Monthly Archives: February 2017

What to drink in the snow.

We’re snowed in. I’m not complaining, that’s what we came to the mountains for. Over the last 4 days it hasn’t stopped and it’s fabulous. Fortunately the cellar is well stocked. I drove over here from Bordeaux and managed to find room, amongst all the ski kit, for a few bottles. You can take the girl out of Bordeaux……..

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So what do you drink in the snow? Here are 10 suggestions, Bordeaux biased given the supply chain, but not only.

Having a snowdrift by the front door is really useful for cooling wine so we’ll start with some white. If you are wondering how a chilled white wine can be warming, try Sauternes. 2001 is a favourite Sweet Bordeaux vintage and we just happened to have a bottle of Doisy Daene 2001, which is drinking beautifully. These wines really benefit from some bottle age, giving lovely caramelised fruit aromas and the characteristic saffron spice notes that are a signature of botrytis. Dry whites from Bordeaux are also a favourite so I’ll include the lovely Semillante from Sauternes 1st growth Château Sigalas Rabaud, one of the few 100% Semillon from Bordeaux. I haven’t found another yet – but I’m open to suggestions.

Perfect cooling condtions

Perfect cooling conditions

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte also seems an appropriate choice for the mountains; the owners, Florence and Daniel Cathiard, were both national ski champions before buying the property. The white wasn’t included alongside the red when it was classified in 1953 nor in 1959 but it has outshone the red in several vintages. The Sémillon-Sauvignon blend and barrel ageing makes for a white that just gets better with a few years in bottle.

But let’s not ignore the local whites. The Swiss love their white wines and use all sorts of varietals you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. A couple of favourites sampled this week are The Chasselas from The Dutruy Brothers at Domaine de la Treille from vines overlooking Lake Geneva. Thibault Panas, chef sommelier at The Lausanne Beau Rivage Palace, selected this ‘Cuvée Spéciale’. He should know as he manages one of the largest wine cellars in Europe with over 750 000 bottles and 3000 references of which about 250 are Swiss.

Chasselas chosen by The Beau Rivage Palace

Chasselas chosen by The Beau Rivage Palace

Then chosen for the name (but I didn’t regret it) The Fendant from Charles Bonvin (that’s his real name) called Sans Culottes – no knickers – haven’t got to the bottom (sorry) of the name but I will try and find out. Worked really well with a little locally smoked salmon trout.

What's in a name?

What’s in a name?

Then of course there are red wines – just what you need to warm the soul after a long day in the snow and the perfect match for the hearty cuisine of the mountains. Swiss whites may be the traditional match for the cheese fondues, but I prefer the ‘Chinese Fondue’ a take on beef fondue but cooked in beef broth rather that oil as a lighter alternative. This merits a lovely red. We washed ours down with a Château Beauregard, Pomerol 2011, another example of over-performance in an under rated vintage. The fresh acidity coped with those lovely cream sauces we dunked the beef in – not so light after all. My other local favourite food is Rosti, a type of hash browns covered in different toppings – think potato pizza on steroids. We chose Château Monbrison, Margaux 2015, a lovely wine from a great appellation in a great vintage offering excellent value for money.

Perfect with fondue

Perfect with fondue

Then of course there’s the chocolate. The Swiss are famous for their milk chocolate – all those cows? But they make lovely dark chocolate too. I love red wine with chocolate, a cabernet driven Medoc from a ripe Vintage, Château Pedesclaux, Pauillac 2009 worked really well with warm chocolate cake, but in this cold weather what really works for me is something more fortified; port or whisky. A Taylors late Bottled Vintage 2010 would be a good place to start and whisky is the perfect winter warmer. I enjoyed a lovely glass of Glenfiddich 10 year old at the bar of The Palace hotel on Saturday night – fortifying for the rather slippy ride home (I wasn’t driving – just saying).

Perfect Port

Perfect Port

So the tenth? Well 2 options; either a bit of fizz to compete with the sparkly snow. A glass of champagne cooled in the snow is always a winner. I’m quite taken with the wines of AR Lenoble, a small family champagne house producing wonderful elegant champagnes worthy of a great name. The second option? Cuddling up with a warming tisane. The local farmers collect mountain herbs here all summer, dry them and sell them in the local village shop – not sure quite what’s in there but it tastes delicious and makes you sleep like a baby. I’m hibernating now until the snow stops falling.

Mountain tisane

Mountain tisane

 

 

 

Chateau Feely – sustainable wine tourism

Chateau Feely’s award of the Gold Best of Wine Tourism for accommodation is a victory for the small guys. Many of the winners of these awards are the grand and prestigious Châteaux of Bordeaux, their awards are well deserved for the excellence of their service and prestigious offerings, but Chateau Feely is different.

