Monthly Archives: March 2013
Aren’t Bank Holidays great? Good Friday may be the best of all – you don’t have to go to work today or tomorrow! I have to admit that quite often I do very little on a bank holiday and then spend the following days thinking “if only”. Today I decided it would not be the case this time around, so here’s my 3 step guide to a great day off.
Get a haircut. The afro was getting a bit out of hand so £7 at Tony’s was my bargain start to the day off. Only three months to go until the next visit!
Make the most of the Easter supermarket deals. I mentioned this in the newsletter this week, but to me the Waitrose 25% off fine wine promo is not to be sniffed at and not to be missed. After stopping for a nice bit of brekkie at Coco in Croxley Green, I headed to pick up some great deals:
Joseph Drouhin Chorey les Beaune £11.99 from £15.99
Felsner Moosburgerin Gruner Veltliner £8.59 from £11.49
Brazin Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel £9.74 from £12.99
The Hedonist Shiraz £9.74 from £12.99
Oddero Barolo £17.99 was £23.99
Vouvray Clos des Nouys £10.99 – wasn’t on promo but hey ho!
Go to the Tapa Room for an early dinner. I love the casual and sharing nature of the Tapa Room on Marylebone High Street. I also love how every dish sounds like there might be 3 ingredients too many but when each dish arrives the balance is perfect. Me and The Fish enjoyed a fair few dishes including:
Onion & kohlrabi bhaji
Pear, onion and Stilton tart
Paprika spiced squid
Scallops with chilli sauce
Lamb spring rolls
Beef brisket “pizza”
It was all fabulous. And even better was a bottle of Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir 2009… If anyone knows where I can buy a case please let me know!
I hope your Good Friday was a Great Friday too!
The Easter break is one of my favourite times of the year. It’s been quite a while since Xmas and we’re all ready and deserving of those two extra days off work. For me it means a week in Devon with the The Fish and family and it also means lots of good eating.
I’m sure you all enjoy a couple of feasts over the Easter week (or weekend at least) so I thought I’d pull together a few suggestions of what to drink with your culinary delights. I’ve based all of the recommendations around the main protein ingredient, so you can keep referring back throughout the year!
A reminder of some simple food and wine matching principles:
1. Match the flavour intensity of the food and the flavour intensity of the wine
2. Match sweet foods with sweet wines
3. Match acidic food with high-acid wines
4. Avoid combining very savoury foods with high tannin wine
5. Pair “chewy” meat with tannic wine
6. Pair salty foods with sweet wines
7. Pair fatty and oily foods with high-acid wines
8. Match the weight/richness of food and the body of the wine
Let’s start with the traditional Easter meat before looking at everything else! Lamb is definitely a very wine-friendly ingredient and you won’t go wrong with a fruity Rioja or a new world Cabernet Sauvignon. This is particularly true if you are roasting the lamb – if you’re going to cook it for longer as a slow roast or a stew, you may want to head towards the spicier Southern Rhone for a good quality Cotes du Rhone or Chateuneuf de Pape, or even to Priorat in Northern Spain.
The great British favourite and possibly the easiest meat of all to match. Get yourself a big-bodied red and you won’t go far wrong. Here we’re talking about good Bordeaux or a Northern Rhone Syrah such as a Crozes Hermitage or St Joseph. And if you fancy going farther afield then why not try a Shiraz from the Barosa Valley or McLaren Vale or a big Malbec from Argentina.
If you’re going piggy-mad over Easter then may I suggest a white wine? My first experience of this was when I was served Riesling with a pork dish at Gidleigh Park a few years ago and it was a revelation. By now you’ll know what a great fan I am of Riesling and especially those from Oz so my recommendation is to head for either Clare Valley or Eden Valley for a racy number to cut through that fat. If you love red so much that you just can’t bring yourself to do it, then why not go for something a bit lighter in bodied; maybe a young Kiwi Pinot Noir or a Dolcetto or Barbera from Piedmont?
