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Discovering New Wines in Bordeaux – Insights from the Inside – Part 3 – Notes and Tips on the Merlot Blends

Paul Smith, our Financial Director, has again had the chance to visit Bordeaux to discover new wines, chateaux and meet its wine makers. This is the third in this series of blogs about his trip and his discoveries . . .

Tastings at Cantin
Tastings at Cantin

During my visit to Chateau Cantin I tasted several wines from Saint Emilion, Montagne Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol and – interestingly – Cadillac. The wines tasted either came from Crus & Domaines (owners of Cantin) Right Bank chateaux or those in partnership with them. The Right Bank features Merlot as its dominant grape and if you’d like to read about the highlight of my visit there check out my blog on Beautiful Blends.

NOTES & TIPS ON THE MERLOT BASED CLARETS:  THE SAINT EMILIONS

Chateau Cantin
Chateau Cantin

Chateau Cantin 2014, Saint Emilion (circa £20 a bottle)

Cantin was originally built by Benedictine monks in the 1600s as a summer residence for the Canon of Saint Emilion. It’s name comes from the Latin word ‘cantio’, which means song, perhaps as a reminder of all the evensong that was once sung there. The vineyard sits on an asteriated limestone plateau combined with Castillon clay, a terroir that enjoys excellent exposure to sunshine. The estate is divided into 26 parcels over 38 hectares.

Tip: Cantin lay dormant for many years until its purchase in 2007 by Crus & Domaines who have worked hard to revive the prestigious past of the property. Rated highly by several important critics, Cantin has also received numerous awards for its wines. They have ambitious plans for the chateau and are aiming high with the goal of attaining Grand Cru Classe status by 2022. This is a chateau on the up and the 2015 vintage is sure to be a an excellent purchase if you fancy trying this wine for the first time.

Chateau Laroque
Chateau Laroque

Chateau Laroque 2006 & 2009, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe (circa £26 a bottle)

Laroque is a Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe (ranked in the 1996 Classification) and is owned by the Beaumartin family who have partnered with Crus & Domaines to promote their wines. This is lovely old feudal residence with a tower dating from the twelfth century. The chateau was rebuilt in the 17th century in a style favoured by King Louis XIV, earning it the nickname of ‘Little Versailles’.

Tip: This is quite a big estate for Saint Emilion, spanning 61 hectares of adjoining plots. Chateaux in Saint Emilion tend to be small and are usually comprised of scattered plots thanks to the terrain with its rocky limestone outcrops. The best 27 hectares were ranked as Grand Cru Classe and are used purely for Laroque wines which are priced according to their high rank. The remaining hectares are sold as the more affordable Chateau Peymouton (£14 a bottle) or as the estates Second Wine Les Tours de Laroque.

Chateau Faizeau
Chateau Faizeau

Chateau Faizeau 2014, Montagne Saint Emilion (circa £16 a bottle)

Faizeau takes its name from the the Benedictine abbey of Faize, situated close to the property (which owned vineyards in both Pauillac and Saint Emilion). The chateau sits on the slopes of Calon hill and their terroir is the highest in the appellation. The vineyards are oriented east and west, so they are bathed in sunshine all day long. This is one of te oldest vineyards in the area and they also have some of the oldest vines in the Right Bank at over 100 years of age.

Tip: Despite its antiquity and privileged location Faizeau’s wines do not command the high price you might expect. This is down to the fact that the chateau lies in Montagne Saint Emilion, a satellite appellation. Thanks to being on the outskirts of Saint Emilion, the satellites’ wines were for a long time considered to be its country cousins. Today this is far from the case and there are some excellent wines to be found here.

Vieux Chateau des Combes
Vieux Chateau des Combes

Vieux Chateau Des Combes 2014 (circa £15 a bottle)

Vieux Chateau des Combes lies in Saint Christophe des Bardes, just 3 miles away from the town of Saint Emilion. Its name (Old Chateau of the Valleys) indicates that wine was already being made here in the 17th century when the Benedictine abbey was built. There are several chateau named ‘Des Combes’ in the region but this is definitely ‘the oldest’.

Tip: Vieux Chateau des Combes makes award winning wine but remains a little under the radar. We have only seen vintages from 2010 upwards reach the UK. This is a high performing chateau that is certain to gather more attention and is worth keeping an eye out for.

