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Sine Qua Non – An In-Depth Producer Profile

In advance of our much anticipated Sine Qua Non tasting tonight (those are the wines, pictured above) we’ve been very busy researching the estate and the wines (I say ‘we’, but really I mean ‘Mark’). In the course of this it’s become pretty clear that there isn’t much detail freely available out there at the moment (which is perhaps not surprising given the scarcity of the wines) so we thought we’d share everything we’ve found out with the world by making tonight’s tasting brochure available as a free download. If you’ve ever wished there was a bit more information on this unique producer, have a read of our (OK, Mark’s) Sine Qua Non tasting brochure. It might just be the most comprehensive document available on the estate, and it’s the next best thing to being at the tasting tonight.

11/10/2012

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The Wines of Armand Rousseau – Our Tasting Written Up

Just a quick note to draw your attention to Wine Anorak, where Jamie Goode has a very nice write-up of our vertical tasting of the great Armand Rousseau‘s Burgundies. Now that was an outstanding evening. If you like the sound of it, keep an eye out in the next few weeks for a brand new tasting schedule from us taking things all the way up to Christmas. Read more about this tasting by downloading the tasting brochure from the night.

20/08/2012

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The Awful World of Champagne Producers’ Websites

Here at robersonwine.com we spend a lot of time trying to make using our site as pleasingly straightforward as possible. But ours is not the only way. Across the Channel the French have turned the style-is-all website into a fine art. And the crème de la crème of these Masters of Flash are the Champagne houses. To visit the website of a Champagne producer is to enter a virtual world where any semblance of helpfulness or functionality has been mercilessly repressed in the name of  that elusive continental quality: ‘flair’. You may go in thinking, ‘I’ll just check the alcohol content of the Brut Reserve for this brochure I’m making – shouldn’t be more than a minute’, but you will come out (usually many hours later) with the intense online experience that only a ‘luxury brand’ can provide seared into your brain forever. If you’re an aspiring Champagne producer looking to build a website to compete with the best, you may be wondering where on earth to start. Well never fear, you’ve come to the right place. I have selflessly spent many hours studying the work of the webmasters of Champagne and have distilled their art down into five simple principles. Stick to these and you’ll be well on your way to harnessing the raw power of flair. 1. Flash – The Only Language Worth Understanding In much the same way that French is obviously the world’s first language but also needs a committee to protect it from Anglicization, Flash is the best and only option for the flair-focused webmaster. Any mention of HTML 5 and the like should be stubbornly ignored. Remember that just because things move on, it doesn’t mean you can’t put a little fence around the old thing and pretend it’s not happening. 2. If it Works, Fix It Flair is fun, and you’ll want to make sure your site is packed with little tricks to make the user experience more interesting. Thinking of starting with a five minute Flash intro (if you aren’t, you should be), then why not add a little ‘skip intro’ button that appears halfway through but doesn’t work? Or better yet, have it start the whole process again. Hilarious! Remember the golden rule: if it works, you’re probably not paying enough attention to style and your flair factor will suffer. 3. It’s Better with Music While we’re at it, a word about music. Who doesn’t like music? No one, that’s who. As long as it’s loud and you can’t turn it off without ripping the plug socket out of the wall in desperation, it’s extra flair points, so go for it. 4. Absolutely No Children Champagne websites are for adults only. This cannot be stressed enough. There is a real danger that, should a minor gain access, they will be driven insane by the confusing design and transformed into a violent alcoholic. Fortunately, anybody under the age of 18 who wants to waste the precious days of their youth trying to browse a website that looks as though it’s channelling Donald Trump in a beret is obviously too stupid to tick the box confirming that they are old enough to do so. But just to be on the safe side, it’s as well to make the age verification process as tiresome as possible, with separate drop-down boxes for each digit and a list of countries including things like ‘England’ filed under ‘U’. 5. The Customer is Always Wrong People may think they are visiting your website to discover a certain piece of information, but what do they know? What they really want is to be taken on a journey, a virtual experience that embodies the luxury nature of your brand. Accordingly, don’t just stick in a menu with headings like ‘Our Wines’, ‘About Us’, and so on. Where’s the mystery in that? Instead, use words that don’t really mean anything, like ‘Essence’ or ‘Vague’. Whatever you do, you must make sure you hide all the links inside a giant image. There is nothing the user subconsciously craves more than the opportunity to move their mouse around a virtual Rococo palace, waiting for something to jump out that they can click on like a Whac-A-Mole, in the hope that one of them will somehow turn out to be what they were looking for (although of course you will have made sure it won’t be, in line with point 2 above). Work on the French language, all Flash version of robersonwine.com has not yet commenced.

