Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The race result and this weeks plans

Sebastiano came 4th of 11 which was actually very encouraging...I only managed to watch the race this morning it was a good run. Good jumping and when asked for a real effort he gave his all. - "Sebastiano was quite keen early and needed strong drivingto close in the back straight, but he could never get there. He did not live up to his trainer´s expectations over fences last season but showed he is slowly getting his act together and may be better stepped up in trip on easier ground." Possibly a little harsh.....

Wine wise - it's "offer city" at the moment with a lot going on, end of Bordeaux, Olivier leflaive 2008, Port 2007 and various other things.

I am having tomorrow off for my 10th wedding anniversary....oh what to drink.....

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The first and last run of the season??

Ok so this is confusing but Sebastiano, the 6yr old Chaser I have a (very) small share in, runs his last race this evening before his summer break. The race is the 6.50 at Huntingdon ( and Seb (his nickname used by everyone except my wife who calls him Pritt Stick!) has an each way squeak. I won't be backing him but he has a chance if (it's a big if) he settles.

This season, which has actually ended (end of April is end of one season and beginning of the next) has been a bit disappointing. The previous year he exceeded expectations and ran really well winning and coming second, both over hurdles. The plan had always been to go chasing but he has been a shade disappointing over the bigger obstacles, always safe but never showing much verve, may be a summer at grass and a different campaign next year will be more affective

Anyway lets see how he goes tonight.....

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The PORT 2007 tasting

Last Thursday (21st) - Blind tasting of 17 Ports 2007s @ 1 Thomas More Street. Tasting is done in silence with all bottles covered in foil and numbered. Scores are given out of 10 for each wine at the end of the tasting and the wines then ranked. The 17 were (in order they were tasted):

Smith Woodhouse
Vale Donna Maria
Gould Campbell

Tasters: Me (obviously) Adam Brett-Smith (C&B MD), Alison Buchannan (C&B Buyer), Richard Mayson ( Journalist, lecturer, wine writer(on Port in particular!)), Godfrey Spence (WSET and Educator), Fraser Jamieson (C&B senior sales) & Paul Masters (C&B Commercial director).

Below is the overall ranking of the wines using the overall scores from all tasters. In brackets I have put my score. I'm encouraged to see that my three highest scores were for the three top wines and that my lowest score is for the last wine.

1st Gould Campbell (9) - Savoury earthy black fruits, real depth & balance.
2nd Graham (9) - Dark fruits a touch of fruitcake, really balanced.
3rd= Warre (9) - Rich, dark and blqack fruits with poise and elegance, great length.
3rd= Vesuvio (8.5) - Deep big and strong(better that i tasted it previously).
5th Noval (7.5) - Inky black, fruity but also savoury notes, good texture...very sweet.
6th Roriz (8.5) - A pleasant surprise, clasically savoury notes. Palate erupts with fruit that was missing on the nose.
7th Smith Woodhouse (8) - Full rich with a savoury edge, ripe black fruits with some redness.
8th Dow (7.5) - Savoury but with but black fruits lurking, refined palate.
9th Churchill (8.5) - Impressicvely big and masculine, touch of fruitcake.
10th Gricha (7.5) - Very dark, rich and backward. Brooding and the most structured.
11th Niepoort (6) - Herbs combined with red and blue fruits, fine tannins
12th Silval (8.5) - Inky dark, mulberry, complexity and real balance
13th Taylor (6.5) - Confected baked sweets, not my style, structured and rich on palate
14th Croft (6) - A l;ittle simple, herbal and fruited, not much structure
15th Vale Dona Maria (4) - A real fruit bomb almost wine, spice but disjointed...weird
16th Fonseca (7.5) - A touch of leather and animal, more developed than most
17th Pintas (2.5) - two bottles tried and both this "right"? Some fruit but a vegetal character.

My views on the vintage as a whole........I gave 2007 4 stars, a good and very enjoyable vintage. Encouraging variety of styles. There is definitely a choice between - closed, savoury, dark fruits & a more lifted style with red fruits and freshness. Very few poor wines. Most have sufficient fruit and ripeness of tannins to be enjoyable from early on (this vintage has made me vow to drink more Port early). The best wines will be very serious in 20 years but none are overshaddowed by their structure now.

