Blending masterclass at the Krug Celebration

May 07, 13 Blending masterclass at the Krug Celebration

Posted by in Champagne, France

They say the best time to taste wine is first thing in the morning. Although I’m not a morning person, AT ALL, I do tend to agree with this particular trope. And so, at 9am on our last day at Krug we were all assembled in the tasting room of the house to try our hand at blending a Grande Cuvee 2012. Krug is one of the last houses to blend their ‘non-vintage’ champagne, the Grande Cuvee and they had just finished putting the 2012 version together a week or two earlier. Every year, they start with all over again, not considering what they have done in the past. Initially, Chef de Cave Eric Lebel and his team started out in September with over 300 wines to choose from to use for the blend. Over the next few months they held one tasting a day to determine which should go into the blend. I asked Frederica, one of the winemakers,why they had only one tasting a day? Surely it would be faster to do 2 or 3 tastings each day. She said that they had tried to do 2 a day but in the end it was too difficult to give accurate assessments of the wines and so they reverted back to one tasting a day. Eric, has a special black notebook where he keeps notes on each of the wines tasted. He has to answer two questions every year: 1) to make a vintage champagne and 2) which wines should be saved as reserve wines. For 2012 it has been decided not to make a vintage Krug as the harvest was so small that they would not have enough wine left for the reserve if they made a vintage champagne. On to our little experiments to create a Krug Grande Cuvee. As the previous day we had tried the base wines of 2012, now we were being giving a combination of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot muenier – 16 2012’s and 12 reserve wines...

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Alain Geoffroy’s corkscrew museum in Chablis

Mar 29, 13 Alain Geoffroy’s corkscrew museum in Chablis

Posted by in France, Travel

When we arrived at Alain Geoffroy’s tasting room,it was the end of a long day of tasting in Chablis and while it had been an illuminating day of tasting, I must admit by this time my teeth and palate were ready for a small break. When Alain’s daughter, Nathalie, came out to greet us and asked if we wanted to tour the corkscrew museum, how could we say no. I love visiting these little out of the way museums that seem to be dotted around French wine regions. I once visited a seashell museum in Champagne, but, I digress. The collection is comprised of more than 3000 corkscrews, corkpulls and other types of accoutrements to get the cork out of the bottle. In addition, Alain has also collected antique viticultural tools used in the vineyards and has a whole collection of tank spigots – I know it may not sound all that interesting but it is kinda cool to compare the old days technology with what they use now, especially considering that some of those tools were used in the not so distant past. There was also a slightly disconcerting assortment of mannequins used for the displays. I think it’s safe to say that they spent most of their money on acquiring the corkscrews and not the mannequins. The museum is officially open the same days and times as the tasting room. There is a nominal fee to pay but Natalie says that’s mostly to ensure that people are really interested in seeing the museum (and probably not looking to nick an antique corkscrew). Afterwards, we did indeed have another tasting of Geoffroy’s wines including a few older vintages from 2009 and 2008. The tasting room is open most days as is the museum so if you are looking for something off the beaten track, Alain Geoffroy’s corkscrew museum is pleasant diversion from all that wine tasting.  Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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A couple of cracking white wines from the Languedoc, Chateau d’Angles La Clape

Feb 01, 13 A couple of cracking white wines from the Languedoc, Chateau d’Angles La Clape

Posted by in France

Bourboulenc. I just like the name of that grape. It kind of rolls off the tongue…bour-bouuuuuuuu-leeeeeeenc……. Anyway, bourboulenc is a white variety that grows mostly in southern France and was the star grape for me at a recent tasting I went to hosted by AOC Languedoc Wines. Bourboulenc is the main variety used in Chateau d’Anglès La Clape’s Classique blanc 2010 (the rest of the blend being 40% grenache blanc, 5% marsanne, and 5% roussane). Everyone at the tasting jumped on this little jewel of a wine. Refreshing but fleshy, spicy and creamy but still retaining a structural integrity, this was a wine that was really hard to put down. I found it approachable but intriguing at the same time, my mouth flooded with the flavours of citrus and white fruits along with the minerality that comes from the soil. I found myself coming back to this wine again and again because it was just so morish! Usually, I tend to pick the most expensive wines at a tasting as my favourite but the Classique comes in at under a tenner (barely), £9.99 from the Wine Rack. Later, at dinner, we had the Classique’s big brother, the Chateau d’Anglès La Clape 2008 Grand Vin. 40% bourboulenc, 20%grenache white, 20%roussane and 20% marsanne, the wine had spent 7 months on the lees and a further 2 years in old barrels. The result, a creamy and rich wine rolling around my palate. Not too creamy but a pleasure to drink, flavours of white peaches and nutty almond notes on the finish. It was still  a powerful wine with èthe smells of the sea and the particular aromas of garrigue – the lavender, herbs and other wild things that grow in the south of France all mingling together on the nose. The wine was paired with baked sea scallops with seaweed, which turned out to highlight the iodine and mineral notes of the wine. A fresh wine that still has plenty of aging potential with a long and...

