Why Big Red Diary?

Random ruminations

Puligny, January 2005

Critics Mainly…
The late news of 2004 was that Clive Coates was hanging up his notebook – at least as far as The Vine was concerned – he’ll be missed – particularly in the UK where his ‘Burgundy Issue’ coincided with the UK’s en-primeur campaign. There may be other newsletters out there, but all are too-late for UK buyers. Allen Meadows is a more than adequate replacement but his coverage and style is slightly different, particularly I liked Clive for his domain monographs – I guess this was why I took a similar approach in Burgundy-Report – it’s always (for me) interesting to know something about the person who put the wine in the bottle. Actually The Vine was latterly disappointing in this respect as little was changed from what he’d already published in his book ‘Côte d’Or’ – but I’ll still miss Clive – we need characters, and he is definitely one of those.

In the last couple of years I’ve augmented Clive and Burghound with Stephen Tanzer, usefully using the 6-month subscription option on Tanzer’s website to get just what I needed. It’s precisely because of the all-or-nothing approach that I never subscribed to the Wine Advocate, too much stuff I don’t want to get at for the part that I do want – no hard feelings to Pierre & Bob, I know they’re trying to broaden my horizons, but…

On a related subject, it’s worth mentioning books – what are the authors up-to? It’s quite apparent that the books covering Burgundy are at best snapshots of ~1990 – we need new info; hopefully the end of The Vine will allow Clive more time to speed along with his update of Côte d’Or.

Talking of ‘critics’, you know what would be interesting? – knowing what the critics actually purchase themselves. I’m sure most would be quite happy to tell you afterwards but perhaps not before – there are only so many bottles! It’s actually this aspect that restricts me to perhaps a dozen new domaines per year – I’m like a kid in a sweetshop – there’s almost always something that’s worth buying! Reality in January was €1,500 of orders to pay for from my visit chez Potel 18 months ago to taste his 2002′s, various single and mixed cases from other visits and also the opportunity at one domaine to be a private client – if I can afford it! Anyway, I needed plenty of room in the car for the trip back home in January…

That’s enough about critics, maybe something about wine? Well the 2003′s are slowly starting to cast a shadow across retailer’s shelves and soon the 2004′s will also. The ’03′s are great for reds, highly untypical, and to be honest apart from a few usual subjects, it’s mainly at the regional level that I’m buying. For whites, despite looking a little more interesting in bottle than in barrel, they’re typically not my style – just not enough acidity or minerality – you can find the occasional beauty – problem is they are often more expensive than the freely available 2002′s, c’est la vie. Perhaps this was the opportunity I needed to catch up on my mortgage. Actually it could be a short respite, the 2004′s are looking rather interesting – particularly the whites – and there will be much more to go round!

I particularly enjoyed Thomas Layton’s guest-text entry this issue, not because I have a particular problem with Brett, I’m actually conscious of it only rarely, but because it’s a subject that whips up a fuss. Interestingly it’s not the brett that causes the most fuss, it’s the techniques to remove it; fining and/or filtration. I personally prefer avoiding the dogmatic, the recipe approach, and as much as Thomas correctly sees a “badge of honor” attached to label ‘unfined, unfiltered’ it is a rather standardised approach at odds to an unpredictable problem. From my perspective if a wine needs fining or filtering – do it – don’t add to the minefield that people already anticipate. Of course if it’s not required – don’t do it – see life can be easy…

Last thing. I’ve been in Switzerland for some time now, but I recently re-started my German classes, so look-out for the de Vogüé translation coming your way, unfortunately it’s very slow, sorry! – see here [Edit - I eventually gave up!]

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?