jamie goode's blog
about wine... mostly

wineanorak home | archive

[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 18th September
Youngest son's 8th birthday was the cause for a weekend spent at Legoland. Of all the theme parks (and I've done a lot of theme parks in the last few years) Legoland is the favourite, chiefly for its nice family atmosphere and inspired sense of imagination. Still, you need to be in your most child-centred, reconstructed noughties dad mode to survive this odd sort of parallel reality. We took the kids on a special deal which included a hotel stay (even though we are in very easy - 20 minutes -driving distance of Legoland) and two days in the park for a very reasonable price. On Saturday we were accompanied by good friends with kids of the same age; they were wise, and didn't join us on Sunday. One of the special attractions was a jousting tournament (pictured). I'm really pleased that our kids, who are worryingly like teenagers in their attitude at times, seemed to get caught up in some of the childhood wonder and innocent enjoyment that they used to show before they grew up too fast and caught their inner-city attitude. I know I sound like an old fart, but these days kids are pressured to grow up too fast; childhood is precious and there's no need to leave behind it in a rush. Where did my lovely little boys go? Soon they won't want a cuddle and they'll not want to play with me all the time. I'll miss it. 

Some other good friends of ours dug out an interesting cutting from The Times in late August. An article on Enologix, it quoted one of my tasting notes (right). But what was most perplexing is that it was credited to Jane MacQuitty (even more strikingly on the web edition). That's unfair; she doesn't write notes like this. I wrote it. Why should she get the credit for it? [In fact, I suspect the intention of the author was to poke fun at it. He likely found it on a trawl through the web (which is where most journalists do their research these days), where this very note has been quoted before in a derisory way.] I stand by the language used here. The strictly analytical tasting note is next to worthless. We need to use more imaginative ways to convey our own private perceptual experiences than lists of fruits and spices. 

Thursday 15th September
Two rather good lunches yesterday and today. On Wednesday it was time for some Krug, with Rťmi himself (pictured) at The Ledbury. We kicked off with a glass of Krug Grande Cuvťe, which was complex, fresh, fruity and showing a distinctive herbal edge. This was followed with three fantastic vintage wines, the 88, 89 and 90. Itís rare (almost unheard of) to have three vintages released in a row. Theyíre all fantastic, and quite different in personality. The 88 is more savoury: itís concentrated and quite acidic with a really solid personality. The 1989 is quite different. Itís sweetly fruited, honeyed and spicy with an amazing perfume. The 1990 is tighter and potentially longer lived Ė a bit like a combination of the 88 and 89 but with another dimension altogether. This will show brilliantly in 20 years. The Ledbury (just north of Notting Hill tube) is a superb restaurant, and on this showing is worth a couple of Michelin stars. If anything, it outshone my experience at Le Gavroche the previous evening.

This morning it was Tescoís press tasting, an important event in the calendar seeing as 20% of off-trade wine sales (in volume) go through this supermarket. That is, one in every five bottles sold in the UK are bought at Tesco. I finished off and headed over to St John, for lunch with leading Australian wine writer Max Allen and his sisterís boyfriend Joe, a chef currently touring round Europe and the USA, with a view to getting experience of some of the worldís best restaurants. Itís my third time at St John, but my first as a paying punter. The lunch was superb: I had cured beef and celeriac followed by saddle of hare. We washed our food down with two brilliant northern RhŰnes. First, a vibrantly fruity Fayolle Crozes Hermitage ĎLes VoussŤresí 2003, showing lovely smooth structure. Then Vincent Paris St Joseph 2003, which was a step up, with lovely crunchy, peppery fruit, primary and vivid, dark and inviting. A delicious fresh, nicely structured wine. Both were just over £30 on the list. St John is a good experience: it isnít cheap, but itís good value, and I like the ambience of the dining room, with its basic, almost stark looks. The professional, unfussy, unpretentious service is also appreciated.  

Wednesday 14th September
It was nice for Food and Wine magazine to vote this as one of Seven Best Wine Blogs. Others have pointed out that technically it isnít a blog because it doesnít have an RSS feed and space for comments. This may change: they are features Iím thinking of implementing, but I want the blog to remain on this server as part of the wineanorak site, so Iíll have to investigate the likes of Moving Type.

