Monthly Archives: April 2014

Crus on board

It’s not the first time that bottles of wine have sailed between Bordeaux and Bristol. The cities are twinned and the history of wine exports to England dates back Eleanor of Aquitaine and the port of Bordeaux was France’s largest commercial port in the 17th century.

The trade continues today, of course. Britain remains the largest market for Bordeaux wines in value if not in volume (China imported 538K hl in 2012 for a value of 338 M€ compared to Britain’s 223K hl for a value of 420M€). The trade is rather less romantic now; containers and trucks leave from out of town warehouses, replacing the old sailing ships on the quays of the city.

However, some enterprising Bordeaux students revisit the tradition each year. 2014 sees the 4th edition of La Route de Cru, when students from the Bordeaux campus of l’Ecole de Commerce Européenne (INSEEC) will sail from Bordeaux to Bristol, via La Rochelle and Lorient. The initiative came from a group of students from the school in 2011 (a good vintage for cross-Channel wine trips as Laithwaites also did a similar enterprise that year). It was born from a love of sailing and the region’s fine wine, combined with a desire to raise money for charity.

The business school is situated on the Bordeaux waterfront, not far from where the boat will set sail.  A team of 25 students are organising the adventure, not all of whom will fit on the boat with the wines; some will travel by car. The boat sails tomorrow, 29th April.

Setting sail in 2013

Setting sail in 2013

Once in Bristol, they will sell their precious cargo of Bordeaux bottles in an auction held to raise money for 2 children’s charities; one in Bordeaux and one in Bristol on Thursday 8th May at The Mansion House. Last year they donated  €2100 to the association ‘Rêves’, which realises the wishes of seriously ill children and €900 to ‘Street Child’ a UK charity providing educational opportunities for children in West Africa. This year the chosen causes are both local; Aladin is a Bordeaux based charity that also fufills the dreams of seriously ill children as well as improving their stay in hospital and the Bristol and Beira Link helps inhabitants in Mozambique suffering due to precarious economic and social conditions.

The ECE Team

The ECE Team

The sponsors of this initiative include France Bleu Gironde, The Bordeaux Town Hall, Rotary, la Banque Populaire, la Vinothèque de Bordeaux, Stenico and l’ECE as well as Bordeaux properties and merchants that have contributed wine for the auction. There’s still time to help. For more information and to follow their travels visit :   http://laroutedesvins.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Penny Blue for your thoughts.

The dark, thick, treacle like molasses, fermenting in 3 large vats, fills the 1926 building of the Medine Distillery with the characteristic aromas of overripe bananas.  Medine on the West coast of Mauritius is the oldest operational rum distillery on the island.

Molasses awaiting fermentation

Molasses awaiting fermentation

The distillery building dates from 1926

The distillery building dates from 1926

However, since the 1970’s, the 6 million litres of alcohol distilled here was sold in bulk to other island bottlers but in the last few years, thanks to a collaboration with Berry Brothers and Rudd, they are now the proud owners of two successful new rum brands.

Fermentation

Fermenting Molasses

The rum distillation column

The rum distillation column

These two brands have very different profiles. Since 2010 their Pink Pigeon rum has enjoyed a run away success on the island but also in export markets as a cocktail ingredient. This is what the islanders would call a ‘rhum arrangé’; a white rum blended with other aromatic ingredients. In this case Bourbon Vanilla, orange extract and the magic ingredient orchid flower (vanilla is also a orchid).

The cask warehouse

The cask warehouse

Named after a rare bird indigenous to Mauritius, part of the proceeds from the sales go towards restoration of the birds’ natural habitat. With its funky bottle, designer driven, Pink Pigeon is a fun product aimed mainly at the cocktail market and a young urban clientele.

The new brand Penny Blue has a more serious profile. Aimed at a connoisseur market to be served as an after dinner drink, a sipping rum (to be enjoyed with a cigar perhaps) although it works really well with chocolate too!

It’s no surprise that the taste profile is reminiscent of the heady aromas of a blended malt whisky. The ageing in casks from origins as diverse as Bourbon, Cognac and Whisky means that master distiller Jean-Francois Koeing has a wonderful selection in his ageing warehouse to choose from with rums of 6, 8 and 10 years.

