Friday, October 18, 2019

CAHORS: WHAT PUT MALBEC ON THE MAP


This month the French #winophiles are in Cahors AOC, southwestern France. Nicole of Somm's Table is graciously hosting, and we can thank Jill of L'occasion for scoring us Cahors wine samples through the UIVC (Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins de Cahors) for a few of us. But even without samples, everyone is welcome to join us as we jaunt through Cahors and enjoy the wine!

Malbec - aka Côt, Côt Noir, Auxxerois, Pressac, and hundreds of other regional names - is native to France, especially the southwest in the Lot department where it was introduced by the Romans around 50 BC and has been cultivated since then despite a few setbacks  like phylloxera and frost along the way. Incidentally, while the Romans were introducing grapes in southwestern France, they were also capturing Gaulish villages in the area and Romanising them. One village in particular managed to defend itself and remained Gaulish despite being surrounded by Romans and other captured villages. Asterix, the hugely popular French comic series about the resistance of a Gaulish village against Roman occupation, is set in that very village! The village chief Vitalstatistix in those comics is based on Lucterius, a formidable leader of the Gauls who was instrumental in defending the village from the Romans. If you haven't read any Asterix, begin with Asterix the Gaul!

As a grape Malbec is a bit finicky, like Pinot Noir. It is thick-skinned but sensitive to humidity, frost, temperature, and other weather conditions which make it prone to  diseases like downy mildew and "coulure", or lack of full development of grapes. Malbec grapes make deep, inky, intense wine, making it popular as a blending grape for colour and fruit, especially in the Loire, Bordeaux, and elsewhere where Bordeaux-style blends are made. These qualities have also earned it the nickname "black wine" although of course it is not actually black. At one point Malbec was grown in up to 30 departments around France but these days it primarily grows in the small town of Cahors which is the capital of the Lot department and a small town on the river Lot that flows towards Bordeaux. Cahors is a red wine-only AOC, with a minimum of 70% Malbec required in each blend. Grapes commonly used to blend with Malbec are Merlot and Tannat.

In the mid-19th century at the instruction of provincial governor Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Malbec was planted in Argentina by French agronomist Miguel Pouget. A lot has happened between then and now in the Argentine wine world but it ultimately led to Malbec being the most widely planted red grape in Argentina, which is nearly synonymous with Malbec around the world. And, as I'd mentioned above, Malbec is a fussy grape and hectares of it succumbed to frost and phylloxera around the time it was fledgling in Argentina. Thanks to that serendipitous planting, despite the natural devastation in France, Malbec survived, thrived, and became a fixture on the world wine map, albeit through Argentina via Cahors!

All that aside, Argentine and French Malbec are vastly different wines. The grapes themselves are same but different... tighter clusters and smaller berries in Argentina, e.g. And taste... Argentine Malbec is jammy, fruit forward, with some floral notes, soft tannins and a velvety texture, whereas French Malbec is leathery, with flavors of tart currant, black plum, firm tannins, higher acid, and a savoury meatiness on the palate. The higher tannins and acid in French Malbec yields lower alcohol, age-worthy wines compared to Argentine Malbec.

THE WINE
The Cahors Malbec wines I received were:

  • Château du Cèdre Extra Libre 2018
  • Château de Gaudou Le Sang de Ma Terre 2018
  • Château Lamartine Cahors "Cuvée Particulière" 2016

The one I opened for this review was the Château du Cèdre Extra Libre (2018) because it has no added sulphites and we couldn't wait to try it! I will review the other wines at a later date.

Château du Cèdre Extra Libre, 2018 | SRP n/a
95% Malbec, 5% Merlot
https://www.chateauducedre.com/
Ch. du Cèdre was started by Charles Léon Verhaeghe, a Flemish immigrant who settled in the Lot department. Truly a family owned and run winery, they are now on their third generation of family members running the show.

