Category: WINE

PORT for the HOLIDAY SEASON

 “Any time not spent drinking Port is a waste of time.”, Percy Crof.

Port is regarded historically as a British drink especially as a traditional British Christmas drink. Surprising for a country that haschristmas embraced drinking Port since the 17th century, most English households buy just one Port bottle a year – mainly at Christmas! Do you see the French or Italians buy just one bottle of wine a YEAR??? Or Russians buy just one bottle of Vodka per annum? Still, most Brits drink Port as a festive drink on a festive season; Christmas.

Sun SetChristmas or “Christ’s Mass” is actually Jesus Christ’s Birthday, it is a Christian holiday, celebrated in the old Jewish tradition of celebrating an occasion or a holiday on the eve of the day (from sun set to sun set), as the “official” birthday is on December 25th, millions of people around the world celebrate evening and midnight masses on a very important date on the Christian calendar Xmas eve, on December 24th. The reason celebrations occur on Christmas Eve, is because the traditional Christian liturgical day starts at sunset, an inheritance from Jewish tradition, which is based on the story of Creation in the Book of Genesis: “And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.” (Genesis 1:3-5) –“ויהי ערב ויהי בוקר יום אחד”

pagan decoChristian religious, old pagan and secular themes are mixed in this holiday which is near or on the days of winter solstice. The ancient Egyptians decorated palm branches during the winter solstice to symbolize resurrection. Ancient Greeks decorated evergreen trees in worship of Adonia, who was resurrected by a serpent. Romans covered their trees with metallic decorations and candles to honor Bacchus (our winespirit-of-yule god), The ancient Germans decorated evergreen trees in worship of Woden. Apart from Christmas tree, and presents giving (of course), the holiday include a special meal. The Christmas dinner is the primary meal traditional for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (at Lunch). Christmas dinner around the world may differ and the local traditional aspects affect the content the traditional products used and even the colours of the dishes, they all usually serve as symbols to commemorate aspects of life from religious to cultural and local even climatic points of view. In the United Kingdom the main Xmas meal is usually eaten as lunch on December 25th.

Christmas-Dinner

The dinner usually consists of roast turkey or better stills goose, duck, pheasant, or other Roasts, in medieval England, the main course was either a peacock or a boar, in fact King Henry VIII was the first English King to have turkey for Christmas. Served IMG_5615with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce or redcurrant jelly; bread sauce; Side veggies are traditionally: Brussels  sprouts, parsnips and carrots (as if there was any other choice at the time the tradition was laid down and throughout the centuries and up to the late 1980’s). The dessert is Christmas pudding (or plum pudding), sometimes mince pies or trifle, with brandy butter…Port of different qualities may be served with each of the traditional dishes including the Roasts, but the best and most classic combination is Vintage Port served with a good quality Stilton or other blue cheese even well matured Cheddar, and Parmesan, accompanied by nuts mainly Walnuts, chestnuts, cashews, and hazelnuts that bring out the best in port.

One story regarding the appearance of Port is that a wine merchant from Liverpool, sent his sons to Portugal in 1678 to find a wine source due to shortage of Bordeaux wines (Clarets). They came upon a monastery in Lamego in the Douro Valley where the abbot was adding brandy to the wine already during fermentation rather than after, producing a port-type wine with higher sugar and alcohol content. A nice legend which happens one hundred years after the first recorded shipment of Port in 1588, and so remains a legend, but certainly sometime during the end of the 1600’s or beginning of the 1700’s, someone came up with the idea of stopping the fermentation with brandy while the wine was still sweet, fruity, and strong of which the English aristocracy could not have enough…

barco_rabelo                                                        ch1_Douro_boat

British wine merchants moved to a suburb of Oporto, Vila Nova de Gaia that lies opposite Oporto town and made it the true home to Port. The wine comes used to be shipped down the river from the spectacular terraced hillsides of the Douro valley to Oporto, shipped down the river by distinctive looking boats called ‘barcos rabelos’ . Oporto which lies at the mouth of the Douro river. Vila Nova de Gaia became dominated by British Port wine lodges, with over fifty wine companies based in its narrow, twisting streets many still carry British families names: Barros Gilberts, Sandeman, Robertson’s, Graham’s, Warre’s, Smith Woodhouse and Cockburn’s, The Symington Family, Croft, Taylor etc.

It is here in Vila Nova de Gaia, that aging and blending of most of the world’s supply of Port wine takes place. One of these families (knownCroft-2 as Croft), was originally Phayre & Bradley founded over three hundred years ago. The earliest evidence of the firm’s activity as a Port shipper dates from 1588, coincidentally the year of the first ever recorded shipments of Port wine. after its founding partners and took its present name Croft, in 1736 when it was joined by John Croft, a member of an old and distinguished family of Yorkshire wine merchants.

Although well established in Oporto, the Crofts never lost touch with their Yorkshire origins. In his treatise, John Croft describes himself as ‘Member of the Factory at Oporto and Wine Merchant of York’. The family returned to England in the nineteenth century, after the Peninsular Wars, and there are no longer any Crofts in the firm. The family maintained its affection for the fortified wines of the Douro and the late Percy Croft, who died in 1935, is credited with the famous words: “Any time not spent drinking Port is a waste of time.” (I just can’t resist in reciting again this wonderful saying.)IMG_4749

In 1911 the House of Croft was acquired by the Gilbeys, the distinguished English wine trade family. It isterraces now owned and run by descendants of two old Port wine families, the Yeatman’s and Fladgate’s. It is those wondrous vineyards: the famous Quinta da Roêda,  that are largely responsible to its ownership of one of the finest estates of the Douro Valley, earned for centuries by croft, that keep on ,the place of distinction earned by Croft and its wines.

The best and most classic combination is Vintage Port served with a good quality Stilton but also consider blue cheese or a Cheddar, or Parmesan, accompanied with walnuts or chestnuts, in fact nuts of all sorts bring out the best in port.

Croft 1970‘Declared’ Vintages are the best Vintage years, averaging 2-4 each decade, which produce wines of great concentration and longevity. They are usually blended from the best produce of more than one estate. Croft’s declared Vintage Ports, although based on the wines of Quinta da Roêda, sometimes also contain wines from other top estates. Croft is one of the most famous Vintage Port houses and it’s declared Vintage Ports, such as the legendary 1945 and more recently the award winning Croft 1994 are among the most sought after Ports. (from Croft www site)

This is all written due to my recent acquisition of one case (of 12 bottles) of Croft 1970) I have has a fewcroft_port_12_bottle bottles of this port in the past (from the Cambridge University cellars yearly “clear out”) and they were simply divine. The Croft 1970’s has incredible structure and good acidity and residual tannins to make it last, even beyond 2020. Croft 1970 has a tawny red colour with a touch of deep purple, the nose is delicate and refined. The fruit is still apparent with flavors of dried fruits: sultanas and prunes and touch of tobacco, aand a mixture of dried exotic sweet spices. Some bottles are better than others depending on the cork quality and endurance they tend to start seeping at a certain stage, I am sure it will give me pleasure in the coming years.

But the cellar has more to offer:

Vilanova 1977One of my favorites is a non “pedigreed” LBV (late bottled vintage) from a co-op called Porto Vilanova vintage 1977 (a great Port Vintage year,) which were bottled for me, on different years as the time gone by from 1987 and on, and it got better each time I tasted it and as the years went by and the wine was still “brewing” and maturing in its original Barrel (I shared one whole barrel) and still have some for special occasions. It has deep scent of spiced coffee, chocolate and black prune concentrated prune (Powidl style) taste, simply delicious.powidl

Powidła or Powidło in Polish is a plum stew. Unlike jam or marmalade,  Powidl is prepared by cooking prunes (for hours) without additional sweeteners or gelling agents just  sheer dehydrating, and achieving  concentration of the fruit natural sweetness. The plums used should be harvested as late as possible, ideally after the first frosts, in order to ensure they contain enough sugar.

1937 and 1963 Barros Port

Barros 1937                                    Barros 63                                    IMG_5621

The 1937 Port has brownish red appearance with deep amber hue, seducting aromas of vanilla scented tobacco, golden raisins and chocolate gingerbread.  The  rich, hazelnuts and dark raisins and a touch of fig.

There are also: Grahams 1994 LBV, Cases of 1994 Vintage Warre, and Dow’s many more mainly 1977 and 1994 Port to sweeten our lives for years to come..

 Not to forget the young but beautiful Neipoort Vintage Port 2009 and Neipoort 2001 Colheita we had recently (the complete story https://wine4soul.com/2012/05/15/the-magnificence-of-the-douro/ ) 

Now I have to choose which one is my “Festive Port” for this year’s celebrations, I have this tingle at the tip of my fingers and tongue to “go for” the 1963 Barros, This is an LBV in the Best British tradition as Yair says, and LBV’s always surprise you to the better, it is a good Barros Vintage, we’ll see after all I always choose by the guests, atmosphere, and the meal.

…In the meantime

I will leave you with warmest season’s greetings a a delightful version of this Christmas classic Vintage 1954 by the Drifters. Sweet animation with  Santa and Reindeer Singing White Christmas (Animated version), of this Colheita quality Song. judge for yourselves!

Cheers and a very HAPPY NEW YER from the very Holy Land…

Your WINEGUIDE

A Meal at Catit Restaurant Tel-Aviv Israel (Part 1)

A story of a DARE
It is not often that a GREAT chef DARES me to sample his new menu at his Restaurant. Well… one of the most talented chefs in Israel Meir Adoni of CATIT Restaurant in Tel-Aviv, did just that! He dared me to put his “cooking creations” to “contest” against any other meals I had with renowned chefs around the world. (2-3 Michelin star restaurants) and he knows the restaurants I visited lately.
For me it was a win win situation. The deal was give me 5 hours of your time and Just 60% of the cost of a GREAT meal abroad, (wines not included) for me and one or two other experienced diners of my choice. We bring the wines, (we’re good at that…), and come with open minds, allow ourselves to immerse unconditionally into his world. Between us I could not have been Happier
Now, I know this young, talented guy, Meir ADONI, (almost since he first opened his first restaurant outside Tel-Aviv in Kfar Ruth and later in the astonishing Allenby Farm House at Kibbutz Netzer Sireni, what a great venue! (unfortunately for him not at the center of things). That day I dined at his place with amazement he was an eager youngling, with lots of ideas circling in his culinary mind, at times overdoing content and dish size, but the talent and sparkle was there from day one, we all mature to excellence, the hard way…
The man who cooked at the house where the british headquarters and personal residence of General Edmund Henry Allenby, the British General and administrator, Alenby, who led the Egyptian Expeditionary Force during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in the British conquest of Palestine and Syria in 1917 and 1918, during the First World War, The man who “freed” Jerusalem from 400 years of Ottoman rule, a great friend and commander of T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia” one of my favorite characters). As Lawrence wrote in his book seven pillars of wisdom, an autobiographical account of his experiences of British soldier:
I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands
And wrote my will across the sky and stars
To earn you freedom, the seven pillared worthy house,
That your eyes might be shining for me when I came
So does Meir Adoni who started cooking at General Alenby’s headquarters, preparing his tour de (culinary) force, his very own seven pillars of culinary wisdom, for me personally I must say I was flattered.
To sum it up we did get a virtuoso culinary experience on the day the first Palestinian Rockets fell on Tel-Aviv (9/11/12), a meal that allowed us to forget all the worldly follies of human deeds such as war, death and destruction and allowed us 5 hours of calm bliss with a rare combination of our 5 senses, mainly smell and taste, in balanced aroma’s, visually exquisite artistic presentation to touch the realm of all our senses in each and every dish from start to finish. It certainly was an impressive expression of Chef Adoni’s passion, to food and culinary excellence.
The wines we brought :
Pierre Gimonnet, Fleuron 1996 1er Cru Champagne
Sauvignon Blanc (Morillon) – Zieregg – Manfred Tement Austria
GRUAUD LAROSE St. Julien Bordeaux1970
La Dame Brune 2001 Domaine George Vernay Saint Joseph

The Meal:
The champagne Pierre Gimonnet, Fleuron 1996, was opened all dressed in a lovely straw yellow colour, leaning towards gold with nice stream of elegant delicate bubbles, this maturing excellent wine is full of notes of a mature champagne aromas of compote of apricots and golden apples, with a touch of roasted almonds and a nice tone of yeast bouquet (the alluring side of a great champagne), still refreshing with a good balance between fruit and acidity, it turned out to be a most suitable wine for the meal that lies ahead…


1. Gillardeau oyster.
Grean Apples, celery, cuecumbers, Tapioca pearles Jus of parsly and Youzo
One fresh oyster laid gently in a jus of parsley and Youzo with small cubes of green crunchy vegetables and fruit, the scent of greens balance by the acidity of the Youzo compliment the fresh oyster (with its juices) and a decoration of Tapioca pearls, a dish fit as a start to a regal meal.
Gillardeau oysters are a brand of edible oysters that are produced by the Gillardeau family founded in 1898 in Bourcefranc-le-Chapus near La Rochelle and the Île d’Oléron in western France
Tapioca is a starch extracted from cassava. This species is native to Brazil. The term “tapioca” is used to represent the root of the cassava plant, rather than the starch
The pearls must be soaked well before cooking, to rehydrate them; they will easily absorb water equal to twice their volume, becoming leathery and swollen.

