All posts filed under: Wine

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 …

4 bottles of Rosso di Montalcino 2013 (and where to eat in Montalcino)

Even though it had been raining when we left Siena only thirty minutes ago, the strong heat in Montalcino burned away all the water until very quickly there was steam rising from the road. The grapes had a good drenching and now had a moment to ripen under the intense sun. I took my coat off and walked over to the other side of town, which was mostly in shadow. Like most of this renaissance landscape, for the vineyards on the hillside it is about light and shade. The vineyards follow down from the top of the hill from all sides, each face the sun from sunrise to sunset in their own way. Just from the change in weather from drenched to heat, it is easy to see how the grapes love this weather. When there is an exceptional vintage pronounced by the Consorzio it is worth taking notice. The recent release of the 2010 vintage is one of these exceptional vintages where perfect conditions were met across most of the vineyards – north, south, east and west. But how was …

After the rain: time out in Tuscany, part 1

Where next?  That’s the big question when you are on the road. Before I could answer, I had to go back to where I feel truly nourished on all levels. Earlier this year I left my job. Then I had a severe flu. Time for a change of scenery. We booked the cheapest ticket – to Bologna – and hired a silver Fiat Panda at the airport. This was not just some Under the Tuscan Sun schtick. All my life and work has been about taste and smell. When I don’t feel good, everything tastes bland – I seem to need flavour like a photographer needs light. On the road to Tuscany, avoiding the main roads, we stopped off at a worker’s bar for lunch and a carafe of wine. On the first day, the taste of the simple pasta with tomato sauce had tears well up in my eyes. It was then I realised how much I needed to be here. Driving along the autostrade with the windows down after an oversized lunch – pasta and ragu, a meat dish and then one course too many – the …

Anything but Assyrtiko: Greek wine reviews

I do not drink enough Greek wine to say Anything but Assyrtiko just quite yet – there is still so much to love about Santorini – but after this selection from the Daily Drinker for my Greek wine reviews I can see past the horizon beyond Santorini. Under the blaring midday sun on the beach, imagine a very cold white wine called Roditis by Tetramythos as the high thrilling squeal of children chased by waves, with the Malagousia, Domaine Gerovassiliou creating a general hubbub of civilised conversation of adults on the towel nearby. As the sun goes down, these voices become more distinct and clear – the Kidonitsa, Monemvasia Winery draws near and whispers idle romantic thoughts with rich fruit that lingers beyond midday, yet as fresh and essential, as a cool shower at the hotel before dinner in the local restaurant. The Robola, Gentilini is a complex, balanced wine that continues the holiday as the true souvenir of the summer in Kefalonia. A timeless Greek wine, it could be the best white wine from anywhere, yet as specific to its time and place, …

Greek Assyrtiko: between thyme and the deep blue sea

What is the Greek wine Assyrtiko? Grown on the volcanic soil of Santorini, it is a white wine that when good, is a summer wind by the sea made into taste and smell. Last night I had the Hatzidakis Assyrtiko with hot salmon, fresh herbs and dijon mustard on ciabatta and, although it is not a traditional Greek dish, it is an excellent match for this wine: as clear as white houses against blue sky. For those who had too much cheap retsina on a package holiday once: this wine will rock your preconceptions about Greek wine. Let in the fresh air. There is no reason why Santorini AOC should not be more well-known: minerally, fresh and from a major Greek Island. The technology is there to create fresh white wines, hopefully Hatzidakis will pave the way for more wines from this region. Tasting with a handful of vine-ripened tomatoes before dinner lifted the wine to another level, and my friend suggested it was the methoxypyrazines that are working together in tomato and the Assyrtiko (the green tastes in wine, …

5 favourites from Armit Wines Annual Tasting 2015

Armit Wines is fortunate to have some big agencies on their books – Ornellaia, Gaja, Rioja Alta, Giacosa, Huet, the list goes on – but here are the 5 wines which stood out for me at the Armit Wines Annual Tasting 2015 for no other reason than pure crazy fabulousness:   1. Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demi Sec 2009 (Loire) Masterful. As you would expect from one of the last vintages by Noël Pinguet – legendary winemaker and son-in-law of Gaston Huet. This is a wine where taste moves faster than the speed of thought. Pure and light, sweet and savoury, weightless and gravity. And it all just comes together so effortlessly. I saw a friend who is an expert on the Loire do a beeline for it when he entered the room. It’s pretty much like that. Everything else disappears. RRP £17.oo duty paid ex vat 2. Domaine Gourt de Mautens Rosé 2010 (Rhone) On a buzz feed listicle, 24 Bizarre Japanese Ice-Cream Flavours, you’ll find ice-cream comes in whitebait, shark fin and cactus flavours. This Rosé is not exactly your classic strawberry pink, …

