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Some Wine and a Scottish Interlude

Joseph at the controls of a very large dump truck...and in heaven

It's been a while since my last post. Preparing a buying trip to the Rhône Valley, visiting friends in Essex, then Aberdeen, have all contrived to keep me from blogging. That's not to say, of course, that there's been little about which to scribble!

Our friends in Essex are devotees of Cristal champagne but hey, who isn't?! They have been working through the 1990 that we procured for them some years ago, untempted to turn remaining stock for a profit by its significant rise in value since purchase and thank goodness; it meant that we found ourselves flute-in-hand at the end a bright Saturday, bubbles rising in a fine bead curtain, Joseph happily sleeping upstairs, exhausted from the excitement of (supervised!) play on some heavy machinery in the garden that afternoon.

Cristal: above all others a champagne that requires bottle age to be at its best. 1990: one of the finest of the newly mature vintages. This stuff still tastes very young, but it has started to take on aged characteristics; little signals that speak of time compressed under a skirted cork. The richness is gathering; the chalky mineral terroir still a pronounced thread curling beneath the fruit. For a time, the finish loads up with a pure tangerine note, then almonds and fresh mushroom skins tumble out. Subtle bubble. Lovely wine, just about ready.

Boeuf bourguignon was accompanied by several bottles, the stand-out being the '82 Leoville-Poyferré. What a vintage (need I point out?); what a wine! The colour is opaque and dense-looking. The nose rich and mature, crammed with humidor spice, floral notes, blackcurrants. Old leather: savoury, antique book-bindings. Rich, cool fruit and beautiful length. Masterful and delicious.

Plans for the Rhône trip are forging ahead. The diary is filling up with winery visits and I am taking steps to thin my blood before departure in the fear that animal fats might do irreparable damage whilst I am away. As with my trip to Burgundy late last year, I will be endeavouring to add posts to this site every evening, giving details of the wines tasted that day, the food consumed and photographs of particularly picturesque places that we visit.

Thursday last found us boarding an improbably small, propeller-driven Jetstream 41 in Bristol and heading for Aberdeen in near-gale conditions. There are 17 of us on board: 14 hoary men (their ultimate destination most likely various platforms somewhere among the punishing waters of the North Sea), Victoria, me and Joseph who, unlike his mother, thinks violent turbulence is hilarious. How a pilot can put the aviation equivalent of a jaloppy onto the tarmac when the air columns feel as though they're stacked together like notes on the sheet music of a Schoenberg composition, I don't know. Perhaps it's best not to know. My admiration is unbounded.

Aberdeen was in fine fettle. The weather was largely clear, temperatures unseasonably warm, the sunlight seemingly flashed into one's eyes as if reflected from the blade of a new sword.

Friday found me waist deep in the waters of the River Dee: a fruitless day for me, although others pulled out a few spring salmon (that most pristine of fish, liveried in the brightest armour, muscular from the fruits de mer they've been hoovering over the last months). The fishing was hard: hard wind, hard casting.

Friday was also Victoria's birthday, so we headed into the granite city in the evening for an smart Indian. Food was accompanied by lashings of crisp white: a Verdejo from Rueda. This is an under-explored grape. If you like Sauvignon Blanc but think it's a bit, well, dolly, try Verdejo. It's like SB with a brain.

I am happy to say that the return journey from Aberdeen was rather less of a rollercoaster ride; a fact for which my right knee is particularly grateful, as that's the one Victoria likes to get her claws deep into when the going gets rough.

Off to the Rhône on Sunday. Keep visiting for up-to-date posting!

J and a girlfriend finding much to laugh at in the circling of the seagulls on Aberdeen beach

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