Category: France

#HOTGV: On Francois Lurton wines with the man himself

For this episode of Heard on the Grape Vine, I met with Francois Lurton, a French winemaker with vineyards in France, Spain, Argentina and Chile.

Francois Lurton

Francois represents the fifth generation of the Lurton family, who are well known in the world of Bordeaux wines. But as a bit of a maverick, Francois has ventured out to establish his own brand and his own wine identity after more than a decade of working for the family business.

We recently met at a tasting at Lima Floral Restaurant in London to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his estate in Argentina, Bodegas Piedra Negra in the Uco Valley. There, I tried a selection of his wines from Chile and Argentina.

Francois Lurton vineyard

Reading back on my notes almost two months later, I realised just how diverse the selection of 15 or so wines were.

Some were young and robust while others were gentle and fruity. There were even notes mentioning dark and moody alongside smoke and spice. I was surprised by how remarkably well they coped with the very challenging flavours of Peruvian food. Granted, the selection matched with the punchy dishes had a bit more age to them.

Although we tasted a sizeable collection of wines, it’s less than a quarter of the labels in Francois’ portfolio across the two continents.

Well, I’ll let Francois tell his own story in this little taster:

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Photos c/o Francois Lurton Wines.

#HOTGV: On Château Angélus with Stephanie de Bouard

About a year and half ago, I went to Bordeaux for the first time. On a sunny afternoon in June we cycled through Saint Emillion and stopped at this really grand, palatial building to catch our breath.
That was Château Angélus.

Chateau Angelus, photo by Deepix

I can’t remember what time it was but the bells rang, reverberating through the air and over the lush green vines. With the sun just so over its sandy coloured walls, it was sort of magical.

Anyway, long story short, I tasted a small selection of their wines for the first time last month over lunch at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught – the Carillon d’Angelus 2012, Château Angelus 2008 and Château Angelus 2006.

Chateau Angelus wines

Basically, they were stunning. But then you wouldn’t expect anything less for more than £100 a bottle (well except for the Carillon, which is currently retailing at about £50).

My favourite was the 2008 – soft tannins, fruity and a bit of development already. Essentially, because it’s ready to drink right now and it’s stunning.

As well as enjoying some of their wines, the estate also launched their new book. Written by Jane Anson, the photo-heavy book traces the history and the family behind the estate.

Later, I sat down with Stephanie de Bouard for the eleventh episode of Heard on the Grape Vine.

Stephanie de Bouard, photo by Deepix

Stephanie is the eighth generation of the family to run the Premier Cru Classé estate and hasn’t been shy about making changes.

Join us now as we explore a little of what Château Angélus is all about.

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Additional photos and videos c/o Château Angélus and Deepix.

#HOTGV: On Bordeaux and the Chinese wine market with Suzanne Mustacich

For the ninth episode of Heard on the Grape Vine, I met with journalist and author Suzanne Mustacich at The Goring Hotel in London.Andre Simon 2015 drink book winner Suzanne Mustacich with Acting Chairman Nicholas Lander

Thirsty Dragon by Suzanne MustacichMustacich, who’s based in Bordeaux, writes regularly for Wine Spectator magazine on the region.

She had just won the prestigious Andre Simon Award in the drink category for her first book, Thirsty Dragon, which was presented at the hotel.

The book, published in November 2015 by Henry Holt, traces the ups and downs of China’s love for Bordeaux wines.

It covers Bordeaux’s increasing exports to China, particularly in the fine wine section, up to 2014, when the relationship between the buyers and sellers started changing. The stories of a few key characters are followed through the storyline to reveal the realities of the wine business in China.

During this epside of the podcast, we explore some of the themes covered in it, including Bordeaux export market, China’s ‘left-over women’ and the book’s heroes and villains.

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Four of the best Loire Stars at D&D Wine

Last month I attended a tasting at D&D London’s New Street Wine Shop, the theme of which was Loire Stars – the hidden gems and unsung heroes from the Loire Valley.

My previous encounter with the Loire was centred around Chenin Blanc, which was showcased in dry white and sweet wines. I liked it, a lot. But the Loire also produces fascinating wines from a number of other well-known grape varieties like Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Melon de Bourgogne; all of which I am comparatively less familiar with.

