An Englishman in Minervois

Domaine d’Albas – Coteaux de Periac – 2017- Grape Opportunities £10.99  

Nestled in the vast Amphitheatre that is the appellation of Minervois, lies a jewel in it’s already burgeoning crown, Chateau St Jaques d’Albas. Tucked discreetly between the Montagne Noir and the Canal du Midi, this fully renovated historical Chateau is owned by Graham Nutter. Purchased in 2001, a full restoration project was undertaken, unearthing a rich history of the area, including Cathar and Roman links.

Grahams Philosophy has always been to “make wine respecting the natural environment, while applying modern techniques to allow the ‘Terroir’ to express itself.”

The estate is proud to support the “Cousine Principle” which naturally stimulates the vines immune system. With organic and environmentally sympathetic spraying and soil care,this Domaine is something of a curiosity.

I visited during September – usually a very busy period, Vendange is in full swing and the harvesting and pressing of the new fruit takes absolute priority. However, I was made to feel nothing but welcome by Graham and his team. Graham’s passion for his Chateau simply surrounds everything, he exudes a mild-mannered air of determination, calm and confidence, it’s clear that this Domaine is quite different to others in the area. With a wonderful tour complete and a brief history of the area including facts on the renovation and a tour of the recently completed renovation of a 13th Century chapel,I had worked up quite a thirst…time for a quick slurp.

The Domaine Produces eight Cuveé, although today I am focussing on just one, the others will of course follow.

So, Domaine d’Albas Blanc, a marriage of Viognier and Vermentino, vinified in thermos-regulated steel tanks. Viognier seems to get a bit of a hard time nowadays, out of favour and often misunderstood, this grape when treated correctly produces excellent wines, displaying almost nectar like qualities. Vermentino similarly is a particularly tricky grape to master, often producing wines closed and lacking in expression.

It’s no surprise then that this example is excellent, displaying everything I had hoped, on the nose the attractive aromatic citrus notes of the Vermentino are present with seductive undertones of apricot and blossom, reflective of Viognier. On the pallet it’s balanced and poised, with the initial attaque, one of measured acidity and fresh mouth filling texture. First comes the Citrus, with a delicate note of lemon zest, this is quickly followed by stone fruit and honey, lingering long on the pallet and finishing with a beautiful fresh burst of acidity, and floral undertone. Excellent.

Thanks, must go once again to Graham and his team who have produced a wine that is perfectly representative of the Terroir. Care and attention have produced a wine that delivers on all levels and reignites my passion both for the area and for the chosen varieties, all too often these wines can be clumsy and underwhelming. Not so here, certainly a favourite of mine and worthy of more than Just a Quick Slurp. Bon Weekend!

This wine and others all reflective of the terroir and producers are available from www.grapeopportunities.com

If you are interested in purchasing any or for a list of wines available, please email info@grapeopportunities.com

Re-Inventing The Wheel

Corbières L’Entêté – Jeff Carrel – 2011 – Averys of Bristol- £12.99

The Languedoc in the south of France is an area which constantly challenges and surprises, whether it’s the varied landscape, the people, the history, the food or in fact the wines. There is always something interesting to do, see or to taste.

Jeff Carrel is one of the characters of the Languedoc, originally from Paris, but now firmly at home in the south, he has broken the mould – reinventing some of the old Classics and pioneering a new style of southern wine… Did I mention he was a Parisian?

Jeff has gained the reputation of being somewhat eclectic, whilst true in the sense of the word I would go so far as to suggest that he is reflective of the new generation of winemaker to be found in Languedoc. Now responsible for a large range of wines including forgotten gems like Fitou and Cotes du Roussillon, even managing to put his unique spin on the un-fashionable Chardonnay, Carrell wines are like no other and can on occasion surprise and polarize.

Corbières is the largest of the AOC appellations in the South west, consisting of 11 separate Terroirs. Lezignan-Corbières produces this particular cuvee, and whilst there are 19 permitted grape varieties which can be used under the appellation, there are lead grape varieties expected in both red and white wines produced here. For red wines, a minimum of two grape varieties must be grown. Grenache, Lledoner Pelut, Mourvèdre and Syrah (the main grape varieties with the exception of Carignan) must together make up at least 50 per cent of the vineyard plantings. In this case there are low yielding Syrah vines and old vine Carignan, all handpicked and blended skilfully to produce this wine.

L’Entêté translates as Stubborn, which in fact is quite an interesting description of this wine. To the eye this wine is deep red in colour, on the nose there is dark fruits and spice, you can really smell the arid warmth of the terroir. This wine generates a real sense of place, unmistakably complex. On the palate it’s big, uncompromising and dare I say it stubborn. There is an unmistakable core of dark fruit and cherry, overlaid with spice and garrigue notes. The finish is long and rich, with a wonderful lick of cassis, yet the level of acidity is enough to give an almost refreshing finish. Pairing with big flavours this wine is a match for red meats, strong cheese and sings with Toulouse Sausage.

Certainly, this wine will divide, yet it will also provide tangible proof of the ability of the winemaker to reinvent a forgotten style, I for one have nothing but praise for Jeff Carrell’s wines, and like the area they come from, I am constantly surprised by what can be achieved with a stubborn belief in re-interpretation of what was past forgotten, wine should have a sense of place and Terroir, there is no doubt this wine delivers that…Bon Weekend!

All White On the Night!

Domaine Maison Roche de Beline – Avery’s Wine Merchants- Bristol – £15.99

 Bonne année – It’s January, and the first instalment of a new year of slurping – a time for reflection and for resolutions, I have already come up with a few, some particularly poignant in what is perhaps the most difficult month of the year. I resolve not to take Blue Monday seriously, although this week it was particularly dismal cold and grey. I also resolve to decry dry January, which is simply an admission that it’s participants are boarder-line alcoholics without the slightest slither of willpower. Seriously, if you can’t drink in moderation or responsibly, then resist the temptation for the other eleven months of the year!

I also resolve to get to the bottom of Burgundy, somewhere which has failed to captivate me. Therefore, with Burgundy En Primeur in full swing it seems like the perfect opportunity to take Just a quick slurp and let you know about my latest discovery.

Domaine Maison Roche De Beline based in Beaune on the Cotes De Beaune, are not shy at producing top class wines bursting with all that is good from this area. In fact one of the most interesting is the Viré Clessé. The Domaine, founded in 2009 by Nicolas Potel and produces high quality wines from 40 Year old vines, the growers Nicolas works with are all certified lutte raisonée (“sustainable viticulture”) therefore allowing the wines to be expressive of the Terroir, something which Nicolas and his growers are paticularly passionate about.

Viré Clessé is a relatively new appellation formed in 1999, it’s an AOC – Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée for white wine only, in the Macconaise sub region of Burgundy. The only designated grape allowed in the wine is Chardonnay and the Appelation consists of the communes of ClesséLaizéMontbellet and Viré. The Viré Clessé Appellation is to be found in the northern part of the Mâconnaise sub region north of the town of Mâcon, in the direction of the Côte Chalonnaise sub region.

Typically for this style of wine it’s beautifully pale gold to the eye, on the nose it’s a little confusing, there are notes of stone fruit, but then the unmistakable scent of citrus and green apple, a delicate note of honey is also present. On the palate it’s classic white burgundy, citrus and green apple, with a wonderful streak of minerality, then a final note of grapefruit, and a mouth-watering level of acidity. This wine is excellent, balanced to perfection and made with care and attention, a real corker for the price, punching way above its weight and something that will tickle the taste buds of all those lucky enough to try some. Drinking perfectly now but will age for at least 2-3 years to come, it will reward chicken and fish dishes and makes a perfect indulgent treat on its own.

So, it seems that in this case perhaps my New Year’s Resolution should be to drink more Burgundy – the word on the grapevine is that the whites from 2016 – a particularly challenging year are drinking very well – perhaps some of the best for a while – certainly if this is a benchmark then I can’t wait to find out more – now, pass me that bottle!

 

 

 

Great Uncle Monty

Cantina Zaccagnini Tralcetto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2015 – £9.99 Costco

 

With the festive season just kicking off it’s time to think about stocking up those cellars in preparation for the biggest party of the year. Christmas can be a tricky time to shop for wine, so many offers and so many choices. Thankfully once again I’ve done some of the hard work for you, and in preparation of those friends and family who just happen to pop in once a year, I have a little festive treat for you.

Italy has so much choice when it comes to wine, and like Christmas has its fair share of turkeys as well. However, one of the most reliable wines to choose is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Made using the Montepulciano grape and from the Abruzzo region. Montepulciano can be produced in four provinces,:- L’AquilaChietiPescara and Teramo – with the latter producing the largest amounts.

Abruzzo is a large area stretching from the Apennine mountains to the Adriatic coast. This area is very mountainous and contains a varied terroir consisting of calcareous and ferrous clay and a layer of limestone. The hillside vineyards of Chieta, also benefit from a cooling Adriatic breeze.

The Zaccagnini winery was founded in 1978, and is a family run business in Pescara. Founded with the idea of creating “absolute quality, from cluster to glass”, and with more than 300 hectares of beautiful vineyards, well-kept and monitored at every production stage. The Zaccagnini winery is now an internationally recognised winery producing high quality wines.

The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is an excellent example, deep and inky in colour with a wonderful nose of dark fruit and spice. On the palate, the signature streak of dark fruits and cherry continues, there is a nice level of acidity, giving freshness and the tannins are balanced to perfection, the gentle warmth of black pepper and sweet spice is ever-present as is a slight back note of coco. Aged in Slovak barrels and drinking marvellously now this wine will pair with almost anything you throw at it but excels with tomato based dishes and pasta.

So, with the prospect of a chilly Christmas approaching, what better way to prepare than to sit back with glass in hand and pause, for just a quick slurp. Bon Weekend!

 

Quantum of Solaris

Winnica TurnauSolaris – 2016 – TBA – Grape Opportunities – Cellar Door

Due to a rather peculiar quirk of nature, and sheer ignorance, it seems that Poland is often overlooked as a producer of quality wines. This comes as a surprise given the work ethic of the populous often associated with this most enticing of Eastern European destinations.

Poland as I’m sure you are aware shares a great many things with England – not least a desire to create a name for itself in the wine industry. Interestingly, it seems that just like England, prejudice and polarised views have helped create a negative and frankly false impression of what can be achieved in terms of wine production.

Wine requires but a few things to be produced; – Climate, Grape Variety, the Mystical Terroir and the care and attention of the winemaker. Jerzy Turnau, founding father and passionate ecologist was exactly this man. After him followed Zbigniew Turnau. Zbigniew possessed the land, and the terroir, he was joined by cousins Gregorz, Tomasz and Jacek, who together realised a dream, which with the addition of renowned winemaker Frank Faust from Rhineland, created Turnau Vineyard in 2010. Consisting of 28 hectares producing mainly Solaris and Johanniter vines, Winnica Turnau is blossoming.

I was fortunate to be introduced to Just a Quick Slurp of the flagship wine Solaris by a good friend who very much like the founders, cares passionately about all things natural, and is keen to promote the excellence of her home nation.

Solaris is a more recent grape variety, created in 1975 in Freiburg, Germany by Norbert Becker. A cross between Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat Ottonel, Zaraya Severa and Seyval Blanc it’s a perfect grape for the cooler northern European climate.

Solaris produces wines which are striking in several ways. To the eye this wine is akin to spun gold, bright and enticing. On the nose, it’s aromatic – notes of peach and pineapple are apparent with apple, citrus and gooseberry. On the Palate, this wine is graceful and balanced, the acidity levels are high delivering a refreshing zing, the citrus and the green apple are dominant, but the peach and pineapple sit happily on a lengthy finish giving a subtle sweetness. This wine is perfect match for chicken and fish dishes, the added sweetness making this wonderful as an aperitif and an excellent alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.

