WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations


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A recent weekend visiting an old uni mate in Marseille revealed how much the city has to offer and gave me an insight into why he has so happily gone native.

Provence is all about rural retreat and chilling in that charming restored French farmhouse no? Well if you think that’s a bit main stream then a city break in Marseille might be for you. The old port at the heart of this industrial city was recently made over for its role as European City of Culture 2013. There are a couple of stunning new galleries on the water front, some swanky hotels, a fish market and as many cafes and restaurants as you could want all wrapped around a lively marina. Plenty for a full day of wandering.

Venture a short distance deeper into the city and the narrow streets take on a distinct north African flavour or head a few minutes along the coast and guys are surfing waves or trekking up and down the rocky limestone coastline (we sipped coffee instead and watched them march past).

The gastronomic highlight was dinner at restaurant Peron which looks out across the bay facing the sinking sun and serves a fantastic bouillabaisse which we washed down with a local white Cassis. There’s normally a good local wine that matches local cuisine, best just to ask the waiter.

My mate also introduced me to a lovely Provencal red from the tinny appellation of Palette (smallest in France apparently) dominated by Mourvedre but with Cinsault & Grenache by Henri Bonnaud other quality reds are by Chateau Simone.

As one enjoys the spring sunshine the rose wines aren’t bad either!

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Wine tasting in Northern Rhone May 16th to 19th 2013

La Chapelle

La Chapelle

Thursday May 16th 2013

It was with great excitement that six wine loving gentlemen of various levels of fitness left London to seek the finest offerings of the great wine region of Northern Rhone.

With a mixture of serendipity and brazen I had got us an invite to Maison Chapoutier for a party the night of our arrival.

Having attended an M.Chapoutier masterclass on Monday In London I sought out the fun loving forthrightly spoken Michel
Chapoutier who immediately extended a warm hand , game on.

It started with the style we intended to continue.
First class Lille to Valence in an area of the carriage akin to a private boudoir.
Stuart , our travelling sommelier , invited as much for his cellar collection as his fine North American sense of humour (but certainly not for his wind capacity.)
The indulgence commenced immediately with Kiran’s beautifully blown finely rimmed plastic glasses.
Out came my  J L-Chave celebre  St. Joseph , 100%Roussane courtesy of Yapp brothers recommended by the  lovely Bianca Ford.Nelly
Tim’s great analysis of it ..Peaches and cream just like a dream!
Then the J L Chave Hermitage 2004 , see tasting note for full description .This took us to a new level of euphoria.
We questioned the possibility of illicit substances having been added, as we all developed and enhanced sensory
and analytical level .Even the softly spoken, muscle strapped Gerald seemed truly in awe commenting
‘you just want more and more of this’
With a blindly tasted Paulo Scavino 2001 Barolo the journey flew by.
We soon found ourselves on the banks of a wild ,gushing Rhone at le Chateau in Tournon .

Straight to chapoutier … party on , the winners of the days sommelier competition were being announced we were served-
Champagne Millesime 2000 et Ultra D de deveaux
Alsace Bland Riesling 2011 Domaine Schieferkopf
Hermitage Blanc chante alouette
Pyrenees rough Victoria 2008
Hermitage rouge Monier de la Sizeranne 2007 en magnum
Muscat Beaumes de venise 2011 and Rivesaltes 2001

This was just the general wine list.
Michel  came over to say hello and insisted we be served Le Pavillon.The delightful Nelly France , Michel’s export director who never left us all night, proceeded to bring a selection of vinous miracles. Le Meal Hermitage 2006 , Le Pavillon 2000 L’Ermite . All washed down wit-.

Risotto a la Truffe . Gambas et Legumes aux saveurs asiatiques , blanquettes de riz de veau aux morilles , St Jacques snackees et petits legumes verts a la noisette, Booeuf Angus snacke et asperges du Luberon and this was just the hot area . It was all too much for the normally stamina laden Rob.

We danced and partied on , what a welcome to Rhone , Merci bien Michel Chapoutier !Chapoutier party

Crossed the river to Tournon in the early hours , and soon wished I had brought some ear plugs.

Friday May 17th

The forecast was poor but are spirits high. We headed to Jaboulet. The charming aptly named Jean Luc Chapel took us up Hermitage to La Chapelle.
Wonderful views and a topographical history lesson of the vineyards of Jaboulet .This was followed by a private tasting of 8 wines ( see Jaboulet wine event for tasting notes)
and hugely generously opened a La Chapelle Hermitage 2007 for good measure. Lunch of Fromage , Charcuterie and beautifully ripe heritage tomatoes rprovided in Jaboulet .
The six of us warmly satisfied having been treated royally.

