by Paige Donner Sure, many of them are organic, some are even natural wine. And yes, they consistently offer rich tastes and aromas, balanced with nice acidity where they’re supposed to be. And, OK, the packaging is attractive, easy to … Continue reading
Author’s note: as a stunning example of the cultural communications chasm that still exists between France and the rest of the culinary world, imagine standing in a room of food and wine journalists at a chef’s book award event in France and having everyone swear to you that they’ve never heard of Zagat’s! No kidding. Continue reading
« Do bubbles have a flavor ? Better to ask whether angels are male or female ? » – Pierre Casamayor, L’Ecole de Degustation by Paige Donner The historical regions in France that have produced effervescent wines for … Continue reading
Announcement from Gerard Bertrand, CHATEAU L’HOSPITALET
We have the pleasure to announce you that Gérard Bertrand has been awarded on Tuesday “Red Winemaker of the Year” by the International Wine Challenge after winning 46 awards and three trophies for its wines.
With 10,000 wines from around the world tasted by the jury of experts the International Wine Challenge is one of the most prestigious wine competitions in the world.
We are really honored to dedicate this Trophy to you (Gérard Bertrand is at 5’20”).
[From Bourgogne Newsletter]
BURGUNDY WINE SCHOOL
BURGUNDY WINE SCHOOL
For full details see ecoledesvins-bourgogne.comThe Wine School’s programme
The Burgundy Wine School has launched its 2012 programme. This year is likely to be a full one, as it includes three new features: sessions on food and wine pairing with Burgundy wines; sessions in English in September and October and the organisation of a 3-day programme (in English) as part of the Hospices de Beaune wine auction.
These new offerings will be added to the rich catalogue of around sixty training courses aimed at the general public, not to mention the “Coaching” and “Tailor-made services” (from 3 hours to several days) set up by the School.
The Wine School also manages the Aroma Cellars, with around fifty exhibitions per year. In 2011, 2,550 people attended training courses at the Burgundy Wine School and gave it an average score of 17.6 out of 20.
All photos by Paige Donner c. 2011.
The Gérard Bertrand annual Jazz Fest took place August 4th – 8th this summer at Château l’Hospitalet just outside Narbonne. These photos are taken at Château l’Hospitalet in Languedoc-Roussillon, “Sud de France.”
To read more about Gérard Bertrand wines, his annual summer Jazz Fest and his L’Art de Vivre Les Vins Du Sud, click on Gerard-Bertrand.com.
by Paige Donner
As wine bars in Paris go, this is both authentic and on the beaten path. For years, whenever you’d search out wine bars and Paris, it is this one that would come up. It is nestled right next to the famous (and super cheap!) Marché d’Aligre.
Which is a good thing. Because after – or before – you buy your fresh cheeses, your ripe fruits, and your roasted chicken, you can buy your wine by the liter and enjoy a glass of it while doing so. And yes, you buy your liter of wine straight from the barrel.
Le Baron Rouge. It’s a bit on the beaten track but every bit worthy of a drop-in. Plus, what better way to start off a Sunday morning but with a glass of good, country, French wine?
By Paige Donner Read Complete Article on Black Book Magazine A biannual affair, France’s monumental, just-wrapped Vinexpo Bordeaux has, once again, firmly established itself as the world’s leading exhibition for the wine industry. A few numbers: there were approximately 50,000 … Continue reading
By Paige Donner
Small plates are a Spanish thing. They’re known as Tapas and they’re a great way to share a meal with friends. It’s also a great way to do wine tastings when you can share the bottles with a group or taste by the glass.
French “small plates” dining wasn’t heard of in Paris until L’Avant Comptoir opened its doors next to Le Comptoir du Relais, a restaurant that boasts a 6-month waiting list for reservations. But no reservations are needed here at L’Avant Comptoir. It’s the place to come before lunch or dinner to get an “appetizer.”
Hors d’oeuvres, however, is not what I would call these small plates. Out of respect for Chef and Proprietor Yves Camdeborde, I won’t call them French Tapas but I do think of them that way.
When I’m in Paris on assignment, there’s often no time to sit down to a meal. So I’ve gotten into the habit of popping into the closet-sized, standing-room-only boudoir of a Basque-and Bearnais -inspired deliciousness where I can eat a couple plates like seared fois gras on a skewer, a wooden cutting board covered with amazing Carpaccio de Boeuf, wash it all down with a glass of Saint Chinian – or whatever the chef recommends to me that day – and am out the door in under 10 Euro and less than 20 minutes. (I even ate Boudin there once – and liked it!)
Of course, when I had a friend visiting recently, a pal who can’t pronounce Si’il Vous Plait to save his life but knows good food and has the charm to get what he wants, always, I had to drag him there. Compared to several sit-down, expensive meals, after an evening spent eating at L’Avant Comptoir, squashed between the elbows of our fellow gourmands-on-a-budget and up against the long pewter counter laden with fresh bread and the best butter in Paris, my Food Dude buddy couldn’t stop raving. We would have been back there for lunch and dinner and snacks every day if he had had his way. Every day!
The great thing, too, for Non-French speakers is that there are pictures of all the small plates hanging right above your head, in addition to the day’s specials, that you can mutely point to and you’re still sure to get what you want.
A Franco-American we chatted up there one evening confessed that L’Avant Comptoir is his favorite place in Paris because it’s the only place, he said, where people will talk to you openly and unreservedly.
This place just plain rocks. Once you go there, you will keep coming back AND it will always be on your Top 5 Paris Picks. Bon appetit!
L’Avant Comptoir, 9 carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006, Paris; 011-33-8-2610-1087. No reservations. Open daily.
BORDEAUX VINEXPO FROM 19 TO 23 JUNE 2011 Champagne Louis Roederer, Concha y Toro and Baron Philippe de Rothschild are among just some of the world-class wines that will be represented at this year’s Vinexpo, Bordeaux. Alongside these major groups, large numbers of vigorous … Continue reading
By Paige Donner
La Revue du Vin de France held its wine salon this past weekend in Paris at the “ancien Bourse” which is the old stock exchange of Paris. As you can see here, it’s a beautiful building. It’s spacious and airy and the perfect place for wine tasting on a sunny Spring Sunday afternoon in May.
Honestly, if I have one recommendation to make to visitors to France, it’s that you really must coordinate your travels with these wine salons. For a few Euro, you get to not only see the interior of a national monument, you get to drink and taste your way through the wines of France.
So many wonderful wines. It will take the rest of the month to wade through all my tasting notes.
And the crowd was super friendly. Maybe it’s the sunny weather in Paris in Spring or perhaps it’s simply that good French wine brings out that “conviviality” that the French speak so glowingly of when discussing their wines. Whatever it was, the LRVF crowd was super friendly, very forthcoming with anecdotes about the wines they were pouring and the wines they were tasting and just plain, well, welcoming.
If there is only one little note I might give it’s that the Spanish wines were much too hard to find. Certainly, once I found my way upstairs, I loved the private room where the Spanish winemakers had stashed themselves, with the old stock exchange board that featured handwritten company signage such as Printemps and Paribas on it… But they were much too isolated up there. Since it’s the first time the salon has welcomed foreign wines amongst its midst in its 5 year history, perhaps affording them more accessibility would be a gesture of convivial diplomacy.
By the time I left, it was with a full glass of Spanish red liqueur wine. So sweet and rich and nothing like “ice wine.” I’ll definitely have some words to share about that and about the Priorat wines I discovered at the Paris Stock Exchange.
By Paige Donner
For the first time this year Independent Wineries all across France will throw open their doors and uncork their bottles to welcome visitors and oenophiles to their wineries for two days of Picknicking in the vineyards.
June 12 and 13, a holiday weekend in France, has been designated the days of Pique-nique by the French Vignerons Independant association. Already a remarkably successful yearly event in Alsace, where it has been drawing 10,000 picnicking participants during the designated weekend for the past 17 years, this year the Association is taking it nationwide.
Participating regions include Champagne, Provence, Bordeaux and everywhere inbetween – a grand total of 550 wineries, 12000 hectares and 31 counties in France are participating.
Why this is a bonanza for amateurs and oenotourists? For one, the wine will be “offered” for your picnic meal and many of the wineries even greet their guests with a glass of champagne or other aperitif such as Muscat (“offered” in French means free).
The real value, however, is in the fact that the winemakers and winery owners have set these two days aside to welcome people from all walks and levels of knowledge, degrees of enthusiasm into their world of wine. This includes winery tours, vineyard walks, in-depth tastings, explanations of what it is to be a winemaker or run a vineyard and more. The doors of the vineyards will be swung wide open, literally and figuratively, to all who wish to stop by on June 12 and June 13, 2011.
You bring your own picnic lunch, of course!
It’s also suggested to bring a dessert that you can share, if you wish, with the other gathered guests and families who have chosen that winery to spend their pique-nique at that day. As you wish…
As Jacques Legros, of French main television channel TF1 explained at the recent press conference, Wine is like a treasure. It is at the heart of French culture. We are very proud for people to discover our wines.
The website devoted particularly to this event is easy to navigate and when you hover over the numbered indications on the map, all the contact info of the wineries pops up. Check it out here: http://pique-nique.vigneron-independant.com.
The winner of the Bocuse d’Or 2011 is Rasmus KOFOED – Denmark
Read More on Local Food And Wine
(23-24 January 2011) Lyon, France Rasmus KOFOED, representing DENMARK, has won the Bocuse d’Or 2011 trophy and €20,000 in prize money.
Second place, Bocuse d’Argent : Tommy MYLLYMÄKI, representing SWEDEN, won the Silver Bocuse trophy 2011 and €15,000 in prize money.
Third place, Bocuse de Bronze : Gunnar HVARNES, representing NORWAY, won the Bronze Bocuse trophy 2011 and €10,000 in prize money.
