Fine Wine has always, in my mind, been connected to Fine Art.
It’s partly what I mean when I write that, for me, wine opens the door to other interests; culture, food, art etc.
Along these lines it’s interesting to see wineries make this connection when they commission artists to design paper labels for their wine bottles.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild is a perfect example of this creative practice. They started commissioning artists to design labels in 1924 – nearly a century ago – and Jean Carlu, a graphic designer who made an enormous contribution to commercial art, was the first artist to have this honour.
After a pause before and during the Second World War, Chateau Mouton Rothschild re-ignited this approach and have commissioned an artist designed label every year since 1945.
A few of the impressive list of artists commissioned by Chateau Mouton Rothschild since 1945 include Miro, Chagall, Picasso, Braque, Dali, as well as Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, now King Charles 111. The complete list of artists with illustrations is published on the Ch. Mouton Rothschild website.
The most recent artist to work with the Chateau is the acclaimed figurative artist, Peter Doig. Peter Doig is a ‘man of many nations’ (Christie’s). He was born in Edinburgh in 1959, moved to Trinidad as a baby, yet he grew up mostly in Canada. He studied in London, England. He lives between Trinidad, London and New York. His paintings now sell for double digit multi, multi million £ prices.
In his label painting for the Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2020 vintage Pauillac first growth wine, Peter Doig uses the vineyard as the setting to celebrate the work of the people involved in making wine before it is bottled.
I really applaud this twinning of wine and art by Chateau Mouton Rothschild and I am on the hunt to find a bottle of the 2020 vintage Pauillac and see this painting on the label in real time!
Stop Press! You can see Peter Doig’s paintings at The Courtauld Gallery, London from 10 Feb to 29 May, 2023.
I started giving wine as a gift at Christmas a few years ago.
It seems in many ways the ideal gift for wine drinkers: a consumable that doesn’t need to be found a permanent home, recyclable from the packaging to the glass bottle, and enjoyable! It ticks a lot of boxes as gifts go and it still does in my experience.
Also, it’s a gift that’s easy to give: phone the wine merchant, order and pay for the wine, arrange delivery and it’s done!
When considering wine as a gift, the range of wines and their characteristics available is truly astounding! I’m grateful to Mother Nature for providing this bounty of grape varieties to satisfy many different consumer interests.
My first instinct in gifting wine had been to give wines that I would lIke to receive! Although this worked some of the time, I quickly learned the best approach is to ask the happy recipients what they would like to receive! A novel concept!
An important aspect of asking first, is that important medical considerations come to light, which I wouldn’t have thought about! For example, some people who have had chemotherapy can’t drink acidic wines like Sauvignon Blanc, so important to send a softer wine like an un-oaked Chardonnay and to generally stay away from red wines. Or if people have throat or asthmatic issues, be careful to avoid overly tannic wines, which can feel scratchy on the throat in some cases.
In situations where it’s not possible to ask for wine preferences or it’s a surprise, then I would aim for a mixed case of wine, which most wine merchants offer; usually some bubbles, then a mixed selection of white and red wines, so that a variety of styles are offered.
Arranging successful delivery of the wine is an important part of giving wine as a gift. It sounds obvious but I’ve experienced some mis-steps along the way. In years gone by, I used a smart London based wine merchant. It all sounded good but there were issues with delivery.
For the last few years, I have used Yapp Brothers, an award winning wine merchant based in Mere, a small town in Wiltshire, in southern England who deliver promptly. They have the advantage of a large and comprehensive range of wines and they run a very efficient business.
Giving wine as a gift has increased my understanding and knowledge of wine and that’s been an enjoyable and unexpected consequence of the giving! A gift to me in other words!
John Keats’ (1795-1821) hauntingly beautiful description of ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ in his poem celebrating autumn come to mind as I look across the Dordogne valley in SW France on a chilly November morning.
Autumn mists over the Dordogne Valley
On this day, the mists over the Dordogne Valley are celebrated at the same time as the roses are blooming at the end of lines of vines at Chateau Court les Muts. Roses are planted near vines as an early warning signal of mildew: if the roses have mildew then it’s likely the vines will too. These roses look very healthy!
Red roses at the edge of the vineyard
This beautiful imagery of roses and vines with their striking and complimentary colours are part of the inspiration for this silver and enamel decanter wine label made to celebrate Saussignac and its wines of the area. It was created by English silversmith and enameller, Jane Short, MBE.
Silver and Enamel Saussignac label by Jane Short MBE
Silver and enamel wine label by Jane Short MBE
Saussignac Appellation d’origine Controlée (AOC) is one of the 13 AOCs of the Bergerac wine region and one of the six sweet white Bergerac wines including Côtés de Bergerac White, Côtés de Montravel, Haut Montravel, Monbazillac, Rosette and Saussignac.
Saussignac AOC is a liquoreux wine that can be served young or kept for many years. The grapes, Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle are harvested late when they are partially dried and this gives the wine its sweetness.
For wine and food pairing, it can either be served chilled as an aperitif or with foie gras or later in the meal with blue cheese like Saint Agur or Roquefort. That juxtaposition of sweet and salt is always delicious, or it can be served with a dessert.
The Saussignac wine in this decanter is from Chateau Monestier La Tour, 2013. The Chateau advises drinking this 2013 wine, which has been barrel aged, from 2019 through to 2025.
Saussignac is a little known AOC, often overshadowed by Monbazillac wines, or by Sauternes from the Bordeaux region. However, Saussignac wine has its own remarkable merits and is a recommended choice for the festive season.
Caro, our friend and near neighbour in the Dordogne area of SW France has been writing about wine, and especially about building a biodynamic winery for some years.
Caro Feely, Co-Proprietor, Chateau Feely, Saussignac SW France
Two of her books: Grape Expectations and Saving our Skins tell the engaging account of sheer hard work and determination that Caro, her husband Sean and their daughters continually invest in their winery.
This year, Caro takes the plunge and enters the Wine Writing Competition 2022 in the category of Regenerative Agriculture sponsored by the acclaimed wine writer Jancis Robinson. Caro’s article is one of the 31 published essays and one of the 20 shortlisted essays from writers around the world. A great accomplishment!
Here it is: Regeneration – Changing our thinking by Caro Feely
I recommend reading this. Caro describes regenerative as “…transforming our thinking from extractive, how much volume of wine and financial value can we generate, to how many benefits can we create, for nature, for us, for the wider community. It is thinking circular rather than linear.”
The regeneration of land impacted by the Feely farming practices has resulted in one visible impact of increased biodiversity that we see: increased numbers of beautiful wild orchids.
