Sunday, December 11, 2011

2000 Château l'Evangile Pomerol Bordeaux France




2000 Château l'Evangile Pomerol Bordeaux France
Suggested retail price HK$2300-HK$2500 or $295-$320
(brought by a customer)

Light, medium, slightly brownish color with bright autumn red reflects. The nose is delicate and aromatic without being too intense yet distinguished aromas of earth, dirt, ripe dark fruit mingled with notes of cigar, tobacco leaf, licorice and some cedar wood and leather caress the nostrils at first sniff. The palate is lighter than I expected for a Pomerol in that particular vintage, yet it is bright, racy, very well balanced and rather feminine. It showed a bit of age already, nothing much but noticeable to the amateurs. Although pretty good too, the texture and structure was also a bit thin. It may come from the age of the wine but it may also be due to how the wine was kept. However, it was very good and very expressive but a bit light. This bottle could have been kept for another 5-8 years, but not more than that. I should taste another bottle to realize if it was the case for that particular bottle or if it is a general pattern for this wine in this particular vintage.

Go to the winery website for more info: www.lafite.com/eng/Bordeaux-Estates/Chateau-L-Evangile

Enjoy,

LeDom du Vin

FYI: L'Evangile remains one of my favorite Pomerol which always excel by its consistency and elegance vintage after vintage, but I think that my favorite will always be Vieux Chateau Certan, which has never disappointed me in the last 15 years. I can hear you saying what about Le Pin and Petrus? Well, I opened, tasted and poured countless amount of these 2 stellar wines in various vintages over the last 20 years, they are very good that is true, yet in bad vintage they were not great but still commanded incredibly high prices (like most top tear Bordeaux right and left) and I think that they are a bit overrated in my opinion. During a few "En Primeur" tastings, I had the chance to taste Le Pin at the barrel, in the semi-underground basement of that ugly and indistinct mid-80s squarish concrete house in the middle of the vines flanked with one Pine tree up front (hence the name ... that is right, you can have a old shack lost in the vines or a vulgar garage and still call yourself a Château in Bordeaux). The wine was great for sure, it was a good vintage too, but except due to the price of the land and the international recognition thanks to Robert Parker Jr. and the extremely low availability (only 25 barrels produced max in that basement, which represent about 7,500 bottles from a 2 hectares vineyard), I think that Vieux Chateau Certan, also managed by one of the Thienpont family, is a better value for money, which has nothing to envy Le Pin (or Petrus for that matter) in terms of complexity, length and richness. But I will describe VCC in another post.


Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2007 Domaine de Montille Volnay 1er Cru "Les Champans" Côtes de Beaune Burgundy France


Domaine de Montille Volnay

The good thing of being back as a Sommelier / Wine Buyer for a restaurant is that I get to taste great, and often expensive wines that I usually had difficulty to taste when I was working in retail due to their high price and low availability.

The reason why is that when you buy wines for retail, unless you are invited by the importer or distributor or even the winery itself to a tasting, you rarely get to taste or even open these rare gems reserved for the most fortunate and wealthiest.

However, in restaurant, and that is the greatest thing about it, as Sommelier, it is your duty to taste most wines and more especially the rare and expensive ones to ensure their quality, keep and serve them in the most ideal condition and make sure that they are not corked to enhance the experience of your customers. It is even better when it is not a wine from your own wine-list but a wine brought by the customer himself (or herself) from his / her own cellar.

It's at this precise moment, after presenting the bottle to the customer, uncorked the bottle, poured a little bit in a extra glass on the side to "avine"* the decanter, avined the decanter and right before decanting the wine, that you can have that delicious sip of this incredible wine, which you may never been able to find again or afford or have another occasion to taste. If it taste good, then you can decant it, serve the customer and put what is left in your glass away in a safe place to enjoy it later to witness the evolution of the wine.

It is usually during that divine instant that one realize that there are good wines and GOOD wines. The following wine from this very established winery from the Côte de Beaune is definitely a great example of what some the best vineyards and producers in Burgundy have to offer. It is on my wine list and very proud of it.

I invite you to go to their website to find more about this unique Domaine where history and traditions converge under the attentive and skillful craftsmanship of the de Montille family since 1750's. For more info go to: http://www.demontille.com/






2007 Domaine de Montille Volnay 1er Cru "Les Champans" Côtes de Beaune Burgundy France
Suggested retail price HK$650-$680 or about US$75-$82

In the glass, this wine shows a light, crisp, see through, youthful red cherry color. The nose offers fragrant aromas of bright, red wild cherry with attractive mineral, earthy and floral notes. The palate is light, delicate, feminine with racy acidity and vivid flavors of wild red, sour cherry intermingled with earthy, mineral hints and even more refreshing acidity and a present yet integrated tannic structure leading toward the long, cleansing finish. Overall, I found the wine light and extremely bright, yet really flavorful and rich but not in an opulent or ripe way. Long and balanced, in my opinion, it definitely deserves more than some of the ratings that I saw in different magazines and websites. Good thing is that I do not go by the ratings and don't let myself get influenced by them, only my palate decide, and I love this wine.

Some may find it too light and sour, with too much acidity and lack of richness and fruit opulence, but in defense for the wine, 2007 was a better vintage for whites rather than reds overall in Burgundy. Yet, to me, 2007 for reds shows a lot of purity, freshness and balance. 2007 is definitely less opulent but better than the out-of-the-ordinary-and-unbalanced 2003; less complex than the extraordinary 2005 and less ripe and hot than the 2009. It is also not as nice as 2006 which somewhat, in my opinion and despite what the wine-press was saying about it (see my post "Follow the wine press or not?"), was a much better, consistent and brighter vintage than the so acclaimed 2005 vintage, which was more opulent, fleshier yet less balanced or characteristic or even traditional (in my opinion) by Burgundy standards. However, 2007 is definitely better than 2008, which was overall an inconsistent vintage, in my opinion, offering ok but not great Burgundy wines for most of the wines that I tasted (reds or whites). Overall, due to the lack of ripeness, some may downgrade the 2007 vintage, but so far I tasted some very interesting wines from this particular year, and this De Montille Volnay is a very good proof of it.

* The verb "Aviner" in French consist of the action of pouring a bit a wine in the decanter prior the decantation, to rinse the decanter from any possible dust and other residues and to allow for the aromas to impregnate the decanter.

Enjoy,

LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Back to the Future or my new Job in Hong Kong




Back to the Future or my new Job in Hong Kong


It has been a few months since I've last updated my wine blog, and I could try to invent all the excuses in the world to explain why I didn't, but I think it is best to stay simple and tell you the truth: I relocated to Hong Kong.

Of course, said like that, it doesn't really explain why I couldn't write anything since then, but the reason why is that I'm not working anymore as a Store Manager and Wine Buyer, tasting more than 10,000 wines a year in one of the greatest city in the world, New York, with enough time in my hands to handle my work, my family, the various tastings and my writing time and still find the time to travel to Europe to taste wines. Instead, I'm now back into the restaurant business as a Head Sommelier & Wine Buyer for a renown restauranteur in Hong Kong, which is great and I love it, but it doesn't leave me much time to write as much as I would like.

So, it is a bit like Back to the Future, because I worked in the restaurant business for nearly 11 years, then went to the US and work in Wine & Spirits retail for 9 years in between, before being back to where I started my career, running around in a restaurant, suggesting food pairings and pouring wines. I still have the passion for it in me and, I must say, even after 9 years, it came back right away. The excitement of sharing these special moments with my customers, be a part of the entertainment, provide exemplary attentive service and redefining who I'm everyday with different customers like an actor will do, all this is fun! Yet, I will just say that age has taken a bit of a tall on me, but hey, I'm not that old and I chose the fun and the adventure, so we'll see... as for now, I'm in Hong Kong.

It has only roughly been two months and a half, and I should be use to it by now, but still, sometimes I wake up... and I'm in Hong Kong! It is a weird yet exciting feeling at the same time. Who knew, nearly 40 years ago, that a little boy like me who mostly spent his time in the vineyards and the countryside in the northern part of Bordeaux will ever, one day, end up working on the other side of the planet? However, it is still quite interesting to keep an open mind and embrace different cultures, being receptive to new and different ideas and opinions and ways of living of others. See the world was one of my many dreams when I was young and I'm pursuing that dream.

Next year, I will celebrate 20 years of working in relation with Wine & Spirits and 15 years as a certified Sommelier and Wine Buyer for restaurants and retails in Bordeaux then (for a very short time) Paris (and quite a few other French towns in between), then London, New York and now Hong Kong.


