from Bombay to Bordeaux (via Burgundy and a Barbus Macedonicus) and almost back again…

Having just returned to the office, after a few days (sorry weeks), away on Wine Tastings, Wine Meetings and Wine Dinners, including a fascinating Indian Cuisine Masterclass*, that actually turned out to be a very smart dinner, at 67 P-M, putting together mildly spicy Tandoori dishes and Goan curry with extremely well chosen wines (what would one expect from the world’s finest wine-club-establishment), to go with each plate. Not to bore-on too much, the 2013 Mount Etna Rosso (Le Vigne di Eli) was an ideal match for the Tandoori lamb cutlets and aubergine curry drizzled in Tamarind yoghurt (more please of all) and then the 2014 Viognier (Milton from Gisborne NZ) balanced acidity and new world zap to an ancient Goan fish recipe that would make even Aristotle sit up and beg for seconds. Sitting next to the guest of honor, Miss Masala herself, your correspondent had time to dig a little deeper into the effects of Turmeric, Cardemom (I always thought it was Cardemo’n’) pods and three different types of Mango (for some strange reason, Alphonso being the only one I can remember for now) and how to balance them with the addition of peppers, papayas and paprikas. The three P’s! and maybe I could add a fourth & a fifth, ummm pure pleasure!



Just a wee note to myself (and to share/a.k.a. getting something off one’s chest)  that this word (m/class) pops up everywhere these days, at wine tastings, art galleries, business lectures and even now various dinners, it would seem as a form of intellectual (of course a ticket seller) $nobbism, and not just in the vinous world of which I inhabit, but all over the dam place. As a child I can remember going to the RFH (Royal Festival Hall) to listen & watch a ‘masterclass’ given by a conductor to a student of the cello, or a composer explaining the ins and outs of his music to the audience. Something pretty direct and personal, and from a ‘master’ to his already highly educated student. The value of the setup being that the ‘students’, now I think they are called ‘clients’ apparently, en masse can benefit from the master’s comments on the subject at hand. Oh dear, where have we gone with this. Apparently, anyone can now be a master depending on his appearance, journalistix or simply his ability to transmit bullroar and worst of all, to allow the audience in actually thinking that they are cleverer than they really are and that they have actually learned something during the m/class. I fear not. Verbage, bondage and chismage, over & out.

Wine Tasting - old school

Now back to the real stuff. Barbus is a fish that swims freely in the Adriatic sea, according to the Costermonger. Now, I came upon a restaurant in SW1 (I am not going to tell you the name of the place, as I will not get a table the next time i pass by) and I ate what is probably one of the most freshly, well grilled, delicious fish I have eaten in my life. (Not forgetting my various Dover Sole experiences that I can count on one hand). It was caught that morning, flown business class and treated with the total respect it deserved. I am not up to date with Cretian wines, but the 2016 Abinos (100% Sauvignon Blanc) poured at the table to accompany the ‘pesce’ had enough well balanced acidity and minerality, to make me want more and more, of everything.

Grilled Fish & Cretian wine

From the sublime to the redicuolus. On my journey to taste the latest fashionable ‘orange wines’ of South America, I was greeted by Argentine Customs and SENASA, their FDA equivalent or Food Standards Agency, with a surprising arrest warrant. Alas, not mine, but for the 8 British apples (4 Cox’s and 4 Russets) I was carrying along with 3 packets of Asparagus, that I was most looking forward to gorging-on for dinner that night. Well, señorita Sturmabteilung (stormtrooper) had other ideas for my travelling companions. She opened my bags, rubber gloves on hand, with the grace of a she-fox having overcome her prey. The suitcase was yanked opened and the fruit n’veg extracted with same forceful disgust. Apples & Asparagus  thrust upon the examination table and then torn to pieces with what looked like, a larger than normal Stanley knife. Not content with what was already an act of extreme aggression towards some of the best locally grown Sussex produce one can find, she stretched over for a plastic barrel of liquid (I imagine a kind of disinfectant) and scraped the destroyed food into a large bin and smothered it with the liquid. Enough said, except I did suggest she try one of the Cox’s before it’s destruction.


The following day, I was introduced to Argentina’s first, what I can only describe as Natural wine (Orange is very passé these days). 2016 Breva from Bodega Alpamanta. Probably one of three B-D designated wineries to be found in the Republic, and my god it was worth the journey. I have never come across a fresh, turbulent Syrah before and not only was this one unfiltered and totally macerated. It had all the textures and flavors of a wine that has given birth to itself with the careful eye, only, of the wine maker. Non interventional winemaking, is new to south America, and may take some time to catch on. After this little discovery, someone decided to open two (blind) 2008 reds from Tuscany. Why? I have no idea but what a treat to share a bottle of BdM from Col d’Orcia and a BIG boy Chianti Riserva, Barone Ricasoli. The latter having delicious fragrance on the palate, with more emphasis on the fruit, cherries, raspberries and some roses. An almost 10 year old Sangiovese, so traditional and yet had more elegance to it and gumpf than the Brunello. One would have expected the Brunello to be out with all guns firing, but alas, no sign of a Beretta here. The Austrian boss of the Alpamanta (B-D) bodega was also generous enough to open a few other bottles worthy of mention. His Estate (label wise)  Chardonnay, 2016, really had an original luna calendar nose to it. Buttery with rich pineapple and mango fruit, and only a hint of the 10 months spent in barrel. The Cabernet Franc, from 2014 vintage, showed all the spice and pepperiness with good length and solid structure. Green tinges, exotic length and a pleasure to drink. I was heading home, when another bottle (a white) appeared on the tasting table. This time a Sauvignon Blanc, that I could have mistaken for a Gruner Veltliner. Wonderful textures, limes & green peppers. So drinkable that one delayed the departure to dinner just to hear that this white wine had been aged for 10 months in a 1,000 litre barrel, made from Austrian oak. How one actually gets a 1,000 litre barrel from anywhere in the world shipped down to Ugarteche in Mendoza, is anyone’s business. But bravo! for the effort. Well worth all of the difficulties.

Alpamanta Bodega on the tasting table

Being the lucky vinous-sod I am, and just in case anyone can be bothered to read any of this tripe. The other, vinous, treats tasted, and worth a tinkle, over these last weeks:

1994 Dow’s, Oporto

1994 Cockburn’s, Oporto

1996 Ch.La Pointe, Pomerol

1999 Gran Lurton, Mendoza

2005 Ch.Pontet-Canet, Pauillac

2005 Moulin Touchais, Loire

2005 Schiopepettino, Ronchi di Cialla, Prepotto

2013 Perez Cruz Cabernet, Maipo

More patient notes and stories to follow