You can go red or white here and I would suggest staying in Burgundy whichever way you decide to jump. For the red option a good village Pinot Noir from Volnay, Gevrey or Nuits St George would be a good place to start. For white, if I’ve got a few quid to spend I’m heading for the Chassagne-Montrachet, and if I’m on a budget then I’m looking for St Veran, that very fairly priced appellation in the Macon. If you want to look to the new world then I’m heading towards Australia and I’d start my search in Margaret River, Western Australia.
If you’re indulging in a side of salmon then go for the searing acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc, so head either to Marlborough in NZ or a Sancerre in the Loire. If you fancy something along the same lines but a want a bit of a change then look to Spain for a Verdejo or search out a Torrontes from Argentina.
And finally, if you’re camped near the seaside and fancy good old fashioned fish & chips then look no further than the sparkly stuff. Champagne or English fizz if you haven’t killed your monthly budget yet; Prosecco or Cava if you’re deep into that overdraft!
Whatever you’re eating and drinking over Easter have a great time… And the perfect match for chocolate? More chocolate!!
Jimmy really excelled with this most interesting of tastings at the West London Wine School, describing it himself as “one if the most fascinating tastings I’ve ever run”.
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron is a second growth estate in Pauillac, Bordeaux and these days is considered a “super second”, challenging the big boys at the top of the tree. The estate also possesses one of the most beautiful Chateau anywhere in the wine world, with its fairy tale towers and beautiful reflecting lake in front if it. But things haven’t always been great at Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron. Jimmy described the 80’s as the “dark times” and highlighted that in 1982, a vintage where it appeared impossible to make a poor wine, Pichon somehow managed to do so.
The tasting consisted of two wines from the 80’s, followed by pairs from the 90’s and the 2000’s, after huge investment from insurance giants AXA. There was then a 7th wine, tasted blind… More of which later.
(All prices are from Fine & Rare – correct at 23rd March 2013)
The 1980’s – the dark times
The Bouteillier family bought the estate in 1933 and enjoyed a good reputation under their ownership but the death of Jean Bouteillier marked the beginning of the property’s decline. His children took control and lacked experience, investment and by all accounts, interest.
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 1985 (£126.48)
Very pale garnet in appearance but a very intriguing nose of blackcurrant and savoury/anise spice. There’s lots of character here and lots of different parts working together nicely. Unfortunately the palate just plain disappointed. Lean and green and real lack of any structure or depth. Not a great deal of fruit and just hints of earth and game. Well past its best. A wine that promised so much on the nose but certainly didn’t deliver on that promise. 86 points
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 1986 (£158.08)
Much deeper colour that the 85. Not as opulent on the nose as its predecessor but lots of black fruit depth, mushroom and savoury spice. Quite rich on the palate with layers of dark fruit and still lots of bright acidity. There’s still some good tannic structure balancing the acidity but there’s not much length on the finish. Lovely balance but lacks depth and length. 88 points
The 1990’s – insuring the future
AXA Millésimes completed the purchase of the property in 1987 and the first thing they did was to bring on board Jean-Michel Cazes, of Lynch-Bages and Les Ormes de Pez fame, who oversaw the complete redesign and rebuild of the wine-making facilities.
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 1998 (£92.68)
This has a very rich nose of blackcurrant and now we also get those classic Pauillac scents of cedar and cigar. This wine certainly has some polish and there is a delightful sweet hint of oak in the background. Lots of body, power and concentration, with lashings of dark fruit and smokey spice. A delightful balance of tannin and acid and altogether very pleasing. A completely different beast to the 80’s with real power and balance. 92 points (voted best value wine of the night)
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 1999 (£116.28)
Less fruit and more grunt here! Lots of gamey animal notes, with earthy truffle and leather hints too. Very well developed, with just hints of black fruit and sweet spice in the background. On the palate its butch and beefy upfront but then after a few seconds the wine really comes together. There’s lively fruity acidity and a very attractive spicy finish. You don’t think this is going to work at first taste and then it really falls nicely into place. 91 points
The 2000’s – cometh the Englishman
Jean-Michel Cazes retired in 2000 and AXA brought in Englishman Christian Seely to oversee the property. In his time, Mr Seely has pushed the quality if the wine, with stricter selection for the grapes to be included in the Grand Vin.
