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Jancis Robinson

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  1. Wine Writing

    Haven't I answered a Q from you already? Interesting question. Not sure I know the A. I know what I'd like to see: more discursive writing like Kermit LYnch's Adventures on the Wine Route and, I suppose, my Confessions. But I suspect their sales are a fraction of those of the big standard references, of which I hope the Oxfrod Companion and World Atlas of Wine are two. Not sure there's an enormous future for the smaller regionally specialist books, useful as they are. The internet must have an effect on how much people are prepared to spend on reference books. Trouble with buying guides is how often they go out of date, PUblishers' lead times are usually inconveniently long for our frenetic, impatient age. I think there are signs in the UK anyway of wine journalism moving on from shopping lists. Hooray.
  2. I'd be the last person positively to encourage anyone to drink during pregnancy but I really do think the chances of causing fetal damage from the effects of wine tasting, as opposed to wine drinking, are practically nil. Remember that a lot of the scariest research was conducted on women who were so addicted they were practically in an alcoholic coma when they gave birth. I'm afraid I just more or less followed what my body was telling me, drinking much less but not being neurotic about it. I took my MW exam when five months pregnant with our son who is now 6'3" and was offered a place at Oxford this year. I don't remember doing things very differently when expecting our 12 year-old either. I think it's society's attitudes that have changed most since then rather than the actual risks. But please don't come back and sue me if you don't have such happy experiences! Best of luck.
  3. MW Program

    Thank you. Firstly, congratulations on even thinking of tackling this task. Whether you eventually manage a full pass or not, I firmly believe that the activities of learning and studying themselves (in a subject in which one is interested of course) afre capable of giving you a sort of high, an intellectual version of the effects (I'm told) of strenuous physical exercise. You're bound to end up a much better informed person whatever happens. Poorer, yes. And it is vitally important to have the support of those whom you live and work with. To have to study apologetically and in snatched moments would be virtually impossible. Although the structure of the course and exam were pretty different when I took the exam in 1984, I'm sure it's still true that forming a group of fellow students can be terribly helpful. Not only you divide up the research that needs doing and share research notes, you definitely need small tasting groups which can meet increasingly often as the exam draws near in which you can confidently make a fool of yourself as often as is possible. You can get to know which of you is the best at blind tasting and learn from them. Almost everyone approaches the exam feeling unworthy and underprepared, but there's a heck of a lot of luck involved so it's usually worth having a go - unless your tutor/mentor tells you severely to save your money this time around. As I pointed out recently on my site, taking the MW is a bit like scaling Everest. And now one MW has done both. Wishing you the very best of luck.
  4. Third World Wines

    Sorry to sound such a wet blanket but I feel as though I've answered this one pretty much already. Farewell egulleters. It's been good fun. Stay in touch via jancisrobinson.com
  5. Italian whites, French reds

    Seems as though you go for whites with a bit of acidity, which is not the dominant feature in most of Italy's newly improved whites (no shortage now of decent Soaves and even Pinot Grigios but their great asset tends to be fullblown fruit). How about a really good Verdicchio such as Umani Ronchi's Casal di Serra? Or a fine Friuli white from Villa Russiz or Lis Neris? Though if it's acid you're after, Riesling has it in spades... As for other southern French reds, you're certainly in the right place for value with the southern Rhone and Pic St Loup. Costieres de Nimes has some very accessible reds for early drinking. There are all sorts of excellent wines being made down there, many carrying the Coteaux du Languedoc appellation but some Minervois, some Corbieres, some Faugeres, some St Chinian and some from further south in Roussillon (see my recent article on my website). Trouble is that it's difficult to give a shorthand of how to identify them. Pic St Loups' useful because it's a smallish area with an unusual density of good producers. Talking of southern France, there are some real bargains among lesser red bordeaux available today. but identifying them in shorthand is even more tricky.
  6. Biodynamic Wines

    I haven't done enough blind comparative tasting between same or similar lots of wine from adjacent bio and non-bio plots to answer this one definitively. Certainly when I have (eg Leflaive) the bio wines seem 'wilder' and more intense - and none could be more intense (sometimes too much so) than Leroy's bugundies. On the other hand the most famous bio wines of the lot, Joly's Savennieres, have not consistently thrilled me. Obviously there are too many variables in the equation. Incidentally, when I visited Romanee Conti last Nov, Aubert de Villaine told me he had tried bio viticulture and was minded to return to simple organic as he couldn't really see enough benefits from bio.
  7. Role of Technology

    I'm afraid I'm too much of a romantic to warm to the Enologix idea, however clever (I wrote 'artiful' initially but realised that was the wrong word) and effective it may be. And I HATE the idea of relying on added flavours. But I'm not a complete Luddite. I'm sure wines are generally made better today than they ever have been, with greater understanding of what's going on. But, as I've written before on this forum, happy vines tend to make wines that make us happy - so long as we're prepared to expend a little effort on trying to understand them rather than sitting back and shouting at the glass "ok, impress me". Of course every budding wine producer has to experiment a bit and work out their natural limits but often the best lessons learnt seem to me to be NOT to do something intrusive. As for GM vines, I can quite see all sorts of useful applications, and my guess is that if and then it gets the go-ahead, it will be for thoroughly positive purposes. It's in the bigger, global agribusiness than I have my doubts about some of the uses to which this technology is being put. As you hint, however, I suspect the wine world is not thinking hard enough about this issue.
  8. Preservation

    I don't think that Vacu-vin thing works terribly well and have never really got to grips with the inert gas cylinders. (There's a recent story on my purple pages about how I was relieved of two new re-sealers with inert gas at Vienna airport by airport police thinking they were bombs.) Like Karen, if by any chance I do want to return to a bottle I just re-stopper it and leave it somewhere cool and, obviously, not in direct sunlight. Not sure it works better than any of the other methods but I certainly don't think it's worse.
  9. What's in a name ?

