All posts tagged: Review

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

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 …

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.

2003 Dom Perignon: Dark Revelations

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

Wine Fetish and the Edge of Taste

Because I like my ankles, I learned quickly stilettos are not practical on the cobbled streets of central London. Some shoes are not made for walking. The only sensible place to wear them is in bed. That said, some wines are not made for drinking. I have noticed over the years, people who become fixated on wine long enough, begin coveting the bizarre tastes, the hard-to-find, the wine-beyond-price. For the everyday olfactory worker, this fetish for strangeness can not be talked about in polite company. You can not admit too much to your own personal preferences. To the outside world, if you talk about wine, you are supposed to be objective arbiters of quality who can communicate to the largest audience possible; it is better to supress your boredom with the clean, choc-berry matrix and the desire for new kingdoms of taste by hiding the key in the cellar. The other reason is the blank look given to people who don’t understand. No one wants to be elitist. What I am talking about is a …

4 Kilos from Mallorca

Can you judge a wine by its label? Yes, in this case, yes. Call me deeply superficial, but this wine from Mallorca matches the quality of the label: smooth dark chocolate, black juicy fruit, mysterious dry garrigue and an unexpected bang of freshness, which I can only guess comes from 50% use of the native grape, Callet, rather than the 40% Cabernet Sauvignon or 10% Merlot. Who are Vino de la Tierra de Mallorca and what are they doing making great wine with great labels by local artists? Their quirky website tells me the winemaker Francesc Grimalt is known for reviving the use of the local Callet grape and has partnered up with owner Sergio Caballero, a musician and founder of Barcelona’s Sonar Festival of advanced music and multi media arts. 4 kilos refers to the 4 million pesatas used to start up the adventure, which is still a micro-winery and mostly made in the garage. The label is by artist known as Marti. And if you want to know more about the label, here is a coolly …

Raving with Clos Ste Hune (Trimbach)

  The signature taste of Clos Ste Hune Riesling is pine needles but this is no tranquil afternoon in the Black Forest; more like non-stop “pine needle” green strobe light action at a rave. Trying to describe it is like waving your hand through laser light; the complex flavours meld and disappear in a green light of spicy lime and steely tang. Let the music lift you up. It would have been fortunate to have only one Clos Ste Hune, but at yesterday’s Enotria tasting with Jean Trimbach at Bistro du Vin Soho, we were treated to three vintages. Everybody raves about Clos Ste Hune Riesling from Trimbach; and happily, this wine lives up to the hype.

The wine was Chambertin

I forget the name of the place; I forget the name of the girl; but the wine was Chambertin” – Hillaire Belloc Tasting Grand Cru Chambertin next to other wines is like seeing a film featuring Anouk Aimée after an all-day marathon of Friends. It has such a different affect on the senses it makes you wonder whether all winemakers are using the same key ingredients of grapes, soil, sky and cellar. The last time I tasted 2008 and 2009 Grand Cru Domaine Rossignol-Trapet they were in an embryonic En Primeur state in London; now the wines had formed a clear personality. Rossignol-Trapet’s Gevrey-Chambertin villages red was a go-to wine for me for a couple of years, so it was a thrill to meet Nicholas at the Domaine. 

Introducing Christophe Buisson

The RN74 road in Burgundy is like driving down a wine list. Great names, manicured vines; it is, to state the obvious, a place where vineyards have been have been held in loving trust for millennia. Generations of families and growers have worked the land; a place where growers are so well-known by winemakers business is done on a handshake (‘topler’). But it must be the perverse streak in me, despite having the privilege to taste many Grand Crus from great familes during my time there, one of my favourite wines was a red Saint-Romain from the relatively new winemaker, Christophe Buisson.

