Blind tasting old favourites.

For how many years have I stood in the middle of our Jascots Wine Championships and been amazed at the extent of many competitors knowledge and tasting ability whilst also being surprised that some less experienced participants reckon that Chablis or Sancerre are grape varieties.

Winners at a Championship

But, the other night at our Promotional Wine Championship I was on the receiving end of it. As my esteemed colleague Ben Scott took the helm, and I had the rare but joyous moment to sit along for the ride and become a participant, it revealed one or two gaps in my knowledge!

It was particularly White #3 which unstuck me. Was it the gloriously elegant and exquisitely balanced Pouilly~Fuissé ‘Aux

Bellvale Chardonnay, Australia

Bouthieres’ 2010 by Domaine de la Chapelle? Nope, too rich and too powerful. Our new US Chardy? No, not the right flavours for America. Puligny~Montrachet by Jean-Louis Chavy? Nope, too mature for the 2011.

The fabulous top Burgundy lookalike, Bellvale (Aussie) Chardonnay? Hhhhmmmm, possibly.

BUT, oh what humiliation to find that it was indeed the exquisitely fine 2010 Pouilly~Fuissé ‘Aux Bouthieres’ 2010. It had either been pumping iron in the gym or had transformed into one big old Burgundy. Gold in colour with an immediately identifiable ‘classy Chardonnay’ nose.

The Masquerader - Pouilly Fuissé 'Aux Bouthieres'

On the palate, this once very fine, slightly feminine wine had filled out it’s luscious flavours considerably! It has become an immensely impressive white Burg, so much so that I had been tempted to put down Puligny as this smashing single vineyard Pouilly~ Fuissé, that pre-war held the rank of Premier Cru, was a much bigger beast that I had ever remembered trying.

Rich, very full-bodied and flavoured with a texture to match and wave-upon-wave of unctuous, ripe, rich and nicely oaked Chardonnay washed over the palate with a depth of complexity and weight more akin to Puligny Premier Cru Les Combettes….and from a very good year. It’s lovely linear acidity ran through the taste profile from start to finish and I am totally impressed by this tremendous wine.

At a little over £20 a bottle, it offers immense value and offers heavy-weight power and class at an unusually affordable price.

If you read this, snap it up!

Quizzical

A Gastronomic Dinner

Last night was a night to remember for a very long time.

Three great chums and I met at 7pm at “The Don” in St Swithin’s Lane in The City for a truly gastronomic dinner and, my-o-my, big kudos to the Chef at this terrific restaurant as he really pushed the boat out. Tucked away in one of those funny little corners that one could so easily stroll by for a decade and never discover, small and Dickensian, in The City in which The Sandeman Family used to trade their ports and, no doubt, the good and the great of The Square Mile would meet for a bottle or two of ‘Porter’ before a Cock Fight or Boxing Bout or something riveting like that.

The Don RestaurantProceedings were kicked off with a bottle of Laurant-Perrier’s Ultra Brut which, despite its zero dosage, was delightfully refreshing after 30 minutes in the tube and bone dry but not at all spikey…one for the weight conscious?

A little slab of Foie Gras with some very finely chopped apple and a rather lovely sauce was the amuse bouche to launch into dinner which we hugely enjoyed with a bottle of Jean-Marc Pillot’s Puligny-Montrachet ‘Les Noyers Bret’ 2011. This lieu dit is just above and beside the Village of Puligny on the road up to the wonderful ‘Rue Rousseau’ (do you remember Philippe Chavy’s 2009?!) which, as you know, is immediately below Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet but our wine was entirely different from Les Grands Crus. It is straw in colour and has a sensational citrusy nose than carries onto the palette….think confit of lemon on the nose and some very limey and citrus notes in the flavour profile, clean, refreshing, crisp and yet luscious and lively and the perfect white to get us going and then to accompany Scotch Quail’s Egg with a very  light tempura coating, shavings of truffle and a subtle tarragon sauce. Heaven.

