Another educational Zoom wine tasting was held in Vancouver this time featuring under the radar top quality producers in the Côte de Beaune Domaine Chandon de Briailles (DCB) from the Corton hill and the surrounding appellations. Logistics were tricky because of the 9 hour time difference between the Pacific West Coast and connecting with Madame Claude De Nicolay live in Burgundy. Sunday May 1st at noon and 9 pm respectively worked magically for this special event helped by their import agent (for BC & Alberta) Yannick Treffot of Cru Terroir Wines. Members of the Sous-Commanderie de Vancouver of Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin were assembled at 5 homes each with 8 keen attendees. Seven wines were tasted and discussed in detail led by questions and comments from your scribe followed by a tasty most attractive cheese (including creamy smooth Delice de Bourgogne + pungent vibrancy of Epoisses) & charcuterie platter superbly prepared by Les Amis du Fromage. A few brief impressions on the 7 Domaine wines of DCB tasted:

  1. SAVIGNY-LES-BEAUNE BLANC LES SAUCOURS 2018: Larger crop harvested end of August for their second release shows lovely lemony citrus acid balance with wonderful rather classy early drinkability. Know this NE exposure limestone vineyard nearby the tiny half hectare Premier Cru Redrescul. Remember drinking the rich full complex 1989 Redrescul 1er white from Recolte Domaine Marcel Doudet with the late Yves Doudet who commented that “the vineyards for blanc around here are best drinking very early on after bottling or much later with at least 10 years of age”. Believe this AC Les Saucours may last better than you might first expect.
  2. PERNAND-VERGELESSES PREMIER CRU ILE DES VERGELESSES 2015: DCB are the largest vineyard owners of this prime location. 2015 had a hot summer and wet August resulting in an earlier first half of September fine harvest. Really like the pruning for smaller yields (8 bunches/vine) from this riper top vintage displaying that typical “spicy” (almost licorice) quality of pure fragrant intense cherries of this excellent terroir (compare the “violets” found in red Savigny-les-Beaune).
  3. ALOXE-CORTON PREMIER CRU LES VALOZIÈRES 2016: Contrast the later October harvest in 2016 after end of April frost reduced the crop size from clay soil plus deeper down limestone with East exposure on .28 hectare site planted in 1987 directly below Corton-Bressandes. Shows that mineral spice but differently at present in a more austere structured style.
  4. CORTON-BRESSANDES GRAND CRU 2017: Deep soils mid-slope of 1.12 hectares in 4 unique parcels giving an elegant more earthy raspberry/strawberry character. First year used fully their new gentler vertical press with 85% whole bunches plus some sophisticated Stockinger gentler oak. Tasted this earlier picked larger crop from one of 20 casks (later blended together) on my last visit there on October 23, 2018 but though smooth with integrated tannins was still showing some CO2 from late malo in June. Gone now and will develop well with time.
  5. CORTON-CLOS-DU-ROI GRAND CRU 2017: Situated high steep good drainage at 300 m. elevation due East directly above Bressandes and below Corton Charlemagne with .38 hectare planted 1961 & 1985. First experiment of pole stakes without a training system on the vines. Late ripening location gives a wonderful floral flowers very minerally character to the muscular wine but with delicacy too. Also tried this in barrel with Claude who used 20% new oak with mostly Allier & Nevers and stated you “need to wait some time for best development”.
  6. CORTON-BRESSANDES GRAND CRU 2016: Dry and sunny after frosts resulting in tiny yields for Grand Cru in 2016. Potential for long aging.
  7. CORTON-CLOS-DU-ROI GRAND CRU 2016: Served last and group favourite for cellaring. Many liked the long great concentration of this 2017 too. We recognized the weight and richer fruit of the Clos du Roi vineyard with that outstanding structure that will ultimately result with patience in a very refined classy Grand Cru indeed!

