Reminder: The Motley Cru Has Moved

Posted: 4th February 2014 by The Motley Cru in Wine
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Hi,

If you’re receiving this then you may still be subscribed to the old Blog.com home of The Motley Cru. As of August 2013 we’ve moved to a shiny new URL: www.themotleycru.com, hosted by WordPress.

You may have missed a few good articles since then, for example:

Rioja, Indifference, Exploration

The Penfolds Ultra-Premium Experience: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

A Visit to Masi: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

So if you haven’t already, switch over now and continue to enjoy the ramblings of The Motley Cru!

The Motley Cru Has Moved!

Posted: 27th August 2013 by The Motley Cru in Wine
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red-wine-stains If anyone has been wondering why the Motley Cru has gone quiet, well it’s because I’ve moved.

Blog.com has proven to be an unreliable and unstable hosting service unfortunately, and my original decision to choose it  - based solely on the fact that ‘blog’ had less characters than ‘wordpress’ in the URL – has proven to be an regrettable one.

I could just about put up with the clunky interface cogged from WordPress but diluted, and I could just about get around the limited options in terms of personalisation and add-ons. But for the last couple of weeks I have simply been unable to access the backend of my blog, with no support or recognition that anything was wrong from the guys at Blog.com. So that was the final straw, and the towel was finally thrown in.

It has, though, given me the chance to refresh and upgrade, and now I’m pleased to announce that The Motley Cru has its own standalone URL: www.themotleycru.com.

I posted part two of The Penfolds Ultra-Premium Experience on the new site a couple of weeks ago, but in case you missed it here it is again, plus some other older posts which you may or may not have spotted along the way:

The Penfolds Ultra-Premium Experience: Part 2 of 3

The Penfolds Ultra-Premium Experience: Part 1 of 3

Meeting Your Heroes: Château Mouton Rothschild 1985

A Rhône Revelation

The Vagaries of Irish Wine Pricing

The Motley Cru in the RTÉ Guide!

So this is the last post via this channel, and all I can say is good riddance to bad rubbish. Onwards and upwards!

The Penfolds Ultra-Premium Experience: Part 1 of 3

Posted: 5th August 2013 by The Motley Cru in Wine
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Justin Knock MW

A couple of months ago I had the privilege of meeting Justin Knock MW, brand ambassador of Penfolds (God, I’ve been meaning to write this for a couple of months – The Motley Cru is getting worse at maintaining this blog I fear!).

Not only this, but I had the good fortune of sitting in on the tasting he was conducting with wine press of the very top end of the Penfolds portfolio thanks to one of the aforementioned winos dropping out at the last minute; I tend to avoid Schadenfreude, but on this occasion I could not help but let it wash warmly over me.

Justin could not have been more affable and amiable; his official online profile picture shows him as a quite quite distinguished, clean-cut fellow – in other words how you’d expect a Master of Wine to look- but the man I met was tousle-haired, languid and easy company – in other words exactly the type of person you’d like your MW to actually be.

Bin 51 RieslingThe masterclass took place in the fantastic first floor private room of the Cliff Townhouse in Dublin, which if you’ve never been I highly recommend for any event or private function that requires a classy room with a touch, but not too much, antique detail overlooking The Green.

So, the wines. We began with two excellent whites, the first being the Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2012, which  subtle yet varietally pure with gorgeous lime and flint notes on the nose; the palate was electric, deliciously dry and, as I read now from my notes, a “classy drop”. A really excellent Riesling in other words, from a cool-climate (for Australia anyway!) area from where I am yet to taste a bad drop.

Bin 311 Henty ChardonnayThen on to the Bin 311 ‘Henty’ Chardonnay 2011. Each year Penfolds produce the barrel-fermented Bin 311 from a different region, and for the 2011 it was an area called Henty in Victoria which made the cut. I loved it for its delicate and balanced use of oak, which I’m sure that anyone who follows Aussie Chards can attest is a touchy topic given their abuse of said wood over the preceding decades. But this had style and only a lick of the oak to give an almost savoury, grilled white meat aspect to the nose; the palate was deliciously creamy and soft, a little bit of nice acidity with vanilla, lemon zest, and a touch of butter popping in too.