Hong Kong market is very exciting, yet like most market it has its pros and cons. Here are a few things and facts that I noticed and came to understand over the last 2 months.


  • The first obstacle in this market is the fact that most Hong Kong's natives, and Asian in general, do not drink wine or rarely. It is a very young market that need to be educated, despite the number of wine and spirits retails, bars and restaurants, importers, distributors and wine schools, which mushroom everywhere, every month. At the restaurant (where I work, in Central, where a lot money and wealthy people converge), both for lunch and dinner, most tables drink water, warm water for that matter (culture and pollution oblige). Only few dare sometime ordering a glass or two for dinner with their meal, and a full bottle is a rare treat. In general, mostly foreigners (expats and tourists) and Asian people with a certain background or a certain education, people who usually travelled abroad or even went to boarding school in the UK, Europe or the United States, drink wines and order by the bottle. The other drink a lot of water, herbal or floral tea, fruit or vegetable juices, or cocktail, or beer or strong spirits like Cognac or Whiskies. 

  • The second obstacle is that wine (and pretty much everything else) is terribly expensive in Hong Kong, especially the most well known brands, understandably because wine remains predominantly an imported product. Usually, in most markets I've worked, it is a conflict of interest for the suppliers to sell the same wines, therefore they usually avoid doing it, which also guarantee a better control of the distribution and sales of the brand, especially from the winery point of view. However, in Hong Kong, it is not rare to have multiple suppliers (distributors and importers) selling the same wines (especially the high end ones), sourced in various ways: for example, in most markets, the wines come from the wineries directly; however, in most case scenarios, here in Hong Kong, the wines may come from private buyers and may have already transited before by one or more markets; i.e.: London or New York or else. In fact, I don't think that there are many regulations regarding who buys or sells what and how in terms of wine. Of course, there must be some laws to control the market and guarantee the provenance of the wines, but they are probably not yet as strict as they are in America or in Europe. There is a certain idea of monopole and sole distributor type of operation for certain wines, usually the less well known and small wineries from lesser regions; but for the high end market, I personally experienced the fact of trying to buy a well known brand for the restaurant and received as responses, multiple offers at various prices for the same wine and the same vintage from various suppliers. Which lead me to conclude that one has to do his home work well and buy intelligently to pay the best price for a great bottle in very good condition. I just said that because it is not rare (in retails especially) to find countless amount of fine Bordeaux, Burgundy and Tuscan wines stored indifferently up side up and not on their side as they should be, so beware of dried cork and oxidize wines. Know your retailers or your suppliers for that matter, it is very important.      

  • Atop these 2 obstacles, the market is overcrowded with wines, suppliers and importers. In fact, pretty much all successful individuals, private investors and major companies that have some spare cash, are already or will in the nearest future import or distribute wines and spirits. If you compare with New York for example, NY counts about 24,000 restaurants and about 2,300 Wine & Spirits retail store for about 8 millions people living in NYC and I heard that the number of wine suppliers (importers and distributors) in NY was roughly about 600; while Hong Kong counts about probably twice more restaurants for a population of 7+ millions inhabitants, definitely twice less wine retail stores; yet twice more suppliers than NYC overlooking in most case scenarios the business on both side: Hong Kong and mainland China (which is huge and could very quickly become bigger than NYC and London market combined, if they continue to grow at this pace). It is a young and exciting, yet rapidly evolving market somewhat comparable to New York 15-20 years ago. 

  • Hong Kong has a predominantly service-based economy, and restaurant businesses serve as a main economic contributor. Restaurants are literally everywhere in the street, in the shopping malls, in the private residences and even in companies building. With the third-densest population per square meters in the world and serving a population of 7+ million, Hong Kong is host to a restaurant industry with intense competition. Due to its small geographical size, Hong Kong contains a high number of restaurants per unit area. With Chinese ethnicity making up 98% of the resident population, Chinese cuisine is naturally served at home and in most restaurants. A majority of Chinese in Hong Kong are Cantonese in addition to sizeable numbers of Hakka, Teochew and Shanghainese people, and home dishes are Cantonese with occasional mixes of the other three types of cuisines. Rice is predominantly the main staple for home meals. Home ingredients are picked up from local grocery stores and independent produce shops, although supermarkets have become progressively more popular. Hong Kong homes and kitchens tend to be small due to a high population density, and traditional Chinese cuisine often requires the freshest possible ingredients, so food shopping is undertaken frequently and in smaller quantities than is now usual in the West. Take-out and dining out is also very common, since people are often too busy to cook with an average 47-hour work week. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

  • The market is wide open to anyone and competition is fierce. And that is where my problem resides, it is very difficult to find the good wines amongst this ocean of brands and labels; because most companies carry only a few very interesting and renown brands, leading the pack of their portfolio, lost in the middle of a huge amount of unknown producers and wineries. It has been very difficult for me to redo the wine list for the restaurant, for the 200+ wines that I chose roughly come from 20+ suppliers, which is not that easy to handle. Instead of buying from a few suppliers only and keep it simple, I only bought a few wines from various suppliers (usually the ones that I knew and the ones that I tasted and presented a certain uniqueness due to their grape variety or the region they where from), to incorporate more incentive wines in the wine-list. I somehow wish that I will have bought these wines from less suppliers;  yet I felt oblige to work that way to create an eclectic, more interesting and somewhat out of the beaten path wine-list that is both complete, offering a wide array of wines from the various major producing countries around the world, and attractive, giving the chance to the customers to explore and discover wines from lesser known grape varieties and regions.        

  • The other difficulty is that the market is still dictated by the two most expensive French regions. Hong Kong is the hub for countless retail stores and suppliers offering mainly the same Bordeaux and Burgundy wines, with a significant section for Australian and New Zealand, but that is about it. Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Austria and the US, and the rest of the world for that matter, are still pretty poorly represented; yet it is definitely better than it was only a few years ago. The biggest problem is that most of the best vintages are sold to private buyers and some restaurants, but most retails mostly carry the lesser vintage. For example with Bordeaux, it is very difficult to find 2000, 2005 or 2006 or older great vintage, but you can find plenty of 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2007 and older vintages which were not great respectively for various reasons. It is the same with Burgundy and the Rhone, and I'm not even talking about Loire Valley or the Languedoc, because one can barely find anything from these regions. To finish my thoughts about the bad vintages, sorry to say it bluntly, but even the greatest producers can craft mediocre wines in bad vintages. And, although an established brand or label or producer usually implies reliability, a renown brand can not entirely control or ensure the quality of a vintage or the evolution of the wine in the bottle or the way the wines have been stored (even with the newest techniques), especially for bad vintages. And even if producers have more and more difficulty to admit that they are still bad vintages due to technical progress and experiences, I can still say with conviction that they are still mediocre and bad vintages, and as proof of it, I will suggest you to do as often as you can some vertical tastings, which emphasize differences between various vintages of the same wine. 

  • In my opinion, Hong Kong is still a young and opportunistic market trying to fool the customers with established, expensive brands, too often available in ok to mediocre vintages, selling the names rather than insuring the quality of the product. This situation has changed a bit over the last few years apparently from what I heard, but still and I witnessed it, certain suppliers remain overwhelmed with unsold stocks of older, mediocre vintages of certain established and also unknown brands, which is definitely true for reds but more especially for the whites. Due to their high prices for the most well-known or lack of marketing or promotion or even knowledge for the lesser known, these wines are hard to sell and it often takes longer for the suppliers to empty their stocks because of the increasing competition. Moreover, I come to realize that some of these suppliers are very young in this business and have no wine background, too often just basic knowledge and barely no experience in previously choosing or selling wines. Some apparently did it without passion, more for fun and some lucrative ambitions. Therefore, as I said earlier, it is important to know your suppliers and the storage condition of your wine in Hong Kong, especially with the subtropical warm and humid climate. Don't get me wrong, not all suppliers are like that, some are doing a great job, but I was and still am astonished by the amount of unbalanced, mediocre or even bad wines that I found here, even with recognizable established brands, and also how old the whites can be (you can still find some 2004, 05, 06 and 07 in whites which were not supposed to age that long and some that I tasted were totally oxidize and deep yellow in color, however some suppliers were still trying to sell those....unbelievable). Yet, if like in any market you can find find bad wines, there are also some really good wines if you take the time to search for them and taste them. At the end of the day, the only way to define the quality of a wine is to taste it, and only your taste buds will define if you will like the wine or not, not the label or the name of the wine.    

