Tag Archives: france

On the twelfth day of Christmas my wine rack gave to me a Catena Malbec

Malbec Monday

Malbec is a grape variety that hails from France, and is usually blended in Bordeaux wines. While the grape hails from France, the country that really makes this variety shine is Argentina.
In France, the weather and soil conditions are not ideal for Malbec, and tends to be very prone to disease, which is why the variety is used in many blends. Pop the grape in Argentina, and it thrives – the hot, high altitude climate is perfect for Malbec.

Malbec is quite similar to a Merlot, with its plum like flavours, but with a little more character and depth.

The wine that takes out number 12 in the wine advent calendar is the 2014 Catena Malbec.

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Deep, and rich in burgandy colour (typical of a Malbec), the Catena has a very fragrant, earthy aroma. It’s smooth and silky, and has distinct oak and pepper notes.

Go on, treat yourself to a Malbec Monday. You deserve it!

Until next time winos

Cheers!

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Dom Pérignon, THE bubble man. The story of Champagne

 

If there’s one man we need to thank in this world, it has to be Dom Pérignon. This 18th century monk is THE bubble man that created and founded champagne. The best thing about this story is that it was all by mistake!

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THE bubble man and I

Back in the day, monks from the Abbey of Hautvillers (where Dom Pérignon came from) worked on the vineyards to produce wine. Even though the monks were making wine, their wine making reputation of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay wines were not so good.

Dom Pérignon wanted to change this, and revamp the wine that was being made. His aim was to make it a more enjoyable drink – As all wine should be!

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The Abbey

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Inside the Abbey

Being in charge of the cellars, Dom decided to implement a few changes to the wine making process….

He introduced an oak wine press from the Burgundy region

Instead of foot stomping the grapes, the oak press extracted the white juice from the red grapes through a soft, slow press – something that had never been done before!

He introduced Pinot Noir to the region

This variety is one of the key grape varities in the Champagne mix – Chardonnay, Mourvèdre, and Pinot Noir

He was the first to mix grape varieties together

Talk about a match-maker master!

He was the first to put wine in a bottle!

A crystal see-through bottle in fact!

This was a big development in the ‘World of Wine’. Being able to see the bottle contents meant that you didn’t have to worry about whether it had poison in it.

People were so brutal back then!

He also made the bottle a flat bottom bottle. This too meant that it prohibited people from popping explosives in the base of it. Again, so brutal!!

He was the first to put the cork in a wine bottle

Dom brought this innovative technique to Champagne from Belgium where they corked beer bottles.

To produce the cork, cork trees were then planted in the Champagne region. Not sure about you, but when I hear cork trees, all I can imagine is a tree growing little wine bottle corks on it.

 

How the magic happened

While Dom Pérignon was in the process of making wine, it was during the 2nd fermentation where all the magic happened.

When the yeast and sugar mixed, the wine started to produce carbon dioxide, and as a result 18% of the bottles exploded. This was due to the sheer pressure built up inside the bottles from the carbon dioxide. Whoops!

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Hooray for mistakes!

With such a strange occurrence happening during the wine making process, the townsfolk thought it was the workings of Satan.

While there were still some bottles in the mix that didn’t explode, they decided to taste them and boy where they surprised! It’s been claimed that they felt like they were drinking the stars. This iconic moment is featured on the label, with the one star.

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Notice the star on the label?!

While you’re probably thinking they were drinking the champagne as we know champagne today, back then it was a very VERY sweet syrupy wine – 400g of sugar with bubbles on top to be exact. That’s 2 cups of sugar in a bottle!! Talk about a sugar hit. Most fortifieds have only a quarter of that sugar content.

So how did champagne become what we know it as today?

There were many great influencers over the years following Dom Pérignon.

Madame Clicquot (Verve Clicquot)

A century after the discovery of Champagne, Madame Clicquot didn’t want to wait until dessert to drink the sweet wine. She discovered that the yeast and sugar could be shifted to the neck of the bottle by conducting a rotation of the bottle, slowly moving the bottle to sit upside down – known as riddling.  She discovered this process from placing the bottles in the holes of her table.

