Saturday 24 July 2010

What were the skies like when you were young?

My early years were urban, then, as I began reaching an age capable of appreciating the city's bounty, my parents started moving. Move by move we ended up further and further away from the metropolis.

At school I spent a lot of time staring out of the windows. I'll never forget one class, within sight of the Brecon Beacons, a teacher was extolling the virtues of Wordsworth's Prelude while sheep bleats drifted slowly on the breeze. "Breath in, breath in, can you not smell the genius?".

What seemed to fascinate him most was that way back in the 18th Century, someone was capable of expressing a desire to flee city squalor and head for pastoral peace. As classmates turned up late after helping their fathers castrate bullocks, all I could think of was heading in exactly the opposite direction, and as fast as possible.

Aside from plotting my escape, there was something else keeping me sane. Global Warming had just been invented and suddenly, for me, there could be a purpose to the countryside. A vineyard, and not any old hippy, dippy British style 'Good Life' nonsense, but a proper, full on, 'watch out Burgundy' one. I'd been to Beaune and while there, decided in a fit of precociousness, that it was going to be my favourite wine. Also, I'd read that Pinot Noir was very difficult to grow and all attempts to ape Burgundy elsewhere had failed. A challenge.

After months of research, mainly spent staring out of the school bus window, I'd isolated a site. It sort of faced in the same direction as the Cote D'Or and the soil looked suitably vineyardish, especially after a very dry summer. The fact that it belonged to someone else didn't seem to bother me.

Summers went by, plotting continued and eventually I escaped, so my vineyard dreams got left behind. Whenever I'm back I still cast a glance across the plot, one day, one day... then, just the other day, in Abergavenny Farmers Market, I stumbled across this...

Organically grown near Monmouth. Somebody else is living my dream! "Oh it's very nice. Has a bit of fizz to it, spritz is what they do call it my love". I was very excited.

After the fizz blew off, the bouquet was nice, more New Zealand than Burgundy. Unfortunately it tasted a bit odd, actually very odd. Not unpleasant, but a small 'novelty' glass is quite enough. The same people make delicious cider and perry. Really funky proper old school stuff, refreshing, complex and with more than a hint of badger's bath.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Drinking Wine

House sitting in Wales just now. It's a bit like squatting with permission. I'd recommend it to anyone, provided the house is a good 'un. Fortunately this one is, although since it belongs to my parents, I couldn't really say anything else.

Of course, it's not all fun and games. Besides lying around in the sunshine wondering... what to eat?... to barbecue or not to barbecue?... whether to have a pre-dinner pint of Bass in the Bridge End garden?... whether it's perhaps best to go for that pint then carry on wondering about all the other stuff?... there are 'responsibilities' too.

In between chasing blackbirds off the figs, it's the little things that niggle when the big things are far away. "Help yourself to our drinking wine", shouted Dad as they headed off to Russia.

Is there any other kind of wine? Ornamental wine? Strictly for external use only wine? I'm guessing he meant 'everyday' wine. So last night, after a hard days wondering, I popped the cork on an interesting looking number from, what appeared to be, the 'drinking' section.

Lovely bouquet of smokey blackberries and a really sensual, fleshy taste. Delicious, so delicious in fact that doubt started to creep in...I decided to take a closer look.

That could be the mark left from a hand corked bottle. Which would mean a very small scale production. Rare, hard to get...

Okay, 30 year old vines, 18 months in small oak barrels and a further 6 months aging in bottle before release. None of that comes cheap... oops. I have resolved to spend today worrying about it...

Cascina Cavolpi Barbera d'Asti Superiore: £ No Idea.

Saturday 10 July 2010

A Winner's Dinner

This year I took a punt on our office's General Election sweepstake. A fiendishly complicated graph where, for a £1, you get to place 3 Xs depending on... well I can't actually remember. It was explained to me by a very clever person and, for a fleeting few seconds, I thought I'd grasped it. But when it came to committing my Xs to paper I did what I always do... put them in the big spaces where nobody else had put any. My reasoning is simple enough... if very clever people could actually predict outcomes then they'd all be very rich and bookies would all be very poor. This isn't the case. And what would you know...

I'd decided to invest my new found wealth in a nice bottle of wine. Something with which to remember my good fortune. Then I popped my winnings into a drawer and forgot all about them... until yesterday. Excitedly I decided to pay a visit to one of my favourite wine merchants...

After a brief conversation about the provenance of an interesting looking Alberino... "Eh, I've nae idea pal, never drink the stuff. Think ma burd likes that wan though"... I settled on two bottles.

The Chablis costs £23 and comes from apparently 'on form' producers William Fevre.

The Cornas I'd spotted a few months ago, lurking behind some other bottles on it's own... but it was £25, so I'd left it. How could I possibly leave it behind again? Surely worth a punt.

The Chablis was special. Buttery pineapple, mouthwatering acidity and an incredibly long lasting finish. This was a seriously uplifting wine. After a few glasses I was feeling positively euphoric and found myself dancing round the kitchen as I knocked up a 'Poulet Frites'.

Decanted the Cornas into a rather fetching Ikea decanter. What an incredible smell... powerful aromas of decay intermingled with black fruits. No way was this going to work with chicken, so I cracked open a Morgan for that and the Cornas got savoured afterwards. Actually this wine is so savoury it doesn't need food... it's a meal and a drink in one. Perfect for someone on a diet. Amazing how much flavour can get packed into a wine with only 13% alcohol. Still incredibly young for a nine year old wine.

Both wines came from the superbly priced range of top drawer stuff that Costco stocks.

And, I'd suggest anyone else overcome by euphoria half way down a Grand Cru Chablis should try sticking this on. It worked for me.