Pyramid orchids in the garden
Jancis Robinson gives an overall comment about all the essay entries in this category of regeneration: …”Having read them all, we are happy to say that we have come away feeling inspired by and confident in the strides that are being made in the fields of regenerative viticulture and sustainable winemaking.”
Congratulations to Caro for her inspiring article and also to Jancis Robinson and her team for initiating this global essay competitive process and encouraging wine writers.
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
The end of summer in Vancouver coincides with the annual Bordeaux wine release by the BC Liquor Stores. September is the important month.
Excitement builds as aficionados wait for the online and print catalogues as well as notification of the prebooking opportunities. It looks like the 2018 vintage will be a very good year, like 2015 and 2016.
The Bordeaux Release is quite the show! Especially when you see shopping carts loaded down with multiple cases of wine being wheeled out to nearby parked cars.
For me, the catalogue of wine is not just about the wine. The catalogue is like a travel brochure as each name that I know conjures up the place: the countryside, the beautiful chateaux themselves, and the rows of vines and the sense of history – the whole ambiance is like magic for me.
I have visited the Bordeaux wine region – left bank, right bank – several times either on arranged tours or one-off visits to a particular chateau. Seeing the names is like reading poetry that you know well, there’s a rhyme to the words: Chateaux Margaux, Palmer, Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Cheval Blanc, Figeac, Leoville Barton, Lynch Bages, La Dominique, Quintus…
Some are chateaux I have visited for the first time in the last few years, often with my wine expert friend. Yet others like Chateau Margaux and Chateau Palmer I first visited decades ago with my parents and have happy memories of those introductions to the world of Bordeaux wines !
Putting aside these fine memories, I got down to the business of modestly buying some of the 2018 Bordeaux Release!
When the wine is released in the ‘liquor stores’ run by BC Liquor Stores, there is a mad rush of people swooping in with determination written on their faces as they grab a copy of the catalogue, which is an excellent reference guide with helpful information, and decide what they will buy!
I have to admit I probably had that same look of determination on my face as we decided what to buy. I didn’t have time to do any research before buying. I know from previous experience that if you dither, the choices you would like will have gone!
The wines in the 2018 Bordeaux Wine Release were selected at the en primeur tastings in Bordeaux in 2019, and are now released for sale in 2021.
After we bought some wine at the release, I serendipitously rediscovered my Decanter magazine issue of June 2019, in which Jane Anson, Master of Wine and Decanter’s Bordeaux Correspondent gave her En Primeur Report for Bordeaux 2018.
Not only does she write about the vintage overall but she also assesses individual chateau and interestingly, identifies those chateaux she considers to be Top Value, Producer to Watch or Potential 100 (i.e. possibility of being rated 100 points).
I compared this list with the wines available through the BC Liquor Stores and prepared the following chart of those wines which appear both on Jane Anson’s three criteria list from 2019 and the BC Liquor Store release in 2021 for left bank Bordeaux wines. Here it is, rather a short but informative reference list.
Jane Anson MW – Decanter Magazine
BC Liquor Stores
BC Price $Can
Ch. Cambon La Pelouse
Ch . Cambon La Pelouse
Ch. Ormes de Pez
Ch. Ormes de Pez
Les Tourelles de Longueville
Les Tourelles de Longueville
Ch. du Glana
Ch. du Glana
Ch. Leoville Poyferré
Ch. Leoville Poyferrê
Producer to Watch
Ch. Clerc Milon
Ch. Clerc Milon
Ch. Lafite Rothschild
Ch. Lafite Rothschild
Ch. Mouton Rothschild
Ch. Mouton Rothschild
Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalonde
Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalonde
Needless to say, both the Decanter article and the BC Liquor Store catalogue list many more wine choices.
The above chart is a very short list of those Bordeaux left bank red wines which were assessed as either Top Value, Producer to Watch or Potential 100 points of Left Bank Bordeaux 2018 red wines and were also available in the BC Liquor Stores 2018 Release. These were the criteria for inclusion.
The value to me of this comparison chart is that it fine tuned the information in the BC Liquor Store catalogue and has introduced us to some vineyards we didn’t know about at the lower end of these price points that we will keep an eye on for future purchases.
Enjoy the magic of Bordeaux!
References: Jane Anson MW, Decanter Magazine June 2019, Vintage Preview: Bordeaux 2018
2018 Bordeaux Release – BC Liquor Stores.com
and with recognition to my wine expert friend who always encourages my interest in Bordeaux wines.
Saussignac, a small village of approximately 420 people in SW France in the Dordogne area of Nouvelle Aquitaine, really is a village of wine.
Route to Saussignac village
Dusk at the end of a hike in the Dordogne – the outline of Chateau Saussignac
Bergerac Wine Region showing Saussignac and Sigoulès
Apart from being the name of the village, where the chateau dates from the 17th century and is on the site of a much older building, Saussignac is also the name of the Saussignac Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée. The wines of this appellation are a late harvest botryrized wine made mainly from Sémillon grapes. This is a distinct category of the natural sweet wines produced from withered, shriveled grapes; a Vin Liqoreux, on the same honeyed track as a Sauterne or a Monbazillac. These wines of liquid gold can be savoured best with foie gras or a blue cheese, like Saint Augur or Roquefort, a dessert or even as a chilled aperitif. Several wine makers in the Saussignac area make these delicious wines, which should definitely be savoured by anyone visiting the area.
Saussignac is home to several wine makers, many of whom are organic farmers.
One such innovative organic farmer, writer and educator is Caro Feely from Château Feely. Caro is hosting a free zoom virtual presentation and discussion on the Climate Change Crisis on Friday, November 12 at 5.00 pm UK or 6 pm France. To sign up, Caro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org www.chateaufeely.com
An addition to the local community wine makers are Frank and Riki Campbell, new proprietors at Chateau de Fayolle in Saussignac. Their goal is to promote the wines of the area on a global level.
Chateau de Fayolle, under the new ownership of the Campbells, is offering platters of cheese and charcuterie with wine tastings in a newly renovated and up to date wine tasting room, which has wonderful views over the rows of vines. Great recommendations of the wines and ambience have been received from wine loving friends in the area and visitors from Bordeaux, so it’s well worth a visit. Check out details on their website: http://www.chateaufayolle.com
To complete the picture of Saussignac as a village of art and wine, I would be remiss not to mention the creative work of Mike and Lee McNeal Rumsby at Le 1500; the boutique hôtel, bistro and painting retreat in the middle of the village opposite Château Saussignac. Lee managed some of the world’s finest hotels and Mike’s paintings are sold internationally, so Le 1500 is definitely a place to visit and enjoy. http://www.le1500.rocks
The village of Saussignac continues to live up to its reputation as a place of Art and Wine.
