Archive for July, 2011

The Grand Prix

No not Budapest (well done Jenson by the way a great drive). I mean the grand prix retro (cars built before 1940) today in Puy Notre Dame just south of Saumur in the Loire valley. It’s organised  by the local wine syndicate of Saumur. Every year the vintage cars of many countries descend upon us at the small historic hill town and race around the streets. Its a real spectacle ‘cos they don’t half race. Wow they go at some speed and theres no run off gravel trap or rubber tyre barriers just good old plain nothing fancy bobs your flipping just the job straw bales placed on the corners in the hope it bounces the cars back into the road! Mind you on many corners the bales are no quite positioned in the right spot to stop a car running into a ditch or whatever. People then stand or take their own seats to watch the races beside the track as it were. Such a good old fashioned hows your father attitude. Ok we have marshals and a ambulance or two and the local fire tender just in case. There are a number of catorgories like threewheelers (morgans mainly), fourwheelers  ie ordinary cars Frazer Nash, Amilcar, MG, Bugatti, Bentley etc, motorcycle, and sidecars. In the middle of the track are the pits around the Town Hall and Mayor’s office( Marie) with all the stalls where you can find grub and drink, plus souveniers etc. You might get stuck in the middle ‘cos you can’t cross the track whilst the racing is going on but you can spend your time looking at some amazing cars and motorcycles in the pits. The races are normally on all afternoon so plenty of interest.

As I said the vignerons organise the event and our two Saumur estates involved are Domaine de L’Enchantoir and Domaine du Vieux Pressoir. Both make award winning reds and white, sweets, pinks and sparkling so get onto the website gfwine.co.uk and stiff out a bargain. Cheers.

Saumur Rouge

Here’s some background to the  appellation of Saumur rouge.

The wine’s deep ruby colour and  powerful aromas of red berries and flowers herald a wonderful blend of flavours. With its delicious delicacy and freshness it is an exceptionaly flexible and dense wine.

The 31 towns and villages of the Saumur appellation produce red wines over an area of 1,000 hectares. Although the vines grow in a range of soil types, including siliceous, limestone, clay and sandy clay all of them are underpinned by the same tufa chalk sub layer which rises to the surface shaping the wines personality.

The dominant grape variety is Cabernet Franc of which the wines contains at least 80%. Cabernet Sauvignon is also added up to 20% of any blend.

Saumur rouge boasts a superb purple colour with flashes of ruby red and a powerful bouquet of fresh but ripe small red fruits – wild strawberries and raspberries – behind which can be found earthy notes reminiscent of its chalky origins. Generous and full on the palate, its structure is both supple and engaging. It smooth character and its tannins combine in a well balanced ensemble. This wine is attractive when young and can benefit from three or four years in the cellar as its character gains in complexity.

Depending on the vintage the serving temperature is between 12C and 15C. The wine makes a supurb partner for red meats and poultry, grilled chicken, duck, chicken stew, pigeon, and with fish such as pike, tuna and salmon, and also cheeses.

Our Saumur reds from Domaine de L’Enchantoir and Domaine du Vieux Pressoir are excellent examples of this appellation  winning awards and accolades to demonstrate their quality. Both wines are priced at £9.99 on the website gfwine.co.uk. Very good value for money. Cheers.

Events

We have a couple of great events coming upon us over the next week both of which are organised by the wine industry of the area. This is one thing that the french are good at. A particular aspect of business such as the wine industry of a particular area like an appellation will organise an event that will help to promote their wines.  Firstly the vignerons of Saumur appellation organise each year a vintage car and motorcycle  grand prix around the streets of the old historic town of Puy Notre Dame. This is at the heart of Saumur country and the winemakers are proud to promote  what has now become a very popular yearly event which takes place traditionally on the last weekend of July. This is the fifteenth year. So this weekend we will see some very beautifully turned out cars such as Bentley, Alpha, Fiat, Morgan, Bugatti, Frazer Nash etc. There are also motorcycles, sidecars and threewheelers. Events take place over the weekend with the grand prix races for each catagory on Sunday 31st. It really is a wonderful day out. You can visit the pits and meet the owners and watch the events behind straw bales placed around the course as the cars and motorcycles race each other around the narrow streets. They really do go hell for leather!

