Domaine Santa Duc Les Plans 2015 Vin De Pays De Vaucluse

Santa Duc Les Plans 2015 Vin De Pays De Vaucluse

#winning It’s great when you pull a bottle out and your mother-in-law who doesn’t really drink enjoys it! This TC Wine Club bottle comes from the Rhône Valley in France and the Santa Duc domaine can be found in the famed town of Gigondas.

This producer uses local indigenous yeasts, low-yielding vines, small-batch methods, and minimal chemical intervention with an emphasis on respect for the fruit and land. Continue reading

Dominique Piron Beaujolais Villages 2016 Gamay

Have you tried a wine made from the Gamay grape before? It’s Pinot Noir’s cousin and it grows primarily in a region in France called Beaujolais (next to the wine region of Burgundy).

Dominique Piron Beaujolais Villages 2016 GamayThis Gamay #sample from The Wine Gallery is produced by the Dominique Piron estate which has ancestry dating back to the early 16th century??
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My Top 4 Champagnes of 2013!

If I could only choose one drink to drink the rest of my life it would have to be Champagne. Those shimmering bubbles of happiness are just so darn good that I just can’t say no. Champagne is my heaven however you’ll also see me sipping on everything from Spanish Cava to Italian Prosecco and to various sparkling wines (aka fizzy bubbly) – I can’t get enough!

Quick Fact: Champagne is the sparkling wine made in the Champagne region in France, all other sparkling wines from around the world officially cannot be called Champagne because they are not from the Champagne region in France.

Here are my top 4 Champagnes for 2013:

1. Krug Grande Cuvee
This is heaven in a bottle, truly. It may be $200 a bottle but by god if you ever get the chance – try it. It’ll change your complete outlook on life. The mousse (mouthfeel of the bubbles) is sooo smooth and light as air with flavours of elegance, luxury and beauty enticing every taste bud. Click here to read my full Krug Grande Cuvee tasting note.

2. Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Réserve
This is sex in a glass. It is so seductive and alluring – guys take note as I’m sure if you give a girl a glass of this she’ll be putty in your hands! An impeccably made Champagne at an affordable price, you can normally pick it up for around $60 on special. Click here to read my full Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Réserve tasting note.

3. Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV
I was given a bottle of LR from the Perth Champagne Club and decided to crack it on Christmas Day. The mouthfeel on this Champas is truly delightful – so smooth and silky yet bubbly and exciting at the same time. Mr. Spittoon has even declared that this needs to be our new go-to NV Champagne! Click here to read my full Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV tasting note.

4. Veuve Clicquot ‘Yellow-Label’ NV Brut
This will always be one of my favourite NV Brut Champagnes. To me it has so many memories whether it was sipping out of the bottle with my uni flatmates on the way to a friends 21st birthday many years ago or sipping on a glass at the VC Champagne house in Reims, France a couple of years ago. Click here to read my full Veuve Clicquot ‘Yellow-Label’ NV Brut tasting note.

I have managed to try a fair few different Champagnes and sparkling wines this year, click on the links below to read my tasting notes.

Champagne:

Italian Sparkling Wine:

Spanish Sparkling Wine:

Swan Valley Sparkling Wine:

Other Australia Sparkling Wine:

New Zealand Sparkling Wine:

Other Sparkling Wine:

Chateau de Laubade Bas Armagnac Master Class at Amathus, London

To launch the beginning of Amathus Drinks monthly master classes, they invited the only Armagnac house in the world that has been awarded ‘World Class Distillery’ for the last 3 years – Chateau de Laubade Bas Armagnac (CLBA). The class was held in their Soho based store in the heart of London and I was lucky enough to attend!!

The owner, Denis Lesgourgues, of CLBA was our ‘tutor’ for the evening and I must say he did well. In the hour or so that the class went for he covered everything from what Armagnac is to why it shouldn’t be confused with Cognac to the history and current going’s on at CLBA. Plus of course we got to try not 1 but 6 different Armagnacs from their range.

During the WSET courses I have learnt previously about Armagnac and having tried a few I’m not a newbie but I don’t know a lot about it either which is great because the class suits beginners to professionals. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that Armagnac was produced in 1310, that means it was made way before Cognac and Scotch whisky. It’s believed that the Romans brought the vines, the Arabs the stills and the Celts the barrels. So much history!

There are 4 main differences between Armagnac and Cognac, those being; the location, the grapes used, the distillation processes and sort of oak used for the barrel ageing. Armagnac is made in the heart of Gascony and it can only be produced in this area otherwise it cannot be called Armagnac. The ‘Bas’ in the name is the sub region where CLBA Armagnacs come from. The grapes grown in this area designated as Armagnac are: Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, Baco and Colombard. The sandy soil in Armagnac is well suited to these grapes and come harvest time the grapes are picked and made into a white wine. This is not a fancy white wine; actually it sounds quite horrible – high acidity and low alcohol. It’s these components, which are surprisingly a good base for Armagnac.

After the base wines are produced the different varieties are distilled (only once, not two like Cognac) at the perfect temperature for that variety. Some heads and tails are left however the minimum of 18 months ageing in new oak barrels kills off any bad traits in the now distilled spirit. The ageing elixirs are then placed in one of CLBA’s 7 cellars (the main reason for having 7 cellars is incase of fire risk, no one would want to lose their whole inventory in one flaming mess!). However if you are visiting CLBA the room you need to look out for is called ‘Le Paradis’ (the paradise) – this is where all the pre-1930 Armagnac’s are stored and are under strict lock and key with only the cellar master and Denis’s Grandfather knowing the codes.

