Please remember to approach the world of wine responsibly
A QUICK SIP
Christmas has just passed and I've got to say that I've absolutely loved it. Not just the family being together, the food or those presents that entertain and intrigue, but it is so obviously on of the high points of wine.
I don't mean out in the vineyard where vines lie dormant waiting to bring us a new vintage, I mean those marvellous choices to be made about choosing which wines to drink, to take to parties, to have with food and, if you are a lucky person, to collect.
My Christmas wine vacation might start in summer when I've bought one or two bottles that I hope will impress, but it will certainly be addressed by late October when I look at what wines might be ready for drinking. My wine collection is located in three locations; a storage facility in the Napa Valley, a wine merchant in the middle of England and at my home.
Sometimes, I might need to get those wines out of storage in good time so that they can have a snooze in my cool storage area at home before their turn to entertain over dinner.
As November gets into full swing, I'll start visiting wine tastings that specialise in festive offerings as it saves me time, and I'll often come away with a solid collection of wines that will do the job (there's always too many and some are carried over to the next occasion).
All the time, I'm making a list (and checking it twice) of what will be good this Christmas. It has to be a really good mixture of white, red, sweet and sparkling (sorry, but I'm not up for fortified wines). I also need a star of the show. While I don't want wine to become the dominant factor at the table, there's always a guest or two who enjoys talking about wine as much as I do and a glass from the 'star bottle' is something they've become used to (I must check if they also enjoy it or think I'm being a tremendous show-off).
December arrives and it's time to do that final wine shopping that will give me the sort of choice I love and hate at the same time.
By now my list is always too long for the amount of guests who come to visit. It was forty wines in 2016, but in 2017 I've cut it down. It's still about twenty five varieties to choose from, but it's a lot more manageable and don't forget what you don't drink you can keep for later.
About two weeks before Christmas Dinner (always takes place on Christmas Eve in our home so that on the 'Big Day' all we need to do is open the presents and then open a nice bottle of something sparkling before wallowing through the rest of the day) I visit the guests and ask them what sort of wines they might like to try, as well as confirming what they are currently drinking. I want to make sure that if they don't like my choices I've always got something they will like. This Christmas, my father in law wanted an Australian Shiraz from The Barossa Valley and I was lucky enough to get a bottle from Henschke. He's not allowed too much red wine so my trusty Coravin came to the rescue and the bottle is currently laying down, minus one small tasting size portion.
Over Christmas there are certain wine traditions that have to be adhered to in the Harries household. We love the sparkling wine and it's become out thing to open a bottle the minute a guest walks through the door, so as well as a couple of bottles of our favourite Champagne (Bollinger) we have a case of Cremant at the ready. I also have at least one glass from California as a thank you to this wonderful area getting me interested in this thing called wine. This year it's a Kistler and I can tell you that drinking a glass was like bathing in luxury.
Don't let buying the wine stress you out when it can be such a wonderful pleasure.
So come along with me, check out the wine and get involved.
Bordeaux En Primeur
Why we drink
A couple of things that have caught our attention in the world of wine.
Wine has really been his way of life
a review of Steven Spurrier's biography
I'm not going to hide the fact that I lreally rate Steven Spurrier and think his contribution to the world of wine can only be called 'epic'. So many people owe him so much, he is generous with his time (he was the first to answer our 15 QUESTIONS when our readership was in the hundreds) and his writing is always worth more than a passing glance. Of course Californian wines would have been recognised as being up there with the greats eventually, but without his inquisitive nudge that could have been a lot later than it actually was. It is not too extravagant to say that fortunes have been made because of this man!
Imagine my glee when I saw that his autobiography, 'WINE, A WAY OF LIFE' had hit the shelves, and as I started to read it I devoured the facts of his life with interest (so much so that it made me order some old copies of the wine course books he produced a few years ago).
I found it fascinating to read about an early life of privilege and silver spoon that might have lacked the sort of direction Spurrier needed. At times he seems to be drifting aimlessly through the excitement of the swinging sixties looking for something that would anchor him. Perhaps, because of the wine world's constantly changing landscape, where the static soon becomes outdated, he embraced the wine industry so much.