  • Until only a few years ago, the situation was even worse because Bordeaux and Burgundy with some of the Super Tuscans were the only wines that you could find and buy. Nowadays, it is definitely better and consumers and suppliers are more wine savvy, because over the last 3 years the market has seen a surge of importers and distributors who thought that bringing wines to Hong kong, was a lucrative business and overflowed the market with all sort of wines... which usually push the interest of people to learn, read and get more acquainted with wine, and thus explain the fairly recent enthusiasm for Hong Kong people to know about and enjoy drinking wine.

In conclusion for this post about this subject, I will say that lucrative the market was, maybe 2-3 years ago, but the market is now saturating. There are still a few niches that haven't been explored, but otherwise, the place is pretty full and new suppliers seem to emerge at the door of the restaurant nearly everyday. It is a really tough market. And the incredible amount of Wine and Spirits fairs and expositions and tastings happening in Hong Kong every month, is surely a sign of the desire for the population to learn about and appreciate wine, but it is also a sign that suppliers constantly need to promote their wines to be able to sell them due to the ever increasing competition and the ever growing number of labels, brands, producers and wineries from all around the world available in this market.

I will continue to describe the Hong Kong market and my various experiences in this incredible city, but I will stop here for today.... I could get carried away and write much more as I very often do, but it is already enough for a first post after nearly 3 months without one. And it is already late at night. Good night.


To be continued....


Enjoy!


LeDom du Vin now in Hong Kong


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bye, Bye New York! Hello Hong Kong!

This is a post that I just retrieved in my draft folder, written back in 2011 when we just arrived in Hong Kong including some of my first impressions and comparisons between Hong Kong and New York, not sure why I did not publish it at the time, but here it is.... 

Hong Kong (Central) with the Harbor and the IFC Building
under the quasi permanent grey clouds hovering above the city for most of year
(at least 8 months out of 12, HK is in the grey of either clouds or pollution or both...)
rare are the days with blue sky... (sigh) 


Bye, Bye New York! Hello Hong Kong!


It has been about a month and a half since I wrote my last post, and you wouldn't believe how things have changed for my little family and me. Let me explain.

By the end of July, I resigned from Heights Chateau and therefore left my position as Store Manager, Wine Buyer and in-house Sommelier.

The first week of August, realizing an old teenage dream, I rented a car and embarked my family in a journey across the United States following the Old Route 66 from New York to Las Vegas. 7 days later and a lot of driving and sightseeing mainly from the car, we safely arrived to Las Vegas. It was a nice farewell to New York after nine years living in the Big Apple.

We then set our sails toward new horizons. In fact we didn’t sail away, but we took a plane and flew on the other side of the planet, yes, in Asia. We landed in Hong Kong about 3 weeks ago as visitors, and after…, well, who knows what the future holds!    

So, for those of you who wondered where I went, that’s what it is, Hong Kong! The new financial hub of the world. The place where all China wants to be, and the rest of the world with it. After the city in London and Wall Street in New York, here rises the IFC building, icon of the Hong Kong financial district and market.  

Hong Kong is another world, a world on his own with its own rules and ways. It is a booming island with a lot happening and where everyone from Mainland China, Asia, Europe and the Americas meet, share and collide in many ways.

Hong Kong is made by the people and for the people, more especially pedestrian. No town or city is really perfect, yet when it comes to public transport (bus, taxi, ferry, metro, tram, etc..), Hong Kong is surely in the top 5 of the best city in the world.

Taxis are rather cheap compared to Paris, London and New York. A fare from Central to Wan Chai correspond to about HK$30, which is about US$4 (with no traffic, a bit more if traffic), just ask the driver not to take the harbor road, because it is a mess at the moment as they are completely revamping and enhancing the water front and piers.

Hong Kong underground train or subway or tube (locally called metro MTR) is the fastest and safest I ever took in my entire life. In Paris, only the line 1 and 14 can compare. In London, the tube is pretty good I must say, but Hong Kong is way better with bigger continuous wagon and safety measures that exceeded my expectations as a regular passenger. And above all, the Metro is immaculate compare to the other 3 city cited above.

New York should be ashamed of its metro system. In Hong Kong, everything is pristine and clean, well maintained, well indicated, users friendly, well guarded with surveillance camera everywhere and ultra safe day and night. On the platform, you even have glass walls and sliding doors to protect the rails and consequently avoid stupid accidents and other mayhems. They even have electronic billboards everywhere to give you some info like let you know when the next train will arrive.

In Paris, these electronic billboards on the platform existed already 15 years ago and more than 10-12 years ago in London. In New York, they’ve just started installing them last year and not in every station. It is a beginning, granted, and MTA is moving in the right direction, I hope for them and the New Yorkers, but they could have get inspired a long time ago. It is almost like if the city of New York just realized that people where living there and that it is time to do something nice for them… (by the way, they even tease you by posting some advertisement bill saying: “Wouldn’t it be nice to know when your next train will arrive?”, which is pretty bold when you think that it happened elsewhere more than a decade ago).

More over, in the Hong Kong main metro line, the trains come every 3 minutes, not like on the “A” line in New York where you can wait in average 10-15 minutes (or way more if something happened) between each train. And don’t get me wrong but New York City counts about 8.3 millions people, therefore, don’t you think that they could have done something earlier than within the last 2-3 years. Sorry to say, New York is a great city in many ways, but in the mean time New York stinks in many ways too and it is not as people friendly as it seems (although it is a bit better than it was). Honk Kong island, Kowloon and the southern part of the new territories count about 7 millions people, and everything is there to help pedestrians: metro, bus, trams and taxis, in quantity and at low rate. So New York, what are you waiting for.

Anyway, so here I’m in Hong Kong, and life goes on with new adventures and plenty more wines and food tasting waiting to be shared and described. New country, new people, new culture, new behaviors, a lot to take in and embrace and a lot to discover and enjoy too!

Soon I will continue to write more posts, but for now, I have been a bit busy and didn’t really take the time to sit down to write (but it will come). I will also share more views about Honk Kong.

Among the few things that I will miss from New York, the first that come to mind are: bigger apartments, bigger side walks, people with a certain notion of space and surrounding, and the fact that when the sky is blue and the sun is shining, the sky is blue not grey and polluted like in Hong Kong.

But hey, so far, we had quite a few great sunny days where we could see a bit of blue in the sky and the sun has been here too, pretty much everyday, even if it was mostly overcast. Also the temperatures are slightly going down and it feels much better to be outside than a few weeks ago, yet it is steel very humid and hot and sweaty, but after-all it is a subtropical climate on an island.

To be continued…

Enjoy!

LeDom du Vin now from Hong Kong.            

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

2001 Bodegas Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva Ollauri Spain

2001 Bodegas Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva Ollauri Spain 


Bodegas Beronia is located in the village of Ollauri, about 5 kilometers south of Haro and about 10 kilometers west of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, in the Rioja Alta part of La Rioja.

In the third century BC, the “Berones” inhabited La Rioja, hence the name of "Beronia", named after them. This tempered part of Spain occupied by the “Berones” was found to be ideal for vine cultivation; as a result, La Rioja has since then proved to be one of the country's best and most consistent wine producing regions.

Founded in 1973 by a group of friends, Beronia was rapidely considered as a winery of reference, as it produced, from the beginning, classic Reserva and Grand Reserva wines using the purest and most traditional methods of Rioja.

Exceeding all expectations, Bodegas Beronia partnered with González Byass in 1982 to perfect the development of both projects. Since then, the sales and success of Beronia have been excellent in both national and international markets.

Beronia’s history and philosophy is based on two fundamental values: tradition and quality. Both concepts have allowed Beronia to produce constantly superior wines from the entry level to the special cuvées. All of which are exported to more than 70 countries worldwide.

In terms of Terroir, Bodegas Beronia is located in the Rioja Alta area, which corresponds to the northwestern part of La Rioja region. This particular area possesses mainly calcareous-clay soil and most vineyards are planted on average at an altitude of 600 meters (ASL). These two main factors allow for good drainage and enough retained moisture in the soil for the vines, but also cooler temperature at night due to the elevation, which is ideal to slow down the ripening process, consequently obtaining perfect ripeness.

