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Saturday, 27 August 2011

How cool is your wine?

 A friend asked me about temperatures for serving wines (she's American and someone said Americans preferred their wines colder than other people!) and she sent me this chart, which seems to make sense:

Wine Serving Temperature Guidelines

Temp F Temp C Notes


Warm Bath




Vintage Port


Bordeaux, Shiraz


Red BurgundyCabernet


RiojaPinot Noir




Tawny/NV PortMadeira


Ideal storage for all wines


Beaujolais, rose












Ice Wines


Asti Spumanti






Fridge Temperature




water freezes

Freezer Temperature

Having replied to her I thought what I wrote might interest others, so here it is:

To bear in mind:
  1. Wines will warm up after opening.  Chilled whites need to be kept cool, and a red which starts at the right temp will usually be a bit warmer at least.  Wines also warm up in the glass.
  2. In the outside temps we have here in the Languedoc in summer, reds usually need to start a bit cooler than ideal so that most of the bottle is consumed at the ideal temperature.  I often put a bottle of red in the fridge for an hour in hot weather for this reason.
  3. The disadvantage of drinking whites and rosés at their 'ideal' temperature is that you lose aromas - often, aromatic whites come out better when they have warmed up a bit.
  4. When tasting at the makers', as we found when we went to the Rhône, the whites are often a bit warmer than ideal and the reds a bit cooler.
  5. There are the same difficulties in restaurants - if they have a reasonable wine list they can't possibly keep all the wines people may choose at ideal serving temperature.  You realise after a while why expensive restaurants are so expensive - it takes a lot of organisation, equipment and staff to make sure it's all ideal.
  6. You will have noticed in your table that there are not many Languedoc or Rhône wines in the list - ideal temperatures for many of the local reds are surprisingly cooler than people may expect.
  7. On the whole therefore, it is not a bad thing to err on the side of coolness - if nothing else, wait  mins and swirl it around and it will warm up nicely.
  8. Most wine tasting situations are for pleasure, not scientific experiments.  I do  own a wine thermometer but rarely use it - more enjoyable things to do!
  9. In the end personal taste is paramount.  If you like something, it is OK for you.
The chart incidentally comes from a website you might want to look at - I have not done more than glanced, but it seems interesting.

    Saturday, 20 August 2011

    Favourites - Domaine Félines-Jourdan (Picpoul de Pinet)

    Picpoul de Pinet is a very local production from the white piquepoul grape in the area round the small village of Pinet north of Mèze.  The wine is seen locally as an ideal accompaniment to the oysters and other seafood from the neighbouring Étang de Thau, but the Jourdan Picpoul is in a different league, richer and more complex, and a favourite white wine of Wine Society buyers and members alike for many years, and now receiving good notices from all over the world.

    When we first went in the mid-1990s there were already also very good VdP wines (a red called Sensations and a barrel aged sweet muscat - still made - which is delicious).  Now Claude Jourdan has built on her success and has AOC red and white wines (the white is mainly Roussanne which we have yet to try, but we're betting it's good!) and a range of vins de pays, many single-cépage, but including two blended wines, a red and a white.  Quite a large range for a fairly small producer, and we are really looking forward to trying them.  Watch this space!  See the website (below) for more information.

    This is a splendid location, flat and open, very near the shores of the Etang.  Finding it used to be one of those peculiarly French adventures involving 2km  of deserted road, although now there are more signs.  But you still need to take care not to end up at the huge déchetterie which collects all the oyster shells from the restaurants and sales along the shore.  From the centre of Mèze you follow Écosite signs and carry on beyond the Ecosite for another km; there are other routes on the map but we discovered that they can lead to divorce or despair!  It is essential to phone ahead to arrange your visit: 04 67 43 69 29.

    Thursday, 18 August 2011

    What we've been drinking - 18/8/11

    Every 2 or 3 weeks we take a trolley of empties to the bottle recycling bin.  It occurred to me to photograph the bottles to provide a snapshot of our drinking.  This time the selection includes one sparkling wine (bright pink and delicious, from Cerdon in the Bugey area of the Ain), 7 whites, 4 rosés and 8 reds.  All French: 11 were AOC and 9 not, 13 came from the Languedoc, 2 each from Bugey and from Bourgogne, and 1 each from the Diois, the Rhône and another part of France.

    Saturday, 13 August 2011

    Chinese whispers

    Thanks to Robin Hicks of the excellent WoW (Hérault What's on Where) website for this.

    Friday, August 12, 2011 at 5:50PM
    French wines fall victim to Chinese counterfeiting

    After designer handbags, perfumes and tablet computers, the latest global success story to fall victim to Chinese counterfeiting is French wine. The process is easy, a vender tells FRANCE 24, and most customers don’t seem able to tell the difference.
    By Sophie PILGRIM

    Copycat kings of the world, the Chinese counterfeit industry has added a new item to its production line: vintage French wine. Impossible to tell a genuine bottle from a fake one, many unsuspecting customers will remain none the wiser until their first sip. And even then, only a connoisseur could taste the difference.

