Champagne is the iconic sparkling wine adored by many across the globe. If you’re anything like us, you’ll always be on the lookout for a new bottle of bubbles to try. There’s an array of choice when it comes to choosing the perfect bottle for the perfect moment. Whether that be for a special occasion, simply enjoying a glass alongside a delicious meal during the week or gifting a bottle to a loved one. But with several types of Champagne available, there can often be confusion between the different styles. The good news is you’re in great hands. We know a thing or two when it comes to wine, especially Champagne. Join us as we take you behind the bubbles of a Blanc de Blancs Champagne and we’ll tell you all about the dazzling delight from the Champagne House, Charles Heidsieck, which we can’t get enough of.
What is a Blanc de Blancs Champagne?
You might have spotted the terms Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Brut, Demi-Sec or Rosé on the label when you’ve previously purchased a bottle of bubbles. But what does this mean? Well, these terms help determine the level of sweetness in Champagne and the grapes it is made from. The three main grape varieties used to make Champagne are typically:
Chardonnay (white grape)
Pinot Noir (black grape)
Pinot Meunier (black grape)
A Blanc de Blancs style of Champagne is made exclusively from white grapes, usually Chardonnay. Blanc de Blancs literally means ‘white of whites’.
Charles Heidsieck is one of the great names of Champagne and produces some of the finest cuvées. The Champagne House was founded in 1851 by Charles-Camille Heidsieck, the original ‘Champagne Charlie’ who was the first to seduce Americans with Champagne and was at the centre of the New York social scene in the 1850s. The foundation of its modern fame rests on the unrivalled quality of its wines, many of which are award winning. This success is down to the remarkable winemaking team over the past three decades: Daniel Thibault, Régis Camus, Thierry Roset and Cyril Brun have between them been awarded ‘Sparkling Winemaker of the Year’ at the International Wine Challenge sixteen times. No other Champagne house has won this award more than twice.
The Champagne House’s Blanc de Blancs combines several of the best hand-picked Chardonnay Crus from three Champagne sub regions. After the first fermentation in stainless steel, the wines were racked to separate the lees and then underwent malolactic fermentation to soften the natural acidity and to enrich their texture. The Blanc de Blancs is an artful blend of different years and terroirs, with 25% reserve wine, to produce a wonderfully complex fizz with rich maturity. All the reserve wines were aged in stainless steel vats on their fine lees. To achieve the depth and complexity required by the house style, the Blanc de Blancs ages for up to 72 months in Charles Heidsieck’s chalk cellars (The Crayères); much longer than the legal requirement of 15 months.
It’s a pale, crystalline gold in colour. The nose is characterised by aromas of mature Chardonnay; white peach, candied citrus with notes of lime, honeysuckle and fresh hazelnuts giving way to subtle hints of tangerine and lemon. On the palate, the Blanc de Blancs bears all the hallmarks of a Charles Heidsieck Champagne: boldness, generosity and elegance. Embracing yet light, it displays appealing mineral, slightly salty, iodine notes, and has a silky, creamy texture – unexpected from a Chardonnay – that leaves a lasting impression.
Generously fruity and toasty with terrific freshness on the finish. Made with up to 50% reserve wine averaging 10 years of age, this non-vintage is exceptionally rich and complex, and goes beautifully with a range of fine canapés.
So where will you be watching on Sunday night? England’s historic victory over Denmark means that their football team is now in its first major final for 55 years and whether football isn’t really your thing, or your loyalties lay elsewhere, as wine lovers it’s the chance to open an interesting bottle, pour yourself a glass and sit back as a momentums sporting dual plays out at Wembley. So what will you be sipping on Sunday night?
Like football, wine is ever changing. Whereas every tournament has its own dramas and surprises with different players, different teams and different managers, with wine no two vintages are the same. Winemakers come and go, wine changes and evolves with time in the bottle and of course what was good one year maybe a stinker the next. My job is to find those interesting wines, that punch above their weight, stir the emotions and are a pleasure to watch. A bit like the English football team (sorry! I’m showing my loyalties).
