Discovering Pinot Noir Beyond Burgundy

petit toque 11Burgundy may be the home of great Pinot Noir but if you know where to look you can pick up some amazing discoveries that don’t command a hefty price tag. In France, Pinot Noir is also found in the Haute Vallée de L’Aude, where it produces wines of great quality.

Le Petit Toque smallThe Haute Vallée de L’Aude follows the path of the river Aude through Cathar country in the far south west of France. Here the mountains reach up to 2000ft above sea level as they rise to form the Pyrenees. At this altitude Burgundy’s signature red grape, Pinot Noir, has found a second home. This is a grape that likes cool climates and light soils. Flourishing amidst this elevated terroir; warmed by the Mediterranean sun, tempered by the coolness of the mountains and swept by winds bearing down from the Atlantic Ocean, the Pinot Noir grown here produces pure and elegant wines.

A lovely example is Le Petit Toque. Made by the pioneering local cooperative, Le Petit Toque (the Little Crack) is named in honour of the region’s charity auction, Toques et Clochers (Cracks and Steeples). The auction raises money to repair the 42 bell towers belonging to the of the appellation. The aim is to preserve local historical heritage and architecture. Every year a village is selected to host the festival which attracts almost 30,000 people to the village streets and celebrates the renovation of its church. It is also a major event in the wine world – it is the second largest wine auction in France after Burgundy’s Hospices de Beaune and has been organised by the cooperative since 1990.

petit toque 22Le Petit Toque is an elegant, soft and supple Pinot Noir. It’s very well structured, deep and fragrant with fine, layered flavours of blackcurrant, ripe black cherry and raspberry; highlighted by notes of liquorice, violets, woody brambles and subtle barnyard earthiness.

A superb food wine, Le Petit Toque is 12% abv and pairs beautifully with duck, beef, lamb, pork, bacon, pigeon, venison, guinea fowl and poultry. You can serve it slightly chilled as is the custom in the north of France. It also marries well with grilled salmon, tuna and mackerel, dishes with rich sauces, mushrooms and hard cheese.

About Pinot Noirpinot

Pinot Noir is the noble grape that makes the great wines of Burgundy and evokes passion in those who fall in love with it. It’s also one of the most studied grapes in the world. In 2007 it became the first fruit crop to have its genome (genetic map) sequenced, showing the handiwork of master wine growers going back to the Stone Age. Pinot Noir’s origins are so ancient it’s believed that it’s only one generation away from the wild grape and it’s possible that it originated in Gaul where wild vines could have been domesticated.

toqueSome point to the Roman writer Columella who described a grape in Burgundy in the 1st century growing in Burgundy so similar that they believe it must be Pinot Noir itself. Potentially Pinot Noir could be the oldest cultivated grape. It’s certainly the patriarch of the Pinot family and is the ancestor of many traditional French grape varieties thanks to its ‘marriage’ with the ancient grape Gouais Blanc (some of these include Chardonnay, the Beaujolais grape Gamay, Aligoté and the Muscadet grape Melon de Bourgogne).

toques 2By 1375 Pinot Noir had acquired it’s name, which is taken from the French for ‘pine’ and ‘black,’ as the grapes grow in tight clusters on the vine resembling pine cones. It was jealously protected in Burgundy in 1395 by the Duke, Philippe the Bold, who insisted that the production of Gamay be outlawed so as to favour the better wines made by Pinot Noir. The grape needed protecting; it can be difficult to grow as it is very thin skinned and the tightly packed grapes make it susceptible to rot. However the wines it produces are well worth it – they have notoriously been described as ‘sex in a glass’.

Upper ValleyAbout Haute Vallée de L’Aude Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is very sensitive to its environment and can reflect subtle differences in terroir. Planted somewhere too hot the grape will ripen too fast losing all the haunting nuances of flavour it is famous for. Despite the fact that it’s a tricky grape to nurture in the vineyard it instills an almost obsessive quest for perfection in those who cultivate it. The winemakers of the Haute Vallée de L’Aude are no exception.

toques 3Home to the headwaters of the river the Haute Vallée de L’Aude is criss-crossed by narrow and deep gorges that feed streams down the mountain sides. The area is famous for its unspoilt beauty and wild flowers, especially its orchids (it has over 80 different species). Pinot Noir thrives here as at this altitude it’s cool and airy – the Aude is one of the windiest regions in France.

petitAlthough snow falls here in the winter and the rainfall can be high, the proximity to the warm Mediterranean means that the Pinot Noir grapes ripen fully but slowly. Harvest takes place here a full month later than that on the plain below. Wines made on this terroir are fresh and vibrant. They may be hard to find but once discovered they are a true revelation as to what Haute Vallée de L’Aude is capable of.

