The Alf & Ailsa tasting – Bordeaux Quay Dec 2013

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The final exam is looming.  The WSET diploma Unit 3 exam (the big one!) is in January so I am cramming in as many different wines in the next few weeks as possible.  All in the name of education you understand.  So I was thankful that the West of England Wine and Spirit Association had organised another of their wonderful tastings just before Christmas.  This time we would be trying Australian Chardonnay and Shiraz (with an interloper). 

My introduction to Australian Chardonnay had happened in the early 2000’s and the overt oak and fruit and high alcohol levels put me off Chardonnay for the next decade. I wasn’t quite an ABC but if a pub only offered Australian Chardonnay, which many seemed to do back then, I would resort to my old faithful, gin, lime and lemonade.  Since I started studying wine I was forced to drink Chardonnay and thankfully my eyes were opened.  Of course studying in Burgundy helped open my eyes, although maybe in a slightly psychotic and unnerving way.

Our host for the evening was one of the latest batch of MW’s, Matthew Hemming of Averys of Bristol.  We started with what could be called a stereotypical Australian Chardonnay – Averys Project Winemaker Chardonnay 2010 (Adelaide Hills £9.99).  This was how I remembered the Australian Chardonnays I had drunk in cheap pub chains – over the top, tropical, fruity – something that might go down well on a sunny day in Summer’s Bay.

We then tried four more Chardonnays that Matthew hoped would show us the best of what Australia can do:

Innocent Bystander Chardonnay 2001 (Yarra Valley £13.99 Corks of Cotham) – An Australian wine that is trying to be from Burgundy.

Ocean Eight ‘Verve’ Chardonnay 2011 (Mornington Peninsula c£25 L&W) – restrained and linear, I preferred the flavours to the aromas on this one.

Vasse Felix ‘Heytesbury’ Chardonnay 2011 (Margaret River £30 Negociants) – pronounced nose, long length, the product of old oak and natural yeast.

Giaconda Estate VIneyard Chardonnay 2010 (Beechworth £89.99 DBM Wines) – fat and creamy with complexity and length.

Then we were supposed to move on to the Shiraz but due to a delivery mistake we were instead treated to the delicious PHI Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 (Yarra Valley £30 De Bortoli).

Next came the Australian Shiraz. 

De Bortoli Reserve Release Syrah 2010 (Yarra Valley £21 De Bortoli) – bit of a Marmite wine.  For me it was overwhelmingly stalky and green.  Someone else described it as smelling of ‘sweaty rugby kit’.

Spinifex ‘La Maline’ 2010 (Barossa Valley £45 Carte Blanche Wines) – perfumed, dark fruit and spicy.

John Duval Wines ‘Entity’ Shiraz 2009 (Barossa Valley £29.99 Corks of Cotham) – peppery, creamy, juicy black fruits.

Rockford ‘Basket Press’ Shiraz 2006 (Barossa Valley £39.99 Averys) – A BIG wine.  Figgy, dried fruit, full body and lots of alcohol.

The tasting definitely helped to show us some of the best that Australia can do with two grapes that it has often been criticised for turning into big over-the-top highly alcoholic wines.  Now there’s no doubt that these wines weren’t shrinking violets and the Rockford ‘Basket Press’ Shiraz was pushing the alcohol limits of what can still be called wine.  But they had character and complexity and you wouldn’t tire of drinking these in the way that you would some of the mass market brands that polluted the shelves of pubs a decade ago.

 

AOC Fiefs Vendéens – Domaine de la Barbinière

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When my grandparents said they were moving to the Vendée several years ago the first thing we all did was say ‘where?’ and quickly look it up on Google. The first visit was a shock to the system as they live in a very rural area; there were stars at night, no sound of trucks and cars rumbling by, and some very strange animal noises that came from the nearby wood. But several visits later and we are all in love with the area and try to get down a much as possible. We were first introduced to the local wines through the wines of Pissotte -some easy drinking reds and rosé wines that were pleasant on a warm summers evening. In the local supermarkets there is a choice of Loire, Bordeaux, Burgundy, various Cremants and a very small selection of New World wines; but little in the way of local wines, hopefully with the creation of a the new AOC this will change.

