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France Tour Visit Post

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The appeal of Italian-origin varietals continues to create enormous volumes from Australian vineyards. And Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith’s Italian travel experience of these makes the taste transition some much easier—drink it in Maremma then try the same vermentino varietal in Australia.

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Vermentino Frenzy
So he went investigating some production houses recently in an area where the country’s largest brands are domiciled-in the tiny town of Yenda fifteen kilometres east of Griffith.

Here is a call to action to think in millions of cases of Oz wine—think Casella (Yellowtail), De Bortoli, Beelgara and Berton, all on the one stretch of vine highway leading into this speck on the map.And either side of the road are vineyards and citrus orchards, supported by water channels which cause the survival of this entire region. Once a desert in the 1930s, now an oasis.

Berton majority owner, Bob Berton who is of northern Italian descent, calls his vineyard a farm, more a South African term than Aussie.www.bertonvineyards.com.au

In Bob’s farm is an extensive plantings of pinot grigio, the grape with brown skins (few drinkers realise that,) though many must wonder why their glass when poured in a local bistro is often a brassy colour.

“You see out Italian cousins often do not employ the same level of technical control on the harvesting and juice expression-some wines will turn out orange from the old-fashioned wine school.  It is also the same outcome from natural wines made without sulphur addition,” said Peter.

Australian makers like Berton’s James Ceccato wish your pinot grigio to be pale, fresh and enlivening.  And here is how he does it: “Grapes are night harvested here in southern NSW to avoid the summer heat, no sulphur is used at harvest then the grapes are oxidatively handled to oxidise out any red colour collected during harvest and transport”.

 

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Head over Heels Pinot Grigio 2013

“Try Head over Heels Pinot Grigio 2013 (AUD $8) 12% to set the pace for value. Pale, yes; floral yes; nashi pear, yes—is the staple aroma, then mingling acidity and a nice crunchy mouthfeel to complete the wine. Just add a seafood salad.
“I tried the same wine in the 2012 vintage—very little change there either, just a little steelier now. Pinot grigio is really the new riesling of the area”, said Peter.

The next Italian grape to grab on the visit is vermentino: it has big bunches, grows well in Sardinia, in south western Tuscany (Grosseto) and now in Yenda.

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High-end Berton Coonawarra and Eden Valley Cabernets

According to our Master of Wine, The Vermentino 2013 (AUD $12) 12% is enticing stuff, lots of obvious crunchy grape notes of an unwooded white ready to drink, lemon tastes, lots of creativity by Berton. Fuller wine than the pinot grigio, but that’s the genetics between the two. Add BBQ snapper.

Berton has a vineyard in Eden Valley. The high end cabernet sauvignons featured (AUD $17–25), 2008, 2009, 2010 are drawn from these vines and grapes purchased in Coonawarra.

You can read more wine tasting reviews from Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smiths here: http://www.uncorkedandcultivated.com.au/blog/
Uncorked and Cultivated also conduct annual bespoke wine and food tours for small groups to drinkable destinations in Italy. Find out more by visiting http://www.uncorkedandcultivated.com.au/tours or calling Denise on +61 412 403 567.

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Like to discover the grandeur of the great French wines with an Aussie Vin de Champagne Awardee and Master of Wine? Then jump on a Gallic grape escape with Uncorked and Cultivated.

The brothers Fourny-Charles and Emmanuel were in town this week. And what an impression they make as grower Champagne makers.

There is passion in every word they speak about their champagnes-the personalised stuff. They come from Vertus, a chardonnay growing town at the very south of the region -les Cotes des Blancs which dominates chardonnay plantings in the Champagne region.

Charles tells me his forebears started the brand in 1856. But now, as his dad Roger is no longer around, and his mum is responsible for the business, Veuve (widow) is a good name as many houses before have done.

What is the champagne of the house? VeuveFourny Blanc de Blancs Brut Vertus Premier Cru (AUD 54) which is non vintage chardonnay really.

In a very big way, this is how I judge the quality of the house-by its standard non vintage-which incidentally takes a lot to put together by Emmanuel, as I heard from his description.

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Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru

The company owns 30 plots which act as small vineyards, and annually harvests these as 60 parcels of grapes to meticulously separate and evaluate the base wine results.

This is the small grower mentality whereas a big maker like VeuveClicquot in Reims would put all the Vertus origin premier cru chardonnay grapes in one big tank-call it Vertus. The separate qualities, or the ability to recognise great portions of any vineyard, are lost.

Where this process of retention of small batches comes into its own is because VeuveFourny have accumulated lots of old oak barrels, so portions as small as 300 litres can be kept aside for blending into higher quality cuvees (blends).

