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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 21st March 2005
It's been a quiet week, wine-wise. Just one tasting of note - a press tasting put on by Asda at the Hellenic centre in Marylebone. Some pretty good wines, too. Regular readers here will know my fascination with the closure debate (remember, I'm strange), and in this context the Asda press tasting was of interest. I had my first encounter with bottles sealed with Sabatť's Diam closure, which is being used by Australian winery Hanging Rock for most of their wines. Initially, I had to do a double take: you don't normally associate Altecs with premium wines. But these specially treated versions are actually pretty good closures. Indeed, the closure debate is much more complex and nuanced than corks bad, screwcaps good. It's more a question of finding the optimum closure for a particular wine type. Then there are issues like oxtrans, flavour scalping and reduction that are also important. Chatting to one of the buyers, I found out that several of the screwcapped wines in this line-up had to be decanted a few times to get rid of reduction aromas [these are caused by the presence of sulphur compounds that develop in a reductive (no oxygen) environment]. Closure choice, folks, is an important winemaking decision. There's lots of misinformation out there, so beware.  

Monday 14th March
Spent the weekend with a couple of other families in the New Forest (pictured). The highlight of the weekend was a three-hour round trip on mountain bikes, made even more interesting by the fact that of the seven kids (all boys, aged 2-9), five of them were propelling themselves on their own bikes. They did really well. When we got back last night it was time for a glass of wine. I cracked open the Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz 2002, which is currently on special at Waitrose (£5.99, from £7.99). I really didn't like it. It's a grotesque caricature of an Australian wine, with everything big, out of proportion, and ultimately rather unpleasant. First we have the dominant feature: the tarry, spicy, slightly bitter American oak. I guess it adds a counterpoint to the sweet, rather jammy fruit - this weighs in at 14.5% alcohol. Then there's the added acid that sticks out on the finish. I don't mind big, but it has to be big and balanced. I know some people may enjoy this wine for its obvious upfront appeal, but I don't think it tastes very nice, and (I'll say rather controversially) this is the sort of style you should grow out of fairly quickly as your palate begins to develop.  

Friday 11th March
I am currently very, very bored with the tedious task of going through each of the banner-bearing pages on this site and changing the code that calls the banners up. But it's a task that has to be done. Just thought I'd share this. Bored, bored, bored. The good news is that I have some new sponsors and I'm currently not far off the maximum number I can carry on the site, even with the present high level of traffic. 

Can't not comment on Keegan's departure, which came as a bit of a shock (sorry, this is football talk. Please feel free to skip this para). King Kev was made for City. We've had plenty of highs, but also many lows; it has never been boring. He came to City, spent £50 m trying to turn us into a top-four club. It didn't work out - I suspect he realizes that over the last five years the complexion of the top flight has changed such that it's been reduced to a money game. The collapse of the old transfer market, shifting the power to the top players and agents, means that the few elite clubs get the very best players - a club outside the top three in the UK doesn't stand much chance of hanging on to their superstars. The net result is that in the UK, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man UTD are untouchable, and the rest of the premiership is a battle for places 4-20. So Kev's going. My everlasting memory of the Keegan years is the remarkable City v Spurs match I went to last season. City, down to 10 men, missing their best player, and losing 3-0 at half time looked dead and buried; they came back to win 4-3. And I was there! 

Last night, tried the first of a six pack of Espor„o's Touriga Nacional 2001, a modern, almost Australian-styled wine from Portugal's Alentejo. Satisfying and rich (if a bit manipulated: extended cold maceration and lots of spicy oak), and very good value at less than a fiver a bottle from Sainsbury's online wine shop. It normally retails for £9.99.

