“Exactly HOW did you become quite this boring Mike?” It’s an often asked question. Sadly I have to reply that for me it comes naturally. For those less gifted I’m afraid there’s no short-cut…you simply HAVE to put the requisite hours in to learn how to become anywhere near as tedious as I am.
So if you’re feeling ready to take your first baby steps towards coming a wine bore our good friends at Fifteen have opened up the opportunity for our wine club members to join in their Wine and Spirits Education Trust level 2 training.
Fortunately the course is being run by the highly entertaining and extremely knowledgable Gordon Lawrence – former sommelier at Fifteen, wine guru and all round good guy. He’ll be able to cover off all you need to know about the world of wine in a friendly, informative and accessible style. He knows nothing about being boring though – for that you’ll need to come back to the master.
The dates are:
It is essential for the candidates to attend every date. The day runs from 9.30am – 5.00pm (approx) and will be held in the restaurant at Fifteen Cornwall alongside our Fifteen staff.
The price of the course is £300 (including VAT)
Gordon has a 100% pass rate for his WSET courses and the split is as follows…
Pass with merit 50%
Pass with distinction 21%
The course would suit anyone who’d like to learn more about wine but from a professional perspective this is what the course can deliver:
The WSET® Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits is intended for those who have little or no previous knowledge of the broad range of wines and spirits. It is suitable wherever a sound but simple level of product knowledge is required to underpin job skills and competencies for example, in the customer service and sales functions of the hospitality, retailing and wholesaling industries. It is also useful for those who have a serious interest in wine, and wish to broaden their knowledge in a structured way. Successful candidates will be able to interpret the labels of the major wines and spirits of the world and give basic guidance on appropriate selection and service, as well as understand the principles of wine tasting and evaluation.
If you’d like to sign up for the course please contact the lovely Claire Geach at Fifteen.
01637 861000 ex:297
As we wave a fond farewell to 2015, Mike reflects on a few of his favourite wines of the year.
“So what’s your favourite wine in the shop then?” It’s a question I’m often asked and one I always struggle to answer. My favourites tend to ebb and flow with the seasons, the weather, the food I feel like eating and the general mood I’m in. I guess you could call me fickle.
So with the year drawing to a close I thought I’d give the question some proper consideration…and I still failed to come to a definitive conclusion by any objective measure. Which of course leads me to the fertile territory of the subjective! The answers came much more easily when I considered the question through the prism of my fondest memories of 2015 that involved wine in some way.
So here it is – nothing overly cerebral here. Just half a dozen superb wines that I can heartily recommend to you – both for the quality of the wines and the memories they invoke. Predictably perhaps, most are linked to our summer holiday in Bordeaux and Brittany. You might find some of the choices surprising – I tend to take wines that I’ve not tried in while with us on holiday – I can convince myself that I’m sort of working that way.
Altair Sideral 2010, Chile – £17.50
After an epic drive to Bordeaux following a night on the ferry to Santander (I am not a good sailor) we arrived at our final destination – the simply stunning Cap Ferret in Bordeaux. Our campsite was in a shaded forest providing a bit of respite from the searing heat and yet was only 15 minutes walk from an endless beach overlooking the Atlantic. After setting up camp our much anticipated first meal was a sunset beach barbeque. For me the Sideral will always be associated with watching Mary and Harry run from the breaking waves while Tom (then aged 18 months) snored gently in his pram beside me. Aromas of charcoal and searing meat hung in the air, a few beach camp fires licked into life as the sun dipped beneath the horizon and a starscape free of light pollution slowly appeared.
I doubt that the Sideral will ever again taste quite as good as it did to me that night, but I’ve drunk it many times since and it never disappoints. We tend to associate Chile with value but they make excellent mid price to high end wines too – the Sideral is a great example. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Camenere grapes conspire to produce a wine full of deep, black fruit flavours with an elegant toasty edge. A lovely wine that would make a great match roast lamb or beef if you don’t have a barbeque on a remote, warm beach in your immediate future.
Fritz Willi Riesling 2012 – £11.50
I’m very fond of this offering from Mosel in Germany. It’s the first wine that I felt like I “found” when we took over at BinTwo some two years ago now. I remember thinking that this was a wine that could consign memories of Blue Nun and Black Tower to the history books and introduce an authentic, good-quality German offering to our shelves. in technical terms it was a bit of a punt (and a more successful one that the unfairly maligned Retsina that I brought back from the same tasting).
I love it now as I loved it then. Full of fresh, juicy pear flavours and the classic texture you’d hope for from a Riesling, this little cracker has an unexpected spritz on the palate and that hint of fizz is great fun. It also makes for a clever pun explaining the “fritz” in the Fritz Willi. Plus of course it’s got “Willi” in the name which is always good for a bit of schoolboy humour and we all know how I enjoy that.
The other happy association for me was introducing it to one of my oldest friends who was camping with us in Bordeaux. He’s half German and tasting Fritz Willi proved a bit of a revelation for him. I’d never before seen him enthuse about wine particularly but he immediately waxed lyrical about what an authentic German wine it was and how it opened up all manner of happy memories from his childhood and early teens in Germany. It was a side of his life that he’d not shared before and I know a guy I thought I knew inside out a little better as a consequence. Good wine shared with good friends. A bit of food under the stars on a balmy evening. Good conversation and happy memories. What more can you expect from a wine.
