John Ducker writes:-
Thanks to a recommendation by my wine educator colleague Pippa Hayward, I have been introduced to a real ‘find’ to share with you this month which, tasted blind, would immediately have had me scurrying around my wine notes on top New World Sauvignons. As it happens I needn’t bother as the month’s first choice comes from an entirely unexpected quarter – the extensive Côtes de Gascogne in southwestern France – Armagnac country.
The experience behind the production of the age-old Gascon brandy apart, this region is now beginning to embrace state-of-the-art wine technology for its light wines, and the young winemaker Yoan Le Menn at Domaine Horgelus is well able to demonstrate his skills across a range of grape varieties from the lightest Colombard right through to the sturdiest Tannat. Domaine Horgelus Sauvignon/Gros Manseng Côtes de Gascogne IGP 2014 is, for me at least, a wine that ‘sings’. Star-bright clarity on the eye in the glass, a wonderfully full-frontal tropical-yet-zesty Sauvignon nose, and on the palate a sheer purity of fruit, with a real depth of flavour born of the powerfully characterized Sauvignon’s blend with 40% of the thicker-skinned Gros-Manseng, the staple of Jurançon wines. The winemaking technique employed has sought to maximize aromas and keep oxidation almost entirely out of the picture, some harvests starting as early as 3 a.m. and finishing well before noon in order to preserve the ripe grapes at their very freshest. This wine’s immediacy and integrity speaks volumes for itself and its élèvation, and I find it very impressive. A sunny ‘aperitif’ for ‘alfresco’ occasions (if you’ll excuse the language clash!) but also a wonderful partner for fish of all kinds, though the bottle back label goes so far to proclaim ‘this elegant and harmonious vintage will perfectly accompany your entire meals’ – well I suppose in this case there’s nothing wrong with stretching a point! Both this wine and the Domaine’s Colombard-Sauvignon blend have won silver and gold medals at the Concours Général Agricole in Paris (2013), and were recommended in the ‘Guide Hachette 2014’. Awards aside, it offers an exciting glimpse of the new face of a region known principally hitherto for its classic spirits.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: France (Gascony) APPELLATION: Côtes-de-Gascogne IGP
NAME OF WINE Sauvignon – Gros Manseng 2014
PRODUCER Domaine Horgelus (Famille le Menn)
STYLE Zesty Sauvignon blend with attitude ALCOHOL 12% abv.
RETAILER The Good Wine Shop (www.thegoodwineshop.co.uk)
PRICE £10 (£9 via web)
I guess the vibrant flavours of the wine above would be a good match for the following recipe:
FENNEL-SMOKED BROWN TROUT with FENNEL and CHIVE SAUCE.
4 brown trout fillets (or 1 Sea trout) cleaned and boned Extra-virgin olive oil Seasoning Good bunch of fennel stalks
SAUCE (to be made first)
1 banana shallot, chopped fine 1 small fresh fennel bulb, chopped fine 15g butter 150ml fish stock 150ml dry white wine 150ml double cream squeeze of lemon juice heaped tblsp chopped chives
Melt the butter in a saucepan and sweat the shallot and fennel together until softened. Add the fish stock and the wine, bring up to the boil and allow to reduce over heat by 50%. Add the cream at this stage and boil down again to reduce by half. Add seasonings and, if necessary, a few drops of lemon juice to sharpen. Reserve, covered, ideally in a bain-marie or over very low heat.
Now deal with the smoker: In this recipe the delicately-flavoured fish fillets are only very lightly smoked, their cooking being completed in the oven, and you don’t need to use a dedicated smoker for the purpose – simply a large frying or roasting pan with a lid, and a trivet or a rack that will fit inside it. Place the fennel stalks evenly over the bottom of the pan, cover with both the rack and the lid and place on the hob. Wait for a steady stream of smoke to appear between sides of lid and pan.
During which time deal with the fish:
Cut the cleaned fillets into two if they are very big, rub them with the olive oil and seasonings and then, once the prepared smoker is ready add the fish fillets to the rack, skin side down. Replace the lid while the fish smokes, turning the heat down a little. Smoke it for 2 minutes only, and then on the other side a further minute. Transfer the fish to the preheated oven for just a couple of minutes to cook through, remembering that fish tends to cook quite quickly.
Serve surrounded by the sauce to which at the last moment you have added the snipped chives.
A choice of red? Hereabouts the sap appears to be rising everywhere, so my quest has been to match the season with a really good-value juicy wine with a bit of class about it, hence my choice of Secano Maiten Valley Block 1 Pinot Noir 2013 from Chile’s cool coastal Leyda Valley. Pinot Noir itself is a notoriously wayward grape to grow and vinify, thin-skinned, exceptionally reflective of its terroir, sensitive, clonally variable, prone to rots in wet harvests…..and yet, given a suitable climate and site, ideal growing conditions and careful winemaking it can yield wonderful results. No wonder it is known in the trade as the ‘heartbreak’ grape.
Crafted by the winemakers on Secano estates in association with New Zealander Jeneve Williams, one of M&S globetrotting consultant winemakers, the performance of this single vineyard cool-climate Pinot Noir from Chile’s Pacific coast is not only redolent of an ‘old-world’ type but is absolutely delicious. A classic clear tawny-rosy colour in the glass, the scent is of gently smoky red fruit together with a delicate whiff of ‘sous-bois’ (the common French descriptor which hints at an echo of damp leafmould on a forest floor). I detect well-ripened strawberry hints in there somewhere too – with an overall impression of gentle softness on the palate. Given the difficulties inherent in producing well balanced (i.e. not over-extracted) Pinot Noir the team has triumphed. Result? A very classical example of good Pinot Noir…. not easily achieved. One doesn’t expect a complex internal structure given the combination of the wine’s relative youth and its final price point, but it is certainly very well made and there’s the bonus of a delicious medium-length finish. The deceptively handsome alcohol of 14.5% is well handled too. All in all, very good value.
Food matches? Simply grilled meats – Beef Stroganoff – Fermented French cheeses – Brie, Époisses etc.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN Chile (Leyda Valley)
NAME OF WINE Maiten Valley Block 1 Pinot Noir 2013
PRODUCER Secano Estate
STYLE Food-friendly ‘old world’-style Pinot Noir
RETAILER Marks & Spencer Ltd.,
PRICE £ 12.9