All I can say is thank heavens for the glass of Cockburn 1908 Vintage port that was shoved into his young eager hands. Without it we wouldn't have been given his vast insights into the workings of the wine trade in the late sixties and early seventies when it seems the old school tie was the main motivating factor behind employment in the wine game.
While I do really rate this book and think it is worth buying, I felt somehow distanced from the author towards the end as he recounts his tales through a never ending round of fine wine tastings that start to seem repetitive after a while. I do not begrudge a person's background, but it does seem that without the wealth and position he had at his fingertips his climb up the ladder would have been a lot more difficult, if not impossible, but I'm sure Steven Spurrier knows this and in this book he almost seems to hold up his hands and admit how very, very lucky he has been over the years, except for major financial dealings with the French authorities.
I loved his recounting of the famous, 'Judgement of Paris' and the reactions of the French judges who were almost ready to drive him out of town with flaming pitchforks because he showed a determination to enforce fairplay at an event they had prejudged, and he hadn't. The shame for me was the lack of writing about his reactions to the film, 'BOTTLESHOCK' that was made of the event. It is well-known that he was far from happy about the way events were portrayed and I would have loved to have read why he dislikes it so much.
The knowledge in the book is informative, and his travels through the vineyards of the world demonstrate a man who is highly thought of by those in the trade. The memories contained display an almost encyclopedic knowledge of wine vintages and experiences, and you have to admire the amount of information on display.
As I closed the book, I did feel that if as a young man from Manchester I'd have wanted to get into the wine trade, the world in this book would have been firmly shut in my face.
If this review seems confused it is, because while I wanted to love this book and recommend it so much I'm not sure I can until I'd read it again.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
I didn't want to do it, but I've been worn away like The White Cliffs of Dover. As I write this piece from Fortress Britain it seems as though optimism is as rare as elections without Russian interference. We used to be a country that was obsessed with manners and weather, but now the only thing anybody wants to discuss is Brexit!
If the words that I write seemed confused and angry, then I'm not the only one, but being British we don't confront, we play it cagey. People might want to shout their views about the issue from the rooftops, but fear of offence stops them. We might no longer be obsessed with manners, but they do influence how we still deal with each other.
I'm going to lay my cards on the table and say that from a wine perspective I think that Brexit is a bizarre concept. We're a country that is often seen as the centre of the wine trade and we made the likes of Bordeaux and Port famous. One of us (read the article above, actually put Californian wines on the map. We're a country that will often travel to our European neighbours for a couple of weeks in the sun (where we will drink until our heads seem possessed by crazed wasps). Why did we vote to make this a little bit more difficult and a lot more expensive?
Any fool can tell you (and I do consider myself to be right up there as one of the leaders in this department) that when we leave Europe our former chums are going to make it difficult in case others among their ilk fancy leaving. This means that the cost of buying those lovely European wines, we take for granted, will surely rise.
I know there are Australian, Chilean, New Zealand and Californian and countless others, but I'm greedy and I like to be able to get at it all. Speaking about California, the way Mr Trump stands like a selfish boy telling the world that trade is his ball and he's not inclined to give anybody else a turn does not fill one with confidence. I also cannot help but think that other nations will smell our desperation and deals won't be done where we will be better off.
For those British folks who like their wine en primeur, who like to stock their cellars with fine wines from around the world or who like their tastebuds to wander the vineyards of the world with each glass, surely the next few years will be difficult as the exchange rate makes the value of the pound worth less. It'll be no go for Margaux and the only bottle of Opus One we can afford is one bottle of Opus!
Is there a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow? Of course, but my worry is that for the wine buying public the next several years will be a time when the only time we can afford to sample great European wines is in our memories.
Whispering Angel 2018
Welcome to the best selling Rose´ in the world. Whispering Angel seems to take on all the opposition and beats it into submission. Is it's triumph down to marketing, it being the new brand on the block or the result of the amount of airmiles Sacha Lichine has gained making sure that we all want to be onboard this success story? Is it any good or is it the Emperor's New Wine?