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 2005 (£108.88)
Much more inky appearance with hugely concentrated blackcurrant, cassis even, on the nose. The fruit aromas are backed up with butch cedar and savoury spice and shouts of real power but also finesse. Lots of grip on first taste but balanced with delightful sweet black fruit, cedar and smoky cigar-spice. Lots of lively acidity, balanced with nicely defined tannin and some steely minerality. This is a wine with many years ahead of it, but already in great balance and harmony. It’s polished and sophisticated. Great stuff. 94 points (my best value wine of the night – one to lay down and enjoy in 2020!)
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 2006 (£74.88)
More excellent depth on the nose. Here we get the blackcurrant but also swathes of red fruit – raspberry and cranberry, and its all supported with sweet spice – feels like a bit of oaky makeup has been applied here. More medium in body than the 05 and a much more delicate affair. Tannins are very forward here and there’s a touch of acid but the harmony isn’t quite there and I’m not sure whether time will sort it out. A very different style of wine, more delicate and definitely atypical. 90 points
The blind bottle
As we had tasted three very different styles of wine over three decades, how easy would this one be to place?
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 1996 (£110.40)
Oh this just smells complete! A perfect balance of delicious blackcurrants, worn leather and roasted meat, supported with exotic and smokey spice. On the palate there’s layers of black and red fruit in beautiful harmony with the smokey spice, roasted game and acid lift. The tannins are beautifully integrated and provide a wonderful and generous finish. For me it had to come from the 90s given its evolution and I plumped for 1995, knowing this to be a fine vintage… So just a year out! This really was the wine of the night in every way and one I need to add to the cellar. It has everything in perfect balance and harmony. 96 points
What happens when you can’t drink wine?
That’s one hell of a scary thought isn’t it? Well it could happen to you… As it’s happened to me for the last 10 days! I got hit hard with gastroenteritis which basically meant nothing was eaten or drunk for quite some sometime without dire consequences! And it was so difficult because I do love my food and drink!
Luckily for me it didn’t put me off reading about the subject or watching it on TV. I know some people struggle with the thought of eating and drinking when they’re ill… But I’m bigger than that (probably one of the reasons why I am bigger!)
I’ve had my nose in Decanter and Fine Wine magazines, as well as many of the books I’ve collected over the past months. In the background has been a constant stream of education in the form of the Good Food Channel, or The Travel Channel if Floyd was on! But this got me thinking. There’s not much on the old goggle-box about wine is there? Even the recent rebirth of Food & Drink (not that it has anything to do with the grand old series) has shied away from actually telling you what the wine is or how much it cost! In fairness, the only half-decent attempt at wine on TV these days are the recommendations on Saturday Morning Kitchen. And I never thought I’d hear myself say that!
So I had a look through my dusty DVD selection and found 2 TV series and 2 films worth finding for those times where you yearn for a good drop but are unable to indulge. Or you could just watch them while you drink under normal conditions!
Floyd Uncorked (1998)
OK so I’ve written about this series a few times already, most recently as a great Xmas present! But I refuse to apologise for Keith Floyd is a hero, who changed the way cooking was transported into our houses. I also struggle to remember the real title of the series as it has been dubbed “Drink along with Floyd” in this household!
The series consists of Keith and has companion, Master of Wine Jonathan Pedley, travelling around the famous regions of France. Each episode is 30 minutes long and focuses on 2 wines per region, with Keith telling you which wines they will be drinking the following week, so you can pop and pour along with them. It is Floyd at his best, combined with interesting information about the regions, the grapes and various aspects of wine making. Keith also cooks a couple of local recipes in each episode and it really is great fun. You can also buy the accompanying book to the series for next to nothing on Amazon (second hand). Give it a go – you’ll love it.
Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course (1995)
I am a big fan of Jancis’ writing but it can sometime come across as a bit stuffy and, well old school. I was delighted when I started watching this series at how informal the direction and presentation of the programmes are… and how enjoyable they are too.
The series consists of 10 programmes, each based around the “famous grapes” of the world. What is particularly engaging is that most of the episodes contain some French and New World footage – and the views of the French on the Aussies and vice-versa is hugely enjoyable!