2. Triptych of seafood
An eggshell filled with Blue Crab flesh, spinach, white almonds, quails yolk and shrimp butter, “Cromesquis” of Langoustine Bisque, Toasted brioche with shrimp butter.
This is a triptych of delightful bites of seafood first the content of the eggshell delicate comes to life upon crunching on a bleached Almond every once in a while the combi of quails yolk and spinach is precisely balanced with the freshly steamed crab flesh, the Kormosky is a crunchy ball / truffle filled with creamy langoustine bisque that bursts through the “shell” as you bite on it, very clever and perfectly performed langouste doughnut, the toasted brioche (slightly scented with truffle oil) can be eaten on its own or used to dip into the eggshell to wipe off the remains of the dish excellent!

              
3. Sashimi of Amberjack
Amberjack (Intias) dusted in Nori seaweed, Ginger cream, Youzo aioli, a Jelly of honey and horseradish, yoghurt parfait, Horseradish Granita, and herbal vinaigrette.
The combination of the fresh sashimi and the perfect horseradish granite, is just right the other bits and bobs add to the presentation and the wider scope of flavours but is not essential.
Granita is a semi-frozen Sicilian rough sorbet of sorts, it is coarse, and has crystalline texture. It is made from water and fresh horseradish juice and grated flakes and maybe an added secret dairy ingredient, I guess…)
Amberjacks are voracious predators, which feed on squid, fish, and crustaceans in the mediterainian the smaller, lesser Amberjack (up to 5 Kg are more common than the Atlantic Greater Amberjack, one of the best fish for Sashimi in our waters.

                 
4. Steak Tartar
Tartar of “skirt”/Onglet, Cognac, shallots radishes lightly cured Mediterranean anchovy Dashi cream and smoked egg yolk.
A delicate version of steak tartar from the diaphragm of the steer Though rough in texture, adding a nice sense of touch on the palate, it is smooth and precisely spiced with a nice balance between the elements (meat and fish), served with the smoked yolk in the “traditional tartar manner” with the Dashi opening the Umami touch on the tongue’s taste buds (nice touch).
Dashi is a simple broth or fish stock, shaved Katsuobushi and dried kelp – kombu – it forms the basis of many soups (such as miso) in Japanese cuisine. The element of umami, considered one of the five basic tastes is introduced into dashi from the use of katsuobushi, due to it’s especially high in sodium inosinate (MSG) content, the source of umami taste.

                               

5. “Caprese sea”
Carpaccio of scallops, sliced “Tamar” Tomatoes, Basil leaves, on a bed of white eggplant cream, Kalamata Olive Tapenade, grilled crystal mediterainian shrimp, basil oil and fresh oregano
Caprese (salad in the style of the island of Capri) is a simple salad from the Italian region of Campania, made of sliced fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, seasoned with salt, and olive oil.
Here the mozzarella is substituted very ingeniously with slices / Carpaccio of tender, sweet scallops, sandwiched between the traditional slices of fresh tomatoes and a basil leaf in a light green sauce reminding the parsley jus but without the Youzo , basil oil and fresh oregano add the Italian touch to the dish which is light and delicious in every bite, the eggplant cream is so delicate it adds mainly to the touch and dissolves in the final spicing which works well enough on its own. (Another thumbs up!)

           

6. “Sea and Citrus”
Lobster, Calamari, scallops and mussels steamed in olive oil, Fennel cream, on a bed of organic rice (risotto) in youso, Liquorish coulis, confit of mandarins, orange slices mandarin and saffron vinaigrette
All seafood ingredients are prepared to perfection, with meticulous cooking time, a real whiff of citrus smell is combined into the flavour of the dish that brings out the best of both ingredients with an admirable balance between the seafood and the citrus, there is no overpowering of any product over the other. The clear orangy colour of the mandarins oranges and saffron sauce is so alluring and the light touch of the prep and presentation is compelling (envy me! You should!)
The next 7 dishes offered to us on this occasion in the next post very soon, why not extend the joy we had a little longer…
This is becoming a wonderful experience to be added to the list of the best of the rest (Thank god I have more than a few).
Until next week with humble thanks to Yonathan Dannon and the entire Catit team.

Catit Restaurant : 4 Heichal Ha- Talmud St, Tel Aviv Phone 03 510-7001

Your WINEGUIDE

Vision, anatomy and physiology of wine tasting – Part 1

 Symphony of senses – Sight – sense 1 in wine tasting

Symphony of the senses (as started in the “cranial nerves and wine” post)

https://wine4soul.com/2012/05/11/symphony-of-senses  continues. This time not by order of the cranial nerves (from 1-12), but rather by the way we approach wine.

Appearance is in the eyes of the wine beholder.

The first thing we see when we approach wine, is a bottle it has a shape and color which already holds a few general clues, down the puzzle road of solving a wine’s origin before sniffing or even tasting the content.

                                                                                                     

 Once we open the bottle and pour wine into a glass, the fun part begins!

The amazing connection within our brain between outer sense receptors, sense organs, nerves leading to and from our brain. Either by direct stimuli: sound, sight, smell, taste and touch, or by pure brain interpretation, imagination and a game of associations, meaning that we do not really see everything that our brain says we “see” but rather interpret parts of vision to a picture which is an accumulation of actual vision on one hand and our “experience” or memory of objects, on the other.

The visual cortex in our brain is organized into primary and secondary regions, in each occipital lobe (at the very lower back of the skull). Direct visual signals are directed into the primary cortex, which is located in that (occipital) region. The fovea part of the eye, (the region of the retina with the highest visual components), sends signals directly into the primary cortex, where general concept of vision is initiated.

The secondary visual cortex receives later signals, they are transmitted to these areas for analysis with respect to, shape, depth of field and motion.. Different regions of the secondary cortex are responsible for different types of classification and analysis; and depending on the “conclusion” of the brain, vision is personally perceived.

Yes each one of us has a slightly different perception of the same object in shape, color, depth and clarity and different ways of expressing them in term of describing what we see to a third party.Sensory interpretation and verbal description of sensation is extremely personal. In fact, almost all higher order features of vision are influenced by expectations based on past experience and memory. This characteristic extends to color and form perception, leading to recognition of objects. Our brain awareness facilitates the ability to see or respond to what we see almost instantly.

The Game of looking at wine

Hold the wine glass by the stem or base and not the neck or the bowl. Start by holding the glass toward a light source or a white background and tilt it around at an angle.

When looking at wine, we look for three main characteristics: color, depth and clarity

In wine we will see different shades and hues of Reds Yellows or Pinks, (in red white or rose’ wines), these may appear either diluted or deep, they may appear radiant or dull, even cloudy or hazy, all of these are indicative of the wine age and quality and will be discussed later in details.

For now, in general, when we look at red wines for instance, a brilliant red color usually indicates a wine in its prime, a purplish hue may indicate a very young wine and a brown hue may indicate that a wine is slightly oxidized or been lying down for quite a while, or even past its prime.

Isaac Newton, in his theory of color, observed that color is not inherent inside objects, but rather, the surface of an object reflects some colors and absorbs all the others. We perceive only the reflected colors. So, red is not “inside” the liquid of red wine. It is the surface of the wine that reflects the wavelengths we see as red and absorbing all the rest. (An object appears white when it reflects all wavelengths and black when it absorbs them all.)

Cranial Nerves associated with wine tasting

Our first encounter with wine is through the sense of sight.

Cranial Nerve II – The Optic nerve is a pure sensory nerve which supplies the photoreceptor cell of the retina at the back of the eye ball, basically it allows us to see shapes, colors, hues, clarity and depth, all perceived through the eyes (as far as the wine in the glass goes). You will also be able to see the bottle, shape and color, the label with all the information regarding the wine, region, even sub region, pedigree, wine maker, vintage year etc. You can “scan” your company and the surrounding of your wine experience. Sight gives us only certain clues regarding the wine before us they are mainly initial clues regarding the wine’s condition, age, freshness (according to the grape variety), some of these “clues” will have to be reassessed in combination with the other senses smell, taste and touch.

In order to see sideways, up or down, you need to “use” another 3 of the cranial nerves which are pure Motor nerves they initiate voluntary movement of the eye and lids. Cranial nerves III, IV and VI, which together, control the six muscles of the eye, the eyeball and eye lid movement.

Together these 4 (out of 12 Cranial nerves) facilitate vision.

 Seeing is believing, the neurophysiology of Vision

Cranial nerve II: Optic nerve

The optic nerve is composed of axons of the ganglion cells in the eye. It carries visual information to the brain. This is a pure sensory nerve fiber. This nerve travels from the back of the eye ball, entering the brain through the orbit at a small “hole” (the optic canal) in the skull bone. The 2 Optic nerves one for each eye, meet & cross each other to form the optic chiasm. (Right eye vision is partially perceived on the left side of the brain and vice versa.  The brain does not receive signals from each eye unilaterally. Half of each optical field is directed to the opposite part of the brain. This occurs when the bundled fibers of the optic nerves meet and cross at the optic chiasm (cross road), located just a few centimeters inside the brain. It runs to the vision center of the brain – the Visual Cortex, here, information is interpreted and true vision is formed.

The eye is the sense organ with all its part Cornea Lens Iris Retina and behind them specialty receptors sending chemical and electrical signals to the brain for interpretation through a pipe called the Optic nerve.

Cranial nerve III: Oculomotor nerve

The Oculomotor nerve is composed of motor axons. This is a pure motor nerve. It provides somatic motor innervations to four of the eye muscles which allow movement of the eyeball. It also innervates the muscles of the upper eyelid and the inner eye muscles that control the amount of light that enters through the pupil. (The pupillary eye muscles)

Cranial nerve IV: Trochlear nerve

The Trochlear nerve provides somatic motor innervations to one of the upper eye muscles it controls the downwards and sideways movement of eyeball, helps you see where your wine glass before you pick it up or alas spill the above wines (and many others) on the white table cloth!!. It is also a pure motor nerve fiber.

Cranial nerve VI: Abducens nerve

The Abducens nerve carries somatic motor innervations to one of the outer eye muscles, it controls the eyes side movement, careful who’s sitting next to you, who sneaks a hand towards you glass during conversation with the person next to you!!! It is another pure motor nerve fiber.

 The anatomy of the eye

                                           

The Cornea: The cornea is a round, transparent dome that acts as the outer window of the eye. It is the structure that focuses the light that enters the eye. It comprises five parts. All the parts work together to protect the eye and help in the proper working of the cornea as a whole.

The Lens: The lens is that part of the human eye that is located immediately behind the iris. It is transparent, elastic and crystalline. Its role is to focus the light and move towards the retina.

The Iris: The colored part of the eye is known as iris. It is present in the eye in the form of a thin diaphragm. The iris lies between the cornea and the crystalline lens. The color is due to the presence of a pigment. It is the iris that gives your eyes a particular color. The basic iris colors are blue, green and brown. Majority of humans have varying shades of these colors. It is composed of connective tissues and smooth muscle fibers. The composition of the iris enables it to dilate or contract the pupil, which in turn controls the amount of light that falls on the retina.

The Pupil: The hole in the center of the eye through which the light passes, is called the pupil. The pupil gets bigger and smaller depending on the amount of light falling on the eye.

The Sclera: The sclera is the whitish, opaque part of the eye, which is connected to the cornea. Its role is to provide protection and meet the purpose of attachment for the muscles that enables eye to move.

The Vitreous Humor: It is the jelly like substance that is present within the interior chamber behind the lens. It is that part of the human eye whose role is to provide pressure inside the eye and keep it inflated

The Retina: The retina is the innermost layer of the eye. It consists of nerve tissue that senses the light entering the eye. Its function is to send impulses through the optic nerve back to the brain, where it gets translated into the images that we see. There are four types of light-sensitive receptors present in the retina.. The retina is considered to be part of the brain itself, it is covered by millions of light-sensitive cells, some shaped like rods and some like cones. These receptors process the light into nerve impulses and pass them along to the cortex of the brain via the optic nerve.

The Fovea: The Fovea is a part of the eye, located in the center of the macula region of the retina. The fovea is responsible for sharp vision which is necessary when visual details are most important.

The Optic Nerve: The continuation of the axons of the ganglion cells in the retina is known as the optic nerve. It connects the eye with the brain. The optic nerve emerges from the back of the eye, travels through the skull and stops inside the skull bone, and ends up at the back of the brain. This part of the brain is known as visual cortex. It is responsible for receiving information from the eyes and interpreting it.

