The Weekly Twitter Quiz #10 – Château de La Brède, Graves

March 11, 2009

Travelling in wine regions is not all about wine; certainly in Europe, it’s easy to add in some cultural elements to a wine tour. Many wine regions have interesting ecclesiastical relics, old forts and art museums as well as châteaux with stories that may be nothing to do with wine. This week’s answer to the Twitter quiz is one of the latter.

Château de la Brède, south of Bordeaux

Château de la Brède, south of Bordeaux

Jane Anson, who lives in Bordeaux, selected Château de La Brède, as one of the key non-wine attractions in her guide on the southern Graves and Sauternes. For many centuries owned by the family of the philosopher Montesquieu she describes it as follows:

One of the few moated castles in the area, and extraordinarily well preserved, the château is also surrounded by English-style gardens. Expect plenty of proud displays of Montesquieu’s musings.

My Twitter followers are a clever bunch. Richard who was last week’s winner got the correct answer right away but reveals he studied philosophy – Doug of AbleGrape was there too but then he always finds the answer on his very own specialist search engine. So, my first real congratulations and choice of PDF guide must go to Dave Mcallister of Redwood, California who was very persistent and came up with an equally right answer – Château Peyredoulle in Blaye, which it seems belonged to the family of Italian philosopher and humanist Pic de la Mirandole. Further congratulations are also due to Mark Manning of Seattle who was convinced the answer must be the illustrious Château d’Yquem in Sauternes due to its links with the French writer and philosopher Montaigne. The French love philosophy – ever heard them discussing the philosophy of wine? So, no surprise there are plenty of connections.

Jane Anson keeps everyone up-to-date on what’s happening in the region with her new Bordeaux blog and has just updated the eight micro-region guides to Bordeaux for Wine Travel Guides. Why do we have eight? Well, it’s a huge region and if you are just planning a visit for a couple of days, you might only want one or two guides – that’s the great thing about on-line guides, you can just print a few pages of just what you need, and what’s more, being on-line they should be bang up to date. Move over guide books, on-line guides are here to stay.

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The Weekly Twitter Quiz #6 – l’Etoile in Jura

February 11, 2009
The village of l'Etoile in the snow

The village of l'Etoile in the snow

We’re continuing the theme of Jura in France here. The sleepy little village of l’Etoile is located just north of Lons le Saunier – birth-place of Rouget de Lisle, the composer responsible, amongst many finer works, for writing La Marseillaise. It is also home to the cheese factory that invented and still makes the cubes of processed cheese whose finest virtue is their distinctive packaging – La Vache qui Rit. You will see a huge cow face logo up above you as you drive on the ring road around the town.

L’Etoile gives its name to a very small wine appellation in the Jura, which is only used for white wines, though in Jura that includes the famous yellow wine or Vin Jaune. The vineyards of l’Etoile are on a clay-limestone soil, but there are distinct, tiny, but visible to the human eye, star-shape fossils scattered around the soil – this area was a sea many millions of years ago – and the word in French for star is, you guessed it, l’étoile. Apparently the village is also so-named because of the five hills around it that form a star-like shape.

Chardonnay is the most planted grape variety and is used for the sparkling Crémant du Jura (a separate appellation) and for the simple white l’Etoile, which is usually made in an oxidative way matured in non-topped up barrels giving the flavours of apples and nuts combined with a searingly dry taste – you need rich creamy dishes to accompany this wine. The classic white Jura grape Savagnin is also grown and this is used for the famous l’Etoile Vin Jaune. Some deliciously sweet Vin de Paille can be found too made from a blend of these two grapes, sometimes with a touch of the red Poulsard variety, dried for several months before pressing.

Nicole Deriaux of Domaine de Montbourgeau makes ultra traditional l’Etoile wines, and another favourite wine estate that I mention in the ‘Around Lons le Saunier’ guide is Domaine Philippe Vandelle. It’s a fascinating area to explore on a wine tour.

Congratulations to entrepreneur and wine lover Leslie Haas Clanton of Richmond, Virginia who is about to tell me which of the 50 wine travel guides (2 on Rioja about to be live …) that she wants as her prize.

Do follow me on twitter for updates on Wine Travel Guides and a glimpse of where I’m travelling, what I’m tasting and more fripperie. Join me next week for the weekly quiz and your chance to win a PDF wine travel guide.

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The Weekly Twitter Quiz #5 – San Gimignano

February 4, 2009
View from a tower to another tower

View from a tower to another tower

A UNESCO World Heritage site, San Gimignano is known for its many towers, which were built as status symbols in the Middle Ages. When I visited a couple of years ago, I found the town a delight to wander around, and when you climb up one of the towers, you get spectacular views of the landscape. Tuscan wine specialist Michèle Shah writes that it is also well worth visiting the Collegiata, located in Piazza Duomo, which houses a famous cycle of Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano is the only dry white wine of any real note in Tuscany made from the Vernaccia grape. On Michèle’s guide ‘Between San Gimignano and Siena’ she recommends a visit to the Sono Montenidoli winery “firstly because Elisabetta and Sergio who run and own the estate are both great characters – and secondly because Montenidoli produces San Gimignano’s quintessential Vernaccia.” They also have agriturismo accommodation.

