Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Going travelling - blog mission statement

Blog goals and topics to cover:

(this might not follow perfectly as it's more a series of notes pertaining to things that I wnat to look into, obviously if other topics appear which I deem as very coverable I'll get stuck into covering them)


The effect of various terroirs on the wines grown on them.

Here I want to categorise various wineries according to the predominant philosophy of the wine makers, in an attempt to view the wines produced from them in the context of the peers in wine making terms. For instance natural or low sulphur wines should be thought of in the context of their peers, as would wines made with long hang time and lots of new oak.

Basic breakdown of a winery blog post:

Human interest part of the story, or something that makes it readable.

Tasting notes and a breakdown of the wines style etc.

Then an addendum that lists the soil types, wine making tech and so forth.

All this to be scrupulously tagged and interlinked.

Section of Australian terroir, with photographic examples of soil types, and a quite detailed breakdown of weather patterns etc.

Standard list of questions to put to the winemakers:



Place of study and their winemaking heroes

Choice of varietal and justification behind it – including a discussion of how the varietal interacts with the terroir in place

What makes them unique and interesting

Views on technology and espousal of it

Business model as applicable to wine production – e.g Grange Hermitage is more of a bdx style where as Hill of Grace could be marked down as Burgundian – essentially as discussion over the primacy of brand or terroir.


Narrative interplay between the food and wine matches, and the cultural positioning and preconceptions that influence the success or otherwise of the aforementioned matches.

Trace a basic food history of the areas that I visit and try and partake in the local food customs – in Australia look at how the foods etc have been influenced by the successive waves of immigration.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Towpath Cafe Hackney

Inexplicably I'm feeling somewhat sad at the prospect of my final shift at Le Breton this evening. Having given it quite a lot of thought my only expanation is that I was more attached to the place than I realised. We've certainly gone through quite a lot together.
Still it's a new day and I'm off to meet my friend Tracy at the Towpath cafe in Hackney (well if this train ever actually starts to move).
The Towpath is my friend Amanda's little place (there might be others involved but I don't really care), and it's a treat, nestled on the side of Hackney canal.
Amanda popped her head round the corner and said hello - strangely enough t was both of our last days at work - she's doing a modicum of travelling (well having a holiday) and I'm looking at a serious chunk of the year off....
Still the Towpath is a great little venue. Initially there was ust the selection of cakes and breakfast stuff on the menu, but the selection improved massively when the lunch menu came up.
I plumped for lardo on toast with radishes and cherry tomatoes and a bowl of poached chicken salad, while Tracy stayed in extremelycomfortable territory with a toasted cheese and spring onion salad. Home made lemonade and a couple of glasses of house wine sorted the liquid part.
Everything about the towpath cafe is great; the salad was beautifully dressed and extremely fresh, the lardo was an unusual thing to find on the menu and was spiced and mouthfilling in the best sort of way. Confirming my assertion that there isn't much that isn't improved by pig fat..
Lunch was rounded off by a a natural (no sulpur) Sangiovese from Tuscany and a portion of yoghurt and pistacio cake. Then it started raining, proper raining, rain with intent and purpose. So we sat still and carried on chatting until it cleared. Which I guess sums up the highs and lows of the the cafe, lovely food, but you're more than a little bit exposed, a bit of wind or a lot of rain all make themselves felt quite forcefully.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Terroir and it's expressions

