Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

Feb 08, 15 Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

Posted by in All

I was on Day 2 of my natural, biodynamic and organic wine tasting trip in the Loire and today we were in the town of Saumur for the 16th annual Dive Bouteille tasting. The Dive tasting is the oldest and most important natural wine tasting around. It was originally started by producers who wanted to showcase their wines outside of the annual Loire Valley Salon de Vins and has expanded to include wines from all over the world. The tasting took place under the hills of Saumur in the caves of Loire valley producer Ackerman wines. Ackerman are not organic, natural or biodynamic but the caves are amazing, with very high ceilings. The troglodyte caves are carved out of the tuffeau rock of the region and are used for art installations and exhibitions. The caves are strategically lit with coloured lights all of which make it a funky venue for a natural wine tasting. The lions share of producers were from France but there were also producers from Italy, Spain, Georgia, Serbia, The US, Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa and even sake from Japan. The Loire Valley was well represented but some of the most intriguing producers were from the US and Australia. Granted, they were not heavily represented but the few that I found had provocative wines. La Garagista’s wine maker Deirdre Heekin aims to put Vermont wines on the map. Deirdre is definitely of the no-intervention school of winemaking. Her vines are organic and she uses hybrids that are bred to thrive in cold climates. Cybele, La Crescent, Marquette and Frontenac  are the main grapes she uses. I first tried her sparkling wine made from the Cybele grape. It was relatively dry with good acidity. I didn’t know what to expect so this made for a pleasant surprise. I next tried the Frontenac. I was a bit dubious about red wine from such a cool climate but the Frontenac  had weight and body to it was well as a black fruit profile. Deirdre and her...

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Wirra Wirra ‘s Trebuchet, Lost Watches and Church Blocks

Apr 05, 13 Wirra Wirra ‘s Trebuchet, Lost Watches and Church Blocks

Posted by in Australia

Quick! Off the top of your head,do you know what a trebuchet is? Unless you’re  a fan of Australian winery Wirra Wirra or a Medievelist, you probably wouldn’t know it’s another word for “catapult”. That was one nifty bit of trivia I picked up while having lunch with Sam Temme, International Sales Manager for Wirra Wirra. We were at the Spanish restaurant, Camino, and enjoying tapas with the delicious wines of Wirra Wirra. The vineyard was originally planted by Robert Strangeways Wigley but fell into disrepair after his death in 1924 and it was not until 1969 when the property was bought by cousins Greg and Roger Trott that the vineyard was revitalized. Gregg was apparently quite a character and liked to give his wines, er, unique names. Besides the “Catapult” shiraz, there is the “Lost Watch” riesling (named after a lost watch, natch), “Woodhenge” shiraz (use your imagination) and the “12th Man” Chardonnay (something to do with cricket but Sam lost me there) as well as a few other whimsically named wines. The vineyards of Wirra Wirra are in the McClaren Vale and have a great site, only 7 kms from the ocean which means the vines benefit from the ocean and gully breezes that blow over the vines. They own their own vineyards which are certified biodynamic but as they use grapes from growers as well, they cannot guarantee that their wines are biodynamic. We tried a variety of Wirra Wirra’s wine including the above mentioned wines as well as a few others. The Lost Watch 2011 is a riesling and in another bit of trivia, when Greg discovered he had lost the watch his father had given him, he swore never to wear another watch again,which might explain why he was rarely on time for anything. The  Lost Watch is a light and lively little number, almost water clear, it doesn’t have as much zip as say its Eden Valley counterparts but nonetheless, it is a refreshing, limey riesling. Another crowd...

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Rockford Winery, traditionally at harvest in the Barossa Valley

