Friday, 28 November 2014

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's not a problem: there is still a little 2010 and some 2011 in stock!).

Domaine Joblot, Givry Premier Cru 2013 Cellier aux Moines
Deeper colour and a richer, fuller nose with slightly blacker fruit. The oak is quite pronounced on the palate but this will fade. Quite candy flavoured, with a great finish, this needs a little time to integrate so that the sweetness of the fruit gives way to the more savoury notes currently lurking in the background.

Domaine Joblot, Givry Premier Cru 2013 Clos de la Servoisine
Similar to the Cellier aux Moines in many ways but, perhaps, a little more together and complete at this stage and a little more structured. I would like to re-visit this in five or six years' time!

Antoine Lienhardt, Cote de Nuits Villages 2013 Les Essards
The first of Antoine and Juliette's wines has a slightly muted nose and surprisingly feminine palate but the backbone is undeniably Cote de Nuits. The fruit is more red than black and the oak will play an excellent supporting role when it is more integrated.

Antoine Lienhardt, Cote de Nuits Villages 2013 Les Plantes au Bois
Vibrant raspberry fruit - almost a coulis. Good weight and concentration. Excellent potential.

Antoine Lienhardt, Cote de Nuits Villages 2013 Aux Vignottes
The most complete of the trio: less raspberry, more subtle. Very good.

Antoine Lienhardt, Nuits St Georges 2013 Les Charmois
This clearly needs time to soften at the edges but the fruit, structure, balance etc are all superb. This is going to be a great wine.

An impressive haul. If these estates' wines are anything to go by, 2013 looks like a vintage to check out further (just as long as prices don't go crazy).

More later!


Friday, 31 October 2014

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 fuller palate of blacker fruit. Less classic than 2011 but still a fabulous wine. Again, moderately tannic but the ripeness of the fruit helps to get past this. More please.

The 2009 is going through a difficult phase just now. Slightly sour notes are coming through; not as enjoyable as previous bottles have been. Inevitably the bottle was shelved so I will take another look today.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

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 such. From 2012, his son Justin took over the helm and it was this serious young man we met on a cool August Tuesday with a range of well-crafted wines - proper Burgundies - on the table.

Of the two whites, I much preferred the Santenay 'Les Terrasses de Bievaux' from steep, terraced, chalky slopes which is minerally, citrusy with stoned fruits and just 20% oak providing support rather than flavour. As someone who generally drinks red wines, even on southern French evenings when the thermometer has failed to slide under 30 degrees, you will appreciate that I really do like this wines when I say that most of the box I bought from Justin failed to last the rest of the trip.

The reds were almost universally to my liking - only the Savigny 'Gollardes' needed time to shape up and show what it has to offer. The Santenay 'Vieilles Vignes' from 50-year-old vines is well-rounded with a good Pinot nose and just a touch of oak building to a long, silky finish.

There are three premier cru wines from Santenay here and all follow the same vinification techniques, so a good lesson in terroir (along with the Joblot range from Givry). 'Beauregard' offers classic Pinot character in a fairly opulent style with smooth tannins giving it good length- archetypal Santenay. 'Maladiere' is more tightly wound, more structured with a more evident tannic backbone. More feminine on the nose but more muscular at the finish (no comparisons with female tennis players please). Finally, 'Clos Rousseau' has more depth on the nose and beautiful fresh fruit and is somewhat easier on the tannins than the previous wine. Very elegant.

Elsewhere, the family has small holdings in Savigny-les-Beaune whence its 1er Cru 'Les Peuillets' is rounded and accessible with a sweet nose, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru 'Morgeot' (floral nose, big wine, quite creamy oak and slightly smokey - very small production) and Pommard with a 'Tete de Cuvee' which is spicier, richer, more refined but also more tannic than the earlier wines, demanding a few years hiding away in the cellar.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

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 things about new arrivals is that, according to a chap at DEFRA who pops along from time to time, I must test them for consistency with the wine tasted at the estate. I think they are really looking for alcohol content but there has never been any suggestion that I should buy an Alcohol Meter; rather, I am, apparently, obliged to crack open a bottle and perform that questionably scientific test known to those in the trade as tasting and to everyone else as drinking. Apparently you'll find out sooner or later what the alcohol content is that way! Oh well, at least it's tax deductible (well, the first sip, anyway).