The Vendée is in western France, just at the bottom of the western Loire Valley. Within the Vendée area Pissotte and Mareuil are popular and well known areas of production and in 2011 they joined together with three other local areas; Brem, Vix and Chantonnay, to create AOC Fiefs Vendéens. The AOC covers white (which must have 50% Chenin Blanc), rosé and red (Gamay and Pinot Noir together must constitute 50% of any blend) wines. And luckily there was an AOC Fiefs Vendéens – Chantonnay vineyard very close to where we were staying – Domaine de la Barbinière.

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The vineyard was started by Philippe Orion in 1978 and is now run by his sons Vincent and Alban. Vincent who has spent sometime in New Zealand has developed a great appreciation for the use of oak and likes to experiment with the wines, while Alban runs the vineyard. Over 75 acres they grow eight grape varieties; Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carbernet Franc and Negrette. They try to spray as little as possible, plant grass between the vines and do as much by hand as possible, including hand picking, which must be hard work as their 75 acres are spread around Chantonnay, with the furthest being 15km away from the winery. Vincent said that they are still two weeks away from harvest and were lucky that they did not suffer from the hail that has devastated some of the wine regions of France this year. It can really cook in the Vendée but luckily as it is not far from the Atlantic coast there is a maritime influence in the vineyard which helps keep the temperatures down, which is especially good for the Pinot Noir which is planted on some late harvesting plots.

I asked how much cooperation is happening between the new AOC producers and Vincent shrugged and said not as much as he would like. He also said that they have to rely mainly on tourists for sales as there is little interest in the local area which is a shame as they are missing out on a great local product. With a bit of cooperation between the producers, the local tourist board and local retailers these wines could really start to take off. The production levels aren’t huge so how much noise they could make on the international stage, or even within France, is debateable but they need to start shouting out loud about them in the Vendée.

Domaine de la Barbiniere

Wines we tasted:

Les Silex Blanc 2012 – a great value wine, well balanced, crisp with lovely lemon and apple aromas, 60% Chenin Blanc, 40% Chardonnay
Les Silex Rouge 2010 – lovely and fruity, could do with a bit more age to soften the tannins, great on a warm Vendée evening, 50% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Pinot Noir, 5% Gamay
Éclipse Blanc 2010 – aged in oak, spicy citrus and honey flavours, slightly drying on the finish, 80% Chenin Blanc, 20% Chardonnay
Éclipse Rouge 2009 – full bodied, lots of black fruit, nicely spiced from its time in oak, gripy tannins, 50% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Pinot Noir
Le Bois Bouquet 2010 – lovely pale ruby colour, plenty of fresh raspberries and dark berries on the nose, 100% Pinot Noir
They also produce medium-sweet, sweet and sparkling wines which can be found at http://www.domainedelabarbiniere.com.

My Nan came with us on the visit and it was nice to visit with someone who had not been on a vineyard tour before as she asked questions that perhaps I would forget to, or feel that I should already know the answers to; and I think it has given my Nan plenty to talk about and an appreciation of how much work goes into making her nightly tipple.

Also a big thanks to John Sherwin of French Wine Tours for organising the visit and taking time out of his busy schedule to join us – http://www.french-wine-tours.com

Imbibe 2013

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My first impression upon entering Olympia for Imbibe Live 2013 was the energy levels – they were through the roof. There were stilt walkers, people with brightly coloured sombrero’s on their heads and leis draped around their necks and this was still only 11 o’clock in the morning. It already felt very different from the London International Wine Fair that I had attended in May. Imbibe Live is an annual on-trade event and it is attended by some of the best and brightest from the restaurant, bar and hotel scene. My first stop of the day was the cocktails through the year’s session where I sampled my first Porn Star Cocktail – apparently I was the only virgin there. And I learned how to get a small sample of the cocktail by placing a straw in it and tapping the end. A lifetime skill I’m sure.

Imbibe Live Ice Sculpture

There were also some great master classes in the Wine World area. Hamish Anderson, Head Sommelier and Wine Buyer for Tate, took us through the crus of Beaujolais; Andrew Catchpole introduced us to some ‘Affordable Luxury’ and Jane Parkinson finished the day in style with six glasses of bubbly from around the world for us to try.

Some interesting things I tried:

Propercorn Fiery Worcester Sauce and Sun-Dried Tomato – I had to beg to get a small bag to take away and it knackered my ability to taste for about half an hour but well worth it.

Belvoir Cherry Pressé– Having gone cold turkey on the Diet Coke and Pepsi Max this is going to be a super thirst quenching alternative – and all natural.