NOTES & TIPS ON THE POMEROLS:

Chateau La Patache
Chateau La Patache

Chateau La Patache 2012, Pomerol (circa £25 a bottle)

La Patache is owned by Peter Kwok who has partnered with Crus & Domaines to promote his wines. Peter owns a small but select portfolio of Pomerol and Saint Emilion chateaux and purchased La Patache in 2012. Pomerol is world famous for its Merlots and home to the most expensive Bordeaux wines of all . . . but the appellation is a small one and is made up of tiny plots. As you can imagine good terroir is at a premium here and land is extremely precious. La Patache sits on the site of the former 19th century post office; the stables have been transformed into cellars and the 3.5 hectare is spread over 9 plots.

Tip: This is a superb insider wine that is under valued. It’s hit the attention of the wine critics and is multi award winning. Given the huge demand for Pomerol this situation is going to change rapidly. You might think that over £30 is a lot to pay for a wine made from a former post office but wait until you try it – this is an absolute steal. Over the past year the price has been trending upwards so get it whilst you can.

Clos Beau regard

Clos Beauregard 2012, Pomerol (circa £33 a bottle)

Domaines & Cru’s Clos Beauregard’s 6 hectares of vineyards run across the lower stretches of Chateau Beauregard. Clos Beauregard was purchased by the Helfrich family of Crus & Domaines in 2011 and is a tribute to their meticulous vineyard management.

Tip: Chateau Beauregard was first established in the 11th century by the Knights Hospitallers (contempories of the Knights Templar) and its impressive chateau (unusual for Pomerol as this appellation does not boast many grand manor houses) was built in 1795. ‘Clos’ refers to a walled vineyard and this little plot was attached to Chateau Beauregard until the 1930s. Clos vineyards were enclosed with stone walls not only to protect the grapes from theft but also to improve the micro climate (the walls provided shelter and warmth for the grapes). This was probably Chateau Beauregard’s original vineyard at the time of the Templars. Both Chateau Beauregard and Chateau Clos Beauregard command the same sort of price per bottle but Clos Beauregard is not as well known. If you are a fan of lush Pomerol wines this is a wine to hunt out.

Chateau Sergant
Chateau Sergant

Chateau Sergant 2011, Lalande de Pomerol (circa £19 a bottle)

Chateau Sergant is owned by the Milhade family who have partnered with Crus & Domaines. Sergant is situated on a plateau, located west of the village of Lalande de Pomerol. The vineyard covers 21 hectares and sits very near to the iconic neighbouring chateau of Petrus – one of the most expensive and sought after wines in the world. This proximity to top terroir boosts Sergant’s potential and the family have brought in Hubert de Bouard, owner of First Growth Chateau Cheval Blanc in Saint Emilion, as their wine consultant to further develop the wines.

Tip: Although Sergant produces excellent wine it tends to be under priced. Lalande de Pomerol is not as well known as its neighbour Pomerol and prices reflect this. However, Sergant is ranked in the top 1o for number of awards for wines won in this appellation and is excellent value for money.

NOTES & TIPS ON THE CADILLAC

Chateau Haut Mouleyre
Chateau Haut Mouleyre

Chateau Haut Mouleyre 2015, Cadillac (circa £10 a bottle)

Haut Mouleyre lies in the village of Escoussans, near Cadillac, on the right bank of the River Garonne. Crus and Domaines purchased Haut Mouleyre from the French wine magnate Bernard Magrez (owner of 4 classified growths, including Chateau Pape Clement in Pessac Leognan) in 2008. Haut Mouleyre’s vineyard is spread over the south and south west-facing hill sides overlooking the river, making the most of the sunshine and the good soil drainage. The wines have won numerous awards and have caught the eye of several wine critics recently.

Tip: Cotes de Bordeaux Cadillac is a little appellation best known for producing the sweet white wines of Bordeaux. However it’s a little known fact that Cadillac can be an extremely good source of red Bordeaux. Over shadowed by more prestigious appellations and thanks to its reputation for ‘only’ producing sweet whites, Cadillac reds suffer from lack of promotion. This obscurity plays havoc for the wine makers but is great for consumers as it affects the price. Haut Mouleyre is just such an example, it’s a wonderful wine that offers great value for money.

