Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Wandering Palate Travels to House Caroline PARENT

On an overcast day with a mild drizzle on and off I set out to meet my host for the morning. What was meant to be an early start turned out to be one with delays thanks to a last minute train cancellation. Did I say that I am in France?

Getting down at the Beaune station, I tread hurriedly on the road leading to the house of Caroline Parent, a 14th generation member of the renowned family of winemakers that boasts of names such as Domaine A.F Gros-Parent & Francois Parent in the family tree. What awaited me on my arrival was a warm welcome by a lady with a slender built and a friendly smile.
Caroline talks about her wines
A big fan of Patricia Cornwell, Caroline kept up with the family tradition and started making her own wines since the last couple of years. She explained the history about the family business and how its name evolved. Starting as Gros-Renaudot, the domaine later changed name to Louis Gros and eventually with the implications of the inheritance law in France, it was called Jean Gros. The well-renowned domaine AF Gros that her mother currently runs was formed in 1988 upon the decision of Anne-Francoise’s parents to let go certain parcels of land.

After a brief chat, she takes me around for a small tour of the winemaking facility. Devoid of any activity, the facility was spick and span since the harvest had taken place a few weeks ago (I visited the domaine in October). Big fermentation tanks, steel tanks nicely tucked in at the mezzanine level, the pneumatic press machine in one corner-the premises had the sense of orderliness that one would expect from a top quality domaine. A small flight of stairs and we descend into the cellar for the ultimate part of this visit-the tasting. With a total of 8 wines tasted, I’ve put down my notes at the end of this post. Please scroll down to read these if it interests you.

Caroline pours her domaine's wine 
Caroline was kind enough to have led us through the entire course of tasting while explaining the philosophy and winemaking behind each wine. What was also interesting to note was the depiction of sculptor Deville Chabrolle’s work for different labels; each resonating with the characteristics of the wine in the bottle. An impressive way to combine two art forms-winemaking and sculpture!

To sum up my day, it’s another of those satisfying times when a wine lover marvels being in one of the world’s most mystifying and charming wine regions. Do I need to reiterate that I am in France? J

The wines were from 3 different domaines and each has been indicated using parentheses:
1. Vosne Romanée Aux Réas 2010 (AF Gros)
Clean, powerful red fruit aromas with soft tannins, pleasant acidity and a longish finish make this a well structured wine that is well rounded. It’ll be about 3-4 years when this really begins to show its true colours.

2. Chambolle Musigny 2010 (Caroline PARENT)
Blended from 5 different parcels of land, this was a wine with the aromas of violets and red fruits well evident. Again a well structured wine on the palate with somewhat grippy tannins (but pleasant) and a good overall acidity. The wine at this point is again young for its true potential to be fully apparent.

3. Pommard Les Pézerolles 2010 (AF Gros)
Intense, developed aromas of black fruits and liquorice. On the palate, the structure was somewhat bold with dusty tannins and can easily be kept in the cellar for 4-5 years before one drinks it.

4. Richebourg Grand Cru 2010 (AF Gros)
Grown on just 8 hectares of land, there’s always reason to be excited about a Grand Cru wine such as Richebourg.
A complex nose with earthy aromas in addition to those of animal and spice,this certainly had a powerful bouquet.
It is on the palate that the characteristic Burgundy finesse enters. A full bodied wine with soft tannins and acidity in a great harmony, the palate is velvety and full of red fruits. If these characteristics persist, I don’t mind having this wine early even with its given ageing potential.

5. Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2010 (François PARENT)
The use of all new oak I guess is well suited for a big wine such as this and the same was evident on the nose with intense red fruit aromas. A wine of this stature when tasted from the barrel shouldn’t be ideally subjected to a verdict. But with its tannic,complex structure, it is certainly promising.

Of the last 3 wines tried, 2 belonged to the 2007 vintage and one from 2009. As Burgundy enthusiasts would already know, many of the 2009 red wines would be well drinkable in their youth while 2008 was a more classical year with good ageing potential. In that regard, my personal observations about the 2010 somewhat hint at the fact that it’ll be a similar vintage to 2008. Only time shall tell how these wines finally evolve. Also,2007 might not be considered the greatest vintage but this is where the winemaking expertise comes in, as was evident the wines I tried.

6. Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits 2009 (Caroline PARENT)
Developed cranberry and cassis notes on the nose followed by black cherries on the palate with tannins being somewhat dusty. A pleasant everyday drinking wine with a good finish.

7. Vosne Romanée Aux Réas 2007 (AF Gros)
This has got to be one of most aromatically complex wines in the flight (also because it’s not as young as others) with cinnamon, white flowers, candy and vanilla. An equally pleasing wine on the palate with soft tannins,a great balance between acidity and alcohol and sweet liquorice like notes. Well rounded with a medium to long finish.

