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Tag Archives: Chardonnay

  • Chimps Tea Party

    The door looks like it could lead into any pantry. And it does, sort of. A few square feet of crockery, cutlery, non-perishable foods, general kitchen clutter pushed out of the way into one small room. But what's down that little winding staircase at the end? Darkness, perhaps danger, a world of adventure? As our eyes adjust, we can make out wood, glass, a stillness perhaps eternally undisturbed, a sense that the place can get on quietly with its work without our help. As our ears attune to subliminal Gregorian chant, we fumble around the wall until we find an ancient Bakelite switch, and...

    Snazzy-Banner

    ...welcome to Snazzy's wine cellar! The chant gives way to the Ronettes singing Sleigh Ride, and strings of flashing Christmas lights adorn row upon row, rack upon rack of wines, a bottle encyclopedia of every vinous fascination, a cornucopia of Dionysian ecstasy! And certain gaps suggest that Snazzy is at home, dot dot dot...

    A chimp's tea party is a different thing altogether when Snazzy is hosting it. His guests are nonplussed, having brought along bananas, party blowers, a great many custard pies and even some tea. Instead, Snazzy has laid on some of their favourite wines from their time at Oddbins and they are swirling, sniffing and slurping. And these are truly fabulous wines. While they have all tried any number of wonders from Oddbins' glittering range, Snazzy has gone for the ones we'd normally save for a special occasion. Like a Christmas gathering!

    Notorious-Banner

    Notorious is enthused by a bottle of Gaja Dragomis Barolo"What I like about a good Barolo is that it will age for 20 years, even more, but if you open it now and let it breathe for a good while, it still delivers a profoundly rewarding wine experience. Oh my soul, herbs, spices, berries all coming together on the palate to give you what amounts to a delicatessen in a bottle. Made from the Nebbiolo grape, by the way, which is so named from the Nebbia, an October mist which used to herald the beginning of the harvest. They're rather more scientific nowadays." The other chimps are impressed by Notorious' fondness, unaware that his knowledge stems from time spent with a protective Sicilian family who had looked after him during a couple of, let's say, sensitive months.

    Barolo

    Crazy is enamoured of the Man O' War Dreadnought Syrah"This is from a world class winery, this is, 150 acres over a big spread of plots on Waiheke Island in Auckland Bay. Some of the steepest land in the area, giving the grapes a whole load of sunshine but with a cool breeze from the sea so they don't get too ripe and lose their unique character. Another savoury, Christmas dinner-type wine, with a blueberry and pepper vibe, stylistically not too far from a Northern Rhône masterpiece." What Crazy doesn't tell them is that he was drawn to the wine because "Dreadnought" sounded like his unstoppable approach to his social life.

    Dreadnought

    Snazzy himself is absorbed by a Chardonnay, World's End "Rebel Rebel" from California's Napa Valley. During the afternoon he has been asked once or twice how he funds his lavish lifestyle, breezily replying "oh, friends in high places, you know. And a couple on low places, just in case...". Right now, however, he is utterly consumed. "Now here's a winemaker for you," he announces to the diminishing attention of his friends. "Jonathan Maltus, played a big part in the Garagiste movement of the 1990's. Hugely impressive CV - Château Teyssier in Saint-Emilion, where you can also find his benchmark wine 'Le Dome', and now this." His eyes screw shut in a growing transport of vinous delight. "So complex yet so vibrant, pineapple and even pear drops on the nose, a crisp palate with the merest smidgen of oak, and that finish, it's still going on, it's, it's..." 

    Rebel

    He looks to the end of the table for approval and elaboration, an appropriate end to his rhapsody. "S'alright, I s'pose," concludes Outspoken. Snazzy looks at him as his face crumbles with disappointment. As his friends try to suppress their laughter, a custard pie hits him on the back of the head. Turning, unwisely, to see where it came from, two more hit him on either side of his face. The table falls into screeching, party blower uproar as Loveable pours a pot of cold tea down the front of Snazzy's trousers, and as he tries to back off he falls over a banana skin.

