What we’ve been drinking (12 March)

At Decanter we all love our wine, and every week members of the Decanter team - from editorial assistant to publishing director - tell us what they've been enjoying at home and when they go out... What we've been drinking index

Amy Wislocki

Managing Editor, Decanter

   Domaine Wachau, The Terraces, Gruner Veltliner 2008

Last night I enjoyed a couple of glasses of Domaine Wachau’s Gruner Veltliner, The Terraces. On offer for just a few more days at Waitrose (£7.99 down to £5.99), this is dangerously drinkable, with the crisp, spicy, mineral notes you want from a Gruner, but also rounded appley fruit. Even better, it avoids the high alcohol content of many Gruners (weighs in at 12%). Was tempted to pour myself another glass, but restrained myself…

Mark O’Halleron

Tastings Executive, Decanter

   Ayala, Perle d’Ayala, 2000

This certainly wasn’t on my personal tasting schedule this week, but it became essential drinking after the cage was damaged following its coming together with a bottle of Lebanese red during an exploration of my gloomy cellar/cupboard under the stairs – the offering from Lebanon came off far worse. Thus it was something of a mid-week treat, with coils of bubbles swirling up the glass at a restrained pace. Delightful, apricot patisserie aromas on the nose. In the mouth, it was textured and mineral, with crushed nuts, waxy fruit, gentle spice and dried red fruits. It was dry and taut – a real palate-clencher.

Guy Woodward

Editor, Decanter

   Legacy Syrah, Milbrandt Vineyards, Washington State 2005

It’s been a week of Syrah, a variety I always find a great combatant of London winters. It’s also a variety that is garnering an increasing reputation in Washington State, until now better known for its Pinot Noir. Among a fine, evolving Côte Rotie (Domaine Clusel-Roch 2004) and a bright and breezy Chilean version (Montes Alpha 2006), this stood out – in a big way. Dense, smokey and brambley on the nose, but with an inviting, lifted note. On the palate it’s rich, dense and juicy, with dark berries, but not overblown. Has impact and class, in a stylish, confident way.

Adam Lechmere

Web Editor, decanter.com

   Bodegas Baigorri, Reserva, Rioja 2004

Baigorri is one of the most striking wineries in Rioja – an extraordinary glass and concrete structure clinging to the hillside in Rioja Alavesa. The reception is a huge glass cube, furnished with nothing more than some ultra-modern leather couches. They’ve done something to the feng shui, or whatever it is – last time I was there, I had to wait half an hour and spent it in the most pleasurable state of suspended animation, gazing out across the hills and thinking of nothing at all. And that was before lunch. This is an modern wine but with the lovely refreshing acidity you need and demand in Rioja. There’s sweet red fruit, cream and spice, lots of new oak giving it a strong powerful mouthfeel. Power and elegance combined, modern without being international. Delicious. Drunk with beouf bourguignon, of all things, and quite robust enough for that.

Lucy Shaw

Editorial Assistant, Decanter

   Muromachi Shuzo Co, Kodawari-Bikanshu Honjozo, Hire-Zake (Blowfish fin Sake)

Eating blowfish is a dangerous game. Their internal organs contain a toxin 10,000 times more poisonous than cyanide, and if cooked incorrectly can cause all number of exciting symptoms: intoxication, light-headedness, numbness of the lips, dizziness and deadening of the tongue to name but a few. Daredevil diners seek out blowfish in the hope of experiencing some of these strange sensations. In severe cases, eating a dodgy blowfish can result in death, as the poison can paralyze your diaphragm muscles, leading to suffocation. It can also cause comas that last several days.

I’m all for new experiences and pushing the envelope, but have to admit to being more than a little nervous about sipping on the blowfish fin Sake I was offered last Thursday at a curious Sake tasting in the basement of a sushi restaurant in central London. Cups were being passed round and it would have been rude to refuse, so I took a deep breath and hoped for the best. The Sake was served warm and had a potent nose of mushroom, truffle, forest floor, cigar smoke, earth, peat and charcoal. It tasted, unsurprisingly, of fish, but after a few seconds the fishiness subsided, clearing the way for the forest floor aromas to reappear. Pungent and intense, a couple of sips told me all I needed to know. After a minute I hadn’t keeled over, which I took as a good sign. And not a numb lip in sight.

John Abbott

Deputy Editor, decanter.com

   Chateau Tooting, Unknown Blend, Inside the M25, London 2009

Strictly speaking, this was a launch tasting, but the absence of spittoons, tasting sheets and Riedels quickly pointed to the warming reality that this was in fact a celebration, and an endearing one at that.

‘I’m a donater,’ one lady told me as she stared at my aerating motion. ‘I live on a run-down estate with guns and knives.’

‘When they came to my door to get the grapes (they had to collect them, I’m on benefits) they were amazed at the abundance of grapes on the vine.’

‘I think they were surprised I turned up tonight, they weren’t expecting to see me. But they remembered coming to my house.’

Chateau Tooting is the result of the Urban Wine Company’s project to make a wine from grapes found in the back gardens of London.

In truth, it’s an appellation regulators nightmare. Nobody I spoke to seemed to have a clue what grape varieties had gone into it – and judging by the video of the crushing day, it’s probably best not to probe.

But watching the social function of the project in action, and all the would-be vintners comparing stories, was excellent. So too the boxes marked-up to go back to the contributors – ‘Ch. Clapham’ etc.

‘Come on then, what’s your score,’ the donator prompted. ‘I reckon 4 out of 10 – I don’t really like wine.’

Coppery tinged, and a little shy on aromatics, the wine was as delightfully puckering as the finest Grand Cru vin clairs. It had fruit of sorts, and enough acidity to be sure of still going strong by the time the 2109 vintage is bottled. Malolactic would probably have stripped it of its bright character, but perhaps the future for Chateau Tooting lies in dosage and a second fermentation.

I reiterate. This was no tasting. Thus, I admit, I drank Chateau Tooting and I enjoyed it.

Tina Gellie

Chief Sub Editor, Decanter

   Bodegas Fernando de Castilla, Antique Amontillado, Jerez, Spain NV

A few years ago at a tasting competition, my fellow judges and I were floored by the beauty of Fernando de Castilla’s Antique Oloroso – so much so that we invented a trophy on the spot, as a gold medal didn’t seem enough merit. So when its little brother, this Antique Amontillado, was entered in the Decanter World Wine Awards last year, I extolled the bodega’s virtures to all who would listen, predicting similar trophy glory. I was not at all surprised – indeed, even smug – when it won the Dry Fortified Trophy Over £10. I was surprised, however, to find a bottle on my desk not long after, with a yellow post-it note attached. ‘Enjoy’, it said, Alice-like, with a smiley face. I’ve managed to resist opening it for six months or so, but some superb dry-cured beef and salty cheese crying out for a Sherry proved too much of a temptation this week. Deliciously complex, long and refined with a rich, tangy walnut skin aroma and a mouthwateringly dry, cedary, nutty, cigar- smoke palate with a waft of marmalade on the finish. Awesome. Here’s hoping the DWWA post-it-note fairy is kind to me again this year.

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