Greybeard’s Corner, A Fall Reprise

Ξ November 21st, 2010 | → 3 Comments | ∇ Greybeard's Corner |

Pickled frogs, fungal barrels and superb Bordeaux (again) highlight in this reprise of the last couple of months in the wine world.
Unfortunately I have been guilty of letting my Corner posts lapse recently, a mix of work related time constraints and travel – so this post is an attempt to recover lost ground, starting with a whistle stop tour of some of the main wine stories of the last couple of months.
All over the Northern Hemisphere harvesting of the vines began, and nowhere was it more eagerly anticipated than Bordeaux, where, once again, the harvest of the (insert decade, century, millennium here as required) was pronounced after a relatively dry, mediocre summer was supported by fine weather just before picking resulting in slow, evenly developed grapes with great (possibly superb) potential. Elsewhere the Loire was also successful while German yields were small but of good quality. Over in the US the situation in California was more uncertain after a cool summer which slowed ripening. Everything depended on decisions taken in September and the subsequent weather – for those that made the right vineyard choices 2010 could be a great year, for others it was barely salvageable, as summed up by the Wine Country Minute.
Nine new MWs were announced in September joining the first 2 from earlier in the year. US journalist Jean Reilly joins 5 from the UK, including writer Peter Richards, and new MWs from Belgium, Norway, Australia, Japan and Canada.
Decanter reported on research identifying TCA in oak barrels, although Jamie Goode had some words of caution on his blog which elicited a response from the paper’s author Pascal Chatonnet in the comments section. The abstract of the original article can be found in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
After the news of James Suckling leaving the Wine Spectator we all wondered what he’d do next but I’m not sure many would have predicted a wine blended by him being served to The Pope! – Decanter and Jancis Robinson got a sneak preview. Aside from ensuring his place in the afterlife we’re still waiting on his new web-site, but the “teaser video” on has managed to ruffle a few feather’s, especially Jamie Goode who posted a critical piece (make up your own mind if the video is meant to be self deprecating or serious).
One more Decanter mention when their World Wine Awards were announced at the beginning of September. All 384 pages of the magazine’s October edition gave me plenty of reading material recounting details of the tastings earlier in the year. Noteworthy of the International Trophy winners was a 2006 Ridgeview Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs beating off Champagne in the sparkling category – highlighting England’s strength with that style –Chile beating off all contenders for Sauvignon Blanc, and an Israeli Shiraz beating France and Australia for high-end Rhône varietals with the Carmel 2006 Kayoumi.
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous and October saw a UK woman suing supermarket retailer ASDA (the UK arm of Wal-Mart) after she claimed to have almost drank a frog poured from a bottle of relatively clear Moscatel de Valencia last Christmas. One assumes the alcohol must have been flowing freely for some time for no-one to have noticed that before the glass was raised to the lips!
Equally ridiculous is yet more news of grape thieves pre-empting a legitimate harvest, this time in Hamburg, Northern Germany, where almost all of the tiny St. Pauli crop was picked clean.
The biggest news from the Blogoshpere had to be the 3rd EWBC in Vienna, Austria in October. The wrap-up can be read here but Reign of Terroir’s own Ken Payton was present, ably participating in a talk on Wine Communication as well as accosting Austrian Politicians and winemakers. [Also see Wine Politics In Immoderartion - Admin.] Next year’s EWBC is to be held in Franciacorta, Lombardy, Northern Italy on October 14-16th.
On a more personal note, and as an unashamed advocate of German wines, especially Riesling, I had to accept the depressing truth of The Guardian’s post “The Curse of the Blue Nun” which details the poor image of Germany in the UK. Whilst this does mean I can continue to purchase world class wines at bargain prices I often wonder why it is only the wine cognoscenti who seem to “get” Germany, a point of view echoed by The Wine Rambler with his recent post on another German wine stereotype, Black Tower.
Sharpening the focus to the North East and the September NEWTS meeting was a commercial presentation from Oddbins, given by Gosforth store manager David under a New World/Old World comparison theme.
The most interesting match ups were for Chardonnay and Syrah;
The creamy, tropical fruit Ladies who shoot their lunch 2009 Wild Ferment Chardonnay (£20) held its own very well against the brioche and crème-caramel 2007 Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru by Domaine des Bons Coteaux (£75).
Chapoutier’s mature and minty 2008 Les Meysonniers Crozes-Hermitage met Craggy Range’s deep and dark Single Vineyard 2008 Gimblett Gravels – both at £18 and, for me at least, the Kiwi just took it.
October became a California-fest when all my business travelling finally paid off and I had the opportunity to visit San Jose for a training course, spending a day in Napa before flying down to San Diego and a couple of days work in Carlsbad. I then took the rest of the week off and drove back to San Francisco visiting a few wineries along the way, including detours to Paso Robles, Santa Cruz and Sonoma. Coincidentally when I returned to the UK there were also 2 California-themed local tastings to attend which means that I have more to write about than I can do justice to here– so I won’t bother! Look for some California-biased pieces on this blog some time shortly.
