This is a really interesting Beaujolais from Thibault Liger-Belair, who has taken his Burgundian approach to the Gamay grape. I’ll let him explain his journey:
I have made a part of my studies in Beaujolais and in particular in Belleville, I’ve always been attracted by the beauty of this region, its landscapes but also by the quality and diversity of the soils. I have ask the question to create a sort of Burgundy model by isolating each terroirs inside the same appellation, for to understand and try to find the best identity of each one. My curiosity ever more important always given my desire to include other appellation, other grape varieties. And so do it again what I had built in Nuits Saint Georges in 2001 in Moulin à Vent in 2009. The Beaujolais region represents the tip of the Massif Central, mainly composed of old granites. Granite is a hard rock, poor and well suited to the Gamay grape that is generous. It is located a hundred kilometers of Nuits-Saint-Georges. We find many similarities with the Burgundian model, both the Cru and Climates, as the modes of vinification and aging. We also find common points with the aromas and structure of Burgundy wines. I would say that the wines of Beaujolais are cousins of Burgundy wines.
To create the Domaine and buy the first vines I’ve tried to understand the different types of soil in my inquiries with the winemakers tasting the wines and especially by walking through the vineyard. What surprised me in the first place is to see as much difference in an area as small, it reminded me the Burgundian terroirs. However I haven’t seen too much producers make a difference between each parcel, if they have vines in Moulin à vent they will produce a unique cuvee of Moulin à vent without isolating the different types of soils. Hard to understand when you have a Burgundian approach which isolates each parcel.
I had the idea to try to purchase the best parcels all located on the historic hill where you find the windmill at the top. With the objective to understand and produce wines like their climate and its variety: Gamay. The first plots were purchased in 2008, to produce the first vintage in 2009. We reproduced the same farming methods that the domaine in Nuits Saint Georges by :
– Plowing and removing all herbicide.
– Convert all parcels from the first year in organic and biodynamic farming.
The work we are trying to do in the vineyards is for to awaken the soil and its terroir, ask to the roots to go deeper and search to nourish the grapes by revealing the identity of each soil in the bottle .
Concerning the vinification, I try to do the same work that I do in Nuits-Saint-Georges without carbonic maceration because, I consider that this type of vinification give some standard wines. It’s why all is destemmed with some very long maceration, nearly one month, with some pumping over nearly every day and 1 or 2 pushing down only for to move the hat. The aging is made in barrel, for the” Rouchaux” and “Vieilles Vignes” in 2 or 3 years barrel without new oak and 20% new oak for the cuvee “La Roche”. We keep the wine for a period between 12 to 15 month before bottling.
Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin a Vent Les Rouchaux 2011 Beaujolais, France
13% alcohol. Deeply coloured. Powerful nose of raspberries, damson, grapefruit and black cherries. The palate is structured, fresh and focused with juicy raspberry and cherry fruit, as well as nice grip. This is fresh, vivid and quite powerful with a density that you don’t normally associate with Gamay. There’s also a spicy minerality here. Structured but with finesse, still. I reckon this needs a bit of time. Serious, robust and lively. 93/100 (£22 Lea & Sandeman, Berry Bros & Rudd)
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Clos de Tart needs little introduction for most wine lovers. It’s Burgundy’s largest Grand Cru monopole (where the whole vineyard is owned by one producer) and for the last 20 years it has been under the safe stewardship of the fabulous map-making Sylvain Pitiot (above right). Now Sylvain has retired and handed over to Jacques Devauges (above left), formerly of Domaine D’Arlot, so UK agents Corney & Barrow put on a retrospective of Sylvain’s work. It was thrilling to be able to taste from his first vintage, 1996, to the 2013.
These wines are just lovely, and this is reflected in the high scores. The two anomalies are the 2004 (which had a problem with ladybirds) and the 2003 (which was just too hot). My favourites were 1999, 2002, 2005, 2010 and 2013.