They were really, really impressive whites and highly recommended should you come across them, though they are on the pricey side. In the next post I’ll look at the red Bins, and, rest assured, more plaudits are on the way.

Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2012
www.penfolds.com
€32 approx. from good specialist off-licences
100% Riesling

Penfolds Bin 311 ‘Henty’ Chardonnay 2011
ww.penfolds.com
€47 approx. from good specialist off-licences
100% Chardonnay

Meeting Your Heroes: Château Mouton Rothschild 1985

Posted: 14th July 2013 by The Motley Cru in Wine
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Warning: this blog post comes laden with subjective ramblings on relative value of wine which may upset some of the Old Guard.

A few weeks ago I attended a recently-established annual family gathering where the wines are supplied by a wine-loving uncle who each year benevolently provides the attendees with a case or so of classed-growth Bordeaux from his private cellar.

The first year it was Cheval Blanc, and that year coincided, much to my dismay in hindsight, with my first year in the wine business, so that although I could recognise that the bottle before me was a big deal I did not have the skills or knowledge at the time to fully appreciate how big a deal it was. I have no real memory of the wine, nor can I even recall the vintage; depending on the latter a bottle of Cheval Blanc can set you back anywhere from €200-€400 at least. Wilde said that youth is wasted on the young, and likewise the glasses of of Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ Saint-Émilion I was necking were certainly wasted on me.

I missed the next two gatherings unfortunately, rueing the wines I was missing as my knowledge of wine expanded, so when the opportunity came to attend the 2013 edition I was all over it like a rash; oh, and I was also looking forward to seeing my extended family of course.

My cousins still joke about how, after starting in their direction upon arriving, I suddenly made a beeline for the wine table as it caught my eye. And there it was: Mouton Rothschild. Not only that but the 1985 vintage too. So here it was before me: an aged, Premier Cru Classé / “First Growth” Bordeaux, pretty much the Mecca for wine lovers everywhere.

So the first sip was … well, actually it was a little hot and sharp, and didn’t really settle as I drank it. A second glass shortly after, however, was much more approachable, leading me to believe that the previous had come from a bottle that may have been tainted in some way. So after the first stumble here it was, and it was … well, very nice. It was of course very “aged Bordeaux” in style, and though I have not had many of those in my time – the closest being a 1999 Château Lanessan – there have been similar characteristics pointed out to me in other Cabernets I’ve tasted over the years. By this I mean that dusty, cedar-and-blackcurrant style beloved by Cab fans everywhere, and this Mouton definitely had that in spades. A little more searching revealed more: brambly summer berries, some oak to go with the cedar, a touch of tobacco and coffee maybe. The texture was good and the tannins were just right.

But yet … but yet …

Wine Searcher states that this vintage of Mouton Rothschild can be had for €250 or thereabouts. Which begs the question, which was asked by everyone at the table that evening: is it worth €250?

And here we go with the topic of subjectivity and the relative value of things. Whole books have been written on this subject I’m sure, and it’s a topic bandied about everywhere from university lecture halls to local pubs and looks to never be resolved.

Take, for example, this beanie hat by Italian label Bottega Veneta – it’s on sale now online but normally costs €350. Yep, you read right: €350 for a beanie hat, made of wool. Or perhaps this bracelet by French label Maison Martin Margiela which costs €355; it’s made of brass and seems to have no actual design complications or labour-intensive features, and the last time I checked brass isn’t a precious metal, so why does this accessory cost so much?

Amongst other things it’s about perceived value, rarity, exclusivity, supply and demand, and above all desirability. It’s about status and having what others don’t have. Knowing that it cost so much and yet nevertheless attainable is enough of a reason for many to pay the price.

