The latest 'wine weekend', this time going to northern Italy in the autumn, has just been slotted into wine travel company Wine Voyages' increasingly busyschedule, taking in Verona and some of the Veneto's lovely vineyard areas and wines of course. From Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th October 2013: more info on what's included, wineries visited, prices and booking are here:
"On-foot" has beenregrettably dropped from 'Chablis: final destination 3...', as predictably more efficient transport was required this time to spread the net a little wider. See"Chablis on foot" part 1: Chablis Wine Awardsand"Chablis on foot" part 2: Droin, Chablisienne, Long-Depaquit, Fèvrefor previous ramblings around Chablis and catching the drift. This last instalment explores the neighbouring villages of Beines and Maligny a tad, taking in Domaines Alain Geoffroy, Louis Moreau and Séguinot-Bordet. It also tries to simulate an elevated view of one particular snapshot of thearea's vineyards ("you had to be there" type-thing, a vantage-point in theCôte de Léchet 1er Cru site) - accompanied by Eric Szablowski(goes to his website) who worked for many years as winemaker at a few wineriesin theregionand elsewhere, and now runs wine classes and tours in Burgundy-to get a sharper picture of and some insight on all these complicated Premier and Grand Cru names, where/what exactly 'Petit Chablis' is and other burning issues like that...
The vista is quite revealing standing on a slope (that old cliche about 'the high ground' has some worth after all) between vine rows inCôtede Léchet andPetit Chablis; the latter, strangely perhaps, are actually higher and chalkier looking than its 'superior' neighbour. "Chablis lies on Kimmeridgian slopes, and some on Portlandian, facing south-west-east," Eric (pic. right) started to explain. Amazingly, I've managed to avoid the 'K' word up until now - further insight can be foundHERE(read down through the 'Grand Cru Chablis London 2012 tasting report'), as I can't be bothered going on about that again... Advanced warning: there's already going to be plenty of soil talk here!
In a marvellous 'here's one I made earlier' style moment, Eric picked up and showed us a lovely large lump of those classic stones/rocks that make up this type of soil: chalk, marl, clay and tiny little fossils. "Petit Chablis is actually planted on pure limestone," he continued, and the piece ofCôtede Léchet we were looking at, a little lower and down to the left too, did look grassier with more clay in it; and you could see big chunks of chalk lying on the upper part. This does also reflect the same kind of "highest isn't necessarily best" thinking applied elsewhere to classified vineyards in Burgundy.So, one of those inevitable 'put you on the spot' questions came next: is this soil the source of that famous alleged 'mineral' character that's pretty distinctive in Chablis wines? Answering as a wise scientific type (with a good sense of humour as well), Eric said: "If there is a mineral taste..." (stemming from the relationship/cycle between/of soil - vine - grapes - flavour) "...then it's probably coming via the water (taken up by the plant)." There's definitely a climatic element to their taste profile too, as there are quite a few days less of pure sunshine here than in Meursault even (further south), say, which could just be down to plain-old higher acidity of course; yet there seems to be more to it than that...
Eric talked more about the location and features of some of the top sites around us and across the valley. "The problem with the Premiers Crus is, for example, Vaillons is in eight parts (with different micro-climates and soil make-up, and varying styles of wines)...Côtede Léchet is also on the left bank... and all thePremier Cru sites here are southeast facing. On the right bank, the river cuts theKimmeridgian terroir, and there's more homogeneity between thePremiers Crus." The Grand Cru vineyards are on that side too, just to the north of the town of Chablis: "We really have one Grand Cru in Chablis with seven climats that all touch!" he added tongue-in-cheek, although you can see what he means. "On the other side, there's a tributary of the river (running south I think) and more variation in the soils."
Eric pointed out more examples of the subtle differences and complexities of these sites; highlighting the way topography, exposure and the earth beneath these precious vines' feet can make that difference. "Montée de Tonnerre has the oldest, and shallower, soils... Fourchaume has more marl... and Vaulorent is the only Premier Cru that touches Grand Cru vineyards." There's actually just a path between it and Les Preuses, although apparently "not the best part of Preuses..." The Premiers Crus are generally located from the middle to top of the slopes, and then Petit Chablis vineyards lying across the tops. And the Grand Cru sites, more or less running in a long line next to each other, mostly face south and/or southwest, which obviously makes a significant difference sunshine wise... Except part of Vaudésir that faces "more north/northwest, the opposite to the rest!" Eric continued highlighting a few of these anomalies, for want of a better word. "We call the two sides 'sun' and 'moon', as (the micro-climate) is quite extreme: frost can be a real problem yet it's very steep and the hottest in summer." And Preuses, for instance, is windier and more exposed than some of the others. As forChabliswinemaking, Eric believes "we should decrease the amount of oak used generally speaking. There's now a younger generation who are more qualified and have worked elsewhere, so they have more experience too in how much oak to use." And he thinks winemakers "should do the malo-lactic fermentation..." (sorry to bring up the tiresome M word again... see 'Part 2' for more, if you must), basically to get richer rounder flavour and mouth-feel in the wines. One of our inquisitive group also asked Eric: "What's the biggest threat to Chablis," to which he replied, suitably philosophical, "Chablis... the problem of staying true to Chablis, in the face of globalization. Another big problem is fraud... with the Chablis name." And finally, as we'd got him going on those 'big' topics, what was his dream... "All vineyards will be organic or biodynamic." Read on for more views and info on that one...
"The road is long..." Louis Moreau at the foot of one of his slopes.
Louis Moreau (goes to website, where I pinched the photo from, and you'll find importers for their wines) and his second in command, wife Anne, live in Chablis town centre; but their winery is located in the village ofBeinesa few kilometres to the west of here (10 Grande Rue, phone 03 86 42 87 20). Louis' father Jean-Jacques had already created a successful wine broking/trading company, which was supplied by grapes from the Moreau estate dating back to the 19th Century;including their solely owned Clos des Hospices parcel within Les Clos Grand Cru that the family purchased back in 1904. This business was sold to Allied in the 80s then became part of Boisset in 1995, excluding thesefamily vineyards, which were then split between his father and Christian Moreau (hence the separate domaine under that name); and Louis took over their 'new' estate under his name at that time too. "But they're more or less the same vineyards throughout all these changes," Louis explained further in the cellar during our visit and tasting. And, after studying and working in California for a few years, "in 1995, I bought some more Premier and Grand Cru sites from Gimmonet et Fils," bringing the total area to about 50 ha nowadays. At that time, Chablis vine land cost around €80-€100,000 per hectare; now, you're looking at €180 to €200,000. Moreau also owns a second estate called Domaine de Biéville, which, established by his father in the 1970s, is another 60 ha of appellation Chablis lying 15 km east of the town all in one spot near Viviers. Some of the wine made from here is sold to e.g. Laithwaite's and M&S (as 'LM' Chablis) in the UK, by the way. Otherwise, they work with Legacy Wines (who bought previous agent Stratford) and export to several other countries... including "15% (ofsales)in Asia now." Louis describes their focus as "working in the vineyard in a veryenvironmentally friendly way," looking for "the most natural solution possible for getting high quality from my vines and grapes." Their Grand Cru and 1er Cru Vaillons vineyards are now farmed organically, "but we're not going for certification." He reckons about 30% of Chablis growers are doing organics, with 5% to 10% actually certified. Anne added: "we've noticed a difference in the Grand Cru wines - they seem more aromatic for instance - and we know what we're putting into the soil." 2011 Petit Chablis - a little cold and closed up at first, aromatic though with fresh citrus fruit, lean and crisp mouth-feel vs a touch of creaminess too, tight zingy finish. €12 cellar door. 2011 Chablis - fresh citrus with aniseed edges, clean and crisp palate with gently juicy fruity vs steely profile; well-made although lacks a bit of character maybe. 2010 1er Cru Vau Ligneau - much richer with buttery / fruity nose, lees-y and zesty mouth-feel with tight steely bite vs a touch of weight and light creamy flavours, zingy and quite long finish. Nice style. €16 2010 Vaillons - more closed up and steelier still vs subtlerichcreamy side, very steely and taut on its long finish. Needs time,classy. $26.95Larchmont Wine & Liquor NY. 2008 Vaudésir - touch of grainy coconut oak vs lush 'sweet' fruit and toasty hazelnut, dry and steely backbone though vs that weight and rounder side, delicious developing fruit, intense and concentrated; that oak melts into the texture, nutty and complex vs crisp, still young and structured vs maturing savoury flavours. Good stuff: better on the finish than on the initial nose. 2009 Les Clos - quite grainy oaky, fairly fat and lush vs 'salty' and savoury, oxidizing hazelnut notes vs quite toasty still; less 'tight' and more forward than the 08 perhaps, good though. 2009 Clos des Hospices - a tad less grainy and coconut, richer perhaps with similar hazelnut flavours, tighter acidity too with a little more texture, weight and concentration; a bit finer but pretty similar. And these two lovely older vintages of Louis Moreau Chabbers were 'scrutinized' over dinner the following evening at the well-known hotel-restaurantwww.hostellerie-des-clos.frback in town: 2000 Chablis (magnum) - delicious oatmeal and hazelnut notes, rich and rounded with dried apricot and butter flavours / texture vs still fresh with 'salty' bite, lovely tasty savoury finish. Yum, great vintage obviously. 2002 Vaudésir - deeper colour than the 00, 'older' tasting even with oxidized roast hazelnut /macadamianuts yet dry savoury finish; then turning quite mineral even vs rich maturing nutty / Fino sherry tones; complex wine drinking very well now. If you're feeling well-off (we weren't paying!), Hostellerie des Clos is a suitably sumptuous option for posh eating and staying in Chablis (18 Rue Jules-Rathier, phone 03 86 42 10 63). I had two delicious courses that evening (generous portions as well, I couldn't manage a dessert): melt-in-the-mouth fried foie gras (liver not paté, even less PC probably) and figs with salad-y bits followed by a lovely fresh crayfish stew. It's very expensive here, and I've probably had as good, or better even for less money; but it was very good in anybody's book. We enjoyed those two wines above with this and also another red from Irancy, a 2010 made by Léon Bienvenu (Pinot Noir and César), which was (apart from being much better than the previous offering mentioned in 'part 2') a nice aromatic style reminiscent of a Cabernet Franc/Beaujolais cross on the nose, had quite deep colour actually with attractive fruit vs refreshing bite / light dry grip.