It goes further than that. Often people from one French region never visit another adjacent one, however close, ever in their lives.

In the case of the Fournys, one nearby region is Burgundy.

Emmanuel regularly visits colleagues in the chardonnay-producing part of the region during vintage for information sharing, and that now reflects in his winemaking,
particularly in his more natural rather than clinical ways of not filtering some lines yet avoiding some of the nasties which can develop from ignorant natural winemaking.

The second wine which pairs with the Blanc de Blancs is Grand Reserve Brut Vertus Premier Cru NV (AUD 54) which is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; having a high addition of reserve wine (30% from 2008) whereas the current wine is based on the 2009 harvest.

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Grand Reserve Brut
Emmanuel’s trips to the white burgundy areas which work specifically with chardonnay clearly reflects in his winemaking. This is significant, to see champagne chardonnay and white burgundy mindsets working in the same cellar at making more interesting Blanc de Blancs champagne.

This activity also contributed to Emmanuel being named best “Young Winemaker in Champagne” from a popular local vote for 2012.

But that is the edge which grower Champagne makers need-to separate them moreso from the big brands which take away vineyard origin by massive blending. Note also that VeuveFourny do not use pinot meunier-the most widely planted champagne base wine variety in the region.

What we also drank:

VeuveFourny Cuvee R Extra Brut (AUD 70)- a tribute to the brothers’ dad Roger; based on 2008 vintage wine, and made very intensely, having an amazing nose of yeast and funky yeast adjuncts (additional nose interest); then a great line of acidity, lively and taut. Low sugar at 4 grams per litre.

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Cuvee R

VeuveFourny Grand Millesime Brut Blanc de Blancs 1996 -just to remind guests just how good aged vintage bubbles can be, not often for sale; a pristine, touch of brulee, lemony old chardonnay with decades to go; recently disgorged to show its great style.

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Fabulous 1996 Blanc de Blancs

VeuveFourny is a leading grower Champagne maker of chardonnay bubbles. Look out for them; or other brands which lead this charge-Agrapart (Avize-chardonnay), Larmandier-Bernier (Vertus and other chardonnay villages) and Egly-Ouriet (Ambonnay-pinot territory).

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Master of Wine Peter Scudamore- Smith has released details of his bespoke 11day France Wine and Food Tour next European spring.Scudamore-Smith laconically says “as well as being undeniably cool, MWs enjoy enviable access to some of the world’s most significant cellars and vineyards, and I guide my guests with a topend wine tour”.

Making use of his unique know-how and allowing guests to tap into his wealth of knowledge andexperience on the beat, Peter has chosen a terrific cross-section of regional French culture, wine styles, wineries (caves) and typical vistas to dent participants’ memories.

In Champagne groups descend to the dramatic but chillydamp chalk cellars of Reims (Pommery, Charles Heidsieck), find the taste greats Pol Roger and Bollinger south of the Montagne de Reims, not missing the fabulous chardonnay makers in the south-Côtes des Blancs (Veuve Fourny in Vertus). The cultural immersion continues in the ancient Cistercian monks’ town of Beaune, home of the famous and charitable Hospices de Beaune museum. Here guests can take their pinot noir overdose paired with local snails, wild rabbit and the region’s famous washed rind cheese –epoisses, in context with the terroirs of Burgundy.

Scudamore-Smith and his wife Denise Wiseman conduct this tour which takes a slice of the cuisines in the regions visited —traditional (paysanne), bistrot, modern, contemporary and elevated (stars). Every day is an authentic experience,designed carefully, shows balance as the tour progresses, and eventually reveals all the classic food flavours. Every major grape varietal is drunk with meals and the vital regions where these wines originate, visited.

Wiseman says “We are the creators ofthis tour, have visited and dissected our restaurants’ food styles, captured the aspect of the hotel views by close inspection, and taken the ride with luxury small bus tour operators to the destinations.”

“We take guests to luxurious old-world hotels with sweeping views, all centrally located, giving quality private experiences within short walking distance during free time. They may explore the history, architecture and traditions of regions when visits are not programmed.”

Tour details

When: 1-31 May, 2014

Start: Paris (central hotel collection)

End: Lyon (centre de ville or airport Saint Exupéry)

Cost: AUD 6950; single supplement (AUD 1350); SPRING SPECIAL save AUD 500 until 31 October 2013

Cities: Reims, Epernay, Beaune, Valence

Wine regions: Montagne de Reims, Côtes des Blancs, Côtes des Nuits, Côtes de Beaune, Cornas, Hermitage, Condrieu, Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Complement: 12 people max

Find out more by visiting http://www.uncorkedandcultivated.com.au/tours or calling Denise on +61 412 403 567+61 412 403 567.

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