Now we can see, next post I’ll try to figure out how we can actually see, what we see and why????????????

YOUR WINEGUIDE

some images from http://www.positscience.com/brain-resources/image-gallery/vision-images

Wine Cellars, Part 2 – The Big Boys

After my intro with two modest private wine cellars from the previous post, a visit with the big guns.  My three top wine cellars around the world. One from Paris France, the other in London, England and the last one representing The Americas a wine cellar in the Bahamas with close ties to Italy (the owner’s Homeland)

 E’videmment we start with Good old PARIS

La Tour D’argent cellar

The wine cellar at La Tour D’argent, is one of the most extensive wine cellars in the world. The wine cellar lies beneath La Tour d’Argent Restaurant and has a special lift leading to it from the restaurant’s ground floor where you will meet “the gate keeper” he has got the keys that allows the lucky few to travel and enter the most historic and celebrated wine cellar in Paris, with treasures of unsurpassed quality and variety. It stores around 450,000 bottles of wines and spirits dating back more than two centuries. According to stories, most of the bottles were saved by Claude Terrail (the present owner’s father, whose family still owns the restaurant) from the German occupation during World War 2. Legend has it that on the night of June 14, 1940  the day the Germans entered Paris, he personally walled off (brick and plaster) part of the cellars keeping the lesser wines in sight for all to see, and most of the better wines hidden behind the newly built walls and the wine loaded on the rearranged shelves. I believe this is a true story since those greedy guzzling thieving Nazis would have surely consumed or confiscated/stolen the treasures of this legendary cellar.

The restaurant’s wine list is a heavy thick endlessly long book that lists thousands of the best wines of France each grouped perfectly by their origin / wine region and vintage year. The collection also includes Historic gems like a cognac from 1788, the year before the French Revolution, vertical collection of the Best Sauternes, Red Bordeaux’s the Best of Bourgogne both reds and whites all from estates that make wine “Properly”. The “name” of the estate is immaterial, it’s wines, made in a meticulous winemaking process, that is the pride of our cellar, says David Ridgway, the restaurant’s chief sommelier. Amongst the dusty bottles he continues are some distinctive wines which are well past their best, this is unfortunate since wines are meant to be DRUNK!

                    

You cannot select a wine from such a comprehensive list just by a quick glance at the list. Careful reading would literally take HOURS! It details a wine selection from the 18th and 19th centuries to date and is the best wine list I have had the chance to lay my eyes upon in France, or anywhere else in the world. If you look carefully you can also find inexpensive gems such as the 2 wines we chose for our Lunch (before visiting the cellar), but we had the chance and time to select the wines well in advance at Yair’s flat which lies one floor beneath the restaurant, how convenient! They were 1986 Domaine Francois Raveneau Butteaux, Chablis Premier Cru, a 25 year old Chablis with all the fruit and acidity to keep the wine afresh yet with complexity that has developed within the wine, to equal white wines from grand cru lots around Bourgogne in the south.

                        

The Red was:  1990 Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Clos des Réas: Medium bodied brownish red, brick color, with notes of sweet red and black fruits, some sweet dried plums and figs and a wonderful earthy smell of wet mushrooms, still retaining nice acidity, vigor and a long finish. We were told it was the very last bottle of its kind in the cellar, mixed feelings from the sommelier of happiness for us a “sad” moment for a 21 year old chapter closed as the bottle was opened… Incidently I had The Quenelles de brochet “Andre’ Terrail” (Pike dumplings) baked (gratine’) in sauce Mornay, and grated cheese, fluffy light sublime. and the legendary Roasted Duckling for main course, The two Flag dishes of the restaurant.

The Clos des Réas is classified as a Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru, and is a monopole of the Gros family, since the mid 90’s vinified and marketed by Domaine Michel Gros. The vineyard was acquired by one Alphonse Gros in 1860 and has stayed within the family ever since. Above it, up the slope is the Vosne-Romanée 1er Chaumes which itself touches on the even more ‘upslope’ 1er Cru vineyard of Malconsorts and Grand Cru La Tâche.

After our perfect Lunch with my good friend Yair Haidu (who lives one floor under the restaurant) arranges a tour for us in the cellar, and the photos speak for themselves.

                      

  La tour d’argent : 

Address: 15 Quai de la Tournelle, 75005 Paris, France
Phone: 01 43 54 23 31

Berry Bros. & Rudd Wine cellar

BBR are the oldest wine and spirit merchant in England, having traded from the same shop for over 300 years. The business was officially established in 1698 by the Widow Bourne at 3 St James’s Street in London, opposite St James’s Palace. At first the company was selling mainly overseas provisions: exotic spices, tea and coffee, around 1760 after entering the business of fines wines and quality Scotch whisky, Berrys are appointed ast suppliers of wine to the British Royal Family during the reign of King George III (1760-1820) and has continued to do so to the present day. The first Royal Warrant (seal) was awarded in 1903 by King Edward 7th and today they hold two Royal Warrants for H.M. The Queen and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.

                                  

In addition to the Finest Reserves Room, hidden beneath Berry Bros. & Rudd’s historic wine shop are the Georgian vaulted cellars which date back over 300 years, and hold around 20,000 bottles of wine, Simon Berry believes there’s a passage, (now blocked by wine racks and plastered brick work), that leads from this room to St James’ Palace (southbound across the Mall).

The company holds in their wine cellars rare wines for sale and export.  Red Bordeaux wines, dating back to 1860, Tokaji Essencia dating from 1870 and later, fine wines and port and spirits dating back to the turn of the 19th century 1820 to date including all the “Important” Vintages of the 20th century of all existing wine, all tucked in behind iron gates to all the underground nooks and crannies.

Back in 1998, when I asked the Simon Berry direct descendent to the founders of the store, what are the special bottles he would select from the vast collection in the company cellars, he found it hard to answer, but gave me  two stories he believes would give a fitting image to his special and wise approach to his fine wine collection : ” I believe that in most cases, it is not the wine itself but rather the event and company for which a certain wine is opened. To celebrate our 300 Jubilee we invited for lunch eighty Chateaux Owners, with whom BBR had working relations relations for centuries, here at No. 3 St. James’s we served:

Chateau Langoa Barton Saint Julien 1982, Chateau Cos d’Estournel Saint Estephe  1970, Chateau Haut Brion Pessac Leognan  1961, and Porto Quinta do Noval Nacional.1954 (“the last 2 receiving prolonged applauses from the all attending”).

The second story Yesterday we invited for lunch one of our most veteran of Berry customer (since 1935) enabling us to give him the first wine ordeal from us In 1935, the Chateau Margaux 1926 we have it now only in half bottles, and  although the wine is already old and tired, it was still a great way to celebrate our long-lasting relations .

The building of the palace laid the foundations for the development of the entire area and by 1662 Henry Jermyn had begun his ambitious building programme, starting with St James’s Square. A small row of houses had been built along the eastern side of what is now St James’s Street and it was in number three that a lady we know as ‘the Widow Bourne’ lived. (from BBR site)

In 1698 the Widow Bourne she set up business at number three, buying the famous coffee scales and the mill – that are still in the shop today. There’s a leather bound book complete with records of customers’ weights spanning three centuries.

Someone once said that if you’re not included in the Scales book at BBR will not be included in the “Who’s Who”  list of the London society., Around 1760 William Pickering Jr. & John Clark’s (George Berry grandfather) offer their customers the “sublime experience ” Know Your weight,  the names and weight of each person is entered in a Registry which reveals  the names of visitors through the history of the century 18, 19, and the 20″ registered here kings and nobles from around Europe, the sons of King GEORGE The 3rd,  all relatives of Queen Victoria, Lord Byron, The architect, John NASH (who designed the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and Buckingham Palace & most of Regent Street), Lord Melbourne Prime Minister and personal friend of Queen Victoria, Lord Balfour, Anthony Eden, George Cruikshank the illustrator of Charles Dickens books, Louis Philippe, King of France after the revolution, Prince Louis Napoleon, theater and film stars such as Lawrence Olivier , Vivian Leigh, Michael Redgrave, Gertrude Lawrence and others.

 Berry Bros & Rudd: ADDRESS: 3 St James’s Street, St James’s, London SW1A 1EG. TELEPHONE: 0870 900 4300

Graycliff Hotel, Restaurant

Graycliff’s Wine Cellar is world renowned. The wine list has won the Wine Spectator’s best wine list, Grand Award since 1988. The wine cellar has an inventory of over 250,000 bottles of fine wine from 15 different countries.

    

The cellar is a fulfillment of Enrico Garzaroli (the owner) passion for wine and Cuban Cigars: “Over the years, my passion for fine wine has grown, and today, Graycliff’s cellar stores around 250,000 bottles, with 3,000 different wines from over 400 vintners and 15 countries”. the inventory ranges from such wines as an 1865 Château Lafite, to the oldest and a prize bottle of 1727 Rudesheimer Apostelwein from Bremen Ratskeller in the “Rheinghau” Region, to today’s most significant wines and vintages.

Graycliff’s wine list and cellar receives The Grand Award Restaurant Wine List since1988. This award is given to restaurants that show an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine list and inventory.

As we descend one flight of wooden stairs leading down to the basement, Enrico pulls out the key to the cellar, it is stuffed with wine cases from all over, from anywhere in the world Old and New, Europe Australia and the America’s. It is a 6,000 square foot labyrinth has of small rooms branching off the hallways piled high with unopened cases and shelves of wines from top to bottom.

There is a Vertical collection of most of Chateau D’Yquem wines from the 1875 vintage on to the present days. (A somehow “must” for a cellar of this caliber)

It was New Years Eve of 1996 as we sat down we were served a champagne cocktail made from 1976 Dom Perignon champagne and 50 years old cognac. On New year’s eve they stop at nothing to make this occasion / Bahamas Junkanoo a feast to remember. We take the 80 page wine list (it’s 125 pages long now) and sit by the pool to choose our wines. With list like that this is not an ordinary matter.

There are Chateau Latour 1911, Haut Brion 1924 50 vintages of Lafite, 1858 Chateau Gruaud Larose and others all at thousands of $ a bottle. We opted for white we chose the Francois Raveneau Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 1976 which was so delicious and fresh at 20 years of age. The color is golden yellow, without its greenish hints of youth Refined nose with flavours of ripe peach and apricots, preserved lemon or orange peel and honey, with floral touch of lily and freesia  On the day, a wine of incomparable quality and finess. A great wine, perhaps the one most able to express what the terroir of Chablis really is.

The Foie gras came with a glass of Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 1975 which was a divine, Nectar of Botrytized honey and iced orange peel.

For red we took the affordable Chateau Talbot 1975 which had Light-medium garnet color with some tinges of brown. Nose of red and blackcurrants, and dried cherry aromas with hints of mushroom, earthy notes . ripe plum flavors on the palate with some earthy tones a hint of coffee and tobacco, the tannins rounded and well blended in the overall balance with enough acidity to express the fruits. (went extremely well with the saddle of Lamb)

To wrap it all up we celebrated the countdown to the new year with a glass of 1976 Dom Perignon champagne.

We did not go out for the Jankanoo (Local fancy dress Carnival) it came in to us and with it each and every guest was rolled on site his very own cigar different cigars and flavours for different guests, this certainly called for our very last lavish move we ordered Armagnac’s from 4 different Vintages 1896,1918,1928 1934 what a joy of smoothness and subtlety.

Thanks Enrico, the Garzaroli Family, Husdon Clarke, Willie Armstrong, and all at Graycliff.

Graycliff Hotel, Restaurant & Cigar Company  8-12 West Hill Street Nassau Bahamas  West Hill St, Nassau N 10246, Bahamas (242) 302-9150

The Wineguide

My Favorite Wine Cellars, Part 1 – Private Homes

A wine cellar is a storage room for bottled or barreled wine, in which some important factors for wine keeping such as temperature and humidity are maintained either naturally (underground) or by a climate control system.

Wine cellars protect wine bottles from potentially harmful external influences such as light, heat,dryness. Since wine is a beverage that can ultimately spoil, proper storage of wines, protects their quality and with certain wines will even improve their maturing stage adding tertiary aromas, flavors, and complexity as they continuously mature in the bottle.

Most wine bottles are tinted green because direct sunlight can react with the phenolic compounds (polyphenols) in wine and create “wine faults” mainly to color stability and in lowering their anti-oxidizing qualities.

        

Most underground European Wine Cellars keep temperature of between  7–14 °C with variations developing gradually during the hotter months.  Lower Temperature will slow down the evolving / aging process of the wine, it keeps wines fresher and fruitier for a longer time.  French wine caves and English wine cellars naturally maintain 60-70% relative humidity. Low humidity can be a problem because it may cause organic corks to dry prematurely causing either seepage from the bottle through the cork or oxidation due to lack of tight seal.