So, this weekend why not pour yourself a glass, sit back and delight in the fact that Poland is bang on trend. Like many things, it’s a surprise to learn that great wine can come from the most unlikely of places. And, very much like Frederic Chopin – another Polish export, can create a pure concerto of joy. Bon Santé

 

 

Terret’s Syndrome

Domaine Gaujal – Terret – 2016 – £11.99 – Grape Opportunities

During a recent trip to the Languedoc – or Occitania as it’s now been re-named, I was fortunate to be introduced to something a little bit special. There are many grapes in the wine growing world, most are well known, Chardonnay, Syrah or Merlot, for example. There are also many others which are almost unknown outside of France.

Take for example Terret, this grape has a long history in Languedoc, having been used for centuries locally.  Used primarily in the areas around Hérault and Séte it is a bit of a local secret, often found in Vermouth or in blends from Corbieres. Terret is produced in small quantities and is generally not exported, and it’s therefore unusual to find in a pure varietal form.

Domaine Gaujal – featured in these pages before, have been making wine in Pinet (home of the legendary and particularly trendy) Picpoul since the mid 17th century, so it came as no surprise that on a recent degustation with current winemaker Laurent Gaujal, I was introduced to a drop of history.

Laurent is part of a small group of winemakers around Occitania, making wines using old and forgotten varieties.

On the eye this wine is a clear pale golden colour, brilliant and vivid. On the nose, it’s quite different to the local Picpoul, notes of citrus and melon are present but so too are notes of red apple and wild flowers. Just a quick slurp gives way to a wonderful crisp acidity, the citrus notes are prominent, but there is a beautiful layer of lime and green apple on the finish. This wine although not long on the finish or particularly complex is a perfect alternative to Picpoul. It offers more body and weight and offers something just a little different. Pairing perfectly with seafood, but also with the body and balance to deal with chicken and cream sauces. It also makes the perfect aperitif.

It’s great to see wines in France that are breaking the mould, winemakers like Laurent are passionate about their history and their home, and are keen to share the secrets of the old world. With wines like this it’s easy to see why – long live the revival, and welcome back to the future!

 

Don’t look back in Angers!

Domaine Des Forges – Savennières – Le Moulin Du Gué – 2014 – £10.99 Co-op

 With the last of the Summer bank holidays upon us, and unusually, the prospect of some sunshine – what better way to indulge then with a glass or two of something special?

The Loire region of France produces some extremely good value wines, none more so than my personal favourite Savennières. This small commune in the Maine et Loire region lies close to the river Loire and is 15km South West of Angers. Sheltered from the storms which often affect the left bank of the river, and with a maritime climate, the right comprises of an unusual terroir of exposed shallow soil, sandstone schist, volcanic rock (rhyolite) and Aeolian sand. Some would say perfect conditions to produce the principle grape of this region Chenin Blanc.

Domaine des Forges – have been making wine in Loire since 1890, Currently Stéphane Brancherau is at the helm, farming in total 47 hectares. The Savennières is small production and has been in development since 1999. Produced using fully ripened hand-picked Chenin, with just a hint of Botrytis, temperature controlled fermentation and ageing on the lees for 11 months with a touch of oak ensures a full bodied and rich style.

To the eye this wine is beautifully golden with an almost ethereal quality, On the nose the bouquet is generous with notes of pineapple and citrus. Just a quick slurp and it’s a symphony of joy, honey, ripe orchard fruits, pineapple, citrus and melon. The finish is long, the balance perfect, a wonderful level of acidity and a complexity which is bordering on outstanding. This Is what Chenin is all about, full and rich with an elegance and character which is difficult to find at this price. Pairing wonderfully with white meats and cheese, or enjoyed lazily on a sunny afternoon… Something for the Weekend?

grappe-chenin4Savennières-Le-Moulin-du-Gué-du-Domaine-des-Forges-Vignoble-Branchereau-49190-Saint-Aubin-de-Luigné-Val-du-Layon-300x500