A great lunch at Terroirs with lovely wines

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It’s always good to lunch at Terroirs. The combination of the food, wine and the vibe in the place makes it one of my favourite stops in London. On Friday I popped in with a friend fresh off a plane from New Zealand and we lunched really well. Above: Burrata, Smoked Eel, and Chopped Raw Beef, Swede & Truffle.

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And this is classic Terroirs fare: Duck Rilletes and Pork and Pistachio Terrine.

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Wines, set 1. A very elegant Ganevat Jura red with just a hint of spicy funk. Port Flirtation is a super pure Californian red (Carignan/Zinfandel blend, 11.3% alcohol) from Martha Stoumen that is the essence of drinkability. The Brutal red from Gut Oggau: very pale, peppery and a wee bit funky. And Colfundo is a superb reductive Prosecco that’s non-disgorged from Casa Belfi.

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Wines set 2: Thierry Navarre’s Ribeyranc from the Languedoc. A forgotten variety: beautifully supple and drinkable with some meaty notes. Bow & Arrow’s Melon from Oregon, which is just beautiful. The Burja is bright, focused and fruity: a Sauvignon alternative. And the Chateau Chalon from the Jura is salty, tangy and delicious: a flor wine of great intensity.

There’s a lot of joy t0 be had at a place like Terroirs.

The new Las Palmas sherries from Gonzalez Byass

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Popped into the cosy and wonderful Bar Pepito yesterday to try the new Las Palmas sherries from Gonzalez Byass, with Martin Skelton. This year’s selection, 2017, was made by Pedro Ballesteros MW. [You can read here about the year I was chosen to make the selection: it was a really interesting experience trying through lots of sherry barrels.]

Tio Pepe Una Palma Fino
A typical, classic Fino. Averages five years old. Tangy and complex with nuts and cheese. Slightly more youthful this year. Tangy with nice citrus notes and a juicy brightness. Lovely complexity. 93/100

Tio Pepe Dos Palmas Fino 
Eight years old. Gonzalez Byass have 120 casks of this age called Fino Amontillado. This is a selection of just two. Complex, refined, nutty and detailed with hints of caramel and almonds as well as some tomato umami. There’s olive brine on the finish. Lovely acidity. 94/100

Tio Pepe Tres Palmas Fino
10 years old. The flor dies between four and eight years but this depends on the individual barrel. This is spicy and rich with orange peel, cherries, nuts and cheese. Tangy and complex with lovely intensity. Such detail and finesse. 96/100

Tio Pepe Cuatro Palmas Amontillado
A solera system with 30 year old wine added to wine that’s over 50 years old. Concentrated with dried figs and raisins, as well as old furniture, spice,, vanilla essebce and coffee. There’s a lovely incense note too. Brilliant! 97/100

Vignes Préphylloxérique: a Tannat made from ungrafted vines planted in 1871


For the last few days I have been with Plaimont Producteurs in southwest France. They are a sizeable company who source from 5000 hectares of vines and make 38 million bottles of wine each year, from the appellations of Saint Mont, Madiran and Côtes de Gascogne. As well as making lots of good quality, characterful commercial wine, they also have special projects, and this is why I was interested in visiting.

One of these is to discover and nurture the viticultural heritage of the region. They have been scouting out old vineyards and identifying old varieties that might have been discarded for the wrong reasons. In the past, France needed a lot of cheap wine, and some varieties were chosen for yields and ease of growing over quality, while others had the potential for lower yields of high quality wine and were ditched. Those are now interesting.

Olivier Bourdet-Pees explains the pre-phylloxera vineyard in Saint Mont

Olivier Bourdet-Pees explains the pre-phylloxera vineyard in Saint Mont

In their quest, they discovered a beaten up old vineyard planted in 1871, before phylloxera hit the area. With fawn sand soils, one of the common terroirs of this region, the vines have survived even though they are on their own roots. In the film, I’m with Olivier Bourdet-Pees, GM of Plaimont Producteurs, who explains all about this small Tannat vineyard. After working to restore the vines and trellis them, the vineyard is now back in production, and each year Plaimont make around 1500 bottles of Cuvée Prephylloxerique from these venerable vines. This is one of very few remaining plots from this era in France.