Le Petit Toque Pinot Noir 2013 is available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered at £7.99 a bottle.

 

 

Posted in Chateaux Profiles, Grapes, Haute Vallée de L'Aude | 4 Comments

Discover French Malbec, The Black Wine of Cahors

cahorsI am constantly amazed at the number of customers who attend the wine and food festivals that I take the Bordeaux-Undiscovered wines to. It is so pleasing to see you all and one question I have constantly been asked is, ‘do I have a good Malbec?’ Spurred on by the thought of a hunt I started searching for one. In recent years most people have fallen in love with Malbec via Argentinian wines. Malbec was introduced in the 19th century and its true home is actually in France . . . it originated around Quercy in Cahors. So, armed with this knowledge I set off to discover a good French Malbec that truly represented this grapes’ heritage and history.

cahorsFinally I came across Gouleyant Malbec made by French Malbec specialist Georges Vigouroux. The Vigouroux family helped revitalize the Cahors appellation in the early 1970s and were pioneers in saving the precious Cahors Malbec from devasatation in the late 19th century. These wines were once considered to be some of the finest in the world and were dubbed ‘the black wines of Cahors’ by the English in the Middle Ages. There are records of Cahors wines being sold in London in the 13th century and nowadays the only problem with these wines is their rarity.

Gouleyant Malbec Cahors SMALLGouleyant comes from the historic vineyards belonging to the medieval Chateau de Haute Serre in the heart of the Cahors. In the 1880s the wines from this estate sat on the same tables as those of the greatest chateaux in Bordeaux and Burgundy. The Vigouroux family saved these historic vineyards and restored the estate to its former glories. The vintages they produce are multi award winning and we are thrilled to have discovered this treasure trove of astonishing wines.

The inky black wines of Cahors are more structured and fuller bodied than their Argentinean Malbec counterparts and Gouleyant is no exception. It is a deliciously deep and dark wine with supple and expressive with soft, elegant tannins. Gouleyant has flavours of blackcurrant, elderberry, plump raisin and black cherry with smoky notes of violets, cocoa and liquorice.grapes malbec

Having such good tannic structure Gouleyant is ideal with steaks, roast duck, goose, beef and lamb. It also pairs wonderfully with slow cooked or braised meats, hearty casseroles, smoky Hungarian goulash, tagines, rich beef curries, osso buco and aged hard cheeses.

Beautifully balanced with great structure, I believe Gouleyant Malbec is a winner. I am convinced you will think so too. It’s exceptional quality and value speak for themselves.

cahors mapAbout French Malbec
Malbec’s parents are Prunelard and Mageleine Noire des Charentes. Prunelard is an almost extinct Gaillac variety which thankfully has been revived by wine makers committed to using Gaillac’s long lost varietals. Magdeleine Noire des Charentes is very rare indeed and is the mother of both Malbec and Merlot. The story goes that it was discovered in 1992 growing in a vineyard in Brittany that was abandoned more than 200 years ago.

Chateau de Haute Serre

Chateau de Haute Serre

At one point Malbec was grown in 30 different departments of France, a legacy that is still present in the abundance of local synonyms for the variety. It is known as Malbec in Bordeaux, Pressac in Libourne, Auxerrois in Quercy, Bouchal in the South West and Cot in Cahors. Local lore has it that it became known as Malbec as a Hungarian peasant by the name of Malbeck took the grape to the Medoc in Bordeaux in the early 18th century and it acquired his name.

vigourouxMalbec is still grown in Bordeaux in small quantities; the First growth Chateau Cheval Blanc uses a tiny amount of Malbec in its blend as do Chateaux L’Enclos and Gruaud Larose. However if you travel back in time to 1855 when the chateaux were being classified all the Grand Crus – they all had Malbec in their vineyards. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, documents show that Malbec was probably the most planted grape in Bordeaux when it is thought that approximately 60% of Bordeaux’s vineyards were planted with Malbec vines. Hugh Johnson mentions in his book, The Story of Wine, that First Growth Château Lafite’s vineyards were dominated by Malbec and that another First Growth, Château Latour, was mostly Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chateau de Haute Serre

