All posts filed under: Journal

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Frappato: A Guide to Summer’s Essential Red

From the island where there is ice-cream for breakfast, Frappato red wine knows how to cool you down when the temperature rises.  The best comes from the hot region of Ragusa in southern Sicily, where it reaches over 40 degrees in summer (also home to some of the world’s best sun-dried tomatoes, too). Here’s what you need to know about this lesser-known Italian red wine: What is Frappato?  The first thing to know is that it’s a red wine made from Frappato grapes.  If you ever saw the opening shots of the Italian series, Inspector Montalbano, you may remember the baroque architecture of Monica and Ragusa in the opening shots before a swim in the Mediterranean.  Frappato has a history of cultivation in Sicily stretching back to 1760s, though its exact origins are unknown. The name could have derived from several different words; Jancis Robinson and Jose Vouillamoz in Wine Grapes suggest it may come from a corruption of the word “frutatto” meaning ‘fruitful’. The grape is also used in Sicily’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, …

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Priced Out of Fine Wine? Why You Should Look to Dão Red Wines Today

The Dão region in Portugal has always fascinated me due to the amazing reds you can find for an affordable price, and the fact that it’s so often overlooked by wine lovers.  When you have tasted some of the best wines in the world, you can’t easily go back to drinking what you can afford. I’ve even seen people stuck in dead-end jobs for decades so they can keep their wine discount. It’s like pizza. I have had one too many good pizzas in Napoli. Now I can’t eat anything less than a slurpy sourdough base and the radioactively bright-tasting tomatoes. And the same goes with wine in pubs. Why bother? I’ll have a gin and tonic.  Some may say, nice problem to have. Boo hoo. But that’s not why I’m saying it. Working in wine is more like Upstairs, Downstairs. You are always looking for the best value.  Here’s my Monday to Thursday sales when I worked in Holland Park. Bought with an unsurprising level of ennui you find in people who rule the world:  1 …

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10 Facts About Martinique Rum (That Will Make You Want to Book a Tropical Holiday)

Ah, rum. What is the first thought that springs to mind? Pirates, island paradises, and shivers of Captain Jack Sparrow. Rum reminds me of freedom and adventure. Martinique, a small island in the Caribbean, has one of the largest and most diverse rum industries in the world. The high level of quality control and craftsmanship that goes into each bottle makes Martinique rum an excellent choice for sipping straight or mixing Rhum Agricole Rhum Agricole is a style of rum made in the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. Most rum is distilled from molasses, a byproduct of the process of refining sugar cane into white sugar, and is produced wherever there are sugar plantations and distilleries. Rhum agricole, meanwhile, is distilled directly from the fresh pressed juice of sugar cane. So it’s has to be as close to the source as possible. That’s what makes it special; it tastes like its local agricultural provenance: its terroir. The resulting liquor has a flavour profile that’s brighter and more herbaceous, with notes of grassy citrus, minty …

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New Greek Red Wine: Waitrose Agiorgitiko

There’s a new Greek red wine at Waitrose: Strofilia Mountain Fish Agiorgitiko. Greek red wine at a reasonable price is hard to get hold of outside Greece. People often forget that it’s one of the most popular types of holiday wines in the world. Or maybe they’re not used to fish kick-starting a wine tasting note! Either way, that’s an issue that needs solving. And the solution? Here it is – a red wine called Mountain Fish. It’s made from Agiorgitiko grapes, which are normally prized for their low level of acidity and high levels of natural sugar. This gives an excellent balance of fruity flavours and fresh, creamy notes. There’s also a very slight spiciness about this wine classic. Greek Red Wine: Agiorgitiko This new wine for Waitrose is made from 100% Agiorgitiko, which is found in the Peloponnese region of Greece. According to some, the myth surrounding this wine stems from Saint George drinking it after defeating a dragon. However, the story is that this grape is named after a church named after …

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This Throwaway Remark About Terroir Has Stayed With Me for 7 years

