My first case from the 2009 en primeur campaign arrived mid week and, although this is a baby, the experts are pretty united in suggesting that the 09 Meursaults are approachable and drinking early. The case was from Haynes Hanson and Clarke who provide a combination of astute buying and good customer service. The offer notes are here.
I stuck 11 bottles in the cellar and one in the fridge because one of the best things in life is exploring a wine over the years, especially white Burgundy, and I am always (over) eager to try the first bottle. Father’s day and a roast chicken with stuffing, made with a glug of Istrian truffle oil, provided the perfect excuse.
The bottle was a bit cold and the first sip felt tight and was one dimensional. Colour was good though, crystalline with green and soft golden tones. There was a surprising steeliness (stoniness maybe) to it and it clearly isn’t a particularly ’rich’ style. I was not really sure how much complexity this would show in the long run but then the temperature increased and suddenly there were some really interesting spicy notes, the oak needs to settle over the next few years so that these can come to the fore. Food is key and a wine like this can only really show itself properly with a meal.
I have been reading about how the the 2008s are being re-evaluated really positively at the moment. There seem to be a few good value gems emerging and maybe its time to back fill although I couldn’t find this in the 08. Wine reading is generally on the back burner though as I am really busy examining doctorate theses at the moment. I have four in July; three are written by Educational Psychologists and one by a Clinical Psychologist. It is interesting that it would be hard to tell them apart in a ‘blind’ design. There are loads of stereotypes about the different divisions of psychology but actually we are much more similar than different.
I am also having to tie up loose ends before a sailing trip on Friday. I will be meeting up with my excellent crew mates Paul, Mike, Pete and Roy, and (easy jet willing) and we will be picking up our boat in Parma de Mallorca before heading off around the Balearics. Rumour has it that a night race to Ibiza is on the cards which should be fun. It will also be good to be somewhere Spanish speaking as I am a bit rusty at the moment. I will never forget how to order tinto de verrano though…
I am teaching on the Masters in Positive Psychology programme at UEL later today and am reflecting on what contributes to ‘enjoyment’ of wine. I have had some amazing experiences recently (see below) and have previously argued that wine enjoyment W(e) can be understood as a function of 3 main variables; features of the wine itself (W), the personality and physical attributes of the drinker (P), and the environment or context in which the wine is drunk (E). Thus W(e) = f (W, P, E). Positive psychologists work to build on strengths and have useful ways of thinking about the nature of enjoyment and it is interesting to reflect on what I enjoyed tasting this week and maybe unpick why it was so enjoyable.
On Tuesday I was lucky enough to be invited to a vertical tasting of Frank Cornelissen’s wines by David Harvey of Raeburn Fine Wines. Frank is an intense yet very amiable winemaker who settled on Etna as his ideal terroir. He makes wild, exciting wines with names like Magma. He doesn’t align himself to movements, be it biodynamics or natural wine, but has a clear ethical and conceptual framework which informs his craft. He ploughs his own furrow and in doing so produces wines that are individual and expressive. When matched with a menu specifically designed by Claude Bosi at Hibiscus (2 Michelin stars and rated in the top 50 eateries in the world) to match these wines, it is fair to say some of the contextual ‘enjoyment variables’ should be in place.
Frank talked us through his wines, giving us intimate insights into intellectual and emotional aspects of his work, as well as details of how each wine was made. I loved the 2006 Magma Rosso N0.5R Frank has a complex system for designating his wines and when unsatisfied he declassifies them. 2006 was a hard vintage due to the hot weather and his first in a ‘lined’ amphora. In appearance, much lighter than the 04s we also tried (4VA and 5R), it was a racy, perfumed thrilling wine. It was interesting to talk with other tasters as preferences varied greatly, as would scores I guess. There was consensus though in terms of excitement and respect for Frank’s approach. Thus, in terms of variables, we had wine made with care, love even, great food designed to work with it that was cooked by a highly skilled chef, knowledgeable and engaged people to taste and talk with and the winemaker himself to enrich proceedings. This translated to great enjoyment and a memorable learning experience. I can only apologise to Neil Beckett Editor of The World of Fine Wine for eating his bread…
Another enjoyable event was a ‘Benchmark Tasting’ convened by Joe Muller at Corney and Barrow’s HQ near St Katherine’s dock. Joe put together a list that illustrated the strength and depth of C and Bs range. A 2007 Leflaive Macon-Verzé more Chablis than Puligny showed that you do not have to drink at premier cru level. Interestingly the stand out wine for me was another racy Sicilian red from 2006; the Tenuta di Passopisciaro, (pictured) made on the Franchetti Estate from Nerello Mascalese. It was a joy, light but mineral and thrilling. I am enjoying discovering my affinity for volcanic reds (and whites). Etna is on my must visit list now.
Joe, who manages private wine sales at C and B, encouraged us to relax with his understated engagement with the wines. We tasted a few bottles blind and participants had fun assuming various bodyshapes (hands in the air, fingers on nose etc.) depending on an ‘either or’ choice of variables (old or new world etc.) proposed by Joe. One managed to rattle a chandelier by throwing up his hands excitedly and another embraced the ‘buttock grasp’ with a bit too much enthusiasm…
Again, my enjoyment at this tasting depended on the combination of good wine and good company combined with someone passionate and engaged with the wines. Joe is a rising star and would be a great choice for anyone wanting someone unpretentious to guide them through a list. Corney and Barrow are maintaining an excellent selection of wines across the price range and this helped matters. They also still provide that personal service which the supermarkets can never match. Long may such variables which are integral to enjoyment, for me anyway, be maintained.
Although the Standard announced that London was a ‘Snow go zone’ I trekked to Corney and Barrow’s Xmas Claret Tasting at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery near Warren Street last night. Despite my reservations about Bordeaux it was a worthwhile exercise with the following wines being shown;
Corney & Barrow House Claret, 2006, £7.64
Château Bel-Air Graves de Vayres, 2006, £9.80
Corney & Barrow Company Reserve Claret Ets J-P Moueix, 2005, £9.89
Château La Courolle, St Emilion, 2007, £11.69
Corney & Barrow St Emilion Ets J-P Moueix, 2005, £12.59
Corney & Barrow Pomerol Ets J-P Moueix, 2006, £15.29
Château de Lamarque, Haut Médoc, 2003, £16.19
L’Hospitalet de Gazin, Pomerol, 2006, £22.49
Les Songs de Magdelaine, St Emilion, 2006, £26.09
Roc de Cambes, Côtes de Bourg, 2006, £29.24
(Prices reflect a 10% Xmas discount).
I was led through the tasting by Will Hargrove, Corney’s amiable Private Customer Manager, who had some helpful insights into the wines. Overall the 06s were surprisingly approachable, with the Hospitalet Pomerol my pick of the night. It is already showing some interesting vegetal and subtle ‘forest floor’ notes. One to enjoy opening every year over the next decade to see how it evolves.
The wines from Mouiex also showed well but I was disappointed with some rubbery and green notes in some of the other wines. The Roc de Cambes was too oaky for me although Will had a good stab at reframing it as more ‘mocha than vanilla’. A fair point but still too ‘Starbucks’ for my taste. I guess the price reflects the investment in expensive wood…
There were some wonderful photographs on display by Colin Hampden White who followed the En Primeur campaign last March. I liked the way he seems to capture the personalities of the winemakers although the one pictured might not invite the warmest of feelings…
The exhibition is well worth a look:
Rebecca Hossack Gallery
2a Conway Street