Tuesday 8th March
Notes from a fine wine dinner

Admittedly a little after the event, but I thought I'd share some notes from a fine wine dinner held at my brother-in-law, William Beavington's gaff just before Christmas. He's got into the habit of buying old bottles of wine from rather dodgy vintages from Peter Wylie, and this was the second time I'd tried some of his purchases (after being pleasantly surprised by a 1967 La Lagune on a previous visit). We also had a few more recent wines. Looks like an awful lot of bottles for four people (one of whom, my sister, was not drinking because of pregnancy), but I don't think we finished them all. One of the Margaux was completely shot; the Montrose was drinking very well; the highlight was the 83 Suduiraut.  

Escarpment Pinot Gris Station Bush Vineyard 2002 Martinborough, New Zealand
(Tasted blind) Lovely smooth, slightly minerally nose makes me think this is serious white Burgundy. The palate is quite broad and full with upfront fruit and a minerally edge. Really nicely weighted texture, and great balance. Perhaps a bit full and fruity for white Burgundy, but a serious wine. Very good/excellent 92/100 (Lay & Wheeler)

Ch‚teau Drappier Grande Sendrťe 1998 Champagne
Quite a deep colour. Mellow, slightly toasty nose. Savoury, complex palate with nice taut breadiness and great acidity. Pretty sophisticated. Disgorged July 2004. Very good/excellent 92/100

La Tour Blanche 1998 Sauternes
Soft, fruity and waxy with a delicate nose that is lemony, grapey and perfumed. The palate is rounded with lovely balance. Itís not an obvious wine; quite subtle Ė perhaps light even Ė but nice acidity provides balance. Very good/excellent 91/100

Drouhin Puligny Montrachet Clos de la Garenne 1988
Very deep yellow/gold colour. Very mature, part oxidised nose is nutty, full and a bit volatile. The palate is mature and savoury with good acidity, but it is a bit over the hill. Notes of coffee. Still drinkable with food. Very good+ 85/100

Antorini Castello della Sela Cervaro 2001 Umbria
A blend of Grechetto and Chardonnay. Rich, rounded and nutty with lots of new oak thatís integrated well. Very sophisticated in a rich, Burgundian style. Sophisticated if slightly oaky. Very good/excellent 90/100

Ch‚teau Margaux 1963 (half)
Cork is in good condition. Very mature, oxidised nose. On the palate old wine character dominates. Just about drinkable but certainly over the hill. Poor

Ch‚teau Margaux 1967
Recently recorked by Peter Wylie. Nice forward nose: spicy, slightly herby. The palate has medium weight and is fully mature, but it is quite elegant and still drinking OK. I like it. Rounded and mature with good texture and a herbal edge. Lovely complexity on the nose, but it is a bit off. Itís hard to rate old wines like these. Very good+ 86/100

Ch‚teau Montrose 1972 St Estephe
Quite structured with firm tannins and good acidity. Perhaps too acid. Evolved herby, slightly earthy nose. A nicely balanced, mature claret thatís chewy and structured. Very good+ 88/100

Ch‚teau Gruaud Larose 1997 St Julien
Dark, spicy savoury nose is quite taut. Inviting with some herbiness and a chalky, earthy minerality. The palate is dense and spicy with a nice earthy, spicy richness. Drinking very nicely now, a really good wine from this vintage. Very good/excellent 90/100

Ch‚teau Suduiraut 1983 Sauternes
Wonderfully complex nose: bright, lemony, apricotty with toasty fruit. Perfumed. The palate displays crystalline fruits with a subtle herby edge. Sweet but with wonderful balancing acidity. Quite fresh and youthful even. Lovely concentration and richness. Excellent 95/100

Ch‚teau Suduiraut 1996 Sauternes
Luscious ripe, sweet lemon and tropical fruit on the nose. The palate is viscous, rich and quite sweet. Good balancing acid and some spiciness, together with a bit of caramel. Fantastic balance here. Sweet, viscous, but with good acidity. A super wine. Very good/excellent 93/100

