Tuesday, May 27, 2008

St Clair Pioneer Block 2 (Swamp Block) Sauvignon 2007.

I took Kenny from Villeneuve Wines advice and took a case of the Pioneer Block 2 to replace the Block 7 that we had purchased earlier from a different supplier. I loved the block 7 because it had a really confectioned tropical fruit nose with strong citrus character, particularly lime and grapefruit. The block 2 however is way better.

St Clair release several different single vineyard sauvignons under the Pioneer Block line extension. Presumably when they vinify the individual parcels of vines they can identify certain vineyard parcels that stand out as exceptional wines, and I havent been disappointed with the two that Ive tried so far. Block 2 from the Swamp Vineyard, Im guessing the vineyard location was once a swamp, has everything the Block 7 had but with more finesse to it. The tropical fruit aromas are more restrained, not as aggresively in your face, but dominant none-the-less. There is more of a pink grapefruit character with lime and kiwi fruit flavours coming through too. The acidity seems more in harmony with the wine that Block 7, like a good soundtrack to a film, enhancing the flavours and aromas but not jarring out of place. The wine just seems to last forever on the palate, wicked long length with zesty fruit finish and an almost sherbetty dib-dab kind of spritz on the end, tickling the tip of my tongue. I only got the case last wednesday and already Im down to my last three bottles, its going out faster than a fast thing. But Im liking that because it has regenerated my interest in New Zealand again, I was getting bored of one dimensional kiwi savvys, all tropical fruit and no backbone. I miss the Dry River Savvy (R.I.P.) but theres a new daddy on the list, and Im going to sell the shit out of it!!!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

oeneous geriophilia - Vallet freres Vosne Romanee "Malconsorts" 1952

Wowsers, after last nights super young claret, comes tonights geriatric burgundy in the form of a 52 Vosne Romanee. I had been given the responsability of choosing the red between a 59 Bonnes Mares, a 52 Vosne or a 58 Romanee St Vivant. I chose the Vosne because it had the safest ullage level (equivalent to top shoulder in a burg bottle) whereas the other two were a rather alarming 2 to 3 inches short of the cork!!
The cork was covered in a bright red plume of mould, and coloured all the way through with red wine. I wasnt too hopeful of the wine. But it opened up really well, the nose was surprisingly complex still with a richly flavoured fruit layer and mature burgundy aromas - a combination of leather, dark tea, tobacco and earth with a slight hint of exotic truffle/mushroom. On the palate the wine was smooth and silky, soft red fruit flavours wrapped up with a hint of licorice root, mulberry and soft eastern spices. The length just kept on going and the finish was a touch spicy with a gamey edge. Unbelievably it kept on improving in the glass over time, and seemed to show no sign of fading over the next two hours. I was slightly gobsmacked and sad that it was my last bottle. I suspect that were I to ask Bernard for some more, I could get some if he had any, but I think that I would much rather go out on a high with that bottle. Just goes to show though, that you never can tell what its like till you pull the cork.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Oenoeous Pedophilia? 2004 Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.

