Category: White Wine

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

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

Famille Bougrier Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2013

Famille Bougrier Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2013The wine: Famille Bougrier Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2013

The producer: Famille Bougrier

They say: Since 1885 and five generations, Family Bougrier selects the most beautiful raisins from our best terroirs, to offer you the nicest wines. We wish you great pleasure with our Loire Valley Wines. Made on old soils, nice white dry wine. Great freshness and roundness. To be served slightly chilled with seafood and fishes from the Atlantic Ocean.

We say: Good perfume with notes of bruised apple, citrus and pear. Lots of acidity with a refreshing finish. A youthful style but nice balance with alcohol at 12%. Light and easy-drinking.

Try with: Roast hog, sage stuffing and apple sauce

Price (RRP): £7.50

Available from: Oddbins

Additional notes: –

Chinese tasting notes and food match

品酒笔记: 香味浓,带有碰伤了的苹果,柑橘和梨的气味。酸度高,爽口。适合酒年轻的时候喝。酒精度与口味搭配很好。清淡,易于饮用。

中餐搭配: 白果炖鸡

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

Vinisource – bulk wine production in Bergerac

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Almost every wine region in the world has room to make grapes for mass market wines and Bergerac is no exception.

Vineyard, Château Thénac, Bergerac

At Château Les Merles, I sat down with Gerrita Thiart-Martin from ViniSource to taste some of the wines the company made for the mass market.

Firstly, mass market does not equate bad wines, necessarily, but merely that the wines had been made in bulk quantities, and blended for consistency. This means that any “terroir character” that you might have detected with small batch productions are likely to be lost in the blend.

For ViniSource, it was a matter of acting as a sort of négociant by working with producers to blend their wines, often using the same base wines, to create different products for different clients.

ViniSource produces wines for a number of supermarkets in the UK including ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco. To give you an idea of numbers, in 2013 its total production was around 4 million bottles.

I tasted a tiny selection of the red and whites on offer.

Kicking things off was the Sainsbury’s Grande Reserve de Bergerac 2012, an easy-drinking citrusy and simple white, blended from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. The Tesco Finest Bergerac Blanc 2012, in comparison, had more crisp apple notes. And along with a little more minerality, there was a rounded simplicity.

Moving up the scale was a white wine made by David Fourtout, the Château les Tours des Verdots Bergerac Blanc Sec 2012. Gooseberry, citrus and fresh, crisp apple was flanked by nice acidity.

For the reds, the Sainsbury’s Grande Reserve de Bergerac 2012, made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, had notes of woody vanilla with blackberry, strawberry and even sour cherry coming through. It’s not quite elegant though as the bolshy fruit pushes forward. In contrast, the Clos Le Joncal Mirage du Joncal 2007 was much more refined with hints of sweet spice harmonising with the black cherry and blackberry.

Of course the object of bulk wine production is that there’s consistency in the product year after year. This tiny selection has certainly demonstrated that bulk wines aren’t necessarily bad, though they can be overtly simple and doing little to express their terroir at times.

But I suppose not everyone is ready to work so hard for their wine, or pay a sufficient premium for terroir.

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

Spotlight on: Baden and Württemberg

The winelands of Baden and Württemberg reminds me a little of the Languedoc-Roussillon.

View to Bodensee, Baden-Württemberg

Like the Languedoc-Roussillon, Baden and Württemberg lie to the south of the country. And like the Languedoc-Roussillon, they also border a large body of water – Lake Constance, or Bodensee as it’s known locally. Both of these factors make the regions warmer than some of their northern counterparts and the wines in turn are a little higher in alcohol.

But that’s where the similarity stops because although together the regions are part of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, Baden and Württemberg are considered separate wine regions under German legislation. (It’s worth noting here that they have been grouped in this case because I visited both regions in the same journey.) What’s more, with some exceptions, Baden and Württemberg make use of an entirely different set of grapes to Languedoc-Roussillon and to each other.

(Read about Baden and Württemberg’s distinctive food here)

Grape flower buds close up, Baden-Württemberg

Baden is more Pinot focussed with the majority of wines made from Spätburgunder (Pinot noir), Grauburgunder (Pinot gris) and Weißburgunder (Pinot blanc) but Müller-Thurgau and Gutedel (Chasselas) also make an appearance. Württemberg, meanwhile, uses Trollinger, Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier), Lemberger and Spätburgunder. Germany’s best known grape variety, Riesling, is also utilised but certainly not as much as in other German wine regions.

What’s been most interesting for me has been the fact that neither of these two areas seemed to produce sweet wines. Again there are exception here but on the whole, many of the producers tended to make a rosé wine for serving with dessert. It’s something that’s worked out well while there are German strawberries in season but it makes me wonder what they do the rest of the time.

Without further ado, here are the places I’ve visited in Baden and Württemberg (You can read my short guide to wine travel in the Bodensee on Yahoo):

Collegium Wirtemberg

Mainau

Weingut Markgraf von Baden

Weingut Wöhrwag

Winzerhof Gierer

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

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