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Layering in action (the lower cane)

Layering in action (the lower cane)

When a vine dies, it is replaced my layering (macrottage or provinage in French), where a cane from the mother vine is placed under the earth so that a new vine springs up from it, with new roots, filling in the gap.

The wine itself doesn’t disappoint. It’s beautifully made with real harmony and finesse, as well as intensity. And this is Tannat!

Plaint Cuvee Prephylloxerique

Producteurs Plaimont Vignes Préphylloxérique 2014 Saint Mont, France
An ungrafted plot of Tannat (0.49 ha) planted in 1871 produces this remarkable wine. It’s concentrated and dense with lovely freshness. There’s purity here, with nice acidity and structure. Really harmonious with amazingly pure blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, backed up by firm but fine-grained tannins. Such finesse, and the retail price of €55 is very reasonable for this vinous history. 95/100

Wine writing is drowning

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Wine writing is in its death throes, and there’s not much that can be done about it. [If it's not already dead, that is.]

Why? It is because it is drowning in the sea of content. [And here we're talking content as in media, rather than a state of peaceful happiness.]

This is not because there aren’t good writers out there – they still exist. Nor is it because of any problems in the wine world (despite what some vocal commentators suggest, wine is actually in better shape than it has ever been).

It’s because of major changes in which media content is consumed, and where the advertising spend goes.

All specialist newspaper columns, not just wine, are in trouble. And magazines are no longer profitable, so a specialist wine title is doomed, too.

This is largely because advertising money has moved. The way that newspapers and magazines survived was through advertising. Yes, they charge a cover price, but it’s the advertising that makes the money. They paid specialist contributors to produce good quality content that then allowed them to sell advertising.

And most of the advertising money has not only gone online, it is also now following user-generated content. Instead of specialists writing content, it’s the social media chatter that provides eyeballs for advertisers. So Google and Facebook now make the money that newspapers and magazines used to. They don’t have to pay their content generators.

Another, related, nail in the coffin of professional content suppliers (such as wine writers) has been the changing way we access content. When I started work in 1993 most people on the commuter train had newspapers. Now they have mobile phones or tablets. On the internet, there’s enough free content that we don’t feel much of a need to pay for any.

There’s also a vast profusion of content. The sea of content has myriad voices. It’s almost overwhelming: how do you get noticed or read?

There still exist a few professional wine writers. I’m one of them. But in the absence of specialist columns that pay well, or decent-paying magazine commissions, we’ve all had to find extra ways of making a living.

There are business models for surviving in the new media landscape, but many of them are questionable. As a wine writer, I don’t want to be involved in one of these models if it involves asking wine producers for money, as some media organizations and individuals do.

There’s still a need for words about wine. It’s a shame the old model is broken, but wine writing is not alone in the media world in having to adapt to a novel and still-changing landscape. Creativity, honesty, bravery and perseverance will be necessary for success.

Visiting two excellent sake producers

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On my recent Japanese trip I had a chance to visit two high-end artisanal sake breweries. It was really interesting, especially coming from a wine background, to see how sake is made.

Rice at various degrees of polishing

Rice at various degrees of polishing

The sake making process begins with the polishing of rice. The amount of material removed is expressed in a percentage, and generally speaking the lower the polishing rate the more flavour, but at the cost of elegance and refinement (although this is a simplification).

Rice ready for steaming

Rice ready for steaming

The polished rice is then soaked carefully to absorb just the right amount of water.

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The rice is then steamed and after the steaming process it’s popped onto a complex looking conveyor, which is responsible for cooling the rice down to the right temperature for the next step.

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After this, the rice goes to warm room where it is spread out on racks and dusted with fungal spores, known as koji (scientific name Aspergillus oryzae). It’s this fungus that starts a process that converts the starch into sugars. This is a critical stage in the process, and a good sake brewer will be monitoring the rice carefully.

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We tasted some of the rice that was undergoing this process, and it was partially sweet. The room is kept in the mid-30s centigrade, and at an appropriate (high) level of humidity.