The second event is the Grand Tablee which is the wine fair for the appellation of Saumur Champigny. It takes place on 3 and 4 August in the Place de la Republic on the banks of the Loire river opposite the town hall in Saumur. The area is laid out with long (very long) tables which are grabbed by groups of friends and family. Your entry fee for the event allows you to collect a wine glass and tear off tickets for each of the food courses during the event. So there’s a starter, bread, main, cheese and dessert. The vignerons of Saumur Champigny each give 10 kg of their harvest each year which is made into a special cuvee just for the event. Normally one of the big sparkling wine houses make the wine for the event. Each year there will be a number of vintages from past years. Obviously you are able to drink as much as you like. There is all sorts of entertainment during the event which takes place in the evening including all manner of live music. The setting around the historic square is quite unique and breathtaking. If you are around the area then you should not miss it.

We have two great Saumur Champigny appellation estates on our website gfwine.co.uk. Chateau de Chaintres and Domaine de Rocheville. They both make a choice of reds of the appellation with the Cabernet Franc grape (it is only a red one), pink Cabernet de Saumur again from Cabernet Franc and an oaked white from the Saumur appellation using the chenin  blanc grape.

Have a look at our winemakers and their wines on the website. The French know how good it is as most of the production of Saumur Champigny is consumed in France. The Parisiens are particularly fond of the wine. Grainger Fine Wines are one of only a few merchants that sell Saumur Champigny in the UK so don’t miss the chance to grab some.  Cheers.

Bottling

A busy but enjoyable day today. Pierre the winemaker at Domaine L’Enchantoir rang at the weekend to ask if I could help with the bottling today. Of course I was more than happy to help and so armed with my bottle of blackcurrant squash I arrived at Enchantoir at the very pleasant hour of 11am. Ok I agree it is late but at manoir we have to prepare the facilities for our guests every day in particular the swimming pool. It has to be in prestine condition both the water and the terrace area around for sunbathing. Today was a fine sunny day so perfect for a day by the pool.

Anyway back to bottling. Henning the man with the mobile bottling plant had arrived early to set up his equipment and the bottling had started by 7am so it was in full swing by the time I arrived. I was to take over from one of those helpers putting the full bottles into wooden crates called pallox which hold 585 Anjou type bottles. Long and slender with a crest on the neck. I was put to work on picking the full bottles from the conveyor and laying them flat in the crates. The mobile plant that Henning brings on a trailer can fill 1600 bottles an hour. Thats me picking up and transferring a bottle every 2 seconds into the wooden crate (ok I had some help from Brigitte Pierre’s wife and she had the important task of starting the first layer of bottles in the crate to ensure that they are properly stacked thereafter). The plant can be operated by three people. The basic operations are firstly to  pick up by forklift a pallet of empty bottles and place them at the start of the conveyor belt. One person takes the empty bottles and places them on the conveyor. The bottles then start the process of being filled with wine and corked. Corks are added to a bin and these are passed to the corking part of the plant. Once the bottles have been filled and corked then they are taken off the conveyor belt and put into crates. When filled the crates are removed by forklift and replaced with empty crates. And so the cycle continues.

We managed to bottle 7652 (57 hectolitres) of the 2010 Saumur blanc in the morning before breaking for lunch and in the afternoon we bottled 800 of the 2010 Cabernet de Saumur and 1430 bottles of the 2010 Saumur Puy Notre Dame. Not too bad for a beginner. Tomorrow Pierre will continue bottling his red wines without my help as I am preparing to welcome some wine tour guests on Saturday. They are coming to see the most amazing event the Puy Notre Dame vintage grand prix around the old streets of the town. Its an amazing sight.

Pierre had  a vat of 80 hectolitres of 2010 vintage Saumur blanc of which 57 was bottled, 13 will be put in old oak barrels for his special cuvee and the remaining  10 hectolitres will be put in BIBs. Likewise the Puy Notre Dame will be divided into bottles and his special cuvee. Its too good for the BIB.

I reckon the 2010 vintage of the Saumur blanc and the Saumur Puy Notre Dame is even better than the 2009 which in itself was outstanding, and we are the only wine merchant importing this into UK. How lucky you are. Go to our website gfwine.co.uk to bag a case or more before it goes.  Cheers.

Brissac

Its a town in the Maine et Loire department of France. Its full name is Brissac-Quince. It’s about 10 miles south east of Anger which is on the Loire. Brissac is located on the river Aubance which makes lovely sweet wine of the Coteaux de L’Aubance appellation.

The chateau dominates the town and skyline as it is the tallest royal chateau along the Loire valley. It has seven stories and 204 rooms. Its called ‘The Giant of the Loire Valley’

Brissac chateau  has its own vineyards which are run by the local co-operative just down the road at Les Caves de la Loire.