And of course I tried some wines…

SAS Domaine de la Navicelle L’Insolent 2010 – Made from Tibouren and Cinsault, this organic wine was a beautiful rich orangey pink, it really stood out on the shelf. With aromas of dried fig and apricot it would make a great food wine. http://www.domainelanavicelle.com

L'Insolent 2010

Château des Jacques, Moulin-à-Vent La Roche 2003 – Aged in 100% new oak without any carbonic maceration this wine was spicy and still had gripy tannins. From the super-hot 2003 vintage this wine had retained good acidity and was rich with a hint of the farmyard.

Moutard 6 Cepages – A Champagne made from six grapes in equal quantity – the three common/traditional grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and three grapes that are rarely used in Champagne today Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Arbane. It was a lovely rich colour, complex with a ‘sour grapefruit twist’ and earthiness.

Imbibe Live 2014 will be held at Olympia on 1st & 2nd July. http://live.imbibe.com/

A Select Tasting of Fine Rosés, Decanter 2013

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With summer finally here, although don’t shout too loud because you might scare it away, many people are reaching for a glass of something refreshing and light to enjoy and what better than a glass of rosé. And by rosé I don’t mean something sickly sweet or with Zinfandel on the label or that you buy by the ¼ litre glass in Weatherspoons. I mean something with character, refreshing acidity, and I’ll allow it to be off-dry (just not something you could drizzle over ice-cream). And there were plenty of these available at the Decanter French Fine Wine Encounter 2013.

Held in the lovely air-conditioned and relaxing Discovery Theatre at the Landmark Hotel, the Select Tasting of Fine Rosés event was hosted by Sandrine Audegond and Natasha Hughes.

A Select Tasting of Fine Rosés

Wines we tasted

Laroche Rosé de la Chevaliére, Pays d’Oc 2012 – 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah. This wine comes from a very old site that is at high altitude. The wine has big red fruit aromas and flavours – raspberries, strawberries and has medium plus acidity.

Vignobles Jeanjean, Domainele Pive, Gris, Sable de Camargue 2012 – 30% Merlot, 30% Grenache Noir, 30% Grenache Gris, 10% Cabernet Franc. A rosé specialist. The vineyard is influenced by the sea. A great aperitif wine; it has ripe raspberry and strawberry aromas with a hint of blackcurrant leaf. It smells like a true Provencal rosé.

Cazes, Les Clos de Paulilles, Rosé, Collioure 2012 – 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre. Amazing Barbie pink colour, it stood out in the glasses as you entered the room. Full of sweet red fruit, good body and acidity – but it all goes back to the amazing bubble-gum colour.

Ogier, Notre Dame de Cousignac, Rosé, Côtes du Vivarais 2011 – 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Carignan. This wine comes from a vineyard that is hard to work and is naturally organic. Plums and strawberries on the nose, rich, round and smooth in the mouth.

Château Gassier, 946 Rosé, Côtes de Provence-Ste-Victoire 2012 – 45% Grenache, 45% Syrah, 10% Rolle. My favourite of the session. This wine is a blend of three base wines with one of the wines spending time in 500l barrels so it has a slight spice. A beautifully coloured wine with citrus, peach and rose aromas and flavours.

Rigal, L’Instant, Safran Malbec Rosé, Côtes du Lot 2012 – 100% Malbec. Upper terraces of the vineyard, limestone soil. Rich, sweet red fruit with crisp acidity and good length. A vivid pink colour.

Gassier, Domaine du Valdaray, Rosé, Bandol, 2012 – 57% Mourvèdre, 22% Cinsault, 14% Grenache, 7% Carignan. A super premium rosé. A delicately coloured wine filled with wild strawberries, spice and grapefruit.

So rather than grabbing a glass of something sweet and dull why don’t you try one of these fab rosés while you celebrate summer finally arriving!

‘Gold’ Wine tasting, Decanter 2013

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By now you must have realised that I have a passion for sweet wines. Something that four years ago I would never have drunk willingly. My only reference at the time would have been cheap medium-sweet German wines that were drunk in the local pub. Then when I was out having dinner with the family, having just started my WSET education, I decided to try the dessert wine; it was a Vin Santo. The aromas hit my nose with a blast; the sweet liquid slowly edged its way down the glass, a melody of flavours jumping around my mouth, honey, dried fruit and nutty, and I was smitten. Since then I try to have dessert wine every time we go out – for educational purposes, of course.

