Young bloods challenge our perception of French winemakers

Chénas Les Carrières Domaine 2011 wine

PICTURE French winemakers and what do you see? Veterans. Wisps of white hair blowing in a warm breeze. Soil brushed off gnarled hands and a grape taken firmly but gently between Gauloises-stained fingers.

A face the colour of Red Rum’s saddle bags turned upwards to the life-giving sun….  well that’s what I see.

And of course it’s a ridiculous stereotype. Even in the Old World strongholds, thrusting young bloods are breaking new ground. Men like Paul-Henri Thillardon – 27 years old and the   creator of Chénas Les Carrières Domaine  2011.

Continue reading “Young bloods challenge our perception of French winemakers”

At £14.90 from Christopher Piper Wines this is a Beaujolais worthy of a lifetime of experience.

Paul-Henri first made wine in basins in his parents’ garage at the age of 10; at the age of 15 he was given a winemaker role; at the age of 22 he set up on his own; now he  has a domain of seven hectares.

In his own words “wine brings people together”. I don’t think many of us would disagree.

Chénas Les Carrières Domaine 2011 wine
Chénas Les Carrières

His wine is a joy to drink with the worryingly easy downwards slither that decent Beaujolais guarantees.

But it’s still flavoursome and complex, floral hints more discernible than fruity flavours.

Take a bow young man.

Côte de Brouilly Les Sept Vignes Château Thivin 2011 (£14.95 Berry Brothers & Rudd) has one of the grandest labels I’ve seen in a while. Red, yellow and statesmanlike, worthy of a banner in a medieval court.

Côte de Brouilly is one of the 10 “crus” in Beaujolais, in other words recognised as making the best wines. This Beaujolais   is made by another young blood, Claude Geoffray, also 27.  He says his aim is to make a “living wine”  that reflects all he does; he wants it to take its time in a “rushing world”. An interesting wine; there are lots of raspberries on the nose   from the gamay grape and  to taste,  a stony edge  like wet   granite.

Continuing the French red theme but this time one from the Rhône. Every time I dipped my nose into   ‘Les Six’ Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Villages 2011  I picked up another aroma.

The clue is its name. The wine is a blend of six grape varieties,  carignan noir, cinsault and counoise, together with the more popular Rhône varieties of  grenache noir, syrah and mourvèdre. They  have been co-fermented in   pairs by winemaker Eric Monnin.

So   it was no surprise my senses had to work overtime.

First there were blackcurrants; then brambles and hedges; another time there was liquorice  dipped in vanilla; then the sap of a young tree; one more nose dip found leather and dried cranberries.

 There was a tastebud sudoku puzzle of fruits, cloves and peppers.

It’s a limited production wine (RRP £20) of  12,000 bottles, in the Boutinot Fide et Arte range  sold by  www.johnhwines.co.uk and www.cheerswinemerchants.co.uk amongst others.

 Also in my glass

I cracked this open while watching Les Miserables on the telly: Domaine Maby Pont du Gard Rouge 2012.

It’s a  gentle, easy-drinking red but comes equipped with some real depth.

syrah and cinsault blend it’s a snip at £7.50 from the Wine Society (www.thewinesociety.com)  and works well with or without food. Ideal with a hearty beef stew. Best of all, and surprisingly, it made Russell Crowe’s singing bearable.

Published in the saturday extra magazine March 29, 2014

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Beaujolais wine explained and some lovelies to try

Domaine de l'Oseraie Morgon 2011 beaujolais wine review

IN THE classic 70s play, Abigail’s Party, the terribly snobby Bev puts a bottle of red wine in the fridge. How we laughed at her snooty ignorance.

Red wine in the fridge? Pah! Except it was beaujolais wine – and it is better slightly chilled.

Beaujolais wine may not be fashionable, and it has suffered from the hype around beaujolais nouveau, but it is a pleasant, easy-drinking wine.

The red wines – from the gamay grape – should be youthful and fruity with strawberries, raspberries and red fruit; or they can be more complex with flowers and violets and spice. It is made in such a way that there’s very little tannin – that’s the dryness you feel around your gums – but the process can add flavours of peardrops, even bubble gum.

If you’re staring at wine racks and don’t know where to begin, then here’s a helping hand – my other one is busy pouring wine.

Beaujolais AC produces the most wine. Along with Beaujolais Villages AC, it is the home of nouveau – but put that out of your mind, as only half of the crop accounts for that drinking flurry.

According to official figures, Beaujolais AC produced 40m bottles in 2011. These wines are simple, uncomplicated and enjoyable.

Alain Chatoux Vieilles Vignes Beaujolais 2011 (£10.95, Berry Brothers & Rudd, www.bbr.com) is a ruby wine with aromas of cranberries, cherries, roses and the herby sweetness of freshly pruned twig sap. To taste, tingles of acidity and softly balanced cherries.

Waitrose Beaujolais 2011 (£6.99 or two for £12 until March 13 in store, or at www.waitrosecellar.com) is fresh with punnets of strawberries and a gluggable drink for a midweek “what have you done today?” chat. Its label declares “once transported to the bars and restaurants of Paris by train” which sums up nicely the simple feelgood factor of beaujolais.

The next appellation – Beaujolais Villages. In 2011, it produced 33m bottles from the rolling granite hills where 39 villages have the right to give their wine the name.

A tiny proportion of Beaujolais Villages is white, from chardonnay, and it has been described as “the pearl among the Beaujolais gems”.

Arnaud Aucoeur Beaujolais-Villages Blanc 2011, (£10.95 Yapp Brothers www.yapp.co.uk) has steely mineral notes and fresh apples on the nose with sprightly lemon and apples to taste.

It is, indeed, a gem.

Sitting within the Beaujolais Villages are the Beaujolais Crus – the class acts – these are 10 villages with their own appellation and distinctive tastes.

They are Saint Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnie, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly.

  • Georges Duboeuf Chiroubles, Beaujolais, (£7.49 – until March 13 – at www.waitrosedirect.com) has a youthful nose of fresh cherries, redcurrants, hints of pepper, violets and wet grass.
  • Domaine Matray Saint-Amour 2011, (£14.40 Nick Dobson Wines
    Domaine Matray Saint Amour beaujolais wine review
    Domaine Matray Saint Amour

    www.nickdobsonwines.co.uk ) should – by its name – be a choice for next year’s Valentine’s. But why wait that long? It has aromas of fresh cherries, green bean pods and a fleck of spiciness with smooth, balanced cherries to taste with a sprinkling of herbs. Blink, and it’s gone.

  • Domaine de l’Oseraie Morgon 2011, (£10.59, from Strictly Wine www.strictlywine.co.uk) has aromas of cherries, white pepper and a whisper of menthol and to taste is vibrant with cherries and good acidity – 13% abv makes itself known on the finish.

This column first appeared in the Liverpool Post on February 22 2013