Fine Wine has always, in my mind, been connected to Fine Art.
It’s partly what I mean when I write that, for me, wine opens the door to other interests; culture, food, art etc.
Along these lines it’s interesting to see wineries make this connection when they commission artists to design paper labels for their wine bottles.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild is a perfect example of this creative practice. They started commissioning artists to design labels in 1924 – nearly a century ago – and Jean Carlu, a graphic designer who made an enormous contribution to commercial art, was the first artist to have this honour.
After a pause before and during the Second World War, Chateau Mouton Rothschild re-ignited this approach and have commissioned an artist designed label every year since 1945.
A few of the impressive list of artists commissioned by Chateau Mouton Rothschild since 1945 include Miro, Chagall, Picasso, Braque, Dali, as well as Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, now King Charles 111. The complete list of artists with illustrations is published on the Ch. Mouton Rothschild website.
The most recent artist to work with the Chateau is the acclaimed figurative artist, Peter Doig. Peter Doig is a ‘man of many nations’ (Christie’s). He was born in Edinburgh in 1959, moved to Trinidad as a baby, yet he grew up mostly in Canada. He studied in London, England. He lives between Trinidad, London and New York. His paintings now sell for double digit multi, multi million £ prices.
In his label painting for the Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2020 vintage Pauillac first growth wine, Peter Doig uses the vineyard as the setting to celebrate the work of the people involved in making wine before it is bottled.
I really applaud this twinning of wine and art by Chateau Mouton Rothschild and I am on the hunt to find a bottle of the 2020 vintage Pauillac and see this painting on the label in real time!
I started giving wine as a gift at Christmas a few years ago.
It seems in many ways the ideal gift for wine drinkers: a consumable that doesn’t need to be found a permanent home, recyclable from the packaging to the glass bottle, and enjoyable! It ticks a lot of boxes as gifts go and it still does in my experience.
Also, it’s a gift that’s easy to give: phone the wine merchant, order and pay for the wine, arrange delivery and it’s done!
When considering wine as a gift, the range of wines and their characteristics available is truly astounding! I’m grateful to Mother Nature for providing this bounty of grape varieties to satisfy many different consumer interests.
My first instinct in gifting wine had been to give wines that I would lIke to receive! Although this worked some of the time, I quickly learned the best approach is to ask the happy recipients what they would like to receive! A novel concept!
An important aspect of asking first, is that important medical considerations come to light, which I wouldn’t have thought about! For example, some people who have had chemotherapy can’t drink acidic wines like Sauvignon Blanc, so important to send a softer wine like an un-oaked Chardonnay and to generally stay away from red wines. Or if people have throat or asthmatic issues, be careful to avoid overly tannic wines, which can feel scratchy on the throat in some cases.
In situations where it’s not possible to ask for wine preferences or it’s a surprise, then I would aim for a mixed case of wine, which most wine merchants offer; usually some bubbles, then a mixed selection of white and red wines, so that a variety of styles are offered.
Arranging successful delivery of the wine is an important part of giving wine as a gift. It sounds obvious but I’ve experienced some mis-steps along the way. In years gone by, I used a smart London based wine merchant. It all sounded good but there were issues with delivery.
For the last few years, I have used Yapp Brothers, an award winning wine merchant based in Mere, a small town in Wiltshire, in southern England who deliver promptly. They have the advantage of a large and comprehensive range of wines and they run a very efficient business.
Giving wine as a gift has increased my understanding and knowledge of wine and that’s been an enjoyable and unexpected consequence of the giving! A gift to me in other words!
John Keats’ (1795-1821) hauntingly beautiful description of ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ in his poem celebrating autumn come to mind as I look across the Dordogne valley in SW France on a chilly November morning.
Autumn mists over the Dordogne Valley
On this day, the mists over the Dordogne Valley are celebrated at the same time as the roses are blooming at the end of lines of vines at Chateau Court les Muts. Roses are planted near vines as an early warning signal of mildew: if the roses have mildew then it’s likely the vines will too. These roses look very healthy!
Red roses at the edge of the vineyard
This beautiful imagery of roses and vines with their striking and complimentary colours are part of the inspiration for this silver and enamel decanter wine label made to celebrate Saussignac and its wines of the area. It was created by English silversmith and enameller, Jane Short, MBE.
Silver and Enamel Saussignac label by Jane Short MBE
Silver and enamel wine label by Jane Short MBE
Saussignac Appellation d’origine Controlée (AOC) is one of the 13 AOCs of the Bergerac wine region and one of the six sweet white Bergerac wines including Côtés de Bergerac White, Côtés de Montravel, Haut Montravel, Monbazillac, Rosette and Saussignac.
Saussignac AOC is a liquoreux wine that can be served young or kept for many years. The grapes, Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle are harvested late when they are partially dried and this gives the wine its sweetness.
For wine and food pairing, it can either be served chilled as an aperitif or with foie gras or later in the meal with blue cheese like Saint Agur or Roquefort. That juxtaposition of sweet and salt is always delicious, or it can be served with a dessert.
The Saussignac wine in this decanter is from Chateau Monestier La Tour, 2013. The Chateau advises drinking this 2013 wine, which has been barrel aged, from 2019 through to 2025.
Saussignac is a little known AOC, often overshadowed by Monbazillac wines, or by Sauternes from the Bordeaux region. However, Saussignac wine has its own remarkable merits and is a recommended choice for the festive season.
Caro, our friend and near neighbour in the Dordogne area of SW France has been writing about wine, and especially about building a biodynamic winery for some years.
Caro Feely, Co-Proprietor, Chateau Feely, Saussignac SW France
Two of her books: Grape Expectations and Saving our Skins tell the engaging account of sheer hard work and determination that Caro, her husband Sean and their daughters continually invest in their winery.
This year, Caro takes the plunge and enters the Wine Writing Competition 2022 in the category of Regenerative Agriculture sponsored by the acclaimed wine writer Jancis Robinson. Caro’s article is one of the 31 published essays and one of the 20 shortlisted essays from writers around the world. A great accomplishment!
Here it is: Regeneration – Changing our thinking by Caro Feely
I recommend reading this. Caro describes regenerative as “…transforming our thinking from extractive, how much volume of wine and financial value can we generate, to how many benefits can we create, for nature, for us, for the wider community. It is thinking circular rather than linear.”
The regeneration of land impacted by the Feely farming practices has resulted in one visible impact of increased biodiversity that we see: increased numbers of beautiful wild orchids.
Pyramid orchids in the garden
Jancis Robinson gives an overall comment about all the essay entries in this category of regeneration: …”Having read them all, we are happy to say that we have come away feeling inspired by and confident in the strides that are being made in the fields of regenerative viticulture and sustainable winemaking.”
Congratulations to Caro for her inspiring article and also to Jancis Robinson and her team for initiating this global essay competitive process and encouraging wine writers.
On a lazy summer’s day in Vancouver, the shoebox under the bed calls out to me for attention.
A shoebox into which I have tossed letters, post cards (when we still sent and received them!) and other memorabilia that I wanted to keep or at least not throw out upon receipt. You know the sort of thing.
The jewel lay quietly at the bottom of the box – an anonymous rough brown envelope addressed to my decades-ago address in London and post-marked August 25, 1972!
50 years ago!!
With great anticipation, I look inside the envelope and find a tourist guide to France, The Traveller in France, Love France for her thousand beautiful faces,  January 1972 and pictured below! It’s a true jewel and I love the cover illustration.
Travel guide to France found in the Shoebox under the bed
In this time traveller envelope I also discover tourist brochures about places we had visited, including Avranches and amazingly, I find a travel diary for a particular road trip to France, September 6 – 17, 1972, entitled, “Holiday, 72 France, Diary”.
Travel diary Sept 1972
Reading a diary from 50 years ago is when the past becomes the present. From the diary, I can see I was as interested in wine and food in those days as now and several meals are described. One in particular stands out. On the first day of our trip we drove to Avranches in Normandy and my diary provides the following tempting details:
“We drove onto Avranches. Booked into Croix d’Or. Hadn’t changed at all. Had magnificent meal of eight courses: potage, pâté, fruits de mer, moules, truites Croix d’Or, Canard/Entrecôte, fromage et meringue pudding and coffee. ½ bot. Chablis, and bottle Chateau Neuf du Pape.”
Wow, some meal!
I remember those multi-course meals at the Croix d’Or and although it sounds like a lot of food, the portions were small and you take your time and savour the experience and flavours. I commented in the diary that it hadn’t changed because I had been to the Croix D’Or on several memorable, previous occasions with my family when my father, someone who really appreciated good food and wine, was alive.
The Croix d’Or in Avranches is a 17th century coaching inn and from looking at their website, it is still going strong. I’m delighted!
Avranches is an interesting, historic town, near Mont St Michel on the Normandy coast. The brochure from the 1970’s outlines at least three facts of interest for history enthusiasts.
– In 1172, the excommunicated Henry II of England received absolution in Avranches for the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury committed by others following Henry’s famous comment, “Will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest?” He made public penance before the Cathedral (which was razed as unsafe in 1794). The paving stone on which he knelt is marked by chains on a small square locally called La Plate-forme and is featured in the Avranches brochure.
– General Patton, the World War II American military hero is recognized in the Monument Patton for his role in liberating Avranches in July 1944 and for his famous breakthrough of enemy lines ultimately making possible the liberation of France.
– Mont St Michel – A Benedictine Abbey founded in the 10th Century or earlier and built on an island in the bay that connects Brittany and Normandy. Subsequent to our visit in 1972, it was identified in 1979 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s accessible at low tide and I’ve made that crossing in the past. The Traveller in France , 1972 magazine p.17, mentions, “ At Mont-St-Michel the town’s festival is held on the first Sunday in May, while at the end of July there is a colourful pilgrimage across the sands”. It would be interesting to know if that pilgrimage still takes place.
Tourist brochure for Avranches from 1972
The Croix D’Or Inn at Avranches as well as the town and its interesting sites are on my list now for a return visit!
Sometimes I wonder about keeping memorabilia from years gone by. We seem to be endlessly encouraged to declutter, get rid of paper and streamline. It might be easy to just throw it all away. And yet, there would be no gems to give such pleasure, to remind us of places and people otherwise forgotten, to connect the past with the present and help us make plans for the future.
I’m keeping the shoebox!
 The Traveller in France, Love France for her thousand beautiful faces, No 255 Published since 1925, January 1972 by The French Government Tourist Office in Piccadilly, London.
A recent visit to Nicosia and dinner with friends at a favourite restaurant introduces us to a different way of serving halloumi cheese, which I really like and want to try making myself. Attempting to replicate interesting dishes is a favourite kitchen pastime!!
Halloumi is a particular Cypriot cheese made from sheep and goat milk. It has been produced by Cypriots for many centuries and is an important part of Cypriot culture and diet. It is semi-hard with a rubbery texture and a distinct salty flavour. It is a popular choice for many dishes as an alternative to traditional cheese due to its high melting point. As mentioned, it’s quite salty and usually served fried with slices of lemon. Delicious in its own way, I am ready to try a different style of serving halloumi.
I buy fresh halloumi from a farmer in the Paphos fruit and vegetable market and am always happy with her cheese.
The Nicosian restaurant, Beba, serves halloumi in a different way: halloumi baked on a tomate base. The server told me the base was tomato marmelade; tomatoes with various ingredients reduced to a marmelade consistency.
Part of the fun of my kitchen pastime is searching the internet for suitable, approximate recipes that I play with a bit, depending on the situation. In this way, I found a tomato marmelade recipe that I modified, particularly by reducing the sugar and replacing that ingredient with stevia.
Together with the tomatoes, the following ingredients of olive oil, onion, garlic, sweet red peppers, ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, balsamic vinegar all find their way into the pot. During the one hour simmering phase, I add some water so it doesn’t get too think. After cooling, this is puréed into a smooth marmelade consistency rather than a ‘chunky’ marmelade.
Sliced halloumi on tomato marmelade ready to go in the oven
Baked halloumi with Tomato marmelade
To replicate the baked halloumi dish we had enjoyed, I spread tomato marmelade onto a glass cooking plate and add the halloumi on top, sliced horizontally rather than the typical vertical slices.
This goes into a hot oven for 20 minutes and is served with a salad of lettuce and cucumbers. Because of the high melting point of halloumi, it retains its shape and softens rather than melting.
Choosing an appropriate wine is part of the pleasure and definitely choosing a Cypriot wine is important to me for this quintessentially Cypriot dish. Given the saltiness of the halloumi cheese, and following typical wine pairing convention, a wine with some acidity seems right and so we open a chilled bottle of Xynisteri, a white wine from Andreas Tsalapatis, a wine maker in Polemi, a village in the hills about 30 minutes from Paphos. It is a successful match with enough acidity to balance the saltiness in the halloumi but soft at the same time with flavours of citrus and stone fruit and a whisper of nuttiness at the end.