Down went the Puligny and M. Alain Morice, GM, our Master Sommelier and all-time great guy decanted and elegantly served the much more golden Chevalier~Montrachet Grand Cru 2006 by Christophe Cordier. Now this was a serious wine. Almost old bronze in colour and with notes of toffee, caramel and truffle, the wine’s texture was sensational and the secondary flavours so luxuriant and serious. Out came our man with a Turbot which came off the bone and was elegantly plated with those little orange mushrooms, a white sauce with caviar dolloped here and there. Oh my, what a dish and what a wine.

How marvellous that here is an eatery that takes its wines as seriously as its food and our Riedel oaked-Chardonnay glasses were exchanged for The Red Burgundy glass and Alain poured out the last bottle of our Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru ‘Lavaux St Jacques’ 2009 by Gerard Seguin. Maybe I was showing off as his ‘Les Crais’, ‘La Justice’ and Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes are all showing so beautifully and, as we tasted, I felt that the Lavaux St Jacques was a little tight and introverted with fresh acidity and a little tightness in the tannins…until the Boeuf Bourguignon arrived and the marriage was made. The rich cherry fruits of the wines cleaned and refreshed while the ‘reduction’ and beef laid it on and I had visions of Mr. Bumble enjoying a similar feast 175 years ago. The chatter got lively, England is ahead and it was all so scrummy.

Now for the ‘Piece de Resistance’. The Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2008 by our most illustrious producer, Lignier-Michelot.

Jack drinking Lignier MichelotNapoleon wrote ~ “Nothing makes the future look so rosy as to contemplate it through a glass of Chambertinand I think we would all wholeheartedly agree with that. The wine of today is rather more concentrated and dense than 200 years ago and a much finer drop…the colour is deep red and you can see the velvety texture as it swirled around the glass. The wine has developed no secondary flavours as yet but the primary fruits were all there with dark plum, rich black cherry and so much flesh and texture to enjoy…and out came a Cheese Board the size of a Boeing wing and we took instruction on what would and what would not work with the wine. We all obeyed and the combination of so many delighted cheeses and our Chambertin was simply spectacular.

As if we hadn’t had enough, Chef then produced a Mango Eton Mess that cleaned, refreshed and revitalised and Alain produced a 2005 5 Puttonyos Tokaji that was just so perfect to accompany the Pud.

At the end of the evening, 2 thoughts occurred to me. Firstly, we just have to do this more often ~ what a joy it was to enjoy such fabulous wines and delicious food with great chums…so life enhancing.

Secondly, in the Spring I declined a pudding from a lovely Polish waitress and said that I was getting trim for the beach in the summer. She looked me up and down and informed me that if she saw me on a beach she would push me back into the sea.

After last nights dinner, she may well have a point so thank goodness for the Ultra Brut.

Jascots is walking the talk.

 

Again

A Bordeaux-Love Affair

At 6.30am I arrived at Gatwick rather bleary eyed where I met Jascot’s Alastair ‘Little Mac’ McClelland sitting over a coffee and croissant. As neither of us had visited a French Chateau or vineyard before, our conversation was limited to ‘so…what are you expecting?’

After meeting up with the rest of the group – a friendly and lively mix of guys and gals in the wine trade – we trundled off through the back streets of Bordeaux, parked up in the central square and made our way to the prestigious L’Ecole du Vin (Bordeaux Wine School). After an hours speedy catch up on the Bordeaux-Basics,we were ready for our first tasting.

Bordeaux dinner Around the table at Chateau Puygueraud.

To my utter joy and delight, I quickly discovered we weren’t just having a tasting but would be sampling about 15 wines over a four course lunch! Pure heaven. And this was our first introduction to Bordeaux white grapes; I have up to now only been particularly familiar with Bordeaux red, so this was a real education, and since that introductory tasting, Bordeaux whites have found a special place in my heart.

The main grapes used in this area of France for white wine are the zesty, fresh, acidic and floral Sauvignon Blanc combined in various quantities with the fleshy, fruitier and fuller Semillon, that is also used to make their world-renowned sweet wine (I was very quickly corrected for calling it dessert wine…). Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle also play a small but distinctive role. A particular favourite of mine was a Sauvignon Blanc (40%) and Gris (40%), and Semillon (20%); it was so fresh and fruity with a lovely long finish that you were satisfied from first smell to long after it has slid down your throat.

