Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Valdivieso releases Caballo Loco....onto Netball court?

Well now…netball seasons seem to come and go like footballers autobiographies at the moment. As the North London Lionesses (previously reported on) wrap up another campaign on Thursday, the new Bibendum team ‘Caballos Locos’ launched themselves into the fiercely competitive Netball Public Domain. The Juice (now quite a netball aficionado….except for knowing the rules) was there to see these Wild Horses trample over their opposition; on this occasion named ‘The Townies’. Yes, TJ thought the Bibendum team had a more exciting name as well…

The girls trotted onto the courts together, proudly wearing their Valdivieso t-shirts & looking like a team who knew their stuff. Nerves were jangling before the game, especially when some couldn’t remember the rules & others hadn’t played for years. Kirstin lead the team as Centre; a position that requires more running than is sensible. For those that know Kirstin, running for 40mins non-stop is a walk in the park. Personally, I got tired just watching…

The Crazy Horses attacked like….well, crazy and little Korina was popping them in from all over the shop. Kelly, Kate & Caroline hustled around making the opposition look more miniature pony than crazy horse. They swapped positions and vests just to bamboozle the ponies – or maybe for tactical reasons…not sure…

The defence was extremely strong with Jenni, Nicky & Helen all playing brilliantly together. The determination could be seen on their faces as they reached, jumped and stretched for every intercept. Nothing was getting into that circle. They did lots of that wavy defensive move which looks a bit weird but turns out to be very effective. And the slug of fine wine from kind sponsor, Valdivieso, at half time didn’t seem to hurt either.
Final score: CRAZY HORSES 19, LAZY PONIES 2.

And Coach Kelly has asked that we broadcast the following important public service notice:

Rule 14.1 Footwork
A player may receive the ball with one foot grounded, or jump to catch & land on one foot & then
1. Step with the other foot, lift the landing foot & throw/shoot before the foot is regrounded
2. Step with the other foot in any direction any number of times, pivoting on the landing foot

Now that we’ve got that sorted…phew. Next week, more crucial life-or-death information from TJ and coach Kelly…bet you can’t wait

Monday, August 14, 2006

Pavie 2003 - No Ordinary Wine

Chateau Pavie 2003 is no ordinary wine; a big wine from a big vintage, it has come to epitomise all that is either good or bad about Bordeaux depending on which side of the Atlantic-shaped fence you sit on. To Robert Parker it is a 98 point work of wonder full of “charcoal, creme de cassis, melted licorice, espresso roast, and blackberries” but to Jancis Robinson it was quite the opposite, with JR famously calling it "ridiculous wine more reminiscent of a late harvest Zinfandel than a red bordeaux with its unappetising green notes...".

Controversial stuff. And there is nothing The Juice likes more than a good dollop of controversy over dinner.

It was a simple recipe. Take one bottle of Pavie, one late harvest Zinfandel hide them in amongst some top ‘03s from Bordeaux and around the world and invite the great (and the Goode) to come and taste them blind.

Bold, rich and full of fruit, the ‘03s are a funny bunch. Typical Bordeaux? Hell, no. Cracking bottles of wine? Some of them certainly are. Pichon-Baron was TJ’s pick of the line-up, though Cos d’Estournel and Kirwan picked up a few votes too.

Yet despite all these lovely left-bankers, this night was all about one wine. Did Pavie really taste like late-harvest Zin? Was it an abomination, an insult to its terroir? Or was it the best wine released since, ooh, Pavie 2000?

The answers: no, no and no.

Late-havest Zin it was not (though the Turley Tofanelli Vineyard 2003 served alongside it was a thrilling piece of kit) and it did taste a lot like the other big, ripe, oaky Bordeaux 2003s on the table. A contender for nose of the night with an extraordinary mass of plum, chocolate and blueberry notes, the attack was juicy, plush and ultra-rich but then the tannins, extract and oak rather took over at the end, leaving the finish a touch on the hard side. Great wine, but not 98 points. Worth another look in a decade or so.

