Posted on

A Sparkling Showstopper for Christmas

Have yourself a very merry Christmas with a sparkling showstopper to set the tone. There are a myriad of sparkling wines to choose from, so . . . where do you start? We recommend you commence celebrations with a Cremant. Not just any Cremant mind you, a real dazzler. One of our best discoveries has been de Chanceny Cremant de Loire Brut. You could easily mistake de Chanceny for an elegant Champagne; in fact, it’s made exactly the same way. It smacks of quality, is delicious to the last sip and is the perfect aperitif.

  • Priced at £11.99 this is a stunning sparkling wine from the talented vigneron Eric Laurent who is the Cellar Master of the Cave des Vignerons de Saumur; famed for its catacombs deep underground in Saint Cyr. It’s excellent and would go down a treat at Christmas.

An ancient centre of Angevine viticulture, Saumur is renowned for its sparkling wines and Champagne House Taittinger has a base here. The region has all the same advantages for sparkling winemaking as Champagne: the same northern cool, climate and the same chalk and limestone soil.

  • The historic town of Saumur is part of the Loire Valley and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It lies between the Loire and Thouet rivers and the skyline is dominated by its huge medieval castle that towers over the town.

There are miles of caves in and around Saumur and along the cliffs on the river front you will see the facades of houses, carved out of the soft limestone, fronting underground dwellings, museums and workshops . . . and wine cellars. The underground cellars have a constant temperature and humidity level making them ideal for the aging of sparkling wines. Eric uses the same method as Champagne producers (the Méthode Champenoise) to make his de Chanceny Cremant, which means that the second fermentation occurs in the bottle. The wine then spends 18 months aging before disgorging to develop an incomparably fine bead. The result is a very fine Cremant indeed, and one that you would be hard pressed to differentiate from Champagne.

  • De Chanceny matches with a whole range of foods from party nibbles to a four course dinner. It’s refreshing effervescence is lovely with rich creamy dishes, seafood, poultry, feathered game or pates and its refreshing citrus flavours pair well with fruity desserts and sorbets. It’s also great with hot and spicy appetizers, pastries and finger food.

Tasting Notes

A fine mousse of bubbles and persistent delicate bead. Nervy, fresh and complex with a luscious creamy mid palate. Flavours of pear, peach and lemon with notes of jasmine, leafy mint and lime blossom. Undertones of brioche and almonds with a lovely chalky minerality. Long lingering quince scented finish. Cellaring potential 5 years.

65% Chenin Blanc, 20% Chardonnay, 15% Cabernet Franc. 12% abv. 75cl.

Posted on

The Claret Guide to Christmas

Have you ever wondered why turkey is synonymous with Christmas Dinner? And why Claret is the traditionally wine of choice to accompany it?

We have been enjoying turkey at our festive feasts for over 400 years. It’s said that turkeys were brought to Britain in 1526 by Yorkshireman William Strickland . . . he acquired 6 birds from American Indian traders on his travels and sold them for tuppence each in Bristol. Turkeys caught on amongst the nobility and upper classes, making Strickland a wealthy man. By the time Queen Elizabeth I was in power Strickland was a member of parliament, with a turkey emblazoned on his coat of arms and a stately home in Boynton, near Bridlington.

Claret, on the other hand, has been around for much longer. The British have been quaffing it since the 12th century. King Henry VIII was the first King to have turkey served at his banquets and at Hampton Court Palace Claret spilled from a magnificent fountain as part of his lavish entertaining. Claret was already the tipple of choice when turkeys arrived in Britain. The tavern ‘The Pontacks Head’ in London was famous for its Claret and is a good example of how Claret has been part of our society for centuries. Sir Christopher Wren, Samuel Pepys, Daniel Defoe, John Locke and Jonathan Swift all drank there. Incidentally, ‘The Pontacks Head’ was established by the onetime owner of Premier Cru Chateau Haut Brion, or ‘Ho Bryan’ as Samuel Pepys called it.

Before turkey became widely available, goose, capon and pheasant were eaten at festivities. Royalty would have dined on swan and peacock. Claret pairs very well with feathered game, and as was subsequently discovered, pairs beautifully with turkey too. Turkey is actually a variety of pheasant. Being a big, juicy, fat bird it soon replaced other feathered game on the table.

