Stuart George

Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

London bridges walk for Haiti, Madeira and Chile on 6 March

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2010 at 12:06 pm

At 4:53:09 pm on 12 January, at a point 25 km southwest of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, the Caribbean Tectonic Plate pushed against the neighbouring North American plate and caused one of the worst-ever natural disasters. An already desperately poor country was left in ruins.

On Saturday 20 February the beautiful island of Madeira was confronted by huge floods. The island’s capital Funchal has been devastated.

On that same Saturday Chile was hit by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, the seventh most powerful on record and the worst disaster to befall Chile in 50 years.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent humanitarian medical aid organisation. It delivers emergency aid in more than 60 countries to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters or exclusion from healthcare.

MSF is entirely independent and relies on donations to support its work. Private funding gives MSF the freedom to respond to the greatest needs as fast as possible without political interference.

I have a close friend who works for MSF and she was recently in Haiti. Although she did not speak much about what she saw it was obvious that it had affected her deeply.

On Saturday 6 March we will be walking across eight London bridges, from Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge, to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières and its work in Haiti and Madeira.

Tragedy has a way of visiting those who can bear it least. Please give generously at

and ask friends, family and colleagues to sponsor us – or even walk with us.

Stuart George and Val Blakely

The Pebbles Project Fine Wine Dinner Programme 2010

In Restaurants/wine and food on February 18, 2010 at 9:51 am

Brighton resident and fine wine consultant David Wainwright has established a series of producer-focussed fine wine dinners at the two-Michelin star Ledbury restaurant in London’s Notting Hill.

All proceeds will go to the Pebbles Project ( in South Africa. The Pebble Project’s purpose is to enrich the lives of disadvantaged children who have special educational needs, especially those whose lives are affected by alcohol, by providing support and training to local wine farm and township créches and establishing after-school provision for older children living in the Winelands.

The five-course dinner will be held on 27 April at 7pm and will be hosted by Jamie Araujo, who will present 11 wines from Araujo Eisele Vineyard:

1996 Eisele Vineyard Syrah

1999 Eisele Vineyard Syrah

1992 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet

1993 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet

1994 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet

1995 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet

1996 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet

1997 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet

1998 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet

1999 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet

2000 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet

Tickets cost £325, with only 12 places available. For all enquiries and bookings, please contact David Wainwright at

Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2005–1991

In Tastings on February 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Belatedly, here are my notes from a tasting of Pichon-Lalande 2005–1991 held at Christie’s St James’s offices in London on December 1, 2009. The wines were presented by Pichon-Lalande’s Technical Director, Thomas Dô Chi Nam.

Château Pichon-Lalande 2005

Harvesting went from September 20 to October 7, yielding 47hl/ha. The final blend was 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot.

The color is a striking pyrope purple, though it is not opaque like some 2005s. The nose shows a lot of oak at first but gradually reveals red fruits and earthy flavors. Medium-plus body of substantial richness, with wonderful velvet-like tannins. Good length, glowing sweet fruit, and vanilla oak on the finish. Despite the stellar, sometimes notorious, reputation of this Bordeaux vintage, Pichon-Lalande 2005 is not a blockbuster, capturing the elegance and balance of its terroir rather than the sometimes over-generous nature of the year. This wine is already beguiling but is it lust or love…? It could be drunk now or aged 2015–30+ for cerebral rather than sensual enjoyment.

Château Pichon-Lalande 2004

The harvest started on September 27 and concluded on October 14. The Merlot was picked in warm weather and came in with relatively high potential alcohol of 13° to 13.5°. The final blend comprised 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc.

Color as before though perhaps a little brighter at the rim. This wine leaves a very different impression to the 2005, being much less opulent and generous. It smells of blackcurrant rather than red fruits and is nowhere near as concentrated. The balancing act of tannins and acidity is striking though they are rather spiky at the moment. Lacking the opulence and length of 2005, it is however perhaps more typical and “classic” in its styling. Age 2012–25+.

Château Pichon-Lalande 2003

Picking started on September 10 for the Merlot and on September 18 for the Cabernet Sauvignon. Harvesting finished on September 26 and the finished wine was made from 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot. At 33hl/ha the yield was much lower than average.

Same depth of color as before though showing more garnet at the rim. Not as jammy or overblown as one might expect, showing mint and pepper, but with aeration it becomes simpler and more jammy. The tannins recall those of 2004 but there is less acidity to counter them, so the wine has a rather ornery finish. Like so many 2003s, this is not one to endure. Now to 2015.

