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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. ]

Sunday 12th June 2005
A remarkable experience to report: today I flew for the first time. ‘Flew’, that is, in the sense that I was in charge of the controls, moving in three dimensions a long way off the ground. Back in November Fiona bought me a 40 minute microlight flight as a birthday present, and today we trundled down to Popham Air Centre near Winchester (www.flyingschool.tv) for the big experience. I wasn’t terribly nervous – even though the microlight looked rather small and flimsy. Take off was quicker than you’d think, and before long the ground was a long way below. Instructor Steve asked whether I liked fairground rides and then proceeded to demonstrate some rather alarming stunts that first, scared me stiff, and second induced a state of semi-nausea. But after this it was all good fun, and I was given the stick (or whatever the term for the thing that controls the plane) and coached on the art of flying. The key thing about flying seems to be maintaining a sense of orientation, even when you are moving in three dimensions. Particularly with some of the more dramatic manoeuvers, it’s easy to become disorientated. Apart from that, the only other thing that would stop me from doing this more often would be that I’m cursed by a relative susceptibility to motion sickness. After 40 minutes, and an absolutely perfect landing later, I felt pretty fragile. But what an experience.

I’m flying again tomorrow, but on something much bigger, and I won’t be in the cockpit. Off to Portugal, and more specifically the Alentejo. I’m looking forward to another visit to one of my favourite wine-producing countries. I’ll report back in detail, of course, and depending on the level of internet access I have, I’ll try to do some road reports.

Wednesday 8th June
Tonight I’m going to be tackling the final proofs of wine science – just a few corrections, plus some tidying up to do after a completely unnecessary redesign (a long story I won’t bore you with). You must buy this book when it’s finally released. It’s the sort of book I’d like to read: no one else had written it, so I did, but now there’s not much point me reading it, because I wrote it. The dilemma for wine book publishing is this: any book interesting enough for someone like me or you (as a reader of this page, you have an abnormally high interest in wine: congratulations you freak!) isn’t going to sell enough copies to make it an interesting financial proposition for readers. So the market is there for books with broad appeal, only if the appeal is too broad then potential readers might not be interested enough in the topic to shell out their cash. It leads to a very repetitious set of offerings. In today’s current climate, wine book retailers are happy just breaking even on a project! Perhaps the answer is to have books ghost written by lowly paid expert writers, but with a wine celebrity’s name on the cover. Wait a minute, you mean this is already done? Surely not…

To help me with the proofs, I’m going to be dinking a rather special wine that I started last night – it’s the 2003 Vintage Port from Pintas. I tried a cask sample when I visited last May; now it is bottled, and it’s an impressive Port. The hallmark is lots of concentration together with a lot of spicy structure: one for the long haul. This is the first Vintage Port from Pintas, so there’s no track record here yet, but I’d place this up alongside the best from the vintage.

Tuesday 7th June
For the last couple of nights I’ve been working my way slowly through Tim Adams’ Clare Valley Riesling 2004. It’s a really nice wine: crisp, refreshingly tart and with precisely focused lemony fruit. It’s got me thinking. When we drink wine, what we get from the experience depends in large part what we bring to it, in terms of our own inward state, physical tasting apparatus (nose, tongue, soft palate, even eyes) and the way we attend to the tasting process. I can influence what I get out of the wine. With one sip I can get one impression; five minutes later I can get another. If someone tells me a bit about Clare Valley Riesling, this is likely to shape my experience of the wine. It’s a bit like the ‘Where’s Wally’ kids books: faced with a complicated picture with lots of characters in it, you’re supposed to pick out the guy with the red and black stripy jumper. Unless someone told you to look for Wally, however, you’d just be looking at a complicated picture.