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Discovering New Wines in Bordeaux – Insights from the Inside – Part 2 – Beautiful Blends

Paul Smith, our Financial Director, has again had the chance to visit Bordeaux to discover new wines, chateaux and meet its wine makers. This is the second in this series of blogs about his trip and his discoveries . . .

Chateau Cantin
Chateau Cantin

My visit to Chateau Cantin in Saint Emilion provided one of the big highlights of my trip to Bordeaux. Cantin belongs to Crus & Domaines de France – a Negotiant House and owners of several chateaux. This visit was themed around Merlot and turned out to be quite a revelation.

We focused on Crus & Domaines Right Bank chateaux, featuring Merlot in all its glory, and tasted wines from Saint Emilion, Montagne Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol and – interestingly – Cadillac. You’ll find my notes and tips on each wine tasted in my next blog post.

Whilst at Chateau Cantin we were given five bottles of Merlot 2015 produced from different parcels (plots) of vines on the Cantin estate. We were challenged to rank them in order of our preference and then to make our own blend of the 2015 vintage. This was a sensational experience as I could not believe how different the five Merlots were. Each Merlot had its own unique characteristics within the tannins, fruit, nose, balance and structure.

Blending Merlots at Cantin
Blending Merlots at Cantin

The art of blending Bordeaux has been a real eye opener for me. It’s a craft that has been practiced for centuries and is the secret of Bordeaux’s success (you can learn more about blending Bordeaux on our blogs Bordeaux’s Secret Recipes – The Red Blends and The White Blends). Blending is such an intricate skill as it goes far beyond mixing different wines together. It all starts in the vineyard . . .

Terroir at Cantin
Terroir at Cantin

The vineyard of a chateau is a complex living entity with many different parts. The terrain that it stretches over can have all sorts of contours and undulations; it can be criss crossed by little streams, sit facing a great river or stand prominent inland on a hilly slope. It can lie on top of a multitude of soils and bed rocks, face different points of the compass and have its very own micro climates. Each part of this patchwork within the landscape will have a unique character that will affect the type of grape grown and the wine produced.

Each part is defined by its terroir. Terroir is a French term for a set of environmental conditions (soil type, topography and climate) that give a wine its particular aroma and flavour.

Cantin's courtyard
Cantin’s courtyard

Bordelaise wine makers take terroir very seriously. They go to extraordinary lengths to analyse the chemical composition and mineral content of the soil (grapevines like well drained soils); examine the gradient of each part of the vineyard and assess its exposure (to wind and sun) and then allocate a parcel of grapevines best suited to its individual conditions. Each parcel has its own vat to keep the wine produced from the grapes separate. It’s precision agriculture at its finest.

You might think that this is an awful lot of fuss just to produce wine. But this is where the five Merlots prove a point. Each bottle came from a different parcel of Merlot vines on the estate. It was extraordinary how different each wine was considering that they were all made with the same grape!

Tastings at Cantin
Tastings at Cantin

Of course the process of blending doesn’t stop there. The winemaker will use these five different batches of Merlot to perfect the final blend of Cantin’s 2015 vintage. Once the wine maker is satisfied with his blend of Merlot this in turn is added to their blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (and any other blends of Bordelaise grapes they might be growing such as Petit Verdot, Malbec or Carmenere). The aim is to produce a perfect wine that reflects the style of the chateau and its region. It’s an intricate and painstaking process that has left me with huge respect for the wine makers.

If you’d like to learn more about the wines I tasted at Chateau Cantin – and tips why they are good value for money – check out my blog post: Discovering New Wines in Bordeaux – Insights from the Inside – Part 3. Notes & Tips on the Merlot Blends.

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Discovering New Wines in Bordeaux – Insights from the Inside – Part 1

Paul Smith, our Financial Director, has again had the chance to visit Bordeaux to discover new wines, chateaux and meet its wine makers. This is the first in this series of blogs about his trip and his discoveries . . .

Paul Smith in Bordeaux
Paul Smith in Bordeaux

My role buying, selling and shipping Grand Cru Classé tends to keep me at my desk but every so often I grab the chance to head into the fray and survey what’s on the ground first hand. My recent trip into the field was with a trade delegation organised by the CIVB (Bordeaux Wine Bureau). It’s a good opportunity to visit a broad swathe of wine makers ranging from the top players down to the niche petit chateaux. It also offers the chance to piece together what’s happening in the melting pot that is the Bordeaux wine industry.

