Monday, 9 September 2013


I'm too young to remember the recent heyday of Bulgarian wines, Australia had already stolen their place in the UK market by the time I started drinking; however I'm assured by many a set text that they were once a force. Bulgarian Merlots and Cabernets offering soft, fruity, easy drinking liquid for the masses were once a common sight on UK shelves. My opinions of Bulgaria however, had been mostly formed by folk I'd worked with an friends. Suffice to say, I didn't have any context with which to place Bulgarian wines, well, apart from a sneaking suspicion that it might be akin to the revelation that getting to know Hungarian wine had been.

So I was more than a little excited when Daniel from Theatre of Wines started talking about the interesting Bulgarian wines that they'd started importing..

Zagreus is a winery in the Thracian plains.

Now if you're lucky enough, you'll find yourself in a taxi with an overly loquacious Romanian taxi driver, who'll explain to you that the countries of Thracia are merely political constructs dividing the original people of Europe, those who created the earliest kingdoms, and those who are still the same people, untouched by the waves of Asian migrations that created the Magyars and blessed of a more contiguous history than the fragmented Italians (yes, you'll probably detect a certain far right sentiment to their spiel, but we'll pass over that), the Thracians who formed the core of Alexander's army, the self same people who fought their way across continents in the name of nothing more than a disregard of death (well that's how my taxi driver put it).

Ancient Trace, from Albania to the borders of Turkey, conveniently pretty much the geographical scope of Peckham Bazaar's cooking, but I digress. I'm pretty certain that coincidence is merely that, but sometimes there are coincidences that trouble even my, most rational of minds.

Bulgaria's wine regions are pretty much divided into the Danubian planes and the Tracian lowlands; this I feel is core territory for PBaz (Peckham Bazaar) wines, the Thracian planes, blessed with deep iron rich soil, the kind that when I first saw it in Istria brought on a deep emotional understanding of quite how covetous it must have been to people who needed fertile earth for their livelihood. This was earth that seemed pregnant with potential for growth; the bounteous fields abutting the ploughed areas speaking epic tales of ripe crops and weighty vines. Indeed Zagreus is the Bulgarian name for Dionysus, he of the Bacchae and the far more interesting orgiastic celebrations that were usurped by our own Christian St Valentine's day.

But, back to the point; Mavrud, described by our own modern day Saint of the vine Jancis Robinson (though credit being due also to Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz) as being an "Indigenous Bulgarian variety producing sturdy reds that can improve with age.", a description sure to induce apathy, and one that I'm certain could do with a little poetry to enliven, something I'll endeavour to provide.

In it's basic incarnation, steel tanks separating the fermenting must from the oxidative ravages of wood's airy embrace and keeping it's youthful face clear of sun worn blemish, the Zagreus estates basic Mavrud offers a nose of plentiful fruit, fair jovial in it's congenialness, bright and fresh, yet with an underlay of herbal bitterness. A lean vegetal core that seems to speak of profligate herbs and sour spicing, just lying in wait, though still at present sub

sumed by the the cheery enthusiasm of youth. It's elder brother the Vinica 2010, an Amarone style take on the grape, pushes the boundaies yet further still. Fresh peas and summer vegetables, a touch of tarragon, all those herbs and spices that retain a touch of the animal about them. Peppermint and maybe eucalypt (I'm certain there's a herb I don't yet know that fits the aromatic profile better and more understandably), though not in an Antipodean way, grippy sweet tannins, though with minimal residual sugar. A puckering character to the wine that seems to invoke conflict; with what ought one drink this wine? Because this is self evidently a wine with which things out to be eaten. It's a wine that makes me think of rabbit stew, of all spice berries, bay leaves and thyme. One to accompany the stew pot to the table, and to be there to help those who struggle with rabbit hind quarters and the like. Bold and proud of its own place in the world.

Suffice to say I bought a case for the restaurant :)

