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Critics May May 29-31

Published:  01 June, 2009

What our national wine critics had to say for the weekend of May 29-31

 

Guardian 

 

Victoria Moore asks if wine should have a drink-by date? 

 

Under EU law, wine is exempt from best-before dates and you can only imagine the chaos of furious politicking that would ensue if it were not, she explains.

 

Think of the rage of the producer told that his wine will peak in eight months, or the disappointment of the customer who buys a bottle and saves it, only to open it then to find the contents dusty and dull.

 

Your best protection is to be alert and suspicious, she says. For wines under £8 check as you buy that the vintage is fresh, especially for light crisp whites and light reds.

 

Here is one that is drinking well now and I wouldn't keep; Gran Lopez Garnacha/Tempranillo 2007 (£3.99, Waitrose).

 

Finally, if you suspect a wine of being decrepit, take it back.

 

Observer

 

"I'm finding rubber all over the place," said Tim Atkin at a South African wine tasting over a year ago.

 

He reported of the 70 Cape wines he'd tasted, roughly a third displayed the unwelcome - South African character, burnt rubber. Further the worst reds tasted over-ripe and under-ripe at the same time.

 

The offending wines, were then taken back to South Africa for analysis, explained Atkin.

 

Now, he says, "at last we have a progress report, or rather a lack-of-progress report". Researchers concluded that there was "no specific link" between burnt rubber and grape variety, vintage or region of origin and the offending smell might be hexane- or ether-related, or it might not.

 

The good thing about the research, which is ongoing, is that South Africa recognises it has a problem, at least in the UK, and is trying to get to the bottom of it and things are much better than they were five years ago.

 

Independent

 

Anthony Rose talks about the, "nanny state's killjoy cant about alcohol".

 

Drinking wine is bad, so the mantra goes, because it causes cirrhosis, it's anti-social and brings death and destruction on the roads, he says.

 

"Well, yes," Rose explains. "It's obvious to anyone with a quarter of a brain that excessive drinking, whether of wine, beer or spirits, is harmful. 

 

"But what about the message that as part of a balanced diet, wine enjoyed in moderation is one of life's greatest pleasures and most civilising influences?"

 

After numerous scientific studies Professor Roger Corder of Queen Mary's School of Medicine observed that the French have comparatively less heart disease than the rest of Europe, even though they regularly consume fatty food.

 

After significant research Dr Corder tells us in The Wine Diet (Sphere, £9.99), how red wine, and especially red wines from south-west France - with their higher procyanadin content (the most active ingredient in red wine that keeps the blood vessels clear and prevents heart disease) can have significant benefits for a healthy heart and long-term wellbeing when consumed as a natural part of a healthy and balanced diet.

 

Times

 

"Poor old vintage port producers are over here en masse to launch their latest vintage, the elegant, vibrant and precociously attractive 2007s, to, alas, an ever-underwhelmed British public," says Jane MacQuitty.

 

Port remains one of the most unfashionable fortified wines, and MacQuitty reports, "In these straitened times, as one leading port shipper privately confessed: 'You'd be mad to declare the '07s a vintage year and mad not to declare it'".

 

And yet there is something so darned charming, racy, delicate and surprisingly polished about the 2007s that if I were a port shipper I'd want to declare it, too, she says.

 

MacQuitty recommends Dow's, "delicious, dry, polished," '07 and Graham's, "silky, rose-scented '07, that are worth buying now to put away for a decade, perhaps two, before they are ready to drink."

 

Financial Times

 

Jancis Robinson is also talking about Port and says, less than 10 years ago the Duoro Valley was the most backward of the world's classic wine regions, with grapes still trodden by the feet of locals.

 

Yet his century has seen a transformation, says Robinson. The five big port groups, including the Symington family (who produce Dow's, Graham's, Warre's) and the Taylor Fladgate Partnership (Croft, Fonesca, Taylor's etc) control about 80 per cent of the port and she explains that life is becoming tougher and tougher for the legion of smallholders in the Douro.

 

Also table wines labelled Douro have become a fully established, and highly profitable with established producers able to sell their top table wines at the same price as their vintage ports, she says.

 

It seems most unfair that vintage port does not perform better in the saleroom, for the quality is better than it has ever been, sympathises Robinson. But the bottom end of the port market the shippers have brought much of this on themselves by engaging in a price war via the large retailers, she adds.

 

They like to point to increased volumes sold in the UK as a sign of buoyancy, but this has to be countered by observations such as the one made by a member of the wine committee at the nearby Oxford & Cambridge Club, that the club's current holdings of vintage port will last the members 40 years at their current rate of consumption. 

