Sunday, July 20, 2008

How To Beat The Rainy Day Blues

Up here in the north of South Korea we don't seem to get the full effect of the monsoons that annually hit the peninsula. What we get are the side effects which manifest themselves in rain. Lots of rain. This weekend has been something of a wash out in that it has rained pretty much consistently for 48 hours. The local river has burst its banks, the local building site is a swamp and plans to go flat(apartment) hunting in Gangnam have been quashed.
I have read books on wine.
I have played GTAIV.
I have studied Korean.
I have cooked a Vindaloo.
And I have opened a £40 bottle of white Burgundy. If you can't leave the house to buy something cheap one must drink what is at hand, no?

I bought this bottle as I was leaving my pre-Korea job to take advantage of a staff discount. I am a big fan of white Burgundy, be it the austere Chablis or the rich Mersault, and this particular appellation sounded like it would make a wine that worked my weak spots. I could have kept it for longer, let it age and mature and round out, but as a consumer who can only afford to buy single bottles, not cases, and lacking the luxury of space to store I am a drinker not a keeper.

And it was raining.

And grey.

Really, one needs a pick-me-up on days like this.

Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2000.
Domaine Marc Colin et ses Fils,
Bought for about £40. Unavailable in Korea. Probably. Maybe but it will be stupid, stupid money. The last Corton Charlemagne I saw here was selling for 1,000,000 won or £500.

I have talked before about expectation and wine. The belief that a bottle is going to knock you sideways and re-define your high water mark. A bottle that all other bottles will aspire to be. Well, this bottle neither disappointed nor set a new standard. It was not sublime, earth moving or life changing but it was exceptional, thought provoking and most importantly delicious. It was a very happy monsoon day drink.

For an eight year old drink it wasn't nearly as dark in the glass as I would have expected. It was a beautifully bright lemon with some evidence of legs. Looking youthful!

I don't know if I have got across how important it is to smell a wine. Not just for the purpose of checking if it has any faults or not but simply in terms of pleasure. Sticking your snout in a good glass of wine and taking a good old sniff is surely one of life's great pleasures. Smell is a route to memory and building memories based on great alcohol is surely more worthwhile than building a loss of memory on poor alcohol. Which I also occasionally enjoy indulging in.

This wine had a fantastic nose. My tasting note talks of pears smothered with hazelnut ice cream, sans botulism, with wet stones next to the river on a summer day. It had a beautifully evolved chardonnay nose with no off notes and superb vanilla integration which gave a creamy, buttery quality. There were apples, but not your green apples freshly bitten but apples in a Paris patisserie baking a Tarte Tatin. Yes, this could be my wankiest tasting note yet.

Smell is important then, but how did it taste? Not quite as good as the nose I am afraid. It was still fantastic though! It initially comes across with a real burst of flavour with fresh lemon and good acidity. The apples are there again but this time we are talking a Granny Smith with the nuttiness of the first bite into the skin. On top of this it felt reasonably full bodied with a real creamy mouth feel. The length was exceptional and developed a real nuttiness as evidenced on the nose.

Temperature really affected this wine and it certainly does not want to be served clap cold. Chilled for sure but too cold and it closes up.

It is a wine that seems to walk a tight rope between the austere style of a Chablis and the richness of a Mersault. It was fantastically refined and really was an absolute pleasure. Would that I could afford to drink more Grand Crus white Burgundy! It had plenty of life left in it that is for sure and I perhaps drank a little premature. I am not so upset.

Though, saying that, I am now sitting drinking the Las Moras Argentenian Chardonnay and life has less colour.

If I did tags on posts, this would be tagged under 'ponce' mostly.

Monday, July 14, 2008

GS Mart Wine Fridge

GS Mart has come up with the genius idea of placing a small wine fridge next to the counter. The summer is really hotting up now and sticking chilled white wines beaded with sweat where I am making my purchase is a sure fire sale.
Las Moras Chardonnay at 11,000won is not bad. Lightly oaked Argentinean Chardonnay with some good simple melon fruit. Perhaps a little sweet and certainly not very refined but a good summer drink.

The picture above is a bottle of Maegkoli. My weekend football team had an away game this Sunday which involved getting up at 6:30(!) and a short trip across the Han to an astro-turf pitch. I really wasn't in the mood for playing, early Sunday is not the best time for me, but after one of the hottest 30 minutes of my life and thinking I was going to die I was glad I played. I have now accepted that I am not going to be a professional footballer, I am probably one of the worst players on the pitch.

