Ξ January 10th, 2010 | → 1 Comments | ∇ Greybeard's Corner |
December – the festive month where most people have at least a few days vacation time over the Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year period. Typically it’s a time for over indulging and, as ice and snow closed in on the UK, waistlines and livers were prepared for the onslaught.
In wine news Web Wine Wunderkind Gary Vaynerchuk predicted the US would avoid 2009 Bordeaux en primeur in a Decanter interview, Calistoga became the latest AVA while Amarone della Valpolicella and Recioto della Valpolicella were promoted to DOCG status – but Italy also made the headlines for the wrong reasons with yet another scandal surfacing, this time in Tuscany where illegal blending is being investigated covering several sub-appellations including Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino.
On the lighter side of the news Decanter reviewed the claims about wine and health with a handy fact sheet on the all that’s good and bad (sometimes at the same time!), new Wine Personality of the decade Eric LeVine presented a tantalising preview of the upcoming CellarTracker changes and we at Reign of Terroir welcomed back Donna with her wonderfully amusing and insightful post The Many Faces of Wine and for inspiring our combined Decade Of Wine Industry Highlights.
Here in the UK a few more First Quench jobs were rescued when Hampshire based Wickham Vineyards took over 14 local stores and quality UK supermarket Waitrose lost top wine man Justin Howard-Sneyd MW to Direct Wines Ltd, which includes Laithwaites Wines and the Sunday Times Wine Club.
I had the delights of 2 festive meals at the beginning of December. First the NEWTS annual gathering at the Newcastle College Chefs’ Academy restaurant, where the food was prepared and served by the hospitality students. Drink was BYO, just as well for a Wine Tasting Society, but even better there was no corkage charge!
Our table of 7 began with the excellent Ployez Jaquemart 1999 Brut Champagne (my contribution) then moved onto the Château Pesquie 2007 Viognier to accompany the starters (I had a delicious Pigeon breast salad) and soup. For the main course my pan-fried Duck was superb and complemented by a smoky, spicy & vegetal glass of Cloudy Bay 2007 Pinot Noir. A cheese-board finished the evening alongside my second contribution, a very disappointing Trimbach 2000 Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling; all kerosene and no complexity. Much better was the bottle of 1984 Vintage Port brought by another diner – I forgot to note the producer but it had a nice raisin component and drank well, although I suspect Port aficionados would have been merely satisfied.
The following evening it was the turn of the office party and we moved away from traditional fare with a Chinese meal at a local restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside. I admit I did not expect to have much wine that night but I was surprised by their very drinkable options which were on the table;
–Cristobal 1492 Torrontes from Mendoza was a great matching for the Chinese meal, with good aromatics.
–Caliterra 2008 Reserva Merlot from Chile’s Colchagua valley added a bit of youthful tannin to the table, and enough fruit for a very enjoyable drink.
–Tyrrells 2008 Old Winery Pinot Noir, a familiar favourite and good with Peking duck pancakes, although not as elegant as the ‘06 or ‘07.
Once again I headed south to New Milton in Hampshire where my company head office is – camped in hotels for nearly two weeks isn’t my idea of fun, but at least I get a chance to visit a few local restaurants on expenses! This time round the Boathouse in Christchurch provided a good meal for a group of 8 of us and the Campo Viejo 2006 Rioja Crianza was a safe bet for the table, smooth and easy drinking.
Later on a visit to the Pacific 23 restaurant (part of a traditional British pub) saw a choice of Gewurztraminers to accompany the Thai food; the Chilean Casa la Joya 2008 by Viña Bisquertt was a good example of a New World Gewurz, but too dry for the meal and better as an aperitif, while the 2007 Cave de Ribeauville from Alsace was perfect with the rich and spicy food.
At home I saw an interesting recipe on a TV show and decided to try it out – Wild Mushroom and Spinach Lasagne. I added my own twist to it by making a Béchamel sauce using the mushroom stock and adding Comté cheese before pouring over the mushroom and spinach layers – it was such a success that by month end I’d made it again! The Cata Mayor 2006 Tannat from Uruguay was a good partner to the first dish, but I suspected an earthy Pinot would have been better so second time round I opened the Brook Ranch 2006 Pinot Noir from California’s Marmesa Vineyards. This was my first Californian Pinot and the colour was darker than expected for the variety, with a lovely smoky bacon & resin nose and a mouth-watering cherries and tannin finish which made it very enjoyable to drink, however, a poor mid-palate kept it firmly in the 3 star category. At £10.99 it was encouraging as an introduction to the region and I have a couple of more expensive ones from Cuvaison and Au Bon Climat nestled away for some time in the next year or two.
December purchases were very light; only 6 bottles in total and three of those were Champagne and a Crémant du Jura for drinking over the holidays. The best deal was probably the Palais des Anciens 2008 Chateauneuf-du-Pape by Vignobles du Peloux (an obscure producer in the Boisset group) from the Co-op at £11.99. Of course it was Christmas that was the main focal point of the month, and a full 2 weeks off work allowed me to wring every last drop of enjoyment from the time. Even better, Christmas day’s dinner was at my parents in Scotland where my mother (a retired cook) was doing the largest beef 4 rib roast I’ve ever seen! Needless to say the food was stunningly good and the wine I brought up to accompany it didn’t let it down.
The first drink of the day was Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top NV Champage, chilled outside in the snow (yes, it was a White Christmas where I was); a medium mousse released strong apple fruit and was perfect for the Christmas toast. This was followed by the floral Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt 2004 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling; sweetness and acidity in good balance with a lemon finish.
The main course was partnered by the Château St. Georges 2003 St. Georges St. Emilion which had a delightful toffee nose and a strong acidity that worked well with the beef.
Finally the evening was brought to a close by a Sauternes, the 1999 Château Filhot. I’m still not sure about Sauternes, at least in the < £20 category, as this medium bodied sweetie had a good shot of honey but didn’t inspire me (I’d rather have had a Tokaji).
Of the other wines drank over the month one was so good it made it into my Top 10 wines of 2009. This was the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve from Agur Winery in Israel. I also had a delicious dry Pedro Ximenez from Chile, the Marks & Spencers label 2008 PX made for them by GEO wines, the perfectly typical Villa Maria Private Bin 2007 East Coast Gewürztraminer from New Zealand and a tasty bottle from Australia’s Brokenwood winery, their 2004 Cricket Pitch Red.
I forgot to mention Christmas presents! My wine obsession was catered for this year by a gift membership to the Wine Society, a veritable British Institution where £40 for a lifetime membership gains you access to some wine gems at great prices, I plan on putting in my first case order soon.
I hope you all had a good time over the holiday period, ate some good food and drank some good wine (and had less snow than we did here). The noughties are now done, onward into the next decade!