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Thursday, 19 October 2017

Three Bordeaux Wines

Three Bordeaux from 2015's good vintage - available nationally from Waitrose, M&S and Laithwaites

After some difficult vintages, Bordeaux has been on a roll recently with good years in 2014, 15 and 16; some chateaux say that each year has been better than the one before.

These three wines from 2015 - all at different price points - are generally well made and very pleasant.

The freshness of the first two makes them rather more typically Burgundian than Bordelais; you might almost think they had come from a cooler year. The last delivers more substance, but trades this for the deftness and elegance of the others.

Les Chartrons, 2014, Bordeaux (£7.99 Waitrose) Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc; light, fresh and well-made with  a good backbone of acidity and gentle, fine tannins. Elegant with delicate red and blueberry fruit with some peppery spice. Improves with air as the fruit emerges.

Light enough to match with salmon, fresh enough for hard cheese or keep it traditional with roast meat.

Grand Plessis Grand Réserve, 2015, Médoc (£10.00, M&S) Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Carmenère; expressively toasty-oaky nose with juicy red and black fruits, liquorice, a firm grip and plenty of spice. Good backbone of acidity and fine tannins.

Match with butcher's sausages or roast red meat.

Vieux Château Guibeau, 2015, Puisseguin Saint Émilion (Laithwaites £14.99) Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon; typical Bordeaux cassis and pencil shaving aromas with tobacco leaf and tar; substantial and supple with cooked bramble fruit, violets, mint and spicy vanilla. Grippy and slightly alcoholic.

Match the ripe fruit and firm tannins with garlic-and-rosemary roast lamb.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Wines for Curry Week

Two wines for Curry Week - Cune and Robert Oatley

October 9th - 15th is Curry Week - if you didn't already know. According to research, the most popular curry is a korma, traditionally a sweetish, slightly bland coconut-based dish.

Indian curries are not always a natural match for wine, being rather heavy and rich and needing a pint (or two) of beer; if, however, you like the more delicate and nuanced flavours of a Thai coconut curry, here are two that will match.

Cune Barrel Fermented Blanco 2016 (£10.15, Waitrose, The Co-op) orchard fuits and pineapple, with oaky, leesy minerality and good underpinnings. Clean, pure and harmonious.

Good.

Robert Oatley Signature Riesling 2015 (£13.15, Cambridge Wine Merchants and other independents) classic flintsmoke-dieselly nose with ripe, zippy lemon-lime, pineapple and a fresh, pebbly mineral backbone.

Good.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Top Selection Portfolio Tasting

The Autumn portfolio tasting from Top Selection

Top Selection is an award-winning boutique wine and spirits merchant that has been running since 2000.

This autumn portfolio tasting featured over 80 wines - in general, they were all well-made and fault free, reasonably typical and fair value for money.

Some were more interesting than others, so here are the ones I liked best:
Fizz
Andre Jacquart Le Mesnil Grand Cru NV, Champagne complex, leesy and adept. Good.

Whites
Angel Sequeiros Albarino "Foudre" 2010, Rias Baxas complex, oaky, mineral and very long. Incredibly youthful, will age and age. Good.

Laurent Boussey Meursault "Clos du Pre" 2015 citrussy, deft and complex with layers of sophisticated oak; still young. Good.

Reds
David Duband Chambolle Musigny 2013 mushrooms, truffles, red berry fruit and spice; complex, long and supple. Good.

Alves de Sousa Caldas Reserve Touriga Nacional 2012, Douro minty eucalyptus, ripe dark fruit, gaminess and pappery spice; supple and fresh with fine tannins. Good.

Kracher Blend 2 2013, Burgenland vibrant with fresh, ripe, juicy blueberries, coffee grounds and spice. Good.

Ceretto Barolo 2013 fresh and elegant with a firm grip; cherry fruit and long. Good.

Dessert wines
Kracher Beerenauslese 2015, Burgenland roasted peaches in caramel with good freshness. Good.

Clos le Comte Cuvee Emilie 2015, Sauternes sweet spices, buttery roasted stone fruits and caramel. Good.