It's perhaps difficult to picture what a couple of thousand corkscrews in all shapes and designs imaginable spanning over a century look like,all neatly displayed by size, period or country in seemingly endless glass cases as you discover one room after another. In that case, here's another good reason to go and visitDomaine Alain Geoffroy(goes to site) in Beines (4 rue de l'Equerre, phone 03 86 42 43 76;their wines are rather special too: read on for a comprehensive tasting tour of vintage 2011 plus some 10s, 09s and 08s). Daughter and sales managerNathalie Geoffroy told us the family has collected about this many over the years for their fascinating (really!)mini-museum called the 'Musée de la Vigne et du Tire-Bouchon' (there are a few tools & artifacts too showing wine-growing/making 'down the ages' type thing). My favourite corkscrew had to be an English one from the anti-alcohol lobby, featuring barbed wire around the handle! Nathalie is Alain
Geoffroy and his second wife's daughter actually, and she and her sister are also joint-owners of another property called Domaine de La Cornasse. The Geoffroy estatehas been around since the mid 19th Century and amounts to about 45 ha taking in three Premier Cru vineyards. Nathalie explained that "wedon't have vines inLes Clos (Grand Cru),but buy grapes from the same family friend every year." Their Chablis is available from Oddbins in London and various independent merchants around the UK; and fromLarchmont Wine & Liquor NY in the US, among others.
2011 Bourgogne Chardonnay - sourced from a rented vineyard near Tonnerre. Clean
and crisp vs juicy citrus fruit and a touch of roundness too, nice style. €7
2011 Petit Chablis - lean crisp and mineral with buttery and peachy hints, tight
and steely mouth-feel vs attractive fruit underneath.
2011 Domaine de la Cornasse Chablis - nice fruity style with juicy peachy and
creamy touches vs steely backbone, savoury and 'salty'tang vs 'sweet' fruit; very
2011 Domaine le Verger Chablis vieilles vignes (60 year-old vines on average) -
has "a bit of oak." Touch of smoky bacon adds a savoury element, quite
concentrated vs tight and steely, different.
2011 Beauroy 1er Cru (they own 8 ha) - floral celery tones vs peach and ripe
citrus, fairly concentrated with subtle rich fruit vs salty savoury side, long
tasty and classy.
2011 Vau-Ligneau - creamier and nuttier with floral peachy edges, tangy salty
and crisp vs lovely fruit, classic style; again quite restrained and makes you
want to finish the glass.
2011 Fourchaume - aniseed and celery hints vs buttery and ripe citrus vs green
fruit undertones, steelier and more intense perhaps, nice creamy buttery vs
salty and zingy combo, very long and fine. Good stuff.
2010 Chablis - developing nutty oily notes vs celery undertones, richer buttery
palate vs steely and salty, more concentrated (than the 11) with attractive
savoury vs 'sweet' mix, still crisp too yet drinking well now. £12.50 Oddbins, $21.95 Larchmont (currently 09).
2010 Beauroy - maturing creamy savoury notes, pretty intense and concentrated vs
steely and salty, lovely balance of buttery fruit vs tangy, long and fine. Yum.
2009 Vau-Ligneau - oaty flapjack aromas, quite rich and savoury, nice although a
bit flabby and 'hot'; full-flavoured and different though.
2008 Les Clos - oaty nutty savoury and buttery vs greener citrus hints,
concentrated and weighty with some oak texture/flavour vs roasted hazelnuts vs
very tight steely and crisp. Delicious wine.
Jean-Francois Bordettook overDomaine Séguinot-Bordetfrom his grandfather (pic. together above, taken from their site) -who he's obviously very fond of and still comes to see him twice a week in cellar and vineyard then they go for lunch - 15 years ago, since his mother didn't want to carry on the family business.Their winery and vines are in and around the village of Maligny (8 Chemin des Hâtes, phone 03 86 47 44 42) found to the north of Chablis, although we metJean-Francoisfor dinner atLe Bistrot des Grands Crus in town (see Part 2 for my 'review' of that establishment). The family's ties to wine-growing on this landdates back to 1590 no less, which nowadays comes to 16 ha including many old vineyards lying along south/southeast facing slopes on the right bank of the river Serein. The grapes are "mostly machine harvested,"Jean-Francois explained further. "My granddad was the first in the village to do this in 1981... Partly because (otherwise) 70 people are expensive..." and difficult to manage implied. "I like to pick very late too so it's really ripe," he added; using these fast and efficient machines also gives you that option with much less risk. About a quarter of his sales are in the
UK including Majestic stores, Charles Taylor (London) and small independents such as Wright's
Wine. And Wines Direct in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath is the Irish importer (€ price below).
2011 Petit Chablis - hints of ripe creamy fruit vs crisp bite, fairly easy going
and tasty now. £11.99 2011 Chablis - more closed up to start, similar in style to above yet fuller vs steelier too, ripe creamy fruit vs gentle tangy salty finish. About £13 or €16.
2011 Fourchaume 1er Cru - attractive ripe buttery fruit with a bit of weight too, finishes more mineral although it's quite forward and drinking well now (especially with the fish stew I had). £20
2010 Vaudésir Grand Cru (bought-in grapes) - fermented/aged in wooden vats with 12 months on the yeast lees, then blended and kept in stainless steel before bottling. Grainy coconut tones vs fairly rich and buttery, spicy edges too but not too oaky, quite fat mouth-feel vs subtle tighter fresher finish. Still needs a little time to come together, promising though.
The first instalment of this mouthwatering Chablis mini-series can be found here:"Chablis on foot" part 1: Chablis Wine Awards.This time, join me on a little walking and tasting tour around Chablis town itself taking in four nearby wineries (there are several more of course), which can easily be squeezed into a leisurely day-out with a spot of lunch sandwiched inbetween (when in Rome...): no car required, and a good way to burn off those calories from eating too much cheese, as you do in France (tour could also be done by bike, as long as you 'spit out', man...).
