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Joesph Drouhin-cellars under Beaune

Joseph Drouhin is a historic Burgundy name. So a cavernous walk a few metres under the city of Beaune to view their bottle collection history is a wondrous site.

There are cobwebs, dark corners, dusty old bottles, medieval height entrances (you must crouch to pass) and shining new wine pieces (barrels) to contrast this display place of wine storage, bought in 1880.

And there is no better watering hole in Beaune than here to complete a visit by drinking from Drouhin burgundy bottles carefully selected from all over the appellations (small vineyards) this negociant (trader) either occupies or purchases.

VISIT

Our France wine tours take guests through the villages of Burgundy; into Beaune, Pugliny-Montrachet and Nuits-Saint-Georges, offering introduction-only visits to caves, only some open to the public.  If you’d like to find out more about this exclusive guided experience for lovers of wine and food, you can call me direct on +61 427 705 391 or email denisew@uncorkedandcultivated.com.au.

Our tasting guide describes the cleverly placed, mood-lit surrounds: built in the 14th century, one level below the town established by the King of France at that time, then we step into another section built in 1450. Wish the wine was that old.

The view at the chamber end gives the herringbone style of 4th Century Roman brickwork which is the base of this cavern. Perfect for the bottle museum (all sizes; 375 ml, normal, magnum to jeroboam) with its uneven stone flooring, always cool or cold.

The modern day Drouhin family has set about retaining their drinking heritage, though the interruption by WW2 has caused many gaps.

The oldest date on a bottle is 1911, then the rest are post 1961, and as time passed, as much as 5% is retained for tasting, drinking, exhibiting, auctioning and donating.

WHAT TO DRINK

All are unlabelled save the chalked identification on each bin patch-very much a burgundian habit this. If there are spare labels or new ones produced they will be in the label storage section, more pristine a place than in this dusty series of caverns.

Caves Joseph Drouhin

Caves Joseph Drouhin-Roman inscriptions, cellars, barrel aging, ancient press, Hospice wine

We were offered brilliant new papyrus paper style labelled wines such as Joseph Drouhin Chorey-Les-Beaune 2012, a village wine from north of the town, known to be terribly drinkable as oh so supple for entry pinot noir. This had that level of deliciousness. Thank you pinot.

Joseph Drouhin Chorey-les-Beaune

Joseph Drouhin Chorey-les-Beaune   1er 2012

 

A significant drink for sharing is Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches 1er 1996; a vineyard of both chardonnay and pinot noir purchased in the 1920s and now held up to be part of the soul of the company.

Joseph Drouhin 1er Clos des Mouches

Joseph Drouhin Beaune 1er Clos des Mouches 1996

The pinot is most expressive, dense and rapturing to see and smell, then succulent, alluring and mouthfilling, a touch of age but pinot with backbone. The vineyard was once circled by bee hives (mouches).

From the northern Cote de Nuits poured was Joseph Drouhin Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Damodes 2008; this now perfumed from bottle time, oozing red fruits yet contrite on taste; both black and red fruits, supple, rounded, expressive.

Joseph Drouhin 1er Damodes

Joseph Drouhin Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Damodes 2008

 

The cellars of Joseph Drouhin once had uses apart from maturing wine.

At the end of WW2, Maurice Drouhin escaped the Gestapo underground via a “door to freedom” to a corridor into the Hospices de Beaune hospital, hidden there over four months until war’s end.

Canard-Duchene-Champagne from Ludes

We are visiting the  Champagne maker Canard-Duchene in the Montagne de Reims countryside.

A patchwork of neatly hedged, close to leaf-manicured vines line each side of our road and extends into the distance, clinging to the soil of its appellation. It is quite wondrous.

Canard-Duchene is nearby to the quaint village of Ludes, and the vineyards extend right up to the village streets, and into some back gardens. That’s how valuable these appellations are!

Our France wine tours  take guests through the villages of Champagne; the Cotes de Blancs and la Montagne de Reims,  offering introduction-only visits to houses, only some open to the public.  If you’d like to find out more about this exclusive guided experience for lovers of wine and food, you can call me direct on +61 427 705 391 or email denisew@uncorkedandcultivated.com.au.

This day will be fun. We are to learn about how Canard-Duchene make and age their 14 million bottles of bubbly stocks, and some lucky travellers will perform the old art of sabrage.

That is the medieval act of removing the cork from the champagne neck with a sword. It chops off some glass but you can drink the fizz after thankfully. And Canard-Duchene wine is found in 54 countries internationally.

Guests perform sabrage-Canrad-Duchene

Guests perform sabrage-Canard-Duchene

It was a favourite act of Napoleon Bonaparte to celebrate a battle victory.

Canard-Duchene’s cellars underground are extensive. Inside and beginning at 34 metres into the damp chalk below are large, long, parallel cavernous tunnels (extending to 6 km) carved out over time on four levels since establishment in 1868.

