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Monthly Archives: June 2010

  • The Magnificent Nine

    On July 25th nine of us will be saddling up our two wheeled charges and boldly riding, from a place called Enfield somewhere in North London, all the way to Cambridge, some 57 miles hence. Tim, Edgar, Dan H, Dan H(ii), Sergio, Pete W, Andy, Jon ‘my other bike’s also better than yours’ Teale, and I will be risking calf strains, cramp and chafing, all in a VERY good cause. We are riding to raise money and awareness for Brain Tumour Research, as part of Taylan’s Project which Andy and his family set up after Taylan’s tragic death last year. WE NEED YOUR HELP! We have set ourselves the not-overly-ambitious target of £2,000 between us. Thanks to a very generous few early donations, we are already at £795. With your help we can make it. Please visit the giving page and give as generously as you can. Thank you ‘The Nine’

  • High spirits at Angelus

    Douglas Blyde files this report from the recent Armagnac Castarede tasting at Angelus: "I VENTURED to the beamed vault under ‘Angelus’, Lancaster Gate for an early tasting of old spirits. There, behind a glass partition on a scrubbed flagstone floor slumber crates of the 1er grand cru classé St. Emilion which lends the restaurant its name. Presenting four expressions of Armagnac from the 16 hectares of ‘Castarède’ was sixth generation head of the house, Florence. As the auburn liquids were allowed to mingled with air, Florence explained how Armagnac, which at 700 years this year is France’s oldest appellation, differs to cognac, which came a quarter of a millennia later. This is down to geography and quantity, maturation and mentality, and even gender... "Armagnac, which comes from vines sewn on chalk 100 miles to the south of calcareous Cognac, has an annual production of six million bottles – a fraction of the output of even one cognac house (Hennessey is estimated to sell 2.5 million cases). Inexplicably, many of Armagnac’s 800 houses are run by women, compared to few in cognac and fewer still in Calvados. Tough hybrid grape, Baco is used in Armagnac in addition to the Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc and Colombard, which appear in both brandies. Harvested in September, these are distilled just once in a continuously operating still, lending a lesser strength than cognac. This process retains the spirit a greater breadth of flavours and requires less dilution when settling it to a saleable alcoholic level. Aside from the curiosity that is white Armagnac, the spirit is then matured in casks sprung from dense, black, locally grown oak versus Cognac’s bought-in, lighter Limousin. "By law Armagnac’s expressions, XO and VSOP must be matured for a minimum of five and six years respectively. In no hurry, however, Castarède prefers to bottle these at 10-15 and 20-25 years, with vintages (exceptional in Cognac) actually bottled to order. Better to Breathe "On this showing, Castarède’s VSOP wove the unlikely combination of Christmas spices with cantaloupe melon and noticeable, but plush oak, whilst the XO was creamier, more mellow with a longer finish, although the most apparent alcohol. The ‘79 showed a gentle evolution, with floral scents and orange trails. Perhaps predictably, my favourite was the ‘69, a bright, lifted, highly drinkable Armagnac with orange cream in its pleasurably persistent finish. "After the tasting, Florence revealed embarrassment at another - I would like to think - less studious panel of sommeliers who were fooled into thinking that one bottle served blind at ten minute intervals was actually several completely different expressions. ‘It just shows how Armagnac changes with time in the glass’, she said, charitably. "Traditionally, Castarède gifts heads of state bottles from their birth years, including Jacques Chiraq (‘32) and Tony Blair (‘53). Only George W. Bush admitted concern, however, believing a bomb to be secreted within his ‘46. That, I suppose, serves Castarède right - serving up strong liquor to an alcoholic was at best a mischievous move. "Angelus’ proprietor, Gascon, Thierry Tomasin mentioned that he would love more customers at his restaurant to experience the quality of Armagnac by being prepared to pay for the ‘patience’ it takes to raise each bottle. But indiscriminate governmental taxes result in the same duty being applied to his stock of ‘45 and ‘79 Castarède as to ‘crap vodka’ in nightclubs. Exacerbating, the smoking ban prevents the habitual accompaniment of a cigar. "Expecting him to recommend his signature fois gras brûlée as a pairing with the spirit, Tomasin instead said that he prefers not to make matching suggestions because palates differ from customer to customer. Rather philosophically, he explained: ‘some people love a Rolls Royce and others a Mini – but they’ll both get you to Brighton...’ "The death of the long business lunch in favour of an era where office workers ‘could end up being breathalysed afterwards in the office’ is also a factor contributing to lesser consumption of alcohol in general. Angelus, therefore now opens all-day. ‘As a result, we are seeing more customers come in from 3:30pm than at lunch’ said Thomasin, simulating the raising of a glass." You can read the original article here

  • The Whalley Wine Shop

    "As we've been setting up the Whalley Wine Shop the level of contact and support from all the different teams at Enotria, from sales to accounts has been absolutely first rate. The choice and quality of the wines is fantastic and more importantly my customers think so too. I would reccomend to anyone setting up at this time to sit down and have a chat with Enotria to see how they can help your business grow." Tom Jones Managing Director The Whalley Wine Shop

  • Carmel Petite Sirah 2006

    Decanter magazine selected Carmel Winery's Petite Sirah 2006 as a Wine of the Month for July. The review said "This wine is deep and dense, run through with spice and concentrated black fruits. Robust and fully flavoured, there is nonetheless a crisp, crunchy aspect to the wild berry fruit, with an herbaceous hint on the finish."

  • Coevo (and mortadella foam...)

    Journalists, sommeliers and leading Italian wine experts gathered in London on June 7 for the UK launch of Coevo from Cecchi. This wine, which has been greeted with great reviews since its launch in Italy, is Cecchi’s way of celebrating their region and the grapes which have made it famous. Coevo, which means ‘contemporary’ in English, has already won ‘Tre Bicchieri’ (3 glasses) in the Gambero Rosso, Italy’s most important wine publication. Cesare and Andrea Cecchi were on hand to launch the wine, which formed the centrepiece of a fascinating tasting of different cuvees which together go together to make Coevo. Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvingon and Petit Verdot form the key elements of this new superstar. But the wine tasting was not all! Leading chef Massimo Bottura of the Osteria Francescana in Modena had been invited to prepare a number of dishes to complement the new wine. He did not disappoint, with everything from Mortadella ‘spuma’, to leek fondue with truffles, to brazed veal, and the final dish, a ‘lollipop’ of foie gras! The tasters were dazzled by both the wine and the food and the launch was certainly the talk of Identita London where it took place. You can read Fiona Beckett's much more complete write up of this event here.

  • Trinity Hill makes Jancis Robinson 'Fine Wine Top 9'

    Jancis Robinson MW has singled out Trinity Hill's The Gimblett Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend as one of nine 'Fine wines' which she feels represent best value. In an article in the Financial Times, she says: "The Gimblett Gravels section of New Zealand's Hawke's Bay region is clearly magically suited to producing good copies of smart red Bordeaux. In a blind comparative tasting of some of the top Kiwi wines with 2005 Bordeaux first growths the 2006 vintage of this wine, which can be found for well under £20 a bottle, was very impressive." You can read the whole piece here:

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