Last night was fun. It was a beer and wine matching evening at Le Gavroche, one of London ís top restaurants. Five journos were present: Jancis Robinson MW and hubbie Nick Lander, Tim Atkin MW, Peter McCombie MW and myself. Just before I left a voice in the back of my mind said ĎLe Gavroche: dress codeí, so I phoned up organizer Rupert Ponsonby to check. ĎOh, no, Tim will probably come in shortsí. So I turn up there and at the reception Iím discretely given a jacket to wear. Gentlemen must wear jackets at all times in the restaurant, as Tim found out when he tried to take his off after the first course. So I slip on this jacket only to find out, to my horror, that it has brass buttons. How embarrassing is that? Well, although Iím not keen on dress codes, itís their gaff, so Le Gavroche can make their rules. And they were very good about providing a jacket to the jacketless. What wasnít excusable was the attitude of the snooty French FOH person (not the main guy, though) who I walked past on my way to the table. I was carrying my laptop bag, because this contains my note book and pen. He looks at me: ĎSir, you are travelling?í in a voice barely disguising his disdain for the fact that Iím carrying a bag into his precious restaurant. He then tries to make a joke of it when I explain why. But it was a comment made to make a customer, already slightly embarrassed that heís wearing the rear-admiral-of-the-fleetís jacket, feel small. Anyhow, this aside, the six course meal was very, very good indeed and the evening opened my eyes to the possibility of matching beers with wine, something Iíve not really thought about much before. Besides, eating at the Gavroche is pretty special: it was the first really famous restaurant in London that I ever heard about, and this was my first time there. Next time Iíll wear my own clothes. Iím shortly off to the Ledbury for lunch with Remi Krug, and while I doubt thereís a dress code there, I shall be wearing my jacket. Tomorrow Iím meeting Aussie wine writer Max Allen at St John for lunch. Itís a tough life, but Iíve got the staminaÖjust. I'm still in reality, despite keeping such illustrious company: it's nothing to do with me, rather the fact that I have a national column. Lose that, and I'll quickly be forgotten about, wandering friendless and alone through the tastings and longing for the days when I could turn down two press trips a week.

Thursday 8th September
After spending some time tasting Vintage Ports and Douro table wines from the 2003 vintage, my conclusion is that this is a very good vintage for the region. While the wines are certainly ripe, I donít get too much over-ripeness or jamminess in most. I liked almost everything I tried. The structure seems pretty good in these wines, unlike in Burgundy and the RhŰne in 2003 where the tannins are very tight in an unpleasant, astringent fashion in many red wines. Iíve nothing against structure: red wines need this. Itís just that thereís good structure and bad structure, and the problem I have is with what I can only describe of sharp astringency. Iíve yet to try many 2003 Bordeaux, but Iíll put this right at the forthcoming Union des Grands Crus tasting. That should prove to be interesting.

2004 should also be an excellent vintage in the Douro, in a more classic style than 2003. Iím looking forward to these wines. 2005 is so far looking very difficult. Harvest has just started here after a long drought. Some of the vineyards are suffering such bad water stress that the vines are dying. Yields should be down, perhaps 30%, and potential alcohol should be very high. Some of this high potential alcohol will be because of dehydration, not ripeness. Winemakers may have to reach for their hosepipes. On Tuesday night there was rain; it would have been welcomed earlier Ė coming so close to the harvest it is a little worrying, but providing conditions are dry from now on shouldnít cause any problems with rot. In fact, this rainfall could be valuable because it will stop some of the vines on the brink from keeling over. All in all, itís been a stressful growing season for both vines and growers.

Wednesday 7th September
Dirk Niepoort is in town for the New Douro tasting, so on Tuesday night we have an impromptu dinner at Tendido Cero, the wonderful tapas joint on the old Brompton Road. After last time's excess, we agree to keep the bottle count down. We try to do our wines blind but are thwarted by the fact the staff don't get the concept. Dirk has brought Chave Hermitage 2001. It's a wine I've been lucky to try a couple of times previously (once with Dirk at Alvaro Castro's place in the D„o, May 2004, and once at the famous Grand Cru Wines Languedoc-Rousillon versus the classics tasting). It's a stunning wine, showing complexity, freshness and elegance - as Dirk points out, it's not a wine many will get, but I love it. It's the most Burgundian of Northern RhŰnes. I can't think of many better Syrahs. My effort paled in comparison, but was still surprisingly tasty. It was the 1997 Valbuena from Vega Sicilia. A dodgy vintage, but a wine that is showing a lot of dense fruit and just a tiny hint of American oak. It's a pretty good effort. We finished with a half bottle of Zilliken's Saarburger Rausch Riesling Auslese 1997, which was close to perfect: focused, piercing, precise. A very enjoyable evening.  