The grapes for this wine come from vines on the lower terraces with sandy alluvial soil, and from the upper terrace with limestone soil. The grapes are sorted and destemmed in the vineyard, at the winery they're macerated for 30 days and fermented in concrete tanks before being aged in nearly neutral (twice used) oak barrels.

The wine is beautiful in the glass with a gorgeous magenta rim and deep core. On the nose: aromas of ripe red berries, fresh red roses, and cinnamon. On the palate: juicy, same as nose + black pepper, a hint of nutmeg, and a faint minerality, all with mouthwatering acidity and a medium finish. This is a highly quaffable wine with or without food, and quite different from any Cahors Malbec we've had. It is, however, a must to serve it cool, not at room temperature, to get the best of it.

THE FOOD

I paired the wine with wild scallop theeyal, a dish from Kerala, India, a coastal state known for its abundant seafood, extensive use of coconut, curry leaves, and fragrant rice varieties. Although scallops are found in every ocean of the planet, they are not commonly found on Indian menus even though India, as a peninsular country, has an extensive coastline. Maybe they are not abundant off the Indian coast, or, like oysters, might be considered "fisherman's food" in India. Like most food from the Indian subcontinent, theeyals are very flavourful but not fiery, and have a distinct deep red colour because of the deeply roasted coconut used in the sauce (clearly, I did not roast the coconut enough, because my sauce was hardly deep red!). In addition to all the spices, the sauce has a pleasant tangy acidity in the background that can come from either tamarind or kudampuli (Garcinia Cambogia), a pumpkin-shaped sour fruit whose dried and reconstituted peels are used extensively in Sri Lankan and Keralan cuisine.

Kudampuli, what I used rather than tamarind, lends a discernible but complementary acidity to the sauce, and actually brings forward the fruitiness of the wine. All the flavours - the roasted coconut, sweetness of the fresh scallops, and the bright and fruity wine - were so delicious that we'll be having more of this!

We'll be talking Cahors on Twitter this Saturday, 19 October at 8 AM PST so join us and be sure to use #Winophiles in your tweets so that we can see your comments. If you can't make it, no worries, you can stop by whenever to see what the other friendly Winophiles have done with Cahors this month while we slowly but sure move into colder weather here in the northern hemisphere:

  • Jane from Always Ravenous explores the “Flavors of Fall Paired with Cahors Malbec”
  • Cathie of Side Hustle Wino looks at “Cahors – TheBirthplace of Malbec”
  • Jill from L’Occasion shares “Cahors, a French Classic”
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be posting “Château du Cèdre Extra Libre 2018 Malbec + Cider-Braised Chicken Thighs” 
  • Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm samples “A Trio of Cahors Wine and the Pairings Served” 
  • Jeff of FoodWineClick! gives us “The Malbec You Never Knew: Cahors”
  • Linda of My Full Wine Glass shares “Newbies to Old-World Malbec Discover Cahors”
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences explores “The Old-World Style of Malbec from Cahors”
  • Deanna of Asian Test Kitchen gives us “French Malbecs Meet Chinese Duck”
  • Gwen from Wine Predator shares “From Cahors: Biodynamic Chateau du Cedre Malbec with French Charcuterie”
  • Pinny of Chinese Food & Wine Pairings matches “Cahor Malbecs and Waygu Beef”
  • Cynthia and Pierre of Traveling Wine Profs give us “Cahors, Hainan Chicken Rice, and the Stories Wine Books Tell”
  • Susannah of Avvinare will be “Shedding Light on Old World Malbec from Cahors”
  • Payal of Keep the Peas discusses “Cahors: What Put Malbec on the Map”
  • Rupal of Syrah Queen will posting “Cahors – Tasting “Black Wines” With The Original Malbec”
  • David of Cooking Chat pairs “Mushroom Truffle Risotto with Cahors Malbec”
  • Nicole of Somm’s Table shares “Bringing Home Cahors with Clos D’Audhuy”

Saturday, September 21, 2019

CORSICA: THE MAQUIS, THE MOUNTAINS, THE SEA (#winophiles)