The area’s climatic conditions should mostly be influenced by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, however, the Cantabria and Demanda mountain ranges act as a natural protection, forming like an amphitheater, which somewhat shelter the sunbathed hilly Rioja vineyards. The region also benefits of the Ebro River, which creates series of various microclimates throughout the 3 Riojas (Alta, Alavesa and Baja) and provides much needed water for the vines.

Closed to Haro and San Vicente de la Sonsierra, respectively the capital of La Rioja Alta and the most charming and renowned hilltop postcard village of La Rioja, Bodegas Beronia's location is considered to be a truly unique place for the creation of wines of high quality. The medieval city of Haro itself is home to some of the best and most notorious wineries of La Rioja. "Barrio de la Estacion", Haro's train station neighborhood complex, which originated in 1877, still encompasses wineries with some of the oldest Calado in La Rioja (deep underground caves carved in the calcareous hill used for the ageing and storage of the wines). To the north of the Estacion, the oldest of the remaining wineries are: Bodegas Lopez de Heredia "Tondonia" with its Calado dating back from 1892; "Bilbainas" and "Roda". Also within the train station neighborhood, but to the south of the previous wineries, with semi-underground Calados, reside "La Rioja Alta", "Gomez Cruzado", "CVNE" and "Muga". Most wineries, located near the Barrio de la Estacion (the train station quarter), were built in this area to faciliate the transportation of wine.

Beronia's winery is surrounded by 10 hectares of vineyards that are more than 60 years old. To complement the original holdings, now behind the winery, resides a new estate of 25 hectares. In addition, the technical team at Beronia control about 700 hectares of vineyards situated within a 10km radius of the winery.

The grape varieties used in Beronia are all the ones authorised by the Appellation of Origin of Rioja, which include Tempranillo (90%), Graciano (3%), Mazuelo (3%) and Viura (4%). The majority of the grapes come from contracts with about 150 vine-growers, but also other long term contracts and year round cooperation with all of them.

As I just mentioned, all the grapes used at Beronia come from the immediate surrounding vineyards around the estate but also from various vineyards within a 10 kilometers radius of the cellars, ensuring that only the highest quality grapes enter the winery and that transport of the grapes between the vineyards and the winery occurs as fast as possible to preserve the quality of the fruit. A close relationship is maintained with these 150 vine-growers who supply the grapes, guaranteeing that only the best quality grapes are selected and that the process is done so in the most natural way.

Beronia's technical experts frequently visit the estates throughout the year ensure that the use of fertilizers and chemicals are kept to a minimum, so as not to threaten the health or quality of the grape. It is their priority to maintain healthy and high quality grapes.  Beronia, true to its tradition, produces a classic line of fine and well-balanced wines: Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. In addition to these, two white wines are also produced, a young Viura and a barrel fermented Viura.

They also preserve their innovative and avant-gardist attitude with an interesting range of single variety wines, special production Tempranillo and Beronia Mazuelo Reserva, making them the only winery in Rioja to produce a Reserva wine from the Mazuelo grape.

The harvest usually takes place from the end of September until the middle of October. All grapes used in the production of the wines at Beronia are obtained from specially chosen vineyards in the high and low areas of La Rioja Alta, to mix grapes of various degrees of ripeness and Terroir of origin to add complexity to the final desired blend.

95% of the wines produced at Beronia are red wines, which are aged over a long period of time in American oak barrels. A select number of barrels, used for the best wines, are mixed wood, with the cover made of French oak and the staves of American oak.

Bodegas Beronia has a total production of 500.000 cases of 12 bottles (9 liters per case) with over 2.750.000 bottles in stock and houses 28.000 oak casks (American, French and mixed) with an average age of 4 years, after which the barrels are sold and rotated with new ones.


The wines produced by Bodegas Beronia include:

  • Beronia Viura  
  • Beronia Viura Barrel Fermented  
  • Beronia Tempranillo Special Production  
  • Beronia Mazuelo Reserva  
  • Beronia Crianza  
  • Beronia Reserva  
  • Beronia Gran Reserva  
  • Beronia III a.C.   


The wine maker Matías Calleja, has worked as the technical director of the bodega for more than 20 years. He has more than 25 years of experience in producing and ageing quality wines from La Rioja.

Last year Matías launched his latest creation: III AC, a tribute to the first inhabitants of La Rioja. A unique wine made with selected grape varieties Tempranillo,  Graciano  and  Mazuelo  from  old vineyards. This is then aged in American, French and Bulgarian oak casks. The result is a superb and complex wine.




2001 Bodegas Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva Ollauri Spain 
Suggested retail $23-$26 
Imported by Wildman in NYC

Talking about superb wine, for a guy like me who is a Spanish wines aficionado, the 2001 Gran Reserva is an excellent example of the quality of this exceptional vintage in Rioja, more especially at under $30, it is a steal.

Made out of roughly 92% Tempranillo 4% Carignan and 4% Graciano, and only after a careful selection of the grapes and a long fermentation, the 2001 Beronia Gran Reserva was aged for 24 months in American-French oak barrels, to be bottled in 2005, and remained in the cellar for a few more years before release.

Note by the way that La Rioja wines are the only wines in the world to be aged at the property for that long (3 years minimum for a Reserva - 2 years in barrels + 1 year in bottles - and 5 years minimum for a Gran Reserva - 2 to 3 years in barrels and the remaining in bottles) and to be released on the market only when the winemaker decide so and the wine is ready. Which is quite amazing, when you think how labor intensive and about how much it must cost them to store these wines for years.  

However, as I was saying earlier, I’m a big fan of the 2001 vintage and old Rioja wines in general and I wasn’t disappointed at all by this wine. Quite classic in fact. Red cherry color with garnet and ochre reflects on the rim. The nose boasts complex and elegant ripe fruit and oaky chocolate aromas intermingled with notes of sweet spices like nutmeg and cloves, and some underbrush and balsamic hints. Framed by soft and integrated sweet woody tannins, the palate is broad, rich, ample and well structured, with complex nuances of ripe fruit, chocolate, spices and licorice. The long finish is harmonious and agreeably persistent. When I think Rioja wines, I usually think about "Chuletas Asado"de Porcino y de Cordero (grilled lamb and pork chops), served with local mushrooms and grilled or roasted vegetables.

Enjoy,

LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited and translated from the winery website at  http://www.beronia.es

And, not that it matters for this post, but when I think Ribera del Duero, I think about "Salones Nazareno", better known as "El Nazareno", a restaurant located in the village of Roa, northeastern part of Ribera del Duero, serving the best "Lechazo"I have ever tasted. I have eaten there each time I went to visit wineries in Ribera del Duero, and each time I was amazed and extremely satisfied.

Well known from the local winemakers who usually go there for the lunch with their family and guests and trade visitors like me, this family-run restaurant which resembles more like a friendly family cantina than a three stars Michelin, serves probably the best Lechazo of the Ribera del Duero region.

Lechazo is the baby lamb roasted in wood fired ovens typical from Castilla, usually served in a steaming open copper pot with a green salad aside seasoned only with olive oil and “Fleur de Sel” type of salt. The combination is to die for.

There are no menus here since roasted baby lamb is the specialty and the only dish prepared in the restaurant. It is usually pretty busy and you must book in advance, as they take in consideration the amount of lamb that you will eat. The usual order is about a quarter for two, but they really have to know in advance as the lambs are counted and evaluated for the exact number of guests who booked for the lunch and slowly roasted from early morning.

You can start with some black sausage and some cheese from the area, also available as a starter, but the main and only dish is the Lechazo and green salad. The lamb is so tender that it literally melts in your palate. The wine list offers a great choice of the local wines. And if you happen to have nothing to do in the afternoon, you might as well stay and admire the view of the Duero river, with a Spanish brandy, a cognac or a Calvados, from the bar which is full of classic Digestif(s) that will pair pretty well with one of the numerous cigars their humidor contains.

If you've never experienced such thing as "Lechazo", the Castilla way, you ought to go to El Nazareno.


Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

2009 Domaine de l’Octavin “Dora Bella” Poulsard “La Mailloche” Arbois JuraFrance


2009 Domaine de l’Octavin “Dora Bella” Poulsard “La Mailloche” Arbois Jura France  

A family-run estate owned by Alice Bouvot and Charles Dagand, Domaine de l’Octavin is located in Arbois, a commune in the Jura department in Franche-Comté in eastern France, about 50 kilometers southwest of Besançon and about 80 kilometers southeast of Dijon, nestled in the northeastern hills of the Jura Massif.