What an amazing knowledgeable personable wine maker is Madame Claude de Nicolay! Seventh generation from 1834 with the 8th on the way. Your scribe tasted with her mother Nadine the 6th in the mid-eighties who showed great foresight including planting vines for white wines on limestone soils. Claude since 1988 but worked 1989, 1990, and 1991 vintages with her mother. Today still Classic wines yet Claude is so smart and innovative in achieving them in a changing world including climate change. Talk about pivoting and adapting. What a thinker she is. So many words of wisdom that you had to be on the Zoom presentation to be blown away with her new creative ideas to make only the very best wines possible. Some of them:

Biodynamic: Following it religiously. Fully certified in 2011 by Ecocert & Demeter. Mentioned we were tasting on May 1 a strong Lunar “Root” day (as opposed to better ones of fruit, flower or root) but
didn’t seem to affect the excellent showing of the choice wines shown.

Whole Bunch/Stems: Claude was one of the very first to use 100% whole bunches with stems. Now has dialed back somewhat. You need to pick at the right time for whole bunch use. Are the stems ripe? Are grapes at the beginning of the stems at the woody part of the vine? Now careful about use of stems in cooler years. However in warmer riper years believes they provide complexity and a long finish.

Pigeage: Punch down still by foot for Grand Cru & Ile de V trying for smoother tannins.

-Oak: Buy up to 15% new for barrel rotation but again only for smoothing out the tannins and not for an oaky taste. Use new oak for white before red is put into them. Using bigger barrels of 300 & 600 liter size to emphasize the fruit.

-Sulphur: Started experiment in 2012 with no SO2 added. Now always using less and not during fermentation. Only rack once before bottling and use nitrogen. Best protection is to keep the wines on their lees. Some wines are being shipped to America with no sulphur and are successful.

-Brother Francois: Worked at a Paris wine shop (Pinot Noir/Chardonnay) until joining DCB in 2001 providing a most helpful different global perspective.

-Vertical Press: Impressed with using one while working in New Zealand in 1994 but was too aggressive on the stems. Rented one 20 years later for trying basket press on Clos-du-Roi 2015. Better finishing tannins and less astringent. Got one in 2016, two in 2017 and now all vertical press. Helps get the fruit up front with less strong stems plus a structured finish, as well as easier clarifying as doesn’t dig up the

-Pole Stakes experiments: Looked at stopping hedging (like DRC & Leroy did) but are lifting up the training system with longer and taller poles and canopy management to help against global warming.

-Partial Carbonic Fermentation;
No more cool maceration but trying half carbonic before “remontage” pump over.

What an insightful Burgundy wine seminar! You had to be there. Recommend trying some DCB wines. Especially look out for those amazing 2020 fresh whites.

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Ask Sid: What is the name for the grape moth?

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Question: What is the name of the grape moth?

Answer: You must be referring to LOBESIA BOTRANA. That is the name for the European grapevine moth insect native to Southern Italy (though it may have originated in Austria) and now is around worldwide. Even though found in California in 2009 it was eradicated by 2016 and is regulated presently in Canada and other countries as a quarantine pest but it still is thriving. The larvae attack the grapes and cause problems even for imported table grapes from Argentina & Chile. Vineyard workers are always on the look-out for its presence.

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Pork continues to be popular as a versatile non-wasteful food choice with all parts of the pig being utilized from head to tail. Remember celebrated Chef Jacky Robert of Amelio’s in San Francisco serving us in the mid-eighties his most innovative “ears & tail” pork recipes that always matched so well with the aperitif bubbles. Tenderloin, shoulder, butt, ribs (smoky BBQ!), ham, bacon, sausage – even cheeks & trotters – are among so many useful delicious food items. A piglet at birth is only around 3+ pounds but after 6-7 months grows into a 250-300 pound hog. In British Columbia they are regulated under the Natural Products Marketing (BC) Act with a BC Hog Marketing Commission using the definition of “hog” as “means a pig of any age.” The reality is that producers want to maximize the size and the weight of their hogs to obtain maximum selling prices. Small pigs are almost an unwanted specialty item for the Asian & Chinese market and restaurants with a much higher price/lb charged.

On April 29 at the increasingly popular Chef’s Choice Chinese Cuisine in Vancouver they prepared another outstanding dinner featuring a small suckling pig for six of us cooked first on the rotisserie and then finished by roasting in the oven. Amazing presentation and such succulent flavours so well done indeed!. Brought back lots of fond memories of similar but even smaller suckling pigs enjoyed in Spain with less restrictive laws for the protection of young animals. In particular provided nostalgia for your scribe of several memorial meals in Madrid featuring roast suckling piglet at Botin’s open since 1725 with the Guiness record for oldest restaurant in the world. Check out the photo of the mastery of this dish by the chef and his brigade at Chef’s Choice. What a crisp skin!

