However we also have to consider here the influence of the Brandy and Cream as well as the Dijon Mustard. In fact it’s the Dijon that allows us to choose red wines of a slightly tannic nature as this French mustard negates any negative tannin effects.
EXHALTED SEAT OF WINE LEARNING
OR LAND-LUBBER’S BOOZE CRUISE?
In December 2009 I reported on my visit to London’s Vinopolis, the huge wine experience venue. I’d been invited by the then Managing Director, Rupert Ellwood, and was given the VIP treatment normally reserved for journalists of greater stature than me!
Rupert had made some changes during his tenure and it was clear that he’d
taken some tough commercial decisions. The result was that Vinopolis had morphed into a different animal from that which had enjoyed a fanfare opening with resounding applause from the wine writing fraternity some ten years previously.
Whilst the basic tenet of relaxed, fun wine-education remained in place the original philosophy, under Rupert, started to lean a touch more to the fun side of the equation. Vinopolis was promoted as a venue where people could learn a little about wine and how to appreciate it, whilst enjoying a good few drinks along the way. The very popular Comedy Night concept was installed, and Stag/Hen parties were encouraged to book the venue. (I wonder what occurred when frolickers from the two met head on!).
But that was then. When I visited just before Christmas 2010 it was a year on and Rupert has left, headhunted in fact by the Waitrose Supermarket Organisation. So what changes, if any, have been made by the new incumbent?
It wasn’t made clear to me who the new MD was. The lady I eventually dealt with was clearly in charge, but I’m not sure of her title, but no worries, when we arrived at the appointed hour two top of the range tickets had been left for us!
Groups embarking on the tours are taken firstly to a small circular cage, actually, for a tutored tasting. This short, mostly enjoyable session is designed to teach techniques to clients who are not conversant with the mechanics of tasting wine. It was accurate and useful, I’m sure, to our fellow tasters but didn’t allow for the possibility that there may have been some there who already knew the basics, or who were quite experienced.
It wasn’t a problem to us but the delivery, unfortunately smacked of the alcohol that the presenter had been taking in during the afternoon (I think she said that this was the third tasting she’d presented with not a lot of time between).
However, more disappointing than the presumption that we were all novices was the obvious supposition that in fact we were really only there for the alcohol! This rather unfortunate theme raised its head a number of times in the two hours we were there, leading me to the conclusion that too often it is the fun element that is the driving force, perhaps at the expense of those with a genuine desire to learn more about wine.
That’s not to say that there weren’t several tasting tutors who took wine tasting seriously and, in a mostly enjoyable way, imparted their knowledge of the wines for which they were responsible. A highlight was the Spanish lady, in fact at the Champagne tasting station, who was clearly passionate about the three Champagnes she talked us through!
It was fascinating also to see and hear so many different nationalities giving out information and tips about wine. Vinopolis in this respect is a veritable United Nations with any differences of opinion being settled over a good glass of wine. Would that our politicians were able to do the same!
And there are for sure good wines at Vinopolis – the best for me were two from the Lebanon, talking of uniting nations!
PS We are revivig our excellent wine tasting evenings with classical music and gourmet dining. The first of this year will be in April. Please watch this space; visit www.dolcedivas.net ; and my website for details.
**Check this out** – Sunday 13th March on Bay Radio (www.bayradio.fm) a superb Wine, Olive Oil and Tapas Tasting live in the Bay Radio Studio! A unique event that will have you gasping to get to the shops the next day to buy the stunning Bodegas Roda, Roda 1 and Roda Rioja Wines and their First Class Extra Virgin Olive Oils, Aubocassa and Dauro!
We’ll be tasting these Spanish Classics with a variety of Top Tapas and you
can join the party by tuning in to Bay Radio’s Sunday Brunch Programme, Sunday 13th March – Spring in the air, there’s magic everywhere!
Who writes this stuff?!
HAVE BODEGAS GOT THE BOTTLE?
A Spanish company, Estal Packaging, has just produced a new, uniquely shaped bottle, designed by famous Basque Restaurateur Martín Berasategui, which claims to be the answer to the problem of sediment in fine wines. I have a proto-type sitting on my desk right now – alas, empty!
However there are many such bottles that have recently been shipped for trials to a number of bodegas that pride themselves on the longevity of their fine wines. The factory results are excellent but is the proof of the bottle in the pouring thereof, of fine wine that has thrown a deposit? Do they actually work?
There are countless wines produced each year that will not require the services of such a bottle. Some grape varieties rarely leave a deposit anyway and many producers are worried about having ‘clean’ wine so as not to alienate the consumer, who doesn’t want tiny deposits in the bottom of his glass and insists on pouring the whole 75cl.
Yet it can be argued that wines which undergo: fining (a means of clarifying wine by adding a fining agent to coagulate or absorb the microscopic particles left in the liquid which then drops to the bottom of the tank); and racking (where clear wine is removed from the sediment at the bottom of the barrels), lose something along the way.
Purists would say that the heart of the wine has been extracted from the finished product making it a slightly lesser wine. Indeed there are many producers who deliberately do not ‘fine’ their wines preferring to have some sediment in the bottle to help the continuing maturation process. Often such bottles proudly proclaim that the wine has not been fined/racked/clarified warning consumers that there may be a sediment so please pour with care. I often go for such wines.
Well it seems that there is now the increased possibility of our buying wines that have not undergone the invasive procedure of fining and racking but that will still be clear when poured into the glass despite the presence of sediment. The slightly odd-looking, and I have to say, not so aesthetically pleasing, new design will hopefully trap the sediment in its base allowing us the benefit of a wine with its heart in place but without unpleasant looking deposits in the bottom of the glass.
Nevertheless I do have some reservations, which I hope will be proved wrong in the clinical trials that are already taking place.
When a wine is poured from the tank or barrel into the bottles it brings with it the tiny particles mentioned earlier – some of the fruit and the dead yeast. With time, Isaac Newton, our science teachers and, just to be sure, the winemakers, tell us gravity will take these particles down to the base of the bottle. The bottle manufacturers conclude that this is where the sediment will be trapped when the bottle is eventually poured.
However, as we know, when storing wine that has been closed with cork it should be left lying horizontally to keep the cork in contact with the wine (to avoid the cork drying). If we do this with the Martín Berasategui System bottle the sediment will not all be trapped in the base.
Well the design team must have seen this criticism coming as they claim that the new packaging system they have also invented allows the bottles to stay in their case which stores them at an angle, where the cork remains moist and the sediment stays where it’s meant to.
The jury is out but I’m hoping for a positive verdict!