Please remember to approach the world of wine responsibly
Q: Guru, what wine should I drink to forget about Donald Trump?
A: One with a high alcohol content!
Q: I'm trying to impress a lady. Should I give her Champagne in a bath?
A: When I want to impress Lady Amanda I usually fill a bath with Champagne!
Q: Have you ever thought about owning a vineyard?
A: I love visiting vineyards, but I'm a man who likes to put the minimum of effort into his drinking. It is just too much like hard work.
Q: What's your favourite wine book?
A: One that tells me where I can buy the cheapest wine!
Q: What is a sensible time to have a glass of wine?
A: Just after you get up in the morning. Don't drink in bed as red wine stains can be a devil on the sheets!
Q: Where is your next wine adventure?
A: I leave the planning to Tony and he's mentioned somewhere exciting, beautiful and alcoholic. I think it will be revealed in the next edition of Winefullness.
Q: Who is your wine guru?
A: That will be my grandfather. He thought that the way to a man's heart was through his wine collection!
Questions and Answers
The Last Edition
Just a quick reminder of what was in the last edition.
A Stay at The Vineyard
(Well maybe not all things, because we've sent The Guru to crash the party)
I imagine that until a few years ago the wines of Chile would have started and ended with Carignan and some cheap red without a suitable viticultural area to call it's own. Now, when wine enthusiasts get together Chile brings enthusiasm, excitement and a range of flavours that are showing what can happen when investment is placed into areas where variety and experimentation is king (or queen. Let's not be sexist about this).
The slcomed at least 100,000 visitors a year.'
1: Casa del Bosque
Tangy fruit, peach lychee, pineapple, grass, green pepper, white pepper, grapefruit, pungent earthy, different 3/7
2: Vine San Pedro
Beautiful colour, lovely dark strawberry, pepper cherries, spice, red fruit 3.5/7
3: Cono Sur
4: Casa Martin
5: Vina Tarapaca
6: Vina Marquis
11: Vina Leyda
13: Vina Sutil
14: Santa Rita
8: Vina Carmen
9: Vina Morande
10: Espiritu de Chile
First Growth's fight for attention with Burgundian Pinots while Napa's cult wines look calmly on.
What a job it must be to be the curator of this little lot?
I joke with Francesco and another wine advisor (they don't use the term wine waiter here) that there Christmas choice of wine must be something from here or a £10 bottle from the local store. Their knowing smiles tell me that the local store never gets a look in.
Our tour ends at the edge of the restaurant where I'm overlooked by a collection of Peter Michael wines, and Francesco introduces each as though they are old friends he's eager I should meet.
Tour over, he takes me to the edge of the bar where six empty Riedel glasses await. 'The Judgement of Paris Tasting' is so popular that a lot of people include it as part of their meal.
It is a fun recreation of that famous wine event that took place in 1976. The one which put California wines right on the map. It is probably a result of this tasting that
Sir Peter decided to go west in search of his vineyard.
I'm told that the six glasses are to be put into three groups of two, and of these one will be French and one will be Californian. With guidance from Francesco I'm supposed to identfy which is which. I'm also to tell him which one I prefer. I didn't know I was going to have to drink for me supper!
Behind the bar, Francesco operates as though he is now a mad scientist concocting potions secretly. I cannot see what he is pouring into measuring receptacles, but he is browsing and pondering what to offer with the precision of a chess grandmaster. Last time I was this nervous I was taking my WSET examinations.
The wine is now poured into the glasses, but Francesco is only half done. He has to place The Vineyard wine information disks under each glass. These are usually placed around the stem, but here Francesco carefully looks at each one as though he is a Monte Carlo croupier checking his hand.
Before I'm allowed to try each wine, Francesco gives me a detailed tour of the varietal and what I should expect to taste. The first two will be Sauvignon Blanc, then it's Chardonnay before Pinot Noir brings up the
rear. This might be fun, but the tension reminds me of the scene in CASINO ROYALE where Bond is about to play a winning hand, but loses the lot. I haven't even got a Martini for company and I worry that my tasting skills might be found wanting!
First off the starting block is a Chateau de Rouillac versus a Peter Michael L'Apres Midi. There's a gravelly minerality to one and that familiar Californian nose to the other. Round one to me and I breathe a sigh of relief and start to feel a little steadier.
The second round is Chateau de Citeaux against Tally Vineyard. I take my time as I ponder these two and worry that copious sniffing might make my nose tired. Exchange the cards for wines and this is definately 'James Bond' territory. Suddenly, that familiar scent of California appears hovering above the glass and I tell Francesco that I'm sure which it is. Just to confirm, I take a taste and then I'm cursing because there's turmoil on the palate as I now feel the Californian is the French. I'm so confused and don't know what to do. Finally, I follow my tastebuds. The wine that I smelt as Californian was the Tally Vineyard. I now realise, for the first time, that California white wines, when served correctly, have a familiar odour at the edge of all those other smells.
It's one round each as the final hand is yet to played. My early confidence has taken a dent because of those blasted Chardonnays. This time it's FEL from California against a Geantet-Ponsiot Marsannay. The stakes are high as I smell and taste. Then I repeat while wondering if I dare venture an opinion.
The first one I taste has the upfront California smell supported by bags of fruit that isn't hiding anywhere. The second has a little bit more integration and sophisication. I throw my metaphorical chips down on the first one being from California and I hold my breath.
When Francesco tells me that I've got it correct I daren't tell him how elated I actually am, so instead we discuss various wines we have enjoyed and areas of the world we're hoping to try.
Finally, it is all over and Francesco shakes my hand while ordering me to finish the wines at my leisure (oh the trials of being a wine writer!).
If you ever visit The Vineyard and get the chance to try 'The Judgement of Paris Tasting', treat yourself. It is a light way to explore a variety of wines and learn or confirm something. You'll also enjoy the excellent company of people whose enthusiasm for their job is so contagious that if you were to win a few million you might employ one of them to buy and stock your wine cellar.
'The cellar is beautifully kept with a precision that would make a wine search a pleasure...'
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'First Growth's fight for attention with Burdundian Pinots?'
With the riches of wine and food that are on offer, it is easily possible to overindulge and I'm sure that I did. You'd be a fool not to if you visit The Vineyard.
Of course it's fairly expensive, but when you consider the luxurious accommodation, the 30,000 wines that are available to choose from, the politeness of the staff and the depth of wine knowledge on display, I think that you'll come away and realise just how much value it is for the money.
I'm looking forward to my next visit and I know that if I cannot always make a trip to the Wine Country of California this isn't a bad substitute.
One to Try
Chile is Hot
A Sip of California in Rural England?
Understated but not undervalued
Right is Guillaume Sorrel
Wines Built To Last