Several special prizes were also awarded: – Prize for the ‘Best Commis’, awarded by the Bocuse d’Or Winner’s Academy: Kinari KOYAMA, Commis to Tatsuo NAKASU, JAPAN – Special ‘Fish’ prize: Franck GIOVANNINI, SWITZERLAND – Special ‘Meat’ prize: Jérôme JAEGLE, FRANCE – Prize for the best promotional campaign: GUATEMALA – Prize for the best Poster, as selected by visitors via the internet website:
SPAIN As part of the Sirha 2011 trade exhibition, performing in dedicated contest kitchens facing the public at the heart of the brand new Paul Bocuse hall, 24 chefs from all regions of the planet took up a major challenge: that of preparing within 5.35 hours, during an extraordinary show, two perfect dishes using the official products of the Bocuse d’Or 2011: Scottish lamb for the meat dish and Monkfish, Crab and Scottish Langoustine for the fish dish.
All Photos Courtesy of Francis Mainard/ Bocuse d’Or/ Sirha.
To judge the 24 candidates, the jury was composed of 24 influential chefs who are emblematic of each country represented, under the aegis of 3 exceptional presidents: Paul Bocuse, President Founder, Yannick Alleno, Honorary President (3* Chef at the Meurice, Silver Bocuse 1999) and Geir Skeie, President of the International Jury (Bocuse d’Or 2009)
by Paige Donner
The cutest, funnest, hippest cooking class in Paris is not easy to get into. Not easy at all. Which runs directly contrary to the vibe once you’re in. Amongst a citizenry that takes its food seriously (UNESCO! cultural heritage designation!) cooking classes among youngfolk have become the thing to do.
It’s almost replaced hanging out at cafes and smoking cigarettes all afternoon discussing the tortures of romantic love as the thing to do when you’re young, single (or in a couple) and looking for some social activity. Well, scratch that. It has replaced it.
There are increasingly more chef “ateliers” springing up and those that have always been around and are now being rediscovered. What the French have found is that a cooking class is 1) Fun 2) a great ice-breaker 3) a level playing field 4) a learning experience and 5) a great way to enjoy a meal or a dessert.
The Super Hip “concept” store, Colette, which is located at 213 rue St. Honoré is the location for Cooklette. The store has such a following that the cutest boys in Paris hang outside of it 5 minutes after closing pleading with the bouncer/doorman to let them in for just another 10 minutes so they can find a last-minute gift for their girlfriends. The 7 ft. tall bouncers invariably say, “No.” Explanation is that it happens every day. But that’s what Colette has become: The trendy Parisian club of concept stores.
Downstairs, in the Water Bar, on the first Friday evening each month, they stage “Cooklette” which is their free cooking class. How do you get in? You have to be one of the first twelve to sign up on their website as soon as they announce the date in their newsletter.
January’s class was devoted to making Galette des Rois. These are the flat round tarts filled with almond paste that the French eat for the New Year. Custom has it that the cake must be cut into as many parts as there are people present, plus one.
It is also always baked with a tiny feve which is a small porcelain figurine or button that designates the recipient the “King” or “Queen”for a day. Another custom, which Cooklette faithfully practiced, is that the youngest in the group sits under the table and chooses who gets the pieces of cake and when. This is so that the person who cooked the cake can’t choose who gets the feve. Égalité, Fraternité, Degousté!
The La Galette Colette class was taught by Catherine Kluger who is famous among Parisian gourmands for her Tartes. Her Tartes Klugerare at 6 rue du Forez in the 3rd. She does sweet and savory tartes: Zuchini, Tomato, Mozzarella; Ham, Parmesan, a touch of Bechamel with some Bacon Crispies on top. Sweet tartes include: Tarte au Cafe’ with grains of coffee and chocolate; Tarte a La Mousse au Chocolat Noire; Rhubarb and Milky Rice.
A very self-effacing chef, Catherine approached the class as if she were teaching a group of friends in her own kitchen. She used her own recipe which rendered a simple but flavorful frangipane galette that was moist, flavorful and flaky.
According to Anais Sidali, Cooklette is just something that Colette does because they want to offer a fun activity for their customers to participate in. The downstairs Water Bar is an ideal location. They just pushed some of the center tables together and Voila’ we had a cooking atelier. Diners were welcomed to stay and observe at the booths that hug the walls of the 20-cover or so blue and white simple diner. A Marseille-based blogger, So Food So Good, did just that
To my left was Stephane Bureaux, the author of Design Culinaire, a book full of fantastic photos and food ideas. Colette sells the book and still has a few copies left. You can’t miss it: It has a carrot and a fork on its cover. As far as culinary concepts go, Design Culinaire is to food what haute couture is to fashion.
To my right were a couple of young ladies who had, after three attempts, finally gotten lucky enough to get the reservation for the course. According to Sidali, they don’t take reservations months in advance, just the first ones to sign up that month get to come. It attracts the most passionate foodistas: The girls were raving about their intended brunch that Sunday at Chloe S.
Our advice: Subscribe to the Colette Newsletter; Sign up for Cooklette the second it’s announced; Get Ready for some Culinary Fun ‘cuz it’s a nice cooking class if you can get it.
by Paige Donner
“La Garde Robe,” is a closet. Which is about the size of this snuggly little wine bar just off the rue de Rivoli, a hop and a skip from the Louvre.
Wandering in late one night after a meal with friends, there were just enough stools at the bar to accommodate the few of us. The high tables and the low tables towards the back, were all full of revelers who had the appearance of having spent the entire night at the comfy little “closet” swilling vins naturel and chomping on made-to-order plates of cheeses and thinly sliced meats.
La Garde Robe ha a loyal following and locals will name it as one of Paris’s top wine bars. You can get a good glass of red for anywhere between Euro 3,50 and 7,00. Come with a sense of adventure, ready to try something you haven’t before. It might be within a recognizable apellation, but likely you’ll find producers you haven’t yet tried.
Or just come for the ambiance. It’s one of those exquisite central Paris hole-in-the-wall wine bars that you’d never know was there until you purposefully set out to look for it. And on these cold winter evenings when a lighted window friendly beckons you to come in from the cold, well, if there’s still room for you to squeeze inside, you’ll be glad you did especially once you’ve tried a few things you may not have before. This is Paris, after all! You can also buy your bottles to go.
La Garde Robe, 41, rue de l’Arbre-Sec (rue de Rivoli) 75001
By Paige Donner
There are 6360 restaurants in Paris. But there is only one that lays claim to the throne of the Trocadéro. There, seated at the right hand of arguably the most recognizable monument in the world, is the Café de l’Homme.
It would be easy to choose to stop in at the Cafe to warm up or cool down, depending on the season, after a session of sightseeing. But it’s not really that kind of cafe. Indeed, it’s not at all a cafe, not even in the French “brasserie” sort of way. It’s a full-on restaurant.
Just slightly at arm’s length, despite its famous address, it is a restaurant that is easily overlooked. You reach the Café de l’Homme by entering through the same monumentally sized doors as you do for the Musée de l’Homme. This is probably why it took me a bit of time to brave the experience.
But once inside, I realized that the Cafe’ is completely independent from the Museum and neither are places that are even remotely intimidating. The Café de l’Homme’s actual entrance is shielded by a floor length dark olive velvet curtain that the Butler/Coat Checker and the Maitre d’ keep firmly shut to keep in the warmth.
Once through the olive emerald veil, the red warmth with tones of leather couches and sparkling wine glasses, greets you. That’s if you can peel your eyes away from the straight-shot view of the Eiffel Tower.
It would be lovely to be able to order a drink at the bar as you await your dinner mates, but, alas, the Maitre d’ will fussily try to seat you straightaway or usher you back outside into the cold hallway to wait. Not exactly overabundant in the art of graciousness. There is a couch-loungey seated area off to the far left of the dining room where you can share drinks with friends. It seats one group. Only.
All snootiness is forgotten however once your meal is served. Appetizers include choices of Riquette salad with parmesan shavings and pine nut kernels; Tuna belly with Basque Country lettuce hearts; and even King Crab salad.
For the main dish the Grilled Iberico Pluma (pig) marinated in ginger is tender, sweet and spicy; the roast French Rack of Lamb with Terragon sauce is a classic; and if you want steak, they serve a 200 gr. Fillet. It’s not cheap: the main courses start at 23 Euros, and quickly average at around 32 Euros.
Remember, you are paying for the view. When you think about it, those across the river who are dining at Jules Verne and looking down at you don’t even have the view that you do. And you didn’t even have to take an elevator to get where you are.
Reservations are definitely recommended. The dining room might have some empty seats at 7:30 but by 8:00 they will all be filled. Leave room for dessert. They do the chocolate molten cake pretty well, but their Strawberry soup with Sichuan pepper and organic vanilla cream is interesting enough of a blend of flavors to have to try. They also serve a satisfying plate of A.O.C. cheeses.
Café de l’Homme. Come for the view. Stay for the food!
Restaurant Café de l’Homme – 17 Place du Trocadéro, Musée de l’Homme – Paris XVIe – Tel : +00 33 (0)1 44 05 30 15
By Paige Donner
On a recent weekend in Paris, I found myself underneath the glass pyramid of the Louvre, in the grand marble Agora Exhibit Hall, spitting out champagne. And not just any champagne, the best champagne in the world: Louis Roederer, Bollinger, Veuve Fourny et Fils, Piper Heidsieck, Perrier- Jouët, G. H. Mumm, Nicolas Feuillatte, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Moët et Chandon…When Moët poured me their 1975 Reserve Vintage, that’s when I started drinking. It would have been a sacrilege to spit that out.
If there is a metaphor for the Festival of Wines that Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve have organized for 5 years now, it is this: Your cup runneth over.
At the festival, named Le Grand Tasting, I found myself in an earthly paradise filled with many of the world’s best wines, from mythical vintages to ones barely known outside of their own appellations, and most all of them from France. This year, 2010, as an exception, there was a side exhibit of Italian wines also featured.
