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!





Visit the Wachau in Austria

20131028_152456We have visited the Wachau on the Danube in Austria many times over the years, normally at the end of May for a cycle ride along the Danube, lunch and tasting or two at one of the many wonderful wineries lining the valley.   We’ve also been a few times in the summer and when it is hot enough one can stop at one of the sand banks that form on the river and revive with a refreshing dip in the Danube as it flows past.

photo 1This year however we happened to visit at the end of October on a gorgeous sunny day and the steep vineyards of the Wachau valley were aflame with autumnal reds and yellows.  From October to November the harvest is in full swing so wineries are pressed for time. Whilst they are still welcoming their doors are only open by arrangement and tastings are more hurried affairs than usual.

20131028_152906Instead of our usual cycle along the river this time we parked in Spitz below the Tausendeimerberg, hill (so called because it produces 1000 clay jars of wine) and followed a circular walk through the vineyards behind the town. With the bustle of the harvest, vivid colours and stunning views of the river winding down the valley this is a great time of year to visit.

It’s not all wine either as there are the ruins of the various robber baron castles to visit dotted up and down the hills in one of which Richard the Lion Heart was held for ransom on his way back from the crusades.

Obviously a few bottles were purchased and a tasting worked into the day.  At Weingut Knoll we heard of how earlier it the year in the Danube flooded.  The villages next the river were submerged for a few days, including the valley floor vineyards and the wine cellars where the previous year’s vintage of smargd was still in the large barrels and had to be tied down in position. As the barrels are of course water proof and the water receded after only a few days the wine was not affected.  Those that I tasted attested to this.

The Wachau is only about 50 minutes’ drive from Vienna and can also be reached by train so combines nicely with a city break.  Here are a few tips and links to help you on your way…

General tourist information in English: http://alt.donau.com/donau/wn/?ln=EN

Spitz vineyard walk: http://www.donau.com/de/donau-niederoesterreich/ausflug-bewegen/bewegung/karten-touren-finden/detail/weinwandern-spitz-robert-prosser-und-weingut-franz-hirtzberger/6549636/fee1693155c22cf71221412165fb9a89/


20131028_153309Cycling on the Danube.  A lot of hotels hire bikes but here are also a couple of places in Krems where you can hire bikes for the day.  You can either take one of the cruise ships or the local train down to Willendorf or one of the other towns further west and then spend the day cycling back at a leisurely pace.  There is a dedicated cycle path close to the river all the way:


Restaurant Loibnerhof run by the part of the Knoll family with excellent food and a great wine list featuring mature Knoll Greuners and Rieslings.  Try the Tafelspitz an Austrian speciality of tender beef served with horseradish and apple. In the autumn roast goose (Ganse) with red cabbage is in season: http://www.loibnerhof.at/

Jamek is a well-known Wachau wine producer and has a great restaurant in Joching practically on the cycle path, with a lovely garden, great menu and as one might expect a full selection of their own wines: http://www.weingut-jamek.at/restaurant.php?id=13

For a review of wine makers and wines from Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal see our past tastings page.

photoMost wine makers are very welcoming but it is necessary to make an appointment beforehand.  However two that I have visited many times on spec are Domaine Wachau a large producer who make excellent wines (the Terraces GV from Waitrose is a perennial favourite) and Weingut Schmeltz who have a very groovy tasting room and excellent wines cover looking the vineyards in Joching.



When WC visited the area we stayed at Hotel Pfeffel which has great views over the Danube and has a lovely roof top pool: http://www.pfeffel.at/

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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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Austria trip June 2011 – Wachau Kamptal

Day 1

Thursday night Chez Franz in Mank. Eighteen Austrian reds served in pairs blind, 1989-2010. Four dessert wines, Kracher 2008.
Present: Eric Boudot from Bordeaux and local merchant, Didi local restauranteur.

Wines included:

  • Round 1: Native zweigelt (after a Professor)/Blaufrankish( Blue Franc in Napoleonic times) – cherry fruity spices.
  • Round 2: Pinot Noir Gesselman 2003, 13% floral earthy composty classic pinot ( Eric called Gesselman during tasting!) and Pinot 2004 Markowitsch – a bit cooked.
  • Round 3: Blaufrankisch 2001 Chevalier -earthy 14% powerful and Zweigelt OLvin 2000.
  • Round 4: Merlot 2000 (highlight). Lilies, flowers, lavender, smokey, Blaufrankish – barrel sample pichler, too young/acetone.
  • Round 5 1999 in signo Leorus cuvee V saira grande reserve 2003 cab merlot (tiring).
  • Round 6: corked 2000 Guiser V Blaufrankish 2000 Durran savoury/sweet/hoisin sauce (Kiran +++).
  • Round 7: 1994 Blaufrankisch – over the hill, spicy, HP sauce +++V th suprise 1996 Chateau Montrose! wet dog/fur.
  • Round 8: 1989 Blaufrankisch Markowitch V 1989 Zweigelt. Very interesting to try such old Austrian reds, but past their best.

austria1A marathon with tonnes of cheese. Finished off with the famous Krachers, 50 euros, plus a bottle generously supplied by Eric, a rosen muskateller 2008 and variety of 2008 6%, 8% and 11%. Oh, and a lovely Doisy Daene thrown in! What a tasting!

Day 2

Drove to Spitz on the Danube. First stop, Mauritshof Britz for a whole array of gruners and rieslings. Unfortunately the 2010 was not a great vintage with lots of rain and other problems. This showed in the 2010. Then a trip to Lagler slightly overshadowed by a leggy loud American group but some lovely wines (see The Wines of Austria event).

We checked in at the lovely hotel on the banks of the Danube and headed off on our bikes to Emmerich Knoll. He was a wee bit surprised to see us and was sat with his grandchildren. We gladly joined the Knoll family and thus commenced a three hour afternoon tasting of some fantastic wines including barrel selections of all his 2010, served from the most remarkable blown glass contraption. A truly memorable afternoon.

austria2Finished the day at the restaurant opposite Knoll in Unterloiben. The smoked, herb crusted trout was the highlight, but some other great food. Rob et al none too happy as hot desserts stopped at 9.30pm!

Day 3

More intense cycling and a rather longer trip than expected to Langenlois and missed the first tasting! A real test for me in my rehabilitation from back surgery and just managed. Rewarded at the Brundlymayer restaurant with the most awesome display of around twenty wines,  with beautiful food. Highlights for sure were the rose brut – the quality of top champagne and the Ried Lamm, which had spent time in wood and is compatible with top white burgundy.

Later that afternoon in Strass tried maybe fifteen wines with Mr Shreibess. These were great value for money and very crisp clean wines. Luckily, it was downhill to Krems and along the river through Unterloiben and Durnstein. Back to the hotel for schnitzel, a delicious stinging nettle soup and the most ridiculously large eggy meringue type and a thick, pancake-like dessert.

Another great trip – next stop, Italy