The whole family’s been back in the UK for the past couple of weeks – hence the silence here on the blog.  We had our now traditional hectic time trying to rush around seeing as many people as possible, though did manage to fit in almost a week’s trip to west Wales.  We stayed at St Bride’s Castle – west of Haverfordwest and sitting in a stunning position on the edge of cliffs over the Atlantic as it crashes in.  An added – if not the main – benefit of our visit to Wales was being able to catch up with old friends Chris and Zoe. 

A further, totally unexpected but delightful aspect of the trip was my discovery of several bottles of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande’s second wine, Reserve de la Comtesse, in the Haverfordwest branch of Tesco’s supermarket for the frankly bargain price of £19.98!  As the 2003 vintage it was rather young to be drinking right now, but still went very well with the traditional roast beef that Chris and Zoe kindly supplied with us for Sunday lunch.  Smooth, dense, delicious.  It was also nice to contrast this classic, heavy Pauillac with the lighter, fruity, “bubblegum” flavours of a 2002 Beaune that Chris opened (but which I can’t remember the name of!)

Living as we do here in France, whenever I’m buying wine for drinking in the UK, I look to those countries that I rarely get the chance to drink here at home.  During our trip we enjoyed a few New World wines, while also tatsing quite a number from our near neighbours here in Europe, particularly a couple of tasty Riojas and Italian Montelpulcianos and Valpolicellas. 

An entirely new wine experience awaited us the evening we stayed with our good friends the Warrens.  If you’ve read the “About” page on this blog, you’ll know that James Warren inspired me to start Red Vin Man after his visit with his lovely family over New Year.  James is a fellow wine nut and I’ve learnt to trust his judgement.  I must admit, however, that I did start to wonder when he told me that we’d be tasting a couple of examples of Lebanese red wine during the course of the evening. 

Quite rightly, James pointed out that he thought it would be good for us to have something from outside our normal range of choice and that one of his choices in particular – Chateau Musar in the Bekaa Valley – had an excellent reputation.  This he proved by shoving a couple of books under my nose which did indeed state that Chateau Musar was the most famous Lebanese wine producer.  You also have to show respect to anyone that has continued to produce wine through 20 years of civil war from a winery positioned in the southern suburbs of Beirut!

First, however, we opened a bottle of 1st Massaya Classic 2004, also from the Bekaa Valley and using three grape varieties, the main one (Cinsault, making up 60% of the wine) being entirely unfamiliar to me.  This unfamiliarity continued to the wine’s nose – initially not completely pleasan, but developing later.  I couldn’t actually find a word to describe the aroma (nor could anyone else!)  The taste was far more pleasant, deep and spicy.

Of course, we were all really waiting for the main wine event of the evening, the Chateau Musar, which had been decanted an hour or so previously.  Expectation was high…unfortunately, the wine was corked!  Massive disappointment all round!  James – perhaps a little embarrassed (though entirely unnecessarily, of course) – suggested opening a bottle of Reserve de la Comtesse 2000 to remedy the situation, though was swiftly convince that it would be wasted on a group of people already fairly wasted themselves.

I’m not sure I’ll be rushing back to a bottle of Lebanese wine, but it’s always good to have an open mind on other wine producing countries and I reckon I’ll make it part of all future trips to the UK.  It’s good to be back home, however, and I’ll be searching locally for some more Reserve de la Comtesse (sadly, bringing some back from Haverfordwest would have pushed us way over our luggage limit, in addition to being a little ridiculous!)