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Australian Gateway

Australian Gateway

Wine

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How was Hong Kong today? The heat? The moisture? The noise? The crowds…Same good old routine? Did you catch a tram, have a nice ride on the Tube? A cross channel trip to KOWLOON? You have done them all I guess, then all of a sudden somehow you might just feel like me, open range views (and not hole number 14 at Kau Sai Chau nothern course) stunning sea scenery (and something other than the path Lantau cycle ride) and of course wines to top that (because the last gathering left you with some fantastic aromatics and stories but it was somehow very classic…)…Then WHY NOT? Takes you really high it means time have come to escape.

 

“GOOD ON YA”, Australia is the track to follow, to be more specific, the YARRA VALLEY will do most of the above listed requirements…

Aim at September, early September or early November, even if the charm will appear the whole year.

Avoid the hot summer.

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Things to cool you down:

Head to Healesville 50 kms from Melbourne… the Yarra heart beats there

Famous for its burgundy grapes chardies and pinots…and they will also pour you some full bodied shiraz, and some oaked aged cabernets sauvignons, and you might end it all with very elegant sweet rieslings…IMG_4226

All in the same spot, a trademark, all this grows here around in a rich volcanic soil on the southern side, on more drained terroirs upper north.

Grape variety and different wine structures, this is one of Yarra s signature.

Take a flight at the Grace Burn wine bar thanks to Mac Forbes, get things started with an effervescent methode traditionnelle that is showing bubbly is not only a french benchmark.

Or go to Oakridge, multi award winning winery, on offer three layers of wine profiles, easy daily drinks, highly selected hand picked grapes from the most expressive terroirs of the southern Yarra.

Check in at Giant Steps to see what a cave coop is like in Australia.

Try to catch up with AS To understand the “slow change” wine philosophy…have a coffee at refreshments next to the steam train lane…you might see Mr Halliday and score with him…

People here are available, they treat their ground and respect it…they use cutting edge techniques to grow the grapes and do their vinification. And there is no arrogance, it is just wine.

They know that wine is made to be consumed, this is why it’s all good out of the bottle, no need to wait, the fruits, the aromatics are all in there…Australia no longer means alcohol, it means balanced, and easy going wines, good on ya!

 

by 27 Oct, 2014
Grenache Crazy

Grenache Crazy

Wine

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GRENACHE CRAZY…is the mood I went the day Hugo Levingston told me his story about music, wines, freshness and altitude.

What does make a wine…? Or take a wine to becoming « Extra » good…maybe when experiencing tasting it with the very wine-maker, or being entertained by some unique storytelling lines.

Imagine the 90’s are about to end, you are almost 40 successful and getting ready to operate an un-expected major switch in your life, shifting from being a world-class photographer touring with rock bands like U2, to become a wine-maker in SEGURET…

Hugo Levingston did during 40 years, everything but wines. Since 2000 it’s the complete opposite.

With his family he delivers what its 20 acres grounds has best on offer…beyond appellation wines…Grenache, Syrah, Cinsaults…

Having a Scottish father in law, named after Mc Kinlay…former business man about to retire won’t help him to blending Rhône Valley wines… but more brewing malt; you’re being wrong…

Until you are being explained that MR Mc KINLAY s wife was once owner of a hotel…OK…in Scotland…OK…AND being fond of vacqueras…Ok LA ! We are getting there.

So when time to retirement came it was also time to escape the glamour of the Scottish weather…the clan Mc Kinlay aimed at a sunny place, away from the French Riviera but next to Luberon…

_DSC6109Ending up purchasing MOURCHON to settle down, and do business again…can’t help much when you are a business to keep doing business even when retired…BUT PLEASANT Business pleasure business.

…When Mr. Mc Kinlay purchased the 20 hcts of plots of domain de Mourchon in 1998, Hugo was still far from becoming a winemaker, the domain had no cellar, no facilities just PLOTS…

MOURCHON where is this place? It is in Seguret is a “picturesque” village lying on a three layer cake composed ground just facing the Mont Ventoux; or let put it that way, you are lost one hour away from Avignon, and still two hours’ drive south from Lyon.

