Friday, 30 October 2009

Hotel Du Vin, Edinburgh

It's been a long time since I visited the Hotel Du Vin in Edinburgh. Another summer and festival has passed since my last visit. That's the trouble with living in a city like Edinburgh, too many places, not enough time.

The sommelier I met early in the year is still there and his enthusiasm hasn't wained. I always take his recommendation, he knows I'm interested in widening my palate and loves to share his enthusiasm for all things wine.

Hotel Du Vin also offers a fantastic rib eye steak and I'm looking for a wine to match.

We have the 2004 Languedoc "Les Bastides D" Alquier" Faugeres Grenache/Syrah blend. The Languedoc seems such a varied region I find it hard to know what's good and what's not. I'm glad to say this one is good. A bright ruby red in colour it's got really meaty tannins with plenty of red fruit - raspberry and a smoky smoothness and a punch of black pepper. Really lovely wine that goes well with the steak. I think it would keep for a few more years too.

The Faugeres appellation within the Languedoc in the south west of France has schistous soil and high altitude and gained a good reputation due a number of quality minded wine growers as the Alquier family.

As the nights draw in and the weather starts to turn the Hotel Du Vin, Edinburgh is the perfect escape.

The wine doctor also has some further information on this Domaine Alquier

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

What would you bid for - 18,000 to choose from?

I can think of numerous reasons to visit Paris, but an opportunity to buy that special bottle of wine or even bag a bargain, from a selection of 18,000 bottles, where every region of France is represented, seems like a pretty good reason to me.

Tour D' Argent restaurant in the heart of Paris, established as far back as 1582 and with a cellar containing around 450,000 bottles of wine has a sale on.

The history behind this restaurant fascinates me, with its tradition, many famous visitors and numbered ducks it's a fascinating story. If you order a duck it is numbered (the 1,000,000th duck was sold in 2003). For the famous the duck will become a personality in its own right: in the visitors' book of famous ducks, no. 328 was served to King Edward VII in 1890, no. 40,312 to King Alfonso XIII in 1914, no. 53,211 to the Emperor Hiro Hito in 1921, no. 667 998 to Thierry Luron and no. 938,451 to President Mikhail Gorbachev. You can find out more on the restaurant website (flying ducks not to be missed)

The wine cellar survived WWII, the proprietor at the time walled up the majority of the cellar, keeping it hidden from the occupying German army. Now, it's getting over crowded and space is needed giving the public the opportunity to bid on some interesting lots.

I've given myself an imaginary budget of about €2000, this is what I'd buy.

Lot 523 - because I've never tasted anything that old €900-€1000
Lot 164 - because it's one (of my many) favourite areas €550-€600
Lot 1223 - because it seemed like a nice mix €300-€350
Lot 1046 - because it's the vintage I was born in - €60-€80

It will be interesting to see what they actually sell for!

The Independent newspaper provides an insight in to the sale and the lot list is here too.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Another sign of the recession

Whenever my colleague the Queen of Am-dram is under the lights of showbiz a group of us get together to support and cheer her on. This time it's a production of 'Return to the Forbidden Planet' at the usual venue - the Church Hill Theatre in Morningside, Edinburgh.

It's a small group of us tonight, perhaps the first sign of the recession (and redundancies) impacting the significant financial services business in Edinburgh. I'm excited about eating at Peckham's Underground, buy a bottle of wine at retail price from the shop and drink it with your meal, no corkage. But not any more I'm afraid, you can still buy a bottle from the shop, but it's £5 corkage - real shame and perhaps another sign of the recession. A good home made lasagna accompanied with a mediocre Sauvignon Blanc and a nice piece of Salmon accompanied by a mediocre Chenin Blanc, the remaining members of the group opting for Isle of Arran blonde and soft drinks for the drivers.

Then on to the theatre. I'm not sure why most theatres are unable to think about the wine they buy, maybe they think they don't have to if they think people, not being allowed to take a glass in with them, never have more than ten minutes to drink a glass.

Despite this or as a result of this (I'm not sure) the appropriate audience participation was performed (identities disguised to protect the innocent)

The Queen of Am Dram performed brilliantly.

But the wine disappointed.........................

Monday, 26 October 2009

What's on your doorstep

It never ceases to amaze me how some things can be on your door step and you just don't realise it. I dashed back from work tonight to catch the early showing of The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. I arrived at the Cameo cinema a few steps from my front door with enough time to enjoy a quick glass of wine. Time's short so I ask for a dry white, not even a glance at the wine list.
Monsieur Vin arrives, whilst waiting for a coffee he spots the wine list and throws it over to me. There's some interesting wines on the list including Dinastia Vivanco Rioja, a wine introduced to me by @thirstforwine.
They call the start of the movie, I enter the auditorium with a mental note to pop back as soon as possible.