And thats why I happen to be in Brissac obviously. Certainly not sightseeing but following the trail of the co-operative here. The visit was arranged to look at their wines and of course taste them to see if they were good enough to add to our portfolio at Grainger Fine Wines.

They cover the appellations of Muscadet a dry white wine made from the melon de bougogne grape, Anjou which covers a multitude of wines from dry and medium white made from the chenin blanc grape primarily, to fresh and fruity reds made mostly with the cabernet franc grape, also the Anjou Village Brissac a fuller bodied red,  Coteaux de l’Aubance sweet whites from the chenin blanc grape, Coteaux du Layon sweet again, Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume two of the best sweet wine appellations again made with the chenin blanc, Touraine a dry white wine made with the sauvignon grape and red made with a mix of gamay, cabernet franc, malbec and pinot noir. Cheverny white wine, Vouvray demi sec, Pouilly fume and Sancerre both sauvignon, the pink appellations of Rose d’Anjou (medium), Cabernet d’Anjou (medium), Rose de Loire (dry), Chinon and Pineau d’Aunis made with a mix of grapes again. The appellations of Bourgueil and Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil red wines from cabernet franc again, Chinon reds and pinks from cabernet, then the sparklings of Cremant de Loire and Saumur.

Yes we have them all and that is the best part of the Loire valley wine region. We have such a variety of wines to suit all palettes.

Wow I hear you say so many different and diverse wines. Yep there are so many appellations that cover the Loire valley somewhere around 80 all told. All have a style of their own.

So the upshot is that we will be adding some of these wines to our portfolio to give you a better choice. Watch this space. Cheers.

Around the world in 80 days

That was a great film. New world wines don’t go that far but its half way. That’s a few miles. I’d say something like 12,000 miles. So some of us buy our wines from New Zealand or Australia two countries some 12,000 miles away. We don’t even think about the consequences. What absolute  stupidity. I mean do you buy anything to eat or drink that far away. OK you buy your beans from Kenya out of season. Your apples from China out of season. Asparagus from Peru and so it goes on.  Lamb from New Zealand. Whats wrong with British or even Welsh lamb? Asparagus should only be bought from UK in season. Yes it may be more expensive but if we all bought it the price would be lower anyway. The same with wine. Why not buy our wine from UK. Well it might be  bit restrictive in terms of choice so the next best thing is the best country in the world for wine and that is France just over the channel. Environmentally it make so much more sense. The carbon footprint is 350 miles to the Loire valley as opposed to 12,000 miles to New Zealand or Australia or Chile or South Africa . Are we stupid or what? Of course the price might be cheaper. What? How can a wine from NewZealand be cheaper? Because its rubbish that why. The yield from the vineyards is greater and this produces a lower quality,or can someone from New Zealand tell us how you manage it? Please explain to me how you are able to sell New Zealand wine in UK for less than a fiver? Come on I challenge you. The duty and vat is more than half. I bet my bottom dollar I get no response because  it does not work unless the wine is crap at that price.  I am supping a Cabernet Franc from France as I blog . Its fruity and soooooooooooo smooth and a million times better than the plonk from New Zealand. Whats wrong with this world of ours. If you were transported half way round the world to be consumed how would you feel on arrival. Fxxxxx. I remember working in the middle east and a trip from there to UK which is half the distance was bad. The flight was hot ans sweaty and that what wine goes through.

To ship wine half way around the world you have to look after it to start with. An even temperature no fluctuation or high temperature so it needs to be refrigerated ie kept at a constant temperature. So the wine in the big tank on the ship rolling around the sea is refrigerated is it?

Then of course you have to move it from A to B to C to D to E etc. Ie the movement goes like this. Harvested at vineyard A,Vinified at winery B, Pumped into road tanker C, Hauled to port  and pumped into Ship tank D, Sailed 12000 miles to UK port  and pumped into tanker or tank E, Hauled to vat F, Bottled at plant G, hauled to warehouse H, hauled to supermarket I, Bought by you and me J. All these operations require transfer and pumping etc and all this requires copious amounts of sulphite to prevent oxidisation.  What is in that wine?

Give it up. Don’t buy wine from these far off countries. Wine does not like being moved about. Keep it simple.  Buy your wine from the winemaker himself. Yep if you buy from gfwine you get to buy it directly. The winemaker picks his grapes, vinifies it, bottles it and sells it through us. What better way is there to buy your wine? Its so simple. Cheers.

