A unique opportunity presented itself for importers and journalists from the Netherlands to discover hidden gems from famous French wine regions. Business France put together a group of enthusiastic wineries that work both traditional and innovating to present their finest bottles at hotel Casa in Amsterdam. Over 30 producers from 10 different wine regions were presented to the public and even though each one of them has the same amount of passion and drive towards the world of wine, there were some highlights that are worth to explore a little deeper.
Before I really went off and explored, I was keen to start with a champagne tasting at Cad ‘Export with the Delahaie Champagne. A family company that has been operating in Epernay since the late 1950’s. The way the champagnes are produced, does seem to follow the tendence of the market, especially in terms of residual sugar. However, by obtaining a minimum of 24-month aging on the lees starting with the Brut Premier, they do create the red thread to be found in all of their champagnes. The creaminess stays nice and subtle and does not overrule the freshness of the fruit characters. This all has the result that, starting with the Brut Premier, the aftertaste is already quite long. From there on the complexity gets higher due to the longer aging on the lees and use of different ratios of the grapes Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay. The Cuvee Sublime for instance has the blend of only Pinot Noir and Meunier, a Blanc de Noirs with up to 36 months of aging, coming from the best hills of the Champagne area. Of course, the best one of the selection was the vintage 2015. The Vintage Champagne will only be made in the best years, and in terms of the 2015 a careful selection of 50 % Pinot Noir grapes and 50 % Chardonnay grapes were picked from the best champagne plots. The minimum aging in this case is 48 months and sometimes even more. The complexity was beautiful and endless with an even more creamy texture, aged fruit, burned nuts, but still a lively acidity and a very long aftertaste.
After my champagne experience, the first stand that got my attention was the one from Maison Francois Ducrot, a winemaker from the Languedoc area. Ducrot is a key figure in the biological growth and health of the vines for a numerous of vineyards in the areas of the Gard and the Herault, located around the city of Montpellier. The whole range of wines are certified on being biological, having little sulphites for the rose and white, and even none at all for the red wines. The mascot for their philosophy is a sheep that is imaged on most of their labels. This sheep represents the natural cycle of nature giving back to nature. The sheep not only fertilize the soil, with their pawprints the soil gets tamped in such a way that it does not kill good bacteria and the soil therefore stays healthy. Most of the wines were tasted, but there were a few that really stood out.
This Rose wine is an ode to the regional bird that you can find on the coast of the Gulf of Lion, the flamingo. When seeing the label, a warm summer night with a cooling Mediterranean breeze springs to mind. Pale pink in colour, due to the direct pressing of the grapes and a creamier texture due to the three-month aging on the lees.
Grape variety: 50% Grenache Noir, 50% Mourvedre
Colour: Pale pink
Nose: white peach, juicy pear, and delicate white flowers
Palate: ripe tropical fruit of peaches and apricots, along with a creamy texture and a touch of saline.
Very long pleasant acidity in the aftertaste.
MIB (Mouton in Black)
Mouton being the French word for sheep, refers to the natural way of keeping the vines healthy. Also, the use of the word black is mainly meant as a pun because a red grape variety is used to produce this white wine. This Blanc de Noirs has gone through a malolactic conversion and was aged in stainless steel tanks for about 9 months.
Grape Variety: Grenache Noir
Colour: Pale gold
Nose: Ripe apricots with yellow apple, overripe peach, bread brioche notes and roasted almonds
Palate: harmonious palate with ripe fruit, brioche, creaminess, and acidity
La Vie en Orange
Orange wines are type that you do not see a lot in a wine country like France. This particular one does bring out the character of the grape varieties and the soil of limestones in an elegant way.
Grape variety: Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc
Colour: deep golden
Nose: orange peel, tangerine, overripe apple, and pear
Palate: Peach, apple, lychee. A tannin structure that reminds you of tea
An orange wine like this is great wine to match up with certain types of hard cheeses like old Gouda, due to the soft tannin structure, yet firm body of overripe fruits. Also, vegetable dishes will do the trick.
