The wines of Bergerac: non-AOC wines

We have been so accustomed to look for the phrase appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) on a wine label, to signify that it comes from a recognized wine area, that we often overlook good wines without it. In fact, many growers who could use the AOC mark choose not to do so because the requirements can be burdensome. Winemakers in an AOC district are limited to the types of grapes than can be used, how much wine may be produced per hectare and so on. And then there are the good wines that come from outside the 300 or so AOC areas in France.

About a quarter of French wine production is listed as vin de pays and is entitled to carry the letters IGP on the label for Indication Géographique Protégée. There is yet another category below this, vin de France, which tends, with some exceptions, to be cheap plonk. We have several IGP wines in this region, including some from well-known vineyards that also produce AOC wines, like Château de la Jaubertie and Château Tirecul La Gravière, for each of whom I have a deep respect.

Tirecul’s Monbazillac was the first Bergerac wine to get the maximum 100 points in a Robert Parker tasting. And if you come across a wine called Le Haut Païs made by Vignerons de Sigoulès, it is very much worth trying. They make a red and a white, and I find them to be a cut above most bottles of generic Bordeaux or Bergerac, although much of this wine goes for export to Holland and Germany (where I came across it on a book tour).

Other winemakers are reviving vineyards that recall the centuries before the phylloxera plague struck in the 1860s, when the Périgord and Dordogne regions were major wine producers. Then came the new wonder crop of tobacco and the tradition of wine production was almost lost – almost, but not quite. Individual farmers continued to grow vines for their own household and the skills remained.

I have long enjoyed the wines of Domaine de la Vitrolle in the Vézère valley between Limeuil and Le Bugue. I was initially attracted by the château itself, the secret HQ of the Resistance in World War Two and for some crucial months around D-Day in 1944, it was the base of André Malraux and ‘Captain Jack’ Poirier. They have been making wine there for three decades and in recent years the English winemaker John Anderson has produced some fine sparkling wines and very drinkable reds and whites. For less than 5 euros a bottle, his Demoiselle de Limeuil are very good value. (They also grow excellent apples and have some stylish gîtes available for rental.)

The other day, a friend in Bordeaux served at dinner a bottle of a wine I had not known before, a Périgord wine called Le Petit Manoir. Once back in the Périgord, I made a beeline for the vineyard, between St-Cyprien and Le Bugue. It is close to the home at Péchalifour of my chum Edouard Ayrou, the legendary truffle expert, whose guided tours of his truffle lands are strongly recommended. On the D35 road from Le Bugue to St-Cyprien, just before the turn-off to Meyrals, look for the sign to Péchalifour and Domaine de la Voie Blanche and you come to the vineyard, where Natalie Dalbavie can arrange tastings (between October and April). She and her husband Marc are self-taught winemakers who were inspired by finding the remains of a 2,000-year-old winery on their land. They are great believers in organic wines and even tried using horses to work the vines. They also use giant terracotta jars to age their wine, just as their predecessors did in Roman times. Natalie reckons that one year in terracotta gives as much ageing as two years in oak barrels – but she loses 13% a year through evaporation. They make two wines at this vineyard, Les Joualles and Le Petit Manoir, where the terroir is clay and limestone. Les Joualles comes from an old Occitan term for the traditional practice of growing rows of vines amid apples and other fruit trees.

The wine I had tasted in Bordeaux was a 2012 Petit Manoir made of Merlot, which is now sold out. So I tried the 2014, which because of the vagaries of that year’s weather is made entirely from Cabernet Franc. It is very good indeed, and at 23 euros it is worth laying down for three years or more. They have a second vineyard about twenty miles to the north-west at La Bachellerie, further up the Vézère valley, with a mineralrich terroir terraced with river pebbles where they make red and white wines named La Source. These are serious wines, between 12 and 16 euros a bottle, and I bought several of a very remarkable red that was made without sulfites.

There is a pleasing sense of history about drinking these wines made in a vineyard that dates back to Roman times, and where the wine is grown and made in the age-old way. And there could be no better proof that the AOC label need not be a pre-requisite for making very good and distinctive wines..

■ Credit/Source:  Martin Walker, The Bugle

Martin Walker is a Grand Consul de la Vinée de Bergerac.  He and his wife have had a home in the Périgord since 1999 and one of his great hobbies is visiting the vineyards of Bergerac.

