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Double the pleasure

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I have rather neglected to take much note of my conspicuous wine consumption over the last few months – mainly because having two kids means that life inevitably falls into a tumbling routine of wake-mayhem-work (respite)-home-mayhem-sleep-wake which leaves little time for a) appreciating the finer things in life, like wine and b) having the time to write about it.

I often fall into the trap of assuming that dads everywhere are super efficient with their time, or just more selfish about it and are able to pursue their hobbies or interests far more than I. How the fuck, I don’t really know….

We were in Greece last week – where I was reminded of quite how lovely some of their simple wines are, a follow-on thought from a blog post I wrote some time back and I was delighted to see the Guardian’s Fiona Beckett and David Williams both writing about Greek wine recently – here and here

I did the classic ‘Must buy something from Greece before I get home’-shop around the airport in Athens and so picked up a couple of bottles from producer Kir-Yianni who are based in northern Greece in a wine-growing region called Naoussa. One, Dyo Elies is what I imagine is a sort of Rhone-esque red and the other, Ramnista uses a local varietal called Xinomavro. Can’t wait to try them.

Back in N5 and I’ve just about finished off last month’s wine case which had some gems in – sadly I’m too forgetful to have written notes and, whilst I have photos, I can’t do them justice by trying to review them. Nevertheless, here they are:

L-R: Chateau La Negly, Chateau de Villeneuve and The Flower and the Bee

Chateau La Negly ‘La Brise Marine’ –  a crisp, almondy and stone fruit white from Languedoc. Easy drinking.

Chateau de Villeneuve rouge – light and summery – not really my thing –  from Saumur (organic)

Gomariz The Flower and the Bee Ribeiro Tinto – lovely, lively fresh tart fressh cherries with high acidity using 100% Souson grapes

The last of the lot is this fabulous Guelbenzu Azul Ribera del Queiles 2012 from Highbury Vintners. I’m not often a huge fan of Tempranillo because producers very often seem to oak it heavily, but this is very subtle – and it’s blended with Merlot (34%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%). It’s got a powerful fresh aroma of red fruits and in the mouth tastes of prunes and blackberries. It’s very long and has great balance to it so I was really surprised and impressed. Good choice guys!

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Overall Arnie score: ‘Do it. Come on. Do it now!‘ = 4

Packaging; this has a really lovely, stylish blue and white label with some interesting symbols a faint emboss on the lettering. Top marks for style. The fun thing about this particular bottle has a double label – once on the front and also on the back – a bit like finding a double yolk in an egg! I haven’t seen this before, but obviously the labelling plant must have had a little malfunction. Anyway, a nice quirk!

IMG_4191Picture: quirky, double labelled bottle!

Eco-credentials bonus; none that I am aware of – certainly nothing that is obvious from the packaging.

Retail price; a very reasonable £11.50 I would say!

@jk_cunningham

 

 

 

Les Arcs and back

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Just back over Easter in the Alps after a first-ever drive down to going skiing. It was torturous before even setting off on account of my knuckle-headedness in not getting my passport back from an embassy in time. We missed half the holiday because of my stupidity. Dad of the Year? I think not.

So, unhappy wife. Half as much skiing. Half as much wine drinking. Half as much saussison and beaufort eating. Do I not like that.

Thankfully, we were rewarded with lots of snow, some sun and I was lucky enough to enjoy my other great passion – skiing.

We took with us a bottle from my Wine Society stash; you never can trust a ski resort supermarche. It was Allegrini’s La Grola 2010 from Veronese which is 80% Corvina Veronese, 10% Oseleta and 10% Syrah and aged in neutral oak for 16 months.

My notes say:

Burnt rubber nose? Plums & sour cherry, figs. Country herbs and pepper, and something a bit smokey. Firm and grippy with nice mouth-drying tannin. Quite long

I must say, at 1800m and feeling the heady effects of altitude, this definitely tasted pretty sublime and it went perfectly with a spicy pasta dish my wife made. Suffice to say I’m not sure it’s a stonking wine, but good enough.

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Overall remarks:Get to the chopper!‘ = Good = 3

Packaging: Classy but a little uninspiring

Eco-credentials: None

Price: actually can’t find a price because this was from the Wine Society bought in 2010.