Chateau de Haute Serre

The reasons Malbec flourished in Cahors and declined in Bordeaux are simple: it was due to disease and weather disasters. The phylloxera epidemic in the late 19th century destroyed most of the vineyards in Europe. Phylloxera is a sort of aphid and was introduced from the USA by accident as botantists unknowingly brought home infected vines from America to Europe. A cure was found by grafting the vines on to resistant rootstock but many wine makers planted different grape varieties that were either more easy and quick to grow than their traditional vines or more readily available. In 1956 severe frost devastated many vines (this was an appalling year for freezing temperatures and snowfall across the globe) and most of the Malbec in Bordeaux was wiped out. The deep freeze hit Cahors too, but unlike Bordeaux, wine makers here saved their Malbec by replanting the crop. Malbec is a thin-skinned grape and was easier to grow in its home of Cahors as it is more suited to its climate than that of Bordeaux.

Bertrand Vigouroux

Bertrand Vigouroux

About Cahors Malbec
Cahors is the ancestral home of Malbec and it was from Cahors that Argentina gained its first Malbec vines in 1852. Cahors is a beautiful medieval city almost entirely surrounded by water. The town was established by the Romans on a wide meander of the River Lot near a spring revered by the Gauls. It lies in the old province of Quercy which is divided between the departements of the Lot and Tarn et Garonne today and is about 100 miles east of Bordeaux. The Cahors vineyards were amongst the first planted in France by the Roman Emperors, more than two thousand years ago.

In the 14th century Pope John XXII, a Cahors man born and bred, did much to promote the black wines from the region and they were exported across Europe. Wines from this area accounted for 50% of all exports from the port of Bordeaux in 1310. Cahors and Bordeaux actually became rivals and the black wines of Cahors were often added to those of Bordeaux to enhance their vintages. The Bordelaise imposed restrictions on the entry of wines from outside Bordeaux to their port which meant that no Cahors wine could enter the port before Christmas. However that didn’t stop the reputation of the black wines spreading. By the 1600s the wines were well known at the Russian Court . . . the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, insisted that the tannic structure of Cahors wines cured his ulcer! There is even a grape named after Cahors in the Crimea.cahors vines

The medieval vineyards of Cahors stretch over limestone terraces along the valley of the Lot and over the great limestone plateau of the Causse. The climate is oceanic but is influenced by the Mediterranean. Cahors has lower rainfall than Bordeaux. In autumn, the southerly wind blows hot, dry air from the south that helps to ripen the grapes.

Gouleyant Malbec, Cahors 2012 is available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered at £9.99 a bottle.

Enjoy!

Posted in Cahors, Chateaux Profiles, Grapes | Leave a comment

A Rare Wine Made From A Rare Grape: Gouleyant Loin de l’Oeil Sauvignon

gaillacWine lovers are often keen to discover wines made from rare or long forgotten grapes and are intrigued by their mystery and captivating flavours. Some of the most popular blogs I have written cover these unusual wines and I am really pleased to have discovered an absolute gem which I have brought back to the UK. My search took me inland from Bordeaux east to one of the oldest wine producing regions in France: Gaillac.

mapThe first vines were planted in Gaillac by the Romans long before the birth of Christ. This is one of the earliest centres of wine making in ancient Gaul and the Romans shipped their wines along the River Tarn to Bordeaux and from there on to northern Europe and England. After Rome fell the wines of Gaillac continued to be developed by the Benedictine monks and they have quite a pedigree – King Henry III and Louis XIV both enjoyed Gaillac wines. These wines were not only enjoyed by the French Kings but also by our very own King Henry VIII.

gaillac townIn 1520, King Henry VIII met the King of France, François I, near Calais on the Field of the Cloth of Gold. King François gave him 50 barrels of Gaillac wine as a gift and Henry VIII loved it. As you can imagine this ancient history of wine making has left quite a heritage in Gaillac and there are some very rare grapes grown here that go into making some fabulous wines.

Gouleyant Gaillac White SMALLGouleyant Loin de l’Oeil Sauvignon is one of these little treasures. Loin de l’Oeil is one of the rare grapes of Gaillac, it’s grown nowhere else, and very little is known about its history. Gaillac was famous for its wines long before Bordeaux and it’s thought that Loin d’Oeil was used in Gaillac whites popular in England from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. It’s possible that this traditional grape could be a relic or descendant from Greco-Roman ones once planted there. This grape is a source of pride for the region and is practically unheard of outside France so I am delighted to have tracked down this gorgeous wine.

gaillac grapeLoin de l’Oeil means ‘far from the eye’ (as the grape bunches hang on a long stem far from the branch) and it’s known for its wonderful fragrance. An old local tale says that says that the bunches are far from the eye of the harvester, and some of them get left behind – hence its name. Whichever tale is true this grape makes a lovely wine. If you enjoy Viognier, Gouleyant has a similar style; fuller bodied, lush in character, but with a crisp, refreshing edge due to the Sauvignon Blanc in the blend.