 

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A Beaujolais Nouveau Lunch

At midnight – No, at one past midnight on the third Thursday of November, Les Beaujolais Nouveaux sont arrives!  A recent lunch was at a small cafe/restaurant, “Mets Vins Chics,” in Eze Bord de Mer (not the village of Eze) to try out this year’s harvest – a surprising delight full or body and taste.  We enjoyed an apero and a leisurely lunch, basking under the sunshine and warm temperature, and enjoying a sea view – not bad for mid-November on the French Riviera.

Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!

The arrival of the first wine of the season – the Beaujolais Nouveau – is a celebration of the country’s most popular, iconic and valuable drink. Bottled less than two months after harvesting, the wine is lighter in colour than other typical reds given its’ extremely young age and is produced to be drunk straight away as opposed to be laid down for drinking at a later date.

Beaujolais Nouveau

Each year the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau conforms to a similar format. The first bottles of are released on the third Thursday in November, which this year means that in wine producing regions the opening will take place at midnight on the 18/19th. Forty years ago the popularity of this special event in the French calendar grew significantly which culminated in races to Paris carrying the fruits of the year’s harvest as well many other festivities. Although the occasion now competes with many other marketing activities of its’ kind internationally – and perhaps is more low key – in local communities the Beaujolais Nouveau remains hugely popular with tastings (of course), a plentiful supply of good food and live music and fanfares to accompany the arrival of this prestigious drink.

Where does the Beaujolais Nouveau actually come from? The wine is made from the Gamay noir à Jus blanc grape: Gamay to you and me. The law requires that all grapes are harvested by hand in the region and furthermore they must originate from the Beaujolais Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC).

In 2013, France exported wine to the value of €7.7 billion, but in the case of the Beaujolais Nouveau the wine is generally produced for domestic consumption, although bottles can be brought in the UK, US and other countries.

The Beaujolais Nouveau is not without its’ critics. For some people, the Beaujolais Nouveau is a marketing gimmick and as a drink should be avoided at all costs due to its’ insipid taste, when compared to other aged wines – but what do you think?  Santé!

SOURCE/CREDIT: photo and article reblogged from Rootstock Ads Newsletter 

Goult & the Luberon!

One of the perks of blogging is that you meet some interesting and fun people!

I had met a great Canadian couple in Nice last year via Facebook, and they invited us to visit them this summer while they were staying in Goult.  I had previously visited Lacoste, Bonnieux, and Lourmarin, but so it was that we drove to the Luberon and had a long weekend visit and sightseeing stay with Teresa of French Provençal Touch with a Twist and her husband, Adam.  Gordes, Menerbes, Isle-sur-la Sorgue, Goult, and the Château de la Canorgue (the setting in the film “A Good Year,” which was based on the book, “A Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle) were our target areas.  Browsing through Goult’s annual brocante market and antique stalls in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, enjoying the regional foods and rosé wines, getting to know our hosts, and even dancing salsa & bachata with the hostess in the courtyard (did I mention enjoying the rosé wines?) made for a wonderful and memorable stay. We can’t wait to make this an annual friendship event and look forward to visiting the Luberon again next summer with them – I should take my dance shoes next time, although they wouldn’t do well in the gravel!

 

 

 

 

IGP Vineyards of the Alpes Maritimes

Re-blogged from 

Did you know that you can enjoy wines from Menton, Mougins and Mandelieu?

As well as Saint-Jeannet, Saint-Paul de Vence, Tourettes-sur-Loup and even theLes Îles de Lérins off Cannes?

There really are vineyards in places least expected along our azure coast!

The aforementioned local vineyards are all classified as IGP, which stands for indication géographique protégée (or vin de pays).

So what’s the difference between an AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) and an IGP? It’s not so much a comparison of quality as you could easily think.

The AOC label is in place to protect historic wine areas of France. Each appellation is tightly regulated and the rules control such aspects as what grapes can be planted and where to achieve this. AOC wines must also show “tipicity”. In other words a Bellet wine should taste like a Bellet wine, not like a Côtes du Rhône.

Whereas wines which are categorised as IGP are not bound by such strict regulations and winemakers have much more freedom, especially when it comes to grape varieties. IGP wines can be some of the most interesting (and best value) wines to discover.

Here’s The Riviera Grapevine’s introduction to the eight vineyards of the Alpes-Maritimes!