Back to the Future: Comparing 1967 En Primeur to now

If you want peace from the crazy highs of the Bordeaux campaign, then there is nothing that gives more solace than German Riesling. Here is a wine once sold as hotly as Bordeaux but now quietly sits on the books while the wine trade put it on their staff account for their own pleasure. Tasting three exceptional German Riesling last week, I wondered: what if Bordeaux went the way of German Riesling in the next 20 years? Before Robert Parker’s declaration of the 1982 vintage, Bordeaux was just another wine to stock the cellar.

New Moët & Chandon Imperial Ice Champagne

As Miles Davis put it, “If I don’t like what they write, I get into my Ferrari and I drive away”. Moët Imperial Ice is the new Champagne from Moët & Chandon, and like Miles Davis’ late experimental phase in the 1970s, the adding of ice in Champagne is more Bitches Brew than standard Kind of Blue. Personally, I start screaming if ice is anywhere near my Champagne, I am not joking, so it was with great trepidation I arrived on a sunny afternoon in May at a hotel rooftop in Mayfair for the launch.

The World Upside Down

Victorian Allsorts Tasting, Wine Australia at 2011 London International Wine Fair hosted by Steve Webber and Kate McIntyre MW, 17 May 2011 The Victorian wines shown today want to break free from the notion that Australian wines are pristine and wholesome, with exciting discordant and dirty notes that urged one not to delay tasting (the forbidden). These wines had pulled a thread in the tightly-knit world of expectation of

Outside the law: Burgundians Anne Gros and Jean-Paul Tollot’s “Table Wine” from Minervois

It’s as if these two winemakers from Burgundy have run away to the South of France and created something great for the village party. The name of the wine, La 50/50, refers to the winemakers partnership rather than the blend and Anne Gros asks on her website, “Is it love at first sight? Absolutely!” There’s a sunny joyousness about this wine from the Languedoc and a sort of recklessness

Leap into Luxury: Super-Tuscan 2007 Messorio from Le Macchiole

Some Super-Tuscans scream luxury but the 2007 Messorio from Le Macchiole is a quiet wine that opens before you as you taste it, to give the feeling of falling forward into space: like a confident step from a plane into silent velvet-dark below, the fruit billows outwards on the palate like a slow-glide on a silk parachute. Afterwards the tongue is literally left frozen in shock from hundreds of tiny pin-pricks of acidity, which may sound bad, but tasting at this very young stage (en primeur/anteprima), it is only the tingle of expectation for a profound experience in the long-term.   The 2007 is considered a “tropical vintage” in Tuscany, which may explain the richness in the fruit, but this Merlot from Bolgheri has all the hallmarks of developing well and is completely and smoothly in balance. I long to see this wine, or any

Languedoc Seduction: Domaine Peyre Rose Clos des Cistes 2002

Winemaker Marlene Soria has achieved a grand clandestine moment with 2002 Peyre Rose Clos des Cistes. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this wine is not the dramatic Mediterranean garrigue character, nor the resolutely non-berry style of the dark rose and golden figs, leather and slight bay-leaf menthol. It is the fleshiness given to this powerful, idiosyncratic voice from the South of France: a region where a lot of voices have yet to find out what they exactly want to say. Compelled to find out more, I learned Soria stopped shipping to the US soon after gaining recognition in Wine Spectator as well as dumping the three previous vintages (1999, 2000, 2001) with the local wine co-operative due to taint from faulty enamel tanks. This, for a wine that easily commands over £60 a bottle. I questioned whether I should write about the vinous equivalent of a one-night stand, one that you and I may never see again (it is found in the UK in seriously low quantities). Yet, weeks later, its mysterious voice and …

Late Night Sessions: Pic St Loup, Bergerie de l’Hortus, Languedoc 2008

Home: Wolf Mountain, Mediterranean Translation: Pic-St-Loup, South of France Sound: Pick the Wolf, Howling Honest: yes Satisfying: yes Traditional: A little Need to eat: No Not for: Thin Merlot lovers Ideal with: Those born too late for cheap Rhone Or: Poor Man’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape Or: Who cares? This is good. Nerdy Fact: Leading AOC for quality in Languedoc S France More: here MORE Late Night Sessions notes and music here: www.wwslatenightsessions.tumblr.com UK Stockist Berry Bros & Rudd Image: Rene Gruau

Valentine’s Day: wine for the cynical and jaded

Saying pink champagne is romantic is as delusional as saying Paris is feminine when one look at a map shows the city is a continuous paean to military conquests. The best Rose Champagne is not hearts and fluffy toys, it usually has a strong Pinot Noir constitution that can withstand many different food assaults. So if you must buy into the most commercial of days etc etc… What do you do?

