I was interested to see how the Co-op’s range of wines has changed from last year but probably wouldn’t have gone to their tasting if it hadn’t had been at the ICA. It is an attractive venue and there was the bonus a provocative show by the Bernadette Corporation (image left), called 2000 wasted years (here). Fittingly, they are a bit of a co-operative with a shifting membership and an interest in image and consumerism.
Last year one of my picks from the co-op range was the ecotastic Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (see blog). This year another wine from the Cono Sur stable stood out. The Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2011 shouted out incredible ‘quality to price ratio’. Smoky on the nose, lovely and crystalline to the eye and full of spiced fruit. At £7.49 this is a wonderful standard. Tesco often stock it too but why not plump for the Co-op instead and support their commitment to fair trade.
The Jour de Nuit Chardonnay Viognier 2012 is also a crowd pleaser with the 30% viognier adding aromatic and exotic notes to the chardonnay. Made by Xavier-Luc Linglin in Languedoc Roussillon this is yet more evidence of the area being able to produce wines that can compete in a higher price bracket (£9.99). The Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett 2011 was a fine example, also at just under ten quid. There is much to enjoy about 2011 Rieslings from the Mosel. They are fragrant, accessible and warm but a hard sell in UK supermarkets. I hope this wine does shift because it is the opposite of the mainstream homogeneity that often thrives.
Fresh back from a pretty boozy trip round the med I found myself at a Harley Street bash with some pretty uninspiring wines on offer. I was in good company though and knew The Winery in Little Venice was only a short cab ride away. So we decamped to catch the end of one of owner David Motion’s Tuesday night tastings which always guarantee a few well chosen wines and relaxed banter.
The Winery (pictured) is a gem of a local wine shop. It attracts an informed, and pretty affluent, crowd. It also stocks some really interesting wines, particularly from Germany and Italy. David is passionate about Riesling and the Thorsten Melsheimer Riesling Trocken 2011 (£14.99) from Mosel is a good example of why this grape is ‘noble’. Thorsten describes himself as ‘stupid’ for working the ridiculously steep slopes in Reil but his passion should be applauded. He farms organically and picks late (October in 2011) so all the fruity characteristics of Riesling emerge. But, this is a dry wine and there is nothing cloying about it. A really elegant and refreshing glass on a surprisingly balmy night.
If you live in London and like Riesling you should visit The Winery at some point. If you live in, or close to, W9 you should set it as your default venue for picking up a bottle on the way home.
The Winery 4 Clifton Road W9 1SS tel 0207 286 6475
Re the end of previous blog the medal reference was a joke but I actually ended up wearing a (chocolate) gold medal at the Corney and Barrow summer tasting. Unfortunately everyone was enjoying the evening so much that I haven’t got a picture of it! I am really bad at taking pics ,pretty unphotogenic, forgetful and try to be ‘in the moment’ rather than capturing it digitally. However, on this occasion it would be lovely to have a record of it as I scored highest in the blind tasting and won a case of very nice wine (result!).
About thirty of us pitched up the C and B in Paternoster square. I was joined by friends, Paul, Phil and Huw (also not pictured as too busy enjoying themselves) but it was an individual competition. Nicely warmed up by the house Blanc de Blancs a lovely ugni blend from Jura which is a steal at around a tenner we were led through the tasting by Joe Muller and colleagues. The first 6 wines weren’t blind. A Riesling from JJ Prum, Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc, Dampf Chablis, Fiano Masseria Bianca (all 2010), an unwooded Chardonnay from The Lane and Macizo from Benjamin Romero (both 09). The latter was most popular followed closely by the Chablis.
