Commercial Property Blog
All posts tagged: wine
I was invited by Andrew Campbell of Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP to join his client Trinity Elite at Chester Races on 10 May 2012.
As Trinity Elite are a sponsor of Manor House Stables, a joint venture between the footballer Michael Owen and the co-founder of Betfair Andrew Black, I was delighted to learn that I would be joining them in Manor House Stables’ private box opposite the finish line.
The betting proved less successful than the quaffing; in particular as www.trinityelite.com came third in the 3:40. Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Champagne 1999 (£90) proved to be my favourite: delicate nose; intense, powerful palate; rich white fruits, honey and blossom balanced with autolytic complexity, brioche and hazelnuts; a good finish; and also pretty generous as an all-day offering!
I subsequently met up with Martin Totty of Trinity Elite and a friend to discuss, among other things, tax led property investment schemes. The venue, Amba in Hale, Cheshire, was chosen in part because of its reasonable rate of corkage (£10).
I brought a bottle of Chateau Lynch Bages 2006 (£80) which was sadly just ever so slightly out of condition. I bought a case of the 2006 en-primeur long before Lynch sky rocketed in price and have kept it since then in the far from ideal conditions of a ‘Kent cellar’. Ideal conditions being: (a) bottle on its side lying down; (b) 8 - 13° Centigrade; (c) in the dark; and (d) away from vibrations. Absent the key element (b), my Lynch had suffered and whereas it should have been “full-bodied palate, with velvety tannins and lots of blackberry and mineral fruit character” it was enjoyable enough but without the grace and power that I would expect from Chateau Lynch Bages.
Fortunately, Martin was generous enough to bring a bottle of Chateau Carruades de Lafite 2003 (£250) which had been bought, like my Lynch, en-primeur in the days when Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s second wine was also affordable.
The high percentages of Merlot in the blend (50% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc) are unusual for Pauillac, being more common in Margaux , and may have lent the wine an advantage in the notoriously hot vintage of 2003. As Merlot is picked far earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, the wine has largely avoided the baked excesses of France’s hottest summer for a century. In the glass: rich black cherry, cassis, tobacco, ground coffee beans; silky tannins; balanced alcohol; and an exceptional length. The only negative is the price.
We finished with a dessert wine from the Sauternes appellation of Bordeaux, Chateau Suduiraut 1990 (£60). The Chateau is planted on sand and gravel soil with 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes are encouraged to develop noble rot, a form of fungal infection, which has the effect of raisining the grapes and concentrating sugar levels. The shrivelled grapes are then hand-picked and sorted to ensure perfect noble rot condition. The wine: dark gold colour; high acidity, alcohol and sweetness brought together in a perfect balance as a fitting end to a perfect lunch.
I returned from holiday the week before last jet-lagged but satisfied having visited a number of Australia’s most prestigious wine regions.
The Barossa Valley stood out because of the number of great estates that I was able to fit into a single day. These included, among others, Penfolds, Henschke, Two Hands and Torbreck.
Penfolds and Henschke are, of course, famous for the iconic 100% Shiraz wines Grange (2006 - £220) and Hill of Grace (2006 - £370).
Sadly, however, neither wine was offered for tasting which was a pity considering that I had travelled almost 10,000 miles to visit their respective producers.
Two Hands’ highlights included an interesting Moscato called Don’t Tell Richard (2011 - £13.00) and their flagship wine Ares, a Barossa Valley/McClaren Vale Shiraz (2008 - £95.00).
The tasting area was by far the most hospitable of the trip comprising a teak deck overlooking the vineyards with an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven in situ to provide a welcome companion to Two Hands’ wines.
Torbreck’s founder David Powell named the estate after a forest in Inverness where he worked as a lumberjack and followed a similar train of thought with the wines, the majority of which also have Scottish-influenced names.
The notable exception is an unoaked Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre blend Cuvee Juveniles, which is named after Englishman Tim Johnston’s wine bar in Paris.