I've got to admit that you won't hear any opposition here because it is just so good. It's a Rose´that tastes like a traditional Rose´at first, and then there's something in the DNA of this wine that gives it a strength and difference that makes you a convert to the cause (after finishing this article I'll be dipping into yet another glass).
At first I was going to give it a seven out of seven, but that was before I tasted the Rock Angel and the Garrus (reviews below). The lovely pale pink colour is so beautiful to look at (like tissue paper wrapped around a wonderful present) and on the nose there is strawberry, bubblegum and cherry cola. The taste is structured with a lot more body than I was first expecting, and as the red fruit flavours grow there is the addition of grass, hay, viscous restraint and minerality. The finish is medium, but that only makes you want another glass.
I was in a wine merchants yesterday and I heard three people ask for this within the space of five minutes, so my advice would be to buy a couple of cases and then watch your friends faces for that mixture of disbelief and envy when you serve them a lovely chilled glass of this.
Rock Angel 2017
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Time to take a step up in the range that Chateau d'Esclans offers, and though this might not be too much more in price, it certainly takes the taste buds to the next level. This is a Rose´that demands that you take a little more bit time that just slurping it back in the sunshine. The colour is a pale pink and so inviting that it begs you to take a taste. On the nose, the red fruit is slighter than the Whispering Angel and you get the idea that a balancing act is what we're after. The taste is tropical melon with a hint of strawberry (that usually dominates Rosé). The finish is structured and it all feels so balanced. There's a slight fizz behind the top lip and the viscous taste makes for a longer finish. It might be just a little better than Whispering Angel, but it is noticeable.
Before tasting the Garrus expectations are sky high. This is reputed to be the most expensive Rose´ in the world and it's a wine that is supposed to be built to last. Welcome to the wonderful world of muscular Rose´!
Until this tasting I generally thought that Rose´ was only there to make the party go with a swing; a here today and gone tomorrow kind of affairs. If you are willing to pay for the pleasure, I can assure you that the Garrus will pay you back and earn affection from your taste buds and your memories forever.
This is so fresh and tropical. Yes, the red fruit is present, but a light citrus nose underpins the whole thing and it is so much of its terroir that I feel like giving Sacha a call and asking for a tasting on the terrace at his Chateau just to confirm what I'm getting here is Provence terroir meets Provence terrace.
The red fruit now grows, but it doesn't hold you hostage in the way you now realise other wines from Provence have done in the past. One set of tastes are calmly replaced by another as the citrus pops back to say hello like a pleasant neighbour. The tropical element grows with each taste and there's a lovely earthy minerality supporting the whole regime. Each sip reveals something different and at the end scented flowers rear their heads as though the wine is giving you a garland for tasting it. The finish is long, very long and I'm not surprised that Sacha Lichine has the 2017 Garrus as his best ever because I don't know if I'll ever taste anything like it again. Thank you Chateau d'Esclans!
It started out as a simple idea. See if the maker of the world's best selling Rose´would agree to answer 15 QUESTIONS. I sent them along and a very kind man called Tom Schreckinger agreed to pass them on for answering. To get this response was exciting enough! Then I received an email informing me that Mr. Lichine was going to be in London and asked if I would like to meet him for a Q & A? There was just enough time for me to look over my research notes and then formulate some more questions should Mr Lichine be in the mood for a chat. Thankfully he was!
How does one sum up Sacha Lichine? He confidetly enters a room and one instantly knows that he's important. One senses a larger than life persona before you shake his hand, and one also senses that behind the serious talk of wine and his history as part of one of Bordeaux's first families of viticulture there's a man with mischief and determination in his eyes. Perhaps that is why his life has been quite varied.
He's in London to make sure that those pockets of resistence to the wines of Chateau d'Esclans succumb gracefully, wave a white flag and just get on with appreciating how much more he knows about what the buying public want to taste than they do.
`I come to London quite often. To me it's the centre of the wine world and if somebody wants to build a wine cellar London is the best. Those old traditional wine merchants are excellent at stocking a wide range of Bordeaux, Italians and Burgundian wines. It's also the second biggest market for Chateau d'Esclans after the U.S.'
