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Category Archives: OK wine

In WSET terms this would be acceptable. It will still cost me an arm and a leg out here but it’s decent everyday drinking wine

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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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Indeed, my creative juices have been replaced by frustration at my own industry; sustainability.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

Juno a good red for a stew?

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Not a drop of wine has passed my lips since New Year, but in order to keep the blog fed and watered, I decided to cook with red wine as a legitimate excuse to open a bottle.

Choosing red wine for a stew is a tricky business. Do you go cheap because, after all, it’s only going in the food and you ‘don’t want to open the special stuff‘ or go expensive because all the celeb chefs insist you only use good ingredients? Since you are feeding the stew liquid nourishment (much as I try with Sozzl’d) of wine and stock, surely you want to go with a decent choice, right?

To be honest, the decision was pretty much made for me. We have wine at both ends of the spectrum sitting in the cooler, from the really expensive (Domaine de Chevalier rouge 2008) to the really quite cheap…. I couldn’t face opening a bottle of Penfolds Bin 8, which would ordinarily retail for about £16 in the UK (but more like £50 out here), so I settled for the cheap stuff and kept my fingers crossed that it would add something of substance.

Juno – daughter of Saturn, sister (and, ooh errr, wife) of Jupiter, mother to Mars and Vulcan – bustily adorns the bottle I used to make a hearty Italian beef stew; the kind that my wife and I would’ve killed for during the UK’s wintry snap. Given to us by our landlady, this bottle was one automatically consigned to the scrap-heap of my mind; my opinion of it was certainly prejudiced by the label whose hideous pastel shades made me instantly fearful of the contents.

But, as is the way out here with crap labels, it turned out to be OK.

Juno Wine’s 2007 Shiraz was cinnamon spice and chocolate on the nose and in the mouth it was firm and quite tannic which was counter-balanced by a thick blackberry jam. Not long enough to occupy my thought processes for more than a minute or so – it was nonetheless fine and as such added some grip and steel to the stew.

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My search will obviously go on for a definitive answer to the stew-wine question. In fact I’d be particularly interested to know if there are particular kinds of red that fare better in stew than others.  How does grape variety, oak or terroir affect a stew, I wonder? If you have the answer, let me know.

Whilst I can’t say I’ll be rushing to buy another bottle of Juno, I’ll remember her for the dodgy label, as a protector of women and the goddess of marriage and conception (we’ll ignore her own dodgy relationships for the moment…).  Hopefully Juno will feed my wife and me with some good marital vibes in 2013…!

Selamat malam

@jk_cunningham

He shoots, scores but also misses

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The caveman diet isn’t really going to plan – well, it’s hard when you are surrounded by biriyani rice, Indian breads and fantastic pan-mee noodles everyday.  But I am at least managing not to gorge on too much carb (mainly this means banana-leaf curries) and as such I’m not carrying as much weight – good because the inter-firm football tournament has started.

I missed our first competitive match but played in the second game against KPMG.  I scored on my début, so I must be doing something right.  The final, to be played in front of ecstatic supporters from work is at the end of this week after our third group game, so I will carb load then.

Read the rest of this entry

Wine Fines

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A week after Langkawi and the peeling has started in earnest.

Somehow forgetting that the tropical sun can be notoriously fierce, I chose to ignore conventional wisdom and applied factor 8 to my face.  Walking into the office mid-week, I kept my head down to hide my unglamorously mottled forehead.

The Thursday before Langkawi and I was out with a group of guys.  The occasion was to appreciate steak.  The same group of guys and girlfriends/wives were the ones we’d  spent that lovely but fateful weekend with when I ‘lost’ my phone.  These guys take their steak very seriously.  There are rules, regulations and a rating system.  A bit like my former obsession for inventorying the wines I tried.  But less geeky, more tongue in cheek. Read the rest of this entry

Grinding my gears

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Disclaimer –  I love Malaysia.  I wouldn’t have committed to being here for 2 years if I didn’t, but every now and then certain things remind you that it’s not all a bed of roses – and there’s nothing wrong with getting it out of the system.  The last week or so has been bitter sweet so I feel like having a bit of a pop at my adopted home.

I lost my phone a week ago at a chic little mountain eco-resort called the Dusun.  With logical but circumstantial proof I concluded that the staff simply did not hand it in, despite my checking with the owner.  It’s a real shame, but I won’t be back.  This weekend just gone, the Wife and I spent 4 days in the honeymooner’s isle of Langkawi for our 3rd anniversary.  Much of the experience was wonderful – the company, cocktails and stunning meal at the Bon Ton especially – but a lot of the time I felt frustrated, annoyed and disappointed in Langkawi.  Again, I would be reluctant to return.

Having reflected on my week, I was reminded of an old school-friend (writing as National Romantic) who lives in Finland.  He wrote a delightful and thoughtful note to me a few months back – about the ups and downs of living abroad – and it has once again struck a chord.  I connected immediately to how he was feeling about his adopted country.  As if to highlight cross-cultural differences, I am reading a book recommended by my Dad entitled Japan’s Cultural Code Words by Boye Lafayette de Mente.  Using Japanese cultural history, the author describes in detail the apparently invisible behaviours deployed consciously or unconsciously by the Japanese, and experienced by Westeners doing business in Japan.  For me the interest in what he says lies in the fact that being half-Japanese I recognise many of these behaviours in myself. Read the rest of this entry

Slurping Spanish soup and surprising Sancerre

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After watching Spain beat the boring French in the Euros, my wife decided that the only way to celebrate the win over Les Bleus was for some Spanish food the following evening.

We were due a break food-wise as on match night we’d loaded up at a fantastic local vegetarian Indian restaurant called Saravana Bhavan, part of a global chain that boasts nearly 70 outlets. It was mind-blowingly good. I was reminded of my friend Frank’s disgust at not seeing meat on the menu at a veggie curry house we went to once for ‘boys’ curry night’. He would’ve hated it, but out here, meat can be of dubious quality, so sticking to veg is often a safe bet and boy did we cash in. Read the rest of this entry

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