Friday, November 16, 2007

WBW 39 Silver Burgundy

Im a bit behind on this posting, so Im going to keep it short and sweet. The wine is a Givry from a producer that Ive had an affinity for, for a while now, Jean-Marc Boillot. Boillot used to be the winemaker at Olivier Leflaive, and being the grandson of Ettiene Sauzet to boot, you just know theres good pedigree there. Its a 96 which is starting to give me some cause for concern, the attrition rate on this wine is now upto one in three bottles which means that Im losing a third of the stock. But those bottles that arent oxidised beyond salvage are showing marvelous nutty character with rich buttery flavours and a stoney fruit character that is edging on the sultana. The wine is getting a touch flabby, well it is 11 years old, and I think the oak flavours are now starting to appear out of balance, but with the right dish, this is a lovely wine, and its not going to break the bank either. Currently sitting on our winelist at £33 thats not bad going when you think that Im losing one bottle in every three I open.

Thanks to the Brooklyn Guy for the great topic
and Im looking forward to reading what others have found.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Its not the winning its the taking part that counts.

Without sounding too cliched and patronising, that was how I felt on Tuesday night at the first Hotel Catey awards dinner down in London. I had been nominated for an award in the Food and Beverage service category, so I was down in the big smoke for a swanky dinner at a posh hotel with the better half in tow. After a few dramas trying to secure a room for the night (turns out London is fully booked this week with World Travel Market going on at Excell) we had managed to get a room organised at the Hilton Metropole on Edgeware Road. I got dressed up in my kilt, the wife looked fabulous in a black cocktail dress and we set off to meet Penta at the Hilton Park Lane where the Awards were being held in the Grand Ballroom. There were more than 600 people there, packed like sardines into the foyer slurping on Taittinger Champagne until the troupe of toastmasters called us through to dinner. After a lovely dinner the entertainment started with a Two Ronnies style newsketch with David Morgan-Hewitt from the Goring and Peter Hancock of Pride of Britain. They were very funny, although the joke about JWS seemed to fall a bit flat. After a short comfort break, Ardal o'Hanlon came on to compere the evening.

When it came to my category, my stomach was turning somersaults, i didnt expect to win, lets face it John Campbell got his second star this year, but I was still nervous. In the end I was right about who won, but Im happy that I got through to the last four. Worrying over it was time to get pished!! Which we did remarkable well actually, I dont have much recollection of the end of the evening, although I do remember chatting to Andrew Mackenzie of the Vineyard at Stockcross and Johnnie Walker, ex Andrew Fairlies and now the head wine buyer for the Malmaison Group. We even bumped into Justin Llewelyn, Mr Taittinger who is always good for a laugh.

I had a great time and am grateful to all those who put me forward and endorsed my nomination. And in the words of Mrs B, my hovercraft is indeed full of eels.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Pair of 88's.

When you boil it down to simplistic terms, then virtually nothing separates them. The occupy the same commune of Flagy-Echezeaux, The same viticulturalist, winemaker, facilities, everything. Admittedly between them lies the vineyards of La Grand Rue (monopole of Francois Lamarche) and La Romanee Conti, but one is La Tache, and the other is Richebourg, the domaine is Domaine de la Romanee Conti and the vintage is 88. Tasted as a pair sold to Mr B, one of our favourite regulars.

The 88 Richebourg was opened first. When I plucked them from the cellar, it was quite noticeable how thinner the bottle was compared to the more current releases. The wine itself had a tighter nose than I was expecting for the age of it, the fruit was quite shy at first, but thinking about it, it was possibly due to the temp as much as the wine, after all winter is drawing in, and the cellar temp is closer to 12degrees now. Once the fruit started showing it was restrained, under-ripe raspberries and berry fruits, with hardly any other aromas to show. On the palate it was green, very tight and mouth puckeringly sour to start with, but it soon loosened up a bit and the berry fruit flavours became a bit more defined. I was quite surprised by the tightness of the wine, after all it's nearly out of its teens, I guess I was expecting more earthy notes, leathery, tobacco etc. Considering the price (even the cost price never mind the list price!) I was expecting more wow, but what I got was probably more [meh] than anything else.

