Monday, 18 July 2011

Two very different Vins de Pays - and a heart-warming Open Championship victory for one of golf's good guys

Yes, I'm still here! As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been feeling pretty lousy recently, and the after-effects of my flu virus have lingered for far too long. Thankfully, after 2 long weeks of feeling pretty sorry for myself, I almost feel human again, thanks to a decent night out on Saturday, a bit of positive thinking and a few Sudafed tablets. I've even enjoyed a few glasses of wine over the last 2 or 3 days - which is a relief, after having consumed what amounts to a total of no more than 2 glasses in the previous 10 days. Here's a couple of really nice ones for starters, both of which are available via my website;

I thought I'd give this a road test, since I haven't had a bottle for a year or more and I wanted to see how it is evolving. At getting on for 4 years old, it is still heady with the scent of bramble fruits steeped in eau de vie, but is now beginning to develop some genuine complexity. There's a real savoury quality to it, with beef, game, polished leather, forest floor and bready notes mingled in with the fruit, with garrigue herbs and even a touch of mint lurking in the background. And that preserved fruit and savoury theme certainly continues through to the palate, which - combined with juicy acidity, fine but grippy tannins and a touch of bitter-sweet dark cherry - makes for a wine with a deliciously sweet and sour quality. Add to that a touch of warming alcohol and more than a hint of spiciness and it all adds up to a wine of real southern character - not big, not soupy, not hot, but rich, characterful and warming, with a delightful freshness. A bit of a bargain at £9.20.

Despite the very hot vintage - and what turned out to be by far the earliest harvest in the history of the estate - this has many of the attributes of classic Trévallon. The nose offers remarkably fresh aromas of blackcurrant, raspberry and damp undergrowth, along with a distinct note of violets and a very slight herbiness and savouriness at the end. The palate is equally fruit-laden, displaying plenty of ripeness, without being too rich or soupy. And whilst the tannins are a little more dusty and grippy than in a "normal" vintage, they are fairly ripe, leaving an impression of dark, bitter chocolate, rather than any feeling of greenness. There is also a core of delightfully fresh, almost lemony acidity - I don't know if there was any re-acidification in this vintage (and if there was, who could blame them) but if so, it has been very skilfully done. The finish is grippy and quite dry, but there is more than enough fruit and acidity to keep the tannins at bay. Whilst this may not go down as a classic Trévallon vintage, it is nevertheless an extremely interesting and enjoyable wine, which every Trévallon aficionado should have in their cellar, which is beginning to drink well now and should soften-out and evolve nicely for another 5 to 10 years. £39.95.

I can't sign off without a few words in praise of one of the genuine good guys in sport - the 2011 Open Golf champion, Darren Clarke. As a keen golfer myself, I have followed Darren's career since he came onto the scene in the early 1990's. Blessed with an elegant swing and a cheery demeanour, he was always a fans' favourite. But whilst he won the odd big tournament and was for some years one of the European Tour's highest ranked players - not to mention a stalwart of the European Ryder Cup squad - he never managed to win an elusive "Major" title. When Darren's wife Heather died in 2006, after a long battle with breast cancer, golf must have been just about the least important thing in life. But a few weeks later, swept along by a huge tide of emotion and affection from the Irish fans, he contributed 3 vital points towards another Ryder Cup win for Europe, whilst his courage and dignity cemented his position as one of (if not the) best-loved golfers of his generation. From there, it would have been easy for Darren Clarke to fade into the background, thinking his best days as a golfer were behind him - and for a while, he probably did.

Darren Clarke holes the winning putt to become 2011 Open Champion

And then, 5 years later and as if from nowhere, he suddenly found himself at the top of the leaderboard, going into the final round of The Open. He'd been in such a position on a couple of occasions before, but could never quite convert the lead into a victory. Until this weekend, when it all came together in the most glorious way. It is easy for me to say now, but for some reason, I just knew he was going to win this one. I don't think I have ever seen a golfer look so happy, so comfortable, so serene in "leading from the front" - a combination of great shot-making, pure ball-stiking, solid putting and a hitherto unseen self-confidence ensured that he never put himself under any pressure. To be fair, neither did his nearest challengers, perhaps because they - like me and no doubt countless others - realised that their efforts would be futile and that this was destined to be Darren Clarke's Open. Perhaps the golfing gods - and maybe even his very own angel - were smiling down on him this time - or perhaps it was simply written in the stars. And when that final putt went in, it was all I could do not to burst into tears (TLD was in the room, and I do have some pride!) but boy was I shaking inside. After the sad death of Seve Ballesteros earlier in the year, this was an occasion to warm the heart of every true golf fan. And it was lovely to see Darren's parents and his new fiancée there to enjoy it - and also to see his fellow competitors offering their heartfelt congratulations to one of the sporting world's genuine good guys. It was a truly memorable and utterly deserved win for a lovely man. Well done Darren Clarke.

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