Sunday, 28 September 2008

Epernay - Avenue de Champagne Part 1 - Comtesse Lafond

We arrived in Epernay on the train from Paris in the late evening. Followed by a quick check in to our hotel, a Kir Royal and dinner.

Saturday morning greeted us with blue skies and sunshine. After a hearty breakfast of hot chocolate and pain au chocolate we headed for the Avenue de Champagne.

The fine houses if Pol Roger, Mercier, Moet & Chandon and Perrier-Jouet line this elegant avenue. Walking, chatting and enjoying ths sunshine we admire the architecture that surrounds us. Eventually we reach the round about the depicts the end and the pavement disappears. The last house we see has the sign Comtesse Lafond. The building is impressive with grand turrets at one end. A small discreet sign points us in the direction of the "boutique."

Inside the 2 tasting tables are occupied, we peruse the surrounding shelves in delightful surroundings. We are approached by a very smart young man who takes through a description of each of the champagnes on offer and leads us upstairs for our tasting. The ceiling is cream with sturdy wooden beams arching across. It's quiet with a n occasional burst of noise from a song bird.
Tasting 1
Extra Brut (NV) 12.5% (Pinot Noir 60% and Chardonnay 40%)
To look at - it's crystal clear with lots of lovely fine bubbles, light straw yellow.
On the nose - elegant and fresh, aromatic fresh white fruits - peaches and melon with a hint of citrus.
To taste - dry, with a great fizz on the tongue that lasts, the freshness is delicate and it has a well balanced finish
All in all a lovely fresh experience.
Tasting 2
Brut (NV) (40% Chardonnay, Pinot Noir 40%, Pinot Meunier 10% and wines in reserve from the previous 2 harvest 10%)
To look at - deeper yellow but still quite a pale gold. Bubbles seem smaller and linger for longer.
On the nose - more toasty, buttery, nutty with a yeasty touch. It's just as fresh with underlying citrus fruits
To taste - again a fresh tasting fizz, it's more rounded and fuller than the extra brut almost creamy and the fruit is riper to taste than on the nose. It has a grand finish.
Tasting 3
Rose Brut (maceration of Pinot Noir, mixed with wine created from 20% Chardonnay)
To look at - lovely fresh salmon pink, fewer bubbles.
On the nose - sweet fresh red fruits, strawberries & raspberries
To taste - fruit flavours continue on the palate but takes on hints of fresh black fruits too
Tasting 4
Brut Vintage 1998 - (60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay with a weak dosage of liqueur)
Just released after 10 years of cellaring.
To look at, pale gold/green with few, fast moving bubbles.
On the nose - caramel, butter, popcorn, toast, lemons, peaches and apricots all fighting for attention
To taste - Nice initial gentle fizz and a balanced sweet taste at first followed by dried fruits. It's smooth and elegant.
I know, I know! I loved them all. For an every day, friendly summer wine, the Rose is perfect. For something a little more interesting and perhaps for a special occasion the vintage is just great.
The bad news is that they only have an importer in Dublin. You can order direct but the minimum order is 36 bottles - maybe not such a bad thing............

Chateau Laville - Sauternes 2003

I received this as a gift some time ago and have been waiting for the right opportunity to open it. Such an occasion occurred when friends J&J came over for dinner. A rather fine mackerel pate, followed by a sea food paella was nicely finished off with french style home made tarts (purchased from Clarks in Bruntsfield).
Sweet pastry, sweet apple and a coating of syrup was crying out to be accompanied by the Sauternes.

It's clear and sharp, a deep golden colour with tears that cling to the sides of the glass.

On the nose, a clean pronounced aroma, fully developed of cinnamon, honey, lychee, apricots and raisins.

It has a luscious feel and the palate fills with honey, nutmeg and stewed apricots.

"It's like drinking apricot juice but boozy with honey" commented J1

A delightful match and delightful end to the meal.

