SEARCH FOR A WINE

MY BOOKS ON AMAZON
  • Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World
    Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World
    by L. J. Johnson-Bell
  • Pairing Wine and Food: A Handbook for All Cuisines
    Pairing Wine and Food: A Handbook for All Cuisines
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Home Cellar Guide Hb
    Home Cellar Guide Hb
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Quel vin pour quel plat ?
    Quel vin pour quel plat ?
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Great Wine Tours of the World
    Great Wine Tours of the World
    Barnes and Noble Books
  • The Wine Collector's Handbook
    The Wine Collector's Handbook
    by Linda Johnson
  • De juiste wijn bij het juiste gerecht
    De juiste wijn bij het juiste gerecht
    by Johnson-Bell Linda

  • Good Food, Fine Wine: A Practical Guide to Finding the Perfect Match
    Good Food, Fine Wine: A Practical Guide to Finding the Perfect Match
    by LINDA JOHNSON-BELL

ARTICLE INDEX

Diary of a Wine Critic

 

Tuesday
Feb052013

London Wine Trade Fair - 1994

As I am researching my new book on Climate Change and Wine, I am digging out my old tasting notes to track alcohol levels and style changes. But here is a random selection ...

London Wine Trade Fair, Olympia May 1994 - a few found notes

 

1990 Château de Rully, Antonin Rodet, rouge

Dreadful. And normally I love their wines. This is unfocused, a mess.

 

1989 Château de Chamires, Jouennes d’Herville

Not to my taste: a frothy cocktail of pepper and horse manure.

 

1993 Les Vignerons d’Igé à Macon

Le blanc … average acidity and structure. A clean, simple wine, nice.

 

1992 Les Vignerons d’Ige

The same wine as above but vinified en fût. Not bad, but there is not enough fruit to carry the oak. Better without.

 

1993 Les Vignerons d’Ige

Le rouge – but Gamay, not Pinot Noir. Nice robe, fresh and vif. Light but well-made structure.

 

Some New World wines …

 

1991 Stoneleigh Cabernet Sauvignon, New Zealand

Wow. Hate New Zealand wines normally. Hate Cabernet Sauvignon on its own. But love this.

 

1992 Montana Marlborough Cabernet, New Zealand

Restrained, elegant, better than expected. OK.

 

1989 Château St Jean Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, California

Lovely red fruit, oak programme just right- perfectly balanced, structured and well-made.

 

1990 Palmer Merlot, Long Island, New York

OK. Dry and unyielding. No texture or complexity.

Tuesday
Feb052013

A day at Vinexpo in 1995

As I am researching my new book on Climate Change and Wine, I find myself drawn to my old tasting notes from when I fell under the spell of the voluptuous seductiveness, the savoury textures and the animal perfumes of the Burgundies of the ’80 and ‘90s. I cannot help but compare the alcohol levels and trace my notes throughout the decades.

 

VINEXPO, Bordeaux – June 1995 - a few notes

 

1994 Chevalier de France, Brut Chardonnay, Boisset

Nice nose … fine, tight bubbles and a crisp, clean finish.

 

1994 Merlot, Boisset

Nothing. Sweet, soapy, lacking in structure, fruit and any acidic backbone.

 

1994 Syrah, Boisset

Tastes just like the Merlot ! Indistinguishable. Any varietal character is erased by the alcohol.

 

1994 Cabernet Sauvignon, Boisset

Again, one-dimensional, lacking in any complexity or interest. Un vin facile.

 

1993 Pinot Noir, Charles de France

Straight forward and clean – but nothing else. 

Tuesday
Feb052013

Lunch at Hospices de Beaune

As I am researching my new book on Climate Change and Wine, I find myself drawn to my old tasting notes from when I fell under the spell of the voluptuous seductiveness, the savoury textures and the animal perfumes of the Burgundies of the ’80 and ‘90s. I cannot help but compare the alcohol levels and trace my notes throughout the decades.

