BEST TIME TO BE IN LYON?

For wine lovers, late October into November is the best time to visit Lyon, France’s 3rd largest city which is centered among some wonderful wine regions. Wine regions which include Burgundy, Beaujolais, Jura, and the Rhône Valley.

One can take day trips from Lyon to all of these wine regions (and to nearby Switzerland, if so incined). And in Lyon, there are world-class restaurants featuring amazing wine lists as well as wine caves (shops) which hold vast troves of great French wines.

But these past 3 weeks (and the next two) have been special, even for Lyon. Three very large tastings of French (and only French) wines have been held. They are: Vinomedia Salon du Vin, Terre de Vins Grand Degustiation, and the Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants. I attended the last two over the past couple of weeks. (A fourth, Sous les Pavés la Vinge is scheduled for Nov 16 & 17.)

The Terre de Vins Grand Degustiation was held at La Bourse, a grand old building on La Presquille near the center of the city. 90 tasting stations offering about 300 wines, ranging from single vignerons to the large négotiants such as Louis Latour and Georges DeBoeuff. Here are some photos from that event:

 

 

 

The Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants was held in the huge Le Halle Tony Garnier in the 7eme Arrondissement of Lyon. This four-day event offered about 400 independent wine producers offering up to 8 wines each for tasting. Wines from every region in France are featured, the stands mixed together so that you have to walk past the Alsace and Sud-Ouest to get to the Burgogne or the Bordeaux. Regions have color-coded signs with the names of the winery and the sub-region.

The difference here is that all of the product is for sale right at the event. Lyonnaise folks show up in droves, often bringing the whole family to this event, and they stock up. We bought two cases on our first visit, and then I went back the next day with a cart and bought three more. Here are some photos of this event:

Photo Nov 03, 11 14 50 AM

 

 

 

At this time of year, there are wine festivals all over the countryside as well, in Beaujolais, Jura, the Rhône Valley, etc. Once the harvest is finished, it is time to move the previous year (or most recent vintage to be released) out to the public, and these events help that to happen. A great time to be in and around Lyon!

 

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

 

 

DELICIOUS CHARDONNAY IN POUILLY-FUISSÉ

Photo Jul 14, 10 44 24 AM

Pouilly-Fuissé (LINK) is a small subregion within the Mâconnais area of southern Burgundy. It is about 50 km north of Lyon, a few km west of the Sâone River. It consists of five villages which are from north to south, VergissonSolutré, Pouilly, Fuissé, and Chantré. The different towns and their surroundings have different combinations of clay and limestone soils which, along with slopes and exposure to sun account for the differences in the wines.

The only grape, or cépage is Chardonnay. There are no red wines produced here. When I lived in the Unites States, I had only a vague notion of Pouilly-Fuissé as a nice wine one often found on restaurant wine lists and among the mid-range priced Chardonnays at some wine shops. These sources rarely, if ever, give you any notion of the origins of these wines, or the fact that there are five distinct styles of Pouilly-Fuissé in existence. Eric Asimov covered this territory in the NYTimes in 2015 (LINK). I would say that the sense of what Pouilly-Fuissé is has clarified somewhat since he wrote that piece.

Pouilly Frisse Wine Map

The Pouilly-Fuissé wines are often confused with Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-sur-Loire, two Loire Valley white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc. Also, an adjoining appellation, Pouilly-Vinzelles and Pouilly-Loche (LINK) share a slope with the Chantré section of Pouilly-Fuissé. Those wines, also Chardonnay, are very similar to the Pouilly-Fuissé wines.

Pouilly-Fuissé wines are generally a step above the local Mâconnais Village Chardonnays, and a step or two below the Burgundian Chardonnays from the area around Côte du Beaune farther north. There are, of course, exceptions in both directions. Some of the Pouilly-Fuissé wines stand up to Burgundy’s best wines and are an incredible value. The challenge is finding a decent selection on the shelf or wine list in the US and Canada.

Dorianne and I did a tasting at L’Atrium in Solutré, a wine shop representing about a dozen wineries from each of the five towns of the Pouilly-Fuissé region. Wines here cost between 16 and 40 euros, with most around 20 euros.