This month the French #winophiles are in Corsica, France. The small island - or what seems like a large mountain - in the Western part of the Mediterranean sea, sitting squarely across the water from Italy and France, with an inevitable political and cultural history of occupation by both. Although it has been a part of France for the last 250 years, Corsica was Italian (or, Genoese which is now Italian) for centuries before that and retains much of the language, culture, and proclivities from that time as well as its own identity formed from centuries of exposure to a whole slew of other cultures including Greek, Roman, and Moorish. Corsica also has the distinction of continuous human occupation since the Mesolithic era. That's the era 15,000 to 5,000 years Before Present (BP). I.e. a really long time ago.

SOIL, GEOLOGY
But not as long as 225 M years, which is how long ago some of the mountains on Corsica formed during one of Earth's geological periods called "mountain-building periods" when the earth, oceans, and tectonic plates shifted, collided, crumbled, layered, and pushed, resulting in mountains of various sizes. Although Corsica looks like one large mountain range, and little else, it's actually two large mountain ranges and little else. Islands conjure images of beaches, tanned bodies, etc. Not Corsica. As you can see in the NASA image below, nothing looks like a beach there, just mountain. Two distinctly different but rugged mountain ranges run N-S along the length of the island. The western range is volcanic/igneous rock, mainly granite, and the eastern range is sedimentary and metamorphic rock including limestone, schist, slate, flint, etc. that usually forms in compacted layers on the seabed.


Incidentally, the rocky soil in both of Corsica's mountain ranges is suitable for grapevines. E.g. the granitic soil of the western range allows high acidity in grapes, whereas the slate in the eastern range absorbs and reflects heat, helping to ripen grapes. Schist retains heat well, producing wines with rich minerality and limestone helps vines with nutrient and water uptake and also yields grapes and wines with bright acidity. And indeed wine-making has existed in Corsica since centuries ago when the Greeks introduced vitis vinifera to Corsica, although it has not always flourished. The most recent effort to organise the Corsican wine industry started in the 1960s with the first AOC being established in 1968. Now there are nine AOCs and a variety of grapes are used including Italian varieties. Some grapes are known there by their Italian names rather than French, such as Vermentino/Vermentinu rather than Rolle.

Image from NASA
FOOD, STORY

Along with a long history comes a strong culinary presence as well. Apart from its association with famous figures like Napoleon Bonaparte (who was from a family of Corsican vintners) and Roman philosopher Seneca (who was exiled there), Corsica is known for its candied fruit, pigs fed with wild herbs (maquis) and chestnuts, various charcuterie, seafood, and the unbelievable casgiu merzu, a maggot/larvae-filled cheese made by leaving whole tommes in air to allow flies to lay eggs... you can imagine the rest. It's unbelievable that someone would do that to a tomme. And it's unbelievable that it's a very expensive product. If you've read Asterix in Corsica, you know this cheese and its effect on unsuspecting non-Corsicans! If you haven't read Asterix in Corsica, see the photo above!




WINES


We chose one red and one white from Domaine Vico's Clos Venturi, Vin de Corse AOC which is an island-wide designation. Jean Vico, whose family produced wines for several generations, originally planted the domaine’s vineyards in 1901. In 1987 Jean-Marc Venturi purchased the property, replanted some of the vineyards and began improving the quality of the wine. At the end of the nineties, Emmanuel Venturi began working with his dad after studying winemaking on the island and doing some internships abroad. Domaine Vico covers 46 hectares, planted with local varieties Vermentinu, Niellucciu and Sciaccarellu, along with Grenache and Syrah. The vineyards complex soils contain schist, small rocks and sand, as well as some volcanic sediment, and the vines are planted at 300 - 400 m. After working the vineyards sustainably for 35 years, the domaine was awarded the HVE (High Environmental Value) certification in 2015 and has been in organic and biodynamic conversion since 2017.



