20 Jan 2010

In Good Taste

THERE are so many tempting tastings in January that sommeliers like Trinity’s Rupert Taylor take up to a week off to seek revivifying bottles.
I recently stained my teeth blood pudding black at two showcases: ‘Richards Walford’ of Stamford (held at Southwark’s ‘Baltic’ restaurant – a former coachworks) and London’s ‘Bibendum’, which sprawled the Charles Saatchi gallery. Both featured a fine roll-call of guests, including the venerable former Mȃitre’d of ‘Le Gavroche’, Silvano Giraldin.
Busy administering a flight of lately increasingly fleshy, decreasingly ash-scented, Château Léoville Poyferré (’96-’07), director, Mark Walford admitted to ‘occasionally forgetting to put prices up.’ Regardless, he believes the worst of the recession is over, even if it means selling more for less. ‘Compared to last June when sales were down 15%, losses have now sprung to half that.’
Biodynamically-farmed, unfiltered, and oak-aged for over two-years, Domaine la Garance’s ’01 ‘Les Armières V.d.Pays Rouge de l’Herault (Carignan, Syrah) was as fiercely individual as its maker, Pierre Quinonero. Almost brash and always savoury, it felt like sun-dried, wind-blasted herbs were sewn all the way through. The long-lived palate suggested smoky bacon and ancient, pulverised rocks. The £15 RRP seemed utterly sound. Quinonero answered my provocative question, ‘what do you think of French President Nicolas Sarkozy?’ with, ‘That man’s fostered a culture where more French hate wine than like it...’
Drawn by the name of their pub on their badges, I got talking to Alan and Liz Hewitt of The Bustard, Lincolnshire. It takes its name from the pudgy-necked, whiskered bird looking somewhere between a turkey and grouse. Apparently the male reaches 20kgs, making it one of the heaviest specimens to fly. Considered so tasty that it was rendered extinct in Britain in 1832, Russian chicks are now being reintroduced. My shotgun at the ready...
Despite running into every immaculate bright white inch of the Saatchi gallery, Bibendum’s tasting felt bewilderingly crowded (these photos are fickle). So artistic is this uber-indie’s marketing that it was sometimes hard to see where the company’s colourful props ended and regular artefacts began. The highlight, as last year, was the Champagne room. Just released, Pol Roger’s ’00 had a levity not seen in the ’99. Respected Champagne connoisseur Michael Edwards mentioned this might be down to the fact that the ’99 vintage yielded such low acidity – levels of which were last seen in ’59. It is not, however ‘a wine for keeping but drinking’. Ditto.