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Crazy to drink Krasi?

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One doesn’t automatically think of Greece as a bastion of fine wine despite the country boasting a vinicultural tradition that is one of the oldest in the world. Anyone that has holidayed in Greece might consider Retsina, Ouzo, Raki or any other flavoured alcohol as examples of a low level of sophistication. However you’d be wrong to assume most Greek wine is crap – there are some outstanding wine regions, especially Nemea where we recently visited.

Sadly, we weren’t there to tour Nemean vineyards. The wine we did drink was ‘Krasi’.

Krasi is just ‘Greek Wine’. It’s usually locally produced and decanted very young straight from barrels and in tavernas is brought to the table in traditional copper carafes. Sophisticated it is not, but Krasi is very drinkable and pairs superbly with simple food.

Whites are usually very dry with floral and herbaceous characteristics. Reds, often chilled, are rather like Beaujolais – think strawberries and something slightly savoury.

That week we drank the local Krasi that came in plastic bottles – bought at the bakery in Ancient Epidavros. Sceptical at first, we really enjoyed quaffing this. The wine we had in local tavernas in the town of Napflion and the gorgeous port village of Vathi were far superior though – more complex than the local Krasi and really quite interesting.

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Crazy to drink Greek wine? No definitely not

@jk_cunningham

You cannot be serious man!

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Back in the UK about 8 weeks now, and as Arnold says, let’s get serious.

A list of the grown-up, serious things I’m currently occupied with includes;

- trying to a job to support myself, my wife and kid, in London with a modicum of comfort (see below)

- buying a pair of serious shoes – by that I mean brown leather handmade brogues, and definitely NO MORE TRAINERS (Ed. My wife wrote that bit)

- buying a new ‘grown up’ wardrobe – by that I mean, SERIOUS shirts, SERIOUS jumpers and SERIOUSLY expensive accessories (…no more jumpers that make you look like a hip-hop wannabe from the ’90s…)

- having serious conversations like:

Wife – “when you have a minute let’s talk about what nurseries to sign Ashley up to” (Ashley is only 6mo old btw)

Me – “OK”.

Wife – “they’re frikking expensive but if we don’t sign him up now to a Montessori place, he might miss out on life’s opportunities and end up a pauper with no prospects”.

Me – “OK”.

Wife – “So, when are you going to get a job?”.

Me – “Soon” (but only once head stops spinning…)

- Tried and spectacularly failed to sign on for jobseekers allowance

To lighten the weight of all this seriousness, I have:

- bought a new pair of old-school Adidas Torsion trainers – swoon

- played a fair bit of golf

- eaten my body weight in burritos

- had conversations that go like:

Me – “would you rather have spaghetti for eye-lashes or salad for hair?”

Wife – “obvs the spaghetti because you could colour and trim it”

Me – “no you can’t trim it, or colour your spaghetti eye-lashes neither”

Wife – “OK what kind of salad?”

Me – “Frisee”

Wife – “mmm, tough one, but I’d go salad hair”

So life has very definitely got much tougher and more complex. But not on the wine front.

I am LOVING being back in London, and recently took delivery of 6 bottles from my Fine & Rare collection that has been out of reach for the past 2 years.

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Today we had Chateau de Saint Cosme’s 2007 Domaine de la Crillonne Cote du Ventoux – 100% grenache from South Rhone. In 2009 it was given a score of 89 by Robert Parker. I must have neglected to read his review saying that it should be drunk within 1 – 2 years, so we are about 5 years late according to the Master. However referring back to the Wine Society’s 2007 opening offer, the drink window was 2014 – 2016 so either Parker or the good people at the W.S are missing the mark by a country mile…..

Still let’s not be so serious about this; we ate delicious 14 day aged mutton from the fabulous Turner & George, with a ridiculously good gravy, spring greens, carrots and smashed roast waxy potatoes. The wine was DELISH.

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I think Parker had it wrong – shock horror!!!. According to his timescale he was suggesting drinking it at 2009 – 2011. Having cellared this for the past 7 years, I think this wine still has  a bit of aging potential. On the nose it is an abundance of under-ripe blackberries, a hint of spice and slightly of wet leaves. On the mouth it was bursting with firm tannins and red fruit – sour red currant – a slightly gamey flavour and an almost chili-like twang.

With the lamb it was gorgeous regardless of readiness – a perfect, serious, match.

 

Worrying times?

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We read about the decline of the wine industry a lot these days.

Usually, if it’s food or drink related, it’s because the big nasty supermarkets are squeezing the little guy. I don’t buy this – well not entirely anyway.

