Part 5 of a 2011 London travelogue
by Thor Iverson
Hot Stuff – Exactly the sort of downmarket curry joint one wants. We, as is recommended, just let them feed us. And it’s good. Very good. And stupidly cheap (for London). We – the other party to which I keep referring is London-based wine writer and Barbera 7 co-conspirator Stuart George – bring wine, of course.
Sainsbury’s Sauvignon Blanc (Central Valley) – A whole orchard full of grapefruit, lemon, lime, with just a hint of pith and bitterness. Good flavor for the money. (3/11)
Sainsbury’s Cabernet Sauvignon (Valle Central) – Why the language switch for the appellation between this and the sauvignon blanc, I don’t know. I’m sure some focus group, somewhere, knows the answer. Sweet green pepper, synthetic and sticky fruit. I rarely think the cabernets are ideal candidates for cellar-dwelling price points, and sauvignon even less so than franc. This wine demonstrates why. An underripe festival of pyrazines would be one thing, but to add the sticky, plastic sugar element just to make things “more palatable” is triply wretched. No bargain at any cost. (3/11)
Edmunds St. John 2000 “Los Robles Viejos” Rozet (Paso Robles) – Undoubtedly much-victimized by a transatlantic voyage and then a good shaking from hotel to subway to restaurant, so when I mention the muted elements to come, they’re only partially due to a wine in its midlife crisis. But that’s a factor, as well…though the eventual signs of a more mature life can be very clearly glimpsed through the haze and miasma. Beefy, dark, scowling and broodish, with the mourvèdre taking a very prominent role (my drinking companion complains of mild brett; without lab work it’s hard to know for sure, but I feel it’s the animal stink of the grape rather than the animal stink of a yeast) and the other grapes of this southern Rhônish blend pacing around in the background. Structure is still fulsome and enveloping, and so while the fruit is well along its development curve, there’s still softening to be done. In another wine, I might caution about the future, but my experience with ESJ wines is that they always go longer – and often much longer – than my initial instinct suggests. So I’d say, more based on experience than the possibly traumatized state of this particular bottle, there’s absolutely no hurry, though given the right culinary conditions this could be coaxed into a state of reasonable enjoyability right now. I’ll wait on the rest of mine. (3/11)
Rasoi – I’ve done upscale Thai, and now here’s upscale Indian. It’s not quite as overtly striving as was nahm, until the plates arrive. This is decorative, modernized, Westernized Indian food in presentation and, on occasion, in ingredients. But not, I’d say, in flavor, which is just as rich and complex as one expects. Service is more the upscale norm, and there’s a quite fine wine list to match (if anything actually matches Indian cuisine). I had my doubts about this concept, unsure if the soul of the food would survive the upscaling, but I needn’t have worried. This is a vibrant success.
Sula 2010 Chenin Blanc (Nashik) – I’ve watched this particular bottling over seven vintages now, which is kinda fun to say about an Indian wine. Interestingly, while it has gotten cleaner over the years, it has not necessarily gotten better, which might indicate that it’s coming up against some sort of externally-imposed limit. Maybe vine age, maybe terroir, maybe something else. It’s still a bright, light-fruited quaff, still tastes less like chenin (either the Loire style or the fruit-blast South African style) than something more innocuous, still has just-bright-enough acidity, and still goes pretty much nowhere on the finish. In other words, its primary quality remains a delight at drinking a pleasant wine from India. (3/11)
Neumeyer 2007 Pinot Gris “Le Beger” (Alsace) – The label says pinot gris, there’s a little hint of pear-ish fruit done up with wintry spices, and the particular sort of (very) light off-dryness is carried in a very pinot gris-like way. But otherwise, this has about a foot and a half firmly in the riesling camp, in that its structure is metallic, cylindrical, and firm. The overall effect is to pretty much dry out the residual sugar, leaving a fine, steely minerality dominant over the restrained fruit. The finish is long and firm-fisted. While it will not be to the taste of those demanding lushness from their Alsatian pinot gris, for me it’s almost an historic resurrection of a much-missed style. A style that is, though it’s hard to remember in this era of dessert-y pinot gris, very appealing with food. (3/11)
Copyright © Thor Iverson