I’ve started blogging in a new place.  I realised that as I’m not involved professionallly in the wine businesses, maintaining a blog focused solely on wine was a road to ruin.  In the early days it meant far too much drinking wine in order to have something to write about (which was bad in equal measure for my wallet and my liver.  Actually, that’s incorrect.  It was much worse for my wallet); in more recent times it has meant a dearth of content.

So, I’ve started a new blog called (appropriately) “Another flamin’ blog“.  It’s going to have a much broader remit, covering lots of different aspects of my personal and professiona life.  Wine will no doubt crop up on occasion, so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading this far!

hospital.jpghospital.jpghospital.jpghospital.jpgI had a magnum of wine the other evening.  Not all to myself you understand – that would’ve been silly.  No, my father-in-law was here, which is all the excuse needed to open a bottle twice the size of a normal one. 

I’d picked up a magnum of Chateau de L’Hospital 2003, a Graves, a couple of months ago in the Jonzac Leclerc.  I think it cost me 26 or 28 euros…certainly less than 30.  I’d been meaning to try a magnum since reading somewhere that it is regarded as the ‘proper’ size bottle from which to drink decenbt red wine.  Something about having the perfect ratio of wine to air in the bottle.  It’s probably a load of old guff, but I bought it.

Having said that, the wine was delicious (as I’m sure it would have been coming out of a regular 75cl bottle).  Oz Clarke says of Chateau de L’Hospital that “the Merlot-dominated red is round and supple with smoky red fruit” and I’m in no position to disagree.  I don’t think magnums last twice as long as a normal bottle though as we seemed to get through it quite quickly.  So much so that I had to dig out another bottle to keep us going (not another big one though…).

It’s wine fair time in the supermarkets here at the moment.  I always find it quite frustrating – so many great wines, so little ability to justify buying them all!  One of the holidaymakers staying with us last week asked me to help him choose some wine that he could buy now and drink at his daughter’s 18th birthday party (she’s currently two).  He couldn’t have chosen a better time really, with supermarket shelves groaning under the weight of thousands of bottles from the 2005 vintage for the first time, which will improve brilliantly over the next 15 years or so. 

The choice, obviously, was huge but we restrcited it by price (no more than 20 euros a bottle) and stuck to the Medoc as I thought these would age nicely.  The 2005 Chasse-Spleen looked good value at 19,95 but, by the time I made it to Carrefour on Monday (the wine fair having started on Saturday) they had completely sold out!  So I went for a dozen bottles of Chateau Poujeaux 2005 at the same price, and six Chateau Potensac 2004 at 16,50, which looked like good value.  Should make for some fine drinking at the birthday party (though I’d keep it way from the kids).

The Leclerc wine fair starts today and I’m toying with possibly making a trip down to Jonzac.  We generally pick up a few bottles of any new vintage of Chateau de Reignac - a delicious Bordeaux superior that punches well above its weight – and the Leclerc catalogue tells me they’re stocking the 2005 at 7,95 euros which is an absolute bargain.  Robert Parker gave it 91-93 points…

380px-800px-lakeannecyhautesavoyfromfrenchwikipedia.jpgI’ve just been reading news on Jancis Robinson’s website about plans to open a centre to research and preserve Alpine grape varieties.  It’s quite a coincidence as, last night, we drank a bottle of wine, for the first time, from the Savoie.  It was a Mondeuse, one of the main Alpine grape varieties (and Robinson’s favourite, according to her Wine Course book.  Or at least the copy I’ve got, which is more than 20 years old!)

Some French friends of our have recently been on holiday in the Haute-Savoie, a region right across the other side of France from us and famous for Mont Blanc (the mountain, not the chocolate sauce that comes in tins…or the pens), Lake Annecy and ski resorts like Chamonix.

Knowing our passion for all things edible, our friends very kindly bought us some regional gifts – four different cheeses, a spicy saucisson, a beautiful little cured and smoked ham and the bottle of Mondeuse.  After having lunch out yesterday, we decided to snack on the cheese and meat last night and, as only seemed appropriate, to open the Mondeuse.

Robinson talks of “the curious deep-coloured, racy, slightly bitter red Mondeuse”.  I didn’t get much bitterness, to be honest.  We found the wine quite light (unsurprisingly more Burgundy in style than Bordeaux), very fruity and exceptionally fresh.  You could almost taste the mountain air!  It was delicious and, though I think it might be tough to find in supermarkets this far west, I shall definitely try to hunt some down.

red.jpgred.jpgred.jpgberlese.jpgberlese.jpgberlese.jpgberlese.jpgberlese.jpgI spent a very enjoyable evening yesterday drinking too much with a good friend Mark and his family who are staying in our gite at the moment.  Well, he’s a good friend now but a dozen years ago he was the founder of one of the first companies I worked for…and quite scary for that.  It’s always great to spend some time with him.  He’s bright, challenging, honest – all things that make for an interesting discussion.

