Sunday, 27 March 2011

Domaine Heresztyn Gervrey Chambertin Vielles Vignes 2005 v Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling 2004

c£40 and £30 respectively

Some exemplary poker playing and a small lottery win on Friday night meant that I awoke the next morning in the mood to buy some weaponry.

I will not pretend that my assault on the London International Dive Show was an 'under the radar' kind of operation in any way, but equally I am not the kind to fail a primary objective. The conflagration of these meant that I found myself a few hours later standing on the banks of the Thames in Rotherhithe staring at my Sister down the barrel of a shiny new speargun.

Still, as is so often the case, the solution to one problem created a new set of questions and obstacles. Most are better left unconsidered or unasked, but the one I did feel in a position to tackle was just what type of cork I was going to put on the end of it to prevent poking people in between bouts of pescacide.

Having inadvertently stumbled across the answer to the debate surrounding bottle closure (synthetic closures are not the match for cork in every conceivable application), it was clear that something quality, ultra-traditional and probably French was in order.

Up for consideration then were a bottle of 2004 Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling, and a 2005 Domaine Heresztyn Gervrey Chambertin Vielles Vignes.

Now red Burgundy is a wine that I’ve not had much luck with, it’s not that I don’t like it- more that I don’t tend to like the people that do, and have a pretty low tolerance for brett and the old and weird winemaking techniques that go on down there. Riesling on the other hand I am besotted with, and particularly this one, which I had at a restaurant recently and thought it one of the finest whites I have ever tasted. I thought I knew how this little head-to-head was going to pan out…

Domaine Heresztyn Gervrey Chambertin Vielles Vignes 2005 – No dirt on the nose whatsoever, full of red fruit and a little vegetal leafiness. The palate is sumptuous, summer fruits; strawberries and raspberries, perfect acid and light tannins. Drinking beautifully now, this wine is all the ‘S’s; supple, subtle, suave, sleek, sexy and seductive.

Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling 2004 – Really tight nose, minerals, wet stone and no rubber. This translates onto a palate that is equally inexpressive, lemon peel, lime and taught, focused minerality, but none of the expansive exotic stuff of the last bottle I had. Seems very young and closed right now, or maybe a possible hint of oxidation, either way I wouldn’t have put it at much above a tenner.

A very one-sided showdown means that my speargun is now the proud possessor of stylish new hat from the Bourgogne.

Bring on the barracuda.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Chateau Trotanoy 1961


A recent and more comprehensive investigation into the 15 or so old and dust-caked bottles at the bottom of my Grandmother's wine rack threw up a grand total of four vaguely drinkable looking results.

A centurion 1982 bottle of Muller-Thurgau, and two bottles of '76 Veuve will no doubt be good, interesting palette-educating, tipples.

As indeed was the last, a 1961 Chateau Trotanoy.

A quick consultation with google and a vintage chart, show this to be one of the finest wines produced in the type of vintage that attracts such adjectives as 'Legendary' and 'Mythical'. Retailing up to around $6,000.

80 plus years of life have made my Grandmother a very sensible woman. She declined both my offer to try to auction it for her, as well as the bottle of Gew├╝rztraminer I had brought her ("Silly grape"), and decided the Trotanoy would be better suited paired with our supper of cold roast chicken, salad, sausage rolls and baked camembert.

The bottle was a mess, possibly as a result of having spent almost half a century in the utility room. The label was illegible under a thick layer of dirt, the cork almost saturated and the fill level below the neck; I didn't hold out much hope for it.

It decanted off not much sediment to a clear plum purple with a brickish rim. The nose confirms a miracle, it's not gone. A little dirty brett at the outset, opening into some damson or stewed fruit. The palate is subtle and seamless. There's red fruit and raisins, cherries, maybe a hint of cedar. Tannins are structured and integrated.

Maybe the fruit is a little muted - I don't know - like many people I've not got much frame of reference for this kind of thing, but it's complex stuff for sure, and pretty damn good.

At 50 this wine is exactly twice as old as me, and though direct comparison is difficult, I guess it was at least eight times better.

Great right bank wines of the 20th century: two down, one to go, shouldn't be a problem 'though: there's probably some '47 Cheval Blanc in the shed.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


37 Charlotte Street, London, £65 pp excluding wine.

The combination of St. Patrick's Day and TOD's Irish ancestry had apparently lent him power of veto when it came to my choice of headwear for the evening. I am a serious man, and do not take sartorial decisions lightly, so was not about to pander to any bandana related bigotry that he may have cultivated.

We were due at a restaurant called Roka, whose clientele possess more money than sense, class and style combined, which made my compadre worried he may know someone there, and worse... they would see him with me.

This unfortunate alignment led to a minor hissy fit and him catching a cab for home around twenty minutes before our booking.

Not one to let solitude come between me and the possibility of a cocktail, I made for the joint, scowled at the bouncer (really?) and ordered an unimpressive Mojito. Realising his early folly TOD gave ground on the bandana front, appeared sometime later, and we found our table.

Food was in his hands, as I had got to that stage in an evening when my Japanese becomes a little rusty. And what came, via some friendly, speedy, don't-bat-an-eyelid service was pretty damn spectacular. Light as air prawn tempura, belly tuna sushi so slickly unctuous that it required the waitress to assure TOD it wasn't Foie Gras, and a couple of dishes from their centrepiece Robata grill; some lovely lamb cutlets on the bone, and a bit of small bird, pigeon or partridge or some such.

