All posts tagged: France

7 Things You May Not Know About Picpoul de Pinet

Picpoul de Pinet has made me a lot of friends. It’s been essential chat fuel in London pubs since 2009. Here are seven facts you may not know about Picpoul de Pinet. It may even help with your next pub quiz. There’s a lot more to this easy white wine from Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France than you may expect.  1. One third of all Picpoul de Pinet production is sold in the U.K. 1.57 million bottles were drunk in 2017/2018 compared to 1.08 million in 2016/2017 – an increase of 46%. That’s a lot of after-work drinks. 2. The Picpoul de Pinet bottle is called a Neptune Since 1995, Picpoul de Pinet must be in a sleek green bottle. Up close, you will find it has three symbols on the glass: the waves of the sea around the neck of the bottle, the cross of it’s home region of the Languedoc-Roussillon, and columns along the base of the bottle as a nod to Roman Doric columns. It must have all three to be a real Picpoul de …

Millésime Bio: The Taste of 2045

Touching down at the Millésime Bio organic wine fair in Montpellier. Sunshine. Organic wine. It did not take much cajoling by SudVinBio to accept the invitation; over 1,200 organic wine exhibitors from 22 different countries under the mild Mediterranean sun. Millésime Bio in 2019 In its 26th year, Millésime Bio comes of age. Today it is a smooth modern event. Happily, there are still some tell-tale signs that it it true to its 1990s roots, a time when organic wine was more fringe than it is today.  The layout for the tasting is egalitarian. Each winemaker’s table was presented simply with a white table cloth, which featured one or two producers. This was repeated for all the winemakers over four huge halls. I even saw one winemaker with just one bottle of wine to show. Not much marketing, no massive winery stands, no sign posts showing regions. At first, the four large halls felt overwhelming (how are we going to find the wines from this or that region?); after a few hours, it felt refreshingly …

What does organic wine mean today?

Before I travel to Montpellier for Millésime Bio Organic Wine fair next week, I searched Google for “organic wine”. The oracle answered back with a riddle, like an old Zen master answering a question with a question, “What does organic wine mean?” A sensible question to ask before an international organic wine fair. Although, in asking it at all, it reminded me of the days after the Brexit referendum, when we learned the most searched for question in Britain was, “What is the EU?” “Argh, the B word”, as you splurt out your wine over your metropolitan-elite, wine-drinking ecru walls, “why do we have to involve Brexit in everything?” Because it is involved with everything, especially wine. Brexit is a “mad riddle,” as Danny Dyer brilliantly put it, and organic wine is one of the most regulated wine styles in Europe. It’s worth stepping back and look at the larger picture when there is a pyromaniacal desire by some in government for a bonfire of regulations.  What does Organic wine mean today? So here we …

IYour Sommelier Wine Club review. Image: Henri Matisse 1951

Spin Around Three Times: Your Sommelier wine club review

Shall we stand here after work in a busy supermarket and choose the one with the Chateau on the front or the one with the Chateau on the front? We could always spin around three times, put our hand out blindly and just reach for something under £15 per bottle? Or I might just ditch this whole supermarket-stressy-idea and go home. Perhaps this is the point where Your Sommelier wine club hopes to help.  Around 8,500 Chateaux produce wine in Bordeaux (despite the repetition of releases from the en primeur campaign currently raging in my inbox). Bordeaux is a lot more than just the Grands Crus Classés and is one of the biggest wine-producing regions in the world. You can find yourself plenty of decent wine in Bordeaux, and even more of what WSET may call “medium” – i.e. medium alcohol, medium body, medium intensity. Nothing wrong with a medium wine. I have plenty of friends who are medium wines! It’s more than acceptable during the week and I love sitting in a bistro in Bordeaux city over a glass of AOC Bordeaux red and watch the skateboarders flip out. …

Corse you can: wines from Yves Leccia, Patrimonio, Corsica

Look up Corsica in Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book and right at the end of the entry, like an afterthought or a throwaway line, he writes: “Original wines that rarely travel.”  This is how the obsession starts. Thanks Hugh (again). In the small entry, HJ then recommends the wines of Yves Leccia. As luck would have it, the opportunity came up to meet Yves Leccia at Vinisud in Montpellier, and he sent me some wines to taste at home. It’s easy to like a wine – in fact, to like most things – when the sun is shining in the South of France, but how will they taste on a cold (as the Scots say) dreich day in London? Yves Leccia Domaine d’E Croce Patrimonio blanc Varieties: Vermentinu Region: Patrimonio, Corsica Year: 2013 Price: Approximately 27 € Retailer: Kermit Lynch (US), no UK supplier What struck me the most are the unique herbal flavours, much like the garrigue aromas found in the south of France. In Corsica, they call it fleur de maquis – the thickets of underbrush, rosemary and thyme. The Vermentinu is finer than the Vermentino found …

