Category: Sweet Wine

Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur-Champigny

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

Thierry Germain has big ideas; and he’s not afraid to share them.

Thierry Germain, Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur-Champigny

Owner and wine maker at Domaine des Roches Neuves since 1992, he is an avid supporter of biodynamic winemaking. Despite having more than three times the labour of a normal vineyard, his vineyards are minimally interventionist.

For him, the vine is like an upside down man; the roots are the head and the shoots are the arms and legs. Instead of trimming or green harvesting, he likes to roll the shoots around the trellising so that, come August, the vine will concentrate the grape sugars naturally. The thinking is that if a man can’t function without arms and legs then neither can the vines.

Now if we suppose the sun is the father and the earth is the mother.

Over the course of a day, the vine leaves will move to protect the grapes from the sun. This he discovered sitting still for four hours, just to watch his vines grow. If you trim the leaves, the sun will concentrate the sugars of the grapes but you’ll also get a masculine wine – the wine will be dominated by the effects of the father.

And there’s also his philosophy that “wine is about good and not beautiful”. A vineyard might not be as presentable untrimmed but if the resulting wine is good then that’s all that matter.

Wines, Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur-Champigny

In his cellar, the one that he hollowed out himself, we tasted a few quirky and very different wines.

We started with the Clos Ecotard Saumur Blanc 2013, a fresh, citrusy wine with notes of under-ripe apples and extremely high acidity.

The L’insolite Saumur Blanc 2013, an old vine wine, was rich in minerality and acidity, flanked by white fruit and flowers.

Clos de l’Échelier Saumur Blanc 2013, in contrast with the first two wines, was very aromatic with lots of pear, tropical and floral notes as well as a mineral freshness. The Clos Romans Saumur Blanc 2013 that followed was much more closed with more citrus notes and minerality.

The L’insolite Saumur Blanc 2010, opened two weeks ago, had really opened up. It began with white peach and crisp apple before rendering into a complex blend of minerality and freshness. It’s certainly not a classic Chenin Blanc.

The Terre 2013 was an experimental amphora wine (he only has the one) which had nine months of maceration in amphora with malolactic fermentation and no added sulphur. The resulting orange wine was very complex but bitter and tannic with notes of orange peel. It was, at one time, sold at Noma. The rather challenging Terre 2012, in contrast, didn’t have much fruit or freshness but retained its tannic and bitter complexity. It was also a bit reminiscent of bird dropping – not entirely pleasant.

There are more experiments in the cellar.

In one barrel was an as yet unnamed white wine that was a cuvée of the 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 vintages of Chenin Blanc. Reminiscent of sherry, there was a definite nutty, oxidative nose; but there was also cabbage pungency and struck match aromas.

There was also a one-off sweet wine from 1995, made to moelleux style. It took six years of fermentation to achieve 6% alcohol, with no added yeast, but the result was a complex blend of raisins, dried apricots and prunes with a concentrated richness that’s closer to liquoreux style sweet wines.

Up in the soon to be completed tasting room, we also tried some of his other wines.

The Bulles de Roche Saumur Brut NV had a bready nose with bruised pear and mushy white fruit as a top note with an underlying bitterness.

The Franc de Pied Saumur-Champigny 2013 was initially fruit forward before pulling back to reveal more vegetable and spicy notes. The tank sample we tried also had a touch of bubble gum with bramble and grippy tannins. The much older Franc de Pied Saumur-Champigny 1996, opened for two weeks, had a faintly sweet fermented soy bean nose with teeth stripping tannin, dense fruit and a very savoury palate. The long finish was of prunes and plums.

Many of Germain’s wines were challenging but some were fantastic. He’s happy with that verdict because for him, “it’s good to see people who have emotion when tasting my wine and biodynamic wines have that effect”.

www.rochesneuves.com

Domaine Bourillon Dorléans, Rochecorbon

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

Frédéric Bourillon is the third generation of winemakers at Domaine Bourillon Dorléans, an estate founded by his granddad.

