Archive for December, 2008

Messrs Maguire, Dublin

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

I’ve spent a number of happy occasions rinsing my bladder in perfectly poured Guinness in this imposing public house overlooking O’Connell Bridge.  The architecture both inside and out is stunning and the location and views of bustling Dublin are unparalleled, yet I have always thought it quite an ordinary pub grub place as far as food is concerned.

When I saw that Michael Winner had raved about Messrs Maguire in a Sunday Times review I thought I would revisit and try the food again.  It was still ordinary.  But for me, eating is not the point of this place.

Don't mess with the Maguires...unless you want to eat and drink, of course.


Churchaven Wellington Malbec 2007

Monday, December 29th, 2008

If you like Malbec (and I do) you might like to explore a bit further than the varietal’s adopted homeland of Argentina.

For example, at the time of writing, Virgin Wines has this South African on offer at £5.99 (normally £9.99).  If you subscribe to Virgin’s Wine Bank, you effectively get an extra 25% discount.  This is stonking value for money.

Churchaven - Purgatory?

Rich and hedonistic with black cherry, leather and spice.  Slightly rough around the edges like your lovable mate, the diamond geezer, this Wellington beaut tastes much more expensive than £4.50.

Yann Chave Hermitage 2005

Friday, December 26th, 2008

I’m in Dublin for Christmas and for the first time there are several pubs opening on St Stephen’s Day.  There was a time when this holy, but dry, day was almost as sacrosanct as Good Friday.  It’s always fun coming for an Easter break, getting on the plane with a load of stag and hen parties innocent of the complete pub shut down.  Already anticipating a top Friday’s binge drinking, like alcoholic lambs to the slaughter of the Guinness Reaper, the look on faces when word gets around, and if no-one else has told them then I am happy to take on the role of harbinger of doom, that Ireland does not do pubs on Good Friday.  But judging by this St Stephen’s, maybe next year will be different.  Irish Society has changed dramatically in the 10 years I have known it.  Part multicultural immigration, part Celtic Tiger driven affluence (and effluence), it is even possible to find a good selection of restaurants in Dublin these days (although fewer and fewer pubs).

Talking of expectations, I have few when it comes to Rhone reds.  It is probably the single region of France I ignore the most.  But this is not a dislike of wines from the region, simply a blind spot.  By the time I have drooled over various Bordeaux and Burgundy reds, my French Red Wine Budget has such an adverse variance there is nothing left for other regions.

But occasionally a nice looking wine arrives and is debited to my Mixed Case budget.   This one was a double entry in a 6 bottle pack from the Sunday Times Wine Club as part of their President’s Cellar offer – two half cases per year at about £20 per bottle.

Yann Chave Hermitage 2005 is actually reported as £30 per bottle on the STWC website – ouch!  Is this spicy Syrah worth that?


Wine At Right Temperature campaign

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

You may be sick of me carping on about wine temperature, or you may be a staunch supporter of my unfortunately acronymed WART campaign.  Personally I am getting ever more fed up of the ignorance of British bar and restaurant staff bringing me Beaujolais from the wine oven and Chablis from the beer freezer.

But what worries me more is the attitude I get when I ask for a red wine to be chilled.  Replies range from the polite but sardonic “That’s a red wine, sir, it should be served at room temperature” to the downright rude and sneering “You’re wrong, sir, it should be served warm”.

As it is Christmas, I dug out one of last year’s presents, a wine thermometer.  It is quite enlightening to read the instructions and I hope I am not breaching copyright by reproducing them verbatim.

The single most important factor of serving wine at its optimum is the temperature.  The enclosed thermometer will give you an exact reading for you to follow on our guide and eliminate the need for guesswork.  We recommend you serve wine one degree lower than the guide indicates to compensate for the wine glass warming up to room temperature.

16-17°C – Vintage red wines when mature Bordeaux type
15-16°C – Vintage Burgundy type
14-16°C – High quality or vintage red wines still young

14-16°C – Vintage dry white wines
11-12°C – Light fruity or young red wines
10-12°C – Dry and young white wines

10-12°C – New or young red wines
10-12°C – Very fruity rosé wines
8-10°C – Light or local white wines
7-8°C – Champagne or sparkling wine
5-6°C – Sweet or aromatic wines

Whilst you may quibble about some of the individual detail, and I could find a case to change one or two recommendations by a degree or two, the range of recommended temperatures is valid.  When you consider that most restos serve all red wines at 25 degrees and all white wines at 5 degrees Celsius, it is clear there is some education required out there.

