Saturday, 30 October 2021
Friday, 29 October 2021
Bordeaux wines with sustainability credentials, hosted by Bordeaux tutor and Master of Wine Lydia Harrison
Sustainability is a broad concept and can mean different things in areas such as the environment, the local economy and society.
This tasting revealed some of the work that Bordeaux winemakers are taking with different initiatives to make themselves more sustainable on all fronts.
It also showed that Bordeaux is adaptable and progressive, where no single sustainability approach works for everyone and that small, incremental changes can often be the best way for wineries to start their journey.
A key concern in Bordeaux is climate change which is resulting in more unpredictable weather, rather than simply higher temperatures. As an example, there have been two damaging late frosts in the last five years, compared to the long-run average of one every 20 years.
Around 75% of Bordeaux wineries are certified for sustainability in one way or another; these include:
- Terra Vitis (continuous sustainability improvements)
- HVE (environmental high value)
- ISO (international standards)
Within Bordeaux €1m is being spent every year on sustainability research of which €400k goes on measures to reduce the use of pesticides with a 9% reduction in greenhouse gases.
There is a focus on innovation and adaptability to maintain the quality of vineyards for future generations.
Does organic wine actually taste different? It is impossible to tell, is Lydia's view as there are just too many other factors that cannot be controlled out.
My own view is that any winemaker ambitious enough to work organically is most probably seeking to make the best wine they can, so it's all part of a drive towards quality.
Organic farming is now becoming something of an important sub-category within wine and something that particularly resonates with a younger demographic.
The Bordeaux Wine Council's latest sustainability figures were reported in Decanter last month: Bordeaux sees sharp growth in organic vineyards - Decanter
Details and tasting notes from Lydia.
Château Roquefort 2020, Les Roches Blanches (100% Sauvignon)
Owned since 1976, the winery focused on forestry and organic / sustainable practices; only 45% of the land is vineyards with the remaining 55% given over to forests to improve bio-diversity. They also work on better vineyard management, reducing packing waste and Slow Tourism.
aromatic, herbaceous and slightly minty with exotic fruits; sappy and vinous with fresh, citrussy grapefruit, gooseberry and lime marmalade and excellent underpinnings. Persistent, rounded, savoury and mineral.
Pioneers in Permaculture
Château Guiraud, G de Guiraud, Bordeaux Blanc, Sauternes (Majestic, £17.99)
An unusual dry white Sauternes, this has some Semillon in the blend; the ethos of permaculture is to tread lightly, with earth care, people care and fair shares.
The winery seeks to preserve diversity through improving soil health, increasing micro-organisms, aeration and reducing compaction. They avoid a mono-culture to support a range of species and insects.
ripe and rounded white peach and stone fruit, broad and fruited
Groupe Grands Chais de France, Calvet Bordeaux Reserve (Waitrose, £9.39)
Calvet is part of France's largest exporter, Les Grands Chais, with over 20%, who have been in Bordeaux since 1994.
Proving that larger organisations can do sustainability as well, Calvet have been working to reduce waste in their business, with less packaging, only sending out full loads to reduce food miles, as well as reducing additives. They also have their own weather stations to manage vine health and spray the vines only when needed; fewer resources also makes good business sense and helps with pricing.
M / CS blend; ripe, juicy fruits, plummy and enjoyably easy-drinking
Château Carbonneau ‘Classique’, Sainte Foy Côtes de Bordeaux (General Wine, £9.99)
GDON is a collective organisation that works as a Defense Group against Harmful Organisms; in this case, the issue is the leaf hopper, a vineyard disease-spreading pest. Wineries collaborate to proactively monitor for leaf hopper larvae, installing traps and work with institutes to share data and expertise.
90% Merlot with 10% Malbec for structure and spice
Bio Packaging + Conservation
Chateau Brillette 2016, Moulin en Medoc (Vinissimus, £21.44)
The estate is 247ha, but 50% is maintained as native forests; no weedkillers or insecticides are used. Trees are planted, mowing is late, dead wood is left in their forests to provide a natural habitat. They also have beehives, birdhouses and bats who naturally prey on vineyard pests. This reduces the need for pesticides which also helps with pricing.
They have won awards for their bio-diversity, have reduced energy use by 20% and have small-scale initiatives in almost every part of their production, asking the same of their suppliers.