After graduating as a viticole engineer in Bordeaux and studying in Dijon to become oenologist, Alice Bouvot decided to go abroad to observe the types of wine that is produced there: California first, with renowned winemaker Aaron Pott in 2000, New Zealand and again in California at Pine Ridge in 2001; Vina Errazuriz in Chile in 2002 and then six months in California.

Despite the accumulated wealth of all these encounters and experiences during these three years, Alice returned to France with the certainty that her life will be held in the Jura, this tiny vineyard that does not exceed one percent of French vineyards. After a position of vineyard manager in the “Côte du Jura”, she decided to settle in Arbois with her cellar master, Charles Dagand.

Charles Dagand learned and did his classes in Burgundy. After studying as a technician in oenology and viticulture, it worked with Mr. Galmard, as the technical director of the local cooperative “Fruitière Vinicole d'Arbois – Chateau Bethanie”. Alice enticed him in her adventure in 2004. A year later, they decide to create their own domain: OPUS VINUM, which will become the “Domaine de L’Octavin” in 2008.

Chronologically, here is the historic of the Domaine:


  • Created in 2005, Alice and Charles started to rent some vines in the spring and bought a winemaker’s home in the fall, where they vinified 50 hl.  
  • Purchase of vines in 2006: 3.20 ha in the finest Terroirs d'Arbois:  
  • lieu dit "Les Corvées" 
  • lieu dit "Les Nouvelles" 
  • lieu dit "En Poussot"   
  • Cultivating 1 hectares of vines with organic methods in a place called "La Mailloche." 
  • Cultivating o.6 hectare of vines in a place called "In Curon" very good subsoil for red varieties.  
  • 2007 vintage: conversion of all the vineyards certified organic by Ecocert.  
  • 2008 vintage: practice of Biodynamic methods: spray dung horn and silica to rectify the equilibrium of the soil and the plants, as well as use of infusion of plants such as nettle, willow, yarrow, the horsetail, dandelion (to strengthen the defenses of the plant immunity and consequently reduce the dose of copper used).  
  • Spring 2008: planting 0.60 hectare of Savagnin  
  • 2009 harvest: no added crap / / 100% sulfur-free wines – the biodynamic process is fully in place and contributes to the complexity of all the produced wines.   

The Domaine now encompasses 4,90 hectares of vineyards, all Organic and most under reconversion in Biodynamic culture.

The vineyards are planted with local grape variety:

  • 45 % of red grapes: Trousseau 20% (reconversion), Pinot noir 13% (reconversion), Ploussard 12% (Organic). 

  • 55 % of white grapes: Chardonnay 11% (reconversion), Chardonnay (organic) 11%, Savagnin, 33% (AB and reconversion). 

Continuing their work in the vineyard with assiduity and dedication, favoring organic and biodynamic agriculture, they wish to present wines that are the most characteristic to their Terroir of origin (quality of the soil, exposure, micro-climate, etc…) without the addition of any artifices, no sulfur, no yeast, no enzymes, etc… Just great healthy wines reflecting the passion of the producers and their utmost respect for the environment.

It's more a philosophy and a lifestyle that they choose here; again, the only truth is the emotion that their wine conveys in the glass. Although quite small they still mange to produce a wide array of wines that I invite you to discover on the winery website at http://www.opusvinum.fr/

Also, to understand the naming of the various labels, you have to know that they are huge fans of classical Music and Arts. Keep an eye on this up-and-coming estate that produce some of the best examples that Jura as to offer, even without having the notoriety of people like Tissot that are a classic standard of the appellation and make stunning wines.


Here is the old label, or at least the label distributed in Europe for the older vintage:



And here is the new, revamped and in my opinion friendlier label:




2009 Domaine de l’Octavin “Dora Bella” Poulsard “La Mailloche” Arbois, France 
Suggested retail price $22-$25 
Imported / distributor by Savio Soares

Made from 100% very old Poulsard vines (about 50 years old) with no sulfur added, the 2009 Domaine de l’Octavin “Dora Bella” is a beautifully crafted wine, fresh, juicy and fruity, that I highly recommend you to discover. Already intriguing in the glass, adorning a light to medium bright ruby red color with purple hue, the nose is fresh, fragrant and mineral, with fresh red berries aromas mingled with balsamic hints and meaty character. The palate is generous, textured and ample, yet fresh, enhanced by delineated acidity and framed by delicate integrated tannins. In the finish, the red fruit flavors evolve nicely with earthy, mineral, spicy and peppery notes. What a lovely wine!


Decidedly, I can not hide the fact that I’m in love with all mountainous and hilly wines, and overall all wines displaying great minerality and crisp acidity, whatever the color and whether they come from Jura, Savoie, Bugey, Vallée d’Aoste, Piedmont, Loire Valley, Burgundy, Alto Adige, Campania, Rioja, Galicia, and a few more regions in Europe more particularly, I love them all. What more pleasurable than a fresh, juicy and mineral wine that will wake up your taste buds, flirt with your palate with attractive and delicate features that will immediately call for another glass, compared to a huge Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel or even certain Pinot Noir boasting more than 14.5% of alcohol and taste way overripe and hugely too oaky? In my opinion, not much, wine-wise of course…  

Enjoy,

LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited and translated from the winery website at http://www.opusvinum.fr

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

2009 Famille Peillot Bugey Pinot Red table wine producer at Montagnieu, Bugey, France


2009 Famille Peillot Bugey Pinot Red table wine producer at Montagnieu, Bugey, France  

Bugey is a small appellation, yet pretty spread out, comprised in a triangle between Lyon, Bourg-en-Bresse and Chamberry, in the eastern part of the Ain département of France, west of the “Massif du Jura” southern hills. Vineyards cover around 500 hectares (1,200 acres) spread over 67 communes in the department of Ain. (see map below courtesy of the Syndicat des Vins du Bugey)




The wines used to be produced under the “VDQS” designations Bugey and Roussette du Bugey, which, in May 2009, were both elevated to Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status. A high proportion of Bugey wine is white, but rosé, red and sparkling wines are also produced. Made predominantly from the aromatic white variety Altesse, locally called Roussette, Bugey white wines are surely the most notorious of the area, with of course those from neighboring Savoie.

Although completely different but surely due to the fact that they share the same grape varieties and both are mountainous appellations with similar character and minerality, and quite closed in distance, Bugey is often assimilated to Savoie, which is located a bit further south around Chamberry and surrounding the western and southwestern part of Massif des Bauges.

In Bugey, like in Savoie, wines are most exclusively made with Altesse / Chasselas / Jacquère / Molette / Verdesse / Gringet / Mondeuse Blanche for the whites and Mondeuxe Noir / Persan / Pinot Noir for the reds. However, Chardonnay, Aligoté, Pinot Gris, Poulsard, Gamay and Molette can also be found and be part of the final blend depending on the desired wine style, its village and appellation of production.

Most wines from Bugey are rather unknown and undiscovered; yet, two of them seem to have broken the impassable boundary that Lyon represents in terms of recognition outside the Ain department: Montagnieu white and Cerdon du Bugey red sparkling, which are, by far, the most famous ambassadors of the Bugey region, as well as the “Poulet de Bresse”, the only poultry in France to have its own AOC

Yes, AOC - Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée  - goes for food too if you didn’t know, cheeses, specialty dishes from specific areas, animals and their meat, and much more… but it will be too long to explain everything in this post; so I invite you to read a very informative article on the subject at: http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/france_159/french-society_6816/way-of-life_5279/french-food_5356/appellation-origine-controlee-regional-label-of-excellence_8389.html

Winemakers in the Bugey beg to differ. They feel that their region has a soil and a climate all its own, which produce wines found nowhere else in France (Cerdon being the less obscure example of Bugey’s originality).

The 6 hectares Domaine of the Peillot family is located in Montagnieu, a village south of Cerdon, on the eastern bank of the Rhône river at the foot of the southern hills of the Jura Massif, with premières côtes overlooking the Rhône valley, and most of its production is a white sparkling wine made from Chardonnay, Roussette de Savoie, Gamay and Jacquère. The grape Roussette is called Altesse locally, and it survives in the Bugey in a few patches of old vines, for it is not as hardy, reliable and productive as others. Only two young winemakers in Montagnieu, Franck Peillot and Benoît Dumont, produce still wines exclusively from this grape. By law, the wine, Roussette du Bugey, can contain any white varietal, in any proportion. That’s why Peillot’s is labelled 100% Altesse.

