mandag den 28. april 2014

French Discoveries

The 9th edition of French Wine Discoveries took place in April at Børsen in Copenhagen. The festival is arranged by Wine4Trade whose aim it is to connect Wine Makers and Professional Wine Buyers. 
Nearly 30 different winemakers from all over France were present, and they came from both old well known regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and Alsace and “newcomers” like Languedoc-Roussillon. A festival like this is not the place, if you want to taste the famous Chateaus and the First Growths. But I always find it interesting to meet new winemakers and try wines that I have never heard about before, and quite often there are some lovely discoveries to make.    
Champagne was present as well with seven producers, so that is where I started my little Tour de France. Honestly I am a newcomer when it comes to Champagne, but my impression was very positive. As a starter I had a glass of Carte Or Brut from Champagne Paques et Fils ( – fresh, dry, fruity and with a clear taste of lemon.
After that I went for the full range at Champagne Leclerc Briant (, who is making organic wine. The Brut was fresh and fruity with acidity and some melon on the palette. The Brut Reservé was a bit shy in the nose, but better balanced and with more dept. My favourite was the Brut Millésime 2006, more complexity, honey and herbs in the nose, less fruit, but the fruit came with full power in the long, lovely aftertaste. A bit like having two different wines in one. Their Premier Cru, Les Chévres Pierreuses, was nice as well. It is based on a field with mixed grapes (40 % Pinto Noir, 40 % Chardonnay and 20 % Pinot Meunier), fermented together, very fruity and well balanced. Finally I tried the Cuvée Divine made in the best years. Complex, more fruit and a long tail.  

The third Chapagne House I tried was Champagne Pertois-Lebrun ( from Côte de Blancs, who are making Blanc de blancs – single grape Champagne based only on Chardonnay. The Instant Brut was full of freshness, fruit in the nose, some peach and great minerality in the taste and tail. The Millésime 2006 had a fruitier nose with lemon, grapefruit and a bit melon, and again a long tail with minerality. The Cuvée Exaltation had lemon and grapefruit too in the nose, great complexity and well balanced.
After that I had a short stop in Alsace, whose Pinot Noir still don’t impress me, Loire Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon and Burgundy before I went to Bordeaux, where I visited two Chateaus.
Chateau Montaiguillon ( from Montagne Saint-Emilion was the big surprise of the day. The region is placed behind the more famous and respected – and more expensive – Saint-Emilion and close to Pomerol as well. The Chateau is owned by the Amart family through three generations. They are only making one wine, the AOP Chateau Montaiguillon based on 70 % merlot, 5 % Cabernet Franc and 25 % Cabernet Sauvignon (the blend is a bit different from vintage to vintage) with an average vine age of 50 years. 2011 had a lot of blackcurrant, cherries and fruit, tannins, but was very well structured. The 2010 had softer tannins, a very delicious, elegant and well balanced wine. A great wine, comparable with some Grand Cru Classé wines from the more famous neighbours in Saint-Emilion.
Saint-Emilion was exactly the next stop with Chateau La Marzelle (, who presented both their Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru wine, Prieuré. I tried both in 2007 and they were both very nice. Chateau La Marzelle Grand Cru Classé was dry with blackberries and other dark berries, some spices, good dept, well balanced and quit elegant. The Grand Cru with softer tannins, a bit more easy going and well balanced as well.

Finally I will mention Chateau Armandiere ( in Cahors – a region that I normally don’t appreciate that much, because of its too rustic appearance. The entry level, Fee Violine 2012 based on 95 % Malbec and 5 % Merlot had a bit smoky notes and the typical Malbec aftertaste, but was quit easy going and modern in its style. The Grand Reserve 2002 (100 % Malbec) impressed me. It was dark, powerful, spicy and with a lot of berries, but without the rustic character and with a very nice taste of tobacco box in the finish. Finally I tried their fortified wine made of 100 % Malbec too. Black fruit and plums, not to sweet and enjoyable, And that is said by a port lover!

A lot of other producers were present, but you have to make your choices… Most of the producers are looking for importers in Denmark. I sure will welcome some of them on the Danish marked. 

fredag den 11. april 2014

Visiting Burmester´s new lodge

A couple of years ago Burmester opened their new lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia or perhaps you should call it a new Visitor Centre. They are storing port in the lodge but not much and with a museum, a tasting room and a shop the purpose is clear. And for that purpose the address is excellent. The Burmester lodge is to the left, immediately after you pass the old bridge from the Porto site of the Douro to Gaia.

I had a short tour around the beautiful restored cellar. One of the things I noticed and found interesting was the part of the exhibition that showed old machines used in the production of port years back: Machines for cleaning the bottles, for bottling port and for labelling them among others. 

Afterwards winemaker Carla Tiago invited me to a tasting. I met Carla for the first time a couple of years back, when Burmester had a great tasting of their old Colheitas at the Port Festival at Børsen in Copenhagen. This time the tasting was broader both in style and when it comes to brands. It included not only Burmester but other houses from the Sogevinus group too: Cálem, Kopke and Barros.  