Apr 01, 13 Rockford Winery, traditionally at harvest in the Barossa Valley

Posted by in Australia, Travel

Although Australia is the ‘New World,’ I was surprised when I visited recently to see how, at least in the Barossa Valley, they like to make wine the old fashioned way. It seems like many of the boutique producers there put a lot of effort into using grapes and making wines that both have a history in the region and in a very traditional style of winemaking. Rockford Winery is one of those that takes great pains to remain true to Australia’s grape growing history. Robert O’Callanah started making wine in 1984 but originally bought the circa-1850’s stone settler’s cottage in 1971 and gradually built his winery around the cottage and in the same style. I immediately was charmed by the low slung stone buildings that comprised the winery. I visited during harvest which is one of the best times to visit a winery in my opinion and the action was in full swing when we pulled up to the entrance. As a matter of fact, the entrance was blocked by the old pickup truck used to haul grapes to the winery. A cellar rat was busy heaving pitchfork fulls of shiraz grapes from the bed of the pickup into the mouth of the 100 year old destemmer as we walked by. As well as the destemmer, there was the traditional Bagshaw crusher and within say 5 metres, were assorted open fermenters, tanks and the barrel room. It is a compact winery, to say the least. That day they were working with shiraz and there were various open tanks, including slate tanks, at different stages of fermentation. After the tour, I tried a variety of Rockford wines. Robert wanted to stick to the grapes that were originally grown in the area and so he makes his wines from shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, mataro, semillon, riesling, white frontignan and the one exception to the rule, alicante bouchet. Robert had worked with that grape in France and thus wanted to make wine in Australia using that...

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Steingarten riesling and Jacob’s Creek Visitor’s Centre

Mar 14, 13 Steingarten riesling and Jacob’s Creek Visitor’s Centre

Posted by in Australia, Travel

Laying by the pool at the Novotel Hotel in Barossa Valley, the last thing I wanted to do was leave, especially considering this was my last chance to get some sun before returning to grey England but I had an appointment with  Jacob’s Creek and so I reluctantly left the pool, headed for the Steingarten riesling vineyard. However, once I met up with James Keane from Jacob’s Creek and we were standing on top of the Hill of Grace, I was glad I had abandoned the pool. We were standing on a hill overlooking the vines of Steingarten, a legendary riesling vineyard of the Barossa Valley. Colin Gramp originally dynamited the hills to plant the vines in the rocky soil and planted roughly 1000 vines on side of the windy hilltop. Jacob’s Creek still uses grapes from this plot to make the Steingarten although they do source grapes from the Eden Valley, which the vines face, in the distance. Steely, pure and intense, James and I had a glass of the Steingarten riesling before toasting the vines with the leftovers in our glass. Afterwards we did a brief tour of some of the other vineyards of Jacob’s Creek before lunch. After that we headed over to the new visitor’s centre recently opened by Jacob’s Creek. Now I know Jacob’s Creek has a bit of a reputation in the UK as being a cheap supermarket wine but the Australians keep all the good stuff for themselves. I have to admit I had certain prejudices regarding Jacob’s Creek’s wines but over there they have lots of interesting wines available. We sat down to lunch and I had a choice of 3, what James called, ‘new varieties’ of Australia, fiano, vermentino and arneis. Jacob’s Creek likes to experiment and these 3 are part of ‘cellar door only’ wines available to the public. The other ‘new varieties’ included montepulciano, tannat, negroamaro, mataro (mouvedre, not really a ‘new variety’ so to speak as it’s been grown in the Barossa...

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Flying on the Emirates A380 to Adelaide, Australia

Mar 12, 13 Flying on the Emirates A380 to Adelaide, Australia

Posted by in Australia, Travel

My recent trip to Adelaide was great but it was even better by the fact that I flew with Emirates Airlines. Emirates recently started flights from London to Adelaide via Dubai and I was invited to see just how nice it is to fly with Emirates. I got to the airport early (!) so I was able to hang out in the Business Class Lounge at Heathrow before boarding. Nothing like a nice open champagne/wine bar to start off the trip. Once seated in my cozy little demi cabin, the flight attendants came round with Veuve Clicquot 2004. I was flying on the A380 to Dubai enroute to Adelaide and if you haven’t been on an A380 yet, I’d highly recommend it. Take off and landing are so smooth on the A380 that it’s hardly noticeable, it it weren’t for the fasten seatbelt signs, it’d be hard to tell. Business Class on the A380 is lush. Lots of leg room, mini bar, huge tv screen, seats that lay flat at the push of a button and plenty of counter space even, next to your personal mini bar. I should also mention that Business Class also has a full on bar at the rear of the compartment, complete with bar snacks of olives, nuts and finger sandwiches all laid out for you to munch on, complimentary of course. And they even have a little happy hour, putting out chips and salsa in mid-flight. I went back there to hang out for a bit and seriously, it’s easy to forget your on an airplane, once they pull the curtains closed. The only tip off are the seatbelts on the lounge benches that I suppose they have to have in case of turbulence. I have to say the flight attendants, who double as bartenders, make some mean Manhattans (in a good way)! From Dubai to Adelaide we switched to the Boeing 777. The level of service doesn’t dip though and Business Class is just as nice although...

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