Franck Peillot, who took over his family estate five years ago, carries on the work of 4 generations before him. Although he makes a sparkling Montagnieu from Chardonnay, Altesse, and Mondeuse, he vinifies all of his Altesse old vines as a still wine. With low yields and high ripeness, he is set to revive the wine that Jules Chauvet (a Beaujolais négociant, eminent taster and writer who has inspired a whole school of “natural winemaking”, notably in Morgon) put on a par with Château Chalon, Château Grillet and Yquem. Exaggeration aside, the varietal is thought to be a cousin of the Hungarian Furmint of Tokay fame, and, even when vinified dry, it retains a fair amount of residual sugar.

Peillot is also a believer in the quality of his Mondeuse grapes, and is the lone vigneron in the village who obtained the appellation Montagnieu Mondeuse with his red wine in the 1997 vintage. All of his vineyards are planted on fairly steep slopes with great southern exposure and rich in minerals soils.

The wine of today was produced with 100% Pinot Noir crafted from a 1-hectare vineyard. This Pinot Noir has become somewhat of a cult, as it is very hard to get a hold of given its tiny production. We only have a few cases and it will go very fast.





2009 Famille Peillot Bugey Pinot Red table wine producer at Montagnieu, Bugey, France 
Suggested retail price $16-$19 
Imported / distributed by Louis/Dressner in NYC

Made from 100% Pinot Noir vinified in stainless steel tanks, the 2009 Famille Peillot Bugey Pinot presents a fairly dark color in the glass with deep red reflects. The nose is fresh, delicate, somewhat restraint with dark berries and red cherry aromas mingled with earthy, mineral and slightly herbaceous notes (touch green somehow despite the ripeness of the vintage). The palate is fresh, delicate, dry and somewhat esoteric yet clean and pleasing, but fragile. The finish is really dry and mineral.

I tasted slightly cold first and really enjoyed it for its freshness and brightness, yet mixing dark and red berries. But I re-tasted it by the end of the day at room temperature, and found it a bit green and tight, still enjoyable and very summery but not for every palate and definitely not your everyday wine. Although, I liked it a lot because it corresponds to my palate and the type of wine that I like to drink when it is super hot outside, I will recommend to chill it a bit to mask that slightly green edge and to accentuate the acidity and the brightness of the fruit. Wine connoisseurs and amateurs may be surprised and pleased, but novices may frown.

Enjoy,

LeDom du Vin  

Info partly taken from the importer website at http://louisdressner.com/Peillot/  and map of Bugey courtesy of the Syndicat des vins du Bugey at http://www.vinsdubugey.net/08_caves.php

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Buvez du Vin et Vivez Joyeux" 1933 by Leonetto Cappiello [1875-1942]




I just changed the blog introduction picture, as I do occasionally, from the upper right part of a painting from René Magritte "The Portrait" Brussels 1935 that I love, for this great French ad that you might have recognized; if not, it is a lithography by Leonetto Cappiello [1875-1942], edited by the french minister of Agriculture in 1933, in a campaign to promote the benefit of drinking wine. The slogan translates by: "Drink some wine and Live Happy!" An advice that I have been following for more than 20 years and counting. I can only advise you to do the same, with moderation of course.

Enjoy,

LeDom du vin

2009 Causse Marines Marcillac Southwest of France





Causse Marines Gaillac & Marcillac 

Domaine Causse Marines is located in “Vieux”, a small village about 13 kilometers north of Gaillac and about 72 kilometers northeast of Toulouse, in the Tarn departement, southwest of France.

Like most Appellations in the southwest of France, Gaillac is fairly small and rather undiscovered, covering about 4,200 hectares. The traditional red wines of the region boast good ageing potential, about 8–10 years, due to the very good tannic structure and complex texture.

Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Duras, Fer Servadou and /or Syrah are the main grape varieties used for the production of Red and Rosé.

Made for drinking young, "Primeur" red wines are also produced (just a few months following the harvest). It's a marketing scheme is based on Beaujolais Nouveau. The template is followed so closely that primeur wines must be made from the Gamay grape and are released for sale on the third Thursday of November (like in Beaujolais).

The white wines are made of Mauzac, Sauvignon Blanc and / or Muscadelle, Len de l'El and Ondenc, local grape varieties. The appellation makes all sort of wines: Table wines, dessert wines and sparkling wines.

Bought by Patrice Lescarret in 1993, the Domaine was re-baptized “Causse Marines” for the two main geological factors of the area: “Causse” because the Domaine is located atop a Causse, referring to a limestone-calcareous plateau of a certain elevation, proper to most regions et department in and near the Massif Central. “Marines” because it is the name of the little river gently flowing down at the bottom of the property, consequently creating a natural boundary with the neighbors and a good source of water and moister for the surrounding Nature.  

Patrice was brought up drinking mainly Bordeaux wines until the age of 16 years old, which usually doesn’t help to be humble and open-minded. And when you know that shortly after he attended the famous "Institute of Oenology of Bordeaux", one will understand the prejudices and lack of objectivity of the boy. Fortunately, his experienced outside of Bordeaux brought him back to reason and lucidity regarding the wines from other regions than Bordeaux. First employed in Sancerre and then manager in Provence, he naively performed his classes before unconscientiously jumping in his new life to run his own Domaine in 1993 in Gaillac.

He learned his first lesson when he understood that to make some wine, one needs some grapes! Started with only 8 hectares that he bought from a local paisan and rapidly extended to 12 hectares, the Domaine is now run by Patrice and his wife Virginie Maignien (who first arrived at the Domaine to do the harvest in 2005 and ended-up staying longer, in her words: "she fell into a trap"), who, with their team, put all their efforts to produce great, Natural wines predominantly crafted with the local, originally cultivated grapes, meaning no clones and rigorous “massale” selection when replanting or grafting.

Despite their numerous efforts to convince the ones in charge of the Appellation to make some changes to rectify the rules, be more flexible and accept the wines of Patrice as part of the Appellation, most of Patrice’s wines are predominately sold as Vin de Table (except a few in AOC), because beyond the rule permitted by the Appellation. However, Patrice doesn’t give up and proudly continues to follow his goals and ideas, putting his dedication and personality in each bottle by producing high quality wines from old vines under Demeter certification, hence certified biodynamic and biologic, meaning: no herbicides, no pesticides, no synthetic or any non organic derivate products, low use of sulfur.    

The 12 hectares are planted with Syrah, Duras, Braucol, Prunelard for the reds and Jurançon Mauzac, Ondenc, Loin de l’œil, Muscadelle, Sémillon… and Chenin the whites. Yielding are kept to a minimum, between 13 to 30 hl/ha during the last 10 years. Of course, vineyard’s works and more especially harvests are done by hand. Letting the wine start and finish the fermentation, no addition of yeast or unnatural chemical, minimal intervention and light fining or / and filtering makes for natural vinification.

To conclude with a few words from Patrice and his great sense of humor: “one can make biodynamic wines without having long hair and smocking grass; and one can produce natural wines that do not smell like the fart of a cow!”

From his Gaillac estate, Patrice craft quite a few wines: 4 whites, 3 reds, 4 sweet wines, 1 semi-sweet and a sparkling wine.  I invite you to go to his website (http://www.causse-marines.com) to read a bit more about his other wines, because strangely enough, the wine of today from Patrice Lescarret under the Causse Marines label with a clown face on it, doesn’t come from Gaillac but neighboring Appellation Marcillac.

Strangely enough too, there is no mention of his vineyards in Marcillac on his website, yet if you go to Pictures on his website you will see some shots of his vineyards and estate in Marcillac. All together now, the Domaine includes about 15 ha of vines stretching across both the Marcillac and Gaillac AOC’s.

Marcillac is an even smaller appellation than Gaillac, surrounding the eponymous village, located a bit further northeast in the Aveyron departement, about 20 kilometers northwest of Rodez and about 112 kilometers west of Cahors on the same latitude.

Marcillac encompasses about 170 hectares of vineyards planted in red clay soils rich in iron oxide that are known locally as rougiers. The individual plots either cling to steeply sloping hillsides or are cut into terraces, facing south and therefore ensuring ideal ripening conditions. The main variety grown (90 %) is Mansois, the local name for Fer Servadou. The remainder is made up of Cabernets: Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This particular red wine tends to be tannic and rustic in character, with predominantly raspberry aromas. Some rosés are also produced locally but rare to find on the export market.

The grapes for the following wines come from vineyards around the village of Salles-la-Source, a little village about 13 kilometers northwest of Rodez, on the road to Marcillac.