Jean-Paul and Benoit Droin
Across the not-entirely square (placeLafayette)from the elegant and ever-so-French town hall (Mairie or Hotel de Ville) near the War Memorial, there's a discreet buzzer on a dark green metal gate for Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin(8 boulevard de Ferrières, phone 03 86 42 16 78,www.jeanpaul-droin.fr:there's a comprehensive list of their importers worldwide on this site by the way), which grants access to their hidden old ageing cellar (they have a modern winery too built near their Grand Cru vineyards). Old being the operative word, as this family estate goes back to 1620 no less, which is something French winemakers get very proud about, especially when you're the fourteenth generation "non-stop handed down from father to son," asBenoitDroinput it.Not many could say that I'd imagine. In any case, the main thing is that Benoit is now running the show, who explained they own 26 hectares (64 acres) in 15 appellations - Chablis, Petit Chablis, eight Premier Crus and five Grand Crus - "on both sides of the valley, so they're quite spread out making it difficult to manage ripening, picking dates etc." Benoit answered various questionsas we tastedand weaved in some details and views around the wines, all of them 2011 vintage (bottled wines although he'd opened them the night before): Petit Chablis - yeast-lees notes, aromatic citrus and peach, gets creamier on the palate with toffee-ish tones even vs salty tang on the finish; nice now actually. Chablis - "I only make one cuvée blending all my vineyards," Benoit explained, "so there's no selection of young vs old vines, I need to get consistency and quantity too as I sell 70,000 bottles." 'Chalky' lees-y notes (and a hint of SO2), turning nice and buttery vs very taut and steely mouth-feel, quite concentrated and classy; attractive classic style. Benoit talked more about winemaking, in particular oak ageing, which is a hot and contentious topic in Chablis: "I use oak but relate it to each wine, and prefer to blend tank and cask wines otherwise they lose their freshness. I do the same oak treatment every year more or less for each PremierorGrand Cru, or not..." Vosgros Premier Cru - fermented and aged in vat (no oak) "from the 2007 vintage (a fairly challenging one round these parts) and have stuck with it since." Aromatic ripe citrus with buttery notes, more 'mineral' in character with celery tones, getting richer on the palate vs intense salty crisp length. Nice wine. Vaillons Premier Cru- 20% of the wine spent eight months in oak in a mix of new to five year-old barrels (if you see what he means...). Light toasted coconut dusting and grain adds a little texture and roundness, still has nice creamy and nutty flavours then steely and closed up on the finish, subtle although perhaps it doesn't need the oak as it's a bit grainy. Benoit said he's "nearly organic... I only use 5% to 10% of non organic products and plough the soil etc. I try to do the best I can for the terroir, although I don't like to use too much copper," for example. Copper sulphate based treatments are sanctioned, andregulated of course,for organic viticulture; but Cu is toxic in heavy doses and doesn't really break down in the soil. This is one reason some winemakers give for not going for certified organic practices, and being in a northerly climate like Chablis does make it riskier too. Benoit added: "There are now quite a lot of growers who say they're 'nearly organic', but I don't want to use this as a marketing gimmick." MontmainsPremier Cru- pretty toasty and grainy to start, fatter and nuttier on the palate but still a little awkward with a grainy flavour/texture; quite concentrated and creamy though with tight 'salty' finish. Mont de MilieuPremier Cru- south-facing slope. Ripe and peachy with gentle creamy mouth-feel, quite rich ripe and juicy, concentrated vs zesty and steely; fairly fine with very subtle oak use (20%).£28.50 Benoit exports his wines to the UK "mostly" - via Richards Walford, now part of Fields or Berry Bros (= £ prices above and below), and Domaine Direct; as well as the US, Canada, Hong Kong and mainland China among others. "I like to spread sales to avoid being dependent on one market, as I now sell about 220,000 bottles and no bulk wine anymore." FourchaumePremier Cru- 50% new oak. Plenty of hazelnut with light coconut toast, the wine holds it quite well and is rich nutty and buttery but still steely and mineral to finish. Montée de TonnerrePremier Cru- aromatic coconut oak dusting vs ripe and creamy fruit, fairly rich vs very steely, zesty and tight; integrated textured oak grain, concentrated and intense, very good, will develop nicely. 25% oak.£28.50 Vaudésir Grand Cru - lees-y oaty nose, toasty coconut notes vs quite exotic peachy and aromatic fruit, fatter lush texture then crisp and steely again, attractive savoury finish vs tight long and fine.£45.00 ValmurGrand Cru- again fairly rich and exotic, more toasted oak and hazelnut vs lees and oat flavours, tasty buttery and savoury palate tinged with spicy oak grain / twist; lovely mix of lush vs salty steely, more powerful too but still classy. Same oak treatment as the Vaudésir, very different result. GrenouillesGrand Cru- coco spice and grain, again quite fat with toasty oak, less exotic fruit yet rounded and powerful too; the oak's a bit more obvious here with slightly awkward grainy finish, although it's steely taut and young too of course.£52.50 for the 2008. Les ClosGrand Cru- yeast lees notes on the nose, steelier very intense mouth-feel with lively acidity vs toasted coco in the background, concentrated vs super tight and mineral finish with bitter twist (wood or acidity?); very intense and closed up, needs a few years to come together.£49.95
Chateau Long-Depaquit from their flickr.com photo gallery
Leaving Droin, head back past the Town Hall then straight across at a sort-of junction onto Boulevard du Docteur Tacussel. Stroll down here passing the post office and on to the end of the road, where it meets Avenue de la République (there always is one in every French town). Just to the right, you'll see the grand entrance gate opening onto a welcoming gravel path/driveway and leading down to the magnificentDomaine Long-Depaquit (45 rue Auxerroise, phone 03 86 42 11 13, www.bourgogne-bichot.com). This handsomely symmetrical "late 18th Century" chateau sits at the end of this crunchy chalky path, dissecting its ornate lawn gardens lined with meticulously pointy bushy trees. As you'd expect, there's some history to accompany this place: two brothers, abbots from Pontigny Abbey to the north of Chablis, bought this monastic estate when it was sold after the Revolution; and this family ran it for almost two hundred years until 1970 when Albert Bichot acquired it. "There were just 10 hectares (25 acres) of vineyards then, now the estate comes to 65," winery manager Matthieu Mangenot explained. "By 1960, there were only 500 ha left in Chablis (as people were abandoning their vines due to huge problems with frost etc.); there are over 5000 now." Their vineyards break down as 40 ha of Chablis, 15 of Premier Cru in six sites and 10 of Grand Cru in five sites... And 'La Moutonne', a historical cru site measuring 2.35 ha on a steep south-southeast facing slope that predates the current classification and is owned entirely by the company; most of it borders Vaudésir and part of it touches Preuses.Matthieu, who's been at Bichot since 2007 and worked in Beaujolais before that, gave a little more background on how they do things atLong-Depaquit, such as "hand-picking all the Premier and Grand Cru sites, as we can do more sorting, and the rest is machine-harvested (increasingly the norm here)." As we entered a lovely old mould-lined low-brick cellar, which was noticeably warmer than the main barrel cellar to induce the malo-lactic fermentation to complete (a 'second' fermentation usually following the alcoholic one, which naturally converts harsher malic acid into softer lactic acid - bit of a yawn topic but nevertheless important for the style of Chablis),Matthieuclarified that "we do this according to vintage, e.g. for the 2011 (a fresher year) but not 2009 (hot vintage so lacking in acidity). We also use about 25% to 35% oak for our Grand Cru wines." They do buy in some grapes for a Bichot label Chablis (not forLong-Depaquit), and there's a head winemaker / technical director called Alain Serveau who overseas all their estates.Matthieu described vintage 2012 as "dramatic" and "crazy" with lower yields than usual: "we had a big problem keeping everything clean, with mildew and other issues, right up to August. Yet, what did survive, was good and so was the weather when we picked." 2011 Chablis - quite floral with zesty lemon and yeast-lees notes, very crisp dry and 'salty' vs subtle juicy fruit and steely length. Leaner and less obvious style. £13.99 Wine Rack, £12.50 Humble Grape. 2010 Premier Cru Les Beugnons - this is part of Vaillons actually, at the higher end: "we're the only ones who label it as this,"Matthieu said (I'd never seen it before). No oak. Ripe and creamy with complex green edges, oatmeal and lees tones, quite rich and creamy vs savoury and salty, fairly concentrated and elegant with fatter yet very mineral profile, steely crisp finish. Fair class with that lovely 2010 vintage mix of rich vs steely. €14 cellar door. 2010Premier Cru Les Vaillons - 10% oak-fermented then aged for eight months. More mineral and less expressive nose, citrus with hints of butter; turns gently creamy / toasty on the palate vs vibrant ripe fruit building up, then salty and very crisp; fairly austere and long vs subtle concentration and nutty richness. Much more restrained at the moment. €14, £18.50 for the 2009 at Oddbins. 2010Premier Cru Les Vaucopins - they have 4.2 ha in this "very steepsite... down to the river." 15% oak. Very light spice and toast on the nose, oaty with toffeed butter and a touch of quince; these flavours carry onto the palate once again underpinned by intense very steely profile, buttery vs zippy and salty, long racy finish with subtle concentration. Wow, this is at Grand Cru level really: superb. €18, £15.99 31 Dover. Each of these three Premier Cru wines really did have a very different smell, taste and texture. On to the Grands Crus then: 2010 Grand Cru Les Clos - from a 1.5 ha plot. Rich butterscotch and oatmeal vs elegant 'green' edges, aromatic vs full-on; again has that lovely combo of concentrated and lush vs very taut crisp and steely mouth-feel, finishing with lightly toasted grainy texture vs butter and toffee vs super salty and long. Wow-er. 2010 Grand Cru Les Vaudésirs - 2.6 ha. More lemony on the nose, tighter and 'chalkier'; quite powerful though underlined by taut acidity vs subtle richness, tasty and juicy vs savoury and complex, tight austere and zippy finish vs lightly toasty and nutty flavours. Needs time. 2010 Grand Cru LaMoutonne - 2.35 ha. More butterscotch and candied peel, toastier too perhaps, buttery vs zippy with toasted hazelnut finish vs salty, rounded and creamy vs taut and long. Classy. This fab tasting also highlighted what a great vintage(wacky even)2010 is in Chablis, as you'll see from my notes on other producers' 2010s here and to follow in the next report (e.g. Alain Geoffroy, Louis Moreau, Jean-Francois Bordet...).
