Tasting natural, organic and biodynamic wines at the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean

Feb 05, 15 Tasting natural, organic and biodynamic wines at the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean

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What is ‘natural’ wine, exactly? Is it wine that is made without intervention – and what exactly does that mean? Is it wine that only has sulfur added at bottling? Or wine that has no added sulfur whatsoever? Or is it wine that is organically/biodynamically grown? After spending the weekend in the Loire at two of the biggest organic, biodynamic, natural wine tastings in France, I still don’t know what makes a wine ‘natural’ but it was interesting to taste through those wines. There were lots of hits but also some misses. Personally, I don’t like so called ‘natural’ wines and that term is a massive turn off for me. Wine is by definition a man made product. Grapes don’t usually pick, crush, ferment and bottle themselves, so I’m a bit suspicious of those ‘natural’ wine people. When I first was introduced to natural wines, many years ago, I was intrigued but since then I’ve had way too many faulty ‘natural’ wines to automatically think ‘natural’ means better or quality wines.  I admit I wasn’t going into these tastings with a very open mind but as I was there and had paid to get in, I should at least give them a try. The first tasting I attended was the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean in Angers, France. The tasting is made of a group of mainly French winemakers with a smattering of other European countries included all of who are at the very least are organic and have to tend their vines in a biodynamic way. Some of the producers there called themselves natural wine makers, some didn’t.  Things are a bit murky when it comes to being certified biodynamic and some producers don’t want the certification because if they have to deviate one year from biodynamic principles they lose their certification and have to start the process all over again. I’ve always been drawn to producers who grow and make their wine biodynamically. When I taste these wines, I usually find...

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Nicolas Feuillatte, biggest co-op in Champagne

Jan 30, 15 Nicolas Feuillatte, biggest co-op in Champagne

Posted by in All, Champagne

Everyone likes to talk about the grand marquees of Champagne, your Vueves and your Taittingers but the big houses are not the only players in Champagne. Like other regions, Champagne also has co-ops and one of the biggest in France is Nicolas Feuillatte. It is the largest co-op in Champagne with over 5,000 growers supplying grapes for their champagnes. They produce 20 million bottles a year and export to over 80 countries world wide. The original co-op was created in the early 1970’s and was called The Centre Vinicole de la Champagne. However, it was not until Nicolas Feuillatte the man himself became involved with the co-op that the co-op’s name was officially changed in 1986 when Feuillatte agreed to let the co-op re-brand as Nicolas Feuillatte. Since then, they’ve become known for their modern style of champagnes. I tasted through their range with their cellar master, David Henault and was very pleasantly surprised at the quality and lightness of the champagnes. Although the champagnes all have around 10 grams per litre of sugar, David says that although wine journalists like bone dry champagnes, it’s his experience that tells him that consumers like champagne with a bit of sugar. His champagnes are not sweet by any stretch of the imagination, they are fresh and fruity and nicely balanced. Feuillatte are known for their non-vintage champagnes which account for more than 90% of their production. That said, however, they do produce prestige cuvees and the 2006 brut Chardonnay was David’s first vintage at Feuillatte. David doesn’t believe in fining his champagnes and this one was very fresh with brioche toasty notes and a nice long nutty finish. I found it to be very enjoyable and it is also now available at Waitrose in the UK, retailing for £34.99. At that price, this is a very good value champagne. As their non-vintage is the most widely produced and distributed, I had to try it. The verdict, it was very good, fruity with surprisingly soft bubbles and...

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What’s the difference between cava and champagne? I found out during a visit to Vilarnau Cavas

Dec 10, 14 What’s the difference between cava and champagne? I found out during a visit to Vilarnau Cavas

