The Autumnal months are undoubtedly one of the best times of the year for quality white wines to show-off their versatility in being paired with a wide range of dishes. SCOTTIE GREGORY delves into the Vignerognes and Vignobles tasting in London to highlight her top picks.
This was an intimate tasting with carefully selected producers, all of whom were passionate about the wines that they had crafted so that the day of tasting was a delightful experience. I did not taste a wine that I did not enjoy and time and space permitting I would have written about all of them. However I disciplined myself to select just a few!
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The stands were busy, so I quickly slotted into a gap at Jean Durup Pere et Fils where Jean Paul Durup guided me through the tasting. Their Premier Cru Chablis, Fourchaume, is an old friend and I must confess that it has, for a long time, been a favourite of mine. The 2018 did not disappoint. If you are a Chablis fan this displays all that is wonderful about the wine. With a citrusy and baked bread nose, a great combination of a rounded lemon flavour and underlyingminerality (millions of years ago the vineyards were part of the seabed) distinguishes its palate from the flavours of chardonnay grown in the Cotes D’Or, Chalonnais and Maconnais. The 2018 displays even greater roundness and depth than usual, (as has happened with chardonnay grown both in the UK and elsewhere in France thanks to the 100 plus days of ripening) with hints of pear and melon and a hint of peach. The result is not overblown as it is balanced with acidity and minerality. As well as the usual trout, salmon or seafood that is normally paired with Chablis, this Fourchaume is one that I always pair with a Guinea Fowl Casserole I make with orzo (barley) and cooking Chablis.
I also sampled Jean Durup 2018 Petit Chablis which was surprisingly, wonderfully rounded with a citrusy nose and palate that also had white flowers flavours and a good minerality. It was also extremely long on the palate. Usually, Petit Chablis is a pale imitation of Chablis but this was not. I would buy this in preference to most supermarket Chablis.
Finally the Jean Durup 2018 Chablis displayed all the characteristics of Chablis that I have previously mentioned and again the roundness on the palate of the 2018 vintage was evident, coupled with flinty minerality. No doubt the vinification process in vats of glass or stainless steel at Jean Durup ensures a clear, clean palate for Jean Durup Chablis.
I next found a space at Domaine Paul Blanck et Fils. I have been a fan of Alsacienne wines since my youth. In those days the grapes that are shared in both Alsace and Germany were only good in Germany if they featured as sweet wines. While I love dessert wines, I like them with desserts or foie gras. So Alsacienne white wines came to my rescue for drinking elsewhere. Phillipe Blanck introduced me to his excellent wines and his enthusiasm and passion for them did him credit.
My first taste was Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes 2017. I had not tasted the grape for several decades (apart from Cremant d’Alsace) along with Pinot Blanc. Although vinification is in stainless steel vats for four to ten weeks, it is then matured on its lees for twelve months in large oak barrels. This is no doubt what gives its great backbone.I really loved its nose of flowers, musk and fruit. On the palate these flavours were combined with lemon, lime and pineapple, but wonderfully balanced with great acidity and minerality. It was rounded, almost silky in the mouth and stayed on the palate for a long time.
The Rosenbourg Riesling 2017 exhibited the characteristics that first drew me to Alsacienne wines; a Riesling that has ripe fruit while maintaining great acidity. It has a nose of apples and elderflower, with a hint of almonds and a clean, refined palate with a delicate citrusy spiced orange and mineral finish. It would cut across the richness of chicken in a creamy sauce or a goat’s cheese and red pepper tart.
The Gewürztraminer Les Classiques 2018 is a real star. I am a Gewurztraminer fan especially for combining with oriental dishes. However one dish I cook regularly that combines garlic, ginger, kimchi paste with Chinese leaves, prawns, crab and avocado has defeated any wine that I have tried with it. This Gewürztraminer had an exquisite floral nose of pelargoniums and sweat peas with subtle ginger and cardamom.On the palate added to these flavours are those of lychee and rosewater to give it far more roundedness silkiness and body than other Gewürztraminers I have tried. I went to Waitrose, bought a bottle and tried it with the kimchi dish that had defeated me in wine combining and reader, I married them!
As a bonus, I still had a little left in my glass when I served pudding and it went very well with a set zabaglione and panettone slice
Pouilly Fume was one of the wines of my growing up years as my father was a fan. It may have had something to do with being a good quality wine that was not as expensive as the white Burgundy he loved, although Burgundy was nowhere near as expensive as it is today.
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As one of the oldest wine producers in France, the history of Chateau de Tracy is fascinating. Four Scottish Stutt brothers went as archers to help Charles VII in the Hundred Years War in the fourteenth century to fight against mine and quarter of the English population’s ancestor, Edward III. As a reward his successor, Louis XI allowed them to stay in France and a hundred years or so later a Stutt descendant married into the Tracy seigneury that had a two hundred year history of wine growing. In 1950 Alain d’Estutt , Count D’Assay married Jacqueline d’Estutt de Tracy bringing two branches of the family together allowing the property to grow to its current size. It is now managed by their youngest daughter, the charming Juliette d’Estutt d’Assay who introduced me to their wines.