Frédéric Bourillon, Domaine Bourillon Dorléans, Vouvray

He’s a bit of a character, though perhaps not in the same way as Pascal Cuisset at Château des Eyssards.

For Bourillon, phallic symbols seem to be a bit of an obsession – he wears it on a necklace. He’s also big into art and the two are sometimes interlinked.

Stone person, Domaine Bourillon Dorléans, Vouvray

His cave cellar, carved into the mountain and dating back to the 15th Century, is filled with artwork. Some 20 years ago, Bourillon encouraged a couple of artist friends to etch out bas relief icons on the walls. Now this network of tunnels form the perfect venue for drinks, parties and other gatherings. The last carving at the end of the tunnel is, you guessed it, a phallic symbol.

You get a sense of laissez-faire about him too – grass is left growing freely between the vines, to encourage healthy competition – but this doesn’t translate into the results. His large portfolio of wines have won a great many awards, many of which are quickly succumbing to the dampness of his cellar where they hang proudly.

There is great generosity behind his brusqueness too, as he opened no less than 16 different wines for tasting and cooked for us himself.

We started with the Domaine Bourillon Dorléans Vouvray Premium Brut 2010, a buoyantly sparkling off-dry wine with notes of crisp apples and citrus. It’s a simple, youthful style.

Then it was on to the L’Indigéne Vouvray 2009, a dry wine made with natural yeast and no chaptalisation (adding sugar to increase the alcohol). The resulting wine had a rounded stone fruit character with even a little tropical note of lychees and white flowers. The L’Indigéne Vouvray 2007 was much more waxy in comparison with a little more honey on the nose. The L’Indigéne Vouvray 2008, a fuller-bodied vintage, was flavoursome but had a slight hint of sweet corn on the nose.

Changing to a different label, we tried the Saint Martin 2009, a lightly tropical wine with a waxy nose and a fine balance of minerality and long finish.

Changing labels again, it was on to the Oppidum 2011, a strange mix of concentrated sweet nose, bubble gum palate and dry finish. The Oppidum 2008 followed a similar strain of bubble gum but this time with sweetcorn. The funky mix is likely to be a wine fault rather than intentional as the next two wines from the Oppidum label were comparatively normal in terms of flavour profile.

The Oppidum 2007 had an oaky closed nose with stone fruit notes and a faintly detectable whiff of sulphur while the Oppidum 2009 was filled with minerality.

Moving on to the Vouvray Demi-Sec, the award-winning labels, we started with the Vouvray Demi-Sec 2011. It’s a stony, steely number with light floral perfume and tropical pineapple notes. The Vouvray Demi-Sec 2007 had a more pronounced tropical pineapple nose, apricots and the beginnings of development. When it came to the Vouvray Demi-Sec 2005, the tropical notes have been further reduced in favour of development and there’s a hint of gunpowder and struck match. Finally the Vouvray Demi-Sec 2003, which was perhaps passed its best, showed overwhelming cabbage notes and very little fruit.

Next up was the sweet wines. The La Coulée d’Or 2010 showed nice acidity against a limey apricot and pineapple nose. The Noble Rot affected La Coulée d’Or 2009 showed similar notes, with a long finish, but was a little cloying at times. Rounding off the tasting was the La Coulée d’Or 2003, a complex blend of truffle, prune, apricot and orange peel.

www.bourillon.com

Château Moncontour, Vouvray

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

Château Moncontour is, along with four other estates and a négociant business, part of the Feray family’s wine portfolio.

Château Moncontour, Vouvray

Moncontour itself is composed of 130 hectares split across Vouvray, Rochecorbon, Vernou and Reugny. It’s also on its way to further expansion as new distribution deals with the UK has meant the building of new facilities.

As a sizeable estate, it has the capacity to produce the full spectrum of the Vouvray Appellation – from sparkling (traditional method) to liquoreux. The biggest part of its production, around 85%, is actually sparkling Vouvray.

Despite its size, the wine is in no way impersonal.

