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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. ]

Saturday 5th November
Took my two lads into town today. We walked from Waterloo to London Bridge along the south bank, and then spend an enjoyable couple of hours on HMS Belfast. I find it amazing that 970 men lived, worked and played (if they got the chance) on this ship. It must have been a terrifying experience entering combat stuck doing a job below deck or in one of the gun turrets, not being able to see what is happening. I'd be horribly seasick, anyway, so I wouldn't be much use plotting a course, or decoding morse signals, or cooking in the galley. Didn't see any sign of a wine cellar (there must have been one - this is a ship designed to take an Admiral), but there was a mock-up of the stores people dispensing the daily rum ration for each sailor. So as a tribute to the brave and hardy folk who sailed on the Belfast, I'm drinking a tot of Cuban rum, the wonderfully smooth Havana Club 7 Años (£15.99 Oddbins). It's sweet and spicy, but the key here is the smoothness. From London Brigde we went to Canary Wharf (I wanted to show the boys the Docklands - a really interesting part of London), where we had lunch at Pizza Express (accompanied by a very nic, but rather expensive, glass of unnamed Montepulciano - spicy and tannic with enough fruit to carry the substantial structure). 

On the way home by remarkable coincidence we bumped into fellow wine writer (and senior colleague) Stephen Brook, in the carriage of a Jubilee Line train. The boys were getting a bit restless by this stage, so I reckon Stephen and his wife were probably thinking that here was a Dad who couldn't control his kids. Which is true, sometimes! The firework display we attended in Lightwater, Surrey this evening also had a nautical theme. To mark the 200th anniversary of Nelson's triumph at Trafalgar the bonfire was a huge mock galleon, painted in Victory-style yellow and black. In comic fashion, proceedings started by the firing of fireworks from the portholes - you should have seen the volunteers, who were standing broadside, shift when the firing started - only a couple were hit, from what I could see. Then a fake cannon fired a firework back at the galleon, which promptly burst into flames. 

As well as the rum, tonight I'm finishing off a wonderful bottle of Muga Rioja Reserva 2001. I'm generally not a huge fan of traditional Rioja because of the coconutty American oak. This Muga, however, shows absolutely impeccable balance. It is showing spice, undergrowth, fruit, herbs, tar, leather and lots of refreshing acidity. Complex, savoury and intense. One of those rare wines that seems to be at peak. Has the appeal of a really good old Bordeaux. Available from the Co-op for £9.99.   

Wednesday 2nd November
Timing is everything. I blog on Champagne, and the next day get the latest three Vintage releases from Pol Roger. So tonight I'm sipping Pol Roger 1998. It's a very impressive wine: currently tight and savoury, but with great presence and depth. A step up from the Perrier Jouët 1998 we had last night, and one for the future, I feel. It's quite hard to write good tasting notes for Champagne. It's not the array of name-able flavours that makes a fizz great. It's the overall impression, and less is sometimes more. 

Tuesday 1st November
I’m really getting into Champagne at the moment. Champagne is something I’ve never really done much of before, and I was slightly distrustful of people who claimed to be hooked on it – at the back of my mind lurked a suspicion that adding bubbles was just a way of disguising lean, acidic still wines. And then there was all the marketing, and the fact that it’s brand driven, and the protectionist stance of the Champenois.

What changed? My fizz epiphany was multifaceted, but had a lot to do with Krug. In September 2004 I was in Singapore having a wine dinner, and one of the guys brought a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée. It was fantastic – rich but fresh. Complex but not heavy. Fast forward to this summer, and a lunch with Remi Krug at The Ledbury, tasting the 1988, 1989 and 1990 vintages of Krug. Utterly stunning wines, and each quite different. The 1989, so perfumed and alluring; the 1988, more savoury and tight; the 1990, a sort of fusion of the two but somehow even better. A month later came the aborted trip to Reims on the Roederer private jet, which morphed into another lunch at The Ledbury, accompanied by a magnum of 1983 Cristal. I had to admit, by this stage, that there was something to fizz.