As a local explained to me, Bettane & Desseauve are more than just a couple of France’s most celebrated and respected wine journalists, they are even more than simply the authors of Le Grand Guide des Vins de France, they are the “Robert Parkers of France and French wines.”
This year’s event was held over the Friday and Saturday of December 10th and 11th at Paris’s Le Carrousel du Louvre, which is the underground shopping center/ exhibit hall that is right underneath the Louvre. For a mere 25 Euros you could taste your way through more than 2000 wines and 350 individual producers from France and a small representation from Italy.
“We have Festivals of Film, we have Festivals of Litterature, but until Le Grand Tasting we haven’t had a Festival of Wine…Every wine, like a book or a film, tells its own story. It is the story of the winemaker, of the creator, and sometimes, of genius…” said Thierry Desseauve who, with Michel Bettane, is the co-founder of Le Grand Tasting.
Desseauve and Bettane, according to Desseauve, have plans to take their show on the road to English-speaking countries. Their highly successful Hong Kong Festival of Wine earlier this year has injected them with enthusiasm and they are starting to eye the U.S. and Canada. Their Grand Guide des Vins de France will be published in English in 2011 by Abrams Books.
When asked how was it to take the Festival of Wines to Hong Kong, Desseauve replied that he enjoyed the Chinese habit of embracing fast-paced development and he also noted that as Europeans, they are accustomed to dealing with significantly different cultures and languages. He pointed out that Germany, Italy, Spain are just as different from French culture as is the Chinese culture, in many respects. Both Bettane and Desseauve invested many years as journalist and wine critic at La Revue du Vin de France until it was bought by the Marie Claire publishing group five years ago, which is the same time they founded Le Grand Tasting.
According to Bernadette Vizioz, press liaison for the event, 10,000 people attended Le Grand Tasting over the course of two days. It’s not hard for them to keep count, the price of admission includes a glass for the wine tastings, supplied by Riedel. The attendees on average were surprisingly young and very much the trendsetting crowd. I’ve heard mention a few times that the regional wine syndicates are actively promoting their wines particularly among the French whose consumption of their native juice is down significant percentage points in recent decades.
Le Grand Tasting does its part to elevate wine drinking to its proper podium among Gen Y in France. And the event is doing so in ways that present the people who make the wine as people who are just like you and me, except they spend their days in grape vineyards and in fermenting cellars. What sold out in advance were the special courses, such as the Master Class, that took place simultaneously in the rooms adjacent to the Hall Agora. The standout of these courses was, according to French site iDealwine « Le Génie du Vin ».
The ‘Genius of Wine’ class, included Cuvée René Lalou by Mumm (1998 Vintage), Chateau Angélus 2000, Chateau Gruaud Larose 2000, Clos de La Roche GC (2004) from Domaine Dujac, Châteauneuf du Pape (1998 Domaine duVieux Télégraphe, château Climens 1989, Ridge Monte Bello represents California and finally riesling Clos Ste Hune 2000 by Trimbach.
Another sold out course offering, of which there were 20 separate classes, was l’Ecole des Terroirs. I managed to bump into a few Americans while I roamed the airy, well-lit, elegant and wonderfully climatised hall – underneath the Louvre! – who were thrilled to have just accidentally happened upon the festival last year.
This husband and wife marvelled at the feast of wines they were getting to taste, all for a mere 25 Euro entrance fee. They loved last year’s event so much that they actually planned their trip around the Festival this year. We North Americans couldn’t help but compare Napa’s $25 average cost per wine tasting flight/ per winery to the 25 Euro entrance fee which put 2000 wines, including the best champagnes in the world, at your fingertips and lips. The only limitation to your wine tasting is the hours in a day and your stamina for how many tastings you can fit in.
Le Grand Tasting marked a few firsts this year, notably in the category of positioning themselves more internationally. To that effect their Italian space welcomed 2000 visitors in a relatively small area of 90sq. meters located towards the back of one of the main halls.
In addition, this was the first year that they invited notable European wine critics: José Penin (Espagne, Penin), Neil Beckett (Grande-Bretagne, World Of Fine Wine), Armin Diel (Allemagne), Marco Sabellico (Italie, Gambero Rosso), Enzo Vizzari (Italie,L’Espresso)!
An elegant, hip, affordable, culturally illuminating wine tasting event, Le Grand Tasting’s Festival of Wine is not to be missed.
by Paige Donner
Rarely do you get such a glimpse of how basic an element wine is to French culture than at something like the Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants. At an event like this one, you really get the feel of how wine is actually a basic food group for the French. It’s not a luxury or something that needs to be “mastered” but rather as elementary to daily life and basic needs as is water.
As a tourist or even as a resident foreigner, this Wine Salon is something I plan trips around and mark on the calendar months in advance. Held this past weekend at the ginormous Expo center that is Porte de Versailles in Paris, I had the chance to sip and taste new and just released vintages from over 250 independent wineries and winemakers from all the regions of France. The question was not a matter of access (entry cost 6 Euro) or accessibility (all the wineries were pouring). The question was whether I had the stamina to last a whole day. If I were a real pro, I would have gone over the course of each of the consecutive five days and prolonged the learning and the enjoyment, the listening and the tasting, stretching it out for every last drop.
The Salon des Vins des Vignerons Independants is something that everyone even remotely interested in wine must attend at some time. As a window onto wine and French culture, it’s unsurpassed. It’s also no-frills. And it’s held twice a year – in the Fall and in the Spring. The only people I envied as I roamed the alphabetized aisles, were those who were savvy enough to have come with their rolling suitcases which they packed full of bottles and cases of France’s most excellent and affordable wines.
Here’s a sampling:
Champagne Philippe Martin
They are located right in the heart of Champagne just between Reims and Epernay in Cumieres. They grow their chardonnay and pinot noir grapes on 10 hectares and produce 6 crus.
Cuvée de Réserve Brut – dry, frothy bubbly. At 14.40 Euro per bottle at the Salon it stands up to any of the internationally known brands.
Millésime 2002 – aged and made with pinot noir grapes as well as chardonnay, the richer, fruitier grape is detectable as soon as the elixir hits your tongue. At 22 Euro per bottle, you can see why I wish I’d had my rolling suitcase with me.
Domaine Gerard Metz “The power of harmony”
The Salon tipplers tended toward the Alsatian wines, I noticed. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Paris had just seen its first snowfall of the season this weekend. It’s easy to think of a spicy Gewurztraminer and heavy spaetzle and sausages when it gets cold outside – all things that come from Alsace.
Gewurztraminer Vielles Vignes 2009 at 9 Euro per bottle this tending toward almost sweet gewurz tasted of the grape. In the sense that I almost felt like I had popped a whole grape into my mouth and was drinking of it, and a splash of alcohol.
Gewurztraminer “Cuvée Mégane” 2009 This guy was just shy of a late harvest wine. Its gold color spoke of its autumn, rich flavors even before it made itself known in the mouth. It sells for 13.50Euro per bottle.
Bourgogne – Chablis
It’s just too novel when you come to the realization that these wines you’ve long loved come from an actual place. In this case, Chablis.
Moreau Naudet at 5, rue des Fosses, Chablis offered Petit Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru and Chablis Grand Cru on offer. He ages his white wine for 24 mos. in barrel.
Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2007 was smooth and classy; its light golden color reminded me of summer in California. 26 Euro
Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2008 had lively acid playing throughout the mouth. Well-balanced and a white you can keep for a few years and still enjoy. 26 Euro
Domaine Millet “Intensement Chablis”
The winery is in Tonnerre, still within Bourgogne. The Petit Chablis L’Angelus and Petit Chablis were noteworthy, all 2009. They also had their Chablis Vieilles Vignes and Chablis 1er Cru Vaucoupin for sale and to taste. The maturity of the old vines tend to be the wines I gravitate towards. www.chablis-millet.com
Côte du Rhône, St. Joseph
Domaine du Mortier, Saint Joseph by Didier Crouzet. What’s a wine tasting if you don’t indulge in a bit of the sacred St. Joseph? Part of the geography of Côte Rôtie, a St. Joseph can take good care of you through the Winter. On 10.5 acres Mssr. Crouzet cultivates his vines of character.
Domaine du Mortier, St. Joseph, 2008 A little light. Not often found in this wine or appellation, it can offer a more drinkable alternative to what is usually paired with a good steak or winter roast.
Domaine du Mortier, St. Joseph, 2009 is a considerably more powerful wine. 2009 vintages, like the 2010 harvest, will have legs for years to come. Dark fruit, some wood, wine with a backbone.
In this cluster were three domains that are run by the same winemakers and which are all independent. The majority they’ve brought to market this year have won a medal or an award or even a “coup de coeur” from the Guide Hachette des Vins 2011.
Domaine de Fussiacus Pouilly-Vinzelles 2008. These grapes are from 30-40 year old vines. This lovely tinted yellow gold nectar won the Medaille d’Or Paris et Macon 2010. It was selling for a mere 10.30 Euro.
Domaine Chateau de Chaintre Bourgogne Blanc 2008 is the one which you’ll find in the Guide Hachettes des Vins 2011 listed as the Coup de Coeur. It is burgundy chardonnay and its well-balanced, proper notes and aromas make it a perfect choice for a dinner with family and friends.
Domaine de Fussiacus Vielles Vignes Pouilly-Fuisse 2008 had a nose of citrus and a delicious mouth of calcaire and mineral hints. Another one of those wines I wish I’d bought a case of. 15.10 Euro per bottle.
From this region down near Perpignan which is still part of Languedoc-Roussillon you will find wines that have the garrigue in their molecules.
Abbaye de Fontfroide
A husband and wife winemaking team, Nicolas de Chevron Villette married his wife, Laure d’Andoque de Seriege, whose family has owned the Abbaye de Fontfroide and the vines that surround it for centuries. They have a tasting room, a restaurant and they offer vacation stays. It is also just 15 km. away from the region’s only 3 Michelin star restaurant run by France’s Best Chef 2010.