So if you are about to build yourself a wine cellar it must be DARK, COLD & HUMID (basically a dungeon).

If you follow these rules most wine cellars will look the same. Some wine cellars are more impressive than others, the kind that get stuck in your mind for a very long time, for ever!

Caves or winery cellars Like the Ruinart famous deep chalk cellars (called the crayeres) which were excavated by the Romans around 50BC, (considered a French archeological monument), or some of the old “Grandes Maisons de Champagne” with kilometers upon kilometers of chalk cave/cellars at a constant 11º C, serve their purpose by providing the best conditions for wine making and winery storage during production and maturation, these are not the wine cellars our post is concerned with (yet a virtual tour of the Ruinart cellars is on their internet site is a “must visit: http://www.ruinart.com, check it out (there’s also a wonderful free, I pad app version).

My three most impressive wine cellars contain wines from many different makers and wine regions, they are in fact Grand Libraries of the great wines of the world (some more than others).

My choice of wine cellars, of those I have personally visited or was guided through with the owner or Chef de cave are:

                   

La Tour D’argent cellar at the basement of the restaurant in 15 Quai de la Tournelle Paris, France, the Berry Bros. cellar, in 3 St. James’s street London and across the Ocean in the “Americas” The Graycliff Hotel, & Restaurant wine cellar in Nassau, Bahamas. These belong to large or well established groups or companies. All of these on the next “Post”, For now I prefer to start with two, more private cellars:

My own cellar, between us, I have a wine room (it used to be our bomb shelter which is obligatory to every house in Israel) but by definition because it is A. Underground and B. has more than 500 bottles it satisfies the wine cellar “definition”.

          

It had, has and will have GEMS of it’s own I know you like names so I will tell you what I do not have. You will not find a Petrus or any DRC’s, but you will find Great Bordeaux’s from amazing Vintage years 1970,79,82,83,85,86,88,90, and on… some single bottles cause I drink my wines, some full or half cases, Lovely Sauterns, spanning over almost 45 years (Yes I have D’yquem’s), but mainly Rieussec, and Suduiraut from the 70’s onwards, Excellent Vintage Ports from 1937 onwards (mainly super Vintages), some great Vouvrey, Vintage Champagnes from 1979 onwards, White and Red Bourgognes etc.  It is a live cellar wines flow in and out and it is always a great pleasure to open a great wine with a good company for a meal. Lets say my Cellar Book is much larger then the wines I have at any given moment, I have no regrets ONLY great memories!

The private cellar at the Galton House, just across the wall from Hampton Court Palace. The Palace of the Tudor Kings and queens, Built to House and feed the kings of England from around 1529-1760 including the Court of King Henry the 8th, with kitchens expected to provide meals for up to 600 people twice a day.

I had the privilege to visit my friend Lisa Galton at her dad’s house, her dad is by the way the legendry Ray Galton, scriptwriter and author (in collaboration with Alan Simpson) of Radio and TV shows such as Hancock’s Half Hour, (without a doubt amongst the finest examples of British comedy). But never mind that, for quite some time I have heard this guy, Ray, is into wine and has some fine collection of wines in his cellar. So when I finally got to visit them (with a very modest “offering” of the best available Israeli dessert wine).

        

I asked to see the wine cellar if possible, “be my guest, which cellar would you like to see?”  D’you have more than one? Yes one for whites and one for reds! Well I said: Both I guess… “Choose any bottle you like and let’s drink it…” I was lead down the stairs to a cellar quite large with 2 doors. One for the whites and then the Reds as you might have guessed, there was a musty smell in the air, the shelves around the walls were not full and in the center of the room a large heap of some wooden but mainly cardboard wine cases, partially rotting, hence the smell. Wines kept “pouring” in on a  yearly basis, from the merchants but there was no one to keep the order and spread them around in their rightful place, and so they were heaped in the center of the room. The lucky bottles on top were drunk occasionally, which left the older vintages right at the bottom. In the “white room” although most wines were from Bourgogne Premier and Grand Cru lots some have gone over their prime like the 1975 Bienvenue-Batard-Montrachet JJ Vincent, I have chosen out of curiosity although I knew it was going to be problematic, from a mediocre vintage but a Grand Cru lot which usually transcends the general quality of the Vintage Year.

The Batard-Montrachet portion of the wine’s name is a reference to the illegitimate (bastard) son of a local lord Chevalier-Montrachet the lot’s owner. Bienvenue means ‘welcome’ as the site is a direct entry point to the Grand Cru vineyards from Puligny village The wine has mineral qualities, With the limestone reflecting heat and light back up to the vine the grapes reach optimal phenolic ripeness, making it the white wine with Red wine qualities making for slightly heavier, richer wines. It is lacking the more elegant fine qualities of wines from the Great Le Montrachet.  It was slightly over oxidized still with firm traces of minerality and black truffle aromas it was a perfect example to a wine that was great in it’s times and was fading away lacking the fruit and acidity leaving all the secondary and tertiary aromas locked in the bottle..

The Red room was at a better state since most wines came in wooden cases There you had some of the best of the rest from Bordeaux , the likes of Petrus Pavie etc. and some lesser known premier Crus reds from Bourgogne, all of which I yearned to taste but did not dare!

Now 10 years after I am told by Lisa: “We nearly finished all the whites, some good reds left..” I guess it’s time for a revisit…

You will be posted re: Galton House revisited in due course Till than

CHEERS

Your WINEGUIDE

Memoires Gastronomique 1 – Fredy Girardet

The phone does not stop ringing at the hotel de Ville. It must be the first Monday of the month. This is the only day you can book a table at Fredy Girardet’s Restaurant Girardet fg in Crissier, not for the coming month but rather 3 months in advance. Their phone is ringing constantly mine, well to be exact my friend’s Kobi‘s auto dialer is working overtime and the line is engaged all the time. Luckily autodialing prevails and Kobi books us a table for two at Fg, the 80’s are about to end in a year or two and we’re about to meet the chef of the century and his creations for the first time.

                                     
Great meals or dishes leave us with memories that linger on for a long time beyond the event. A good meal at a perfect restaurant is an event, a lifetime event. This is surely the aspiration of every chef, cooking a meal for his guests. A meal to remember, but alas very few manage to attain this goal.


Contrary to the notion that the perfect wine as a whole, is relying on the imperfection of its parts: (https://wine4soul.com/2012/05/02/perfect-wine-and-the-paradox-of-perfection-12/), A perfect meal must be perfect in all its aspects: The products, cooking technique, balance within the dish, balance between the dishes on the menu, the decor, ambiance, service, wine list, general atmosphere, even light or the ability to see the food or read the menu and many more. But above all, it is the chef’s declaration of his own taste and preferences as they are expressed in each and every dish. No “almosts”, no trying to aim slightly low, to a mediocre common denominator taste, but rather a declaration: Welcome to my restaurant here you will be served (with the outmost of courtesy) my dishes, spiced the way I like them, presented the way I see them and Bon Appétit !
A perfect meal is a memory for life. Some people even have to talent to be able to relive the memory / experience as a real sensation of lingering heavenly taste. I for one carry these good memorable memories and they last a very long time, forever? I can only hope so.
I must say I had quite a few of these memorable culinary moments, that enriched the “essence” of my life, or as defined in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), JING:: 精; it is the Chinese word for “essence”, it is considered one of the Three Treasures (Sanbao) 三寶. Ancient Chinese sages said we are born with a fixed amount of Jing, consume Jing continuously in life; by everyday activities and when jing is completely consumed… we die. Jing can rarely be replenished, mainly by forms of stimulation such as meditation, Chi Gong, sex practices etc. I guess that being a part of an event I describe as a perfect meal is without a doubt one of the few Jing replenishers. It is good for the mind, body and soul, the perfect medicine.
Reminiscences of great meals are a great joy and to start my Gastronomic diary, a meal at Fredy Girardet fg Restaurant is the most fitting prelude.

Fredy Girardet was born on 17th November 1936 in Lausanne Switzerland. At the end of September 1996, Fredy Girardet, chef of the Century and owner of restaurant fg in Crissier, Switzerland, announced that he will retire from the Restaurant business at midnight on 30.11.96 as he turned 60, and the world of gastronomy Cried.


After 40 years of work in kitchens, twenty year of them at his own restaurant (at the hotel de Ville at the center of the village), he deserved a break but what about us????
As a child all Fredy wanted, was to become a professional football player. During a wine-buying tour in Burgundy for his father’s restaurant, a vintner took him to La Maison Troisgros in Roanne. Girardet describes the meal, his first visit at a renowned restaurant, as an almost “spiritual experience”, that convinced him to become a chef. When his father died unexpectedly at age 56, he took over the bistro. He started cooking in classic French cuisine style, it did not take long before he began to experiment with lighter and more innovative styles, joining forces with his contemporaries to develop the emerging nouvelle cuisine movement, no one knew than that he had decided almost from the start to “hang his apron” at the age of 60

Freddy Girardet is not just chef, the Gault Millau guide awarded him the Gault-Millau Cle d’Or and selected him Chef of the century with 19.5 points out of 20 the title of honor received together with Paul Bocuse and his good friend Joel Robuchon.
In my view after dining several times at the restaurant for Dinners, through the years he was the personification of the genius of culinary art. A combination of rare stimuli of all five senses in one creation, A DINNER. There isn’t an artist in any one of the arts who can successfully stimulate all of the senses, Freddie, Ladies & gentlemen did it every day for a small group of happy 84 Diners, 42 around noon for Lunch and then again 42 lucky ones for a Dinner Event, 84 happy winners of the chance to dine in the Artist’s atelier: the Restaurant at the Hotel de Ville in Crissier.
It was he who provided me, whenever I visited the restaurant with everything and anything I always expected from a meal. The meal always combined all the wonderful elements that make a meal at a three-star Restaurant an exciting event, an unforgettable experience. Every detail was perfect, starting from respect for the food product and their origin, details of the finished dish, the pure balance between tastes color, even position on the plate. Of course the restaurant’s location, décor and service, the staff attitude towards their guests, all “thrown into one neat careful “packet”.
The Meal:
The photos were taken in an era of analogue cameras and film/prints documentation (late 1980’s) most are slightly out of focus due to the effort to take the pictures without flash not to disturb the other diners. I have decided to include them as is.

Royale de blanc de poulette aux truffes a la crème de celeri pistachee
Imagine a consommé of chicken frothed with truffled celery cream that is so smooth clean and delicate. got it? That’s it! And with the array of wonderful breads and first class butter, who can complain?
The meal is very laid back, there’s a “wait” of 20 minutes between dishes, after a while you get the hang of it and see the reason behind the pace, calm down this is not an eatery, enter the experience of a meal event…and it works well we’re sipping on the wines, now about the wines we did not have the knowledge to order the right wines and let the sommelier guide us through the huge wine list/book for the white he picked the ultimate white wine for this meal:

                

Domaine Ramonet Chassagne Montrachet Les Ruchottes 1986 At the time I thought what a wine, although this wine improved and reached its peak only at around 2000 -2003, it was crisp yet rich with exotic white & yellow fruit aromas, excellent concentration but the wood oakiness felt on the slightly strong side with little minerality and great fruit. powerful at its young age still delicate with a very long buttery finish. (I had this wine on many occasions later when the wood all blend in and it still kept it’s freshness and fruit)

                                         
Raie bouclee a l’agretto de Montevertine en verdure de poireaux
Reduction of sweet Italian vinegar (Agretto de vino santo) from Montevertine in Toscana with blanched young green leaks sauce. The touch is very delicate feels almost steamed done to perfection with a great balance between the fish and the leak complementing and flavoring each other, melting in your mouth on each bite…remember me…remember me! (We did).
A double fillets of thornback ray, this kite shape exquisite looking fish, is so delicate in the sea and on the plate.


Greque de Langoustine safranée aux legumes croquants
A single large langoustine forming a bridge over a delicate saffron vegetable and langoustine stock, clear and light, yellow orangey in color with an arrey of crispy squares of spring vegetables, each done to perfection and precision in cooking time. This is what we came here for I have never had 3 consecutive dishes so precise in execution and each projecting the essence of all its products, BRAVO! This is the ultimate glimpse into the secrets of genuine Haute / Nouvelle cuisine. This is the base of what we all eat today in great restaurants, Thank you Fredy.