But the great thing about Sunday’s game against Italy is that we can now taste our way through the final. This was a game I first played in 1998 when France hosted the World Cup. Those of you who follow the great game will know that England had a talented side including David Beckham and Michael Owen. I was lucky enough to attend, heading off to France with an old friend in his rather dodgy grey Vauxhall and a tent. We drove from Windsor to Toulouse, stopping off along the way to watch games in Paris, Limoges and wherever we could find a venue that was showing the game. Knowing that France didn’t have pubs it was then that the idea struck. Why don’t we drink a wine from the region the football match was being played in? For a couple of young wine enthusiasts, it was a fabulous opportunity to explore France’s wine route. We opened rosé for games in Marseilles, Bordeaux when the teams met in the South West, big hearty reds in Toulouse (where we had tickets) and Champagne in Lens. Although I’m not sure we ever did drink Champagne as our budget was extremely tight. The next World Cup was played in Japan and South Korea (not a huge amount of wine produced there) so we adapted the game, replacing regions with countries.
And Sunday night offers an intriguing contest! Like its football team, England now has a handful of promising wines and there is certainly the opportunity to pit them against several examples from Italy. English sparkling wine v Prosecco? That would be close. Perhaps a more interesting contest would be against Franciacorta in the north east of Italy, where the style of sparkling wine and quality levels are similar to England. I wouldn’t want to call that one. Still wines aren’t a contest. Bacchus v Soave doesn’t sound much of a match to me and let’s not get started on the reds! Whatever the result though I’ll be cracking open a bottle of Harrow & Hope on Sunday night and possibly something from Tuscany too and raising a glass to what has been a magnificent tournament. Cheers!
There’s nothing us Brits like better than a BBQ and, with National BBQ Week celebrating its 25th anniversary this month, we’re checking our wine shelves are stocked.
The campaign will run for a week from Monday 5th July and encourages the nation to ‘go barmy for a barbi’ and get grilling come rain or shine.
From refreshing whites to enjoy in the sunshine to big reds bold enough to stand up to charred steak, we’ve got everything you need to pair with your BBQ this summer.
So whether you’re heating up the coals or turning up the gas, take a look at our pairing suggestions for some classic BBQ recipes.
When you’re grilling beef on the BBQ (real or imitation) you’re going to need a hearty red that’s smooth and easy to drink but that packs enough of a punch to take on the big flavours of the food. That’s where our big reds come in.
This selection of wines includes Spain’s concentrated Garnacha fruit in El Bombero and and old-vine Tempranillo Syrah in The Silver Route. And you can’t go wrong with The Full Fifteen, created in Australia, the only other nation we’d fear in a BBQ contest.
Delicate fish calls for a wine that’s equally as elegant, so we’re recommending a light Provence rosé. With flavours of subtle apricot and berry fruits and aromas of crisp sliced apple and citrus, Whispering Angel is our first choice, described by Jancis Robinson MW calls “the golden boy of rosé”. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any al fresco meal.
Pinot Noir is arguably the best wine to pair with mushrooms. The wines, especially those with a bit of age, can carry aromas which may remind you of a forest floor and this is a great match to earthy fungi. But even the younger, ripe red-fruited Pinot Noir will balance the umami mushroom flavour. Try Domaine Albert Bichot Santenay Rouge 2015.
It would be easy to reach for something light and elegant when it comes to pairing wine with chicken, but given the extra flavour spice and grilling adds we’re recommending a white with a bit more body. This luxurious, rich Pinot Gris from Alsace’s Peter Weber has aromas of creamy, ripe apricot fruit balanced out by an elegant, minerally bite and a hint of spice. Trust us, you won’t regret it.
The Loire Valley is the most diverse wine region in the whole of France, producing exceptional wine with characteristic in numerous different styles. The variety of wines to come from the Loire Valley has grown significantly over the past decade, with more and more varied styles now being produced in the region. From crisp, racy Muscadet, citrusy and floral whites of Touraine, to lemony, candied fruit and honeyed whites of Savennières, there is a wine to enjoy for every occasion from the Loire.
