Wine articles

Thanksgiving 2011

My American wife (my only wife in fact) has converted me to the joys of Thanksgiving. It combines the feasting of Christmas without having to worry about what to buy Auntie Marianne. The best thing about it is the chance to drink lots of good wine. I suppose I should be helping to prop up the economy of my wife’s home state but it is so hard to get good affordable Californian wine over here so this year’s line-up is all European. You can see what we drank above. If you look carefully between the tops of the two German wines you will see a picture of me in all my velour-attired 70s pomp.

Krug Grande cuvée, NV – this was brought by one of my guests. What a treat! It’s been a long time since I drank really good champagne and I had forgotten quite how uncompromising some are. This is very very rich and toasty with an electric charge of acidity. It’s like a sparkling Meursault. I wish I’d kept it to drink slowly rather than shared it with everyone.

Dorsheimer Pittermännchen, Riesling Spätlese halbtrocken, Michael Schafer, 2006 – this one is starting to take on the secondary aromas associated with age. In fact it was a bit cheesy when I opened it but after a day open in the fridge it freshened up. Though basically dry (halbtrocken – means half dry), I thought that it might be a little sweet to go with turkey so opened this:

Schieferberg, Ernst Loosen, Dry Riesling, 2009 – after making this my wine of the week in February last year, my dear brother who lives in Australia bought me a case for my birthday. Thanks George! I was intending to keep some to see how it aged but now have only two bottles left. It’s even better than I remember – perhaps that’s the extra eight months ageing.

Bourgogne Rouge, Joseph Voillot, 2009 – this one was the star even in such distinguished company. For once when talking about a wine, words such as seductive, feminine and even (dread word!) sexy seem appropriate. Everyone took a sip, stopped talking and went ‘mmmm.’ It’s a little riper and fleshier than most ordinary burgundy. One of my guests drinks a lot of good claret and even he was impressed.

Churchill’s Late Bottled Vintage 2003 – last year when I opened the port everyone had a glass and it disappeared quickly. This year, what with drivers and pregnant people, very few people partook. I don’t want to go into details but I ended up having a little too much and started putting my views on contemporary art over rather forcefully. Still apparently drunken arguments are a traditional part of Thanksgiving.

The whites are things I had in my cellar (damp cupboard.) The Krug is widely available for lots of money, the port can be bought from From Vineyards Direct and the burgundy came from House of Townend though I can’t find it on their site.

Wine articles

Dabbler post: Good Ordinary Claret

What thing is the most evocative of Christmas? For some it’s the sound of carol singing, for others it’s the unwrapping of presents, for me it’s the sediment on the side of a claret bottle. Just a glimpse of the purple powder brings me back to that time of year when my father used to get out the good stuff – continue by clicking here.


Wine of the week

Wine of the Week: Lirac ‘Les Queyrades’ 05

Jane McQuitty, the Times wine writer and disco enthusiast, wrote an article a few years back where she wondered what the point of decanting was:

“Decanting all white wines and the majority of red wines is a waste of time. . . Air is the enemy of wine and decanting exposes it to air air unnecesarily, because the minute you pull the cork the deterioration and oxidation process starts. Venerable reds can fade in seconds and even decade-old reds start to soften alarmingly swiftly, so decanter fans have to move fast and open these wines no more than half an hour before drinking. The only bottles that merit decanting are those grand reds and vintage ports that throw a bitter, flaky sediment that muddies the taste.” 

Now I don’t want to start a wine war with someone as experienced as Ms McQuitty but I beg to differ. She sees the oxidative process as purely destructive but with certain wines it is vital for softening tannins and bringing out flavour. I noticed this with the Brunello I bought for my father a few years back – straight of the bottle it was undrinkable. Decanted and left for two hours it was one of the best wines I’ve ever had.

This Lirac was similarly difficult. I had been invited back by the House of Townend to their Xmas tasting despite mistaking some of their customers for prostitutes the previous year. The first sip was a mixture of vinegar and very dry tannin which coated my mouth and made my tastebuds curl up like hedgehogs under attack. I was with the writer Toby Clements and he was all for telling our hosts that there was something wrong with it. Having tried this wine before, albeit it an earlier vintage, the ’89, I was wise to its shy nature. After a good swirl to expose it to oxygen, it gradually started to come out of its shell with glimpses of spice and dried fruit. By the end of the night, it was positively vivacious. It’s a cliché to compare Lirac to Chateauneuf-du-Pape but this one really merits the comparison. It’s hot, ripe and delicious but also elegant and never overblown.

Lirac ‘Les Queyrades’, Domaine André Méjan costs £10 which is much too cheap. You’ll need to buy a case for House of Townend to deliver. I’d recommend you get a few bottles this one also:

Pigeoulet de Brunier, Vin De Pays de Vaucluse 09 – another beauty from the Southern Rhone. This one is made by Chateauneuf-du-Pape legends Vieux Telegraphe £8.95

Wine articles

A young person’s guide to sherry

I have a new job which makes me work five days a week. Five days! Surely a civilised man needs a day before the weekend to think, eat dim sum and ‘work on his book’? There’s so much interesting booze stuff going on which I haven’t had time to write about. Luckily just as oranges are not the only fruit, I am not the only person writing about drink. Take my little brother Thomas for example: aged four he threw a wooden toy fire engine at my head. It bloody hurt. I was eleven at the time and predicted that he would never amount to anything. Since then he’s managed to tame his demons and has written this excellent guide to the where to drink sherry in London. I am so proud of him.