• 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

Diary of a Wine Critic



My Top Wines from VINITALY 1996

Luciano Sandrone's 1992 Barolo

Ruffino's 1990 Riserva Ducale

Enoteca's 1995 Bianco di Custoza, Vigna la Rugola

Villa Matilde's 1993 Falerno del Massico

Masi's 1991 Campofiorin

Carpineto's 1990 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Michele Chiarlo's 1993 Rabaja Barbaresco


Vertical Tasting in Chambolle en Musigny, March 1994


93 Chambolle Musigny

Delicate and precious. Style not to my taste, but very well-made. Will age well.

93 Premier Cru « Beaux Bruns »

Fresh, fruity nose ... a bit weedy and herbaceaous on the palate with an aftertaste on the retro-olfactif. A petullent, arrogant wine.



92 Premier Cru « Amoureuses »

93 Premier Cru « Amoureuses »

91 Premier Cru « Charmes » - woody, elegant

93 Premier Cru « Charmes » - excellent race

An orgy. All are delicious, artfuly structured and full of elegant power. Tannins are done well and the wines are balanced. Enormous potential here.



91 Amoureuses – very closed today, tight, still so young

93 Amoureuses – very special. Lots of body. Confiture de fruits rouges. Coffee. So charming.



91 Musigny

85 Musigny

The 91 is the lesser wine, but is tasting better today than the 85 with its better structure and power. Two very different wines. Both delicious.



93 Chambolle – all over the place and unfocused, sloppy. Too sweet, too confectioned. But nothing too terminal, so it may sort itself out.

93 Les Fuées – nose is fresh and clean but tannins biting. Will be fine.

93 Musigny Grand Cru – weird nose, but eventually get to the black pepper and violets. A fat and very concentrated wine. Will do well.


Blind Tasting in Gevrey-Chambertin - March 1994

Blind Tasting in Gevrey-Chambertin for Vintage Magazine.  Recently bottled … tasting for potential.


1992 Ruchottes, Marchand

Fruity nez, tannins clean, notes of vanilla. Round, balanced. All there.


1992 Mazoyeres, Camus

Nose very closed, as is to be expected. Aromas firm and thin … violet notes perceptible. Very tannic on the palate, flat finish. But on the whole, balanced with potential.


1992 Mazi, Harman Geoffroy

Brilliant robe. Open, expansive nose already - fruity, framboise, cassis, tannins well integrating. Good balance showing already. Harmony. Une touche de la sauvage.


1992 Latricières, Jean-Louis Trapet

Robe un violet fonce, nez plat, bouche est ferme et métallique. Not showing well today at all. Perhaps too lacking in matière.


1992 Griotte, Joseph Drouhin

Huge nose but palate falls short and disappoints. A bit thin. Delicious though. Will peak early.


1992 Charmes, Lucot Javelier

Nose too expressive : all cassis and bananas(selected yeasts ?). Tannins nicely integrated et fondus, le bois ne se domine pas trop. Alcool est équilibré. Un exemple typique de l’appellation mais sans enorme distinction.


1992 Charmes, Geantet Pansiot

Nez animal, un peu ferme. Structure moins complexe que Javelier. Mais bien fait.


1992 Chapelle , Jean & Louis Trapet

Nez de cerises et fruits de bois. Un peu trop sucre et légèrement déséquilibré. Facile a bois déjà …


1992 Chambertin Closes de Béze, Faiveley

Belle robe. Belle structure ... charpente avec beaucoup de caractère. A suivre !


1992 Chambertin, Les Caves des Hautes – Côtes

Les Chambertins ont soufferts un peu avec cette millésime… au moins aujourd’hui ils sont faibles. Celui-ci est pas mal … les notes animals, un corps avec de la complexité.






