We are so lucky to live in these times, I really believe that the quality of good wine has never been better than it is now, but that is sometimes easy to forget. Luckily I tried two very different red wines recently that really proved the point, they were rich and supple with great fruit and excellent tannin management. They appeared to be superbly made and to have had love and care lavished upon them and the results were enticing:
The Expensive Side
Books and critics, magazines and the twittering classes talk about the Cru Classés and En primeur Campaigns (what an ugly phrase), but to me that has as much to do with wine as investing money in Laithwaites. It is not really any longer about the wine, but the money and potential for profit. Much the same can be said about the sort of wine that the American magazines often discuss, these rich ‘collectors’ – the word means someone rich enough to buy a lot in this instance – smiling in front of their new purpose built cellar complete with a glass-walled showroom for their Petrus collection – that isn’t about wine either. Neither are the hugely expensive California Cabernets or Super-Tuscans anymore, they are all about esteem, branding, marketing and other people’s perception of your taste and wealth. It is the modern obsession with brand writ large and describing these as wine is a bit like saying that staying at the Peninsular Hotel in Hong Kong is travelling.
These wines can be great, but very few of us can afford to drink them and as they are more often bought for investment hardly anyone does seem to drink them, so in reality there is hardly any point to them from a wine perspective. That is why I mainly ignore such wines and focus on things that are more affordable and interesting – to me.
Wine makers and winery owners are usually engaging and interesting people and I have been fortunate enough to meet quite a few in my career. However one of the most agreeable and charming I have ever met is Bruce Cakebread, President and C.O.O. of Cakebread Cellars – the winery that bears his family name.
I was thrilled to meet him in Napa last year, I have always loved Cakebread wines, so a it was great to put a personality and a face to the wine. Bruce not only runs the family winery, but is also president of the board of directors for the Napa Valley Vintners.
I have been lucky enough to bump into him a couple of times since then and his wines always impress me with their finesse and elegance, so I thought it was about time that I told you a little about them. Continue reading
I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Aldo Biale. In partnership with his son Robert, Dave Pramuk, and winemaker Al Perry he was part owner and guiding force behind the wonderful Robert Biale Vineyards.
I would like to send my best wishes to the family and everyone involved in that great winery.
I have a huge amount of respect for what Robert Biale Vineyards does and the people who do it. I had a fantastic couple of days there not so long ago and the night I arrived Aldo had just been taken into hospital, but I was able to meet Clementina his wife of over 50 years, who was a gracious and kindly lady. You can read about my visit here.
Whilst in the Napa Valley I was fortunate enough to be invited to visit Domaine Carneros. This is a dramatic and beautiful winery surrounded by vines and perched on a hill overlooking the rolling Carneros countryside.
It was created in 1987 as a partnership between US wine company Kobrand and Champagne Taittinger. Indeed Claude Taittinger had been looking for a suitable site for a Californian sparkling wine vineyard since the 1970s. Continue reading
Sometimes I feel left out and sometimes I just feel annoyed – about Pinot Grigio.
I just don’t get Pinot Grigio, I sort of understand why it sells – it usually doesn’t taste of anything, so the focus of your evening remains the conversation, the wine stays in the background to lubricate your palate.
I need acidity in a white wine though, so the slight bitterness on the finish of virtually every Pinot Grigio is unpleasant to me.
It is fair to say that, with the exception of some rich Friulian examples, I avoid Pinot Grigio if I possibly can. Pinot Gris however can be a very different thing, and I enjoy the occasional taste of that from Alsace or even New Zealand – Pinot Gris seems to me to generally have more depth, honesty and concentration but even then I really want more acidity. Continue reading
I have long had a fascination for wines from California and as Napa Valley is the most famous wine region in California I was honoured to be invited to attend the Master Napa Valley Course 2009.
This was an intensive course spread over three days visiting wineries and vineyards as well as hearing from wine makers and leading wine industry figures. It was especially interesting as only the week before I had attended something similar in Burgundy and was thus able to compare many aspects of these two seemingly different wine regions. Continue reading
Ever since working for the late Geoffrey Roberts in the mid 1980’s I have loved good California wines. I have found it irritating, therefore that the types of California wine that most people drink bear no relation to the greatest examples. The trouble is that they are shockingly expensive to most of us and so they get relegated to special occasion wine status, or never get tasted at all and consumers go around thinking that all wine from California is like Blossom Hill. Continue reading