This is the time when Bloggers habitually look back on the highlights of the year just gone, perhaps sprinkle a few resolutions, and above all single out the best of their festive drinking. I’ve had a very odd festive season this time around. A lot of driving (and needing to be ready to drive, if necessary) before, during and after, has meant I’ve drunk less this Christmas than probably ever before. I don’t think I’ll be going for a dry January…but then you didn’t expect that, did you!
During 2015 I managed to travel a lot, wine related and otherwise. Six of us spent a few days in February as very special guests at Chateau Pichon-Longueville in the Haut-Médoc. We were treated like royalty and had the run of the place to ourselves. It felt very odd, but also a unique privilege, to be able to watch some rugby and play billiards in that enormous chateau with complete freedom. We were treated to a whole range of Pichon wines and we even managed to fit in a few extra visits – Lynch-Bages and Haut-Marbuzet. Anthony and Claire, thank you so much.
A lovely family holiday to Vienna (again, how many can I get away with?) allowed for a few days down in Rust. This was spectacularly good. Cycling, boating, and wine visiting. The highlight was a visit to long time favourite, Heidi Schröck, where her warm welcome was very much in keeping with her warm personality which shines through in her wines.
Summer involved a long drive down from Leiden to Bernkastel for a few days exploring the steep slopes of the Mosel. I visited the fabled Rieslinghaus almost every day, and brought back a boot-full of delicious Rieslings.
Bernkastel’s finest Indian Restaurant (Taj Mahal), opposite Rieslinghaus (formerly Weinhaus Porn), Mosel’s finest wine shop
Our last wine visit of the year was back in September when the annual (I hope) trip to Arbois allowed me to sample and stock up on old favourites, and to take a look at Stéphane Tissot’s growing ranks of amphorae. It also introduced me to Alice Bouvot of Domaine L’Octavin. I’d first discovered her wines back in 2014, but yet again meeting their driving force in person was an enormous pleasure, occasioned by the sheer generosity such hard working people seem to exude. Your time meant a lot to me, Alice.
Closer to home, our Oddities lunches at Rochelle Canteen seem to get better and better, down entirely to the restaurant’s magnificent cooking and the open-minded people who attend, wanting to explore the delightful wines which unquestionably exist on the outer reaches of the wine galaxy. Enormous thanks to Dave Stenton, my partner in organising these.
Other tasting highlights which I have to mention include our three dinners focussing on newer Beaujolais producers. We sourced many via trips to Paris, but without doubt the success story, amid great wines from Balagny, Gonzalvez et al were the two Sunier brothers. It was the first time I’d tasted Antoine’s wine. I shall look forward to whipping out some more in 2016.
Trade tastings are so numerous that it becomes hard to single out one or two. Howard Ripley‘s two Mosel tastings at Middle Temple were personal favourites, but I want to single out two that were put on by newer agencies/importers. Nick Darlington’s Red Squirrel decanted to Black’s in Soho to display what Steven Spurrier in Decanter called “an inspiring range of wines”. Meanwhile, in the outer reaches of the Spa Terminus, south of London Bridge Station, Dynamic Vines held an epic event where I was able to catch up with two more personal hero teams – Stephanie and Eduard from Gut Oggau and Evelyne and Pascal from Domaine de la Tournelle (I’d missed them again in Arbois this year as they were busy with the harvest).
Stephanie, Pascal and Evelyne
I continue to read obsessively, and during 2015 I’ve continued to enjoy a lot of Web writing. Wine Terroirs and Jamie Goode in particular have helped fuel some new directions. Steve Slatcher provides a lot of sensible science to contrast with my flights of fancy. Alan March has provided more inspiration, via his Year in Languedoc Blog, A March in the Vines, than he might imagine. Kind, thoughtful and perceptive writing which details his time assisting Jeff Coutelou at one of the region’s finest estates.
What might 2016 hold? If things go to plan, Oddities will continue every second month. Hopefully we shall also be able to do something along the lines of the intensive Beaujolais experiment. I hope very much to return again to Arbois, which would become my second home if things were different. There are other wine regions I know well but long to return to. It has been at least five years since we last visited Alsace and Piemonte, and the latter was often part of a combined trip to Aosta. I’d like to return to one of those, if I can. Switzerland is a distinct possibility, and I can never get my fill of Austria. But more than anything I hope to revisit Champagne. For a few years it became an annual event, which would always include a visit to Raphael Bérêche. Not only do I love Raphael and Vincent’s wines, but I’ve grown rather fond of Raphael who is a fellow explorer, and we share many of the same passions in wine, especially Equipo Navazos Sherries.
I will end with a small selection of wines which have excited me during 2015, but don’t expect Krug, Dom Pérignon and the like, brilliant as some of those have been.
- Gut Oggau’s Winifred Rosé
- Mas Coutelou’s Vin des Amis
- Julie Balagny’s Fleuries
- Gravner’s Breg
- Bérêche’s Campania Remensis Rosé/Reflet d’Antan
- An awful lot from Equipo Navazos
- Craven “Faure” Syrah (SA)
- de la Tournelle’s L’Uva Arbosiana
- L’Octavin’s Pamina
- Plenty of Ganevat
- Contra Soarda’s Vespaiolo Veneto orange wine, Time Flows…, drunk with Christmas Lunch!
- Everything we drank at Bobby’s!
I should stop, though I can think of many occasions with friends who I hope I don’t offend for failing to mention the exciting or stately wines we consumed.
Above all, in 2016 I want to continue to share my wine, both passions and discoveries, with others. And hopefully, via this Blog, with you. Thank you for reading Wide World of Wine. It gives me so much pleasure to write about wine, but I’m genuinely amazed just how many people appear to read it (WordPress tells me well over 7,000 people in 2015). I hope your 2016 is a great success, both in wine and in everything else you do.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!