London Cru update - racking, less and other stories
This time of year in the winery is generally quiet. The wines are maturing and while they need the occasional racking the urgency felt during harvest season just isn't there. Rack...
You can't beat the classics
We all love finding something new. Personally, the only reason I go on Twitter is to find out what’s up and coming before jumping on the band wagon and trying it out. On my January health hype, I’ve been caught up following a lot of people posting about new recipes to try with whacky ingredients from all four corners of the earth, and while a few of them have been delicious, quite a lot of them have just been a complete faff and pretty disappointing. I can’t help thinking that sometimes you can’t beat your classics, like Delia Smith's roast or Mary Berry's lemon drizzle cake. The same applies to wines. We get told to try this or that because a certain winemaker has done something innovative, but what about the old favourites that we already know and love? Here are three of our long-time favourite wines that make up part of a staple Roberson diet. Sancerre 2014 by Gerard et Pierre Morin People throw the word ‘Sancerre’ around without really remembering that there are some spectacular wines in this category. Sancerres can be beautiful, and this one from Domaine Gerard et Pierre Morin is particularly brilliant. When Pierre came in to taste his wines with us back in November, we were all impressed by how much attention he pays to detail. An organic approach to farming ensures that the upmost care is taken to express terroir in his wines. This Sancerre is a blend of fruit from different vineyards, resulting in a fresh and flavoursome wine with beautiful citrus notes. Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2010 by Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix Although I might be banging on about the classics, this isn’t exactly your standard Chablis. Nevertheless, this atypical wine is something of a favourite in the Roberson office, venturing away from the dry mineral flavours that you expect from this region. Defaix releases his wine slightly later than most Chablis, allowing it to spend more time on lees and achieve that richer, fuller flavour that you'd associate more with a wine from the Côte de Beaune. This is a complex and stylish wine that we keep coming back to. La Dame by Mas des Dames As long-time fans of Mas des Dames, we've been offering the wines from this domaine in the Languedoc for years. It's hard to think of other wineries that we've worked with for as long, but of course, we wouldn't keep a wine on our shelves if we didn't love it. Dutch winemaker Lidewij van Wilgen has done a lot to improve the reputation of wines coming out of the region, producing wines of exceptional quality. Time after time, La Dame never fails to impress us with its lovely dark fruit and peppery kick.
Romaric of Chavy-Chouet visits Roberson
Last week, we welcomed Romaric Chavy from Domaine Chavy-Chouet to London. To kick off his visit, we had a bit of a boozy BYO meal on Tuesday with loads of interesting wines and some delicious rotisserie chicken. Romaric brought with him a scrumptious magnum of Premier Cru Mersault which went down a treat. After a bit of a late night, Wednesday involved some in-house training with Romaric tasting his new 2014 vintage. All of the wines were showing beautifully, but a particular highlight for me was the Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champs Gains which was silky and rich with beautiful minerality. Thursday was the last day that Romaric was with us. After visiting some of the restaurants where his wine is served, he helped out at our Introduction to Quality Wine evening, giving our consumers a unique opportunity to meet the man behind the bottle. Romaric was heading up the ‘place’ table and explaining the effect of terroir on three of his wines: Bourgogne Blanc ‘Les Femelottes’, Puligny Montrachet ‘Les Enseignères’ and Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Folatières’. Tasting all three of these wines alongside one another gave a great insight in to the vineyard classification system and how the different terroir really does change the taste of wine. Romaric went back to France early on Friday morning, but it was great spending time with him and tasting his wines. We look forward to seeing him again soon.
How to taste wine
Our first Introduction to Quality Wine tasting of 2016 was last night, and with the new year came a new guide to the tasting, full of useful information for those just starting out in wine. If you're thinking of coming along to a future date, or if you're just looking for some guidance on how to taste wine, here's an extract you may find useful. A very brief guide to wine tasting Tasting wine is easy. All you need is to concentrate and use all your senses. Look at the colour, swirl the wine in the glass and inhale the aroma, then taste it carefully. Colour Red wine fades from purple to tawny with age, while white wine darkens. Aroma & Flavour Sometimes it's helpful to compare the aroma and flavour of a wine with other things you are familiar with - lemons, apples, game, earth, pepper, for example. With practice, you’ll learn what ‘Pinot Noir’ or ‘Bordeaux’ taste like on their own terms and be able to contrast different examples. Taste & mouthfeel As well as thinking about the flavour, when you taste a wine think about these basic elements and how prominent each of them is: Sweetnesss - Can you taste sugar or is it dry? Acidity - Does it taste crisp and fresh? Does it make your mouth water? Alcohol - Does it taste or feel ‘hot’? Tannin - If it’s a red wine, can you feel mouth-drying, grainy tannins? Balance & body Are the basic elements in harmony? For example, if there is sweetness, is it cloying, or is it matched by a refreshing acidity? This is balance. If a wine is powerful, with lots of alcohol and flavour, it’s full-bodied. If it’s delicate, it’s light-bodied. Your opinion If you don’t like something, try to be objective. Is it a good wine anyway? Judge each wine by the standards it aspires to. A £10 Beaujolais will not be as grand a wine as a £100 Burgundy, but either can be good, bad or sensational in its own way.