Photo Jul 13, 10 31 33 AM

We tasted representative 2018 wines from each of the five towns and noted significant differences in the wines. We both liked the wine from Fuissé the best, it had a nice blend of fruit and mineral, with a very pleasant mouthfeel. The wine from Pouilly was our 2nd choice. We purchased several wines from these two towns to take home. Pouilly-Fuissé wines are best aged from 3 to 6 years but are drinkable right away. The versions of the other three wines were a bit lacking in one or more qualities – but they were still very drinkable wines.

Photo Jul 13, 10 34 47 AM

The area is among the most beautiful in France and worth a detour to spend some time here and taste and purchase the wines.

 

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

 

NOTE: I will be blogging more about the MUST-Fermenting Ideas Wine Summit (LINK) over the next few weeks. I was just in the Mâcon area and wanted to get this post in while it is fresh in my mind.

MIGUEL A. TORRES ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND WINE MAKING – MUST-FERMENTING IDEAS WINE SUMMIT

As I noted in my last post (LINK), I spent three pretty amazing days at this Wine Summit (LINK) in Cascais/Estoríl, Portugal. The summit covered a number of topics over its three-day length – but climate change was perhaps the most repeated and most critical. I will dedicate this post to Senõr Torres’ presentation alone. Most future posts will cover more than one presentation.

Photo Jun 28, 12 05 09 PM

None other than Miguel A. Torres, President and Managing Director of Bodegas Torres, and is a member of the fourth generation of this family business. His topic was “Climate Crisis and Its Consequences for the European Viniculture.” As a global wine company, Bodegas Torres is faced with many challenges, including growing grapes and making wine in a number of different locations with different climate patterns, business practices, and political environments. Senior Torres noted that, in his mind, climate change is the most important issue and his company is dedicating 11% of profits for programs researching and mitigating climate change.

“We have not sold one more bottle due to steps we have taken (regarding climate change).”

~ Miguel A. Torres

This statement speaks volumes – much of the work required to mitigate the effects of climate change does not increase sales, but, in the long term, it may well preserve them. Senõr Torres showed a series of slides on what climate change is and on what Bodega Torres is doing to mitigate its effects.

Photo Jun 28, 12 13 43 PMPhoto Jun 28, 12 16 20 PMPhoto Jun 28, 12 22 10 PM

Here are a few of the things they are doing:

 

Minimizing chemical and pesticide use (reducing below organicó requirements):

Photo Jun 28, 12 35 20 PM

Reintroducing ancestral Catalan varieties which are more resistant to heat:

Photo Jun 28, 12 37 22 PMPhoto Jun 28, 12 38 35 PM

Examining introduction of distinctly foreign varieties into growing areas:

Photo Jun 28, 12 39 30 PM

Reduction in energy consumption – electric vehicles, solar panels, etc.:

Photo Jun 28, 12 41 03 PM

Studying bottling and packaging materials to reduce weight and waste:

Photo Jun 28, 12 41 36 PM

Studying Carbon Capture and Reuse (CSR) in the fermentation process:

Photo Jun 28, 12 43 49 PMPhoto Jun 28, 12 44 39 PM

Participate in the EU carbon emissions reduction program (Greta Thunberg):

Photo Jun 28, 12 47 15 PM

Active Participation & Leadership in International Wineries for Climate Action Group:

Photo Jun 28, 12 48 08 PM

Senõr Torres is clearly passionate about being proactive about climate change and is taking a global perspective fitting for a global company. Torres Wines are made in Spain, Italy, Chile, and the United States (California). He noted that the approach to climate change is different in each location, as are the political issues relating to climate change. And he had some advice for property owners:

“For those of you who live near the sea, it is time to sell. Don’t wait!”

~ Miguel A. Torres

During the Q&A session, I had the opportunity to ask a question, and I opened with this comment:

“I go to a lot of conferences and events, and you’re the first person of your stature in this, or any industry to take such a strong stance on climate change.”

~ Me to Miguel A. Torres at MUST-Fermenting Ideas

The wine industry, especially its vineyards, are like the canaries in the coal mine for the effects of climate change. Those who are not investing in taking actions like Bodega Torres may increasingly find themselves with damaged products, and eventually with none.

As always, your comments are welcomed!

Please follow this blog and share it with your wine-loving friends.

