The Lost Valley of Forgotten Wine Trends…

The wine trade can be plagued by the peaks and troughs of frantic excitement for new regions and grape varieties followed by bitter cynicism as those begin to gather dust on the shelves and the NEXT new region and grape variety is announced. It’s inevitable, really. Wine writers and merchants alike become bored with the same old thing, week in and week out, and look for something new to take their fancy.

Of course, what’s new is rarely new. Most likely it’s been around for years, it’s just that no one’s paying any attention to it. They’re all too busy with Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. Some of those new trends have staying power – Kiwi Sauvignon, Australian Shiraz and Prosecco – but most fall back into obscurity, like Lagrein, wines from Bierzo and Sparkling Shiraz. And then, maybe ten years later, there will be another fuss and we’ll go through the whole thing again.

The shame of it is, those trendy wines have done nothing wrong. Mencia from Bierzo doesn’t lose its lovely, juicy dustiness. Txacoli from Basque country still ignites into a gentle spritz when poured from great height into a beaker, and still pairs sublimely with seafood tapas. Whilst a tree falling in the woods may make no sound, great wine that has fallen out of the public eye still tastes bloody brilliant.

So consider this blog post a rallying cry. Dust off those old bottles of something interesting. A Malvasia grown in California, a bottle of sherry, a Scheurube or a Moscato. Lay down some Godello instead of a Puligny. Decant something from the Lebanon to go with your lamb, or chill a Saumur Blanc to accompany scallops. None of these things have lost their lustre, they’ve simply lost your attention. These are great wines.

Except for Sparkling Shiraz. That’s just a silly wine.

Posted by Richard

Don’t kill your carefully chosen white. Another surprising discovery.

Drinking Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap at Portencross

As we prepared for a picnic at Portencross in Ayrshire this weekend I ran out of the house grabbing a bottle of Boekenhoutskloof, The Wolftrap 2010 made from the grapes Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Chenin, from a recently delivered wine box from, you guessed it, Swig. What this wine had going for it in my haste was a screwcap and that I had not tried it in six months. But it wasn’t chilled. I was thinking uh oh, it’s just not going to sing. Everything else was just right. The setting, the saltbeef sandwich on rye and the sun was shining. But I gave the first glass to my wife and she loved it. And then I tried it. Yes, wow, it was wonderful, giving off all its perfume of gentle orange and peach and guava. It had a gorgeous sastisfying texture too, which was perfect on a day that had a bit of a breeze, to make the wine feel more substantial and also to match the weight of the sandwich. Well I was amazed. All that for £10.
So with half a bottle left I put it in the fridge to try with our roast chicken dinner the same night. Serving a glass straight after getting it out of fridge it had completely closed down. The nose was far less interesting. It was very pleasant indeed but showing nothing like the wonderful wafts of fruit we got earlier in the day. The texture was less rich as well. So we went through the meal as was and I saved one last sip for when I was tidying up, and it was the best sip of the night, becuase it was back to room temperature, or just about. So, the point is, for a wine with plenty of character, made from grapes such as Viognier, Roussanne, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc the chances our you will have much more fun if you give it just 10 minutes in the fridge, than if you serve it cold from the fridge. I must remember to do this more often. Better to start a bit warm and chill it down than the other way round, as by the time it warms up you’ll have finished the meal. – Robin

Forget fishing for snow crabs in the north Atlantic – describing wine is the hardest job in the world

Let’s all take a brief moment to sympathise with wine merchants. I suspect that was the shortest pause since J.Howard Marshall asked Anna Nicole Smith to marry him, so let’s move swiftly on. I was whining because we frequently venture out on a long linguistic limb to convey the character of a wine while nasty, bully-boy cynics stand below shaking the tree. The problem facing anyone writing about wine is the task of describing one thing in terms of another – a distinctly human practice. An animal would view a wine in terms of its wetness, temperature and potability, yet we humans demand similes, metaphors and analogies, which essentially describe something in terms of that which it is not.

It’s no wonder then that if you throw a little alcohol into the mix, you end up with some alarming prose. Jilly Goolden tends to be the fall girl for most satirists, but even the world’s most influential wine writer, Robert Parker, uses some fairly kaleidoscopic imagery, like “acacia flowers, black raspberries, creosote and crushed rocks”, when trying to describe an Australian Shiraz.

Trying to evoke taste through words can be fog-knittingly frustrating, but there’s never any need to hide behind jargon like “sappy” or “sinewy” if the words aren’t forthcoming.

One of the most overused words in wine-writing today is ‘minerality’. No self-respecting white wine dare show its face unless it has this season’s must-have accessory, ‘a strong mineral streak’, yet no one seems willing to define exactly what it means. In that sense, it’s similar to love: resistant to definition and abused by charlatans. Yes, Pouilly-Fumé can exhibit ‘flinty’ notes and Mosel Rieslings can suggest the slate of their steep vineyards, but these are the exceptions not the rule. Caveat empty promises!

‘Terroir’ is another term open to overuse by those wishing to claim integrity for a wine, but at least there’s empirical evidence to show that its influence is real and widespread. It doesn’t just refer to the soil but the interplay of all the natural elements peculiar to a region. A Mercedes Benz built in Germany will essentially be identical to one built in China, but a Pinot Noir made in Nuits-St-Georges will be noticeably different from one made just down the road in Chambolle-Musigny, assuming the winemaker allows the wine to express its origins.

Right, I really must crack on and review this bottle of Cheval Blanc 1990 sitting in front of me. Thank you for your sympathy.

- James Bloom

Don’t serve good Rose too cold. A fortunate discovery.

Drinking Domaine Coste Rose in the garden, June 20, 2012[/caption]
I arrived home later than my guest and popped a bottle of our Southern French Rose Domaine Coste in the freezer. After making the guacomole I was too embarassed to arrive in the garden without a bottle of wine as well and took the rose from the freezer, popped the cork and we were all amazed at how lovely it was. It couldn’t have been in the chiller more than ten minutes. My guest even said it tasted of strawberries. And I totallly agree. But it wouldn’t have if we had chilled it as hard as we all normally cool our roses. It was much better than when I served it at the weekend with roast chicken at a cooler temperature. Though even then our guests commented on how lovely it was. So the point is half an hour in the fridge is about right to get the maximum from this beautiful wine. Or else take it out of the fridge 15 to 30 minutes or more before you drink it (I know,I know). At the higher serving temperature you also get more of the round texture of the wine, more so than if it was too cold, and you get why it is frankly better than the ridiculously highly priced Ott and Esclans roses that sell for more like £25 and £45 respectively. Try them blind in a line up and say what you think they’re worth. The rose Coste disappeared quicker than a flash and we moved into a bottle of our best value red find of last year, Hacienda Zorita 2006, which never ceases to amaze.


Decanter’s Top Australian Riesling

Skillogallee is just the most refreshing, invigorating, zingy, lime-dry Riesling. Not only is it Decanter Magazine’s highest-scoring 5 Star wine in their 2010 Riesling tasting (see below), but it is also in Matthew Jukes’s Top 100 Australian Wines.

“Orange blossom, tropical fruit, stone fruit and floral perfume. Rich and exotic style with good weight and balance. Seamlessly integrated mineral acidity and a floral finish. Delicious, complex and multi-dimensional.” -Decanter Magazine (5 Stars/19.25 points)

Skillogallee is also rated as one of Australia’s Top Ten Riesling producers by Gourmet Traveller.