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 …

Last of the True Romantics: Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC

Often my friend from Rome, perhaps while we are walking down the street to the supermarket on a grey Saturday morning, will abruptly stop, hold his hand over his heart, grab my elbow to jolt me back and say with eyes wide open in shock, “Did you see THAT? That’s IT! I AM IN LOVE!”   Meanwhile, of course, the “love of his life” walks by completely unaware of the near cardiac arrest just caused. To be honest, I often never see what all the fuss is about, but for a moment, at least, the day seems just a little brighter for it.   I have to be careful when we are tasting wine together. He is often in raptures. That’s why, to tone down his enthusiasm about the good wine we tried from the Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC in Campania, I started to talk about rocks and soil types in vineyards.   In particular, the soil type of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio – near the volcano Mount Vesuvius – which can often be found …

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 …

The Best Wine with Seafood

Thank god for social media because that’s how I recognised the Thomas “Braemore” Semillon on the menu at North Bondi Fish. This is the best wine with seafood I’ve had for a while. For people who know the usual drum beat of Australian wine, this particular Hunter Valley Semillon may be unrecognisable. The delicate and clean flavours can seem barely perceptible; but, this is what makes it work so well with the silky flesh of wood-fired Yamba prawns, creamy Moreton Bay bugs, fresh scallops or lobster linguine. The texture is a like for like. It’s as essential as a lemon cheek for seafood, and as decadent as stolen lunch hour at the beach. Taste it once and you want it again. In fact, we returned to the restaurant the next day to do just that. Brilliant. * Clever marketing can make you buy the first time but not the second time. Australian wine marketing has worked very well at the cheaper end of the wine market for a long time. Perhaps because it’s a land of long distances where messages …

How Bordeaux 2014 is like Kate Moss

Despite owning the world’s media focus for over 20 years, how much did we really know about Kate Moss at the height of her fame? Yes, we saw photos of leaving parties in Primrose Hill, the hazy wedding photos and the terrible boyfriends. But unlike other celebrities, she never talked about her personal life even when her image was everywhere. No interviews, no salacious tell-alls after the scandals, and only until very recently, no celebrity television shows. All we had was her turning away from us in the Rimmel TV ad with a four-word parting shot in her Croydon accent, “Get the London Look!” In the last couple of years, Kate Moss has lifted the “Kate Moss media embargo” on herself. And it’s…. (and I’m talking as a big fan over the years) it’s just not the same. No more guessing – we now know what she thinks or doesn’t think. That’s not what we want from our supermodels! We want the old cool Kate even if that is an impossible expectation for any human being to live up to for so many years. …

Burgundy Young Guns

The generation shift happening in Burgundy is one of the great trends in wine with a new set of Burgundy young guns coming through.   One explanation is the way Burgundy is distributed through the en primeur system.  Allocations in Burgundy are based on loyalty and loyalty takes time. If there is one thing about the winemakers from Burgundy, they are extremely loyal – to the land and their long-term customers.  Often we see when the generation changes hands, the younger generation is dissatisfied with the old ways and changes their negociant. Or the producer is bought by a bigger fish, for example, Faiveley buying Dupont-Tisserandot when Didier Chevillon retired. As Burgundy adopted the Napoleonic system of inheritance, vineyards are either inherited or, with increasing prices, bought by larger companies (although we have yet to see this on the same scale as Bordeaux. With a string of low yielding vintages, time will only tell). When both generations are working at the same time in the winery you have a rare dynamic: experience coupled with a fresh perspective. Since 2007, Celine Fontaine at Fontaine-Gagnard has been taking more control of the winemaking from her father …