Benjamin Franklin on Wine
Benjamin Franklin did not say 'Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.' If, like me, you know this and find the misquotation's continued appearance all over pubs, t-shirts and hats irritating, then good news - I've discovered a t-shirt that's just for us. Perhaps one day there will be a t-shirt that points out how irritating we are for telling everyone they've got it wrong the whole time. But until then, here's what Franklin did say, about wine: “We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” Benjamin Franklin, Letter to the Abbé Morellet, 1779 That's the part that's usually quoted, and I thought I knew it well until I read the whole letter yesterday. Out of context it comes across as a bit pious, especially when you notice it's addressed to an abbot. But it turns out that despite his title, the satirical writer André Morellet was far from being known for any strong religious conviction. Franklin's letter to him begins, 'You have often enlivened me, my dear friend, by your excellent drinking-songs'. The whole thing is one long joke between friends.
Kongsgaard visit Roberson
Last week, we had the pleasure of inviting Maggie and John Kongsgaard into our offices for an inspiring tasting of some of their wines. The experience was phenomenal and it was amazing to hear winemaker John talking us through some of his superb offerings. We kicked off with the Napa Valley Chardonnay 2013, the Kongsgaard flagship and what John describes as the ’bread and butter’ of his range. I beg to differ- for me, it is how top drawer Chardonnay should taste. This wine has a lifted nose of citrus fruits, whilst the pronounced minerality keeps the subtle oak influence lingering in the background. The palate is an array of limey stone fruits balanced by the signature waxy weight only top wine makers can achieve. Superb. Next up was The Judge 2013, a Parker 100 pointer. The fruit is from a 2.5 hectare vineyard which was originally purchased as land to be used for a quarry by his grandfather in the 30s, and is named in honour of John’s father who was the judge of Napa Valley. The planting of Chardonnay vines in the shallow tufa soils here has produced sublime results. The nose is incredibly complex, mesmerizing even. There is an array of stone fruit with bursts of orange peel, baked lime and toasty brioche. The palate is a perfect expression of weight and acidity, seemingly bound by baked fruit and zesty lemon peel. Here's a clip of John himself talking about The Judge... Finishing the knockout line up, we got to try the 2008 Syrah. If I’d been served this blind, my mind would have wandered off to Cote-Rotie and I’d struggle to get it back. John explained that the vines are planted in the most volcanic spot in all of Carneros, making it a really unique wine. On the nose, there is dazzling dark fruit, plums, raisins, pepper... The list is endless - and that's even before we start talking about the palate. A Syrah masterpiece.
Making the most of the new drinking guidelines
When I heard that the government were revising their recommended drinking limits, my first thought was, ‘At last! They’ve been far too low for far too long.’ But before I could crack open a celebtatory magnum of gin, it became clear that, on the contrary, they were proposing to lower them. The last set of guidelines were published in 1995, when I was fourteen. Naturally, along with the rest of you, I immediately embarked upon a regime of consuming alcohol at a rate of four units per day, just to be on the safe side. Now, twenty years later, I discover that not only will I have to cut that back to two units, but all this time I have been unwittingly drinking double the maximum. On reading this news, I immediately began to feel unwell. Visions of some of my more debauched evenings rose in vivid, ghastly detail before me. Why? Why? Why had I drunk that third small glass of wine on my 21st birthday? But that wasn’t the worst of it. Not only had the weekly limit been reduced, but a handy loophole - wherein you could store up your daily allowance for special occasions - had been closed. Apparently, the government had discovered that heavy drinking sessions increase the risk of accidents and injury, and, frankly, they didn’t much like it. Although the advised limit is now seven small (175ml) glasses of weak (11.5%) wine every seven days, the guidelines are at pains to emphasise how generous that allowance is, because actually 'there is no safe limit'. In other words, if you absolutely insist on doing yourself in with a daily schooner of underripe Riesling, don’t say we didn’t warn you when you’re discovered drowned at the age of 35, face down in a bowl of punch in the corner of Trader Vic’s. I must say, I found that thought quite alarming, until I read the details of how the limit was arrived at over on the BBC website. It seems that if you drink your 14 units of alcohol every seven days, there is approximately a 1% chance that you will die from an alcohol-related disease at some point in the future. It's apparently less risky than such daredevil weekly activities as eating more than two bacon sandwiches, or watching more than an hour of TV. I’m neither a doctor nor financially geared for an expensive lawsuit, so I’m absolutely not going to advise you to ignore these guidelines, or say that reducing your alcohol intake isn’t a good idea. What I will say though, is that if you are cutting back on your consumption, let's say by half, then this represents a golden opportunity for you to drink better wine. Two bottles of £5 wine are not only worse for you than one bottle of £10 wine, they are also less than half as nice. And if you choose quality, you might well discover that great wine is one of the things that makes life worth living in the first place.
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