More importantly meeting a wide variety of wine makers allows us insights on which chateaux are looking to export to the UK; which wine makers are making waves and which developments and discoveries we can recommend to you as the consumer.

My visit to Chateau Fonbadet in Pauillac proved to be eye opening; this is a little chateau owned by the Peyronie family that sits in a particularly choice location north of the small village of Saint Lambert. It’s vineyards are surrounded by the greatest chateaux in this region:

  • The two First Growths (Premier Crus) Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Latour are a 5 minute drive down the road.

  • The two Second Growths (Deuxiemes Crus) Chateaux Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse are within walking distance.

  • Fifth Growth (Cinquieme Cru) Chateau Lynch Bages is on the doorstep.

This is a prime location and this sort of land is incredibly precious to the Bordelaise.

Gateway to Fonbadet
Gateway to Fonbadet

Little Fonbadet sits slap bang in the centre of it.

Encircled by the big boys, Fonbadet is not exactly besieged but it is probably one of the last vineyards in this area that has not been gobbled up by its illustrious neighbours.

When you consider that there is a finite amount of good ground available in these prestigious appellations you can quite understand how powerful chateaux can become predatory. This is a common occurrence in Bordeaux (examples of note are Chateau La Tour du Pin was quietly absorbed into First Growth Cheval Blanc not long after it was bought out and Chateau L’Arrosee was merged into First Growth Haut Brion’s Chateau Quintus). Our guide for the whole trip was Alex Hall from Bespoke Bordeaux who explained that the manageress Pascale Peyronie almost certainly would have been bombarded with huge cash offers to sell out over the years but unlike others has resisted. There is good reason for her firm stance; the Peyronie family have been Pauillac wine makers since 1700 and have deep attachment to the area . . . and to their chateau.

Chateau Fonbadet, aspect from driveway
Chateau Fonbadet, aspect from driveway

Their attachment runs deep . . . and here’s why:

The Peyronies have been involved in wine making within Pauillac for 3 centuries. You might say that quite a few traditional Bordelaise wine making families can claim roots as far back this but in this instance the Peyronies stand out as they have a history that is indelibly entwined with the great Rothschild chateaux of Pauillac. Running the wine making at a chateau is one thing but managing a great estate in quite another.

At the beginning of the 1900s Pierre Peyronie’s grandfather was the manager of First Growth Chateau Lafite Rothschild – and the grandfather of Pierre’s wife, Jany, managed the estates of Baron Philippe at Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Three hundred years of wine making know how is impressive but the experience gained working at this level of wine production takes it to another level. So, you can see that the family have always had a serious reputation as top class wine makers in the region. The problem was they had no chateau of their own.

This was to change in the 1930s.

Pierre’s son Robert, with incredible foresight, seized the opportunity to acquire a little estate put up for auction. This was Fonbadet, an estate that had bags of unrealised potential. Down the years it had been owned by several distinguished members of the elite wine making fraternity but it had never really been developed.

  • In the Middle Ages Fonbadet had once been part of First Growth Chateau Latour.

  • In 1865 it had been owned by the widows Clarke (of Chateau Clarke – now another Rothschild estate) and Chancel.

  • In the late 19th century Fonbadet was in the hands of the Larose family (of Fifth Growth Chateau Gruaud Larose).

The Peyronie family purchased Fonbadet in the 1930s
The Peyronie family purchased Fonbadet in the 1930s

Despite its celebrated previous ownership, being so small and somewhat over shadowed by the grandeur of its noble neighbours, Fonbadet’s wines had not been submitted for inclusion in the 1855 Classification . . . even though they were considered superior to many Grand Crus Classes at the time. Prices reached by Fonbadet’s wines before the ranking of 1855 would have placed it among the future Fifth Growths.

Knowing the quality of the terroir, its history and the past reputation of the wine, Pierre made one of the wisest decisions in his life in buying the chateau.

This terroir (soil, topography and environment) coupled with the Peyronie’s vast experience in wine making could only spell one thing. A first class wine.