Onto bottle number two. Expectations considerably lowered by the experience of bottle number one, I was blown away by this bottle. The nose hit you the minute the cork left the bottle, ripe wild strawberries with black earth, tobacco and a touch of mushroom woodyness. Fan-bloody-tastic!!! The colour was remarkable clear, although there was a fine suspension starting to show, the rim a glorious brick red colour against a cerise core. On the palate it was elegant, soft supple tannins gliding across the flavours of strawberries and raspberry. Divine. Needless to say this bottle got served second, in order to lift the first one.

Were doing another vertical of DRC on the upcoming Burgundy dinner on the 5th December with a pair of 98's Romanee St Vivant and La Tache. I pray that the 98 La Tache is halfway as good as the 88, and the night ought to be a winner.

Speaking of winners, Im off down to London on Tuesday for the Hotel Cateys Awards dinner, where Im in the running for an award under the Food and Beverage Service Category. Im up against some good competition, so we shall have to see how I fare, but I understand that there were over a hundred nominations in that category, and I made it to the final four, so thats a massive achievement in itself.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Domaine A - Tasting Tazzie!

One of my favourite account managers dropped in to see me the other day with the export sales manager from Domaine A wines. Domaine A are based in Campania Tasmania. Now just now Tazzie has got some seriously good ju-ju, getting loads of good press from the likes of James Halliday as the region to look out for. Go back about five years or more and the only Tazzie wine you would find would be Pipers Brook, which under the stewardship of Dr Andrew Pirie produced some cracking wines, including an eponymous sparkler which was fantastic. Now Pirie has moved on to new pastures in Tasmania, but loads of new wineries are now available in the UK, the likes of Tamar Ridge, Ninth island (2nd wine of Pipers), Devils Corner, Pirie, Jansz, Bay of Fires and of course Domaine A.

Now Id been fortunate enough to taste the Lady A Fume Blanc from Domaine A a few months earlier with Noel. Somehow he had been sent a sample bottle (considering that the UK allocation is about ten cases (of six) samples are exceptionally rare!!) and diamond geezer that he is, he wanted to taste it with me. Now Id hate to have this wine in a blind tasting, because Id swear blind it was Bordeaux Blanc, and good bordeaux blanc at that. Which is kind of amazing really, because apparently it was "created" to be in the style of Pavillion Blanc, which the owner Mme Althaus adores. The nose just doesnt present like a new world wine at all, the fruit is restrained, in balance with the flavours of the oak, a touch of smokyness, richness that just grows in the glass. The wine has complexity, many different layers that slowly reveal themselves over time. This is a wine to enjoy slowly, with food, and great friends. It is also best enjoyed at cellar temp, not chilled to death!! Were it now for the fact that the wine has only been made for about five or six vintages it would probably be in the top ten wines in the Langtons Classification, which is Australias premier classification for wines.

Paul also brought along a couple of reds to show us. We tasted the 2003 Pinot first. Again I would have hated to get this in a blind tasting. Morello cherries with a touch of spice competing with eucalyptus notes would probably steered me to barossa shiraz, all that was missing was the black pepper. This is a big pinot, quite weighty, but bloody good, if a little bit on the scary expensive side. Next up we tasted two different vintages of the Cabernet. First up was the 98, brambles and tobacco, very slight hints of eucalypt, but not as dominant. The wine was a deep purple colour, with the rim showing no discernable signs of maturity. I couldnt believe this was the 98, the nose was so fresh, vibrant, and on the palate it was the same. The fruit was vigorous, vibrant so fresh. It seemed so young. The 2000 had more black fruit character, and a touch more eucalypt on the nose, although the seamless integration of fruit and oak seemed to blank out the menthol characters on the palate. The wine is aged in 100% new french oak, which is bloody expensive in Oz. That quite possibly contributes to the scary prices, which puts them into the top end of double figures, barely scraping away from three figures on the wine-list. But if someone asked me, I would wholeheartedly say they were worth it.