                         
Coquilles Saint-Jacques aux oignons nouveaux, jus beurré au thym citronné
A fresh Saint-Jacque steamed over onion infusion served in its shell with the Saint Jacque liquor reduction of butter lime & thyme frothed over.
Why do all these dishes fell as if they where steamed and not cooked in any other cooking method? I guess this is the secret, the touch that separates the premier league players, teams and managers from all the others, this guy scores goals (around his kitchen) every time he touches the ball (our meal products)
The white wine is all gone and it is time to choose our Red wine, unfortunately not knowing better at the time we opted for a Bordeaux and were proposed by our Maitre D’ the Château Sociando-Mallet 1987 ( he said “The 1986 is too powerful”) thankfully we opted for his advice and the wine which is according to Jancis Robinson in the list of this wine’s “Over-performing vintages” it was light, Smooth, Supple and approachable with cassis and light cedar notes. It gave us great pleasure throughout the next part of the meal. (nowadays I would opt for a Bourgogne wine but I was young than)
On the menu the next dish is the Cote de veau but our devoted Maitre D’ Louis Villeneuve saw that we came to sample as much as we could (who knows when we would be able to revisit this experience), so he kindly offered treat us with 2 separate meat dishes and allow us to share 2 different dishes off the menu which is extremely irregular for a menu degustation for two, it is the small gestures like that that enhance your dining experience at the palace of the KING. Almost a year later when we revisited the restaurant for another meal his utmost professionalism as a Maitre D’ (head waiter / “master of the establishment,” ), when while ordering our menu he pointed out: “You had this dish last year so I will change it for you to another dish off the menu” What a bliss, this guy saw us once, it is true we are full of enthusiasm and expectation allowing ourselves to be immersed in the meal experience, still he saw us once in his entire life and remembers minute details? Another piece in this puzzle of perfection. Thank you Louis Villeneuve the dedicated liaison between the kitchen and dining hall, who welcomed the guests, recommended wines, did the meat and poultry carving on a pedestal table, in front of the guest (an old custom he has reintroduced in Crissier), and was rightly awarded the “Welcome and Service Prize” by the International Academy of Gastronomy, the first time this prize was awarded to someone who is not a chef . I don’t know about you but I am impressed not surprised though. So, first we were offered (off our menu as I said):

Volaille de Bresse en cocotte aux morilles at asperges vertes.
The flesh of this chicken from Bresse is juicy full of delicate poultry flavors bursting in your mouth, mind you “chicken roast” is probably the most difficult dish to serve at a sophisticated restaurants but give Fredy a product and trust him to raise it to gastronomic heights after all this poultry posses a gamey depth of flavour, with fine, tender flesh and delicious clean-flowing fat together with the fresh morilles and asparagus which are in season this time of the year, the jus of the Bresse chicken is sublime.
The cocotte as you know is a shallow individual baking dish the rest of the secret lies with Fredy.

                        
Côte de veau en casserole à la fricassee de béatilles at aux asperges.
A casserole of milk veal with a fricassee of “tidbits” mixture of inner organs: liver, sweetbreads, kidneys etc. in a casing of Vol-Au-vent or puff pastry shell.with asparagus and casseroled new potatoes, carved and served by the table to the last drop of the light sauce, delightful.


Than came a large selection of cheeses from the trolley (a very large selection I might add, which surprised the young cheese waiter attending to us) cheeses from the various appellations of France and Switzerland to “die” for with the breads they were perfect, enhanced I might add with a glass of Port Porto Barros 1963 and a glass of 1985 Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes,.

                                         
Just before the Chariot de desserts with at least 18 different desserts of fruits, tarts, cakes and other delicious sweets on a trolley, we politely asked if we can share before sampling (most) of the desserts the famous Passion fruit soufflé, which was served to us with great pleasure I guess (it was on the house, looking now at the bill which I found amongst the menu and photos all of these contributed to enhancing the memories of this meal) from the deserts pears in white wine and vanilla (had it on a different occasion as white peach in vanilla) .
Now the soufflé as you see in the picture is served in a Porcelain Ramekin puffed up and fluffy, a slightly warm lightly sweetened passion fruit juice is poured in the center and you get to eat a passion fruit cloud that dissolves in your mouth both passionate and calming (I think I’m gonna try and make it for tomorrow’s New Years dinner (Jewish New Year) the recipe is in the book Cuisine Spontanee – Fredy Girardet (Papermac UK edition 1986) .
We were also served 3 types of sorbets: Banana, Raspberries and red grapefruit but the ice creams chocolate and sublime Vanilla and the two spoon serving method I encountered for the first time are still in my mind. We ended the meal with pettit fours and coffee and a glass of Armagnac XO, not noticing that we are the last guests in the room, guests were sitted along the walls and the center of the room was left for the service crew to function. (at 42 diners each sitting this is possible.) Mr. Villeneuve with the utmost politeness told us he took the liberty to order us a taxi so we don’t get stuck in Lausanne before the last train to Genève takes off around 1.00am, and so we left after a short visit to the already clean and polished kitchen.

                                       
Fredy entered the room after the last diner was served his main dish.His apparent shyness, his modesty (felt when he would enter the dinning room at the end of each service) was not expressed in his style of cooking, that was exciting, creative, full of imagination and always accentuated the flavor of the main product of this dish be it a vegetable, fruit, meat, poultry, fish, or seafood, each in its short season. He called it cuisine spontanée, I call it HEAVEN!
The secret of the approach was that sophistication was born out of simplicity. The approach was: minimum cooking, maximum flavor, minimum vanity, maximum service, minimum talk, maximum action, Maximum occupancy, all tables are booked months ahead 48- 49 weeks a year for lunch and dinner day in and day out. Max points 19.5-scoring and no compromise in quality.
The restaurant lies in the neutral zone at the border between Italy and France, in a small town. There were significant touches of French and Italian influence, Italian truffle risotto and frogs legs. An amazing combination of exquisite and refined cuisine of both worlds and all the ingenious touch won slightly reminiscent of greatness in the ultimate meeting of the three basic cuisines: French Italian and Chinese cooking.
These elements brought out the artistry of cooking to produce a meal that left every guest who dine on a table thinking as if he was the only guest at a special one off occasion that was not like it before and who knows if there will ever be such an experience any time after. A feeling that repeated itself on each and every visit.

             
He was rightfully awarded the: Gault&Millau golden key, agricultural Knight of Merit, an entry in the Petit Larousse, honored for outstanding achievements in cooking, Golden Form Award given by the International Food & Wine Travel Writers Association, cook of the century at the same time as Paul Bocuse and Joël Robuchon, international grand prix in the Art of Cooking, awarded by the International Academy of Gastronomy, plus 19.5 points awarded by Gault&Millau, “Memory and Gratitude” grand Prix, awarded by the International Academy of Gastronomy, Knight of the Legion of Honor, 3 stars in the first edition of the Michelin guide for Switzerland. So although I use too many superlatives and adjectives of awe and amazement they are all justified.
Thank you Fredy for opening the gates to the world of true cooking for me, my perspective was changed completely after visiting Crissier. Thank you Kobi for being persistent on the phone, for being a good companion throughout the years, on all our food trips, for having such a good taste And Thanks for the memories…
YOUR WINEGUIDE

Euro 2012, the Finals- High Noon in my Cellar

 A delayed post to sum up a GREAT event; The Euro 2012 Final

                                                                           

So as the teams get ready for the BIG FINALE, sorting out their players, see who is fit and who would have to miss the squad. Prepare the list of substitutes, the strategy of game, against a known “enemy” on an unknown day. Isn’t that what makes Sport in general and football in particular a mostly harmless (not always!!), substitute of WAR?!

 

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has said he will try to find out the weaknesses in the Spain team, and would then set up his team to exploit those during their Euro Cup final showdown on Sunday in Kiev.

We did not invent these notions, us humans of the 20th and 21st century.

The ancient Olympic Games are shrouded in mystery and legend but first records indicate that they began in 776 BC in Olympia west Peloponnesus Greece. They were celebrated until 394 AD when they were suppressed by Theodosius claiming them to be a ritual of a pagan cult. The Games were usually held every four years, or Olympiad, as the unit of time came to be known. During a celebration of the Games, an Olympic Truce was enforced, wars were willingly stopped in their midst without resolve, allowing free and safe pass to all soldiers / athletes who traveled from their countries to the Games in safety. The prizes for the victors were wreaths of laurel leaves Hellanodikis used to place a sacred olive tree wreath- kotinos, on the winner’s head.

 

I know I have made a slight U turn from the issue at hand, after all it is my blog, but I’ll get back to the point.

So, as the teams got ready I had to get cracking, choosing the right team from the wines of each country ONLY from my own humble cellar, this is not an easy task since the cellar is unfortunately not amazingly stocked with THE Great wines of any of these wonderful wine countries, but I thinks I can manage fairly on both sides so: same disadvantages or “rules” apply on both sides, FAIR? and so the showdown begins it’s HIGH NOON in my Cellar!

             

They stand in the tunnel the tension is sky high, I am a bit concerned with the gloom on Casillas face he is usually calm (he is a well trained War Horse), but not today! does he feel the weight of the occasion? Or is he not 100% fit??? On the other side, Buffon is calm and assured on the outside (the poor bugger one of the world’s BEST goalkeepers will collect the ball 4 times from inside the net (But we know all that by now, apologies for the delay)

On the “wine field” the match is more even… I can turn it with words to either side… for… if the final score would have been different (in Italy’s favor) I would still present the same wines as “my teams” but twist it in favor of the outcome so let us be fair, the cellar does contain some great wines from good to great vintage years to represent a winning team on either side… Same as the teams in front of us but how will they perform as a team? Will the sommelier (open the bottles on time to serve them at their best, let them breath to just the right point of oxidation, decide to decant a wine of sorts oversee the correct serving temperature to name but a few of his responsibilities.

The line up

                                         Spain                                        

                             

                               

                                                                         01 Casillas

                                  03 Pique,   15 Ramos,   17 Arbeloa,   18 Alba 

             06 Iniesta (Mata – 87′ ),  08 Xavi ,  10 Fabregas (Torres – 75′ )

                            14 Xabi Alonso,   16 Busquets,    21 Silva (Pedrito – 59′ )

Substitutes:  07 Pedrito,  09 Torres,  13 Mata

Sommelier Coach– Vicente del Bosque: A coach to envy, with all the talent he has at hand. The players like his calm approach to the squad. He lead his side to the 2010 World Cup final and Cup. Winning the Euro 2012 title will place him among the all-time great national managers/coaches.

The WINES:

  1. Vega Sicilia Unico 1991 – (Iniesta ) This is Vega sicilia Gran Reserva wine produced only on good vintage years. It is released only on Super Vintages and released a minimum of 10 years or even more after the vintage. Made from the oldest vines in the Ribera del Duero, the wine is mostly Tempranillo ( 80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon ( 20%)

The 1991 Unico Reserva, Laid down for 14 yeard before release on 2005. With a deep dark purple color. Aromas of black ripe forest berries soaked in a good brandy, some Vanilla, dried fruits figs and aromatic Cigar noticeable touch. Very powerful “encounter” on the palate but the tannins are rounded though present, will go on evolving. It’s has great finesse combined with a great balance of youthful fruit and tannins to keep it alive for another 20-30 years.

  1. La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Cosecha 1987 – (Casillas) A wine glistening in brilliant, red colour with light brown edges. The wine is still extremely aromatic and elegant In the mouth, with notes of cinnamon cloves and all spice with a touch of vanilla. It is now smooth with rounded tannins flowing on the palate but has a very long satisfying finish  It will continue to develop tertiary aromas and approachability.
  2. L’Ermita Alvaro Palacios 1997  -( Xavi)  ” Powerful aromas of ripe black fruit  in blueberry Jam, good oncentration of fruits and precise balance with tannins. This must be Spain’s most expensive wine! It reveals a pleasant liqueur touch on the nose as well as on the palate. It is elegant with but powerful, with fresh fruit and pleasant minerality characteristic of its geological origins in Priorat. Great stuff (it wasn’t a waste on you guys “The Wine Guzzlers”  that memorable night in Paris…
  3. Marques de Riscal 1994 Gran Reserva

This Gran Reserva contains 20% of Cabernet Sauvignon and of course  70% tempranillo and 10% mazuelo Probably the best Rioja vintage of the nineties.  Aged 29 months in American oak, then three years in bottle, to become a multilayered wine of great surprise

  1. Marques de Caceres 1994 Gaudium

A new super Riojan from Caceres, made only in the best vintage years. Aged in French oak and produced under the watchful eyes of the “flying Oenologist” Michel Rolland. This effort resulted in a wine with aromas of black ripe cherries with a touch of cedar shaving and tobacco with a touch of Mediterranean herbs. It comes out as an elegant wine with fine tannin structure. Very good length and vitality.

 

6. Muga Reseva 1988 Rioja

7. Vega sicilia, Tinto Valebuena No 5 Ribera del duoro cosecha 1992

8. Bodegas del Marques de Vargas Rioja Reserva Privada 1994

9. 1994 Miguel Torres Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Coronas Reserva Mas La Plana

10. Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Rioja 1986    When all wines in Spain were local wines consumed by local   people Ygay Gran Reserva was the Spanish wine Ambassador around the world.

