As regular readers will know, I’ve recently started an 18 month period when I am spending almost half my time at a rented house in France while I think about a permanent main- or second-home there.

Naturally I need a stock of wine there with enough variety to match meals, lubricate relaxation in the garden, entertain and be at the (limited) disposal of friends using the house when I’m not…

The house is a few miles North of Saumur, so recent vintage Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc wines – from cheap and (very) cheerful to serious stuff –  are easily available from Saumur and Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil and St. Nicolas de Bourgueil. Rather fabulous dry Rosé is also easy to find at ridiculously low prices. Without much difficulty it’s also possible to get older vintages; and passable Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay and bubbly. With a bit of effort one can add other Loire wines: Côt; Pineau d’Aunis; higher status dry and sweet Chenin…

However lovely as all this is, there are times – or dishes – that call for wine from other regions. This leads to the issue of developing a second cellar in the Loire house. Not actually a physical cellar but a couple of racks in an unheated, north-facing workshop, something around the 60 – 70 bottle mark ([I should mention] carefully coded for visitors : green under €10, drink!; yellow caution, higher cost!; red hands off!)

So as visits to other region will be limited in the next year (I am just considering trips to Alsace and Rioja…). That means taking back ready-to-drink wines bought in Italy, Rhône, Germany, Alsace, Burgundy… in previous years…. It seems odd – but really it makes sense…

Part of Corkmaster's Main Cellar in Nottingham

Part of Corkmaster’s Main Cellar in Nottingham

The main issue is cuisine… Firstly, for example, I am a big fan of pizza and Chianti while watching footie on TV. An evolution – no doubt – of pies-and-beer once associated with the terraces before the post-modern, dislocated, post-truth, new twist on alienation effected by free movement of capital… but anyway… A decent but simple Chianti is a must.

Secondly there are roast dinners – Bourgueil does wonderfully for poultry and lamb and a small grower I’ve come across has their better cuvée still available in 2011 vintage – a ripe, early year, doing wonderfully at the moment. So little need for right bank claret, maybe a couple of left bank for darker meat…

Curries:- although I love French cuisine I am not willing to forego Indian entirely, and enjoy cooking it. So accordingly I need to ship Alsace Gewurztraminer and German Riesling to wash it down. The latter of course does equally well watching the sun go down with some olives before an evening meal….

Of course most of more elaborate meals will be eaten in Restaurants, the main delight  à la maison is of course grazing on salads, charcuterie and buffet dishes outside. Local Rosé is a wonderful vin de soif for this, the drier serious style available in vrac, or bag-in-box for equivalent of not-much-more than £2 a bottle.

Of course as the light dies and the food and conversation become more serious so does the wine. Good burgundies – of both colours – are essential, so it’s a matter of taking out some at-their-peak examples… whites from an 2005 Auxey to 2012 Chablis, and 2009 or 2010 reds from Givry, Maranges, Savigny…

For bigger dishes after dusk in hot weather –  the atmosphere leads me to Rhône: 2007 Gigondas and other AC from 2010 will soon be joining the collection.

Meanwhile a load of 2010 Bourgueil will come the other way. It’s a great thing, a cellar…

Which brings me to…..

The Joys of the Cellar #4

dscf1116

On one of my regular rummages round the cellar I came across a little cache of single bottles of 1990s Spanish wines, so I moved them to my drink soon rack… A couple of Riojas performed just as you would expect but the last to be drunk was a Catalayud Garnacha 1995 (Castillo de Maluenda). I couldn’t remember how I came by it and the producer’s Garnacha has – since 1999 – been styled Viñas Viejas – presumably in 1995 the Viñas weren’t quite Viejas enough! Further research shows some vintages have been available via Laithwaites or Booths – though nothing is at the moment… I think it would have been a wine in the £7 or £8 range in the late 1990s, when I suspect it made its way into the cellar!

Anyway I opened it with a  Turkey and Lentil dish (a variation on a Raymond Blanc Guinea Fowl Recipe) and was again amazed by the beneficial effects that long aging can have.

The nose was slightly claret-y, with evolved secondary flavours of forest floor, mushroom, cedar and red fruit, not the plum, almost tomato, one gets with big young Garnacha, and a sweetness rather than vanilla from long developed oak. The palate was supple and detailed, with bright red fruit coupled with a long line of acidity and enough soft tannin to frame the food. Slightly softer and more open structured but with something of the depth and refreshment of a 20 year old  right bank claret costing £20+ when released – it just shows what 20 years in the cellar can sometimes achieve!

Of now for another rummage….

Until Soon…

Advertisements