Showing posts with label Cabernet Franc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cabernet Franc. Show all posts

Friday, July 11, 2014

Satellite Merlot

Satellite Merlot. Lussac Saint-Emilion
Chateau Haut-Jamard 2011, 12.5%, €8.00.
Chateau Busquet 2008, 13%, €13.35.
Chateau Lucas, Grand Cuvée de Lucas Cuvée Prestige 2010, 14%, €12.35.

You like Merlot in a Bordeaux blend? But how much of it?

If you buy a bottle in Lussac, one of the four satellite towns of St Emilion, you’ll have a choice. Take the three bottles above, for instance. All are from Lussac and all have Merlot but the amount in the blend ranges from 50% in the last to 80% in the first!

Generally you won't know from the bottle. In a conversation with a French wine worker in the Dordogne a few years back, it was suggested that France had lost out in world markets because it didn't have the variety on the label. The man, a Serb who had settled locally, was fed up with such suggestions. “Around here we can use up to 13 varieties. How are we going to get all of them on the label?” A not unreasonable reaction.

But things could be changing. Chateau Lucas had the blend on the label and it was fifty fifty Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Jamard is 80 Merlot, 15 Cab Sauv and 5 Cab Franc while Busquet is 60 Merlot, 30 Cab Franc and 10 Cab Sauv. Quite a difference between the three.

Must say I preferred the Lucas and not just because of its motto: Sans Ceres et Bacchus, Venus est de glace. My translation: Without Ceres (food) and Bacchus (wine), Venus (love) is ice. We need a little of all three. In any event, I would be disposed to a wine in which Merlot and Cab Franc are major constituents.

And some love has already been expended on this wine as it comes with three silver medals to its credit. Harvesting is manual and they've come up with a near perfect blend, full and balanced and generous of flavour, with a lovely long finish.
Who's for the washing up?
The Haut-Jamard is the youngest of the three and quite a pleasant wine. On the palate it is round, tannins present but quite soft and again the finish is long.

All three are aromatic, the Busquet perhaps a bit more pronounced. This is smooth and mildly spicy, really well balanced, the tannins present but almost unnoticeable.

All three were bought last month in the Maison des Vins in St Emilion itself. While the blend info does not generally appear on the bottles, they had mini-info cards mounted alongside each bottle that gave the breakdown and other info such as the appellation and the soil type.

The other three satellites of St Emilion are Montagne, Puisseguin and St Georges. “At their best, the wines from these areas are every bit as good as a Saint-Emilion grand cru. At their worst, they are attenuated and rustic.” I quote from the Wines of Bordeaux by Clive Coates. This was published in 2004.

Rustic is often used when speaking of lesser known appellations, often applied to the likes of Listrac and Moulis as well. But times have changed as Coates noticed in 2004 “the last few years have seen an encouraging increase in quality”.

Indeed, he also had good things to say about the Lucas wines. And the prices are attractive. Three bottles from the satellites cost me €33.70 while three from main AOC came to €64.75, not a very scientific comparison admittedly. But do watch out for quality good value wines from Lussac in places like Mitchell’s, Curious Wines, Tindals and Le Caveau.

* By the way, I have updated the 2014 list of favourite wines here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Really Old Vines and just about old vines! From the Loire.

Really Old Vines and just about old vines! From the Loire.

Have been doing a bit of work (drinking!) on the subject of old vines and, in general, it seems that, other things being equal, it is worthwhile paying something of a premium for the wines from the gnarled old vines. With that in mind, why not try a few and compare them with a regular wine from the same vineyard, which is often possible. I’ve been doing that over the years and have regularly come down on the side of the wine from the older plantings.

But what is old? Twenty five years, fifty years. The experienced wine commentator Mary Dowey reckons it has to be “forty years at least” and cautioned that not all varieties benefit from age. “It doesn’t do anything for Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot but Grenache is well suited.” The main benefit is an “intensity of flavour, really concentrated”. 
Pony on left is not interested in wine!
Vignes Centenaire de Minière, Bourgueil 2009, 13.5%, €19.00 at the château.
Colour is a dark ruby and the aromas are of dark fruit. It is refreshing and concentrated, with a strong element of dark fruit flavours; it is smooth, rich with hints of spice and has an excellent dry finish.

The local pony club, at least the adults on the party, were finishing an outdoor tasting when we pulled into sunny Chateau de Minière in the heart of the Bourgueil appellation last summer. After a pleasant hour, maybe two, we finished off our tasting under the shady trees with this wine made from the local stalwart, Cabernet Franc. Loved it then and love it now.

The fruit comes from vines that average more than 100 years old and it has spent two years in oak. The grapes are hand harvested and hand sorted, all under the direction of wine-maker Eric Goujat. Belgian couple, Kathleen and Sigurd, took over the chateau a few years back and have the vineyard in conversion to organic, a process that is almost complete.

Wines that are labelled VieillesVignes (generally more than 30 years old) can command a premium. This is the château’s most expensive wine but worth it, I think. Not all  vines are suitable for long age but Cabernet Franc seems to do well on it in this area!

In the cool cellars of Montplaisir (Chinon)
Domaine de L’Abbaye Vieilles Vignes Chinon 2008, 12.5%, €7.50 at Cave Montplaisir in Chinon.

Aromas of pepper and spices and dark berries are a feature here. On the palate it is refreshing and fruity, with engaging fruit flavours and a lingering dry finish. A very Cabernet Franc and good value too, at least in France!

According to the current World Atlas of Wine, the wines of Chinon are “absurdly undervalued”. That opinion is reinforced by the quality and price of this bottle.

The vines are single varietal Cabernet Franc over 35 years old. It is aged in the cellars in oak barrels for about 12 months depending on the vintage. 