The blend in this rare and extraordinarily delicious Gaillac dry white is 80% Loin de l’Oeil and 20% Sauvignon. It’s very fragrant with lovely depth. It has floral aromas of orange blossom and rose water with layered flavours of baked apple, peach and apricot finished with lemon zest and hints of almond.gaillac river

Gouleyant is a wine to relax with and savour but it pairs beautifully with food. It’s natural pairing is with salt and fresh water fish, bouillabaise, spicy prawns, pasta puttanesca and paella. However it’s also delicious with chicken dishes, pheasant, turkey, warm salads and cheese.

It is a lovely marriage between the two grapes and this original and intriguing blend of Loin de l’Oeil and Sauvignon Blanc is made by Georges Vigouroux and his son Bertrand-Gabriel, who are specialists in wines from south west France. Their award winning wines come from estates dating back to the Medieval times which lie on the limestone foothills of the Massif Central. The climate here is warm and the slopes are swept by the hot Mediterranean wind known as the Autan.

There are dozens of pigeonniers (pigpigeoneon houses) dotting the vineyards as up until the 19th century the only fertilizer allowed on the vines was pigeon droppings. Gaillac winemakers have always been strict when it came to maintaining their wines quality and with the backing of the local lords, an early form of quality control was imposed: no wine from elsewhere could be imported into Gaillac so that it would not be adulterated.

Nowadays wines from Gaillac are starting to impress the wine critics once more. The only problem that wine lovers face is that the wines are difficult to get hold of outside France . . . until now! The 2013 vintage is available at £9.49 from Bordeaux-Undiscovered.

Enjoy!

Posted in Chateaux Profiles | Tagged | 4 Comments

Come and See Us at Chatsworth House at the Food and Drink Fair

chatsworth 3Nick will be at Chatsworth House at the Food and Drink Fair Thursday 5th – Sunday 8th June so please come along and join him to taste some great wines. Bordeaux-Undiscovered will have a super selection of our range and we’d love to see you! You can find us at Stall 1.

Over the 4 days there will be a mouth watering selection of the best food and drink on offer in the region. There are more than 80 stalls on the hill below the Stables featuring gourmet delights, seasonal specialities and dining accessories, and there will be food (and wine!) to enjoy on the day as well as to take home.chatsworth 2

Chatsworth is the stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in Bakewell, Derbyshire. It’s set in beautiful gardens and parkland and is a stunning location.

The Food and Drink Fair is open between 10:00am – 5:00pm. You can find more information on how to get there and on the attractions at their website: http://www.chatsworth.org/whats-on/events/food-and-drink-fair

We hope to see you there!

Posted in Shows and Events | Leave a comment

Something Special for the London Wine Fair: Chateau La Fleur Morange

London Wine Fair LogoThe London Wine Fair 2014 opens its doors to the wine trade at Olympia from 2nd – 4th June and this year I am taking something special to show to the visitors. The London Wine Fair is the UK’s leading trade event and is essentially Britain’s festival of wine. This year it forms part of the inaugural London Wine Week, the first consumer wine festival of its type that will launch in the nation’s capital on 2nd June. As you can imagine with more than 10,000 trade visitors from 79 countries the wines I intend to exhibit need to be outstanding. They will need to impress all in the trade, from retailers to restaurateurs, from merchants to Masters of Wine.

Exhibition Board-2There is one wine that has has meteoric success which few in the trade have had chance to taste. It has received high acclaim from wine critics the world over, including Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker and it’s made in a tiny winery at Saint Pey d’Armens, in Saint Emilion, by Jean-François Julien and his wife Véronique, assisted by the renowned oenologist Claude Gros. It’s name is Chateau la Fleur Morange.

