Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

The perils of a blocked nose

My good friend Neil Pendock panned Jancis Robinson in print for attending a tasting while suffering from ‘flu and then writing up her thoughts – even though she admitted she could barely smell a thing. I gather than Jancis was not amused by Neil’s salty comments.

I feel for Jancis. I’ve had total nasal wipe-out ever since I caught the mother and father of all bugs after sitting for a couple of hours longer than I hoped in a faulty plane at Stansted airport last week (serves me right, I know, for not taking the train). On Monday I attempted to sparkle with knowledge in front of a nice crowd at Jesmond Dene House, who’d come for a Masterclass on Burgundy and the Douro. I did my best – but I couldn’t have told the difference between a decent Burgundy and glass of Dettol. Fortunately the group were reasonably up for interactive learning – they were prepared to tell me what they smelled and tasted, and I attempted to put it into context. And no Dettol was served.

The one wine that did momentarily penetrate my fug was Graham’s amazingly good 20 Year Old Tawny Port.  By a happy coincidence I’d also tasted it very recently when I visited at the lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia. It had, I see from my notes, a huge, complex, distinctly balsamic aroma and flavour with hints of undergrowth and also lovely, slightly (maderised) volatile acidity. I certainly detected the balsam again on Monday. It’s a bit more expensive that proprietary cold remedies, but a lot more fun.

I hope my sense of smell comes in from the cold soon – I have a kitchen side full of bottles waiting to be tasted.

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