A Taste of Burgundy #winophiles

Welcome to this month’s French Winophiles!  We’re group a food and wine bloggers pulled together by Christy of Adventures of a Culinary Diva.  We’re taking a virtual tour of France region by region and learning about French cuisine, wine and travel.  This month we’re exploring legendary Burgundy (a.k.a. Bourgogne)

 About Burgundy

Steeped in centuries of history, tradition, and mystique, Burgundy is an exemplar for world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  It is one of the world’s most renown wine regions.

In spite of, or perhaps more accurately because of, its reputation (the wines can be prohibitively expensive and premox can an issue with white Burgundy), my only experience with Burgundy has been Chablis(love it), Beaujolais, and Crémant de Bourgogne.

I simply had to try at least a red Premier Cru Burgundy!

“You admire great Bordeaux but you fall in love with great Burgundy”  Neal Martin

For the uninitiated , white Burgundies are made from 100% Chardonnay. Red Burgundies are made from 100% Pinot Noir. You won’t see the name of the grape variety on the labels.

Located in the east-central part of France, Burgundy has 5 principal wine growing areas (excluding Beaujolais and Châtillonnais):

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Source: Decanter (http://goo.gl/I7lIVJ)

The most renown of the wine growing regions are Chablis and Côte d’ Or – home to Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. 

Burgundy is all about terroir.  And The Climats  and lieux-dits are the ultimate expression of the notion of terroir.  Climat is a traditional Bourgogne word for a precisely delimited plots of land that enjoy specific geographical and climatic conditions.

A Taste of Burgundy

Image courtesy of Bourgogne Wines

Last year Burgundy was awarded Unesco World Heritage Status for its viticultural heritage, its 1,247 Climats, or individual terroirs, of the Côte d’Or, and the historic centres of Beaune and Dijon .

Though the word may remind you of climate, it comes from the Greek “klima”, and then the Latin “climatis”, which means slope. Lieux-dit are also plots recognized for their own topographic or historical specificities.  But they are not registered by the INAO (Be sure to check out the excellent Bourgogne Wines website for more info)  One may find several lieux-dit within a Climat, or a Climat may only cover part of a lieux-dit.  One can see how that might be confusing.

I think I’ll just stick to main levels of Burgundy classifications, in descending order of perceived quality, Grand crusPremier crus, village appellations, and finally regional (Bourgogne) appellations

Ah, but Burgundy is not just about wine.  The region’s famous vineyards are bookmarked by two  of France’s food capitals – Dijon (the mustard capital of the world)   and Lyon.  Many classic French dishes originate from the region including Coq Au Vin, Escargot a la Bourguignonne,and Boeuf Bourguignon (did Julia Child just pop into any else’s head?). Not to mention other gastronomic delights including cheese (Epoisses de Bourgogne) and bread ( pain d’epice)

Let Paris be France’s head, Champagne her soul; Burgundy her stomach – The Concise World Atlas of Wine

 

On Plate and In My Glass

I received, as a sample, a book entitled Chablis; A Geographical Lexicon from  by Jean-Paul Droin.  The idea was to learn more about Chablis, then taste a wine from one of a Chablis Premier Cru.  In this case, it was the wine the 2012 Sebastien Dampt Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons.

The book was informative (e.g., I didn’t know there Chablis winegrowing region covers 20 communes with the River Serein running through it.  And that the river divides it into two distinct parts left bank and right bank)   It’s a must read if you have an interest in the etymology and history behind the names of Chablis Climats.

Chablis Escargot

My tasting notes on the wine follow: 

Pale yellow-green color with green reflections. It’s  aromatic with buttered bread, oyster shell, baked green apple, white flower and a hint of spice aromas. On the palate it medium bodied, fresh, focused,  and harmonious with green apple , pear, bit of Meyer lemon and spice flavors. Long finish. Highly recommended.

I paired the wine with a Chablisien classic – Escargots a la Bourguignonne (Snails in Garlic-Herb Butter), and sautéed garlic asparagus accompanied by a loaf of crusty french bread. We topped our the meal with a fabulous Saint Angel triple cream cheese from Fromagerie Guilloteau in the Cotes du Rhone region of France.

(Note: I’ve included a link to the escargot recipe, but I found an oven ready escargot in garlic-herb sauce at my local Whole Foods Market)

The wine was fantastic with the entrée. And I especially enjoyed crusty french bread dipped in the garlic herb sauce with a sip of the Chablis.  In a word – divine! The wine was a very good complement to the buttery notes and chalky texture of the cheese.  

I simply couldn’t take a virtual tour of Burgundy with trying a red wine.  In keeping with the Premier Cru theme established with the Chablis, I chose the 2012 Domaine Bart “Hervelets” Fixin 1er Cru.  It my first Premier Cru Burgundy!

The Fixin appellation, which received official recognition in 1936, produces both appellations Village and Premier Cru. There are six Premier Cru Climats.

Fixin

Image courtesy of the Burgundy Report

From the Bourgogne website – Fixin (pronounced “Fissin”) is situated in the Côte de Nuits region between Dijon and Gevrey-Chambertin. In 1860 it merged with the neighbouring hamlet of Fixey. As well as wine-cellars, attractions for visitors include the 10th century church of Saint-Antoine, the manor of La Perrière where once the monks of Cîteaux came to enjoy the good air and the good wine, François Rude’s famous statue in the Parc Noisot of Napoleon in the process of becoming immortal, a particularly handsome communal laundry and the slate-covered village breadoven. Here there are a thousand things to see, not to mention many welcoming wine cellars.

Here’s where things may get confusing – the Premier Cru Climats of Les Meix Bas, and Les Arvelets may be labeled as Les Hervelets. But Les Hervelets cannot be sold as Les Arvelets or Les Meix Bas!

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My tasting notes follow:

A subtle touch of pencil shavings sets off ripe and relatively elegant notes of black and red cherry, earth, warm spice with pretty floral notes. On the palate it’s medium-bodied and layered with intense mixed red and black cherry, red currant flavors with ample minerality, and a subtle rustic character wrapped around dusty well-integrated tannins and bright acidity.Approachable now, but would benefit from further aging.  Highly recommended and a very good value at $40!

We paired the wine with a quick weeknight dinner of grilled salmon and sautéed spinach.  Again we capped off our meal with another double cream cheese from France. This one was the decadent Fromager d’Affinois with Truffles.   Pinot Noir is the most food friendly red wine in my book and it paired very well with our meal.  And it was other worldly with the cheese! 

Check out what my fellow French #winophiles are bringing to the table this month!

Don’t forget to join the live Twitter Chat this Saturday (Jan. 16, 2016) at 8 am PST (1700 hours in Beaune, France!) Just search for the hashtag #winophiles. We love new participants, if you would like to join us, just let us know.  Stay tuned for our February visit to Alsace. Au revoir!

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the bottle of Chablis and book at no cost from Sopexa on behalf of the Chablis Commission.  I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are entirely my own.

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

The Mystery Wines of the Loire Valley

Last month, I was thrilled when I received an invitation to participate in a fun competition for the 2016 Wine Blog Trophy. Organized by the Loire Valley Wine Trade Fair, which takes place in Angers from February 1 to 3, 2016, the essence of the competition is to guess the appellation and vintage of two mystery bottles (one each white and red) of wine from the Loire Valley. 