Im hoping to do a gourmet dinner with Paul next year and showcase the wines of Domaine A, because they are fantastically good, and I get the feeling that in years to come they will be considerably harder to get, as their popularity grows. Danny was so impressed with the white that in the three days since the tasting he has gone and sold four bottles. Ive only got two left, and if I beg I might be able to get another six!! That will have to do me until next year!!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

de Venoge Gourmet evening.

Last night I was delighted to have Eric Maillot from de Venoge champagne come and present his wines to our gourmet evening. We had a great turnout of new faces and some old friends, and a great time was had by all.

I was fortunate enough to be taken out to de Venoge by Ed from Boutinot in my first year here at the Grosvenor, and it was a very enjoyable two days. We drove over from Paris having flown there from Liverpool. Once there we were given a tour of the cellars by Eric, and a practical demonstration of how they used to disgorge the wines in the olden days. Eric disgorged a bottle of 1978 which we then tasted sans dosage. From what I can remember it was amazingly fresh, with strong autolytic character - bread, digestive biscuit notes, very austere, bone dry but still fairly acidic. We all felt that it would have been better with some dosage. I then was given the opportunity to disgorge a bottle, which I think I did quite well actually!! We were then all given a taste and asked if we thought it was younger or older than the 78. I was the only one to say older, which it was, and it turned out to be a 71, my birthyear!! So when I was planning the dinner, I wanted to show the 71, but alas they only had a few bottles, not enough to serve 45 people. I found out last night, that this is probably the last time anyone will get the chance to taste the 78 now as de Venoge has so little left, they will reserve it for themselves.

So we started the evening with de Venoge Cordon Bleu served from Jeroboam and magnums. I had hoped to serve the whole aperitif from Jero's but we couldnt secure enough to do it, so we had three jeros and four mags. There was a slight taste difference between the jeros and mags, the mags had a slightly smokier, flinty edge to them, whereas the jeros seemed much more rounded and elegant. Eric felt it was possibly that as the larger bottles sell less frequently they tend to have a longer cellar age on them, meaning that the base vintage would have been older as well. This was unanimously enjoyed by everyone, and I think it was the only wine everyone liked.

First course was paired with the 2000 Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay. I quite liked this one, crisp green apples (granny smiths) with slight yeasty flavours showing, very fresh with crisp acidity and clean finish. Very good.

We served their new cuvee the Louis XV for the intermediate course. This wine replaced the Grand Vins des Princes. It is named in honour of Louis XV who decreed that only the wines from Champagne may be transported in bottles, effectively creating the opportunity to make the wines sparkling. Without his decree, Dom Ruinart and Perignon would never have been able to make their innovations and champagne as we know it may never have existed. The wine is bottled in a clear decanter shaped bottle, that came about when Joseph de Venoge wanted something special to present his wines in when he was entertaining guests. The wine itself was a golden amber colour with a rich honeyed nose, very reminiscent of a good white burgundy - a nutty beurre noisette kind of aroma. I think this was one of the best wines of the night, it should have gone really well with the lacquered ribs with five spice and steamed scallop with shoots and sesame.

We poured a 92 Latricieres from Drouhin Laroze for the main, because the boss likes to have some red, and it kind of breaks up the champagnes a bit.

The cheese course was paired with magnums of 1978 Blanc de Blancs. Very very arid, steely dry with a slightly smoky nose and sharp citrus notes on the palate. The dosage worked out at just less than 1g per litre, very very dry, but with the taleggio, salami and truffle "pizza" it worked exceptionally well, even if the cheese reeked to high heavens (I had to leave the restaurant it smelt so bad!!).

The night drew to a close with the NV Rose with dessert, an ile flotant (floating island) - vanilla poached meringue with lemon posset and raspberries. YUM!!

An enjoyable night was had by all, and Eric and Ed managed to charm their way round the room. Talking to guests the next morning, I think its fair to say that de Venoge has a few more fans!!

Today I am mostly brain dead.