Chinese Year of the Mouton

What lies in store for Mouton Rothschild in the Chinese Year of the Ram? With the recent record-breaking ex-cellar auction in Hong Kong, it certainly has been an auspicious start. Let’s looks at the steady rise in price of the 2000 Mouton Rothschild vintage for clues.  During Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, the menu is not just about the food. Each food also symbolises good luck. Favourites include sticky rice cake, which sounds phonetically similar to “higher year”, or raising oneself higher, and dried oysters – or haoshi – sounds similar to the term, “good business”. This year, the good fortune extended to the recent Sotheby’s auction of Mouton Rothschild cellar in Hong Kong, to coincide with the new year celebrations of the Year of the Ram, where it doubled its pre-sale estimate to fetch HK$32 million (£2.7 million). Just a few years ago, it was Lafite Rothschild that turned heads to Asia. But the price of Lafite has fallen dramatically. It is more than two years since Lafite Rothschild has been on an upward trajectory. Where every other …

Riesling Trocken 2013 by Rebholz

There is something wry and world-weary about dry Pflaz Riesling. The mineral quality is so self-effacing that it would not surprise me if it preferred to keep company with the young and effervescent sparkling mineral waters at the dinner table rather than the serious conversation of the old cellared reds and the over-caked whites. I want to use the word “refreshing” for 2013 Trocken Riesling from Rebholz – the master of the Pfalz – but that term would feel far too energetic and youthful. It reminds me of a very strange party I went to for a 90 year old customer who had never done anything more than polo in Argentina – this wine makes a party out of random people as it stays fascinated in everybody. Sliding up to fancy chicken wings or pretty little nori rolls so it can provide the erudite chat. Not everyone can be devoted to the inconsequential so seriously, so sincerely and for so long. This wine outlasts them all. mineral and cool 

Reto by Ponce

  Fashion photography, much like most wine writing, can focus too much on the facts for my taste – shoes, hats, dress, size, price, perfunctory smile and twirl – and then, there is the photography that makes everything “rich and strange“. This is the photographer, Guy Bourdin: his exhibition is currently on at Somerset House in London. His posters stare back at me every night on the tube on the way home from work. The effect of his photography on the senses during peak hour is like seeing an elaborate window display of pastries when on a sugar-low. Although Ponce (pronounced Pon-the) is the winemaker on everyone’s lips at the moment, from his cool spot in Manchuela in Spain, I was blissfully unaware of the wine facts when I tasted Reto. It is big, wintry white wine that some may dismiss as easily as puff shoulders and flouncy gowns. It is big but this Albilla (the grape variety) is certainly more precise than a Chardonnay from the 1980s. Not everyone wants lean and mean and I believe there is a secret group of people …

Lebanon Diary – From Beirut to Paris

Overlooking the electrical storm over Beirut from my hotel room*, the city is peaceful. The rain has forced me back to the hotel. It is peaceful on the streets and for a Saturday afternoon it looks too quiet. Most of the people on the streets are either army or kids playing soccer on the empty roads. Especially around the park where families of 24 army who have been kidnapped by IS last month are occupying to demand action. In the farmer’s market there was a stall for the excellent Domaine de Bargylus from Syria being served with oysters. It was scene that could have easily been from one of my weekends in London. Although I am not sure how the wine crossed over the mountains into Lebanon. The market is between the new “Souk” shopping centre area controversially built on the destroyed ancient souks of Beirut. And a striking old building that was once a Press that is now just a facade pock-marked with bullet holes. It is almost impossible to not talk about the politics when talking about …

Lebanon Diary – Day 2

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 we stuffed with cucumber, tomato and mint …

Lebanon Diary – Day 1

I am writing this in a hotel on the Road to Damascus. The actual road, which is called – wait for it, I am not joking – Damascus Road. I am on the “Frontiere Syrienne” and the town of Damascus is only ten minutes drive away. I feel though I will have a Damascene moment… any moment. I am here to taste some Lebanese wine. Je suis arrivé au Liban. لقد وصلت في لبنان Don’t the customs people give a good indication to a new country? If I ran a country I would put the customs staff on PR training. And taxi drivers, particularly those who hang out at the airport. Luckily we have a very nice chap called Tony who will drive us around and will be able to help me with my very (very) basic Arabic. The customs officials have been amusing, if not flirtatious. I was asked twice if I also had a Lebanese passport, which is the nicest welcome I have had in a while. Apart from holding up the group who were waiting patiently …

