Chateau Margaux gets experimental

Mar 09, 12 Chateau Margaux gets experimental

Posted by in Biodynamic wine, France

If you are one of the 5 First Growths of Bordeaux (Ch. Margaux, Ch. Lafite Rothschild, Ch. Latour, Ch. Haut-Brion and lastly, Ch. Mouton Rothschild), you might think you could rest on your laurels, not give a fig for any new fangled advancements and just continue to produce wine the way it’s always been done. I mean, the first classification was done in 1855 and only one chateau has been added since then (Mouton Rothschild), and that was back in the 1970’s. You could do that but if you’re Chateau Margaux you won’t or rather, you don’t. That’s not to say the others are not also innovating but Ch. Margaux is the first to go public with their experimental findings.  Paul Pontallier, Managing Director and winemaker of Ch. Margaux was in town recently to give us a sneak peek into the inner workings of Ch. Margaux and how they are striving to maintain their reputation as one of the best wines of Bordeaux. He wants the world to know that Margaux is a forward thinking chateau and that they are looking to the wine business of the future, and the younger generation that will not only carry on the traditions but also build upon and improve what has gone before them. According to Paul, there is a plenty of experimentation and research going on in Bordeaux. He stressed however, that they themselves are not making anything new but rather in an organized way, they started these experiments because he does envisage change at some point in the future and his goal is to make the best possible wine and remain the best possible wine now and for future generations. So what are they up to? Pulling back the curtain of the great and mighty Oz (as in Wizard, not Clarke) we find, biodynamic wine! Let me explain first that the wines we tasted are not the ones that go into the first growth but are distinct plots that they are using on the estate...

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Riesling at The Modern Pantry, Spring Tasting menu

Spring is just around the corner, now if we could just get the weather to cooperate. In anticipation of warm days and sunny skies, The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell is featuring a riesling paired Spring Tasting menu for the month of March.This is first of what they promise to be a series of wine themed dinners. I think it’s apt to have riesling for Spring as it’s such a refreshing wine with it’s racy body and zippy, zingy acidity, represented by the New World’s offerings to the rich honeyed aromas and ripe stone fruit flavours and minerality of the Old World, riesling rarely let’s me down. It’s also a very versatile food wine and, with recently awarded MBE, Anna Hansen’s cuisine, is the perfect partner to the often spicy, exotic flavours of her food. The wines were chosen by Bill Knott for the restaurant and what was most interesting was that Bill said he chose the wines first and then worked with Anna to find just the right food matches. Usually, it’s the other way around when doing food and wine matching. Bill chose an array of rieslings showcasing it’s versatility from a variety of wine growing regions, from its homeland of Germany to the ends of New Zealand, we were presented with a delightful profile of the grape. An amuse bouche of tempura battered oysters was followed by the first course of Black fried squid paired with a kabinette riesling, the Bernkastler Badstube 2010 from the Mosel was a nice foil to the spicy sweet squid, the wine being slightly spritzy with loads of sweet ripe peach fruit on the palate, salty and sweet…mmmmm. Albert Mann is a great producer from Alsace and biodynamic to boot. His wines are always refined and fresh, the 2009 Albert Mann was pleasingly aromatic, almond blossom notes floating about. A slightly off dry but tasty wine with delicious ripe fruit on the palate. The seared King oyster mushroom, yuzu & tamari and kimchee & manouri pot sticker...

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Guest Post, Donald Edwards – Missing the wood for the trees

Guest Post – There are so many great wine blogs out there in the blogosphere. These guest posts are an effort to introduce you to my fellow wine bloggers, people who’s blogs I enjoy reading and who I’ve meet up with over a glass or two. This week’s post is from Paris based, English blogger, Donald Edwards, on a subject that is a “tiny” bit controversial in the wine world… This is a plea for calm, there have been too many angry words spoken on the subject, far too many self serving blog posts where authors try to argue down to the finest philosophical minutia that their particular taste in wine is the only correct and applicable one. In a sense this reminds me of the issues inherent in much of moral or religious philosophy. The person doing the arguing has made up their mind in advance, and is thus trying to justify what they believe to be the case. So building an argument backwards towards fundamental principles. Now anyone who’s ever read any religious philosophy will be well aware of the almost laughable logical paradoxes that get thrown up. Remind me again what the three different sorts of eternity are again. I am of course talking about natural wines. A term I’m going to use, then discard, as I prefer authentic as a moniker. Yes there is no strict set of rules regulating exactly what can and can’t be done in the production of authentic wine. Of course there isn’t. It’s merely a group of growers (supplemented by cavists, restauranteurs, and some writers) who are all seeking to express their little patch of land in as authentic a way as possible. Many of them hold very strong views regarding their stewardship of the land, they care for their soil and are working to pass on the land to their children in better shape than they found it, as such most are organic or practice biodynamics. Some, where necessary will spray, it’s one thing...

