Review: The Flavour Thesaurus

I was browsing in Waterstone’s today (or more correctly Waterstones, as it has recently become, given that in the retail paradox to end all retail paradoxes, this retailer – a bookshop – has apparently resolved that to appeal to its clientele it ought to appear less literate by removing the apostrophe in its name).  I digress.  I was browsing in Waterstones today, just mooching around the cookery section in the hope of finding Rowley Leigh’s No Place Like Home.  I didn’t find it, and although I could have purchased hundreds of other books on impulse I found myself rather put off by the fact that these days it seems that you can’t publish a cook book without a picture of its author on the cover (is there any other interest area in which this is now the standard)?

And with the exception of Rick Stein, you can’t get your face on a cook book cover unless you are hot.  (Judged by generally accepted notions of hotness, that is.  No offence intended to Rick, by the way, who’s by far and away my favourite “celebrity” chef, if indeed he calls himself that.  I’d probably do him if he were 20 years younger.  Get a few pink gins into me and ply me with talk about turbot and Graham Greene and I’m anybody’s).  And that makes me feel sorry for all the ugly but talented chefs out there who were probably passed over in favour of the Lorraine Pascales and Rachel Khoos and Sam Sterns of the world.  Which made me walk out without buying anything.

And that prompted me to write about The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit, which is something I’ve been meaning to do ever since I was given a copy for Christmas last year, on the grounds that not only does it not a have a picture of its author on the cover, but it has no pictures at all throughout.  That puts it in very highbrow company indeed as far as food and drink books go.  It goes on the bookshelf next to Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste and Kingsley Amis’s Everyday Drinking, which by the way are very important books for you to read if you are at all interested in enhancing your life by the consumption of food and drink.

So yes, in short, the Flavour Thesaurus is a masterpiece.  It is so good, in fact, that I am going to put it on the bookshelf reserved for the finest writing I own: the one next to the toilet.  Only one book about food and drink has ever made it there: Oberon Kant’s Big Book of Wine, which is simply the best book ever written on the subject, or possibly even any subject.

You’re probably sitting there thinking “come on, how hard can it be to tell me that tomato goes with basil or that pork goes with apples?”  Well, you’re a tough audience, but the Flavour Thesaurus is much more than that.  It is part recipe book, part travelogue, part TV guide, part history lesson, part restaurant guide, part self-help treatise, and entirely absorbing.  If it had been written by anybody else it would be tiresome.  Here is Niki Segnit on the combination of mint and chocolate:

Mint & Chocolate:  Hell is a milk-chocolate mint crisp.  The kind whose flecks of mouthwash-flavoured grit the manufacturers hope we’ll be too drunk, after dinner, to spit back into the foil.  Fudgy, saccharine milk chocolate meets sinus-widening menthol:  I’ve had more appetising things collect in my dishwasher filter.  Mint with bitter dark chocolate, on the other hand, you can feed me till my teeth ache.  It was around Christmas 1978 that I realised the potency of the After Eight mint as a symbol of infinity.  First, it was always after eight, if you thought about it.  Second, there was the subtle, if not occult, clue embedded in the name:  After 8…After ∞.  What came after ∞?  Nothing.  Exactly.  Then there was the wafer-thin mint itself.  First the delicate snap of dark chocolate, bitter as plum skin.  Then soft fondant so sweet your ears start straining back, until the peppermint invades your nasal passages like an inhalation, not so much refreshing your palate as dry-cleaning it, and leaving you fidgety for your next hit of chocolate before you’ve tongued the last trace of fondant from the roof of your mouth.  All seemed powerful arguments for never stopping eating.  And the packaging smells so good.  The crisp foil of a Bendicks chocolate mint isn’t a patch on the After Eight’s musky black envelope.  I could imagine tearing them open, this those fold-out samples you get in magazines, and smearing a hint of Rowntree’s No. 8 behind each ear.”

There is simply nothing more to say on the topic (as you would know if you have ever eaten an After Eight).  The end.  On the combination of pork and potato, Segnit takes us to Tuscany, Peru and Korea.  On Pork and Beef, she takes Vinnie from Goodfellas as her authority for the correct meat combination for good meatballs. Sylvia Plath is used to explain how chicken works with caviar (although I’m still not altogether sure I understand).  A recipe for borscht (beetroot and pork) comes directly from Audot’s French Domestic Cookery of 1846, without further elaboration.  All of it is compelling.  In short, Niki Segnit writes like precisely the sort of person I would want to go out on the lash with.