Foot-long steak from Jan’s uncle’s farm cooking over the fire.

We travelled down to the AOC Cotes des Bordeaux and ended our day at the stunning Chateau Puygueraud. Jan Thienpont, who owned the vineyard with his brother, talked us through the transformation from agricultural land to vineyard and winery; his uncle still owned a small farm and orchard interwoven between vines. They grow their own grapes, but also use those of their neighbours to make their wine; coming from London where everything is signed in blood and reviewed by lawyers down to the last dotted ‘i’, I was surprised to discover that their agreements were based purely on a hand shake. Jan’s philosophy to winemaking (grow grapes sustainably, help thy neighbour’s business as well as your own, and produce wine that everyone can enjoy) really inspired me. With our white asparagus, foot-long steak cooked over his fire and enormous bowl of wild strawberries all produced within a 5k radius, we had a selection of wines ranging from the traditional Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon to the lesser known Petit Verdot and a 100% Muscadelle. What a treat to have such a range of fantastic wines laid out around the kitchen table.

St Emilion St Emilion

The next day, I was especially excited to jump on the bus (water in hand) as we were off to the legendary region of St Emilion! As a personal favourite of mine, I was full of anticipation and our first stop to Chateau Clos du Prince did not disappoint. Their estate is just 3Ha, and owned by 24 year old Nicolas Prince. Given his age and the tiny size of the estate, I was intrigued to taste their wines. Would they be a bit ‘experimental’, would the size of the estate impact on their quality…? We tasted a vertical of 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2011, all made in the same way with the same percentage of grapes (80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc) and as with many vertical tastings, what stood out were the differences in character throughout the vintages.

You often hear ‘this was a great year’ but what does that really mean? Well, how the acidity, tannins, alcohol and fruit are balanced is a good indication, and for me the 2004 and 2010 were simply sublime. I felt like I was defying ‘wine-law’ by not falling in love with 2009 but I strongly believe wine, like food or art, is subjective. There isn’t always a right or wrong, good or bad, just individual taste.

Bordeaux tasting Vertical tasting at Chateau Clos du Prince with their vineyards in the background.

Our final stop was to Pessac-Leognan, Chateau Bouscaut, one of just 6 estates classified Grand Cru Classée for both white and red wine. The previous owner of the estate, Monsieur Lurton, bought 10 estates in Bordeaux, and conveniently had 10 children! The Semillon vines were over 100 years old, and they aged both the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc in oak, which created a smooth richness that is not so common on the UK market.

The whole trip was a whirlwind of extraordinary food, beautiful scenery, and amazingly hospitable people against a backdrop of some of the most outstanding wines I may ever taste. Although Bordeaux is renowned for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, I have fallen hard for Bordeaux white wines. So go ahead, give them a go and I hope you will harvest the same love affair that I have.

Fresh, fruity, fizzy and great value – must be Prosecco…

 

So, Summer is here and that means it’s time to crack open a bottle or two of Prosecco. Forget the stale comparisons with Champagne, Prosecco is made in an entirely different way – different grapes, cool fermentation and no secondary bottle fermentation. The emphasis here is on fresh, clean flavours and delicious, honest fruit character. It’s versatile, too – try our range by Enrico Bedin from the Colli (‘hills’ to you and me) Asolani, near the town of Asolo in the Veneto and you’ll understand just how fabulous this fizz can be.

Vineyards at Enrico Bedin Vineyards at Enrico Bedin

Enrico and his team make four different wines – the light, ever so delicately effervescent Frizzante kicks us off, before we move up a bar of pressure to the Spumante, next is the rich textured Millesimato Superiore 2012, and the ‘David’ Spumante Rosato completes the set.

So what’s the difference? To cut a long story short, Frizzante, at 2.5 bars pressure, is semi-sparkling, while Spumante, at 3.5 bars is fully sparkling. That’s it. Both are similar in character – fresh green apples and pear, with just a touch of residual sugar to round off the finish (they’re both essentially dry wines though, I promise…).

