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Special Edition: “The Apprentice: No Sour Grapes”

Monday, July 15th, 2013

I was on a very crowded, hot train home from Victoria Station this evening when my thoughts began wandering in the direction of wine. When one feels warm and dehydrated, it is not unusual to think about refreshment, right?

What was unusual was that I started to think about my favourite grape varieties and production regions and then I dared to compare them to the two Series 9 finalists of BBC One’s “The Apprentice.” Two business ladies are left standing: Leah vs Luisa.

I write technical reviews of wines on a regular basis, so why can’t I do a “technical” review of Leah and Luisa, so that I can come up with their counterpart grapes and then recommend some wines for audience members in either of the @DrLeahTotton or @TheLuluLife camps.

Please do indulge in either bottle when watching the final this coming Wednesday! For alternative wines, get in touch with me directly.

***Disclaimer: This is my idea of fun relaxation on a Monday night and I intend to be playful and respectful (please don’t take this too seriously!).

Finalist #1: Dr. Leah Totton

Technical review:

Clear, pale lemon. Clean, light nose, with aromas of stone fruit and nettles. Dry palate, high acidity, with crisp flavours and mineralic hints of flint or steel. Sturdy and well structured wine that shows rigour and precision. It gets straight to the point!

Based on these characteristics, Leah is a young Sancerre (based on the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety), with the potential for ageing well.

Recommendation:

If you are on Team Leah, then I recommend you try the 2012 Sancerre Blanc by Brigitte and Daniel Chotard (stocked at Berry Bros for £16.50 per bottle). I don’t think you will regret consuming or investing in this Loire Valley jewel.

Finalist #2: Luisa Zissman

Technical Review:

Clear, deep ruby. Long legs due to high alcohol content (growing in long, hot summers). Clean, pronounced nose, with aromas of plums, cherries and spice. Some herbaceous hints. Flavour characteristics of dark berries. Shows complexity, luxury and maturity.

Based on these characteristics, Luisa is a young Australian Shiraz, to be consumed in the short-term because it is now at the height of its vibrancy. This is a ripe, robust wine packed with flavour.

Recommendation:

If you are on Team Luisa, then I recommend you try the 2009 Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz (also stocked at Berry Bros & Rudd, for £22.50 per bottle). Drink it very soon … to put this one away in your cellar for years would be a real shame.

NB: The 2005 vintage was a true show stopper for me at a wine exhibition I attended some years ago.

 

Special Technical Review for Neil:

Lord Sugar regretted firing Neil Clough in last week’s episode of The Apprentice and I am sure that all audience members’ hearts sunk at the words, “You’re Fired”; however, I think it’s worth a quick ode here to Neil for his excellent effort and performance.

Technical Review:

Clear, deep ruby colour. Dark concentration of colour comes from a thick skin. Aromas are dominated by black fruits with hints of tobacco/cigars and spice. The palate is dry, not overwhelming, and with a long finish (some might even say velvety).

Based on these characteristics, Neil is a “young” Pauillac wine from the 2009 vintage (one of the finest Bordeaux years), predominantly made of Cabernet Sauvignon, with a tiny bit of Merlot to soften the edges. Pauillac vines have the toughest, gravel soils to grow in but if pushed to the limit and placed in challenging conditions, they will produce excellent fruits. The best fruits in turn contribute to the most highly prized wines for long-term investment.

Recommendation:

If you were on Team Neil like I was, do accept any commiserations and try drinking Berry’s Own Selection of 2009 Pauillac (chosen by the producer of the famous house of Lynch Bages). This is a well structured, lively – but not opulent! – wine priced at £19.95 per bottle that you can keep for a long length of time.

Maybe try drinking this Bordeaux wine while watching Leah and Luisa battle it out on Wednesday! If none of these wines take your fancy, feel free to ask me to come up with an alternative recommendation for you.

May the best candidate win … and please, no sour grapes.

 

2011 Rosé de Croûte-Mallard by Château Gros Moulin

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Vintage: 2011
Type: Rosé (100% Cabernet Sauvigon)
Country: France–Bordeaux–Cotes de Bourg

2013-03-09 15.19.06-2

This is a wine that was suggested to me by Les at the Villa St. Simon (Blaye) for my “Finding Value in Bordeaux” event at the London Business School on 8 MAR 2013. This particular event focused on the Right Bank of Bordeaux and it was a pleasure to start the evening with this bottle. It is a simple, easy-to-drink rose wine that the guests were pleased with.

(Apologies for the picture that I have uploaded. This particular bottle was placed in a bucket of ice and water for a long time, so the label began to peel off.)

Technical Review

Appearance
Clear, medium pink.

Nose
Clean, light aromas of strawberry and peach.

Palate

Dry, medium acidity, low tannin. Light bodied. Similar flavours to the aromas above. Medium length finish.

Conclusion

Good, ready to drink now (not intended for aging).