The Shore - Edinburgh

After a 17 mile cycle ride we felt a little treat seemed in order. So we decide to venture across the city to Leith and to The Shore ( A delightful little restaurant/bar in the heart of this bustling area.
The evening felt strangely warm, probably due to the rather atrocious summer we have experienced this year. There were many people sitting outside and taking a stroll along the cobbled streets of the shore.
The dark wood panelling and soft lighting of the small bar area has a welcoming atmosphere. We choose a table for two set against the mirrored back wall that provides deceptive size to this small area. The dark wood panelling extends ornately around the bar area providing an interesting back drop to the rows of wine bottles. The same menu as the restaurant is available (the restaurant is fully booked) and offers a range of good home cooked food.
I peruse the wine list looking for something light, simple and refreshing on a warm evening.

Castelle Boglione - Pinot Grigio 2007 £14.99
Provincia di Pavia
Lombardy is situated in north central Italy. I've tasted sparkling wines from this area (mostly pleasing) but never a pinot grigio.
To look at - it's hard to say in the subdued lighting
On the nose - floral, elderflower, ripe pears
To taste - Citrus, lemon but savoury too.
It's a simple wine with soft flavours and a medium length. It goes well with my risotto.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Arno's Champagne Tasting - It's a blinder!

My Aussie mate and I are off to Epernay next month so we felt it only fitting to find out a little bit more about the sparkly wonder....Champagne. Who better than to guide us through the basics than the amazing Arno.

From an underground room in the heart of Edinburgh Arno explains the complexities of fermenting, blending and time it takes to produce a fine vintage and the short sharp creation of a sparkling wine. The background over, we move on to the challenge of the evening.

Arno presented Group A, only described as Wine 1 and Wine 2:

Wine 1
To look at: Very pale salmon pink, the mousse dissipates quickly, leaving large bubbles.
On the nose: Fruity, fresh raspberries and strawberries.
To taste: Dry, with balanced acidity, it's light, the strawberry features too. Not great length.
It's a pretty good, fresh tasting wine.
Wine 2
To look at: Pale again but with a coppery tinge. The bubbles are smaller, the mousse stays a little longer than wine 1.
On the nose: Less fruity, crisp apples and toast.
To taste: Very dry, higher acidity, astringent with bursts of crisp apples.

After much deliberation the majority of the group decided that wine 2 was the champagne and they were correct, a wine from Henriot 2002 (£38). Wine 1 being a prosecco from the Veneto region of Italy. Both wines having a time and a place to be enjoyed.

Arno now presents Group B:

Wine 1
To look at: Bright pale golden straw, a few small slow moving bubbles.
On the nose: Buttery toast, yeast and caramel. Hints of honeysuckle and apples.
To taste: Very dry with a burst of fizz. It feels light and elegant coating the palate with crisp apples and butterscotch. It has amazing length.
Wine 2
To look at: It's paler than wine 1 and has small bubbles and lots of them.
On the nose: Not as strong on the nose, grassy, spicy and lemony.
To taste: Burst of bubbles that quickly fade. A slight sweet but bitter after taste, medium length.

We all picked wine 1 to be the champagne, another success for us! Wine 1 being a non vintage Krug (£129) and wine 2, a 2002 vintage from Chapel Down in Kent. With the same soil as Champagne country the Kent area is getting some recognition for it's sparkling wine although personally I'm not sure I 'd choose this one off the shelf.

Onto Group C

Wine 1
To look at: Pale golden straw yellow with a hint of green, a few small bubbles.
On the nose: Quite green/grassy, butterscotch, spicy and smokey. But all aromas quite faint.
To taste: Dry and savoury. Flat, the bubbles don't last. Has a slight metallic/sulphur taste.

Wine 2
To look at: Similar colour, small fast moving bubbles.
On the nose: Delightful on the nose, elegant orangy, lime and vanilla.
To taste: Dry with balanced acidity. But buttery and astringent too. Fizz is long as is the length.

