All posts tagged: tastings

Tar and Roses

Last week I met with two giants in Barolo in the space of a few days: Elio Altare and Maria-Teresa Mascarello. Their espressione of Nebbiolo are as starkly different as tar and rose. Tar and rose are the signature aromas of Barolo. I like the dissonant images that come to mind of thick, black gooey tar joining with delicate, velvet, pastel roses. There’s something about this wine that resonates with me on a primitive olfactory level: perhaps, it’s the realization that the best is not always sweetness and light. This also holds true for the people making the great Barolos of today, or anyone who decides to go against the grain. Yet there could not be two more different producers of Barolo. Altare uses French barrique; Mascarello is dead against it – using traditional large botte – and famous for the label “No Barrique, No Berlusconi”. Altare makes single-vineyard Barolo; Mascarello makes Barolo the traditional Piedmontese way from three to four cru vineyards. Altare visits Burgundy twice a year since 1976; Mascarello insists on traditional Piemontese spelling …

Which Airline has the Best Economy Class Wine? The Results.

  Once upon a time, glamour ruled the air. Now in the highly competitive days of budget travel, having a drink on board is more about trying to remain as calm and comfortable as possible, a tool to block out the whole distressing experience until landing. Judging 15 airlines’ Economy wines, I was surprised to find a few Airlines managed cared to squeeze the last few drops of glamour left in the flying experience: the wine. But it is the very last drops. Without the aura of glamour, too often the reality is not pleasant: why even pour a NV Vin du Headache? Just suck the metal screwcap to get the last drops of a recognisable wine from something sharp and nasty and you pretty much have most experiences I have in Economy. For budget-strapped airlines, wine in Economy is chosen for everything other than what is in the glass: logistics, volume and price. Before the tasting, I cleared my mind of bad experience of on-board wines (don’t ask) and judged the 12 reds and …

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

Schloss Gobelsburg: philosophical investigations on the pleasures of Gruner Veltliner

“Then I brought up this question: When you say, Men do desire pleasure, what is this use of “pleasure?” Is it contrasted with pain? Pain is localized, for instance. He went on with one of the nicest bits of analysis I heard… He started: Pain is a sensation. Pleasure is not. Why are the senses classified together? Obviously they are not a bit alike. Smells, odors, aren’t a bit like sounds. Then he gave this account. With respect to all these, you can time them precisely with a clock. “Now you see; now you don’t. Now you hear it; now you don’t.” By the clock you can tell. Now pleasure isn’t like this. The logic of the word pleasure is quite different. Clock the pleasure. When did the pleasure begin, when did the pleasure end, etc?” “Wittgenstein conversations 1949 – 1951”, p 63, Oxford. Wittgenstein   Each Gruner Veltliner is a puzzle: in Austria, the spicy white is an everyday wine enjoyed in the same way as Chardonnay; but, here, Gruner Veltliner is still an …

The Mysterious Lady: Hunter Valley Semillon

Hunter Valley Semillon is the reclusive star in Australian wine. While other Australian wines have been all-singing, all-dancing on the world stage, Hunter Valley Semillon has been elegantly waiting in the wings or outside the theatre smoking a cigarette with an attitude of whatever, so what? I don’t like fashion and I’m not signing autographs. For Hunter Valley is the oldest wine region in Australia, nearly 190 years old, and has seen a few fashions come and go. As a style, it has been seriously unimpressed with the fashions over the past 20 years for high-alcohol, oak bombs despite the rest of the country diving in head first. It could not be a fruit bomb even it if tried; it is inimitable and timeless. That is why Jancis Robinson once described this unoaked white wine as, “Australia’s unique gift to the world”. Despite the fashions, Hunter Valley Semillon has remained slender and elegant: generally 12-12.5% alcohol, mostly boutique production, excellent aging potential and no oak whatsoever. Sounds familiar… The parallels between Hunter Semillon and German …

Lunch with Randall Grahm: Imagining Change

Imagine we live on a planet. Not our cozy, taken-for-granted earth, but a planet, a real one, with darkpoles and belching volcanoes and a heaving, corrosive sea, raked by winds, strafed by storms, scorched by heat. An inhospitable place. It’s a different place. A different planet. It needs a new name. Eaarth.” Environmentalist, Bill McKibben     To be honest, it took me a while to sit down and write this post after lunch with Randall Grahm from Bonny Doon vineyards. Why? Firstly, my notes from the conversation at lunch sitting next to him read like a Steiner school brain map: Volcanoes, White Grovonia, Root depth, new clones, aesthetics, saline water, Acacia barrels, the lime taste in Australian Riesling “what is it?” RG asks…. Secondly, there has been a lot already said about Randall and it’s easy to get caught up in the “Californication” of him. He does look particularly exotic from a European perspective. The gonzo Ralph Steadman drawings on the labels (artist of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing), the long hair, the …

the blue wines of Tuscany

At first everything seemed fine, more than fine: from left to right, older terracotta-coloured wines from Chianti to the latest bright purple wines from the Tuscan coast of Maremma. The new 2006 Coevo sat in the middle: a perfectly balanced blend of two distinct regions, Chianti and Maremma. But then out came the Michelin-star Chef, Massimo Bottura, to introduce the food.   Initially, I thought it was simply a good idea to have food with a Tuscan wine tasting, for Tuscan Sangiovese wines are often completed on the palate by food. But Massimo Bottura, from Osteria Francescana in Modena, a 2-Michelin star restaurant (Bottura himself is ranked number 6 in the world*), was not here just to cook, he was here to interpret the ideas behind 2006 Coevo wine through his food. Suddenly, the tasting shifted to a whole new level… Bottura’s ideas flew as thick as aged Balsamic yet as fast as a Ferrari (both also at home in Modena where Osteria Francescana is based). Bottura insisted, the modern chef needs to have their …

Bazaar not Bizarre: Modern Turkish Wine

A mark of intelligence is how to answer stupid questions in a smart way. And before I went to this year’s London International Wine Fair, I had many stupid questions about Turkish wine. Let’s start with the basics. Isn’t Turkey Islamic? Are Islamic cultures allowed to make and sell alcohol? Is it going to be rough traditional wine that will give me headache? Can you buy wine in restaurants there? Where is this wine drunk? How do you even pronounce the grape? Is it even a grape or a style of wine?

Rose 101 – Why drink Rosé?

  Before I tell you about Bibendum’s Rosé tasting last night, I have to admit: Rosé has a special place in my life. I won my first serious job after university by writing a sales letter on Rosé. Nobody wanted to touch it. The manager flicked it at me across his very large desk with a hopeless smirk, “see what you can do with this”. The letter did quite well. And the rest, as they say, is history.