You need it where? In Spain? This morning?

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

I overheard many conversations that started like this when I was working with Paul. I would thank the lord I wasn’t the person trying to move a case of Champagne to a client in Barcelona the next morning. It’s not easy.

And when complications happened, as they always do, he was there to agitate, push along, and make sure the customer got what they wanted, when they wanted it.

Now I don’t know who’s going to deliver that uncompromising service because Paul has left Roberson Wine for new horizons.

We duly battled our way through the freezing London cold to Noble Rot restaurant, so we could drink some wine and toast his departure.

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It was an eclectic mix:

1996 Pouilly-Fume ‘Baron de L’ Ladoucette

One of mine. Strangely, it seems 1996 Pouilly-Fume is not as popular in the general marketplace as I thought. I just remembered a 1981 bottle of Baron de L I had a few years back that was super. The wines stay so fresh and age incredibly. This was lovely.

2012 Bourgogne Blanc Pierre Morey

Very nice, clearly outperforming village wine. Super stuff.

1995 Madiran Montus Prestige

Montus is always lovely, and always seems to be about 2 years from it’s peak, whatever vintage you’re drinking.

1983 Hermitage La Chapelle Jaboulet

I’ve a big soft spot for early 80s La Chapelle, and loved the 1980 and 1982, but this was a little too open-knit for me. Very soft, very nice, but a bit more stuffing would have improved things.

1999 Matriarch Bond

Didn’t try as at the other end of the table. Smelled oaky though..

2007 Nuits-St-George 1er Clos de la Marechale JF Mugnier

This is a much superior wine to the 2005 and 2006, in my opinion. Really soft and elegant. Think he must be turning the vineyard around. A long way away from the sturdy, rustic wines of Francois Faiverley.

2014 Sancerre Mont-Damnee Francoise Cotat

Effortlessly good, you could drink this all night.

1991 Crozes-Hermitage La Guiraude Graillot

The open-knit nature of the La Chapelle as really put into focus by the superiority of this excellent wine. Roasted, smokey flavour. Perfect now.

1988 Suduiraut

I’ve a soft-spot for this vintage, I think the wines are really easy-going, very good value and appealing. This was great. Not one for the ages, but enjoyed.

With those duly dispatched, we bid Paul good luck and watched him tap-dance into the night.

Joe GilmourYou need it where? In Spain? This morning?

The Very Singular and Very Endangered Wines of Colares

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

As I finalised my order last week, taking wines from the cellar of a winery that are never going to be replenished, I thought about scarcity, and just what happens when a wine region simply runs out of wine.

Usually, it’s not a problem, as older vintages disappear, the constant stream of new ones starts the cycle again. Prices go up, prompting new players in the market, or they fall and the region suffers.

In Colares, a tiny wine region on the far west, windy and wild edge of Portugal faces a different problem. The vines dug deep into the sand, that have resisted phylloxera, face a much more ruthless existential threat. Property developers.

The cost, both financial and physical of cultivating these ancient vines, ageing the wines and selling them just became more and more difficult, and although the old-timers persevered, producing great vintages and remaining true to the classic style, when they reached retirement, there was simply no-one to take over, so one by one, the vineyards got sold off to the much more lucrative business of holiday homes for wealthy Lisboans.

Now, the entire production is about the same as that of Clos Vougeot, less then twenty times what it was at it’s peak when it was regarded as Portugal’s Bordeaux for its ability to create very long lived, pale, intellectual wines.

I think there are many ways to evaluate wines, and we do ourselves a disservice if we remove the cultural context from what’s in the glass. For me, it’s what endlessly draws me back to wine, the complex, ever shifting relationship to the structures that created it. Which is why, as much as I love the taste of these old soldiers from Colares, the rise and fall off the place that gave birth to them, is every bit as compelling and well worth thinking over as one sips the salty, fresh Ramisco that like the contents of your glass is slowly fading away.

Looking towards the future, the production seems to have steadied over the last ten years. The reaming producers, Adega Regional, Viuva Gomes, Paulo da Silva-Chitas and Fundação have been making efforts to expand a little but production will probably continue to be pretty miniscule. I wish them luck.

Joe GilmourThe Very Singular and Very Endangered Wines of Colares

Leon Barral and the Concrete Engineer

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

Leon Barral: “I met one person who changed everything for me. His name was Pierre Martin. He came into my cellar, about 25 years ago, and when he tasted the wine, he could tell immediately if the wine was artificially yeasted, if it had sulphur added, the maturity in degrees of alcohol — everything. Because me, at the beginning, I didn’t know if the wine had sulphur added. Now, I know. It was his visit that changed everything for me.”

“Who the hell was this guy?! Was this guy a winemaker? “No! He was a concrete engineer! He was a passionate lover of classical music as well, and painting. And his fantasy was to be locked in a cellar in the Loire with his wife, and to die while drinking Philippe Foreau’s Goutte d’Or”

Full article at Gargantuan Wine – Well worth 10 mins.

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Joe GilmourLeon Barral and the Concrete Engineer

6 Portland Road

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

Kensington is lovely, of course it is. But it is also very boring. So is Notting Hill, if a little less so, and at least they get the occasional excitement of piss-filled cans of Red-Stripe being thrown around every year at the carnival. The area has suffered in recent years.

