66 Search Results for: champagne

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 …

Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur NV at Hook Camden

Whenever I hear of the Champagne Ayala, I instinctively move the Y-sound and think of the French fashion designer, Azzedine Alaïa. This is the designer loved by 1990s supermodels: all black, super tight, super sexy clothes. To my mind, this Champagne is not dissimilar in style: elegant, sensual yet precise. Ayala is not just a miserable step-child of Bollinger. When Bollinger acquired Ayala in 2005 it put money where it was needed and then left it alone.  It’s remained a Grand Marque in its own right. One of the original “drier styles” of Champagnes developed in the 1860s. Both Bollinger and Ayala are neighbours situated in Aÿ, an area known for its Pinot Noir, but this is where the similarities between Bollinger and Ayala style end. What is the difference between Bollinger and Ayala? To keep the 1990s fashion theme going, Bollinger is to Ayala as Georgio Armani is to Azzedine Alaïa. And Ayala (and Alaia) is less mainstream and well-known. For me, I love Bollinger but sometimes it has to be Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur NV for its slightly drier and lighter style. At Hook Camden, the lovely Dublin lads created …

Jacquart Champagne Cuvee Alpha 2005 launch at Atelier Brancusi Paris

On a balmy Tuesday night in Paris, Jacquart Champagne launched their new prestige cuvee from Jacquart – the much anticipated Jacquart Champagne Cuvee Alpha 2005.  Inside the Atelier Brancusi, situated next door to the Pompidou Centre, the sculptures are breathtaking in their simplicity, but Brancusi’s life was anything but simple. He left his peasant family in Romania to travel across Europe to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He travelled to the United States with his sculpture, Bird in Space and customs were not convinced what he was bringing in to the country was art; he had to fight to stop them placing a duty upon its import as an industrial item. This went on to become the test legal case on the definition of modern art. And then there was the Romanian government, who refused to acknowledge Brancusi in his lifetime leaving him to bequeath his studio to the French government on his death. Although now he is celebrated, and his beautiful smooth sculptures represent some of the best of twentieth art, you can see in …

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.

Champagne, darkly: Blanc de Noirs

This is the time to pull out the Blanc de Noirs Champange. Blanc de Noirs literally means white from black, which, even metaphorically, seems appropriate. Generally NV Champagne is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. A Blanc de Noirs is 100% Pinot Noir. It has a red fruit depth, sometimes described as a meatiness, somewhat similar in taste to vintage Champagne. One of my favourites is from Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vigne NV, but other excellent Blanc de Noirs are Pommery Wintertime and the very special vintage Bollinger, Ay Vieilles Vignes Francaises Blanc de Noirs. One enjoyed recently is 100% Pinot Noir Secondé-Collard Blanc de Noirs Brut NV. It has the nose of a much more expensive Champagne, although one third the price of the Egly-Ouriet, with crunchy biscuity characters. The name is also appropriate, for it’s the right way to see divorce, or any significant relationship ending – as a second chance at your life. This is not the end; it is white from black, it’s a light at the …

2010 Wish List #5: Inflorescence Champagne

  Coming in at number five on my 2010 wish list 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 …

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: …

New Years Eve champagne

Still recovering.   I know – a week after New Years’ Eve.    Drank some very good champagne – and it is worthy to note, because it happens so rarely – one after another.    Ruinart Rose NV followed by 1999 Dom Perignon, 1995 Krug with a chaser of NV Krug.    I’ve never tasted Dom Perignon beside Krug. Either it’s one or the other. The two champagnes don’t often mix in the same circles.    Yin and yang.    Dom Perignon is delicate, lacy and feminine. Krug is biscuity and masculine – although still very elegant and refined.     At least now I know why Dom Perignon is Marlene Dietreich’s favourite champagne.   Let 2009 sparkle on!     

champagne and real pain

“Captains of industry, great generals, artists of genius, even politicians, are often just people who have discovered that alcohol can enable them to make economic, tactical, creative, or political decisions whose implications would paralyze a sober individual.” – John More, in sub-TERRAIN Finest example: Winston Churchill. Pol Roger released Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Pol Roger Vintage Champagne in 1984 to recognise Churchill’s attachment to Pol Roger, who “insisted on enjoying the wine at the most dangerous and dark periods of wartime”. My observation is Pol Roger is not as well-known the LVMH (Moet, etc) champagnes; Vintage Pol Roger, even less so, but preferred by people who have drunk too much Veuve Clicquot in their life. Link: Sir Winston Churchill and Pol Roger