This year in summer 2021, the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès in the Bergerac Wine Region in SW France was innovative in fulfilling its mandate of promoting local winemakers.
Instead of hosting its annual Confrerie wine event attended by Confrerie members from across France, it creatively switched to participating in the local Festival for Winemakers of Sigoulès-Flaugeac. The Confrérie hosted a wine tasting event of local wines in which the public voted for the wines of their choice. Great Idea!
Awards were then given by the Commandeur Guy Bergeron, representing the Confrérie, to the winners in the 5 wine categories of Red, Rose, Dry White, Sweet White, and Late Harvest Liquoreux. All 19 winemakers who participated in the public tasting were thanked for their participation.
And the five winners were…
Rouge/Red wine: Stephanie et Philippe Barré-Perier in Saint Pierre D’Eyraud
Rosé/ Pink: Jean Philippe Cathal, Domaine Petit Marsalet, St. Laurent des Vignes
Blanc Moelleur/Sweet White: Durand Frères, Château Haut Lamouthe, Lamonzie St Martin
Blanc Liquoreux/ Late Harvest Liquoreux: Stéphane Dumoulin, Chateau le Cluzeau, Sigoulés-Flaugeac
Congratulations to the winners of the people’s votes!
All these community names are very familiar to me and I am so pleased to acknowledge the work and effort that went into this event.
Given the COVID restrictions in place, the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès, under the leadership of the Commandeur and the support of the members, continues to be active in the community upholding its role as part of the UNESCO World Heritage recognition of Confréries in France as a fundamental aspect of French Gastronomie.
Zucchini flowers for sale at Paphos fruit and vegetable market
These edible Zucchini flowers now in season and for sale at the weekly Paphos market catch my eye a couple of weeks before I decide to experiment with stuffed Zucchini flowers.
I enjoy these delicacies in restaurants. When you buy the flowers you realize how fragile they are. The flowers need to be prepared and cooked quickly before they spoil.
Bunch of Zucchini flowers from the market
Here is the approach I take, based on looking at various preparation references and combining different recipe ideas..
First, it’s important to remove the stamen or pistil from within the flowers. I also gently rinse each flower to check there are no insects hiding there!
Second, I make up a recipe from the fridge with bacon and mushrooms, chopped and sautéed. Add this to a soft French goat cheese with lots of chopped mint.
Third, I carefully stuff the flowers with the mixture and cook on a cookie sheet in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.
Fourth, the great tasting!
Success! The stuffed zucchini flowers taste good. The cooked flowers add a subtle sweetness to the dish and the mint is delicious and typical of Cypriot food. Only eat the flower petals not the stems or the green leaves.
Cooked Zucchini flowers with stuffing
For a wine pairing, I suggest a Tsangarides organic Chardonnay, which complements the creaminess of the stuffing well or perhaps a Viognier.
Tsangarides Organic Chardonnay
What would I do differently next time? From the recommendation of a Cypriot friend who knows about local dishes, instead of using a French goat cream cheese, (which is what I had in the fridge when I decided to make this dish!j or perhaps an Italian Ricotta as an alternative, I would use fresh Anari, which is a fresh mild whey cheese produced in Cyprus and made from goat or sheep milk. The authentic recipe!
A beautiful, peaceful garden awaits you: the sun is shining yet there is shade from the heat, bees are buzzing, birds are singing, the oleanders are blooming and the sky is dazzlingly blue.
The gardens at Oleander and Lantana Stone Houses, Lemona
Village views, hillside walks, old stone houses surround us and a winery to taste and buy wines is close by. What more could anyone want who may be seeking a time and place of true calm to restore the spirit?
A half day painting in the idyllic garden of Marcelina Costa in Lemona, in the foothills of the Troodos mountains about 1/2 hour from Paphos Airport, introduced us to this wonderful space where complete rest and rejuvenation would be possible.
Painting in Lemona
En plein air painting!
Filling the canvas en plein air!
Two independent stone houses, Lantana and Oleander, set within this meandering garden are available to rent through both Booking.com and Airbnb.
Ever a gracious host, Marcelina is multilingual in Greek, English, German and Polish and delights in explaining the history of the village, highlights local walks, and offers her homemade jams, lemonade, and baked goodies.
What makes Marcelina’s stone houses even more appealing to the wine lover is the proximity of Tsangarides Winery, literally around the corner in Lemona village, making white, red and rosé wines from indigenous grapes, Xinisteri, Mataro and Maratheftiko as well as the noble grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay, Tsangarides is always a favourite winery of mine for their consistency and high quality.
I have met with Angelos Tsangarides, who with his sister are fourth generation proprietors of the winery and I have previously written about their wines in 2016 and 2018. Since then, in addition to its traditional vineyards, the winery has cultivated organic vineyards and produce a series of organic wines as part of its overall portfolio of wines.
Map to Lemona and Tsangarides Winery – courtesy Tsangarides Winery
This painting excursion to Lemona reminds me to visit the Tsangarides winery again, and soon!
Creative endeavours have helped many people get through the challenges of the past pandemic year and I am grateful to Marcelina for the opportunity to paint in her hillside garden and to be reminded of the beauty of Lemona, including Tsangarides Winery and the surrounding countryside.
When a story hooks you, you go deeper…at least I do with topics like wine, history, geography… This post is another look at the wines listed for sale by Mr. Christie in 1822, as illustrated by these beautiful enamel labels, which would have adorned decanters to identify and serve the wines.
Photo of Mr. Christie’s poster advertising Choice Old Wines by auction in 1822.
This is my second post about this intriguing Mr. Christie sale advertisement, which put me on the path of discovery. That is, discovering more about the wines listed for sale nearly two hundred years ago.
In my last post, the focus was on Frontiniac, Sack, Calcavella.
This post is about Malaga, Cape, Paquaret/Pacaret and Lisbon wines. These wine names are beautifully illustrated in this photo-collage of enamel labels that are in the collection of enamel expert, Dr Richard Wells. Richard kindly put together this grouping to reflect the wines from the cellar of Mrs. D’Oyly and I greatly appreciate his generosity in doing so.
Wine labels from the collection of Dr Richard Wells that match the wines in the poster
Several of these label names, like Malaga, Cape and Lisbon are generic in nature for the particular geographic regions.