Abbaye de Fontfroide Cuvée Deo Gratias 2007 A finessed red wine that speaks of the region and the terroir. The nose is aromatic, the mouth hints of the garrigue.
Abbaye de Fontfroide Cuvée Oculus 2009 Though this is a white, it boasts a nutty mouth and an aromatic nose. At 7.10Euro a bottle, it is an elegant wine to serve at table with roasted poultry and new potatoes for example.
Abbaye de Fontfroide Cuvée Deo Gratias 2009 The grapes are Roussanne, Marsanne predominantly and the juice is new barrel aged. 12.90 per bottle. www.fontfroide.com
Gilles Goujon is France’s top chef for 2010. He was voted Chef of The Year by 6,000 of his peers, a group comprised of the nation’s top chefs, sommeliers and patissiers. Goujon’s trademark is his talent of combining “radiant, inventive yet traditional cuisine based on seasonal produce.”
In 2010, Goujon’s out-of-the way restaurant nestled 50km. outside of Perpignan in the Languedoc Roussillon region received its 3rd Michelin Star. This is a very exclusive circle and one reserved for the highest achieving chefs as is the Chef of The Year distinction, an award created by Le Chef magazine back in 1987 and reserved for top gastronomic distinction. Gault & Millau also awarded Goujon 5 chef hats this year, their highest award.
It was in 1992 when Goujon opened his “real adventure,” the Auberge du Vieux Puits, a modest out-of-the way inn located between vineyards and the garrigue scrubland in the 137-inhabitant village of Fontjoncouse, 50km. outside of Perpignan in the Corbières region. This little inn has earned a worldwide reputation, attracting connoisseurs from far, far afield who wish to delight in his inventive, with a Mediterranean touch, cuisine.
Born in 1961, Gilles Goujon worked with Chefs of such prestige as the Rouquette brothers in Ragueneau (Béziers), Roger Vergé at the Moulin de Mougins, Jean-Paul Passédat at the Petit Nice in Marseille and then with Gérard Clor at l’Escale in Carry-le-Rouet before opening up his own inn in the middle of the sweet-smellig, sage-filled garrigue. It was then, in 1997, that he earned his first Michelin star and the distinction of Meilleur Ouvrier de France. In 2001 he won his second star, recognized for his innovation. And now in 2010 he has his third Michelin star.
Goujon has spent part of his Autumn in Paris, on the Champs Elysees where he has been the guest chef at the time-honored Fouquet’s. In October he and resident chef Jean-Yves Leuranguer put on a “Diner 4 Mains” for lucky and delighted gastronomy guests. Seasonal ingredients and innovative cuisine are Chef Goujon’s signature and that’s what you were treated to if you were able to catch him for the fleeting moments when he stepped off his vineyards and into the haute urban setting to share his starry talents with Parisian diners.
Also…some Tips for A Healthy Holiday Kitchen:
By Paige Donner
At Paris’s port de la Villette on a recent weekend I had the good fortune to meet over 250 producers of French gastronomic delights. They were all direct from the countryside, having brought their specialties to the big city for a wonderful public celebration of French Food and Wine.
Safran de St. Hilaire
One of the more unique “farmers” I met was a woman who runs a Saffron farm with her family about 2 hours outside of Paris. It’s a little known sector of agriculture in France and one that once thrived but has since been mostly outsourced.
Still, this woman labors over her fields of purple saffron flowers, Safran de St. Hilaire, with her husband, Thierry Parde’ and their children, to produce some of the finest saffron available on the market. Each flower produces only three, at most, pistils of saffron that must be hand plucked ever so gently and guarded for safe-keeping until it can be put in small glass vials and spice jars. It is stunning to think that such an industry still exists anywhere in the entire world, let alone in France. Mind you, when you taste a crème bruleé á la safran, you’ll understand the rhyme and reason behind all the fuss. Mr. Parde’ Thierry/ Les Migeons/ 45320 Chantecoq/ 33 02 38 94 21 36
Celebration of Tastebuds
“Papilles,” means tastebuds in French. So it was the “Celebration of Tastebuds,” and just in time to start stocking up on holiday gift shopping. Most all the wine regions of France were represented, including small and mid-sized producers of Champagne.
The Inter Rhône, the Rhone Valley’s wine syndicate, was a sponsor of the event so the wonderful wines from Côtes du Rhône were on hand for daily on-the-hour wine tastings. www.vins-rhone.com
Les Crus des Côtes du Rhône
The signature of the Côtes du Rhône are its Grand Crus. They are known throughout the world: the rolling hills of the l’Hermitage and the hillside vineyards of Gigondas. Each of the distinct terroirs has been studied intensely by the experts before being awarded such supreme distinction. Have you ever experienced the power of a Côte Rôtie or a Cornas? Have you had the good fortune to drink of the finesse of a St.-Joseph or the smoothness of a Condrieu? These are all definite entries on the Top Ten list of things to do when in France.
Did You Know?
Tavel is the only wholly rosé Cru and the first rosé in France that is classified in the category of “gastronomy.”
AOC Château Grillet: This is one of the “biggest” white wines from France that you’ll ever get to drink. Its terroir, a whole 3,5 hectares, is the smallest apellation designation in the entire Côtes du Rhône.
Further south is the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Displaying country humility, the Château du Mourre du Tendre attended the Salon Papilles en famille, meaning father, mother, son. They made the journey up to Paris from Courthézon, where the domaine is located.
Speaking with Mme. Paumel and her winemaker husband, is what buying wine in France is all about. Families like this represent the living history of the vine and the tradition. Nevermind that Parker gives them a 92 – consistently – on his yearly trips to the region. One sip and you know you are drinking wine in a class all its own.
When Mssr. and Mme. Paumel explained to me they do no barrel aging, I was surprised. “The wine is just right as it is. There’s no need to smooth it out with any oak,” is how they explained it to me. Their wine wisdom is a cumulative 4 generations, so it’s probably safe to say that they know how to make good wine.
It’s also an incredible buy: Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2002 Cuvée Tradition, 22 Euro. Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005 Cuvée Prestige, 33 Euro. Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2006 Cuvée Prestige 31 Euro. You won’t find them selling any newer vintages. They know that good wine is worth waiting for. www.chateaudumourredutendre.com Courthézon, France
|French Cuisine at Unesco! [Courtesy Paris Daily Photo]
You probably noticed it if you came to France, food plays a really large role in our culture. Everyone knows how to cook – at least a little – and when you go to any restaurant you expect the food to be good! Of course things have changed (a lot of restaurants use ready made dishes now), but the demand for quality is still there. So I guess it’s no that surprising that, as you may have heard, Unesco officials just declared “French cuisine” as part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” (read more on the NYT)! It’s probably a little far fetched, but it’s good for our nation self esteem. And to illustrated this, here are some zucchini roulés. What’s good, must also look good 😉
by Paige Donner
Stephane Girard was the first non-American president of the Wharton School of Business Wine Club. He’s come a long leap across “the pond” from when he organized tastings for that 700-member club to opening up his first, and a first- of-its-kind, Wine Bar, Wine Shop and Tasting Room in Paris, just off the Place Vendôme. This all-in-one -on-tap -bar and shop is called Wine by One.
“We offer a 100 different kind of wines by the glass. We are the only wine bar in the world to have so many different wines on offer at any given time,” explained Girard at a recent wine tasting.
The key to his success – and the wine bar, if measured by the number of people sipping wine and nibbling on appetizers on any given evening, is certainly already a success! – is the wine pouring/preservation machine that he uses to automate the pouring of the wine tastings.
Girard, a Frenchman, refers to his machine as caves á vins, which houses 8 bottles of wine each and keeps each wine at its ideal temperature and conditions of service and preservation. He didn’t invent this machine. In fact he saw it used by an entrepreneurial sommelier when he was still back in the States getting his MBA. What he did pioneer for Paris is the business model that allows him to offer wines to people in ways that are accessible, affordable and appealing.
“At Wine by One, people have the chance to taste a Grand Wine without ruining the wine or having to buy the whole bottle.”
The wines are set up in their groups of eight in their respective caves á vins for pouring a Tasting (Impression, 3cl), a Tentation (half a glass, 6cl) and a Sensation (a whole glass, 12 cl). What’s great about this is that you can commit to the wine a little or a lot, depending on how much you like it. It’s also a great playground for training your wine palate where you have 100 different bottles from all the world’s regions on hand. They add 5-10 new wines each month, on a rotation method. The machines are set up as self-serve as well, so you almost have the feeling of it being a 7-11 set up – for top-notch wine!
Wine by One promotes itself as being a very affordable way to try new wines and also great wines. This is true, for the most part. Some of the wine tastings do start at about 2 Euro or even a little less. But it’s altogether too easy to want to try the 5 and 6 Euro tastings. Also, the tastings give you slightly more than one sip. So you are more likely to go for the half glass which is easily in the 4 to 8 Euro range for some of the names that you’ve only ever read about. And, of course, when I saw that Wine By One had Les Sorcières du Clos des Fées d’Hervé Bizeul…on tap!…well, of course I had to go for the glass, (11 Euros).
The long and the short of it, then, is that, yes, you can do tastings for a few Euros but likely you will be tempted by other wines. Expect to spend at least 25 to 30 Euro per head, and that’s not even including any food or bottles of wine purchased to take home with you.
Two of the additionally seductive factors of Wine by One are that you can order food and you can buy the bottle you just tasted to take with you and enjoy for later.
Not many wine shops in Paris have the permitting required to be able to sell food. Girard has a unique position for his wine shop, then, in that people can order small bites and nibbles as they’re tasting. You can also stop in midday for lunch which is the French style sandwich, tartine, toasted and with a generous amount of gourmet spread, then finished off with a specialty coffee and all for about 10 Euro.
The leather lounge seats by the window, and the rue des Capucines location just off of Place Vendôme make it a great choice, and one that is slightly updated from the regular Bistro, while still being very French.