Monday 5th September
So it's back to school for the kids, and back to work for wine writers. The new tasting season starts in earnest this week, and for me it kicked off in style with a tasting of icon wines from South Africa, held at WOSA's offices in Wimbledon. A great chance to taste some of the best new wines coming from the Cape, including brilliant whites and reds from both the Foundry (Syrah and Viognier) and Eben Sadie (Columella and Palladius). More to come very soon on this. 

For the next few weeks you could be tasting wine full time if you fancied it (and you were high enough up on the relevant lists to get the invites). This clustering of tasting is a good idea for out-of-towners, but the drawback is that if you do two big tastings a day you end up sampling an enormous amount of wines. And no matter how well trained your palate is, there are physiological limits to how many wines you can assess in a single day or session. The problem is that if you do too many wines too quickly, the exposure to the previous wines alters your perception of subsequent ones. 

I find that as I'm gaining experience, I can do about 90 to 120 wines in a day and write something sensible about them, but I have a sneaking feeling that I perform better if I do fewer. For me, a session with 30 wines, followed by a break, followed by another 30 wines is perfect. It's the gold standard. 100 wines in a day is OK with a sufficiently slow pace; too many more is a frustrating waste of effort, I feel. Experience helps counter physiological limitations, but it doesn't beat them altogether. Red wines do the worst damage to the palate. I suspect that sometimes the way people talk about a wine changing over the course of an evening could equally well be due to the changes to their palate with repeated exposure as it could be to with changes in the wine upon aeration. 

Talking of pace, I think we could learn a few things from cats. We have two of them, and they have a chilled existence. They eat, sleep, go next door to eat a bit more, come back in and sleep, go outside to pace around a bit, come back for more food, sleep a bit, go scavenging and then sleep some more. Pictured are our two feline housemates last night, just after it started raining. They are relaxing on the chaise longue, dreaming of more scrounged dinners and extracurricular strokes. The one at the back is Oswald, who was once Eric Clapton's cat; to the fore is young Shrek, who we got as a kitten a couple of years back.  

Saturday 3rd September
We should celebrate excellent performance in any sphere of human activity. On my doorstep this morning, Corney & Barrow's 05/06 list. It's excellent in so many ways. Firstly, it's beautifully designed and produced. Secondly, Corney & Barrow have a stunning roster of exclusivities. The UK has some really good high-end wine merchants. If I was wealthier, I'd have to live a long time to be bored by shopping at, say, just Corney & Barrow and Berry Bros & Rudd. Mainly the work of associate director Alison Buchanan, this hardback-bound list makes beautiful reading. Particularly interesting is a full-colour glossy section in the middle entitled 'Back Label', which is in essence a small wine magazine authored by C&B staff. The contents list reads like a sawn-off version of my new book (out next month) though, with short features on closures, biodynamics, terroir, yeasts and oak. What a fantastic idea.


Toady has been a good day. We lunched at the Half Moon in Windlesham (we were vaguely sussing the West End/Windlesham area out - it seems a nice place, if quite a bit further out from London), where I had the mellow experience of sitting in the sun and drinking two pints of Timothy Taylor's Landlord. This is a fine ale with a lovely fresh, slightly bitter hoppy character. It's funny: with beer, I feel less of a need to constantly be trying something new. Find a great pint like this, and you can drink it again, again, again. What constitutes excellent performance? It's hard to define. But when you encounter it, you kind of just know. And then you sit back, and appreciate it.

I have now communicated with David Bird, apologizing for not being quite as kind as I could have been about the design of his book. He graciously accepted my apology, and told me that Harpers have asked him to review my book...

Tuedsay 30th August
Just back from a fantastic four days in Geneva. Fionaís brother Cliff lives in a large house (right) in a rather charming village called Commugny, a short distance along the south shore of Lac Leman from the city, and he invited his two sisters, Sandra and Fiona (the one Iím the significant other of) to bring their families to stay over the August bank holiday. Or did we invite ourselves? Iím not sure, but I think we will invite ourselves back again as soon as possible, because we had a brilliant time. 