Sunday, 8 September 2013


Apologies for what has been, even by my standards, an extended absence. I accidentally opened a restaurant. Yes, I was drunk when I said I was going to get involved. Yes, I did swear I'd never work in restaurants again. And yes, I'm loving it.
So, Peckham Bazaar, my new venture, is built around the cooking of my friend and now business partner John Gionleka; Albanian by birth and possessed of a deep love and affinity for all things Balkan and near Eastern. This has influenced the cooking in a profound way, so we're now serving a weekly changing menu of Balkan and near Eastern accented dishes cooked mostly on an open charcoal grill. So now we get to wine. Obviously, as it's a place I'm running, I get to decide what wines we're going to be serving, and with this in mind I decided to match John's influences and focus (read restrict) my wines on the Eastern Mediterranean (with occasional forays inland). So, this has meant that I'm now in the process of trying to learn as much as possible in as short a time as possible about Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Albania, Turkey, Israel, Bulgaria and the Lebanon. I'll be honest, it's fucking brilliant. It reminds me of starting out with wine, poring over maps of France and Spain, trying to mentally place regions and tastes within a somewhat empty conceptual map of the territory. So, yes, I'm back at that again, scouring maps (printed off from Jancis, obvs.) of Greece looking for Drama, Pangeon (surely Pangeon is like VDT and applicable everywhere?) and all the other previously overlooked regions.
Any way I digress. I was going to write about the best word in the English language. Sample. Obviously, if you're an haematologist, or work in genitourinary medicine you may have different views regarding samples, but I fucking love them. They make their way home with me, clinking in my bag like musical triangles of joy, each one possessed of the potential to wow, each one something I've almost certainly not tasted before, and, each one carrying with them a faint glow of left over hope from the merchant for whom they're really vinous lures, each one a different line with which to tempt me, the fish (I like to think I'm a noble brown trout), to bite.

To whit; I'm back tasting things properly again, I'm writing notes, I'm reading books, I'm sticking maps on my wall (actually a cast iron guarantee that I'll never actually look at said map again) and generally throwing myself wholeheartedly at the task of putting together the most awesome Eastern Mediterranean wine list in Peckham.

p.s. I intend to follow this with pieces on producers, their wines and other more prosaic issues.
p.p.s I may also rant about people with children not spending anywhere near enough money in my restaurant whilst torturing my hangover strained mental capacities.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Poverty, both intellectual and actual.

I'm slightly ashamed that one of my favourite things to do is laugh at the French. I have lots of Friends there and love the country and yet their foibles amuse me no end.
At present, I'm not laughing. In 1991 anti alcohol fundamentalists managed to get a law called EVIN passed. This basically made all advertising of alcohol illegal in an attempt to reduce alcoholism. In the years that followed the law was upheld quite aggressively, famously an article in Le Parisiene entitled Le Triomphe de Champagne was deemed to be too positive and therefor was considered advertising and thus illegal. Many publications and journalists were warned that articles were overstepping the mark (though rarely was this contested in court).
Michel Reynaud 
Things may be about to get worse. Michel Reynaud, the author of a proposed revision to the law, wants to ban pretty much all internet based wine sites. Stating 'We need to formally ensure that no media about alcohol can be aimed at young people, or potentially seen by young people, including the internet (except producer sites) and social networks.’
His justification cites a supposed finding that 13 to 17 year olds who have access to smart phones, the internet, social networks and the like are three times more likely to have consumed wine than those that don't.
Exactly. I'm pretty certain that I made the same face too.
France, as of 2012 has a 79.6% Internet penetration, so we're looking at one in five teenagers (I'm assuming for the moment that distribution across the population is even, despite my guess being that there is a bias towards the elderly segments of the population within the non connected) being three times less likely than the other four to have consumed wine.
Right now lets think about what might cause this quite significant difference in consumption behaviour. Access to web based wine criticism, or poverty? Does France have a large North African Muslim population? Are they generally at the lower end of the income scale? Does Msnr Reynaud take this into account? To be honest, I don't know for certain, all I see is what looks like a spurious statistic being shoehorned into furthering an oddly fundamentalist approach to dismantling one of France's best known industries.
I really don't want to shout correlation not causation because it would make me sound like a twatty first year student. But I'm going to none the less. Mnsr Reynaud, sod off.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Tokaj food camp

Tokaj is a wine region in the North East of Hungary. A couple of years back I rather fell in lover with the place.

The meandering Bodrog river, all early morning mists and darting dragon flies. Winding your way around the Zemplen foot hills, admiring the patchwork of vineyards that adorn the slopes, the multifold shades of green that turn an intoxicating mahogany and gold come harvest time in the autumn.

As a wine region it's just watching the second modern (post Soviet) generation really get their teeth stuck into the perennial questions of terroir. This for me makes it a wonderfully exciting place to explore. On the one hand you have the established large wineries who set about rewriting the quality rules twenty odd years ago. Then on the other you have people like Istvan Szepsy and wine growers of Mád who decided to ask different questions. Disregarding the iconic sweet wines that had defined the region for hundreds of years, they instead focused on single vineyard dry wines, each one offering a different spyglass look into the multifaceted geology of the region (it rivals Alsace for geological complexity). Subsequent visits saw me falling further for the energy of this younger generation. Each time I went back, my new friends would foist bottles with new names on me, their wild eyed enthusiasm testament to the degree to which the Hungarian's are proud of their countries gift to the world of wine.