Segnit really thinks about flavour.  Have you ever really thought about flavour?  What flavour is a flavour?  Being one keenly interested in wine, and describing the flavours of them by reference to other, better known flavours (“cabernet is like blackcurrants”), I had wrongly assumed that those flavours were the prime numbers of the food world.  This book has corrected that misconception.  Segnit actually has a knack for describing what flavours flavours are.  Is there a better way of describing parsley than as tasting “of rocks, rain and lush vegetation” , or of coriander seed as having “a delicious citrus and balsamic character not unlike a nice version of those wooden balls some people keep in their underwear drawers”?

If you’re looking for culinary hand holding or some sort of didactic panacea about how to make the perfect meal, then this book is not for you.  But if you are interested in some inspired combinations and some even better, more universal, ideas behind them, then this is the book for you.  I shudder to think how long the person behind me in the bathroom queue will have to wait.

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Too good to drink

Consumers reacted badly to the release prices of 2010 Bordeaux.

For any given wine on the market you can do one of four things, which are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive:

  • Buy it and drink it;
  • Buy it and not drink it;
  • Not buy it, but drink it (a category reserved for wine critics and thieves);
  • Neither buy it nor drink it.

Let us assume that you decide to buy the wine.  Why would you decide not to drink it, having bought it?  Well, because it might go up in value, at which point you can sell it at a profit. Fair enough.  And how would you decide whether to set a particular bottle aside for that purpose?  Well, you might read the opinions of wine critics, whose assessments of wine are known to influence demand and, therefore, price.  And how would these critics arrive at their assessments?  Well, they typically go along and taste the wine and then give it a score out of 20 or 100, or a star rating, or similar.

So basically under this arrangement we make the decision not to drink wine based on expert opinion about its superior taste.

Now doesn’t that seem a little bit ridiculous?  Here’s a good wine: don’t drink it.  Or, as we are currently witnessing in respect of the 2011 Bordeaux en primeur campaign, here are some pretty average wines: drink up.

I can understand that there will always be bean counters out there who are more in love with their bank balance than with wine, and who will treat it as a commodity like gold bars rather than as a beverage produced with the intention of being consumed.  These people are responsible for the world’s greatest wines not being drunk and are therefore the scum of the earth.

But why is this absurd dichotomy between “drinking” wines and “investing” wines endorsed by the wine press?  I’ve read quite a bit about Bordeaux 2011 including many descriptions of it as a “drinking” year alongside the likes of 2004 and so forth.  It’s useful to have an assessment of the quality and character of a vintage – both in its own right and by comparison to other vintages – but I do think it’s a bit defeatist to characterise the more modest vintages as the “drinking” ones.  It rather suggests that it is a foregone conclusion that the first class wines will automatically be hived off for perennial trade on the secondary market, and the second class wines are the ones for drinking.  We might never be able to defeat the scourge of wine investment but the least the wine press can do is encourage people lucky enough to lay their hands on an expensive “investment” bottle that drinking it is a permissible, even laudable, thing to do with it.

At my neighbourhood Chinese restaurant in suburban Sydney a waitress told me that she was trying to get her hands on an empty bottle of Remy Martin XO Cognac so she could fill it with tea and put it on the top shelf at home.  Being apparently possessed of such a valuable bottle of cognac would raise her in the estimation of her friends and family.  She would save it for a “special occasion” – but of course no occasion would ever be special enough to open the “cognac” and the deceit would continue.

The Union des Grand Crus should take a leaf out of her book.  They should fill the bottles of Lafite and Latour with plonk and let the greedy traders buy and sell them to their hearts’ content, putting the real stuff in unlabelled bottles for the appreciation of true connoisseurs.  Wine isn’t like art.  Not only can the investor in art look at and enjoy the art before he sells it, but so can others.  Not so with wine.  Investing in wine denies anyone the ability to enjoy it, either because the bottle is destined not to be drunk, or because by the time it’s done the rounds on the secondary market it’s too expensive for almost anyone who might be interested in drinking it.

Obviously the above plan could never succeed, but the least we might expect is for the wine press to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.  And that starts with calling the good vintages the “drinking” ones.

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Getting Trollied

I first ate yum cha when I was 2, I am told. Apparently I ran across the restaurant and stole a bun off a trolley after my parents had paid the bill.  This caused quite some embarrassment.  Not as much embarrassment, though, as caused by the son of the friends they were eating with.  He was 5, ran over to another table, pulled down his pants and announced “look what I’ve got!”