Fate is great: flirtations with pink champagne

“Fate is Great” As fate would have it, the man who told me the story about the Romeo y Julieta Cuban cigars (previous post) was from Verona. As we stood beside a display of Champagne, I asked him which was his favourite Champagne. “Billecart-Salmon”. “Me too! (FATE!) I love the Billecart-Salmon Rosé.” “You must drink a lot of pink champagne…” Why (insecurely checking my lipstick)?? And he moved very close and said, “Because your lips are so pink.” Ah! And how does this star-crossed tale end? Let’s just say, as they do in Romeo and Juliet, that I was the very pink of courtesy. Of course. Link: Billecart-Salmon House site

My favourite wine is Champagne

“I have an old-fashioned, chorus-girl kind of taste in Champagne. Not Moët – I always get heartburn. My favourite is Taittinger.” – Thomas Adès, Composer in Time Out London, May 1 – 7, 2008 It’s little wonder Moët gives Adès heartburn. The wine writer, Peter Bourne, once told me – there’s nothing wrong with Moët, but it’s only really good at the racecourse. A vintage Champagne from Taittinger is released ten years after bottling. Suitable for a composer that has been described as if “the piano is waiting to make these sounds – for 200 years – to come out”. I’d recommend the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc des Blancs 1998 – the latest available vintage blanc des blancs Taittinger Champagne. When I tried the 1986 vintage a year ago it danced for hours after tasting it. The 1998 is still comparatively young. But I’m sure it would make the most magnificent of chorus girls happy. *wink* Link: Roll over Beethoven: Thomas Adès by Alex Ross, NY Times music critic

15 Japanese Sake Terms You Need to Know to Look Like an Expert

Following on my previous post, here are fifteen Japanese Sake terms to make you look like an expert the next time you order Sake. Kanpai! 1. Ginjo Ginjo is a highly polished style of sake. 2. Daijingo Daijingo is even more polished than Ginjo. If you see this on the label, you can expect a clean and delicate style, with fruit and floral aromas is perfect with seafood. They can be served cool. 3. & 4. Kimoto, Yamahai Yamahai (or you may see Kimoto, its predecessor) is the traditional process of making Sake where a starter culture naturally develops over a few weeks (much like sourdough bread). The Sakes are fuller-bodied, with higher sweetness and acidity, with a rich and deep flavour. Sometimes showing a gamey flavour, they are particularly good with meat dishes. 5. Tokbetsu Translated as ‘special’ in Japanese and can mean a few things when written on the label – whether it is a special type of brewing or a higher rice polishing level than usual. 6. Junmai Junmai is a word …

Sweet diversity: Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

The smoothness of the driving experience has changed. Now when you sit in a new car you can’t feel anything mechanical beneath you. You glide. The machine has disappeared from the experience. What is working to get you on the road has been computerised. Except for at the other end, say, when inside a Lamborghini. That’s when you are so close to the ground you can feel every pebble of tar on the road. The reduction of dosage in sparkling wine reminds me of this: when you take away sugar from sparkling, part of the process of making sparkling wine, you lose the glide. Every crenulation of the road can be felt. Is zero dosage giving us the Lamborghini-effect for sparkling wines? Or is it more like a bumpy Model T Ford with hard metal seats? At a recent tasting of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG in London, we compared the wines, starting at zero dosage, increasing in Residual Sugar as the tasting progressed. Sweet Somethings The zero dosage wines are mostly sold in Italy (about …

Favourite Wine Books

All-Time Favourite Wine Books   Books on Champagne Books on Italian Wine Books on Wine Regions and Wineries Wine Reference Books Wine Manga (in English)                          

Schramsberg Vineyards at 67 Pall Mall

One of the joys of reviewing Californian sparkling wine is that I very rarely taste them and so have zero expectations. Only small quantities of the top Californian sparkling wines are sent to London and can be found at select restaurants such as The Vineyard, which recently hosted a dinner at 67 Pall Mall with vintner Hugh Davies of Schramsberg Vineyards, Napa Valley. Schramsberg Vineyards is a part of the history of Californian sparkling wine. Robert Louis Stevenson first mentioned Schramsberg in his 1883 novel, the Silverado Squatters. In fact, he visited Jacob Schram at the Schramsberg winery in Calistoga on his honeymoon. A strange kind of honeymoon; to get there, he had to spend his time hacking through the thick undergrowth on the lower slopes of Diamond Mountain. About this time, in a moment of inspiration, he penned the romantic line, that “wine is bottled poetry”.  On the plane over to London this time, vintner Hugh Davies said, he thought about the Schramsberg Vineyards featured on the wine list at the exclusive London’s Carlton …

