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[For the uninitiated, a 'blog' (or weblog) is a web journal with links. This gives me a chance to add short, 'off the record' style items that wouldn't merit a separate article. I try my best to keep entries informal, frequent, brief and (hopefully) interesting. For more information about Jamie Goode, see the about the author section. ]

Monday 15th March 2004
Back to reality today after an amazing weekend in Porto celebrating Dirk Niepoort’s 40th birthday. I’m in the process of writing up all the wines I tried, but it will take a while simply 

because there were so many of them. Gathered were a small, eclectic band of journalists, winemakers and wine merchants, over several lunches and dinners. We began at Friday lunch with a small group at Dirk’s favourite fish restaurant by the docks. This was followed on Friday evening with a superb multicourse, multiwine dinner at Dirk’s house. For pudding we decamped to the Niepoort lodge in Vila Nova for an atmospheric Port drinking session and some dessert, with wines going back to 1863 picking up 1931, 1948 and 1964 along the way. Saturday began with a tasting session, first of the Pfalz Rieslings of Markus Schneider, then a blind tasting of components of Niepoort 2003 Port, where we looked at which might make it to the vintage and discussed blending (right). 
David Lopez Ramos, Nick Delaforce (red jumper), Luis Gutierrez and Luis Antunes look like they are finding tasting seven different components of the 2003 Niepoort Ports before lunch rather hard going

Lunch was al fresco by the sea on a glorious sunny day. Afterwards, more work: tasting the Schloss Goebelsburg wines from Austria with the winemaker. A brief gap in the schedule for naps and we were off to the Bull and Bear restaurant for the big 40th dinner, attended by a larger group and featuring some sensational wines and a dozen or so courses. Sunday started with lunch at a small restaurant down by the river with some more fascinating wines including a remarkable pair of Pinot Noirs from the Douro, and a Douro Riesling (all Dirk’s, of course). Glorious sunshine made wandering through the streets of Porto an inviting option, and dinner was a small event at Dirk’s house for six, where we had more great wines, including a stunning Bual Madeira from the 60s (1860s, that is). A precious weekend, and I felt humbled to have been able to tag along with such a great group of people drinking such a range of wines. To cap it all, I find out that Man City beat Man United 4-1, and England won a test by bowling out the West Indies for 47.

Thursday 11th March
A brief entry. Off at the crack of dawn tomorrow to catch a flight to Porto. I'm going to see Dirk Niepoort for an extended weekend. I have no idea what the plans are or even where I'll be staying, but seeing as today is Dirk's 40th, I suspect there'll be a decent wine dinner involved at some stage. Because of this trip, next update may well be Monday. The frogspawn have changed their appearance: various lumps and bumps are appearing. More photos soon.

Wednesday 10th March
I am what is known in my birthtown as a 'bitter blue'. In Manchester, there are two tribes, blue and red, with the former supporting Manchester City, the latter supporting Manchester United. City were the better side through the late 60s and 1970s, but since the mid-80s it's pretty much been United all the way, while City have oscillated wildly (including a spell in the second division, which is the third tier of English football). Blues supporters are very loyal, and they're known by United fans (most of whom live in the South East and London) as bitters. Last night, after the wonderful Hustle, I watched the second half of United's champion's league game against Porto. Yes, partly this was because of my love for the Beautiful Game, but I would be lying if I neglected to mention that it was also motivated by an ugly desire to see United lose. When Porto scored the goal that dumped United out, I cheered. It felt really good. I'm a true bitter blue. It's the Manchester derby on Sunday, so this could be a very good week. On another subject, still non-wine related, we have some frogspawn (pictured). I'll keep you posted on how it develops as we introduce our boys to the wonders of metamorphosis. 