By 1720 around 250,000 turkeys were walked from Norfolk to London. They were separated into small flocks; had their feet dipped in tar to protect them and began their long journey to market in August. Nowadays we get through over 10 million of them!

By the time Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837 turkey was becoming more widespread. The Queen had it served for Christmas dinner. Needless to say, her cellars also contained 16 hogsheads of Claret (Chateax Lafite, Latour, Gruaud Larose and Margaux). Charles Dickens was also a fan. His book ‘A Christmas Carol’ was an instant sensation in 1843 and thanks to his tale of Scrooge buying a large turkey for the Cratchit’s Christmas dinner, turkey’s popularity had another boost. Dickens had excellent taste in Claret too; his cellar held Clarets from Chateaux d’Issan, Brane Mouton (now Premier Cru Mouton Rothschild), Margaux and Leoville amongst others. As well as giving more recipes for turkey than other birds, Mrs Beeton’s famous cook book from 1861 also has a section on Claret for the discerning housewife.

Turkey was associated with feasting at Christmas right from the very beginning, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that it became synonymous with Christmas dinner. This was down to the advent of freezers and fridges which made turkey more accessible and affordable. You can say the same thing for Claret . . . there’s a good one available for every pocket nowadays.

Claret tips

The bottle
Claret comes in a Bordeaux Bottle. These have straight sides, pronounced high shoulders and usually have a deep ‘punt’ at the bottom of the bottle. The bottles are made from green coloured glass. This distinctive shape dates back to the 1840s and evolved with storage in mind. As Claret is aged on its side to keep the cork moist, the high shoulders and punt trap and keep sediment away from the cork.

The glass
Purists will argue that you need a specific glass to be able to enjoy each different style of wine to perfection. Generally Claret, as with most red wines, is drunk in a large glass with a tall bowl that narrows slightly at the glass opening. This type of glass allows the aromas to come through and the bowl shape gives a larger surface area which makes the wine taste smoother.

The label
A Claret ( a word introduced by the English to described a red wine produced in Bordeaux), won’t have ‘Claret’ on the label (unless it’s been bottled with instruction from a UK a wine merchant as a house wine). Claret comes from Bordeaux and labels will show either ‘Bordeaux’ or the appellation that the claret comes from (e.g. Fronsac, St Emilion, Margaux etc). The label will show the name of the chateau, the vintage (year the claret was made) and sometimes the winemaker’s surname in small print at the bottom. Most Claret labels have a monochrome drawing of the chateau and its vineyards on the label, although a small minority do go in for coloured artistic labelling instead.

The cork
Most Clarets have traditional corks as stoppers but some use plastic corks to avoid cork taint. If you spot a green, blue or red stamp on the foil over the top of the cork/bottle this means your Claret was destined for the French market. The stamp is a sign that the French duty has been paid (equivalent of 2p a bottle in 2015). Traditionally, wines destined for the UK market have no stamp on the foil, however, bottles do appear with this stamp in the UK which has no meaning. Duty in the UK has to be paid to HRMC (the tax office) prior to the wine being received by any wine merchant’s point of sale. This is dealt with by recognised and qualified shippers operating on an importers licence. The purpose of foil on a bottle incidentally is for decoration and traditionally to stop cork weevil!

How to buy
There are Clarets for every pocket. At Bordeaux Undiscovered we don’t sell them for less than about £7.50. There is a reason for this. According to a recent survey out of a £5 bottle bought in the UK less than 20p is allocated to the cost of the wine. The remaining £4.80 is absorbed into the costs of the duty, vat, shipping, labelling, cork, production, bottling and the bottle. The duty cost plus vat alone amounts to £2.50. If all the costs involved in producing a bottle of wine other than the wine itself are deemed to be fixed costs, it comes to reason that for every £1 spent above £5 . . . 83p (£1.00 less 20% vat) will be attributed to the cost of the wine. Which means in theory, the quality of the wine should be more than 4-fold! This is also where quality comes in. Claret is not mass produced in the way New World Wines can be and Bordeaux has had centuries of refining its winemaking and legal control techniques (appellation controlle). Bordelaise Clarets are among the most sought-after wines in the world. The Clarets we choose to bring to the UK have all been rigorously (and enjoyably, I might add) tasted with and without food, time and again. They are all of superb quality and come from amazing chateaux that we have taken the time to research and track down.

