Tag Archives: wine

Downing Oldies Dinner

Right, that’s it. I’m starting my eighth year at Downing now and even the MCR freshers are starting to look like schoolkids. To celebrate this we had a wine-drinking, ham-eating, grumpy-old-men dinner at Erika’s house, accompanied by some really good chicken and chorizo casserole. Photos are all with the 50mm f/1.8 lens, no time to edit but they look pretty good straight out of the camera.


Scientific conferences: everyone thinks they’re just glorified booze-ups but more often than not you spend nine or ten hours a day sitting in stuffy rooms in a concrete box located in an industrial complex in the suburbs of a city you would never have visited if you had the choice. Luckily I spent last week in Montpellier, where they have beaches, sunshine and 30C. Yet somehow I still managed to spend nine or ten hours a day being bored, confused or, occasionally, inspired. Now Last week was the Euromat conference, during which I pretended to be a materials scientist and learned about composites, hip replacements, solar cells, railway line degradation and hundreds of talks about carbon nanotubes. This week, I’m doing it all again. Geology replaces materials, but the rain of Switzerland replaces the French sunshine. More on this later, once the freezing cold and shocking prices have properly kicked in.

In the mean time, here are some photos from Montpellier.


Fake degree day AD (after downing)

Having received no bribes not to publish, nor any superinjunctions, it’s time to talk about the second half of the MA day.

So reuniting 120 people after 3 years and then giving them near-limitless college own-label wine was never going to end prettily. I’m not saying it ended badly though, as we were whisked back 6 1/2 years to the times when work was forgotten, taxes were things that paid us, dessert was eaten without spoons (thanks Ollie) and wine went down in one gulp (and my word, did this stuff need downing).

Next step – making use of my free termly dinner 🙂

Spain fieldwork

Last week I popped over to the Pyrenees to collect some samples. Although the photographs might suggest otherwise, I worked hard – drilling about 35 kg of mountainside into 100 little plastic bags. Northern Spain at this time of year is also unfortunately photogenic, which was a real shame. As was the hot weather and unbroken sunshine, which luckily has replicated itself ten degrees further north this week. We started in the pretty town of Ainsa, headed east to the more industrial Tremp, before heading back to Zaragoza at the end of the week. Our little hire car covered the 1000+ km admirably, even when the road became a track, and the the track became a pile of gravel laid up a hill. That little detour (of many) might not have been the quickest way between sample locations, but it was certainly the more scenic.

The biggest problem turned out to be mealtimes. Good luck finding a restaurant before 10.15pm in Zaragoza. Or after 10.30 – the tables filled very quickly. The food was good though, if a little vegetable-free. If you order the sausages for main course, that’s pretty much what you get. Despite plenty of vegetables available in the towns, restaurants erred towards the meat-fest end of gastronomy. For the first time I was happy when my tactic of “choose something that you can’t translate” turned into a plate of beans. Although, being Spain, there was a generous helping of bacon thrown over the top of them just in case I was missing out on my meat intake.

This is probably my last fieldwork for my PhD, but not a bad way to finish. Now I have 9 months to do all the work and write up…………..

12 wines of Christmas – part 2

Brewery Hill Chardonnay Viognier 2009, Australia
nakedwines £8.99

More flavour than the Pinot Grigio, this went well with both sausages and cheese-and-onion tarts. Interesting enough, it gained a lot of admiration from assorted guests, but I think it’s a little much for what it is, maybe £8 is more realistic. We’ll certainly be enjoying the remaining two bottles in the case though.

La Croix du Chene Syrah-Grenache 2007, Rhone, France
nakedwines £8.99

A very pleasant and fairly light red, though clearly more to it than the Pinot Noir, this accompanied the cheese tarts very well, and kept itself together over the next two days as well. It was nice enough on its own too. Another one where the second bottle is eagerly anticipated, but I’d choose the Buxynoise Pinot Noir over this, or the Brewery Hill Shiraz (see below).

Brewery Hill Shiraz 2008, Australia
nakedwines £8.99

As people who’ve seen me at tastings will know, I tend to prefer stronger-flavoured wines over weaker versions of the same grapes. This was most obviously shown when I tried the Heartlands Director’s Cut Shiraz, something which blew too strong for most people. This is nothing like as full-on as that was, but still shows a noticeable change from the French alternative. The Brewery Hill Shiraz is yet another £8.99-er from nakedwines, I get the feeling that they tend to price almost everything around this much, and worked well on its own as an afternoon-drink as well as with dinner. Barbecues would clearly suit this down to the ground, but cold afternoons round the table playing board games was just fine too.

12 wines of Christmas – part 1

Happy Christmas everyone 🙂

Not that we drink a lot, but this is the time of year for getting through the odd bottle of wine. Here are the highlights from the first few days of the holidays:

Il Barone Pinot Grigio, Italy
nakedwines £6.99

Part of a “mystery case” I bought for Christmas, this served well as a very light aperitif, but would be overpowered by almost all food. Pleasant enough, though without much substance. Definitely used in the right way, this would have been lost if we’d had anything else beforehand.

Chateau La Buxynoise Pinot Noir 2007, Burgundy, France
Oddbins £8.99

A very light red, made from my favourite of the lighter grapes, this had been “maturing” in our wine rack for over a year. Accompanying toad-in-the-hole, this was ideal – not too strong at all. I think the suggestion on the back for grilled meats, even lamb after a cellaring, was a little ambitious. Would definitely buy again.