First things first: I was going to title this e-blog ‘what to drink in the face of a Pandemic’ but someone thought that may be construed as over negative (or overly optimistic) depending on whether or not you were a glass half full etc, sort of person, but then my conscience, or better half as I call her, told me otherwise. Second thought (it had been a quiet day…), was to entitle it, ‘Wines to make you smile’, which I thought was totally sensible, but then that was discarded for reasons I am still not totally sure why; my better half obviously knows why.
Hence the above title – a compromise, but like all things happening around us at this moment in time, compromise is sometimes the best way forward.
So, wines pulled from the cellar to cheer us up. ..? The backdrop to all this, of course, is a Virus, a global economic downturn, a threat to life and liberty, the all-encompassing fear of what could lie around the corner and 5 days of solid Lakeland rain. Thus, as we stoked the log burner to smelting-like temperatures, I was dispatched to the cellar (actually my home office.) to pick a bottle to cheer us up. Over the course of a month’s lockdown starting on the 5th November we cheered ourselves up with the following bottles. If you like, feel free to purchase. I can offer 10% discount if you use the code NEIL10 on the House of Townend website just before you pay. I guarantee you will say a silent thankyou when you taste the first glass of every single one of these amazing, invigorating, sensual and oh so happy wines.
Ployez-Jacquemart Cuvee Passion, NV Brut Champagne £34.99
Drunk with good olives and a bowl of roasted salted nuts whilst doing the Soduko on a rainy Saturday evening. Such is the racy nature of our evenings in deepest Lakeland. Ployez-Jacquemart is a blend of 55% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and the rest Pinot Meunier – situated in the tiny hamlet of Ludes and managed by Laurence, 3rd generation of the Ployez family. Most importantly, this Champagne was immense – rich and golden in colour, with an uplifted and fresh nose, full of brioche, marmalade, citrus and roasted nut. Long, expansive and complex – a fine mousse and a richly caramelized character due to the extra 3 years bottle. If you, like me, love rich ‘Vintage-style’ Champagnes then this is for you.
Point Break, Longboard Vineyards, Sonoma, California £25.99
I was lucky enough to visit Longboard in Sonoma last year and spent time with the characterful and enigmatic Oded Shakked, ex Israeli surfing Champion, surfing Guru, passionate winemaker and all-round good guy. Oded runs arguably the best and most innovative cellar door in California – his wine club sees members fly in from all over the US to take part in his legendary tastings or to purchase his rare and quirky new releases. The Point Break, named after the tipping ‘curl’ of a wave that surfers dream of catching, is a juicy, rich and profoundly appealing blend of Cabernet, Merlot with a dollop of Syrah and a hatful of Malbec. Aged in new oak, it exudes sweet blackfruits, almost stewed in nature and offers ripeness, depth and a soldi core of oak, cassis and spice. Perfect with a slow roasted lamb shoulder.
Chardonnay 2016, Jordan Estate, Alexander Valley, California £44.99
Jordan Estate, situated atop the high rolling hills of the Alexander Valley overlooking the classy town of Healdsburg, doesn’t make your classic ‘Big, rich and blowsy’ style of Californian Chardonnay, preferring, under the patient and ever elegant control of Rob Davis, the winemaker here since the first commercial vintage in the mid 1970’s to strike out on a lonely but rewarding path of elegance and restraint. The vineyards for this complex, refined and racy Chardonnay come from the cooler sites around the Russian River. Tasting more akin to a Puligny Montrachet, this is lean, tightly structured with layers of cereal, baked apple, citrus and minerality aplenty. I liked it!
