Review: Moselle Les Hautes-Bassières Pinot Noir, Château de Vaux 2016

This is an extremely nice, supple, elegant pinot noir from Alsace. I gulped it down alongside some Burgundian escalopes a la Keith Floyd.

Ah, Floyd, lovely Floyd.

I wrote about the lovely Keith Floyd (who, I’m aware, was perhaps not consistently lovely as a man to live with in real life — but, by god, was lovely on camera in his heyday) as an inspiration for restarting this blog. Today’s wine, a fabulous Pinot Noir from Alsace with a ludicrously long name, was an excellent accompaniment to a recipe cribbed from one of the low-fi Floyd clips that the BBC hasn’t yet snatched away from those of us without TV licenses:

I made something akin to the above, but with pork rather than veal. Floyd’s culinary reference point is Burgundy, and the closest I could muster (without straying too far into the costly zone of my wine rack) to Burgundy was a Pinot Noir (same grape, you realise) from elsewhere in France: Moselle Les Hautes-Bassières Pinot Noir, Château de Vaux 2016 (The Wine Society, £13.50 — link is to the 2017, as they’re out of stock of 2016 now).

And, Christ, it’s good.

Snatch it to your nose and you’re enveloped in a heady musk of solvents, fruit and sand. To me it smells oh so magenta. Your own pretentious synaesthesiac mileage may vary.

Straight out of the bottle, it still had a certain stalkiness and petulance, but we hoofed it into the decanter and coaxed away its sulkiness. If you’re drinking the 2016 as well, I suggest you do likewise (or else hold onto it for a few more years, you patient, sensible, tedious old fart). It has that blooming, fruited warmth of a bloody good cherry brandy (dry, rich, complex; not some hideous confected crap) but absolutely no sentimentality or flab. There’s a wonderful steely edge of acidity that stirs your tastebuds into action like a riding crop to the arse of a shambling pony.

Then your pony effortlessly breaks into this sinuous, viscous canter of fruit and spice and warm, long, lovely, friendly alcohol.

I love this (amongst other things — so many other things) about Pinot noir: its ability to be both dancingly light and ridiculously powerful. It’s so goddamn honed. A featherweight boxer of a wine.

And it went delightfully with my pork escalopes — thank you for asking: that acid cutting elegantly through the cream and butter. I’m sure Floyd would have approved. And opened a second bottle.

Floyd on Parn

This blog had lost its way. It took the charismatic inclusiveness of the wonderful Keith Floyd to reanimate the somnolent Old Parn. The result: a new beginning of sorts…

I haven’t written here for ages. Come on, pretend you noticed. I think my silence has been a result of increasing discomfort maintaining an authoritative tone on booze. That’s a shame (or perhaps a blessing, depending on your perspective), as I continue to think that the legitimisation of ‘normal’ (ie. untrained) voices talking about wine is an important thing.

In many ways, more important than democracy, scientific progress or the rule of law.

But the internet (which includes you, you bastard) has a way of encouraging specialisation and authoritarian leanings. Because one can see one’s numbers — one’s goddamned analytics — one is conditioned to focus on making those numbers bigger. And you make them bigger by writing twatty posts like ‘the best gin for a gin and tonic’. I mean, that’s stupid. There is no best, obviously. That’s like saying you can identify the best shade of red for a sunset. You idiot. Get out of my sight.

I stopped writing this blog because I was sick of having an authoritative opinion on things. I mean, I have those opinions I spammed out, obviously. I wasn’t pretending. But I don’t think it’s particularly interesting. I don’t think it adds much when the verdict is the end result towards which the vast majority of content is skewed.

So this blog has petered out; I’ve had little desire to do anything with it. But then I read an article about Keith Floyd.

Then I watched a lot of Keith Floyd on YouTube.

I remember my parents watching Floyd when I was an ankle-biter. He was the sole TV cook I could tolerate (cf Delia Smith, whom I loathed. Soz, Deels). It’s obvious why: the chaotic energy, the restless wit, the impatience with detail and fuss. The beguiling sense of a man inviting you into his shamelessly hedonistic world.

The lack of artifice is bracing, isn’t it? I mean, there’s the classic British ironic self-awareness and mockery of the medium that of course qualifies as its own kind of artifice. But the unscripted dialogue, the balls-ups… superb stuff. It feels immediate and real in a way modern TV about food does not (a point made at eloquent length in the Quietus article I linked to above. Here it is again, to save you the inestimable tedium of scrolling back up to it).

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, it reminds me of the kind of voice I aspire to have, albeit firmly confined to the medium of the written word rather than the screen: a voice that may be opinionated, but is so in a way that is inclusive, celebratory, unabashedly subjective and rooted in sharing, not proscribing. It reminds me that weariness with — or skepticism of — verdicts and ratings is what ought to be the animating force behind this blog.

So I’m back, I guess. But without the ratings, without the focus, without the Google-baiting shit.

Cheers, Floyd.