    Chimpmas has arrived.

  • The Long Arms of The Law

    Hilarious Chimp is listening to records. At the moment it is the turn of Pithecanthropus Erectus by Charles Mingus, a long-standing family favourite. The music is terrifically exciting, with five men seeming to make the noise of eleven, and Hilarious is playing it at an appreciable volume while whirling around the room on a unicycle and whooping and a-hollering with the band! Unfortunately, his neighbours are rather less appreciative. They've seen the video Hilarious made recently with all of his other Oddbins cohorts, and they didn't find quite the same joy in its assorted muckslinging or the Mingus-maybe melodies that have sent the chimp back to his record collection. And now this racket! Tired of his primate pranks, they have summoned the long arm of the law...

    Hilarious-Banner

    In the conference room of a swish hotel, Sassy Chimp is delivering a seminar entitled 'Writing On The Wall: When To Flog Your Business, and Where You Won't Be Found'. It consists, in large part, of the murky tales surrounding his sale of 'Monkey Vegas', a huge empire founded on teaching circus skills and party tricks to primates. By what he described as an 'uncanny coincidence', Sassy sold the business at an eye-watering profit exactly one month before animal acts were banned from circuses. "I didn't so much avoid the country after that, it was more a case of simply being somewhere else...". He has come back to help his friends and family with the cheerful invasion of Oddbins, whence he has graced his event with ample supplies of Terra Noble Reserva Terroir Syrah, a deep and deliciously savoury red from the Maule Valley in Chile, together with a Chardonnay from the same winery, a warmly approachable white that partners delightfully with the hors d'oeuvres he's provided. While he's pointing to a Venn diagram on a Bo-Nobo board, he is discreetly called out of the room and taken into a police station.

    Terra-Noble-Syrah

    Terra-Noble-Chardonnay

    "...and he says you're the only person he knows who can pay for his bail. Well, you and..." consulting a notebook, "...Billy Expletive Smart. Funny bloke considering he doesn't even crack a smile!"

    "Funny?"

    "Yeah. He's cracked everybody up round here, playing table tennis with the boys. 10p, 50p, whatever, absolutely thrashed all of them. Funny thing was, he was riding a unicycle throughout. Even when we brought him in he pedalled out to the panda. Then he made the handcuffs disappear and we found them in the glove box."

    "How much is his bail exactly?"

    Sassy-Banner

    "Well, he's clearly a chimp of good character. In fact, we considered dropping all charges when we told him we don't usually have much to do with hominoids, and he said that's because you can get cream for them nowadays. If we can find a caring home for him we'll forget the whole thing - you seem to have done better than he has out of circus regulations, maybe you owe it to him to see he doesn't spend another Christmas in the park? Meanwhile, we'll set him up in Oddbins and the staff will take him under their loving wing! Now,  back in the car and you can pick up your records while we bring your neighbours in for crime against hilarity. A couple of days in the cooler listening to Kenny G should teach them what side their bread's buttered!"

    In the back of the car, Hilarious and Sassy are making up. "So, Hilarious, 50p a game, you say? I'm sure I could fix you up with plenty more games, and at a pound a pop! How about we seal the deal with a bottle of this Tarlant Champagne..."

