Friday, August 31, 2007

Ive not stopped!

Apologies for the lack of posting this last week, but several things have kind of gotten in the way. Last sunday was stocktake, which always brings its own joys, but to cap it off, it was my pal Mikeys stag night that night, and we were on a jolly boys outing to Manc to the comedy club. A jolly good night was had by all, and copious amounts of beer and rum were consumed. I only managed to get two rounds in, so I must try harder at the wedding in a few weeks time.

Things are also getting hectic here with the immenent launch of the newly refurbished function suite. I had a sneak preview the other night and a day later with Cheffie. Its very easy to see where the £3.5 million went!! Its a totally new environment and its going to look spectacular when its all completely finished (today!!!!).

The calendar is looking pretty busy over the next three months in the lead up to xmas (only 116 days to go now boys and girls!!). Im off to Mouton Rothschild later in the month for a picking visit. The Academy of Food and Wine service awards are also later in the month, and Ive applied for a travel scholarship to California. So fingers crossed for that one!

Its quite quiet tonight, considering its a races day, but we shall see what happens. Hopefully I will get something to post about later.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

David Duband Vosne Romanee 1998 vs Drouhin-Laroze Gevrey Chambertin 1995

We had a little taste off yesterday to determine which wine we will be pouring at the upcoming dinner to launch the new Westminster Suite. After spunking £3.5 million on the refurbishment, the boss has invited loads of VIPs to a dinner to unveil the new room and show it off (well why not!!), so the wine has to be good. Hence the taste off with the two options for the red wine. Luckily Cheffie was wanting to knock together a dish to see how it looked on his spiffy new plates.

The dish - Slow poached fillet of Welsh Black beef with a mushroom ravioli and herb reduction.

The wines had come from the Keg room, part of our holding stock - wines that we are keeping until they are ready for drinking. I know what you're thinking though - surely the 95 is ready by now - and yes it is. But Ive got about a dozen Gevreys on the list and when one gets finished the 95 would be the next to get listed. Both wines were brought up from the cellar five minutes before the tasting.

The Vosne Romanee was quite aromatic on the nose with Parma Violets and Cherries - more Griottine cherry I think, and a really animal earthyness about it. On the palate I was getting a touch of pear drops - ethyl acetate - not really enough to class it as a fault, but enough to lower my enjoyment of the wine. It went quite well with the meat, and the flavours seemed to complement it quite well, although I felt the herbyness of the reduction overtook the flavours of the wine a bit.

The Gevrey was interesting. Despite coming from the same part of the cellar as the Vosne, it was considerably colder, and hence there wasnt really much on the nose. But what it lacked in aroma, it more than made up for on the palate. Despite being the elder of the wines, there was quite a bit more fruit present on the palate, with soft red fruit flavours, raspberry and alpine strawberries, with a touch of spice - not quite cinnamon, but a warming bark-like spicyness. Perhaps nutmeg? For me this worked really well with the dish, the flavours of the wine melded beautifully with the medium rare meat and the herb reduction seemed to add an extra dimension to the wine. It was served "chambre" and I personally felt it was perfect. But it is a risky wine to serve to 120 people, and the odds of getting the temperature that spot on are slim to non-existent, so perhaps the Vosne Romanee is the sensible option. That seems to be the route we are taking anyway.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Nektar des Gotten - Schloss Johannisberger Grunlack Riesling Spatlese 1975er

Wow that title really trips off the tongue doesnt it! We dont really sell a great deal of German wine. It has a bad image. Generally people only drink it when they want something a bit sweeter. But they are ignoring a world of wonderfully dry rieslings, like the Georg Breuer Riesling Sauvage we used to have by the glass. Admittedly that sold quite well, but unfortunately Heinrich Breuer felt the UK market didnt appreciate the wines enough, and moved all his stock to the American market which seems to be lapping it up at the moment. Anyways Im getting sidetracked, because this wine is far from dry. Spatlese is the second level on the Qualitatswein mit Pradikat quality ladder, which in Germany is dictated by the sugar levels of the musts. Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, (Eiswein), Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA for short) - dry to toothshockingly sweet. Now TBA's are generally later harvested, so the grapes are almost like shrivelled raisins when they are harvested. The resulting juice is low in water and exceptionally high in sugars. The fermentation is really slow, as long as a year in some cases, and the yields are so miniscule that the prices for these rare treasures is truly eyewatering so they usually come in half bottles. Damn, getting sidetracked again.

