Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wild Wine

Orford is famous for the legend of the 'wild man', a kind of hybrid merman/green man legend. It feels entirely in keeping with the deep historic feel of the place, a strange corner of Suffolk hanging onto the edge of some very watery landscape right next to the north sea. This wine is also a bit of an odd mix, but no monster.
This five year old English white made of German grapes has, perhaps, too much going on. It is quite full-bodied, with all sorts of notes such as a sweet peach, a sharper lemon and when well-chilled, enough minerality to compliment the Butley oysters we were enjoying. Both the wine and seafood were local to within a few miles of Orford.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tunisia Needs A Red Revolution

Tunisia needs another revolution. Nothing wrong with the democratic developments, but the wine could do with a coup.
There I am with ancient historian son in a bar in El Kef - at the furthest reaches of the Empire (Roman) watching Esperance Tunis FC win the African Champions League while tucking into some rather lovely herby crispy pastries, curried chicken etc.
The mood is liberated in every sense, less than a fortnight after their elections. The drive from the capital out west has taken us past a vast swathe of fertile farmland with vines here and there.
Then the wine. Well the rose was worse which made this red seem adequate. Smooth, rounded, pleasant but entirely characterless. Certainly not Grand Cru.
Still, who's complaining at the price and the setting of the hillside medina and the context of new-found freedom.
Maybe the climate isn't perfect and perhaps the soil doesn't offer much in the way of mineral input. But with the French influence and the Lebanese example surely Tunisia can have a wine to match the glorious evocation of Carthage?
Go to the fabulous mosaics of the Bardo Museum and there's lots of evidence that Bacchus has a fantastic history here, now it needs some investment in the future.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Appalachian Autumn

This was one of the better Virginian wines that I tasted on a very brief trip down the Blue Ridge mountains. Most of the good wine is on the east of the Shenandoah national park, especially around Charlottesville. But this winery is a bit further south near Roanoke.
Their wines are mainly Italian but this one is, of course, a French grape varietal and so not suprisingly it evoked Claret rather than Chianti.
A soft, smokey texture and nose, fruity but not over-powering. 
I actually drank this with a very good dinner at the charming and very hospitable Gristmill Inn in Warm Springs. As the name suggests, this lovely village in a valley of the Appalachian Hills has wonderful bathing in America's oldest spa pool. 
So all round it made for a day of real liquid refreshment.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

The cocktail now arriving on platform three

I know this is a wine blog and this is a cocktail but there's sparkling wine in there. Plus Russian vodka, peach schnapps and some 24 carat gold.
We were celebrating with friends over from Australia at 'Europe's Longest Champagne Bar' at the St Pancras Eurostar terminal. Their kids were due back from a visit to Paris with Aunties.
The cocktail looked rather better than it tasted. Much too sweet. But it is a civilised joy to booze in a great modern station set within one of my favourite London buildings.

Monday, 4 July 2011

She's Forever Blowing Bubbles

This is not about the wine, it's about the moment. Champagne is for celebration and what more joy than a good friend who cheats serious illness?
And location and timing helps. In the middle of the Black Mountains near Hay On Wye, in the warm glow of a quite extraordinarily sunny early July weekend. Half way up Tympa.
This was a relatively inexpensive bubbly picked up from the very lovely Corks of Cotham independent wine merchants in Bristol en route to Wales. I am not a huge champagne fan, but this was dryish, with a nice biscuity flavour. Not too sharp or too fizzy.
Cheers to one of my oldest and dearest friends.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Coarse Corse

This is the one you fear. This is the attractively labeled holiday buy lurking at the back of the drinks cabinet. OK, it's not a wine, so it shouldn't even be on this blog. But it's alcoholic and as redolent of terroir as any Claret or Burgundy.

Look at that beautiful label with the lovely calligraphy and that exotic head of the black Corsican. Enjoy the powder pink colour and the inky blue. But note the main ingredients.

'Sucre'. Sugar. Lots of it. This is sweet, but not in the good way that a Sauternes might be.

Corsica is one of my favourite places. Wild. Hills. Family seaside or strange beaches. Odd megalithic circles and a menacing flavour of mafia, pied noir and rich, herby meats and cheeses. Some rather good wine, too. Especially from the northern peninsula.

One of most enjoyable voyages was on the night ferry. We were one of a tiny handful of non-French people in a bateau en voyage to this island that is a mixture of Italian, French and something odd of itself. A bit like this dreadful drink.

And yet. That other ingredient. Myrte. And then you are reminded of the maquis, the dry, haunting smell of the scrub that bakes in the sea-salt sprayed coastal fringes. Plus the bitter fruits of this strange isle.
So what? it's still a rubbish drink. There must be something to have it with, apart from desperation, that makes it palatable, but I don't know what.

