Why Big Red Diary?

auctions and buying ‘old’ wine


You know that ‘provenance’ – i.e. knowing somethings ownership history – is not just a special thing when buying older (for which I class everything that has been on the market for more than 2 years!) wine, it is everything! That’s not because I’m particularly concerned about where the seller got the bottles from – though I suppose I should be – rather because a few weeks of inappropriate storage will render the contents of those bottles dead.

The main source of older bottles is at auction. Apart from rare sales where bottles come direct from producer’s cellars, buying is, based on my experience, a complete lottery – hence, today I only bid low. There is, however, an outstanding chance to acquire older bottles at a sale in Paris in December. I mentioned it briefly here last week, but having taken a look at the online catalogue I thought I would mention the sale of wines from “La Tour d’Argent” again.

Provenance is perfect, and the bottles even look like they’ve been in a good cellar. Estimates (at least) look very fair, but I expect the realised prices will be higher than estimates.

Anyway, worth a look if you need an 1898 Romanée St-Vivant for the weekend…

06 confuron-cotetidot bourgogne pinot noir


2006 Confuron-Cotetidot, Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Medium cherry-red. Sweet, only slightly smokey stems, rather candied red/blue fruit. The palate is as sweet as the nose, with understated acidity. Occasional sips give a padded, slightly plush texture, but most show a mid-palate/tannins with a slightly astringent, sharp effect. Quite long finishing, but this far from a ‘together’ wine. Day two, less aromatically interesting, but more ‘together’ on the palate. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and say wait another year or two – it’s not really for today though…
Rebuy – Maybe

living with wine, samantha nestor & alice feiring (2009)

livingwithwineThe last book I read turned out to be a bit of a Christmas stocking filler. This one is published in time to make such a list too (and you can already buy it for a discount!), but be warned, you will need a considerably larger stocking!

This book is far too big for my bag for the trip to work and back, lucky then that there’s not that much inside to read!

This is – pure and simple – a coffee-table book, there are words, but not so many. This is a book of pictures; expensive bottles and expensive polished wood. Wine porn? Perhaps, but I see this more as an interior design book than particularly about wine, rather wine is merely the background motif:

“Scudiery admits that what he likes best about his cellar are the wines.”

Enough said? You certainly won’t learn anything about wine from this book, rather it is (15%) a commentary on how a few ‘eye-candy’ cellars came about, and the rest is the eye-candy (photos…). Actually a little of the technicalities of maintaining a cool, humid cellar in such a variety of styles would have been interesting (to me) but I suppose that was way beyond the brief of this book and likely outside of the interest of the target audience too – whoever they may be…

I don’t know Samantha Nestor (it seems she’s more a ‘Homes & Gardens‘ writer), but I might have expected more from a book connected to Alice Feiring – yet it’s not really a wine book – perhaps Alice was just a technical consultant and/or helped locate the cellar owners. To be honest, I find a number of these cellars to be the carpentry equivalent of a big red Porsche in the driveway. For me a cellar is where I store my wine, but one day, given a bottomless pit of cash and the enthusiasm of my wife, I wouldn’t be surprised to be greeted by the scent of polished redwood when looking for a bottle of Beaune!

Reference material it is not! But this book looks fine on the coffee table.

07 bouchard père et fils mercurey

To be honest I think pricing is getting too high for such things. Basic Mercurey should not be significantly more expensive than a well-made regional wine – say plus 25% – this was double the cost of many regionals. It is intrinsically a very nice wine but my instinct tells me it’s poor value for money, hence, the ‘maybe’ rating.

2007 Bouchard Père et Fils, Mercurey
High-toned, very pretty cherry aromas with a relatively understated oak-spice component. Jammy, it’s a fruit preserve impression. Good acidity and a slightly more grown-up stance in the mid-palate. The tannin has a slight grain. This medium length wine is actually quite tasty – a second glass? – why not!
Rebuy – Maybe

2006 albert bichot beaune 1er champimonts


2006 Albert Bichot, Beaune 1er Champimonts
Medium cherry-red. High-toned perfume of crunchy cherry-fruit eventually a little creamy oak. There is good width and an edge of fat to the texture too. A creamy vanilla-oak barrel note runs through the core of this and into the mid-palate. Medium, slightly peppery tannin and a good length. For my taste this needs a little cellar time to both round out and to reduce the barrel flavour, but it’s ripe, sweet and tasty already today, and was a very good price.
Rebuy – Yes

2008 chablis réserve de vaudon


My first 2008 from bottle.

