Sometimes you find one of these local shops that feel a bit like home. For me, Philglas & Swiggot in Battersea is one of them. Located on Northcote Road, Battersea's food and wine shopping street (especially if you count the St John's Road extension), this gem of a shop has been supplying the locals with wine for almost two decades. Now there are two other branches, one in Marylebone, the other in Richmond. The efforts of the team to provide good wine and good advice have been recognised, for instance through the award of London Wine Merchant of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
So what's so special about this shop?
California winemaker Heidi Barrett has a clever little routine to train the palate, and also to get a feeling for the overall quality of a wine
I do it on a count of six. I divide it into initial palate, mid palate, and finish. Each of these categories gets a count of two: Initial palate would be one and two [...], mid palate three and four [...] and the finish would be five and six. [...] When I taste wine, I want 1-2-3-4-5-6, this silky impression from start to finish, it running on all cylinders, no holes in the program, a complete wine with everything filled out. Cabernet Franc, for instance, can be just one and two, where the flavours drop off after the first nice burst of fruit, it falls of a cliff. Merlot is often just three and four. A lot of Cabernet [Sauvignon] is 3-4-5-6.
Neat, hah? See Heidi Barrett explain it to Gary Vaynerchuk, at 12:20 in the video: [read the full post...]
Three bottles. I managed to get my greedy hands on three bottles of this wine last year - regular readers of the Wine Rambler will know that I am a big fan of the lovely wines Theo Haart creates at the Haart family estate overlooking the Mosel river. Most of the wines are sweet, but every year there are a few bottles of dry wines. 'Großes Gewächs' is German for 'great growth' and indicates that you are drinking a dry wine from a top vineyard as certified by the German Association of Premier Winemakers (VdP). Basically, think of it as a dry Spätlese (late harvest) or Auslese. So three bottles. One went down the drain last weekend because it was corked - it tasted of burnt smoke and vinegar. This means I am now down to two. [read the full post...]
The experiment of drinking British supermarket wine has been a disappointment, especially in the cheaper range the Wine Rambler has ventured into so far. Now I am back to drinking supermarket wine, but this time it is a little pricier, crossing the £6 barrier. Dr. Loosen is one of Germany's leading winemakers and very successful at selling in Britain too - Sainsburys stock the more expensive Kabinett and this entry level wine. And what can I say? This is the best wine I bought from a British supermarket below £8 so far. [read the full post...]
This one is for the ladies. Actually, it is not so much for the ladies in general as for my friend Conny who always complains that the Wine Rambler ignores wine from the German region of Franconia, or Franken as we call it. Franken is a Protestant enclave in the north of otherwise Catholic Bavaria. People have a funny accent ('k' comes out like a 'g') and supposedly like robust food and dry wines with the necessary substance to go with it. Did I mention that Conny is from Franconia? [read the full post...]
2009 is the year of the Silvaner grape variety in Germany - the country celebrates 350 years of growing Silvaner. Never heard of Silvaner? Quite likely, especially if you are not German. However, chances are that you have tasted it at some point as Silvaner is often mixed with other grape varieties, for instance in the infamous Liebfraumilch blends, because of its more neutral flavour. Does that mean it is a boring grape? Not necessarily - a good winemaker can use Silvaner to really let the characteristics of a particular vineyard shine, the famous French concept of terroir. To honour the Silvaner, the Wine Rambler will dedicate itself to opening the odd bottle of Silvaner this year to see what this grape has to offer.
Here we are back with our latest venture into supermarket wines. Friends of the Wine Rambler will know that every so often I visit British supermarkets and explore what they have to offer in the cheap price range. So far the likes of Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch have been very disappointing - but here comes an Australian Riesling, from ASDA, that is actually quite drinkable. [read the full post...]
German organic supermarket chain Alnatura has a small, but convincing wine selection, much of which comes in half bottles as well. A good marketing move, since, apart from being good for single drinkers or weekdays, this always makes me less hesitant about trying a wine I know nothing about.
Deep cherry red, with a brick-red edge.
Nice smell of tannic cherries, raw beef, some red and black currants.
In the mouth, thick-skinned cherries again, red currants, medium bodied, a little leathery, a spicy, but also mouth-drying after-taste with a real pinch of tannic roughness. [read the full post...]
American scientists have proven that you can tell a person by their choice of wine: lovers of sweet wine are more impulsive whereas lovers of dry are more open. Actually, it was a group of Australian and UK researchers - and they base their research on a sample of 45 healthy men and women from Sheffield in the UK. Here is the abstract of the article Sweet taste preference and personality traits using a white wine:
Understanding the influences of food and drink consumption patterns could help elucidate the factors that promote healthy dietary practices. Research has begun to investigate the influence of personality traits on dietary decisions. The current experiment measured personality traits and sweet taste preference using white wine in a healthy sample of adults (n = 45). Sweet taste preference was associated with a higher level of impulsiveness but lower openness. These traits have previously been suspected to influence dietary choices and are briefly discussed within this context.
As much as I would like to I cannot tell you much more about the study as the download costs US $ 31.50. If you fancy spending the money please do let me know if there is anything else of interest in the article. Until then I will be happy to oscillate between openness and impulsiveness - and hope for more academic research being made available free of charge. [read the full post...]
Every so often I leave German Pinot Noir behind and venture into the New World. This time it is Californian Pinot - and a very pleasant one. It is made by the guys from the Calera Wine Company, a Californian winery founded by Josh Jensen in the 1970s. K&U, where I bought this wine, are giving Josh a lot of praise for his 'slow', handmade and sustainable style of winemaking (actually, they do praise almost all their winemakers in that way). The grapes for this Pinot were indeed harvested by hand and fermented with native yeast. So let's have a look! [read the full post...]
After having tasted some of the best Germany has to offer this month, the Wine Rambler now jumps right back into the range of the cheapest German supermarket wine available in the UK. Today it is the dreaded Liebfraumilch wine again, this time 'selected by ASDA', the UK arm of retail giant Walmart. As all good and ethical shoppers know, ASDA is evil. However, we do still seem to go there because the temptation of the Cheap is strong. In a way, this wine is very similar: like evil, once you have tasted some, you find it hard to stop. [read the full post...]
Württemberg, Swabia, home of the gleaming Mercedes Benz, the Bausparvertrag, the Kehrwoche and the Häuslebauer (untranslatable terms, because they describe specific anthropological phenomena). And wine country. Many a railroad passenger passing by the beautiful and spectacularly steep vineyards around Stuttgart may have wondered why these wines are consumed avidly by Württembergers themselves, but, too often uninspired and uninspiring, given the cold shoulder by the rest of the wine world. [read the full post...]
Do you know the proletarian, beer-drinking type who looks down upon wine? I have a good friend who is like this. Or, to be precise, he always pretended to be like this. Over the past few years, previously hidden signs of middle-classiness have emerged though and he even recently started to buy his own wine. A few days ago I was invited to sample his first home cooked roast and a wine he brought back from New Zealand. Now let's see which is the wine with the power to convert would-be working class beer drinkers into wine snobs. [read the full post...]
If you like aged Riesling, if you want a perfectly balanced, well rounded wine, if you crave the sensation of a wine that makes your palate feel smooth and peachy - go for this gem from the Mosel. Followers of the Wine Rambler will have noticed that we do tend to like the fruity Rieslings Theo Haart makes and this one is no exception. It is, in fact, the oldest Haart we have tasted for the Rambler and it demonstrates the potential of these wines. [read the full post...]
Two rosés from the languedoc, both predominantly Syrah, with some Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan, one from Paul Mas, via Jacques Weindepot, around 5 €, the other from Olivier Jullien, via K & U, around 12 €.
Up went the brown paper, professionally applied and stylishly decorated by my lovely assistant, who deserves very special mention. Those sharp of eye and quick of wit will quickly see which is which, but for 24 hours, I had no way of knowing. You can follow the links any time you get bored.
Tasted blind here.
Very dark pink.
Smells of raspberries, rose petals, a lot of red and black currants, and a green, fresh touch, as if the leaves and stems of all those fruit had been thrown in as well.
In the mouth, good concentration, very spicy currant fruit again, some wildness, good acidity and a bit of tannin. Fairly long.
Good, seriously made rosé, whith a bit of a rough edge that makes it a food wine much more than a porch sipping wine, but gives it some character. Mind you, rosés are generally not my kind of wine, so I'm not sure I can describe this with any authority. It does seem a bit pricy.
Tasted blind here.
Very dark pink, an impressive colour.
Smells of raspberries, rose petals, but peaches and exotic fruit as well, a certain artificial fruitiness (a little fakey-fake action, as Gary Vaynerchuk would probably say).
In the mouth, full-bodied and smooth, pleasantly fruity, very easy to drink, but with a bit of a hole in the middle, not too long.
Good rosé, certainly convincing for its price, that many people will enjoy for summer sipping. Not the world's greates fan of rosés in general, I'm not blown away, but I can think of worse beverages for an august evening.
Last Friday, the London branch of the Wine Rambler assembled a crack team of wine lovers and socialites from half a dozen countries for a particular mission: take down eight bottles of wine. The team members were selected following the ancient wisdom of Brigadier General Gavin from A Bridge too far: I need a man with very special qualities to lead. He's got to be tough enough to do it and he's got to be experienced enough to do it. Plus one more thing. He's got to be dumb enough to do it... Start getting ready. Gavin knew what he was speaking of, after all he knew the enemy from first hand combat experience; and the enemy was/is German:
Is there anything better than a nicely aged, excellent Riesling? I am not sure, but drinking this late harvest from winemaker Haart makes me think there may not be many things that would be better.
The colour is just beautiful, shiny gold with a hint of green. The nose is sophisticated, juicy peach with light herbal notes, cool, buttery mineral and the slightest hint of petrol. [read the full post...]
Markus Schneider, an up-and-coming wine maker from the Palatinate, seems to like very simple, clean labels - a no-nonsense approach that has nothing of the sometimes overly decorated, old-fashioned German wine labels.