On one vacation day, away from tours, and London causalities …in Mourchon, Hugo had to drive the tractor in emergency, it’s very former pilot flipped over and severely injured himself…Hugo took the wheel and never released it ever since.

_DSC6111Perfect timing, touring with bands was a routine he wanted to give up, since he was also to become father.

Hugo & family did left London behind to embrace new green and outdoor styled life.

The terraced hillside vineyard, averaging 350 meters of altitude, is based mostly on clay and limestone which combined with micro-climate, gives the location a terroir of outstanding quality.

OP wise everything is done and run with organic techniques…the cellar uses gravity technologies to respect the baies…resulting in very expressive wines…freshness & altitude could be two words to describe the concentration of the reds.

Mourchon also does rosé; they do also the “Family cuvée”. It is a family business, and more a family happy venture.

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Soft Powered wines licorice and white pepper flavored and long lasting finish with a salty twist that can make the wine a bit crispy…it’s super nice, very available in HK, (check Watson’s list to go MOURCHON Grande reserve and or Tradition)

In case you still have doubts regarding small Rhône appellations, Jeb, Robert, Jancis did scored the juices…What are you waiting for?

In case you travel the region, you should stop in Seguret, and climb the hill till you reach and try Mourchon wines, plus the neighbor’s ones. Plus lot more to experience besides wines I will let you know asap.

 

More info’s about Grenache & Rhône the lonesome cowboy Cépages:

http://www.facebook.com/grenachesymposium

http://www.grenache-association.com/

 

 

 

by 17 Jun, 2014
En Primeurs 2013 – What should you expect?

En Primeurs 2013 – What should you expect?

Wine

En Primeurs 2013…stop shooting please, try it you might like it.

The lonesome cowboy vintage, was heading into a desert of negatives appreciations and sentenced to death before its samples were bottle… Weather & maturing markets, drove Bordeaux in a combo situation and to a somehow very expected, and, unfair bashing…

ONE question remains: Does wines still matter? Yes let’s hope so.
Is it good? Some of it, will it be a bargain? I must say pricing, while going to En Primeurs, was not my prime concern, and then check your arithmetic’s: Bordeaux is heading towards the campaign with low yields as the only argument, mother’s nature call, to counter the pressure of negociants to cutting the price down…at least a little.

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So I think the bashing to be very much related to human nature and to the connected our “internet” era. We very much enjoy judging before attempting the trial; plus due to the fact that we are all connected, a good punch line means buzz and traffic on your web-site; but it is bad and showing kind of disrespect to all the persons that did work 200% on this crazy hard vintage.
Considering the arrogance of the Chateaux and Bordeaux being a world wine-wine reference, a bad vintage would allow a deserved spanking…??? I leave this up to you; in case you love wine what follows is a little more interesting. Also please keep in mind while addressing the pricing effect that Chateaux are doing a lot beyond wines, cellars modifications, replanting, technical upgrades, consulting, management, and finally building brands…this is also what you are paying for.

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Wine wise, this year is not about weather you heart beats for the left bank or its right side, no you might get lost as wine quality is really not regular within all appellations.
We blind tasted over 150 samples. 60 percent of the reds would deliver too much grip of oak plank on the palate and not much on the nose; this is not good but keep in mind the wines are super young.
So considering I am no advocate, I would go in St Emilion for Soutard, La Gaffelière, Clos Fourtet and Dassault, and for Pomerol I d choose Clinet, Gazin and Le Bon Pasteur.
As for Pauillac, Mouton was nice in both red & white oufits, so was Pichon Longueville.
Margaux, stood up for Margaux was very silky and smooth for its red, and the white was amazing. Still in Margaux, Lichine, and Kirwan did a superb job, both estates are neighbours but driven in two very unparallel ways, classic vs ultra modern style; Lascombes and Ferriere were good as well.
Good meaning well balanced.

