February 6th, 2014
Spending so much time in North America is forcing me to learn new words like Diaper, Vacation, and Soccer, in order to be understood. The upside is the opportunity to learn about new wines, often unavailable in the UK.
Take this Merlot from British Columbia for example. Following the path trodden by many South American wineries of recruiting a little friendly advice from the old world, this Osoyoos was made with consultation (and, no doubt, a financial interest) from the owners of Saint-Julian stalwart, Gruaud-Larose.
And it shows. To me it was indistinguishable from a Bordeaux, probably right bank. Fruity, deep and lovable and not at all chewy. I wonder if they’ll export it any time soon.
If not, you can copy me and buy it from SAQ in Tremblant Resort for CAN$44.50, which equates to about US$39, or £24. That sounds expensive but Canadian sales taxes are fierce and this price even includes a 3% “resort association levy”. NYC taxes are more reasonable. I never thought I’d say that about anywhere.
November 28th, 2013
New World Pinot Noir is never going to age like a Burgundy. If this bottle is anything to judge by, some are more likely to age like a Médoc. Witness the tawny Cabernet glow, the rich vanilla flavours, and the dark fruits from a wine that sounds more like a middle distance runner’s dog.
No evidence of any barnyard or chicken run. Nor anything thin. But if you want a full flavoured fruity Pinot that sits between Burgundy and New Zealand (depending on how you circumnavigate the globe), nip down to Epicure on Alton Road, South Beach and they will be delighted to lighten your wallet to the tune of five $10 bills. There must be somewhere cheaper to buy it – can you help?
October 31st, 2013
The best recommendations for a wine do not come from journos, PR samples or special offers. For me, they come from genuine wine enthusiasts who trouble their pockets to retrieve a cherished bottle from their cellar to share with you. Either in person or in absentia.
This bottle was given to be at a board meeting by one of my colleagues who has travelled extensively around South America and hearing my mild enthusiasm for Chilean Carmenère, passed a Cuvée Alexandre into my dirty paws one rainy Tuesday morning in Newton le Willows.
This grape, widely planted in Chile but d’origine Bordeaux often reminds me of real wood fires on cold winter days. Rich and herby, yet smooth and oaky, this example is full on, but refined and very moreish, albeit bound to give me a headache in the morning.
I daren’t look up the price, because the quid pro quo is that I need to return the favour. But, knowing Chris, this is not a cheapy £5 bottle of wine. I think I’ll be reaching into my Eurocave for a decent Bordeaux or Argie blockbuster, maybe not quite stretching to a Catena Zapata or Cheval des Andes.
If you want to buy some, try your local independent.
October 15th, 2013
I’ve written many times of my quest to find the perfect wine to accompany beans on toast. But, what about that other saccharine Heinz staple, Tomato Soup?
Everybody tells me that Italian reds are powerful, tannic and rich – like sucking a teabag that has been left in the pot overnight. So that won’t work then, will it?
Well, yes actually. This wine is soft like a fresh raspberry teabag (should you wish to to commit brewed beverage bastardisation) with just a smoky hint of genuine tea (Earl Grey), and there is a slight sweetness that really brings out the flavour of the kids’ teatime favourite.
And as I write, England qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals! Great goal by Gerrard. Let’s hope we don’t face Italy first up in the competition. Like their wines, they are tough early on, and soften up over time.
Mine cost me £32 from the Sunday Times Wine Club and the 2007 is STILL AVAILABLE. But, not cheap, so maybe better to buy the 2008 and save it to drink when England win in Brazil?
September 28th, 2013
Beef friendly, delicious, easy drinking, and easy on the wallet. Not something you see every day on the carte des vins of a top end London Steakhouse. But I found Chateau (sic) Ste (sic) Michelle (sic) at Goodman‘s Mayfair branch. Served by the glass at one point, it disappeared and then they told me that had trouble sourcing enough to keep it on the list.
I am not really surprised. It must have been flying out of the Eurocave faster than a Batmobile powered by used rape seed oil.
Here’s the secret. I’ve found a plentiful supply and at a mad price of only around 10 quid a bottle (which, if I remember rightly, is less than Goodman used to charge for a glass). If you want to stock up, simply visit Bacchus Liquors. Not much use to Londoners I admit, but if, like me, you are stationed in South Beach for a while, a must-visit-venue. Ch. Ste Michelle is about $16 from this excellent and well stacked store at 1445 Alton Road, Miami Beach, FL 33139. Massive collection of worldwide wines right on the premise, and literally just round the corner from my temporary home.
September 19th, 2013
There are pills to cure anything, right? Even a hangover.
