Weddings and Fine Wine In the Heart of Burgundy’s Cru Beaujolais…

One of the great rewards of working in the wine trade are the diverse international friendships that are formed while tasting, buying and selling fine wine. This past weekend my wife and I packed our bags and boarded the Eurostar to attend the wedding of my Beaujolais buddy, Geoffray Benat. 


I recently wrote a post about Geoffray’s amazing bistro restaurant Cepages in Westbourne Park Road in Nottinghill, which you can read here…

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2016/11/21/cepages-wine-bistro-a-fantastic-new-addition-to-londons-food-and-wine-scene/

Geoffray and Erika

While Geoffray and his wife Erika now run their successful restaurant together, it was in one of his previous wine sales jobs many years ago that I first made my acquaintance with Geoffray. Of course, the fact that Geoffray’s father owned and ran the excellent Julienas estate of Domaine de Cotoyon was an added extra, and before very long, I was not only buying an array of Languedoc wines from Geoffray but also the superb wines of his father Frederic Benat, produced in Julienas and St Amour. Fast forward 6 or 7 years and finally it was time to visit Geoffray at home in Julienas to celebrate his wedding.

The family winery Domaine de Cotoyon


Vignerons are of course spoiled for choice for wedding wine selections when not only your own family make great wines, but also your best man and several of your close friends also attending the wedding. 

A double rainbow – a fortuitous good luck sign for the couple.
For those travelling from afar, we attended a lovely welcome dinner on the Friday evening at Geoffray’s parent’s house. This was a wonderfully casual family affair gathering outside in a marquee for dinner. The evening proved to be a very useful opportunity to meet all the extended friends and family. 

With Geoffray Benat at home the night before the wedding.
Frederic’s oak aged Julienas 2013
One of the best man’s wines …


Saturday the 1st of July was the big wedding day at the local Mairie or town hall, followed by a most impressively well planned celebratory dinner for 150 people at the local Chateau de Pruzilly.  

But first, an afternoon Vin d’Honneur in the Parc of Chateau Pruzilly followed, where a wider group of friends and family, not just those invited for the dinner, had the opportunity to congratulate the bride and groom with a glass or two of wine… in this case, the lovely Cuvee Reservee Methode Traditionnelle Sparking wine also made by Geoffray’s family. 


6.00pm signalled Champagne, Cocktails, and pre-dinner Canapés in the courtyard of Chateau Pruzilly before the grand banquet officially kicked off at 8pm. Once again, we were plied with never ending amounts of fine Champagne, white Burgundy made by Geoffray’s friends in the Maconnais, and of course magnums of Frederic Benat’s fantastic Cru Julienas 2015 Beaujolais. 

All the tables were named after the Cru’s of Beaujolais

Another prestige Cuvee from the best man.


What a wonderful event celebrating the marriage of a really lovely couple. Also encouraging to see how the whole local vigneron community of friends came out to support the Benat family in celebrating this happy union. 

Friday night quaffing with Frederic Benat
 

All good things must come to an end and so on Sunday we started the long trek back to Paris. A big thank you to Geoffray and Erika and the whole Benat family for your wonderfully welcoming hospitality. I look forward to visiting Beaujolais again soon! 

Another Classic Top Pedigree Chablis From William Fevre…

Another superb highlight from lasts weeks Art of Chablis Tasting comes from a highly renowned producer but from a more modest appellation. The William Fevre Chablis really stood out on the “Village level” tasting table, and in fact was more impressive than many of the 1er Cru Chablis being shown.


Winemakers predicted a good vintage across France in 2015 despite some producers being hit with a hailstorm on the eve of harvest. The Chablis 2015 vintage started off well and it was soon apparent that an early wine harvest was on the cards after the vines flowered in early June, followed by a long, hot and dry July and August. But, dreams of a good vintage were jeopardised by a hailstorm that hit several producers in Chablis on the 1st September, just before the harvest. 


There was a fear of a lack of acidity in 2015’s wines. While all have crystalline purity, some do lack an element of tension and vivacity. The 2015 vintage will however be remembered as a sunny, fruit forward, correct vintage producing very accessible, customer friendly wines.