There is even an eco-inspired cuvee that comes in a lightweight bottle using a biodegradable label and water based inks.
On the left bank of the Medoc on gravel soils; very elegant, savoury evolution with cedar and tobacco, well-made in a classic Bordeaux style
Flower farm and fruit trees
Château Brown, Pessac-Léognan 2015, (Slurp, £34.95)
The winery takes an holistic approach, practising organic viticulture (but not certified), maximising bio-diversity, eco-responsibility and reducing its carbon footprint.
Only 55% of the land is vineyards with the remainder for balance; they have been planting trees and hedges since 2015. They created an apiary in 2017, have an orchard and fruit farm with 36 different types of trees and now also grow flowers.
From a war, sunny and Very Good year,
Friday, 22 October 2021
Wednesday, 20 October 2021
Tuesday, 19 October 2021
Friday, 15 October 2021
Copper Crew are three guys - all somewhat ginger, hence the name - who have decided to make canned wine A Thing over here.
Two of them are based in the UK with Sam, the winemaker, in South Africa.
I was impressed with their first offerings, a red, white and rosé, not just as canned wine but as wine generally; the red, I thought, noticeably improved when re-sampled a few months after the initial tasting.
Now they have made a limited edition Sauvignon Blanc on a WIGIG basis, and I think it may just be their best wine yet.
Recognisably a Sauvignon, it is sophisticated and complex in a way that you don't associate with many Sauvignons, let alone canned wines.
It might even be a bit too good for a canned wine, but don't let that put you off.
Wine traditionalists may look down on canned wine, but in the real world, there are many reasons why you might want wine in a can:
- portion size: at 25cl it is suitable for when you don't want to open a full bottle
- environmental impact: cans are much lighter than bottles, so use less energy for transportation
- convenience: you can pop a can in your pocket in a way that you can't do with a bottle
Personally, I like the packaging and the innovation a lot; the wine's not bad either.
Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (£24.99 for 6 cans)
aromatic with exotic fruits; citrussy and fresh and tropical; lemongrass, lime zest and passionfruit. Substantial with leesy complexity and good underpinnings. Very well-made and harmonious.
Fresh enough to drink as an aperitif, this has the complexity to match with picnic foods such as cold cuts, quiche or dips.
Winemaker Sam notes:
Why is this wine special?
Planted in 2002 on a cool South-Southeast slope, the vines sit at around 300m above sea level. The sandstone soils are farmed with a respect for nature and focus on soil health without using herbicides or inorganic fertilisers. Sunlight exposure in the bunch zone is critical for Sauvignon.
To avoid excessively green-notes and reduce disease pressure in Elgin’s cool, wet growing season, leaves are broken to increase sunlight penetration into the canopy and improve airflow. Sam notes A vibrant cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc.
The palate is fresh and racy, with extended lees contact lending depth and texture. Cape Gooseberry, tropical kiwi and Passionfruit are followed by zesty Lime and a touch of Nettle and there’s a definite minerality here that leads into a chalky finish.
Thursday, 14 October 2021
Wednesday, 13 October 2021
Monday, 11 October 2021
I've long believed that Christmas Day is not a time to be experimenting with new or off-beat wines; you want something reliable and familiar and, if budgets allow, a little superior to what you might normally drink.
Moving up too many price brackets can actually be counter-productive; for where you can simply crack open and enjoy younger, fruiter wines as soon as they are poured, more ambitious bottles may need a little longer in bottle or more aeration to show their best.
Get it even slightly wrong and your showpiece wine can seem underwhelming, your guests less-than-wowed; under-aged reds reds can seem lacking in fruit and a little chewy until they have opened up; whites that need a bit of aeration can seem basic and underwhelming.
These four Tesco wines are all a step up from everyday drinking but, importantly, also show very well on first pouring. They continue to improve with some aeration but certainly don't require an extensive aging and decanting regime to become approachable.
So that's one less thing to worry about this year, then.
There's a lot to like with these four bottles - big-name wines that don't cost silly money and are easy to enjoy.
The extra-nice surprises are how inexpensive the Champagne is, the superb wine-making of the Bordeaux and the amazing value of the dessert wine.
Saturday, 9 October 2021
A picture I got tagged in on Twitter