Wednesday, 5 February 2014

MDG and CDP in Decanter

Some good reviews in this month's Decanter, starting with Steven Spurrier's reflections on Mas de Daumas Gassac's current release, the 2011:

'An elegant concentration produced from 75% Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 1973 blended with 15 other grapes. Midi warmth softens the Cabernet austerity to give vigorous individuality. A brilliant wine.'

I rather like that last sentence, I must admit. However, I slightly disagree with Steven over the wine's drinking dates: he suggests it can be broached this year which is, of course, true but, as with all vintages of this wine, it will be so much improved with time. I wouldn't touch it until 2018 at least. I also note that he cites the price as £30; I must be undercharging!

A few pages on in the same issue sees a review of the 2011 vintage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. After 2010, this was never going to wow anyone but there are some superb wines nonetheless. It is a shame that none of Raymond Usseglio's wines were tasted as I suspect they would have done rather well in this tasting, especially the Mourvedre-rich Part des Anges. Beaucastel was also missing too, perhaps unsurprisingly, rather like you don't often see Latour in a round-up of left bank Bordeaux.

A very respectable 17/20 was awarded by John Livingstone-Learmonth, the UK's leading expert on Rhone wines, to Domaine de Cristia's wine - 'Ripe berry and plum nose with sweet meat, liquorice and spiced new oak. Palate shows red fruit with a fine-tuned pickup of tannin. Garrigue finish.' - and also to Christophe Coste's Chateau Capucine - 'Attractive, fragrant garrigue notes with savoury, toasty oak. A good heart of richness with thyme and flint. Garrigue touches along the late stages.'

I confess I haven't even tasted this last wine yet. Christophe hasn't put any of the Capucine wines in front of me since the debut 2009 vintage. This was one of the wines I showed at Trinity last month then had to vacuvin after the tasting because I was just starting the Dryathlon. I expected it would have fallen apart by now but when I pulled the stopper off, it was as fresh as it had been three weeks earlier. I should probably reassess my views on vacuvin as a means of preserving wine. The 2009 was a superb debut but, for me at least, still needs a couple of years to develop some secondary characters.


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Wine Advocate success for Domaine des Anges


'The Porker has grunted' was the headline of an email received today from Domaine des Anges boss, Gay McGuinness. Perhaps the citation in Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate will be short-lived for DDA given this but the reviews are well merited and, frankly, long overdue. I know Ciaran spent many hours in frustration that, without a reputable American importer, it was seemingly impossible to get the team at the wine world's most influential publication to look at his wines. Now, fate has played a cruel hand: just as Ciaran has moved on to vineyards new, Parker has handed over the tasting of Rhone wines to Jeb Dunnock who has reviewed the current crop of 2011s from what must rank as the Ventoux' highest vineyard.


First, though, the 2012 Ventoux Blanc, a perennial favourite for its easy fruit and crisp structure. This was awarded 87 points which is really quite remarkable for a Ventoux Blanc:


'Offering up notions of mulled pears, citrus rind and subtle minerality, the 2012 Ventoux Blanc (Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Bourboulenc) is a medium-bodied, clean and nicely balanced white to drink over the coming year or so.' BUY THIS WINE

I have only tasted the 2011 Ventoux red but this wine received a rather good write up, especially considering its lowly price tag. A very respectable 88 points accompanies the following words:


'A serious value, the 2011 Ventoux is a blend of equal parts Grenache and Syrah that was aged in a combination of stainless steel and concrete tank. Exhibiting plenty of spice, ground pepper, old leather and both red and black fruits on the nose, it flows onto the palate with loads of fruit and texture, no hard edges and excellent purity of fruit. Enjoy this balanced, delicious and character filled red over the coming 3-4 years.' BUY THIS WINE

The two prestige reds, L'Archange and Seraphin both received even better ratings (90 points apiece) so I am looking forward to sampling these on my next visit.


L'Archange: 'A step up (and more expensive), the 2011 Ventoux Archange is a beauty! Offering up gorgeous blackberry, currants, smoked meats and scorched earth like aromas and flavors, this expressive, pure and fruit loaded effort has a touch of modern flair, yet has loads of character and soul.'


Seraphin: 'Along the same lines, the 2011 Ventoux Seraphin is a classic, textbook Ventoux that offers massive spice, pine bough, cracked pepper and underbrush that’s ground by a core of sweet fruit. Medium to full-bodied, supple and beautifully textured, it finishes with chewy, savory tannin. I’m a fan, and it too should dish out loads of pleasure.'


Well done guys - about bloody time!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Dryathlon - complete

Time to celebrate (well, perhaps not at 7.30 in the morning) as I have completed 31 consecutive days without a drop. I don't see that happening again for a while! However, a huge thanks to everyone who has supported me in this - so far we have raised just under £1100 and there is more to come in (if promises are kept - I know who you are!!!).

Off to London now then back home to pull some corks.

My Just Giving page

Wine - again, at last!

My first wine-related post in a month! It feels like a very long time but, having lasted 31 days without a drop, I can start thinking about it again. The trouble is, I can't decide what to have tomorrow. I have already made the beef stew and extracted three bottles from my stash, all potentially superb in their very different ways. I don't want to be partisan in any way so none of these comes from stock!

First, a 2004 Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Pegau, one of the estates I really rate that I don't work with. Their pricing has gone a bit wild lately - I used to buy these wines when the exchange rate was 1.6€/£ and the bottle price was 25€ (does this make me sound old?) whereas the 2010 was on 'offer' for around 40€ - but it is classic, old school Chateauneuf. Usseglio's Imperiale is a bit like this in some vintages - or used to be before Stef modernised the style.

