Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Venison with...?

I have been asked to blog more about wine with food and, as someone who enjoys cooking, I hope this will enliven things around here! Appropriate to the time of year, today I am writing about venison.

Venison is popular in our house - with me, anyway. Buying it a side at a time (from Archers Butchers in Norwich) is a highly cost effective way to fill the freezer with the healthiest of meats. Compared with beef, it's leaner, has about half the calories and a fifth of the total fat and one-sixth of the saturated fat of the equivalent beef. It has around 10% more protein and higher levels of vitamins and minerals although it is around 20% higher in cholesterol.

My freezer is currently bursting at the seams with various cuts and, consequently, I have to think up different ways to present it to my family who, unlike me, would get rather bored of a slab of meat with some sort of carbs and greens put in front of them several nights each week.

1. Venison mince

Mincing the scraps with one part pork belly to two parts venison makes a good burger mixture (although, of course, this can longer lay claim to a low fat option) and also makes a good, richer pasta sauce etc. I would serve appropriate wines with these - such as Cascina Saria's Barbera d'Asti 'S. Lorenzo' which has both the fruit and acidity to cut through the tomato in the ragu sauce.

For a low fat option, I mince the venison on its own and cook it up with Indian spices and add grated onion and toasted pine nuts then wrap it in small samosa parcels using spring roll pastry (there may be something more appropriate but this works fine). I bake these rather than the traditional deep frying and serve them with a pumpkin or squash chutney I heard about on the radio around Hallowe'en. It's quite spicy with the chutney but a fruity Syrah such as a Crozes-Hermitage from Xavier Vignon or Domaine de la Charite works well.

Something else I have tried recently is a beef and potato cake (but using venison, of course) from a rather fun cookbook called 'Persiana'. These are easy to make (mashed potato with minced venison which has been cooked up with mild spices then coated in breadcrumbs and shallow fried to seal then finished off in the oven) and work brilliantly with a simple fruity wine - again Xavier (this time his Turkish Cabernet-Mourvedre) and Charite (the 2015 Cotes du Rhone) come to mind.


Monday, 13 February 2017

2015 Burgundy - is there enough?

January is traditionally the month for tasting and buying the new vintage of Burgundy, wines which are mostly still in tanks and barrels, having been harvested only 15 months earlier. This year was the turn of the much heralded 2015s. This was a year in which not much could go wrong and, on the evidence of the wines I have tasted, very little did.

For me, I tasted extensively in the Chalonnaise, especially around Givry - I wanted to ensure that Domaine Joblot continues to be the best (it does) and, as a consumer, I have to consider that these are wines I can actually afford to drink. I also went to the so-called Ozgundians tasting in Soho where three Australians who make excellent (but by no means cheap) Burgundies were showing off their 2015s. A handful of other wines tasted confirmed, with all the above, that this is one of the great vintages. But you don't need me to tell you that when it's all over the wine press.

What I can tell you about is the excellent 2015s from Domaine Joblot. Juliette is increasingly at the helm of her family's estate and she is continuing with the outstanding reputation built up by her father and uncle. The Servoisine Blanc is drinkable already but could really do with a few years longer in the bottle. Tasted alongside the 2013 and 2014 of the same cuvee, 2013 was ready to drink (but no hurry), followed by the 2015 with the longer-lived 2014 needing more time (or more air!) to bypass the lean minerality of this classic vintage, so good for white Burgundy.

The four Premier Cru reds were tasted alongside each other over a period of five days. First, the Bois Chevaux, light and pretty but, at first, overpowered by the oak. This will fade into the background (as it did by day four) - witness, for example, the 2010 which I have been enjoying on more than one occasion this year (see previous post). My notes for this are consistent: a delicious Pinot, fleshed out and well balanced with fruit that draws you in. Not perfect, perhaps - certainly some tasters will strive to find flaws but, frankly, why bother? It's perfectly enjoyable and, for me, that's enough.

Cellier aux Moines and Servoisine are, classically, the two great wines from this estate. Neither is better than the other but there is a little difference in their styles with the former offering a little more structure and, presumably, longevity whilst the latter has slightly richer fruit. It doesn't really matter which one you opt for as both are going to give the 2015 Gevreys a run for their money when they have grown up. For now, both are impenetrable though: the tannins of 2015 are quite impressive! By day three, they were beginning to be more merciful and by the end of the week, the final glasses hinted at the great pleasure to follow in three or four years.

Finally the Clos Marole. Why? Simply because it is the first to be bottled and, as such, is the most forward at this stage. We also tasted it alongside the 2014 which was a 'Coup de Coeur' in the Revue du Vin de France's 2017 Guide which described its

"very beautiful aromas remind us of raspberry jam. Beautiful consistency on the palate for this pure juice. Its tannins, already well coated will refine over the next few years. This impressive wine shows the great mastery of pinot."