Hospices de Beaune  lunch, Palais de Congres

November 17, 1995

 

1992 Meursault-Charmes cuvee de Bahèzre de Lanlay

A little soapy and insipid. Too sweet. Lacking in matte rand structure.

 

1991 Beaune Cuvee Guigone de Salins

Not bad. A little light in structure, but nice notes of spices and pepper.

 

1988 Pommard, cuvée Cyrot-Chaudron

This has a more smooth and rich style than the 1985 – more fluid and élégant. Both are stunning

 

Tuesday
Feb052013

Dinner at Hospices de Beaune, November 1995

As I am researching my new book on Climate Change and Wine, I find myself drawn to my old tasting notes from when I fell under the spell of the voluptuous seductiveness, the savoury textures and the animal perfumes of the Burgundies of the ’80 and ‘90s. I cannot help but compare the alcohol levels and trace my notes throughout the decades.

 

Tasted at Dinner at Hospices de Beaune

November 18, 1995

 

1992 Clos Reyssie, Pouilly-Fuisse

 

1991 1er Cru Les Folatières, Puligny-Montrachet

Like Juicy Fruit chewing gum. Served with Sandre en écailles de pommes de terre.

 

1990 Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot

Selection du BIVB. Bien fait, sec et solide, bien structure. Served with La Salade de Sot-l’y-laisse de volaille au fond d’artichaut.

 

1992 Auxey-Duresses cuvee Boillot, Maison Duvergey-Taboureau à Meursault. Wonderful, spicy and lightly oaked. Well-balanced, fresh and personable.

 

1988 Beaune cuvée Rousseau-Deslandes

Maison Paul Chanson a Beaune. Rapeaux, sec et dur … moins intéressant, déséquilibre. Franchement, je pense que c’est simplement en décline, c’est tout. C’est perdu trop de sa jeunesse.

1989 Pommard cuvée Billardet, Maison Charles Vienot à Nuits-Saint-Georges.

Sublime. Parfait équilibre. Animal, notes de musc et cuir. Si séduisant. Pinot Noir as it should be. Served with les Grenadins de veau aux morilles – perfect marriage.

 

1989 Corton cuvee Docteur Peste, Maison Albert Bichot à Beaune.

Bien fait. Un peux serre. Il a encore du temps pour s’exprimer – il est ferme ce soir. Notes d’epices.

 

1990 Mazis-Chambertin cuvee madelaine Collignon, Maison Antonin Rodet à Mercurey, Parfait. J’adore cette appellation. Une texture soyeux et luxurieux. Thick velvet violet silk ribbons …

 

1985 Pommard cuvée Cyrot Chaudron, Maison Bouchard Père et Fils à Beaune.

Bien structuré, massive matière … un bête. Encore plein de vie et potentiel. 

Tuesday
Feb052013

1990 - 1994 vertical of Montrachet, chez Antonin Rodet

Tasted during Press Lunch at the Domaine Antonin Rodet

September 1995


1993 Château de Chamirey, Mercurey, Antonin Rodet

Gorgeous, terroir-driven wine: very mineral. Nez du buerre. 11 mois en fut de chene, mais le bois ne se domine pas. Parfaitement équilibré. Bienfait. A perfect Chardonnay.

 

1987 Rully, Antonin Rodet

Un nez de vas, sale et minéral, la bouche pleine de beurre… délicieux. Equilibré, joliment expressive, encore avec une acidité vif. Superbe.

 

1993 Nuit St. Georges, Antonin Rodet

Un très bon example d’un vin du village – mieux structuré que le plûpart. Poivre, épice et avec une solide structure.

 

1994 Montrachet Grand Cru

A little green and végétal … amer. 100% put in fûts, sur liés until May. Batonnage une fois par semaine. Kept longer sur liés because 1994 marked by a lack of acidity. I think this one will sort itself out.

