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2013 Burgundy: Joblot and Lienhardt, first taste from the bottle

First impression: they used not only the same label designer but the same design. It doesn't matter, of course. Actually it lends a certain elegance to the set of eight bottles I have lined up in front of me.

Second observation: every wine is just 13% ABV. OK, so that's neither high nor low for Burgundy but still very welcome these days.

Now the wines: in what order? The Givrys first or the Cotes de Nuits wines? I think that's probably right so, starting with Domaine Joblot, I will try them in this order: Pied au Chaume, Cellier aux Moines, Clos de la Servoisine. Then, Antoine Lienhardt's Essards, Plantes au Bois, Vignottes and, finally, the NSG Charmois.

It's going to be a long night!



Domaine Joblot, Givry 2013 Pied de Chaume 
The entry-level wine from Jean-Marc Joblot and his daughter, Juliette, is light and bright on the (youthful) nose. The palate is more expressive with sweet red fruits. Fairly approachable now, it will be better in another year or two (but that…

Fabulous Fabrizio

In this month's Decanter, an expert's choice of wines from Piemonte includes Fabrizio Battaglino's 2011 Roero Sergentin:

"Smooth and juicy. Hints of oaky spices and vanilla complement rich and cherry, tarry tannins and fresh herbal nuances. A serious wine that's still young." 90/100 (Ian d'Agata, Decanter) The only issue I would take is that I have enjoyed a few bottles of this already so what does that say about me?

Since the review came out, I have undertaken a thorough review of my own, tasting the three vintages of Fabrizio's Roero Sergentin I have in stock. For me, this is a wine that has got better with every passing vintage: the 2011 is young but approachable and has all the hallmarks of a fine Nebbiolo. More in tune with Barolo than earlier vintages with some oak in support but the lovely Nebbiolo fruit dominant. Moderately tannic, this will be better still in another couple of years or so.

The 2010 is an altogether different wine with a ful…

New discoveries in Burgundy

We are just back from our summer holidays during which we worked tirelessly to find exciting new wines to bring across the channel to the discerning UK consumer. Something like that, anyway.

Actually, we left with no plans to buy any more wine than was strictly necessary for the time we were away but, inevitably, things didn't quite work out that way. On day one of our trip, I received an email from a young Burgundian grower that pricked up my ears and, given that we were in the region, just half an hour away from his home in Santenay, I felt obliged to pop along to meet him.

I arranged to meet with Justin Girardin, winemaker (and everything else) of Domaine Jacques Girardin. Jacques' brother is the renowned Vincent (who retired a couple of years ago although his eponymous enterprise lives on with much the same team in place as before).

Jacques started the estate with just 3ha but this has risen to 17ha of vines which are organically cultivated if not actually certified as suc…

The Italians have arrived

It's always a wonderful thing to open cases from the new vintages of any wine so when twenty of so different new wines arrive together it's rather like being a kid with a key to the candy store. Actually, this surprises me as I always rebuff any notion that the pleasure in wine has anything to do with anything other than what is inside the bottle yet I  seem to be saying that the aesthetics of the packaging, and in particular the label, brings something to the table.

Yes, I was interested to see that the 2010 Broccardo is in a sloping 'Burgundy' bottle in contrast to the square-shouldered 'Bordeaux' bottle of the 2009 vintage and I noted the new look label which I admired for its more traditional look than the more modernist 2009 but what of it? I know the real enjoyment will come when, all too prematurely, literally, I crack open the first bottle for my first tasting of this magnificent vintage since I was at the winery back in April. 

One of the other wonderful…

Sacrilege

What a great name for a wine! The back story is a little tricky to tell but only because of archaic French wine laws which designate this a mere vin de France The problem is that this is a blend of the two main grapes from the region where Xavier Vignon is based (I don't know if I am allowed to give any more detail than this!), one of which is allowed to declassify the wines from the prestigious AOC to the generic, regional one, the other of which isn't.