    Tarlant

  • THE PALATE, FASHION FAUX PAS & EVIL

    This week saw the culmination of London Fashion Week and, thank heavens, people now know what to wear again. We’d been running out of ideas and feeling afraid, and had started lashing out with clashing prints, double denim and anything else close to hand. Oddbins’ Managing Director Ayo, however, is bold and doesn’t need such direction. Too bold, some may say, but nonetheless, he stuck to his guns with his red trousers at The Palate Final last Saturday, September 6:
    Some people, like Odd Writer, are Followers, becoming manic and Gollum-like without annual direction from Jean Paul Gaultier. Ayo, however, is not. Neither is Steve Saunders, this year’s winner of The Palate (our annual search for the nation’s finest amateur wine taster). Steve is a fashion leader (not in a sartorial sense, though we do admire his black pinstripe shirt), but in terms of his communication style. When he was asked to do a presentation on why he had paired a pumpkin tart with the Verget Mâcon Bussières 2012, Steve gloriously avoided any prescribed Wine Speak whilst hitting the nail on the head, in a fresh, direct manner. So what did he say? “I chose this particular match as the classic oatmeal and peach characteristics of the Chardonnay went very well with the pumpkin, while the wine's buttery finish complemented the pastry. The subtle hazelnut notes on the finish combined seamlessly with the truffle and, overall, the wine had sufficient weight and texture to cope with the egg filling. Together, both food and wine lifted each other, flavour-wise, to something greater than the sum of their parts.” In almost Churchillian style, this was the speech what won it for Steve, earning him the title of The Palate 2014, a luxury holiday for two to Australia, a magnum or Laurent-Pérrier and an engraved ‘Palate 2014’ decanter.
    Over 21,000 of you entered The Palate (not you, in a Being John Malkovich way; that would be weird) this year and, we have to say, some of the other suggested food and wine matches were memorable. Quarter Finalist Jerome, from Oxford, went wildly left-of-centre with his suggestion of ‘salted aardvark’ with Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2013 and Heather, from Aberdeen, broke new ground with her suggestion, ‘cantaloupe melon carved into the shape of a shark, swimming in a sea of lemon sorbet’. We’re reassured to see that you’re all just as mad as we are. Anyway, if you took part this year, we hope it left you with a renewed sense of how fun and unpretentious wine tasting can be. We reckon runner-up Robert Macaloney, from Glasgow, who won £300 to spend at Oddbins (“which was promptly cashed in the very next day”), summed it up nicely when he said: “I’ve always felt my tasting abilities were very, very average but I surprised myself throughout the competition in that I actually wasn’t too bad at all.”
    OK. You know how we’ve always said how pleasant and modest our Buyer, Ana, is? Yes well she’s not – she’s evil. Ana set the wines for the sparkling wine exam at The Palate Final and included Albert Bichot Crémant de Bourgogne Réserve Privée NV, which is really, really delicious. Just cruel. With its fine bubbles, crisp acidity and inflections of manuka honey and toast, it could easily pass for Champagne and is, therefore, darn tricky to answer questions on. As we say, pure evil. If you want to see just how demonic Ana and the other judges were, just have a look at our blog, and keep an eye on our website for The Palate video. Just have a sofa to hide behind. S’alls we’re saying.

    ‘Til next time.

