why paying attention to wine label food “matching” ideas is bonkers…

You’ve spent long enough staring at the prices on the wine shelves in the supermarket, tried using the “discounted” price tags as a guide (which one’s going to give me the best deal?), and finally made a choice.

Now assuming you were hoping to somehow luckily grab something that would go with tonight’s dinner; what’s it got to say about that?

er, so that's "goes with pretty much anything you like; we just didn't have room to fit kebabs, bbqs, pork, lamb, beef, chicken, etc on the label!"
er, so that’s “goes with pretty much anything you like; we just didn’t have room to fit kebabs, bbqs, pork, lamb, beef, chicken, etc on the label!”

Full marks for not going down the road of “it tastes of everything you’ve no idea about from the exotic fruit & veg section of the store”; plum & spicy flavours works just fine for Argentinean Malbec.

All falls apart with the food ideas though; here we get grilled meat (any type of meat presumably – take your pick), Thai food (because that country’s cuisine is so one-dimensional there’s no real difference between dishes), pasta or risotto (hell, Italian food’s much the same as Thai – anything goes!).

What a load of worthless twaddle! Still, might be a little on the “sweet” side for a Malbec (masks any number of poor winemaking faults that little trick), but it’s ok for an £8 bottle of wine.

Drink within 6 months you’ll notice too; in other words, “this baby’s not for the long-haul; buy, drink, forget is the name of the game.”

Just to cover ourselves too, it may “throw a harmless sediment” (who’s it going to throw that at I wonder? The bullshit food-matching copywriters?), which given you’ve been told not to keep it more than 6 months, would only come from poor filtration/fining when it was bottled.

Oh, and that 1200m is to be taken with a touch of salt. There’s no sub-region (or even region) mentioned on the label, and Mendoza vineyards (where it says it’s bottled) are more in the 600-1,100m range – but it sounds really smart doesn’t it?

Some in the wine biz think we need more on our bottles’ back labels; not so, we just need decent stuff not marketing gumph.

Nautilus Estate turns 30…

The Nautilus team: Brett Bermingham (Opawa winemaker), Belinda Frazerhurst, Ian Cooper, Clive Jones (Chief winemaker), Tim Ritchie, Claudia Yanez and Katy Prescott

Hard to believe that Nautilus Estate, one of Marlborough’s top wineries, has just celebrated its 30th vintage, with that first Sauvignon Blanc released way back in 1985.

Back then they didn’t own a single vine, buying grapes from established local growers instead (still a common way to get a wine label off the ground). Now they have 6 vineyards, with a good few 15+ years old which means they’ve really got to know what works where within each site.

On top of these, a steadfast bunch of local owner-growers still contribute fruit to the Nautilus success story, with Willie Crosse, Murray and Vicky Gane, Jim and Debbie Greer, and Ivan and Margaret Sutherland key among them.

Young  they may be, but Nautilus stands out as a Marlborough producer with a heritage; not just a made-up label designed to jump on the New Zealand Sauvignon bandwagon.

“Terroir”; perhaps the most hazy of all wine terms…

It’s bandied about as if we all “get it” without a second thought; the idea that the soil, climate, location, aspect, winemaking – just about anything you can think of in fact, all somehow contribute to what’s in the bottle you’re drinking.

A lovely, lofty idea that’s seen books written about it and is in such common usage that you kind of feel silly if you don’t know what the hell it means.

Refreshing then, to see a French professor no less (the heartland of “terroir”) diss the whole idea.

Continue reading

Just how big is your favourite Champagne brand?

Fascinating article in the Drinks Business today picked out the top 10 Champagne Houses by volume (2013 figures), and it makes for amazing reading.

Given these are wines that we’re prepared to shell-out a good few notes for, you get a clear idea of why Champagne names sponsor so many high profile events around the globe.

Just think of what a bottle of these wines costs, and then multiply that by the number of bottles produced, and you’ll see we’re talking some very serious amounts of money.

