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Fortnum and Mason Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, Martinborough, New Zealand (2)
Kai wrote: I always feel a small shot of nationalistic pride when ... [read more]

Wine Book Club: Vino Italiano The Regional Wines of Italy (4)
Samantha wrote: Awww, that's disappointing to hear that this book mainl... [read more]

A Wine for a Frangipane Fruit Tart; or not (2)
Andrew wrote: Hi Sean, My only criteria were to secure a cheap(ish) s... [read more]

French Wine Under Sail (2)
Andrew wrote: No, not controversial at all - but interesting none-the... [read more]

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Wine Book Club: Vino Italiano The Regional Wines of Italy

vino Italiano The Regional Wines of Italy
I realise now why my order for Vino Italiano took an absolute age to come via Amazon and why it wasn't available for loan from Oxfordshire's fine library service - the book is American, through and through. Amazon must have shipped it from the States just for me. It only cost £7.79 so not a huge expense.

Even though it only arrived yesterday I've been flicking through its many pages and reading an anecdote here, a tasting note there, a regional description here. I can't work out what type of book it is supposed to be. There are figures on production quantities and vineyard areas (yawn), so a reference book initially. Some entertaining anecdotes, maps and 'wine touring advice' (a travel book?) and a smattering of regional recipes (a cookbook?).

Any book detailing vintages has a problem with lead times. Even before it hits the shelves any vintage data is going to be out of date. In the case of Vino Italiano it stops at 2004. I actually hate talk of vintages; bores me rigid. I was at some wine-makers dinner several months back with some old codger rabbiting on about Bordeaux vintages, boasting about all these different wines in his cellar. He turned to me with some dumb-arsed question about how I must agree with his prognosis on the 2004's or some-such and I just said I don't care as I had drunk all mine. The look he gave me was one you reserve for a paedophile murderer; but I digress.

Food and wine matching does interest me; but does listing a wine regions speciality foods and not suggesting a wine to accompany really help anyone? There are recipes with wine suggestions - Branzino Arrosto (Roasted Whole Sea Bass) with a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi or Verdicchio di Matelica for example under Le Marche.

As an American book I assume the wine recommendations, there are three or four listed against each region, are for wines readily available in the States. One area I know quite well, Prosecco, lists four producers I have never heard of (no mention of Bisol for example) and none of the regions famous foods are mentioned, although the Prosecco cocktail recipe sounds delicious. They do suggest that for the Venetian-styled Crostini with Grappa Cured Salmon you cure your own fish. Takes 3 days, if you are interested.

The anecdotes and regional backgrounds do make the book a worth-while purchase and there are some interesting food notes too (if you have ever wondered why Vin Santo is served with almond biscotti you will find the answer on page 215). My gripes boil down to one overriding impression - the generalisations run across the board and detract from some good, informative, engaging writing.

Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy by Jospeh Bastianich & David Lynch is available from for a rather reasonable £7.79. The Wine Book Club was inaugurated by Good Wines Under $20 and runs across blogs, facebook and Shelfari.

A Wine for a Frangipane Fruit Tart; or not

Frangipane Apricot and Fig Tart with Antinori DonatoIt wasn't a perfect match - brought to accompany a Fig and Apricot Frangipane dessert I was hoping for better. The fruit and sweet pastry were just too much for this Vin Santo. It is usually served with biscotti or amaretti biscuits; even the distinct nutty edge did little with the desserts pistachio topping.

Dessert WineWine Tasting Note: Antinori Donato Vin Santo, NV, Italy.
From Waitrose for £6.99.

A mahogany colour with a lightly alcoholic nose. The palate does have an edge of sweetness but far from being 'sticky' it has a nutty, sherry-like, almost dry finish. Hints of caramel and coffee permeate the burnt fig flavour. Very distinctive. Alcohol 16.5%.

Scribblings Rating - 86/100 [3.25 out of 5]

French Wine Under Sail

I don't know about you but the impression I receive from many is that they view the French as total traditionalists, back-wards almost in their thinking and highly protective of their traditions in the face of alternative, 'improved', modern ways. And I'm not just talking about the wine trade either.