So that’s enough about how Armagnac came into this world, what I more enjoyed hearing about what the Chateau itself, how did it come to be and why is it unlike other Armagnac producers.

CLBA was first on the grid in 1870, however I will skip a few years up until 1974 as that is when the Lesgourgues took over the property. They currently have 103 hectares of wines and Denis admitted that they have a soft spot for growing the Baco grape especially and that reminds me that they are in fact the largest Baco producer in the whole region. The story behind the Baco grape is that it came from a French teacher who in the early 20th century set out on a grape quest to find the perfect grape for distilled products. Mr. Baco eventually found one that brings good structure and is the essential backbone to the most prestigious and older vintages of Armagnac and naturally he called in Baco 22A (row 22, vine A).

Since we are along the line of what sets CLBA apart from other producers, the main highlight for me was hearing that they employ sustainable agricultural methods such as weather machines, planting oak trees for future coopers (by future, I mean 250 years from now!) and using a shepherd (who has since swapped his daily scotch drinking to Armagnac) to scatter 400-600 ewes amongst the vines each year from October to May to produce the necessary fertilizer. Fantastic work!

I truly could go on and on about this fantastic producer but I am going to have to cut you off and give you a few quick notes on what we tried;

1. Signature 40% abv: Floral, fruity (citrus) with a smooth vanilla mouth feel. This baby can even make some great cocktails apparently!

2. VSOP 40% abv: Baked plums, orange peel and a citrus sprinkled vanilla finish.

3. XO 40% abv: 30 different blends in this one, which range from 15-25 years old. Brown sugar, spice and biscotti.

4. Extra 40% abv: The youngest vintage that when in to this one was 1978, the blends range from 32-40 years old. Super smooth; spice, nuts & candied fruits.

5. 1994 Vintage 40%abv: A real explosion of flavours however round and smooth with a strong note of licorice.

6. 1982 Vintage 40%abv: A real thick golden syrup colour, alongside the 1974 this is one of the top Armagnac vintages. Full flavours of licorice, orange peel & a smooth biscotti note. It definitely has those ageing aromas, which is understandable after spending 29 years in an oak barrel!

Needless to say this was a great tasting to do in the middle of a British winter – i was sure warm by the end of it. Even better was that we had some gorgeous 65% cacao chocolate from Papa New Guinea made by the guys at Paul.a.Young to match with the tipples, it went extremely well with the VSOP – the only thing missing was an overly large bubble bath all to myself.. Oh and maybe a cigar (got to do it properly!).

For more details on Amathus Drinks future masterclass, please click here.

Visiting the Champagne Houses – Charles Mignon, Epernay

Charles Mignon Champagne House - Epernay
The Champagne house of Charles Mignon is an easy 10-minute walk from the Epernay train station. We were lucky enough to be shown around the facility by the Winemaker himself – Fabian Daviaux. Although the house is on the small side, they actually have another facility on the other side of Epernay, which helps them to produce their 600,000 bottles annually.

The hands-on-owner – Charles Mignon – shows through his wines his love for the grape we know as Pinot Noir. You will find that all their blends are heavy on the Pinot Noir; the grape that gives Champagne that needed structure and backbone.

On our tour, Fabian showed us not only their caves and the bottles at different stages of the remuage but also the fermentation tanks in the facility across the road. This spotlessly clean laboratory is where all the magic happens. Fabian produces all the base wines separately according to their variety and the parcel of grapes they come from – he then expertly blends the components together to make a collaboration of flavours that we will then taste in that final bottle of Charles Mignon Champagne.

Charles Mignon Champagne's Winemaker - Epernay
We were lucky enough to try these separated base wines before they were blended – a completely new experience for both of us to try the 3-month old fermented juice of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meuiner. Definitely an acquired taste but if you look beneath the surface you can start to find notes of citrus, green apples and white flowers.

Of course after we had tasted the ‘audition’, we went on to taste the full monty in there elegantly yet cozy tasting room out the back. Here is what I thought;

1. Brut Grande Reserve 1er Cru (75% Pinot Noir, the rest made up of Chardonnay & Pinot Meunier)

Green apple pie on the nose and palate with notes of biscotti and lemon sauce drizzled over the lot. Lashings of streaming bubbles and a gorgeously long finish that leaves you wanting and wanting…

2. (60% Pinot Noir and 20% each of Chardonnay & Pinot Meunier)

Notes of pastry on the nose with fresh sweet fruits on the front palate ending with a rather tart lemon zest on the back palate. Matched with a nice lemon-seafood dish would make this Champas rock-n-roll.

It was a great hour well spent. If you are wanting a more one-on-one tasting rather than a large oversized touristy experience I would definitely suggest stopping off at Charles Mignon. They offer the following tours:

5 €/ person for the visit and tasting of our Champagne Grande Réserve 1er Cru

7 €/ person for the visit and tasting of our Champagne Grande Réserve 1er Cru and our Bordeaux Cru Cantemerle 2004

10 €/person for the visit and tasting of our Champagne Grande Réserve 1er Cru and our Champagne Comte de Marne, our prestige Champagne.

For further information, please check their website here.

Charles Mignon Champagne Tasting - Epernay