Then, it’s time for fermentation. This takes place at cool temperatures, and involves sequential addition of yeast, more koji, and rice, and this is followed by pressing. The best sakes aren’t just free run, but contain some pressings, too.

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You can see some of this process in action in the following short film, which was shot at both breweries.

 

MATSUNOTSUKASA SAKE BREWERY

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Matsunotsukasa sake brewery is based in the Shiga prefecture, to the east of Kyoto. Close by is Lake Ryuou, and Mount Ryuou, but here the land is flat and suitable for rice production. The region is famous for its omi beef and preserved, stinky sushi.

There are two rice sources: one is close to Kobe and is the sake rice equivalent of a Grand Cru site: it’s triple A graded. Only a handful of producers have the right to farm this plot, which is called Tojo, in Katou City. The soils there consist of very dense, heavy clay and the water is hard.

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The second is local to the brewery. The same variety, Yamadanishiki, is grown here but the soils are nutrient poor, the water is softer, and the productivity is lower.

We met with chief brewer Ishida Keizou and the MD Tadayuki Matsuse for a tasting and tour.

I have scored these sakes on a 10-point scale. They were all superb (8 is a high score, and 9 extremely high).

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2016 Yamadanishiki, Junmai-ginjo, polishing rate at 50%
Made with soft water. Gentle fermentation and round palate. Lovely complex favours: really bold and rounded with nutty notes and some sweetness. Lovely texture here with apple and pear fruity notes. Really stylish and full flavoured.

2016 Yamadanishiki, junmai, kimoto(ancient method), amphorae, polishing rate at 65%
(Red label) Really complex and full flavoured with a slight cheesy edge to the bold, rich, nutty fruity characters. It’s really rich and smooth with lovely savoury complexity. Has a long, slightly salty finish, with some herbal hints. 8.5

2015 Yamadanishiki, junmai-daiginjo, polishing rate at 35%
(black label) Low polishing rate delivers more flavour. Very elegant aromas: fine, some ripe pear. Really supple and elegant on the palate with refined, smooth texture and subtle nuttiness, with some salty hints. Lots of flavour. Finishes smooth and savoury. 8

2015 Yamadanishiki, junmai-ginjo, azolla (Organic), polishing rate at 50%
(Azolla means water cress in Italian). (Green label) Beautiful elegant aromas of fine ripe pear and green apple. The palate is very open and fruity with lovely smoothness, nice texture and depth, and subtle nutty hints. The finish is really long and smooth. Such refinement and concentration. 9 

2014 Yamadanishiki, junmai-daiginjo, azolla black, polishing rate at 35%
(dark blue label) Fruity, refined nose. Some straw, citrus and pear. Really rich and expressive on the palate with lovely fresh fruity characters. Has depth and freshness, and lots of flavour. Some herbal hints, and a long, nutty finish. 8

2013 Yamadanishiki, junmai-daiginjo, azolla black, polishing rate at 35%
Detailed, broad and really interesting with pear, ripe apple and a hint of melon, even. Very stylish and expressive with amazing freshness, focus and purity. A really long, smooth, fruity finish. 9

Yamadanishiki, junmai-daiginjo, Matsu, polishing rate at 30%
A different style with international markets in mind. Bright, aromatic and very fruity on the nose. Very fruity on the palate with pears, melon and even table grapes. Very enticing with a hint of sweetness and some nutty notes on the finish. Lots of flavour here. Slightly salty. Impressive in a different style. 8.5

 

ENASAN SAKE BREWERY

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Enasan is a sake brewery located inland, in Nakatsugawa in the Gifu prefecture. Here there’s a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters, where the temperature dips as low as -10 C.

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Nakatsugawa is a bit of a touristic hotspot, on a symbolic road from Tokyo to Kyoto. It is one of the resting places. It is also home to cut flowers, Takamine guitars, Ena violins and Kiso AOP cypress wood. This is also a place famous for traditional sake drinking vessels.

The Enasan brewery dates back to 1820. More recently it merged with the Maruto-Mizutanidi distribution company. Takahumi Sumikawa is the consultant sake maker here; we met with chief sake maker Katsuyuki Iwagama.

