Jan

4

Grapestalk

By mthomas

grapestalk10In amongst the xmas email mountain was an invitation to write an article on psychology and wine for Grapestalk. I wasn’t familiar with the magazine but, having now read some of the issues online, I am really impressed by the quality of a publication from what appears to be a relatively small operation (The Association of Small Direct Wine Merchants – ASDW).

In the latest issue (number 10 – pictured) I enjoyed Robert Parker’s review of Harry Karis’ new book on Chateauneuf. The issue also contains lots of articles on wine as well as diverting reads such as ‘Demystifying French’ and ‘Provencal Flatbreads’. How can you not love an online magazine that can pull in Parker to review a book and find room to celebrate a regional bread!

Have a look at all the issues here.

Nov

22

The challenges of tasting

By mthomas

I am constantly reflecting on my ability (inability!) to discriminate between wines at the moment. I am reading lots of research that seems to undermine the accuracy and consistency of human tasters as well as more confessional and critical wine writers who acknowledge these limitations (Gluck et al).  I am also mindful of the restrictions of language and the work of Lehrer, Bourdieu etc. illustrating that the purple prose of critics is often more about individual taste, context, power relationships and subjective experience as it is about anything intrinsic to the wine.

chandosI went to an interesting tasting mid-week arranged by Genesis wines. I had not really heard of them until recently but I was going to be speaking in central London nearby so had a ‘window of opportunity’. Once I made it past the imposing and heavy door of Chandos House and met up with some friends I set about tasting some of the Rhone 2008 En Primeur offers including a trio of Condrieu from Francois Villard and a host of barrel sample reds. Interestingly Villard was a chef before he began making wine and is still involved in the restaurant business. I do believe wine is often at its best when symbiotically and sympathetically interacting with food and wonder if someone who cooks is bound to be attuned to the potential of this. It also highlights how tasting early samples is distanced from the ultimate destination of drinking a mature wine with food.

Parker’s effusive reviews of the 2007s has clearly pulled the carpet out from under the 2008s. The euro exchange and the recent drop in the Liv-ex also make many things a ‘hard sell’ at the moment. My impression was that the  reds were generally sound despite the weather and will provide some enjoyable, if not particularly exciting, drinking for selective buyers but the market demands the ‘best’ and money will be drawn towards 2007s. It is also so hard to ‘fortune tell’ when tasting barrel samples and I have a very limited threshold for tasting them. After half a dozen of the reds I find my palate overwhelmed, in this case with tannins, coffee and cassis flavours. I find it hard to recall wines even with my notes and wonder at the abilities of those who drink 150 over a short period.

I am not a huge fan of Voignier but I think this is mainly due to the quality of wines I was first exposed to. I also have a lot of respect for friends who rate the grape highly and clearly there is a top-end market for them. I think this is a grape I will learn to appreciate more, and even at an immature stage, the wines from Villard were interesting and enjoyable. I had the sense of what they might become and look forward to trying them in future at their prime.  The pick for me, possibly because I enjoy acidity, was the ‘cheapest’ of the three (Les Terrasses du Plat) although the most expensive (De Poncins) seemed to have potential to age well and will probably mature beautifully.

Aug

11

The Irrestible Inheritance of Wilberforce

By mthomas

wilberIt may seem strange to review a work of fiction but this book combines the two areas at the heart of this site; wine and psychology. It is also very readable and asks some interesting questions about ‘human nature’.

The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce, written by Paul Torday (probably best known for ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’), tells the story of a man, the epononymous Wilberforce, seduced by a collection of  ‘fine wine’.  Robert Parker is given an acknowledgement for some of the wine descriptions, many of which are First Growths from significant vintages.

The story is essentially a tragedy in that a decent, if emotionally distant, man is ‘brought low’. Torday uses a reverse chronology for the narrative so that the story starts with Wilberforce’s downfall and gradually reveals events leading up to it. This device is successful, to a degree, and does not offer up an oversimplistic aetiology of Wilberforce’s woes although his slightly ‘autistic’ personality clearly undermines him having insight into his emotional difficulties.

I would not want to give away the plot but areas covered include adoption, love, class, work-life balance and addiction. There is also lots about his relationship with wine including a great section early on in the book where he has a  Pétrus  moment. He is a complex and contradictory character to spend time with and the novel is a very readable protrait of a life.

The Irrestible Inheritance of Wiberforce by Paul Torday

ISBN-13: 978-0297851592