Berry Bros. & Rudd Berry’s Own Selection Pomerol 2009

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Vintage: 2009
Type: Red Bordeaux Blend
Country: France – Bordeaux – Pomerol – Château Feytit-Clinet

Another excellent wine Berry’s. The Pomerol is full of blackberries and dark fruit with a full body and excellent finish.  Good value for money and will age well for a few more years.

Technical Review

Appearance
Deep purple

Nose
Clean, pronounced notes of blackberries, black fruits a bit of plum and spice

Palate
Dry, medium acidity, high tannins, full body with lots of black fruit and a bit of oak.  Medium finish

Conclusion
Very good especially for the price point

Château Trebiac 2006

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Vintage: 2006
Type: Bordeaux Blend
Country: France – Bordeaux – Graves

This is a bottle that came in a Bordeaux sample pack provided by the merchant, Adnams.

Given that this is a Bordeaux blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, I knew that it would be an acceptable bottle to drink.

This wine was aged 3 months in oak barrels and then another 9 months in stainless steel vats.

Appearance:

Clear, medium Garnet

Nose:

Clean, medium nose of red fruit (strawberries and cherries), as well as vanilla.

Palate:

Full-bodied, high acidity, medium tannins. Characteristics of sweet spice. Medium finish.

Conclusions:

Good.

This is a claret that would go well with simplistic, lightly-flavoured, traditional English food, like Chicken and Mushroom pie or Toad in the Hole.

Chateau Monconseil Gazin 2005

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Vintage: 2005
Type: Bordeaux Blend
Country: France – Bordeaux – Blaye

This is a very nice wine originating from the right side of the Gironde in Blaye, Bordeaux. 2005 was an exceptional year in the region, so any winemaker could have made a good wine (or so winemaker, Vincent Rousselle, tells me) because the fruits were fantastic in that vintage.  Drink this with a reasonably meaty meal, such as calves liver with lardons  or duck breast with an orange jus sauce.

Technical Analysis:

Appearance: Clear, deep Ruby.

Nose: Clean, medium intensity, aromas of red fruits (cherry), vanilla and oak.

Palate: High acidity, medium tannin, flavour characteristics of cherry, sweet spice, butter (possibly due to malolactic fermentation). Long finish.

Conclusion: Very good.

Château Cantinot 2005

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Vintage: 2005
Type: Red Bordeaux Blend
Country: France – Bordeaux – Premières Côtes de Blaye

Full bodied with blackcurrant and red fruit on the palette. Very smooth tannins slightest earthy Bordeaux hint and an incredible finish. A top wine from a great vintage.
Full bodied and aromatic with notes redcurrant, blackberry and figs. Concentrated black cherry and blueberry fruit flavours combine with soft tannins, long finish

 

Technical Review

Appearance
Clear, deep Ruby.

Nose
Clean, prominent. Characteristics of dark fruit and spice (blackberry, plum, and cherry) with a hint of oak and vanilla

Palate
Medium acidity. high tannin. Flavours of dark fruit, spice chocolate and cherry.  Full body. Long finish.

Conclusion
Outstanding

Château Tayac 2000

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Vintage: 2000
Type: Red Bordeaux Blend
Country: France – Bordeaux – Côtes de Bourg

This wine is has a medium garnet colour, fading to a nice brownish colour on the edge. On the nose are blackcurrant, raspberries and dark fruit with a hint of vanilla. On the palate are flavours of dark fruit, cherry, blackcurrant and coffee. Nice long finish. A very nice glass of Bordeaux that is drinking well at the moment.

 

Technical Review

Appearance
Clear, deep Ruby.
Nose
Clean, prominent. Characteristics of dark fruit, spice, blackberry, plum, and cherry, coffee with a hint of oak and vanilla

Palate
Medium acidity. medium tannin. Flavours of dark fruit, spice chocolate, coffee and cherry.  Full body. Long finish.

Conclusion
Outstanding

Berry Bros. & Rudd Extra Ordinary White 2007

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Vintage: 2007
Type: Bordeaux Blend
Country: France – Bordeaux – Graves

This bottle was a free gift  after buying a case of extraordinary Claret (this is what English people call any red wines from the Bordeaux region!) from Berry Brothers. It was a nice Sauvignon Blanc. Unfortunately, I did not take very detailed notes at the time of tasting, so you will not see my technical analysis here, but I recall the wine having the following characteristics:

Dry, high acidity, light bodied, with flavours of citrus zest and tropical fruits. Very good.

I promise, if I receive another bottle of this decent white Bordeaux, I will detail its appearance, nose and palate characteristics! Remember to chill it. It would go well with any fresh summer salad.

I love a “Bad Boy”

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Why do I find a man who does not follow the rules so attractive and intriguing? In the City, there are millions of men, all wearing similar variations of the same suits, all wearing silk ties, all wearing polished black leather shoes, all talking about how America’s credit rating has been downgraded by S&P to AA+.

So when I meet someone who wears worn-out and fraying jeans, has a uniquely printed t-shirt and he speaks about a colourful past, I feel an instant chemistry.