In an effort to live up to our marketing departments claims of a 1000 bins on the wine list, I was put in a position where Ive had to list some really quite young wines on the list. Particularly prominent amongst them are the 2003, 2004 and now 2005 clarets that we have in stock. They are causing me something of a dilemma. Do I keep them off the list until they are ready to drink (my prefered option) or do we list them and hope that people will perhaps have enough knowledge to realise that really the wines are not anywhere near ready to drink. Well I kind of lost the arguement and they ended up being listed. So now what do I do when a customer order the wine?
Well this is a situation that I faced tonight. A table of four, amongst them a fairly prominent young chef, with a michelin star to his name. Am I being tested to see if I will pick up on the fact that the wine is a bit on the young side, or perhaps the customer is a wine pedo, he likes his wine young, tannic and under-developed. Im not in the business of correcting customers, and I dont want to offend the guy who ordered the wine, so my tactic is to present the bottle and then offer this gem - " Bearing in mind the youth of the wine, I think it might be prudent to double decant the wine in order to open it up a little bit" The guy shrugs ok and somehow I still dont quite feel absolved of any responsability for serving something so strikingly young. It doesnt get much better when we open the wine and it comes across as green as a green thing. Tight on the nose with hints of fruit behind a shield of greenness that the green lantern might use. Decanting it seemed to release some fruit on the nose and make the wine seem a bit more expressive ( possibly more due to the warming influence of being decanted from a cellar cold bottle into a warm decanter). On the palate it was still fairly tight and unforgiving, the fruit tantalisingly close but still seemingly locked up in a tightly bound tannic structure than threatened to strip the enamel off my teeth.
I give it a swirl and pour it over into a second decanter, trying to give it as much motion as I can without it being spilt everywhere. The smell coming from the wine is truly delicious, generous red fruit character with a touch of green wood character, still raw and fresh. On the palate it seemed to have softened a little bit, but at least I still had about an hour in the decanter until it would be needed. It was going to need every possible minute to soften and open up enough.
Pichon is one of my favourite wines from Pauillac, if somewhat out of my budget. One of my top ten wines that Ive tried was the 89 Pichon Lalande when I was working at Amaryllis. This wine has the potential to be as good, but in about ten more years perhaps. Hopefully I will still have some left by then!

Passing of a Legend.

The interwebs are blazing with the news that Robert Mondavi has passed away at the fairly ripe old age of 94. Few figures in the industry have been as influential and prominent as Robert Mondavi and his passing is truly a great loss to the wine industry as a whole. Condolences to his family.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Is there value to be had under £50?

There is a comment that has been left on one of my earlier posts which has had me cogitating over the last few days. (http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7206779&postID=2556388373739861579&isPopup=true). Is there any value to be had on a restaurant winelist for less than £50. The short answer is not much. Let me explain why.
Generally most restaurants will operate using a standard margin, either gross profit or cost of sales. The two figures are related - a 30% cost of sales = 70% gross profit. In other words 30% of the selling price is represented by the cost of the item, therefore 70% is profit (gross profit because things like operating costs have yet to be removed). Now a restaurant with a large and extensive winelist ought to operate a floating margin, that is the margin will vary according to the cost of the bottle. Hence the most expensive wines are usually operating on the lowest gp/highest cost of sales. So at the bottom end of the wine list will be the house wine, which is the least value of all, as it carries the highest margin, figures of 80% are not uncommon. Then the middle of the list will sit with a slightly lower margin 70% and the wines at the very top of the list will sit with 50-60% gp. After all, you probably arent going to sell loads each month, so the impact on your gross profit will be negligable. So those wines under £50 are typically going to sit with a 70% margin, compared with slightly more expensive wines which will have a lower margin.

Now the Arkle wine list operates a floating margin, with the wines at the bottom of the list carrying the highest mark-ups, and those between £40 and £90 representing the best value for money. We have some cracking wines under £50 that have a slightly lower margin, because they are something out of the ordinary, something slightly special that were I to put the prescribed margin on it, would make it too expensive to try out. So there are some bargains to be found.

Bin 313 - Itsas Mendi - Txakoli from Bizkaiko Txakolina in the Basque region of Spain. An unusual aromatic white wine made from Hondorrabi Zuri. A reasonable inexpensive spanish white at £34.

Bin 391 Planeta - Cerasuolo di Vittoria, a Frappato, Nero d'Avola blend from the only DOCG vineyard in Sicily. Rich cherry fruit flavour with a beaujolais style lushness and accessability, a positive steal at £35.

Bin 411 Bodegas Fernandez Rivera - Dehesa La Granja, from the stable of Alejandro Fernandez, a crianza tempranillo from the tiny region of Zamora. His home estate. Dense brooding fruit, richly concentrated flavours with none of the sunburnt oaky characters associated with spanish reds. £37.

So there are some good value wines to be had, if you are prepared to spend a little bit of time to look at the list, or if you ask for my advice. At the end of the day, my job is to help you to find a wine that you will enjoy, at a price that you are comfortable with, to enhance your dining experience. Im not in the business to screwing people over, ripping them off or trying to flog them overly expensive wines. More often than not, I will recommend something under the customers budget. For after all, its all about establishing the rapport with the guests and encouraging them to return again.