Château Grenouilles, owned byLa Chablisienneco-op
La Chablisienne co-operative winery (8 Boulevard Pasteur, 03 86 42 89 89, www.chablisienne.com) isn't easily missed, standing large about five minutes walk down Avenue de la République fromChateau Long-Depaquit(turn right out of their gate and keep going, it's on the right on the way out of town). It was founded in 1923 (happy 90th birthday!) and is now the only co-op in Chablis; and has become something of a household name for this reasonperhaps, as well as having rightly earned the reputation. There are 280 grower-members backed up by the kind of management, technical and marketing team you'd expect behind a successful winery of this size. Exuberant Brand Ambassador Hervé Tucki told us categorically that "we produce and sell everything ourselves, and we don't buy in any grapes or wine." La Chablisienne's holdings amount to 25% of the surface area under vine, about 1200 hectares, which is the source for 30 different labels sold worldwide. "And we have sites in all the Grands Crus except Valmur," he continued, "the growers are rewarded for working better in their vineyards," as is the norm at any co-op that wants to make good wines. Everything they do, from day to day work in the field to specific treatments, is logged in a diary and follows an established 'rule book' of best practice, overseen bythe co-op's vineyard managerArnaud Terrier. "We work with each grower to decide harvest dates based on analysis of the grapes, tasting and the weather." Unusually perhaps, each producer presses their own grapes, then the co-op fetches the must to the winery for fermentation. Hervé thinks this is better though, as "it avoids long queues of growers waiting here with their grapes (sitting out in the sun, or rain), and it would take longer to process such a big quantity all at once." All the must is tasted and analyzed when it arrives at the winery, and graded so each grower is paid on quality. "We do it by appellation and parcel by parcel. We apply different winemaking depending on each vintage, and make a lot of different blends rather than one big one." Hervé believes they own some of the best vineyards in Chablis, which "gives us many options: we make three different Fourchaumes, for instance." Apparently William Fevre is the only other producer with seven Grand Cru vineyards. Their vineyards have "a good mix of young to old vines too,"also improving those blending options."We don't like making Chardonnay wines either," Hervé added mischievously, "but Chablis wines made from Chardonnay." A common 'theme' around here, not surprisingly, and you can see what they mean, although producers with any sense should and do mention 'Chardonnay' on the back-label at least. "We do the malo-lactic fermentation (stifle thatyawn) most of the time, and don't like to bottle the wines too early," he filled us in on a little more winemaking detail. "All the Premier and Grand Crus see oak, and some of the Chablis too." Vincent Bartement is head winemaker here. The co-op does still sell "small quantities in bulk" to winetraders in Beaune, but not for export. "LaChablisienne name is only used for the on-trade (in France anyway: e.g. Marks & Spencer puts it on their labels), otherwise we use different labels and names." It'salso one of five co-ops behind the 'Blason de Bourgogne' brand, which was created especially for the retail trade and 65% of these wines are now exported to over 60 countries. "It has a good reputation in France in the restaurant sector too," Hervé continued, including listings in many Michelin starred places "which is important for us." The winery sells about 2.2 million bottles asLaChablisienne out of 6+ m overall. "Our focus isLaChablisienne label, but obviously we sell to lots of supermarkets in France and abroad." The modern facilities at this site have capacity to hold about two vintages worth of wine as well, more or less, which naturally makes that task a little easier. It's the wines' turn now to do the talking, which generally they do very well. Here's my notes on the ten Hervé picked from their obviously wide range. Apart from M&S and other bespoke labels, certain of these wines are available from these independents in the UK (approx £ prices stated below): Auriol/the Wine People (Hartley Wintney), Stevens Garnier (Oxford), Heritage Wine (Wickwar), Gerrard Seel (Warrington), Whitebridge Wines (Stone), Mill Hill Wines (London), Astrum Cellars (Mitcham), Nethergate Wines (Bury St. Edmunds), Cambridge Wine Merchants, Addison Wines (Telford), Morgenrot Group (Manchester), Inverarity Morton (Glasgow), The Vintner (London SW10). 2011 Petit Chablis - aromatic zesty and 'chalky' (with a bit of SO2 on the nose), crisp and dry with nice juicy fruit and steely finish; quite one-dimensional but attractive clean simple style. €8 cellar door, £10.50-£12 2011 Chablis La Pierrelée - one of five Chablis labels they make, which Hervé thinks is "a classic style." Showing a little more peach and citrus, nice and juicy, zingy mouth-feel vs aromatic ripemelonfruit, crisp and dry finish; very nice style actually. €12, £12.50-£14 2011 Beauroy 1er Cru - enticing aromatic and honeyed nose, peachy too with light wood spice tones; chalky and zesty palate with coconut grain, hints of butter vs tight salty finish, tangy and long with a bit of weight too. Needs a little time to come together, fairly austere at the moment. €15, £15.50 2011 Montée de Tonnerre1er Cru- a touch closed up and austere to start, concentrated though with zesty vs creamy profile and ripe juicy melon fruit, lightly oily texture vs chalky/salty bite, fairly intense with crisp taut finish. Lovely style, definitely needs one to two years to show its true colours. €19 2010 Les Vénérables Chablis vieilles vignes (old vine selection) - very ripe, almost a botrytis note, quite exotic and buttery then nutty and rounded vs still steely, fairly intense with lovely savoury hazelnut flavours, rich and luscious almost vs taut and salty. Delicious wine. 2010 was a very warm vintage yet high in acidity (usually a paradox). €14, £15-£17 2010 Cote de Lechet1er Cru-oatier and creamier, nutty hazelnut, nice and buttery vs steely mineral length, delicious almost toffee characters vs salty and very crisp. Yum. Again has that benchmark purity underneath. £15.50-£18 2010 Montmains1er Cru- oilier and more honeyed, buttery vs very zesty and chalky, gentle creamy nutty flavours vs super zingy crisp and tight. Less up-front than the Cote de Lechet though, very different actually, that taut mouth-watering finish vs lingering nutty taste suggests it needs a few years; very good as well. 2010 Mont de Milieu1er Cru-touches of coconut and vanilla grain vs rich and concentrated, greener tinges too turning to butter, smokier and spicier withclassiclush vs tight salty and austere finish. Closes up, less obvious with its lingering acid structure and texture. 2010 Les Preuses Grand Cru - spicy coconut edged nose, lightly buttery too then tightens up, spicy oak touches vs nutty vs very tight and crisp; long austere finish, very concentrated though with well-handled oak treatment. £30 2009Château GrenouillesGrand CruGrenouilles - still quite closed on the nose initially, turns to rich hazelnut and oily honeyed side, toffee almost, then tightens up with crisp steely mineral bite, big vs tight mouth-feel, lovely complex combo of these elements. £40-£50 (depends on the vintage).