2008 Domaine Vaudon, Chablis Réserve de Vaudon
Medium-pale lemon-yellow. The nose starts in a forward way, the aromas are somewhere on the border between oak toast and earthy minerality – it’s a great balancing act – slowly it is more towards the toasty bread part of the spectrum. In the mouth, the concentration gives a decent slightly oily, padded texture, but it’s a transient impression as the zinging grapefruit-style acidity takes hold. There is a sweetness that is the perfect foil to that grapefruit. Refreshing, not bad length, this is superb for the price and already a candidate for house wine 2010! A small amount left for day 2 had no trace of toast whatsoever, but was also missing that perfect sweet/acid balance of day 1 – so don’t save any!
Rebuy – Yes

2000 pavelot savigny-lès-beaune 1er la dominode


2000 Pavelot, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Dominode
Medium-plus colour, still a hint of cherry-red colour. The nose is rather ‘anti-2000’ with a beacon of pure, fresh, faintly blue-skinned fruit at the core and a top note that is slightly more diffuse and herby (that’s a little more 2000!). The palate is not as plush as it was in its youth, but the late attack of the tannins I noticed in previous bottles is now gone – they are are certainly still there if you look for them, but are no problem now. Decently balanced, it’s as ripe as most 2000s but with a fresher aspect to the aromas. Decently concentrated and showing a wiry muscle, I regret only buying 6, I regret even more that only 3 remain…
Rebuy – Yes

is this bottle corked?, kathleen burk & michael bywater (2009)

corkedDo you, like me, inwardly groan (while still offering a cheery smile) each and every time somebody buys you something to do with wine as a birthday or Christmas present? – or perhaps a card resplendent with bottles and glasses? Come-on everyone, we are individuals, let’s have a little imagination! – what about the card with the cute puppy instead? – oops, no I have 3 of those already. Okay I give up!

In front of me, I have the book ‘Is this bottle corked’, subtitled ‘The secret life of wine’. The cover seems a relatively unimaginative, as do the selected quotes from the Times (of London!), The Times (of Oxford!) and ‘The Diplomat’ – wow do diplomats get their own paper(?) It looks like like the sort of book you may find wrapped-up and under the Christmas tree – probably attached will be a label with your name on it! It’s the type of non-specific title and design that would ensure that I serially by-pass the thing on the shelf of any bookstore.

Given that I’m the lucky recipient of such a ‘present’, what do I have to say about it?

Well, actually (humble pie..) it really wasn’t all that bad(!) Over a period of 3-4 weeks I got through the 177 pages with some degree of interest. The book is ideal for those with daily travel on public transport; 10 minutes here, 25 minutes there, principally this is facilitated by there being no real structure to the book. There are 88 questions about wine, each requiring between 1 paragraph and 4 pages to answer – so all you will need is a book mark. Examples include:

  • When is rot noble?
  • Can the war on terroir be won?
  • Glass of pre-war lemonade, chaps?

Etcetera, etcetra! The writing is witty and certainly more learned that wot I am.

If you want to turn the tables and buy somebody else a book on wine (dare I say it) this could be the one for you. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from one of the last questions to give you some idea of the style:

They drank how much at a sitting?
Recently we were told that it was the unemployed and under-educated who were most at risk from alcohol. Even more recently, we were told, no, it was the middle classes who were really at risk. Most recently of all (at the time of writing; who knows what will happen hereafter), the Royal College of Physicians claimed that pubs are “pushing customers towards unsafe levels of drinking” by selling wine in big glasses, and an MP who is of course not being opportunist to increase his profile (which is why we are not going to name him) demanded a new law to make them stop it and sell us little glasses instead.
We have only two comments to make. Well, actually we have three comments to make, but will only be allowed to make two of them. The first is that people who roam around inner cities at night, roaring, vomiting, and fighting, are not usually those who have been drinking a rather nice pinot noir in whatever size of glass. And the second is that someone who cannot tell whether they are holding a big glass of wine or a little glass of wine should not really be allowed to hold any glass at all, and certainly not one with wine in.
We live in stern and purse-lipped times.

Footnote: I found this rather curious ‘review’ in the Independent – curious because it seems only to be extracts from the book!

what news of france?

A good article from Panos…


And the chance to buy some mature wine…

Paris’ landmark Tour d’Argent restaurant is cleaning out its 450,000-bottle winecellar “one of the best in the world” and putting 18,000 bottles up for auction in December

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