11. Marques de Morrieta Ygay Reserva 1988 Rioja

12. Marques de Haro Gran Reserva 1989 Larioja Alta  This is a dbl. Magnum (3 L) special edition wine for the millenniu

   

13. Marques de Riscal Reserva 1993

14. Parés Baltà Mas Irene 2003 (Arbeloa)

15. Lustan Pedro Ximénez Murilla , 100 Anos 1896-1996 A Massive sweet wine

16. Don PX Pedro Ximénez Gran Reserva (1972)Cordoba Sweat Nectar

17. Torre Muga 2004 Bodegas Muga Rioja – Wine Spectator magazine, rated Torre Muga 2004 amongst their 10 best red wines of the world list for 2007.

The Line up

                                                               

                                       ITALY


                                                                            

                                                                        01 Buffon

          03 Chiellini (Balzaretti – 21′ ),   07 Abate,  15 Barzagli,  19 Bonucci,

                      08 Marchisio,   16 De Rossi,  18 Montolivo (Motta – 56′ ),  21 Pirlo  

                                    09  Balotelli ,  10 Cassano (Di Natale – 46′ )

Substitutes:

    06 Balzaretti,   05 Motta,   11 Di Natale

 Italy coach / sommelier, Cesare Prandelli – After 5 successful years in Fiorentina agreed to try and save the Nation from a disastrous past champagne brought new young players entrusted the Azure (Blue team), in their talented feet they did well on the field and made Italy proud.

 

The Wines:

  1. 1.    1990 Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva Villa Antinori – (Buffon) An old timer always reliable, sound Toscan wine.
  2. 2.    Sassicaia 2004 – (Pirlo) The best Sassicaia of the last 10 years…A great wine always performs well.
  3. 3.    1998 Isole e Olena Cabernet Sauvignon Collezione de Marchi Toscana IGT
  4. 4.    Cepparello 1990 – always shines amongst the best in good  vintages. The ’90 is sleek and focused, with vivid blackberry, tar and cedar character. Full-bodied, with full, silky tannins and a super finish. Made from Sangiovese.
  5. 5.    Isole e Olena Cepparello 2006
  6.   Isosole e Olena Cepparello 2005:
  7. Isole e Olena, Vin Santo 1997 (bottled 2003) Deep Amber colour, with golden ccopper hue. A dessert wineto die for!!! This the closest you get to the Nectar of the Gods (chosen by Zeus off Dionysus hands), Honeyed thick wine to the eye with rich scents dried figs and raisins and dried orange peel still light on the palate without the sugar overtones other Vin santo’s have, due to good balancing acidic touch some vanilla on the finish make it the perfect desert a blessing to god and men. But I wrote all that in one of the past posts: Utopia etc.

     

8.    Castellare Chianti Classico 2000

With Intense ruby red in color. The bouquet is very fruity with spiced deep black cherries aroma, very well balanced Chianti with rounded approachable tannins. It reminds blackcurrants and Plum confiture, Yumm

9.    2007 Ripasso Bosan della Valpolicella Superiore ,   Producer: Gerardo Cesari  Veneto  Grapes: Corvina, Rondinella. Alcohol Volume: 14.00% From the Bosan vineyard one of Gerardo Cesari in Valpolicella

This wine is made by refermentation of Valpolicella wines of the same or previous vintage on the fermented grapes used in the Amarone production process: ripasso. The wine gains depth in colour, body, aromas and tannins and extra 1-1.5% alcohol by the process. Winemaking Notes Grapes: 80% Corvina, 20% Rondinella.

10. 1997 Brigaldara Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG, Veneto, Italy

One of Veneto’s most famous and prestigious wines.

11. Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto Toscana IGT 1997

12. Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 1997

13. 1998 Tedeschi La Fabriseria, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG, Italy

14. Masi Valpolicella  1993

You should all know by now that Spain won 4:0 and went into the history books of world football by winning the last 3 major tournaments they qualified for 2 consecutive Euro Finals and the Mondial becoming Champions of the world with talent and style!!!

Players to remember from both teams:

IKER CASILLAS – GOALKEEPER (SPAIN),  JORDI ALBA LEFT-BACK (SPAIN), SERGIO RAMOS CENTRE-BACK  (SPAIN), XABI  ALONSO ALL ROUNDER (SPAIN), ANDRES INIESTA CENTRAL MIDFIELD  (SPAIN), XAVI  CENTRAL MIDFIELD  (SPAIN), ANDREA PIRLO CENTRAL MIDFIELD –  (ITALY), STRIKER – MARIO BALOTELLI (ITALY)

The wines were all wines to remember in their own way some were better than others, but this is how it always goes… As you see the Spanish sommelier had more quality wines at hand on the substitutes bench and he made better use of them to bring the team to the winning position they did deserve, on the day

We’ll meet again during the Olympic games for (almost) more of the same with new faces and different sports.

Your wineguide

Euro 2012 Football tournament with a Wine twist

It’s Euro Time

So what did we have in the Quarter Finals?

Portugal Vs Czech Republic

           

Czech Republic

Although I believe that any place that grows wine grape for wine making purposes will have someone who can make decent wine (or even more) Czech is not a real contender amongst traditional european wine producing countries. On the other hand Czech beer is world famous. The Czech Republic is the No. 1 beer drinking nation on the planet, with an annual consummation of 156 liters per capita. Beer also counts on “our” blog so there you go… Most Czech beers are lagers, brewed naturally from hand-picked hops. Czechs like their beer cellar temperature. The best known Czech beer is the original Pils beer, Pilsner Urquell, brewed in the town of Plzen and exported worldwide. Many Czechs also drink another Plzen brew, Gambrinus, or Bernard from Eastern Bohemia. They are good at it since beer making in Bohemia is recorded as early as 859 A.D. (a long enough time to practice)

Portugal

Wine in Portugal dates back to ancient Roman times, sometime from 70 to 270 AD this fact does not surprise you I’m sure! In fact wine culture was exported, through the Roman Empire to all of Western and Middle-Europe by the Roman (Jupiter & Bacchus bless their souls, or were they the Greeks with Zeus and Dionysus, we’ll find out soon!).

There are 8 wine regions in Portugal : they span from south to the north: Alentejo, Terras do Sado, Estremadura, Ribatejo,  Bairrada, Dao, Douro and Minho. All have roots in Roman times. Portuguese wine have made a quantum leap in quality in the last 10 years and still improving especially in the north: Dao and Douru. A worthy earn of ticket to the semifinals and a rightful contender to reach the finals with still a high hurdle on the way.

Without a doubt, a winner of the: Best newcomer, to the dry wine Big League.

As long as dessert fortified wines PORT (of all types) it is at the Top of the League for several hundred years now.

Portugal wins 1:0, Portugal and Portuguese wine go through to semi finals.

Germany           Vs           Greece

                      

Germany

Well you have probably guessed by now that wine in Germany dates back to Ancient Roman times, to sometime from 70 to 270 AD… Germany is a northern country it stretches between 47º- 55 º N, so although German wine regions are to be found on the same degree of latitude as Newfoundland the climate is influenced by the Gulf Stream and allows certain grape varieties to grow and mature (especially now with global warming and all).

There are around 13 German wine growing regions. The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, and  Rheingau, produce the best wines, mostly white wine varieties (75%), but also produces some very good reds – usually from the Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) variety

The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region comprises the valley of the River Mosel from where it joins the Rhine and its two small tributaries the Saar and the Ruwer. The Mosel River winds past steep, slaty slopes covered with some of Germany’s most famous vineyards. The best wines, come from the mineral-rich, slate slopes, and are made from Riesling grown on the steep, southern-facing slopes, The Rheingau, produces some of the finest German wines. mostly Riesling that develops to perfection, producing noble, elegant wines.

Greece

The origins of wine-making in Greece go back 6,500 years some 4000 years before Roman Empire influence (Zeus and Dionysus) win by a large margin. There are archeological confirmations to the fact that Greece is home to the second oldest known grape wine remnants discovered in the world (the oldest is the “kitchen” in Hajji Firuz Tepe Iran). Greek civilization and their worship of Dionysus, the god of wine, spread Dionysian cults throughout the Mediterranean areas during the period of 1600 BC to the year 1.  Ancient Greeks introduced the vines Vitis vinifera and made wine in their numerous colonies from Italy to southern France & Spain.

                                           Harvest from the Nests in Santorini (Vines are arranged on the ground in circular formation that forms a “NEST”)

Some of the best known, recorded wines for their quality come from mediteranian Islands like Crete, Lesbos, Rhodes, Santorini and Thasos. These Aegean Islands form one of the more interesting wine regions of Greece to date. Other regions are Peloponnese, Ionian Islands, Macedonian & Central Greece.

There are some Very impressive winemakers in Greece without enough international exposure or recognition.

Germany wins 4 – 2…and goes through to the semifinals.

Spain          Vs.             France

                

 France

Archeologists suggest that the Celts first cultivated the grape vine, Vitis vinifera, pre-dates Greek and Roman cultural influences, But the greatest influence on the wine history of Gaul came with the founding of Massalia in the 6th century BC by Greek immigrants from Phocae in Asia Minor. This continued  till eventually the area became a Roman province first known as Provincia and later Gallia Narbonensis. After that there was no looking back and wine industry developed to the heights we came to appreciate in the 20th century.

There are numerous wine regions of wines in France. (I guess) I will mention the two regions that “sum up” all the magic of the French wines:

Burgundy: All the complexity and nuances of “terroir” in one of France’s most prestigious wine regions. From the Côte d’Or with the most noble and various expressions of 2 grape varieties: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Bliss on the palate and nose.

Bordeaux: The most renowned wine regions of the world. It produces the region’s traditional wine from a blend of grape varieties mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. With famous subregions as Pomerol, St-Emilion, Graves, St-Estèphe, Pauillac, Margaux & Sauternes. Sublime!

Spain

the great diversity of native grape varieties over 600 grape varieties are planted throughout Spain points to a very early viticulture start. There is Archaeological evidence of grape remains to sometime between 4000 and 3000 BC, when grapes were first cultivated for the purpose of wine making. This is long before the Phoenicians wine-growing culture established the trading post of Cádiz around 1100 BC. Later Carthaginians introduced new wine techniques & advances to Iberia and only later served the Roman Empire need for wine of different style and character.

With almost 60 regions and sub-regions Rioja, Navara, Priorat &Ribera del Duero and are the most established.

 Although Spanish wine and wine industry is amongst the oldest in Europe, and nowadays well known for their unique character and regarded with great esteem, still, in my mind, on the wine field Spain “looses” to France this is of course derived from a personal view of taste and style attraction. Football wise the quality over the football field is in favor of Spain.

The Spaniards beat France 2:0 and go through to the semifinals.

Italy        Vs        England.

            

ITALY

It wasn’t until the Greek colonization of the south of Italy, that wine-making flourished. Viticulture was introduced into Sicily and southern Italy by the Mycenaean Greeks during the Roman defeat of the Carthaginians (True masters of wine-making) in the 2nd century BC that Italian wine production began to further flourish. Large-scale plantations sprang up in many coastal areas and spread to such an extent that, in 92 AD, Emperor Domitian was forced to destroy a great number of vineyards in order to free up fertile land for food production.

With 20 wine regions that are spread evenly throughout the Land and numerous sub regions of particular nature within each region Italian wine especially in Piemonte in the nothe west and Toscana in the center make Italy into a substantial winemaking country and along with Spain and France the most established Old World Pillars of wine making tradition.

The grape varieties that set Italy apart from all other European countries

 Garganega – The main White grape variety for wines labeled Soave, this makes a crisp, dry white wine from Veneto region.

Trebbiano – This is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy. It is grown throughout the country, with a special focus on the wines from Abruzzo and from Lazio, including Frascati.

Nebbiolo is chiefly grown in Piedmont. Considered he most noble of Italy’s red varieties.

Sangiovese – The pride and essence of Toscana. Sangiovese is the main variety in Chianti (Classico), Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso, and many others. And the backbone in many of the acclaimed “Super-Tuscans” Italy’s claim to fame!

Barbera – The most widely grown red wine grape of Piedmont and Southern Lombardy,

ENGLAND

The wine world as we know it today owes a lot to a country that is too northern to be a wine producing country. Yet the way we look at wines in all respects is due to the the English attitude to wine and continental wines in particular. The English are directly responsible for the quality of the wines of Bordeaux, Champagne, Porto, Madeira, Jerez to name but a few due to their need to quench their thirst…

It all started in 1152 when the marriage between Eleanor of Aquitaine and the future King Henry II of England brought a large portion of southwest France under English rule. When Henry’s son John inherited the English crown, he bestowed many privileges upon Bordeaux merchants giving the exemption from export tax, making Bordeaux wine the cheapest wine in the London market and gained immense popularity among the English, who call it claret (clear). For over the next 300 years much of Gascony, in particular Bordeaux, benefited by the close commercial ties with the English allowing this area to grow in prominence among all French wines. After the end of the Hundred Years War, these lands reverted back to French rule with a lasting imprint of English influence. The collapse of the Bordeaux ties to their largest customer; England, was a blow to both nations. The English soon established ties with Portugal but kept longing for French Claret.