 

1993 Montrachet Grand Cru

J’aime moins déjà. Robe plus brillant, nez plus frais mais le bois est plus marqué, la bouche moins structurée … une touche trop d’alcool et la finale est amère.

 

1992 Montrachet Grand Cru

Nez du coing, rhubarbe, citron, almond. La bouche est bien ronde et gras … complexe. Un vin de race.

 

1991 Montrachet Grand Cru

Stunning. Notes de grillé …. fumée … un nez d’agrume, super maturé, presque exotique mais toujours restreint : un trompeur. Jolies matières qui donne ce vin un grand avenir. La finale est agréablement – mais pas trop – boisé.

 

1990 Montrachet Grand Cru

Even better : une bouche pleine de matière, vif et superbement structuré – jolie acidité. Very nice.

 

Tuesday
Feb052013

Some Burgundy Tasting Notes from 1995

As I am researching my new book on Climate Change and Wine, I find myself drawn to my old tasting notes from when I fell under the spell of the voluptuous seductiveness, the savoury textures and the animal perfumes of the Burgundies of the ’80 and ‘90s. I cannot help but compare the alcohol levels and trace my notes throughout the decades. 

Tasted in my office of Vintage Magazine, Paris

 

1993 Mercurey 1er cru “Clos l’Eveque”, Domaine Protheau

Un vin qui trouve ses valeurs dans sa simplicité et son équilibre. Son style droit et modeste le rendre très facile à boire. Avec une attaque fruité (cerises confits), une bouche fraîche (pommes) et une finale subtile, ce vin est assez évolué pour son âge et sans le goût “cuivré” parfois associés aux jeunes vins de cette appellation. Très agréable.

 

1991 Echezeaux Grand Cru, Mongeart-Mugneret

Un premier nez d’animal qui se transforme en bouquet des violets et de la lavande – très raffiné. Une bouche ferme et épicé, de la muscade et du poivre. Ce vin a réussi de s’exprimer d’une belle manière dans un millésime qui n’a pas une grande réputation. En fait, c’est vrai que la finale est légèrement faible, mais c’est comme même un grand vin avec un grand avenir.

 

1988 Château de Pommard, Monopole La Planche

Une grande année et un grand vin. Un nez des épices, des fleurs, du pain grillé – une bouche veloutée  de chocolat, caramel et des groseilles : c’est un repas, une énorme petit-déjeuner … en lui-même. La finale est en proportion au reste et ne décevoir pas. Il exige et mérite une longue aération car chaque minute qui passe dévoile encore une autre dimension a ce vin complexe et sophistiqué.

Monday
Feb042013

Dégustation des Vins de Touraine – Val de Loire

Dégustation des Vins de Touraine – Val de Loire

Mercredi, 7 Juin 1995

 

1992 Cuvée « Vieilles Vignes », Philippe Alliet, Chinon

Nez fume, frais, vif, jolie acidité et fruits expressive. Bien fait.

 

1993 Cuvée de la Roche, Domaine du Colombier, Chinon

Gorgeous expression of terroir: argilo-calcaire … damp, salty, smoky, fresh.

 

1993 Reserve Stanislas, Le Moulin a Tan, Pierre Sourdais, Chinon

Fresh, lively acidity, bright fruit … slightly brooding. Nice.

 

1990 Château de Chenonceau, AOC Touraine

Un nez du miel, de l’amande et des abricots, les tous soulignés avec un note du sel de la mer, ce que lui donne sa personnalité aussi originale. En bouche, la texture ressemble a un jus de fruit et bascule entre l’austérité et l’abandonne. Une finale longue et alcoolique du rhum blanc.

This is the wine of one of the most fairy-tale-like of the fairy-tale châteaux of the  Loire Valley. Vignobles planted in 1547 by Diane de Poitiers and later embellished by the châtelaine Catherine de Médicis. 