2017 Clos Venturi White Wine, 13.5% ABV
100% Vermentinu (Rolle) | SRP $18
From the label: "Clos Venturi is not only the furthest Corsican winery from the sea, but also the highest with vineyards at 400 m (1312 ft). The grapes are planted on granite soil, hand-harvested, and aged in wood, clay, and concrete barrels and tanks."


The wine is deep lemon with aromas of lemon rind, white flowers, and faint honeysuckle. On the palate it has ripe lemon, lemon rind, quince, quinine, and faint honeysuckle in the back, with a sprightly acidity. The finish is medium. A delightful wine for a sunny day, salt cod brandade, and sea urchin bruschette!

2015 Clos Venturi Chiesa Nera, 14% ABV
40% Sciaccarellu, 30% Niellucciu, 10% Carcaghjolu Neru, 9% Minustellu, 4% Morescala, 3% Moresconu, 2% Aleático, and 2% Vermentinu (Rolle) SRP $36
From the label: "Chiesa Nera is a rare wine produced in very small quantities. Made with a variety of eight red and white grapes native to Corsica and aged in amphorae."


This elegant wine is medium ruby with complex aromas of blue and black fruit, violets, and fresh roses. On the palate the wine offers notes of blueberries, violets, red roses, fraises (wild strawberries), and a faint hint of black pepper rounded out by plush but firm tannins, a silky mouthfeel and a finish tending to long. Absolutely delicious!

We enjoyed it with lamb burgers seasoned with herbs typically meant by "maquis" - oregano, basil, thyme, mint, etc. Although our herbs were not wild, they were splendid with the lamb!

See below what the other winophiles did with their Corsican wine picks!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

#WINOPHILES VISIT CORSICA IN SEPTEMBER: PREVIEW

https://www.graphicmaps.com/france

This month, September, the French Winophiles continue their love for French wines and wine regions with a focus on Corsica. That small oval-ish green highlighted island in the map above, that sidles up to Italy more than France. Corsica does what any island in the Mediterranean would do: offers locals and visitors beach life, immense history dating to the Mesolithic era, excellent SCUBA diving, snorkeling, and sailing, rugged terrain for hiking and other outdoor adventures, and of course, food and wine! Corsican food and wine have distinct Italian influences, but it took the French government and its proclivity to organise and categorise pretty much anything, to get the wine regions of Corsica organised into 9 AOCs starting in 1968.

You don't have to believe me about Corsican wine being a real thing, just have a look below at what the other #Winophiles are saying about it on their blogs and during our Twitter chat on 21 September at 8 AM PST. To join the Twitter chat, search for the hashtag #winophiles and jump in!
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares "Friday Night Pizzas + Domaine Poli Niellucciu Rosé 2018"
  • Cathie from Side Hustle Wino shares "Wines from Corsica? Of "Corse"  (#winophiles)"
  • Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles shares "Corsica – An Island and it’s wines #Winophiles"
  • Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares "Mixiote de Pescado Paired with Domaine Petroni Corse Rosé"
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares "Spaghetti and meatballs for a Corsican wine (#Winophiles)"
  • Gwen from Wine Predator shares "Corsica Rose with Salmon Crespelle and Currant Clafoutis #Winophiles"
  • Payal at Keep the Peas shares "Corsica: The Maquis, The Mountains, The Sea (#winophiles)"
  • Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares "Corsica; French with a lot of Italian Influence"
  • Cindy from Grape Experiences shares "Drench Yourself in the Sunshine of Corsica with Domaine Petroni Rosé Corse 2018 and Provençal Vegetable Gratin"
  • Nicole at Nibbling Gypsy shares "Corsican Happiness: Domaine Giacometti Sempre Cuntentu Sciaccarellu with a Flavorful Seafood Stew"

Monday, September 9, 2019

INVITATION TO JOIN THE #WINOPHILES VIRTUAL TASTING OF CORSICAN WINES

Come and enjoy a taste of island life: no planes, trains, or automobiles needed!

https://demystifyingthevine.com/new-world-countries-2/old-world-western-europe/france/france-corsica/
In September, the French Winophiles blogging group is exploring wines from Corsica, France, a storied island known for many things including Napoleon Bonaparte, the second highest mountain in the Mediterranean, really stinky cheese, and increasingly excellent wine. Offer ends in September so join us now and come ready to tell us your experience and impressions on 21 September 2019, when we meet over a casual Twitter chat at 8 AM PST!