Szepsy Aszu 2000, Tokaji cognac coloured and complex, with roasted peaches and sweet spice. Long and mellow with aged complexity. Very Good.

Alves de Sousa Quinta da Gaivosa LBV, 2012 fruited, fresh and delicious, typical LBV. Good.

Spirits
La Gabare is one of the last independent cognac houses - founded in 1992 they select, age and sell rare old cognacs.

La Gabare Petite Champagne 1970 complex, vibrant and fiery (60% strength!), spicy and expressive. Very Good Indeed.

La Gabare Petite Champagne 1982 complex, with mixed fruit and sweet spice. Mellow and harmonious. Very Good.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Two Wines from Dievole Estate

A Chianti from Dievole Estate - and a Bolgheri from Tenuta Le Colonne

A classic-yet-modern Chianti and a Bordeaux-blend Super Tuscan.

Dievole
With a history dating back almost 1,000 years and an offering that includes wine, olive oil, tours, restaurants and accommodation, Dievole is in every sense a blend of the old and the new.

Based just outisde Siena, it was acquired in 2013 by an Argentinean with Italian roots; the focus is now on classic wines with a back-to-nature approach.

Dievole Chianti Classico 2015 very fresh, cherry fruited and floral with spice; structured, mineral and concentrated with fine tannins and a firm, muscular core. Fine and precise, it is still very young; it needs extensive aeration now and will improve with several years' cellaring.

Good.

Match with steak or gamey stews.

Tenuta La Colonne
The current Bolgheri DOC classification dates back only to 1994 - wines made from Bordeaux blends prior to that were typically sold as mere Vini da tavola.

Tenuta Le Colonne, owned by Dievole, sits right on the coast, overlooking the Tyrrhenian sea; the wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tenuta Le Colonne Bolgheri DOC 2015 floral and perfumed with raspberry leaf, black fruits and vanilla spice; intense, mineral, concentrated and muscular with very fine tannins. Fresh, very long and elegant. Benefits from aeration and will only improve with age.

Good.

Match with roasted red meats.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Frieze and Mazzei Gran Selezione 2013

A Chianti Classico parcel tasting of the Gran Selezione master blend with the Mazzei family

I have long held a working assumption that Great Wine is like Great Art - beyond merely being superficially pleasant, it is, at a deeper level, somehow compelling; it evokes in us some kind of emotional response.
Good wine is enjoyable wallpaper; Great Wine speaks to us.

Greatness is, then, ultimately subjective, a purely personal opinion. What moves me may leave you cold. However, a consensus may arise as to whether something is great or not; you may not personally "get" Picasso, Warhol or Mapplethorpe, but there are plenty of people who do.
Walking through Frieze 2017 - a vast, wide-ranging and rather corporate exhibition of contemporary art - it was impossible, as a mere amateur, to discern nuances or themes; too much sensory overload.

The only way to make sense of the breadth and volume was simply to walk briskly and see what catches the eye.
Of course what attracts us to something - be it art, wine or a potential spouse - is not what binds us over time; yet there needs to be an initial spark of attraction that then develops into something deeper and more sustained.
The wines of Giovanni Mazzei, 25th generation of a Tuscan winemaking family dating back to 1435, Marchesi Mazzei, possess this quality; attractive, compelling and intriguing they are also sophisticated, elegant and complex.

Over lunch at a pop-up café from Petersham Nurseries, we tasted Giovanni's award-winning Castello Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013 alongside five of the single Cru wines that go into the master blend.
For those not in the know, Petersham Nurseries Café follows the Slow Food philosophy with seasonal, Italian inspired food.
On arrival
Villa Marcello Prosecco DOC with Pinot Blanc in the blend, a fresh, crisp, structured and mineral aperitif that also works with the canapes

With sharing starters

Vineyard: Siepi, Parcel: I Sodi from the lowest altitude vineyard, fresh and structured with cherry fruit, mushroomy gaminess and oaky spice. Elegant, supple, long and harmonious.

Vineyard: Caggio, Parcel: Orto darker, denser, more spiced and aromatic.

