A Bouquet of Tibouren Rosés

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Tibouren is regarded by many in Provence as the traditional variety for making rosé, unique to the area. Tibouren is a pale-skinned grape, suited to making rosé, as it allows for fuller fruity character to be developed without extracting lots of colour. An early ripening variety, it seems to do best in sunnier sites, usually the hotter coastal regions which also benefit from damper maritime winds. Plantings have never been extensive (currently around 450ha), as it is regarded as slightly temperamental, with susceptibility to coulure (poor fruit-set after flowering), and irregular yields. Most Tibouren is from old vines. DNA analysis suggests a close connection with the equally rare Rossese which makes red wine in Dolceacqua, just over the border from Nice in western Liguria, Italy. Continue reading

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10 Exciting White Wines at Vinisud 2016

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Last week I was at Vinisud 2016 – the three day exhibition in Montpellier focusing on wines of the Mediterranean.

This is a vast fair, making it impossible to taste all the wines I wanted. Many gems I wanted to taste and never reached – but here are 10 whites which stood out. In some cases, a producer had different white wines or appellations which were also excellent – but I have restricted the choice to one from each domaine and from each appellation.

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Vinisud 2016 – The Mediterranean Wine Trade Fair

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From 15-17 February 2016, the city of Montpellier hosted the 12th bi-annual trade fair Vinisud, dedicated to wines of the Mediterranean. The hashtag #Vinisud2016 was successfully used on Twitter to generate comment and business.

I will be writing more about the exhibition and wines in a future post, but for now, here is my review of the event published in Harpers.

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A second article on the Vinisud fair is now available in Harpers, but for subscribers only.

Harpers 2nd article

Rediscovering Forgotten Grapes

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At the recent Wine Mosaic conference, one of the facts that shocked participants most of all was the fact that the majority of wine is made with only a small percentage of the grape varieties available to us. 70% of French wine production comes from only 30% of the varieties grown, and this pattern is repeated globally.

6th century AD grape vine mosaic with Armenian inspcription in chapel of St. Polyeuctos, Jerusalem

6th century AD grape vine mosaic with Armenian inscription in chapel of St. Polyeuctos, Jerusalem

Less-used and lost varieties are important for several reasons. They enlarge the biodiversity of plants available, have been established for centuries and have adapted to different climates and regions and therefore have a unique taste of the terroir, and this combination of plant variation and different terroir enriches the range of wine tastes and styles available and reflects the different cultural tastes as well as maybe giving us a glimpse of tastes from the past. Continue reading

A Tasting of International Rosés

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As most of the rosés I taste are from Provence, it is always interesting to look further afield to compare those from other countries and in other styles.

So, in August I organised a group of wine professionals to meet at Domaine le Grand Cros in Carnoules, to taste a range of rosé wines, to see which styles we liked and to create an atmosphere in which to challenge accepted ideas. Especially as rosé styles are fast evolving.

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We had an eclectic mix of 19 rosés from Hungary, Italy, Spain, USA and Lebanon. Some were received as samples from producers. Others we chose as being easily available in France, and were bought from Metro, the nationwide food and wine wholesalers.

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The Six Vineyards of St Antonin du Var

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st antonin postcardWine writers and wine buyers so often only see a region briefly when visiting a specific vineyard, two or three vineyards in a region, sometimes a local restaurant. Invariably we see small snapshots of an area, out of context of its history, people and dynamics.

For thirty years I have toured the vineyards of the Var. In the beginning there was a greater sense of adventure as vineyards were often reached down windy country lanes, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. In other places the little villages we drove through tempted us with cafés and village bistros. The roads have slowly been straightened and widened, avoiding many of the villages with by-passes. Provence has speeded up.

Sometimes serendipity plays an important role. Last week, at short notice, I planned a weekend in the central Var. Everywhere was full, but I managed to find a cancellation for the weekend in the small village of St Antonin du Var. Continue reading

Chez Bruno of Lorgues

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outdoor-chez-brunoThe restaurant Bruno, familiarly known as Chez Bruno, is a Michelin starred restaurant, specialising in truffles, in the centre of Var department, just outside the old market town of Lorgues.

I first went to Bruno’s a few years after it opened, in the late 1980s. I was guiding a press and wine buyer’s trip round Provence and the Committee Interprofessionel de Vins de Cotes de Provence had organised the dinner at the restaurant. Continue reading

Rosé Wine for the Pool or Beach

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At this time of year, how often we think of holidays full of sunshine and leisure with beautiful bronzed people relaxing by or in the swimming pool or on a beach with a glass of wine or an exotic cocktail.

hotel-beach-plazaThe Côte d’Azur has long appealed to the luxury market. Provence rosé wine, though not usually in itself a luxury item, is used to evoke an image of luxury.

‘The World’s First Food & Wine Festival Dedicated to Rosé Wine’ – La Nuit en Rosé – takes place in New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

“Imagine a summer evening on a luxury yacht adrift in a river of rosé, the retiring sun setting the pink-tinged wine-filled channel aglow in fiery shades of orange and coral, as you dip your glass over the railing for a refill and clink a toast with friends.”

wrote the Village Voice for the New York festival, which included a rosé tasting on a large yacht sailing round New York harbour. This is very much the classic image of rosé wine. Continue reading

What’s New at Château de Bellet

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New vineyards at Château de Bellet

New vineyards at Château de Bellet

At the beginning of June I happened to go to Château de Bellet to collect some wine for a tasting I was giving in Monaco.

This was the first time I had been to the new cellar, driving through an impressive new gateway and past rows of newly planted vines.

Amidst fears that the appellation of Bellet would slowly disappear under the threat of new suburban villas, seeing new vineyards is very encouraging. How many hectares, and which varieties (possibly Rolle) has not yet been announced. Château de Bellet’s premium wine La Chapelle sells out quickly, so more wines from this estate is always good.

Changing coloured lights around the display stands  in the Chapel de Bellet

Changing coloured lights around the display stands in the Chapel de Bellet

The scene was a hive of activity – with only two days to go before the opening of the new cellar and tasting room there were carpenters, painters and electricians tying up loose ends.

To be honest, I am not sure I really liked the ultra-modern displays in the very beautiful 19th century gothic chapel, but its location, in the middle of the vineyards with a spectacular view of the city of Nice and the Mediterranean, will hopefully encourage more people to visit the Château de Bellet as well as the other large domaines of Bellet, Chateau de Crémat and Domaine Toasc to taste and buy the wine of this very small appellation. Other smaller domaines are open for tasting by appointment. See here for contact details.

Sadly I was unable to go to the opening event as it clashed with my giving a tasting of Bellet wines, but Chrissie McClatchie, of Riviera Grapevine, did go and wrote about the opening ceremony, which you can read about on my Bellet website.

Wining and Dining in Budapest

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One of the perks of judging at international wine competitions, such as VinAgora, is that the hosts put on a programme for the judges to showcase local wine, gastronomy and culture. This has several purposes.

The judges get to know each other – which in an international competition is an achievement in itself. The languages amongst the judges included: Hungarian, Romanian, Czech, Croat, Bulgarian, French, German, English, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, Italian, Polish… Between us, most managed in French or English, with the few polyglots translating for those without a common language.

Vinagora judges

The judges and organisers of Vinagora 2015

The gastronomic and cultural programme also acts as a form of promotion for the host country. When the competition is based in a wine producing area, this involves visits to vineyards. As Christine Collins, organiser of five varietal competitions in Alsace, said, her competitions are structured to encourage judges to stay in the region either before or after the competition, with the aim of promoting local tourism. Continue reading