Production is 65 000 bottles per year.

80% of the production is from Yamadanishiki rice, but 20% comes from Gohyakumangoku and Hidahomare rice (the latter is a local variety that deals well with cold winter temperatures).

All the production here is junmai-gingo style which is rare

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Yamadanishiki, Junmai, 60%
This is a very fruity style with lively apple and pear characters, as well as some nuttiness. There’s some citrus on the finish: mandarin and lemon. This is quite bright and vivid, with real freshness and intensity. Long sweet finish. 7.5

Yamadanishiki, Junmai-Ginjyo, 50%
Delicate, floral nose with some sweetness. The palate is very fresh with bright fruity characters (pear, mandarin) but also a lovely refined nuttiness. Lovely texture with sweetness and saltiness in nice tension. 8

Hidahomare Junmai-Gingyo  50%
Really distinctive: a fresh style with lots of citrus characters, including lemon and tangerine. The flavour builds after it enters your mouth, and it finishes lively, nutty and spicy. Very long, savoury finish. Quite different in style. 8

Yamadanishiki Junmai-Daiginjyo 40%
Refined nutty, waxy aromas. Subtle ripe pear fruit. Lively palate has a rounded texture and some bright citrus peel notes, as well as baked apple and conference pear. Long finish is nutty, sweet and quite bright. Nice harmony here: lots of flavour. 8.5

“Shumikawa” Junmai-Daiginjyo 40% Nakadori
This is very elegant and textural, but also has freshness and lightness. It has a nice balance between fruity (melon, pear) characters and also the slightly spicy nuttiness, and finishes smooth, long and sweet. Nicely fruity in style. Accessible yet serious. 8.5

 

Three from Melville, Santa Barbara County, California

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Tried these three from Melville, in Sta Rita Hills (It’s no longer allowed to be Santa Rita Hills on the label, because of a complaint by a well known Chilean brand). Ron Melville was one of the first winegrowers in the region and farms 120 acres here.

Melville Estate Chardonnay 2014 Sta Rita Hills, California
14% alcohol. Quite full coloured. This is rich, generous and peachy with some broad pear fruit with some fresh lemony notes adding a foil. Bold and full flavoured, this is pretty Californian in style but not over the top. 89/100

Melville Estate Pinot Noir 2014 Sta Rita Hills, California
14% alcohol. 40% whole bunch. This is fresh, supple and floral with sweet cherry and raspberry fruit. There’s some nice grainy, spicy structure here and appealing fine herbal notes. Lots of detail and some freshness, alongside some sweet fruit. Fresh, light-bodied and supple, with fine green notes in the background. 92/100

Melville Estate Syrah 2015 Sta Rita Hills, California
13.6% alcohol. Supple and fresh with meat and clove notes. Very distinctive with slightly murky flavours of mint, meat, medicine and fine peppery spiciness. I admire this wine but it need time to open out. Juicy and a bit spicy with clove and herb characters as well as sweet fruit. 88/100

In my wandering, am I lost?

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I woke in the middle of the night. This occasionally happens. When it does, my mind is frequently overactive.

The dead of night is rarely the best time to think about deep things. I remember as a child that the shadows on the curtains became monsters; as an adult, it’s sort of similar – fears and concerns are magnified.

On this occasion, three words came to mind, and they wouldn’t go away. They were: ‘Am I lost?’

As I write, I am on the back-end of a crazy travel schedule that’s consisted of a week in Tokyo, a night in London, a week in New Zealand, a night in London, and a week in Canada. and then a night in London tomorrow will be followed by three days in southwest France, before I return home for a week in London for the International Wine Challenge.

This has been the pattern of the last 18 months. Or is it two years? Wandering.

In looking at our lives, we often use the metaphor of the journey. It gives a narrative structure that makes sense of our adventures and difficulties, the occasional success countered by a setback, and the sense that we are always pushing towards a destination that we never quite reach.

In this phase of my life, I’m quite literally journeying. But is my excessive travel a sign that I am lost?