The standout wine Runrig (2007 - £110.00) was superb: rich dark purple colour; black fruit and sweet spice on the nose; hints of dark chocolate on the palate; silky tannins; and a long finish. This could undoubtedly be enjoyed 20 years hence but could equally be drunk today if you prefer your wines younger. More affordable offerings include The Steading (2006 - £35.00) and The Struie (2007 - £45.00) and interestingly Fortnum and Mason’s Barossa Valley Shiraz (2009 - £14.90) which is made for them by Torbreck.
Coonawarra will be remembered more for a £200 speeding ticket that I received on the John Riddoch Highway than for wine though I enjoyed visiting Yalumba.
The Yarra Valley will be remembered for Yarra Yering. Yarra Yarra Dry Red Wine No.1 (2004 - £51.00) has to be one of the most undervalued Bordeaux blends available comprising Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and importantly the highly tannic Petit Verdot. Dry Red No.1 is deceptive as if tasted blind a taster could be forgiven for identifying it as a classified growth from Bordeaux rather than as a New World blend. Yarra Yering Dry No.2 (2006 - £50.00) a classic Shiraz/Viognier blend also stood out though it was hard not to be influenced by the view from the glass fronted tasting room over the Yarra Valley as I evaluated the contents of my Riedel glass.
I would recommend anyone visiting Australia to take the time to visit several of its wine regions as in addition to wine there is a lot to see and do though you should of course remember the speed limit as your money is better spent at the cellar door than with South Australia’s police.
Mark Lewin of IFG International Limited invited me to join him at Berry Bros. & Rudd, 3 St James’s Street for an evening entitled ‘France versus the New World.’
The Napoleon Cellar is a particularly appropriate venue for such an occasion as it was here that Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, as Napoleon III, founded the Deuxième Empire in 1851. It remained to be seen whether France would prevail this time around on the battleground generously provided by IFG.
I started with a white Burgundy: 2009 Mâcon-Cruzille, Clos des Vignes du Maynes, Soufrandière, Bret Bros. (£24.50). Plenty of oak on the nose, balanced with a good dose of citrus fruit and acidity on the palate; but, overall a touch one-dimensional. I preferred the less expensive Australian 2008 Toolangi Vineyards, Estate Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria (£18.50) as it offered a richer range of ripe fruit on the nose and palate. In addition, the oak was far less dominant adding complexity and length rather than overpowering the wine as with the Mâcon-Cruzille making it an easy call to give the New World its first point.
Pinot Noir was far closer. I expected 2007 Nuits-St. Georges, Clos de la Maréchale, 1er Cru, Domaine Mugnier (£49.00) to walk it: buckets of red fruit on the nose; floral characteristics on the palate; good weight; firm tannins; and a good length. I really enjoyed drinking this wine with several of the spicier canapés. The 2008 Mountford Estate Pinot Noir, Waipara (£38.95) was, however, not going to concede without a fight: intense ripe red fruit; impressive structure; silky tannins; acidity; and length. The Mountford Estate was declared the winner; first, on the basis of value for money, and secondly the fact that it could be enjoyed more easily without food making it 2-0 to the New World.
The playing field was far from level for the final round: Bordeaux blends. Australia’s 2007 Yarra Yering Dry Red No.1., Yarra Valley, Victoria (£51.00) did not stand a chance against a mature Bordeaux Second Growth from a legendary vintage: 1996 Ch. Gruaud Larose, 2ème Cru Classé, St. Julien (£118.00). As much as I love Yarra Yering, having taken delivery the same day of a case of 2005, bought through Berry’s online brokerage platform BBX, the density of black fruit, liquorice, tobacco and sweet spice flavours of the Gruaud Larose prevailed.
The final result 2-1 might appear to favour the New World; however, the French, as ever, have a joker to play. As all of the New World wines are aged in French oak a rebalancing of the scores would seem to be fair; suggesting a score draw as a more politic conclusion. Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte would, no doubt have, approved.
It’s been a relatively busy month of tastings and wine related events already so I thought that I would focus on a selection of highs and lows.