Back in the UK I managed to fall in with the sort of crowd who thought it'd be a good idea to spend a weekend butchering a whole pig and eating it. While this was not only great fun it pitched me into the orbit of Florian Siepert (the inspiration behind our pig day), Florian fast became a good friend and I ended up going with him on one of his food camps, to Essouaria as it happened, late one night (almost certainly after a lot of beer) I suggested that we should do the same thing but to Tokaj.

So the Tokaj food (and wine) camp was born. With much help from another friend Gergely Szabo (a fellow night of Tokaji) we harangued, pestered and generally annoyed the good folk of Mád (the iconic village of the region) until we came up with what we think is a pretty awesome itinerary.

So without further ado: I give you, hunting trips for wild boar and moufflon (like wild sheep) with the town's mayor (he's president of the hunting club), foraging in the hills, fishing in the hill streams, fishing in old fashioned style wicker traps in the rivers, visits to some of our favourite wineries (of which more later) including the best Sherry style wine you'll ever taste (yes, I rank it as being better than anything from Jerez) from Samuel Tinon, vegetable shopping from the villages market gardens, fresh geese, a mangaliza pig slaughter and traditional butchery/preservation. Basically, everything you've ever wanted to do in an idyllic wine region. With communal dinners every evening where more of our winemaker friends will come to join us.

The main wineries we'll be off to are Szent Tamas (wines made by Istvan Szepsy junior), Orosz Gabor the genial genius from Mád and Samuel Tinon, French born perfectionist who also, in his Szaraz Samorodni, makes the most incredible Sherry style (aged for six years under flor yeast) that you'll taste outside of Jerez (or Vin Jaune).

There'll be lots of Palinka, probably lots of sausages and only the occasional bone shattering land rover trip across steep hillside vineyards.

Incidentally if anyone is particularly interested in wine rather than wine and food. We've got a sort of parallel itinerary arranged that will take in visits to your selection out of:


So, if you want to join us in Tokaj for the food/wine camp. Go to OpenTrips and either book, or register to follow any updates we have on what's happening.

Friday, 7 June 2013

n gram action

I noticed recently that google had added a facility to search their full corpus of scanned literature and archived web pages for specific search terms.
Known in computer science as n grams these are essentially a natural language searches, they're a core part of machine translation systems and have many other important uses.
I'm not going to be as useful. What I am going to do is plot the relative mentions of various wines/regions in the literature corpus so that we can finally answer some of the more pressing vinous questions.

Bordeaux or Burgundy?

Which of the First Growths really deserves the accolade of first amongst equals? Obviously taking 1855 as our starting point.

I think it makes for a rather beautiful little graph. Almost certainly of no real use what so ever, still. Here's the link to their n gram search page, let me know if you come up with any good ones. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

£6.99 Anatolian smackdown

Taking as my inspiration the now defunct MTV Celebrity Deathmatch concept but transposing it to relate to the lower end of the available wine market in SE London (i.e. what I’m prepared to purchase with my own coin). I bring you the £6.99 Eastern Anatolian smackdown. Two wines, evenly matched on price, boasting the same blend..

Öküzgözü and Bogazkere: The Eastern Anatolian brothers - The ‘Bulls eye’ and The ‘Burns the throat’ (exactly what the wrestling move that ends up burning the opponents throat is I have no wish to imagine) (actually on second thoughts; it could be like a Chinese burn, but more strangly)

Serious now, Öküzgözü is the softer, juicier and less tannic of the two; Bogazkere bringing the structure, both light in colour with and very often blended. Both varieties are native to Eastern Anatolia and both have a selection of equally difficult to spell siblings and parentage. 

Yakut 2011 - Eastern Anatolia
Kavaklkidere winery
Lightish weight, initially presenting simple bright cherry flavours, light tannins, then a cherry red fruit, dried cherry liquorice finish. Think old school beaujolais.

Buzbag Klasic 2010 - Elazig - Diyarbakir
Kayra winery
Fuller bodied, slight grip to the tannins, dark cherry and some dark fruit, lots of liquorice, like a fuller riper version of the above. Slightly more evolved and complex, though obviously fuller bodied to start with.