This leads on to another point. I’ve been writing a piece for Wine International on closures. Part of this is a discussion of the data from the International Wine Challenge faults clinic. One data point interested me a great deal: the frequency of reduction faults in screwcapped wines. Altogether 800 screwcapped wines were opened, and just one showed reduction. [Reduction refers to sulphur-like odours which have been shown to be a problem occurring with greater frequency in screwcapped wines because of the super-tight seal – there’s an article in last month’s Wine International on this which can be found at www.wineint.com.] What’s happening here? Has the problem of screwcap reduction been exaggerated? Possibly. It’s also possible that the tasters simply didn’t spot the reduced wines, in part because they haven’t been trained to look for reduction (in much the same way that corked wines are often happily consumed at dinner parties), in part because even under blind conditions it is possible to spot a screwcapped bottle because if the thread, and we all know that screwcapped bottles are taint free. Another interesting statistic is that 2.9% of the wines sealed with synthetic corks showed musty taint (described in the data from the faults clinic as TCA). But that’s another story.

Friday 3rd June
Some big news. I'm delighted to have landed the job of wine writer for the Sunday Express. The wine column is a full page in S Magazine, and consists of five recommended wines, usually arranged around the food theme of Anthony Worral-Thompson's column, plus an answer to a reader's question each week. [I'm sure wineanorak readers could come up with some amusing or interesting (yet relevant) readers' questions!] My first column will be on July 10th. So here you have the mild-mannered Jamie Goode, by day a bit of a technical wine science guy, in the early evening a full-on wine nut with an interest in eclectic, artisanal and fine wines, and then by night a popular wine journalist who tries to enthuse the masses about this wonderful, life-enhancing liquid. That's a lot of hats to be wearing, for sure. It's tremendous fun, but I'm under no illusions: I'm still learning about wine. Still a learner. Mustn't forget.

As I write, I'm sipping a modest yet enjoyable bottle. It's one of a six-pack of the Domaine de Lavabre Coteaux du Languedoc 2000, which I purchased on the cheap a couple of years back, and have been negligent in attending to. This is a wine that has evolved very nicely. It's robust and chunky, with peppery, earthy, spicy fruit. Quite tannic, and not too fruity. It won't win medals, but it does the job. If this was a football, golf or tennis player, it would be described (rather unfairly) as a journeyman. Sometimes that's all you want from a wine. 

Monday 30th May 
Two 2003 reds to mention from a gorgeous bank holiday weekend, much of it spent in the garden. We're currently looking after two guinea pigs for friends, and together with our two rabbits and two cats, our garden is beginning to look like a holding pen for Noah's ark. The cats are fascinated by the guinea pigs; while they are generally a bit cautious of the rabbits, they see the guinea pigs as their best ever dinner, and spend hours staring into the cage, first having assumed a stalking posture. 

The reds in question stem from Napa's Carneros and France's Southern Rhône. One I liked a lot, the other just a bit. We begin with Sainstbury's Garnet Pinot Noir 2003 (from Carneros in California). It's Sainstbury's entry level Pinot, but I like it possible more than their higher-end wines, which are lovely also, but perhaps not quite as fresh and delicate. It's almost Burgundian (in a ripe, full-on, modern Burgundian sense) with lovely balance between the ripe fruit and the subtly green, slightly undergrowthy spicy structure. This is the wine to drink while watching Sideways (even though it isn't from the region Jack and Miles tour in the film); it's the wine to give someone new to wine to hook them onto Pinot Noir. £10.99 from Majestic. 

The second wine is the Perrin's Mule Blanche Cairanne 2003, a Côtes du Rhône Villages. This for me shows once again that 2003 wasn't a fantastic vintage in the Southern Rhône. Good, but not great. You get the full-on, ripe fruit blast, which is very alluring. But then on the peppery spicy palate the tannins just close in on your mouth with a vice-like grip and never let go. There's something fundamentally amiss in the balance of this wine; I like it, but it isn't top-notch. This is another Majestic purchase, at around £8 if I remember correctly. 

