Getting to know the region of Saint Chinian, France

Oct 29, 14 Getting to know the region of Saint Chinian, France

Posted by in All, Food and Wine, France

I was recently invited to St. Chinian by their growers association to not only learn a bit more about the wines but also to discover the wine tourism that they have going on there. If you thought it was all vineyards and wine tastings only, there’s a lot more to explore.Saint Chinian is in the Languedoc region of southern France and has plenty of activities for families, couples or groups of friends. We arrived on a warm sunny day in Capestang and immediately checked into Les Carrasses, an old chateau that has been renovated into a shabby chic hotel. The hotel is one of a new wave of tourism that is coming to the Languedoc. It’s set overlooking vineyards and offers not only excursions but also first rate food and wine dinners in it’s relaxing restaurant or on a terrace overlooking the chateau pool. You can stay in the renovated chateau or in the converted stables, winery or barn that now house villas that  have plenty of room for families or groups of friends. An added advantage of the villas is that they have their own kitchens and many of them also come with their own private swimming pool. Les Carrasses is a good base from which to enjoy the region. As well as vineyards vists, the region has loads of outdoor activities. St. Chinian has the Canal du Midi that runs through it which means you can float leisurely down the canal and alongside the vineyards, stopping along the way to visit one of the many small towns that dot the canalside. The canal towpaths are also great for bicycling or strolling, providing shade from the southern French sun. While we were there we had plenty of opportunities to sample the local wines. We stopped in the town of Roquebrun and had a lovely lunch at Le Petit Nice, a cute little restaurant serving traditional French cuisine. I had escargot and and some very garlicky frogs leg for lunch. All of this overlooking...

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Navarra – A Wine Region of Diversity

Feb 24, 14 Navarra – A Wine Region of Diversity

Posted by in All, Spain, Travel

When one thinks of Spanish wines, Rioja immediately springs to mind but that’s not the only game in town. I visited the region of Navarra which is just north of Rioja last Autumn and found a diverse and exciting wine region. A region that is producing great value for money wines. Navarra has been producing wines for centuries but after they were wiped out by phylloxera in the late 19th century, they never regained their former glory. Even today, there are only 12,000 hectares under vine whereas pre-phylloxera they had 50,000 vines. Nowadays, if people are familiar with Navarra’s wines, it is with their lovely and spicy rosados. Made from tempranillo and garnacha, the rosados can range from delicate with ripe red fruit flavours to robust and spicy. Unlike Rioja, Navarra doesn’t specialize in one particular grape. While some might see this as a negative, it does allow the growers of the region to produce a variety of wines. The reds of Navarra are made from widely grown varieties in Spain – tempranillo, graciano and mazuela as well as international varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and even merlot. We visited quite a few bodegas on our trip, here are some highlights, except for Bodegas Ochoa which I’ve written about separately here. Bodegas Inurrieta, located in the Ribera Alta, the winery has its vineyards at 380 to 400 metres and they produce fresh and exciting wines. The wines are made in a modern, approachable style and are of an excellent quality. Bodegas Senorio de Sarria is in the Valdizabe region and set amongst rolling hills. I first came across their wines a few years ago here in London and ever since I’ve kept a lookout for them. The winery is a blend of modern and new, with the old cement tanks as part of the decor. There is a beautiful small chapel next to the winery which was built exclusively for the family and has a wonderful series of mosaics covering its walls. I liked...

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San Diego Cellars – a downtown urban winery

Jan 11, 14 San Diego Cellars – a downtown urban winery

Posted by in All, California, Travel

I spent the majority of my holiday break in San Diego, Ca., which was nice and sunny, of course. But besides the sun and sea, San Diego also has their very own urban winery. The concept of urban wineries more or less started in California but has since spread to many other parts of the States – Washington and Oregon in particular having large urban winery communities in their major cities. We here in London also have our own urban winery, London Cru. Anyway, I spotted San Diego Cellars as we were driving down the street and decided to stop in for a quick look around. Their winery is quite rustic, shall we say,  it mostly consists of barrels and plastic tanks in the back lot of their small bar/tasting room with a small crusher/destemmer hidden under a tarp. I was a bit surprised to see all the barrels out in the open but then I remembered, it never rains in Southern California and winters are mild. What they lack in state of the equipment, they certainly make up for with laid back California charm. The wine maker is Todd Hipper (what a name!) and he was busy working away in the back lot when we arrived. The inspiration to have an urban winery in Downtown San Diego was similar to us in that San Diego has a thriving craft beer scene and they thought why couldn’t they make great wine as well. They bring in their grapes from various wine regions in California and they also make all their wines on the premises. They currently make three Syrahs, a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Pinot Noir, an Old Vine Zinfandel, a Viognier, and a Viognier/Chardonnay Blend, all on tap. The wines were very much in the California style but well made and are available to take away in their 1000ml ‘Cruzer’ refillable bottles. Apparently this is their version of a ‘Growler’ which is a 2 liter refillable glass jug that American craft breweries...

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A visit to Domaine Jean Francois Rapet ets Fils, Bourgogne

Jun 19, 13 A visit to Domaine Jean Francois Rapet ets Fils, Bourgogne

Posted by in France, Travel

I recently went to Bourgogne for the first time and have fallen in love with the place. I’ve always liked the wines but once you go there it does cast a spell on you. I suppose I was lucky that the weather was warm and sunny, which always helps! I was visiting on a press trip with the EU funded initative Discover the Origin and I can say I certainly did do a lot of discovery while I was there. We stayed in the northern part of Burgundy, being based in the pretty little town of Beaune. A medieval town that was founded centuries ago, it is the home of the Hospice de Beune and the centre of town is full of well preserved buildings. Wandering around the ancient buildings and the cute little town square, it was hard to drag myself away from the sidewalk cafes and get out to the vineyards but go we did. We visited quite a few domains while we were there but one of the first was Domaine Jean-Francois Rapet. This domaine has been in the same family since the 1870’s and the current generation of Rapet’s are carrying on the family traditions. It’s not a large domaine but still family owned and run. We visited their main house in St. Romain. They have vineyards in St. Romain, Volnay, Pommard, Auxrey-Duresses, Ladoix Blanc and Meursault. Rapet still use the old cellars underneath the family home and have a small winery which they are busy expanding at the moment. We had a small tasting after our short tour of the cellars. One of the more interesting wines was the Coteaux Bourgogne which was introduced in 2011. They use grapes from Beaujolais to round out their blend. Their rouge Coteaux Bourgogne 2011 is made in stainless tanks and doesn’t see any oak at all. They result is a cheerful, fruity wine meant to be drunk young. It had a savoury note to it but was still very fresh. They’ve only produced...

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Christmas dinner SOS, affordable wines for about a tenner – video

I know I’m not really known for my budget friendly wines, what with all that Krug I’ve been guzzling lately, but I do keep up with what’s going on in the supermarkets and when asked me to do a video with my recommendations for value for money wines this holiday season, it wasn’t too difficult for me to pick out some favourites from the supermarkets. So, without further ado, here are my picks for budget holiday drinks. I tried to stay under 10 quid and think I did a pretty good job 😉 Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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