When we got back I cracked open another Wine Society bottle, something I bought ages ago. Domaine Saint Prefert is a Chateauneuf du Pape producer of very good red and white. This was a 2010 white – actually my first CDP white and is a blend of 80% Clairette and 20% Rousanne. Holy-moly this was f*cking tasty. Robert Parker gave this 90 points in the year of the vintage, so high praise. Put it this way, the 2010 red version goes for about £160. The white’s not as much but still punchy for a Tuesday school night…

What is it? Baked apple, hint of vanilla, some stone fruit and honey and long long long. It’s so unctuous you just want to keep drinking and drinking and, oops, so we did…

Overall remarks:Do it. Come on. Do it now!‘ = Very good = 4

Packaging: Simple, classy and love the embossed bottle. Winner!

Eco-credentials: None

Price:  Very little on the tinterweb about the 2010 vintage, but I think this is somewhere around the £30 mark

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Spanish muscle and English passion

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Wine tasting (read quaffing), is once again proving to be a lovely distraction from the hum-drum of everyday life. Not that the expansion of my family from 3 to 4 is hum-drum; far from it – but there is a certain routine of going to work to a job you aren’t particularly enjoying at the moment

I’ve preoccupied my time looking on LinkedIn a fair bit – at roles that I’m suited to, that look great, that I’ve even applied for to get the practice – only to fall short. What am I doing wrong? Is it me? Is it them? Anxiety creeps in, pulse races, nerves jangle.

Probably not the best time turn to the bottle then. And yet, when things are hum-drum you do turn to things you know; a renewed sense of passion for things that usually fall away when life is, on the whole more varied and interesting. Plus I have two kids now, so actually wine is practically the one thing keeping me sane.

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Two outstanding bottles to share this week, first this fine Spanish beauty Huerta de Albala Barbazul 2012 which arrived in my wine box from Highbury Vintners earlier in the month. This is gorgeous, muscular and inky, quite Rhone-like. It’s from the Cadiz region of Spain (which tends to grow a lot of red Bordeaux varietals) – made most famous by Sherry – and is a combo of syrah and cab-sauv. My scrawled notes say; tight, black fruit, baked figs, meaty. I really enjoyed this gutsy number.

Score: 4/5 and a big shout on the Arnie-ometer ‘Do it. Come on. Do it now!

Label: a stunning, embossed ‘White Horse’ motif. I’d love to know how this was inspired. Given it is nearly identical to the white horse in Oxfordshire, I wonder if there’s a connection somehow.

Price: £10.90 (Highbury Vintners)

att_large_5625Courtesy of Visituk.com

Next up is my first ever UK wine. Ok so I’ve drunk plenty of English wine, but never reviewed it, and certainly haven’t paid it much attention. Don’t know why when English wine is getting rave reviews everywhere, especially the sparkling wine.

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Stopham Estate’s Pinot Blanc 2013 is, quite simply, stunning. If I blind tasted this, I would never ever guess this was English. It’s quite full and the initial zip of sweetness is beautifully countered by intense acidity and dryness. The flavours are really quite tropical; guava/passion fruit, pink grapefruit and gooseberry. I was more of a fan than my wife, and definitely will be getting some more of this.

Score: 4/5 and another ‘Do it. Come on. Do it now!‘ from Mr Schwarzenegger

Label: Not really a fan. Pretty basic, but probably reflects the fact that they don’t have the budget for fancy designers.

Price: £14.99 (Waitrose)

@jk_cunningham

Play it again Sam

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Humphrey Bogart’s eponymous character in Casablanca never actually says ‘Play it again Sam’. It’s one of the most misquoted film lines of all time – right up there with Dirty Harry, Star Wars and the Graduate.

Matetic Vineyards’ Corralillo Riesling from Chile’s Casablanca region is a mis-nothing; in fact it’s absolutely on the money, for me at least.

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By god I loved this wine. Riesling is my greatest white wine love. If I could only have one white grape for the rest of my life, Riesling would be it hands down; the different expressions for me – from the absolutely razor sharp bone dry, to off-dry richer styles – are simply wonderful.