Thereís lots to do in the Geneva environs for families. On Friday night we had a barbie, accompanied by some very fine wine. Cliff has a dedicated wine cellar in his basement, which is usually quite empty, but heíd made a special effort to fill it with some really nice bottles. I was thrilled. We enjoyed some good Burgundy (Geantet-Pansiot Chambolle-Musigny 2002 and Armand Rousseau Clos de la Roche 2000), and some very nice RhŰne wines (Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard 2001 and Gilles Barge Condrieu La Solaire 2003). On Saturday we began with a boat trip across the lake into town, followed by lunch in a very swanky restaurant. On Sunday it was off to the Jura mountains over the border in France for an alpine barbecue (left); stunning scenery and some very nice wine to wash the steaks down with. Then on Monday, the bravest souls in the party went to Forest Land to climb high in the trees. We followed this with another good lunch and then a swim in the spectacular open air pool at Nyon, overlooking the lake. Cliffís wifeís (Mel) brother and his family joined us for a wild, crazy barbecue last night, and then today we reluctantly had to return to earth with a bump. 

Quite literally, because the landing at London City Airport was decidedly dodgy; the pilot aborted the first landing just after touch down, whacking the power back on and taking off for another circuit, before landing very heavily at second attempt 10 minutes later. Something about the runway being too shortÖ Geneva is of course wine country: I managed a short wander through some vines, which looked in pretty good shape. I also had a chance to drive Cliffís Land Rover Discovery, which is a fine tank of a 4 ◊ 4. Overall, a fund of fine memories from just a few days. People typically complain about their in-laws; I feel rather lucky that mine are such a fine bunch of people with lovely kids to boot. And in case any of my siblings are reading this, be assured that I also feel lucky to have them! 


Fiona at 15 metres (left); Geneva from the lake (above)
Nets protecting ripening Pinot Noir (?) grapes in a vineyard in Commugny

The price of a few days away, however, is an enormous in box and some deadlines to attend to. I also noticed in Harpers that there are three letters protesting about my review of David Bird's new edition of his Understanding wine technology. I stand by the review: I said that the design of this self-published book was hideous but the content was sound. Perhaps I wasn't diplomatic enough in the way I wrote, and I'm sorry that the review upset him and others. But I've made my mind up already: as soon as I started writing about wine seriously I realized that there's sometimes a choice to be made between calling it as you see it and not upsetting people. I'm afraid that I definitely going to upset some people because I can't operate any way other than giving my truly held opinion.

Thursday 25th August
Just finished my piece on synaesthesia for The World of Fine Wine. Itís been fun to write. Synaesthesia is the rare condition where one sense stimulates another. Most often, synaesthetes see a colour when prompted by a grapheme (a number, letter, or word, spoken or written). In one rare case recently described in the journal Nature, a 27 year old musician recognizes musical intervals by specific tastes. What relevance does this have to wine tasting?  In the article I use synaesthesia as a springboard to explore the way we process flavours in the brain and then how we use language to describe our perception of wine. While many people deride wine tasters for their use of figurative language (metaphor, synaesthesia, metonymy, etc.) there simply isnít any other way for us to convey in words many important aspects about wine. If you restrict yourself to a naming of the aromas and flavours present in a sort of analytical way, then youíll be at a loss when it comes to describing many of the important aspects of wine such as structure and texture. I argue that metaphor isnít just a legitimate linguistic tool in wine description, itís an essential one.

Off to Geneva tomorrow with the family for a long weekend. We're going to see Fiona's brother, who's been working there in banking for the last 15 years. Fiona's sister and her family will also be in attendance. There's lots to do in the Geneva environs and we're looking forward to it greatly. We may even enjoy some good Swiss wine. 

Tuesday 23rd August

As regulars here will know, I dabble in growing vines. Viticulture fascinates me. The vine enthralls me. Of the five varieties I've grown, Pinot Noir is my favourite, but is also the most difficult because of its disease susceptibility. I have no idea which clone I have, but it grows pretty well, as long as I remember to spray it frequently with sulphur. My Pinot is currently going through veraison, although some vines are further on than others (see pictures above). Phoenix, a white grape, is the easiest variety I've tried because it's disease resistant and no spraying is needed. These are the two I'm concentrating on, although I do have quite a bit of Bacchus, which ripens comfortably in our rather pinched growing season. 

Had lunch yesterday with Peter Godden of the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), arguably the world's top centre for wine science. Peter is on a three month break, which he's spent in Europe. As well as running the Industry Services operation for the AWRI (disseminating good wine science through the Australian wine industry), Peter also has a small vineyard - one hectare of Nebbiolo vines in the Adelaide Hills, which eats up a lot of his spare time and all his spare money. His goal is to make a super-premium Nebbiolo. No wine has yet been released, and he's been hindered in his efforts by some legal issues with the landowner who he's leased his vines from. But if the wine does see the light of day, I'm sure it will be worth looking out for.   

