Saturday, 9 January 2010

Selling lots of wine, annual computer problems..... and a simply wonderful wine from Provence

For a variety of reasons, it has been a week since I last posted. A frantic 36 hour sale at the end of 2009 meant that most of my New Year weekend was spent selling wine. I'm not complaining, of course, but it is hard for me to explain just how much time and effort goes into preparing a sale list and a mailshot, corresponding with customers, preparing paperwork, assembling boxes, collecting wines, boxing them up, labelling them and despatching them. Around 30 boxes, all told, in a couple of days. On the other hand, I wish I had that sort of workload all of the time, as I would then be making some proper money in this business, rather than just playing at it - and I would have to take on some staff!

Thankfully, I managed to get all the orders prepared and despatched before my desk-top computer conked out - as it always seems to do at this time of year. And, as always, I took it to my friend Karen Gill at KG Computers, who builds, services and fixes computers - as with me, not yet for a living, but in her spare time. And, although my computer(s) get more hammer than most, being in use for a good part of every day, I've never yet had a problem Karen was unable to fix. Which is just as well, because my whole damn life is on there! I do also have a lap-top, but it is not possible to keep that as up-to-date as the desk-top. Of course, I do the occasional hard drive back-up onto an external hard drive (as well as a 1 GB flash "dongle" as an extra back-up for the really vital bits) but I don't do this nearly often enough. But I should do this every week, as a minimum - and I will, from now on. After all, the mere thought of attempting to reconstruct all of my business files, accounting software and website software is just too frightening to contemplate. And then, of course, there are years-worth of personal stuff, music files, photos and countless other documents to consider.

Which really does beg the question....... where would we (or at least I) be without computers? I guess the answer would be back to the dark ages of 10 or 15 years ago, where we all......... erm, had lives! ;-)

Anyway, my life is now complete again (i.e. I have my desk-top PC back!) and I am in the process of catching up on all the things I should have done in the past few days. If I'm honest, those few days were rather liberating because, instead of being tied to my master, I was able to reconnect with the real world of cooking, having proper conversations, listening to music (although I usually do that anyway) and watching some DVD's I got for Christmas. I also have jobs to do around the house, but in this weather, they can wait!

Just before I finish, I'll tell you all about my first truly great wine experience of 2010, which came in the form of a bottle of Chateau d'Estoublon Cuvée Mogador 2005 Les Baux de Provence. This is a new release from Chateau d'Estoublon and I really wasn't sure what to expect. When I placed an order with them before Christmas, I asked if they would send me a sample to taste. They told me that, unfortunately, because the wine is made in very small quantities (only 3,000 bottles) they only send samples to journalists(!) However, if I bought 6 bottles as part of my order, they would send me 2 sample bottles free of charge. Fair enough, I thought - if the wine is as good as they say it is, I'll buy some, and damn the expense (I had to price it at over £40 a bottle - not an easy sell, for an unknown wine). The wine is made from the best (i.e. oldest) parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), Syrah (35%), Grenache (20%) and Mourvedre (10%). The grapes are not de-stemmed. Fermentation is carried out in large oak tanks, without any added yeasts and with regular punching-down and pumping-over of the must. Following pressing of the grapes, the wine is aged on its lees in used oak barrels for 9 months, before being transferred for a further 9 months to new oak barrels. To be perfectly honest, I was expecting an over-extracted, Parkerised oak monster, with huge gobs of opulent fruit (not my kind of descriptor, but I'm paraphrasing a "Parkerism"!). However, I was in for a wonderful surprise........

I poured it into a decanter and left it for a couple of hours before tasting. It has a medium blood red core, with a narrow-ish raspberry-coloured rim. The nose is hugely expressive (but not huge, if you catch my drift) with all manner of red and black currant and berry aromas, complemented by notes of vanilla, mocha, polished leather and a lick of peppermint. Further notes of forest floor, spices and garrigue herbs all add to what is an extremely complex nose. The fruit on the palate is intense, but beautifully fresh. Although there is noticeable oak influence, it is subtly done and doesn't dominate the fruit - very important, this - and merely serves to add another dimension to what is a hugely complex and multi-faceted wine. There are layers of juicy, tangy fruit flavours (mostly at the red end of the spectrum - redcurrant, cherry, raspberry, even cranberry), with abundant acidity and firm, but ultra-ripe tannins. The fact that the fruits tend towards red, rather than black, heightens the sense of supreme elegance. It is so packed with flavour, but I wouldn't describe it as a "rich" wine - at least not in a Provence or Southern Rhone sort of way - and it majors on fruit, rather than any savoury elements.

I don't really like to pigeon-hole wines, or even compare them to wines from other regions. However, you wouldn't put it in Bordeaux (thankfully) and you probably wouldn't put it in Burgundy (although it possesses great elegance), but you might put it in the Rhone or even Tuscany. Or you might just say that it combines many of the best attributes of all of the above. Ultimately, though, I just have to take my hat off to it and say Wow! - so that is what Provence is really capable of! Despite there being 35% Cabernet and 35% Syrah in the blend, this is a totally different style of wine to its near neighbour, Domaine de Trévallon. But, in its own way, it is every bit as good. I guess it needs to be, because (like Trévallon) it isn't cheap. Then again, it is cheaper than most Grand Cru (and even some 1er Cru) Burgundies and cheaper than most high-class Bordeaux, whilst also comparing favourably with the prices of top-notch Chateauneufs and Super-Tuscans. Comparisons are unfair, though, because this is a truly world-class wine in its own right - and doubtless worth 95+ of anybody's points. We shall find out, eventually, because Chateau d'Estoublon have given me further samples to send out to a few prominent journalists. Watch this space.

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