Dinner guests

Tonight we have a group of eight guests around for dinner. Its a total coincidence that two couples are from Melbourne in Australia. Is that not amazing turning up at Manoir de Gourin in deepest french country all the way from Melbourne. All our guests enjoyed the pink sparkling aperitif to start us off. Its made in the traditional method the same as champagne from the single grape variatal Cabernet Franc. The red grape of the Loire valley. You will remember me telling you how to make pink wine. Well sparkling starts off in the same way. The first fermentation is carried out  as for still wine. Normally the grapes for sparkling wine are picked earlier with a potential alcohol level of about 10.5/11%. This will then allow the second fermentation in the bottle, by adding yeast and the required amount of sugar, to produce about 1.5% to reach a final alcohol content of around 12.5%. Anyway that is the norm and give or take the final sparkling wine is at this level.

Sparkling wine can also be made without adding additional sugar and yeast by stopping the first fermentation with some remaining sugars in the wine. This is the ancestral method and is totally natural without adding any ingredients to the wine. To stop the fermentation the temperature of the wine is lowered. Then after te wine has been put in the sparkling bottle the temperature is increased to allow the fermentation to restart and finish inside the bottle.

Our winemaker Hubert Deffois of Chateau de Brossay makes his sparkling white and pink in this way. Have a look at the website www.gfwine.co.uk   and you can check out Hubert’s sparklings. They are all priced at £12.99 a real bargain. Cheers.

In the pink

Its better to call it pink not rose as we say red and white. we don’t say rouge and blanc. So pink it is.

As I’m sure you all know pink wine is made from red grapes as it is the skin that turns the white juice in red grapes to pink or red. You can make white wine from red grapes and there are quite a few wines in France made in this way. You press the grapes straight from picking to prevent any colouration from the skin. Our winemaker Richard at Chateau de Chaintres uses the red Cabernet Franc grape in his vineyard to make a very tasty sparkling Cremant de Loire white wine. Its quite unusual for the area and it produces so much more flavour than the bland champagnes that get pushed out by the supermarkets. Honestly they are so bland and horrible and expensive not good value for money. Try Chateau de Chaintres’s Blanc de Noir on our website. Its priced at £17.99 normally but its on offer at £14.99. So try some quick before it goes.

Coming back to pink wine. There are two methods of producing pink wine (apart from mixing red and white which is not allowed except in pink Champagne)  One is to leave the grapes to macerate in the trailer after picking for a short spell ie hours to take on the colour. Dependant on the time you leave it will give a colour from salmon pink to a deep almost red pink and then press it to a particular pressure in a pnuematic press. Our winemaker Pierre and his wife Brigitte at Domaine de L’Enchantoir make it a team effort together. Pierre is in charge of the pressure valve whilst Brigittte checks the colour after it leaves the press and shouts to Pierre when she is happy with the colour. Then he stops the increase in pressure.  Brigitte designs the labels on the bottles so that the foil and label are the same colour as the wine itself. Very clever. They make two types of pink. The Cabernet d’Anjou a  medium style  and a Cabernet de Saumur which is a dry style. The old Rose d’Anjou which is  sweeter than the Cabernet d’Anjou was the staple of the Anjou region a while back and gave it somewhat of a bad name or shall I say a fun name ie it is not a serious wine and the area has struggled to be taken seriously which is a pity as there are some very very good quality wines which only the French know about but we are catching up. We are the leading light in the renaissance of mid Loire wines.

I digress again.

The other way is to draw off some wine from a vat of red wine after a short spell of maceration. Again there is some choice dependant on time of maceration of the colour of the pink you wish to achieve. However this method is thought of as a by product, if you like, of red wine making which allows the winemaker to concentrate the red wine.

Our pink wine portfolio covers  three of the pink appellations of the Anjou and Saumur areas. The dry Rose de Loire, the  slighly less dry Cabernet de Saumur and the medium Cabernet d’Anjou. The Rose de Loire and Cabernet de Saumur are a great summer drinks on there own or with a BBQ. The Cabernet d’Anjou is a great foil with a hot and spicy curry. Try It.

Have a look at our pink range and see what we have to offer. The Domaine de Rocheville Cabernet  de Saumur AOC is our wine of the month and is priced at £9.49. A great value pink for the summer. Cheers.