This wine has a story behind it that I have told many times but for those of you who haven’t heard it let me tell you a little about its birth. This is not a wine made at a great chateau with a history as long as your arm and a bank balance to match. This is a wine made by a modest and honest man who works very hard to make a good wine; a wine he, his wife and little daughter can be proud of.

lfm jfIn 1999 Jean-François, a skilled cabinet maker, and his wife, Véronique (who was born into the wine making family at Chateau du Basque) bought a few acres of vines from Chateau Gerbaud in Saint Pey d’Armens. Their intention from the very first was to create a wine that was at the top its game. Jean-François had taught himself the craft by reading the legendary French oenologist Emile Peynaud and realised that one of their tiny plots of vines – some of which are 100 years old – was capable of something great.

His hunch was right. The soil through which the 100 year old vines push their roots is unique.

lfm jf 4The vineyard lies on the foot of the hill of Saint Etienne de Lisse where the soil once lay under an ancient ocean. Fossilised oyster shells are embedded in the limestone here and the soil at La Fleur Morange is a combination of this chalky limestone and sandy clay over an iron oxide subsoil known as ‘crasse de fer’. This is the only complex mixture known to exist in Saint Emilion.

Jean-François is convinced that this unique soil contributes to the finesse of the tannins. What’s more the iron gives a slight taste of salt which makes your mouth water and with this in mind the Julien’s worked hard to exploit and develop the aromatic complexity and minerality of their wine. The end result is a sensual, voluptuous wine that expresses flavours of truffles and chocolate as it ages.

Exhibition Board-1The soil is only part of the story. Skill, sheer hard work and dedication have a lot to do with it as well. Nothing was spared when it came to the wine making process. Jean-François built the chai with unique temperature controlled vats that eliminate cold spots. The barrels are installed on a balcony high above the ground where malolactic fermentation can take place naturally.

The Juliens halfm sve every right to be proud; La Fleur Morange has become the flagship of the little village of Saint Pey d’Armens and the pride of its inhabitants, including the Mayor. Saint Pey d’Armens has its own Grand Cru Classé at last – La Fleur Morange was dramatically welcomed into the ranks of the Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé in 2012.

Production is limited due to the small size of the 4 acre vineyard but I have a real treat in store at the London Wine Fair. I am taking a vertical flight of vintages from 2003 through to 2011 of La Fleur Morange and of 2007 to 2011 of their Second Wine, Mathilde (named after Jean-François and Véronique’s little daughter) for the trade to taste.

Exhibition Board-4Sadly this show is not open to the general public but if you’d like to try La Fleur Morange or Mathilde for yourself you can find them at Interest In Wine, Bordeaux-Undiscovered‘s fine wine website. Likewise, if you’d like to arrange a tasting for a wine club or a group of friends please get in touch!

Posted in Bordeaux News, Chateaux Profiles, Saint Emilion Classification 2012, Shows and Events | Leave a comment

Wine from the Woodlands – Discovering Chateau Chauvet

Chateau Chauvet smallChateau Chauvet is an award winning Claret from a small property that sits on the crest of a hill deep in the countryside around the tiny village of Saint Hilaire du Bois (St Hilary of the Woods). The village sits between the valleys of the River Vignague, which has its source at Soussac in Margaux, and the River Dropt. Here, the bucolic landscape is sparsely populated and the vineyards, fields of sunflowers and orchards are protected by swathes of dense woodland. Chauvet literally means ‘bald’ and refers to a clearing, carved out of the forest, whicHilaire_d-e7474h was used for growing grapes, fruit and vegetables centuries ago.

The patron saint of the village, Saint Hilary, was the Bishop of Poitiers in the 4th century and he was famed for his theological writings. He’s said to be the first Latin Christian hymn writer and the 12th century church in the village is dedicated to him. Saint Hilaire du Bois may be isolated but it is fertile and full of life. The village has held a flower feflowersstival for the past 60 years and truffles can be found in the woods.

Chateau Chauvet is made by a local family, who take their name from the area, who have been wine makers since 1880. The Chauvet brothers, Gerard, Gilbert and Claude, bought the vineyard in 1951, which covered 17 acres at this point in time. They heralded in a new era for the vineyard and gradually improved the land, bringing the total acreage up to the 103 acres it is today.

The current generation is represented by vineyardGregory Dalla Longa (Gerard’s son), a talented and award winning vigneron who took his first steps in the vineyard as a toddler. Having worked with his father and grandfather on every vintage since his early childhood, he knows the vineyard inside-out. A graduate in Oenology from the University of Bordeaux, he now works as winemaker and chauvet 3oenological consultant for a variety of different estates. Thanks to his skills and experience, he has taken the wine to another level, insisting on optimal ripeness for the grapes and fine-tuning the fermentation for better fruit and tannin extraction.