Richard Mayson said..........
"The 2007 Vintage is like nothing I have tasted in my career (and I go back to 1983, not that far but still far enough). The wines have a wonderful purity about them, with the fruit shining through clearly on the nose and palate. In general they have a freshness and vivacity that I have not seen at this stage before. 'Elegance' and 'poise' are words that crop up frequently in my tasting notes, particularly among the best wines which have fine, tight-knit tannins. This is not a blockbuster, blackstrap vintage and there are no baked, cooked raisiny or pruney flavours in 2007 (cp the hot vintage of 2003). Some wines have a green edge, a sort of hedgerow character on the nose but few wines taste tart or underripe.

The big question I was asking myself during the tasting yesterday was when to drink them. Some (e.g. Croft, Silval) can be drunk with pleasure now and I think this is a vintage that we will be able to dip into with pleasure over a long period of time (40 years plus in the case of the best wines), given the balance, acidity and purity of many of the wines.

It is always tempting to try and compare a new Port vintage with an early one but as I said at the outset this is not like one I have seen before. For what it's worth, Peter Symington who has 45 vintages under his belt and retires this year, compares it with 1970. If that is the case the 1970s went through a long period of adolescence and the best wines took 30 years to emerge. Only time will tell."

Now that we have decided what to sell it is interetsing to note that Gould Campbell is the least expensive of all the Ports but was also the top scorer!! Got to be a buy.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


Today...release of Cheval Blanc at a crazy/ambitious price ,£3500, Pavie ambitious but more realistic £1200 and Leoville Lascases at £900 which for a well rated second growth is not un-reasonable. With the French on holiday on thursday (and therefore friday too!) tomorrow should be pretty much the end of En Primeur (Petrus later) and at least this campaign has been 6 weeks from beginning to end rather than 3 months as they have tended to be of late. All in all it's been a far better one release than expected.

Tonight.....round a few of our Bars in the city with Mr G....should be interesting...the sun is out...

Maderia, Sherry, Riesling.......the great missunderstod

I know I'm not the only one but why aren't the wines above more popular? Is it that they aren't "normal" is it that they recquire a bt of thought? The "different alcohol"? Well whichever it is I would never be without a half of Fino/Manazanilla in the fridge (the perfect satuday lunch time wine) or an open bottle of Madeira...preferably Bual and 10-15yeras old. Keeps for ever and is just delicious.

I am not one of those people who goes on about food and wine matching as i think it isn't a science and can be quite dull BUT try Sercial Madeira and shortbread!! Brilliant

A lot of good horse racing recently with the Classic season started and the Derby only 3 weeks away. The horse I have a (small) share in "Sebastiano" may get one more run before the summer off. He's a jumper who's just had a decent but win-less season. If you are liekminded and love racing then a Blog I recommend is . Really interesting read.....if you like racing...otherwise dull as

Friday, 15 May 2009

What a week.......

I wouldn't do anything so vulgar as print details but lets just say its been a cracking week. Lots of wines selling at good prices and happy customers. So good to sell wines that you just know will make people so happy.

On that sort of topic had a chat with Adam (MD) today about how to be positive about all our wines. Customers will obviously be synical if yu rave about everything. The problem comes from the fact that we turn down so many wines that we genuinely love the wines we great to list all the wines we didn't buy but that is not either fair or right.

Next week the Bordeaux 2008 campaign will largely come to an end. It's been a far better one than anyone anticiptaed and the Bordelais did as much as could reasonably be expected....well certainly those who released before Parkers scores were out.

Anyway here's to the, racing and the odd bottle......

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A rival for any wine anywhere? Achaval Ferrer

Marcelo Victoria from Achaval Ferrer was over last week to show us the Malbec 2008 and the Quimera, Finca Mirador, Finca Altamira and Bella Vista say it was on of the best in house tastings we have done would be no exagerration.

Achaval Ferrer is a truely wonderful wine estate. . The focus is very much on exceptionally old pre-phylloxera Malbec. We tasted all the wines under Marcelo's guidance and tutorledge.

Malbec 2008 - Rich and full but with strawberry yoghurt like fruit. This developed into fruits of the forest. The palate had good structure but was not OTT. Really good stuff!! Drink as soon as it arrives then over the next couple of years.

Quimera 2007 - The only Acahaval Ferrer wine that isn't 100% Malbec (38%Malbec, 24% Merlot, 24% Cab Sauv & 14% Cab Franc). Massively big but also elegant, mulberry, bramble and lots more, spicy texture kept in check by the generous fruit. Good acidity and freshness with a superb length. The overall impression is ripeness not sweetness. Give it a year then drink at your leisure over the following decade.