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Les Papilles – eating and drinking in Paris

Bistroy…Les Papilles – Restaurant Paris Les Papilles translates to “tastebuds” and this bistro is certainly focused on your tastebuds whether it’s for food or wine, they put as much care into one as the other. The philosophy of the venue is to “thrill your tastebuds” and besides being a bistro, they also double as a wine shop and delicatessen. At first glance, I thought it was a food shop but walking in, we encountered a full, bustling narrow dining area, on one side a long bar, on the other a wall of wine and in the middle a long row of tables for diners. They have an ala carte menu with classic French dishes, including foie gras and escargots as well as selections of ham to start and cheese to finish. The lunch menu is reasonably priced with most entrees €13 – €16. They also have a “retour du marche” menu which is the Chef’s seasonal menu. As I was with friends who speak French ( and I don’t), I didn’t know what was going on, but turns out we opted for the set menu (€33) of four courses, which was a lot of food! They do however, speak English and will cheerfully help you with both the food and wine lists. The fun thing about going to this bistro/winebar is that you can pick you bottle off the rows of wine lining the walls. They charge a modest corkage fee of €7 euros for a bottle off the wall with prices starting at €25. They do have house wines as well which start at €4.10 for a gls  and €13.50 for 50 cls.  The wines they offer are chosen to reflect their terroir and what they believe is the true character of the wines, so cue plenty of small producers alongside the more well known ones.  There is a wine list but we preferred checking out the bottles from the wall. After much browsing, we settled on a white Bourgogne to start and...

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Short and sustainable (and/or organic/biodynamic) – a little winelist from Tsuru

What I like about Tsuru, besides their katsu curry and sustainability credo is their wine list. Emma, one of the 3 owners of Tsuru, is always tweaking the wine list, looking for wine that not only go along with their Japanese hot food and sushi but also follow their commitment to sustainably sourced ingredients. Recently, they’ve gone completely organic/biodynamic, shortening the list to just 3 reds and 3 whites along with a sparkler to complement the dynamic flavours of Japanese food. Tsuru uses the wines of the importer Caves de Pyrennes, who specialize in organic, biodynamic and sustainable producers. So what did I think of the wines? While not being overly complex (and there might have even been a natural wine in there somewhere), they did make good matches with the food. The sparkler is a Vouvray brut, made from chenin blanc but with bubbles, which while having definite fruity notes on the palate displayed nutty, yeasty aromas. The bubbles were big but not distracting and this was a simple fizzy wine which was very easy to drink. Two of the other whites were French, a still chenin blanc, La Dilletante was full of fruity tropical notes but dry with a lime accented finish. We tried this with the gyoza which was a good match. The 2010 viognier from Reserve de Gassac was my favourite with the tuna sushi, savoury, minerally, and loads of white stone fruit flavours. The third white was a sauvignon blanc from De Martino (Chile), it was typical but nothing special, go for the Gassac if you want a more interesting wine with dinner. Gran Cerdo means Big Pig in Spanish and this fruity tempranillo from Spain is light but not confected, a soft and fruity red wine, it’s really good with pickled ginger. I liked the story behind the wine. Seems the winery owners couldn’t get a loan from the big banks and had to rely on friends and family to start up their winery so in homage to...

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Chenin blancs at Tsuru

My move to Dalston and the opening of Tsuru Sushi in nearby Bishopsgate were purely coincidental but I’m sure glad they happened at the same time. Tsuru has become one of my fav local eateries not only because they do delicious and affordable sushi and katsu curry but also because they have a small but exciting wine list. Emma Reynolds, one of the partners running Tsuru, thinks that wine can be a great partner for Japanese food and is always on the lookout for new and different wines to put on the list. If it doesn’t work, she just takes it off and tries another. I asked her about sake sales the other day and she said that in Bishopsgate Tsuru, at least, customers were far more interested in wine then sake. So there are some new wines on the list, this time 3 chenin blancs from the AC Montlouis. Until 1938, Montlouis was part of the Vourvray AC but they saw fit to part ways back then and nowadays in Montlouis a band of young winemakers are taking the grapes of Montlouis and turning them into some very good wine. The wines of Le Rocher des Violettes are made by the Frenchman Xavier Weisskopf. Originally, Xavier wanted to make wine in Burgundy, having worked in Beaune with Claude Marechal but those old bugbears, lack of money and very pricy French real estate put his Burgundy dreams to bed and he opted for Montlouis. He bought 7 hectares of very old vines and got to work. His wine making techniques border on the biodynamic but he can’t be bothered with all the rigamarole and bureaucratic mischief that goes with being certified so he’s settled for the organic label. Xavier does wonders with chenin blanc. I was quite impressed with his Le Rocher Des Violettes, Petillan Originel 2007 (£26), a sparkling wine that has no dosage but bottled with about 16g/l of residual sugar. The yeasts are left to ferment but not disgorged so that...

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