The bell: The Yakut makes a pleasant out of the fridge summer wine, but isn't going to be anything else, the Buzbag, by dint of it's fuller body is probably a bit more versatile though it's hardly the subtlest. Having said that, for £6.99 they're both pretty good value.

Both wines available from TFC supermarkets (shops that I highly recommend, excellent veg at good prices and all the Turkish goodies you could wish for)

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

London International Wine Fair

It's been a couple of years now since I last attended the London International Wine Fair and I'm in two minds. Yesterday was RAWfair, bustling even on the quiet trade Monday, filled with interesting and (without wanting to resort to cliche) unusual wines.

Not really sure what I'm going to find this afternoon at Exel, but I'm hoping it'll not be quite as moribund as people are suggesting.

Wine of the day - Wetzer Spern Steiner 11 - Scintillating Kekfrankos, alive with buzzing acidity and a glorious fresh bitter cherry fruit character.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

what should we do with a rubbish cider? (to the tune of the drunker sailer sea shanty)

My girlfriend Helen (@foodstories) gets sent all sorts of stuff on account of her being a much, much better blogger (chef and all round person) than me.
Sometime we don't quite know what to do with said products.
I give you Brothers Cider, all the way from somewhere in Somerset, from a family with cider making traditions dating back to the 1600s (some ancestors possibly spinning in their graves over the crazy fruit flavours) and a nice friendly PR who kindly sent Helen a couple of bottles of their strawberry and wild fruit flavours ciders.
So, we were faced with a dilemma; one not at all disimilar to the one I faced whilst buying a bottle of Appleton's Estate rum from the corner shop at 8.15am (it was for a work function that night I promise) when the proprietor proudly grabbed a large bottle of pink Bacardi Breezer from under the counter and presented it to me whilst informing me that I could have it free with my purchase. How to politely get across the message that it wasn't really the sort of thing we drink?
Then, the idea came like a special sort of heavenly manna lightning cross. What if we made ice lollies from them!?!

Take one bottle of sweet red fruit flavoured cider.
Pour into four disposable plastic wine glasses.
Freeze with a teaspoon inserted at a jaunty angle.
Remove and enjoy!

Needless to say the act of freezing the sweet sickly cider goes a very long way to making it palatable (remind me to write a post about FroRosé some time soon).

On supermarkets and sweet vinotypes

I've been reading the new text by Tim Hanni 'Why we like the wines we like' and while I find the style a little abrasive (it's very chatty and American) there's no doubt in my mind that it's the most interesting and thought provoking wine book I've read in a good while.

The central tenet of his take on wine is that there are essentially four different palette profiles extant in the general populace, of which only two, sensitive and tolerant are really paid much attention in the wider wine world. He spends a lot of time discussing, sweet and hypersensitive palette profiles and how they often find delicate wines such as Pinot Grigios and softer sweeter wines like White Zin more appealing.

I'd been chewing (swilling round my mouth) over what I'd read I found myself looking for something drinkable in my local Morrisons (I'm in Camberwell and sometimes I forget to pre purchase the evenings drinking) it dawned on me that the bulk of the whites would cater very well for the sweet and hypersensitive drinkers. I stopped, mused on some statistics that I'd remembered.

image nicked from Yapp wine's blog, a really good wine merchant

Sweet vinotypes: 21%:7% Female to male. That's a 3 to 1 ratio of female to male.
Hypersensitive: 36%:38% pretty much even.
Tolerant (the palette type that appreciates big gutsy reds etc, your Parker wines if you will) is 2:1 male:female.

I also remembered that I'd read somewhere that supermarket wine purchasing is some 80% controlled by women.

So ensuring that the wine selection will appeal to the palette preferences most likely to present in the consumers most likely to be spending money in the shop. All of a sudden the predominance of wine styles that were likely to be appreciated by the dominant spenders in the shop didn't seem all that unusual.

I guess the supermarket wine buyers do know what they're doing...

Jamie Goode on the same topic..

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

RAW preview..

The world of wine is by its very essence cyclical. Vintage follows vintage and wine follows wine in a stately procession that can ether prove fascinating or somewhat somnolent. Whenever I find myself less than thrilled to be reading about the intricacies of the most recent Bordeaux vintage, or exactly how much the emerging Chinese desire for Burgundy is going to hamper my future enjoyment of said region, my thoughts turn to Italy.
Endless complex, gloriously varied, and possessed of a soul that honestly does seem to leap out of the glass, gesticulating wildly whilst fretting over the fortunes of their local team in the scudetta.
As an aside; how do you stop an Italian from talking? Tie their hands behind their back....
Interestingly the Italians have been enthusiastic adopters of the minimal interventionalist movement, I guess that there's something about the devil may care attitude and snubbing of convention that appeals. None the less, there are a huge number of Italian natural wines making their way to our shores, many of the growers (actually lots of them) are going to be at RAW fairin May. 
I had a little sneak preview of some of them with Isabelle earlier this week. 