The Sauce on France

Surely that is not Tottenham Court Road but the Champs-Élysées? Douglas Blyde almost had me believing we could see Paris when we arrived for his L’Hexagone (France) tasting on the 33rd floor of the Paramount building. “If I didn’t have wine in France I would be gasping of a bottle of Tobasco. The wine is the sauce,” he says. This is one of my favourite ways to think about wine. It doesn’t have to be more complex than that – although we had some brilliant wine and food matches all evening. In particular, Ceviche with Cave de Turkheim Gewurtztraminer from Alsace. Did you know that the Vosges mountains in Alsace has the biggest concentration of Michelin starred restaurants in the world? I digress. We started off with a racy (my notes say, risky for some reason – let’s go with that) Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet. There is a growing sentiment amongst wine friends that Muscadet is most underrated and its time has come. Although we all like to feel that we can beat the system (so good! so cheap!) and you do get a lot of wine value for …

The Mystery of Monfortino Barolo

A vertical of Giacomo Conterno is a prime piece of classic Barolo-ology to get the teeth into… to uncover the mystery of Monfortino Barolo. Turning up on a sunny Spring morning at the Corney & Barrow offices near the Tower of London, around the same time as Antonio Galloni was in town for his Giacomo Conterno dinner (and I, without a spare £1500 for a ticket) this was a dreamlike vertical. Sadly I arrived too early to meet Roberto Conterno. If I had met him, I had a lot to ask, especially about some of the ideas his father had about style and also some facts that seem to be different everywhere I search. Giovanni was quite demanding from all accounts – many vintages, which were good enough for most, were not deemed good enough to carry the label of Conterno and sold sfuso. The aromas produced by these wines, especially Monfortino, are understated and robust and the younger vintages flicker with seduction. They draw the taster in with elegant and classic flavours only to hint at …

Barolo 2010 at Fine + Rare

There are many buildings from the 1970s that I would want knocked down, but one called la Maison de la Celle Saint-Cloud is not one of them. Opened in 1974 in Paris and designed by Jean Pierre Raynaud, the place is completely tiled, an endless black and white grid. As ornate Persian tiles hint at the wonders of the universe beyond, this is a monument to the modern world. For me, it would be a struggle not to take some colouring-in pens. Unfortunately, it was closed in 1988 and demolished in 1993. The building is no longer, but the modern world lives on. Despite the dissection and analysis, Barolo will defy attempts to be put in a box. But what happens when you try? There is a rebellious spirit to this fine wine region, so that many producers end up singing, as Sid Vicious did, “I did it my way.” So it was with some trepidation when I went to the first Barolo tasting of the year at Fine + Rare where I tasted 90 + …

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 …

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 …

Bordeaux to Maroc

There was a lot of talk about Bordeaux before I left for holidays… Is en primeur 2013 on or not? On that hanging question, I left it all behind at Stanstead Airport for a week of mint tea and tagines in Marrakech. Of course, “getting away from it all” is not that simple. If only you could leave work behind sometimes, but when you work in the wine industry it seems to follow you around like your hand or foot. You try to get away but end up in some sort of Interzone only for it to arrive on the scene again like some Burroughs bug. Even in Marrakech, Bordeaux seemed to follow. It started with the Domaine de Sahari at the beautiful restaurant run by women called Al Fassia in the new town. We had to try the Cinsault (under the menu as a Vin Gris) and the red – a Carignan blend. Mysteriously, on the label it mentioned a “Bordeaux enologist” had some part to play in it. Later I found  it was owned …

Oh! Ochota

“And if by chance you surf….. you would understand what a great barrel is.” After a pure two-tone fruity-vanilla start reminiscent of tasting straight from the barrel in a cold cellar*, it found a balance point exactly where satsuma, lemon curd and Comte cheese meet. In the current trend for leaner Chardonnay but more balanced on the side of sweet fruit and oak, it is happily supple (and definitely not fat). Made by Taras and Amber Ochota, and you can find their story here, this couple is a talented and well-traveled lot, who chose to dig at a hard spot for Australian Chardonnay (this is a difficult price point in the UK) and hit upon gold in the Adelaide hills. The wine did not reveal itself fully until the next day, which reminded me not to drink big white wines under screw cap without at least a good swirl in a decanter first (a decanter is not just for red wines).   Bottle number 9! The back label details:       *After being immersed in months of Burgundy …