He drinks Whispering Angel all year round and when I ask him if he drinks other Rose´s he gives me a look of almost pity and tells me that his wines are like his children.
'Why would I insult them by preferring other wines'. Suitably put in my place I decide to stick to my written questions.
WINEFULLNESS: 'Do you ever feel the weight of expectation because of your reputation in the wine world?'
SACHA LICHINE: `Of course. My father was well known and filling his shoes has been difficult. Little by little you begin to grow. It is hard to grow a name but easy to lose it. I took over the family vineyard and tried not to screw it up.
In 1998 we sold the property and at 29 the people in Bordeaux thought we were crazy to sell up and want to invest in Provence. We wanted to create a brand.'
WINEFULLNESS: `What do you do to forget about work?'
S.L: `Go on my boat and watch the sea. The trouble is that everywhere, every city and every restaurant I go I'm always thinking about my wine and possible new markets. I used the grassroots approach to build it up, going from city to city, and my mind still works in this way, even though we are now quite successful. So I have to relax as far away from land as possible, so that I avoid the temptation to sell.'
WINEFULLNESS: `How hands on are you?'
S.L: `We get into the vineyard, because great wine is made in the vineyard first, but there's no question that without today's technology we wouldn't have been able to make these sort of wines. Without cold systems, optical sorting machines and other wonderful devices these wines wouldn't be there. We were the first ones to use this approach with Rose´.'
WINEFULLNESS: 'Is Provence as prone to climatic influences as areas like Bordeaux and Burgundy?'
S.L: 'It's drier and less prone to mildew than Bordeaux, but if sunshine was the only factor in making wine then the best would come from North Africa. At the end of the day, the climate and terrior are obviously important. Vintage variations are much smaller than in other areas.'
WINEFULLNESS: `Is Rose´a winemakers wine, or is it reliant on terroir?'
S.L: `All of our wines are free run juice, so there's no maceration. Usually these wines macerate a little bit on the skins. We also like to pick them at the last minute and allow the juice to run through the skins. That's how we get the paleness of colour.'
WINEFULLNESS: `What dish do you like to make for your friends?'
S.L: `Oh, I like to make Blanquette de Veau, Coq au Vin and old traditional French cuisine.'
WINEFULLNESS: `Do you think that Rose´will ever be given the respect it deserves?'
S.L: `I think that for a long time it was cheap and cheerful. It's harder to make good Rose´than it is to make good red or white wine. It's a chain of links and the amount of effort we go through to get more quality is greater than a red wine.
`Quality wise, it's a real nightmare to try to elevate it because we try to keep the lightness and heaviness out. It a battle to keep the complexity going.'
WINEFULLNESS: `If you weren't in the wine trade, what would you do?'
S.L: `Probably be a travel agent. I have to travel and I spend a lot of time on planes and in hotels and restaurants. So I'd probably become a travel agent.'
WINEFULLNESS: `After France, which area of the wine world really excites you?'
S.L: `California because it's managed to make Cabernet Sauvignon so well. Bordeaux made the best for a long time. The joint venture of Opus One through Mouton and Mondavi was quite successful. I'd like to make a Whispering Angeles, which would be fun to do. There's so much potential in Californa to make a Rose´that has some legs and some sexiness.'
WINEFULLNESS: `What does the future hold for Chateau d'Esclans?'
S.L: `Unfortunately, Patrick Leon died in December. He was a fantastic oenologist. A while ago he had just retired from Chateau Mouton Rothschild and was looking to do some consultancy work. To be honest, he didn't want to make the styles of wine that I wanted to
make, and I fought with him to try to get him to make some of these lighter style, precise wines.
`Like a lot of winemakers he wanted to make something big and juicy, almost a Tavel style of Rose´that had flavour and taste. I fought with him at length for a long time to get him to make the sort of wine we ended up producing. He was so technically orientated that he got it right quite quickly, but it wasn't his favourite flavour and taste profile.
`At first he didn't believe in the project, but he was open minded enough to produce the sorts of wines I wanted to drink.
`Patrick's son, Bertrand works for us and though Patrick's going will make him sorely missed, we have the system worked out pretty good.'