Anyone who knows anything about opening up a shop in Paris will quickly recognize that this rue des Capucines real estate is prime and strategic. Girard’s only comment was that he had a good friend who was doing the real estate scouting for an unnamed American coffee franchise who dominates the market with their green goddess icon and storefronts on every U.S. corner. When her client didn’t take the shop that morning, Girard was there with his pot of gold and a pen ready to sign by that afternoon…
Another appealing characteristic of the Wine by One biz model is that Girard has engineered a way to make Wine by One feel like a club. When you arrive, you must sign up for a card that you use to purchase your wine and tastings. Think along the lines of a Kinko’s card. Except that here, they ask you for 2 Euro before they give you the card and you have the option of it being personalized with your name.
More good things: There’s a Water Bar or Bar á Eaux which offers a dozen different kinds of water from all over the world. And they offer complimentary WiFi.
Wine by One, 9 rue des Capucines, 75001 Paris, www.WinebyOne.com
Wine Buying for Dummies. If there were a book with this title – there probably is! – it would be my Bible. Let’s face it, when you’re on the spot, standing in a wine shop or a grocery store at the end of the day when it’s time to buy that nice bottle of wine to bring to a friend’s house for dinner, or share with your loved one on a quiet, cozy night at home… all too often all the fantastic Domaines, Crus, Mas, Vintages and Wineries you’ve so painstakingly committed to memory on dozens of wine tasting trips and hours spent pouring over Robert Parker…suddenly all dribble away like last year’s headlines and all you have left is 5 minutes to buy your bottle and get on your way.
It’s not just a Wine Shop, it’s a Concept Store. Leave it to the French to figure out how to add a good dose of pleasure to buying wine. Even when you’ve left Robert Parker behind at home, you can still feel on safe ground in Paris’s La Note Rouge in the 3eme arrondissement.
Brainstorm of brothers Yann and Romain Remacle, these two young, handsome, Parisian men decided to take the pomp out of both Parisian and, even, out of buying wine. And just in time. It wasn’t too long ago that I wandered into one of the French chain wine shops and asked the salesclerk on duty what adjectives he would use to describe wines from the Sud Ouest. He responded with that look that indicates, albeit very politely, that you’ve just asked a really stupid question.
At La Note Rouge, this won’t happen. It won’t happen for two reasons: 1) Yann and Romain are far too accommodating and charming to ever leave one of their customers lacking for knowledge and 2) If, for example, you are like many of us and feel at times intimidated to ask questions about a wine, these two 30-somethings have outfitted their sleek and chic wine shop with computer touch screens mounted to the exposed stone walls programmed with a picture and detailed descriptions about each of the wines they keep stocked in their shop. Touch, and the information, like a cup, runneth over…
- Modern Concept Wine Shop, La Note Rouge, near Les Halles, Paris.
Another unique characteristic about La Note Rouge is that they stock wines only from small producers from all over France. “We buy wines from French wine producers who cultivate anywhere from 5 – 35 hectares of vines,” explained Yann Remacle, whose passion for wine led him to open up this shop in one of Paris’s trendiest districts. “I’m not a Sommelier but I know what I like.”
And he’s betting you’ll like it too. Indeed on a recent evening of wine tasting, the shop was non-stop with regulars, tourists and the curious all stopping by to pick up just that perfectly right bottle of wine. Located just a couple blocks up from Les Halles, the decor of the shop is very un-traditional for France, but at the same time very Parisian, with bottles displayed by region. They even stock a French organic brand of vodka distilled from Quinoa, along with a few select bottles of Whiskey.
Notes: Vain du Rû, Dominique Andiron – white, biodynamic, full-bodied, aperitif; Les Grandes Costes, Musardises, a Rosé from Pic St. Loup, fruity with notes of spice; Le Villain P’tit Rouge, Vincent Ricard, Apellation Touraine Contrôlée – at La Note Rouge, with Frères Remacle, should you drink anything else?
P.S. La Note Rouge was a name inspired by Blue Note. Particularly fitting as what goes better together than Jazz and Wine and Paris? And, when you’re really nice – or naughty – I hear that the brothers might even play you a tune or two on that piano they keep in the back cellar…
Recommend: Dinner around the corner at Ambassade d’Auvergne. Fantastically French and authentically country.
By Paige Donner
Corsica, off the French south coast, produces delicious dry white and subtle rosé wines that are best drunk chilled, young and fresh as an aperitif or to accompany light meals of seafood, salads, tapas.
Wine of Corsica is the common appellation to all the wines of Corsica, with the following AOC classifications related to either the soils or the villages in which the vineyards are grown: Ajaccio, Calvi, Coteaux du Cap Corse et Muscat du Cap Corse, Figari Patrimonio, Porto-Vecchio, Sartène.
While Corsica is definitely “south of France,” it does not fall under the newly minted branding of “Sud de France,” a term that is being used by the region of Languedoc-Roussillon as they voyage forth once again onto the world export stage with their wines and other agricultural products.
Corsican wines are one of those “well-kept secrets.” The island, which the French call “L’île de Beauté,” produces some great wines but they aren’t exported much overseas…yet. Set in the Mediterranean Sea, many of the island’s wines originate from Italy. The sun’s reflection on both white rocks and the Mediterranean brings even more energy to the vine which, combined with low yields, will eventually produce a very concentrated grape.
- Cap Corse Wine This white wine is pretty rare and much appreciated by winelovers. Many agree that it is the best white wine in Corsica.
- Sartene Wine This is an excellent wine, and the red San Michele is definitely a must-taste. These are fruity and warm Corsican wines.
- Patrimonio This wine is as famous as the classic Corsican appellation and its quality is constantly growing. Corsican reds and whites are increasingly famous even out of the island. Patrimonio rosé wines are also fine wines. Patrimonio wines have a pretty strong character that originate from the soil, which is composed mostly of clay and limestone. This Corsican wine is full-bodied but still light and fruity.
- Ajaccio The Ajaccio French wine boasts the distinction of being the most elevated wine region in France. Most of its vineyards are located 500 m and above. This Corsica wine benefits from the warm weather, and the sea air provides it with a very particular flavor too. This French wine fully benefits from the Corsican environment thus it is light coloured, fruity and has a pronounced pepper flavor in the mouth. The Ajaccio soil is mostly granite.
They also have excellent beaches in Corsica!
by Paige Donner
Just north of the ancient town of Béziers, where Molière and his band of Troubadours once spent a winter (ca. 1656), is the lovely AOC Saint Chinian. The area which envelopes 20 some villages and 3,300 hectares from the foot of the mountains Espinouse and Caroux, also includes the sub-appellations of Berlou and Roquebrun. It is one of the earliest appellations in the Languedoc to receive that distinction, designated in 1982, and produces both reds and rosés under AOC St. Chinian, with the area’s vignerons producing whites under the AOC St. Chinian (blanc) since 2005 and also frequently under a Vins de Pays d’Oc label.
The climate, – sunny Sud de France – and the soils, primarily schistes, clay, calcareous and limestone, are typical of this Mediterranean zone and is one of the important elements that has lent itself to building this appellation’s “grand” reputation. The average temperature is a cool 14° C. The varietals used for the red blends in St. Chinian are Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Lladoner Pelut. For the most part a St. Chinian red can be expected to be rich and generous with the rosés a bit more delicate giving off their hints of red berry fruits.
Red wines dominate in this appellation, which is true of the region, with 89% of the production going towards them, while just 1% ends up as white wine and a decent 10% being produced as rosés. To visit all the wineries of St. Chinian, allow for some time. There are 100 private wineries and 8 cooperative cellars (caves coopératives) with a total of approximately 350 producers.
A Bit of History
The name St. Chinian is derived from the name of the monk, Sanch Anhan, who founded the monastery in the year 794 on the left bank of the River Vernazobre one of two rivers that run through the terrain. The Benedictine monk, beatified in 1102, became known as St. Chinian. St. Chinian is a delightful area in which to play tourist while you taste wines and stock up your cellar. You can meander along the ancient Roman road that connected Narbonne to the upper Languedoc and then all the way onto Italy – the road that Molière and the Troubadours would have travelled. Or you can drive through the Orb Valley where orange trees an eucalyptus trees flourish alongside the river gorge, and where the little jewel of a village Roquebrun nestles. Be sure to pause along the wine route to take some of the heritage walks through the vineyards.
Domaine La Grange Léon, AOC Saint-Chinian, Berlou
Joël and Véronique Fernandez named their vineyard after Joel’s great-grandfather, Leon, who himself came from a long line of vineyard managers and winemakers originating from this Languedocien patch of land not all that far from the Spanish border and Pays Basque. It was Léon who was one of the founding member of the “caves coopérative” of Berlou, credited with uplifting the quality and reputation of St. Chinian wines. Since he was 16 years old, Joël dreamed of being the owner-operator of his own vineyards and winery. He immersed himself in the seasonal rhythms of the vines, in the harvests and dedicated himself to learning the mastery of the “alchemy” of winemaking.
In 2008 Joël and Véronique established their own winery. They harvest their grapes only by hand and are rigorously attentive about the quality of the grapes they allow into the cellar. The Domaine’s vineyards are primarily schiste soils and because they’ve invested so much of themselves into their winery, they are fond of declaring that their wines are “a bit of the terroir and a bit of ourselves.”
La Grange de Léon – Vintage Selection
La Rose de Laury, AOC Saint-Chinian Rosé This rosé has delicate fuchsia reflections with notes of strawberries and cherries. 60% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre.
Viognier, Vins d Pays d’Oc Blanc Sold out. Only the proprietor has a few bottles on reserve. Uncharacteristically made from 100% Viognier. [The French make blends from the appellation’s designated varietals, Americans tend toward single varietal vintages.] Notes of passion fruit, pineapple, apricot. Aromas of verveine.
