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The History of A Fine Wine

November 21, 2014 4:08 pm - Posted by Jody in Drink

Château Haut-Brion is a French wine, rated a Premier Cru Classé (First Growth), produced in Pessac just outside the city of Bordeaux. It differs from the other wines on the list in its geographic location in the north of the wine-growing region of Graves. Graves is an important subregion of the Bordeaux wine region and is the only Bordeaux subregion which is famed for all three of Bordeaux’ three main wine types—reds, dry whites and sweet wines, although red wines dominate the total production.

Being from such an historic region Château Haut-Brion has a rich past. Last year Domaine Clarence Dillon the family-owned and managed company,which produces Château Haut-Brion launched a challenge: to discover a written mention of Haut-Brion wine prior 1660 when the wine was contained in the cellar book of King Charles II of England, the oldest known to date. This Historical Challenge was met!

From all of the submissions recorded, two authenticated mentions emerged from the past, or more precisely the beginning of the 16th century. The earliest mention discovered now dates back to 1521, in other words 139 years earlier!

The oldest text is a notarial instrument dated 21 January 15211, discovered in the Gironde Departmental Archives, which concerns a sale of a perpetual annuity in wine between Jean de Monque, a squire and lord of the locality of Monque, and Guilhem de Mailhois, bourgeois, merchant and sergeant of Bordeaux.

This sale is agreed for a sum of 400 Bordeaux francs (a sum that would be equivalent to a current purchasing power of over approximately €50,000). In repayment of this loan, Jean de Monque undertakes to deliver each year “four pipes of wine… from the place known as Aubrion” (equivalent to eight barrique casks or 1,800 l):

« quatre pipes de vin, seront du cru des vignes appartenant audit de Monque du lieu appelé Aubrion, appartenant audit vendeur. Lesquelles sont sises derrière son bourdieu assis audit lieu appelé du Brion, en la paroisse Saint-Martin de Pessac, ensemble des vignes de Pins Bouquet, de la Gravette et de Cantegrit, le tout appartenant audit seigneur de Monque, assis en Graves de Bordeaux et si cas était que ne vint aucuns fruits de raisins qui fussent pour satisfaire lesdites quatre pipes de vin de rente, bon, pur et net et marchand, le dit vendeur sera tenu lui en bailler d’autres aussi bon provenu du cru desdites vignes dessus déclarées ».

[“four pipes of wine, will be from the vineyard (cru) belonging to the said de Monque from the place known as Aubrion, belonging to the said seller. The said vines being found behind his smallholding established in the said place known as Le Brion, in the parish of Saint-Martin de Pessac, all of the vines of Pins Bouquet, la Gravette and Cantegrit, all belonging to the said lord of Monque, domiciled in Graves in Bordeaux, and if there are no grapes to fill the said four pipes of wine as an annuity – good, pure and clean and sellable, the said seller will be obliged to provide him with others that are just as good from the vineyard of the said abovementioned vines”.]

1521 document_all pagesFor the first time, Haut-Brion wine is associated with this extremely specific and prestigious term: Growth. Accordingly, from 1521, this text heralds an evolution spanning over three centuries that would take Haut-Brion to the rank of “First Growth” in the Gironde Wine Classification in 1855.

The second verified instrument is dated 1st September 15262. It is a sale of wine, made before a royal notary in Bordeaux: Esclarmonde de Lagarde, a Bordeaux woman, is selling to Pierre Gassies and Pierre Mulle, who are probably merchants, a quantity of two barrels of wine, equivalent to eight barrique casks: “two barrels of clairet or red wine from the vineyard of Haulbrion in Graves”.

On this date, the year’s grape harvest has not yet been gathered, so it therefore represents a sale on the vine. The quality of the harvest is not yet certain: if it is good, the wine will naturally be concentrated, with a red colour… if it is very average, the colour will be dark pink (clairet)… hence the possibility accepted in the contract.

The most remarkable feature of this instrument lies in the fact that in this business transaction the name of the product sold has been simplified: “wine from the vineyard of Haulbrion”. The reference to the vines and their owner is no longer even present in the trade name. From 1526, therefore, the fusion between the name of the vineyard – or terroir – and that of the wine produced there is already virtually complete. We are very close to the designation “vino de Hobbriono” in King Charles II of England’s cellar book in 1660.

This Château Haut-Brion Historical Challenge has therefore been extremely enriching for the history of this great vineyard and the wines of Bordeaux. We would like to thank and congratulate all those who researched and helped us to go back even further in time to discover evidence regarding the birth and development of what might be the oldest luxury brand in the world: Haut-Brion.