So with my passion well and truly ablaze I was not going to miss the opportunity to attend the Award Winning Wines from Sauternes event at this year’s Decanter French Fine Wine Encounter. I attended the session last year hosted by Château Coutet and Château Suduiraut and we tasted some amazing wines. This year there were six châteaux displaying their wares; including a very special something from Château Doisy-Daëne.

Our hosts for the event were Pierre Montegut (Suduiraut), Aline Baly (Coutet and wonderful promoter of ‘gold’ wines), Virginie Achou-Lepage (Climens) and Fabrice Duburdieu (Doisy-Daëne).

Award Winning Wines Hosts

A little bit about the grapes used in Sauternes and Barsac –

Sémillon – This is what gives the wines their outstanding ability to age. The susceptibility to botrytis (noble rot) of the three grapes is what gives Sauternes and Barsac their sweet, concentrated flavours. Provides richness and fullness to wines. Possibly related to Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc – ‘Like spice in food – adds complexity and character but is not the main component.’ Sauvignon Blanc is the third most planted variety in France. It is highly susceptible to botrytis and it is also very vigorous requiring low vigour rootstock.

Muscadelle – Susceptible to botrytis and Oidium. This is a vigorous variety that gives a youthfulness to the wines. The amount of plantings have been falling in France. It is also used in the sweet wine from Monbazillac. Despite the similar sounding name it is unrelated to the Muscat varieties.

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Wines we tasted:

Château Suduiraut, 1er Cru Classé 2005 – 90% Sémillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc – an elegant wine, rich, full bodied with honey, apricots and dried fruits. The estate is owned by AXA Millésimes.

Château Climens, 1er Cru Classé 2007 – 100% Sémillon. Stone fruit, honey and dried fruits, full bodied with warming alcohol. 2007 was a perfect year for botrytis.

Château Coutet, 1er Cru Classé 2007 – 75% Sémillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Muscadelle. Mandarins and nectarines, dried fruit and a refreshing acidity. Based in Barsac, the wine estate was established in 1643 and comprises of 38.5ha. My favourite gold wine.

Château de Myrat, 2eme Cru Classé 2009 – 88% Sémillon, 8% Sauvignon Blanc, 4% Muscadelle. Pineapple, lemon drops with a hint of spice. The estate has been owned by the Pontac family since 1937.

Château la Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Classé 2009 – 90% Sémillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Floral, sweet peach, rich and full bodied. The château is owned by the Ministry of Agriculture and is used as a school of viticulture and oenology.

Château Doisy-Védrines, 2eme Cru Classé 2002 – 82% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Muscadelle. Oranges, dried and crystallised fruit with a long length. This wine is made in a style to make it more like a Sauternes than a Barsac.

Château Doisy-Daëne 1971 – Nutty, dried orange, fruit cake – very deep in colour and good acidity. Fabrice said that this was made at a time when they had an obsession with concentration and there was less sugar in the wines. Owned by the Dubourdieu since 1924.

This was another brilliant ‘gold’ wine tasting with fascinating input from the families and people involved. If Decanter have a similar event next year make sure you get a ticket, just leave one for me!

Moët & Chandon April 2013

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Yippee, I’ve finally completed all my assignments for my MA Food and Wine Culture. That means I finally have a life again, well until I start on the dissertation. It also means I can finally catch up with my blog, and how about a glass of Champagne to celebrate?

Last month my husband was mad enough to run the Paris Marathon, finishing in a fantastic 4hrs 29mins. To celebrate, and recover, we headed to Champagne, just a short drive east of Paris. We stayed in the wonderful Best Western Hotel de la Paix – I wouldn’t normally recommend a hotel but we have stayed in some truly awful places in Reims and I hope I can help you avoid them. Also the restaurant at the hotel is outstanding with lovely fresh seafood, great wine and very friendly staff.

We decided (well I decided) that we wanted to visit some of the Champagne houses and after a morning spent at Pommery in Reims we headed to Épernay and Moët and Chandon. Moët was founded in 1743 by Claude Moët and the house of Moët was created by his grandson Jean-Rémy Moët and remains to this day a symbol of luxury. According to Moët and Chandon a bottle of their champagne is opened every second somewhere in the world and with this in mind the tour guide took us down into their cellars which at 28km are the largest in the world. The longest cellar is 300m and is at a depth of 30 metres. This ensures that the wine is stored in perfect condition with the exact amount of humidity and a stable temperature.