Managed to spend a short while at the allotment, tending the vines - these have recovered quite well from the frost damage, with just a couple of casualties. Now the snails are tucking in, but there's enough green growth to mean that their damage won't be too problematic. In a rather unresearched and rudimentary attempt at IPM (integrated pest management), I'm leaving the borders of the patch a little while to encourage the presence of beneficials. Knowing my luck, they'll just act as refuge areas for pests. 

Thursday 26th May
Two contrasting new world reds to consider. First, Michel Rolland's impressive Clos de los Siete 2003 from Argentina's Mendoza. My note reads as follows: 

Clos de los Siete 2003 Mendoza, Argentina
From seven vineyards in the foothills of the Andes, this is an ambitious red wine; the project is managed by Michel Rolland. It’s a striking wine. Very dark colour. Intoxicating sweet nose of liqueur-like blackcurrants and red fruits. Very pure and sweet with a spicy edge: quite like a young vintage port. The palate is sweet with a rounded, roasted character and a spicy edge. It finishes dry with a spicy edge and some drying effect from the alcohol. This is a delicious forward wine for current consumption, but the combination of a firm, spicy, rather drying tannic structure and some alcoholic heat on the finish suggests this is not one for cellaring. This aside, there's no denying that this is a very seductive wine with wonderful purity to the fruit. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£10.99 Majestic, £8.99 if you buy two) 

Then, in striking contrast, last night I opened Alan Limmer's Stonecroft Syrah 2002, from New Zealand's Hawkes Bay. Rather than open, expansive, sweet lush fruit, this is much more European in profile, with structure and in particular high acidity keeping the concentrated red and black fruits in shape. There's some ripeness to the fruit, but it doesn't have the sweet, almost jammy profile of the los Siete. It's a wine to sip and reflect with, not one that reveals itself immediately. I guess many would call the los Siete 'sexy', but that's because it's appeal is immediate - it's scantily clad and in-yer-face. But perhaps I actually find the slightly reticent, part-hidden appeal of the Stonecroft more sexy, in a way. Stretching the analogy perhaps a little too far, It's the difference between a relationship and a one-night stand. (The Stonecroft is £14.99 from Oddbins and worth it.) 

Earlier in the evening I stopped by the Rhône 2003 tasting at fine wine merchants Charles Taylor. My impressions from this sampling is that it's not a great vintage in either the Southern or Northern Rhône. I found the same characteristics in many of the wines I've had from across France in this heat affected vintage: very sweet, almost jammy red fruits on the nose, which are initially quite alluring. But then on the palate, there's a disconnect with the almost severe tannic structure. At the moment, the sweet fruit masks the tannins to a degree, and there will be many immensely appealing wines made for current drinking. But at the higher end, you could end up cellaring wines which five years down the road, when the fruit recedes a bit, will be horridly out of balance. This is a generalization, of course, but I've noticed it in wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy (especially), and the Southern and Northern Rhône. My policy is that 2003 is a vintage where I'm concentrating on delicious inexpensive wines: I'm giving the big guns a miss. Also had a chance to retaste the 2003 Vintage Ports from the Fladgate and Symington groups. Taylor's was showing better than when I tasted it a couple of weeks back, but the others showed similarly.