Domaine William Fevre Chablis 2015

The 2015 village Chablis has a dusty, chalky, austere, wet granite nose with a wonderful crystalline purity and impressive saline notes. Finely poised, the palate is fresh and crisp with a respectable line of acidity framing lovely green apple crunchy fruits, lemongrass, wet straw, pineapple and lime peel nuances. Like all the best 2015s, there is a potent marine, sea breeze influence on the finish of this impressively seamless, harmonious, well balanced wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Noble de Ladoucette Pouilly Fume 2014, 12.5 Abv, Loire…

Pouilly-Fumé and the other Central Loire Vineyards were very fortunate in 2014. Not only did they have a good vintage but they had a fairly generous vintage unlike other parts of the Loire where many producers had their third successive short vintage. In Pouilly quality producers harvested around 60 hl/ha and the quality was high. Indeed, 2014 appears to be similar to a vintage such as 1990 where both the yields and quality were high. 


The colour of this vibrant wine bristles with a lime green tinge to a brilliant bright pale straw yellow. The super complex nose drifts between hints of cut grass, green pepper corns, capsicum, lemon grass, lime peel and crunchy white citrus fruit. Then more nuances of gun flint, struck flint, dusty limestone and wet chalk. Wow, a lot going on here and I haven’t even tasted the wine yet. Every time you return to the glass the wine has revealed another aromatic layer, the sign of true pedigree. The last tangerine aromas becon the first sip. Crisp and crunchy, this wine is harmonious and beautifully balanced, but simultaneously crunchy and bright with tart green apple acidity, cut grass, gooseberry fruits, and a lemon – lime marmalade concentration. The finish is pithy, spicy, and cool with a grassy, herby verve. A seriously complex, accomplished wine from one of the best white vintages in the Loire valley in over a decade. Buy this beauty while you can!

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Drinking Domaine Huet Perlant Vouvray 1959 Demi Sec, Loire… at The Remedy Wine Bar…

I had a wonderful opportunity last week to drink a few glasses of this beautiful old Chenin Blanc from Domaine Huet at the fabulous Remedy Wine Bar in London. It’s old, it’s Chenin Blanc… What else could you ask for? Seriously!


Rich, caramelized yellow peaches, sweet honey combe, ripe and intense. Palate is expansive with soft sweet yellow fruits, no edges, and a profound peach confit finish. The length and complexity are beguiling, intriguing. The bubble has dissipated but the complexity is impressive. Just love the coffee bean and crisp caramel brittle intensity. A great vintage, superb depth, beautifully aged wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Peter “Pingus” Sisseck Crafting Magic at Chateau Rocheyron in St Emilion…

Château Rocheyron takes its name from its location, Rocheyron. Sharing a boundary with Château Laroque along one side of the estate, its history is linked with that of the neighbouring vineyard, classed as a Grand Cru Classé.


In 2010 Silvio Denz, a co-owner of Clos d’Agon in Spain (Catalonia) and Peter Sisseck, the oenologist of Clos d’Agon, indicated their interest in buying Château Rocheyron under the AOC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru.

Peter Sisseck is off course a native of Denmark, who came to the Bordeaux winegrowing region to spend some time with his uncle Peter Vinding-Diers (of Rustenberg fame), an oenologist working in Bordeaux at the time. Peter then settled in the Spanish Ribera del Duero region in 1990, acting as a consultant oenologist to a major winegrowing estate. In 1995 he created the estate Dominio de Pingus and his first wine, Pingus.


Château Rocheyron now gives Peter the opportunity to rediscover the characteristics of the great wines and terroirs of Bordeaux. Every vintage shows improvements as Peter slowly masters his new Rocheyron terroir and the 2016 probably represents his finest, most complete Bordeaux expression to date.

Chateau Rocheyron 2016 St. Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux (En-primeur Cask Sample)

The fabulous 2016 is comprised of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. This embryonic red, tasted as a barrel sample, is beautifully cool and focused with a fine creamy suave texture and plush, concentrated fruit intensity. Impressive breadth and balance showing tart black cherries, kirsch liquor, red currants and a blue berry opulence. There is very fine clarity and purity and everything about this wine exudes classical precision and finesse. Peter himself regards this as his best effort to date, even surpassing his mighty impressive Rocheyron 2015. A legendary wine in the making. 

(Wine Safari Score: 96-97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Tasting Chateau La Croizille Saint Emilion Grand Cru, the New Kid on the Cote…

I first visited the impressively modern Château La Croizille winery in St Emilion at En-primeur time in 2015. Prior to that, I’d only ever cast a curious eye over its large, orange, modern-art tasting room that protrudes from the limestone cote, across the way from Chateau Tetre Roteboeuf. I had never tasted the wines and had never seen them in the UK market, the Claret capital of Europe.