Corney & Barrow’s Christmas tasting at The Tower of London started the month on a high. There were a lot of wines worthy of mention but by far the best was a Blanc de Blancs Champagne, exclusive to Corney & Barrow, Salon 1999 (£215.00): pale gold colour; rich nose full of coconut, green apple, vanilla and brioche; delicate palate; and a long complex finish. The price reflects the miniscule production of Salon; however, for those wanting a more affordable substitute Salon’s sister house Delamotte’s Blanc de Blancs 1999 at £39.99 is good value.
Justerini & Brooks’ Rhône 2010 tasting at The Vintners Hall introduced a relatively new producer Chêne Bleu, whose wines were impressive. The Viognier 2007 (£25.00) stood out, in particular, because of its nose which was reminiscent of a fine perfume rather than a fine wine: intense floral characteristics; tangy citrus laced with fruit and spice on the palate; and a crisp lingering finish. I would have liked to have tried it with a couple of mince pies.
If only I had purchased the case of Mouton Rothschild 2008 which brought me to Paris on 17 November from Corney & Barrow or Justerini & Brooks. I would not then have had to appear before Le Juge de Proximité at 4 Place du Louvre at 09:30 as the wine would have dutifully arrived as ordered. I had hoped for a swift judgment in my favour following my well-rehearsed petition for two reasons. First, the delinquent French wine merchant www.1855.comhad failed to deliver the wine pursuant to an Ordonnance d’Injonction de Faire that I had obtained on 20 July. Secondly, the fact that almost every other matter before the tribunal involved the same defendant could hardly have helped 1855.com’s position. I was hopeful of a result but, as I am all too well aware, litigation carries risk: I was wrong. The company was given until 16 February 2012 to deliver my wine: unbelievable.
Lunch at Rhône-influenced Willi’s Wine Bar on Rue des Petits Champs was also a disappointment: poor service; average food, meat overcooked and undercooked respectively; and extremely expensive wine. The cheapest red on offer was €44.00 and came from a producer that I did not recognise.
I will return to Paris for Round 2 with 1855.com on 16 February 2012 and, armed with a bit of luck and a better restaurant recommendation, I might have cause to crack open a bottle of Salon (award of damages depending).
The Australian wine producer Penfolds held an event at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden to celebrate the career of the legendary producer Harvey Goldsmith CBE.
The evening began with Harvey talking about his ‘vintage year’ 1985; being the year he produced the Live Aid concert with Sir Bob Geldoff raising over £160 million for famine relief in Ethiopia.
By the time Harvey had finished talking about his impressive career in the music industry, I had almost forgotten about the planned wine tasting.
The tasting to follow did not include the bottle of Grange 1985 that Penfolds gave to Harvey as a token of appreciation for his charitable endeavours and time.
I looked up Grange 1985 on my return home that evening to discover that Robert Parker considered it a more ‘restrained’ Grange with a lot of life ahead of it. Interestingly, Penfolds suggested that it was at its peak and to be drunk within 2 years. At £250 per bottle in the brokerage market, I expect that I shall never know who to believe though I would tend to rely upon the producer rather than Robert Parker.
The tasting included a wide range of Penfolds’ wines but I will focus of those that stood out.
At under £9.00 a bottle, Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling 2008 is a bargain: pale lime green; characteristic petrol and floral nose; rich minerality balanced with a good dose of acidity; and a long finish. It paired well with the micro fish and chips on offer and with its retro 1970’s label was appropriate given the numerous anecdotes from that period that Harvey had shared with us that evening.
Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2008 was similarly impressive: rich purple black colour; full-bodied nose with lots of black fruit, cedar and spice; powerful palate and finish. Again, good value at £13.50 per bottle.
Head and shoulders above the rest, however, was Cabernet Shiraz Bin 389 often referred to as ‘Baby Grange’ or ‘Poor Man’s Grange’: dense purple colour; a wide assortment of black and dried fruits on the nose; complex, structured palate; and long finish.