When we think of wine and Corsica together, the first thing that comes to mind is... well we don't really think of wine and Corsica together, do we?! But Corsica, in addition to being continuously occupied by humans since the Mesolithic era (a whopping 15,000 years BP (Before Present)), has also enjoyed the fruits of labour of it's various occupations by the Greeks, Italians, and now, French. Corsican wine has existed since ~570 BC when the Greeks introduced vitis vinifera and viticulture there, as they did everywhere else including France and Italy. Since then wine has been somewhat of a spotty pursuit in Corsica but it has been on a steady uptick thanks to its nine AOC regions, starting in 1968. We are, unfortunately, not doing samples this month so we will each rely on our local well-stocked wine shops to have a go at Corsican wine... and perhaps food too. We hope you'll join us!

How to join us: 

  • Send me email to tell me you’re in: Include your blog url, Twitter handle, and any other social media details. If you know your blog post title, include that although you can really just send it to me anytime on/before 17th September. We’d like to get a sense of who’s participating and give some shout-outs and links as we go. You can contact me at pvora19@gmail.com 
  • Find a Corsican wine and perhaps food, and prepare your blog post. But don’t post it yet!
  • Send your blog post title to me by Tuesday, 17th September to be included in the preview post. I will prepare a preview post with links to everyone's blogs shortly after I get titles. Your title should include “#Winophiles” or you can simply append the hashtag to the end of your title.
  • Publish your post between Friday 20th September and 8:00 a.m. EST on Saturday, 21st September. You can always schedule your post in advance if you have commitments that morning.
  • Include links to the other #Winophiles participants in your post, and a description of what the event is about. Before Friday I’ll provide the HTML code that you can add  to your initial post so that your post includes links to participating Winophiles. 
  • Once all the posts are live, I’ll send the updated HTML list so you can update the permanent links to everyone’s #Winophiles posts. 
  • Get social! After the posts go live, please visit your fellow bloggers posts’ to comment and share. We've also got a Facebook group for participating bloggers to connect and share. 
  • Sponsored posts are OK if clearly disclosed. Please be sure to disclose if your post is sponsored or if you are describing wine or other products for which you have received a free sample.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

BASQUE-ING IN IROULÉGUY WINES AND MORE


This month in August, the French Winophiles took on the task of wines from French Basque country, which, to make a long story short, is essentially the compact AOC of Irouléguy. Why is it a task, you ask? Because at approximately 550,000 L wine produced annually from approximately 210 ha of vineyards, Irouléguy is small.

Image: http://www.france-sudouest.com/fr/denomination/aop-irouleguy
Jeff from Food Wine Click was our host, read his preview post here to find out more!

SOILS 
Small with a long history of wine growing and making on it's Jurassic limestone (aka oolitic or fossiliferous limestone that is studded with ancient marine fossils) and sandstone soils streaked with iron oxide, mica, silica, clay, and dolomite. As we well know, fossiliferous limestone is basic (higher than 7 pH) and particularly helpful for nutrient uptake in grapevines and cation exchange which occurs at the root level through root hairs. Dolomite, composed of calcium magnesium carbonate is a source of magnesium that vines also need along with potassium, calcium, and sodium. So in summary, the region is small but packs a punch soil-wise. Thanks Pyrenees mountains, for ardently prepping for what was to come!

