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Jancis Robinson

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Everything posted by Jancis Robinson

  1. 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 Trouble with buying guides is how often they go out of date, PUblishers' lead times are usually inconveniently long for our frenetic, impatient age.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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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?
  16. A good domestic topic of vital importance to the future of the wine and food business. No point in forcing any child to take an interest in wine but I have always encouraged my three to use their noses - say just by wondering how they would describe the smell of that bubble bath, shampoo or whatever. Mainly because I think our sense of smell can bring such pleasure but tends to be under-used and under-trained. Our youngest is 12 and has been encouraged cautiously to sip a wine of her birth year just for fun but she's clearly not ready to enjoy the taste yet. The 18 year old boy showed a serious interest in taste (but not alcohol) in his quite early teens but still forgets to finish what's in his wine glass. The nearly 21 year-old daughter has tried to distance herself from wine for obvious reasons but now has to admit to a serious penchant for fizz. Fortunately, for the moment ,she does not demand the best. Favourite foods? They're all extremely discriminating and the best food of all is that cooked by their father, the chef in this household.
  17. You are too kind. I think I probably bend over backwards to be fair to unlikely wines - maybe too much. But I genuinely do find it so exciting that so much of the world is now colonised by wine and interest in wine that I am keen to encourage it. Wouldn't it be boring if all we drank were Bordeaux classed growths and California Cabs? In fact as a journalist I find it far more satisfying sniffing out a 3pd/5 dollar bottle that actually delivers some pleasure than splitting half-points over an already-established icon.
  18. Gosh, there really is a theme here, isn't there?! I dearly hope that the wines of the future will continue to express their origins more and more clearly. That is wine's great USP after all. I'm sure there is still lots to discover in both Spain and Portugal, and in Croatia, cooler regions of Australia which may not even have been planted yet, ditto South Africa. And I'm currently writing an FT article about Thapsus 2002, a particularly interesting Carignan made in Tunisia by a woman from McLaren Vale. I've been impressed by a couple of wines made in India. Yesterday I was emailed by someone claiming to be (S) Korea's only serious wine producer. These surprises are popping up all over the place.
  19. Good timing! Spent last Saturday morning tasting chez Gangloff in Condrieu. Most 2001 red and whites were excellent, even if reds rather less concentrated than the 1999s. (2002 is a VERY small crop but the whites are pretty good.) 2001 Condrieus seem very perfumed and rich but with quite enough acidity too - perhaps better balanced than the super-ripe 2000s.
  20. Forgive me if I don't go into great detail with this one but it overlaps a couple of Qs already answered - and my last answer is of relevance to it too. Certainly there are fashions in winemaking - in fact it's extraordinary that each year seems to bring some new thing (full alcoholic fermentation in barrel was awfully 2002, my dear) - but overall I really do believe that the pendulum towards big big wines is starting to swing back and all over the world sensitive winemakers are more and more conscious of balance - in wines and, increasingly, in vines. No point whatsoever in low yields if the vine's not in balance.
  21. Yes - maybe. (Someone seems to have threaded these questions most effectively - each seems to lead into the other.) BUT I would say that I noticed a real sea change in Bordeaux winemaking with the 2001 vintage. Admittedly this was a vintage difficult to vinify in blockbuster style but it was more than this - I genuinely detected an admission on the part even of many adherents to the BIG school of winemaking that they were going up the wrong track and the best wines have been reined back and are much more vine- than cellar-driven. This tendency continued with the 2002s. So I'm optimistic that you'll find some quite delicious drinking in these younger vintages.
  22. Not sure I fully understand this Q, or perhaps it's because I don't live in Belgium which I know has very special gastronomic mores. I think 'modern' wines appeal because they jump out of the glass at you so their appeal is immediate BUT (see previous posting on wine and food), they can become tiresome after a glass - esp with food. The 'culprit', if you like, is modern man and his search of instant gratification. OK and the odd modern woman too.
  23. I feel pretty certain that most wine producers have given hardly any thought to how well their wines go with food. Evidence? That so many of them don't. What motivates most producers, it seems to me, is standing out in a tasting line-up and gaining a high score (old territory this, I'm afraid). Riesling (yes, yes!), many a Pinot Noir, lighter Cabernets (Cab Franc?) and typical Chianti can go particularly well with food, I think, i.e. no too much evident oak and alcohol.
  24. This will have to be written intuitively rather than reflectively. I think I will always remember the bottom of a a particular magnum of Cheval Blanc 47 left for me at the end of a v OTT dinner in Burgundy in Sep 94 as I flew in from London. It just seemed heavenly - and better than any other example of this wine I have been lucky enough to taste. Then there was the 1811 of the array of Yquems opened by Hardy Rodenstock at an extraordinary event over a week in Sep ?99? in Munich - quite amazingly like raspberry creme brulee. But there was also a bottle of regular, pre-transformation Charles Heidsieck NV that was nothing special as a wine but was drunk lying in tropical vegetation looking up at the southern sky on an island off Tahiti in 1988 that tasted pretty damned wonderful. ...
  25. I too am deeply suspicious of a too-specific wine and food match. I suspect that in some countries, the US in particular, going the food route makes wine seem less evil. In France of course, wine knowledge is assumed to be vested in those who know about food. I'd like to see less of a barrier between 'food experts' and 'wine exerts' as after all the consumer enjoys these two things together - along with travel often. I used to say in my days at the London Sunday Times that I wanted to be Good Times Correspondent rather than just Wine Correspondent. I'd be quite happy for food writers (e g my husband Nick Lander of the FT) to make wine suggestions - but I think a lot of the food writers I know are more nervous of making fools of themselves over wine than vice versa. In my book, perfect combos do exist but it can be tedious to track them down and so I'd really only expect a sommelier in the sort of restaurant with a very limited menu cooked day after day to have worked out exactly which wine(s) on his list go best with with dishes. Otherwise I just eat and drink what I happen to feel like and it usually works pretty well.
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