The Millesimato Superiore 2012 is Bedin’s vintage offering. Made from 85% Glera (the grape variety formerly known as Prosecco), with the remaining 15% made up by the aromatic and indigenous Boschera, Bianchetto and Perera varieties which add a touch of character – it’s aged three times longer than its junior counterparts too, giving it just a tad more richness.

Glera grapes that make Prosecco Glera grapes that make Prosecco

Finally, Enrico’s party trick is his ‘David’ Spumante Rosato ­– you won’t find the word ‘Prosecco’ anywhere on the label as Prosecco, by law, has to contain the Glera grape variety, and this delicious little crowd pleaser is, wait for it, 100% Merlot. It’s pretty, delicate and just bursting with strawberry and candyfloss flavours and looks the part as well.

Cheers to that! Cheers to that!

Società Agricola Colli Asolani has been making wine in the hills of the Veneto since the turn of the century. Set up by Giovanni Bedin in 1900, it has always been a family concern, and today is still run by Giovanni’s great-grandson Enrico and his three brothers – Luigi, Denis and Damiano. Between them, they have modernised the winery and brought the perfect combination of cutting edge technology together with decades of winemaking experience. All the wines are terrific value – delicious, fresh and made to be drunk now (none of this ‘waiting for the optimum drinking window’ nonsense). When the sun is up, put your shorts on, get into the garden and chill out with a bottle – at a low 11%ABV you might even risk a second one…..

View our Prosecco range here – http://www.jascots.co.uk/advancedsearch/

Jascots – Green Retailer of The Year 2014

Jascots would like to say a big thank you to all our customers for their support in helping Jascots win the Green Retailer of the Year at yesterday’s Drinks Business Awards 2014.

The award was made to the retailer who could best demonstrate how business practices have had a direct impact on improving their and their suppliers’ environmental credentials within the area of drinks retailing.

The commendation read:  “the judges described Jascots operation as “walking the talk” when it comes to waste and energy use, recently adding carbon certification to its list of environmental measures.”

http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2014/04/green-awards-2014-the-winners-revealed/

2013 – Jascots and the Enviroment

1.           Jascots achieved ISO 14001 (Environmental Management System) certification in 2011 and successfully recertified in 2012 and 2013.  Jascots is one of only a very few (three) UK Merchants to achieve certification.

2.           Every year Jascots calculates its carbon footprint and, uniquely within the wine industry, they have it independently verified by the Carbon Trust.  In 2013 Jascots gained full Carbon Trust verification.

3.           For 2013 Jascots’ carbon footprint was 113.5 tCO2e.  This represents a further 10% absolute reduction from 125.9 tCO2e in 2012 on top of last year’s reduction of 16%.  Remarkably, this was achieved whilst Jascots’ sales were up over 20% year on year, delivering a relative per bottle reduction of 26.3%.

4.           CO2 that could not be reduced was once again offset through the purchase of carbon credits making Jascots carbon neutral.

5.           At the end of 2011 Jascots launched their innovative industry leading service ‘Going That Extra Green Mile’.  That is their ‘milk man’ service – a complimentary pick up and recycling service for empty wine bottles and boxes.  In 2013 they collected and recycled over 9,000 empty bottles of wine and over 4 tonnes of cardboard from their clients.

6.           During this year Jascots have assisted a number of their Catering Industry clients in adding value to supply chain own CSR profiles by communicating Jascots’ environmental credentials to their prospective and existing corporate customers.

7.           Jascots has communicated their environmental policy to all their suppliers.

8.           Jascots collected and where possible audited supplier credentials encouraging suppliers to adopt similar practices to Jascots.

9.           As the result of Jascots’ supplier audit, in 2013, Jascots used a primary courier that, like them, is carbon neutral.

10.        In 2012, for the first time, Jascots shipped in bulk and bottled in the UK the equivalent of 30,000 bottles from New Zealand in order to reduce shipping carbon footprint.   

11.        In 2013 Jascots trebled the number of lines bottled in the UK and increased sales of these to over 100,000.  This is communicated to all clients.

12.        Jascots now have a total of 10 organic and 2 biodynamic suppliers either certified or in conversion (an increase of 5 in 2013). 

13.        They have increased to a total of 29 wines that are either certified or in conversion to either organic or biodynamic (a 50% increase in 2013).