Jancis is a hugely respected figure in the world of wine, giving her access to the likes of Guigal when discussing Syrah from the Cote Rotie, or the magnificent Lalou Bize-Leroy in the Pinot Noir programme. But my favourite scene of the whole series is when Dominique Lafon, of Meursault fame, refuses to spit the remnants of an Aussie Chardonnay on the floor of his cellar. Beautifully French!
The series is part travelogue and some of the visual glamour will make you crave a visit to sme of these wonderful places. It provides easily accessible and understandable information about wine making, tasting and many other aspects in a very entertaining and laid back manner. Oh and some of Jancis’ outfits are spectacular!
The movie that made Californian Pinot Noir cool! Sideways was actually nominated for 5 Oscars, picking up the going for “best adapted screenplay”. The film follows two mates in their forties on a bachelor weekend in Santa Barbra wine country. Miles is the wine nerd with no money, Jack his mate with the money and the palate of a baboon. The film in some ways is a series of sketches, which knits together beautifully to tell an amusing and enjoyable story. The film is intelligent, funny, even moving, and the acting is brilliant all round. The characters are given real depth and certainly encourage an emotional response.
The scenery is stunning; it will make you want to get on a plane and explore. And many have. Most of the film is set in the Santa Ynez Valley, where wine tourism exploded on the back of the film’s acclaim. Miles’s favourite grape variety in the film is Pinot Noir, and sales of Pinot went up by 16% in the US – at the same time he hates Merlot… Sales declined by 2%! This leads me to my only issue with the film. Miles’ most prized bottle is a Cheval Blanc 1961… A blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot !!
Sideways is a marvellous film whether you love wine or not – the book by the same name is even better.
Bottle Shock (2008)
How can a film with Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman fail? Well this one doesn’t! The story is loosely based on the famous Judgement of Paris in 1976, where the English wine merchant Steven Spurrier (played by Rickman) arranged a tasting competition, pitching the best Californian wine against the whites of Burgundy and reds of Bordeaux. Much has been written about the occasion, I even talked about it a little in my first ever post on the blog!
Bill Pullman plays Jim Barrett, the owner of Chateau Montelena, who wants no part in the competition but his son Bo (Chris Pine) goes behind his back to enter the winery’s Chardonnay into the competition. Only this week did the real Jim Barrett pass away at the age of 86, his son saying he “died of a life well lived”.
The film is a very light hearted comedy but beautifully shot and brilliantly acted. The supporting cast is also excellent and it’s a good old comedy romp to enjoy with a bottle of (American??) wine on a Friday evening.
This is one for real wine geeks only! Two and a half hours dedicated to the impact of globalisation of wine and wine styles. Actually sound dreadful doesn’t it? Well it isn’t! It’s a kinda Michael Moore takes on the wine global giants sort of thing, with very lo-fi production, shaky hand held cameras, and a cameraman who gets very bored of his protagonist very quickly.
The real stars of the film are the small producers from various parts of France, Italy and Argentina. Their stories are interesting and their views are sound, if different, to the “bigger” characters like Michel Rolland, Robert Parker and the Mondavi family.
There is plenty of big-bad-guy propaganda on show here, but the film is still an interesting look at the global wine economy and more importantly, some of the great characters within it.
If you have any recommendation then please do leave them in the comments box!
As a wine geek, living and working in London really is superb. Hot on the heels of drinking some excellent aged wine at the weekend, I had a truly mouthwatering tasting lined up for this week. At the start of the year Roberson sent out an email with their upcoming tasting events and this one stood out like a beacon. Bordeaux 1995 horizontal.
Before Xmas I attended a Leoville Barton vertical, where you taste a number of wines from a single property from different years. A horizontal is tasting wines all harvested in the same year from different properties. And what properties… Including Mouton Rosthchild and Cheval Blanc. The type of wines I could only ever dream of drinking. Until tonight.
1995 was a highly rated vintage, with maybe only 1990, and in some opinions 1996, gaining better reviews from the 90’s. I was just hoping that the wines would meet my high expectations…
Overall the tasting was a delight with some excellent wines. Both of my favourites came from the right bank and Leoville Barton again showed its class and consistency. Although an excellent wine, I was hoping for a bit more from the Mouton – however I was in the minority as when the votes were counted for the best wine of the night the Mouton came out on top.
