Wednesday, 27 November 2013


Last week saw the culmination of many tweets, a bit of haggling and some organisation. Last Tuesday evening I drove to a hotel about 20 minutes from my house, had a couple of drinks with a new friend, and exchanged 4 of my own bottles of wine with 4 of his. We performed a 'Wine Swap'!

To explain a bit, I'll go back in time a few months. I joined Twitter at a similar time to starting this blog. I started to follow many individuals who are involved in the wine industry, to try and keep up-to-date on current wine affairs. These were people I'd heard about, or read articles by, or knew in person already. Big names to start with, Jancis Robinson, Jamie Goode and Hugh Johnson for example. Now, Twitter does a useful thing, of telling you who else follows, or starts to follow, these people. It also advises you as to who you could follow based on your current Twitter activities. Through these kind suggestions, I came across the phenomenon of the #WineSwap (Hashtag WineSwap). This 'trend' was started by two chaps from Birmingham, Matt and James.

The #WineSwap was an idea they came up with, simply from doing it themselves, realising that it may take-off on a wider scale. Matt and James, and their other friends, were already talking about each others wines, discussing their collections. They decided that should one person buy a case of many bottles, it would be good to swap some of those for bottles from a mate's collection. When you only have a small collection, having many of the same wine takes up space and narrows your choice. Swapping some of those 'excess' wines for others, broadens your collection in an easy and trustworthy way. It allows you to try different styles of wine from different regions, producers or vintages. Twitter is simply the conduit tool for the idea. It makes it easy to spread the word using the trend '#WineSwap', acting as a search tool.

As well as this, the lads thought they would try something slightly different, which they call 'The Quest'. This idea is simply to exchange a bottle of wine worth £5, for a Chateau Latour 1982. Obviously, this won't be done in one go. The idea is to make incremental #WineSwaps, that steadily get them closer to the goal. I think they explain it slightly better on their website here. Matt and James blog about the Quest, so go and have a read, it's very interesting so far.

So, having gotten in touch with both Matt and James on Twitter, I told them I had some bottles I was willing to swap. In Matt's case, I'd read about his trip to Rioja, and was pleased when he wanted to swap some Bodegas Muga (Rioja Alta). James wanted to swap some excess Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux. The precise swaps were actually: a bottle each of Chateau La Tour de Bessan 2009 and Chateau Chasse-Spleen 2005, from my cellar, for Muga's Seleccion Especial 2009 and 2006 (respectively) from Matt. James wanted to swap 2 bottles of my Chateau Potensac 2008 for 2 bottles of his Chateau Poujeaux 2008. In all cases, these seem like very fair trades, in terms of both quality and worth.

Having arranged all this via Twitter, James met me at the hotel he was staying at while away for work. Conveniently for me, it was much closer than Birmingham, and James was to be there anyway. We met in the evening and had a couple of drinks, we chatted about a lot of wine-related things, especially the #WineSwap concept, and ultimately left with new wines.

The outcome to all this then, is that I feel I have not only expanded my cellar, but additionally made new acquaintances, and learned more about the world of wine. If I ever have bottles of wine I feel I don't need (a rare occurrence) or someone offers me a bottle (or two) of something I want, I shall most definitely consider a #WineSwap, it's a great idea! I certainly intend to keep in touch with Matt and James, and may try to wheedle my way in to tasting their '82 Latour!

Read more about the #WineSwap blog and keep up-to-date with the Quest at Or if you're interested in a WineSwap, look for the trend on Twitter.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Chateau Cambon la Pelouse, 2006, Haut-Medoc.

Now I know it's not #winewednesday, but I felt like a small reward was required having done a bit of long-awaited DIY. I decided to sample a wine that has been sat in the rack for a few months. I picked up a bottle of the 2006 Cambon la Pelouse in Morrisons, on a bit of a sale. I think it was about £12, down from about £16. This is a pretty good price for a 'Cru Bourgeois Superieur'. This is actually a somewhat defunct classification now, as the Cru Bourgeois system has had several revamps over the last 10 years. As of 2010, the 'superieur' and 'exceptionnel' titles have been lost, although a single-tier Cru Bourgeois still remains.