Stretching across 600 miles and 57,000 hectares of vines, the region has over 50 appellations and six IGPs. The Loire Valley is split into five different wine regions where different grape varieties and styles flourish. Not only is it producing superb wines, it’s also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Join us on a vinous journey through the Loire Valley, travelling from the Atlantic and across inland, exploring the variety of mouth-watering wines as we go.
Located in Muscadet, Côtes de Grandlieu to the southwest of Nantes you’ll find Domaine des Herbauges. Originally founded in 1864, third generation owner Luc Choblet then took over in 1980. Luc decided environmentally friendly methods were the way to obtain even more flavour from his grapes and their terroir. Jérôme has since taken over from his father and has produced even higher quality wines.
Muscadet’s premium Côtes de Grandlieu produces particularly fine, expressive whites, especially when they are carefully crafted by the fourth generation Choblet family. The 2020 has intense, crisp lemon and pear freshness with notes of blossom. A fine Muscadet, aged for a year on lees, this is a great match for seafood or risotto.
Luc’s son Jérome also produces a special mature vintage cuvée made from 100 year old vines not to be missed: Domaine des Herbagues – Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu AOC – Herbadilla 2007 – White – £21.00
Tell us about the region this wine is produced in?
“Muscadet offers a great diversity and complexity of terroirs and styles. The Côtes deGrandlieu is a small south appellation in the Muscadet created in 1994. The proximity of the vines to the Grandlieu lake give an average daily temperature of 1.5 degrees warmer than the classic Sèvre et Maine appellation.”
Southeast of Nantes lays the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine area where the grape variety Melon de Bourgogne
rules. The Sèvre et Maine region gets its name from the two rivers flowing through the vineyards, the Sèvre Nantaise and the Maine.
Father and son team Christophe and Pierre-Henri Gadais’ top cuvée, use only the best bunches from their vineyards. It’s a fine white aged sur lie, meaning it’s left for months on its fine lees to add subtle creamy complexity to the bright apple, pear and floral flavours. Ace with oysters!
What makes this wine diverse?
“Based in Mosnière St Fiacre – at the confluent of the Sèvre & the Maine – we benefit from a great amount of sun for the richness and a great freshness from his position alongside the rivers. The diversity of terroir around those two rivers amazing freshness and minerality to the wine.”
Another great Muscadet option to try is: Famille Bougrier – Muscadet AOC – La Nantaise Réserve 2020 – White – £12.49
A classic, citrus-zipped, dry Chenin Blanc, from a true specialist and the top appellation of Savennières. The Socheleau family are relatively new to wine, but they’ve learnt fast. Réne Socheleau was an apple grower, but his son Philippe was looking for a new direction. In 2001, they purchased Domaine des Deux Vallées with the proceeds from selling their apple orchards. One of the first things they did was to rip out the plantings of Sauvignon and Chardonnay as they knew is fine wine territory for Chenin Blanc.
Their vineyards lie on two main terroirs (hence the name Deux Vallées). The first is on the slopes between the Loire and the Layon; the second is around the village of Saint Lambert du Latay. Aged on fine lees for six months, this is a rich, rounded, yet intensely citrusy white, with light smoke notes and minerality. A superb dinner party white.
Why is the Loire Valley wine region so diverse?
“The Loire Valley is France’s most diverse wine region, producing exemplary wines in every style, from reds, whites & rosé, still & sparkling, dry to sweets covering 69 appellations, producing 400 million bottles every vintages.
The Anjou area offers a great diversity and complexity of terroirs and styles. The Savennières appellation offers the quintessential expression of Chenin Blanc. The Appellation is spread over 3 hills overlooking the Loire River.”