Vineyards Alpes Maritimes

Mandelieu

Name: Domaine de Barbossi
Address: 3300 avenue de Fréjus, Mandelieu-La Napoule
Phone (hotel switchboard):+ 33 (0)4 93 49 42 41
Varieties grown: Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Rolle, Chardonnay & Muscat Petit Grain
Wines produced: White, Red & Rosé
A bit more info: The vineyard at Domaine de Barbossi comprises just one part of a mini-empire in the hills of Mandelieu-La Napoule. A luxury hotel and sporting complex, it’s a rather professional wine outfit which is responsible for between 16 to 18,000 bottles a year. If I was wondering why this was the one IGP wine I rarely see on the shelves around here, the answer lies on the website. It’s safe to say that a fair amount of the total production doesn’t even leave the hotel complex, happily guzzled by the hotel guests.
Visitors welcome: They are not yet set up for wine tourism as such, but if you’re in Nice you can find their wine at La Part des Anges.

 

Mougins

Name: La Vigne de Pibonson
Address: 303 chemin du Miracle, Mougins
Phone: +33 (0)4 93 75 33 63
Varieties grown: Rolle & Grenache
Wines produced: White, Rose and a late-harvest sweet wine (vin doux)
A bit more info: A little over one hectare of precious land on the border of Cannes and Mougins has been salvaged from real estate developers by a Norwegian man and his wife who have a clear passion for wine. Together with the help of some of the regions finest oenologists, they make around 6000 bottles of their three wines. A grape miracle onchemin du Miracle!
Visitors welcome: As it stands, they are not (yet) set up for wine tourism either.

 

Îles de Lérins

Name: Abbaye de Lérins
Address: 
Île St Honorat
Email: planariaadmin@abbayedelerins.com
Varieties grown: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Pinot Noir, Clairette, Chardonnay & Viognier.
Wines produced: Red & White, as well as assorted liqueurs.
A bit more info: This really is holy wine! Less than 15 minutes from Cannes and its glamorous Croisette are les Îles de Lérins. The two islands are Île St Marguerite and Île St Honorat. The former was reputedly home to the famous Man in the Iron Mask and the latter has housed a continual monastic community since the 5th century. Who make wine. All the wines are named for a different saint, and the vineyards, set by the ocean with the glittering coastline of Cannes as a backdrop, are undoubtedly some of the most spectacularly located vines in the world! A definite French Riviera wine highlight.
Visitors welcome: Yes, by appointment. A selection of (paying) tastings and tours are available, including summer wine cruises on select dates.

For more information: Excellence de Lérins website

Tourettes-sur-Loup

Name: Domaine Saint Joseph
Address: 160 chemin des Vignes, Tourettes-sur-Loup
Telephone: +33 (0) 4 93 58 81 31/ +33 (0)6 09 28 26 59
Varieties grown: Marselan, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Folle Noire, Braquet, Cinsault, Clairette, Rolle & Sémillon.
Wines produced: Red, White, Rosé, Sparkling & a sweet, aperitif wine
A bit more info: With one hectare of vines in the village of Tourettes-sur-Loup, and a slightly larger holding beneath the ramparts of Saint-Paul de Vence, Domaine Saint Joseph boasts two of the prettiest locations for vines on the Riviera! Certified biodynamic, just over 10,000 bottles are produced a year by this family run operation. A visit to the tasting room in Tourettes is highly recommended.
Visitors welcome: Yes, by appointment.

 

Saint-Paul de Vence

Name: Le Petit Vigneau
Address: 1466 Route des Serres, Saint-Paul de Vence
Telephone: +33 (0)6 62 51 92 08
Varieties grown: Rolle, Sémillon, Chardonnay, Viognier, Clairette, Braquet, Mourvèdre, Folle Noire and Grassenc (phew!)
Wines produced: Red,  White & Rosé
A bit more info:  The last thing you’d expect in this quiet, residential street in Saint-Paul de Vence is to come across a vineyard, but that’s exactly the surprise at number 1466. Raphael Vigneau is a busy man, running a very successful Provence wine tours company (Azur Wine Tours) as well as this boutique vineyard with a view of the old village in the background. One of the rare (if not the only) winemakers to grow the little-known, indigenous grape Grassenc. Another must visit for any local wine lovers.
Visitors welcome: Yes, by appointment. Tour and tasting costs €5.