2012 Burgundy vintage – the new normal?

I was reminded of Schumacher when I was in snowy Burgundy recently to taste the 2012 vintage.  The British economist wrote a book in 1973 called “Small is Beautiful:  A Study of Economics As If People Mattered”. Published during a chilly economic recession in Britain, the idea is that because man is small, ergo, small is beautiful. The central argument based on observing village life is that “bigger is not better”. “Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.” In mossy caves, tasting from the barrels with pipettes held by the winemaker, there is something human (even humid, it was colder outside in the snow) about tasting in Burgundy cellars. The vintage is small. Again. And it is intensely beautiful. There are large negociants and domaines in Burgundy but at its best, Burgundy is a testament to the small. Each year there have been less and less barrels (Grivot, below). I was told by one domaine that the barrels along the wall were filled with water to ensure …

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Arvid Rosengren, working in Copenhagen, recently wrote a thoughtful piece about natural wine. At the end of the post he gives fair advice to those who are for and against natural wine, including: “If things seem black/white it’s only because you don’t know better.” The neon sign at Little Social Restaurant is from Godard’s science fiction film “Alphaville” (1965). In the movie it is  what welcomes visitors to this outer-space city where all emotion is outlawed. Everything in Alphaville is a statement and nothing is an explanation. Even the word “why” is criminalized. It’s a dark and dystopic future. To have it enshrined on the wall in ironic neon, begs the question: are we there?  My friend and I were at Little Social Restaurant to have a lunch on a school day so nothing could stop us being the complete opposite: loud, impulsive, dangerous and devil-may-care. We were there to have a very long lunch. The sommelier gave a low whistle of approval when we chose the 2011 Arretxea Hegoxuri from Irouleguy. It’s from a tiny region in the South-West of France made up of a blend of white grapes with challenging Basque names translated …

Brilliant Grillo

One of the most exciting things I saw in Marsala at the government’s nursery vineyards were the experiments that crossed native Sicilian varieties with ancient Georgian Saperavi. Anticipating environmental change in the next 10 years, it is a forward thinking approach by the oenologists (then again, wineries take at least a generation to develop). The vineyards are part of a desire to return to the local grapes, to understand their natural expression, rather look at others for a style. Or have a style foisted on them. So much of Sicilian history has been this story. It is an island where the conquerors have left their mark, even in the wines – for example, Zibibbo is Arabic for grape. The conquerers have been Greeks, Spanish, Arabs, Italian, and in the case of Marsala, the British. For the wine lover, the market forces of the supermarket and EU have too often conquered Sicilian wines. There was not much incentive other than to make cheap wines in co-operatives. Now we saw a different story. In West Sicily, there …

The Story of the Stolen Glass

It’s a sad sign of the times when one is pathetically grateful for good customer service. Recently it has become a bête noire of mine having to deal with global internet companies. It could not have been a more different experience on the weekend. Visiting one of my favourite restaurants in Paris, La Verre Vole. (The Stolen Glass) – a little cave à manger near Canal-St-Martin. The place was closed for lunch but we knocked on the door anyway. The staff already had their staff meal on the table and were ready to sit down. They let us in and spent a bit of time talking with us about the wines. On the walls there is an excellent selection of natural wines – many I long to see in London, especially the Beaujolais and Loire wines. They pulled out a perfectly chilled Beaujolais and two glasses, “Have a seat by the canal and return them when you can.” I think we had mentioned a few we knew – we had seen a lot of Lapierre’s Morgon on the …

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 …

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 …

German Riesling 2012 Kabinett & Auslese

The 2012 Germany Riesling vintage is powerful and intense like “lots of violins being played together pianissimo”. There is a real drama to this vintage and the best seem to sweep you up in their drama. The yields are very low this year (down by 50%), particularly in the Mosel – no wonder there is no slouching: they are pure and focused, up and at ’em at first light and not lolling about all day in bed in their silk sheets all day (although you know they want to). Hear the orchestra warming up down before the stage. The last of the violins have stopped their tuning of the strings, the murmuring voices stop and there is a tap from the conductor. Here is my dream flight of the Riesling: Kabinett 5. Saarburger Rausch Kabinett #04 13 Zilliken (Saar) A five-star Saar. Velvet texture rolling over the palate in waves. Mouth-watering spicy tropical fruit with real energy and vibrancy. 4. Rotschiefer Kabinett, Van Volxem (Saar) Incredible power behind the fruit, off-dry high-definition Van Volxem brilliance. A must. 3. Brauneberger Kabinett, Fritz Haag (Mosel) This Mosel is …