An exploration of wine

Preface to Book 2 – or what I knew about wine in 2005…

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Wine thoughts 2005

My summary thoughts as they were in early 2005, written inside Book 2

[Intro: As I began transcribing notes from Book 2, I remembered that I’d written notes on the inside pages of Book 2 when I started it, collecting together the state of my thoughts on wine, regions and producers at that point. It’s transcribed, unedited, below. As ever there are bits I still agree with and bits where my opinion has changed significantly. For example – partly with the general re-evaluation in the wider world that happened with the 2009 vintage – I would be far more embracing of Beaujolais, even if Morgon and Moulin-a-Vent remain favourites amongst the Crus. And writing this 4 days after visiting Barolo, I would certainly say something very different about the fantastic wines of that region! Anyway, a point in time snapshot from 12 years ago…]

Well, it might have taken until March 11th to get this, despite Book 1 being complete during Christmas 2004, but finally, Book 2 begins…

…So what have I learned since starting Book 1 in 1998 / 1999? On the technique side, I’ve definitely learned some ways of getting labels off bottles, as well as stuff about how to decant, how long to decant for, and the influence of serving temperature on wine enjoyment (especially on killing red wine complexity by cold-serving, and the benefits of 6-8C on crispness in sparkling wine!).

I’ve also picked up a bunch of factual knowledge, exemplified by getting the WSET Advanced certificate. But it’s the experiential learning that’s been most interesting. Particularly

  • Unusual grape varieties worth drinking (especially whites) – marsanne, gavi / cortese di gavi, verdelho, pinot gris, corvina in amarone-style, nero d’avola … oh, and daiginjo sake!!
  • Different styles of Sherry, especially Pedro Ximenez
  • What “complex” whites really are, and how to recognise and differentiate between different aromas and flavours

This palate education process has gone hand-in-hand with food, so part of my learning has been good food-wine matching – especially:

  • Crème brulée and muscats
  • Volnay and roast lamb (pink)
  • 70% cocoa solids chocolate and full-bodied reds
  • Merlot and milk chocolate
  • Gigondas and venison stew
  • Tokaji Aszú or Hidalgo Napoleon Muy Viejo PX and Christmas pud
  • Sangiovese wines and tomato-based food (especially Mastrojanni and Bolognese sauce)
  • 1998 Pagodes de Cos and steak

Throughout this I’ve got to know my own preferences better, for grapes, regions and producers. Syrah is my favourite grape, but beyond that, I realised that I really like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, not just the Rhône. More generally on regions:

  • Don’t bother with Beaujolais other than Moulin-à-Vent or Morgon
  • Cornas and Barolo are often more trouble than they’re worth
  • California is great for touring – especially Sonoma – and top-end Cali wines are becoming more-and-more elegant and complex… except for Sauvignon Blancs… nasty… and CA wine is overpriced… but Bonny Doon / Randall Grahm save the day… hilarious!
  • New Zealand must be visited

Producer-wise, the headlines are that small Champagne producers can be great value though Taittinger and Bollinger are great; Bordeaux 2nd wines (Forts de Latour, Pagodes de Cos) are much better value; good co-op producers exist: La Chablisienne, Sieur d’Arques, Mont Tauch, Cave de Tain l’Hermitage and Caves des Hautes-Côtes…

…Oh, and really expensive wines often lead to disappointment! But anyway, Daniel-Etienne Defaix is a very reliable Chablis producer… and on that note, my particular producer recommendations include:

Region                          Producers

Champagne                 Moutardier, Georges Vesselle, Taittinger, Bollinger, Feuillatte

Alsace                           Schoffitt, Trimbach

Jura                              <none>

Chablis                         Daniel-Etienne Defaix, J. M. Brocard, Adine

Côte de Nuits              Dom. Bertagna, Dom. Roy, Réné Bouvier

Côte de Beaune           Lucien Boillot, Jadot

Maconnais                   <none>

Beaujolais                    Georges Duboeuf

Northern Rhône         Cave de Tain, Guigal, Chapoutier

Châteauneuf                Mont Redon, Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Vieux Télégraphe

Gigondas                      Dom Santa Duc, Montirius

Southern Rhône         Dom de Durban

Languedoc /                Sieur d’Arques, Château Hauterive le Haut

Rousillon                     Mont Tauch, Mas Amiel

Jurançon                     Dom Cauhapé

Sauternes                    <None… yet!>

Red Bordeaux            Châteaux Latour, Forts de Latour, Pagodes de Cos, d’Armailhac, Sociando-Mallet

White Bordeaux        <None>

Eastern Loire             <None>

Côteaux du Layon     Dom des Petits Quarts

Nantais                        <None>

Germany                     Reiner Probst

Austria                        <None>

Hungary                      Royal Tokaji Wine Company, Hetszolo

Italy                              Nicolis, Mastrojanni, Castello Banfi, Castello di Ama

C.E.E.                           <None>

Spain                            Murrieta, Montecillo, Valduero, Pesquera, Osborne, La Ina

Australia                      Miranda, Tahbilk, Rosemount

New Zealand               Oyster Bay, Waimea Estates, Martinborough Vineyards

California                     Ravenswood, BV, Mount Veeder, Freemark-Abbey, Martinelli, Rafanelli, Bonny Doon

 

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