Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Pinot Blanc d’Alsace 2010, Domaine Charles Baur (gold medal winner)

The Baur family have been in Eguisheim since the early 18th century.  Charles Baur (1920-2001) began bottling and selling the wine produced from his single hectare of vines in 1950 and gradually extended his estate acquiring individually chosen parcels of vines in and around Eguisheim. 

Charles Baur on his way back from the harvest in 1950
 Today the estate is run by Charles’ son Armand and grandson Arnaud, the latter having joined his father after completing his degree in agricultural engineering, specialising in winegrowing and oenology. 
Armand & Arnaud Baur

Today the estate cultivates 16 hectares of vineyards around Eguisheim where the soil is limestone and clay and the steep slopes, protected by the Vosges mountains, capture the ripening rays of the sun perfectly.  All their grapes are hand-picked, hand-sorted and gently pressed in a modern, pneumatic press.  Fermentation begins with natural yeasts at low temperature to ensure freshness and concentration.  The wines are then matured on their lees for several months.


Pinot Blanc is the white incarnation of Pinot Noir; both varieties are ampelographically identical.  Once thought to be Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc was agreed as a different variety in 1896.  Its leaves are full and dark green and the grapes grow in smallish bunches with the grapes themselves being quite small.  It tastes different to Chardonnay and is ideal for the conditions in Alsace.  Interestingly, there are still small parcels and individual vines here and there in Burgundy, so the confusion of yore still has ghosts down there too.

Domaine Charles Baur
In 2010 Domaine Charles Baur produced one of the best Pinot Blanc d'Alsace we have ever tasted.  We are not alone in our belief since the wine won the gold medal in the Concours des Vins d’Alsace in 2011.  Their attention to detail makes this wine a shining example of its type.  Sure, there are less expensive examples of Pinot Blanc, but rarely have we encountered one of such purity and concentration.  It is a fine example of the Wines of Interest philosophy that it is often worth paying a little more to obtain something that is significantly superior.

The wine has a rich, concentrated nose with hints of pear, apricot and blossom.  In the mouth it is lively yet concentrated with aromatic, ripe fruit and a long finish, with cleansing acidity to refresh.

This wine is perfect with posh fish dishes, seafood, cold meats and salads or could equally be enjoyed as an aperitif or on its own in the warmth of a summer evening.  Perfect!  Order 2011 Pinot Blanc from Domaine Charles Baur here where you can also view everything else we currently have from Alsace.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Special Offer on Mourat Blanc 2009

Pay attention 007… There's a real bargain to be had here...

This is a bit involved, but we’re offering a real bargain here so you need the full story…

You may well remember the super wines from the Vendee made by J.Mourat & Fils that we discovered back in 2004; a red blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Negrette and a delightful rose of the same blend as well as a white Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc mix.  You know, the ones with the owl on the label and a funny shaped bottle… Click
here if you need a reminder.

Like many things, prices have crept up over recent years which, in our modest opinion, have made these less competitive – or at least lifted them to a point where they risk being lost amongst the increasing choice of alternative options in that bracket.

In 2009, probably in an attempt to keep prices in check, Mourat changed the white blend from Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc to Chardonnay/Grolleau Gris which produced a leaner, keener wine rather than the attractive, riper style of its predecessor.  We liked the sample we tasted, but decided not to buy any, being unsure whether those customers who had liked the original blend would take to the new style at a higher price.

Mourat themselves have now reverted to the original Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc blend in a much-to-be-admired “stuff the price, stick to our principles” approach that has left the UK agent with a modest quantity of the 2009 Chardonnay/Grolleau Gris mix, itself now something of a dead-end.  He wants to shift the final few cases and we are able to offer a wine that would normally sell between £8 and £9 a bottle for something approaching half price, with a further carrot for buying in multiples of 6 bottles.

Here’s the deal then.  It’s £4.95 per bottle with the additional prospect of 6 for the price of 5 (that’s 6 for £24.75 – the equivalent of £4.13 a bottle).

The wine itself is very dry, lean and keen with crisp, incisive fruit and should appeal to fans of Muscadet and Picpoul de Pinet.  Plenty good enough to enjoy well-chilled with seafood, cheap enough to cook with and dry enough to be the basis of a fantastic Kir.  It’s 12.5% abv in case you wondered.  Stocks are limited and this is offered on a “first come, first served” basis so get your skates on…  There will be a bottle open in the shop while stocks remain so you can taste beforehand if you wish.  Call us now on 01473 215752 if you'd like to reserve any or order on line here.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Xavier Guillaume

Way back in the late 1980s we were introduced to a young, newly qualified, winemaker from Franche Comté called Xavier Guillaume.  We have been dealing with him ever since, picking and choosing the vintages to buy from his ever improving, and increasing, range of wines.

Xavier Guillaume in his cellar.

The Guillaume family business has its origins in vines rather than wine, though both are important today.  Pépinières Guillaume have been grafting and growing vines for over 100 years and are actually one of the largest cultivators of vines in the world producing between 10 and 15 million plants annually.  They now have operations in Chile and California as well as the south of France though their spiritual home remains the commune of Charcenne in the Haute-Saône Department.  From this base in eastern France their main customers were initially the vineyards of Burgundy and Champagne which meant that their main vine cultivation was concentrated in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a proportion of Pinot Meunier as well.  Nowadays they grow most varieties and export their vines worldwide to vineyard owners who are replanting or expanding.  They count amongst their customers some of the top properties in many of the world’s most famous regions including Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – reckoned to be the top estate in Burgundy and whose wines are highly prized and priced (a quick online search for their wines will reveal the sort of prices they fetch – you will be shocked)!
Guillaume Estate

The natural result of all this vine cultivation is, of course, an annual crop of grapes which used simply to be left to the birds.  Xavier realised what a waste it was just to allow the local wildlife to feast on the fruits of vines destined for greatness elsewhere and began making wine from his own vines in the 1980s.  The bulk of his production is still Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (which make splendid, and more economical, alternatives to red and white Burgundy) though he also makes a selection of other wines as well.  We were particularly taken with his Old Vine Chardonnay and Old Vine Pinot Noir as well as his “Cuvee G” Gewurztraminer (clearly they have customers in Alsace now as well…) and the Flute Enchantée Brut – a Champagne blend sparkler which, compared to many Champagnes, is a bargain not to be missed.
Xavier amongst his vines.

The bulk of our shipments from Xavier will doubtless continue to be his Chardonnay and Pinot Noir since these offer superb options to customers who love both varieties of Burgundy but not the prices one seems to have to pay these days to find decent examples.  On our most recent order we also included a few cases each of Old Vine Chardonnay, Old Vine Pinot Noir, "Cuvee G" Gewurztraminer and Flute Enchantée Brut.  Quantities of these are necessarily limited so if you’re interested in these grab some while you can!