Congratulations to Philadelphia-based photographer Christian Carollo who correctly identified San Gimignano in Tuscany as the answer to this week’s quiz. He wins a PDF guide of his choice so he can plan his own wine tours – @wisequeen and @WritingTravel were also very quick off the mark with the correct answer.

If you aren’t already following me on Twitter, come along for the ride – among other things I tweet new recommendations from new or updated Wine Travel Guides, links to wine or travel articles and sometimes a peep (tweet-peep?) at what wines I’m drinking.

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Discovering Terroirs in the Heart of London

January 3, 2009

By Brett Jones

terroirs-logo-for-blogWine travel is possible right in the heart of London now, for hidden away behind Trafalgar Square is a little piece of Continental Europe named ‘Terroirs’ … not a vineyard it’s true, but a splendid new wine bar, where the staff smile when you arrive, are friendly and very knowledgeable.

We visited just before Christmas and started with a glass of Albert Mann Alsace Riesling from the very decent selection of wines by the glass on a fascinating list of natural wines from ‘Britain, France, Italy and Spain’. Part owned by the excellent importer Les Caves de Pyrène, a visit here is a great opportunity to discover interesting wines accompanied by small dishes.

With our ‘first courses’ of creamy polenta (a delicious surprise), and squid and clams cooked with ham we drank Maremma Rosso IGT Principio 2007 from the Ciliegiolo grape variety grown on the hillsides just inland from the Tuscan coast; its juicy, cherry fruit was a fine match especially with the polenta.

The wine list is predominantly French and we had toyed with the idea of an obscure Loire red from the Grolleau grape, but were advised that it wouldn’t be the right wine for the next dishes we had ordered – a great touch: the sommelier brought us a taste of the wine to try before taking her advice. In full agreement, we remained in Italy, this time from Trentino in the north east, the indigenous Teroldego Rotialano 2006 from Foradori.  Its pure full bodied fruitiness went well with our rich dishes; my black pudding served on a couple of fried eggs in a pan was terrific and the spicy piperade with chorizo was tasty.

terroirs-map-for-blogA great place to relax, eat and drink good wine, Terroirs is well situated between the Strand, Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square. Indeed if Lord Nelson atop his column diverted his seaward gaze he would smack his lips!

With the current dollar and euro exchange rates, London is an ideal place for a wine lover to visit with innovative wine shops, bars and restaurants. Wink advises that one day we will do a micro-region guide to ‘Around London’ including a couple of vineyards within easy reach too.

Terroirs Wine Bar, 5 William IV Street, London, WC2N 4DW
Tel: 020 7036 0660
Closed on Sundays

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The lost vineyards of France

December 17, 2008

By Wink Lorch

Muscat grapes for Clairette de Die

Muscat grapes for Clairette de Die

In September, I visited the Diois (pronounced Dee-wah) for a harvest festival for Clairette de Die (pronounced Dee), which ended up being cancelled part-way through due to the torrential rain. I partly went there to see whether there was enough to write about for a mini-micro-region guide for Wine Travel Guides or should that be a mini-region guide? I ended up unsure, but wrote about my visit anyway for Wine Pages. Not really belonging in any major wine region, it’s one of a myriad of tiny, remote wine regions in France with spectacular scenery.

Produced near the town of Die in the mountains east of the Rhône Valley, Clairette de Die is a semi-sweet sparkling wine and about 90% is made by the very switched-on cooperative cellar Jaillance. Jaillance not only provides an excellent tour and tasting, but has over 10% of its members working using organic methods – most commendable. The star of the individual producers in the region is Achard-Vincent who are in the process of converting to biodynamic methods having been organic since the 1970s (when it was de rigeur for all organic growers to wear sandals – this family still does, by the way). They produce a range of delicate Muscat-based Clairette de Die that is just delicious. The festival was lovely, but there is a real dearth of good places to stay in the area. The little town of Die boasts a couple of decent restaurants – the wonderfully wacky organic restaurant Tchai Walla and a more traditional, but very good restaurant, the Vieux Sonneur – neither have websites.

Other obscure regions that could one day be included on Wine Travel Guides include Bugey, next to Savoie; various little regions on the foothills of the Massif Central near the source of the Loire River including St-Pourcain and Côtes de Forez; Vins de Moselle near Metz up towards Luxembourg and several others. In the meantime, at least we do include micro-region guides to Gascony, the Jura and part of Savoie, all of which are pretty obscure, but great fun to visit.

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