D’une main à l’autre, AOC Saint-Chinian – Berlou Rouge Only available in 2010 – so get it now. Plums on the nose, black cherries; mandarin, vanilla, pepper on the tongue. Round, full, long in the mouth. For steaks on the grill in summer, Entrecôte in the winter. Also: L’insolent, AOC Saint-Chinian Rouge; L’Audacieux, AOC Saint-Chinian Rouge Visit the Maison des Vins in Saint-Chinian on the Grand Rue to start off your wine tasting of the region. Ask for Henri Miquel, the President or Nelly Belot, Director. And be sure to stop in at the Syndicat du Cru AOC Saint Chinian at 1 Rue de la Promenade, St. Chinian.
By Paige Donner
In this Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, once owned by Sir Lancelot, there rests a 16th c. Castle, Château Capion, tranquilly nestled along the riverbanks of the Gassac.
On the Château Capion’s 75 hectares are planted approximately 48 hectares of vines, mostly of what has become the regional classics: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault for the reds and Viognier, Chardonnay, Roussanne for the whites.
They have also planted the Bordeaux varietals of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc, all which thrive in the unique l’argile bleue terroir – red, volcanic clay/soil – of this micro-climate situated in the sweetspot between Aniane and Gignac, not far from the Medieval village of St. Guilhem le Desert, just 30 km from the Mediterranean Sea on France’s southern coast. This l’argile bleue is similar to what can be found in Bordeaux and has proved to be quite a singular discovery for this vineyard as well as the neighboring vineyard.
Limestone is what is predominantly found on the vineyards with these sections of interspersed red clay soil found only in concentrated deposits, where they’ve planted the Cab Sauvs and Cab Francs, who thrive on their scattered patches of argile bleue, especially, too, because the only water source used for the vines is the natural source to be found deep, about 100 m. under the ground. This pure, natural water source keeps the vines hydrated. They use no irrigation on the vineyards, relying just on this natural water source and rainfall in the Autumn, which varies significantly between as much as 400mm to 1000mm per year.
For the Syrah, this is paradise. Château Capion’s calcareous sandstone and limestone soils differ in the size of the rocks from large stones you can pick up three at a time with your hand to very large stones that you need two hands to hold. Château Capion’s award-winning winemaker Jérémy Chanson explains that they use a vinification process more reminiscent of Côtes du Rhône du Nord. Their Syrah vines, mostly 30 years old, with some vines pushing 80 years and more, offer the raw stuffs for good tannins. “We feel it in the cellar, the difference between the old and young vines. The tannins and the color…,” says Chanson, a native Languedocien whose grandparents, one branch of which came from le Pays Basque, worked in vineyards in their day. He’ll also tell you that from “Corsica to Perpignan, there are no Syrah vines like ours here at Château Capion. She gives where she lives. That is Syrah.”
Their prize vineyard, the Triangle of Le Juge, are the grapes he presses for their Le Juge vintage, and what has earned the Château, along with their Capion vintage, the award of “Best French Winemaker 2008” in London as well as high marks from Decanter Magazine, Guide Parker(Robert Parker’s wine guide to France) and Andrew Jefford’s, The New France. In the cellar he uses gravity for processing the grapes and hand stirs for the “pigeur;” in the vineyards they practice eco-friendly viticulture. There is garrigue all around – sage, fennel, lavendar, thyme – but it is husbanded to a degree that lends a subtler, elegant taste to their wines when compared to the wines from the regional terroir.
For wine enthusiasts, a visit to the Château is imperative. Frédéric Kast, Winemaker, delights in sharing their wines, declaring that each wine has a distinctive personality, “just like you and I do.” The tasting room is suggestive of a Chapel Sanctuary; the heavy marble dais and the stained glass windows add both light and depth to a cheerful room fully refurbished, as is the original XVI c. castle, with taste and modern comfort. They have also manicured a tour of the vineyard with stopping points for an explanation of the terroir, of the view of the terrain which looks out onto Mt. Baudile, of the vines, of the flora of the garrigue… For those looking to absorb even more from this Southern French terroir, the Château offers suites you can rent on the property for short stays, including the new “Troubadour Room” which is in the castle itself. The immediate property surrounding the main house features an English garden, a French garden and a Japanese garden all nestled up against the Gassac River, with views of Mt. Baudile and the Gassac Valley.
The Swiss Buhrer family who purchased the property and vineyards in the mid-90’s have raised their five children there. The label on their prestige single-vineyard white, Le Colombier, is that of a dovecot, which they chose as it is the symbol used throughout history of love, peace, hope and the presence of the Holy Spirit. When this part-Sound of Music, part-Swiss Family Robinson acquired the property in ’96 they inscribed on the outdoor solar clock what became the guiding principle for their family, their wines, their vineyards: “C’est le temps de l’Amour.”
“The Heart of the Terroir”
Le Colombier: Blanc, A.O.P. Coteaux du Languedoc; This Roussanne (40%) and Viognier (60%) blend is a soft golden color with a brilliant shine telling of its fine acidity and balance. Floral notes of white roses, full and long in the mouth. To pair with white meats, grilled fish. 12 Euros
Le Juge: Rouge, A.O.P. Terrasses du Larzac; Primarily Syrah (70%) from vines that are grown in ideal conditions for syrah, with Grenache and Mourvèdre (15% each) blended in for balance and acidity. This “honor of Capion” has fine, subtle hints of garrigue, elegance and refined tannins and its je ne sais quoi is what sets it apart from the wines of the surrounding area and puts it in league withLa Pèira en Daimasela wines, though altogether different. It is aged in new barrels for 12 months. Aromatic whispers of “framboise,” during vinification. 12 Euros
From 2007 and on this wine will continue to be remarkable. To drink now or to save. Can be enjoyed in the summer with grilled meats as well as in the winter with heartier meals.
“One of the 10 best wines in the world.” – Michael Broadbent
“A Lafite in Languedoc.” – Gault et Millau
Daumas Gassac vineyards planted amidst the Languedocian garrigue and protected forestlands, Aniane, France.
By Paige Donner
My father once told me the tale about a Stradivarius. There was a Stradivarius that sat in the dusty folds of a shelf in the back of an obscure violin shop. People came and bought violins from the shopkeeper, for themselves, for their children, but the few who stumbled upon the dusty, old instrument quickly overlooked it, assuming that it couldn’t possibly be an instrument of any worth. Until one day, a master violinist stumbled into the store and like a mother to its child, was at once drawn to the exquisite instrument and knew it instantly for what it was. In his hands, beautiful music once again flowed forth from the Stradivarius.
This story came to mind as I drove away from Mas de Daumas Gassac, the 50 hectare Languedocian vineyard estate just outside of Aniane. This region, the Midi, is, of course the Languedoc-Roussillon, the region that produces the most wine not just in France but in the world. The region is, in every sense of the phrase, Sud de France.
What the region was not known for in 1970 was its quality wine. Flanked by Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire and Rhone Valleys, the Languedoc has long been known as the area that makes table wines or vins de table, the better ones just squeaking by with a vin de pays classification – or so goes the common perception. But not all wines need a classification in order to be good. Excellent, even. Indeed, in the case of Mas de Daumas Gassac, as much notoriety as this wine has attracted, it still eschews classification, its winemakers saying a polite “no thanks” to an AOC label.
Rooted In The Languedoc
Flash back to 1970 when a husband and wife team, Aime’ and Veronique Guibert, were in one of those life transitional phases and decided to buy a farm. What they found was this old rundown farm just outside of Aniane, situated in the middle of the Forest of Arboussas, that was still owned by two old spinster sisters of the Daumas family. It was also nestled next to the Gassac River and, in fact, was an old mill or “moulin.”
Tout ce qui brille n’est pas d’Or.
“Everything that glitters is not gold.”
…And, conversely, all that is gold does not glitter. In what has played out over the last 40 years since the Guibert family has grown their grapes and harvested their wines at the vineyard they planted around that old dilapidated mill, now the Mas de Daumas Gassac, is nothing short of an uncovering of a long-forgotten treasure. The treasure, arguably an unofficial Tresor de France, is the terroir of the Gassac Valley.
50 Hectares of Vineyards Surrounded by 100 Hectares of Mediterranean Woodland
The 50 hectares that Mas de Daumas Gassac rests on are home to the first wines ever produced in the Gassac Valley. Those wines were made for Charlemagne, the first King of France ca. 780 A.D. In fact, it was St. Benoit d’Aniane, one of Charlemagne’s counsellors and an Abbey, who created the first vineyard in the “magical” valley of Gassac some 1,200 years ago.
The magic is the microclimate. The terroir was rediscovered in 1971 by Henri Enjalbert a Professor of Geology at Bordeaux University. Veronique, also a PhD (in ethnology) and husband Aime’ Guibert were successful in getting Professor Enjalbert out to the Mas to check out not just the unusual red soil, which was found to be glacial soil, the calceous limestone (for the white varietals), but also to explore the cool microclimate that is derived from multiple factors: the Gassac River, several natural springs on the property, and the cool night air that descends from the Larzac mountains throughout the valley cooling the air surrounding the vines in August and September by about 5 to 10 degrees.
It was this same Prof. Enjalbert who declared to the Guiberts that they were sitting on “the ideal and unique terroir to produce a Grand Cru wine.”
Mas de Daumas Gassac Estate Today
Today it is the brothers Samuel, Gael, Amelien, Roman and Basile who take care of the estate. The Mas de Daumas Gassac label, with its sister label of Moulin de Gassac, produces about 150,000 to 200,000 bottles every year.
Walking through the Daumas Gassac vineyards is not just a walk through the vines but also a walk through the Forest of Arboussas, the Languedocien garrigue and, on this sweet summer day in June, a walk through veils of frolicking white and yellow butterflies. The ladybugs are there, too, when you stop and look closely.
Samuel Guibert, the estate’s winemaker who spent ten years in New Zealand before coming home to help run the family business, matter-of-factly explains that no chemicals, no fertilizers, nothing of the sort has ever touched this soil. “It’s virgin land,” he says. The family themselves source their drinking water from the freshwater springs on the property, so they are not about to poison themselves – or their vines. Their approach to land is “to preserve nature’s balance.”
