Krug Celebration – a tasting, Clos d’Ambonnay & Clos du Mesnil

May 03, 13 Krug Celebration – a tasting, Clos d’Ambonnay & Clos du Mesnil

Posted by in Champagne

Despite all that Krug the night before, I didn’t have even a headache the next day. I’m not sure if that is is a good or bad thing, the ability to drink copious amounts of Krug and feel fine the next day but maybe I’m just lucky. We started bright and early with a short tour of the cellars and the winery. Krug uses oak barrels for all its fermenting and aging. However, as Eric pointed out, the barrels are all old barrels, most averaging about 20 years of age, the oldest dating back to 1964. An interesting side note, all champagne houses historically used oak barrels until the 1960’s when the change was made, seemly en masse, to stainless steel or concrete. After the tour, we commenced a tutored tasting of the 2012 vintage base wines. Chef de Cave Eric Lebel and his team of winemakers walked us through the 2012 vintage. Krug had just finished blending their 2012 Grande Cuvee and it was fascinating to get to try the base wines or vin clair as they are called in French. The base wines are still wines that are blended before going through the second fermentation. Kurg uses chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier in their Grande Cuvee. 2012 was a difficult year, having late frost, mildew and uneven flowering but luckily a warm and sunny August and September saved the vintage and although it was small, it has proven to be a great year. If you’ve never tried base wines, let me tell you now, it’s not exactly a pleasurable experience – base wines are naturally very acidic with not a lot of body, they’re not meant to be drunk now but only after going through the second fermentation and after many years in the cellar. Trying the base wines certainly does give you an appreciation for the imagination, artistry and hard work that goes into blending the wines that eventually become champagne. Krug have 3 main criteria when they are choosing...

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Chateau Tanunda, a busy ER at harvest time

Mar 04, 13 Chateau Tanunda, a busy ER at harvest time

Posted by in Australia, Travel

I’ve never actually visited a winery while they’re in the middle of harvest so it was fun and exciting to be there. Dodging tractors, forklifts, hose pipes, wet floors and empty barrels while de-stemming, crushing and fermenting is going on literally right under your nose makes it a whole lot more exciting then the usual “…and here is where we keep the barrels…” Although I still did spy roomfuls of barrels. *Geek Alert* I never get tired of the sight and smell of resting barrels. My guide was the effervescent senior winemaker of Ch. Tanunda, Stewie Bourne. A bundle of energy who came bouncing into the tasting room and immediately offered to make us all espressos, (although I don’t think he needed another one) before we visited the vats. Stewie compared the winery to a hospital emergency room and he and his staff are the ER staff. Their job is to take the car crash victim (the ripe grapes) from the vineyard and get them in the vats (IC) as soon as possible, hopefully they make it through IC and then off to the wards (tanks) where they can rest up before being discharged to the general public. An funny but apt metaphor for harvest. The winery was originally founded in the 1890’s and the ceiling of the huge tasting room is still fitted with the original wooden beams that came over as ballast with Australian settlers. At Chateau Tanunda they make wine in the traditional way, with open vat fermentation and minimal intervention. When the grapes come in,they only de-stem them but don’t crush them at first so that the result is lifted fruit and soft tannins. They have hydraulic presses which are programmed to exert just the right amount of pressure during press, not too much, not too little. The aim is to produce wines that are authentic but not aggressive. While we were there, Stewie literally plunged into the open vats and came out with a glass full of fermenting grape...

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Artisans of Barossa – John Duval Wines snapshot

Mar 02, 13 Artisans of Barossa – John Duval Wines snapshot

Posted by in Australia, Travel

On my flying trip to the Barossa, I stopped into visit the folks at Artisans of Barossa on my first afternoon. Artisans of Barossa is a collection of 7 Barossa wine makers who have banded together to showcase their different wine styles as well as the diversity of the terroir of the region. The 7 producers are: John Duval Wines, Hobbs of Barossa, Massena, Schwarz Wine Co. , Sons of Eden, Spinifex, and Teusner. They have a tasting room set amidst the vines which is set on a small hill and boasts lovely views of the area. Chef Mark McNamara has created a tempting selection of wine friendly food to have after you’ve finished tasting. Every weekend, one or two of the winemakers are on hand to pour their wines and chat with visitors. The day I visited, John Duval had taken some time out away from the harvest to man the tasting room. John was formerly the chief winemaker of Penfold’s for almost 30 years before finally setting up his own winery. He only makes 4 wines because he wants to put all his energy into making the best wine possible. John poured his 2012 Plexus white, a blend of marsanne, roussane, and viognier, first. John deliberately added only 10% viognier because he wanted the viognier to be evident on the palate but not on the nose and it is a rather subtle wine with delicate aromas emanating from the glass. The viognier does contribute a textured but not oily feel to the wine with honeysuckle, white fruits and a clean citrus finish on the palate. The Barossa has some of, if not the oldest vines in the world in the form of shiraz and the next wine, the 2011 Plexus  comes from vines that were planted in the 1850’s. It’s a blend of shiraz, grenache and mataro. Smooth and rounded tannins, spicy and savoury but still showing bright red fruits on the palate. An elegant wine with minerality and balanced acidity, delicious but...

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Google Hangout with Nikki Lohitnavy, head winemaker at Granmonte Vineyard

Jan 02, 13 Google Hangout with Nikki Lohitnavy, head winemaker at Granmonte Vineyard

Posted by in Travel, Videos

I’m in Thailand at the moment, mostly on holiday but before I hit the islands, I stopped in northeastern Thailand to visit the vineyards of Gran Monte. Many of you may be scratching your heads – wine? made from grapes? in Thailand? Well, yes, and what Nikki Lohitnavy and her father, Visooth Lohitnavy have achieved in less than 15 years is pretty amazing. I did a Google Hangout with Nikki (+nikki lohitnavy) while we were relaxing at the Four Seasons in Koh Samui. If you’ve ever wondered about Thai wine (or didn’t even know it existed!), you’ll find Nikki giving a primer on how they got started and the future of their wines. Having tried them, I think it’s a very promising future! Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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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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