Thursday, 24 July 2014

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 some reason, in Chateauneuf-du-Pape so if, in this hypothetical world, a producer, by accident or design, blended Syrah from, say, Cote Rotie with Grenache from Chateauneuf, it can't be a Cote du Rhone.  For some reason, it can't even be a vin de Pays, rather it is a lowly vin de France. I think the authorities would just be being spiteful in such a scenario but who really cares about the difference between a "country wine" and a "wine of France". Would such a wine be greeted by any more enthusiasm if it did carry the Cotes du Rhone  insignia? Probably not.

The real spite in the appellation rules is to refuse to allow the producer to give any information about the wine on the label or anywhere else - which is why my example above is purely hypothetical, of course.

So, what of this lowly vin de France that sells for £36/bottle? Well, I think I have written quote enough on the subject and really don't want to fall foul of the authorities. If I told you it has delicious black fruit intertwined with.... No, really, I mustn't. You'll just have to find out for yourself.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

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 2011. All you Burgundy detractors out there: don't tar them all with the same brush (or, even, brushes). try this - it's (as Tony the Tiger would say if he hadn't been canned) Grrrreat!

Monday, 23 June 2014

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 producing Gavi and other wines from their small (but stunningly situated) estate - Binè - in Novi Ligure. A charming family - lots of jokes and surprisingly little need of translation on either side.


The following day was busy: a late start with Maura and her brother at Cascina Saria was followed by a spectacular seven course lunch with the family. The new vintages are appropriately excellent with the Riddolina needing a little time, understandably, but the San Lorenzo providing a delicious Barbera to enjoy while you wait. The star of the show was undoubtedly the 2010 Barbaresco. These wines are now in stock so I am looking forward to enjoying them again.


Slightly later than planned: next stop, Grasso Fratelli in Treiso. We kept to the reds here and, inevitably enjoyed their maturing Barbarescos, especially the 2006 Valgrande, but we were taken by a new wine called Trej. This is a play on words: short for Treiso and also three grapes (Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto). As well as being a very good wine, I thought it an excellent introduction to Nebbiolo for the uninitiated given the variety's eccentricities. The Barbera and Dolcetto, in small proportions, do not detract from the Nebbiolo character but take the edge off its tannic inevitability and add a touch of depth and sweeter fruit. Perhaps, then, not one for purists but lots of fun anyway.


Moving onwards and upwards, literally, because Nada Giuseppe is just up the hill in the Valle Grande in a location called Marcarino. In 2011, Enrico has produced two cuvees of Barbaresco Normale, one quite gutsy one (certainly more so than usual) from Casot which will need a couple of years in the bottle to flesh out and integrate the tannins, the other more immediate and juicy from the area around the house, Marcarino. The finale of the tasting was, of course, the 2009 Riserva I had high hopes, given my fondness for the 2009 Normale. I was not disappointed. the Riserva is everything the Normale is but with more backbone, deeper fruit, more promise.


The final tasting of the day was with Fabrizio Battaglino in Vezza d'Alba, Roero. Either we were early or he was late which gave us an opportunity to practice speaking Italian with his parents. I was impressed with how much I could put together from a few hours of Michel Thomas tapes! 2012 produced a superb Barbera 'Munbel' for Fabrizio whilst the 2011 Sergentin is, without doubt, the best wine he has made and would challenge any good Barolo or Barbaresco at twice the price. the Colla is rather good too!


That's enough for now but I will type up my notes from the rest of the trip later.

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!

My Just Giving page

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?

My Just Giving page

Thursday, 16 January 2014

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

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

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

Monday, 13 January 2014

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

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

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 rare to find such a good Barolo at such a low price!