I took delivery of a case of 2010 Aloxe-Corton during the month from Domaine Croix. A bit young but it promises great things, I am told. Also, a  case of 2004 Barolo from Ciabot Berton. A great vintage but the wine is from Roggeri, the lieu-dit that produces the most tannic wines in La Morra, if not all of Barolo. Perhaps I should hold this one back to have with a rare steak sometime soon. Or not. Decisions, decisions...


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dryathlon - almost completed

Just three nights to go and nearly £850 raised so far for Cancer Research. That's before the promised donations if I make it (I know who you are so get your credit cards ready!) which should take it over £1000. This is quite incredible so thank you to everyone who has made a donation already and, if you haven't, please think about this as it is for a really great cause. It is a horrible fact that virtually everyone knows someone who has been - or will be - affected by this most horrible of illnesses so, please, stump up now!

For my part, the last few days have been trickier than earlier ones simply because the project is nearing completion. The chicken stew a couple of nights ago would have been improved by a glass or two of Coudoulet de Beaucastel Blanc, for example, and tonight's pizza will be crying out for some Negroamaro or Barbera d'Asti (or Alba - I'm not fussy just now).

Friday is Chinese New Year and, by coincidence, I will be celebrating the end of my dry month with some friends, one of whom is also looking forward to Saturday, by enjoying a meal at Wok'n'Rock, a new restaurant in Lakenheath which has the good taste to buy its wines from BRW. So, given that I generally drink beer with oriental foods and, frankly, my life won't be improved by a bottle or two of Tsing Tsao, that just leaves two evenings before Saturday.

So, what about Saturday? I can almost taste the Boeuf Bourguignon already but the choice of wines is too great. Classically it should be Burgundy, of course, and I do have a couple of Pinots I would like to sample. However, a Southern Rhone red would work just as well - a mature Chateauneuf, for example (I have been contemplating Raymond Usseglio's 2004 since it was discussed at the Trinity tasting on 7th) - or, indeed, a good Piedmontese Nebbiolo. Too many choices. Perhaps I should start a sweepstake on which wine it will be - that should be good for a few more quid in the Dryathlon pot!

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Friday, 24 January 2014

Dryathlon - just a week to go

OK, so there are eight more evenings but I have come this far so I don't expect to fail now.

I do have a question for any scientifically minded readers: why, if I have never suffered a hangover in my life, am I now, after over three weeks of abstinence, waking up with headaches. Is my body finally waking up to the fact that something is different? Perhaps, if I kept this going another month, I would actually lose a couple of pounds. Hmmm. No, I don't think I need to test that possibility.

Another tasting this morning whilst I stood by and sniffed. This time a local (very good) restaurant which will remain nameless until they either buy some wines (in which case it is clearly the best and most discerning restaurant in the are) or not (in which case, well, all being well I won't need to go there). A selection of Italians was sampled with the reds very well received, especially the Dolcetto and Barbaresco from Nada Giuseppe, the Barbera 'San Lorenzo' from Cascina Saria, the 2007 Barolo from Serradenari and two of the wines from Puglia: Leccisi's Salento and the '1952' Brindisi Riserva from Sampietrana. They were all a delight to smell; another week and I will delight in tasting them.

Several friends who started out on this dry binge have succumbed so I am in the very happy position of being able to smile smugly - or, at least, I will be when they start reappearing on 1st February!

Thanks, as always, to everyone who has supported this monumental effort and, to anyone who hasn't but has a couple of quid to spare, you really couldn't donate it to a better cause.

My Just Giving page

Monday, 20 January 2014

Dryathlon - just one weekend to go

I know I am getting ahead of myself and the weekends are no more difficult than the weeks but, having already come this far, I think I can start relaxing a little. It is not yet time to begin thinking about what the first wine will be on February 1st (as if I haven't already been there!) and there have been a few tricky moments recently - such as last Friday when, after a late sandwich for lunch, no dinner had been put together so the children ended up with a rather odd combination of Italian-nuanced chicken with chow mein which, frankly, held little appeal for me. Ordinarily I would have headed for the nearest block of parmesan and a bottle of Nebbiolo of some description but this was not an option so I patiently waited until it was too late to give in before confessing my desires. I discovered I was not alone! At least, with teeth brushed, turning back was sufficiently difficult and, I am pleased to report, we did not succumb.

Whilst many people are still holding onto their pennies in the belief that I will fail to make it to the end (a week on Friday! The light is now becoming visible), others seem to hold the opposite view: that I have said I will do this so, of course, I will. I suppose they are right (and, certainly, that remains the intention) but that doesn't make it any easier. It is a subject that, because some find it comical, is often raised which makes it no less frustrating. Actually, that is probably a better word. This is not proving remotely difficult but frustrating, annoying, tedious? Yes.

On top of all this, a couple of social engagements. Fridays are now out as we have to leave for London on Saturday mornings whilst it is still dark but on Saturday we, somewhat tired after our early morning, went out for an evening of sitting stunned and sober whilst everyone else was jolly and oiled with as much (or as little) wine as they wanted. Sunday lunch was, perhaps, worse as I had made a venison pot roast which, frankly, screamed out for a Chateauneuf-du-Pape circa 2000-2004. The lunch guests all got a glass or two, of course. How cruel is January?

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