Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Regionally Accented Merlot

(From Today's Guardian)

"Bewildered by talk of "blackcurrant top notes"? Baffled by "bouquets"? Unsure if "long legs" are a good thing in a glass of wine? Retailer Spar is claiming today that 64% of shoppers are intimidated by the labels on the back of wine bottles.
So what is it doing to help confused consumers get the perfect wine to complement Sunday's roast dinner? Relabelling the bottles with plain English versions? Offering definitions of common terms to buyers? Umm, no. It is slapping on labels written in "local dialects" – and yes they are as bad as they sound.
Fortunately, just one of its wines – a £4.99 Merlot – is getting the treatment. The descriptions have been "translated" into eight different local dialects, including geordie, Brummie and scouse.

Link to Geordie Audio

So instead of a straightforward plain English description of what you might find when you pour yourself a glass, if you are in Somerset you get this: "Alright my luvver, eers one helluva Merlot. Be stinkin hummin a sivvies thar be bleddy ansome wi yaw croust or oggy. Purfect ta share wi yaw pardy as i' aiin ta eavy. Mygar be a purdy wine! Churs!"
While in Liverpool you are promised: "A totally boss bottle of Merlot which smells o' blackberry, choccie, a brew and toffees. Juicy and complex like, this bevey is top wi most scran 'specially me ma's scouse. Tellin ye, this is deffo a bevey that will leave youz and youz mates made up over yez Sayers pastie."
As well as being borderline unintelligible, the descriptions also include what might be considered baffling wine-speak, albeit with a regional accent. In Newcastle consumers are told the wine has "legs leik a thoroughbred", while in Scotland the label describes "a youngane's colour wi cherries an black fruit on the nose" – if you can't understand that in English, is it really any clearer now?
A spokeswoman for Spar denies the labels are patronising. "Local shopkeepers and suppliers came up with the dialect – it's not come from central office or from a computer," she insists. "We know that people don't really talk like this – we just wanted to make wine buying accessible and fun." She says the wine is genuinely on sale at 50 stores and could be rolled out if the reaction is favourable.
Spar's wine controller, Laura Jewell, adds: "Ultimately our wines will speak for themselves, but in the meantime it's time to speak people's language." Let's hope they don't have too many bottles in the cellar. 
This is not the first time a company has tried to harness local accents to attract attention – earlier this year, ATM provider Bank Machine launched cockney cash machines.  Fingers crossed it's the last."
Can anyone please get me a bottle of this hilarious vino?

Mark D.

Chateau Bas/Chateau Dodder

Needs must!  With no money for new fancy bottles of vino we staged a smash-and-grab ram-raid on our own well-protected wine cellar that was almost looking respectable for a minute there.  With no money for fancy meats and fishes and the like we were prepared a vegetarian feast by Tom 'Dodder' Dodd, who is very modest about his cooking skills but whose slowly roasted veg tray got crazy love from a panel of particular palettes.

Tom's professional cheffery is now on the backburner, but his military-style organisation and finickety attention to detail can be viewed in the guise of an artist management agency herrre.

After the course of rabbit munch came the wine and cheese double act.  A wine I'd copped in Lavinia, Château Bas Saint Césaire 2008, from d´Aix-en-Provence.  I'd bought it thinking I was in for another type of juice, I think the Lavinia folk weren't too specific, they rarely are if you're paying less than €20 for a bottle and only getting one once a month.  

The web told me that it was grenache blanc (which I love) and sauvignon blanc (which I don't get).  We poured that out and saw the golden colour of a well-tended young French white.  Not too expressive at first, but warm and inviting to smell, we tried that and were getting caramel, honeysuckle, and sour apples; one taster washeard to remark that it tasted exactly like Murray mints, without the mint, which I thought was bang-on.  The texture was fine, the taste not too long, especially with stronger cheese, and a late citrix inclusion sealed the deal.

This wine didn't bring the house down but went well with lighter cheese, pears and the like, and reminded us of the difference a few miles can make in the production of wine.  Catalan garnatxa can leap out of the glass, but with the French, it seems, you've to really get in there and explore.

Mark D.

    Thursday, 22 October 2009

    The New Wine

    This is a tenuous link, but I stumbled upon this great indie/disco band from Norway by the name of The New Wine.

