June Review

June 30th 2015, by

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Bordeaux facing 40˚C

June 30th 2015, by

This post is also published on JancisRobinson.com and Liv-ex.

Come at the end of June’, I said to my mother when we arranged for her to stay, a while back. ’The weather should be nice then.’ It has indeed been hot and sunny but we certainly weren’t predicting that the temperature could reach 40°C this afternoon. We – and the vines – are bracing ourselves for a heatwave over the next week, with the odd storm mixed in for good measure.

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You can identify Bordeaux because it’s the one marked 40˚C. In June…

The prospects for the vintage, heatwave notwithstanding, are bright. Bordeaux had close to ideal conditions for the rapid flowering in late May and early June, which was crucial for the size and evenness of the crop; then rain after the 9 June was helpful for the thirsty vines.

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How technology is helping wine makers bypass supermarkets

June 26th 2015, by

Victoria Moore, The Telegraph’s wine critic, wrote an interesting article on 20 June about European wine producers selling direct to UK consumers; naturally, we were delighted to be included – to be fair, there isn’t a long list to choose from – and to have our white described as ’beautifully crisp’.

… Social media – together with simple email – is enabling small producers to form a more intimate relationship with those who enjoy drinking their wine.

Intimate? Steady on.

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Anything but this

In fact, the piece was given the title How technology is helping wine sellers bypass the supermarkets, presumably by a sub-editor, with the introduction “Wine producers are using social media to sell bottles directly to their clients, with no middle-men required.”

Of course, ‘wine sellers’ are not usually the same people as ‘wine producers’, as Victoria explains:

‘Bypassing retailers and agents to sell direct is hardly a new phenomenon – I think every British wine drinker is born with an ancestral memory of stopping at a French roadside for a dégustation.

‘But modern communications technology is transforming the experience. Each of us is now like a miniature station, capable of broadcasting the minutiae of our lives across the world on multiple channels from Snapchat to Periscope to Instagram. This is enabling a joyful inversion of Amazon’s “long tail”; instead of one faceless retail giant amassing volume by selling tiny quantities of a large number of lines, social media – together with simple email – is enabling small producers to form a more intimate relationship with those who enjoy drinking their wine.

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Château Margaux, new cellars, and a dinner – in pictures

June 19th 2015, by

You know it’s going to be a decent event when the stamp on the envelope matches the invitation. The famous First Growth opened its new cellars, designed by Sir Norman Foster, at the opening of Vinexpo and invited a few friends to dinner. It was all fairly impressive.

The dinner was hosted by Château Margaux and the Grands Crus Classés of the 1855 classification. I went with my old friend Ronan Sayburn.

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The infamous Bauduc Summer Cocktail

June 9th 2015, by

DSC_0038-blogOld friends know about our infamous cocktail – it’s ideal for small drinks parties as you can prepare the mix ahead.

For 25 long drinks, mix 2 bottles Château Bauduc Rosé 2014, 50cl cranberry juice, a dash of lime cordial, good squeeze of fresh lime juice, and a slug of Vodka. Measures to taste, of course. When guests arrive, add ice into tall glasses and pour in the mix to half way; then fill with Canada Dry (2 litres needed in all).

Test ahead. Add mint leaves for a garnish and squeeze in a lime wedge for a zippy first taste.

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Back to where we started

May 28th 2015, by

Gordon Ramsay opened Maze Grill at 11 Park Walk in Chelsea last month, and we’re delighted that Chateau Bauduc Sauvignon and our Sauternes is served by the glass. Nothing extraordinary about that, you might think, but the address has special significance for us: it’s where Ange and I had our first date. (And later, more famously, the place where Gordon would make his name.)

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Back in the autumn of 1989, 11 Park Walk was the name of a lively Italian restaurant which had a convivial atmosphere and a tasty spaghetti and lobster dish on the menu. It was the scene for our first dinner date (we’d met at a dinner party two weeks before) and, after we’d enjoyed the pasta and a bottle of Tignanello, Ange asked what I was doing at the weekend. I was planning on watching Chelsea play Millwall, and when she asked if she could come too, it was immediately obvious that this was a relationship that had potential. We went to the game, just around the corner from Park Walk, and Chelsea won 4-0. The result was that Ange and I got engaged a few months later and we were married in July on Bastille Day, just after the 1990 World Cup.