 

Saint-Jeannet

Name: Vignoble des Hautes Collines de la Côte d’Azur
Address: 800 chemin des Sausses, Saint-Jeannet
Telephone: +33 (0)4 93 24 96 01
Varieties grown: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Grenache, Braquet, Mourvèdre, Rolle, Ugni Blanc, Chardonnay & Muscat of Alexandria
Wines produced: White, Red, Rosé, Sparkling, & Vin Doux (sweet white and red)
A bit more info: Somewhat of an icon in these parts, the ‘vineyard of Saint-Jeannet’ (as it is more commonly known) is famous for their rather unique glassbonbonnieres (bottles) which age the wine, as well as the whimsical labels which reflect the vintage. Warm colours stand for a hot year, whilst colder colours can be interpreted as a cooler vintage. The last vineyard standing under the baou of Saint-Jeannet, a visit is strongly recommended to discover their interesting and varied styles of wine.
Visitors welcome: Yes, but an appointment is strongly recommended. Prices for a tasting start at €8 per person.

(Read posted article by 24/7 in France HERE)

Nice

Name: Domaine Augier
Address: 680, St Roman de Bellet, Nice
Telephone: +33 (0)4 92 15 11 99
Wines produced: Red, White & Rosé
A bit more info: The address may look familiar – Domaine Auguier, producing wine since 1991, was once part of the AOC Bellet and has been bottling under the IGP Alpes-Maritimes label for three years now. Winemaking is in the Augier blood and it’s Elise Augier, the third generation, now responsible for an annual production of up to 4,000 bottles.
Visitors welcome: The vineyard welcomes visitors every Tuesday and Thursday between 4.30pm and 7pm by appointment.

 

Menton

Name: Domaine de l’Annonciade
Address: Near the Monastère de l’Annonciade, 2135 Corniche André Tardieu, Menton
Varieties grown: Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Syrah, Malunvern.
Wines produced: Red (vin de table, a different classification to IGP in fact)
A bit more info: Situated on the same hill in Menton as the monastery which bears the same name, it was the monks who historically grew grapes on this site. Cut to the 1990′s, and a volunteer group going by the name of Confrérie de l’Etiquette du Mentonnais decided to restore the winemaking tradition here.If you’re a fan of obscure vineyards and grapes, it doesn’t get better than Domaine de l’Annonciade and their mysterious Malunvern. In fact, it’s difficult to find a single reference to it, even in my trusted grape bible, Wine Grapes.
Visitors welcome: Not as such, but keep an eye on their blog (below) for details of upcoming wine tastings they will be present at.

Honorary mention must go to Domaine de Toasc in Nice, who along with their AOC Bellet wines also bottle an IGP wine or two.

Wines of the Alpes Maritimes Labels

I would like to cite two very useful websites in helping my ‘forensics’ when it came to finding out the above information:

Asncap – Association of Sommeliers of Nice Côte d’Azur and Elizabeth Gabay, a Master of Wine living in the hinterland of Nice and actively promoting the wines of the area.

Source/Credit: The Riviera Grapevine

Bellet Wines in Nice

Just 30 minutes from the center of Nice is one of the oldest wine regions in France, dating back to the arrival of the Phocean Greek traders from Marseille.  Some vines are over 1000 years old and the wines of Bellet were awarded the coveted AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controllée) accreditation status in 1941.

Twice a year, the 10 AOC Bellet vineyards in the hills behind Nice open their doors and start popping corks – ‘Portes Ouvertes’ is a perfect opportunity to get tasting the local wines – free of charge!

Interactive domain map HERE (Organic wines are made at the Domaine de la Source.)

Portes ouvertes :
Samedi 24 et dimanche 25 mai 2014
Samedi 29 et dimanche 30 novembre 2014

Visitors welcome between 10am and 6pm on both days.

Enjoy a wine lover’s escape from the hustle and bustle of the city!

(Public bus transportation access or by car – Don’t forget to have a designated driver)

 See my previous post for the Chateau de Cremat in Bellet HERE

Source/Credit: The Riviera Reporter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine by the Vial

PARIS — A French startup is looking to let consumers sample the country’s best vintages at home with single servings, doing for wine what Nespresso did for coffee.