STORY
As far back as the 11th century, spurred by pilgrimage traffic on the coastal journey to Santiago de Compostela in Spain across the Pyrenees, the first vineyards and wines were the work of monks, although wine making records exist from the 3rd century when the Romans were everywhere. Thanks to politics and phylloxera, once the monks had to give over winemaking control to the villagers, quality took a hit and by the 1950s only about 70 ha of land was used for vineyards. Eventually, the local wine industry organised and in 1970 Irouléguy was granted AOC status. Since then it's been on an upswing although production is still small compared to more well known wine areas like Alsace (100+ M L annually).

Irouléguy, located in southwest France bordering Spain (with its own Basque country), produces mainly red wines, with whites and rosés done in far smaller quantities. Red grape varieties include Bordelesa Beltza (Tannat), Axeria (Cabernet Franc) and Axeria Handia (Cabernet Sauvignon). White wines are made from Xuri Zerratia (Courbu), Izkiriota Ttipia (Petit Manseng) and Izkiriota (Gros Manseng) - grapes also used in Jurançon AOC.

NOT JUST IROULÉGUY HERE
Since Irouléguy is small and the wines can be hard to find in the US, the Winophiles' border generously extended to include wines from Jurançon AOC as well. Jurançon AOC is white wines only, made from Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, Camaralet, and Courbu grapes. Petit Manseng wines are not ones you'll see frequently and when you do see them you'll notice that they're pricey. Gros Manseng wines, on the other hand, are easy to find and often blends with camaralet (aka Petit Camarau) or other grapes. The wines are quite fresh and delightful with tropical fruit notes, especially welcome on a hot summer's day.

With all that lowdown on things, let's get into our wines!

2017 Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Sec "Chant des Vignes", 14% ABV
Sample | SRP $20
This wine is a long-time favourite and I had a 2017 sample in the cellar that was begging to be opened. 60% Gros Manseng and 40% Camaralet grapes are crushed and destemmed then macerated on skins for 12 hours followed by press. The wine is cool-fermented in stainless steel and matured on lees for 5 months before bottling. After that, you have a wine that has beautiful fruity notes - on the nose and palate - of citrus, white flowers, fennel, faint spice, and just-ripe pineapple. Crisp and high acid, this wine lingers on the palate for what seems like forever and no one is complaining!


We enjoyed it with samosa chaat: samosas filled with seasoned potatoes and peas and fried, layered with tamarind chutney, coriander chutney, and a drizzle of creamy yogurt then finished with a garnish of shallots, fresh coriander, red chili powder, chaat masala, and a light dash of crispy chickpea flour snacks. While all of this overall has a layered complexity of flavours, it was an incredible complement to the wine! Especially the sweetness and acidity of the tamarind chutney.

2006 Domaine Arretxea "Cuvée Haitza", biodynamic, 12.5% ABV
$50

Domaine Arretxea began on leased land and is now a top estate of Irouléguy. It was always organic but is now also certified biodynamic. The grapes are harvested by hand, sorted in the vineyard and in the winery, after de-stemming are transferred by gravity, and vinified separately using natural fermentation. Maceration is 3 to 4 weeks with daily punch-downs and aging is 16 months on the lees in foudre and 400 to 600 L demi-muids.

Pitch black and stunning out of the bottle, this wine is a blend of 70% Tannat and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. It could easily be laid down for another 5 years but is very drinkable now. The grapevines have clearly seen some warmth because it's juicy, fruity, and has a layer of baking spice in the background. Although straight from the bottle it has high tannin and strong wild fruit on the palate. After about an hour it mellows to a more approachable wine with red flowers, peppercorns, baking spices, and a welcome meatiness. At 12.5% abv it's not an overpowering wine despite the tannat and cabernet blend. Also soft but very present tannins and medium acidity that beg for food, rounded out by a medium finish.

We enjoyed this wine over two days, paired with two different things: bbq pork on day one, and falafel, hummus, green pea smash, and garnishes on the next day. It was splendid with both! Having it with bbq pork on the first day when it had been opened for just over an hour was perfect because the meatiness and spice in the pork and wine worked beautifully. The following day the wine was not as out of control and was fruitier on the palate, which made it lovely to have with our equally staid plate of falafel etc. All in all, a delicious wine that most definitely needs food to rein it in!