William Fèvre has a very smart shop and tasting room back in the middle of town (10 rue Jules Rathier,03 86 42 12 06,email@example.com; the cellar's on Avenue d'Oberwesel though, on the outskirts), wherewineryboss Didier Séguier hosted a tutored tasting from their wide range of Chablis (they produce about 350,000 bottles from their vineyards and another million from bought in grapes). The company has 51 hectares including 15 ha of Premier Cru and 15 of Grand Cru. "They aren't the biggest vineyards but the biggest holdings of Grands and Premiers Crus, which isn't bad!"Didier explained. This is largely due toWilliam Fèvre, who, after studying at the very prestigious 'Ecole Nationale d'Administration' in Paris (dubbed the "President school" as any ultra-ambitious politician in the making or top civil servant graduates from here), launchedhimselfinto a high-profile career including working at the Finance Ministry, apparently encouraged by his family rather than going into wine. "At the time," Didier continued, "people were getting rid of vineyards as it was too difficult with all the frost problems etc. So, while working there (in the 50s and 60s), he started buying up some of the best sites here in Chablis." When he was 70, in 1998,Fèvre'sdaughters weren't interested in continuing in the family business, so he sold it to the Champagne house Henriot. Mind you, he kept the vineyards though and rents them back to the company (wise man)! Same goes for the buildings housing this shop, the bistro next door (see below) and adjoining Hostellerie des Closhotel & restaurant, which is leased by the proprietor.Fèvre was also "at the forefront of a 20 to 30 year campaign against fake Chablis. For example, he got the Japanese to sign an agreement (not to use the name)." Didier himself worked for Bouchard from 1992 and went to Chablis in 1998 with Henriot, when they bought the company; he's responsible for all their vineyards and cellar. Hesummed up the past three vintages, all very different: "2012 was difficult, but I've seen worse... more challenging when you're in the middle of converting over to organic obviously!" 2011 was "good for expressing each terroir, but not a great vintage for ageing like 2010."Fèvre's wines are available in the UK via importer John Fells or from Berry Brothers on-line; they're also widely exported elsewhere: go to their site for more info (click on link under photo above). Didier kick-startedthe organic farming process in 2005 in certain vineyards, such as Vaillons since "it's southeast facing and sunny with less disease pressure anyway." This was then extended to their "right bank vineyards" from 2010/11. "We're actually already 100% organic but not certifiedyet," he went on, "as we don't want to at the moment, in case we have a really difficult year. We still want good grapes, mildew can be a real problem here if it's very wet." But he does believe using organics gives "better expression of terroir and fruit...After six years (inVaillons), I think we were getting better expression." But it's more labour intensive, of course: "In 1998, he had 14 people working per hectare; after two years, this increased to 22." All grapes are hand-picked too and manually sorted on tables. They ferment with "natural yeasts for Premier and Grand Cru wines and use cultured yeasts for Chablis." Refer to my notes on the wines tastedbelowfor more comments on winemaking and each site. All 2011 vintage. €€€ = their shop prices. Petit Chablis - made from bought-in grapes (they don't have any vineyards inPetit Chablis).Aromatic zesty floral citrus with lees edges, quite 'chalky' zingy and lively with gentle fruit underneath; a bit lean perhaps. €9.30 Chablis - again showing hints of yeast-lees with lifted lemon aromas, quite lean and steely with zesty chalky bite, a touch clunky perhaps although has some attractive juicy fruit. €12 Vaillons 1er Cru - fairly steely with hints of SO2, gets richer with more toffee and toast on the palate vs yeast lees undercurrent, quite concentrated and tight, closes up or a little lacking? €24.50 Mont de Milieu 1er Cru - bit of SO2 on the nose, turning to aniseed vs buttery, juicy and steely mouth-feel vs subtle lees (and toast?) Fair concentration yet taut and zesty; again is it just very tight at the moment or lacking something? Not so long in the end. €27 Vaulorent 1er Cru (near Les Preuses) - a touch richer although still tinged with SO2? Tight mineral palate with zingy 'salty' bite, subtle concentration and juicy ripe fruit, steelier and longer and more structured, a tad more buttery too vs elegant finish; better but still missing something maybe... €33.50 Valmur Grand Cru (top of the hill facing south, southeast and southwest) - Aromatic 'chalky' nose, gets peachier vs salty and tightly structured, long mouth-watering finish, closes up; needs time, although still seems to lack a bit of real concentration. €48 Cote Bouguerots Grand Cru (in Bougros, which has two parts and they own half of it! Steeper and more southwest facing) - A touch fuller and richer, buttery and nutty vs tight and steely, has more weight and substance with subtle creamy fruit and intense salty finish. €48 Clos Grand Cru ("Probably the most homogeneous of our sites, on top of the hill; half the vines were planted in the 40s by William's father.") - Fairly chunky with toffee and oats, rich and concentrated with toasted edges then tight steely and salty, fine long finish; obviously needs time, very good. €55 I couldn't help feeling a little underwhelmed by these wines, given their reputation and prices, and I wasn't alone. A colleague on the trip came out saying: "I just remember the wines being a bit more exciting." Still, these were all 2011s, so a leaner although pretty vintage as has been commented on, and some of them are obviously too young to show that well at the moment... And a good place for lunch: La Feuillette Restaurant 132, 8 Rue des Moulins, 03 86 18 91 67, chablis.net/lafeuillette132. They offer three set menu options: €13.50 (three simple coursesdaily, no choice), €21.50 (good selection including their succulent 'joue de porc', pork cheek slow-cooked in wine) and €27.80 (quite fancy, more choice); and additional dishes a la carte bien sur. As for wines, we tried: 2010 1er Cru Montmains from Denis Race, very nice style and drinking well now actually with ripe butter and toffee flavours, quite forward and creamy vs crisper and zestier side. 2009 Irancy red 'cuvée Emeline'from Benoit Cantinmade from Pinot noir and the César variety, aka Romain ("what did they ever do for us?" Ah, planted vines, I see...), which was fairly light and tart, a deep-coloured rosé style with some savoury fruit vs freshness. OK with the rich pork, not that nice on its own! 1986 Grand Cru Les Preuses from Regnard tasted with three cheeses: Epoisses, Chaource and Soumaintrain (all cow and from the region). Oxidising nutty oaty nose with mushroom hints, full and honeyed and Fino edged, rich complex and savoury with still crisp and dry finish. Yum. Great with theEpoisses, which brought out more of those honey flavours, yet it had dry and steely bite to cut through it. A good place for dinner: Le Bistrot des Grands Crus, 8 Rue Jules-Rathier, 03 86 42 19 41, www.bistrotdesgrandscrus.com.Run by the same people behind the more famous Hostellerie des Clos (more on that in Part 3...), this affordable 'modern' style bistro, right next door toWilliam Fèvre's shop,does three dishes for €21 (changed every other day) or a main and glass of wine for €10.50. Off the 'a la carte' menu, I had 'Croquettes de chèvre frais sur lit de salade' (filled with melted goat cheese) at €8.50, followed by 'Pochouse de poissons de rivière au Chablis' (selection of poached river fish) at €16.50, which were both good especially the fishy dish. And we sampledJean-Francois Bordet's wines with the food, who joined us here for dinner (see next instalment for notes and some background). Coming soon then: Part 3 -Alain Geoffroy, Louis Moreau, Séguinot-Bordet and an elevated view of Chablis' vineyards with Eric Szablowski, to get a better picture and some insight on all these different complicated Premier and Grand Cru sites, where/what is Petit Chablis by the way etc... Lots more Chablis HERE by the way.
Another post in my occasional series on quality ciders that have crossed my apple-strewn path(see link at the bottom for more), which brings us to the curiousGros Oeillet variety mentioned in the title that I'm told makes up at least 90% of this "naturally sparkling craft cider." Funny enough, this means either 'big eyelet' in French, as in curtain rings, or 'large carnation', as in oversized buttonhole filler. Must be the shape of it I guess. Still, not quite as amusing a name as a Devon cider apple variety called 'Slack my Girdle' apparently!Bet you're glad you know that now. Back to this rather tasty cider actually, for those who like a lovely really pure appley taste, nice fresh bite (but avoiding that sometimes rather harsh acidity you can get in apples) and delicate fizz (rather than injected burpy CO2), which comes from natural second fermentation (similar to real ale or Champagne I'd imagine). It's fairly dry and light too, although certainly not tart with its sweet apple character and not overly strong at 4.5% abv. This bottle was sampled with a lentil and prawndopiaza curry actually and went pretty well with the spice and sweet/sour flavours in the sauce; I hadn't really thought about drinking cider with curry before but might do from now on. I'd think it would work well with a nice tangy mature cheddar or similar cheese with a bit of real flavour.
Costs £2.19 for 50cl at Sainsbury's, and £1.75 on promotion from 12 June to 2 July and 24 July to 2 August during their 'Vintage Cider Festival'.
