Stuart George

Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Atlantean Scion

In Tastings on January 31, 2011 at 1:07 pm


There were a lot of tastings in London last week, with some pretty interesting stuff available.

Among much else, I tasted Louis Roederer Cristal 2004 (very good), Domaine Faiveley Mazis-Chambertin 1986 (à point, though very acidulous), Meerlust Rubicon 1986 (holding on) and a mini-vertical of Château Branaire-Ducru 2009-1998 (2005 was probably the best).

But one wine stood out for its exceptional rarity, quality and – admittedly – its price.

Taylor’s Scion is a Tawny Port that was released onto the market in October 2010. Two pipes (barrels) of a a Tawny that was apparently made in 1855 were discovered by Taylor’s winemaker David Guimaraens. A third barrel is alleged to have been bought by Winston Churchill.

About 1,400 bottles have been produced. They sell in the UK at £2,500 each, making this the most expensive Port ever offered.

Its colour has been distained by age. As one might expect, it was a tawny-brown colour but had a tinge of green at the rim, which is something that I have seen before only with old Madeiras. It was as bright as a smile, though.

I have had 150-year old Sherries and Madeiras and they tend to smell “old”, hinting at decay and fading elegance. But the Scion was remarkably fresh and lively. It smelled “old” of course but there was no hint at all of disintegration or senescence.

What really distinguished this wine for me was its perfect pitch acidity, which rippled across the palate like a naughty teenager rather than a 155-year old. The overall intensity was like – well, like life itself. The finish glowed like the streetlamps by the Thames at Somerset House, where this tasting was held.

Taylor’s MD Adrian Bridge said that this was “the best old Port I’ve ever had”. I tried to get another glass of this precious stuff from him but he wouldn’t have it. I might never try this wonderful wine again…

Burns Night at Lord’s

In Cricket on January 27, 2011 at 6:56 pm


I’m not Scottish (even if the name Stuart Donald George suggests Celtic blood) but I’m always looking for an excuse to go to Lord’s to eat and drink and talk cricket.

On Tuesday night – Burns Night! – the MCC held its first ever Burns Supper. There were 70 or so people for a haggis dinner in the Long Room, where we were watched by the narrow, steely gaze of Douglas Jardine’s portrait. Jardine was the notorious captain of England’s great “Bodyline” team. Although born in India, his parents were Scottish.

I cannot remember eating haggis before. I feared the worst. But it wasn’t too bad… It was like a rather vulgar looking and tasting faggot! Once a year is more than enough, though.

My guest was Jo Miller, the delightful librarian at The Oval. She grinned with utter delight as we all joined hands and sang, “For auld lang syne, my jo…”

My “Sophie’s Choice” article published in FINE magazine

In Art and artists on January 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm


Although Virginie, Comtesse de Lalande, is the most famous of the women to be associated with Château Pichon-Lalande, her elder sister Sophie de Pichon-Longueville is the most enigmatic.

Two sisters founded what eventually became Pichon-Lalande: the beautiful Virginie de Pichon-Longueville (1798-1882), who became Comtesse de Lalande after marrying Henri, comte Raymond de Lalande in 1818; and the enigmatic Sophie (1785-1858), a painter, poet and nun.

My article on Sophie de Pichon-Longuville has just been published in FINE: The American Wine Magazine.

The Original Condoms

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2011 at 10:45 am

A Swedish friend in Paris brought this to my attention.

An enterprising firm in the French town of Condom, which prides itself on Armagnac rather than rubbery objects, is marketing the “First luxury condom, chic and elegant, with this particular ‘French touch'” (sic).

Two French aristocrats are behind (so to speak) this tasteful product. The Prince de Bourbon and the Comte de Bizemont say, “Condoms protect everyone from disease. Ours protect against tackiness.”

The French toffs are surely a spoof. But it is hard to tell what is fact and what is fiction in the business of “Charles Emmanuel and Gil” in Paris.

Rather than attempting to come between them, I will instead direct you to their site at


You’ve got to laugh…

In Cricket on January 22, 2011 at 10:31 am


Having been thumped by the England cricket team, those Aussies have just revealed to the world that they have a sense of humour.

Herewith some jokes sent by an Australian friend.

Q. What do you call an Australian with a bottle of Champagne?
A.  A waiter.

Q. What is the height of optimism?
A. An Australian batsman putting on sunscreen.

Q. What would Jimmy Anderson be if he was Australian?
A. An all-rounder.

Q. What is the main function of the Australian coach?
A. To transport the team from the hotel to the ground.

Q. Why don’t Australian fielders need pre tour travel injections?
A. Because they never catch anything.

Q. What’s the Australian version of LBW?
A. Lost, Beaten and Walloped.

Q. What do you call an Australian with 100 runs against his name?
A. A bowler.

Q. What’s the most proficient form of footwork displayed by Ponting?
A. The walk back to the pavilion.

Q. Who has the easiest job in the Australian squad?
A. The guy who removes the red ball marks from the bats.

Q. What do Australian batsmen and drug addicts have in common?
A. Both spend most of their time wondering where their next score will come from.

