Friday, 18 March 2011

4,100 B.C. - A Fine Vintage?

A starter for ten: what's the highest mountain in Europe?  Easy, Mont Blanc right?  Wrong!  Actually it's the Russian Mount Elbrus, which is the highest peak of the Greater Caucasus, the lofty range running between the Black and Caspian Seas.  Towering at 5,642m, Elbrus is a full 800m higher than its Western European rival - so why does everyone think Mont Blanc is the highest European peak then?  Good question.  To answer it I need the help of one of my rather attractive hand drawn maps...

[caption id="attachment_976" align="alignleft" width="640" caption="From the Balkans to the Causasus"][/caption]

The border of Europe and Asia has always been a bit of a blur; the Ancient Greeks considered the Greater Caucasus range to mark the border, which would put Elbrus on the frontier, but then in the eighteenth century various European Countries decided to consider the border as the lowlands just above the Caucasus, thus putting the mountain range and Mount Elbrus in Asia.  However, more recent definitions

Friday, 11 March 2011

Grant Burge 2002 'Filsell' Old Vine Shiraz

For reasons of tradition (lots of bad cheap European wine combined with a sudden influx of more reliable Australian wine in the 90s)  many people in the UK have developed the habit of turning to the New World (in particular Australia) for their more everyday wines (thinking of them as cheaper and better value), but reserving the special occasion bottle for something French, 'cos it's posh like.

I would suggest this is a big mistake and you should turn it upside down!  In the bargain end of drinking, most New World wine at around £6 to £9 is very fruit-forward and not overly interesting for my taste.  Sure it's well made, but in a straight-ahead fruit juice kind of way.  By contrast a lot of wine in that price bracket from Mediterranean places like

Friday, 4 March 2011

Languedoc Roussillon Tasting

Recently I went to a trade and press tasting of Languedoc and Roussillon wines run by Seabright and Seabright, who are importers, wholesalers and retailers for a range of regional French wines.

At the tasting there were flights of wines from eight different vignerons across the region.  There were no poor wines on show and lots of extremely good ones.  I was particularly taken by the wines of a couple of producers; Chateau de la Tuilerie from the Costières de Nîmes and Domaine de Cabrol from the little known appellation of Cabardès.

It's a very interesting appellation is Cabardès. It's one of the youngest in France, being official since just 1999.  It's also the only appellation in the Country that allows red wine to be made from both Altantic grape varieties (allowing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and the much less known Fer) as well as Mediterranean grape varieties (allowing Grenache and Syrah).  So how does this come about and why doesn't it happen more often?  Well, it's mainly about soil and climate.  Let's quickly look at the differences between the two sides of Southern France with the aid of my own rather fetching hand-drawn map...

[caption id="attachment_944" align="alignleft" width="640" caption="Wine Regions of Southern France"][/caption]

The wine regions from the Atlantic side of the South of France (Bordeaux and South-West France) are typified by gravel soil and humid winds coming from the ocean, plus a fair bit of rain.  By contrast the wine regions