Archives for the ‘France Tour Visit Post’ Category

Louis Roederer: exquisite, elegant, champagne

 

Spring-fresh air in Reims told me that the day was to one for elegant wines.

And a great highlight was to happen on walking into the bureau of Reims-based champagne house Louis Roederer.

First this  family-owned house, with 100 hectares of biodynamic vineyards out of its 240 ha is proud of its 70% self sufficiency. This gives it cred as bubbly with soul and clearly a lot of past vision.

Champagne is a grand vineyard of 34,000 hectares dominated by small growers (average plot holdings are 5 ha) selling grapes to producers, elaborators and houses such as Roederer.

Roederer is 17 years down the track with bio grapes of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier varieties. How significant. Tasting the champagnes allowed me to clearly recognise a flavour roundness (elegant wines) I’d expect to be derived from the vineyard; not achievable other ways (in the winery).

The natural and widely used process is malolactic fermentation (acid reduction). Here in Roederer’s own-grown crops it is not needed as any grape in-balance compensation is not required. Growing grapes the Roederer way fixes that in situ.

Verzenay pinot noir vineyards-Montagne de Reims

Verzenay pinot noir Grand Cru vineyards-Montagne de Reims-wines are elegant

A high achievement with a nudge towards the advantage of bio over conventional growing. Are the vines in sync with the moon? If not well there is a clearly defined and recognisable flavour and acid ripeness in the wines I tasted. Unbelievably good too.

It does not surprise me that the 30% of harvested grapes Roederer buy from growers will have partial malolactic fermentation where acid balancing is obligatory from grapes not quite on the mark.

VISIT

Our France wine tours take guests through the regions of Champagne; the Montagne de Reims, Vallee de la Marne and Cotes de Blancs, 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.

Champagne houses are known as negociants (NM on all labels) who trade in grapes for their needs to spread wines throughout the globe. The sources are geographical (Reims mountain, Marne Valley and White Slopes) which dominate the industry plantings) according to variety and microclimate dictated by history.

Roederer respect this traditional pattern. Their top wine Cristal always has to have it grape origins in all three regions (mountain, valley and slopes). Additionally Cristal comes from the best vineyards (grand cru) possible and this is from terroirs (soil) with high chalk content; it gives the Cristal taste.

Cristal is not made in years where grapes fail in any of the three regions; such as 2001, 2003, 2010 and 2011. I drank 2009. In undeclared vintages to Cristal designated grapes end up as future reserve wine to preserve the chalk-grown personality of the clear (non fizzy) wines.

Cristal 2008 on rack-elegant vintage

Cristal 2008 losing its deposit on rack-elegant vintage

We are 12 metres down, the air is cold, 11 oC, and all the bottles in every tunnel I see are Cristal- 750 ml, 1.5 l, 3l, 6l, 9l all the way up to 12l salmanazar. Here the wine is manually finished (sediment shaken down) while mainstream wines are mechanically turned for lees removal.

Back above the winery has 450 tanks to hold clear wines. That is so because there are 410 parcels of grapes by variety harvested, each pressed separately and maintained that way until blending.

More emphatic a spectacle is the process of storing older bulk stocks (reserves) in large barrels or foudres (2500-5000 litres), 150 of them, held underground in use for up to 40 years, then replaced. Oak is old and does not make reserve wine oaky, just complex and personality plus.

TASTING

Cristal 2009 is 60% pinot noir 40% chardonnay, all grand cru, the mountain pinot from Verzenay (north facing vines on chalk), the valley pinot from Cumieres (south face chalk) and slopes chardonnay from Cotes de Blancs. Taste-smells complex, some age expressed as smoke and flint, has a sphere of flavour which goes creamy and ends up elegant as acidity sits behind the wine. Round, fine, still fruity, emphasises the use of older vines well established in chalk. From a rich and ripe year.

Cristal 2009

Cristal 2009-elegant-subtle

Roederer 2009 is 70% pinot 30% chardonnay, again filling out in flavour from a very warm year of growing; rounded and full, not too much flavour, just complex, lots of oyster shell from lees time, seaweed complexity, a lot of influence from north-facing pinot vines, partial oak fermentation gives robust finishing notes.

Roederer Vintage 2009

Roederer Vintage 2009

Roederer Rose 2011 is 70% pinot 30% chardonnay; the pinot from Cumieres, carefully harvested to make a special wine. This has perfume, lightness, aroma sweets and succulence, very subtle wine to make a drinker think. The key lies in an innovation making concept. No red wine is added. Grapes are chilled, berries hand removed and sorted, then cold macerated 5-7 days, chardonnay juice added, all pressed together to be fermented. Has a wonderful strawberry glisten, a light touch. Special wine.

Rose Vintage 2009

Rose Vintage 2011-superior drink

Uncorked’s next visit to Champagne and the champagne houses commences in spring 2018, see if you can join us, the experience will be memorable.

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

 

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