Later this month 60,000 bottles of wine from the Languedoc will be shipped to Ireland in a 19th century barque, the Belem. You can't get more traditional than that! But the aim is a serious one - to save carbon emissions.

The three masted barque was the last French merchant sailing vessel to be built and was launched in 1896. The voyage from Bordeaux to to Dublin will take around 4 days not including the time taken to transport the wine along the Canal du Midi and Canal du Garonne.

The Guardian

Frederic Albert, founder of the shipping company Compagnie de Transport Maritime à la Voile (CTMV), said: 'My idea was to do something for the planet and something for the wines of Languedoc. One of my grandfathers was a wine-maker and one was a sailor.'

With French wine exports booming following a number of difficult years, Albert said some 250 producers in Languedoc alone were keen to use his ships.

The 170ft Belem, which was first used to transport chocolate from South America and is named after a Brazilian port, is the first of seven planned to be working by 2013. Seven private investors have contributed 70 per cent of the business's start-up costs of £40m. Bank loans have provided the rest.

'There is a lot of interest in green investments in France,' said Albert. Ships will return to France with an equivalent tonnage of crushed glass for recycling into wine bottles at factories in Bordeaux and Béziers. Despite the time involved in transporting it, the wine should also remain relatively cheap, at between €7 and €20 a bottle.

Albert said he would make sure that only the greenest wines would travel by sea. 'We chose the best wine in the area, but it must also be made in a sustainable way, using as many natural products as possible,' he said, adding that delivery times to Ireland and Britain had been calculated using historic charts. 'We had someone who studied a century of weather conditions to work them out,' he said."

The Open Wine Consortium

Open Wine Consortium
I've never really had the time or inclination to get involved in all those social network sites; facebook et al leave me more than a little non-plussed and apathetic.

The stories and rumours surrounding a social network dedicated to the wine scene have final been realised with the launch of The Open Wine Consortium. Not wanting to miss out on anything vaguely wine/blog related I've joined!

The main idea behind this site is to create a place to facilitate networking in and around the wine industry and technology leaders. The site is the home of the the OpenWine Consortium, an industry consortium designed to educate the media, the business community, and each other on new, open standards based technology that are changing the wine industry and to spread the word of wine through an online world of wine drinkers. Ultimately, together we're able to bring a whole legion of wine lovers, online and offline, together to enjoy the fruits of our labor."

For those from the blogging side of things there is a Bloggers Wine Group to join, while those hoping to attend the European Wine Bloggers Conference later this year have their own group too.

If you join don't forget to make me a 'friend'!

View my page on OpenWine Consortium

Interviewed on BBC Radio 5

BBC Radio 5 Pods and Blogs
As mentioned in the post covering a wine and food tasting at the Frontline Restaurant, myself, Cooksister and Blogjam were interviewed by Chris Vallance for a podcast feature on BBC Radio 5.

The broadcast is now available on-line.

You have to listen through a few other bits and pieces before you reach the food and wine bit. If you give t a listen let us know what you think.

WBW Just 7 Words - the round-up

Luckily my slightly off-beat theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday seems well received; plenty of thoughtfully produced entries.

Number of entries: 53 (+8 missed) = 61

All the wines (bar a handful) were Italian reds. I'm wondering if anyone can work out what type from the description? I think not...

Rather than listing the specific wines I've detailed the seven word note to demonstrate the inventiveness and creational prowess of the participants. Thanks to all who took part. How did you find it - a challenge, serious head-scratching or a bit of frivolous fun?

My entry "Chewed end of a wooden ink pen" "A gulpable feast of cherries and leather"

Vu lu Su : "Rubis Sombre Terre Melon Jeune Aromatique Court"

Journal 23 "Earthy, melon, medium-bodied; needs sharp cheese"

Catavino "Frizzante stone grapes, inoffensive from a mug"

1 Wine dude : pour, sniff, slurp, cherries, leather, yum! empty"

Wine In The 'Peg : Tart cherry goodness - fire up the grill!

NYC Wine Notes : "Light. Earthy but bright. Shift Finish. Essence..."