Jérôme Loisy, winemaker, Château Moncontour, Vouvray

The winemaker, Jérôme Loisy, has been with the company for some 21 years. More recently, he’s been experimenting with single-parcel vinification in his Lafite-inspired winery with some interesting results.

During the tasting at the Château we actually tasted a couple of wines from the group’s other estates too, starting with an organic sparkling Vouvray.

The elegant Domaine du Petit Coteau Vouvray Sparkling NV (organic) was a fresh and citrusy wine with a smooth mousse and a long, dry finish. The Château Moncontour Cuvée Prédilection Grande Réserve 2010, in comparison, had much finer bubbles with a softer nose of crisp apples but a richer mouthfeel.

On the still wines, the Château Moncontour Vouvray Nature Sec 2013 started off in a simple style with crisp green apples and citrus before moving into more complex minerality. The Château Moncontour Vouvray Nature Demi-Sec 2013 was very marginally sweeter but with a certain warmness from white fruit notes.

I also tried a demi-sec from Château de Montfort, the Château de Montfort Vouvray Demi-Sec 2013, which was a cooler but more powerful expression. There was a steeliness to the nose with a little grapefruit, lime and citrus.

Moving on to the sweet wines, the Château Moncontour Vouvray Moelleux 2003 had a closed nose initially before opening up to quince and honeycomb. The Nectar de Moncontour 2005 had much more intensity with dried apricots and figs hitting the top notes before finishing with a long, waxy, honeyed tail. There’s impressive integration of flavours and balance of acidity in this rich, liquoreux-style wine.

www.moncontour.com

Château de Fesles Bonnezeaux Limited Edition 2010

Château de Fesles Bonnezeaux Limited Edition 2010The wine: Château de Fesles Bonnezeaux Limited Edition 2010

The producer: Château de Fesles

They say: 100% Chenin. Six separate hand picking. 15 months in oak barrels. Rare, intense and elegant wine. Serve at 6-8°C after decanting. This wine makes a sublime aperitif and a perfect match for foie gras, blue cheese and warm tart.

We say: Slightly oxidised nose with notes of bruised apple. Opening up with more Botrytis, pineapple, dried apricots, white flowers. Rich with minerality on the palate. A little hot. Great acidity. Intense wine.

Try with: Ripe pineapple cooked in caramel and vanilla ice cream

Price (RRP): –

Available from: 2010 vintage currently not available in the UK

Additional notes: The bottle arrived worryingly warm. Starting to weep at the cork. Certainly on the young side for sample if in good condition. See below for sample bottle image:

Chinese tasting notes and food match

品酒笔记: 刚开始带有稍微氧化和碰伤了的苹果的气味。放了一段时间后贵腐(带有中药的浓香味),菠萝,杏干以及花香开始散发。丰富口味,带有矿物质的复杂层次。酒精度口感较高。果酸度高。浓度高的甜酒。

中餐搭配: 拔丝菠萝

J.P. Chenet Ice Edition NV

JP Chenet Ice EditionThe wine: J.P. Chenet Demi-Sec ice edition

The producer: J.P. Chenet www.jpchenet.com

They say: Smooth, creamy and fresh, J.P Chenet Ice leaves a long aromatic taste in the mouth with a fine, supple yet rich texture. To be served very cold, the slightly increased sweetness highlights its delicate fruity aromas once it’s in contact with the ice. With an accessible price tag and an eye catching all white bottle, this new wine will offer a chic new way of enjoying sparkling wines appealing to a younger, dynamic consumer who usually chooses RTD or fruit-flavoured ciders.

We say: Very subtle nose. Pear dominates when served well chilled. Not immediately obvious as a demi-sec sparkling wine. Awkward juxtaposition of alcohol and flavour. After ice is added, quince and citrus shows through. Refreshing as an aperitif, with plenty of ice, but not a serious drinking wine.

Try with: Soy and maple syrup marinated salmon

Price (RRP): £9.95

Available from: ASDA

Additional notes: Launched at Cannes Film Festival in May 2014. Intended to be served over ice.

