Thursday, 31 December 2009

The final day of 2009 - a frantic day to end a sometimes difficult year. But finishing on a high note with some lovely bubbly!

Having sent out an email to my customers yesterday afternoon, with some rather tasty sale and bin-end offers, I have been rather inundated with orders today. So I've spent virtually the whole day (and half the evening) at the computer and on the phone. Not that I'm complaining, of course, as it all helps to boost the Company funds and ensure that there is enough money to pay for all of the new wines I've had in recently and also to cover yet more purchases in the early part of 2010. But to deal with what amounts to 5% of a year's turnover in one day has certainly left me feeling exhausted and in need of a drink(!)

It has been a difficult year, in many ways, since the recession continues to bite hard. It really isn't an ideal climate in which to be trying to build a wine business - or any other business, for that matter. Having said that, we have almost (though not quite) equalled last year's turnover, for which we actually managed (for the first time ever) to record a tiny profit. Not that I was particularly full of joy, though, when writing out the cheque for Chancellor Darling's 21% share - that was a wrench, I can tell you. Bloody Government - they want a piece of everything! Who knows....... one of these days, we might actually start selling enough wine for me to give up the day job. Let's hope that 2010 sees a return to growth and prosperity and a little light at the end of the tunnel. Anyway, enough about that - let's talk about wine.

Having spent much of the last week drinking coffe, tea and soft drinks, it was time to shake off the cobwebs by cracking open a bottle or two of fizz.

First up was a lovely bottle of Domaine Rosier Brut NV Blanquette de Limoux. This is from my recent batch of deliveries and (although a non-vintage wine) I needed to write a more up-to-date and comprehensive tasting note. It is a lovely, bright, pale gold colour with green tinges. The mousse is very fine, lively and long-lived, whilst the nose is considerably complex for a young, recently-disgorged sparkler. The nose offers aromas of lemon and lime, apple, spring flowers, freshly baked brioche and a suggestion of mixed spice. The palate is essentially bone dry, with mouth-watering, lemony acidity, but also a touch of fruity richness and impressive intensity of flavour - and an equally impressive length on the finish. Blanquette really doesn't get much better than this and, at £10.50 a bottle (guess where!) it knocks spots off most Champagnes at twice the price.

By way of comparison, I opened a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Brut Divin Blanc de Blancs NV Champagne. Well, it is New Year, so I have a right to indulge a little! As we all know, Champagne comes at a (rather inflated) price. I guess the normal market price for a bottle of this would be in the £20-£25 range, although I got it for considerably less....... I do have my sources! Nevertheless, it still cost me a lot more than the Limoux. But I have to say it is rather lovely and every bit as good as the Limoux, in a more evolved, mature sort of way. It is quite a deep gold colour and the fine mousse calms down rather quickly, suggesting quite a lot of bottle age. But there are still plenty of tiny bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass and it is a really fragrant, wine - apples, lemons and pears, with buttery, biscuity notes in the background. The palate is bright and fruity, with intense lemon/lime, almost zesty flavours, along with lots of secondary flavours adding complexity. There are also hints of toffee apple, biscuit and mineral, with quite a rich mouthfeel, but laser-like acidity and a dry finish. It really is rather elegant and lovely - and proves my theory that the only good Champagne is a mature one!

I'm off now to indulge myself even further with a medium-rare steak and a bottle of something old and red. I may even enjoy a glass of vintage Banyuls or Tokaji afterwards, before seeing in the New Year with another glass of bubbly.

Happy New Year!

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