Tsalapatis Winery, 100% Xynisteri 12.5% VOL
Xynisteri is the main indigenous white-wine variety of Cyprus. It is used to make light, refreshing white wines. Xynisteri wine is typically produced as a single varietal wine and for sake of comparison is similar to Sauvignon Blanc.
Applause at the dinner table is music to my ears as we enjoy the results of this kitchen experiment, inspired by the restaurant Beba in Nicosia.
After so much time dreaming of holidays during lockdowns, here’s a wonderful opportunity to engage with the wine community in Sigoulès, near Bergerac in SW France by signing up for the summer event on July 24th of the Confrerie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès. A parade, a lunch and much fellowship awaits when you step outside your comfort zone and into a wonderful traditional event.
Taste Vin – Confrerie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès, SW France near Bergerac.
Check out the Confrerie website for all the details, menu and registration.
facebook: confrérie du raisin d’or
Summer festival Confrerie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès July 24
In a brief digression from my usual wine related writing, I would like to wish my readers a Happy Easter, a time to celebrate renewal, wherever you may live.
In line with celebrations, this is a good time to celebrate the wonderful mosaic art of our friend Sharen Taylor, whose studio is in Paphos, Cyprus, where I visited Sharen. Apart from her professional background as a conservationist and the work she has done with respect to archeological projects in the area, Sharen is a talented mosaic artist who is passionate about introducing others, including children, to this form of art and culture through her customized workshops and her commissioned work.
Sharen Taylor, Mosaic Artist.
Childrens’ Community Project : Architectural Mosaic Map; Sharen Taylor Mosaics.
By participating in Sharen’s workshops, Its possible to can get a personal appreciation of the skills used by the Greek and Roman artisans who, over a thousand years ago, created the exquisite mosaics in the buildings and excavations at the Paphos Archeological Park. I found my amateur mosaic making experience a walk in history, with admiration for the incredibly subtle work of those past artisans.
Nothing beats a local wine event for authenticity, comraderie and learning opportunities.
1st Wine & Zivania Exhibition
1st Wine & Zivania Exhibition
With good fortune, a friend told us about such an event in Koili, a village in the hills above Paphos, Cyprus, organized by the Koili Regional Educational Centre for Rural Professionals.
This centre in itself is an important initiative in support of the agricultural and viticultural nature of the area and the development and leverage of skills in the related workforce.
Once away from the increasing urbanization surrounding the towns, Cyprus is largely an agrarian community in which viticulture and wine making plays an important role. Agrotourism is an important sector focussed on agricultural products, vineyards and the production of Zivania, a strong Cypriot spirit.
This particular event in Koili is the First Wine and Zivania Exhibition and it is held in the impressive and purpose built large hall of the educational centre.
When we arrive the winemakers are arranging their wine bottles and displays and the DJ is playing music, all to build the lively atmosphere for the event.
First things first, I go in search of wine glasses, which are nicely stamped with the name of the event, and I am given a small pot of a traditional “amuse-bouche” for each person in our party. This is like a rose water sorbet / mousse consistency and I believe it is known as Mahalebi, usually served as a summer dessert.
Inscribed Wine glasses and Mahalebi rose water dessert.
Visitors have the opportunity to taste wine and Zivania from wineries in the wider area, while they are informed about the correct way of serving wine and the indigenous grape varieties of Cyprus, one of my areas of interest
In her greeting, the Governor of Paphos states that the wine sector is considered as an important pillar of development that can lead to the full recovery of the wider agricultural sector. The consistent quality of the wine produced in the Paphos District is also commented on as well as the production of Zivania..
I have to admit that I am not familiar with Zivania and it’s interesting to me that it is highlighted in the event. However, when I think about this, it makes sense, especially as we are informed that Zivania has been protected within the framework of EU Regulations as a unique product of Cyprus.
After visiting various wine displays, the main event starts. This is about the right way to serve wine.
Demonstration: the right way to serve wine
This is innovative and well done as instead of a lecture, there is a ‘show and tell’ demonstration of decanting a bottle of red wine and then pouring a tasting quantity in appropriate glasses for a couple of attendees seated at a properly laid table, as though in a restaurant! and once the individuals taste the wine and indicate their approval, their glasses are refilled. The Viticulturist/Oenologist, Dr Andrea Emmanuel talks us through the demonstration.
Following this, we visit more winemaker displays and I discover some indigenous varieties I am not aware of, discover a white wine at 10.5% ALC Vol and a winery producing small bottles of wine – all topics I am interested in!
More to come in my next blog post…
References: Koili Regional Educational Centre for Rural Professionals
In an uncertain world, I like to remember that February has long been the month to celebrate romance and love.
Heart branch on beach in Vancouver
Since the Middle Ages and more particularly since Victorian times, St Valentine, Cupid and Aphrodite have been celebrated with romantic cards and images of hearts; like this wooden heart made by the Heart Man and placed on the beach in Vancouver.
Not only do we celebrate love and romance with hearts, roses and chocolates but also with champagne!
This year we celebrated with a half bottle of Billecart-Salmon Champagne. This is in keeping with my interest in smaller bottles with high quality wines. Billecart-Salmon is a small champagne house started in the 1880s, is still run by the family in Mareuil sur Ay and has a devoted following among champagne aficionados. One quote is that…“Billecart Salmon is perhaps the best representative of a Champagne house that has chosen finesse over brute strength.”
We discovered Billecart-Salmon on a wine tour of the Champagne region in 2013. Here are two photos from that visit including the line up of champagne bottles we sampled during a tasting.
Chateau Billecart-Salmon, Mareuil-sur-Ay
Billetcart-Salmon champagne tasting 2013
here is our half bottle (375ml) of Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve Champagne 12.0%alc./vol.
Looking at trends is key to effective marketing. Being aware of wine trends is no exception.
Recently a few articles have appeared about low or lower alcohol wines as consumers consider their alcohol intake for all sorts of health and safety related reasons.
This trend leads me to consider the importance of the label on all bottles of wine, which must identify the alcohol percentage by volume of the wine, described as …%alc./vol. or sometimes …%vol.
Interestingly, most articles giving advice on wine don’t give the % alc./vol. of wine they write about. I too have neglected to do this in the past!!
The range of % alc./vol values in different wines is surprising.
I did a quick check on the wines in my “cellar” and purposefully selected wines with less than 14% alc./vol., which is quite a common figure for many red wines, in particular.
7 wines with lower alcoholic values
The 7 wines in the photo demonstrate an alcohol range from 10.5 % to 13.5% alc./vol The scale of difference is worth considering as the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at 13.5% alc./vol. is 28% more alcoholic than the Riesling at 10.5% alc./vol.
The alcohol level in wines is not a static measure and will vary year by year as a factor of the terroir where the vines are grown: influenced by weather, sunlight, soil, latitude, altitude, vineyard management etc. Alcohol production in wine is a natural fermentation process of the interaction of yeasts on the sugar in the must (pressed grapes and often stalks) producing alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2). The greater the sugar the higher the alcohol.
In general terms what this can translate to, if choosing wines with a lower alcoholic value, is choosing wines from cooler climates.
White wines from Northern Europe will likely have less alcoholic content: consider a Riesling from Germany, a Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy or a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, the Bordeaux area or British Columbia. Champagne is always a good choice for a lower alcoholic wine!
Red wines from Burgundy like a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais are not only generally lower in alcohol but they are also a good flexible choice to pair with a number of dishes. Pinot Noir from British Columbia also fits the bill.
The list below itemizes the 7 wines in the photo and their alcoholic levels, for illustrative purposes only.
Toni Jost: Bacharacher Riesling, 2016 Kabinett Feinherb, MittelRhein, Germany
Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon
Lock and Worth Winery, 2019, Poplar Grove, Naramata, BC.
Champagne Veuve Clicquot, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Reims, France
Beaujolais – Village 2016, Joseph Drouin, Beaune, Burgundy, France
Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve, 2020, Okanagan Valley, B.C.
Black Hills Estate Winery, 2017
Okanagan Valley, B.C.
Meyer Family Vineyards, Okanagan Valley 2018, Maclean Creek Rd Vineyard, Okanagan Falls, B.C.
I’m not advocating only drinking wines lower than 14%. Many of the beautiful Bordeaux wines that I wrote about in the last couple of blog posts as well as other wines I enjoy are in that range.
I am advocating carefully checking the bottle labels to be better informed about the wines we select.
What an invitation! To time travel to the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s with these images of wine bottle labelsfrom Bordeaux wines!
Bordeaux wine labels from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
These labels and others, carefully removed from the bottles and kept over the years, are a wonderful and much appreciated gift.
The Bordeaux wine area consists of two main geographic areas on the banks of the Garonne, Dordogne and the Gironde, which is the estuary where the Dordogne and Garonne rivers meet: left bank for Medoc and right bank for St Emilion and areas.
Bordeaux wine area
A closer view
The world famous Bordeaux wines are a blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot together with lesser amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. What’s interesting about the Bordeaux area is that the percentages of the wines in the blend vary according to geography. For example, the Medoc area wines generally feature more Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the St Emilion areas feature more Merlot.
The roles that these predominant varieties play in the wines is important in considering which type of wine to buy from personal preference and to pair with different dishes.
Cabernet Sauvignon provides more structure to the blend, considering tannins and acidity. It also provides dark-fruit flavours of blackcurrant and bell pepper.
Merlot is usually juicier and adds some softness with more fruit flavours. These two varieties complement each other and provide long term potential for ageing when made by skilled winemakers.
Given that winemakers create their own preferred ratios of Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot depending on soil, climate, and all the aspects of terroir, it is important to always look at the back label to see the percentages of the varieties in the Bordeaux wines one is buying, because this will give an indictation of the ambiance of the wine. In addition to this, also factoring in the geographic area within the Bordeaux area that the wine is coming from is important.
The Bordeaux Medoc and left bank wines (those typically with a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon) werefeatured on my earlier December blog with a chart comparing the assessment of Jane Anson, Master of Wine and Decanter’s Bordeaux Correspondent with the wines available through the (British Columbia) BC Liquor Stores for the 2018 wine releaseavailable in September this year.
As I highlighted in that earlier blog, Jane Anson wrote her En Primeur Report in the Decanter Magazine June 2019 issue, with not only an assessment of the 2018 vintage overall but she also assessed each individual château and identifies those châteaux she considered at the time to be Top Value, Producer to Watch or Potential 100 (i.e. possibility of being rated 100 points).
The chart below comparesthe Decanter Magazine assessment of the Bordeaux St Emilion and other right bank appellations (typically those wines with a higher percentage of Merlot) with the wines available through the BC Liquor Stores.
It’s interesting to note that 2018 was a year of high sugars and high tannins for the Bordeaux right bank wines.
The chart demonstrates where the opinions of Jane Anson MW coincide with the opinions of the BC Liquor Store Masters of Wine buyers. Again, only the chateaux highlighted by Jane Anson as Top Value, Producer to Watch or Potential 100 points for the St Emilion right bank wines are included in the chart. It’s a smaller list than the Medoc and Left Bank comparison list and none of Jane Anson’s Producer to Watch category made it to the BC Liquor Stores list.
For me, a second opinion from a valued source is always helpful.
2018 Bordeaux Right Bank
Jane Anson, MW
June 2019, En Primeur Report for 2018
BC Liquor Stores
BC Price $C per bottle
Château Beausejour Duffau-Lagarrosse
Château Beausejour Duffau-Lagarrosse
97 points Wine Advocate
Drink: 2024 – 2044
Château Cheval Blanc
Château Cheval Blanc
100 points Decanter
Drink: 2028 – 2042 Decades!
Pomerol & Lalande de Pomerol
Vieux Château Certan Pomerol
Vieux Châteaux Certan Pomerol
99 points Wine Advocate,
Drink: 2027 – 2057
Pomerol & Lalande de Pomerol
100 points Jeb Donnuck,
Drink: 2025 – 2065
Château La Serre
Château La Serre
94 points Jeb Dunnuck
Drink: 2026 – 2040
Pomerol & Lalande
Château Lafleur – Gazin
94 points James Suckling
Drink: 2024 – 2038
Côtes de Bordeaux & St Emilion Satellites
Château Joanin Bécot, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
Château Joanin Bécot, Castillon
Côtes de Bordeaux
93 points Jeb Dunnuck
Drink: 2022 – 2036
There are,of course, many more Bordeaux 2018 wines than those listed here available in the BC Liquor Stores.
The two charts of what was anticipated about the 2018 Bordeaux vintage in the En Primeur tastings in 2019 compared with the availability of wines in British Columbia Liquor Stores are helping me build an expanded list of possible wine producers to consider and watch for in future vintages.
Bordeaux wines are fascinating in their complexity and subtleties. I applaud the magic of the winemakers in producing superb wines and appreciate the efforts of the highly skilled Masters of Wine in presenting these wines and relevant information to consumers.