Master Distiller Jean-Francois Keonig

Master Distiller Jean-Francois Keonig

Wood management is crucial as, due to the local climate, the angel’s share, or the evaporation of the alcohol through the casks, is about 8% per year in Mauritius. It therefore matures four times faster than whisky in a cool Scottish climate. The link with whisky is reinforced by a collaboration with his fellow blender Doug McIvor, from Berry Brothers who is more often to be found in the Glenrothes distillery in Speyside. The rum is 100% natural, unsweetened, not chill filtered and not coloured. The colour and sweetness come uniquely from the raw material, sugar cane, and the oak casks.

Bottling

The bottling line

As with Pink Pigeon, Medine is keen to underline their link to the island. The rum is named after the Penny Blue stamp, issued here in September 1847. Among the rarest postage stamps in the world, a few surviving stamps can be seen in Mauritius museums.

Penny Blue Rum is pretty rare too. It is an XO (extra old) the same designation as used for Cognac. This means it is a blend in which the youngest spirit has been aged for at least six years. (In 2016, the minimum ageing for the youngest spirit in the XO blend will be 10 years). It is non-chill-filtered and is bottled at 44.1% abv on the estate.

Batch No 1 is running out in favour of Batch No 2

Batch No 1 is running out in favour of Batch No 2

The first batch was released at the end of last year, the 700 bottles from just 14 casks have already sold out and the second batch was just being prepared for shipping when I visited earlier this week. Jean-Francois explained that each batch is slightly different as the blend is selected from the casks that he considers ready for blending at the time. He is keen to emphasise this batch effect – not dissimilar to a vintage effect in wine, which will please enthusiasts and collectors, as the difference between the two batches was quite distinctive. The ripe tropical fruit notes underlined by oak and vanilla are present on the palate of both batches, which have a great length and finish with a delicious caramel note. However the second batch is a little smoother and feminine with a lovely sweetness from the bourbon barrels.

If you can’t make it to Mauritius,  you can find a taste of the island on the BBR web site. And with Easter upon us try it with some chocolate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Delicious Mauritius

When you think of a tropical island and what grows there, what springs to mind? Mangoes, pineapples, coconuts, papaya, vanilla….. Well, in Mauritius, there’s all of the above and so much more and local company Poivre d’Or uses them all. They produce a wonderful range of jams, spices, chutneys, honeys and teas, all beautiful packaged in locally produced, recycled packaging.

Copper pots

Copper pots ready for jam making

 

Sterilizing the mini jam pots for the hotels

Sterilizing the mini jam pots for the hotels

Everything is produced in the North of the island from all natural, local produce (no colouring agents, preservatives or flavour enhances here), complemented by specialities from other regions of the Indian Ocean. The kitchens are in an old converted hospital where a dedicated team of 30 local women hand chop, cook, decant and package up to  5000 jars a day from traditional recipes. They also produce candles perfumed with essential oils, teas, local sugars, salt and serving spoons made from Madagascan Zebu horn.

Hand labeling the pots

Hand labeling the pots

The company has been serving their traditional market, the islands luxury hotels, since 2002 but they now operate their own shops in the island so visitors can take a little local flavour home with them, in beautifully prepared gift boxes. They are also now available at  Le Marché du Moulin.

Rainbow spices ready for your Mauritian curry

Rainbow spices ready for your Mauritian curry

They also export to the USA, Germany and France so keep your eyes open for them at home.

 

 

 

 


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All change in and around Bordeaux in the restaurant line up.

The Michelin star accolades that arrive in February each year are a sign of the times, none more so than in and around Bordeaux, where there were a few surprises this year. So if you plan your wine tourism around places to eat (which sounds like plan to me) here’s a quick update.

It’s been a game of musical chairs in the Bordeaux gastro scene. On the move this spring is the Michelin stared chef Nicolas Frion, who has presided over the kitchens of Le Chapon Fin for the last 11 years. The iconic Chapon Fin is a Bordeaux Institution (and probably still my favourite smart place to dine in Bordeaux city). It first opened its doors in 1825 and has kept its Michelin star in this year’s ratings along with Le Septième Péché, Le Gabriel and Le Pavillon des Boulevards in Bordeaux, and in the oustskirts of Bordeaux, Le Saint-James
in Bouillac, La Cape in Cenon and Jean-Marie Amat
 in Lormont.

Although the restaurant retains his name, Jean-Marie Amat re-opened in March under the young chef Vivien Durant, big shoes to fill but he was hand picked by the maestro so I’m optimistic.