Then the real fun started. I love the challenge of tasting blind and am always heartened by the abysmal performance of experts in truly blind tastings. There were six wines and we had to identify the country of origin, the price point of the wine to the nearest fiver and, for a bonus point, the city and year in which the Olympics were held in that country. Being a psychologist I was attentive to the commentary and immediately knew the identity of the ‘best seller’ in front of us (Domaine de Saissac). I also nailed the 09 PSI from Pingus producer Peter Sisseck and an Achaval Ferrer Malbec. I did this without an obvious clue re the Malbec that tipped off the other tasters. But before I get too carried away with Sherlock Holmes comparisons I failed to notice the opening wine was a very light rose’ and thought it was an oxidised white… Despite this I managed to get 19 out of 24 points. Joe kindly coordinated celebrations with Muddy Water Pinot and the remains of the tasting bottles. A fun night.
Staying on an Olympic theme, a review of all things sporting and vinous seems appropriate at the moment. It has been such an amazing time in London and good to see visitors from around the globe enjoying being here. Despite all the valid reservations about commercialism, relocation of businesses, ticket fiasco and empty seats, it has been superb so far. From the wonderfully subversive opening ceremony it has gained momentum and won over even the most hardened skeptics. Both my sons have been in awe at the sheer spectacle and I am confident that they will have wonderful memories from being part of it.
I have not been surprised by the superb performance of Team GB because ‘home advantage’ is such an robust finding. I just wish I had followed my instinct and had a flutter on us doing well. The crowds have been brilliant and must have had an impact on results. I went to the England v Brazil ladies football game, slightly reluctantly, but it was the best atmosphere I have experienced at Wembley since 1996 when I saw England beat Holland 4‐1 in the euros. A big part of this was the prevalence of kids who had tickets through the ‘tickets for schools’ scheme and were happy to scream and Mexican wave through the match. They were fantastic and the game thrilling. It is just a shame Team GB will not be in the final on Thursday, as I’m going it.
Even more thrilling was being at the park on Sunday night. We abandoned the Handball in the Copper Box (despite it being a cracking sport) to catch Bolt on the big screen and there was a real sense of seeing history in the making. We had been to the park for Diving but left before sunset as our youngest was exhausted but one of my top tips is to stay until late if you can. At night the park is spectacularly lit up, not as crowded and has a bit of a party atmosphere. The Orbit is worth going up but don’t go near the BMW pavilion unless you want to be force fed corporate nonsense. The London Ambassadors deserve a special mention. They are representing us in all our diverse and eccentric glory. My favourite ‘ambassador’ plays dubstep on her phone through her loud hailer. Superb!
In terms of food and wine I have been disappointed. At the boxing at Excel we paid £1.50 for an apple and it wasn’t even a good apple! They should be giving away English apples as a celebration of our produce but I guess it is like the way we exploit dairy farmers in this country, pay them a pittance then mark it up exponentially to generate huge profits. The ‘biggest Macdonalds’ in the world is a bit of a monolithic carbuncle that shouts out ‘global warming’ and the Champagne and Seafood bar is run like a overly strict boarding school where you ‘have to’ have this or that if you want to sit on the terrace. I guess it is legal to require people to buy Champagne (De Nauroy and Mumm) to sit somewhere but it’s not very inclusive or sensitive. I saw an Asian family pretty unhappy about it but the member of staff dealing with them didn’t seem to give a toss. The ‘prestige’ wines on sale were pretty good though, Argento Private Collection Malbec (£26.50), Spee’ Wah Pinot Grigio (£23.50), Chateau Coucheroy Pessac Leognan (£35.50) and an ok 2011 Chablis from Jean Dafaix (£32.50), and not as massively marked up as apples. The Olympic wines (see previous blogs) were really uninspiring with the Fairtrade Chenin the best bet of the three. Take empty water bottles as there are plenty of places to fill up and buying bottled water is a bit like burning money (expensive and polluting).