 

Robinson says, we all should be pulling some corks, "certainly on the basis of the quality and sheer sophistication of the best 2007s shown last week".

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Critics May May 22-24

Published:  26 May, 2009

What the press have to say over the May bank holiday weekend.

 

Guardian



Victoria Moore finds that some tastebuds are a little harder to please after lunching with sales rep Dave who claimed to have, "virtually no sense of smell or taste."



So she prescribed wines with masses of texture and body to, "punch through those dull tastebuds and give his tongue something to think about."



The first wine she recommended was an Aussie Shiraz that, "has brightness, is overt and all but growls."



Mount Langi Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz 2004 (£9.99 or £6.99 when you buy three at Wine Rack).

 

Independent

 

The relevance of Bordeaux's system of selling its top wines as futures, or en primeur, in the spring after the vintage, has been called into question by the "latest shenanigans," over the 2008 vintage, reports Anthony Rose.

 

Every spring, the top Bordeaux châteaux release their prices to give consumers a chance to buy early at a relatively affordable prices which are based on how they see the quality of their wine that year, of the vintage as a whole and what the market will wear.

 

But no one was expecting great shakes from 2008 not even the Bordelais, Rose reports. Until Robert Parker pronounced 2008: "a notch below 2005, but better than any other vintage of the last decade except 2000".

 

All of a sudden prices of wines rated highly by Parker went through the roof, says Rose. With the first growth châteaux Lafite Rothschild trading at £3,200 per case after releasing at £1,900 and Latour, released at £1,590, up to £2,500.

 

This means real wine lovers will be priced out of the market if the reaction is to yield to the temptation not to drop prices.

 

For wine lovers in urgent need of a case of fine red Bordeaux, here's a few names the best critics agree fulfil the essential pre-requisite of good quality and reasonable pricing: La Lagune, Calon-Ségur, Léoville Barton, Langoa-Barton, Pichon Lalande, Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Le Petit Cheval.

 

Financial Times

 

Jancis Robinson says that her a visit to New Zealand, earlier this year, she met the most extraordinary wine producer.

 

Hiro Kusuda, admits that to pursue his dream he and his young family had to subsist for eight years without any income at all, she says. "Even today, the total production of Kusuda Wines in Martinborough is but a few hundred cases of Syrah and Pinot Noir a year."

 

Bob Campbell, a wine writer and Master of Wine, sent Robinson a report of Kusuda's 2009 harvest, saying he was witness to the most rigorous grape selection process he had ever seen . "Each berry was inspected for any flaw and removed if not perfect."

 

Here, clearly, is Japanese perfectionism as applied to one of the world's most pragmatic wine industries. And the resulting wines are truly exceptional, says Robinson.

 

Just before the 2006 vintage Kusuda managed to buy a small vineyard of his own, 1.2 hectares -3 acres. "I tasted two wines made in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages and thought that not only were the 2006s unusually fine but both wines seemed to get better with each vintage," says Robinson.

 

"I'm not proud that I had no income for so long," Kusuda told Robinson. "But as the whole family sat round silently watching me taste the full range of his wines from perfectly polished Riedel glasses, I could feel their pride radiating," she says.

 

Times

 

Go on, celebrate the start of English wine week with a crisp, delicate elderflower and hedgerow-scented English wine, says Jane MacQuitty.

 

With the first new vineyards planted in London since the Middle Ages, one on wasteland behind King's Cross station and the other at Forty Hall Farm in Enfield, English wines are no longer a joke, she says.

 

Bulldog British enthusiasm, has seen plantings up by 50 per cent in the past five years, to more than 1,000ha, and our production is set to double in the next five years, reports MacQuitty.

 

Until May 31 there are lots of fun functions. Visit www.englishwineweek.co. uk for details, and contact English Wine Producers on 01536 772264 for a free map of Vineyards of England and Wales.


Telegraph

 

Everything is coming up rosé, says Jonathan Ray. As rosé wines continue to soar while those of red and white wine fall.

 

"And where rosé used to be infra dig, it's now de rigueur," he explains.



According to market researchers AC Nielsen, sales are up 17.7 per cent on the year, with the total rosé category now representing 11.5 per cent of the British off-trade by volume and worth some £533 million.

 

Value is starting to outstrip volume, which suggests that we're all finally prepared to pay more as the wines improve. Thank God for that, he says, since more than half the pink wines in this country still come from California, home of that dire vinous bubblegum, ''Blush'' Zinfandel.

 

 

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