See you all next month for our exploration of wines from the island of Corsica! In the meantime, see the links below to find out what our fellow #winophiles are saying about the wines they chose!





Wednesday, June 12, 2019

FRENCH #WINE(OPHILES) AND CHEESE


The poetic thing about time is that it is an endless story that continues to be written. The poetic thing about human evolution is that it is but an endless chapter in that story. Food, water, and war are inherent to the story of human evolution. While war through the ages has greatly influenced water and changed regional foods throughout the world, the industrial revolution and resulting modernisation are recent events. Before then, food was a perishable commodity eaten locally, not transported thousands of miles. The people of then were, by necessity, proponents of "what grows together, goes together". The original locavores!

This is best exemplified by the French who absolutely love to classify and bracket everything including their honey, chickens, onions, walnuts, wine, cheese, and more, to emphasize the importance of the sense of place, or terroir. They believe that the best representation of a certain food or drink comes from it's place of origin. Having grown up with very seasonal and very local Indian ingredients I'm inclined to agree with that concept. Historically in wine-making areas including France, wine was the preferred beverage because it was cleaner than water and a low ABV inconsequential quaff. None of this well extracted 13-14+% fancy stuff of now. And each region - in our case French - had its own wine and food, because people used ingredients that were available where they lived. With time, water became cleaner and potable, grape growing and vinification evolved, and so did people's tastes. By the time the French obsession love for classification came about, the low ABV wines of history were long gone and regional wine trends were well established. Many foods including cheese, though, continued to be made the old-fashioned way and so, for example, since receiving AOC status, Mont d'Or or Comté aren't so unless made in Franche-Comté from the milk of Montbéliarde cows and packaged according to tradition. And really, there's no argument that Harbison from New Jersey, USA is simply not Mont d'Or no matter what anyone says. And "Chablis" from CA and Chablis from Chablis... we won't even go there!

This month the French Winophiles are focusing on French wine and cheese. The easiest - or perhaps most nuanced - pairing, and around our house cheese trays are their own food group. Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog has hosted this one, and I'd recommend you don't miss it! 

CH. LABÉGORCE ZÉDÉ, MARGAUX, 2007

2007 was one of the last vintages of this label which ceased to exist in 2009 when it was rolled into the Labégorce estate. In 2019 it definitely needed a good 1+ hours of decanting, but after that the beautiful deep-ruby-with-hints-of-garnet wine had aromas of dried roses,  licorice, plum, tobacco, dried mint, cigar, medicinal notes, and a decidedly savoury/meaty finish. Medium bodied overall, with balanced tannins and a medium finish. Most definitely a wine for food! Overall this wine was a delight, and we're glad we've got one bottle left.

13.5% abv, SRP $26-$30.

THE FOOD: We paired the wine with a cheese tray with an assortment of French cheeses (+ a few bits and bobs of other EU cheeses) and meats, plus the usual garnishes. A versatile and successful pairing in all ways and we especially loved the savouriness of the meat with the meaty-barnyard notes of the wine!

Like turmeric which only exists in two forms: dried and fresh, cheese exists in one form: coagulated milk from an animal. But unlike turmeric which does not pair well with wine, cheese and wine uplift each other and in fact, seem to be made for each other. So enjoy!

See what sage insights my fellow #winophiles are sharing about French wine and cheese:


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

AUDE: ALIVE IN MORE WAYS THAN WINE


This month in May the #winophiles focussed on Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France, hosted by LM Archer. A lucky few of us received samples from Gérard Bertrand, who makes biodynamic wines at his Demeter certified winery in the Aude department of Occitanie in Languedoc-Roussillon.

The present-day region of Aude has done a lot: been inhabited since 1,500,000 BC, site of Europe's oldest human skull, lived through the usual European tumult of the Greeks, Romans, even Arabs for a while, but also benefitted from the "civilisation" part of each of these groups who brought viticulture, agriculture, cuisine, art, architecture, and cultural diversity.

