Chateau Musar – red and white wines of Lebanon

Nov 06, 11 Chateau Musar – red and white wines of Lebanon

Posted by in Lebanon

Imagine a winemaker who’s wine has to age for a minimum of 7 years before it’s released to the public. Madness you might think in this day and age where to hold even a year’s vintage  would be considered economic suicide – unless of course, one was a Port or Champagne producer. That is however, exactly what Chateau Musar does. They age all of their wines both red and white for a minimum of 7 years and sometimes even longer. If they could, they’d hold them even longer but as Ralph Hochar, son of one of the owners explained during a recent winetasting in London, they just don’t have the room in the cellar to hold anymore. The UK is the biggest market for Chateau Musar because it was where they first started exporting their wines back in the 1970’s. They started by importing their wines to the UK and are still their own importers, which is one reason why their wines are very competitively priced. They are unique in the wine business as they have no public relations machinery, having developed their market through a grassroots campaign which meant plenty of wine dinners, tastings and lots of one to one schmoozing. Chateau Musar was founded in the Bakaa Valley, Lebanon in 1930 by Gaston Hochar and has always been a family run business. Ralph is part of the current generation although his Bordeaux trained uncle Serge is head of the house and head winemaker. Serge has been the winemaker since 1959 and over the past 50 years he has trialed various vineyard and winemaking aspects but has always remained true to the wine, striving to make the best wines from the land and remaining true to his ‘natural’ winemaking philosophy. I found myself at the recently renovated Grosvenor Hotel in Victoria for the tasting. On show, we were able to try various vintages from the most recent 2003 Ch. Musar red back to the 1991 Chateau Musar white. Chateau Musar produce Bordeaux like...

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Chene Bleu, wines from Vaucluse

Sep 01, 11 Chene Bleu, wines from Vaucluse

Posted by in France

The old saw goes, “How do you make a small fortune? Start with a big one and buy a vineyard.” Which is basically what Nicole Rolet and her husband, Xavier did in the late 90’s when they bought a derelict vineyard along the southern border of Gigondas in the region of Vaucluse in Provence. After having the land assessed by soil experts Claude and Lydia Bourguignon and being told they had soil with incredible potential to grow excellent vines, Xavier went back to work in the City and Nicole set to studying wine. Nicole and Xavier settled on the name Chene Bleu because of an ancient “blue” oak tree that dominates the vineyard and symbolizes to them, the “…beauty and uniqueness of the vineyard.”  Joined by Xavier’s sister Benedicte Galluci, a viticulturist and her husband, Jean-Louis, winemaker, they are now producing small quantities of biodynamic, hand picked, hand made wine. No expense is spared in the production of the wine and they follow biodynamic principles down to bottling on “flower days” or “fruit days” to ensure the wine shows at it’s best. The soil that was so praised by the experts is indeed excellent for producing wines with a streak of minerality, the schist and clay soils showing off in the wines. They grow syrah, grenache, viognier, roussane and marsanne and use bespoke wine making techniques which are adapted to each particular parcel of their vines.Using those bespoke techniques gives them the opportunity to produce their wines to their exact specifications but it also leaves them producing only Vin de Pays wine instead of AOC wines as they often go out of the AOC guidelines in order to produce the wines to their exact specifications. I, for one, am not that bothered if a wine is a VdP or  AOC as long as it’s well made and I enjoy drinking it. Nicole brought the entire range to The Boundary Restaurant in Shoreditch to taste and here are my brief notes on each: 2009 Rose...

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Paris comes to London,winetasting at The Dorchester with Le Meurice

