Last week I attended a Decanter Education Event on ‘Understanding Bordeaux’ hosted by Steven Spurrier. For those of you who don’t know Steven Spurrier, let me tell you that as well as being an authority on wine of the highest level, he’s also had a Hollywood film made about him – enough said?
I didn’t have a chance to ask him his opinion of the film, Bottle Shock, or whether he felt that Alan Rickman had portrayed him well. I didn’t have a chance to ask because when Steven Spurrier takes the time to talk to you about Bordeaux, it’s time to listen: to listen and learn.
Spurrier is part of a family tree of wine authorities that stretches back to the great Harry Waugh and includes the masterful Michael Broadbent MW. His encyclopaedic knowledge of Bordeaux, its people and its vines, is imbued with this depth of understanding and tradition. However, what makes Spurrier so well worth listening to is that he easily blends this perspective with pithy, three or four word assessments of the wine that are unfailingly accurate.
In the evening, we were shown the full spectrum of Bordeaux, both in the wines we tasted and in the full sweep of information that was shared along the way. Not only was Spurrier able to (off the cuff) list the significant vintages in Bordeaux going back to 1929, he also shared with us the scope of change in the area over that period and the reasons for the recent, dramatic improvements in the wines of the area. I’m normally the first to head for the door when I hear a list of years and vintages, but Spurrier brought this to life and made it memorable and fun to hear about.
We began by tasting a white Bordeaux, before moving on to the reds, the main event: a trip through the communes of Margaux, Pauillac, St Estèphe, Pessac-Léognan, Pomerol, St Emilion and St Julien and vintages from 2005 to 2001.
As a guide to the wines, Spurrier shared his distinction in describing the tastes and flavours of grapes. To him they are either spherical or vertical.
A spherical profile describing a grape that is rich, plush, fruity and round – such as merlot.
A vertical profile describing a grape that is firm, elegant and higher in acid – such as cabernet.
It’s a useful reference point when tasting wines that are blends of those two grapes to see how one cedes the stage to the other and the impact this has on the wine – whether it’s a slightly austere wine with hidden power or a more obviously fruity, opulent wine.
The wines were all well chosen and supplied by The Wine Society – membership of the Wine Society is still one of the best investments you can ever make in wine. My personal favourite was the Chateau d’Angludet, Margaux 2005 – delicate, perfumed and harmonious – which says as much about my love of Margaux as anything else. The ‘best’ wine of the bunch was the Chateau Trottevielle, St Emilion 2001 – lovely sweetness and concentration – narrowly outclassing the Chateau Langoa Barton, St Julien 2001 which was perhaps still a little young.
To finish we were treated to the excellent sweet Sauternes Chateau Suduiraut 2007 an amazing wine which had the ‘honey and fire,’ that marks all great sticky wines and according to Spurrier, it also would make an excellent breakfast wine – who am I to disagree?
As we pored over the wines, Spurrier guided us, opening doors of understanding as he went. At one point made a remark about an experience he’d had when he was learning the wine trade, only to stop himself and state that he is still learning the wine trade. Modest words indeed and sincerely said. I’d offer that if Steven Spurrier is still learning the wine trade, then we all are; we can all continue learning. If you want to take the opportunity to accelerate your learning, then wine courses are an obvious route to take and I’d suggest that you go and grab yourself a ticket (if you can get your hands on one) to an event that he hosts – not only is it fun, it will save you lots of time!
For more information on Decanter Education, follow this link: http://www.amiando.com/decantereducation.html
Discord in Odesa; pruning at Shabo goes on!
Last week a picture was posted on Twitter of vines in Shabo, a large estate that lies to the west of Odesa on southern Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline. The image seemed benign at face value but the reality, of course, is that the city of Odesa has been bracing itself for attack by Russian forces.
An aperitif by the coliseum
As COVID-19 conspires with the grimmest of winds and rain to force a societal retreat behind our own front doors, the word ennui springs to mind. The muddle of displeasure is pierced when Natalia hands me a large bulbous glass of a liquid I do not recognise.
Artichoke pasta and very fine Pigato
Britain’s lamentable exit
On the eve of Britain’s official departure from the EU, my partner and I decided to explore a small town on the Italian Riviera where thewintry cold doesn’t feel so much like cold war bite.
I had warned my significant other that I would be having an inverse departure party, a release of the sanity valve if you like!
Soave: volcanic wines with elegance and longevity
Sitting inside the ancient castle walls inside the town of Soave, a short drive from Verona in northern Italy, the unique slightly almond aroma of the indigenous grape, Garganega, rises gently from my glass. The castle sprawls up the side of an extinct volcano that gives the region its variant soil structures that mark out the better quality of Soave wines.
An American In Paris; Tanisha Townsend (@GirlMeetsGlass) discusses podcasts, Paris wine bars, & what she's drinking at the moment
Tanisha Townsend decided to move to Paris 4 years ago after regularly passing through the city en route to the world’s most famous vineyards. In fact, it was about 2 years ago at the Printemps de Champagne Bouzy Rouge tasting in Reims that I saw (who we shall now refer to as) GirlMeetsGlass chirpily speaking to her web followers on Snapchat.
Wine tasting in Galicia: The pilgrims search for Albarino
The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the final resting place of Saint James, rises out of the landscape, infested with antiquity. The rambling steep streets give way to shafts of dramatic light, emblazoned chapels, and tightly packed tapas bars, dusty, as old novels pressed together in antiquarian bookshops.