Gregory is a talented winemaker, Chateau Chauvet is a wonderfully well balanced Claret. It has deep brambly flavours of blackberry, rich blackcurrant and juicy red cherry with notes of violets, cigar box and cinnamon. This is a very well crafted wine with good structure. Satiny smooth and stylish, Chauvet is an absolhilaire du boisute bargain and the 2010 vintage is available for £7.99 from Bordeaux-Undiscovered.

Being so well balanced Chateau Chauvet is a super wine to pair with food. It’s excellent with game, duck, beef and lamb but also goes well with salamis, parma ham, poultry, meat basechauvetd pasta dishes . . . and, of course, truffles.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bordeaux News, Chateaux Profiles | Leave a comment

A Racy Little Number: Discovering Chateau Haut Biot

Chateau Haut Biot smallChateau Haut Biot holds some surprises. It’s a cracking bright little Claret full of fabulous flavours of intense blackberry and black cherry with subtle notes of leather, liquorice and crushed black pepper. Lush and velvety in the mouth with well balanced tannins, it’s seductively smooth. Although the small chateau sits slumbering in the sleepy countryside it is part of a vibrant and dynamic scene. The locals are a lively bunch and some of that plucky spirit is reflected in the wine.

Haut Biot sits deep in the countryside on the limestone plateau not too far away from the little wine village of Faleyras. It has ancient roots – Biot is a Lieu Dit, a term often given to old vineyards bearing a traditional name. Lieu Dits were often taken from names of inhabitants, folklore, geographical features or long lost hamlets and you can uncover a lot of local history from them. ‘Biot’ is the Old French word for a pitcher which could indicate that wines were being made and sold here for very many centuries indeed. However all is not quite as it seems in this peaceful spot. Faleyras is world famoGoogle Translate 2014-05-22 15-44-53us for something other than its lovely wines.

Motorsports fans will have already clocked the name – Faleyras is the home of French Championship Rallycross and Autocross racing and is the only circuit in France to host both Championships. It also hosts events on the European Championship. Nicknamed the ‘Green Jewel’ thanks to its beautiful setting with a backdrop of woods (the name Faleyrfaleyras raceas comes from the word ‘fatha’, meaning ‘wooded place’) the cicuit sits on the outskirts of the village.

There is huge local support for the Faleyras Circuit and it all began in 1974 when a group of locals created an autocross track fenced in with straw bales. Rallycross was already growing in popularity in the UK during the 70s and crossed the English channel in 1976. Faleyras went on from strength to strength and the first rallycross was held in 1990 and European Championships in 1995, 1999 and 2002. Citroen Sport also used the track for private testing of the Xsara WRC in 2002 ans in 2005 Sprint Car racing was also established . Last year the Circuit was sold to Amoleen Racing who are developing and refurbishing the site in readiness for European Championships in the coming years.

raceThe French enthusiasm for car racing is only to be expected – they were the first nation to indulge in the sport. The first organised race was held in 1887 in Paris and the world’s first motoring competition was held there in 1894, which lead to the birth of Grand Prix Racing. Wine being the other French passion naturally has links to car racing too – Philippe de Rothschild, owner of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, raced his own Bugatti T35C in the 1929 Grand Prix and Chateau Guiraud is part owned by the Peugeot family.

biotIt’s not hard to see why Chateau Haut Biot is a popular wine with the local enthusiasts and we’re pleased to say that we have the 2010 vintage available at Bordeaux-Undiscovered for £6.99. It’s perfect for picnics and alfresco dining, being delicious with chargrilled meats, especially barbecued cutlets or beefburgers grilled over charcoal. It’s also excellent with dishes cooked in rich sauces, (red wine, creamy pepper or mushroom), hearty beef casseroles or braised steak and roast duck, lamb, venison or pheasant.

This racy little Claret is a winner!

Posted in Bordeaux News, Chateaux Profiles | Leave a comment

Searching for the Soul of Wine: Discovering Chateau de Basset

Chateau de Basset smallSome wines call to us, they have such a profound appeal. They possess a certain something that marks them out. You can’t quite put your finger on it but it’s captivating. The discovery of a wine that charms you can leave you quite elated and you find yourself telling your friends and family ‘you’ve got to taste so and so,’ happily waxing lyrical about how wonderful it is. You might think that the only wines this applies to are either expensive or famous brands, but you’d be wrong. Look a little deeper and you can unearth some true beauties that don’t cost a fortune.