The Single Vineyards - all produced at a crazy 12-15hectolitres/hectare which for anyone who doesn't think in hectolitres (who does?!) is a bottle per 3 vines!! The wines all see 12-14 months oak.

Finca Mirador 2007 - Takes me more to Italy than Argentina in many ways. Kissed with oak, real richness but with very smooth and beautifully balanced tannins. The fruit character is very hard to define (a good thing in my book as obviously is not so interesting). "More flowers than fruit" as Marcel puts it. This will last well but the tannins are so ripe that you can drink it early. I would try a bottle in 2011 and take it from there.

Finca Altamira 2007 - Planted in 1925 the highest of the single vineyards. Bigger and bolder than Mirador. The palate is fresh (a signature of all the wines) and more aromtaic. A little more forward. Softer structure and more approachable than Mirador. Delicious, start drinking in 2-4years.

Bella Vista 2007 - The oldest single vineyard. Planted in 1905. 2005 & 2006 Bella vista was lost to hail. Richness and coffee on the nose, the most savoury. Dark chocolate shows too. So soft and succulent but again well structured. Start drinking in 2-4years

There was a dinner the following evening where the Quimera 2003 and Altamira 2002 were served from magnum.....both were stunning and show that this estate is making truely worldclass wines...try them and see.

Pontet Canet 2008.......

Released this morning £545 and one of the most interesting talking points of the vintage. The wine is by all accounts (including the C&B buying team) very good. The score Mr Parker gives it is 96-98+ which is very good for a 5th growth (it "outscores" Mouton). If you look at it from another angle it is the most expensive Pontet ever and the price (in Euro) is the same as for 2007.

Value?? I believe it is and given that the 2005 is in the region of £800 I don't think the price is a) unfair or b) as high as I thought it might be.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Port 2007 - The Symingtons....

8am on the Tuesday after a bank holiday…..must be time to taste some Port. Well it was today. Paul Symington (Owners and producers of the Ports below) and Christo Eliot-Lockhart from Fells (Importers) came to the offices to present the 2007’s. The vintage is a small one but a good one “Not the greatest vintage ever…it’s irritating when people start saying that. It does remind me of the 1955’s which were very much under-rated. Good to very good all in all.” PS.

As a growing season - June saw some mildew which had to be treated, August was mild but very dry (the driest since ‘85), September was superb and pretty much everything was in by the time the rains came on 2nd October. Everyone is “releasing”. Noval (not a Symington) are to deciding on whether to release a Nacional. The vintage is small with some wines in very scarce supply…only 900 cases of Grahams for the UK etc. Tasting young vintage Ports is not as difficult as one might think and I actually really enjoy it.

Graham 17++; Ripe, ripe, ripe. So much fruit and beautiful complexity, amazing silky length and depth – smashing mid palate, classy!

Dow 18; A more savoury nose but so much there, dark fruits but a good dollop of black pepper too, moreish, just shades the Graham on interest and potential. My style of Port.

Warre 17+; Balance and amazing freshness, almost red fruits showing, the most feminine and elegant.

Smith Woodhouse
17; Often an “insiders” choice. Dark Chocolate and a touch of mint, rich and a little white pepper on the palate. Value!

Vesuvio 16; A slightly “high” nose to my palate (not a view shared by others). Drier than Graham though not obviously so.

Gould Campbell 17++; My other pick of the tasting to go with the Dow, gorgeous and balanced a bit of everything. Sadly very little made.

Quarles Harris 16; Only 500 cases in total produced so a largely academic exercise. A little pepper and good structure, a little “heat” showing, a shade simpler than some.

Some other interesting comments from PS included, drinking Port from proper wine glasses and if a bottle is left for a few days it is far better back in the bottle than left in a decanter. The when to drink question is always over used but PS commented that people really did need to work it out for themselves and try the wines to asses this most crucial of questions.

Right on with some work!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Gotta love a bank holiday!!

Great weekend, gig friday, some necessary shopping on saturday followed on Sunday by rugby (annual Finchley RFC - Ireland vs Rest of world fixture). Today - destructive gardening (the only type I enjoy), Chablis Dampt 2007 for lunch to keep things going. This week is looking very busy (all four days of it!!) judging by my diary and it is my sons 8th B'day tomorrow, how many entries there will be this week who knows? I will try though!!