The Aristocracy of Bordeaux  kept “loose” commercial contacts with the English Aristocracy. In 1649, Lord Arnaud III de Pontac became owner of Haut-Brion, and the wine’s growing popularity began in earnest. The first records of Haut-Brion wine found in the wine cellar ledger of the English king Charles II. During the years 1660 and 1661, 169 bottles of the “wine of Hobriono” were served at the king’s court. Samuel Pepys wrote in The Diarist, having tasted the wine at Royal Oak Tavern on April 10, 1663, to have “drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryen that hath a good and most particular taste I never met with”

In 1666, after “The Great Fire”, the heir to Château HautBrion François-Auguste, opened a tavern in London called “L’Enseigne de Pontac”, or the “Sign of Pontac’s Head” which was according to André Simon, London’s first fashionable eating-house. Jonathan Swift “found the wine dear at seven shillings a flagon”. A 17th century period WINE BAR!!!

The Institute of Masters of Wine and WSET are located in London (more than 60% of around 250 worldwide MW are English!!! , The most prestigious wine Auction Houses Sotheby’s and Christies are in London. Without a doubt England is a center of wine knowledge and import with unparralel importance to world wine without being a wine producing country.

Having “patriotic roots” in England, I obviously supported “Her Majesty’s” team. They started well but played shamefully and deserved to loose.

Italy 0 – 0 England, Italy deservedly won 4–2 on penalties and proceeded to the Semifinals.

SEMI”S

PORTUGAL Vs SPAIN

The Iberian Peninsula Hosts a mini battle this time for the ticket to GLORY and a place at the EURO 2012 FINALS, the “Grand Finale”

This is indeed Guerra de guerrillas “War of little wars” on the football pitch. They stand and fight as equals! But the skill or luck of penalty shootout solution (unfair but Just), finally “defeats” the Portuguese.

Spain wins 4:2  on penalties and proceeded to the finals.

Here’s how it happened:

Spain starts with a Vega Sicilia Unico 1991 on the Field – The Gran Reserva wine produced only on good vintage years. It is a signature wine of Vega Sicilia and is usually released around 10 years or even more after the vintage. Made from the oldest vines in the Ribera del Duero, the wine is mostly Tempranillo ( 80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon ( 20%). In an average vintage,

Portugal tries with a 1937 Barros Port than uses 1994 Warres Vintage Port as a substitute in Overtime against this time a La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Cosecha 1987 On pouring the wine, one immediately notices its brilliant, ruby red colour and its aromatic nose. This wine is in fact so aromatic that it is its dominant feature. In the mouth, the first impression is of roundness and creaminess, then notes of spice and vanilla come through, leading to a warm, enveloping flavour, with a most elegant and distinguished finish. It is a full and lively wine; well-structured and young for its age with a broad and abiding palate which is confirmed by a smooth and long-lasting after taste. It will continue to develop over the coming years with a long life ahead of it. (from:http://www.riojalta.com/datos/vinos/pdf_doc_en29/I%20904%2087.pdf)

ITALY Vs GERMANY

The Italians are all in the vineyard Happy towards a good harvest there is joy in their play (I did not expect). They prune and tend to the grapes knowing the razzmatazz of the harvest will be proceeded with a great wine…

The Germans come on to the pitch serene and with apprehension- fear or anxiety over what may happen, they change their game style that brought them to this occasion and fall down the trap they dug themselves.

 

The Italians bring Sassicaia 2004 The best Sassicaia of the last 10 years… And score 2 goals! The rest is history which can be told in 2022 when I open the last bottle. At the moment it has Deep Purple ruby color. With intense aromas of ripe black forest fruits, a touch of minty nepitella and earthy mushrooms, rich and velvety with long finish on the palate with high tones of cassis, cloves, dark chocolate and coffee. With a very good balance, between fresh fruit and Tannins. A keeper. They bring on Cepparello 1990 as a substitute and seal the match.

The Germans bring the right wines to give a good fight but at the wrong temperature which spoils the quality of tasting and sends them back to the vineyard to tend to next year’s harvest with new hopes for a better vintage.

Italy wins 2:1 and proceeds to the Finals

    

And that’s Euro 2012 for you with some wines on the way.

The Euro 2012 Finals are on Sunday ITALY Vs SPAIN let us see what wines the teams bring and wait for the tournaments outcome.

Your WINEGUIDE

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Wine and Art meet on the wine Label and beyond .

Art on the Label

A wine Label is an “invention” of not much more than 120 hundred years.  Although nowadays wine labels have turned into a “selling lever” of a wine, an eye catcher for the customer in a wine shop or on the wine shelve in a supermarket, the fly paper for the novice wine drinker, and thus have moved under the jurisdiction of advertizing companies PR advisers and graphic designers some of whom don’t even like wine!!!

Having said that, the wine label is still the ID of the wine and any wine bottle is “legally” required to carry this ID at all times! The basic function of the label is to provide the wine buyer with basic information regarding the product which is essentially a “food” or “beverage” product, which is bound by each country’s laws.

                                                 

As any label on a food pack, it has a design which conforms to the legal requirements on one hand and to the owners taste on the other. There are “label artists” or “graphic designers” all over the world who produce such labels.

Wine has a long history, it was one of the first things that Man created, and had great effect on many cultures and their religious ceremonies. In ancient times the Egyptians the Greeks and Romans recorded the vintage, vineyard and winemaker on individual jars of wine which could be counted as the first wine labels.

                                        

“Gath Carmel” inscription on pottery wine jug 400BC                       Hoshea’s Temed Seal around 50 AD

The presumably Lafite 1787 belonging to Thomas Jefferson had the chateaux name and Vintage year and the initials ThJ for the “owner’s” name hand written directly on the glass with “glass paint” possibly by the Chateaux, so were other 19th century Vintages.

                                      

Wine bottles taken away from their region of origin were inscribed on with the wine’s name of producer and Vintage year to allow the buyer or his cellar master distinguish between the different wines in the large cellar of a palace, be it a kings or a Tsar palace (Russian rulers were known to be collectors of Tokaji), they maintained a detachment of Cossacks solely for the purpose of escorting convoys of the precious liquid from Hungary to the royal cellars at St Petersburg. Tokaji reputed to last at least 300 years, was considered a secret potion of eternal youth. From the days of Tsar Peter I, the Great (1672-1725) for more than 100 years the Romanov family accumulated bottles of Tokaji in their cellars, surely there was enough for everyone but again, someone had to be there to know who is who? At the zoo…Surely someone made sure he will be able to tell between bottles of different Vintage years.

             

Same goes to the Kings of England and their affinity and connection to Bordeaux, or the cellar collection of the Kings of France to name but a few.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild  

       Until 1924 most wine producers were busy working at the vineyard and at the winery making wine in barrels, that they sold the wines bulk in the barrel or casks to wine-merchants, who then were responsible for the “faith” of the wine. Decisions of how to treat the wine in the barrels were out of the producer’s hands. The bottling process was done by wine merchants who labeled the wine under mixed names of chateau and vintage and their own name.  The winery had no say over the finished product and had no real interest on the appearance of the bottle or the label.

All of this was going to change when in 1924 Baron Philippe de Rothschild decided to bottle the entire harvest before it left the winery (MIS EN BOUTEILLE AU CAHATEAU / DOMAINE.) .  This decision changed the wine world completely and gave the Chateaux/winery, complete control over their product and its final quality. By adding their own label on their wine as a trademark stamp of quality boast: “This is our wine and we stand behind it and its quality under our name and reputation”. A logo to reflect the winery as an individual, to separate “our” wine from others, that bore the first logo as we know it today, and to commemorate this “cry for independence”.

The Logo was ordered from the famous poster artist Jean Carlu, who designed a logo that was used for the 1924 Vintage. The result was a stunning cubist design, which is considered till today as the most successful example of contemporary art influence on a commercial package design.

The basic theme of the 1924 poster was turned into a “family crest” stile logo; the label carried the Bottle number in that vintage year and the chateau name: Mouton Rothschild… All until the legendry 1945 Vintage not only it came at the end of the bloodiest war mankind ever knew but considered to be amongst the 20th century 5 top vintages the fact that it was the victory vintage, following  World War II only added to its legendary status.

They say that everything went down just right for the 1945 Bordeaux wines. The winter freeze helped reduce yields, which added immense concentration to the wine.  Growing conditions were perfect from start to finish. Harvest, under draught like conditions caused even lower yields and highly concentrated berries, an early harvest, which started on September 13.  Massive extraction of tannin meant longevity and long developing period (decades). Due to this high tannin levels, many of the wines still show well today. Due to the ability of 1945 Bordeaux wine to age well some say a few of them will be drunk well by 2045 at 100years old…

                                             

Did Baron Philippe know this was going to be such a great wine, a wine to act as reference to all wine before and after it? When he decided to embellish the 1945 vintage label with an Art work to symbolize the return of peace on the land? Was it an art work? After all it was commissioned from a young unknown artist/designer Philippe Jullian. He utilized the V sign (for victory) amongst vine leaves a biblical symbol of peace: “And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree” 1Kings 4:25

  

The Labels that followed: The 1946 Vintage label, was commissioned to Jean Hugo (grandson of Victor, who also used a biblical symbol of peace the dove returning to the ark after the flood with an olive branch, commemorating the first year of peace. After that most artists commissioned where substantial figures in the art world of their era: Cocteau, Braque, Dali, Moore, Miro, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Herring and many more. Each year since 1945 a label had been adorned by an artist sometimes (by chance) reflecting the quality and character of the content THE WINE, or just as a continuing tradition of the reciprocation between two art forms complementing each other. The art of winemaking at its best hailed by top artists paying their respect to a consumable art form, when the bottle is empty all that is left is the carefully “decorated” bottle with its label.

Since the basic idea is already taken, some wineries opt for introduce their version of art on the label for various reason. One philanthropic reason: special edition to be sold and raise funds for a good cause, the other in an effort to express the wines character or the owner’s whim. (Both are legitimate)

Castel winery Haute Judee, Israel, one of the best boutique wineries in Israel, approached 13 Leading Israeli artists who volunteered to take part in a one off, label project:  Arie Azene, Nissim Ben Aderet, Amnon David Ar, Yair Garbuz, Ori Gersht, Menashe Kadishman, Michel Kichka, Ofer Lellouche, Philip Rantzer, Jan Rauchwerger, Gideon Rubin, Eran Shakin, & Yigal Tumarkin, to prepare or choose from their work of art to appear on the Castel Grand Vin 2009 in bottle, magnum and double magnum formats to be sold at auction to the highest bidder. The choice of artists was careful amongst the elite local artists. The benefit will go to the “Threefold Cord” – a non-profit organization which cares for at-risk youth in Jerusalem.

The entire collection of the works of art, labels can be viewed at: http://castelartandwine.com/products/?cat=35

This is Art on a label for a specific reason it is a one off limited edition, for a worthy cause, All commendations are due to the Ben-Zaken family (owners and winemakers of Castel winery), and the artists who donated from their collection a piece of art suitable for the occasion.  Most of the above artists believe that producing an Art piece especially for a label is not the idea, and happily contribute a piece of their choice or part of an existing painting.

The wine: Castel Grand Vin 2009 , The wine has a deep purple color with strong aromas of black and red berries with a touch of ripe fig and Violets, flavours of ripe Blackcurrants & raspberries with a touch of sweet vanilla and hints of mint. The fruit is full and robust and very well balanced with pleasant rounded rich tannins which give the wine elegant strength and presence to help keep the wine “alive and kicking for another 6-10 years, the velvety touch and approachability on the palate make it a seductive wine and a very good choice for this limited edition. Not that I think it is of great importance (certainly a source of pride for the winery) the Castel Grand Vin 2009 received  92 points from the Wine Advocate annual 2011 tasting of Israeli wines.

More specifically about Castel winery and their wines on a separate post soon…

NIEPOORT

In 2004 Dirk Niepoort and his designer Cordula Allesandri decided to produce an label more suitable and appealing for the German wine buyer with the aim to introduce Portuguese, Douro wines in closer touch to the German wine consumer. Wilhem Busch storyboard label and the name FABELHAFT was the result. Following this trial, Niepoort began to develop different labels suitable to specific countries i.e.: Portugal (Diálogo), Norway (Fabelaktig), Finland (Sarvet), Allez Santé (Belgium), ETO CARTA (Japan), Fantasi (Denmark), Drink Me (UK), Twisted (USA), Berek (Poland), Gestolen Fiets (Holand), OO JA PAEV( Estonia), Ubuntu (South Africa), Sasta (Ireland), Conversa (Brazil).