Friday
Feb012013

Random notes on US from 1994

Some US wine notes from 1994  … from California and Washington

 

1992 Riesling, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley, Washington US

Soapy, a distorted varietal character, lacking acidity and vivacity - bland.

 

1991 Vintners’ Reserve Merlot, Kendall Jackson

Surprisingly well-made: tightly constructed yet supple. Not bad, but still boring- Merlot usually is as a mono-cépage.

 

1990 Merlot, Columbia Crest, Paterson

Astringent, dominated by alcohol with a hard, dense monolithic structure. No complexity or movement. Dreadful.

 

Saturday
Nov242012

A Brunello always knocks first ...

Brunello di Montalcino is capable of producing Tuscany’s most elegant expression of the Sangiovese grape …and I revel in the perfumed potency of this perfect winter wine … and when I drink it, it takes me back to the hilltop idyll of Montalcino.

A stunning place - if you can forgive them for actually hosting an annual Sagra del Tordo (celebration of the Thrush). Skip the archery contest, and make your way to the 14th century Fortezza’s Enoteca instead. Brunello di Montalcino came to the wine fame game a bit late, but in the past few decades has established itself as the standard for quality, long-lived red wines. Awarded its DOCG status in 1980, Brunello is required to be 100% Sangiovese, with maximum yields of 55 hl/ha. It should be aged for at least 2 years in oak and then at least 4 months in bottle (6 months for Riservas), before being released for sale until five years after harvest (or 6 years for the Riservas).

Traditional producers are still making the sort of intense, concentrated and tannic Brunellos that demand ageing for up to 20 years or more, whilst the more modern producers are attempting "approachable" versions which would only need ten or less years of cellaring. You can guess which style I prefer !

Brunellos can be very expensive, justifiably. If you would like to taste a glimpse of one of the greats, then try a Rosso di Montalcino (same grape, same region) from one of the traditional producers in a good year. Montalcino is in southern Tuscany and its soil types are incredibly varied, imparting an elegance that is lacking in its northern cousins.  

As elegant as a well-made Chianti Classico may be, they can tend to barge-in on you … a Brunello, however, always knocks first.

Today I served with our family lunch of roasted pheasant wrapped in pancetta, grilled brussel sprouts with sea salt and garlic, sweet potato mash, mushrooms stuffed with mozzarella, spinach and pine nuts.

 

Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2006

Incredibly concentrated and elegant due to expert vineyard management (high planting density/old vines/small yields). A recently “tempered” oak programme is producing even more balance and fruit.

 

Piancornello Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2006

Full-bodied, and perfumed with roasted nuts, damp undergrowth, candied cherries, and chocolate. Mature tannins, with a solid backbone and fresh finish. (I got this from Waitrose Wine, I think).

 

 

Friday
Nov232012

Winter Warmers

Here are my favourite winter drinks ... to nurse slowly in front of the fire, after one of my stunning meals .. heh. There are after-dinner drinks, and then there are the Italian  amari, or the digestivi, which not only warm the heart, but sooth the digestion. With an alcohol content of 20-40%, these herb-based elixirs have a serious job to do!

Averna

This liqueur’s recipe dates from 1868 Sicily. It is flavoured with herbs, roots, citrus rinds that are marinated in the base liquor before caramel is added. Very thick and herbaceous, it is said to not only possess digestive properties, but also aphrodisiac.

 

Sambuca

A colourless witch elder distillation tasting of aniseed. It is traditionally served colla mosca (with the fly): flambéed with a coffee bean floating on top. When you bite into the bean whist sipping the Sambuca, its bitterness is balanced by the sweetness of the liquor.

 

Fernet

Another type of amaro, the fernets can be issued from many herbs and spices (depending on the brand), such as rhubarb, chamomile, saffron, myrrh, aloe, etc, with a base of grape-based distilled sprits and coloured with caramel. Fernet-Branca,  the well-known brand, has nearly 30 plants and herbs: the Fratelli Branca refuse to divulge their exact recipe!

