Thursday, 3 May 2012

Felton Road Block 1 Riesling '03

It was becoming evident that I had a Reverse Hangover. One of those horrid ones where you wake up all perky thinking 'I might go for a run today, or alphebetise my bookcase, or write a novel.' But then by lunchtime the space behind your eyeballs hurts, and you want to plunge your head into fire, water or gas. All the while slightly worried because the Reverse Hangover's good-to-bad transition is the same order of events as normal-way-round dying.

My blood sugar and alcohol levels were clearly in freefall and some emergency medication was to be sought. Port would do it but I feared that some of my '85 Fonseca at 11am on a Sunday would overload my loucheness gland. And possibly give me gout.

Riesling then. Felton Road Block One 2003. 9% ABV, 'though described as a 'sweet style'.

The nose is nice, and it's all there; petrol, rubber, lemons. Not getting any botrytis 'tho. The palate is full, but not overly so, with quince-y fruit as well as tropical notes backed by that familiar wave of citrus. Relatively simple. The acid's holding up nicely, and gives a pretty perfect balance, and cleanliness. 'Though I hope that the good folks at Felton Road have learnt the difference between 'sweet' and 'off-dry' in the last 9 years.

A fine tonic.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Marie & Denis Chevassu Cotes du Jura Chardonnay '08

c. £14

As legacy-killers go dying in public in an improbable but slightly
amusing accident on Friday 13th is right up there with writing an
autobiograpgy of your time as a DEFRA minister, or a paedophilia charge.

No matter how many starving African children you've rescued from
burning buildings in the last six months, you're always going to be
the person who fell down the stairs of the number 88 'cos you were
googling the clap on your phone or was poisoned by a rogue platypus as you
took lunch at the zoo cafe.

With this in mind I cleverly decided to stay at home all day and drink

Chardonnay is a barometer grape. A taste for it neatly divides the
world into those you may want to drink with and others who should be
drowned in a butt of Sauvignon.

The Jura is a barometer region. 'Though it divides the world into
insufferable wine geeks, and normal people who haven't heard of it.

A tricky one this then, and consequently best drunk in bed at 3pm when
there's unlikely to be anyone else there.

There's not much info out there regarding Denis and Marie Chevassu's
operation but they appear to make varietal wines from all five grapes
permitted by the area's AOC*. And at
least one merchant claims the elevage of this Chardonnay is sous voile,
'though I'd probably call that particular claim.

On the nose there's big concentration of honeysuckle and cream and a
richer toffee pudding note. The palate cuts through with a pretty
searing acid streak, lemons, melons.

At the price this is an outstanding bargain. There's proper
delineation and varietal typicity here.

But the anchovies and raw onion I ate for lunch were about the last
food left in the house. Which now means I am a little drunk and
probably needing to go to the shops to buy food.

See you in the obituary pages.

* Chardonnay, Savagnin, Pinot Noir, Trousseau, Ploussard. Open goal.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Granada: Day 2

After quite some debate Sister and I managed to figure out most of the places that we had visited the previous evening. And, as a result of us being Golden, track down her hat, the loss of which had threatened to spoil the whole of her year.

Headwear restored we were off to the Alhambra. If only we'd had some opium this'd be proper Kubla Khan stuff, as it was it was merely mesmerising and sublime.

The closest bar to the Alhambra furnished with a fine breakfast at about 2pm (closest excluding the ones inside where I had enjoyed a couple of pre-breakfast stiffeners). Potato fried with egg, vegetables and Jamon, was as hearty and unpretentious as it sounds. Bang on.

Back into town and a little beer at Damas Queros allows to properly investigate the various sizes of beer recepticles on offer. In Granada a 'Cana' seemed to weigh in below half a pint, which can mean it's gone before any tapas arrives. Here we discover the more manly 'Tubo'- perfect at around 300ml. We also have mushrooms al alijo with bread. A small portion must have made a sizeable dent in an entire clove, but Sister and I are never knowingly out-garlicked and hence loved this one.

From there to one of the most ultra-trad bars in town: 'Los Diamantes.' Tiny, with almost no seating space and three-deep at the bar at any given time. Seemed to specialize in deep-fried stuff, both dishes we had could have done with some sauce.

Also on c. Navas we found Puerta del Carmen bar and two Equipo Navazos sherries by the glass; La Bota de Fino #18 and La Bota de Palo Cortado #21. They were like good sherry on steroids: with greater intensity, complexity, precision and delineation of flavours. Jamon carved at the bar was all that was needed with them.

On to c. Elvira, universally recommended as the place to go for El Tapeo. Unfortunately in the time between this advice being formed and our arrival most seemed to have become hairdressers.

Weird, but no matter because at the end we managed to find Al Sur de Granada a deli, shop and wine bar that I had been recommended and had every intention of going to right up to the point on the flight over when I forgot its name and address.

It must have 30 or so natural wines by the glass, including the entire Barranco Oscuro range. Highlights were Tres Uves, and a Chardonnay called 'Cardonnohay'. We returned to Al Sur a number of times throughout the three days to work through their list and soon came to realise that the wine really was the star attraction: each tapa was vertically identical and amounted to no more than a small bruschetta with cheese, blood sausage and some veg.

Maybe a good thing 'though- otherwise I may never have left.