     

On top of all the difficulties, the Niepoort tem report that “it turned to be a rewarding project for Niepoort and costumers alike”. The use of wine labels in this case was aimed to reflect the quality and character of their wine in a creative approach involving winemakers and artists. It is also a sort of homage to the Douro region, with its magnificent panoramas of rugged nature, the steep vineyard slopes, the flow of the Douro River and its tributaries, the narrow valleys and the local extreme climate, as well as the difficult conditions for producing wine when using the artisanal processes that make this region so special. (from Niepoort site: http://www.niepoort-vinhos.com/en/fabulous/)

Here the label is an effort to bridge a gap between the wine maker, his locality and aspirations, the character of the wine, and the consumer via an object which is consumed visually at first before the bottle is opened and thus forming an aesthetic dialogue between the label and the wine.

There are 3 groups of Labels :

     The first: “Niepoort’s Soul”, reflecting the “magic of the Douro region through images of the estates and the winery”.

    The second group: “Projects”, is more “experimentalist” in nature.

    The third group: “Fabulous”, tries to emphasis the artistic excellence of the labels. Judge for yourself at : http://www.niepoort-vinhos.com/en/fabulous/

There is no doubt that wine at its best is a work of ART, does not use fixated idea of an effort to “reach” a certain taste and smell, but a proper use of the product at hand : Use of a given vintage, qualities and character, add a bit of their own geography, geology and climate terroir in short, and turn it into a beverage that is not meant to quench thirst  but rather an intellectual sensual travel into the layers of wine and mind from the perspective of all 5 senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and sound.  Just like a good piece of Art is the use of paints and colors on paper or canvas that transcends into an object that evokes emotions. In this sense good art and good wine go comfortably hand in hand together, and wine drinkers /appreciators, get to enjoy the finished product.

Your Wineguide

To Aÿ & back to Epern-Ay

Champagne visit Day 2 PM

By the time we finished our meeting at Moet, we missed our scheduled meeting at Perrier Jouet (Chef de cave Herve Deschamp is busy till late afternoon), but don’t despair Yair Haidu has rescheduled the meeting for 5pm so we’re all sorted out, more or less. Now our next meeting is a good 2 Hours away in Aÿ at Champagne Deutz so he’s calling Bollinger to see if they have a regular “tourist tour” this afternoon… and… “Lo and behold” there’s one starting in 10 minutes time, so we rush over, through the narrow streets of Aÿ and park across the road from the gateway to one of my favorite champagne houses BOLLINGER.

            

We’ve done the Blanc de Blancs, and here at “Boly” they proud themselves on the fact that Pinot Noir is the Base of the Bollinger Blends 60% in the Special Cuvée NV, and 65% in their Grand Année (vintage) champagnes. And they use for these blends for the NV 80% grapes from Premiers and Grands Crus and for the Vintage Champagne 100%! For all their wines they utilize only the “Cuvee” (the cuvée refers to the best grape juice from gentle pressing of the grapes. In Champagne, the cuvée is the first 2,050 liters of grape juice from 4,000 kg of grapes ), the remaining 500 liters called taille (tail), or pressed juice is sold to other champagne Houses… Impressive! But you knew all that right?

                

The guide and the group of 3 from Australians and us are led to a small vineyard, a lot of less than half an acre vineyard “the only non phylloxera affected vineyard in the whole of champagne”, still blooming and looking healthy.

The winery tour starts at the Destemming and Crushing area and passes on, to the Oak barrels room, all Bollinger’s wines undergo first fermentation in Oak Barrels (a great pride) and so we are given the important “tour of the Barrels workshop”,  where the in-house barrel maker makes new barrels, fixes old barrels and prepares used barrels by scraping off the crystal sediments that accumulate and cover the barrels yearly. This guy is quick, showing his expertise to the onlookers.

               

Now we go down the stairs to the cool cellars 8Km long!!!! under the streets of Ay, (you enter in one place and come out somewhere else), with more than half a million Magnums and many more 75cl size bottles all resting in one position or another on their racks or pupitres. A pupitre is a wooden rack made of two hinged heavy boards. Each of the boards has 60 holes that are cut so that a bottle can rest, by the neck, in any position between horizontal and vertical. At first, the bottles lie horizontally, and gradually, through a process called remuage, they are hand “riddled.” This is an arduous process where each bottle is rotated and tilted very slightly each day so that the yeast loosen and finally accumulate into the neck of the bottle.

           

The Bollinger wines:

    Special Cuvée (non-vintage):  A Champagne blend that uses grapes from a given year, with a balancing addition of up to 10% reserve wines, from the last fifteen years. The blending gives the special cuvee the complexity and structure on every year. I love it. (60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier.)

    Grand Année (vintage): Whenever there is an exceptional harvest, Bollinger will produce their prestige Champagne Grand Année (“great vintage Year”), it is aimed to express best the character of the vintage. Only the best wines from the different crus are selected for this purpose. This Champagne is also available as a Rosé. The wine spends five years on its lees and is aged in bottle under cork. (65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay)

    R.D. (vintage): récemment dégorgé (“recently disgorged”). This is the “Reserve” Grand Année blend. R.D. spends eight years on its lees, aged under cork R.D.  The disgorgement date is given on the back label. The different disgorgement dates are noticeable in aroma and flavor and touch between R.D. Champagnes of the same year. Only 19 vntages since Inauguration in 1952 (first RD) to date where made in the RD format (one of which is my birth year 1953 I wish I could lay my hands on one magnum for my 60th birthday next year).

    Vieille Vignes Françaises (vintage): Bollinger’s prestige cuvee, this blanc de noirs is made in small quantity with wine from two small plots of un grafted rootstock planted in low density (3000 vines per hectare). These two low-density and yield vineyards, Clos St-Jacques in Aÿ and Chaudes Terres in Aÿ, are severely pruned, and thus produce 35% less juice per vine.

We tasted                             

Special Cuvée Brut and  Special Cuvée Rose wonderful wines on all counts!

Bollinger Grand Année 2002 even on its 9th year it is still a youngling very fresh and fruity mainly citrus; with strong grapefruit notes and a faint touch of white tropical fruits. Great balanced acidity and fruitiness. This is a keeper for quite a few years, so… WAIT!

The Best Bollinger I had lately was without a doubt the 1995 Grand Année, The complexity and depth was tremendous, smooth with aromas of ripe white fruits and bursting fig aroma roasted hazelnuts and toasted butter cinnamon brioche with hints of vanilla, a smooth gentle touch on the palate with exceedingly long finish on palate and nose Excellent!!!

We left with a DVD disc of the Various James Bonds ordering Bollinger RD 1961….. My name is B O N D, James Bond!

We’re headed to the neighbors Deutz, another small family champagne house in Aÿ (since 1838), also in for a scheduled meeting with Jean Marc Lallier-Deutz,

we pass the Courtyard Statue of Cupid, the Roman god of desire, love and affection He is often portrayed as the son of the goddess Venus, His Greek counterpart is Eros. Cupid is also known in Latin as Amor (“Love”). Undoubtedly the spirit of Amour De Deutz.

We are, in yet another small and gracious looking estate built in the traditional Champagne style, we sit for a casual wine chat with our host in the drawing room the furniture and surroundings are all original pieces with a very homey feel. We move to the tasting room facing the gardens and champagne glasses are laid down on the glass top modern dining table.

          

We taste:

Deutz Brut Classic: This is a lovers champagne charming accessible and well balanced for a couple who are about to get acquainted. The classic is affordable champagne that has all the element of style and elegance, but make no mistake this is not the “Amour de Deutz” Millésimé Deutz Brut, The more sophisticated multilayered yet fresh and lively champagne suitable for the private engagement party and a pure Blanc de Blancs Champagne.

Deutz Blanc de Blanc 2004, The 2004 Brut Blanc de Blancs is full of exotic tropical fruit flavours, very rich and elegant mufti-layered Champagne complexity,  and a very sharp clean finish. The Deutz Blanc de Blancs is made principally from vineyards in Avize and Mesnil, with 20% coming from vineyards in Villers Marmery, Oger, and Cramant .disgorged July, 2008.

                                

Cuvee William Deutz 1999

The wine is a crystal clear champagne with lovely small bubbles and a pale lemony golden hue. The nose is fully opened with rich aromas of ripe apples baked in butter, and some hints sweet spices of anis and nutmeg. It has a rich fully ripped, spiced long finish.

 Deutz, formerly known as Deutz Geldermann, based in the Aÿ region of Champagne since 1838. It was run by successive generations of the Deutz and Geldermann families. Today, under the leadership of Fabrice Rosset, the passion for terroir and tradition is at the fore front of the production attitude, the 3 F’s : Finesse, Freshness & Fine.

I could have stayed in the lovely garden sipping away the Cuvee William but “duty calls” we still have our last visit of the afternoon (in Epernay) before parting Champagne and back to “Old Paris”.

This one is at Perrier Jouet with chef de cave Herve Deschamphas.

First the House’s jewel in the crown La Maison Belle E’poque at the historic house of the Perrier family at 11 Ave. de Champagne. This a most amazing living collection of Art Nouveau pieces of furniture, architectural pieces, objects d’art, paintings all from the era known today as La Belle Époque “The Beautiful Era”. This was a period in French history starting in 1890 and ending as the first World War began in 1914. It was a war free period of optimism, a time for scientific inventions and discoveries: Louis Pasteur developed the Pasteurization (or pasteurization)process, antibiotics and the rabies vaccine. Mathematician and physicist Henri Poincaré made important contributions to pure and applied mathematics. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Her study of radioactivity, led to discovery of polonium and radium, winning the Nobel Prize Twice!! for Physics in 1903, and the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. New technologies such as the invention of the motion picture (Film), The Lumière Brothers held their first private screening of projected motion pictures in 1895. Peace and prosperity in Paris allowed the arts to flourish, and many masterpieces of literature, music, theater, and visual art gained recognition.

The Term Belle Époque was coined in retrospect, when it began to be considered a relative “golden age” in contrast to the horrors of the World Wars that ensued.                                                       (click on the photo to enlarge)

                       

We are honored with a guided visit of the House of Belle Époque with Herve Deschamphas who will be with us throughout the whole tour and of course the tasting. This is almost unreal, the gateway and the splendid doorframe, the furniture, the decorations, the art on the walls (some Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec and others all originals and of best quality) even the double bed, the basin, faucets and the Loo all original Art Nouveau from the best artists of their trade! Inspiring and heartwarming (The house special guests from around the world get to stay the night there, it has its own kitchen and chef!). What a delight!!!

                  

We go down to the Labyrinth of cellars (Its really cold 8-11 degrees) with some caged doors behind which stored bottles of great importance or age tucked in safely. There’s also an area for keeping wines bought by clients and celebs for special occasions arranged separately in niches in the wall and lots more…

We sat down to our Tasting with chef de cave Herve Deschamphas

        

first he opened the Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV. This is a Fresh champagne with some delicate bouquet of ripe white fruits like white peach with a touch of Smoky Oak and spiced melted butter biscuits. It contains all the elements to make it alluring to all the participants in for instance a public function or a party.

Belle époque 2004:  (50 % Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5 % Pinot Meunier.  A very elegant wine that hits you with strong aromas of wild flowers in the spring, quit reminiscent of the bottle’s artwork, (designed by Emile Gallé in 1902). On the palate, ripe tropical fruits: Annona and  pineapple flavors very open and spiced. Still fresh and elegant with a nice touch of minerality that extends the length.

Belle époque Rose 2002 The orangey pinkish color radiates through the translucent bottle in sensual colours (the usual Belle époque blend the Rosé is made by adding red wine rather than the saignée method). It is all about  finesse and delicacy without the show off of concentration or strength, very good balance.

Belle époque Blanc de Blancs 2000 :  The most prestigious of the Perrier-Jouët Belle époque series. A show off of the house terroir coming exclusively from Cramant and just from two parcels, Bourons-Leroy and Bourons du Midi, at the heart of the Cramant Grand Cru in the Côte des Blancs. Responsible for this 100% Chardonnay wine grown on pure chalk soil, on the south, south-east slopes. Again we are introduced to the floral aroma touch a characteristic sign, this wine, of more fragrant flowers like honeysuckle freesia and acacia, and very sweet spices like vanilla scented toffee delicate and easily approachable.

Thank you Herve.

Perrier Jouet  28 avenue de Champagne, 51201 Épernay

Telephone: +33 (0) 3 26 53 38 00.  www.perrier-jouet.

As the days grow longer, towards the year’s longest day on June 21st ,  we started on our way back to Paris the clouds started to gather again, but the sun rays pierced through the clouds in an heavenly manner, to end up 2 glorious days in champagne .

Thanks Yair for arranging this unforgettable tour.

Your Wine guide