I get onto your waiting list? Production cannot nearly accommodate the demand evidenced by the existing waiting list, many of whom have been waiting patiently for many years. With a waiting list of this length it is unlikely that you will be able to purchase wine directly from the winery, and therefore we have stopped adding names to a waiting list. We thank you for your interest in the very small amount of wine that comes from this extremely special property.” From www.screamingeagle.com You might say I just want Screaming Eagle because it’s on a waiting list. Correction: a waiting list for the waiting list for the waiting list. OK, yes, I admit it: this does make me want it more. You got me. The Eagle is an elusive thing. Like a dream. You look up in the sky and maybe you see it but it’s so bright up there. You look into the sun. Those black dots are not birds, you are about to pass out. What is that? The world screaming …

2010 Wish List #5: Inflorescence Champagne

Coming in at number five on my wish list of cool curiosities I’d love to try this year is Cedric Bouchard’s Champagne, Inflorescence. “The explosive, kaleidoscopic Champagnes of Cedric Bouchard are some of the most compelling wines coming out of the region today… Readers should do whatever they can to experience these magnificent wines.” – Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate When I read this review in Wine Advocate last April, I immediately started to look for stockists. There’s something appealing about a single-grower in Champagne in a place where every vineyard is held by multiple, usually corporate, interests. It’s the heroic story of the little guy winning against the big guys. There’s also hardly any of it around, and what was available had been snapped up, which, as you can imagine, drove me even more crazy… Also, the word, Inflorescence – it sounds like it blossoms with marvelous bubbles. Does it live up to the name? I definitely want try a glass or two this year and find out whether it lives up to the hype.

Top 5 Favourite Wines of 2009

For me, 2009 was my Grand Tour of Italian wine. Amarone, Brunello di Montalino, Barolo and the white wines of Friuli and Sardinia. It was also a year where the 2007 vintage from Burgundy and Bordeaux did not produce a predictable line-up of star wines. A challenging vintage, perhaps, but also a good challenge. For isn’t the process of sorting the wheat from the chaff half the fun? Without further delay, here are my top 5 favourite wines from the year: 1. 2004 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino Even when it is woven in the palest of colours, the most expensive cashmere has an unusual depth of colour to its fibre. What is amazing about the Poggio di Sotto is its exquisite pale rose colour belies a depth of knitted-together, intense flavours. Like a favourite cashmere jumper, it may appear delicate at first but it soon tells its own story over time. I don’t think this is a social wine. Not that I mean it’s anti-social and offensive. What I mean is that it …

Benefizio (or, is that the champagne talking?)

“I really love you,” She said “Is that the Champagne talking?” he asked. “No,” she laughed, “That’s me talking to the Champagne.” Another year, another birthday. Apart from the regulatory Champagne (Veuve Clicquot and Billecart Salmon Brut), the wine that astounded everyone who joined us for lunch was the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi 2006 Pomino Benefizio Reserva. The Benefizio glitters and spins like one of those disco lights programmed to move to music. Thrilling pineapple character is mellowed by a sudden acacia and honey character. Depth and light at the same time. It charms but does not dominate. It’s a slight shock to learn this is a Chardonnay. From the Pomino Valley in Tuscany, this area was already considered one of the four best wine-making areas in Tuscany during Medici times. It helps to have brilliant food and company, too. Simple, good Italian food such as real pasta Carbonara (ie no cream, based on eggs). Perfect for long Sunday lunches, this is the ultimate dinner party wine. Bravo. Yes, that’s me talking to the wine! Link: …

Prosecco cocktail, ‘Sbagliato’

With no signs of the craze for Prosecco slowing down after New Years, here’s a cocktail to soak up all the extra bottles you may (or may not) have leftover. Called a Sbagliato, or “mistake” in Italian, it’s much more fun than tired old Bellini (Prosecco and white peach); basically, it’s a Negroni with the Gin replaced by Prosecco. Sbagliato Two parts Prosecco to one part Campari and one part Martini Rosso (or sweet vermouth is also fine). Two drops of Angostura bitters, optional. Pour over ice and stir. Garnish with a slice of orange in a large wine glass. Link: The Cocktail Renaissance

wine in capsules

“James Rothschild sent Rossini [composer of ‘Barber of Seville’, ‘William Tell’ etc] some splendid grapes from his hothouse. Rossini, in thanking him, wrote, “although your grapes are superb, I don’t like my wine in capsules.” Rothschild read this as an invitation to send him some of his celebrated Chateau-Lafite, which he proceeded to do.” – Lillie de Hergermann-Lindencrone, “In the Courts of Memory” Image: The Last Supper, Damian Hirst (1999)

2007 Mouton Rothschild label features Sculptor, Bernar Venet

Even if you don’t drink first-growth Claret everyday for breakfast, you’ll soon be seeing a lot more of the sculptor Bernar Venet. Venet’s sculpture in steel graces the latest release 2007 Chateau Mouton Rothschild label. This is the first time the artwork on the label has been a sculpture – and it has quite a serious tone, especially in comparison to previous vintages. Apart from the eerie 1983 label, which is very bleak and existential, most previous labels seem to me to have something childishly gleeful about them: sheep doing handstands (1999, Raymond Savignac) or my favourite one of a sheep dancing in the sunlight (1982, John Huston). Who wouldn’t be ecstatic? The artist doesn’t receive money but 10 cases of Mouton Rothschild for the commission. That’s something to jump for joy about. Perhaps a parallel can be made between the 1983 and the 2007 – both are not spectacular vintages for this generally spectacular wine (if it is not too incongruous to have “general” and “spectacular” together in the one sentence – after all, …