14.        Jascots reduced the volume of waste sent to landfill by 50% in 2011 and maintained that reduction in 2012 and 2013.

15.        Jascots recycled 90% of their office waste.

16.        Reduced the amount of paper they use by 25% in the last 3 years.

17.        Reduced the proportion of customers receiving paper invoices from 43% to 3% since 2009.

18.        Bought all of their paper from 100% recycled paper.

19.        Reduced the amount of packaging they use by over 25% in 3 years.

20.        Bought all of their packaging made from recycled products.

21.        In 2013 Jascots were proud to win a Special Commendation for the Drinks Business Green Awards 2013.  This was communicated to clients and suppliers.  The commendation read: “Rightly commended by the judges, Jascots Wine Merchants has since 2010 employed sustainable practices, working with the Carbon Trust to reduce its CO2 emissions and increase recycling both within its own business but also among its customers with a complimentary collection of client’s waste bottles and boxes.”

This fabulous patchwork quilt that is Burgundy’s unique landscape.

What better way to beat off January blues than with a trip to the historic and renowned wine making region of Burgundy? Last month I was fortunate enough to accompany Jack Scott and Buyer Alastair Pyatt on a buying trip there. Having never been before and with Pinot Noir being an absolute favourite of mine, I could not have been more excited to visit the place where the finest examples of this challenging and delicious grape variety are produced.

Nads & Jacko at lunch

Nads & Jacko at lunch

From my studies and textbooks, I am familiar with the status and reputation that surrounds much of French wines and their strict classé hierarchy. Bordeaux’s reputation in particular is always loomingly omnipresent. Yet whilst being aware of this imposingly renowned region famed for its immaculately groomed vineyards and impressive châteaux, I felt I knew remarkably less about Burgundy’s hidden secrets and this was the perfect opportunity to discover them.

In comparison to its much praised and celebrated neighbour, the region of Burgundy lies in complete contrast; 20km south of Dijon the story takes a different turn – and it is a remarkably pleasant one at that.

Ally & Jack at Bachey Legros

Ally & Jack at Bachey Legros

As we amble along in our rental car, winding across the ‘Rue de Grand Crus’, there is such an atmosphere of tranquility and simplicity that it is easy to forget (probably from sheer post-Beef Bourguignon/ Pinot Noir stupor) that some of the most opulent and refined wines originate from here. Indeed, this region is one of the world’s most prominent and idiosyncratic. With over 600 vineyards across 100 appellations it struck me that this was going to be a daunting region to explore, and with road signs whizzing past dictating that we were no longer in ‘Meursault’ but had crossed over a path into ‘Puligny Montrachet’, my dizzy head (again, most likely wine induced) could not keep up and I felt I would never get to grips with the landscape.

Jacko & Nads with Phillipe Chavy

Jacko & Nads with Phillipe Chavy

It is, however, precisely the nuances of land and terroir that are quintessential to understanding Burgundy. The wine’s classifications are geographically driven (unlike those of Bordeaux for example which are producer-centric) and so it really is down to the very intricacies of soils, slopes and streets that dictate the outcome of a wine. It is both the physical and metaphorical foundation on which quality, price, and status, will all be determined. Call me romantic, but it was this realisation that suddenly transformed the landscape in my mind, from the understated to the symbolic. Vineyards with their rows of naked winter vines, a stony pathway separating two famed appellations, the figures of French folk wrapped up in woolly hats, hunched over pruning the shoots and sending wisps of smoke rising into the air.The soils of this wintry landscape are something special ; in fact they are so revered that, apparently, Napoleon ordered his troops to salute the steep slopes of the ‘Grands Cru’ vineyards when they were marching past.