Fast Movers: 3 Popular Wines in London Today

Perhaps deep down I’ve always subscribed to the Oscar Wilde school of thought that Everything Popular is Wrong. So imagine my surprise when I asked my friends in wine shops to tell me what is popular. What wines are making people crazy with excitement? Having some time on my hands this month, I also witnessed the frenzy first hand. These wines’ popularity defy the prescription that wine has to be cheap, boring and of the same-same grape variety. If these styles are popular, then I am sure Oscar Wilde would approve my longing to be wrong:

Take a bite: Aglianico del Vulture DOC

Aglianico del Vulture dei Feudi di San Gregorio 2007 The first taste of Aglianico is like a volcanic eruption in rewind: a hundred blasts, shreds of mineral rock followed by a fierce lava cooling down into black smoke puffing backwards into the top of the mountain, overgrown with herbs, cool as graphite and purring, velvet and deep, as if nothing had happened.

How to do the new austere: a baby Barbaresco

This is how to do the new austere well: with a light, baby Barbaresco style wine from a near-abandoned region in Piedmont. A fabulous wine yet with an honest country heart: violet, roses after rain, stewed cherry, and fresh-smelling wet forest twigs and gun shop, the expansive feeling of the perfume slowed down by refined tannins, like stopping on a mountain path to take photos of a richly-coloured sunset with a super-sharp lens.

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:

Librarians love 01 Les Pagodes de Cos

The 01 Pagodes de Cos, the second wine of Cos d’Estournel, is reckless, obstinate and from all accounts of previous vintages, annoying. The initial brett farmyard characters will either delight or disgust you depending on whether worn leather smells like the promise of sitting in a new car or crusty old boots. But to me, it’s not that simple. I started tasting this wine and for a full half-hour still no fruit but only a durm und strang chord of leather and farmyard (the Cos style). Was it corked? I left it, but then got caught up in a party of bubbles at work for a couple of hours; I came home, and found another party in the kitchen drinking Caprihinas. Dang and argh, said the grumpy worker in me, I just want some peace to understand this wine! Pagodes longed for a library and a cigar and a serious conversation. So did I. It asked for the luxury of quiet that is so hard to find in London. So did I. Thankfully while I …

dark sunglasses required: sexy Sicilian wine

There’s a stuffy image to the wine industry. It’s where middle-aged men with cigars who imagine themselves out every night patting strippers on the bum between glugs of Bordeaux as they discuss wine like stock prices. Sicilian wines are not for them. There’s also the people who go to the supermarket on the way home from work, get home and perfunctorily open a bottle to watch television for a few hours before going to sleep to do it all again the next day. Sicilian wines are not for them, either. Sicilian wines are TROPPOOOO BUONNNOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! For the first time in ages, I had the Planeta Cometa Fiano and I felt about it exactly as I always did: affable, over-the-top glamorous, completely unpretentious and overall just delicious. If Dolce & Gabbana had a wine then it would be close to this. This is effortless Sicilian style. On a grey London day, I wanted to reach for my dark sunglasses to pour it. The colour is golden straw like mid-afternoon sunshine by the beach. It had a …

