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Friday, 29 April 2011

Favourites - Dupont-Fahn

Last week I was singing a Maundy Thursday Mass (Byrd for 4 voices) with friends at the Dominican Priory in Montpellier.  Between rehearsal and service, we were invited for apéritifs at the apartment of a couple of singers, and among other good wines they offered us a Monthélie.  This is a red Bourgogne from one of the lesser-known villages just south-west of Beaune, and the best are excellent and floral.   This was certainly one of those, an absolute delight made by Michel Dupont-Fahn.  He now also makes wines in the Languedoc since he and his American wife spend part of the year in and around Montpellier, and this like many of his wines has had a good review in Hachette.

It was a real pleasure to find this wine during a pause in our musical day, but not a complete surprise.  The same friends who'd invited us to their flat, Phil and Katharine, had given us an introduction to the family as we prepared for our trip to the Côte d'Or a few weeks earlier.  We had a wonderful few days in the area around Beaune - more of that in other posts - but on the Friday morning we found ourselves heading for the little and very quiet village of Tailly to find Michel's son Raymond who makes wine there.

Tailly is south of Beaune, and a stone's throw from the illustrious vineyards of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet.  So the story takes a fascinating twist - Raymond has (inherited? acquired? I forget the details) vineyards on the borders of classified vineyards in Meursault and P-M, so his wines have every chance of exceeding expectations based on the labels.  His white Bourgogne AOC comes from a vineyard in Meursault recently declassified from grand cru status.

It is not an exaggeration to say that when we sat at his kithcen counter and tasted the 4 white wines he offered us it was one of the best tastings we'd ever experienced.  The wines sang, and although he had none for sale (we look forward with bated breath to the offer of 2010 wines when they are released) the bottle of Bourgogne Chaume des Perrières 2009 he offered us for our wine tasting circle went down a storm, and was awarded a near-perfect score by at least one of us.  Father and son, the Dupont-Fahns are gifted winemakers.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Useful links

Some favourite web links:

Tom Cannavan's Wine Pages - including round-up of weekend newspaper recommendations each week, as well as worldwide information on wines and vineyards.

The wine anorak - Jamie Goode's excellent blog and wine pages for novice and enthusiast alike.

The Wine Society - a never-failing source of good and often excellent wines. You used to have to be a member to access this site but now it is open though you must join to buy, which is easy to do.

The Guide Hachette is one of the main French wine guides, and I buy it every year.  Not quite sure why when this website is so comprehensive and easy to use!  References to all the wines they have reviewed over the past several years.  They say the reviews are independent and based on blind tastings.  French wines only of course and in French!

The British wine mag Decanter has a daily email news alert - you can sign up and also see the latest wine news here:

3D Wines - operate a 'vineyard share' scheme which allows newcomers to French wines an easy way to visit vineyards and purchase good wine.  This helped me start my exploration of French vineyards, when Mary gave me a share in the Domaine Lucien Jacob in the Côte d'Or.

Caves du 41, Nîmes.  Like the better wine merchants in England, cvaistes in France are interesting if only as a source of wines from other regions from the one you happen to be in.  This one, near where we live in the Languedoc, specialises in Languedoc wines and often has vintages that are no longer on sale at the vineyard.  It was also one of the first places we visited on our quest for wine here in the early 2000s.  Its name originally came from its street number in the centre of town, but it seems to have moved to the western outskirts now, and a different number!

Finally the blog of wine blogs, Wine Blogger.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Starting my wine blog

Our early forays into wine drinking were typical of young people in the 1960s-1980s - Mateus rosé in Chinese restaurants as students, Nicolas red Franch table wine and, later, £1 Bulgarian red from Sainsbury's.  My first serious purchase was in the mid-70s when, with my wise friend Malcolm Thomas, I invested in a case of Château Batailley Pauillac, for the princely sum of £2 a bottle.  Sadly I was not sufficiently prudent to avoid drinking my share within a few years, but I still keep a few bottles of a more recent vintage in my cellar.  Oddly we have never been great Bordeaux fans, and this is one of the few clarets I've really taken to, but there is still time for us to widen our horizons there

Since we began to visit France regularly in 1993 we have developed our love of and interest in wine, exploring individual makers and their products in our travels especially through Champagne, Bourgogne, the Rhône and the Languedoc, as well as pursuing our interest in the wines of the world through the exceptional international markets and sales outlets of UK supermarkets and specialist wine suppliers.  Our first close view of French vineyards was in the Drôme, around Die and Châtillon en Diois which we visited frequently through our twinning link, and in the mid-90s I was honoured to be elected a member of the Confrerie de la Clairette de Die.  Soon we began to expand our explorations around the Rhône valley, and also to visit vineyards en route in Beaujolais, Bourgonge and Champagne.

Now we live in France permanently, we are taking every opportunity we can to meet vignerons who are new to us, and to revisit old favourites. Our home area of the Languedoc used to be the source of the famed ‘wine lake’ of the 1980s but over the past 20 or so years has transformed itself into one of the world’s major producers of high quality but affordable wines. This has happened by improving practices in the vineyard and above all in the wine-making process, by changing grape varieties and reducing yields to improve quality. Old varieties like carignan which yielded a lot of mediocre wine are now enjoying a new life producing interesting single-variety wines and blends from older, lower-yielding vines.

We haven’t cut our ties with the UK – in particular I'm a member of the Wine Society which now sells wines in France, and I subscribe to Decanter.  So with a little organisation we have access to a wide variety of reasonably priced New World wines. In addition Spain and Italy are on our doorstep, so gradually we are getting to know more of the wines of southern Europe. This is a voyage of exploration very much in progress and this Blog aims to capture some of the (lucid) moments we enjoy en route.