We are just back from holiday, somewhat sunburnt and quite mad for the seaside. If in the coming weeks we feature more warm weather drinks, wines to go with fish or seafood, or just burst into sea shanties, you will now know why.
On with the wine news!
In this installment of crimes against wine, ram-raiders have hit Domaine Jean Marc Brocard in Chablis and Champagne stolen by the Nazis has been discovered north of Dresden in Germany.
Alder Yarrow has posted an interview with one of the trailblazers in grower Champagne, Anselme Selosse. Don’t miss this one.
If you’re buying Malbec without knowing these five key Argentinian sub-zones, you may be missing out on the Malbec of your dreams.
What is “pét-nat,” or pétillant-naturel?
And finally, does your rosé need a little lift? VinePair has a few suggestions for sprucing up your summer sipping.
It’s English Wine Week! We’re not sure how we’ll mark the occasion yet, but if you want to find out what’s going on in your area, the English Wine Producers website has all the details.
You could also catch up on Decanter‘s round-up of their latest English wine news and recommendations, or this article about how Britain shaped some of the world’s most famous wines.
In other news, the Champagne Council has launched a new free e-learning programme. We only had a quick look, but it looks as though you answer four questions to determine what level of programme suits you best, and then proceed. It seems to be intended for phones (unless you just like scrolling down and scrolling down on a computer through pages with GIANT fonts and very little on them … Janet does not.) Give it a try over at the Champagne Campus.
With the return of summer, it’s time to bring out the rosé. You might find these infographics on VinePair fun, from 10 Shades of Rosé to maps charting who in the world drinks the most rosé and how its popularity has grown in the United States.
The Academic Wino asks, “Is There Consensus Among Wine Critics?: Who Can You Trust?” Becca Yeamans talks about a recent study looking at Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate and International Wine Cellar and the correlations (or lack of correlation) between their wine reviews. The study even looked at which publications matched each other on certain grape varieties. It makes interesting reading.
The polar vortex of earlier this year in North America may have wiped out the Merlot in Niagara, with Sauvignon Blanc also affected. It’s a grim follow-up to Ontario’s bumper crop of 2013.
The Drinks Business piece naming the Top 10 Women in Italian Wine is interesting both for the ten women they name and the additional women added by indignant readers in the comments section. Taken together, you get a great look at the state of the industry for women in Italy.
Grapefriend posted a fun feature matching rosés with summer songs. The piece is informative if you are looking for a rosé to try, and possibly the playlist for your next barbecue.
Harper’s reports that Tesco is enlisting consumers to help improve their wine descriptions. At a tasting laterthis month, guests will be asked to contribute “wine words” to create a word cloud for each wine. Tesco may say they want to break down barriers, but we can’t help but think those prank wine descriptions that have been appearing on Tesco’s shelves have something to do with it. Remember this one?
How dominant is Vicenzo Nibali in this race? Despite being able to cruise in safely in this stage, without even really exerting himself, and still win the Tour de France on Sunday, Nibali decided to go for the win. He won it by 1:10, leaving the next closest riders, stage winner Rafal Majka, French favourites Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot, and BMC’s team leader Tejay van Garderen, in the dust. Nibali now leads by 7:10 in the General Classification, so it’s hard to imagine anyone spoiling his celebration on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday, barring disaster. We have seen quite a few disasters in this year’s race, though.
Today’s stage is over 200km long and generally flat, which should reignite the sprinters. There is a category four bump near the end of the stage before the cyclists arrive in Bergerac, but don’t expect that to slow the sprinters down, many of whom have been disappointed in recent sprints and want to make their mark on the Tour before time runs out.
We gave this post a title referring to the 1980s British crime series “Bergerac,” despite the fact the series takes its name from its crime-solving hero and not the French city of Bergerac. Let’s face it: it had to be that or something about Cyrano de Bergerac. But why is that? Bergerac AOC is an area with a long history of wine-making going back to the Romans, and until the 20th century, when the AOC boundaries were drawn up, Bergerac wines actually were Bordeaux wines. They were all part of a single, large wine region. When AOC regulators decided to limit Bordeaux wines to the Gironde departément, Bergerac wines went from being part of the prestigious Bordeaux region to being wine no one had heard of and few wanted to buy.Bergerac is essentially a continuation of Bordeaux, although the climate exhibits more continental influences. Many of its vineyards are on the gravel banks of the Dordogne river, which is very much like Bordeaux’s best vineyards. Moving away from the river, the soil becomes more calcareous, with lots of limestone deposits in the best vineyards.
