Saturday, June 28, 2008

Blend your way out of a corner

First things first. Don't try this at home. On the assumption that you follow the Huckleberry Finn principle and do the opposite of what I suggest, let's proceed. Am off to Spain tomorrow for a trip around Galicia - I'm expecting a version of Catalonia but with more in-breeding and more drinkable wines...

As a farewell meal, and to celebrate the two bairns receiving especially complimentary school reports, we spent an afternoon trudging around for a new curtain pole and then going to watch Kung Fu Panda - 5/10, some funny bits but very crap philosophically in that you-have-the-power-within-you type of way. On return Chez De Bois, it was already early evening, so I hastily bunged some chicken bits, chopped onions, garlic, herbs etc. into a very hot oven - OK, as hot as a built-in Whirlpool will manage - before proceeding to mount the curtain pole - desist with your fnarr, fnarr's. An hour later, the pole and the chook were both ready, but I'd forgotten to get something to drink. First port of call was Elio Grasso Gavarini Langhe Nebbiolo 2006. Unoaked quasi-Barolo, from one of Piedmont's top estates. Sadly not the right choice, at least for the occasion. With a little more persuasion, it began to show lovely wild, ferrous yet shy flavours, and the promise of further pleasures for the patient, but straight from the cellar, it was a sulky adolescent.

Next try, South Australia, and Noon Eclipse 1998. I know, a massive change of tack. But I remember visiting McLaren Vale in 1999 when I was the guest judge at the regional show there and being very impressed by Master of Wine Drew Noon's rich yet subtle reds. He even featured in my speech at the judge's dinner - I'm afraid I sang, 'Drew Noon, you saw me standing alone...' On return to blighty, bought a mixed case of 1998 Noon reds (Isabella's birth year) and I think this is the first I've uncorked (and yes, I bought them before Parker showered them with points). And a lovely wine it is too, rich, but not one of those fruit bombs, lush in the right places, but with genuine terroir characters emerging. Full of those slightly ever-so-minty, tar-like edges that many beefier Aussie reds acquire with time, and very much fighting fit on its 10th birthday. And yet... I don't know what was the problem, but it just didn't Do The Do with the chicken.

And so the blend was born. The Nebbiolo was young, perfumed, and gawky, the Eclipse more bumptious, yet still with fine bone structure beneath it's larger exterior. Both had a tar-like edge, neither was a bimbo. And the blend? The 50-50 mix that is fuelling this post seems to extract all the fine points of each wine. It has the vigour, perfume and ferrous edge of the Grasso, plus the earthier, plusher liquorice edges of the Noon. A lovely combination that tonight at least - and this is after giving both constituents a chance to open up and show more of their true colours - is better than the sum of the parts.

But as I said at the start, DON'T try this at home

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