  • WE ARE ALL ARTISTS

    22 July, 2014

    We have some shocking news: we don’t really care for convention at Oddbins.
    OK, maybe you already knew that. Anyway, that’s why we’re going to be a tad random start this newsletter with a poem:
    We are all artists
    Nothing’s the same in black and white
    Use your own colours and create your own light
    Don’t doubt your colour is you
    Never change the slightest hue
    What would the sea be if it lost its blue?
    This poem sums up how we feel about wine. At its best, we feel a wine should shine through with local character – ‘regional typicity’ as wine folk say – and with the character of the winemaker. When this happens, you’ve got wine gold and we are well chuffed to have been named High Street Chain of the Year 2014 by the International Wine Challenge (IWC) for stocking wines that do just that. So saying, let us introduce you to some IWC award-winning wines that really do create their own light…
    First up is Janeil Gros Manseng/Sauvignon Blanc 2013, a zingy, floral belter from the southwest of France, which scooped Gold at the IWC 2014 awards. Although ‘Gros Manseng’ sounds less like a grape and more like an unflattering description of a singer, the producer declares this local variety loud and proud on the label and quite right too: it’s a gorgeous example of this unique grape. Or, as the less florid judges put it, ‘Fresh lemon, apple, pear and grass. Zesty with balancing fruit richness. Great drinking.’
    Speaking of staying true to yourself, we’ve got some advice for Newsnight’s new anchor, Evan Davies: don’t try to be Paxo, yo. More news puppy than news hound, Evan is a nice bloke and it’s going to plain weird if he starts spluttering and yelling at interviewees that they still haven’t answered the question. Instead, we think Evan should follow the example of Luís Lourenço, the maker of Quinta dos Roques, and bring his own style to proceedings. Made from the classic Dão varieties Touriga Naçional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro, as well as Tempranillo, this is a proud example of the chunky, soulful reds that Dão does so well. Plus, the 2011 has just won Gold at the IWC 2014 and is the IWC’s Portuguese Red Wine Trophy Winner. It is for wines like this that we have, *dusts off black tie awards dinner outfit*, also won the IWC Specialist Merchant of the Year Award for Portugal. Yieah, boi!
    And lastly to a wine, a man and a city that all have splendidly strong, idiosyncratic personalities. We are speaking, respectively, of Viña Leyda ‘Falaris’ Chardonnay, Joe Wadsack and Glasgow. Viña Leyda were the pioneers of winemaking in Chile’s now desirable, cool-climate Leyda Valley, which was named after them in 1997. The cooler climate means they can make more nuanced wines such as this Chardonnay, which has a captivating mineral streak running through the ripe melon and guava fruit, and which won Bronze at the IWC 2014. This was one of the wines that former RAF pilot-turned-wine writer and educator, Joe, put on tasting at The Palate Semi Final Boot Camp in Glasgow last weekend and wowed the contestants. A spectacularly energetic, crazy man, showing a pioneering wine, in a bustling, fiercely proud city: a triumphant triad of ‘regional typicity’ and unabashed personality, we think you'll agree.
    Ciao for now.
  • PROVOCATION, MOTORHEAD & AMP; FREEBIES FOR DADDY

     6 June, 2014

    The Oddbins Marketing Department is always trying to get our Buyer Ana to say provocative things. The most recent conversation, over a nice cup of Lady Grey, went something like this: “So, Ana – with two female finalists in The Palate* (our hunt to find the UK’s finest amateur wine taster) – and our two Listings (wines discovered on holiday and recommended to us by the public) sniffed out by women, would you say that women are better wine tasters than men?” To which Ana, thoughtful and unwilling to be drawn on such assertions, replies “no, I don’t think you can say that. What I would say is women are at least as good as men, but none is better than the other.” At which we nod sagely. But why don’t we test this out for ourselves, dear reader? This Father’s Day (Sunday June 15, lest we forget…), why not get the old man one of the tasty morsels below and get him to send us a tasting note to daddystastingnote@oddbins.com. If we agree with what he says, we’ll send him a £30 online gift voucher.

    Peat Monster

    So, first up is Daddy’s favourite, Scotch whisky. The Peat Monster, from the Compass Box Whisky Company, is a blissful blend of peated Highland whiskies. Adorned with a beautiful yet bonkers label featuring some kind of gremlin, it looks great, but just wait ‘til he rips the top off. With deeply satisfying bonfire aromas and heady spicy notes, it’ll give him lots to chew on as he’s writing his tasting note. But we insist you do a Scout’s Honour right now and promise not to give him our tasting note….

    *Pauses whilst you solemnly salute the screen*

    … Right, moving on.

    Local Beer

    Maybe your Dad isn’t like other Dads. If he’s like some Dads, he’s more into curious beers, Motörhead and doing up the motorbike (still), and would be happy as a sandboy with a case of local beer. In that case, we’d wag our finger towards our Local Beer – London Mixed Case of 12. Featuring beers from trailblazing brewers, including Stu and Claire at the East London Brewery, and Gary Ward at Bethnal Green’s Redchurch Brewery, it contains some of the best brews from the capital. Redchurch’s Pale Ale, for example, is a bold, fresh ale and – for the geeks out there – is made with high quality Maris Otter pale malt, with a blend of American and New Zealand-sourced hops. If your Dad’s a real BeerHëad, he’ll probably write a thesis on the history and merits of these respective hops, and we can only encourage this.