Of course there are been significant costs involved in producing a bottle of Mouton Rothschild – their attention to detail in this regard is world class – and obviously its age will increase its value as it does with any appreciative good. But the question begs to be asked again: is it worth €250?

Robert Joseph, in an excellent article on Tim Atkin‘s site, says that “it is almost impossible to spend over $25 on making a bottle of wine, and pretty damn difficult to run up a bill of over $15.” Robert’s article is an expanded, and much more coherent, exploration of this issue and well worth a read.

And I, I’m afraid to say, am not going to sufficiently answer the above question in this article. If you’ve read this far in hope if this then apologies, but this topic is beyond my ken. I myself, personally, don’t think it’s worth the money, but then again I don’t have the taste for nor experience of aged fine Bordeaux, so that pretty nullifies my opinion on this.

Hence the title of this post: it’s dangerous to meet your heroes they say, as you often end up disappointed. Still, it was good fun to try it.

Chateau Mouton Rotshchild 1985
www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com
€250 approx. from various retailers on WineSearcher
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot

A Rhône Revelation

Posted: 25th June 2013 by The Motley Cru in Wine
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As I have shouted about before, I don’t like to be prejudiced when it comes to wine. That said there are some styles, regions and grapes that I either just don’t “get” or that don’t suit my palate, or both, so I cannot help but avoid certain wines as a general rule simply because past experience has lead me in that direction.

Unfortunately Southern Rhône wines fall into this category, and I say ‘unfortunately’ as this rather large area encompasses quite a number of prestigious regions and producers beloved by wine aficionados the world over. I have often read of that Châteauneuf-du-Pape or this Gigondas that carry with them exalted superlatives, amongst others. More often than not I hear of yet another boutique little ‘generic’ Côtes du Rhône that defies the general appellation it’s lumped in with and produces something well beyond its price point and which is simply a ‘must have’.

But, alas, I have always been on the outside looking in, since I find most Southern Rhônes to be too, well, hot and spicy for my liking. Maybe it’s the predominance of Grenache in Southern Rhône blends which throws me off, as I tend to find this grape a little hard to handle when it’s from hotter climates unless it’s aged or from old vines due to the reasons given earlier.

closbellane That is until I came across Clos Bellane Côtes du Rhône 2010, recently picked up at the lovely On the Grapevine wine shop in Dalkey. Everything I feared from usual Côtes du Rhône – the hot spiciness, the one-dimensionality – was absent from this bottle, which also floated my boat with its minimalist labelling. A quick peek at the blend strongly suggests, however, a likely reason for my liking it: the 50% Grenache is balanced out by 50% Syrah, the other Rhône stalwart. Some further reading gives even more away: the vineyard is located on a plateau 400m above sea level (the cooler temperatures lead to more restrained wines) and the vines are 85 years old on average (older vines normally mean more complex wines).

Black pepper and blackberry predominate, with a lovely depth and concentration that has you coming back repeatedly to the glass. Some nice supportive tannin make this – to use a cliché flung at so many French wines – a good ‘food wine’ too. It’s deep and intriguing, constantly evolving subtly, but also approachable and easy-going. It’s a steal at €14.99 from one of the nicest independents in Dublin’s south side, and finally it’s a Côtes du Rhône that I can stand over. Many talk about ‘the bottle’ that changed them, and for me and ‘CdR’, this is it.

Imagine my surprise, then, when another Côtes du Rhône threw my preconceptions out the window once again only a couple of weeks later; and not only that but it’s currently only €9.99 on sale in O’Brien’s, with its ‘full retail price’ of €12.99 (see my last post for an explanation of these inverted commas).

The Ortas Reserve Côtes du Rhône 2011 had an amazingly fragrant nose, floral and enticing, and not what I expect from a CdR at all. The palate, however, was lacking: a bit rough and harsh, and a disappointment after the wonderful fragrances it opened with. But, all said, for under a tenner it’s a decent drop which would be perfect in bulk for a barbecue – simply sniff away at it for the evening and soften out the palate with some chunky BBQ meats. At €12.99 though you’re miles better off with the Clos Bellane.