Another winery that stood out was Domaine La Louviere. Vineyards on the foothills on the north side of the mountain range of the Pyrenees, remind of a folklore of the gathering wolfs of the area, that would start their hunt from there. The name La Louviere refers to waking the wolf, which also reflects on the winery’s labels. Wolfs, all dressed up as characteristic roles from a Baroque like area in time. Names like ‘Le Libertin’, ‘Le Galant’, ‘La Muse’ and ‘La Souveraine’ represent white wines made of varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin, and Viognier. ‘Le Marquis’, ‘Le Coquin’, ‘La Maitresse’ and ‘La Seductrice’ stand for the red wines made of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.
However, there is one king or emperor that rules over them all and that is of course ‘ L’empereur’. The flagship of La Louviere with the AOP Malepere has the same blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Even though the 2019 vintage was still a little bit young to drink, it did already display aging notes from the 18-month in barrique like clove, dried black fruits, and red fruit compote. This is a wine to be excited about when it starts aging!
Wandering to the representatives of the Loire Valley, which is one of my personal favourite regions. I noticed the booth of Les Canons and got talking with Hugues Bourdon, a young and enthusiastic sales manager for the winery. He showed me through their wines that there is another take on the Anjou area and that it has more to offer than only the semi-sweet rose wines. The vineyards itself has been used for over 11 generations, yet the winery Les Canons only started business from 2018 and has already surprising results! The vines grow on the hills of Coteaux de Layon and give the wines a real reflection of the terroir, consisting of clay and limestone. A shoutout goes to both their Cremants, one made of 100% Chenin and the other made of 100%, that would do surprising in a blind tasting among champagnes. Of course, the Anjou Rouge and Blanc are made of the flagship grapes of the region, which are Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. In particular the Chenin coming from 50–60-year-old vines and partially aged in barrels, giving the wine a very earthy and smoky touch. Their Sauvignon Blanc does have the French elegance and flair, but the fruitiness of Marlborough.
Throughout all their wines, the winery strives to work as organic and biological as possible. This not only in the vineyards but also with the production of the bottles where they are using less ink on the labels and less weight of the bottle itself.
Looking at the Bordeaux region, the producer I really want to highlight here is Famille Ducourt. The family has chateaus going from the left bank, all the way to the right, with a concentration in Entre-deux- Mers. It was mainly the Metissage Rouge, Metissage Blanc and Le Chant des Sirenes that got my attention. These wines made from the so called ‘new’ grape varieties like Souvignier Gris, Sauvignac and Cabernet Jura, are the first that I have encountered in a traditional winemaking country like France. Apart from showing the innovating side of the company, the wines are excellent in quality, each with a gold medal price of 90 points Decanter. Not much surprise, as each of their wines, also the ones made according to the Bordeaux standard, score very good to excellent in both the Decanter and James Suckling ratings. The classic wines tasted are already very good and will only continue to develop their quality over the years of aging.
Chateau des Ravatys shows that the area of Beaujolais is not standing still as well. With careful consideration the Gamay grape ferments according to the Maceration Carbonique in order to preserve the fruitiness of the grape. However, after the fermentation, the wine continues to age in oak barriques or foudres so perfect balance can be obtained. The vines are handpicked coming from the Cotes de Brouilly and Brouilly itself, in the townships of Saint-Lager and Odenas, within the crus of Beaujolais.
The Gamay grape is not only used to make these fine reds, but also gets harvested for the rose, which is fruity, yet powerful. Next to the Gamay, Chardonnay is harvested on a smaller scale for the production of Beaujolais Blanc.
Other producers worth exploring:
- Les Vignerons des Coteaux de l’Isle, Bordeaux
- Joseph Verdier, Loire Valley
- Domaine Vincent Fleith, Alsace
- Domaine Dambrun, Rhone
- Chateau Saint-Aubin, Sud-Ouest
- Kaasfort Amsterdam
More information about this tasting can be found on
TASTIN’ FRANCE | Maandag 24 oktober 2022 – Businessfrance-Events