Monday, 24 May 2010

Organic wine from Domaine de Cristia

Domaine de Cristia has gone entirely organic - almost!

There are some new vineyards which are "in conversion" (it takes three years of bureaucracy to gain Ecocert status) including the plot of old-vine Grenache that goes into the incredible Vieilles Vignes Grenache, a vin de pays, that would put many Chateauneufs to shame. This wine was first produced in 2009 from 60-year-old vines so, when I tasted it only four days after the bottling, the grapes had only been off the vine for around six months. Quite incredible.

There are two other notable exceptions to the organic range from Cristia: the Cristia Collection range of negociant wines which are adequate but not in the same league as the estate wines and, more lamentably, the red Chateauneuf itself. The failure of this wine to be classed as organic is purely down to bureaucracy: when Dominique and Baptiste applied to Ecocert, they had to provide all the plot numbers they wished to convert to organic status. They asked their dad to help identify all the relevant plots and, by oversight, the Mourvedre in their Chateauneuf vineyards was omitted. This means that any CDP wine containing Mourvedre cannot - yet - be Ecocert (indeed, official conversion for this started only when they realised this early in 2009) so the 2008 is not organic. 2009, however, will be as all the Mourvedre will go into the "Renaissance" wine. The 2009 Vieilles Vignes (CDP) will also be organic. 2010 and 2011 may revert back to non-organic, of course, depending on whether or not there are multiple cuvees. Confused?

One estate wine that is Ecocert is the VDP Grenache (not the same cuvee as the Vieilles Vignes VDP Grenache - now, come on, you must admit this is confusing: the only way to work it out properly is to buy a mixed case and see which bottles go where in the jigsaw!) which I will be opening this evening. When last tasted, the fruit was surprisingly deep for such a nominally simple wine. The only downside was that, three days after bottling, there was still quite a lot of residual carbon dioxide from the bottling. Fingers crossed that has gone now!

Usseglio mini-vertical

Having tried the 2005 Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Raymond Usseglio with the Canterbury Wine Tasting Society recently, I wanted to have a proper taste so opened a bottle on Sunday night. It seemed much less evolved than the Canterbury bottle - the only explanation I could think of was that, whereas the Canterbury bottle came from stock, this was one Stef gave me when I visited him at the domaine a few years ago. A different batch, perhaps?

As a comparison, I nervously opened the 2006 last night - if the 2005 was a little too youthful, how would the 2006 come across? Nothing to worry about: this was Usseglio at its most glorious best. Looking back at my notes for the 2006 on the website, they still ring true:

"One of the most impressive young wines I have ever tasted, Stéphane showed this to me alongside his superb 2005. It is even better! The depth and purity of fruit is incredible. The wine is very concentrated with a nose that draws you in for more. Tasted alongside the very good 2005, the 2006 shone out. Probably the best standard wine produced at this estate – and one of the very best wines of the vintage."

I couldn't put it any better now after another two years!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Beaucastel 1997 - my last bottle

Jill has a ridiculous idea that we should refrain from wine this week - she clearly has not thought this out properly (the London Wine Trade Fair is this week!) - so something special is required: in this case my last '97 Beaucastel. This was prompted in part by several comments about the current "difficult" phase of the 1998.

Brick red tones and fading a little towards the rim. The nose is surprisingly fresh though although secondary fruit is emerging, quite earthy with plenty of spice. Drinking well now but I really don't think there's any hurry to finish this one.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Election 2010: what has our world come to?

So, after nearly a week of blissful limbo, we have a government, the first Conservative lead one for thirteen years and the first coalition since the second World War. Gladstone must be turning in his grave.

Without wishing to be partisan, I have some serious misgivings about this coalition. There are some very obvious problems with the new power-sharing agreement:

First, the provision for the LibDems to abstain on budget - and some other - resolutions leaves the Tories with 308 out of 593 voting MPs (ie. 650 less the Libs), a majority of 23.

Second, the 55% of MPs required to dissolve Parliament before the end of the proposed five year fixed term requires 358 to vote for it but there are only 342 non-Tories, 16 short of the 55% needed.

Just a couple of examples of a mathematical stitch-up.

So, if the LibDems abstain from voting on something they disagree with, the Tories still get their way. This smacks of un-democracy. I gather this also applies to all things nuclear. This means the LibDems can stand up and say "we didn't vote for it" but, really, they will have done just that since, without their votes against, the opposition cannot win and, similarly, with their abstention, the Government cannot lose. Something wrong here.

On the second point, the LibDems cannot, if they fall out of bed with the Tories, help to bring down an unelected Government (and, for all Hague's nonsense about Brown being unelected, what exactly is Cameron's majority again?) even with a combined 53% of MPs. It has always been a simple majority and should stay that way. The other side of the coin, of course, is that the Tories cannot simply resign when the going gets tough but, somehow, I doubt they would do that anyway.

Elsewhere, I wonder why Clegg has gone for the prestige of DPM rather than having a portfolio and being able to make a real difference. He may say he has more influence this way but the first time he and Cameron disagree, well, no prizes for guessing who is going to get his way.
Similarly, Vince Cable ("InVinceCable": almost a super-hero but not quite) may be nominally in charge of banking reform but does anyone seriously think Osborne is going to let him do anything that might upset the Tory paymasters? OK, so the LibDems have Scotland but only because the Scots have roundly rejected the Tories who therefore want as little to do with them as possible.

It is very disappointing that we were promised a new kind of government yet, when you read the text and, no doubt, listen to what the players themselves will have to say over the coming days and weeks, what we have is a minority Conservative government which has successfully pulled the wool over the eyes of the LibDem leaders to give them exactly what they - and only just over a third of those electors who chose to vote  (or about 22% of the elctorate) - want.

This is in no way democracy.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Cahors 2009: how en primeur should be done

What is EP all about? One of two things: buying wines which will be sold out if you don't get in early OR buying wines at prices which will only head skywards once in the bottle.

Last year was Rhone 2007's turn: plenty of excellent wines to choose from but buyers went for the limited production cuvees from CDP, Gigondas etc and left the "Tradition" wines alone in the main. Why? Simply because they thought - rightly - these wines would still be available when they are ready to drink. Prices will increase a little to take account of storage charges but, otherwise, they will still be around.

So, with 2009 Bordeaux etc now on the market, what should we be buying? If you have the budget for first growths, my guess is you are not reading this. If you are a mere mortal, however, I would look for the bargains which are few and far between in Bordeaux these days.

This is why I was so excited when I received an email from Pascal Verhaeghe of Chateau du Cedre in Cahors offering his top wines and that of Chateau Haut-Monplaisir en primeur. For once, great wines are offered at bargain prices. I am stocking up for myself. The rest of you can form an orderly queue!