Well, we enjoyed it anyway. And the 2015 was, as expected, the most forward and in a similar style - although I would suggest 'black raspberry jam' as a more accurate descriptor.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Enjoyed last night...

On wine (briefly), a bottle of 2010 Givry 1er Cru 'Bois Chevaux' from Domaine Joblot was drinking magnificently last night. I am sure real experts would be able to find faults but for mere amateurs such as myself, this was quite simply a lovely wine, in the right place and the is certainly no reason to focus on anything other than the immense pleasure it affords. Sorry, all gone now but there are some very good follow-on vintages still available!

Monday, 12 December 2016

LUX Magazine award

I had not heard of this publication until I was told that I had been nominated for one of their 2016 Food & Drink Awards. Apparently, LUX is a 'monthly magazine giving you a glamorous glimpse into the world of all things luxurious'.

So, it is official, our wines are luxurious. 

I'm not sure that I am entirely comfortable with this moniker though. Cambridge Dictionary defines 'luxurious' as 'very comfortable and expensive' and 'giving great pleasure'. I'm on board with the second of these and, whilst 'comfortable' is not a word I would normally associate with wine, I can work with that too. However, I do take issue with the word 'expensive'. 

If someone can tell me where I could go (in the UK or anywhere with similar taxes) to find a wine of the quality of, say, Chateau Juvenal's extremely pleasurable and, possibly even very comfortable, 2015 Ventoux Blanc 'Ribes de Vallat' for under £12, please let me know and I will consider a career change. Actually, I defy anyone to find something as good as this under £15, maybe more.

I used to make a point of price comparisons although I have shied away from this in recent years, mainly because it is a fairly pointless exercise. Yes, one of our illustrious competitors also imports from Raymond Usseglio but, perhaps, the reason why people are willing to pay them £27.95 for a bottle of his 2012 compared with just £23.50 on our website is for the St James' address. 

I have a different approach to wine, I suppose. For me, what is inside the bottle is the only really important thing. Of course, we want to know that the liquid has been looked after properly and that is something you should be assured of when buying from a long-established business like BBR. But, of course, its doesn't mean you get a lesser wine from smaller companies like us who keep the wines in the same (or comparable) bonded warehouses until they are sold and delivered. Is it really worth an additional 30%? Of course, this was just a random example (it really was random - the first wine I checked out) so there may be others with much closer differentials (or even greater ones).

Anyway, as long as I can claim my luxuries to be good value ones then I gratefully - and gracefully - accept my award of (queue drumroll)...


Best Specialist Wine Importer 2016 - UK & Recognised Leader in Boutique Wines

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

En Primeur - is there still a market in the UK?

It's EP season, the time when merchants send out offers for wines which, in the main, have not yet been bottled. Prices are a little confusing to novices, priced without duty or VAT so the trick is to add £25 then divide by ten to reach the per bottle price (although an allowance should be made for onward delivery).

I had thought that Bordeaux had killed off much of the EP market. The outrageous opening prices demanded by some chateaux certainly slowed things down; I know The Big Red Wine Company is not a reliable gauge, given that I work with just one Claret producer, but in 2009, pre-shipment sales of Cahors estate Chateau du Cedre were more impressive than those of Chateau Teyssier.

So why should anyone buy EP? Traditionally, price and availability were the reasons. If you want a particular wine in a particular vintage at the best price, your best bet is to throw your hat in the ring at the earliest opportunity. Wine prices tend to go only in one direction and, as availability decreases (stocks decrease as people drink the stuff!), collectors and investors with stocks to spare rub their hands with glee, especially given that wine is classed as a wasting asset (assuming its life expectancy does not exceed 50 years) and, as such, does not attract capital gains tax when it is sold.

Now it is the 2015s that are being offered. Will anyone buy? Already, we have offered Mas de Daumas Gassac (Languedoc) and, in the last week, Chateau de Beaucastel (Rhone) and Domaine Joblot (Burgundy).  MDG sales were the best I can remember so the EP market is still very much alive and kicking, it seems. It's still early days for the other two but Beaucastel (and, especially its little brother, Coudoulet) tends to be popular and already a good number of cases have been snapped up.

Joblot is different, however. Chalonnaise wines are less sought after than their Cote d'Or neighbours, even those from families such as the Joblots who have been fairly described as 'Givry's best estate' (Clive Coates MW, The Wines of Burgundy, University of California Press) or 'a leader in Givry' (Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy, BBR Press). Sadly, greater interest is in the top estates of the Cote d'Or where astronomically priced wines are snapped up by wealthy buyers afraid that they won't be able to get their hands on the stuff most of us can only dream of - or are they just buying to invest?

