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Category Archives: Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

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

Labelisms

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Sozzl’d has gone a bit stale recently. Not my fault guv’nor…

a) my Mother-in-Law visited for three weeks meaning weekends away and hence no prospect of wine

b) work required me to go to Bangkok for 5 days and solo drinking didn’t appeal, and

c) a general detox requirement; Malaysia/expat life has started to take its toll on the waistline

As the UK has feaverishly and anxiously has waited for its first gold medal and won a flood of them I’ve struggled a bit to think of what to write. Maybe some ideas will arrive like a clutch of number 19 buses.

This last week, facing the sort of identity crisis as you do when you live as an expat, I mused upon the idea of labels. Read the rest of this entry

Panic over.

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Finally, the cherry has been popped. Tonight, we dined at a bistro that has a very decent wine list. Crossing continents, years and styles, this had something for everyone; Bordeaux-files, Shiraz-nuts and Californ-I.As. Parker points are listed against the more extravagant bottles – tantalising, but out of reach.

Alexis Bistro does a mixture of western and asian. Staples for the Brits, French and Yanks and then a host of pizzas. But also a great selection of modern-Malay dishes too. Oh, and for those with a sweet tooth, cakes ahoy. Read the rest of this entry

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