I was excited about the competition because I’m a big fan of the Loire Valley.  My favorite under $20 sparkling rosé wine is a Crémant de Loire. But, I’m also a big fan of the whites (Muscadet [my go-to wine for raw oysters], Sancerre, and Vouvray), rosé, and reds (Chinon and Bourgueil) of the region.

And hey….win, lose, or draw, it’s Loire Valley wine at no cost to me.

What’s not to like?

Loire Valley Wine Blog Trophy

The friendly competition was open to both American, Irish and French wine bloggers.

After tasting the two wines, were asked to go on www.wineblogtrophy.com to register our answers and tasting notes.

The first blogger who will give the two correct answers wins the Wine Blog Trophy 2016!

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The winners were (L-R):were Côte Roannaise (2014 – Domaine Sérol, Eclat de Granite), and Coteaux du Giennois (2014 – Vignobles Berthier, Terre de Silex)

After receiving the wines, I tasted and wrote up my tasting notes:

Cuvée 886 – Pale yellow with lemon, grass, quince, and wet stone aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied, fresh and easy-going with lemon, quince, and under ripe white peach flavors with a nice vein of herbaceousness.

Cuvée 412 – Dark ruby color with red berry, black currant,  and mineral aromas with a kiss of floral aromatics. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, fresh,  and nicely balanced with black cherry, raspberry, black currant flavors underscored by an appealing minerality.  My wife and I enjoyed it with Paella Mixta of salmon and sausage.

My guess for the appellation both wines was Fief Vendéens.  In terms of vintage, I guessed 2013 for the red and 2014 for the white.

Why Fief Vendeens? I thought the red was a blend of (mostly) Gamay and Cabernet France. And I thought the white was a blend of (mostly) Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc.

I logged on the aforementioned website to register my guess, but I was too late.  The competition was over!

It’s just as well…I was wrong.

The two appellations of the Mystery Bottles were Côte Roannaise for Cuvée 412 (2014 – Domaine Sérol, Eclat de Granite), and Coteaux du Giennois for Cuvée 886 (2014 – Vignobles Berthier, Terre de Silex)

The winner was Yann DEREU – www.ah-le-vin.blogspot.fr, who correctly guessed one of the two appellations/vintages correctly.

Both these are new to me appellations (as was Fief Vendéens).  Once I found out which appellations the wines were from, I checked out the excellent Loire Valley Wines website for more information.

Côte Roannaise, located in the far south of the Loire region, produces rosé and red wines exclusively from Gamay.

Coteaux du Giennois is an appellation on the eastern edge of the Loire Valley northeast of Sancerre produces almost equal amounts of light-bodied red and white wines, with a small portion of dry rosé as well. The whites are Sauvignon Blanc.

The Fiefs Vendéens is a relatively small appellation produces a wealth of wines: white (Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Grolleau Gris, Sauvignon Blanc), rosé and red (Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Négrette).

This was a fun competition for me. I very much enjoyed learning about a few new-to-me wine appellations in the Loire Valley. Both the wines were delightful.  And I expect nothing less from the Loire Valley!

More About the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley, two hours southwest of Paris is known as “the Garden of France” due its abundance of fertile farmland that include vineyards along with fruit and vegetable farms which line the banks of both sides of the Loire River. The Loire is the longest river in France.
It’s also known as the Land Of A Thousand Chateau. The region has a rich heritage featuring historic towns of AmboiseAngersBloisChinonNantesOrléansSaumur, and Tours.

“The Loire is a garden, a mosaic of tastes and flavors with 45 appellations that attract curious wine lovers.” – Jean-Pierre Gouvazé

From a vinous perspective, the Loire Valley is one of the largest wine regions of France.  It covers fifteen departments and 52,000 hectares (128,000 acres) of vines shared between 7000 growers, who produce nearly 400 million bottles of wines annually.  It’s so large it’s 60 appellations are spread over three large areas – The Western (home of Muscadet – home of my favorite still wine for oysters!), Middle (Vouvray, Touraine and Chinon) and the Upper Loire (includes, arguably the regions most well-known appellations Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume). It’s France’s most diverse wine region producing red, white, rosé, sweet and sparkling wines.

Tale Of A Crémant de Loire Brut Rose At The Table #Winophiles

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received wines at no cost from Clement et Florian Berthier, Domaine Robert Sérol, and Loire Valley Wines.  I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are entirely my own.

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

 

A Taste of Krug Champagne Redux

Last year, I was had the honor of being invited to a private Krug Champagne tasting at my favorite wine store – K&L Wine Merchants.  I recapped that phenomenal tasting in a post entitled “A Taste of Champagne Krug“.

Much to my surprise and delight, Gary Westby, K&L’s Champagne Buyer invited me to another Krug Champagne tasting several months back.  Except this time, the tasting was with Olivier Krug, the sixth generation of the venerable Krug Champagne family.

With #ChampagneDay upon us, I can’t think of a better time to recap this extraordinary tasting of the most memorable wines I’ve enjoyed this year!

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The House of Krug

Krug was established in 1843 by Johann Joseph Krug, and silent partner Hippolyte de Vivès, a member of the family of the founder of Veuve Clicquot  They produced the first Krug et Cie blend in 1845.  After Joseph’s death in 1861, his son Paul was the first of five successive generations of Krug’s in the business.

In 1999 Krug was acquired by the multinational luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A. LVMH also owns grande marque Champagne houses Mercier, Moët & Chandon, Montaudon, Ruinart and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.

Despite LVMH’s majority ownership, the Krug family is still actively involved in all the key decisions of the house but does not manage the day-to-day operations.  Olivier Krug, who has  been in the business since 1989, became house director in 2009, the same year that LVMH named Margareth “Maggie” Henriquez President & CEO of Krug

Krug produces about 40,000 cases annually (It’s relatively small house), and 80% of that production is the Krug Grand Cuvée.  In addition to the Grand Cuvée, Krug also produces a multi-vintage Rosé,Vintage Brut, a vintage single vineyard blanc de blanc known as Clos du Mesnil, and a vintage single vineyard blanc de noir known as Clos d’Ambonnay, and older vintages release as Krug Collection series.  Krug is the only Champagne house that produces five prestige cuvées.

For an excellent, more detailed deep dive on Krug, check out Alder Yarrow’s (Vinography)  “Krug: A Quintessence of Champagne

The Tasting

We tasted the same wines as we did last year…with one huge exception…

We also tasted the newly released 2003 Krug Clos du Mesnil!

Yes, boys and girls…dreams do come true!

Olivier Krug  and team presented the wines. Krug has no direct operational role in the business.  But he touches everything that connects Krug to its audience – from grape growers to vendor, and of course consumers.  He is a charming, entertaining, and masterful story-teller.

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As I listened to the Krug story, there are many things that set Krug apart from other Champagne producers. Here are a few:

The first is that Krug doesn’t make any secondary, or entry-level wines.  In fact, all other Krug Champagne is measured against the multi-vintage Grand Cuvée, their least expensive wine.  Unlike most large producers of multi-vintage Champagne who strive for consistency of flavor year end, and year out, the Krug Grand Cuvée is not meant to taste the same each year.