Residentially, it is too expensive for the young creative set who used to hang out in Chelsea and Notting Hill and who now locate themselves in the East. Culturally, it houses some grand institutions  but the vibrant new openings have long since dried up.

Restaurant wise, there are some good high-endish classic destinations, Kitchen W8, Launceston Place, Sally Clarks etc, but vibrant new-openings, not so much.

So, it is not surprising that 6 Portland Road was so popular when we went for dinner a few days ago.

The lovely owner Oli Barker, has lured Pascal Wiedermann, and it seems most of the wine-list from the excellent Terroirs group, who are part-owned by Les Caves de Pyrene.

So, no problem with the food. These guys know what they’re doing in the kitchen. Outside, the rusticity has been dialled down a bit and has a sort of effortlessly chic modern-French feel to it.

A slightly unappealing, herby amuse-bouche sort of dip was replaced by some ultra-fresh Sardines and one of the best terrines I’ve had for a long time.

The mains were good. Pork cheek was suitably hearty and I can’t remember what my companion had, but it was nice. Prices aren’t cheap but, well, neither are the locals.

Speaking of locals, it was interesting to eavesdrop on some of the fall-out from a quite hard-line natural wine list. We were the lucky recipients of a bottle that some guys next to us didn’t like (and was great) and it’s probably not easy getting punters to get their wallets out when they hadn’t heard of any of the wines.

Personally, I think it’s a mistake to source so many wines of a similar bent. It just becomes a bit boring seeing the same stuff everywhere. It’s like in Paris, everywhere you go it’s the same stuff: Foillard, Ganevat, de Moor etc etc. Maybe not the Gallo, but a bit of interesting Burgundy, Rhone and Bordeaux wouldn’t go amiss amongst the Pineau d’Aunis.

I was quite excited to see a white from Jean-Marie Berrux, who I knew better from the Sarnin-Berrux operation I visited in St-Aubin a few years ago. They were making really lovely natural-inflected whites in Burgundy, up to some pretty exalted appellations. Didn’t end up importing any as we were not sure the UK market was 100% ready for them and also there was a bit of a question mark in our minds about how the superior appellations always related to quality. It seemed they wore their vinificaition signature ahead of their terroir profiles.

Anyway – Jean Marie is making a sideline with negoce grapes and we tried his Tetu 2013 (I think it was 2013)

It was lovely, not quite the Puligny our nice waitress compared it too, but top stuff and very bracing.

It reminded me of the Cuvee Florine from Ganevat. Aaron Ayscough put’s it well when he says: “Belying its name, which means “little stubborn one,” it’s dance-in-the-streets delicious right this instant. There’s a sea-spray, sea-shelly salinity, and a kind of delicate lime-zest filigree that just slays me.”

Whether our fellow diners, the tieless masters of finance, will be dancing in the streets with joy, I don’t know. But to have a restaurant as good as this in the neighbourhood, a jig at the very least would be appropriate.

Joe Gilmour6 Portland Road

Lafite Who?

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

Scene: Natural wine bar, brick walls. wax capsules. etc After a long discussion about wine from Jura.

Me: “It’s great, it reminds me of Michel Lafarge”

Him: “Who?”

Me: “Michel Lafarge, you know, top producer of Volnay?”

Him: “Never heard of ‘im”

I can’t remember who it was, I think it might have been Gianfranco Soldera, reminiscing a few months back about his vinous education. He was remembering the great wines that became the key reference points for his memory bank of what wine was capable of aspiring to. Mouton 1949, Armand Rousseau 1985, etc, etc. He wanted to make wines as good as these. I think he probably succeeded.

Gianfranco bemoaned the current generation of drinkers and winemakers who haven’t had the chance to taste the classics because they’re just too expensive. Indeed, a few years ago, I was at a tasting of 1982 Bordeaux chatting to an MW, who’d never tasted a wine from this epoch-changing vintage.

Understand prices, and you can understand a lot of what’s happening in the world. Was the surge of great restaurants in London about a new discovery of interest in food, or was it driven as much by high prices of rental property pushing people to eat out because they didn’t have a dining table at home?

Overnoy, L’Anglore, Foillard etc. If you have the connections and can find them, you can drink the best natural wines in the world without spending a fortune. The popularity of these ‘new classics’ is in part a natural reaction to the increasing unattainability of the ‘old-classics’.

But, because of this, it seems there’s a generation of young wine lovers, who don’t aspire to drink the classics anymore. I think that’s a shame. When I started, it was all I wanted to do, to encounter Lafite, Petrus et al. To bag some of the ‘big-game’ of the wine world. I don’t feel like that so much anymore, but it was an important period of my life that allowed me a sense of scale as to what wine, and older wine in particular was all about.

And, it’s not like all of the classic wines of France are out of reach. Their is a plethora of well-priced, delicious Bordeaux out there that deserves more exposure on the capitals trendy new lists. The importers Vine-Trail deserve a lot of credit for pushing these wines at the moment.

So, in the rush to celebrate the new, the trendy, let’s not forget the classics. To comprehend the new it helps to understand the past.

 

Joe GilmourLafite Who?