Remember RU21 – the pill of choice for ‘Russian secret agents’ whose main role in life is to sleep with their victim (in the biblical sense), lull them into a false sense of security, and then outsmart them in the morning by planting a tarantula in their sock and sneaking out through the toilet window? Well, there’s a new kid on the block. Dink. I was sent some to try out.
The mission: get really pissed at a charity dinner in Newcastle, go to bed at 2am. Take a three hour train journey to London the next day, on which prepare a board pack and write important notes to several customers. Have several conference calls, a 16:30 meeting with an industry analyst, a beer with a colleague and get a two hour train journey home on which tidy up the day’s emails and write this article. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, here I am, on the train, writing. I’ve nailed my day. I am still awake. OK, not doing star jumps or writing a thesis on Smithsonian economics. But I have survived.
RU21 is good, but it’s difficult to source (in the UK at least). A heavy night will see you consume up to 10 tablets, so you better put your discreet trousers on or people will think you are doing Es. Dink does the same job and, like RU21, weighs in at about £3 per hangover. It is more discreet, though.
If you’ve got a heavy night entertaining customers and you need to outsmart them in the morning, take three yellow tabs before you imbibe. Take three black ones at the end of the night. Get through your next day much better than you would have. Be aware that chickens come home to roost. You will need plenty of sleep on night two.
September 13th, 2013
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. Classic French grapes. And an oenological warning of an eye-watering punch in the greenback gonads, delivered by a fancy named winemaker, and quadrupled after the addition of a central London restaurant markup using the name of some international chef.
So, what chance value? Supermarkets, perhaps?
I’ve had warm experiences with Tesco and Asda and certain wines of theirs that seemed to open their legs way wider than their pecuniary groin muscles would permit. But Tesco and Asda are veritably upmarket compared to German imposters like Aldi. Surely no hopers?
Well, this one tastes tannic, rich, spicy and fruity like a Southern Rhone. Stewed apple and black currant. Tastes slightly green – I doubt it is full of stalks but you know what I mean. You can’t really hand harvest grapes and sell a wine for £5.99, albeit on a “summer special”. So if you want to drink Hermitage La Chapelle on your wedding anniversary, good luck to your wallet. If you want something cheap and cheerful for a Monday evening meal, Aldi is one of the growing number of UK supermarkets who can offer your bank manager redemption.
Drink cool. It gets a bit jammy once it’s above 20°C. But do drink it.
August 31st, 2013
I have an American colleague, of French origin, who given his own bodyweight in Sancerre would happily sit on his sunny balcony and drink it nonstop in a frenzied Loire-athon. He does admit that other wine regions in France exist but they are either over-priced or under-qualitied. There are no wines produced from outside “l’hexagon”.
I share an interest in French Sauvignon Blanc and the Loire is the pinnacle of how to convert the grape into astonishingly bright, juicy, sunny, flavours.
It seems ages since people seriously contemplated that new fangled New Zealand upstarts like Cloudy Bay might put the Loire Valley out of business. The subtleties of the wines of the French region are rarely found in Marlborough. I love many kiwi zingers, but grapefruity zinginess, if overdone, can test ones mouth ulcers to the limit . Built by Domaine Serge Laloue, Exhibition Sancerre is zingy in a gooseberry bush kind of a way, but without the cat piss. Very refined and priced to go at £12.95.
August 17th, 2013
Sometimes, something grabs you about a wine: the aroma, the château, the winemaker, the flavour. In this case, my balls were tickled by the price: Just £3.29 – a bottle of wine for the price of a pint of beer. Yes, that’s what I thought, have I woken up in the 1970s? Am I the new Doctor Who’s new assistant?
With aromas of Ribena, Fairy Liquid and white pepper, this is a confected, and far from perfect wine. But, if you are on to your third bottle in the middle of a liquidised summer barbecue, and you don’t want to waste any of your favourite wines on the neighbours, it will float your boat. And you can stock up with cheap beefburgers from the Aldi freezer cabinets, add several bottles of this rosé and still entertain your whole street for £25. Get onto it for the August Bank holiday weekend!
August 11th, 2013
I really don’t see the need for super heavyweight wine bottles. Why create unnecessary and excess baggage when exporting cases around the world? I feel the same way about alcohol. What’s the point of more than 13% unless it really adds value to the flavour of a wine? Finally, over-elaborate marketing to increase the price. I don’t like that in any field. Please just be honest and stop using flowery self-indulgent language on the back of the bottle.
Although quite tasty, this wine breaks all three barriers in Spades, putting in doubt the authenticity. One of the beauties of the arrogant diffidence of the French is that they rarely, if ever, fall into these traps. So, I’m going to leave it alone. If you feel the need for waste, you can remit £29 to The Sunday Times Wine Club (Laithwaites) and they will send you a bottle.