Monday 7th March
Itís March already. A hopeful time of year here in the UK, as the long British winter finally packs its bags and spring is on the way (although winter seems to be keen to hang around this year Ė the pond outside our house was frozen again today). I was out in the garden at the weekend planting raspberry bushes and grape vines. When we bought our house, one of the attractions was the 100+ ft (30 m) garden, which is big for London. The bottom third had, however, become overgrown Ė I think the previous owners had used it as a sort of mini landfill site for their rubbish, and it was about four feet higher than the rest. We got a guy with a digger in, and he separated the gunk into three piles: topsoil, rubble and rubbish. A year later, weíre almost there, having got rid of most of the rubbish and redistributed the bulk of the topsoil. Iím planting vines more for fun than anything else (I donít think a heavy loam over clay is ideal for viticulture), but I expect to get a crop from the raspberries: three different varieties are going in so we get a crop from early summer to autumn. Raspberries are fantastic. I also like strawberries, so Iím putting loads of these in too: they taste wonderful when you pick them ripe. The supermarket versions look lovely but invariably taste disappointing. The grape varieties going in are Pinot Noir, Bacchus and Phoenix, propagated from my allotment vines. Iím not one of these expert gardeners, like the folks on the TV gardening programs (which I find hideously annoying Ė they are always such precise people, Practically Perfect in Every Way); I just enjoy watching the rhythms of nature proceed through the seasons, and I find it relaxing to potter away in the garden for an hour or so. Iím becoming a sad old git, arenít I?

Friday 4th March

Time to take another look of the random assortment of bottles in my tasting corner on the worktop - this time mostly empties. From memory, so apologies for mistakes. (1) Rendez vous du Soleil, an upmarket Languedoc wine purchased from Caves Pyrene after a conversation online with winemaker John Bojanowski. Nice stuff, chunky and earthy. (2) Upmarket Italian red from Meroi, producer in the Colli Orientali (northeast Italy). Fresh, vivid, intense fruit with classy oak in the background. Very stylish. A sample from Cadman Fine Wines (a new retailer). (3) Quinta do Vale D. Maria 2000 from the Douro. Very stylish and elegant; a bit woody on release it has developed nicely. (4) Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine, from Canada. Not tried yet. A gift (retail is £39, so a generous one). (5) Chais Suzanne Corbieres 1999, made by an English couple. Very earthy and spciy; a real food wine. Sample from new retailer Purple wines. (6) Weninger Veratina 2000, a red wine from Austria's Burgenland. Very fresh and bright with deep, dark fruit. A gift from the winery when I visited in October. (7) Vito Arturo, a fantastic Tuscan wine. Read about it here. (8) A really lovely 2003 Claret (Tour de Mirambeau) showing forward ripe fruit with a spicy, tannic tang. My chum Paul brought this to dinner; purchased from Oddbins I believe. (9) Castelnau de Suduiraut 2000. This second wine of Sauternes star Suduiraut has been a revelation. I bought four bottles for 11 Euros each at a French supermarket last August and so far the three I've drunk have been fantastic. This one didn't last long.  

Wednesday 2nd March
Spent the evening reading page proofs of the book, which I will try my hardest not to plug any more, lest you all grow weary with repeated mentions of it. I've reached page 88 this evening, and I must say, on re-reading my impression is that it's fantastic. It's just the book I'd want to read on wine. It is full of fresh insights - many of these areas haven't really been covered before. And it's impeccably balanced. But then, I'm biased. I'm like the proud parent who shows people pictures of their baby: we all know that babies look much alike, and often just a bit ugly with their crinkled, needy visages - but you try telling the proud parent that! 

