A few of our followers are wine enthusiasts so it seems appropriate to write a review of our best wine experiences of 2016.
This year we have visited Spain three times, Italy once, Prague and Hungary once, and France twice, all great European wine countries with just about every type of grape on the planet turned into wine but with an amazing array of taste and quality due to the terroir as well as the grape variety.
At a simple level we remember the enthusiasm of the Somellier at the Buddhabar Hotel in Budapest, who was amazed to discover we knew about Furmint, and insisted on giving us 2-3 new ones to try each time we had lunch or dinner in the restaurant all week! Then there was the discovery of Ribera del Duero in Spain in a traditional tapas bar in Almeria, and the generosity of the owner at the Cellier Volnaysien who remembered an earlier visit and insisted we taste 5/6 of her Volnays with lunch!
Alsace and Burgundy are where we met some exceptional people and tasted some exceptional wines and worthy of a mention are two wine cooperatives; Cave de Turckheim and Cave Nuiton Beaunoy in Turckheim and Beaune respectively. Cooperatives are always worth seeking out in France and are formed and owned by any number of smaller producers who pool their grapes under a single brand and share the profits. This is different from a Negociant who buys up tons of grapes from different growers, makes a wine, then sells it under their own brand name. Patriarch Pere et Fils is a classic example of this in Beaune. The two cooperatives in Turckheim and Beaune are classic examples of all that is good about such places, modern tasting rooms, taste ANYTHING you want, friendly knowledgeable staff, no pressure to buy, all free. I’ll repeat the last bit, all free.
You might now be thinking what on earth could be better than these two cooperatives, and the answer is “not much”, but we have been to these two coops and others in Chablis, Bourgeuil, Frontignon, Tavel …… many times. So, on to the two regions and vignerons who impressed us the most.
Alsace is a region of France bordering Germany with white wine predominating from Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminer. The villages are very pretty with wooden chalet style houses, window boxes full of flowers most of the year and vast vineyards stretching over many hectares. Francois Baur makes wines from all of these grapes, but what differentiates them is their using a pure biodynamic approach. Their bottling plant and tasting room is in Turckheim where you can taste all of their Premier and Grand Cru wines absolutely free as you listen to a clear explanation about their vineyard policy that uses no chemicals for pesticide or fertiliser, vines planted in harmony with other flowers or herbs and plants, and operations such as fertilising, pruning, weeding and harvesting all synchronised with phases of the moon. Their wines were superb and all had an intensity of flavour and bouquet beyond those from more conventional growers. This was a most memorable tasting and is worthy of runner up place on The Two Doctors Best Vigneron Award 2016, we shall certainly revisit in 2017. Visit their website here Francois Baur
The landscape of Burgundy is a patchwork of small parcels of vineyards rather than vast areas or fields owned by a single producer. French inheritance laws have led to larger fields being split and re-split over many generations resulting in the smaller properties producing only a few hundred bottles in some cases. A modern day owner may even have several parcels separated by hundreds of metres or even a few kilometres with adjacent parcels having different owners. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the main varietals grown here producing some of the finest and most expensive wines in the world, but often in quite small quantities. In 2016 we stayed in the village of Pommard for two weeks in August as fields were weeded, sprayed and slowly ripened in temperatures often as high as 90 degrees! There are many vignerons in this village including the long established Michel Rebourgeon and by the end of our holiday we had a new family of friends. Delphine, her English husband Steve, and their oldest son William run the business producing wine from parcels in Pommard and Volnay and on our first day we wandered into their small cellar/shop in Pommard and were greeted by Delphine and young William who spoke perfect English. We probably tasted half a dozen or so reds and bought 4 different single bottles to try in our apartment at a more leisurely pace. During the next two weeks we popped in and out of their tasting room several times, chatting about their work, the variety of soils in their parcels of land, and how William was starting to operate as a negociant buying grapes from other growers for pressing and maturing under their own brand. The real treat though came on our last day when we were invited across the village to their pressing and fermenting operation and where their wines are stored in barrels until bottling. William drew off 4 samples of wine from the previous years production from both Pommard and Volnay and we stood with him and his father Steve discussing their production from 2015 and the potential of the wines we were tasting. It is hard to find words adequate to describe this experience but it is undoubtedly the best wine experience we have ever had. So, the winner of The Two Doctors Best Vigneron Award goes to Michel Rebourgeon in Pommard and the three wine heroes Delphine, Steve and William. Read about them here Rebourgeon See you in 2017 for a lot more of this, but a year older!