In Montpellier for Vinisud 2016

Last week I was at Vinisud 2016 in Montpellier for the Mediterranean wine trade fair. It was my first time at this event, and as far as locations go, you could not do better than tasting wines on the sunny coast of France in February. I was there as a Vinisud Ambassador, along with Charlie Arturaola (producer of the film, “The Ways of Wine” and other wine films), Denise Medrano (The Wine Sleuth), and Michelle Williams (Rocking Red Blog). The Ambassador team was a social media powerhouse, becoming a sounding board for the producers and presentations. In a single day, the TweetReach broke new records via the official #VINISUD2016 hashtag with nearly 1,500 twitter posts recorded. According to Sylvain Dadé of specialist agency SOWINE, which hosted the Vinisud Digital Hub, over the last two days of the show, 533,000 accounts were reached with 4.8 million prints. On Tuesday, we found #Vinisud2016 was trending on twitter alongside that other little event going on at the time, The Grammys (!).  Charlie, Denise and Michelle are true social media professionals at the top of their game; each of their presentations at …

The view from Paris: natural wine and the vegetable whisperer

This is my view. We are staying with a young sommelier friend. He moved to Paris from Copenhagen and now works at one of the grand dames of the natural wine bistro scene, Chateaubriand.  On the wall of his apartment in Oberkampf is an old chalkboard he was given by the guys at Verre Volé (67 Rue de Lancry, 75010 Paris) – one of the places where many wine people hung out a few years ago. Verre Volé also made an impact on me back in the early part of this decade: I remember turning up after they were closed so they gave me a few glasses and a bottle of Métras to sit by the Canal Saint-Martin while we waited for them to open again. “Natural wine only” lists are not a new phenomena. But what is happening in the new bistro scene in Paris (described as “bistronomie”) is not just about natural wine, but also about “natural food” and maybe, in the longer term, we may look back and see that it was even more than that – a coming together of a greater philosophy about the environment and …

3 terroirs in Saumur-Champigny you need to know

As the boat drifted away from the town of Saumur on a summer night, and I was drifting away in my thoughts at the end of the day (and, perhaps, from one too many glasses of red), I thought about the knotty notion of terroir. When does wine become more than just about thirst? The Loire is a vast collection of different terroirs following the Loire River from the centre of France to the Atlantic. We were in Saumur-Champigny AOC, in the centre of the Loire region. South-east of Angers, on the left bank of the river, and east of Coteaux du Layon and Anjou. The boat drifted to the point in the river where the Saumur region ended and where Touraine began. A winemaker pointed to the old stone stairs on the river bank. The stairs were divided down the middle. Although they joked about it, saying one side was for the people in Saumur and one was for Touraine – there were clearly still some healthy rivalries between the neighbours. The line where one region started and another ended was clear in the …

More zelig-caravent! 2011 jardins des simples

There should be a word for that balloon-like fruit in natural wine. Plush is not quite the word. Nor is it as luxurious as velvet. I was thinking of a car safety airbag balloon – soft, in your face and I am sure many people who love big fruit in their wines will think it is heaven for a moment. I have tasted this texture many times in natural wines and I even detected it in the last vintage of the Rolls Royce of natural wine, Pontet Canet. Combined with the lack of astringent tannins, or wood, it makes the fruit turn to pillow. “But don’t car safety balloons come out in car crashes?” someone will inevitably say when finding this to be a natural wine. Poor natural wines, always guilty until proven innocent! That would be unfair to this Cinsault from zelig-caravent, jardins des simples 2011 from Pic St Loup in the Languedoc.  It has a rich, forward and smooth strawberry and raspberry character as if strawberries and raspberries have been left in the …

From Rhone with Love – J.L. Chave at Christie’s

The night before the Christie’s tasting of J.L Chave pre-auction wines, the swimming briefs worn by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale went at auction for £44,000 (with 5 bidders). During the tasting, we were reminded by Anthony Hanson MW that in the past Rhone was shipped to Bordeaux to be used as bulk wine. In between these two extreme stories, sat before us the wines of J.L. Chave. The market of fine wine, like other markets, is based on sentiment. And

Natural Wine Bars & Bistros in Paris

The Entrance for Artists. As readers of this blog may know, the last thing I enjoy with a glass of wine is a list of rules. I’d much rather join the circus. Arriving in Paris a couple of weekends ago to see a few natural wine bars, I stayed in the very un-chic 20th arrondissement. Groups of homeless men lay in sleeping bags huddled together beside concrete road blocks showing political signs from Mélenchon’s Communist Party. It was a very crisp, cold weekend. Pamphleteers handed out how to vote slips for Francoise Hollande.