Château de Gilly les Cîteaux, vintages 1937 – 1990

Dinner at Château de Gilly les Cîteaux

March 1994 (A sélection of Burgundy vintages 1937 – 1990)

1990 Marsannay Domaine Collotte

Un robe des violets, cerises … un nez de cassis, fruits murs, vanille … intense. Les tannins viennent vite sur la bouche mais tout de suite s’arrondissent. Très bien fait.


1985 Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru « Clos des Argilières », Domaine Régis Dubois

Robe aux nuances d’oranges. Un nez d’animal, gibier. Une structure franche avec superbe longueur. Légèrement déséquilibre en alcool.


1983 Echezeaux Grand Cru Maison Moillard-Grivot

Robe de noir violet, nez ferme avec une touche de musc et sous-bois, fruits secs, orange. Une bouche de compote de fruits murs. Les tannins explosent. A good 1983.

1978 Vosne Romanée 1er Cru « Les Suchots », Maison Louis Latour

Une robe joli, nez épice de truffle, cuir. Non un typique 1978. Bouche bien vive …jolie acidité. Plein de vie et de joie.


1976 Echezeaux Grand Cru, Maison Joseph Drouhin

Just opening and revealing itself – or sputtering its last breath ?  There is a lack of matière. It is all tanins, no aromas, no suppleness.


1971 Bonnes Mares Grand Cru Maison Louis Jadot ***

Robe tres intsnse. Nez de cuir, petits fruits rouges, miel, cannelle, chocolat et praline avec une cote confiserie. Bouche fraîche et final longue et harmonieux. Perfect. Heaven.


1963 Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Maison Moillard-Grivot

Robe bien évolue, nez moins complexe mais bien, bouche décevante, fruits sont disparus, l’alcool domine. It’s dying.


1949 Chambolle Musigny Maison Moillard Grivot ****

Fantastique. Parfaiotment evolue. Fruits murs …musc…animal…élégant … du tabac frais, sous-bois. Une longue bouche de griottes. Un vin qui est très sensuel et élégant.


1937 Musigny Grand Cru, Domaine Jacques Frederic Mugnier ****

YUM. Incroyable. Chocolat, figues, cocao, du terre humide, foine, summer meadows after a rainstorm, fruits d’été, parfumes de lavande. Tannins encore présents. Parfaitement équilibré. Une joie.



La Chablisienne, Tirel-Guerin in St Malo

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.

La Chablisienne Lunch at Tirel-Guerin in St Malo

21 February 1994


1991 La Chablisienne, Vieilles Vignes

Served with an oyster broth which gave it a slight metallic after-taste. But its attack was fruity and focused. Palate round and balanced. Really nice.



The wines below were served with Coquilles Saint-Jacques des Cotes d’Armor aux Senteurs Perigourdines (avec truffles et foie gras dans une brique – I still dream of this dish.) :


1989 Premier Cru « Beauroy »

Mediocre …metalic, lacking body.


1990 Premier Cru « Cote de Lechet »

A joy. Luscious and complex and full of personality. Very well-made.


1990 Premier Cru « Fourchaume »

Served too chilled and the robe was a milky cloudy white. It settled and cleared, revealing a luxuriously rich and appealing wine. Fourchaume is my favourite vineyard in Chablis, and this one does not disappoint.


The wines below were served with a Pintadeau Fermier Poêle au Shiitake :


1990 Premier Cru « Bougros »

Excellent…a white birch tree after a spring raisntorm. Musk. Ondulating and voluptuous.

1990 Premier cru « Blanchot »

A very upfront nose – so much so that there is little to follow on the palate. Slightly metallic and acidic.

1989 Premier Cru « Château Grenouille »

Again, served too chilled and with a cloudy robe, but cleared to a fruity delight. Notes of oranges.


1984 Premier Cru « Les Preuses »

Delicious. Best of the day. Served with fromage du Darley en salade aux sésames dorés.


Crémant de Bourgogne served with chocolate mi-amer Valrhona.



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.


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. 


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



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. 


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.



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.


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. 


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.



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).




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!


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.



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.



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!



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 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.

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