I think this was a pretty obvious one. Wine 1 was Cremant de Limoux, Toques Clochers (£13.99). Wine 2 Champagne from Taittenger (£31.99), a really nice wine for the price.

And finally, Group D
Wine 1
To look at: Very pale, hint of green, lots of small bubbles.
On the nose: Gooseberries, apples and honeysuckle.
To taste: Dry, crisp apples with a sweet finish. Bubbles don't last.
Wine 2
To look at: Golden yellow, few bubbles that don't last.
On the nose: Honey, kerosene, savoury, a bit like sherry almost medicinal.
To taste: Dry, you feel the sparkle on the palate. It's full bodied and has a nutmeg/honey long finish.

Wine 1 was a little disappointing although drunk independently without a Champagne comparison and with a nice piece of fish who knows? It's a Reme More, Creme d'Alsace, it's a Pinot Blanc, a grape that is never going to dazzle. Wine 2 is a 1993 vintage La Grande Dame from Veuve Clicquot (£109). It's the oldest champagne I have tasted and I like how it as developed into a more vivacious, full bodied wine, a real treat.

My favourite? Based on value for money and enjoyment I would choose the Taittenger .

All in all a fun evening with the opportunity to try some great wine and learn a little too.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Thank you British Airways

After a rather disastrous journey with British Airways I have received a selection of 3 wines by way of an apology. I'll add them to the cellar and let you know when the cork is popped (or screw cap twisted).
Rosemount - Chardonnay 2006 (Australia)
Ses'fikile Matriarch - Shiraz 2004 (South Africa)
Santa Rita Reserva - Merlot 2005 (Valle del Maipo - Chile)

Le Di Vin, Edinburgh

We moved to Edinburgh a couple of years ago during the height of the festival. On our walk home we would often pop in to La P'tite Folie for a last glass of wine, a delightful French restaurant upstairs and a haven amongst the madness downstairs. We moved across the city and I haven't had chance to drop in for some time. However last weekend my Aussie mate an I were in the area and so I suggested dropping in for a night cap.
I was expecting to arrive at the little bar but was some what surprised. The small bar is still there and has a 'restaurant' sign on the door. But to the left is the new wine bar Le Di-Vin. Housed in the Tudor building and next door the La P'tite Folie on Randolph Place.
I returned to Le Di Vin on the following Tuesday for a glass of wine after work, this time accompanied by Monsieur and Vin the Man.
It looks new and feels new but at the same time the large glass windows in the ceiling retain the history of this impressive building (formerly a chapel). The decor is tasteful and the bar impressive. There's a ground floor area and a mezzanine balcony from where you have an open view of the fantastic large bar area below. From the mezzanine you can glimpse the rotunda of one of the buildings that edge Charlotte Square.
Now to the wine-list. It's extensive with a good representation of wine from across the globe. There are a few familiar names along with numerous new ones to discover. The list is well presented and organised with lots of great wines available not only by the bottle but by the glass too.

First try:
Cooper's Creek, Marlborough NZ 2006 - I was feeling nostalgic, we spend 18 months leaving in Wellington, I'd received a text from a friend there the day before about how much he missed us. It's a light pinot, some black fruits but not intense, the savoury notes feel stronger on the nose and the palate. 2006 was the year we left and NZ and if my memory serves me right it wasn't a great summer, which probably explains this. It's not the best NZ pinot I've ever had but it holds it's own and takes me back to Wellington, a good start.

We order a mixed plate of cheese and dried meats. There's lots of choice, the salami is outstanding. There's a hard cheese (sorry don't know the name) which is just lovely. This came with a basket of bread too, all was fresh and well presented.

Round two:
Cote de Beaune, Domaine Jessiaume, 2006
I'm sticking to the pinot for a bit of comparison. This one is fruitier than the NZ and works perfectly with the cheeses on offer. The acidity was quite high but with the food that's no problem. I enjoy this little number.