Since then I’ve been drinking all manner of fizz, ranging from cheap Cava to Aussie sparklers to serious Champagne. Some nights we’ll be opening three or four bottles to compare (although, I hasten to add, we don’t consume them all). I’m beginning to develop a palate for what is good, what is ordinary, what is dodgy and what is great. It’s an interesting process – a bubbly journey of discovery. And it’s great fun. Expect to see more fizz coverage on this site in the near future.   

Sunday 30th October
Relaxing on a Sunday evening with two very good, affordable wines. It's easy for expensive wine to be good - I think wine writers are serving their public best when they steer them towards tasty wines that are also affordable. First, Matahiwi Estate's 2004 Pinot Noir from New Zealand's Wairarapa region (also known as Martinborough). It shows wonderfully perfumed cherry and red berry fruit with a spicy, herby streak. On the palate the fruit sweetness is brilliantly countered by a savoury, spicy, almost undergrowthy character and good acidity. The result is a wine in harmony with itself (£8.99 Oddbins). The second wine is Orlando's Jacob's Creek Reserve Riesling 2003. This is a wine with impact, with almost overpowering pungent limey, spicy fruit. It's brilliantly savoury and fresh, and effortlessly food compatible. Just the sort of wine for fusion cuisine, with spicy and sweet elements in the mix (this should be around £8 retail). The Pinot Noir opens with time in the glass to reveal more earthy, spicy, almost meaty characters. Definitely a wine to drink in its youth, and will go with a wide range of foods, from salmon to partridge (I say this tongue in cheek - I've only once ever knowingly eaten partridge, although it was quite nice and I was fortunate not to have broken my teeth on the shot).

Saturday 29th October
Majestic's latest brochure/price list popped through the postbox today. I was surprised to find a rather familiar photograph on page 10. It isn't from the Loire at all, but from the Languedoc. I know, because it's one of my pictures - it forms half of the background image on the front page of wineanorak. Majestic originally used (and paid for) two Languedoc images from me back in 2002 (they were sent this one but I don't think they used it then). It must have hung around at the agency since then. However, I hasten to add that Majestic are one of my favourite wine retailers: I think they have a fantastic range, and this is one of the best places to buy inexpensive and mid-priced wines. Everyone is allowed the occasional mistake. 

Tuesday 25th October
Just a quickie. Last night was a fun Ribero del Duero tasting and dinner organized by Harold Heckle for the Circle of Wine Writers. We tried 18 wines altogether, which Harold had selected. Overall a bit of a mixed bunch. My two favourites were the 2001 Aalto PS (rich, concentrated, structured - almost a complete wine) and the 1996 Vega Sicilia Unico (bit simple on the nose, but amazing on the palate). Dinner was good but the attempt to match burly Ribero del Duero reds with a tomato sorbet and then turbot didn't exactly work... I was on a nice table with Tim Atkin, Kate Harborne (PR for H&H Bancroft) and Tina Gellie (acting editor for Wine International). 

Wednesday 19th October
It's October, which means it's time to start thinking about Christmas. Not. But my 8 year old son compiled the following list this evening after lights out. This is a letter for letter transcript. I present this to you as a source of great amusement (it cracked me up, particularly the blatant lie added to number five, which shows that he has written this for Santa's attention, not ours), but also as a piece of social history showing the predelictions and motivations of the average 8 year old in 2005.  

Dear Santer for cristmas can I hav!

1. a ipodminiy
2. muny £20
3. lots of toys
4. a cd player
5. a miny moped ps my mum and dad dont cer if I get one
6. a game boy sp
7. a digitil camrer
8. a bag of sweets
9. a water gun
10. a flip phon
11. a drum cit
12. a cool hat
13. a electric scooter
14. a toy gun
15. spy cids 3
16. a new bice
17. a pistil
18. a alectric gitar
19. a mocontrol car
20. a brown arow
21. ax boxes
22. shot out cards
23. a toy tedy
24. a alectric car you sitin
25. a tv
26. a ps327
27. medelof oner frunt line
28. 007 ps2 game
29. a new wotch
30. a efix
31. a new CD
32. lego stuf

Oh, wine. Tonight, I'm drinking the first of my case of Kym Teusner's 2003 Albert, which was purchased from Bordeaux Index (when I checked this afternoon they still have a case left). Kym's wines are serious expressions of the Barossa. This was one of my rare case purchases, the other in recent months being the 2000 Gros' Noré Bandol that Grand Cru Wines were selling for an irresistible price. 

