Archives for the ‘France’ Category

Gourmet Traveller Wine | News Article

PACK YOUR BAGS

There’s a lot to taste and experience in the picturesque landscapes of France and Italy. Uncorked and Cultivated offer authentic epicurean food and wines tours to iconic regions like Bordeaux, Champagne, Tuscany, Sicily and more, hosted by Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith. Their small-group tours focus on delivering the best of each region. Immerse yourself in French culture on an exclusive tour of Champagne, Burgundy and Rhône and discover the perfect French food and wine pairings. Tour dates from 22 May to 1 June 2018, A$7.700 per person. Uncorked has also partnered with Travelling Divas to announce their first female-only itinerary. Experience the Tastes of Rome and Sicily on a tour combing glamour, culture and the divine food and wine of Italy. Tour dates from 6 to 16 September 2018, A$7,450 per person.

 

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GOURMET TRAVELLER WINE | August-September 2017 | p 130

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.

Beaune: pinot + chardonnay

Beaune is the charming hub of Burgundy. I just love the place.

And it is small. As we would say in Australia, Beaune is like a country town.

But there is a big reputation; it’s all about some of the biggest ticket wine sale items in the world.

Bottles of red burgundy, from tiny but hallowed sandy clay plots on a low slung hillside village called Vosne-Romanee, are in great demand. Supply is tiny.

Vosne-Romanee grand cru vineyards June 2016

Vosne-Romanee grand cru vineyards June 2016

So there is a knock on effect that producers drip in the dollars from high priced sales. But not really.

Beaune producers in relative terms are understated, less showy, have dumbed down entrances, show quiet business practices but great history in this mean inland climate.

Burgundy wine is a small industry, 12-18 million bottles (dependent on frost and hail damaging the yield as in 2012, 2013, 2016), while Champagne is 314 and Bordeaux 780 million bottles.

Uncorked Wine and Food Tours walk into the fabric of Burgundy at all levels for just the pinot noir and the chardonnay experiences; cold climate wines, delicacy, high acidity, faint texture, subtle finish, great complements to hearty continental dishes.

Most notable here is the political history and its association with the placement of wine businesses inside old Beaune town.

Though Gallo-Roman in its early origin, the strong influence taken by the Benedictines and Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages towards wine growing, making and trading, became financial power.

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Gallo-Roman sculpted cellar-Chanson Bastion

Visits to the negociant firms of Domaine Chanson (established 1750) and Bouchard Pere et Fils (established 1731) finds them positioned on two of the five battlements which constituted the fort of Beaune in the era when the Dukes of Burgundy were independent of the French throne. And defended themselves.

A must do tourist walk is along the ramparts beside the circle road, the last connected walkways between the fortified towers.

Bouchard Pere et Fils Chateau de Beaune

Bouchard Pere et Fils Chateau de Beaune

These towers were perfectly made for wine production; heavy in stone from 7-20 metres wide, on a range of levels for gravity feeding wine, and at the lower dungeon level, closed for bottle storage in perfect security, and low temperatures of 10-14 oC all year round.

So good for a Beaune wine tourist to witness this underground marvel of stores and treasures; Bouchard’s oldest bottle is white Meursault Charmes 1846, and there are still many bottles of it.

Bouchard Pere et Fils pre-1900s dungeon cellar

Bouchard Pere et Fils pre-1900s dungeon cellar

Wine companies in this town run the story of how much they value their wine heritage; from many, many decades, and the regular practice on a rolling schedule is to replace corks every 25-30 years.

We know how disastrous cork is? So up to 10% of stocks would be deteriorating slowly.

Bins of wines (always without label and generally covered in black grime from the wet, humid conditions) are checked, tasted, re-corked, part-drunk or shared, or auctioned on a slow ongoing schedule by the chief winemaker.

What quantities in a bin? A few bottles up to several hundred, sometimes a thousand, in prevalent instances in magnums, and larger bottles up to 6-9 litre (they would be fun to re-cork!)

Joseph Drouhin (established 1880) owns more underground production area and storage below the town centre than buildings above. By judicious, purchasing after the French revolution (the country was broke) Drouhin assets include the original 17th century wine press operated across the street from the original Benedictine church.

Joseph Drouhin below Beaune-Gallo-Roman times

Joseph Drouhin below Beaune-Gallo-Roman times

So a visit to Beaune gives the wine tourist opportunity to kick back on a diet of chardonnay and pinot noir, drink history and see sights as unique as a delving wine mind can imagine.

And don’t be put off if you are served pinot noir before the chardonnay! That is the habit.

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