An alternative to eating at the park or the other venues is to eat locally or take snacks. Security has been pretty efficient and not overly pedantic (although at the shooting at Woolwich on Sunday it seemed a bit tighter). If you are at the Park then go to Franco Manca at Westfield which has excellent affordable pizza and great natural wine from Ottavo Rube. Alternatively book up one of the pop up restaurants. Jimmy’s supperclub at Annex East is very close to the park and has a small art gallery (website here). The other night Phil from Les Caves de Pyrene matched Jimmy’s sound cooking with Rene Mosse Moussamoussettes NV, 2011 Riesling from Andre Scherer, Le Petit Fantet d’Hyppolyte 2011, and Moscato d’Asti Ca’ d’Gal. Fun wines and nice people. Less successful was GlobalFeast2012 (website here) although Lin Soderstrom’s cooking was good. The guest chefs from around the world change every night and they have an amazing ‘global’ table.
For a couple of Olympic events we only got two tickets rather than four so I will be missing out on the Basketball tonight. However, it is the Corney and Barrow summer tasting with an Olympic quiz which should be fun. I will be ‘competing’ in the blind tasting and am hoping for a medal of any kind.
I am at a loss to why the lower alcohol wines of the Mosel are not more popular in these health conscious times. Perfect for drinking with a wide range of foods, including increasingly popular South East Asian cuisines, they still tend to languish in the popularity stakes whilst bars and restaurants select monotonous New World bottles for their lists. The explanations for this usually include the complexity of the German language with quadruple barrelled classifications, crap marketing, confusion over sweetness and perhaps there is a vague sense of distrust of things Germanic amongst some in the UK as well as intransigence on the part of the producers themselves. It could also be that some consumers use a heuristic that more alcohol equals more ‘value’ or that modern tastes have become accustomed to the increase in alcohol levels over the last few decades and only full on boozy fruit bombs register.
Whatever the cause, and it is likely to be a convergence of factors, wines from good producers in the Mosel are some of the most subtle, ‘terroir’ focused and wonderful wines out there. They can also offer excellent relative value if you can work out which style you like and have a history that underpins their quality. Many of the great vineyards were developed by the Romans and have been nurtured over centuries by families who have developed intimate knowledge of them. Riesling, which accounts for about 60% of volume, is recognised as a ‘great grape’ by a majority of the wine cognoscenti and devoted advocates include some of the wine writers I most admire such as Hugh Johnson who wrote the Foreword for Freddy Price’s excellent Riesling Renaissance, an erudite paen to Riesling (pictured).
I am no expert on the Mosel but have been lucky enough to taste quite a few of Joh. Jos. Prüm’s wines over the years and despite a few that push my tolerance for sweetness found them to be consistently interesting. I am really glad I succumbed when I was offered a case of J. J. Prüm 2009 Riesling Kabinett recently at a pretty good, not cheap, price. It combines wonderful fullness with a clarity of flavour. It’s lime zest acidity makes it feel relatively light and 9% alcohol means you can have a glass with lunch without falling asleep mid afternoon. It also has an underlying stoniness to it and will evolve well over coming years so I have pushed a couple of bottles to the back of a double depth rack in the hope they remain unnoticed for a few years.
The J. J. Prüm website is under construction and will hopefully be better than others which fail dismally to promote these great wines effectively.
Price, F. (2004) Riesling Renaissance Mitchell Beazley
I met Louisa Bassant (right), the driving force behind the Wine Collective, at the recent Psychology For All conference. She mentioned that she was about to start a new wine tasting service so it was nice to attend the launch party at the Sampler in Kensington earlier this week.
Themed as ‘Hidden Gems and Rising Stars’ Louisa led us through a few of her picks. I have to admit to having had a bit of a summer cold so found it quite a strange tasting. Berlucchi Franciacorta 2006, a passable fizz, opened proceedings but was not particularly memorable. Things then picked up with Sepp Grüner Veltliner 2009 and Von Buhl Paradiesgarten Grosses Gewachs Riesling 2008 which were both technically sound and enjoyable. A South African Chenin (with a bit of Viognier and Clairette) Mullineux Blanc 2009 went down a storm with most people but I couldn’t get past the coconut notes. I am not a big Chenin fan but lots of people are and would no doubt enjoy this (with food) . As my nostrils cleared intermittently it was a bit like a sudden window of intense smells. I was taken by how obvious oak was during these lucid moments. An unlisted 2002 white Burg appeared and was welcome but a bit wasted on me given my snozzle issues.