I tasted 13 wines altogether, ranging from sparkling to sweet (I skipped the rosé). The diversity between the wines is immense. But then for a region so widespread, you wouldn’t expect anything else. And just as equally, you wouldn’t expect to like everything.

Out of those 13, there were in fact only four that I really enjoyed. They’re all available at New Street Wine Shop but I will also bracket other places where you can buy them.

Philippe Foreau Clos Naudin Vouvray NV Although there were alternative in the sparkling line up, with a younger, fresher feel, the sparkling Philippe Foreau Clos Naudin Vouvray NV was the first to catch my eye. It was rich in flavour with a blended flavour of toast and apple that was bolstered with incredible acidity. It also had smooth bubbles and was nicely balanced. I felt it was very comparable to Champagne, which is made in the same method. £19.65 Also available from Gauntleys.
Domaine des Roches Neuves Terre Chaudes Saumur Champigny 2013 The whites flew by and the first red to get my attention was Domaine des Roches Neuves Terre Chaudes Saumur Champigny 2013. Having been to the estate before, I felt like I had a vested interest in liking the wine. But I didn’t. At least not at first. As I tasted the wine though, I got more and more notes out of it and, well, I had to say it was pretty good. It starts with a sort of concrete hardness that melts into gentle tanning and a dark, brooding herbaceousness. It had great food potential as it is but then the long finish of residual fruit, red currant and black pepper really brought it together. £19.80 Also available at Excel Wines.
Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon 2013 In startling contrast to the Saumur Champigny, Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon 2013 was extremely open and friendly. It was rich and fruit-forward as well as being rounded and vibrant. It was simple and easy drinking – and you can’t fault it for that. £11.50 Also available at Haynes Hanson & Clark.
Philippe Delesvaux Selection de Grains Nobles Coteaux du Layon 2011 As a lover of sweet wines, I was of course pleased to find a good one in the Philippe Delesvaux Selection de Grains Nobles Coteaux du Layon 2011. It’s perhaps on the young side but its lush, fragrant nose is very appealing right now. The rich and complex blend of apricots finds a nice back bone in the balance of the sugar and acidity. Not too intense but thoroughly enjoyable. £18.60 (half-bottle) Also available at Fine + Rare Wines

Incidentally there’s still a few more days of the D&D Loire Stars Festival, which concludes later this month. There’s a few expert led tastings, some matched with food. You’ll be able to find more details here: www.danddwine.com/campaigns-and-partnerships/loirestars/


Amateur Wine was a guest of Loire Valley Wines and D&D London. For more information on what that means, see our Editorial Policy.

#HOTGV: On Vins Colombo with Laure Colombo

Last month, I met a young winemaker called Laure Colombo over dinner at 28:50 in London. She makes wines at the family vineyard, Vins Colombo, with her father Jean Luc Colombo. It’s a little domaine in Cornas, Northern Rhone, started by her parents in the 80s.

Jean Luc Colombo maison

It was just before the RAW Fair came to London and, knowing that I was going to make a podcast at RAW, I wanted to get her thoughts on natural wine. Unusually for someone so young (it didn’t seem polite to ask but I guessed at no more than 30), Laure had the confidence to speak about her wine as an extension of herself. The wine that she was making was about the way she feels and not about following trends or trying to conform to a certain cache. So she talked about that instead.

Laure Colombo in the vineyard

As a second generation winemaker, Colombo’s approach to wine is extremely food-centric and refreshingly non-commercial. She had an old world belief about wine as part of life and not as a commodity. Case in point, she has recently acquired her own domaine and, like that of her parents’, she’s keeping the “farm” busy with everything from chickens to fruit trees.

Anyway, I think you’ll get an idea of what she is like in this fifth episode of Heard on the Grape Vine where we talk about everything from making wine for food to living in a vineyard. And if you are interested in trying her wines, you can find some of these at Waitrose.

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Côtes du Rhône Google Hangout: When wine goes high tech

For a drink that’s been much the same for thousands of years, wine, or at least how it’s consumed, has become increasingly high tech in the last few years.

For instance, this website lives entirely in the digital age. As well as numerous images, the recently launched Heard on the Grape Vine podcast makes sure that there’s a good multimedia mix. Amateur Wine is plugged into social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. And then there’s apps like Vivino

All of this digital talk can feel a bit lonesome (and no one wants to drink on their own), until a couple of weeks ago when I took part in my first Google Hangout with Côtes du Rhône wines.