Clarets and Christmas Dinner

Clarets pair well with most meats (venison, duck, pigeon, pheasant, guinea fowl, goose etc). They are superb with roast beef and roast lamb. We have selected a few of our Clarets that will pair beautifully with turkey. If turkey is on your Christmas table this year, why not try a selection from the list below and experience the delights of your meal with a Claret and turkey pairing? Enjoy!

Chateau Pradeau Mazeau 2015 – Gold Medal £7.99
Rich and smooth Left Bank style Claret with a beautiful palette of aromas. Fine tannins and good structure. Nice ripe flavours of blackcurrant, black cherry and plum with notes of oak, laurel, liquorice and leather. Fresh, very smooth in the mouth with a long lingering finish. Cellaring potential 2 – 5 years.

Chateau Chadeuil 2015 – Gold Medal £7.99
Classic Right Bank Claret and a customer favourite. Medium bodied, supple and smooth with well balanced tannins. Flavours of ripe blackberries, roasted coffee beans, spice and black cherry with a touch of vanilla.

Chateau Fougere La Noble 2015 – Gold Medal £8.99 (reduced from £10.99)
Vibrant, rich and juicy Claret with good structure and silky tannins. Right Bank in style with lovely layers, intense aromas and great depth. Flavours of blackberry compote, plum and liquorice with delicate notes of blueberry and baked cherry underlined by nuances of oak. Fresh, lively and very moreish in style

Chateau Pierrefitte 2014, Lalande de Pomerol £16.99
Beautifully rich Right Bank Claret from Lalande de Pomerol. This is the Second Wine of Chateau Perron and it smacks of class. Graceful, perfumed and complex with good tannic backbone. Layered flavours of ripe blackcurrant, black raspberry and black cherry with notes of truffle, sweet anise and oak. Lovely floral and fruity nose. Buy it whilst you can, this is bound to be extremely popular amongst Claret lovers!

Les Caleches de Lanessan 2010, Haut Medoc £18.99
Sumptuous Left Bank Claret. This is the Second Wine of Chateau Lanessan and its quality really stands out. Full bodied, juicy and smooth. Lush flavours of ripe blackberry, damson and juicy blackcurrant with warm notes of oak, cedar and vanilla. Lovely faint hint of rose petals on the nose. Great length and richness. Cellaring potential 6 years.

Saint Julien 2006 – Saint Julien £19.50
A Declassified Bordeaux from top a flight, prestigious Left Bank Grand Cru Classe Chateau. Anonymously made (we must keep the secret) and truly superb; this wine has the same pedigree and provenance of the chateau’s Grand Vin but is a fraction of the price. Sophisticated, smooth and brooding, ‘Saint Julien’ has exceptional structure. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the blend and brings flavours of black cherry to the fore; followed by cassis and blackberry with smoky hints of dark chocolate, forest floor and spice. Undertones of tobacco and toast. The finish is elegant and long. Cellaring potential 12 years.

Chateau Soussans 2011 – Margaux £20.49
A great representative of the Margaux appellation. Supple and seductive Left Bank Claret with luscious flavours of blackberry liqueur, blueberry and mulberry. Notes of truffle, graphite and violets. Plush, perfumed and lively. Cellaring potential 15 years.

Pauillac 2011 – Pauillac £23.99
A Declassified Bordeaux from top a flight, prestigious Left Bank Grand Cru Classe Chateau. Anonymously made (we must keep the secret) and truly superb; this wine has the same pedigree and provenance of the chateau’s Grand Vin but is a fraction of the price. Sophisticated and subtle with deep flavours of cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), black cherry and ripe raspberry. Notes of cedar, liquorice and spice. Complex, well layered and satiny smooth

Posted on

What is Sauternes?

Sauternes is white and it’s sweet . . . and it only comes from Bordeaux. It’s famous, classic and pretty much timeless. It’s one of the most sought after wines in the world and yet nobody seems to know about it . . . unless you are a wine boffin or belong to an older generation.

Nectar of the gods
  • It’s famous, and has been for centuries. Sauternes’ highly prized wines are often called ‘Liquid Gold’ and ‘Nectar of the Gods’. Once tasted, you’ll understand why.

  • It’s classic as Sauternes has been drunk as a dessert wine or after dinner drink by discerning royalty and nobility the world over. Think Port, but ‘white’. However unlike Port, Sauternes isn’t fortified. It’s pure, unadulterated genius in a glass.

