So: a couple of weeks back I failed to win Jancis Robinson’s wine writing competition. Were it not for the unquestionable quality, and notable enthusiasm, of the winner’s writing I would be as bitter as 2013 claret but I’m over it now. Just. And I stress that the winning man is rather good. Never before have I wanted to buy some wine from Corsica (by which I mean buy some Corsican wine).
And all was not lost. The famous Crystal Palace beat Liverpool on the same day (though I couldn’t find a boozer in King’s Cross to see it happen) and, at the Jancis Robinson “Sherry Night”, where the winner of said competition was presented, I tasted one of the best wines that has passed my lips this year. And you can buy a bottle of this wine off Lea & Sandeman for thirty quid.
Vanity dictated that I left my specs at home, so my notes read like a doctor’s prescription. I think I wrote this:
Valdespino, Solera 1842 Oloroso VOS
“Yes. I want to swallow this. Rich, chocolate and Christmas cake with an underlying / underpinning salty acidity. Edgy. V. good.”
Which isn’t much of a note but I can still remember the taste, which is what it’s all about. The tension and balance between, and the beautiful marriage of, sweet richesse and saline acidity makes the wine almost meal-like in its completeness. I’m not sure what I would drink it with, but you could go either sweet or savoury. Yum. And this is a liquid that is more than just a label, more than just good (or indeed very good). This is one of those bottles that is an experience. I’ll expand.
A week before said evening (where I failed to win) I watched “Birdman”. One of those films that one is a little unsure of. On a wife-and-child-less Thursday evening, with pizza and cheap Chianti, something like Iron Man 3 or Goodfellas would have been an easier choice. A choice where – and this is the point – you know what you are going to get. Humans crave stability (or at least, for much of the time, I do). This is why we drink claret: we know what we are getting.
Birdman is a bit like the Oloroso. It’s a bit off-piste. It needed some faith; a sense of adventure. And it turned out to be excellent. An experience. The unexpected virtue of ignorance, or at least one of them, is a pleasant surprise.
At about the same time as all this, or just after, 2016 Cos d’Estournel was released at £1,400 per nine litres in bond (forget dozens – your case of 2016 Cos is nine litres of juice swimming round in a barrel in a very swanky spaceship of a cellar in St Estephe). I’m sure it’s lovely and, like Iron Man 3 or Goodfellas, it will deliver. But, for thirty quid or so for a bottle, I’ll go Birdman. If you are lucky enough to have a Lea and Sandeman close by I suggest you do the same.