Issue 9: yoga, safaris and Tom Hanks

When independents get the chance to visit California, they usually return with stories about the amazing wines they discovered on their travels. Why, they wonder, aren’t more of them available in the UK?

The strange thing is that many of them are already being imported, but suppliers don’t necessarily give them as much attention as they could. That’s why we’ve teamed up with the California Wine Institute for a two-part special, highlighting some of the most interesting wines that the Golden State can offer, and which are available to order now. We’ve started with whites, sparkling and rose wines and continue the series in issue 10 with reds.

This issue also features a special report on Brazil, a country whose wines are increasingly hard to ignore, and a report from the Languedoc, where there’s a real confidence among producers about the quality of their wines. Tried any Bourboulenc blends lately? You probably should.

We don’t like to brag about our little fanzine but as usual it is jam-packed with news from the independent sector, and wine reviews and talking points galore. There’s a three-page profile of Bristol independent Clifton Cellars, an excellent David Williams appraisal of Hedonism, and, as always, a busy Supplier Bulletin section with updates from the likes of Louis Latour Agencies, Pol Roger Portfolio, De Bortoli Wines, Emporia Brands, New Generation Wines, Mentzendorff, PLB Specialist, JJ Brands and Le Bon Vin.

What else? A man in a pith helmet, a Tom Hanks lookalike, the truth about Oz Clarke and Superman, the world’s oldest vine, yoga lessons, Germolene aromas and a man with a flamethrower. And how much do we charge for all this? Not a penny. It’s yours with our compliments. Thanks for reading, for your feedback, and for selling such nice wines.

 
Graham Holter

Editor

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Not oaky-dokey

Wood is meant to add some subtle seasoning to wine, but too many winemakers evidently prefer trees to vines. Doug Wregg lifts aloft a two-by-four and takes aim at the overoaked atrocities

 

A rare glimpse of a coopers’ training camp, somewhere near Marmandais

SO I SAID to my friend Carlo: “Let’s drink something dangerous.” In retrospect I’m not sure what I meant by that. Partly I meant “let’s spend more money than we would normally do on a bottle of wine and risk being disappointed”, but the sneaking, faux-natural, quasi-spiritual part of me wanted to sample an extreme wine that would trip the light fandango and send tiny squalls of reverberating flavours to the outer limits of my palate. Or something.

I order a rich Marmandais wine. The cuvée above the cuvée, so to speak. More is more, right?

Wrong.

At first the upfront fruit fronts up, but after a couple of snifters I feel like Woody Woodpecker rattling my beak against a solid oak tree. As the wine opened up it closed down, as if knackered by extreme lacquer, the classic old Duke of York style: It marched all the fruit up the hill, then it marched it down. A classic example of underwined oak.

And the wood tannins grow and grow and my tongue becomes enveloped in leather. That oak – not so much a structural corset as a dense overlay of toasty sweetness bruléed by an overenthusiastic blowtorch. I mentally contrasted this with a ridiculously drinkable, unassumingly rustic Marcillac (also from this part of south west France) from jester-grower Jean-Luc Matha that I had consumed the previous night, single-handedly. It had slithery red fruits, was tinged with graphite and edged with iron and blood and condensed the sentiment “I sneer at your oak and I generally thumb my bulbous nose at your extraordinary pretensions” into the concise command “Drink me!”

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