The Hangout was hosted by Dr Jamie Goode, wine blogger turned wine journalist and fellow IWC wine judge, and as well as Amateur Wine, there were also eight other wine enthusiasts. Over the course of an hour and half, we tasted six red wines from the Côtes du Rhône appellation.

It was intended to be a mix of educational and fun, although we were relying on all our internet connections so there were times when it cut out and times when it was slow (You can watch an edited version of the video here.), but as a way of bringing wines to an audience, it was a very innovative approach. We had some great wines of course.

More than anything though, it showed that wine, as a sensory object, can be shared from just about anywhere. Which, in a round about way, leads me to think about vlogs. In the world of beauty and fashion, vlogs are incredibly popular so why not for wine?

Well, watch this space.

The Côtes du Rhône wines

Here’s the wines we tasted, in order, for the Côtes du Rhône Google Hangout (the tasting notes are mine from the night):

 Gabriel Meffre La Châsse Reserve Côtes du Rhône 2013 Gabriel Meffre La Châsse Reserve Côtes du Rhône 2013. A grenache dominant blend. Light and fruity. Strawberry forward with gentle oak. Simple but effective. RRP£6 available from Sainsbury’s.
 Delas Frères Sainte-Esprit Côtes du Rhône 2012 Delas Frères Sainte-Esprit Côtes du Rhône 2012. A little hot on the palate. A touch of funkiness with a sourness on the finish. Possible fault. Not very attractivec. RRP£9.99 available from Majestic.
 Domaine Chaume Arnaud Côtes du Rhône 2012 Domaine Chaume Arnaud Côtes du Rhône 2012. Biodynamic. Lots of fruit, very fruit forward and expressive. Wine to drink with after-dinner conversation. RRP£12.25 available from Berry Brothers & Rudd.
 Le Clos du Caillou Côtes du Rhône 2012 Le Clos du Caillou Côtes du Rhône 2012. Noticeably more alcoholic though balanced considering high ABV. Dark fruits much more prominent. RRP£16.75 available from H2Vin.
 Domaine Georges Vernay Sainte-Agathe Côtes du Rhône 2012 Domaine Georges Vernay Sainte-Agathe Côtes du Rhône 2012. From Northern Rhône, a cooler climate wine. Rubber and maybe thyme notes. Almost minty with a touch of black pepper. Light cherry. Elegant. RRP£19.95 available from Berry Brothers & Rudd.
 Château de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône Coudoulet Red 2012 Château de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône Coudoulet Red 2012. A lot of sweetness and fruit coming through. A hint of development with gentle tannins. Needs time to open up. RRP£16.63 available from The Little Big Wine company.

Domaine Ogereau, Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

Domaine Ogereau’s production is absolutely tiny.

At just 20 hectares, 10 of which are devoted to Coteaux du Layon, they are heavily influenced by the saleability of sweet wines. Perhaps that’s why, with the addition of their son Emmanuel as the new winemaker, the owners Vincent and Catherine Ogereau are exploring the terroirs of Coteaux du Layon for dry Chenin Blanc.

Emmanuel Ogereau, Domaine Ogereau, Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay

Emmanuel Ogereau becomes the fifth generation of the family to be a winemaker at the property. Having studied wine business in Dijon, trained in Burgundy and made wine in Oregon and Central Otago, he will certainly be giving the family’s wines a facelift.

We tasted their current, mostly sweet, selection starting with the dry Domaine Ogereau Anjou en Chenin 2012 – a lemony fresh wine that was vibrant on the palate but not that exciting.

The Clos le Grand Beaupréan Savennières 2011 felt a little austere with its crisp apple note, steely minerality and tannic finish. With a little age, the Clos le Grand Beaupréan Savennières 2007 had a lightly oxidised nose but revealed a distinctive wine that was very complex with notes of apple and bees wax.

From then on it was the sweet wines.

The Coteau du Layon Saint Lambert 2013 was an entry level sweet wine with floral, white fruit and peach notes.

Domaine Ogereau own a cherished parcel of land that they call “bonnes blanches” which is essentially schist soil that looks like chalk. From that parcel, they produce a few different wines.