At £35-40 per bottle it is not cheap; then again, as a ‘super-second’ it is not expensive either compared to £150 for a bottle of Petit Mouton 2008. I didn’t get the chance to ask Harvey what he thought about Bin 389 but he didn’t strike me as a man to settle for anything other than ‘Number 1’.
I had arranged to meet Marco Pierre White at Wheeler of St. James’s on St. James’s Street to discuss pubs, beer and wine. Marco has recently added to his existing portfolio, which includes The Chequers and The King’s Arms in Sussex, with the acquisition of six pub-hotels from the Maypole Group. He has, in addition, developed a new beer with Michael Lee-Jones of Manchester brewer JW Lees called ‘The Governor’.
The Governor is named after Marco’s family’s prize-winning greyhound of the same name and is intended to be enjoyed with food. I started with a selection of hors d’oeuvres and a pint of The Governor. The pale amber ale has a fruity/hoppy nose and palate and a refreshing finish. It paired best with dripping and walnuts on toast and did not pose too much of an alcoholic threat at only 3.4% ABV.
I would have been happy to have had another pint The Governor with my grilled Dover sole à la Salamandre but Marco had ordered a bottle of Nuits-St-Georges, Domaine Fernand Lecheneaut 2005 (£60.00). Vincent and Philippe Lécheneaut use the oldest vines on their 12-hectare estate to make this wine which, combined with the best vintage of the last decade, produces a complex and satisfying wine: ruby red colour; intense nose full of ripe strawberry, sweet spices, coffee and hints of leather; balanced acidity, alcohol and tannins and a long finish.
I often advocate Pinot Noir with white fish dishes but I expect that this wine would have been better paired with the roast rump of lamb Dijonnaise that Marco and his other guests were enjoying; however, I cannot resist Dover sole.
If I had ordered a companion wine to my bread and butter pudding then it would have been Château Suduiraut, Sauternes 1996 which at £16.00 a glass is something of a bargain.
The Governor will be promoted with Captain Smith of The Titanic’s dying words ‘Be British’ and, with the exception of our wine, I left Wheelers feeling that I had done just that.
Chinese New Year 2011, the Year of the Rabbit, falls on 3 February this year; however, I decided to celebrate Chūn Jié early over lunch at Imperial China with two distinguished guests: Eddie Lee, Deputy Director General of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office; and Daniel Widdicombe, CEO of CCB International, a wholly owned subsidiary of China Construction Bank.
Although Daniel is fluent in written and spoken Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese, having lived in Asia for 14 years, I suggested that Eddie choose the food. I selected the wine, though in this respect I can’t take all the credit as I referred to Chinese wine critic Ch’ng Poh Tiong’s excellent book 108 Great Chinese Dishes Paired for inspiration.
Eddie selected: steamed pork buns; dumplings and chives; deep fried bean curd; pancake rolls; cuttlefish cakes; beef cheung fun; pork Char Siew; Cantonese style steak; and stir fried vegetables. I selected a bottle of Apaltagua Gran Verano Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Chile - £18.50) and Hoopenburg Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Stellenbosch - £21.50). I would have preferred to have ordered a glass of red and a glass of white each but Imperial China’s wine list is limited. Regrettably, the restaurant doesn’t offer corkage so I couldn’t bring something more interesting from my own modest collection. Notwithstanding the limited range of wines, I believe that they were good enough to illustrate the effectiveness of Ch’ng Poh Tiong’s suggestions.
The Sauvignon Blanc had lots of fresh green fruit on the nose and palate, a balanced dose of acidity, medium alcohol (13.0% ABV) and a moderate finish. It paired best with the deep-fried bean curd, which was delicious, and spring rolls. It was, in addition, a good companion to the cuttlefish cakes. Alternative wines to pair with these dishes might include unoaked and oaked Chardonnay; Gruner Veltliner; and light red wines such as Beaujolais or Valpolicella.