To aid me in my work, I'm drinking my penultimate bottle of Glenguin's 1998 Orange Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. I bought 18 bottles of this wine - for me a record - and I've enjoyed every one. I first tasted it back in 2000, at the Boutique Winery Centre in the Hunter Valley. [Aside: have you noticed how my tasting notes have changed with the years? Back in 2000, I didn't have too much to say about each wine. Now I say rather too much. Hunter is pictured] Over the last five years it has evolved wonderfully. It's a big bruiser of a wine with massive concentration, dense, spicy fruit and high acidity. There's some oak here (American, too - usually not a good thing) but it meshes very well with the intensely rich, spicy fruit. The high acid is what is keeping this wine fresh and alive, though. I reckon it's got five years ahead of it, at least (it may turn out to be one of those rare, indestructible wines that will drink well for decades). Not subtle, but very appealing, and it's made me happy in my work. 

p.s. the website migrated. I've now got to change the code calling up the advertising banners on some 700-odd pages. Will take some time. 

Tuesday 1st March
Regarding the website migration, Iím still waiting, but Iíve been told it will occur in the next 24Ė72 hours. My job is to keep a beady eye out for when it happens: only then will I be able to reconfigure my cgi scripts (these run the forms and advertising banner rotations, among other things) and get things running smoothly. Iíll have a lot of space to play with, so expect a graphically richer site, and new features such as quizzes (I imagine readers fainting with excitement) and even, perhaps, a bulletin board Ė although I donít want to duplicate any of the several excellent wine boards that already exist. Iíll have to think of a new angle for this one.

The proofs of my book have arrived. Theyíve already been read by an excellent proofreader at Mitchell Beazley, who has come up with an extensive set of queries and comments (so thorough is he that he pissed off another wine writer with too many queries; this writer told me with some relish that he insisted the offending proofreader be lifted from his project). Iíll be busy attending to these queries, and also some comments from anonymous scientific reviewers hired by the University of California Press (who are publishing the book in the USA), but hopefully the book will be the better for all this tweaking.

Tonight I met two of the Languedocís top winegrowers: Thierry Hasard of Domaine de la Marfťe and Pascal Fulla of Mas líEcriture. Can the Languedoc produce wines that are the equal in quality terms to the best of the classic French regions? You bet it can. Their wines arenít cheap, at £20-ish a bottle, but wines of the equivalent quality from Burgundy and Bordeaux are £40+.  

Friday 25th February
Yesterday was a very enjoyable, wine-filled day. The procedings started with a tasting of 50 Great Portuguese Wines (As Selected by Richard Mayson). 20 of these were from the Douro; the other 30 a mix of D„o, Bairrada/Beiras, Estremadura, Ribatejo and Alentejo. It was really good to have a chance to take a look at the sort of quality Portugal is capable of, and Iíll be reporting in full on this later. I have to mention in passing that while Richardís selection was on the whole very good, there were some odd ommissions, particularly considering the inclusion of the rather weird-tasting, plonkish DFJ Alicante Bouschet and a couple of other lesser-performing wines.

Afterwards I wandered over to the Bordeaux Index tasting, nipping in to check out Harvey Nichols wine department on the way (which is very impressive, with some lovely bottles, at prices which arenít too outrageous). Iím impressed by Bordeaux Index; they seem right on the ball. I didnít spend as long here as I wanted because I had to get back to Waterloo, to meet Fiona, who was coming to join me for the Portuguese Wine Awards dinner. This was held at the Ambassadorís residence in Belgrave Square, and I was a nominee for the journalism award, along with Tim Atkin, Matthew Jukes, Charles Metcalfe and Richard Mayson. Somebody remind me next time not to get my hopes up when Tim is one of the nominees (echoes of last Mayís Glenfiddich): the dude is a walking awards magnet. He won an engraved decanter (no cash prize) so I wasnít too upset to be a loser. In fact, I was pleased just to be in such good company. Nice to see David Penny of Handfords pick up the award for independent retailer, and Nick Room of Waitrose the (rather larger) decanter as winner of the award for the national retailer. Both have worked hard with their Portuguese ranges.