So, Côtes du Rhône, where have you been all my life?!

Clos Bellane Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2010
www.clos-petite-bellane.com
€14.99 from On the Grapevine, Dalkey, and also direct from Cabot & Co. who import it
50% Grenache and 50% Syrah from Côtes du Rhône

Ortas Reserve Côtes du Rhône 2011
Ortas (Caves de Rasteau) page on www.rasteau.com or their Facebook
Normally €12.99 but on sale currently at €9.99 from O’Brien’s
70% Grenache, 20% Cinsault and 10% Carignan from Côtes du Rhône

The Vagaries of Irish Wine Pricing

Posted: 9th June 2013 by The Motley Cru in Wine
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​Apologies to all who have followed this blog since its inception around a half year ago (which is all two dozen of you), but I’ve been very lax with my postings of late. I’m afraid to say that this one won’t exactly set the world alight either, but you have to start somewhere as they say. Normal service resumes as of now.

I didn’t mean it to be this way but this will actually be my first negative review. I don’t intend to have one of those obnoxious, intentionally offensive blogs penned by haters and trolls, mainly because I’m neither of those types and tend to avoid them like the plague, which is exactly what they are. What I do want to do, however, is be truthful first and foremost, to shine a light on the good and bad, to tell it as it is but in a balanced and considered way.

I’m not going to set out seeking the worst wines and thrash them online with glee, but instead if I feel that if a wine is getting undue coverage and popularity and better is to be had elsewhere, especially in the same price bracket, then I will feel the need to speak up about it.

So, recently I had the Volpetto Chianti Riserva which can be got currently in O’Brien’s for €17.99, its ‘normal’ price. I put ‘normal’ in inverted commas since this is one of those wines that O’Brien’s import themselves, and as such they are free to play around with its pricing and promotions since they have full control over the margins they make on them.

That’s less easy with wines imported by a third party distributor since they themselves have their own margins to worry about, and so they space price promotions on their own wines more evenly (and sparsely) throughout the year since it costs them money every time they do.

So O’Brien’s can effectively have their own-import wines on almost permanent promotion throughout the year, returning the price to its ‘normal’ RSP for a few months in order to stay legal. Another example is their lovely Monte Real Rioja Reserva, which is currently €13.99 ‘down from’ €19.99. Have you ever seen it at full price in-store? Me neither.

The thing with the Monte Real Reserva Rioja is that it’s actually quite good, and at €13.99 it’s something of a steal and easily one of the best-value wines out there. At €19.99 it’s pushing it, with a much much better example to be found in the Muga Rioja Reserva for example, but at least it’s playing in the same league, if not at the top exactly

The Volpetto at €17.99, though, is really poor value, and at its usual reduced price of €10.99 is only barely excusable. The problem I have is that consumers are sucked in by the proposition of getting a Riserva wine from a historically prestigious region – Chianti – for a ‘bargain’ price of €10.99. What they end up with though is a bland, weak, atypical red wine that shows barely if any of the characteristics that have made – and continue to make – the better wines of the Chianti region really great.

The low price is achieved by only barely adhering to the minimum requirements set out to secure Chianti Riserva status, with quality coming second to securing that all-important promotional price-point; which for the Volpetto was, before the duty increase in the Budget last December, only €9.99 – below the crucially important threshold of €10 under which the vast majority of consumers make their choice, as it happens.

So regular punters, in the belief that they are getting a top-level wine from a famous region, in fact end up with the barely-legal dregs. Chianti Riserva dregs, yes, but dregs nonetheless.

Unfortunately this is the case with many famous wine regions where consumers, ever confused by the vast array of wines available, return time and again to those regions that have for the right regions earned a reputation in the past, but now are often sullied by chancers prodcing pale imitations of what can really be achieved in those areas. Chablis is the classic example – you really shouldn’t be able to get one for €8.99, but you can.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a dig at O’Brien’s, who have done much to raise the bar for wine in Ireland and offer genuinely great deals and some fantastic wines, not to mention being lovely people to work with both from a consumer and trade perspective. But with the Volpetto I feel they’ve hit a bum note, and more worryingly they risk adversely affecting consumers’ perception of Chianti as a result.