Wine tourism is at its heart, hand in hand with their passionate and more serious message of eco-responsibility. The property is also in the Dordogne, to the east of the vineyards of Saint Emilion, in the lesser known Saussignac region of Bergerac. It’s worth a trip this beautiful area that benefits from similar soils to Saint Emilion and is perched on the rolling hillsides above the Dordogne River.

The vines at Château Feely

The vines at Château Feely

The Château is a one-stop shop for all things wine tourism: tasting, teaching, staying, touring – you name it these people pull out all the stops to share their passion. ‘They’ are Sean and Caro, a very international couple. Caro is of Irish origin, her grandmother was French descended from one of the 14 merchant families of Galway who left France in the 1300s to import wine. Sean’s grandfather was a wine maker in the Cape where they met through a shared passion for wine. They left The Cape for Ireland and on a holiday to France fell in love with the vineyards of Bergerac – easy to do. They hatched a plan to move there and after five years of saving they left their jobs in IT and finance to rescue Chateau Freely from liquidation in 2005.

Sean and Caro Feely

Sean and Caro Feely

Their objective was to bring back this historic vineyard, with cellars dating from 1737 and some walls dating as far back as 700 AD, to a healthy working vineyard.

Mission accomplished; through a lot of investment in time, money and effort Chateau Feely is now an organic and biodynamic vineyard. Determined to make a difference they have farmed organically from the get go, as of the vintage 2009 their wines are certified organic and certified biodynamic since 2011. They have succeeded in bringing a dream to reality.

The vineyard is farmed organically but eco sensitivity is integrated into all the activities on site, including the sustainable accommodation. The organic theme runs right through the property.

They have been welcoming guests to the property since 2007 and now have two self-catering options on the vineyard, each housing 4 guests: The Cottage and the Wine Lodge, a rather new world feeling right there in the name.

What does sustainable accommodation mean for them? Both are ecologically constructed using organic paint, natural wood fibre insulation (with poplar panelling on the ceilings). The Wine Cottage’s thick stonewalls date back to the 1700’s – that’s traditional insulation!

Rainwater is captured from the roofs to use on the gardens and farm, electricity is economised by naturally drying linen and towels on a line, and there’s a heat pump for water and the low energy under-floor heating. The eco-friendly design includes overhanging roofs in the wine lodge and tasting room for natural temperature management, light wells in the corridors to avoid using lights during the day with sensors on lights. Solar panels are planned for the barn roof – it’s an on going process.

There’s no doubt you are close to nature here and the stunning views across the organic vineyards from the terrace is a guarantee that there are no pesticides, herbicides or systemic fungicides in the air. Guests are invited to contribute to the movement with ecological cleaning products provided, recycling compartments and instructions on how to contribute fruit & veg waste to the compost heap.

What goes around comes around, if you stay for a picnic or for lunch in the tasting room, you will taste organic, local products including veggies grown in and amongst the vines. Or you could just stroll into the herb garden or the orchard and help yourself.

Organic eggs for breakfast? Chickens in the vegetable garden of the Château

Organic eggs for breakfast? Chickens in the vegetable garden of the Château

But ecological doesn’t have to be rustic – no hair shirts and sandals here! It’s luxurious, with a 12m saltwater pool, allergy free cushions and organic duvets, pillows and sheets, wireless speakers, wifi and fully equipped kitchens.

One of the guest bedrooms at Château Feely

One of the guest bedrooms at Château Feely

Caro is a passionate advocate for eco friendly living and shares this passion with guests through education and writing. Guests staying in the gite were always asking for help understanding what is going on in the vineyards so she started giving classes on French wine and it grew from there. Now as a Certified WSET provider, she runs certification courses on the estate, wine tours, vineyard walks including offering free visits to school and college groups explaining how organic works and it’s importance. The walking tours they offer are particularly popular as in Saussignac 60% of the growers are organic.

There is also wine and food pairing lunches, wine tours to neighbouring vineyards and even photography, painting and cooking classes – did they forget anything?

What does the future hold? Unsurprisingly they have plans including offering an ecological setting for seminars and team meetings, particularly apt for companies with an eco agenda and green focus. Wine and food pairing is also on the agenda using food from Feely farm in partnership with a local chef.

If you can’t make it to Chateau Feely yourself Caro also shares her passion for living lightly on the earth through her writing. Her books ‘Grape Expectations’ and ‘Saving our Skins’ recount their adventures in wine land and the third book in the series ‘Glass Half Full’ has just been published.

The original of this post is on the Great Wine Capitals Blog.