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Nothing is More French than a Trip to Bordeaux

February 21, 2014 2:04 pm - Posted by Jody in Travel

Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

By: The Culture-ist, By Liz Schaffer

bordeaux 2 Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

At the turn of the 21st century, Bordeaux was in trouble. Dusty and lifeless, the once majestic stone city was crumbling. So understandably, contemporary Bordeaux feels a little like a phoenix from the ashes. With eons of soot removed from its opulent medieval churches, Baroque-era facades and Art Nouveau town houses and its once questionable docklands transformed into a playground for the hip and design conscious, Bordeaux is once again a European gem.

Bordeaux architecture Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

Surrounded by the ancient vineyards of Aquitaine and one of the world’s largest UNESCO world heritage sites, Bordeaux now blends Old World elegance with cutting-edge design. It’s a classic French beauty with bite.

Timeless Bordeaux shines bright in the heart of the city. Gothic wonders sit amongst narrow streets and century old squares. There’s the St.-Andre Cathedral, which boast sword-like spires; St.-Seurin Basilica, that sits atop an ancient crypt; and the 18th century Place de la Bourse. This particular attraction comes with a modern twist. An ultra thin miroir d’eau, a haven in the heat, reflects the palace-like building, transforming traditional architecture into contemporary art.

Bordeaux food and wine Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

Tradition also reigns supreme on the food and wine front. Long famed for its culinary prowess, Bordeaux has foodie treasures aplenty. Frequented by Jacques Chirac, La Tupina, and its cuisine de terroir, is both earthy and rich. Here flavours evolve, the cellar is noble, herbs hang from the ceiling and the menu is thoroughly French ““ lamb cooked for seven hours and French fries cooked in duck fat. Similarly, Chapon Fin, one of Bordeaux’s oldest restaurants, is a Mecca for food and history lovers. Dating back to the time of the revolution in 1789, this Art Nouveau restaurant, which comes complete with a grotto, attracted the Paris elite (who were greeted by valets in period attire) and has had Clemenceau, Sarah Bernhardt and Toulouse Lautrec dine at its tables.  Accompanied by perfectly matched wine, their degustation menu is bold, inventive and blissful.

Bordeaux vineyards Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

History also runs thick in the surrounding Chateaus and vineyards. Built largely from stone and prone to glowing in the sunlight, these building, and their wineries, are both imposing and beautiful and come complete with manicured gardens and rich aromas. Wineries can only be visited by appointment so it’s best to join a tour. BordoVino offers small trips with young, wine-loving guides who know the area’s history, impart their wine tasting knowledge (one must see, smell, swirl, smell and savour) and hold rather unconventional degrees.

Bordeaux galleries Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix

It’s the converted docks alone that prove Bordeaux is no longer “˜La Belle Endormie’. Here an old warehouse the once housed German submarines now hold regular art exhibitions, Le Garage Moderne, a junk filled hanger, doubles as a contemporary art gallery and Fonds Regional d’Art Contemporain, which collects the works of contemporary artists, take to heart Bordeaux’s modern sensibility. The piece de la modern resistance is Seeko’o Hotel. With a jagged white exterior that plays with light and shadow, high design décor, electric gadgetry aplenty, mirrored ceilings and a chic air, a night spent here feels like a night spent in a living art instillation. This unorthodox urban landmark proves that Bordeaux can do contemporary. And it can do it remarkably well.

liz shaffer 150x150 Insight: Bordeaux, the French PhoenixAbout the Writer

Liz Schaffer is an Australian-born freelance travel writer and photographer who set up in London hoping to live behind a blue door and fall in love with famous faces. When not pounding the pavements of Notting Hill she’s lost in Antarctica, climbing hills in Patagonia, swimming in the Adriatic and eating her way around Italy. Her work has appeared in Yen Magazine, International Traveller, Sublime, Lost in London and Australian Traveller. Read her articles on her personal blog: http://lizschaffer.wordpress.com/

Feature Photo by  Ted Drake

All other photos by Liz Schaffer

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This article, Insight: Bordeaux, the French Phoenix, is syndicated from The Cultureist and is posted here with permission.
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Beaujolais Nouveau is Here and we Have the Inside Scoop

November 21, 2013 8:07 pm - Posted by Jody in Drink
Beaujolais Nouveau: fruity fun but uncertain future (via AFP)

From the heart of France to the foothills of Mount Fuji and the streets of Washington DC, wine-themed fun was the order of the day Thursday as a new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau was uncorked. As ever, the reviews were mixed for the purply-pink “primeur…

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Each week I like to choose a new wine to introduce to our fans. These wines vary by region, by varietal and even by price. I don’t think cost and value are necessarily related. So I like to focus on wines I have experienced on my travels and I think our fans will enjoy trying. salut!