Since then I have made it my business to go to yum cha as frequently as possible, for obvious reasons, the food being so utterly delicious.  I have many memories of hungover sessions at the Marigold, the Sky Phoenix, and whatever that one is on the corner of Hay and Pitt St street where you could eat all you like for $10 at one stage.

It seems to me the formula for a good yum cha restaurant is as follows:

  • It is run by Chinese people – they know what they’re doing and in any event it gives it the right feel;
  • Tea is put on the table straight away and refilled promptly throughout when necessary;
  • The food is served off trolleys.  This is absolutely essential for four reasons.  First, it satisfies the need for immediate satiation of the hunger that you will almost certainly have as a result of being hungover.  Secondly, it enables you to regulate the consumption to the pace that you like.  Thirdly, no menu can possibly tell you what you need to know about dim sum.  What you need to know is basically “that looks delicious”.  “Har gau”, or even “prawn dumpling” if the restaurant has bothered to translate it into Enlgish does not tell you that.  Fourthly, you are forced not to worry about the price, which enhances the enjoyment of the experience by at least 20%.

All my favourite Sydney yum cha restaurants fulfil these criteria (although I concede that it may have tbeen that fact that I grew up in Sydney that caused me to choose these criteria in the first place).

Then I moved to England, and, oh dear, they have got yum cha all wrong.  Totally and utterly wrong.

First, let us examine the properties of English people that might cause them to be a difficult market to sell proper yum cha to.  At the risk of gross generalisation, and obviously with notable exceptions:

  • English people do not like food, or at least not as much as the rest of the world does.  We are talking about a race of people otherwise of sound mind who eat pre-packaged, refrigerated sandwiches for lunch.
  • English people do not like foreigners.
  • A fortiori English people do not like foreign food.
  • English people do not like sharing food, even if it is designed to be shared.
  • English people mistrust restaurants that are not part of a chain.

As a result your typical yum cha experience in England comprises the following:

  • They incorrectly refer to it as “dim sum” rather than “yum cha”.  “Yum cha” is the meal; “dim sum” is the actual food.  You eat dim sum at yum cha.  Inviting someone to “dim sum” rather than “yum cha” is basically like inviting someone to “sandwiches” rather than “lunch” (and, by the way, yum cha is a lunch time meal).
  • You will probably eat it in a sanitized chain restaurant like Ping Pong.
  • You will have to order off a menu.
  • You may, depending on your dining companions, be forced to order and eat only for yourself, without sharing.

Accordingly the person in search of good yum cha, or, moreover a good yum cha experience in London needs to tread carefully.  Basically you have to make a choice at the outset.  Either you can choose to find a place that does “proper” yum cha with trolleys, or you can find the place with the best food (avoiding the places that do neither).  Sadly, the two do not coincide in London, not yet at least.

The only two restaurants I know of that do yum cha the proper way with trolleys etc are New World and Chuen Cheng Ku, both in Chinatown.  They each offer materially the same experience.  You will get tea immediately.   The place is full of happy Chinese people gorging themselves on dumplings.  The trolleys will come by frequently.  The food is good but not great.  You will get out for £15 a head.

If you want really excellent food, you need to go somewhere like Hakkasan.  I went on Friday, to the one in Mayfair.  The food is amazing.  The siu mai are plump and explode with fatty, porky flavour.  The wrapper of the har gau is paper thin, and you can actually see that the filling really is made from real seafood.  The cheung fan (rolled up rice noodles), which I normally think is a waste of time (just a stingily filled gluey mass) were silky and generously filled.  And, importantly, the dumplings don’t stick to the paper in the bottom of the basket.

Although the food is great the experience on the whole left me cold.  The decor is just revolting.  Slate and blue lights in the entrance hall make you feel like you’re 8 years old and going to Laser Quest for the first time.

The service is highly professional by the standards of posh west end restaurants (which, admittedly it is) but I just don’t think that’s the best milieu for yum cha.  I want tea, on the table, now.  I do not want to be brought the tea list.  I want a trolley  woman to screech “Pork dumpling! Prawn dumpling! Scallop dumpling!” at me and give an impatient look as the table considers its needs and preferences.  I do not want the svelte hostess to take my order and say in a low, husky voice “sir, the har gau comes in a serving of 3, is that all right?”  Have they really had someone complain that some of the dumplings come in 3s?  Whoever did that would have to be the miserablest person alive.

