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.
I avoid most supermarket tastings because they are often really grim affairs. They tend to show an incoherent bunch of wines that reflect a need to appeal to a broad customer base so tastings feel ‘scattergun’. That’s not to say some of the wines aren’t really enjoyable and good value (see below) but the experience of working through 50 or a 100 is best left to people getting paid to guide us through the overwhelming number of wines on the supermarket shelves. However, I have a soft spot for co-operatives per se and also for the ICA so figured the worst that could happen was that I would abandon the wines and have a look at some of the works on show.
The wines verged from mediocre to pretty good. I don’t review wines much now because I can’t take the ratings game seriously and there are lots of other people doing it. A few of them even do it well but most fail to take into account what we know about the limits of sensory discrimination, memory and human consistency. When I blog for Winepsych it is really just a whimsical supplement to the real point of the website which is the wine research papers, book reviews and sharing ideas about psychology relevant to wine. However, a couple of the wines being shown merited a description and seemed pretty good value;
The Cono Sur Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2011 was showing well and at £7.99 is a good alternative to a lot of the boring NZ ones dominating the market. Winemaker Adolfo Hurtado’s name on a bottle is as reliable an indicator as any rating that you will be getting something technically sound, good value and potentially interesting. This has lots of citrus fruit but it is balanced and not overly acidic. It has nice melon notes and a hint of green herbs. It is refreshing and would work perfectly as an aperitif but has enough about it to match food from goats cheese to light chicken dishes. A rounded and versatile wine with organic credentials and 13% ABV. The label (pictured above) has a bicycle on it because this is the transport used by the local workers to cut emissions and avoid pollution in the vineyards. The label is itself is made from recycled paper. This is a wine which reflects an admirable mindfulness and it also drinks well.
The other wine that stood out for me (and it should always be borne in mind that my taste changes with the weather, as does the taste of the wine) was Domaine Brisson Morgon les Charmes 2009. I have a taste aversion (learned) to Gamay, I used to love it but now rarely drink it, so to pick this out was a surprise. Morgon, at its best, can be really complex and age like Burgundy. 2009 was kind to the region and this is, in many ways, as good as it gets at this price level. Like the SB above it is £7.99 and when you are willing to stretch beyond the fiver threshold you can get so much more. It had a surprising depth of colour, smooth fruitiness and subtle notes of tar and eucalyptus (which I like). This will be great for summer BBQs once summer arrives and at 12.5% much less likely to lead to you setting fire to yourself than all those 14% and 15% horrors out there. Try it slightly chilled with a burger.
I am no longer a member of the ICA because it seemed to lose direction a few years ago but I didn’t dwell on the tasting and was able to spend some time looking at Remote Control; an exhibition about the influence of television. I got hooked by the Adrian Piper video ‘Cornered’ (1988) which explores notions of racial identity in quite a challenging way. You can watch it here but it is not quite the same experience as sitting in one of the chairs in front of the installation in the gallery.
A midweek outing to see Great Britain play Serbia in the Olympic Basketball Arena (pictured left) was destined to be dry as the tickets specified ‘airport style security’ and ‘no alcohol’. However, on arrival we were happy to note a shiny airstream trailer selling a decent selection of bottles. It is part of a fleet of vintage vehicles, also including classic Citroen vans, used by the Wondering Wine Company (I wondered if it was a misspelling…) an offshoot of Bibendum Wines committed to entering the lucrative ’festival market’.
The list includes three sparkling, five whites, a rose and five reds. A solid mix of the familiar and dependable with a few pleasant surprises including some at a fiver a glass. The De Castellane Brut NV was ok but not cheap at £45 for a bottle or £7.50 a glass, although the blurb was a bit OTT with ‘compote, brioche and gingerbread’. Spy Valley Pinot Noir is consistently good, as is their Sauvignon Blanc and both were under 30 quid a bottle or £7 per 175 cl glass. Having wines like this available is welcome and I had a brief chat with Simon Swift MD the driving force behind Wondering Wine. He was particularly effusive about the Margaux on the list, La Bastide de Dauzac (£34 or £8.50 for a glass) which was ‘spicy’ as advertised but confusingly described as ‘clean’. It was technically sound and very drinkable. Having wines like this available, rather than some of the horrors on offer at other sporting events, has got to be a good thing.
I was most interested in the way in which the wines were served though. A lot of effort, and cost, had gone into the cardboard box, with optional ice, and the ‘specimen bottle’ style plastic decanter (£5 deposit and pictured left). A nice touch is the label with the details of the wine on which is attached to the carafe with a rubber band. The tumblers were also plastic but a cut above the standard flimsy things favoured at glass free events. Perfect for picnics. If you are paying 30 quid for a bottle of wine you don’t want to drink it from something that completely undermines the taste and these were the best non glass ‘glasses’ I have experienced.
We got lucky in the Olympic ticket lottery with boxing, shooting, basketball, handball and diving tickets (friends attribute it to a postcode conspiracy) so it was exciting to get a taste of what’s to come. I can really understand people being frustrated with the lottery but for me the tragedy of the games is that local kids have not been allocated tickets. My kids will get to be part of it but many of their friends will not. Boris should reconsider this and keep in mind the alienation felt by many young people in East London.
Btw Great Britain lost in a nail-biting finish: with two seconds to go and two points behind Serbia they completely fluffed a potential 3 pointer which would have won it. Oldest son Luke, who is ‘shooting guard’ for Newham All Star Academy, could have got it closer! It was an exciting game though and the series of ‘test events’ should help preparations for the real thing next summer. Hopefully some decent wines will be available but the burger company monopoly might undermine a wide range of food being available…
My mum’s birthday on Sunday saw a gathering of the ‘clan’ in Leigh on Sea. The venue was chosen so that we could all admire the boats built by my stepfather Brian, a marine engineer. There were 4 or 5 docked (two pictured left) and a few more came and went during the afternoon. Most are cocklers but he also builds tugs and the odd commission including a really impressive replica of the boat Joshua Slocum used in his ground breaking round the world trip.
We had lunch at Simply Seafood, the name says it all. Between us we covered most of the menu. My sole was fine and it was good to eat some of the local cockles given the boats we were there to admire. Highlight of the wines was a Macon Lugny ‘Les Genieveres’ 2008 from Louis Latour. Nice green tinge to it and a balance between honey and lemon. Refreshing with a surprisingly good finish. Versatile in terms of matching different fish dishes and pretty good value at £21.45. I am a fan of Macon and in a decent year like 2008 there are bargains to be had. I might order some of this as it is drinking well.
Interestingly I am working my way through a 2002 white Burg from a good supplier. Five bottles in and three have been badly oxidised. Symptomatic and sad because this ‘hit and miss’ aspect of Burgundy really puts people off experimenting and they, understandably, head for the mass produced reliability of supermarket mega brands. I am happy to let the odd bottle go but when half the case is problematic it becomes impossibly expensive to do this. The merchant has agreed to refund in full for the ‘bad’ ones because they understand that not honouring this would destroy trust and therefore valued long term custom.