The Harmonie des Bonnes Blanches Coteaux du Layon Saint Lambert 2011 was rich with apricot and floral notes as well as intense Botrytis nose and a long finish.

The Clos des Bonnes Blanches Coteaux du Layon Saint Lambert 2011 had a slightly truffled nose followed by dried apricots, honey and lemon peel. Best described as a rich nectar, it had an extremely long, lip-sticking finish. With a little age, the Clos des Bonnes Blanches Coteaux du Layon Saint Lambert 2007 had an even more pronounced truffled nose with stunning intensity and concentration of honey and caramel, lifted by a floral note. It was really reminiscent of a great Sauternes.

The last wine was the Cuvée Nectar Coteaux du Layon Saint Lambert 1990. Again, the wine was intense and concentrated with notes of floral honey but it also had a tannic, bitter tinge. Developing into a syrup, it somehow felt passed it. A shame, because it could, and should, have been a great wine.

www.domaineogereau.com

Eric Morgat, Clos Ferrard, Savennières

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

Eric Morgat is an interesting winemaker to meet, not least because his name is his wine brand rather than that of an estate.

Eric Morgat, Anjou

Clearly passionate about winemaking, Morgat has worked from the ground up acquiring parcels of land to make his wine. His first vintage was in 1995, when he was just 25.

His “garden”, often previously uncultivated land, as this is cheaper than the alternative, are based in different parts of the Anjou; some are right next to the Loire river while others are further inland. His is the Black Anjou – the volcanic schist soil that produces grapes with higher alcohol and a thicker grape skin, giving a tannic structure not unlike that of red wines.

Right now, he has no winery of his own either but is in the process of building one.

Wine glass, Eric Morgat, Anjou

Despite not owning an estate in the conventional sense, he’s gained a cult following of sorts and his wines are well regarded. He used to be known for making dry wines with Botrytised grapes but is now concentrating more on preserving the purity of fruit.

We started the tasting at a cliff’s edge with his vines by one side and the Loire on the other. It was the Eric Morgat Savennières L’Enclos Fidès 2012 – a wine that’s been barrel fermented for a year before blending and ageing for a further year in stainless steel tanks. Opening with an intense citric nose, the wine had great minerality and acidity; finishing with a savoury note, it also had enough body to match to meats.

Moving into his cellar, we tasted more wines from the L’Enclos and the Litus parcels.

The Eric Morgat Anjou Blanc Litus 2012 was a flavoursome wine to start with, offering notes of citrus, pear and white fruits followed by a savoury finish. The slightly older Eric Morgat Anjou Blanc Litus 2011 was a little closed at first, and should be decanted, but opened with greater proportions of white fruit and minerality than the previous vintage.

The Eric Morgat Savennières L’Enclos 2011 had a noticeably richer body, more minerality and a slight hint of honey on the nose followed by crisp apples. The Eric Morgat Savennières L’Enclos 2010, in the early stages of development, had become very provocative with a sort of bruised apple note – it would certainly be interesting to see a bit more age on this wine. And finally the Eric Morgat Savennières L’Enclos 2009 made a beautiful final wine – pronounced fruity nose of pears backed by light oak and a savoury finish.

 

www.ericmorgat.com

Domaine des Forges, Saint Aubin de Luigné

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

The family owned Domaine des Forges began when Pierre Robineau purchased two hectares of vines and named it “le Clos des Forges”. Robineau, at the time, was a grocer and draper and the vines were just a sort of side project. It wasn’t until the second generation that more vineyards were purchased and the Domaine grew.

Vineyards, Domaine des Forges, Saint Aubin de Luigné

The current owners, Stéphane and Séverine Branchereau, are the fifth generation and own 47 hectares spread across the Anjou. While also making a fair selection of dry wines, their main focus has been sweet wines – they have vines in Coteaux du Layon and Quarts-de-Chaume.

What is notable is the fact that they have sweet wines at various price points, making their product potentially very accessible to price sensitive consumers. However, it’s also a shame because, while their top end product is stunning, the journey to the top is a slow slug of nice but not quite nice enough.

We tasted a sizeable selection starting with the l’Audace du Domaine des Forgres Anjou Blanc 2013, a simple, citrusy wine with light minerality.