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Wine cruising with Vinopolis and Celebrity Cruises

Jan 22, 13 Wine cruising with Vinopolis and Celebrity Cruises

Posted by in France, Portugal, Spain, Travel

Last Autumn, I was invited by Celebrity Cruises and Vinopolis to join their Immersive Wine Cruise. The cruise featured Oz Clarke and, from Vinopolis, their head educator, Tom Forrest.  They were on hand to not only lead masterclasses on board but also joined guests every evening for wine chats and led the vineyard tours which were offered as on-shore excursions. The cruise was a 12-day trip starting in Southampton with stops in Le Havre, Bordeaux, Bilboa, Vigo and Porto. 12 days might seem like a long time to be on a boat but the Celebrity Cruises ships really are floating luxury hotels. My cabin was spacious and full of light, complete with a small lounge and a sheltered balcony where I could sit and watch the dolphins playing as we sailed by (I saw them 3 times on the trip) or just enjoyed an evening tipple with friends before dinner. As I was in Concierge Class, we had 24 hr room service and unlike the typical “you must eat at your assigned seating” , I had the luxury of choosing my dining time and dining companions as well as my choice of where I wanted to eat. Whatever you may have thought about cruising before, there seems to be a lot of flexibility nowadays. There was plenty to do on-board besides the daily wine tasting classes that Oz and Tom gave every afternoon that we were at sea. The ship, Constellation is one of the older ships of the fleet but it still has plenty of amenities and dining venues. There was a full roster of activities from cooking to dance classes and everything in between. My favourite dining venue was the Ocean Liners Restaurant which was the formal dining restaurant on the ship. The wine list was impressive and although a bit skewed to the New World, the prices were reasonable. This may have been in part because the ship is run by an American company so all prices were in dollars. I...

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Lunch with Champagne Duval-Leroy, A family run champagne house

Oct 29, 12 Lunch with Champagne Duval-Leroy, A family run champagne house

Posted by in Champagne, Food and Wine, France, restaurants

One of the things I love about wine, among the many, are the back stories that go with them. Meeting the winemakers or owners and listening to their tales of how the wine came to be, is fascinating and for me, always enhances the wine drinking experience. I had just returned to London from a long press trip but wasn’t going to let that stop me and went straight from Southampton to The Greenhouse Restaurant in Mayfair to meet Carol Duval-Leroy, her son Julien and their winemaker, Sandrine Logette-Jardin. I do love champagne and never say no if I can help it! What piqued my interest about Duval-Leroy was the fact that Carol took over after the untimely death of her husband about 20 years ago. She has not only kept the house going but is also the only woman to head a champagne house today. She now runs the house with the along with her three sons. Much like the original Veuve Clicqout of the 1700’s, she has not only continued but made many innovations as well as producing top quality champagne. The House is one of the few that uses organic grapes for their Brut Champagne and their tasting room is the only one in Champagne to  incorporate photovolataic panels, have a system for retrieving rainwater and have soundproofed it with a wall of vegetation. Over 40% of the Estate is made up of Premier Cru and Grand Cru villages on the Cotes des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims. But enough of that, on to lunch. We started with the Fleur de Champagne 1er Cru, made from 100% Premier Cru grapes, they call it the Fleur because the nose is very floral. A blend of 70/30 chardonnay/pinot noir, it was light and fresh, a great aperitif and way to start the lunch. The Rose Prestige 1er cru is made by letting the must goes through an 18 to 20 hr maceration before malolactic fermentation and then a blend of rose saignee and white...

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Cuisine et Chansons at Brasserie Joel

Oct 10, 12 Cuisine et Chansons at Brasserie Joel

Posted by in Food and Wine, France, restaurants

I was invited to partake of the Cuisine et Chansons night recently at Brasserie Joel in the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel. I remember when they were building that hotel but up until now, have never actually visited it. I was pleasantly surprised by the ambiance and decor of the place. I quite liked it, all cool and sleek with lots of plate glass windows. You could even see Big Ben across the bridge from some of the Brasserie’s tables. Cuisine et Chansons is a monthly event that Brasserie Joel which I thorough enjoyed. A chance to enjoy hearty French food all the while being serenaded by a French singing chanteuse. In this case, that night’s entertainment was a duo called “Remembering Piaf”. Ok, it might sound a little cheesy but they were very good and the singer did evoke the Little Sparrow, small and pale, the red lipstick she wore seeming to emphasis her smallness. But what a voice, she could definitely fill the room! Of course she was singing French standards like “La Vie en rose” or “Non, Je ne regrette nien” but it all seemed to add to the atmosphere. The meal is served family style so even though we didn’t know the people at our table, we became fast friends once the wine started flowing. The month of October focused on the cuisine of the Rhone Alpes so naturally we had Rhone wines with dinner. There were 4 Rhone wines to choose from, 2 white and 2 red. I loved that there were two Rhone whites on the menu. White Rhones are often overlooked but they are great food wines and the two we had, Cotes du Rhone Les Rabassieres 2010 (£12.25 250ml glass, £28/bottle) and a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Bertheet Rayne, 2009 (£42/bottle) were both great dinner choices. Both wines showing lots of peaches and apricots on the palate and the Chateauneuf a big hit around the table with it’s elegant balanced body and clean finish. A board laden with...

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