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.
Is 2004 Bordeaux ready to drink yet? In 2010, Max Wine Gallery right in the centre of the home of wine, was serving 2004 first growths to those (including me) prepared to pay €15 for a tiny 25ml taster sample. Even back then it tasted just great.
2004 was not the most notable of years, hijacked as it was after the millennial 2000 and just before the vintage of a lifetime, 2005. At least that kept the critics quiet until the vintage of an aeon, 2009, ripped up the price books and had mouths foaming like Englishmen (and possibly Chinamen) out in the midday sun.
With the current anti-alcohol tax regime, is it still possible to sell a bottle of wine at £5? Asda thinks so. They pointed me at a handful of recent Extra Special selections in their range in the £5-6 price bracket. Looking for something to go with fresh Yorkshire Spring lamb chops, I pulled out these two from the sample box.
A 2010 Bordeaux at £5? An Aussie Cabernet at £5.95? Surely a price-gun error, or maybe a temporary discount? Asda assures me that this is the permanent price. Only one obvious conclusion then – it must be ropey wine.
Wine one is Roc-Montalon Bordeaux Supérieur 2010. Smells a bit chemically and the taste lacks complexity. There is evidence of leaves and a lack of fruit but still somehow it is not unpleasant. At least the price doesn’t leave a bad taste in the mouth.
Wine two is an Aussie Cabernet Sauvignon called “Langhorne Creek” from 2011. This smells of baked beans (well, it is a supermarket wine) and tastes just a little sharp, but nonetheless fruity and juicy, if just a tad Haribo.
But here’s the thing. It’s really important to serve wine properly and if you put either of these into a decent (large bowl) glass, and if you serve at the right temperature (put in the fridge for about 30 mins before serving), they both taste so much better. Good gluggable party wines that you could easily serve to friends without any embarrassment.
For the lamb chops, and probably in other circumstances, the extra 98 pence to buy the Langhorne Creek is worth the stretch.
In these hard economic times, it is good to have somewhere to go to find wines that are drinkable and cheap. And both of these bottles fit the bill. A demonstration, I guess, of Walmart buying power.
Hunger is a great sauce, as certain chefs keep reminding me. I wonder how that pie tasted to Magwitch, the one that Pip selflessly stole? It formed the thesis for an entire Dickens novel, such is the power of food, and feelings.
After 3 weeks on the prison ship of abstinence, does wine taste any different? I’ve just opened this St Estèphe and I think I have the presence of mind to review it objectively. It’s fucking awesome!
Whilst still young and tannic (I decanted mine), which means it went superbly with a ribeye steak, it also had a certain fruity sweetness that made a rare red wine match for chocolate. Lindt Selection if you must know, although I am sure you can experiment yourself. Probably worth leaving another year or two, but if you are desperate to open a bottle, you will be far from disappointed.
Mine came from Sunday Times Wine Club (Laithwaites) President’s Cellar which implies a price of £20-30, and I did see it at Berry Bros for around £27.50, although currently out of stock. If you’ve been off wine for a while, or even if you’ve been drinking like Bentley Drummle at your posh London club, it’s worth the extra for a little treat.
At two separate Wine Society events recently, one wine has stood head and shoulders above the rest for me, and I have been looking for an opportunity to shout it out.
However, it raises a wider issue about wine branding. When it comes to certain wines (mostly French if I am honest) I like to think that I should be able to choose the original wine over one badged by a retailer. So am I being immodest to think that I can do better than an institution that has been around since 1874? Am I <gasps> a “wine snob”? And worse, an ill-informed one to boot?
I woke up with the sweetest hangover. The type that brings hazy memories of the day before. Not caused by alcohol. Oh no, something far more important. Football.
But, one has to eat, and drink, and get on with life so, in anticipation of victory, I had booked us into Barbecoa, Jamie Oliver’s new venture in Cheapside in the City. And as a hangover cures go, you could do worse than select from the “Bites” menu. The mountain of bread with home made butter was as filling as it was delicious. A “portion” of pork crackling (£4) was large enough to serve 16 Northern beer drinkers based on the size of pub bags when I was a nipper. And needless to say the flavour and crunch was in a new class, (but I am known as a bit of a porker).
On a frenzied wine tour through Bordeaux it’s nice to take a relaxing break for a long lunch, and you could do much worse than stop in Pauillac during your Medoc leg.
La Salamandre, looking out directly over the river is charming, top quality, well presented, and has a great wine list.
After a visit to the Wine Gallery in Bordeaux where I tasted some of the best (or in any case, most expensive) wines in the world, La Brasserie Bordelaise was the destination for a bloody, but fatty, grisly and tough, entrecôte steak. What could match the power of Château Latour or Cheval Blanc to accompany such a dish?
Tucked away in a place so secret that only the French Foreign Legion knows of its existence, this place is more charming than Dartagnan and better for juicing up a hot date than a pair of George Clooney’s underpants.
You can expect French service, though, which is the exact opposite of New York service. That is to say, friendly but slow.
In what turned out to be the fortunate circumstance of a cancelled flight, I found myself in Bordeaux for an unexpected extra night. This gave me the opportunity to fulfil a bit of a dream.
Entering through the unassuming entrance of Max Wine Gallery you could be forgiven for thinking that you are entering a posh handbag or clothes boutique. But, inspect further and inside you will find not Chloe or Hermès, but brands a bit closer to my heart, and liver.
Bottles of various top growths from Médoc, St Emilion and Sauternes are imprisoned within glass cases but with tempting little spouts indicating a tad of promiscuity to willing punters. A wino heaven, although at a price.