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.
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.
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.
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!
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
Do you have vacation plans in the Dordogne this summer? If you have your sun hat, comfortable walking shoes and a bottle or two of water, then the above agenda of walks in the Dordogne has your name on it!
Bergerac Wine Region showing Saussignac and Sigoulès
Each summer, the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès organizes walks through the bee-buzzing, bird-singing rolling countryside of the Dordogne, always ending with a wine tasting. The starting point is the village of Sigoulès.
Other local opportunities to enjoy casual, friendly wine tasting events take place each Monday evening in the nearby village of Saussignac. Apéro Vigneron offers wine tasting and al fresco food in the village main square.
These are memorable vacation opportunities to meet local wine makers and taste their selections of Bergerac Region wines in casual, village environments, far from work-a-day city crowds.
Sunflowers saluting the sun
The flag of the Confrérie du Raisin d’Or de Sigoulès
In the first few moments of visiting Chateau Monestier La Tour, in Monestier, SW France near the town of Bergerac, I discover that the motto chosen by the proprietor, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, is a quotation from Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917), the eminent 20th French sculptor.
Château Monestier La Tour. Time and the passage of time: Auguste Rodin quote, the sundial symbolising the passage of time and the watchmaking career of the Proprietor, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele and the Chateau Monestier la Tour emblem of the Crane.
Rodin said that: “However you use time, time will respect that”. The exact quotation is: “Ce que l’on fait avec le temps, le temps le respecte”. In other words, the decision of how to spend time is up to us; time itself is neutral.
Line drawing of Château Monestier La Tour with the Rodin quote
I remember seeing Rodin’s great sculpture: “The Thinker”: the seated man with elbow on knee, fist on his chin, deep in thought. Rodin is still famous for this sculpture, which is often used to represent philosophy.
This quotation and the remembered image sets the tone for the visit.
We can probably all remember our parents saying things like: “Don’t you have anything better to do with your time!” or words to that effect, while we, as teenagers, lollygagged around!
At Chateau Monestier La Tour, one of the ways in which time is figuratively measured is by the illustration of the sundial, or Cadran, over the entrance to the winery office and chai, showing the subdivision of time and the changing of the seasons. This illustrates another aspect of time; the time and patience required for goals and aspirations to manifest once set in motion. These symbols reflect the career expertise of Karl-Friedrich Scheufele as a watchmaker and Co-President of Chopard, famous Swiss watchmakers.
Winery office, Chai and presentation square
A way in which time is literally measured at Chateau Monestier La Tour is in the development and execution of short and long-term plans. A long-term strategic plan relates to the winery restructuring program to be completed by 2025. This has included the redevelopment of the vat room and barrel cellar, all ‘state-of-the-art’ and designed for quality results, effectiveness and the convenience of the winery employees.
New Vat Room
In the shorter term, the quest has been for Chateau Monestier to become certified as an organic farm. This, after several years’ effort and hard work regenerating the land, the vines, the farming processes and transitioning to an organic framework, has been achieved in 2018 from Ecocert.
When the Scheufele family became owners of Chateau Monestier in 2012 they made the decision to improve the existing domaine and its winemaking and pursue biodynamic viticulture. These improvements included grubbing up some of the plots and replanting vines.
One key initiative has been the planting of a specific garden with herbs to nourish and support the soil and vines. The herbarium contains drying and storage facilities for the plants as well as to make the tissanes or teas with which to treat the soil and vines.
The herb drying room, Chateau Monestier La Tour, with the descriptions mounted on the wall..
Herb Drying and Storage Room
Herb Drying and Storage Room
Stéphane Derenoncourt, consultant and his team, who have biodynamic viticulture expertise, oversee the vineyards and wine making at Chateau Monestier La Tour. They use this expertise for making the tissanes from the different herbs, which require different temperatures to release their oils.
It’s this focus on using herbs to treat plants and soil as part of the biodynamic agricultural practices at Chateau Monestier La Tour that fascinates me. The opportunity to see where the plants are dried and the description of their uses is of particular interest. By way of example, I have described below three commonly known plants from the nine listed in the herbarium, the description of their uses, as well as the description of biodynamic compost.
Dandelion, known as Pissenlit in French (a very descriptive reference to its diuretic qualities) is used to support the vines in resisting diseases by strengthening the cellular structure of the plants.
Pissenlit or Common Dandelion
Nettle, known as Ortie in French, (yes, those nettles that sting aggressively if you brush by them) full of nitrogen and iron is used to stimulate plant growth. Nettles are used to prevent mildew.
The herb drying room at Ch Monestier La Tour – nettles in the left foreground
Comfrey, known as Consoude in French, full of potassium and iron is used as an insect repellent.
Biodynamic Compost. Use of quality compost to fertilize the soil is key to biodynamic agriculture. Composting works with manure from organic farms and is used usually with six specific mineral elements supplied by plants.
Biodynamic compost description
As a side bar comment, all this sounds reminiscent of the work of Nicholas Culpeper, (1616 – 1654), botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer. He was the best-known astrological botanist of his time, pairing plants and diseases with planetary influences. I was brought up with the idea of acknowledging the power of plants and a copy of “Culpeper” was readily available in our home for reference.
I feel on familiar ground here.
Back to winemaking and the impact of these practices on the wine produced within this regime. These practices are regarded as homeopathy for plants, preventative not curative and the impact takes time so that the wine produced shifts over time as the biodynamic practices create beneficial change.
Five wines are produced using 6 grape varieties in the various blends. Two levels of red blends of Cabernet Franc and Merlot; white wine blend of Sauvignon and Sémillon, a rosé which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and the special late harvest wine particular to the area, Saussignac AOC which is a blend of Sémillon, Muscadel and Sauvignon. As a fan of red wines, their grand vin, Chateau Monestier La Tour, Côtes de Bergerac AOC, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, particularly catches my attention. I immediately appreciate the fine quality of this wine, which is full bodied but not heavy with good structure and with the Cabernet Franc will age well.
The Tasting Room, Chateau Monestier La Tour
The range of wines at Chateau Monestier La Tour
I have visited Chateau Monestier La Tour twice now and each time I am conscious of the timeless nature of the place. It feels very grounded. Each time, I have felt a sense of calm and peacefulness here. I feel this especially in the barrel cellar room, where I can almost feel the wines breathing and in the herbarium with the subtle fragrances of the herbs. The warm welcome from the Administrator at the Chateau is very much appreciated. I will be returning to look at the herb garden in bloom and thinking about what ideas I can use in our garden!
Chateau Monestier La Tour and the Scheufele family are making a significant values-driven investment in money and time in this small village in the Dordogne.
The low barrel ceiling of the cellar area of the old Château in Saussignac in South West France is home to the 2018 New Wine presentation by local winemakers.
This cartoon says: drinking directly from the barrel, I’m reducing the impact of packaging on the environment!
We walk beside the dark stone exterior wall of the Château, using a powerful torch to prevent us slipping into muddy pot holes or against large rocks or tree roots. We open the outer door and are greeted by a burst of yellow light and the sound of cheerful chatter as we step down onto the old stone-flagged floor of this cavernous area.
An informal gathering of over 100 people of all ages, from grandparents to grandchildren, is here to sample some new wines. It’s a casual opportunity to meet neighbours and friends in this small village nestled in the vineyards of the Bergerac Wine Region near the town of Bergerac on the Dordogne River.
Samples of 2018 new wines from Château Grinou
Stretched along the middle length of the long, narrow room are picnic tables, the sort that get stacked in village halls for events, joined end to end to accommodate the community meal this evening. It’s organized as an “Auberge Espagnole” which for the uninitiated is a gathering in which every person or family bring their own food, drink and utensils and generally share what they bring. It’s basically Bring Your Own and Clear Up Afterwards! A fantastic, civilized and practical way for communities to socialize and share a meal together. After all, food, and in this case wine, is at the heart of most convivial community initiatives all over the world. So forewarned is forearmed: if you see a poster for an “Auberge Espagnole”, don’t try to reserve a room, start cooking and pack up your picnic basket!
Circulating around the room, we talk to three local winemakers who offered some of their new wines for tasting:
Gabriel Grinou from Château Grinou in nearby Monestier
Sue and Humphrey Temperley from Château Lestevenie, also in Monestier
Olivier Roche from Château Le Tap in Saussignac
Each winemaker mentioned that 2018 has been a challenging year due to the weather and the mildew. There was a wet spring followed by a hot summer that turned into the hottest summer in France since 1947. Mildew is a fungal disease that can affect the grapes and needs to be managed very carefully throughout the growing season and around harvesting time. For farmers such as these, who practise organic or near organic farming methods, there are bigger challenges dealing with mildew, as there are fewer options for fighting diseases.
in spite of the inherent challenges in farming, which vary year to year, the winemakers are overall positive about the 2018 harvest with better grapes and higher yield in general than in 2017, which was a very difficult year. I certainly see smiling faces among the group!
What we tasted:
Sue and Humphrey Temperley from award-winning Château Lestevenie offered their 2018 Bergerac Rosé. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon providing strawberry flavour with a hint of spice, Humphrey says ”…their best ever”. In the photo below, the bottle is empty! And as Sue says, “…unfortunately, you can’t see the amazing colour”. You can check out their website at: http://www.chateau-lestevenie.com
Sue and Humphrey Temperley, proprietors of Château Lestevenie
Olivier Roche from Château Le Tap, certified organic in 2010, offered his 2018 Bergerac White Sec. Consistently a good quality wine, this is our “go to” white wine. Olivier and Mireille Roche also offer gîte accommodation at their vineyard for wine tasting holidays! http://www.chateauletap.fr
Olivier Roche, proprietor of Château LeTap
Gabriel Grinou from certified organic vineyard Château Grinou generously offered a basket of new wines for tasting. The team of father and two sons are known for their high quality wines. I tasted several from the wine basket and found their new and still developing red to be sunny and rich with lots of potential. http://www.chateaugrinou.com
Gabriel Cuisset, co-proprietor with his brother and father of Château Grinou
Farming and wine making are challenging endeavours at the best of times. We greatly enjoyed the Soirée Vigneronne organized by the Cafe Associatif in Saussignac and wish all the winemakers a successful New Year with their New Wines.
In closing our last post for this year, we extend best wishes to all for a healthy, happy and peaceful New Year! See you in 2019.
I love a good story, especially one that involves wine! Who would have thought I would stumble across a story that involves not only wine but Sicily and the British naval hero, Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson when visiting the Allen Gallery in Alton, Hampshire a couple of weeks ago.
Bronte silver wine label, made by Reilly and Storer, London, 1830
It all began as I looked at a silver wine label marked “Bronte”…
This label is part of a wine and sauce label collection managed by Hampshire Cultural Trust in collaboration with the Allen Gallery.
Allen Gallery, Alton, Hampshire
Silver and enamel wine and sauce labels were used in the 18th and 19th centuries by the growing middle class in England when wine was decanted from barrels into glass decanters and the identity of the wine was described by a silver label. Condiments or sauces for food were also served in glass jars or bottles and similarly labelled.
So what is the connection between this Bronte silver wine label, Sicily and Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson?
The latter part of the 17th century and early 18th century was the time of the Napoleonic Wars (1793 – 1815) between Britain and France and involving many other nations in Europe. It was a time of major land and sea battles, which are still commemorated.
The Napoleonic Wars ended with the great victory of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. The Napoleonic Wars include the mighty naval battles of the Nile (Aboukir Bay) and Trafalgar under the leadership of Admiral Nelson. It is the history of Nelson that relates to our Bronte wine label.
As part of the naval battles in the Mediterranean, Nelson protected Naples from the French. At the time, Naples was incorporated into the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies of which Ferdinand 1st was King. In 1799, King Ferdinand rewarded Nelson’s services to his kingdom by granting him a title of Sicilian nobility, the Duke of Bronte together with an estate in Bronte, an agricultural area in the shadow of the volcanic Mount Etna.
Bronte community in the shadow of Mount Etna, Sicily
A famous wine from Sicily is Marsala, a fortified wine similar to sherry which became popular in Britain in the 18th century. This popularity was partly due to the trading activities of the 18th Century importer John Woodhouse and the British Royal Navy, which became a big consumer of Marsala wine. Vice Admiral Lord Nelson used Marsala as the official wine ration for sailors under his command. A manuscript exists, dated March 19, 1800, and carrying the signature of the importer John Woodhouse and the Duke of Bronte, Nelson’s Sicilian title, stipulating the supply of 500 barrels, each with a capacity of the equivalent of 500 litres for the fleet stationed in Malta.
After Nelson’s victories, especially at Trafalgar and his death there, Nelson was held in great esteem by the British people for saving Britain from possible invasion. Many landmarks were created in his name, including Nelson’s Column and Trafalgar Square in London.
The British people were keen to taste the wine that had so fortified Nelson and his sailors’ spirits in battle and this added to its popularity.
Back to the wine label marked “Bronte”. This fine piece of craftsmanship was made in London by the silver makers Reilly and Storer in 1830. It was just fifteen years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The label would have been used on a decanter of Marsala wine, possibly produced on the Bronte estate in Sicily or elsewhere on the Island but called Bronte in recognition of Nelson’s Sicilian title.
The Bronte estate remained in Nelson’s line of descendants, now called Nelson-Hood until 1981 when the last remaining lots of land were sold to the Municipality of Bronte. There remains a Nelson Museum in the town of Bronte, which is now known for its pistachio nut harvests and the delicacies made from them..
Marsala wine is grown in the region DOC Marsala in Sicily and produced from three white wine varieties. It is a fortified wine usually containing around 17 % ALC – alcohol by volume. The ‘in perpetuum’ process used to make the fortified wine is similar to the solera process used for Sherry produced in Jerez, Spain, in which old wines are blended with new wines and the barrels never emptied. Marsala wines are classified on an eight-point scale according to their colour, sweetness and duration of their ageing. Usually served as an aperitif, Marsala can also be served with a cheese course. It is often used in cooking and this is how I remember it being used by my Mother. Dry Marsala is used in savoury cooking. One of the most popular savoury Marsala recipes is chicken Marsala. Sweet Marsala is used in the preparation of delicious desserts such as tiramisu and zabaglione.
Every story has an ending. Our story about the Bronte wine label ends with our visit later that same day to Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, about two miles from Alton.
Jane Austen’s house, Chawton, Hampshire
For most of Jane Austen’s ( 1775 – 1817 ) life, Britain was at war with many countries including America, France, Spain, and others, including the Napoleonic Wars. Many of her books include characters with a naval or army background. While jokingly hoping to see Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice fame walk through the garden in Chawton, we did in all seriousness read the stories of Jane Austen’s brothers, who both rose to a high rank in the Royal Navy and were contemporaries and admirers of Admiral Nelson.
The Herculaneum Funerary Dish which commemorates the death of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson
A fitting end to our visit was to see on display in Jane Austen’s house, the Herculaneum Funerary Dish in memory of Admiral Lord Nelson, Duke of Bronte, immortalized for me in that silver Bronte wine label.
Meet two women wine and food entrepreneurs who, in different ways, connect SW France and Western Canada: Caro Feely in SW France and Marnie Fudge in Alberta, Canada.
Château Feely owned by Caro and Sean Feely
Marnie Fudge is co-proprietor of Cuisine and Château Culinary Centre
Caro Feely is an organic wine farmer and producer with her husband Sean at Chateau Feely, an organic wine estate located in the Dordogne in SW France. She has just returned from a book tour in British Columbia, Canada where she presented to Canadian audiences the latest of her three books, which describes the challenges and triumphs of building an organic wine business and raising a family while learning a second language.
I feel exhausted just thinking about it!
Caro’s books are called: Grape Expectations, Saving our Skins and her latest book Glass Half Full was released in April 2018.
In addition to writing about her family’s experiences, Caro and Chateau Feely offer organic wines made on site, Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) level 2 wine courses, Wine Weekends and luxury ecological accommodation. Check out Caro’s books and all information about Caro and Sean’s initiatives at Chateau Feely on their website below.
I have known Caro for many years and admire her hard work and innovative ideas.
Marnie Fudge is the co-proprietor with her partner, Thierry Meret, of Cuisine and Chateau, an interactive culinary centre in Calgary, Alberta. Marnie and Thierry offer cooking classes in Calgary, corporate team-building workshops based on teams cooking together and culinary tours. The culinary tours are a gastronomical weeklong adventure through the Périgord region of SW France enjoyed while staying in a 16th Century chateau.
I met Marnie on a business related course some years ago and subsequently introduced her to the Confrerie du Raison D’Or de Sigoules as they share common interests in the presentation of local wines and wine and food pairing.
I will quickly add here that the Confrerie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès is about to start their summer program of guided hikes and wine tastings in the Bergerac Wine Region. These are listed on their website below.
For many years, Marnie and Thierry have been bringing Canadians to enjoy the wine and food of SW France on a foodie adventure. During this stay, the group enjoys an evening with the Commander of the Confrerie du Raison D’Or de Sigoules who describes local wines and conducts a wine tasting focussed on a gastronomic dinner. I have been fortunate to attend one of these excellent events when, by chance, I was in France at the same time as the group.
Bergerac Wine Region showing Saussignac and Sigoulès
The Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès
Marnie and Thierry are bringing their 2018 tour group to France this month in June. Their 2019 Culinary Tour dates are posted on their cuisine and chateau website below.
Chateau Feely and Cuisine and Chateau are great examples of the international nature of the wine and food culture and sector. Bravo and Hats Off/Chapeaux to Caro and Marnie; these two women entrepreneurs are connecting SW France with people from Canada, and around the world.
Château Feely chateaufeely.com
Cuisine and Chateau cuisineandchateau.com
Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoules confrerieduraisindor.com
Winery proprietors Sylvie Chevallier and Marc Ducrocq are living their dream at Château les Hauts de Caillevel. Nearly twenty years ago, after careers in the corporate world, they decided to change course, live in the country, raise their children in a pastoral setting and make wine. Sylvie and Marc see themselves as partners with nature in the creation of wines from their property.
Official recognition of their Bio certification
After successfully completing oenology courses, Sylvie and Marc settled themselves at Chateau les Hauts de Caillevel in 1999 with the objective of making wine in the most environmentally friendly way they could. This approach culminated in their official certification as a “Bio” or a biologique/ organic farm in 2010, an achievement that deservedly gives them a sense of pride and satisfaction.
The vineyard is located high above the river valley on the plateau village of Pomport; approximately 20 minutes drive from Bergerac. Château les Hauts de Caillevel offers camping facilities as well as tastings to visitors. It’s a relatively small wine producer farming 18 hectares of which 8.70 hectares are red grapes and 9.30 hectares are white grapes and they produce eleven different wines.
Château les Hauts de Caillevel, winter view from the office
Driving along their expansive drive to the house and vineyard office, I feel the peaceful calm of this pastoral setting at the edge of the escarpment, which faces across the valley to neighboring villages. It’s the same sense of benign energy I have felt at another Bio winery in the Region, where I expected to see a unicorn appear from the surrounding woods at any moment.
It’s a chilly, misty December day and we are dressed warmly for the weather. I have made an appointment to visit the winery and meet Sylvie Chevallier on the recommendation of a colleague in the Confrèrie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès, the wine confrèrie I have had the pleasure of being a member of for several years. Sylvie Chevallier has a reputation for making good wine, recognized by the Guide Hachette. She is also someone who is recognized for her significant contribution to the area through her community work over the years.
December is a busy time for winemakers and so I appreciate the opportunity to visit this winery, which I did not know about previously.
As it turned out, Sylvie had other vineyard priorities she had to attend to on the morning of our visit. Undeterred, we have the pleasure of meeting her husband Marc. Over a coffee and warmed by the wood burning stove in their office, we settle down for an interesting conversation with Marc about wine making at Château les Hauts de Caillevel.
Several things stand out from that conversation that imply to me that here are two people who are risk takers and confident in their vision of making their own path in the wine-making world.
After completing their oenology training, they learnt about winemaking on the job with the help of external, experienced wine consultants.
They include in the suite of grape varieties that they grow an indigenous grape variety in the region called Périgord Noir, which has a lower alcohol by volume percentage than the typical varieties. In this way, they believe they are responding to the trend of consumers wanting to enjoy wine but with lower alcohol levels.
They grow Chenin Blanc, a grape variety more usually associated with the Loire Valley in France and in South Africa. According to AOC regulations, this variety can be blended in small quantities in the Bergerac Region white wine and Sylvie and Marc use Chenin in this way. They also make a 100% single varietal Chenin Blanc wine outside the AOC Bergerac Wine Region framework. I am interested to taste this as Chenin Blanc produces some of the greatest white wines in both Touraine and Anjou-Saumur in the Loire Valley. It’s a white wine that ages well.
We have a wide-ranging conversation and exchange of ideas about wine making both in France and Canada. We also talk about the trend to organic winemaking and the overall reduction in chemical usage, whether vineyards are formally certified Bio or not, that is widespread across the Bergerac Wine Region.
Towards the end of our visit, I ask Marc what was the biggest surprise in being a wine-maker over the years? His immediate response was the effect of nature and how one is at the mercy of the weather. His view is that wine-makers have to be a fatalist to accept what the weather brings. It’s an important reality check to hear this comment. I expect that wine makers also have to an overarching sense of optimism to cope with the unpredictability of nature.
After a pause, Marc also comments that the other surprise for him is how difficult it is to market wine due to various complications in the related processes. He feels this is a real issue for the smaller local wine producers, who can have difficulty making a living.
We run out of time to taste the wines of Chateau Les Hauts de Caillevel and so a return visit in 2018 will be planned. We do take a quick tour of the tasting room and I buy several wines including the 100% Chenin and a 2015 red, called Ebène, which is a Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend, to enjoy at home.
The Suite of wines from Château les Hauts de Caillevel
I appreciated Marc’s candour about the realities of being a wine chateau proprietor. Having the opportunity to visit and speak personally with winery proprietors in this way is for me, what makes wine come alive; recognizing that flow from grape to glass.
The Sadoux family, father and son, both called Pierre, are leaders in the wine region of Bergerac.
Pierre Sadoux, father and son, Chateau Court les Mûts, Vigneron of the Year 2018, Bergerac Wine Region, Guide Hachette
I’m not just saying that.
They have been elected Vigneron of the Year 2018 in the Guide Hachette, the French guidebook for wines and champagnes. It’s not the first time they’ve been recognized in this way.
Five generations have been in the wine business including a grandfather/great grandfather who was a ‘tonnelier’, that is a barrel maker or cooper, a key artisanal occupation in the wine industry.
I think of this family background as expertise that is bred-in-the-bone: formal oenology education enhanced by family mentoring. Similar to an excellent apprenticeship program, it’s probably the best way to learn and achieve mastery in a chosen field.
It’s this mastery that I hear when I listen to both Pierre Sadoux, father and son, describe wine–making approaches at Château Court les Mûts in Razac de Saussignac, Dordogne, SW France.
On a sunny December day with autumn sunshine playing on the vine leaves that are multi-coloured from soft faded green to gold and scarlet, we head off to Château Court les Mûts to meet with Pierre Sadoux fils/son for a tasting of their suite of wines.
Arriving at Château Court les Mûts
We’ve been enjoying their wines for several years now. I find it interesting to revisit the winery and have a refresher on their range of wines as well as learn more from Pierre about their approach to wine making.
It’s the skill in blending different varieties that is one key to the traditional AOC wines made in the Bergerac Wine Region, as it is in the Bordeaux Wine Region to the west of the area. Single varietal wines are not produced here. The blending of the different varieties and the decision making that goes into that process to create a wine is one of the key differentiating factors in wines from different chateaux in the same region. The wine subtleties arise from the different percentages of individual wine varieties used by different wine makers to make a particular wine type.
It’s a bit like several people making The Best Chocolate Cake but each person changing the mix of ingredients with the result that the individual cakes taste different yet still calling each one The Best Chocolate Cake.
The Sadoux family make a range of seven wine categories: Bergerac Dry White, Bergerac Rose, Bergerac Rouge, Côtes de Bergerac Red, Côtes de Bergerac Moelleux (semi sweet) and Saussignac, a late harvest wine.
We taste our way through the range starting with the dry white and finishing with the Saussignac late harvest.
It’s in the discussion with Pierre of each wine we taste that his wine mastery comes to the fore. His detailed knowledge of each parcel of land; its history, soil structure including the varying depths of clay and limestone, and suitability for specific grape varieties is expressed with an intensity and concentration that commands attention. As he is talking, I can see he is seeing each parcel of vines in his mind’s eye, as he tastes the different wines and talks about the different elements that went into creating the particular wine. I know where the Malbec parcel is that he talks about and walk past it frequently.
Pierre describes the fluctuations in the grape harvest timing and quantities due to weather patterns, topography, rainfall, and all the interventions of nature, which are only some of the challenges facing a wine maker. He gives one example of the unpredictability of the weather as the April hailstorm damage that could affect one area of a particular parcel of vines but not the whole area. The hailstorm was devastating for some vine growers throughout the region and because of its time in the growing season, its effect will be felt over several years..
Wine production including the blending of the various varieties permitted under the AOC regulations for the Bergerac Wine Region is a major topic of discussion.
We take our time tasting the range of wines. I enjoy the crispness of the 2016 Bergerac Sec white wine with 40% Sauvignon Gris, 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon. Good with fish; I also like it as an aperitif wine. The 2015 Cuvée Annabelle with 30% Semillon, 25% Muscadelle as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris is more of a gastronomique wine suitable with a range of dishes.
In the red wines, anyone who enjoys the Malbec in South American wines will enjoy the Côtes de Bergerac red wine with 40% Merlot, 35% Malbec and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dedicated Malbec fans will really appreciate L’Oracle 2014 which is blended with 60% Malbec, 20% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. This rich wine with depth and resonance of black fruits, pepper, chocolate and toast will give pleasure for several years. Pierre tells us he believes his 2014 reds will age particularly well as they have more structure than the 2015 year, which has been heralded as a great year.
As we prepare to leave Château Court les Mûts, I remember to ask Pierre about his spouse Annabelle and the jewelry she makes from specially treated vine stalks decorated with pearls, crystals and various stones. He tells me she will be exhibiting her jewelry at the upcoming Saussignac Christmas Fair. I have bought several pieces of her unique jewelry already and always receive positive comments when I wear them so a visit to the Marché Noël will be in order. Annabelle sells her work through different craft fairs across France.
Caprice de Vigne jewelry stand at the Marché de Noël, Saussignac
Annabelle de Groote, jeweller
For me, this wine tasting and visit to Château Court les Mûts is about more fully recognizing the breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding of soil, land, terroir, as well as the vine growing and wine making processes that a successful wine maker must have. That’s not factoring in the marketing know-how that is also required and essential in an increasingly competitive global industry. It’s a formidable mix of knowledge, skills, temperament and in this case, legacy.
It’s not unusual to find multi-generational wine making families in the Bergerac Wine Region as in any agricultural area.
The expression bred-in-the-bone may be known to some as the title of a book by the late Canadian author Robertson Davies: What’s Bred in the Bone. That’s how I first became aware of it. It is an expression quite widely used by authors and means, “firmly instilled or established as if by heredity. “ It is traced back to a 15th century phrase: “what’s bred in the bone will come out in the flesh”.
The vine leaves in SW France look beautiful at this time of year. Most days when I walk beside the vineyards, I photograph the vines and marvel at the changing nuanced colours of the leaves; gold, scarlet, bronze, green, and by extension at the changing colours of the landscape.
Autumn vine leaves, Saussignac
Autumn vine leaves
I never tire of looking at the view; the winding road disappearing into the distance, the tall, ghostly coloured water tower on the hilltop and the sprinkling of farmhouses. The straight lines of vines marching up and down the undulating landscape which fascinate and remind me of David Hockney’s colourful paintings of the Yorkshire dales.
The Vineyard landscape
More Vineyard Landscape
There is even a friendly cat of no fixed address that parades each day in front of the local cemetery. I call him the Cemetery Cat.
The Cemetary Cat
At the same time as we enjoy the autumn sunshine highlighting the local beauty and warming us as we walk about, the local newspaper, Sud Ouest, is raising the alarm bells about the effects of climate change in the area, in particular the reduced rainfall.
Each day on the back page of the paper, there is a table showing the minimum and maximum temperatures in southwest France on the same day over the long term: 15, 30 and 50 years. The figures indicate that it appears that it is the minimum temperatures that have been affected; in other words the weather does not get as cold now as it did 50 years ago in this area. The newspaper also provides local 2017 climate statistics showing sunshine days are up and rainfall levels are down. 2017 is described as a dry and sunny year. The weather forecast for the next 15 days also indicates less rain than “usual” for this time of year.
The Sud Ouest local newspaper for Bergerac and Sarlat areas has a headline on Monday, November 13, 2017 that reads: Va-t-il falloir faire la danse de la pluie? In other words, “Will we have to do the rain dance?”
Certainly, some vine growers, aware of climate warming, are becoming concerned about the reduced level of precipitation at key moments in the vine production of grapes. In July this year, for example, there was 50% of the usual rainfall for the month.
The newspaper references individuals in the winemaking community who are saying its necessary to start the discussion and debate about vine irrigation in France, where it is essentially prohibited due to the multiple authorizations necessary to irrigate vines and with few exceptions for specific reasons, e.g. newly planted vines.
Currently, when there is lack of water, the stressed vines search for water in the ground below by sending down deep roots.
Vine irrigation is a sensitive topic. Some wine makers are concerned that irrigation will negatively affect or reduce the bountiful impact of vineyard ‘terroir “and lower the quality of the wines. Many believe that marginally stressing the vines helps to produce superior fruit. Some consider that France should allow vine irrigation as elsewhere in the world, where vine irrigation is well established. Others are concerned that irrigation will lead to increased production and affect the wine market and prices. Additionally, irrigation in periods of reduced precipitation will place demands on water management in the area, another consideration.
There is no question that the topic of vine irrigation in France will be on the table for discussion and debate going forward. This is an important discussion to follow in the wine world.
In the bigger picture, the reduced level of precipitation and increased temperatures affect more than the vineyards and wine making.
So, what to do?
Back to the newspaper’s question about rain dancing. Getting out the rain dancing shoes may be a good idea. It’s certainly one approach. However, I interpret the suggestion of rain dancing as code for the fact there is no easy answer to these questions. What’s interesting is that the local paper has taken the initiative to present a two-page article about the reduced rainfall this year. It has specifically commented on the impact on the wine industry, which is a major economic driver for the area.
Beneath the beauty of the area and the elegance of the wines are challenging issues to be addressed. Fortunately, there are imaginative, informed and creative wine makers in the area considering these issues and over time undoubtedly driving change in winemaking practices to accommodate environmental impacts.
Rain dancing? Perhaps, but to a new or different melody.
Sud Ouest Newspaper, November 13, 2017 Bergerac and Sarlat edition.
“My inbox is full of compliments about the amazing evening of Canadian wines; the participants loved the event”: so comments the organizer of a Canadian Wine Tasting event in London in October.
Canadian Wine Tasting – London, UK
For those who know Canadian wines, this response is not surprising but nevertheless it’s good to hear.
A couple of months ago, I was asked to advise on wines for a Canadian wine tasting at a private function in London. I am happy to support Canadian wine export efforts in even a minor way and so I was delighted to help and have the opportunity to lead this wine tasting event.
First of all, I established my criteria for recommending wines for the tasting:
1, The wines had to represent Canada as a whole, not just British Columbia or Ontario but coast to coast, which meant including Atlantic Canada.
2. The wines had to be available in the UK. No point in presenting wines that couldn’t be accessed locally.
3. To the extent possible, I wanted to be familiar with the individual wines and wineries.
Meeting these criteria was interesting in itself. Figuring out which wineries were represented in the UK and by whom took some digging. Given the peculiarities of interprovincial trade within Canada, identifying suitable wine choices from Atlantic Canada and Ontario involved some risk taking as I didn’t taste my wine recommendations from these two areas in advance. I relied upon my network to suggest appropriate Nova Scotia and Ontario wines. I kept hearing about Benjamin Bridge sparkling wines from Nova Scotia and I knew that Peller Estates in the Niagara Peninsular consistently win awards for their Riesling Ice wine.
Here are the five Canadian wines I recommended and which we tasted together with the name of the UK organization where they can be purchased
We tasted them in the following order:
Benjamin Bridge Brut Sparkling Wine 2011. Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia, Handcrafted from 100% Chardonnay. With maritime freshness and soft bubbles, this ‘methode classique’ sparkling wine set the tone for excellence. Regarded by many as the best Sparkling wine in Canada. benjaminbridge.com. Available from Friarwood com.
Meyer Family Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 Apples, plums, pears, and other flavours roll into yellow fruit, smoky spices and mineral elements. Recognized as #2 small winery in Canada in 2017. We enjoy both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made by this Okanagan Falls winery and are members of their wine club. I have got to know JAK Meyer, proprietor over the past few years. mfvwines.com Available from Davy.co.uk and also from Marks and Spenser.
Meyer Family Vineyards, Okanagan Falls, BC, Canada
Clos du Soleil Signature 2012. Certified organic winery produces their flagship red wine from their vineyards in the Similkameen Valley and in Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley. Old world elegance and new world edge is how they describe their style. Hand harvested, gently fermented and aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. We visited Clos du Soleil a few years ago and met the founder, Spenser Massie. We admire their wine making values and the grandeur of the location. clos du Soleil.ca. Available from Cellier.co.uk
Clos du Soleil Winery
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery Meritage 2012. This is their Bordeaux style red wine with layers of complexity. Red and black fruit, sweet spices and chocolate. We have been visiting Burrowing Owl Winery for many years and also enjoy the hospitality at their on site guest house. We enjoy the wines, the ambience of the place, and support their efforts for the preservation of the burrowing owl species and conservation of the habitat of this endangered underground nesting bird. Located in Oliver, Okanagan Valley. burrowingowlwine.ca. Available from Drayman.co.uk. On a weekend in Shropshire, West Midlands we also discovered Burrowing Owl wine in the historic town of Shrewsbury at Tanners Wine Merchants. tanners-wines.co.uk
Burrowing Owl Winery, Oliver, BC
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
Tanners Wine Merchants, Shrewsbury – Burrowing Owl Estate Wines are available here.
Peller Estates Winery, Ice Wine Riesling 2013. Picked at the coldest moment on a winter’s night, each frozen grape creates just one drop of Ice Wine. Smooth, luxurious, honeyed, captivating. Our hosts provided a generous selection of crackers and cheeses, including blue cheese which enabled me to demonstrate the magical pairing of Ice Wine and blue cheese, and made the point better than any description. Located at Niagara-on-the-Lake. peller.com. Available from Majestic.co.uk.
There are many excellent Canadian wine choices and these wines that I have selected may tempt the wine enthusiast to further exploration. I also suggest checking out the listed websites for further insights into dynamic Canadian approaches to wine tourism.
It has been a pleasure and privilege to introduce these excellent Canadian wines to a group of wine enthusiasts in London. The wines speak for themselves and we had fun tasting and chatting about them. One of the participants was from Nova Scotia and described the beauty of the Gaspereau Valley where Benjamin Bridge is situated.
This is the 60th posting on my blog. It feels like a milestone to me and somehow appropriate to be writing about Canadian wines because Canada is where I live.
Not bad, eh!
To Davy Wine Merchants for their assistance in the final sourcing of the wines.
To the Canadian Trade Commission for supplying information about Canadian wine regions for wine tasting participants..
Life is to be lived forward, helped by looking backward from time to time.
This seems to be the common wisdom, certainly if one looks at all the retrospectives written around this time of year. Whether we learn anything by looking backward and attempt to apply the lessons to the future is another matter…
What’s this got to do with writing a blog about wine and how it opens the door to other related and interesting subjects?
Well, I guess my aim is to deepen and broaden my knowledge about wine and then express it in different ways.
This year I pushed the envelope with three different initiatives:
I gave a brief presentation to an interested group about antique Madeira wine labels in the context of social history,
I created a video about the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès in SW France with the help of professional film maker, Joanna Irwin, and,
I conducted a wine tasting for the Wine Appreciation group at The University Women’s Club of Vancouver at Hycroft.
As I plan forward for elizabethsvines in 2017, I’ll be looking backward as well, to see what can be learned from these experiences.
I appreciate comments and suggestions from my kind readers who are located all over the world; the magic of the Internet. There is a warm feeling when someone says: ” …I liked your recent blog…”
The great thing for me about my blog, which I have now been writing for four years, is that it isn’t a job. The only expectations and deadlines are self imposed ones.
Oh! And by the way, before I forget to mention it: I enjoy writing elizabethsvines.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, best wishes for the festive season and thank you for reading elizabethsvines, from
References from elizabethsvines archive:
elizabethsvines November 2016. Wines from my blog: wine tasting event at The University Women’s Club of Vancouver at Hycroft.
Driving down the winding road under a sunny blue sky towards Sigoulès, a village in SW France, I see in the distance coloured paper decorations stretched over the road at the village entrance and the large sign SIGOULES in yellow and gold letters.
It’s mid-summer and early in the morning. I parallel park in the field-cum-parking lot and feel the festive mood in the air as I walk over to the large central village square. People are up and about getting the place ready for the annual Wine Fair, including the gathering of the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès. Stallholders are setting out their wares for sale: wines, olive oils, lavender oils and soaps, food items and all manner of regional products. They are anticipating the bustling crowds of visitors who will come over the weekend to celebrate and enjoy the local wine and food culture of the area.
I meet Joanna Urwin, a local film-maker who has generously offered to make a video of the festivities and we discuss “photo-opps”, where she can best position herself to film public events and where I will talk about Confréries and their activities.
Confréries have their origins in the guilds of the Middle Ages. Today, they are an integral part of local tourism, economic development and cultural initiatives supporting regional products. They were recognized by UNESCO in 2010 as an intangible cultural heritage; an aspect of the “Gastronomic meal of the French.” Confréries also encourage the discovery of regions through such initiatives as well-attended music concerts and popular guided walks in the areas. The Confrérie du Raisin d’Or de Sigoulès also provides a bursary to a student engaged in wine studies, thus helping to support the education of the next generation of wine professionals.
Confréries operate in a reciprocal manner and members visit other confrérie events across France and in other areas of Europe. This is representative of their value of conviviality and social connection. Members of 45 other Confréries, both in France and as far away as Belgium attend the event in Sigoulès.
The attached video, created by Joanna Urwin of VideoProFrance, provides an insight into this local Foire aux Vins and the annual public celebration of the Confrérie du Raisin d’Or de Sigoulès in SW France.
Monbazillac wine and rainbow trout
Apple tart in Sigoulès
Confrérie du Piment d’Espelette
Joanna Urwin of VideoProFrance filming in Sigoules
It’s early morning and I am vaguely listening to the CBC news. My concentration is suddenly focused on the announcement of the earthquakes in Italy and the tragic loss of life and destruction of the mediaeval town of Amatrice, north west of Rome.
In my mind, I am visualizing the towns and villages that we saw on our recent trip to Italy and in particular, the area around Cassino, where the famous World War 2 battle of Montecassino took place in 1944.
Frosinone Province, Lazio showing Cassino and Anagni
Modern town of Cassino
Our visit was to pay homage to a relative who died at the battle of Montecassino in 1944 and whose final resting place is in the Cassino War Cemetery.
Cassino War Cemetery
Beneath a clear blue sky, crisp lines of cream coloured gravestones softened with plantings of yellow and red roses stop us in our tracks and bring a lump to our throats. Here lie thousands of young war heroes: their names, biographical and regimental details etched on the gravestones. Small family groups of visitors, like us, quietly walk around the Cemetary, touching the gravestone of their family relative in silent respect. An atmosphere of calm and peacefulness pervades this place which lies in the shadow of the Abbey of Montecassino that is situated on a hill top high above the town of Cassino.
Cassino Cemetery graves
Canadian war graves
Canadian war graves, Cassino
We spend the day with Dr. Danila Bracaglia, a local historian and licensed, professional guide. She is very knowledgeable about the WW2 Italian campaign and we visit relevant areas in the vicinity including the Abbey itself. We feel as though we are re-living the history as we stand in these places and absorb the surroundings of mountainous terrain, valleys, rocks, trees and plants, rivers and bridges and listen to Danila recount details of the campaign.
The view from the Abbey
Abbey of Montecassino from the Gari River
The intense day is followed by a restful stay at a small family run hotel in the middle of Cassino. At dusk, we hear church and Abbey bells ringing out and look up to the Abbey above the town, both completely rebuilt after the war and now very much alive and vibrant.
Abbey of Montecassino
The Abbey from the town of Cassino
Across the street, our hotel in Cassino
The Abbey from our hotel
To regain our equilibrium after our unforgettable pilgrimage, we spend the following day visiting mediaeval towns, including Alatri with the ultimate objective of lunch in Anagni at the Ristorante Del Gallo.
Ristorante del Gallo in the 19th century
Fortunately, our reservation at this family run, generations old restaurant, was booked well in advance. The restaurant is packed with locals for Sunday lunch. We are the only foreigners having lunch there that day. It’s just as we prefer it: no other tourists in sight.
The atmosphere is lighthearted, exuberant, loud with laughter, smiles and warm welcomes and chat in broken Italian and English as we are asked and we respond about where we are from. Vancouver seems a long way away.
We anticipate a good meal accompanied by local wine. The experience doesn’t disappoint and exceeds our expectations for a memorable occasion.
The piece de resistance, the starter course, is the specialty of the Lazio region. It is wheeled out of the kitchen on a waiter’s trolley and taken to each table for examination and appreciation. Il Timballo alla Bonifacio V111, named for a Pope, is a fettuccine based pasta dish enveloped in prosciutto ham. It is prepared and baked in a mould then served upside down and freestanding. The Timballo is irresistible with its aromas of cooked cheese, tomatoes, prosciutto. Inevitably, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs as we enjoy this taste of Lazio, made according to the Ricette TRadizionali. I have looked at a number of Timballo recipes in Italian and have the general idea of what’s involved. At some point, I will make a brave attempt at creating this very Italian dish.
Il Timballo alla Bonifacio V111 is the traditional pasta dish of the area, and Cesanese is the local wine. The grape variety and wine by the same name has its roots deeply planted in this area. Cesanese is indigenous to the Lazio region with very old origins and may have been used by the Romans in their wine making activities. Cesanese wine has long been associated with the ancient town and commune of Anagni where we are having lunch.
Cesanese wine from Lazio
Cesanese Del Piglio
The bottle of Cesanese Del Piglio DOCG, DOCG being the highest classification of Italian wines, is perfect for the occasion. The Cesanese grape variety produces a red wine which we found paired perfectly with the regional food: soft, velvety, light bodied wine yet rich in flavour. A very drinkable and enjoyable wine.
Sadly, winemaking in the Lazio area is in decline due to the urban sprawl. We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to enjoy Cesanese wine on this visit as it is not readily available outside the area.
When I attempt to make make the Timballo, I will serve it either with a Sangiovese wine since this grape is widely grown in the area or my preference would be a Montepulciano d’Abrozzo DOCG from nearby on the Adriatic coastal area. This wine is made from the Montepulciano grape variety. While each of these wines is generally richer in colour and texture than the Cesanese, I think either would complement the Timballo.
Our time in Cassino visiting the grave of our relative and other war heroes, together with the WW2 sites and the mediaeval towns and villages in the area will always have a special place in our memories. And, how could we forget the Timballo alla Bonifacio V111 accompanied by Cesanese wine?
Back to the present and our historian, Dr Danila Bracaglia emails me that fortunately her family were not in the area of the Italian earthquakes. However, they heard and felt them and knew this would mean tragedy for those involved.
Our thoughts are with those affected by the earthquakes and aftershocks.
From my perspective, one of the many pleasures of exploring the world of wine is to enjoy a new wine experience and its environment. Attending a gathering of the Confrérie des Compagnons des Vins de Loupiac is a perfect example of this.
Roman history and a hidden gem of vins liquoreux come together in the Loupiac wine area near the city of Bordeaux in SW France.
Loupiac is named for the wolves which once roamed this area and the Roman heritage is in the original name of Lupicius, the wolf.
Loupiac AC and the town of Loupiac is situated 40 km to the south west of Bordeaux, nestled up against the better known Barsac and Sauternes Appellations yet on the right side of the Garonne River. Look at the map of the Bordeaux wine region too quickly and Loupiac is nearly invisible.
Part of the Bordeaux wine region showing Loupiac AC near Cadillac
Loupiac AC is one of the grouping of Graves and Sweet Bordeaux wines including vins liquoreux in the Bordeaux wine region.
60 winegrowers cultivate the 370 hectares of Loupiac appellation vineyards in small parcels of land, none of them larger than 10 hectares.
As with vins liquoreux in other areas of SW France, the grape varieties are: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle and the blending percentages in Loupiac AC are generally 80%, 15%, and 5% respectively. All grapes are harvested by hand, in several consecutive passes.
It is the proximity to the Garonne River which produces the morning mists followed by hot, sunny afternoons. This climate in turn contributes to the creation of the noble rot or botrytis cinerea which concentrates the sugars in the ripe grapes and results in these honeyed, complex wines.
Increasingly, people are recognizing that these wines can be enjoyed with a variety of foods, not just the old fashioned view of sweet wine with sweet puddings.
At the Confrérie meal, the varied menu included pâté, rabbit, cheese as well as dessert.
Foie gras with apple
As we progressed through the menu, we sampled a range of Loupiac AC wines from different chateaux and different vintages, from 1995 to 2015 demonstrating how well these vins liquoreux age. I was intrigued by the unfolding aromas and tastes across the years. As one of the winemakers explained, the wines develop their mellow, honeyed almost fortified intensity over time not because they become sweeter with age but because the acidity drops with the ageing process thus bringing the sweetness to the fore.
Clos Jean 1995
Domaine de Noble 2015
Domaine des Pins de Pitcha 2005
Clos Jean 2011
Ch Loupiac Gaudiet 2013
Loupiac AC Vin Liquoreux
I found this visit to Loupiac and the vin liquoreux and food pairing to be inspirational, especially with the aged wines.
Other wine and food pairing suggestions include chicken roasted in Loupiac wine, duck breast prepared with soy sauce and Loupiac wine, and lemon puddings. And, of course, as an apéritif. All served with chilled Loupiac AC wine, between 4-8’C.
I have already experimented making up a recipe for the foie gras and Granny Smith Apple starter with a biscuity base.
Experimentation is the order of the day, encouraged by the day of discovery at Loupiac.
Inspector Bruno Courreges, gourmand, wine lover and local chief of police lives in the Périgord, SW France in the small town of St Denis, where he knows everyone and their secrets. He enjoys a peaceful life with his vegetable garden, horse, ducks and hens and defends the local community, its people and traditions against threats that menace the traditional way of life.
Inspector Bruno also has a weakness for intelligent, independent minded women.
Without question, then, he would be supportive of the women winemakers of Bergerac.
While I, and I am sure many others, would greatly enjoy meeting Inspector Bruno, there will be no such opportunity as he is the fictional creation of Martin Walker. For myself, I feel I have become acquainted with Inspector Bruno from reading the novels.
Inspector Bruno mystery series by Martin Walker
I have met Martin at a couple of wine events in the Dordogne. After reading the following article in a local Dordogne English language newspaper, The Bugle, I decided to write to him and ask if I could reproduce his article about women wine makers of Bergerac on my website. He has graciously agreed to this and I am very pleased to include his article below.
‘The Bugle, June 2016
The women winemakers of Bergerac by Martin Walker
Along with the Universities of Bordeaux, Padua and Melbourne, the Davis campus in California is one of the world’s great wine schools and last year for the first time, half of the graduates were women. And our own Bergerac region is remarkable for the number of women making terrific wines.
Not all of them are French. The legendary Patricia Atkinson of Clos d’Yvigne may have retired but the wines she made are still being produced by her successors. Le Rouge et Le Noir may be the best known, a classic blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon but I also enjoy the wine she called le Prince, a blend of merlot and cabernet franc. And her book, The Ripening Sun, is strongly recommended as one brave woman’s account of a triumphant and often lonely struggle to make prize-winning wines from scratch.
Not far from her vineyard at Gageac-et Rouillac near Saussignac is Chateau K, where the Norwegian Katharina Mowinckel may have given up her dream of becoming a world-class horsewoman, but now makes first-rate organic wines. The original name of the Chateau was Fougueyrat, but knowing that Scandinavia would be an important market, she decided that Chateau K would be easier to pronounce. And the Chateau K wines she makes are very good indeed, as you might expect from this lovely corner of the Bergerac. Her cheaper wines, called simply K, are also good value.
My friend Sylvie Chevallier produces lovely wines at Les Hauts de Caillevel, prize-winning Monbazillacs, charming wines and very serious red wines indeed. I was honoured to be on a jury where we were able to recognize the quality of her wines and then I had the pleasure of getting to know her when we were both promoting Bergerac food and wine in Switzerland, when the traveling Lascaux museum was on show in Geneva. And now Sylvie has been elected the apolitical chair of the tourism committee of our regional council, a fine choice. I just hope it leaves her sufficient time to continue producing her splendid wines. And like more and more Bergerac wines these day, they are bio-organic certified. She calls herself ‘a peasant winemaker’ but her wines are noble indeed.
Brigitte Soulier at Chateau la Robertie makes wines so good they are served at the Vieux Logis restaurant in Tremolat, my own favourite place to eat. Her Monbazillacs are a treat but I have a great fondness for her red wines, which add a little Cot (the old Perigord name for Malbec) to the usual Cabernet-Merlot blend.
If you have not yet visited Caro Feely at Saussignac, you should. Caro runs wine courses and lunches and with her husband Sean makes very fines wines indeed. If you get hold of their red wine called Grace, treasure it for a few years. But also enjoy the view from their home over the Dordogne valley all the way to Bergerac.
Chateau Feely, home of Caro Feely, one of the women wine makers of Bergerac
I had the pleasure one evening at Sean and Caro’s home of meeting their neighbor, Isabelle Daulhiac, who with her husband Thierry make some of the best value Bergerac Sec white wines that I know. I cannot possibly leave out Nathalie Barde of Chateau le Raz or Sylvie Deffarge Danger of Chateau Moulin Caresse (a name that perfectly describes the smoothness of her red wines) but I am running out of space.
And then there is our local TV superstar, Gaelle Reynou-Gravier of the Domaine de Perreau at St-Michel-de-Montaigne, in the Montravel district of Bergerac. She is the model for Gaelle Dumesnil in the latest version of Le Sang de la Vigne (Blood of the Einre) French TV series. In the latest episode, she is the inspiration for the role of the childhood sweetheart of one of the stars of the series. But the real stars are her two special wines, a wonderfully deep red called Desir Carmin and an enchanting Desir d’Aurore, which I consider the best Chardonnay wine produced in the Bergerac.
I should add that she is more than lovely enough to play the role herself, but having a wife over thirty years and two daughters, I have been thoroughly schooled in the dangers of being a sexist. But each of the women I have cited is as lovely and delightful as the wines she makes, and I offer up my thanks to le Bon Dieu that such magnificent women made such splendid wines.’
A note about Martin Walker, author of this article:
Martin Walker, author of the best-selling ‘Bruno, chief of police’ novels, is a Grand Consul de la Vinée de Bergerac. Formerly a journalist, he spent 25 years as foreign correspondent for The Guardian newspaper and then became editor-in-chief of United Press International. He and his wife Julia have had a home in the Périgord since 1999 and one of his great hobbies is visiting the vineyards of Bergerac.
We are sitting in a rooftop restaurant in Rome, enjoying a glass of Prosecco while we read the dinner menu in a leisurely manner and enjoy the view.
Evening rooftop view of Rome
Our reverie is interrupted when we observe the people at the next table reject the bottle of wine they have just ordered. I haven’t seen this too many times and I am intrigued by what occurred. Was it the aroma or the taste of the wine that was not to their liking or both? I don’t want to add to their dining drama by asking what happened, so the reason will remain a mystery as far as we are concerned.
The scene runs through my head and I think about an amusing article I read recently by British wine writer Matthew Jukes about Viognier and the reactions his readers described of their past experience of tasting this type of wine. Aromas and taste experiences ranged from: “bubble-bath, loo spray, tinned fruit salad, plug-in air freshener or pick’n’ mix”. I wonder if our dining neighbours experienced these or similarly disagreeable aromas when their eagerly awaited bottle of wine arrived. Matthew Jukes tells his readers that his recommendations of Viognier will not result in these unpalatable conclusions but rather lead them on an exotic and rewarding odyssey. I feel reassured.
About the same time that I noted Mr Jukes’ comments, I read an article in the Style section of Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper about perfume entitled: Message in a bottle, in which writer Nathalie Atkinson describes how perfume evokes memories. I have made similar comments previously about how wine evokes memories and past experiences for me. It seems the perfumes we wear and the aromas of wine we drink must be olfactory cousins.
In her article, Ms Atkinson refers to the work of psychologist and neuroscientist Dr Rachel Herz who says: ” Emotion is a central and fundamental feature of odour perception, odour learning and odour memory.” Dr Herz explains that the sense of smell is intrinsic to the most important dimensions of our lives.
Ms Atkinson also describes situations in which individuals have commissioned perfumes to replicate those worn by dead loved ones. The resulting perfume builds a bridge to a past memory. A very poignant reference is made to French actress, Catherine Deneuve who commissioned a perfume similar to that worn by her sister who died at an early age. This perfume became her personal bridge to her late sister.
In an airline duty free shopping magazine, a scent guide provided by an industry expert refers to the following perfume characteristics: floral, oriental, woodsy, aromatic and fresh.
Inflight magazine scent guide
The Wine and Spirit Educational Trust (WSET), refers to aroma characteristics of wine using similar language: fruit, floral, spice, vegetal, oak, other.
These similarities further emphasize this familial relationship between perfume and the aromas of wine. No wonder people are asked not to wear perfume to wine tastings.
Refining one’s sense of smell and developing a ‘nose’ to fully appreciate perfume and wine takes years of training and practise.
I hear the buzz of conversation before I see the people. Mid morning chat is at a gentle hum as people from across London and elsewhere greet each other and settle down to the serious business of a portfolio tasting courtesy of Davy’s Wine Merchants established in 1870.
Davy’s Portfolio Tasting
I have been thinking about historical context quite a bit recently, so I am distracted by considering the age of this business and thinking about what was going on when Davy’s Wine Merchants was established. A time of upheaval and change in Europe with revolutions in the mid century and the unification of Italy a year later. Queen Victoria was well established on the English throne and the Victorian writers: Trollope, Dickens, Elliot, Hardy were writing books that have become classics of English Literature. I admire the skill and tenacity required to build and sustain a business over that length of time: 146 years. Certainly, it speaks to the ongoing public interest in enjoying quality wines.
So back to the business at hand: sampling some of the wines presented by wine producers and/or the Davy’s Team. It’s an impressive sight in the Hall of India and Pakistan at The Royal Over-Seas League house in St. James’s, London. 31 Tables with over 250 wines presented representing all the classic wine growing areas of the Old and New Worlds and developing wine growing areas such as England itself.
It would take a great deal of time to do justice to the large selection of wines at this tasting. After walking around the room and looking at all 31 tables, I resolve that the only way to take advantage of this opportunity is to be selective in my approach.
I taste a number of wines presented by Jean Becker from Alsace in France. Their Pinot Gris 2013, soft, with peach fruit aromas; Gewürztraminer 2013, violets and very floral aromas, Riesling Vendanges Tardives Kronenbourg 2009, smooth, honeyed, acidic, and excellent for sweet and sour dishes.
I move on to Bodegas Miguel Merino Rioja, from Spain and really enjoyed the Miguel Merino Gran Reserva 2008, a beautiful rioja nose on the wine, smooth and long.
Vini Montauto, Maremma, Tuscany
Italian wines from the organic wine producer, Azienda Agricola Montauto, in Maremma, Tuscany are something new and stand out wines for me. Their winemaking philosophy is to make wines that support food, not overpower it. I particularly enjoyed their white wine: Montauto Vermentino Malvasia 2014. There is considerable length to the wine, with deep and balanced fruit aromas. At 13% alc./vol it is a very drinkable wine. Vermentino and Malvasia are grape varieties typical of this area in Tuscany along with Trebbiano and Grechetto. Sauvignon Blanc from neighbouring France has found a natural home in the area too. The Maremma area of Tuscany looks like an area worth visiting for its natural beauty, historical interest and microclimate supporting viticulture and the organic wines themselves.
As a final tasting experience, I can’t resist the Fine Wine Collection hosted by Davy’s staff and in this instance by wine consultant, Martin Everett MW. I look at the line up of wines and notice that a Monbazillac AOC wine, a late harvest botrytized wine from the wider wine region of Bergerac is included; a Monbazillac Chateau Fonmourgues 2009.
Fine Wine Collection
The red wines at this Fine Wine Collection table are Bordeaux classics, both Left and Right Bank.
I focus on the right bank, Pomerol and St. Emilion. Château du Tailhas, Pomerol 2012, located near Château Figeac, and Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, Grand Cru St. Emilion. 2006 – a special vintage- and taste these wines.
When I look at my notes, all I write is “ Beautiful”.
It says it all.
When I taste these top of class, prestigious Bordeaux wines with their full and satisfying flavours and aromas, I am always transported back to other occasions when I have enjoyed them.
On this occasion, I think back to 2009 and a visit to both Château Figeac and Château Beau-Séjour Bécot. What struck me at the time was not just the quality of the wine but the accessibility and congeniality of the proprietors, in each case with family members at a multi-generational helm. I remember at Château Figeac, Madame Manoncourt, the co-proprietor with her husband, rushed up to meet us as we were leaving. She had just driven back from Paris, a considerable distance, yet insisted on taking the time to welcome us to the Château. In reading the history of Château Figeac, the Manoncourts were one of the first Châteaux owners many years ago to open their doors to general public or non trade visitors. That sincere interest in the consumer is what good customer relations is all about.
Similarly, at Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, which we also visited in 2009, Monsieur Bécot joined us on our tour of the Château and the cellars and went to great lengths to explain their approach to making their wines.
It’s always the people who make the difference.
Peeling back the onion rings of memory, these experiences make me think of teenage visits to Bordeaux with my parents many, many years ago, when the proprietors always took the time to show us around yet the visits had to booked then by correspondence some time in advance. I remember at that time we visited Château Palmer and Château Margaux among others.
All these thoughts and memories come flooding back as a result of attending the Portfolio Tasting of Davy’s Wine Merchants, an organization with a long history and family lineage.
Enjoying wine, especially excellent wine, is always an evocative experience for me of other times, places and people. It’s a time machine in a bottle.
I open the car door outside the Tsangarides Winery and savour the fresh February village air of Lemona, this small hamlet in the Troodos foothills.
Tsangarides Winery, Lemona on a chilly February morning
It’s been a year since our last visit and we’re looking forward to renewing our acquaintance with Angelos Tsangarides, co-proprietor with his sister of the winery. We are introduced to Angelos’s father who is also at the winery this day. We follow Angelos upstairs to a large tasting room overlooking almond and clementine trees. Today the room is warmed by a wood burning stove, necessary on this chilly morning.
Over a Cyprus coffee, metrios style, like a medium sweet thick expresso served with a glass of water on the side, we chat about wine, wine making, local grape varieties, tourism and developments at Tsangarides. Over the past year, Angelos has been consolidating winery activities, investing in new equipment and restructuring operations by taking on the role of wine maker himself with the advice of a wine consultant. He is very much enjoying this development.
Angelos is a keen advocate of the local grape varieties, Xinisteri white grapes and Maratheftiko black grapes. He explains that Xinisteri is typically blended with a small percentage of either Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. He favours Chardonnay in the blend.
A new development is that Angelos is now producing a Muscat dessert wine.
Tsangarides Winery Muscat wine
After our metrios coffee and chat, Angelos takes us to visit the cellars and
Tsangarides Winery Maratheftiko organic wine
the bottling area. We buy some wine to enjoy over dinner with friends and he generously gives us a bottle of his Shiraz Rosé bottled this very day to taste.
Angelos tells us that he woke really early this morning, excited about the prospect of bottling the 2015 Rosé. As he tells us this, his face lights up and he is smiling the smile of someone who loves what he is doing. He says that he is very happy that he made the switch from the strictly business world he was working in previously to work in the family winery, that he loves what he does and finds it rewarding and satisfying.
As we say farewell to Angelos so he can get on with the rest of his busy day, he asks me to let him know what we think of these wines and we promise to share our wine tasting notes with him.
Here are the tasting notes I emailed to Angelos after we enjoyed the wines one evening soon afterwards with friends:
“Hello Angelos, We have tasted the wines from our visit to you and here are some comments:
2014 Maratheftiko organic wine
Good colour and clean on the nose with some fruit/floral aromas.
While young, a very drinkable smooth wine now. Soft tannins, some drying from the tannins but what one wants in this kind of wine, with complex black fruit and floral tones.
It’s the tannins which provide the health enhancing characteristics of red wine apparently, so good to be aware of the tannins.
One of our guests said that the wine would benefit from ageing – yes, undoubtedly but very drinkable and enjoyable now.
Given the fairly high alc 14.5% VOL, I feel it has a freshness and lightness to it.
We all enjoyed it. Very good flavours for an organic wine which sometimes produce different flavours to what one expects
One of our guests said. ‘I adore this wine’
What I particularly liked about this wine is that it has fresh and robust acidity so that although the wine has the characteristic aromas and flavours of a sweet wine, it wasn’t sweet. This is important when enjoyed with cheese as well as a dessert and it means that it complements rather than overwhelms the food flavours
Very popular and all drunk very quickly by our guests
2015 Shiraz Rosé
Bright rich red colour, clean on the nose with light fruit aromas
Delicious taste with dark fruit with touch of peach and quite spicy. Almost has a bit of fizz /bubbly effect so a lighthearted wine but I could feel the heat of the wine.
Very enjoyable. Will be a popular choice for the spring and summer
Thanks, Angelos. We enjoyed these winesas you can see and also the Xinistiri which is a favourite on the white wine side. “
We subsequently enjoy lunch one day at Minthis Hills Golf Club and restaurant in the countryside above Paphos. We order a glass of Tsangarides Xinisteri each and it arrives in aviation bottles of 187 ml. which we really appreciate as this is preferable to having a glass poured from an already open bottle. I have written before supporting smaller bottle sizes as options for wine lovers so I really am pleased to see this Tsangarides offering. Angelos subsequently mentions to me that these aviation bottles of Xinisteri are extremely popular.
In reflecting upon our visit to Angelos and his comments about the rewarding nature of his work, I wonder if this is the portrait of a happy man: working in a business alongside his family, in a beautiful rural setting, learning new skills, feeling he is making progress, being his own boss and doing something he loves, which is making wine.
Much has been written recently about this elusive emotion called Happiness and how to achieve it. After reviewing several sources in search of a succinct statement to describe the connection between work and happiness that would resonate with Angelos’s comments, the following statement by the late Steve Jobs of Apple Corporation seems to fit the bill:
“ Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do…”
Sounds like Angelos Tsangarides – a fortunate man.
Reference: Tsangarides Winery. www.tsangarideswinery.com. Organically produced wine
Metrios Cyprus wine www.cyprusisland.net
Minthis Hills Golf Club. www.minthishills.com.
Quote from the late Steve Jobs: Stanford Commencement Speech 2006
We’re back in Cyprus, land of mythology, of Aphrodite rising from the waves. The goddess of love, known as Aphrodite to the Greeks and Venus to the Romans, was believed to have risen from the sea foam near Paphos at Pétra tou Romioú.
Could this be Aphrodite’s sea foam?
I remember seeing Sandro Botticelli’s renowned painting of the Birth of Venus (mid 1480’s) at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and am delighted to think I have seen both the painted interpretation and the physical site of the legend.
In this ancient land of Cyprus, where there are records of settlement at the site of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Kouklia, site of Old Paphos, dating from the 15th century BC, and where it seems that often the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea merge into one, the imagination can take flight and anything seems possible.
Kouklia Archeological site
Kouklia Archeological site
Kouklia Archeological Site
Kouklia Archeological Site
Kouklia Archeological Site
Kouklia Archeological site
Cyprus is a treasure trove of archeological sites with their ancient history. We enjoy visiting these places, and stand in awe of the work and artistry of the people who accomplished so much in those ancient times. In January and March 2013, I wrote about the history of wine making in Cyprus and the mosaics in New Paphos at the Archaeological Park by the sea and those posts are in elizabethsvines archives.
Pafos Archeological Site – UNESCO World Heritage Site
Entrance to Pafos Archeological site
Pafos Archeological site – site map
Well preserved and in situ, the Paphos mosaics provide insight into life on the island mainly in the Roman period although there are also examples of pebble mosaics from the much earlier Hellenistic period. Not only do the mosaics illustrate flora and fauna, they also illustrate work related to wine making.
I am so interested in mosaics as an art form that I am learning the basics of mosaic making with Sharen Taylor, a highly skilled mosaic artist and conservationist resident in Cyprus. First coming to the island to undertake professional conservation work, she subsequently conducted a two year historical research project of the Paphos mosaics. Now she dedicates herself to the “cultural heritage of mosaic making” working on commissions and teaching students at her studio in Paphos.
I have been spending hours practising the seven most used cutting techniques for tesserae ( a small block of stone, glass or wood used in mosaic making) and making a sample board, in much the same way my grandmother would have made a sample project of various needlework stitches. My grandmother was an accomplished needlewoman, as I think the expression goes. I won’t make the same claim for my tesserae/glass cutting skills but it’s fun to learn and try: more importantly it’s humbling to appreciate the immense amount of skill required to make the mosaics of people, animals, and life scenes evident at the archeological sites.
Mosaic tesserae/glass cutting techniques
Work in progress – learning mosaic making
All this thinking about mythology, archeology and mosaic making hasn’t dulled my interest in local wines and the local grape varieties of Xinisteri, white grapes and Maratheftiko, black grapes. We will be visiting some local wineries to see how wine making is progressing on the island. In keeping with the art of the possible, the wine industry in Cyprus is enjoying a renaissance and I will share Cyprus wine experiences next time I write.
Mosaic artist and conservationist: Sharen Taylor. www.sharentaylor.com
We are in the in-between zone, that time between Christmas and the New Year: recovering from the wonderful festive time and not yet in the grip of New Year resolutions. Sometimes, these few days can provide an opportunity to catch up on outstanding items. For now, it’s a time for reflection.
This includes reflecting on elizabethsvines. I look back at my 10 published postings over the year. My aim is always to write about wine in the context of art, music, literature, science, recipes for cooking, history, restaurants and about wine as an expression of culture, as in the Confréries in France.
In 2015, my wine repertoire includes the Bergerac Wine Region in SW France, a specific British Columbia wine and references to particular South African wine, to Champagne, Port and hot punches (aka the Dickensian Smoking Bishop). It’s a personal focus.
Here are a few updates related to wine stories I have written about in 2015.
JAK Meyer of Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls in British Columbia has mentioned to me that their Pinot Noir is now available in 169 stores across the United Kingdom with Marks and Spencer, the food retailer. This is an exciting development for this British Columbia winery. Last February, I wrote about their wine in: “ From Terroir to Table: Meyer Family Vineyards wines from Okanagan Falls, British Columbia to Mayfair in one leap”.
Klein Constantia Vin de Constance and Warre’s Port which I wrote about last January in “The Wine Ghosts of Christmas Past (with a toast to Charles Dickens)”, were featured in the menu for the October 20th State Dinner at Buckingham Palace for the President of China, Xi Jinping. More specifically, the Palace menu includes Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2008 and Warre’s Vintage Port 1977.
In April, when I wrote, “Bergerac Wine Region – Chateau Le Tap addresses customer interests”, I jokingly referred to Bertie Wooster of P G Wodehouse fame and his apparent love of “half bots” of wine and commented on a noticeable consumer interest in smaller bottles of wine. This consumer interest was brought home to me again the other day in a supermarket in Paphos, Cyprus when I saw on display a large selection of wine being sold in small wine bottles between 187 ml to 200 ml.
Small bottles of wine meet consumer interests – Paphos , Cyprus
I hope you have found the 2015 posts informative, interesting, perhaps entertaining. I am always interested to know.
In the spirit of Robbie Burns 1788 poem, Auld Lang Syne, let’s raise a cup of kindness. Best wishes for 2016.
A visit to London before the Christmas holidays and I like to check out the decorations. Snowflakes, pine trees and feathers, with lots of colour and dazzle, seem to be some of the motifs this year. My camera isn’t poised ready for them all but here are blue snowflakes and red and green vertical pine tree decorations:
Christmas lights in Mayfair
Christmas holiday decorations
Another stop along the way of special places is the Royal Academy in Piccadilly. The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s man-made forest installation in the forecourt creates a powerful image for me of fluid shape and colour, enhanced by a brilliant blue November sky.
Royal Academy of Arts – Ai Weiwei’s man-made forest installation
Walking along Pall Mall one morning I hear a band playing and drawn like a magnet to the sound, I find a small ceremony with a military band at the Yard entrance to St James’s Palace.
Ceremony at St James’s Palace
Towards the end of that day, I head towards Berry Bros and Rudd, wine merchants in St James’s since the 17th century. Another favourite haunt, this time combining history and fine wine where I have enjoyed Berry’s Own Selection of wines and wine events.
Berry Bros and Rudd – wine merchants in St James’s since the 17th century
Berry Bros and Rudd – part of their own selection
In general chit chat with the wine consultant, I ask about Canadian wine and Bergerac wine region offerings. The Canadian selections focus on ice wines from the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia including an ice cider. While I haven’t tasted this selection of Domaine de Grand Pré, Pomme d’Or, I have tasted other ice ciders and they are worth every sip of nectar: delicious. Nothing from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
The wine selection from the Bergerac Wine Region is limited to Chateau Thénac and no Monbazillac or Saussignac late harvest wines are listed.
In reflecting upon these gaps in their wine list, I realize that these geographic areas of interest to me typically have small production volumes and that this can be a challenge for both wine producers and wine importers considering new markets.
I am pleased to see that a Maratheftiko red wine from Zambartas Wineries in Cyprus is still offered together with a Commandaria.
After all this exploring in London’s St. James’s area, a post-jet lag treat seems in order. What better than a glass of champagne. I enquire about the Bollinger selection, one of our favourites. A half bottle of Bollinger Rosé fits the bill.
This champagne is dominated by Pinot Noir which is known to give body and structure. The Berry Bros and Rudd employee suggests it will go well with game in a wine and food pairing and I take note for future reference. We enjoy it solo, with a handful of home roasted nuts: characteristic tight bubbles, crisp and dry, subtle fruit nuance yet savoury, refreshing. A champagne that really stands on its own.
We are having coffee with a friend in Vancouver; sitting outside at our regular haunt putting the world to rights as usual. Our friend comments, “ Well, you know the big thing nowadays for organizations is “reaching out”. We talk about this “reaching out” and what it means or implies: communicating, engaging with interested parties.
Later on, I reflect on “reaching out” and my thoughts turn to the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès in South West France and the efforts that they make to reach out to many groups in the course of their activities during the year.
I wrote about the history and current role of Confréries in France and in particular about the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès in the July 2014 article on my website. In summary, the Confrérie du Raisin d’Or de Sigoulès is one of a large network of confréries or organizations of men and women across France whose objective is the promotion of their local area and culture as well as gastronomic products.
UNESCO has recognized the gastronomic heritage of France as an expression of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the confréries are included in that recognition.
Tourism plays a major role in the French economy and the Confréries, with their links to the past and involvement with the gastronomy of the area are usually associated with a tourism organization in the vicinity.
In some ways, this feels like a lot of words on a page and high-level policy. On the ground, what is the value proposition? It’s about promoting the local area, culture, food and wine to residents and visitors. Aside from the annual major event for each Confrérie called the Chapitre, and attending the Chapitres of other Confrèries, local events are organized that reach out to others.
The magic of the work of the Confrérie du Raisin d’Or de Sigoulès of which I am so fortunate to be a member, albeit from a distance much of the time, comes alive for me in particular ways.
One way is in walking with people who take part in the summer time Confrérie organized hikes, which focus on the discovery of the local countryside. I pass the time of day with other hikers: why do they come? What’s it all about for them?
Hiking in the Dordogne with the Confrérie
Consistently, the response is that they love the countryside, the opportunity to explore the area with other people with similar interests. They appreciate the fellowship offered by the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès. Often they are people who live in Bergerac, the local main town, and sometimes they have recently retired there after a career in Paris or overseas. They want to connect with the soil, the trees, the birds, the mushrooms, the wild flowers; these things are important to them.
Hiking with the Confrérie
At the end of each hike, there is an opportunity to enjoy refreshment with others. On offer is a glass of local wine or juice and a savoury biscuit. Un pot d’amitié, a cup of friendship, to which participants are invited to donate a small amount to cover costs. All this is organized and brought to the assembly point by members of the Confrérie.
At the end of the hike: enjoying a cup of friendship
This is the magic of the countryside and fellowship.
Another expression of this magic is attending concerts organized by the Confrérie in local mediaeval churches.
How good can it get to listen to talented musicians in this kind of setting?
One example from this summer is a concert held at the church in Sigoulès featuring a flautist and guitarist playing music from both sides of the Pyrénées. These musical pieces are by composers who originated from different regions of the French and Spanish Pyrénées: Gabriel Faure, Maurice Ravel, Georges Bizet, Pablo de Sarasate, and Isaac Albeniz. These are some of my favourite composers. Afterwards, we stand and chat in the shade of the plane trees and enjoy un pot d’amitié – a glass of wine from a Sigoules winemaker.
Concert with the Confrérie
Another example is a concert of young talented musicians from the Conservatoire de Bergerac. In this instance, two young guitarists. On the programme, which I have shown here, I circled the pieces I particularly enjoyed. At the end of the performance, as an encore, they played a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s famous song: “Isn’t She Lovely”. I loved the repetoire, the imagination and the skill of these two young people.
Concert with two guitarists
Afterwards, there is an opportunity to meet other concertgoers and enjoy a cup of friendship again: wine or juice with a slice of ham and cheese cake offered by Confrérie volunteers. We stand, smile and chat in the warm, early evening sunshine outside the church at Puyguilhem in the Commune of Thenac from where it is possible to see in the distance where the 100 years began and in another direction where it ended.
This is the magic of time and place, music and fellowship.
Who does all this reaching out? Committed members of the Confrérie who give countless hours of their time to promoting this region of France that they love and value, to engaging with local residents and visitors and to using their skills and talents in the interests of others.
For me, all this effort is about getting to the heart of matters in ways that people value. This is “reaching out” at its best. As our friend in Vancouver suggests, reaching out is a big thing.
The heat wave in South West France, with temperatures in the high 30’s and low 40 degrees C, has thankfully cooled. Sunflowers continue to salute the sun and lavender hedges are buzzing with the sound of many bees and other pollinators doing their work.
Sunflowers saluting the sun
Trimming the vines
In the vineyards it’s work as usual. The tractors are in the fields by 5.00 am getting a start on the work before it gets too hot. Vine trimming is complete and new vines are planted where the vignerons are making changes to their vineyards.
Amid all the flurry of vineyard work, there is still time to enjoy music and wine! More particularly jazz, performed at a wine chateau, in the barn or chai as it is called here, where the wine is made.
The Jazz En Chais, Cru 2015, a series of 5 jazz concerts held in the Pourpre Perigord area of South West France from March to November is very popular and offers live music, wine tasting at the host wine chateau as well as a farmer’s market where people can buy food and eat in situ before the concert.
Jazz en Chais concert: Chateau Court les Muts
Chateau Court Les Muts
Our most recent Jazz en Chais concert was held at Chateau Court Les Muts situated about 20 minutes from Bergerac and set in the gently rolling countryside of rural Dordogne, surrounded by the chateau’s own vineyards. The wines of this Chateau are highly regarded in the area.
First of all, we enjoy a glass of Chateau Court Les Muts ‘L’Oracle’, their premier red wine: 50% Malbec, 40% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, all black fruits, violets, chocolate and touch of white pepper. Then, we find our seats in the chais and settle down to listen to the Serge Delaite Trio play a concert called Comme Bach… in which the classical music of Bach is harmonized with jazz classics by Duke Ellington, Bart Haward and others and played with talent, style and energy. These concerts are a well attended and popular expression of South West France wine culture.
Being a fan of such music as Fly Me to The Moon, the Jazz En Chais series of live music partnered with high quality wines of the region ticks all the boxes for me for an enjoyable summer evening
References: Les Jazz en Chais concerts, Cru 2015. www.jazzpourpre.com
Chateau Court Les Muts, www.court-les-muts.com. See also their vine jewellery made on site.
We are sitting outside in the warm early evening. We hear music and talking coming from a nearby cherry tree. First of all we think people working in the vineyard opposite have the radio on. A little later that evening we are told that the music and chat show discussions are emanating from the radio placed in the tree as it is the only way to keep the starlings from robbing the tree of all its ripening fruit. From then onwards we call this the singing cherry tree.
A couple of days later, we are rewarded for our patience in listening to heated debates coming from the heart of the tree with this box of ruby red cherries.
I decide this number of cherries calls for more than eating them as they are. Making the French custard cake Clafoutisi seems an appropriate baking choice.
From the oven, Cherry clafoutis
I search the Internet for clafoutis recipes and choose the Allrecipes.com recipe for Brandied Cherry Clafoutis To date, I have made three; each one better than the last and all “successful”. This particular recipe identifies canned cherries but I use fresh, pitted ones from the singing cherry tree. A couple of other variations based on ingredients on hand: I marinate the cherries in Armagnac and instead of allspice use a mixture of nutmeg and ginger.
To verify that I am not straying too far from a French approach to making clafoutis, I consult a book from my late Mother, herself an accomplished cook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholie and Julia Child. This Pengiun Handbook was published in 1961 and my Mother’s copy is dated November 22, 1966.
Here is what these ladies said about fruit flans or Clafoutis: ” The Clafouti (also spelled with a final ‘s’ in both singular and plural) which is traditional in the Limousin (region) during the cherry season is peasant cooking for family meals, and about as simple a dessert to make as you can imagine: a pancake batter poured over fruit in a fireproof dish, then baked in the oven. It looks like a tart, and is usually eaten warm”.
This baking choice looks better and better.
The Allrecipes.com recipe lists this general comment: ” Clafouti is a traditional French dessert with brandied cherries baked with a custard topping creating a warm and sweet dessert that goes well with a cup of tea”.
This is where we part company as I see clafoutis as an ideal lunchtime dessert, served if appropriate for the occasion with a vin liquoreux. A local choice would be a wine from the Bergerac wine region: a vin liquoreux which would be either a Monbazillac AOC or Saussignac AOC late harvest wine.
Vin Liquoreux, Saussignac AOC from Chateau Lestevenie
In this instance, I pair the Brandied Cherry Clafouti with a 2003 Chateau Lestevenie Saussignac AOC Vin Liquoreux. Chateau Lestevenie is in Gageac Rouillac, one of the four communes permitted to make Saussignac AOC wines. The fruit aromas and flavours together with the honeyed ripeness of this fully mature wine complements the cherry, vanilla, baked custard of the clafoutis.
Vin Liquoreux: Chateau Lestevenie
To position both Monbazillac and Saussignac vins liquoreux in the wine lexicon, think broadly in Sauternes terms. These are late harvest wines made from grapes affected by Botrytis cinerea or noble rot. The predominantly Semillon grapes are picked late in the season when the grapes have been touched by the morning Autumn mists and the afternoon sunshine. A major distinction between Saussignac vin liquoreux and other sweet wines, is that this is the only sweet wine produced in France that forbids the addition of sugar or “chaptalization” under its AOC rules. It’s the Semillon grapes which allow the wine to age well.
Pairing cherries from the singing cherry tree and wine from a local winemaker is a way to celebrate the summer culture of SW France.
allrecipes.com: Brandied Cherry Clafouti
Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholie, Julia Child, Published by Penguin Books in 1966
Jancis Robinson; Oxford Companion to Wine re Monbazillac wine
I have been musing for some time about the size of bottle in which wine is sold. There are more options for buying wine in a wine bar or restaurant: new technology like wine on tap and different size glasses of wine, yet there appear to be fewer options to buy smaller volumes in a wine store. That appears to be the case in Vancouver at any rate.
If we want to enjoy one or maybe two glasses of wine at home, we are faced with opening a regular sized 750 ml bottle and then trying to keep the remainder fresh for a couple of days, sometimes using tools like the vacuum pump. Most likely we forget about it and then end up pouring it into my special “left-over-wine-for-cooking” bottle. I am thinking about checking out the availability of half bottles of wine.
My mental antennae are on alert for smaller bottles when we eat lunch at Chez Alain, a favourite restaurant for Sunday lunch in Issigeac, a medieval village in the Dordogne, SW France. At five tables around us on this particular Sunday, I count five smaller sized bottles of Chateau Le Tap organic white wine; it’s their Bergerac Sec; a Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle blend.
Chateau Le Tap, Bergerac Sec, 750 and 500 ml bottles
We talk to the restaurant staff and they tell us that these 500 ml bottles of Chateau Le Tap wine are popular, particularly for two people having lunch or dinner. This makes perfect sense to me and I am determined to visit Olivier Roches, the Proprietor at Chateau Le Tap.
Chateau Le Tap, a family run winery in the Bergerac Wine Region, is located at the edge of Saussignac, a small, rural village south of the Dordogne River. Olivier and his wife Mireille and their children have lived there since 2001. They are part of a long established winemaking family from the Pécharmant appellation wine making area of the Périgord Poupre.
Château Le Tap in its rural setting, Dordogne
After the usual pleasantries and introductory chitchat, I ask Olivier about the 500 ml bottles. He tells me he sells these mainly to restaurants. He has been bottling his Bergerac Sec white wine in the 500 ml size for about 10 years. As he also makes Saussignac appellation late harvest wine, which is mainly sold in 500 ml bottles, he has the capacity to also bottle his Bergerac Sec wine in the same fashion. He says that while the regular size 750 ml bottle of wine is the norm, there is definitely a market for the smaller size bottles as people increasingly pay attention to their wine drinking habits.
As I am visiting Olivier Roches and his winery, it is interesting to explore Chateau Le Tap wine production in general. Chateau Le Tap was certified as Bio, an organic producer, in 2007. Echoing the comments of all the wine-makers I have met, Olivier Roches’s focus is always to improve quality. In pursuit of this goal, this year he is restructuring his vineyards. He tells me his approach to wine making is practical and guided by scientific principles. He sells his wines mainly in other parts of France and to several Northern European countries as well as to local clients. Guests at his two well-appointed Gites on the property can also buy wine and enjoy it on their doorstep.
Beyond this Bergerac Sec Blanc that I like with its aromatic, long and fresh taste, I sample other offerings in the Chateau Le Tap suite of wines. Another white wine is the Bergerac Sec Cuvée 3G, named for his three sons/garçons. This 2011 wine is an interesting blend of Sauvignon Gris (10%), Semillon (20%), Sauvignon Blanc (30%) and Muscadelle (30%). The description on the website is silent on the remaining 10% of the blend. This wine won the Médaille D’Or Concours des Vignerons Indépendants de France 2013 and the Selection Guide Hachette 2014, clear recognition of Olivier Roches’s wine making skills.
Olivier’s top of the line red is the Cuvée JulieJolie named for his daughter. With 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, this has the hallmarks of blackcurrant and cherry, soft tannins and all the subtleties of a good quality wine. Chateau le Tap do not at present market their red wines in smaller bottles.
If my observation of the Chez Alain customer interest in enjoying lunch with a smaller bottle of wine is anything to go by, it seems to me that Chateau le Tap is meeting customer interests at the restaurant with their 500 ml offering of white wine.
As I leave Chateau Le Tap and think about what I have learnt, I remind myself that a book I have just finished reading has further stimulated my interest in smaller bottles. The story, “Jeeves and the Wedding Bells” is the author Sebastian Faulks’s homage to P.G. Wodehouse (1881 – 1975), the English humourist and prolific writer. Wodehouse’s books about the funny, fantastic, fictional antics of Bertie Wooster and the famous Jeeves, his Gentleman’s Personal Gentleman, set in pre-World War II English upper class society have amused generations of readers.
The Bertie Wooster character in Sebastian Faulks’s tribute book makes various references to food and particularly wine, including “something chilled and white”, “having a nice half bottle of something from the cellar”, together with references to claret, possibly his preferred wine choice and several references to a half bottle or a “half bot.” My favourite Bertie W. wine and food description in the book reads like this:
“. the half bot. was a loosely recorked red of a most fruity provenance; the solids included a wedge of veal and ham pie that could have jammed open the west doors of Salisbury Cathedral”.
Salisbury Cathedral, which houses one of the four originals of the 13th century Magna Carta, is in my hometown of Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Salisbury Cathedral, West Front
Being born and bred in Salisbury, my imagination is certainly stimulated by Bertie Wooster’s reference to the wedge of veal and ham pie.
All humour aside, it’s interesting to note that in the fictionalized world of Bertie Wooster in the early 20th century, that a half bottle of wine was commonplace.
To follow up on my earlier thought of checking availability of smaller or half bottles of wine, I set off one morning in Vancouver on a fact finding mission. Limited in scope, I visit two wine stores. A BC Liquor Store and an independent wine store. The BC Liquor Store is one of the 195 retail stores in the (British Columbia) BC Liquor Distribution Branch network operated across the Province of British Columbia. The other store is privately owned and operated.
In the BC Liquor Store, I am advised that the few half bottles in stock are displayed near the cash register along with small bottles of spirits and liqueurs. The selection is six red wines from different countries and four whites, including a prosecco. In the independent wine store, a varied and larger stock of half bottles is prominently arranged together at the front of the shop under a sign indicating Half Bottles, creating an eye catching display. In discussing these wines with the sales person, who mentions that people buy the half bottles both to limit wine consumption and also to try new wines, we agree that buying half bottles is for drinking fairly soon, as the wine ageing process is accelerated in smaller bottles.
It’s funny how disparate thoughts can pull together. My interest in finding out about the availability of smaller bottles of wine was piqued by our experience at the Restaurant Chez Alain, the work of Olivier Roches at Chateau Le Tap and the humour created by fictional BertieWooster and Jeeves, followed by some Vancouver-based fact finding.
Inspired by this information, I’m off to choose a couple of “half bots.” We’ll see how we get on. I think Bertie Wooster would approve.
Chez Alain, Issigeac: See trip advisor. Phone: +33 5 53 68 06 03
We arrive at the Wild Honey restaurant in Mayfair on Monday around 12.15 p.m. with no reservation. It’s a spur of the moment decision to come here for lunch. This restaurant has been on our list for some time and suddenly the opportunity presents itself.
And here we are. We open the door, walk through the semi-circular red curtained area between the outer door and the restaurant, which protects the clientele from winter drafts, and step inside.
One look within the comfortable, well appointed restaurant with paneled walls resounding with lively lunchtime chat and I know we made the right decision to come here.
Immediately, we are ushered to a round table from which we can people watch in comfort. A favourite pastime. Through the window overlooking the street, we can see the elegance of the Corinthian columns of St. George’s Church, Hanover Square opposite. This church, built between 1721 – 1725 was a favourite of the composer and musician, Georg Friedrich Händel, (1685 – 1759) where he was a frequent worshipper in the 18th century. The church is now home to the Annual Händel Festival.
To digress for a minute, I am struck by the coincidence of being close to “Händel”s church” as the waiter described it and the other morning hearing one of his four Coronation Anthems, ‘Let thy hand be strengthened’ which Händel was commissioned to write for the coronation of George II of England and Queen Caroline in 1727. The anthem was performed the other day in the context of Accession Day, February 6, which this year celebrates the Queen’s 63rd year on the throne.
Back to our lunch at Wild Honey restaurant and the choice of wine.
The wine waiter approaches and asks us what we would like to drink. We look at the wine list and order two glasses of Meyer Family Vineyards 2012 McLean Creek Road Chardonnay (which was offered by the glass when we visited. It is now available by the bottle).