What I find incredible to believe is the price.

The recently bottled vintage of Fonbadet is 2013 . . . and this will only set you back £20.00 a bottle. Compare this to the exorbitant prices of its neighbours:

2013 Chateaux Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse £100.00+ a bottle.

2013 Chateau Mouton Rothschild £250+ a bottle

Fonbadet regularly holds tastings & welcomes visitors
Fonbadet regularly holds tastings & welcomes visitors

Prices for Grand Cru Classe are on the up for the future too. Chateau Pichon Baron’s latest 2015 vintage release price – whilst still in the barrel – is up 45.5% on last years, making it one of the most expensive vintages from this chateau. At this rate only the very well off are able to consider buying wines of this quality. Or are they?

I’d suggest that canny consumers look to Fonbadet if they are after a top Pauillac wine – the only difference I can see between Fonbadet and its neighbours is the price tag and the label.

Claret connoisseurs might be shaking their heads at me, arguing that it is the wine maker who makes all the difference in this case. But I’d like to point out that Fonbadet’s wines are overseen by world class oenologists Michel Rolland and Eric Boissenot (together with his father Jacques, Eric makes wine at two thirds of 1855 Grand Cru Classe estates, including all four Medoc First Growths).

Future Fonbadet.

During the 1970s the Peyronies carefully purchased a few more tiny chateau with potential. One of which was Chateau Pauillac. This is the hidden jewel in the Peyronie’s crown and I think the purchase was a very wise decision. To own the flagship chateau that is synonymous with the appellation is quite an achievement.

Chateau Fonbadet
Chateau Fonbadet

Chateau Pauillac is now being resurrected and the family are focusing on the rebirth of its wine. Only a small production of 2,400 bottles are made.

Other wines to watch out for made by the Peyronies are:

Chateau Haut Pauillac

Chateau Padarnac

Chateau Montgrand Milon

Chateau Tour du Roc Milon

The family’s website is at http://www.chateaufonbadet.com and you can learn an awful lot more about their history and wines there. They also host tastings and visits which you can check out here: http://www.chateaufonbadet.com/version_anglaise/atchateau.html – you can be assured of a warm welcome, I can vouch for that!

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Marselan from the Med reaches our shores at last!

Wines made with Marselan, the red grape born on the Mediterranean coast, are making waves as far afield as China. Marselan is a newcomer and it’s well worth keeping an eye out for. It produces deeply coloured, very fragrant wines with rich ripe fruit flavours and soft, supple tannins – you can almost taste the sun kissed grapes in the glass . . .

Marseillan
Marseillan

Marselan is a fairly new discovery for French wine makers. It was first grown in 1961 at the Domaine de Vassal near the town of Marseillan on the Mediterranean coast of France. The Domaine is a research centre and is home to a collection of pre-phylloxera grapes that was created in 1876. The collection is a huge data bank that is used to identify long lost grapes and to create new varieties. Marseillan itself is one of the oldest villages in France, having been founded by the Greco/Phoenicians.and the port is a heritage site. Marselan was bred by the famous ampelographer Paul Truel. It’s a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache and exhibits the virtues of both.

The aim of crossing these two well known grapes was to get a grape variety with the structure and elegance of Cabernet Sauvignon and the colour, robust depth and heat tolerance of Grenache. Marselan’s stand out characteristics in wines are fine, supple tannins and soft mouthfeel; deep colour and medium body. Marselan wines have the potential to age beautifully too.

Marselan grapes
Marselan grapes

Marselan profile:

  • Flavours & aromas – Marselan wines are packed with warm, juicy flavours of black cherry, cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), raspberry jam, dried fruits (fig, prune – and sometimes sultana) with aromatic notes of dark chocolate, black pepper, liquorice and black olive.

  • Style – Typically smooth and well balanced, Marselan wines are wonderfully expressive. Fresh and fragrant with good structure; they can also be quite complex with a multi layered dimension.

Marselan finds fame in First Growth Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s new venture in China

Being a southern grape variety suited to hot, sunny terroirs Marselan tends to be grown in the Languedoc along the Mediterranean coast and the southern Rhone Valley. However this is a grape that has caught the eye of some seriously heavyweight wine makers who are responsible for top flight wines – Marselan is one of the grape varieties being trialled in Bordeaux for future use. What’s more it has recently found fame as one of the grapes planted in First Growth Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s vineyard in China.

