Stuart George

Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Review of Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices

In Uncategorized on August 13, 2010 at 11:10 am

A review of Michael J. Gelb’s new book Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices can be seen here on my blog.

Welcome to Le Pleasure Dôme

In Tastings on August 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm

On 20 July I visited Château Teyssier to taste Jonathan Maltus’s 2009 portfolio.

Maltus, who made his money in engineering, purchased Teyssier in 1994. It is now his family home, business HQ and where his ten French wines are made.

Teyssier is a small estate of only 5 hectares, a typical size for the fragmented holdings of Saint-Émilion. Grapes for Château Teyssier’s wine are sourced from various parts of the appellation to a total of just over 24 ha, mainly from the sandy soils of southwest Saint-Émilion. Maltus owns 53 ha in total, typically producing 15,000 cases per annum of Tesyssier and 10,000 of the other labels.

Winemaking is modernist: green harvesting; destemming; cold maceration; warm fermentations; malolactic and ageing in new oak barrels. The wines are “handpicked and handcrafted”, according to Teyssier’s bumph, in which the “Vinification” blurb is identical for three wines and largely unchanged for the others.

Late picking undoubtedly masks much of what a vineyard might otherwise articulate. For their 2009 wines, Cheval Blanc was all done by 8 October and Ausone by 10 October. Le Dôme and Angélus did not finish until 14 October.

Despite this apparently intransigent winemaking, which seemingly leads to an uncompromising style across the portfolio of rich fruit and high alcohol, there are noticeable differences between them that can only be explained by the diversity of terroir in Saint-Émilion. Nonetheless, one wonders if the wines might be even more expressive with bespoke winemaking.

Marianne Nicolaisen, Teyssier’s charming sales manager, likes to point out that their 2009 prices are identical to those of 2005. Pezat is €5.50, with Le Dôme the most expensive at €95. The latter translates to a retail price of £1,150 ex-cellars. The 2005 Le Dôme is £2,000 in bond.

All the wines tasted were barrel samples of final blends of the 2009 vintage.

Pezat Bordeaux Supérieur

This is made in the same way as Teyssier but sells at half the price. Its vineyard is situated between Saint-Émilion and Branne, a small town to the south of Saint-Émilion on the Dordogne. Blended from 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, this is generous but oaky at the moment, with some liquorice aromas. Quite a mouthful for a humble Bordeaux Supérieur.

Château Teyssier Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Like Pamela Anderson this is wearing rather too much makeup… There is a lot of oak on the nose and palate. But it has supple fruit and the tannins are not rebarbative. It should age well.

Château Laforge Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

Laforge is sourced from vineyards that encapsulate Saint-Émilion’s three prevailing terroirs – gravel, sand, and clay over limestone. Blended mainly with Merlot and oak! Very concentrated, very oak-dry and very tannic. Try ageing to 2020? Only 1,200 cases per year.

Le Carré Saint-Emilion Grand Cru

This vineyard, formerly owned by Château Canon, was planted in 1956 after the devastating February frost of that year. It lies cheek by jowl with Clos Fourtet and only 100 yards from Les Astéries. Its terroir is thick clay over limestone, as opposed to the thinner clay over limestone of Les Astéries. 80% Merlot with 20% Cabernet Franc and only 300 cases made. Dark, brooding nose. Some oak apparent but less than with Laforge. Some elegance and a potent finish. Not bad.

Les Astéries Saint-Emilion Grand Cru

Because of the higher limestone content in this vineyard, which was formerly owned by Château Fonroque and is one of the few vineyards to have survived the ’56 frost, Astéries is more mineral than the previous wines. But it is over-seasoned with new oak on the palate. The burly, Philipic tannins are in part countered by the terpsichorean acidity – not something one finds much of in these 2009s. As with Le Carré, production levels are negligible, with only 300 or so cases made.

