Grapevine Archive for December, 2013
I have just returned from a buying trip to South Africa and am more excited than ever about the country’s wines. Look out for a number of new arrivals in The Society’s range throughout 2014.
With the exchange rate heavily in our favour, I was pleased to discover that eating out in South Africa is better value than ever. Menus are varied, imaginative, and sometimes adventurous (peppered ostrich steaks were delicious and apparently very healthy too – certainly very lean). Pizzas (not very adventurous, I hear you say, but wait ’til you try them!) have a wafer-thin crust that just has to be good for you. Seafood of course is heavenly, and the many fish unfamiliar to us are well worth trying, though some do tend to be on the bony side, so it’s worth taking advice from generally well-informed staff.
Cape Chamonix, like many wine farms, now offers cheese and meat platters as well as its full restaurant menu, now with input from local celebrity chef Reuben Riffel. And of course there’s Gottfried’s award-winning wine range to sample while you are there.
Cape Point Vineyards, with surely one of the most stunning views of the winelands, hosts a weekly food market, every Thursday evening in summer. I took this to be along the lines of our farmers’ markets but in fact it’s more of a night out, with a variety of ‘street’ food stalls and plenty of great wine and local beer available too.
Here they are setting up in clear blue skies for an evening of good food and fine wine. It can be very windy here so don’t be misled into going without at least a sweater!
I was also shown the latest 2008 vintage of the Cape’s legendary Vin de Constance, which has been released in magnum, packed in handsome wooden boxes, and by all accounts has flown out!
Fans will be delighted to hear that the regular, more diminutive bottle, snapped in Klein Constantia‘s cellars alongside its new big brother, will be available in larger quantities.
Jo Locke MW
South Africa Buyer
Last year, at this time, we came up with a few ideas for Christmas wine songs, tweeted them and asked punning Twitter followers to come up with their own. It was fun, so we did it again this year. If you can’t deal with plays on words, whether clever or corny, look away now! Here are some of the best suggested songs.
Cinsault Claus Is Coming To Town – Silent Nyetimber – Blue (Nun) Christmas – Warre-king in the Air – I Wish It Could Be Cristal Everyday – Stop the Cava-lry – Ding Dong Merrily on Aÿ - Angels From The Reims Of Glory – Dão They Know It’s Christmas – Maury’s Boy Child – While Shepherds Watched Their Phylloxera By Night – Rudolf The Full-Bodied Red-Nosed Reindeer – Hark! the Herald Angelus Sings – Godello Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen – Rioja-ing Around The Christmas Tree – It Came Upon A Midnight Kir – Yquem All Ye Faithful – It’s Bourgogne To Look A Lot Like Christmas
Many thanks to the following Twitterers for their contributions – @VinopolisTom @MadeleineMehalko @woodswine @gwyddeles @Gastropuppy @JamesHubbard113 @CarringtonsMcr @RiojaPlease @johnjdc @HoggGoblin
The deadline for UK Christmas orders has passed, but members living in the vicinity of Stevenage can still stock up at The Cellar Showroom until 4pm on Christmas Eve.
I have just popped down to see Lisa and the team, who have decked the halls in some style (pictured). Over 800 wines, spirits and accessories are available to buy on the spot, but if you want something in particular you can pre-order wines for collection in store (via the website or by telephone) until noon on Monday.
Lisa had just taken delivery of a fresh selection of fizz, including magnums of our own cava, which struck me as a particularly good option for festive celebrations, and the wine range has been supplemented with some tempting food gifts and nibbles. This year’s selection has particularly rich pickings (in more ways than one) for the sweet of tooth; look out in particular for the giant cupcakes!
Both the Showroom’s Enomatic wine-dispensing machines are currently free of charge, and will be until New Year’s Eve, and are filled with the team’s choices for Christmas drinking. Feel free to pop in for a taste.