Reds are chiefly a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, along with Côt (Malbec), Fer Servadou or Mérille. Bergerac whites are mainly a blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle, along with Ugni Blanc, Ondenc and/or Chenin Blanc. There are 13 AOCs within the Bergerac region:
- Bergerac Red – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot Noir, Côt (Malbec). Elegant, supple and fruity.
- Côtes de Bergerac Red – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot Noir, Côt (Malbec). Dark and well-structured with strong tannins and an aroma prunes.
- Montravel Red – At least 50% Merlot along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Côt (Malbec). They must be matured a minimum of 15 months and are only AOC approved after they are put in a bottle engraved with the words IN MONTE REVELATIONEM.
- Pécharmant – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Côt (Malbec) and Merlot Noir. It’s distinctive flavour comes from the soil, which is sand, gravel and a layer of iron clay called the “tran.”
Dry White Wines
- Montravel – Sémillon, Muscadelle and, especially Sauvignon. Aromatic and well-structured.
- Bergerac White – Sémillon, Sauvignon, Muscadelle, Ondec and Chenin Blanc grape varieties. Crisp and aromatic.
- Bergerac Rosé – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot Noir, and/or Côt (Malbec). Elegant and fruity.
Sweet Liquoreux and Sweet White Wines
- Haut-Montravel – Made of partially raisined grapes. Can apply for liquoreux status if the grapes have developed noble rot instead of drying on the vines. Elegant and concentrated.
- Côtes de Bergerac White – Sémillon gives this wine its golden hue, crispness, and roundness. It’s divided into medium dry, medium sweet and sweet categories.
- Côtes de Montravel – Sweet with complex floral aromas.
- Monbazillac – see below
- Saussignac – Sémillon, Sauvignon, Muscadelle, Ondec and Chenin Blanc. Rich and full with aromas of acacia, peach and honeysuckle. Made of partially raisined grapes, and as with Haut-Montravel, can have liquoreux status if the grapes have developed noble rot instead of drying on the vines.
- Rosette – Mainly Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. Elegant and round with a very pale straw colour.
Happy Bastille Day to those celebrating today! One of those will no doubt be Tony Gallopin, the French cyclist whose fine performance on Stage 9 means he will wear the yellow jersey for the French crowds cheering him on and enjoying the national holiday. Historically, this day’s summit finish at La Planche des Belles Filles has been significant as a place for GC contenders, but on Bastille Day every French cyclist will be out for glory. French cyclist Jean-Christophe Péraud says, “This stage will have an impact on the overall and position on the final climb is everything. Don’t be surprised if a breakaway is successful – all the French riders will be in it to win it on Bastille Day. I think whoever wins here will have an explosive kick.”
And for Bastille Day in Alsace, what could we possibly recommend but the region’s exceptional sparkling wine, Crémant d’Alsace? There are eight Crémant appellations in France: Alsace, Bourgogne, Bordeaux, Loire, Limoux, Jura and Die in the Rhône, with Crémant de Savoie recently designated an AOC and available for sale as of December 2015.
Crémant d’Alsace is incredibly popular in France, corresponding to as much as 30% of all vin mousseux sold. It’s produced according to the same méthode traditionnelle used to make Champagne, and accounts for 22% of all wine production in Alsace. Crémant d’Alsace is made chiefly from Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois, but Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay may also be used. For rosé wines, only Pinot Noir is allowed.
Crémant d’Alsace ranges from pale gold to a salmon colour, depending on the grapes used. Whites generally taste of toast, white flowers and citrus, while rosés will be full of bright red berry fruit and rose petals. In general Crémants d’Alsace are rounder than Champagnes. For specific tasting notes, Fiona Beckett provides a good profile of Domaine Pfister Crémant d’Alsace and we also like the notes for Baron de Hoen Crémant d’Alsace Prestige Blanc de Blancs, Willm Crémant d’Alsace Blanc de Blanc, Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé and Gustave Lorentz Crémant d’Alsace Pinot Noir from Cliff’s Wine Picks.
For pairing Crémant d’Alsace with food, we suggest considering Eggs Benedict (which Fiona Beckett considers one of the best wines to accompany it) for a luxurious brunch or lunch. The Wines of Alsace website also provides recipes for four of its pairing suggestions: Easy Crab Cakes, Baked Camembert with Figs, Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler, and Corn Pudding. Like most sparkling wines, Crémant d’Alsace is food friendly and excellent at cutting through rich dishes and bringing out the flavours of all seafood.
