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Category Archives: Red wine

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

 

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.

 

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

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