What haunts me

The irritation and resistance melted from Elisa’s face. “Oh, those are chrysanthemums, giant whites and yellows. I raise them every year, bigger than anybody around here. “Kind of a long-stemmed flower? Looks like a quick puff of colored smoke?” he asked. “That’s it. What a nice way to describe them.” “They smell kind of nasty till you get used to them,” he said. “It’s a good bitter smell,” she retorted, “not nasty at all.” He changed his tone quickly. “I like the smell myself.” – John Steinbeck, The Chrysanthemums It started before we even arrived in Burgundy. Way before that. On the road to Macon from Geneva. Like a shadow it kept showing up in the brightest of places. Our Sat-Nav must have been drunk, that’s the only way I can describe how it could possibly want to navigate us off the highway into the darkness. Into Jura. “I would love to take a quick detour to Jura,” I said, half-jesting as I knew all the great wines lay ahead of us in Burgundy. These …

Raving with Clos Ste Hune (Trimbach)

  The signature taste of Clos Ste Hune Riesling is pine needles but this is no tranquil afternoon in the Black Forest; more like non-stop “pine needle” green strobe light action at a rave. Trying to describe it is like waving your hand through laser light; the complex flavours meld and disappear in a green light of spicy lime and steely tang. Let the music lift you up. It would have been fortunate to have only one Clos Ste Hune, but at yesterday’s Enotria tasting with Jean Trimbach at Bistro du Vin Soho, we were treated to three vintages. Everybody raves about Clos Ste Hune Riesling from Trimbach; and happily, this wine lives up to the hype.

The wine was Chambertin

I forget the name of the place; I forget the name of the girl; but the wine was Chambertin” – Hillaire Belloc Tasting Grand Cru Chambertin next to other wines is like seeing a film featuring Anouk Aimée after an all-day marathon of Friends. It has such a different affect on the senses it makes you wonder whether all winemakers are using the same key ingredients of grapes, soil, sky and cellar. The last time I tasted 2008 and 2009 Grand Cru Domaine Rossignol-Trapet they were in an embryonic En Primeur state in London; now the wines had formed a clear personality. Rossignol-Trapet’s Gevrey-Chambertin villages red was a go-to wine for me for a couple of years, so it was a thrill to meet Nicholas at the Domaine. 

Introducing Christophe Buisson

The RN74 road in Burgundy is like driving down a wine list. Great names, manicured vines; it is, to state the obvious, a place where vineyards have been have been held in loving trust for millennia. Generations of families and growers have worked the land; a place where growers are so well-known by winemakers business is done on a handshake (‘topler’). But it must be the perverse streak in me, despite having the privilege to taste many Grand Crus from great familes during my time there, one of my favourite wines was a red Saint-Romain from the relatively new winemaker, Christophe Buisson.

Outside the law: Burgundians Anne Gros and Jean-Paul Tollot’s “Table Wine” from Minervois

It’s as if these two winemakers from Burgundy have run away to the South of France and created something great for the village party. The name of the wine, La 50/50, refers to the winemakers partnership rather than the blend and Anne Gros asks on her website, “Is it love at first sight? Absolutely!” There’s a sunny joyousness about this wine from the Languedoc and a sort of recklessness

Languedoc Seduction: Domaine Peyre Rose Clos des Cistes 2002

Winemaker Marlene Soria has achieved a grand clandestine moment with 2002 Peyre Rose Clos des Cistes. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this wine is not the dramatic Mediterranean garrigue character, nor the resolutely non-berry style of the dark rose and golden figs, leather and slight bay-leaf menthol. It is the fleshiness given to this powerful, idiosyncratic voice from the South of France: a region where a lot of voices have yet to find out what they exactly want to say. Compelled to find out more, I learned Soria stopped shipping to the US soon after gaining recognition in Wine Spectator as well as dumping the three previous vintages (1999, 2000, 2001) with the local wine co-operative due to taint from faulty enamel tanks. This, for a wine that easily commands over £60 a bottle. I questioned whether I should write about the vinous equivalent of a one-night stand, one that you and I may never see again (it is found in the UK in seriously low quantities). Yet, weeks later, its mysterious voice and …

Late Night Sessions: Pic St Loup, Bergerie de l’Hortus, Languedoc 2008

Home: Wolf Mountain, Mediterranean Translation: Pic-St-Loup, South of France Sound: Pick the Wolf, Howling Honest: yes Satisfying: yes Traditional: A little Need to eat: No Not for: Thin Merlot lovers Ideal with: Those born too late for cheap Rhone Or: Poor Man’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape Or: Who cares? This is good. Nerdy Fact: Leading AOC for quality in Languedoc S France More: here MORE Late Night Sessions notes and music here: www.wwslatenightsessions.tumblr.com UK Stockist Berry Bros & Rudd Image: Rene Gruau

Valentine’s Day: wine for the cynical and jaded

Saying pink champagne is romantic is as delusional as saying Paris is feminine when one look at a map shows the city is a continuous paean to military conquests. The best Rose Champagne is not hearts and fluffy toys, it usually has a strong Pinot Noir constitution that can withstand many different food assaults. So if you must buy into the most commercial of days etc etc… What do you do?