Time

‘Time, time, time, I see what becomes of you’ is that the lyrics of the Simon and Garfunkel song. Well its a very apt title for making wine. If you want to make high quality fine wine then it has to be given time to develop the true flavours by ageing in the vats or in barrels. With white wines the wine can be allowed to develop on the lees that are the residue of the dead yeasts and skins in the vats or allowed to develop in barrels with micro-oxygenation.  The lees may be stirred to help impart more flavour and greater complexity. Pierre our winemaker at Domaine de L’Enchantoir leaves his non oaked white wines in the vats until July of the following summer from the harvest, so this year he is bottling his 2010 vintage Saumur Blanc next week. He stirs his wine regularly over this period and then allows it to settle naturally to reduce the amount of filtering.  His oaked Saumur Blanc will be left in barrels in the cave for  longer. His 2009 is still in barrels to help to balance the wine and this will be bottled soon as well to make way for the 2010 wine to be put in and aged.

The reds are similarly treated and Pierre spends a lot of time looking after the wines to keep them in tip top condition. Again the reds are aged in the vats for the Saumur rouge and his normal Saumur Puy Notre Dame appellation. The more complex Saumur Puy Notre Dame is aged in second or third year old oak barrels from Bordeaux to reduce the impact from the oak. His prime reason for using the barrels is to allow micro-oxygenation to smooth out the tannins without imparting too much oak flavour. This is important because he does not want to overpower the wine with oak and loose the red fruity style that is the heart of the Saumur appellation and black fruity complex mineral style of the Saumur Puy Notre Dame appellation.

Next thursday I will be helping Pierre bottle 8000 litres of his Saumur Blanc 2010 which has been ageing in a concrete vat since last year. The 2009 vintage is just about all sold. It was a great year dry and fruity with a grapefruit pallete that goes on and on. Chenin blanc is a fabulous wine for maintaining that finish for such a long time. Sauvignon is too quick. Granted it has a burst a flavour at the beginning but then its gone. Chenin is the new white grape. Mark my words.

So you need to be quick on the whites. The 2009 Domaine de L’Enchantoir is just about finished. The remaining stock is on offer at £9.99 down from £11.32. Buy a case. Its a real marvel. Cheers.

Wine Quality

Here’s a piece from New Wine News. It is an example of what you should be aware of if you buy wine from negotiants and big boys as I call them. They have no real thought or concern about the quality of their product a lot of the time. Buy it cheap and sell it cheap in large quantities and make a few pennies a bottle and thats the crap we get to buy and drink. Good luck. All it does is feed the coffers of the rich. We see it here in our area of France and I have talked about the problems of wine not being controlled properly. Our small winemakers have that control over the complete cycle of wine production including the shipment side. Honestly you should think about where the wine you buy comes from. It can be difficult but there are clues on the back label normally. It may say shipped for a company and a post code of where it is bottled in UK so its come from some far off and in a large container. What condition is that in and what may lurk within? A label may say bottled at the domaine for the negotiant or importer. I should do some reseach on these labels to give you a chance of knowing who is responsible for the wine after it was made and indeed who made it. It will form the basis of a future blog. Finally don’t forget also that these wines have to be pumped full of sulphites in order to keep them stable. Stay clear. For a few pounds more you can buy decent wine made naturally without manufactured chemicals and large amounts of sulphites with a provenance. Have a look at gfwine.co.uk for a decent bottle.

Here is the article from New Wine News:

‘These muggy days in the high 90s have New Yorkers sweltering. So it’s as good a day as any to wonder out loud how much of the wine we drink is partially cooked.

It’s also been an extremely hot summer in much of Europe. Antonio Galloni considered the implications of this when at a domaine in Burgundy recently, as he saw an unrefrigerated truck hauling away wine bound for America via Dijon, a four-hour drive. Even if it joins a refrigerated container for trans-Atlantic travel, Galloni wrote on eBob, saying, “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that 4 hours in a truck at 100 degree temps means those wines will probably be cooked before they ever have a chance to oxidize, prematurely or not.”

Fortunately, most conscientious importers do ship in refrigerated containers today. But some warehouses in the US and/or delivery trucks for the last few miles to shops and restaurants remain without temperature control, affecting foreign and domestic wines alike. While lower-priced wines tend to get less kid-glove treatment, when I tweeted about it yesterday, James Molesworth tweeted back that when he worked in retail, he saw grand cru Burgundy returned because the corks were pushed out from the heat. Daniel Posner of Grapes the Wine Company said he is not taking deliveries these hot days but added that many (but not all) wholesalers in NY are taking good care of their wines.