Château Pichon-Lalande 2002

Picking started on September 30 for the Merlot and October 4 for the Cabernet Sauvignon and was completed by October 10. The final cuvée was 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot.

Surprisingly this has a similar color to the 2003! The appealing nose is already quite cedary, though at first there seemed to be a non-trivial prickle of acetate that tickled my admittedly cold-ridden nose… Coming after the ultra-rich 2003 and 2005 this feels thin by comparison. It has a much lighter framework than those two leviathans, with the tannins already well amalgamated. The flavors on the palate are really quite prematurely aged—it lacks some freshness and verve. On its own terms, a more than decent claret but not a great Pichon-Lalande. Dô Chi Nam reckoned that it was “good value for money. It’s not a fashionable vintage but it has a strong energy inside.” Drink now or age to 2020 for extra smoothness, though it might lose more freshness along the way.

Château Pichon-Lalande 2001

This vintage has an exceptionally high Petit Verdot content of 14%. The 2000, which was not available to taste here, has 10% Petit Verdot. “We have very old PV blocks,” explained Dô Chi Nam. Petit Verdot gives “freshness and complexity” to the wine. There are only three clones of Petit Verdot commercially available in France but Pichon-Lalande has propagated its own by massal selection—that is, it takes cuttings from its own plants and grows them.

The remainder of the blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 36% Merlot. The absence of Cabernet Franc resulted in a different cuvée to the norm, with a different structure and flavors. Harvesting endured from September 27 to October 14.

Similar depth of color to 2002 but more garnet. Cedarwood and licorice aromas make this appear very lean compared to the riper vintages. Nonetheless, there is a nicely structured palate, with tannins and acidity in harmony. The palate is surely more appealing than the nose. An elegant, refined claret to drink now to 2020+.

Château Pichon-Lalande 1998

Harvested September 24 to October 7 and blended to 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc. As in 2003 there was no Petit Verdot.

Similar depth of color to the 2001 but just a bit lighter at the core. Tobacco, earthy, almost meaty in comparison to the previous wines but fresh with it. Peppery and complex. Earthy on the palate too, finishing elegantly and long. A good wine, just about mature. Who would ever have thought it in this vintage? It must be all that Merlot! Drink now to 2020.

Château Pichon-Lalande 1996

In this great Cabernet vintage Pichon-Lalande used 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. Harvesting began on September 24.

Its color is similar to that of the 2001. Compared to the 1998 it is closed and unyielding on the nose. There is intense Cabernet fruit and structure on the palate—this is nowhere near ready. Intense rather than opulent, it is still elegant and earthy, with velvety and smooth tannins. The ’96 might be less approachable than some of the other wines, its palate resembling a squeezed fist, but it is intense and long. A very good wine though, on the basis of the other wines here, not typical of Pichon! But Dô Chi Nam felt that the wine was “very Pauillac and very Pichon.” For me this was the best wine of the tasting. Age 2015–30+.

Château Pichon-Lalande 1991

There were devastating spring frosts this year on April 21–22 that destroyed new shoots; 80% of the potential crop was lost to the frost and only 30% of the final crop made it into the grand vin, which was harvested October 1–9. The blend was 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Petit Verdot.

Medium depth brick red, turning to tawny at the rim. It smells like a “cool” vintage, the aromas suggesting capsicum or tomato leaf, but also some tobacco. Complex and mature but not opulent. It’s not bad at all considering what horrors some 1991s are! Again characteristically elegant. Still reasonably fresh, if rather lean and unripe compared to other wines here, and retaining a backbone of acidity with the characteristic Pichon elegance. It has good length but the younger wines are more enduring—it becomes less convincing with aeration, especially up against the 1996. Drink now to 2015.

Carlo Ferrini: In the mind of an Italian winemaker

In Tastings on February 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Carlo Ferrini, the renowned Italian winemaking consultant, presented a tasting of 13 of his wines in London on January 21, 2010.

Florence born and bred, Ferrini knows vinous Tuscany as well as anybody—before becoming a freelance consultant in 1992 he was chief agronomist to the Consorzio Chianti Classico. Today he works with renowned estates such as Castello di Brolio, Castello del Terriccio, and Fattoria Carpineta.

Working in so many different areas means that “the challenge is to give each wine at each estate a character,” said Ferrini. The wines presented at this tasting were all of good quality but sometimes the winemaker’s hand was stronger than the terroir and the result lacked tipicità (typicity).