I think this is the first Chilean Riesling I’ve had, and given Casablanca’s coastal location, this is super-charged, practically popping back out of your throat! It’s all saline, kerosene, grapefruit peel, lime and tart, under-ripe green apples. There’s also a beguiling floral note to it, that lifts it from being dagger-to-the-jugular dry (a bone-crunching 6.3 gr/l on the residual sugar levels) to something all together more intriguing.

It’s a pungent one and won’t be to everyone’s taste but I LOVE IT.

Scores on the doors:

Overall remarks: Arnie says ‘You’re a choirboy compared to me!‘  = 5 points!

Packaging: a simplistic horse with a few too many legs or a very large tail? It conjures up images of a hardy donkey or a South American child’s toy?

Eco-credentials: None

Price: £13.50 from my local wine shop but possibly cheaper elsewhere online

@jk_cunningham

 

Ciu Ciu and Ciu again

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Straight off I really liked the Ciu Ciu ‘Le Merlettaie’ Pecorino 2014. I’d just got home with Ashley and as soon as I walked through the door was gagging for some wine.

This is chewable. It’s got depth and a density to it, quite viscous-like and fat but with a decent punch of acidity to go with lovely baked apple, pear, grapefruit peel and something floral.

It’s way too easy to drink. If it were a school night I’d be careful, but as I wrote this on Friday night, my wife was in with baby #2 (Astrid) trying to get her to sleep, even after I’d already done an hour of fruitless labour; as you can imagine it went down easily…

Scores on the doors:

Overall remarks: Arnie says ‘Get to the chopper!‘ = solid 3 points

Packaging: delightfully heavy and tapered bottle, with a lovely embossed image of a sort of medieval Italian piazza with some children holding what look like severed heads or helmets?? I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation as to what it is, but I’m stumped.

Eco-credentials: gets a bonus point because it is certified Organic and Vegan according to CCPB – the Italian non-food organic certifier.

Price: Some retailers like Buonvino do it for £12.95. I got mine from Highbury Vintners for essentially £10.90 (less 10% as a wine club member)

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Waa waa whine whine wine

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Hola. I’m looking forward to writing again about wine , but also London/Dad observations (now with two kids, one a bit of a whiner) as and when they come to me.

Over the last year wine has basically just been another thing on the shopping list, not really something to savour – especially with belt-tightening as life in London with kids takes its toll on the finances. I mindlessly add bottles to the Ocado shop, or grab and go – a depressingly sad state of affairs.

Wine has become a necessary staple since baby #2 came a long (*am I one of those middle class alchies?).  If any of you are familiar with Hurrah for Gin‘s hilarious take on parenting and the need for a drop of alcohol to stay sane, you’ll know what I mean. We probably get through half a bottle between us per night; the fuzz of wine before the dream-feed/night-feed stretch and my crunchingly painful 6.15am wake up call (not complete till Ashley is heard shouting ‘Daddy get out of bed and play with me‘) is welcomed after a day at the office….

Well fuck that. I love wine too much to let a WSET Advanced qualification go down the pisser just because I’m lazy and buy crap for a tenner from my local mini-market (which, to give it it’s dues now does a hipsterishly-good selection of London-brewed beers).

Primarily I’ll be reviewing wines from the following sources;

  • my own stash of laid down wines at Fine & Rare and The Wine Society
  • the monthly wine club box put together by the wonderful team at Highbury Vintners
  • the occasional supermarket stop off when I’m being lazy and/or if my Mother in Law comes round with tropical-fruit-mouth-bomb NZ sauvignon…

I’ll probably do a rating based on WSET’s systematic system, overall remarks will be Arnold Schwarzenegger-based, along the lines of:

Packaging; labels are art nowadays and since packaging has become an integral part of the experience, I’ll provide some commentary on label and story-telling.

Eco-credentials bonus; if there is any indication about eco-production method, sustainability/biodiversity credentials disclosed there will be a bonus point.

Retail price (if possible I’ll state the en-primeur price if relevant)- note that I pay 10% less with my vintner because they kindly knock that off for the monthly subs.

@jk_cunningham

 

 

 

 

 

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

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