2009 Burgundy & Colette: “the lovesick, the betrayed and the jealous all smell alike.”

“But what is the heart, madame? It’s worth less than people think. it’s quite accommodating, it accepts anything. You give it whatever you have, it’s not very particular. But the body… Ha! That’s something else again. It has a cultivated taste, as they say, it knows what it wants. A heart doesn’t choose, and one always ends up by loving.” — Colette (The Pure and the Impure) In Burgundy in 1916, the Negociant Chauvenet sponsored the author Colette to support the Negociants against the local Growers. Colette was born in Burgundy, and was well-known as an “olfactory novelist” for her many beautiful descriptions involving the sense of smell. If anyone could make a case for the concept of terroir, could there be anyone better than the lyrical Colette?

Librarians love 01 Les Pagodes de Cos

The 01 Pagodes de Cos, the second wine of Cos d’Estournel, is reckless, obstinate and from all accounts of previous vintages, annoying. The initial brett farmyard characters will either delight or disgust you depending on whether worn leather smells like the promise of sitting in a new car or crusty old boots. But to me, it’s not that simple. I started tasting this wine and for a full half-hour still no fruit but only a durm und strang chord of leather and farmyard (the Cos style). Was it corked? I left it, but then got caught up in a party of bubbles at work for a couple of hours; I came home, and found another party in the kitchen drinking Caprihinas. Dang and argh, said the grumpy worker in me, I just want some peace to understand this wine! Pagodes longed for a library and a cigar and a serious conversation. So did I. It asked for the luxury of quiet that is so hard to find in London. So did I. Thankfully while I …

Arthouse Loire 2009

Skillfully made but distinctly low budget, 2009 Loire is an excellent remedy to the high madness of 2009 Bordeaux primeurs. Forget Bordeaux. Everything under £10 in Loire in 2009 is good value. More than good, excellent value. These are never big budget blockbusters in any vintage, instead, they are closer to art-house films. Under £10, these are low-budget masterpieces. This year, it’s the precision acidity, the depth of fruit and the deep resonating notes driving the wine. It’s half-way through this year, and there’s been excellent 2009 Saumur-Champigny, Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, Sancerre, Cabernet d’Anjou Rose and a Touraine Sauvignon. When Loire gets it right, they are so so right.   Even though most times, or most vintages, it’s just as likely to walk away frustrated and cursing the price of the ticket. In a good vintage such as 2009, it’s as if the wines take the classic twists and make it something cool. But can you get it? If under £10, I recommend you get it while you can.

Lalou Bize-Leroy, Burgundy

astrological principles guide the world’s most illustrious winemaker, Lalou Bize-Leroy “Wine is from a cosmic inspiration, it has the taste of the world matter.” – Lalou Bize-Leroy Lalou Bize-Leroy is the person behind some of the most expensive, sought-after, imitated and adored wines in the world. Her Burgundies are breathtaking, ethereal and out-of-this world. Yet she has to be one of the most idiosyncratic and eccentric winemakers on the planet. Lauded by her critics, shunned by her neighbours, loved by her buyers and collectors. Controversially, Lalou manages her wine on horoscopes and phases of the moon – she is one of the first exponents of bio-dynamic management of wine based on a cosmic, Steiner philosophy. Madame Bize Leroy doesn’t just think big, she thinks cosmically big. And let’s the rest of the world catch up. You may not believe in it, you may not understand it, but she must be doing something right. You don’t get a page of superlative praise from the world’s biggest wine critics for no reason. What you need to know …

What wine would Nick Cave drink?

If I was to recommend Nick Cave a wine, it’d be a black wine from Cahors. Some wines aspire to ring-tones, these wines are epic ballads. They take some time to yield in the glass, they are not instant and fun, you could say they are gruff and unfriendly; but once the story in the glass unfolds, it’s worth the wait. Cahors, in South West France, has been a wine region since Bordeaux was only a swamp. Yet, they’ve only been accepted as an French wine appellation since 1971. They’re the outsider; dark, gothic and medieval, which makes me like them even more…. If you live in the UK try these “easy-to-drink” examples, all under £10, for a night, darkly: • 2004 Cahors, Le Petit Clos Triguedina (Waitrose) Blackberry and graphite flavours minus usual mouth-puckering  • 2005 Cahors, Château Gaudou, Tradition (Majestic) Distinct licorice flavours with some Merlot to soften it out • 2002 Château Paillas Cahors (Nicholas) Classic Malbec aroma with spicy black fruit Listening to: Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! by Nick Cave. All things …