Producers in Vouvray are renowned for crafting some of the Loire’s most classic whites. The top grape here is Chenin Blanc, a wonderfully versatile variety that has been growing for centuries. The Vouvray appellation begins at the eastern edge of the Tours conurbation and extends through 7 communes on the right bank of the Loire and along the Brenne, its tributary. This is a classic Vouvray from a superb family estate with many Decanter awards to its name. Sweethearts Didier and Catherine Champalou bought half a hectare of vines in 1983 – harvesting their first precious crop three years later. Today they have 21 hectares of Chenin spread across the region, allowing them to benefit from a selection of terroirs and to produce a small range of truly outstanding, largely biodynamic wines. Made in a refreshing, modern, off-dry style, the 2019 white offers crisp, lemony fruit with irresistible, honeyed, apple notes. Their Réserve white makes a fine aperitif and is even better with shellfish.
Champalou also produce an excellent premium cuvée if you’re looking for a really special wine:
Located in the Loire’s Touraine region is Patrick Vauvy’s Domain Bellevue Estate. Touraine Sauvignon has long provided an affordable yet authentic and stylish alternative to the Loire’s most famous name wines. And the fabulously fresh wines of Patrick Vauvy are no exception. He took over his family’s estate in 1985, scrutinised every stage of production in the vineyard and cellar, and now makes some of the best wines for miles around.
This super-crisp white bursts with flavour. Think intense lemon, grapefruit and blossom. Endlessly refreshing, and with a great length too. Loire Sauvignon, without the hefty price tag. Great solo or with seafood.
What makes this style different to others in the region?
“We always try to pick later than most growers in the region to get that extra level of ripeness and tropical richness in his wines. By doing so, Patrick’s Sauvignon is the style of wine that bridges the gap between new world and classic French Sauvignon – the perfect combination of ripeness of fruit with classic Loire freshness.”
Discover our full range of Loire Valley Wines here. Don’t forget to tag us in your wine moments over on Instagram, just use #SundayTimesWineClub and tag @sundaytimeswineclub in your post and stories! Not on Instagram? Join our wine discussion on Facebook.
Looking for inspiration this Father’s Day? We’ve got everything you need to make him smile on Sunday 20th June (not that far off, is it). Socks, fancy chocolates and personalised mugs might have been last year’s presents and maybe you’re stuck for ideas. Well, we’ve made it easy – we have selected a dozen gifts from our range, guaranteed to make a father (or father figure) smile. From craft beers to indulgent wine hampers (and everything in between), it turns out that dads don’t have to be hard to buy for after all! Get ahead of the game and discover our range of gifts …
This one’s for the beer lovers! This trio of independently brewed craft beers is presented in a nifty tube. There is no finer treat for a lover of fine beers and ales than this triplicate from our friends at Brew Republic.
The Tullibardine Tasting Collection Gift set is a great way to discover the award-winning classic range. This shiny gift set includes four 5cl miniatures from the Highland distillery, with the 228 Burgundy Finish, 225 Sauternes Finish, 500 Sherry Finish expressions, and, last but not least, the bourbon-matured Sovereign bottling.
This Aussie Red will go down a treat. It’s rich and smooth blend of Durif and Shiraz has made The Black Stump our bestselling wine of all time. These larger glasses are the ideal way to show its full intensity and it’s presented in a luxury gift box.
Winemaker Javier Murúa brings a freshness to his Barón de Barbón, which constantly makes it our bestselling Rioja. Our accompanying glasses will enhance the oak-aged aromas and flavours, opening up its deliciously toasty, spicy notes.
This super smart set of miniature 5cl taster bottles comprises five of the best rums, accompanied by two mixers, sugar syrup and a helpful handbook to get maximum enjoyment for a full rum at-home tasting experience. A great gift experience for any lover of rum.
The auburn hue of this whisky comes directly from it’s time spent in the 228 litre barriques that previously held Pinot Noir from Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet. The nose of the 228 features red cherries and vanilla with hints of chocolate and Turkish Delight. On the palate, there is a real hint of summer fruit, more chocolate and a sweet spice note on the finish.
A wonderful, rich whisky that has been matured in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels and finished in 225 litre sauternes casks. This beautifully golden Tullibardine has hints of citrusy lime on the nose and hints of vanilla and oatmeal. On the palate, there is a touch of tropical pineapple and zingy orange zest and finishes with a creamy edge.
