Sunday, 18 January 2009

White in winter?

I got a surprise phone call from my brother the other night saying that he would be in Paris on business and asking if he could he stay a bit longer. (Accountants have all the fun! I have to pay for everything but luckily I have enough savings and an accountant as my brother!)

I decided on Au petit fer à cheval, a place I love in the Marais, a tightly packed back room of a bar with a horseshoe shape (hence the name). This quartier is a bustling and trendy area housing a fantastic array of restaurants, bars, cafés, the heart of truly Gaie Paris (if you get my drift), and the Jewish quarter with some fantastic places to get a lunchtime bite to eat. To me, a hearty onion soup with cheesy croutons in this bleak weather and something like a lamb shank with flageolets, maybe, to finish, would do the trick. Winter warmers to fortify the stomach, all washed down with a spicy and tannic red.

So it was a surprise that, as we decided to catch up in the flat, he brought out a bottle of chilled Menetou Salon (2007 Lasalle). (Brrr! I shouldn’t be ungrateful, but thank goodness the flat had heating). Menetou Salon is a small wine growing area that produces wines just next door to its superior rival Sancerre, and, although the clay soils of Menetou Salon provide different flavours against the contrasting Sancerre chalk base, what it does produce is no less delicious when you think of the commercial advantage that Sancerre has in comparison. So for an old sentimentalist like me, its most superior wines are all the more precious.

The sauvignon blanc has a warm and light straw colour, and light legs as it is turned in the glass, contrasting against the grey and wet picture through my window. Dipping my nose in, the citrus notes of lemon and gooseberry merge with a hint of under ripe apricot, then give way to real grass and herbaceousness; coriander (yes, coriander! I kid you not), and a finish of cream.

Already salivating at the anticipation of the taste (and at this point I have to pause to explain to Ben why a beer just won’t do), there is lemon, again, but with hints of the tropics. Unctuous creaminess balances well with the subtle tones of pineapple, some grapefruit, but citrus acidity overall, and a mineral kick from the flint. The herbs come out as it rests; basil? Tarragon? Either way a slight liquorice tang compliments the mineral and creamy unctuousness, becoming more lemony and creamy as the glass reaches its optimum temperature. The wonderful acidity lingers in the mouth, the sense of steel and flint and lemon really do make your mouth water and thirst for more, but the finish is creamy and wonderfully round.

This is pure, balanced, complex and well made Sauvignon as the French truly make it. Not the gushing exoticism of BIG fruits from the New World. I am pleased by the excellent choice of my brother, but then we do share the same genes!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Hair of the dog

Is it me or does the world seem a more dismal and drearier place after the excitement of Christmas and the New Year parties? My thoughts of alcohol of any variety are definitely in the grim lavatory just down the corridor at the moment as I write this from the Eurostar travelling from St Pancras to Gare du Nord to the empty flat in one of the most bustling parts of Paris itself. It is strange how the echo inside the flat contrasts with the wonderfully busy road outside and the rumbles of the metro, traffic and general chatter that switches off so easily when the window shuts it out? I am looking forward to the peace and solitude while my hangover eases and my stomach goes from acid rebellion to acceptance of food and maybe a little wine later on.

My aim this year is to write a diary on as much wine as I can, not quite a bottle a day, even my liver cannot possibly take that for the full 365 days of the year, but a log of tastings inspired by Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries and with the suggestion of my good friend Werds. Maybe I should keep in the mould and call it my Cellar Diaries (but that would be pretentious if you could see the place I am living in)?

First stop this week is to the barbers for my hair, or lack of it, and a shave. Five days growth means absorbing smells in my beard that would influence my tastebuds (or so they told me at wine school). After that I will dare to go into my off license, Nicolas, for a sample of their wine of the month or suitable alternative.

In the meantime, as I summon up the courage of the first mouthful of wine and keep my stomach from going into spasms of protest, I just wanted to wish all my friends and whoever may see this a very Happy New Year...