As for the film, a fairy tale for adults, the wonderful imaginarium of Terry Gilliam.

Claim to fame note - I once sat next to Terry Gilliam on a Rynair flight to Ancona, Italy.

Tomorrow - off to Pekham's Underground, Bruntsfield, Edinburgh where you can purchase your wine from the shop upstairs at retail prices and you can have it with your dinner downstairs and no corkage!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

A Night of Fizz & Red from Down Under

This time of year I usually start my blog with “it was a cold, windy, rainy night in Edinburgh” but on this occasion, that’s just not true. It’s been an absolutely stunning day in Edinburgh, feeling almost summer in warmth (Scottish summer I hasten to add).
We’re expecting J&J for dinner, they’ve been numerous times before, you may remember J1’s comment I posted on my blog back in September last year when we had a Sauternes with desert.
"It's like drinking apricot juice but boozy with honey"

J1 lived in Spain for a number of years and she loves Rioja (red Rioja) and although she would like to try other wines, she finds the choice overwhelming and has found it difficult to find alternatives she likes. Now, when she’s out buying red wine, she spends 10 minutes looking at the shelves but still ends up picking a Rioja...!

I sent out an SOS on Twitter asking for suggestions of alternatives to Rioja. @thefinewineman suggests a Tempranillo, a safe bet sticking with a Spanish grape. @WineUnearthed comes back with the suggestion of a New World alternative, perhaps a Barossa Valley Shiraz from a good producer, which gives me an idea.

There’s a knock at the door, they’re on time. I open the door and a bottle of red is thrust into my hand, for once it’s not a Rioja! J1 grins and says “I took your advice, so you can blame the guy in the off-licence if it’s awful. He recommended it.”

I’ve picked up a bottle of Lindauer (on offer in Waitrose just now) to go with the crab cake starter, this goes down well, but it’s not red and therefore we can’t compare it to a Rioja. Cava is mentioned once or twice.

We discuss the importance of having a good wine merchant. J1 is a great cook and believes in sourcing the best ingredients for her culinary experiments, using the knowledge of a local butcher or fishmonger to enhance a menu. Buying wine should work in much the same way. Small independent wine merchants are able to offer a more diverse selection of wine, and like the butcher, give background and provenance on the producer, whilst at the same time opening you up to more interesting flavours.

We’ve got neck of lamb stack for the main course in a light fruity jus. I’ve got a bottle produced by @teusnerwine called Joshua (2005) it’s a Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz blend, I’ve been saving it for just this type of occasion.

Although it’s less fruity and more full bodied than a Rioja, J1 likes it. It’s a food wine and a great match for the lamb. The aromas of red current and green pepper give way to more black fruit flavours on the palate, but the black pepper persists through out. I tracked this wine down after coming across @teusnerwine on Twitter. Spotted in Harvey Nichols one Saturday afternoon at £18, but this is probably not the best price on the market.

Over the main course the conversation turns towards how with a bit of practice and help you will learn what you like and what you don’t, what to look for on a label (and what to avoid) and how to be smarter in your wine choice.

There are film and book critics that I agree with and some that I don’t, I view wine critics in much the same way.

J1 doesn’t have the time to invest in gaining expert knowledge about wine, so I suggest she finds a good wine merchant and to give them a chance to learn what she likes, if they’re good they’ll move on to challenge her palate. J1 spends a lot of time on-line so by reading reviews in the press, bloggers online and tweeters alike to share their knowledge and listen to recommendations.

In return the least they can do is provide an honest and independent view on the wines they have tasted/write about.

For you chance to meet UK wine bloggers why not attend The Wine Gang Christmas Fair, November 7th, 2009 at Vinopolis. Check out the blog entry for this too.

You can learn what motivates bloggers to go to the efforts of maintaining a blog, usually for no reward (except appearing at wine tastings) and what their particular passion is. It is an easy way to find some great new sources of wine information to complement your own wine buying research and maybe even new friends to share experiences with.

Perhaps you'll find that special wine for the festive season.

If your a UK wine blogger and would like the chance to be a part of the Wine Gang's Christmas Fair then check out the competition on the Wine Conversation blog

A few suggestion of wine merchants in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Wine Merchants (part of Cambridge Wine Merchants)
30B Raeburn Place
Tel: 0131 343 2347
Twitter: @halwilsonuk

The Great Grog
GREAT GROG Retail Shop
2 Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh
Tel: 0131 667 2855

For a good selection of Italian wines:
Valvona & Crolla
19 Elm Row
Edinburgh EH7 4AA
Tel: 0131 556 6066

For a good selection of Californian wines:
Sideways Wine
91 St. Leonards Street
Edinburgh EH8 9Q
Tel: 0131 668 4207

Henderson Wines
109 Comiston Road,
Edinburgh EH10 6AQ
Tel: 0131 447 8580