Treat a great dad with this excellent gift. The wine world may not think that wine and chocolate go together, but when it comes to giving the right present, this set is ideal! Comprising four flavoursome wines from Spain, Argentina, Italy and France plus a box of beautiful hand-made chocolates from Holdsworth with the words “World’s Best Dad” adorned on the box, this splendid gift is sure to please.
A huge hit each year, from 14th generation port house Barão de Vilar. The ‘book’ contains 10 x 6cl measures of port, including Tawny, LBV (Late Bottled Vintage), rosé, white, Coheita 2001, Vintage 2016 and more … plus background information and tasting notes. A magnificent and original gift.
For the cheese and crackers fans – as the name suggests – this hamper provides everything but the cheese! Delicious savoury biscuits and flatbreads plus two jars of tempting chutney and a bottle of fine Rioja provide all the accompaniments to your cheeses of choice for a fine supper or light picnic. Also available with Sauvignon Blanc.
The perfect gift for any off-piste fan, part-time adventurer or mountain lover. This set includes a 70cl bottle of Off-Piste Gin, a crisp, aromatic gin with balanced notes of freshness, tartness and floral hints, and a classic stainless-steel hipflask engraved with the Off-Piste compass logo. For extra convenience, you can get all our gifts delivered straight to their doorstep, with a special personalised message included too.
Looking for more inspiration? Click here to shop our full range of Father’s Day gifts.
It feels as if we are a month behind. After a chilly April and an unseasonably wet and stormy May, suddenly June has arrived and with it Summer. I was beginning to think it may never come as some days in May were almost as cold as January! June is a glorious time of year when everything in the garden is out and the countryside is a sea of green. The other night we enjoyed our first balmy evening when at dusk the smell of warm grass hangs heavy in the muggy air.
Midsummer is also rosé time; although there is a recent fashion to drink this pale, tangy pink wine all year round now and not just from Provence. As I wrote in The Sunday Times recently, the quality of rosé has been climbing steadily in recent years and you will find interesting examples from California, Italy and further afield. But sometimes you taste a wine from Provence which just hits the spot (such as the club’s 2020 Seraphin Rosé (Organic), Provence, France)and you remember why it is you look to the Mediterranean for your inspiration. Namely, that area of vines fanning out north of Toulon towards Saint Tropez and Cannes. The wild hills of the Côtes de Provence where the vines are enveloped with the smell of lavender, thyme and pine. Of course at this time of year, it is blisteringly hot, in different times when we were there for June, by midday we would find ourselves somewhere in the shade, preferably with a view of the sea and a glass of something that has been made from at least two grape varieties: Grenache and Cinsault – the two building blocks to creating a dry, savoury and crisp rosé.
Although we like to drink rosé on its own, I’m always impressed at how well it goes with food. In Provence they enjoy it with Bourride, a simple, light stew made with white fish. Serve it with warm vegetables, a torn baguette and smudge of aioli, the butter of Provence made with parsley, mayonnaise and crushed garlic. Yum. But you can also enjoy it with delicate Asian curries, all sorts of salads and one of my favourites, grilled fish or anchovies on toast. With travel restrictions in place this year, it is a summer for travelling vicariously through our imagination. Pour yourself a glass and think of the golden age of the Côte d’Azur when the best of Hollywood would decant to the coast for a glamorous rosé filled Summer.
Just south of super-expensive Burgundy lays hilly Beaujolais with steep vineyards where the Gamay grape reigns supreme. You may be familiar with the deliciously fruit-driven red, perfect for a light lunchtime drink and it pairs perfectly with mezze platters and sharing boards. If you prefer a lighter style of red,Beaujolais is a great one to try, tannins are soft and ripe strawberry notes are guaranteed. Aside from reds, the region also produces some striking rosé and few producers have also been known to make whites from Chardonnay grapes too.
Beaujolais can produce a diverse range of styles from fun and fruity Festive wines, Expressive characterful wines offering great quality and value, through to Exceptional wines which are more complex and terroir driven.