If you want more information on the wines of Alsace, whether still or sparkling, the Wine Society’s guide to buying the wines of Alsace by buyer Marcel Orford-Williams is useful, as are Wines of Alsace, Alsace-Wine.net, Vins Alsace, and the Alsace information page on Wine Folly.
Yesterday was a hard day for American cyclists, with both Tejay van Garderen and Andrew Talansky involved in crashes. Talansky’s crash came in the sprint finish and was captured by the cameras in bone-crunching detail, but he lost skin rather than time because he was within 1km when he crashed. IAM Cycling’s Martin Elmiger made his team’s first-ever appearance on the podium when he picked up the prize for most combative cyclist, but team leader Mathias Frank crashed, injuring his hip and fracturing his femur. There aren’t that many sports where an athlete keeps going with a broken leg, but Frank actually finished the stage before seeking medical attention. Afterwards he headed off to Geneva for surgery. Forget the prize for most combative — there really should be one for anyone who drags himself to the finish line with those kinds of injuries.
Today’s stage through Lorraine, beginning in Tomblaine and ending in Gérardmer La Mauselaine. It’s a fairly short stage that ends in the first summit finish, where many of the GC contenders (Alberto Contador among them) will try to gain time on their competitors.
Lorraine isn’t considered one of the great wine regions of France, but in fact, it has a long history of wine production. Wine-growing in the region declined by the beginning of the 20th century, after the destruction of many vines by Phylloxera, the movement of the rural population to the cities as industrialisation took hold, increasing competition from the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon, and then the devastation of the First World War. In 1927, grape-growers in Lorraine also found themselves shut out of the Champagne industry, when the delimitation of the Champagne region meant that grapes from Lorraine could no longer be bought for the Champagne industry. It’s hard to believe these days, given how seldom you see wines from Lorraine outside the region, that viticulture began with the Romans and that the region once had more area under vine than neighbouring Alsace.
The most important areas for grape-growing and wine production in Lorraine are the Côtes-de-Meuse (AOVDQS) in the Meuse river valley, the Moselle (AOVDQS), and the Côtes-de-Toul (AOC) in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department/regionin the area around the town of Toul, near Nancy.
The AOC designation for the Côtes de Toul was awarded only in 1998, so things may be beginning to turn around. Only Aubin Blanc (a local variety) and Auxerrois Blanc are allowed in the AOC for white wine, and only Pinot Noir for red wine. For vin gris, the rosé wine which is a specialty of the region and sometimes unappetizingly called “gray wine” in English, only Gamay (the most common grape grown in the AOC) and Pinot Noir may be used as main grapes, with only Aubin Blanc, Auxerrois Blanc and Pinot Meunier allowed in a smaller amount not allowed to exceed 15% combined. A minimum of 10% Pinot Noir must also be used. Vin gris is made with only a quick press that gives juice very little contact with the grape skins and therefore only a light colour, and the resulting wine should be drunk young.
We ran across an educational video about Vin Gris from the Côtes de Toul. If you can understand French, you’ll probably enjoy this; if you don’t, you can at least see the colour of the wine and the traditional glasses for the wine. We regret that Mrs. Winetuned is quite rusty , and Mr. Winetuned only knows enough French to ask you to open the window, so for us it was a bit of a struggle.
We have a confession to make. We have followed cyclist and presenter Matt Stephens (@MattStephens) on Twitter for quite a while and have seen him cheering Vincenzo Nibali and calling him “Nibbles,” a bad habit we’ve picked up. So yesterday, of course, when Nibali made his move and dashed past the other cyclists to take the stage win and the yellow jersey, the room was filled with shouts of “Go, Nibbles!” “Nibbles for the win!” and chants of “Nibbles, Nibbles, Nibbles.” The neighbours must have thought we’d gone mad.
The BBC is reporting that 2.5 million people lined the route to see the Tour on the roads of Yorkshire, and it certainly looked like there could have been that many, judging by the live television coverage and photos appearing afterwards. Some of the best shots (and probably some of the most difficult cycling) were of cyclists pushing up narrow, winding, cobbled streets, such as this one in Keighley.
We’re wondering how Stage 3 can possibly compete with what we saw in Le Tour Yorkshire, but have our fingers crossed that it can be just as exciting.