It was Krug’s multi-vintage Grand Cuvée, that debunked the myth that vintage Champagne is inherently superior to multi-vintage Champagne.

…unlike other great Champagne producers, Krug makes only prestige cuvées. Instead of its multi-vintage Grande Cuvée being a secondary wine, created after the vintage wine is assembled, Krug has, from the beginning, turned the region’s usual practice on its head by devoting its attentions to the multi-vintage Cuvée first, as the house’s flagship. – Richard Jennings

Next, according to Olivier KrugI believe we are the only major house to vinify every single plot separately,”  In 2014  they harvested, and pressed 240 individual plots(in the nearest convenient location to the vineyard). The pressed juice was then brought back to the main facility, where they were barrel fermented in 240 separate lots!

Finally, Krug is also leading the way among the great Champagne houses in becoming more transparent. Since September 2011, each bottle of Krug has a six digit number on the back label referred to as the Krug ID.  You can type this number into a box on Krug’s website to learn the story of that particular bottling, including the vintage(s) in the wine, the percentage of grape varieties used, and when the bottle was disgorged.

The essence of Champagne is pleasure – Olivier Krug

As for the wines? Simply the best line-up of Champagne I’ve ever tasted!

My tasting notes follow:

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Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée – Light yellow color with an abundance of rapidly rising pin prick sized bubbles and an explosion of complex, hazelnut, yeast, orange zest, dried cherry, and subtle honey aromas. On the palate, it’s broad, and rich with a delicate mousse and lively acidity. It shows delicious pear, hazelnut, lemon, apricot and subtle honey flavors. Long rich satisfying finish. ID = 213032 Disgorged Spring 2013. 44% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, and 21% Pinot Meunier. Blend of 142 wines from 11 different years. Oldest wine from 1990, youngest wine from 2006. This is Champagne that made me a believer that Vintage Champagne isn’t always better than multi-vintage Champagne. (94-95 pts.); Retail – $150 Click to buy.

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Image courtesy of www.harpers.co.uk

2003 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut – Golden yellow color with an abundance of rapidly rising pin prick sized bubbles, and rich hazelnut, brioche, citrus peel, and mineral aromas. On the palate, it’s complex, refined and well structured with a rich delicate mousse and ample apples, tart lemon, hazelnut, subtle spice and mineral flavors. Long finish. ID = 113015. Disgorged Winter 2012/13 Blend of 46% PN, 29% Chardonnay, and 25% Pinot Meunier.  Known as “Vivacious Radiance” at Krug (94-95 pts.); Retail – $229 Click to buy.

2000 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut – Pale yellow color with an abundance of rapidly rising pin prick sized bubbles, and penetrating almond, date, yeast, apple, citrus, ginger, vanilla and subtle spice aromas. On the palate, it intense and refined with a delicate creamy mousse, and apple, pear, mineral, lemon/lime, and subtle spice flavors. Long finish. ID = 412048; Disgorged Autumn 2012. Blend of 42% Pinot Noir, 43% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Meunier. Known as “Stormy Indulgence” at Krug (95-96 pts.); Retail – $229 Click to buy.

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2003 Krug Champagne Clos du Mesnil – Bright yellow gold color with a very fine persistent bead. It’s aromatically complex with very appealing hazelnut, citrus-laced creme fraiche, ginger, and and an earthiness that suggests spiced roast coffee grounds. On the palate, it’s powerful, elegant, pure and impeccably balanced with a delicate, super creamy mousse. It shows quince, ginger, honey, candied citrus, and subtle spice flavors complemented by a sublime minerality with long lemony finish. Easily the best Blanc de Blanc I have ever tasted. 100 % barrel fermented Chardonnay from the 1.84 hectare walled Clos du Mesnil vineyard (96-97 pts.); Retail – $899 Click to buy.

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Krug Champagne Brut Rosé – Salmon color with an abundance of rapidly rising pin prick sized bubbles, and very appealing complex, sweet yeast raspberry,strawberry, citrus and subtle nutty aromas. On the palate it’s elegant and rich with a delicate, creamy mousse and ample red fruit flavors of raspberries, strawberry, and watermelon along with lemon/lime, mineral, hazelnut and a sublime savoriness. Long finish. A deathbed wine for me!  ID = 113016. Oldest wine – 2000, youngest wine – 2006. Blend of 59% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, and % Pinot Meunier. Disgorged Winter 2012/2013 (95-96 pts.); Retail – $279 Click to buy.


After the tasting, we were invited to partake of the bevy of bottles of Krug Champagne beckoning us…

I went back for more Clos du Mesnil and the Brut Rose!

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I can’t believe it! I’m almost ALWAYS the one with his eyes closed in photos. Sorry Olivier!

Then I went and purchased my first bottle of Krug (I have a feeling that wherever Olivier goes…Krug sells;-)

It was a bottle of the Grand Cuvée, which Olivier was kind enough to sign for me.

It’s official…I am now a Krug Lover!

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

A Taste of Gigondas and Vacqueyras #Winophiles

Wine, like traveling, is relative I suppose. Here’s what I mean.  Have you ever completed one of those online Facebook questionnaires that is supposed to tell you how well-traveled you are?  I have.  Just when I think you’ve done more than your fair share of travel, you realize there are so many more places you want to go!

I think it’s the same with wine.  I consider myself pretty “well-traveled” wine wise.  But last week I read Eric Asimov’s latest “Wine School” about Gigondas, and I realized  that while I’ve tried plenty of  wines from the Southern Rhone, I’d never tried a wine from Gigondas. Or from Vacqueyras, also mentioned in the piece  (Confession: I’ve never enjoyed a Northern Rhone wine – I know I can’t believe it either!).

Since the focus of this month’s French Winophiles is the Rhone Valley, it was a perfect opportunity to get a taste of Gigondas and  Vacqueyras.

The Rhone Valley

The Rhône Valley is located in Southwest France.  It is divided into two sub-regions; North and South. The North is the birthplace of Syrah, and it is the undisputed king of grapes in the region.  In the South, a wide array of red, white, and rose wines are produced, and Grenache is the king of grapes.

A Taste of Gigondas and Vacqueyras #Winophiles

Image courtesy of www.allfranceinfo.com

The Rhône classifies their AOCs (appellations) into four categories (in ascending order of quality – Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Côtes du Rhône (named) Villages, and Cru.  

Renown Northern include names such as Hermitage and Cote Rotie.  In the South, the big dog of crus is the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Both Gigondas and Vacqueyras are classified as Cru, the highest quality category.

Aside from trying a couple of new-to-me regions, what drove my decision to try Gigondas and Vacqueyras was value.  The other, more renown, crus such as Hermitage, Cote Rotie and Chateauneuf-du-Pape can be pricey.  With Gigondas and Vacqueyras you can get wines with a similar profile, and a less imposing price, but with, ostensibly better quality than Côtes du Rhône, or Côtes du Rhône Villages wine.  

