Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

FOUR DAYS IN LISBON

Posted by Frank Ward on June 29, 2019

June 2019. LISBON, capital of Portugal, is a city with many attributes. Built on a series of hills, overlooking the vast expanse of the Tagide estuary, it boasts a number of outstanding museums (most notably the Gulbenkian), many magical squares and alleys, and – perhaps most of all – a people who are open, helpful, gentle, and welcoming. Their infinitely poignant song, fado, heart-rendingly tender, seems to sum up something in the Portuguese character… With many switchbacking streets, some of them on different levels and not immediately accessible (and often devilishly hard to find!) it’s a city where it’s easy to get lost. But that’s no problem. All you have to do is enter a shop – a jewellers, a laundry, a cafe, a tailor’s – and somebody will leave their station, join you on the pavement, and point you in the right direction, while giving exact [….].

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CHALLENGE BURGUNDY

Posted by Frank Ward on March 20, 2019

March 2019. In 2018 Andrew Jefford, one of our leading wine writers, published an article in ”Decanter” expressing a general disappointment in the wines of Burgundy. He added: “I am in fact a big fan of Burgundies which work; it’s just that the failure rate is much higher than in Bordeaux or Piedmont, and the lustre of the region is such that this [factor] is too often overlooked.” Of bottles he had recently purchased (a number of them from me), he wrote that some of the whites were oxidized while a number of reds were “fair, but didn’t open the door to the magical kingdom of Burgundy bliss.” [….].

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CHEZ KEITH & CLAIRE III

Posted by Frank Ward on March 9, 2019

March 2019. Another dinner, with accompanying wines, with our friends Keith and Claire. The food: a tasty soufflé-cum-vol au vent, duck breast in rich gravy, cheeses, and a sweet tart to finish. All of the wines were tasted blind. A note on blind tasting: a French vigneron once said to me, “blind tasting is often a lesson in humility.” “Yes,” I replied, “and sometimes a lesson in humiliation!”. He laughed uproariously. The aperitif, a 2012 Furmint from Hungary, smelled and tasted like a blend of grapefruit and cashew nut [….].

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Vincent LEFLAIVE – Passion & Humanity

Posted by Frank Ward on February 19, 2019

February 2019. PORTRAIT.The Chardonnay grape gives fine wines in many parts of the world, but for many it reaches the greatest heights on the Côte de Beaune segment of Burgundy. There, when conditions are ideal, it can achieve complete perfection, with Premiers and Grands cru wines of matchless poise, depth, and finesse. Even “Village” wines can show unexpected depth when from a top estate. The biggest and most esteemed source of these lovely white Burgundies is the village of Puligny-Montrachet, a community hemmed in by vineyards too precious to uproot (except for replanting).[….].

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Bordeaux Excels Itself in 2016 Vintage

Posted by Frank Ward on November 27, 2018

November 2018. A splendid range of clarets from the 2016 vintage was recently presented in London by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. What follows are my descriptions of some forty of the numerous wines on show. Colours were universally dark and lustrous; few wines were over-oaked or over-extracted. Harmony and refinement were the keynotes. [….].

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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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