The colour is a rich golden amber, hardly surprising as its 31 years old. On the nose it is rich, honeyed with tropical fruit like aromas - papaya, mango and the ubiquitous melon. One the palate it is quite sweet, very unctuous, there is a slight hint of acidity still holding the wine together, but the overwhelming experience for me was the sweetness (think three spoons of sugar in your tea sweet {I take one!}). The tropical fruit flavours still come through quite well, but there is a hint of something slightly floral too, perhaps a honeysuckle, with a touch of ginger - in some ways it reminded me of a herbal tea loaded with sugar. The customers loved it, but unfortunately that was the last bottle.

Update - managed to find their website and was quite amazed to discover the winery can trace its history back to 768AD. Now thats really old world!!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

St Supery Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

I profess up front that I love this wine! I prefer their white - the Dollarhide Ranch Sauvignon, but as a runner up the Napa Cab is a good wine to settle for. The reason that I love this wine, is that it is one of the half dozen wineries that we visited on my honeymoon, and of them, this one was the best tour. We must have liked it, because we ended up buying several bottles of the Sauvignon which we then lugged home with us in our luggage. That was my first encounter with St Supery.

Some years later I was working at Amaryllis and I managed to track down five cases of Sauvignon Blanc that one of our suppliers had been sitting on for some time, unable to flog it. I remember that it must have been around about 2001 and the vintage of the wine was 1996, by happy co-incidence the same vintage that we had brought back from California many years earlier on our honeymoon. He was grateful enough to shift it that I got a stunning price for it, I was over the moon to find it, and it turns out it was showing spectacularly well at the time too. I sold those five cases in a matter of weeks and they ordered some more for me. Then the stock ran dry and I couldnt get it any more.

A few years later Im trying to find it again, I get to emailing the winery in Napa and a very helpful lady called Ann Feely puts me in touch with their newly appointed distributors in the UK. I happened to meet the guy at the California tasting later that month and we chatted, I tasted the current range and he agreed to pop up to see me and introduce some more of his wines. Over a year passed before Adrian popped in one day introducing himself as the rep that was going to cover this region for Ivini. He didnt have good news though. St Supery had gotten greedy and had virtually doubled the price of the wine. Now it wasnt cheap to start with, but now facing a huge rise in price, it was quite frankly unsellable. The only consoling factor was they wanted rid of the stock they had, so we got a cracking deal on the Cabernet (alas they had no Sauvignon). We took five cases and now Ive got just under a dozen bottles left.

The first bottle I opened for the guests was corked. Badly corked. Foul, stinky wine. I cant remember the last time I had one that foul. The second was a beaut. Ripe curranty fruit on the nose with an elegant undernote of cedarwood and tobacco that I alway feel reminds me of a well kept humidor ( how I miss that now that we are non-smoking!). There was a touch of green herby aroma, possibly blackcurrant leaf. On the palate the tannins are softening nicely and the wine has loads of upfront fruit, again currants and brambles with a touch of plum and even a hint of mintyness. The finish is nice and spicy with warming exotic spices and tobacco, with a lingering length. Its on the list at £45, which for a Napa Cab is pretty damned good. Ill be sorry to see it go when I sell the last one.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sharing the thunder

If youve never seen the internet legend that is Gary Vaynerchuk, I cant think of a better clip to introduce him.

And for the record, that sure isnt how I trained my palate!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Awesome Video about Fake wine.

I came across this video on Jamie Goode's blog, and I thought it would interest you all.

A Necessary Measure?

I read in the news a few weeks ago that Selfridges has fallen foul of zealous Trading Standards officials who deemed their new Wonderbar to be in breach of Weights and Measures regulations. The bar is equiped with this marvelous piece of technology that allows opened bottles of wine to be kept under an inert atmosphere and to dispense measured samples of upto 120 different wines. The idea is that customers purchase a swipe card with a certain amount of credit on it, which then allows them to chose which wines they want to sample. The selection on offer was quite astounding really and included as its "star attraction" a 1996 Petrus for a very wallet friendly £32 per 25ml sample. This was such an attractive offer that apparently they went through two bottles in the two weeks that they were operational. But the problem, as far as T.S. officers were concerned is that the Weights and Measures act dictates that wine is sold in measures of 175ml or 125ml or multiples thereof.