 

Nocino

From the Emilia-Romagna region, this is a gorgeous concoction made from unripe green walnuts which have been steeped in spirits. Dark, and sticky, it is highly aromatic and rather bittersweet, but smooth, comforting and elegant.

 

Grappa

Grappa is a colourless brandy distilled from the used grape skins and pips after the wine-making process. Every region has its preferred recipe, using their local grapes. It can be drunk as a young, crude spirit, or oak-aged to incredible smoothness and flavoured with rose petals or lemon peels.

Sunday
Jul152012

2007 Villa Belvedere's Amarone

Such opulence ... plump raisins, fragrant violets, sharp balsamic, spicy plum, fruit of the forest, toasted almonds ... Heaven.

Sunday
May272012

2009 Ghenos Primitivo di Manduria, Torrevento, Puglia

Well, sadly for the others, I polished off the Jobard Meursault in the pool. I saved a smidgen for husband who, like a heathen, enjoyed it as an accompaniement to his sticky toffee pudding. For the main event,  I served this Puglian favourite of mine: both the grape and the producer, with a roasted pork  and crackling and polenta and panzanella and more.  100% Primitivo and borne of a soil that renders this wine beast-like, savoury and earthy, this beauty is stunningly focused, fresh and feral. And for once, I do not complain of the alcohol levels, for that is what this style of Primitivo craves and handles masterfully. This is only one of the note-worthy offerings from Francesco at Torrevento, an estate I visited a few years ago with Marina Thompson ... more later.... I wish to enjoy my last few sips in the pool ...

Sunday
May272012

2004 Meursault-Genevrieres, 1ier cru Domaine Jobard

I am a Jobard fan, primarily of Jobard the Elder, but the Younger seems to have listened to his father well enough! These are not New World leche-bottes ... they are restrained and elegant with the focus on the minerality ... and hold back on the new oak and other complications. This is drinking beautifully and taking on those fabuous notes of maturity ... that stunning "gout de vas" qu'on trouve qu'en bourgogne . Solid extracts, well-structured ... if I were to complain of anything, it would be my usual bug-a-bear regarding alcohol levels. This is 13%, and whilst the wine remains balanced, it has a slight twinge of warmth on the finish which is unsettling. You want it to finish on a cool, crisp note, and it does not.

Still, I wish that I had left it to age a few more years in the cellar this morning when I went hunting for something to sip whilst floating in the pool ... yes  ...summer has finally arrived in England. I may even leave a bit in the bottle for the Sunday roast that I smell wafting from the house ...

Merci Messieurs Jobard.

Tuesday
May222012

London Wine Trade Fair

This week is the London Wine Trade Fair at Excel .... tasted the 2008 Bordeaux vintage ... mixed impressions, but all good. Am also getting to know Russian and Moldovian wines ... the Black Sea is where it all began, remember!!  There was a show-offy, posing young sommelier from some uber-trendy restaurant in London who came up and stood next to me to taste... and he exclaimed "Russian wines? That's new!"    (Tasting notes to come)

 

Tuesday
May222012

2008 Bordeaux ... the last of the recognisable classics?



2008 BORDEAUX at the 2012 London Wine Trade Fair

This event was moved from last year’s room into a smaller space up in the
South Gallery … a space much resembling a decaying Hilton… dull, lifeless,
non-descript. One could not imagine a less inspiring back-drop.

There were only 30 or so of the producers present and those who were, were
complaining (and rightly so) about the pointlessness of Excel and the poor
organisation of the fair overall. Was the poor turn-out due to their
fatigue of Excel, or the fact that 2008 has turned out to be a hugely
successful campaign and most have sold all their wine?