Chinese tasting notes and food match

品酒笔记: 初步反应气味较淡。冰镇时梨子味道为主。微甜。感觉比一般的demi-sec甜度的气泡葡萄酒更酸。酒精与酒味不太搭挡。加了冰块后(建议加冰饮用)有跟多的榲桲与柑橘类果酸。用大量的冰块来冰镇后变成清爽的开胃酒,但不算特别高雅。

中餐搭配: 北京烤鸭

Spotlight on: the Loire Valley

vineyards by the Loire

The Loire Valley presents as a very interesting wine region because it is at once a fairly large wine region and lots of smaller, separate sub-regions with very distinct identities.

In some respects, it’s one of the most confusing regions in France (because it uses so many different grapes varieties that produce so many different varities of wimes) and one of the simplest (most of the grape varieties tend to stay within the a main region).

There are also two very different ways of looking at the Loire.

The first of these is by looking at separate regions, something that the WSET focuses on a lot and is easy to visualise. The very useful Loire Valley Wines website splits the Loire into Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine and Centre-Loire. For example, Muscadet, made with Melon de Bourgogne, is produced exclusively in the Pays Nantais area while Centre-Loire’s focus is more on Sauvignon Blanc.

Following on from that, it’s natural to see that the second way of looking at the Loire Valley is through the study of its grapes. Thankfully, unlike Languedoc-Roussillon, there aren’t that many to remember. The main ones are Melon de Bourgogne, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc for whites and Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Grolleau for the reds.

I recently visited the Loire specific to learn more about the expressions of Chenin Blanc there (you can read my Chenin Blanc overview at Yahoo and all about the sweet wines of the Loire Valley, including food and wine matching, at Palate Press). While Savennières, Vouvray and Anjou were all well regarded appellations, the wines that really excited me were the sweet, botrytised wines. I was really pleased to discover wines that, at times, matched, and occasionally, even surpassed, some of the Sauternes I had tasted.

Here are the Chenin-centric properties I visited in the Loire:

Château Moncontour

Eric Morgat at Clos Ferrand

Domaine Bourillon Dorléans

Domaine de la Paleine

Domaine des Forges

Domaine des Roches Neuves

Domaine Ogereau

Château Moulin Caresse, St Antoine de Breuilh

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

The owners of Château Moulin Caresse has been investing a lot of money into the estate recently. Most notable is perhaps the brand new eco-friendly warehouse winery which offers digital controls over temperature, humidity and CO2.

The recent bout of spending is something the owner Sylvie Deffarge is attributing to luck; in that luckily for her and her husband Jean-François, their children are keen to join the family business and therefore making long term investments financially viable.

And what a family business it has been – the property has been in the family since the 1700s although winemaking has been a much more recent phenomenon.

The Château makes three key ranges – Cuvée Cépage, Magie d’Automne and Cent Pour 100 – across the Montravel, Haut Montravel and Bergerac AOCs.

The Cuvée Cépage Montravel Blanc Sec 2013 was fresh and crisp with notes of apple and citrus flanked by flinty minerality. The Magie d’Autumne Montravel Blanc Sec 2012 was more floral, from use of Muscadelle grapes, with a stone fruit character and possibly a hint of toast. The top range, Cent Pour 100 Montravel Blanc Sec 2012, was nutty and creamy in the way Chardonnay can be at times except this one used Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and had very high acidity.

On the red side, Magie d’Autumne Bergerac Rouge 2010 was still too young to drink really but it’s filled with intense berry fruit, a hint of vanilla and a herbaceous pencil shaving finish. The Cent Pour 100 Montravel Rouge 2010, meanwhile, had the beginnings of leafy, leathery development while still holding on to a mix of black and red fruits and light spice. When you move on to the Cent Pour 100 Montralvel Rouge 2008 you can see the visible difference in development. The wine becomes wonderfully aromatic but not forgetting its dose of blackberry and herbaceous character.