    I know not how they make such joyful music in the land of such darkness!

    Their Myspace.

    Mark D.

    Pansa Blanca

    I don't know quite why the photo won't rotate.

    Pansa Blanca is the Alella name for Xarel-lo, one of the three grapes that commonly make up Cava.  Alella is the nearest D.O. to Barcelona, It's about half an hour up the coast.  I copped this bottle the last time I visited and we popped it last night.  It's from the Marfil line produced by Alella Vinícola from 2008.

    It is palid in colour, quite floral to whiff, and opens up significantly upon agitation.  It has a smooth attack, a slight touch of pleasant acidity, and an over-riding grapefruit boost which doesn't hang around for a particularly long time.

    As we say adieu to the summer, we'll be onto the wooded german whites, but for one of the last warm evenings of the year, it was top.

    Mark D.

    Sunday, 18 October 2009

    Old school reds

    Two memorable reds recently opened and enjoyed at home.

    Burgundy is made from 100% Pinot Noir in the french region of the same name. The wines are light and silky in texture which is very addictive and it has lovely aromatic qualities as well.

    I decanted both of these wines which looked great and helped the wine breath which is very important with Burgundy.

    2001 Tesco Finest Cotes de Nuits Villages
    Quite a bit of age on this wine from my cellar.
    Rich brilliant ruby red in colour with orangey fringes.
    Light and crisp raspberry and cherry fruit with leather and savoury hint.
    £12 Tesco

    2006 Morrisons Cote de Beaune Villages

    Super super wine!
    Red burgundy in colour. Very aromatic lavender and rose nose with refreshing lively cherry fruit and savoury barn flavours.
    £9 Morrisons

    Tuesday, 13 October 2009

    My First Ever Grape Harvest

    This Summer, for the first time, I was given the opportunity to get my hands dirty and take part in a harvest near Porto.  This was thanks to my friend Joey Lima (above, middle right), whose father and uncles own and take care of the vinyard.

    The place was fairly small, and by the standards of modern industrial-scale facilities, haphazard and modest in its composition, but as charming a place as I could have found to begin my harvesting career.

    Once a year, grapes for producing vinho verde are gathered.  The work is completed in a day, and 1000 litres of wine is the result.  It is not registered with an appellation, but is given to family members or sold to friends.

    Very much a family occasion, we got there at around 10.30 and were immediately surrounded by mini-cousins, who all seemed to be girls.  I, as a male, was separated from Joey and my lady friend Natalia (above right), who went to help with the cooking, and before I knew it I was up a ladder with a pair of shears.

    I am in no way pretending that I did anything near a day's work.  I probably filled 2-3 20kg buckets, and was constantly called back down my ladder for another drop of last year's juice.

    Nor can I say that I was much use as a roving reporter.  I have no idea what type of grapes were picking, nor had the majority of people with whom I was 'working'.  I still am not totally sure how they make vinho verde a little bit fizzy, either.

    At around 14.00 we were called to lunch.  We all hopped onto the back of a truck and sat around an elongated table in the garden of the farmhouse.  We were stuffed with great cheese, salad, vegetables and the highlight for me, a cod and potato mash with breadcrumbs.

    Mark D.

    Value Viognier

    Review of another delicious Viognier! There are some excellent Viogniers in the supermarkets at the moment.
    Always worth giving one a try!

    Delicious full fruity flavour, citrusy grapefruit, almost flowery, also a definite powerful aniseed kick wallop!
    Under a fiver from tesco!
    Chris Hewitt

    Saturday, 10 October 2009

    Cava Tast '09

    From http://www.cavatast.cat/....

    Here comes the new CAVATAST edition, the cava and gastronomy fair of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.

    The dates for this years event are 10-12 October 2009 and the fair will contain many interesting activities for all those fond of cava who want to enjoy quality sparkling wine and good traditional local food over the event’s three days.

    Consumers will be welcomed to take part in this cava tasting occasion, having the opportunity to sample hundreds of wines from the Penedès region and other wine-growing areas while learning about Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, the Penedès area and the people that produce cava.

    More information at:
    Tel. 0034 93 891 31 88
    Fax 0034 93 891 43 67
    E-mail info@cavatast.cat