The boys opt for something different:
Marques de Riscal - Rioja at £15.50 a bottle it's a really reasonable price for a great wine. The tempranillo grapes show their true character, it's earthy, mushroomy with dark fruits such a plums and blackberries. The tannins are smooth and balance is good, the flavours lingering on my tongue for some time.

Le Di-Vin is a great place and I'm looking forward to working my way through the fantastic wine list.

Top marks!

Only one suggestion from Monsieur Vin, a couple of comfy sofa's would be divine, although I don't think we would ever leave if this were the case...........

Sunday, 15 June 2008

A few recommendations

I've spent the last few months getting back to the appreciation of wine rather than the analysis, here are a few recommendations from my endeavours:

Luis Cavas, Reserva Fauilia, 2001, Rioja (Alavesa) - had this little number whilst having dinner at Oloroso, Edinburgh. The sommelier was very knowledgeable and helped with my choice. No notes as such just a great match to my ostrich, smooth, fresh and fruity.

Senorio De Cruces, Albarino (Spanish white) - Picking a Spanish white in a french restaurant probably isn't the done thing but Monsieur Vin had never tried this grape and I new he would like it. Mouton Noir is a relatively new French establishment recently opened in the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh. An easy drinking white, but a bad match for my rich french main course, great wine, wrong food match. Would be lovely with Paella.

Cooper Hill, Pinot Noir, Oregon, USA - believe it or not I had this wine on the in the Oregon Bar and Grill on the 42nd floor of the Detsu building in Tokyo with spaghetti in a tomato sauce with King Crab. Divine, light fresh and a great price this organic little number was a great accompaniment to the food, the view and the company.

Burgundy Wine Tasting - Arno's Wine Club - Edinburgh

Arno is a man who clearly knows his stuff when it comes to French wine. It's the first tasting session I have been to in Edinburgh that isn't interested in what you purchase but aims to provide you with information about the area the wine comes from (in form of OHP ), a bit of history, terroir and the grapes.
I have my Aussie mate in tow who admits she knows nothing about French wine but is a prolific drinker of Aussie wine and dabbles a little with the odd Italian. She discovers all the reds will be Pinot Noir and all the whites will be Chardonnay as this is a Burgundy wine tasting, a strange concept for an Australian.

I relish the opportunity to try £70 bottle of Burgundy and hope I am not disappointed.

The wines we tried:
The Whites
Domaine Bouchard 2004 Prem Cru £23.95
Puligny Montrachet, Domaine des Lambrays 2005 Prem Cru £52.00
Meusault-Charmes 2001 Prem Cru £70.00

The Reds
Macon Louis Latour 2005
Lavigny Les Beaune 2005 £20
Domaine Faiveley, Clos des Cortons, Grand Cru , 2000 £80

Apologies if these names aren't quite correct, but all the wines were delightful and my notes leave a lot to be desired.

The whites provide various levels of lovely toast and vanilla but it has to be said the Meusault-Charmes had an excellent balance and good length. The cheaper ones are sharper and less smooth but have great qualities at a more reasonable price. My fellow tasters were certainly from the more affluent areas of Edinburgh and it is certainly the first time I have heard the suggestion for a food match "Oh I think this wine would go beautifully with foire grois, what"

The reds are good too, lots of earthy mushroomy aromas to fill the nostrils. The grand cru is a complex mix of all things pinot, but £80? I'm not sure.