 

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

MUST – FERMENTING IDEAS WINE SUMMIT 2019

I spent three pretty amazing days at this Wine Summit (LINK) in Cascais/Estoríl, Portugal. The focus of the summit, now three years old, is innovation in the wine industry. Speakers and attendees covered a wide range of industry representatives, from growers, to winery operators, marketers, business consultants, wine writers, and others. The coordinators/founders are Rui Afalcao (also a presenter) and Paulo Salvador. Both were available throughout the summit.

I was there on a press pass (full disclosure), and I really have nothing negative to say about the event. It was among the best organized and presented conferences I have attended anywhere (more about that in a minute), and I was surprised that attendance was not higher. I don’t know the numbers, but there were a good number of empty seats, which means that a lot of people missed a great opportunity to get some timely and important information about the state of the wine industry and its future.

They also missed a chance to visit one of the most beautiful areas of Portugal, along the Atlantic Ocean about 30 minutes west of Lisbon. Lovely beaches, great food and wine, and lots to explore in the areas of Estoríl and Cascais.

The Wine Summit had a simple format – speakers each day with a few panel discussions spread around. Each speaker had an hour and usually spoke for 40 minutes or so, then responded to questions from a moderator and the audience. The excellent Summit staff had 4 portable microphones to get to audience members, and that aspect of the program ran very smoothly.

I will be posting in more detail about some of the presentations over the next few weeks. Speakers included Eric Asimov, NYTimes Wine Writer; Gaia Gaja, of the legendary Italian Wine family; Miguel A. Torres, President of Bodega Torres; Isabelle Legeron, France’s first female Master of Wine; Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Editor-in-Chief of Wine Advocate; Felicity Carter, Editor-in-Chief of Meininger’s Wine Business International; and many others. Here is a LINK to the speakers list (click on SPEAKERS).

Photo Jun 27, 1 50 59 PM
Jim with Eric Asimov

The big topics – climate change, changing markets for wine, natural wines, wine writing and criticism, and technology in wine making and marketing, and the importance of tradition while moving toward innovation.

Naturally, one of the best things about an event like this is the conversation during breaks, over meals, and into the evening about all things wine. And, of course, drinking some of the amazingly unique Portuguese wines along the way.

As noted above, the summit was very well run, beginning with a well-designed website with good information and a simple registration process. Once at the site – the Centro de Congressos do Estoril, a very modern facility – the event was laid out beautifully with excellent graphics, good signage, and a gathering area where breaks, lunch, and lots of wine tastings happened. The site was well-staffed and the staff was very responsive and generous in making sure that everyone had what they needed.

Photo Jun 27, 10 51 26 AM

As noted above, I will get into more specifics over the next few posts – and if you look through my Twitter feed @JimLockardWine there are lots of specifics and photos. Consider this an introduction – and an invitation to put this event on your radar for 2020.

 

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE WINE INDUSTRY?

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”

~ Ernest Hemingway

As I prepare to travel to Portugal later this month for the MUST Fermenting Ideas Conference (LINK), where new and innovative ideas will be presented and discussed, I can’t help but look at some of the major issues in the wine industry today.

Issues like counterfeiting, fraud, and outright theft are regularly reported here in France and elsewhere. One might actually take that as a positive sign that there is something of great value which is sought after by the criminally inclined. There may well be truth in that, but that is not the kind of thing I am talking about. Even the great scandal of the past year involving the cheating at the Master Sommelier test in the United States (LINK), while closer to the heart of the matter, is not the really big issue, as important as it may be. These kinds of things only affect the upper tier of wine drinkers, not the vast majority.

For me, the big issue is the fact that the industry is pulling in so many directions that it is becoming more and more difficult for wine consumers to have a broad understanding of the world of wine and the enjoyment such awareness brings. This also adversely affects the industry as customer engagement and loyalty wane.

In the United States, the corporatization of the wine industry is having many negative effects. The buying up of labels from shuttered wineries and the conversion of these labels to bottles bulk wines; the “Gallo-ization” of everyday wines; the failure to support labeling regulation policies; and crazy shipping restrictions due to the efforts of regional distributors’ lobbying efforts all serve to break down trust from consumers. These things also make it difficult for family-run wineries to compete in a market where the deck is stacked in favor of the big producers.