The Gran Verano was ruby red, full of ripe red fruit on the nose and palate and smooth in the mouth. The little tannin evident on the palate was fairly sweet. This is probably a good thing as I remained unconvinced about the pairing of Chinese food with tannic wines such as Barolo or Barbaresco. The Gran Verano paired best, as I had hoped, with the pork Char Siew and the Cantonese-style (sweet and sour) steak. Char Siew is, however, a versatile dish and could pair with Bordeaux, Bordeaux blends, Burgundy, Loire reds and even, according to Ch’ng Poh Tiong, Barolo! The Cantonese –style steak is less accommodating and, as Daniel observed, is better suited to a ripe (almost sweet) red such as the Gran Verano. Ch’ng Poh Tiong suggests off-dry Riesling as an alternative white wine pairing.
The bill (£110.10 including service) was fairly modest given the amount of food and wine left on the table. It was also a welcome surprise at the end of what proved to be an interesting and enjoyable lunch. Happy New Year!
I celebrated the second anniversary of my firm Mark Adams LLB in Fortnum and Mason’s wine bar 1707 with a prospective client and a glass of Pol Roger 2000.
Despite high expectations 2000 was not the best of years for Champagne; however, Pol Roger produced one of the best cuvees.
As I took in the powerful nose, reminiscent of freshly toasted brioche, my client broke my concentration with a question, which has become an annual tradition in itself: what to drink over the Christmas period?
I have broken with my usual advice this year and recommended that anyone interested in enjoying fine wine should try the lottery that is the ‘mixed case’. In addition to offering value for money, much needed in these troubled times, mixed cases are fun.
Waitrose Wines has paired wine and accessories, its Wine Tasting Case & Free Riedel Glasses (10 bottles – 2 glasses - £89.00) is particularly ingenious as it offers drinkers the opportunity to enjoy wine from a glass that has been scientifically designed to maximise the aroma, palate, structure and finish of the glass’ content.
The ‘free’ Riedel glasses may even make Jacob’s Creek Dry Riesling 2008/2009 worth drinking. A safer option in terms of selection is Waitrose’s Fine Wines & Wine Atlas selection (12 bottles - £199.00). The assembled wines include some heavyweight names such as Cune of Spain (Rioja, Gran Reserva 1998) and Trimbach of the Alsace (Riesling Reserve 2007) and the drinker can refer to the included copy of Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine for further information if sufficiently interested.
Mixed cases also afford the opportunity to sample wines that otherwise would not be a first choice.
Majestic Wine’s Buyer’s Festive Best (12 bottles - £187.89) is the best in class for this type of experience as it combines: Cava (Codorniu Reina Maria Cristina 2007); Champagne (Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus NV); the Alsace (Trimbach Riesling 2008); New Zealand (Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc 2009/2010 Marlborough), Napa Valley (Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2007); red and white Burgundy (Ladoix Rouge 2006/2007 and Pouilly-Fuissé 2008/2009);Left and Right Bank Bordeaux (Château Greysac 2006 Médoc and Château Bourgneuf 2006 Pomerol); Italy and Spain (Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2009 and Rioja Reserva 2006 Muga); and finally a sweet Sherry to drink with pudding (Matusalem 30-Year-Old Oloroso).
I have to admire the thought that Majestic has put into assembling this offering.
For those seeking a gamble over Christmas, Lay & Wheeler’s Mystery Case (12 bottles at £120.00) might be worth considering.
I confess, however, that I am not so brave; instead, I have opted for a tried and tested formula being Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Family Christmas 12 Bottle Pack (£124.00 including home delivery).
There will be no surprises this year and with the armoury of Berry’s reliable back up wines in place I should be able to open my magnum of Rothschild-owned Château D'Armailhac 1989 without worrying about what to drink should it be corked.
As I watched Dimitar Berbatov score Manchester United’s second goal on Saturday I found myself suddenly thinking about Champagne; perhaps, more because of the impending holiday season than because of United’s slightly improbable place at the top of the Premier League.
Later that evening, I decided to indulge in a bottle of Bollinger NV to celebrate the audio book deal that I had been offered earlier in the week for my novel Solano.
At £68.00, the Bollinger was far from a bargain; however, Champagne does not always have to be expensive.
Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Champagne, Grand Cru Société de Producteurs, Mailly and Blanc de Blanc, Grand Cru, Le Mesnil are bargains at £23.45 and £25.50 respectively.
If it is noted that the vineyards of Champagne are classified on village-by-village basis according to an échelle des crus system with only 17 villages or 8.6% of production classified as Grand Crus then it becomes apparent why these wines might be considered the connoisseur’s choice.
Indeed, they are better in many respects than the majority of the Grand Marque’s (leading Champagne houses) non-vintage offerings.
The happy minority would, however, include Pol Roger, Brut Réserve NV (£34.70): made with equal measures of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier the wine is full of intense fruit which builds in the mouth and like Berry’s own brands Pol Roger is also excellent value for money.
Value for money is, of course, a relative concept; however, Pol Roger’s other offerings also appear reasonably priced for the quality of the product.
Pol Roger Blanc de Blanc 1999 at £60.00, though not as good as the most famous Blanc de Blanc of all Salon, is reasonably priced when one remembers a bottle of Salon 1997 will set you back £195.00.
Even Pol Roger’s flagship special Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, at £110.00 for the 1999 vintage or £160.00 for the legendary 1996 vintage, is worth considering if there really is a cause for celebration this Christmas.
In addition, to being outstanding in the mouth Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill comes with its own potted history of Sir Winston’s love for Champagne and, more particularly, Pol Roger. Without spoiling the fun too much interesting facts include:
- the black foil used by Pol Roger was first employed in 1965 to mourn Churchill’s death;
- the blend of the wine is secret at the behest of the Soames family; and
- Churchill is believed to have drunk a bottle a day.
Lady Soames said at the launch of Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill in 1984 of her late father’s love for Champagne ‘I saw him many times the better for it, but never the worse.’ I am not sure whether I will be able to say the same of myself on the morning of 26 December but I am sure Sir Winston would have approved in any event.
I recently met with Rory Mullan, a leading tax barrister and member of Tax Chambers, 15 Old Square, at 28-50 to discuss Stamp Duty Land Tax avoidance schemes, over a few glasses of fine wine.
28-50 is recently-opened wine bar and restaurant named after the latitude coordinates 28° and 50°, these being the locations between which the majority of the world’s vines grow.
The principals behind the business, formerly of Manoir Aux Quat Saisons and Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, chose a location somewhere around latitude coordinate 51° (Fetter Lane in the City) so I didn’t have far to travel from my office on Piccadilly.
We opted for a Shiraz flight from Glaetzer Wines, a relatively modern producer from the Barossa, whose owners have a long history of wine production in South Australia.
As Shiraz can often exceed 15% ABV, I thought it sensible to start with a charcuterie selection so as not to become too insensible too soon.
In hindsight, I should have opted for something more exciting from the menu such as Icelandic cod with chorizo and cous cous; perhaps next time.
The first wine (Wallace 2008) was surprisingly pale for a Shiraz, in particular for 2008 as Barossa was on the receiving end of a fierce heatwave. A bit of cheating (a bottle inspection) revealed that Wallace is a blend of Shiraz (80%) and Grenache (20%).
This explained the difference in colour between the medium purple core of the Wallace 2008 and the near-opaque dark purple core of the second wine Bishop 2008 (100% Shiraz).
The Bishop 2008 stood out: a complex nose packed with dark fruit; complexity again on the palate, dark fruit, pepper, sweet spices, leather and tobacco; silky tannins; and a good finish. At £8.30 a glass (125ml), I was impressed.
More cheating revealed that the Shiraz vines at Glaetzer average 80-120 years which explains the wine’s complexity. The struggle older vines face to produce grapes results in richer, more interesting fruit, albeit less of it.
The final wine Bishop 2007 was pleasant but our preference was the 2008. The conversation turned from wine to tax (again). This might sound boring but I am yet to meet a property investor who finds the subject of legitimate tax avoidance uninteresting; in particular, over a glass of Australia’s finest.