Moët has a long and close association with Napoleon Bonaparte; this is demonstrated in the name of the Impérial Gallery which was named in honour of Napoleon’s first visit to the cellars (he made five visits in total) and the Impérial Champagne was created in 1869 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Napoleon’s birth.

Jean-Rémy Moët

Jean-Rémy Moët (1758-1841) – created the house of Moët

Dom Perignon

Moët and Chandon produce several champagnes including the Brut Impérial which is aged for 2½ – 3 years and the Grand Vintage which is only produced in the best years and is aged for a minimum of 7 years. There have been 70 Grand Vintages produced in the last 162 years, the most recent is the 2004. Both of the Impérial and the Grand Vintage are blends of the three Champagne grapes but the Grand Vintage uses more Chardonnay than the Impérial (51% for the 2002 and 38% for the 2004 compared with 20-30% for the Impérial). The Brut Impérial is a blend of an astonishing 100+ base wines, from a possible 700+, demonstrating the incredible ability of the Chef de Cave to continuously create a product that is recognisable to consumers around the world from such a huge choice of wines. Moët and Chandon own 1200ha of vineyards and also purchase grapes from other growers to produce the millions of bottles they make a year (they declined to tell us the exact amount they make).

The most famous name associated with Champagne is of course Dom Pérignon and the tour guides at Moët aren’t shy about making sure the visiting tourists are aware of this connection. Dom Pérignon is always a Vintage wine and is only created in the best of vintages, it is Moëts premium brand. It is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay using wine from 17 Grand Cru, with a small percentage coming from Hautvilliers. It is aged for a minimum of 7 years, the Rosé for 9 years and the Oenothéque for 12 years, although they are often aged for a lot longer, the 1990 Oenothéque Rosé was aged for 20 years. They also use corks on the bottles rather than crown caps as they feel it is better at preserving the wine.

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This sign helps the cellar staff identify what is in each bottle – The top part is a ‘secret’ code that identifies the cuvee, the next is the vault number and finally the number of bottles stored there.

The obvious bonus of visiting the Champagne houses is that you get to sample a glass or two of their products. We had:

Brut Impérial (dosage 9g/l, Pinot Noir 30-40%, Pinot Meunier 30-40% and Chardonnay 20-30%) – aromas of green apple, citrus and brioche and flavours of pear and apple.
Brut Impérial Rosé (dosage 9g/l, Pinot Noir (40-50%, 10% red wine, Pinot Meunier 30-40%, 10% red wine, Chardonnay 10-20%) – red fruits (strawberry, redcurrant) with a hint of floral aroma.

Both wines were bright, elegant and full of fruit, if I hadn’t already had three glasses at Pommery I would quite happily indulged in a few more glasses. But as it turned out two glasses were more than enough and I spent most of the trip back to Calais giggling and singing along to cheesy soft rock.

For further information on visits to the Moët and Chandon cellars please go to http://www.moet.com/Visit-us/Visit-our-cellars

The art of Pommery – April 2013

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Like Dijon, Reims has always been a stop-over destination for us when we head down to Italy. We usually arrived late at night and left first thing in the morning. Now, thanks to my wine studies, I have been lucky enough to spend more time in these beautiful cities and take in more of their history. Reims, in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, has a long and fascinating history from its part in the crowning of French royalty to the near destruction of its cathedral during the First World War, oh and of course it is home to many of the great Champagne houses.

Pommery - Reims

Pommery (now owned by Vranken) is based in Reims and along with Veuve Clicquot is another example of a strong-willed woman successfully taking on a business at a time when women did not run businesses. Jeanne-Alexandrine Louise Pommery took over the business after the death of her husband in 1858 and under her guidance construction on the current site was started in 1868 and over the course of ten years Madame Pommery had eleven miles of cellars dug out of the chalk by hand. The huge site was eventually completed in 1888. She had a grand vision of what she wanted the brand to become and part of that was to encourage visitors into the cellars by making them more artistically interesting.

This is one of the oringinal pieces of art – carved directly into the chalk, our guide told us that the artist nearly went blind as he had to work by candelight.

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Madame Pommery’s vision has continued today and the cellars are used as galleries displaying different pieces every year. This years theme is recycling.

Elephant - Pommery

I’m not sure what this elephant has to do with wine or recycling – but it is certainly an interesting sight in the middle of the entrance hall and adored by the many children that visit the Pommery site.

