Why Big Red Diary?

Random ruminations…

October 2003
The last report for this year and I’ve just a little time available for reflection. I started the year with the intention of doing a quarterly report, but halfway between issue 1 & 2 a sense of realism set in and I went for 3 instead of 4 – after all I’ve got to try and earn a living too!

As far as the site itself is concerned I’m now reasonably happy with the design, and though I’m an avid tinkerer, I’ll try hard not to change anything else! What will gradually evolve is some indexing of producer and vineyard articles, so that you can use the magazine format of the issues or consult what will become a general index. There’s not much point setting up the index just yet, as I haven’t written enough articles! As there are quite a lot of tasting notes (500+ this year), I’ll continue to explore the possibilities of an easily searchable dbase of those notes, both barrel and bottle, but being a dbase numpty this will be even more of a challenge than trying to make appointments in French 🙂

As far as my interest (I’m not far enough through therapy to be able to call it obsession) in the wines is concerned, the site has really exceeded my expectation. In addition to the producers, I’ve made contacts with sellers and enthusiasts of the wines the world over, and whilst I could do without the additional purchase ‘opportunities’, it is really quite special to talk passionately with a producer who’s wines you’ve followed, whilst they dip the pipette into barrel after barrel.

Lastly (as far as the site is concerned), I’m really surprised that the site gets over 3,000 visits and about 10 times that number of ‘hits’ per month; I can only assume most of them arrive by mistake looking either for paperclips, steamy photos, Clive Coates or some unfortunate combination of the above. Whatever, my mailing / spam list has grown by about 30% since the last issue!

During the summer I was disappointed to see a few instances of puerile ‘critic-bashing’. Now hold on for a minute before you start writing that flame-mail and let me explain: Of course it is quite acceptable for ‘the punters’ to criticise the people whose wages they pay – it is, or it should be, a national sport – what really plums the depths is when critics start (publicly) knocking each other. Aside from being very ‘unprofessional’ it’s faintly sad and certainly demeaning. It’s not just a transatlantic thing either, although he of the potentially unfortunate photo’s (above) usually falls into that category, certain ‘brand-name critics’ decided that they needed to question the usefulness and/or the ability of others. Jancis, Tanzer and Meadows seem to sail majestically and professionally above the seedy comments, but ‘the brands’ have recently become a little tarnished, not their ability – only their professionalism towards their fellow professionals!

Things can change fast in Burgundy; I heard only one week ago that Maison Nicolas Potel has now been substantially if not completely purchased by the Cottin family of the Nuits St.Georges based négociant Labouré-Roi. Early reports suggest that this will ‘free-up’ Nicolas to concentrate even more on the wines! Frankly – and I’m only guessing – given the superfast growth of the Maison, coupled with the prevailing ‘not buoyant’ market conditions, it wouldn’t surprise me if a cash injection had been needed…

While I’m typing, it’s a good time to mention en-primeurs. I’m not going to tell you why you should, or should not buy en-primeur, but I will give a warning to those of you who make your purchasing decisions based on the host of ‘en-primeur’ tastings. I bought 2000 Clos des Lambrays when it showed in a really exuberant fashion at an en-primeur tasting. Tasting the ‘retail’ version last month, there is still the gorgeous fruit which so ensnared me, but there is also a palate badly marked by oak. I think this will still be quite evident when the wine is 10 years old – and I’m annoyed because it wasn’t there at first tasting. I know we’re always told that the wines might not necessarily reflect the final cuvée etc., but…

Finally. I’m really looking forward to tasting the 2003’s as they develop. At the best addresses, the 2002 cuvées were blessed by an almost boringly consistent excellence. The 2003’s are likely to be anything but consistent – should be a fascinating elevage – so here’s to next year…

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