Château Moulin Caresse, Bergerac

A slightly different offering was the Coeur de Roche which the Château has only recently started producing. The idea is to make a special cuvée from the best grapes of the old vines. The grapes are fermented, must and all, in custom-made oak barrels before being blended for the final cuvée. The Coeur de Roche 2009 was the first vintage and shows off its production method with a dark, inky hue. Somehow, despite all the oaking, it manages to be incredibly fruity, with notes of cherry and blackberry as well as a hint of liquorice. It’s really quite delicious.

Château Moulin Caresse, Bergerac

The region also had sweet wine appellations and the Château made both the moelleux (lighter) and liquoreux (more concentrated) styles. The Cuvée Cépage Haut Montravel Semillon Moelleux 2012 was very light indeed with a refreshing style that held the undertones of apricot and white flowers. The Cent Pour 100 Haut Montravel Liquoreux 2011 had much more of a floral note with only a delicate overtone of botrytis.

Château Moulin Caresse, Bergerac

Looking back, the red wines at Château Moulin Caresse were often a little austere while the white wines, and sweet wines, showed much better. But then again, the region’s traditions lay in white and sweet wines so you wouldn’t expect anything less.

www.pays-de-bergerac.com/vins/chateau-moulin-caresse

Château des Eyssards, Monestier

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Pascal Cuisset of Château des Eyssards is said to be one of the biggest personalities in Bergerac.

Pascal Cuisset, Château des Eyssards, Bergerac

Meeting him, I can understand why.

Cuisset was a tall, rotund man who gestates as he talks about his wines, almost none stop, all the while pointing out the pluses and minuses of wines in general.

While producing organic wine, he doesn’t use copper as he thinks it kills the worms. And unlike many wine-types, he doesn’t believe in terroir. Instead, he thinks that most of the effects of the soil can be manipulated with technology and fine tuning of viticulture.

He had been a foie gras producer and a one-time chef until he discovered wine one day and headed wholeheartedly down that route. Stints of working in South Africa and tastings of wines from New Zealand and Chile formulated his wine making approach. There’s admiration in his attitude to the New World too.

Apart from believing that Oregon Pinot Noir is much better than Burgundy, he thinks the New World wines are so good because “they have no past and they’re very positive about the future”. Essentially, “they dream of a wine and then they make it”.

The wine that Cuisset dreams of is one that’s big, powerful and a real flavour experience because “a man with passion needs a wine with passion”.

Dessert wine, Château des Eyssards, Bergerac

His Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2013 is bold with notes of lychee, white flower and apricot.

The flavourful l’Adagio des Eyssards 2010 spoke of rounded vanilla and warm wood over blackberry, violet and cherry notes. The tannin-tastic Semental 2010 was too youthful at tasting but was filled with blackberry, dark cherry and bramble. With rest, it could be very interesting.

The Saussignac Cuvée Flavie 2007, made in the Quarts-de-Chaume style, boasted apricots, dried fruit, marmalade and white flowers. As well as having really good balance, the hint of botrytis showed off just a little amidst all the acidity.

www.chateaudeseyssards.com

Château de la Jaubertie, Colombier

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Château la Jaubertie, Bergerac

Is Château de la Jaubertie well regarded? I couldn’t tell.

The winemaker Hugh Ryman (son of Nick Ryman, the man who began the Ryman stationery empire) is certainly held in high regard by the industry. He’s often applauded as one of the first flying winemakers who consulted, and still consults, on winemaking projects around the world. What’s more, the wines from Château de la Jaubertie had sold very well in British supermarkets and independents.

And yet it was once a property that was dogged by financial woes and towards the end of the 90s there were reports that it would have to be sold to cover debts.

Both of these were facts that I didn’t find out until further research after my visit and in learning of them, it was easier to understand what I had seen at Château de la Jaubertie.

In the first instance Hugh Ryman is still very much involved in Château de la Jaubertie.

And while trying to make quality, but mass market, wines for consumers, Hugh Ryman himself admits that there was a period in the estate’s history where the aim was bulk production in the style of emergent Latin American regions. Since then, they’ve made a conscious effort to dial back production to a level that was more quality conscious.

