I`ve been a Gosset fan since I first started working in the trade where the taste of the marvelous Gosset Grand Reserve seduced my palate forever.
Our Cheese and wine nights at Victoria Park, run with The Deli Downstairs, continue to be very popular. And the more we hold, the more killer matches we find. Here's a couple of belters.
No self-respecting Italian (well not those who attended our last Italian night) would dream of pairing Vin Santo with Taleggio. Geography gets in the way. But they match like a dream: the creme caramel aftertatste of our 2003 Orcia Vin Santo by Siminelli Santi (£32 for 50cl) merges beautifully with the nutty creaminess of the cheese.
Our 2001 Torcolato by Beate Bartolomeo (£24 for 50cl) is a mature sweet wine; not super sweet but with a lovely marmalade character which makes it just right for the more friendly blue cheeses, and some of the gooier nutty creamy cheeses too. We have it with Gorgonzola Dolce and it's pretty much perfect, turning the "blue" all fruity and soft.
You don't have to spend a fortune on top-end Bordeaux and Burgundy to start collecting and ageing wine. There are quite a few sure bets out there that cost £25 or under, and also some good everyday options that do last a suprisingly long time and make interesting "project bottles" for the aspiring wine afficionado. You may raise an eyebrow at my suggestion that £25 for a bottle of wine is not a fortune, but by Claret standards it isn't.
The sure bets would include Chablis Premier Cru from decent producers like Domaine Christian Moreau and (soon to arrive on our shelves) Domaine des Malandes. The former's Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2010 (£23) is going to get more honeyed as it ages, but is likely to retain a balancing freshness for 5 or 6 years at least before it begins to seem "mature" and will last a few years after that. German Rieslings can also be very long-lived and something like the (deep breath) Mosel Riesling Spaetlese Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr 2007 from Max Ferd. Richter (£20), whilst already evolving, has a long future ahead of it; buy 2010 German Riesling at this sort of quality level, be it dry or off-dry, and it should last into the next decade. For reds, there are some perhaps surprising choices from the New World. It's rare to find aged South American reds in the UK but I have had some brilliant examples from both Chile and Argentina. You could try sticking away the Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 from the Maule Valley (£15.50) for five years. From South Africa, Meerlust's famed Stellenbosch Rubicon 2007 Bordeaux Blend (£1 more than my £25 limit!) actually needs a few years to knit together, and will hit its peak around 2017, I reckon.
For a bargain white that can be very interesting with a few year's age, you can try hiding away a Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, like our Christophe Drouard 2010 (£10). In reds, consider Cotes du Rhone: good examples now push above £10 per bottle but they do tend to hold their own for anything up to a decade, maybe a bit more in the right vintage. The Domaine de l'Espigouette 2010 Cotes du Rhone (£11.50) is a new vintage of a wine we have enjoyed in the past, and will gain more a savoury edge to its ripe berry fruit if you can be patient.
Welcome to the first in a series of missives about collecting and laying down wine.
Why start to build up a wine collection? Obviously some famous collections were built up with an eye on investment. But in this series of posts I'm going to focus on laying down wine to drink later, for personal enjoyment. I'm sure you've heard if big auctions where the contents of the cellar of someone recently deceased have gone under the hammer. As far as I'm concerned there's no point dying with wine left undrunk.
Off the top of my head I can think of two key reasons behing having a "drinker's cellar" (or wine rack, pantry etc). The first is to put some wines away and see how they change over time. It's great if you can have three or four bottles of some of these wines, and then (if very keen) you can take notes each time you open one. The second main reason is that quite a few fine wines are released before their optimum drinking window, and so the onus is on you to stick them away and, hopefully, only crack them open when good and ready. Red Bordeaux is often released in a fairly raw state. However I don't collect it because, in London, if you shop in the right places, you can always get your hands on a bottle with sufficient bottle age. Italian wines like Barolo, however, are more rarely seen on the shelves in mature vintages; so the basis of my collection is Barolo, Barbaresco, and the tuscans Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti.
You don't have to spend a fortune to get an ageworthy wine; there are wines like top-end Muscadet which costs £10 an can develop nicely over several years, as can a Cotes du rhone which might cost £12 to £15. I'll give you a list of suggestions in another post.
My dream house would probably have a pukka cellar, or temperature-and-humidity- controlled room, a spiral cellar, or at very least a big tall wine cabinet. But many of us can't necessarily afford these options, or are living in rented accomodation, or have yet to build up a collection to make them seem worthwhile. I paln to discuss these options, however, in a subsequent post.
When starting out as a wine collector, the standard wine-rack-under the stairs may have to suffice. You might want to check that there isn't too much vibration in the area as this can harm the ageing process. Also make sure that there are no heat sources nearby. The key with keeping wine is temperature consistency, so you need to avoid the sort of temperature spikes that might be caused by nearby heating on a timer, or by white goods. Avoiding direct sunlight is also important. The ideal temperature for keeping wine is probably around 14-16 degrees. You can keep wine in a warmer environment - it will age quicker, but as long as the temperature is not too variable it should be okay.
