Tag: France

#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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Tricolour: wines from Côteaux du Giennois

I mentioned briefly in the post about wine and technology that there would be a vlog coming up… Well, you didn’t have to wait too long for that because here it is:

Côteaux du Giennois

For this first vlog, I tasted a trio of wines from the French wine region of Côteaux du Giennois.

Coteaux du Giennoise wines

Côteaux du Giennois is right in the middle of France, quite close to Sancerre, and lies between the towns of Gien and Cosne sur Loire by the Loire River. As an appellation, it’s relatively new, AOC since 1998, but grape pips have been found in archaeological digs in Cosne sur Loire which suggests that wine has been made there since the 2nd century.

As in other parts of the Loire Valley, the soil in the area is a mix of flint and limestone which suggests good potential for the white wines. These are made from Sauvignon Blanc. They also make rosé and red wines from Pinot Noir, Gamay or a blend of the two.

Anyway, here are the tasting notes for the three wines:

Domaine de Villargeau Sauvignon Blanc Coteaux du Giennois 2012 Domaine de Villargeau Sauvignon Blanc Côteaux du Giennois 2012. A medium bodied wine with intense nose of lychee, pear, apple and citrus. Some stony minerality. A little floral note too. Don’t serve this too cold as acidity will prevail. To have with a creamy seafood dish. RRP£9.99 available from Marks & Spencer.
 Les Aupières Coteaux du Giennois Rose 2013 Les Aupières Rosé Côteaux du Giennois 2013. Light red berry nose with a little hawthorne, perhaps even rose. Slight bitterness at the end. A delicate red-style rosé wine. Enjoy with a chicken and pomegranate salad or something similarly light from the Middle East. RRP£10.99 available from Laithwaites.
 Clement et Florian Berthier Rouge Coteaux du Giennois 2012 Clement et Florian Berthier Rouge Côteaux du Giennois 2012. A little vanilla coming through followed by strawberries. Overpowering farm-yardy aromas. Not one for me. RRP£12.99 available from Laithwaites.

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.

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 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 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.

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

Château Thénac, Thénac

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Château Thénac could be said to be its own town. Or at least that’s what it feels like when you find yourself in the village of Thénac, where there are precisely three buildings in its centre – the Château, the Marie (Mayor’s office) and the church.

Château Thénac, Bergerac

The Château itself is split up into the house and the winery.

Although built entirely in the traditional style, almost everything is new – even the vines. Not all the vines, mind.

It’s evident that big changes have been made since the property was bought by a Russian oligarch; that oligarch is none other than Eugene Shvidler, friend and business partner of Roman Abromavich. At the same time, many things have stayed the same. The staff, for example, have been retained.

The estate is a sizeable 200 hectares though only around 50 are under vine. Majority of the wines are your average Bergerac blends though a few odd ball varieties, like Ondenc have been thrown in.

Wines, Château Thénac, Bergerac

The resident chef at the Château is really rather excellent but pining for his food did detract from writing down tasting notes.

It is, however, worth noting that with the changes in the ownership came a change in the style of wine produced. Experimentations are made with the blends as well as the winemaking itself so we should see some more interesting samples coming out in the future. But the downside of being one to watch is that the odd vintage is still experiencing some youthful imbalance.

www.chateau-thenac.com

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