By the way, if you don’t own a thermometer, about an hour in my fridge gets a wine down to about 15-16°C.

Now I have had my rant I can get back to the Xmas festivities and a particularly feisty yet lithesome bottle of Riesling.  Can I take this opportunity of wishing you all the highest compliments of the season.  May your food be warm and tasty, and your wine chilled and dandy.

Olive Tree, Chapel Allerton

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

When I wrote up my notes from the Leeds Restaurant Awards I was noodling why I didn’t spend more time in Leeds’ eateries.  Vowing to put that right, I looked up the programme from the event for some inspiration.  The Olive Tree was well represented and is a somewhat legendary Greek offering with three establishments in the Leeds area.  Not exactly ubiquity, but I generally avoid chains unless they are focussed, and this one is the Leica lens of Greek dining.


Blackford Estate Reisling, 2007

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

More from my latest virtual world tour – Riesling.  A grape I know little about, but grown up winos tell me is one of the most important in the wine world.  So I better start cramming.

Blackford Estate - isn't that what Henry Ford made?

And when I say cramming, I probably mean squeezing every last drop into my capacious gastrointestinal wine canal.

This wine is not like the German Rieslings I have tasted recently.  Quite dry and a touch of sherbet in the taste with possibly some peach and grapefruit.  Zingy and refreshing.  Hints of a NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Whisper it in case the purists hear.  I find Aussie Rieslings rather good, and generally better priced than the statuesque Germans that have so far been cleansed by my kidneys.

I got this one from Virgin Wines at £7.07.

Not a shocker, Ashoka West End, Glasgow

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

You can take your Japanese/Mediterranean mashups and your Inca/Aboriginal combos and throw them into the duodenal waste bin.  I’ve just discovered the ultimate fusion cuisine dish.

Haggis Pakora.

It’s Auld Lang Syne meets Shah Jehan.  Rabbie Burns meet Mother Theresa.  The Gorbals meets the Taj Mahal.  A proper clash of cultures.


Trattoria Verdi, Southampton Row

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

On my new iPhone I have downloaded an application called AroundMe. It is totally brilliant.  Staying at the Grange, Holborn in London, I simply select Restaurants and AroundMe finds all the local ones, literally within a few hundred yards.  I can then locate my favoured choice on a map and ask for directions, shortcut to its website or quicklink through to dial its telephone number.

I was intrigued by Trattoria Verdi because it was founded in 1964, the year of my birth.  No resto lasts that long unless it has some loyal custos.  The waitresses however, were probably born thirty years later and wore the slightly supercilious, bemused, and yet knowing smile of the receptionist that served Alan Partridge at the Norwich Travel Tavern.


Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 1998 Rousseau

Monday, December 15th, 2008

The papers here in the UK seem to be turning against Mark Hughes, embattled manager of my beloved Manchester City.  His honeymoon period as “the most promising young English football manager” is over with a lunar bump that lacks any sweetness.

The Sunday Times for example alerts Hughes to the fact he is “skating on thin ice”.  The latest defeat at home by an injury depleted Everton squad has once again placed the media spotlight on him.  After all, a mentally anguished Roy Keane recently fell on his sword at Sunderland because they were languishing in the under-achieving position of bottom quarter of the table – equal on points with Man City.

It gives me only bitterness to gloat that I thought Hughes the wrong choice way back in June (before he had even been appointed).  But like all good Man City fans, I keep sailing the dinghy of naive optimism through the rough and tough waters of the Premiership perfect storm of despair.  One has to make the best of now, look to the future, place the past in perspective, believe that tomorrow will be another day (if it ever comes).  However, silver linings are increasingly less related to football, and more to do with other facets of my life.  My latest glint of sunlight peeped from behind the clouds of the top end of my wine collection, ironically squirrelled away at the bottom of my wine store.

The Charmes-Chambertin came from the Wine Society at an obscure price due to bundling a few Rousseaux together into a Burgundy Dividend offering, but I am advised the retail price (if you can find the wine at all) is about GBP50 – that’s nearly EUR50, or USD25 at current exchange rates, so it is held under lock and key in the Wino household.


Château Godard Bellevue 2005

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

I have long argued that a rising tide floats all boats, but I forgot about the leaky ones which sink paying no regard to ebb or flow.

2005 was the tsunami of tidal years in Bordeaux and almost every wine I have tasted from that year has been superb.  So I was looking forward to receiving a case of Côtes de Bordeaux from the Wine Society which promised a tour of some less well known communes.

My first sample, Château Godard Bellevue 2005 Côtes de Francs, stood up to the “unknown” moniker.