At the end of November I asked the team here at Stevenage what they would be drinking over Christmas. While some had decided to go with something on the spur of the moment, many had planned ahead – we have shared some of those ideas on The Society’s Twitter feed (using the hashtag #Advint).
Given that tomorrow (Tuesday 17th) is the last day for ordering to ensure UK delivery before Christmas, I thought I would share those plans not yet tweeted – perhaps you may wish to try the suggested wines yourself over the festive period and put them on your final pre-Christmas order.
Tom Buzzard, Member Services adviser: Forcing the family to break tradition this year on Christmas Eve, with Sauternes 2010 replacing the same old Sherry. Fingers crossed they like it as much as me!
Gareth Park, campaign manager: Christmas Eve – sparkling Filipa Pato 3B Rosado, in the hot tub with my Christmas hat on (there’s an image for you!).
Stephanie Searle, Tastings Team: Accompanying the starter of goat’s cheese and smoked salmon on lightly grilled toasted squares will be Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2013 with its distinctive flair.
Laura Vickers, copywriter: Samos Anthemis 2007 with Christmas pud and/or mince pies – a revelation, and crazy good value!
James Malley, Member Services adviser: I am looking forward to sitting down on Boxing Day with a few glasses of The Society’s Exhibition Tawny Port, 10 years old, a cheeseboard and relaxing in front of the TV.
Sam Vooght, Showroom superviser: Christmas Eve – The Society’s Champagne, The Society’s Vin d’Alsace, Chateau Pey La Tour Réserve 2009. Christmas Day – more Champagne, The Society’s Exhibition Reserva Rioja 2007, The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes 2010 & Nuy Red Muskadel, plus something special from my own Ridge Vineyards collection.
Janet Wynne Evans, specialist wine manager: Afraid I don’t even know where I will be spending Christmas yet (probably at Leigh Delamere services) let alone what I may be uncorking, but it will hopefully include the last knockings of some very ancient purchases from a glorious bygone age when we weren’t saving up for retirement: 1990 Bolly, 1992 Bonneau du Martray, 1981 Leoville Las Cases and a 1999 Gevrey from Mortet. There will be some 1994 Madeira just to help things along. Think of all that in a car park off the M4 with a starter from Harry Ramsden’s, mains from Burger King and everything else from M&S!
Whatever you’re drinking this Christmas, may it be a Merry one!
I’ve learned to my not insubstantial cost that the main Christmas meal isn’t the time to get out your very best bottles. There’s just too much going on to really appreciate your most precious, cherished wines.
You pull the cork and, before you know it, someone has slung a quarter of it into the gravy (‘that wasn’t anything special, was it?’), Auntie Mabel has poured herself a large glass to which she has added lemonade ‘to take away the edge’ and the rest has been knocked over by some hyperactive child who has been eating nothing but Quality Streets since dawn. That’s no way to start your annual celebration.
Last year, a special sherry did the job, but this year I’m going for a magnum of sublime Argentine elegance and grace: Weinert Cavas de Weinert 1997. It’s not cheap at £49 (for a 1.5-litre bottle, remember) but I still think it is an absolute steal. Now a teenager, the happy marriage of malbec, cabernet sauvignon and merlot is just hitting its stride.
Unlike many of the Mendoza fruit bombs that are about as subtle as an Australian cricketer’s sledge, this is a wine of considerable elegance and refinement. Aged for three to four years in large oak vats, it is soft and mellow with the cedary, leathery flavours of maturity. Tasted blind most tasters would, I’m sure, plump for traditional Rioja or claret rather than anywhere in the new world.
The fact that it is in magnum is an extra bonus. Magnum bottles just look so good on the table. They seem to hold much more than a mere two bottles and are sturdy enough to withstand an onslaught from toffee-fuelled, sprout-avoiding youngsters. Best of all, they are great bottles if you are having your meal away from home. Arriving with two bottles under your arm can cause some hosts to be offended that you didn’t trust them to provide enough to drink or dark mutterings about your drinking problem. Turn up with a magnum and everyone looks at you as a wise and generous guest that they’ll happily feed the last remaining roast spud.