The remaining French wines were mainly from the Rhone: a Xavier CDR (100%), a Rasteau from Coteaux des Travers and Christophe Coste's Capucine all youthful but the 2005 Chateauneuf from Raymond Usseglio showed its class and Christophe's pure Syrah 2007 'Ombres' could easily be confused for a Cote Rotie with, perhaps, just a hint of extra sweetness in the black fruit.

The table wines were rounded off with a pair from the South-West: Berthoumieu's 2008 'Charles de Batz' and Cedre's 2008 were, understandably perhaps, found to be on the rustic side by a panel perhaps more used to more mature wines from more refined regions but they were, I hope, appreciated for what they are and I certainly enjoyed sniffing both glasses over the remaining twenty minutes or so to monitor their evolution in the glass.

One of the fellows had brought along another bottle, a Niepoort 1997. Apparently the college has a large stock of these and, so far, the committee has found them to be highly problematic. This bottle, purchased in Holland was no better: signs of seepage made for a bad start but the aromas of acetone (think nail polish) were extremely off-putting and showed no signs of abating. Sadly, this is apparently not uncommon in this vintage of this wine. Fortunately for the college, the producer has offered to replace their stocks with another vintage.

So, apart from this last wine (which was never going to be tasted in that state), I think I can congratulate myself for not yielding to temptation - and there certainly was temptation! It was difficult though - so I really don't have any qualms about asking you to make a donation to Cancer Relief: if I can turn down a taste of all these lovely wines, you can find a spare fiver (or tenner!).

My Just Giving page

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

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

Monday, 6 January 2014

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% Arneis, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Favorita, 10% Pinot Bianco 

2.      CAIRANNE-CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES Domaine Brusset 2012 'Les Travers'                   
30% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc, 20% Roussanne, 10% Marsanne, 10% Viognier
3.      CÔTES DU RHÔNE Raymond Usseglio 2012 'Les Claux'                                                         
         50% Grenache Blanc, 30% Clairette, 20% Roussanne

Red wines
4.    GIVRY 1er CRU Domaine Joblot 'Cellier aux Moines' 2011                                                       
       Pinot Noir

5.    BARBARESCO RISERVA Nada Giuseppe 'Casot' 2008                                                           
       Nebbiolo

6.    ROERO Fabrizio Battaglino 'Sergentin' 2009                                                                            
       Nebbiolo

7.    BAROLO Tenuta Serradenari                                                                                               
Nebbiolo

8.    CÔTES DU RHÔNE Xavier Vignon '100%' 2010                                                                         
         Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Vaccarèse, Cournoise with 5% Roussanne/Viognier            

9.    RASTEAU Domaine des Côteaux des Travers 'Prestige' 2009                                                
         50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre

10.   CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE Château Capucine 2009                                                             
Grenache

11.   CÔTES DU RHÔNE Christophe Coste 'Les Ombres' 2007                                                       
Syrah

12.   CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE Raymond Usseglio 2005                                                                
         80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah, 2% each Cinsault and Counoise

13.   MADIRAN Domaine Berthoumieu 'Charles de Batz' 2008                                                            
         90% Tannat, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon

14.   CAHORS Château du Cèdre 2008                                                                                            
       90% Malbec, 5% Merlot, 5% Tannat     

So, anyone in doubt of the sacrifice I am making should now understand.

I have just realised it is Twelth Night so does that mean I have only 19 days left? I thought not.

I reached the nominal £500 target for donations today so have increased this now to £750. Please donate if you can - it's for one of the very best causes around!


Friday, 3 January 2014

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 the accompanying liquid. The subject of Sunday lunch did crop up though: I spied a very delicious looking piece of beef when dropping off a case with the butcher today but how can I have that without a Burgundy, Bordeaux or Barolo?

And, on the subject of Barolo, thanks for the donation Rick but don't rub it in!

My Just Giving page

Thursday, 2 January 2014

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 already by sceptics, doubters and people who just want to try to catch me out. If anyone puts a bottle of DRC in front of me, I may just crumble but otherwise I am resolved to stick this out. After all, at 10am on 2nd January, I am nearly 5% through the challenge!

My Just Giving page