Vineyard: Belvedere, Parcel: Piano darker, more brooding and intense, a Heathcliffe of a wine

With sharing main course

Vineyard: Fonterutoli, Parcel: St Antonio fresh and more elegant with lifted fruit and freshness; very complex and balanced


Vineyard: Le Ripe, Parcel:Trebbio sweet, ripe dark fruit and spices; fresh yet plump and supple with ripe tannins. Concentrated and long with a peppery finish.
Giovanni had encouraged us to keep a little of each wine in our glasses and make a pop-up blend of our favourite parcels; this would have been like grabbing a piece of each favourable artwork in the exhibition and hoping to assemble them into a masterpiece and served only to demonstrate how much skill there is in the blending process.

My favourite parcels were 3, 4 and 5 - with 3 and 5 having the darkest, most expressive character and 4 being the most nuanced.
Castello Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013 the master blend, assembled from 47 of the estate's 120 parcels of vines; spices and pepper with red and black fruits, dried berries and plums along with a musky leatheriness. Balanced and fresh.
A comparison of Giovanni's favourite individual parcel, the Fonterutoli, with the master blend was like comparing two very beautiful women - the Fonterutoli had a sophisticated and individual beauty that was not perfection, yet needed no addition. The blend, by contrast, was no less attractive but, plumped and preened down at the salon, had lost something of its individuality in the process.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Christmas in September - With Louis Latour And Friends

A Christmas-themed tasting of top wines from Louis Latour and others at The Bleeding Heart

Some people love Christmas - my children, for example; at its best, it is a time that brings people and families together, a time of shared experience and togetherness.
Food and drink play a part, and if quality is important to you, then you want to put something superior on your table.

Louis Latour helpfully laid on a four-course Christmas lunch at The Bleeding Heart and provided a selction of wines with each course.

Food, wine and company - very Christmassy, and what's not to like?

All the wines were good in their own way; choices really come down to personal preference and budget.
On arrival

Gosset Grande Reserve Brut NV (£45 - £49) deft, elegant and substantial Champage. An excellent start. Very Good.
Starter - marinated salmon and crab
Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2015 (£26.99) deft and complex, with orchard fruit, honeysuckle and minerality. Long and still very young. Very elegant. Very Good.

Seresin Estate Sauvignon 2015 (£14.99) a biodynamic blend of the New World and the Old with a dash of Semillon in the blend and barrel aging; Marlborough character with European texture, restraint and fruit ripeness. Long with good underpinnings. Good.

McHenry Hohnen Amigos White 2012 (£15.99) a blend of Chardonnay, Marsanne and Roussane from Western Australia; toasty oak, fresh and citrussy with a broad waxiness. Incredibly vibrant and youthful. Good.
Main - Norfolk turkey with trimmings

Louis Latour Aloxe-Corton Les Chaillots 2011 (£39.99) elegant and long with good underpinnings; cherry fruited Burgundy in a traditional style with very fine tannins. Wine-making of a very high standard. Good.

Viu Manent ViBo Vinedo Centenario 2013 (£16.99) minty, blackcurranty Chilean Cab with a dash of Malbec; a mix of power and subtlety plus old-vine concentration.

Vidal-Fleury Cairanne 2012 (£13.50) meaty, spicy, substantial Rhone red with red fruits and florality. Long, with good underpinnings. Very Good Value. Good.
Cheeses
Louis Latour Pouilly-Vinzelles 2015 (£19.99) fresh and honeyed with orchard fruits and citrus. Sophisticated and versatile. Still young. Good.

Henry Fessy Brouilly 2015 (£12.99) ripe, elegant, pure and fresh with raspberry fruit and pencil shavings. Very Good Value. Very Good.


Wakefield  Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (£12.99) rich and textured yet fresh Cab from Clare Valley with minty blackcurrant.
Dessert - Christmas pudding with brandy creme anglaise
Barbadillo La Cilla PX (£24.00) aged for 25 years, complex dried fruits and figs, roasted nuts and Christmas spices; mellow, with the savouriness of age. Rich and sticky. Good.

Blandy's 15yo Bual (£25.00) rich fruitcake and freshness with spice and mellowness. Lovely. Good.