    “A bottle of wine is very easy to replicate,” Sheng Wen*, a wine seller from Shanghai, told FRANCE 24. “The counterfeiters search for original bottles in restaurant trash. Once they’ve got hold of one, they reproduce the label and replicate the bottle. They then buy mid-range bottles of wine from the supermarket, pour them into the fake bottles, and sell them.”

    Wine is relatively new to China, in both its genuine and phony forms. Preferring to stick to Baidu, the gutsy spirit that has been washing down their dinners for centuries, the Chinese viewed wine, until recently, as a Westerners’ drink.

    But after growing acclaim, and – strangely enough – a government campaign promoting its health benefits, wine has become a must-have at swanky dinner parties. For the newly wealthy, it is one of the many luxuries that symbolises their admission to the global elite and emergence from the privations of decades of strict communist rule.  “Wine is seen as a rich person’s drink,” says Sheng. “And that means everyone wants to be seen drinking it.”

    A new penchant for Bordeaux made China and Hong Kong the world’s biggest Bordeaux importers in 2010. Some 33.5 billion bottles made their way into the country, and straight into the dragon’s den of counterfeit expertise. Like any valuable product, it didn’t take long for the fakes to start lining the shelves.

    More money than sense?
    One of the major victims of Chinese counterfeiting is the Chateau Lafite Rothschild ’82, a Bordeaux that has gained more popularity in China than in its home country. Described as “the reference” Bordeaux by Zhongguo Wine, a blog on the Chinese wine market run by two French expats, the price for a bottle shot up by 574% between 2001 and 2010 after sales in China went through the roof.
    Today, a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild from 1982 can fetch up to 5,400 euros. That means around 5,000 euros of profit per bottle for a resourceful counterfeiter -- and there are plenty of those in China. Lucas Botebol, one of the Zhongguo bloggers, estimates that some 70% of the Chateau Lafite sold in the country must be fake due to the fact that the sales numbers vastly outstrip the import figures. “There is more Lafite '82 in China than was produced in France,” Romain Vandevoorde, head of wine importer Le Baron, told AFP. “So you really have to be wary if you find any of that in China.”
    For a European wine merchant who deals in sales to Hong Kong, the figures are not surprising. “I don’t think the Chinese have a clue what they’re drinking,” he told FRANCE 24, on condition of anonymity. “They wouldn’t realise if they weren’t drinking a Lafite because they don’t know what it’s supposed to taste like.”

    The Shanghai vender agreed. “A lot of Chinese people honestly wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a top French wine and something from the supermarket,” he said.

    ‘Drinking a label’
    Wine vender Yang Yi, who owns a wine boutique in the prosperous eastern Chinese city of Suzhou, sympathised with deceived customers. “These people have no idea,” he told FRANCE 24. But Yang described his own customers as “connoisseurs” who would recognise a counterfeit wine from the first sip.  The European merchant we spoke to was not convinced. “The Chinese don’t really like wine. They drink it because it’s the in-thing,” he said. “What sells in China is brands, not tastes; they’re drinking a label.”

    Already overwhelmed by phony laptops, designer handbags and cartons of cigarettes, will the counterfeit police now begin the search for fake winemakers?  “It’s not going to be easy for the police,” says Yang. “You can only tell a wine is fake by what’s inside the bottle. How can they be expected to know what certain French wines taste like?”  The only solution for customers, Yang says, is to buy from a reputable dealer who keeps a close watch on his stock. Is he surprised that there is so much fake wine on the market? “Ha!” he laughs. “The Chinese counterfeit everything. Why do computers and not wine?”

    Friday, 12 August 2011


    Playing music in the Ain département, over the past couple of years we have taken the opportunity to discover the wines of Bugey.  Last year we visited the Caveau Bugiste in the pretty village of Vongnes.  White wines are often excellent in this appellation, made either from Chardonnay or from the local Roussette cépage which gives its name to their Roussette de Bugey. 

    This year we arrived at our music course to be greeted by our host with a magnum of pink fizz.  A demi-sec Cerdon, in fact, which we liked very much.  Later in the week he served a lean, elegant chardonnay from the same cave - I'm drinking a glass as I write.  So on leaving we called in at the caveau of Lingot-Martin not far from the village of Cerdon.  The approach to the vineyards from the higher  ground to the north is dramatic - you wind down the main road towards Cerdon seeing vineyards on the steep valley slopes of the Ain river.  Cerdon is a sub-appellation of Bugey for these sparkling rosés - the reds and whites are plain Bugey.  Red and rosé wines use Gamay grapes - the rosé combined with a local cépage called Poulsard, the red with Pinot Noir.

    More about Bugey and its wines at
    and about the village of Ponçin where Lingot-Martin can be found - a very pretty area - at