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Coming in from the Cold

Welcome to the new Winedr blog!

As from today blogging comes in from the cold, as I have replaced my old Blogger platform with this new blog, fully integrated within Winedoctor. It’s long been my intention to do so – finally I have gotten around to actually doing it.

Early on the old Winedr blog featured a lot of new tasting notes and links through to Winedoctor, but with the passage of time a nagging doubt grew within me that this wasn’t really what blogging was about. Blogging should more spontaneous, honest, provocative, engaging and stimulating (as I wrote in my post, Censorship by Harassment) than that. Dare I say it should be more opinionated?

In recent weeks I have been using the blog to express my opinion, rather than just link through to Winedoctor. There’s been some good debate as a result, which I have really enjoyed. Sometimes I’ve been cheeky (as in Bordeaux: who are you reading?), sometimes more critical (as in Bordeaux: trade down or trade away?) and sometimes I’ve used the blog to increase my understanding, both of wine and my own palate (as in Oxidised Wines: Where’s the ‘Charm’?) often with some success, it has to be said. Debate and discussion is a two-way process, and I’ve learnt from my blogging. It’s been good.

So much so that I have imported all these posts, those that have stimulated debate and which on review seem worthwhile, into my new blog here. Those simply linking back to Winedoctor (as in “today’s update is….”) I haven’t brought here. All the relevant comments have been imported (by hand – not a quick or easy task), and no tasting note has been lost – all have been filed somewhere in the depths of Winedoctor right from the outset. This is important, because I don’t intend leaving my old blog up for all eternity; duplication of content on the internet is probably not a good thing, and I’ll be taking it down rather than leaving it as an archive.

There are a few features that still need tweaking – I won’t bore you with all the details, but I need to make sure the navigation is good (please inform me of any broken links you might find) and it would be good to get some avatars (or gravatars as they seem to be called on WordPress, which is what I am now using) installed – but otherwise we are good to go.

Please feel free to test out the comments (fingers crossed it works!).

Scottish Rose

Not a wine you will be able to find, wherever you are in the world, but worthy of a mention here all the same.

Jordan House Organic Rosé 2009: A vibrant, electric pink in the glass. The nose is clean and attractive, with slightly sherbetty strawberry fruit, with a welcome leafy, nettly element alongside the sweet fruit. The palate is textured and full, well balanced, with a very appealing fruit profile tempered by little notes of sweet candy, although this is very much a minor component. Most important of all it has a dry presence on the palate, nicely textured and slightly fleshy but otherwise free of unwelcome residual sugar. And there is acidity too, giving this a fresh and lifting character on the palate. At 14% alcohol it certainly packs a punch, but it shows no overt alcohol-derived characteristics on the palate other than a rather full, solid composition. Overall, a very good effort, and although not quite up to the standard of Mark Angeli’s 2008 Rosé d’un Jour this is better than many a Loire rosé that has come my way this year. 15.5/20

This rosé is produced from an unidentified vine (perhaps Black Muscat) growing in a conservatory in Edinburgh. How 14% was achieved I don’t know – the power of growing under glass, perhaps? Hand-picked, fermented using yeast culture in barrel (plastic rather than oak, I think), minimal sulphur, hand-bottled.

And actually drinkable! Perhaps a benefit of low expectations.

Sadly it’s a very limited production, less than a few cases so it won’t be widely available. Sorry to disappoint. It’s made by a friend of mine hence my ability to lay my hands on one – what it is to have contacts!

Winedoctor overhaul

This weekend I have just finished a facelift for Winedoctor. Hopefully it won’t look or feel too different as there are few things more infuriating and disorientating than change seemingly for change’s sake. So just about everything is in the same place, and my aim was to tidy up the home-page – hopefully making it easier to read and find what you want to find – and to smarten up the menu on the left, especially its appearance in Internet Explorer. The menu is probably the most noticeable update, but there are lots of other style elements that have subtly changed also.

Anyway, I hope I have achieved my aims with this facelift. Please feel free to email or make a comment here with any opinions on it.

Australia on Winedoctor

An interesting message recently from Australian Nick Bowring, who writes:

Hi Chris,

I hope this finds you well.