What’s really unique about this estate, however, in addition to the glacial red soil and everything else…is that the 63 vineyard parcels are all planted interspersed throughout the property, fully integrated with the garrigue and the 3,000 hectares of protected forestland.
When you look up the translation for garrigue, the English is “scrubbrush” or just “garrigue.” What it is in fact is clusters of lavendar, mint, thyme growing wild since the millennia. This is the real Mediterranean. Aromatic, fragrant. So like hidden gardens of fruit nestled within aromatic parcels of herbs, the vineyards are planted throughout this preserved and untouched forestland of fragrant garrigue.
When the grapes are harvested by hand, they are then deposited via gravity into the underground fermentation cellar via a trapdoor which is up top at ground level. The fermentation cellar used to be an underwater tank. “We took what existed and made the best of it,” says Guibert, emphasizing that the whole process from sorting to destemming to macerating is all moved along purely by gravity and all done by hand.
This is a process not often seen any longer anywhere, including France. Some of the vineyards in Bordeaux used to use this gravity-fed process but most have since switched to automated. The difference being, explains Samuel, that the less the grapes are manipulated or handled, the better.
Similarly natural and using the resources at hand, the river next to the cellar helps to maintain the cellar at a cool 13-14 degrees C. in Winter and about 17-18 C. in summer with about 70% humidity. “It’s perfect temperatures for cellaring our wines,” says Samuel Guibert.
They only use about 5% new oak. “We don’t use oak to influence the taste of the wine, rather to enhance the capacity to age,” explains Guibert. You will often hear that a Mas de Daumas Gassac – red or white – has an ease of ability to age. “They are wines that can age, I like to say,” says Guibert, noting that the red that you drink and enjoy today will be a different wine from the one you cellar for 10, 15 and even 25 years. Different and perhaps equally enjoyable.
They blend for complex wine. The Guiberts only planted old strains of vines used before cloning, “to ensure traditional flavors and low yields.”Some of the planted vines are pre phyllaxera era and some are grafted onto American root stock. Oenologues refer to the Daumas Gassac vineyard as a “living museum” of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Manseng – a varietal that really only thrives in the south west region of France, – Viognier and also a “panoply” of 10% varietals that originate from “Biblical” Mediterranean vines – Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Armenia.
As for the vines that St. Benoit of Aniane planted for the Abbey and Charlemagne, “The existing vineyard that my parents found when they arrived at Mas Daumas in 1970 was indeed extremely ancient but no one can prove if it was the exact same vines as when St Benoit d’Aniane arrived,” says Guibert.
Emile Peynaud, the revered modern genius of oenology, told Mssr. Guibert back at the start of this quest for treasure that he had never been attendant at the birth of a Grand Cru. Forty years later, and we get to enjoy the fruits of that treasure quest.
Mas de Daumas Gassac Haute Vallée Du Gassac 34150 Aniane, France www.daumas-gassac.com
by Paige Donner
Terrasses du Larzac, Coteaux du Languedoc, AOC.
Terrasses du Larzac is a relatively new appellation – AOC status since the 2004 harvest– in the Hérault region of Languedoc-Roussillon in Southern France. In this sense it is absolutely reflective of the Coteaux du Languedoc’s re-establishment of the quality and prestige of its region’s vineyards, winemakers and especially its wines.
The Domaine de la Sauvageonne’s 2006 ‘Les Ruffes’ wine was placed in the top 100 wines of 2008 in The Wine Spectator, the leading USA wine magazine. Not only a tribute to the Domaine and its Director, Gavin Crisfield, this is proof of the quality potential in the Terrasses du Larzac.
The Terrasses du Larzac is a V-shaped area spreading from the Pic Saint Baudile, its cliffs and benches, that graduates on downward to the point of the V towards Aniane and Lake Salagou. The area encompasses 32 communes (villages such as Saint Jean de la Blaquière, Puechabon, Lodève, St.-Jean-de-Fos…) and produces some 75,000 hectoliters of AOC Languedoc, and only 9000 hl of AOC Languedoc -Terrasses du Larzac, annually. While the highest points of the natural boundaries of the Terrasses du Larzac reach over 800m high, the only planted and permitted AOC zones are between 50m and 300m high on the foothills of the Causse.
READ MORE on Local Food And Wine – Sud de France
By Paige Donner
This is an ancient delicacy originating from the Mediterranean Sea. It is made from compressed fish eggs, silver mullet roe, to be exact. The roe is cured and dried to perfection using sea salt and then embalmed in a wax coating to seal in its flavor and freshness.
It costs about $200 per kilo but since it is meant to be eaten as a flavor-packed appetizer, you can buy it in lesser quantities and still enjoy generous portions.
The boutargue itself varies in color from yellow to orange to a burnished brown, though with the wax encasing it first appears as an odorless, colorless sausage.
This is such an ancient dish that it dates back to the 6th Century B.C.E. when the Phoenicians imported it into Provence when they founded Marseille. Still, the Greeks, the Italians (Botarga in Italian) and the Egyptians dispute the origin of the “caviar” delicacy.
In Corsica, Boutargue is enjoyed during the Christmas season. In Italy, they like it shaved thin on their spaghetti. In the South of France, in Martigues near Marseille, where it is the traditional dish, it is relished in thin slices, drizzled with olive oil and lime, served with green olives and crackers and accompanied by Arak, Pernaud, chilled Vodka or Fig Liquor.
by Paige Donner
Picpoul de Pinet, also spelled Piquepoul de Pinet, is both a rare white French grape varietal that thrives in the South of France and it is a designated appellation with its own A.O.C. classification in an area that hugs the Thau Lagoon between Sete and Agde in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France.
This fresh, crisp wine that splashes hints of lime and green apple in the mouth pairs beautifully with seafoods. It accents especially well the oysters and fresh prawns that grow in abundance off this Languedoc coastal region and the Thau Lagoon where the sun-loving, late-blooming grape thrives and where it enjoys its own Languedocian regional appellation.
A Great Future For A Little Known Grape
Piquepoul, the grape varietal, is used to make the light acidic wine called Picpoul de Pinet, with floral and citrus fruit aromas. It follows then, that the AOC Coteaux du Languedoc, Picpoul de Pinet classification, applies only to white wines.
This rare, ancient French grape thrives in the coastal sands near Sète in the Languedoc, the fishing village that affronts the Mediterranean Sea. The refreshing acidity of this full-bodied wine pairs especially well with seafood because of its more floral, citrus and peach flavors than the minerality of a Sancerre . Picpoul is mostly enjoyed by Languedociens or tourists visiting the area, at present, and is not yet exported as much as say, another rare French varietal, Viognier.
This clear, light-gold wine breathes appetizing aromas of peaches, juicy and fresh, with a back note of lemon-lime. Crisp and tart, white-fruit flavors and lemon-squirt acidity are fresh and cleansing in a very long finish. Not overly complex but bright and appealing, it’s a first-rate seafood wine. It has been called the Muscadet of the south of France. It is the wine that is usually served with oysters that can be found along the coasts of the Languedoc.
Serve very cool between 6 and 8°C to accompany all seafood,
by Paige Donner
Two prevailing characteristics of the Languedoc-Roussillon are that the region is steeped in history, specifically wine history, and it is known for its ripe, red wines.
But this once again up-and-coming wine region is taking its future in its own hands by using innovative approaches to freshen up its image. One of those approaches is to celebrate its vineyards’ white and rose’ wines.
In June and then again in November, the wineries of the region are encouraged to throw open their doors to tasters and wine buyers to especially highlight their rose’ and white vintages.
Back in the region’s heyday, during the XVII c., wines of the Midi, particularly its Muscats, and especially its Muscats secs, rivalled the wines of Burgundy. Wines from St. Georges d’Orques, a village where wineries still operate today, were known from border to border throughout France.
On a tasting of the Greater Languedoc region, these are some wines you ought to get the chance to try:
Cave de Roque Brun, St. Chinian. They are in the Guide Hachette and have won a Gold Medal in Paris’s Concours Generale Agricole.
Domaines de Gallieres, a new vineyard that presented its “Salsa de la Vigne” at this year’s tasting festival, a light-hearted rose’ that pairs well with melon, prosciutto, feta wrapped in marinated red peppers.
Domaine Pibarot in Mus who handpicks their grapes and uses no pesticides.
Domaine du Silene. Legend has it that an effigy of Silenus, the tutor to Dionysius the Greek God of wine and the grape, was found on the premises and watches over the estate. Vineyards thrive in the exceptional clay and limestone soils.
Domaine de Montnegre whose Rose’ is under the AOC Coteaux du Languedoc and made by blending Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault. Fresh and aromatic, it pairs well with light repasts. Their white, a blend of old Carignan blanc and Ugni blanc, is vin de Pays.
Le Domaine Puech, in Saint-Clement-de-Riviere, is a local favorite. Their Vin de Pays d’Oc Chardonnay with a floral, vanilla nose and a well-balanced, ample mouth.
Les Chemins de Carabote has a Terrasses du Larzac which exhibits both strength and elegance, richness and complexity. Featured in Guide Hachette.
Les Vignerons du Pic offers their “Gres de Montpellier,” which is their wine that’s on the map.
The AOC Gres de Montpellier was obtained in 2003 and encompasses most of the villages that are situated in the “Agglomeration” Montpellier. With this classification, the vineyards of the region are re-exerting and re-establishing their importance in the national culture of wine.
Domaine Jordy, which can be found in Le Bosc, keeps 500 hectares of vineyards under cultivation amidst 2500 hectares of garrigue, the native Mediterranean scrub brush thought to lend its aromatics of thyme, rosemary, lavendar to the wines. To keep with their whites and rose’s try the Cers Vent, Viognier and Rose’ cuvee’ speciale, as well as their Blanc vendanges passerillees for a dessert wine.