Pellegrino Passito DOC Pantellaria 2016 (£11.50) dried Moscato d'Alexandria grapes; spicy sandalwood, tangerine zest, floral and fresh. Very distinctive. Good.
Digestif
Fontpinot XO (£105) rich mixed fruit, sweet vanilla spice, warmth and roasted spices. Long and complex - balances softness and delicacy with a powerful concentration. Very Good.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Crus Bourgeois 2015s - The Very Goods

Cru Bourgeois 2015 tasting - the best wines
The Crus Bourgeois represent the best unclassified wines of the Médoc in Bordeaux - more affordable than collectors-only trophy wines of the world-famous estates yet a step-up from the entry-level.

The Médoc covers the entire area and also  includes several smaller appellations where quality (and prices) are generally higher - Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis, Margaux, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe.

2015 was a good vintage for Bordeaux and, on the basis of these wines, seems to have favoured Cabernet over Merlot, with the wines being darker, fuller and generally more substantial adn ageworthy.

This year, there are 271 Crus Bourgeois du Médoc, up around 10% from prior years and perhaps reflecting the vintage.

These were my top wines:

Médoc

Rollan de By 2015 (c. £20+, Cambridge Wine Merchants) supple and juicy with bramble fruit and oaky spice; firm and assertive with peppery, minty fruit and substance. Will age. very Good.


Haut-Médoc

Chateau d'Agassac 2015 (£23, Bibendum) dark, inky, spicy and focused; spicy, long and linear. Very adept and deft. Will age. Very Good.

Chateau Bernadotte dense, inky and still closed-up; long and substantial with fine tannins. Needs age and will improve. Very Good.

Clos La Boheme focused, poised and substantial; long, supple and harmonious. Still young. Very Good.

Chateau Paloumey complex, dark and inky; fruited, minty and oaky; long and substantial. Will age well. Very Good.

Chateau Reysson supple, harmonious, substantial and fresh; focused, minty and fruited. Will improve with age. Very Good.
Moulis

Chateau Branas Grand Poujeaux dark, inky, spicy and fruited; adept, supple, firm, complex and substantial. Will age well. Very Good.

Margaux

Chateau d'Arsac plump, focused, pure and substantial; minty and fruited. Still closed up, will age and only improve. Very Good.

Chateau Deyrem Valentin complex, oaky, minty and fruited; supple, harmonious and long. Still closed up and will improve with age. Very Good.

Sainte-Estephe

Chateau Lafitte-Carcasset (c. £20 - £30, Fine & Rare) fresh, juicy and supple with a muscular core. Long, deft and adept. Still young. Very Good.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Crus Bourgeois 2015 - First Impressions

The 2015 Crus Bourgeois tasting in London

For vintage-watchers - and if you like Bordeaux, you should be - 2015 was a good year. And all the more needed coming on the back of a run of disappointing years.

2015's Crus Bourgeois wines were brought to London for a tasting and with almost three hundred this year, tasting all was never going to be possible to rey everything;  so I picked and chose from a list provided by the organisers plus anything else that caught my eye.
My overall impression is that it has been a very good year for Cabernet, with lots of colour, extract and general substance; these wines will age well.

The Merlots that I tried were surprisingly light in comparison - visibly paler with less substance, but still a strong core and good length. Wines to drink in the shorter term, perhaps, whilst the Cabs are maturing.

The better appellations are ... well, better as you would expect. Prices were not universally available, but there were some bargains.

Fuller tasting notes to follow shortly.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

France This Is Not

Two German wines

MOZART: (to Joseph) It's highly moral, Majesty. It's full of proper German virtues. I swear it. Absolutely!

JOSEPH Well, I'm glad to hear that.

SALIERI Excuse me, Sire, but what do you think these could be? Being a foreigner, I would love to learn.

JOSEPH Cattivo again, Court Composer. Well, tell him, Mozart. Name us a German virtue.

MOZART Love, Sire!

SALIERI Ah, love! Well of course in Italy we know nothing about that.

- "Amadeus", Peter Shaffer (1979)



France is to wine what the Beatles are to pop music - its influence is so varied and all-pervasive that it is the de facto reference point for many wines; Sauvignon, Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah / Shiraz, Chardonnay (and plenty of others) all call France their spiritual home.