So how do you get around this? How can you tell which wines are genuine direct-import finds and which are duds? The answer, unfortunately for most, is through research – I say unfortunately because how many consumers have the time to sit down and read through wine articles and blogs? How many of you have made it this far down this post, for example? (I’ll soon be quizzing those who claim to be regular readers…!)

Consumers want recognised names at impossible prices, so importers will always find ways of giving the consumer what they want, even if it is to the detriment of the perception of a wine region. And they all do it: Tesco, Dunnes, Superquinn, SuperValu, etc etc. Such is the wine market in Ireland I’m afraid.

So rant over. Caveat emptor as they say. The best way to get around this is to go to your friendly local independent off-licence and add for a really representative wine, one full of terroir and regionality. You’ll get so, so much more bang for your buck, get some excellent service and most likely always come out happy – and if not go back again, give then some feedback, learn a little more and come away with something even better.

Either that, or for a few quid more skip the Volpetto and pick up a bottle of Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classic Riserva instead.

The Motley Cru in the RTÉ Guide!

Posted: 25th May 2013 by The Motley Cru in Wine
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Ashamedly, it’s been over a month since my last posting. Work, weekends away, stags and other commitments have all vacuumed time away from this blog, and the guilt has been building gradually since.

Those in need of a Motley Cru fix, however, need look no further than the current issue of the RTÉ Guide, in particular page twenty of the Foodie Heaven supplement therein, where yours truly has contributed to majority of the sole page dedicated to wine.

Needless to say I’m chuffed and somewhat dumbfounded by my first foray into print media – the RTÉ Guide has a readership of 504,000 people off a circulation of 61,000 copies according to their own website, which is a mind boggling number of people to be exposed to on your first go. It’s even more of a surprise given that I thought I was only helping out with a bit part in that supplement, so to be name-checked for my wine recommendations is an extraordinary experience.

So grab a copy of the current RTÉ Guide (or read it in the shop if you’re cheap) and I will resume normal posting soon!

foodieheaven

Ely Elation

Posted: 17th April 2013 by The Motley Cru in Wine
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An email pinged into my inbox yesterday from Ely announcing another pair of fantastic fine wine offerings at their Ely Place heartland, and again it was so good I had to rush out to take advantage.

ely On offer was (and is) the Réserve de Léoville Barton 2008 from St-Julien in Bordeaux and the Domaine Christophe Bonnefond ‘Côte Rozier’ 2007 from Côte Rôtie in the Rhône, both for €59 a bottle or, even more attractively, €15 per glass.

Yes I know what you’re thinking: for €15 you could get an entire bottle of very decent wine in an off-licence, so why  in God’s name would you opt for only a glass – i.e. a quarter of a bottle – for the same outlay?

Consider, then, that both the Reserve de Léoville Barton and Côte Rozier are normally €40 from the excellent wine merchants Tindals and Tyrrels respectively. This is the off-trade pricing though, so using the rule of thumb of at least doubling that cost to get the on-trade price then this wine should cost at least €80, but more likely €90-€100, in a wine bar. So instead of paying €20-€25 for a glass of each I was paying €15, so this was like a Brown Thomas sale in terms of pricing: sure it’s still expensive, but given the quality, the rarity and the price relative to what it should be then it’s a bargain.

Luckily I had my eternally patient fiancée with me so I could get to try both wines in one sitting. First up for me was the Réserve de Léoville Barton 2008, which is the ‘second wine’ of the famed Léoville Barton, a Second Growth Bordeaux in St-Julien.