Confused? OK, I will delve into the hypothetical. Let's say the region is the Rhone Valley in France and the two grapes are Syrah (the king of the north) and Grenache (the powerhouse of the south). In the north, there are appellations such as Cote Rotie and Hermitage which produce, most would agree, the world's greatest Syrah wines but if, for any reason, a producer wishes to declassify the wine, he can release it as a mere Cotes du Rhone.

In the south, this is possible in appellations such as Gigondas but not, for som…

TN: Joblot 2011 Clos du Cellier aux Moines

Did the monks have this in mind when they walled this vineyard? Presumably so; why wouldn't they want a fabulous wine like this? After all, they had a pretty good life compared with many at that time. What is fascinating is how different this cuvee is to others in the range, all from the same Pinot clones, of similar age, and all from Givry vineyards.

This wine is more Chambolle than Gevrey but actually it's a Givry so a fraction of the price of either. Its intense red fruits with violet combine in a palate that's oh so smooth and delicate but not without substance. What a mass of wonderful contradictions! Hints of underbrush and more to come but, for now, there is a silkiness coating my mouth and some perky acidity dripping from the sides of my tongue that makes me want to come back for more.

I have been tasting a lot of Burgundies recently at all price points and there are many over-extracted disasters or weedy wines out there, even now. Not this one though. And it's 2…

Mid-June update - where have I been?

First of all, a huge apology to anyone who bothers to check in from time to time. My long silence was caused by a family matter which has distracted me somewhat. Anyway, enough of that. What have I been up to wine-wise?

Easter saw my annual trip to the Rhone and Piedmont, now firmly part of the routine. The Rhone was all about the 2012 vintage which is an extremely attractive and quite user-friendly year with wines offering attractive fruit that is a joy to let pass one's lips. More about this here.

Italy provided a much needed break but it was still very busy and, at times, hard work. We arrived on the Saturday evening at our accommodation and had clearly been forgotten. After going out for a simple dinner, we managed to get into the apartment we had arranged, overlooking the valley towards Alba and hilltop villages including Barbaresco in the distance. The following day had us back in the car again to meet with the Ghio family who have spent the last decade or so planting and pr…

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…

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, t…

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…

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…

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 Sari…

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 penn…

Dryathlon - the half-way point

At noon today, I will reach the tipping point. 372 out of 744 hours of abstinence. Inevitably I have been teased by friends and family who think their comments oh so clever and witty (do I sound bitter?) but, as stated already, the only problem I have had is that I miss my glass(es) of wine. I enjoy them; it really is that simple (have I laboured this point enough?).

One new discovery though: the old joke that is you don't drink/smoke/have sex you don't live longer, it just feels like it is true! (Well, I can vouch for the not drinking bit.) So, thanks to Dryathlon, I have become a time lord: the clocks in my house have ticked more slowly in January 2014 than ever before. Move over, Doctor!

My Just Giving page

Dryathlon - two weeks in

It's two weeks since I had a glass of wine! Unprecedented. Sorry, I should start again...

My name is James Bercovici and it's two weeks since I had a drink. There, that sounds more like a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous or the Catholic Confessional. AA and CC. In between lies BB: bloody boring without a drink!

As previously reported, I have no physical problems with not drinking and, actually, no psychological ones either, it's just an enjoyment thing. And as for the Catholic bit, I don't think there is enough space on the internet for me to get started. So, I'll stick with bloody boring.

What has been interesting is the search for meals that positively discriminate against wine. Tonight, a simple choice: hamburgers.

My Just Giving page

Dryathlon - two weekends completed

Whilst I have always enjoyed wine mid-week, the weekends are traditionally trickier although not necessarily around here since our middle son won a place on the Royal Ballet School's Junior Associates programme and has to be ferried to London every Saturday morning, thereby rendering Saturdays extremely tiring and socialising out of the (car) window. However, two of the four weekends of my dry month are now out of the way and still my only regrets about doing this are my enjoyment of a glass or several once the children are upstairs.

However, there are a couple of down sides to all of this that I had not expected. Whereas I had hoped to shed a few pounds, the hole in my diet caused by all of this seems to be replaced by puddings. Worse still, I am sleeping so heavily now that I am waking up with aches all down the side of my body. Nobody told me about the perils of a good night's sleep!