Malaga, for example, is the term that was applied generically to any variety of heavy sweet, usually red fortified wines that originated in the Malaga area in southern Spain, including certain kosher wines served at Jewish celebrations. Spanish Malaga is made from Muscat grapes, and from a variety known as Pedro-Ximenez and these grapes are usually sun-dried to concentrate sweetness. Vineyards are in the Malaga Mountain Range and in the Ronda Mountain Range. These are liqueur wines with a fairly high sugar content.
This area with its Mediterranean climate is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, since the arrival of Phoenicians almost 3,000 years ago.
Its not surprising that Mrs. D’Oyly’s 19th century cellar contained Malaga wines as they were at their greatest quality around that time before the phylloxera louse so badly affected vineyards in Europe.
Dr Wells tells me that the Malaga enamel wine label is French from the second half of the 18th Century.
Pacaret, Paquaret (also spelled as Paxarete)
This is another Spanish dessert wine. It’s a wine of the deep south of Spain, like Sherry, from the Andalusia area. It was made in different styles, both dry and sweet and was also made from the Pedra Ximenez grape.
A note of interest: in the 17th and 18th centuries, Sherry was known in England as Sack and this is described in my last post.
In the 18th and 19th Centuries, Pacaret was generally considered to be a “ladies” wine, and suited to the American custom of drinking wines mainly after dinner.
Pacaret is listed in Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Wine Cellar list of 1787 and he continued to order Spanish wine, including Pacaret after he became the third President of the United States in 1801.
The Paquaret enamel label is English from the late 18th/early 19th centuries.
The Pacaret enamel label is French from the same period.
Wine growing area around Lisbon: Carcavelos (previously Carcavella), Colares and Bucelas
The reference to Lisbon on the auction sale poster refers to the historic Denominaçâo de Origem Controlada, (DOC) wine region west of Lisbon, or Estremadura as it used to be known, and can include wines such as Carcavelos, Colares and Bucelas. This area was known for fortified wine production; off dry topaz coloured wines that have nutty aromas and flavours. The grape varieties appear to have been Arinto and Ramisco. When fortified, using distilled grape spirit, the wines were world renowned in the 19th Century. Again, it’s not surprising that these wines would have been in Mrs. D’Oyly’s cellar. While similar to Port, these wines are not Port, which is only produced in the Douro river valley area and according to present law is only shipped from Oporto.
The manner in which wine names change over time is worth noting and the name of Carcavelos is a good example. Wine labels from the 18th and 19th centuries would be made for Calcavallo or Calcavello wine, which is the older name for Carcavellhos or Carcavelos wine as it is presently called. The change was to move away from Spanish spelling, which was a hold over from the Spanish occupation of what is now Portugal in the 17th century.
In a letter dated May 26, 1819, Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States of America (1801 – 1809), wrote to his wine agent in Marseilles referring to sweet wines including Frontignan from France and Calcavallo from Portugal. He clearly appreciated wine and designated both wine and friendship as a, “True restorative cordial”.
Another quote from Thomas Jefferson about Calcavella wine is in my previous post.
Moving to the 21st century, the name for the wine area around Lisbon was changed in 2009 from Estremadura to Lisboa VR (Vinho Regional), again to focus on the Portuguese language.
In the modern era, the wine areas of Carcavelos, Colares and Bucelas have been affected by real estate development in the suburbs of Lisbon and the coastal town of Estoril. There is apparently some interest and activity in reviving the historic legacy and indigenous grapes of the area. We will wait and see.
The Lisbon enamel label in the photo collage is English, again from the late 18th/early 19th centuries.
Many people will have visited these areas of southern Spain and the Lisbon area of Portugal and not necessarily known anything about the 19th century history of these wine areas. I’ve flown into Malaga and driven up the coastal mountain highway to Ronda, little knowing this history. I stayed in the area 20 years ago and did some early morning runs as I prepared for the BC Arthritis Society Marathon in Hawaii!
Similarly, as a child my family spent many holidays in the Portuguese coastal areas of Cascais and Estoril at a time when Cascais was still a fishing village and the area was on the cusp of real estate development. Little could I imagine then that years later I would be commenting on the wine history of the areas in the context of a George 1V era sale of Lisbon wines!
Cape: this is the generic term for the geographic area around Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
The Cape wine producing area.
A noteworthy three-century viticulture tradition exists in the area originating when the Dutch arrived and South Africa became an important staging post for both Holland and England for trade with the East.
At the end of 1654, the first cuttings of vines arrived at the Cape from Holland and were probably young vines from the Rhineland. Wine was pressed for the first time in 1659. In 1688, French Huguenots arrived in the Cape and extended the vineyards and improved the quality of the wine. By 1711, South African wines were becoming known and travellers spoke of the ‘world famous Constantia wines”, which were sweet wines. In 1805, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain took possession of the Cape. Around the time that Mrs. D’Oyly’s wine cellar was developed probably from the late 1700s on, the export of Cape wine to Great Britain flourished.
In the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Constantia Valley was known for its legendary dessert wines. These were the halcyon days of these wines, which were fortified for overseas patrons in order to survive the long voyage and generally unfortified for local consumption. The original grape varieties were probably Muscat, Pontac and maybe Chenin Blanc.
The Groot Constantia winery dates from 1685 and has a museum section on their website, which provides the chronology of their history.
These Cape wines took on a fame of their own as they were mentioned in at least two books that we might know. In Jane Austen’s novel, Sense and Sensibility, Cape wine was mentioned as a cure for a broken heart! Charles Dickens referred to it as a way to lift a character’s spirit in The Mystery of Edward Drood. Were they writing from experience? Perhaps tips worth noting!
The next post in this series about the Mr. Christie 1822 wine auction poster will be to share some history of Mrs. D’Oyly, whose generous wine cellar prompted these discoveries.
References: Alexis Lichine’s Encylopaedia of Wines and Spirits and various references.
Last month, the fascinating poster for the sale of choice old wines on February 7, 1822, together with the images of the Cyprus enamel labels sparked interest.
Photo of Mr. Christie’s poster advertising Choice Old Wines by auction in 1822.
Dr Richard Wells, my collaborator in identifying enamel wine labels, has kindly created this montage of labels from his collection, that represent the wines listed on the sale poster.
Wine labels from the collection of Dr Richard Wells that match the wines in the poster
Most of the wines represented by these labels, with the exception of Rum, are no longer consumed or popular, as they once were, so it’s interesting to know a bit more about them. Apart from knowing more about the wines, the shapes and designs of the individual labels are really worth further examination for the colours, the floral motifs and in some cases grapes! and the shapes: beautiful craftsmanship from another era.