Tapa of the Day: Champinones al Alijo

Monday, 5 December 2011

Granada: Day 1

My little Sister (motto: 'Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Shiny Things.') recently decided to emigrate to a made up country*. Which, needless to say, has caused considerable anxiety amongst her friends and family.

Said country also happens to be Arabic, which, needless to say, has caused her considerable anxiety, especially in regards to her normal wine and pork based diet. Which meant the destination for the obligatory going-away-blowout holiday needed to be thought out carefully.

For about 20 seconds.

Granada. A city famous for its tradition of a free tapa with every drink and in a region that worships pigs like deities and rates them like S&P. We decided not to pay for food the entire trip to allow us to fully master the art of El Tapeo...

Day one was a Sunday, a day of rest and stodgy Paella. But later on we managed to find the superlative El Deseo, which furnished us with Barranco Oscuro wines by the glass, and something Godly (I know not what) which involved tomatoes, aubergine, olive oil and goat's cheese alchemically combined to make a tapa of monumental excellence.

They also had a good chicken, chickpea and veg salad, and some cracking aged manchego, hollowed from its wheel at the bar, sprinkled with sticky-sweet Jerez vinegar. Served with a mad, bad and spiky glass of Blancas Nobles it was nutty, salty, sweet, sour, simple and delicious.

From there we moved to the Granadian equivalent of a rough pub to watch Granada triumph away to Athletic Bilbao. Here we endured a dubious sandwich, spread thinly with tuna and tomato paste, as well as some potatoes covered in a shiny red sauce; shinier and saucier than ketchup, but not fooling anyone with its presumed aspirations to Brava.

A day marked by extremes of quality but ultimately marred by the fact that Sister later insisted on drinking half her own bodyweight in Mojitos and losing her hat.

Tapa of the Day: Aubergine and Tomato mush.

* Fujairah

Friday, 18 November 2011

Noella Morantin Mon Cher Gamay '10

"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." Someone once said. Tennyson, if the old memoria serves correctly.

I came close to the latter with Noella Morantin's 'Mon Cher' Gamay. On opening this was a particularly ungenerous expression of the grape, with green and bitter tannins, lean fruit, earth and some black pepper. I almost consigned it to the sink.

But no. Noella has a reputation that must be founded on something apart from her excellent bandana. She's got history, having been in the winemaking game since 2004, and rents vinyards from the well established Clos Roche Blanche.

And most of all- she loves Gamay. My kind of lass.

Day 2 and faith is rewarded- much more expressive; liqorice laces and sweet fruit. The tannin has worked its way into the wine, leaving the structure more acid based. Vibrant, sappy, finishing with a surprising and pleasing caramel note to back the fruit. Red in tooth and claw, but still a touch of dark.

And now the bottle's empty.

Best of all, I think, to have loved without loss, but that apparently isn't an option in life or wine.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Abbeville Kitchen

47 Abbeville Road, SW5 9QN. £15 pp.

The quality restaurants are closing in. Each new opening seems closer to me, and all I can do is hope the money runs out before heart disease kicks in.

Most recently: The Abbeville Kitchen, the latest project from those behind the Anchor and Hope and The Canton Arms, has placed itslef so close to where I live that walking there doesn't burn off the calories consumed by merely looking at the menu.

I needed some financial advice of a Friday, and seeing that Emily1 has eschewed the traditional job market in favour of getting 'sponsored' by a middle-aged gentleman she seemed the ideal candidate to get along for lunch.

We kick off with with the charcuterie platter. Quite splendid Iberico ham and not too cold, some other italian ham which was less remarkable and lastly that sublime salami studded with fennel seeds and sliced super-thin, which is currently neck-and-neck with sausage rolls as the best way to consume pork yet invented.

After that we head for pidgeon breast, chicory and pickled walnut salad. A seemingly nonchalant throwing together of strong flavours that all pull in the same direction. Really quite good.

Now for the bad. They have only one (ONE!) type of beer- an overpriced Belgian lager, and a friendly but uninspring wine list which is pretty much a carbon copy of the Canton Arms'. On a Friday lunch the restaurant was full, but every single other table was taken by a pair of 30 something year old women sitting opposite each other, which made Emily1 and I, both wearing sunglasses and so hungover we could barely speak, stand out like Buddha in a brothel.

I'm pleased it is where it is, but it's not The Canton. It's not trying to be. It's a pity.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Yvon Metras Moulin-a-Vent '10

c. £23

There's something special about windmills. Their ease and grace, their silence. In parts of Spain they spatter the countryside like shot. Yet they are vital; pumping water and grinding grain, giving life out of nothing, the unmoved mover. The absurdity of Quixote is not that he saw the windmills as giants, it is that he was attacking windmills.

But here in the city we are far away from this calm and serenity, and sometimes other pleasures must be found. Sometimes the only thing for it is to get smashed on expensive wine and go out partying till sunrise with models. So I packed a bottle of Yvon Metras' Moulin-a-Vent and went off to see the Russian's American Sister in Shoreditch.

This is classy juice. It pours a light maroon and hits with a focused and concentrated mushroomy sous bois on the nose. The palate is alive, fine acidity and red fruit, precise slate-y minerality, some structure, unreal length. Reminds overwhelmingly of Grand Cru Burgundy. Seriously sexy stuff.

Gotta love windmills.