WINEFULLNESS: `Do you ever feel that you will return to Margaux?'
S.L: `I don't think so. There's a good experession, 'been there and done that'.'
WINEFULLNESS: `Will Brexit have a long-term effect on the British Wine Industry?'
S.L.: `I think besides taxes (it's already a product that's highly taxed in the U.K) unless they impose huge tariffs I don't see much effect.
`Everybody seems to be loaded with inventory. They're all sort of worried about what might happen. A good wine will always sell and find a market, and `Whispering Angel' is the biggest French success in the last twenty years.'
WINEFULLNESS: `Was that because France took its position in the wine world for granted?'
S.L: `No. I think France doesn't always understand wine brands. All the top brands in France have been Champagne. It's not like in Italy where they have an Antinori. Well, maybe there's Chapoutier, but unfortunately in France everytime they have a wine brand they seem to cheapen it. They're not at the level of Frescobaldi, Antinori or Ruffino. '
WINEFULLNESS: `Which winemakers do you most admire and why?'
S.L: `Antinori is a fantastic worldwide brand and Torres in Spain has real quality. I have a lot of respect for Michel Roland and Patrick Leon. I think that one should never forget quality.'
WINEFULLNESS: `Have you tried English sparkling wine?'
S.L: `Yes. It was quite impressive, quite well made. I tried some with Steven Spurrier.'
WINEFULLNESS: `How do you relax besides going on your boat? Do you watch television?'
S.L: `I watch a little television to fall asleep. I also watch a bit of sports, a bit of football. I watch movies on aeroplanes. I watch some
series every now and then. My wife and I will sometimes binge watch a series like The Crown or Downton Abbey, but you have to have the time to do that.'
WINEFULLNESS: `What sort of music do you listen to?'
S.L: `It's a big variety. I love Rod Stewart and I love the Old American Songbook. You know, Sinatra and The Rat Pack. I listen to The Rolling Stones every now and then because it brings me back to my youth. I also love the piano.'
WINEFULLNESS: `Do you play an instrument?'
S.L: `No, unfortunately not. That's one of my frustrations in life. I always wanted to.'
WINEFULLNESS: `What was the last book that you read?'
S.L: `On my, that was a long time ago. I've been so busy in the last five years that I don't think I've read a book fully. George Orwell's 1984 was a book I read a long time ago, along with A Year In Provence. I've started a lot of books, but I've never got around to finishing them. My mind is always racing, and when you've spent twelve years building a brand there's little time to sit down and simply read.'
WINEFULLNESS: `Do you think that the time you spent as a sommelier in Boston helped you to understand how to market Chateau d'Esclans in America?'
SACHA LICHINE: `At the end of the day, I was looking to build a global brand. We are currently in 106 countries. To build a global brand there's no question that you have got to go to America. In places like Los Angeles, Miami, The Hampton's and New York people travel, and it helped when our wines became stocked where they liked to travel to. Places like Phuket, Bali and the Caribbean.'
WINEFULLNESS: `When people are questioned about you, they say that you seem to be, 'surrounded by laughter' and that with you, 'what you see is what you get'. Would you agree with these comments?'
S.L: `I think that one should always have a sense of humour. Those who take themselves too seriously are not my cup of tea. Humour, laughter and joie de vivre in this business are important You can wake up knowing nothing and then the next day you know a little bit more about the world of wine. It often depends on what side of the bed you wake up on.
`Knowing about fine wines is about being humble and knowing humility. It's the type of business where you can't know it all. You go to a blind tasting and you sometimes realise that you have no idea what a wine is. I take it all with a grain of salt and chalk it up to experience. I like to laugh and I don't take myself too seriously. Sommeliers take themselves much too seriously in my opinion.'
WINEFULLNESS: `But weren't you a sommelier?'
S.L: `When I was a sommelier, I would listen to the style the customer wanted to have and try to adapt my flavours and tastes to what that was. The problem with sommeliers today is that they make you want to drink something that is very obscure, that you've never heard about. They don't believe in brands and they don't understand that people want brands.