The reason for this relative obscurity perhaps lies in the fact that La Croizille is a St Emilion Grand Cru estate that originally was acquired by the Belgian De Schepper – De Mour family in 1996 and is sold mostly in the Benelux. The 5 hectares of vines belonging to the Château benefit from the same remarkable soils, on the borders of the clay-limestone plateau of Saint-Emilion in the commune of Saint-Laurent des Combes, as Chateaux such as Tetre Roteboeuf and Troplong Mondot.


After 1996, the De Schepper family commenced on a large investment spree, bringing the estate into the modern winemaking era, combining its sought after terroir with high-end technology and traditional know-how to create a wine with great opulence, finesse, modernity and personality.


This winery is a rising Saint Emilion star which you’ll read a lot more about in years to come. Already, the winery’s more recent vintages have garnered several 90 plus point scores from international critics including James Suckling and Decanter Magazine. Buying a few cases of the opulent 2015 or intense 2016 could be a very smart choice.


Tasting Note: Chateau La Croizille Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2012, 13 Abv. ~ A dark cherry black opaque colour greets the drinker. Initially, the nose is broody and closed. But a little glass swirling and coaxing starts to elicit some of the more classical elements of the bouquet… black berry, black cherry pith, cassis, dusty limestone minerality, hints of graphite and a gloss of buttered brown toast. The oaking is almost imperceptible, revealing a very restrained and quite classical expression from this “drinking” Bordeaux vintage. The palate has all the sleekness, suppleness and accessibility that you’d expect from a 2012. A soft fine grained texture, polished powdery tannins, chalky grip and spicy, plummy, peppery black cherry and black berry fruit. It’s all packed into a very classical, medium bodied parcel, that delivers pleasure now but also suggest it is structured enough to be holding back a few surprises in reserve for drinkers in 5 to 8 years time.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 3: Chateau Duhart Milon Moulin de Duhart 2012, Pauillac, 12.5 Abv.

Chateau Duhart Milon has long been overshadowed by its bigger Pauillac brothers Carruades de Lafite and Lafite Rothschild. But circa 2005, the tide began to turn and Duhart Milon started to command the prices of a proper top quality Pauillac Cru Classe. Much of this was certainly thanks to China’s love affair with the Rothschild brand Portfolio, but quality advancements at the estate were also clearly evident.


Château Duhart Milon’s second wine is selected on the same basis as the “Grand Vin”. In general, the grapes are from the younger plots in the vineyards and Moulin de Duhart has therefore several characteristics similar to the grand vin, but with less potential for ageing due to its shorter barrel ageing period, and as such, should be consumed younger than its more robust big brother. The origin of the name comes from the former presence of a windmill on the Carruades plateau, next to the Duhart-Milon vineyard.


The cepage in 2012 consists of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon and 47%Merlot, which is aged in 2 year old French oak barrels for 10 months, producing 7,000 to 12,000 cases per annum. 


The 2012 vintage was characterized by difficult weather conditions in the Bordeaux region. After a relatively mild winter, the spring was mostly wet and rainy, especially April, which brought a violent hail storm on the 24th. Such conditions hampered fertilization, leading to fears of reduced yields. Work in the vineyard was as vital as ever. June and July alternated heat and humidity. The weather became more stable from the beginning of August, enabling the grapes to finish ripening in good conditions. 
Nevertheless, there was considerable variation in their degrees of ripeness and a great deal of sorting work was carried out by the Chateau’s teams from the end September.


Tasting Note: Lovely, classical expressive Pauillac nose that’s superbly fresh and vibrant, bristling with notes of black currant, black cherry, baked black plums, roasted caramelised almonds, blue berry crumble and buttered white toast. The oak is seamless and beautifully integrated, just melting into the dark fruit nuances. The palate entry is light and effortless, with the fruit rolling around on the palate like a wine tasting in zero gravity. There is seamless cherry and black berry complexity, a pithy spicy vanilla pod lick and a very elegant, fine, focused finish. This is the consummate second wine… earlier drinking, fresh, vibrant, lighter textured and a positively quaffable vin de soif with bells and whistles. Drink now to 2020.

Second Wine Rating: Beautifully expressive wine with a light touch. Buy!

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)