Wishing all a happy and healthy 2022,
Decanter Magazine June 2019
BC Liquor Stores 2018 Bordeaux Release Guide
Elizabethsvines December 2021 blog post: Bordeaux Release
The end of summer in Vancouver coincides with the annual Bordeaux wine release by the BC Liquor Stores. September is the important month.
Excitement builds as aficionados wait for the online and print catalogues as well as notification of the prebooking opportunities. It looks like the 2018 vintage will be a very good year, like 2015 and 2016.
The Bordeaux Release is quite the show! Especially when you see shopping carts loaded down with multiple cases of wine being wheeled out to nearby parked cars.
For me, the catalogue of wine is not just about the wine. The catalogue is like a travel brochure as each name that I know conjures up the place: the countryside, the beautiful chateaux themselves, and the rows of vines and the sense of history – the whole ambiance is like magic for me.
I have visited the Bordeaux wine region – left bank, right bank – several times either on arranged tours or one-off visits to a particular chateau. Seeing the names is like reading poetry that you know well, there’s a rhyme to the words: Chateaux Margaux, Palmer, Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Cheval Blanc, Figeac, Leoville Barton, Lynch Bages, La Dominique, Quintus…
Some are chateaux I have visited for the first time in the last few years, often with my wine expert friend. Yet others like Chateau Margaux and Chateau Palmer I first visited decades ago with my parents and have happy memories of those introductions to the world of Bordeaux wines !
Putting aside these fine memories, I got down to the business of modestly buying some of the 2018 Bordeaux Release!
When the wine is released in the ‘liquor stores’ run by BC Liquor Stores, there is a mad rush of people swooping in with determination written on their faces as they grab a copy of the catalogue, which is an excellent reference guide with helpful information, and decide what they will buy!
I have to admit I probably had that same look of determination on my face as we decided what to buy. I didn’t have time to do any research before buying. I know from previous experience that if you dither, the choices you would like will have gone!
The wines in the 2018 Bordeaux Wine Release were selected at the en primeur tastings in Bordeaux in 2019, and are now released for sale in 2021.
After we bought some wine at the release, I serendipitously rediscovered my Decanter magazine issue of June 2019, in which Jane Anson, Master of Wine and Decanter’s Bordeaux Correspondent gave her En Primeur Report for Bordeaux 2018.
Not only does she write about the vintage overall but she also assesses individual chateau and interestingly, identifies those chateaux she considers to be Top Value, Producer to Watch or Potential 100 (i.e. possibility of being rated 100 points).
I compared this list with the wines available through the BC Liquor Stores and prepared the following chart of those wines which appear both on Jane Anson’s three criteria list from 2019 and the BC Liquor Store release in 2021 for left bank Bordeaux wines. Here it is, rather a short but informative reference list.
Jane Anson MW – Decanter Magazine
BC Liquor Stores
BC Price $Can
Ch. Cambon La Pelouse
Ch . Cambon La Pelouse
Ch. Ormes de Pez
Ch. Ormes de Pez
Les Tourelles de Longueville
Les Tourelles de Longueville
Ch. du Glana
Ch. du Glana
Ch. Leoville Poyferré
Ch. Leoville Poyferrê
Producer to Watch
Ch. Clerc Milon
Ch. Clerc Milon
Ch. Lafite Rothschild
Ch. Lafite Rothschild
Ch. Mouton Rothschild
Ch. Mouton Rothschild
Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalonde
Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalonde
Needless to say, both the Decanter article and the BC Liquor Store catalogue list many more wine choices.
The above chart is a very short list of those Bordeaux left bank red wines which were assessed as either Top Value, Producer to Watch or Potential 100 points of Left Bank Bordeaux 2018 red wines and were also available in the BC Liquor Stores 2018 Release. These were the criteria for inclusion.
The value to me of this comparison chart is that it fine tuned the information in the BC Liquor Store catalogue and has introduced us to some vineyards we didn’t know about at the lower end of these price points that we will keep an eye on for future purchases.
Enjoy the magic of Bordeaux!
References: Jane Anson MW, Decanter Magazine June 2019, Vintage Preview: Bordeaux 2018
2018 Bordeaux Release – BC Liquor Stores.com
and with recognition to my wine expert friend who always encourages my interest in Bordeaux wines.
Saussignac, a small village of approximately 420 people in SW France in the Dordogne area of Nouvelle Aquitaine, really is a village of wine.
Route to Saussignac village
Dusk at the end of a hike in the Dordogne – the outline of Chateau Saussignac
Bergerac Wine Region showing Saussignac and Sigoulès
Apart from being the name of the village, where the chateau dates from the 17th century and is on the site of a much older building, Saussignac is also the name of the Saussignac Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée. The wines of this appellation are a late harvest botryrized wine made mainly from Sémillon grapes. This is a distinct category of the natural sweet wines produced from withered, shriveled grapes; a Vin Liqoreux, on the same honeyed track as a Sauterne or a Monbazillac. These wines of liquid gold can be savoured best with foie gras or a blue cheese, like Saint Augur or Roquefort, a dessert or even as a chilled aperitif. Several wine makers in the Saussignac area make these delicious wines, which should definitely be savoured by anyone visiting the area.
Saussignac is home to several wine makers, many of whom are organic farmers.
One such innovative organic farmer, writer and educator is Caro Feely from Château Feely. Caro is hosting a free zoom virtual presentation and discussion on the Climate Change Crisis on Friday, November 12 at 5.00 pm UK or 6 pm France. To sign up, Caro can be reached at email@example.com www.chateaufeely.com
An addition to the local community wine makers are Frank and Riki Campbell, new proprietors at Chateau de Fayolle in Saussignac. Their goal is to promote the wines of the area on a global level.
Chateau de Fayolle, under the new ownership of the Campbells, is offering platters of cheese and charcuterie with wine tastings in a newly renovated and up to date wine tasting room, which has wonderful views over the rows of vines. Great recommendations of the wines and ambience have been received from wine loving friends in the area and visitors from Bordeaux, so it’s well worth a visit. Check out details on their website: http://www.chateaufayolle.com
To complete the picture of Saussignac as a village of art and wine, I would be remiss not to mention the creative work of Mike and Lee McNeal Rumsby at Le 1500; the boutique hôtel, bistro and painting retreat in the middle of the village opposite Château Saussignac. Lee managed some of the world’s finest hotels and Mike’s paintings are sold internationally, so Le 1500 is definitely a place to visit and enjoy. http://www.le1500.rocks
The village of Saussignac continues to live up to its reputation as a place of Art and Wine.
This year in summer 2021, the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès in the Bergerac Wine Region in SW France was innovative in fulfilling its mandate of promoting local winemakers.
Instead of hosting its annual Confrerie wine event attended by Confrerie members from across France, it creatively switched to participating in the local Festival for Winemakers of Sigoulès-Flaugeac. The Confrérie hosted a wine tasting event of local wines in which the public voted for the wines of their choice. Great Idea!
Awards were then given by the Commandeur Guy Bergeron, representing the Confrérie, to the winners in the 5 wine categories of Red, Rose, Dry White, Sweet White, and Late Harvest Liquoreux. All 19 winemakers who participated in the public tasting were thanked for their participation.
And the five winners were…
Rouge/Red wine: Stephanie et Philippe Barré-Perier in Saint Pierre D’Eyraud
Rosé/ Pink: Jean Philippe Cathal, Domaine Petit Marsalet, St. Laurent des Vignes
Blanc Moelleur/Sweet White: Durand Frères, Château Haut Lamouthe, Lamonzie St Martin
Blanc Liquoreux/ Late Harvest Liquoreux: Stéphane Dumoulin, Chateau le Cluzeau, Sigoulés-Flaugeac
Congratulations to the winners of the people’s votes!
All these community names are very familiar to me and I am so pleased to acknowledge the work and effort that went into this event.
Given the COVID restrictions in place, the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès, under the leadership of the Commandeur and the support of the members, continues to be active in the community upholding its role as part of the UNESCO World Heritage recognition of Confréries in France as a fundamental aspect of French Gastronomie.
In the heat of the summer, who wants to do much cooking? Its more about finding some shade and maybe jumping into a pool surrounded by flowers; like here at a friend’s garden. I recently finished this semi abstract painting…
Early evening shadows – a Friends’s garden and pool. July 21 Acrylic
A Cypriot friend, a self confessed ‘foodie’, suggests that I try a local Cypriot whey cheese renowned in the Paphos area. At the next Paphos Saturday morning fruit and vegetable market I enquire about this cheese from my usual vendor and discover she makes both fresh halloumi and anari cheese! Not only does she make this cheese but she and her daughter recommend how to serve it! Perfect!
With the anari cheese and recipe in hand, off we go for a coffee and then I prepare the cheese for a salad lunch – perfect for hot summer days.
Anari is made in a large round – similar to how some soft goat cheese is made in France and elsewhere. The idea is to slice the cheese into rounds for serving. In the local presentation, the round of anari is then covered with a combination of carob syrup and honey and served in this way. We generally eat very few sweet things but I did have pomegranate syrup in the kitchen for cooking as well as honey. So on went the pomegranate and honey covering for the slice of anari cheese. The response! Absolutely delicious and surprisingly not sweet.
if I were to recommend a wine, I would choose an unoaked Chardonnay or a Viognier to complement the creamy, honeyed flavours of the Anari cheese prepared in this way.
Fresh anari will keep in the fridge for up to a week, so we enjoy a slice of cheese presented in this honeyed way several times!
Ricotta is a similar cheese so this will be an alternative when I can’t buy fresh anari and it will be interesting to make a comparison.
Simplifying meals is important on hot summer days!
Zucchini flowers for sale at Paphos fruit and vegetable market
These edible Zucchini flowers now in season and for sale at the weekly Paphos market catch my eye a couple of weeks before I decide to experiment with stuffed Zucchini flowers.
I enjoy these delicacies in restaurants. When you buy the flowers you realize how fragile they are. The flowers need to be prepared and cooked quickly before they spoil.
Bunch of Zucchini flowers from the market
Here is the approach I take, based on looking at various preparation references and combining different recipe ideas..
First, it’s important to remove the stamen or pistil from within the flowers. I also gently rinse each flower to check there are no insects hiding there!
Second, I make up a recipe from the fridge with bacon and mushrooms, chopped and sautéed. Add this to a soft French goat cheese with lots of chopped mint.
Third, I carefully stuff the flowers with the mixture and cook on a cookie sheet in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.
Fourth, the great tasting!
Success! The stuffed zucchini flowers taste good. The cooked flowers add a subtle sweetness to the dish and the mint is delicious and typical of Cypriot food. Only eat the flower petals not the stems or the green leaves.
Cooked Zucchini flowers with stuffing
For a wine pairing, I suggest a Tsangarides organic Chardonnay, which complements the creaminess of the stuffing well or perhaps a Viognier.
Tsangarides Organic Chardonnay
What would I do differently next time? From the recommendation of a Cypriot friend who knows about local dishes, instead of using a French goat cream cheese, (which is what I had in the fridge when I decided to make this dish!j or perhaps an Italian Ricotta as an alternative, I would use fresh Anari, which is a fresh mild whey cheese produced in Cyprus and made from goat or sheep milk. The authentic recipe!
A beautiful, peaceful garden awaits you: the sun is shining yet there is shade from the heat, bees are buzzing, birds are singing, the oleanders are blooming and the sky is dazzlingly blue.
The gardens at Oleander and Lantana Stone Houses, Lemona
Village views, hillside walks, old stone houses surround us and a winery to taste and buy wines is close by. What more could anyone want who may be seeking a time and place of true calm to restore the spirit?
A half day painting in the idyllic garden of Marcelina Costa in Lemona, in the foothills of the Troodos mountains about 1/2 hour from Paphos Airport, introduced us to this wonderful space where complete rest and rejuvenation would be possible.
Painting in Lemona
En plein air painting!
Filling the canvas en plein air!
Two independent stone houses, Lantana and Oleander, set within this meandering garden are available to rent through both Booking.com and Airbnb.
Ever a gracious host, Marcelina is multilingual in Greek, English, German and Polish and delights in explaining the history of the village, highlights local walks, and offers her homemade jams, lemonade, and baked goodies.
What makes Marcelina’s stone houses even more appealing to the wine lover is the proximity of Tsangarides Winery, literally around the corner in Lemona village, making white, red and rosé wines from indigenous grapes, Xinisteri, Mataro and Maratheftiko as well as the noble grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay, Tsangarides is always a favourite winery of mine for their consistency and high quality.
I have met with Angelos Tsangarides, who with his sister are fourth generation proprietors of the winery and I have previously written about their wines in 2016 and 2018. Since then, in addition to its traditional vineyards, the winery has cultivated organic vineyards and produce a series of organic wines as part of its overall portfolio of wines.
Map to Lemona and Tsangarides Winery – courtesy Tsangarides Winery
This painting excursion to Lemona reminds me to visit the Tsangarides winery again, and soon!