The Wines of Spain - Thursday 30 May- £30 or two for £50 "Around eight Spanish red, white and rosé wines will be tasted and talked about, including classic examples from northern Spain - e.g. Penedes, Priorat, Rioja, Navarra, Galicia - central Spain - e.g. Ribera del Duero or Toro - and southern Spain - e.g. Valdepeñas, Valencia & Jerez..." Le Tour de Franceone-day wine workshopSaturday 1 June:£80 for the day including lunch, about a dozen wines for tasting and 'discussion', course notes and tuition. More details about this and other workshops here:wine-education-service.co.uk/workshop.
Thursday 27 June - Champagne & Sparkling Wines - £35 or two for £60
"A fizzy world tour starting in France with classic Champagne and other fine sparklers, then comparing with the ever popular Cava (a good one, of course), Italian 'new kid on the block' Prosecco, passing through the southern hemisphere (e.g. Australia, New Zealand) and ending up in England!" Full details and on-line booking:www.wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast
I've said the odd kind thing about Pinot Noir from New Zealand before (goes to archive page with links to previous post featuring Pinots fromSeresin,Borthwick Estate,Wither Hills andMount Edward); so I can't be bothered repeating myself with headline-grabbing clichés about "... great potential for Pinot now being revealed... cool climate elegance... blah blah..." and all that jazz (oops, I think I just did). The ten Pinot Noirs picked and noted below were mostly tasted in Dublin earlier this year (apart from the first one bought in Tesco 'UK'), hence € prices and importers mentioned are in the Irish Republic. I've split them up by region, which neatly highlights a pattern showing where much of the country's (best?) PN is planted: fromWairarapa, orMartinborough in thesouth of North Island, to Marlborough, the biggest wine region especially for white varieties, in the north of South Island; and heading south through theWaipara Valley in Canterbury and finallyCentral Otago, the most southerly area for vines and rated as producing some of the best NZ Pinot to date (and often the dearest too, alas).
Wooing Tree vineyard, home of Beetle Juice and a certain Puritan dictator... Photofrom nzwine.com
2009 'Tesco Finest' Sacred Hills Wines / Jenny Dobson (13.5%) - attractive
maturing style showing smoky vs perfumed sweet berry fruit with savoury edges,
fair weight and rounded palate vs touch of fresh acidity and bite still, quite long
and fine. Bought and sampled last year sometime, on offer for less than £10 at the time so
not the current vintage and price for sure.
2011 Felton Road, Bannockburn ("Must be the 1314, unmistakeable..." - enticing perfumed Pinot nose with toasty
chocolate edges, nice 'sweet/savoury' fruit with a little weight, balanced and
quite stylish with elegant fruit coming through on the finish. €28 WineKnows
2010 Wooing Tree Beetle Juice, Cromwell (14%) - richer cherry fruit, turning
savoury with enticing volatile edges, has a touch of bite and Burgundian style, quite big
though vs attractive maturing 'sweet/savoury' fruit. €30 Quintessential Wines; Harry's Road Fine Wines in Belfast.
2010 Rock Ferry - fairly vibrant fruit and oak on the nose, turning more elegant
and Pinot styled, quite firm and fresh mouth-feel vs more fruit than oak in the
2010 Bellbird Spring River Terrace - perfumed tasty 'sweet/savoury' fruit,
fairly silky and soft with delicate fruit vs a bit of weight too. €29.50
2011 Craggy Range Te Muna - hints of vanilla oak vs delicate red berry/cherry
vs savoury notes, tasty and juicy in the mouth, quite elegant finish yet has
nice palate weight too. Needs a little time to come together. €40 Febvre & Co.
2010 Gladstone Vineyard - elegant maturing Pinot notes, lacks a little
concentration perhaps but has subtle attractive Pinot style and still lively too.
2011 Spy Valley - a little extracted and chunky at first, moves on to nicer
'sweet/savoury' fruit combo with subtle oak in the background, attractive silky
tannins with lingering more savoury flavours. €20-€25 Cassidy Wines
2010 Auntsfield Single Vineyard, Southern Valleys - intriguing lightly volatile
notes with 'sweet/savoury' touches, reasonably concentrated although a tad
clunky perhaps. €22.50
2009 Villa Maria Cellar Selection - lovely perfumed fruit with maturing
'sweet/savoury' edges, elegant vs a bit of weight, mature vs still fresh on the
finish. Nice style. €21 Barry & Fitzwilliam
Rioja is one of those (fairly) endlessly fascinating wine "topics" yet sometimes a bit of a minefield too, as there are a lot of Rioja wines out there at all sorts of prices and it's not alwaysclearwhat kind of style you're going get. Fruity but a bit thin or rich fruity and good, lightly oaky or very oaky,youngand old (okay, that one should be prettyobvious), cheap and expensive (ditto). What thesethree different styles and price points of red Rioja below have in common is, well, they're all good as far as I'm concerned; and have all seen some barrel ageing from a few months to a few years, which clearly can shape the style, flavour and texture of the wine. They're also mostly made from theTempranillo variety, considered Rioja's flagship grape although sometimes a splash of Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano (calledMorrastel in southern France, not the same as Monastrell in Spain or Mourvedre, just to confuse matters...)or Mazuelo (=Cariñena orCarignan), for example, can actually improve the blend. Having said that, the second wine here fromCantos de Valpiedra was, I think, 100% Tempranillo and went down very well at a recent tasting I held.
Saxa Loquuntur uno 2010 Carmelo Ortega (Tempranillo, Garnacha; 14% abv) - aged 4 to 6 months in American and French oak barrels. And it doesn't really show, just adding a little spice and light dark chocolate texture to its quite lush ripe berry fruit and dry yet fairly rounded tannins. Good value at £6.99 from Lidl (part of their 'Wine Cellar' range, so not all stores).
Cantos de Valpiedra2008Tempranillo (13.5%) - showing nice savoury meaty maturing side vs still quite rich and lush blackberry/cherry fruit, hints of spicy vanilla wood in the background vs fairly concentrated and stylish. £8.99 James Nicholson.
Carlos Rodriguez Reserva 2007 - pretty typical traditional style with developing volatile 'cheesy' notes and dried raspberry / cassis fruit, underpinned by smooth vanilla oak notes / texture and gentle 'sweet' fruit, hint of dry tannin to finish with savoury edges. A touchlightperhapsandbeginning to fade so it's ready to drink now; quite good though on the dear side - £12.99 fromNaked Wines,or £9.49 if you're an 'Angel' (what's that all about by the way, paying them money to get the wine for the price it's worth?) Photo of Carlos copied from their site. Mucho masRioja HERE (goes to Spain archive page with links) featuring, among others: CVNE / Contino rare vintagesof top Reservas and Gran Reservas ("If it's the 52, you were expecting me..."). Alvarez Alfaro,Rioja duet: Lagunilla,La Rioja Alta,Garnacha rosé... Y mas!
New Zealand winemakers are well known for their lively expressive Sauvignon Blanc wines and Chardonnays too made in different styles (fresh & fruity, rich and toasty, somewhere in between...). So it makes sense that other 'aromatic' white varieties are coming to the fore in cool climate New Zealand wine country including Riesling, Pinot Gris (Grigio) and Gewurztraminer. Let's not get too excited though: they're still small fry in the vineyard scheme of things, as these three grapescombinedamountto about the same area of Chardonnay overall- a bit over3000 hectares - and are dwarfed by 20,000 ha of ubiquitous Sauvignon blanc. Maybe this is why the wines are quite expensive - you'll struggle to find one under £10 in the UK and €12 in Ireland - but the best are definitely worth a go (think Thai, Chinese or Indian food) and aren't completely in price cloud-cuckooland when compared to similar quality from Alsace, Germany or Australia.
Among many fascinating stats in the New Zealand Winegrowers' 2012 Vineyard Register report, I noticed a few other 'aromatic' white varieties lurking around too, in relatively tiny quantities but there's obviously some experimentation going on, such asAlbarino,Arneis,Gruner Veltliner,Muscat,Petit Manseng, Pinot Blanc,Verdelho... as well as slightly more substantial plantings of Viognier. Anyway, back to the focus of this piece: these dozen Rieslings, PGs and Gewurzes were mostly sampled at a recent NZ tasting in Dublin hence the € prices, although should be easy enough to find elsewhere in the world.