A summer holiday in Germany led to us bringing back a range of local wines that owe no debt to France in their style - on this occasion, a light, refreshing Mosel Riesling and an oaky, pumped-up Pinot.

Von der Leyen Bernkasteler Kurfürstlay Riesling Kabinett 2016 Light, just 8.5%, with zippy, lemony sherbet, fresh green apple, gooseberries and pear. Lively, fresh and mineral.

Good.

Drink as an aperitif or with the lightest of starters.

Affentaler Spaetburgunder Rotwein Auslese Trocken 2014 they say life's too short for a German wine lable, but some of the details here are telling; it's a later-harvested (auslese) Pinot Noir (spaetburgunder) fermented to dryness (trocken).

Fuller than a Burgundy, this is a Pinot that has been down the gym and pumped its way up to 14% - with sweet, ripe dark cherries, wild berries and some classic Pinot "vegetal" aromas; supple texture and oaky spice cut through with an elegant freshness.

Good.

Drink with classic Pinot fare - darker game such as venison or duck.

Monday, 11 September 2017

A South African in France - Lunch with Martin Meinert

Lunch with Grand Mayne's consultant winemaker, Martin Meinert

What do you get if you cross a South African winemaker with a reviving vineyard on the other side of a prestigious demarcation line in France?

Martin Meinert is a South African winemaker who now consults on Domaine du Grand Mayne in south west France's Cotes de Duras, an area popular with British holiday-makers.

It was created out of a derelict farmhouse and abandoned fields in 1985 and run on a partial-ownership model; punters would buy a row or two of vines and then take their dividends in the form of finished product.

The winery has waxed and waned in the intervening period, but founder Andrew Gordon is still involved with the running.

Martin's CV includes experience at top Cape wineries and Lafite Rothschild, as well as Chile, California and Australia, which sets him up perfectly to achieve the winery's vision of making New World style wines in France.
Being just outside the appellation d'origine contrôlée boundary for Bordeaux brings with it a number of opportunities and challenges - recognition is low, but freedom of winemaking is greater and it brings an opportunity for the wines to sell on their own merits rather than as part of "brand Bordeaux".

Overall, the wines were technically very well-made with good fruit - as you might expect from Martin's CV. The entry-level wines were priced ambitiously, but this reflects to an extent the high level of fixed cost in a UK bottle of wine.

The reserves were demonstrably superior and given the price-quality ratio, arguably better value.
Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (c. £10) saline-mineral, fresh and aromatic

Reserve Blanc 2015 judiciously oaked with a good blend of oak, ripe fruit and freshness. Substantial, with good underpinnings. Very deft and accomplished.

Good.

2015 Merlot Cabernet coffee, cherries , spice and freshness

Reserve Rouge 2015 complex oaking, leather and gaminess; red and dark fruits with spices, freshness and hints of florality.

Good.

Moelleux 2012 a blend of S/SB/ChB ripe, roasted peaches, chestnutty beeswax, raisins, spices and cidery acidity. Complex.

Good.

They are available via the winery's website: https://www.domaine-du-grand-mayne.com/uk-shop/wine.htm

Monday, 4 September 2017

Lost In the Supermarket - German Wine

A random-ish selection of German wines - from the supermarket

I'm all lost in the supermarket
- Lost in the Supermarket, The Clash (1979)
On holiday in the southern Black Forest and needing a few wines for the week, I was faced with a wall of different German wines that I had absolutely no knowledge of - I could make sense of grapes, alcohol levels and prices, but nothing more.

So, I did what perhaps most people do in the circumstances and chose based solely on whether I liked the labels.

Actually, that's not quite true - I did reject one Spaetburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) for its 14% alcohol level, suspecting it may prove to be overcooked, and selected instead a 12.5% example.

All were bought in Edeka, a collection of co-operatives making up Germany's largest supermarket chain, in Bad Säckingen and priced at around €5-7, the equivalent of around £12 retail in the UK after allowing for duty, taxes and additional mark-ups.