It always annoys me when I see adverts for fitted kitchens and they have built in wine racks right next to the oven. Doh! And the other classic cock-up is to have a wine rack on top of the fridge-freezer. Because of the vent on the back of the unit, you might just as well stick your Puligny-Montrachet next to the oven.
One way of trying to keep wine insulated from extremes in temperature is to use the foam packing that you get in some wine transit boxes. Perhaps easier is to get a basic cool box. As these are not permeable you would want to put a damp cloth in every so often so that the corks do not dry out. A certain degree of humidity is vital to keep corks elastic, though too much and your labels will suffer! Similarly we keep wine bottles on their side to preserve the corks and therefore the seal.
I'm lucky that my cupboard under the stairs wass in fact a pantry, and so is now storing my compact and bijou stash of around 100 bottles. It is on an outside wall which is mostly in shadow, so the average temperature is both very steady and low enough at about 15 degrees.
We were very pleased to welcome Philippe Manfredini, Export Manager from the house of Gosset, to our little cellar last Thursday to present the entire portfolio. The stunning line up was as follows:
- Brut Exclusive NV (£42.50, 45% Pinot Noir 36% Chardonnay 19% Pinot Meunier)
- Grand Blanc de Blancs (£72 100%Ch)
- Grande Reserve (£53, 43%Ch 42%PN 15%PM)
- Brut Millesime 1999 (sold out)
- Brut Millesime 2000 (£72, 57%Ch, 43%PN)
- Grand Rose (£64, 58%Ch 35%PN 7% red PN)
- Celebris Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs (£155, 100%Ch)
- Celebris Extra Brut 1998 (£115 64%Ch 36%PN)
- Celebris Rose 2003 (£155, 68%Ch 25%PN 7% red PN)
There were absolutely no duds. After the subtly yeasty (brioche), very elegant, "standard" cuvee we had the honour of being one of the very first places to try the Blanc de Blancs, a new addition to the range. This is a rich and profound style; Chris and I were very impressed and it has found a spot on our shelves. This section was finished off by the powerful Grande Reserve which has always been a favourite.
The '99 has been my favourite vintage cuvee since we opened, and so the '00 has a hard act to follow. On tasting earlier in the year it had a pronounced soy sauce character, but the nose seems to be better balanced now and it has fleshed out. It is not as rich and deep as its predecessor but is bright, refreshing, elegant and long on the finish.
Similarly, the rose is my favourite pink fizz. Salmon pink in colour, the initial attack has more citrus character, but if you let the wine drape over your tongue, beautiful red fruit flavours reveal themselves.
We finished on a high note with the Celebris trio. The Blanc de Blanc, a deluxe non-vintage cuvee based on the 1995 vintage (stunning Chardonnay year) is uncompromising, the citrus and minerality is amplified by the low dosage, but behind this is great depth leading to a very long finish. The 1998 was wondrous and for most was the star of a very strong bunch, very complete and profound and still very fresh at 13 years old. The Celebris pink is fuller than the "standard" one, and has a lovely creamy texture. A great wine though I'd happily make do with the Grand Rose.
What a night it was!
When I started out in the wine industry in the late 90s, the Beajolais scene from Abigail's Party was very much in people's minds when we reacted in horror to the suggestion of chilling reds. Partly this inflexibility was down to the fact that, in the wine trade, the only person more up his own ar**e about wine than a wineshop assistant with 6 months experience, is a sommelier with 6 months experience. But 15 years later my view has been modified; now I have a more phlegmatic approach to what people do with wine once they've bought it from me, but more importantly I've been to enough wineries now to know just how many reds are drunk straight from the 15 degree cellar by the winemakers themselves.
I mention all of this because we seem to have a really strong demand for the sort of reds that lend themselves towards a quick spell (say 10 minutes) in the fridge. That's to say light bodied, lowish tannnins, crisp acidity but a decent amount of zippy fruit. Beaujolais such as the '09 Colonge (£10) is an obvious starting point. Our Barbera d'Asti Casareggio from Pavia (£10) is another one. There is also the Frappato grape from Sicily; our Baccaria (£8) and the higher end 2010 from Cos (£17.50) both manage to combine lighter weighted refreshment with an appealing smooth texture. Two excellent Italian Cabernet Francs, the brightly fruity Blason (£11.75) from Friuli Isonzo, and the more spicy Tenuta di Caldella (£11) from Veneto are superb with a goats cheese salad. The other grape which comes immediately to mind is Pinot Noir - the problem is that the prices which can be attached to this grape, plus its aromatic complexity, push our willingness to serve reds cool to the limit. Which leads to the caveat of this piece: be aware when chilling reds, or expensive whites for that matter, that added refreshment comes at the expense of aroma.
