Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Côte Chalonnaise Taste-Off

Last night we had a taste-off between two red Burgundies from leading producers of the Côte Chalonnaise to go with our first rate Coq-au-Vin.  The wines in question were Domaine François Lumpp's Givry Premier Cru Crausot 2007 and Domaine François Raquillet's Mercurey Premier Cru Les Combins 2006.

François 1's Givry (€18, bought from producer) was immediately very appealing.  Lots of crunchy red fruit (strawberry, raspberry, red cherry) with an unmistakable Pinot Noir elegance, a modicum of well-handled oak and a persistent finish.  Not overly complex, but really lovely. It's quite young, but I'm not convinced it's got anywhere better to go in the future; it's delicious as it is and keeping it would probably compromise the appeal of the fruit.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Picpoul de Pinet

Last night I met a couple of chums in Wright Brothers Oyster bar by Borough Market in London.  They've got a small but reasonable wine list that's well matched to their menu of Oysters every which way and a pile of other seafood dishes.  We had a dozen mixed oysters - four each of English, Irish and French - followed by

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Return of the Gaggia Classic

This morning I'm absurdly happy - my Gaggia Classic coffee machine has just been returned by courier following a much needed service by Philips (who bought Gaggia UK a couple of years ago).

The Gaggia Classic is, err, a classic.  It doesn't have any stupid functions or electronic automatic options or any nonsense like that, it's just a really solid stainless steel chassis that knocks out first rate espresso (there's no x in espresso, you must shoot people who say expresso). Other models come and go with funny designs, colours, special options and all that, but the Classic has seen them all off; it's still made and still the best domestic machine you can get.  It also never changes in price, it costs £300 in the shops or £250 online and it's well worth every penny.  It's the only domestic machine in their range that uses

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Branch out in top years

Here's a basic but invaluable buying tip; for any given region it's worth concentrating on lesser wines in the best vintages, but stick to the known performers in the not so good years.  In the worst years you should simply stay away.

It's simple really

Monday, 19 July 2010

Becker Grand Cru Froehn Riesling 2001

After a roast dinner earlier in the day we only wanted a snack supper last night, which was perfectly accompanied by a bottle of 2001 Alsace Grand Cru Froehn Riesling from Domaine Becker.   Medium dry but with plenty of acidity to balance the sugar, it had a honeyed flavour with some petrol complexity typical of older Riesling.  It was a lovely wine that reminded me of a very enjoyable domaine visit last year, when I bought the wine.

It's an old-fashioned kind of place, Chez Becker, but boasting the desirable combination of high quality with very fair prices.  Furthermore they seem to be always open, they're very

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

La Chablisienne

Wine producers come in three types; negociants, domaines and co-ops. Negociants (merchants) buy grapes and/or wine from growers and then make a finished wine from all the brought in components.  This may or may not include their own grapes if they have any.  Domaines (Estates) are self contained producers; they grow their own grapes and make their own wine from them.  Finally there are co-ops

Josmeyer Les Pierrets Alsace Riesling 2002

Last April I went on an annual buying trip to Burgundy and Alsace for six days or so.  My estate car went almost empty and came back with the axle on the floor.  Alsace in particular is fantastic for visiting producers to taste and buy their wines.  They are almost without exception set up for visits and so long as you try to avoid lunch (around 12 to 2), Saturday afternoons and Sundays, then you should be fine.  For the bigger names it can be worth phoning in advance and checking when they're open for tastings, but to be honest you can nearly always just rock up and get stuck in.  Even if you are only half into wine it makes for a great holiday if you are coming from England and have a decent sized car.  The channel tunnel is very fast (about half an hour) and you come out the other side straight onto the motorway.  If you leave nice and early (get a crossing well before breakfast if you can), you'll be in Alsace by tea-time.

In this last trip I picked up a couple of cases from the highly regarded producer Josmeyer.  They're more expensive than most, but boy are they worth it.  Amongst other wines I got a case of Les Pierrets Riesling 2002.  I had my first bottle this weekend; it was bone dry, intensely mineral and citrus and very long.  A really classy drop.  In the UK you can buy the 2004 vintage from the Wine Society (but you have to be a member) for £19.50.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Patrick Lesec Costières de Nîmes Vieilles Vignes 2007

West of the Rhône delta in the South of France is discovered the appellation Costières de Nîmes, named after the principal town of the region.  Geographically it's a borderland spanning both the Languedoc (to the East) and the Rhône valley, but as far as wine regions go, it's considered part of the Southern Rhône.

The grapes grown there are typical of the region; Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre

Monday, 5 July 2010

BYO Premier Grand Gru Classé

Living in London we are spoilt for choice when eating out; there's a plethora of great restaurants selling wonderful food that compares favourably with most cities in the world. However, being an oenophile I'm put off by the gargantuan mark-up that restaurants put on wine in the UK, typically around three times the retail price.  There are exceptions of course, notably

Friday, 2 July 2010

Bruno Clair Marsannay Rosé 2007

With this positively Provencial summer we're having even the most dedicated red or white but not pink man must bow down to a lunchtime bottle of rosé.  However, there's rosé and there's rosé.  I'm not talking a mouthful of revolting bright pink slightly sweet liquid bubblegum, I'm talking about a bottle of Bruno Clair's Marsannay Rosé from Burgundy.  Made from Pinot Noir (a good if risky start) it's got sap and vigour with lashings of that Pinot raspberry fruitiness, but with a dry cleansing austerity to match.  The bottle was bought from the producer last spring for the sum total of €7.80, but Justerini & Broooks will also happily sell you some, but perhaps only by the case.  It was terrific with our home made pizzas at lunch today.

Memories of Lisbon

Who's been to Lisbon?  Having been for the first time a few years ago, I must say it now vies to be my favourite European City, which is saying something.  The centre of town is all walkable, the cafes and bars are great and of course the custard tarts are non-pareil.  There's a lovely atmosphere and plenty of good nosh and wine to keep you busy.  My favourite shop has to be