The lights below are used to light one of the long galleries in the cellars. The artist collects glassware such as fishbowls from markets around France and puts them together to create these lovely alternative lightshades that give a little bit of magic to the gloomy cellar.

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This giant ball is made of paper and is designed to absorb any moisture from the cellar – it doing so it becomes smaller and changes colour. It has been in place since last Autumn.

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This display of wellies was part of last years exhibition but has proved so popular that they have kept it. The boots have mechanisms in them that make them stomp giving the impression that they are walking on the spot. Apparently children love them, but they have scared a few people!

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Without the art the cellars at Pommery are stunning – their cavernous size alone is something to admire. The art makes them even more interesting and beautiful – if you are in the area they are not to be missed. And if you are thirsty after walking through the cellars you can finish the tour with a glass or two or Pommery champagne.

Pommery visits and information available at – http://www.vrankenpommery.fr/

Corton visit 2013

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When last years MA Food and Wine Culture cohort visited Dijon it was 20°c and they enjoyed picnics in Beaujolais and walking through the vineyards.  This year it was a bit different.  Most days the temperatures were in minus figures and snow was not uncommon.  So after a day spent in a very warm classroom we reluctantly headed out into the cold for our first experience of the Wine Route.  We headed towards Corton and Domaine Maurice Chapuis – a vineyard owned by the family of Claude Chapuis one of our lecturers at ESC Dijon.  This was to be the first of many experiences over the week that demonstrated the amazing warmth, kindness and welcoming nature of the people of Burgundy.

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First, a bit about Burgundy.  It is complicated, and that is being nice about it, many of the locals don’t understand the appellation system so I’m not sure how in the space of a week we were supposed to learn it all.  Burgundy is made up of four departments – Yonne, Côte d’Or, Saône-et-Loire and part of the Rhône.  These are then split into regions – the Yonne has Chablis, the Auxerrois, the Tonnerrois, the Jovinien and the Vézelien.  The Côte d’Or from north to south is – the Châtillonais, the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune.  Saône-et-Loire is made up of the Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais.  Finally, Beaujolais is in the Rhône.  Now within these regions the wines are further classified.  There are 32 Grand Crus in the Côte d’Or (Chambertin, Musigny, Corton, etc) and one in Chablis.  There are 635 Premier Crus (village A.O.C’s that are followed by the name of the Premier Cru climat – for example Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Cailles).  Forty four village A.O.C’s (such as Chablis, Irancy and Nuits-Saint-Georges) and twenty three regional A.O.C’s which include Bourgogne, Bourgogne Aligoté and Crémant de Bourgogne.  And that is without getting into which side of the National Road the vineyards are and talking about the potato fields.  Simple!

Now a bit about Corton.  It is in the Côte de Beaune area of Burgundy and encompasses the producing villages of Aloxe-Corton, Ladoix-Serrigny and Pernand-Vergelesses.  The two Grand Crus are Corton and Corton-Charlemagne.  The main grape variety is Pinot Noir although some Chardonnay is grown as well.   The Grand Cru of Corton-Charlemagne is for white wines only.  The average production of both reds and whites is 464,000 bottles a year.  And it is very cold March!  A useless pub quiz fact – Corton is from Curtis of Othon who owned the land in the 8th Century and Aloxe is Celtic for hill.

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Claude showed us around the family property and the winery and after several hints about how cold we were took us down into the cellar which had several statues of St Vincent looking down on us from all angles.  Unfortunately the recent heavy rain had flooded part of the cellar but we were still able to taste some of the wines produced by his brother.  Several bottles later, we headed to Benoit’s house (another of our lecturers and the chief party animal of Dijon) to continue the tasting along with some of the many local cheese we would try over the week.  Claude’s knowledge of Burgundy and its vintages is nothing short of amazing.  You could fire questions at him all night and he could answer without missing a beat – he is pure genius and a pleasure to spend time with.  Benoit, is also incredibly knowledgable, but is also the reason I have developed a cheese allergy – although more of that in future posts.

Although Burgundy is very complicated it was immensely helpful to go to some of the areas and put the knowledge into practice.  The plots are so small that having an expert point them out to you and describe all their little nuances it possibly the only way to truly appreciate the wonder that is Burgundy.