All these wines were sweetish, a style of wine popular in Paris and London in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Some of the labels and the wines are described below, more will be noted in the next blog.
Frontiniac label: this is an English late 18th/early 19th century enamel label. Frontiniac is a sweet muscadine wine made in Frontignac, France. A reference to this wine in a collection of old plays refers to Frontiniac in this way: ” One more Frontiniac and then a walk”. With difficulty perhaps!
Sack label: this is an English late 18th /early 19th century enamel label. Sack is an antiquated wine term referring to white fortified wine imported from mainland Spain or the Canary Islands. Most Sack was predominantly sweet. Sack is commonly but not quite correctly quoted as an old synonym for sherry. In modern terms, typical sack may have resembled cheaper versions of medium Oloroso sherry. As a literary reference, William Shakespeare’s character Sir John Falstaff, introduced in 1597, was fond of sack, and the Falstaff character said, “If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack”.
Calcavella label: this is probably an English label, again late 18th/early 19th century and unusually made from Mother of Pearl. Calcavella is a Portuguese sweet wine that was noted in a wine sale in 1769. Calcavella was noticed by Thomas Jefferson ( 1743 – 1826 and 3rd US President) when he was the US Ambassador to France from 1784 – 1789, right at the time of the French Revolution. Later on, he would order Calcavella several times while living in the United States. When writing about wine, Thomas Jefferson said, ” I would prefer good Lisbon; next to that Sherry, next to that Calcavallo: but still a good quality of the latter would be preferable to an indifferent quality of the former”.
The remaining labels will be commented on in my next blog, together with an insight into the life and times of Mrs. D’Oyly, the widow highlighted in the sale poster and the late owner of these wines.
More to come…
Reference: Dr. Richard Wells www.drrwells.com
Various references to the wines and to Thomas Jefferson.
Entertaining friends, one or two at a time in a responsible social distancing way, is still something we enjoy hosting on the patio. Offering what I call a mini-meze feels like an easy, no fuss option.
Mini-meze with pâté of sardines, anchovies and almonds
Basil and Cilantro (Coriander) growing up a storm and protected from local cat!
A meze in eastern Mediterranean countries involves quite a few different and delicious dishes. I prepare an abbreviated version with roasted vegetables, slices of local feta with olive oil drizzled over and chopped herbs, either oregano or fresh basil from the garden, sliced tomatoes and various cheeses including the greek cheese, Kefalotyri. I add some form of protein, sometimes smoked salmon, or as in the photo above, a paté of sardines, anchovies and almonds – quite delicious with toasted black bread or crackers.
A photo of the rapidly growing Basil and Cilantro (Coriander) is included. The planter is covered to protect it from a neighbourhood cat!
This mini-meze Is served in the context of enjoying a chilled white wine, usually an indigenous Cyprus white grape called Xinisteri, which is similar to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris – in that continuum of freshness but not too acidic. As mentioned previously, a favourite of ours is the Zambartas Xynisteri.
Zambartas Xynisteri 2017
I read in a French wine publication that a gloomy autumn, ‘ un automne morose’ is anticipated, in which bad news about the financial health of organizations is starting to become a reality and could affect the whole wine sector including sales for the upcoming festive season. It’s probably a time to look out for great prices of choice still and sparkling wines.
Offering a mini-meze with wine is one way to continue to support our local/and or favourite winegrowers during these challenging times.
My favourite culinary endeavour right now is making salsa, in particular mango salsa.
Delicious Mango Salsa with Cilantro on the side
Just the name feels festive and so does the taste with the combination of sweet and contrasting flavours from the spring onion, red pepper, lemon juice and cilantro together with the mango. Chopping all the ingredients up into small pieces and mixing with the lemon or lime juice makes this a really easy summer garnish.
There are many recipes on the internet but this is the combination I have been making with success and I really like it. In consideration of friends who may not like cilantro, I serve that separately so people can add it to their taste. We enjoy this salsa with prosciutto, cheeses, smoked salmon, roasted vegetables and the list goes on. I have tried making the salsa with nectarines as that fruit has less natural sugar than mangoes but it didn’t really measure up from my perspective.
Rosé seems to be the perfect wine match and we have recently tried two that are new to us: Zambartas Wineries 2018 Rosé from Lefkada, a Greek grape and Cabernet Franc, and Vouni Panayia Winery 2019 Rosé from local grapes, Mavro and Xinisteri.
Two summer Rosés
The Zambartas Rosé won a gold medal in the 2019 International Rosé Championship and is a darker rosé colour from the Cabernet Franc grape, similar in colour to the rosés from South West France. 13% ALC by volume.
The Vouni Panayia Rosé from the local grapes of Mavro (black) and Xinisteri is paler, more similar to the rosés from the South of France. 13.5 % ALC by volume.
Both wines offer red fruit flavours including pomegranate and are refreshing, good as a summer aperitif as well as with seafood or Asian style food. We enjoy them both but in balance my favourite is the paler rosé from local grapes.
It’s time to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, with socially distanced outdoor eating and fresh and refreshing flavours.
Lamb and feta cheese seems an unusual combination when I first hear of this a few years ago from Swiss/Austrian friends who serve us delicious lamb and feta burgers.
Lamb and Feta Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce
In a Covid culinary moment, I decide to see if I can replicate this combination and search for a recipe for a meatloaf with lamb and feta. To my amazement, I discover a January 1997 recipe for Lamb Meat Loaf with Feta Cheese on the Southern Living website, a magazine I haven’t seen for many years in Vancouver but I see is still very active and interesting.
I made this meatloaf twice, the second time with great success. The first time, it does a belly flop when I turn it out of the pan.
Lamb and Feta Meatloaf slices well and freezes perfectly
Here’s how I modify the recipe to my taste: replace the green bell pepper with red pepper, added more fresh herbs, particularly rosemary, add chopped black olives and make a fresh tomato sauce, ‘Classic Tomato Sauce’ from the Epicurious site, rather than a bought sauce as suggested. Additionally, to avoid the belly-flop routine, I make the full recipe, which is for 8 servings and put all the ingredients including the toasted pine nuts but not the feta cheese and olives, in the food processor for two spins to fully integrate all the ingredients before I layer the pan with the mixture and the feta cheese and olives. A big bonus with this recipe is that it freezes really well, so I slice the meatloaf and individually pack slices for the freezer.
The big decision, of course, is what wine to serve with it.
