Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

The Master of Montrachet

Posted by Frank Ward on September 30, 2018

September 2018. PORTRAIT. Pierre RAMONET of Burgundy, just short of eighty when I met him in the early 1980s, and one of the greatest wine makers in France, had dreamed all his life of owning a parcel of a small plot of land south of Beaune that happens to give the best dry white wine in the world. The grand cru vineyard called Montrachet. Ramonet had long owned parts of the adjoining vineyards Bâtard-Montrachet and Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, both grand cru vineyards too and able to yield great wines, so it cannot be said that he had ever played second fiddle. But when at Iong last, in his seventy-third year, he obtained a tiny segment of Montrachet in 1978, it was as if a virtuoso violinist had come into possession of a Stradivarius [….]. Sebastião Salgado

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The Effects of Alcohol on We Humans

Posted by Frank Ward on September 23, 2018

September 2018. In a truly fascinating article published in Decanter magazine a year or two ago, Dr Michael Apstein, a leading gastroenterologist (liver doctor) throws a great deal of light on how the alcohol in wine affects the human body. Its impact, both positive and negative, depends hugely on such factors as the sex of the drinker, the quality of the wine, and the rate, volume, and periodicity of consumption [….].

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Chez Philip & Cathy II

Posted by Frank Ward on August 29, 2018

August 2018. Another voyage of vinous discovery at Philip and Cathy. It was a lovely summer’s evening and we took the aperitif in the garden, which is ringed by trees – an unusual feature of which is a resident albino squirrel. The wine was a sparkler, with tiny bubbles and a pleasant appley aroma. It smelled mostly of Chardonnay but I had a feeling there might be some lurking Pinot too. Though a very good sparkler, it lacked the kind of minerality, that subtle hint of chalk, limestone, and marine fossils, that marks Champagne apart. Our friend Keith hazarded “England?” [….].

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Tasting of Classed Growth Clarets 2014-2017

Posted by Frank Ward on July 31, 2018

July 2018. An illuminating tasting of three vintages from several leading Bordeaux Châteaux was recently held in London. What it showed – or rather furnished further proof of – is that a majority of such estates are now making better wines than in their entire history. Why? Because (1) greater demand has pushed up prices, thus financing all manner of improvements and expansions; and (2) because of colossal advances in oenology and viticulture over the past few decades [….].

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Savage Selection

Posted by Frank Ward on June 12, 2018

June 2018. The wines listed by Mark Savage M.W., an outstanding taster and wine merchant, show character and typicity. He looks for authenticity and abhors pretentiousness. He recently showed a selection from his portfolio at the 67 Pall Mall club in London and I went along to try a few samples. With just two hours to spare, my own selection of which wines to taste had to be a savage one too! [….].

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Tasting of 2015 Burgundies from Top Estates

Posted by Frank Ward on April 22, 2018

April 2018. I recently attended a major tasting of 2015 Burgundies, hosted in Paris by the Domaines Familiaux de Bourgogne, a grouping of some 26 family-owned domaines of high repute. The venue: Le Pavillon Ledoyen, a three-star restaurant located beside Le Petit Palais just off the Champs Elysées. I already knew that 2015 was a great vintage in Burgundy. This memorable tasting confirmed it.[….].

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A few recent tastings

Posted by Frank Ward on April 10, 2018

April 2018. Our friends Philip and Cathy recently hosted another dinner, an evening of fine food and wine. It’s seldom that fewer than 8- 10 bottles are broached on these occasions, and all are tasted blind. The latest get-together took this form: As aperitif, a 1990 Riesling Rauenthaler Baiken Spatlese. Bigger than most Spatlesen, close to an Auslese in weight and body, it was medium dry (10.5 ABV) and smelled like apricot with a hint of barley sugar. The ample Riesling fruit was balanced by fine orangey acidity. Fine on its own, off-dry rather than sweet, it could easily have accompanied a fish dish too. [….].

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2013 Clarets – A Variable Vintage Part II

Posted by Frank Ward on February 26, 2018

February 2018. PART II : SAINT ESTÈPHE, SAINT JULIEN, PAUILLAC [….].

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2013 Clarets – A Variable Vintage Part I

Posted by Frank Ward on January 12, 2018

January 2018. The 2013 vintage in Bordeaux was a difficult one, with few wines below Cru Classe level able to generate any excitement. Charles Taylor M.W. reports that the flowering was “catastrophic”, the weather generally freakish, while the harvest was marked by heavy rains, high temperatures, and – in some cases – the onset of rot. All the same, many Châteaux managed to come up with good to excellent wines, a few even verging on greatness – the latter at properties that managed to achieve optimum ripeness without the onset of rot. As one wise vigneron said to me years ago, “when you concentrate a wine, you concentrate the bad elements as well as the good.”[….].

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BAROLO & BARBARESCO – Study in Scarlet

Posted by Frank Ward on December 17, 2017

December 2017. Earlier this year I attended a tasting of Piedmont wines hosted by Justerini & Brooks. The focus was on the 2013 vintage. Luckily a number of growers had the imagination also to show some more mature wines, notably from 2009, 2006, 2003, and 1999. This gave an invaluable insight into how Piedmont wines develop in the course of time. How else can one get to understand the long-term prospects of such wines, which can be especially hard to judge in youth? Barolo, that most masculine of Italian wines, vastly outnumbered all other appellations at the tasting; but some Barbarescos merited [….]

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