Other than the Californian tastings the main local news was a new source of wine in my area; MartaVine is the second Portuguese retailer (PortoVino started last year) to set up in the North East, except founder Marta Mateus has the added advantage of being Portuguese. I’ve only had a brief meeting so far but hope to find out a little more about her and her wines in the near future.
And so we finish with my roundup of wines that I’ve bought for, and drank from, my modest home collection. I may not have noticed at the time, but for some reason purchases outstripped pourings nearly 3:1 over a 9 week period, aided by a modest little haul brought back from California.
First the drinkers, of which two reds and two whites stand out. Penfolds 1997 St. Henri Shiraz was opened for friends along with two more understated examples of South Australia’s most famous grape. The St. Henri blew the others away with a structured, somewhat Pinot nose – a little stinky moving into a sweet spiciness & some liquorice. This was a full flavoured mouthful; smoky with some sweet fruit and very fine tannins throughout, but even this superb wine was outshone a few weeks later by the Zlatan Plavac Grand Cru 2005 Vinogorje Hvar. This brooding Croatian had a dark inky colour with a hint of rusting on the swirl and a dusky, inviting nose of sweet smoke and spice. In the mouth there a juicy acidity perfectly balanced by plenty of smooth, fine-grain tannins and a sweet-sour plum fruit component. The tannins give you the urge to chew so you almost miss the medium-length finish of the flavours drifting off into a slightly sweet, herby aftertaste – a damn fine wine which could last another 3-5 years with ease.
For the whites Riesling, that perennial favourite of mine, dominated. The Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt 2004 Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett had a light nose with a touch of kerosene coming through, sweet and floral in the mouth. The texture was light and flavours were simple, but enhanced by some bottle age – this was a crowd pleaser, an enjoyable Mosel wine with a mix of sugar, acidity and age. Somewhat younger but far superior was the Wild Earth 2008 Riesling from Central Otago, New Zealand. This had a crisp, petrochemical nose with a slight creamy nuttiness. In the mouth it was just dry, with clean, zesty acidity and a touch of residual sugar – really fresh and youthful with a relatively full texture. This was an excellent wine, exactly what I like from the variety and one of the best New Zealand Rieslings I’ve tasted.
Now to trim down that buying list and suggest what may be interesting in a few years time.
Top of the pile must be the 2002 Château Musar, last on the shelf as my local Waitrose was moving onto the new 2003 vintage of this Lebanese classic. I’ve yet to taste the ’02 but this completes my trio of that vintage – the only wine where I purchase multiple bottles for staggered opening, something I resist doing for other wines as it reduces my ability for one-off, impulse buys.
From Lebanon to England, and the Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2007 Brut. This fine example of English Sparkling now also resides with my two Reign of Terroir compatriots, Ken Payton and Brandon Miller, as I brought them a bottle each on my Californian road-trip – I hope they enjoy it at some point over the 2-3 years as I intend to.
Iberia next, with the Quinta do Poço do Lobo 2007 Reserva (Portugal, Red), Quinta do Infantado 2004 LBV Port (Portugal, fortified), Done José Oloroso Reservas Especiales de Romate (Spain, fortified) and Jorge Ordonez & Co. 2007 Malaga Seleccion Especial No. 1 (Spain, sweet). This mix typifies my eclectic tastes and spirit of adventure in wine buying, especially the Jorge Ordonez Malaga which is made in collaboration with Austrian maestro Gerhard Kracher, the subject of a two part Reign of Terroir interview only this month.
I finally started buying some of the fêted 2009 Beaujolais…. well, a bottle at least, the Côte du Py 2009 Morgon Vieilles Vignes. Hopefully this will be the start of a gradual expansion of Cru Beaujolais in my cellar, an underappreciated wine in my household but one I always want to give more time to.
Finally there was the selection of Californian wines which made it safely home with me at the end of October; 3 fortified wines, a white Rhône blend from Santa Cruz, a red blend from Napa and a Carneros Pinot Noir. To find out more about these, and the stories behind their purchase, keep an eye on your Reign of Terroir RSS feed over the next couple of weeks!


3 Responses to ' Greybeard’s Corner, A Fall Reprise '

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  1. Susan Spaulding said,

    on November 21st, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    WOW! Another great article!! LOVE the part about the frog!! FUNNY!! You talked about Beaujolais but do you like it??…You said it was underappreciated in your household…Have not found a Beaujolais that I like, yet…

  2. Cybercellar said,

    on November 22nd, 2010 at 4:30 am

    Great name…interesting content and fab photo of the frog in the wine. Couldn’t help but comment. Look forward to reading more :-)


  3. Admin, Ken Payton said,

    on November 22nd, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Thank you for the generous comment, Jen.

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