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An example of what her table would have looked like! So much wine!!

Once she completed the riddling process, the top of the wine bottle was frozen and the sugar and yeast was removed – known as disgorgement. The wine was then topped up with more wine. This process also made the wine a lot more clearer.

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Thanks Madame Clicquot

 

Madame Pommery (Pommery)

In 1874, Madame Pommery decided it was still too sweet and reduced the wine sugar content even further from 150g to 10g

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Madame Pommery didn’t like the sweet life

 

While Dom was not necessarily behind the Champagne we know today, he is the king of the blend and technique of Champagne.

I take my hat off to him, if I was wearing a hat, and thank him for giving us this bubbly goodness we pop to drink for special occasions, and just to enjoy a glass of those sparkling stars.

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RIP Dom Perignon

A couple of fun Dom facts

The world’s most expensive bottle of Dom Pérignon is €2000

Every Dom Pérignon is a vintage wine, meaning that the bottle comes from the best grapes from the region in one year. If the Dom Pérignon is not a good vintage, it then off it goes to Moet and Chandon.

 

Until next time winos,

 

Cheers

 

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Champagne – Where sparkling dreams are made

If you follow me on Instagram (@tipthebottle), you would have seen my many insta-posts of Champagne bottles, me in amongst Champagne vineyards, me drinking Champagne…

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Yes, I went to Champagne. Yes, I absolutely loooooved it!

Tripping to Champagne has been one of the best experiences of my life. With so much history and insight in to the Champagne making process, it has made me more knowledgeable on the sparkly drink, and appreciative of the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that go in to one bottle. Actually, it’s really not blood, sweat and tears that go in to Champagne, it’s three grape varieties (and always these three grape varieties) Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay all sourced from the Champagne region in France. This is what makes Champagne, Champagne.

My learning experience of Champagne all kicked off with a full-day guided tour with France Bubbles Tours.

Our tour guide was Amanda. Amanda was a local from Reims, which is located in the Champagne region. She really demonstrated her knowledge of the region, and was dropping little Champagne truths all throughout the day.

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Tour guide Amanda dropping her Champagne truths

So I thought I’d share some of these little truths with you:

The Region

  • Everyone in the Champagne region will have some sort of involvement with a Champagne house – from growing the grapes, to selling the grapes to Champagne houses.
  • The Champagne region experiences approximately 250 days of rain. That’s a lot of rainy days in one year!
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Each of the houses had a Champagne sign out front. I need one for my place!

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Passing through a Champagne village

The Vineyards

  • Because of the climate, Champagne vines are grown compact and close to the ground. This protects the grapes from the frost, and cold wind.
  • It’s hard for a Champagne house to be organic, as they need to treat and protect the vineyards from disease.
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Champagne that grow close together stays together 🙂

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The Champagne grapes – Not yet to harvesting stage – still growing

  • There’s no irrigation, which means that the vines will compete with each other to get as much as they can from the earth. Because of this, the roots go deep into the ground.
  • The Chalk in the ground provides the vines with much of what they need to flourish.
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The side of the hill shows just how much clay is below the surface

  • Each Champagne house will source from a Cru based on the climate and terroir. The sourcing for each grape variety needs to be from one Cru. What’s a Cru you ask? In Champagne, a Cru is a village. The Champagne quality is linked back to the Cru, which essentially is the quality / terroir of the villages’ vineyards. There are different levels of quality, with the top one being a ‘Grand Cru’. A Grand Cru Champagne is a Champagne that has been sourced entirely from one village that has been classified as a Grand Cru. These grapes have a hefty price tag attached to them, which is why you will see a ‘Grand Cru’ Champagne fetch a high price tag.
  • At some wineries they replant some of their vineyards every 30 years. This keeps the grapes young, which can then be blended with old vines. If a winery replants their vines, they need to wait 1 year before replanting, plant, then wait another 4 years before they can begin harvesting. Good things come to those who wait I guess!
  • There is a limit that the Champagne growers can pick each year. In fact, some wineries try to sell off their grapes (illegally) to other wineries.
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Now that’s a view!!

