Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wine Means Red Wine......

Well, Gypsy Scholar pointed me to his blog and I feel I should probably comment(though the topic is covered very well in the links). An article in the JoongAng Daily offering advice to the wine drinkers in Korea has certainly got some issues that can be addressed.

One of the issues raised is something I had intended to comment on before reading this and that is the anxiety and fear that people feel about buying wine. Walking into a wine shop can be terrifying, yet there is no good reason for this. It is not a mysterious commodity that in order to buy and enjoy requires great depth of knowledge. I do not know a great deal about MP3 players, but I know I have certain requirements and that I can talk to a salesperson about my likes and dislikes in MP3 players, I can tell them how much I want to spend and they will show me the items they stock that match those attributes. Wine is no different.

A good sommelier or retailer will be able to talk you through the wines and find you something that will match your expectations. The best part is that these people are passionate about their product and they want to share that with you. They want you to enjoy the wine they sell and hopefully introduce you to something new. I promise you that this will be the case with 90% of the people in the wine industry. It is a passion that people want to share. Take advantage of that.

My biggest issue with the article is the line "For Lee, wine means red wine. Like many connoisseurs he regards white wine as frivolous." I can only assume that this is a little artistic license from the reporter. It just seems a ludicrous thing for anyone in the wine industry to say. I mean, just ludicrous. This is a man who clearly has a passion for French wines yet he writes off Champagne, he writes off White Burgundies, Puligny Montrachet, Chassagne Montrachet, Corton Charlemagne. He writes off Coindreau, spicy Alsatian aromatics, he writes off the great whites of the Loire, Sancerre, Pouilly Fume. German Rieslings, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. If he really did say this then I can only assume it to be part of some misplaced machismo. That white wine is somehow feminine and therefore, in his mind, not serious. As a wine man he really is missing out on a whole lot pf pleasure though..

The other points are covered well by the Gypsy Scholar's knowledgeable friend. Balance is good. Choosing a wine at 13.5% is a daft way to choose, though I agree that avoiding some over-alcoholic wines is a good idea. I am pleased that he can afford to indulge a preference for Red Burgundies. No, really, I am.

The other point of contention is his assertion to avoid American wines. I will admit that I am guilty of this and it is something I have been meaning to address. However, each time I'm buying a bottle I always come out with something from anywhere but America. Why? Well, in the UK, under 10 pounds, you do not get that many great American wines. At least not ones I tried. They tended to suffer from the great excesses that the Europeans criticize the Americans for, massive fruity Zinfandels with enough alcohol to put you on your back with one whiff. Merlots with the structure and balance of Bambi on ice. I developed a bad impression of them. In Korea I worry that it will be the same story but I will have to pay even more for the pleasure or lack thereof. However, I will make a promise that the next time I am wine shopping I will buy at least one bottle of American wine.

So, what is the point? Well, don't be scared by wine, you buy it, you drink it and if you like it you remember it. The old world wines can be a git to get to grips with, but a little knowledge will go a long way and could prove to be extremely rewarding. Drink red and white please. Especially now it is getting hot. A cold crisp Riesling after a hard day is guaranteed to cheer you up.
This post comes directly from my place of work and it is hot and I haven't had a drink. If it is rambling there you have your excuse....

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lagunilla, Vina Artal Crianza Rioja

Lagunilla, Vina Artal Crianza , 2003
Rioja, Spain
EMart, W16,000

I talked about Riojas age classifications here..
I am a big fan of Riojas, they offer some really good juicy wines and come in a great variety of styles. With the 18 months in oak for a Crianza you get that extra level of complexity and interest for your money. At W16,000 in Emart not bad value.

It is a light ruby, not an intense coloured wine and it has a slight pink rim. There is just a touch of brown to indicate its age.

On the nose we are getting many secondary aromas. This isn't the big fruity wine that was the story of the Campo Viejo. There is a real dried fruit thing going on here, raisins, prunes and spice. Cloves are really coming through. This is still fairly young though and so there is still plenty of fruit there. As is the case with most wines that are predominantly tempranillo this is a juicy red fruit affair. Red cherries and cranberries with a touch of strawberry.

This is a really soft wine tannin wise but is really quite acidic. Surprisingly so. It is not a power house by any means, it feels really quite light bodied but does linger on the palate. The dried fruit isn't really following through at all, instead we are getting the cherries and cranberries in a far less ripe style than the nose suggests. It feels a little thin and acidic for my tastes. There is at least a pleasant vanilla finish, characteristic of the time in oak, but it isn't enough to save this wine for me.

It is by no means a bad wine and if it had a little more in the way of tannins I would suggest it just needs a little more time to round out. However I don't think it will benefit all that much from age and so cannot really recommend it. My SO thinks it is pretty good though so maybe you will like it. It is not a bad price after all..

