2004 Domaine Giraud Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Friday, December 5th, 2008

There’s something uniquely British about November 5th.  Celebrating a failed attempt to blow up one’s house of parliament is a tad eccentric.  Doing so by trying to burn down our own houses and gardens is plain odd, but admittedly good fun.

Our house looks over a valley, so there is never any need to buy fireworks.  I merely park a deck chair on my balcony, sport a warm coat and enjoy them at my neighbours’ expense.

You are probably expecting me to construct a treasonable plot that this Châteauneuf-du-Pape smelt of gunpowder.

Even I am not that cheesy.  There was an explosion on the tongue though.  Red apples, liquorice, milk chocolate and vanilla.  Luscious, opulent, smooth, delicious.  Probably the best wine I have tasted from Virgin although, at £18.49, certainly not their cheapest.

Apparently, living on the side of a valley puts one in a time warp amongst other things, since today we celebrate the one month anniversary of November 5th – sorry this one was a bit late.

Wanna get naked?

Monday, November 17th, 2008

I just found out what Rowan Gormley (formerly of Virgin Wines) is up to these days.  He is getting naked – well in a wine sort of way.  It’s a new concept in wine retailing, although knowing Rowan, he would hate to see it described so stuffily and, after all, everybody hates “new concepts”.

This new concept could be yet another Wine 2.0 also ran – it is claimed to be a bit like LastFM where you can recommend and follow other people’s recommendations, except unlike LastFM I think you might be expected to actually buy some wine.  On the other hand maybe there is something new here – let’s wait and see.

Anyway, there is definitely one good side to it.  They are looking for 100 wine tasters to receive three bottles FREE OF CHARGE, simply in return for bringing your opinion back prior to launch.

As you might expect, being a thirsty (and gobby) git, I have signed up, so if you want one of the remaining 99 places head over to www.nakedwines.com

Cave de Turckheim Riesling Vielles Vignes 2005

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

It has taken me a bit longer than I expected to start my exploration and learning of the noble Riesling grape.  You may remember my world tour of Pinot Noirs resulted in me comparing the grape to Brigitte Bardot: beguiling, sexy, temperamental, bonkers.

I have not yet drawn a metaphor for Riesling so I better get my tasting boots on and march over to Analogy Square to see whose flagpole is at full mast.  This bottle came from Virgin Wines at the noble price of £9.99.

Cave of Turks...for some reason


Veranda Reserve Pinot Noir 2007

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

I’ve been on a crusade recently, to try to persuade the public that white wine is almost always served too cold, whilst red wine is almost always too warm.  I have appealed to restaurateurs and bar owners to join my Wine At Right Temperature (WART) campaign, but every single one has responded that they are merely reflecting public demand and, in any case, displaying my helpful acronym in the window of their premises is hardly likely to invite custom.

This is a bit like saying that the media is a reflection of society, when most sane people admit that it plays a leading role in many circumstances, and as a minimum is quick to jump on any bandwagon as soon as it looks like there is any public support.  Take the current credit crunch.  The media, including respected sources like the BBC, are constantly talking the economy into a recession.  Soon enough, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Veranda....and a bottle of wine for some reason


Landelia Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

What happened to global warming?  I write this on Sunday morning in Manchester, and it’s another rainy July day.  We’ve just had the coldest June since 1999, but we are still smiling.  Dunkirk spirit eh?

Although it is cold and wet, I sense that we have had much less rain than last year’s “summer”, the one that kept every reservoir in Britain at mid winter levels, and hosepipe bans a fond memory of childhood days.

We Brits are famous for talking about the weather too much, but our islands are prone to such regular and rapid changes, that it actually makes interesting conversation.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
The sun has got his hat on, shout hip, hip, hooray!

Literary references all, proving my case that weather is interesting because of its variety and inherently unexpected nature.  In that sense perhaps it is a lot like wine, another subject I talk about too much.

I was so impressed by Landelia Malbec that it is still recommended on my favourites page.  Recently, I went back to the Virgin website to top up my stocks but the cupboard was bare.  However, my search threw up another wine by Landelia, this one a Cab Sauv from 2005.

More overgrown evergreens?


An apple and a lemon from Virgin

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Have you heard that large consumer services organisations (banks, telcos, utilities etc) classify and rank their customers into odd categories, like fruits, to determine their profitability?  A prime juicy customer might be an orange or an apple or a mango.  A customer clinging to the organisation like a piece of wet toilet tissue is invariably a lemon and is regularly encouraged to leave for a competitor, although a customer in this state is unlikely to be intelligent enough to take the hint.