Lots of other interesting items served including spot prawns, razorback clams in black bean sauce, pork several ways, tasty beef on the bone, and a remarkable dessert of mango stuffed with taro root. Other big highlights were the wines so well paired with the food:

DOM PERIGNON 1990: Looked golden but no oxidation or maderization. Pure aged rich marvellous complex almost creme brulee toasted brioche and dried apricots bouquet with smooth balanced complex taste. Harvested 32 years ago on September 11, 1990 but still going strong. Brilliant now in magnums. Calling for more!

MANDELBERG RIESLING GRAND CRU 2018 TRIMBACH: This choice Grand Cru vineyard Mandelberg (“Almond Tree Slope”) is a hill sheltering the village of Mittelwihr from those cold northerly winds. One hectare cultivated by Trimbach since 1996 of 60+ year old vines with S/SE exposure on brown limestone-marl soil is early ripening but was not specifically labeled until their 2016 vintage release. This 2018 is spectacular with full rich noble breeding with distinct terroir from those unique soils plus fantastic lemon acid finesse. Still an infant but will age exquisitely for a very long time. Moreover it was a brilliant match choice for complementing roast suckling pig!

RIOJA IMPERIAL GRAN RESERVA 2015 C.V.N.E.: Only produced in exceptional vintages using mainly Tempranillo hand picked grapes from their oldest vineyard. Oak for 24+ months & 3+ years in bottle results in a wonderful typical attractive sweet elegant style that will only develop even more nuances with some more bottle aging. Paired magically with the beef dish. Lovely wine indeed.

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Ask Sid: What about the early drinkability of Madiran especially from producer Brumont?

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Question: A friend is invited to a tasting dinner of several wines from Brumont; of particular interest are the Montus Prestige and the La Tyre.  I’ve done basic homework and found that this is a true pioneer of Madiran and Tannat is the star grape. I’m jealous, as I’ve yet to taste anything from either property so I’d like to ask what your experiences are with these wines.

Answer: Thanks for shedding light on this relatively undiscovered wine region of Madiran in Gascony of southwestern France. Yes, tannat is “the star grape” tending to be aromatic, powerful, and quite tannic! Brumont led by terroir pioneer Alain Brumont is the leading producer of both Chateau Montus & Chateau Bouscasse (older vines) with top wines including south facing high elevation vineyard of 100% tannat in Madiran Prestige (1st in 1985) two years in 100% new oak and since 1990 their expensive south-west highest elevation (260 metres) select tannat grapes from top vineyard La Tyre.  Madiran and especially these best cuvees are dark deep big concentrated great wines with good underlying acidity that can benefit from bottle aging. However, more consumers now appreciate a young powerful black fruit statement that this provides in spades early on. With more bottle aging they become more refined elegant and complex. Therefore, are enjoyable at many stages of a long evolution. Tried Madiran a couple of times against tannat from Uruguay (their national grape) which showed a big difference with these in an easier more drinkable style early with much softer riper tannins. Also check out a top Tannat (planted in 2005) from Moon Curser on Osoyoos East Bench in the Okanagan, British Columbia for a very interesting example. The rich dense complex 2018 was picked at 26.8 Brix and comes in at 15 abv with an amazing texture. Excellent write-up on their website. Enjoy!

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Often dinner events are limited to serving wines just from a specific wine region or one individual winery. This is especially so for most wine clubs formed as their raison d’etre to focus more intensely only on their main wine theme. The International Wine & Food Society by their nature has been an exception to this general rule being a leader in matching wines from around the world with food courses at dinner events. It has worked out well. However, putting together passionate members of two different wine connoisseur groups like La Commanderie de Bordeaux and Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin was another challenge indeed. Fifty guests (25 from each organization) attended such a joint dinner on April 19, 2022 in Vancouver at the innovative New Fishport Seafood Bistro. The Culinary Director Sam Leung and his brigade did a marvelous job putting together a most interesting Menu to pair with some outstanding wines. Many thanks to the whole culinary team and the compatible organizers from both wine groups who did a great job – especially Kitty Lam.