Towards the end of the evening, I chatted to David Baverstock, Australian wine maker at Espor„o in the Alentejo. Heís probably better known in popular circles as being the winemaker behind Sir Cliff Richardís Vida Nova wine. Cliff approached David a few years back saying he wanted to make a wine, and that heíd like to have the vines on his property in the Algarve Ė his preference was for ĎAustralian varietiesí. David wisely steered Cliff towards a mix of Shiraz and Aragones (he felt at least one Portuguese variety was a good idea), and for the first few vintages Vida Nova was made at Cortes de Cima in the Alentejo. This didnít work out brilliantly for logistical reasons, and while the first release (2001) was a success, 2002 was disappointing. A purpose-built winery has now been constructed, and David is very happy with the quality of 2004. The success of Vida Nova, where other celebrity wines havenít done so well, probably stems from (a) the loyalty of Cliffís fans and (b) the fact that Cliff has taken the project seriously: through his phenomenally successful musical career the music press has been quite antagonistic; now with the wine project he has a chance to make good wine without the background of press negativity that has accompanied his musical endeavours. It will also keep the connection going with his fans when it comes time to bring down the curtain on his remarkable singing career. Of his involvement with Cliff, David says he gets some good tennis, but no wild parties on yachts (did I correctly spot a brief look of wistful regret?).

Wednesday 23nd February
I've finally finished my New Douro series with a report on the New Douro tasting in London. It's made me realize that no wine writer can these days hope to be an expert on every region: there's just too much to cover. You have to choose where you are going to focus. Those celeb winewriters that aim to be comprehensive only manage too put out their annual wine guides with the help of a skilled team of writers whose work goes un-bylined. 

Talking of Portugal, Fiona and I are going to be dining at the Portuguese embassy on Thursday. It seems I've been nominated for an award for the journalism prize in the Portuguese wine awards. I don't know (a) how many other nominees there are (there could be two dozen!) or (b) if there's a sizeable prize to be had. Still, we should get a decent meal and some nice wine, for which we will be thankful. Perhaps the ambassador will also serve us some Ferrero-Rocher (sp?). 

On the awards front, I also found out that I'd been shortlisted for the winewriting prize for the World Gourmet Food Summit 'Awards of Excellence'. It's always nice to get recognition, although (again) I don't know what the potential prize is. It's an event held in Singapore in April, and the nomination came because of an article of mine in Asia Tatler. I have global reach!  

There may be a brief service interruption over the next few days. I'm migrating. Wineanorak has outgrown its original home. Traffic is high and the amount of material here has accumulated to the point that I kept running out of space. So I've moved to a new hosting account that gives me 600 megabytes of space and 15 megabytes a month of data transfer (currently I'm doing about 10; but this new service allows me to upgrade if I'm getting close to the new limit). Of course, migrating is a bit of a nightmare: it looks like I may have to change all my cgi scripts, or (worse case scenario) change the html of every page carrying a banner advert (and I don't have any tecchie help with this site; you probably noticed!). But the short term pain is justified by the long-term gain, and I'm hoping that most readers won't even notice. If you do spot anything amiss, please let me know. 

Sunday 20th February 

I'm stiff. The good thing about having kids of the male variety is that you run around a lot playing football. We had some friends (with five children of their own, four boys and a girl) for lunch today, and ended up playing nearly two hour's worth of intensely competitive football on the green outside our house. As my team was outnumbered five to three, there was a lot of running to be done; now I suffer. With Sunday lunch, two nice red wines.  


The view from here: one of my workstations

A red 2003 Baumes de Venise from Majestic showed lovely Grenache fruit - earthy and spicy with a grainy sort of structure that'e very appealing. Then another bottle of the Domaine du Cros Marcillac Lo Sang del PaÔs, which is vivid, fresh and has a remarkable nose of rain on sun-baked tarmac - gravelly and bloody. I'm almost always in the mood for this wine. On Friday I met Neal Martin again for lunch. It was Japanese curry. Very satisfying. I'm really impressed with what Neal's doing on his site. His latest coup was to interview Michael Broadbent and get a photograph of the first page of Michael's first tasting note book, which dates back if my memory serves me correctly to 1952. Talking of memory (or notebooks) serving correctly, I have independent confirmation that I didn't misquote Michael (see post from 12 February, below). He may have used the word foisted, rather than forced, though. 