This is the question that wouldn’t go out of my mind. It has been bugging me for some time. And while I think it can be dangerous to be too introspective, the occasional session of self-questioning is probably a healthy thing. It’s also very hard to see yourself in a true light. We are usually good at sussing out what is going on with our friends, but poor at reading our own situations. So I have been trying to step outside myself and look in, and be honest about what I see.

I am in a job where travelling is essential. The schedule I have is on the extreme side, but I have chosen it, and so far I seem to be handling it, making sure I give myself some rest while I’m on the road. I’m don’t think I’m running away from anything: I have a healthy, constructive relationship with my ex-wife and see my adult children fairly regularly. When I’m back in London I enjoy my time, and I value my friends and colleagues. I hope one day to settle in a community somewhere and not travel as much, but I’ll wait for the right time and place to make itself clear, and also I’ll be patient in waiting for my career pattern to shift a bit to make being at home, wherever that is, a more significant chunk of my time.

Still, it is good to ask the question. I suppose all of us are a little lost from time to time. To not be lost requires two things: knowledge of where we are now, and also some idea of where we are heading. I think I have these, at least in part.

But the question was still bugging me, until half way through this latest flight from Montreal to Amsterdam.

Back in February 2016 I was in California. I remember a friend sending me a message: ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’ I think it was a line from the Hobbit. The next day, I checked into a hotel in Solvang, and the key had a leather key-ring. On it was embossed the same phrase: ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’ It was the most remarkable sign (or coincidence). I’d only recently left home at that stage. It was incredibly reassuring. I’d forgotten completely about this until it came to mind just now. It was and is a voice from the universe saying keep going, it’s all OK, and it will be OK. You aren’t lost. You are not alone.

Highlights from Norman Hardie: some of Canada's best wines yet

Tasting with Norman Hardie

Tasting with Norman Hardie

I’ve written extensively about Norman Hardie’s wines before. But on this recent trip I tried some of his wines that astonished me, and are really next-level. These have to be among Canada’s best ever, and are peers of great Burgundies.

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Norman Hardie Cuvée Dix Chardonnay 2014 Niagara, Canada
In magnum, under cork. This has an extra six month’s age, and was released for the 10th anniversary in 2017. Superbly refined and taut still, with lovely refined citrus fruit. This has a bit of saltiness and some mineral hints. Superb balance and precision, with just a hint of reductive character. Has some richness, too, with hints of nuts, spice and creaminess. 96/100

Norman Hardie Cuvée Des Amis Chardonnay 2015 Prince Edward County, Canada
Beautifully detailed nose with spicy, mineral citrus fruit. The palate has amazing precision with lovely purity. Lemons, grapefruits and a brilliantly vital mineral character. Tight but with a bit of generosity. Very fine and detailed with amazing acid structure. A lovely wine. 96/100

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Norman Hardie Cuvée L Chardonnay 2015 Prince Edward County, Canada
Extremely reduced yields this year that produced a very concentrated wine. Mostly from Cold Creek, which is a very bony site. This is tight and Chablis-like with just a hint of creaminess and some nutty notes. Very refined on the palate with high, yet well integrated acidity and a lovely linear core of citrus fruit. Such amazing texture and purity. This is remarkable and intense, with astonishing mineral character. 96/100

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Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2016 Prince Edward County, Canada
11.7% alcohol. Deliciously sappy and bright with some raspberry and red cherry fruit. Elegant and pure with some silkiness to the perfumed, floral red fruits. Real finesse here: a beautifully expressive, balanced wine that’s drinking well now, but which will develop beautifully over the medium term. Such precision. Norm says that this has a hardness and an inaccessibility in the mid-palate which is a bit like Chambolle, and is a very good thing. 95/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

A few days of gastronomic overload in Montréal

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Deirdre Heekin pouring a magnum of Forardori the proper way

I can’t believe it took me so long to visit Montréal. Canada’s second largest city (with a population of 2 million, but double that in the metropolitan area), it’s a brilliant place to hang out for a few days. I merely scratched the surface, even though I went in hard to explore the food and drink hotspots in the city.