07/08/2012

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Controversy in Cult California

Better late than never, I thought I’d post links to some excellent articles covering our recent tasting of Cult Californian wines on the 1st of March. Both Jamie Goode on Wine Anorak and over on his blog and Richard Hemming on Jancis Robinson’s site agree it was an interesting tasting, but, as you might expect, some of the world’s most expensive, controversial wines provoked some decidedly different reactions. In particular, Sine Qua Non’s 2006 ‘A Shot in the Dark’ divided opinion. This is a perfect wine (100 points) according to Robert Parker, who said of it: ‘…this prodigious red exhibits incredibly velvety tannins, a seamless style, and no noticeable oak (which is remarkable given the fact it spent 32 months in barrel). Dense purple to the rim with an extraordinary perfume of blueberry pie, blackberries, soy, Asian spices, and hints of forest floor and charcoal, this is a complex, rich, seamless, well-balanced tour de force in winemaking. A full-bodied, exuberant, unabashedly California Syrah, it will offer stunning drinking over the next 10-15+ years.’ It was last retailing here at £485 a bottle. At our tasting, the room was split, with some sharing Parker’s enthusiasm and others expressing similarly strong views in the opposite direction. Jamie Goode’s take on it couldn’t have been more different from Parker’s: ‘For me it was the worst wine of the night: over-ripe, and with an unpleasant roast coffee overtone…I think this is actually a poor wine. It’s not because of the ripeness and alcohol alone, because – after all – I love many Ports which are extremely ripe and have 20% alcohol. It’s because of the balance (it lacks it), the dead fruit (it’s just lacking definition), and the roast coffee character (it tastes like coffee Pinotage, which is OK if you like that sort of thing, and readily available at around £6 a bottle).’ A fascinating difference of opinion which serves to remind us of why we at least conduct our tastings – not to form a conclusive judgment on a wine but to share, discuss, question and enjoy wines we would normally have to take somebody else’s word for. Read more about this tasting by downloading the tasting brochure from the night.

04/04/2012

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Cliff Releases Christmas Single – Free Download Available

With Christmas fast approaching and the whole world wondering which X-Factor contender will make it to number one, it’s as well to remind ourselves that there are alternatives to today’s generic pop stars out there. One such artist is Mr Cliff Roberson himself, who this year has released a rap based on his life in the wine industry. This song is available exclusively to download right here on the Roberson blog and is not in the shops. To get your free download, right click on this link and choose to save target as, save link as or similar. Once it’s downloaded add it to your iTunes, stick it on an iPod, burn it to a CD or press it on to a wax cylinder and enjoy.

24/11/2010

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Tonight’s 1989 Bordeaux Tasting – A Preview

As the 1980s drew to a close, Jive Bunny were topping the charts and the England team were stumbling to qualify for Italia ‘90, but Château owners and drinkers alike could look back fondly at a decade that had given them more top quality Bordeaux vintages than most others in the 20th century. After a good vintage in 1988 (one which turned out better than initially expected), the Bordelais were in buoyant mood and reacted with their customary gusto to excellent weather conditions right from the off. Following a mild winter May was hot and dry, prompting early flowering and setting a trend for sweltering temperatures that was to continue throughout the rest of the growing season. The summer started early and remained hot and dry until after the harvest was completed – so hot and dry in fact, that 1989 was the hottest year on record since 1949 and the earliest harvest since 1893. With all of this sun it would be easy to think that the ‘89 vintage was plain sailing, but that was not exactly the case. While the high temperatures meant early ripening for the fruit in an analytical sense (sugars and acids), the shorter growing season left the grapes without the required phenolic (or physiological) ripeness. This presented the chateaux owners with a dilemma – should they pick early to preserve acidity levels and prevent the wines from taking on too much sur-maturité (over ripeness), or should they wait for full phenolic ripeness to avoid massive sugar levels and green, harsh tannins. The answer to this difficult question would dictate what sort of wines each chateau made and there was no universally accepted ‘right’ way to do things. This issue of physiological ripeness was particularly acute for Cabernet Sauvignon and therefore it had a much bigger impact on the wines of the Médoc. Estates on the right bank picked relatively early (some getting started in August) as Merlot doesn’t need so long to achieve a high level of phenolic ripeness – the Mouiex properties in Pomerol and St Emilion delayed picking until the first week of September and the fruit they brought in was superb so expectations were high for the quality of the wines. With things a bit more complicated over on the left-bank many winemakers lost their nerve and on the advice of their risk-averse oenologists they sent out the pickers early, missing the opportunity to harvest fruit that would’ve proved to be spectacular if they had waited. Those that did wait were rewarded, producing wines that stand up to those made in the other great vintages of the 20th century. So how was the vintage received by the critics? Well, at the time there was a great deal of positive press for the ‘89s, resulting in proclamations that it was the vintage of the century. Of course, a century in Bordeaux tends to mean 2 or 3 years, but nevertheless the feeling was very positive and the wines showed very well when they were young, fetching the highest prices of any vintage released up to that point. Michael Broadbent scored the vintage 5* and called it “Unquestionably a great vintage”. Robert Parker has never been quite so enthusiastic as other commentators (with the notable exception of Pomerol), feeling that it pales in comparison to its younger sibling 1990. The Roberson team have always felt ‘89 has been an excellent performer in the many verticals we’ve hosted, but 21 years on it will be fascinating to taste how the wines have developed with their combination of low acids and high tannins. Read more about this tasting by downloading the tasting brochure from the night.

17/06/2010

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