Terroir is how the regions natural environment which includes the soil, climate and terrain affect the taste of a wine.
The future is bright for the French unsung hero. But don’t just take our word for it, we’ve caught up with some of our producers over in Beaujolais to tell you more about their wines …
Maison Dominique Piron
Rooted in the heart of Beaujolais with history dating back to 1590, Maison Dominique Piron vinify around 50 hectares among the best terroirs of the region. Julien Revillon has now taken the reigns. Before joining, Julien worked for ten years in the Rhône Valley. His wish was to return to his home terroir. Julien wishes to continue the history, producing fruity wines that are suitable for ageing and showcasing that Beaujolais can produce great wines.
“Chénas is the smallest Beaujolais Cru. The slopes are composed of granite and quartz, with an average altitude of 380 metres. The vineyards are very steep, as steep as Côte Rôtie slopes in the northern Rhône, making the vineyards challenging to cultivate. The terroir is also very rocky, poor, acidic and minerally which gives great complexity and length to the wine. Maison Dominique Piron Chénas is considered as an ‘Exceptional Beaujolais’. Its structure and strength make it a more complex wine which reflects its terroir.”
“Beaujolais Villages is a wine gathering the best villages of the appellation. The soil is composed of granite and sand with small stones that capture the heat of the sun during the night. Our Beaujolais Villages comes from different villages not far from the Cru region. After the harvest, the fermentation lasts about ten days maximum to keep the freshness. 2020 is very rich and smooth with exceptional potential!
This is an example of an ‘Expressive Beaujolais’. It is an easy to drink wine thanks to its lightness and fruity character.”
What do you think the future for Beaujolais wines and the region are?
“People today are looking for more accessible wines. They want fresh, fruity and aromatic wines … totally the case for Beaujolais wines!”
Vignerons de Bel Air
Vignerons de Bel Air was created by a small group of growers in 1929, coming together to face the great depression. They wanted to combine their experiences and knowledge to be able to produce the best possible wines from their vineyards. From an initial 15 growers there are today 310, producing a full range from wines.
Whatmakes the Beaujolais wine region so special?
“Some describe Beaujolais as ‘the French Tuscany’. The region is wonderful in terms of landscape. Rolling hills filled with well-trained vineyards and small, picturesque villages. What is amazing in Beaujolais is that all wines are produced from a single varietal -the Gamay grape, but diversity comes from the soil, altitude and the exposure to the sun.”
“Chiroubles is one of the smallest appellations of the Beaujolais Cru. It is also the Cru with the highest altitude. Vignerons De Bel Air Chiroubles is an Expressive Beaujolais, this is because the terroir is so unique. It is the only Cru with 100% granite soils, making soft and elegant wines. Wines show delicate floral aromas with refreshing acidity. A prefect wine for light dinners, pasta, salads or even desserts such as lemon or apricot tart.”
“Morgon is one of the best-known Beaujolais Cru. The soil, a mix of schist, manganese with oxidised iron influence, enables the wines to gain that extra layer of structure and strength. It is the only Beaujolais Cru where different climates have been recognised like in Burgundy. Morgon’s ability to age offers a new way to discover Beaujolais. Our Morgon is from the famous hill ‘Le PY’, an old Volcano – offering structure with cherry, blackcurrant, liquorice, and pepper. Perfect with rich, fine foods such as game or meat with rich sauces, or with more spicy food like curry.”
What do you think the future for Beaujolais wines and the region are?
“One of the advantages for Beaujolais is that consumers are now looking for lighter styles of wine. You do not need to be an expert to enjoy your first glass of Beaujolais wine, but with time and experience you will discover all the various layers of complexity that Beaujolais can offer. We have also started to attract younger winegrowers. Those new growers are more adventurous which will help open new horizons for the region.”
Cave du Château des Loges
The cellar is located in ‘Le Perréon’, in the centre of the Beaujolais region. Founded in 1960, the Cave du Château des Loges has 450 hectares and 150 winegrowers. In 1958 several winegrower families acquired the Château with hope to restore its prestige, thus creating one of the most important wineries of the region. Since 2018, winegrowers have been committed to High Environmental Value certification (HVE) in order to strengthen the promotion of more responsible production in harmony with nature.