Posted by in All, Spain

The world of sparkling wine is many and varied and although I have largely confined myself to the pleasures of champagne, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone. So I was game to visit the cava producer Vilarnau whilst I am spending time here in Barcelona. Cava has recently overtaken both champagne and prosecco in the UK marketplace so they must be doing something right. And so, Vilarnau was my first stop in discovering the world of cava. The Vilarnau winery is situated in the heart of Penedes, right outside the town of Sant Sadurni, a short 40 minute train ride from central Barcelona. The winery sits on rolling hills with the mountains of Montserrat as a backdrop to the vines. The day I visited it was a blustery day so we had a clear view of the mountains. Vilarnau was bought by Gonzalez Byass in 1982 and with the considerable resources that GB has, they have completely modernized Vilarnau. The new winery was inaugurated in 2005 and with the help of automation and a robotic ‘helper’ by the name of Manuelito (more on him later) they are able to produce 1.2 million bottles of cava a year with only a staff of 13 and they are considered a medium sized producer. Pretty impressive. One of the two enologists of the winery, Eva Plazas Torné was my guide for the afternoon. Eva first started by telling me about the differences and similarities between cava and champagen. I was keen to know as cava is made in  the traditional methode. Firstly, there are 3 main varieties in cava – xarello, macabeo and parellada. However, they are also allowed to use subirat parent (an old variety that was used in the past and similar to malvasia) chardonnay and pinot noir and for the rosés, they can use indigenous grapes – trapat, monestrell and garnatxa as well as pinot noir. Like champagne,the wine goes through 2 fermentations, the first usually in tank, the second in the...

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A Piper-Heidsieck Rare Experience in the VIP room of Whisky Mist

Nov 19, 14 A Piper-Heidsieck Rare Experience in the VIP room of Whisky Mist

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Last week I made it back to London in time to attend the launch of the Piper-Heidsieck Rare Experience in the VIP room of the Mayfair nightclub, Whisky Mist. The champagne houses have started to concentrate their efforts on nightclubs but Piper-Heidsieck has to be one of the first to have a dedicated VIP room in a Central London nightclub. It’s called the Cuveé Room and is a separate VIP room in Whiskey Mist. Piper-Heidsieck commissioned the Giles Miller Studio to create a room based on the intricate design of their Rare Cuveé. The room’s centrepiece is an installation that runs the length of the ceiling and features “…hundreds of metallic components of varying depths, applied by hand to a ceiling structure…” the design was inspired by …”the original vine design produced by the Parisian jeweler Arthus-Bertrand.” The result is impressive but elegant, bling but not too much bling, if you know what I mean. The VIP room will feature The Rare 1998 in magnum and the Rare 2002. The Rare is their prestige cuvees and  is always a vintage champagne. I’ve only recently been introduced to the Rare collection but in my opinion, they are very well done champagnes. For those who might want a younger wine, the 2006 vintage is available along with the non-vingage Rosé  Sauvage. One of my favourite things about the bar was the special menu on display for the champagnes. A dedicated Rare electronic menu, it’s like an elongated iPad menu, very cool and it certainly does add to the Rare Experience. It’s not cheap to drink but vintage and prestige champagne’s never are and the VIP room at Whisky Mist is a beautiful spot for a bottle of Rare bubbly or two.   Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Launch of the Perrier Jouet 2005 Belle Epoque Rose Limited Edition at the Gherkin

Sep 22, 14 Launch of the Perrier Jouet 2005 Belle Epoque Rose Limited Edition at the Gherkin

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Earlier this month, Perrier Jouet was in town to launch their 2005 Belle Epoque Rose Limited Edition bottle by Vik Muniz. The launch was at one of my favourite venues in London, The Gherkin. No matter how many times I’ve been to the top, it never fails to impress me. There may be taller buildings in London but the tip top of the Gherkin is just really cool.  Perrier Jouet commissioned Brazilian visual artist Vik Muniz to create a unique label for the 2005 as this vintage is the most extravagent wine of the Belle Epoque collection, according to cellar master Herve Deschamps. According to the Perrier Jouet, the 2005 is… …A generous and voluptuous cuvée, the complexity of the 2005 vintage reflects a year of contrasts crowned by a spectacular Indian summer. Chardonnay, Perrier-Jouët’s nominated grape of choice, is predominant in the blend while the cuvée owes its richness and pure, salmon-pink hue to the Pinot Noir variety. After nine years ageing in the House’s cellars, the result is a perfect balance between the year’s character and Perrier-Jouët’s stylish, floral and diamond-cut house style…… The bottle has the traditional anemones on the front but the back label is where Muniz let his creativity come out to play. The artist created a long gold plated label running from top to bottom with the story of the 2005 etched on it. The surprise though is when you look thru the bottle from the front. There Muniz has etched in a hummingbird which appears to be feeding from the anemones. Beautiful!  After the unveiling of the 2005, we were treated to the Belle Epoque 2006 upstairs, where the space at the very top of the Gherkin had been transformed into a nightclub for the evening. A great night out, how could it not be with Perrier Jouet flowing freely. There were only 2000 bottles produced and only 200 are available in the UK. Look for it in Harvey Nichols or at Searcy’s Champagne Bar. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike...

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