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Winedoctor Newsletter

New for the Winedoctor’s 10th year online – the Winedoctor Newsletter!

Next year sees the completion of ten years of writing online on Winedoctor, and with that realisation I have decided to revive an old Winedoctor feature. Many years ago – perhaps as far back as 2002 or 2003 – I would send out an occasional newsletter to notify subscribers of recent major additions. It was a low-volume affair, at most a once-monthly mailing, with no spam. With time, though, it was something I let fall by the wayside. On reflection, I’m not sure why.

Things have moved on since then; I have travelled and tasted more than I ever thought possible, with regular visits to Bordeaux (right, me outside Chateau Margaux, December 2006 – they did let me in, honest!) and annual visits to the Loire, as well as quick trips to Champagne, Burgundy the Languedoc and beyond. Winedoctor has thus evolved into a very significant resource, and today I have many more visitors than I had back in 2003!

The web has changed too; there are now hundreds of wine-related fora, websites and blogs and it is increasingly difficult to keep track of what is available. For Winedoctor (and also for many other sites) using an RSS feed, a feature I have provided since 2006, is perhaps the best way to keep on top of things, but an occasional newsletter from me to you might also be helpful. I promise the mailings will not be too frequent (once monthly is likely), there will be no spam, no disclosure of your email address to anyone else at all, and it will be easy to unsubscribe should you wish to. To sign up, please visit my subscription page.

Greetings from the Tasting Room

The message reproduced below, sent by a merchant in Greater Manchester by email (unsolicited), landed in my inbox just a day or two ago. It left me very perplexed, if you can understand what this message is trying to tell me please do let me know:

Greetings from the Tasting Room, Hale Village where it is grey and wet. Not great weather but, for the moment at least, there are no bonfires! Although I suspect that’s only because everything is so wet that you couldn’t start a fire unless you have a Napalm filled flame-thrower.

Great excitement in the village the other day when Fudge caused a minor panic but all was solved with a packet of haribo tangfastic. Fudge, the mild mannered mutt wearing a fashionable collar was found wandering the streets but was captured at Portland with haribo tangfastic mix and the tag enabled me to contact home. This is not the first time Fudge has wandered, his owner explained, before setting off to collect the pampered pooch.

We have some terrific deals on Champagne at the moment and a selection are listed below. All prices include VAT.“

They go on to list some fizz, at fair prices, but not bargains (so little point in me reproducing here).

My youngest son provides us with a tasting note for tangfastic, with which he is familiar. He says “I’ve had them, they’re fizzy“. That’s the only plausible link between Champagne and the intro blurb I can think of. If you have a better association, do let me know.

Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course

I’ve just spotted that Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course, one of the most enjoyable vinous TV programmes to have ever hit the screens, is now available in its entirety on Youtube. Each edition has been cut into four to make a quartet of 8-9 minute videos. I’ve just watched episode 1, quarter 1, and it is quickly apparent why Jancis has become so popular over the years. It is not just her huge depth of knowledge and great expertise, but she is a great communicator.

The videos do look a little dated, and it is notable that jancis kicked off by stressing that wine was for everybody, reflecting on its one-time status as a drink for the elite middle classes and upwards. These days I don’t think this is such an important aspect of introducing people to wine, which over the last couple of decades has enjoyed a rapid democratisation, in Europe at least (I don’t pretend to know how wine is approached even in the USA, never mind newer markets such as India or China). Today wine is clearly for everyone, part of the weekly shop if you only care to walk down the appropriate aisle of the supermarket.

I’m looking forward to watching a few more of these; I am sure regular Winedoctor visitors will find many of the points made quite basic, but as the series progresses Jancis gets to meet and travel and it should make for interesting viewing. If I recall correctly she even interviewed Didier Dagueneau, who died last year, for her Sauvignon Blanc episode. That alone should make it complusory viewing!

Youtube link to Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course

Postscript: and the videos have disappeared – apparently a copyright issue. let’s hope they appear again soon.

Spiffing wine info in Wikipedia

I’m here near Carcassonne, and what should I be drinking but Limoux, still rather than the better-known sparkling. And indeed, it is red, rather rarer than the white. Hungry for a little background information, and without a single book by my side, just a laptop, I turn to the internet. Googling brings up Wikipedia, an authoritative site of encyclopedia-style write-ups written by…..well, who knows? At least with Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion you get some background info on the authors (although that doesn’t necessarily make it right – see below).

I suppose I should be flattered that Wikipedia cites Winedoctor so regularly; certainly any Bordeaux profile there seems to rely heavily on my site, with Latour perhaps one of the best examples, as do other profiles outside of Bordeaux – such as Musar. But there are certainly problems with Wikipedia, and although I have never been involved with the project I would suggest, tentatively, that this is largely down to the knowledge possessed by the authors, and having the knowledge of appropriate resources. Being interested in wine isn’t enough to be able to author an encyclopedia entry – you really have to know what you are talking about.

Back to that Limoux page. From Wikipedia:

“The first textual mention of blanquette, from the Occitan word for “white”, appeared in 1531″. Not quite: it is more specific than that, perhaps “little white one” would be better. And how does that link to Mauzac? Wikipedia doesn’t tell us, but it reflects the soft, downy, white underside of the Mauzac’s leaves.

“Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are also grown in the area and while they are not currently permitted in any Limoux AOC wines, they are used in the Vin de pays wines sold as Vin de pays de la Haute Vallée de l’Aude.” Nope. Red AC Limoux can include both these varieties; INAO documentation makes this clear. Merlot makes up a minimum 50%, Grenache/Cot/Syrah/Carignan make up a minimum 30%, leaving anything from 0-20% for the two Cabernets, legally permissible in the blend. Sadly the text cites the Oxford Companion as the source of this error – perhaps an example of the old maxim that a printed academic text is out-dated as soon as it is published.

“After nine months, the bottles are opened and sediment is filtered out before a final corking.” Filtered? Rather a strange way to describe disgorgement. Perhaps the author has never really investigated how sparkling wines are made.

On Blanquette de Limoux: “An alternative process exists in which only Mauzac grapes are used, the fermentation is entirely natural, and the bottling occurs on a day of astrological significance. This version typically contains less than 7% alcohol.” That’s the Méthode Ancestrale – described again later in the article.

Anyway, enough nit-picking; I’ve just finished my first-ever bottle of red Limoux and the evening is drawing to a close. This week I hope to get out and taste some more examples from this appellation, white, red and of course fizzy.