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Straight from the airport I headed to Montreal Plaza, gate-crashing a post-tasting dinner with producers who’d taken part in Le Salon des Quilles that day. This featured some of the top names in natural wine, and I was seated next to Alice Feiring, the leading commentator on these wines. Pictured above: some of the bottles we enjoyed. Clockwise from top right, a brilliant Brasserie Dunham beer; Champ Divin Cuvée Stellaire 2106 Jura, a blend of Chardonnay and Savagnin with amazing precision;  Morei Teroldego 2015 from Foradori, which was thrillingly taut and dense; Pacina La Cerretina Toscano Bianco 2015, which is an amazingly well balanced, intense skin contact white; Brand Riesling Vom Berg 2016 from the Pfalz; and the strange Collective Anonyme Wine Punx Banyuls, which is intense and powerful and a bit crazy. The food here was excellent – really creative and delicious small plates.

The open kitchen at Pied de Cochon

The open kitchen at Pied de Cochon

After this, I headed over to meet Claude Arsenault (Norman Hardie) and MC Lauriault at Au Pied de Cochon, a very highly regarded restaurant that specialises in all sorts of rich, meaty fare. They’d eaten, as had I, so we drank wine and had a classic desert – pouding chômeur.

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The wine? A really focused Alsace Riesling: the Kaefferkopf Grand Cru Le Cuvée de René 2013 from Binner. And then some Calvados. Next time I definitely want to eat here, but I need to be really hungry first, I’m told.

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Feeling the evening still had some energy, we trekked over to Majestique for some more wine. In the early hours, we drank a delicious Bornard Savagnin from the Jura. I didn’t take notes.

Claude and MC at Majestique

Claude and MC at Majestique

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A spot of late night Bornard (Jura)

The next day, lunch at L’Express was a highlight. I was feeling a bit sluggish, but this woke me up. This Montréal institution is a classic French-style bistro, and it is effortlessly perfect, with a really good old-school feel, honest, beautifully prepared food and a cracking wine list. With the food, a Boxler Sylvaner and also a beautiful Bojo Villages from Christoph Pacalet (2016) in all its smashable goodness.

Food at L'Express

Food at L’Express

This Boxler Sylvaner was beautiful - on the list at L'Express

This Boxler Sylvaner was beautiful – on the list at L’Express

Then it was beer time:

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Reservoir is a brewpub, and they make a range of rather delicious beers, including some quirky things in bottles. We stopped here for a while and tried a few things. This would be a great lunch spot, but we were just drinking.

On Tuesday, after the climate change conference we lunched joyously and simply at Le Petit Alep.

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The tasty Syrian/Armenian fare here is well matched with a great wine list, from which we tried two Alsace whites (Alsace was fast becoming a theme of this trip) and an astonishingly good Syrah. The Kreydenweiss Andlau Riesling was a tiny bit oxidative and volatile, but still enjoyable, and the Frick Sylvaner offered a lot of stony, mineral pleasure, without too much oxidative character. The star was the Hervé Souhaut Saint Joseph Les Cessieux 2014, which was the very essence of elegant Syrah. I love unpretentious, affordable restaurants with tasty food and good wine lists. We need more of them.

Dave McMillan and Vanya Filipovich, Vin Papillon/Joe Beef

David McMillan and Vanya Filipovic, Vin Papillon/Joe Beef

Then it was time to do the holy triumvirate of Joe Beef, Liverpool House and Le Vin Papillon, all on the same street and under the same ownership. This is Montreal pilgrimage territory, and it’s worth visiting the city just to hang out on this street! It was great to hang out with David McMillan and Vanya Filipovic. Vanya is the wine buyer, and also has her own import company with an epic list of producers: Les Vines Dame-Jeanne. We began at the wine bar, Le Vin Papillon, where we worked our way through a range of wines, including some really interesting Quebec wines from Pinard et Filles, and a lovely Californian Carignan from Martha Stoumann.

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David explained how Quebec has one of the oldest wine cultures in North America: the port of Montreal is older than Manhattan. Samuel de Champlain, who established Quebec City in 1608 brought with him a large array of wines and spirits: his food registers include Bergerac, Jurançon, hams, white alcohols from Alsace and more.

