Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Bordeaux Bound



Ever doubted that the French take wine seriously? Well if ever you did go to Bordeaux, I’m there next month for the harvest so did a little research (if you can’t speak French you can at least speak a little grape).

Bordeaux has a serious reputation to protect and to do so has developed a seriously hardcore ‘Wine University’. The Bordeaux Institute of Wine and Vine is not only one of the most important buildings in the production of wine- it’s also the only place to go in the winter.
If you take a course at BIWV in wine growth or appreciation (the 2 ‘entry level’ courses) you are less than 50% likely to pass. So yeah they take it pretty seriously, but no matter how seriously they take it they will never be able to live down the fact that the Japanese found Umami whilst they were still trying to describe a taste not quite salty and not quite sweet with allegory and pictures!

Houses and Names

History as Joseph Stalin would have told you is the most important tool in the sale of an idea. If you can create a sufficiently highly regarded pedigree you can never lose it. Some neuvo wine houses create wines that are so terrible even we would spit them out and the name is dead forever. But Louis Jadot, Latour or Rosthchild produce a chronically bullshit wine? Never.

A truly ancient and venerated name can only produce a ‘poorer vintage’, it’ll still cost £40 and is sold exclusively to rubes like us that can’t tell if a wine is good or not with out using the price or types of shop it comes (as a marker this stuff won’t be found in Londis). The prohibitive cost of this wine to us rubes means we leave it for a really special occasion because you are never going to spend that much again. Open it with guest you want to impress and hope to shit they don’t know wine when you pour our £40 worth of pith, tannin and vinegar into their glass. Here’s your salvation, are you ready? “It’s not their best year, ’68 was the best year for (insert wine variety here).”

This blog just saved your ass. It’s the small lies that save us.


So in Bordeaux if you want to pick your grapes you have to wait for a guy from the DOC to tell you it’s time. How does this guy know the time is right?

Is his intuition honed over years?

His credentials impeccable and his knowledge learned from his grandfather as his grandfather and great grandfather learned it before him?

No he uses a satellite 800km above the earth taking infrared pictures.

This was both a massive disappointment and a real eye opener for me. I was distressed that they guy I was expecting who should have looked like a Gaudic caricature, hands like hams and fingers like oyster shucks, colossal booze blossomed nose and perpetual dog end cigarette did not appear. Instead the picture is a guy who although unnamed in the article is almost certainly called Nigel or Phillip and not in a cool French ‘Neegel’ or ‘Phileppe’. Upsetting.

But what made it better, this satellite is so specific it can only take pictures that are of any use to wine growers, during the 80’s when the US and Russia were trying to design spy satellites and anti- missile laser satellites the French were about to terrify them both with a weapon of pure Terreoir. Love it, surely a real example of Liberty, Egalitey and Fraternity, most of the world spending billions on outerspace munitions that would never work and the French develop a geosynchronous grape clock!

The GGC (Geosynchronous Grape Clock) is used to asses the development stage of the grapes over a large area to track the beginning of ‘Veraison’. Le Veraison is the exact point at which the grapes turn. From this point you have about a week when they must be picked for the best wines.

Enter yours truly.


Want to see the difference in Veraison? Find some grapes (red wine the best but whatever) get one that is ripe and juicy and one that is not quite ripe. Gently squeeze the grapes over your tongue one at a time. Apply the lightest of pressure so the skin just breaks and the juice drips out in microlitres! This is the 1st pressing, and it makes some seriously primo vino. The juice is clear and sweet and packed with sunshine and sugar, however, the more you squeeze the more bitter the taste the cloudier and more confused the juice- the worse the wine.

Blossom Hill exclusive(?) uses the best grapes. No really it does. Only it takes them after the real wine makers have taken the best and second best, the Co-Op blenders have taken their cut and the guys from Sarson’s have had theirs too. Did you just spit your acid pink White Zindfandel at the screen? Good now never, ever read this blog again you worthless chump.

‘Rose’ from Londis won’t get you laid, they are the booze equivalent of utterly butterly. You cook a beautiful meal for a girl and slap down a tub of ‘I can’t believe it’s not highly processed bullshit’ down on the table are you going to get laid? No because the spider crab soufflé, painstakingly arranged trio of Lamb and home made cheesecake with the picture of her stupid midget breed dog in it may as well be a great big shit sandwich because now she knows that when faced a decision as simple as buying wine all your mind is capable of reasoning is ‘this one is pink, girls like pink right?” Get the fuck away from me and fire up another Pot Noodle you goon.

Tasting Tips:

Sight: Looking for legs in the glass? Amateur. Real men will be considering the density of the colour as they understand the effect that different densities of light and colour have on the pleasure centre of the brain. Too advanced? Look for clarity and colour, the grape variety tells you how dark the wine should be but a good wine should never to be cloudy or opaque.

Scent: Does glass shape matter? Yes chump it does, are you still not getting this? Aroma separates up the glass with the stronger fruitier scents lingering at the bottom near the liquid and the lighter more floral scents lifting higher up the glass. Swirl and sniff!

Texture: Texture on the tongue and in the mouth is as important as taste, is it bright and zinging? Almost stinging your tongue allowing the fresh green fruits to escape to your soft palette leaving you refreshed? Or is it deep and dark with prickly tannins and a velvet consistency to coat your tongue and leave a moistened sensation?

Taste: For a lot of the top wine weirdos this is the least exciting bit. Does the taste back up the smell, does the taste stay with you or does it disappear? Are you left surprised, delighted, disappointed, disgusted? Sip, Swill, Breathe.

Get out of Tesco’s wine aisle, wave goodbye to the local off license and find a wine merchant- I guarantee that you will be getting better wine for less money. Don’t know where the wine merchants in your area are? Email me and I’ll find them for you. Stop drinking that shit and join the revolution!


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