I tried two wines from Virgin and I want to see how it works in the other direction.  The prime juicy apple in this case was the excellent Stone House Barossa Valley 2005 and the lemon, a Monastrell Albacea 2006.

An apple and a lemon...and some fruit


Seraph Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Regular readers know that I sampled the Auction service at Virgin Wines with mixed results.  I discovered recently that they have started auctioning Cloudy Bay 2007.  Fabulous idea!  Everyone knows the price of Cloudy Bay.  Although Harvey Nichols sells it every year for about £16-18, other retailers struggle to keep it below £20.  The Sunday Times Wine Club sells it at a rip-off £26.95!  Virgin Wines?  You can start bidding at £1 for 6 bottles!

So I raced to the site and discovered with disappointment that, with 18 hours still to go, the bidding was already at £131 for a half case (£21.83 per bottle).  It only took me 1 minute on Google to find it at £18.99 at lebonvin.co.uk.  I am not saying that £131 for 6 is bad value, though.  It just pays to keep an eye on availability elsewhere if you value your coins.  Well worth visiting Virgin and placing a bid of £50 or so, just in case! I am going to keep going back for a look.

Anyway, the cricket saison est arrivé, and tomorrow I managed to get a ticket (sold out) for England vs New Zealand at Old Trafford (Manchester).  I know what you are thinking, how on earth is he going to tie all this nonsense back into a post about a wine from Touraine?  Listen carefully, I am about to begin…..

Seraph - Ghostly or ghastly?


Colibri Torrontes 2007 Famatina Valley

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

My first experience of buying from the Virgin Wines auction site left me with a case of total tosh to distribute discretely amongst my sorry mates.

But I bravely (some would say foolishly) tried again and this time things look more promising.  This one came from a case of All White Delights and I successfully bid less than £50 including delivery!

Colibri - diversified from cigarette lighters into wine….for some reason

I am a fan of Argie wines – Malbec and Torrontés are my favourites.  The Colibri was typical of other Torrontés I have tried with lime, kiwi and rich apricot flavours.  Simple and unpretentious, I like it.

The insipid colour was paler than an albino’s bikini line, but it is a lively, zingy and decent (but cheaper) alternative to Sauvignon Blancs.  It ticks all the boxes for me.

Auction shows me up as a virgin

Monday, May 12th, 2008

If you were thinking of inviting me to a party in the near future, you might want to think again.

I’ve been experimenting with Virgin Wines and, having built up a bit of a credit in my Virgin Wine Bank, I thought it would be fun to try and spend some of my ill-gotten gains on the auction part of the site.  In concept, it’s brilliant, but as with all auctions, caveat emptor applies, in other words, make sure you know what you are buying…..

In a head-rush, I read about the Marqués de Valencia Gran Reserva 2001 and thought it looked a nice Rioja.  Voted wine of the year 2007 by Virgin members, the retail price was advised as £95.88 per case.  For a Gran Reserva this seemed cheap so I quickly placed a bid of about £65 and an hour later had won the case for less than £50.  That’s cheap for any wine.  When it arrived I understood why.

On opening it smelt a bit odd.  Where is the familiar vanilla/oak?  Why does it taste of petrol?

Marqués de vile emptier


Cross my palm with Pensilva…

Monday, April 28th, 2008

I am quietly pleased that I have finally managed to get this weblog onto a new platform, a new ISP and new publishing software.  I am still using the excellent WordPress, but have upgraded to version 2.5.1.  My previous version (2.1) was error prone and insecure – spam was starting to appear in my scheduled posts!  I strongly recommend anyone using WordPress to upgrade.

The new WordPress platform is pretty good, but it is much less intuitive than I expected.  Loading and managing pictures for example, is in theory much easier, but in practice I think there are still a few bugs that need ironing out.  I can also see that many of the new improvements have been aimed at non-technical users like me.  However, as with all open source software, it is ultimately designed by techies who don’t quite understand how us Muggles think.

As with all software upgrades in my experience, the problems arise in the database conversion.  This is something to watch out for if you are moving up several WordPress versions in one go, like I did.  I had numerous problems that a friend with some SQL knowledge kindly sorted, in exchange for a couple of bottles from my inner cellar.

Can you hit the mark?

To celebrate my new platform I am drinking an unoaked Chardonnay from Virgin Wines.  Pensilva Estate The Cross 2006 Coonawarra Chardonnay is not what I expected.  Does it hit the bulls eye or should it merely be hung out on a crucifix to die?