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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




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.




"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.




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.




"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".