Unpronounceable Grapes from Hungary

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The Unprounceable Grape

The Unprounceable Grape wine label

Ever since an Hungarian wine made with Cserszegi füszeres was labelled as “The Unpronounceable Grape” for the UK market, there has been some caution as to whether Hungarian varietal wines are handicapped in the international market.

I was asked to talk at the Prowein wine fair in March 2015, about whether I thought this was so. We looked and tasted a range of Hungarian varieties, many with wonderfully poetic translations: Arany Sárfehér (golden mud), Hárslevelü (lime leaf), Királyleányka (the King’s daughter), Leányka, Szürkebarát (hooded grey monk – Pinot Gris), Portugieser (red – previously Kékoportó), Irsai Olivér and Cserszegi Fűszeres (the spicy grape from Cserszeg) – but we could have also included Juhfark (sheep’s tail), Kadarka (red), Kéknyelű (blue stalk), Ezerjó (1000 blessings), Kékfrankos (red), Olaszrizling and Furmint,

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The 2014 rosés of Coteaux Varois-en-Provence

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The tasting table for 2014 rosés

The tasting table for Coteaux Varois 2014 rosés

At the annual Coteaux Varois tasting (13 April 2015), set in the beautiful gardens of a former monastery, at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant at the Abbaye de la Celle in Brignoles, and next door to the Maison des Vins de Coteaux Varois, 45 local domaines had their stands set out showing their wines.

The 2014 rosés were presented at a central table, showing the importance of rosé wine to the Coteaux Varois-en-Provence (to give the appellation its official title).

This is one of the most beautiful, and enjoyable tastings that I attend during the year – Coteaux Varois excel in presenting their wines in style, often with a coloured theme. In past years there has been a floral colour theme of pink, purple and green used in the ice bags and for their 20th anniversary it was white, silver grey and golden yellow. This year it was all white and looked very pretty in the bright sunshine with fresh late spring greenery.

Sunhats and parasols in the afternoon sun

Sunhats and parasols in the afternoon sun

This very elegant style gives a garden party atmosphere, further emphasised by the delicious canapés from the Ducasse restaurant. This year a more substantial lunch was also served on the terrace, away from the tasting area which prevented too big a distraction.

Most importantly of all, despite the fact that Coteaux Varois often appears to be in the shadow of the larger Cotes de Provence, it includes a very good range of wines and some interesting surprises.

I tasted 53 rosé wines, from 45 domaines (in some cases several rosés from one estate). As the appellation includes 75 private domains and 10 cooperatives, this tasting included around half of all Coteaux Varois rosés.

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The sub-appellations of Côtes de Provence: Sainte Victoire

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Gateway in Trets

Medieval gateway in Trets

Provence is divided by ranges of mountains running parallel to the sea and by the valleys which cut through these mountains, taking rivers to the sea. In historic times these valleys served as corridors of communication. The valley to the east of Aix is no exception as the medieval walled town of Trets, the cathedral town of St Maximin de Ste Baume, the castles of Pourcieux and a scattering of old picturesque villages testify. Wealthy Aixois citizens owned country estates with large bastides in the neighbouring countryside.

Today the region is bisected by train, motorway and the N7, but turning off these routes, going north and south, reveals the vineyard region of Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire. Drive north to the beautiful and dominating Mont Sainte Victoire (also known as Montagne Sainte Victoire), immortalised by the painter Cézanne, and explore the foothills of the mountain through the Parc Roques Hautes.

Or go south and explore the Massif de Ste Baume, high enough to have enough snow in winter to feed the ice houses supplying ice to Toulon and Marseille in the summer. Just to the south east of the region lies the ice museum in Mauzaugues. Continue reading

2014 Rosé Wines from Coteaux-de-Aix

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Coteaux d’Aix tasting

On 30th March I went to the official 2014 vintage tasting of the wines of Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence in the town of Aix-en-Provence at the Hotel Renaissance, a new five star hotel in a modern business district of central Aix.

The appellation covers 4000ha, a quarter of the size of the appellation of Côtes de Provence. There are 67 domaines and 12 cooperatives. 34 producers came together to show their wines.

Map of the regions of Coteaux d'Aix

Map of the sub-regions of Coteaux d’Aix

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