Friday 5th March
No doubt many of you will have heard about Colares. This tiny Portuguese wine region is a bit of an oddity because its Ramisco vines are planted on their own roots. Most Vitis vinifera vines (the species which all the varieties we are familiar with belong to) have been grafted onto American rootstocks since the end of the 19th century. This is because of a root-munching aphid called phylloxera, which found its way to Europe on the roots of resistant American species of grape vine in the 1860s, and which threatened to wipe out wine as we know it, until someone (it’s not known exactly who) had the idea of grafting vinifera onto the resistant American rootstocks. Anyway, phylloxera can’t survive in very sandy soils, and the Ramisco vines of Colares are planted in sand so they don’t need grafting. The vineyards here have gradually been invaded by developers over recent decades so this unusual wine might soon be extinct. Why do I mention this? Because today I tried a Colares from my birth year: 1967. And it was foul, filthsome stuff. I was taking part in a Portuguese preselection tasting, where a group of five of us were gathered to taste (blind) wines that producers wanted to show at the annual Portuguese tasting and which currently weren’t represented in the UK market. Today we tried about 70 wines with a view to deciding whether they stood a chance of success in the crowded UK market place. The good news is that many were tasty, modern, commercial wines and we were able to say yes. Then we came to this wine, number 52 on the list. It was a dark brown colour. The nose was distinctive and off-putting, with notes of dirty ovens, overcooked meat and Bovril. Then I put some in my mouth and I can honestly say that this was the most repellent, disgusting liquid that has ever been near my tongue. Completely undrinkable and quite foul. Normally old wines are still quite palatable – that is, you can actually drink them if you are fairly desperate and need alcohol. But this one was scarily bad and had to be spat out fast. Some birth year wine, eh. I've now tried three birth year wines in recent years. First, the 1967 Musar (at an offline dinner courtesy of Peter May, and then more recently at the Musarathon - a second bottle that Peter kindly donated to me), a 1967 Taylors single quinta Port (this was a bit tired) and now this filthsome unpalatable Colares. 

Thursday 4th March
I’m currently immersed in several articles (eight actually) which have been commissioned by three different editors on totally unrelated subjects, so my thoughts have been a little stretched of late. The way I tend to work is I have an idea, sell it to an editor, and then put it to sleep. From time to time I devote some mental space to the idea, thinking of approaches, beginnings, questions and endings. I think about who to interview and potential sources of information. Then, as the deadline draws near I begin to write. I tend to find it’s best to work on a piece for two or three days in a row, concentrating on the start and then working from there. Each time I come to write, I start at the beginning again, polishing-up each piece. Once it’s nearly finished, I prune it down, simplifying the sentences and taking out the excess words. The writing bit doesn’t take long. The real effort is spent in that bit of mental space set aside for the idea. The skill comes in making good judgments about style, content and how much weight to assign to each idea. Certainly, with many of the more scientific pieces – and especially those where a degree of controversy exists – a lot rests on how you sift the evidence and call the story. It takes a long time to build a good reputation, but it’s easy and relatively quick to lose it if you do a substandard piece. Writing is a skilled craft. Me? I’m just a beginner, mate. I’m learning, so please bear with me.

Had a remarkable wine the other night. Remarkable as in unusual; weird, even. It was the Château des Tours Vacqueyras Reserve 2001. I bought this from Bibendum on the strength of the lovely des Tours Côtes du Rhône 2000. When I opened it it was a little faded in colour and with a distinct spritz. Refermentation, I thought to myself. Bugger. So I decanted it, and it fizzed, and then went flat. I poured it back into the bottle and opened another wine instead. The next evening, it was showing quite well, with no fizziness and some very sweet, earthy, spicy fruit. The nose was almost Port-like. Weird stuff, but not without charm. I wonder what the remaining bottles will be like. I’m not going to kick up a fuss if they are also odd, because it would be a dull world if no one took any chances with their winemaking.

Tuesday 24th February
Three short items today, all taken from the media pages of UK newspaper The Guardian. First, a thoughtful piece on attempts by legal people who don’t understand the Internet to outlaw deeplinking. In contrast with framing, which attempts to take others’ content and make it look you’re your own, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with deeplinking. In fact, most website owners would be glad of the traffic. We should be vigilant against any attempts to make it unlawful, because this would kill the internet as we know it. It would be stupidity on the part of legislators (why are some people so arrogant that they can’t realize that expertise in one area – the law – doesn’t mean they also have expertise by default in another – in this case the internet) to rule against deeplinking. Stupidity of the highest order. [Of course, it may never happen.] 

The second piece tells the happy story (for content-based websites) that internet advertising is on the rise. The belief in internet circles has been for a while that it is not possible to provide free content supported only by advertising, or at least that this is not a sustainable business model. Wineanorak survives as a free content site primarily because costs are low and so almost all advertising revenue is profit. I’ve noticed an increased interest in online advertising already this year, so hopefully I won’t have to divert from my goal, which is to concentrate solely on providing free, fully independent, consumer-focused wine content. If my goal was to make money I’d be peddling wine. End of advert.

Finally, a useful weblog glossary. Now you know what all those unusual terms that crop up in weblogs mean.