Additionally, the movement toward a generic kind of wine blend for the American palate (again, thanks Gallo et all, although wine critics have a hand in this as well), which is opposite of what is happening in the beer industry, where craft beers are gaining market share to the point that they are becoming corporate targets, has also made it harder for the average consumer to explore different styles of the winemaker’s craft. More and more with New World wines and US red wines especially, everything at $12 and under, tastes the same.

The oases from all of this are the smaller wine shops and non-chain restaurants where wine lists are chosen to match the menu, not to maximize buying power. I routinely encourage younger wine drinkers to go to local shops and talk to the staff, who will give good advice about wines regardless of one’s budget. If someone find that they like wine and are interested in exploring it further, local wine shops are a great place to begin. I still rely on my wine cave in Lyon to help me sort through the myriad labels from local wine regions – their advice is worth an extra euro or two per bottle that I may pay over supermarket wines. The same is true in the US and UK.

NOTE: my wife and I have a budget for everyday wine in the 7€ to 15€ range (about $8 to $18). Our go-to Provencal rosé for this summer costs only 6€99. We find that we can get very good wines in this price range here in France – with the advice of our cavistes. We do occasionally splurge for more expensive wines, of course.

On a larger scale, the wine industry would do well to create a more welcoming invitation to wine enjoyment than the usual bifurcated choice of cheap wine laden with additives or more expensive options often marketed for snob appeal. If labeling regulations were supported by the industry, many people who choose to eat healthily would see that their organic food choices are all too often negated by chemical-laden cheap wines. Many of today’s consumers are more health-conscious and the wine industry is doing them few favors by not supporting labeling requirements.

Wine - Labels Ridge
Ridge Winery voluntarily lists all additives on their labels.

The period of continual growth for the industry seems to be over, meaning that attracting new customers will require more than just putting wines on shelves. Making wine an everyday beverage, as it is in much of Europe, will necessitate a more welcoming and egalitarian approach and require more attention to health concerns. Seeing wine as food seems like a good place to begin.

More to come on all this, but I am interested in any comments you have. I you will be at MUST – see you there!

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

OLD WORLD VS NEW WORLD TASTE TEST

Hello,

If you follow the link below, you will be taken to the WineFolly.com site where Madaline Puckette does a blind tasting of Pinot Noirs from Burgundy and Oregon. I think this is an excellent representation of both how to taste wine and a fun way to organize tastings – compare the same variety from different regions or nations. Below the video on the site is a lot of good information as well.

Here is the link:

https://winefolly.com/episode/oregon-vs-burgundy-pinot-noir/ 

I agree with Madaline about the 2015 Burgundies – living here in Lyon, I have been able to taste a few and they are stunning wines. And, being in France, I have access to some secondary labels from great producers which are not available in the US. As I have noted before, the French do not like to pay a lot for wine, which for most of them is an everyday part of life. French wine producers know this and price their wines accordingly for the most part. As an example, recently I drank a very nice white Burgundy from Mercurey which cost me just 11 euros.

I know I have not been blogging much lately – my focus has been on learning French and we have been drinking some everyday wines – which I will blog about soon. It is spring here, and the new crop of rosé wines will be on the shelves soon.

Look for a few posts on these over the next months.

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

 

THE BASICS OF CORK TAINT – WHAT IS “CORKED WINE”?

Two pretty good articles dealing with cork taint, or “corked” wine came up in my Twitter feed (@JimLockardWine) today. I thought I would post about them here and give you the necessary links. There is also a connected post about the top six wine faults that you will find interesting as well.

wine - chart - cork types

Corked wine is a fairly common problem, but like all wine problems, a very small percentage of wine bottles will be corked. The Cellar Insider (LINK) puts the number somewhere between 3 and 8%, which means that if you drink from 200 bottles a year, you will encounter 6 to 16 corked wines. Not all wine that is corked is obvious, and the blog post from Wine Folly (LINK) speaks to that issue. Sometimes, the effects of the bad cork are subtle and not noticed.

“By the way, when a wine has low levels of TCA it might not stink of the aforementioned aromas. Instead, it will just have no fruit and floral smells and very little flavor. You might think the wine was just boring.”

Those aromas include:

  • Musty
  • Wet Dog
  • Wet Cardboard
  • Wet Newspaper
  • Grandma’s Basement

They are caused by TCA, and according to the Social Vignerons blog (LINK):

“What is TCA?

