A comprehensive tasting of Hospice de Beaune wines with Jasper Morris MW and François Poher.Read More
I have been back in Hong Kong for a while now (something that you would have noticed if you follow me over on Instagram @thisyoungwino) but have busy adjusting to the new job and blowing off steam well...on Steam.
After coming back from gallivanting solo on Sicily for two weeks, I quickly set off to Taiwan on a trip that has actually been well planned in advance with my former colleagues. Originally we went in hope of being able to secure a reservation at RAW, André Chiang's new venture in his home country but ever since getting ranked on Asia Top 50, it has been impossible.
No matter! Actually Taiwan has always had great culinary traditions, from simple soy milk (豆漿) breakfast to street food plus more many more in between, so we weren't lacking in options. Last minute, a friend advised me to go to Ephernité - a tiny French menu-less restaurant (seriously don't even bother asking what kind of foods you will be eating), who had this unicorn of a wine available on their menu - Domaine de Trévallon 2010.
Domaine de Trévallon is not unknown per se but it flies under the radar because it is basically a ghost in even in a city like Hong Kong, where you can find almost anything anywhere. However I would venture that you can find more Henri Jayers and DRCs here than a single bottle of Domaine de Trévallon, simply because this wine rarely makes it out of France, let alone all the way far east. I first tried a Domaine de Trévallon 2005 during a blind tasting and was extremely and utterly MINDFUCKED by this wine. Obviously on the palate, it was from a warm ripe region but with finesse so I thought perhaps Northern Rhone. However the nose is unmistakably Bordeaux so where could this wine be from? Turns out neither was right, rather it was in Alpilles, Provence, located not far from Avignon. And the grape varietals? Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It was formerly an AOC wine but was downgraded in 1993 to a 'Vin de Pays' because the winemaker Eloi Durrbach refused to change the percentage blend – proof that one should always trust his/her gut. Ever since, I tried many an amazing bottles but none had quite the same mesmerizing effect as it had. I have been chasing after this bottle for months and I happened upon it in Taipei of all places. Serendipity, if you believe it.
Unfortunately when we did open it, it was corked. It's shite and we all know it happens now and then, particularly with such wines that don't have official distribution in Asia and probably made its way through via the secondary market. Nevertheless because it is such a unicorn of a wine, I was beyond disappointed and visibly sad. Thanks to the immense generosity of manager-sommelier Claude, co-owner and husband to chef Vanessa, shared his last bottle of 1!9!9!9!
Domaine de Trévallon 1999
Though softened by almost 20 years of ageing, it needed time to open fully. However once it did, it opened up like a Provence poppy in full boom. A blend of red and black fruits with solid mineral savoriness on the nose, it had immense structure yet complete elegance. It is punchy on the palate and delivers depth and richness, however with a soft and deft hand that is just right. Lush and gorgeous as a field of flowers in a midsummers dream.
Thanks again to Marco Gadea for the recommendation and Ephernité for their generosity.
Restaurant Ephernité No. 233, Anhe Road Sec. 2, Daan District, Taipei TAIWAN
T: +886 (0)2-2732-0732
E : firstname.lastname@example.org
I was chatting with a friend earlier on the rise of natural wines on IG – particularly those from smaller boutique estates from Loire and Beaujolais that provide great value for money. Thanks to fantastic marketing, cute labels and great efforts by different sommeliers/wine writers/importers, natural is HIP and COOL. So commonplace are these that you are staring to see them on even feeds of lifestyle influencers. Export data of Beaujolais published by The Drinks Business substantiates this theory.
At the same time, many has already talked about the Robert Parker-fication of wines and how everybody is moving away from it by creating more nuanced wines with more finesse and complexity.
One particular victim of this shift of tastes is the Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Less and less clients ask for it, rather honing in smaller special labels from Piedmonte, Loire, Beaujolais or even more obscure regions like Jura or Savoie. However when bringing it up to even existing clients who use to buy them, many comment saying somethings along with the line of "it's too much for me", "too chewy and can't wait that long" etc.
Older CdPs, such as the Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Speciale 1998 I had recently, are fantastic. Rich, textured, complex and intense, personally they are like the more interesting cousins of Bordeaux. Newer younger CdPs is harder to drink young and are much less approachable, especially amongst novice casual drinkers.
While CdPs from top estates are still considered an essential part of many private wine collections, at least amongst trendier restaurants they have much weaker footholds. Burgundy, Bordeaux and Northern Rhone will continue to be strong mainstays however the rest of the wine list has to be shared by other regions new and old.
Will CdPs as a region evolve and follow the lead set by Château Rayas long ago and make elegant, anti-Robert Parker types of wines? With global warming on the rise and finesse harder to achieve with the excessive heat, it will prove to be a challenge.
*Oh and the Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques 2005 was bloody fantastic. Not that you didn't know already.
Nobody is more disappointed than myself, when I say I don't remember what I drank that night at a St Aubin White Blind Tasting last week. Super pumped for this event, I was ready to record meticulous tasting notes for you readers here, from top producers such as Bachelet, Ramonet, Lamy and more.
In end, I committed a huge mistake – that is I got shit faced. That is quite obvious in hindsight, however I had too much hubris and forgot many valuable lessons from US undergraduate collegiate life: eat before you drink and pace yourself. This tasting was done with friends so no professional faux pas was made.
To help you, my dear readers, in hosting your own blind tastings, do make a note of the following lessons I learnt the hard way:
- Stay Organised (a.k.a. the hardest part).