My Just Giving page

Dryathlon - 25% through (almost)

Yesterday presented the most difficult obstacle so far: a wine tasting at Trinity College. As previously reported, I took a generous dozen (actually 14 bottles) along for a tasting with the wine committee starting with three whites from Piedmont (Nada Giuseppe) and the Rhone (Brusset and Usseglio). This last wine was, frustrating, slightly corked although I was only able to discern this from its slightly muted nose (I am not tasting wines in case some accidentally slips down!) but the Nada was especially impressive today. I invited the panel to re-taste it after the subsequent Nebbiolo wines and it showed even better apparently.

The reds started with a Burgundy (Joblot), then Piedmont (Nada again, then Battaglino and Serradenari) all of which were distinctive and alluring. The Battaglino had a very different aroma - more punchy - on first sniff but later on had more in common with the exotic Barbaresco and Barolo wines. I was pleased to find the Serradenari so well received - it's…

Dryathlon - one week in, only three and a half to go!

I suppose I am learning something about myself with all of this non-drinking: I take it all too much for granted. Of course, there is always a glass to be had and has been since I first got the bug and started bringing back cases rather than just bottles from holidays but that doesn't mean I have to drink it all up. Actually, there are some bottles in my collection which would benefit from extended ageing; I can't remember the last time I had a bottle of anything over 15 years old (aged Rivesaltes excepted). Indeed, looking through my cellar list, I have few bottles that would qualify for this age bracket. Some of the oldest bottles are some Loire reds which, frankly, have only survived because I have little interest in them. Maybe I just need to fall out of love with Burgundy for a few years!

My Just Giving page

Dryathlon - this is almost too easy

Apart from the obvious - I rather like wine and would prefer to be able to enjoy a glass here and there - I have not had any problems with not drinking over the last 134.5 hours. That said, I was given strict instructions last night not to mention the W word between 6pm and 8pm. This is, apparently, the critical period when a glass before dinner, whilst the children are otherwise engaged, or with the food itself, are, well, just expected. Still, only a little over 600 hours left!

The big hurdle comes tomorrow when I will be presenting wines to the wine committee of Trinity College. No tasting for me, I fear, lest I should be tempted. Anyone who has already donated or has promised to do so once I complete this task can rest assured that present at the tasting will be someone who will be happy to report back my success or otherwise.
The wines for tomorrow are:
White wines 1.      LANGHE BIANCO Nada Giuseppe 'Armonia' 2012                                                         50% A…

Dryathlon - day 3

Not that I am counting, of course. However, I do have one question about all of this: why is it that, as soon as I start something like this, lunch and dinner invitations start flowing? It's either sod's law or (more likely) that people reckon they will get away with popping fewer corks if we are off the sauce. Lunch today with cousins from overseas, dinner this evening (with vegetarian friends so there really is nothing in it for me except some excellent company, of course) and lunch tomorrow with one of my oldest wine-drinking companions. Still, I will be over 10% of the way through it all by then.

The food and wine pairing side of things is something I am watching closely. So far, it really hasn't been an issue as pizza on NYD was such a subdued affair that wine would have just sent us off to a ludicrously early night. Yesterday's home-made Peri-Peri chicken (based on a friend's secret recipe which I am forbidden to share) was spicy enough to keep my mind off th…

Dryathlon - one day in

So far, so good but, then, New Year's Day was never going to be a great challenge.

Recap: why am I doing this? The Cancer Research angle is not the real reason - more an incentive to stick with it (about £450 raised so far and promises of more to follow) - and I am not especially concerned about my health or even my weight (although rough calculations suggest I will save up to 20,000 calories in January alone unless I counter this with richer foods).

It certainly isn't to save money: the wines we have been drinking over the last couple of weeks since we decided to go ahead with this have been among the better wines in our personal cellar (I won't bore you with a list) so we have probably consumed the same value or wine in the last two weeks as we ordinarily would up to the end of January.

So, it must just be the challenge: can I last a month without wine? The simple answer is, of course I can. The only difficulty is that we have been invited out several times for dinner al…