The reds opened with a luscious Foillard Morgon Cote du Py 2009. It reflected the good vintage and showed promise not usually associated with Gamay. It might well approach Burgundian complexity in a few years. Wine of the night though was the 2004 Rostaing Cote Rotie La Landonne. The black pepper and cherry notes cut through my cold. Not Guigal but still a real treat. Drinking well now and will do for the next decade.
Unfortunately a hot toddy and bed beckoned so I had to bail out and missed the rest of the wines and the celebrations. But I wish Louisa well with her project. Have a look at what’s on offer here.
Thanks also to Kate Noble for the picture
I have been lucky enough to drink some lovely wines recently at tastings and from my own cellar (put together on a budget but turning out some excellent bottles). Highlights have included Hugel’s Jubilee Riesling (2005) and Guigal’s Cote’ Rotie La Turque (1996) pictured.
The Jubilee was a testament to Johnny Hugel who died this year. Full of complex lime blossom minerality and perfectly balanced, it was a joy. The Hugel website states that it is…
Made in exceptional vintages only, following severe selection during all the stages of its productions, this very fine wine possesses remarkable finesse and elegance. At its best after three to five years, it often develops distinctive “mineral” hints which further underline its exceptional complexity. It reveals its true character when served with a noble fish dish, or shellfish, in a cream or butter sauce.
I am increasingly fascinated by Reisling, not only from Alsace, but my main problem is letting them age for long enough because I can’t resist opening them. I have already been attacking my 2007s despite knowing they are nowhere near their peak. I have delay of gratification issues when it comes to these wines more than any other (except maybe 2005 Burgundys).
Luckily the Guigal La Turque had been cellared by Will and Bess Fine Wines (soon to replace Corkyswine) run by David and Caroline Gooder. I could never have resisted a Cote Rotie of this quality for over a decade if it had been close to hand. It is easy to see why Robert Parker is so fond of these wines but I just wish that they were more available to mere mortals. The 96 had a perfect cork and opened up over 30 minutes to fill the room with its perfume. It stood up to, and enhanced, a T Bone steak from the Ginger Pig with its amazing cassis and truffle notes. Bliss!
I am currently intrigued by the increasing popularity of Santorini which is now found on many good lists. Recently I tried an Assyrtiko (2008) at Aureole in Las Vegas care of Assistant Sommelier Adam. Despite the attractions of the amazing wine tower there (see picture), the freshness of the Santorini shone through. Also at The Square in Mayfair following a tasting from Haynes, Hanson and Clark, Katie ‘Sommelier on loan from Chez Bruce’ also recommended a Santorini whilst waxing lyrical on its very apparent merits. Decanter’s August 2009 issue had a tasting of Greek whites and I am not surprised so many were celebrated. Try a bottle of Santorini soon.
It was nice to be asked to speak about Psychology and Wine as part of the British Psychological Society London and Home Counties series of lectures. I was amazed, and appreciative, that so many people braved the heat and sacrificed watching Murray play at Wimbledon to attend my talk. It was interesting to talk to people from the wine world who had managed to get tickets, as well as colleagues from the various Divisions of psychology. I have had some lovely feedback and really enjoyed the night.
I had kindly been invited to celebrate with a few friends afterwards at The East Room. This is part of the Milk and Honey stable of members clubs and is very handily situated in Tabernacle Street a few doors down from from the BPS offices. It has some excellent wines available including a selection of New World bottles in Enomatic (vending)machines which allowed us to sample some cracking Rieslings before heading upstairs to the roof terrace. The star for me was Jeffrey Grosset’s Polish Hill 2008 Reisling which was minerally and somehow lean yet rich (I know this is somewhat oxymoronic). It was packed with refreshing lime and slightly nutty notes. A really refreshing glass of wine on a hot London night.
Thanks again to Laura and the staff at The East Room.