Ktima Karipidis Nebbiolo
Ktima Karipidis Nebbiolo
My thoughts turn to a Nebbiolo wine from Greece that we enjoy in Nicosia, Cyprus earlier in the year. This delicious Nebbiolo from the organic vineyards of Ktima Karipidis in Thessalia, Greece with its full body tannins, high acidity and distinctive scent of fruit and liquorice would be a good match with the lamb and feta meatloaf with its tomato sauce. In my mind’s eye, I see myself enjoying this Greek Nebbiolo with my newly discovered meatloaf!. Fantastic!
I have not been to the Thessaly area of Greece but I read that the area is bordered by Greek Macedonia and the Aegean Sea and has a thriving viticulture industry. The wine waiter at Beba Restaurant, Nicosia, recommends this wine to us. It was a good recommendation, which we thoroughly enjoy. The Nebbiolo grape is usually associated with high quality wines from the Piedmont area of Italy.
Closer to home here on the West Coast, we enjoy the meatloaf with our house Pinot Noir, which is from the Meyer Family Vineyard in Okanagan Falls, B.C: also a good choice with the lamb and feta.
Taking time to discover new recipes and imagining wine pairings is enjoyable and creative in these unusual times and brings a smile to my face.
Perhaps the Heartman says it best with his inspiring ♥️ heart creations.
The Heartman creates an inspiring flower heart. Photographed with his permission.
Today, I saw the Heartman as I was walking along the seawall in Vancouver.
Floral love art by the Heartman, West Vancouver
The Heartman, as we call him, creates beautiful arrangements of flower petals on the earth or grass, always in the shape of a heart. He radiates calm and peace and his delightful work inevitably brings a smile or a photo opportunity moment to passers-by.
This heart symbol seems particularly appropriate as we all do our best to: “Be Kind, Be Calm and Be Safe”; the affirmation that British Columbians have taken to heart, literally, coined by Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer of British Columbia.
The focus on compassion and safety is reflected in the approaches to winery visits this summer where social distancing and safety are paramount for visitors to be encouraged to venture into winery tastings.
The key message for people planning to visit wineries during their summer holidays, whether here in BC or in other wine growing areas, is to anticipate the need to make an appointment for a wine tasting. For now, drop in wine tastings are a thing of the past. Additionally, the numbers of people tasting at any one time is sharply reduced, so check out how many people can be in the tasting party. And, ask about the guidelines on spitting wine at the tasting area: some wineries provide a disposable spit cup, so a good idea to clarify this before the tasting begins!
Each winery creates their own wine tasting procedures as long as they keep to the guidelines around social distancing and sanitation. This affects where the wine tastings take place, indoors or increasingly in outdoor spaces. A point of enquiry is the definition of social distancing. Here in British Columbia, we are operating with a 2 metre social distance. In France, the social distance is 1 metre. Figure out what that distance looks like, so you can conform to the expectation or leave more space. Its important everywhere to know the guidelines, so you can: “respecter la distance de 1 mètre” or 2 metres, whichever is relevant.
Winery visitors can expect highly professional levels of sanitation for everything from counter tops to wine stemware to pour spouts on wine bottles with visitors being discouraged from touching bottles of wine for sale, unless buying them!
I visited the websites of two award wining wineries I know well in SW France to see what is on offer in these Covid times. Both these wineries have 5 stars with Trip Advisor for their winery visits.
Sue and Humphrey Temperley, proprietors of Château Lestevenie
Bergerac Wine Region showing Saussignac and Sigoulès
The Hare at Chateau Lestevenie, Gageac et Rouillac, Dordogne.
Chateau Lestevenie has clear instructions on their home page about phoning to arrange wine tastings. They indicate that wine tastings are strictly by appointment to one household group per time in order to maintain social distancing. Chateau Lestevenie is a beautiful countryside winery offering a wonderful visit and opportunity to learn with Humphrey and Sue Temperley and admire the work they have also done to promote the flora and fauna on their property.
These comments above assume that the winery visit will be in person. A growing element in wine tourism now is the advent of the virtual wine tour and tasting.
Caro Feely, Co-Proprietor, Chateau Feely, Saussignac SW France
Château Feely owned by Caro and Sean Feely
Another local winery in the Dordogne is Chateau Feely where Caro Feely has been busy launching a range of virtual experiences to enable people to experience Chateau Feely from anywhere.
Caro says: “We have been working flat out days, nights, weekends to get these new products developed and the response has been great. We had started developing ideas for online courses as part of our wine school the last couple of years and the coronavirus offered the push and the ‘time space’ we needed to get the first products done.”
Caro has produced several videos on their website describing the biodynamic vineyard of Caro and her husband, Sean, including a one minute video produced about their new Virtual Discovery Wine Course.
‘Down the road’ from these country wineries, in Ste Emilion and the areas around Bordeaux another approach to wine tasting takes place. This year, many of the most famous chateaux in the wine world are conducting their wine tastings with merchants using video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft teams etc. Samples of wines are shipped to the merchants in advance and then the tastings take place virtually with the chateaux technical directors discussing the wines and answering enquires from the merchants. This is how the 2019 en primeur wine sale to merchants is taking place for many chateaux. The good news is that it appears 2019 was a year producing a high quality vintage.
Economically speaking 2020 looks like a tough year for winemakers. At the en primeur level of wine sales, many chateaux are discounting their 2019 vintage prices to encourage sales. Inevitably, this price challenge will ripple down through the industry and affect all the wine-makers.
In the time of Covid, let’s be kind to our wine-makers and support them through an unforgettable year, which is bringing many challenges as well as opportunities for change.
Looking at these beautiful silver condiment labels, I wonder about their history. “What is their history?”; ” Who used them and where? “Tell me more…”
Oude sauce label made in 1841
These sauce labels are part of a wine and sauce label collection managed by the Hampshire Cultural Trust in collaboration with the Allen Gallery in Alton in Hampshire and were viewed in October. I wrote the story of the Bronte wine Label in my last post.
Allen Gallery, Alton, Hampshire
Silver labels for sauces, herbs and spices such as those illustrated for Tarragon, Oude, Cherokee, Cayenne, Anchovy were made by silversmiths in the 18th and 19th centuries in England to be used to identify the contents of glass condiment bottles on the dining tables of the growing middle class in Britain.
Of those shown, the Tarragon label was made in1798, the Cherokee label made in 1780 and the Oude label made in 1841. We know this because the hallmarks on each label identify the date in recognized and regulated letter code.
Tarragon label made in 1798
Anchovy, Cayenne and Cherokee silver labels
Apart from the craftsmanship demonstrated in the making of these single pieces of silver, these sauce, herb and spice labels represent different approaches to cuisine in this period of history and the diversity that came from their origins.