Petit Verdot 2012, ‘Echelon Label’, Kingston Estate, Riverlands, Australia £19.99
This bottle came from way, Way left field! I asked my son to pop down and grab a bottle to go with pulled pork and this is what he came back with – his simple explanation being that he liked the label (he’s 18...and likes Trainers, fast cars and strange music..what more can I add ? )This is 100% Petit Verdot, one of the less common but still highly regarded red grapes that grow in Bordeaux, and make the blend in wines such as Chateau Angludet and Palmer in Margaux etc. In the Riverlands region of Australia, the Moularadellis family, owners since they built the winery in 1985. This is a stonkingly good red, just right for those long winter nights, being immediately appealing with a rich perfume of mixed red berries, sweet oak, spice and the over-riding note of Parma Violet that is PV signature. The Echelon series is the top wine of any vintage for Kingston, and this, tasted blind, was like a great Shiraz blended with a fine Margaux with a dollop of old Hermitage added.
Gewurztraminer, Dopff and Irion, Alsace £11.99
Not the normal wine that appears on a dinner table, but this was brought out of the wine fridge for purely personal reasons, invoking memories of a Honeymoon spent cycling in springtime Alsace, overlaid with the time spent in New Zealand, drinking Gewurztraminer with Carrot Cake at a Vegan café in Hawkes Bay. (both featured rain at some point – an omen of things to come had I known! Gewurz is easily the most recognizable white grape to smell and taste – being powerfully rich, oily and smelling of lychees, Turkish Delight and fresh spices. This bottle was everything we hoped for, adding glamour and balance, with weight and honeyed notes – being that perfect balance of richness of peach fruit, mulling spice and Turkish Delight yet cut through with a wonderful freshness and distinct minerality. Enjoyed with a Thai Curry (light in chilli) and a game of Scrabble.
Vale de Cavalos 2016, Pocas, Douro Valley, Portugal £14.99
This was pulled out of the rack at total random, as I was actually looking for a good claret to have with a steak cooked over a mound of glowing embers from a day burning ‘stuff’ in the garden – you start a small fire in an old wheelbarrow, getting rid of autumn debris, and before you know it you are feeding a crackling furnace that consumes whole trees ( almost! ) and has enough heat to power a small city. Over such an eyebrow singing firepit we cooked the best Rump steaks rare and juicy, jaw moisteningly pink, seasoned liberally with sea salt and ground pepper.
The perfect wine was forgotten when we opened this beauty – 50% Touriga Nacional, the rest a blend of Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz, aged in oak for around a year. Made by the Pocas family at their stunning farm estate high above the river Douro as it winds its way through the beautiful terraced gorge that is famed for the black and sweet ports made from the same grapes (but with the addition of a big slug of brandy midway through ferment).This wonderfully elegant and sturdy table wine exudes the class that comes from a collaboration with the famous Chateau Angelus of St Emilion. A broad stroke of stewed black fruits, underpinned with fine tannins and freshness, layered with notes of coffee and baked plum, warm earth, muted spice and a touch of chestnut. Long, richly structured and so elegant. A revelation, and a good one at that.
Muscadet Sur Lie, ‘Fief de la Brie’ Sevre et Maine, Auguste Bonhomme £9.99
Not a wine that springs to mind when writing lists of notable wines, but this just hits the spot. it’s the feeling you get when you meet the ugly kid from school and you realise they have turned, swan-like into a real beauty. (at this point my wife is looking rather strangely at me…)Forget the memories of shockingly acidic, mean, dilute and poorly made Muscadet from years gone by. When Muscadet is good it is very, very good and this is one of the best; made from grapes grown on the enigmatic and friendly Auguste Bonhomme’s finest vineyards. Aged on the lees (sediment) for a matter of months, this adds creamy richness to the important mid palate, yet around this core of richness is a lacework of finely judged acidic ‘bite’ and cracking minerality that seems almost Chablis-like. With its lower 12% alcohol, this refined Muscadet is perfect with nibbles or just to clear the dust off a Friday night ‘just got in from a long day’ feeling, but equally this crisp white partners poached salmon, grilled prawns or even just a light cheese plate.
BEST WISHES & A MERRY CHRISTMAS
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