The Zero Dosage Dilemma – A Visit to Hambledon Winery Hampshire

Zero Dosage champagne is a dilemma for purists. On the one hand, it shows us an expression of the wine without the mask of added sugar before bottling. On the other, it can sound a bit similar to other marketing re-mixes such as Coke Zero, or perfume houses that put out so-called limited-release versions just before Christmas. Whether the finish of a sparkling wine with a sugar dose – and it is only a pipette – masks or enhances is a matter for debate.  “You either love it or hate it,” our guide at Hambledon Winery in Hampshire, Joe Wadsack explains, “It does take a while to get used to it, like jumping into a cold sea, but that shock is also what you want.”   Most people like to think they like “sugar-free” but would they if they were handed a glass at a party? To understand how dosage adds to, or takes away, from a wine, we tasted four different levels of dosage and the differences were quite apparent:  Zero dosage (Brut Nature = No added …

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 …

Wines from Lebanon: Why we need boozy long lunches more than ever

It’s been one year since my trip to Lebanon. Last week’s tasting of Lebanese wines in London’s Borough market had been planned weeks before hand, but it happened to coincide with the same week as the attacks in Beirut, and on the next day, in Paris. Can we ever understand the horrific events of the past week? The time calls out for civilisation. I agree with the message from the Charlie Hebdo illustrator, Joann Sfar, after the Paris attacks: “Our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and joy!” For me, that means eating together, friends and a glass of wine. That is why a long lunch of mezze and Lebanese wine was the perfect tonic for the time.   A very brief history of food and wine in a complex region The story of wine is the story of civilisation. It was the ancient sea-faring Phoenicians that introduced, encouraged and propagated viticulture in the ancient world when vitis vinifera was still only a weed in many areas across the Mediterranean. Around the same time they also developed and spread the use of an alphabet. In more recent times, the Lebanese …

5 Best Wine Tastings in London in August

Stuck in the city in August? Here are the best wine tastings in London you can’t miss this month. This is a pick of only five. And if you want to get out of town, I’ve added a couple of wine and wine-ish festivals at the end of the post. For the hardcore wine lover, it may feel like a stay-cation to switch to beer – maybe time to check out the craft beer festival? And of course the month ends with the Notting Hill Carnival and a few Red Stripes… Please check beforehand with the venue as spaces are limited and bookings are essential.   1. If you want some Italian glamour but can’t get away to the islands “EnoClub Rebooted – The Islands” @ Polpo (Ape & Bird) – 5 August Cruise through Sicily and Sardinia without leaving Soho. The unique wines from the Italian islands are almost born just to refresh you, especially good on a muggy night in August. You won’t go hungry either with food matched by Polpo at the Ape & Bird. Where: Upstairs at Polpo Ape & Bird, 142 Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho, …

7 Best Things About Fine Beaujolais Now 

One of my favourite Raymond Chandler stories is called, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. It is largely dialogue between couples talking about love around a bottle of gin as the sun goes down. Every one is sure of their own idea of what they mean when they talk about love, but the more they talk, the more confused they become. The title of the short story comes to mind when we talk about Beaujolais. What are we talking about when we talk about Beaujolais? Funnily enough, if you see Beaujolais featured on the front label, then this is not what I am talking about here. These are either Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages. Nor is it the wines you see during Beaujolais Nouveau on the third week of November. What I am talking about is Cru Beaujolais – labelled with the name of the cru rather than the word “Beaujolais”. The ten cru are: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Morgon, Regnié or St-Amour. Last month I tasted the 2014 vintage of Cru Beaujolais in London and met Jean Bourjade, Managing …

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 …

1975 vintage Bordeaux: Claret Guide, Decanter 1976

If you are having a 40th birthday this year (& happy birthday, Angelina Jolie!), here is a vintage assessment of the 1975 Bordeaux vintage from Decanter in September 1976. Finally, it was a vintage to write home about: It is certainly cheering and reassuring for all who love Bordeaux to know that at long last there is a really good vintage safely in the cellars once more. At the same time this does not mean, unfortunately, that all Bordeaux’s problems have disappeared and indeed many of the economic problems seem to be as persistent and deep-seated as ever. This was a difficult economy for many industries including wine. The 1973 oil crisis could still be felt. Then there were a series of bad vintages in Bordeaux in the early 1970s and, without the technology we have today, there were consecutive years that could not be sold because they were simply undrinkable. The 1975 vintage was initially quite tannic but it has mellowed out over the past ten years, and the fruit has petered out in the lesser wines. Glad to see there was no hype …