Tuesday 18th October
Wanna see my tasting queue? Used to be relatively manageable; now it's just a little out of control (right). Since I took over the Sunday Express job everyone has been sending me wine. I used to get sent a reasonable number of samples (this website gets a lot of readers and has a high google rating, making it a good place to be written up), but people take print publications more seriously than websites, and go barmy over national newspaper columns. I'm very conscientious with samples. If people are taking the trouble and expense of sending wines, I'll review them properly. So many evenings I'm opening multiple bottles and tasting them together in a setting that is far closer to the drinking experience of readers than the press tasting. It's relaxed, more controlled, and more thorough. In the last week I've been drinking a lot of Champagne and sparkling wine for a column on ten top fizz. It seems a bit decadent opening half a dozen bottles of fizz at a time! Tonight's samples number just two. A Palandri Riesling from Western Australia is fresh, bracing and limey with good concentration and a dry, savoury character. Now I'm drinking a red Burgundy - the Louis Latour Beaune 1er Cru Vignes Franches 2000, from a Riedel Vinum Burgundy glass (which itself is another sample). It's a really appealing wine: quite pale in colour but with lovely smooth, soft, sweet elegant red fruits and a twist from the earthy, spicy, almost undergrowthy complexity. It's delicious: not Champion's league, but certainly mid table Premiership.

There's another benefit to having a national column: you can travel where you like in the world of wine for free. Not that I use this privilege much: I'm having to turn down press trips on a weekly basis, and two of my trips this year are off my own back. My problem is the time I have available, which is limited by substantial family commitments. I also get offered jollys that are non-wine related (for the benefit of PRs reading this, I'm mad keen on football [Man City especially, but I have a wider appreciation of the beautiful game], cricket, golf - and anything that involves my family is almost certain to be met with a positive response). Underlying all this is my passion for interesting wine, in the pursuit of which I am prepared to endure tough travelling conditions, lack of sleep, poor hotels and gruelling schedules. I'd almost always rather visit another couple of producers than spend a lazy afternoon by the pool. I'm mad. This is evidenced by the fact that one of my favourite pastimes is spending lazy afternoons by the pool. 

Wednesday 12th October
Lest you think I have ideas above my station, let me state here that not every dining experience has to be 'great'; nor does every wine have to be 'serious' or 'fine'. Had a very enjoyable lunch today with Fiona. We needed to eat and were in a hurry, so we just walked into some Italian restaurant on Great Portland Street. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed a relatively cheap wild mushroom risotto and a glass of house red wine. They just worked together very well. I have no idea what the wine was (likely some humble Veneto), but it was refreshing, not too fruity and quite savoury - the sort of wine you simply make a like/don't like decision about. Context is king. 

Tuesday 11th October
Continuing a good run of recent dining experiences, I had Monday lunch at the Orrery restaurant (above the Conran shop in Marylebone Village). The event was arranged to present the wines of South Africa’s Morgenster Estate, but seeing as Pierre Lurton, who is consulting winemaker was present, we were also being treated to 2001 Yquem.

The roll call of press present, in no particular order, was Charles Metcalfe, Joanna Simon, Margaret Rand, Stephen Brook, Sarah Jane Evans and I on one table, with Peter Richards, Maggie Rosen and Natasha Hughes on the other. Pierre was clearly quite tired and seemed to randomly switch from French to English and back again. Still, he was quite frank and gave us plenty of quotes. He looks remarkably youthful for a man who has five children ranging in age from five to early 20s. Cellar master Marius Lategan was charming, as was Morgenster proprietor Guilio Bertrand.

Morgenster are making some highly impressive, elegant Bordeaux-styled wines – with lunch we tried the 2000 and 2001 vintages of the top wine, plus the 2000 vintage of the second wine, Lourens River Valley. These are supremely confident wines that should have a long future. However, it was inevitable that Yquem should steal a bit of Morgenster’s spotlight.