This is a metaphor for how I feel about a special St. Emilion wine: Bad Boy. A cute blond guy in a wine shop pointed our tour group to a box of bottles with cartoon-ish sheep on their labels. It was in the corner of the shop and none of the tourists were paying it any attention. Interesting. What’s so special about this 2007 St. Emilion? Firstly, it is part of the garage movement. Eh? I mean that the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon fruits are processed, fermented and aged in a garage. Not in a chateau’s cellar, in a garage! Around the corner from the wine shop, the cute guy opened his doors to the garage and within were stainless steel vats and barrels. Everything you would find at a chateau was here but on a micro scale. Talk about different! Secondly, the histories of the wine makers are interesting in themselves (nursing, journalism, restaurants, etc.) but I will leave you to speak to the cute guy about those details. Thirdly, this wine experiment has been highly rated by the wine critic, Parker, and the Chinese consumer market is hungry for it.

So here, Bad Boy, offers the perfect combination for women (or just me): unconventional, rule-breaking, modern, has a dramatic past, and is a cute devil. I love a Merlot-dominant wine with a twist. Leave my Bad Boy alone … he is all mine!

Vintage: 2007
Type: Red Bordeaux Blend
Country: France – Bordeaux

La Villa Saint Simon

Monday, August 8th, 2011

In the beautiful, historic town of Blaye, you will find a gem of a guest house called the Villa Saint Simon.

Allow me to describe the approach to this delightful hotel. On arrival into the town, you notice that the buildings are set closely together, many shades of grey and ochre. These buildings, although many in disrepair, are beautifully set against the blue skies. Here is an eclectic mix: fashion boutiques, bakeries, grocery stores that you know have belonged to the same families for centuries, and curious art galleries. Driving in from the North, you have the UNESCO world heritage site of the Citadel to your right, a massive stone fortification that still has residents and restaurants within its walls. Through the thick tree cover of the park, you catch a glimpse of the fast-flowing Gironde and think that you wouldn’t want to get caught in its tide. You slow down along the high street, craning your neck to look for a sign for the hotel. You don’t know what you’re looking for exactly but when you see a colourful 2CV parked on the street, you instantly know that you have found the Villa Saint Simon. You have found your home away from home for a week, a fortnight, or if lucky, for much longer.

Stretching your legs after the four hour drive from Chinon in the Loire Valley feels good. The Villa looks so welcoming: there are old bicycles leaning against its front wall by the main entrance and the window shutters on all floors are wide open like arms wanting to embrace you. You are focused on getting your luggage inside but at the same time you are having thoughts of freshly baked croissants and baguettes. You enter the Villa and see that the front room is indeed set for meals and there are pastries galore! Your senses are suddenly awakened: there is Flamenco music, the aroma of full-fat semi-salted butter, the sound of laughter coming through from another room, and dark wooden shelves stocked with Bordeaux wines.

You are greeted by a vivacious woman with dark hair and blue-green eyes. Her name is Clarissa and her giggle is infectious. You immediately like her and know that you will enjoy your stay. Later you meet Les, who urges  you to partake in a wine tasting with friends in his cellar or art gallery. He is a smart-talking local businessman who knows everything about wine in this region. This is going to be a fun and educational trip!

So now that I have set the scene (the Villa is as gorgeous and wonderful as I describe), shall I tell you what I love about this special place? I love the people: I love how Julian talks passionately about restoring old cars. I love how Les looks at Clarissa and says that he could live in her eyes forever. I love that the coffee is strong and tastes distinctively French. I love the market that appears out front on Wednesdays and Saturdays and no one speaks any English. I love that the ferry to the Left Bank departs on schedule. I love the feel of white cotton sheets and how the sunshine filters in through the curtains. I love the squeaky floor boards and can hardly believe that this Villa was totally restored as a labour of love. I love that the rooms are named after local vineyards like “Rousselle” or “Monconseil Gazin”. I love running down the spiralling staircase and blurring the modern art pieces in my head. I love choosing any bottle of wine from the front room and knowing that it will be excellent. I love that I sleep all through the night without stirring, and wake up so refreshed. I love that the Villa trusts me.

When your departure draws near, you feel a heaviness in your heart. Your heart and mind are filled with memories and a great sadness overcomes you. All you can do is sit in the front room writing in your journal, staring out the window at the passing traffic, desperate to recall all the significant moments you experienced in this place. Your stay was magical, romantic, hilarious, indulgent … perfect. You look up and see Clarissa’s face. She is stroking a kitten named Ziggy in her arms and she looks hopeful. Although no words are spoken, you are reassured and understand that you will not be gone long and that you will return again next year, if lucky, sooner.

(Is this place for real? Mais, Oui! Seek it out as your base in Bordeaux. It is perfect. The Villa is well-known and beloved among its visitors and is mentioned in a number of publications, including “Les itineraires de Charlotte.” Here I am on the second floor balcony, enjoying the view of the Citadel and showcasing Charlotte’s book of journeys through Bordeaux vineyards.