4 January 2008
By Douglas Blyde
IF YOU hadn't already noticed, alcohol in wine is rising, as it seems is our interest in this multi-faceted drink. Could there be a link? Are the bold, luxuriously fruit-driven, often vanilla scented wines of the New World a stylistically full-throttle antidote to those of the elegantly reticent, earthy, classically old? Is this preferential 'phase' as simple as blockbuster versus art house cinema?
Certainly I enjoy the clotted cream, raisin and hearty cassis scented flavours within wines pivoted around the 15p/c mark, particularly with a few settling years behind them. But I also yearn for the gossamer textured, cedar and truffle evoking, perhaps more feminine renditions more closely clustered around a staple 12.5p/c. It simply depends on my mood, although the majority of studies (conducted no doubt initially vertically, then horizontally) suggest that through increased technology and a warmer, sunnier world climate, all wines are inevitably on the upward trajectory.
I recently dined at outspoken chef, Rowley Leigh's spacious new Bayswater restaurant, Le Café Anglais. Believing that the upfront flavours and alcoholic fire fronds of New World wines are too unfair a fight for his classical food, he has outlawed their inclusion from his list. Behemoth bottles, tamed only by black pudding burgers, become the equivalent of lacing paraffin on the flames. But it isn't always as simple as A.B.V. It is rather a question of balance.
Can the burly being pull of its weight? In my experience, an under-ripe, stalky, anorexic wine is a far more deeply unpleasant experience than a big, happy, eagerly leaping Labrador…
Seghesio Zinfandel is a big, balanced Californian red worth dipping into. From a family business with roots dating back to 1895 comes a fruit-packed extravaganza with brandy butter, concentrated damson and coconut notes. John Wayne, bottled. Despite its 15.2p/c confidence, it is poised and dangerously drinkable. [£15.99, www.philglas-swiggot.com]
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