Showing posts with label old vines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label old vines. Show all posts

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.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Going Natural – New Trends in Wine

Going Natural – New Trends
A talk and tasting with Mary Dowey and Pascal Rossignol
Topics include Natural Wines, Old Vines, Sulphur and Biodynamic Wine

Philippe Chaume. The Vinsobres estate organic since 1997 and certified biodynamic since 2009.
Picture courtesy of
The Carrigaun Room (in the Grainstore) was full as Mary Dowey and Pascal Rossignol began their talk and tasting with a look at Biodynamic wines as part of last weekend’s marvellous Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine.

Mary thought the move to organic and biodynamic was one of “the most positive sides to the wine world” over the past two decades or so. She described biodynamics as “organics with knobs on" and "some very big names have adopted it”.

Our first wine, to illustrate biodynamic, was the Monte Dall-Ora Valpolicella Classico Saseti (Veneto). Pascal told us this came from a 7-9 hectare vineyard, a recent venture, bought as an almost organic vineyard and then they went bio. “It is all care and attention, hand harvested, all small scale so as not to damage the fruit. Almost a labour of love!” 

Pascal Rossignol
The next topic was natural wines. This is “a new level again”...”kind of controversial”...”up in the air”. But it means as naturally as possible. Practitioners try and recreate the natural balance in and around the vineyards. The timing of the harvest is vital as no additives will be used. “These wines have a vibrancy and a natural balance.”

There are no written rules, no classification, but there are some must follow steps and guidelines:
-          Manual harvest
-          Minimum use of sulphites
-          Quick to winery
-          Sulphites reduced as healthy fruit more able to fight oxidization
-          Babysit the process
Mary Dowey
-          Natural yeasts only to be used.

Pascal: “These wines are alive, really agree with you, more magic in the wine and are noted for their digestibility as much as for their drinkability.”

And certainly that seemed to be the case with our second wine, the Breton Vouvray La Dilettante (Loire 2011). Really liked this Chenin Blanc. Breton are very influential in the natural wine making world and I look forward to tasting more of it on its home ground later in the summer.

Now we were on to sulphites*. These occur naturally in wine but it is the use of them during the process at different stages (including the bottling) that add up and give a problem for some people who may be allergic to them. In the world of organic and natural wines, the purists don’t use sulphites but some others might use just a fraction of what is allowed (by the appellation). 

Our chemical free wine was the Alfredo Maestro Tejoro,Vina Almate Tempranillo (2012). It weighed in with a 14.5% abv “but that was the year that was in it”. The producers felt they had enough rules and regulations to follow in making the wine without also complying with the Ribera del Duero classification system so the words Ribera del Duero do not appear on the bottle.

Old Vines. What's the deal?
“The subject of old vines has been gathering momentum in recent years. But what’s the deal?” asked Mary as we reached that subject. What is old? She reckoned it had to be forty years at least and cautioned that not all varieties benefit from older vines. 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”. And she had the perfect example, the Chaume-Arnaud Vinsobres (Rhone 2010). Vinsobres is a higher level on the Rhone ladder in any event but this wine, biodynamic and from old vines, is a gem, well balanced, with lovely acidity, harmony and soft tannins. Gorgeous.

Pascal’s wine shop in  Kilkenny specialises in these types of wine and you may check it out here

Mary spends much of her time in Provence and, as I know from first hand experience, has a terrific website on the area with great tips on restaurants and food producers. Click here.

* Wine is not the only thing that sulphites turn up in. In the US, the FDA has published this list.