By Paige Donner
Just outside Murviel-les-Montpelliers, and not too far from St. Georges D’Orques, both villages in the heart of the Languedoc-Roussillon in Sud de France, perches Domaine de Saumarez on a pretty hillside whose sweeping views take in the Mediterranean Sea in the not-too-distant yonder.
In 2006, the winery’s top cuvee’, their “Aalenien, ’04” earned a full-bodied 92 points from Wine Spectator (Kim Marcus, 2006). “2009 is going to be another spectacular vintage,” says Williamson. Indeed, there’s not a soul in France today who isn’t singing the praises of the 2009 vintage year. As for 2010, “It was a hard winter but the vines seem to be quite happy now,” he says.
It was nearly a decade ago when Liz and Robin decided to shuck everything – him his banking career, her, accounting – and pursue their passion of wine. After repeated and extended wine tasting trips throughout the world and France, they settled on looking for a vineyard to call home in the region between the Spanish border and Nimes. This region, the “Midi,” or Languedoc-Roussillon, is the hub of wine making in France. It’s not its most celebrated, but it is its most voluminous.
“We looked at 30 domains from the Spanish border all the way to Nimes. This was number 30,” recounts the Williamsons who are raising their two young sons up on the vineyard. “The winery had potential, even though it was a wreck,” reminisces Robin, pointing out that there was no roof on what is now the cellar and tasting room when they bought the estate back in 2003. By 2004 they had produced their first vintage. They sold their first bottles in 2006.
“Aalenien,” is not just the name of Domaine de Saumarez’s top cuvee’, it is also the name of the type of soil to be found on the property. The rocky soils are made up of Jurassic limestone that have bands of quartz running through them. This soil, found in about a 10 sq. km radius, is particular to Murviel-les-Montpellier, the 2,500 year old Roman-Gallo village that the Domaine is situated in. At its height, Murviel had 15,000 inhabitants and was one of the main towns on the ancient route traveled between Spain and Italy.
The soil makes for minimal weed growth, hence little need for pesticides nor weed killers; it is good with heavy rains because the rocky limestone is very porous yet it retains moisture at about 1 to 2 meters below the soil surface, thus keeping the vines hydrated. The region’s 300 days of sunshine per year and tendency to get high winds dries out the vines.
The Languedoc region is also known for having numerous organically farmed vineyards and in fact the region as a whole is becoming specialized in organic. It has some of the highest concentrations of organic agriculture, and viticulture, in all of France. Domaine de Saumarez is no different and will be certified organic by 2012.
Robin Williamson is the type of vintner who likes to know what he’s talking about. And he does. Before he and wife Liz bought the farm, he spent two years taking courses in oenology in Brighton. He finished his studies at the level just one shy of Master in Oenology. He’ll gleefully talk to you about stirring the lees – “batonage” – and discuss with you the merits of using food-grade fiberglass fermentation tanks and square concrete ones for the reds and why they use mostly French oak barrels with only two American oak barrels thrown in the mix…But mostly he’ll tell you, “We’re farmers you know, no more or less, than farmers.”
He characterizes this as an “Old World” approach to winemaking. “In France the vigneron is still more Old World. We do it all. We’re farmers. We’re winemakers. We’re wine sellers.” He concedes that as a grape farmer and winemaker you need to remain philosophical about certain things, like the weather. “You have to always stay on the front foot,” he says, reverting to a cricket-ism.
Domaine de Saumarez makes four wines. Their top cuvee’ the Aalenien, a red. Notes of herbs, spices, minerals, olives and flowers. Their Domaine S’ red – supple, ripe, lush with a spicy edge – and their Domaine S’ white, – minerality and class, grapefruit, lemon peel that leads into a creamy width – all Coteaux du Languedoc AOC and a rose’, the Fleur de Liz, also AOC, vins de Pays de l’Herault. As a red wine with the Coteaux du Languedoc AOC classification, it will have some or all of only these varietals: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, and Cinsault.
Pic Saint-Loup in Côteaux du Languedoc produces some of the finest wines in the Midi. As a sub-appellation of the Languedoc AOC, it is petitioning vigorously, and successfully, to become its own appellation. Many foresee that it soon will succeed in these efforts.
“The vignerons of the Pic Saint-Loup have been very smart to identify their appellation with the majestic mountain of Pic St. Loup,” comments a compatriot winemaker from the Murviel-les-Montpellier sub-appellation just to the south of Pic Saint-Loup.
The Coteaux du Languedoc appellation was replaced by the appellation Languedoc AOC in 2007, but the two names will run concurrently until 2012.
The majestic peak of the St. Loup mountain is a dominantly identifying landmark for this notable region in Sud de France and it conveys the inextricably linked mark of the terroir, that of its cooler elevated vineyards which are set apart from the lower, and hotter, Languedocien plains.
The Pic Saint Loup and Hortus mountains are at the cross-roads of Legend and History. According to a children’s story, they were born from the blow of a club given by a giant who had flown into a terrible rage. Since then the mountain weeps from the Mascla spring. Pic Saint Loup also evokes the name of the sainted knight Loup who, in memory of his lady, became a hermit, singing his undying love from the top of this rocky peak…This is a land of vines and olive trees, crossed by shepherds and coal makers of every origin supplying the cities on the sea shore with wool and charcoal…
READ the complete Myth And Legend of Pic Saint Loup Wine Region on Domaine de l’Hortus
Thirty kilometers from the southern French coast, the climate is Mediterranean with the characteristic aromatic haut garrigue perfuming the terrain. The topography of the area, dominated by these two distinctive mountain peaks – Montagne de l’Hortus and Pic St. Loup itself – to the north and east means increased diurnal temperature variation which is an essential factor in the development of balanced acids and sugars in the wine grapes.
The Pic St. Loup is only red and roses. White varietals are grown in the appellation but are not bottled under the Pic Saint Loup AOC classification. Only reds are honored with that with the whites receiving a Coteaux du Languedoc, or the local Vin de Pays du Val de Montferrand also for the roses.
In fact they wineries have been quite strict in setting up their qualifications for the sub-appellation AOC:
The principal grapes must be Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah; a vintage must contain at least two and must comprise at least 90% of the blend. At least 20% of that must be Syrah, a vine that is not indigenous to the area, but was planted early last century, along with Mourvedre and Grenache, as cépages améliorateurs, during the re-planting of the country’s vines. Maximum yield is 45 hl/ha, minimum alcohol is 11.5% and the vines must be at least 5 years old. These conditions will only become steeper when the INAO accepts their petition for AOC classification. Other varieties in the blend can be Carignan and Cinsault which are allowed a maximum of 10%.
The mesoclimates of this limestone dominated terroir allow for the viticulturists to plant the heat-loving Mourvedre in the warmer, lower vineyards and use the higher vineyards to grow a more elegant style of Syrah, which responds well to the cool mountain nights.
- Size: 13 villages north of Montpellier, stretching 25 km north–south and 10 km east–west
- Area of production: 1500 hectares, with 800 ha planted to Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre
- Producers: 3 caves co-op, 36 (and counting) individual producers
Many people know claret as a sweet white wine the English liked to drink back in the day. But this old-fashioned vine has the prestige of being the varietal found to have been cultivated on the oldest European vineyard discovered to this day.
That vineyard is in Aspiran, the Languedocian village in Sud de France. It once belonged to Quintus Iulius Primus who maintained the claret vineyards under cultivation as early as the year 10 A.D. when nearby Bezier was still a Roman outpost. The varietal is indigenous to this Languedocien region in the Herault.
In 1948 Clairette du Languedoc was pronounced its own Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC), the first in the region.
Claret, both the dry white and sweeter varieties of the wine enjoyed popularity all throughout the Middle Ages. It is said that Rabelais and Oliviers de Serre both mentioned “Cleretz,” also called “Hypocras,” in their writings. At nearby Montpellier Rabelais lectured on the ancient physicians, Hippocrates and Galen. In 1532 he was a physician at Hôtel-Dieu, a general hospital in Lyons, the city that was France’s commercial and cultural center at the time. In the same year he published his famous comedy, Pantagruel, under the pen name Alcofribas Nasier – an anagram of Rabelais’s real name.
French Renaissance writer, Franciscan monk, humanist, and physician, whose comic novels Gargantua and Pantagruel are among the most hilarious classics of world literature, François Rabelais’ heroes are rude but funny giants traveling in a world full of greed, stupidity, violence, and grotesque jokes. The true target of his satire was the feudal and the ecclesiastical powers, and the world of the learned. Rabelais’ books were banned by the Catholic Church and later placed on The Index librorum prohibitorumon (the Index of Forbidden Books). … Read More Here
During the Renaissance, in 1533, Francois The First drank claret wines in Beziers. It is said that when Moliere spent a winter in Beziers ca. 1654 he drank the famous Hypocras, “clairette moelleuse” of the age.
Claret vines like the hot, arid conditions and poor, dry soils of the Mediterranean. It tends towards high alcohol content and is often referred to as clarette blanche and blanquette. The wine was big business for the Hérault region all through the Middle Ages. After the French Revolution, claret began losing its market share in European trade. It wasn’t until 1900 when, due to phylloxera, claret vineyards fell into declining production.
Today, in addition to Aspiran, where Chateau Malautie‘ grows claret vineyards right next to the fields once maintained by Quintus Iulius Primus two thousand year ago, you can also find wineries producing claret in the villages of Adissan, Le Bosc, Cabrières, Ceyras, Fontès, Lieuran, Cabrières, Nizas, Paulhan, Péret, and St-André-de-Sangonis. There’s about 70 hectares in total under cultivation in this appellation.
In addition, claret makes (minor) appearances in blends including Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Tavel Rosé, Côtes-du-Rhône, Lirac and Blanquette de Limoux. Clairette du Languedoc production centers may also produce red or rosé Coteaux du Languedoc wines.
The archeological Museum, Musee‘ Archaologique Lattaria, in nearby Lattes, just wrapped up a half-year long series of conferences, “Wine, Nectar of The Gods, Muse of Men.”