So the moral is that in London, all the features of a good yum cha experience do not yet coalesce in a single restaurant.  You have to pick your battles.  But as with everything here food wise, the scene is improving.  Once people move past the juvenile taste for Ping Pong, we might expect greatness in this area yet.

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Review: The 10 Cases/Burger & Lobster

Today, two restaurants whose names tell you everything you need to know about them (except of course the 700-odd words I felt necessary to add below).

The premise of the 10 Cases in Covent Garden is that they only buy 10 cases each of 10 white and 10 red wines, and when they run out they buy something different.  Which is pretty neat.  And the wines are good, and interesting, and all available by the glass – reason enough to go back again.  I tried a 2010 Domaine de l’Aumonier Cuvée Henri (a chenin blanc from Touraine, which was unusually fruity for a chenin blanc with an intense, penetrating, aroma of fresh pineapple and a searing finish) followed by a 2008 Schloss Halbturn Zweigelt from Burgenland in Austria, which was an excellent, peppery example of that grape variety.  There was also some Banyuls that I thought tasted a bit clapped out but by that stage I wasn’t really paying attention.  They have other odds and ends written on the wall too.

The food is good too.  Pretty basic, but the ingredients are absolutely top notch and the dishes are well executed and perfectly acceptable, especially if you care more about the wine.  Mushrooms on toast is literally mushrooms on toast, with a poached egg.  Goat’s cheese salad is literally a bowl of dressed salad leaves with some warm, gooey, ashed goat’s cheese wrapped up and served on the side.  Half a roast guinea fowl is – well, you get the idea.  You can have oysters, a rack of lamb for two, and a bunch of more interesting sounding snacks (like grilled octopus and foie gras en cocotte).  It’s all very good.  The service is bloody fantastic – knowledgeable, friendly without being overly familiar, and surprisingly cheerful for somewhere so crowded and frantic.

The fly in the ointment is the price.  It is fabulously bad value, at least as far as the starters and mains are concerned (snacks looked better value; wine is fairly priced but not a bargain).  £20 for the aforementioned guinea fowl.  £56 for a rack of lamb for 2.  That’s £56.  Nobody in London is paying £20 for a main course in a crowded bistro let alone £28 a head for a rack of lamb.  Saddle of lamb (more or less the same thing) is only £25 at the exceptionally posh Rules, just down the road.

I’m sure they have their reasons.  It can’t be easy running a decent restaurant in Covent Garden (if indeed there is one – save for 32 Great Queen Street, of course).  But as a customer I just don’t care.  The rules are easy.  No tablecloth?  Nothing beginning with the number “2”.   We are living in an age where you can get lobster in Mayfair for £20 a head for crying out loud.  Why on earth would you pay £28 a head for lamb in Covent Garden?

Which brings me to Burger & Lobster, which is an altogether different story.  For £20 you can get a burger, or a lobster, or a lobster roll.  Since you would be an idiot to spend £20 on a burger, the only real choice is therefore £20 for a lobster, or a lobster roll.  And since the lobster roll is basically the same as the lobster, but on a roll rather than in the shell, and therefore designed to help rather than hinder you eat it, it all really boils down to £20 for a lobster roll.

It’s a perfectly good lobster roll; actually it was very good indeed, for a lobster roll.  I was expecting it to be hot.  It wasn’t.  (To be fair, the non-roll lobster would have been hot).  I was expecting the chips to be triple cooked masterpieces but they were just above average French fries (interestingly, some pictures on other blogs depict fatter chips than I was served today – in which case they should change it back).  So for what it is, it’s pretty great, and exceptional value.  For me though, the elephant in the room is that lobster just isn’t that exciting eating, I’m afraid.  It’s one of those undeservedly luxury ingredients that, whilst I enjoy eating it from time to time, I don’t really see what the fuss is about.  There’s a 2 hour wait for a table at this place in peak hour; I doubt that would be the case if it was called “Burger & Prawn”, and frankly a good prawn roll would have been just as tasty.  The whole premise is just a bit ostentatious, but if lobster is what you crave, it’s the only place to go.

So basically if you’re in Covent Garden the 10 Cases is well worth a visit, but beware the bad value corners of the menu.  And if you’re in Mayfair and anything but lobster is out of the question then by all means go to Burger & Lobster.  But if you don’t fancy a 2 hour wait, or you don’t care for lobster, then, I don’t know, Beittedine Express is also on Clarges St and they do pretty good kebabs by London standards.