New Wave: Kooyong Estate Farrago Chardonnay

In the same way as the sculptor Constantin Brancusi sculpted this piece in 1910, the Farrago Chardonnay from Kooyong Estate is spectacularly modern. Kooyong Estate winemaker Sandro Mosele has been peacefuly innovating on the Morninton Peninsula near Melbourne under the radar and turning out classic modern masterpieces. To say this wine is defined by its minerality is like saying the above sculpture of Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse is only defined by its smoothness. It has a linear feel like Brancusi’s Bird in Space, yet has layers and texture, “quiet” fruit like pear and grapefruit, with very light touch of French oak (only 30% new). The name “Farrago” comes from the name of the corner of the cool-climate vineyard with motley soil of high sand and clay (farrago means assortment, medley) giving the wine its mineral core. There is nothing else like it and what I like about it is that I find no references to French wines. This is the second time in two weeks I have been jolted out of my complacency. First, Mac Forbes’ …

Diary of a Riesling Lover

Riesling Redux: April 3 – July 5, 2010 Riesling is something to turn to when the world gets too busy and crazy. Riesling, especially German Riesling, is not easy, outside of the common push and shove of the marketplace, a tonic to the mad prices of Bordeaux En Primeur this year, which has been the background machine-hum to the following notes. Over the past two months there has been some tragedy as well as great moments for me. In fact, Riesling has been my vino da meditazione. A moment to reflect. After the blandness of the day, it’s good to enjoy difficult things. Each Riesling here was like capturing raindrops.  

Arthouse Loire 2009

Skillfully made but distinctly low budget, 2009 Loire is an excellent remedy to the high madness of 2009 Bordeaux primeurs. Forget Bordeaux. Everything under £10 in Loire in 2009 is good value. More than good, excellent value. These are never big budget blockbusters in any vintage, instead, they are closer to art-house films. Under £10, these are low-budget masterpieces. This year, it’s the precision acidity, the depth of fruit and the deep resonating notes driving the wine. It’s half-way through this year, and there’s been excellent 2009 Saumur-Champigny, Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, Sancerre, Cabernet d’Anjou Rose and a Touraine Sauvignon. When Loire gets it right, they are so so right.   Even though most times, or most vintages, it’s just as likely to walk away frustrated and cursing the price of the ticket. In a good vintage such as 2009, it’s as if the wines take the classic twists and make it something cool. But can you get it? If under £10, I recommend you get it while you can.

2010 Wish List #4: Krug Rosé (half bottle)

Yes, it must be a half-bottle. Of course, it would be more practical, economical and sensible to buy a full bottle. But don’t be ridiculous. This is my wish list, and it really is not the moment to consider such prosaic things. It’s the time to dream extravagantly. So it must be a half bottle of Krug Rose and it must be in its lavender box. When it’s a half bottle, Krug Rose becomes more than just Champagne. It joins the modern consumer pantheon: objects such as the smooth black packaging of an iPod or the pale blue egg-shell expectation of a Tiffany’s box; things coveted for how they are presented as for much as what’s inside. Once you get past the pale lavender packaging – a colour that seems only to be found in very expensive cashmere – marveling how it is the same shape as the full-size version and squeal at how everything is so much smaller, you take the bottle out of its box, hold its swan-like neck and wonder: how is …

Were Dreams (now it is just wine!)

Here is an Italian white wine from Friuli-Venezia that captures my heart: Jermann’s Were Dreams, or the full title – Were Dreams (now it is just wine!).  I can hear the tut-tutting already. What a silly name for a wine! And yet, and yet… it’s precisely the playful silliness that makes me love it even more. What does he mean? All those grapes were dreams and now it just wine… I once had high ideals and now it’s all mundane reality? Or even… philosophize as much you like about the stuff, but it’s meant to be drunk and enjoyed. Whatever the name means, Jermann can afford to have the last laugh: he is one of the masters of the N-E Italian region. And it is his light-touch that give his white wines a depth of minerality and subtle sophistication to make a bottle the most entertaining dinner guest. His Were Dreams is no exception. However, don’t expect much small talk here. It’s definitely for those who love big oak in their Chardonnay (and you know who you are!). After a few hours …