About Gigondas

Gigondas is a village located in the southeastern Rhone Valley.  The appellation sits on a plateau at an altitude of 100m, and gently climbs up around the village with steep slopes up to 430m high in area around the at the Dentelles de Montmirail.  The villages of Beaumes-de-Venise and Vacqueyras are located to the south and west of Gigondas.

A unique protected natural site, with hillsides carved by the hands of men into terrain suitable for vineyards. – Chef Alain Passard

The region produces 99% red wines and 1% rosé.  Both red and rosé wines are made predominantly from Grenache Noir (up to 80%, according to the appellation laws), with varying quantities of Syrah and Mourvedre, the two varieties with which Grenache is most commonly mixed in the region.

The region was elevated from Côtes du Rhône Villages status to cru status in 1971.

The resulting style of wine made in Gigondas is often likened to that of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, just 10 miles (17km) to the southwest.

A Taste of Gigondas and Vacqueyras #Winophiles

Vineyards at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail in Gigondas. Image courtesy of http://www.gigondas-vin.com/

2013 Cécile Chassagne Gigondas – Retail $20

Domaine Cécile Chassagne represents the second generation of the Chassagne family. Her father, Jean-Claude Chassagne established the original estate in 1974 that included It included vineyards in Sablet, Gigondas and the Plan de Dieu. He sold most of the estate in 1998, but his daughter Cécile kept the 3.2 acre estate in Gigondas.

This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah,  and 10% Mourvèdre from vines planted in 1974.  It was whole-cluster fermented in large oak vats. It was aged 4 months in 228-litre oak casks.
A Taste of Gigondas and Vacqueyras #Winophiles

My tasting notes follow:

Pale purple garnet color with appealing savory black and red fruit aromas, subtle spice, and floral aromas with a nuanced appealing mineral note. On the palate it’s medium-bodied with tart black cherry, black currant, blackberry, and spice flavors framed by well-integrated dusty tannins and a mineral driven, lingering finish. I enjoyed the tension in his wine.  It’s definitely a food wine, as opposed to a cocktail wine in my book. 13.5% alcohol. Very good QPR at $20. I would buy again.  It’s enjoyable now (I recommend aerating for at least 30 minutes) but will benefit from further aging.   Pair with Grilled Marinated Leg of Lamb.

About Vacqueyras

Just south of Gigondas, also at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail, Vacqueyras was elevated from Côtes du Rhône Villages status to cru status in 1990.  The region produces 95% red wines, 4% white wine and 1% rosé.  Grenache is the dominant variety in Vacqueyras; every blend must contain at least half, although sometimes it accounts for as much as 90% of the mix.  The remaining percentage is made up of Syrah and Mourvedre, with an addition of 10% of any of the other Cotes du Rhone varieties.

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Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

2012 Domaine la Garrigue “La Cantarelle” Vacqueyras – Retail $20

Domaine la Garrigue is set in the heart of the Vacqueyras.  The estate was created in 1850, and has always been worked by the same family, spanning 6 generations.

The wine is a custom cuvee between Eric Solomon, Philippe Cambie and the Bernard family.  It’s a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah that spent 24 months all in concrete tanks.  The fruit is from 80-100+ year-old vines.

A Taste of Gigondas and Vacqueyras #Winophiles

My tasting notes follow:

Bright crimson color with roast meat, black and red fruit, spice and subtle floral, and its namesake garrigue aromas. On the palate it’s full-bodied, and fresh with a supple texture and silky tannins with black cherry, red currant, licorice, and spice flavors with underlying earthiness, a bit of minerality and a very giving spicy finish. 15% alcohol.  Very good QPR at $20. I would buy again.  It’s enjoyable now but will benefit from further aging. Pair with Braised Short Ribs.


The Gigondas seemed to be a more traditional expression of the Southern Rhone Valley; from the bottle embossed with the crest of Gigondas, to it’s more rustic, savory character. It brought to mind an Italian Rosso di Montalcino I recently had.  On the other hand, the Vacqueyras was a bolder, more full-bodied wine with more generous fruit.  It’s definitely more of a crowd-pleaser in my mind.  I rated both wines Very Good to Outstanding 89-91pts.

For more about Rhône Valley food and wine be sure to check out what my fellow food and wine blogger are sharing!

Join our live Twitter Chat Saturday, October 17th at 8 am PST/11 am EST using #winophiles and share your favorite food and wine from the Rhone Region of France.

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Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

Wines At Our Table; Week of August 16th, 2015

Over the course of a week, my wife and I drink a bunch o’wine – almost always with food. Since I’ve always been fascinated by wine at the table with food, I thought it would be fun to recap not only the wines we’ve been drinking, but also how they pair (or don’t pair) with the foods at our table.  It features my pick for Wine of the Week (WoW) – a  wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out for the week ended August 16th 2015.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut – Retail $47
Very pale yellow color with tiny bubbles and a fine bead. Offers aromas of fresh biscuit dough, grapefruit, lime cream, with hints of quince and white flower. On the palate it shows soft creamy mousse with clean well delineated apple, peach, lime, lemon and grapefruit flavors underscored with an appealing minerality. Seems much improved to my palate over a few years ago – cleaner more complex Very Good to Outstanding; 89-91pts

2013 Trivento Amado Sur – Retail $15
Opaque violet color with mixed black fruit, licorice, and low-key spice and cedar wood aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied with good acidity, ample fruit, and soft tannins with black currant, black cherry, plum, vanilla and a hint of spice flavors. Medium finish. Very Good; 86-88 pts

2013 Domaine des Costes Rouges Marcillac Tandem – Retail $17
Dark violet color with promising red currant and raspberry aromas with low-key spice and dried herb notes. On the palate it’s light-bodied, fresh and well structured with charming, easy-going cassis, raspberry, and spice flavors with supple tannins and an enticing minerality. Very Good; 86-88 pts

2014 Copain Pinot Noir Tous Ensemble Rosé – Retail $17
Pretty salmon color with watermelon, red berry and a hint of earthy aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied and fresh with an especially nice mid palate weight. It shows strawberry blood orange, cherry and raspberry flavors with a nice spice note. Medium long finish. Very Good to Outstanding; 89-91pts

2014 Dashe Cellars Grenache Les Enfants Terribles – Retail $24
Ruby color with appealing strawberry cream, sour cherry jolly rancher aromas with light spice, and mineral notes. On the palate, it’s light-bodied with vibrant acidity, a juicy texture underscored  some dusty tannins with strawberry, sour cherry, plum, spice and a bit of earthiness on the finish. Medium plus finish. Very Good to Outstanding; 89-91pts

2009 Ridge Merlot – Retail $45
Dark ruby color with aromatic black cherry, blueberry, cassis and a kiss of vanilla, and baking spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, balanced and elegant with black cherry, blueberry, cassis and vanilla flavors. Long finish. 14.2% alcohol.The Merlot is made from two parcels planted at 1,300 and 2,000 feet of elevation in the Jimsomare property, which is now part of the Ridge estate. 2009 was their first bottling of a varietal Merlot since 1997.Very Good to Outstanding; 89-91pts

Wines At Our Table; Week of August 16th 2015

Wine of the Week (“WoW”)  Any week that includes some Champagne is a very good week indeed!  Not only that I tried a completely new to me grape – Fer Servadou (2013 Domaine des Costes Rouges Marcillac Tandem)

For quite a few years I was not a fan of Veuve Clicquot.  In my opinion, not only was it ubiquitous, but I thought it was overrated in relation to its quality.  I think it’s improved over the last few years though, and it’s back in my good graces (though there are still quite a few Champagne that I enjoy just as much if not more for less.  It’s definitely a quality bottle of Champagne that’s on par with many in the same price range.  The Ridge Merlot was a treat. As paraphrase a cliché goes…I don’t drink Merlot often, but when I do I drink Ridge😉

My WOW is the 2014 Dashe Cellars Grenache Les Enfants Terribles.  It’s one of my favorite summertime reds wines. It’s take a chill very well, and its lively acidity make it a wonderful partner at the table with a variety of dishes.  Highly recommended!