The Wine Hiker : "Decant today, and you will smile tonight!"

Domaine 547 : "Rustic, textured, delicate, strong. Another glass please!"

Tales Of A Sommelier : "Reminds me of Vimto and Wham bars"

My Wine Info : "like your mother-in-law; spicy, tart and sweet"

My Wine Education : "Chocolate, berries delight. Passing time, leathery. Saporous."

Behind the Vines : "where family pride and good wine meet"

Cheap Wine Ratings : "Leather clad cowboy embraces innocent luscious berries"

Wine Connections : "Two scoops of raisins in every swallow."

Bloviatrix's Website : "Salice Salentino Is Too Bitter For Me"

Smells Like Grape : "Victoriana is now and it is rose-scented."

A Good Grape : "Cherry Trees in Tobacco Field by Barnyard" and "Vintner Makes Production Wine that Tastes Small"

Oenophilia : "Evil Head Cold keeps my bottle corked!"

Wine Lovers Journal : "Brash fruit, bright acid straddle tight tannins"

Wine Peeps : "Excellent! A bright, fruity, robust, balanced steal."

Joe's Wine : "Acidic palate Vegetal cappuccino A Cabernet franc?"

Recently Consumed : "Smooth, raspberry, vanilla, drinkable, nothing special, over-priced"

Flowery Song "Inky leather-scented silk. Spiced nuttiness demands Puttanesca"

Doktor Weingolb : "Better than 2004's -- now I taste oak!"

Rouge Blanc : "The Patriots' Collapse in Super Bowl XLII"

Fork and Bottle : "Thelma, Louise partying with bodacious red wine" and "Drink while reading The Castle of Otranto"

WineCast : "Cherries, earth, raspberries on a dusty highway" and "Raspberries, cranberries, tar and spices on horseback"

Manage You Cellar : "Montepulciano, crimson, fleshy, savory, terrestrial, armonico,

Good Wine Under $20 : "Musky flowers perfume this bright, cherry wine"

Indiscriminate Ideas : "Never thought to put raspberries in coffee!"

The Wine Camp : "A wine I could drink every day"

Lenndevours : "Earth, flowers entice. Thin, dirty cherries. Underwhelming."

Vino da Burde : "Faded Violet Around An Ancient Fruity Abbey"

Anything Wine : "Hey, who put cherries in my campfire?"

Dr Vino : "Acidity, berry, cherry, delicious, earthy, food-friendly, gonzo"

A Food and Wine Blog : "Closed for business - opens in three hours."

McDuff's Wine : "Beautifully Articulated Red Berries Evoke Romantic Associations"

Eating Leeds : "It is red and I like it" and "Red berry fruit, a hint of leather"

Wanna Be Wino : "Riding horses through eucalyptus and berry fields"

Just Grapes : "Fruit alive with wit, but classically tempered"

Cork Dork : "Please decant me for dusty cherry magic"

Wino-Sapian : "Prancing stallion Rustic. Man in Armani. Tasting Note"

West Coast Wie Country Adventures : "opulent cherry, rustic leathery tannins, fantastic acidity"

Louder VoiceIn a section of their own are a group form the Louder Voice community. Time pressures have meant that I haven't explored Louder Voice to any great degree but it seems to be a review site with entires submitted by SMS, webpages and the like. There is a social network aspect to it. Not all the wines were Italian reds but many thanks to those who participated:

ManicMammy : "Berry, baccy, nutty, good value, smooth, quaffable"

ConorONeill : "Friendly but forgettable featherlight softruitlicious strawberry northerner"

Laurence Veale : "Sippin' Poli's hedonistic, very cherry docious"

Craig Powell : "Not quite Monica Belluci but very tasty"

And finally those who ALMOST got to play by the full rules. Three entries of Italian-native grapes but grown elsewhere (and one Merlot) :

CookSister : "Cicadas, baked earth, warm purple juice - bottled"

Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman : "Gold medal winner. Pair it with tiramisu"

Jim Eastman : "Three Italian grapes Spiciness, leatheryness, Palate happiness"

Recently Consumed : "Smooth, raspberry, vanilla, drinkable, nothing special, over-priced"

And there you are! If I have missed anyone please leave a comment below with the link.