 

The Bottles

  • The best years for Champagne in the 2000’s so far have been 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008. While the best wine years have been 1996 and 1998. You’re welcome 🙂
  • The corks that are squeezed in to a Champagne bottle are also from Champagne – Everything about Champagne has to be from Champagne. It’s the rule!

The Champagne Coin

  • It costs €1.6 million to buy just one hectare in Champagne – Where’s my cheque book?
  • The cost to make 1 bottle of Champagne is around €7 per bottle – this explains why this sparkly drink has such a sparkly price tag.

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Some extra stats!

  • Champagne represents just 2% of the wine in France. Not all that big when you think about it.
  • To claim that you’ve tasted from every Champagne house, you would need to try 10 Champagnes a day for the next 20 years. I’d happily accept that challenge!
  • Each Champagne house has approximately 10 years of stock, just in case a bad harvest occurs.

 

That’s probably enough Champagne truths I’ve dropped for now. Stay tuned for more posts on my trip to Champagne!

 

Until next time winos,

 

Cheers

 

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A trip around France’s wine region in one Paris wine bar – O’Chateau

You may or may not remember me saying, that it was a dream of mine to visit O’Chateau wine bar in Paris. Well ladies and gentleman, that dream came true on my recent trip to France!

O’Chateau was founded by Olivier Magnay in 2004, and has received many awards for being Paris’ best wine bar. If you’re wondering who he is, check out my previous post here.
O’Chateau is nestled in a quiet street off the main drag, not far from the Louvre.
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Much truth

On arrival we were welcomed by the friendly staff. We took our seats, and were handed the vin menu containing an expansive list of French wines from across the regions.
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A great read 🙂

The real highlight of this bar is the 40 wines on tap, with many MANY more bottles to try. Something quite unique for a wine bar!
Each of the wines are housed in a temperature controlled glass cabinet, with tubes running from each bottle to the outside. To serve, the bartender simply presses a button and extracts the wine in to a glass.
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The house of wines!

It’s like an adults version of a self-serve drink machine in a fast food restaurant, only that it’s not self-serve, and you can’t go filling it to the brim!
With the sheer number of wines on tap, O’Chateau welcomes you to do a tasting, have a glass or, if you’re feeling complete adoration ‘love-at-first-sight’ for a wine, you can even buy by the bottle. For me, it was glasses ahoy.
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Glasses ahoy!

With the day being a little warmer, I felt like starting with something light and refreshing.
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Spoilt for choice!

#1 Wine – Viognier

Region/Area – Languedoc – Côteaux du Languedoc  (located in the South of France)
Wine – Pierre Vaisse Hasard Viognier 2015
This was an interesting wine. More floral than I’ve tasted before for a Viognier variety.
Floral on the nose, with tasting notes of kiwi fruit and elderflower.
It had a medium to high acidity, and was straw in colour.
While it was a pleasant wine to start with, as I got further through the glass it was very much a ‘one-glass-I’ll-try-a-different-type-of-wine’ variety.
Just nice on its own as an aperitif.

 

On to the next wine!
To help me choose my next wine, the bartender went through the whites list, explaining the regions where each had hailed from. He even slipped me a cheeky tasting to make sure I’d be happy with my choice.
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Location, Location, Location

#2 Wine – Chenin Blanc

Region/Area – Loire -Savennières (located in central France)
Wine – Domaine FL – Chamboureau 2010
 This wine was a mineral style of wine, typical of its region – mineral on the nose, with a medium acidity and a slight dryness to it. It was certainly a more pleasing wine to drink than wine number one, and one that you COULD have another glass of.
Mid way through our wine flight through France, we decided to get a cheese board.
What a great decision that was!
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Good decisions being made. All these cheeses came from the South of France

While we were eating our way through the delicious French cheeses, we decided to spice things up and change our wine to a rouge (red).