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Dry whites are fresh, most of them are super well balanced meaning Semillon is delivering lots of aromas on the nose, toasted bread, and white fruits, some nice acidity, and a bit of fat and oak.
Sweets? They are revived, sure the mushroom helped there in Sauternes & Barsac…Plus I must say Yquem, after skipping 012 vintage delivered a delicate & floral bombshell.
I am not a fortune teller to state whether or not this banned vintage is a KEEPER or a must buy…It is just showing that wine industry can be a global business, but the juices are not to be standardise.
Then the price war, then Bordeaux to acknowledge a “less good vintage”, then the gossips…The I must say if you love wines and if you know all the efforts putted together to craft a blend of Merlot and Cab with such a growing panic, you must try 013, and acknowledge the hard work of winemakers and farmers…The rest will be all sorted out far away from the chateaux, the journalists, the advocates…IF 2014 turns out delivering nice berries and quantities, Bordeaux will step UP again, silky, smooth, arrogantly good and elegant.

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by 2 May, 2014
Loire Carnival

Loire Carnival

Wine

The Loire Valley…was a good stop on my back to Britany; and after all the reds I had in Languedoc, a fair excuse to spend some times with the whites.

LOIRE valley is BIG; it spreads from Nantes to Sancerre…5 times the distance from HK to MACAU…

No gambling, no casinos there except in LA BAULE, but some of the greatest heritage of French history, its castles.

So if you look for a romantic escape, I suggest you to have a Loire experience over a two to three days journey there.

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I give you some key words : Orleans & Jeanne d’ARC, François the 1ST Fouquet’s affair…French crown use to love the destination for bagatelle and HUNTING…And guess what , yes there’s plenty to drink meanwhile wondering around the gardens of our old castles…

1ST MUSCADETS: Taste the OCEAN influences and very green dry whites being the pays NANTAIS’s signature offering you its muscadets, because you might not want to try the gross plant made out of Cépages FOLLE BLANCHE or “MAD WHITE… Remember you are just next to the Atlantic shores, which means sea food feast and fresh fishes Wild sea bass, lobsters… so DRY WHITES would do the trick no worries! In case you want some light claret you can give a go to GAMAY from Ancenis coteaux.

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Then you just follow the Loire up to its source: the further up you go next to Angers to try all the Anjou-Saumur appellations Coteaux de l’Aubance, coteaux du Layon, Saumur, Saumur Champigny, Quart de Chaume, and Bonnezeaux…to finishing with some amazing experiences being, just next to the village of St Georges sur Loire, the wonderful Savennières La Roche aux Moines and la coulee de Serrant that is just 5 acres big…

Vast program to be covered in one day drive…so make sure you taste and spit or just confirm your bookings in one of the hotel de charm of the area; during summer it’s quite cool and very busy.

After that well you keep going up & up and next stop should be the Côteaux de Tourraine with its easy reds of St Nicolas de Bourgeuil & Chinon. Cabernet Franc is the main grape, light colored reds and very fruity as well, to be drunk soon, no keepers here.

Last appellations are Sancerre, Reuilly, Quincy and Pouilly sur Loire…Sorry; I must say if you want a full coverage of the zone you might need to take a 5 day’s journey.

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This last stop is a must because the aromas and flavors of the whites here are truly fun with lots of acidity, fraicheur, and the soil provides the whites with gun powder stony taste, called after “Pierre à fusil”.

Unlike you I was not on a holiday trip/ romance…I was in a fare, a wine fare, less glamorous but a good occasion to do the loop in one day.

The Angers wine festival offered a free tasting area coming with more than 300 different labels of all the appellations.

How to start? What to focus on? Did I had all of them? HELL NO!!!

Here is a quick selection I did. Muscadets are fun wines but I am very use having Muscadets or Sancerre in Britany…it’s the next door region and my home place. Plus I don t particularly fancy the melon d’Espagne…So I tried to have a nice slice of SANCERRE and POUILLY FUMES.

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I would recommend Chateau Favray, very pale yellow color, lots of herbs, apple & citrus flavors for the 012 blend.

