Greybeard’s Corner – February 2011

I thought January was quiet, but February passed by with barely a whimper here in the North East of England, as can be seen by the world wine news making up most of this piece!

Every month I try and read a range of wine related blog posts, news stories, press releases etc. and there’s always a section that I categorise as “and now for something completely different”, usually light hearted, quirky, niche or off-piste. For February this includes;

  • the news that in England half of all vineyard area is dedicated to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier while more than half of all grapes harvested went towards the production of sparkling wine.
  • Tim Atkin’s “An agnostic’s view of natural wines“ an interesting read on a style of winemaking I’ve not really tried.
  • The story of the 237 year old bottle of Vin Jaune sold for $77,000 to a group of a group of wine lovers who say they will drink it. Nick Stephens goes into great background detail on the wines of the Jura, although I should mention that Savoie & Jura expert Wink Lorch (@WineTravel on twitter) has been at pains to correct the story saying it was a 1774 vintage and not 1773 as widely reported!

Robert M. Parker, Jr. was in the news last month with the announcement that he was passing the Wine Advocate’s Californian wine review duties to Antonio Galloni, although he would still dabble in California with “…a series of horizontal and vertical tastings of perfectly stored California wines”. Seeing Parker pull back from reviewing duties, especially for California, made the headlines and initiated a batch of media stories and blog posts discussing the implications – in particular Jon Bonné’s insightful article. Alder Yarrow over at Vinography published a copy of Parker’s e-mail posted to Wine Advocate subscribers breaking the news.

Also initiating some robust debate on both sides of the Atlantic was the Wine Intelligence press release suggesting that Wine Bloggers aren’t a trusted source of wine advice. Robert McIntosh at Wine Conversation put up a stern defence of Bloggers while Harpers Wine & Spirits polled a selection of opinions for their more sober reflection.

Unfortunately the month had its share of sobering news as well. Winemaker and owner of Bogle Vineyards Patty Bogle Roncoroni died after a 4 year battle with leukemia, the Sacramento Bee publishing a full obituary and winery history. In the Southern Hempisphere an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale caused devastation for the city of Christchurch in New Zealand. The wine regions of Canterbury and the Waipara are nearby but a statement from the New Zealand Wine web site confirms no reported damage or injuries to anyone in the industry.

My section on North East England will be painfully short this month – not because there’s nothing going on, but because I didn’t go to it! The NEWTS meeting was on the wines of Chilean producer Montes, but unfortunately I was on a business trip to the US and missed out – and in case you’re wondering it was to the tourist hot-spot of Schaumburg, Illinois, where I spent the whole 4 days in the hotel & conference centre and didn’t get a chance for even a single shopping trip (and don’t even ask about the wine)!

Moving quickly on and it was a Supermarket month with France and South Africa battling it out for my meagre purchasing powers. France just won with a brace of White Burgundies (Jean-Baptiste Béjot 2005 Puligny-Montrachet & Nicolas Potel 2008 Montagny 1er Cru) going for less than £10 each and adding to a 2009 Fleurie from Cave du Château de Chénas, all courtesy of my local Co-op. The South Africans were a Voor Paardeberg Roussane – made for Tesco and bottled by Boschendal – and the Meerlust 2006 Rubicon Bordeaux blend which will disappear into the cellar for a few years (I still have a 2001 to open!).

Simple everyday drinking was the name of the game for February, cycling through some red bottles I’ve probably been holding too long. The Roches Noir 2004 (Saint Chinian Roquebruin) was starting to show its age but still had enough life to provide drinking enjoyment and food accompaniment, while the 2005 Southern Point was a smooth, fruity McLaren Vale Shiraz which provided routine sipping pleasure.

Of the whites my favourite was a bone-dry 2009 Jurançon Sec from De Nays Labassère – a steely wine with lemon, bitter orange and some herbs. My better half couldn’t take the acidity though, and much preferred two Italian whites which were easier on the palate; a light, banana dominated 2009 Falerio dei Colli Ascolani by Saladini Pilastri and the fuller, citrus flower freshness of the Pieropan 2009 Soave.

I also opened an Oloroso Sherry to provide a glass of something thought-provoking to finish off the evenings with (including tonight, as I finish off this piece, since it’s lasted more than 2 weeks!). This was the Don José Oloroso Reservas Especiales by Romate whose website offers up some haunting Spanish choral music on the intro page!

You definitely have to be in a “certain place” to consider opening a bottle of Sherry (this one was originally earmarked for Christmas), but as I sip away on a glass I’m always amazed at the depth of flavour and complexity in these wines – the Don José had a smoky, sweet caramel, tang to the nose with a nutty flavour, dry but not astringent leaving the palate fresh and quite enlivened at the end.

So that was February, gone and almost forgotten. Looking forward and a few events are appearing in the Wine Calendar for March and April;

For me March includes another visit to China (although this time south, I’m still investigating whether there’s any vineyards nearby) and a return to NEWTS ahead of my own tasting in April (more to come on that).



Originally published March 14th, 2011 on Reign of Terroir

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