    I'm for as many clues on the label as possible. We saw a decade or two back some attempt to distinguish between Fume Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc as two distinct styles made from the same grape - only problem was that there was some confusion as to what each term meant exactly. But in S Africa for example you see producers variously labelling their wines Syrah and Shiraz in a genuine effort to warn consumers whether the wine inside is likely to taste more like a French or Australian one which I think is helpful. I'd like as much TRUE geographical specificity as possible - I just love those single vineyard wines! But I'm very against, say, Ontario 'Burgundy'. Quite right that this is well on the way out. Hope this is sufficient A. Yr Q ends rather abruptly.
  10. I hope you're right. Though I suppose that many Asian dishes, particularly those with quite a bit of spice, are complemented just as much by a little bit of residual sugar as by high acidity. I'm not sure how easy it would be for the mainstream California wine industry suddenly to start to make high acid wines (they certainly couldn't do it and retain their obsession with phenolic ripeness!) but perhaps this change in our eating habits may end up shedding a more forgiving light on American wines from cooler wine regions which naturally produce high-acid wines. I'm thinking particularly here of upper New York state where some really fine whites are produced, some of them, funnily enough, Rieslings.
  11. Winemaker tricks

    I have old-fashioned intuitions such as, as will already be clear, the best-balanced, healthiest grapes make the best wines. In an ideal world the winemaker would not need to intervene. I'm still extremely sceptical about concentration techniques and even those who pioneered them (LLC and Cos for example) are rather repudiating them now. Can't really condone routine chaptalisation even (common throughout France) now that global warming has come along. Oak chips serve a purpose, it seems to me. I don't like them much but a lot of people who never age wine seem to like the taste of oak. Waste of money to use expensive oak barrels on them. Deacidifying should be a desperate remedy in an unusually mean vintage. I notice you don't mention acidification which is of course routine in many warmer wine regions...? And what do you make of the increasing practice of adding water to wines made from grapes that reach phenolic ripeness only at uncomfortably high potential alcohol levels? I must try to knock out an article on that philosophically interesting subject.
  12. Starting a Cellar

    Wel I'd definitely buy in multiples, maybe of six bottles, so that you can track the development of a single wine over time. It's only worth ageing wines that really do improve with age - so I'd suggest a good lesser red bordeaux, maybe Duhart Milon in recent vintages (2000 and 2002 were exceptionally good). Obviously some top quality German Riesling, maybe a Mosel or a Saar. You can't go wrong with Egon Mueller's Scharzhofberger and it becomes more and more fascinating but no less delicate and refreshing with the years. Maybe a top quality Barolo, though wait a year or so for prices to fall. Or if the budget is tight, some serious wine from an ambitious domaine in the Languedoc or Roussillon. How about Domaine de la Rectorie's Collioure? Or one of the Priorat-like reds from one of the domaines around Maury that I recommend in my recent article on the wine news section of my site? Oh - Chablis is a must, true, fine, reserved (unoaked!) top quality Chablis which is one of the wines that changes most in bottle. You can happily keep it a decade. Cellars are for forgetting for a while at the beginning, I'm afraid. Otherwise there's little point in bothering.
  13. Terroir

    It's a fab new material for footwear. The main bit of the shoe is oolite, for oiling your way up the greasy pole, and the heels are ferruginous, for stabbing men in the back with. I'm no geologist. Try James E Wilson's book Terroir.
  14. Women in the Wine Biz

    Oh dear. I feel whatever I say here runs the risk of being misinterpreted. Basically, there's no substitute for sheer quality of work - backed up (stiffened?) by a reluctance to accept the sort of menial additional jobs (secretarial, tidying up, making the coffee) that can often lead to women's being taken advantage of . There a re, or at least have been, whole industries that depend entirely on underpaid women doing all the dirty work. But don't you find French men very courteous? not to say courtly?
  15. Between Two Worlds

    Good question. It's getting increasingly difficult to find completely unoaked wines but how about inexpensive Cotes du Rhones? The 2001s are looking especially good at the moment - just bursting with fruit. Roughly speaking there is a certain price level below which you can be pretty sure that oak barrels haven't been used - but you can't be sure that the winemaker hasn't been dabbling with oak chips or inner staves - both of which imbue an oaky flavour without the cost of barrel maintenance. Most completely unoaked wines are relatively inexpensive. You could also try less expensive Spanish reds from a reliable importer. As for fruity, unoaked whites - what could be more delicious than a R**sling?
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