Estates in Bordeaux bottle their flagship wines, or ‘grand vin’ under the name of their estate or château, but oftentimes quality control is so stringent that there can be enough grapes left over to make what they call a ‘second wine’ which, though not as good as the grand vin, is nevertheless still of very high quality.

Remember that the painstakingly pedantic work that goes into managing the entire vineyard over the course of the year applies to all the grapes, and so really the ‘second wine’ is only established at the final stages; as such you get something quite similar to the top wine but for a fraction of the cost, and it’s a perfect introduction to the top-level estate offering. If the wine world had its own version of the Kildare Outlet Centre then you’d be sure that’s where the ‘second wines’ would hang out.

lareserve_de_leoville_barton So back to Léoville Barton. You might guess that the name isn’t fully French, and you’d be right. The Barton family have their roots in Straffan, Co Kildare, and still maintain an estate there to this day. In 1826 Hugh Barton, then owner of Château Langoa Barton in St-Julien, bought a part of the large Léoville estate next door and created Château Léoville Barton there. Since then it has become a Second Growth, one of only fifteen properties that sit just below the top tier of Bordeaux wines, which itself only has five properties in total. So the Irish done good, you could say.

And so what about the Réserve de Léoville Barton 2008? I could smell it as soon as the waiter began placing it on the table. An intoxicating, complex scent of cedar, oak, blackcurrant, some spice – I could have nosed it for hours. The palate was delicious and lighter than expected, gorgeous but perhaps not as long as I’d imagined. It was then that I realised that this was my first taste of ‘real’ Bordeaux, and I have to say I’m hooked. I’ll be back for more for definite.

rozier What then about the Domaine Christophe Bonnefond ‘Côte Rozier’ 2007? Again, Côte Rôtie is one of those fabled regions that is renowned for its fine wines, and never comes cheap. They only grow Syrah, which is Shiraz under a different name. But whereas the Shiraz we’re more familiar with – the Australian version – can be big, hot and spicy, Syrah from the Northern Rhône is a much more complex and subtle affair. And so it was with the Côte Rozier, which surprised me by being showing some aged Burgundy characteristics: leather, tobacco, white pepper; and again the palate wasn’t as heavy as I imagined.

Ely have to be commended for continually giving the general public the opportunity to try some genuinely fine and rare wines. In terms of wine in Dublin they set the bar years back and continue to be the benchmark today; not everyone has the guts to offer €59 wines as ‘specials’, but they can because they know what they’re doing and they do it well. Congrats all round.

Wine Wisdom: Oz Clarke

Posted: 2nd April 2013 by The Motley Cru in Wine Wisdom
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It’s been a while since my last ‘Wine Wisdom’, but I came across this tract again recently which I had originally typed out and posted on my Facebook page.

In this piece, wine writer Oz Clarke so succinctly and poetically encapsulates all that is good about wine and its capacity for pleasure and evocation, why we should drink it rather than taste it, enjoy it rather than study it, and why the people with whom you share wine is often more important than what’s in the bottle itself:

oz-clarke

“I didn’t set out to be a wine writer. I set out to be a wine drinker.

I didn’t set out to be a critic. I intended to be a hedonist scouring the world for flavours and smells, sucking them all in as much with my emotions as with my intellect. It’s not that I don’t like the intellectual demands of wine. I do. Indeed some wines seem better suited to cerebral rather than self-indulgent response.

But I’ve always wanted to put wines and their flavours into context. Not just the context of what wine goes with what food—sometimes you don’t want to eat, you just want to revel in the liquid unashamed. But also their sense of place. Where they came from, the culture and politics of their land, the character and foibles of their producers.

And then there’s who you drink them with. People often tell me of some fabled bottle they possess, that’s growing old and melancholy as they fret about what special occasion could possibly deserve it. So the wine dies. I just say, next time good friends turn up with smiles on their faces, fetch the bottle, pour large glasses and toast: here’s to health and happiness. Here’s to being alive.