Naiades 2010 – £21.00
As we casually strolled round yet another idyllic French market, Mary declared that she quite fancied Skate wings for supper. “Nothing complicated” she chirped. “Just keep it simple – maybe serve it with a beurre noix and some sautéed potatoes”. From Mary’s casual assumption that I would whip this up a number of conclusions can be drawn including:
1. The default assumption in our household is that I will be cooking supper.
2. This assumption becomes a fixed reality when we are camping.
3. Mary has a touching degree of faith in my ability to whip up a “simple” meal on a single ring gas burner.
Never let it be said that I’m one to shy away from a challenge though. With a little effort (and not a little swearing) a meal approximating her request was presented to the hungry mouths of the Boyne clan. Any deficiencies in the cooking were offset by a simply stunning Spanish white – the Naiades 2010. This elegant 100% verdejo was loaded with bright fruit flavours – melon, kiwi and grapefruit all helping to cut through the rich flesh of the skate and the (rather brown) beurre noix. All that gentle acidity was held in check with a very long, very elegant finish. One of those wines where the flavours keep developing on your palate long after the wine’s been quaffed.
Amarone Della Valpolicella 2010 – £42.00
We may own a wine shop but sneaking home a bottle of this luscious Italian red still represents a very rare treat in the Boyne household. It was the priciest number in our summer holiday wine case and I guess it’s appropriate that we saved the best for last. Our seven year old son Harry requested “surf and turf” barbeque for his final holiday meal (setting the bar high there lad but a good choice nonetheless). As we hit the French market in Carnac for the final time – seemingly leaving with half a cow and the contents of the Mediterranean – I relished the fact that the little fella had unwittingly picked a menu that perfectly matched this finely-structured Italian Corvina blend laden with deep flavours of black fruits, a velvety texture and a lingering, complex finish. I know it’s not a wine that most of us will drink regularly but you really ought to treat yourself sometime…because you’re worth it.
Lis Neris Pinot Grigio 2012 – £18.00
Now I know what you’re thinking…”Really? a Pinot Grigio in your top six?” This is indeed a Pinot Grigio…but not as you know it. Set aside thoughts of thin and unexciting “value” PGs – this beautiful little number is far from typical for the variety. That’s apparent as soon as you pour it – the honey colour promises something with more flavour than you’d expect from a Pinot Grigio. That’s backed up with loads of aroma, bold but smooth flavours of lychee and pink grapefruit, nicely balanced acidity and a lovely rich texture. It’s a stunner and perhaps fills the territory somewhere between a Pinot Grigio and a Pinot Gris. In any event it’s lovely and this sumptuous little Italian beauty deserved better treatment than we were able to give her.
She sticks in the memory as she was consumed in a motorway rest area somewhere between sunny, warm Bordeaux and windy, rainy Brittany. We had to make an unplanned overnight stop in that grim little rest area due to the storm force headwinds that we were driving into. With a very unlikely food match of sausage cassoulet (probably closer to sausage and bean stew to be honest) it was pretty much the only bright memory from that stage of our trip and was the
nectar that stopped me griping about relocating from sun-kissed Bordeaux to somewhere on roughly the same latitude as Dover.
I’m over it now…just.
Chateau Civrac 2008 – £12.50
Long term readers may recognise my fond memories of the time we spent at Château Civrac with Cornishman turned Bordeaux winemaker Mark Hellyar & his wife Sarah. Many of you will know the story of how they rescued a neglected Château & vineyard near Bourg sur Gironde & you may have tasted their wines at BinTwo. Certainly it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of their work but visiting the vineyard really brought their inspiring story to life.
Winemaking, as I witnessed, is hard graft & the Hellyars are right in the thick of it. Their winery dates back to the late 18th century & remains largely unchanged. The early 20th century saw the addition of concrete storage tanks as used by Pétrus (fantastic for maintaining stable storage conditions) & Mark has grafted on the bare minimum of 21st century technology to improve electronic temperature & quality control. But otherwise their processes remain remarkably traditional – if a small scale, high quality, genuinely crafted product is your thing then look no further.
We love working with winemakers that we can get behind. There’s something exciting about the feeling that you’ve discovered something that you think customers will love – something with a great story behind a great wine. If it’s keenly priced then so much the better! It sounds like a cliché but our relationship as the intermediary between wine-maker and you the customer is at its best when it feels like a genuine partnership and that’s the relationship we enjoy with the Civrac gang.
The Civrac 2008 ended up on our terrace menu this year by very happy accident. Our planned introduction of Mark’s Indigo blend had to be deferred so Mark worked with us to provide the stunning 2008 at a price that enabled us to adopt it as our entry level terrace red. We’ve passed that reduction on to you which means that the 2008 is among the very best bang for your bucks in the shop! We tasted the 2008 a couple of years ago and it’s since then it’s really come into its own developing into a beautifully well aged wine. Middle-weight, bright dark fruit flavours with a savoury edge. Very smooth and very quaffable.
The feedback from customers has been great and the chance to try it on the terrace has pushed sales of this cracking wine up into the top dozen in the shop this year. A great wine at a great price, made by a winemaker we like working with and whose story we love – a wine that many of you seemed to love too. That, and my instinctive love of serendipity, is enough to win the Civrac 2008 a place in my top six wines of the year.