Friday, May 25, 2007

Lawsons Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc

Lawsons Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc, 2005
Marlborough, New Zealand
E-Mart, W24,000.

Well, I have written about this in brief in other posts yet have never given it my full attention. Why? Well, it really is very good and generally it has been put away before there is any time to write it up.
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is one of those wines that really does show off the true varietal character of a grape. It is a region that takes the grape and produces wines that seem to have all the characteristics that are noted for Sauvignon Blanc(SB). SB tends to be a gooseberry, cat piss, passion fruit, grassy, herbaceous wine. That is what you get with Marlborough SBs. Some can do more tropical fruit, some more of the grassy quality but there is usually no mistaking what it is that is in front of you.
I suspect in the UK they may soon go the way of Chardonnay, that is people becoming tired of its power house fruit and intense refreshing hit. That is the nature of fashion but unlike the welcome retreat of the over ripe, over oaked Chardonnays I think it would be a shame if Marlborough SB went out of fashion. It is a great wine.

The Lawsons is a great example of the more ripe style of the region. This is a 2005, I believe the ones I had before were 2006 and SB does benefit from being young. It is a wine all about lively fruit, not developing, secondary flavours. Indeed, the secondary flavours tend to be somewhat unpleasant tinned vegetable aromas.
This is a clear and bright lemon yellow wine of a medium intensity(I know people probably don't care too much about the appearance, this is for me and my course). The nose is great, pretty intense with no searching for the fruit required. It comes straight with the grassiness so appealing to SB and then follows up with some lovely tropical fruit aromas. Pineapple is there as is passion fruit. Gooseberry is there as well though a much riper gooseberry than some SBs. It is all backed up by a fresh citrus lemon and all in gives off a really refreshing idea of the drink to come.
And it is refreshing. Mouth watering. Crisp. An intense fruit burst with citrus taking the lead quickly followed by the fuller, riper pineapple. It has really good length with the herbaceousness and gooseberry lingering just long enough to remind you to have another slug on it(I mean, sip, of course). This is not a subtle wine, there is none of the minerality of a great Sancerre or Pouilly Fume but then to get even a decent SB from the Loire you have to pay a premium.
One of the nicest things about this wine is its price, at 24,000 that converts to about £12. Majestic Wine have this at £9.99. For once I feel that I am not getting a bottle marked up beyond belief.

If you are a fan of Marlborough SB or you have never tried them and are looking for a cracking bottle of wine at a really good price then get yourself to E-Mart. While there you could pick up one of the Lawsons Pinot's as well.

So, having debased my wine blog with talk of beer snacks we are now back on track. Coming next are a Crianza Rioja from Emart and a Viognier(Vee On Nyey) from Shindong wine.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ultimate Beer Snack?

Not a wine post. I am a bit hungover. Had to work yesterday and we felt bitter about this and so drank too much to compensate. Also it was the (extremely dull) FA Cup final.

I was thinking about beer snacks this morning. And........

What is it? The ultimate beer snack?
I reckon it has to be salty, moreish and not too filling. It is the kind of thing you have to compulsively push into your gaping maw.

1: Crisps(chips for our American friends). Salt and Vinegar walkers.......
Korea doesn't do Salt and Vinegar and God I miss it. They work as a beer snack. Salty, crispy and the vinegar gives enough of a hit to not be overpowered by the beer. Other flavours can work, not ready salted I reckon though(too simple), spicy ones work. Haitai Habanero would work. They are spicy as and have a bit of sweetness make them double moreish.

2: Pork scratchings. Even the name is good eh? Scratchings of pig. Salty, check. Crunchy, check. Macho, check. Pork scratchings are pretty powerful and can ruin a set of teeth but the crunchy, soft, salty and I think, unamic(I think I invented this word) snack is a genius partner to a pint of lager. I love scratchings(sorry Mam and Dad) but you can't eat a lot. One bag will do you for a session really.

3: Nuts.
Couldn't find a picture of dry roasted. It has to be dry roasted in the pub I think. The flavouring is pretty false but it has a good hit of flavour and works well with beer. 1 bag isn't enough which is a good sign as well. All nuts work well though. If you are in a better boozer you could maybe get smoked almonds and that is always going to work well.

That's the British boozer standards out of the way.


4: Popcorn!
You pretty much get a bowl of popcorn with every beer in Korea. This is a good thing. Popcorn works. Salted popcorn. It is salty, crunchy and moreish. You can push endless piles of it into your face without really noticing it. It requires a slug of beer to remove the bits of husk stuck in your teeth. Popcorn is good. The Oriental Brewery in Jamsil has the best popcorn I have had in a pub here so far.