As the debate raged around the table, controversy well and truly stirred, TJ slipped back into the shadows clutching the dregs of the Pichon-Baron….

Monday, August 07, 2006

Take me to Rioja!

The Juice journeyed to Rioja last week to see Dinastia Vivanco's grandly named 'Museum of the Culture of Wine' and to catch up on their other vinous and cultural endeavours. In the company of Olly Smith (broadcaster and flame-headed Syndrome lookalike) and mild-mannered web supremo Tom Cannavan of wine-pages fame, TJ boarded the early flight from a sunny Stansted to land in an improbably drizzle-bedecked Bilbao. Once over the Cantabrian mountains, and as predicted by tour guide Rob McIntosh, the weather cleared, the wide open lands lay before, and (give or take the odd Riojan roadwork or two), the group made good speed to Briones, home of the Vivanco operation.
The Vivanco family have been selling and making wine in Rioja for the best part of a century, and as part of their very family-centred efforts, have built a magnificent museum and cultural centre just outside Briones. First stop for our crew, however was an small tower which protrudes from the Tempranillo vineyards across from the museum. Down the spiral staircase, and into an amazing new winery they have built underground.
To call it 'James Bond' in style and scope is to do it a disservice, but this vast and beautifully conceived underground lair was lacking, in TJ's opinion, only a grey-suited villain with a cat on his lap and sinister band of lackeys to accompany him. Happily for our party, it was handsome and distinctly unvillainous Rafael 'Rafa' Vivanco who brandished the keys, and took us on a tour of the spectacular site. The Dinastia Vivanco wines are all made here, and the future for the wines looks very bright indeed.
Once back to the museum, our hosts very generously fed us in the beautiful restaurant (perhaps realising that we had not, thanks to the vagueries of cheap air travel, eaten a morsel that day since a blueberry muffin at circa 0600 hours). The veritable feast on offer was duly devoured, the team descended (with only slightly creaking legs) into the museum. Here were further feasts. Rafa explained that, unlike other repositories of wine paraphenalia around the world, this one was concerned with the role of the grape in culture across the ages. Thus one gets not only barrel making demonstrations and ancient wine presses, but beautiful greek amphorae and art across the centuries celebrating the odd glassful being consumed. These included works by Picasso and some truly stunning Roman mosaics, as well as the biggest collection of corkscrews you are ever likely to clap eyes on.
The museum is a great testament to one family's devotion to wine in all its forms, and ever-growing visitor numbers bear out its great value to Rioja in particular, and wine tourism in general.
An evening spent 'tapas crawling' - quite the most delicious bar crawl TJ has yet had the pleasure to take part in - in nearby Logrono, finished with a decent bottle of the local reserva in the main square, as Olly Smith revealed previously hidden (and for the most part unprintable) dexterity with the Spanish language. Truly, this is a man born to talk rubbish in many tongues.
The next day we went south into the gently undulating countryside of the Rioja Baja, to DV's latest project, an architectural dig on the site of an old winery. Initally, translation and general pointing at the ground suggested that this project was perhaps not on the scale of Pompei in its potential; however moments later our guide led us down a steep slope into the very bowels of the earth, where we gazed in wonder at the 12th century Sisterian arches and corridors which had been uncovered, buried deep into the hillside. Feeling ever so slightly nervous at being in the midst of a 'live' dig (and one arch had already collapsed during digging), TJ was still full of admiration for the Vivanco family and their desire to chronicle and explain wine history for the benefit of future generations.
There was barely time for another four course meal back in Briones before Senor McIntosh led us back to the team beemer for a race to Vittoria, thence via Ryanair back to Blighty. A truly memorable trip, for all the right reasons. Rioja will never be a 'hardship' destination, but the Vivancos have given us all even more reason to visit this famous wine region. Salud!