Archive for March, 2009

Recent Tastings

Posted on: March 5th, 2009 by Andrew No Comments

Its March, so with little better to do (where are all the customers? Hibernating?) We are tasting wines for the new list to be published in April. Once again I am depressed but not surprised at how bad the majority of wine that we get to look at actually is. Perhaps its just us. Maybe our myriad suppliers think we are a soft touch for offloading all the crap that they inadvertantly bought last year. But wait a minute – some of this stuff comes direct from the grower and its still no good. It really isnt a surprise that the majority of wine producing regions are deep in the financial doodoo when the quality of wines they make is so abysmally low.

What to do?  Well all is not lost. At a recent tasting I found a lot of nice things from all over the place. I have to admit the focus was at the bottom end – after all buying expensive wine is easy – and was pleasantly surprised by how drinkable some of the sub 1 euro wines from Spain were. Watch this space (or rather our sister site , Quantock Abbey Wine Cellars, for more info.)

Equally impressive was the attempt by the Chileans to fight off the record pound/dollar devaluation and to offer well priced wines to sell under a fiver – likewise their cousins over the border in Argentina – an area to watch.

But dedicated fans of drinkable cheap booze really should look no further than South Africa. With the rand sliding faster than sterling their wines look increasingly good value. Forget all that subsidized Californian rubbish, South Africa is the place to look for value, flavour and great vinosity. My only complaint is the high alcohol levels, but thats for another blog!

Chin Chin

Wine Writing – why?

Posted on: March 5th, 2009 by Andrew No Comments

Is it just me or does anyone else out there find most wine writers that grace our national press to be dull, formulaic and ultimately deeply uninformative. What is it about wine that returns such dull prose? I’m not going to name names but frankly most of the stuff I (occasionally) read in the national press in their dedicated wine columns would be hard pressed to gain entry in the average school magazine.

Wine is a continually fascinating, involving and evolving subject and indeed is almost a genuine branch of the arts – its finest products are sold at auction after all like so many grand masters – yet if one was to come across art critique written like a modern day wine column one would possibly be forced to complain to the editor. Leave aside the regular supermarket sweep that tends to dominate the majority of wine columns; what about the narrowness of the field? Wine is grown and produced in all the major continents of the world and in many places in our back yard that we seldom hear about. I get the impression that all these so called expert journalists are actually indulging in a giant exercise in jockying for position on the coat tails of the master – the One – whose words are like the tablets from mount Sinai. I refer of couse to Robert Parker, the wine writers wine writer and wine guru who dominates the markets today like a colossus.

Once in a while one comes across someone to whom writing about wine is obviously a joy and is not bound by the self-imposed rules of supermarket promotion. Such a man is Jeff Steinberger, the occasional wine columnist for the online magazine Slate, an American who, like many American writers, knocks spots off our home grown scribblers. But even he is not immune to the sort of denigration which other writers on more mundane subjects are rarely subject to. A brief perusal of the comments after his recent well-written critique of the state of the White House wine cellar would be enough to deter most people. Poncy wanker would sum up the average sentiment.

I find this all rather depressing. A writer on high art wouldn’t get those kind of comments yet as mentioned above wine is often treated as such. I cant fathom it but perhaps you can.

Meanwhile, if any one (aside from Jeff Steinberger) can make wine writing fascinating again it would be interesting to hear from them.


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