Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

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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An Array of 2015 Clarets Part II : The Médoc

Posted by Frank Ward on November 25, 2017

November 2017. THE MÉDOC. I leave behind me Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Émilion, and Pomerol and within – literally – seconds find myself in the Médoc. Normally that journey takes an hour or two but this time only a few instants. That’s the advantage of attending group tastings, where several scores of wines are presented under one single roof. All within a few tables away of one another. And all to be sampled at will. [….]

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An Array of 2015 Clarets Part I

Posted by Frank Ward on October 15, 2017

October 2017. GRAVES, PESSAC-LEOGNAN, SAINT EMILION, & POMEROL. A big tasting of 2015 clarets was recently presented in London by the Union of Grands Crus of Bordeaux. This was my first sniff of that well-reputed year. My overall impression? A very good rather than great vintage – but with a number of really outstanding wines. Nonetheless, claret probably lasts better than any other table wine on earth (a 1978 Château Palmer recently opened by me was utterly magnificent and continued to improve after 24 hours, an 1870 Rauzan Segla was magnificent only two years [….]

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A Taster’s Tour of Three Kent Vineyards

Posted by Frank Ward on August 31, 2017

August 2017. Tasting trips usually entail long flights to vineyards in other lands, so it was pure luxury when, a day or so ago, I climbed into a friend’s car and was among the vines only 40 minutes after leaving home. The wineries were all English; and all in Kent. Kent can boast quite a few vineyards. And since I live in Kent, they’re almost literally on my doorstep. English wine was just a cottage industry a decade or two ago. In the interim it’s grown considerably. Today, some 130 estates on 2,000 hectares produce well over 6 million bottles annually. [….]

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A retrospective review of Eating Out in Stockholm

Posted by Frank Ward on July 14, 2017

July 2017. In 1972 – 45 years ago – I published a guide to the restaurants of Stockholm: “Eating out in Stockholm”. Nobody had ever before tried to make an objective, critical appraisal of the Swedish capital’s eating out scene. To my amazement – and dismay – it created a bit of a sensation. It turned the country’s leading krögare (restaurateur), Tore Wretman, incandescent with rage. He led a campaign not just against me personally but also against my publisher, Bertil Hökby of Prisma Books. He induced gossip columnists in the Swedish press to print defamatory tales about him – he, a scholarly person of transparent honesty and integrity. As for me, Wretman banned me from his restaurants, the prestigious Operakällaren [….]

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Another Dinner with Keith & Clare

Posted by Frank Ward on June 30, 2017

June 2017. My friends Keith and Clare are true oenophiles. They’ve visited wineries all over the world and Keith, who runs the Canterbury Wine-tasting Society, also lectures on wine. A true polymath, he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject: there’s no region, producer, micro-climate, aspect of viticulture, viniculture, or oenology you can mention that he can’t throw additional light on. Together with Clare, he’s also a very generous host! A meal at their home just two nights ago comprised delicious poached salmon with dill-flecked mayonnaise; roast beef with vegetables from their own garden; some first-rate farmhouse cheeses; and two desserts [….]

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Beaujolais – France’s Most Underrated Wine Region?

Posted by Frank Ward on May 22, 2017

May 2017. At its best, Beaujolais gives us some of the most deliciously drinkable wines in all France. Most come from the region’s northern end, where all of the 10 Crus – the region’s finest growths – are to be found. Aptly, many of the names of these wines are most euphonious: Chiroubles, Fleurie, Saint Amour, Brouilly, Juliénas… Also aptly: the two toughest, most long-lived of them have more earth-bound names: Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. Northern Beaujolais has an asset of incalculable value: a vast sea of very old vines growing on ideal terroir of decomposing granite.[….]

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Birthday Treats

Posted by Frank Ward on April 14, 2017

April 2017. A friend of mine, born on Christmas Day, was miffed about that concurrence (you can’t celebrate both events at full throttle on the same day). So he awarded himself an “official” birthday midway between two Christmases: 30th June each year. On that day he just sat back waiting for presents. Which he got. And, on Christmas Day, not a few birthday presents too! My own birthday falls in March so I have to be satisfied with one lot of presents only. Though this year I upped the quantity of those presents by awarding myself eight very special wines. But not for myself alone: they were shared with oenophile friends on the appointed day.[….]

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New World Wines – Old World Terroir

Posted by Frank Ward on March 27, 2017

March 2017. Simpson’s Wine Estate is a totally new property created, here in the old world, in the purest spirit of the new world. The location: Barham in Kent, “the garden of England”. Three 10-hectare plots of land were chosen where no vines had ever grown before; a winery was created within the shell of an old barn, complete with offices and a (projected) tasting room; and Kent-based fruit pickers were induced to transfer their fruit-sensitized fingers from apples and pears to the more fragile fruits of the vine. [….]

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