Jack & Ally cask samples at Franciose Andre

Jack & Ally cask samples at Franciose Andre

Of course the land is not the sole player, and the producers here write their own unique history too. If Bordeaux is sharp suits, chateaux, and negociants, then Burgundy is muddy boots, petit maisons, and truffle hounds. As we pull up to each ‘Domaine’, it is with curiosity and amaze that I wander practically through the front door of people’s houses before being led into spectacular cellars that appear to have been hidden there for years. Each producer has their own unique heritage and philosophy, and this is intrinsically linked with the way they produce wine. At Bachey-Legros, we are entertained by the two sons who make up the sixth generation of wine makers (Maman still sits in with us though, keeping an eye). Keeping it in the family at Françiose André, the production is overseen by Lauriane who is the daughter-in-law of the original owners. Each Domaine has quaint hidden cellars full of red wine stained wooden barrels, and the cold, musty smells of history in the making. At Domaine Gerard Seguin for example, we learn that its founder, Alex Seguin in 1850, was a Burgundian pioneer in the fight against Phylloxera – he was one of the first winemakers to graft vines onto American rootstock in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease. One room in their cellar even housed cobweb entangled bottles over 100 years old, or so I was told (or so my amateur level French led me to understand).

Few wines impress like the best of Bordeaux, but for me the finest Burgundies evoke a more emotional response. From starting the day with a Meursault 1er Cru at Domaine Patriarche, to finishing a fantastic few days tasting with the outstandingly out-of-this-world wines of Lignier Michelot (his Morey-Saint-Denis practically had Jacko in tears), we had a wonderful trip and met some amazing people. Like an intricately woven tapestry, each appellation revealed its own story, history, and delicate wines, to make up this fabulous patchwork quilt that is Burgundy’s unique landscape.

By Nadia Williamson

ONE PRINCESS IN 100 FROGS

Two weeks ago, we assembled in The Trafalgar Room and under the watchful eye of Lord Nelson, we set about tasting another 20-or-so new Clarets and what a lot of Frogs you have to kiss before one turns into a Princess!

There was a line-up of impressive-looking Chateau-this and Chateau-that, swirling writing and plenty of ‘Medailles d’Ors’, there was a 2008, one 2009 but mostly 2011s and 12s (12s have impressed us at recent tastings) but what a bunch of “Vins Rouges Très Ordinaires” they were!

One was corked, five were so poor that they wouldn’t have made it as a House Red, 10 were OK but just nothing special at all, there was a good Pauillac and I liked the Pomerol but it was not a patch on our new Lalandes de Pomerol’s

Veronique Barthe of Chateau d'Arcole

Veronique Barthe of Chateau d'Arcole

….and then, we tasted Chateau d’Arcole 2010, Grand Cru St Emilion….now, that is a great, great wine. Oh my, the wine is opaque with a deep, purple edge and the most sumptuous, sexy nose filled with small black berry intensity and smoky oak.

The impact is immediately luscious, mouth-filling with terrific, brightly polished, rich and sumptuous black curranty flavours, smoky, densely concentrated and intensely attractive and there’s a real underlying class to this wine.

It punches well above it’s classification of a Grand Cru Classé St Emilion and if it’s anywhere near the same sub-£20 price tag of the Chateau’s equally as dreamy 2009, we’ve got ourselves a real gem here!

The Vineyard was firstly planted and cultivated by one of Napoleon’s bravest soldiers to whom he gave a fistful of gold coins and off to St. Emilion the soldier went, bought some land and planted Chateau d’Arcole. There’s even a little picture of Bonaparte on the label. What a wine.

Lord Nelson would not be amused!

Jascots – Sales up, Footprint down (again)

 

Hot off the press – For 2013 Jascots’ carbon footprint was 113.5 tCO2e, as independently verified by the Carbon Trust.  This represents a further 10% absolute reduction from 125.9 tCO2e in 2012 on top of last year’s reduction of 16%.  Remarkably, this was achieved whilst Jascots’ sales were up over 20% year on year, delivering a relative per bottle reduction of 26.3%.  CO2 that could not be reduced has once again been offset through the purchase of carbon credits.

Jascots currently recycles 90% of office waste and has reduced its usage of paper by 25% in the last 3 years. For example, the proportion of customers receiving paper invoices has been reduced from 43% to 3% since 2009.  Overall Jascots has reduced the volume of its waste going to landfill by 50%.

John Charnock, Jascots’ Managing Director said “I cannot tell you how pleased we all are with this team effort.  It is so important to so many of our clients that we strive to be the best in class and this is just another way of demonstrating that fact whilst doing good for the world.”