    Bourgogne Sous La Velle

    And finally. For the more dapper, linen-suited, jazz-hands Dads out there, we’ve a little secret from Burgundy that you really ought to know about… Its name is Bourgogne Blanc Sous la Velle Christian Bellang 2012, but the title belies the fact that half of this wine is made with Chardonnay grapes from Meursault. Because their appellation (certified wine region) doesn’t allow Meursault on the label, they declassified it and called it ‘Bourgogne’. Basically that’s the equivalent of putting the Brazilian football team in the Mexico team kit...  It’s a bargain.

    ‘Til next time.

    *Last chance to enter Round One of The Palate is this weekend (June 7/8) – get down to your local shop to take part, absolutely free. Alternatively, you can take part at Stockbridge Farmers’ Market, Edinburgh, on 8 June and at The Oddbins Wine Fair at The Church on the Hill, Glasgow – get your tickets from any Glasgow Oddbins (map here: http://www.oddbins.com/ourstores).

  • SHERLOCK HOLMES, HANNIBAL LECTER AND MALCOLM TUCKER

    For today’s edition of Oddnews, we’ve rather strangely found ourselves inspired by three fictional characters, each of whom were prone to genius but could also be described as ever so slightly unhinged. We’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions with regards to what that says about us…

    We’ll pass on the liver parfait thanks Doctor. On hearing the name Hannibal Lecter, the majority of people will suddenly lose their appetite. However, on that front, the fortunes of everybody’s favourite Chianti-quaffing man-eater might be about to change. To celebrate the release of Hannibal The Complete Season One on DVD and Blu-ray on 2 September 2013, we are giving you the opportunity to win a two Michelin Star meal for two at The Square Restaurant and a night in a London hotel. To be in with a chance of winning this prize all you have to do is click on this here link and answer one unfeasibly easy multiple choice question. Six lucky runners up will receive copies of the box set. And just to reassure you, we’ve given the menu at The Square a once over and the meat options all appear to be legit. Now who’s hungry?

    It is so difficult to find a quote from Malcolm Tucker that is suitable for a family-friendly publication such as Oddnews. For those not familiar with the show, Malcolm Tucker was the director of communications for the government and undisputed king of profanity in the BBC’s political satire The Thick of It. However, more importantly he was artfully played by the future Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi. Now if Peter Capaldi were a whisky, he would be the Ardbeg Ardbog. Now we admit that was a tenuous segue, but if you have a click on this link and have a read of 'The Oddbins Take' all will become crystal clear. Released on 1 June to celebrate Ardbeg Day, the extremely limited edition Ardbog is a heavily peated 10 year old single malt aged in ex-Bourbon and Manzanilla casks. Most retailers sold out of this whisky long ago, but we found a small batch perfectly preserved in a peat bog, dug them out and have made them available for your drinking pleasure. Grab them before they something-beginning-with-F off.

    Sherlock Holmes wasn’t perfect; by his own admission he had no knowledge of literature, philosophy or astronomy and only a feeble grasp of politics, he had a drug addiction, a roommate at quite an advanced age, a tendency to brawl, a stormy love life and an ego that makes Simon Cowell look like Mother Theresa in high-waisted pants. But you still have to love anyone who can rock a deerstalker and has an actual nemesis. However, one of our favourite things about Sherlock Holmes is that the world famous quote above was never actually said by him. It is just like the fact that Humphrey Bogart never said “Play it again, Sam” in Casablanca. So while we're on it, let’s dispel some more myths... Not all American wine comes from the West Coast; the mesmerising McCall Merlot has a very European feel and hails from Long Island, New York State, and is as a perfect blend of ripeness and elegance. Not all Vinho Verde is simple; if it is made by a winemaking icon like our Muros Antigos Vinho Verde it can be seriously serious. Germany is all about Riesling, isn’t it? Nope, try the nutty, peachy and creamy Wittmann 100 Hills Pinot Blanc if you want proof. Cava isn’t a patch on Champagne. Guess again; made by the first Spanish winemakers to use Champagne’s 'traditional' production method, Anna de Codorniu was the first Cava to be made from Chardonnay and it gives Champagne a run for its money at about a third of the price. We could go on, but there simply isn't room. Wine may not be elementary, but learning its little foibles is certainly delicious my dear Watson.