2009 Causse Marines Marcillac Southwest of France 
Suggested retail price $16-$19 
Imported / distributed by Louis / Dressner in NYC

Crafted with 100% Fer Servadou from old vines, the 2009 Causse Marines Marcillac is an amazing wine. Fairly dark in the glass, with good intensity, it seems slightly blurred surely due to light or no filtration with an attractive purple hue.  The nose offers fresh, earthy aromas of mixed red and dark berries; touch of plum, red and blackcurrant intermingled with Terroir oriented hints of spices, garrigues, earth, biter chocolate and smoke. The generous and structured palate is also earthy and slightly esoteric, seems rustic but in a good way, enhanced by great acidity and minerality. The flavor’s profile follow the ones on the nose accentuated with more soil and Terroir characteristics, and again, blackberry, plum, chocolate, spice and more garrigues. The ripeness of the fruit comes from the age of the vines, but also from the quality of the vintage and the exposure of the vines.  The long finish boasts good tannic structure and texture, give this wine a nice ageing potential.

A bit tight at first, it will need a decanting and at least half an hour to open up and deliver fully all of its features. Highly recommended, this earthy wine from the southwest of France deserves to be drunk with substantial food and stews: grilled steak, Saucisse Lentilles de Toulouse a la Graisse d’Oie (goose grease), Cassoulet, Pot-au-Feu, Barbeque, etc….

Enjoy,

LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from the winery website at http://www.causse-marines.com

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

White from Red grapes and Rose from "Gris" grapes that were always vinified in white, a new trend?

White from Red grapes and Rose from "Gris" grapes that were always vinified in white, a new trend?

In one of my recent posts, I was describing a Pinot Noir Bianco from the Vallee d’Aoste, and was asking you to mark my words on it, as it will become a trend very soon to produce and drink white wines made out of red grape varieties. Today, I feel the need to write a post to elaborate that concept and tell you why it will become a new trend.

You’ve tried many Pinot Noir Red and Rose wines, and surely many Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio white wines too. But did you ever taste a Pinot Noir white or a Pinot Grigio Rose? No?

And don’t get me wrong, but I’m not talking about the kind of pink sweet wines that made Californian “White Zinfandel", "white Merlot" or "white Cabernet Sauvignon” famous 20 years ago. No, I’m talking about the good stuff.

If you didn’t, it is not surprising, because they are not too many of these kinds of wine on the market yet.  But I can assure you that it is a new thing that just started but should spread out really rapidly within the next few vintages. More especially, if we consider climate changes, global warming and other weather discrepancies like those we have been experiencing over the last 10-15 years, white wines made out red grapes and rose wines made out of grapes with geyish-pinkish skin color but were always vinified as white, will definitely prevail over red wines. In fact, you can see it in the sales (retails and restaurants), white and rose wines are definitely more in favor than they were 5-10 years ago.

However, within the last 60 years of winemaking on earth, many experiences and trends occurred; some lasted, some disappeared, some evolved with ups and downs but for the better and rarely for the worst (fortunately for us).
  • In the 50s and the 60s, wines were very tannic and acid and needed time to develop and open up, chemicals were good and helpful and smocking was healthy then.
  • In the 60s-70s, wine was overproduced to keep-up with the demand of a growing world population that went from 2 billions people in the 20s to 4,5 billions in the 60s as a result of the children of the Baby Boom born just after WWII; machines and tractors replaced human workers in the vineyards and chemicals were still used in profusion; productivity overruled quality.  
  • In the 70s-80s, heavy toasted new oak barrel ageing became an institution and more especially in the 80s everything needed to be oaky; the American influence from critics like Robert Parker Jr. and magazine like the Wine Spectator on how the European, more especially on how the French wines should taste to be sold to the US market, triggered major changes and established new factors in winemaking understanding and process. As an opportunist market, Bordeaux led the way from the beginning and took great advantage of the American points systems, which brought them to where they are now, except that the US are not buying the classified growth anymore, but the Chinese are.     
  • In the 80s-90s, the green movement with sustainable, lutte raisonnee and organic practices became more obvious and more relevant, fewer chemicals were used and social consciousness towards a greener life awaken. Oak was still important with the Garagist, but only the wealthiest wineries and producers could really afford new oak, the other continue to follow the way they could.  
  • In the 90s-2000s, the biodynamic movement initiated by the studies and books of Rudolf Steiner written back in the 20s-30s (amongst a few doctors and professors who had great interest on the subject at that time), ignited the greener practices winemaking revolution that we are experiencing today.
  • 2000s-2010s, the world experienced (and continues to experience) the worst financial crisis ever and the bloodiest terrorist attacks in many countries; wine-wise, classified Growth Bordeaux broke price records for nearly each vintage, multiplying their by 8-9 times in 10 years: a 1st growth Bordeaux 2000 vintage was going for about $125-$150 "En Primeur"in NYC, about $300+ for 2003 and roughly $500+ for 2005, and 10 years later due to the excessive demand from the emerging countries, the same Chateau was offer between $875-$950 En Primeur for the 2009 vintage and the 2010 went even higher...  
  • 2010-2011, the wines under $20, and more especially under $15 are the main target, anything above $30 doesn't move anymore, people are still very cautious on how to spend their money and want great value for money. Importer and distributors reshape their portfolio. Retails and restaurants build up their wine-list with better wines at lower prices. And producers try to new grounds and test the market with new products (i.e. whites made out of red grapes for example). Re-apparition of independent distillers and winemakers, everybody wants to give it a try and everybody thinks that it is very lucrative. Bad news, the market is overcrowded and overflowed, yet business continues and we will see what happen later on. 

In terms of vinification techniques too, we tried pretty much everything in every forms and shapes: amphorae, ceramic, glass, oak barrels, wooden vats, glass lined or epoxy or bare cement tanks, all sort of stainless steel and fiberglass tanks and vats, and lately we are even back to putting wine back into amphoraes and other containers and ageing them in the sea or the ocean.

And much more questions for each vintage: Green harvest? De-leafing? Early pruning? Vendange en vert? Parcel selection? Sorting table? Ripeness or crispiness? Acidity? Tannins? Earthiness? Smoothness? Racking or no racking? “sur lie” or no lees? Malolactic or no Malo? Filtered or unfiltered? Fine or unfined? Egg’s white or bentonite? Heavy, medium or lightly toasted barrels? Used or new barrels? Barrel or Stainless steel? Clear or dark bottle? Fancy or trendy or classic or designed label? Plastic or wood or glass cork? Etc…

In the wine world, the trade (including wineries, producers, brokers, importers, distributors, retailers, etc...) tried pretty much everything that could be tried and done, but it is never enough. In this fast paced life that we live in, dictated by efficiency, productivity, profit and design, and always going forward, pushing back the limits of our imagination to always create something new and always change the trend to keep people attention and interest, in order to increase sales and profit and incite people consumption and consummation, we had to come up with something new.

And the new trend for me, as far as I can see and taste, given the little signs here and there during tastings over the last few months, will surely be very soon, if not already: whites made out of red grapes and rose made out “Gris” grapes that were always vinified white.

What is “Gris” means? "Gris"refers to the greyish-pinkish skin color of the grape. It indicates that the grape skin, which contain the anthocyanins, polyphenols and other pigment chemicals responsible for the varying shade of the skin color, is neither usually in the yellow spectrum for white or usually in the red-dark blue spectrum for the red, but somewhere in between.

In France, usually, when a wine boasts a slightly pinkish color for a white, it is often called “Gris”; however, this pinkish color, or hue depending on the intensity, is generally occurring because the skin of the used grape isn’t really white, but slightly pigmented or lightly colored, giving a grey-blue-pinkish color to the grape. The word "Gris" is then sometimes added to the name of the grape to differentiate it from its sibling, like: Sauvignon Gris, Pinot Gris, Frontenac Gris, Moschofilero, etc.. those are grapes that are pinkish, but yet they are all mostly vinified as white.




Take the Pinot Gris grape for example, Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio wines are usually white, but the skin color of the grapes is grayish-pinkish, not white or yellow as most people will figure, especially when talking about a wine that all people refers as white. See the picture of a Pinot Gris grape above to better understand what I'm trying to say. As you can now understand, which must be weird for those of you that didn't know, Pinot Gris is a white wine made out of pinkish grapes (Pictures courtesy of www.northwest-wine.com).