Herbs such as Tarragon, one of the four herbs named as “fine herbes” (parsley, chervil, tarragon and chives) was home grown and was, and is, used in classical French cuisine. Spices were more exotic and imported from many areas of the world and brought different culinary inspiration. Both approaches to cuisine represent the march of history, global exploration and the corresponding impact on cuisine.
The history goes back a long way, including ancient times. More recently Marco Polo, the great Venetian 13th century explorer mentions spices in his travel memoirs. He wrote about sesame oil in Afghanistan, he described plantings of pepper, nutmegs, cloves in Java and cinnamon, pepper and ginger on the coastal area of India.
When Christopher Columbus set out on his second voyage in 1493, he revisited the West Indes and Americas, still hoping to go on to China, and brought back red pepper spices and allspice.
All the sea-faring exploration, military actions and colonization around the world over many centuries affected food tastes and cooking styles when people returned to their home countries with their new found food and flavour experiences..
The availability and access to spices in particular was often a function of economic wealth. For example, the price of pepper served as a barometer for European business well being in general.
As is always the case, language reflects culture and how people live. The phrase “peppercorn rent’, an expression used today to indicate a nominal amount, reflects the fact that pepper was used as a currency to pay taxes, tolls and rent. Similarly, in 1393, a German price list identified that a pound weight of nutmeg was worth seven fat oxen!
Researching sauce names reveals some interesting information! I found Cherokee recipes from the southern United States referring to chicken recipes with chilies. Béarnaise Sauce, the famous tarragon flavoured derivative sauce of Hollandaise, was referenced in 1836 culinary materials.
Oude was more difficult to track down. I did find a reference to a Crosse and Blackwell’s Oude Sauce used in a sausage pudding recipe from the 1800s. Crosse and Blackwell, a British company making sauces since 1706, no longer make this sauce although they continue to make other condiment products.
Oude sauce has also been referred to as King of Oude sauce. For example, an 1861 list of supplies included Crosse and Blackwell sauces: Essence of Anchovies, and King of Oude sauce, as well as Lee and Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce, Mushroom Catsup etc.
Looking further into the Oude reference, my research indicates that the Oudh State (also known as Kingdom of Oudh, or Awadh State) was a princely state in the Awadh region of North India until 1858. Oudh, the now obsolete but once official English-language name of the state, also written historically as Oude, derived from the name of Ayodhya.
Joining the dots, I assume then that Oude Sauce would be spicy in a Northern Indian cuisine style, possibly with spices such as chilies, cumin, turmeric, garlic, ginger, coriander.
Sauce recipes, then as now, are typically not divulged.. While the ingredients for the generic Worcestershire sauce are known and include such items as barley malt vinegar, molasses, anchovies, tamarind extract, garlic, spices, which may include cloves, soy, lemons, the precise recipe for Lee and Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce from 1835 is still a closely guarded secret after more than 200 years. Tabasco Sauce, another well-loved spicy condiment, has been made in Louisiana in the United States since 1868 by the same family business. The spice business and extraction of flavours from herbs and spices has been commercially active since the 18th century in line with the illustrated sauce labels.
McCormick is another maker of condiments in the United States that has been in this business since 1889. The company has established a McCormick Science Institute (MSI). “The MSI research program sponsors research which is focussed on advancing the scientific study of the health enhancing properties of culinary herbs and spices in areas which are considered to have the potential to impact public health. MSI released a research paper in March 2018 identifying how herbs and spices increase the liking and preference for vegetables among rural high school students.” Marco Polo and other early explorers would be pleased!
Thinking about the silver sauce labels on the condiment bottles on the 18th and 19th century dining tables, I wonder about the wine selection in those days to accompany foods using these sauces, especially the spicy ones.
No doubt the advice would be similar to that offered today. For example, with a curry dish, I might consider a chilled white wine such as pinot gris or perhaps a gewürztraminer: among rosé wines, I might consider a lightly chilled wine, but not too floral, a Côte de Province appellation comes to mind. Among red wine choices, considering a lighter red wine and staying away from too tannic a wine would be a good idea to complement the spicy notes of the food. Côte du rhône, Gigondas come to mind or perhaps an Alsace Pinot Noir. I could apply these considerations to wines from other parts of the world in making a choice of wine to accompany a spicy food dish.
Viewing these 18th and 19th century silver sauce labels opened up a Pandora’s box of questions for me, as the unknown name of Oude particularly caught my eye. So much history and information evoked by a small, beautiful example of silver craftsmanship from over 200 years ago.
References: websites for: McCormick and the McCormick Science Institute, Hampshire Cultural Trust/Allen Gallery, British Library. Christopher-Columbus.eu, Lee and Perrin, Crosse and Blackwell, Tabasco.
Daffodils in Green Park with Buckingham Palace beyond
Whenever I am in London and have a few hours to spare, I do the things I love the most here: walking and looking at art. I am always uplifted and inspired by these experiences.
Yesterday, I walked in Green Park and captured this daffodil laden view of Buckingham Palace.
Daffodils are one of my favourite flowers. Partly because they are cheerful, yellow harbingers of spring and partly because they bring back my childhood memories of playing in a spring garden at dusk, inhaling their lovely scent. Seeing them in full bloom in Green Park surfaced all these connections.
For my art fix, I came across a magical small exhibition of mainly pastels with some oils by the Impressionist artist, Degas (18 34- 1917) at the National Gallery. This collection on loan from Glasgow in Scotland, features Degas’s well-known subjects of ballerinas, racehorses and women attending to their toilette. If only one could draw or paint movement as he did!
The Degas exhibition at the National Gallery
Degas exhibition poster at the National Gallery
I have also been inspired recently hearing about a new vineyard in Buckinghamshire: Dinton Wines, which was started in 2013.
Enjoying English sparkling wines
Enjoying English sparkling wine
Dinton Folly, an English sparkling wine, is the brainchild of retired countryman Laurie Kimber, who planted 15 acres with the classic varieties of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier on a south-facing slope with chalky soil and temperate climate. The neighbours of Mr. Kimber, and his family including his children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren harvest the grapes. The first harvest was ready in 2016.
Dinton Folly is so named because of its proximity to the ruins of a nearby castle and also refers to the idea of taking on such a challenging project later in life. Dinton Wines is an inspiring testament to the fact that it’s never too late to start making wine!
Dinton in Buckinghamshire is close to the Chiltern Hills, a famous place for hiking in the English countryside with picturesque villages and friendly pubs!
Grape picking neighbours of Mr Kimber introduced me to this wine recently. I was delighted by the refreshing, dry, balanced, sparkling wine with its appealing lower range alcohol level of 11.5% ALC.
Perfect to enjoy on an English spring day: Inspirational!
Dinton is near Aylesbury in the county of Buckinghamshire in the Chiltern Hills
Map from Dinton Folly website showing Dinton near Aylesbury
Dinton Wines dintonwines.com
National Gallery: Nationalgallery.org.uk
Maps courtesy of Dinton Wines and local tourist information.
It’s about 3.30 p.m. on a sunny, warm autumn afternoon in November. We walk uphill into a bosky, oak wood with sunlight filtering through the leaves. The ground is covered in acorns that crunch noisily under our feet in this quiet space.
There before us with wings spread wide is the Quintus Dragon
The Quintus Dragon, Château Quintus, Saint-Emilion.
All two tons of bronze on a stone plinth.
“Why is there a dragon here?” we ask our host, François Capdemourlin, the Estate Manager at Château Quintus.
He tell us that, in mythology, dragons protect treasure or special places. The proprietors of Chateau Quintus in Saint Emilion consider that their 28 hectares of wine growing slopes are special. Hence the protective presence of the dragon, he says.
Commissioned by Prince Robert of Luxembourg, President and CEO, Domaine Clarence Dillon and created by Mark Coreth, a world renowned British sculptor, who specializes in large scale, dynamic animal and wildlife sculptures, the Quintus Dragon is spectacular.
The view from this wine property is also spectacular. On a clear day such as we enjoy, its possible to see not only famous Saint Emilion chateaux, such as Chateau Angelus before us across the vineyards but also the areas of Pomerol and Fronsac, great wine areas in the distance.
Château Quintus chai on the hill
Looking east from Château Quintus
Views across Saint Emilion vineyards
Saint Emilion vineyards
Chateau Quintus is owned by Domaine Clarence Dillon, which owns Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut Brion in Pessac Leognan in the Bordeaux Wine Region. I wrote about Chateau Haut Brion in January: see the Whisper of History.
Bordeaux wine areas – see Graves and Pessac-Leognan and Saint Emilion
Chateau Quintus represents a relatively new venture for Domaine Clarence Dillon as it extends into creating the more merlot-centric wines of the Right Bank of the Bordeaux wine area through the acquisition of two existing but separate wine properties. Merlot, as the predominant variety in Saint Emilion wines, is the grape variety that gives softer tannins to wines.
As we talk about Merlot based wines, we smile as we reminisce about the 2004 film ‘Sideways’ featuring proponents of Merlot and Pinot Noir and wonder how many people remember that film now.
Back at Château Quintus there is an aura of calm efficiency about the property. This is a working vineyard: no wine tourist shop or public tasting area in sight. This is the norm in the Bordeaux wine area with only a few exceptions. Visits are by appointment only. Wine tourism centres for this area are located in the UNESCO heritage town of Saint Emilion.
We tour the new winemaking area in the renovated chai or vat room and then drive to the Chateau business centre in a different area of the property, where there is a small tasting room. Behind the tasting area, we can look through the glass partition to the wine barrel ageing room where the wine is quietly and patiently ageing.
Tasting room with barrel ageing room behind the glass wall.
It’s in this tasting room that our host tells us the story about pirates!
Images of Pirates of the Caribbean and swashbuckling figures come to mind and I can’t wait to hear the tale.
This is what happened. On a diving expedition in the Indian Ocean, off the Island of Mayotte, some years ago, divers found a cache of treasure on the seabed. In this cache, covered with the debris of years on the ocean bed, was a 19th century wine bottle, still intact. On the neck of the bottle was the raised seal of Chateau Haut Brion engraved on the glass, still visible after all these years. Inspired by this historic find, the wine bottles of Chateau Quintus are especially made in the same 19th century style, in this instance with the raised engraved seal of Chateau Quintus.
I’ve mentioned dragons and pirates, now its time to mention the wine!
Chateau Quintus focuses on red wines and these wines are part of the Saint Emilion appellation. As mentioned, the grape variety grown is Merlot together with Cabernet Franc. In terms of wine production, the vintage has been controlled by Chateau Quintus since 2011.
Out of interest, white wines made in the Saint Emilion wine region are characterized as Bordeaux Blanc.
We taste a Chateau Quintus 2014 and their second wine, Le Dragon de Quintus 2014. 2014 was a challenging year with a hot Indian summer in the area that saved the vintage after difficult summer conditions.
Wine tasting at Château Quintus – note the raised seal engraved in the glass.
The Chateau Quintus 2014 is made from 69% Merlot and 31% Cabernet Franc. This is a smooth wine with red fruit and spicy notes. It is a wine to age and enjoy over the next decade or so.
Le Dragon de Quintus 2014 is made from 77% Merlot and 23% Cabernet Franc and is a wine with soft tannins and plum notes to fully enjoy now.
It is interesting to hear the Estate Manager talk about vineyard management and the wine making process used at Chateau Quintus as it benefits from the expertise of the teams at Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, all part of the Domaine Clarence Dillon organization.
Several examples of this collaboration are discussed:
One example is that the vineyard workers have been specifically trained in the way that Domaine Clarence Dillon prefers to prune the vines.
Another is that Chateau Quintus benefits from the on site cooperage or barrel making service resident at Chateau Haut Brion.
Yet another example is that the staff from the three different chateaux gets together for the wine blending process to determine the percentages of varieties in the year’s vintage. Team members share their expertise to arrive at the optimum blend. Once the blending has been determined the wine is put in oak barrels for ageing over approximately two years.
I am always interested to know about initiatives that develop talent and skill within an organization and enjoy hearing these examples given by François Capdemourlin, who is clearly enjoying his exciting role managing this integrated wine estate. Chateau Quintus is a new name in the Saint Emilion wine world, finding its way and supported by the investment of resources from the Domaine Clarence Dillon. Watch this space, as the pundits say.
We’ve enjoyed an interesting and informative visit to Chateau Quintus and its time to thank the Estate Manager for his time, find our car and drive off towards road D33..
D33 is the main road on the way from Bergerac to Libourne and the city of Bordeaux. Up high on the right hand side sits the town of Saint Emilion with its vineyards spread over the hillsides. We frequently drive that road.
Now I know where the Quintus Dragon lives, in that bosky wood on the hill high above the road. I know where to look when driving by.
The Quintus Dragon
Next time, I will raise my hand in a silent salute.