For me, I would - and do - buy wines which I can afford at this point in time and, if I can resist (not always possible), hold on to them for long enough to see them fully mature and enjoy them then without worrying about whether the wine now commands a price that I would otherwise balk at. A case in point: I did buy a (very) few bottles of Ruichebourg in 1999 to celebrate the birth of my oldest  child. It was expensive for me at that time (and now!) at around £80 per bottle but you only have a firstborn once, after all and I bought just three bottles. Now the same wine would cost me over £500 to replace (not that I would) but I can enjoy it knowing that I could just about afford it back in 2001. Joblot wines will never achieve such dizzying prices but they are worth putting aside for a decade or so, especially in vintages such as 2015.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Herts wine society tasting

An interesting brief: a selection of big red wines with a couple of whites thrown in for good measure. What does that mean? With a generous budget, I decided to interpret it as special occasion wines and took along a Champagne, a couple of whites (Rhone and Burgundy) and pairs of red wines (Rhone, Italy, South-West France) finishing off with a magnum of Mourvedre.

The Michel Rocourt Champagne got things off to a good start: quite mature and very soft. The Raymond Usseglio Cotes du Rhone Blanc (2014) was received with more mixed reviews, a couple of people admitting they simply do not 'get' white Rhones. The Joblot Givry En Veau (2010) was more popular: classic white Burgundy which was compared with Meursault except, inevitably, this one was better priced.

The first red pair saw a wave of enthusiasm for Chateau Juvenal Ventoux 'Ribes de Vallat' (2014) which showed that this vintage, tricky for some, was capable of producing some delicious and very drinkable wines. There was general agreement that it bears more than a passing resemblance to Burgundy in its velvety texture and soft fruit. The Domaine de Cristia Chateuneuf-du-Pape (2006) was a much more powerful beast loved by some, feared by others.

The Italians were not presented together as they were from different regions and different grapes but the Poggio al Gello Montecucco (2010) was one of the star wines of the night, drinking as beautifully as any Rosso di Montalcino, if not a Brunello. The Giulia Negri Barolo (2007) was well received too but I thought it still seemed very youthful for a 2007 (forward vintage).

Chateau Teyssier St-Emilion Grand Cru (2010) still has a hint of youthful austerity which is unusual for this wine. Bordeaux aficionados will love it but I prefer the gloriousness of the Chateau du Cedre Cahors 'Le Cedre' (2010) which is, perhaps, unsurprising given the price tag on each wine.

I decided that, with fewer than 100 days until Christmas, it would be fun to end with a magnum so took along a Domaine Treloar, Cotes de Roussillon 'Motus' (2009) which is 80% Mourvedre, the balance from Grenache and Syrah. Still youthful but getting into the swing of things now, a very good wine with a future.


Friday, 3 June 2016

Monte Rosola - a testament to good wine making

How does a bottle of wine made from vines of only four years old taste twelve years on? It's a geeky sort of question to ask and one which only real wine nuts would be (or should be) remotely interested in examining but, last night, having sold a couple of cases recently, I decided to try Monte Rosola's 2004 Crescendo, a pure Sangiovese wine made at a tiny estate between Volterra and San Gimignano.

This is an estate that owes its existence to Gottfried Schmitt, a retired executive who wanted a place in the sun and he chose a truly idyllic spot in the Tuscan hills just outside Volterra, eventually persuading Alberto Antonini, the renowned oenologist, to work with him. However, I'm getting ahead of things: that wasn't until 2008. In 2004, the vines had been planted only four years, an age when vines are deemed capable of producing wine but quality is rarely a word that would come into the same sentence. However, there were only two hectares planted in total at that time so perhaps it isn't so strange; after all, Gottfried and his wife, Carmen, were able to wander the vineyards every day turning individual grapes to ensure maximum ripeness if needed. There would have been no excuse for the toleration of rot and no need for chemicals to ensure everything stayed in good health.

What really impressed me last night was how fresh the wine tasted. Yes, the tannins are nicely integrated and the acidity balanced  but the fruit is still lively and very tasty. Sometimes old wines are to be admired more than enjoyed and, whilst this is not an old wine in Bordeaux (or Brunello) terms, relative to the age of the vines, this should be regarded as a pensioner. I can only hope that I am as sprightly when my time comes.

On the back of this tasting, I reviewed drinking dates, pushing the end date back from 2016 to 2018. However, I am willing to bet that in two years time I will be making another adjustment.