What Makes the Beaujolais wine region so special?
“Beaujolais is a heroic vineyard. The hillside rows of vines cover the Beaujolais mountains at an average altitude of 300 metres, with peaks culminating at over 600 metres.”
“Premier Bain Beaujolais Rosé is made from 100% Gamay. Grapes are hand-picked from vineyards with sandy-granitic and clay-limestone soils. Fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks to preserve the freshness of the fruit. It’s a salmon-pink colour with delicate red fruit aromas. Crisp and fresh the wine is best served chilled at 11°C as an aperitif or with risotto, or even a fruit salad.
These wines are ‘Expressive’ Beaujolais, showing the style of Beaujolais Rosé characterised by its terroir.”
What do you think the future for Beaujolais wines and the region are?
“Climate change will allow Gamay to show further potential with ripe reds and appealing rosé wines. Plot selections, climates classification, studies into the richness of its soils, as well as biodiversity protection will be the future for Beaujolais.”
Vignerons des Pierres Dorées
Beaujolais specialists since 1959, the Vignerons des Pierres Dorées are in the heart of the region. The success of the wines is the result of collective work and exceptional vinification by talented winemaker Michaël LaChaud.
“The terroirs of the Vignerons des Pierres Dorées contain real gems. In order to showcase their individuality, these are vinified in respect of each terroir. Blue stones give depth and complexity to the wine, making it smoky and salty. The wine is an intense ruby colour, subtle and concentrated, with red fruit and delicate fragrances of wildflowers and spices. Best served around 13°C, it pairs perfectly with beef dishes, poultry, or even a pizza. As an Expressive Beaujolais, the wine is characterised by the unique terroir of the region and its soils.”
What do you think the future for Beaujolais wines and the region are?
“Looking back to our roots with traditional Beaujolais, carbonic maceration winemaking will be important for the future of Beaujolais, as well as adapting wines to our soils, like we see with the climates from Burgundy.”
Cheers to the exciting future for Beaujolais wines. We can’t wait to try the wines from the region in the year to come. Shop our full range of Beaujolais here.
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When we say Côtes du Rhône you’re probably already thinking of rich, plummy red wines. And you can certainly be forgiven for making that assumption, (reds make up 89% of the region’s wine production after all). But that doesn’t mean you should be discounting white wine made there.
Despite only accounting for 4% of the wine produced, what Côtes du Rhône whites lack in quantity, they make up for in character, charm and variety.
So, white wine lovers, forget Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, even Chardonnay … and embrace the unique delights of the Côtes du Rhône.
So what’s so appealing about the Rhône’s whites?
As is the case with the region’s reds, the whites here offer a delicious and appealing range of styles. No surprise perhaps, when you consider the length of the whole valley (over 200km), the change of topography, soil and also the climate.
From the rounded peachy and apricot fruited, sometimes floral character of southern wines which gain their juicy ripeness from the area’s Mediterranean climate, to the more refined creamy, nutty and honeysuckle-scented wines of the north; the variety of the landscape and climate means there’s plenty to discover.
There is lots of encouragement from the press too: Decanter described white Rhônes as “weighty, food-friendly whites [that] are inexpensive”, while the Guardian’s Fiona Beckett praised them for offering “a broad range of full-bodied, complex whites that won’t burn a hole in your wallet.” Journalist Rose Murray-Brown MW in the Scotsman urges us,“grab what you can before Rhône whites become even more fashionable and prices start to rise.”
How does the region differ?
In Southeastern France, the valley starts between the granite-blessed Massif Central and the Alps in the north. Steep and narrow, as it heads towards Montélimar, Orange and the Mediterranean it gradually opens out to offer hills, then gentle undulations and plains. Soils change as well – from the granite and schist of the north to the clay-lime-marl of the south’s gentle slopes.