We’re big on food and wine matching here at Bottle Apostle; not only is it an enjoyable challenege, in addition a large proportion of our customers come in with a particular dish on the menu and ask for a suitable bottle. So we get plenty of practice.
We do notice that two particular types of recommendation can cause looks of fear and trepidation. Firstly we have the scenario in which the customer is cooking something spicy with a bit of chilli heat. It takes some doing to convince people that a wine with a bit of sweetness is the way to go. Something like the Framingham Classic Riesling 2008 from Marlborough (£13.80) is off-dry but for many who taste it it’s the fruitiness rather than the sweetness which jumps out. But there is enough sweetness to dampen down chilli heat, and what’s more the citrusy flavour makes it a great match for not only Thai dishes, but also the legendary Tandoori pork chops from Tayyabs in Whitechapel. By the way, any Kiwi Riesling with the word “Classic” on the label is likely to be off-dry.
The other point of contention is oak. People tend to try oaked wines (most commonly Chardonnay) on their own, without food, and evaluate them as aperitifs. Then they come to one of our tastings or cheese and wine nights and get a really pleasant surprise. I promise you an oaky Chardonnay, such as Mahi Twin Valleys 2009 Marlborough (£16.90 and a belter) is the best cheese all-rounder; very good with hard cheeses such as Manchego or Cheddar, brilliant with something like a Tomme where the nuttiness of the cheese melds with the caramel of the oak, and also superb with Stilton. In fact I recommend having a pork chop with Stilton on top just to try this out. An oaked Sauvignon such as the Reyneke Estate White 2009 from Stellenbosch (£24.00) is just as good. Nuttier, waxy oaked whites such as Minervois and Cotes du Roussillon aren’t quite as flexible with cheese but come into their own when a plate of cold meats and sausage is plonked onto the table. Then there’s fish pie, scallops and pancetta, white meats in creamy sauces...
Following on from our successful run of dinners with Ben Greeno we have just completed a trio of events with James Lowe, formerly head chef at St John Bread & Wine, Spitalfields. We got very positive feedback on the wines served and how they matched the food, and so thought it would be useful to communicate those pairings to the world at large.
Radishes, Trevise, Fennel & Anchovy
Champagne Gallimard Brut Réserve (£24.50)
Very primary bold, raw nibbles, and so we went for what is effectively our house bubbly. It’s 100% Pinot Noir but not labelled as a Blanc de Noirs, presumably as the style is much more restrained than that designation might imply. Still it has enough rounded fruit for these ingredients; a better bet than a zippy, minerally Chardonnay-based wine.
Razor Clam & Sorrel
Ribeiro 2009 Coto de Gomariz (£15.00)
This Galician wine is a brilliant seafood allrounder and gained several comments of “perfect match”. The sorrel element in this dish was served as a liquefied sauce, and added a strong green leafy element to the flavours. Accordingly I would not serve an Albarino because the emphasis there is on apricot; the Ribeiro being a blend of several grapes has a green element to it (I often use colours to describe aromas) and so pairs more successfully.
Raw Rib, Oyster & Chickweed
Maranges 1er Cru La Fussière 2007 Bruno Colin (£23.00)
James served this dish on all three menus as it got such a strongly positive reaction. The dish consists of shreds of raw beef served with greenleaves; with a wow factor added by an emulsion of oyster, piped onto the meat in small dots. I chose a tangy red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) partly to balance the white/red ratio in the meal. But the acidity and tangy cherry fruit contrasted very well with the fat in the beef, whilst not overpowering the subtle flavours.
Duck Egg, Alliums & Mustard
Türk Erlesenes vom Grünen Veltliner 2008 Niederösterreich (£19.00)
With the Marange being relatively light it meant we could go back to a white for the next course. Alliums are the family containing onions, leeks and garlic. Austria’s Grüner Veltliner is a great match for these; this example is a richer version which helped compliment the egg (low temperature egg yolk).
Old Spot Belly, Cauliflower & Broccoli
Ribera del Duero 2006 Dominio Romano (£29.50)
This Tempranillo is just a rung or two below full bodied with good acidity to cut through the fatty meat. You would not want a totally full bodied wine with this.
Cheesecake, Rhubarb & Ginger Crumb
Moscatel Emelín Dulce, Lustau (£11 half)
Many books suggest heavy with heavy, light with light when it comes to dessert wines. But often a contrast is better. Spanish Moscatel sherry will usually match any dessert that you could imagine pouring caramel sauce over – eg. a vanilla pudding, or fresh fruit. This worked very well, complementing the cheesecake and contrasting the rhubarb.
by Tom at Bottle Apostle
Whether you’re new to wines and feeling lost with all the jargon or consider yourself something of a connoisseur and want to clarify an unfamiliar term, this wine glossary is a helpful resource you might want to bookmark for future use.
Describes the flavours left in the mouth after swallowing the wine. Harsh, smooth, hot, and tannic are among the terms used to characterize aftertaste. Also known as ‘finish’.
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC)
The highest legal classification of French wine, requiring conformity to the most regulations concerning viticulture, alcohol content etc.
Wines with backbone are full-bodied red wines in which tannin and/or acidity predominates.
Wine in which individual taste elements are in harmony, with no individual one dominant. Can also describe a sense and ability that wine drinkers lose after excessive wine tasting.
An exacting approach to wine-making based on the philosophy of Austrian Rudolf Steiner, biodynamics calls for organic production and considers the effects of the moon and stars on grape vines.
Describes the wine’s perceived weight on the palate – e.g. light, medium or full.
A mould that attacks grapes, causing them to shrivel on the vine. Can be used intentionally in the process of creating certain sweet wines, such as Sauternes and Tokay.
Pouring a wine into another container – a glass or decanter – mixes it with air, which allows flavours to open up
A method of winemaking that produces immediately drinkable red wines that are fruity, soft and with little tannin.
A red Bordeaux in British parlance.
An effervescent wine produced in the Champagne region of France.
Describes a pleasingly tart, young white wine that is fresh and easy to drink.
Spanish red wines bearing this description must be aged at least 2 years, of which six months must be in barrel.
Denotes wine of a particular batch or blend. ‘Vat’ in French.
Pouring wine from a bottle into another container for the purpose of aerating it (in a young wine) or separating it from any sediment (in older wines).
How the wine tastes just as it passes your lips. Sometimes called ‘attack’.
German dessert wine made from frozen grapes (literally ‘ice wine’).
How the wine tastes when swallowed. And what you might want to do to the bottle if it’s pleasant.
Describes wine with a fruity acidity: in general young whites, light reds and roses.
General description for a wine made from ripe grapes, usually slightly sweeter.
Spanish classification of wines aged at least five years, of which two must be in barrel and three in bottle.
In French literally ‘great growth’. Wine from the very top rated vineyards.
Denotes a high quality German wine with quality measured by sugar levels in the grape. The name comes from the idea that you put nice things on display in a cabinet.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)
A style of Port produced to approach true vintage qualities for a fraction of the expense, by aging in wood for up to six years to soften the wine.
Describes dessert wines produced with grapes that have been on the vine much longer than usual, often after botrytis has set in.
How a wine’s taste lingers on the palate after swallowed. A good length means a long finish.
A river in central France and the region renowned for producing Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
The process of leaving grape skins with grape juice during the fermentation process, further enhancing tannins and aromas.
A bottle with contents equivalent to two regular 750ml bottles.
Quite a mouthful, this secondary fermentation process is used in the production of most red wines (and often in Chardonnays) to reduce sharpness and apparent acidity, namely by converting malic acids (apple) to smoother lactic (milk) acids.
The stage in wine tasting (after entry and before length and finish) in which one holds the wine in the mouth to form impressions on flavour, texture, tannins and acidity.
Perception of overall texture of the wine in the mouth through the entire tasting process.
A wine’s aroma or bouquet (the latter implies aging), as detected by the facial protuberance of the same name.
Wine is aged in oak barrels, imparting an ‘oaky’ taste and aroma, the intensity of which is determined by the duration of aging.
The science of winemaking.
‘First growth’ en francais; not Grand Cru but a very good vineyard.
Spanish red wine that has been aged at least three years.
A tasting term referring to the completeness of the wine in terms of tannin and acidity levels.
Not an Italian in tights and a mask who fights villains, but a group of red wines produced in Tuscany that aren’t in accordance with DOC regulations; often a blend containing Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot.
A wine that goes down easy – no hard edges. Tends to imply balance and higher quality.
Found in grape skins, stalks and pips, tannins account for any bitter taste in a wine. In proportion, this helps achieve a balanced character, but too much tannin is a fault.
A French word, difficult to translate, that refers to the influence of soil, climate, and other natural factors on the ripening of grapes used for wine.
How a wine feels in the mouth, synonymous with mouthfeel.
A wine made from one particular type of grape rather than a blend of two or more.
Vin de Pays
This French category of wines just above the lowest, Vin de Table, contains many good wines.
Vin de Table
The lowest category of French wines. Labels on Vin de Table bottles are not permitted to disply grape varieties or vintage. Best used for cooking or unwelcome guests.
A specific year of harvest for a wine; a vintage wine is made from grapes harvested in a particular year.
The cultivation of grapes for winemaking.
The species of grape from which all the world’s fine wine is produced, although often grafted onto a related species’ rootstock to protect the grapes from infestation by an aphid called Phylloxera vastatrix.