Posts Tagged ‘Ruinart’
I am delighted and rather surprised to be awarded the WSET/Champagne Board’s 2013 Champagne scholarship as part of my WSET Diploma studies. Part of the surprise was that I did not know that the Wine and Spirit Education Trust gave scholarships, so I was a long way back when the scholarship secretary rang me to ask whether I was prepared to come to an interview. Some questions are not difficult to answer however. Having been to a few Champagne events, I was not as surprised to find that the ‘interview’ was to be held in the Artesian Bar of the now very smart Langham Hotel. Here Matt Glynn (Bibendum) and I, competing for the scholarship because we had both got high marks in the Sparkling Wine exam, were lightly interrogated while consuming a fair quantity of Ruinart Blanc des Banc followed by Lenoble, accompanied by prodigious quantities of finger food. That the Champenois entertain lavishly was not a surprise.
A few days later, we learnt that Francoise Peretti of the Champagne Board had not been able to choose between us and so had generously decided, exceptionally, to award two scholarships. This was a very happy outcome and Matt and I and our partners were invited to the annual WSET bash at the Guildhall at the heart of the City of London. Once a year the school hires the Great Hall to give out diplomas to those who have successfully completed their professional qualification and awards to the brightest and best (or at least those who know how to do well in exams). Despite having had an academic career, I was never very good at exams. It was really only in my fifties that I understood that you really are supposed to learn all this stuff! So I can count myself a slow learner on two scores – half a century to respond to the the obvious and then being at an age when learning factual material is doubly hard work. But it was a real thrill to be given the award and to have one’s hard work and capability recognised.
The actual award ceremony was an impressive evening too. I can take or leave the ancient Guildhall and the whole business of taking ourselves quite seriously. But there were impressive performances by Ian Harris, chief executive, and Jancis Robinson, honorary president, which carried us through the evening. Ian as the master of ceremonies was a model of economy, efficiency and good humour. It is not easy to keep people’s interest while giving out 150 diplomas to those present. The awards are easier as we all want to know ‘who’s won what’. Jancis looked brilliant in her classy red dress and was welcoming, human, real, with every last person … She wears her pre-eminence lightly.
It was a particular pleasure to meet Hugh Johnson at the reception and to be able to thank him in person for his brilliant wine atlas. There will be another new edition this autumn. The atlas and the Oxford Companion to Wine have been my constant companions for the last two years. Interestingly, the atlas gives the really fundamental information which every Diploma student craves – geology, soils, climate – more consistently than the OCW.
After the ceremony we repaired to a local Italian restaurant with my children. Jonathan was able to come to the ceremony itself. As a newly established academic he already has quite an experience of graduations and a career full of them to look forward to! Jeremy and Laura, with Adam, joined us for supper at the admirably straightforward and affordable, Rucoletta. The celebration meal had to be on an Italian theme and not just because of my debt to the wine of Italy. I did well in the sparkling wine exam in the first place because in the theory section one of the three, all compulsory, questions was on the sparkling wine zone, Franciacorta. Last spring, after a few false starts in terms of possible destinations, Janet and I went on a sparkling wine tour of north and north east Italy a couple of months before the exam. First stop, for four whole days was … you’ve guessed it, Franciacorta. That was quite a difficult question for your average Diploma student and an absolute gift to me. And so all my Italian friends will be delighted to hear that I won a Champagne scholarship because of Franciacorta. And, finally, it shows that just ‘learning the stuff’ is not the only way to do well in exams. Sometimes you have to get out there and do your learning on the ground. People, place, wines – that is what this website is about. Studying with the WSET enriches and give a framework to this experience.
And, the ‘scholarship’? A custom made trip to Champagne, to our choice of houses, organised and laid on the Champagne board … I can feel a whole new set of Champagne pages coming on.
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February’s meeting of Andover Wine Friends was a spectacular lunch at The Harrow Inn, Little Bedwyn. They put on a great show for 17 of us, while running the front half of the restaurant as usual. I was seriously off duty – too much good food, company and excellent wines – so there are no detailed notes this month. However, here are a selection of photos of some of the seven or so courses plus cheese, almost entirely from these islands. And a brief note on some outstanding wines.
The approach in this restaurant is easy to describe – genuinely warm hospitality, outstanding sourcing of ingredients, perfect timing in the kitchen, innovative combinations and a profound love of wine. What a great combination! The event started well with Ruinart Blanc de Blanc Champagne, being poured above left.
And the wines? Some were bought at the Harrow and some came from people’s own collections. To pick out some unfairly:
- the Ruinart is wonderfully balanced and very refined
- Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Silex, Loire – great, concentrated mineral Sauvignon Blanc … because there is a tradition of drinking this great wine at the Harrow
- a stunningly good, moderately priced Semillon from Australia which the Harrow stocks: Mount Horrocks Semillon, Clare Valley, Australia
- a wonderful white Grenache (not a phrase you can often employ!) from Catalan Spain – Ctonia, Masia Serra
- three Rieslings to compare – Eden Valley, Australia; classic Mosel; Schlumberger Grand Cru from Alsace
- decent Condrieu from Christophe Pichon and Cornas from Domaine de Rochepertuis
- sadly another ‘drink at the Harrow’ tradition here did not come to pass as the 1985 Hermitage from Jaboulet was over the hill – I suppose in this case it just rolled gracefully down the hill
- Spinnifex’s Indigene and Shiraz-Mataro from the Barossa, big fruit numbers but beautifully structured and complex, especially the latter
- there were quite a few others which probably deserved a mention …
- and finally, a brilliantly concentrated and only moderately sweet Banyuls: Coume del Mas Quintessence Banyulus Rouge
- some people found a little space to try two different Grappas
With many thanks to the whole crew at the Harrow – you deserve your success.