Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bank Holiday wines

We had a very mellow weekend, some friends up from Clare and a total of 10 people in the house, 6 of them little ones. Children, I mean. I was working till 8 on Saturday, and it was relatively quiet (normal for us on a bank holiday, but still annoying) so I was bursting for a drink when I got home. Luckily, I had the foresight to put a bottle of Bollinger in the fridge before I had left that morning. It was as good as ever, still one of my favourite champagne grand marques. The bottle of St. Michael Eppan Riesling Montiggl 2008 that I had also put in the fridge was then opened to go with Pam's Thai Curry. Both, were excellent, the Riesling was crisp, fresh, bone dry and deliciously pure. I had the Degani Valpolicella 2008 on tasting in the shop on Saturday and fancied a glass, so that was next. Typical fresh cherry fruit from Aldo in this vintage, but a lovely smokiness in the background that adds depth and complexity. Very nice wine. We then moved up a few gears and opened a bottle of Zenato Amarone Riserva 1995 that I had for a long time and was slightly worried about as I don't think Amarone ages that well. The nose on this wine was gorgeous, black and deep and intense. The palate was nice, but didn't live up to the promise of the nose. Glad we drank it, it's on the wane...

Slightly tired the next day, we needed something peppy to get us started which we did in the shape of St. Michael Eppan Pinot Grigio 2008. This is proper wine, unlike many which share its grape variety, intense fruit concentration with proper acidty and nice texture and length. With dinner, a massive slab of roast beef, we had a bottle of Condado da Haza 2006, a little grippy on opening so I decanted it and it was glorious with the beef. I felt like trying something a little older so we had a bottle of John's Blend Shiraz 1999. I didn't particularly like this wine, although I have enjoyed it previously. Maybe too old, the fruit was falling apart and it just felt a bit disjointed. To finish us off, we had a glass of Niepoort Colheita 1998, which was very pleasant, as you might imagine.

Then yesterday was the Dublin City Marathon which was completely ignored by all of us.

Body needs a break now for a couple of days, bit of exercise maybe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Philippe Chavy and Jean Marc Millot

We had Philippe Chavy from Puligny Montrachet and Jean Marc Millot from Vosne Romanee over last week for a quick visit. We did a dinner in Beaufield Mews on Thursday night where we did a quick tasting of 6 Burgundy wines, followed by a 4 course dinner. We had about 50 people there and it seems a good time was had by all.
The wines we tasted were :

Macon Vergisson 2007, Gilles Guerrin - tasting very well
Bourgogne 2008, Chavy - a little tight on the night, nicer a few days later
Meursault "Narvaux" 2006, Chavy - showed brilliantly
Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2006, Violot - light, but went down well
Cotes de Nuits Villages 2006, Millot - red of the night in terms of value, ethereal and delicious
Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Poissenots 2004, Humbert - power and concentration and big bucks

The two lads in the shop in Dalkey.....

These two are vrai vignerons, proper winemakers who work hard in the fields and then in the cellar, always doing their best to do justice to the terroir they work. Real wines, from real people, just the way we like it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Danger - Paddies in the Vineyard

Just back from Slovenia and my first harvest. We were in the eastern part of Slovenia, very close to the border with Croatia. Life here, from my superficial experience of it, seems to be a pleasantly simple mix of work, family and friends. No talk of world recession or financial meltdown or politicians expenses or Green Party votes or NAMA or John O'Donohue or Bertie's book and it was all quite a relief, really. They just seem to get on with their lives quietly and pleasantly.

The harvest started with a communal breakfast of bread, meat, cheese, strong sweet coffee and, naturally, wine and schnapps. They drink their wine here with a little sparkling water as a spritzer. The schnapps was neat. Being Irish seems to attract having booze thrust into your hand at every available opportunity. This all seemed like a good idea at the time.
hard at work...

Soon we were in the vineyard picking and collecting the grapes, working as a team, block by block. In fairness, the person who seemed to be busiest seemed to be Renato, whose job was as a kind of mobile barman, keeping everyone topped up with spritzers and schnapps. Everyone else had it pretty easy. In less that 3 hours, we were done. There had been hail early in the season which had reduced the yield by about 50%, but they seemed happy enough with the quality, sugar levels etc the busiest man in the vineyard

Then the real work started - lunch followed by a day-long party of spritzers, schnapps, music dancing, drinking games and talking shite in bad German. As I said, it all made sense at the time.

And the wine? Well that is in tank and should be fermenting away quite happily!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Picking grapes

When I was growing up in Wexford, an important rite of passage / introduction to child labour was to go picking strawberries. Like a scene out of a Charles Bukowski short story, we would gather in the centre of the village and a tractor and trailor would come by to collect us. We would be given a shallow wooden box, our allotted rows and told to start. For those of you who imagine picking strawberries involves gambolling through idyllic meadows, merrily picking as you go, let me tell you it is backbreaking work which involves hunkering down in the mud, foraging for berries on the ground and then slowly filling the box for which you eventually get paid a pittance.

The temptation to eat the berries or, worse still, start throwing them at your neighbours and inadvertently starting a strawberry war by the end of which everybody is blood red, was usually too much to bear.

My strawberry picking career was mercifully short - it went something like this: Arrive in field. Start picking. Eat some strawberries. Throw some strawberries, starting strawberry war. Look forlornly at proper workers who had filled their boxes three times already. Morning break. Go home. Watch Wimbledon for the rest of the day.

Anyway, thirty years later, this weekend I am revisiting the world of fruit picking - I am off to the harvest in Slovenia. Liam has an acre or so of vines and this Saturday is harvest day. This is my first harvest, so I am really looking forward to it. I just keep telling myself, I am doing a harvest - it's not the same as picking strawberries.

Will report back next week.