Cantine Sasso Aglianico del Vulture, 2005, Basilicata, Italy

'A picture paints a thousand words' is said to be a Chinese proverb attributed to many (from Kung Fu Tze to Confucius), but it is just as likely to be a folk saying. As you may realise images of the wines on this blog are important to me - whether others find them as evocative as I intend is another matter. At the very least if you buy any of my recommendations you know what to look for on the shelf!

Except for this tasting note I neglected to photograph the bottle before it hit the bottom of the recycling-bin. Which is more important than normal for this note for it is my entry to Wine Blogging Wednesday where I set the theme as an Italian Red in Seven Words. An image might just give you more of an impression than I can convey in seven words. (So nothing to add to the WBW flickr group either)

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Cantine Sasso Aglianico del Vulture, 2005, Basilicata, Italy.
Waitrose £6.99.

Chewed end of a wooden ink pen.

Scribblings Rating - 86/100 [3.25 out of 5]

This was actually one of a dozen alternative 'seven word' sentences I came up with for this wine. More 'descriptive' and interesting I think than 'rich, tannic and inky, wooden and lengthy' which was one of the other contenders.

Food and Wine Matching at The FrontLine

FrontLine wine tasting Luckily my diary for last Saturday was empty¹; so the invite for a meal at the FrontLine Restaurant was taken up with gusto. The evening was advertised as a 'Special evening with Malcolm Gluck and John Taylor'; a food and wine matching event to all intense and purposes. Malcolm Gluck is the wine buyer for the Front Line restaurant.

While Malcolm Gluck was obviously there, entertaining us with a great evening-long impression of a drunken Worzel Gummidge, I never did find out who John Taylor was.

I did run into the Cooksister, whose skillful hand with the compact camera provided the images here and had an all too brief chat with Fraser Lewry who writes over at BlogJam and is eating his way through the alphabet over on the Guardian's Word of Mouth (where you can also find me occasionally).

We also had the pleasure - which impressed the rest on our table no end - to be interviewed by the delightful Chris. We were forewarned that "Chris is keen to record a radio feature on food bloggers for BBC Radio 5 Live" and to "come equipped with wit". This I think we did with gusto but perhaps I should mention (if on the off-chance I actually make it through the cutting to the broadcast) that it was quite late in the evening; and the wine had been quite free flowing.

The meal:

Aperitif: Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc, 2006, France - Grassy with a touch of Lychee and a nice softness. Enjoyable.

Starter: Cock-a-Leekie Soup served with Voyager Estate Margaret River Semillon, 1998, Australia. A revelation and really a sublime match. Normally I dislike waxy aged Semillon, and the grape can be dull without age, but when matched with the soup a real harmonious combination resulted.

Main Course: Boiled Beef with a pearl Barley and carrot Broth, Parsley and Beetroot Dumplings accompanied by Fairview Estate Agostinelli Barbera, 2006, South Africa. A couple on our table didn't enjoy this at all. I can see why but I found it very interesting. It is big, ripe, perhaps a little over-extracted but with good structure and acidity. It cut through the rather mouth-clogging, unusual, dumplings wonderfully. Not totally convinced it was a good match with the salty beef. Interesting grape variety though with high alcohol.

Cheeses: I forget the cheeses - something from Ireland, a Lancashire and a Stilton I think. The wine, a Segna Le Roc des Domaine Anges Cotes du Roussillon, 2006, was not good. A heavily accentuated 'feral' aroma (I think I used the word 'shit' during the BBC interview). Underneath this though was an interesting wine full of dark fruits. I found it undrinkable.

Dessert: A Bread and Butter Pudding matched with a Don PX Toro Albala Dulce de Pasas Montilla-Morales, 2004, Spain. The pud was very flavoursome, which we put down to a layer of Quince jam. It was a typical English pudding, big and filling. It failed to match the wine which, while excellent in its own right, was extremely big and rich. The sweetness was enough to be a dessert in its own right. I would have served it with some simple biscuits or matched something lighter and less sweet with the Bread and Butter Pud.