Monday 23rd May

Time for another tasting counter review - recent bottles drunk, and one yet to pop. (1) Ch Montus 1998 Madiran is one of those sturdy, tannic wines that is probably nevery going to age into mellowness. Instead, you have to enjoy it for what it is: big, muscular, savoury and raw. I like this southwestern style a lot. (2) The Millenium Dolc 2002 Terras Alta, Spain is Xavier Clua's remarkable sweet Grenache made from grapes harvested in November. Masses of ripe, sweet fruit - possibly profound. A special wine. (Cadman Fine Wines) (3) Jacobs Creek Shiraz Grenache 2004 - not bad for a cheap branded wine with nice fruit purity. I quite enjoyed it. This was less than £3.50 in a supermarket promotion. (4) La Vigne Mythique 1999 is a sort of international styled Gaillac. It's got that lovely Gaillac rawness of bloody, earthy red fruits, but this is tamed by some oak influence. Nice, but I think it's probably better fresher and rawer. Purchased from Les Caves de Pyrene. (5) Fattoria La Fonti Chianti Classico Riserva, not opened yet. (6) Domenic Torzi's Frost Dodger Shiraz 2003, which you can read about here. Available from The Cellar Door and Bordeaux Index. (7) Righetti's Capitel de' Roari Amarone 2000 is a very traditional styled savoury, herby, earthy Amarone, with some refinement, too. Thought provoking, but just fails to excite me, alas. From Bat & Bottle. (8) Sticking with Italy, Macaulan's Dindarello 2004 is a more-ish Muscat-based sweet wine with nice fruity freshness. Very clean and fresh. Just a shade under £8 from Oddbins. (9) The empty bottle of 1963 Niepoort Vintage Port that I brought back from the recent dinner (see below). (10) 1999 Quinta do Vale D. Maria Vintage Port started out a little light, but after a few hours it put on weight and emerged as a satisfyingly rich, spicy wine with good balance. The second of a six-pack that I got cheap in a Bibendum sale. I'll carry on drinking these over the next few years, I suspect. Didn't bother to decant; there wasn't too much crud at the bottom. (11) Alain Graillot's 2001 Crozes Hermitage is drinking well now; it's shed its early fruit and is very savoury and pleasingly tart. (12) The newly-bottled (as yet unlabelled) Frost Dodger Riesling 2005 from Domenic Torzi. Made from Eden Valley fruit, fermented with wild yeasts. It's tight and youthful, but bursting with some mineralic complexity and I suspect there's a bright future ahead for this intense wine. (13) M&S Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2003 - a very satisfying, ripe, inexpensive red Burgundy. Lots of interest here, and a bargain at the offer price of £5.59.  

Friday 20th May
Friday night and I'm feeling very weary. I'm tired to my bones. Don't know why. Reasonably early nights on Wednesday and Thursday, coupled with moderate consumption of wine, should have left me with some residual energy despite the crazy start to the week. Tonight I'll resume the bottle of 95 Fortia Chateauneuf du Pape, which was a bit evolved and not as impressive as the last time I tried it. It's a funny business, drinking wine. All that variety, but sometimes it's hard to find just the wine to match your mood. 

It's been a lousy few weeks for my grapevines. I have about 50 on the allotment, 20 in the back garden. The ones on the allotment are always a bit behind the garden ones, because they are more exposed. But a few weeks back the new growth got badly frost-burned, twice. I think some of the younger ones might die. A shame, but I'm thinking of replacing many of the whites with some more Pinot Noir. I like the idea of making red wines; whites are great, but they need more sophisticated winemaking technology than I possess (or am likely to possess), unless I go for something totally artisanal, perhaps involving some extended maceration. With reds, you get to play a bit more. It'll be a job getting ripe phenolics to play with, but it's worth a try. There's no point in making OK wine - you can buy this cheaply at your local supermarket. You have to make something with personality if you are going to do it yourself.  

Wednesday 18th May
I feel fresher than I have any right to today after last night’s Niepoort dinner at St John. I got home via the last tube and a bus ride at 2 am, clutching an empty bottle of Niepoort 1963 Vintage Port (it’s sad, but I have small collection of interesting empty bottles in my study) – I can only guess the assumptions my fellow travellers must have made.

I’m going to write up last night’s proceedings in full in the next week or so, but for now I’ll just tease you with a brief sketch of the wines. We kicked off with a brilliantly complex white port from 1917, which was bottled in 1927. Bizarre but wonderful. Next up the 2001 Niepoort Rosé, which was showing very well, and new white wine Tiara (fresh, crisp, quite minerally – a Riesling with no Riesling in it). An abrupt jump to the 2003 Redoma Branco Reserva followed: this is delicious in a rich style with some classy oak, but still expressive. Three reds all showed quite well: the 2002 Charme, 2003 Batuta (cask sample) and the 2001 Redoma. The latter is a fantastic wine: a bit wild, with lots of tannin and acid and currently very savoury and tight. What a wine: this, for me, is an archetypal Douro red.