Some people collect empty crisp packets, I collect throwaway remarks on twitter about wine. It could have been 7 years ago, when an American blogger touring Beaujolais wineries tweeted something along these lines: I’m surprised more natural wines are not fervent nationalists they way they talk about the land.. It could have been the febrile political times at the time, but it struck a nerve. Were natural wine not so Gaia-an as I liked to believe?  Natural winemakers do talk about expressing the terroir. This concept that annoyed the hell out of new world countries in the 2000s, has been embraced by winemakers today. For natural wine, terroir is an idea given helium and floats high above the landscape in the realm of ideas and philosophy. But could all this take about the land turn rancid? Terroir as nation. Terroir as nostalgia. Is this where the right and left meet in wine: in the concept of terroir? * When I visited the restaurant Verre Vole in Paris, I remember they gave us a bottle of …

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The Year Without Smell

In the greater scheme of things it was nothing. But it was a peculiar type of nothing that lasted for months. I lost my sense of smell during the c19 times. As you can imagine, smell is important for wine. As I came to find out, smell is a lot more than just my profession. Having no sense of smell put me in a loop for months. Then again, that’s not saying much in a rollercoaster year for everyone. My nose not working only added to the dizzy disorientation. I got off relatively lightly compared to many people (including a friend who passed away during the early peak in 2020). All you had to do was look out the window and see the ambulances lined up outside to remind you. To paraphrase Jack White and his ubiquitous football song, every person has their own story to tell, from the Queen of England to the hounds of hell. Every generation has a story on how it ruined their lives. Talking about wine is trivial, and yet, …

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This Engineer’s Question at a Wine Tasting Made Me Think About Time and Life

“Ok, but does a winemaker think about movement in wine?” This was the question by an engineer at a wine tasting of Dom Perignon vintages ten years ago. I still think about it.  “I hear you talk about structural elements (tannins, acidity, the colour palette, and palate), and yet you don’t talk about movement.” This question threw me at first, because I had not prepared to answer philosophical questions about time and space at the end of a boozy tasting. Then again, there is always one question at the end of the wine tasting that makes you glad you remain sober throughout.  What is movement in wine? Movement is bubbles. The most obvious sense, bubbles move. They want to escape the pressure of the bottle. How bubbles move are important to a sparkling winemaker. The size, shape and how it clings to the glass is all considered. Fine and fast bubbles are the key. The finer the bubble, the more refined the wine. Movement in the finish. How many number of seconds or minutes a …

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A Return to Pleasure in Wine?

Hello. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write for my old friend Wine Woman & Song. It’s been so long, it feels new again. Which is where I want it to be.  The Google beast punishes the sin of inconsistency. You must turn up, and act the right way. If you want to get in. Writing, especially about wine, became a social charade. Like standing in cold midnight rain outside a club trying to crack a smile from the bouncer. Maybe they will take pity on the mascara running down your face.  Then again, why not go around the back? There we find the door wide open. Now that’s a way more fun way to get in to a club. That’s how I felt when I first wrote this blog.  A night out. An adventure. Fun.  Where is the fun? Friends and family are always shocked to hear I ever have a bad day at work. But you work in wine? Isn’t that supposed to be fun? And yet what I …

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Three Wine Movies From a Heady Decade for Fine Wine

In a power decade for fine wine sales, three wine movies explored the question: what is real (and fake) in the wine world? There is something quite unreal about the circus around fine wine. Especially over the past two decades, it has become a game for the supra-mangerial that has no relation to the humble product from the vineyard. Step back from these three wine movies and it is easy to see why the question of authenticity, and what is real in wine, became so important in the 2010s. Sour Grapes (2016) Sour Grapes is the true story of the young emperor of fine wine, Rudy Kurniawan, who dazzled the fine wine auction scene in the early 2000s and went on to flood the fine wine market with counterfeit wine. Embarrassingly, a lot of wine experts went along for the ride. Jay McKierney writes that “The night before the auction I personally consumed, by my best estimate, over $20,000 worth of his wine – including the 1945 Mouton Rothschild and the 1947 Cheval Blanc – and I was one of fourteen …