Inevitably, considering we were drinking a fair bit of it, the discussion turned to wine.  We’d already sunk a bottle pf 2002 Chateau Poujeaux, a Moulis-en-Medoc, and were halfway down a 2003 Chateau Belgrave, a Haut-Medoc – both very nice.  Mark will readily admit to being far from knowledgeable about wine, but was keen to learn.  We covered a broad number of subjects; the challenges of over-production in the Bordeaux wine region, the less-than-clear labelling of French wines to most of the world’s wine-buying public, the traditional ‘negociant’ system of trading wine in Bordeaux which makes it very hard to visit and buy direct from chateaux, the main Bordeaux ACs, grape varieties and more.

Mark was keen to see if he could spot differences between wines, so I decided to give him two wines that should, in theory, be quite contrasting.  One was the 2003 Chateau Belgrave Haut-Medoc we were already drinking and the other was a 2004 Chateaux Beauregard, a Pomerol and therefore a Right Bank to the Belgrave’s Left.  The Beauregard is made solely from Merlot and Cabernet Franc grape varieties; the Belgrave containing these but also a good proportion (nearly a third) of Cabernet Sauvignon and also Petit Verdot.

In a direct comparison, Mark could definitely tell that they were two significantly different wines but (like me) struggled to fine the descriptors to describe the differences.  The Beauregard was fruitier and also has a smooth richness that the Belgrave lacked.  The Belgrave – as with many Left Bank wines – was spicier and had a minerally edge.

Mark likened the tasting to that of looking at a colour spectrum; flavours not being separate but blending into one continuous series of subtly changing tones.  While someone with an eye for colour, he said, could pick a crimson from a Persian red, he was still at the stage of telling green from yellow!  Nicely put, I thought.

It’s been a bit quiet round here of late.  You may have noticed.  I know some people have, because they’ve been badgering me about it.  There’s a couple of reasons – one being that I’ve been quite busy with other stuff (you know, the kind of stuff that pays the rent!) and the other (and probably better) reason is that I haven’t been drinking quite as much.  I’ve been out on the bike quite a lot training for next year’s London to St-Emilion ride and have been trying to be as good as possible, which means consuming less wine.

Still, the arrival of old buddy James Warren and family here at Les Chapelles for a fortnight’s holiday is a considerable (and welcome) kick up the backside in terms of drinking…and of particularly drinking decent wine.  Over the past few days, therefore, we’ve enjoyed some splendid wines.  Of particular note have been a 2004 Chateau du Tertre Margaux Grand Cru Classe (5th Growth…but better than that!), a 2004 Chateau Yon-Figeac St-Emilion Grand Cru Classe (very kind gift from the Warren’s) and a 2002 Chateau Pontet-Canet Pauillac (equally kind gift from our friends the Hounshams).  Every one of them was delicious.

Speaking of our friends the Hounshams, they hosted a lovely lunch last Sunday for us all.  I took along a few bottles of wine but their names fail me now!  Always my downfall…  I do remember a couple of nice Lalande de Pomerols.

I’m off out this afternoon to buy some wine as we’ve got some more friends popping over for drinks this evening, so will hopefully have some more to report soon!

2708.jpgLast Thursday, Michelle and I left the kids at home with my parents and went down to Cap Ferret for a night away.  My folks had been down there with some friends and loved the place.  They’d also eaten at a lovely restaurant in what looked like a very nice hotel, so they suggested that we try it.  Cap Ferret’s about 60km to the south west of Bordeaux, right at the end of the thin spit of land across the bay (or ‘Bassin’) from Arcachon.  It’s become quite trendy over the last decade or so, to the point that property prices are now astronomical.  It’s to Bordeaux what somewhere like Whitstable is to London, I guess.

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lillet.jpgOut in Bordeaux last Friday with my mate Chris, we noticed a sign for Lillet, the aperitif made from a blend of wine fruit liqueurs somewhere south of Bordeaux.  Lillet has come to prominence of late due to being featured in the last James Bond film, Casino Royale (and, of course, Ian Fleming’s original book).  Bond adds it as an ingredient when explaining how he’d like his vodka martini…half a part Lillet, three parts gin, one part vodka, five ice cubes and a twist of lemon.  At least that’s how it’s described on the rather sweet Lillet website (though turn the music off).

I read somewhere soon after the Bond film was released that Lillet had experienced a - probably predictably – huge increase in interest and demand.  On the one hand I was delighted.  Lillet was featured in the film purely because it had also been mentioned in Fleming’s original book, not because, like so many other brands, it had paid millions of dollars to the producers.  On the other hand, I wondered if it would be able to cope with the increase in demand.  Reading the website, Lillet takes between 6 and 12 months to mature…it’s not like they could simply turn on a tap and get some more.  I’m sure they weren’t grumbling, though.

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