In a mid budget hotel in central Manchester, the CEO of a small software company took the stage to address his staff. It was the day after his 50th birthday, business was going well, but a plot had been hatched. There were no traitors at the gate on this occasion. We are not Nabisco. Merely the pleasant surprise of a presentation of a birthday gift, a certain, and very generous, bottle of wine.
Archive for the ‘france’ Category
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.
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.
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.
If you look at any wine list with a sweet section, you have a better than evens chance of seeing Beaumes de Venise. But, it is rare to see reds from this Rhone village, especially in UK and US restaurants.
I’ve been ordering a Jaboulet BdV en primeur for years. At about £10 a bottle it stinks of value to high heaven. A fresh young juicy red that goes great with spicy pork or lamb dishes and is generally best drunk within a year or two of receipt.
With ‘spooky coincidence’ written on the packing receipt, a few days before my annual Jaboulet instalment arrived from the 2010 vintage, a sample of another marque arrived. I like taste tests.
Domaine la Brune is rich, deep and devious and contains more Scary Spice than a Portuguese Douro. Went well with Lincolnshire sausages and mash. The Jaboulet is lighter, brighter faced and more fruity, in an Emma Bunting sort of way. Both wines have a creaminess often experienced by men viewing the Spice Girls in their prime…
Take your pick, or explore other BdV reds. Maybe you will find Geri or Victoria.
I paid The Wine Society £11.28 per bottle (en primeur) for the Jaboulet. The Domaine de la Brune is available from Christopher Keiller at £117.50 per case (equiv. £9.79 per bottle).
A good test of expensive Burgundy wines (white or red) is whether they go with beans on toast.
I paid Virgin Wines £23.99 for this Pernand-Vergelesses, gulp…. If you join one of the opaque monthly payment schemes, you can make it cheaper. Personally, I’m sick of trading £20 per month for a “discount” on wines, so I have stopped all such accounts (including Virgin) and I am sticking to retailers with simple principles: Join up, look at the website, decide whether to buy, secure in the knowledge that you can nearly always find a competitor price in the event of lingering doubt.
Clearly meeting the expensive moniker, this Vallet Frères is rounder than a grapefruit, zingier than a grapefruit, and fruitier than a grape. This is important because to stand up to the shock and awe of (Branston) baked beans requires a good slug of fruit, gentle tannins and battery like acidity. Tick. Tick. Tick.
BRING OUT THE BRANSTON!
Hosting a dinner party? Got a few sample bottles that you’ve been meaning to taste for ages? Want to follow up an amateurish and inconclusive post on Grand Cru Chablis? A perfect storm for a blind tasting. The brief is simple: take a Chablis Villages, a Premier Cru, and a Grand Cru and see if there is a meaningful, that is to say pecuniarily justified, difference. All wines were from the 2010 vintage.
The bottles, elegantly disguised in blue carrier bags whose former contents were the meat for tonight’s main course, looked like three prisoners in front of a firing squad. As the wino of the party, to be blunt, I could feel the rifles aiming in my direction. I was papping myself. Here are my notes in the order we tasted.
Wine 1: fruity but full bodied,very smooth and tastes well oaked. Not so much flinty steely pebbles as rich plummy apricot and honey. I’m guessing this is the GC
Wine 2: bit steelier but lovely acidity, not oaky. Grassy more than fruity and a little bit of afterburn in the throat. This is probably the Villages.
Wine 3: appley, some flint, quite rounded – I think this is the PC.
Wine 1 in the centre of the podium turned out to be Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, a deserved winner but at a price. Imported by Thorman Hunt & Co the RRP is £33.80.
Wine 2, on the right, is Vincent Dampt Chablis and a bronze medal winner which might explain the difficulty in differentiating it from the Premier Cru. Corney & Barrow do this at £13.95.
Wine 3 is the Premier Cru, this one a Christophe & Fils, Fourchaume that is imported by A & B Vintners and the RRP is £14.58.
The main conclusion to be drawn is that a blind tasting livens up a dinner party and focuses people’s attention on the wine. It’s a lot of fun. The consensus was that Grand Cru Chablis clearly stood out and is worth the extra for special occasions. Telling the difference between the Villages and the PC was very difficult and the scores were split, which is reflected in the close price range, to be fair.
So, that may be another amateurish analysis, but at least this time, it’s conclusive.
Are you a bit snooty about supermarket wines? I am, but I shouldn’t be. After a warm experience with a couple of Asda whites recently, I was intrigued enough to attend a Tesco wine tasting where this Chablis stood out from the “Finest” range.
Steely, minerally Chardonnays from this northern Burgundy region can occasionally taste like putting your tongue across the poles of a 9v battery. Conversely, on opening, this one is full of soft ripe peachy fruit, a bit too soft. But, as the wine warms (best left out of the fridge for about an hour before drinking) the fruit starts sucking on a black Welsh beach pebble. Not at all over-acidic, very classy and smooth and, as a result, better with roast pork than seafood.
If you shop at Tesco, you might be interested in the code XXH4H4 which, when entered into the Tesco website before Dec 31, 2012, will get you a “no strings attached” £5 discount from a case of wine of your choice.
Have a rethink about supermarket wines, some are better than two slaps across the thigh with a wet kipper from the fish stand. Depending on your sexual persuasion, arguably much, much, better.
If you are looking for a high quality but eclectic wine shop somewhere in the world, then Hanging Ditch, near Manchester Cathedral, is a good first stab. But what if you live the other side of the Pennines, and your passport has expired? Recommendations flooded in for Latitude Wines in the centre of Leeds, under the railway arches. It meets the eclecticity brief. Walking into a cave (as in wine cellar) with a claustrophobicly low ceiling with wine racks and baskets strewn at jaunty angles with random offers, it’s the sort of place that I find impossible to walk out of without troubling the wallet.
I had a long overdue mooch around Majestic recently. To be perfectly honest, a large proportion of the wines were predictable old fellas. But search hard enough and there are some real gems. I managed to walk out with 15 bottles having lightened my wallet to the tune of £222 (a double Nelson, for the cricketers out there).
One notable success story was this Fronton from the Deep South of France. Barely registering on the fruitometer, the overwhelming and delicious flavour is of a freshly baked rosemary focaccia served on an earthenware plate and drizzled with olive oil. Herby rather than fruity, and rich and spicy, it went superbly with a pepperoni pizza. £7.99 or £6.99 for two or more bottles.
I must also award a WART Medaille d’Or for a recommended drinking temperature clearly displayed on the back label. 17 Celsius is the advice. That’s at least five degrees cooler than your living room. Please chill a little. I’d actually open it at 15° and let it warm.
If you are a Majestic fan, look out for more wine notes on this blog over the next few weeks.