It was all very, very good... far too good for the clientele. But what really got me was the consistency. It wasn't genius teetering on the brink of insanity, just a long, fine sustained brilliance. Which for restaurant with a grillion covers, almost as many chefs, and probably onto its third sitting of the evening by 10.30 is staggering.

Topping all this was a wine list that oozed an unfocused dandy-ish class. Leaning heavily on Rieslings, Gewurztraminers and other Franco-German joys, it spoke of someone who cared about food and wine and fun. Better still TOD had very generously offered to pay for the wine, though this meant I could feel the power/responsibility combo weighing down on me a little.

10 minutes in however I was no closer to divining any rhyme or reason, and I was close to a hissy fit of my own when I came across it: Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile 2004. £92 is not cheap, but the food deserved it, and good god it was good. Kerosene, and minerals, tight citrus acidity backing expansive tropical fruit. It had everything, and in sublime balance.

The best things in life are emphatically not free: we must all make concessions, be they monetary, moral, or personal.

Unless of course you're me.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2007

Waitrose, £20.00

At about 6 o'clock on Friday morning I had a broken leg. After a couple of hours and three X-Rays this had been downgraded to a combination of torn cartilage and 'funny-shaped bones'.

The previous evening had been a strange one: I recovered temporarily from an early fall to enjoy some ping-pong and a wildly successful trip to a Mayfair casino. But the £300 winnings were beginning to weigh me down, and by the time we left I could barely walk.

At around 4am I abandoned my intention of going to Cornwall for the weekend and made like a snail for Accident and Emergency.

The croupiers may have been kind earlier, but in life I was limping in. Distinctly unamused by the earlier diagnosis, I needed some form of invigorating tonic to re-establish perkiness to my sleep-deprived body.

English sparkling wine has been enjoying a stellar few years. Down in the South both the soil and the globally warmed climate are similar to that of Champagne, and in the best years all three grapes can ripen nicely. It's even rumoured that Champagne houses are buying up land here.

The headline news at last year's Decanter Wine Awards was that an English fizz, Ridgeview's 2006 Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs, had taken top prize in the Champagne and Sparkling wine category.

The Grosvenor is, obviously, all Chardonnay. Mine on the other hand was Ridgeview’s 'Bloomsbury', which adds Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier to give the full Champenois menage.

The Decanter judges found the Grosevenor to have 'plenty of elan'. Which is no doubt reassuring for the hopelessly pretentious amongst us. But I have no time for dictionaries, and wanted to get on to the bottle in hand...

Initially it has a light mineral nose, but not much going on.

A fine-ish mousse. Very champagne-y on the palate with loads of citrus acid. Lovely breadiness comes through on the nose once it opens up. There's lots of fruit but to my mind not enough body for the acidity. Gimme a granule more sugar in the dosage or a billion barrels of crude to burn, and this'll be a cracking wine.

It's young tasting and I'd like to see it in a few years, but still fizzily good for both body and mind, especially at the price.

If I could walk I might go buy another.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Montes Alpha 2008

Majestic, £12.50

My Father is a proud man, and wont to take umbrage at the slightest of slights. So needless to say it did not go unnoticed when I recently accused him of being a hoarder of oxidised-looking white Burgundy.

A commendable attempt to set the record straight last week saw a bottle of 1990 Duvergey Taboureau Chassagne-Montrachet make its way from the dusty recesses of his rack and into a fridge for judgment.

On opening the cork was sodden and mouldy, the liquid: Morning-After Yellow. Horribly oxidised.

Happily the next generation was on hand, to redeem the sins of the previous. I am a hedger and a fixer so had cleverly chilled a bottle of Montes Alpha's superb 2008 Chardonnay in case of this thoroughly prectable emergency.

It's seen a little oak and this is apparent on the nose along with some green fruit and a little minerality.

Loads of acid and a bit of astringency (probably) from the oak, backed by a touch of lovely honeyed sweetness and tropical fruit as it warms. Lemons and star fruit, and a swish long finish.

Buying remission has never been cheaper, or more delicious.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Cousino-Macul 1987

c. £10 for recent vintages

If genetics are to be believed I am indubitably fated to become a hoarder of cheap wine.

Brief inspections of my grandmother's wine rack reveals it to be full old and dusty bottles of non-vintage champagne allegedly from the 1960s and '80s Pinot Gris. My father does a good line in oxidised-looking white Burgundy from average early '90s vintages, and Bordeaux from never-before-heard-of Chateaux.

A recent raid on his cellar turned up a bottle of 1987 Chilean red, laid down no doubt when I was still a mewler and a puker, and obstinately silent on the grapes that may have made it.

On the basis that we had nothing to celebrate Friday seemed as good a day as any to crack it open...

Cork was in good condition, and once double decanted it poured a deep garnet, not too brickish, and rather appealing. No taint whatsoever.

The nose gives this one away in a flash. All blackcurrant, nothing else, a lone Ribena-y dimension. Subsequent research confirmed this- 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Fruit is definitely still there on the palate, with a touch of woodiness, some cherry and blackberry flavours, but it's probably on its way out. Tannins are exceptionally light, and after half an hour have gone completely. The structure now is all bright acidity, which makes it remarkably fresh.

This is wine on the borderland of good and very good, and for me puts paid to those suggestions that Chilean wine is in its infancy. If they were making reasonably priced varietals with the legs for 23 years of bottle age back in the late '80s I suspect they're doing some properly clever stuff now.

Perhaps I shouldn't rail against the science. Perhaps the old people are wise. Perhaps the only way forward is buying up as much Concha y Toro as I can find before embracing the fuzzy slide toward mere oblivion. Perhaps...