Still, it reminds me of Corsica and that's enough.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Pull Over

You are on the E21 about 100+ KM heading north of Lyons when on the left appears the ridge with signposts to some of the best wine villages of Burgundy. You have a car full of kids and unwashed holiday clothes. What you really need is a cool (but not chilled) glass of white.

I have always thought it paradoxical that one of the most reviled and misused grapes - Chardonnay - can reach such heights on those stony slopes just off the motorway.

This is not a particularly outstanding example. It was just a tenner en primeur. But it does have that minerally, slightly acidic quality (imagine sucking a pebble with a slice of lemon - on the other hand don't) but with the oleaginous body of the Chardonnay grape. This one was was slightly oaked with a lovely fresh apple taste (Bramley not Pippin).

This year, I will pull over.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Jordan Red

Mount Nebo is one of those Biblical places where religious history of a number of faiths comes together in a spectacular setting. But I am afraid this is not the Promised Land for wine-lovers, yet.
We were here because our Syrian holiday was put on hold by the forces of democracy sweeping across the region. Jordan was a beautiful, hospitable and fascinating alternative. Safe, comfortable and full of interest. Sadly, this wine was no miracle.
A little sour with an indeterminate flavour that was neither novel nor reassuring. Lebanon shows that even countries with small internal markets can produce excellence but it takes a lot of investment in wine-making skills.
At least it wasn't as sickly sweet as the Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc from the same company. 
So go to Jordan for the amazing archeology: the extraordinary city of rock tombs at Petra; Crusader and Muslim Castles, Roman Cities, Byzantine Churches, and Hellenistic Palaces. 
Go for the stunning landscapes from the desert to the Dead Sea, from the green hills of the north to the coral reefs of the Red Sea. 
Go for the cultural mix that included a Christian Easter as well as Islamic and Bedouin music for our delight.
Toast all these delights with some of the local plonk by all means, but perhaps have some water with your wine. 

Friday, 25 March 2011

Dramatic Rasteau

The Rhone is the spinal cord of western European history, linking the civilisations of the Med to the cold, grapeless North. Head south nowadays down the Route de Soleil that follows that river's course and turn left about 100 km before Marseilles and you'll find Rasteau.
It's not actually on the Rhone, but it's one of those wonderful places that make up the superior appelation of Cotes De Rhones Villages. 
I love the words Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Tricastin and Rasteau. I spent a wonderful evening once on a terrace outside a farmhouse in the Ardeche with a top Dutch theatre person supping these fruits of the south. Short, wrinkled, moustache. Great raconteur and lover of the wines of the southern Rhone.
Those sensuous names, when rolled around his gutteral Nederlandish mouth, sounded even more  dramatic and full of flavour.
And at their best, that's what these wines are like.
Very local. Full of the stones and herbs that make up that almost-Provence landscape.
This little number was a relatively modest bottle bought en primeur from the Wine Society that I've had in the coal cellar for five years. Hence, all the dust and cobwebs on the label. 
But it's a lovely drinkable red which given some time in the air, opens up nicely from a very concentrated, deep red, almost sharp, into something quite wonderfully sunny and relatively sweet. 
I dedicate this little blog to the memory of Ric Van Hulst.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Jugendstil Veltliner

This is a lovely Gruner Veltliner from Austria. It's not green at all. Instead it's a lovely thin golden colour.
Like most Veltliner it has a refreshing, sharp, dry but full taste. This one had a slight fizz to it as well.
I confess I chose it for the beautiful label. I adore that Jugendstil type-face and the charming folksy wood-cut illustration. Very Austrian.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Vin De Pays, Suisse

Swiss wine has appeared on this blog before, noting its quirky charm. But this refreshing little white vin de pays consumed on a Swiss Air flight back from Zurich after the Davos meeting proved that they can also do a very sensible and pleasing commercial blended tipple.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Taurasi: the taste of history

Taurasi is one of those little known Italian OCGs tucked away in the Campania region south of Rome. So it is a wine at the cross-roads of history. 
The Aglianico grape probably came from ancient Greece while the founding fathers of the main town were from imperial Rome. A Longobard castle shadows Taurasi which also saw the Allied forces sweep past in the Second World War.
The wine is a classy production that requires a minimum of three years maturation, one of which must be in wood.
This bottle from the Terredora producers has had a decade to reach what I think is near perfection for a moderate Taurasi. Imagine a Barolo heading towards a Montalcino Reserva.
The first taste can have a Burgundian edge but given time to open up it has wonderful flavours of dark red cherry.