Retailers play in a world where volume and price are key. They know, as this article says, that most customers don’t want to spend more than £6. Supermarket shoppers are not there to read about varieties and swoon over wine packaging. They are there with screaming babies and a ‘get in, get out’ mentality.

So supermarkets aren’t selling wines from the little guy really are they? The little guy has a healthy route to market through the independent off-trade, and independents are holding their own on the high street which is great news (reminds me of the renaissance in beer-making and the renewed love of real ales).

A blogger I follow now runs Park & Bridge in Acton. Down in Cornwall where we spend many holidays binTwo has been ever reliable. In our old neighbourhood, Highbury Vintners continues to prosper and round the corner from where we are living now, Planet of the Grapes sells some sensational stuff.

Still, it is depressing when you think of all that cheap crap that people are knocking back.

Back and in full effect

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Sozzl’d returns after a two year stint in Malaysia and a full-on lay off. In the meantime we have been joined by a mini-Sozzler, who already has a keen eye for booze.

I am relishing being back in London. KL’s gastronomy may be special, but doesn’t compare to London, and much has changed in 2 years.

We’ve already got stuck into some tasty treats in only a few weeks;

- Gavi Montiero 2013, Rocca

- El Cometa del Sur Blanco 2013, Terra Alta

- Cote du Rhone 2010, E. Guigal

- Chateau La Vielle Croix 2009, Fronsac

- Salice Salentino Rosso 2010, Casa D’Aragona, Puglia

But now looking to get stuck in to full effect with visits and purchases ahoy.

Happy sozzling!

Keep it simple. Please.

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Wow, time flies when you aren’t drinking wine and have a wine blog.

I feel sad for not having kept the creative juices flowing but, hey, it’s like being sent to Gibraltar to write about top quality football.

Indeed, my creative juices have been replaced by frustration at my own industry; sustainability. I am becoming exasperated at the increasingly pompous, insular and pie-in-the-sky beliefs of some of my peers. The main reason I am frustrated is the disconnect between rhetoric and  tangible, practical output. But I am also frustrated at the cooing over the actions of certain companies and the language commonly used by people in this industry.

Last week, M&S gave the annual update of their Plan A sustainability plan. Plan A (‘because there is no Plan B’) – whilst well-known by those of us in the industry – is virtually unknown by most consumers. I don’t mean to belittle M&S. What they have achieved is important and impressive (as a beacon of leading practice and thinking) particularly over a sustained period since 2007. My frustration is at the fawning and ass-kissing our industry displays whenever M&S is mentioned. It’s just a bit embarrassing and, frankly, boring. Of course the media has its darlings but, really, guys, can we move on a bit?

On the same day as the M&S update, Richard Branson & Jochen Zeitz (he’s the former CEO of Puma) launched ‘The B Team’ – whose mission is “to deliver a Plan B that puts people and planet alongside profit. Plan A – where companies have been driven by profit motive alone – is no longer acceptable”. Not only was this an amazing bit of poor PR coincidence given M&S’s comms, but it’s exactly the kind of talking-shop that winds me up and is sure to turn people off. It’s not entirely clear what the B team will actually do – practically I mean – to change businesses for the better. Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt…

Then there is the language used by many in the industry; a kind of code for new ways of working, schemes and fandangled ideas for business or societal change. Humour me, if you will; I know that ‘sustainability’ is considered by many to be the worst offender of all. Here are some other examples:

- ‘Net positive‘, ‘Net Zero’ or ‘Net Good’

- The ‘Water-Energy nexus

- The circular economy

- ‘Gamification

The language seems to be an unnecessary and pompous way to add credence to the industry’s fundamental aims; getting businesses to act responsibly and ethically by treating people properly, reducing pollution, conserving resources and minimising corruption. I came across this article by Eric Rosten at Bloomberg which sums this up nicely.

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Back to wine, then, where the industry has evolved evermore complex and seemingly mad ways of differentiating their product. In-jokes, jargon and stories that are aimed at, and understood by, an inward-looking industry are commonplace. You could argue that, unlike sustainability, wine is an agricultural product where sometimes flouncy language is deployed because smell and taste conjure up memories and associations. In sustainability, a business construct that relates to the physical world, we have to find a way to communicate in a simple, compelling manner – one that doesn’t turn off even industry people like me.