Information about the wines available from Domaine Maurice Chapuis is available at – http://www.domainechapuis.com/home

Australian Wine Tasting – Matthew Jukes at Great Western Wine

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Last year I completed 5 units of the WSET diploma – everything but unit 3 – the dreaded and very large still wine unit.  I have decided due to various commitments to do unit 3 via distance learning.  Having already completed various courses with the Open University I have no qualms about learning in this way but there is one downside – I have to source and pay for all the wines myself.  To try and offset this a bit I have decided to try and attend as many country or region specific tastings as possible.  My first event this year was Matthew Jukes 100 Best Australian Wines 2012/13 at Great Western Wines in Bath (although there were only 52 wines available, and I thought I was bad a maths).

Matthew introduced the evening and then left everyone to their own devices.  The wines were laid out on tables; some people were picking their way through a predetermined list others were just trying as many as possible.  I had an early start the next day and with a trip to Dijon looming I decided to stick with the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs (with a side-line of Riesling, of course).  Matthew was talking a small gathering through the world of Australian Chardonnay so I joined the group ready to learn about a subject that I greatly need to improve on.  And I did learn.  There were a few things I probably didn’t need to know and that hopefully won’t pop up on the exam such as who are the hottest winemakers in OZ (I won’t give that away for fear of offending), but others were useful, such as the different climates, which wines were declassified versions of top wines and therefore a bargain and also how the wines compare to those of the great Chardonnay region, Burgundy.

Chardonnay’s we tried included:

2010 Peter Lehmann EV Chardonnay, Eden Valley £12

2009 Yalumba FDW7c, Adelaide Hills £17

2009 Leeuwin Prelude Chardonnay, Margaret River £25

2011 Cherubino Chardonnay, Margaret River £28

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From there I decided to explore the Pinot Noirs of Australia.  Here there was a great variety in the styles; some were very pale and light with a delicate complexity, others seemed to scream out of the glass with big hits of red fruit and alcohol (the Paringa Peninsula is 14.5%).  This did not give me any confidence when it comes to the unit 3 blind tasting – how will I ever identify all these variations as being from Australia.  Young Australian Rieslings are generally easy – big hit of lime, some floral notes, cool and crisp with refeshing acidity levels,  (can you tell I’m a fan?).  But these Pinot Noirs were a very different matter, and clearly something I’m going to have to work on.

Pinot Noirs I tried:

2010 Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard Pinot Noir, Tasmania £18

2010 Paringa Peninsula Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula £26

2010 Tapanappa Foggy Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, Fleurieu Peninsula £32

2010 Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula £30

One thing I found difficult was trying wines that an expert such as Matthew Jukes had declared to be a good wine and not liking them.  I felt conned!  Should I tap him on the shoulder and ask him to explain himself?  Probably best not to for someone trying to get a foothold in the industry.  It is just another case of how subjective someone’s wine taste is.  After all, they weren’t bad wines, maybe with the exception of the 2011 Jacobs Creek Classic Riesling; I just wasn’t a fan of them.  All in all it was another great educational evening provided by the guys at Great Western.

Contact Great Western Wine on – 01225 322810 or www.greatwesternwine.co.uk

New Year Resolutions

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It’s that time of year again when the first question you are asked by most people is ‘so what’s your New Year’s resolution?’  Most people either want to do more or less of something.  One friend of mine is going to exercise more; another is going to eat less chocolate.  Mine is one that would normally fall into the going to do less of category, but I’m going to buck the trend and do more of it.  My New Year’s resolution is that I am going to drink more.  Of course as I am studying for an MA in food and wine and WSET Diploma I have an excuse to drink more, well that’s my story.

Decanter Undiscovered Reds Tasting

I have spent the last year learning about wine – viticulture and vinification, appellation regulations, how to make champagne and fortified wines, the wine business.  But I feel that I haven’t drunk enough of it; although I’m sure my colleagues who regularly take the mick out of my new career path would disagree.  They seem to be under the impression that I have a drip in my arm constantly feeding me Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and that I bathe in the finest Champagne.

Wine tasting

So to help keep my resolution I have been trawling the internet for wine events, trade tastings and fairs that I could attend.  Here’s a small round up of some of the events that will be taking place over the next year that I will be attending, perhaps you would like to join me?  They are South West focused, because that’s where I live and we also have some great wine merchants who offer really great tastings.

This is only a very small sample of all the tastings going on this year.  If you have any you would like to share please add to the comments box.

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