Anyway, after the 3rd or 4th game the maegkolli came out. I am really starting to like the stuff despite the fact it tastes a bit like paint. It has a little bit of fizz to it and actually manages to be quite refreshing. I suspect you need to know which bottles to buy as the only time I have bought it with no Korean help it was swinging. Lumpy, no fizz and really tasted like paint. Koreans don't like to drink without food and so we were given a really delicious plum as anju. Then some kind of boiled pea that was sort of nutty with a potato texture. Good stuff. And...they put on lunch for us all. YukGaeJang. Spicy beef and vegetable soup. You wouldn't get that in an English Sunday Pub league.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Chilean Out in the Summer

A future writing headlines for the Sun surely awaits?

The new Herald article has literally hit the shelves today.

Whilst I seem to be saying that drinking red wines is OK in the summer, today is HOT and so I think something cooler really is the way to go. Maybe beer. EMart do a reasonable, cheap wheat beer.

In other news I will be moving into Seoul in September with a new job in Gangnam. Looking at apartments at the moment. There is a possibility we will be getting a flat in Apgujeong whereby Galleria would effectively be my corner shop. Take that wallet.

Chilean Out in the Summer.

It is something of a paradox that where those of us in the cooler northern climates associate summer drinking with white wines, those from hotter regions are much more likely to go for the reds. With this in mind this week we have three red wines for your consideration all under 20,000 won at Emart, each a different grape variety and all from Chile.

Chile is a region that can represent great value once you have sorted the wheat from the chaff. It is a particularly strong country for the Korean consumer due to the free-trade agreement between the two countries. Let’s hope that the US agreement and the proposed European talks can see similar impacts on the respective regions wine showings and prices.

Starting with the cheapest we have the Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from the Central valley region at 12,800won. Cono Sur are a winery that produce very modern single varietal wines that tend to express well the fruit qualities of the grape.

This is a purple glass of wine with a very tight nose. It is showing very little typical Cabernet character with a touch of cherry and blackcurrant and a hint of perfumed violets. It is a very soft fruity wine with a very real Cherry Lips(old English sweet) quality. The cherry/blackcurrant, rose/violet theme has followed through from the nose giving us a really pleasant, simple fruit and light vanilla drink that I have no qualms about recommending at this price.

Moving to the south of the country and from the somewhat experimental Bio-Bio valley region, next up is the Augustus Winemakers Selection Pinot Noir 2007 at 16,900won. Pinot Noir is enjoying some success in this area of Chile thanks to the slightly lower sunshine hours and temperatures. Hot regions produce Pinots that taste like jam.

This, as one would expect, is fairly light in the glass, Pinot is a delicate, thin skinned grape and so you get a pretty cherry coloured drink. The nose is not the most appealing unfortunately with bees wax and wet hay notes combining with a strong cherry brandy hit. It is a nose suggesting of a very alcoholic wine.

Unfortunately this alcoholic heat is following through to the palate and though it has a nice rounded mouth feel with good acidity and smooth tannins the alcohol throws it all out of balance. The fruit is nice and sweet and there is a subtle vanilla oak integration but with the 14% alcohol it ends up tasting a little like a cough sweet. This is by no means a bad wine it is just not to my tastes.

The final wine is the Santa Rita Reserva Merlot 2005 from the Maipo valley region coming in at 17,900 won. In contrast to the Pinot this is a heavily extracted wine with a deep, intense garnet colour. In contrast to the previous two simple, fruity wines there is a lot more complexity here.

It has a prominent pencil shaving and coffee grinds nose backed up by good blackcurrant and plum fruit. Also coming through are green peppers and the presence of some well integrated oak. Once again this smells a little alcoholic but there is enough interest to prevent this from being a problem and it is a very appealing bouquet.

You are certainly getting a mouth full of wine here with an intense blast of sharp black fruit. Plums and blackcurrant are to the fore nicely backed up by a smooth vanilla finish. The finish also has the benefit of being long with good tannic grip making this by far the most serious wine today. The oak is certainly making itself noticed as is the 14% alcohol but it has enough fruit and structure to make this a well balanced wine. It is another triumph from EMart’s new world red range and represents great value.