I've been continuing my exploration of Pinotage, the despised variety that I'm enjoying more than I thought I would. The Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage 2004 is fantastic for £4.49 from Tesco, with it's vivid, juicy fruit. The Tukulu 2002 from Oddbins is in a different, more serious - almost Australian style - with lots of spicy, tarry fruit. In fact, I wonder whether this has (a) seen plenty of new American oak, (b) seen some microoxygenation or (c) both. It seems a little prematurely aged, actually, although it's quite enjoyable in this full-on style. I've tried three Oddbins Pinotages (this, the Obikwa and the Oracle), all from giant Distell. They're good wines, if little 'made'. Anyway, if you'd a Tesco store near you, look out for the Forrester - for sheer fun it's hard to beat.  

Thursday 17th February
No one likes a moaner. In the UK we have a phenomenon known as grumpy old men. To be a grumpy old man you donít have to be male and you donít have to be old. You just have to be a bit of a complainer. And the chief object of criticism of grumpy old men is Ďcrap Britainí Ė a term coined to describe the varied negative aspects of our current society. Iíll be honest: thereís a lot to dislike about contemporary life in the UK. To focus on crap Britain and carp on about it is a rather negative pursuit, however. It is far easier to point to what is wrong than it is to come up with suggestions for positive change. I donít really see the point in identifying societyís deficiencies and focusing attention on the bad bits unless you are going to offer some hope for change along with it.

Letís return to wine. Itís quite possible to take a look at the global wine market and come away depressed, with a long list of whatís wrong with it. For example, it could be suggested that modern wines are all made from the same few celebrity grape varieties and they taste worryingly similar. But, as I pointed out in my opening paragraph, no one likes a moaner and no matter how well argued your overview of the depressing state of wine today is, people donít want to read that sort of thing. Iím actually tremendously upbeat about some aspects of wine today. All across the wine map there are emerging dozens of quality-minded pioneers in regions that had only ever produced commodity wines until a couple of decades ago. Look at Portugal; look at Franceís Languedoc, look at the South West of France; look at Spain outside Rioja. There is far more interesting, personality filled wine being made today Ė and this more than offsets the worries about international-style wines, consultant winemakers and the rise of the brands. So my overall tone is positive. Donít be disappointed by the odd 100 point claret that doesnít taste the way you think claret should taste, or feel threatened by the influence of critics who you perceive to be forcing global tastes on people. Focus on all the wonderful wines that are out there Ė on the legion of quality minded producers in wine regions everywhere who werenít around a decade ago, even Ė and enjoy your wine.

Monday 14th February
Surprise! Two inexpensive Pinotages that I like. Generally, Pinotage sucks. Or, should I say more diplomatically, it is a quirky grape that has an unusual flavour profile. Normally, I like quirky, but thereís quirky good and quirky bad. Sadly, most Pinotage falls into the latter category. I quote myself on the subject: ĎPinotage is one of those grape varieties that polarize people. Some people think itís vile, while others are passionate about it and advocate it as the potential unique selling point (USP) of the South African wine industry. Why does it create such strong feelings? Itís because it commonly makes wines with a unique and, to some, rather disturbing flavour profile that is described as a combination of paint, bananas, sour cherries, damsons, plums and pungent animal-like gamey notes.í Continuing in a diplomatic theme, ĎPerhaps what Pinotage does best is to make bright, fruit-forward berry fruited red wines that are fun to drink and where the slightly funky, rustic Pinotage character acts as a point of interest rather than a distraction.í So I donít think Pinotage can make great wine, but it can make good wine. The two wines that Iíve drunk over the last few days with some pleasure are the Beyerskloof Pinotage 2003 and the Swartland Winery Pinotage 2002. The first is brilliantly balanced, with a nice, medium bodied palate and just enough spicy structure to keep things interesting. Itís a delicious, almost Claret-like rendition of Pinotage without too much funk. The latter is a riper, more fruit forward style, with delicious juicy berry and blackcurrant fruit with a savoury twist. Itís very drinkable and a subtle green herbal streak is the only concession to Pinotage funk. Former is £5.99, latter £4.49 from Majestic Ė both well worth a punt at that price.