Le Pressoir d’Argent at The Grand Hotel de Bordeaux lost its star with the departure of Pascal Nibaudeau for the Pinasse Café en Cap Ferret. Stéphane Carrade from la Guérinière in Arcachon has taken his place (told you it was musical chairs!) although Stéphane previous held 2 Michelin stars at Chez Ruffet in Jurançon.

Chef Stephane Carrade from Le Pressoir d'Argent at Le Grand Hotel

Chef Stephane Carrade from Le Pressoir d’Argent at Le Grand Hotel

Outside of the city La Grande Vigne Restaurant at Les Sources de Caudalie kept their star and the hotel is adding to their gastro offer this summer with a new ‘epicierie-bar’, alongside 12 new suites all built, Arcachon style, on stilts.

Further south, in Sauternes country, the fourth generation of the Darroze family kept their star at  Claude Darroze in Langon whereas in and around Saint Emilion is also a hotbed of changes. After the departure of Philippe Etchebest from l’Hostellerie de Plaisance, it was no great surprise that they lost both their Michelin stars. Philippe, despite his recent TV stardom, is hopefully not lost to the region as rumour has it he is opening his own restaurant in Bordeaux. After 10 years working with the Perse family, who are also the owners of the recently promoted 1st growth Château Pavie, and gaining 2 stars, he has been replaced by a fellow Basque Cédric Béchade, who was launched onto the Bordeaux scene at the start of this primeur week with a gala dinner at Château Pavie.

Not to be outdone in the gastro stakes, Château Angelus has also announced their purchase of Saint Emilion institution Le Logis de la Cadène. This picturesque restaurant is one of the favourite haunts of locals, despite being on one of the most treacherously slippery slopes of the medieval town. Christophe Gaudi now manages it and the kitchen has been taken over by the young Alexander Baard. Come and test his talents out this summer before they close for a complete renovation of the guests rooms this winter.

On the outskirts of Saint Emilion the little known but increasing popular Cafe Cuisine, on the banks of the Dordogne River in Branne, has renovated their dining room to become a trendy spot for locals. Further upstream, The Auberge Saint Jean in Saint Jean de Blaignac has won its first Michelin star after continued improvement since 2010 when it was taken over by Manuela and Thomas L’Hérisson.

Head out even further east into the Dordogne to the beautiful golf and country club, Chateau des Vigiers, where chef Didier Casaguana of Les Fresques Restaurant has just won his first Michelin star too.

The beautiful Chateau des Vigiers

The beautiful Chateau des Vigiers

Now even the most seasoned visitors to the region have plenty of new places and chefs to try this season.

 

 

And you shall go to the (gardener’s) ball.

Situated at the heart of England, on the river Leam that gives the town its name, Royal Leamington Spa is a town known for its waters taken by the “great and the good” since the end of the 18th century.  Queen Victoria had visited the town in 1830 while still a princess and granted the town the Royal suffix in 1838. The popularity of the waters fuelled the prosperity of the town and the building of the gardens, river walk and some elegant, wide boulevards, leaving us with a beautiful blend of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture.

Lansdowne Crescent in Leamington Spa

Lansdowne Crescent in Leamington Spa

Being my home town, I have a particular affection for Leamington and although the town is now better known as an elegant shopping destination, it’s history as a garden town, in the original sense of the word, is being revived.

Local florist and designer Sarah Horne has won three Gold medals alongside silver gilt and 2 bronze at The Chelsea Flower Show and the prestigious title of Chelsea Florist of the Year 2011. She is one of the leading forces, along side garden designer Debbie Cooke, behind a bid to bring Leamington Spa to the Chelsea Flower Show Great Pavilion this year.

The proposed Leamington Spa pavilion

The proposed Leamington Spa pavilion

This vent celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Pump room gardens and the exhibit will return to Leamington to launch the annual flower festival, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Pump room gardens. The exhibit will return to Leamington to launch the annual flower festival which this year will celebrate the town’s on-going association with beautiful gardens.  The design will capture the essence of the town with its sophisticated Regency exterior with plantings to reflect the different areas of Leamington including a water element to reflect the river, lake and fountains associated with this beautiful spa town.

See more on http://www.bloomingleamington.com and if you are inspired to help with time, knowledge or money contact them to lend a hand.

 

More tourism from women in wine.

There was an interesting little historic view of the role of women in wine on the Bordeaux website recently.  It’s a topic I love to champion, as you’ll know if you follow this blog. And whilst on the subject, last week ‘Les Medocaines’ launched their new 2014 wine tourism products. These wine makers from the Medoc have been opening their doors to wine enthusiasts for a hands-on introduction to wines of the region since 2005.