Vieux Château Mazerat Saint-Emilion Grand Cru

Sourced mainly from clay on limestone vineyards near Beau-Séjour Bécot and Beauséjour-Duffau-Lagarrosse, with a smaller portion from near Angélus and Le Dôme that lies on sand over crasse de fer, the clay that Pétrus sits on. This smaller vineyard is the half of the Le Dôme estate that Maltus was unable to purchase in 1996. 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc. Dark nose showing some liquorice and boot polish, all very goût Américain. Thick, rich fruit, finishing with some oak flavours and not unduly hard-boiled tannins.

Le Dôme

Jonathan Maltus claims that this is “allegedly the biggest expression of Cabernet Franc of a wine from Bordeaux.” I do not know who has made these allegations but this claim must now be unquestioned. This 2009 is very concentrated, finishing sweet and crisp. The tannins are good, though closer to corduroy than velvet in texture. Big and generous, with fairly low acidity. To drink relatively young.

In the Bear Pit: England vs. Pakistan at Edgbaston

In Cricket on August 10, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I spent Sunday (8 August) at Edgbaston watching England play Pakistan in the second Test.

It wasn’t a good day to be a ticket tout. Even with the large Pakistani diaspora in the West Midlands and the fine weather, it was a poor crowd. Green hats tended to be worn by Worcestershire supporters rather than Pakistanis. Doubtless the £60 entrance fee deterred many people from attending.

As I arrived one of the gate men was directing somebody to “where the npower girls get changed.” I asked him if he could please repeat the directions but he offered only a smile. At any rate, the Pedigree – that’s a beer, not a dog food – “maidens” have got the edge on the hitherto revered npower girls, who now wear red skinny jeans rather than 10-inch skirts. No more fine legs, alas.

The new Pavilion currently being constructed made Edgbaston look like one of those unknown Chinese cities being turned into a metropolis. Now that the old, ugly Pavilion has gone, the 100-metre Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower at Birmingham University can be seen from the east side of the ground, looking west.

In truth, Edgbaston needs a good deal more renovation to make it a worthy venue for international cricket. My seat in the Stanley Barnes stand wobbled like a drunken Birmingham City supporter. The frames were rusty and occasionally decorated by a weed.

Edgbaston is a suntrap. All the current stands are bathed in sunshine (or rain) for at least a few hours each day. It needs more covered seating.

Knowing that England would surely win this Test, the largely English crowd was generous towards the opposition, wanting to see some good cricket by Pakistan.

The biggest cheer of the day was when Graham Swann began his marathon spell at the City End. The Warwickshire bowler Calum MacLeod, on for Steve Finn, also got a big cheer from the home supporters. Kevin Pietersen also got a big hurrah when he came on to bowl at 3.35pm. We love him really, don’t we? It’s just that we don’t like to show it.

A Swann delivery to Haider just before lunch impressed the Brummies when it spun viciously after the batsman had pushed it away with a forward defensive: “See the spin on that?”

Sponsors of English cricket see Test matches as an opportunity for the hard sell. During the lunch interval I was ambushed by an enthusiastic npower salesman asking about my utility bills. He was bemused when I told him that I was here to watch cricket, not to discuss my electricity bill.

Alec Stewart was a big hit at the lunchtime “Fan Hub”, even though he was booed when he admitted to being a Chelsea supporter. He was amusing, opinionated and obdurate in the best sense. He is an impressive man, very articulate and always immaculately dressed.

Mike Gatting, who was signing autographs during the tea interval, does not have the same cachet as Stewart. A young man who had been directed by his father to get Gatt’s autograph returned to ask who he was. The last England captain to win The Ashes in Australia in 1986, he was told in reverential tones. “1986? That’s really old…”

The pace of the game slowed in the afternoon. There were few wickets, at any rate, and the crowd started to look as bored as the flying ants that engulfed Birmingham this afternoon. A lady in the Eric Hollies Stand looked as though she was knitting but in fact she was unravelling the cord of her headphones. As the beer started to take a hold, the Barmy Army – all ten of them – got going at 2pm.

A streaker ran from one side of the ground to the other at 6.39. After he was finally captured there was a gentle reminder over the tannoy of the ground regulations – no streaking allowed!