Still, while taking a tour through the vineyard, many of Ryman’s comments remained heavy on the costs of wine production. The density of the vines, for example, was resting on a fine balance on the sliding scale of price, quantity and quality.

That said, it’s not all bad.

The Bergerac Blanc Sec 2013 had notes of apple, lime, pear drop and slight effervescence, finishing with a hint of pineapple. Bergerac Blanc Sec 2012 was citrusy but, I felt, had already lost a lot of its freshness and certainly not as aromatic as its younger sibling.

In the slightly more up-market Mirabelle range, the Mirabelle Blanc 2012 had creamy apple and citrus notes, underlined by stone fruits and medium acidity. The Mirabelle Blanc 2010 was much better in comparison with the same rounded stone fruits, apple and citrus but also lime and minerality.

In the red, the Bergerac Rouge 2010 had strawberry highlights and chewy tannins while the Bergerac Rouge 2011 also had vanilla and a little hint of toasted corn.

Going back to the Mirabelle range again, the Mirabelle Rouge 2010 was very herbaceous and steely with blackberry overtones while the Mirabelle Rouge 2008 had minerality showing through the blackberry and black cherry notes.

Moving on to the dessert wines, the Muscadelle Vielles Vignes 2011 was a semi-sweet (moelleux) floral number with notes of white flower, gardenia and apricots. The refreshing Mirabelle crème de tête 2011 was the best of the bunch with notes of apricots and marmalade and a slightly nutty finish. Also finishing with a nutty tang was the Monbazillac 1997 which was softly floral with truffle, marmalade and apricot notes and a very drying finish.

I think given the spectrum of wines tasted, Château de la Jaubertie clearly has potential for great winemaking. And though the wines weren’t terrible, they didn’t exactly inspire great poetry so, for me for the time being at least, the wines are suffering from temporary misdirection.

www.chateau-jaubertie.com

Château Barouillet, Pomport

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Château Barouillet, Bergerac

I get the feeling that Vincent Alexis is more at home in trendy Shoreditch than making wines but perhaps it’s too much of a clumsy generalisation to typecast someone with bed hair, wide rimmed glasses and skinny jeans as a hipster.

It is, of course, wrong to assume that Alexis is without credentials. As well as learning his (winemaking) trade in Mâcon, Burgundy, he once worked in the Crouch End branch of Nicholas in London. And as a 9th generation wine maker, he has serious pedigree.

His first vintage was in 2010 but already he has moved away from the family mould by shifting the family’s vineyard towards organic and biodynamic winemaking.

Château Barouillet, Bergerac

To give you an idea of the style of his wines, it’s worth knowing that he designed all of the labels himself with inspiration beginning at the bottom of the bottle. Many of them are named after Greek goddesses and are fermented from natural yeasts.

Gaia 2012, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, was fresh and limey with an almondy finish. Added to that is just a touch of effervescence making the wine reminiscent of Moscato d’Asti at times. The Pandora 2012, made in the egg, was flavoursome with notes of citrus and white stone fruits, bolstered by a toasty, nutty finish.

The reds offered no respite for the palate. Bergerac Rouge 2012 was intensely farmyardy with lots of cherry and animal notes coming through on the palate. Pécharmant 2012, meanwhile, spoke more of liquorice, blackcurrant and sweet spice; there was even a little coffee on the finish. Hécate 2012 had heady fruit with dark and smoky notes over the black and red berries.

Moving on to the sweet wines, the well balanced Monbazillac 2011 had just a touch of botrytis on the nose but offered a diverse expression that included marmalade, marshmallow, apricot and tropical fruits.

A little left field was the very limited release of Apicula 2009. It’s a wine that would have been Monbazillac but was left on the vines at the end of the production. Unfiltered and high in viscosity, it also had an oxidative character that’s very like Pedro Ximinez. Unlike PX, it also boasted an extremely long finish with Christmas fruits, prunes, pickled walnut, caramel and honey all coming through. Delicious stuff, if you can get hold of it.

barouillet.com

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