#3 Wine – Grenache

Region/Area – Châteauneuf-du-pape, Rhône  (located in the South of France)
Wine – Domaine Jérôme Gradassi 2014
This was a big red – rich in colour, full bodied, peppery on the nose, and big in flavour.  Notes of French oak, and red current, with a really dry finish. It was a wine that warmed the heart, and made the smile grow bigger.
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Happy Days!

#4 Wine – Pinot Noir

Region/Area – Bourgogne (located East-Central France)
Wine – Domaine JJ Confuron Jeunesse 2014
A comforting rouge with strong oak notes, liquorice and spice. A great wine to top off the afternoon.
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Taking in the wine

Although, it didn’t stop there…
After being at O’Chateau for almost 3 hours, and having taken a wine flight across France, the bartender brought us over a complimentary fortified. What a delight!
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Pretty much my expression at the time.

O’Chateau really is Paris’ best wine bar.

Not only was the service and cheese on point, but the varieties and quality of the wine was impeccable. These guys really do know their wine – which is no surprise, as they’re all sommeliers.
My next dream now is to go back and visit the wine bar again, and take another flight through the French wines I didn’t have the chance to try!

 

Until next time winos,
Cheers!

 

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Olivier Magny – My Jamie Oliver equivalent to wine

For anyone who knows me, knows I’m a Jamie Oliver fan. A big one too. When it comes to the world of wine I think I’ve found my Jamie Oliver equivalent.

Meet Olivier Magny – a French Sommelier/Entrepreneur/Author

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The man himself. Olivier Magny

I came across Olivier through his SBS show ‘The Grape Escape’.
In the series you travel along with him throughout the French wine regions, visiting many wineries, and learning about the wine making process along the way.
His excitable nature and approach to wine is infectious. His mantra is all about removing the intimidation people may have with wine, with a purpose of making it fun and factual, which I love.

In his series, one of the key highlights for me was when he visited the champagne region – it was so interesting to learn the process of making champagne from picking, to fermentation, through to storing. This all finished with learning how you should open a champagne bottle – my life changed forever when I saw this. simples tip the bottleThe trick is, rather than twisting the cork, you should twist the bottle instead. Simples!

 

Another region visited was the Bordeaux region. This took me back to my holiday in 2013 where I visited Bordeaux. He even ran in the Marathon du Medoc! What a champion.

Along with this great series, he’s also written a book ‘Into Wine’ (which I’m currently reading), and even founded Ô Chateau, Frances’ number one wine school located in Paris. It’s even home to a wine bar with 40 glasses on the menu to choose from. 40! With so many glasses on tap, I hope one day to visit his wine bar, as I’m sure his collection would be ‘superbe’.

Me in Paris! Oh how I want to go back!

Me in Paris! Oh how I want to go back!

Until next time wino’s,

Cheers

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Marathon Du Medoc – continued

Marathon Du Medoc continued…
Following weeks of training, I finally arrived in Bordeaux. The city of Bordeaux is an amazing city, oozing French charm, with beautiful architecture and urban streetscape.
For those of you playing at home, Bordeaux is located in the South West of France, and is considered to be one of the world’s wine capitals. With over 286,000 acres of vineyards, there’s certainly no shortage of wine; Please pass me the bottle.

While we were staying in the city of Bordeaux, the run itself was held out in Pauillac (pronounced ‘Poy Yak’), which is just over an hours drive from Bordeaux in the Medoc region.

The night before the run I was mixed with emotion. Emotions of excitement, nervousness and a slight sense of ‘what the hell have I signed myself up for’? With my belly full of carbs, I was out like a light. Early morning rise, off we headed to the train station in our fancy dress costumes to catch the local train to Pauillac, complete with superman and several storm troopers on board.

Ready at the start line, the party atmosphere was brewing. The effort people went to with their outfits was impressive – Aliens that really did look like they were from outta space, Avatar, Star trek, Princess Leia’s, and even a Chewbacca. Music blasting out of speakers, French women suspended by massive balloons, and dancing all around, it was hard to believe we were about to run a marathon.