Medocaines

Martine Cazeneuve of Chateau Paloumey and Armelle Cruze of Chateau Le Taillan join forces as Les Medocaines.

This year they are opening on Sundays to allow you to make the most of your weekends in Bordeaux. Start with breakfast at Chateau Paloumey  and a  walk through the vineyards to learn about the agriculture cycle of the vines. Then on to Chateau du Taillan to learn about wine making in the cellar followed by a picnic in the beautiful grounds of the chateau.

Picking at Paloumey

Picking at Paloumey

 

If you can’t get there in the summer, don’t despair as in the autumn they are running their traditional harvest workshops where you can set to with the secateurs and in the winter running their a blending workshop to see how the wines are made. Details from the Bordeaux Tourist Office.

Just as I started writing this, I learned the sad news that Christine Valette Pariente has left us after a long and brave battle with illness. She was at the head and the heart of Chateau Troplong Mondot, seeing her hard work rewarded with the elevation of the property to a First Classified Growth in 2006. Her sense of hospitality was reflected in the creation of les Belles Perdrix rooms and restaurant at the chateau.  My condolences and wishes go to her family at this difficult time.

 

So what is primeur exactly?

If you have read Clare Tooley’s post but haven‘t had the dubious pleasure of coming to Bordeaux for the primeur tastings you might be wondering what it’s all about. Here’s the heads up on what has been happening in Bordeaux this week.

I have already given an outline of how it is supposed to work and I have covered this tricky red 2013 vintage in a previous post although the Sweet whites loved almost every minute of it.

Despite all the talk about not coming this year, thousands of members of the wine trade, including merchants, buyers, journalists and other opinion leaders from all over the world have been in Bordeaux to spend a few days swirling and spitting their way around the wines of the 2013 vintage to draw their own conclusions on the quality on offer.

Far from all the chateaux of the region show, or even sell their wines on primeur. Only about 5% of Bordeaux production is classified, or equivalent, even if this 5% does represent almost 20% of the commercial value of the region and perhaps even more in the image stakes (I wonder how we can measure that?)

If you count the 61 Medoc and Graves and the 27 Sauternes & Barsac, properties classified in 1855, the 82 properties in the latest Saint Emilion classification, (64 Grands Crus Classés et 18 Premiers Grands Crus Classés) and the 13 red and 9 white (6 do both) of Graves you come to a grand total of under 200. We should also include most of Pomerol and some stars from other appellations. Don’t forget the Cru Bourgeois currently 256, some, but not all of which sell as futures.  Still this ‘only’ makes about 500 wines out of 8000 properties (most of which produce several wines) – you get the picture.

 

Samples ready for tasting

Samples ready for tasting

Also, surprisingly enough, it’s not just Bordeaux, many Bordeaux wine consultants will make the most of the great and the good of the world wine trade being under ‘one roof’ to show their wines made in other wine regions of the world.

All these wines to taste might sound like a daunting task, but you’ll be happy to know that these devoted palates, tasting on your behalf, don’t have to visit hundreds of chateaux to taste all these wines. Properties from the same or neighbouring appellations, and various wine associations join forces to present their wares in one venue.

For example Sauternes this year showed at Chateau Guiraud, the right bank wines at Château la Pointe in Pomerol and the Cru Bourgeois at Chateau d’Arsac. The top growths however tend to ask you to visit ‘chez eux’ although Chateau Yquem has presented in the glamorous Opera House in Bordeaux city for the last few years, in case merchants can’t make the trip down South.

The Bordeaux Opera House

The Bordeaux Opera House

Most of this is organised by the UGC – Union des Grands crus, (hence the abbreviation UGC week for the initiated) and they carefully distribute invitations to the great and the good of the world wine trade. If you are not on this privileged list you can live the experience vicariously without the loss of sleep and damage to you liver by following your favorite wine critics. Here are a few of my suggestions.

Gavin Quinney makes Bordeaux wine at Chateau Bauduc as well as tasting for Harpers and Liv-ex, you can link to both from his blog. Other Brits in Bordeaux to follow are Roger Voss who is European editor for The Wine Enthusiast and James Lawther who tastes for Decanter along with his colleague Stephen Spurrier. For a trade point of view from the UK I recommend the Berry Brothers and Rudd blog and for an American point of view follow JJ Buckley.