More about Dashe Cellars

Dashe Cellars, founded by Michael and Ann Dashe in 1996, is an urban winery located near Jack London Square in Oakland, CA.   Michael Dashe is the Winemaker, and Anne Dashe is the General Manager.  Between the two, they have 40-plus years experience in the wine business, including experience at  some big-time wineries such as Ridge Vineyards, Far Niente, Chappellet, Schramsberg Wine Cellars in California;  Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château La Dominique in France,and  Cloudy Bay in New Zealand.   The winery produces about 10,000 cases annually.

From the start we always wanted to make this Grenache almost in a Grand Cru Beaujolais style: a serious wine that offers bright, lively fruit but with a great structure and balance.  Dashe Cellars

From Dashe Cellars…In 2014, low yields and perfect ripening weather created a lovely Grenache, a bit softer and more delicate than previous vintages. Because of the way we make this wine—fermented with the native yeasts on the grapes; aged in large French oak barrels; unfined; and bottled with low SO2 levels—we felt that it deserved to be labeled with our other wines in the Les Enfants Terribles (the “Wild Children”) series made in a more Old World style.  The resulting purity of flavor, velvety texture, and lush midpalette is a break from the brash, fruit-forward style of many Californian wines.

What was your Wine of the Week?  Any killer Food and Wine pairings?

Follow my reviews on Vivino and Delectable

Note. All wines were purchased for review unless otherwise indicated

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine. Since I’m a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Marcillac – The Perfect Wine for Liver And Onions?

Welcome to this month’s French Winophiles!  We’re group a food and wine bloggers pulled together by Christy of Adventures of a Culinary Diva.  We’re taking a virtual tour of France region by region and learning about French cuisine, wine and travel.  This month we’re exploring the Sud-Ouest (South West) region of France

Sud-Ouest (South West) Region

The South West region of France is a relatively large territorial zone that lies between – and does not include – the wine regions of Bordeaux and Languedoc-Roussillon.  The region includes eighteen appellations denoted as either AOP or IGT.  It also includes the iconic Armagnac brandy-producing area.

marcillac-map

Image courtesy of The Wine-Pages.com

According to the Wines of Southwest France website (a wonderful resource) the region has a feel and a lifestyle all its own. Located off the beaten path from the bustle of Paris or Lyon, life in the southwest is more relaxed. For the French who live in other parts of the country, the southwest is the place to go for a relaxing weekend getaway.Here they can explore vineyards, enjoy the celebrated regional cuisine (think foie gras and duck confit), shop at local markets, fish in the Pyrenees, tour hilltop castles, admire prehistoric cave paintings or the art of Toulouse-Lautrec, or hike the Lot River valley. And for those who want sand and surf, the Atlantic coast offers 100 miles of beach, ending at the luxury resort city of Biarritz.

In My Glass

Given the region’s size and vinous diversity, I decided to focus on one specific appellation, with an eye on trying a new to me grape variety. My search lead me to the 2013 Domaine des Costes Rouges “Tandem” from the Marcillac AOP.

The Marcillac appellation, which is largely overlooked, covers 420 acres devoted almost exclusively to a single type of vine: Fer Servadou, or Mansois as it is known locally. The grape variety is found throughout the Sud-Ouest wine region, but Marcillac is its spiritual home.  No other appellation uses Fer as the key grape variety.

Fer is native to the País Vasco, the Basque area of Spain on the French border.  It’s a member of the Carmenet family, which includes Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.

The grape  thrives on the stony, iron-rich soils known locally  les rougiers (due to their reddish color) in the hills surrounding the town of Marcillac.

Marcillac - The Perfect Wine for Liver And Onions?

2013 Domaine des Costes Rouges “Tandem”

The producer, Domaine des Costes vineyards are 100% Mansois and organically farmed.  All fermentation and elevage is done in concrete tanks.  Their wines are bottled unfiltered.

My tasting notes:

Dark violet color with promising red currant and raspberry aromas with low-key spice and dried herb notes. On the palate it’s light-bodied, fresh and well structured with charming, easy-going cassis, raspberry, and spice flavors  with supple tannins and an enticing minerality.  Stylistically the wine falls between a Loire Cab Franc and Gamay. 12%; Retail-$17

On My Plate

The challenge with selecting a wine produced from a new to me grape is determining what kind food with make a harmonious pairing with the wine.

As I was researching pairing options I came across Seared Calves Liver and Marcillac.

Wow! It’s been a seriously long time since I’ve had liver, which of course I held in contempt for many years.

What changed?

I worked my way through college as a cook in a restaurant.  One day, in desperate need of something different to eat, I threw a piece of liver dusted with some flour into some bacon grease and sautéed some onions in the same.

My contempt for liver disappeared with the first fork full of offal yumminess that is liver and onions.

I checked out some recipes and found a Calf’s Liver With Bacon, Caramelized Onions and Sherry from Emeril Lagasse.

Marcillac - The Perfect Wine for Liver And Onions?

Calf’s Liver With Bacon, Carmelized Onions and Sherry

The recipe was definitely an upgrade over my relatively simple and quick liver preparation.

One of the key steps in recipe is to soak the liver in milk for at least 20 minutes.  I’d never done that before. But I certainly think it paid off – the dish was utterly delicious – with a  hint of sweetness I’d never before tasted when eating liver.  The sherry pan sauce was a very nice compliment to the sweetness of the caramelized onions. And hey…you can’t go wrong with bacon bits!

As for the pairing? It was wonderful!  The wine was made the liver taste better, and vice versa. This is a combination I’ll be repeating!

There’s plenty more food and wine deliciousness from Sud-Ouest.  Check out what my fellow French #winophiles have in store for you!

Join us Saturday, August 15th at 11 am ET/8 am PT for a live Twitter Chat sharing wine, food and travel stories from Sud-Ouest. Follow us on #winophiles.

Next month we explore the wine and cuisine of  the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France on Saturday, September 19th 

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine. Since I’m a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogA

Champagne Chronicles – Day 3

This is the third in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne

  • Day 1 – Guided tour of Reims Cathedral and Champagne dinner
  • Day 2 – C.I.V.C., Roger Coulon, and Veuve Clicquot

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Last month, I had the privilege of traveling to the Champagne region in France as a guest of the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip.  Here’s what they said about the trip…

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities, as well as what the region is doing to protect its name in the United States.  The week-long trip… will give you the opportunity to visit select producers – from large houses to cooperatives and small growers – and learn about the appellation as a whole…you will also experience firsthand the winemaking process, from picking and crushing grapes to exquisite Champagne pairing dinners.