Pierre told us that he’d recently read William Echikson’s Noble Rot – a book about the modern state of Bordeaux that has proved highly controversial. This is the book that features in great detail the whole Yquem/Lur Saluces story (LVMH bought out Yquem in 1996 after bitter family feuding had taken place, and last year Lurton replaced Alexandre Lur Saluces as MD of Yquem), and publication of this book in Europe has been suspended while legal action by Lur Saluces is underway. Lurton says that the book is interesting, but narrow in focus, and he admits that it was good to read about the family history of Yquem.

When Pierre took over he estimates that there was a back catalogue of some 900 000–1 000 000 bottles in Yquem’s cellar. His intention is clearly to sell more of the wine and not hold on to so much. ‘My first objective was to put Yquem into the futures market’, he says. 2001 Yquem sold out its first tranche in 2 hours. Pierre calls this incredible. The second tranche has now been released, at a significantly higher price, and the demand is still there.

Château d’Yquem 2001 Sauternes
Deep yellow/orange colour. Lovely pure fresh aromatic nose of fresh apricotty fruit with some lemony freshness. Aromatic and quite complex. The palate shows great balance between the rich, honeyed, sweet botrytis character and the fresh lemony dimension. It’s very primary at the moment, but the signs are that this is a serious wine of great finesse and length. Others may outpower this tight-wound wine at this early stage, but this is one for the future. Excellent 95/100

As for the restaurant? Orrery has a nice, bright, modern (perhaps a little clinical) ambience, and the food was extremely good, while just lacking that extra dimension that separates the ‘extremely good’ from the ‘excellent’. Service was impeccable.

Thursday 6th October
Unexpected lunch at The Ledbury. It’s been a strange sort of day. I was supposed to be going to Champagne for the day, on a press trip to Roederer onboard their private jet.

We’d see the cellars, do some tasting, have lunch, visit the vineyards and then head back late afternoon. I got up a bit late, at 5.10 (I’d set the alarm mistakenly for 4.40 pm rather than am) and so I missed the 5.06 train I’d been intending to catch. Still, I made it to Victoria just on time where I met with Sue Pike and the other journos (Stephen Brook, Fiona Sims, Charlotte Hey, David Williams and Jeremy from Tatler) to head out to Biggin Hill airport. We got there to find out the bad news: there was heavy fog over northern France. 
The departure lounge at Biggin Hill. Stephen Brook (Burgundy jumper) is reading the obituaries.

After a couple of hours, during which we tucked into an impromptu breakfast of salmon sandwiches and the full, complex charms of Roederer NV, it became clear that we wouldn’t be going anywhere fast. At about 10.30 the news came – the trip was off.  

So we hatched a plan. What about lunch? Where? The Ledbury, one of London’s hottest restaurants at the moment. We booked a table and got there by 12, and before long the gloom of the cancelled trip had lifted. The prospect of the tasting menu and a magnum of 1983 Cristal (which Chloe from Roederer’s agents MMD had liberated) was an exciting one.

The tasting menu was fantastically executed. The courses:

  • Creamed eggs with cured sea trout, vodka chantilly and caviar

  • Loin of tuna wrapped in basil with soy, avocado and a salad of radish

  • Lasagne of rabbit and girolles with a velouté of thyme

  • Pan fried john dory with crab, cauliflower, almonds and orange

  • Roast foie gras with grilled fig, fig purée and grue de cocoa

  • Assiette of lamb  with borlotti beans, artichokes and herb oil

  • Lemongrass jelly with pineapple and coconut

  • Raspberry soufflé with mascarpone and lemon verbena

And the Cristal 1983? This was stunningly good. It was wonderfully rich, slightly toasty and showed honeyed apricot flavours – a bit like an old Sauternes. The palate was wonderfully broad but fresh at the same time, with honey, nuts, toasty and apricots, finishing off with tangy acidity. A memorable meal that lasted until past 4 pm.

Monday 3rd October
Sorry about the intermission. Since Thursday I've been in South Australia, where connectivity has been a problem. Now, sitting on a plane at 30 000 feet I've finally got a chance to update the site (and I hope to be able to upload this at Changi). [Note: have you ever tried to use a laptop in economy class? The only way it works is if you can recline your seat, but the person in front doesn't do the same, otherwise you can't read the screen. It's only because this first leg of the long journey home isn't busy that I'm able to so this.]  I've also been extremely busy. 