Saturday 12th February
Last night was spent slobbing in front of the TV, watching an entertaining, well thought out thriller called Cellular. The plot: a kidnapped family are rescued through a random call to a mobile phone (known as cell phone in the US, hence the movie title which doesnít translate well to the UK). The rescuing hero spends a good three quarters of the movie taking this call; I suspect there was just a touch of product placement here. Anyway, I mention it here because it introduces the topic of how modern communication technology has the potential to impact our lives. For one thing, it brings individuals in the media into sometimes uncomfortably close contact with the people they are communicating with. These days, you can say something at a dinner in London on Thursday and find it on a bulletin board being discussed by an international community of wine lovers on Friday morning. You used to just talk to people; now you have to talk with them.

A while back I made the mistake of posting on a wine bulletin board some comments Iíd made in this blog stemming from a quote by one of the giants of the wine world, Michael Broadbent. This started a long thread in which some American participants dismissed Broadbent as a dinasour, among other rather personal comments. Bartholemew Broadbent, his son (who runs an importing business in the USA) recently discovered the bulletin board in question and printed off this thread, some 30 pages in all, and faxed them to his father. Broadbent senior then replied to the thread in person. The first I heard of this was an email from Neal Martin, who was interviewing Broadbent senior for an article on his very worthy site, www.wine-journal.com: apparently this had come up in the conversation. Bill Nanson of Burgundy report fame also picked up on the thread; he was at the same dinner as I where the original remarks by Broadbent were made.

Why mention this here? Well, naturally Broadbent was upset that strangers had been making personal comments about him, and justifiably. But he was also critical of me for quoting him in the first place. Was this fair? If Iím honest, I can see two sides here. Broadbent claims it was a private dinner, and it was discourteous to quote from his short speech. In my defence, I was invited to the dinner as a journalist; there were some 100 people present, including at least one other journo. I therefore expected everything to be said to be on the record. Broadbent is famous; his opinions matter. Journalists will quote him. Itís inevitable. From his side, I can see why it might be deemed discourteous to be put on the record. It was the end of a lengthy dinner and he agreed on the spot to say a few words at the end. It was a generous gesture by him. He probably didnít expect to have journalists present at an £185 a head black tie affair. On reflection, I should have cut him some slack and not picked up on this comment. But Iím a journalist at heart. To pick up on comments As an aside, Iím none to keen on famous, influential figures saying one thing for the public but privately holding quite different opinions.

His second criticism was that heíd been misquoted. Journalists have no way of proving that theyíve quoted 100% accurately unless they have a tape recording. Shrewdly, perhaps, Broadbent then says that I canít be sure he said this unless I have a recording, which he claims would have been made illegally. Either way, heís got me: I misquoted him (I canít prove otherwise, although I believe my notes to be totally verbatim for this sentence: although I canít write everything down verbatim in note taking, sentences I intend to quote I put down word for word), or I prove by a tape I got it right, which then makes me unethical because I smuggled in a prohibited tape recorder, and if I stoop to this then Iím not a trustable source. Actually, there was no ban on recording this event. I take my responsibilities as a wine hack seriously and would never seek to twist a quote or use it in the wrong context to make a bigger story. But looking at it from Broadbentís point of view, I used one statement of his to then begin a discussion, so it could be seen to be out of context. In all, an unfortunate episode, and Iím sorry for my part in starting it. Lesson learned.