  • It’s timeless because this is a long lived wine. A rare few can age in bottle for 100+ years and some of the oldest surviving bottles are said to date back to 1784. A few years back an 1811 Premier Cru Sauternes, Chateau d’Yquem, sold for £75,000.
Sauternes pairs with seafood, creamy dishes, fruit, nuts, cheese, desserts and pates

Total these all up and you are starting to get the picture. Add in the exquisite flavour, the heavenly aromas and lingering finish and you’ll see why Sauternes is so special.

What does it taste like?

Sweetness doesn’t have to mean cloying, sticky or syrupy. Sauternes is so amazingly balanced that with the sweet you get the sour. In the case of these wines ‘the sour’ is a mouthwatering zesty acidity that cuts through its honeyed tones.

  • These wonderful wines have flavours of apricots, peaches, dried pineapple, nuts and honey and the finish lasts on the palate for a long time. Their colour is gold which darkens with time to a deep copper.
While Sauternes has mysterious origins it has been around since the late 1600s

Of course you don’t have to pay out £75,000 to enjoy a glass for yourself. These sweet wines can be expensive, it’s a labour of love for the winemaker as it’s difficult to make. It’s said that one grape vine only makes enough juice to make one glass of Sauternes. But the fact that this mysterious, half forgotten wine flies under the radar works well for us Brits. Sauternes covers 5 communes and there are a myriad of small producers fighting the odds to produce this ambrosia. Therefore bargains can be found and, what a bargain they are!

If you’d like to learn more check out our Bordeaux AOC pages where you can discover more on the history and heritage of Bordelaise sweet wines.

Posted on

Our Wines of the Week – New Feature

We’ve been running a new feature at Bordeaux-Undiscovered that seems to be going down very well. Each week we have placed one of our success stories under the spotlight and given you the low down on it. If you’re quick and catch one in date you’ll get 10% off the Wine of the Week being featured at the time.

In case you missed out here’s an update so far:

Wine of the Week: Chateau Beausejour, Fronsac Claret

Fronsac, dubbed the ‘Bridesmaid of Bordeaux’ (the Telegraph, September 2012) has recently caught the attention of the Independent (May 2017) with one of this appellations’ red wines making it into their ‘Best Buys’. We’re not surprised. The surge in Fronsac’s popularity has been a long time coming but it’s starting to make waves once more.

We’ve pioneered the introduction of petit chateaux (small producers) to the UK and highlighted many overlooked hidden gems from long forgotten regions. And we’ve been banging the drum for Fronsac since 2006 when we brought our first Fronsac claret to UK. We’ve been watching the wine press in the UK catch on to Fronsac in the ensuing years (the Telegraph got up to speed in 2014, including Fronsac amongst ‘lesser-known Bordeaux wines you’d be mad not to try’). We have continued to source excellent Fronsac clarets and our customers have quickly cottoned on to these wines’ heritage and quality; making them hot property.

Read more here

Wine of the Week: Cremant de Loire ‘Morin’ Rose – Gold Medal

Cremants are so good they are a great alternative to Champagne and knock the spots off Prosecco any day. Here in the UK sales of these French sparkling wines have been booming for good reason. Priced midway between Prosecco and Champagne, Cremants have been the ‘go to’ drink in France for parties, functions and weddings for years. Smart, stylish and classy, Cremant has caught on over here.

The British press have spotted this trend and are helping to build momentum with headlines such as ‘Goodbye Prosecco, hello Cremant’ (the Telegraph). We’ve been bringing you excellent Cremants for over a decade, having introduced our first to the UK back in 2007. Once an expensive oddity nestling at the back of the specialist wine merchant’s shop in the upmarket part of town, Cremants are now becoming much more available. They are still a rarity but you no longer have to be a wine buff to spot one.

Read more here

Wine of the Week: Rose d’Anjou, Domaine du Landreau, Raymond Morin

Is there such a thing as an iconic Anjou? Well, yes, there is. But you won’t have heard many wine boffins bang on about it. Once the nation’s favourite, Rose d’Anjou is a retro wine. Back in the 1970s and 80s this 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, as with most booms, there came a bust. There was a backlash against Rose d’Anjou as wine drinkers from that era moved on and turned their noses up at it. Wine snobbery has lot to answer for. A whole generation have missed out thanks to a swing in fashion . . . but that’s changing rapidly.