Our first super drink is Canard-Duchene Leone Green NV, green label too, to signify production from organically-grown grapes; a practice on the increase here. Bubbles with a top perfume of crackling yeast, super dry, taut, bright and fresh. Sante.

Canard-Duchene Leonie Green NV

Canard-Duchene Leonie Green NV

The team was ever-so-eager to taste Canard-Duchene’s 2008 Vintage. This is recorded as one of the best of the decade with universal great longevity expected.

Canard-Duchene 2008-a cracker

Canard-Duchene 2008-a cracker

It is a wet and cold year but for the grapes that made it through gave enormous minerality, zippy freshness and expectations of a long time for the high acids to come into balance. So eight years in bottle here has barely tamed this fruity style, expect more, keep some.

The pinnacle set of wines is Canard-Duchene Charles VII Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Blancs NV; single style wines from red (two pinots) and white (chardonnay) grapes. Charles was the smart French king who worked out how to dispose of the English at the end of the 100 years war (1337-1453).

Canard-Duchene Charles VII Blanc de Blancs NV

Canard-Duchene Charles VII Blanc de Blancs NV

This is expressive chardonnay; the house has vineyards and buys grapes in the best Cotes des Blancs villages south of the mountain; the fruit personality of this chardonnay is self evident, the flavours come out deliciously. Drink some.

Canard-Duchene require an equivalent of 400 hectares of producing vines from 60 village origins annually to supply their French market which is its largest (70% sold), and also keep Australian drinkers happy.

After a visit to this part of France you will never forget the closely-clipped hedges of grapes and the vista which extends to the horizon; all 33,000 hectares of it.

Delas Brothers – syrah in the Rhone

Syrah wine is great red to drink, and for you to enjoy. Delas Brothers are one old-established maker. Try some syrah soon.

The historic French home of syrah is in this Rhone Valley and here we are visiting the property Delas Freres (brothers) having made wine there since 1835.

They are found alongside the wide and surging river at the plane tree-lined Tournon village on the left Rhone bank in the Appellation Saint Joseph.

On the right bank directly across the river is the companion town of Tain l’Hermitage, with the Appellations Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage dominated with syrah vines.

Syrah on terraces-no tractors - horses or by hand

Syrah on terraces – no tractors – horses or by hand

Synonyms for syrah include hermitage and shiraz (the Australians use the latter).

Our France wine tours  take guests through the Appellations of the Rhone Valley, north and south,  offering introduction-only visits to wineries, only some open to the public.  If you’d like to find out more about this exclusive guided experience for lovers of wine and food, you can call me direct on +61 427 705 391 or email denisew@uncorkedandcultivated.com.au.

Our coach driver, a local, French, closes on this large river, dreadfully in flood, the swirling waters are 50 centimetres below its banks. See my quick video from the bus.

Rhone River floods

The next stop is on that western side (left bank), crossing the brown torrent sweeping downstream from spring rains in the Jura and Switzerland.

Our host, red-headed, a Rhône man, smiling, patiently waits our arriving bus outside the Delas Brothers cellar beneath a vine-clad cliff face. Meet Bruno Gonnet.

Bruno produces a row of bottles. They are all syrah, from this well-travelled grape known here since the Crusaders defended the Holy Land.

The progressive tasting goes: Crozes-Hermitage (right bank), Saint-Joseph (left), Cornas (left), Côte-Rôtie (left), Hermitage (right) wines, all differing parcels (sub-regions), differing qualities, and thankfully from one year, 2013.

Delas have 40 hectares of these vineyards; note the cute vineyard names attached to the tasting notes below.

Delas Domaine des Grands Chemin Crozes-Hermitage 2013 is one of those go to reds to get familiar with grape chunkiness. Distinctively whiffing of roasting meat, a sure smell sign of the enrichment from severe summer temperatures late in the ripening.

Delas Francois de Tournon Saint Joseph 2013 gives more fruit earthiness and less meatiness despite being nearby riverwise. The fact some vines sit on higher terraces whereas Crozes is the flats seems to make aroma differences. Palate is solid.

Delas Chante-Perdrix Cornas 2013 is from a small region further south. A more rounded wine giving heaps of rich taste feelings, pepper hot, earth-ripe, oak dries the mouth but is not tastable.

Delas Chante-Perdrix Cornas 2013 syrah

Delas Chante-Perdrix Cornas 2013 syrah

Delas Seigneur de Maugiron Cote-Rotie 2013 is exceptional, ground breaking syrah. Subtle smells then concentration power, those grapes are taut but expressive. The fineness of palate belies the fact this is syrah and should make a monster impression. It does not. Flavours of pepper, black fruits and earth unwind this wine.

Delas Seigneur de Maugiron Cote-Rotie 2013 syrah

Delas Seigneur de Maugiron Cote-Rotie 2013 syrah

This appellation repeatedly gives wines with finesse and elegance which defeat the perception that syrah has monster body. This is silk finish with the big flavours around my mouth. Hermitage wine typically has larger body.