Here are all of my notes, in the order the wines were tasted (all prices are per bottle from Roberson):
Chateau Haut-Bailly 1995, Pessac-Leognan (£86.95)
Very mineral and earthy nose with restrained black fruits. What was great about this wine was the massive freshness and beautiful acidity. There is plenty of red cherry fruit as well as some nice blackcurrant warmth, backed up by the mineral from the nose. The tannins are very fine and provide a lovely structure. This is a very well balanced wine with good fruit and savouriness. Excellent start to the tasting. 92 points
La Mission Haut-Brion 1995, Pessac-Leognan (£215)
This wasn’t on the original list and was added to the tasting at the last minute. Was very excited about this, especially when I smelt the big concentration of red and black fruits on the nose and a lovely hint of earthiness. How disappointed I was to find a lean, thin wine in the mouth without the promised power. The tannins are still at the forefront and the wine may come together over the next few years – it left me a bit flat. 88 points
Chateau Cantermele 1995, Haut Medoc (£45)
I reckon this is a love it or hate it wine I didn’t love it. A feral nose with stewed plums and roast meat, almost high. A bit thin and green on the palate and just seemed past its best. Hints of fruit but instantly forgettable. 87 points
Chateau Palmer 1995, Margaux (£165)
Oh how I wanted to love you! Very floral and red fruit aromas – this is a very pretty wine with lots of elegance and class on the nose. Sweet red fruit, backed up with some blackberry shadows. There’s lots of minerality and even a touch of dried herb but somehow it doesn’t all come together like it should… Frustrating wine! 90 points
Chateau Leoville-Barton 1995, St Julien (£105)
Real class here. Blackcurrant, mineral and graphite aromas – very concentrated and very inviting. The concentration of fruit is very evident on the palate and a distinctive and attractive freshness. The fruit is supported with a lovely subtle eucalyptus freshness and very fine and chalky tannins. Real finesse, good weight and lovely balance. By far and away this wine took the trophy for best value wine on the night. 94 points
Chateau Leoville-Poyferre (£94.95)
Another fine wine from St Julien… A shame it came straight after the Barton! If anything, the nose here is even better than its predecessor with gorgeous cassis along with the gravel and earthiness. The tannins are firm and it is more closed than the Barton and not as balanced. The oak is sticking out a little bit but there is plenty of fruit. I’d keep this one for a couple more years. 91 points
Chateau Cos d’Estournel 1995, St Estephe (£165)
This is the real thing. Really developed black fruit, menthol freshness and meaty. This wine has real power, concentration and stuffing. The tannins give a super structure and the flavour stays with you for a very long time. This still feels very young and has a wonderful future ahead of it. I wish I had 3 to keep and 3 to drink right now. Brilliant. 94 points
Chateau Clerc-Milon 1995, Pauillac (£69.95)
A big step backwards from the Cos. Very withdrawn nose – I had to really stick my nose right in there to get a whiff of dark fruit. Thin and lean on the palate, good freshness but just a bit bland. Meh. The French in the audience seemed to like it though! 87 points
Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1995, Pauillac (£495)
This was supposed to be the highlight of the night – and it was for many… But not for me. The nose is pure class. It’s elegant and polished. Sweet, ripe black fruit with cedar and a hint of eucalyptus and graphite. But then it didn’t live up to its billing on the palate. The fruits there, there’s decent power but not the concentration I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fine wine and my guess is its still opening up… I suppose I shouldn’t mind being underwhelmed and still awarding 93 points.
Chateau Trotanoy 1995, Pomerol (£165)
Now we are talking! Cherries and strawberries, the smell of summer. Violets and anise back up the fruit on the nose and make you close your eyes and smile. The wine is silky, sensuous and just feels complete. So complex, its like the most supple, best quality leather with spikes of red fruit and beautifully integrated spices. It has a sensational lift of freshness and is just quite magnificent. 96 points
Chateau Cheval Blanc 1995, St Emilion (£380)
And I thought it couldn’t get better. Smells of sour cherries, raspberries, leather, sweet spice, pencil shaving and cedar. The aromas fill your nostrils with goodness. And the the palate… It’s lake waves of silky flavour on your receptors – fruit, spice, leather, sweetness, freshness…. And it just keeps coming and stays there for an awfully long time. It’s delicate yet concentrated, rustic yet integrated. This is absolute class. One of the best wines I have ever drunk and for me(and eight others!) the standout wine of the night. 97 points
Before I get going, I should just say that the title of this article has nothing to do with the age of my fabulous hosts for the weekend… Honestly Richard & Max!