Find out more here 


Anjou Blanc Vieille Vignes 2009, €15.00 at Chateau Soucherie
A tasting at Chateau Soucherie saw us start with two classy wines, the Anjou Blanc Vielles Vignes 2009 and the more expensive Savennières Clos des Perrières 2010. Could have spent more time with these two but, on the initial tasting, put my money on the Vieilles Vignes (and even more of it on the Chaume that we came to later on).

The Vieilles Vignes was another winner  for the old vine brigade. “A unique wine from vines of more than 80 years, rich and round, delicious as an accompaniment to veal stew.”

Probably should have bought more of it as, on our way out to the car in the baking parking area, we were told that the 80 year old plants had been dug up and this was the last of the old stuff! So, if you do come across it, do buy some and include one or two for me! I have none left now and indeed I seem to have mislaid my notes on it. But it was a beautiful well balanced wine, another confirmation for me that wines from old wines are worth exploring!

You may check out the Château’s tasting notes (by Olivier Poussier, once voted the Best Sommelier in the World!) here.  





Monday, November 4, 2013

Three Friends at my Table. West Cork Paella


Three Friends at my Table
West Cork Paella
I had three friends at my table for Saturday night dinner. Well, not really. But I did have the fantastic produce from Kanturk’s Jack McCarthy, West Cork’s Anthony Cresswell and the Loire’s Sebastien du Petit Thouars.

Anthony’s Ummera Smoked Chicken, bought in the Brown Thomas Food Emporium, was the main ingredient of the main dish. Ummera is the only Irish producer of smoked chicken and we used it in a special recipe by Clodagh McKenna: West Cork Paella.

When checking the list of recipe items, we found ourselves short a few and that led to a tour of the local shops. Supervalu had the Risotto Rice but no Chorizo. Coolmore, our local butchers, were out of a possible substitute, O’Flynn’s Gourmet Mexican or Italian Sausage, so we ended up in Aldi and got a Spanish Chorizo. Hard, if not impossible, to get Desmond cheese these days so Castlemary Farm’s award winning Goat Cheddar substituted and played  a blinder!

Indeed, though I forgot the lemon wedges,the whole dish was excellent, full of great flavours. You can take it will be done again, this time with the Gubbeen chorizo! So well done to Anthony for the chicken and to Clodagh for the recipe! This link will also take you to four or five other recipes for the smoked chicken.


Chateau du Petit Thouars . Is that a Cork car in front?


Jack and Timmy McCarthy are doing great things in Kanturk with Irish charcuterie and we started with a platter. Highlight here was their non-smoked Pastrami with special peppers. Simply outstanding and well worth getting your hands on.

We met Sebastien du Petit Thouars at his Chateau in the Loire in August and enjoyed a couple of visits. We had a great tasting with Sebastien, Darcy and their baby daughter Elizabeth, and one of the wines we brought home was his Selection 2009. This is a superb Cabernet Franc and one of the matching recommendations on the label was for curry. So why not Cloadagh's paella, we thought! And, glad to say, it worked a treat.





Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Lovely welcome and wines at 17th century Chateau du Petit Thouars

Day 4
Lovely welcome and wines at 17th century  Chateau du Petit Thouars
In the vineyard today with Sebastien du Petit Thoaurs
 Built at the same time as Cardinal Richelieu was building his nearby model town, the 17th century Chateau de Petit Thouars  was our destination today. We were warmly welcomed by Sebastien and Darcy and started with a walk through the vineyard, planted in 1975, and which escaped the early summer hailstones that caused havoc in other parts of the Loire this year.

Cabernet Franc is the grape here for reds, roses and a Cremant de Loire which I’m now sipping as I type. But this year, for the first time, Sebastien will harvest Chenin Blanc and he is really looking forward to the results of that.
Cabernet Franc
 In from the sun then to the cool of the cellars, mainly caves excavated in higgledy piggledy fashion but since adapted to the use of the wine-maker with a temperature almost always at an ideal 12 degrees.

Since its rebirth in 1975, the vineyard has grown to a 15 hectares (30 acres) estate. The winemaker is Michel Pinard, who built his well-deserved reputation working for more than ten years with the famous Chinon winemaker Charles Joguet. 
The Chateau's top wine
 The subsequent tasting left us in no doubt that superb wines, from the 2009 Selection to the Amiral (24 months in oak, including one change of barrel) of the same year, are being made here. No wonder they are winning awards and are being sold both in the France and Belgium and in England and the US, and China is on the horizon as well. How about Ireland?
Sipping this lovely sparkler right now.

Superb example of Cabernet Franc
Earlier we had visited the nearby Château in Montsoreau.  The remains of the 15th century building, the setting for an Alexandre Dumas novel of murder most foul (Le Dame du Mortsoreau), provides a terrific view over the coming together of the Loire and the Vienne rivers and over the village itself, designated a village fleuri.

Boat on the Loire at Montsoreau

Meeting of the waters: the Vienne (right) is taken over by the Loire.

Château in Montsoreau
Earlier we had visited the nearby Château in Montsoreau.  The remains of the 15th century building, the setting for an Alexandre Dumas novel of murder most foul (Le Dame du Mortsoreau) provides a terrific view over the coming together of the Loire and the Vienne rivers and over the village itself, designated a village fleuri.
Enjoying the pool in the evening sun.

Today also we sorted out one of the priorities of holidaying in France, this to find a good traiteur. These shops can give you a taste of France at a much cheaper rate than restaurants. We found one here in Chinon (it was closed yesterday). From the Aux Delices du Terroir, on rue Marceau, we bought some rabbit in a Basque sauce which just needs a little reheating in the microwave. Looking forward to that now, with a glass of Sebastian’s Selection 2009!