Stage 3 starts in Cambridge and travels through Hertfordshire and Essex before arriving in London on the Mall just about in time for afternoon tea. Perhaps someone in Buckingham Palace will pop the kettle on for the winner.
If not, we’d like to suggest a celebratory English sparkling wine for the winner. English sparkling for the Tour de France? When the cyclists are soon to spend two days cycling through Champagne? Absolutely. There’s a very good reason some English growers can make sparkling wine to compete with the best Champagne: the geological formation is the same, meaning the soil is very similar. So is England’s climate these days. All it really lacks is a catchy name. There’s a good article on the BBC website that goes into much more detail on the history and current rising status of sparkling wine in England.
We’re recommending one of Ridgeview’s sparkling wines, most of which are (appropriately enough for today’s Tour arrival in London) named for places in London. Ridgeview is located in Sussex in the South Downs and it specialises in growing the traditional Champagne varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
One that we have tried and particularly like is Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé. According to the producer’s website, it is unusual for rosé as it is Chardonnay dominant, with a portion of red wine made from ripe Pinots added to it. As for taste, it has a “gorgeous salmon colour with an abundance of bubbles and a beautifully creamy mousse. Chardonnay dominance brings freshness and finesse, whilst the Pinots simply hint at the classic red fruits for which England is so acclaimed. A raspberry and red currant nose with hints of strawberries and cream carry through to a delightfully fruit driven palate. The finish is lively and long.”
We tasted Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé 2010 during English Wine Week, and it’s a real favourite of ours. Crisp, salmony-pink, and fresh without being brightly acidic, the Fitzrovia Rosé is delicious on its own, but Daniel heartily recommends trying it with a few strawberries or smoked salmon to really enhance the flavours of both. Great for romantic picnics too.
Ridgeview’s wines are widely available, even outside of England. If you want to pick up a bottle to celebrate the Tour’s arrival in London this afternoon, you might just have time. Check the full list of stockists on Ridgeview’s website to find the closest.
What a fantastic start to the Tour de France! Blue skies, sunshine, enthusiastic crowds, the delight of seeing French names for very English places flash across the screen (Côte de Buttertubs, anyone?) — even the sheep were painted yellow to celebrate the arrival of the Tour de France in Yorkshire.
Black Sheep Brewery in Masham created a Velo Pale Ale for the occasion and threw #LeGrandParty, which was very popular, judging by their Twitter feed (@BlackSheepBeer). Masham was also home to this cycling sheep display. As you can tell, sheep were very much a theme.
But for the crash at the finish that may have taken local favourite Mark Cavendish out of the race, it was a perfect day for British cycling fans. Congratulations to winner Marcel Kittel, and also to Sky’s Chris Froome, who surprised everyone by coming in sixth on a sprinter’s stage.
THE headquarters for Stage 2 of Tour de France, which this year takes cyclists from York to Sheffield, seems to be Holmfirth Vineyard. The vineyard is located in the West Yorkshire town of Holmfirth, which is within the metropolitan borough of Kirklees and near Huddersfield, and if it looks a bit familiar as you watch the television coverage, it was actually the setting for the long-running television series, “The Last of the Summer Wine.” We hope they haven’t painted Nora Batty yellow.
If you are close enough to Holmfirth Vineyard to get there today, we’d recommend seizing the opportunity because they are hosting an England vs. France wine tasting with Oz Clarke and a Wine and Beer Sports and Family Day, combining bouncy castles for the kids and English beer and wine for the adults. We really loved these glasses they created for the occasion.
Holmfirth also created a special wine to commemorate the Tour passing through Holmfirth. It’s called Holmfirth Solaris, and it’s a dry white wine, and we can’t really tell you more than what you see on the bottle, but we do know that the vineyard won an award from the Mercian Vineyard Association for its 2009 Hillside Seyval/Phoenix white wine, 2009 Holmeview Seyval/Rondo rosé, and 2010 Holme View Rondo.
Holmfirth also sells its Holmfirth Seyval Dry White Wine 2012 and Holmfirth Rondo “Rosé for Men”2012 via the Holmfirth Vineyard website. The rondo is particularly interesting, as the rondo grape has red juice and produces a dark red colour although the wine has had no skin contact. That also means no tannins, and the result is a deeply coloured, medium-dry, very fruity rosé with complex cherry notes and aromas.
And, of course, all the cycling action will be on big screens so vineyard guests don’t have to miss a moment as the peloton winds its way through Yorkshire to today’s finish in Sheffield.