5: Seaweed.
Yep. Seaweed. It works. The small salty sheets are a treat. What you get is an extremely delicate, crispy vehicle for getting the all important salt in your mouth. It isn't something you get that often but when you do it is a real treat. Pretty healthy in comparison to the above as well.

Ahhhh edamame. Who would have thought a soy bean could give so much pleasure? I love these. They are my ultimate beer snack. Why? Well, they come loaded with salt(when I make them), you put the pod in your mouth, tooth the bean out and get the salt with a nutty bean with bite. Then you have another. And another. I honestly think I could just keep putting these away. You don't get full. You don't grow tired. Each and every one is pleasure. Amazing. The first time I had them was in a bar in Clerkenwell and they cost £4 for about 10 pods. Stupid money. It was worth it though. If you haven't had edamame yet then go and get some.
In Seoul you can get them from the foreigners market at Hannam-dong.

So what have I missed? What is the greatest beer snack? Get stuck in!

This post was brought courtesy of Prime Max. Delicious idea.

I have been drinking wine..... We had a pretty amazing Pouilly Fume, Sauvignon Blanc at its most smoky and mineral. Very much like sucking wet stones but with alcohol. Also, we had a 2005 Haut Bages Averous. A Pauillac Bordeaux that I knew wouldn't be ready to drink and indeed wasn't. Give it a few years and it will be an impressive Pauillac though I reckon.
7-11 are now doing some dry whites also. I spotted a Chardonnay and also a Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend from Chile. The latter costs 13,000 and is a bit meh.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Old World Vs New World...... Battle of the Blends.

Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2005
Margaret River,

Kressmann Grande Reserve 2005

Both bought from les vins maeil located in the Lotte Castle Plaza(pictured above), Jamsil. They have a website at www.lesvins.co.kr but unfortunately it doesn't work. This is a really nice wine shop. It has issues. It has a tendency to be hugely over priced. Rather than separate its wines by just region it does them by reds/whites and regions. Most importantly it does not have a price against every wine. Or even most wines. There is very little pricing......
However, I like it. It is haphazard, wine boxes scattered about the place, wine bins overflowing, bargains scattered here and there. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful. There is none of the abject fear that seems to strike some shop workers when confronted with a white faced, big nose(I try to engage in my pidgin Korean but there is a moment of rabbit caught in headlights as I approach in most shops). It just feels like a real wine shop. A bumbling, enthusiastic, passionate wine lovers retail experience. What's not to like? Also, they gave me free cheese. As service. All good.

To the battle.....

Old World V New World.
France V Australia
The largest exporter of still light wine V the largest growth(by volume) of still light wine exports

and so on.

In all honesty this is probably unfair, though not without worth. Dry white Bordeaux has a propensity to be fairly uninteresting, dry and characterless wine. It is very firmly in the shadow of the reds and the sweet wines of the region. The reasoning behind picking up this bottle was pretty simple, it was cheap. However, knowing that it was a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend gave me the opportunity for this comparison. And comparison is good!

The Bordeaux is a 50-50 split, Semillon/Sauvignon, the Cape Mentelle 49-49 with 2% Chardonnay.
Both are clear, bright lemon and very pale wines. They look young, they are young, the Bordeaux carrying just a touch of green.

On the nose the Australian wins hands down. It has characteristic Sauvignon traits, herbaceous(grassy almost), gooseberries, green apples and there is a touch of honey in there which must be coming from the Semillon. It is a really expressive nose. The Bordeaux has far less going on. There are green apples, though they smell slightly oxidised, as though they are all that's left from a fruit salad from yesterday(HA! I think that right there was the moment I moved in to horrible, over descriptive, wine bore territory. You witnessed it here! It's true though.). There is a touch of the herbaceousness, a touch, and far more nondescript citrus. It all feels a bit green to be honest.

It is a similar story on the palate. The Bordeaux is a tale of unripe fruit, green apples and lemon. It is a refreshing dry white that lacks the character to take it out of the realms of bland. I could probably argue the case for a touch of minerality but I can't really be bothered.
The Cape Mentelle is a bit of a zinger, lemon and grapefruit, far less herbaceous than the nose suggests. Although the Sauvignon dominates there is much more weight than a straight Sauvignon Blanc. It has crisp green apples as well as the citrus and all said and done offers hell of a lot more than the Bordeaux.

A surprising result? Well, no. Cheap, white Bordeaux is probably not the place to look for exciting wine and 17,000 is cheap. It probably translates to about £4 or $8 in real(not marked up beyond recognition) money. However, I quite liked the Bordeaux, when taken on its own merits. Crisp, light and refreshing I would be quite happy to drink this. The Cape Mentelle was just a good wine.

Edit: Alright, just to clarify the Australian was the superior wine. By a long shot.