I have my eye on a nice Burgundy I’ve been hoarding to enjoy over some quieter times during the holiday once the kids have gone to bed and the Twister is packed away. But I have to say that the bottle I’m looking forward to most is that big bottle of Argentine elegance.
Head Of Copy
Members are reminded that the deadline for guaranteed UK Christmas delivery is this Tuesday (17th December).
For more ideas for festive drinking, visit The Society’s online Christmas shop.
While other parts of France had a more problematic year in 2012, the Rhône Valley, and by extension, the Languedoc-Roussillon, was spared a similar fate and has produced some stunning wines.
I have visited the region on several occasions this year and am very excited by the quality of the wines. While quantities are down on previous years due to lower yields, the wines are, to quote Daniel Brunier of Vieux Télégraphe, ‘phenomenal’.
Perfect ripeness has been achieved throughout the valley and wines have lovely integrated tannins and elegant structure. While there are excellent wines across the board, 2012 is the year for Châteauneuf-du-Pape, standing alongside 2010 in terms of quality.
Prices are still coming out and we are finalising our selection to feature in our opening offer in January, but while yields are low and quantities therefore down, we will be adding to the list of estates that we buy from this year and taking more cuvées from growers that we follow year on year.
What can we expect?
As well as Châteauneuf, we can expect to see a greater representation of Cairanne and Rasteau this year, plus, from further south, stunning wines from the Languedoc, including a new cuvée from Society favourite Château Sainte Eulalie in Minervois. The north is equally exciting: Crozes-Hermitages are particularly supple and ripe-tasting and Saint-Josephs have wonderful depth of flavour.
And the whites?
Whites still make up a tiny proportion of the Rhône’s output but should not be forgotten, particularly in a vintage like 2012, where they display wonderful fruity elegance and concentration without a trace of heaviness.
Our opening offer of 2012 Rhône & Languedoc-Roussillon wines will be published in late January. The offer will be published on our website and will be posted to those members who have bought from similar offers in the last two years.
STOP PRESS (20th January): The opening offer is now live!
As the year draws to a close I find myself reflecting upon the bottles that most impressed me over the last 12 months.
This selection is made in absolute terms, putting aside price and availability, and incorporates 10 wines that have, quite simply, provided me with the utmost drinking pleasure in 2013. It is, therefore, a very personal selection of my most memorable bottles.
In no particular order:
• Baccolo Appassimento Parziale Rosso Veneto 2012 (£5.95 per bottle)
Real Italian flavour here and probably the best-value red I have tried this year. From Veneto, it is made from partially dried grapes which concentrate the flavour.
• Viña Zorzal Graciano, Navarra 2011 (£6.75 per bottle)
The 2011 of this Navarra red meets the high expectations set by the superb 2010. Think modern, ripe Rioja but with a twist of individuality.
• Domaines Lupier El Terroir Garnacha, Navarra 2009 (£16 per bottle)
I predict we might be hearing a lot about this exquisite garnacha in years to come. A newish set-up, using 100 year old+ vineyards to craft a seriously fine expression of this Mediterranean grape.
• Frog’s Leap Zinfandel 1993 (No stock available)
Frog’s Leap owner John Williams kindly brought this to show to members at a London tasting in May. At 20 years of age, it dazzled us with its maturity and freshness.
• Dog Point Pinot Noir 2010 Marlborough (£23.50 per bottle)
A remarkable Marlborough pinot: ripe, smooth and stylish. I would go as far as saying it is Dog Point’s best pinot yet.
• Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 1991 (No stock available)
Tasted as part of a Penfolds vertical (alongside the legendary Grange), this sensational shiraz knocked me for six. Surprisingly youthful for its age yet completely delicious to drink now.
• The Society’s Vinho Verde (£5.95 per bottle)
New to the range this year, I sense this might just spearhead a comeback for vinho verde. Light, crisp and effortless to drink.
• Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2010 Auckland (£17 per bottle)
The tricky climate in Auckland means that vintages really do matter. 2010, though small, produced beautifully ripe grapes, and this is excellent.
• Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Chaumées, Domaine Jean-Nöel Gagnard 2008 (£43 per bottle)
Wonderful, complex Côte de Beaune that ticks all the boxes you expect from top level white Burgundy.
• Rivesaltes Cuvée Lucie, Domaine de Rancy 1985 (£50 per bottle)
This fortified macabeu, aged for a long time in old barrels in contact with oxygen, has near-perfect balance between sweetness, acidity and flavour. The finish goes on and on and on.
In a recent food and wine matching workshop, that was (surprise, surprise) themed around Christmas, the thorny issue of whether ‘to sprout or not to sprout’ raised its head.
Did you know that Brussels sprouts were named after the Belgium capital after becoming popular there in the 16th century? However, they are only recorded as having made their first appearance in Britain as late as the 19th. For better or worse, sprouts have become an integral part of Christmas dinner. In fact, Christmas dinner without sprouts would be like Father Christmas without the beard – just odd!
On this particular occasion, the question was which wine should be served with a sprout? (We had a rather nice sprout kebab, made up of sprout and bacon lardons; chestnuts would have worked well too.)
The argument was rather theoretical, as so many are, as it is highly unlikely that even the biggest of Brussels sprout lovers will serve a dish of them on their own; often it is the trimmings that play more of a deciding factor when it comes to wine selection. Nonetheless, we endeavoured to find the perfect vinous match for this Marmite of the vegetable world, with some very interesting results.
Indeed, just as sprouts themselves divided opinion (unsurprisingly) on the day, so too was the choice of wine to pair with them, determined by whether the tasters were lovers of sprouts or not.
Those partial to the odd sprout found that chardonnay seemed to be the answer. The creaminess of The Society’s Exhibition Limarí Chardonnay matched brilliantly with what sprout lovers described as ‘the creamy, nutty flavours’ of the veg and didn’t overpower or fight with the flavours.
On the other hand, those who were not fans of the sprout, decided that riesling was a better match; on this occasion Toni Jost’s Bacharacher Hahn Dry Riesling 2011 shone through. This slightly richer wine took centre stage with the sprout as the support act, and as one member put it, ‘completely masked the flavour of the dreaded sprout!’ without clashing.
Ultimately, when looking for the perfect wine to match Christmas dinner, there are, of course, many other flavours, apart from sprouts to take into consideration. Once you have loaded your plate with turkey, goose, or beef, with all the usual Christmas trimmings you have some quite powerful flavours. The key is therefore to look for a wine which will match the overall flavour of the whole dish rather than the key components.
Rich chardonnays or white wines from the Rhône work beautifully for those craving a white wine with their Christmas lunch, whilst a generously fruited grenache-dominated red sets off the slight spice in dishes such as pigs in blankets, bread sauce, and stuffing to perfection.
I feel sure that there will be many people out there thinking we have paid far too much attention to sprouts; however to them I would say that if you can’t pay attention to a sprout at Christmas, when can you?
You can read more about wine matching at Christmas in my article on The Society’s website.
Tastings & Events Co-Ordinator
The Cellar Showroom here in Stevenage has had the decorations up for a while now, welcoming members to a wonderful selection of festive wine and foods.
As the season to be jolly is rapidly approaching, here’s my vinous version of the Twelve Days of Christmas which, who knows, may give you some ideas for wines to go with the festive fare that is on the way.
Twelve Guntrum-mers Guntrum-ming
Eleven vin de Paille-pers Paille-ping
Nine First Ladies Dancing
Seven Joseph Swans-a-Swimming
Five Goldcap Rieslings
Four Collioure Birds
Three French Full Reds
Two Turtle Duvals
And a Mas Champartridge in a Pear Tree.
Have a very happy Christmas.
May your days be Maury and bright.