Ann and Brian Croser with the first wine made under the Petaluma label (right)

Arriving in Adelaide at 8 am, I pulled myself together and headed over to the AWRI, where I spent a fruitful few hours with Peter Godden. It was very kind of him to spare this time; he thoughtfully disconnected his phone when I entered his office, otherwise we would have been interrupted by a stream of phone calls, such is the demand on his time. After this, I drove over to the Adelaide Hills. Brian Croser had kindly agreed to spend some time with me, and as his house was full he put me up at the fabulous Mount Lofty House. We had dinner on Thursday night at his home, along with famous French critic Michel Bettane, who was also in town. Michel's presence was a nice coincidence; it was good to spend some time with him. It was a fabulous evening. Brian opened up the last remaining bottle of his first ever Petaluma wine, the 1976 Petaluma Riesling Spätlese, made with Michelton fruit. Also on the menu was the inaugural 1979 Petaluma Coonawarra, the 2003 Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard (a fantastic silky, elegant red that is Brian's new project) and 1986 Cheval Blanc. As a fun touch, Brian had raised the French and British flags for our arrival. He took a picture of Michel and I standing under our respective colours (right).
On Friday we visited various vineyards in the Piccadilly Valley (left), tasted a vertical of Petaulma Coonawarra red (one of Australia's great wines, and severely underpriced), and lunched at Bridgewater Mill with the likes of Geoff Weaver, Tim James and Michael Hill Smith. This was a superb lunch and lasted until 5 pm. Wines included the 1953 Chateau Reynella, a 1975 Pewsey Vale Riesling (screwcapped, but also bizarrely sealed with a cork under the cap), a 1978 Traminer made by Brian and a 1980 Brokenwood Cabernet Shiraz

An early start on Saturday saw me reach the Barossa by 9.30 for my first appointment, which was with rising star Troy Kalleske. Next up was Clancy Fuller, and then Rusden and Kym Teusner. I finished the day by having dinner with Jaysen Collins and Dan Standish of Massena. Sunday was a bit more leisurely, with appointments with Domenic Torzi and Greg Hobbs (whose old vine Shiraz vines in the Barossa ranges are pictured), followed by a tasting put on by a range of producers at Turkey Flat. After some Coopers to freshen up with, I went out to dinner with Tin Shed's Andrew Wardlaw and some of his chums. This morning I was quite tight for time, but managed to hook up with wine scientist Richard Gibson at Adelaide airport. Overall, a wonderful four days. It's been a long trip, though, and I'll be glad to be home.

Thursday 29th September
I'm writing from the departure lounge at Melbourne airport. This is another nice airport - no free internet access here, but there is wireless from Telstra at A$5 for 15 minutes (more than twice the price of Changi). [Note added later: this suddenly disappeared when I made my way from the coffee bar to the departure lounge; I was unable to add this entry at the time.] Books are expensive here, too. Adelaide is just over an hour away from here. Time for some thoughts about Singapore. 

1. I like it a good deal. It works, and it's clean and safe.
2. Singapore is probably expensive by Asian standards, but to a Londoner everything seems particularly cheap. And it's good and cheap, which is important. Anyone can do cheap and rubbish.
3. Taxis are plentiful, really good and really affordable. This is in stark contrast to London.
4. I ate out really well - some memorable meals. We also had a wonderful strike rate with our wines over the three wine dinners and the solitary wine lunch. I've not had so much wine fun for ages.
5. It's hot and sticky, but you get used to this. Sort of. Actually, you just learn to live with it. You never need a jumper or coat, just an umbrella.
6. Related to point (5), if you like wine here, a wine fridge is essential, as well as good off-site storage.
7. You need to be careful of the sun. I spent an hour in the pool and sitting beside it, and I almost overdid it - my shoulders are a little 'warm' right now. 