This year’s Tour begins in the north — WAY north, not in France but in Yorkshire. The Tour will spend two days in Yorkshire before moving south through Cambridgeshire and Essex to finish up stage three in London, and there will be plenty of English fans along the route cheering the cyclists on. If you’re going to watch the race along the route or join the parties at one of the public venues that will be airing coverage of the race on big screens across England, let us know! We’d love to hear how you got on. The official Tour de France website has more details about where to go to see the Tour during the English stages.
Obviously, as the cycling begins in Leeds, so should the wine-drinking. Leventhorpe Vineyard is Yorkshire’s oldest commercial vineyard and is actually within the Leeds city boundary. While Simon Burnton wryly referred to the terroir in the area as “muddy” in the Guardian in 2011, Leventhorpe’s wines have received considerable praise. The vineyard’s success is down to owner George Bowden’s canny choice of site: the microclimate of his five acres, on a south-facing slope in a river valley with good drainage and protection from frosts, produces quality wines year after year. Leventhorpe growns mainly Madeleine Angevine and Seyval Blanc for still and sparkling whites, along with Triomphe, Regent and Pinot Noir for its reds. Leventhorpe recently released its first rosé sparkling, called Salmon Blush, made from Seyval Blanc with additional Red Triomphe and Pinot Noir for colour.
Welcome back! Here’s what we were reading this week:
John Walsh’s feature in The Independent presents “The might of Mendoza: The romantic tale behind Argentina’s booming malbec grape.” Warning: this story will make you want to run out and buy a bottle of Malbec immediately, or, if your budget stretches to it, board a plane to Mendoza. Hide your wallet before reading.
Eric Asimov’s article on California rosés in the New York Times, and his tasting report, may provide some inspiration for American readers. He’s looking for wines that fulfill “rosé’s prime directive, to invigorate, refresh and revive” rather than being heavy and overly sweet. As we recently mentioned, we’ve become enamoured of Famille Bougrier Rosé d’Anjou, and hope to sample a few more rosés soon.
WineFolly features a comprehensive guide to wine-based marinades for meats, seafood, tofu, and vegetables. There’s a recipe for a Zinfandel-Rosemary Marinade for Tri-Tip Roast, but readers outside the U.S. may need to try Wikipedia or elsewhere to figure out what that particular cut of beef is called locally. Or why not just substitute another cut and see how it goes? That’s what usually happens at Winetuned World Headquarters after we’ve looked at a few inscrutable diagrams of cow butchery (US and UK) and tried to work it out.
It seems everyone we follow on Twitter was recently tasting Grüner Veltliner in Vienna, Fiona Beckett included, and she has added an article to her site on what goes well with it. Some of the possibilities might surprise you.
Jancis Robinson’s team have updated her site’s article on “London for Wine Lovers.” Whether you live in London, plan to travel to London, or just wish you could, you should check out the revised list. It covers wine shops, wine bars, and what are called “Wine-Minded Restaurants In and Around London.” Really, the only thing missing is a calendar of annual wine-related events such as London Wine Week.
Absolute newcomers to Riesling and longtime Riesling fans may enjoy this article on The Savory about why Riesling is amazing. The best line? “Ever wished your glass of crisp sauvignon blanc embraced that ripe fruit a bit more than the cut grass covered in cat piss? Riesling.” Serious reasons to try Riesling, delivered with humour and some slightly odd images.
The Independent ran a feature with the misleading title, “A dummy’s guide to wine appreciation: A new crop of female oenophiles are keen to point out an appreciation of the drink isn’t just for snobs.” It’s actually a profile of one woman, Anne McHale, a 33-year-old from Belfast who is a recent Master of Wine now working as a Wine Education Specialist at Berry Bros & Rudd. McHale’s path into the wine industry makes interesting reading, and her wine advice for beginners is simple and down to earth.
Do Americans drink and appreciate more Italian wines these days than the Italians do? Alfonso Cevola explains how regional divisions, changing tastes, and unscrupulous business practices have put Italian winemakers in a curious position, with declining fortunes at home and new possibilities abroad in places like the United States.
In the US, people will soon be eating homegrown heirloom tomatoes, summer on a plate (quiet sob). While our hopes for a good crop of English tomatoes this year from our garden are not high, we’re taking note of the wine suggestions here just in case.
One final note: Mrs. Winetuned really wishes the US team were not playing all its World Cup matches so late at night. Caffeine consumption the next day has risen to epic proportions.