Q. Why are Australian cricketers cleverer than Houdini?
A. Because they can get out without even trying.

Q. What does Ryan Harris put in his hands to make sure the next ball almost always takes a wicket?
A. A bat

Q. What do you call a world class Australian Cricketer?
A. Retired.

Q. What do you call an Australian who can hold a catch?
A. A fisherman.

Q. What is the difference between Cinderella and the Aussies?
A. Cinderella knew when to leave the ball.

Q. Why can no-one drink wine in Australia at the moment?
A. They haven’t got any openers.

Q. What do you call an Australian who can handle a bat….
A. A vet

Ring ring!!! Ring ring!!
“Hello, Australian dressing room.”
“Hello, I’d like to speak to Ricky Ponting please.”
“Sorry, he’s just gone out to bat.”
“It’s okay, I’ll wait.”

Creek mythology

In Restaurants/wine and food on January 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm


On Tuesday 18 January I was invited to 28°-50° (sic), my friend Xavier Rousset’s recently opened City restaurant, where the new releases of Jacob’s Creek Regional Reserves were presented to me and other wine bloggers.

I have happy memories of drinking Jacob’s Creek Reserve Wines a few years ago when they were selling at £7-8, about £2-3 more than the basic wines. They were noticeably better than the non-Reserve stuff and well worth the extra money.

We were hosted by Bernard Hickin, whom I’ve met once before, at a tasting of older Coonawarra wines in May 2010. Bernard has been at Jacob’s Creek (aka Orlando) since 1976 and has recently been promoted to Chief Winemaker. He doesn’t foresee any significant changes to the wines under his watch but said that they will “evolve to meet the needs of consumers.”

As usual, I was late to arrive but still in time for an aperitif glass of 2005 Steingarten Riesling, perhaps Jacob’s Creek’s most disntiguished wine. It had fresh, lemon fruit and acidity that cut like an arctic wind. I like Aussie Rieslings at this still-lively stage rather than the toastiness that comes with extended ageing. It could probably be kept until 2020 if you like senile flavours in your whites.

Only about 20% of the wine actually comes from the Steingarten vineyard these days, though production remains small at 3-5,000 cases per year. It’s a good wine. The 2005 was great with the fish (I think it was trout) and lentils starter, with the wine’s flavours perfectly matching the lemongrass seasoning of the food.

The 2010 Barossa Riesling Regional Reserve was totally different to the Steingarten – floral rather than mineral and less bellicose in its acidity. It felt much tauter. I wouldn’t mind seeing this again in five years time, when it might have loosened up a bit.

Bernard’s 2010 Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc aspires to a riper style, as the passion fruit smells suggested. It had plump fruit and clean, if not bracing, acidity. But anything would taste slack coming after those blistering Rieslings.

Barrel fermentation has imprinted some subtle oak flavours onto the 2009 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay. It tasted quite fat because of the malolactic – maybe it would have been better to leave it as it was. It’s already a bit nutty, suggesting that it’s not long for this world. I wouldn’t want to be drinking this much past the end of the year.

Not hearing what was said about the wines being poured because of a boisterous diner downstairs – perhaps he was a City Boy spending his hard-earned bonus – I smelled the 2009 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir and assumed it was the Coonawarra Cabernet. The minty, eucalyptus flavours were appealing but this is not what a Pinot should smell of. A reasonable wine but a poor Pinot. It’s on promotion at my local supermarket at the moment. I’m glad that I haven’t bought a bottle.

I didn’t mistake the 2008 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon for anything else. It was a good example of what Coonawarra smells and tastes like, with fleshy tannins and eucalyptus flavours. It’s good for at least another five years.

The 2007 Barossa Shiraz was absolutely sui generis, balancing leathery, dark chocolate smells with freshness and pugnacious tannins. This was really good with the posh steak and chips (onglet of beef with chips and sauce choron, actually) that we had for the main course.

We also had some older red wines: a leafy, cedary 2004 St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon; the bright and fleshy 2005 Johann Shiraz Cabernet; and the 2001 Johann, which has won nearly 30 gongs in wine competitions. It was darker and more brooding than the 2005 but a second bottle was apparently better and brighter.

But for the Pinot Noir caricature the Regional Reserve wines scarcely put a foot wrong. (I should have thrown it at the noisy City Boy). At £8 they’d be fine. At £9.99 they’re a bit too expensive. But Aussie winemakers deserve some sympathy for being hammered on export markets – and in the UK by increased duty and VAT rates – because of the strength of the A$. As painful as it is, we all need to get used to spending more money on wine – and especially on Australian wine.

Wine and chocolate

In Tastings on January 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm


In the wine writing world one often hears about wines that taste a bit like chocolate – some Barossa Shirazes, for example – or how difficult it is to find a wine that goes with chocolate. But at The France Show held at Earls Court today and over the weekend, I found the apotheosis of this challenge – VinoCacao®, a wine with chocolate flavouring.

The wine, available in both red and white, comes from Bordeaux. The chocolate is from Ivory Caast.

The wine must have been utterly foul in the first place for them to want, or at least intend, to add chocolate to it. But with the chocolate it becomes about as appealing as drinking from a public dunny cistern in Soho.

I’m impressed that VinoCacao® has been able to get away with producing this chemical weapon in Bordeaux. But it does the image of Bordeaux and its wines no favours at all.