8. Pommard Les Pézerolles 2007 (AF Gros)
And finally another fuller bodied Pommard with a good balance and a structure that can benefit more with some more ageing to reach its prime.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Italian Extravaganza:All that Sparkles..

Veni,Vidi,Vici-those 3 famous words by Julius Ceasar would perhaps find a new interpretation if I were to use them. Such is the beauty of this wonderful country called Italy!

I have been in France for a while now and totally love it! The process has been one beginning with admiration and gradually converting into love. Just like France, there’s something about Italy which is equally fascinating but the way I connected with this country is faster than I would have imagined. 
From their simple yet elegant cuisine to the richness in history exuded from the architecture and the extent to which art disguises itself so wonderfully in the most basic of things, the pull factor towards Italy for me as a tourist, blogger and wine lover was over-the-top!

As I mentioned in my previous post, the last couple of weeks have been adventurous and exciting. You might differ on what I call ‘adventurous’ if you aren’t a wine lover or a foodie like me but for those who consider wine hedonism a virtue and never fret at the thought of an indulgent meal every alternate hour, you would relate to what I am saying. 
To make sense of my jabbering, read on. This is first in the series of what I call the ‘Italian Extravaganza’; a title I feel almost sufficiently epitomizes my experience in what the Greeks called the ‘Oenotaria’ or ‘the land of vine’.

The scene is set in Italy but I travel to France,Spain,England and USA all in the same morning? Don’t be fazed-just fill in those question marks in your head with a sit down tasting of 10 wines from the aforementioned places and you have the answer. The pleasure is doubled when those wines are sparkling. I was fortunate to have begun my sojourn on this auspicious note during the EWBC '11.

Many wine lovers reading this would maintain that there is no better way to get started in the morning than with a flute full of sparkling wine! It gets even better on a fine weather day with millions of bubbles gently spluttering in your glass that have travelled from such diverse corners of the globe! So in my attempt to avoid getting carried away any further, here is the lineup of wines that were tasted during the event (in the same order that they were served) along with some explanations & brief tasting notes:

The flight of first 5 wines
Ridgeview Cavendish 2009 from Sussex, England
While the English decide on what to call their sparkling wine, Ridgeview is not a name unheard of. They have been producing wines for a while and have earned accolades for their quality. As for this particular wine, the nose for me was reminiscent of red apples with fresh citrus notes on the palate and a pleasant acidity. What was also peculiar was the slight saltiness on the finish-a characteristic also prevalent in the following wine.

Denbies Cubitt Reserve 2006 from Surrey, England
Notes of flint and white flowers on the nose, medium-medium (+) acidity on the palate and the tartness of a ripe green apple accompanied by lemon like citrus notes. Again, that stone-salt character was evident which I guess is typical to English sparkling wines owing to the ‘terroir’.

Chateau Frank 2006 Blanc de Blancs from New York, USA
This was the first time I tried a New York sparkling wine and I have to admit, I fell for it instantly!
With aromas of gooseberry, yoghurt and toast, this promised to be a quality wine and it was indeed terrific. A well balanced wine on the palate with a medium-long finish, this one is highly recommended.

Lenz Winery 2005 Cuvee from New York, USA
Just like its predecessor, this one was impressive too. On the nose, I could pick up floral, honey-like notes while on the palate the wine had medium(+) acidity though well balanced with a medium to long finish. Citrusy notes well prevalent. Again, a wine I would recommend if you can get your hands on a bottle.

Majolini Franciacorta Brut Electo, Millesimato (Vintage) 2005 Brut, Italy

(Majolini pronounced mayo-lee-ni; Electo means ‘first’)

Coming to Italy, this was the local flag bearer from Northern Franciacorta accompanied by another one from Il Mosnel served later in the flight. Mind you, I didn’t mention Prosecco which seems to take away all the limelight when we talk about Italian sparkling wines. Just to bore you a bit further (as some would already know), Franciacorta is the name granted exclusively for the DOCG sparkling wines coming from the place by the same name, located in the province of Brescia in Lombardy. Though still wines are also produced in the area, they are named and classified differently, say for example DOC Terre de Franciacorta.
Having rested for 5 years on lees, the fact was quite evident on the nose with yeasty, mushroom-like aromas. On the palate, this wine had a good overall balance with buttery, vanilla notes and a medium acidity making for an interesting finish.

Raventos i Blanc Extra Brut Gran Reserva de la Fianca 2006, Spain

Cava is still the category I have wanted to be excited about but I guess it’ll take some time. With a developing lemon, flinty nose, the wine was light bodied with medium levels of alcohol and acidity. I still believe in the potential of Cava but don’t have much to add in this space.

Cava Recaredo Pas Dose Reserva Particular 2002, Spain
This was a more exciting wine than its counterpart. Toasted bread and flinty aromas on the nose, this was a super dry Cava with a developed, ripe fruit character and a medium(+) finish but for me was still average in terms of overall quality. Note: Personal opinion, no offence to Cava patrons!