Delas Domaine des Tourettes Hermitage 2013 syrah

Delas Domaine des Tourettes Hermitage 2013 syrah

Delas Domaine des Tourettes Hermitage 2013 is really lovely wine but as said, is a bigger wine. The pink flowers and violets are accentuated by the longer time in new barrel, oak gives sweetness and a lift to a mouthful of syrah power. Keep tasting the wine and it stays generous.

Hermitage vineyards provide wines worthy of a great experience. For Australian shiraz lovers put this place of production on your bucket list. Then when standing at the foot of the hill you will understand why it tastes how it tastes.

To visit these great wineries of the Rhone in 2017 read more here

 

Pass some Etna Passopisciaro

Mount Etna, Sicily’s spectacular volcano, is home to luxury wine growing. The mountain villages, known here as contrade, on its northern side, are excellent participants in the move towards fineness in red wine.

You see you need an address from these villages: Passopisciaro, Randazzo, Castiglione di Sicilia, Linguaglossa or Solicchiata to be an Etnean player in the steady race for wine fame. This is nerello mascalese country.

Wines from volcanic regions such as this high part of Sicily are on trend. They are excellent participants in the move towards fineness in red wine.

Italian entrepreneur Andrea Franchetti bought an old run-down winery (about 200 yo), last used at the time in 1947, which he renovated in 2002, and now our tasting tour party is drinking Passopisciaro wines there.

Icon wine Franchetti- a petit verdot-coda volpe blend

Icon-Franchetti- serious deep tannin, petit verdot-cesanese d’affile blend

The house vineyard, at 800m up the mountain looks a treat, thousands of silver flashers repel birds; harvest is just starting, the chardonnay is off, having malo-lactic fermentation (in a warmed room) and the nerello mascalese is about to arrive to be crushed as 2016 red.

Our Sicily wine tours take guests through the villages of Etna, offering introduction-only visits to wineries, only some open to the public.  If you’d like to find out more about this exclusive guided experience for lovers of wine and food, you can call me direct on +61 427 705 391 or email denisew@uncorkedandcultivated.com.au.

We are at Passopisciaro to be greeted by their affable marketer, Letizia Patane whose forebears made wine on the mountain for the past century. And as she expresses, “Etna as a production region is an island within an island, though a high, cool climate one.”

So we get the immediate impression the place is seen by local makers to be entirely different from production regions elsewhere on the island without black, rocky, knarled and moon-like landscapes.

We hear the only white wine of Passo is chardonnay (an exceptional world example), and that there are red vineyard plantings at varying elevations (500-1000m).

The higher you grow nerello the finer the wine (read that as more linear texture, less fullness), the later and harder to ripen and be fully ripe. At about 800m proper growth of red grapes is halted. Nerello in dialect means light black and wine colour is similar.

We taste the contrada Rampante (700 m) and contrada Chiappemacine (500m) among the five; Porciara, Sciaranouva and Guardiola.

PASSOPISCIARO DRINKS IGP

Passobianco 2015 is the famed chardonnay, such a good drink, fermented and aged in big barrels (700-2000 litre), so little oak shows, lovely green, spearmint fruit, never fat, overt or stonefruit like, taut, trimmed to the bone of acidity, totally linear and mineralising in the mouth. A triumph. Harvested during 20 passes on sunny days when the diurnal swing can be 25 degrees.

Passopisciaro age chardonnay in large oak

Passopisciaro age chardonnay in large oak

Chardonnays made this way are unusual in Australia though the technique is very sound. It minimises the influence of oak in today’s sommelier-led revolution where anything ‘apparently artifical’ does not go down. Released next February.

Passorosso 2014 is the estate blend of wines not reserved for the single vineyard contrade bottlings (specific elevations too). This is good; lovely fresh aromatics of the mountain herbs; laurel, bay and a swish of black fruits, lithe, light bodied, long flavoured. The 100% nerello mascalese Passo is known for, seen as a first level wine, not an introductory wine.

Passopisciaro's Passorosso nerello mascalese level 1

Passopisciaro’s Passorosso nerello mascalese level 1

Passopisciaro R 2014 is a single contrada vineyard selection from Ramparte; the high elevation gives more linearity than body, and bright acidity keeps the taste humming along. Nice wine, understated, long liver, 7-15 years’ potential even at 15% alcohol.

Passopisciaro -Contrada Rampante single vineyard nerello

Passopisciaro Contrada Ramparte –single vineyard nerello mascalese

Passopisciaro C 2014 is the next tasted single vineyard wine from lower elevation, the Chiappemacine vineyard; more the mouthful of nerello showing more body, a direct result of richness derived from warmer ripening conditions in the same year. Great on black fruits.

Passopisciaro - Contrada Ramparte-single vineyard nerello mascalese

Passopisciaro  Chiappemacine — single vineyard nerello mascalese

This is outstanding wine country but like any region where the benefits are great (outstanding wines), the growing process and more important, the ripening phase is very exacting to extract great nerello.

Passopisciaro climb that ripening peak each harvest without extravagant winemaking.

 

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