One such dark horse is Chateau de Basset. It’s a little claret and it hails from Mourens which produces dry whites under the Haut Benauge appellation and reds under Bordeaux.basset 5 By no means a grand cru, this wine comes from a small vineyard on an old estate. However, this wine has soul. To discover its source let me take you back to its roots.

It’s made by Nicolas Roux who learned his craft from his father, Daniel, who in turn was taught by his father, Raymond. Raymond instilled real passion into the boys and a deep love of the land. The Roux’s principle is to make a wine in the image of its terroir – a true Bordeaux.

basset 2Their home is an old 17th century farmstead which nestles deep in the countryside and is solidly built out of unhewn blocks of limestone. It’s been owned by the family since 1804 when the Countess of Benauge ceded the land back to her tenant farmers. Their vineyard drops down the hillside with swathes of vines stretching out from their door to the slopes beyond. It’s a shame that the wines from this area are not more widely known – but perhaps therein lies its beauty. basset 3Haut Benauge sits on a vast limestone plateau and it lies directly across the Garonne River from Graves. As Haut Benauge occupies high ground, it is considered one of the best grape-growing parts of this region. Drainage and exposure are excellent and its wines are long and perfumed.

basset 8Little known Haut Benauge may be, but it certainly has a distinguished past and there are remnants scattered of it throughout the tiny, vine enclustered villages. A medieval atmosphere pervades the air and radiates from the bastides, fortified mills and castle ruins. People feel close to the earth here. You might think I’m being poetic. I’m not, but the locals are. Especially about their wines. Before his death in 2010 Raymond wrote a poem to his boys which has so much potency. It’s called ‘One day I’ll Go” and he writes about his parting from the peaceful mourens-chateau-coulonge-640x425haven of his home, leaving the safe shelter of the shadows of its walls and the vines laboured over by his ancestors and their oxen. He writes that he has to go but that he leaves them his wine, to drink for him and says that they must raise their glasses to drink to their health and to their destiny. How can a wine made by such a man not have soul?

There’s definitely something special about Chateau de Basset. The 2008 raises a lot of comment when I take it along to tastings at shows and events. It is meltingly smooth with splendidly rounded tannins and is available at Bordeaux-Undiscovered for only £8.99. It has intense flavours of cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), rich ripe raspberry and vanilla with expressive notes of toasted oak, coffee beans and smoke. In the mouth it’s well balanced, aromatic and opulent. The Roux family have won quite a few medals and awards with their wine and it’s also lovede basset 888ly with food. Generous and supple, it’s great with a good steak, roast beef or lamb, mushrooms (porcini or cep), duck, pheasant, venison, rich casseroles and hard cheeses.

Try it, and let me know what you think!

Posted in Bordeaux News, Chateaux Profiles | Leave a comment

Come and See Us at Stratford Food Festival At the Races

stratford food festival 4Nick is at the Stratford Food Festival at the Races on Friday 30th May – Sunday 1st June so please come along and join him to taste some great wines. Bordeaux-Undiscovered will have a super selection of our range and we’d love to see you! Bordeaux Undiscovered BBC Good Food Show 3The Food Festival is held at Stratford Raccourse and promises to be an action packed weekend for all the family.

Visitors will enjoy the best of both the foodie and the racing world with over 70 confirmed exhibitors showcasing an array of food and drink alongside evening race meets on the Friday and Saturday evening. On Sunday the event is FREE for the whole family to enjoy and £5 parking all day.

Bordeaux-Undiscovered’s stand will be close to the racecourse track opposite thetent 2 real ale and cider tent. Come and sample our great French reds, whites and rosés, champagne and sparkling wines, and discover Bordeaux Clairet and semi-sweet Moelleux. Nick will be on hand to match these up with some of the hot food on offer and give advice on food and wine pairing.

There will be live bands, cookery demonstrations and butchery workshops. On Sunday children will be able to take part in FREE cookery workshops hosted by Kidz Kitchen as well as inflatables, facepainting and balloon modelling around the site. Horseracing will commence from 6pm on both Friday and Saturday evstratford food festival 1ening. The Racecourse is also hosting the Race for Life charity event on Sunday 1st June.

Times of the Food Festival Fri-4-9pm, Sat-1-9pm, Sun 10-4pm.