'If I was Prosecco, I'd be cool and art deco, you could drink me in the penthouse you could drink me in the ghetto' so went the short bit of verse an Oddbins colleague of mine penned many years ago for some competition or other. At that time we saw Prosecco as a frothy, simplistic sort of drink, ideal for folk who didn't really understand why Champagne was better. God we were snobby in our ignorance. Still, I like to think that I've moved on somewhat, now I only look down on the people who unthinkingly drink Prosecco, not the drink itself, an important distinction (I keep telling myself). Any way, the real excitement in Prosecco is all about the words 'Col Fondo' directly translating as 'with the bottom' while actually meaning bottle with the lees. Opaque, enervating, gloriously moreish, this is Prosecco that seems to birth vitality. 
Malibra, Sottoriva (Col Fondo, 2011), coming from a tiny 7ha vineyard this seemed to me like a grown up lemon barley water, delicately sparkling with subtle fruit notes and an invigorating minerality. 

Tuscany, the Chiantishire of so many idyllic new Labour retreats. Sangiovese the blood that runs through the valleys, Malvasia and Trebbiano the Lymphatic to the better known reds. Columbaia Bianco 2011, from just outside of Siena, a blend of the two white varieties. Somewhat spiritually cleansing, tart peach floral notes, just a touch of fatness from its time on lees, the chalky clay soils coming through in the persistant minerally finish. Pacina, Il Secondo 2010, like the Columbaia this was a steel tank job, the inert vessel maintaining a lot of the freshness and aromatics of the Sangiovese, all dark cherries, black tea and primal meatiness. Some very chewy tannins suggest that this was a wine that really wanted to be sidling up to something with a healthy whack of meat fat. Nothing bad with that though.

Not strictly Italian, but given its proximity to the border I'm letting the Vipava valley in Slovenia slip into my Italocentric round up. Mlecnik (if anyone can help me out with the short cut for the little v on top of the c I'd be most grateful) Chardonnay 07. Three weeks on skins puts this wine firmly in the orange category, however it's still recognisably Chardonnay, and a surprisingly youthful one at that, its six years of age merely contributing a nice earthy creaminess, ripe apple and peach contributed the fruit notes while the measured tannin extraction made for a most satisfying body.

Wrapping up our little tour of Italian staples was La Biancara, Recioto Garganega 2007 from the Veneto. Half of the crop dried in a traditional passito fashion, the other half given extended skin contact, this seemed to me to sum up why natural wines can be so much fun. All sorts of naughty volatility on the nose, but I didn't really care, figs, prunes, toffee glazed walnuts, rich, sweet and lovely. The kind of wine that makes me want to just ditch the hassle of making a tart tatin, far too much going on to dick about with a pudding..

Links on the wine names take you to the suppliers. 

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Old school Italians...

The old school Italian restaurant, they not as numerous as they once were but it doesn’t take too long to find one. Often they now look a little forlorn, but we shouldn’t forget the pioneering role these outposts of Italian culture played in shaping the restaurant scene of today.

There have been Italian restaurants in London since 1803, when Joseph Moretti opened the Italian Eating House near Leicester Sqare, his was a response to the growing Italian community based around Clarkenwell and Holborn, a collection of political emigres, and craftsmen.

In the century that followed the community grew steadily with the addition of a large group of merchant seamen. The Italian restaurant community also grew with hotels and eating houses being opened, mostly around Leicester Square, though by now Clerkenwell was known as little Italy and was a centre for skilled glass and plaster working.

By 1901 there were 11000 Italians living in London and the modern age of the trattoria was just around the corner. At this point we also turn our gaze towards Soho, Dean street in particular. 45 Dean street (now the Groucho club) had been a restaurant since 1880, but it was Gennaro’s that made its name. Along with Leoni’s Quo Vadis further up the road Soho had become the centre of British Italian dining.

Outside of the rarified salons of Soho the post war years of the 50s to the 70s saw an explosion in Italian emigration. The poor southern half of the country struggled after the second world war and many people left. Emilio-Romagna in particular saw a large exodus to the British isles.