Our itinerary for Day 3 included:

Champagne Louis Roederer

Louis Roederer is one of the last great independent and family run Champagne houses. The family has been managing the business since 1832.  Today it is managed by Frédéric Rouzaud, who represents the seventh generation of the Roederer lineage.

Their vineyards (all Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) cover about 70% of the company’s needs, which is rare for large Champagne houses.  They produce about 3 million bottles annually.

The Roederer portfolio includes Champagne DeutzChâteau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Ramos Pinto Port in Portugal, Domaines Ott in ProvenceRoederer Estate and Scharffenberger in California.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Chef de Cave, and Assistant General Director of Roederer.  After giving us an overview of the Roederer vineyards, he took us on tour of their cellars, and lead us through a tasting of a few vin clair.  It’s obvious the man has a passion for wine.  We then adjourned to the beautiful Roederer tasting room to taste their current releases:

It just so happened I’d tasted the same wines a couple of weeks before my trip (click here for detailed notes)

After our tasting, it was time for lunch.  Much to my surprise and delight we were greeted by, and dined with the man in charge himself – Frédéric Rouzaud!

And lunch? It was a gastronomic and vinous delight!

How this for lunch? L-R; 2006 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut (magnum), 1993 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut, 1995 Ramos Pinto Porto Vintage

It’s a tough call, but my favorite was the 1993 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut one the wines we had with lunch.  It’s a beautifully mature, full-bodied Champagne with intense, complex, savory aromas and flavors including brioche, baked apples and peach, roast hazelnut, citrus, and a bit of caramel that harmoniously and seamlessly coalesce with energetic acidity and a smoky minerality. And it’s such fantastic food wine! 

Learned about: Roederer is the largest organic grower in Champagne with 65 of their 240 hectares farmed biodynamically.  They began converting their vineyards to biodynamic in 2000. Between 60-70% of the fruit for Cristal is biodynamic.  In fact, the current release – 2006 is the first vintage they released with primarily biodynamic fruit.  The first 100% biodynamic Cristal will be the 2011 vintage

Insider’s tip: Roederer will be launching their first Brut Nature (the driest style of sparkling wine – with less than 3g/L residual sugar) in the US this month! The 2006 Brut Nature cuvée, was developed by Louis Roederer and Philippe Starck.

Notable Quote: The secret to Cristal is Pinot Noir and Chalk” – Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon

See below for gallery of Champagne Louis Roederer visit

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Champagne René Geoffroy

“The Geoffroy family have been winemakers since the seventeenth century and the property has stayed in the family for almost 400 years, uninterrupted.  In addition to prime parcels in Cumières,  the family has holdings  in Damery, Hautvillers, and Dizy. They aim for the highest possible quality and ferment the wines in oak barrels for their Cuvée Sélectionnée [now called Cuvée Empreinte] and Brut Prestige [now called Cuvée Volupté].  The wines don’t go through malolactic fermentation, which gives them the nerve and aging potential that most Cumières Champagnes lack.  When you talk to the well-educated young Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, you understand that this is a family that cares passionately about wine.” (Source)

Geoffroy is a grower that produces its own wines.  They are the No. 1 grower in Cumières, where they farm 14 hectares of  sustainably grown grapes.  Cumières is the most sun-drenched and earliest ripening village in Champagne, and is known primarily for its pinot noir.  They produce generous, vivacious Pinot Noir led wines that can age. Their production is about 140,000 bottles a year

We were greeted by fifth generation winemaker Jean-Baptist Geoffroy, who lead us on tour of the family’s three-story gravity flow winery and cellar.

After the tour we tasted:

  • René Geoffroy  Expression Brut Premier Cru
  • 2007 René Geoffroy  Empreinte Brut Premier Cru
  • René Geoffroy  Rosé de Saignée Brut 1er Cru
  • René Geoffroy  Blanc de Rose Extra Brut
  • 2004 René Geoffroy  Millésimé

Geoffroy is doing my favorite was the 2007 Empreinte Brut Premier Cru. It’s a blend of 76 % pinot noir, 13%chardonnay, and 11% Pinot Meunier that were all fermented in large oak foudres.  It’s a well-balanced wine with apple, pear, and bread dough aromas, and apple, toasted almond, and mineral flavors and a long finish.  It’d be fantastic with seafood dishes!

Insiders tip: Look for the yet to be released “Houtrants” cuvée. It’s an interesting multi-vintage, field blend, old vine (minimum age of 50 years) wine cuvée composed of five of the permitted grapes (rather than the typical three) with lovely aromatics, and a rich, creamy, slightly autolytic tart apple and mineral character and a long finish.

See below for gallery of Champagne René Geoffroy visit

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Champagne Jacquesson

“Jacquesson is one of Champagne’s most venerable houses, not only predating Krug, but giving birth to it, when in 1843 Johann-Joseph Krug left Jacquesson to form his own house.  But despite more than 200 years of history, Jacquesson has become a revolutionary among Champagne’s established houses, under the leadership of brothers Laurent and Jean-Hervé Chiquet, who took over from their father in the 1980’s.

Since then, the house has adopted a herbicide-free, terroir-based philosophy. It also retired, after 150 years, its non-vintage blend and replaced it with a groundbreaking single-vintage-based cuvée, which changes yearly. And next came its terroir-based cuvées, an unprecedented move for a traditional house.” (Source)

They are based in the Dizy region of Champagne. They farm 28 hectares of grapes (10 are certified organic) located in the Grand Cru villages of AÿAvize and Oiry and in the Premier Cru villages of Dizy, Hautvillers and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ.   They currently produce about 270,000 bottle annually with approximately 15% of the fruit sourced from growers in these villages as well as the Grand Cru village of Chouilly and the Premier Cru village Cumières.  The house makes the claim it is the oldest independent Champagne house.

We were greeted by Jean-Hervé Chiquet who lead us on a tour of the winery, cellars and guided our tasting.

It was a blowout tasting!

  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 733
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 733 Dégorgement Tardif
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 736
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 737
  • Jacquesson & Fils  Cuvée No. 738
  • 2008 Jacquesson & Fils Dizy Terres Rouges Rosé
  • 2004 Jacquesson & Fils  Dizy Corne Bautray
  • 2004 Jacquesson & Fils  Brut Avize Grand Cru Champ Caïn
  • 2004 Jacquesson & Fils  Ay Vauzelle Terme
My favorite was the 2004 Ay Vauzelle Terme one of the “lieu-dit” (single-vineyard) wines.(all of which were outstanding). It’s 100% Pinot Noir sourced from 2,500 vines planted in 1980 on 0.30 hectare that grow in limestone mixed with a little clay, on chalk bedrock. Aged 8 years on lees.  It’s pale salmon color with intriguing cherry, raspberry, tangerine, roast nut, and floral aromas.  On the palate it It’s medium-bodied, and superbly balanced with a creamy mousse and great finesse. It shows cherry, strawberry and a hint of tangerine flavors and lingering, satisfying finish
After our tasting made our way to the Jacquesson dining room on the second floor of their property another fantastic meal expertly paired with more wines awaited!
Learned: “Fils” means “son’ in French, which is why you see it so often in the name of French wineries

Insiders tip: Look for the 2008 Terres Rouges Rosé.  It’s among the best rosé Champagne I’ve tasted.  It has an exotic floral, berry, pomegranate, slightly earthy character.

