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Educational [Apr. 14th, 2019|12:42 pm]
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This is another post composed incrementally. It was already overdue, and taking shape in my mind if not on the page, when a feature in last Saturday's Guardian provided the perfect opening. In the week's piece about unlikely house-shares; the teacher and the student (not currently in a teacher / student relationship):
He once said, "You've made my life so different. I'm learning so much." I thought, "What's he talking about, quantitative analysis?"

"No," he said. "Now I know what shiraz is."

Which is as good a way as any into a post about how the last third of March (yes, as I said, overdue) seems to have been awash with good wine.

It began with a Quiz Team dinner; we have done this before, just over a year ago, and I explained at the time how it works, and why. I had forgotten that on that occasion we had battled through the snow to this long awaited party; maybe that's the frisson that was missing from the repeat engagement. It was a very pleasant, sociable evening, and there was indeed plenty of good wine. One of us (not me) had remarked rather wistfully that if we had a free hand with the wine list, it would be good to ask for the Château Musar to be opened in advance, and another of us (me, this time) had said that in that case, we should ask for it to be not only opened but decanted, and C., who organised the booking, had actually done this. Once upon a time I was quite passionate about Château Musar, and (whether the wine has changed or I have) I still like it, but without the same excitement. Still, there was something special about being shown into the barrel-vaulted private dining room, to see three decanters of Château Musar, each with its empty bottle standing sentry beside it. Yes, spot the deliberate mistake there: it would have been better not quite to empty it, but to leave the sediment in the bottle. Despite which, the wine was rich and velvety and without the overtones of boiled fruit pudding and acidity I've tasted in it lately, so maybe decanting really is a magic trick, and not just showing off. There were other wines, too: there had to be, we were a large party, and we had drunk them out of Château Musar. Getting into the swing of things, I ordered the Tignanello - a super-Tuscan, and their most expensive red - and it was delicious, and I was glad to have had a chance to try it. But I didn't like it twice as much as the Gigondas at half the price: someone else's choice, because we have plenty of Rhône at home.

In the course of the evening, C. mentioned that she was preparing a tasting of wines from south-west France for the wine club of which she is a member. South-west France? I'd probably have begged an invitation, even if I'd been entirely sober and C. hadn't suggested in the past that we would be welcome to visit the wine club. So within the week we were once more sampling numerous wines in excellent company. This time the setting was domestic, one of the club members taking their turn to host the session (and cook the cassoulet); and I won't say the wines were better, since that's an entirely subjective matter, but they were certainly more interesting, and more to my taste (not to mention, all from the Wine Society, which makes it easy to order more). We started with a light and spritzy Gaillac (Esprit de Labastide), delightful in itself and because it made me think fond thoughts of Gaillac, then via Bergerac, Jurançon, and an apparently quite forgettable Irouléguy or two to a stunning Madiran (Domaine Pichard 2009), the iron fist in the velvet glove. I was particularly interested to taste the two Jurançons from Domaine Cauhapé, because I loved their 'Chant des Vignes': it was for a while our house white, even when its price went up, and now it seems to have vanished altogether, and the 'Geyser' with which the Wine Society have replaced it is even more expensive. This was a great opportunity to discover whether there might well be a place in my life for the 'Geyser' (if only it didn't cost £13.95 a bottle) but on fact it is no substitute for the 'Chant des Vignes'. It is not, whatever the Wine Society may claim, bone dry: its rich fruit is balanced by a fresh acidity, but it doesn't have the clean, almost saline austerity I loved in the 'Chant des Vignes' (and in the Domaine Tinou, for that matter). Pleasant enough (I liked it better than the Bergerac, the most contentious wine in the tasting) but it felt a little half-hearted compared to the 'Ballet d'Octobre', which which we ended the tasting, though its fresh fruitiness is closer to a moelleux than a full-on dessert wine - there may be a clue in the name, because October is early to harvest for a dessert wine in that region.

In the intervening weeks, we opened and drank our last bottle of 'Chant des Vignes': with regret, because it's the last bottle (It still appears on the domaine's website: maybe we should visit) but knowing that it's not going to improve with age - and it may already have been a little sodter, a little mellower, a little closer to the 'Geyser'.

We have a claret-loving friend who occasionally summons us: I have some bottles which really need drinking, come and help! It would be a pleasure to visit him anyway, but this is a good excuse, so on the last day of March we took the bus to Tudhoe, and had a splendid time. I don't know what we were drinking, and I probably didn't appreciate it as it deserved, but I enjoyed it very much, and the conversation even more.</cute>

After all this wine, yesterday was all about the food (mostly at Bishop Auckland Food Fair) - but that's another story.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.