People ask me about my most memorable bottles — and I have drunk my share of Lafites and Montrachets — but I think of friends, of lovers, of hopes and fears, sunsets, sunrise and deepest night. And, more than most, I think of an unlabelled bottle of prickly purple Tuscan red I drank in a sun-kissed meadow near Siena with a girl I adored, long, long ago…”

This was taken from Oz Clarke’s always-handy annual Pocket Wine Book which you can easily get anywhere, such as Eason‘s or Amazon. You can also visit Oz Clarke’s website here.

A Chilean Visión

Posted: 18th March 2013 by The Motley Cru in Wine
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I’m often asked, with a head raised in wry interrogation, what my favourite wine is. This often comes right after my revealing that I’m in the wine trade and is often less for the want of some insight and more for the want of a tip or recommendation. I’m sure that all my colleagues go through on a regular basis and of course I/we don’t mind it at all; if I met, say, someone involved in banking then I’m sure one of the first things I’d ask them was where the best savings account is to be found, or some other such question given that I have little to no experience in the sector and can reasonably assume that my new acquaintance will enlighten my ignorance. That’s what intelligent conversation is all about, isn’t it? The exchange of knowledge and ideas and all that?

The problem is that this doesn’t really translate into the wine world, and for illustration I think there are very strong parallels between people infatuated with wine and those similarly taken with music. If you were to ask a wine lover and a music lover what their ‘favourite’ was of their respective disciplines then I’m sure you’d be faced with very similar replies: that it depends on your mood, the occasion, who you’re with, what the aim of the wine/song is, the weather, your location, etc. etc. etc.

Combine this with the fact that everyone’s taste is, of course, so subjective and varied then what you have unfortunately is an intractable question. There simply is no way, when put on the spot, to choose a favourite when the variables are so diverse.

vision That said, however, I introduce to you now my fail-safe bottle of wine. This is by no means my favourite because I can’t possibly have one (see above and, please, pay attention). The wine in question is Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir, which I had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with a few days ago.

Cono Sur are the masters of Pinot Noir in Chile, choosing to take much of their lead from Burgundy in France, Pinot’s historical and spiritual home. And no the name is not a play on the word connoisseur, like so many (understandably) believe, but it in fact means ‘southern cone’ or the shape of the continent on which Chile is based.

The ‘Visión’ range, meanwhile, will soon be re-named ‘Single Vineyard’ to make it easier for the foreign market, and as the name suggests they vinify the wines from specific sites rather than just Chile in general. This tends to give more character, definition and a sense of place to the end product – in other words what the French call terroir (for starters at least – don’t get them started!).

So for this Pinot Noir they get the grapes solely from ‘Block 68 Old Vine’, a plot of land with Chile’s first planting of Pinot Noir in 1968. It’s such a lovely wine because, to my mind at least, it has a bit of everything: it’s mineral and austere yet juicy and approachable; precise yet easy-going; fresh yet wears a little age with grace. And the taste of it?

The over-riding note that I got from it was, wait for it, tomato stalks. Yes, really. You often hear of these random wine terms and never expect, nay believe, that they exist. In fact I’ve often found myself wanting to snort in laughter in a kind of reverse-snobbery smugness when I read some off-the-wall tasting notes. Until the day, that is, when you finally, accidentally, discover them for yourself. So for the Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir 2010, tomato stalks it is.

But that’s not all of course. There’s redcurrant – that sharp, well, red scent you get on the nose and palate, then strawberry as it softens in the glass. It has a lovely lively acidity, and, I think, is best drank slightly chilled. When it does warm up however the fruits darken and take on a more ‘baked’ characteristic, but only relative to what has come before.

But anyway, I could go on, but it’s a contemplative wine and those types of wine can cause wine-lovers’ fingers to fall off in a frenzy of typing. But let me say that it’s a ‘good friend’ of a wine: always great company, amenable to your mood, good in any situation. One of my favourites.

Cono Sur Visión Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010
€19.99 at O’Brien’s
Block 68, Santa Elisa Estate, Colchagua Valley
100% Pinot Noir
www.conosur.com