Wednesday 18th February
Two wines open tonight, and both very impressive in very different styles. First, a white Burgundy of real class and poise but from a humble appellation. Domaine Patrick Javiller ‘Cuvée des Forgets’ Bourgogne 2001 (Berry Bros & Rudd) is simply stunning quality for a Bourgogne: I’d have this in preference to most village Meursaults. What does this say about terroir? Well, regular readers will know I’m a terroir fan, but the fact that this is more like Meursault than many negociant Meursaults probably says more about underachievement in Burgundy than it does about terroir. The story of Burgundy is generally one of squandering of great terroirs and falling short. This over-achiever is a reasonably deep colour and has a fragrant nose of nutty, rounded, slightly honeyed fruit. There’s a whiff of smokiness. The palate is broad with more nuttiness and a nice minerally finish with lovely acidic structure. Don’t serve this too cool: after an hour and a half in the fridge it was much less alluring: it became tight, lemony and structured. You miss a lot of the expression when it’s at fridge temperature, so I’d chill it only a little, or leave it at room temperature if this isn’t too high. I think this rule applies to many decent whites.

Quick break. The Brit awards are on the TV in the background, with Duran Duran appearing live. Goodness, what a blast from the past. Like a 1984 claret, these boys are past it. They’re performing ‘ordinary world’, one of their more thoughtful and well-composed pieces, but Simon le Bon is struggling with the high vocal line, and Andy Taylor (is he the lead guitarist? I can’t remember the names for sure) is making a hash, IMO, of the electric guitar part, with dodgy phrasing and even the odd bum note. Still, despite the fact that as a guitarist the 80s was a fairly bleak musical decade for me, at least these guys are a proper band and not some reality TV wannabees playing someone else’s compositions. The music industry has never been pure, but like many areas of endeavour (including the wine business) rampant commercialism and the sacrifice of integrity and quality in the name of profit is worse now than it has ever been. The pursuit of quality for its own sake is almost an underground movement – a subculture or minority pursuit – these days. Now it’s the Darkness. They are very funny. The guitar sound is pure 80s heavy metal. I grew up on heavy rock, I have to admit, with my first album purchase being AC/DC’s Back in Black. I wonder about the Darkness, though – there’s certainly a healthy sense of self-irony about them. You get the impression that they are outsiders taking the mick out of the music industry. But is there a bit too much irony here? It’s a bit like the extremes of the retro chic movement, celebrating and glorying in what is essentially bad taste of yesteryear. Feel free to paint your walls bright orange: you are going to have to live with them. Ultimately there’s something a little hollow and destructively cynical about something that is, at its core, parody.

The second wine is a delicious southern French red with lots of flavour, but some elegance too. Château Massamier La Mignarde ‘Domus Maximus’ 2000 Minervois La Livinière (Berry Bros, again) is deep coloured, and immediately makes an impression with its nose of ripe, sweet forest fruits with a spicy, liqueur-like character. The palate is fruity and ripe with a lovely spicy, liquoricey complexity together with some chocolatey richness. Great concentration and some elegance too. There’s an earthiness underpinning all the ripe fruit. An up-front wine that nicely straddles the old and new world styles, full of appeal, and hard to resist. (Berry Bros & Rudd) If it’s possible to make wines like this in Minervois, then the French could rule the world if only they got their act in gear. What tremendous potential when you consider that the Languedoc has a greater area under vine than Australia. Yes, some of the terroirs won’t be capable of making great wine, but when you visit the different regions the potential of some of the soils and climates here seems massive.

Sunday 15th February
A delightful day yesterday, visiting my folks in Suffolk. We spent the afternoon in Southwold. Southwold is lovely, with real charm, but it’s not exactly undiscovered. House prices are astronomical and it was annoyingly busy, even on a rather grey Saturday in February. Nice to be near the sea. It was a grey sort of day and the weird lighting meant that the sea, which was remarkably calm, and the sky met in a sort of seamless fusion. Southwold will be known to wine (and beer) lovers as the home of Adnams, brewers and wine merchants. So I had to pop in. Nice compact range, and helpful chap behind the till. I bought four inexpensive bottles, three of which we opened that evening. First was the Mas des Chimères Oeillade 2000 Vin de Pays des Coteaux du Salagou. Now this wine is worth spending £6.50 on, if only as a primer on what bretty wine tastes like. It’s a striking savoury, cheesy red with pronounced meaty, farmyardy, animally notes dominating the palate. Good acid, but the stinky, savoury character means it needs food. Next up was the Domaine les Terrasses d’Eole 2001 Côtes du Ventoux. For £5.25 you get a midweight, simple-yet-pleasant red showing soft, slightly herby, spicy fruit. Savoury in character. Finally, to Spain, for the Al Muvedre Tinto Joven 2002 Alicante (£4.99). Telmo Rodriguez (who makes Dehesa Gago, among many other wines) has sourced this elegantly packaged wine from old terraced Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) vines in the Alicante region in the south of Spain. It’s quite full flavoured, but sits firmly in the genre of easy quaffer, with clean, vivid juicy black fruits. There’s an attractive spiciness to the finish and after a while a nice herby character emerges, but the best thing is that unlike many cheap Spanish wines the fruit hasn’t been smothered in coconutty American oak.