`Sommeliers are, to my mind, the worst enemies of wine. They never listen to what you want to drink and they make you drink what they feel THEY should drink.'
WINEFULLNESS: `Do you try and make jokes with your children?'
S.L: `Yes, and they're like, 'Dad, you don't get it'. They think I'm embarrassing sometimes.'
WINEFULLNESS: `How do you view the latest vintage of Garrus?'
S.L: To be honest, we've taken all the heaviness and all the richness out of it.We've tried to make it as precise as we can. I think it's the best Garrus we've ever made. I've finally got it to where I want it to be. I think it makes you stop and think, 'I've never tasted anything like this before'. It keeps it's freshness and lingers on your palette. It's 100% barrel fermented and you don't really taste the wood.
`Rock Angel is 50% barrel fermented, and wood is an extension of complexity. It's more food driven and you get a bit of the saline coming through which makes it interesting. Put it in a black glass and you're confused as to what it is.
`Whispering Angel is a wine you can drink all day, Rock Angel demands food and Garrus makes it all that much more interesting.'
WINEFULLNESS: `Garrus is one of the great wines that seem to signify a particular lifestyle?'
S.L: `Garrus is a fine wine. More for the fine wine consumer. It was an attempt to make Rose´grand. It obviously caught the eye of the bling crowd in St. Tropez, but at the end of the day it's a real wine that's in the bottle. If we can command that type of price for it, it's because people appreciate the finesse that goes into the bottle. I started out by thinking that if Champagne Rose´could command a high price, then why not a still Rose´.
`So we tried to make an accumulation of detail, the chain of links I mentioned earlier. It's quality driven and it's what people really enjoy drinking, whereas our other wines have a different market. We use a Champagne marketing approach. Garrus is Dom Perignon, d'Esclands is the brut Imperial, Rock Angel is the brut non-vintage and Whispering Angel is the original White Star.
`Originally in France, Garrus was more popular than Whispering Angel.'
WINEFULLNESS: `In your wines, you use a small parcel of Vermentino/Rolle. Was this already in the vineyard when you bought it or was it the result of trial and error?'
S.L: `We ripped everything out and started from scratch. At the end of the day we identified Grenache was predominant and had the style we were looking for. We found that Syrah coloured and candied the wine too much. We were looking to make something precise and very light, more on the lighter Sauvignon side as opposed to the heavier Chardonnay texture. Vermentino/Rolle was giving us aromas, fatness and something in the middle.'
WINEFULLNESS: `What is the one question that you wish you'd have been asked, and how would you answer it?'
S.L: `I wish you'd have asked me more about sommeliers. I have a friend out in Australia who started a club called The Sommelier Liberation Army. He has a real allergy towards them.
'For the most part they never listen. Instead of bringing something you want to drink, they bring something you don't want to drink really. They never give you pleasure and they make things difficult.
`You have to wait twenty minutes and instead of drinking a litre of water, you could have drunk a litre of wine.
`If a man takes his partner on a special date and he doesn't know much about wine, the sommelier arrives with a huge book and what happens?
`The man buys Champagne because it goes well with his date, the food and the establishment. They make no effort at making you feel at ease.
`I tell everybody to get rid of their sommeliers and do a lot more staff education. You may not sell that bottle of 82´Lafite, but you'll sell a lot more wine.'
WINEFULLNESS: `So when you and your wife go out for a meal do you let her choose the wine?'
SACHA LICHINE: `She doesn't want to get involved in choosing the wine. When I originally met her, she said , 'Do we have to talk about it, or can we just drink it!'
Then it's all over and already I feel a little sadder. He's been great company and while I suspect he knows that he is enjoyable to talk to, he still makes one feel at ease. If you read about Sacha Lichine you fill find pictures and stories that show what a generous host he is, and from my brief time with him I can see why it is printed so often. With me, he has been more than generous with his precious time. We shakes hands and he tells me that I must come and visit the Chateau in Provence. Then he has gone to take his family to the London's West End while I head home to check the flights down to Nice.
`My wines are like my children. Why would I insult them by preferring other wines?'