Much of their other dry wine selection was focused on Savennières.

Le Moulin de Gué Savennières 2012 was fruity, rather than savoury, with white fruit and apple notes as well as a slight sweetness and minerality. Le Clos du Papillon Savennières 2012 was a crisp wine filled with apples and pears.

Standing out more was La Roche aux Moines Savennières 2012, which had a much richer palate, greater balance and, I felt, greater potential for interesting ageing. Equally rich was Le Clos du Papillon Savennières Demi-Sec 2011, a honeyed, savoury wine with notes of white and tropical fruit as well as a floral highlight.

Moving on to their Coteaux du Layon we started with the entry level Coteaux du Layon 2013, which was not too sweet after the Demi-Sec and had a bit of a minty, eucalyptus touch.

The Cuvée des Forges Coteaux du Layon 2010, which was good for its price point, had a slight petroleum, Botrytised nose with dried apricots and good acidity.

The quirky, but not unpleasant, Coteaux du Layon St Aubin 2013 had a slightly musty, funky nose with lots of tropical fruit and pineapple flavours. The Coteaux du Layon Chaume 2010 had a nice amount of sweetness balanced with acidity but while there were notes of tropical fruits, it wasn’t very complex. The “En Aparté” Coteaux du Layon Chaume 2010 had better intensity from a period of oak barrel ageing.

The concentration really stepped up with the Coteaux du Layon Premier Cru Chaume 2011, which had nice minerality alongside Botrytis notes and fresh acidity.

Next up was the Quarts-de-Chaume 2008, which felt strangely like a Botrytised Riesling but with dried fruit peel and less viscosity. The Quarts-de-Chaume Grand Cru 2011, in contrast, had a rich syrupy texture and incredible acidity blended into the caramel and dried fruit notes.

Finishing things off was the stunning Sélection de Grains Nobles Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1997. It’s the most concentrated wine of the lot, with the highest residual sugar, but still showing a youthful character. With pronounced nose of lychee, caramel, truffle and candied fruit and a rich, syrupy texture, it’s, at last, where great terroir and great winemaking meet.

www.domainedesforges.net

Domaine de la Paleine, Le Puy-Notre-Dame

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

The village of Le Puy-Notre-Dame is known for its subterranean caves, used at one time to grow mushrooms. These days, they form the basis of the cellar at Domaine de la Paleine.

The Domaine is an interesting proposition.

As well as being a mix of private home and working winery, the estate is also open to eno-tourism. And they just so happen to fall between the Anjou and Saumur appellations so produces a little of both.

Winery dog, Domaine de la Paleine, Le Puy-Notre-Dame

Unfortunately on the day that I visited, the winemaker wasn’t around to explain his wines, but what was obvious was the fact that the owner loved opera – many of the wines had names that were related to Italian operas, with each vintage given a different name. The results were pretty haphazard and I didn’t have a whole lot of joy with the tasting.

The tasting started with an Arpeggio Saumur Blanc 2013 tank sample; a simple citrusy wine that’s yet to integrate. The Toccata Saumur Blanc 2012, the same wine as Arpeggio but under a different name, had a slightly honeyed character with a ripe and rounded finish. There were plenty of white peach notes but again, simple in style.

The La Paleine Saumur Blanc 2011 felt disjointed somehow despite boasting some good peach and floral notes. Similarly disappointing was the Pamina Saumur Blanc 2011 – off balance and hot on the palate at 15% alcohol.

The Traviata Saumur Blanc 2010 was an unoaked demi-sec; boasting a savoury nose, it wasn’t quite enticing enough.

The Pamina Anjou Blanc 2010 was made a viscous moelleux-style wine, which was sadly a bit one dimensional with little complexity of fruit.

Moving up to La Paleine’s more premium wines, the Aria Saumur Blanc 2010 had hints of oak with a lemony honey note. The Casta Diva Anjou Blanc 2009 had a pungent peppery and stinky gunpowder nose, followed by orange peel bitterness – it’s a good name for a difficult wine.

Finally it was on to the sweet wines. The Coteaux de Saumur Late Harvest 2011, at last, showed some complexity with floral notes coming up top. The older Coteaux de Saumur Late Harvest 2010 had a sort of savoury tropical fruit note but had lost much of its freshness.

www.domaine-paleine.com

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