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On so-called “heirloom” vegetables

Heirloom tomatoes

The closest thing we have to an heirloom in the Tilley family is a pocket watch that has passed from generation to generation on my father’s side.  I’m not sure how I would feel if it I stood to inherit a tomato instead.

You may have noticed the term “heirloom” or “heritage” cropping up on menus and in market stalls with increasing frequency (often, though not exclusively, in relation to tomatoes – such as “heirloom tomato salad”).  At first I thought this was your normal bougie foodie freer-range-than thou upselling, but it turns out that an heirloom plant is an actual thing in the farming world, and this causes me some degree of concern, which I am ventilating today.

It seems to me there are 3 problems.

First, upon looking into the matter further it turns out that there isn’t actually any consensus on what qualifies something to be an “heirloom” in the first place (a bit like “super-food”, or “therapist” for that matter).  The basic requirement is that it be open-pollinated (i.e. by the birds and the bees), but beyond that there is a difference between, for example, strains of plant that have literally been passed from generation to generation on the one hand, and the cultivation of “old” varieties on the other, or even “commercial” heirlooms, i.e. the commercial cultivation of niche varieties, if you have a third hand.  So it is impossible to say what you are actually getting.  Even if there were consensus, it’s still not a particularly helpful term from a consumer’s point of view.  “Heirloom” or “heritage” does not denote a particular cultivar of vegetable.  You could just as easily be talking about the Green Zebra (which is green and striped) as the Three Sisters (which comes in three different shapes), the Polish Giant (a carnivorous variety that eats pierogi) or the Zapotec Pleated (which is self explanatory).

An heirloom dog.

Secondly, it purports to claim the moral high ground, or impose a stamp of superiority on the food that is not necessarily justified.  Heirloom varieties do not necessarily taste better, although they often do.  They are certainly knobblier and more varied in flavour, texture and appearance than the bog standard commercial varieties you find in the supermarket, and I encourage you to seek them out for that reason alone.  But they are not superior across the board.  Commercial varieties have been bred to be resilient, for obvious reasons.  Heritage plants are basically the pedigree dogs of the vegetable world and while we all enjoyed watching Elizabeth win Crufts this year, everyone knows that pedigree dogs run the serious risk of being dopey inbreds, and likewise with tomatoes, heritage varieties are reputed to be thin skinned, prone to infection and otherwise generally as vulnerable as we might expect from genetically underevolved plants.

Thirdly, it is just a dreadful word.  It makes you think of grandfather clocks or silver spoons, not salad vegetables.  It’s prone to make people think the whole idea is preposterous when it’s not really.  A properly good tag word would help people realise that there is more to tomatoes than adding filler to a ham and cheese sandwich, without making them feel like they’re ordering something idiotic.  Unfortunately  I can’t really think of a better word (bumpy? blotchy? They all sound unduly pejorative).  Maybe we should make one up.  Send in your entries.

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Wine: A Vertical Tasting of Chateau Pontet-Canet

Chateau Pontet-Canet is one of the better known classed growth properties of Bordeaux’s Medoc region because of its noted surge in quality over the last several years.  When the best Medoc producers were classified into 5 bands in 1855 (a bit like Chambers & Partners – which may mean something to you if you are a lawyer), Pontet-Canet was given (and still has) “5th Growth” status.  That sounds a bit disparaging but frankly to be within the 1855 Classification at all is an achievement since only a small percentage of Medoc wines are included.

It is old news that Pontet-Canet has successfully risen well above its station.  These days the general consensus is that it holds its own amongst the “super seconds” – those chateaux of “2nd Growth” status that rival the elite 1st Growths (of which there are only 5).  Certainly the price reflects it.  A bottle of 2009 Pontet-Canet will set you back £175 (or almost certainly not “you”, gentle reader, unless I have suddenly developed a following amongst Chinese billionaires).  Less exhalted vintages are better value, relatively, with the 2004 at a less stratospheric £50 or so.

This is an encouraging example of a producer simply sucking it up and making the best wine they can, and being rewarded by the market (a lesson that Baron Philippe de Rothschild might have been encouraged to learn.  He carried on like a whiney little bitch for most of the 20th century on account of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild only being granted 2nd Growth status.  Finally Jacques Chirac said “enough already” and promoted Mouton to 1st Growth status in 1973 – the only time a ranking has ever been changed).