¹ - for which read 'rubbish social life'

Food and Wine at FrontLine restaurant

Some thoughts on WBW Just Seven Words

Wine Blogging Wednesday - Just Seven Words

Last week I put a call out to the twittering-bloggers for some seven word tasting notes for an advanced Wine Blogging Wednesday post. The panic was set when the editor of the Guardian's Word of Mouth wanted to make sure there was 'something', somewhere on the latest WBW theme to link to. I had submitted a post for publication on Word of Mouth and their initial plan was to run it the next day but insisted that there was something on Spittoon in support.

But I had nothing, hence the call. Luckily their plans changed and my posts publication has been postponed. (I don't think they quite grasp the essence of these rolling blogger events). Still it was lucky they changed the publication date as the result from the twitter-call was zilch.

Understandable perhaps. Most will want to keep what they have for the day itself. That evening, glugging on a decent Portuguese white (at £3.49 a bargain), I came up with a couple of seven word tasting notes, which may aid (or perhaps hinder) those thinking of taking part -

  • horrible if you suck a mint beforehand
  • eases passage through Hollyoaks, awaiting C4 news
  • cheap as chips, great with them too

What these three examples don't do is explain the flavour, the colour, the 'taste' which was the aim. But it is damn hard. Have you tried?

What did result from the exchange with the editor was a rather interesting thought - if you can't find the exact word, why not invent one?. Just an idea.

Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards 2008

Champagne Louis Roederer have announced the launch of this year's Louis Roederer International Wine Writers' Awards in 2007.

As in 2007, some changes have been made to further improve the awards, based on feedback from entrants and judges. In effect they have split the Wine Writer of the Year Award into two separate categories, one for Feature Writer of the Year and another for Columnist of the Year.

By doing this, it is hoped that greater recognition to the vital role of wine columnists in communicating about wine will be made, and to recognise the very two different disciplines of feature- and column-writing.

They are also introducing an online category, for specialist blogs and websites.

Entry forms will be sent out on 5th February, with the closing date for entries being March 14th. Entries will have to have been first published or broadcast between 17th March 2007 and the closing date. The winner in each category will receive £1500.00, plus a magnum each of Cristal and Chateau de Selle Rosé from Domaine Ott.

The full list of categories will be:

  • Louis Roederer International Award for Wine Feature Writer 2008

  • Louis Roederer International Award for Wine Columnist 2008

  • Louis Roederer International Award for Champagne Writer/ Presenter 2007

  • Louis Roederer International Award for Wine Book 2007

  • Louis Roederer International Award for Online Wine Writer 2008

  • Louis Roederer UK Award for Regional Wine Writer 2007

The Judging panel will be:

Sarah Jane Evans MW - Wine Writer and Broadcaster
Giles MacDonogh - Author and Wine Writer
Hamish Marrett-Crosby - Broadcaster, BBC Radio Jersey
James Mates - Senior Correspondent, ITV News
Toby Peirce - Proprietor, Quaff Fine Wine
Gregor Rankin - Publisher, Food & Travel Magazine
Steven Spurrier - President of the Circle of Wine Writers and Chairman of the Panel of Judges

Fortnum and Mason Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, Martinborough, New Zealand

Fortnum and Mason Sauvignon BlancIt seems an anathema mentioning own-label and Fortnums in the same sentence. You really can't get any more up-market than the famous London department store but like every major perveyour of alcohol they do offer own-label products.

I've yet to get to see the newly revamped, and critically acclaimed, Food Hall. This is where, I assume, the wine department is located and where you pick up a bottle of this beautiful Sauvignon.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Fortnum and Mason Martinborough Sauvigon Blanc, 2007, Martinborough, New Zealand
Available from Fortnum and Mason for £10.50.
Like all own-label wines someone (other than the seller) has to produce it; in this case step forward the talents of Alana Estate. in short this is vibrant, juicy, pure and delicious! There are edges of red peppers (capsicum) to the nose and a streak of minerality running though, the nicely complex, palate. Hints of passion fruit, herbs and un-ripened pears can all be found.

It's a text book New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and worth every posh penny.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]