Monthly Archives: November 2016

The taster’s 24 days of Christmas.  

The run up to Christmas is always exciting and even more so if you have an advent calendar to help with the count down. As a girl, my advent calendars were little cardboard windows with all the excitement of a different picture behind them on transparent paper so they glowed against the light. My boys grew up with an added bonus of chocolates behind each door. As an official chocaholic, these still work for me, but now there are even more interesting grown-up versions. Below is a list of ten of my favourites, chosen with tasters in mind.

Fortunately for wine lovers, we no longer have to limit ourselves to boozy chocolates. Most wines already come in handy cases of twelve so two cases and there’s your bottle a day to open for the month of December right there – job done. Spirits are also cutting in on the act: fortunately not a bottle a day or you probably wouldn’t make it until Christmas, even sharing. There’s also an option to train your sense of smell without the alcohol, think scent and candles.

  1. Chocolate advent calendars still work, even for adults – Hotel Chocolat have a great range you can choose from dark, milk or white chocolates in the shape of seasonal reindeer, snowmen, penguins and Christmas trees.
Christmas figurines behind the windows at Hotel Chocolat

Christmas figurines behind the windows at Hotel Chocolat

  1. They also have a more romantic version for couples with two of each type of truffle behind each little window, which should prevent any pre-christmas family squabbling.
Or chocolates for two

Or chocolates for two

  1. French chocolatier La Maison du Chocolat also does a beautiful version as lovely to look at as to taste.
Designer chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat

Designer chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat

  1. The Ginvent calendar (geddit?) from the Ginfoundary includes 24 different miniatures of gin covering all different styles from different types of producer, inspired by a pop-up life-size, i.e. bottle-sized, bar they created one Christmas.
Discover botanicals with Ginvent © Giles Christopher - Media Wisdom Photography Ltd

Discover botanicals with Ginvent
© Giles Christopher – Media Wisdom Photography Ltd

  1. If whisky is your preferred seasonal tipple, Drinks by the Dram offer a whole range of different whisky selections as advent calendars. They include Scotch, Irish but also American and Japanese whiskies, as well as gins, vodkas, cognacs and tequilas. I have my eye on the old and rare whisky version as homework for a whisky tour next year, in case anyone’s asking.
A dram per day from Whisky by the Dram

A dram per day from Whisky by the Dram

  1. Wine. Although any case of 12 you choose can be doubled up to reach 24, Virgin wines has created a selection of 24 bottles in a special advent package so you don’t have to choose.
and a Bottle a day from Virgin Wines

and a bottle a day from Virgin Wines

  1. Chateau Bauduc will deliver two Christmas choices directly to you from the Château in Bordeaux. The Sparkling Case includes 8 bottles including dry white, sweet white and sparkling Bordeaux or a 6 bottle case under the banner Christmas Lunch without the sparkling so that’ll be 3 cases of the first or 4 of the second to make it through the month.
Put a sparkle in the run up to Christmas.

Put a sparkle in the run up to Christmas.

9.Traditional London Wine Merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd offers a range of Christmas cases to choose from, again in cases of 3, 6 or 12 so you’ll have to do your own maths to get to the desired number. Their Luxury Collection; a top range of wines including champagne, red and white both sweet and dry from across France, a bottle of port and a bottle of their single malt whisky – so that should cover you until Christmas day with a wee dram left over for the big day perhaps?

Spoilt for choice at BBR

Spoilt for choice at BBR

If you want to train your sense of smell without imbibing here’s a couple of options:

  1. Jo Malone (they have a shop in Bordeaux now too) has a gorgeous advent calendar full of mini perfumes most of which have fruit, flower and spice notes – so perfect training for the wine taster.
Train your sense of smell with Jo Malone

Train your sense of smell with Jo Malone

10. French candle maker and perfumer Diptyque has a similar calendar filled with mini scents and candles including their holiday fragrance such as pine, incense and berries – perfect for the festive mood.

Or with Dyptique

Or with Dyptique

I’m not sure what wine you’d pair with them but if you’ve followed the advice above you’ll have plenty to choose from.