DRAPPIER NV CARTE D’OR BRUT: 200+ year old Champagne House in Cotes des Bar using 80% pinot noir first press with 40% Reserve wines & only 6+ dosage shows softer easy drinking riper spiced peaches. “Y” D’YQUEM 2015: Shows the improved quality of these dry Sauternes. Here the 75% Sauvignon Blanc picked early (August 25-27) & 25% Semillon (September 3-4) with low 3.2 pH and only has 6 grams/litre residual sugar (similar to the Champagne) is lovely. Exciting geoduck clam starter that was fine with the unique ginger waxy lemony lemongrass wine but difficult pairing with a tad too much pungent wasabi in the special sauce. Recommend buying the 2016 Y one of the all-time best ever made!

SMITH HAUT LAFITTE BLANC 2015 PESSAC-LEOGNAN: Great label celebrating the Cathiards 25th anniversary using 90% SB plus 5 Sauvignon Gris (24 years old) & 5 Semillon showing freshness plus rich intense classy integrated new oak. Matched delightfully with a toned-down yet hot & tangy Portuguese-style blue crab served inside the shell.

CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET 2010 PIERRE-YVES COLIN-MOREY (Power couple of eldest son of Marc Colin & wife Caroline daughter of Jean-Marc Morey) two 1er Crus with two excellent snow crab courses.

VIDE BOURSE: North of N6 on downslope from Batard usually rather 4-square but though reductive here shows an interesting character because of the superb 2010 vintage of restricted yields singing with the fresh snow crab claw & caviar.

LES BAUDINES: Superior site at South end above the road adjoining Santenay on the Coteaux (elevation mostly over 300 metres with good drainage) where most of the higher rated Chassagnes exist. Prefer this more elegant complex mineral classy terroir with brighter balanced acidity. Excellent match with the dish especially the cool gelee with lemon & pomelo. A matching hit!

CLOS DE VOUGEOT 2006 – BOTH ALAIN HUDELOT-NOELLAT & MUSIGNI (EN MAGNUM) BY GROS FRERE & SOEUR: You often see duck and/or mushrooms with red Burgundy – or game-birds. Less so with pork and especially Pescatarian options of sea bass and crepe of sole. Provoked some discussions. Before Charles H-N arrived in 2008 from vines planted on .69 ha in 1950 with two choice plots near the Vougeot chateau (sold third plot near RN74 earlier on) using 20% stems & 50% new Allier oak barrels. High quality indeed with deep dense young colour opening fine fragrant classy young fruit bouquet but no rush to open. Impressive. Magnum from Gros has a special site “Musigni” above the chateau below Musigny. Great format but lighter greener herbs & red spicy sappy fruits in a more accessible elegant style with some austerity.

Often see lamb served with red Bordeaux but interesting change here for “hotpot” using quick stir fry rib or mussels followed by Abalone but cleverly fused with ideal porcini. Worked. Concentrated successful hot vintage 2003 has real solid dark ripe sweet tobacco fruit with some vibrant energy despite lower acidity that brings some enjoyment already but needs time to reach a higher level. Tried the two nights previously the 2003 d’Armailhac Pauillac drinking lighter and beautifully already and 2003 Duhart-Milon very underrated classy Pauillac starting on a long fantastic plateau of brilliance. 1989 PLB is a favourite of this scribe and is Wine Spectator Wine of the Year. However bottles here coming from different sources and ours were quite musty and not showing well. Can be an outstanding wine.

This property run by Berenice Lurton presently is making outstanding Sauternes. 2009 is in that pure rich but rounder style from a hotter year resulting in only 2 picks (tries) with the first one providing 90%. There is botrytis and Barsac always seems to have that needed underlying balanced acidity. Glorious now with the ginger & rose petals of the dessert but will blossom even better from a few more years in the bottle. Big success with somewhat biased discussions depending on which Group you are a member of – either Bordeaux or Burgundy. Luckily your scribe is a member of both so remained neutral but was highly enthusiastic about the top wines from both regions! Wonderful idea for a stimulating event!

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