  1. Moët & Chandon: 28,980,000 bottles (yep, nearly 29 MILLION bottles!)
  2. Veuve Clicquot: 17,400,000 bottles
  3. Nicolas Feuillatte: 9,876,000 bottles
  4. G.H Mumm: 7,488,000 bottles
  5. Laurent-Perrier: 7,008,000 bottles
  6. Taittinger: 5,664,000 bottles
  7. Piper-Heidsieck: 4,560,000 bottles
  8. Pommery: 4,380,000 bottles
  9. Lanson: 4,320,000 bottles
  10. Canard-Duchêne: 4,038,000 bottles

I dannae if she can take any more, Captain!

Scotty is worried that Kirk's Pinot Noir will be cooked; who knew he was such a wine nut?
Scotty is worried that Kirk’s Pinot Noir will be cooked; who knew he was such a wine nut?

The temperature in the UK today was pushing 30º in some places; it was in the high 20s down here in the South West; so what’s that got to do with wine?

Everything, especially when you consider that most red wines start to “fall apart” (aka taste crap) after they’re served upwards of 20º. That’s for wines that’ve been made properly; Lord help the natural wine mob in this weather, they’re supping magma. Continue reading

Australia’s only entry in Drinks Business’s Top 10 serious rose wines…

Charles Melton Rose ‘Rose of Virginia’ (Barossa Valley, Australia)

Melton Rose of Virginia 2013Australian wines aren’t generally know to be pushovers and this example from one of the Barossa Valley’s leading producers, Charles Melton, is no exception.

Made predominantly from Grenache, you can tell just by looking at it in the bottle that its nothing like its contemporaries from Provence.

Once described by Anthony Rose as: “Australia’s best rosé.” The Australian Wine Companion by James Halliday gave it 95/100 points and described it as: “Vivid crimson; fragrant spiced plum aromas lead into a palate stacked with fruit flavour without sacrificing finesse and focus; a simply delicious blend.”

How much? The 2013 is £18 (or £16.20 if buying 3+)

Why so serious? Rosé to put hairs on your chest

now there’s a smart idea…

Ever wondered what happens to all the bits of grape that are left at the end of the winemaking process? No; us neither come to think of it.

They’re still there though, and one enterprising outfit in Australia’s Murray River region is pushing ahead with a biomass power plant to convert all that plant waste into energy. Lower power bills for locals, a new revenue stream for farmers plus new local jobs are all in the pipeline as a result.

a powerhouse of Australian Clare Valley Shiraz…

one of the big boys of Aussie Shiraz, The Armagh is ranked up there with Australia's top 21 wines
one of the big boys of Aussie Shiraz, The Armagh is ranked up there with Australia’s top 21 wines

The Armagh Shiraz is a hugely concentrated, deeply impressive wine, one which leaves you in no doubt as to why it’s worth a 3-figure sum.

Proudly old school, Jim Barry’s flagship wine cruised (or maybe that’s bruised) its way into Matthew Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines 2014/15.

Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz 2008 – Clare Valley £123.35 (or £105 if buying 3+)

 This year 2010 Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz is nothing short of sensational. It deserves a whole page devoted to this wine alone, but unfortunately The Armagh outranks it and so it gets top billing. Before I turn to The Armagh, I must urge you to taste 2010 The McRae Wood (£30) though. Without doubt the finest wine under this label I have ever seen this is a brilliant wine and one which will age for ten to twenty years such is its phenomenal engineering and awe-inspiring raw materials. Last year’s Roadshow desert island wine was 2007 The Armagh. I have never seen so many people so grateful for the opportunity to taste this iconic wine. 2007 was the anomaly vintage – smooth, herbal, relaxed and tame. Little did these people know that I had lulled them into a false sense of security last year before unleashing the fire-burnished 2008 vintage on them this year. This is a wine plucked from the magma of a smoking volcano. It is hugely powerful with intense cassis fruit and muscles upon muscles. The flavour harpoons your palate and you are unable to escape. What follows is positively daunting – the formidable tannins and lashings of tribal fruit get to work rearranging your olfactory system. This open mouth surgery is the ultimate masochistic treat. In the panoply of The Armaghs this is a big one, so if you can handle this then you can handle anything and I take my hat off to you. If you can’t cope then wave the white flag and the Moscato brigade will scrape you up off the floor and dump you somewhere out of the way. If you just simply feel dizzy, share the bottle with someone else you selfish bugger.