PARIS — Put the capsule in the machine, push the button, and out comes your beverage at the perfect temperature as if poured by a professional. But it’s not your Nespresso machine serving up a shot of coffee. A French startup, 10-vins (Ten Wines) is launching a new home appliance that’s reshaping the way we consume wine while giving corkscrews a rest.

While still a top producer and consumer of all vintages, France is slowly faltering on the wine market. Nationwide wine consumption over the past decades has steadily declined, with fewer than 17% of citizens consuming wine on a daily basis, compared to 50% in 1980, according to one study by France AgriMer, which follows agricultural trends. Other reports look to the fact that red wine consumption in China has surpassed that of France, even though per capita, the French still vie with Italians for top ranking.Called the “D-Vine” (pronounced divine), the machine decants individual glasses of wine, serving them at the perfect temperature by reading a microchip on the vial. Like Nespresso machines that have seduced the French, who make up 25% of the business’s profits, the D-Vine could be a way to revitalize the French market, allowing for more upscale experimentation with less risk, and without having to go to a wine specialist. It will debut at the end of this year in France, retailing for around $250 or so, and the business is eyeing the United States not long after.

But while the frequency of wine drinking declines, one study shows that French households spend around 25 euros more on alcohol than five years ago. The authors suggest the French are buying less but higher-quality bottles.

Looking to this increased spending, Nantes-based startup 10-vins is re-marketing higher-end wines known as grand cru. The company is looking at individualized portions, allowing for more experimentation and sampling for those who aren’t willing to invest immediately in more expensive bottles.

Cultural shifts are leading younger generations toward other drinks, according to private chef and culinary consultant Didier Quémener. Wine, he said, was traditionally the drink that French grandparents had with every meal, poured from bottles decorated with chateaux and flowing script.

But with a more cosmopolitan generation traveling further and experiencing more of the world, vodka and Red Bull or a rum and Coke are replacing Bordeaux and Beaujolais. Binge drinking is increasingly prevalent among students and wine is finding its way to the dinner table less and less frequently.

“France was a golden place where every wine was good – but the quality suffered because they did not have to produce good wine,” Quémener said. It seems that the industry has finally bounced off its laurels, taking steps to maintain the superior image of French wine.

Vineyards are hiring younger protégés to help attract those their own age, and fashionable trends have been bringing newer generations back to vintages. Design-heavy labels, organic varieties and new packaging are changing, or at least refreshing, the face of the French wine industry. “We adapt and we listen to the customers. If the wine is the same in the bottle but the label changes, who cares?” Quénemer said. Not least among the tactics is the new gadget by 10-vins.

The company, founded in 2012, currently offers 10cL vials of wine, allowing consumers to sample several varieties in the comfort of their own home, without having to purchase a whole bottle. Combined with online tutorials and advice via web chats and Twitter, the team of young, passionate wine enthusiasts is bringing French wine into the 21st century.

Thibault Jacousse, 10-vins cofounder alongside Jérôme Pasquet and Luis da Silva, said that the concept is a way to test more expensive wines without investing too much. “When you are at home alone or in a couple, it’s not always the right occasion to open a whole bottle,” he said, “especially if we don’t have the same tastes, like me and my wife.”

Repas 10-Vins.jpg

Vials are currently sold for as little as 1.90 euros ($2.64 USD) per 10cL, roughly one glass, with higher-end vintages retailing at 7 euros ($9.71 USD), all available through the company’s website. While more expensive than buying a whole bottle, it’s cheaper than investing in a 60-euro ($83 USD) bottle that might disappoint.

“Today’s younger generations don’t have a wine cellar or buy bottles in bulk. They drink less wine but they are looking for the better ones,” Jacousse said. Single servings allow them to stock and taste different varieties on a smaller scale.

The D-Vine isn’t the first innovation for the wine industry. Canned wine, by Winestar, hit the French market in 2013. Flavored wines have also been placed predominantly on supermarket shelves, with grapefruit-flavored rosé making headlines in the same year.

While such changes, upmarket or other, may seem offensive to traditionalists (like these guys), for Quénemer, any way to sell wine is a win for the French market, which can’t afford to turn a nose up at technology or other innovations like the D-Vine. “Maybe it’s a gimmick, but consumers have wine in their hands, and maybe it’ll encourage them one day to a new level and taste something more expensive,” he said.

Source/credit:  SmartPlanet