2011 Felton RoadBannockburn, Central Otago (9.5% abv) - wild lees edges and enticing oily 'kerosene' (!) notes, pretty sweet on the palate (60 g/l residual sugar or RS) underlined by nice fresh acidity, elegant and quite long. A little on the sweet side although does haveattractiveRiesling character. €18.50
2011 Esk Valley Marlborough (13%) - aromatic floral 'chalky' nose, fairly concentrated citrus fruits then more honeyed on the palate with some oily development vs crisp bite and a touch of roundness too (slightly off-dry style). Quite good, lacks a bit of character perhaps. €14.99
2011 Richmond Plains Nelson (organic, 12%) - developing oily honeyed characters vs quite intense lemon and lime fruit, crisper and 'chalkier' mouth-feel vs off-dry and fairly long finish. €14.75
2011 Forrest WinesMarlborough (13.5%) - quite complex maturing fruit showing spicy honeyed notes and ripe cantaloup melon, rounded medium-dry palate with exotic fruit vs still a little freshness riding underneath. £10.99 / €16.50 James Nicholson
2011 AmisfieldCentral Otago (14%) - quite rich and leesy, honeyed 'waxy' palate vs nutty spicy and toasty edges even; rounded vs crisp profile, weighty and off-dry finish with refreshing bite too. Good stuff.
2011 Pasquale Hakataramea Valley (13.5%) - juicy and honeyed with fairly exotic sweet fruit, pineapple almost vs yeasty toasty nutty edges, a touch of oomph vs bitter twist on the finish. Nice start, ends up a little bitter though. €26 2011 Babich Marlborough (13.5%) - yeast lees notes and mix of guava and greengage, quite rich then tighter and crisper mouth-feel, fairly dry with light
bitter twist. €12.99
2010 Bilancia Hawke's Bay - more golden in colour, oily honeyed developed nose
with spice notes, has a bit of oomph vs bitter twist and dry bite, attractive
lingering maturing fruit. €18.99
2011 Greystone Waipara Valley (14%) - lightly 'cheesy' vs lush sweet lychee and
Turkish Delight, big mouthful of exotic fruit, medium dry with a hint of
'chalky' bite and bitter twist to finish. €20
2011 Te Mania Nelson (organic, 14.5%) - powerful lychee and pineapple aromas /
flavours, has a little bite on the palate with lingering perfumed fruit, quite
alcoholic although this helps cut through its medium dry/sweet side. €16.99
2010 Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao, Auckland (13.5%) - developing complex
oily notes and pretty intense lychee, has good weight and finishes with a little
bitter twist. €26.99
2009 Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough (14%) - more restrained to start, although
turns a bit confected with that Turkish delight, boiled sweets and lychee combo;
finishing with a kick and medium dry. €22.50
To follow: New Zealand Pinot Noir focus. And on this blog previously:
Further to this blurb just posted onFrenchMediterraneanWine.com:It's tomorrow folks, Wed 17 April, and I'll be busy at an Argentina tasting in Dublin sampling as many Malbecs as I can no doubt (report on that to follow after the event). This 'special Malbec happening' is the latest in a curious fashion for lesser-known grape varieties to cheekily book themselves into everyone's diary once a year (well, for wine geeks at least). As for my other southerly French blog, well, I wrote a mini-series of quite long pieces about aMalbecroadtrip aroundCahorscountry not so long ago, so you could amuse yourself with those I suppose:
Cahors:Malbec roadtrip part 3- Châteaux Haute-Serre, La Caminade, Armandière and more... Back toArgentina,here's a fruity little "Malbec of the mo" tip to be going on with until my full report from said tasting sees the dark of night:
Viñalta Malbec 2012Mendoza - attractive easy-going 'modern' fruity style with lots of lively berry fruits and spicy vs liquorice hints, soft and rounded palate with a little substance and grip just to finish it off.Marks & Spencer £7.49
Happy, erm, Malbec day then. More Malbec from Argentina HERE.
With the prices of top Bordeaux reds spiralingeverupwards (except for the 2012 vintage perhaps, which the trade and critics are expressing misgivings about quality-wise) making these wines for well-offinvestorsonly, it's nice to find a few tasty bottles for under a tenner - and one, the last red featured below, for £15 from M&S though it's very good. The first three tasting-noted here, a red white and rosé trio, are available from a fairly new on-line specialist called www.bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk, picked pretty much at random off their website which looks like it deserves closer inspection. The second two reds are part of Lidl's new upmarket "wine cellar" range (more of those to follow in a separate piece).
Château Ballan-Larquette2011 Bordeaux blanc (50-50 Sauvignon blanc - Sémillon, 12.5% abv) - intense zesty green fruit, citrus and gooseberry vs oily honeyed rounded texture, quite concentrated with crisp and tasty fruity finish. Lovely dry white. £8.65Bordeaux Undiscovered.
Château Ballan-Larquette2011 Bordeaux Clairet (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot;13% abv) - rich vibrant colour and red fruit cocktail on the nose / palate vs oily creamy flavours and texture, fairly full-bodied with 'sweet' cherry / berry fruit vs crisp fresh bite on the finish. Serious foodie rosé. £8.45 Bordeaux Undiscovered.
Château Puyanché2005 Cotes de Castillon (80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc;13.5% abv) - deep colour still for its age, fairly complex nose with developing savoury notes vs 'earthy' cassis and smoky peppery edges even; quite concentrated and lush vs herbal cedary undertones vs fairly meaty and dark, nice firm dry vs ripe tannin combo, thick textured with a bitter twist yet well-balanced. Tasty red with dried cassis fruit and maturing savoury flavours vs funkier 'inky'side;started to oxidize quite quickly a day after opening, so drink now I'd say. Good value at £9.40.
Puisseguin - Saint Emilion 2011, Leroy Chevalier (Merlot,Cabernet Sauvignon,Cabernet Franc; 13% abv) - a tad mean and firm perhaps (probably a symptom of this not spectacular vintage in the region), but otherwise not a bad example of a Merlot based 'Bordeaux right bank' red at a reasonable price, I suppose. £6.99 Lidl ("Wine Cellar" range so not all stores).
Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2010, Union de Producteurs deSaint Emilion(mostly Merlot, 14% abv) - quite big and blowsy actually showing ripe damson and black cherry/currant fruit layered with toasted coconut and vanilla oak, wilder smoky rustic notes too; chunky tannins and palate weight, quite extracted and dry yet has good depth of fruit vs lightly charred and 'rubbery' oak. The tannins and oak are a little clunky, but underneath it's surprisingly lush (2010 was a warm ripe vintage) with dark fruit and that wilder smoky side too; I guess it might soften up with 6+ months in bottle. £9.99 Lidl("Wine Cellar" range so not all stores).
Château Saint Paul 2010 Haut-Médoc (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot; 14% abv) - rich dark colour and full-on nose of cedary coconut oak vs ripe cassis and plum fruit, pretty serious structured wine with a subtle oak coating adding nice texture to its quite firm dry yetroundedtannins; concentrated and dense with lovely fruit actually, closes up on the finish. Sumptuous wine, drinking ok now (with steak or duck at least) but should keep and improve over a few years. The label's reminiscent of a top estate but I can't remember which one... Marks & Spencer £14.99.
Here are a couple of Cape Grenache reds worth mentioning, discovered at the World Grenache Competition held in the south of France earlier this year... More on that here (overview), here (Roussillon & Chateauneuf), here (Sardinia), here (Spain) and here (Australia).
2012 Waverley Hills Grenache, Tulbagh region (13.5%) - aromatic floral liquorice and pepper on the nose, quite soft and tasty palate with attractive aromatic fruit, touch of tannin adds grip vs nice rounded mouth-feel. Silver Medal winner.
More on Waverley here(goes to South Africa archive page).
2011 DiemersdalGrenache,Durbanville valley (14%) - herby and peppery aromas, quite intense in the mouth with a touch of sweet oak, firm dry mouth-feel vs sweeter wild fruit on the finish.