In short, all of them were very enjoyable indeed - clean and precise, expressive and well-made, generally with a light-freshness. Perfect as sippers, they also matched with out holiday food (think wurst and spätzle with sauerkraut) I could routinely drink wines like this and never get bored.

Wuttemberg Terra S Weissburgunder 2015 floral and citrussy with elderflower, lemongrass, orchard fruits, zippy lime and sweet spices. Fresh, mineral and long (12.5%)

Merdinger Attilafelsen Spaetburgunder, Baden 2015 pale and cherry fruited with oaky, peppery spice; fine, firm tannins. Fresh, deft and elegant. (13%)

Wuttemberg Besigheimer Lemberger, 2016 dark cherry and red berry fruit with raspberry leaf and spice. Fresh, clean and pure; elegant and light.(10.5%)

Oberkircher Riesling Kabinett 2015 aromatic, zippy lime marmalade and kerosene with ripe lemon, pineapple and peach; pleasantly piercing acidity; flinty and mineral with white pepper.

Baden Markgraeflerland Spaetburgunder 2015 (12.5%) red and black cherry fruit, fresh and mineral with good underpinnings and a seasoning of oaky spice. Like Audrey Tatou taking you out for whisky and cigars.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Late Summer Sipping

Two whites for late-summer sipping

As we move into late summer, the evenings get cooler even on a hot day; sitting out in the garden can mean repositioning several times to follow the patch of sun as it sets more quickly than a few weeks earlier.

These two white are light enough for summer drinking, but have a bit more warmth and substance; Les Jamelles produce consistently good wines mixing, as befits their origins, Burgundian elegance with New World fruit and precision; this vintage won a silver medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017.

Château Toutigeac is new to me, but the increasing quality of white Bordeaux is not; warmer than the Loire and with the ability to blend grape varieties, white Bordeaux shows variety around a theme of freshness and substance.

Les Jamelles Viognier 2016 (£6.99, Co-op) honeysuckle, sweet spices and ripe yellow stone fruit, with a freshness and minerality. Long, warming and adept.

Good.

Bordeaux Blanc Château Toutigeac (£7.99, Bordeaux-Undiscovered) a blend of Sauvignon and Semillon with a dash of Muscadelle, it is fresh, slightly floral and musky with citrus, white and yellow stone fruit, good structure and mineral underpinnings. A beautifully crafted wine.

Good and good value.

This wine also features in the Everyday Bordeaux offering.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Lancaster Bomber Ale

Marston's Lancaster Bomber Ale

A relative received a year's supply of beer for taking part in an event - not a bad result.

His first delivery was several cases of Marston's Lancaster Bomber ale; it proved a little devisive with other members of the family, so he asked me to sample it and give an opinion.

I was only too happy to oblige.

A multi-award winning, classic English ale, it is chestnut in colour with a lovely full-bodied flavour, enriched with a wonderful late hop character - so says the website and it's hard to disagree with any of that.

Darker, richer and weightier than a lager, it is still mid-weight at 4.4% alcohol and with just a balancing sweetness.

Lancaster Bomber Amber-chestnut, with complex biscuity floral aromas; rich, full-flavoured and hoppy with fruitcake flavours. Clean, balanced and refreshing.

Good.

Match with pubby dishes, like steak and ale pie or roast beef.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Tour de Belfort - Malbec Grand Vin 2011

An aged bottle of Tour de Belfort's Grand Vin

I've been a fan of Eugene Lismonde's Tour de Belfort wines since I first tried them - they are superbly well made, with a combination of elegance, complexity and southern warmth.

The Grands Vins have always struck me as way too young to drink and, although I had been drawing out a case, the time had come to try the last one.

At six years old, it is still youthful and the only signs of age are that it does not require extensive aeration even to start opening up.

Youthful, primary and really only just ready for drinking now, it still has years ahead of it. And 2011 was not even a particularly good year in France.

Tour de Belfort Malbec Grand Vin 2011 dark plum, elderberry and black cherry fruit with pencil shavings, spice and freshness; inky and supple with excellent underpinnings and absolutely no rough edges - this is wine-making of the highest order. Youthful, vibrant and energetic.

Very Good.