For 2008 is what I fear may become to be known as one of the last recognisable Bordeaux
vintages due to the increasingly higher alcohol levels, which erase any
varietal character, terroir-influences, subtlety or complexity. My more
recent trips to Bordeaux have proven that this is going to be the demise of
the Bordeaux wines that seduced and enticed me into this profession over
two decades ago. At first, the Bordelais actually sought the high alcohol,
in-your-face, up-front fruit and new oak American style to try to emulate
the inferiour New World versions (Californian, principally) and to garner
praise from the immature and commercially-driven palate of Mr. Parker.
Then, perversely, Mother Nature started to do the job for them and now they
are hit with a double-whammy.  But, more on this later.

I have been following this vintage and was saddened to see so few châteaux
present, as I was looking forward to comparing my notes from the last
tasting. But I was pleased to see how well they were tasting ... most of
the wines hovered around the 13% mark and I found many examples of fresh
and enjoyable wines. As I overheard Steven Spurrier say to a taster
standing next to me ..."Charm. If they are not charming, then what is the
point?". How beautifully put. So, yes, I too, as always, was on the hunt for a bit of
charm. Here are a few scanty notes.

Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan
The white was over-oaked anda t 14.5%, clumsy and lacking focus. The red was dominated by new oak but may find some balance as the extracts were good, but the tannins were green … so perhaps not.

Carbonnieux, Pessac-Léognan
A solid example of this appellation’s typicity: very terroir-driven. Hints of lead pencil and good acidity, although a touch lean and green.

La Tour Carnet, Haut-Médoc

Fresh and clean on the nose. Nicely structured, robustly elegant … if that is not an oxymoron.


de Fieuzal, Pessac-Léognan
Very well done. A feminine, fleshly and textured wine with bright movement and charm.

Maucaillou, Moulis-en-Médoc
This is fresh and lively with good minerality and balance.

Chasse-Spleen, Moulis-en Médoc

Again, lively, highly expressive and fresh with lovely perfumes.


Greysac, Médoc

Dur et amer …flat, lacking dimension or texture ... boring.

 

Cantenac Brown, Margaux

Gorgeous. Perfumed, feminine, and charming. A well-structured and focused wine.

Dauzac, Margaux

Another charming, violet-perfumed wine … freshly acidic and lively, feminine. Perfect.


Prieuré- Lichine, Margaux

She served me the last of a bottle and it was off – not bouchonné, but there was a problem. So how many people tasted it before and had not noticed?! She opened another and it was much, much better. Fresh, clean, well-made, the wine we know and love.


Monbrison, Margaux
Really lovely. Again, great acidity and freshness with a strong, clean minerality. Very focused and well-structured with a nice finish.

 

Du Tertre, Margaux

Huge first attack with upfront noisy extracts …falls apart mid-palate. Too New World in style.

Giscours, Margaux

A bit clumsy and unfocused. Oddly textured … disappointing. Will have to come back to this.

Labégorce, Margaux

Not drinking well - green tannins and acetate tones dominated.

Lascombes, Margaux

Not too much to like here … it is well-made, but unexpressive and with a dry finish.

Marquis de Terme, Margaux

A very grown-up and elegant wine but too thin and lean. Lax: it isn’t trying very hard to please.


Gruaud Larose, Saint-Julien

Sec et serré … dry and tight and lacking flexibility. Not drinking well today – too severe. One of my favourite wines …so give it time.


Lagrange, Saint-Julien

Another from this appellation that is not drinking well today. Dry and green on the nose with a hard, unforgiving palate. Not what one normally gets with this wine.


Cos Labory, Saint-Estèphe
A clean, fresh nose, appealing. But lacking corpulence or real body and thin on the finish … stationary, one-dimensional.

 

Lafon-Rocher, Saint-Estéphe

Simply stunning. My favourite of the day. Very elegant nose. The rich palate is so refreshing it is almost cool on the tongue. Incredible body and structure and most of all, movement … it dances across the palate. Such personality and seduction.

Phélan Ségur, Saint-Estephe

Daring and brooding, almost savoury… lifted and complimented by fresh acidity and structure.

 

 

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