The most recent bottle of wine we drank was a Sottano Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from Mendoza in Argentina – a celebratory tipple for the 20th week of my wife’s pregnancy. My wife’s iron levels were a little lower than desirable, so we loaded up on spinach and red meat. Big, bold but a bit young still, the Sottano was all about dark berries, rubber, green pepper and a hint of oak.  It went nicely with our chili con carne, and on a week when I was raging, this simple wine helped me to calm down a bit.

Hopefully I kept my wine language simple enough…

Selamat malam

@jk_cunningham

Tree-hugging? Computer says no

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I started the week on social media talking about petitions and tokenism.

I don’t normally ‘do’ petitions but for the first time in a long time I got really very wound up about what has recently like a systematic attack on the environment. So I felt compelled to ask people to sign not one, but two petitions.

The first related to Michael Gove’s ridiculous decision to shunt climate change from the geography curriculum to chemistry. The second to bring to wider attention the disgusting corruption of one of Malaysia’s ministers – Taib, the Chief Minister for Sarawak.

There seems to have been a lot of environment-bashing in the news recently. Tokenistic care for the environment is rife – it’s all too easy to say you care, without really thinking about what that means and how you are changing your life accordingly.

Among the Guardian articles about the environment I have read recently, here are a couple of choice examples:

1. Global food production going haywire; in Chile where prawns are washing up on the shore and in China where thousands of pigs have been dumped in a river

2. Stinking rich caviar-eaters, not content with bringing about the collapse of the Beluga are driving the illicit demand for paddlefish eggs from the US

3. Poachers slaughtered 86 elephants  whilst the CITES summit was agreeing to new sanctions for trading in endangered animals

4. More subsidies for fossil fuels as the UK Government releases a budget that supports fracking

5. Another story about Chinese hunger for commodities and the sell off of forests in South America.

So, while I’ve got a (small) audience and seeing as I’m up on my soap box about environmental tokenism… it was WWF’s Earth Hour this week. As Nan, from the Catherine Tate show would say…..

In case you don’t know about Earth Hour, it’s a global campaign whereby major celebrities, businesses and everyday individuals ‘commit to saving the planet’ by switching off all their lights for one hour. This really is like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic (an expression favoured by some environmentalists to deride token actions).

No-one, not even the WWF, can say whether Earth Hour has over the years, and after all those millions of pounds in marketing spend, actually resulted in less consumption of electricity or genuinely created more sustainable consumers through increased awareness. Much needed at a time when concern for the environment is at its lowest in 22 years.

In Malaysia, trying to live with ethical consumerism in mind is hard; recycled, chemical-free, organic (organic usually means ‘village’ as opposed to farmed), fairtrade – sorry, ‘computer says no’.

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Ethical wine consumption? Here – forget about it. Luckily, one of my team kindly bought me some on a recent trip to Perth. This Cullen Vineyards 2011 Sauvignon-Semillon is both biodynamic and carbon neutral (10 points for those of you playing sustainability bingo).  And what a tree-hugging delight it is too. I had been planning on saving this li’l beauty, but instead cracked it open at a BYO Japanese restaurant with friends.

I absolutely adore Western Australian wines – the idea and image of surf salt-spray drifting over vineyards in Margaret River makes me go a bit gooey – especially Sauv-Semillon blends, the fruit and minerality of Sauvignon counter-balanced by the oily and floral characteristics of Semillon. I had high hopes for this…

…and it was everything I had wished for – a hint of oak and tropical fruit flavours followed by a whiff of cap-gun sulphur on the nose, and in the mouth it was clean, citrusy, slick and slightly saline, perfectly complementing the oily tempura and exquisitely fresh sashimi. Fantastic!

A carbon neutral and biodynamic wine would normally scream ‘tokenistic’ to me. Computer says no? Actually computer says yes!

Selamat malam

@jk_cunningham

Bin man

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I haven’t drunk wine for ages so there’s not much to say other than I liked this one very much!

Finally getting round to eating the stew I made a month or so ago, we decided to honour it with a decent bottle of red from Penfolds – a brand I have always shunned for some reason. I haven’t seen many Penfolds in my local deli – this one was brought back from Australia by one of my team after a visit to their winery, so it was a real treat to open something of quality.

Penfolds 2011 Bin 8 is big and youthful Cabernet-Shiraz blend. On the nose it was fruity and perfumed, with cardamon in the background. Heavy in the mouth, it was busting with sweet and sour red-berry fruit and a slightly peppery finish. The tannins and oak were very well integrated, but acid was quite high and so it needed food. There was a definite bite and a certain meatiness which I loved, complementing the tangy beef, aubergine and parmesan stew perfectly.

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One for the bin? definitely not.

Selamat malam

@jk_cunningham

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