All posts filed under: France

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.

Back to the Future: Comparing 1967 En Primeur to now

If you want peace from the crazy highs of the Bordeaux campaign, then there is nothing that gives more solace than German Riesling. Here is a wine once sold as hotly as Bordeaux but now quietly sits on the books while the wine trade put it on their staff account for their own pleasure. Tasting three exceptional German Riesling last week, I wondered: what if Bordeaux went the way of German Riesling in the next 20 years? Before Robert Parker’s declaration of the 1982 vintage, Bordeaux was just another wine to stock the cellar.

New Moët & Chandon Imperial Ice Champagne

As Miles Davis put it, “If I don’t like what they write, I get into my Ferrari and I drive away”. Moët Imperial Ice is the new Champagne from Moët & Chandon, and like Miles Davis’ late experimental phase in the 1970s, the adding of ice in Champagne is more Bitches Brew than standard Kind of Blue. Personally, I start screaming if ice is anywhere near my Champagne, I am not joking, so it was with great trepidation I arrived on a sunny afternoon in May at a hotel rooftop in Mayfair for the launch.

Why Carruades de Lafite is an important indicator for 2010 Bordeaux En Primeur

The ultimate wine brand in in the world is not Lafite. It is Lafite’s second wine: Carruades de Lafite. Once the Bordeaux circus returns, the points are published and the prices are drip-fed out to the buyers by the Chateaux, keep an eye on the prices of Carruades de Lafite. If the “Carruades trend” continues, this could signal the end of the critic-led Bordeaux price. More than any other wine, quality is irrelevant to its price: over the years, Carraudes de Lafite has

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: 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?

2009 Beaucastel: Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark

2009 Chateau Beaucastel En Primeur Tasting Tasting Chateau Beaucastel en primeur is like pressing pause on a moment in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto, currently hurtling through space on the 1977 Voyager Space Probe Golden Record as a record of mighty human achievement. The red is a concerto of the full 13 varieties permitted in Chateauneuf du Pape, which, as they mature, has a symphonic effect as it develops in the bottle. Each component has its moment on stage, the Mouvedre has its moment before retreating to the chorus while Grenache takes over the lead. In other words, at an En Primeur tasting, you really are tasting only a polaroid snapshot of an orchestra. The talk at the tasting table was: “Has Beaucastel returned to an European style of winemaking?” (and I’ll add, it was said with a certain sigh of relief by the tasters beside me). Walking back through the grey stone streets around Bank, I wondered – is it the winemaking or the vintage? This is a different (and quieter) wine than the standout vintages …

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 …

Champagne, darkly: Blanc de Noirs

This is the time to pull out the Blanc de Noirs Champange. Blanc de Noirs literally means white from black, which, even metaphorically, seems appropriate. Generally NV Champagne is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. A Blanc de Noirs is 100% Pinot Noir. It has a red fruit depth, sometimes described as a meatiness, somewhat similar in taste to vintage Champagne. One of my favourites is from Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vigne NV, but other excellent Blanc de Noirs are Pommery Wintertime and the very special vintage Bollinger, Ay Vieilles Vignes Francaises Blanc de Noirs. One enjoyed recently is 100% Pinot Noir Secondé-Collard Blanc de Noirs Brut NV. It has the nose of a much more expensive Champagne, although one third the price of the Egly-Ouriet, with crunchy biscuity characters. The name is also appropriate, for it’s the right way to see divorce, or any significant relationship ending – as a second chance at your life. This is not the end; it is white from black, it’s a light at the …

Cabernet by Stealth: Chinon, by Alliet

The 2006 Chinon Vieilles Vignes from Phillipe Alliet may start out as a typical 100% Cabernet Franc from Chinon: pale ruby, fresh and light dominated by raspberry characters, but this Cabernet Franc can not be simply described as Cabernet Sauvignon without the heavy cape. The lightness soon drops an octave lower into darker territory; perfumes of black fruits, aniseed and game. The tannins have a firm grip on the fruit as if being stopped by a request for a password (TENREBAC) before being allowed to move on to the next taste; in effect, slowing down the slideshow of Cabernet Franc perfume on an almost blank fruit palate that is taut, clear and mineral. There is nothing green and dry about it, the fruit and tannins are skillfully integrated with jewel-thief precision. Phillipe Alliet has created the ultimate stealth wine moving through the night with extreme care and quietness. Working with at least 50-year-old vines, this serious Chinon from one of the greats in the Loire is unique, and resists category across all the Cabernet family, …

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.