The quay at Marseillan
The quay at Marseillan

In 2009 Lafite partnered with Chinese investment group Citic and invested around 12.5 million euros in a new vineyard situated on the easternmost tip of Shandong Province. The Penglai estate stretches over 25 – 30 hectares and the vineyard is surrounded by 9 km of dry stone walls. The grapes planted were the usual Bordeaux varieties as you would expect but the surprise element was the inclusion of both Syrah and Marselan. An interesting development and one that showed good foresight.

Lafite’s new wine is still in the experimental stages; vintages produced so far are not available to the public. Doubtless, Lafite’s new wine is making waves within the industry and once it hits the market interest in Marselan will take another boost. However if you want to try a taste for yourself you don’t have to wait (or pay the high price) for a First Growth Marselan made wine. Although Marselan is a newcomer it has already gained a following in France and this is on the rise. It has found an anchor here in the UK and we introduced our first Marselan blend last month: Les P’tits Galets 2015, Gold Medal £6.79. It’s the perfect summer red.

Les P’tits Galets 2015, Shiraz, Marselan & Merlot – Gold Medal £6.79pgm

Tasting notes:

A voluptuous blend of Shiraz (Syrah), Marselan and Merlot from the vignerons of Roquemaure in the Gard. Perfectly balanced with silky tannins. Sumptuous and juicy, oozing with flavours of rich, ripe blackberry, liquorice and black cherry with notes of the garrigue (thyme, rosemary and juniper), spice and mocha. Medium bodied, vibrant and bright with a good finish.

Les P'tits Galets 2015 - Gold Medal £6.79
Les P’tits Galets 2015 – Gold Medal £6.79

Food and wine matching:

Blended with Shiraz (Syrah), the classic red Rhone grape, and Bordeaux’s Merlot; Marselan adds a new dimension, bringing beautifully integrated tannins and flavours. Les P’tits Galets is deliciously moreish and the perfect Summer red wine. It’s good with roast lamb, BBQ spare ribs, chorizo, pork, lentil based dishes, porcini mushrooms and chicken.

Enjoy!

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Making the case for Loire Rose

There are many Rose rivals in France with contenders coming from some surprising quarters. Wine lovers are spoilt for choice when picking the Rose that suits their palate thanks to the recent Rose boom in sales and popularity. Our latest additions to the range are Loire Roses . . . read on to discover why they are winners!

morin anjou
Rose d’Anjou

You’ll start to see a lot more Loire Rose, particularly Rose d’Anjou, being promoted as Spring takes hold. It’s on trend now, with some producers already being awarded wine of the week and Loire wines being advertised as some of the best Roses for the upcoming Summer. Loire Rose has been under the radar for some time but back in the 1970s and 80s Rose d’Anjou was the Loire’s iconic pink wine. It’s popularity was immense at the time with bottles selling like hot cakes here in the UK – a little similar to the fad for Prosecco we see today.

However fashions changed and Rose d’Anjou production began to decline. One of the reasons was a shift away from the traditional grapes used to produce Rose d’Anjou. Wine makers began to introduce Cabernet Franc in an effort to create age worthy, weighty, serious wines that inevitably have proved to cost the consumer more. These grapes are better known, with international reputations for the wines they produce. The AOC Cabernet d’Anjou was created and it gradually eclipsed AOC Rose d’Anjou. The other reason was that a lot of wine was mass produced during the boom and subsequently fell foul of wine critics – especially the influential American critic Robert Parker. The end result was that traditional grapes such as Grolleau were ripped out and vineyards replanted with Cabernets.

loire rose
Madame Morin and her Loire Roses made by her husband Raymond

It’s a shame that Grolleau became branded as a lesser grape for, in the right hands, it has plenty of virtues to its credit. Styles change and grapes fall in and out of favour. Now the demand for pale, delicate Roses is on the up and Grolleau fits the bill quite nicely. Behind the scenes wine makers loyal to their traditional grapes have been quietly upping the quality and improving wine making techniques in an effort to shine once more. It’s worked and some of these wines are quite beautifully made.

Today, a new generation of wine enthusiasts are discovering traditional Loire Roses for themselves and finding them rather good.