If I had to pick a favourite it would be the Domaine des Lambrays 2005 Prem Cru

All in all a fantastic evening and some great discoveries including where the Edinburgh hoy poloy hang out of an evening.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Te Mata Woodthorpe Estate (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand) from the archives

In the early hours of East Monday morning I had a call from a friend in New Zealand. It's summer there and although Wellington is never baking hot, it's certainly warmer than the UK just now. This took me back to the time Monsieur Vin and I talk a road trip from the top to bottom of the land of the long white cloud, before settling in Wellington. One of our stops was in Napier on the east coast and we took the opportunity to investigate what was on offer at the local vineyards. We had some delightful wines, one of which I thoroughly enjoyed and have since found for sale in Edinburgh!
The Te Mata estate is one of the oldest, if not the oldest in NZ and dates back to the 1890's. Just to the west of Napier along the Tutaekuri river is the Woodthorpe vineyard. We had the 2004 vintage and as I look back at my notes I described it as:

Deep crimson colour. Red berry fruits, fresh gentle aromas. Peppery spices to both aroma and taste. Smooth balanced fine tannins.

The splash of viognier with the spicy syrah is a traditional wine making technique in France’s Rhône Valley. I think the combination really works and unlike some NZ wines this wine develops over time and benefits from being left in the bottle 2-4 years after harvest.

It's a great wine - if you can find it, give it a go.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Casillero del Diablo - 2006 Carmenere

Watch this space.......

Wine Man Insures His Nose

There are few wine news stories that I share on this page but there's been one this week that I feel deserves a mention.

Ilja Gort is the Dutch owner of the Bordeaux vineyard Chateau de la Garde has insured his nose against loss of the item and against losing his sense of smell. A policy that is worth nearly £4 million. He took out the policy after hearing about a man who lost his sense of smell in a car accident. The insurance contract includes a list of what Gort considers "old-fashioned rules" to protect his nose. The Dutchman is not allowed to ride a motorcycle or be a boxer, knife thrower's assistant or a fire-breather.

After doing a bit more research I discovered he wasn't the first to do this.

In 2003, the supermarket chain Somerfield insured the tongue and tastebuds of its senior wine buyer, Angela Mount, for a £10m, arguing that the skills of her "olfactory system" were responsible for greatly increasing its wine sales. Lloyd's also insures the taste buds of restaurateur Egon Ronay and the nostrils of perfume specialists.

I'd love to know the annual cost of such a policy...........

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Chateau la Noe - Muscadet sur lie - 2006

Scotland beat England yesterday in the Six Nations. We stayed at home to watch the game, glad we did now!

I've been hearing on the news all weekend that the worst storm of the winter is heading towards the UK. Fortunately and unusually the worst affected areas are going to be in the south not the north.

I had a text from a friend. A man disaster looms, I feel for her and the run of bad luck she has been suffering for the last few months. Things can only get better for her.

So, I raise my glass to her, may happier times be on the horizon.

The wine shimmers in the vivid spot lights of the kitchen. Sometimes it appears a deep yellow, other times it seems transparent.
The grassy aromas of a Loire Valley (cool climate) wine hits my nostrils. But I can also sense floral undertones, they're subtle but definitely there.
It's sharp, dry and tart on my tongue. It's viscous with body, lemony and herby. It coats my mouth with a mixture of savoury and citrus is full and satisfying.

Muscadet's are a non-complicated, dry wine. For a Sunday night's quaffing, it's perfect.

This wine is available from Nicolas for £6.25

Baron de Hoen - Reisling Burgreben

I'm watching last week's Torchwood and need something to calm my nerves as death stalks the corridors of a hospital. My legs ache after a workout at the gym earlier this evening.
Winter is back with a vengeance, a sprinkling of snow on the hills I can see from the office window. It's been a long and decidedly stressful day. Too much work, not enough time.......

Anyway, back to business. I've opened a bottle of Vin d'alsace riesling from the cellar.

It's golden straw in colour, a rich sunshine yellow. It's strong on the nose with tropical fruits, lychee's and honeysuckle.

I take a sip, sucking in air to release the flavours, they burst on to my tongue, nectar and grapefruits. Acidity is high as it slides down my throat. It has great length that leaves a lingering citrussy coating on the tongue.

After a few sips I melt in to the sofa and let my aches, pains and stresses of the day melt away.

Available from Nicolas, £9.25