Notable Quote:We favor excellency over consistency” – Jean-Hervé Chiquet

See below for gallery of Champagne Jacquesson visit

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What an awesome day!  As if the continued brilliance of Louis Roederer  and the revelations of Geoffroy and Jacquesson weren’t enough. I was blown away by the superb lunch and dinner expertly paired with wonderous wines!

Stay tuned for Day 4, which featured visits to Bereche & Fils, Billecart-Salmon, and Bruno Paillard!

 

Champagne Chronicles-Day 2

I recently had the privilege of traveling to the Champagne region in France as a guest of the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip.  Here’s what the Champagne Bureau said about the trip…

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities, as well as what the region is doing to protect its name in the United States.  The week-long trip… will give you the opportunity to visit select Champagne producers – from large houses to cooperatives and small growers – and learn about the appellation as a whole…you will also experience firsthand the winemaking process, from picking and crushing grapes to exquisite Champagne pairing dinners.

This is the second in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne (Click here for Day 1)

Our itinerary for Day 2 included:

Visit to C.I.V.C.

On what was a glorious day weather-wise, first up on our itinerary was a visit with the C.I.V.C., the governing body of the Champagne region.  The purpose of the meeting was to provide an overview of the mission of the C.I.V.C., and share some specifics about the region.  The presentation by Philippe Wibrotte, Head of Public Relations was information.  A few of my takeaways were:

  • What makes Champagne unique is the combination of climate, the predominately limestone sub-soil, and topography.
  • 100% of grapes in Champagne are harvested manually
  • There are 15,000 growers in Champagne, and 5,000 of those make Champagne from their own grapes.
  • Classification of grapes in Champagne is based on villages rather than specific vineyards. There are 17 villages ranked Grand Cru, and 42 ranked Premier Cru.
  • Champagne houses(there are 320)  account for two-thirds of all Champagne shipments and represent 90% of the export market.
  • There are 34,000 hectares of vines in Champagne.  38% of those are Pinot Noir, 32% are Pinot Meunier, and 30% are Chardonnay. There is a miniscule amount of 4 other permitted grapes – Pinot Gris (sometimes known as Fromenteau), Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Arbane.
  • 98% of Champagne sold is multi-vintage (that explains why vintage tends to be more expensive)
  • 1.4 billion bottles, about 3.5 years of production are in storage.
  • The C.I.V.C. is ferocious when it come to protecting the Champagne name and image of Champagne.  In the past, the C.I.V.C. has successfully barred the use of ‘Champagne’ in toothpastes, mineral water for pets, toilet paper, underwear and shoes.
  • Champagne producers have been using lighter bottles since 2011.
  • Production in Champagne is measured in bottles, not cases as it is here in the U.S.
  • The C.I.V.C. determines the dates harvest can begin for the 350 villages in the region. As announced the day after our visit, the 3-week window for picking grapes began on September 8th.
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C.I.V.C Headquarters in Epernay, France

After the presentation there was an educational tasting lead by C.I.V.C. enologist Marie-Pascale Do Dihn Ty

See below for gallery of C.I.V.C. visit

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Lunch

We dined at the restaurant in Les Grains d’Argent, a beautiful hotel surrounded by vineyards for lunch. 

See below for gallery from lunch

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“More than any other wine, Champagne unlocks wine’s archetypal promise:joy” – Karen MacNeil

Visit to Champagne Roger Coulon

Champagne Roger Coulon is a great example of Grower Champagne.  Grower Champagne comes directly from the families who own the vineyards, and make the wine. Located in the village of Vrigny, in the Montagne de Reims region of Champagne, the Coulon family has been winegrowers since 1806.  The family has gradually increased its holdings so that there are now 11 hectares under vine, spread over 70 parcels of land in 5 villages, most of which benefit from South-east facing slopes on sand, chalk and clay. Their Premier Cru vineyards are composed of  approximately 35% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay with an average vine age of 38 years. Using only wild yeasts, they produce about 90,000 bottles per year. The Coulon’s practice of lutte raisonée (reasoned agriculture) – the minimal use of herbicides and pesticides.

When we arrived, we were greeted by Isabelle Coulon, wife and partner of Eric Coulon, an eighth generation winegrower. After introduction and brief tour, Eric took us on a vineyard tour.

After the vineyard tour we returned their family home, which includes an amazing B&B – Le Clos des Terres Soudées, before settling down for a quick tasting. We only tasted three wines because we were strapped for time.

My favorite was the Réserve de L’Hommée Cuvée which is made with family’s oldest grapes. It’s intentionally made less sparkling(4.6 atmospheres instead of the typical 6) in order to get tiny bubbles that last a long time.  An equal blend of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, it’s aged five years before disgorgement. It’s yeasty, and generous with apple, roast hazelnut, spiced orange and mineral character with a long finish. >>Find this wine<<

Learned about: Sexual confusion (er…this relates to moths, not humans) – A treatment against the grape moth, in which small packets of synthetic pheromones of female moths are distributed among the vines to confuse male moths and prevent them from mating. It’s considered a much more eco-friendly solution, albeit more expensive alternative to spraying vines with various chemical products.

Insider’s tip: Their B&B is awesome!  If I ever go back to Champagne, I know where I’m going to stay!

See below for gallery from visit to Champagne Roger Coulon

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Visit to Champagne Veuve Clicquot

When I saw a visit to Veuve Clicquot (“VC”) on our itinerary, it needed no introduction. The Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut (a.k.a. Yellow Label) seems to be the most popular Champagne sold in the U.S., and is certainly the most marketed brand of Champagne in the U.S. It’s currently the second largest house in Champagne producing about 14 million bottles a year. Approximately  20 % of their fruit comes from their own vineyards.  The other 80% is purchased from growers, with most of whom they have long-term (20-25 year) contracts.

Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron,VC has played a pivotal role in establishing Champagne as a luxury product. They are credited with many firsts including the riddling rack, and being the first Champagne house to produce rosé Champagne.

When we arrived at the Veuve Clicquot facility, we were met by their Chef de Cave (cellarmaster) Dominique Demarville, and winemaker Cyril Brun for a tour of one of their vineyards.  It’s clear that V.C. is laser-focused on working towards more natural viticulture for both estate and purchased grapes.

We must never forget that Champagne is a wine, and the quality is in the vines. – Dominque Demarville

After our vineyard tour we headed into Reims to V.C.’s private residence L’Hotel du Marc for dinner.  It’s a spectacular 19th century mansion that underwent a complete remodeling after V.C. was acquired by luxury group LVMH.