Clos de Tart 2013 Burgundy, France
Finely aromatic with red cherry fruit. Beautiful, pure and perfumed. The palate is supple, fine and detailed. It’s ripe but perfectly poised with sweet red cherries and hints of spice. This is so pure, elegant, fresh and detailed with some structure, and even a hint of pepper. Thrilling. 96/100
Clos de Tart 2012 Burgundy, France
Fine spicy framing to the nose which shows red cherries and plums. Structured palate is a bit chalky with firmness and some grip. Quite savoury and taut but not lacking finesse. An angular, structured wine. 93/100
Clos de Tart 2011 Burgundy, France
An aromatic nose: finely detailed with hints of herbs and spice complementing the sweet red cherries. The palate is peppery with supple, structured cherry and plum fruit. Nice definition with lovely sweet pure fruit. 94/100
Clos de Tart 2010 Burgundy, France
There’s a fine sappy and herbal undergrowth note to the sweet cherry fruit nose. Fine palate with beautiful finesse: good structure, fine-grained and textural, showing red cherries, spice and plums. Beautiful balance here. Youthful and beginning to develop a savoury side. 96/100
Clos de Tart 2009 Burgundy, France
Warm, slightly spicy nose with a faint hint of soy. Beautiful sappy red cherry notes. The palate is supple, pure and detailed with ripeness but also some elegance. Good structure to the red fruits, with real finesse and balance evident. 95/100
Clos de Tart 2008 Burgundy, France
This is distinctive. Fresh, floral perfume on the nose, which shows pure red fruits and a hint of pepper. The palate is vivid and fresh with a lightness and focus, as well as good acidity and grippy tannins. It feels firm and angular in the mouth, and really youthful with a peppery finish. I don’t know how it will age. 95/100
Clos de Tart 2007 Burgundy, France
Warm, spicy, slightly herbal nose with notes of earth and tar. There are some sweet berry fruits here, too. The palate is warm and a bit earthy with a sweet and savoury character, and fine spicy notes. This seems quite evolved and a tiny bit mushy, but it’s still delicious. 93/100
Clos de Tart 2006 Burgundy, France
Sweet, warm and complex on the nose with hints of earth and herbs. The palate has nice poise with sweet cherry and plum fruit. Textured and rounded with a bit of fine-grained tannic structure. Finishes a little dry, but it still has plenty of life in it. 93/100
Clos de Tart 2005 Burgundy, France (from magnum)
Warmly aromatic fresh floral red cherry nose, with some plumminess and refined spicy notes. The palate is quite beautiful, showing sweet, well defined cherry fruit. Very pure but still has lots of structure. The sweetness of the fruit and the precise, chalky, mineral structure and working in perfect harmony here. Beginning to show a bit of evolution, but also with a long life ahead of it. 97/100
Clos de Tart 2004 Burgundy, France
Distinctive fresh red fruits nose with some green hints, and a faint touch of medicine. Very distinctive. Fresh, supple palate with attractive red cherry fruit but a slightly angular greenness that’s rather off-putting. 88/100
Clos de Tart 2003 Burgundy, France
Such an atypical wine from the famously hot vintage. Rich, sweet berry fruits nose with a bit of spiciness. Warm with some tarry richness. The palate has a minty edge to the ripe, sweet, structured berry fruits. Dense, sweet and atypical, finishing minty. It has appeal, I guess, but so unusual for Clos de Tart. 92/100
Clos de Tart 2002 Burgundy, France
There’s some warmth to the nose, with sweet, slightly fudgy cherry and berry fruits. The palate is sweet and focused with generous ripe cherry and plum fruit, and good structure under the fruit, which demonstrates ripeness and concentration. Quite thrilling in a riper style. 96/100
Clos de Tart 2001 Burgundy, France
Very fine well defined nose showing lovely cherry fruit and appealing spiciness, as well as a hint of earthy evolution. Silky texture here: real elegance and also good freshness. Fine grained yet firm tannins and pretty cherry and raspberry fruit. Nice focus on the finish. 95/100
Clos de Tart 2000 Burgundy, France
Warm, spicy and fudgy nose with some herbal notes of tea and autumn leaves, alongside sweet red cherry fruit. The palate shows freshness and a bit of earthy, undergrowth character, as well as grainy structure. Warm, silky and delicious – and drinking very well now. 95/100
Clos de Tart 1999 Burgundy, France
Sweet, slightly tarry, spicy nose with fine herb notes, and mint and earth hints. Smooth, ripe, fresh palate driven by sweet berries and cherries, together with good structure and depth. There’s lovely ripness to his wine but it’s accompanied by superb definition. It still feels quite youthful, and there’s a fresh finish. Massive potential here for further development. 96/100
Clos de Tart 1997 Burgundy, France
Sweet, floral, aromatic nose with herbs, tea and leather. Very pretty in an evolved style. Superbly elegant on the palate with mature characters of iodine and earth, as well as sweet-tasting cherry and strawberry fruit. 94/100
Clos de Tart 1996 Burgundy, France
Warm, spicy and a bit herbal with some earthy hints. Supple palate is mature but shows fresh red cherries, some spice and a touch of undergrowth. Nicely structured with fresh acidity the key. 94/100
I recently reviewed Vilmat’s Grand Cellier NV Cuvee, and really liked it. Now it’s the turn of its elder sibling, the Grand Cellier D’Or 2010. This is a remarkable wine that’s still very much in its first flush of youth. I’d age this for a bit. It’s remarkable.
Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier d’Or Premier Cru Brut 2010 France
This is 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir from a single old vine plot in Rilly, aged for 10 months in 228 litre barrels. No malolactic fermentation here. Complex nut and toast notes with rich pear and a bit of peach. Very bold but not too heavy, showing great power and depth of flavour, as well as real complexity and plenty of finesse. This is one to age for a few years, and I reckon it could turn out pretty profound. 94/100 (£70 Berry Bros & Rudd)
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Enjoyed this last night at The Glue Pot in Reims, which has a lovely list of grower Champagnes and craft beers. This was 94 Euros on the list. It’s really tight and youthful, and could probably do with quite a bit of time to show its best. But it’s superb.
Champagne Agrapart Avizoise Extra Brut Grand Cru 2008 France
5 g/l dosage. Base wines aged in oak, wild ferment. Very taut, fresh and linear with amazing precision. Notes of citrus pith and lemon with a bit of grip. This is so primary still with lots of potential for development. Incredible focus and concentration of flavour. 93/100
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I love this Champagne. It’s one I’ve enjoyed before, and so it was nice that it was the first one to be shown on this trip, in a small tasting at the CIVC‘s head offices in Epernay. It’s also stunning value for money. Interestingly, it has ‘Chardonnay’ on the front label. I wasn’t aware that this was allowed in Champagne, and I’m not sure the CIVC are massively keen on it.
Champagne Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Cuvee Cuis 1er Cru NV France
This bottling is 72% 2011, with the balance from four vintages back to 2006. Delicate, fine toasty notes on the nose. Real finesse, in a pure, precise style with bright citrus and white peach fruit. This is such a pure wine with real finesse. 93/100 (£24 The Wine Society)
UK agent: Armit
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I’m on another press trip. This time, it’s to Champagne.
One of the most interesting things about press trips is the group dynamics, especially when you are travelling with people you don’t know. On my last trip (the group picture is above), I mentioned this to our Wine & Partners host, Andrea, and she told me about Bruce Tuckman’s model of group development. It’s a really interesting concept, and it’s exactly what happens on trips.
Tuckman’s model has four phases of group development: forming, storming, norming and performing.
The forming phase is when the group gets together. Initially, you look at each other, and silently say ‘who on earth are you?’ Often, at this stage, you feel a bit depressed. I’m going to be spending the next few days with this group of strange strangers, and it’s not such an amazing prospect.
Then there’s the storming phase. Hopefully, this is very brief, or even non-existent. This is when any potential personality clashes are ironed out.
The next phase is norming. Here each person begins to find their place in the group. It’s remarkable how this happens. You get to know each other a bit, you tolerate each others’ quirks, you recognize each others’ personalities and how they fit into the wider context.
Then there’s the performing phase. The group is now ready to work together. There’s an ease to the way that the group functions, and everyone plays their part. This is when a press trip becomes fun. What usually happens is that the trip ends on a high, right in the middle of the performing phase, and you are genuinely sad that it has ended.
We’re still on the Eurostar and haven’t even reached Paris, but so far the prospects for this trip look quite good.
This is quite exciting. It’s a new high-end Pinot Noir from Chile, made by Torres. And it has been a long time coming. 20 years ago, Torres went prospecting for a special Chilean terroir with slate, to replicate the soils of Priorat. They found a site called Empedrado, which was a forested slope with slate soils, and bought the 369 hectare property in 1999. It’s in coastal Maule, near Constitución, 180km south of Curicó. So far, 15 hectares of terraced vineyards have been planted.
Initially, the property was planted with Grenache, because of the Priorat connection. This didn’t work, so in 2007 they devoted it to Pinot Noir, and this – the 2012 – is the first vintage. The wine is really good, but it will be pretty crazily expensive – around £90 per bottle.
Escaleras de Empedrado Pinot Noir 2012 DO Empedrado, Chile
13.5% alcohol. Ripe, silky and textured with real finesse. It’s fleshy and quite smooth but not over-ripe. Lovely cherry fruit core, with such a lovely purity, and really refined fine-grained tannic structure. Fresh and well balanced, and it doesn’t taste Chilean at all: more high-end Californian or Oregon in character. 94/100
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2012 was an absolute shocker of a vintage across southern England. It was just too cool, and then the season ran out of heat. The result? Many wineries just didn’t pick any grapes at all. Remarkably, Camel Valley have produced something very appealing from this rather difficult year. It even won a Gold medal at the International Wine Challenge, which takes some getting. It’s a really nice, fruit-driven wine with no rough edges.
Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2012 England
Pale salmon pink in colour, this is sweetly fruited with cherry, strawberry and a bit of spice. There’s even some rosehip syrup and cranberry character. Rounded, textured, pure and well balanced, this is really appealing and very easy to drink. Fruit-driven. 89/100 (£28.99 Waitrose)
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Lunch at the fab Camino with Alvaro Espinoza of Chilean organic pioneer Emiliana is a good way to spend Friday afternoon, especially after a busy and somewhat complex week.