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The start gun sounded. We were off.IMG_4173

As we ran through every single one of the 60 Chateaus on the list, each one was a party; with live music playing, people dancing, food and wine flowing, it made it hard to leave and move on to the next.

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I must be honest with you. While the wine was certainly flowing at every winery, I did hold off from drinking until later on in the run, as I was trying to reserve my energy for the many kilometres I had ahead of me. It was around the 37km  point I had my first wine. While I was unsure of the variety it was, I do know it was a white wine, and boy was it delicious! Along side the road there was also freshly shucked oysters (the last thing I could think about eating on a marathon), along with delicious succulent steak and even ice cream as we neared the finish line. Yum!

As the finish line drew closer, whether it was the wine or the ice cream, my energy levels picked up. Making a bolt to the end we were greeted with our finishers’ prize of a backpack, a t-shirt, a cup, a medal, and the all-important bottle of authentic Bordeaux wine, complete with a single rose. So fancy, but oh so French.

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After finally completing my first marathon, the party did not end there. Right along side the track was the after-party tent. Inside the tent, the wine continued to flow with the DJ spinning pumping tunes, dancing all around and Chewbacca out the back lapping it all up. It was the best recovery anyone could ask for.

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Looking back at this epic run I endured, it was something like no other. Never before have I completed a run where I was literally smiling the whole way. Unbelievable. It will be something I will look back at fondly, and would highly recommend anyone and everyone to take part in it. You will have no regrets, just a greater love of French wine.

Until next time wino’s
Cheers.

 

For those of you playing at home, click here for a map and list of the Chateau’s we visited. 60 Chateau’s in total!

 

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Marathon Du Medoc

In my last post I mentioned that I’m 30 years of age, or as some would say, 30 years young.
My thirties so far have been great. In fact, the way that I decided to enter in to my thirties was somewhat of a different experience most would have.

It was back in early 2013 that I decided that I wanted to do something to mark this milestone of a birthday. With Google at my fingertips I was searching for some inspiration on what I could do. It wasn’t until one fine sunny February morning that my fitness freak of a brother emailed me a webpage link, from his home in London, suggesting that I travel over and do a marathon with him.

A Marathon?!

Being a social runner, and having only ever done one half-marathon a couple of years ago, I swore to myself I would never do a full marathon – way too far!

So I clicked through on the webpage link, and low-and-behold I was sold. It was a wine marathon in Bordeaux France! Yep, you read it right…a wine marathon in Bordeaux France.
The marathon is called ‘Marathon Du Medoc’. The idea of this marathon, is that you dress-up in fancy dress, with the theme being Science Fiction, and run a full marathon distance of 40.195km (26.2 miles) through the Medoc wine region (think of the Yarra Valley, but bigger and filled with French people), dropping in to chateaus and drinking wine along the way.

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All signed up, I began my training regime.

How does one train for an event like this? Should I be taking a flask of wine on my training runs? What fancy dress costume should I run my first marathon in?

Seeing as though I’d never run that far before, and to avoid the weird looks from people seeing me downing a shiraz on the running trails, I decided to split my training in to two parts.

Part one of my training:
I followed a 13-week program of continual running. Never before have I run so much in my life. It was painful, but at the same time rewarding, running the distances that I did, and churning through a pair of runners from it.

Part two of my training:
Keeping up the vino intake, responsibly of course. While most who train for marathons would eliminate all forms of alcohol, it was important for me to keep this up. After all, I would be drinking wine on the run, and it would be irresponsible of me to lower my tolerance levels. Suffice to say, part two of the training program was my favourite.

At the end of the 13 weeks, it was time to pack my bags, along with my fancy dress costume, and head over to France.

Stay tuned, as my next post I’ll be taking you along the ride with me on what was a very unique, and extremely exhilarating experience. Here’s a little taste as to what I chose as my Sci-Fi fancy dress costume.

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Until next time wino’s, cheers.

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