I bought this wine for two reasons. Firstly, it was a good value, mature claret that should be well in it's drinking window, so should be delicious. Secondly, I know that Sainsbury's are currently selling the same wine from the 2009 vintage. I was hoping to try a mature version of this wine, since the 2009 (although an early maturing vintage) would probably be a little young. Sainsbury's have the 2009 at just under £20, which is starting to become less bargainous, unless the wine is exceedingly good. If I liked the 2006 enough, it might be worth buying one or two of the 2009 for the cellar.

So, how is She? (That's right, i've anthropomorphised my wine!)

In the glass, the 2006 Cambon la Pelouse is an intense, deep, maroon red. Only a mild hint of purple, with a lighter, slightly brown edge. Good signs of a wine with a bit of bottle age. Up to the light, the wine is very clear, and shows a little more browny shades. On the nose, overwhelmingly classic. I'm not sure what the blend is with this wine, but i'd say it's a cracking example of a left-bank claret. Up front is a bunch of oaky, smokey aromas, some cedar wood and pencil lead. This is combined with ripe and juicy cassis. The blackcurrent is typical, but there is a little dark cherry too. In the layer underneath, i got something floral, maybe violets, a little bit of truffle and something really savoury, a little like chilli! Not spicy, this was like green peppers, but much less sweet. I tried hard, but i couldn't find any liquorice, which actually appeals to me.

On the palate, this is an exampe of a well-made, balanced wine. It doesn't sing as loudly as some wines i've experienced, but the sweet, dark fruits, especially blackcurrents are there, and the mouthfeel is smooth. In the finish, there are some tannins. Although fairly smooth and soft, they are a touch grainy and impart a chewy-ness. This isn't unpleasent really, and the finish lingers for a long time. It's a lovely, smooth finish with little, if any, pepper/spice.

This is a lovely wine, quite ready for drinking, although it still displays fruit, acidity and tannins that mean it should have a fair amount of life left. If the fruit hangs on, then there is a good amount of acidity and tannin to keep it's complexity.

I'm pleased with this wine and like it very much. It isn't a blockbuster, but is delightful, and it suited my 'I fancy a treat' whim. At £12 this was a great value Bordeaux. Considering the 2009 is a little more expensive, i'm not so sure it would be worth the investment without a sample first. However, i'm pleased enough with the 2006, that if Sainsbury's decide to put the 2009 on sale, it may very well be worth a blind punt! Let's wait and see...

Monday, 4 November 2013

Chateau Le Boscq, 2006 - It's the taking part that counts!

Nothing much written recently. Sorry, but I've had a busy work period, leading up to a holiday. This has meant not much time for extra-curricular activities. As such, writing about wine has been put on the back-burner. This evening though, I've been thinking that i should get back into it, and what to write about next.

There's a lot of potentially wonderful wine-related topics to choose from. I'm preparing for my WSET qualification and my head is swimming with possibilities. Right now though, I'm not in such an analytical mood. I would like to tell the world about the 2006 Chateau Le Boscq I'm drinking, but I'm struggling to put my finger on the aromas and the flavours. I know its good, but my eloquence isn't flowing!

It's at this point that i realise that maybe sometimes, that's all you need. I don't feel like analysing my wine this evening. I've been to a lot of tastings recently, and 'written-up' a lot of wines in my journal. Tonight, i'm just going to enjoy this wine for what it is. At a basic level, wine is a drink that should smell and taste good. It doesn't have to be broken down in to it's elements or scored.

For those who want to know if the Le Boscq '06 is any good, well, it is! It's a lovely, mature claret that smells and tastes good! It's nothing mind-blowing, but it's ready for drinking, and if you have some, or see some on a shop shelf, get it and drink it!

I'm about to get some cheese and biscuits to eat with my wine. I've quite anjoyed the realisation and rememberance that, ultimately, we're supposed to enjoy the products we buy and consume. So that's exactly what I'm going to do! I hope you enjoy whatever you're eating or drinking this evening. I know this yummy wine may not last long!