How do you keep up to date?

How do you keep up to date with the wine world these days? I've found out what works for me although I still suffer from information overload some times. My interests are as follows -google-reader.jpg

  • current hot topics such as closures, global warming, harvest expectations and so on
  • recommendations on wines to try and buy
  • educational material especially anything that helps me towards my WSET Diploma

I've found the following sources really help me

  1. Harpers magazine. I wish I could afford their annual subscription but it's just too much. However I subscribe to their daily bulletins via Google's reader and this really works for me. I see a couple of lines summarising news items when I'm on the computer at home or work and I can always click the link to go their web site if i wish to read more
  2. an unusual source of news items is South African Wines. They send out regular emails which summarise the key stories from around the world by directing you towards the various publications, web sites, blogs etc which have something interesting and relevant
  3. there is no substitute for a monthly magazine which is good for those train journeys commuting to work. Decanter and Wine and Spirit are my favourites. I was working in the US last summer and enjoyed Wine Spectator and thought about taking out a subscription but the cost including mailing back to the UK was prohibitive
  4. I love reading other people's blogs. People like Jamie Goode and Andrew Jefford talk about people they have met, wines they have drunk and places they have visited. The problem with blogs is that there are so many (and yes I have one also) that it's possible to subscribe to too many of them using Google's reader that information overload soon takes over.
  5. Podcasts are great for car journeys if you put them on a CD or train journeys if you play them on your phone. I've learned a lot from some of the podcasts from Grape Radiowine-books.jpg
  6. For bedtime reading or sitting in a chair (with a glass of something nice of course) there is no substitute for the hard stuff ie: books. You can't go wrong with a copy of the Oxford Companion to Wine by your side. I also try to look up every wine I try in at least one reference book such as the World Atlas of Wine, Wine by the Label or Oz Clark's pocket wine book. These often give the context for the wine leaving the label to give the detail (unless of course it's French!).

I may occasionally suffer from information overload but I do learn a whole lot of interesting stuff about wine which vastly increases my enjoyment of the stuff.

Decanter Magazine - March 2008

The latest edition of Decanter (March) came out this week, and several articles caught my eye. The first was entitled Start Your Own Wine Cellar. As I'm often torn between buying bottles to drink and those I think I may like to keep for a special occasion, I was drawn to the profiles of the 3 different types of people for whom Decanter made recommendations. There was the couple who did not know much about wine, but wanted to learn and had $500 to get them going. At the other extreme was the couple who already drank a lot of good Bordeaux and had $5000 to spend. I found myself drawn to the example in the middle, someone who knows her grape varieties, but would not describe herself as a connoisseur. Decanter put together an interesting cellar at a cost of $1000 for her.

cov_mar_08_small.gifThe one question I was left pondering with the suggestions was the distinction between wines for drinking 2008-2010 and for 2010-2018. Why do a couple of decent Italian reds from 2004 fit in the first category, but a Portuguese 2005 and a Spanish 2003 fit in the second? I know it's down to how it is made and matured, but how are you expected to know that for the slightly more unusual wines? Labels don't always given enough information and certainly very few give how long to keep the wine for.

I always peruse the Wines of the Month to see what recommendations I can pick up. These wines are available from stockists in the UK so I feel sorry for foreign readers who may be unable to source them. However I'm always a bit frustrated to read other reviews elsewhere in the magazine and see the dreaded "N/A" next to them. Although I figure what's the point in reviewing them if they aren't available in the UK I have to keep reminding myself how international Decanter is. In this month's issue 4 of the 9 letters are from non UK readers. I am sure this helps the editorial team keep an international focus which is good for all us readers.

The panel tastings this month are both French, 2005 St Emilions and 2005 cru bourgeois. I was stunned to see a great value 2005 cru bourgeois at $7.35. I must seek it out.

Next month's edition features Italy and is out, according to the ad in the magazine, on February 6. Oops "I think they forgot to change the date from last month's edition as I'm sure they mean March 6th!

Small Plates, Perfect Wines

Small Plates, Perfect WinesSmall Plates, Perfect Wines, a new cookbook from Andrews McMeel Publishing, featuring mouthwatering recipes and wine pairing tips, is now on bookstore shelves and available to order online.

Meze, tapas, antipasti, antojitos-no matter what you call them, small plates offer big flavor, and this is a style of dining and entertaining that has taken the country by storm.

Searching out those small dishes with big flavors, Wine Country cookbook author Lori Lyn Narlock presents more than 50 recipes by Kendall-Jackson Executive Chef Justin Wangler and the Culinary Team, with assistance from Lou Rex, Jackson Family Wines Director of Special Events. Wine tips are provided by Kendall-Jackson Winemaster Randy Ullom.

The book is divided into chapters on salads, vegetables, meat, seafood, and desserts, with each delicious recipe paired with one or two wines. The wine information is presented in a conversational fashion, and includes the basics of pairing wine with food.

Each recipe has been beautifully captured by photographer Dan Mills, with pages exquisitely produced by graphic designer Jennifer Barry. Small Plates, Perfect Wines is colorful, festive and informational, making it the perfect gift for wine and food lovers, and anyone who loves to entertain.

Small Plates, Perfect Wines is available from $5.99 and $12.71

Sauternes and Barsac

I helped out at a trade event in London devoted to Sauternes and Barsac the other week. Entitled "Sweeties with Savouries" it set out to show how both Sauternes and Barsac can be drunk not only with the usual foie gras and desserts but also with all the courses of a complete meal. With courses ranging from roquefort crème brulee with figs (see picture) through roast Moroccan quail with sweet potato mash to blue cheese cheesecake, the food was absolutely wonderful. sauternes-event.jpgAttendees were then asked to vote for which wine made the best match with which course. There was quite a lot of agreement about which of the 16 wines went with which of the 5 courses but there were also many individual opinions. As with wine tasting there is no definitive answer in the area of food and wine matching.

Tasting through the 16 wines was an education in itself. Considering they were all the recently bottled 2005 vintage, there was a range of aromas from honey, peach, minerals and smoke to flavours on the palate of marmalade, peach, citrus and honey. There were also subtle but significant differences in the weight and texture on the palate. The differences can be understood when looking at the percentages of grapes with everything from 90% semillon and 10% sauvignon of the premier cru classe Chateau Clos Haut-Peyraguey through to the 70% semillon, 25% sauvignon and 5% muscadelle of Chateau d'Armajan des Ormes. ch-haut-peraguey.jpgThe aging process whilst broadly similar in length of between 18 and 24 months, varies according to the percentage of new barrels used.

The key to good Sauternes and Barsac, apart from the terrroir, is the botrytis that is required to shrivel up the grapes and concentrate the sugar in the grapes. From talking to several of the producers the 2007 vintage was going to be a worry as the summer was cool. However the autumn was as hoped with cool misty mornings followed by sunny afternoons, the perfect environment for the "mushroom" spores of botrytis cinerea to develop.

There is a much history associated with the ownership of the chateau in Sauternes with many of them having been in the same family for generations. Check out the web site of Chateau Dudon if you want some history of a typical family owned Sauternes producing chateau.

Giving the Gift of Wine

wine-tags.jpgUsually when people give a bottle of wine as a gift, it's in one of those pricier velvet-style gift bags that get lost before it can get reused, or those metallic ones. The folks at Random House are offering a new, unique alternative and, best of all, if won't break the bank.

These Wine Lovers Gift Tags run $13 for a pack of 50, and come in various shapes and sizes and even include the ribbon for tying it to the wine bottle. They might just add a little bit of humorous conversation to the next party to boot.

Photo from Random House.

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