Then the Ports: 1963 Colheita and 1963 Vintage. Both fantastic and rather different wines, drinking perfectly now, and the vintage Port still with some life ahead of it. Then the 2003s: the Niepoort Vintage (stunning, structured) and Secundum.  To eat, a rather good pigeon and pigs trotter pie, which was complemented brilliantly by the Redoma 01 and the Charme 02 – both very different styles – you wouldn’t think they were from the same region. Tonight, a quiet night in beckons invitingly. (Pictured is Dirk in full flow, flanked by Jancis Robinson [near] and Sara Jane Evans.)

Tuesday 17th May
Feeling a touch sluggish today after a late night. Yesterday evening Dirk Niepoort and I shared some wines at Tendido Cero – my favourite London tapas joint, which happily allows diners to bring their own wines. I supplied three wines, a half bottle of Trimbach’s CFE 1999, and two sturdy reds: Lafran Veyrolles Bandol Cuvée Longue Garde 1999, and Sam Harrop/Tom Lubbe’s Matassa 2002 from the Roussillon. I had the reds decanted and served them blind, but alas, the Matassa was horridly corked. Dirk provided a lovely mature Burgundy – a 1986 Armand Rousseau (alas, I can’t remember which one) and a half of Domaine Drouhin’s 2000 Pinot Noir. Great food, plenty of good wine and a chance to pick the brains of one of the planet’s most interesting producers, who’s a wine geek to boot – a very pleasant evening.   

Earlier in the day I lunched with another interesting person, this time a Norwegian professor of philosophy whose specialist field is aesthetics. He’s currently writing a book about the philosophy of wine appreciation in collaboration with one of his colleagues.

I must fortify myself, though, for another late night. It’s the official annual Dirk Niepoort dinner tonight, for which we return to St John, currently a highly trendy eaterie which I visited for the first time last month. I’m looking forward to trying 2003 Niepoort Ports, among other things. I’m sure there will be plenty of interesting wines. Perhaps even a Douro Riesling?

Monday 16th May
It's strange how places or events sometimes cluster. For me, this weekend centred on Teddington. We went to The Park, a restaurant there, to celebrate Fiona's birthday on Saturday. Lovely ambience - informal, modern and quite sytlish. The food was pretty poor, though. My red mullet was a bit muddy, served on a bed of over-flavoured basil-infused mash and surrounded by a ring of what tasted suspiciously like Campbell's cream of tomato soup. Fiona's seared scallops were wrapped in salty bacon that completely overwhelmed them. Still, the Ropiteau Chablis we ordered was very tasty and fairly well priced at £16. I think this is the sort of place where you order the steak frites. Back to Teddington yesterday for a nice afternoon in Bushey Park, followed by a trip to Teddington Memorial Hospital with a suspected fractured wrist (I'd done the injury earlier in the day, but it kept getting worse, and Teddington has a walk-in NHS service that's loads quicker than our nearest A&E). Their X-ray machine wasn't working, so I was told to go back this morning. Only I didn't, because it's feeling a bit better, and they've given me a really good splint-like device that keeps the wrist from moving. I'll go back if it doesn't clear up soon. 

The key thing is that I got home in time for Match of the day. Football talk. So, the last day of the premiership season yesterday. An eventful one, with four teams fighting to avoid filling the three relegation berths, and City with a chance to go into the UEFA cup next season if they finished seventh. To do this they had to beat Middlesborough. It's 1-1 and the game is in injury time. City win a penalty. All Robbie Fowler has to do is to score from 12 yards and we're there. He doesn't. Groan. Still, 8th is a very good position, and things are looking good for next season. It's a good time to be a blue. 