I think we’re so lucky these days in terms of the wine options available to us UK consumers. Whether its from the independent wine merchants, specialist booze retailers or supermarkets, we’ve never had it so good… But I do have one gripe. Age.
Of all of the wine available to us today, how much of it is at its best for drinking? I get frustrated when I look on supermarket shelves and I’m faced with a wall of Chateuneuf du Pape… From the 2011 vintage. All wine retailers should be helping the consumer drink wine at its best.
And then there’s wine investment. Wine is not a precious metal or a sparkling jewel; it is made to be drunk. So much of the wine that is ready to drink today is sitting in someone’s cellar gathering dust. I was talking to a retailer in Beaune last year who said that all that he was able to buy was 3 years old maximum. And it made him sad. It also makes me sad. We’re missing out!
Anyway, rant over. After reading my Richebourg experience at a Roberson tasting pre-Xmas, Richard decided to buy a couple of bottles. Like me he’s a wine freak so we went to Nickolls & Perks in Stourbridge to fish out a couple of other interesting and older bottles. Their cellar is treasure trove for any Bordeaux or Burgundy lover and I can’t believe I didn’t get a photo of me clutching a bottle of 1983 La Tache! Obviously that was slightly out of my league but we did pool our resources and walked away with three more bottles of older vintage to enjoy throughout the afternoon and with the superb dinner, lovingly and brilliantly cooked by Maxine.
Domaine Thomas Moillard Corton Clos du Roi Grand Cru 1993 (Nickolls & Perks £52.00)
Gentle soft fruits, wild strawberries and sweet red cherry, earth and mineral, with a touch of meaty anise. Still lots of grip and lots of structure from the fine tannins. The fruit took a while come through then after 20 mins or so really opened up. Great length with lots of fruit, followed by pebbly stones and a bit of meaty/anise goodness. A very pretty wine. 92 points
Domaine Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Caillerets 1990 (Nickolls & Perks £120.00)
Richard has never been a white wine fan… Until now. Golden, honeyed colour… I couldn’t wait to smell and taste it. The smell is the essence of hot buttered toast. It’s nutty, its brioche, its amazing. ‘Where’s the fruit?’ I hear you ask: well, the peach and even a bit of baked apple hits your palate. But it’s the honey, nuts and toast that takes your breath away. And it just goes on and on and on. It’s amazingly fresh and the acid backbone is beautifully balanced. This wines makes you close your eyes and say thank you. 95 points
AF Gros Richebourg Grand Cru 1995 (Roberson £190.00)
This was the main event, which me and Max thought was fabulous… But Richard didn’t enjoy it at all! Elegant, beautiful, balanced and just plain gorgeous. Red fruit – raspberry, strawberry, cherry with earthy and mushrooms/truffle, then leather… and this is just the aromas. Amazingly fresh and lively acid, this is racy, sexy and seductive – everything I want from Pinot. The layers of flavours here are remarkable and seem to change with every mouthful. And each mouthful lasts for ever. Simply stunning. 96 points
E Guigal Hermitage 1985 (Nickolls & Perks £52.60)
These grapes may well have been picked on my 10th birthday! This was my first real experience of an old Rhone red and it was very interesting indeed. We decanted the bottle about 3 hours before drinking and kept going back to check the nose. What a brazen hussy! So much sweet red fruit and just a hint if white pepper and leather. What struck me most about this wine was how mellow it had become. If I’d drunk this blind I would definitely have placed it in the Cotes de Nuits. Still lots of red fruit and freshness but also hints of pepper, violets and thyme. Maybe past its absolute peak but she’s kept on to her looks! 90 points