- Ideally you have someone not involved in the blind tasting to help you organise the bottles so that you only know what you brought.
- Bring numbered bottle socks to keep the order straight.
- Record which number bottle is brought by whom before you start.
- Slow down. For some reason, many people like to breeze through the wines to get a quick "feel" for them before tasting begins. However you can honestly go at your own pace, if you stay organised and know which bottle is which. Then you can really go at without worrying about mixups, hence why staying relatively organised makes it so important!
- Bring spittoons. Sounds unnecessary when the tastings themselves are not professional and purely for fun but quickly after going through a few faulty bottles or an overly generous pour, you don't have to commit to drinking the whole thing or find the nearest sink to pour. This also is relevant to points 1-3.
- Optional: Additional glasses. This is optional because it's understandable not everybody has enough glassware around to do this. However it really helps to discern between two very similar wines and allows you to revisit.
Organising a blind tasting isn't as hard as it sounds. To be honest, it's the best kind of tasting in terms of pushing your experience, biases and palette, in a structured way. However when you have a lot of bottles and a lot eager drinkers, you can easily overwhelm yourself and get in over your head.
Any other tips? Let me know!
I have been in want of a full blown Clos Rougeard dinner ever since I had to try a glass last year in March – a wine that I have never forgotten since. This domaine was sold in 2017 to telecom billionaire brothers Martin and Oliver Bouygeus, who also own Chateau Montrose, but I am very happy to learn that the new owners are hands off and aware of the good work that is already carried out. The future is also secure as Nady Foucault (current winemaker) has found a local Loire apprentice to succeed him should he pass as well.
The estate originally started in 1969 by the father of Charlie and Nady Foucault (Charlie passed in 2015). They are the 8th generation to farm the 10ha in Chacé, an area within the Saumur-Champigny appellation. In the 1960s and 70s, they were the few ones still continuing with organic practices with biodynamic remedies and low yields. Therefore their parcels have held up exceptionally well over the years, particularly those of the 70 year old Le Bourg vineyard. Though they plant 90% Cabernet Franc and only 10% Chenin Blanc, their whites are also superb. Le Clos wines are aged in Château Angelus barrels, Les Poyeux and Le Bourg in new oak barrels, then released after around 4 years in the cellar, which is why we have only 2011s and 2012s in stock now with the 2013s to be released very soon.
Our dinner in Michelin-starred Beefbar included a flight of Le Clos from 2005-2012, a Les Poyeux 2011 and the Le Bourg 2011. As we went through the different vintages of Le Clos, 2005 was the only wine that showed any signs of age. Clearly this is an "entry level" wine that can age at least 10 years or more. The wines all showcased beautiful dense red fruit with a hint of signature grassiness, which is typical of cabernet franc, but still exceptionally pure on the nose and finish. The wine of the night was a toss up between Les Poyeux 2011 and Le Bourg 2011 were each compelling in their own way. The nose of the Le Bourg was striking: intense charred toasty flavours mixed with tones of earthy barnyard and a touch of minerality yet the oak influence on the palate remained subtle and fresh. Les Poyeux 2011 was another favourite of many simply due to its approachability and expressiveness; there was clearly greater complexity and depth than the Le Clos here. Where Le Clos had more herbaceous notes, there was more straw in the Les Poyeux, making it an immense joy to drink and ponder. Both still needed much more time to age but we were left without a doubt of their potential.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2012: Super sharp acidity due to its youth. Very intense fruit and grassy notes however I get why the estate doesn't release its wines until at least 4 years in their cellar as I would not recommend drinking it this young (even though there is 6 years on this wine already). Huge ageing potential.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2010: Gorgeous note and palate now - acidity has started to mellow out but remains strong and taut. Fruit intensity, varietal characteristics are fully on show. Still has many years to go in terms of ageing.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2009: Feels much more approachable now, comparatively speaking to the 2012 and 2010. With at least 9 years of bottle ageing, the grassy varietal characters seems to mellow and blend well with the fruit. The ripeness is quite clearly higher here but it is perhaps due to the vintage more than wine making.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2008: Possibly my favourite Le Clos vintage of the night along with of course, the 2005. The wine is drinking exceptional well and everything feels balanced. There is not enough complexity showing compared to Burgundies of the same age but as oppose to a fault of the winemaking, it is telling me that Cabernet Franc needs just more time to develop the similar aged characters. I love this.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2006: Quite similar to 2008 in my opinion but lacks a bit of a punch. The 2008 was clearly a heavier hitter but a lot of guests enjoyed this.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2005: Crazy thing is that only the 2005 is showing some aged characteristics after 13 freakin' years. Usually your average Burgundy pinot starts showing their age at around 4-5 year mark, depending highly of course on producer, vintage and appellation. For Clos Rougeard you need to be patient although they will reward you immensely for your time.
Clos Rougeard Les Poyeux 2011: Gorgeous wine that is displaying immense complexity and depth that is not found in Le Clos. The grassiness that is quite prominent in the younger Le Clos is tasting more hay here, showing extra touch of toast from increased oak influence in an extremely pleasant way.
Clos Rougeard Le Bourg 2011: It is clear that this the top wine offered by Clos Rougeard and will easily spar with any Burgundy grand cru (and not just Clos de Vougeot or Echezeaux!). It shares a few similar notes with Les Poyeux – layered red fruit and hay – yet this has more hints of smokiness and minerality, maybe due to use of newer oak barrels and old vines. To state the obvious, this was WOTN but evidently Le Clos and Les Poyeux both have things to offer and should not be overlooked.