Pain killing: a bottle of Bourgogne Rouge 2003 from Marks & Spencer (on offer at £5.83). Very ripe and appealing with a spicy tannic bite on the finish (this is something I'm finding on many 03s from various French regions). A really good cheap Burgundy.  

Wednesday 11th May
Went to a really interesting tasting at the Travellers Club on Pall Mall. It was an extensive vertical tasting of the wines of Sonoma producer Joseph Swan, one of the pioneers of grown-up Zinfandel in the 1970s. It was hosted by Richards Walford, the UK agents. In attendance was proprietor Ron Berglund, son-in-law of Swan who established the winery back in the 1960s. [The Travellers Club is pretty traditional, so we gents had to wear a jacket and tie, which added to the sense of occasion.] Now I was previously unfamiliar with Joseph Swan, but I'm glad I made the acquaintance. These are not true-to-type for Californian, if what you are expecting is lots of ripe fruit, plenty of oak and relatively low acid. Instead, they are almost all pretty serious, restrained wines that age brilliantly. We tasted four Chardonnays from four decades back to 1977 and all were showing really well. A flight of Estate Cabernet Sauvignons went back to the early 70s almost all displaying wonderful development and balance. A short flight of Pinot Noir was really impressive, but perhaps the eye opener for me was the large flight of Zinfandels back to the 1960s. They weren't all great, but most of them were! The balance, structure and acidity of these wines was really refreshing. They're wines not made to be showy or overtly fruity when young, but they have the stuffing to age really well. Serious Zinfandel? Whatever next! 

Sunday 8th May
I've been suffering for the last couple of days. But then it's all my own fault. On Friday I played cricket for the Wine Trade XI against a club side from Coggeshall in Essex. The Wine Trade team is a mixed bag. Some very good players, some less so. Some regular players, some occasional. I'm in the latter category both times. Anyway, I enjoy playing in this fixture each year, so much so that I wanted to play even though I have a hamstring problem. It had got a lot better so I sort of kidded myself I'd be OK. I get given the second over to bowl, and run in off the usual run up. Only, I didn't really run, more sort of hobble. I didn't disgrace myself though - and for me, the most realistic goal is not to disgrace myself - bowling five overs and conceding 20 runs. They scored 300 for about four wickets (a couple of which were likely thrown when their batsmen reached half centuries, the sort of thing no one wants in a game), and so we thought we'd be on the way to a hiding. Instead, our batting was pretty good, and we ended up losing by just 40 runs. If we'd had more able fielding (about four of our team, including myself, couldn't run for various reasons, including being crocked, being out of condition, and being very old), and our bowlers hadn't sent down about two dozen full tosses, then it would have been another story. I won't mention my appalling batting performance. It wasn't helped by three or four fortifying glasses of red wine at lunch - a feature of these matches is that each wine trade person contributes a couple of bottles of wine as well as their match fee, which both teams eagerly glug down. David Williams, Harpers' deputy editor, gets my vote for our most entertaining player. He was wearing a very stylish set of whites (white jeans, a T-shirt and a zip top) together with a crowning glory - a navy blue flat cap made out of some sort of fleece material. David's contribution with the ball started badly, but he ended up putting in a creditable spell, including a wicket. His vinous contribution was the most remarkable, though: a bottle of Krug. Fantastically generous, but it would have been wasted on such an occasion, so he got to take it home with him. I didn't take notes on the wines drunk, but I sampled a beefy if viciously overoaked Concannon Syrah (Central Coast, California), a lovely Tagus Creek Trincadeira/Syrah from Portugal (a real bargain at a fiver from Majestic), a pleasant Cork Grove Castelão Merlot from Casa Cadaval in the Ribatejo (Portugal; both these Portuguese wines coming from Nick Oakley, who organized the game and who, at 47, was still the best of our bowlers by some distance with his brisk medium pace), and a light fresh M&S Macon Villages 2003. Anyway, now I'm really crocked and can hardly walk. All my own fault.

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