Jul 13, 11 Paris comes to London,winetasting at The Dorchester with Le Meurice

Posted by in Hotels and Spas

Walking into The Dorchester, I was on time for once. No, I was early! And why was I early? Well, when Le Meurice of Paris says don’t be late on the invitation, one does not want to risk being left out in the cold. Le Meurice is part of the luxury hotel group, The Dorchester Collection and the Head Sommelier of Le Meurice was in London to give us a taste of their monthly wine tastings, held on the first Tuesday of each month. This being Le Meurice, it’s not any old winetasting but a tasting led by Estelle Touzet, the aforementioned Head Sommelier paired with canapes created in conjunction with the hotels Executive Chef, 3 Michelin star rated, Yannick Alleno. They call it Les Nocturnes du 228 because the hotel is located at 228 rue de Rivoli and the event is held in the evening, obviously. Estelle was extremely friendly and easygoing, full of information about all of the wines we tried as well as the food paired with it. Originally from the Loire Valley, Estelle started out in the kitchen before switching over to be a sommelier. She told us that she and Yannick work closely together so that each pairing is a seamless mouthful. Where does the wine end and the food begin, is the question. As Estelle is French and the hotel is in Paris, I thought all the wines would be French but I was wrong. Estelle is a young, adventurous sommelier and she likes to push the boundaries of the wine world. She has not only an extensive list of French and European wines on her list but also goes out to find new and exciting wines from Australia, America and New Zealand amongst others. We blind tasted four wines, 2 whites and 2 reds, along with 4 matching canapes. Estelle would give us hints and try to draw us out but even us seasoned wine pros were hesitant to begin shouting out names and places but after...

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Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell (and soon to be in Soho)

I’ve been to the Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell now a couple of times, once for dinner and once for lunch and both times I can say that I enjoyed not only the meals but also the wineslists. I know I’m a bit of  a wine geek (ok, a lot of a wine geek) but I do love to look at winelists whenever I visit a new place and see if there are any surprises to be found. One thing that Bistro du Vin, actually all of the Hotel du Vins (which BdV is part of) do is always have something interesting on the list. Bistro du Vin is a spin off of the Hotel du Vin chain that was founded in 1994 Gerard Basset, MW, MS and recent OBE. He sold it off in 2004 but they have continued on in their philosophy of focusing on wine and affordable luxury. I had lunch at the first Bistro du Vin in Clerkenwell earlier this week and love the ambiance of the joint. Dark wood floors, a line of banquets decorated with photos of the Smithfields market and surrounding area and a wraparound bar around the kitchen where you can watch the chefs whip up your meal or grill your steak on the Josper grill.  A special feature of the place is the line of enomatic machines that line one wall as you walk in from the bar. They have about 20 wines by the glass in there and are changed frequently so guests have the chance to try a whole range of wines. From Ch. Palmer 98 to 0’6Suckfizzle Semillion/s.blanc to a Portuguese red, there is something for everyone. The restaurant is split in two with one side having a bar/lounge area where you can have a cocktail or two before sitting down. I asked the sommelier, Pierre Pattieu to pick my wines for me, just to see if he was up for the job. Pierre comes from the Hotel du Vin in Cambridge and...

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Some finds from the 2011 London International Wine Fair

May 25, 11 Some finds from the 2011 London International Wine Fair

Posted by in England, London

Last week was the London International Wine Fair which meant that there were producers from all parts of the world in town to show off their wines as well as numerous launches of new lines and blends to show off to the trade. To say there was a variety of wine on show would be an understatement. White wine, red wine, even one of my favourites, sherry had a stand or two for tastings. Every night after the fair there was an event or 3 going on. The first night, I headed over to Camino in Canary Wharf to check out the launch of Tio Pepe’s Fino Rama sherry. A delicate,dry sherry that is only good for 3 months! It’s the only wine I know of that has a shelf life. The reason it has a shelf life is because the sherry is unfined, unfiltered and drawn from the middle of the cask. The only thing they do to it before bottling is allow it to settle before going into the bottle. This was their second offering of the Fino En Rama and this year’s vintage was much clearer then last year’s. It was a very cold Spring and the wine had two weeks to settle  because it was 2 weeks before they could bottle due to the Easter holidays. A rather delicate wine with yeatsy, bready notes on the nose, citrus and nutty flavours with a dry finish, drinking that with almonds was almost impossible to put down! I was in Croatia recently and so had to stop by the Croatian wine stand at the LIWF. I had to chance to speak with Mladan Rozanic about his red wines as well as try a couple. Besides the 2007 SuperIstrian which I had tried in Croatia, I also sampled his 2007 100% cabernet sauvignon and 2007 100% teran ( a native grape of Istria), both were monsters of rich dark fruit, the cab having  pronounced mineral notes on the nose. The teran was a...

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