Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

We wish all our American customers a very Happy Thanksgiving.

(And don't forget - Albariño is great with turkey!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

2007 - A bad year for vintage snobs

"It is enough to make wine connoisseurs choke on their Pétrus. Hugh Johnson, the doyen of wine critics, has decreed that vintages hardly matter any more.

Johnson, 68, says that wine growers have developed so many clever techniques to compensate for bad weather or disease ruining their crops that almost any year is a perfectly good one for drinkers."
The Times, London, 11th November 2007

It was almost a year ago now since I wrote about vintage guides, and how it is difficult to generalise about the quality of an entire harvest, by simply allocating a number of stars against the name of a particular region. In a round about way I guess that this is what Hugh Johnson is also implying - there will always be exceptions to the rule, and good wines will still be made even in what is deemed to be a 'bad vintage'. We have the technology both in the vineyard and the cellar to make something good even when nature conspires against us.

He comments that the gap in quality between good vintages and bad is narrowing, and also hits out at some of the ridiculous prices being paid at auction for the top 'names', perhaps even questioning whether they are really worth the money being paid.

Of course we should not forget that the average wine consumer is sheltered from too many bad experiences. Inevitably the wine that he or she buys from the shop shelf will have been filtered through a series of extensive tastings by teams of highly competent wine buyers, all but eliminating unwelcome surprises.

By contrast Stephen Williams, managing director of the Antique Wine Company in London, disagreed: “Winemakers may have all this technology, but great vintages are made in the deckchair when mother nature shines and they don’t have to do anything.”

Clearly Mr Williams has never run a wine cellar!

Monday, November 19, 2007

So, where is the driest place in Spain?

Normal autumnal weather is finally restored!

I'm sure that by now you have probably guessed the answer to this question.

As difficult to believe as it may seem, the driest place in Spain between 1st September and 15th November 2007 was southern Galicia! If memory serves me correctly we have had perhaps only two days with rainfall during this period, the rest of the time we have enjoyed pretty much 'wall-to-wall' sunshine. This is in complete contrast to last year when it started to rain in mid-September and did not stop all winter.

Of course we have conflicting feelings about this type of 'Indian Summer', as whilst it is nice to enjoy a bit of warming winter sunshine, it is also the time of year when our reserves of water need to be replenished.

In any event it started to rain yesterday evening and has not stopped since then - normal service is resumed.....

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hot Stuff!

The question of the month?

The Spanish are not very big on hot, spicy food, hence it is virtually impossible to find a curry restaurant in my local area. It is therefore quite interesting that a Spanish food and wine magazine should ask the question "which wines go with curry?"

I wrote a month or two ago about matching food with wine, but this is a particularly difficult question to answer, and, as they point out in the article, it rather depends on the way in which the curry is prepared. There is no doubt in my mind that if we are talking about something extremely hot such as Madras or Vindaloo, then my advice is - stick with a cold beer!

The article suggests that with hotter curries you can drink white wines with a softer acidity and perhaps even a little residual sugar, such as a Viognier, or a ripe Chenin Blanc from South Africa. (Before I receive complaints from my wine making friends around the world, I am not suggesting for a moment that all these wines contain residual sugar!)

They go on to recommend that with milder curries you should turn to wines with a little more acidity, such as a dry Riesling, Chablis or even Champagne. Of course, amongst this selection they include our very own Albariño.

A few years ago when I worked in London I once participated in an extensive tasting in a well-known Indian restaurant. Armed with a wide selection of both red and white wines we tasted them with various spicy dishes. As with any type of cuisine there were some good matches, and some violent clashes, depending on the combination of fruit, tannin, acidity and spice. I have to say that in my opinion, there was no simple magic formula for finding a match.

In conclusion, I still have some reservations about wine with curry, although I would not wish to discourage you from drinking Albariño at any time of day. Perhaps I will just test the theory of this publication the next time I cook a curry at home.....

Monday, November 05, 2007

The value of having an Advocate....

Love him or hate him Robert Parker Jr has been influencing the latest fashion in wine for nearly 30 years now. Those of you who follow my blog will know that I am not a great fan. Not because of what he originally set out to do, but more because of what he has since become.

His original idea way back in 1978, when he produced the first issue of his Wine Advocate, was simply to unlock some of the mystery of wine for the average man in the street. Using a concise rating system out of 100 points, his readers would know if (according to Parker's taste), the wine worth buying or not. No harm in that - indeed a very good idea.

Unfortunately, over time, his publication became absurdly over-influential, not only in determining the success or failure of a particular property, but also, more importantly, influencing the style and taste of wine itself.

In Bordeaux for example, he latched on to the distinctive style of winemaker Michel Rolland as being a benchmark for the modern taste of that region. Dark, ripe, over-extracted wines were to become the order of the day, albeit that they simply did not age in the same way, or perhaps even as well as wines that were made using the more traditional 'old fashioned' methods. His palate was perhaps influenced by the North American style of up-front, forward, fruit driven wines. Fine if you like that sort of thing, but not so fine when, as a result, every wine maker on the planet becomes desperate to clone this modern, 'Parker style'. Their goal of course, to glean a few more precious Parker points.

From my own experience as a buyer back in the 80's, I also heard one or two stories about his work in Burgundy (before he farmed out tasting for that region to Michel Bettane). I was told first hand, by growers themselves, that he had rated their wine when it was actually not possible that he had even tasted it! Heaven only knows why he would chose to do that.

So, my advice in buying wine is the same now as it has always been: Sure, use a wine guide (or even better, cross-reference several) to give you some ideas, but in the end, drink what you enjoy drinking, and not what someone tells you that you should drink!