On this path south, the climate also changes. You start with typical inland continental – hot summers and cold winters, then gradually move into the appealing, temperate warmth of the Mediterranean – warm summers and moderate winters, accompanied by the strong Mistral wind.
Taking all that into account, it’s no surprise that the grape varieties change through the landscape as well, just like they do for its red wines. Northern vineyards champion floral and exotically flavoured Viognier, often a varietal wine (ie pure Viognier) or a blend of Roussanne and Marsanne, the two found in prized white Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Château-Grillet.
Due to the labour intensity and expense of working these steep northern vineyards, most of the white wine output is cru or more expensive appellation wines. The most accessible Côtes du Rhône whites largely come from the south. There, winemakers promote white wines made from a delicious array of native varieties – Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Clairette and Bourboulenc, with small quantities of Terret Blanc and Picardin.
And what can you expect from these more southerly whites?
Broadly speaking, Côtes du Rhône Blancs are a gorgeous blend of the white grapes listed above. They have a satisfying weight and aromatic character (particularly if they include generous portions of Viognier or Clairette), with incisive, citrus-fresh minerality. These are perfect food wines, as well as being, for the most part, very appealing on their own. Largely they’ll remain fresh and unoaked, with only lees-ageing (lees are the sediment particles left after fermentation) bringing out the creamy roundness. Some will show a little oak, to lend extra toasty weight and complexity.
Côtes du Rhône whites – explore them now!
Now, more than ever, it’s a great time to discover the white wines of the Rhône – more advanced techniques have helped to produce brighter, more minerally and aromatic whites. Plus, of course, there’s an enthusiastic, new generation of winemakers taking charge, with greater knowledge and experience from all over the world. Armed with this, they bring with them new ideas and an energy to try new things.
So next time you want a wine to go with a chicken dish – chicken pie, spicy marinaded chicken with pecan rice, a creamy noodle dish or seafood, delve into the white wines of the Côtes du Rhône. You’ll find they make a perfect partner and are also appetisingly vibrant and fresh to enjoy all on their own. Cheers!
There is a recipe for roast lamb that Elizabeth David describes in ‘French Country Cooking.’ It’s gloriously simple involving sitting the lamb on a bed of unpeeled garlic and covering it with fresh sprigs of rosemary. You serve it with white haricot beans cooked in a little white wine. As Elizabeth David writes it’s best cooked ‘à point’ and is a standard dish of many Paris bistros. As we step into Spring and the first green shoots of the herb garden appear, thoughts naturally turn to Easter, possibly the first lunch outside and what we might be preparing in the kitchen to celebrate the Easter Weekend. For the oenophiles among us what wine to open is at the forefront of our minds.
Roast Lamb doesn’t have to be heavy, in the Larousse Gastronomique they recommend serving with quarters of lemon and bunches of watercress. The little twist of lemon will certainly have an effect on the taste of the wine you serve, it will appear a little smoother. If the weather is fine and you have decided to eat alfresco you could opt for a Beaujolais perhaps, something like the juicy red fruit of Dominique Piron would work very well. Or if you wanted something with a little more fruit, perhaps a Pinot Noir from New Zealand, I would suggest the Rapaura Springs from Marlborough.
But I tend to think something red from Bordeaux is the most agreeable partner. Pomerol, Saint Emilion, Fronsac a little further afield from the Castillon perhaps? Anything really, but I like the dry, blackcurrant and cedar infused aromatics of something from the Left Bank which I think pairs perfectly with new season lamb. If you do really want to push the boat out the 2015 Duluc de Branaire Ducru would be very fine indeed. Or you could try something a little different and head to the vineyards of Southern Bulgaria where the sumptuous 2016 Coline d’Enira is produced. This is a bold, rich, powerful red wine that needs a strongly flavoured dish to pair with it. Try it with smoky barbequed meats.
There is always a chunk or two of chocolate laying around at this time of year. It’s a little indulgent to pair it with wine but why not? Ideally you need something fortified and sweet. A tawny would be my choice, try it chilled a little while in the fridge door and then pour a small glass with a square of chocolate – heavenly!