1955 saw what was perhaps the most iconic of London Italian openings, with the first Spaghetti house offering Anglicised versions of Italian favourites. Just like the growth of curry houses across the land the Italian trattorias offered Spaghetti Bolognese and creamy Carbonarras. Wine was wicker basketed and the patrons would charm the ladies with roses and allusions to exotic mediterranean wonders. But let’s remember that for most people in Britain at that time wine was still exotic and unknown. Indeed I remember my father telling me of his Aunt coming back from Italy with the first bottle of wine he’d ever seen.

So the trattorias spread across the country, bringing affordable dining to towns and cities where before there’d been none. I’m certain that there are many whose first restaurant experiences were just that.

So anyway, now we’re blessed with regional specific Italians, modern British interpretations of Italian, and the wonderful legacy of the River Cafe, let’s raise a glass of Chianti to those pioneers and remember what made them great. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Shit wine lists

You know how it is, you've been back and forth over the channel to source your chickens from just the right Brittany co-op. You've spent hours toiling over getting your special house marinade just right. You've put loads of effort into getting the design of your special cooking system spot on and sorted the brand identity so that you'll be able to expand.

All of that was, I'm sure, time very well spent.

However, I'm not going to visit. Why? The drinks selection is properly shit.

A couple of the biggest production, blandest wines you could list from probably the biggest UK supplier. Couple that with Staropramen, Estrella and London Pride as the beer selection and you have the most stultifyingly boring drinks list I've seen in a very long time. I'm hoping that you negotiated the hell out of the prices (plus sorted some listing kickbacks) because if you didn't, well, then that's just poor.

Anyway, feel free to ignore me, I'm unlikely to pester you as I won't be visiting.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Everyday sexism...

Sexy, sexy chip blow job pic
Just a short post this one. The Observer arrived this morning and as usual I was somewhat keen to have a squizzle.

What can I say about the front page, there it was, the classic lady seductively eating a piece of food, lips all a red, mouth just a little open. It's not like we're consciously aping the mental ideal of a blowjob. Perfect lips, the idea of slightly naughty satisfaction on receipt of oral pleasure (I accept that this could be implying that eating chips is a satisfying as sucking cock, but I doubt that was thought about when the image concept was first hit upon).

Then I got to thinking, have I ever seen the same image but with a male face being used? No, and for me, therein lies the rub. I honestly thought the Observer was a trifle better than this, but it would appear not.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Old Chablis

Early January in London can be most pleasant. Clear skies, bright sunshine and the spring in our steps that comes with the knowledge that Burgundies finest will all soon be visiting.

Sadly when it comes to the finer bottles from the Cote d’Or I tend to feel like a runner helplessly watching a much better class of athlete energetically showing me their heels. The prices seem to creep up every year with equal clamour for all the interesting wines.

There is one little corner of Burgundy that I hope will still remain approachable, that august hillside that hosts the grand crus of Chablis. 


Now, many other people have written knowledgeably about the different crus and the different growers. Rosemary George, for one has written an excellent book on the region. So instead I’m going to talk about the thing that excites me most about the little Union de Grand Crus de Chablis tasting that always kicks off my wine tasting year. The older bottles that the producers bring along for comparison.

Please don’t take this as my not being interested in the new vintage, the 2011s were looking quite lovely, with a great depth of minerality and acidity closer in style to the 08s than I’ve seen recently. There were some stand out wines, Simonnet-Febvre’s 011 Preuses being one such, fair glimmering with white flowers while on the palette all a quiver with nervous minerality. Really though to single out wines so early on in their lives is a little unfair.

I digress, at the UGC tasting all the producers bring along something older for us to taste, a little window into what the younger wines might become, it’s these bottles that really make my day. There’s something about the mealy creaminess and mushroomy dankness that gets me everytime.

Drouhin Vaudon Les Clos 08 brought to mind visiting old castles as a child, there was a sense of something ancient and worn, like the smell of old moss on even older walls.

Albert Bichot’s Moutonne 01 (from magnum) dazzled with it’s youthfulness, lean and lithe with a twist of citrus peel still prominent in it’s bouquet. A sculpted mineral core was paying just lip service to the savoury wild mushroom risotto notes that were probably still to come.

Servin’s Blanchot 99 delighted, wearing it’s 13 odd years of age with some great poise and vigour. Savoury mushrooms and starchy creaminess, a glorious velouté of kimmeridgian chalk. What more is there to say, old Chablis, properly love it.