Thursday 10th February
Had a wine-rich couple of days. Yesterday evening started off with a
Roussillon tasting hosted by Liz Berry of Grand Cru Wines. The highlight for me was getting to meet Eric Monnť of Clot de LíOum, and tasting his wines again. Heís a smart, approachable chap, and he and his wife are making some very smart, intense red wines from 30 different vineyard parcels. Clot de LíOum has only been going a short while, and to finance his wine habit Eric still works part time at the European Patent Office, which probably explains why his English is so good. Vineyard land can be had in the Roussillon for around £3000 per hectare, and it costs around £15 K to plant a hectare from scratch (or replant; a lot of the vineyards arenít in great shape). Potential for quality is immense. I wish I had more money and more time, because this would then be very tempting.

Then I headed off for an Austrian wine tasting dinner at Mju restaurant in Kinghtsbridge. Five producers were present: Schloss Gobelsburg, Helmut Lang, Polz, Stadt Krems and Umathum. All the wines were superb. The idea was to match the wines to a complicated fusion-y six course menu. Iím not sure this worked too well Ė too many variables to consider. I was sitting at a table with Serena Sutcliffe, David Peppercorn, a young sommelier from the Square (whose name I forget), Nick Room (Waitrose wine buyer), David Moore (co-owner of the two-starred Pied-ŗ-Terre restaurant, currently closed for nine months by a fire) and Michael Moosbrugger of Schloss Gobelsburg (a charming, thoughtful guy who Iíve now met on a number of occasions. Serena was very forthcoming on a number of topics Ė I was very interested to hear her views on recorking (she thinks itís a terrible thing because of the risk of counterfeiting) seeing as I recently did a piece on this for the World of Fine Wine magazine. A very enjoyable evening, but another potentially tricky journey home caused by leaving too late, but I didnít want to miss the TBA Pinot Noir at the end.

Today was the Austrian trade tasting. Austrian wines really are fabulous and Iím planning a series on them, based in the first instance around my recent trip. Today, I restricted myself to some cherry picking, because I was short of time: FX Pichler, Emmerich Knoll, Nikolaihof and Scheiblhofer. All were fantastic in their own way.

Sunday 6th February
Two from Pic St Loup in the Languedoc this weekend. I Ďdiscoveredí this region (of course, it was no secret; just Iíd never heard of it before) on a camping holiday in 1997. I went back in 1998, and then in 2002. Itís a part of the Languedoc that makes some of southern Franceís most expressive red wines, helped by the slightly cooler climate this region experiences. The first wine was Domaine de líHortus Grande Cuvťe 1998. Seven years on this wine is tight, intense and savoury, with pungent olive and herb notes over the rather evolved meaty fruit. Itís a big, bloody food wine, probably at peak or a little past it, and enjoyable drinking. Reminiscent of a souped-up, high end Burgundy with some bottle age. Bought from Caves Pyrene a month ago, itís interesting to note that the back label is from the American importer, Eric Solomon. The next day it was caremelized, port-like and noticeably oxidised. The second wine was one of my favourites from the region: Mas BruguiŤreís La GrenadiŤre 2000. This has meaty, spicy fruit with a distinctive olive-like tang and noticeable earthiness. A dark, intense with that is still drinking well, but perhaps just a little past its peak. Purchased at the domaine in 2002. Most wines from Pic St Loup are good; but avoid 2002, a tricky vintage in these parts, and go for more recent vintages in preference to older ones. Prompted by this note, Iíve just opened a third Pic St Loup. Its Les Desmoiselles de Lavabre 1999 (second wine of this estate) which I bought cheaply in an H&H Bancroft sale. Open red berry fruit nose with a distinctive earthiness. A peppery tang to the fresh fruit palate, but this is nothing more than a slightly dilute earthy peppery table wine. An honest, unpretentious drop, kept lively and fresh by the good acid. I like it, but itís not in the same league as the first two. It will be a nice accompaniment to Match of the Day this evening, where Iíll enjoy seeing City hold high-flying Chelsea to a draw at Stamford Bridge.

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