Then to Maison Chapoutier where the fabulous Nelly treated us again to a stunning portfolio of their wines .Highlights including Cote Rotie la Mordoree (full details under tasting notes)
Stuart could have easily set his stall for the night, but another appointment at 4pm meant we had to drag him kicking and screaming.

The weather turned. A taxi to Cave Fayolle for a tasting.

We  then welcomed a rare spell of fine sunshine and mounted our unused bikes.Half the party ascended the imposing Hermitage La Chapelle led by Gerald Wiggins Kelly.
A leisurely ascent for the big man. Kiran and I sweating and panting behind. We were treated to wonderful views from the summit .Spring flower blossom,neat rows of beautifully tended budding vines
and the majestic Rhone river meandering serpentially across the valley floor.

Evening came and  an exquisite dinner at Restaurant Le Chaudron in Tournon served by Mac Grillon in .Highlights being
the St Jacques lightly seared, pan fried sweetbreads,Magret de Canard,rasberry pannacotta and a fine wine list.

Saturday May  18th

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ menGiugal
Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promised joy

Robbie Burns ‘To a Mouse ‘ 1786

The plan was  bikes in hand  by train to Vienne and follow the  lovely dedicated bike  path   V2  down the  Rhone back to Tain with various leisurely stops on route.
It was not to be.
We managed Vienne to Ampuis and took in the beautiful views. However as predicted, the weather was starting to turn .

We arrived at the congenial Rene Rostaing. We were entertained in his cellar sampling amongst many, his Condreui, Ampodium, 2003, la Landonne 2009, Languedoc 2010.

The rain increased  in ferocity, and the wind picked up. We took refuge  in Bistro de Serine ,16 boulevard des allees, Ampuis. Great lunch and some lovely wines –  Cote Rotie Gerin 2005 and 2010. Then off to GillesBarge next door. He was most generous opening many wines including  a 1992 Cote Rotie.Rene Rostaing

Domaine Gaillard in Malleval next stop.The rain teamed down , the clouds darkened ,the temperature dropped, and the wind picked up.
Five soaked sodden cold defeated men pondered for a few seconds whether to make the ascent up to Gaillard in Malleval. Only the ever stalwart Gerald showed any wish for it. We headed for the nearest train in Peage de Roussilon .Instead of our intended scenic ride by the river we found ourselves five drowned rats inhaling all manner of fume around the chemical factories of Peage.

There was only one thing to lift our mood..To engorge ourselves to bursting with chocolate.  And that we duly did back in the Valrhola chocolate factory in Tain.

A warm bath later and we were all ready for our final gourmet experience of the trip back at Le Chaudron . Pol Roger to start followed by a selection of Delas  wines including Crozes and  St Joseph and more. Served with Nuits St Jaque, sweetbreads, Boeuf fillet ,fromage de la region, pannacotta strawberries and all washed down with  Beaumes de Venice.

A very happy six gentleman returned to Le Chateau, to some rather less pleasant bouquets, (merci Stuart)

With  wine food and company as good as this;
Days may be cloudy or sunny
We’re in or we’re out of the money.
But we’ll love you always, we’re with you rain or shine.

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Barrel tasting in Bordeaux

My French became fluent after a 1967 St Estephe a 1974 St Julien and a 1999 Pomerol raided from my Aunt’s cellar in Castets-en-Dorthe to celebrate her 60th birthday. The red wine has kept her young – she’s not looking a day over 40!

Exquisite foie gras/magrets du canard, saucisson, fromages of every type, baguettes, masses of decanted Bordeaux reds, a rampant log fire and the party was on. A delight to meet Jean-Luc Magnac, local winemaker of Passavant – a port style wine made from Merlot. This was beautiful, normally aged 18 months, but he reckons the 2010 vintage is so good it didn’t need the ageing.

The following day, I drove to local vineyard to barrel taste the magnificent 2010 vintage. Tried cab sav/merlot and malbec from the barrel – great colour depth and concentration. The cab sav was a little green peppery, but was assured this is a whopping vintage. Another year to dig deep for the en primeur sale.

The wine flowed all weekend and finished with a harmonica blues duo in cercle du concorde in Castets.


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Burgundy trip September 2009

Recovered from fantastic tour of Burgundy. Highlights were:

  • last day of the harvest
  • great parties in the vineyards
  • Domaines Varoilles older wines in Gevrey Chambertin
  • lovely sensuous wines of Oliver Leflaive in Puligny Montrachet
  • food (not service) at Ma Cuisine