Château Sigalas Rabaud – a family tradition

The same names do tend to pop up again and again on my blog – I don’t apologise for having my favourites and Chateau Sigalas Rabaud is one of them.

Chateau Sigalals Rabaud

Chateau Sigalas Rabaud

It ticks a lot of boxes for me:

– sweet wines are, of course, part of my Bordeaux history,

– it is tiny (just 14 ha – the smallest of the 1er Crus) so defies the perception of Bordeaux vineyards all being enormous estates.

– despite being a 1st growth of Sauternes from the 1855 classification it is still family owned and has been for 7 generations

– it is run by a woman who is also the wine maker.
I rest my case.

Chateau Sigalas Rabaud is perched on a gentle southern slope of the ‘terrasse du Sauternais’ where all the top growths of Sauternes are situated. The gravel topsoil, deposited over a clay subsoil by the Garonne River 600,000 years ago, gives the best of both worlds; gravel for ripeness, clay for water supply.

Less than 500 metres to the North West of Château d’Yquem, it is closer to the Ciron, the small cold stream responsible for the autumn fog, the key to the development of the fungus Botrytis Cinerea. Its slope exposes the grapes to a light breeze, drying the botrytised grapes in October, encouraging both the noble rot and the subsequent concentration of the natural sugars for these great sweet wines.

Morning mists from the Ciron

Morning mists from the Ciron

Being a family property has its challenges but also its advantages; it implies a notion of stewardship; a respect for the terroir and the long view of leaving a living soil to future generations, preserving the biodiversity. Through observation, ploughing the soil and the use of pheromones to repulse some pests means the property has vastly reduced any pesticide use and eliminated the use of weed killers.

Sauternes - a time consuming process

Laure de Lambert Compeyrot checking on barrel aging Sauternes

The feminine side of the property runs through its history Rabaud was founded at the end of the 17th century and passed down as dowry through one of the daughters. In 1863, Henry de Sigalas acquired the Château and his only son sold the biggest part of the property (now Chateau Rabaud Promis) in 1903, keeping only the “jewel” of the terroir, that homogeneous southern slope that makes up the property today. Henry added his name to the property and it became Château Sigalas Rabaud. There’s nothing new about vanity vineyards!

La Marquise

La Marquise

In 1951, Château Sigalas Rabaud was taken over by Henry’s granddaughter, Marie-Antoinette de Sigalas, who was married to the Marquis de Lambert des Granges. Two generations later, in 2006, Laure de Lambert Compeyrot joined the estate as technical director. She succeeded her father as manager, the Marquis Gérard de Lambert des Granges, in 2013 buying her uncle’s shares, to become the major shareholder of the château, following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Marie-Antoinette de Sigalas, and bringing back a feminine signature to the estate.

Laure de Lambert Compeyrot

Laure de Lambert Compeyrot – elegance runs in the family.

Her two sons, who work in their own Bordeaux merchant house also, help out – the seventh generation of the family.

As well as Chateau Sigalas Rabaud Sauternes the property produces a second Sauternes, Le Lieutenant de Sigalas, and Laure is also one of the pioneers of the dry white revolution in Sauternes. Despite some resistance from the family she introduced La Demoiselle de Sigalas, the first dry white wine in the history of the property, named after the rather beautiful Marquise. As her confidence grew, Laure continued to innovate with the 100% dry Sémillon ‘La Semillante’.

The wines of Chateau Sigalas Rabaud

The wines of Chateau Sigalas Rabaud

This varietal is used in white blends throughout Bordeaux, dry as well as sweet although it is more often associated with sweet Bordeaux. It is rare to find a 100% dry Sémillon. It is quite different in style to the Sauvignon-led dry whites with more weight, a very floral nose when young and a potential for ageing.

See here for an interview with Laure and Jacques Lurton about the dry white wines of the property.

Often relegated to a dessert wine, Sweet Bordeaux wines are so much more versatile than we often give them credit for. Chateau Sigalas Rabaud, like many others in the sweet appellations, are turning their back on the heavier style of wine, crafting wines with a freshness and elegance that compliment so many foods.

Sweet wine doesn't have to be served with dessert

Sweet wine doesn’t have to be served with dessert

Or you could just sit back and enjoy a glass on it’s own – I know I do.