The Greeks planted the first vines in Aude in the 1st century, but the industry really only caught on in the early 19th century. Around the same time as the French architect and theorist Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879), who was not a formally trained architect but spent more than half of his career restoring Gothic-era castles, cathedrals, and public buildings, including the Notre Dame de Paris and the city walls of Carcassonne in the Aude. He is considered one of the first theorists of current architecture and historic preservation practices, a proponent of using restoration materials that inform the function of the structure rather than simply duplicating what was there. His theories of honest structural integrity and creative interpretation over exact replication made him a controversial figure and he continues to be so, hotly debated by all of us in historic preservation and engineering. When designing replacements for the statues at the top of the Notre Dame de Paris, he precociously designed Saint Thomas to resemble himself. The statue is there for all to see!



A third of the land in Aude is now planted with grape vines, although Aude/Languedoc-Roussillon might not be the first wine region you think of in France. But vintners like Gérard Bertrand are bringing more of a sense of place to the wines there, and making creative wines "of the land" through biodynamic practices rather than recreating what was already being made there. Much like V.-l.-Duc's writings and practices that inform but aren't the same as our evolving approaches to restoration and theories of historic preservation. E.g. in the reconstruction of the Notre Dame de Paris roof that will never be rebuilt to what was there when it burnt - which was already not original - but rather it will be rebuilt to remind us of what was there while also being foremost a roof. Considering how much Aude has lived from prehistoric man to V.-l.-Duc and forward thinkers like Gérard Bertrand and his biodynamic ways in the single largest wine growing region in the world, we can agree that Aude and Languedoc-Roussillon continue to be alive in more ways than wine!

2018 GÉRARD BERTRAND "CIGALUS" BLANC

According to the GB website, "Cigalus enjoys a hot, sunny Mediterranean climate (described as “semi-arid with temperate spring variants”) ensuring early ripening of all the grape varieties. This arid climate (low rainfall) is offset by the very deep soils (sediments deposited by the Aussou, a stream at the edge of the estate) which store the winter rains for longer but which are less fertile due to the presence of a slightly chalky sandstone in the subsoil, dating back to the Campanian (secondary era, prior to the emergence of the Pyrenees). LABEL DEMETER"

WINE: The wine, a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier, is a beautiful pale gold colour with lightly viscous tears, aromas of ripe citrus, citrus peel, white stone fruit, toast, honey on the nose. On the palate the wine is supple and silky with an unctuous mouthfeel and notes of butter in addition to the same aromas as on the nose. See the Tech Sheet for the winery's biodynamic approach to this wine, and other information.

PAIRING: We paired the wine with acciughe al verde, or anchovies in green sauce. The salty anchovies and the herbal sauce are a match made in heaven for a wine like the Cigalus Blanc. The acidity of the wine walks with the brininess of the anchovies and the oak aging helps tone down each bite while the citrus enhances the light fruity olive oil and the salty fish. Fun Fact: This classic Piemontese snack is a hark back to the days when salt was smuggled through France and Italy in creative ways including by hiding in layers of anchovies under the pretext of preserving them. The heavily salted anchovies that we desalinate before using today, were a way to smuggle salt in to Italy where it was in demand amongst the rich. Salt was the truffle of the 18th/19th century! 

We also had a delightful tuna ceviche which went splendidly with the wine. The occasional heat of the green chiles de arbol in the ceviche was a nice surprise soothed by bits of avocado. Fun FactChiles de arbol are commonly used dried in Mexican cookery but in regional Indian cuisine they are used in all their green splendor in all manner of ways including just biting into them with a meal. It's hard to believe that chiles came to India relatively recently, through the Portuguese via Spain via Mexico where they are native. Potatoes and tomatoes are equally foreign ingredients that are now well integrated into all types of Indian cuisine.

Check out the other #winophiles thoughts on Languedoc-Roussillon wines!