Inside the mansion, we tasted through eight still wines (vin clair in French) from various vintages that were both base and reserve wines used to make V.C Champagnes.  The wines were tart and very acidic, and I could barely discern the subtle differences the wines.  Though, the final vin clair we tasted was a multi-vintage blend with a 2013 base wine that showed the grapefruit profile I associate with the V.C. Yellow Label.  I came away from the experience with a whole new respect for the art of blending. 

Vins clairs tastings are a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of the wine before the bubbles, and to imagine their development over time; they are a unique foray into the magical kingdom of champagne. – Caroline Henry

After the vin clair tasting, we tasted four more wines including a 2003 Bouzy Rouge, an outstanding still red wine not for sale to the public, and had dinner in the magnificent dining room.

My favorite was the 2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé Vintage – It has a harmonious, refreshing, slightly savory, strawberry, raspberry, citrus and mineral character. And it paired very well with the second and third courses of our meal.

Learned about: Inspired by the discovery of 47 bottles of Veuve Clicquot from 1839 to 1841 at the bottom of the Baltic Sea in 2010, that were in great condition, VC is experimenting with a “Cellar in the Sea“.

Insider’s tip: With about two-thirds of VC Yellow Label being composed of black grapes, it’s a great example of a medium-bodied Champagne that will work well not only as an aperitif, but also with a diverse selection of main courses, especially seafood!

See below for gallery from visit to Champagne Veuve Clicquot

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After dinner we found ourselves hanging out on the patio outside the stately Hotel du Marc, and I found myself savoring what was a deeply satisfying day on all levels.  What a fantastic day!

Stay tuned!

Champagne Chronicles – Day 1

Dreams do come true. When I first got into the “wine thing”, as I call it, I dived head first into the pool of knowledge. One of my resources was Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible. And one of my favorite chapters in that tome is “Champagne“.  Ever since then, the Champagne region has been on my bucket list of wine regions to visit.

Few wines captivate us to the extent Champagne does.  But then Champagne is not simply a wine; it is also a state of mind – Karen MacNeil

Imagine my surprise (shock really…slaw-jawed, I almost fell out of my chair!) and euphoria when I received an invitation from the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip that read…

The trip to Champagne will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the production of Champagne and its unique qualities, as well as what the region is doing to protect its name in the United States.  The week-long trip is exclusively reserved for a small group of leading food and wine journalists from across the U.S., and will be scheduled for the first week of September, departing the US on August 31, and returning September 6. This trip will give you the opportunity to visit select Champagne producers – from large houses to cooperatives and small growers – and learn about the appellation as a whole. As a guest you will also experience firsthand the winemaking process, from picking and crushing grapes to exquisite Champagne pairing dinners.

This is the first in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne

After the 12 hour direct flight from San Francisco to Paris, I took the TGV (high-speed train) from Charles de Gaulle airport to Reims (click here for the tricky pronunciation).  It’s a quick 30 minute ride that gives you a taste of the bucolic French countryside with its undulating hills, farmland, crops and trees.  And to my surprise – not a vineyard in sight!

A filtered photo of the beautiful and historic Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral

A filtered photo of the beautiful and historic Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral

I arrived in Reims around 1:30 and got settled.  Our itinerary for Day 1 included a guided tour of the Reims Cathedral at 5:00p; followed by dinner.

After deciding against a nap, I decided take a walk to get acquainted with my surroundings, and see what I could see.

About Reims

Reims, the cultural capital of the Champagne region,  is a lovely town best known for its historical significance and its role in the production of Champagne.

Twenty-five French kings were crowned in its Cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims  and celebrated in the adjacent Palais de Tau. These monuments, along with the  Abbey of Saint-Remi are included as UNESCO world heritage sites. Another historical site is the Porte de Mars, which dates back the third century AD, remains as the oldest artifact of Reims from the Gallo-Roman era.

The city was heavily bombed by the Germans during World War I.  At least 70% of the city was destroyed including The Cathedral which sustained heavy damage including the roof, hundreds of sculptures and the destruction of many of the arched stained-glass windows. The centenary of the World War I is being held this year.

Some of the most famous Champagne makers maintain their headquarters in Reims, including Taittinger, G.H. Mumm, Ruinart and Veuve Clicquot.

Photos from my walk about and visit to the Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral are in the gallery that follow:

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Dinner

Dinner was at Le Millénaire, a chic first rate restaurant a short walk from the Cathedral. One of the things I most looked forward to during this trip was the chance to experience Champagne served with each course of a meal.  And my experience at Le Millenaire exceeded my expectations!

“I have yet to discover a dish that will not come alive in the presence of Champagne.” Anistatia R Miller, author of Champagne Cocktails 

Photos from my first Champagne pairing dinner!

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Wine(s) of the Day:

Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Rosé de Saignée Premier Cru.  My tasting note follows:

Vivid dark pink color with rich cherry, strawberry, damp earth and mineral aromas that bring to mind a still wine. On the palate it shows ample body with rich cherry flavors and an appealing minerality.  100% Pinot Noir.  A unique expression of Rosé Champagne that I very much enjoyed with my dessert.

Insider’s tip:

  • Reims is a great city where one can enjoy modern French culture in a sizeable city that isn’t Paris. There are plenty of things to do, and I could have easily spent an entire day exploring the city.
  • If you do plan to visit the Champagne houses in the area, plan to make your reservations many weeks in advance!

What a way to start my time in Champagne!  And it only got better…Stay tuned!

Wine of the Week; 2012 Michel Gassier Cercius Blanc

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2012 Michel Gassier Cercius Blanc.

The Winery

Michel Gassier is the fourth generation of his family to make wine.  He organically farms his 70-hectare vineyard, Château de Nage, located on the southern edge of the Rhone Valley in the Costieres de Nimes near the ancient city of Nimes.

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

They are one of the leading estate in the region, and have been one of Wine Spectator’s Top 10 French Wineries for Value every year since 2007, and nominee for the 2014 European Winery of the Year Wine Enthusiast Star Award.

The Wine

I picked up this wine from K&L Wine Merchants a couple of weeks ago.  The wine is a project of partners Michel  Gassier, Philippe Cambie and importer Eric Solomon bottled under the name Michel Gassier.

The wine is named for the legendary mistral winds of Provence  that sweep over the vines and out to the Mediterranean Sea. The Latin name for these north-northwest winds is Cercius.

It’s a blend of 70% Grenache Blanc and 30% Sauvignon Blanc from vines with an average age of 25 years.  It was aged on lees in concrete to maintain freshness.

This is the fifth (see “Related Posts” below) such custom cuvee put together for Solomon that’s been a winner in my book.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence – Solomon has a knack for wonderful every day wines that dramatically over deliver for the price.

12.5% alcohol; Retail – $12.99

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My tasting notes follow:

Straw yellow color with appealing white peach, lychee and citrus aromas. It’s between medium and full-bodied, fresh and focused with a lovely texture. It shows stone fruits, mandarin orange, lime and a bit of spice flavors underscored by an alluring minerality, and a clean lingering finish.

Rating: A-  A refreshing summer time porch pounder! It’s a stunning value at 12.99!  Will buy more! >>Find this wine<<

Pair with: Roasted paiche or monkfish, paprika grilled game hen, or goat cheeses.

Sample purchased for review

Related posts:

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.