All posts filed under: London

vintage glassware

How to find a wine treasure (now wash your hands)

How much are you willing to put your hand in the muck to find buried wine treasure? Never has there been more choice in wine. Never has there been more rubbish, too. Ten years ago, the wine trade bemoaned the supermarket and the lack of diversity. Now we have more diversity, more wine suppliers, more regions, more access than ever before. “What are these wines,” asks the bewildered customer, “can anybody tell me?” The poor staff looks up from studying their master sommelier examinations thinking, does it all come to this. Since the last recession, this strategy has been happening across retail, including wine. When no one has heard of the product, the product is always new. When no one has even heard of who it is or where it’s from? How new. How exciting. But is it any good? It’s good for the seller as they don’t sell anywhere else. Especially not on the producer’s own website. Unlikely to be fully referenced on the supplier’s website. Or, anywhere else online for that matter. Of …

London Edition scaled

Loire Moments at the London Edition Hotel for London Wine Week 2017

Heeding a call for “Loire Moments” during London Wine Week, I left my ordinary world of peak-hour crush on the Underground, horizontal rain and broken umbrella to find myself in the foyer of the London EDITION hotel, 10 Berners Street, with a glass of sparkling Monmousseau Touraine Brut in my hand.  Our exquisite hosts, Douglas Blyde and Lindsay Oram, had created a menu matched with six wines from along the Loire River, with four-courses cooked by Chef Phil Carmichael from Jason Atherton’s upstairs Berners Tavern. Even saying the word, Monmousseau, puts my mouth into a kissy kiss pout and silly voice that I find happens to me when I’m around the super cute. A baby swaddled in a blanket disguised as a burrito or watching a labrador puppy try to go down a staircase for the first time. That’s about all I can watch nowadays, by the way, after recent horrific events – in fact, my year can be summed up by the bleak New Yorker cartoon, “my desire to be well-informed is at odds with my desire to …

Chateau Sociando Mallet

Looking back at Chateau Sociando-Mallet

The Chateau Sociando-Mallet house style is the equivalent to those modern interiors you see in French design magazines that I like to browse at the newsagent waiting for the Eurostar back to London. Clean lines and sparse interiors with a simple piece of design in just the right place. Modern, not excessive in style; and, it never seems to mess up. Meanwhile, there’s baroque elephants up the road at Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estephe and further south in Pauillac, the route des Chateaux of super-second Chateaux that can rival Kensington Palace Gardens for real estate bling. Stuck in the middle with you, as the song goes, is Sociando-Mallet, where the focus is simply on the essentials to make good wine: aspect, the soil, the fruit and the vintage. A vineyard with a view The view of the Gironde from Sociando-Mallet has to be one of my favourites in Bordeaux, especially at sunrise. As the road along the Gironde in Pauillac swings up a small hill to Saint Estephe, you will find Sociando-Mallet and a view of the river looking wild and …

Difference Coffee Co

The hours between coffee and wine

I love coffee, I need coffee, I want coffee – as the greeting-card saying goes, “life is what happens in the hours between coffee and wine.” It is disappointing to end a good meal with muddy dishwater rather than a properly-made espresso. Thanks to Amir Gehl from Difference Coffee Co., who lured us to Harry’s Bar with both excellent coffee and a very good wine, indeed: 1929 Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Intact and alive in the 21st century. After dinner, we then tasted the First Growth of coffee: Jamaican Blue Mountain, a Hawaiian Kona, and the infamous Kopi Luwak. The civet cat coffee Even if you have never tasted Kopi Luwak, you may know about the civet cat. Kopi Luwak is a coffee made from the Sumatran civet cat’s half-digested coffee cherries, which in the process of digestion, partially ferments the beans. As you can imagine, making coffee from the beans excreted by civet cats in Sumatra is not cheap. Although for coffee connoisseurs, much like people crazy about wine, 550 euros is a small price to pay for one kilogram of these rare, labour-intensive beans. Coffee and …

sea of glasses

New Fine Wine Generation @ Medlar Chelsea

An all-women dinner at Medlar Chelsea was a snapshot of the tastes for the current generation of women in the fine wine trade. “I warn you,” I said to Clement beforehand, “this may be a tough crowd. We have two exhausted people who have just finished their MW exams, and the rest of us work in Fine Wine trade. Now I’m not saying we are going to be difficult but we are each bringing a wine to the dinner without anyone knowing what it is and so I can’t tell you. Oh, and the only theme is B – I know, no help there I’m afraid. Sorry you won’t have too much time to work out an order, if there is a logical order…” I admit, it was not an easy brief. Bravo to Clement Robert for he took it all in his stride. He certainly lives up to his title of UK Sommelier of the Year and more. The sequence of wines to come out to the table was sheer brilliance. Brought out in pairs, each …


wine speak in Soho

There is nothing like getting your boots dirty in a vineyard to understand wine. Yet most of the wine I drink is in an urban environment. So how do we make sense of wine jargon in the city? Armed with our phone cameras, in the cold drizzling rain, we had 45 minutes to find out (warning: NSFW).

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

A night out with Millenials

Here’s what happened. Take a couple of millenials to a wine shop (20 year olds in non-marketing speak). Get them to pick out a wine, my treat. “How about this wine?” I suggest, in a nice transylvanian, Twilight-style font? In other words, a classic Burgundy. But no, what do they pick out?

wines for a rainy summer

Another weekend of rain, has this been the 40th day/night yet this summer? I’m at home watching the Scottish Open in Scotland, particularly enjoying when the commentators whisper, “It’s a cruel game, cruel, cruel…” I’m not a golf expert (at all) but it seems like a lovely, polite game and the bleak, spare Scottish landscape is stormy but dry making me long for my favourite whisky, Lagavulin 16 year old. And any sport where they smoke cigars, is my idea of a good sport. This has been a week of Riesling, starting with dinner with Ernie Loosen


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.

On Gin & Tonic. Because A Man Can Lose Himself in London

Apart from the smell of bergamot in Earl Grey tea and the exhaust fumes of black cabs, the smell that will always shock my memories back to London is juniper. That’s because I love Gin & Tonic; and, juniper is the key botanical in London Dry Gin. I do not see the point in drinking bad wine. Unless I am in a specialised wine bar or restaurant with a good wine list, when I am out call me Madame Geneva.


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 …