© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

 

© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

Cabernet franc and sense

Chinon PierreJacquesDruetIt’s not common to come across old Chinon for sale. Majestic currently have Château Danzay 2001 Pierre-Jacques Druet on offer from £11.99 to £9.99 if you buy at least two as part of a six plus bottle total purchase (offer as at 14 February 2012). The normal wisdom with Chinon is to drink it young when its cabernet franc is full of crunchy, capsicum-edged fruit. Age mellows it considerably, and it has to be said that there is more than a chance that some bottles might prove to be washed out completely. That caveat in place, the two that I have enjoyed so far have been magnificent, but both decidedly different from one another. The first was notable for its aroma of rotty undergrowth and its elegant, attenuated fruit — cedary cassis on the one hand, and something more reminiscent of old pinot on the other. The second was younger and fresher, unmistakably cabernet franc, still with a measure of its crunch intact. I look forward to the delights that my remaining bottles will have to spring on me. Full marks to Majestic for going off piste with this one.

Indeed, I wonder if there isn’t a franc fanatic closeted somewhere amongst the buyers.

Bourgueil Fronton RaatsAlso well worthy of mention is there 03 Bourgueil Les Cent Boisselées (again by Druet; £8.99 if you buy 2 as part of your half dozen plus). This is more herbaceous than the Chinon, with a savoury meaty note behind its elderberry fruit. Intriguing, complex and, again, old. Be warned: there’s very little of it about. Add in also their newly acquired, brightly fruity and unusually spicy Raats Granite Blocks Cabernet Franc 2010 from South Africa (down to £7.99 at present; same offer terms), and their liquorice toffee tinged negrette/franc blend from Fronton (Château Jouaninel 2009, offered similarly at just £6.99 right now) and you begin to get a picture of commendably adventurous buying and something more than casual franc-ophilia.

Standing out from the plain

Have a taste for the abstruse? Teroldego is not, how shall I put it, the best known of grape varieties. It really only thrives on the Rotaliano plain in Trentino, Italy. A typical wine, therefore, for independent merchants Green and Blue to stock. I have long admired their daring attitude on what to stock; they list where others fear to tread, specialising in wines from small artisans, much of which is organic or biodynamic. Little wonder they have in the past been crowned Independent Merchants of the Year.

Their Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano 2008 is quite a mouthful. “Elisabetta Foradori”, they explain in their informative online list, “is generally considered to be the leading producer of Teroldego. It is all she makes on the family estate and she is quite an expert. She believes passionately in clonal diversity and her vineyards are correspondingly planted with a variety of different clones which give her wines layers of complexity often lacking in those of her neighbours.” The wine has good grip and length and belies Teroldego’s reputation for producing simple gluggers. It is nevertheless Foradori’s basic cuvée using fruit from her younger vines. The year it spends in oak gives a hint of itself behind the ripeness of the nose, and lends a layer of spice to the plummy fruit. The wine has decent length and finishes with a refreshing sourish twist, sending you back for the next sip. I enjoyed it with a simple lasagne; Green and Blue recommend “Rabbit, Duck, Chicken in red wine sauces, pasta with heavy, meaty sauces.”

Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano 2008: £18.40

Saison's greetings

Saison ales started life in Wallonia (in Belgium) as a seasonal farmhouse brew and came in a number of variations: sometime sour from the addition of lambic, sometimes spiced, sometimes part wheat, sometimes all of the foregoing. Designed to be of medium strength, all that mattered was that they were refreshing, safe to drink (which plain water was not) and not so strong that they would make the farmworkers for whom they were intended keel over (and they consumed pints of the stuff).

Definitely on the way out in its native Belgium, it was resurrected as a style by craft brewers in the States; and so, naturally enough I suppose, The Kernel Brewery’s driving force, Evin O’Riordain, who was inspired to start brewing after a stay Stateside, has started brewing a Saison style over here.

It’s a long way from the farms of Wallonia to the railway arches of Bermondsey, but the Saison style has translated well. The Kernel team have kept it simple, creating a gingery, peppery style of beer softened on the mid-palate by 10% wheat and with the trademark Kernel hoppiness. Not that there is actually any spice added; the use of Dark Star yeast creates all the spicy character. Great on its own, I can imagine it accompanying pork and ham dishes particularly effectively.

The Kernel Saison 7% abv, £2.80 per 330ml bottle