‘We are a mid-sized wine company,’ says Alvaro. He’s talking about Chile, though, and mid-sized here means 860 hectares of vineyards in four different valleys, and spread over five properties. Alvaro started here in 2000. He quickly converted the properties to organics, and then biodynamics. The first biodynamic wine was released in 2003. ‘I’m organic and biodynamic because I was a horticulturist,’ says Alvaro. ‘Organic vegetables always tasted better, and we moved to organics primarily for quality issues.’
Initially, the influence for the shift to biodynamics came from California, and the late Alan York, who was a valuable consultant for Alvaro. ‘The organization of the farm is as a closed system of production, which is our goal,’ he says. ‘Conventional viticulture is a high-input system and at the end you standardize the the conditions of the soil and lose the character and quality of the place.’
He adds: ‘The fruit from our own farms shows more individuality because we cannot change the conditions of the place. We learn to produce food without input from outside, just with the resources we have on the property.’
With regard to Coyam, the top red wine, he thinks that blends are the way to go if you want to express place. ‘Blended wines are more related to place than varietal wines,’ says Alvaro. Coyam is an expression of the best wines he makes from the Los Robles estate in Colchagua, 150 km south of Santiago, and it’s a blend with a good slug of Carmenere in it.
Emiliana, with its 860 hectares, is probably the world’s largest producer of organic, and possibly also biodynamically farmed vines. It’s great to see these viticultural systems applied on a large scale like this.
Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014 San Antonio, Chile
Complex, weighty and lively with rich tropical fruit and some citrus notes, as well as a hint of grassiness. Pretty pear and citrus fruit with nice balance. 89/100
Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Viognier 2014 Casablanca, Chile
This is fabulous. Very pretty with ripe varietal characters. Pure and exotic with stone fruits and apricot, as well as subtle bitter nutty notes. Beautifully focused, fine and delicious. 93/100
Emiliana Signos de Origen Chardonnay/Marsanne/Viognier/Roussanne 2013 Casablanca, Chile
One-third in Nomblot concrete eggs, two-thirds in barrel. This is powerful, rich and textured with sweet pear, spice and peach characters. It’s bold with a lovely texture, and a hint of apricot exoticism. Sweetly fruited and rich. 90/100
Emiliana Coyam 2001 Colchagua, Chile
Dense blackcurrant fruit is really ripe with some spiciness and a bit of earth. Lush and textural with a hint of mint in the background. Very smooth and satisfying in a ripe style. 92/100
Emiliana Coyam 2004 Colchagua, Chile
Savoury and a bit earthy with some spicy notes. There’s a leather, herb and earth quality here. Dense and a bit bkaed, but tasty enough. 89/100
Emiliana Coyam 2007 Colchagua, Chile
Fresh blackcurrant and a bit of herby character, with some earthy notes. Sleek and ripe with sweet black fruits, and hints of charcoal and tar. Very smooth and quite fresh. 92/100
Emiliana Coyam 2011 Colchagua, Chile
Fresh raspberry and blackcurrant fruit with a hint of rubber under the sweet fruit. There’s maybe a touch of reduction here? The palate is sweetly fruited with nice poise and balance and some rich blackberries and blackcurant. Youthful but generous. 91/100
Emiliana Coyam 2012 Colchagua, Chile
Sweet, pure and well defined with ripe black cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Nice richness and smoothness with lush, seductive fruit. 92/100
Quinta do Crasto is one of the important properties in the story of table wine in the Douro. The first table wines were made here in the mid-1990s under the direction of David Baverstock. Remarkably, we got to try a magnum of the first vintage, the 1994 Reserva. It was quite beautiful: it still had fruit, and tasted of the Douro.
We visited with winemaker Manuel Lobo de Vasconcellos and Miguel Roquette, whose family own Crasto. [Miguel is currently living in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where his wife is working as a TV presenter, but was visiting.] It was a gorgeous day, and the views were quite stunning.
Crasto now have 300 hectares of vines. 78 hectares are here at the Quinta, and there is a 114 hectare estate in the Douro Superior, too, as well as isolated parcels of vines elsewhere in the Cima Corgo.
The Reserva Old Vines is an important wine for Crasto and the Douro. Made in reasonable quantities (70-80 000 bottles), this wine has done very well in the USA, where it has helped put Douro table wines on the map.
The basic Crasto red is affordable and delicious, and is one of the wine world’s bargains. Crasto Superior, a notch above it in price, is also superb. The top quartet of wines are the varietal Touriga Nacional (very pretty, bold, modern and aromatic) and Tinta Roriz (begins life horribly oaky, but ages well), and the single vineyard Vinha da Ponte and Maria Teresa (these are exceptional, but now fiercely expensive, alas).