    That’s all from us, now let’s go and find some more savoury characters to hang out with.

  • EXPLORING SPACE AND WINE

    Inspired by the news this week of Britain’s first official astronaut (although we're not sure what Helen Sharman thinks about this title), for this edition of Oddnews we’ve recruited some spacemen and spacewomen to aid our continuing exploration…

    Major Tim Peake filled in an online application form and soon he’ll be jetting off into space. Well, we have a story almost as crazy…

    Come and take part in a free wine tasting at Oddbins and you could end up jetting off for a 10 day luxury wine holiday for two to Australia and New Zealand, winning wine, attending a wine tasting boot camp and even choosing your own wine for Oddbins' shelves. It can only mean one thing… The Palate 2013, Oddbins’ search for the finest amateur wine taster, is back. To find out more watch our new video here. The first round will take place in all our shops on the weekends of 1-2 and 8-9 June. Wine tasting is fun, easy and anyone can do it. The Palate 2013 could be yours, all you have to do is reach for it.

    We’re pretty jealous of astronauts. How cool would it be to control the robotic arm of a spaceship? Another person that we’re pretty jealous of is Robert Oatley. He pioneered Australian wines around the world turning Rosemount Estate into one of Australia’s most famous wineries, he’s won countless yacht races and been honoured by the Queen for his contribution to the British Empire. He also owns the paradise of Hamilton Island, which the winner of The Palate 2013 will be lucky enough to visit. Just look at the pictures and you’ll want to enter the competition immediately. And as if that wasn’t enough Bob also makes an incredible range of wines. Plucking the best grapes from his vineyards dotted around Australia to make a stunning Shiraz from southern McLaren Vale, a perfect Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula and a charming Chardonnay from Margaret River. These bold, balanced and beautiful wines embody everything we love about Australian winemaking. When Oddbins eventually gets its own spaceship, we’re going to invite Robert Oatley to control the robotic arm and bring some wine for the journey.

    We would have thought that drinking before space travel would’ve been illegal, but who are we to argue with NASA and Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to venture into space. What do you think astronauts have for Dutch courage before blast off? If Major Tim needs a suggestion, we’d recommend a classic Campbeltown single malt. With Springbank’s signature complexity, you could spend five months in space with just one bottle and never get bored of it. So many aromas and flavours, each dram is an adventure. For those not familiar with our website, each of our spirits has an alter ego. We currently have the Superman Springbank 10 year old, the Hugh Laurie Springbank 18 year old and the Bob Flowerdew Springbank 12 year old Calvados Wood. If you were looking for a companion to take into space, we imagine Superman would probably get a bit restless being stuck in a spaceship on a long journey, he’s been there and done that. There are no gardens in space and Bob Flowerdew’s ponytail would cause havoc in zero gravity. So taking into account Major Tim’s musical tendencies, we’d plump for the Hugh Laurie Springbank 18 year old. [Disclaimer: Oddbins does not condone drinking whisky before piloting a spacecraft]

    That’s all from us, until next time keep exploring, because as Frank Borman, the first man to fly around the moon, said…

    “Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.”

  • DR. CHARDONNAY

    Or: How Fran Evans Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Her Palate

    Fran Evans“Life is for living and wine is for drinking. It's easy to stick with what we know – we all have our favourites. But it’s good to try new things; it keeps things vibrant. With a bit of guidance from Dave and the team at Oddbins Crouch End, I have taken some small steps outside of my usual style, and I haven't looked back.” – Fran Evans, Winner of The Palate 2012

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, well, at Oddbins at least, that there are some grapes that have a seriously bad rep, for no good reason. Chardonnay is one of these. Without naming names, there are some mass-produced, heavily-oaked, simply unpleasant examples of this varietal that have taken its reputation to the edge.