Creative endeavours have helped many people get through the challenges of the past pandemic year and I am grateful to Marcelina for the opportunity to paint in her hillside garden and to be reminded of the beauty of Lemona, including Tsangarides Winery and the surrounding countryside.
Let us raise a glass to commemorate the bicentenary of the deaths of both Napoleon Bonaparte and Mrs Sarah D’Oyly with a glass of Port, a fortified wine popular in their days.
Mrs. D’Oyly of Curzon Street, London and Twickenham died 200 years ago this year. She might be surprised to know that she is being written about so long after her death and nearly 300 years after her birth in 1725.
Napoleon Bonaparte also died 200 years ago – it’s the bicentenary of his death this month of May and much will undoubtedly be commented upon regarding his considerable legacy.
Mrs. D’Oyly’s legacy, by virtue of the auction of her wine cellar contents in 1822, provides a window into a 19th century collection of Choice Old Wines – a gift to anyone interested in the history of wine and its context.
Photo of Mr. Christie’s poster advertising Choice Old Wines by auction in 1822.
Sarah D’Oyly was a child of the Enlightenment Period in the 18th and 19th centuries, whose three principle concepts were: use of reason, scientific enquiry and progress. It was a time of intellectual and scientific advancement to improve human life and a time of prominent thinkers like Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu, Adam Smith and Kant.
I recall reading Candide by Voltaire in my A level French studies at school and enjoyed the debates between Candide and the philosopher Pangloss and Candide’s encouragement that, “we must cultivate our garden”.
We now talk about the great changes in our lifetime and yet so much change happened during Mrs. D’Oyly’s lifetime. For starters, the American War of Independence 1775 – 1783, the French Revolution 1789 – 1799 and the Industrial Revolution 1760 – 1840.
So who was Sarah D’Oyly? She was the widow of Christopher D’Oyly, a barrister and administrator. They lived in Mayfair in London and also had a villa in Twickenham, 10.5 miles from their London home. Twickenham was first recorded in AD 700 as Tuick Hom and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 following the Norman Conquest in 1066. In fact, D’Oyly is an old Norman name.
May showing Curzon Street, London and Twickenham
Upon the death of her husband in 1795, Mrs D’Oyly remained both at Twickenham and their Curzon Street house in London until her own death in 1821 at the age of 96, a considerable age at any time and in particular 200 years ago. She was buried at Walton on Thames beside her husband and her memorial reads:
“In memory of Mrs Sarah D’Oyly,
grand daughter of Sir Hans Sloane, Bart
and widow of the late Christopher D’Oyly, Esq who departed this life on the eighth day of September 1821, in the ninety seventh year of her life”
Sarah D’Oyly was the granddaughter of Sir Hans Sloane, (1660 – 1753), an Ango-Irish physician, naturalist, collector and prominent figure in 18th century London. Sir Hans Sloane’s collection of 71,000 objects from around the world were bequeathed by him to the British Nation on his death and were the foundation of the British Museum, the British Library and the Natural History Museum. Currently, this and other collections are being evaluated in the context of how these significant collections from the Enlightenment Period contributed to the development of knowledge and understanding with an attempt to understand the world in which the collectors lived.
18th Century enamel wine label of Cyprus wine, Commandaria
KEO St John Commandaria
The collection of Choice Old Wines for auction by Mr. Christie in 1822 highlights the taste for sweet fortified wines in that era. The practice of fortifying wines with grape spirit also reflects the long voyages required to bring the wines to England in a drinkable state. Additionally, with fortified wines, there was the advantage that the wines kept longer once the bottles were opened.
A typical cellar of the period could also have included Claret from Bordeaux and Champagne, at that time usually a still red wine.
The 18th and 19th centuries saw considerable innovation in grape and wine production in various parts of Europe, permitting a number of distinctive wines such as Madeira, Port, Sherry, Claret and Champagne to be marketed. However, there were high import duties so wine was a luxury.
Wine labels from the collection of Dr Richard Wells that match the wines in the poster
The main market in Britain at that time for alcoholic beverages was beer and spirits and even by 1815, the annual consumption of wine was low due to the high cost.
Between 1816 and 1820, Portuguese wines were the highest percentage of available wines for home consumption in Britain, as in Madeira and Port, and Sherry and Port accounted for approximately ¾ of all British imports of wines before 1860. Port became firmly established in the lifestyle and habits of a section of the British public.
Another 19th century wine cellar inventory that I am aware of corroborates that fortified wines were the mainstay of a wine cellar at that time.
Late 18th Century enamel labels for Cyprus wines, courtesy of Dr. R Wells
Perhaps these differences in wine taste between then and now illustrate one measure of changes over the centuries. A more significant difference between the lifetime of Mrs. D’Oyly and now, relates to transportation. The railway reached Twickenham in 1848. Throughout Sarah D’Oyly’s long life, she would have used horses and horse drawn vehicles to move between her homes in Mayfair and Twickenham. This contrast speaks volumes about the difference in lifestyle then and now.
Over the past few blog posts, I have reflected upon the Choice Old Wines in Mrs. D’Oyly’s wine cellar that were auctioned in 1822 and tried to put them in perspective from a historical viewpoint. As a visual cue, the wines have been beautifully illustrated by a photo-montage of historic enamel wine labels from the collection of Dr. Richard Wells.
I like to think that Sarah D’Oyly, following her long life, would be amused by this interest in her wine cellar.
Reference: Twickenham Museum www.twickenham-museum.org
I’ve been asked if Mrs. D’Oyly was a relative of the D’Oyly Carte family of Gilbert and Sullivan musical fame. My conclusion is probably not. Apparently, the word D’Oyly was used by Richard D’Oyly Carte and his sons as a forename, not part of a double surname. If anyone knows of a connection between the families, I would be interested to hear more.
When a story hooks you, you go deeper…at least I do with topics like wine, history, geography… This post is another look at the wines listed for sale by Mr. Christie in 1822, as illustrated by these beautiful enamel labels, which would have adorned decanters to identify and serve the wines.
Photo of Mr. Christie’s poster advertising Choice Old Wines by auction in 1822.
This is my second post about this intriguing Mr. Christie sale advertisement, which put me on the path of discovery. That is, discovering more about the wines listed for sale nearly two hundred years ago.
In my last post, the focus was on Frontiniac, Sack, Calcavella.
This post is about Malaga, Cape, Paquaret/Pacaret and Lisbon wines. These wine names are beautifully illustrated in this photo-collage of enamel labels that are in the collection of enamel expert, Dr Richard Wells. Richard kindly put together this grouping to reflect the wines from the cellar of Mrs. D’Oyly and I greatly appreciate his generosity in doing so.
Wine labels from the collection of Dr Richard Wells that match the wines in the poster
Several of these label names, like Malaga, Cape and Lisbon are generic in nature for the particular geographic regions.
Malaga, for example, is the term that was applied generically to any variety of heavy sweet, usually red fortified wines that originated in the Malaga area in southern Spain, including certain kosher wines served at Jewish celebrations. Spanish Malaga is made from Muscat grapes, and from a variety known as Pedro-Ximenez and these grapes are usually sun-dried to concentrate sweetness. Vineyards are in the Malaga Mountain Range and in the Ronda Mountain Range. These are liqueur wines with a fairly high sugar content.
This area with its Mediterranean climate is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, since the arrival of Phoenicians almost 3,000 years ago.
Its not surprising that Mrs. D’Oyly’s 19th century cellar contained Malaga wines as they were at their greatest quality around that time before the phylloxera louse so badly affected vineyards in Europe.
Dr Wells tells me that the Malaga enamel wine label is French from the second half of the 18th Century.
Pacaret, Paquaret (also spelled as Paxarete)
This is another Spanish dessert wine. It’s a wine of the deep south of Spain, like Sherry, from the Andalusia area. It was made in different styles, both dry and sweet and was also made from the Pedra Ximenez grape.
A note of interest: in the 17th and 18th centuries, Sherry was known in England as Sack and this is described in my last post.
In the 18th and 19th Centuries, Pacaret was generally considered to be a “ladies” wine, and suited to the American custom of drinking wines mainly after dinner.
Pacaret is listed in Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Wine Cellar list of 1787 and he continued to order Spanish wine, including Pacaret after he became the third President of the United States in 1801.
The Paquaret enamel label is English from the late 18th/early 19th centuries.
The Pacaret enamel label is French from the same period.
Wine growing area around Lisbon: Carcavelos (previously Carcavella), Colares and Bucelas
The reference to Lisbon on the auction sale poster refers to the historic Denominaçâo de Origem Controlada, (DOC) wine region west of Lisbon, or Estremadura as it used to be known, and can include wines such as Carcavelos, Colares and Bucelas. This area was known for fortified wine production; off dry topaz coloured wines that have nutty aromas and flavours. The grape varieties appear to have been Arinto and Ramisco. When fortified, using distilled grape spirit, the wines were world renowned in the 19th Century. Again, it’s not surprising that these wines would have been in Mrs. D’Oyly’s cellar. While similar to Port, these wines are not Port, which is only produced in the Douro river valley area and according to present law is only shipped from Oporto.
The manner in which wine names change over time is worth noting and the name of Carcavelos is a good example. Wine labels from the 18th and 19th centuries would be made for Calcavallo or Calcavello wine, which is the older name for Carcavellhos or Carcavelos wine as it is presently called. The change was to move away from Spanish spelling, which was a hold over from the Spanish occupation of what is now Portugal in the 17th century.
In a letter dated May 26, 1819, Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States of America (1801 – 1809), wrote to his wine agent in Marseilles referring to sweet wines including Frontignan from France and Calcavallo from Portugal. He clearly appreciated wine and designated both wine and friendship as a, “True restorative cordial”.
Another quote from Thomas Jefferson about Calcavella wine is in my previous post.
Moving to the 21st century, the name for the wine area around Lisbon was changed in 2009 from Estremadura to Lisboa VR (Vinho Regional), again to focus on the Portuguese language.
In the modern era, the wine areas of Carcavelos, Colares and Bucelas have been affected by real estate development in the suburbs of Lisbon and the coastal town of Estoril. There is apparently some interest and activity in reviving the historic legacy and indigenous grapes of the area. We will wait and see.
The Lisbon enamel label in the photo collage is English, again from the late 18th/early 19th centuries.
Many people will have visited these areas of southern Spain and the Lisbon area of Portugal and not necessarily known anything about the 19th century history of these wine areas. I’ve flown into Malaga and driven up the coastal mountain highway to Ronda, little knowing this history. I stayed in the area 20 years ago and did some early morning runs as I prepared for the BC Arthritis Society Marathon in Hawaii!
Similarly, as a child my family spent many holidays in the Portuguese coastal areas of Cascais and Estoril at a time when Cascais was still a fishing village and the area was on the cusp of real estate development. Little could I imagine then that years later I would be commenting on the wine history of the areas in the context of a George 1V era sale of Lisbon wines!
Cape: this is the generic term for the geographic area around Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
The Cape wine producing area.
A noteworthy three-century viticulture tradition exists in the area originating when the Dutch arrived and South Africa became an important staging post for both Holland and England for trade with the East.
At the end of 1654, the first cuttings of vines arrived at the Cape from Holland and were probably young vines from the Rhineland. Wine was pressed for the first time in 1659. In 1688, French Huguenots arrived in the Cape and extended the vineyards and improved the quality of the wine. By 1711, South African wines were becoming known and travellers spoke of the ‘world famous Constantia wines”, which were sweet wines. In 1805, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain took possession of the Cape. Around the time that Mrs. D’Oyly’s wine cellar was developed probably from the late 1700s on, the export of Cape wine to Great Britain flourished.
In the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Constantia Valley was known for its legendary dessert wines. These were the halcyon days of these wines, which were fortified for overseas patrons in order to survive the long voyage and generally unfortified for local consumption. The original grape varieties were probably Muscat, Pontac and maybe Chenin Blanc.
The Groot Constantia winery dates from 1685 and has a museum section on their website, which provides the chronology of their history.
These Cape wines took on a fame of their own as they were mentioned in at least two books that we might know. In Jane Austen’s novel, Sense and Sensibility, Cape wine was mentioned as a cure for a broken heart! Charles Dickens referred to it as a way to lift a character’s spirit in The Mystery of Edward Drood. Were they writing from experience? Perhaps tips worth noting!
The next post in this series about the Mr. Christie 1822 wine auction poster will be to share some history of Mrs. D’Oyly, whose generous wine cellar prompted these discoveries.
References: Alexis Lichine’s Encylopaedia of Wines and Spirits and various references.
Last month, the fascinating poster for the sale of choice old wines on February 7, 1822, together with the images of the Cyprus enamel labels sparked interest.
Photo of Mr. Christie’s poster advertising Choice Old Wines by auction in 1822.
Dr Richard Wells, my collaborator in identifying enamel wine labels, has kindly created this montage of labels from his collection, that represent the wines listed on the sale poster.
Wine labels from the collection of Dr Richard Wells that match the wines in the poster
Most of the wines represented by these labels, with the exception of Rum, are no longer consumed or popular, as they once were, so it’s interesting to know a bit more about them. Apart from knowing more about the wines, the shapes and designs of the individual labels are really worth further examination for the colours, the floral motifs and in some cases grapes! and the shapes: beautiful craftsmanship from another era.
All these wines were sweetish, a style of wine popular in Paris and London in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Some of the labels and the wines are described below, more will be noted in the next blog.
Frontiniac label: this is an English late 18th/early 19th century enamel label. Frontiniac is a sweet muscadine wine made in Frontignac, France. A reference to this wine in a collection of old plays refers to Frontiniac in this way: ” One more Frontiniac and then a walk”. With difficulty perhaps!
Sack label: this is an English late 18th /early 19th century enamel label. Sack is an antiquated wine term referring to white fortified wine imported from mainland Spain or the Canary Islands. Most Sack was predominantly sweet. Sack is commonly but not quite correctly quoted as an old synonym for sherry. In modern terms, typical sack may have resembled cheaper versions of medium Oloroso sherry. As a literary reference, William Shakespeare’s character Sir John Falstaff, introduced in 1597, was fond of sack, and the Falstaff character said, “If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack”.
Calcavella label: this is probably an English label, again late 18th/early 19th century and unusually made from Mother of Pearl. Calcavella is a Portuguese sweet wine that was noted in a wine sale in 1769. Calcavella was noticed by Thomas Jefferson ( 1743 – 1826 and 3rd US President) when he was the US Ambassador to France from 1784 – 1789, right at the time of the French Revolution. Later on, he would order Calcavella several times while living in the United States. When writing about wine, Thomas Jefferson said, ” I would prefer good Lisbon; next to that Sherry, next to that Calcavallo: but still a good quality of the latter would be preferable to an indifferent quality of the former”.
The remaining labels will be commented on in my next blog, together with an insight into the life and times of Mrs. D’Oyly, the widow highlighted in the sale poster and the late owner of these wines.
More to come…
Reference: Dr. Richard Wells www.drrwells.com
Various references to the wines and to Thomas Jefferson.
Last month’s blog featuring the beautiful 18th Century Cyprus enamel wine labels generated more fascinating information. It is so interesting when wine intersects with social history!
18th Century enamel wine label of Cyprus wine, Commandaria
Photo of Mr. Christie’s poster advertising Choice Old Wines by auction in 1822.
Dr. Richard Wells, whose labels I included in my last post, kindly forwarded a photograph of this La Comenderie enamel label from his collection. This is a late 18th Century English label, made possibly for the French market or to use the French translation of the word. This label demonstrates how broadly the Cyprus fortified wine Commanderia was exported over the centuries and in this case in the late 1700’s.
Following the publication of my last blog post, a friend kindly sent me a photo of this fascinating poster that they have had for many years, of a wine auction to be held on Thursday, February 7th, 1822 to be conducted by Mr. Christie in Pall Mall, London. Yes! 199 years ago next week! Careful review of the list of, “excellent and well-flavoured Old Port” to be auctioned, identifies Cyprus among the 125 dozens to be sold, even though Commanderia isn’t technically a Port, but a fortified wine. It’s also worth noting that the wines are sold in Pint quantities, as that was the measure for wine at the time. A pint is 0.5 litres. The decanters used to serve these wines in the 19th Century would have been much smaller than those made today.
In the 18th and 19th centuries Port was a very popular drink. This was influenced by the Treaty of Methuen in 1703, which was a military and commercial agreement between Portugal and England, resulting in the import of various wines from Portugal including several listed on the auction poster, for example: Madeira, Lisbon, Calcavella.
During this period, Port became known as a drink with medicinal virtues, in particular for gout. Presumably, similar fortified wine was swept up in this popularity and Cyprus’s Commanderia wine benefitted from this fashion.
It was common at the time to drink these wines heavily every day and people became known as a ‘Three Bottle Man’ or a ‘Four Bottle Man’. A bottle contained 350 millilitres. Therefore, a Three Bottle Man drank slightly less than 2 pints of Port a day, or just over 1 litre in today’s terms.
An example of a Three Bottle Man in British history is William Pitt the Younger, who was the youngest Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1783. He suffered from poor health and to address this problem, his physician recommended that he drink three bottles of Port a day!
Commanderia has been recognized as a popular wine since mediaeval times. Today, sadly,the market for Cyprus’ Commandaria wine has diminished, whereas Port continues to be widely enjoyed, even if far less than in the days of Three Bottle Men!
The beautiful La Comenderie enamel label together with the intriguing wine auction poster provide a fascinating glimpse into the past.
References: Thanks to Dr. R. Wells, drrwells.com Enamel Wine Labels
With thanks to Suekatunda for permission to include the photo of the Christie’s poster.
These beautiful late 18th Century enamel labels for Cyprus wine illustrate that the wine industry has a long and elegant history.
Late 18th Century enamel labels for Cyprus wines, courtesy of Dr. R Wells
The four enamel labels most likely are for Commandaria wine, which is a Cyprus sweet dessert wine, sometimes fortified but always with a high alcohol level. The label marked Malvoisie de Chipre refers to ancient grape varieties, known as malvoisie, used for dessert wines. Commandaria wine dates back to approximately 800 BC and was popular during the time of the Crusades in the 11th and 12th centuries and subsequently exported widely within Europe.
I wrote about Commandaria wine in a 2013 blog and described it as follows:
‘As a fortified wine, Commandaria travelled well and was exported throughout Europe. It was popular in England, for example, not only in the 13th century but later and was a favourite of the Tudor Kings including King Henry V111.
Commandaria is made only in a defined region of 14 wine producing villages in the Troodos foothills about 20 miles north of Limassol. The wine production for Commandaria has remained true to traditional methods. The production is small and it maintains its ranking among the world’s classic wines. In 1993, the European Union registered Commandaria as a protected name and geographic origin.
Commandaria is regarded as an eastern mediterranean equivalent of its western mediterranean cousins, Port and Sherry. We found it had both similar and different characteristics and was more refreshing and lighter with higher acidity. ‘
For a fuller description of this fortified wine please look at my earlier blog post:
The various spellings of Cyprus on the four enamels in the photograph suggest a robust export of Cyprus wines in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Chypre is the french spelling for Cyprus and this label is early French in origin and the Chipre and Malvoisie de Chipre are early English. The Cyprus label is more recent.
2020 will surely be remembered as an extraordinarily difficult year for wine makers. From my conversations with several over the years, including members of Confrèries, I realize that they are used to overcoming a variety of challenges including weather, soil and pest conditions as well as market changes. This year they have again demonstrated their ability to tackle a new challenge with innovation and creativity.
These exquisite and historic Cyprus enamel labels, shown courtesy of Dr. Richard Wells, help to remind us of the longevity and resilience of the wine making industry and the pleasure it brings to so many people: past, present and future.
I wish all wine makers and their families everywhere a successful year in 2021.
Happy New Year!
Reference: http://www.drrwells.com Enamel Wine Labels: refer to Dr Well’s blog for a full description of enamel labels.
Perhaps it’s remembering mediterranean holidays and city streets lined with fruit trees covered with oranges that resemble vibrant holiday decorations. Sweet memories in lockdown times.
All these thoughts of clementines inspire me to consider an orange cake to start the holiday celebrations. When a friend sends a recipe for Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake the culinary decision is easy! It’s a great recipe for anyone watching their gluten intake, as it calls for almond flour. I limit the amount of sugar in any cooking I do and so substitute stevia for the sugar in the recipe. (A quick google check suggests the ratio of 8:1 sugar to stevia.) Another adjustment is to make mini cakes rather than a loaf cake. This makes it so easy to have a just a small taste of something sweet to finish a meal.
Clementine mini cakes
These mini cakes are moist and have the flavour of orange. I still want more orange flavour and decide an orange syrup is essential! I combine a couple of recipes to make this syrup which is essentially: juice of 4 oranges and 1 lemon, Agave syrup to taste instead of sugar. I simmer that combination and allow it to reduce in volume and add a tablespoon of Grand Marnier – the aromatic cognac and orange liqueur combination – and some candied orange peel. Result: yummy combination of mini clementine cake and orange syrup!
Delicious orange syrup
Clementine Mini Cakes with orange syrup
In wine and food pairing terms, a glass of Sauternes or another late harvest wine would be excellent or to start the celebrations, maybe continue with the taste of Grand Marnier Liqueur!
Where does the time go? I have been writing Elizabethsvines since 2012 and have now written 100 posts! A big Thank You to everyone who has ever read my blogs and encouraged me in this endeavour! I appreciate the support!
In particular, I would like to dedicate this post to my wine friend and mentor, CC, who is bravely recovering from a stroke earlier this year. Bon Courage et Bon Rétablissement!
Here follows a selection of photos from blog post # 01 to #100!
Now starting the next 100 posts! More wine stories and pairings to come!
Entertaining friends, one or two at a time in a responsible social distancing way, is still something we enjoy hosting on the patio. Offering what I call a mini-meze feels like an easy, no fuss option.
Mini-meze with pâté of sardines, anchovies and almonds
Basil and Cilantro (Coriander) growing up a storm and protected from local cat!
A meze in eastern Mediterranean countries involves quite a few different and delicious dishes. I prepare an abbreviated version with roasted vegetables, slices of local feta with olive oil drizzled over and chopped herbs, either oregano or fresh basil from the garden, sliced tomatoes and various cheeses including the greek cheese, Kefalotyri. I add some form of protein, sometimes smoked salmon, or as in the photo above, a paté of sardines, anchovies and almonds – quite delicious with toasted black bread or crackers.
A photo of the rapidly growing Basil and Cilantro (Coriander) is included. The planter is covered to protect it from a neighbourhood cat!
This mini-meze Is served in the context of enjoying a chilled white wine, usually an indigenous Cyprus white grape called Xinisteri, which is similar to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris – in that continuum of freshness but not too acidic. As mentioned previously, a favourite of ours is the Zambartas Xynisteri.
Zambartas Xynisteri 2017
I read in a French wine publication that a gloomy autumn, ‘ un automne morose’ is anticipated, in which bad news about the financial health of organizations is starting to become a reality and could affect the whole wine sector including sales for the upcoming festive season. It’s probably a time to look out for great prices of choice still and sparkling wines.
Offering a mini-meze with wine is one way to continue to support our local/and or favourite winegrowers during these challenging times.
My favourite culinary endeavour right now is making salsa, in particular mango salsa.
Delicious Mango Salsa with Cilantro on the side
Just the name feels festive and so does the taste with the combination of sweet and contrasting flavours from the spring onion, red pepper, lemon juice and cilantro together with the mango. Chopping all the ingredients up into small pieces and mixing with the lemon or lime juice makes this a really easy summer garnish.
There are many recipes on the internet but this is the combination I have been making with success and I really like it. In consideration of friends who may not like cilantro, I serve that separately so people can add it to their taste. We enjoy this salsa with prosciutto, cheeses, smoked salmon, roasted vegetables and the list goes on. I have tried making the salsa with nectarines as that fruit has less natural sugar than mangoes but it didn’t really measure up from my perspective.
Rosé seems to be the perfect wine match and we have recently tried two that are new to us: Zambartas Wineries 2018 Rosé from Lefkada, a Greek grape and Cabernet Franc, and Vouni Panayia Winery 2019 Rosé from local grapes, Mavro and Xinisteri.
Two summer Rosés
The Zambartas Rosé won a gold medal in the 2019 International Rosé Championship and is a darker rosé colour from the Cabernet Franc grape, similar in colour to the rosés from South West France. 13% ALC by volume.
The Vouni Panayia Rosé from the local grapes of Mavro (black) and Xinisteri is paler, more similar to the rosés from the South of France. 13.5 % ALC by volume.
Both wines offer red fruit flavours including pomegranate and are refreshing, good as a summer aperitif as well as with seafood or Asian style food. We enjoy them both but in balance my favourite is the paler rosé from local grapes.
It’s time to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, with socially distanced outdoor eating and fresh and refreshing flavours.
Lamb and feta cheese seems an unusual combination when I first hear of this a few years ago from Swiss/Austrian friends who serve us delicious lamb and feta burgers.
Lamb and Feta Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce
In a Covid culinary moment, I decide to see if I can replicate this combination and search for a recipe for a meatloaf with lamb and feta. To my amazement, I discover a January 1997 recipe for Lamb Meat Loaf with Feta Cheese on the Southern Living website, a magazine I haven’t seen for many years in Vancouver but I see is still very active and interesting.
I made this meatloaf twice, the second time with great success. The first time, it does a belly flop when I turn it out of the pan.
Lamb and Feta Meatloaf slices well and freezes perfectly
Here’s how I modify the recipe to my taste: replace the green bell pepper with red pepper, added more fresh herbs, particularly rosemary, add chopped black olives and make a fresh tomato sauce, ‘Classic Tomato Sauce’ from the Epicurious site, rather than a bought sauce as suggested. Additionally, to avoid the belly-flop routine, I make the full recipe, which is for 8 servings and put all the ingredients including the toasted pine nuts but not the feta cheese and olives, in the food processor for two spins to fully integrate all the ingredients before I layer the pan with the mixture and the feta cheese and olives. A big bonus with this recipe is that it freezes really well, so I slice the meatloaf and individually pack slices for the freezer.
The big decision, of course, is what wine to serve with it.
Ktima Karipidis Nebbiolo
Ktima Karipidis Nebbiolo
My thoughts turn to a Nebbiolo wine from Greece that we enjoy in Nicosia, Cyprus earlier in the year. This delicious Nebbiolo from the organic vineyards of Ktima Karipidis in Thessalia, Greece with its full body tannins, high acidity and distinctive scent of fruit and liquorice would be a good match with the lamb and feta meatloaf with its tomato sauce. In my mind’s eye, I see myself enjoying this Greek Nebbiolo with my newly discovered meatloaf!. Fantastic!
I have not been to the Thessaly area of Greece but I read that the area is bordered by Greek Macedonia and the Aegean Sea and has a thriving viticulture industry. The wine waiter at Beba Restaurant, Nicosia, recommends this wine to us. It was a good recommendation, which we thoroughly enjoy. The Nebbiolo grape is usually associated with high quality wines from the Piedmont area of Italy.
Closer to home here on the West Coast, we enjoy the meatloaf with our house Pinot Noir, which is from the Meyer Family Vineyard in Okanagan Falls, B.C: also a good choice with the lamb and feta.
Taking time to discover new recipes and imagining wine pairings is enjoyable and creative in these unusual times and brings a smile to my face.
Perhaps the Heartman says it best with his inspiring ♥️ heart creations.
The Heartman creates an inspiring flower heart. Photographed with his permission.
Today, I saw the Heartman as I was walking along the seawall in Vancouver.
Floral love art by the Heartman, West Vancouver
The Heartman, as we call him, creates beautiful arrangements of flower petals on the earth or grass, always in the shape of a heart. He radiates calm and peace and his delightful work inevitably brings a smile or a photo opportunity moment to passers-by.
This heart symbol seems particularly appropriate as we all do our best to: “Be Kind, Be Calm and Be Safe”; the affirmation that British Columbians have taken to heart, literally, coined by Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer of British Columbia.
The focus on compassion and safety is reflected in the approaches to winery visits this summer where social distancing and safety are paramount for visitors to be encouraged to venture into winery tastings.
The key message for people planning to visit wineries during their summer holidays, whether here in BC or in other wine growing areas, is to anticipate the need to make an appointment for a wine tasting. For now, drop in wine tastings are a thing of the past. Additionally, the numbers of people tasting at any one time is sharply reduced, so check out how many people can be in the tasting party. And, ask about the guidelines on spitting wine at the tasting area: some wineries provide a disposable spit cup, so a good idea to clarify this before the tasting begins!
Each winery creates their own wine tasting procedures as long as they keep to the guidelines around social distancing and sanitation. This affects where the wine tastings take place, indoors or increasingly in outdoor spaces. A point of enquiry is the definition of social distancing. Here in British Columbia, we are operating with a 2 metre social distance. In France, the social distance is 1 metre. Figure out what that distance looks like, so you can conform to the expectation or leave more space. Its important everywhere to know the guidelines, so you can: “respecter la distance de 1 mètre” or 2 metres, whichever is relevant.
Winery visitors can expect highly professional levels of sanitation for everything from counter tops to wine stemware to pour spouts on wine bottles with visitors being discouraged from touching bottles of wine for sale, unless buying them!
I visited the websites of two award wining wineries I know well in SW France to see what is on offer in these Covid times. Both these wineries have 5 stars with Trip Advisor for their winery visits.
Sue and Humphrey Temperley, proprietors of Château Lestevenie
Bergerac Wine Region showing Saussignac and Sigoulès
The Hare at Chateau Lestevenie, Gageac et Rouillac, Dordogne.
Chateau Lestevenie has clear instructions on their home page about phoning to arrange wine tastings. They indicate that wine tastings are strictly by appointment to one household group per time in order to maintain social distancing. Chateau Lestevenie is a beautiful countryside winery offering a wonderful visit and opportunity to learn with Humphrey and Sue Temperley and admire the work they have also done to promote the flora and fauna on their property.
These comments above assume that the winery visit will be in person. A growing element in wine tourism now is the advent of the virtual wine tour and tasting.
Caro Feely, Co-Proprietor, Chateau Feely, Saussignac SW France
Château Feely owned by Caro and Sean Feely
Another local winery in the Dordogne is Chateau Feely where Caro Feely has been busy launching a range of virtual experiences to enable people to experience Chateau Feely from anywhere.
Caro says: “We have been working flat out days, nights, weekends to get these new products developed and the response has been great. We had started developing ideas for online courses as part of our wine school the last couple of years and the coronavirus offered the push and the ‘time space’ we needed to get the first products done.”
Caro has produced several videos on their website describing the biodynamic vineyard of Caro and her husband, Sean, including a one minute video produced about their new Virtual Discovery Wine Course.
‘Down the road’ from these country wineries, in Ste Emilion and the areas around Bordeaux another approach to wine tasting takes place. This year, many of the most famous chateaux in the wine world are conducting their wine tastings with merchants using video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft teams etc. Samples of wines are shipped to the merchants in advance and then the tastings take place virtually with the chateaux technical directors discussing the wines and answering enquires from the merchants. This is how the 2019 en primeur wine sale to merchants is taking place for many chateaux. The good news is that it appears 2019 was a year producing a high quality vintage.
Economically speaking 2020 looks like a tough year for winemakers. At the en primeur level of wine sales, many chateaux are discounting their 2019 vintage prices to encourage sales. Inevitably, this price challenge will ripple down through the industry and affect all the wine-makers.
In the time of Covid, let’s be kind to our wine-makers and support them through an unforgettable year, which is bringing many challenges as well as opportunities for change.
Tasting the aromatic wines of Riesling and Gewürztraminer with spicy foods in the comfort of home has been a plan for some time. It’s a follow-up to my wine and food pairing comments in the April elizabethsvines.
The wine line up for the tasting and food and wine pairing
Selecting wine for a wine tasting and especially a wine and food pairing is an adventure! Somewhat constrained by availability of choice yet an enjoyable shopping expedition!
It’s fun in the BC Liquor Store checking out the choices and having sidebar conversations with other customers about our individual wine selections! People are curious about the idea of the food and wine tasting!
Two objectives are at the root of this food and wine pairing: to confirm the pairing of Chardonnay with a rich, creamy food choice and then to evaluate Rieslings and Gewurztraminers with spicy food. With the aromatic wines, I also want to consider different wine regions. The Rieslings and Gewürztraminers include wines from Alsace and Germany; I also include a British Columbia wine. For the Chardonnay, I include one from my current go-to local Chardonnay wine maker, Meyer Family Vineyards in B.C.
Here’s the list of wines to be tested and tasted in the order of tasting.
1. Chardonnay: Meyer Family Vineyards, Chardonnay Okanagan Valley 2017, McLean Creek Road Vineyard, Okanagan Falls, B.C. Canada. 13.5% alc./Vol $28.80
2.Riesling: Schloss Reinhartshausen, Riesling 2017, Rheingau, Germany. 11.5% alc./VOL $23.99
5. Gewürztraminer: Tinhorn Creek, Gewürztraminer 2018, Oliver,(Golden Mile sub region) B.C. Canada 13.5% alc./VOL $17.88
All the wines we tasted
In my April blog, I quote the famous American cook, Julia Child and her advice to be fearless, try new recipes and above all to have fun. I take this to heart in planning this whole food and wine pairing exercise. Her comments influence my menu selection too.
To accompany the Chardonnay tasting, I make one of my personal recipes of chicken breasts poached in white wine and chicken stock with sautéed shallots. The sauce is made by adding cream with a teaspoon of Dijon mustard to the reduced wine and chicken stock broth. I always slice the chicken breasts when cooked and serve on a heated platter with the sauce poured over the top of the chicken slices. This is a favourite dish, simple to make and always delicious.
The challenge is in choosing a chicken dish that would be spicy and also manageable to prepare and keep warm while the first chicken dish is being enjoyed with the Chardonnay.
After a nostalgic and interesting time reviewing various recipe books in my collection, I rediscover the SoBo Cookbook my husband bought me after a visit some time ago to the SoBo Restaurant in Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The SoBo Cookbook with the Thai Chicken and Peanut Sauce recipes
To my delight, I find a recipe that I feel is appropriate: Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce. The chicken thighs are marinated for 24 hours in a special sauce from the recipe and then the cooked dish is served with a Peanut Sauce also included in the recipe. This Peanut Sauce is amazing, lasts up to 2 weeks in the fridge and I continue to enjoy it with items like avocado long after the Thai Chicken is finished! This Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce dish seems to have to right amount of spiciness to taste with the aromatic wines without being “over the top”. I enjoy making the recipe and encourage checking out The SoBo Cookbook.
Delicious spicy peanut sauce
Something to cleanse the palate between the two chicken dishes seems like a good idea and a salad is selected as an entremets. As it turns out, the salad is eaten after the two chicken dishes rather than in between and is perfect – oh well! one has to go with the flow!
Here’s how the menu lines up:
Sliced, poached chicken breast with cream and white wine sauce. (Personal recipe).
Entremets: Arugula with Parmesan Reggiano Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, which includes lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, olive oil, mayonnaise, Parmesan Reggiano, salt and pepper.
Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce (The SOBO Cookbook – Recipes from the Tofino Restaurant at the end of the Canadian Road: Lisa Ahier with Andrew Morrison and photography by Jeremy Koreski, Random House 2014).
Vegetables for both dishes: small roasted potatoes with sea salt and fresh rosemary from the garden, steamed asparagus.
Raspberries and Blueberries with a dash of Grand Marnier and cream. Lindt Chocolate (90% and Sea Salt)
In terms of process, we taste all the wines first and then taste them again with the food.
The Chardonnay is in a class of its own as it is chosen for the creamy chicken dish. It is enjoyed for dryness, citrus, biscuity notes and really comes into its own and is very good with the chicken and cream sauce and demonstrates that this grape is well suited to rich and cream based dishes. The Alsace Gewürztraminer is also enjoyed with this chicken dish.
In the tasting of the four aromatics, the Rheingau Riesling is a stand out with its acidity, floral style and characteristic slightly petrol aroma. It is the most popular of the aromatics and is very well suited to the Thai Chicken and also with the Manchego cheese.
The Alsace Riesling is less defined than the Rheingau but good with the fine fruit characteristics of pears and apricot. It is also well suited to the Thai Chicken and the Manchego.
The Alsace Gewürztraminer is considered a versatile wine. The characteristic nose of lychees, violets, mango, slight curry, ginger is delightful. This is also enjoyed with the Thai Chicken and the Manchego cheese.
The B.C. Gewürztraminer from Tinhorn Creek is a bit of a puzzle to begin with as it took some time to open up to its full Gewürztraminer characteristics. Its honeyed, fruit forward spiciness made it a particularly good selection with the salad. We also wonder if we could taste a hint of sage brush, as this is a characteristic herb in the area. This suitability with the salad was quite a revelation as salads are typically difficult to pair with wine but there is enough sweetness in the vinaigrette that it worked.
All the aromatic whites were enjoyed with the fruit salad and chocolate.
In terms of a popular vote for the four aromatics, the German Riesling and the Alsace Gewürztraminer were the most popular and the others two were enjoyed also.
The geographic areas of the wine growing areas is interesting to note and the impact on the individual terroirs, that magical mix of climate, soil, drainage, sunshine, and aspect that makes such a profound difference to the expression of the grapes in difficult locations.
Alsace is in the N E corner of France, in a valley between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River, which is the boundary with Germany. Alsace was part of the German Empire for a period of time after the Franco Prussian War but returned to France at the end of the First World War in November 1918. The area is known primarily for Riesling and Gewürztraminer. The Vosges Mountains cast a rain shadow over the wine growing area which results in low rainfall and a continental climate. The soils range from sandstone in the foothills to clay rich limestone on the plains.
The Rheingau area of Germany is near Frankfurt. At 50’N it is at the northern edge of Europe’s wine belt. The climate is cool and continental and the soil type differs throughout the area so there is great diversity within the region. Over 80% of the grapes grown are Riesling.
Alsace wine growing area of France
Map of Germany showing Rheingau
The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is between the Columbia Mountains and the Cascade Mountains, which together protect the valley from both the maritime influence of the Pacific and the frozen Arctic winds. It has a continental climate and mainly sand and clay glacial soils which are well drained. It is a semi-arid area with some areas experiencing very high temperatures in the summer. The vineyards are typically on the hillside of the valley. There is great diversity of terroir, especially with respect to mesoclimates represented in 5 subregions: Black Sage/Osoyoos, Golden Mile, Kelowna, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls. This diversity of terroir results in a wide range of wine styles being produced.
The great diversity in wine growing environments highlights the skill and knowledge needed by wine makers to maximize the wine growing potential of their individual wine regions.
As a result of the tasting and wine and food pairing, I now feel that I will be more inclined to select either a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer in a restaurant if choosing a spicy meal and it confirms my inclination to choose a Chardonnay to balance a rich creamy sauce as in the example of the Chicken with White Wine Sauce selection.
The benefit of a wine and food tasting event, however small, is that it expands wine tasting horizons and encourages us to be curious and try different wines and foods. It’s also fun!.
Julia Child would be proud of us!
References: Alsace and German wine area maps from the WSET course material.
We’re all spending so much more time at home these days. It’s inevitable that someone will ask, “How are you spending your time?” That is, in addition to whatever work one might be doing at home and/or looking after children.
Painting for pleasure – Almond tree in blossom
A Heron out fishing
Growing lettuce and chives
Pots and pans – everyone’s cooking
For myself, in addition to observing all the social distancing rules here in British Columbia and usual responsibilities at home, I am painting, gardening and growing lettuce and chives, walking in nature and cooking!
Cooking seems to be the main preoccupation for people I talk to. Not just the every day stuff but getting creative. As a friend said to me, “…after years of not bothering much with cooking, I’ve got all my old recipe books out and I am enjoying making good meals. It fills some time and I eat well!”
Other friends have said they are enjoying watching reruns of the charismatic American cook, Julia Child (1912 – 2004) and her cooking shows; great entertainment! Julia Child is recognized for bringing French cuisine to the American public with her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her television programs were and clearly are, very popular.
One way that we can support the wine industry is through buying more wine! How about exploring new combinations of wine and food or selecting great wine by itself that we haven’t tried before?.
If we live in wine growing areas, we have the opportunity to support our local wineries through their wine-clubs and/or buying local wines at our local wine stores. It all helps the industry that has been through tough times for a few years.
Here in British Columbia, the wine growers in the Okanagan Valley struggled with fierce wild fires two years ago and now are facing loss of wine tourism and loss of sales to restaurants and bars.
Wherever we live, whether in North America or Europe, or elsewhere, it’s important that we support the local agricultural wine-growing sector if they are to survive.
In the spirit of practicing more wine and food pairing, here are some tips:
Think about the component parts of both the dish and the wine. When considering the food dish, consider whether or not there is a sauce with the food. This can make a big difference as to which wine is chosen. For example, chicken prepared with a creamy sauce would pair well with a chardonnay, which fuses with the creaminess of the cream sauce. Chicken prepared with a spicy sauce would pair better with a Gewurztraminer.
Balance the power of the food dish and power of the wine. Be careful not to kill the wine or dish with too powerful a wine or dish. If big red wines appeal, then drink with roast meats or stews.
Consider the complexity of the food, i.e. the number of ingredients – this can make selecting an appropriate wine more challenging. Considerations would be the level of acidity, the spices/herbs in the dish, whether there is saltiness or sweetness. Having considered these elements, decide which aspect of a multi ingredient dish is to be “activated’ with the wine choice.
Consider that specific regional menus often pair well with corresponding regional wines. After all, they’ve grown up together! For example, Italian dishes often contain tomatoes and olive oil. Tomatoes are very acidic. A characteristic of Italian wine is noticeable acidity. If you are preparing an Italian dish, select a wine with acidity. If you choose a regional dish from another area, see if you can find a suitable wine to complement that particular regional food.
If some old sweet wines appear in your wine storage area, enjoy with aged, strong cheeses.
The idea is to experiment and keep good notes, so the successful and not so successful pairings can be noted!
The most important objective for wine and food pairing in these challenging times is to bring enjoyment to the table. Sometimes, a really good bottle of wine is best enjoyed on its own before or after the meal, if an obvious pairing doesn’t come to mind.
Let’s do what we can to support our local wine industry, our local wine growers and local wine shops!
Finally, to quote Julia Child:
“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes,
And above all have fun”.
This sounds like perfect advice for experimenting with wine and food pairing.
Bon Appétit et Bonne Continuation!
Reference: Julia Child 1912-2004. Lots of information and YouTube material on the web.
This is day 14 of the 14-day self-quarantine period in Vancouver, British Columbia following our return here earlier in the month. We now continue with the self-isolation and social distancing practices in place here in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada.
Lots of activities to fill our time in self quarantine or self isolation.
Other people we know are in various stages of their mandatory self–quarantine following their return to Canada from travels overseas and it’s interesting how we are all dealing with this time on our hands.
The pursuits are across the spectrum from creative activities like painting, playing piano or other instruments, sewing/needlework, gardening, baking, which seems very popular!, and exercising; to stimulating the little grey cells with language learning, reading, studying, writing; plus catching up on all those projects and chores we have put off for as long as possible; and to communicating with family, friends, colleagues past and present, members of groups and clubs. This adds up to lots of communicating and especially face-to-face talking going on via various media, which is wonderful and comforting.
Perhaps this ‘reaching out to others’ may well be the biggest communication trend as we support friends, family, neighbours and strangers stay safe and healthy.
So where does wine fit into this equation?
For wine-lovers, having a glass of wine in hand when connecting with people over the airwaves to say hello and exchange news is a great way to salute and toast each other.
Imagine my delight last week when my quarterly supply of wine from Meyer Family Vineyards, Okanagan Falls in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia was delivered as part of my wine club membership. After carefully sanitizing the box, removing the wine bottles and wiping them down, they were safely stored away (and the box sorted for recycling). In addition, Meyer Family Vineyards gave us a gift of two Riedel Pinot Noir glasses in gratitude for our 3-year wine club membership. (Meyer Family Vineyards are now offering various delivery/curbside pick up options identified on their website)
Perfect gift, perfect timing!
A glass of Meyer 2018 Pinot Noir in my new Riedel Pinot Noir glass! Meyer Family Vineyards, Okanagan Falls, B.C.
For a Zoom call with friends, I opened a bottle of Meyer 2018 Pinot Noir Okanagan Valley and enjoyed a glass in my new Pinot Noir Riedel while chatting with friends.
Small pleasures in difficult times help lift our heart and spirits!
Spare a thought for wine makers and vineyard owners around the world. Many of them are small family owned businesses and will acutely feel the economic uncertainty of the current situation. Most of them are also adapting to getting the wine to the consumer even if the consumer can’t get to them.
An example of this came into my email today from Chateau Lestevenie, a small family owned vineyard in the community of Gageac et Rouillac in the Dordogne in SW France. Sue and Humphrey Temperley, who I have written about before, identify the delivery arrangements they are able to make under the current lock down business rules for both their clients in France and also in the UK. All the details are on their website.
The Hare at Chateau Lestevenie, Gageac et Rouillac, Dordogne.
We can help our favourite wineries, wherever we live, get through these challenging times by checking out their wine delivery options and purchasing on-line where we can.
People are amazing at demonstrating their resilience and adaptability in times of crisis. I have great respect for First Responders, medical staff, and people working in many sectors and industries to help find solutions and to those people supporting the vulnerable among our communities. A big thank you!
In closing, here’s an encouraging last comment from Sue and Humphrey at Chateau Lestevenie:
“We wish all our customers the very best at this stressful time. It is hard being separated from family and friends. Despite all the human trauma, of course; the vines are in bud, the birds are nesting and the hares are dashing about. It does give hope. “
Stay safe and healthy…and reach out!
References: Meyer Family Vineyards www.mfvwines.com
The sense of wonder I feel when I look at antique mosaics made in Roman times; around the 2nd Century AD or about 1,800 years ago, and that they have survived,
The artistry in the designs, whether geometric, non figurative or figurative – which still appeal to the modern viewer and are influential in today’s decorative styles,
The craftsmanship in making polychromatic illustrations from tiny cubes – 1 cm each side – of natural stone (called tesserae); usually limestone or marble of different colours which remain as vibrant today as the day the stones were laid. In particular, the skill in applying the stones to the mosaic design in such a way as to provide perspective, texture, and nuance of colour, size and scale,
The size of either floor or wall mosaics, which provide the opportunity to tell a story in stone; reflecting contemporary interests in nature, flora and fauna, spectacle, myths, gods and goddesses,
The way in which mosaics inform us about the lifestyle, the social and economic standing of the people who lived so long ago in houses and communities decorated in such beautiful ways; where beauty was a value they appreciated.
In other words, antique mosaics are masterpieces of the ancient world.
In today’s world, Sharen Taylor is inspired to help people appreciate the mosaic art form and also create mosaics with modern materials. While this is her focus, her creative approach is grounded in the depth and breadth of her knowledge and experience of art history and archeological conservation that she brings to her modern expression of an ancient art.
Illustrations of Mosaics made by Sharen
Sharen Taylor with her mosaics
Sharen making us coffee in her studio
Sharen Taylor in her studio demonstrating how to cut tesserae
Sharen graduated from Exeter University with a BA in Fine Arts with a specialty in sculpture. An interest in antiquities and conservation work led her to a job with the British Museum in London. While working there, she was sponsored for a Diploma in Archeological Conservation at the Institute of Archeology, London University.
Coming to Cyprus in 1987, she worked on the excavation work at Lemba, near Paphos. She conducted the conservation work on the cult bowl and figurines found at Kissonerga, which are on permanent display at the Archeological Museum in Nicosia. During a recent visit to that museum, I took this photograph, thinking how fortunate I am to know the person who did the conservation work on these important artifacts dating back over 4,000 years.
The Lemba cult bowl and figurines on which Sharen conducted conservation work. On display at the Cyprus Archaeological Museum, Nicosia
Following this exciting work, Sharen stayed on in Cyprus and worked for the Department of Antiquities as a consultant, including with the Leventis Museum, focusing on metal work and mediaeval pottery. She also worked for various foreign missions coming to Cyprus on archeological expeditions. Through this work, Sharen joined the Getty Conservation Institute as a Consultant and Coordinator for Site Conservation training, which focused on conservation on site; important for the integrity of archeological expeditions. Because of Cyprus’s location at the centre of the Eastern Mediterranean with major archeological finds throughout this geographic area, site conservation training was centred in Cyprus.
Sharen’s professional interest shifted to mosaics when she was asked to conduct a historical survey of the wine harvest mosaic in the atrium of the House of Dionysius at the Nea Pafos Archeological Site, a World Heritage Site, adjacent to the Paphos old Port. She analyzed each stone in that mosaic! In this photo, she shows her detailed mapping and analysis of those mosaics.
Sharen explains the historical analysis she conducted of the Roman wine harvest mosaics at the House of Dionysius, Paphos Archeological Park.
Sharen presented her findings at a conference of the International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics in Arles, France in 1999.
She started her mosaic workshop in 2000 and moved to the beautiful, light and airy new building in the Hani Ibrahim Khan Centre near the Municipal Market in Paphos in 2018. As soon as we entered to workshop to meet with Sharen, I could feel the good energy there. She focuses on commissions for organizations and private individuals and also teaches children and adults mosaic making, which is how I first became aware of her work.
Coincidentally, in 2013, I wrote about the wine harvest mosaics in a series of 5 posts about Cyprus in which I made the connection between my interest in wine expressed through my wine blog and the wine harvest mosaics! ( See: Cyprus Wine Making – the ancient world meets the 21st Century: Part One)
Earlier in this post, I outlined the main reasons that ancient mosaics fascinate me.
A visit to the Nea Pafos Archeological Site illustrates all these aspects. Each time I visit Cyprus, I take time to enjoy these mosaics, both those in the open air and those in the various excavated houses, including the House of Dionysius, where the wine harvest mosaics pave the atrium.
Nea Pafos Archeological Site, Paphos
Imagine welcoming guests to your house if you were the prosperous citizen of Paphos living in this Roman villa. Your guests would admire these and other mosaic illustrations as they walked across the floor.
Sometimes, I wish I could be a time traveller to quietly observe these scenes!
Any visitor to the Nea Pafos Archeological Site is privileged to be able to see these world heritage mosaics in situ.
Prior to the 1960’s, geometric and non-figurative mosaics were frequently considered of little importance. Generally, there has been ongoing deterioration and loss of mosaics. There was a view that there are so many antique mosaics in the Mediterranean region where mosaics are numerous that conservation wasn’t important.
Now there is recognition that cultural heritage is increasingly threatened by rapidly changing physical and geopolitical currents around the world and this emphasizes the need to protect antique sites.
Under the authority of the Department of Antiquities, Republic of Cyprus, systematic excavations started at Neo Pafos in 1962. In 1980, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Nea Pafos continues as a centre of excavation and research by many foreign archeological missions from universities and schools.
As mentioned previously, Sharen presented her paper on the Paphos wine harvest mosaics at The International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics (ICCM) Conference in 1999, entitled: Mosaics, Conserve to Display. The ICCM, founded in Rome in 1977, is a voluntary organization registered in Cyprus as a legal entity. Their role and objectives are, “promoting the broader evolution in the philosophy and practice of heritage conservation in the field of mosaics”. It is an organization that brings together conservators, archeologists, art historians and architects. I am grateful to Sharen for making me aware of this organization and its work.
Experiencing antique mosaics connects us to the ancient past at various levels: physical, emotional and at the level of beliefs and values through the stories they tell and the designs they illustrate.
Sharen Taylor, through her knowledge, experience and creativity pays that cultural heritage forward by teaching children to appreciate and create mosaics. The Hani Ibrahim Khan colourful and imaginative wall mosaic created by children with aged 7 – 11 is a great illustration of this.
Past, present and future: the cultural tradition of mosaics continues…
Mosaic made by children aged 7-11 years for the opening of the new Centre in Paphos.
Sharen Taylor Mosaics, 15 To Hani Ibraham Khan, 40 Konstantinou Kanari Paphos
Accessible Website via Facebook Google Sharen Taylor Mosaics.
Department of Antiquities, Republic of Cyprus www.mcw.gov.cy see this site for lots of relevant information including the Neo Paphos Archeological Park
International Committee for Conservation of Mosaics (ICCM)
Caro Feely walks through the Marche de Noel in Saussignac with her usual friendly and confident air.
Caro Feely, Co-Proprietor, Chateau Feely, Saussignac SW France
We smile and greet each other. I congratulate Caro on her recent important win in the world of wine tourism. Chateau Feely, of which she is Co-Proprietor with her husband Sean, is one of the 9 Gold Trophy winners in the first French National Wine Tourism Awards: Trophées de l’Oenotourisme. Chateau Feely won Gold for the Category: Education and Valorization/Recognition and Valuing the Environment.
This trophy award is significant as it puts the achievements of Caro and Sean at Chateau Feely on the national scene. With their January 2020 inclusion in the Forbes Travel Magazine list of 5 best places to learn about wine, they are now on the international map. This is tremendous recognition for their hard work and commitment.
Château Feely owned by Caro and Sean Feely
In addition to the sale of their organic and now biodynamic wines, Chateau Feely situated in the village of Saussignac, part of the Bergerac Wine Region, offers the visitor a broad repertoire of activities and events. Wine and Spirit Education Trust wine courses, the organic/biodynamic learning and education trail through the vineyard, ecologically built holiday accommodation are available. Wine tours and events such as wine harvesting days, the wine club and recently added yoga lessons taught by Caro, a qualified yoga teacher, round out the vacation experiences. There are also Caro’s three books providing a personal and entertaining insight into their experiences at Chateau Feely over the years.
I ask Caro if I can take her photo and write about what Chateau Feely has achieved in my blog. She is happy with both suggestions.
I’ve known Caro since about 2007. When we first met Caro and Sean, with their two young daughters, they were starting to make their way in the wine world in this beautiful part of SW France with their wine farm on the edge of the small village of Saussignac, about 20 mins from Bergerac.
Sean focuses on the farming side of the enterprise and Caro, with her background in marketing in the world of technology, moved the business forward in terms of visibility. Her leadership skills of focus, strategic thinking, perseverance, entrepreneurship and commitment to action have all contributed to where they are today.
Saussignac, this small village of about 420 residents, resting in the shadow of the 17th Century Chateau with 12th Century and earlier roots, is very much a part of the local wine community, having its own Saussignac Appellation for a late harvest delicious wine made by various wine makers in the area.
Route to Saussignac village
The village of Saussignac plays a leading role in wine tourism in the area and highlights the importance of community engagement and collaboration. Led by a dynamic group of local people, the village hosts weekly wine tastings on Monday evenings in July and August presented by a different wine chateau each week. The Confrérie du Raison d’Or de Sigoulès organizes weekly walks in the surrounding countryside during July and August. The village supports periodic Art Shows, theatre and music productions. A new restaurant in the village, Le 1500, with its welcoming courtyard, offers delicious and interesting meals. Le 1500 and Chateau Le Tap, an organic winery adjoining Chateau Feely offer excellent accommodation.
The Bergerac Wine Region has seen a steady growth in organic and biodynamic wineries, certified or following organic farming principles. I have written about several of them in the past: Chateau Le Tap, Chateau Lestevenie, Chateau Court les Muts, Chateau Monestier La Tour, Chateau Grinou, Chateau Hauts de Caillevel, Chateau Moulin Caresse, Chateau Les Plaguettes, Chateau Tour des Gendres, Vignobles des Verdots and Chateau Feely.
So what does wine tourism mean? In France, it is interpreted to encompass the countryside, heritage, history, culture, wine of course and all the people involved. It’s a broad perspective.
The objective of the Trophées de l’Oenotourisme is to shed light on initiatives taken by these winning wine chateaux and their proprietors, who like everyone in the wine industry, work hard every day to put in place strong and attractive wine tourism offerings to suit the changing demands of clients and to encourage others through these examples.
The opportunity to share wine tourism ideas is particularly important as the market for wine changes due to various issues including a gradual change in consumption, the effects of climate change on the grape varieties grown in wine growing areas and the positive focus on quality not quantity. It’s a sector under pressure and the sands of the wine industry are shifting.
This first national award scheme of Trophées de l’Oenotourisme for wine tourism is a collaborative initiative of the French wine and lifestyle magazine, Terre de Vins and Atout France, France’s national tourism development agency.
The list of the 9 Gold Trophy winners is noted at the end of this article. I have looked at the websites of each of the winning chateaux and found that exercise interesting and informative. In addition to these 9 chateaux, there are many others throughout France pushing the envelope on wine tourism.
When considering how people choose to spend their discretionary money, it is interesting to look at the world of retail. It appears people are buying fewer ‘things’ and spending their money on experiences. This seems to be a trend in vacation planning. As Caro says: “Our clients are looking for more, that extra something, when they go on vacation, and we provide that through our educational and environmental approach”.
We live in an age of increasing stress with the many diverse demands place on individuals and families. Mental health is a significant workplace safety and wellness consideration for individuals and organizations. A vacation in the countryside where one can have enjoyable experiences learning about nature, the environment, benefit from exercise, fresh air, good fresh food and excellent wine sounds like a healing proposition.
What are the lessons one can take away from observing what is happening in the world of wine tourism? These include:
Keeping up to date on trends, particularly about the evolution of the mature wine market.
Learning new skills and expanding knowledge of relevant topics
Using technology effectively to communicate with potential visitors
Investing time, energy and money (sourcing development funds where possible) to remain current
Collaboration and networking
To benefit from this awards initiative, one way of looking at these Wine Tourism Trophies and their 9 categories is to see them as case studies of success and adaptability. In this way, they offer value to students and observers of wine tourism. One new idea can have far reaching results. In an era of change in the wine industry, these learning opportunities take on greater significance.
Here’s the list of the 9 Gold Trophy winners:
Les lauréats des premiers Trophées de l’Œnotourisme:
Catégorie Architecture & paysages –Château de Pennautier (11610 Pennautier), Catégorie Art & culture – Maison Ackerman (49400 Saumur), Catégorie Initiatives créatives & originalités – Château Vénus (33720 Illats) , Catégorie Œnotourisme d’affaires & événements privés – Champagne Pannier (02400 Château-Thierry) , Catégorie Pédagogie & valorisation de l’environnement – Château Feely (24240 Saussignac) , Catégorie Restauration dans le Vignoble –Château Guiraud (32210 Sauternes) , Catégorie Séjour à la propriété – Château de Mercuès (46000 Cahors) , Catégorie Valorisation des appellations & institutions – Cité du Champagne Collet (51160 Aÿ-Champagne) , Catégorie Le vignoble en famille – La Chablisienne (89800 Chablis). I googled the chateau names to look at the websites.
Walking in central London, I see the sign for Hedonism Wines. I’ve read the name of this shop in a magazine article and decide to drop in to have a look. I am greeted with a cornucopia of wines and spirits in a modern, dynamic environment. It’s a great find for anyone interested in wine.
Hedonism Wines, London
Hedonism Wines, London
The large format wine bottles really attract my attention!
Hedonism Wines: Nebuchadnezzar of Château Palmer 2010.
The bottle with the gold coloured label (bottom left) contains 15000 milliliters of Chateau Palmer 2010, Margaux, Bordeaux. It’s the equivalent of 20 bottles, called a Nebuchadnezzar.
The use of large format wine bottles interests me for several reasons: the names given to these outsize bottles, the impact of large format bottles on the wine ageing process, and the trends in their use.
To help remember the names and dimensions, here’s a chart I prepared.
Large format wine bottles
With the exception of Magnum, the names used for these large format bottles all refer to kings in the Bible’s Old Testament. After some research into this, it seems the reason that biblical names are used has been lost in the mists of time, other than that the names relate to powerful kings. For example, Nebuchadnezzar is the Babylonian king famous for the hanging gardens of Babylon, who lived approximately between 605 BC and 562 BC.
It is thought that the use of these biblical names originates in the 1700s. I don’t know if the use of these names originated in France or elsewhere. Assuming the use may have originated in France, a link to the notion of powerful kings is that the early years of the 1700s were the latter years of the reign of an absolute monarch, Louise X1V. French historians generally regard the Age of Enlightenment (think Voltaire and Rousseau with their revolutionary ideas) as commencing with the death of Louise X1V in 1715 and ending with the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. This ended the Ancien Regime, however, the biblical names have stuck!
The wine ageing process is complex based on a variety of chemical reactions in the wine as it ages. It is also somewhat controversial.
Wine ageing pays tribute to the skills of the vine grower and the wine maker. The vine grower’s responsibilities in the vineyard with respect to managing the terroir, soils, weather and grape varieties form the platform for the wine maker’s approaches to producing quality wine. The appellation rules apply by region in terms of blends of allowable varieties and length of time for winemaking processes.
The value of ageing wine beyond the typical period of 12 – 24 months for red wines is often a factor of the grape varieties in the wine. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah red grape varieties, which have high levels of flavour compounds or phenolics such as tannins, can benefit from further bottle ageing. Various grape varieties have recognized ageing potential. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon has from 4 – 20 years, Merlot 2 – 10 years.
So, if some wines can benefit from further bottle ageing, what is the advantage of using large format bottles, such as Magnums or Jeroboams or even Nebuchadnezzars?
It’s about the rate of ageing. In all large format wine bottles, wine ages more slowly than in a smaller-size container. The wine generally retains fresher aromas for a longer period of time as less oxygen enters the bottle through the cork relative to the volume of wine in the bottle. Oxidization, light and temperature can all degrade a wine if not managed carefully. It also means that if you buy a half bottle of wine, enjoy it and don’t keep it for a rainy day!
The controversy around wine ageing is that some authorities suggest that wine is consumed older than is preferable. Ageing changes wine but whether it improves it or worsens it varies. Certainly, ageing will not improve a poor quality wine.
An economic factor that impacts the winemaking choices around ageing wine is the cost of storage. It certainly is only economical to age quality wine and many varieties of wine do not appreciably benefit from ageing regardless of quality.
Personally, as a general practice, we don’t keep white wine longer than two years beyond the vintage and drink it within one year by preference. We buy red wine that we can cellar for another 2 – 5 years and that is as far out time-wise as we select. All this affects our purchasing approach, as we have learnt from experience that buying beyond one’s capacity to enjoy the wine is not a good idea!
Factoring in the economics means that the current trend is to make wine that can be enjoyed in the shorter term. Added to this is the fact that less wine is consumed these days due to health considerations including driving restrictions.
When discussing large format bottles recently with a wine maker in the Pécharmant area of the Bergerac Wine Region, I was told that the demand for large format bottles is declining. Apart from the decline in consumption, people live in smaller homes and entertain differently. The benefit of having that large Jeroboam or Nebuchadnezzar on hand is less evident! Today, these large format bottles are used more commonly for celebrations and gifts. Magnums of champagne are commonly bought for weddings and other celebrations. Magnums, Jeroboams, Salamanzars and even Nebuchadnezzars of fine wine are used as gifts and are generally specially ordered from the relevant chateau or winery.
A friend recently sent me this photo of a Jeroboam of Merlot 2014 from Burrowing Owl winery in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. This was a gift from a client. Another great example of a fine wine in a large format bottle.
Jeroboam of Merlot 2014, Burrowing Owl Winery, Okanagan Valley, B.C.
Its good to see old traditions continue in the spirit of generosity. I like to think that those old kings would be amused.
Best wishes for 2020.
References: various sources,
Hedonism Wines: hedonism.co.uk