There is a temptation to view Pontet-Canet’s past through the lens of its current success.  We hear all this “100 points” business and are content to allow older vintages to bask in such reflected glory.  I think that is a mistake.  We talk of Mozart’s best work being his operas but what we basically mean is Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro – two of his last.  Who’s ever heard of, let alone seen, The Pretend Garden Maid, or The Goose of Cairo?  So too, older vintages of Pontet-Canet shouldn’t be assumed to be showstoppers.

It was perhaps not realising this that I attended a vertical tasting of Pontet-Canet at the Oxford and Cambridge Club last Tuesday – thankfully uninterrupted by bearded anti-elitism protesters (although if anything this event was a more obvious candidate for it than the Boat Race).  The vintages tasted were 2008, 2007, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2000, and 1996.  Note the absence of 2005, 2009 and 2010, the three vintages that have most cemented Pontet-Canet’s stellar reputation in recent times.  I had sort of expected that the wines would be beyond criticism and a bit disappointed to find out they weren’t.  Let us be clear – these are all fine clarets and I would be frankly proud to have them in my collection and delighted to drink any of them with a meal, but under the more severe conditions of a tasting/lecture one can’t help but draw comparisons and even find fault at times.

I was lucky to be seated two down from Alex Hunt MW who made the germane observation (which I will now steal) that the wines really do disclose a story of evolution over the last 16 years.  1996 and 2000 were both great years in general but the examples from Pontet-Canet were a bit hard and austere.  Enter Michel Rolland as a consultant (say what you will), and (whether causally related or not) the wines from the 2002-2007 were all fleshier, stylish, and good performers given the vintage conditions.  The 2008 seems to be a step up again and is rich and succulent in style.  If these characteristics are correspondingly better in the great vintages of 2005, 2009 and 2010 I would fully expect the wines to be of “super second” quality.  As it was though, as a set of wines poured on that occasion, I would not say they were of borderline first-growth quality (which would be to say that these wines were virtually as good as wine gets).

My favourite of the evening was the 2004, which for me was the most complete and polished wine.  This was followed by, in order, 2008, 2003, 2002, 1996, 2000, 2007.  Note that this does not correspond with what one would necessarily expect given the repute of each vintage in general terms.  For that reason I would be interested if the opportunity ever arises to try Pontet-Canet in a horizontal tasting.  For what they are worth, here are my notes.

1996 Chateau Pontet-Canet

Classic cabernet nose of blackcurrant and cedarwood.  Some developed chewy liquorice character beginning to show but finishing quite austere.

2000 Chateau Pontet-Canet

Pronounced wood ash on the nose.  Toasty.  Angular and drying.

2002 Chateau Pontet-Canet

An excellent wine for what is not known as a good vintage – considerable freshness, finishes clean.  Balanced fruit – not overripe, not underripe.

2003 Chateau Pontet-Canet

Does not conform to the vintage cliché of being “baked”.  The fruit is certainly on the ripe, plummy side but it doesn’t taste sweet or jammy.  Decent fresh acid finish.

2004 Chateau Pontet-Canet

Complete and well balanced.  Well knit fruit and oak.  Classic, although not yet ready to drink by any means.  Still quite closed.

2007 Chateau Pontet-Canet

Greenness on both the nose and the finish.  A “bell curve” structure – the palate is commendably supple and round, perhaps relying on oak to do so, but the opening and ending are both thin.

2008 Chateau Pontet-Canet

A much more robust, succulent style.  Vigorous fruit. Show stopper style. Will be interesting to see what this is like when it’s of a drinkable age.

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In which my work is published on a real website

A couple of weeks ago Jancis Robinson (the eminent wine critic) asked me to help out with sought contributions from amateurs for her website’s restaurant column while Nick Lander, the usual restaurant critic, was away recovering from surgery.  So I threw my hat in the ring and, who’da thunk it, she has published what I wrote.  The most immediate advantage of this state of affairs is that it means I don’t have to think of anything to write this weekend.  Instead you can read my thoughts about how to decide where to eat based upon such things as light bulbs and the use of adjectives on menus here.

Co-incidentally, this week sees the release of Tyler Cowan’s “An Economist Gets Lunch” – similar sort of themes but from an economist’s point of view.  The Atlantic contains a sneak peek of some of his views, most of which I understand but a couple of which I profoundly disagree with, and might share my thoughts on if I get around to it.

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