Now the weights and measures act has many strengths, it is there to protect consumers from being ripped off by unscrupulous vendors. Thats most definately a good thing. But when it prevents opportunities such as presented at Wonderbar, you have to question its effectiveness. And so I support Decanter magazines petition to get the law changed to allow smaller sample measures of wine to be poured (

Currently it is illegal for us to offer "flights" of wine, where four or five smaller measures of wine are poured around a central theme - eg Pinot Noir. Wine flights are very popular in the States and down under in New Zealand and Australia. They allow customers the chance to have a comparative tasting without getting plastered drinking more than a bottle of wine. When you consider that the government is currently considering numerous measures to curb our apparently excessive alcohol consumption, allowing smaller measures of wine for sampling and flights would be quite a sensible move. As ever we will have to wait and see what happens. However if you live in the UK please visit the petition and have your say.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Wine Blog Wednesday 36 - Naked Chardonnay

Its a bit late because Ive been away for a few days, but heres my contribution to the 3rd anniversary edition of WBW! ( The third anniversary is leather (kinky!), perhaps Lenn would have been better chosing a meritage blend where at least we would have got some aromas of leather - sweaty saddles etc etc. But actually I prefer this selection - Naked Chardonnay, or unoaked, unwooded, however you prefer it called. Chardonnay has become slightly un"trendy" of late, with many drinkers moving to Sauvignon, especially Kiwi Savvy or, certainly in the UK, Pinot Grigio has been the most popular choice.

The wine Ive chosen for this is from Australia, a country often blamed for turning people off chardonnay with its identikit examples of overoaked, underachieving wines that flooded onto the market via the supermarket shelves. Now it seems that the tide has turned and many winemakers realised the error of their ways and are starting to produce cleaner, crisper examples that show of the fruit and not the oak staves or chips that they used to use. Cooler fermentation in stainless steel allows the character of the grape to shine. The wine is called Pitchfork Unwooded Chardonnay and its a second label, make exclusively for the on-trade by Chalk Hill Winery in the McLaren Vale of South Australia. The appellation is South Australia, so Im going to assume that they draw their fruit from across the state. The winemaker is French, Emmanuelle Requin-Bekkers (sounds more like an Afrikaner to me!), and judging by the wine, Id have a stab that she has had some experience in Burgundy, possibly around Chablis. (Just googled her and it turns out shes worked in most of Frances wine regions - Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc, Loire and Bandol to name a few!)

The wine has a pale lemon colour with a thin watery rim, on the nose there is quite a medley of aromas including green apples, green melon ( a touch under-ripe) and citrus - pomello perhaps or ruby grapefruit. There is also quite a strong floral element - white flowers -cant quite place it. I cant find any hint of butteryness or creamy aromas so Im going to have a stab at saying this hasnt undergone any malo-lactic fermentation. On the palate it is crisp and clean with a pleasingly sharp acidity, similar flavours to the nose - apples and green melon with a more lemony citrus with a touch of kaffir lime and a slight hint of something herbal. It has a good length and makes very pleasant drinking. Id be quite happy to drink this on its own, but also think it would be nice with a touch of white fish. Quite reasonable, price wise as well, we are currently knocking this out by the glass in the Brasserie.

A good choice for a theme, and happy anniversary to WBW!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru "Lavaux St Jacques" Denis Mortet 1996

Truly stunning burgundy, from one of the most promising producers in Burgundy until tragically he took his own life early last year. Im down to my last two bottles and this wine has never failed to please. Im going to be gutted when its all gone because it will be impossible to replace. Maybe I ought to treat myself and score one of the bottles for myself, but I know I wont.

On the nose this has the wonderful aromas of a maturing burgundy, earthy, slightly smokey, but underneath it has big soft red fruit aromas - strawberries especially, a few days old, starting to dry out in the fridge, but with the flavour starting to concentrate, as the sugars fade. On the palate, the soft red fruit is still there, with enough acidity to carry the wine well and allow it a few more years of development. Approaching the best years of its life, this is a wine to be enjoyed and savoured for what Denis was striving to produce in all his wines, each and every vintage. It would be sacreligious to squirrel it away and worship it without drinking it. For that ultimately is the goal of all wines and winemakers - to have their wines enjoyed at their peak.