The small and familial domain of the Pabiot family, Pabiot Jean & fils; and Jonahattan and Didier Pabiot for their “petit-fumé”, very well balanced and mineral juice, coming along with Pouillys from Tinel Blondelet and Hubert Veneau, Cedrik Badin is also a must experience.

All is family business here, and no secret the magic results in the art craft of blending the juices…as always.

I hope this quick overview gave you the will to experience something different. Please notice if you can have once in your life Savennières or Serrant; you are being very well treated…Otherwise, no wonder you will someday soon bump in the sommelier of your favorite cellar or restaurant and he or she will surely guide you nice and smooth in to these vast appellation country.

WINE’s UP, CHEERS JUJU

by 10 Mar, 2014
From Baccarat to Red Ground

From Baccarat to Red Ground

Wine

Driving to Paris and heading to Baccarat’s 250th anniversary was just an introduction to a one week crazy journey full of surprises and filled up with nice encounters and topped with hips of foods, truffles, and of course wines.

The private hostel location of Baccarat’s headquarters was gathering 2500 people for this unique anniversary.www.baccarat-anniversary.com

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On location I bumped into Michelin stared chef celebrities Guy Martin, and many many more VIPs…the renowned house was shining and offering the finest crafts for a unique mind-blowing showcase.

It almost seemed that the non-far located Eiffel tower would not be the only night star at least for one specific occasion. All the corners of the hotel particulier were decorated with animalistic thematic displays, animals and amazing art works designed by Stark.

Then back to reality, I had to escape the Friday’s traffic jams to head to a friend’s place and take a look at his cellar as he wants to sale some of his collectible flacons in auctions. In his house basement, the decorator has some very nice Rhône, and a true taste for diversity…Yellow wines, Alsace, iconic Bordeaux, and some crazy nice white burgundies.

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My first drinking highlight was a 2000 Châteauneuf du pape du Clos des pape, lucky we dogged in as it was almost going off the cliff with a color glancing on the orange on the sides, tiny signs of an early oxidation, but it kept on opening as we drank it, and bottom line I wish we could have some more of this very cherry-flavored juice…the next day we casually went to his favorite supplier and I could purchase some Rhône from domain La Janasse. I was up to stay in a remote location of France further south…the red ground as I like to call it, because the pillars of the location are Syrah, Carignan and Grenache…so as Languedoc cepages are also common in Rhône It’s very interesting to have the opportunity to taste what blends can offer under the hot sun of this two provenances.

 

Then I had to drive some more, passing by center of France Clermont Ferrand, and snowy valleys of Auvergne, finally reaching pit stop of Talairan Corbières.

Far away from the 16th district hotel particulier styled buildings, I was now in the depth of Corbières surrounded by plots of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah…I was heading to Talairan, a family and familiar place where I can go hide sometimes to understanding more about wines.

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Talairan is just another wine village with its 380 inhabitants stuck in a Valley between Carcassonne and Narbonne. Keywords to survive the winter here are hunting, rugby, and playing cards by the fireplace. The sea is never too far away and the location is always windy.

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Languedoc is on the rise with its big groupements doing billions of hectoliters of grapejuice, and renown as well for being one of the biggest viticole terroir on earth…Misery and table wine as a heritage soon to be rediscovered thanks to the hard work of some amazing and talented vignerons like Stephane Serre from l’AMANDYERE who scored higher notes than Cheval Blanc…on his first cuvée, the 09 vintage…judge being Jancis Robinson, that tells…

So season stuff, in the field, clipping, everyone is out day time to cut and prepare the plots for a new spring soon to be there.

Meanwhile, it’s the truffle season, so if you don t mind outdoors, you might score nice moments:

L’AMANDYERE my second stop this season…After enjoying doing the harvest with some Cru people best nicknamed after captain speed considering his ability to shift manual gears like no one else and ride the local gravel roads like Sebastien Loeb…

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L AMANDYERE, 5 acres of craziness, over 801 years old Syrah’s, Cinsaults, Grenache, Muscat petit grain, gewürztraminer…well something non common in the hearth of the Val de Dagne, in another tiny village called Montlaur.