`I think that France doesn't always understand wine brands. All the top wine brands in France have been Champagne'
'Sommeliers are, to my mind, the worst enemies of wine. They never listen to what you want to drink, and they make you drink what they feel THEY should drink'
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`We ripped everything out and started from scratch'
He is without doubt the King of Rose´, the man who took a wine that is often trivialised and saw the potential that others ignored. Sacha Lichine is a man on a mission and he takes the time to try and convert Winefullness.
You can't keep a good Mondavi down
On Bordeaux (Tales of the Unexpected from the World's Greatest Wine Region) is a collection of essays about that wonderful area. These have been written by some of the great, and the good, of modern and historical wine writing.
Holding the book just feels an experience and I like this tactile nature over the large range of glossy coffee table tomes that end up unread, gathering too much dust and too little opinions.
Each chapter covers a different aspect of the Bordeaux that wine lovers embrace so readily, although there are moments when topics stray a little and discuss the area in comparison with others 'The Rivals' chapter for instance.
I'm a Bordeaux nut! The city is a place I often get lost in as I wander streets and discover hidden gems inside glorious shops while pondering what wines will await me at the end of a hard day's tasting. This book provides a background history that oozes off the pages and I'm delighted by the variety of entries that cover this particular personal enthusiasm. I can't help the fact that I love a bit of intrigue amongst the vines.
Quite a few writers have repeat entries and it would have been nice to have given newer writers a chance (no hints here). Perhaps there could have been a few commisions given (perhaps a little hint here). I'm still not sure if this is good or bad, but once I've revisited the book a few times I might have the answer.
The major players and familiar names of Bordeaux (that means those who are known by the general public) are dealt with in Chapter Three under the excellent title and excellent writing of 'Tales of the Artistocracy'.
For anybody who wishes to find out about Bordeaux without putting in the legwork, or spending a small fortune to weigh down your wine bookshelf, this book is going to become one of your new best friends. It is helped by bite-sized titbits of information that are accessible and only enhance the main text.
Thankfully, for this book, pictures don't impose or dominate. All too often they seem to almost be there to show off the talents of a photographer rather than enhance. Here, they only seem to support the excellent episodes and anecdotes you'll be using to impress you friends.
It is obvious that each author has their special area of interest, although once or twice I did find it bordering on self-promotion in a manner that I'm not fond of, but if you buy the book I think you'll understand.
Good area to bring it all together.
'I think that there is a place for the corporations because I'll bet that today you and I got here pumping gas that was brought to us by big corporations. We criticise them for delivering but we still buy from them.
'There is still a place for everyday wine, but there's also a stronger place today than ever before for the artistic wines. The industry has matured to a point where it can appreciate the artistry. That is the only reason why this winery can exist on this very limited land, and why we can produce an artistic wine from this land that would otherwise be abandoned.'
WINEFULLNESS: 'You're a very busy man. What have you been up to lately?'
T.M: 'I'm a very lucky guy. i get to be in the vineyards and see the vines reflect a very promising season. I also get to be involved in understanding the results of the work that we do all year in each of our estate's 42 vineyard blocks
Then he and his daughter are off to tend whatever needs doing that will help Continuum to grow in stature as a wine of elegance, and as I watch them leave I get the feeling that perhaps the heart of Wine Country is seeing the glow that winekmakers always have when they are working alongside their children.
The tale of Tim Mondavi and Continuum is linked so strongly to the idea of family and history, perhaps more so than anybody else I meet on this trip, that after spending time with him up here it is hard not to feel lucky to have spent time in his company
As Tim Mondavi said, Continuum is a young place based upon a lot of family history and if people ever find out what they're missing, by not including it as they traipse along the valley floor, the place will become swamped with people eager to taste the beautiful wines and hear the Mondavi story. Oh what a story it is!
One to Try
This Bordeaux blend is only going to get better and better. The mixture of light and dark fruit is so balanced that you hold it for a long time in your mouth just so you can appreciate the raft of flavours fighting for your attention.
I did find the tannins hadn't quite settled in the way that ten years will do the job, but this is trifling compared with the power and excellence I thought was going to be there one day.
An Académie where the learning is fun.