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We then headed over to Joe Beef for an incredible dinner. This included the most remarkable fish pie I’ve experienced, among other beautifully flavoured treats, and was washed down with good wine and beer, including a bottle of Selosse Initiale.

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Slowed down by this onslaught of deliciousness, but not finished, we went to the third establishment, Liverpool House, where we drank a bottle of Touraine Gamay from Gregory Leclerc.

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I need to get back to Montréal soon. It’s a city with European sensibilities in North America. A rare-ish thing.

Wines from Chapel Hill, McLaren Vale

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I recently tasted through the range from McLaren Vale producer Chapel Hill, whose wines I hadn’t seen in a while. I was impressed. ‘The past 12 years have been a transitional period for the winery,’ says winemaker Michael Fragos. ‘It was in the 2008 vintage that we started showcasing our single site wines and when the changes to our approach to winemaking really gained purpose and momentum.’

Michael outlined the wine growing philosophy at Chapel Hill:

“The Chapel Hill vineyard benefits from elevation, ancient rocks, contoured plantings and moderating sea breezes.  The undulating landscape results in a series of small blocks with unique combinations of geology, soil, aspect and climate.

  • As the winery does not have access to mains water, rain water is collected and utilised in the winery.  Winery waste water is captured and treated though a wetlands system for subsequent vineyard irrigation.
  • All marc and mulched bunch stems from the winery are composted on site then spread back on to the vineyard, negating the need for synthetic fertilisers.
  • The spray program has been revised to minimise the impact on beneficial insects, this maintains a natural balance in the vineyard and prevents pest and disease outbreaks.
  • Hoeing, spot spraying and brush cutting have replaced blanket under vine weed spraying.  Volunteer cover crops have been encouraged in both the mid-row and under vine area to smother out problem weeds.  These grasses are left to die off naturally over summer, providing valuable cover for the soil and hence reducing evaporation, increasing organic carbon levels and reducing erosion.

“Similarly, with our winemaking, all grapes benefit from gentle handling and patient winemaking, we utilise:

  • Small batch open fermentation with gentle plunging
  • Basket pressing
  • Maturation in 100% French oak (with a lower percentage of new oak)
  • Minimal additions
  • Natural clarification (no fining or filtration)”

 

Chapel Hill Shiraz 2015 McLaren Vale, Australia
14.5% alcohol. This is floral, sweet and intense with direct black cherry and blackberry fruit. Nice grip with some freshness to the fruit, and a creamy, sweet undercurrent from the oak. This is ripe but shows good balance, and has keen acidity and structure supporting the lush fruit. Still primary and a bit unformed, but delivering a lot of pleasure, and with lots of concentration and intensity. 93/10

Chapel Hill Mourvedre 2014 McLaren Vale, Australia
14.5% alcohol. Vivid, herb-tinged, spicy blackberry and blueberry fruit here, with a herby edge. Vivid and fresh with some red fruit brightness and a peppery twist, as well as herbs and olives. Sweet and savoury at the same time, with nice grip on the palate. There’s a nice contrast between the dense fruit and the bright, spicy, peppery character. Varietally true, and opens up nicely on day two, after initially being a bit reductive. 91/100

Chapel Hill Bush Vine Grenache 2014 McLaren Vale, Australia
14.5% alcohol. This is bright, supple and fresh, with a vivid, lively raspberry and red cherry character, as well as hints of tar and spice. It’s juicy and quite elegant, although at the same time nicely ripe. Sweet raspberries and plums, coupled with savoury herbs, pepper and tar. Some tannic grip, too. Opens up well on the second day, suggesting that this should develop nicely. 91/100

Chapel Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 McLaren Vale, Australia
14.5% alcohol. This is a a lovely fresh, full Cabernet Sauvignon with juicy berry fruits and hints of tar and spice. It has a blackcurrant core and also some bright red fruits. Lovely freshness allied to density of fruit, showing how good Cabernet can be in this region. Could age nicely, too. Harmonious and pure. 93/100

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