11 Park Walk closed in the early nineties (anyone remember mortgage rates at 14+%?) and a wonderful restaurant called Aubergine took its place in 1993. A twentysomething Gordon Ramsay had been hired as head chef and the food was so good, and the wine so reasonably priced, that Ange and I wanted to host her (important) birthday party there. When I put the suggestion to the man himself in the restaurant one morning, he wondered how many people we were thinking of entertaining. I said ’about, um, thirty?’. ’Thirty!’ he barked; ’I’m not a fucking caterer!’ Anyway, we cut the number down to two tables of ten, I think, and it was a brilliant evening.

IMG_0545Ramsay deservedly went on to win a Michelin star at Aubergine in 1995 and two stars in 1997, before he had a run-in with the owners. It wasn’t long before he set up on his own at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Royal Hospital Road, the year before we moved to Bordeaux in 1999. Bauduc became the house wine at Royal Hospital Road – that’s another story – shortly before he won his coveted third Michelin star in late 2001.

So, moving on a few years, when Ramsay returned to his old stamping ground at 11 Park Walk with Maze Grill, we were delighted that they chose to put Bauduc on the wine list. And with the restaurant being just around the corner from Stamford Bridge, more than reasonable that we should go and sample it. And the cooking.

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May News

May 28th 2015, by

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2015: an odd year that’s normal for once

May 24th 2015, by

The vines are coming into flower. I’ve taken a picture of the vineyard in front of the chateau on the 23rd May each year – it started that way – and the photos show just how different the uneven years have been. 2009 just after the hail, 2011 way ahead of other years, 2013 limp and lagging well behind, and now with 2015 looking strangely normal for the time of year.

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23 May 2009, Chateau Bauduc, after hail 10 days before.

 

23 May 2011, Chateau Bauduc. An early vintage that got off to a flyer.

23 May 2011, Chateau Bauduc. An early vintage that got off to a flyer.

23 May 2013, Chateau Bauduc. Way behind - and in August, we'd be hit by hail.

23 May 2013, Chateau Bauduc. Way behind – and in August, we’d be hit by hail.

23 May 2015, Chateau Bauduc.

23 May 2015, Chateau Bauduc. Verging on normal.

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The Seafood celebrates 40 years

May 22nd 2015, by

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Congratulations to The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow for notching up 40 years. And many thanks to Rick and Jill Stein – and to Jill’s sister Roni, who has looked after the wine since 1988 – for including me as one of their ’Food Heroes’ in the book to mark the anniversary. The Food Heroes (admittedly, wine is stretching the category of ’food’) were each asked if they could share any tips and favourite dishes. Here are mine.

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In praise of big bottles and the rule of 5

May 20th 2015, by

IMG_1269I had the privilege of attending a smart dinner at Westminster Abbey on 18 May, at the start of the London Wine Fair. Chateau d’Issan from Margaux laid on a spectacular evening for many of the UK’s wine royalty, and I’d somehow sneaked an invite. The wines, from 1985, 1990, 2000 and 2005, showed just how brilliantly enormous bottles can age, and that when it comes to great Bordeaux vintages, the rule of 5 – those ending in 0 or 5 – is pretty reliable.

To be clear, ’the rule of 5’ arguably began in 1985 (1980 was a shocker), but has continued without doubt from 1990. My three personal favourites, for what it’s worth, are 1990, 2005 and 2010. The 2005s are only just coming round after a decade, and many need a few more years yet.

I think 2010, especially on the Left Bank, has the potential to be the greatest of the lot, but you’ll have to be patient for the great wines.

As for larger formats, I can’t think of a red Bordeaux that I’ve drunk from a magnum or larger that hasn’t been superior, or had more potential, than the same wine in a regular 75cl bottle. A large format with a bit of age can surpass a wine from a regular bottle – the difference between a wine that is delicious, as opposed to merely decent. Perhaps, also, it’s because you always drink a very big bottle with friends.

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