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Critics April 24-26

Published:  28 April, 2009

Highlights of what the wine critics have to say in the press.


Victoria Moore is talking about wines having aromas of wild boar salami and other meats.

"Now, maybe 'tastes of dead pig' isn't the most tempting tasting note you've ever heard, she says.

I once gave friends a unrefined Grolleau made using natural yeasts and they squealed that it "smelled of chicken liver", then decided, once they started eating, that it was by far the nicest on the table.

"Wine is all about context," Moore explains. In the past few weeks, I've drunk two other wines that, while not feral like this, tasted surprisingly different once put with the right food. One was Cono Sur Reserva Chardonnay 2007 (£5.99, down from £7.99 until 12 May, Waitrose; 13.5% abv). "Sumptuous, rich and textured. It was just right with chilli-spiked butternut squash soup so thick you could almost eat it with a fork."


"'Yuck,' said the American tourist standing next to me in Sauternes, handling a bunch of rotten grapes as if it were a dog turd. 'They make great sweet wines out of this stuff? You're kidding me,'" explains Atkin.

"Even to a seasoned wine professional, the sight of botrytis cinerea, a grey fungus that sounds like an STD, can be arresting," says Atkin. How does something that looks so revolting - produce sweet wines of such poise and complexity?"

Atkin goes on to talk about botrytis, or noble rot which many of the world's great wines are made from. He says another way to produce grapes with high levels of sugar is to stop fermentation (Moscato d'Asti), fortify the wine with neutral spirit (Port, Madeira, Sherry and Rutherglen Muscat), dry the grapes on mats (Vin de Paille and Recioto della Valpolicella), leave them to freeze in the vineyard (Icewine and Eiswein) or just pick them very late in the season (Beerenauslese, Late Harvest). That's one of the reasons why sweet wines are so diverse.

Part of the problem is that they are often lumped together as "dessert wines", when many of them work better as aperitifs or with cheese than they do with, say, chocolate.

Financial Times

Jancis Robinson reports that in Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, has just announced that the cuttings they have been selling as Albariño Spain's most famous white grape, are not actually Albariño at all but a quite different vine variety, the Jura speciality Savagnin.

Australia's producers of Albariño are being told that from now on wines made from this variety must be labelled Savagnin Blanc, or Traminer.

The problem for Australian growers and producers is that the name Savagnin,has no market traction at all.

Grower Garry Crittenden of Victoria is shellshocked. "The thought of calling it Savagnin fills me with dread."

But these problems are likely to increase says Robinson as the range of grape vaieties commercially increases.

It takes time for one name to emerge as the most recognised and, therefore, marketable one. Even a variety as well known as Chardonnay has a synonym or two.


Staying on the Spanish theme, Anthony Rose says the latest Spanish region to catch the eye is Rueda, which has begun to show that in the right hands and is capable of making distinctive dry white wines of genuine flavour, expression and personality.

Rueda is one of Europe's highest wine regions. "While you could fry and egg on one of its gravel stones in summer, the temperatures, plummets at night, leaving the grapes fresh and full of crisp natural acidity," explains Rose.

The other secret of Rueda's indigenous verdejo, is the age of its vines. Ismael Gozalo's family had been churning out pretty average white wines for five generations before him, but when Vega Sicilia's ex-winemaker Mariano Garcia spotted the potential of his 150-year-old vines in 2005, now old Burgundian techniques are used to create Ossian.

"The vines are amazing to behold. Like so many giant spindly-legged spiders and thick gnarled trunks," enthuses Rose.

The 2007 Ossian, £19.06, Justerini & Brooks, is delicious, subtle toastiness from barrel fermentation bringing complexity to the crisp stonefruit flavours and mineral finish.


Las Vegas - the Capital of Kitsch - is rapidly shedding (some of) its vulgar veneer to become the latest draw for wine lovers, says Jonathon Ray.

The vinous facts and figures of Vegas are impressive. It has the greatest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world - 16 within a few hundred yards of each other, sharing 21 stars - and the highest number of Master Sommeliers.

More bottles of Dom Pérignon and Cristal (real and fake) are consumed here than anywhere else.

The Bellagio resort hotel alone gets through almost 50 (real) bottles of DP a week, on top of about 230 bottles of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, while the 100,000-bottle cellar of Wynn Las Vegas is home to several (real) methuselahs of 1990 Cristal (yours for a trifling $50,000 - £34,000 - each).

"I browse and sluice my way from restaurant to restaurant, wine bar to wine bar, and learn many things about Vegas," says Ray.

If you dine at Onda Wine Lounge but crave that nice 2003 JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr you had at Dos Caminos, they'll go and get it for you for no extra charge.

If you want some 1985 Le Pin, give Picasso an hour and they'll find some.

Despite the recession and claims that visitor numbers are down 40 per cent you'll have a fight on your hands getting through the casino crowds to the door of Robuchon's three-star eatery.