Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Life is too short for cheap wine

So it is often said...but did I agree?

Today I agree. I have been drinking very well of late. A bit too much wine bought about 5 years ago - needs drinking up!

So I am a bit spoiled in that respect.

I just opened a bottle of Barbera. Not badly made, just cheap. About €0.25 a bottle I reckon. But by gosh you do notice that it is chemical, confected and lacking in any depth.

So I swiftly opened a good (not great, just good) bottle of Verdicchio.

Order is restored..

Monday, 19 September 2011

Verdicchio, Wirra Wirra, Bordeaux, Victory 5!

Sunday brought my first race in a long time - the first since the London Marathon in April. I had originally decided to aim for as many of the races in the Hampshire league as possible - and then promptly failed by missing the first one (fair point - because we were on holiday for a week!). I was also aware that my running has been a bit goal-less in recent months, so there was something about sticking to what I had said I would do - and if nothing else, we'd know where the fitness levels really stood...

..and the answer was, most satisfyingly, pretty good! The Victory 5 is a flat-as-a-pancake race from the track at the Mountbatten sports centre in Portsmouth, up to IBM, and then back to finish on the track. Just under 1000 runners, with some really fast Johnnies at the front end. I started well enough, then had to pul in to the side of the track after only 100m to tie my shoelaces - and experienced the pain of the field rushing by me! I rejoined and spent the next 2 minutes weaving in and out of the back of the field, until we got to the open path and I could start to push on. Psychologically, however, I think this might have worked in my favour, as I passed other runners at every stage of the race until about the last 1/4 mile, when I finally caught up with my 'correct' running group. Final time was 32m06s, just off my target of 32m01s, which is 70% on the 'age-adjusted' tables, pretty much my target now for races. All told, a great morale-booster - and I met some lovely people too!

On the wine front, I know that some time in the last 7-10 days I drank these bottles as I saw fit to photograph them. But I am getting all out of step with my weekly chronology! Still, I shall not endeavour to redress that just yet.

Firstly, a Verdicchio from Monte Schiavo 2010 (Wine Society - £8ish?). Continuing my enjoyment of this fresh grape from Marche, this caught my eye as it was also highly praised in the Decanter wine awards. And, rightly so too, for it was fragrant, with a hint of apricots, and on the palate, clean, dry, good acidity, and with an almost almonds finish. Just the wine for fish or chicken. Much to be recommended here. 

Secondly, an altogether bigger wine, the Wirra Wirra Original Blend 2009 from Mclaren Vale (WineSociety, £12ish?). So the story goes (and plucked from their own website), when Greg Trott first intended to release his now famous "Church Block" in 1972 it was a Grenache/Shiraz blend. However he was persuaded to modify that by Brian Croser to a cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and merlot. So, as a bit of a homage to the first wine, he now produced this blend. Phew - long story! Anyway, it is a gloriously ripe and rich hottie. Lovely with chunky meats.

Pip pip

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A well-titled Sancerre

Just a short post, from a lovely 5 days at Champneys.

Lots of exercise, and a goodly amount of rest.

I am delighted to confirm that this place has moved firmly from a health FARM to a health SPA - which is code for 'a bit less stern and Swedish, and you can have wine with dinner'.

So, the (half) bottle of choice has been the very appropriately named fish wine, Sancerre Blanc, Armand Salmon, 2008. Not as cutting and pungently grassy as some, this has a great balance of richness and freshness, and a lovely fresh length of flavour. Really very nice indeed. A quick search on the inter-web brings this up as £12.40 from Fine Wines Direct.

Now, back to the Spinning classes..then a wrap..then fit ball..then a massage..is this supposed to be restful??

Sunday, 4 September 2011

A very pleasing weekend's drinking..

Some weekends are definitely more focused on the gentle pleasures of life, and this one fits the bill very nicely. It started very well with finishing work on Friday, in the sure and certain contemplation of a week off, that was not going to involve rushing towards Gatwick. A short break in the UK beckoned, with 5 days at Champneys. Wine will not be the priority there, for sure, so I determined that until we went, it should be good stuff all the way. Marvellous! 

In order to prepare fully for the exercise and health-fest that Champneys will be, on Saturday we went with Carol and Huw to have a champagne tea at Chewton Glen (Taittinger as well, not just House stuff!), which had been a birthday gift for Janet. The day was just what you want for this kind of thing - warm, but not too hot, the slow laziness of a September afternoon. After a glorious opener with the obligatory cucumber and salmon sandwichettes (no crusts, of course!) the ante in the calorie-fest was upped, moving into proper scones, cream and jam (I am a cream first then jam kind of guy, sorry if that's not right!) and then an orgy - that is the only word - of small cakes. Marvellous. We then struggled to waddle round the garden, in a vain attempt to get some settling in the stomach - and it was quite lovely out, the sun dappling through the trees as we lolled by a lake in the golf course, thankfully free of the club-swingers for the afternoon. Clearly enjoying ourselves far too much, we determined to continue, and so this then called for a cocktail on the terrace as we saw off the pale light and into the early evening. What a day!

So, two lovely wines to frame this experience on Friday and Sunday. Firstly, another bottle of the Vieux Telegraphe 2001, and finally, one which lived up to that name, after a few which were not 'off', but decidedly not as good as I would have hoped, over-mature to be honest. Not this one. Rich, ripe, a hint of meatiness and full, warm flavours made me love this nicely mature Chateauneuf.  How I love the heat that seems to exude from the very bottle. Went down very nicely with a rather simple pasta - and why not? Then, by total contrast on Sunday, a Volnay Vielles Vignes 2005 from Potel, fresh as a daisy, silky and elegant. Perfect with a piece of beef - it had more than enough flavour to hold up well, and even added some juiciness to the meat, with its overtones of raspberries and a long finish. Just a real treat, a brilliant balance of fruit, acidity and tannin. Truly a wine drunk at the peak.

So, dear reader, as you see I am muddling through right now..

Pip pip.