From wine to widget (or, my Bordeaux sulk in Rome)

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust “What I don’t understand,” said my Roman friend as we walked through the ruins of the ancient city of Rome, “is how these high prices of Bordeaux wine (En Primeur) can be in the public good?” Yesterday I was on holiday in Italy. Frankly, I needed a holiday. After waiting weeks for the big names of Bordeaux to release their wines, and just a torturous drip drip drip, I was officially in a Bordeaux sulk. Then, whilst away, Leoville Poyferre, a Chateau I call “good value drinking claret”, released their wines at +172% on 2008 and +50% on the already highly-priced 2005. Some wines from 2009 vintage are very good this year, but does this justify the substantially higher price? Feeling rather like an ancient philosopher walking amongst the ruins, however, I felt I should argue the opposite point of view…. The SPQR written everywhere in marble (or, Senatus Populusque Romanus “The Senate and the Roman …

En Primeur – five questions to ask before you buy

What is En Primeur? En Primeur is the art of buying wine when it is still in cask before it is bottled. There is usually a two year wait before it is finally delivered, which happens shortly after the wine is bottled and shipped. After vintage, wine merchants and writers visit the Estates, Domaines or Chateaux to assess the quality for their customers. This is when the campaign begins. In the United States, buying wine En Primeur is known as Wine Futures, which is slightly more demystifying; it clearly links the buying of unbottled wine in cask to the concept of buying futures on the stockmarket. It’s the same level of reward. And risk. For those who don’t know much about Bordeaux, En Primeur can be on the trickier end of wine buying. For those who do, it can be a way to buy wine at a relatively low price which returns decades of enjoyment. However, unlike other forms of investment, it’s a speculation you can eventually enjoy drinking. And if you do it right, …

2010 Wish List #4: Krug Rosé (half bottle)

Yes, it must be a half-bottle. Of course, it would be more practical, economical and sensible to buy a full bottle. But don’t be ridiculous. This is my wish list, and it really is not the moment to consider such prosaic things. It’s the time to dream extravagantly. So it must be a half bottle of Krug Rose and it must be in its lavender box. When it’s a half bottle, Krug Rose becomes more than just Champagne. It joins the modern consumer pantheon: objects such as the smooth black packaging of an iPod or the pale blue egg-shell expectation of a Tiffany’s box; things coveted for how they are presented as for much as what’s inside. Once you get past the pale lavender packaging – a colour that seems only to be found in very expensive cashmere – marveling how it is the same shape as the full-size version and squeal at how everything is so much smaller, you take the bottle out of its box, hold its swan-like neck and wonder: how is …

2010 Wish List #5: Inflorescence Champagne

  Coming in at number five on my 2010 wish list is Cedric Bouchard’s Champagne, Inflorescence.             “The explosive, kaleidoscopic Champagnes of Cedric Bouchard are some of the most compelling wines coming out of the region today… Readers should do whatever they can to experience these magnificent wines.” – Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate     When I read this review in Wine Advocate last April, I immediately started to look for stockists. There’s something appealing about a single-grower in Champagne in a place where every vineyard is held by multiple, usually corporate, interests. It’s the heroic story of the little guy winning against the big guys. There’s also hardly any of it around, and what was available had been snapped up, which, as you can imagine, drove me even more crazy…   Also, the word, Inflorescence – it sounds like it blossoms with marvelous bubbles. Does it live up to the name? I definitely want try a glass or two this year and find out whether it lives up to …

New Years Eve champagne

Still recovering.   I know – a week after New Years’ Eve.    Drank some very good champagne – and it is worthy to note, because it happens so rarely – one after another.    Ruinart Rose NV followed by 1999 Dom Perignon, 1995 Krug with a chaser of NV Krug.    I’ve never tasted Dom Perignon beside Krug. Either it’s one or the other. The two champagnes don’t often mix in the same circles.    Yin and yang.    Dom Perignon is delicate, lacy and feminine. Krug is biscuity and masculine – although still very elegant and refined.     At least now I know why Dom Perignon is Marlene Dietreich’s favourite champagne.   Let 2009 sparkle on!     

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 …

Eccentric Winemaker series, Pt 3: Anne Gros, Burgundy

Now, you may think, why Anne Gros? She is certainly not as outlandish as the previous two winemakers I have featured in Wine, Woman and Song’s Eccentric Winemaker series. This is true. She is from a historic Burgundian family stretching back to the 1830s, making blue-labeled wines in the blue-blooded part of Burgundy, Vosne-Romanée. Yet, there is something unique about Anne Gros. To be an eccentric you must dance to the beat of your own drum. Anne Gros is certainly doing something different, right under the noses of the the old guard. In an extremely traditional area such as Burgundy, even the most imperceptible tremors and changes result in huge waves. Just look at her label. It’s modern – blue! – no fancy script or complex descriptions of proprietors over the vineyard name. It clearly states the region and the Domaine name. How different it looks compared to the traditional Burgundy bottles. To the wine itself: her wines are lightly filtered; unfashionable at the moment. They are unashamedly feminine. Arguably, most wines from Burgundy are …

What did they drink in the movie Casablanca?

What did they drink in the movie Casablanca? Might as well wait and drink more Champagne.  Good idea. Casablanca is soaked in Champagne. Champagne features in nearly more scenes than the film’s star, Humphrey Bogart. I’m amazed Champagne isn’t featured in the credits as a character. From the first moment we meet Rick (Humphrey Bogart) playing chess against himself in his saloon, Rick’s Cafe Americain, he is seen drinking Champagne in a Marie Antoinette glass. But of course, he never accepts drinks from anyone else. “Waiter, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot 1926, a very good wine,” orders the Captain for the visiting Nazi Major. Then there’s the bottle of bourbon Rick drinks while he waits for an explanation from his ex-lover Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” Rick sits in the dark remembering happier times. With the arrival of the Nazis in Paris, Rick, Ilsa and Sam drink through their last three bottles of Mumm Cordon Rouge. Ilsa would rather …