So, I haven’t posted in a while… After my father passed I took a step back from writing about wine. He’s the one that got me into it, and I found out his first language was French and he was actually born in Paris before moving to Aus. I grew up with him having his glass of red wine every night, listening to classical music and French pianists in an old fashioned home, full of wood and leather…
I grew up wondering why he’s so attracted to this elixir, and after trying a sip many times, the penny dropped about wine when I was 14 years old. I remember the exact moment when I thought an amazing $20 Shiraz was the only wine in the world. Back to this old fashioned house, wood and leather have become the two descriptors I’ve always just loved in red wine. I never got drunk, but I just loved savouring on the stuff… I like how in Europe children may have a little wine diluted with water. It’s nice. By the time they’re older, they’re not phased by alcohol and have a much more respectful intake of it.
Back to recently at Wine Ark, their Bastille Day French wine tasting was a treat! The French focus also included some unusual wines too that you wouldn’t normally come across when picking out French wine to drink.
Also, I’ve been very drawn towards organic and biodynamic wines lately. There’s something about them, especially good examples… Some mass-produced wineries add more sulfur/preservatives, so sometimes I go for more European wines, as well as smaller, boutique wines around the world that have a genuine good intention for their modest, sometimes fantastic, winemaking. Perhaps with organic (especially preservative free) there’s less of a hangover too!
There were two organic/biodynamic standout reds for me from this tasting that I want to mention – one, a fun yet still elegant table wine around $30/bottle, and the other, more expensive and a worthy collectible around $110/bottle:
Chateau Maris ‘Old School’ Rouge 2014: Bright, fruity, fun, but not too sweet. Not complicated, but enjoyable and balanced. Tannins are well integrated and not prominent at all, resulting in quite a smooth wine. Acids are pleasantly smooth too. I’m happy to drink this by itself or pair with most foods – it’s a very food-friendly wine. To me, it’s a fun, vibrant, biodynamic French red, but more in a “new world” style, without the old-fashioned characteristics in many traditional French wines. About $30/btl.
Domaine Isabel Ferrando “Colombis”, Châteauneuf du Pape, 2012: This, to me, is incredible! It’s actually really exciting when you try something different and that makes a new addition to your favourite wines… It’s rare to see a straight varietal from Châteauneuf-du-Pape (which do mainly Shiraz (Syrah)/Grenache/Mourvèdre blends), and this is 100% Grenache – Not the easiest thing to make a benchmark from in terms of balance. Furthermore, it’s biodynamic, so completely natural organic methods are used in tune with the natural rhythms and seasons of the earth – you can’t manipulate things too much and it’s about expressing the terrior, i.e. the exact location, climate and vineyards from which the wine comes from. Wine Ark’s comments were “This wine was a mould-breaker and a monster at 16% alcohol, but so well balanced with the intense fruit, coating chocolate tannins and insanely long finish.” Yep, agreed… Delicious, with an amazing alluring perfume, and one of my favourites I’ve tried in a long time. About $110/btl.
Just briefly on background, Isabel Ferrando, the lady that made this wine, was previously a banker born near Châteauneuf du Pape and hadn’t had any previous winemaking experience before she embarked on this gig. But she admired the work of the winemakers she had contact with through banking, and also knew how not to go bankrupt running a wine Domaine! With a strong passion and attraction to nature, she has now made one of the top rated wines in this famous appelation, in quite a short time. Now, some winos say she is the “Queen” of Chateauneuf du Pape. Kudos to her I say…
There were spectacular others in this tasting:
From Chateau Maris, there was also a white wine called Picpoul de Pinet. The variety is not well known. More people in the South of France are familiar with it, usually pairing with oysters and seafood – and that is the perfect pairing for this. It’s quite vibrant, with crisp acid, zingy citrus notes and an attractive, clean mineral finish… Fresh, but elegant. Around $27.
A flight with Domaine Cornu wines from Burgundy, from a winemaker who was the Chef de Cave of Domaine de la Romanee Conti for 20 years (for any newbies, Domaine de la Romanee Conti aka DRC, is an insanely great estate from Burgundy, making some of the most expensive collectible wines in the world). Highlights were the Domaine Cornu Corton Grand Cru 2011 (about $195/btl), and Ladoix 2011 (about $70/btl, great value for this high quality Burgundy, really enjoyable!). These were both exquisite and never a miss to choose from a rare wine list or to buy.
“The biggest seller of the whole night was the Domaine Cornu Ladoix 2011… The wine had the classic firm tannins, smelled of ripe black cherries and had a gorgeous sappy flavour from some whole bunch inclusion. All the wines had serious ageing potential as well. I’ll admit, bang-for-buck is very rare in regards to Burgundy, but here it is- even in regards to the Corton Grand Cru!” – Mark Faber from le Wine Ark team.
The finishing flight was lead by Charlie Seppelt (from the Seppelt family) with Hickingbotham wines, which worked a great side-by-side comparison to the French wines. Made from vineyards in the Clarendon sub-region of McLaren Vale in South Australia, this is also the area where the top collectable Grange and Eileen Hardy wine grapes come from. All of the wines show a lot of power in flavour, structure, balance and length, with a solid elegance carried through. These ranged from $75-$180/bottle (The Peake being the top of the range).
To wind back to the beginning, we started with Champagne Gatinois “Tradition” Grand Cru NV at $95/bottle. This was a grower Champagne, meaning the wine was made by the grower (quite unusual in Champagne!). 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay (I always like Pinot Noir predominant Champagne), from Grand Cru (i.e. nice) vineyards 🙂 This had a really creamy rounded flavour (from 2.5 years on lees which is a good amount of time) and mousse, balanced between apple and citrus notes. I like that it wasn’t predominantly citrus or predominantly stone/other fruits – the crisp apple and citrus provided enough fresh character, nurtured by that creamy finesse!
That’s about it for now… But these are great wines and it’s interesting how no matter how much you know and learn about wine, there is always more…