I'm off to Adelaide, via a sojourn in Singapore, late next month. It's fun planning a trip like this; the difficulty is what to leave out because there is so much to see and so many thoroughly interesting people to meet.

Friday 19th August
Itís that time of year, when every warm day is extra special, because we donít know how many more we are going to get. People think of August as the summer month, but if we consider that the height of summer (in terms of the longest day) is at the end of June, then late August is equivalent to early May, and September to April. So there really isnít much summer left. Enough of the weather rambling. The forecast look set good for Thursday, so we headed off for another day at the beach. It was another cracking, restful day. Arriving home late, there was time for a glass of wine. I opted for the Brown Brothers Moscato 2004, out of curiosity more than anything else. This is a wine that weighs in at just 5.5% alcohol. Itís bright, fresh and perfumed with the zippy acidity offsetting the sweetness perfectly. A sweet, delicate wine. My only misgiving is Iím not sure when Iíd drink it. If you served it as a dessert wine, youíd have to choose carefully what you paired it with Ė it would need to be a fresh, fruit-based dessert. It would work as an aperitif, but people have got out of the habit of serving sweet wines at all, and youíd be brave if you gave this to your guests. Still, it captures in its delicate freshness all the essence of early summer, and as autumn is beginning to approach, itís nice to have a wine that can transport us back to that thrilling time of year.

Tuesday 16th August 
Iím exhausted after two days spent decorating. Yes, we bought the house two years ago, and moved in some 20 months ago, but we still havenít touched one of the reception rooms and our bedroom, and until Monday we hadnít started with the hallway and landings. We have now, and Iím knackered. Itís nice, though, to actually do work that involves more than sitting on my backside in front of a monitor or laptop screen. I would love to spend three days a week working on my wine writing (and the associated tasting and drinking that this involves) and then a couple of days a week doing something physical. But wait a minute, there are seven days a week. Wouldn't it be fantastic to have two days a week off! For me at the moment, no chance.

Talking of physical activity, I lose many calories a day trying to catch our rabbits. We let them out to roam free and happy, but then we have to catch them. Rabbits, being rather dull creatures, donít realize that when their human owners are attempting to round them up, it is to prevent them being devoured by foxes Ė for them, itís a matter of life or death to avoid being caught. They think we want to eat them. Not so. Rabbits are blessed with many strategies for avoiding capture. But we humans are smarter. Much smarter. And in the evolutionary hierarchy, smartness trumps just about everything else. So the rabbits are caught, no doubt relieved to find out that their capture is not followed by demise by consumption, and I can relax.

Relaxing this evening is in the form of three wines (although youíll be glad to hear that all three are not consumed during the course of the evening Ė this would be needlessly excessive. One of the benefits of having a national column is that one is deluged by samples, and part of an eveningís work consists of selecting a few to open and tasteÖ). First, to complement the mild, still summerís evening weíre enjoying here in Feltham, the Cheapskate Skinflint Rosť 2004 from California. This is another wine from Clark Smith, who I mentioned earlier. Itís a saignťe wine from his Cheapskate Miser, and although it (refreshingly) doesnít take itself too seriously, itís a fabulous, brilliantly balanced rosť, with lots of fresh fruit and a gently herby tang. Dangerously easy to drink, like most good rosťs. The second wine is Calatrasiís Terre Di Genestre Nero díAvola 2003. This came back with me from the Sicily trip mentioned below. In the tasting it showed fantastically oaky. In fact, it was close to undrinkable. However, a second bottle opened then showed much better. It was from the same batch. How can a wine be massively overoaked from one bottle, and OK from a second? I donít know. This time, itís not overoaked, although the oak is prominent. Itís definitely a bit oaky, but this tarry, roasted coffee oak is a complement to the ripe fruit in a way that the rather sickly vanilla and coconut oak in the blinded bottle in Sicily wasnít. A rather commercial style, but a good wine; perhaps even better if Tamra can lose some of the new barrels and let the fruit show through. Thirdly, I opened a McGuigan Estate Limestone Coast Shiraz 2004. The dominant feature here is the intense blackcurranty fruit. Itís an impressive forward sort of red with some class, and the oak is very much in the background, contributing a spicy overlay that works well. This is currently on offer in Sainsbury at £3.99, which is a bargain considering that I reckon this is fair-ish value at the list price of £7.99. For £4 it's a bit of a no-brainer. 