However, I think that from now on, we will see more of this “Gris” wines in the Rose color, and both will be available, the white and the pink version. For example, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are usually vinified without the skin and are in most people mind, white. And that is because, like for any whites, the grapes are gently pressed to avoid skin contact, fermented without the skin and the resulting pressed and fermented juice is white. Now think that if the same grape variety was fermented with its skin, like for a red, then the resulting Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio will be pink or reddish (see example below).

As for the whites crafted out of red grape varieties, mark my words, they will be very common and trendy within the next few vintages. It has already started. The other day I tasted a white that was made out of 2 usual white grape varieties combined with Merlot; yes, Merlot! Amongst other red grapes vinified in white, Merlot or Pinot Noir are sometimes blended with other white grapes to add structure and texture and weight (to a certain extend).

I know it is weird somehow, but these wines are pretty good. Making white wines out red grapes is a winemaking method that is up-and-coming and will rapidly evolve as it open the door to countless possibilities and combinations, and will surely inspire a new trend among the new winemakers who want to distinguish themselves from the pack and consumers in search of something new and different.    

But enough talking, here are two really good examples that I discovered and bought recently. I highly recommend them, as they are deliciously crisp, light, refreshing and summery.




2009 La Crotta di Vegneron Pinot Noir Bianco Vallée d’Aoste Italy
Suggested retail price $14-$17
Imported / distributed by Polaner in NYC

If the 2009 La Crotta di Vegneron Pinot Noir Bianco adorns this very attractive, super-light-onion-skin meet orange-melon-pinkish hue, it is because it was crafted with 100% Pinot Noir grapes vinified off the skins, like a white, hence the slightly pink intriguing color. Technically it is a white, not a rose, despite the appearance. The nose is rather light, fresh, and mineral with a touch of cherry. The palate is also really light, crisp, racy, with lot of minerality, zesty acidity and very enjoyable texture, yet it may appear non-descript for some, but I really like it.

Like most wines from the Vallée d’Aoste, this wine combines elegance, refinement, and freshness in a focused palate, enhanced by the characteristic searing acidity, minerality and quality of the fruit. One day if I can, I think I will retire in the Vallée d’Aoste, this peaceful and undisturbed haven of peace north of Piedmont seems to have seduced my taste buds to the point that only a few other wine regions in the world can.


The second one is the best example of Pinot Grigio Rose that I have personally tasted yet.





2010 Azienda Agricola Calatroni Pinot Grigio Rose Provincia di Pavia Oltro Pavese Lombardia Italy
Suggested retail price $10-$13
Imported / distributed by Vignaioli Selection in NYC

Nestled in the hills of the Versa valley, the Calatroni estate rests in the village of Montevalco Versiggia, in the heart of the Oltrepo’ Pavese region (Lombardi, central northern Italy).

This family run estate is dedicated to cultivating their 37 acres of vineyards following tradition and experience. They grow grapes typical of the area, including Pinot Grigio and Pinot Nero, striving to produce both refreshing white wines and highly enjoyable reds. The vines are grown with respect for nature, trying to maintain the integrity and rusticity of the plants. The estate also has a strong interest in renewable energy.

The wine is made out of 100% Pinot Grigio from 7.4 acres of vines planted at 500 meters (asl) on partly calcareous soil and south, southwest exposure.  The grapes are harvested at the end of August/early September from 15 year old vines. The entire cluster is used in the vinification. The grapes are transferred to tanks, where maceration takes place at a temperature between 50-60°. After a soft pressing, the must has an intense pink color, which then becomes the softer pink typical of a pinot grigio rosè. Fermentation takes places for 25-35 days at a temperature of 57-61°. The wine is refermented: the residual sugars from the first fermentation are utilized to make this a ‘vivace’ (sparkling) wine. 1,500 cases produced.

Light copper, fuchsia color of medium intensity. The nose is fresh, delicate and elegant with wild flowers and violets, light touch of wild red berries and hints of yeast (surely due to the re-fermentation and accentuated by the fizziness).  Soft and friendly, the palate is light, crisp and refreshing, gently airy due to the tiny bubbles “pearling” on the tongue and somewhat intriguing but in a very good way. The finish possesses delicate wild berries flavors with floral and mineral notes. I love it and I can drink a lot of that staff. I keep promoting it because I think that it will change the mind of people that see Pinot Grigio, as a boring cheap wine.

The effervescence makes this wine extremely pleasant and refreshing, excellent as an aperitif, wonderful with fish, in particular clams and crustaceans, finger foods, and soft, fresh cheese. Every time I opened a bottle in the store, I was pleased to see the positive reaction and the pleasurable expression on the face of my customers telling me: "It is great, different, but good, light, crisp and slight fizzy!".

One could think that it was a promoting stunt on my part to advertise and sell a bad wine, but on the contrary, like for all the wine that I buy for the store, I bought it because I loved it; because I knew that it will trigger some interest; and because once again, I proved that in the world of wine, never say that you do not like this type of wine or this type of grape variety, because you may always be surprised by a wine that you thought you will not like.


In conclusion, I will say that if all the whites made out of red grapes and the "Gris" grapes usually vinified in white but produced in red, taste that great, no wonder it will rapidly become a trend. It is my opinion, but you'll see.

Enjoy!

LeDom du Vin

Info and label for Calatroni Pinot Grigio partly taken and edited courtesy of the importer website at www.vignaioliamerica.com and you can also visit the winery website at www.calatronivini.it

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

Friday, July 15, 2011

2010 La Soraia Gavi di Gavi DOCG Piedmont Italy

La Soraia Gavi di Gavi Piedmont Italy

La Soraia is located in Bosio, a little commune about 5.6 kilometers south of Gavi, one of the numerous appellations or DOC of the Piedmont region surrounding the eponymous village, northwestern part of Italy.

La Soraia is one of the oldest producers of Gavi di Gavi Docg from estate-grown Cortese grapes (it is enrolled as bottler n.4 in the district’s land archives!). The estate dates back to the first half of the XX century and the property vineyards have been run by the Natalino family ever since.

The Soraia vineyard is located at 550 mt asl, planted on a high-altitude site long renowned for its calcareous white soil and steep south-east exposure. The combination of good exposure, high altitude and limestone soil make for a very nervy, sharp and flinty-stony Gavi di Gavi DOCG, bearing resemblance with a fine village Sancerre or Muscadet.

Nowadays, Guido Natalino keeps growing his 30 year old Cortese grapes in accordance to a few simple principles of non- intrusive, low-impact viticulture (zero pesticides, zero systemic treatments, no use of chemical herbicides). Cortese grapes are hand-picked around the end of September / beginning of October. The vine density is up to 5.000 plants per hectare, and the average grape yield x Ha. is down to 6 tons. Malolactic fermentation is let occur or intentionally prevented depending on the quality of the crop and the seasonal weather conditions.

The cellar protocol is simple: Guido makes Gavi, Dolcetto Ovada and Barbera on his own, trusting his own palate and going for a traditional white wine fermentation in stainless steel vats at controlled-temperature (plus a short stay on the lees in stainless steel vats, prior to bottling).

In addition to his prized Gavi Docg and Gavi di Gavi Docg, Guido makes two traditional reds worth your attention: an elegant, warming and savory Barbera d'Asti aged in old French oak tonneaux, and a super fruity, crunchy and delicious Dolcetto di Ovada Doc (Ovada being the true ancient cradle and homeland of the Dolcetto variety, which later spread through the rest of Piedmont; here the soil is pure white chalk, which results in a more refined, lighter-color yet more complex style of Dolcetto, reminiscent of a Cru Beaujolais).




2010 La Soraia Gavi di Gavi Piedmont Italy
Suggested retail price $14-$17
Imported / distributed by Moonlight Wine Co. in NYC

Made from 100% Cortese grapes grown with organic practices in limestone-rich Piedmontese soil near Gavi, the 2010 La Soraia Gaivi di Gavi displays delicate, light, fresh and zesty, lemony aromas with fresh almond touch combined with floral, sappy and flinty hints. Coating, juicy and crisp, the palate is also light, fresh and fragrant, loaded with minerality and zesty lemon, yellow fruit flavors. The finish is extremely mineral and integrated .It definitely calls for another glass. Versatile, elegant, food friendly and summery, it will pair well with fish, cold pasta salads, grilled poultry, Mediterranean dishes and feta, goat or mozzarella cheeses.

Enjoy!

LeDom du Vin

Info about the winery courtesy of the importer website at http://www.moonlightwineco.com/la-soraia/ and the man behind Moonlight Wine, Tony Gibson.

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.