Read more here

Wine of the Week: Pech Notre Dame Chardonnay

Limoux is being credited as the region that made ‘Chardonnay chic again’ (the Guardian) and it has plenty of wine critics nodding their heads in agreement with Victoria Moore of the Telegraph acknowledging she has ‘a real soft spot for this stuff’. The big question is why?

It’s a simple answer. It’s seriously good. So good that it’s being compared to Chablis or White Burgundy. And it’s inexpensive. Both White Burgundy and Chablis are made with Chardonnay but in Limoux this grape is in its element.

Read more here

Posted on

A heads up. Winning wines that fly under the radar: Chateau La Fleur Morange ‘Mathilde’ 2007

The ‘Everyday Bordeaux’ selection is held every year and the panel have to whittle down a huge number of Bordeaux wines to find the select few. The Everyday Bordeaux Selection is the very best of what Bordeaux has to offer; focusing on value for money, flavour and diversity. Recently I’ve been giving you the heads up on our wines that were picked out by the panel at this event. This was the first time we decided to present a few of our wines to the panel and it’s been a great success with 7 of our wines being picked out! The panel consisted of Richard Bampfield (Master of Wine) and a group of experts covering independent wine professionals, consultants and Bordeaux accredited tutors.

Mathilde, Second Wine of Chateau La Fleur Morange

I was really pleased to see that Chateau La Fleur Morange ‘Mathilde’ was chosen by the experts. This is an incredible Merlot made by Jean-Francois Julien. Merlot originated in Bordeaux and most of it goes into Claret. However some chateaux make a statement wine from Merlot that knocks the socks off other Merlots from other countries. A good Merlot shouldn’t burn out. Fruit bombs tend to suffer from fatigue; one quick burst of power and then they are exhausted. This is where Bordeaux really comes into its own, producing velvety Merlots with good structure and layers of fruit to enjoy is one of Bordeaux’s strengths.

La Fleur Morange’s vines in St Pey d’Armens

Top flight Bordeaux Merlots are the flagships here and are at the pinnacle of their game: Chateaux Petrus, Le Pin and Clinet are famous names that roll of connsoisseurs tongues. They are all superb wines made from Merlot. They all have big price tags to match. However smaller chateaux with lesser profiles also produce incredible Merlots and it is here that true bargains can be found. It’s here that Chateau La Fleur Morange comes into its own. It lies in Saint Emilion and the Merlot on this tiny chateaux’s vineyards is sublime.

Mathilde de La Fleur Morange 2007 – Saint Emilion £19.50*
Tasting note
Often described as hedonistic, Mathilde 2007 is a graceful wine; beautifully smooth with fabulous flavours of black cherry, blueberry, mocha and earthy undertones. Concentrated but pure. Fine tannins and velvety texture.

Panel’s opinion
Intensely pure flavours of dried berries. Lovely integrated tannins with a generous spicy finish.

100 year old Merlot near the Church

Information on the chateau
Mathilde is the Second Wine of Château La Fleur Morange, named after the owners’ little daughter. Unusually for a Second Wine Mathilde is 100% Merlot. There’s a good reason for this. Jean-Francois’ Merlot is his masterpiece. His Merlot vines are 100 years old and they thrive in a soil that is rather special. It’s a mix of sand and clay layers over limestone and ‘crasse de fer’ (iron rich) sub soil – the only complex mixture known to exist in Saint Emilion. This soil is gold dust and happens to be the same iron rich subsoil that produces Chateau Petrus across the border in Pomerol. La Fleur Morange does not have Petrus’ elevated reputation but it’s starting to make huge waves in the wine world. Deservedly so.

The tiny plot covers 4 acres

Jean-Francois’ wine have received high scores from the world’s best critics. Robert Parker, the American wine critic and world authority on wine, scored his 2010 Grand Vin 96+ . . . which beat most of the prestigious Grand Cru Classe hands down. In 2012 La Fleur Morange won its Oscar – it was awarded the rank of Grand Cru Classe. An amazing achievement, and practically unprecedented. All this from a 4 acre plot, a chateau that came into being less than 2 decades ago and a carpenter who discovered he had a genius for wine making. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.

Most dreams are unattainable but Mathilde is. Thanks to being a relative newcomer to the scene it is brilliantly priced which means that you are getting an awful lot more for your money.

*Price correct at the time of writing.