Ellie, the grand dad passed on the property to his grandson Stéphane Serre; retired rock-climber…Ellie is a true personage he knows more about my family than I do, he knows and transmitted his best plots to Stephane.

We don t do bio wines… we just let the vineyard express itself. Altitude is 400meters, and location is a gift from gods. Beneath the argilo-calcaire ground flows the biggest natural water source of the region. When you know that ground temp can rise above 65 degrees Celsius during hot summer time, you understand why some reds do taste like comfiture when tasted directly out of the fermenter rolls.

I wish I could have breakfast here every day in the cellars of the impasse du vieux puits.

 

RUF DIAMONDS and a Jewell wine maker, blending his bays like no one else. Green harvest almost 80% of the fruits are gone for good in early September, then the rest is cautiously picked up by hand and sort by hand four times before being dumped in one of the 15 cuves.

The nicest bays are designated to two roll fermenters containing 300 liters.

Crazy machinery is blowing cold and heat in the same time, so Stephane can eventually decide to do crio fermentation on some parcels as well.

All this love and hard work results in 8 cuvees. All the juices are rich expressive with an amazing aromatic persistence. It’s non-vintage…elevage can last up to 36 months for the top crus, but you won’t have the bitter taste of wood, it’s just like the surroundings, herbs, thyme, minty, fruity, peppery and round, it’s a calling for another raw and never releases your pallet or your nose…Full power wines, ranging from 14 degrees up to 15.5 degrees, it is so unexpected regarding the region, but so understandable when you ve witnessed the amount of efforts in the plots and in the cellar.

If you love wine you must once in your lifetime experience these sauces. It reminds me crazy gatherings in Hong Kong, when 59 LA tour are poured, followed by some mind blowing Rhone’s from Guigal or La Landonne…the collector cases are coming with waxed capsules, and each bottle is signed and precise how many bays have been used to please your senses.

 

After tasting the pre blends juices, we headed to the domain to do some clipping in the Syrah plots. The “y shape” of the plant has to be a trademark and Stephane shown me how to execute a good taille “en goblet…

After drinking, working and chatting it was time to eat, despite the austerity of the place it’s a kind of heaven; lucky the black truffle season was on, and I headed to Talairan local market to get some black diamonds.

You can purchase your truffles directly from pickers, prices depends on your ability to negotiate and if you show up too late you will have to deal, like me, with the leftovers for 600€ a kilo…

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As I said the sea is just 30 minutes away, so to recover from the truffle marathon you can also enjoy oyster degustation with some dry whites of the local boys, yes life’s hard…

For whites locals are using blends of Marsanne, Grenache and Maccabeu, and I even tasted a 100% Maccabeu, it’s all very fresh, on white fruits and affordable all ranging from 60 HKD up to 150HKD…The “Jules” cuvée from Serre Mazard is a good match for sea food if you look for good dry white companion, three star Michelin chef Goujon has all the Serre Mazard wines on his playlist…

Saffron, honey, nuts, hams, sausages…up to you to draw the food line, it’s also a food lover heaven.

So for reds I gave a go to Daniel Raymond “baiser”, a new fragrance and very nicely packaged; once more very oaky, very strong dark prune nose, a bit of acidity and not very long lasting after taste, but definitively a signature of his terroir under appellation Corbières.

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Plenty on offer due to the proximity of the cooperative of Talairan selling the local grapes under the name of Terroir du Vertiges…VERTIGO terroir, installations are ultra-modern and they craft over a million of bottle here.

This is it this was my carte postale from the red ground.

If you look for very authentic immersion into the Corbières, this is just an introduction.

Top to bottom, you can experience diversity in the reds, and have fun with rosés and whites.

In my heart it remains the red ground, because it’s the color of the soil here.

Languedoc and Corbières are on the rise due to old plots, aged over a century. They are still doing mass market wines, but if you’re lucky enough, tasting the 100% Grenache of L’AMANDYERE might just change your mind.

CHEERS JUJU

by 18 Feb, 2014