Friday 30th May: Evening Races + Food Festival (£10 Admission – Free for under 18′s)

Saturday 31st May: Evening Races + Food Festival (£10 Admission – Free for under 18′s)

stratford food festival 2Sunday 1st June: Food Festival – FREE Admission

For more information about the event visit www.stratfordfoodfestival.co.uk and tickets are available at www.stratfordracecourse.net/tickets/

We hope to see you there!

Posted in Shows and Events | Leave a comment

Chateau Vary’s Story: Crossing the Borders in Search of Good Wine

duras logoGood terroir doesn’t stop at borderlines drawn on maps and if you know where to search you can unearth some wonderful discoveries. One of France’s best kept secrets is a little wine making region that sits at the foot of Bordeaux called the Côtes de Duras. Wines made here tend to be organic and are made by talented wine makers whose skills equal those of their Bordelaise counterparts and who are heirs to just as much heritage. The only difference is the price tag.

The Côtes de Duras holds a fabulous undiscovered treasure of little known wines that are similar in style to Bordeaux. In fact, red Côtes de Duras and red Bordeaux wines are so similar that not evchateau vary merlot duras cotesen specialists can tell them apart. Jancis Robinson has said that she would take her hat off to any blind taster who could unerringly distinguish between them.

The Côtes de Duras is a land of endless softly rolling hills which lies at the end of Bordeaux’s Entre Deux Mers appellation with the vineyards of Bergerac to the east, Cotes du Marmandais to the south and Bordeaux’s Sainte Foy to the north. Rural and remote, the countryside is beautiful here. You might be forgiven for thinkiduras mapng that this is a land that time forgot but beneath the tranquil surface passions run high.

The locals’ ancestors cultivated the vine here long ago and the wines have an ancient reputation. Like Bordeaux, Duras is part of Aquitaine and its lofty castle was built in the 12th century. This area has long been fought over and a little town sprang up in the safety of the castle’s shadow. It may have had even earlier roots – Duras takes its name from the Celtic ‘duros’ meaning fortified hilltop. In the 14th century the castle and surrounding lands were owned by Pope Clement V who also owned Chateau Pape Clement inDuras Vary Merlot Bordeaux. War and Revolution instilled a sense of resistence and resilience in the Duraquois people who had to defend their culture and lifestyles down the centuries. Today they still share a visceral love for the land, vines and wine and are proud of their rebellious spirit. The local winemakers call themselves ‘The Rebels of Aquitaine’.

It took a little time – and a lot of hunting – but I have tracked down a gorgeous Merlot from the Côtes de Duras from Bernard Dalla Longa, a small producer, at Chateau Vary. His vineyards lie in the ancient fortified village of Dieulivol. The village Vary 2 smallwas established by the Crusaders and takes its name from their war cry of ‘Dieu de Veut!’ which means ‘God Willing!’ It sits on a small crag overlooking the vines below which have been grown here since the 11th century.

Bernard possesses the rebellious spirit of the region and is in the unique position of having his property split down the middle by the line drawn on the map. It’s a strange situation – one half of his property lies in thvary bernarde Bordeaux appellation and the other in the Côtes de Duras. His grapes are exactly the same on both sides, as is the clay/limestone soil, but he is forced by bureaucracy to split everything. His cellar is strictly divided into two halves! He makes his wines separately – Chateau Choine is his Bordeaux and Chateau Vary is his Duras. He says that the paperwork is demanding to say the least as he has to report to two different authorities and that the only difference between his two wines is that, thanks to the market, his Bordeaux is twice the price of his Duras.

His Chateau Vary Merlot is beautifully made and is a real bargain. It’s a deep and luxurious wine being velvety smooth and well balanced. It has dark fruit flavours of ripe blackcurrant, blueberry and damson with subtle lingering notes of vanilla, mocha and anise.Dieulivol

Delicious with both poultry and roast pork, Chateau Vary is a food friendly wine and is very versatile. It also pairs very well with grilled lamb chops, steak and pan fried chicken. Traditionally enjoyed with Cassoulet au Confit (a rich slow cooked casserole with white haricot beans and either duck, pork sausages, goose or mutton) Chateau Vary is great with both summer and winter stews and rich Chinese cuisine such as Beef and Black Bean Sauce.Chateau Vaty Merlot Duras

If you fancy breaking down a few frontiers and trying this lovely wine for yourself it’s available at Bordeaux-Undiscovered at £6.99 a bottle.

Posted in Chateaux Profiles, Côtes de Duras, Wine News | Leave a comment