Further to thisWine Education Service courses & tastings Marchupdate: "There are four Wine Education Service NI events scheduled in Belfast city centre over the next few weeks, tutored by RMJ..." Here's anApril update: Le Tour de Franceone-day wine workshophas been rescheduled to Saturday 1st June:£80 for the day including lunch, about a dozen wines for tasting, course notes and tuition. More details about this and other workshops here: wine-education-service.co.uk/workshop
And don't forget the hotWines of Southern France tutored tasting on Tuesday 30 April (£30 or £50 for two) -"Tasting and talking about 8 wines in all colours from across the 'big south' featuring classic styles from e.g. Bordeaux, Cahors, Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence and the southern Rhône Valley." Full listing of wine tastings and courses running in Belfast to end of June 2013 and on-line booking are here: www.wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast
As a gentle warm-up to more in-depth reflections and mypick ofwines and wineries from a recent tour in and around Chablis land (including a day's cellar hopping
on foot, as is easy to do in Chablis town), we'll whet our appetite for the
region's distinctive, possibly unique even, take on the Chardonnay grape by featuring all 22 medal-winners from this year's Chablis Wine Awards, which we sampled at a tutoredtastedon 4th March. So, for what it's
worth (as the fanfare has already been heralded), this is what I thought of them, mostly 2011 vintage wines plus a trio of Grands Crus from the excellent 2010. More info @ chablis.fr. And more words willfollowon the Chablis area (including hotel and restaurant tips), vineyards, vintages and some of the podium-topping producers below (Fèvre,Moreau,Chablisienne,Geoffroy,Droin,Long-Depaquit, Bordet...); all cunningly packaged into enticing instalments to appear over the next few weeks...
2011 Domaine Savary - a touch reductive/SO2 (sulphites) from its light lees edges, floral
'mineral' touches with subtle buttery notes, reasonably concentrated with
lightly creamy flavours vs nice steely bite, has a little richness vs crisp
fresh finish; nice style, quite fine for Petit Chablis actually.
2011 Domaine Millet - a bit closed up, more citrus and flowery notes, 'gummy'
and steely mouth-feel with very crisp acidic bite vs lightly oily buttery
tones / texture, zingy with a touch of SO2 still on the finish?
2011 William Fèvre - light citrus aromas, 'gummy' steelier palate with a bitter
twist, a tad bland and dilute perhaps but it's easy going enough. €9.30
2011 Domaine Alain et Cyril Gautheron - floral and ripe citrus, quite tight and
fresh palate vs subtle concentration and rounder fruity buttery flavours, crisp
steely and quite long; attractive now although will benefit from a few months in
2011 Louis Moreau - slightly riper and richer style vs underlying aromatic greengage
tones, attractive mix of lightly buttery and toffee-ish to start vs leaner crisp
side on the finish; fairly light and tight still, fades a little perhaps. €9
2011 Bernard Defaix - a touch richer and creamier (and hints of SO2 still) vs
ripe green fruits vs savoury nutty side, enticing subtle buttery and nutty
flavours / texture underpinned by fresh acidity vs a bit of palate weight too;
reasonably concentrated nutty creamy fruit vs tight and refreshing finish. Good
2011 Domaine de la Cornasse - floral melon and slightly 'chalky' tones, aromatic
and zesty vs gentle buttery touches, tight and steely too with long elegant
finish; more 'modern' in style perhaps (whatever I mean by that!) but good in
2011 Jean-Claude Courtault - lightly floral nose, a bit stripped by SO2 perhaps,
lean and steely palate, subtle and tight finish; needs a few months maybe?
2011 Vieilles Vignes Domaine Christophe et Fils(=old vines) - fuller fruitier and creamier
up-front, nice butter and nut characters vs tangy crisp side, a touch more
toffee-d and weight/alcohol (?), good although loses focus a tad.
2011 Domaine Daniel Dampt et Fils - a touch of SO2 at first but it turns more
buttery and richer, quite concentrated and towards toffee-d hazelnut flavours vs
tangy and lightly zingy; has a little character style and length, even if it's
pretty typical of these more acid-structured and less 'generous' 2011s.
2011 Isabelle et Denis Pommier - wilder 'reductive' nose, hints of creamy
richness vs a tad stripped or just plain tight and closed up? Subtle underlining
acidity vs restrained fruit, I guess it needs a few months in bottle as it was
tasting a little awkward today.
Chablis Premier Cru
2011 Beauroy, La Chablisienne - nice fruity buttery nose, light toasty/leesy
notes but it's well done adding texture and weight vs that juicy fruit, fair
length and attractive style. €15
2011 La Foret, Domaine Pinson Frères - 'fatter' richer nose and toasty palate with quite exotic lush fruit, fairly oaky but it's young and it adds grain and roundness vs underlying zesty 'gummy' mouth-feel; quite concentrated with attractive fruit, grainy coconut texture and crisp steely bite. Well-made, will be better 6-12 months down the line.
2011 Vau Ligneau, Domaine Alain Geoffroy - creamy vs citrus notes, a fair mouthful of ripe and buttery fruit with subtle lees notesvs steely and crisp undercurrent, concentrated tight and long with nice touch of weight too. Very good.
2011 Fourchaume, Domaine Alain Geoffroy - pure nutty buttery nose with very subtle lees / toast almost (this wine's unoaked though apparently), perhaps a little rounder and more intense, tighter still with steely finish and elegant length with lingering gentle buttery fruit; less obvious maybe, although it offers an enticing mix of drinking now vs needs time. 2011 Vaulorent, Nathalie & GillesFèvre- hints of SO2 vs quite exotic fruit, juicy and buttery with crisp tight 'chalky' mouth-feel, steely and zesty; that rich fruit closes up on its pretty long finish, needs time in bottle. 2011 Mont de Milieu, La Meulière- a tad awkward with reductive/lees nose, moves on to a very rich buttery palate though with toasted nut flavours, zingy crisp and tight finish vs that subtle lush side. Needs a year or two to open out, will be very good. 2011Mont de Milieu,William Fèvre- again I got SO2 on the nose; nice mix of steely zesty vs gently creamy mouth-feel though, gets fuller and more forward with attractive fruit vs tighter and crisp acidity on the finish; has some depth to it yet quite approachable now. 2011 Montée de Tonnerre, Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin - gentle buttery notes and more aromatic/exotic to start, then turning zingy and 'gummy' with tight acidity, nice weight though with attractive mix of rich vs steely and 'mineral', very long finish; lovely wine, will improve over time. ChablisGrand Cru 2010 Vaudésirs, Domaine Long-Depaquit - nutty buttery and rich with towards toffee-d notes vs very crisp green fruits, weighty vs steely mouth-feel showing complex wilder edges, very ripe yet tight and 'mineral'; delicious mix of lush and ripe vs crisp steely and long, good stuff indeed. Our tutor, prompted by comparisons I was making, amusingly yet aptly described it as "Meursault with acidity!" 2010 Les Clos, Domaine Long-Depaquit- complex nutty nose looking "older" even with those very nice Fino-tinged maturing notes and oatmeal/flapjack (the latter coined by a fellow Chablis taster!) aromas/flavours too; more forward in some ways yet still tight and crisp too, smells/tastes a couple of years older than its age but it will keep. Lovely wine. 2010Les Clos,DomaineGarnier et Fils - there was something wrong with this bottle methinks: a touch musty or is it clunky wood? Slightly 'unclean' wood grain or just not integrated at all? Would have liked to try another bottle. I'll update this with more prices when I find them... Hectares more on Chablis HERE (goes to archive Burgundy page inc. Grand Cru tasting and links to the rest of my "Chablis on foot" series).
According to their site, LuigiFabbro,KatiaNussbaumand familypractise "permaculture and biodynamic-organic farming..." at their four hectare estate (10 acres divided roughly into two thirds / one third of vines and olives, which are made into their own extra-virgin olive oil) up in the pretty Montalcino hills. I've never seen or heard the former term used by a winery before, which apparently implies an element of sustainable design or building within a self-sufficient and environmentally friendly farming model (man). The vineyard is planted entirely with theSangiovese grape, and their first Brunello, as they call this variety here or rather the local 'clone' of it, was released in 2001 following several years of restoration and replanting work between 1991 and 1998. Winemaker and viticulturistAlberto Gjilaska, originally from Albania, has been on the team since those early days. Importers include Integrity Wines in the US, Vintage Roots (£ prices below) and Dynamic Vines in the UK; € prices quoted are approx. cellar door. So, chill out and enjoy the view (copied fromwww.sanpolino.it)!
2011 Sant Antimo Rosso di Montalcino - lovely fruity vs 'inky' red with dark morello cherry flavours, easy going and tasty. €7
2008 Brunellodi Montalcino - light toasted coconut tones, rich vs firm palate, quite extracted and chewy yet has nice tannins and plenty of ripe 'sweet/savoury' fruit, some fresh acidity lingering too on its balancedlongfinish. €20 £27-£30
2008Brunellodi Montalcino Helichrysum- perfumed floral wild herb and minty notes vs dried fruits, attractive maturing fruit yet still firm and dry mouth-feel, tasty concentrated'sweet/savoury'finish. €30 £52
2007Brunellodi Montalcino Riserva - similar profile but more developed and softer, lovely dried fruits with meaty edges, still structured with subtle concentration but riper tannins and long finish.