Grolleau Hits the Jackpot

Grolleau
Grolleau

Grolleau is a grape that no one seems to have heard of; it’s quite rare now and is only grown in the Loire. It’s a descendant of the long forgotten, ancient Gouais Blanc grape which is also an ancestor of Chardonnay, Riesling and Gamay. Grolleau has blue-black grapes that are juicy and sweet. It produces wines that are light bodied and low in alcohol with a lively vibrancy thanks to its high acidity. This freshness coupled with its signature flavour of strawberry and delicate notes of morello cherry, raspberry, white peach and herbs makes Grolleau perfect for Rose production.

The strange Roman tower at Cinq Mars
The strange Roman tower at Cinq Mars

Grolleau’s name is derived from ‘grolle’ meaning ‘crow’ as the grapes are such a deep black colour they are said to resemble the crow’s feathers. The Grolleau grapevine was first discovered at the foot of a strange Roman tower in Cinq Mars la Pile less than 15 miles from Bourgueil, Vouvray and Chinon. The tower is located at the entrance to the village, overlooking the Loire Valley. It dates from the second century and its role remains a mystery. An archaeological dig in 2005 revealed the remains of buildings and terraces around the enigmatic tower, as well as a statue of a high ranking near-eastern soldier. The village is named after the enigmatic tower (which used to have 5 turrets until one was swept off in a storm in 1751).

lr glass
Loire Rose

No one knows how long ago Grolleau was discovered – some say it was as early as the reign of King Henry IV (1589-1610). A Grolleau vine climbing an old pear tree from this era was said to have given the village 200 litres of wine for over 300 years until it died in 1915. In any case, the local wine makers were delighted to find a grape so suited to their climate that produced light and fruity wines. The grape gained the local nickname ‘Groslot de Cinq Mars’ which translates as ‘Cinq Mars’ Jackpot.’ It certainly seemed as if they had won the jackpot with this grape when Britain and the USA fell in love with Rose d’Anjou!

I think there is a lot to be said in favour of using traditional grapes that are indigenous to the wine regions that birthed them. They are suited to the climate and thrive in that environment. A healthy vine produces healthy grapes which in turn produce better wines. In a skilled wine maker’s hands Grolleau’s own unique characteristics can be brought to the fore and the wines it produces will suit many people looking for a light, refreshing Rose.

My recommended Loire Roses:

Rose d Anjou, Domaine du Landreau, Raymond Morin, 2014. £7.39

rose d'anjou morin bottle
Rose d Anjou, Domaine du Landreau, Raymond Morin, 100% Grolleau

Beautifully delicate, fruity Rose d’Anjou. Finely tuned, fresh and elegant. Gentle flavours of crushed strawberry, raspberry and rosehip with a touch of apple, sweet spice and mint. Light bodied, lively and crisp with a subtle hint of sweetness on the finish.

100% Grolleau. 11.5% abv. 75cl.

Food Matching

Being light bodied and 11.5% this Rose d’Anjou is a perfect aperitif but it also pairs beautifully with starters and light suppers. It’s lovely with scampi, crab cakes and crispy calamari; spicy chicken enchilladas, pizza and pate as well as Chinese cuisine.

Rose de Loire, Domaine du Landreau, Raymond Morin 2014 – Silver Medal. £7.79

rose de loire morin
Rose de Loire, Domaine du Landreau, Raymond Morin – Silver Medal. 33% Grolleau

Light, svelte and sophisticated Loire Rose with refined structure and balance. Light bodied, refreshing and very aromatic. Fresh flavours of raspberry, morello cherry and strawberry with notes of rose petals, spearmint and pear. A subtle hint of white pepper and violets on the finish. Supple, fruity and and lively.

33% Cabernet Franc, 33% Grolleau, 33% Gamay. 13% abv. 75cl.

Food Matching

Morin’s Rose de Loire is not only a lovely glass of wine to enjoy on its own but also pairs with appetizers and nibbles; salads (especially Nicoise), quiche, soft cheese (try it with goats cheese!) poultry and fish, white meat pizzas, Mediterranean and Indian cuisine, duck in orange sauce and dark chocolate desserts.

When I found these two lovely wines I fell in love with them and I hope you do too.

Enjoy!