Juliette d’Estutt d’Assay has spent her time at Chateaux de Tracey developing sustainability by techniques of leaf thinning, grass ploughing and butterfly lures to reduce chemical treatments, respecting ecosystems and using organic matter to increase the bioavailability in the soil.
2018 Pouilly Fume vines are grown on flint and Kimmeridgian limestone on the banks of the Loire, giving it a flinty minerality, so characteristic of Pouilly Fume. The vines were triaged five times to ensure harvesting at optimum maturity. The long ripening season has given the wine an aromatic richness, untypical of Pouilly Fume. On the nose, notes of lemongrass, green pepper and elderflower with a hint of gooseberry and blackcurrant were noted. On the palate asparagus, pink grapefruit and mango with a touch of spice, makes it a delicious example of Pouilly Fume.
Chateau de Tracy 2017 Haute Densitie Pouilly Fume grapes are grown on Kimmeridgian and Portlandian limestone again endowing the wine with a complex minerality. On the nose aromas of pear, eucalyptus with tropical notes of pineapple and mango as well, as pink grapefruit and toasted bread. The palate shows wonderful freshness with citrus fruits and subtlety of oak, vanilla and pepper and a long, refined finish making it a delight to drink.
The third Pouilly Fume tasted was 2016 101 Rangs and a star. The grapes are grown on flint and clay, giving it a smoky as well as flinty palate and are taken from the oldest vines and carefully selected at the vineyard and then again before vinification to keep only the finest grapes. The wine is vinified in a large wooden tank and 500 litre barrels then aged on the lees for nine months. On the nose, the scents of rhubarb and floral notes of elderflower and broom are accompanied by a defined smokiness and minerality. The tip of the tongue briefly experiences a burst of sweetness that is perfectly balanced by acidity and flintiness. The palate experiences tropical fruit flavours of mango and coconut with hints of burnt almond, giving a delicate lemon and salty finish.
These three Pouilly Fumes are amongst the most delicious that I have tasted and it goes without saying that heritage and “going green “ has paid dividends.
Pouilly Fume goes well with smoked fish, tuna, bass and turbot. I particularly enjoy it with salmon poached in white wine, lapsang souchong and lemon.
The surprise of the tasting for me was Guilbaud Freres and their Muscadets (Melon de Bourgogne). I was introduced to them by a delightful young man, I assume by a process of elimination to be Maxime Fernadez. He did a superb job in promoting the wines although the proof of the pudding is in the tasting and the wines were really good.
In my university days when I learned to cook Coquilles St Jacques Bonne Femme (scallops were a cheap meal in those days!), I always used Muscadet, also inexpensive then, not only to cook the scallops but to drink with the finished dish. I have always bought Muscadet since for that purpose, so for me a niche wine.
Clos de Beauregard 2018 is grown in a walled Clos, where wine production dates back to the fifteenth century. It is stirred on the lees twice a week for six to eight weeks then left on the lees for six months in underground tanks. It is a much softer wine than the Muscadets that I have used, with an intense flavour full of lemon, apricot and of course, apple with a final note of pepper. It is well balanced with acidity accompanying the ripe fruit which contrasts it with other Muscadets I have experienced, which have always been bone dry with very little fruit.
Chateau de la Pingossier 2016 is left on the lees for twelve months It displays a wildflower and blossom nose with fruit notes and honeyed lemon. Ripe fruits, toasted brioche and vanilla combine to produce a refined palate balanced by acidity.
Le Clos du Pont 2012 remains on the lees for more than two years in old oak barrels, producing a sophisticated rounded and rich wine that is also delicate. On the palate ripe fruits (apple and pear) are balanced with just the right amount of acidity.
My favourite was Le Soleil Nantais 2018. This is kept on the lees for seven months. Its nose is full of spring blossom with pineapple, mango, lychee, apricot and grapefruit. It is however subtle on the palate with a great fruit/acid balance.
Muscadet is regarded as the perfect accompaniment for oysters but is as well-matched with most shellfish including those with creamy sauces such as the aforementioned scallops in a white wine and cream sauce. I also enjoy it with a smoked salmon Mac N cheese as it cuts across the richness of the pasta sauce.
One final mention, this time for the delectable Domaine Cauhape ‘s Quintessence du Petit Manseng. This is a definite competitor for Chateau D’Yquem to pair with Christmas pudding. On the nose pineapple, truffles and gentle coffee dominate. On the palate quince, citrus and nutmeg, balanced with acidity but leaving a creaminess on the tongue make this a fabulous dessert wine.
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