Chablis food pairing at The Chancery London

Mineral is a loaded word in wine circles. Someone will always ask reproachfully, “Have you actually tasted a mineral, or are you really talking about acidity; if you are talking about stones, how do you even know what a stone tastes like??” Well, yes – yes I have. I know the taste of pulverised oyster shells fossilised in rock. Last Wednesday at The Chancery for a Chablis dinner, I gave this Kimmeridgien stone a good lick while nearly mistaking it for the bread. We are at The Chancery for a three-course dinner devised by chef Graham Long, and where I had a very nice chap sitting next to me. “WHY O WHY do you want pain in your wine?” the nice chap asked as we sat down at our places. I think he was talking about acidity. Apart from my jaded palate needing a good jolt now and again, the good vintages of Chablis have excellent acidity, which means it can deftly handle any food thrown at it and then throw some interesting flavour shapes back. Combined with texture and weight, it …

What’s not to love about 2014 Loire wines

Wines from the Loire are not for everybody. Except for the super-refreshing sparkling wine, made in the same way as Champagne, that starts every meal we had on the long weekend staying in Saumur. Or the bright pink Pinot d’Aunis rosé everybody in town seemed to be drinking, from flat-capped pensioner to gangly teenagers, in the local pub off the busy Saturday morning market. Not everyone would think of a Saumur-Champigny red with a sirloin steak like they did at the local Argentine restaurant – it’s an elegant crisp red rather than the usual full-blown Malbec. That’s a shame because the wines are packed full of fruit, especially the reds. Loire wines seem to be polarised between the natural wine crowd who love to fetishise grapes (fair enough) and the rest who have to wade through a lot of bottles, but when finding the bottle, re-confirms its classic status. There is a lot to love about the 2014 vintage. The constant rain over the long weekend meant our original plan to cycle along the Loire river had to be cancelled. Instead, we visited an excellent local …

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 …

Lebanon Diary – Day 2

Lebanon Diary Lebanon Diary – Day 1  What is Lebanese wine, especially from the Bekaa Valley? What is Lebanon? Everyone is still out drinking Arak at Domaine des Tourelles, but I wanted to come home and write it all down before I lose it in an aniseed haze. It is amazing what happens when you don’t have a phone. Your eyes become the camera. Today was the first day I saw the Bekaa Valley in the light. The two mountains that cradle the valley are Mount Lebanon (towards Beirut) and the Anti-Lebanon mountains which form a natural barrier with Syria. Breathe it in – the bright white and bare soils on the hill behind the wineries that look almost biblical. So barren in parts after 1000s of years of civilisation, it is hard to imagine them ever having the luxury of trees. We stopped at Chateau Ka first for breakfast. We had Knefe (sweet cheese with rose water and orange blossom syrup in a bread roll) and Mankouché (za’atar and sesame seeds on warm pitta bread) which …

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 …

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 …

Fortnum & Mason Awards

It was all a bit crazy on Tuesday night. Especially as it is the middle of Bordeaux (and 2011 Port) en primeurs. So I was up for an award from Fortnum & Mason for Online Drink Writer with Knackered Mother’s Wine Club (Helen McGinn, ex-Tesco) and Matt Walls (who won a special award for his book – Drink Me!). It was nice to be nominated and congratulations to Helen and Matt. All of us have a background in the wine trade, which I thought was quite interesting. At least I was in the right category – when originally asked to apply for the award it was for food writer! This is very funny when you know how I order at restaurants: wine chosen first and then the food has to work around it. And if doesn’t work around it, then I will stick to the bread. Chatting afterwards with Financial Times’ John Stimpfig (nominated for Drink Writer Award) and his friends we got up the courage to speak to Mary Berry. A bit merry berry myself at this …

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

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 …

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

Fashion and Wine, Pt 2 – Minimal

“I see minimalism to be a philosophy that involves an overall sense of balance, knowing when to take away, subtract. It’s an indulgence in superbly executed cut, quiet plays of colour tones and clean strong shapes.” – Calvin Klein  At worst, it is boring. Black and white, black and white, maybe a bit of navy to mix it up. You better be something more than your clothes when you wear pure Minimalism. In fact, it is deceptive. Minimal-style fashion looks effortless but it is the most difficult. At first it looks simple: a black coat, so what? But look closer and notice the cut, the quality of the fabric and the tailoring involved. It is about the weight of fabric, the texture and rich material. It takes discipline. I know. I have tried to adhere to minimal style a few times. What happened? I found myself splashing out with bright colours and sneaking in a crazy print – put it away! It’s not minimalism. What is interesting to me, is the same terms used for minimalism fashion and …

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 …