True expression of terroir, this seems to be one of the overriding goals of modern wine makers. Everywhere I go I hear people extolling it as the virtue towards which they strive. But what really enables people to percieve the subtle and miniscule differences between vineyards and between years.
Well I'm going to make a contreversial suggestion; a level playing field.
Australian and new world winemakers making their first forays into the Rhone valley were renowned for dismissing everything they tasted as being smothered by brett. The locals to whom a small amount of brett was pretty normal found this odd as they could see beyond it.
Afficianados of natural wines claim that their no sulphur wines with their oxidative notes slightly variable levels of volatility are truer expressions of the places where they're grown.
Wine makers in California trumpet the exact block of the vineyard despite leaving the vines to hang till the point of partial raisination and then use 100% new oak to fill out the gaps in the palette.
Who's right and who's fooling themselves? I'm going to contend that both and neither are. I think our palettes grow to disregard certain ever present influences and tastes, jut look at the way even the est chefs can develop a tolerance for salt in their food, leading what they regard to be a perfectly seasoned dish to taste excessively salty to someone else.
For abstract elements of terroir to really be percieved, you have to have a contineuom of winemaking style. Do you relly think that when the Burgundian vineyards were being mapped out by the Cistercian monks there was much diversity in winemaking, yep, it was almost certainly across the board rubbish, but at least each clos' wine was being ruined in the same ways.
The mid 20th century Bordeaux wines were all (with a few exceptions) being made to a certain formula, this allowed a generation of wine merchants and writers to learn the intricacies of the different communes. Now try to explain the relative merits of Margaux and St Julien when you've got Chateau Lascombes and Langoa Barton as your examples, one that's happy to show a refined and elegent frontage, the other that has been taking almost as many steroids as your average tour de france cyclist (not wanting to disparage Lascombes which I like a lot, but it doesn't half muddy the water in a comparison).
Does tasting Clos de Coulee de Serrant give a person any sort of idea about what the terroir is capable of. Yes and no, it's such a distinctive wine that I've seen people taste it and mistake a hell of a lot of the winemaking (or lack therof) influence as being related to the terroir. Show these same people any number of natural or minimal intervention wines (again many of which I love) and the inference will be that they show an incredible transparancy of terroir. The don't. No more than any wine made carefully with minimal sulphur, maximum hygene, stainless steel and a focus on truly reflecting the fruit character of the vineyards. Take a comparative tasting of the single block wines from St Claire in New Zealand if you want proof.
So now can people stop banging the drum about how their particular niche of winemaking preference is truer, and admit that whatever latent luddite sympathies might be informing their decisions are all well and good, at least as well and good as whatever avaricious inclinations drive people to 100% new high toast oak in persuit of high points.
The world is quite large enough to old both camps, and I for wine am quite happy to bob along in the middle enjoying the fruits of whatever they might produce.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Breaking up is hard to do...

I've been wondering whether leaving somewhere you've worked for a lengthy period of time is like leaving a long relationship?
That first interview, the nerves, the waiting, it's not so much like a first date. The wait for a call back, that period of uncertainty, are you going to be right for each other?
Then the first month or so of learning each others foibles. The excitement of new discoveries, the moments of illicit transgression. Your first unauthorised after work drink, the first time you arrive half an hour late and hungover despite living upstairs.
Then after not too long the realisation that you're a bit too ambitious to stay with the younger less pretty sister, you move uptown and sidle up to the big (younger and flashier doesn't really work within the metaphor but I'll run with it) sister. She's got goals, ambitions, hell she's much better dressed and has a whole lot more of what you're interested in. Of course, it's not as easy, you have to stay on your feet a lot more, and some of her little peculiarities are really quite hard to get over at first. But you persevere, you can see the good that could come of the relationship.
That first year, you're committed to it, you fight, you fuck, you think about walking out, you make up. You go out drinking together, you bust each others balls when it gets really busy, but then afterwards you still curl up together in bed, smile and fall happily asleep.
Imperceptibly you drift apart, it no longer seems like the end of the world if you don't see each other, the good times become just that bit less exciting and the little things you overlooked as being cute little curiosities become soul destroying. Songs you used to listen to together merely make you uncomfortable. You spend days on end not really doing anything, watching the staff running around you oblivious to how little you really care any more. You find yourself taking long hard looks at your partner, contrasting everything to how she was when you met, each wrinkle, every broken banquette and tap that's slightly different from the others. You get into arguments over the household finances, times have got tougher, so belts need to be tightened, there are disagreements over where best to make savings.
Then you finally make the jump, you send that email saying you can't do it any more, you're moving to Australia, it wasn't her, it was much more about you, how you just weren't ready to settle down, you both lie to each other a bit about how good it's been, and doubtless you'll both meet for a drink in a few years and reminisce about the good times, and laugh about how few names either of you can remember, but that's it.
Suddenly the wind that was flagging is gone, the water is placid, still and the sail is flapping listlessly. There's still another five or six weeks to go until you're off and free to flirt in bars anew, but you're still in each day, pretending that there's still a semblance of your heart in it.

Thank god you don't have to give notice when you break up..