Costieres de Nimes, France

90 Points — Wine Advocate

The 2007 Trassegum is a blend of 50% Syrah, 25% Carignan, and 25% Mourvedre (all from vines around 80 years old), aged in both tank and barrel for two years. Dense ruby/purple with floral, almost Cote Rotie-like notes of exotic Asian spices intermixed with honeysuckle, black currant, raspberry, and cherry, this is an attractive, delicious, medium-bodied wine with plenty of elegance and complexity. It should drink well for 2-3 years.

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Each week I like to choose a new wine to introduce to our fans. These wines vary by region, by varietal and even by price. I don’t think cost and value are necessarily related. So I like to focus on wines I have experienced on my travels and I think our fans will enjoy trying. salut!

La-Dame-Rousse-Tavel-2010Rhône Valley, FRANCE

Robert Parker on Domaine de la Mordorée:

Robert Parker“This is an estate that was a no-brainer for inclusion in my recent book on the world’s greatest wine estates. With 135 acres spread throughout some of the most impressive appellations of the southern Rhone, Christophe Delorme and his brother took over this estate in the early to mid-1990s and have done nothing but produce one exquisite wine after another. Of course, the top cuvees of Chateauneuf du Pape are rare and expensive, but this is a place to find terrific Cotes du Rhones and Liracs as well. Delorme is equally adept at dry whites as well as reds, and turns out some stunning roses both under the Cotes du Rhone and Tavel appellations.”

-Issue  #169 Feb. 2007

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Collovray et Terrier St Veran “Tradition” 2009

June 14, 2011 10:53 pm - Posted by Jody in Eat

Each week I like to choose a new wine to introduce to our fans. These wines vary by region, by varietal and even by price. I don’t think cost and value are necessarily related. So I like to focus on wines I have experienced on my travels and I think our fans will enjoy trying. salut!

Burgundy, France

TASTING NOTE:

The nose offers aromas of vanilla, apples and white peach. Bone dry, medium bodied and deliciously consistent with the nose. Beautifully balanced with bright acidity and a lovely finish. Enjoy with grilled fish or chicken in a cream sauce. (Add a splash of the wine to the cream sauce to give it a little extra zing.)

(VINTAGES panel, July 2010)

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Champagne Kisses

December 21, 2010 9:00 am - Posted by Jody in Drink

Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life.
- Charles Dickens

As we head into the holiday season a quote from Charles Dickens the author of the seasonal classic A Christmas Carol got me thinking about how celebrated Champagne is and yet how little most wine lovers know about this delightfully bubbly drink.

Champagne is to wine like Kleenex is to tissue or Jello is to gelatinous deserts. It is THE brand.  There are a lot of sparkling wines on the market but only wines from the Champagne region of France can be legally labeled as “Champagne”. All others are simply sparking wine. The Champagne region in Northern France pioneered the method of making bubbly and then through international courts and trademarks essentially protected the rights to the name. However true connoisseurs will tell you that it is the unique terroir of the region that makes true Champagne special, not the branding. This area has a cool climate and chalky soil which is ideally suited for growing the three grapes that can be used for Champagne; Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay.

Champagne as a French wine is detailed and complex and so you really have to read the label to fully understand the product. Champagne comes in several different styles, Blanc de blancs means that the wine was produced from all white grapes (Chardonnay) while  Blanc de noirs means that the Champagne was produced from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or a blend of the two.  The sweetness level of the wine is also important to know. Extra Brut is usually very dry champagne, Brut is dry and Extra-Sec and Sec are usually medium dry wines.Champagne is also divided into Vintage and Non Vintage wine. Non Vintage Champagnes can be made from grapes from up to 3 harvests while Vintage Champagnes come from years in which the winemaker determines that the harvest was uniquely special. And now here is the trick to really understanding Champagne that I like best. Pay attention and you’ll look like a hero this holiday.

Champagne is made by either large Champagne houses like Taittinger or Moët & Chandon which grow some of their own grapes and purchase the rest, or by smaller producers who grow and bottle their own product. This is called grower Champagne and often grower Champagne exceeds the quality of large house Champagne but with a smaller price tag. Again look to the bottle for guidance. On the bottom of the front label there will be a tiny number preceded by two letters. NM (Négociant-Manipulant) indicates a larger house that purchases many of their grapes, whereas RM (Récoltant-Manipulant) signifies that the winemaker grew the grapes.

Armed with this info you can confidently pick a wine that comes from a smaller producer at a smaller price that matches your tastes and your sweetness preference. Champagne is not a generic or homogenous product but it also doesn’t have to be mysterious or overly complex.  Like all wine, my suggestion is to simply try several styles and see what you like.

Cheers!