Friday 12th August
Spent a near-perfect day yesterday at the seaside, with two other families we're friends with. We set off at 6.30 am, hitting the beach just after 8 (such an early start sounds crazy, but it means we miss the hideous traffic around London from 7.30-9 am). We went to West Wittering, which is a beautiful beach not far from Chichester in West Sussex. It's unspoiled, with no amusement arcades or beachfront tack - the only signs of commercial activity are a small tea shop and cafe. We played beach cricket, fished for crabs and shrimps, sunbathed, ate a large picnic, had afternoon tea, paddled and even swam. In all we spent 10 hours on the beach, and it didn't seem too long. No wine, just a couple of cold beers from the icebox. 

Got home about 9.30 pm, and had a glass of the Cheapskate Miser 2003. It's a low budget Californian red made by Clark Smith's Winesmith wines. Clark is the guy behind California's Vinovation, a company who offer reverse osmosis, microoxygenation and allied services for winemakers. I'll be writing more about the Winesmith wines in the next few weeks because they are hugely interesting, and the two Cheapskate wines I've tried so far have been fantastic - some of the best value wines I've ever tried. As well as budget wines that offer remarkable value, there are some high end wines, including a Faux Chablis and a serious Cabernet that retails for more than $100. Clark sent me a bottle of this high-end Cab along with the same wine vinified by conventional methods. I look forward to comparing them.

Thursday 11th August
Some people claim that wine preferences are entirely subjective, and that there is no such thing as good or bad wine - it's all a question of what we 'like'. We could argue about this for a long time, but let me get practical for a moment. Sutter Home White Zinfandel is a bad wine. A pale salmon pink, it's medium sweet with 9.5% alcohol. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but there is with the taste. To my palate, it has a nasty chemical-like edge. I approached this wine with an open mind, and I don't think it's very nice. We've had some teenagers stay over the last few days - my niece and two of her pals, coming up from Devon to visit the big city. It's been fun having them stay. They're 16, and so I offered them a glass of the Sutter Home vileness, and one - the boy - accepted. He took a glass and filled it brim full (these are big glasses that take the best part of half a bottle, if you brim them which clearly you aren't meant to do). We went to bed and left the teenagers talking until the early hours - teenagers love to talk, they don't do much else, apart from watch big brother  - and the next morning the bottle was empty. So someone out there likes Sutter Home White Zinfandel a good deal.  

Monday 8th August 

Sean Howe, Tamra Washington and Sam Harrop MW, in Sicily

I've been thinking more about what Calatrasi are up to in Sicily, spurred on by the thought that this southern island has an area under vine similar to that of Australia. Yet while we've all drunk loads of Australian wine, we hardly ever drink Sicilian wine. Look at the Sicilian wines in the UK marketplace: a few very ordinary supermarket own-label efforts, and then the likes of Cusumano and Planeta (I'm not terrribly impressed with either, to be honest, and the Planeta wines are very expensive for what they are). Yet the potential is certainly there. The problem seems to be with the competence and attitude of the growers. Watching the European wine industries trying to face the demands of the modern marketplace is a painful experience. It's a bit like a gritty British film, where somewhere oop north a manual industry goes belly-up, leaving emotionally inadequate and mentally challenged men who've grown up with the idea that they'd have a job for life to find a new vocation. Brassed Off meets The Full Monty. The stage most of the European wine industry is currently at seems to be one of denial, thinking that if they just carry on the way they have been things will be alright. Sean Howe was telling me of his trips to Puglia to source grapes. He visits literally hundreds of vineyards to find just a few to buy from. He told me about one fantastic old vine vineyard that would have been perfect, but because the grower won't spray the mildew problem means that come harvest the grapes will be unsaleable. You get the impression that companies such as Calatrasi, who want to make the sorts of wines the markets want, have to fight very hard against the system in order to do it. 

Then, when you've made the wine, you have to sell it. No consumers in the UK know anything about Sicilian wines. Brand Sicily needs to be built: people have to become aware of Sicily, and Sicily needs a coherent, interesting story to tell about its wines. Nero d'Avola and Cataratto could be selling points. The Italian Trade Commission isn't doing much, so I suggested that a group of private wineries - all with the goal of making really good wines - should get together in a joint marketing effort, just as has occurred with the Douro winemakers in Portugal. They could hold a joint press tasting in London, for example. My friends at Calatrasi just hooted. Getting Sicilian producers to work together? It's never going to happen.

Previous entries 

Back to top