Trichloroanisole or TCA is a natural compound most-generally found in wood that has been in contact with some form of chloride chemical. When Chlorophenols, molecules found in certain pesticides and wood preservatives, get in contact with wood, they can be transformed by fungi into TCA and other bad smelling agents. Because most of the wood surrounding us is treated with preservatives —so it doesn’t rot— the contamination comes from anywhere.

If a contaminated wood gets anywhere near wine, the bad odours concentrate into the wine until it may eventually become ‘tainted’.

Main source of TCA in wine is obviously the cork for 2 reasons:

  • A cork is essentially a piece of wood (or bark to be precise) that comes from a tree (the majority of cork trees used for making wine corks are grown in Portugal). If that tree has been in contact with chloride compounds at any given time in its life, its bark may have developed bad smells

  • A cork is obviously in close contact with wine, allowing bad aromas to contaminate the liquid.”

wine - cork taint

There isn’t much you can do about corked wine – send it back if in a restaurant; return it to your regular wine retailer for a replacement; maybe give everyone present a lesson in what corked wine smells and tastes like before you pour it down the sink (it isn’t harmful to drink, just either nasty or flat and favorless). The blog posts speak more about this.

wine - cork tree
Cork Tree

As to the 6 top wine faults (LINK), they include:

  1. Corked wine (TCA)
  2. Brettanomyces a.k.a. “Brett” – yeasts that don’t belong in your wine
  3. Reduction: the opposite of Oxidation. Results in sulfuric, rotten eggs smell
  4. Mercaptains: also surfuric. Smells of cabbage, garlic or onion
  5. Volatile Acidity – wine is like vinegar
  6. Oxidation – the wine ages prematurely and becomes unpleasant

The Social Vignerons blog gives more details on each of these and how to reverse them, if that is possible.

bad-smell

Faults in wine are more common the more wine you drink. It is important to learn how to detect these faults and what you can do about them. Many thanks to Julien Miguel (@JMiguelWine) at Social Vignerons.com (LINK) and to Madeline Puckette (@WineFolly) at WineFolly.com (LINK) for the great educational work they do.

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

Feel free to share this post with others who may be interested.

And follow me on Twitter – @JimLockardWine

ROBERT PARKER’S BITCH – REVISITING THE ARGUMENT ABOUT WINE CRITICS AND POINT SYSTEMS

A good video to review, or to see for the first time, ROBERT PARKER’S BITCH looks at the issue of the power of wine critics to influence how wine is made, marketed, and sold.

This from the well-worth-your-time SOIF Blog (LINK) speaks to the video:

Yes, it is 26 minutes long and very few of you are going to have the dedication for that.  And don’t think I am trotting this out as a slam-dunk on the argument.  Just an interesting piece about 5 years old which needs to be dredged out occasionally.  Nothing ground-shaking here–more about marketing than anything.  Anyone who has ever had a 1985 Napa Cab and a 2005 Napa Cab and a 2015 Napa Cab and wondered what happened should watch this.  Anyone who enjoyed Sonoma Zinfandel in the 90’s and has tried Paso Robles Zinfandel today should watch this.  It is in-depth enough the serious wineNerds will enjoy it and if it just plants the seed of “Why?” in the minds of the not-so-wineDork, then I have done my job.  Read your labels, people.

Here is the video:

I think the video does a good job of defining the territory – and, perhaps as was noted, the younger generation (Millennials) and beyond will move to new ways of discovering wine. And remember, the oldest Millennials are nearly 40. That said, if the Parker favored style is not to your taste, there are plenty of options – but you will have to become educated about them.

As I often say in this blog – wine is about enjoyment, and the depth of knowledge of any wine lover only needs to be sufficient to allow the level of enjoyment desired. We don’t need to be experts to enjoy wine, but it is good to have information like this as wine consumers.

As always, your comments are welcomed.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

SO, YOU WANT TO MOVE TO FRANCE – PART 3

This is proving to be a well-spaced series of posts, the first in September 2017 (LINK), the second in April 2018 (LINK), and this, the third one in November 2018. Here is an update on the months since my last post.

We moved into our apartment in the 6ème Arrondissement of Lyon beginning in late June. Our shipment from the US arrived in early July, but we had some paining done and moved our shipment in early August. The good news was that there were no customs duty or taxes due since we were moving our primary residence (if it were a second home, the duty and taxes could be 50% of the value). The bad news was that an armoire was heavily damaged and about 6 boxes were missing – and not covered by our homeowner’s policy as we had been advised by our agent.