Firstlcommend it before any of the others.
In this section of Winefullness Magazine we look over a couple of items that might help with your wine thinking experience. These come from the excellent Académie du Vin Library who are dedicated to publishing the finest wine writing of the past, the present and the future. The name comes from the legendary Steven Spurrier's days in Paris in the 1970s and his wine appreciation courses.
Their list is small (they say it will never get large) because they believe in quality and not quantity, and if you visit their website (academieduvinlibrary.com) you'll see that so far they have firmly kept to that promise.
They books they publish fit into two distinct categories. Either they are Classics that have been revised and updated to garner a new readership, or they are New Titles which attempt to find a gap in the market and provide the colour, background and essential understanding about a range of interesting subjects.
At the present moment they have seven titles, but I'm sure that this will grow as the Académie becomes the first port of call for those who wish plug into the best writing at a very reasonable price, and I just know that Review will be stopping by again to check out other titles.
Firstly, we're taking a brief look at two titles that grabbed our attention; The Story of Wine and On Bordeaux.
Yes We Wine
The Story of Wine
In the world of wine writing none have the respect, the profile or the breadth of knowledge that one finds when one reads the works of Hugh Johnson.
I admire him so much, that earlier in the year I was lost for words when I actually met him at a Romanian tasting until all I managed to say was that the wine tasted better than the tractor fuel they used to sell!
Thankfully for me, Hugh is lovely man who probably understood that the idiot talking to him wasn't completely mad and in no time at all he was guiding me through a range of varietals he thought I might enjoy.
This is the new edition of a work that doesn't age. I find that too many people who like to sample a glass or two haven't put in the work when it comes to place or history. This is such a great shame because the world of wine, along with the world of politics and history meet so often that you cannot have one without the other.
The book is written in Hugh's Johnson's beautifully easy to read prose that means you have to be careful. This is a hard to put down book once you start, and I found three hours slipping by without a thought.
At times he reminds me of a master I used to know at boarding school. The man was worshipped by the pupils because he always had time to tell a good yarn that seemed to enthuse his charges.
All the usual bases are covered in such a manner that at times this reads more like a riproaring adventure story than a historical textbook. Then again, I suppose the story of wine often has more of the pirate than the pedestrian about it.
There is not a photo to be had, unless you count the cover, and perhaps the addition of a couple might of helped when it comes to contextualising the areas that Hugh is writing about.
Whatever you need to know about the history of wine Johnson supplies the answers between these well-written pages. I love the shorter side-panels of information and detail that make it a pleasure to meander away from the main text for a second.
At the end he gives a really useful biographical list that made me feel that if Hugh Johnson is recommending, I'm buying. Now I'm off to spend another three hours in the company of Hugh and his book.
I think it's plain to read that I have an real fondness for both of these books, and I cannot recommend them enough as we start to approach the Christmas period.
On Bordeaux gets my vote because it is a place I love, short passages that mean you can delve into this book and written so that a wide range of wine enthusiasts can enjoy it. I've already found it the sort of wine book that can be picked up if you only have a short time to spare, and it has been placed next to where I sit at home for such moments.
The Story of Wine should be recommended for those who wish to learn more about this fascinating subject and its importance on the world stage. Hugh Johnson writes with a mastery of language that makes it easy to understand with feeling that you're being spoken down to. The chapter 'Paris Cabernet' was a delight to spend time with and I'd revisited it a couple times before actually finishing the book.
The Academie du Vin Library is a superb idea and the books they have released so far will become standards that will be on most wine enthusiasts bookshelves.
Now waiting to be purchased.
I imagine that I'm not the first, or last, bumbling buffoon he has helped through a career that has spanned sixty-years, seen him becoming one of the world's best-selling authors, receive an OBE from The Queen and continue to be a regular contributor across the spectrum of wine publications that grace the world.
Now, the Académie Du Vin Library feels that his pivitol work 'The Story of Wine' should be revisited by old friends, or discovered by new enthusiasts, and with one or two new additions, including Hugh's view of how the world of wine has changed since the original was first published, it is time to lay my hands on this updated classic. and give it a test-drive for modern audiences.
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