Ferrini spoke of his techniques: higher-density planting, lower yield per plant, and riper (or later-picked) grapes. The resulting wines were typically deeply colored, with low acidity, smooth tannins, and some new oak makeup. As such, they are very representative of the modern style of Italian, and particularly Tuscan, wine, though not necessarily outstanding examples of what is perceived to be “classic” Italian wine.

Nicolas Belfrage MW wrote in his great book Brunello to Zibibo: The Wines of Tuscany, Central and Southern Italy that “another aspect of modern Italian oenology that threatens tipicità is the increasing influence of itinerant oenological consultants.” Belfrage rightly acknowledged that consultants have done much to improve overall standards but “they tend to stamp their mark on the wines they produce.” That is Ferrini in a nutshell.

Although Ferrini speaks some English, the London-based journalist and wine educator Andrea Sturniolo translated his comments. Ferrini quipped, “I hope the wines are not as tragic as my English!” He was also appreciative of the tasting’s opulent venue at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair: “My days are usually spent with ugly men in different surroundings!”

Below are notes on the 13 wines tasted here.

Tenute Costa DueCorti Dolcetto DOC 2008

This was Carlo Ferrini’s first vintage in Piedmont. The Dolcetto is produced from a two-hectare vineyard on the hillside that faces the Castle of Serralunga. “I love doing long fermentations but I hate bitter wines,” explained Ferrini. This wine had 20 days cap-punching, which produces a gentler extraction that pumping-over. Nonetheless, this is a structured and serious style of Dolcetto, warm and spicy rather than fruity. Drink 2010–12. The 2008 Barolo might be similar to Roberto Voerzio, suggested Ferrini. “I hope to be accepted in Piedmont as a good winemaker. So far no one has smoked me!” he said, referring to the Piedmontese joke about Toscano cigars.

Poggio Bonelli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2006

Sangiovese 100%. Some oak on the nose. The palate shows more fruit—dark, spicy and supple. 2012–16?  “I’m trying to avoid the bitterness in Sangiovese. In these wines there is no bitterness,” claimed Ferrini. Nobody disagreed with him.

Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2006

Some Merlot and Cabernet in this blend but no more than 5%. Ferrini told us, “I prefer Cabernet in warmer vintages, Merlot in cooler vintages.” 18 months in barriques, 2/3 new, but there is less oak apparent here than with the Poggio Bonelli. Nice fruit and a delicious finish. A good example of modern Chianti. 2012–15?

Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2004

Sangiovese Grosso 100%. Some oak. A modern, sleek style of Brunello. The bright fruit is pleasant but not very typical of classic Brunello. Some smooth tannins in the finish. 2010–15.

Poliziano Asinone Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2006

Prugnolo Gentile 5%, Colorino, Canaiolo, and Merlot 15%. Darker nose than the Brunello, with more character. Very tannic of course! 2014–18.

Tenuta Mater Domini Casili Salice Salentino DOC Riserva 2006

Pure Negroamaro from 50-year old bush vines. Very modern nose, sleek but not oaky. The palate is more characterful, especially the finish. Crunchy but smooth tannins. Good wine. 2010–12.

Pometti Tarchun us Toscana IGT 2006

Cabernet Sauvignon 80%, Petit Verdot 10%, and Sangiovese 10%. Modern Tuscan wine in excelsis. Sleek, sexy, smooth, and not at all like “proper” Chianti! 2010–12.

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cerviolo Toscana IGT 2005

Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Leaner, with a less bright nose than above. But still modern—luscious and smooth. Delicious. But not Chianti! 2010–12.

Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino Dofana Toscana IGT 2006

Sangiovese with Petit Verdot. The deepest color yet. Big, rich, some grip but smooth. Velvet rather than silk. Tuscan international style. 2010–14.

Podere Sapaio Sapaio Bolgheri DOC Superiore 2006

Cabernet Sauvignon 55%, Cabernet Franc 25%, Merlot 10%, and Petit Verdot 10%. Very Cabernet Sauvignon in its flavors. Bright red fruit, with mint and something a bit green and savory. Good. 2010–15.

Petrolo Galatrona Toscana IGT 2007

Merlot 100%. Deep color again. Sweet finish. Very luscious and smooth, in a similar style to the previous wine. Ripe but some savoriness too. 2010–13.

Tenuta San Leonardo San Leonardo Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2001

Cabernet Sauvignon 60%, Cabernet Franc 30%, and Merlot 10%. Meaty nose and flavors. Still crisp and lively. Smooth and mature. Drink now to 2012.

Castello del Terriccio Lupicaia Toscana IGT 2004

Quite closed on the nose. Some eucalyptus flavors. Meaty too. Very distinctive and very Tuscan, with a smooth finish. 2010–15.