Here are a few notes:
Cálem Vintage 2002: Dark in colour, still young and with fresh fruit, but not with strong tannins. A lot of blackcurrant in the nose, but weak when it came to flavour and with a sweat tail. Cálem was one of the few houses, which declared vintage in 2002. This glass did not convince me, that they did the right thing.
Cálem Vintage 1985: A better quality from at better vintage. Spicy below the fruitiness, still with acidity to give balance to the sweetness. This wine has a bad reputation and has often disappointed, but this bottle was quit good and harmonious – even though I don’t think it will have a long life. 
Burmester 10 years Tawny: A bit creamy, light and elegant. Nuts and some oak in the nose. Nice acidity and balanced.
Kopke 10 years Tawny: More discreet in the nose than Burmester but with a longer and nice tail. A bit to low when it comes to acidity.
Kopke 20 years Tawny: A great glass. Toasted with nuts, vanilla and some orange in the nose. Carla told med, that it is stored a while in new oak casks before it is bottled to add some freshness – and with a fine result.
Burmester 40 years Tawny: Now the ports were getting heavier. Nuts and dates, but freshness and elegance in the style as well. The right amount of acidity to balance with the sweetness.  
Kopke Colheita 1984: Red brown, lighter and easier going. Good freshness, but not as intense as a wine with 30 years on cask should be. Perhaps some of this can be explained by the fact that it was served after the 40 years. I have tasted it before with a much better result.
Burmester Colheita 1966: A great Colheita. Powerful, full bodied and fresh at the same time. A very balanced glass.  
Cálem Colheita 1961: A bit darker and thicker. Very nice, but it needed a bit more acidity to be great. A long, great tail with pepper.                   

Barros 100 years: Not a 100 years old wine, but a port made for celebrating the 100 years anniversary of the house. The average age is about 65 years, Carla explained. Very beautiful, dark and with caramel and balsamic on the palette. Intense and impressing. An exclusive and great port – and a very nice way to end the visit. 

lørdag den 5. april 2014

Visiting The Factory House

Feitoria Inglesia. That is how the Portuguese call the Factory House in Porto. It is not a house for everyone. It is for the British.
No doubt that the British were and still are an important part of the Port production and trade. That is a well known fact and you can just look at the names of the big old Port Company to verify it. Because of that the British Port Shippers have their own society and house in Porto. It started in the 17th and 18th centuries when the British merchants began to form Factories in Portugal, inspired by the Portuguese feitorias along the west coast of Africa. In Porto the Factory House was founded in 1727 as a meeting place both for business and for religious and more social activities.
The present Factory House was build in Rua do Inglezes in 1790 with Consul John Whitehead as architect. The name of the street today is Rua Infante D. Henrique and most tourists and port lovers pass the house on their way from the centre of the town down to Ribeira or Vila Nova de Gaia.   
I visited the house recently. The house is beautiful with its columns but on the other hand simple and discreet as well. Inside it is elegant and full of history of the port trade and the British Association. Let me add a few words to some of the rooms.

Entrance Hall and Staircase
The Entrance Room or Piazza has Tuscan pilasters and six columns. In both sides there are benches, which original served as resting places for the bearers. Opposite the entrance is the central staircase with granite steps leading to the next floor and the whole way up.

The Ballroom
In the centre of the main floor is the Ballroom with wooden floor, blue painted walls, seven big chandeliers and a Music Gallery. It is still used now and then for the member’s private balls.

Drawing Room, Map Room etc.
The house has several rooms, which serves different purposes. The Billiard Rooms is not used anymore, but the old table is still placed there. The Reading Room has a wide selection of local and foreign newspapers, and in the Writing Room you can ask for old copies of The Times from 1832 until today. Besides that you can find the Visitor’s Book here, dating back to 1812. In the Map Room there are old large maps on rollers and on the wall above the fireplace Baron Forrester’s well known Map of the Douro has its place.  

The Library
The Library is not used often today. But the lady who showed me around, Mrs. Olga Lacerda said that now and then a member is a bit early for the weekly luncheon and sits there for a while reading a bit. And there are a lot of books to choose among. The Library contains more than 20.000 books covering a lot of different topics.

The old Kitchen
Above the Dining Room the old kitchen is a sort of museum today with its old stove, pots and pans and antic machines like a giant knife sharpener. The servants had to run up and down a small staircase while serving.

The Dinning Room and the Dessert Room
The two famous nearly identical rooms have chairs for 40 persons around each table. The dinner was served in the first room and afterwards the present members and guests moved to the exactly same place in the Dessert Room, where the port was served. Today there rooms are used for different events and then of course every Wednesday for the traditional luncheon. Port is normally served blind, and the members have to guess which one it is.

The Wine Cellar
The giant wine cellar has more floors. All the British companies has to contribute with 20 cases of their port every year a vintage is declared and besides that the members must personal donate bottles when they join the club. Because of that you can find shelves with Graham’s, Taylor’s and Fonseca etc. and others with names like Charles Symington, Nick Heath and David Guimaraens.  

Let me finally mention a couple of special dinners that has taken place in the Factory House. During the Napoleonic Wars against the Frenchmen the house was closed. After the Portuguese and the British troops regained Porto it opened again with a special dinner the 11th of November in the year 1811 at 11 am, where 11 courses and 11 wines were served. 100 years later (11.11.1911) the same event took place and again in 1961 and last in 2011.
At the same time 2011 the Vintage Port Club in Denmark arranged a similar event, having some of the same courses and wines as they did in Porto. And as a very seldom gesture, Dominic Symington, who was the Treasurer of the Factory House at that time, send a couple of bottles of the special Factory House Vintage to the club. 

You can read more in John Delaforce´s book ”The Factory House at Oporto”.