An Extreme-ly Good Year
Buying Assistant Marion Adam gets the lowdown from our European producers on the 2018 vintage - a year of weather extremes. 2018 Vintage Review 2018 was the ...
You might have seen the dramatic images in the press last weekend of wine growers in Chablis taking desperate measures to avoid the total loss of this year’s crop, due to frost damage. After weeks of warm weather prior to the weekend, the newly emerged vine buds were at severe risk of frost. Budburst is one of the most crucial parts of the vine life cycle, as it starts the formation of what will later become the grapes. If the temperatures go below zero, as was the case at the weekend, the development of the buds might be stopped and will therefore impact the yields of the vintage: decreasing volumes and driving prices up. To fight against frost, the Chablis producers, who were already severely affected last year, turned to radical actions in order to limit the damage. There are different techniques employed in order to warm up the soil: Wind machines - sometimes helicopters – these direct warmer air from an inversion layer above, downward around the vines and displace the colder air on the ground away from the vineyard. Over-vine sprinklers – the water freezes the canes and buds in ice, releasing small amounts of heat that protects the vines from damage. The growers need enough water until the temperatures rise above 3 degrees, otherwise it would destroy the production. Heaters (snudge pots), seen employed by our grower Chavy-Chouet in the image above, which heat the air around the vines to prevent frost damage. All wine regions are at risk of frost but especially in Burgundy, Champagne and Sancerre, where the climate is more continental, with large temperature swings between summer and winter.
Interview with Sophie from Franc Cardinal
Following her visit to London last week, Marion spoke to Sophie from Château Franc Cardinal for the blog. Marion: Hi Sophie, it was lovely to have you here in London. Given it was the first time you’ve visited our offices in London, what were your first impressions? Sophie: It was very refreshing! The team is young, dynamic and professional. You step in and you immediately feel that the chemistry works there. What’s more the level of wine knowledge is really high and it is very comforting to know that your wine has been chosen as part of the portfolio. Marion: How do you think the English market is different to France or other places you export to worldwide? Sophie: I don’t know if it’s that different, but the atmosphere is quite unique: There is an incredible energy in London which you feel immediately and that’s what I like about it. I am positive England can be a key place for us. Plus it’s a good opportunity to get a good dose of English humour from time to time! Marion: What drew you to work in wine in the first place? Sophie: I started out in Cognac, which isn’t too different from wine. Like most French people, my family drunk wine with every meal, so I grew to love it from an early age. I liked wine so much that I started going to wine classes to find out more - our teacher must have been pretty good as the whole class decided to go into something wine-related. My husband Philip and I later purchased our own vineyard, but we had some time beforehand to figure out what we did and didn’t like. Marion: Why did you choose to set up your winery in Francs Côtes de Bordeaux? Sophie: We looked around a lot of different places, but Francs Côtes de Bordeaux was perfect for us. It’s excellently located, just a short distance from both St. Emilion and Pomerol. Not only is the terroir here fantastic here as you’d expect, but the surrounding countryside is magical as well. We fell in love with the cherry-tinted aromas and the smoothness of the tannins in the wines produced here. They were just amazing! Marion: What are your priorities for the coming year? Sophie: Spending time in the vineyard making Franc Cardinal! We’ve been farming organically for 6 years now and we are very happy with the results. We’ve had a great response to the wines which goes to show that Bordeaux is not just about big names and big prices. I think our wine shows that we can offer something fantastic for a very fair price. We just have to get that message out there and let people see what great wines our little vineyard can produce.
Quality from a French cooperative
I feel really lucky to have grown up in the south of France and I regularly go back to visit family and friends. This time, I stayed an extra day to go to the Cave Cooperative d’Estezargues , located between the Pont du Gard and the former Pope’s Capital of Avignon. The village of Estezargues used to be a Roman fortress, with a castle the top of the hill and vineyards, forests and olive trees surrounding it below. Wine has been an integral part of the culture here, and a statue of Bacchus and Diane that was discovered here in 1896 is now on dispalay at the Louvres. When I arrived, I met with Denis, the director of the cooperative. He was wearing his “London” t-shirt, a little sign of his appreciation for Roberson, and we jumped in a car to head off and see the different parts of the vineyards. I learnt that the vineyards in the Signargues Plateau are planted in soils composed of red stone pebbles, deposited by a prehistoric river. This area is classified as Côtes du Rhone Village, and the plots downhill are mostly limestone and sand. Viticulture in this area is actually quite recent- before the 60s, most of the land was dedicated to the arboriculture and apricot/cherry orchards. As some of the soil was not fertile enough for growing fruit, vines were planted, mainly Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Carignan. The Cooperative has been going since 1989, and was started up by Jean-François Nicq. Jean-François got ten wine makers to work together and share resources, whilst simultaneously retaining their individuality in their wines. The cooperative have a great focus on sustainability - half of the production is certified organic while the rest is cultivated following the principles of Terra Vitis. All of the wines are made naturally (no filtration, natural yeast, no added chemicals). Denis and I tasted some wines, including the Domaine de Pierredon and Domaine d’Andezon, both reflecting the warmth of the terroir with notes of delicious ripe fruits. They are both delicious to taste now or to lay down for a few years and will go perfectly with anything meaty and flavourful. These are some of the best-value wines in our range, and it's hard to believe that these are cooperative wines!
Apéro - the best way to drink
With the Euros underway, everyone in England will be heading down to the pub, while the French prefer to celebrate in their own way, enjoying an apéro in their gardens and homes. Prendre l’apéro is a special time, before lunch or more generally dinner, when you relax and share food and wine with friends and family at home. As a food obsessed nation, we bring all sorts of small plates and easy drinking wines that you would have bought on your way to the “party”. This ritual can take a couple of hours depending on the conversation and if you have planned dinner afterwards (if not, it is called an apero dinatoire). We usually bring to the table savoury biscuits, stuffed olives and mix of nuts which go really well with a light and refreshing white like Muscadet from Domaine des Cognettes 2014 . However, you will also find regional food such as tapenade on toast (olive paste from Provence) to enjoy with a glass of rosé like Mas des Dames Rosé; Saucisson brioché from Lyon with a glass of Beaujolais like Château des Pertonnieres or Colioure anchovies with olive oil on toast with some Picpoul de Pinet from Domaine des Lauriers 13 Vents 2015. The pairings are a perfect reflection of the diversity of the French culinary culture and how well the food and wines are defined by terroir. So if you fancy something different to beer while you’re watching the football this summer, why not grab a few of these bottles and throw an apéro à la française? PS: Allez les Bleus!
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