After a mammoth 17 hour shift yesterday, and a craptastic five hours of sleep I am in a state of zombie today wandering around trying to remember what it is that I am doing. If I can stay awake long enough Im going to post a few tasting notes from last nights de Venoge champagne gourmet evening. The wines were spot on last night and chef's menu really worked well with the wines, everyone was very very happy last night.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Nuits St Georges "Cuvee Jeune Vignes de Clos de Forets" Premier Cru 1993

Tasted at Corks Out on Thursday as part of our newly formed wine club. The wine had a slight haze to it, hardly surprising as it had been bounced around on the walk down to Corks out, and Domaine de l'Arlot dont filter or fine their wines. The core was a deep ruby red colour with the rim showing signs of maturation as the colour was more brown than red. On the nose it was a bit tight at first, opening out to a classic red burgundy nose - earth, forest floor, morello cherry, a touch of soft red berries and generous hints of tobacco. On the palate it was smooth, with fine tannins, still holding firm, surprisingly still with good acidity, and more youthful than it ought to be. Nigel and Peter were both suitably impressed, as they ought to be!!

Our next meeting is on the 20th November and the theme is Piedmont wines. Must get searching.

For £700 it ought to be better than "Yes its ok"

Danny was in an ultra-motivated mood yesterday, which was great. All we had to do was aim him at a customer and then fire him off, and he went off like an exocet wallet seeking missile. The first table to fall prey to this was Table 1, a random looking couple, in their mid to late fifties. The guy asks Danny if theres anything interesting in Pomerol he knows. Danny being who he is, naturally dives straight into Petrus ( I must teach him about la Conseillante and Le Pin!!), and persuades the geezer to go for an 81 Petrus at £700 a bottle.

Now the price seems quite low (for Petrus), and really its because 81 wasnt a great vintage, some communes seemed to fare better than others, Pomerol being one of those. But having said that, Im beginning to think that this wine has seen better days. The nose had quite profound aromas of tobacco, mushroomy earth then I started to sense the dark stone fruit aromas, slightly figgy, plums almost prunes and a faint hint of dates - sticky toffee pudding without the caramel. On the palate the flavours followed pretty much the aroma profile with less fruit seemingly evident than i was expecting. If Id forked out £700 for this, I think I would be quite disappointed, Id be wanting "WOW!, OMG!" not "Its ok". But you see here lies one of my dilemmas. This could be a fluke, a dud bottle that just hasnt kept, and my last bottle could be outstanding. There is just no way to tell until you pull the cork

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Finding inspiration

Ive not been posting as much as I would like to recently, and part of the reason is down to time. In the past I always used to blog at the end of a shift. Call it venting, therapy whatever, but it used to let me get my shit together before i went home, and i always found it gave me a better nights sleep. When I used to work at Gleneagles I found the drive home did the same thing. Considering that I lived in Glasgow, 51 miles away, I had about 35-40 minutes of drive to clear my head of work and get back into civilian life. It meant that I didnt have work thoughts in my head when I went to bed, and usually meant that I got a better nights kip.
When I started the blog, I was using it as a replacement for the drive, by writing the stuff down, it got it out of my head and meant when I got home I could go to bed without all this stuff going round my brain. It let me clear some frustrations from the previous shift, which more than once got me into hot water with the boss(es). I learnt to temper down what i vented a bit, saving it as a draft and revisiting it the next morning to tone it down some. But I also used it to try and help me remember those wines I felt ought to be remembered. I was tasting anything upto twenty wines in a night, and some were worthy of further attention, so I blogged them. But now Im tasting much less that I was, and im finding it harder to get the inspiration nevermind the time to post. Tonight Im off to the first meeting of a wine "club" that Peter from Corks Out and I are hoping to get off the ground in Chester. A gathering of a bunch of guys and hopefully a few girls too, who are interested in wine, probably work with wine and want to taste some good wines in a friendly, peer group scenario. Im taking a "probably" knackered old bin-end Nuits along, so hopefully I will get a chance to post about it later.