Our building is essentially a co-operative, with 9 owners, some descendants of the original builder and owner. Gas and electric hookups were generally easy, with some language issues, especially on the telephone. Our building fees and taxes are under 400 euros per quarter.

 

 

We needed to buy new appliances for the apartment, since in France, the owners take everything with them when they move (renters usually do, too); and none of our small electrics would work in France, so we needed to replace them as well. We also needed new furniture other than the three armoires, two book cases, one table, and the Steinway piano we had shipped. We had one lamp rewired for 220 current as well.

We happened to hit a sale period for most of our furniture and electronics – there are two or three general sales during the year, regulated by the government (to keep small business from severe undercutting by larger retailers). Shopping for furniture here is like in the US, you do your research and look online. We purchased most things in area retail stores and a few online. We ordered two convertible sofas in early August, just before the whole country goes on vacation, so they were not manufactured and delivered until September and October.

Cable TV and Internet services are like in the US only cheaper, as is cell phone service. Communications companies are required by law to keep prices low and provide customer service. We ended up with cell phones from one provider and cable TV and internet from another.

The new apartment has a cave, or basement, with a dirt floor. It is perfect for storing wine. Our building was built in 1847 and is a block from the Rhône River. There are 5 wine shops (also called caves) in our neighborhood, so the basement cave will be filling up in due order.

 

 

Our long stay visa renewal mentioned in Part 2 ran into a snag in June.

You renew your visas through a different agency than the one to which you initially apply through an embassy or consulate in your home nation. In Lyon, which is located in the Rhône-Alps Department (or state), that is at the Prefecture in Lyon. Appointments take about 3 months to obtain. When we went for our renewal, using a list of necessary paperwork from the OFII website (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration), we were told the list on the website was incorrect and we were given another list and told to make a new appointment. That was on June 28th. Our visas were to expire on July 12th and the next appointment available was in October.

So, we contacted an immigration attorney (advocat), who told us that the OFII official had illegally returned all of our application items and that our visas would remain in effect until our October appointment. He sent them a letter to this effect, which we took with us when we left the country and had no trouble returning during this period.

Then, on October 18th, we returned to the Prefecture and handed in all the correct paperwork (LINK) and were given our extension good through December 2019. Champagne followed.

As I noted in Part 1 of this series:

What we discovered is that it is very difficult to get a work visa for France unless you are hired by a French company or working for a foreign company and will have a temporary assignment in France. The law says that to qualify for a job, there must be no French citizen who can fill that job, and then, no EU citizen who can fill it. Unless you meet those criteria or are going to invest and start a business and hire ten French citizens, you can forget a work visa. There are no investment visas in France, such as the Golden Visa for real estate purchases in Portugal, Spain, Greece, or Malta.

We applied for a long-stay visitor visa (there are time constraints) (LINK) (LINK). Essentially, we had to show that we could afford to live in France for a year, had health insurance that covered us there, and were not wanted by the law. We submitted a stack of papers and had a short interview at the French Consulate in Los Angeles (you must apply in person at the embassy or consulate nearest to your US residence).

Now, we are legal for another year. After doing this for five years, we will be eligible to apply for permanent residence (like a Green Card) or French citizenship. The current wait for French citizenship applications to be processed is 2½ years, mostly due to an increase in applications from UK citizens due to Brexit.

Learning French is still a slow-go, in part because it’s a difficult language and in part because we have been back and forth to America so often. We are planning to be in France more during the coming year and to focus on learning the language better.

 

 

Meanwhile, the wine is still wonderful, abundant, and relatively cheap; the food is still glorious; and France is, well, France. I am again forgoing Beaujolais Nouveau this year, opting instead for some lush Côte-du-Rhônes and maybe a cru Beaujolais or two. Our first Lyon Christmas is approaching, including the famed Fete des Lumieres (LINK), plus a December trip to Paris. For our first New Years Eve, we will celebrate with friends in Mâcon with what they call Champagne-a-Go-Go, which apparently means large quantities of Champagne. We will be staying over.

 

 

As always, your comments are welcomed, as are any good tips for expats.