    However, Chardonnay has recently been thrown a life-line from a very unlikely quarter. But, in the best cinematic tradition, having begun with the dramatic climax, we need to turn the clocks back and start from the beginning…

    Wine’s not hard. But ever since our former beer-swilling nation was introduced to the marvels of wine, it seems to have been written in stone that you have to talk about wine simultaneously down your nose and out of your bottom. Hurumph. It’s like the wine world has been building a wall made of elitist bricks and pretentious cement to keep the world from seeing that, behind that wall, anyone can ‘do’ wine. So our little fantasy at Oddbins is that we get to drive a massive metaphorical bulldozer straight through this damnable wall, laughing maniacally whilst listening to “Take the Power Back” by Rage Against the Machine. OK, OK, maybe that’s overegging it a teensy weensy bit, but we would really like to cut through the rubbish and make wine more accessible and, therefore, more enjoyable.

    So, back in June, we launched The Palate 2012, a nationwide competition to find the UK’s finest taste buds. Over the course of three gruelling blind tastings, 5,000 entrants were whittled down to a final 10, who slogged it out at a climactic final last month, hosted by our Head of Buying, Emma Nichols, with TV’s Peter Richards MW and Susie Barrie MW. The eventual winner of The Palate 2012 was Crouch End resident Fran Evans, who scooped the prestigious title of The Palate 2012, a holiday for two to Tuscany's Frescobaldi Wine Estate and a magnum of Champagne. You can watch a video of the final here...

    Fran was an interesting winner because she has a passion for wine but not the encyclopaedic knowledge that she was worried she might need. She really needn’t have worried. Because the thing about blind tastings, is that they are great levellers. "Connoisseurs" can often find themselves knocked into a cocked hat by the raw talent of "amateurs", because blind tastings are just that: they are blind – to knowledge, experience and, happily, ego.

    la Closerie des Lys ChardonnayAnd now we return to that cliff-edge and the mysterious saviour of Chardonnay… who do you think the hero was, but our very own Fran. After she was crowned the winner, we invited her to pick a wine from a blind tasting line-up for us to stock in our stores. Whether what happened next surprised her more or less than winning The Palate, we don’t know, but she picked a Chardonnay; a grape that she had, shall we say, professed not to admire. In fact she said she couldn’t stand it. But Chardonnay is a cunning thing, a master of disguise. It is the shape-shifting David Bowie or Kylie of the wine world. Sometimes it appears as a big, buttery, oaky goliath and other times it pops up as a restrained, minerally Chablis; Chilean Chardonnay, left unoaked, can be clean and tropical, while Burgundian versions are frequently delicate, orchard-scented little things.

    So, while Fran was recovering from her surprise at choosing a Chardonnay, we were mentally fist-punching the air, because it gave us a valid excuse to extoll the virtues of this much-maligned grape. Although we’d happily bang on about it all day, we’re sure you’d rather hear it from Fran, so this is what she said:

    View from Collovray et Terrier's vineyard“Of the four wines, la Closerie des Lys really stood out. I'm not a fan of oaked whites therefore usually steer clear of Chardonnays, however this was unoaked and was a lot lighter on the palate than the new world Chardonnays I have tasted in the past.”

    In fact, with its minimal intervention philosophy, natural pest controls and low-carbon footprint, having only come from across the Channel, la Closerie des Lys is a natural match for Sustainability Officer Fran. Looks like it was a match made in heaven.

    Collovray et Terrier TeamThe grapes used in la Closerie des Lys make for a beautifully subtle wine because they benefit from a long, slow growing period. This is made possible by the relatively cool climate in Limoux, which benefits from fresh winds from the Pyrenees. The winemakers (the Collovray and Terrier families) established a sound reputation for making Chardonnay in their home region of Mâconnais in Southern Burgundy. When these Chardonnay experts set up shop in Limoux, they opted to classify their wine as a more basic Vin de Pays, instead of Limoux’s Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC), so they didn’t have to include the sometimes unpopular Mauzac grape, which is a prerequisite of the appellation. The results are pretty stunning: pale yellow in colour, with hints of green, it’s a clean, fresh style of Chardonnay, with a complex nose of white fruits and flowers. The palate is full, fresh and tropical, while the finish is crisp and refreshing.

    That’s all from us for now. We’ll give the delightful Fran the last word:

    “Winning The Palate 2012 was a really nice surprise and, as well as boosting my confidence in my own palate, it has swung me on to a wine that I had previously ruled out. I will definitely be perusing the Burgundy section for more Chardonnay from now on!” (LT)

    Raimat Abadia WhiteThis post was written while drinking: Raimat Abadia White 2010. Chardonnay, the little hussy, makes a superb bedfellow for a number of other grapes. So if, *mopping our brow*, we haven’t convinced you of its merits, then you could always stick a tentative toe in the water with a blend, like this Spanish beauty. 75% Chardonnay and 25% Albariño, it is a tropical, citrusy little number that would really shine served alongside a spicy paella with chicken, chorizo, clams and mussels.

    To ‘change the record’, so to speak, check out the incredible dance moves displayed by Mick Jagger and David Bowie in the video for their 1985 collaboration: Dancing in the Street. For every person who we manage to convert into a Chardonnay-lover, we promise to dance like this. Now that’s service, ain’t it?

  • PORTUGAL, BURGUNDY, BLOGS AND CLIFF RICHARD

    In a week where Nick Clegg found out that one word poorly chosen can backfire on you in spectacular fashion, we’re going to choose our words very carefully. So what could go wrong if we kick off with a quote from the UK’s most popular singer/songwriter/vineyard owner/calendar model/Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire?

    For Portugal’s sake we hope that Sir Cliff only goes there for a summer holiday, and for our sake we hope the other place is much deeper, further away and soundproof. The artist formerly known as Harry Webb is not our only link to Portugal, the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was ratified in 1386 and is thought to be the oldest alliance in the world to still be in force. What, you hadn’t heard of it? No neither had we, but when we did we were so excited we decided to celebrate the important milestone of its 626th anniversary by getting in loads of Portuguese wines for you. And they are going down really well. Blogger Sarah Ahmed, aka The Wine Detective, gave us a glowing review here. The Wine Gang awarded our £11.50 FP Branco by Filipa Pato 92 points in their September 2012 Newsletter, an almost unheard of score for a wine of this price. We reckon this fresh white would go beautifully with some tempura, which the Portuguese introduced to Japan in the mid-sixteenth century. We’re interesting fact central right here today. If you fancy celebrating the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, you can by heading on over to one of our shops or by grabbing our Portuguese Explorers Case online. Right, who’s up next? Let’s hope this one really is from a legend of the wine industry…
    The Americans called the hero wine merchant Harry Waugh “the man with the millon-dollar palate.” So when it comes to his criteria, one out of two ain’t bad. Was that what Meatloaf said? Where are all these ageing rockers coming from? Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, Burgundy, despite Harry’s benchmarks it doesn’t have to be red to be outstanding. The white wines from the négociant Verget are incredible and we have six of the best for you. The man behind these wines, Jean-Marie Guffens, has been described as “the world’s greatest Chardonnay winemaker”, we implore you to find out why by diving into this selection of his finest. Our following quotee would probably agree…
    We’re not sure that Fiona was specifically talking about Blogbins when she wrote this in the Guardian at the weekend, but she gave bloggers and our Wine Bloggers’ Case her seal of approval. In celebration of the blogosphere, we popped open a bottle of England’s classiest fizz, Gusbourne’s Sparkling Rosé, and wrote a new post on Blogbins called “May we have a word?” If you have a moment, please have a read.That’s all from us, your challenge for the week, should you choose to accept, is to tell us your favourite wine quotes in the comments section of our blog. Until then we’ll leave you one to ponder over with your Weetabix tomorrow morning…

    “Good sound Claret… an agreeable substitute for tea or coffee at breakfast during warm weather…”
    Charles Tovey

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