Tuesday 27th September
After two tough days of hard work on Dengue fever, time for a blow out meal at Iggy's, a high-end restaurant in the Regent Hotel. We chose the 10 course tasting menu and it was fantastic. Some really well done combinations of flavour and texture, including a remarkable colourless essence of tomato (sounds odd but it was brilliant) and a foie gras/tofu combination that had the most wonderful texture imaginable. Some great wines, too, including a tight, minerally Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles 1998, a remarkable Ampeau Meursault Charmes 1987 and Luneau-Papin's cult Muscadet L de l'Or 1997. It was a serious dinner, but I can't give you any more details because my notes are checked in with my hold luggage. This is because I'm at Changi Airport waiting for my flight to Adelaide. This is how airports should be. I've just checked my emails for free, and now I realize I can update my site by using inexpensive wireless internet access. How wonderful. Technology rocks. Reading material when I'm not working on my laptop currently includes Hugh Johnson's autobiography, A Life Uncorked, which is a very good read if you can cope with the overly genial Johnson style, and AN Wilson's brilliant biography of C.S. Lewis. 

Sunday 25th September

Singapore, Day 2. I've had a great day, full of interesting food and wine. After a sluggish start, I checked out the conference setting at Biopolis, where we are holding a meeting on Dengue fever this week. Then it was off to lunch in Holland Village, at a wonderful French-style restaurant called Au Petit Salut, where we had some lovely wines. We started off with Laurent Perrier Rosé, and then progressed to two blind whites. The first was a mindblowingly good Macon-Cruzille 2003 from Alain Guillot, displaying a wonderful lemony complexity. Second was a wine that initially smelled disconcertingly of airfix glue, but then revealed a beguiling richness of texture and plenty of sweetness, which was an Anjou Blanc Vignes Françaises 2003 from Marc Angeli. Two reds followed: a gravelly, earthy Bordeaux-like Vino Nobile Lodola Nuova 2001 from Ruffino, and a ripe, full, bold almost new-worldy 2001 Santa Duc Gigondas. The food was great: my Foie Gras and Confit de Canard were brilliantly done. After this we took a walk in the botanic gardens, and then after a quick swim it was out for dinner at a wonderful Chinese restaurant near the Orchard Road MT station. There we enjoyed three wines. A lovely lemony Willi Schaefer Gracher Dormprobst Riesling Spatlese 2001 was followed by a lean, tart yet complex Champagner from Larmandier-Bernier. Finally, a rich, evolved 1996 Vouvray 1er Trie Girardieres from des Aubuisières finished things off. Very satisfying, with a lovely meal that included smoked pigeon. 

Saturday 24th September
I'm in Singapore for a few days. Arrived just in time this evening to go out for a wine dinner with ex-internet wine personality Yixin Ong and fellow Man City fan Hsien Mien. Hsien Min cooked for us and we had some lovely wines. We kicked off with Laurent Perrier 1996 which was very nice and then moved on to a surprisingly serious Anjou Rouge - the 2004 Vieilles Vignes from Olivier Cousin. This was fantastic with a wonderful dar, brooding presence and spice, tar, minerals, gravel and a bit of subdued stinkiness. Next up, a fabulous Vouvray Moelleux 1997 from Huet. Continuing on a Vouvray theme, it was time for the Champaloux Fondraux 1996. We capped this with the dregs of the 1927 Alvear PX Solera. A really nice evening, but I can't say more, as I have to conserve my strength for lunch and dinner tomorrow.  

Wednesday 21st September
Advance copies of my first book have arrived. On the left we have the wonderful green and red Mitchell Beazley cover; on the right, the more traditional University of California Press version, with its American title. Which do you prefer? After all the work that's gone into it, it's thrilling to see the final result. Can you be objective about your own book? Only as much as you can about your own child, which isn't much at all. The publication date is, I believe, October 14th. I've set a website up to support the book at www.wine-science.com, which is live but will be expanded substantially after publication. You can buy a copy here. A modest celebration last night - we had Champagne with egg (free range, from our friend's hens) and chips. Too many deadlines looming for a proper celebration - that will have to wait. Tonight dinner consisted of a lovely Manchego cheese from Waitrose, together with some nice bread. Currently, I'm a little preoccupied with finalizing the details of my impending trip: I leave for Singapore on Friday, and then I'm in Adelaide on the following Thursday.  

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