Then today we had a nice walk along the coast from Thorpeness to Aldeburgh (pictured right). Both are very pleasant, with a nice low key feel to them. They’re less busy than Southwold, and altogether more understated, with a slightly more rough around the edges feel to them. A very enjoyable weekend, even though City lost in the cup to United, a defeat tempered a little by the fact that one of their players got sent off and we scored two goals.

Friday 13th February
Flavour is important. I’ve just had some Papaya. The thing about Papaya (and this is a highly personal opinion; apologies to Papaya freaks and those who make their living from this fruit) is that it looks great, but tastes a bit iffy. It’s soft, a little sweet, and a bit flavourless and soapy. I remember staying at a posh hotel in Mombasa in 1995 when I first really tucked into papaya, and feeling cheated by the gap between how delicious it looks and how dull it tastes. This was the same hotel where we couldn’t afford the imported European wines so we had to opt for the papaya wine. It tasted like piss. Watery piss, but piss nonetheless. You had to drink it well chilled and quickly, before it got a chance to warm up. Those were the days. In contrast, Mango looks delicious and tastes delicious, as long as you can handle the rather slimy texture. One of the many wonderful aspects of a 10 day stay on Boracay Island in the Philippines in March 2000 was the breakfast: you had a choice between fresh mango or a sort of liquidized mango drink. Unfortunately, Mango is one of those fruits that’s only really great when you eat it in situ, where it’s grown. Those were the days, eh, when we could travel without nippers in tow.

I’ve got two wines open. The first is from the Rheingau in Germany: a Leitz Riesling Spätlese from the Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz in the 2002. At the moment the rich, medium sweet fruit is almost totally obscured by the massive dose of acrid sulphur dioxide on the nose. I’ll wait for a day or two to revisit. Let’s face it, with this much sulphur it isn’t going to oxidise fast. At the moment it’s completely undrinkable (£9.99 Oddbins). The second is a delicious ‘terroir’ wine. The 1998 Cabernet from Wynns Coonawarra Estate shouts its origins, with a strong minerally, chalky edge to the ripe blackcurrant fruit. Very expressive stuff with some potential for future development. A terroir wine from Australia.

Tuesday 10th February
Two trips out east today to Corney & Barrow, one of the UK’s top independent merchants. First off, the 2001 releases of Domaine de la Romanée Conti. This Burgundy domaine has a legendary status, and it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that these are the world’s most sought after red wines. Attending this tasting was a bit like going to (a rather high) church: people were talking respectfully in hushed tones, and tasting as reverently as if they'd just taken some communion wine. It’s hard to be completely objective about an iconic domaine like this, but I was enthralled by the six different wines, ranging from the alluring, forward Echezeaux (£97 a bottle all in) to the complex, beguiling Romanée Conti itself (a staggering £804 per bottle). I’m slightly envious of those who can actually afford to drink these wines on a regular basis, because they truly are very special. I bumped into Burgundy Bill and a besuited teenager Neal at the tasting, who were both, like me, early starters. Then in the afternoon I returned out east for a tasting C&B kindly put on for me around the theme of terroir (to help with an article I’m writing for Wine International). For the record, this is the first time a merchant has put on a tasting just for me (I still find the idea quite bizarre), and I am very grateful to Laura Taylor of C&B for selecting some thoughtfully chosen wines. These included some really interesting matched pairs of white Burgundies from Olivier Leflaive, a couple of Priorats from Alvaro Palacios, Alvaro’s wines from Bierzo, a couple of Aussies from Parker Estate in Coonawarra and two Argentinean wines from Archaval Ferrer. The ever chirpy Tim Atkin was in the building for the last dregs of the DRC tasting, and he joined us. I’ll write these wines up in due course when the terroir article is out. Lots of people have written about the geological and climatic aspects of terroir, but very few have had anything to say specifically how these differences translate into wine flavour. This is something that fascinates me, and is one of the goals of this piece.  

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