Alternatively see you this time next year in Bordeaux.

 

 

 

My top line thoughts from Primeurs tastings this week ….

My child is poorly today. Wan, washed out, anxious-looking after a fitful night. I won’t be tasting any more Primeurs therefore this week. I am not altogether sorry. Not because the last few days haven’t been fun – far from it. I have always loved this time of year in Bordeaux. Yes, I’ve tasted sexier, more sensual, more cerebral Bordeaux En Primeur, but I’ve also tasted a few monsters along the way, and these are far from being that.

Many of the wines I tasted this week remind me of my son this morning – bear with me, the maternal spirit is clearly running high on too few hours sleep – but the paleness of some of the 13s is there for all to see. Some of them are anxious too. Some of them appear to be undecided as to what or who they are – ‘a very Burgundian array’ I heard a few say.

As an optimist I, for one, found great pleasure in some wines this week. But I tasted very few in the context of such a vast region. I cannot claim to have a hold of the vintage. I’m in no hurry however, to taste a great deal more, not because I disliked what little I saw, but because I’m quite content to let them sleep awhile. Most are simply not ready to be ‘seen’ in public. The Primeurs season is a cruel stage for ugly ducklings. I suspect many need nurture and time in their cellars, they need to be left alone to rest.

Good news for the technologically-minded however. The vintage has provided a fine playground for the scientists. Wineries bristling with the latest ‘kit’ have come into their own – and there are many in Bordeaux these days. I tasted wine whose berries had been transported to the Chai in baskets fitted with special shock absorbers to protect their bruised and rot-infected punctured skins from further battering. Another wine from Saint Estephe benefited from a dose of stalk ‘medicine’, a patented powder technique, too secret as yet to be shared even with me, a curious MW student. I feel sure more cosmetic miracles will and can be performed between now and bottling to fill and smooth those worry lines away.

But there are some natural beauties amongst the gaggle of awkwardnesses, to the Left and Right. Expressive florality and delicacy rub shoulders with ‘silent’ worried wines, hard edged with extraction. And isn’t the contrast what makes Bordeaux so fascinating? It gives meaning and a sense of purpose to a region that performs on a world stage year after year. Variety, distinction, poor performance, stellar performance, stage-fright, illusion, stark reality, show-stoppers, howlers. Certain Chateaux over the last few years have mined the world’s cult of celebrity well, stealing front stage, flashing brilliance, feeding a consumer fixated on fashion and fortune. Whilst some rest on faded laurels, others have reinvented themselves. They all crave an audience however and most took to the stage again in this difficult year.

‘Fresh’ is the one of the kindest descriptors. But this is not a vintage for generalities. This is a year, amongst the top, to choose and enjoy individual properties, if within financial reach. There’s fun to be had doing that. For me, Thienpont’s wines truly sing this year – eye-wateringly fresh and pure. Moueix’s traditional collection vividly perfume the room, as do the wines of Chateau Cheval Blanc. Chateau Pontet Canet fills the senses with weightless intricacy. Chateau d’Yquem is a true masterpiece with a feather duvet structure.

Back to duvets and pillows. I must see to my son. He’ll be fine. He’ll bounce back with a spoonful of sugar. The wines of Bordeaux’s 2013 vintage have had a rougher ride. An unhealthy growing season followed by much mockery and scorn from passers-by. Some have pulled through unscathed, others are decidedly pale still, others will not make it. ‘Wines to drink young and forget quickly’ I was told. Good. Life’s short. Make them affordable and I’ll look forward to meeting them again in bottle and drinking a few.

Clare Tooley, 4th April 2014

Follow Clare on twitter @ClareT_y

 

Vintage education

 

Come back to school

Come back to school

2013 was a great vintage for the Bordeaux Wine School (l’Ecole du vin de Bordeaux) with over 82 000 people passing through the doors either in Bordeaux or further afield with one of our overseas partners. You can see some of School activities at Bordeaux Fête Wine le Vin here.

Trade roadshow in Las Vegas

Trade roadshow in Las Vegas

In France 11 500 students, journalists, trade and enthusiastic amateurs joined us in Bordeaux (+27% on 2012), and abroad 71 000 (+20%) either at trade roadshows (saw some of you there), wine festivals or with our 209 accredited tutors and 36 arccredited schools. If you didn’t make it last year try this year. The 2014 calendar is on line or join us at Bordeaux Fête le Vin this June.