 

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

NOTE: I will be covering a very interesting wine conference in Portugal in June. The MUST Wine Summit: Fermenting Ideas (LINK). If you can’t go, you can see my posts about it coming in late June!

A VISIT TO A WINE COOPERATIVE AND A NÉGOCIANT IN BEAUJOLAIS

A Lyonnaise friend took me for some wine tasting and purchasing to northern Beaujolais, first to Fleurie to visit the Co-op there and then to Romanèche-Thorins to visit the Georges DeBoeuf négociant wine cave. We drove north from Lyon on a beautiful sunny afternoon and through some beautiful Beaujolais countryside after getting of the A6 Motorway at Villefranche-sur-Saône.

A French Wine Cooperative (LINK) “produces and sells wine made from the grapes grown by its members. It mutualizes such tasks as winemaking, storage, selling, and, in some cases, the bottling process.” It is a community of vignerons coming together for mutual support. So, you won’t find single-vineyard production, it is more of a collective effort to produce wines under the name of the appellation where the cooperative is located.

A French wine négociant (LINK) is “a merchant who buy grapes, juice, or finished wine from growers, then bottle and sell them on the market wholesale.” 

In general, you’ll encounter three types of wine négociants (LINK): those who buy pre-made wine and bottle it, those who make some improvements on the wine before bottling it, and those who take whole grapes or unfermented juice to make the wine virtually from scratch. This last type of négociant is called a “négociant-éleveur,” and they are the négociants with the most prestigious reputations.

We visited the Fleurie Cooperative in the town of Fleurie, which, as you might imagine is located in the Fleurie Appellation, which is one of 12 Appellations (AOC) in Beaujolais (LINK). The cooperative is called Le Cave de Fleurie (LINK) and has a large tasting room and cave (wine retail area) for its wines.

Like all Beaujolais wines, the Fleurie reds are made from Gamay (they also produce a tiny bit of Pino Noir), the whites from Chardonnay. The famous Noveau Beaujolais, a soda-pop like wine bottled just after fermentation will be released in early November. I would have avoided it even if it had been available. It can be a fun way to celebrate the recent harvest, but it isn’t good wine.

The cooperative offers about 20 wines for sale, including a rosé made from Gamay and three créments (sparkling wines).

I tasted several whites and reds before purchasing a few bottles to take home to Lyon. The wines are well-crafted, not premier crus, but very good, drinkable wines. Most cost under 10 euros per bottle. The cooperative offers a couple of “Burgundian” wines, as parts of the area are on the southern side of Burgundy.

Then we drove a few kilometers west to the village of Romanèche-Thorins to visit the Georges DeBoeuf négociant wine cave (LINK). This is a huge operation, and many of my American friends will be very familiar with Georges DeBoeuf wines.

As a négociant, DeBoeuf operates across all three types listed above. Labels will indicate what the relationship between the négociant and winemaker are for each bottle.

The cave is expansive, featuring the DeBoeuf wines as well as a selection of other premium world wines (even a couple from the US – I won’t name them, but they were not premium wines. One seldom finds really good US wines in France), and a large area of gift items, wine accessories, glasses, etc.

The tasting room is an old-time bar connected to a large area where food is served and there are entertainments (a calliope) for those who have just exited the adjacent wine museum and Hameau park (LINK) (which we did not visit this time). It was a quiet afternoon, so we got some personal attention. You can taste as many wines as you want, and the tasting is complimentary. I was interested in comparing wines made from the fermentation through bottling and wines only bottled by DeBoeuf. The Brouilly samples were representative of this. In this case, I found the wine processed by the vigneron superior to the DeBoeuf-made Brouilly (reds); DeBoeuf sells both for just about the same price.

I purchased a few bottles of the Brouilly I preferred, plus a few others to take home, including a very special Cahors Malbec from their premium wine room. I passed on the Château Haute Lafitte-Rothchild this trip. By the way, the premium wine room has an excellent selection from all over France and the world at very good prices.

If you are in the area, for a day trip or longer – southwest of Mâcon and northwest of Lyon, Beaujolais offers beautiful countryside, picturesque villages, good restaurants, and wine at very reasonable prices. At home, check your local wine shops for Beaujolais wines – see what they recommend. Despite the reputation of Nouveau Beaujolais, there are some very nice wines coming from the area at very reasonable prices.

As always, your comments are welcomed.

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Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard