As anyone reading this blog will have realised (presuming anyone reads this blog), it doesn't take much of a pretext for us to buy a bottle of wine (or twelve). So although we can't stand Christmas, it does give us the excuse to acquire even more than usual. With hints of the impending festive season being dropped around late July, thought processes start along the lines 'what would go well with the Turkey.'
Experience has taught us that people drink less than we imagine but we still overdo it. This is not a terrible thing as there are inevitably further occasions over the period when we are called to bring out more wine impromptu and presents to be conjured out of thin air unexpectedly.
From September (or so it seems) wine writers start to make their recommendations. These get increasingly strident and bizarre as Thanksgiving (just a rehearsal for the main event) gets closer. We can't get too exercised about this. The poor wine trade barely ticks over 11 months in the year and so relies heavily on Xmas sales to make anything at all.
We always get something wrong in our buying and planning. This time we found ourselves in Tesco on New Year's Eve having realised we had only semi-sweet bubbly and the two hugely expensive bottles of red we had so carefully chosen to go with Christmas dinner fell as flat as a fart as they say.
Let's start with them. On our trip to Australia in November/December we fondled a bottle of Wendouree Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec on more than one visit to the Australian Wine Centre in Sydney. There was a choice between that and at A$10 less, Wendouree's straight Malbec. Getting into the 'Why pay less' spirit, we went for the more expensive alternative. Now we are Wendouree fans and have just loved the wines on the extremely rare occasions we have tasted them. This time, our bottle seemed to have gone into a deep sulk and no one around the table would have given it another thought. Subsequently we read James Halliday's injunction to "wait 20 years before drinking." Oops!
Nil desperandum, we had another beauty up our sleeve; a 1992 Colares from Bottle Apostle in London; the Hackney branch to be precise. With the closure of 259 Hackney Road, we just had to call on Bottle Apostle to restore our faith in the London wine scene and life in general.
We were glad we did. Having heard about Bottle Apostle it was a glaring lacuna in our wine travels not to have paid them a visit: and the one of the only shops outside Portugal to stock Colares.
Again, after much to-ing and fro-ing, we took the plunge, so it was with excruciating pain that we discovered that this bottle too had decided not to show itself as it could and should have done. What was going on? Had we not let either of these wines breath enough? Should we have decanted them? Again, the bottle could have come from the bottom shelf in a supermarket for all the pleasure it gave.
This wasn't Bottle Apostle's fault. We applaud them for selling Colares. Our experience has been that Colares is not as age-worthy as it's supposed to be and one is playing Russian Roulette with older bottles. This was also a producer we hadn't tried before and it is dawning on us that our taste in Colares is perhaps rather particular.
In San Francisco earlier in the year we had laid out a similar amount of cash for a highly recommended Colares from a new venture, Monte Cascas. That bottle was disappointing indeed but we have seen a positive review of this wine from Julia Harding MW no less so we seem to have been unlucky with this particular example.
There were compensations. A surprise hit was the Bianco d'Alessano so kindly provided by our new friend from Melbourne, Darby Higgs proving that lightening can strike twice in exactly the same place. By this we mean that it was as sensationally good as its fellow Puglian white we discovered in a tasting 'South' - the Minutolo from Polvanera.
This was joined by the first Australian Natural Wine we had ever encountered, a very un-sulphured Patrick Sullivan Britannia Creek co-fermented Semillon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc field blend from the Yarra Valley, Victoria. As good as anything Europe has to offer of that kind. Classed as an Orange Wine, it was indeed an excellent food wine.
This wasn't the only Orange wine; Forlorn Hope's Kirschenmann Pinot Gris was a surprise as the remarkable deep gold colour couldn't be seen in the brown glass bottle. We enjoyed this immensely once we had adjusted out taste buds to suit.
As an aperitif we had planned also went off half-cock; a Joseph sparkling red from Joseph Grillo's Primo Estate, South Austraila. This was another bottle we had brought back from Australia. A handsome tall bottle with a stylish label and interesting back story. The wine is made in a kind of Solera in which there is Shiraz fom many vintages going back many years together with a hogshead of Joseph 'Moda Amarone' Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, some Australian Fortified wines and even wines bought at auction The label continues "Don't ask any questions, the answer is in the bottle. This we loved but again, public recognition was minimal.
Sparkling wine fared better over the days of indulgence. The secret is to avoid Champagne and Prosecco we reckon.
Our surrogates were a sparkling Famoso, 'Divo' from La Sabbiona, Ravenna. As we have seen in this blog. An obscur-issimo variety despite its hopeful name. Fortunately it is so wonderfully perfumed and delicious that it might well live up to its aspirations. We also enjoyed the non-sparkling Famoso (entitled VIP) from La Sabbiona.
To this we added Tesco's Finest Pignoletto. Whoever had the inspiration and courage to put this out deserves an honorary MW, if they don't have an actual one already. We have admired a natural Pignoletto before and even bought a case of it but that was perhaps too much of a good thing. This is not a natural wine and so is less cider-y. Perhaps a good thing as it allows the grape to express itself more naturally as it were.