Another star in the tasting, this one pleased me and exhibited well the potential of Franciacorta. A lovely, developed nose reminiscent of peaches and honey, the palate was equally pleasant. Again a bone dry style, the wine had a crisp acidity & was well rounded with a long finish. Would have loved to take a bottle home!

We now reach France and there’s something about the way Champenois make their wines. This one had an interesting nose of red apples and honey with crisp acidity on the palate. Well rounded, this is a delicious way to add some spice to life.

Piper-Heidsieck Brut Rare 1988,Champagne,France
And what better way to conclude than trying the big daddy of all. To keep my mind away from any biases, I approached this wine with utmost neutrality making sure that the golden digits ‘1988’ don’t influence my opinion. But one sniff and developed aromas of peaches, honey and vanilla with slight undertones of almost smoke and ash (by all means pleasant) came gushing in. The magic continued on the palate with similar fruit aromas as on the nose and this fuller bodied wine impressing beyond words. I did crave for more but rare things I suppose should be enjoyed in rarer quantities!

With the day beginning on a high and some wonderful wines discovered, the foundation was laid down right for what would be one memorable trip!
There were great meals that followed and even more wonderful wines tried and I can’t help but say this about Italy- “I went,I saw,I was mesmerised

More to follow soon...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Here,there and everywhere!

If you have visited my blog in the recent past in a hope to read something new,please don't be disappointed.
As much as I wanted to post regularly in this space,some interesting developments ensured that I would be out on the field and away from my computer.
Whether it was the article that I was working on,followed by a visit to a prestigious domaine in Burgundy and eventually my travel to a neighboring wine country-all of these have kept me busy yet made this month a very exciting one.

Goes without saying,I'll be sharing about all of this here very soon..So do visit again


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Indian Wines Go International

Source: Company
Indian wine in a leading wine and food retailer in the UK? Believe it or not, and for some of my friends in the wine industry who might not like the sound of it; Yes that's true. Earlier this month, two Indian wines viz. Zampa Syrah 2008 and the Viognier 2010 by Ritu (Four Seasons in India) seem to have made the breakthrough.

While it is the first time (or at least as claimed in the media) for an Indian wine to have found place in a UK supermarket, never before has it created this much buzz.The launch of these wines in my view exhibits a raise in the overall quality of Indian wines and also their potential to compete and be accepted internationally. And thankfully this time, the wines would not be merely confined to restaurants alone as an obvious pairing to the country's cuisine. Rather, these will be available to a wider, retail audience. The foundation work to the launch I suspect began in May this year during the London International Wine Fair wherein there was a reasonably decent amount of interest around Indian wines. As hinted in one of my conversations with a leading UK based importer during the event, the launch was always in the making.

The UK consumer is one of the most spoilt for choice in the world of wines and the launch of these 2 Indian wines adds further diversity to the abundant offering at their disposal. What would be interesting to see is the time for which these novel offerings remain in demand. Given the popularity of the Indian cuisine in the UK, especially the beloved 'curry', it'll be no surprise if Waitrose gets them re-ordered often. Apparently their first lot of the wines which was up at a promotional price is selling fast with some stores running out of stock!
Let's hope that the trend continues and Indian wines find further recognition in other parts of the world too.   

Monday, May 9, 2011

‘The Keyboard is mightier than the Sword’-The case of Olivier B

Talk about changing means of communication in business and social media features high on every list. Critics and traditionalists might underrate the power of this platform but when you hear about winemakers like Olivier B., the case for avenues such as blogs just gets stronger.

The wines with Oivier's signature hat
The story of Olivier B, a winemaker in the Rhone valley is an inspiring one. After almost decade of making wines, the dispirited Olivier decided to discontinue. In his words “it is too difficult to do all this alone”. There are other related reasons to the problem too that he talks about on his blog (it is in French). One public announcement from the petit vigneron sparked a series of write-ups and blogs that talked on how a quality winemaker is losing out due to his helplessness. Followed by a series of more communications about Olivier’s plight, the entire online (even television and radio) French community got together to appeal for Olivier’s case. Tastings were conducted and more discussions within bloggers continued. The result was an increase in his wine sales while at the same time bringing him to limelight which otherwise would have been just an ordinary case in point. From Le Monde to as far as US where Tyler Colman recently mentioned about this, the equation has changed dramatically in favour of Olivier over the past few months. Talking to the man himself when I met him shows how thankful he is to the entire web fraternity. Notes such as these express his gratitude which he happily carries to every city he visits with his wine repertoire.

I met him on the day of Easter which I think aptly symbolises the resurrection of a vigneron and who like many others started as an enthusiastic lover of wines but fell apart as an unsung hero due to the wonderful yet testing wine industry. While Olivier is still not sure if he’ll carry on making wines but the incident has certainly brought to notice the power of social media which I am sure would keep alive the hopes of many vintners in crossing the troubled waters with success!