As an avid reader of your site and also a fellow wine industry person
I really enjoy your wine of the week section. A lot of the wines that
you review are wines that I can’t buy here in Australia but many are
wines that i am familiar with and have the fortune of tasting
regularly. However, the wines that you review from Australia are
never wines that you will find on good restaurant wine lists and are
certainly wines that any learned wine person in Australia would choose
to look at in this type of forum. Having said that, I don’t think the
wines are at all bad, just wines that as you say don’t help us learn
about the vines, people or place that help make these wines. Is this
due to the availability of Australian wines in the UK? If you like I
am more than happy to help you source wines that I believe represent
what Australia does best. In my travels around the world I have found
that the perception of Australian wine is less than stella and
anything I can do to help that change I will do. I am sure that you
know what are the better producers in Australia and I am also sure
that a lot of these wines are probably not available in the UK.
Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

Keep up the good work!

Many thanks and kind regards

Nick Bowring“

I think Nick was spurred into writing by the rather aberrant appearance of two branded wines as recent “wines of the week”, the Jacob’s Creek Steingarten (which I though was pretty good for such a wine) and the Griffith Park fizz which was certainly drinkable. My reply:

Hi Nick

Many thanks for your feedback. I know you have a deep understanding of Australian wine and you are quite right that my site doesn’t really feature the best that Australia has to offer, indeed these days it doesn’t really focus on Australia at all.

I was in two minds running the two branded Australian wines over the last two weeks, mainly because they are so out of keeping with the sorts of wines I usually write about. However, my wine of the week feature is more about examining some aspect of wine rather than featuring a wine as a “recommended buy”, and so I thought it would be interesting to look at these two branded wines – making plain that is what they are – in succession. I thought them interesting because they showed that (1) branded wines can be good (or at least good value) drinking – although I accept not the interest or quality you can get from a boutique winery, hopefully that point came across, (2) that the processes behind them can be interesting even though they deviate from our usual concepts of wine, eg. marketing that suggests a single-vineyard origin (such as the Steingarten) when that is clearly not the case, or methods to reduce costs and thus shelf price, such as the transfer method for the Griffith Park.

Having written that, despite my stating that “One thing Wine of the Week does not foster is a string of dull supermarket wine recommendations. This isn’t an outlet for the puffery that can build up around such wines, frequently manufactured and unnatural, and of little real interest” (taken from here) I know many approach it as a recommended buy, and indeed I have recently been in receipt of emails complaining that the wines I feature are unobtainable, when that was never really meant to be the case anyway – although when I checked the majority of wines I feature, even when I pull them from the cellar years after purchase, are usually still on the market. Maybe I just need to bite the bullet, and put more weight of recommendation behind the wines I feature?

If I look at Australia again in the future I will get in touch. I know for sure that I am out of my comfort zone here, my Aus profiles are gradually going out of date, don’t represent the best of the country (again) and I am just accepting that. It’s not possible to update everything, so I am focusing on what I know (Loire, Bordeaux) with bits on other French/European regions.

Thanks again

Chris Kissack“

Any comments? What should “wine of the week” be? Should websites be broad and risk superficialty, or is a more focused approach better? I must confess I had no real ‘master-plan’ for either when I started up nearly ten years ago, so today’s position is one I have grown into rather than planned.

Taking a Break

There will be no updates to Winedoctor for a few weeks now, as I take my now traditional annual summer break. Whereas I would usually spend this in the Loire, and usually make some time for visits to vineyards, this year I will be passing my time somewhat further south. That doesn’t exclude visiting any vineyards of course – I will be staying a short drive from Limoux so there should be no shortage of decent wine to drink – but I think my priority is to switch off and spend some time with my kids.

If I have internet access I might update this blog, but I certainly won’t be updating the main site.

Scheduled for the second half of this year, after my return, are:

  • Southern Rhône 2000 vintage profile & tasting.
  • New Loire profiles: Montgilet, François Chidaine, Clos Roche Blanche, Thierry Puzelat, Pierre & Bertrand Couly & more.
  • New Bordeaux profiles: La Pointe, Latour à Pomerol, Haut-Brion.
  • Bordeaux Updates: Haut Bailly, Léoville Las Cases, Smith Haut Lafitte and many more, many with new images from my recent Bordeaux trips. Loire updates too; Alphonse Mellot to name but one.
  • A new multi-part guide to Burgundy.
  • A 1989 twenty-years-on report and tasting, followed by a 1999 ten-years-on report and tasting.
  • A look at the Bordeaux 2007 vintage, in bottle, from the annual UGC tasting.
  • And also at the Bordeaux 2005 vintage, at four years, at the IMW tasting.
  • A look at the red wines of the Loire from 2005, particularly the Anjou, Saumur and Touraine appellations.
  • One or two Limoux profiles – I suspect!

And probably some more waffle on this blog, too.